Cheese Crostini

Cheese Crostini | Pinky's Pantry
This recipe for cheese crostini is so simple to make and takes hardly any time. If you’re looking for a nice accompaniment to a crisp salad or a hearty bowl of soup, you need look no further than this recipe.

These crostinis are great served warm from the oven. But let them cool down for a few minutes before serving so you don’t burn the roof of your mouth. When I pull these out of the oven, the family can hardly wait for them to get to the table. I have to slap away the hands trying to sneak one off the baking sheet!

CHEESE CROSTINI

  • 1 loaf (1 lb.) Italian or french bread, sliced
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 packet (.7 ozs.) Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix
  • 1½ cups shredded mozzarella (or other white cheese like monterey jack)
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, salad dressing mix and cheese together in a medium bowl.
  3. Spread over bread slices.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes or until tops begin to brown

NOTE:  I like Good Seasons Italian salad dressing mix, but you really could use any brand you like.

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Tomato Bisque with Crispy Mozzarella Cubes

Tomato Bisque | Pinky's Pantr
Today was a scary day at work. I arrived at the office to be greeted with the news that our Vice President had called an impromptu “Organizational Announcement” meeting. Everyone was to report to the meeting at 9 a.m. sharp. The VP’s announcement was that they were going to be outsourcing some of our jobs and some people would be laid off at the end of this year. So sad. It’s hard to understand the business decision to cut costs by sending our work abroad, but it’s harder to accept when good, hardworking employees of long standing are laid off without a qualm. I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to keep her job but my heart breaks for my friends who don’t.

I think comfort food is called for tonight. And what could be more comforting than a yummy bowl of tomato soup? Add a grilled cheese sandwich and you’re instantly transported back to those carefree childhood days when it seemed like nothing could go wrong. This soup is delicious and very easy to make. Instead of grilled cheese sandwiches, I gave it a different touch by making Crispy Mozzarella Cubes to serve with it. Yum! Now if only the job situation at work were as easy to fix. Sigh…..

TOMATO BISQUE

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1½ cups chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  1. In a medium pot, heat the oil.
  2. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and thyme, stirring until fragrant.
  4. Add the tomatoes, broth, and honey, and stir together well.
  5. Season with salt and pepper if desired, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Remove and discard thyme sprigs.
  8. Puree soup with an immersion blender. If you want it chunky, puree only half the soup.
  9. Stir in the cream, adjust the seasonings, and continue to cook for another minute or two.
  10. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with parsley, if desired.

CRISPY MOZZARELLA CUBES

  • 1 block of mozzarella cheese (size depends on how many cubes you want to make)
  • flour
  • egg
  • panko bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat 2 inches of canola oil in a deep frying pan on the stove.
  2. Cut mozzarella cheese into cubes as small or large as you like. I like a good-sized cube so I cut them about 1½ inches big.
  3. Place about 1 cup flour in a pie plate and season lightly with a little salt and pepper.
  4. Beat 1 egg in a shallow bowl and season lightly with a little more salt and pepper.
  5. Place about 1 cup panko bread crumbs in another pie plate.
  6. Take a mozzarella cube and coat it first in flour, then egg, and finally bread crumbs. Repeat with remaining cubes. If you run out of flour or bread crumbs, just add more, and beat another egg if you need to.
  7. Carefully drop each coated mozzarella cube into hot oil.
  8. Deep fry until golden brown.
  9. Transfer briefly to paper towel lined plate to drain.
  10. Serve hot.

7-Can Soup

7-Can Soup | Pinky's Pantry
This soup has been around for a while in one form or another. I’ve seen it made with hamburger meat, canned mixed vegetables, pasta, ranch-style beans, minestrone soup, all kinds of different ingredients. And that’s the beauty of this soup. You can literally make it with whatever ingredients you have on hand in your pantry as long as you have the base of canned tomatoes and beans. The Pioneer Woman makes her version with seven ingredients coming from cans, plus the addition of Velveeta cheese. I thought I would try her version because (I admit it) I love Velveeta cheese. I know, I know. But hey, it was all we had growing up in the Philippines! I seriously think it’s the best “cheese” to use when you need something quick-cooking and melty. I also liked the addition of the chili and think it elevated this into a hearty Tex-Mex style dish. It was delicious! I served it with a bunch of garnishes on the side and the family thought that made it even better! This soup comes together really quickly and is perfect on a cold winter’s night!

7-CAN SOUP

  • 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans
  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans
  • 1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel corn or fiesta corn
  • 1 can (10 oz.) Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chili with no beans
  • 8 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut in cubes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional Garnishes:  sour cream, sliced or diced avocado, chopped cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, and/or red pepper flakes
  1. Without draining any of the cans, empty all seven of them into a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Toss in the cheese cubes and continue to simmer, stirring until cheese is melted.
  5. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  6. Serve optional garnishes on the side for people to top their own soup.

[Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks]

Corn Chowder

Pinky's Pantry | Corn Chowder
What could be more satisfying than a hearty bowl of corn chowder? Corn chowder is an American soup with recipes for it dating back to the 1800’s. It’s delicious made with fresh corn kernels when corn is in season. But when corn isn’t in season, you can still turn out a delicious pot using canned corn.

I started adding carrots to my corn chowder just as a way to sneak more veggies into my kids’ diets, but you could omit the carrots if you prefer. Sometimes I leave them out (as pictured below) and the soup still turns out fabulous.
Corn Chowder | Pinky's Pantry

CORN CHOWDER

  • 8 slices of bacon, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 5 cups canned chicken broth
  • 1-1½ lbs. yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 ears of corn, kernels removed (about 6 cups fresh corn kernels)
  • 1 pint (2 cups) half-and-half or milk
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  1. Cook bacon in a large heavy stock pot over moderate heat until crisp.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Set aside.
  3. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease from pot, then add garlic, onion, celery, and carrots.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion becomes translucent.
  5. Add broth, potatoes, and thyme and simmer, covered, until potatoes are just tender.
  6. Stir in corn kernels, half-and-half, salt, and pepper.
  7. Simmer, uncovered, about 10-12 minutes.
  8. Remove sprigs of thyme before serving and garnish with crispy bacon.

NOTE:  If corn is not in season, lessen the chicken broth to 3 cups and replace the fresh corn with 2 cans whole kernel corn, undrained, plus 2 cans cream-style corn.

Hamburger Soup

Hamburger Soup | Pinky's Pantry
I was watching Pioneer Woman on TV one day and saw her make this soup. I had to try it of course, and have made it several times since. It was very easy to make and I loved how it was so versatile. You could add other ingredients to it if you like. I’ve added beans, pasta, zucchini, broccoli, all sorts of things. It’s a great way to use up all the leftover veggies you have in your fridge. One time, I had some left over lasagna noodles so I cut them into short strips and tossed them in! It was great! The soup makes a big, hearty pot perfect for a large, hungry family, but feel free to cut the ingredients in half or even one- third if there are less than 4 of you sitting down to eat.

HAMBURGER SOUP

  • 2½ lbs. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 large cans (49 oz. each) beef broth
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 5 medium potatoes, cut into cubes
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Brown ground beef in a large stock pot with the onion, celery, and garlic.
  2. Once the onions are translucent, drain as much oil as you can from the pot.
  3. Stir in tomato paste and diced tomatoes.
  4. Add beef broth, carrots, potatoes, bell peppers, oregano, and parsley.
  5. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until carrots and potatoes are tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve with a good crusty bread.

Homemade Garlic Butter Croutons

Garlic Butter Croutons | Pinky's Pantry
Croutons are cubes of bread that have been coated in butter or oil and then baked or fried until crisp. They’re wonderful sprinkled on soups or salads, or used as a topping for casseroles. You can buy ready-made croutons from the grocery store but why bother when homemade croutons are a hundred, no, a thousand times better and are sooo easy to make?

They can be seasoned in a variety of ways. In place of garlic powder, you could use anywhere from ½ to 2 teaspoons of italian seasoning, herbes de Provence, dried dill, Greek seasoning, chili powder, curry powder, fresh cracked black pepper, or whatever seasoning strikes your fancy. You could make parmesan croutons by adding ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese to the butter, or make fresh cheese croutons using cheddar, swiss, gruyere, emmentaler, or asiago by sprinkling 1 cup or so of the grated cheese over the croutons halfway through baking.

These garlic butter croutons are my family’s favorite. They’re so good and smell divine while they’re baking. It’s all I can do to keep the fam from gobbling them all up before dinner! Feel free to use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder if you like. The garlic powder just makes it super quick and easy to do, but fresh garlic is equally delicious.

HOMEMADE GARLIC BUTTER CROUTONS

  • 1 loaf (about 1 lb.) french or italian bread or texas toast
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted
  • 1½ tbsps. granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. garlic salt, optional (we like a little salt on our croutons, but this is completely up to you – feel free to omit the salt if you like)
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. With a serrated knife, cut bread into ¾ to 1-inch cubes.
  3. Combine melted butter, granulated garlic, and garlic salt (if using) in a gallon-size ziploc bag.
  4. Quickly add bread cubes to bag and seal well.
  5. Shake like mad till bread cubes are completely coated with garlic-butter mixture.
  6. Spread bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  7. Bake about 15 minutes or until golden and crispy.
  8. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

NOTE:

  • Make sure to use a good, sturdy bread. A light, airy loaf will just turn soggy. This is better made with stale bread so try to purchase your bread a day or two before you plan to make the croutons so the bread will have a chance to dry out a little.
  • If you’d rather use fresh garlic instead of garlic powder, finely mince 4 cloves of fresh garlic and use that in place of the garlic powder.
  • Use real butter and not margarine. Margarine has a high water content and could turn your croutons soggy. Also, my family loves the butteriness (is that a word?) of these croutons but if it seems like too much butter for you, just cut the amount down to half a cup.

Red Pepper Soup

Red Pepper Soup | Pinky's Pantry
I learned to make this soup many years ago from a co-worker of my best friend, Gigi. This recipe is so good. It’s one of my family’s favorite soups. It’s easy to make and uses jarred red peppers so you don’t have to go through all the work of roasting and peeling fresh red peppers….. unless you want to. I really like the jarred fire roasted peppers from Trader Joe’s, but you could use your favorite grocery store brand. Depending on the size of your jars, you might end up with a little bit more or a little bit less peppers than what you’d get from 3 jars of Trader Joe’s brand, but don’t worry about it. If you’re more or less close to 36 ounces, the soup will turn out fine. Oh, one other thing! You have to serve this soup with my homemade garlic butter croutons (the recipe can be found here). They’re simple to make so don’t skip it! The croutons really give the soup that added oomph!

RED PEPPER SOUP

  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-5 red jalapeño peppers, chopped
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 large can (49½ ozs.) chicken stock or broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 jars (12 ozs. each) Trader Joe’s roasted red peppers, drained
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ cup sherry, or to taste
  • ½ cup brown sugar, or to taste
  • ¾ cup heavy cream, or to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot.
  2. Sauté onions, garlic and jalapeño peppers in oil until onions become translucent.
  3. Add flour and stir until flour is cooked, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add chicken stock and water, and stir to make sure all flour is well blended.
  5. Add peppers and thyme sprigs.
  6. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until ingredients are very soft.
  7. Remove thyme sprigs.
  8. Puree everything with a stick blender, or puree in a regular blender in batches and return to pot.
  9. Add next 3 ingredients, adding more or less to taste. After adding cream, don’t let the soup return to a boil again.
  10. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  11. Serve with homemade garlic butter croutons.

Chicken Pozole

Chicken Pozole | Pinky's Pantry
Marta is a lovely Mexican lady who works in the cafeteria downstairs at my office. She makes a wonderful Chicken Pozole. Everyone loves it! Whenever she would make it, the cafeteria would run out of it roughly about 20 minutes after it was put out. Eventually, she learned to just make a huge vat of it so that it wouldn’t disappear so quickly and everyone could get some.
Chicken Pozole | Pinky's Pantry
I asked Marta how she made her pozole and she gave me a quick run down. This recipe was my attempt at trying to mimic Marta’s pozole. The fam devoured it and it’s now become a family favorite. It’s great because I can buy pre-shredded rotisserie chicken at Costco which really saves me a lot of time. When you serve it, just put the soup in a large tureen surrounded by bowls of the different condiments so everyone can help themselves.Chicken Pozole | Pinky's Pantry

CHICKEN POZOLE

  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • ½ large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • 1 (4.5 oz.) can diced green chiles
  • 1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (7 oz. can) canned salsa verde
  • 1 (49 oz. can) chicken broth
  • 2 (15 oz. cans) hominy, drained
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Condiments:

  • raw cabbage, shredded
  • red onion, finely chopped
  • cilantro leaves, chopped
  • lime, cut into wedges
  • radishes, thinly sliced
  • avocado, diced
  • crushed red pepper
  • Mexican queso fresco, crumbled
  • tortilla chips, crushed or left whole
  • sour cream
  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until onion begins to become translucent.
  3. Add garlic and cook another 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the oregano, green chiles, chopped tomatoes, and salsa verde, and cook until it just comes to a boil, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken broth and hominy and return to a boil.
  6. Lower heat to medium and simmer for at least 10 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Add the shredded chicken and cook until heated through, 3 minutes.
  9. Serve with bowls of condiments on the side.

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup | Pinky's Pantry
When Old Goat Honey and I were newly married, there was a little hotel on the main road of the town where we lived. On the first floor of this hotel was a tiny Thai restaurant. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of it now. It has long since closed, but when it was open, we would go there for dinner at least once every other month. Their food was sooo good. One of our favorite things to order whenever we went there was their Thai Coconut Chicken Soup or “Soup No. 9” as we called it because it was the No. 9 item on their short, 2-page menu.

The soup was absolutely delicious! They served it in this round silver bowl that sat on a pedestal. The bowl had a hole in the center with a sort of “chimney” sticking up out of it. And inside the pedestal underneath the bowl was a little fire (I guess from a sterno can) that kept the soup hot. Since then, I’ve learned that that serving bowl is called a Thai Hot Pot. I don’t have one and just make my soup in a regular stock pot, but I suppose if you really wanted to go authentic, you could purchase a thai hot pot of your own.

Thai Hot Pot

Thai Hot Pot from Amazon.com

This soup calls for lemongrass. For those who are unfamiliar with it, lemongrass is a fragrant grass-like stalk that’s widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine. It’s long like a green onion, with a pale green color and with a tough, outer casing similar to a thick corn husk. It has a citrusy, herbal-like flavor. It’s readily available in Asian food stores and its increasing popularity is making it easier to find in your local neighborhood grocery. I know I can find it in mine.

TO PREPARE LEMON GRASS:  Cut off about a half-inch from the top and the root end. Wash it well, then peel off the tough outer layers. Before you chop or slice it, take a meat tenderizer or a mallet and smash it. This helps release the oils that impart that delicious lemony flavor. Then cut it into 2-inch pieces or mince it finely, depending on your recipe’s instructions. It’s quite tough and woody so it’s usually cut into pieces which are later discarded before serving, but you can eat the more tender center portion if it’s finely minced. If you’re going to mince the center portion, use the bottom 4 or 5 inches only since that’s the most tender part of the stalk.

THAI COCONUT CHICKEN SOUP

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (3-inch) piece ginger, grated
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, crushed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (15-oz.) can coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp. patis (fish sauce)
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 ozs. white mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-4 small Thai chilies, sliced thinly (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips (or 3 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast)
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced (for garnish)
  1. Heat canola oil in a soup pot and sauté garlic, ginger, and lemongrass.
  2. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, patis, sugar, and lime juice.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and stir in bell pepper, mushrooms, chilies, and chicken.
  4. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until chicken is just cooked through.
  5. Pick out and discard lemongrass.
  6. Stir in cilantro.
  7. Sprinkle with green onion and serve immediately with extra lime wedges on the side.

NOTE:  If you can’t find Thai chilies, you could substitute 1-2 tsp. sambal oelek (ground fresh chili paste) for the chilies. Actually, Old Goat Honey loves this soup served with a little bowl of sambal oelek on the side.

Also, if you can’t find fresh lemongrass, you could substitute the zest and juice of a fresh lemon, though it’s not quite the same thing. I’ve done it though, and it works fine in a pinch.

1 stalk lemongrass  =  zest of 1/2 lemon + 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Lemongrass freezes well so if you do find it, I recommend that you buy a bunch to freeze. Just wash it, peel off the outer leaves, stick it in a ziploc bag, squeeze out all the excess air, and put it in your freezer. It will keep for months and can be used directly from frozen.

Taco Soup

Taco Soup | Pnky's Pantry
It’s been kind of cold lately and chilly weather always makes me think of soup when I start planning on what to make for dinner. Who doesn’t love a nice, steaming bowl of hot soup on a cold wintry evening?

This is a delicious, hearty, crockpot soup that’s the perfect choice to feed the family when you’ve just come home from work and are too tired to fuss with dinner. I learned this recipe from one of my officemates, a sweet lady named Janet. The recipe is great because I usually have all the ingredients I need sitting in my pantry which makes it a breeze to throw together. You could also make this in a soup pot on the stove if you don’t feel like lugging out the old crockpot. And best of all, this recipe is completely gluten free so my daughter, Spunky, can eat it too. Everyone who’s tried this soup loves it. And it really goes over big when you have a houseful of hungry kids!

TACO SOUP

  • 1½ lbs. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans whole kernel corn, do not drain
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, do not drain
  • 1 (15 oz.) can red kidney beans, do not drain
  • 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 2 (2.25 oz.) cans sliced black olives, drained
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 packets taco seasoning mix
  1. Brown ground beef and onions in skillet.
  2. Drain ground beef and transfer to a crockpot.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and stir together well.
  4. Set on high and cook for 1 hour or until hot.
  5. Serve with sliced avocado, sour cream, grated cheese, sliced green onions, and tortilla chips.

NOTE:  If the soup seems too thick, you can stir in a little water to thin it out.