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Thanksgiving Mac and Cheese

thanksgiving mac and cheese

Thanksgiving mac and cheese is one of the best after holiday dinners or side plates you can get to the table in a reasonable hurry and with a ton of smiles on the faces of those about to eat.

The thing about mac and cheese is that it’s good to start with. Done right it’s creamy, with just enough stick-to-it-ness to make a real meal out of it, if you want to. Add in some leftover Thanksgiving turkey and you’ve got a real winner. And there is really no trick here, guys. Add in the turkey with just a little mayo, combine with the mac and the cheese — I use a smoked Gouda as well as some sharp cheddar (roughly about half and half) and you’re pretty much done. 

Of course, there are plenty of other things you can do, as well, but be careful. Sometimes doing too much really can spoil a good dish. And believe me, I know how that happens.

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Cheesy Broccoli Soup

cheesy broccoli soup

I told you we’d be having a lot of soup, the past few weeks and yes, we’re still at it. This time around it’s a very cheesy broccoli soup, and this is one of my all time favorites.  It’s got plenty of broccoli and cheese, of course, but it also, strangely, doesn’t need much of the way in seasoning. It’s one of those soups that just, plain, stands for itself.

They key, of course, is the cheese. I like using Gouda and sharp cheddar, which gives a nice lovely flavor without overwhelming the broccoli, but you can indeed use all cheddar or just about anything that seems to fit your mood on a given day. And apart from the little bit of bay leaves (and the celery and carrots), there is no other seasoning required for this soup. That’s because good fresh broccoli provides really all the flavor you could ask for. 

Honestly, guys, THIS is the soup you’ve been waiting for.

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Chicken Piccata — Quick, Easy, and Rewarding

chicken piccata

As you might have guessed as you look around through our recipes, you’ll find quite a few chicken recipes, in part because they tend to be pretty easy to make into something fantastic. There is more to it than that, however. Chicken can be hard to do (at least to do it right) but sometimes, it can be sooooo easy, you could pretty much fall over before you can mess it up and at the end, you get a great restaurant quality meal. That’s where this chicken piccata comes in.

You don’t need a lot to do this dish — a little butter, some lemon, capers and parsley — and you’re all set. The technique is also very easy. Quickly saute the chicken tenders (or half chicken breasts, cut into two thin parts) and make the sauce using the remaining ingredients and you’re ready to start eating. If you start with just a  little prep, you can have this on the table in about 15-20 minutes. Yup. That fast.

Can you ruin this dish? Of course you can. You have to be really careful with the chicken breasts — it’s very easy to over cook them. And it’s also easy to go a little heavy on the lemon juice, which can really mess up the balance in the dish. In other words, pay attention to what you’re doing and you’ll be fine.

You really need to try this dish. It’s very, very good.

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A Little More Soup: This Time It’s Split Pea Soup

split pea soup

I haven’t forgotten about soups! There’s a rule somewhere, that says I can’t write about soups everyday, or every three days, or whatever. And then there’s a rule that says I should write about soups and the rest of you can wait until I get done. So, I’m going to try to split the difference. Which brings us to one of the best creamy soups I’ve ever made — a nice little split pea soup.

I don’t remember a good soup I don’t like, so I’m not much of a fair guide on this. But this soup’s got a rich creamy texture that doesn’t come from eggs or cream, but from a small addition of potatoes instead.  That does something that’s makes this soup slightly different. And it’s also vegetarian (though you could use chicken stock and butter, if you like). What really sets this off, though, is the little addition of bacon and a whole lot of tarragon for the garnish. It adds just the right touch of finesse. 

Oh, and yes, the peas come through like you wouldn’t believe.

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Corn with Thyme and a Little Garlic Butter

Corn with Thyme and Garlic Butter

There is nothing better than a great little side dish that adds just a hint of spice, and a bit of filling stuff without messing up that grand presentation you’ve got coming for the main dish. That’s where this little corn with thyme dish comes into play. I haven’t done a lot of side dishes here at Discovery Cooking, but this one, no matter how simple, is one you should always have around.

First off, the corn. When the late summer and early fall are on the line, good fresh corn right from the farmer’s market is definitely in order here. There is nothing quite like good fresh corn, and there is nothing quite like it. Trouble is, for most of us, that’s a pretty small window to hit. If your one of those lucky ones who have corn you’ve actually canned, that’s generally a good substitute. For the rest of us, high-quality frozen corn is often what we’re left with, but guess what? It’s often way better than some of the two and three-day old corn sold as fresh in the super markets. So there.

The second thing to remember is the thyme. If you can’t get fresh thyme, don’t even try this. The thyme is what gives this dish most of the flavor and there is nothing quite like that flavor.  Good news, if you’re growing some thyme in the backyard, but in most days, you can now get fresh thyme in most grocery stores. The main thing is to add the thyme a little bit at a time until you’ve got just the right amount, and that may vary from when and where you’ve got it.

Add in just a little garlic in the butter sauce and you’re on your way.

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Sausage and Tortellini Soup

sausage and tortellini soup

A good sausage, a little beans and some very good cheesy tortellini are about as much as you could ask for an “Italian style” soup, one that sticks to your ribs and makes you want to go out and tackle the world. Alright fine. Maybe you don’t want to kick the world’s butt this morning, but it does fill you up and does kind of make you want to at least let the world know you’re alive. This sausage and tortellini soup does that, and more.

Better yet, this is another one of those soups that, depending on how you finish it off, you can have most of the soup made, add the tortellini at the end along with some spinach and you’re ready to go as soon as the tortellini is ready. Nice things about good soups is that they’re often flexible like that. You can get them close to finished and then unleash them at just the right second.

This soup uses some good tortellini made with three cheeses and a lovely mild Italian sausage. You can, of course use a hotter sausage and even add a few crushed red peppers to get the spice where you want it.

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Southwest Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

All of a sudden, we’ve gone from 90-plus degrees to 80’s and now we’re barely hitting 70 degrees. It may not last, but I can tell you, it’s starting to feel like soup days are upon us and for my money, that’s a very good thing. We’ll start this week with a great southwestern chicken tortilla soup, and over the next several weeks, we’ll try out a number of other new soups and several that are, well, a bit old, as well. Not everything will be soup, of course, but for now, let’s have some fun with them.

The chicken tortilla soup is one of those “yeah, I probably don’t want this everyday,” but when you really need a real pick me up at the end of a lovely fall day, this is a winner. Oh, and yeah, it’s made in a slow cooker, so you can set it to cook in the morning, go have some fun and come home to a nice warm dinner, with just a little bit of fixin’s on the side. Really, I can’t have this soup without avocado’s but honestly, you can do a lot of stuff to this soup if you really want to do it. 

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