Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Carrot-Tato Soup

This is based on a soup Donald's family ate when he was growing up.  It's simple fare, but easy and good on a chilly day.  We like it with a cheese sandwich on the side.

Donald originally called it "Ground Beef Soup", but since we generally don't use ground beef in it, these days, I'm renaming it "Carrot-Tato Soup".  We typically use ground turkey, which is fine.  Once I had a little leftover beef pot roast (and gravy) that I shredded and used as the protein.  That was the best version of this soup I've ever tasted.

Carrot-Tato Soup


1 lb ground meat (beef or turkey)
2 large potatoes, cut into quarters and sliced thinly
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
1 onion, chopped
5 cups water
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3 tsp beef bouillon granules (or comparable number of cubes)
spices (seasoned salt, black pepper, paprika, Mrs. Dash, parsley, chives, etc.)
1 or 2 Tbsp butter (or margarine)

optional:  celery, tomatoes

Fry potatoes and carrots in small amount of butter.  (I like to fry them in the same pot I'll be making the soup in.  No extra pan to wash and any bits that stick can be deglazed as the soup simmers.)

Optional:  If you have other fresh or frozen (or canned) vegetables on hand, you can toss them into the soup, too.  I often add a little frozen chopped celery and a handful of frozen cherry tomatoes (cut into quarters), because that's something we have plenty of in the freezer.

Add water and beef granules to pot.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.

Meanwhile, fry the ground meat and onion.  Drain fat (if necessary) and add the browned meat and onion to the soup pot.

Add tomato paste to the soup.

Add spices to taste.  (These can be tweaked as wished.  Instead of seasoned salt, you can add your own personal mix of seasonings along with salt.)

Simmer until potatoes are cooked.  (20 minutes?  Maybe longer...)

This soup is very thin and watery.  You can thicken it up with a roux, if you prefer.

Oven Fries for Two

This is a recipe we found online and have enjoyed ever since.  We've tweaked the recipe slightly to better suit our personal tastes (and to make clean-up easier), but it's essentially the same recipe.

These are my favorite homemade fries.  They're lighter than fried potatoes and very tasty.  They're spicy enough that they don't even need ketchup, and you can alter the spices to please your own palette.

Oven Fries for Two


2 large or 3 medium potatoes (Any kind will do, but I prefer red potatoes.)
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp oil
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ paprika
¼ garlic powder (or onion powder-- or a combination of the two)
¼ parsley


Preheat oven to 450°F.
Spray baking sheet with PAM (or other cooking spray).

Slice potatoes thinly into French fry strips.  (I always leave the peels on and usually slice them very thinly to be sure they cook all the way through.)

Combine the dry ingredients in a gallon-size plastic bag.  (I use the cheaper, zipperless bags.)
Scrunch the bag to mix the spices with the Parmesan cheese.

Put the sliced potatoes into the bag, twist and pinch closed with one hand, and gently toss/manipulate the bag to coat the potatoes evenly with spices.

Open the bag and pour in the tablespoon of oil.  Twist the bag closed again and repeat tossing to distribute the oil evenly.

Dump the potatoes onto the baking sheet and even them out into a single layer (or as close as possible).

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until potatoes are thoroughly cooked, turning/stirring once.

For an easy "fast food at home" meal, I like to bake these at the same time as frozen fish fillets or fish sticks.  Though the fish package usually suggests a slightly different (lower) temperature, it's close enough that we can split the difference or simply adjust cooking times.  The fries usually need to go into the oven a little before the fish, but it all works out.

Granny L.'s Cornbread Dressing

This is my favorite dressing-- the main attraction (along with the meat) of many holiday meals eaten at my maternal grandmother's table.  Thanksgiving-- Christmas-- any good old-fashioned feast is improved by its inclusion.  It goes well with turkey, ham, roast, or chicken.  I've never tried it with fish, but I imagine it would be tasty with that, too!

This recipe requires two bakings-- one for the cornbread and one for the finished dressing-- and makes one 9x13 baking pan of delicious dressing.  It can easily be doubled to serve a larger gathering.

Granny L.'s Cornbread Dressing

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Sauté  ½ to 1 cup each of chopped celery and onion in ¼ cup (½ stick) butter (or margarine).
Cook until the onion is clear.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the following ingredients:
1½ cups self-rising corn meal
½ self-rising flour
½ to 1 tsp sugar (according to preference)
1 egg
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp sage
a dash of onion powder
a dash of garlic powder

To these, slowly add approximately 1 cup of milk, until the mixture's consistency is a little thicker than pancake batter-- somewhat runny.

Mix the sautéed celery and onion into the batter.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.  (A well-seasoned 10 or 12-inch cast iron pan works.  I generally use a 9x9 CorningWare dish.)
Let cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Crumble the cooled cornbread into a large mixing bowl.
Add 1 package of saltine crackers, crumbled.

Find some "old" bread.  Biscuits, buns, sliced bread-- any decent leftover or (defrosted) frozen bread will do, even if it's slightly dry.

(There is no definite set amount required, here.  It's different each time we make this dish.  Eyeball it.  You can always add more and put any overflow into a separate baking dish-- but of course at some point you'll diminish the ratio of flavored cornbread to plain bread significantly enough that the finished dressing won't taste as much.  Go with your instinct.)

Shred the bread into small pieces before adding to the bowl.

Boil a couple of eggs.  (We use the microwave for speed and ease.)  Chop them and add to the bowl.

Take chicken broth (homemade, from a can/carton, or from bouillon cubes dissolved in water and heated in the microwave) and pour it slowly into the bread mixture.  Add it a cup at a time (and stir) until the consistency is soupy-- wetter than oatmeal.

Season with pepper and taste.  (The mix should be perfectly safe to eat-- no raw ingredients.)  You may wish to add more seasonings (poultry seasoning, sage, etc.) at this point.  Usually it's salty enough, but if it needs it, go ahead and add another dash of salt.  I like flavorful dressing, so I always add more of the poultry seasoning and sage, if nothing else.

Spray a 9x13 pan with PAM (or other cooking spray).

Pour mixture into pan so that it's more or less evenly spread.
Bake about 45 minutes or until brown and crispy-- but not dried out.

Serve and enjoy!