Chunky Cream of Mushroom Soup

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“It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.” Marlene Dietrich

This chunky cream of mushroom soup has superpowers.  We all know how good mushrooms are for our health and this soup packs 16 ounces of fungi and boasts 2 cups of carrots too.  It is flavored with a whopping 5 bay leaves.  It is thick and creamy, but made with milk not cream.   As far as cream of mushroom soups go, this one is outstanding.  But the superpowers I am talking about have nothing to do with the nutritional goodness of the soup and everything to do with its secret ingredient: love.  Over the years, It has nourished me back to health after surgery and comforted me while nursing a cold.   It recently made everything right in the world again as stressful construction in our home dragged on into a second month.  A dear friend knows how much I love this soup and it miraculously shows up at my doorstep just when I need it most, enveloping me with the warmest hug in the whole world.  I have made the soup myself and it was excellent.  But my favorite version is Dona’s special batch, made with love, everytime.

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Maple Apple-Raisin-Date Bread Pudding

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” Bread pudding makes me weak.”  Bill Rancic

Bread pudding is one of those comforting desserts that makes good use of stale bread and can be whipped together with just about any dried fruit from your pantry.  It is always a little bit different each time you make it.  I like to prepare it when the oven is already on for a roast on Sunday afternoons.  Feel free to tweak this recipe to your preference!  It also makes a great brunch dish as it can be assembled overnight and baked in the morning. It fills the house with the enticing aroma of the spices.  Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream on top for sheer decadence.

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21 Fall Recipe Round-Up

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Fall is the season when I cook the most.  With a crisp chill in the air, nesting instincts set in.  Maple, pumpkin, apples, pears, squashes of all kinds, sweet potato and brussel sprouts are all in heavy rotation.  The house fills with enticing aromas drawing family and friends around the table.  Here is a compilation of 21 favorite recipes from appetizers, salads, main dishes and desserts to celebrate the flavors of fall.

Sweet Potato Hummus

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Fall Panzanella Salad

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“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” Emily Brontë

For some time I have been wanting to make a fall panzanella salad.  A recent restaurant-made one sounded so good on the menu but was really disappointing with hard crouton like bread and hardly any flavor.  So I experimented and this final creation was unbelievably delicious!  I made it on a crisp sunny fall day and we enjoyed it as a meal. Bursting with the many flavors of fall that I love:  brussel sprouts, squash, cranberries, sage, thyme, pomegranate and maple, the salad was nourishing.   Roasting the vegetables enhances their flavor and gives them nice browned edges with those tasty crispy bits and texture that holds up in the dressing.  The salty pancetta balances the sweetness of the cranberries and squash.  Pomegranate arils adds crunch and color.   I used a garlic-herb loaf of Italian bread for another layer of seasoning.  The salad lends itself well to experimentation for your own favorite fall veggies and fruits.  The maple infused dressing is the final punctuation mark of autumnal flavoring in this dynamic salad.  Full of antioxidant goodness, this is my new favorite fall dish!

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Cheesy Cornbread-Butternut Squash Madeleines with Fresh Sage

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“The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread and fried chicken.” Maya Angelou

Last Thanksgiving I was tempted to make Cornbread Madeleines after I saw them on Food on Fifth.  They looked so good with the addition of grated squash and shaped into fun madeleines.    With a houseful of guests coming for the feast and a long hours of cooking ahead of me, I just couldn’t add another recipe to my busy day in the kitchen.  But I couldn’t stop thinking of Teresa’s polenta-pamesan-sage madeleines.  At the last minute I decided to doctor a Trader Joe Cornbread Mix with grated squash, corn and cheddar and bake them in a madeleine pan with a sage leaf.  Go figure:  they were the biggest hit of the celebration! When asked for the recipe I had to sheepishly confess:  they were from a mix doctored with all kinds of goodies. Secret ingredient?  Butternut squash!

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Savory Oatmeal with Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms

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“Please, sir, I want some more.”

Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist

Have you jumped on the savory oatmeal bandwagon?  I am a bit late to the party I must admit, even if I have been a lifetime lover of breakfast oatmeal.  SVOATS, as they are called, offer endless possibilities for inventive flavor pairings.  Oatmeal with attitude!  Just skip traditional oatmeal toppings and think of it as a whole-grain blank slate like you would rice, congee, risotto or polenta.  I have to admit I love berries and maple syrup in my oatmeal and I hesitated to try the SVOATS food trend for far too long.  Even Dickens was serving up savory gruel in Oliver Twist in 1838!

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7 Fall Decor DIY’s

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“Autumn binds poetry in its own withered leaves. “~Terri Guillemets

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When fall arrives, does your nesting instincts  go into full gear?  Mine sure do!  Here are some easy DIY fall decor projects you can create at home to celebrate autumn and get the creativity juices flowing.  My favorites are the botanical pumpkins and the no-water fall window box.  I have even included one that I wanted to love but struggled with, the Mason jar leaf hurricanes, so you can avoid the same mistakes I made.  Happy fall! Continue reading