Meet OAMM blog partner Christine. Her goal at Cook the Story is to create recipes that give you more time with your loved ones.
That is our goal too, which is one of the reasons why we love her recipes! She has quick weeknight meals and easy entertaining recipes, and they all look fantastic. If you are a soup lover, then you must check out her Soup in 15 Series! It is an amazing resource for the cool weather months. She even shared some of her best tips and tricks for freezing soup without taking up so much space in the freezer (later in this post.)
Christine is cooking along with us on our Virtual Cooking Weekend on March 11-13th. So come get to know her!
How long have you been blogging about food?
Since the Fall of 2010. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 5 years! I love it so much and feel excited to get back at it every morning.
What is your favorite meal to serve to family and friends?
I love making stuffed peppers. I find that even people who don’t like peppers like them. Or at least they like the delicious filling, which is what it’s all about, right? I sometimes make the classic beef and rice stuffed peppers. But I honestly find them a bit time-consuming because you have to cook the filling, then stuff the peppers, then bake them.
Instead, I usually use a technique that allows you to use raw ingredients in the stuffing so that you can skip that whole first step. To do this, the peppers are cut in half, resulting in two pieces to stuff per pepper. The filling will cook more quickly because the cavity is smaller. Here are two examples of stuffed peppers that use this really quick and delicious method: Chicken and Cheddar Stuffed Peppers and Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers.
What is your favorite kitchen tool or gadget? Tell us a little about how you fell in love with it and how you use it in your kitchen.
My favorite kitchen item isn’t a tool or a gadget. It’s a really really big pan. It’s a 12” cast iron skillet. 12” may not sound very big but that’s the measurement across the very bottom. This thing is huge! When empty it takes two hands to lift (often accompanied by a grunting noise).
What I love about it is that (1) It can go on the stove and in the oven, (2) It’s essentially non-stick but without any weird chemicals, (3) It only cost about $35 – but it was a birthday gift from my parents so it was free for me! (4) It fits enough food for my family’s dinner plus a good round of leftovers.
One of my favorite things to do on a weeknight is to put chicken pieces in my massive pan in a single layer and then add veggies and seasonings all around the pieces. It takes just a few minutes to get it all in there. Then it goes in the oven and in 45 minutes of unattended cooking, dinner is done. With leftovers too. Three of my favorite recipes that use the big cast iron skillet* are: Chicken with Tomatoes, Basil and Chilies, Chicken with Butternut Squash and Sage, and Chicken with Broccoli and Cheddar
*Note that you can use a foil cake pans or a big casserole for these recipes if you don’t have a big cast iron skillet or are planning to adapt the recipes to freeze.
When you are meal planning or looking for new recipes, what inspires you?
My favorite why to come up with a new dish is to think about the flavors. Or rather, to really think about one flavor and what goes with it. One time I had some leftover cranberry sauce in my fridge after Thanksgiving. I remembered having Brie and cranberry sauce together once and decided to turn it into a baked Brie. But what to add to the cranberry sauce?
Berries and basil are a really tasty combination (I especially love strawberries and basil together!) so I decided to try adding some basil to the cranberry sauce to see how that would work. The resulting Cranberry and Basil Baked Brie is now a go-to recipe for me when we’re having friends over. But more than that, I now add a touch of basil to my homemade cranberry sauce when making it to serve with turkey too. It tastes so so so good!
What do you like to do when you aren’t cooking or blogging?
I like really talking with my kids. They’re 4 and 7 and so their thoughts and words are fascinating. Playing with them is fun too! My husband and I like to spend weekend evenings sipping on wine and cooking together (actually, one of us cooks and the other watches and talks. Best to not get in each other’s way!) I also love yoga, zumba and walking while listening to podcasts.
You have told us that you have some great tips for cooking and freezing various soup recipes. What are your best tips and tricks? Favorite recipes?
Beginning back in July 2014 I started the SOUPin15 series where I share a new 15 minute homemade soup recipe every week. A lot of quick homemade soups have filled up my blog since since then. In coming up with these recipes I’ve become a bit of a soup expert.
When it comes to freezing soup, the most important tip is about volume. Soup can take up a lot of room in your freezer. But most of it is liquid. If you can eliminate some of the liquid volume from soup before freezing it then you can conserve some space.
Here’s how to do it: When making your soup, add only the amount of liquid that is minimally required to cook the other ingredients. For instance, if I was making this Chicken Noodle Soup to freeze, I would only add about 3 cups of the broth rather than the 6 called for in the ingredient list to cook the carrots and chicken. When you thaw the soup to serve, add more broth while heating it. The addition of the broth will actually help it to defrost more quickly and will thin it out so it’s ready to eat!
Two other ways that you can reduce the volume of a soup are:
- Do not include the noodles or rice prior to freezing. Then add leftover noodles or rice to the soup as it defrosts.
- Simmer soup on the stove to reduce the liquid. When the soup is later defrosting you can add water to replace what you removed.