2017 Soup Swap Party

If you’re looking for a fun winter party idea – host a soup swap! Think, a cookie swap but instead of taking home piles of cookies you’re trying to avoid this time of year, you get to bring home some new, fun lunches and dinners.

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It’s also a super easy party to throw. We have each family bring 5 quarts of soup – 4 frozen, to be swapped, and 1 to heat up for sampling. I set up a grilled cheese bar – bread, cheese, a bunch of toppings and a Panini press – and everyone makes sandwiches and then hangs out in the dining room or kitchen while the soup heats up.

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We’ve done our soup sampling in rounds the last two years, in an effort to keep the soups warmer. We had 8 soups this year, so it was 2 rounds of 4 soups each. After sampling, we vote on best soups. I always get little bags of chocolates for the winners!

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Then, we pick our soups draft-style. Everyone goes home with 4 quarts of different soups. And of course, there’s dessert. Such a fun way to spend a chilly January afternoon!

You can check out my first soup swap party here.

Instant Pot Picadillo

The Instant Pot is still pretty new for me – I haven’t played with it as much as I want to – but I’ve been loving trying so many new things.

This was the first time I’ve used it to sauté, and it worked so well! I love that I can brown up the meat before pressure cooking (or slow cooking, for that matter), without having to dirty another pan. It’s ridiculously convenient.

This was a dish I knew I would love, but I was pleasantly surprised that the two-year-old also devoured it. This is definitely something I’ll be making again!

IPPicadillio

Instant Pot Picadillo
(from Skinnytaste}
Serves 6

1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1/2 large chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp. cilantro
4 oz. tomato sauce
1 tsp. cumin
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. sliced green olives

Press the Instant Pot’s sauté button. When heated, brown the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Add onion, garlic, tomato, salt, pepper and cilantro. Cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Stir in the olives, 2 Tbsp. of olive brine, cumin and bay leaf. Stir in tomato sauce and 3 tbsp. of water until well combined.

Cover and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Use the quick pressure release.

Cranberry Apple Crisp

Yes, January is almost over. And yes, I’m just now sorting through my Christmas pictures. Apparently this is life with two kids.

To be fair, all of the good family pictures and such were on my phone. I really need to get better at my camera!

I did find this, though. A quick shot of a delicious dessert – so I just had to share. If you’re someone who doesn’t like overly sweet desserts, this is for you. The tart cranberries and apples offset the sugar in this nicely.

I recommend serving it warm with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Heavenly!

CranberryAppleCrisp

Cranberry Apple Crisp
(from The Blonde Cook)
Serves 6-8

For the filling:
3 cups cored, chopped and peeled granny smith apples
2 1/2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. flour

For the crisp:
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 11×7 baking dish with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour for the filling. Stir in the cranberries and apples and mix, gently, until evenly combined. Pour into prepared baking dish.

In another bowl, stir together all topping ingredients until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over fruit mixture.

Bake for 50 minutes, until edges are bubbly and fruit is tender.

Slow Cooker Ranch Chex Mix

Just about two weeks until the Super Bowl! Are you having a party? We’re going to one with some of our best friends and I’m super excited about it.

We’ve been chatting about the menu for weeks. Chili, a nacho bar, and pickle dip are all on the short list. This is a contender, too.

I made this up as a Christmas day munchie and it was well received. This is a great make-ahead option and it’s done in the slow cooker, which is awesome. I used a slow cooker bag for this to aide with cleanup (it was a breeze!) but I also kept the mix in the bag while it cooled, instead of spreading it on baking sheets. I just shook the bag/ mixed it around every few minutes until it was fully cooled. Super easy and it worked perfectly!

RanchChexMix

Slow Cooker Ranch Chex Mix
(from Oh Sweet Basil)
Serves 8-10

1/3 cup butter, melted
1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
4 cups corn Chex cereal
3 cups mini pretzels
3 cups oyster crackers
3 cups Cheezit crackers
1 cup dry roasted, lightly salted peanuts

Line your slow cooker with a slow cooker bag or spray with non-stick spray.

Whisk together the butter, ranch mix, Worcestershire, sugar and corn syrup in a small bowl.

Mix remaining ingredients together in the slow cooker. Pour liquid mixture over and stir to coat.

Cover and cook on low for 3 hours, stirring every half hour. When finished, pour the contents onto large baking sheet sand continue stirring as it cools to avoid it lumping together. Store in an airtight container.

Skillet BBQ Chicken Pasta

‘Tis the season for comfort food. I’m not sure if it’s holiday stress or the weather getting colder but I now want all of my food to be warm and cheesy. Which totally does not agree with losing the baby weight. And knowing that I’m going to totally blow any good eating at holiday parties, I’ve been trying to be a little more careful with family dinners.

Luckily, I have some awesome blogger friends to lean on! This lightened-up comfort food dish from Prevention RD‘s cookbook totally hit the spot. This was warm and cheesy and perfect – without the guilt.

SkilletBBQChickenPasta

Skillet BBQ Chicken Pasta
(from Prevention RD’s Everyday Healthy Cooking)
Serves 4-6

1 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 red onion, diced
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
12 oz. whole wheat penne
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/3 cup cheddar, shredded

Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet until shimmering. Add the chicken and onions and cook until chicken is cooking through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same skillet, at the water, chicken broth, penne and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer 12-15 minutes, until liquid is mostly absorbed and pasta is tender. Stir in barbecue sauce and Greek yogurt. When well combined, stir in the cheeses and reserved chicken mixture. Cook until heated through. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Roast

This meal was so easy! Are you sensing a theme around here? If it’s not quick and easy, I pretty much can’t handle it these days. Going forward, let’s just assume everything I post is quick and easy unless I say otherwise.

On top of being easy, this is freezer friendly. I prepped and popped it in the freezer – and then thawed the day before cooking. If you’re someone who likes to prep ahead, this is a fantastic option.

CranberryOnionPorkRoast

Slow Cooker Cranberry Onion Pork Roast
(adapted from New Leaf Wellness)
Serves 4

2 lbs. pork loin
15 oz. can whole cranberry sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dried minced onion

Place pork in the slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over pork. Cook on low for 6 hours.

Instant Pot Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Honey Butter

I love sweet potatoes. And I love that making them in the IP is so damn quick.

This is a great, basic method for cooking them. I served them mashed with cinnamon honey butter (yum!) but if you were baking them to top with pulled pork or cooking them to use for another recipe, this is the way to go!

IPSweetPotatoes

Instant Pot Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon Honey Butter
(method from Add a Pinch)
Serves 4

4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
1 cup water
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon

Place a steamer basket in the Instant Pot and add sweet potatoes. Pour 1 cup of water over. Cook on manual for 10 minutes, then let the pressure naturally release for 25 minutes.

While the potatoes cook, mix together the butter, honey and cinnamon.

Serve the potatoes topped with cinnamon honey butter.

Opa’s Gingerbread #FBLCookieExchange

My most vivid memories of my grandfather revolve around what he was baking for us. He was German and worked in a bakery and made the most beautiful, delicious treats. After he retired to Florida, he’d send up big boxes of Christmas cookies every year. BIG boxes. Like, 20 lbs. of Christmas cookies. These gingerbread cookies were always my favorite.

I shared these with a few of my fellow food bloggers during an early cookie swap last month, I figured that if they routinely survived the trip from Florida to New Jersey, they’d be the perfect cookie to mail.

OpaGingerbread

Opa’s Gingerbread
(a family recipe)
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

16 oz. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
6 1/4 oz. light brown sugar
6 oz. butter
5 1/2 oz. unsweetened molasses
1 egg

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in the molasses and egg until well combined. Mix in the spices.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out and cutting into shapes.

Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes.

Instant Pot Brown Sugar & Garlic Chicken

Raise your hand if you bought an Instant Pot on Black Friday! I’m guessing there are quite a few of you because the requests for IP recipes have pretty much tripled in the last week.

I grabbed an Instant Pot a few months ago and I’ve been loving it for quick side dishes but I’ve been slow to use it for meals. That’s changing, though, as I’m forever forgetting to throw things in the slow cooker as planned. Mom brain is real, you guys.

This chicken was one of my first main dishes in the IP and man, was it a winner. The chicken was juicy and flavorful. We paired it with Hibachi Style Noodles and roasted broccoli for a great dinner.

BrownSugarGarlicChickenIP

Instant Pot Brown Sugar & Garlic Chicken
(from Once a Month Meals)
Serves 4

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vinegar
1/4 cup lemon lime soda
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. black pepper

Place chicken in the Instant Pot. Mix remaining ingredients together in a small ball and pour over the chicken. Cook on manual for 15 minutes, then release the pressure and serve.

Leftover Mashed Potato Waffles

Two days until Thanksgiving! I know you’re probably buried in turkey brine and pie recipes, so I wanted to put something a little different up – something to help you use up your leftovers.

Mashed potatoes are something we always seem to have a ton of and this is a great way to use some of them up.  These waffles are super simple but are different enough that you don’t feel like you’re eating leftover again.

MashedPotatoWaffles

Leftover Mashed Potato Waffles
(from Just a Taste)
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups mashed potatoes
3 Tbsp. chopped scallions
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Sour cream, optional for serving

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk and eggs until well combined. Mix in mashed potatoes until well combined. Stir in the scallions and cheese.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the potato mixture and stir until just combined.

Spoon 2/3 cup of the mixture evenly into a preheated waffle iron sprayed with non-stick spray. Cook until golden brown. Serve topped with sour cream.