Cheeseburger Soup

Cheeseburger Soup, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Garnished with Cheese and Bacon
I'm always game for trying a new recipe, so when a fellow foodie friend mentioned the Cheeseburger Soup she saw served on Food Network's Triple D show filmed in New York, I found the video.  

Then she found Amanda's blog that made an adapted version.  Between the two I came up with my version, as I didn't have Velveeta on hand, so used Cheddar; and used Spring Mix Lettuce instead of iceberg.

Oh my what a keeper! All the taste of a cheeseburger in a thick creamy soup.  I added cooked, diced bacon and sprinkle of extra cheese on top for presentation.

The Food Network video shows "what" the cook throws in the pot, but no recipe or measurements, and the blog shows measurements used with low-fat ingredients.  I used Amanda's measurements, but used ingredients I had on hand.

Here's links to the video and blog for comparison:
Cheeseburger Soup, Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Cheeseburger Soup Ready to Serve

Cheeseburger Soup

1 pound lean ground beef
Hamburger seasoning mix (I used a steak rub blend) or salt/pepper
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 Tab. butter
2 cups chicken broth
8 oz. Velveeta Cheese, cut into cubes; or shredded Cheddar, about 2 to 2 -1/2 cups
2 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1/4 cup milk
1-2 Tabs. cornstarch with few Tabs. of water
1 medium tomato, diced
1/4  head of lettuce, chopped, about 2 cups
Optional: cooked diced bacon, extra shredded cheese and or croutons to top soup when serving.

Brown ground beef in a skillet.   Season with choice of hamburger seasonings. Drain and set aside.

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Ground Beef Added
In a medium saucepan, add butter and diced onion cooking until onions become translucent. Add chicken broth,  diced Velveeta (or shredded Cheddar) and diced cream cheese. Turn the heat down to medium low and allow cheeses to melt, stirring often, then stir in milk.

In a small cup mix cornstarch and water to make a no lump slurry–add water as necessary. Add to the cheesy mixture. Stir to combine and thicken the soup.

Add ground beef to the soup pot, then diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce. Stir to combine and turn to low heat until ready to eat.  Garnish with extra cheese, diced bacon or croutons.

Serves 4 to 6.
Estimated cost: $5 or less; $1.25 or less per serving.

Chicken and Dumplings

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Thanks to Brandie's blog, The Country Cook for inspiring me to make chicken and dumplings the old-fashioned way I remember eating them as a child.  I discovered her recipe on Pinterest and recently made it to the delight of my husband.

I frequently make 
potato dumplings, spaetzles and a Bohemian dumpling that use eggs, which I've posted, but never this type with baking powder and rolled out dough.

Pot pies, or chicken
ala king are great dishes for using leftover chicken, and now this recipe has been added to my favorites for great comfort food at little cost.

I added onions and veggies like I do for pot pies or ala king, but it really was the great dumplings I was eager to try, and so glad I did.  It can be made anytime if you have a few chicken breasts on hand;  just season, saute or poach then shred for this recipe.

Chicken and Dumplings
3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
2 quarts chicken broth
1 cup of frozen mix veggies, like peas and carrots
1/2 cup diced onion
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tabs. butter, cubed
milk (a little less than a cupful)

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add shredded chicken and stir, then add veggies to simmer.  Meanwhile make dumplings. In a bowl mix baking powder and flour, cut in butter with a fork, your hands, or pastry cutter, then add milk stirring to form dough.

Turn dough onto well  floured counter, and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness, adding more flour to prevent sticking. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut into 1-inch squares.

Bring broth up to a slow boil again and begin adding dumplings one at a time so they don't all stick together. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir frequently while adding them. The extra flour on dumplings will help thicken the broth as dumplings cook.  Taste for "doneness." Dumplings should not taste doughy, but rather more like a noodle.  Serves at least 6-8.

Estimated cost: $4.80 or less; .80 cents a serving or less.

Surf and Turf for Valentine's Day

Surf and TurfI've posted this meal before and am making it again for Valentine's Day Dinner.  It's a dinner worth repeating! 

 The twice baked potatoes previously made are in the freezer, and I stocked up and froze lobster tails in December's sale. My local grocer had a New York steak sale this week, so I'm all set for a 5-star meal at home with big savings over restaurant prices.

The first time I recall eating lobster was after I was out of college, married, and celebrating a special occasion at a restaurant.

Oh my it was delightful!  I of course have ordered it since over the years, on special occasions, or ordered "surf and turf," as I do love beef.

In the last few years, my local grocery store has held "specials" on 4 - 5 oz. lobster tails for around $5 a piece. They've offered this around Valentine's Day or near Christmas, so I stock up, vacuum seal and freeze them.

Then every month or so, I make an extra special dinner for the two of us, like I did this past New Year's Eve.  Knowing what restaurants charge for such a meal, justifies a food splurge for one meal at home, as it feels economical, but not a real budget buster.  It's the fanciest meal I make with the "wow factor" for presentation!

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppAt first I had no idea how to cook a lobster tail, but looked up info and settled on this method.

Surf and Turf, Lobster and Beef
4 oz. or larger lobster tail(s)
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
lemon and lemon juice
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
4 - 5 oz. steak, of choice: New York, Sirloin, 3/4 inch thick
steak rub seasoning
steamer pan

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppWith kitchen scissors, cut lobster shells up middle of the back to near the end of tail, and with fingers gently spread shell, nudging meat from the inside, and lifting it out and up, leaving end attached, then letting meat rest on top of shell.

Fill sauce pan with 1-2 inches of water, add 2 Tabs. lemon juice, minced garlic, and Old Bay.  Set steamer pan on top, place lobsters in and cover.

Bring water to a boil, turn down and steam for 7 minutes.  Shells will turn bright red, and meat will no longer look translucent. Don't over cook, or lobster meat will become tough. Serve with melted butter mixed with lemon juice for dipping, and a lemon wedge.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppUploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppMeanwhile for the beef, preheat oven to 350. Oil and season steak with salt and pepper or a steak rub, and fry 2 minutes on each side in smoking hot skillet, to sear.  Then put skillet in oven for 6 minutes for medium rare.  Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

I also serve with a Twice Baked Potato and a salad.

Estimated cost with potato and salad: $8 per person.

Lentil Soup

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A healthy, hardy soup from dried beans which cook quickly compared to other dried bean soups.  No soaking beans overnight -- from start to finish just 40 minutes.

Like other legumes, lentils provide protein and are a good source of iron which make them popular in vegetarian dishes.

I don't recall eating lentil soup growing up, but remember first tasting it in a German restaurant in the 70s, then looking in cookbooks for a recipe.

Now it's one of my favorite "soups of the week."  
If adding meat, I use bacon as it's usually on hand, but leftover ham or beef can be used.

Soup, salad, and some crusty bread make for a tasty, healthy lunch or dinner.

Lentil Soup

2 cups dry lentils, rinsed and drained
2 quarts of water, or broth, chicken or beef
1 pound can of chopped tomatoes
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp. oregano or an Italian spice blend
1/2 pound chopped bacon (optional)
1 cup finely chopped celery
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tabs. of butter
2 Tabs. lemon juice

In a large soup pot, add water or broth, rinsed lentils, and remaining ingredients, except butter and lemon juice. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 40 minutes to an hour.

Remove bay leaf. Can thicken with mixture of flour and water, or lightly puree with a stick blender. Add butter and lemon juice, stir to blend. Serve immediately. Makes slightly over a half gallon. Freezes well. Serves 8-10.
Estimated cost: $4.00 or less; .50 cents a serving or less.

Alfredo Sauce for Shrimp or Chicken

Alfredo SauceAlfredo Sauce offers a tasty alternative to red sauce for pasta or pizza. From scratch it's much healthier and less expensive than jarred sauce. 

I keep a bag of frozen ready-to-use shrimp in the freezer and take out portions needed for recipes; also meatballs.  

Sometimes I use left over chicken or saute a chicken breast to use with this sauce. The sauce is delicious on its own over pasta.

Add a salad, crusty bread and enjoy a 5-star meal at home.

Alfredo Sauce for Shrimp or Chicken
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 Tabs. flour
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. half & half cream or milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, or more to taste
1 tsp. garlic powder or minced garlic
black pepper (to taste)
1 tsp. of Italian spice blend or Italian seasoning of choice
pasta of choice, allow 2 ounces per serving

Melt butter in sauce pan on medium heat and whisk in flour until blended, cooking 1 minute until thickened. Add cream cheese and whisk until smooth, then stir and blend in half-and-half (or milk). Whisk in parmasan cheese, garlic, herbs and pepper. Simmer until heated through, creamy and thickened.
Serves 4 - 6.

Pour over and mix with any pasta, or use for homemade pizza white sauce. Add cooked: shrimp, chicken or meatballs to sauce and heat through. (Allow 3 to 4 oz. per person) and serve tossed with pasta.

Estimated Cost: $3.00 or less; .75 cents or less per serving with pasta. Shrimp or meat would add $1.10 or less per person.