I wanted a good hearty sandwich to go with our potato soup & I had some leftover grilled chicken breast in the fridge so I chopped it into bite size pieces, threw it on some Ciabatta bread, added pesto, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and came up with this creation that is sure to be had again in our house!

1 loaf Ciabatta Bread
Roasted red pepper
sliced or chopped cooked chicken (leftover chicken is good)
fresh mozzarella

Typically I roast my own red peppers which is totally easy to do, but I LOVE Rao's & I saw this jar of roasted red peppers and portabella mushrooms in the store so I had to try them - they are really good for a jar roasted red pepper, but I still prefer tre freshness of roasting my own.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut Ciabatta bread in half-length wise  on one side layer pesto, chicken and roasted red peppers, on the other side of the bread layer tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.  Pop in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or till the cheese is totally melted.
Simple and delicious!!
I've been waiting a L O N G time for it to get cold enough here in Texas to start making soups.  Finally it is dipping below 50 and I'm taking full advantage of this 'cold' weather.   This potato soup is Boy 1's FAVORITE soup!  He loves this stuff so much I saw him 'drinking' the leftovers the other day, that's right, no spoon or anything, drinking it right out of the container.  I'm raisin' 'em right.  ;o)

Potato Soup
5 pound bag of potatoes, peeled and dice
small bag of baby carrots, chopped fine
small onion, dice
3 celery stalks chopped fine
3 quarts chicken broth (I use chicken base - you can find it by the chicken bouillon cubes)
1 cup heavy cream
1TBL butter
2 TBL flour
Chop your potatoes to about this size.
And your carrots about like this.I chop the celery even smaller than this and the onions, I try to make them invisible...you know so the little ones won't pick the out.
After you have chopped everything, combine chicken broth & veggies (but not potatoes) and boil till soft - maybe 15 minutes or so.
Add potatoes, boil till soft, maybe 20 -25 more minutes
Turn heat down
Add heavy cream

In small bowl melt butter, then combine butter & flour together to form a paste, add about 1/2 cup of broth from soup to paste, mix well (till all lumps are gone), then add to butter/flour combo to soup. Let simmer for a couple of minutes

Top with cheddar cheese, chives, bacon bits, sour cream.....

and enjoy the yummy goodness you just created!
A special thanks to my friend Teri for sharing this recipe with me!!
I anticipate New Year's Eve fondue even more than Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and that is saying A LOT!  I just wish these three holidays with such HUGE meals were spaced a little further apart from each other.  Each holiday season I gain about 5 pounds then have to shed it off in January.    On New Year's Eve we start the first course at about 3PM ~ CHEESE fondue, my personal favorite! OH baby!  Typically we have a beer based cheddar cheese fondue, but this year we opted for a wine based Swiss cheese fondue.  I don't know which one I like better.  I think I need to try them side by side!  ;o)   

One thing to keep in mind while fonduing...(you like that word, don't you? I think I just made it up) is that if you drop any piece of food in the fondue pot you have to kiss a person of the opposite sex at the table!  AND you have to do this EVERY time you drop a piece of food.  Now let's get cooking!

Swiss Cheese Fondue

I used a recipe I adapted from Tyler Florence.  The original recipe is here.

½ pound Swiss Cheese, shredded (the better the Swiss, the better the fondue!)
½ pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bottle of white dry wine, reserve 1 cup for the fondue while drinking the rest.  (In my experience in cooking with wine you need to use a wine you like to drink.  I used a moderate priced Sauvignon Blanc for this recipe.)
1 TBL lemon juice
½ tsp dry mustard
Pinch of nutmeg
Assorted dippers

Over medium heat add 1 cup white wine, lemon juice and garlic and bring to a gentle simmer.  Gradually stir in cheese into simmering liquid.  Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue.  Once smooth, stir in mustard and nutmeg.

Cut all your dippers into bite size pieces.  Dippers we use are:
Assorted breads
Granny Smith Apple

Be creative and use anything your family likes!  This is a GREAT way to get those veggies into your kiddos!  
After stuffing ourselves on cheese fondue we hang out, play a few games, watch a little TV - whatever the day brings and then about 4 hours later we hit the main course, MEAT FONDUE! This Boy 1's FAVORITE course!  The main course is pretty simple & we like the oil fondue better than the broth fondue.  (I know, broth is healthier, but whatever, this is New Year’s Eve - back off! )

Meat Fondue

This is what you need:
1/2 gallon peanut oil
1 block cream cheese – room temperature
Tempura batter, make 2-3x’s thicker than the package says 

This is the tempura batter I like to use.  You can get it on the International food isle of your grocery store or go to the Asian market.
Heat oil to about 400 degrees (if you have an electric fondue pot, which is what we use, this is super easy to do, just turn the dial)
Next mix together cream cheese and chives
Clean mushrooms, remove stems
Cut all meats into bit size pieces
Shrimp should be peeled, cleaned and deveined
If you want you can season your meats, but we like them as is.  No seasoning.
We use the tempura to dip the shrimp and mushrooms in.
Before coating the mushrooms we fill them with the cream cheese/chive mixture, then coat with tempura.  Stab the mushrooms through the side all the way, not from the top or bottom.

Make sure you have separate plates for raw meat....
Shrimp only takes about a minute to cook.  You can cook the shrimp with or without tempura batter.  
Chicken & steak take a longer to cook- 2-3 minutes, just check the first couple of pieces then you will get the hang of it.   
Mushrooms take the longest, I would guess 3-4 minutes I like them to be nice and soft and the cream cheese all melted!  The mushrooms are my FAVORITE!!  My mouth is watering just thinking of them!
During the meat course DO NOT EAT OFF YOUR FONDUE FORK!!  They are super-hot & you will burn yourself!  Have a separate plate with a fork and knife. 

Oh, and dipping sauces!  I almost forgot!  Use anything you like for dippers!  We use:
Soy Sauce
BBQ Sauce
Teriyaki Sauce
Cocktail Sauce
Honey Mustard

Obvious you can change your meats up and cater to your family.  Scallops are really good as well -any seafood is good dipped in the tempura batter.  You can also do different veggies, sweet potatoes are good, and broccoli... you get the idea.
You can't forget dessert!  Chocolate fondue is a favorite among the little kids!  Typically we do white chocolate fondue, but this year we mixed it up and did milk chocolate fondue and WOW was it sweet.  I could only handle a couple of bites of this fondue, but since I have three little ones that LOVE anything chocolate, this was GONE in no time.

Milk Chocolate Fondue

2/3 cup half-and-half
1 package milk chocolate chips
2 TBL Grand Marnier

Bring half and half to a gentle simmer, add chocolate chips and Grand Marnier to warm half and half, stir till chocolate is fully melted.  Keep fondue pot on low to avoid burning the chocolate.

Dippers we use:
Angel food cake (pound cake is good as well)
Have fun & Happy New Year to all of you!!
(Yes, Boy 1's hand is missing from the toast, he bolted right after the meat fondue. He thinks getting too old for stay at home on NYE.)
Last Wednesday night we headed to Murphy, TX to hang with out with of my BFF's.  I hadn't see her in -  well in about 6 months - and that was just for a quick lunch, BUT before that it had been a long 2.5 years since I had seen her.  To my disbelieve I don't have any pictures to post of the two of us.  Yea, yea I have pictures of us playing "Just Dance" on the Wii, but those are not for here.  Anyway we had a nice short visit, dinner, dancing and then the next morning Hubby, the kids, one of her kids and I headed out to the Gerald J Ford Stadium (who is Gerald J Ford anyway?) to watch the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Game, and what a game it was!!  Army had their first winning season since 1996 & they won their first bowl game since 1985!!  Who knows, with this kind of rally, maybe, just maybe they will beat Navy next year!

1st touchdown of the day! In true Army form after the touchdown Army cheerleaders do push-ups!
We had a whole row of Army fans/friends to cheer with!
On the back of all the chairs in the stadium there were little gift bags.  These bags included a key chain, a postcard for you to write a letter to a soldier and a little dry erase board.
This is what happens when you give a 7 year old the dry erase board and marker....
And this is what happens when you give it to a 5 year old.
One of my good friends in the stands, doesn't she look like an undercover movie star?
A real star - football star anyway....once again I forget who he is, but all the guys were impressed.
Five super cute girls!!
Reenlistments during half time!
Me with a couple of my girlfriends!
These two boys are sons of a couple of my friends I have not seen in over 20 years!!
My sweet girl wrote a letter to a soldier, this is what she wrote: 'Thank you for serving our country and fighting for freedom. You work so hard for it. My Dad is a soldier to. Your friend, ' This brought tears to my eyes that day and as I retyped what she wrote my eyes filled with tears and my heart with pride.
ARMY VICTORY!! Final score, Army 16 - SMU 14
 I know what you all are thinking - black bean and sweet potato quesadillas?!?!  I wasn't sure the first time I made these either, but let me tell you, the mixture of black beans, spinach, sweet potatoes & Monterey Jack cheese, well these were all a match made in heaven.  Personally I would have never thought of that combination, but now that I have tried it, I'm glad someone over at Cooking Light Magazine threw these ingredients together! 
½ cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves minced
1 TBL olive oil
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 TBL fresh squeezed lime juice
1 TSP dried oregano
1 TSP ground cumin
8 10 inch flour tortillas
1 ½ cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Baby spinach

In a large skillet, cook onion & garlic in olive oil till tender.  Stir in black beans, lime juice oregano, cumin; heat through & set aside.

Layer tortillas with ¼ sweet potatoes, 1/8 of the cheese, ¼ bean mix, a layer of spinach, another 1/8 of the cheese & top with another flour tortilla, make 4.
Grill uncovered on low for 4 minutes, flip and grill another 4 minutes.  (times vary per grill) You can also cook these in a skillet if you wish.
Serve with my homemade chunky salsa & guacamole!
Ingredients for my yummy guacamole!
I'm so glad I put this small amount of salsa in this cute white dish.  Right after this photo was taken Boy 1 was setting the table & when he was taking the plates out of the cabinet I'm not sure what happened other than the big container of salsa I JUST made was knocked to the ground and shattered...salsa and all, thankfully no one was hurt during the crash.  I wonder if I can count that bowl in my decluttering challenge.  Humm....

EVERY time I make this guacamole for a party it is devoured.  People can't get enough of this stuff & they always ask me for the recipe, so here it is...

3 ripe avocados
3-5 TBL T's Homemade Salsa
1-2 TBL fresh chopped cilantro 
1-2 TBL finely chopped red onion
Lawry's Season Salt

Mash ripe avocados with a muddler or fork.  Add rest of ingredients to taste. Serve with chips!  OH BABY!
And a note from one of my sponsors (Boy 1) 
 Chico uno  hola me gato es muy delicioso con guacamole.

I've been making fresh chunky salsa for years now.  I don't even buy the stuff in the jar anymore, I can't stand it.  I want FRESH.  This makes Hubby a little crazy because sometimes when he wants chips and salsa he doesn't want to wait for me to make it.  I know I should indulge and buy a jar, but when I have done that in the past it ends up sitting in the fridge and eventually it turns into a science experiment. 

Today I am making salsa (and guacamole - recipe to follow) because I am making Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas. I know, that sounds like a 'interesting' recipe, but trust me, they are FANTASTIC! 

Here's my recipe -

5 vine ripe tomatoes
1 bell pepper
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño
Crushed red pepper
Cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
Fresh crushed black pepper

Chop first 4 ingredients - I do this by hand, but you can use a food processor if you so choose.
Depending on the level of heat you desire, leave the seed in or take them out of the jalapeño before chopping.
Add the last 4 ingredients to taste.

I like to let my salsa sit in the fridge for about 1 hour before serving, however most of the time someone starts eating it right away!