Italian Wedding Soup

The temps have hit all time lows here in Nashville this week, the perfect time for warm and nourishing soup.

This recipe is from Food Network Magazine.

Substitution made, noted below.

Italian Soup 1

Italian Wedding Soup

1 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 sm onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp chopped fresh sage – I used dried sage
3 c fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 Parmesan cheese rind, plus 1 tblsp grated Parm, plus more for topping
1/2 lb ground pork – I used ground chicken
3 tblsp breadcrumbs (preferaly panko)
3/4 c orzo
8 oz baby spinach (about 8 cups)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over med-high heat.  Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 4 minutes.  Add half of the garlic and 1 tsp each Worcestershire sauce and sage; cook 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, 3 c water and the Parmesan rind and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes.

Italian Soup 2

Meanwhile, mix the pork, breadcrumbs, 1 tblsp grated Parm, the remaining garlic, Worcestershire and sage in a bowl.  Form into 1-inch meatballs.

Increase the heat to med-high and bring the soup to a boil.  Stir in the orzo and cook 6 minutes.  Add the meatballs and cook until they are firm and float to the top, about 4 more minutes.  Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 more minute.  Ladle the soup into bowls and top with Parm.

Italian Soup 3

cartoon-strawberry-9The sage lends a rich flavor to the broth and to the meatballs.  I would cut the orzo down to a half cup, and add in a healthy dash of salt and pepper.  Healthy and hearty soup ready in about an hour!

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Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

The weather suddenly realized it was Fall and the temperatures dropped, we went from flip-flops to wool sock a matter of days.  So the word of the season is SOUP.

This recipe is from Food Network Magazine, October 2011.

No substitutions were made.

broc cheese 1

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

2 tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 c low-sodium chicken broth
2 c half-n-half
1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
Kosher slat and freshly ground pepper
2 c chopped broccoli florets
1/3 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/3c)
Croutons, for topping (optional)

broc cheese 2

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over med-high heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth, half-n-half, both potatoes, bay leaf, 2 c water, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to med-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, put the broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl; add 3 tblsp water and season with salt.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes, drain.

broc cheese 3

When the potatoes are tender, remove the bay leaf from the soup and transfer the soup to a blender.  Puree until smooth, leaving the filler cap slightly open to let steam escape (or puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender).  Return the soup to the pot and thin with water, if necessary.  Return to a simmer over med-low heat; stir in the broccoli and season with salt and pepper.

Add the cheese and stir until melted.  Ladle the coup into bowls and top with croutons if desired.

broc cheese 4

cartoon-strawberry-9This soup was good, but not great.  I’m wondering if a blend of cheese, cheddar and mozzarella?  Maybe a little Parmesan?  BUT, it was filling and hot on a cold Fall afternoon.

Cream of Pea Soup

Back in June husband and I hopped on a plane to Seattle to visit my sister and be there for my middle nephews HS graduation.  Happily, my mom and dad were with us too!  It was the first time our whole family had been together since my wedding (6 years!).  Thankfully it also meant we could celebrate my dad and my brother-in-law on Father’s Day.  This included Star Trek at the movies and English food.  We may not have been the rowdiest group in the place, but we feasted.  Fish N Chips and Bangers N Mash lined the table.

Marrowfat Collage

The restaurant also had a shop attached with all things English.  If only I had unlimited funds to bring home all the delicate china cups, each type of shortbread cookie on hand, and tins upon tins of tea.  What I did come home with was this bag of Marrowfat Peas.  I wasn’t quite sure how or why they’re different, but I thought it was worth a shot.

marrowfat peas 3

According to Wikipedia, Marrowfat peas are “green mature peas that have been allowed to dry out naturally in the field”.  Apparently this is also the type of pea used for Wasabi peas (one of my dad’s favorite snacks).

marrowfat peas 4

I followed the recipe on the back of the package for Cream of Pea Soup.  This included 2 medium onions and 8 pieces of bacon.

marrowfat pea 5

The simmering soup filled the kitchen with the aroma of onions, bacon and fresh herbs.  The immersion blender worked to break down the peas, bacon and vegetables.  In went almost a cup of heavy cream – hence the Cream of Pea Soup.

marrowfat peas 6

What a wonderful and filing soup!  The bacon I used was an applewood smoked bacon, so the soup was very dense with the smokey flavor.  It’s good, but plays second fiddle to Julia’s Pea Soup.

ps – I’m not sure if Marrowfat Peas are available all over?  If you’d like this recipe let me know and I’ll include it in the comments.

Barbecue-Flavored Onion Rings

There were a few greasy spoons in CA that made the best onion rings.  Not something I’d order all the time, but every once in awhile, a greasy cheese burger with onion rings is the perfect meal.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, April 2008.

No substitutions were made.

BBQ onion rings 1

Barbecue-Flavored Onion Rings

3 tblsp all-purpose flour
1 tblsp sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp allspice
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 lb Vidalia or other sweet onion, cut into (1/4-inch thick) slices, and separated into rings
1 1/2 c dry bread crumbs, divided
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

BBQ onion rings 2

Combine flour, sugar, chili powder, cumin, salt, paprika, allspice and eggs in a large bowl.  (A) Dip onion rings in flour mixture. Place half of onion rings in a zip-top plastic bag; add 3/4 c bread crumbs, shaking bag to coat onion rings.  Repeat procedure with remaining onion rings and remaining 3/4 c breadcrumbs.

(B) Arrange onion rings in a single layer on 2 baking sheets coated with cooking spray.  Lightly coat onion rings with cooking spray.  Bake at 450 for 5 minutes.  Rotate pans on racks; bake 5 minutes.  Turn onion rings over; lightly coat with cooking spray and back 5 minutes.  Rotate pans and bake 5 minutes or until crisp.  Serve immediately.

BBQ onion rings 3

cartoon-strawberry-9These are a less greasy, more flavorful version of one of my favorite guilty pleasures.  They paired perfectly with turkey cheese burgers.  My only wish is that I had a mandolin slicer to make perfectly sliced rings.

Macaroni Monday

Thank you Thomas Jefferson for bringing mac n cheese to the colonies.  Did you know President Jefferson served macaroni and cheese at a state dinner in 1802?

This recipe is from Mac & Cheese – 80 Classic & Creative Versions of the Ultimate Comfort Food.

Substitution made – noted below.

skillet mac n cheese 1

Skillet-Fried Cheddar Mac and Cheese

1/2 lb macaroni
2 tblsp unsalted butter
3 tblsp chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1 tblsp all-purpose flour
3/4 c whole milk, warmed – I used 2%
2 tblsp heavy cream, warmed
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
8 oz raw milk Cheddar, grated
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tblsp olive oil

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Cook the pasta until it is al dente.  Drain the pasta, run it under cold water, and return it to the pot.

Heat the butter saucepan over med-low heat.  Add the onion and bay leaf, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onion softens.

Stir in the flour and cook stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until the mixture turns slightly beige, is bubbly and appears to have grown in volume.  Increase the heat to medium, and slowly whisk in the warm milk and cream.  Bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Reduce the heat to low, stir in the mustard, and simmer the sauce for 2 minutes.

skillet mac n cheese 2

Add the cheese to the sauce by 1/2 c measures, stirring until the cheese melts before making another addition.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir well.  season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat a skillet over med-high heat until it is very hot.  Add the olive oil, swirling to coat.  Add the macaroni, and allow it to cook for 3 minutes, or until a crust forms.  Scrape the bottom of the crust with a metal spoon, and cook another 3 minutes.  Do not stir often.  Cook until about 15 to 20 percent of the mixture is golden brown.  Serve hot.

Note: The sauce can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated.  Bring it to a simmer over low heat.  Cook and fry the pasta just prior to serving.

skillet mac n cheese 3

cartoon-strawberry-9Maybe someday I’ll find my very favorite form of mac n cheese and stop trying new recipes… Probably NOT.  This stuff is amazing.  The Cheddar is mild and silky and melts really well.  Then the bits of fried cheese sauce?  Heavenly.

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

Full disclosure – I wasn’t going to post this recipe.

I’m not a big fan of cooking with ‘cream of ___’ soup.  I miscalculated the cooking time.  The sauce was bubbling up gray during cooking.  I didn’t take any pictures of it.  The whole thing frustrated me.

I took the casserole to potluck anyway and prayed for the best.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, November 2008.

Substitutions made, noted below.

chicken spaghetti casserole

Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

2 c chopped cooked chicken breast – I used meat from a rotisarie chicken
2 c (7 oz) uncooked spaghetti noodles, broken into 2 inch pieces
1 c (1/4 inch thick) slices celery
1 c chopped red bell pepper – I used a green bell pepper
1 c chopped onion
1 c fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 (10.75 oz) can condensed 30% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
Cooking spray
1 c (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine broth, salt, pepper and soup in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add soup mixture to chicken mixture, toss.  Divide mixture evenly between two 8 inch baking dishes coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle 1/2 c cheese over each casserole.  Cover with foil coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.  I put the whole thing in a 13×9 pan and followed time listed for baking.

cartoon-strawberry-9As you can see by an empty pan, this casserole went over fairly well. 😉  All the ingredients and flavors came together very well.  It’s a great casserole to feed a crowd, or to bake one and freeze one for later.

Chicken & Herb White Pizza

I made this pizza twice.  Because it’s that good?  Partially.  Mostly because I’m easily distracted and didn’t take a single picture the first time I made it.  The second time?  Totally forgot the onions.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, October 2011.

Substitutions made, noted below.

chicken pizza 1

Chicken & Herb White Pizza

1 lb regridgerated fresh pizza dough – I used the whole wheat dough from Trader Joes
cooking spray
1 tblsp butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tblsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 c 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 c grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese – I used the Parm/Reggiano blend from Trader Joes
1 tblsp yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 c shredded rotisserie chicken breast
1/4 c diced red onion – I used sweet white onion (the first time)
1 tblsp chopped fresh oregano – I used dried
1 tblsp chopped fresh chives – I used dried basil
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley – I used dried

chicken pizza Collage 1

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  – I read a tip recently.  Heat your pizza stone/pan in the oven for approx 10 min.  This will help cook the center of the pizza, so you don’t wind up with a doughy center.  Totally works!!

Place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray; let dough stand, covered for 15 minutes.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add flour and pepper; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Cook 3 minutes or until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal; roll dough into a 12-inch circle on prepared baking sheet.  (I rolled my dough out on a pastry mat and transferred to my pizza stone.)  Spread white sauce over dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Top with chicken and onion.  Bake at 450 degrees on bottom oven rack for 17 minutes or until crust is golden.  Sprinkle with herbs.  (I just read that.  Herbs on after it baked? ooops…)

chicken pizza 4

cartoon-strawberry-9We ate this pizza twice, both times were wonderful.  The sauce is rich and cheesy, and the onions and herbs add a good bite.  I added cheese to the pizza before it went in the oven, because who doesn’t love a little extra cheese on a pizza?

Arroz Rojos

So my lesson in life – If you’re not sure how long a new recipe will take, then don’t take on another new recipe at the same time.  I started dinner late and wasn’t sure how the timing of everything would go, so I asked husband to step in and help, which he did.  What a great guy.

This recipe is from Step-by-Step Italian, Mexican & Chinese Recipes.

Substitutions made, noted below.

arroz rojos 1

Arroz Rojos

2 tblsp vegetable oil
1 c raw lon-grain white rice
1/2 c finely chopped white onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
dash chili powder
2 large tomatoes – peeled, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1/3 c shelled peas
2 tblsp chopped pimiento – I used corn

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add rice.  Cook and stir 2 minutes or until rice turns opaque.

Add onion; cook and stir 1 minute.  Stir in garlic, salt, cumin and chili powder.  Add tomatoes; cook and stir 2 minutes.

arroz rojos 2

Stir in broth.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until rice is almost tender.

Stir in peas and chopped pimiento.  Cover and cook 2 to 4 minutes until rice is tender and all liquid has been absorbed.  Rice grains will be slightly firm and separate, rather than soft and sticky.

arroz rojos 3

cartoon-strawberry-9Red rice.  It looks a little “sticker” than the picture in the cookbook, but it was a great compliment to the Creamy Almond Chicken.  In the future I’d add a little bit of tomato paste to bring out the red color and a splash or two of hot sauce to give it some heat.

French Onion Soup

There’s French Onion Soup.  And then there’s Julia’s French Onion Soup.  This is the best there is, just be sure to set aside 2 hours for this endeavor.

The recipe is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Vol 1.

No substitutions were made.

French Onion 1

Onion Soup

1 1/2 lbs or about 5 c of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tblsp butter
1 tblsp oil
A heavy-bottomed, 4 qrt covered saucepan

Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 min.

1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar (helps the onions to brown)

Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.

3 tblsp flour

Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

French Onion2

2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boilinb water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon
– I used 2 quarts of Trader Joes beef stock
1/2 c dry white wine or dry white vermouth
salt and pepper to taste

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid.  Add the wine, and season to taste.  Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally.  Correct seasoning.  Set aside uncovered until ready to serve.  Then reheat to a simmer.

3 tblsp cognac – I skipped this
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread
1 to 2 c grated swiss or parmesan cheese

Just before serving, stir in the cognac.  Pour into a soup tureen or soup cups over the rounds of bread, and pass the cheese separately.

French Onion3

Hard Toasted French Bread

12 to 16 slices of French Bread cut 1/4 to 1 inch thick

Place the bread in one layer in a roasting pan and pack in a preheated 325 degree oven for about half an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned.

Olive oil or beef drippings
Cut clove of garlic

Halfway through the baking, each side may be basted with a tsp of olive oil or beef drippings; and after baking, each piece may be rubbed with cut garlic. – I brushed one side with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic powder, onion powder and pepper.

French Onion4

cartoon-strawberry-9This is the best French Onion soup you’ll ever make or eat.  Do it ASAP!

Pierogies and Kielbasa

I’ve never had a pierogi before this recipe, did you know it has polish origins?  For some reason I thought the pierogi was an Italian dish.

This recipe came from Food Network Magazine, July/August 2011.

The recipe calls for a grill (or grill pan), neither of which I have, instead I used a 6 quart chef pan.

Grilled Pierogies and Kielbasa

1 lb kielbasa (pork or turkey), cut into 4 pieces
2 tblsp whole-grain mustard
2 tblsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white oinion, cut into 6 pieces
1 lb frozen potato and cheddar pierogies (do not thaw)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 c roughly chopped fresh parsley

Preheat a grill to medium. Grill the kielbasa, turning, until marked 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter.
I heated my pan to medium, and cooked the kielbasa for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the mustard and vinegar in a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in 2 tablespoons olive oil until smooth.

Toss the onion and pierogies with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, covered, until the pierogies thaw and the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the pierogies and onion and continue to grill, covered, until the pierogies are cooked through and the onion is tender, 4 to 6 more minutes. Transfer to the baking sheet or platter.
Since I was using my chef pan, I cooked the pierogies and onion for 10 minutes, turning frequently to brown the pierogies and soften the onion.

Slice the kielbasa into pieces and add to the bowl with the mustard dressing. Roughly chop the onion and add to the bowl along with the pierogies and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss.
I added the sliced kielbasa and mustard dressing directly to the pan, tossed so everything was coated and turned the heat to low. I let it sit for 3 minutes, added the parsley and served.

Husband and I were both on the fence about this one.  It wasn’t bad, but not amazing either.  Considering I wasn’t sure I could find frozen pierogies here in the south, I probably won’t go out of my way to make this recipe again.