Did you know that September is National Mushroom Month? I didn’t. It seems as if every day of every month is a different National Food  Holiday.  I figured with the slight chill of Fall in the air… what is a better way to welcome it than a delicious soup?

There is this fabulous little carryout place here called Sea Star Cafe. The owners are there, everyday, churning out wonderful sandwiches and homemade soups. They are very small, but take a ton of pride in what they offer. Most items are cold sandwiches. There’s usually one “special” that is a hot sandwich, their Cuban is to die for! And, there is usually 2 or 3 soups that rotate on a daily basis. One of my favorite soups is mushroom-brie bisque. I’m not a huge fan of mushroom (love the flavor, hate the texture), so I stayed away from it for years. One day my girlfriend had gotten it with her lunch, and I stole a bite. I was hooked!

I was also pregnant at the time, so as luck would have it, I developed a craving for this soup. Sea Star closes for a few months in the off-season, and I had to come up with a version I could make at home. I’ve played around with a couple of batches since last fall and think I’ve finally got it!

This soup is rich, silky, and delicious. It’s also a breeze to make. I made it for a lunch date with a girlfriend. Even with an infant and a toddler to look after, I didn’t break a sweat getting everything ready. So easy! I  think the wedge of brie, as opposed to the small wheel, is better for this application. It seemed to melt down better. Next time around I might try a Camembert cheese, switch things up a bit! I hope everyone is as ready for Fall as I am. Enjoy!

I’ve always been a firm believer in pork cuts in a tomato sauce. It adds an unbelievable richness and depth of flavor that cannot be attained with simply beef. But, to make a proper “gravy”, it’s an all day process. Browning the sausage, beef, and pork. Sauteing the onions and tomato paste, reducing down the sauce for-ever. Delicious, but time consuming.

My mom always made spaghetti sauce to use up leftover ham. Apparently, her mother opted to use ham in her sauce as well. It’s delicious, easy, and a change of pace from your run-of-the-mill spaghetti sauce using ground beef. Since I’ve got a house full of boys, I opt to add ham as well as ground beef. But, feel free to make the recipe using exclusively ham. Great way to use up those Easter leftovers!

I confess, I used to be a boxed macaroni and cheese person. As a teenager, I worked front desk at a local hotel. An older lady there made the best baked macaroni and cheese. While at the time I diddn’t have my heart set on re-creating the dish, it managed to stick with me for a decade. My mom always made homemade macaroni and cheese, but it wasn’t a cheese sauce. It was elbows, butter, and lots of cheddar cheese layered and baked. Still delicious, but there’s something about a gooey, cheesy sauce that really captured my heart.

Fast forward 10 years, I decided to try to find a recipe that I would consider “a keeper” for baked macaroni and cheese. I tried several recipes I’d found on the internet that looked good, but none really resonated with me. Then, I decided to give the recipe off the side of the elbow macaroni box a shot. Low and behold, I fell in love. I’ve changed it some over the years, but I’m glad I gave that “side of the box” recipe a shot. You never know! Feel free to top with a seasoned breadcrumb if you like, but I think that’s more of a “Yankee” thing, and just not the way I was raised. I like my macaroni and cheese soft and creamy. But, I have done it that way before…and it was delicious. Enjoy!

Allow me to introduce you to this recipe. We go way back. I first stumbled upon it when browsing The Spice House’s website (which is owned by Bill Penzey’s sister. They’re just a whole family chock full of spice tycoons, I tell ya). At the time, St. Patrick’s Day was right around the corner. I’m not a huge fan of corned beef, unless it’s in hash form. The recipe called for Guinness to be used, so I though it would be a festive alternative to the traditional corned beef and cabbage. I was right, it was a huge hit. I went out with some girlfriends that evening, and when I returned…it had all been consumed by the husband.  And make no mistakes folks, it was a large roast.

Needless to say, it since became my standard pot roast recipe. So much more flavor that your  standard Crock-Pot variety pot roast. Not only that, but I feel like it’s been improved upon by trying out different beers. I had heard wonderful things about coffee-braised pot roasts. So, I thought it would be very interesting to combine the two. Again, boy was I right!

We have  2 oh-so-wonderful local breweries in my area (hey – we don’t have much, but we’ve got good beer by God!). Both happen to make wonderful, rich dark stouts that use coffee in the brewing process. The first is Dogfish Head’s Chicory Stout. If you haven’t heard about DogFish, and like beer, do yourself a favor and try something out. You can find them nationwide, if you look hard enough. The second is Evolution Brewing Company’s Rise Up Stout.  “Evo” started  up about a year or so ago, right here on the Eastern Shore, and have been putting out wonderful craft beers. Chances are if you don’t live in the Chesapeake area, you won’t find them. But, by all means, get out there and explore the beer coolers at your local stores. Lots of great microbreweries are springing up all over the place. I’m sure you could find something near you that is equally as wonderful!

I don’t list potatoes in the recipe, but feel free to add them in with the rest of the other veggies. I usually use red potatoes that I’ve halved.  However, it’s wonderful with mashed potatoes too. You want as much of the gravy as you can get, folks. Enjoy this recipe, I promise you that you won’t miss that corned beef a bit!