Recipe Redux: Carrabba’s Copycat – Mama Mandola’s Chicken Soup

Soup

There are some recipes in which I never deviate and then there are others that as I make them a few times, such as this soup, I modify and adjust just enough that it warrants an update to the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsps. butter
  • 5 celery ribs, chopped small, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 3 big carrots, peeled & sliced, approximately 2 cups
  • 3 medium size russet potatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped (I used white)
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 10 cups water
  • 3 tbsps. Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed & deboned, shredded in large chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, do not drain liquid (I used fire roasted)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup ditalini pasta, cooked in boiling water for 6 minutes, less than al dente*
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tsps. (or more, as needed) each of Litehouse poultry seasoning, oregano & basil

Spices

Preparation:

In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium-hi heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, onion, and garlic. Season with 1 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt, stir to incorporate, cover, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.

Add the 10 cups of water, stir in the chicken base, add the can of tomatoes and included liquid, and stir in the white pepper, bay leaf, basil, oregano, poultry seasoning, thyme, and shredded chicken. In a separate small pot, cook the pasta in boiling water for 6 minutes. It is less than al dente, but will continue to cook in the soup, and often expands the longer it sits in the soup. Drain and add to the soup.  Season with extra Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, per taste.

Note: This makes a lot of soup! It’s perfect for a party or to take to a potluck or if you don’t mind having soup for days. Add some freshly grated parmesan cheese just prior to serving, if desired.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chocolate Chip Date Cake

Chocolate Chip Date Cake

This is another recipe pulled from the archives of my mother’s trusty recipe box. Like most recipes from mom, this one stems from my childhood. I’d never made it myself until this past summer when my parents were returning from a trip to Illinois around my dad’s birthday. I asked him what I could make for him and he selected this one, only because I didn’t have the recipe for the Burnt Coconut Cake he likes. So, this one was a second runner up, but by no means is it a runner up.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 12oz. package of chocolate chips, reserving 1/2 cup
  • 1 1/2 cups dates, chopped
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease & lightly flour a 9×13 pan; set aside. Pour boiling water over dates to soften & allow to cool. In a large bowl, beat together the egg, butter and granulated sugar until creamy. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt & add alternately with cooled dates (and water used to soften them) to creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into the pan. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and chopped nuts. Sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake for 27 – 30 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top of the cake after removing from the oven.

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Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

’tis the season of an overflowing abundance of zucchini. I like it sautéed, grilled, baked, etc. and then there’s always the stealthily hidden zucchini in baked goods, like this bread. I’ve found my bread turns out much better, i.e., cooked all the way through without being too well done on the bottom, if I bake it in a bundt pan. I doubled the recipe since I knew I would be baking it this way. If you don’t have the same struggles as me, and only want one loaf of this bread, half the recipe and you’re good to go.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted better, melted & slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup melted & cooled refined coconut oil, or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups packed shredded zucchini
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and seat salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, add the eggs, melted butter, oil, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Stir until smooth. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined, without overmixing. Stir in the shredded zucchini. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chips.

Pour batter evenly into the pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cups of chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 60 – 70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, other than the melted chocolate chips. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool on a cooling rack.

Source: a friend shared on Facebook, but I didn’t get the link.

 

 

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Copycat Alice Springs Chicken – sort of

Alice Springs Chicken

For years I ordered Alice Springs Chicken while at Outback Steakhouse (sans the mushrooms and honey mustard because that’s how I like it), but it’s so easy to make at home.

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, sliced in half
  • 1 tsp. Lowry’s Season Salt
  • 2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese

Preparation:

Rub the chicken with the season salt; set aside to marinate. While the chicken is marinating, cook the bacon to just under crispy. Place bacon on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb grease.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the same skillet you used to cook the bacon, saute the chicken breasts on medium heat and cook on both sides until chicken is a light golden color and cooked in the middle, but not dry.

Transfer the chicken to a baking dish (spread with honey mustard and sliced mushrooms, if you’re into those things) top each chicken breast with bacon slices and sprinkle a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese on each chicken breast.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese melts.

 

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Hot Ham & Swiss Croissant Sandwiches

Leah's croissant sandwiches

When the girls are staying with my parents in Colorado, they always make sure to hit up a little French cafe in Colorado Springs. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. After they first went, Leah kept telling me about this sandwich and she was able to find a recipe that was a close runner up. It makes for a light summer meal and hits the spot with a good green salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 4 croissants, split
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 lb. Black Forest Ham

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, and brown sugar and spread evenly amongst each side of the split croissants. Place a slice of cheese on both the top and bottom halves of the croissants and fill with desired amounts of ham in between. Place the halves together and wrap in foil. Place in the preheated oven and allow to warm for 15-20 minutes.

*Note: When I make these, I use 1/2 tbsp. of honey and 1/2 tbsp. of brown sugar because I like it a little less sweet. We’ve also been known to double this recipe and place the extras in the refrigerator.

Source: http://www.lifewiththecrustcutoff.com/hot-ham-swiss-croissants/

 

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Strawberry Cream Cake

front-view-of-strawberry-cake.jpg

98% of the time I buy strawberries, it’s for the sole purpose of having fresh fruit on hand. The other 2% of the time is because I want to bake with them. This was one of those times. Cool, creamy, and light it’s the perfect summertime dessert. We all agreed that the whipped topping was worthy of a dessert all on its own.

Ingredients:

for the cake:

  • 3 cups cake flour, spooned & leveled
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • a few drops of red food coloring to make a light pink color, optional

for the frosting:

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3 pints strawberries, stems & hulls removed

Preparation:

for the cake:

Grease 3 9″ round cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease and flour the parchment paper; set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together until combined; set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add about 1/2 of the flour mixture to the bowl; mix on low speed until well combined.  Add the sour cream, vanilla, and approximately half of the milk to the bowl. Mix on low speed until just combined. Add the remaining flour mixture; mix on low speed to fully incorporate. Add the remaining milk; mix on low speed until well combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Divide the batter evenly among the 3 pans and bake for 18 -21 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake pans comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring a to a cooling rack. Cool completely before adding the frosting.

for the frosting:

In a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream (longer than usual) until stiff peaks form; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times. Add the sugar and vanilla extract, beat on medium speed until fully combined.

Meanwhile, slice 1/3 of the strawberries into thin slices; set aside. *For uniformed slices, I used an egg slicer. Brilliant, if I do say so myself! 😉 Dice the remaining strawberries into smaller pieces. Add the diced strawberries to the bowl of cream cheese and mix until combined, and starts to turn a light shade of pink. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the whipped cream with a large spoon. Refrigerate frosting for an hour before assembling.

When it’s time to assemble the cake, add a cup of the frosting to each layer, spreading to just the outer edge. Line the outside edge with sliced strawberries and repeat 2 more times for each layer. Normally, I frost the whole outside of the cake, but this time I didn’t because I liked to see the layers in between.

*Adapted slightly from: spicedblog.com (Fresh Strawberry Cake)

**Confession: on the referenced recipe, I didn’t read the instructions all the way through first. I saw the picture and just went for it. The picture on the site shows a 3 layer cake, so I proceeded as such. It was only after I’d mixed together the ingredients for the cake that there’s a note explaining, he generally makes the cake in 2 layers, and that the recipe listed (as above) is for a 2 layer cake. He continued by saying if you want to make the 3 layer version, make 1.5x the recipe. Admittedly, I was a bit bummed because it yielded 3 thin layers of cake; however, in retrospect, I wouldn’t change a thing. The thinner layers complemented the whipped frosting.

Side Strawberry Cake

 

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Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Cleaner

Let’s take a moment from food recipes and turn our attention to other kinds of recipes, shall we? My husband informed me a few years ago that I was becoming quite the granola. I’ve been known to make my own body scrub, deodorant, and as pictured above, all-purpose cleaner. The thing is, though, I’m not full-on crunchy granola. Sure, I may make these and have them on hand, but if you walked through my house, opened up my cabinets and looked in my drawers, you’d also find a fair share amount of these items that I’ve purchased from the store. It’s a happy medium, a balance that sometimes teeters more one way than the other. I’m neither black or white, all or nothing, but very much a solid gray, split down the middle.

This is hands down the best cleaner for grimy showers and ovens that have had one too many spills, baked and caked on that even a chisel takes some work to get it clean, and everything in between.

I found the recipe online a few years ago, took a screenshot, and wrote it on the bottle with a Sharpie, but over time & a combination of the cleaning solution and water erased even the penned Sharpie.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. of water
  • 8 oz. of vinegar
  • 4 oz. of lemon juice
  • 2 oz. of liquid Dawn liquid soap

Preparation:

In a large spray bottle, add the water, vinegar, lemon juice, and lastly, the Dawn liquid soap.  If you start with the Dawn, you will be fighting suds as you add the water, vinegar, and lemon juice. Screw the nozzle back on give it a subtle side to side shake and get your clean on. For best results of cleaning a grimy shower and a caked & baked on oven, apply an even spray, coating the surface and allow to sit overnight. Wipe and rinse in the morning. Voila. Good as new.

 

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