Crunchy Green Beans

For this week’s vegetable, I decided to tackle green beans.  Growing up I remember eating lots of canned green beans (ehhh) both at home and at the school cafeteria.  We also had a garden and I remember fresh green beans too, but not as much as the canned kind.  Most recently, my green bean experience has been of the frozen variety.  I would make these a lot for Ava when she first started eating solids.  I’d steam them up and then puree them.  Not much skill involved with that.  She seemed to like them fine that way, but has been too excited about them now that they aren’t pureed.  (I can’t say I’m too excited about them either.)

I found my solution on allrecipes.com this week.  I liked this recipe because I had everything on hand already and I had some celery that needed using up before it totally went off the deep end into un-editable status.  Take a look:

I should have taken a picture of my green beans, they were much prettier than these.

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1 1/3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  1. Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute celery and mushrooms in oil until tender. Combine cornstarch, cold water and soy sauce until smooth; stir into celery mixture. Stir in bouillon. bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Drain beans and add to the celery mixture. Stir in almonds.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. First off, I used fresh green beans.  I didn’t boil my beans, I decided to steam them, mainly to retain most of their nutritional properties.  Steaming is tricky business.  I, unfortunately, steamed mine for too long so they weren’t exactly the “crunchy” beans the title of the recipe was going for. Boo.
  2. Instead of using beef bullion cubes, I used beef stock.  I substituted 1/2 cup broth and 1/2 cup water.
  3. I was a bit nervous about making what seemed like a gravy for my beans, but it turned out great!  Not gravy like at all.

The Result

Aside from my steaming abilities, these beans turned out great!  They seemed so fancy!  Wow.  And they tasted delicious too, which is what we are aiming for here anyway.  I loved the mushrooms and the crunchiness of the nuts and celery.  It make it exciting to eat them.  I will say they were a bit labor intensive, which is a negative, but I will be making these again soon!

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Acorn Squash with Apples

This week I decided to tackle a squash… an acorn squash to be exact.  OK people, it’s no secret that the only reason I’m tackling vegetables is because I know they are good for me.  If they were already delicious without any help, I wouldn’t be on this quest to spice them up a bit.  Such is the case with squash.  I just can’t get excited about squash.  Even the name… squash… it doesn’t help the situation much in my mind.  Since the main reason I’m attempting squash this week is for the nutritional value, I thought I’d look up a few facts about the acorn squash to get myself pumped up.  Here’s what I found out:

According to eHow.com (which I’m not claiming has any authority on squash what-so-ever) the acorn squash “is a delicious vegetable that is frequently incorporated into meals, especially at dinner.” Perfect.  Exactly what I’m looking for.  “The acorn squash is a winter squash…” Interesting, considering I had to go to two stores to find them.  I had figured the acorn squash would be easily accessed… unless there was a run on acorn squash this week and I didn’t know about it…  “One cup of acorn squash (cut into cubes, approximately 205 grams) contains 115 calories. None of those calories come from fat, as acorn squash is a fat-free food.” Bonus!  Fat-free!  We can all use a little help reducing fat whenever possible.  “Squash contains only trace amounts of sugar and 9 grams of dietary fiber.  Acorn squash contains 18% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin A, 37% of vitamin C, 9% of calcium and 11% of iron.” It said more than that, but I’m realizing this may be getting boring, so we’ll move on.  Packed full of nutrients, that’s all we need to know.

I found a interesting sounding recipe involving acorn squash.  It got rave reviews from everyone on allrecipes.com.  Click HERE to see the online recipe.

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 apples, cored and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. To easily peel the acorn squash without losing a lot of vegetable, gently drop the squash in a large pot of boiling water, and boil for 15 minutes. Pour off the boiling water and fill with cold water and let sit 5 minutes to cool. When cool enough to handle, use a knife to slice off the peel on the ridges and use a teaspoon to dig out the peel in the valleys. Slice the squash in half and remove the seeds and stem. Then slice the halves into sections and finally cut into 1 inch chunks.
  2. Place the squash chunks into a baking dish along with the apples. Dot with pieces of butter.  Sprinkle the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nuts over the top. Add 1/4 cup water to the dish.
  3. Bake at 350 degree for 55 min.

***The original recipe called for microwaving the squash and apples.  I’m not a fan of microwave cooked food, but it would be faster.  Here are the instructions for that:

  1. Place the squash chunks into a large microwave-safe bowl along with the apples. Dot with pieces of butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar, walnuts, salt and cinnamon over the top. Cover with plastic wrap, and poke a few holes in it for ventilation.
  2. Cook in the microwave for 7 1/2 minutes on full power. Remove, uncover, and stir. Return to the microwave, and cook for another 7 1/2 minutes on full power, until tender. Serve hot.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. The instructions for easily peeling the squash really do work!  I actually used a spoon to peel the whole thing once it was done boiling.  This may be the key to squash peeling I was looking for a couple weeks ago!
  2. I cubed my apples instead of slicing… I’m not sure if that made a difference.
  3. I was in a hurry when I made this recipe so my squash only baked for about 40 minutes.  Jeff said that it probably should have baked longer.  Just an FYI.
  4. Lots of people suggested adding nutmeg.  Next time, I will do that, as well as adding more cinnamon and nuts.

The Result

The Acorn Squash with Apples got mixed reviews at our dinner table.  Upon removing them from the oven, they smelled delicious.  Ava LOVED them!  Wow!  The kid had three helpings.  It was amazing.  AND I had mostly served her squash, not apples.  I have to admit I was shocked.  Jeff thought they were good too, but he’s not the one we’re trying to win over here.  When I tasted the final product, I was slightly disappointed.  I think I was hoping they would have turned out sweeter without me having to add a lot more sugar.  No such luck.  It was still squash.  More nuts may have helped, more brown sugar would have REALLY helped, but that may defeat the purpose of eating squash.

All in all, I’ll probably try this again, it wasn’t a complete fail and perhaps my taste buds just have to get used to squash anyway.

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Roasted Vegetables

I have to admit that this vegetable challenge is a bit intimidating for me.  I realized this week that my vegetable knowledge is

These are my ACTUAL veggies! Aren't they pretty?!? No internet pic this time!

quite minimal.  I know how to tell when meat is done, when a casserole is finished cooking or when pasta is ready to be drained, but vegetables are a whole new ball game for me.  If you under cook them, not good.  If you over cook them, not good!  They are so finicky!

So for my first voyage into the world of vegetables, I decided to try roasting them.  Lots of people had told me roasted vegetables were quite delicious and easy so I wanted to give it a try myself.  Knowing nothing about the art of roasting vegetables, I did quite a few Google searches.  As you can imagine, all of them said something different.  Below are a few of the best (meaning: least complicated) links that I found:

OVEN ROASTED VEGGIES – cooks.com

HOW TO ROAST VEGETABLES – ehow.com

HOW TO ROAST VEGGIES – 1greengeneration.com

I didn’t follow any of these recipes exactly, for a couple reasons.  1.) I was baking meatloaf at the same time I would be roasting so my oven temp was dicatated by the meatloaf.  2.) I had already bought the veggies that I wanted to have with the meal so that played into my stategy as well.

Here’s my refined recipe for Roasting Vegetables

  • 5-6 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 5-7 mushrooms, medium sized; cut in quarters
  • 4 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • basil
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl combine the chopped potatoes and half the olive oil and 2 garlic cloves, minced.  All salt, pepper and basil.  Toss to coat evenly.  Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet (I used a broiler pan).
  3. Repeat with the mushrooms and asparagus, but reserve them in the bowl
  4. Place potatoes in the oven for approximately 20-30 minutes.  Add remaining vegetables to pan.  Continue roasting for another 20 minutes, until aparagus and potatoes are tender.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. Somewhere along the way, I had read that different vegetables cook at different speeds.  This was a very helpful piece of information!  After I thought about it, of course potatoes would take longer than mushrooms!  But I’m glad someone had the forethought to point that out to me!  That was a VERY strategic piece of information for me to know!  So when you go about roasting, be sure to think through what you are roasting.  One article noted that one could toss everything together and then remove different veggies along the way as they came to completion, but that sounded too complicated for me.
  2. Another thing I learned is that you can basically roast ANYTHING!  I was surprised to see radishes and carrots in lots of recipes… I wouldn’t have thought to roast such things, but apparently you can!
  3. It seems as though the temps for roasting vary between 350 to 450 degrees.  I’m glad mine worked out ok roasting along side my meat loaf.

The Result

When Jeff came home and saw the roasted veggies as they came out of the oven, I’m pretty sure he fell in love with me all over again at that very moment!  I will say, I was pretty impressed myself.  They were delicious!! I couldn’t believe they turned out so well, and on my first attempt too.  I was a bit skeptical that the leftovers wouldn’t be that good, but I was wrong; reheated roasted vegetables are pretty delicious as well.  I would call this first attempt a major success!

 

 

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What’s Up Next for What’s For Dinner…

Hi Friends!

I know you have all been anxiously awaiting the unveiling of what is happening next here at What’s For Dinner… aka Cooking With Janell.  Await no more…

Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about how I wanted to proceed with this blog.  I’ve had such a great time this year, trying new recipes and sharing them with my small sphere of influence via the world wide web.  I knew from the onslaught that i wanted to continue, but the thought of keeping the blog the same seemed a little… well, boring?  Tiring?  So I’ve come up with a new plan for 2011.

Last year, my New Year’s “resolution” was to eat more vegetables.  I, if you know me well, am not what you would call a vegetable lover.  I like them ok, but I get more excited about the main event… meat!  casseroles!  tantelizing flavors awaiting my anxiously anticipating taste buds… you get it, I’m a main course lover.  Vegetables are a side thought for me.  My husband, God bless him, is a vegetable lover.  He was constantly asking what vegetable we are having with dinner.  So I decided to make more of an effort in 2010.  Last year was me putting my toe into the waters of vegetation.  I made more salads (when I remembered).  I bought bags of frozen vegetables, which works well, but after a while that gets boring.

So this year, I have decided to tackle the daunting world of veggies head on.  How do you make them exciting?  Tantalizing?  Mouth watering… a vier for the main event?  I don’t know!  But I’m aiming to find out in the next 365 days.

My goal for the next year is to find methods, recipes, anything! that will make vegetables a more pleasing part of our diet.  The ultimate goal being, really, to eat more vegetables.  We all probably think that is a good idea, doing it is another story.

So I hope you will join me for another year!  I think this one will be a challenge!

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Wild Rice Turkey Dinner

Week 52!!!

Week 52 people!!!

We made it!  I was so excited for this week’s recipe… a goal accomplished, a milestone achieved, another box checked off the checklist of life.  This week’s recipe was to represent my crown jewel of new recipe attempting… my shining glory of all I had learned over the past year.  It should be the best thing I’ve ever cooked in my LIFE!!  These were my thoughts going into this week.  Apparently I have overestimated my cooking abilities and had to eat a bit of humble pie instead.  Yes, you are guessing correctly…

My final recipe of the year was a bust!  BOOO!!!!  Can you believe it?!?!?  I can’t!  The only consultation I have to this catastrophe is that it makes for good blogging and reader amusement.

Well, so here’s the recipe.  This week I made Wild Rice Turkey Dinner.  It actually should have turned out quite good.  It’s a crockpot recipe.  Can you really mess up a crockpot recipe?!?!  Oh yes, my friends… you can.  Apparently I’m on some sort of turkey kick because I’ve made a lot of turkey recently.  I knew I wanted to do something with Wild Rice because wild rice is a Minnesota thing.  It’s grown and harvested right here in my back yard!  So I found this delicious and easy sounding recipe to try out.  Here it is below.  I’ll give the lowdown on the disaster below…

  • 3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 turkey breast tenderloins (8 ounces each)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  1. In a 4- or 5-qt. slow cooker, layer the rice, squash, onion and turkey.
  2. Add broth; sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 170°.
  3. Remove turkey; cut into slices.
  4. Stir cranberries into rice mixture; serve with a slotted spoon. Serve with turkey. Yield: 4 servings.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. First off, a big thing I learned this week is how expensive a turkey breast is!  Wow!  I almost paid more for the 3 lb turkey breast than I did for a 12 lb whole turkey!  Sheesh!
  2. Good luck finding (2) 8 oz turkey breasts.  I could only find 3 lb ones.  I did buy a turkey breast that was pre-seasoned and it was really good!  I would recommend that!
  3. I’m not sure how one goes about peeling a butternut squash.  I used a regular carrot peeler, but it seems like there should be an easier way.  I thought about googling it while I was in process but my hands were all messy.
  4. Second point learned about butternut squashes… while holding the peeled version an orange substnace sticks to your hands like super glue.  I washed my hands several times and even scrubbed them with a wash cloth while in the shower and I still had a film covering my fingers.  Weird!  It eventually went away.
  5. I’m not sure what constitutes a “medium sized” butternut squash.  Upon further reflection, I believe mine may have been a “large”.
  6. The downfall of my entire recipe… mine needed to cook longer than 7-8 hours.  Who knows… maybe 8.5-10 hours??

Recipe High Points

  1. This was a pretty easy and healthy meal to prepare (other than peeling a butternut squash)
  2. It would have been DELICIOUS!

Recipe Low Points

  1. OK, biggest low point is that my crockpot cooked for 8 hours and my food was not done!!!!!!  Agghhhhhh!  I had even turned up the temp to high around hour 6 so it cooked on high for 2 hours.  Hour 8 landed around 6pm to 6:30 and I had a hungry baby, a hungry momma and a hungry husband wanting to eat.  I was so upset about the crockpot that I wasn’t sure what to do.  I though about putting it in the oven to get it to cook faster but decided that would take too long.  So we ended up having BLT sandwiches and baked potatoes… and green beans.  What a way to end my new recipe experience!  BLT sandwiches and baked potatoes… those don’t even go together!
  2. I decided to let the crock cook on low over night.  BAD IDEA!!  In the morning the meat was done and delicious!  But the rice was extremely mushy and the squash was on the verge of being too mushy as well.  That makes for bad texture issues!
  3. I think the problem may have been the fact that I had too much food in the crock??  My turkey breast was 3 lbs instead of 1 lb and my butternut squash may have been too big.  Food for thought…

The flavors ended up being really good, but the mushy rice is hard to handle.  I want to try this recipe again to see if I can get it right, because I think it really would be yummy.

Well friends,  what a year we have had together!  I’ve loved hearing from you, either in comments left here, on Facebook or just in passing, that you’ve tried a recipe and liked it, or you made some adjustments and made it better!  My year of new recipes has been such a great experience for me, thanks for following along on the journey.

So what’s in store for What’s For Dinner in 2011?  Check back next week for the low-down on what’s coming up!!

Until then, Happy Cooking!

**Janell**

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Turkey Pot Pie

Week 51

A couple weeks ago, I had been flipping through my cookbook looking for different recipes to try and for some reason every recipe that caught my eye required turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving or Christmas.  I unfortunately didn’t have turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving or Christmas sitting in my freezer waiting to be used.  So I decided to go out, buy myself a turkey and cook it up!  This for me was a feat.  Thanksgiving 2009, Jeff and I didn’t travel to see family and decided to have a Thanksgiving feast at our house.  I spent days stressing about cooking the turkey until Jeff decided to save me from myself and took over the turkey baking responsibilities.  What I discovered is that baking a turkey is about the simplest thing you can do.  The only thing you need is a turkey baking bag and you’re set to go.

So last week I bought myself a 12lb turkey, thawed it for two days and baked that sucker up!  All in preparation for this week’s recipe… Turkey Potpie

  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 cups cubed cooked turkey
  • 1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped green pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimientos
  1. In a large saucepan, bring the carrots, onion, celery and broth to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat. Stir in the turkey, soup, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Spoon into a greased 2-qt. baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Combine milk, eggs, 3/4 cup cheese, green pepper and pimientos; stir into the flour mixture until combined. Drop by tablespoonfuls over the hot turkey mixture.
  3. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Yield: 4-5 servings.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. The biggest thing I learned this week is that a 12 lb turkey does not give you 12 lbs of meat!  I guess I knew that was going to be the case, but the actual amount of meat I got caught me a bit off guard.  My 12 lb turkey only yielded 5 lbs of cooked meat!  Who knew?!?!  I thought I was saving big bucks on my turkey that only cost $.92 per pound, but when you figure you only get to actually eat half of that weight, I’m not really saving big bucks.
  2. A 12 lb turkey only takes 3 hours to bake (I learned a lot about baking turkeys)
  3. I did add the green pepper, but didn’t have any pimientos so I didn’t add those.  I would say I found out the green pepper didn’t add anything to the over all flavor and I probably won’t bother with it next time.
  4. I was skeptical of adding only 1/4 cup of broth to the vegetables and letting them boil for  15 minutes, but it actually worked out ok!  I thought they would burn to the pan, but they did not.
  5. The crust topping when mixed was more runny than I was anticipating, since the directions said to spoon the mix onto the turkey mixture.  I more like poured it onto the mixture.  It did bake fine though.

Recipe High Points

  1. Aside from having to pre-bake an entire turkey, this was a really easy and relatively quick recipe to make.
  2. I liked this recipe a lot better than the Chicken Potpie recipe that I made a few months ago.
  3. The leftovers were delicious as well.

Recipe Low Points

  1. This would be a difficult recipe if you didn’t have turkey sitting around waiting to be used.  I do think you could easily adapt this to chicken.

All in all I really enjoyed this recipe.  Baking my first turkey (for no particular reason) was exciting and this recipe was a great way to use up the left overs!

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Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder

Week 50

As you may have noticed, Week 49 didn’t quite make it.  Sorry about that.  There was neither time, nor inspiration.  But no fear, we are back on track and cookin’ down the road to one full year of new recipes.  I can’t believe we’re already on week 50!  Wow!

My inspiration this week comes via my current weather situation.  It’s cold and blustery here in Duluth, MN.  As I type, the wind is blowing and snow is swirling by the window.  I will admit it’s only week 2 of living in northern Minnesota and I’m ready for nice weather to arrive.  They tell me there is still 4.5 months to go until that happens.  In the meantime, I’ve taken to wearing long underwear.  I HATED long underwear as a kid.  There were days in South Dakota when my mom would make me wear long johns to school and I hated it!  They made my pants feel weird, and to me, the trade-off of warmth was not worth the strange discomfort of your pants sticking to your legs.  Ahhh, how times have changed!  I’ve worn long johns for 5 days in a row now and am thinking I will need to soon invest in more as they seem to be a fast growing staple in my wardrobe.  The discomfort of your pants sticking to your legs it a small price to pay for staying warm.  I even made Ava wear tights under her pants today.  I am my mother at last.

All that to say, all week I’ve been craving a nice, thick, hot soup.  Thumbing through my cookbook, I found this recipe that sounded delicious for the occasion.  Have a look at Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder.

  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 can (14-3/4 ounces) cream-style corn
  • 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies, undrained
  • 1/4 to 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • Minced fresh cilantro, optional
  1. In a Dutch oven, brown chicken, onion and garlic in butter until chicken is no longer pink.
  2. Add the water, bouillon and cumin; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the cream, cheese, corn, chilies and hot pepper sauce.
  4. Cook and stir over low heat until the cheese is melted; add tomato. Sprinkle with cilantro if desired. Yield: 6-8 servings (2 quarts).

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. First off, I don’t know what the deal is with a dutch oven.  I’ve seen lots of recipes that call for one and I don’t know what the big deal is.  I just used a regular pot.  If someone has insight to the dutch oven, let me know!
  2. I did a few things differently from the recipe.  First, I used 1 cup of chicken stock instead of the 2 bullion cubes (no MSG for Jeff that way)
  3. Second, 2 cups of half and half seemed like a lot!  I could feel the cellulite growing on my legs just thinking about it!  So I used 1 cup of half and half and 1 cup of 1% milk.
  4. Third, instead of the can of cream corn, I put in half a bag of frozen corn (the small size).  I liked this better because, 1.) I don’t like cream corn and 2.) I liked the crunch that the frozen corn gave the soup.
  5. BIG TIP: Once the cheese is melted you need to serve the soup right away.  I had made my soup while waiting for Jeff to get home.  He was about 15-20 minutes later than I though he would be so my soup sat and simmered that whole time.  I had checked the soup about when the cheese had all melted and it looked wonderful!  Thick and creamy… Yummm!  But after sitting for the extra time, something happened to it and it got watery.  Booo!  I was really disappointed!

Recipe High Points

  1. This soup definitely hit the spot for a cold winters day.
  2. It was easy AND delicious!

Recipe Low Points

  1. All those dairy produces really make for a heavy soup.  I shouldn’t have had seconds.
  2. I was very disappointed about the creamy-ness breaking down before we ate!
  3. Ava wasn’t too excited about it.

All in all, I liked this soup a lot.  It was warm and tasty and perfect for a cold winters night.

 

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