Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays! 🙂

I love the drama and theatre of decorating your home. I love the creativity and escapism of dressing up in costume. I love the irreverance, the silliness, the candy. But most of all, I love how Halloween brings people together. It sounds strange, I know, but think about it:  even more than Christmas, Halloween encourages people to interact.

Neighborhoods become a giant mix and mingle for children and their parents. Schools throw Fall Festivals. Offices have costume competitions. Families and friends go to pumpkin patches and corn mazes. And once you age out of trick-or-treating, there are Halloween parties galore.

I really believe that holidays help us lead meaningful and intentional lives. They are milestones in our year, markers of the seasons, and a reminder to celebrate with those we love. At its core, each holiday reminds us about an important value:  faith, gratitude, freedom, heritage, love, family, joy … and yes, even silliness. 🙂

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

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Bratwurst & Beer Cheese Soup

Sorry for the little break! We just got back from a lovely little trip to Chicago to visit my Dad’s family. We enjoyed brisk weather, changing leaves, and Bingo! Plus, my wonderful Grandma floated some new cookie recipes my way. Guess I’ll be making goodie boxes for Christmas presents this year! 😀

Now, this little gem of a recipe was just waiting for me in a Taste of Home magazine my mother gave me when we moved into our new home nearly a year ago. I tweaked it by replacing the Velveeta Cheese (ick!) with some Gouda, upping the Worcestershire (yum!), and subbing one of the cans of celery soup for a can of cheddar cheese soup.

Ingredients:

  • 6 bratwurst
  • 10 oz can cream of celery soup
  • 10 oz can cheddar soup
  • 12 oz beer, preferably a pale ale
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • ½ lb Gouda cheese
  • ½ lb shredded Cheddar cheese 

Directions:

  1. Cook the bratwurst in a large skillet until crispy on the outside and cooked all the way through. Cut into small pieces. Pat off the grease with a paper towel, and set aside.
  2. In a large stockpot or crockpot, add both cans of soup, the beer, half & half, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, onion powder and Cheddar cheese.
  3. Remove the rind from the Gouda cheese. Slice thinly and then cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to soup and stir over medium-high heat until melted.
  4. Add the bratwurst. Cover and heat through.

And nothing goes better with beer cheese (or beer cheese soup) than a big, soft pretzel. AH-maaaaaaazing! 🙂 This is a thick, creamy, flavorful soup that is perfect for fall.

Bratwurst & Beer Cheese Soup

Bratwurst & Beer Cheese Soup

It was really the perfect end to an October Sunday of pumpkin picking and carving!

Love me some pumpkins!

Love me some pumpkins!

They want some Beer Cheese Soup, too!

They want some Beer Cheese Soup, too!

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

My husband really likes the Chicken & Gnocchi soup at Olive Garden. So, he was pretty excited when I found this copycat recipe on Pinterest!

I’ve tweaked it a little bit. For example: no carrots because I’m lazy and I just don’t feel like shredding carrots, or buying a bag of shredded carrots that I won’t use up. Also, canned shredded chicken is easier – and makes my cats very happy. Too bad they don’t like shredded carrots as much as they like chicken juice.  🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 quart half & half
  • 2 cans of minced chicken
  • 16 oz package of gnocchi
  • 14 oz chicken broth
  • 1 cup baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Mince the onions, slice the celery, and mince the garlic.
  2. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil and sauté the onion, celery, and garlic until soft.
  3. Melt the butter, and then add the flour to form a roux. Stir and cook 1 minute until it becomes like a paste. Slowly incorporate the half & half.
  4. Add shredded chicken to the stockpot.
  5. While the soup thickens, cook the gnocchi according to the package directions.
  6. Add the chicken broth, gnocchi, spinach and seasonings. Cover and heat through.
Chicken & Gnocchi Soup

Chicken & Gnocchi Soup

This soup is pretty simple, and it goes great with a nice crusty bread or breadsticks!

And, bonus ! I made another copycat recipe to go along with the soup: Macaroni Grill’s Shrimp & Avocado Crostini. 🙂

Shrimp & Avocado Crostini

Shrimp & Avocado Crostini

This is probably my favorite appetizer of all time! So yummy! Here’s the recipe. It’s a bit time intensive, but so worth it!

ShrimpCrostiniRecipe