Tortellini Sausage Soup

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In 2014 I posted this recipe, but foolishly buried it with a recipe for breadsticks. Those breadsticks are delicious, but the soup is the real rock star. Luckily no one saw it. I forgot an ingredient and have, since 2014, made some intentional changes.

Instead of using 2 cans of chicken broth, I now buy a 32 ounce carton of broth. Sometimes I use vegetable stock. Whichever you have. I sometimes use apple juice instead of apple cider. Apple cider is somewhat seasonal. I have even used other fruit juices. It’s a small amount, and I think it just acts against the acid in the tomatoes. Sometimes people add sugar to tomato sauce. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it. I used frozen tortellinis. Well, hello 2020! I now prefer Barilla’s Three Cheese Tortellini. They are found with all the other pastas in a 12 ounce bag. I like them, because they don’t take freezer space, and the dried tortellinis are much smaller. They fit on a soup spoon better! Sometimes I forget, and use the whole 12 ounce package. Oops. Nothing a little more water or chicken broth can’t fix. What do you do with 2 ounces of tortellinis? They just get pushed to the back of a shelf. I still stand by my decision to use petite diced tomatoes and a parmesan rind. I use a whole pound of sausage instead of three links. What do you do with the rest of the sausage in the package? It’s just heartier. I also switched from a can of plain tomato sauce, to 1/2 a jar of Raos Homemade Pizza sauce. It was purely accidental. I didn’t have plain sauce one night and I used what I had. Pizza sauce. The family asked if I did something different to the soup. I hesitated to answer, thinking they were going to complain. They thought the soup tasted better! The pizza sauce is full of flavor! You can freeze the rest of the pizza sauce. No waste!

Let’s make some soup. ‘Tis soup season in New England…

1 lb. Italian chicken sausage, removed from casings

1 large onion, diced

1/2 cup water

32 ounce chicken broth

1/2 cup apple cider

1 16 ounce can petite diced tomatoes

8 oz can of tomatoes sauce or 1/2 jar (6.5 ounces) Raos Homemade Pizza Sauce

1 cup of diced carrots

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 tbsp. dried parsley

2 medium zucchini, grated

8-10 ounces of uncooked tortellinis

1 tbsp. tomato paste (optional)

1 small Parmesan rind (optional)

Before you start cooking, grate your zucchini. Chop your onions and place them in a bowl. Do the same with the carrots. Mince the garlic and put it in a small bowl. Pull out the herbs from your cabinet. It makes cooking less stressful if you have everything ready before you start cooking. Trust me.

Heat a large pan on medium heat and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and begin to sauté them, until soft. You can add more olive oil if they start to brown. You don’t want browning. Add the sausage to the pan and break it into large pieces with a spoon. The soup may or may not taste better if you use an old wooden spoon. Let the sausage cook and brown slightly. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce (or pizza sauce), juice, water, broth, carrots, oregano and basil to the pan. Cover and simmer for 1/2 hour. I usually add some tomato paste, after I add the garlic and let it cook up. If you’re using the pizza sauce, you don’t need to do this. The tomato paste is completely optional whether you use tomato sauce or pizza sauce. I just like tomato paste. Add the Parmesan rind to pot. It may stick to the bottom of the pan, so give the soup an occasional stir. The Parmesan adds a creaminess. Again, completely optional.

Add the parsley and zucchini (including the juice) and simmer for about 15 minutes. Give it a stir. The zucchini melts in the soup. I use a box grater with my zucchini. You can also use a food processor.

Add the uncooked tortellini and simmer the soup for about 10-12 minutes. Give it a stir or two. If you have time, let the soup sit for about 20 minutes before you eat it. The tortellini will continue to cook and the soup thickens. Serve this with bread or breadsticks. I like to add some fresh grated Parmesan on top.

This should feed your family and your soul. This soup makes a great work lunch. It also freezes very nicely. I freeze it in meal-sized containers. You may need to add some water when you reheat it.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon-Apple Cake

I stumbled upon this rich apple cake recipe. I’m always on the search for new recipes. This time of year I am looking for apple recipes. I found another apple cake recipe that was similar but the cake tended to brown too much on its sides and it made a lot of cake. Too much cake, actually. Nothing says Fall like the scent of cinnamon and apples. No candle can replicate this scent. It brings me joy when someone walks into the kitchen, and smiles when they smell the cinnamon and apples baking in the oven. Sheer bliss!

I substituted Neufchatel cheese for cream cheese. Who doesn’t love a good recipe adaption? Calories saved! The cream cheese in the batter gives the cake lots of moisture. It’s amazing. I also used butter instead of margarine. I love butter too much to cheat on it. I also increased the amount of apple I used. The recipe calls for 3 cups of chopped and peeled apples, which according to the recipe is 2 large apples. I don’t know how 2 apples makes three cups of chopped apples. I found 4 cups of apples made this cake. Apples come in a variety of sizes. I use Macintosh apples. I like the apples to get soft and form puddles. Sometimes I throw in a honey crisp or two. I would plan on about 4-6 apples. I chop them, add the cinnamon and sugar, and let them sit while I wait for the oven to heat. This draws out the juices. Taste the apples. I like the apples sweet with lots of cinnamon. The batter does not have cinnamon, so I like a little extra with the apples. Cinnamon and sugar top this cake for a little crunch. Its a sweet cake, but isn’t that how it should be? I used a 9 X 9 square pan and not, the suggested springform pan. My cake was done in about 45 minutes. The change is baking pans changed the cooking time.

1 3/4 cups sugar, divided

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla extract

6 ounces block style Neufchatel cream cheese

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

3 cups of chopped, peeled Macintosh apples (or any baking apple)

Cooking spray

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of pan with cooking spray.

Peel and chop apples. Combine 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Taste the apples before adding the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Sometime grocery store apples are not that sweet. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon/sugar mixture to be mixed with the apples. The first time I made this cake, I used all of the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Oops! I always have some in a container, for toast of whatever. I used some of that for the cake top. Taste the apples after you add the cinnamon/sugar. You may want to add more than the 2 tablespoons.

Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, vanilla, and cream cheese at medium speed with a mixer until well-blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter/cream cheese mixture, at a low speed until blended. The batter will be thick.

I measure out 3 cups of apples and then stir the apple mixture into the batter. I usually put in about 4 cups, give or take. Anything left in the bowl is a nice snack for the chef. Include the juices in the bowl when you add the apples into the batter. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Set the timer for 35-40 minutes and test it with a tooth pick, until the tooth pick comes out with some moist crumbs. Try to test where the is more cake, than apple. The cake will pull away from the sides of the pan when it’s done.

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack. This will stay fresh for a couple of days on the counter. If it lasts that long. You can also store it in the refrigerator. This recipe doesn’t make a large cake that never gets finished. It’s the perfect size.

Make yourself a cup of tea. Slice a piece of cake. Sit and enjoy the quiet and the experience. Enjoying the little things in life is important.

French Apple Turnovers

Long ago, in the days when I subscribed to magazines, I found this recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine. The recipe is no longer online since the magazine has been sold. I’m so glad I saved it. This is a classic pastry made with puff pastry and apples. It’s a quick weeknight treat. To get fancy, you can add in chopped raisins with the apples or a splash of brandy with the cinnamon and sugar. I sometimes add boiled cider for a flavor boost.You will impress your family and guests.

In the past I have made turnovers with frozen puff pastry. I found a puff pastry in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. The puff pastry has a long shelf life, and you don’t have to plan on defrosting anything! It works just as well as frozen puff pastry.

2 tbsp. butter

3+ small apples, peeled and diced.

3 tbsp. or more of granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

kosher salt

1 large egg

1 sheet of puff pastry, cut into four rectangles

Heat oven to 420 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced apples, sugar, cinnamon, 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until the apples are softened. I often us Macintosh apples, since I tend to have them in my kitchen. You can use any baking apple. The original recipe calls for one large sweet apple. I find I need more apple for the filling. I’d rather have too much, than not enough. Taste this mixture. Add more sugar and cinnamon to taste. Not all apples are the same sweetness. Any extra softened apple can be the chef’s snack. You can cook the apples earlier in the day and bring to room temperature when you are ready to use. I don’t like putting hot apples on the puff pastry.

In a small bowl, beat the egg with 2 tbsps. of water. Lightly brush the edges of each rectangle with some egg wash. This will help seal the pastries. I often do this on a parchment lined baking sheet. I find it easier to fill the rectangles on the parchment, rather than transferring filled pastry to the baking sheet.

Spread the cooked apples and any juice over half the long side of each rectangle, but not over the egg wash border.

Fold the pastry half without apples over the side with apples. Long side should align with long sides. Press to seal the edges tightly, using the tine of a fork. I like to wipe off any extra filling and egg wash with a paper towel. It could burn while baking.

Brush the tops with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with sparkling or granulated sugar. I love the crunch the sugar gives.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

Enjoy. A scoop of vanilla ice cream couldn’t hurt!

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White Beans, Shrimp and Andouille

The pandemic has made me think about food. Differently. Shortages of items that are usually in abundance will do that. It’s hard not to plan everything now. You see paper towels, you buy them. Chicken, I grab a couple of packages even though there appears to be plenty. Pancake mix and syrup, yes please! I am always calculating freezer and shelf space. It’s exhausting, but I am fortunate I can worry about how much I can buy and not if I can buy.

I’ve been using beans for a few years in my recipes. You can stack lots of cans in your cabinet. I’ve also read a lot about dry beans. I have found dry beans at the grocery store can be old and take longer to cook. I decided to try to order a brand that had been advertised on social media. They got me. I ordered some Camellia beans. They were more expensive than store dry beans. I hoped they were not old and were easy to cook. I was correct on both counts.They were wonderful! First, I soaked them in cold water for about 6 hours. I used my InstantPot to cook the dry beans. I cooked them in water, with an onion, carrot, garlic and olive oil to stop the frothing. I read it was a good idea to cook them this way, and to season them. I sprinkled a little Creole seasoning in the water. Forty minutes later, I had soft and creamy Northern beans. I used half for this recipe and froze the other half. One pound cooked up to about two pounds.

These creamy beans can be used in salads, soups, or just a simple snack, warmed and drizzled with good olive oil. Use your imagination. I love to canned beans for the convenience, but these cooked dry beans were creamy unlike canned bean.

I found a couple of different recipes online and tweaked them. There are many, many bean recipes. I used some from Camellia beans website. I figured they were the bean experts. They have recipes and how-to’s on the website. Even if you don’t buy their beans, peruse the website for information.

1/2 – 3/4 pounds of cooked Northern beans

1 large onion, diced

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped celery (optional)

1/4 cup chopped red or green pepper (optional)

2 tbsp. dried parsley or 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3/4 tsp. ground thyme

dash of cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning

black pepper and salt to taste

1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and water, enough to cover beans

1 cup raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 package of Andouille sausage

3/4-1 cup of heavy cream

Hot white rice

In a large heavy pot, add the olive oil and sauté onions until soft. I sprinkle 1/2 tsp. kosher salt over the onions to help draw out the water and soften them. If you are going to use the celery and peppers, add them now to soften them. I did not have them, but the dish was still very tasty. I would use red peppers for a little sweetness and color. Stir in the thyme and cayenne pepper. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the cooked beans and and stock/water to cover the beans. Add salt, pepper and creole seasoning. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

While the beans are simmering, brown the Andouille. I heat a non-stick pan and brown, slices of sausage until slightly browned.

Add the cream and raw shrimp to the bean mixture and simmer until the shrimp are pink. Add the sausage to the mixture.

I let the beans, shrimp and andouille simmer for a little longer, thickening the cream sauce. Serve over or under white rice.