Friday, October 7, 2011

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Now, I know it has only been a week blogging and this is my second potato recipe but I LOVE POTATOES!
I don't think I could give up potatoes. Well there was that one week I tried Atkins and lets just say it is a week buried deep down into my psyche. I am sure it needs to remain there for all involved. I don't think it was pretty.

This week has been beautiful weather wise, fall has finally arrived to the sunshine state. The temperature dipped down to 82 degrees today. For Florida, unfortunately that is fall weather. Fall for us means we can say good-bye to 98-100 degree weather with 100% humidity. So 82 degrees feels really nice right now.

Now for those of you who are hailing from northern states it is very much fall weather and I am jealous. All that aside the mild temp dip made me want some homemade soup.

So here it is the ultimate in potato soupdom.

Let us begin with the stars of the show:

Milk, cheddar cheese, baked potatoes, pancetta, sour cream, garlic powder, corn starch, salt, pepper and chicken stock(not pictured).
Chop up the pancetta and cook over medium heat until crispy. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 and bake potatoes for 1 hour or until soft. Once the potatoes are done split them in half  length wise to let them cool.
While the potatoes are cooling lets get the soup started.

In a heavy bottomed pot put three cups milk along with two cups chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Take reserved half a cup of milk and mix with the corn starch and add to the milk/chicken stock mixture. At this time add in salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Let soup come to a slow boil and turn heat down to low. Allow soup to thicken.

Make sure to stir regularly. You don't have to babysit it ,but you don't want to go fold laundry while it is on the stove. You will be sorry when you return to burned soup. Trust me I have done this. You want to make sure the milk on the bottom of the pot doesn't start to burn.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle peel off the skins and cut 7 of the potatoes into bit sized pieces. Take the other 2 potatoes and mash into smaller pieces with a fork. Place all potatoes into the pot and let simmer.

Now, add green onions, sour cream and cheddar cheese. Let the soup simmer for a good 10-15 minutes so all the flavors can blend together.

Now it is time to serve....Wahooo! Sorry, I tend to get a little excited about this soup.

Top with additional cheese and pancetta.

**Note: if this soup is too thick for your liking just add a little more chicken stock or milk**

That's right y'all dinner is served! Sorry, I went a little Paula Deen on y'all. Sorry y'all when I start I can't stop. It's hard when you live in the south.

This soup is great when it is chilly outside. So for y'all Northerners who are enjoying the fall weather enjoy it and make this great soup to help you welcome fall:)

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

9 medium baked potatoes
3 1/2 cups reduced fat milk-divided
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups cheddar cheese, plus more for serving
1 cup sour cream
1 bunch green onions-sliced
2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 1/2 tbs corn starch
Pancetta-cooked and crispy

Bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for one hour or until soft. Slice in half length wise to let cool. Once cool, peel potatoes and cut 7 potatoes into cubes and mash the other 2. Set aside.
In a heavy bottom pot bring 3 cups milk and chicken stock to a simmer. Mix in a separate bowl remaining half cup of milk and cornstarch until blended. Add cornstarch mixture to the pot along with garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Let simmer until thickened about 5 minutes. Add in potatoes, green onions and cheddar cheese. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Serve topped with extra cheese and pancetta.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Football season is a season that welcomes fall as well as football parties. When we have any kind of get together I always have a few handy, dippy, appetizery dishes ready at a moments notice.
Yes, appetizery is a word. I don't make up words they can actually be found in my dictionary. You don't have the same dictionary? Pity, it has lots of fun words like yummilicious and potatoey:)

This spinach artichoke dip is easy and so delicious.

To start, here are the ingredients:
Spinach, artichokes, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper.....OK now use your imagination and pretend the above photo doesn't have black pepper pictured and has cayenne instead. Sorry, lost my mind a little bit:)

To make this recipe as easy as possible thaw the spinach and soften the cream cheese in the microwave.

Now, for this recipe I used my food processor but it isn't necessary to make this recipe. It can be done by hand it just takes a little longer. The only thing you will have to do is chop the artichokes.

Let the fun begin...

Take the cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, salt, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and blend well.

Once blended you want to layer the spinach, artichokes and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese in the food processor like this:
Pulse the food processor to combine. You want to make sure there are little bits of artichoke still visible like this:
I know it is huge but I wanted you to be able to see the texture:)

Now spread the dip in a oven safe dish. A small casserole dish works well or you can use what I did which was:
A pie plate:) It worked very nicely. I confess this was the only thing in my kitchen that was clean.

Top the dip with the extra 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Place into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until it looks like this:

I think I might be in love.

You will want to serve it up while it is nice and hot.

This dip can be served with pretty much anything you want. Such as bread, chips or veggies. However, if you try something new, try these:

These are a big hit in our household. According to my Husband they are a little spicy but are really good.

This dip is always a real party stealer and most of the ingredients are easy to have on hand. I have also doubled this recipe many times and the flavors always come out the same.

Enjoy this cheesy, spinachy, artichokey yumminess!

Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Adapted from Alton Brown

1 package frozen spinach
1 can artichokes (whole)
1 8oz block cream cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or more if you want to be spicy
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, cayenne pepper, salt and garlic powder into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and blend.
Once blended layer the artichokes, spinach and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese and pulse food processor until blended. You want to make sure it is still a little chunky.
Put the dip into an oven safe dish. An 8x8 casserole dish works well. Or a pie plate:)
Sprinkle the additional 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with chips, bread or veggies.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Destination-Vegas, Baby!

This is the first of two posts dedicated to our trip back in late March 2011. It will be a two part post because  we didn't just see Vegas, Baby!

Sorry, I now claim Vegas, Baby! to be the new and official name for a town supposedly called Las Vegas, Nevada. Yes, to use the name Vegas, Baby! correctly you must say it with gusto.

The first leg of our trip was to...wait for it...Vegas Baby! and the second leg was to Zion and Bryce Cannon in Utah.

Now let us begin Vegas, Baby!

First off we stayed here:
and here:

The Luxor and The Venetian. Both hotels have their own unique features but to compare the two would be like comparing apples to oranges. There are no comparisons.

The Luxor was considerably cheaper than the Venetian. The Luxor was great if you are on a budget, or if you want to spend the least on a room to maximize your gambling funds. It is great for doing that.

The Venetian was incredibly beautiful and luxurious. It is a Vegas, Baby! splurge. When in Vegas, Baby! you need to splurge at least one night. And that is exactly what we did. I mean come on it is hard to not fall in love when you see this:
Cue heavenly music
and this:
This is indoors!! Air conditioning plus the feel of being outside, I never wanted to leave.

and especially this:
Every room is a suite with a sunken living room. It was beautiful.

OK, now I know I haven't said much about the Luxor but to be honest it was just a basic room. Nothing fancy but still comfortable. If you don't plan on spending much time in the room the Luxor is very nice. However if you choose to spend most of the day in the room the Venetian is a major winner.

Next up Vegas, Baby! Dinning.

My husband and I love good food. I can honestly say we didn't have one bad meal the entire time we were in Vegas, Baby! Even the little food courts were amazing. Two specific meals, however stand out as being two of the best meals we have ever had. Which says a lot considering we travel quite often.

First up is Delmonico Steakhouse located in the Venetian Hotel.

It was beyond amazing. Of course it always helps when your meal begins with this:
and ends with this:

**Disclaimer, this candle does not indicate that it was my 29th Birthday. To admit to that would mean that within one more year I will be 30 and I don't want to think about it. If I do I would need several more scoops of the above.

The in between courses were absolutely superb. Delmonico Steakhouse is a restaurant by Mr. Emeril Lagasse and does not disappoint. Delmonico Steakhouse is primarily a steakhouse but also has seafood along with other meat selections other than beef. Everything has a touch of Cajun inspiration. I believe it was the special Cajun spices that took the steak from good to excellent.
 Although the prices were considerably more than we would normally spend on a night out, it was honestly worth every penny. It was perfect for a special occasion. Reread above disclaimer.

Next up on our culinary Vegas, Baby! tour is Serendipity 3 at Caesar's Palace.

This place is a bit cheaper and less dressy as Delmonico Steakhouse. The atmosphere is light and fresh with a touch of whimsy.

You can tell a lot just from the menu itself. It was very colorful.

Now as a person who has paid homage to the original in NYC the atmosphere is a bit more spacious. The original in NYC is a bit cramped. As everything else in NYC but that is another post for another day. Back to Vegas, Baby!

The food was absolutely wonderful. Their menu is very eclectic with choices ranging from Italian dishes to Mexican dishes.
 My husband and I made a meal between the potato skins and the taco salad. The taco salad and potato skins were the best we have ever had hands down. Even now 6+ months later and we still talk about their taco salad. It is a must if you are in Vegas, Baby! Now onto one of the most important items to order while at Serendipity 3 at either NYC or Vegas, Baby! locations.........

Frozen Hot Chocolate!! 
It is the one of the things that they are famous for and does not disappoint. It is as my husband would say, YUMMILICIOUS! Yes, yummilicious is a word. Well, it is at our house anyway. If you are not a fan of chocolate they have several flavors to choose from including, but not limited to, Frozen White Hot Chocolate.

Vegas, Baby! has so much to do there is pretty much something for every person.

There are lots of premium shopping outlets for those who are shop a holics. There are extreme roller coasters for those of us who live on the edge. Check out the extreme rides at the top of the Stratosphere! YIKES! No we did not risk our lives on any of those. We did however ride the roller coaster at:

The New York, New York. It was designed like a NYC Taxi.

I will like to note that I felt safer on the roller coaster than some actual NYC taxi's cabs. It was a lot of fun and if you like roller coasters it was a fun ride.

Vegas, Baby! has lots of shows and entertainment ranging from family shows to the....Um, not so family shows. My husband and I chose not take in any of the shows but my parents went to see Celine Dion and from what they said she was excellent.

Fremont street aka the "Original" Vegas Strip was another sight to see at least once in your Vegas, Baby! trip.

Down at Fremont Street they have a free light show as well as lots of people dressed up as famous characters. I mean we saw Michael Jackson and the King himself walking side by side. Where else can you see that?? Only on Fremont Street in Vegas, Baby!

There is so much to do in Vegas, Baby! other than slot machines, table games and partying. Don't get me wrong there are TONS of places to get your gamble/party on but there is enough other things to do to keep you away from that roulette table.

Not everything that happens in Vegas, Baby! needs to stay in Vegas, Baby!

So, over all our trip to Vegas, Baby! was an absolute BLAST! We are hoping to go back sometime soon. There was so much we saw but there was so much we didn't get a chance to see that another trip would be required. I still don't think we will see it all.

SO, with that said I firmly believe that a trip to Vegas, Baby! will have to be an annual requirement for the foreseeable future. What? I NEED to see it all:)

Here are a few more pictures to satisfy the eye:

If you ever get a chance to see Vegas, Baby! I would highly recommend to go at least once in your lifetime. If it isn't a place that is on your bucket list I understand but I would maybe reconsider if I were you. There is so much to do you will never get bored. I mean after all it is VEGAS, BABY!

 I seriously think Vegas, Baby! would be a much cooler name, just sayin'.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I am a firm believer that weekends should no longer be 2 days but in fact should be no shorter than 3 days. Monday has become the most hated day of the week. Not that I have to go back to work and hate my job, I actually enjoy my job, but for the fact that I no longer get to enjoy quality time with my family. I also think they need to be longer because by the time I have a chance to relax its 11pm on Sunday night. .
Weekends are jammed packed full with cheerleading, football (yep, it's that time of year) and just good ole quality fun with the family. I wouldn't change one single minute of it. I cherish these weekends where I can spend time with the kids in my life because I know all too well these days are growing shorter as each year passes.

As I embark on the work week ahead I have some plans for this blog as well. So long as I don't go batty, which is of course always a chance. Not to say that I am nutty with a side of crazy just very busy at times. Which is safe to say that everyone I know is feeling that way lately. Not one person I know can't say they don't feel overwhelmed at times. That's why vacations/long weekends are needed to recharge our batteries.

So with that in mind this week I will feature a two part post on a vacation we took this past March. Yep, I am going to keep you in suspense. I am not going to tell you just yet. I am also hoping to feature a recipe or two that will be quick and easy ones that you can make during this busy work week.

So, HAPPY MONDAY to each and everyone of you....Are you grumbling? I can hear you. So turn that frown upside down:) No, too early for that one? OK, well then have an above average, over tired from a busy weekend, get through the day Monday. Sound better? OK well have an extra cup of coffee on me today. Lord knows I am on number...I am on number, is it bad I can't remember? I think I am too wired and I lost count. Oh, well here is looking forward to a 2pm caffeine withdrawl. I may or may not be asleep under my desk later today. I will never tell.

HAVE A GREAT MONDAY EVERYONE! And I will "see" you tomorrow:)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hash Brown Casserole

This hash brown casserole is the epitome of southern comfort. The ooey, gooey, cheesy, potatoey (yes, potatoey is a word) goodness just seems to wash any and all of the troubles away. Not to say I have troubles but, sometimes stubbing your toe and biting your tongue will be reason enough to make this dish. The previous may, or may not have happened to me. I will never tell.

This recipe is a family favorite. This is a recipe from my Mom and it comes from the depths of her recipe box. If that box should go missing one day I will have had nothing to do with it.

First off let me show you the cast of characters.
Frozen hash brown potatoes(cubed), Sour Cream, Butter, Can of Cream of Chicken Soup, Block of Cheddar Cheese, Scallions, Salt and Pepper. You will also need a 9x11 casserole dish.

To make this dish easier I use the casserole dish as the mixing bowl. It saves a bowl that my hubby would have had to have cleaned:) See I always think of him when I cook.

Start by putting sour cream, cream of chicken soup, scallions, salt and pepper into the casserole dish.

Mix it together and add the half and half. It will look like this:

Now that it is mixed together throw in the hash browns and 2 cups of cheese. Mixing it will be a little tricky but if you make a mess I promise I won't tell.

Make sure after you mix it pat it down and make it as even as possible.

Now we move onto the fun part. Muaaahhh (insert evil laugh) Just kidding.

Take that stick of COLD butter and slice it into tabs. Yes, I put COLD in caps. I want to reiterate that the butter needs to be COLD to make this next part easier. I did not do this and ended up with smushy butter tabs.

Take each tab and poke it into the casserole. Try your best to distribute it evenly into the casserole.
If your butter is COLD it will not look smooshy like this. If your butter is smooshy it will be just fine, it will taste the same. So will your fingers for that matter. Cold butter just makes it easier to poke into the casserole.

Now, take that last 1/2 a cup of cheddar cheese and sprinkle it across the top.

Place the casserole into a 375 degree oven for an hour and twenty minutes. Or until golden brown like THIS:
 HALLELUJAH! Golden potato goodness!

**WARNING: This casserole will be VERY HOT when it comes out of the oven! It is hot like LAVA. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before consuming. I will promise a burned tongue will happen if consuming straight out of the oven. Trust me I have done this more times than I care to remember. I will never admit that it may or may not happen EVERY time I make this casserole.

 I will admit I am a little impatient. I guess that is the first step in the road to recovery.
Hello, my name is Cami and I burned my tongue because I am impatient.
Hi, Cami.

Serve it up and enjoy.

This casserole is great the next day reheated! The flavor is sometimes even better the next day. If it makes it to the next day.

Make it today, it will make your tummy happy:)

Hash Brown Casserole
adapted from Mom's recipe

1 package cubed frozen potatoes
1 cup sour cream
1 cup half and half
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese divided
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 bunch green onions aka scallions diced-white and light green parts only
1 stick(cold) butter-sliced into tabs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix sour cream, half and half, 2 cups cheese, cream of chicken soup, green onions, salt and pepper. Once combined add hash brown potatoes. Smooth out top of casserole and poke in sliced butter into the casserole. Sprinkle reserved 1/2 cup cheese on top.
Place into the oven for 1 hr and 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Welcome to Destination Cook!

My name is Cami and I am Destination Cook. This blog is a combination of my two biggest passions in life which are of course traveling and cooking. Two of my other close favorites are of course talking and eating....preferably not at the same time.If I did them at the same time I might find myself dining alone. Which could turn in to a crazy lady eating and talking to herself. Which lets just say isn't a pretty picture...never mind. Moving on...

In this blog my priority is to give you a few of my favorite recipes peppered in with some of my favorite destinations. My goal is to expand your pallet and your minds! Well, not really but if I can broaden your recipe box and send your pinterest into over drive then I succeeded in my quest.

My recipes are kid tested and husband approved...**knock, knock** you still there?? OK, lets just say I have a family of Guinea pigs ready to try what ever I put in front of them,. Well, within reason anyway. I don't think Escargot would go over very well.
My recipes are pliable enough to fit any person's pallet. Recipes ranging from southern comfort food to Asian inspired dishes. This blog will have something for everyone, including those of us who are gluten intolerant. Most of my recipes will be gluten free adaptable but not all of them. Just because I can't eat it doesn't mean my family shouldn't. I, however, cannot ensure they won't get the evil eye while they eat it though.

My love for all things travel related will be featured here as well. Travels will range from day trips to weeks long trips. Of course weeks long trips will be few and far between. A pesky little thing called work gets in the way of that.

If you love to cook and to travel then this is a place to get new ideas. So this is me, Cami aka Destination Cook. Climb aboard and lets get this destination cooking...Ha! OK, I promise to stop that now. However, I can't promise to keep that promise:)