Restaurant-Quality French Onion Soup in Under an Hour!

Restaurant-Quality French Onion Soup in Under an Hour!

image via thehealthyfoodie.com

Seriously, the past few weeks I have been absolutely craving French Onion Soup. I made it twice! My sister introduced me to this recipe, and with a few tweaks it’s absolute perfection. Definitely restaurant quality! And the best part is: it takes less than an hour to make. If you don’t already have some soup-style bakeware, I found these CorningWare Mugs at my local grocery store, and they work perfectly for serving. =)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups sliced onions (about 3 large onions…I used 1 red, 1 white, and 1 yellow)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 32 oz. box beef stock
  • 2 cans beef broth
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ⅓ cup cooking sherry
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 loaf french bread
  • 1/2 lb provolone cheese slices (or cheese of your choice!)

Directions:

  1. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in an 8 quart stock pot on medium heat, add the onions. Brown the onions, stirring occasionally (approximately 20, minutes or until the onions are tender & brown). 5 minutes before the onions are done, add the minced garlic.
  2. Add beef stock, broth, thyme, sherry, and wine.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste, and simmer (covered) for 30 minutes.
  4. Heat the oven broiler, and toast bread for approximately 3 minutes, or until toasted.
  5. Ladle soup into oven-safe serving bowls and place 1-2 slice(s) of the toasted bread on top of each. Layer each slice of bread with 2 slices of provolone. Place bowls on cookie sheet and broil in the preheated oven until cheese bubbles and browns slightly (about 6 minutes).
  6. Serve & enjoy! (But be careful, it’s very hot!)
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Crunch Time

Valentine's 2013 FlowersWe had a great Valentine’s Day! I woke up to not one, but two beautiful flower arrangements & a sweet note from my wonderful husband. Our romantic evening in Milwaukee was so much fun (although, let’s be honest: the February horse-drawn carriage ride in Wisconsin was a little torturous). As expected, the food was amazing, and we had a beautiful river-view from our hotel room. I would say dinner was the highlight…we got to order whatever we wanted off the menu! Whatever. We. Wanted. I didn’t snap any pictures because I wanted to feel “present” in the moment with Jon, so my apologies (or not). We really did have a great time.

On that note, it’s crunch time: Jon leaves for the Army 3 weeks from today. It’s getting so close! I do a really good job of NOT thinking about things until they’re here…I think it’s a protective mechanism for me, but it helps me to enjoy the moments we still have without anxiety about the future. So overall, I think it’s a good thing. It won’t be real until we get back to the empty house without him. =( I figure we won’t see him for about 3 months. While he’s training, I plan on staying busy with McKenzie and going on a few trips.

As I mentioned in this post, my sister and her husband are closing on their first home on March 15th, so we’ll definitely make the trek to Minnesota to visit them and see the new place. I’m super excited for them. Any good housewarming gift ideas? We also plan on visiting my step-dad (Grandpa Jeff) in Laguna Niguel, California. Not a bad place to visit! He loves taking us out on his boat to see dolphins, seals, & whales on the weekends. We were out there for McKenzie’s birthday in August, and we always have a blast.

In other news, I have another doctor’s appointment this week. I’m hoping we’ll get to hear the little peanut’s heartbeat.7wks4days

 

‘Tis the Season to be…Jolly?

Alrighty, I haven’t posted any “life updates” lately, so here’s what’s been going on with me:

  1. I’m super stoked that my tutorial “Elf on the Shelf” Mod in 6-easy Steps has gone viral on Pinterest. I had almost 1000 views here yesterday alone! That’s wayyy exciting for me. So I’ve been thinking of ways to keep that going. Suggestions welcome. ;)

    Add wire, velcro, and magnets to make your Elf more pose-able.

    Add wire, velcro, and magnets to make your Elf more pose-able.

  2. My amazing hubbs is graduating from UW-Madison next weekend! ((GO BADGERS, WOO!!)) We’re obviously excited. Then in March he will become active duty in the Army, and re-training will commence. Who knows where we’ll be in a year?! It’s both exciting, and somewhat stressful. It will be strange, since the Army is very different from the Marines in some ways, but I’m sure the lifestyle is similar overall. Details on this decision here, since I don’t really want to hear any more “How could you let him do that?!” questions.
  3. Since he will be active duty again, thought we could use some “alone time” before things get crazy, so I booked us a vacation to Cancun in January. We’re going to an adults-only all-inclusive for a whole week for some much-needed relaxation. I hope adult-only doesn’t translate to “swingers” because that would be really awkward. Haha. That said, I’m super excited! We’ve always stayed in the Riviera Maya, so I’ve never been to Cancun before. If anyone knows of fun stuff to do there, please share!cancun
  4. We decorated our tree! I have a particular affinity for real trees, specifically Frasier Firs. I think it’s because of the smell…it reminds me of my happy childhood Christmases, which makes sense because smell is the strongest sense linked to memory, so they say. We played Christmas music, and McKenzie had a blast helping us this year. She LOVES Christmastime, which is fun to see. IMG_7131
  5. We are having a family Christmas celebration here on the 15th, because my family will be in town for Jon’s graduation…which translates to: I have to clean the house and wrap all the gifts that are being mailed here. *sigh* I am mostly excited for the meal, which is going to be Beef Wellington (at the request of over 5 people). It’s amazing. If you are not a family of vegetarians, it is a must. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s a labor intensive recipe, but easy and delicious. And I don’t dare modify that recipe either…why mess with perfection?TU0602_Beef-Wellington_lg
  6. Cali’s tail has been a PAIN. IN. THE. ASS. Seriously. (If you are not up-to-date with story, click here for details.) The bandaging is practically impossible to keep on, due to her frantic tail-wagging whenever we come home. And then she gets nervous, because she thinks it will hurt and shakes for like 5 minutes. Poor girl. I’ve been trying to keep her cone-head off whenever we’re home, though. She gets her stitches out next Thursday (hopefully), but she has another appointment Monday for some more professional re-bandaging.
  7. I have been running 1 mile a day. This is HUGE for me. Granted, it takes me 10 or 11 minutes, but I run the whole way. Yay me! Gotta get in slightly better shape for this upcoming vacay. ;) I would love to get into running again. I LOVE running when I am into it, but it’s the “getting into it” that’s difficult. It’s so hard. [Insert whiny voice here.] But it’s worth it, right? *sigh*

So that’s pretty much what’s been going on with me. How is your December so far? Do you find the holidays stressful, magical, or a little bit of both?

South Carolina Pulled Pork Recipe

My good friend made this recipe for dinner when we were at her house, and let me tell you: it was memorable! The mustard-based recipe is actually very simple to make, it just takes awhile to bake to the ultimate tenderness. It’s worth the wait, I promise! Enjoy. =)

SOUTH CAROLINA PULLED PORK RECIPE

Prep Time 30min | Cook Time 6-8 hours

MEAT & RUB

  • 3-5 lbs pork shoulder roast (aka “butt roast”)
  • 3 tbsp. dry mustard (I used ‘ground mustard,’ which I found in the spice aisle)
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 1½ tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Combine all ingredients in bowl and coat meat with the rub. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. (Although, I just popped it in the oven right away.)

SAUCE

  • ½ cup dijon mustard
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (white is fine too)
  • 2 tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. hot sauce (I used the Asian hot sauce Siracha)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • Spicier version: ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, ½ tsp. additional black pepper
  • Combine all ingredients in bowl, refrigerate until needed.

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 225° and bake the seasoned meat for 2 hours per pound, mine was 3 lbs so I baked it for 6 hours. ((If you want to speed up cooking time, bake at 275°  for 1½ hours per pound.))
  • 30 minutes prior to completion, coat meat with ½ cup of the sauce.
  • When meat is finished, let cool for 15 minutes. This is a good time to bake the buns/rolls if they’re not already made!
  • Pull meat apart with your hands or forks.
  • Microwave sauce for 45 seconds or until warm, and coat meat with the remaining sauce.
  • You’re done! I love them served on Rhodes Texas Rolls, which I found in my grocery store’s freezer section. Enjoy!

If you make it, I’d love to hear how it turned out!

Monty’s Blue Plate Diner

Here in Madison there’s a delicious local eatery called Monty’s Blue Plate Diner. The food is absolutely amazing! All homemade, and it’s the perfect diner “feel.” I particularly love the breakfasts, fish fry, and desserts. ;)

We discovered it about a year ago, and we made it our “Tuesday Tradition.” Every Tuesday before Jon’s classes at UW we have breakfast, and then McKenzie and I head over to the Madison Children’s Museum, where we have an annual pass. So much fun! Did you ever have any restaurant traditions when you were a kid? My family always went out to dinner when we (my sister and I) got good grades on our report cards…because we were smarty pants’ like that. ;)

Anyhow this is a picture of McKenzie at “Blue Plate” this summer…they always have chalk out in the summer, so her shirt is covered in chalk. Haha. =)

In other news, my sister is coming for  a visit this weekend with my niece, Abbey. McKenzie and Abbey are going to have so much fun! And I’m keeping it a surprise for Kenzers, so tomorrow she’ll wake up and Abbey will be here…I can just picture the joy on her face! But I love surprises, Jon hates them. I think they’re fun.

So for dinner tonight I’m making an amazing pulled pork recipe we had at a friend’s house, with homemade rub and sauce. It’s SO good. I’m not sure where the recipe is from (because she just texted me a picture of the recipe), but it’s called “South Carolina Pulled Pork.” YUM! I already made the sauce, and it was all very easy. Probably less than 20 minutes of prep. I’ll post the recipe & pics tomorrow, because it’s definitely worth sharing!

Starting a New Family Tradition & An Easy Pumpkin Seed Recipe

Can you believe McKenzie is four and we’ve never carved pumpkins? We’ve done the whole pumpkin-picking-&-hayride-on-a-farm thing, but we’ve never actually gotten around to carving the pumpkins…until now. Didn’t they turn out cute?

2012 Pumpkins: Daddy, Momma, McKenzie

So our new tradition is carving pumpkins while watching Hocus Pocus (albeit, it’s a little above McKenzie’s age group right now). Regardless, we had a blast. I think traditions make holidays so much more fun, don’t you? Do you have any fun traditions for Halloween?

Anyhow, of course we saved all the seeds and baked them…what a treat! If you don’t know the recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Boil the pumpkin seeds with 1 tsp salt for 10 min.
  3. Spread seeds over a greased baking sheet and salt generously.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes (I like mine crispy.)

They were SO good…it tasted like popcorn…YUM. And it’s healthy too! Lots of fiber. ;)

My Kitchen Nightmare.

The other day I decided to make these rolls, which I’d discovered on Pinterest. They looked so yummy, and I was in the mood for carbs. Long story short, I whip out all the ingredients, melt the butter, etc…then I open the flour and to my absolute horror there were nasty, tiny brown bugs crawling everywhere inside the flour. *gag* It was seriously the grossest thing ever!

This was not the first time this had happened to me, but I always thought, “Oh, I must just not cook enough!” Little did I know these little buggers were already in there when I bought it! Ewwww.

After a quick “google” some research I stumbled upon this site, which quickly explained that they are a type of tiny beetle called a weevil. *gag again*  The worst part is that their eggs are already in the flour when you buy it! GROSS. Apparently though, they are perfectly harmless and we unintentionally eat them all the time (as if that made me feel better!).

To get rid of them, the site suggests you freeze flour every time you buy new stuff (it kills all the eggs), and if you’ve been unfortunate enough to find them already, disinfect your cabinets and throw away any dry goods they may have infested. Yuck.

What is your kitchen nightmare?

Sweet Butternut Squash Soup

As I was cooking this butternut squash soup for dinner, McKenzie said, “Oh boy, that smells so good my nose can’t resist it.” One: I’m not sure she can get much cuter. And two: it really is that good. I adapted this recipe from Liz @ The Lambent Life, who has such a fun blog! I say adapted because I use nearly all the same ingredients, but I added a few more spices…namely cinnamon and sugar. God knows I have a sweet-tooth! And hey, my four-year-old’s nose couldn’t resist it, so you know it must be good. ;)

Sweet Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2½ lbs), peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • 1 large apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 packets chicken stock powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (in addition to the cinnamon sticks! This makes it.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp celery seeds
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cayenne powder

In a stockpot, add chopped onion, apple, and squash. Fill pot with water so the ingredients about ¾ submerged. Bring water to a boil, stir in spices and the rest of the ingredients. Reduce to a low boil and cover. Cook until vegetables are soft, approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Veggies/apples should be completely submerged at this point. Using a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches (you might not want to use all the broth from the pot, or the soup might be too runny…use your judgement). Return to pot. Keep warm until ready to serve. Garnish with cinnamon. Enjoy!

**If you’re looking for a more savory soup (instead of sweet), omit the brown sugar, and instead add a splash of cooking sherry and about a tablespoon of garlic. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Seasonal Salads

I’m not a huge salad person…BUT these salads are amazing! I found them in the most recent Redbook issue and decided to try them. Let me tell you: they are delicious! Not traditional salads, but tasty nevertheless.

 

Lentil Salad with Provençal Pear & Gorgonzola

Prep time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 30 minutes

Lentils

  • 1 cup Puy (green) lentils
  • 1 small carrot, quartered
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

Dressing

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper Pears
  • 2 firm-ripe Bosc pears, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp packed brown sugar
  • 3 oz Roquefort or Gorgonzola cheese, coarsely crumbled

1. Lentils: Rinse lentils with cold water. Tie carrot, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf in a bundle with string. Place lentils, bundle, garlic, and salt in a medium saucepan and cover with 4 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 25 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain, and discard bundle and garlic.

2. Dressing: In a small glass measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients. While lentils are hot, toss with dressing in a large bowl.

3. Pears: Core pears and cut each quarter in half, lengthwise.

4. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears and sprinkle with brown sugar. Sauté on both sides until golden and slightly caramelized, 5 minutes.

5. Place lentils on a large platter. Arrange pears on top and sprinkle with Roquefort. Serve immediately. Personally, I think the pears make the salad! It’s an interesting combo of sweet/bitter.

Makes 4 servings. Each serving: 424 cal, 23 g fat, 16 g protein, 42 g carb.

 

Butternut Squash Salad with Tahini Dressing

Prep time: 25 minutes | Cooking time: 35 minutes

Salad

  • 1 butternut squash (2 lbs), peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks…(for me, peeling the squash took forever!)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 8 cups baby arugula
  • ⅓ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 4 oz Feta cheese, coarsely crumbled

Dressing

  • 2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

1. Heat oven to 375°F.

2. Salad: On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss squash, oil, paprika, salt, and pepper and spread out evenly. Roast 35 minutes, stirring halfway through, until squash is tender and starting to caramelize. Sprinkle squash with pumpkin seeds for the last 5 minutes of roasting.

3. Dressing: In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Whisk in 2 Tbsp boiling water.

4. In a large bowl, gently toss squash, arugula, parsley, raisins, and Feta cheese. Arrange on a platter. Drizzle dressing over salad.

Makes 4 servings. Each serving: 338 cal, 21 g fat, 9 g protein, 34 g carb.

I hope you enjoy these recipes! I, personally, love the Butternut Squash Salad. I’ve decided that I like to omit the feta and arugula for a simple, yet tasty, butternut squash medley. I think the raisins make it! Oh, and the candied pears on the Lentil Salad are wonderful…I might have to make them by themselves for desert sometime. =)