Realistic Cooking Ideas

for Busy People! And sharing our life adventures along the way!

Potato Soup top view

One of the things I love about cooking is you can take a recipe, modify it, and it has a whole new look and taste. Potato Soup is a great dish for modifications. This year I used bacon, fresh parsley, fresh chives, and white cheddar cheese for a wonderful blend of flavors!
Potato Soup side view

It can be made thicker like a stew or more soup like depending upon how much milk and half and half added. Start with a conservative amount as you can always add more milk. The bacon can be mixed with the soup or added on the top as an garnish. Or do both!

Potato Soup served in a bowl closeup

This is one time I tend to add more salt as potato soup needs salt!
Potato Soup served in a bowl closeup 2

This soup is good for a few days but the Quality will be reduced since it is milk based if kept too long. A large batch was made for a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon with my department at work. It warmed up nicely in the microwave and stayed warm in the slow cooker.
Potato Soup in Slow Cooker

I find reheating it a few times only adds to the flavor. Adding the bacon to the soup adds that needed salt and fat. Fresh herbs are always a great idea! Layering of all the ingredients made this the best Potato Soup ever!
Potato Soup served in a bowl closeup 3
Potato Soup top view close up

Sauté Ingredients:
2 tbsp. of Irish butter
3 cups Sliced Onions
1 cup Diced Onions
2 cups Celery, chopped

Step 2 Ingredients:
11 cups (about 5 pounds) Potatoes, washed, peeled, and cubed
3 cups (about 2 pounds) Carrots, chopped
1 Chicken Bouillon Cube
4 to 5 cups of Milk, 2%
1 tsp. Garlic, diced
Ground White Pepper & Salt

Step 3 Ingredients:
1 – 2 cups Grated White Cheddar Cheese
2 cups or 1 pint Light Half and Half
Bacon, cooked and crumbled


Melt butter in a large soup pot and add onions and celery – cook until tender. Add step 2 ingredients and bring to a soft boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1 – 2 hours, stirring periodically. When potatoes are tender add step 3 ingredients based upon how you like your potato soup! Cook on low for about a half hour. Serve with fresh parsley and chives!

Guinness Irish Beef Stew on the table

I really baby my slow-cooked meals and this Guinness Beef Stew is not an exception! As a bonus, this is the best version of Guinness Beef Stew that I ever made! It has a wonderful full flavor with a bit of sweetness. Most stews need to sit a day or two for the flavors to really blend. But not this stew! It is fantastic from the stove top to the dinner table! So there is still time for you to make this for St. Patrick’s Day.

Guinness Irish Beef Stew plated top view

I was inspired to change my Guinness Beef Stew from an Irish cook show I watched on Recipe TV. Guinness Storehouse Executive Chef Justin O’Connor presented several recipes made with Guinness and explained when he uses different types of Guinness. Did you know that Guinness was established in 1759! That is just amazing the long history of Guinness. Someone once said to me that Guinness is the fruit of the gods. My preference is a dry, red wine – however I do love Guinness!

Guinness Irish Beef Stew plated side view

I am really inspired by Executive Chef Justin – for more on him click here. Now we just need a cookbook from him!

Guinness Irish Beef Stew in a bowl

The key is a thick beef stock otherwise you will need to add flour to thicken the sauce. Plus using Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. Also consider serving it with Champ Potatoes.

Guinness Irish Beef Stew in a bowl close up

Below are guidelines from Executive Chef Justin on what type of Guinness to use when cooking and baking.

Guinness Draught
guinness draught 4







This is great for soda breads and desserts. It has a coffee and caramel flavors.

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
This Guinness has extra alcohol that turns into more sugar when cooking. It has a wonderful balance of sweet and the roasted flavor of the hops.

Guinness Extra Stout
guinness extra stout







This is a nice light, refreshing Guinness that is wonderful with a seafood recipe.
Guinness Irish Beef Stew in a bowl 2

The Guinness Beef Stew after the Guinness is added.
Guinness Irish Beef Stew on stovetop with Guinness added

After adding veggies:
Guinness Irish Beef Stew on stovetop with veggies added

And the final version!
Guinness Irish Beef Stew on stovetop finished

Now on to our recipe!

Beef Roast Ingredients:
2 tbsp canola oil, divided
3 pounds whole boneless beef chuck roast, cut into chunks
2 Onions, quartered
2 Carrots, sliced lengthwise
2 Celery Stalks, sliced lengthwise
Lawry Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup Beef Stock (the best you can buy – or make it!
1/4 cup Strong Brewed Coffee
1 ounce 70% Cocoa Chocolate
1 Pint of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout
1 bouquet garnis (about 3 sprigs rosemary, 3 sprigs parsley, and 2 bay leaves – I place mine in a large tea bag filter)
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

Roasting Ingredients:
3 cups Carrots, chopped
2 cups Parsnips, chopped
1 cup Celery, chopped (Optional)
Celery root, chopped (Optional)
Pearl Onions (Optional)

Garnish Ingredients:
Flat-leaf Parsley Leaves
Rosemary sprigs

Beef Roast Preparation:
In a large braising pan, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Season beef with Lawry salt and freshly ground pepper and add to braising pan. Cook, turning occasionally, until beef is well browned on 2 sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer beef to a plate.

Add carrots and onions to the braising pan and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned.

Add sauce ingredients and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Add beef. Cook for 1 ½ hours, mixing periodically.

Final Cooking Step:
Add the Roasting Ingredients and cook for another 30-minutes or until veggies are tender. Discard bouquet garnis, large carrots and celery stalks. Using a ladle, skim off and discard accumulated fat on surface. Serve with mashed potatoes and crusty bread.

Guinness Irish Soda Bread plated

Is everyone getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day? I found this wonderful recipe that was adapted from Recipe TV. Now I will not claim it is authentic since there are US substitutions and I am sure there are “secrets” that the Irish have that are not shared! But this recipe is so easy to make and is delicious. You could serve it with Irish butter, honey, jams, or just enjoy as it is! After mixing the ingredients it is more like a batter than a bread dough. It can be baked in two loaf pans, a long narrow pan, or even round cake pans!

Guinness Irish Soda Bread plated 2

This Irish Soda Bread is so good that it will not last long!
Guinness Irish Soda Bread sliced

The kitchen is filled with a wonderful aroma as it is baking and then cooling!
Guinness Irish Soda Bread cooling out of the ovent

Preparations are underway for St. Patrick’s Day! A new mini scone maker, scones cookbook, and some English Double Devron Cream that I am interested in trying! I am interested in hearing what everyone serves their scones with. Clotted cream, jams, butter? Do you serve with a hot cup of tea? In the UK do you typically serve tea with scones or other types of breads?

st patricks day preparation

Over the years I have shared a lot of recipes and below are a few that you may enjoy for St. Patrick’s Day! This Irish Potato Cake is awesome and loaded with spices!
Irish Potato Cake

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes are awesome and festive for a party!
Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes Cover

Irish Shamrock Chewy Cut Out Cookies were one of my favorites since I adore a chewy cut out cookie! They were fun to make and decorate.
Irish Shamrock cut out cookies final

A nice Guinness Beef Stew with Parsnips and Turnips served with Cheddar Herb Dumplings was also yummy! This year I am trying a slightly different version of Guinness Beef Stew.
Guinness Beef Stew with Turnips and Parnsips cheddar herb dumplings plated

Almond Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers

We love chicken fingers but not the unhealthy calories that come with deep fried foods! Often the substitutes to deep-fried dishes are not that great. This recipe is the exception – it is delicious! You can get a nice deep-fried appearance through baking and the Panko’s breadcrumbs. I had the white breadcrumbs in our pantry but if you use the whole-wheat version you may have a more golden color. This is a wonderful recipe where there are a lot of opportunities to add other ingredients such as herbs or Parmesan cheese.

For the almonds, I used a food processor to pulse them to a coarsely chopped texture. Do not over process them or it can turn into almond butter. Yummy as that is – we do not want almond butter for our chicken fingers!

There are different options for the chicken fingers that include purchasing chicken tenders that are already formed like a chicken finger. A better option can be to purchase boneless, chicken breasts and cut into chicken fingers or nuggets that children might like or great as an appetizer.

Almond Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers 2

We had these Chicken Fingers as part of our SuperBowl Sunday meal along with Buffalo Style Meatballs and Buffalo Style Potatoes.
Almond Crusted Baked Chicken Fingers super bowl food

This yummy recipe was inspired from BeachBody.

Wet Ingredients:
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp. water
1 pound uncooked chicken breast tenders, skinless

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup whole-wheat Panko’s bread crumbs
½ cup finely chopped raw almonds
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Dried Herbs, optional
Parmesan Cheese, optional

When ready to assemble the chicken fingers, preheat the oven to 425° F.

Mix the wet ingredients together and then add the chicken. Let it sit 30-minutes in the refrigerator turning at least once.

Combine dry ingredients in a large resealable plastic bag and shake to combine. Add a few pieces of chicken to the plastic bag and shake until coated. Remove and place on the prepared baking sheet. Continue until all chicken pieces are coated.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce!

Cauliflower Spinach Spice Soup 2

This has been an odd winter. Some weeks are very mild and then other weeks we are having snowstorms with -22F degrees weather with the wind chill. Today we are having high winds that are melting the snow. Comfort food is a must during these days and soup can be a great way to prepare healthier meals. Just be careful to not have too much bread with your soup!

Cauliflower Spinach Spice Soup top view with chicken 2

This is a wonderful winter soup recipe that you can modify to add more or less vegetables and spices. I make the soup and then add the chopped fresh spinach when serving. I also like to make a batch of shredded chicken and add it to the soup when reheating to make it a one-bowl meal! Top the soup with some crunchy nuts for a nice presentation and making it more fun to eat! A large pot can last several days with the ingredients blending together nicely for more flavors each day.

Cauliflower Spinach Spice Soup closeup

My preference is to use fresh tomatoes and not the canned version. And of course fresh carrots, cauliflower, and spinach.
Cauliflower Spinach Spice Soup closeup 2

The broth is just wonderful – I prefer a vegetable broth but you could use chicken broth.
Cauliflower Spinach Spice Soup side view

This recipe from adapted from click here.
Cauliflower Spinach Spice Soup top view with chicken

Base Spice Ingredients:
2 cups chopped onions
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Soup Broth Ingredients:
6 cups vegetable broth
1 – 2 cups water
2 cups chopped cauliflower
2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup lentils
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste

Chopped fresh spinach
Chopped fresh cilantro
Shredded Carrots

In a large soup pot heat the olive oil and then add onions cooking until tender. Add the remaining base spice ingredients cooking for a few minutes to release their flavors. Add the soup broth ingredients bring to a soft boil and then simmer until vegetables are tender.

When ready to serve the soup, add the fresh spinach then top with cilantro and consider other crunchy type toppings such as nuts and shredded carrots.

Cauliflower Spinach Spice Soup

Sweet and Sour Meatballs - plated over rice 3

This is a great time of year to make a large pot of meatballs. For many of us it is bitter cold and the warm aroma of the sauce slow cooking with the meatballs smells heavenly! Today it feels like -22F or -30C – so it is bitter cold! Comfort food is a must! These meatballs are just excellent and we served them over rice for a nice change to the traditional meatballs and spaghetti. I was never a meatball fan – just ask my husband! But by using ground turkey they have a lighter taste than ground beef and I got interested in trying different recipes. One of my favorites dishes since I was young is Sweet and Sour Chicken – so I thought why not try it with turkey meatballs! And yes, it came out yummy! Comfort food at its best. This recipe makes a lot of meatballs so I will freeze a dinner or two, which is always nice when you do not have time to cook to have something in the freezer.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs - plated with a side of rice

I either brown the meatballs in a little olive oil or under a broiler. But be careful if you are using ground turkey since the broiler can dry them out.
Sweet and Sour Meatballs - meatballs browning on stovetop

I love how the sauce looks with the pineapple!
Sweet and Sour Meatballs - meatballs simmering in the sweet and sour sauce

And it is delicious! Especially on a cold winter day when a little hardier meal is needed!
Sweet and Sour Meatballs - meatballs simmering in the sweet and sour sauce close up

Meatball Ingredients:
2 pounds Ground Beef or turkey
½ cup Sweet Onion, Diced Finely
2 Eggs
3/4 cup Milk
3/4 cups Breadcrumbs
1 ½ tsp. Salt
Pepper, Freshly Ground
Olive Oil, For Frying

Sweet and Sour Sauce Ingredients:
2 cup Apple Vinegar
1 cup Tomato Paste
1 cup Ketchup
2 cup Pineapple Juice
2 tbsp. Soy Sauce, light
2 tsp. Ground Ginger
5 tbsp. Brown Sugar
1 tbsp. Arrowroot, for thickening

Fruit / Vegetable Ingredients:
1-½ cup Pineapple Tidbits
1 large Red or Orange Bell Peppers, Seeded And Diced Roughly
½ Sweet Onion, diced or sliced

Mix together the meatball ingredients. Roll into small balls and either fry on the stovetop in olive oil or broil in the oven. I like to use a ¼ measuring cup and I wet my hands before forming them to keep them moist.

Mix together the sweet and sauce ingredients. In a large skillet add the sweet and sour sauce plus the fruit / vegetable ingredients and warm through. Then added browned meatballs and simmer for about an hour. Serve over rice or pasta.

Chocolate Raspberry Avalanche Cake with toppings

I adore desserts but not the calories! Are you the same? This dessert is just heavenly to eat and presents beautifully! And it is a healthy alternative to many of those high calorie / fat desserts. This recipe is from Prevention. I love all the fresh raspberries and that there is chocolate! Does not get much better! The yogurt mixture also makes it lighter and healthier! It is getting close to Valentine’s Day – what a great dessert for that special day!

Chocolate Raspberry Avalanche Cake party

And it looks so good out of the oven before even adding the toppings!! You can make this dessert ahead of time and then add the toppings when serving. A great dessert to bring to a party! You literally just slice, plate, and top!
Chocolate Raspberry Avalanche Cake out of oven

Dry Ingredients:
1¾ cup whole grain pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

Yogurt Ingredients:
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Eggs Ingredients:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar

Raspberries Ingredients:
1 cup raspberries

Cocoa Topping Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. hot tap water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Raspberry Topping Ingredients:
¼ cup raspberry all-fruit preserves, melted
½ cup low-fat plain yogurt

Topping Ingredients:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9″ x 9″ baking dish with cooking spray and flour.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a larger bowl. Mix the yogurt ingredients together in a small bowl.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Stir the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture until moistened. Then fold in the egg whites until no streaks of white remain.

Pour the batter into your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the raspberries. Bake for 40-minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for about 10-minutes on a cookie rack. If desired, remove from the pan and cool completely.

Mix the cocoa and raspberry topping ingredients in separate bowls. When serving, cut the cake into desired size and top with the raspberry mixture, chocolate sauce, and if desired more fresh raspberries.

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