Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cheeseburger Soup

January here has been really cold. What's better on a cold day than a bowl of soup? We have soup at least once a week during the winter. I thought I'd start sharing some of our family's favorite soup recipes. Cheeseburger Soup is a very easy soup to put together. You probably have the ingredients on hand already. It's a crow-pleaser with adults and kids.

Cheeseburger Soup

1 to 1 1/2 lb. ground beef
3 T. butter or oil
3/4 C. chopped onion
3/4 C. shredded carrots
3/4 C. diced celery
4 C. chicken broth
4 C. diced potatoes
1/4 C. flour
10-12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 C. milk
1 1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 to 1 tsp. minced garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 C. sour cream or plain yogurt

Brown ground beef, drain and set aside. Saute onion, carrots, celery, and basil about 5 min. Stir in flour and add broth, potatoes, and ground beef. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender (15-20 min.). Add salt, pepper, minced garlic, cheese, and milk. Stir and cook to melt cheese and heat soup through. Remove from heat. Blend in sour cream and serve.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Winter Walk

This weekend we took advantage of the "warmer" weather (everything's relative, right?) to go for a hike in The Hollows. It was a beautiful walk through the woods and past the frozen marsh.

We saw lots of animal tracks, but the only wildlife we saw were birds. We happened upon some old foundations in the woods. I don't remember these from past trips to The Hollows, but it was a fun find. It's neat to see a piece of history and imagine the settlers who once called it home.

The fresh air was wonderful and it is a sweet winter memory.

For information on The Hollows and other places for hiking and outdoor fun, you can visit the McHenry County Conservation District website.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tea with Downton Abbey

Like most Downton Abbey fans, I have been anxiously awaiting the new season. What will happen to Mary and the rest of the family following Matthew's death? Tonight, we'll find out.

I've seen lots of fun ideas for Downton Abbey-themed parties on Pinterest, but tonight it will be just John and me watching at our house. Still, I thought it'd be fun to have tea and a few things to nibble on. I made my favorite Lemon Blueberry Scones and a simple version of cucumber sandwiches.

For the sandwiches, I baked mini loaves of my regular wheat bread and sliced it thin. Then I spread each with Laughing Cow Light Cheese and topped with a slice of cucumber.

I like to make mini scones when I make up a scone recipe. They make for a better finger food and are a perfect size for the kids.

If you're looking for me on Sunday nights for the next few months, I will be glued to the TV watching the drama unfold at Downton Abbey.

Lemon Blueberry Scones
from www.bakingbites.com

2 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. butter, chilled
1/2 C. milk
1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 C. frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut butter into 6-8 chunks and add to flour mixture, tossing to coat. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it's sandy and butter is well distributed, with no pieces larger than a big pea. Add in milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir until dough comes together. If dough is too wet, add an additional Tbsp. of flour to the dough.

Either keeping the dough in your mixing bowl, or turning it onto a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 1 min. Flatten dough and add blueberries. Knead gently for 30-60 seconds to distribute them. Divide dough into 2 balls and press each into a disc about 3/4 inch thick. Use a knife and divide each disc into triangles (8 large or 12 mini) and place scones on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 17-22 min., until scones are golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Lemon Glaze (optional, but highly recommended)
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 C. confectioners' sugar

Whisk glaze ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle over warm scones.