We just got back from a week long cruise to the Bahamas. We (all of us – Jon and myself, as well as the boys, and my mom and dad!) left out of Norfolk, VA last Sunday, and had a great trip. We stayed at the gorgeous Atlantis Resort in Nassau overnight – then got back on the ship and went onto Freeport the next day. It’s unbelievably gorgeous down there. I mean, I live at the beach – but it’s just a world apart. We went snorkeling, ate a fresh grouper sandwich right on the beach – washing it down with a local beer. Everyone had a great time!

On the night that we weren’t onboard the ship, one of the starter course selections was French Onion soup. I was bummed that I was missing it – but with this view, I couldn’t really cry into my pillow.

I just resolved to make it for dinner once we got back (food bloggers – forever planning menus!). Which, was a good call. It’s definitely chillier here since our return, and the soup really hit the spot. Plus, aside from caramelizing the onions – it takes care of itself, and does it’s own thing.

I’ve always used Julia Child’s recipe. I mean, why wouldn’t you? She is the one who introduced the dish to Americans. I love addition of white wine, just gives it a lovely tanginess in the background. Vermouth can also be used, if you don’t feel like uncorking a whole bottle. But again, why wouldn’t you? I made some beef broth the day before using some bones I had in the freezer, but Campbell’s makes a really great canned beef broth that I’ll use if I don’t have homemade. The cognac is optional, but I think it really does bring something to the party. I just ladled out some for the boys before I added it. No biggie. This is one of the most comforting and flavorful soups out there, and it’s perfect for any occasion. A simple dinner at home, or as a starter in a fancy dining room on a cruise ship – everyone always loves it!

Now that the cooler weather has settled in, I’m going to try to make a conscious effort to use my slow cooker more often. It’s so wonderful to put something in, switch it to “on” – and then hours later, a meal is hot and ready for you after a long day. My problem seems to be that I get in a rut with the recipes I make with it.

When Josie posted this a couple of weeks ago, I immediately put it on our menu plan for the following week. Couldn’t have been easier, and the results were phenomenal. A little bit of peeling and chopping, cooking the bacon, then sauteing the onion in some of the bacon drippings. That really helps to deepen and layer the flavors – something that’s not typically found in Crockpot recipes. Leave it to our friends at America’s Test Kitchen to share such a great recipe. I’ll definitely be adding their slow-cooker cookbook to my wishlist for Santa this year! Can’t wait to give some of the other recipes a try.

Strangely enough, I don’t care for cream-based soups. Keep all your chowders, and cream of mushrooms – I’m a tomato in my soup kinda gal. Jon, my husband, however – LOVES all creamy soups. And, cream of crab is right at the top of his list! The sweet cream and the crab are just perfect together, the flavors mingling and playing off each other.

It’s a quick and easy dinner to make too, which is why I love it – a light roux, a quick saute of some celery and onions, then adding the liquids and thickening. I like to add the crab in the last few minutes of cooking time. You want the meat to remain in chunks, and not disintegrate. Don’t sweat it if it does though,  it will still be delicious!

I usually do not tend to think of soups as elegant dining – but cream of crab definitely is. It’s heavier and filling, so it would be great for dinner served with a green salad. But, served in a cup and saucer it makes an impressive first course. The sherry on top is optional, but I really like the sharp bite it lends to the creamy soup. Enjoy!

We don’t go out to eat that often, but when we do, we usually go to the local Mexican joint down the road. Our favorite place closed last year. The friendliest family ran it. They were always so great with Andrew, the food was always good – we just loved them. They moved on to another part of the country to start a new venture, and left me with no Mexican eats locally (outside of my home, of course) for about 6 months. In desperation one day, I browsed Mexican restaurants in our vicinity on Yelp. To my surprise, one turned up in a town nearby – a nice 30 minute drive on the back roads. I must admit I was leery, as Crisfield is known primarily for it’s seafood (blue crabs, oysters, etc). I wondered how good could this place be? I’d never heard of it. But, like I said, I was desperate. So, one night, we ventured up.

We were blown away with the dinner we got at that little hole in the wall place. The proprietor/chef hails from South America, so there are lots of great Latin options – as well as traditional Tex Mex fair. While a new place has opened up closer by, we still try to make the trip to Mi Pueblito whenever we can. My favorite thing on the menu is the black bean soup. So simple, yet so flavorful and filling. Nice and smoky from the ham hock, and rich silkiness that only black beans can lend.I always devour the whole bowl, then have very little room for dinner. I made a batch last weekend at home in an effort to recreate their version, and it is right on point. As with other soups, it was even better the second day for lunch. The pico de gallo on top is optional, but highly recommended. It adds a great pop of color and flavor!