Broccoli Soup w/ Boursin Cheese & Bacon Chips

Comfort food is many things to many people. One of the things that I think of as comfort food is a warm bowl of cream of broccoli soup. Its creamy texture and subtle flavors have the power to soothe your taste buds as well as your soul. But this soup is more than just a comforting dish; it’s a culinary gem with a fascinating history and impressive nutritional benefits. This velvety delight has its roots in the traditional French soup known as Potage Saint-Germain. Originating from the Saint-Germain-en-Laye region in France, this soup was originally crafted with peas. However, as culinary creativity knows no bounds, innovative cooks began swapping peas for broccoli, giving birth to Cream of Broccoli Soup.

Cream of Broccoli Soup has the incredible ability to cater to a wide range of palates and dietary preferences. Whether it’s a casual family dinner, a gathering with friends, or a formal occasion, this soup fits the bill perfectly.

In 1990, the Campbell Soup Company debuted a commercial variety of cream of broccoli soup. They devised it to be used as a soup and as an ingredient to be used in other dishes. During that time, the Campbell Soup Company published a booklet of broccoli dishes that are prepared using their canned cream of broccoli soup, which was offered free to consumers through the provision of a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the company. Some of the dishes in the booklet included ‘Easy Broccoli Bake’ and ‘Two-Step Chicken Broccoli Divan’. After the original soup’s debut, the company devised and marketed additional cream of broccoli-style soups, such as broccoli cheese soup, chunky chicken broccoli cheese soup and cream of chicken and broccoli soup.

Today, I decided to make our broccoli soup using Boursin cheese instead of cheddar. The garlic and herbs in the Boursin give some added depth to the flavor. Plus, it melts into the soup so smoothly and provides extra creaminess. Another nice thing about this recipe is it’s super creamy without the use of heavy cream. Such great comfort food!

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Broccoli Soup w/ Boursin Cheese & Bacon Chips
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Instructions
  1. Peel & slice onion & garlic. Cut broccoli into pieces. Peel & dice potato into pieces. In a saucepan sauté onion for a few minutes, add the garlic & broccoli & potato pieces.
  2. Cover with water, add chicken or vegetable stock powder & simmer for 25-30 minutes until veggies are tender. Meanwhile, grill bacon & slice for garnish.
  3. With a slotted spoon, remove some of the broccoli florets if you wish to keep whole & set aside. In a food processor, puree remaining veg/broth mixture.
  4. Add the Boursin & seasoning, puree again to obtain a homogeneous preparation. Fold in reserved broccoli florets. Serve hot topped with bacon bits.

Veg-Bacon Zucchini Lasagna

Another zucchini recipe? Sure, why not. It’s such a versatile vegetable and it doesn’t hurt to add more veggies to our daily menu!

By replacing the lasagna noodles with zucchini slices, the tasty result has all the wonderful flavors we love about the Italian dish – it’s even very similar in its texture!

This lasagna is perfect in the summer with your garden-fresh veggies and herbs, or in the winter when you need a comforting meal. This updated version features zucchini slices with layers of cheese, bacon, leeks, mushrooms, swiss chard and a flavorful sun-dried tomato sauce.

 Lasagna in any form must be up there on our list of comfort food favorites. What’s not to love about lasagna? They’re saucy, cheesy, and perfect to fill with our favorite ingredients. The possibilities are endless when we can really start to think outside the basic fillings.

The replacement of traditional pasta with zucchini adds great texture to the dish, plus a beautiful presentation. The longer you cook the lasagna, the softer the zucchini noodles will become.

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Bacon Zucchini Lasagna
Instructions
Bacon & Veggies
  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté bacon until slightly crisp. Remove & blot on paper towel. Add leeks & mushrooms to the pan; sauté 4 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic; sauté 1 minute. Spoon the mixture into a large bowl.
  2. Heat 1 tsp of oil in saucepan; add zucchini slices. Sauté 4 minutes or until tender & just beginning to brown. Remove from pan to a plate. Heat remaining 1 tsp of oil & add the Swiss chard; sauté 4 minutes or until wilted. Combine bacon & Swiss chard with vegetable mixture in bowl.
Sauce
  1. In a skillet, heat oil. Add onion & cook 2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add garlic, oregano, thyme, paprika & sun-dried tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring with a spatula. Add veg broth & allow to bubble for 2 minutes then add salt & pepper (if using). Bring to a boil then reduce heat & simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream & parmesan cheese.
Cheese
  1. Grate mozzarella & parmesan cheeses. In a bowl, combine cottage cheese & 150 gm (1 1/2 cups) mozzarella; stir well.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with veg oil.
  2. Spread a small amount of the sauce mixture in the bottom of prepared baking dish. Arrange 1/3 of zucchini slices over the sauce; top with half of the cottage cheese mixture, then half of the veg/bacon mixture & about a cup of sauce. Repeat layers, ending with zucchini slices. Spread the remaining sauce mixture on top of the zucchini slices; sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.
  3. Cover & bake for 20 minutes. Uncover & bake an additional 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly & beginning to brown, Allow to sit about 10 minutes before serving.

Stuffed Mushrooms in Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Stuffed mushrooms are one of those items that can be an appetizer as well as a main course. They are as versatile as you can get. The number of different fillings are endless and can be anything from a simple bread stuffing to seafood, veggies or any kind of meat.

Portobello mushrooms are big, meaty and the ideal vessel for stuffing, creating a dish that is a meal unto itself. Few things can match the flavor of stuffed mushrooms.

Depending on the source, this unique dish has been around since the late 19th century or early 20th century. The fact that they resemble stuffed zucchini, it is likely that the Italians should receive credit for their creation.

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Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms in Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
Instructions
Mushrooms
  1. Trim stems from mushrooms & finely chop them; reserve for sauce. Whisk the egg lightly in a shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, paprika & garlic salt.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high. Dip the mushrooms in the egg then in the flour mixture. Coat the outside of the mushrooms, trying not to get too much flour inside the 'cap'.
  3. In a skillet, fry mushrooms on both sides until lightly golden. Use a tongs to help fry the sides as well. Remove mushrooms to a plate. To the skillet, add a splash of water & Swiss chard leaves. Sprinkle with salt & pepper & saute until leaves are wilted, about 1 minute.
  4. Divide cream cheese between the 4 mushroom caps. Top with wilted Swiss chard; sprinkle with grated Parmesan & paprika. Set aside, keeping warm.
Sauce
  1. In a skillet , heat oil. Add onion & cook for 2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add reserved mushroom stems, garlic, oregano, paprika, sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers & zucchini. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring with a spatula. Add wine (or chicken broth) & allow to bubble for 2 minutes then add vegetable broth, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil & simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir the cream & Parmesan cheese into the sauce, then nestle the mushrooms on top. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Nice to serve with pasta or potatoes and/or a meat item.

Ham & Olive Bread with ‘Spanish’ Omelettes

About six years ago, I tasted this popular French cake au jambon et aux olives for the first time.  The word ‘cake’ in France refers to a baked savory cake made with ham, olives and cheese. They are exclusively rectangular in shape and made in a bread pan. The texture is between a bread and a cake, making it it good for picnics, cubed as an appetizer with drinks or served with a soup or salad.

This savory cake/bread has endless possibilities when it comes to ingredients. Apart from the original ham, olives and cheese, you can use cooked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, sweet corn kernels, spinach or really any personal choice you have. Well wrapped, it will keep for a few days in the fridge, reheating it or just enjoying it cold.

In this recipe I used  a mix of black and green olives, ham, bacon and a Gruyere/mozzarella cheese combo. I decided to pair it with a Spanish omelette which complimented the savory bread well. The ‘cake’ I had the opportunity of trying the first time was made by a ‘very’ French lady. It set the bar high for my own to turn out as good. We loved it so I guess this recipe is a ‘keeper’.


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Ham & Olive Bread with Spanish Omelette

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Instructions
Olive Bread
  1. In a skillet, saute finely chopped onion with bacon until slightly cooked. Drain on paper towels to avoid soggy dough. Slice olives & chop parsley & ham.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, whisk together wine, oil, eggs & salt. In another bowl, sift flour & baking powder. Stir into liquid mixture along with rest of the ingredients. Pour into prepared loaf pan & bake about 1 hour or until bread tests done.

Omelette Topping Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, heat olive oil & saute onion for 3-4 minutes. Add green pepper & garlic; continue to cook another 3-4 minutes. Add tomato sauce, salt & pepper; reduce heat & simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover & set aside to keep warm.

Omelettes for Two
  1. Grate cheese; set aside. Slice onions, zucchini & mushrooms, On a medium-hot griddle, saute vegetables just until tender crisp in 1 tsp of butter. Remove to a dish until ready to use. In a small bowl, whisk eggs with salt & pepper. Make 2 circles of beaten eggs on griddle. Top each with 1/2 of refried beans, veggies & grated cheese. Carefully fold each omelette in half enclosing filling; add a tiny bit of water to the griddle (in between the omelettes) & cover with a large lid. When omelettes are cooked remove to serving plates & top with the tomato sauce. Serve with warm olive bread.

Pork Medallions w/ Apricot Brandy Sauce

This is a meal that has a lot of interesting flavors going on. First you are marinating dried apricots and figs in brandy, then rubbing the pork medallions with a cumin-ginger spice combo.

Some years ago I became interested in using the cumin spice. If you have not yet tried it, the flavor is very distinctive. It could be described as slightly bitter and warm with strong, earthy notes. Cumin is an essential ingredient not only in Mexican and Southwest-inspired dishes but in the more trendy foods of North Africa, India and the Middle East. This delicate looking annual plant has slender branched stems. It is fast growing, with tiny white flowers that yield the cumin seeds. Farmers have to manually harvest the seeds by pulling the whole plant out of the ground and thrashing the seeds off of the plant onto a sheet. They are then sun-dried and hand sifted over a screen to separate out stems and twigs.

Although you need very little cumin in most recipes, it gives a great flavor. Like most spices, you must develop a taste for it to really enjoy it.

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Pork Medallions w/ Apricot Brandy Sauce
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Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, marinate figs & apricots in brandy. Slice pork tenderloin into medallions. Combine cardamom, cumin, ginger, salt & pepper in a plastic bag; add pork medallions & toss to evenly coat with spice rub.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork, brown nicely on each side & remove to a plate. Return skillet to medium-LOW heat & add butter & onions. Gently saute onions for 5 minutes; add figs & apricots but NOT brandy. Saute 1 more minute.
  3. Turn heat back to medium-high & pour in the brandy & allow to simmer 1 minute. Add chicken broth & return pork to skillet. Cover & cook until pork medallions still have a hint of pink. Best to not overcook.

Roast Pork with Apples & Prunes

Although prunes sometimes get a bad rap, the salty nature of pork and the sweetness of apples and prunes combined is excellent.

The Italian Prune Plum also known as European Plums are free stone and most readily grown for prune production. Their ability to create a high concentration of fermentable sugars not only makes them the ideal candidate for drying but also for making preserves, wine and brandy.

Native to the Mediterranean coastal regions of Italy, Italian prune plums thrive in arid climates. Even though plums adapt to a wide variety of growing regions, they require minimal humidity and rainfall to prevent disease and encourage fruit development during their growing season.

Oddly enough, all prunes are plums but not all plums are prunes. Prune plum varieties have a very high sugar content which enables them to be dried without fermenting while still containing their pits.

This is a nice meal to serve over quinoa along with roasted acorn squash and brussel sprouts.

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Roast Pork with Apples & Prunes
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a saucepan, brown onions & tenderloin in hot oil for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Combine BBQ sauce, apple juice & thyme; pour over meat & onions. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  2. Bake for about 30 minutes. Add apples & prunes & bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. or until pork & apples are tender.