Kill Two Soups With One Bird

Aaahhh…Autumn is finally here. I love when the cooler weather arrives. I could eat soup every night. Creamy soups are among my favorite. Soups are easy enough to make to serve a cup as a course before dinner or hearty enough to serve a bowl as the main dish. Add some crusty bread or your favorite crackers with cheese and you’ve got comfort food for the cold days that will be arriving soon.

I’m very frugal and don’t like to waste food when I don’t have to. One of my favorite cheats, when I don’t feel like cooking, is to buy a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. We’ll have it for dinner with potato or macaroni salad and some sliced tomatoes or cucumbers; then I can usually carve off enough chicken to make chicken salad for lunch, too. That’s two super easy meals for busy days.

Next, not wanting to waste perfectly good bones, I’ll make a pot of chicken stock. There will be enough stock for a large batch of one kind of soup or two smaller batches. I prefer to make two kinds to have a variety throughout the week.

Mirepoix

A base for a good soup starts with mirepoix (pronounced meer-pwa). Mirepoix is basically a combination of aromatics, such as onions, celery, and carrots. It can be made by sautéing the vegetables in butter or olive oil or can be added raw to the other ingredients for your stock.

Frugal tip: Instead of composting or throwing away the ends of celery, onions, leeks, carrots, peppers or virtually any of your vegetables, try storing them in a bag in the freezer. Then you can just add them to your other ingredients when making stock.

Today I’m making two soups from one bird. First will be a basic chicken noodle soup. This soup turns out differently each time I make it due to the various vegetables and seasonings used in the stock. This recipe is just here as a guide. You can add whatever kind of vegetables you have and use your favorite seasonings or pasta shapes.

Flavor tip: Even after simmering your stock for hours, sometimes it may not be as flavorful as you would like. If your stock doesn’t seem to have much flavor, add a teaspoon of chicken bouillon. Add a little at a time until you get the flavor you want.

The second soup is a Sausage and Potato Soup. I originally wanted to make a creamy potato and leek soup. Traditionally, that type of soup is usually pureed. But, I was in the mood for a heartier soup with lots of chunks. Of course, I didn’t have to puree the soup, there are no rules that say it has to be pureed. After making the potato and leek soup, I thought it looked and tasted a little boring, so I decided to add some sausage, chicken and kale. Now we’re talking. This soup has all the chunks and pizzazz I was looking for.

Chicken Noodle Soup

A basic starter recipe for beginners. This easy soup recipe can be modified to make a variety of other soups.

Course Lunch, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken, mirepoix, soup
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 5 minutes
Servings 6 bowls
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken carcass
  • 1 cups onion diced
  • 1/2 cup celery diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup Stelline pasta or other small shaped pasta
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
  • water to cover all ingredients in pot

Instructions

  1. In a 5 quart pot, place the chicken carcass, onion, celery, carrots, and seasonings (see recipe note #1). Fill the pot about 2 inches from the top with water.

  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours. Periodically, check to make sure your liquid isn't boiling away.

  3. Strain the stock and set aside the chicken carcass to cool. (See Note # 2)

  4. Reserve 6 cups of stock for the Creamy Potato and Sausage Soup.

  5. Clean the chicken from the bones, chop to bite-sized pieces (reserve 1 cup for the Creamy Potato and Sausage Soup) and set aside. Discard the bones.

  6. Bring the remaining stock to a boil, add the pasta and frozen vegetables. Return to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer until pasta and vegetables are tender. Add the chicken.

Recipe Notes

Note #1 – Frugal tip: Instead of composting or throwing away the ends of celery, onions, leeks, carrots, peppers or virtually any of your vegetables, try storing them in a bag in the freezer. Then you can just add them to your other ingredients when making stock and save your fresh ingredients to add to the soup. 

Note #2 – Flavor tip: Even after simmering your stock for hours, sometimes it may not be as flavorful as you would like. If your stock doesn’t seem to have much flavor, add a teaspoon of chicken bouillon. Add a little at a time until you get the flavor you want.

 

Creamy Potato and Sausage Soup

This hearty soup is full of potatoes, leek, sausage, chicken and kale.

Course Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken, kale, leek, potatoes, sausage, soup
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 bowls
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

  • 6 cups stock reserved from Chicken Noodle Recipe
  • 3 cups milk
  • 5 medium potatoes peeled and diced
  • 2 cups leek cleaned and sliced
  • 1/2 cup onion diced
  • 5 sausage links (I used mild, but any variety will work)
  • 12 tbsp butter divided
  • 3 – 4 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups kale (optional) remove stems from leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup chicken reserved from Chicken Noodle Recipe

Instructions

  1. Peel and dice the potatoes into bite-sized pieces.

  2. Set potatoes aside.

  3. Dice the onion and set aside with the potatoes.

  4. Prepare the sausage for removal of the casings by slicing each link lengthwise.

  5. Pull the casing off of the sausage. Set the sausage aside.

  6. If using kale, remove the tough stems and just use the leaves then chop into smaller pieces. (You can use the stems, but they would need to cook much longer to be edible.)

  7. Clean the leek. Remove and discard the long leaves and root (or freeze for future stock). Slice the remaining leek into long, thin strips or rings. Rinse thoroughly to remove any residual dirt. Dry on a clean towel or paper towels and pat dry. Set aside.

  8. Prepare a skillet over medium high heat to melt 4 tbsp butter with 2 tbsp olive oil.

  9. Add the potatoes to the skillet then stir until thoroughly coated.

  10. Add the onions, salt and pepper to the potatoes Stir and reduce heat to medium low.

  11. Stir the potatoes occasionally until they are browned and tender.

  12. In another skillet, over medium heat, add 2 tbsp of butter and a drizzle of olive oil. Add the leek and garlic then saute until the leek is tender. (5-10 minutes) Then set aside.

  13. Over medium high heat, crumble the sausage into bite-sized pieces.

  14. Stirring frequently, cook the sausage until thoroughly cooked through then drain and set aside.

  15. If using kale, reserve a couple teaspoons of the sausage fat and olive oil to saute the kale. This adds a little extra flavor to the kale. Saute kale until tender.

  16. In a 5 quart pot, make a roux by melting 4 tbsp butter and constantly whisking in a little flour at a time until you've added all of the 1/2 cup. Roux will be very thick.

  17. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Gradually add the stock. Continue to whisk constantly.

  18. Finally, add the cooked potatoes, sausage, leek, kale, and chicken. Simmer until all ingredients are warm and broth has thickened.

Broth vs. Stock

Broth and stock can be used in place of each other in most recipes. Broth doesn’t need to cook as long as stock. Broth is a liquid made from meat and/or vegetables simmered for a short period of time.

Stock, however, is made using bones. In order to extract the gelatin from the bones, it will need to simmer for a longer period of time. You should simmer for at least three hours, but the longer the better.

As mentioned above, mirepoix will give your stock or broth a boost of flavor. But, adding seasonings will help as well. Try experimenting with fennel, garlic, and parsley, too.

What is your favorite soup? Tell me in the comments below.

Nacho Casserole – The Best Football Food

There’s nothing like a big plate of nachos while watching your favorite football team. I know! It’s super early to be thinking about football. I mean the draft is just barely over, so there’s still a few months to go until preseason. But, my team was just awful last year. So, I’m so stinking excited about one of my team’s draft picks for this season, I just can’t wait for the season to start.

Speaking of nachos, do you know what I like the most about nachos? You can load on all of your favorite ingredients. Anything goes. Among other things, I usually use my homemade taco seasoning with ground beef for these nachos (you can find that recipe here) but, there are no rules. You can substitute seasoned beef for seasoned chicken or pork or use barbecue sauce instead. I shared one of my favorite sauces here if you want to check it out.

Do you know what I don’t like about nachos, though? Soggy tortilla chips. They’re the worst. I always make a ton of nachos so there are enough leftovers for lunch the next day, but those pesky soggy chips ruin it for me every time.

Another thing that is almost as bad as soggy chips is when you a get a piping hot plate of nachos and you grab a tortilla and all you get is a plain tortilla with nothing on it. Such a bummer. It’s virtually impossible to get all the toppings on every chip. Until now.

I got tired of soggy and bare tortilla chips. I knew there had to be a way around these tribulations. Since I love a good casserole, I thought “why not make a nacho casserole?”. Well, I made it for family, friends and co-workers and everyone loved it. It is now a regular dinner item and it is standard football fare as well.

It’s a dish that can be easily put together. Sometimes I like to use my fresh homemade salsa instead of sautéed or steamed peppers and onions with tomatoes. But, for the purpose of sharing the easiest nachos ever made, I’ll wait to share the salsa recipe another time. (FYI, it’s an easy salsa recipe too, it just makes this dish a little more time consuming.) The point of this recipe being a quick snack or meal when you don’t want to miss a minute of the game.

My favorite tortilla chips are the kind with the scoop in it. They’re served on the side, so you can just take a chip then dig into the casserole without needing a fork. The best part is, that with every bite, you get a little bit of everything on one tortilla chip. You can’t do that very often with regular nachos.

nacho casserole bite
nacho casserole bite

Nacho Casserole

A quick and easy meal or snack with many variation possibilities.

Course Appetizer, Casserole, Dinner, Lunch, Snack
Keyword Nachos
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 10
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 packet taco seasoning*
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 16 oz cans refried beans
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 large green bell pepper diced
  • 1 medium onion diced & divided
  • 2-3 large tomatoes diced
  • 1 bag your favorite tortilla chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Dice the green bell pepper, onion and tomatoes. Divide the onion - 1/4 cup to add to the ground beef and the remainder for the topping.

  3. In a large skillet over medium/high heat, brown ground beef and add about 1/4 cup of diced onion (if desired). Drain the fat.

    nacho casserole ingredients2
  4. Reduce the heat to medium/low. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning or 2 tbsp of homemade taco seasoning to the ground beef. Thoroughly mix the taco seasoning until the meat is well coated. Add 1/2 cup of water, mix thoroughly and allow to simmer until the sauce has thickened a bit. You can use more or less water depending on how saucy you like the seasoned beef. 

    nacho casserole ingredients
  5. Place the green bell pepper and onion in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with water and microwave (approximately 3 minutes - depending on your microwave) until the vegetables are tender. This step is optional as you can just add the raw vegetables as the topping, but I prefer them cooked a bit. 

    nacho casserole bean layer
  6. Spread the refried beans in the bottom of a large casserole dish.

    nacho casserole bean layer 2
  7. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over the refried beans.

    nacho casserole 1st cheese layer
  8. Spread the seasoned ground beef mixture over the cheese.

    nacho casserole seasoned beef layer
  9. Sprinkle another 1/3 of the cheese over the seasoned ground beef.

    nacho casserole 2nd cheese layer
  10. Drain the liquid from the peppers and onions then spread over the 2nd layer of cheese along with the tomatoes.

    nacho casserole veggie layer
  11. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the vegetables.

    nacho casserole 3rd cheese layer
  12. Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.

    Baked nacho casserole

Recipe Notes

  • If you're feeling adventurous, make some homemade taco seasoning. You can find my recipe here.

nacho casserole serving suggestion 2
nacho casserole serving suggestion

I recently found a pulled pork nacho dish at a little restaurant not too far away from me. I’m looking forward to trying to duplicate that in my restaurant “Challenge“. Don’t forget some other classic toppings of sour cream, salsa, olives, jalapenos and guacamole for added flavor. What are your favorite toppings for nachos? Let me know in the comments below.

Chicken and Stuffing Casserole vs. Thanksgiving Casserole

This recipe is derived from what I call “Thanksgiving Casserole” which is, of course, made up of leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. Friends of my father shared their version of this dish with us at a potluck several years and it was so good, I had to make it at home too. I’ve tinkered around with some variation of it several times now, the only problem is that Thanksgiving only comes but once a year and I’m not really all excited about cooking a big turkey dinner more than once a year, so when mom asked me to make this for her birthday dinner, I had to improvise. Now, I have the Chicken and Stuffing Casserole for anytime of the year and the Thanksgiving Casserole for the leftovers after Thanksgiving.

I think I enjoy the Thanksgiving leftovers more than the actual meal anyway. You know how when you spend all day cooking, the actual dinner may not be very appealing by the time you sit down to eat, but the leftovers are excellent the next day? Then you eat turkey sandwiches for days and get tired of that also. Well, the Thanksgiving casserole is the perfect solution. Simply mix together your turkey, gravy and vegetables, then top with the stuffing, or do you call it dressing? Then bake it in the oven until it’s warmed throughout.

You probably don’t need a recipe for the casserole made with leftovers because your turkey dinner is probably delicious, too. But, if it’s not, stay tuned, I’ll share my family Thanksgiving traditions and recipes in November. In the meantime, here is a dish that is equally as good.

 

Chicken and Stuffing Casserole

A hearty, flavorful casserole that's easier to put together than Thanksgiving dinner, but just as tasty.

Course Casserole, Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 10
Author Lisa

Ingredients

  • 3 cups frozen mixed vegetables

Chicken

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts 1 1/2 - 2 lbs
  • 7 cups water
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 4 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 tsp salt optional
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Gravy

  • 4 tsbp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups broth reserved from chicken
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp sage

Stuffing

  • 2 6 oz boxes Stove Top chicken flavored stuffing
  • 1 lb Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage
  • celery and onions reserved from chicken

Instructions

  1. Dice celery and onion then place in a pot with the chicken breasts and water. Add the bouillon, salt, garlic powder, oregano, and black pepper. Bring to a boil over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil for approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  

    Chicken and stuffing casserole ingredients
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Remove chicken from the pot then set aside to cool. Strain the broth from the onion and celery then set aside. (You'll use some of the broth for the gravy and [optional] some of the broth along with the celery and onions for the stuffing.)

  4. Cook the vegetables according to the package directions. Set aside.

  5. Thoroughly cook the sausage, breaking up into bite size pieces. Set aside.
  6. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. You should get about 3 1/2 - 4 cups of chicken.
  7. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat then add the flour. Whisk constantly until the mixture is slightly brown. Then gradually add 3 cups of the chicken broth, whisking constantly until the gravy starts a low boil. Continue for approximately 3 minutes or until flour is fully cooked.

  8. Prepare the stuffing according to package directions. (Optional - substitute the water in the directions with some of the leftover broth from the chicken. For example, 2 boxes of Stove Top would need 3 cups of water. You can use 2 cups of broth + 1 cup of water. Just as long as the liquid still equals 3 cups. The broth just adds a little extra flavor. Also, optional, rather than wasting the cooked celery and onions from the chicken broth, consider adding it to the stuffing.) 

    Chicken and stuffing prep 2
  9. Add the sausage to the prepared stuffing.

    Chicken and Stuffing casserole prep
  10. In the bottom of a large casserole dish, mix the chicken, vegetables and gravy. Spread to cover the bottom of the pan.

    Chicken and stuffing prep 3
  11. Add spoonfuls of the stuffing mixture and carefully spread it over the top of the chicken mixture until the entire chicken mixture is covered.

    Chicken and stuffing casserole
  12. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until heated through. NOTE: If you're making this ahead of time and it has been refrigerated, you'll need to cover with aluminum foil then bake for 40-45 minutes. If you like the stuffing a little crispy, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking. 

Stuffing or Dressing? What do you call it? Let me know in the comments below.