At my table, it’s soup weather year ’round. I really like to make soup and love to eat it. Slow cookers have given way to fast cookers just when I was getting the hang of slow cookers. My schedule has never been slow cooker friendly. However, today’s recipe and the timing was just right. I’m now getting brave enough to add kale to my list of favorite ingredients. Never too old to learn.

The original name for beef casserole was Hobo Casserole. I’m not fond of titles that tell you nothing about what the ingredients are, so I renamed it and added mushrooms. Serve with a salad and thick slices of good bread. It’s a feast!

Red velvet cake has been revived lately. For years, folks agreed it was a delicious cake and ordered some other flavor. Don’t know how many I’ve made lately. I once made red velvet cookies using a red velvet cake mix. Bleah! Today’s recipe is easy and so delicious. I don’t think you’ll wait ’til the next holiday to make a batch.

Italian Sausage and Potato Soup

1 pound Italian sausage links

4 potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 cup diced onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups chicken broth

2-3 cups chopped baby kale

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped bacon

Place sausages in the freezer only until firm. Remove thin covering and place in a skillet. Cook on all sides until brown. Remove from skillet and cut into approximately one-inch pieces. Add sausage, potatoes, onion, garlic and broth to slow cooker. Cook on high 3-4 hours or until potatoes are tender. 30 minutes before serving, whisk together flour and cream until smooth. Stir cream mixture into soup. Add kale and cook on high 30 minutes. Season to taste. Garnish each serving with bacon. Serve hot.

Ground Beef Casserole

1 pound ground beef

3/4 cup diced onion

6-8 fresh, sliced mushrooms, optional

2 medium potatoes, sliced

1 cup shredded, mild cheddar

1 can cream of mushroom soup

2 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 cups French fried onions

Spray an 8x8 pan with Pam. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat beef into the baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Layer onion evenly on beef, then mushrooms over onion. Layer potatoes over mushrooms, then cheese. Whisk together milk and soup. Pour over cheese. Cover and bake 1 1/2 hours or until potatoes are tender. Uncover and top with onions. Bake until golden.

Red Velvet Cookies

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1 egg

2 tablespoons buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons red food coloring

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Cream cheese frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cream butter and sugar until light. Add egg, beat, then add buttermilk, vanilla and food coloring. Beat ‘til smooth. Whisk together dry ingredients. Gently beat dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Drop by fat tablespoons onto the prepared pan. Bake 7-8 minutes or until barely crisp on the edges and barely set in the center. Cool on the pan five minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Place one fat teaspoon cream cheese frosting in the center of half the cookies. Top with the other half of the cookies. Gently press together to spread the filling. Eat ‘em all!

Cream cheese frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

3-4 cups sifted powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and milk; beat until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating well after each addition. Cover tightly, refrigerate and use as needed for cookie filling or icing cakes. Properly cared for, it will keep two to three weeks. Bring only the amount you need to use to room temperature.

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