Sunday, February 24, 2008

Italian Wedding Soup

This week's soup is Italian Wedding Soup. I stumbled across this soup on the shelves of the grocery store a few years ago. I bought it thinking I was trying something tied to an Italian wedding tradition. I loved the soup-even from a can-but I've since found out that the name has nothing to do with a wedding per se. The term "wedding soup" is a mistranslation of the Italian language, minestra maritata, which refers not to the marriage of man/wife but the "marriage" of green vegetables and meat.

Tying in with my February theme of Food Network Recipes, this is a Giada De Laurentiis recipe. Her original recipe is here, I cut down the ingredients to serve 4-6 and made a few substitutions based on recipe feedback.

Italian Wedding Soup
Serves: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

1/2 small onion, grated
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
4 ounces ground beef
4 ounces ground Italian pork sausage
Freshly ground black pepper

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. dry Acini de Pepe pasta (cook separately)
1 1/2 cups kale coarsely chopped (escarole, endive or even spinach would be a good substitution)
1 large egg (I actually used 1/2)
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the meatballs:
Stir the first 5 meatball ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, beef and pork sausage. Using 1 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place off to the side.

To make the soup:
Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add kale and cooked Acini de Pepe pasta and simmer a few minute more until kale is tender. Whisk the egg and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. Finish soup with Parmesan cheese if desired.

1. Here's what the box of Acini de Pepe pasta looks like:
2. You can also see what it looks like once it's been cooked and added to the soup:
3. I added about 1 1/2 tsp. dry soup base/bouillon to the broth to pump up the flavor.
4. Check out the recipe reviews to see other suggestions.
5. This isn't a "pretty" soup but is very good and filling. Both DH and I thought the meatballs were amazing and would like to try the meatball recipe with spaghetti.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Knitting Log

I've become desperate in wanting to get back on track with my knitting. I've created a "Knitting Log." My students keep a reading log and really enjoy seeing the progress as they add more and more entries so I thought that would inspire me as well. So far two entries, and really the mittens are nearly done-will post pics when they are. If I was REALLY corny, I'd include some incentives such as, for every 10 entries I'd get to buy some yarn. I'm not at that point ....yet....

I came across this magnet while shopping over the weekend. It really cracked me up!

Finally, this caught my eye one morning last week while picking up some breakfast tacos. Not your typical drive-thru sign. I figure it can only be a good thing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Soup O r g @ s m

If such a thing existed, I think I may have had a soup o r g @ s m with this week's soup. I know I say every week how great the soup tastes- but this week's was truly the best! Even DH who said he wasn't interested in a serving upon hearing the ingredients, kept commenting on how good it smelled while being cooked, then said he'd try a spoonful, which then lead to a big bowlful, and then stated it was the best soup I'd made....ever.

In keeping with my theme of February's soup recipes coming from the Food Network, this week's soup is Paula Deen's Poblano Chicken Chowder. Her original recipe serves 12-16 but I cut it down to serve 3-4.

Poblano Chicken Chowder
Serves: 3-4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/3 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 sm. poblano peppers, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice (I used 3/4 of a big one)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, or more to taste
1-2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
4 c. chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup diced (large pieces) grilled chicken (I used rotisserie)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, or more to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream or half n half

Step 1: Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, poblano peppers, salt, white pepper, cumin, and thyme. Saute for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. The colors and smells were incredible:

Step 2: Stir in the chicken bouillon. Add the chicken broth and cilantro, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Stir in the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until the chowder is thick and the chicken is heated through.

Step 3: Shortly before the chowder is done, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes to cook the flour. Do not allow the mixture to brown!

Step 4: Ladle 1/2 cup of the hot liquid from the stockpot into the skillet, whisking constantly. When the first bit of liquid is incorporated, add another cup of liquid. Pour the mixture in the skillet into the stockpot, whisking to blend. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes longer, or until the mixture begins to thicken.

Step 4: Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the hot sauce, then the cream, and serve. I topped my soup with some corn tortilla strips I fried up, chopped heirloom tomatoes along with some cheese quesadillas.
  • Watch the amount of cilantro. Too much can really overpower the flavor of the soup and I love cilantro. I ended up scooping more than halve the amount I had originally put and adjusted the amount when posting the ingredients. If you don't like cilantro, it would be fine without it. I kept reminding myself this was a POBLANO chicken chowder and tried to keep that flavor at the forefront.
  • Adjust the amounts of the veggies to meet your tastes. I added more celery and poblano pepper, but less onion. I figured the pepper I had was pretty mild so I used most of the big one shown in the picture. The pepper added a great flavor without being too "hot."
  • The fried tortilla strips are a must!
  • Recipe Reviews

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Just Keep Swimming

ETA: There should be a video clip. Youtube is acting strange tonight, if you don't see one, check back later!

Who knew such pearls of wisdom could come from a "kids" movie. It's been a rough week-been in a funk and keep telling myself to "just keep swimming" and it somehow makes me feel better.
Hope so for you too!

The sound begins about 5 seconds into the clip.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Soupe a L'Oignon au Fromage

For my 6th soup recipe, I decided to go with Soupe a L'Oignon au Fromage (French Onion Soup). In keeping with my "February is for Food Network," this recipe is from the show, Sara's Secrets. One of the things I liked best about this recipe is that it was easy to cut in half. My ingredients are for 3 servings, here's the original recipe.

Soupe a L'Oignon au Fromage (French Onion Soup)
Serves: 3
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: approx. 1 1/4 hour


3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large onions (about 2.5 pounds), thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 c. beef broth
1 c. vegetable broth
1 bay leaf (recipe review recommendation)
fresh thyme (recipe review recommendation)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 (1/2-inch thick) slices French bread, toasted
1/3 pound coarsely grated Gruyere

1. Heat the 2 T. butter in a soup pot over moderate heat. Add the onions and cook (add additional tablespoon of butter when pan is starting to get dry), stirring frequently, until caramelized, about 45-50 minutes.

Here's what the onions look when they are first put in the pan:
Here's what they look like once they've been caramelized:
2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat and add the brandy. Return the pot to the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost dry. Sprinkle the onions with the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. While stirring, slowly add the broth, bay leaf, and fresh thyme. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, with the cover slightly ajar, about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf.  Season the soup with salt and pepper.

3. Arrange a rack about 4 inches from the broiler and preheat.

4. Arrange 2 ovenproof crocks or deep soup bowls on a baking sheet and ladle the hot soup into them. Arrange 2 slices of toasted bread on top of each soup and sprinkle with the cheese.

5. Broil the soups until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Watch carefully-this process goes fast! Serve immediately.
My Notes:
  • This was very very good! We served it with some roast beef sandwiches.
  • We had enough for one more serving after both DH and I helped ourselves.
  • I added a bay leaf and some fresh thyme (left over from last week) based on the a comment in the recipe review section.
  • Red or white wine can be substituted for the brandy.
  • Swiss or Fontina cheese can be substituted for the Gruyere
  • I added and would have added even more broth. Straight beef broth tends to have a metallic taste so I tend to mix it with vegetable broth.
  • Even though the recipe calls for salt/pepper I haven't needed to add it to the past few recipes.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Big Stink 2008

Sophie wants you all to know it wasn't her fault this time.

Have you ever heard the expression, "It smells like something curled up and died"? Well, I now know EXACTLY what that smells like.

So, one day last week, DH was out and about helping a neighbor deal with a car thing. While he was gone, I kept hearing a scratching, clawing, thumping noise coming from our fireplace. The flume thingy is stuck closed so I knew it couldn't possibly make its way completely down the chimney, but it was unnerving nonetheless. I just hoped, whatever it was, would somehow find its way out.

It finally stopped making noise a few hours later. Told DH about it, he thought it was a bird, I thought it was a chipmunk. Well, a few days ago I woke up and as I walked downstairs smelled this sour, stale smell. Called DH later in the day and of course he didn't smell a thing.

Well, I called home yesterday afternoon to check in and DH said he definitely smelled the "odor" and agreed with my conclusion that it was our "friend" from the chimney. DH said he did some research on the interweb and that the smell would eventually go away and that he lit candles, so not to worry.
I get home a few hours later.




The smell that hit me when I got home from work was HORRIBLE!! Now it smelled like death trying to be covered with the scent of three different candles (evergreen, mulled harvest, and a spring meadow). Kind of like those bathroom sprays that don't really cover the "odor." Thank goodness the smell was pretty much contained to the downstairs den area only-and all my yarn was upstairs in the craft/crap room- and we could go upstairs to escape the stench.

Thinking back to dealing with the skunk smell of 2007, I remembered how placing bowls of vinegar or bowls of coffee grounds was suppose to neutralize the odor. I figured it couldn't hurt in this case either. So we set up a big bowl of coffee grounds (both used and unused) and it really worked!
DH added a second bowl of the coffee grounds today and I haven't gagged once since I've been home! Here's hoping the smell completely goes away soon!

I'm pretty sure it my weekly soup recipe will be posted on Sunday this week.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Life Formed by Books

My favorite conversations with people generally revolve around books. Books they're currently reading, favorite books, books that have had an impact on them. But lately, I've been reflecting on my reading history. It all started with this book, You've GOT to Read This Book!: 55 People Tell the Story of the Book That Changed Their Life.

I initially checked it out from the library and immediately realized I wanted it as part of my personal collection and bought a copy. Since then, it's made me reflect on books that have influenced my life. I can't say that I had a "defining, life-changing" experience after reading a single book, but I can say that I feel that there are books that I've read that have come to define who I am as a person.

My first real memory of loving books and reading came after my 4th grade teacher read aloud, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. After that, I was hooked on Judy Blume books. I read them again and again and again. What girl hasn't read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret?

There was another book I remember checking out of my school library over and over and over again, Mystery In The Old Red Barn. I really don't remember why, especially since I'm currently not a big fan of mysteries in general, but I know my name was signed several times on the "check-out" card-oh how I wish I could find one of those cards with my name on it. On a whim, several weeks ago I decided to check Ebay to see if I could find an "old-school" version. Sure enough, I did-along with a second book. I am currently rereading it to see why I was so drawn to it. Infact, it's made me want to reread several books I read in high school-this time for pleasure, and not for an assignment. What will my adult eyes/heart get from reading To Kill A Mockingbird as an adult, compared to a teenager?
As I hit my pre-teen/teen years I loved read the Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, and Hardy Boys series. I still love series books to this day. As an adult, I love reading all sorts of books-fiction/nonfiction. So it's hard for me to pinpoint a life changing book, but I know I wouldn't be the same person if reading hadn't been as big of part of my life as it had. It was my way of escaping, blocking out what was going on around me-a comfort blanket of books...and still is.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

February is for.......

Food Network Recipes!
I decided that all my soup recipes for February will be from the Food Network. A little alliteration is a good thing!

Today's Soup: Beef Stew (I made a few alterations based on several reviews of the recipe-see link for original recipe).

FoodTV Show: How to Boil Water (Tyler Florence episode)

Serves: 6-8 (with leftovers)

Vegetable oil, for searing
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, cut into 8ths
7 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, or to cover
5 c. low sodium beef broth
4 c. vegetable broth
1 1/2 c. red wine (I used Merlot)
1/4 c. worcestershire sauce
6 sprigs fresh parsley
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
1 1/2 pounds medium sized red potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
6 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
7 canned whole, peeled tomatoes, lightly crushed

1. Heat a large Dutch oven (stove top/oven safe-cast iron works great) with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Pour in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan (add more if necessary). Season beef cubes generously with salt and pepper. Coat them with flour and add half of them to the pan.
Saute half the meat, uncovered, stirring only occasionally, until well-browned, about 6 minutes. It should look like this:

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef.

2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

3. Return to the pot to the stove and melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scatter a little additional flour over veggies (lightly coat) and cook stirring until lightly toasted.

4. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute more. Add the reserved beef. Add the wine, worcestershire sauce and broths, and bring to a simmer. Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves together with a piece of kitchen twine and add the bundle to the pot.
Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook the meat until just tender, about 1 1/2 hours. (This can also be done on the stove at a low simmer.)

5. Remove pot from the oven. Skim the fat from the cooking liquid with a spoon or ladle. Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, and the tomatoes, and bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens and the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour (mine took an additional 20 minutes). Remove and discard the herb bundle. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.
It was worth the wait!
DH said it was the BEST stew he'd ever had!!

  • This was time intensive, but oh so worth it if you can make it this way. If not, after browning meat and sauteing onion and garlic, I'd dump it in the crockpot with the rest of the ingredients and cook until potatoes/carrots are done.
  • I served it with some potato rolls, but it would taste really good in a bread bowl.

  • Recipe Rescue from the episode suggested:
  • If your stew is too thin, remove some of the liquid and reduce it. When this liquid thickens up, add it back into the stew.
  • If your stew is too salty, add more water.
  • You can store beef stew in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • Put leftovers in a pie plate, cover with some pie dough, bake and have beef pot pie.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Souper Saturday

Soup will be posted tomorrow!  
I'm out and about today!