MNF – Creamy Tomato Soup


Did you grow up with tomato soup? Along with Mother’s homemade chicken soup Campbell’s ® tomato soup and a toasted cheese sandwich were a standard lunch in cold weather. (Warm weather? Cream cheese and walnuts on raisin bread which I still eat today.)

I found a recipe for Panera’s Creamy Tomato Soup© and thought this would be a perfect time to pass it on to you. Now remember, when making small quantities versus huge quantities, there will be some differences. Also, theirs calls for San Marzano peeled tomatoes which are available but are not in all the stores. If you can find them, use them. They really are wonderful. If not, get the best quality you can for this.

This is a great recipe to have on hand, in the freezer, for last minute dinners. Combine with a salad or a sandwich and voila, dinner is ready. This is great, too, for a mug of hot soup on a cold winter’s night!

Panera Bread Creamy Tomato Soup©

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans San Marzano peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a heavy bottomed pot (or Dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds – until fragrant. Add onion and cook, stirring as needed, until translucent, about 8 minutes.

Add San Marzano peeled tomatoes (juice and all), chicken stock, and sugar. Bring to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, for 12 minutes or until it has thickened. Add the half and half, basil, oregano and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using an immersion blender (or carefully transfer soup to a blender or food processor), puree soup until there are no large chunks left. Serve plain, with seasoned croutons or a light drizzle of half and half.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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Potato Kugel

Potato Kugel

It’s Chanukah – the Jewish Festival of Lights. As I’ve told you in the past, this is a ‘minor’ holiday on the Jewish calendar but has become more important in the past 3 or 4 decades as a gift-giving holiday. While I received a gift every one of the 8 days of Chanukah when the candles were lit, one day might be a very small bag of Chanukah gelt” – chocolate candies wrapped in foil to resemble coins; a navel orange; a new box of pencils with a small pencil sharpener, etc. Nothing like the X-Box, laptops, cell phones, etc. today’s kids expect!

Our family food tradition was the same every year … brisket with natural gravy, carrot tsimmes (carrots stewed with flanken [short ribs] or chicken and yams, sweetened with sugar so the carrots came out glazed); latkes (I gave you that recipe last year) but with the brisket, Mother would often make a Potato Kugel – a casserole of grated potatoes, egg, matzo meal, salt and pepper. Cooked, as so many Chanukah dishes were, in the oven in oil to maintain the tradition. Since we ALL liked the crusty ends, we’d beg Mother to use a large glass casserole dish (4 quart) so it would be thin and lots of crust! A huge square of Kugel with some of the brisket gravy, a couple slices of brisket, some tsimmes, maybe a small piece of the sweet flanken, some of Dad’s homemade dill pickles….a mechiah (a delicacy beyond belief).

This will work with a good, savory pot roast, too. OK so it’s not on your diet! But it is yummy I think I’ll make a small one for myself this year! Care to join me?

Potato Kugel

  • 6 medium sized potatoes, peeled
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 cup peanut or corn oil*

Preheat oven to 350. Pour oil into glass casserole and put it into the oven (or use 6 custard cups and portion the oil into the cups; place the cups on a rimmed pan so they don’t slide around). This will serve 6.

Grate 3 potatoes quickly so they don’t discolor. Grate in onion, then rest of potatoes. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Add flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.

Mix well. Carefully spoon or pour into preheated oil.

Bake about 1 hour until golden brown on all sides including the bottom. About half-way through the baking time, you can spoon some of the oil that comes up on the sides over the top to help brown and crisp the top.

*Years ago, the Jewish women would use ‘schmaltz’ – rendered chicken fat – which is rarely used today. Peanut oil is a great alternative as it has a high smoking temperature (much higher than corn oil) but avoid if someone has a peanut allergy.


Tip from the Toque: If you don’t want to make 6 servings, you can use a smaller pan and use the rest of the potatoes and fry them up for latkes; drain the latkes well; and chill or freeze. Reheat in the oven until crisp.

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Mocha Dot Cookies

Mocha Dots

The nonpareil candies (along with malted milk balls) were my 2 favorite candies growing up and today, rank second and third after any kind of dark chocolate! I just loved the way those little white balls felt in my mouth and the crunch they had. Those candies make an appearance in these cookies and those little white balls just sparkle against the chocolate cookie that surrounds them.

Besides being great for the holidays, these are wonderful any time of the year.

You might need a couple of packages of the candies as this recipe makes 6 – 6-1/2 dozen cookies. Perfect for the cookie sharing or to send to school, but be sure to keep a few for Santa! He’ll love them!

Mocha Dot Cookies

  • 1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules (regular or decaf)
  • 2 Tbsp. hot water
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
  • Chocolate nonpareil candies (about 1” in diameter)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray cookie sheet with nonstick spray or cover with parchment paper; set aside.

Dissolve instant coffee granules in hot water; let cool. Sift together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda into medium bowl and set aside.

Beat butter and both sugars together in large bowl at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 – 5 minutes. Add lightly beaten egg, coffee mixture and vanilla. Beat until well blended. At low speed add flour mixture all at once and beat until well combined. Once flour begins combining, you can increase speed (low speed at first is to keep from it flying all over the kitchen).

Shape dough by level teaspoon into balls and place them 2” apart on prepared cookie sheets. Gently press 1 candy into each ball about 1/3 of the way (not all the way down). Cookies will spread around the candy as they bake. Continue with the balls until all the dough is used.

Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until set and the cookie it no longer shiny. Cool cookies on the cookie sheets for about 2 minutes to set, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Store in airtight container.

Makes 6-6-1/2 dozen (depending on size of balls).

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MNF – Pfeffernusse, Say What?


Pffernusse -3 with 1 cut

During December, most of us get busy baking Christmas cookies: balls, bars, shapes, sandwich cookies, and even some that have tiny holes in the top so they can be hung as ornaments on your tree (and maybe some special ones for the family pet)! So we thought it might be fun to give you some recipes that might be a little new to you, or, at least a new twist on ones you’ve already seen. So….here goes!

Have you figured out what this is about? If you are of German heritage, you knew the minute you saw the word! Pfeffernusse – pronounced: feffer-nooss – is a famous German Christmas cookie and the word literally translates to Pepper Nuts!

These cookies are delightfully peppery but also sweetly spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves – all the spices traditional for holiday baking. You will find them coated with a glaze or more simply, rolled in powdered sugar. Either way (or both ways), they’re a great addition to your cookie exchange, a ‘gift from your kitchen’, or to nibble on with a cup of coffee or tea.

Try them – I think you’ll enjoy them. I’ve given you the recipe for the glaze as well if you want to try them both ways!

PS: Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients … you probably have most – if not all – of them in your pantry. If not, don’t forget the Savory Spice Shop can sell you just a small amount that you need!

Pfeffernuss and Glaze

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper (freshly ground is best)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed aniseeds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup light molasses (preferably unsulfured)
  • 1 egg
  • Approximate 2 cups powdered sugar for dusting or 1 Recipe Pfeffernuss Glaze (see below)

In a medium bowl, sift together flour and next 8 ingredients (through cloves). Set aside.

In a large bowl with electric stand mixture, combine butter, brown sugar and molasses and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the egg just until blended. At low speed, add flour mixture, a little at a time, mixing well before adding more. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours for flavors to blend.

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or butter them well.

Scoop up dough and make balls approximately 1-1/2” diameter and set them on the prepared cookie sheets spacing them about 2” apart as they will spread a little (but they will stay round balls).

Bake about 15 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown and cookies are firm to the touch. If they crack, that’s normal. Place cookie sheets on racks for about 2 minutes. If you are going to glaze them, gently place cookies on racks to cool. If you want them dusted with powdered sugar, place sugar in a paper bag and put a few cookies in and shake the bag, coating the cookies, then place on the rack to finish cooling. Or, put the powdered sugar in a deep bowl and put a few cookies at a time into the bowl, turning the cookies over several times until well coated, then place on the rack to cool. Continue until all cookies are coated. When completed cool, give them another coat of powdered sugar so they are heavily coated and brightly white.

Makes about 2-1/2 dozen cookies

Pfeffernuss Glaze

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Combine the egg white, corn syrup and cardamom in a 1 quart mixing bowl. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until the glaze has a soft frosting consistency.

In a separate bowl, place about 2 Tbsp. of the glaze and 5-6 of the cookies, stirring them around until the cookies are completely covered in the glaze. Using 2 forks will help. Place the coated cookies on a rack with waxed paper under (to catch any drips). Add more of the glaze as needed and continue until all cookies are well coated.

NOTE: This glaze recipe makes enough for about 9 dozen cookies – about 3 times the recipe for the cookies themselves. So, if you plan to double the recipe or make it again soon, you can use the same leftover glaze. Or, use the glaze as a frosting or glaze on other cookies or on Bundt cakes, steamed puddings, or 1/2 tsp. in your coffee!

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Hot Turkey Salad


If there is still leftover turkey, and you are starting to think if you should keep it … here are a couple of options for keeping it!

Turkey cutlets-Batter fried

First, I promised to tell you what my mother did with leftover turkey. She made thick slices, dipped them in egg beaten with a little water, and dipped them in a plate of seasoned matzo meal (but you can use bread crumbs). She’d heat some oil until a pinch of the matzo meal sizzled, then carefully placed the slices in the hot oil and sautéed until golden brown on the bottom, then gently turned them over to brown on the other side. She continued until all the slices were done. (BTW: This is exactly how you do a Schnitzel – whether veal or pork – though sometimes for those you would double the dipping to get a thicker crust and instead of a crumb crust you probably would use seasoned flour.) You really need thick slices – whether white or dark meat – or they’ll dry up and burn.

When they’re done, put them on paper towels to drain and serve with whatever else is left over!

Now that I’ve kept my promise, here’s another way to use up leftover turkey – or chicken, for that matter. A Hot Turkey Salad.

Years ago in Santa Monica, my service club used to have an Annual Mother’s Day Luncheon and one of the main things always on the menu was this Hot Turkey Salad! About 3 or 4 of the “older” ladies would buy turkeys and get together to make this salad. I often wondered where they got the turkeys in May but they never told! It was their secret! (I suspect they bought extra at either Thanksgiving or Christmas and froze them so they’d have them when they needed them!)

It can be served on a bed of baby lettuce – or Chinese crispy noodles – or as an entrée with maybe some asparagus or broccoli and some hot rolls! Good with a glass of white wine, too!

Hot Turkey Salad

  • 12 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups white sauce (your own or purchased)
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 8 cups cubed turkey breast, steamed
  • 4 cups finely sliced celery
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped, salted cashews
  • 4 Tbsp. snipped chives

Preheat oven to 350. Butter or spray a 4 quart casserole (or lasagna pan) and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, white sauce and mayonnaise and whisk until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and toss lightly so that the turkey is lightly coated with the sauce mixture and the celery, cashews and chives are well distributed.

Pour into prepared casserole. Bake until hot, approximately 30-35 minutes.

Serves 8

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MNF Turkey Chili

turkey chili - adaoted fron Judy Behm

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful – full of good fun, good food, and happy people around the table (and the TV). No matter how much we promise ourselves we won’t overeat, for some reason, all the delicious aromas and beautiful sights overpower our willpower – I know it did mine!

I promised you an idea for using leftover turkey – and here it is! A dear friend of mine (who is a great cook, perfect hostess, home decorator…in short, she is just the tops!) who now lives in Arizona used to make a white chicken chili that was out of this world! Not being a big fan of ‘white sauce gravies’ myself, I was a bit leery when she served this at a luncheon but being the polite guest, I ate some and it was so good, I had a second helping! She kindly gave me the recipe and I’ve made it to raves since.

For the ultimate in leftover turkey, I’ve modified it slightly to use turkey instead of chicken and present it to you in all its glory. Hers was not at all spicy but since it IS MNF, you can feel free to kick up the spice with hot sauce if you are so inclined. What so great is it is done in about 40 minutes and uses up all those “little pieces” and parts no one wants (like from the wing, etc.).

Later this week I’ll tell you a trick my mother used to large slices of both white and dark meat of leftover turkey, but for now, this should hit the spot!


Turkey Chili

  • 1 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 can (10.75 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can (14 oz) chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups diced leftover cooked turkey
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz. each) great northern beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1 can (4.5 oz.) chopped green chilies, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup ground cumin (depending on your taste)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, if desired
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

In 4-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender.

Stir in soup, broth and water. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until smooth and well blended. Stir in turkey, beans, chiles, oregano and cumin. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook uncovered 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly heated.

Top each serving with sour cream and cilantro. If chili becomes too thick, add up to ½ cup more water.

Makes 6 servings, 1-1/2 cups each


Tip from the Toque: If you are pressed for time, use 1 cup frozen bell pepper and onion stir-fry (from 1-pound bag) instead of the fresh onion and bell pepper. You might want to add a few shakes of hot sauce to spice it up a bit!

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A Thanksgiving Wish….


…..from Cooking With Char to All of You!

We have something extra to be thankful for this year: another year of fun researching new foods and ways to prepare them; new information on nutrition and food issues that come and go; new stories for me to tell (and old ones, too)! But most of all, to all of you who have been loyal since this blog first started in August 2012 and to those who have joined in along the way.

Thank you – from the bottom of my heart! Thank you to my sister, for all the techie stuff she does to make this blog work and contributing ideas and recipes. She is a blessing!

So a momentary stop from cooking to say THANK YOU ALL, give you a big hug, and wish you the perfect turkey, ham or Cornish hen, enough for leftovers but not so much that you get tired of eating them. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I’ll give you some ideas on those leftovers afterwards! (And may YOUR team, and MINE, win!)


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