Winter-friendly meal: slowcooker chicken chowder

A bowl of crockpot chicken chowder topped with crumbled bacon.Although it’s a little warmer out today, I know it’s just a matter of time before the winter cold sets in again. Time for soup! But not just any soup: chowder. Now, I know that chowder is more traditionally made with fish, but I’ve made corn chowder more than once. This time, I’m going for a chicken chowder with lots of veggies and I’m trying out Campbell’s Stock First (TM) Cream stock. I got two boxes to give them a try. Earlier this weekend, I made a mac and cheese with one of the boxes (and it was pretty tasty!). So, today, I used the second box to make the chowder.

I will warn: this is not that thick, gloopy type of chowder that is more traditional. This is a thinner broth. If you prefer a thicker broth, you might want to switch to cream instead of skim milk. I’ve heard of some folks who make it with heavy whipping cream. I might consider using two boxes of the cream stock next time, cutting out the milk and sour cream entirely. I just used what I had on hand.

Here’s what I did… Continue reading

More Winter-Warming Comfort Foods: Sausage Bake

Sausage bake with full sausage links.So, winter is finally here because we got snow. Everyone around us has gotten pummeled but we just got a light dusting — still, it’s the white stuff, so winter is here. With winter, as I’ve said previously, I crave comfort foods. Now, for me, comfort foods aren’t necessarily foods I had as a child, but things that are just… comforting. Some, yes, are childhood favourites and some are newer favourites that have made their way into my kitchen in more recent years.

My hubby brought home a double-pack of honey-garlic sausages from Walmart, as they were on sale for really cheap. Typically, we’ll throw those on a pan in the oven and bake them off then serve on hotdog buns. I wanted to do something else. Something not relying on the bready-buns would be preferable. So I kind of poked around the internet, didn’t find what I was looking for, then went looking through the cupboards and fridge to see what I could concoct.

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Taco/Fajita Crescent Roll Wreath

The wreath is cut!

Sometimes, you want a certain taste or dish, but you don’t want it done the “same old way”, right? I was feeling that way about fajitas and tacos. I love them, don’t get me wrong, but I was wanting them done up some other way. I considered a casserole version but then I poked around online and saw a recipe for a cheese, broccoli and chicken stuffed wreath made out of crescent roll dough and thought, “Ah ha! This is what I’m looking for!”

Also, just a note:  I have a tendency of using fajita seasoning instead of taco seasoning, even when we’re having tacos. It’s a personal preference. Use your own. 🙂

Here’s what I did:

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A different type of Club Sammy: Chicken Club Wrap with Turkey Bacon

The finished product: club wrap cut and shifted so you can see the filling inside.

I love club sandwiches.

I mean, what’s not to love? Chicken, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo… and lots of toasted bread. If you’re like me and you’re trying to cut back on your carbs, those three slice of toast might seem like a bit  much. As a result, I started omitting the middle slice, even in restaurants. Not only that, but although I enjoy toast, I found that club sandwiches have always been messy — not because of the fillings but because of the crumbs! LOL.

This is where flour tortillas and an indoor grill has really come in handy. I really like reinventing old favourites and I really enjoy trying to find ways to cut a few calories, carbs, fat, sodium and sugars where I can. So, I turned a classic club sandwich into a wrap. The changes I made include:

  • the wraps were made of whole wheat or multigrain flour tortillas
  • light mayo was used instead of full fat mayo
  • the cheese was shredded to use less (I’m not a fan of light cheddar, so I try to cut back on the amount of regular cheddar I use)
  • the bacon was low sodium turkey bacon

I made this on the weekend for my mom and she fell in love with the sandwich so much at lunch time that she said she was considering asking for another one for dinner! She had never had a grilled wrap before and so she commented that she really preferred the grilled version over a “raw” wrap. I agree with her, really. The grilling just changes the texture and taste ever so subtly. I might even whip a few of these up ahead of time, grill them off and throw them in the fridge, then just reheat them in the microwave at work this week. 🙂

Take a look at the spread on this wrap before I bundled it up:

All the fixings spread out on a flour tortilla for a club wrap.

Does that not look yummy? This is a great way of using up leftover chicken from the previous night’s dinner. What’s not to love about this wrap??

Warning: this is higher in sodium at just over 700mg of sodium. You can cut back on that sodium by finding a lower sodium tortilla, choosing a light cheese and even cutting the mayo out. But I enjoy mayo and as mentioned, I’m not a fan of light cheddar. I’ll run with it. All told, here are the nutritional values based on the sandwich pictured above:

Calories: 412
Carbs: 31g
Fat: 23g (you can cut back on this with the cheese and mayo alone, as these add up to 14g on their own)
Protein: 20g
Sodium: 786mg
Sugars: 2g

Considering this wrap is very filling (to me), these values are more than acceptable to me. I find I can eat one of these sandwiches and be satisfied until my next meal. Some people will make “club wraps”  (or sandwiches) with deli chicken meat — I don’t recommend if it you’re wanting to cut back on sodium. It’s tasty, but when possible, go for regular baked chicken to cut back on that sodium. An ounce of a plain, baked chicken breast has negligible sodium in it; 3 slices of deli chicken can have 600-800mg in them. You can also cut back on the sodium by only using one slice of turkey bacon — I used 1.5 slices this time. If you’re not worried about sodium, then make it how you like it! 🙂

If you have an indoor grill that grills both sides at the same time, at 360F, this sandwich should be done in about 3 minutes. If your grill only does one side at a time or you only have a grill pan for the stove, grill the wrap for 3 minutes  per side, placing another heavy pan on top to help flatten it. Don’t have a grill or a grill pan? Use a non-stick pan. But the grill really makes a pretty sandwich. Just look at those grill marks:

Club wrap just coming off the grill with nice grill marks.

(And  no, I didn’t use any non-stick spray. It just grilled up nicely like that, as my grill is pretty non-stick.)

Potato-Overload Leftover Makeover: Tuna Veggie Patties

Tuna veggie patty on a white plate.

I don’t know about you, but I have a horrible time judging how many potatoes to cook, even for just two people. I always end up cooking too many, or find myself wishing I had cooked up more — though I tend to err on the side of caution and the old family motto of better to have too much rather than not enough!

This week, I found myself in this very predicament. I had two bags of mini white potatoes and thought, “I’ll just cook them all up!” Well, that’s about 2 lbs of potatoes. For two people, I really should have been thinking this through a little bit. We couldn’t possibly get through all those potatoes and still have the rest of the leftovers (chicken, veggies, etc.). So, yesterday, I found myself staring at about a pound or so of cooked potatoes and nothing to go with them, as the rest of the meal components had already been devoured.

What on earth was I going to do with these potatoes?

I had a revelation while at work: Mom used to make us salmon-potato patties for breakfasts on the weekends sometimes with canned salmon. Now, as I’ve likely said before, I’m not a seafood/fish fan, but I can eat canned tuna or canned salmon. I always have cans of low sodium tuna in the pantry. Salmon, not so much — I really get grossed out picking out all the icky bits in salmon, so I tend not to buy it. I’m very particular about salmon — it can’t have any of those little bits in it (you know the stuff). Anyway,  I digress. I got thinking: why not do the same thing but with tuna???

I also had some uncooked veggies in the crisper that were needing to get used up soon before they went bad, so I decided to put my own twist on these. Mom’s were always salmon and potato with salt and pepper for seasoning. She may have even added onion to hers, but I don’t really recall. That was a lonnnnng time ago! And seeing as I can’t eat onion right now, I was looking for other ways to spruce these patties up. So here’s what I did…

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Pared-down Polish haluski: Cabbage and Noodles

Tri-coloured noodles with turkey bacon and cabbage in a white ceramic ramakin

I am not Polish. My family’s background is primarily English and Irish. But as I had a step-great-grandfather who was Hungarian and thoroughly enjoyed Polish foods, I learned to love perogies. I still remember standing on a kitchen chair at my great-grandfather’s home with Nanny, my great-grandmother, helping her make perogies. My job was to cut the dough using an upturned glass to cut perfect circles.

I loved her perogies. And although I hadn’t really had much in the way of Polish or Hungarian food since, I think I simply “got a taste for it” when I was a small child  thanks to my great-grandfather’s love of these potato and cheese dumplings.

Is this posting about perogies? Nah. But it’s about another Polish dish: haluski. From what I understand, this is a dish that is typically made with egg noodles, bacon of some description or another, onions and shredded cabbage and it’s all sauteed up together. I first saw it on Diners, Drive-Ins and  Dives and have seen Guy Fieri’s version of haluski online. But  when I first saw it on Triple D, I thought that I just had to try it.

Unfortunately, again, I cannot eat anything with onion in it right now. So I thought that maybe I could make my own rendition of this, without the onion. I know that it wouldn’t be authentic at that point and that it probably couldn’t even be called haluski at that point, but I don’t cook for others’ tastes — I cook for my own. Here’s what I did…

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Summer Solstice Warming Vegetable Soup

"Summer Solstice" vegetable soup with garlic cheese bread

I’ve recently found out that onions are generally a bad idea for me.  If I don’t want to end up having certain health issues that I won’t discuss here, I need to generally avoid them like the plague.

To say the least, this has really put a cramp in my cooking-style.

Almost every recipe out there involves onions of some description or another. Sliced, diced, chopped, minced, pureed… somehow, it’s present in everything from soups and stews to burgers and meatloaf. What’s an onion-avoiding girl to do??

With the recent rainstorms and cooler summer weather, I’ve found myself craving a good, hearty, warming soup. Yes, soup in the summer — I’m not crazy, I promise! But again: soup = onions. Right? Well, not exactly. I’ve found  that I have no adverse effects from onion powder. There’s hope yet! Based on this and wanting to get something equally tasty and nutritious into me, I went out to buy some veggies I haven’t had in recent days: cabbage  and sweet potatoes.

Sure, I’ve got potatoes in my pantry but the  sweet potatoes are generally so much better for you and they just have a different taste. So, today, after I had gotten up from a short afternoon nap, I started chopping and slicing and  whipped up this yummy little number. I’ve dubbed it Summer Solstice Warming Vegetable Soup because I created it on the Summer Solstice and the flavours are warming without being “spicy”. Feel free to play with the seasonings to make it more to your taste, but  I have to say that this turned out better than I originally imaged!

This also makes a huuuuuuuuuge pot of soup/stew, so feel free  to cut these measurements in half to make a dutch oven’s worth of soup. This one took my large stewing pot, just as a warning.  (See the end of this posting to see the “leftovers” after hubby and I both had two full bowlfuls!) Also, this was an instant hit with my hubby, though there was no meat in the soup. Woo! Here’s what I did…

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