Sunday, October 13, 2013

Football Saturday Potato Soup

I love soup. It's pretty much the perfect's filling, can cover most of the food groups, and you can make it very tasty. And the leftovers can be eaten for several days or frozen.
Chilly afternoons in the Fall are made for a crock of soup and football.

We call this blog "Eating right...MOST of the time".  This is not one of those times. But everything's right in moderation, right?  We believe so!

My mom taught me to make a very good basic potato soup when I was younger, and it was quick, too. Shred a few potatoes and some onion, cover with water and cook about 15 minutes til tender, then whisk in milk. I made that version for years until I found the recipe for this one, patterned after one of our favorite restaurants, the Iowa Machine Shed.

Today's ingredients...

2 1/2 pounds potatoes
1 pound bacon
1 onion
1/4 bunch celery
1 quart water
2 TBS chicken base
1 quart milk
1 1/2 sticks butter  (6 ounces)
3/4 cup flour
1 cup whipping cream
1 bunch green onions

Let's start by scrubbing the potatoes clean and dicing them up into fairly large chunks...

Cover them with water and boil for about 10 minutes. While this is happening, cut up the celery and the onion.  I'm really liking using Vidalia onions these days...

And dice up the bacon. The actual recipe only calls for 1/2 pound of bacon, but in my family, if you use less than a pound of bacon, you're a lightweight! NEVER less than a pound!

Crisp up the bacon and drain the fat.

Now it's time for the celery & onions to go into the pot with a little leftover bacon grease and the stick and a half of butter...

When it's melted, add the flour.  Whisk it up to absorb all the flour, making a roux.

Cook it for several minutes while whisking.

Now we will add half of the cooked bacon...

Whisk that up and  add the quart of water and the chicken base. Whisk until it thickens...

Time to add the milk. I prefer whole milk in my soups that call for milk. And this recipe calls for a quart of milk and 1 cup of cream. But my store was out of the 1 cup cartons of cream. I don't plan on using any cream in the near future, so I don't want to buy a quart. Time to improvise! A pint of half & half is half milk and half cream. So, I will add 24 ounces of milk and a pint of half & half to get the same mix! 

Drain off those cooked diced potatoes and carefully add to the soup...

Add a little salt & pepper, whisk it up, and cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Dice up the green onions...

Let's ladle up some creamy potato soup!

Mine is on the left, topped off with LOTS of green onions, some bacon bits, and a few crackers. Jo's is on the right, topped with bacon, green onions, and some shredded cheddar cheese.

Love this soup! It's certainly not "eating right", and it's pretty time-consuming to make, but it's worth the "trip"!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Italian Roast Beef

Elvis's Italian Beef Sandwiches

I LOVE a great Italian beef sandwich. Best one I ever had was at Union Station in Chicago. They actually had a lot of great food there, which was surprising for a train hub. You'd think they would only sell vending machine, gas station sandwich type grub!
I got some pretty good rump roasts on sale for $2.39 a pound, and they get nice & tender after spending several hours in the crock pot...perfect for Italian beef sandwiches!

First off, you need a crock pot. This little beauty has been with me for over 25 years now and I've used it a TON. I actually got a crock pot from my parents when I moved into my first apartment after graduating from college. I mostly used it to make chili and other soups. About a year later, while moving to another place, the crockpot went missing. I didn't have many things at that time, and I'm guessing somebody swiped it out of the trunk of my car while I was hauling things in. So this was the replacement crock, and it's been with me ever since.

Old Faithful

Alright....let's make some Italian Beef sandwiches!  Or as we call them..."Elvis Italian Beef Sandwiches".  Here are the ingredients...a 3-4 pound beef rump roast, a sweet Vidalia onion, some of my secret seasoning (a mixture of seasoned salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and celery's great on beef OR chicken!), and some Italian Giardiniera. We get the Giardiniera at an Italian grocery store. It consists of some chopped veggies & peppers packed in some oil. You can get Hot or Mild.  The hot is VERY hot. We like a mix of the 2 for a "sorta hot" Giardiniera. And along the way, Jo started calling it "Jordanaire".  That's the name of Elvis's backup singers, so it became "Elvis Italian Beef Sandwiches"!    

A rump roast is a pretty lean piece of meat, but I still like to trim the thin fat-cap off the side. This thing has plenty of "juice" without that extra fat.

Trim some fat

Now, let's slice it a little so the seasonings & juices can get in all the parts of the roast for the best flavor! I like to slice down to the bottom, leaving just enough connected at the bottom of the roast to hold it together. When done, it will fan out like an accordian.

Now, into the crock pot. Fits very nicely!

Let's add the seasoning. Just shake (or sprinkle) it on. Make sure to get it down in each of the slices!

Slice the onion nice & thin. We love onion on our sandwiches, so we use the whole onion. You could certainly use less.

Put the onion on top of the roast...

Crock pot on "High" for a 6-hour cook, "Low" for an 8-10 hour cook. We're hungry, so we'll go with "High"!

Oops! Forgot an ingredient for the "ingredient picture"! I like to add a package of Au Jus mix. You'll find it at the store amongst the gravy & sauce mixes. Just whisk up the contents of the package with a couple cups of water.

Now, let's add the Elvis topping! Peppers, celery, carrot, olives, a little oil...the tasty Giardiniera! This gives great flavor when cooking, and a tasty topping for the finished product!

Pour the Au Jus over the roast...
...and let that roast cook for several hours, until fall-apart tender.

6 or 7 hours later...

Slice up some hoagie buns, wrap them in foil, and warm them up in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes. Nice, soft, warm, slightly steamed hoagie, ready for some delicious filling! Line the bottom of the hoagie with sliced provolone cheese, then top with beef, onion, and Giardiniera.

How about a little more cheese??? I sprinkled a little pizza cheese on top! And don't forget to add some of the "juice" so it can soak into the bun!

"Elvis Italian Beef Sandwiches"....great for dinner or during those football weekends. And the leftovers freeze great! Just pack up all the beef, juice, and veggies in a plastic container and put in the freezer for another time.  Enjoy, and "Viva Italian Beef Sandwiches"!!!

Sunday, August 11, 2013


What do you do when you have a few roma tomatoes looking ripe and beautiful on the vine?  The great thing about summer is picking freshness from the garden.  We wanted something fresh and good for lunch. There weren't enough tomatoes for a salad and we were out of lettuce.  We looked around the kitchen and found we had all the ingredients we needed for bruschetta.  

Bruschetta is an appetizer we've had a number of times at restaurants and always enjoyed.  So we did it. 

I picked some fresh basil from my herb garden.  We ended up using about twice as much as shown and could have used a little more.  We had the onions and garlic on hand.  They are both staples at our house.  We buy the garlic in bulk!  We had the balsamic vinaigrette in the pantry.  We could have made our own, but we wanted it easy.

John rolled up the basil and gave it a rough chop.  It made the kitchen smell so good.

Chopped up garlic.  

John sliced off the tops and cut the romas in half.  

We used our chopper on the tomatoes.  It gives it a good cut.  

Same with the red onions.  It doesn't take much. 

All into the bowl!

Only about half the basil.  The rest we will add later.

When it is all mixed together and looking beautiful, we throw it into the fridge to cool off.

We had leftover hoagie buns that John sliced.  

Sprinkle with olive oil.  We put it in a 350 degree oven to toast them. 

We sprinkled with a little Parmesan cheese.

Spoon on the roma goodness.

Another sprinkle of Parmesan and the  rest of the basil. 

It was so good.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eating Out: Buzzard Billy's

We were attending the final Iowa Barnstormers Arena football game of the season in downtown Des Moines with Jo's sister Michelle and her husband, Terry. Where to eat? We decided on a place that has been in Des Moines for many years, and is just down the street from Wells Fargo arena (where the game is played). Let's check out Buzzard Billy's!

Buzzard Billy's serves "the best of authentic New Orleans and American cuisine". What's not to like about that? Get some good food and a few beers, then walk up to the game. 
Now, Buzzard Billy's has a huge menu. From appetizers, wings, soups, salads, dinners, and sandwiches, I count 92 different choices!  While trying to decide what to eat, we choose the "Cajun Nachos" for an appetizer. 

                                 Cajun   Nachos

Certainly a great way to start the night..."Corn tortilla chips smothered in cheese sauce, topped with a spicy Cajun sausage blend, mozzarella cheese, banana peppers and fresh pico de gallo." It comes with salsa and sour cream on the side.  The serving size is huge!

While I was drinking a beer, Jo opted for the "Category 5 Hurricane", a New Orleans legend. It must have been pretty good, because she told me we need to learn how to make these at home.

                                  Category 5 Hurricane

After much thought, we finally decided on what to eat for dinner. Terry likes spicy burgers, so he chose the Swamp Thing..."A 1/2 lb. Certified Angus Beef topped with coleslaw, Creole honey mustard, jalapeno bacon and Jalapeno Muenster cheese, served on a jalapeno bun."

                                   Swamp  Thing

He said it was good, but he would have like some more spice on it. Those are sweet potato fries on the side.

I chose the "Louisiana Purchase"...Fried crawfish, Fried Alligator Tail & Fried Oysters served with Creole Honey Mustard, cocktail sauce, Remoulade and Tartar sauce. It comes with French fries, hushpuppies and coleslaw.

                                Louisiana  Purchase

The crawfish were good.  The fried gator and the oysters were pretty small and mostly breading. Fries were thick and good. Great taste on the coleslaw, but it was room temperature. Coleslaw is one thing I think needs to be served cold. I'll probably pass on this one next time and go with the dinner Jo got...Chicken Tchoupitoulas.  "A fresh chicken breast seasoned with Cajun spices and grilled, served over a hash of diced fried potatoes, ham, mushrooms and green onions. Topped off with a New Orleans Barnaise Sauce".

                             Chicken Tchoupitoulas

Chicken was cooked perfectly, the ham was excellent, and the sauce brought it all together. Very tasty. And the corn side dish was very different, but very tasty...although it could have been hotter (spicier AND temperature).

Michelle opted for the fried gator strips with sweet potato fries...

                                                                Fried  Gator 

Dinners are in the $12-$20 range. Our food took quite a while to get to the table, but the place was getting busy with people coming in before the game.

After dinner, a short walk up the hill to Wells Fargo Arena for the game. The Barnstormers lost...again.

But we had a fun night, and some good food at a restaurant we'd never tried before. We liked Buzzard Billy's, although it didn't necessarily "knock our socks off". It will probably warrant another visit in the future...and I can guarantee that visit will include the Cajun nachos and the Chicken Tchoupitoulas!