Friday, August 20, 2010

Quick and Easy Cheesy Potato Soup

I love soup, any kind, any time, any where. When I'm in a restaurant, I always get the soup instead of salad--and I know which places have good soup. One of my favorites, always, is potato soup of any kind--creamy potato, cheesy potato, baked potato--doesn't matter, as long as it's potato.

But although I often order it out, it's not something I make at home. Until now. My mother cut this recipe out of the newspaper and gave it to me months ago, but I just got around to trying it out this week. Believe it nor not, it's made from frozen (uncooked) hash browns! It's quick and easy, which are my middle names in the kitchen; tastes delicious, and it has no exotic ingredients that can't be found in even a small town grocery store--something that's especially important to me since I moved home to small-town rural Louisiana.

  • medium onion, diced
  • 4 T butter
  • 5 cups of water
  • 4-5 bouillon cubes
  • 1 28-oz package of frozen hash browns (the uncooked kind)
  • 1 pound Velveeta
  • milk (if needed--I didn't need any)

Melt the butter in the pan, then add onion and cook until translucent and tender. You know me, I used dried onion flakes, but I did use the butter, it does add an element of flavor to the overall dish. So I melted the butter, then threw in 2 or 3 tablespoons of dried onion. Add the water and bouillon cubes--I used chicken stock powder, but you could use vegetable stock just as well. Add the hash browns--I added them frozen straight from the bag--and bring the whole mixture to a boil. Cover and turn down to simmer, stirring occasionally.

After about 20 minutes, check to see if the potatoes are tender.

Turn the burner up just a little, (still on low to medium) and add 1 pound of Velveeta--that's the small box or half of the larger box--I used a store brand knock-off.

Cook on low to medium, stirring frequently, until the cheese is melted.

Since bouillon and cheese can be salty, the only additional seasoning I added was some cracked black pepper. Once the cheese is added, you can add milk if needed--I didn't. I did let mine continue to simmer for about 10 minutes more, because we weren't quite ready to eat yet. Just be sure the burner is turned down very low so it won't scorch after the cheese is added. It does thicken a bit upon standing, you might need a little milk to thin it later or to reheat.


I tasted it before I added the cheese, it was pretty good even then, although a little thin. If I wanted cream of potato soup with no cheese, I'd use less broth or stock, and add some milk or even half-and-half right at the end.

For baked potato soup, add some crumbled back and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped chives. I had none of the above on hand, so I didn't, but I think it would be a tasty addition!

This recipe is linked to:
Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum
Recipe Swap at the Grocery Cart Challenge
Friday Foods at MomTrends
Food on Fridays at Ann Kroeker
Meatless Monday at My Sweet and Savory
Delicious Dishes at It's a Blog Party
Tuesday at the Table at All the Small Stuff
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace
Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free
Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sugar Free Sunday--Freestyle Edition

Welcome to this week's edition of Sugar Free Sunday! (I'm posting this a day late, but "Sugar Free Monday" just doesn't have the same ring to it.)

I have no pictures for you, because I haven't done any real cooking this week. Last Monday was a travel day as I moved a truck load of stuff from Georgia back home to Louisiana. My sweet son got the entire truck unloaded that same night, but I haven't been that amibitious and it took me until this weekend to even unpack my suitcase completely.

Since I haven't been cooking at all much, we've been taking advantage of some of the wonderful sugar-free products out there. I know that there are those out there who might not appreciate these wonders of taste and convenience, but trust me, I've had the sugar free products that were available "back in the day", and the things that are out now are hands-down better in taste and texture than the ones we used to try to choke down.

These are our current favorites:

  • Popsicle brand sugar-free popsicles are very good, and only 15 calories. But the Tropical flavors are a whole 'nother level--delicious
  • Blue Bell No-Sugar Added Ice Cream--we're on our second tub of Country Vanilla flavor.
  • Murray Sugar Free Cookies come in a variety of flavors, and are widely available--not all stores carry all of the flavors, but so far I've found them at Dollar General, Walmart, Publix, and Brookshire Brothers.
  • Jello Brand instant sugar free pudding comes in lots of wonderful flavors. So far I've tried the vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, white chocolate, and cheesecake flavors--keepers, every one.

And did you know that Blue Bell No-Sugar Added Country Vanilla Ice cream, combined with a dollop of any flavor of Jello sugar-free pudding, with the addiiton of a splash of milk, topped by a few crumbles of Murray sugar free cookies, makes pretty mean milk-shake? Don't ask me how I know.

What sugar free goodies have you made or come across this week?

Until next time, good (un)cooking, and good eating!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sugar Free Sunday--Recap Edition

Welcome to this week's edition of Sugar Free Sunday!

Ya'll know I fell off jumped off the sugar-free bandwagon a couple of weeks ago. I took advantage of my time off and ate my fill of Krispy Kreme donuts and full sugar ice cream, but this week I made a couple of desserts that have really strengthened my resolve to stay sugar-free. They were quick and easy and tasted delicious. So today I'm going to do a recap of the recipes I've shared, as well as link to several others that I've found on my wanderings around the blogosphere.

Check out these links, or link to your own sugar free recipe

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cream Cheese Banana Pudding

I think I've come up a recipe for the best banana pudding ever! I thought I already had a pretty good banana pudding recipe that uses sweetened condensed milk, among other things; but I don't have any sweetened condensed milk because a) I'm trying to lay off of sugar after falling off the bandwagon last week big time and b) I'm trying to use up as many of my groceries as I can before I leave for home next week. So I scrounged around with what I had on hand, and came up with this quick and easy version that is better than any I've ever had. Mine is sugar-free, but you can use whichever version you'd like.

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c sugar or Splenda
  • 1 c whipped topping (regular or sugar free)
  • 1 pkg vanilla instant pudding (regular or sugar free)
  • 1 3/4 c milk
  • 2 large or 3 small bananas
  • 1 pkg butter cookies (the kind that are shaped like flowers with holes in the middle--I used Murray Sugar-free shortbread cookies)
  1. Spread a layer of butter flower cookies on the bottom of an 8 x 8 dish.
  2. Top with a layer of thinly sliced bananas. I used two large ones, if yours are small you may want to use three.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sugar or Splenda, and 1 cup of whipped topping.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the milk and vanilla pudding until well blended and just starting to thicken.
  5. Combine the pudding with the cream cheese mixture until well blended. Mine was still a bit lumpy because my honey was already asleep and I mixed it by hand instead of breaking out the mixer. (It still tasted good, though, trust me!)
  6. Spread the cream cheese pudding mixture over the cookies and bananas, then add a row of cookies all around the edges--I always because everyone I know who makes banana pudding does it. And it looks pretty. And tastes good.
  7. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. I think we waited 10-15 minutes then we couldn't stand it any more.

I've been experimenting with sugar free desserts for a couple of months now, and I have to say, this is the best yet. It didn't taste sugar free, it tasted like the best banana pudding I've ever made--no funny "whang" or aftertaste, just creamy sweet goodness. I can only imagine what it would be with "regular" pudding or whipped topping or cookies. Wowsa.

This post is linked to:

Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum
Food on Friday at Ann Kroeker
Friday Food at Momtrends
Recipe Swap at the Grocery Cart Challenge
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Delicious Dishes at It's a Blog Party
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace
Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free
Tuesday at the Table at All the Small Stuff

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Butterscotch Yum-Yum, Regular or Sugar-Free

We've been having a heat wave around my house--both inside and out. Outdoor temperatures have been from the high 90's all the way into triple digits, and to make a bad situation worse, our air conditioner at the apartment decided that now would be a good time to die! We actually had to spend one night at a hotel; it was close to 90 degrees inside the apartment that night. It took several days and nine --yes, nine--visits from building maintenance, but we finally got a new outside unit, new electrical breaker and a new thermostat. Not all at once, but that's the winning combination that finally made everything work long enough to really cool things down.

And so I've finally been doing some cooking again! Nothing too exotic, I'll be leaving for Louisiana next week and I've been trying to use up as much of my pantry and stockpile as possible so I won't have to move it all! But it was definitely time for cool and delicious "goodie", so I decided to make a sugar-free version of an old favorite, and to change the flavor up a little by using butterscotch instead of chocolate.

Layer 1: The first layer is a basic "press in" crust:
  • 1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/3 c chopped nuts
  • 1 T sugar or Splenda (optional)

Toss together the flour and sugar or Splenda; cut in the butter, then add the chopped nuts. (I used walnuts because they're about half the price of pecans in the grocery store.) Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 8 pan. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until set and just slightly brown around the edges. Set aside to cool.

Layer 2: While the crust is cooling, mix together in a medium bowl

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c sugar or Splenda
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 c whipped topping (I used sugar free)

Mix everything together until well blended. Spread on cooled crust.

Layer 3: This is where you can get creative with the flavor

  • 1 small pkg instant pudding (I used sugar free butterscotch)
  • 1 1/2 c milk

Whisk together until blended and the mixture starts to thicken. Pour over the cream cheese layer and smooth the edges.

Layer 4: Add a layer of whipped topping (again, I used the sugar-free)

Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. I usually cut this into squares, but I didn't let this one set up long enough, so I just sort of scooped it out onto the plate (see the top picture) then I had to eat along the edge to straighten it out. Sometimes we all have to make sacrifices for the sake our art. Cough.

This got two thumbs up from the sugar-free-ers in my household, including me! If you're not a sugar-free-er, just use regular pudding and whipped topping, and sugar instead of Splenda. It's a good basic recipe that can be adapted with any flavor of pudding, or even fruit topping. Umm, fruit topping, that gives me pause...maybe next time!

This recipe is linked to:

Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed With Grace

Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free

Tuesday at the Table at All the Small Stuff

Delicious Dishes at It's a Blog Party

What's on the Menu at Dining With Debbie

Recipe Swap at the Grocery Cart Challenge

Until next time, good cooking and good eating!