the_soup_nazi017

Ok, I admit.  I am a bit of soup junkie.  One of the many reasons I love when the weather turns colder is because I can start breaking out the cookbooks and making a different soup each week.  How can you not love it?  It’s filling and healthy, you usually only have to dirty one pot and it feeds you for days.  It’s comforting, like an old friend or a warm blanket.  There’s just something about soup. 

I also am currently obsessing over brussel sprouts (reference Eat Your Veggies) and find myself trying every recipe I find that features them.  I have had the Sprouts and Sausage Soup recipe tucked into my recipe binder for years and finally just tried it out on the family this weekend.  It was a raving success and so, so easy!  Few ingredients, quick prep and cooking time and very satisfying.  This would definitely make a good Monday night football soup served with some hearty bread and beers all around. 

Sausage & Sprouts Winter Soup  – Serves 8

1 lb. Brussels sprouts

1 lb. sausage link (turkey kielbasa, andouille, etc)

2 tsp. olive oil

6 large red potatoes

2 bay leaves

2 tsp caraway seeds

8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Trim ends off Brussels sprouts and cut in half lengthwise.  Set aside.  Cut sausage into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Put olive oil and sausage into large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sausage is well-browned, about 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2 –inch pieces. 

When sausage is browned, add bay leaves and caraway seeds.  Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add potatoes, broth and 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil.  Add Brussels sprouts.  Partially cover pot and reduce heat to low to maintain a steady simmer.  Cook soup until sprouts and potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and serve soup hot with crusty bread and a green salad. 

My good friend from college, Denise (one of the D’s in the recipe title) and I are into emailing and texting each other what we’re making for dinner.  We also sometimes do the “ok, I have these five ingredients on  hand, what can I do with them?” challenge.  It’s been so fun to get to know each other as fellow  foodies and share our passion for cooking since our friendship in college was based much more on  knowing each other as fellow Coors Light drinkers  and sharing our passion for 2 am Jack-in-the-box runs.  We both love the magazine Everyday Food and we tend to lean towards Mediterranean influences like kalmata olives, capers, feta cheese — all the really good stuff.    We also like to take other people’s recipes and “doctor” them up a bit.  Put our own twist on them if you will.  So D & D’s (Daphne and Denise’s) Winter Vegetable Soup is just that, a doctored (and better if I do say so myself) version of an Everyday Food recipe Denise and I both decided to make.

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D&D’s Winter Vegetable Soup (adapted from Everyday Food)  – Serves 4-5

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 medium onion, cut into fine dice

2 garlic cloves, minced

coarse salt and ground pepper

1 lb. acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 bunch kale or escarole (for kale, ribs cut away and discarded), leaves torn

5 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth

1 can canellini beans, rinsed

1 small package cheese tortellini

½ package diced prosciutto

3 sprigs fresh thyme (if available)

grated fresh Parmesan, for serving

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium.  Cook onion, garlic and prosciutto until fragrant, about three minutes; season with salt and pepper.  Add squash and kale or escarole and cook until greens are wilted, about three minutes.  Add broth, beans and thyme.  Bring to a simmer and cook until squash and greens are tender, about 12 minutes.  Add the tortellini in when you have about 5 minutes remaining of cooking.  Season soup with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan, if desired.                                                                    

accent_smilingsoup_200x153Every one knows chicken soup is good for the body and soul.  Whenever I stayed home sick from school as a kid, my mom would give me some form of Campbell’s chicken soup, saltine crackers and 7-up and for the most part, the world would be right again.  What I love about this Greek Chicken Soup recipe is that it’s easy and so delicious, it makes my mouth kind of pucker to think of it’s savory, tart flavor.  It’s very forgiving so feel free to add more/less chicken.  You can also use a different pasta noodle but I love it with the orzo.  It’s a great soup to take to a sick or down in the dumps friend. 

Greek Chicken Lemon Soup (Avgolemono)

8 cups (64 oz) chicken stock/broth

¾ cup orzo

1 lb. cooked boneless, skinless diced chicken breast

3 eggs

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

1 tbsp. grated lemon zest (1 lemon)

salt and fresh pepper

2 tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley

Hungarian paprika, for garnish

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the orzo and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes.  About 5 minutes before the pasta is done, add the diced chicken. 

Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl.  Whisk the eggs while pouring in the lemon juice.  Add the zest.  Whisking continuously, slowly pour a ladleful of the hot stock into the egg mixture.  Reduce the heat to low.  Then, while whisking the soup in the pan, slowly pour in the egg/lemon mixture.  This will thicken the soup slightly.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and serve garnished with the parsley and paprika, if desired.

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spaghetti-meat-sauce

I lived a whole 29 years of my life never having had a bolognese sauce.  Let me tell you, that was 29 years too long. 

So what is Bolognese sauce (ragu alla bolognese in Italian, also known by its French name sauce bolognaise)? It is a meat-based sauce used with pasta originating in Bologna, Italy.  Bolognese sauce is sometimes thought to be a tomato sauce, but truly authentic recipes have only a small amount of tomato.

The people of Bologna traditionally serve their famous ragù with freshly made tagliatelle (tagliatelle alla bolognese) and their traditionally green lasagne. Less traditionally, the sauce is served with macaroni or other durum wheat short pasta.

The traditional recipe, registered in 1982 by the Bolognese delegation of Accademia Italiana della Cucina, confines the ingredients to beef, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, meat broth, red wine, and (optionally) milk or cream.  However, different recipes, even in the Bolognese tradition, make use of chopped pork or pork sausage, while chicken or goose liver may be added along with the beef or even veal for special occasions, and today many use both butter and olive oil for cooking the celery, carrot and onion. Prosciutto, mortadella, or porcini fresh mushrooms when in season may be added to the ragù to further enrich the sauce. Milk is frequently used in the early stages of cooking to render the meat flavors more “delicate” but cream is very rare in the everyday recipe and only a very little would be used. According to Marcella Hazan in “The Classic Italian Cookbook”, the longer Ragù alla Bolognese cooks the better; a 5- or 6-hour simmer is not unusual. 

In fact, I don’t even think I had ever heard of it or knew it existed even having worked in the food industry and presumably knowing a great deal about food.  I first tasted it at a gourmet supper club that I was invited to join back when we lived in Colorado.  It certainly doesn’t look gourmet at first appearance, but more like a humble, everyday meat sauce over pasta.  The fragrance was the first clue that this might be a very special and different sauce.  Rich, meaty and a little sweet.  The recipe I had that night wasfrom the hostesses’ Italian grandmother.  It was divine and I was hooked.  It instantly became my favorite pasta sauce bumping a really great vodka sauce down to second and pesto to third.  Alas, she wouldn’t divulge the recipe so I toiled and tinkered until I perfected it myself. 

I didn’t think I would ever need or want to try another Bolognese sauce until I saw the recipe in last month’s Everyday Food (September 2009) for Pork Bolognese.  I decided to give it try since (as you know if you’ve read previous posts) I love this magazine and its recipes.  I really was not expecting much.  I am a self-admitted Bolognese snob.  I will try it at restaurants that claim their version is good/authentic and unfortunately, it almost always disappoints. 

But guess what?  Their version was a knock-out.  Kids loved it.  Hubby loved it.  And I LOVED it.  So now I’m in a quandary.  I can’t decide which one I like better.  Hubby says mine and not just because it’s mine but I don’t know.  I’m truly torn.  Mine is a little more healthful because it doesn’t have milk in it and probably because of that also more true to the traditional definition of a Bolognese.  But the Everyday Food version is delicious as well.  If you’re so inclined, try them both out sometime and come back and let me know which you like or if you have a better one, please share it with me.

We’re having the Traditional Bolognese recipe over penne this week.  Mangia Mangia!

 

Traditional Bolognese Sauce

1 ½ lbs lean ground beef

½ cup sweet white wine

1 medium onion, chopped

3 slices bacon, chopped

1 cup beef stock/broth

16 oz. can stewed tomatoes

16 oz. can tomato sauce

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Your choice of pasta:  egg noodles, penne, spaghetti – all work well

 Saute bacon over low flame in a large skillet and drain, leaving 2 Tbsp. of fat in pan.  Remove bacon from pan and set aside.  Add carrots, onions and garlic to pan and let cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add ground beef and break up with a fork.  Cook until the meat is completely browned.  Return bacon to pan. Add wine and let simmer until it has evaporated, stirring often. Add broth and let simmer on low heat until evaporated.  Add tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Salt and pepper, to taste.  Continue to simmer, covered over low heat for 1 to 1 ½ hours.  You really can’t cook this too long but at least allow a minimum of 1 hour.   Serve over drained, cooked pasta and top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

 

Pork Bolognese (from Everyday Food, September 2009) Serves 8

3 slices bacon, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

2 lbs. ground pork

¼ cup tomato paste

1 cup dry white wine

1 ¼ cups whole milk

1 can (28 ounces) tomato sauce

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 bay leaf

5 sprigs fresh thyme

coarse salt and ground pepper

cooked penne rigate, for serving

grated Parmesan, for serving

 In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, cook bacon over medium until fat is released, 5 minutes.  Add onion, carrot and celery; cook until soft, 6 minutes.  Raise heat to medium-high; add pork and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon until browned, 7 minutes.  Add tomato paste; cook until pork is coated, 4 minutes.

Add wine; cook until reduced by three-fourths.  Add 1 cup milk; cook until reduced by half.  Add tomato sauce, broth, bay leaf, thyme, 2 ½ tsps. Salt and ½ tsp pepper.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour.  Stir in remaining ¼ cup milk.  Serve sauce over pasta, topped with cheese. 

 

 

 

 

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beta-fishWe started off today on a sad note.  Super Dorothy the super-long living beta fish passed on to the great ocean in the sky this week.  Super Dorothy was my 7 -year old middle daughter’s pet who managed to live a very long (2 years) life despite being for the most part completely ignored and rarely fed.  I highly recommend beta fish as a family pet.  They must  have the market cornered on low-maintenance.  You might not be able to cuddle with them but you also don’t have to spend $50 a bag on premium dog food, make overnight doggie “spa” arrangements when you go out of town or end up with chewed up shoes, toys and underwear all over your house.  Don’t even get me started on the amount of poop a dog adds to your life.  Too much.  I promise (kind of) that I’m not bitter about our dog Rocky.  He is however very high maintenance!

So I scooped Super “D” up in a cup (she was getting pretty rank after two days a’floating in her bowl) and we sadly trudged to the canal near the bus stop so we could quickly eulogize our beloved fish.  L said some sweet words.  “Dorothy you were a great fish.  I hope you are happy swimming in heaven.  Good-bye.  Amen.”  We added the obligatory “Father, Son, Holy Spirit (we are catholic after all)” and tossed her in.  The current carried her away to a bigger and better fish bowl somewhere up there we hope.  Within a minute, the kids had forgotten all about Dead Dorothy and were running for the bus.  Amazing resilence those kids!

 

crotch splitter

Ok, on to what you are all (all three of you at this point) dying to hear about (come on, admit it!), the crotch splitters.  Any guesses?  I won’t keep you in suspense any longer.  I went to meet with my trainer, the slave driver Crystal, who you will be hearing a lot about.  Actually she is awesome and even though she pushes me very hard — I love her.  And I guess I am paying her to push me hard so that’s a good thing.  She seems to be under the assumption that I am some kind of studdette who can endure a constant barrage of high intensity push-ups, pull-ups, dips and yes, crazy exercises called crotch splitters.  I just couldn’t even do those without laughing although really they hurt too badly to laugh. 

 Try to visualize.  You stand on this really tall step (I am somewhat vertically challenged so anything that comes up past my belly button seems really tall to me) with a big exercise ball to the side of the step.  You put your right leg extended out onto the top of the ball and you squat down as you push the ball out with your extended leg, thus putting you in a position akin to (yes, I’m going to say it)  “splitting your crotch.”  Are you doing it right now?  Ok, now you know my pain.  And then she made me curl a medicine ball to boot.  Yikes!  All this for a tight tushy?  Hmmm…

blue-mooseFor those of you local to da’ho (Idaho, that is), The Blue Moose in Eagle, just happens to be one of my favorite places to eat.  Hubby asked me to meet him for a late lunch date (sweet) after the torturous workout.  I was nervous that I might not be able to lift my fork to my mouth but accepted his kind offer anyway.  We’ve been together so long (almost 20 years) I figured he’d still love me even if I had to lick my salad off my plate. 

Marcy, proprietor and chef extraordinaire at The Moose, has added a charming, rustic wine bar complete with bar stools to the main entry area of the cafe.  Last night kicked off the Cafe’s first official “wine” night.  Wine was flowing as was conversation with a cozy lit fireplace warming up the room.  This is going to be a regular happening going on both Thursday and Friday nights at Blue Moose, so line up your  sitter for the kids (if you have them) and high-tail it over there.  She’s going to have some great comfort food specials going on as well.  Think Yankee pot roast, beef stew in a bread bowl, chicken pot-pie and the like.  And then of course all her regular to-die-for salads (big, big fan of the Maytag and the Orange Grove) and ginormous sandwiches.  Finish it off with one of her famous frosted brownies and someone can  just roll you out the door back to your car.  Later you can find Crystal and do some crotch splitters.

Happy Weekend!!

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