Got 20 Minutes? Make Soup

To me there’s something magical about the way homemade soup can warm the soul on a blustery autumn day. But what if you don’t have all day to make soup? Don’t sweat it. If all you have is 20 minutes, that’s all the time you need to make any of these three from-scratch soups. They’re so easy and so delicious (and cheap, but let that be our little secret), you’re going to want to make it “soup night” at least once a week until spring. 

Food-Soup2

Homemade Chicken Soup

  • 2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
  • 2 cups baby carrots
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or fresh dill (optional)

Cucumbers Galore? Enjoy Salad and Pickles

Today we celebrate cucumbers which will soon be in the peak of their season and dirt cheap!  Cucumbers are not only delicious when prepared well, they are packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Home gardeners would do well to anticipate and plan for a big harvest because cucumbers, like zucchini, have a way to multiplying beyond expectations, and then producing even more. Farmers’ markets are always evident of this truth, where recently I saw a full box for just $5.

Personally, I love cucumbers so much, I would be happy eating them in salad, as pickles, in a sandwich or just straight up with a sprinkle of salt and I mean every day of my life.

One thing to know about cucumbers: When grown in extremely hot temperatures, the cucumber skin can get bitter. You can deal with this by either removing the skin prior to slicing, or soaking the cukes in salt water to remove the bitterness. 

Today I have a recipe for you that may take you back to your childhood. It does for me because this is the way my grandmother made cucumber salad. 

Pic1

Microwave Popcorn May be Trouble in a Bag

When I first read about the possible dangers of microwave popcorn, I assumed I would read about issues having to do with sodium and trans fats. What I’ve learned is that the real problem may be with the bag.

popcorn000

The bag almost all microwave popcorn varieties come in is lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This chemical, when heated, has been linked to infertility, cancer and other diseases in lab animals. No long term studies have been conducted on humans, but the EPA now lists this substance as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”  Holy moly! Likely to be? That’s enough for me to shun the stuff, but that’s not the only reason. Microwave popcorn is relatively expensive!

I’ll show you a cost comparison, but first, let me show you how to make popcorn in the microwave with no PFOA-laden bag, and no tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), annatto extract or propyl gallate added for flavor, color or longevity (ingredients copied from a bag of the stuff). I’m talking fresh, pristine, fabulous popcorn from start to finish in about 3 minutes.

More Ways to Slash Your Food Bill

Could you use an extra $50 or $100 next week? If you get motivated there’s a big chance you can slash your family’s food bill by $50 a week without sacrificing health and nutrition. And that will be tax-free cash you have in your hand … not money that requires more overtime or a garage sale before you can get your hands on it. 

18083903_s

Notice I said “food” bill, not grocery tab. Unless you’re keeping careful track of your spending, you might not know just how much is being sucked out for restaurants, fast food, school and business lunches, coffee shops and on and on. 

There’s not one single way to reduce food costs significantly and consistently. It has to be a combination of strategies: buy right, eat out less and cook at home more. 

Coupons. These days shopping with coupons requires more than clipping them from the Sunday paper. You can still do that but you need to know how to grab digital coupons, too. Even with the explosion of ways to add coupons to your grocery dollars, lots of people don’t do it because it’s just not their thing. Or they don’t have the right information or know-how. Two great resources to get you up to speed: 5DollarDinners.com  and TheGroceryGame.com

Back-to-School Breakfasts Kids Love

I haven’t thought much about “back to school” for quite a few years. But this year will be different. 

HamNCheeseBkfstCups_4

For the past five years, I have taken care of our sweet grandson, Eli, every Friday since he was 6 weeks old. That was a gift I gave to myself and my kids when he was born. To say that Eli and I have grown on one another would be a huge understatement. We live for Fridays and have a secret between us that Friday is our favorite day of the week! 

In just a few weeks, Eli will start Kindergarten, and my Fridays will change forever. Back-to-school will be bittersweet. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way than for him to be going to school and moving into that season of his life. What’s difficult is that I cannot believe five years have gone by so quickly. 

I’ve decided to embrace the whole idea of back-to-school by getting together a collection of kid-friendly breakfasts. What fun! Here’s a small sampling, from our friends at eMeals. They’re celebrating back-to-school at eMeals.com and you really should check that out, too (hint: use coupon code SCHOOL for 20% off an eMeals membership and their Back to School Survival Guide free with purchase).

Muffins: The Perfect Solution

Mom was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You cannot afford to miss it for many reasons, but here are three which come from recent medical research:

10238459_s

1. People who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off are faithful members of the “breakfast club.” 

2. People who eat breakfast may be better equipped to fight off colds and flu. An impressive study found that those who developed more than one illness over the 10-week study were less likely to be breakfasters. The reasons why breakfast might be a protective factor are not entirely clear.

Chop the High Cost of Outdoor Grilling

In that your humble blogger has recently become the proud owner of a respectable outdoor grill (it’s a honey), you can pretty much count on more columns devoted to this subject starting with today. 

3251349_m

But first, I must admit to a momentary lapse of good judgment. Wanting to initiate this bad boy in a manner consistent with its awesome capabilities, I visited the website of Lobel’s of New York, “the best source for the finest and freshest USDA prime dry-aged steaks, roasts, specialty meats, and gourmet products that money can buy.” Unveiling the mother of all outdoor grills seemed like an event worthy of a few high-quality American Wagyu steaks delivered overnight on a bed of dry ice. I checked the price. Gulp! One 16-oz Porterhouse steak: $118.98—plus overnight shipping. 

How to Rescue Those Kitchen Disasters

Last night I suffered a kitchen disaster. I hate when that happens. I ruined an entire pot of pasta because I got busy and was not paying attention. By the time I realized, the pasta had cooked way beyond al dente, all the way to total mush. It killed me to dump the whole thing down the disposal, but there was no way to undue that damage. Thankfully, that’s not true for every kitchen faux pas. This is a list you’re going to want to keep handy just in case. 

24929046_m

TOO MUCH SALT. If you’ve added far too much salt to a sauce or soup, peal and cut a raw potato into two or three pieces and add it to the pot. By the time the pieces of potato become translucent they will have absorbed a lot of the excess salt. Be sure to throw them away before serving. Another trick is to add a bit more unsalted water to the mix, provided this will not also dilute the flavor.

OVERCOOKED VEGETABLES. If you’ve overcooked the broccoli, asparagus or similar vegetables don’t despair. Just tweak your menu a bit to include a lovely creamed vegetable soup. Place the mushy vegetables in the food processor, add hot chicken broth or stock, spices and fresh cream. Process until smooth. Chopped vegetables could also be combined with chicken, butter and cornstarch and placed in a prepared pie shell for a pot pie. If it’s carrots or sweet potatoes you need to rescue, whip them together with raw eggs and pumpkin pie spices to create a soufflé.