Review on Stuffed Mushroom Recipe

Mushrooms are one of our favorite vegetables so I tried this stuffed mushroom recipe from Delish.

In the recipe I used white button mushroom. I modified it with additional homemade breadcrumbs and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

What I would change: The garlic was cooked too much for our taste. I would add the garlic into the breadcrumb mixture later in the process. Four minutes cooking garlic was too long. I baked them for 20 minutes and I felt they needed about 5 more minutes in the oven.

Overview: This was an easy recipe to follow and quite delicious. Both my DH and I liked the mushrooms. They would make an excellent appetizer. This recipe is a keeper!


Catherine Caruso’s Christmas Ricotta Cookies

During the holiday we received the most delicious Christmas cookies from our dear neighbor, Catherine Caruso. Here’s her recipe for all cookie lovers.

A note from Catherine:

Just a little tip on forming the cookies. Use a small scoop and flour your hands a little to gently roll the cookie. The key is not to roll them or handle them too much so that they are light and fluffy. It’s sort of like working with dough, less handling is better.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

After being diagnosed with Hashimoto disease, I’ve tried to stay away from most processed foods. Since we eat salad about 5 nights a week I needed to come up with alternatives to store bought salad dressings. So here is a recipe for balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.


  • Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1 chopped/pressed garlic clove
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
    • 1/2 tablespoons local honey
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh crushed thyme
    • 1/4 teaspoon lemon
Process

Add all ingredients to a container with an airtight lid. Shake vigorously to blend all the ingredients. Store in the refrigerator. It’s best to make ahead because it becomes more flavorful with time. Take out of the refrigerator a few minutes before use and shake well before pouring onto a delicious salad.

Today Show Mini Ravioli Soup Review

This is a review and reflection after viewing and making the Mini Ravioli Soup from the Today Show. Click on the link below for the recipe.

Mini Ravioli Soup Recipe

My dear husband (DH) and I include the NBC’s Today Show during our morning routine. Whether we are actively listening or not it’s always playing in the background. The recipe segments usually catch my eye and when this mini ravioli soup demonstration came on I was interested. With most of the ingredients at hand I attempted to reproduce the delicious soup from the show.

I had to substituted a few items due to the lack of products in the grocery store. I used tortellini instead of mini ravioli and crushed tomatoes with Italian seasonings instead of marinara (big mistake). If I had to do it over again I would have made a small batch of sauce instead of canned tomatoes. I was able to have all other ingredients on hand.

Overview
  • It made too much for 2 – I should have cut the recipe in 1/2.
  • 8 cups of broth was too much for our liking.
  • We prefer larger chunks of vegetables so I would forgo finely chopping the vegetables.
  • This is a broth soup and we prefer heavier soups.
  • I would use hot Italian sausage instead of mild – we felt it was lacking in flavor.
  • My DH and I did not care for this soup and agreed it was not a keeper.
Positives
  • It made a huge pot and would feed a large group.
  • It may be a good soup to begin dinner.
  • If chicken or turkey sausage were used it could cut calories.
  • I picked up some ideas to try adding marinara to a another soup recipe.

Conclusion: This just didn’t work for my DH and myself. Others may have a different opinion as all of our palates are different. I may take this basic recipe and modify it with larger vegetables, true marinara sauce, and a mixture of beef and chicken broth. Don’t let me dissuade you – you be the judge.

Update on the review:

I made a small batch of homemade red tomato sauce in a Dutch oven. After simmering for 30 minutes I added the left over tortellini soup. I also added about 1/4 chicken broth and 1/8 cup of heavy whipping cream. I included red pepper to the sauce to amp up the flavor. This was a much more enjoyable soup to our palate. My DH was amazed at the transformation. Now to duplicate the tweaked recipe we like.

Yummy Italian cream of tomato soup

David’s Vegan Chili

This is a vegan variation on Uncle Louie’s South Side Chili Parlor Tribute recipe.

Recipe revised by David Poppie

Ingredients
  • Hunt’s Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
  • Hunt’s Tomato Sauce
  • Hunt’s or Contadina Tomato Paste
  • 1 each
    • diced onion
    • red and yellow bell peppers
    • yellow squash, zucchini, both with seeds removed
  • Black beans (substitute kidney beans if preferred)
  • Chopped garlic
  • Karo Dark Corn Syrup (optional)
Seasonings
  • Chili Powder
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Mace
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Worcestershire Sauce
Process

I use a Le Creuset oval 8-quart dutch oven. Crock pot would also work.

  • Brown vegetables together in vegetable oil or olive oil, adding cumin, coriander, mace, ground black pepper to taste
  • Add all ingredients, except black beans
  • Heat in oven at 200-220 degrees
  • Periodically check for taste and add more seasoning to taste, or more tomato sauce if too spicy
  • Add black beans for last hour of cooking
  • Serve with choice of toppings (sour cream, shredded cheese, oyster crackers, etc)
  • Add meat if preferred

Sue’s Beef Tips

Full disclosure: I am not a professional chef nor have I had any professional training. What began as a travel blog turned into surviving Covid blog since we have not traveled much in the past 2 year. So the blog continues with our day to day routine including cooking. Thus, know these recipes are a result from extensive online research and modification to existing recipes. Some of my recipes are tried and true meals that I’ve been cooking for years and others are first time attempts with a reflection at the end.

Have you seen the price of red meat lately? When I saw this package of stew meat on sale I immediately thought of cooking beef tips. So here’s the process.

Ingredients:

  1. Ingredients:
    • 1-1/2 good cut of red meat – choose your meat wisely because you get what you pay for.
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
    • 1/4 pound ground pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
    • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
    • 4 tablespoons flour
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/4-1/2 good red wine
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 small onion
    • 2-3 large pressed/chopped cloves garlic
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary
    • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
    • 1/4 teaspoon Better the Beef Bouillon
    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1
  1. In a large gallon resealable plastic bag or container add and shake well to combine:
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
    • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon chili powder (optional and add more if you like it spicey)
Step 2

Add 1-1/2 pounds of beef meat you have trimmed or prepackaged cut meat from your local market into the resealable plastic bag and shake well to coat the meat with seasonings from step 1. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour into bag and continue to combine and coat the meat with spices and flour combination.

Step 3:

On medium heat add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to your Dutch oven. When it begins to sizzle add the coated meat in a single layer to the pot and brown about 1 minute per side. Do not crowd the meat. Remove meat onto a plate and repeat process until all the meat is browned.

Step 4:

Add 1/4-1/2 cup of dry red wine (use wine you will drink at the meal – not cheap cooking wine). Stir and deglaze your Dutch oven. Cook wine to reduce by 1/2 – watch it closely.

Step 5:

Add 1 tablespoon butter and small chopped onion to the wine mixture in the pot. Cook about 4-5 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add 2-3 pressed large cloves of garlic and cook 1 minute. Make sure to stir the mixture and sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme and rosemary each. After 1 minute add 2 tablespoons of flour stir and cook 2 minutes.

Step 6:

Add 2 cups of beef broth and 1/4 cup of chicken broth gradually to the pot and stir to combine the mixture. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon Better Than Beef Bouillon and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. The sauce will thicken as it cooks.

Step 7:

Return the beef and it’s juice to the pot and bring it to a slight boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer 1 hour. Check on it and stir 2-3 times during the hour. Salt and pepper to taste.

Optional: To thicken the sauce just whisk more flour in some reserved gravy and add it to the pot.

Serve with rice, egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or your favorite pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Reflection: This recipe was easy to make and similar to the many soups that I prepare. The sauce was amazing and I would not change a thing with this process. Know that the chili powder will add a little spice to the dish so add more if you like it hot or eliminate it all together. I thickened the sauce with more flour at the end because we like a heavier sauce. Next time I will not use stew meat but spend more money on a better cut of meat. It came our chewy and dry and may have tenderized had I simmered it longer. My husband said it was the best meal he had eaten all year and even thought it’s late January I took it as a compliment. This recipe is a keeper!

Sue’s Yummy Chicken Soup

Sue’s Yummy Chicken Soup

This recipe is for a hearty thicker chicken soup rather than a broth. It’s delicious, easy to make, and versatile with what you have in your kitchen.

One can use rotisserie chicken to make this easier but sautéing the chicken generally makes the soup taste much more flavorful. I use 1 package of the boneless skinless chicken from Costco with 4-5 pieces.

Step 1:

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot. Sauté 1- 2 pounds of boneless chicken on medium heat until cooked. Estimate about 5 minutes each side. Salt and pepper both sides before cooking. Do not move around while cooking. Remove chicken from pot.

Step 2:

Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pot. Do not burn the butter. Add desired vegetables such as: 1 small onion, 2 stalks of copper celery, and 2 chopped carrots to the pot. Add sprig of fresh thyme, dash of fresh rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning. Stir and cook for 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add 2 cloves crushed garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.

Step 3:

Gradually add 2 tablespoons of flour. Ore can be added at the end if you desire a thicker soup. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Eliminate this step if you prefer a broth soup.

Step 4:

Gradually stir in 32 ounces chicken stock. I use 1 cartoon of organic broth from Costco. Make sure to stir the cracklings from the pot they are filled with intense flavor.

Step 5:

Cut chicken into small pieces and add it to the pot. Include any juices on the plate. Simmer for at least 30 minutes or longer. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Optional

Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream towards the end of the simmer process for a creamy soup. I would add the pasta or rice before adding more flour.

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice adds a little zest.

Add your favorite pasta towards end of the simmer or cook it al denta per the package. You may have to add a more broth if the pasta absorbs the liquid.

Add 1 teaspoon Better than Chicken Bouillon.

Soup is always good the next day but may need more broth as you reheat it. Serve with a sandwich, salad, or some good French crusty bread. Use this basic recipe and modify it to your taste. Enjoy.

Sue’s Taco Soup Recipe

When living in the Carolinas and expecting 6-12” inches of snow one needs to get ready for possible power outages. That being said what better way to prepare than making a big pot of taco soup.

Delicious Taco Soup

Sue’s Taco Soup Recipe

This is a quick and easy hearty soup to be made on a cold night. During the winter months I make this for dinner at least once a month. It’s quick, delicious, and makes plenty of leftovers.

Much of the ingredients to this recipe depends on what I have in the refrigerator and I will improvise as I go but here’s the basic recipe. It can be easily adjusted to make totally vegetarian by increasing vegetable amount and adding the taco mixture into the vegetables and using vegetable stock in place of beef and chicken broth.

Step 1:

Brown 1- 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef, turkey, chicken, sausage, or a mixtures of meats. I normally use ground beef or turkey. When fully cooked drain and mix in 1 package of taco seasoning. I make my own so I can regulate the salt content.

  • Ingredients taco seasoning
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
    • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
    • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
    • ½ teaspoon paprika
    • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Step 2:

In a medium size soup pot add 1 tablespoon each olive oil and butter. When the oil is hot sauté 1 small onion, 1/2 green pepper, 1/2 red pepper, 2 chopped celery stocks, 2 chopped carrots or other fresh vegetables in your refrigerator. Cook about 5 minutes on medium heat or until the vegetables are softened.

Step 3:

Stir in 2 crushed garlic cloves and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle in 1-2 tablespoons of flour depending on how thick you like your soup. You can eliminate this step but I like thick hearty soup. Cook for about 2 minutes and stir frequently.

Step 4:

Add 2 14 ounce cans tomatoes with chili, 1-2 cans of your favorite beans, 1 small jar salsa, canned or frozen corn, can of beef low sodium stock (I also added a little chicken stock), 1 envelope of dry ranch dressing.

Step 5:

Add your meat mixture into the liquid mixture. Stir and partially cover to simmer for about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper along the way or add it to taste at the end.

  • Ingredients:
    • 1-1 1/2 lbs. ground meat
    • 1 package taco seasoning
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 small onion
    • 2 stalks chopped celery
    • 2 chopped carrots
    • 1/2 green pepper
    • 1/2 red pepper
    • 2 cloves crushed fresh garlic
    • 1-2 tablespoons flour (optional)
    • 2 14 ounce cans crushed tomatoes with chilis
    • 1-2 drained cans favorite beans
    • 1 can drained corn
    • 1 small jar salsa of choice
    • 1 can low sodium beef stock
    • 1/4 cup chicken stock (optional)
    • 1 envelope dry ranch dressing
    • salt and pepper to taste

Optional:

To boost the flavors add a teaspoons of beef better than bouillon, additional chili powder, or a small can of green Chilis.

Garnish with cheese, cilantro, avocado, or a squeeze of lime juice and enjoy. Serve it with fresh cornbread.

2022 Norwegian Cruise Line Encore Cruise

Encore January 2-9, 2022

This was our 2nd cruise to be greatly affected during the Covid pandemic but at least this time we were able to board the ship. We were fully aware of the CDC’s recommendations to avoid cruising but our plans were made and we went ahead with our Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) cruise on the Encore to the eastern Caribbean. Many asked before the cruise which ports we were visiting and the response was, “They keep changing the itinerary so it may be a surprise.” Little did we know it was quite the surprise. Here’s the good, the bad, and our take on the entire adventure.

Norwegian Encore

Good

  • There were no lines and no waiting
  • The ship only had 1800 cruisers – this is less than half the capacity
  • Seats at the pool were available
  • Docked in the Bahamas to make up for canceled ports
  • The comedians stayed healthy
  • The crew was amazing and were diligent in keeping the ship clean
  • We easily scored an upgrade to a Haven forward suite
  • Thermal spa
  • The food was delicious
  • Service was impeccable
  • Priority checkin ran smoothly
  • Covid testing in the terminal was well organized
  • Elevators were easily available and mostly empty

Bad

  • Shows such as Kinky Boots and Choir of Men were canceled – we were fortunate to see Choir of Men on the first night
  • 3 ports were canceled
  • Spent 2 days in the Bahamas
  • Covid must have been onboard – the ship was denied entry to ports
  • Last minute notification on port decisions
  • Priority boarding was delayed to after 12:00 pm
  • The spa gave my key card to another cruiser and replaced it with a deactivated card
  • $3,600 was charged to our cabin by another cruiser (the situation was taken care when alerted)

Overall conclusion

This was our 2nd cruise to what we consider the cruise to nowhere (this happened on a cruise to Bermuda while trying to avoid a hurricane). Knowing before boarding that situations may not go accordingly and experiencing unforeseen issues in the past, we felt the cruise was a success. We spent time in specialty restaurants, visited the spa almost daily, relaxed with an awesome spa treatment, walked the track daily, and met up with friends for social time. Be fully aware cruising is not back to normal so pack patience and understanding for the trip.

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