Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fennel Crab Bisque for #SoupSaturdaySwappers

Hello friends and welcome to Soup Saturday Swappers.  I love making soups and stews. In the winter, I make them for their warm comfort.  In the autumn, I look forward to using the fall harvest. In the spring, I can't wait to use all the fresh flavors popping up with the sunshine and warmer temps and in the summer you can use a slow cooker to keep from warming up the house or enjoy a refreshing, chilled soup.

I invited some of my friends to join me on the third Saturday of each month to share their favorite soup and/or stew recipes based on a theme chosen by one of the members.  So far, over 20 of my blogging friends have joined in the fun. Our friend, Colleen of Faith, Hope, Love & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice, created this image for us to use in our posts.   There is no requirement to post each month or to host if you don't want.  It is just a great place to get together and swap our favorite old and new recipes.  We would love to have you join us if you are a blogger that is interested in posting with us.  You can let me  know in the comments below or email me at

I chose to start this group's posts today because we celebrate National Soup Day on January 21st each year.  When January 21st was a Saturday, I decided that this would be the perfect day each month to get together.  The 3rd Saturday of the month is also when I join another group called The French Winophiles so occasionally I will be posting one post to cover both groups which is perfectly okay as well since this is a relaxed and accommodating atmosphere.

I chose the theme of Healthy Soup Options since I know many of us start off the year very conscious of our eating and physical activity.

I decided to share this lovely, elegant Fennel Bisque topped with Crab Meat and Fennel Fronds.  It is creamy, silky and luxurious yet it contains not one ounce of cream or butter and only 1 tablespoon of heart healthy olive oil divided between 8 servings.  I found this recipe at Food&Wine and knew it was perfect for today's challenge.

It is quick and easy to make, taking only as long as necessary for the vegetables to be tender.  A quick puree in a blender or with an immersion blender and it is ready to be plated.  Topped with tender, low fat but high protein crab meat and some fennel fronds, it makes a gorgeous presentation and a great start to your next dinner party.

Fennel Crab Bisque
adapted from  Food & Wine

1 T. olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, halved, cored and chopped with fronds reserved
1 med. sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 (32 oz) box chicken broth
1 medium, Yukon Gold potato, scrubbed and cut into 1/2" dice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lb lump crabmeat, picked over

Heat oil in large sauce pan.  Add the onions and fennel bulb.  Cook and stir over moderate heat until crisp tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and potato.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are very tender.

Using a heavy duty blender or immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth and silky.  Taste for flavor and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Ladle into bowls and top with a mound of crab. Sprinkle with fennel fronds and serve.

Let's see more Healthy Soup Options

"Savoie"ring Time with Family #FrenchWinophiles

Jill from L'Occasion is hosting this month's French Winophiles and invited us to visit the Savoie region.  You can see her announcement post here.

I have been a part of this group now for a while and I wish I could tell you that now I know a lot about French wines but I would be lying.  The only thing I know now that I didn't know before is that there are TONS of French wines from all regions of France and each region is well known for either the grape variety or the method of wine making or both.  Oh....and I learned that I LOVE French wines.

Living in Michigan, it is not always easy to find the wines from the regions we are exploring.  Such was the case for this month's region, Savoie.  I wasn't having any luck locating wine from this region.  I do have a wine store in Detroit that carries a lot of wines from all over the world but it is an hour drive and I wasn't sure I was going to make it down there, especially since I had a trip planned to California to visit my brother.

I mentioned this on the group page and several of the other bloggers recommended that while I was in the San Francisco area, I might want to try K&L wines.  As luck would have it, the residential units in which I was staying was only a few blocks from the K& L store.  I went in and was helped by John who was very knowledgeable and set me up with not one, but two bottles  from the Savoie Region.

The first bottle he led me to was the white Apremont.  This is what K&L have to say in their writ up about this wine.
"2015 Veronique Anne Perret Vin de Savoie Apremont : The village of Apremont once sat in the shadow of a great mountain. In 1248 that mountain collapsed, destroying, everything in its path. Fortunately, the mountain itself was made of limestone which is some of the best geological material for growing grapes and the site is littered with limestone scree (broken rock fragments). The grape of choice for the region is Jacquère and some of the best comes from this village. Like most wines from Savoie, the Perret has hallmark aromas of citrus and lemongrass with a touch of peach as well."
This bottle was attractively priced at $12.99 which made it possible for me to also purchase a bottle of the red from the Savoie region.

John explained that red wines were harder to come by in the Savoie region but that they were not unheard of.  This bottle of 2014 Domaine Fabien Trosset Mondeuse Avalanche, Vin de Savoie-Arbin was priced at $19.99 a bottle.  John told me that it would be a lighter wine for a red, more on the order of a pinot noir but with more spice.  I picked up a bottle of this as well. 

I was leaving the San Francisco area the following day and heading south to my brother's home near San Luis Obispo.  I decided I would make a dinner for him and his family who all live nearby and we could do a wine tasting at that time.

While driving down I was trying to think of a meal that I could serve that would please everyone. One of my nieces and a great niece are both gluten intolerant.  My other nephew and his wife work very hard at eating cleanly and healthily.  My sister in law loves chicken dishes but is not crazy about seafood.  My brother loves seafood and beef.  I wanted to serve both wines with this dinner but since there would be 17 of us having dinner I didn't think a sit down meal with different courses for each wine was feasible.

I finally decided to make 3 different stir fry meals and serve them buffet style.  I made Celery Steak, Chicken Pad Thai and Garlic Shrimp with Green Beans.  I used coconut aminos and rice noodles for the gluten intolerants.  Brown Rice and lots of veggies for the health conscious.  Different meats for different tastes and put out both wines allowing people to take what they wanted.

When I was setting out the food, my brother exclaimed "My gosh, Wendy, perhaps I should call some more people from the neighborhood and invite them over to eat some of this".  I just smiled and kept putting out food.  When we were all done eating there was enough left for one person to have a light lunch.  The food was a huge hit.

Some of us drank white, some of us drank red.  I drank both.  White with my dinner and red after dinner as we sat and visited.  I wish I could talk to you about the pairings but, to be honest, I didn't pay much attention.  I liked the wines, especially the red, and I didn't notice anything adverse as I was eating and drinking so I am going to say it was a successful pairing.  

I really enjoyed K&L wine shop.  I had a wonderful time with my California family and my 2 nieces and great niece that I brought with me for this visit.  I had fun taking over my sister in law's kitchen, not only for this meal but for the one I made the following night after we visited the coast and stopped by the fishmonger on the pier in Avilla Beach.

I am home now and will be starting my hunt for wines from the Corsica region which is where we are exploring in February.  Make sure you stop back and see what I have learned or learn from the others who are much more knowledgeable than I.  In fact, why don't you start right now and learn all about the wines of Savoie.  That's where I'm headed.......

  • Michelle from Rockin Red Blog gives us Peeking Into the Secret World of Savoie Wines.
  • Martin from Enofylze Wine Blog asks Voulez-vous Savoie? Oui Mondeuse! 
  • Jeff from FoodWineClick! writes about Soup & Savoie. 
  • Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm enjoys “Savoie”ring time with Family. 
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla creates A Savoie Pairing: Soupe aux Cailloux + Gonnet Chignin. 
  • Jill from L’occasion is writing about The Biodynamic Vineyards of Savoie.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Lobster Pot Pie #FishFridayFoodies

We are celebrating the one year anniversary of Fish Friday Foodies.  It was last January that I decided to try to add more fish and seafood to my diet and asked my fellow bloggers if they would be interested in joining me once each month posting a fish or seafood recipe.  They not only agreed to join me but they also volunteered to come up with themes and take turns hosting each month.  I just love my blogging community.

Are you a food blogger who would like to join our group and post with us on the third Friday of each month?  We would love to have you.  Simply let me know in the comments below or by emailing me at and I will add you to the group.

This month's theme was chosen by my friend and mentor, Stacy of Food Lust People Love.  Stacy challenged us to: 

"Bake us something cozy this month including your favorite seafood. Shortcrust, puff pastry, deep dish with mashed potatoes on top, hand pies, free form galettes or ornate decorated crusts, quiche, even vols-au-vent with seafood filling would qualify. Use one type of seafood or mix it up."

I have been wanting to make a Lobster Pot Pie for a long time now.  The idea of tender chunks of lobster in a creamy sauce with veggies and a crust sounds so appealing to me.  Unfortunately, my husband does not love seafood as much as I.  He will eat fish but prefers it fried.  He will eat small amounts of shrimp, scallops, crab and lobster but isn't crazy about it.  The way I have found to work around this difference of tastes is to serve seafood as a first course where the portions are smaller.

I decided to make these individual lobster pot pies for the first course of our family Christmas dinner where it was just us and our children.  Each year we try to have one dinner over the holidays where it is just our immediate family.  It is not always an easy task getting all of our kids together at one time. This year we were missing our eldest son, Chuck, who was on leave from the Navy for Thanksgiving this year but not Christmas.

I used premade, frozen puff pastry shells for the crusts of each pot pie.  This small shell filled with the creamy, savory filling was just the perfect size for a starter.

I boiled up 3 lobster tails, removed them from their shells and chopped them into bite size pieces before incorporating them into the sauce that started with a base of fennel and onions.  The sauce is a a roux mixed with clam juice and heavy cream.  Sweet peas are folded in at the end along with the lobster pieces.

I placed the bottom of the pastry into a small dish, smothered it with the lobster filling and topped it with the pastry disc.  It was a lovely presentation and a delicious start to our meal.

Individual Lobster Pot Pies

1 med sweet onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 stick butter
1/2 c. flour
3 (8 oz) bottles, clam juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. heavy cream
3 lobster tails, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
1 (12 oz) pkg frozen peas, thawed
1 pkg frozen puff pastry shells, cooked per package directions

Melt the butter in a large skillet over med high heat.  Add the onion and fennel, cook and stir until tender and translucent, about 15 minutes.  Add the flour, cook on low, stirring until nutty smelling and light brown, 3-4 minutes.  Slowly add the clam juice, stirring constantly until incorporated and starting to thicken.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the heavy cream until smooth and silky.  Stir in the peas and lobster, cook gently until heated through.

Place the bottom of each pastry into individual shallow bowls, spoon the lobster mixture over each bottom and top with a pastry round.  Print Recipe

More wonderful Fish/Seafood Pies and Tarts

Southwestern Chicken Barley Soup for #CrazyIngredientChallenge

Today, for Crazy Ingredient Challenge we were assigned to make a new and original recipe using Barley and Salsa.  I was happy when the ingredients were chosen, knowing that I would be able to make a wonderful dish using these ingredients.

I still had some jars of salsa that I had canned in my cupboard so I pulled that out to use in this dish. Since January is National Soup Month, I decided to stay with that theme and make a Southwestern Chicken Barley Soup.  This was a very easy dish since I used the slow cooker to do all the work for me.

It turned out amazing.  The soup was hearty and filling.  I paired it with Cheese Quesadillas on a take of a Southwest soup and sandwich theme.  The salsa seasoned the soup perfectly and only required a small amount of chili powder.  Of course, Frank is spice sensitive so I go easy on the heat.  Feel free to add the amount that will give you your desired amount of heat.

Southwestern Chicken Barley Soup
a Day in the Life original

1 lg or 2 small, boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
1/2 c. pearl barley
1/4 c. diced onion
1 1/4 c. salsa
1 (15 oz) can corn, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (32 oz.) box chicken stock
1 1/2 t. chili powder, or more to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Place the chicken, barley, onion, salsa, corn, black beans, chicken stock and chili powder in the crock of a slow cooker.  Stir to combine and cook on high for 4-6 hrs.  Stir, taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Print Recipe

Let's see what the others made with Barley and Salsa

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Happy Birthday Jesus #BundtBakers

Happy Birthday Everybody!!!  Our friend Sue, of Palatable Pastime, is hosting our Bundt Bakers Group today.  Sue invited us to share a Birthday Bundt today because "Everybody has a Birthday during the year, so let's celebrate Everybody's Birthday.


#BundtBakers is a group of bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bundts with a common ingredient or theme. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient. You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. Updated links for all of our past events and more information about #BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.

I do have family and friends that celebrate birthdays in January but none for whom I bake a cake.  The last birthday cake I made was served on Christmas Day when we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus whose birth we were celebrating.

I made a wonderful Eggnog Bundt with a Buttered Rum Sauce and we sang Happy Birthday to our Lord as is our tradition that has been passed down from when I was a child.  My mother would always make a sheet cake with a bed of coconut holding a baby Jesus.  My Mom would have birthday candles on the cake and the youngest child would have the honor of blowing out the candles.  I don't make the same cake each year and I don't have candles but we do sing and recognize why it is that we are all gathered at the table.

This cake came about because I had Frank on a mission to make me a Hot Buttered Rum for this post. He was doing a google search and evidently liked this recipe because he printed it out and left it on the kitchen counter for me.  The recipe was for a pound cake that I knew from experience would bake up very well in a bundt pan.

Frank loves eggnog, so I am sure that is what caught his attention with this cake.  I love buttered rum so I was game.  I also liked that I could make this cake on Christmas Eve before we left the house for our visit at Frank's brother's house.

I knew that I could make the buttered rum sauce early in the day and just reheat it right before serving.  

I served it up simply with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.  This cake was a huge hit with everyone but was especially loved by my sister, Dawn, who said, no less than 3 times, "you have to blog this cake, this is the best cake ever".  Every cook and baker loves to have their creations praised so this was a wonderful Christmas gift for me.

This cake is filled with Holiday flavors, however I think it would be good for any of the cold winter months.  Why not serve it up to your Valentine or to your next loved one that celebrates a winter birthday.  They will be thrilled.

Eggnog Bundt with Hot Buttered Rum Sauce
slightly adapted from McCormick Spice Company

2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. half and half
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cloves
1 t. vanilla paste
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 eggs

Rum Sauce:
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1 stick butter
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. dark rum
1 T. vanilla extract

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, set aside.  Mix milk, half and half, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a 2 c. measuring cup, set aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each.  Gradually add in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk mixture, on low speed until just combined.  Pour into a bundt pan that has been liberally treated with baking spray.

Bake in a preheated 350* oven  for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center removes cleanly.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Rum Sauce: Combine brown sugar, butter and cream in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over med high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in rum and vanilla and return to a boil.  

You can pour the rum sauce over the entire cake or (as I did) slice the cake and drizzle each piece with a generous  amount of sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. Print Recipe

Don’t forget to take a peek at what other talented bakers have baked this month:

Pork Tenderloin with Lemon and Rosemary Sauce for #ImprovCookingChallenge

Welcome to the Improv Cooking Challenge, a fun little group led by Nichole of Cookaholic Wife. This month we were given the challenge of making a recipe that contained Lemon and Rosemary.  A few weeks ago I decided to use lemon and rosemary in cupcakes.  I don't know what I did wrong but let me tell you....those cupcakes volcanoed ad overflowed all over my oven.  What a stinky, awful mess.  I was happy it was early in the month so I had time to come up with another idea.

I had pulled out a pork tenderloin for dinner and found a recipe by Ina Garten for an Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin that I modified a bit since there were only two of us for dinner and I only needed to make one tenderloin.  I did not add any dijon mustard to the marinade and I used a tuscan herb olive oil.  

I followed the directions for searing and then roasting the meat after it spent the day in the marinade. It turned out perfectly cooked.  Tender, juicy and melt in your mouth delicious.

While taking photos, it came to my attention that this plate could use some color.  It is awfully brown but.....we were hungry, it smelled wonderful and I wasn't spending anymore time on prep.  

I'm anxious to see how the others improvised to include Lemon and Rosemary in their dishes.  Make sure you stop by the links following my recipe and see what they came up with.

Lemon and Rosemary Pork Tenderloin
adapted from Ina Garten

1 pork tenderloin
juice and zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Leaves from 1 sprig rosemary, minced
Leaves from 1 sprig thyme
2 T. Tuscan Herb Olive Oil
1 T. olive oil

Place the lemon zest, juice, 2 T. of flavored oil, and seasonings into a large plastic bag that seals. Seal bag and shake to combine ingredients.  Trim any silverskin from the tenderloin and add it to the marinade.  Place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours.  Remove tenderloin from marinade, leaving any bits of herbs clinging to it.

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large, oven proof skillet over med high heat.  Add the tenderloin and sear on all sides.  Place the pan into a preheated 400* oven for 10-15 minutes, until an internal temperature of the thickest part of the roast reaches 140*.  Remove the roast from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into 1/2" thick slices.  Print Recipe

More Lemon and Rosemary Creations

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ham, Broccoli and Cheese Crockpot Chowder #FantasticalFoodFight

Our theme for this month's Fantastical Food Fight is Slow Cooker Soups.  I have been sharing tons of soup recipes this month which is only fitting because January is National Soup Month.  It seems like every blogging group to which I belong has jumped on the bandwagon.  To top things off, I am starting a new group called Soup Saturday Swappers and our first posts are scheduled for this upcoming stay tuned.  You can learn all about Fantastical Food Fight and learn how to join us at this information post.

Today, however, we are doing soups in slow cookers or crockpots.  When Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes  sent out the information on this party, I was pretty excited.  You see, it was the week following Christmas and I had a ton of leftovers that needed using.  Soup is a great way to use up leftovers.

For this soup, I used up some of the ham and broccoli that was left from Christmas dinner as well as the cheese that was left from our cheese platter that was set out before dinner.  It was a very easy soup to throw together and the crockpot did all the work.  We went out and ran some errands.  When we got home the house smelled heavenly and we sat down to a light dinner which was very welcome after all the eating we had been doing.  Even making this soup, we still had enough ham for sandwiches, ham and eggs and No Soak Bean Soup that was also made in the crockpot.  

I adapted this recipe from one found on Return to Simple.  Melissa did not use leftovers for her soup but the recipe adapted very well.  I had a mixture of colby jack, swiss and muenster cheese cubes that I tossed into the food processor and grated up.  You could buy grated cheese of your choice or use whatever cheese you have on hand.

Ham, Broccoli and Cheese Chowder
adapted from Return to Simple

2 c. cooked ham, chopped
2 c. steamed broccoli,  coarsely chopped (you could also use frozen)
half of a small onion, diced
2 c. grated cheese (I used a mixture of colby jack, muenster and swiss)
4 c. chicken broth
dash of nutmeg
1 c. heavy cream
pepper to taste

Place ham, cheese, broccoli, onion, broth and nutmeg into the crock of a slow cooker.  Turn on low and cook 4-6 hrs.  Add the cream, stir to combine. Taste and season with additional pepper, if needed. Print Recipe

More Crockpot Soups