Fresh Vegetable Minestrone

It’s cold here in Upstate New York and nothing makes me happier that a hearty bowl of soup. And nothing seals the deal like a simple and tasty recipe! (Bonus: we’ll be talking all things puff pastry coming up!)

  • 1 box Hamburger Helper Cheesy Italian Shells
  • 1 carton low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c diced carrots
  • 1 can Great Northern beans (drained & rinsed)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (plain, Italian-style, or fire roasted)
  • 1 zucchini cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/4 c shredded Parmesan
  • 1 tbsp fresh or dried basil

In a four quart Dutch oven, mix Hamburger Helper, chicken stock, water and carrots. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes

Add beans, tomatoes and zucchini. Cover and cook until the pasta and the veggies are tender.

Sprinkle with Parmesan and basil before serving.

* Interested in more heat? Add some red pepper flakes when you add the beans, tomatoes and zucchini

Beer Cheese Dip

I love an easy and wonderful appetizer that’s perfect for friends, game day, and honestly any time you want a decadent treat. And trust me when I tell you, this couldn’t be any easier! How easy? Three ingredient easy. Ready? Let’s do it!

OK, it wouldn’t be beer cheese dip without beer. This is the most important part: pick the right beer. In my area of the country, I’m partial to Hennepin from Brewery Ommegang. You want something that’s full body, will shine through with the cheeses, and (like cooking with wine) something you would drink if you had the opportunity to grab a glass.

Take one cup of beer and heat it to boiling (and enjoy the rest while you’re prepping), add in one 8 ounce block of cream cheese cut into cubes and stir until it’s melted into the beer. Add two cups of shredded cheddar, continuing to stir until everything is happily merged into one beautiful blend.

I know I said three ingredients, but if you want to kick things up a notch, add a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce. But honestly, I think it’s perfect as it is!

Serve this amazing goodness with crostinis, soft pretzles, carrots… the choices are pretty much endless.

Have any left? Wait, that shouldn’t happen! You can spread any leftovers on crackers (because it will firm up once it sets) or it makes an amazing topping for baked potatoes.

Comfort Classic: Chicken & Rice Casserole

I will confess this recipe has been a family favorite for well over 20 years (not sure how that’s possible). Simple to make and never disappoints when it arrives on the table.

  • 8oz light cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 1/2c milk
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 16oz package of frozen, mixed vegetables (thawed)
  • 2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
  • 1/3 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 c instant brown rice
  • black pepper & garlic powder to taste

Spray two quart casserole with cooking spray (probably better than I did in the image above). Place cream cheese in casserole dish, stir in milk & soup. Add veggies, chicken, rice, parmesan, and seasonings.

At this point, it’s perfect as is, but if you want it to be next-level, top with cheddar cheese and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Want to take it over the top? After the 30 minutes are up, sprinkle with fried onions and back for 15 minutes more. Perfection!