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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14 Weeks…Officially 2nd Trimester!

14Weeks

14 Weeks, Baby #2

How far along are you? 14 weeks now! Time is flying.
How big is the baby? According to my BabyCenter App, it’s about the size of a lemon. 3½ inches, 1½ ounces.
Weight Gain? 6lbs, same as McKenzie the first trimester.
Maternity clothes? Yep. I wear sweats & sweatshirts around the house. The (pictured) pants are skinny jeans in long from Motherhood, and my shirt is a non-maternity tunic from a boutique.
Stretch marks? Nope, not yet. As I mentioned in my 12 week post I’ve been using BioOil…I’ve been using it every night before bed, and it’s actually faded my stretch marks from McKenzie and my laparoscopy scars! Needless to say, I’m very pleased.
Sleep: My sleep is getting better, thank god. I miss Jon at night though…a body pillow is just not the same. =(
Best moment this week? Signing up for the YMCA and watching McKenzie’s first ballet class. And I talked to Jon yesterday! It sounds like he’s doing great. He needs to re-do basic training since he’s been out of the military for more than 5 years, but after looking at his DD-214 they made him Platoon Guide, meaning he’s in charge of like 60 people…so that’s good for him, a leadership position right off the bat. But apparently he will definitely be training the full 23 weeks (almost 6 months!). SO, I will be pregnant all by myself nearly the ENTIRE time. Lame. It was great to hear from him though! But I won’t get any womb-service. =( I assume I’ll have this bebe in Madison, too, cuz I’m not moving at 39 weeks. Plus, I like Meriter, the hospital where Z was born.
Movement? Yes! When I read before bed at night I can feel little flutters here & there! Nothing consistent, but I know that it’s the bebe.  At the First Trimester Screen, the utrasound tech said that the placenta is attached the the anterior uterine wall, meaning I’ll probably feel it 2-3 weeks earlier than if it were attached somewhere else. Cool with me, I love the feeling.
Food cravings? Green olives! I ate (and drank) a whole jar. This is not unusual though, I always love green olives & I did the same thing when I was pregnant with McKenzie. It was her first favorite food when she turned 1! When she started eating solids I’d cut them in half and she’d gobble them up.
Food aversions? Not so much.
Labor signs? Nope.
Gender? Too early to tell. April 2nd! Only 2 weeks away!
Symptoms? No. And thank you for all the advice last time…prunes & Miralax helped with that. ;) I’ve been making a point to drink 64oz of water every day, and that’s helping too.
Belly button in or out? In. With McKenzie it just went flat…it was never an “outie.”
Wedding rings on or off? On.
Happy or moody? I’m just sad. I’m having a hard time adjusting to Jon’s absence, and I think my hormones are making it worse. =(
What I miss: Jon, Jon, Jon…for several reasons. ;’) And I’m going a little stir-crazy being alone with McKenzie all the time. I had a great girl’s lunch with my BFF today, and it was great, no interruptions or begging for my food. And plenty of adult talk. Lol.
What I am looking forward to: My sister is visiting with my niece, Abbey, tomorrow! And we get to find out the sex in two weeks! Any guesses? Boy/Girl??

And the winner is…

So, I shared our Love Story on the Facebook wall of The Pasta Tree (our favorite restaurant) to win a Valentine’s Day giveaway for a 1-night hotel stay, a round-trip horse-drawn carriage ride, and a complimentary dinner (a $600 value!)…and we WON!!! Thanks to everyone’s support we had over 100 “likes” on our story, and we are SO excited to spend a romantic night together. What a wonderful way to spend Valentine’s Day before Jon leaves for the Army next month. <3Jon&Nic

Like I mentioned, this restaurant is incredibly special to us: we had our wedding reception there, and it is literally “our” place. The food is delicious home-made Italian, the service is excellent, and it is SO romantic and quaint. If you’re ever in the Milwaukee area and you’re looking for a romantic evening with amazing food and atmosphere, look no farther than The Pasta Tree. Seriously, the food is to DIE for.

Back from Mexico

We got back from Mexico on Saturday and we had a great time! It had a bumpy start when my luggage was left in the US for an extra day, so I went 1 day wearing the same clothes…and we basically lost a day because the sunscreen was in my bags. *sigh* Thankfully though, my parents always told me to pack a swimsuit & other essentials in my carry on. Smart people. The first night we ventured into town and splurged on some lobster…one word: amazing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also, I think I mentioned in a previous post that it was adults-only, topless-optional. I was brave & went topless. Oh yes, I did! I was shocked myself, but let me tell you: when you’re literally the only one in sight with your top on, you feel like a prude. So I figured, “Fuck it, at least I won’t have tan lines.” It was glorious, and unusually freeing. I definitely loved the care-free, relaxed environment. The motto was, “Nobody knows you, nobody gives a shit.” Nice.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe food also was excellent, the staff was wonderful, and the drinks were amazing. Cancun was nice because we were able to venture out into town & we weren’t stranded on the resort. Unfortunately, the last 2 days were rainy & chilly, and was very glad to have my jacket! Otherwise, we enjoyed fun in the sun and I read the book “The Poisonwood Bible,” which was very good. Definitely not something I would usually read for enjoyment, but great nonetheless. I usually love James Rollins, Clive Cussler, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child…my “adventure” books as I call them.

We had our own little adventure and Jon moved one of the beds onto the balcony. It was fun. We didn’t leave it out there, but it was cool just chillin out there. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you can tell, I didn’t bring my “nice” camera with me on the trip because it’s heavy & bulky, but I found some old gems that I never uploaded from when McKenzie was 3 from our point-and-shoot…crazy what a difference a year makes!  Such a sweetie. McKenzie had a lot of fun with her Nina (grandma) while we were gone, and it was great to be able to FaceTime with her every day. It’s funny: when you have kids it’s just as fun coming home to see your kiddos! A bonus to parenting, for sure.IMG_0002 IMG_0011 IMG_0018 IMG_0037 IMG_0038OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Annnnnnnnnnnnd I’m definitely missing that “chilly” 65˚F in Mexico…it’s 5˚F here in Wisconsin with a windchill below zero! Yuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

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!

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?

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. =)