Apple, Cheddar, and Bacon Soup

It’s sunny and gonna come close to 70º today…

but!

It is also November, so that means a nice bowl of soup is a pretty good idea.

Cheddar cheese soup.

With apples.

And bacon.

OK, so now that I have your attention, let us consider this really very nice recipe from the very nice folk at Food Network.

Of course, I made a few changes to make it my own, and, after having made this once, believe that I should make one more:

I will, from now on, replace the toasted rye bread cubes with toasted pumpernickel (which will also work a treat if you want to make some Ruebens).

INGREDIENTS
•2 tbsp bacon fat
•24 oz small gold potatoes
•2 cups diced sweet onion
•2 cups diced apple
•4 cups low sodium chicken stock
•2 cups unsweetened apple juice
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tbsp Dijon mustard
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•3/4 tsp Kosher salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (I used a Wisconsin jalapeño Cheddar)
•3 slices bacon
•Toasted rye (or pumpernickel!) bread cubes
•Chopped chives

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Wash the potatoes, then slice them in half and cover with cold water in a bowl. Set aside to rest until needed.

Heat your oven to 250º, then cut your bread of choice into one inch cubes and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, until crisped, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Cook the bacon in a large pot over medium heat until crispity – about four or five minutes per side should do it. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to cool.

Drain all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pot, increase the heat to medium high, then drain the potatoes and add to the pot with the apple and onion.

Note: not enough bacon fat to make two tablespoons? Add olive or canola oil (or butter!) to make up the difference.

Cook, stirring often, for about eight minutes, until the apples are soft.

Stir in the chicken stock, apple juice, Sherry Peppers Sauce, hot sauce, Dijon mustard, salt, black pepper, and Aleppo pepper and bring to a simmer.

Simmer, still stirring often, for another ten or twelve minutes, until the potatoes are tender, then lover the heat, add the Cheddar and stir until melted.

Now, you have an option:

If you have an immersion blender, use that in the pot to blend the soup until it is thick and smooth.

If you don’t have an immersion blender (why not?), transfer the soup in batches to a blender and pulse until as smooth as you like. Of course, then there is the bowl to stash the soup in stages before returning it, all pulsed and smooth to the pot; and then, there will be that bowl and the blender to wash. Seems a lot of bother.

Crumble the bacon pieces and stir into the soup. Give it a taste (nice!) but sure, go ahead and add a bit more salt, if you think it needs it.

Serve with those crusty rye (or pumpernickel!) bread cubes, and chopped fresh chives sprinkled over the top.

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Asparagus in Puff Pastry

When I came across this recipe, from the nice folk at Food Network, I knew it would be just the thing to serve to a couple of friends coming over for a small, socially distanced Saturday evening.

And, I was right, mostly. Even though it needed to be prepped and baked just before serving, it was wicked simple to toss together, and, the the most part, a pretty big (and tasty) hit.

Except…

None of us were too, too impressed with the salami, so, next time (and, heck yeah, there will be a next time) I think I shall keep the asparagus and Mozzarella (I used smoked Mozz), and replace the salami with a nice, zippy dab o’ mustard. This one would, no doubt, work a treat.

The Food Network folk called these asparagus tarts, and yeh, I guess I can see that, but ‘asparagus in puff pastry’ seems much clearer. You do what you like.

INGREDIENTS
•1 large egg
•1 tbsp water
•1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
•Mozzarella cheese*
•12 slices Genoa salami
•12 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut in half

*I used some smoked Mozz I found in the cheese case, but plain would be fine, too, or mebbe try some marinated.

Heat your oven to 400º and whisk the egg together with the water in a small bowl.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, unfold the puff pastry sheet onto the paper, and cut into 12 squares.

Note: the Food Network folk wanted me to roll the dough out even thinner than it was so that I could cut it into 16 squares. I had other things to do, and, really, 12 pieces was fine for a small gathering.

Separate the squares on the parchment, and place one thin slice of Mozzarella on the center of each.

Top with a thin slice of salami (or a dab of zippy mustard), and then the two asparagus halves, on the diagonal.

Note: if you really want to keep the salami, mebbe just go ahead and add some of that zippy mustard anyway.

Bring two sides of each pastry square up and over the filling, press lightly, and brush with the egg wash.

Pop into the hot oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

Serve warm – though I should add that any leftovers, nibbled more or less directly from the fridge, were pretty nice, too.

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Glazed Salmon in the Air Fryer

Our favorite local fish monger and smoke house set us up with a couple of lovely salmon filets and, while we both really like the Chili Sauce Glaze, I was in the mood for a little sumpin’ sumpin’ different. I knew I was going to use the air fryer, because, why wouldn’t I? So I got to thinking about how to keep the salmon moist and mebbe also add a bit of flavor.

Then, it hit me:

Mayonnaise.

But, not plain mayonnaise, nope, I was gonna use my Medianoche Mayonnaise, which I happened to have sitting in the fridge, so, bonus!

And the rest, as they say, is history.

INGREDIENTS
•1 tbsp brown sugar
•3 tbsp Medianoche Mayonnaise*
•2 salmon filets, skin-on
•1 tsp Kosher salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper

*Really, plain mayonnaise will work fine, too; but Medianoche is so simple to knock together, just stir 1/4 cup of your fave Italian dressing into one cup of mayonnaise with one tablespoon of hot sauce. Done.

Heat your air fryer to 400º and apply cooking spray to the basket or rack.

Arrange your salmon, skin side down, on the rack and season with the salt and peppers.

Stir the brown sugar together with the mayonnaise and brush evenly over the top and sides of the salmon.

Pop into the air fryer and cook for about ten minutes, until nicely browned in spots and the the salmon flakes easily when tested with a fork.

So very good!

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Let’s Make Reubens!

Yeh, I know…

“Who doesn’t know how to make a Reuben?”

Well… me, for one. I mean, the basics are obvious, corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and then, cook’s choice; rye or dark pumpernickel bread.

But! There are a couple of little tricks, one from Emeril, and one from one of my fave dive restaurants; so let’s go ahead and make us a sammich!

INGREDIENTS
•Thinly sliced corned beef
•Rye or pumpernickel bread
•Russian dressing
•Sauerkraut
•Sliced Swiss cheese
•Butter, softened
•Grated Parmesan cheese

Note: Emeril also had a recipe for Russian dressing, which looked very good, but I already had an open bottle from the market. Mebbe next time.

First thing I did not know: heat your oven to 350º, then place the corned beef slices in a shallow baking dish. Cover tightly with foil, then bake for 20 minutes to warm the corned beef.

Corned beef well and truly warmed (but not dried out, because of that spritz of water), we can assemble our sammiches.

Lay the bread out on a board, and spread some Russian dressing on each slice.

Top one slice with corned beef, sauerkraut, and a slice of Swiss cheese, then place tthe other slice of bread, Russian dressing side down, on top.

Spread the top of each sammich with some of the softened butter, and then…

Second thing I did not know: sprinkle finely grated Parmesan cheese evenly over each buttered sammich side.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add the sammiches, butter and Parmesan cheese side down, and cook until nicely browned and a bit crispity – about four minutes should do it.

While you are browning that first side of your sammiches, spread butter and Parmesan cheese over the top of each.

Flip the sammiches and continue to cook until the untoasted buttered and cheese side is also nicely browned, and the Swiss cheese is ooey gooey melty, another four minutes or so should do it.

Remove from the heat and let rest for a minute or two before slicing and serving.

Emeril called for serving his with coleslaw and dill pickles.

I went with sliced dills and potato chips, and we thought it a fine and dandy dinner.

So, go ahead, Rueben up!

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Chicken Thighs With Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

When my husband found this recipe from the nice folk at EatingWell Magazine and asked me to make it; I had a bit of an ingredient shopping breakdown while at the market.

Slivered sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil?

Check.

Heavy creamy and shallots?

Yeh, you betcha!

Chicken cutlets?

Ermmm… how about bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs?

Those’ll work, right?

And yes, actually, they worked a treat; the only change I would make in the future, and I might do this with chicken cutlets, too, is that I will double the amount of wine and cream in the sauce.

So, cutlets or thighs, try this pretty tasty chicken dish, soon!

INGREDIENTS
•2 lb bone-in, skin on chicken thighs (four)
Seasoned Salt
•Black Pepper
•2 tbsp olive oil from sun-dried tomato jar
•1/2 cup slivered sun-dried tomatoes
•1/2 cup chopped shallots
•2 cloves garlic
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1/2 cup dry white wine
•1/2 cup heavy cream

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Season both sides of the chicken with the Seasoned Salt and pepper and set aside.

Add the two tablespoons of oil from the sun-dried tomato jar to a large pan and warm over medium heat.

Add the thighs, skin side down, and cook for six or seven minutes, then flip and cook for another ten minutes or so, until and instant read thermometer inserted in the largest thigh reads 165º.

Remove the chicken from the pan, loosely cover, and keep warm.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, and the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.

Raise the heat to high and add the Sherry Peppers Sauce and the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up any of those tasty browned bits.

Cook, stirring often, for another couple of minutes, until any liquid in the pan has mostly cooked off.

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the cream. I think you can see how the sauce, while quite nice, is gonna be a little bit sparse, so, even if you haven’t doubled up on the wine, go ahead and add more cream.

Note: to paraphrase Julia Child: “if you’re concerned about all that cream, use butter.”

Reduce the heat to low, return the chicken to the pan – I also added some Blanched Asparagus – toss to coat well with the sauce, then cover and let rest on the stove until heated through.

Very nice! We had ours with tiny potatoes and thought it a fine dinner.

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Air Fryer Swordfish With Lemon Sauce

This started out as a recipe from the barefoot contessa: Sicilian Grilled Swordfish; but, it was cold and dark, and there was no way my husband was gonna grill, so, air fryer it was. And, though I loved the look of her lemon sauce, I have a few things that I, personally, have to do when I make swordfish…

I like to pour milk over the steaks to cover, then stash in the fridge for an hour or three to soak – to me, it seems to bring out the sweetness in the fish.

Then, whether grilling or air frying, I am gonna brush both sides of my swordfish with mayonnaise, or a mayonnaise mixture, before cooking, to help give the fish a crust, while keeping it tender inside.

So, those changes made, I was ready to start.

INGREDIENTS
Swordfish:
•2 swordfish steaks
•Milk
•1 tbsp pizza sauce
•1 tbsp ranch dressing
•1 tbsp mayonnaise
Seasoned Salt
•Black pepper

Lemon Sauce:
•2 tbsp lemon juice
•1/4 cup olive oil
•1 tsp dried oregano
•1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
•1 tsp Kosher salt
•1 tsp black pepper
•1 tsp Aleppo pepper

First things first; arrange the swordfish in a single layer in a dish then pour milk (I use whole milk) over to cover the fish. Cover the dish and stash in the fridge for a few hours. Again, I think that this helps to bring out the sweetness of the fish – I tend to do this with all white fleshed fish, and scallops, too.

Next, make the lemon sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together, then setting aside until needed.

Note: I used my immersion blender.

When ready to cook the swordfish, remove from the milk bath (discard the milk).

Stir the mayonnaise together with the ranch dressing and pizza sauce, then brush over both sides of the swordfish.

Note: plain mayonnaise works a treat here, too, but I was trying to add a hint of tomato to the fish before I hit it with the lemon sauce at the very end.

Heat your air fryer to 400º and arrange the swordfish in a single layer in the basket.

Note: some air fryers do not need to be preheated, so check the instruction manual for your machine.

Season the swordfish with a bit of the Seasoned Salt and black pepper, then pop into the air fryer for four minutes.

Pull the swordfish out of the air fryer, flip over, and, again, lightly season with Seasoned Salt and black pepper.

Return to the air fryer for another four to six minutes, until the swordfish is cooked through and flakes easily.

Remove from the air fryer and transfer to rimmed plate or platter.

Poke holes in the fish with the tines of a fork, then pour the lemon sauce evenly over all, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for five minutes.

Transfer to plates and serve.

We thought scallion pancakes (from the freezer section at Trader Joe’s) made for the perfect side, but you could also go with the contessa’s  original idea and serve the swordfish over a bed of baby arugula.

I also might not say “no” to baby spinach.

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Parfait! Swiss Turkey Casserole

We recently had some friends over for birthday celebrations, and the timing was perfect to do a Thanksgiving test-run while also celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving.

Air Fryer Turkey Breasts and Italian Beef Stuffing were thoroughly enjoyed, but, as with most feast day dinners, there were leftovers to be dealt with.

Enter my Aunt Buzz’s Swiss Chicken Casserole, which, as it happens, works a treat using leftover turkey and stuffing in

place of chicken and bread cubes.

INGREDIENTS
•4 cups diced cooked turkey
•1 cup diced celery
•1 cup diced onion
•2 cups bread cubes (or leftover stuffing)
•1 cup mayonnaise
•1/2 cup milk
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp black pepper
•1 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 tsp parsley
•8 oz. Swiss cheese – cut in thin strips

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Apply cooking spray to a 2-1/2 quart baking pan and heat your oven to 350º.

Whisk the mayonnaise together with the milk, Sherry Peppers Sauce, black pepper, and parsley until well combined.

Note: because I was using well seasoned turkey and stuffing, I opted not to add additional salt.

Stir in the bread (or stuffing) and cheese, then add the turkey and toss to mix well.

Transfer to your prepared baking dish and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Note: if you assemble the casserole ahead and stash in the fridge until ready to bake, increase your baking time to 50 minutes, or until the casserole is heated through, the cheese melted, and bit s of the bread or stuffing are nicely browned.

Remove from the oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.

A nice salad and some Cranberry Relish would be just the accompaniments here.

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Air Fried Strip Steak – Plus Bonus! New (and Better!) Marinade

So…

this happened: tender, tasty strip steak in the air fryer, and most certainly one of my better marinades.

And it all started with a ‘buy one, get one free’ deal on strip steak at the butcher counter.

A couple of steaks, a couple of righteously sized potatoes for baking, and we were, almost, good to go!

It was too dark and chilly for my husband to even think about firing up the grill, so I went in search of air fryer methods, and decided to whip up a small marinade, too.

INGREDIENTS
Marinade:
•1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
•1/4 cup Arby’s Sauce
•1/4 cup barbecue sauce
•1/4 cup canola oil

Steak:
•2 strip steaks

Note: more than two steaks? Go ahead and double (or triple) the marinade amounts.

Whisk the marinade ingredients together and pour over the steaks in a large dish.

Another Note: I used my meat tenderizer on the steaks before adding the marinade.

Cover and stash in the fridge for a couple of hours, flipping the steaks every hour or so.

When ready to cook, remove from the fridge and heat your air fryer to 400º.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and arrange in a single layer in the air fryer basket.

Air fry the steaks for eight to ten minutes, turning them over after four to five minutes.

Remove from the air fryer, cover loosely in foil, and let rest for five minutes.

Nice!

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Spinach Salad With Spicy Baked Shrimp

When my husband shared this recipe from the nice folk at Betty Crocker, they were selling it as a ‘sheet-pan dinner’ which was then served over baby spinach with crumbled Feta.

It took me actually making it for dinner to realize that it is, in fact, an especially tasty spinach salad – more than suitable and satisfying for serving as a starter for four or a main course for two.

And… talk about easy to prepare…

INGREDIENTS
Sauce:
•1/4 cup olive oil
•1 tbsp Sambal Oelek
•1 tbsp sweet chili sauce
•1 tbsp honey
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt

Salad:
•1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
•2 cups halved grape tomatoes
•19 oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
•Freshly chopped parsley
•Baby spinach
•Feta cheese

Note: the original recipe called for two tablespoons of chili garlic sauce, which I was flat out of, so I used Sambal Oelek and sweet chili sauce, and added some of my fave hot sauce to balance things out. Worked a treat.

Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a large bowl to combine, then add the shrimp, grape tomatoes, and chick peas and toss to coat well.

Arrange in an even layer in a 13×9 baking pan – you can, of course, use a sheet pan, but it all seems to fit fine in a glass pan, and the cleanup was a total snap – rinse out and toss in the dishwasher.

Position the rack about four inches from your broiler, then slide the pan of shrimp in and broil for five minutes.

Remove from the broiler, stir, then return and broil for another two or three minutes, until the shrimp is nicely pink and cooked through.

Scatter the parsley over the top, then serve over baby spinach with crumbled Feta.

Stoopidly good, and, really, hardly any real effort involved, so, bonus!

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Deviled Ham Spread

Sometimes, you go back to the past and rediscover stuff that is so good, it makes you (well, me, anyway) wonder, “why haven’t I made this more often?”

Such is the case with this deviled ham spread – which I cobbled together from a couple of different recipes I found on line.

Perfect on your fave cracker, and not too, too terrible slathered on a celery stick, either, or, go ahead and make yourself a sammich, you will not be sorry.

INGREDIENTS
•1 can (4-1/4 oz) deviled ham
•4 oz cream cheese, softened
•1/2 cup shredded Cheddar*
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1/2 cup diced celery
•2 tbsp mayonnaise
•1 tsp parsley
•1/2 tsp lemon juice
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/4 tsp garlic powder

*I used a Wisconsin jalapeño Cheddar

Beat together the cream cheese, Cheddar, hot sauce, and mayonnaise until well blended, then stir in the remaining ingredients.

Transfer to a container, cover, and chill for a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Enjoy as you will.

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