Creamy Artichoke Soup

Image

 

Don’t pooh pooh the idea of soup in the summer. Even in the summer you get into a dinner routine that can become dull. So why don’t you try some soup? It doesn’t heat up your house since you cook it on the stovetop, for a short time. To make it even more attractive, you use frozen artichoke hearts. Frozen.Artichoke.Hearts. What a time saver. I found this recipe doesn’t make a lot of soup. When I first made it I used a 4 quart Le Creuset dutch oven. My immersion blender couldn’t…..um…er….immerse? I would suggest using a large saucepan or a smaller Le Creuset. You could also pour the soup into a bowl and use the immersion blender. But that seems like more clean up. You can use a blender, but follow the manufacture directions for hot soup. If you have an immersion blender, use it. Clean up is very quick. I’m all about the cleanup.

 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 leeks, white part only, chopped and rinsed in cold water (to remove sand)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small potato, peeled and chopped

1 8-ounce package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

2 cups of chicken stock

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

4 ounces mascarpone cheese

2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish (optional)

 

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until softened. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute. Add the artichokes, stock, salt and pepper and cook until the vegetable are tender, about 20 minutes.

Using a handheld immersion blender, or in a blender in batches, puree the soup. Add the mascarpone and blend again to combine. Ladle soup into serving bowls, adding chives as a garnish.

Adapted from Creamy Artichoke Soup

Breadsticks and Soup for you!

It’s snowing again today. It’s beautiful. Until it turns brown. So today, before the boy went to work, I made some breadsticks and tortellini sausage soup. It hit the spot. There is nothing like the smell of bread baking on a cold winter’s day. The breadstick and soup recipes are from OUR BEST BITES (www.ourbestbites.com). They are simple and delicious. If you are going to make both, start the bread dough first. It has to rise for 45 minutes. The soup is wonderful and I have made a few changes that add a little richness to it. Please make this soup. Now. Tomorrow. Soon. It’s wonderful. I love to bring it to work for my lunch. I zap it in the microwave and I am brought immediately to a happy place. Don’t look at me.

Breadsticks (and Pizza Dough)

If you’ve never worked with yeast, this is the perfect recipe to start. It’s simple and requires very little attention.

1 ½ cup of warm water (about 110 degrees)

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. instant yeast

½ tsp. salt

3 – 4 ½ cups of flour

In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Pour in the water. If you’re not sure about the temperature of the water, pour cool water into the measuring cup and let it sit for 15 minutes. Cool is better than hot. Hot water will kill the yeast and the bread won’t rise. Cool water will just make the dough take longer to rise. No big deal. Stir the mixture. Gradually add more flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger. Add 1 cup at a time. I usually use almost 4 cups. It depends on whether it’s a humid summer’s day or a dry winter’s day. So add and stir.

Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured surface. I like to use parchment paper. I roll out the dough on it and bake the dough on it. Roll the dough in a rectangle and cut into 12 strips with a pizza cutter or knife.

Roll each piece of dough into a snake and then drape it over your forefinger and twist the dough. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Don’t worry if they touch. Pulling freshly baked dough apart is wonderful! Cover with towel and let rise for 30 minutes. They get all chubby on you!

When there’s about 15 minutes to go, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Rub some butter on top of the breadsticks by grabbing a stick of butter with the wrapper on, and run up and down the breadsticks. Ohhhh bread and butter. Sprinkle breadsticks with garlic seasoning or powdery Parmesan cheese in a can (really) and garlic salt. Enjoy!

This dough is also perfect for pizza. Follow the directions until the forming of the breadsticks. Instead, I stretch the dough onto a cookie sheet that has olive oil spread on it and cornmeal. That’s how I make my pizza.

Tortellini Sausage Soup

I have made this soup many times. My family likes it. It makes a great meal on winter’s night and many leftovers. The recipe is not complicated, but it takes many, simple steps. As always, read the recipe thoroughly before making it. I strongly suggest that you prep all the veggies and have all the liquids and spices on hand. Being prepared makes cooking easier and more enjoyable. Trust me on this.

1 lb. Italian Turkey sausage – removed from casing

4 cloves of minced garlic

1 large onion, diced

½ cup of water

2 15-oz cans of chicken broth

½ cup of apple cider (I use apple juice)

16 oz. can of diced tomatoes (I prefer the petite diced tomatoes)

8 oz. tomato sauce

1 cup of diced carrots

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 medium zucchini – grated

12 oz. package of frozen cheese tortellinis

2 Tbsp. tomato paste (optional)

1 Parmesan rind (optional)

Heat pan on a medium heat and add enough olive oil to lightly coat bottom of pan. Add onions and begin to sauté them until translucent. Add the sausage that has been removed from the casing. Break it into pieces. You can further chop the sausage, as it cooks, so don’t worry. Let the sausage cook and brown slightly. Add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, juice, water, broth, carrots, oregano, and basil. Cover and simmer for ½ hour. I like to add tomato paste. The original recipe doesn’t call for it, but I like the flavor it adds. I try and freeze any Parmesan rinds I have. They are a great addition to a soup like this one. The rind gives it a little creaminess.

Add the parsley and zucchini and simmer for about 15 minutes. I like to use a box grater for my zucchini.  ImageYou can add a little more or less zucchini if you’d like. It melts into the soup when it’s cooking. Children do not even know it’s there (HINT) I even put in any chunks that I can’t grate. Whoever gets a zucchini chunk can clean up or be rewarded in any way you’d like (winky winky)
Add the frozen tortellini and cook for about 10 minutes. Serve this with bread or breadsticks and freshly grated Parmesan on top. I hope this feeds your soul too!

Image 6

Onions 101

Let’s talk about cutting onions. I cut a lot of onions. A lot. So I would like to take a minute and show you how I cut them. Dice them to be more precise.

First, I like to trim the tip of the onion off, and then cut from the root end to where the tip was.

Image 1

This make is it much easier to remove the skins.

Image 2

Once you remove the skins, you are ready to dice. I like to turn the onion onto the flat side, and make slices from almost the root to the end of the onion.

Image 3

Now I place my palm on the onion and press down, while I cut horizontally towards the root of the onion. I don’t cut all the way to the root, but as close as you can.

Image 4

Depending on the size of the onion, you can make one or two horizontal cuts. Please excuse my peasant hands. Hey, they work just fine. Sorta.

Now you are ready to dice the onion.

Image 5

It’s that simple. I suggest trying if first on a large onion. This is a great technique that saves you time when prepping for cooking.  I hope you try this method.

No Bones About It ????

SPLIT PEA SOUP

Christmas has come and gone. It was wonderful but I am glad it’s over. As usual, I’m exhausted. I loved having all the kids home. I loved making delicious food. I loved the happiness we all shared for several days. I loved visiting family and loved even more, returning home. I never thought we would eat every morsel created in my kitchen. But.we.did. All I have left is a ham bone. This ham bone will continue to give us nourishment in the form of split pea soup. Don’t scrunch your nose in disgust. Split pea soup is delicious and nutritious. The split peas are high in fiber, iron, protein and some calcium too. Add in the onions, celery, carrots, some cut ham and you have another meal in a bowl. Do yourself a favor and have some real split pea soup. Order it at a good restaurant, but please don’t eat the canned version. I love to throw in a handful of oyster crackers in mine. Perfect for a cold winter’s night. Try it some time!

8 cups of cold water

1 large ham bone (fat and skin removed but leave some ham on it)

2 cups green dried split peas (one bag)

2 large carrots, peeled and rough chopped

2 large onions, rough chopped

2 large celery ribs, rough chopped

2 dried bay leaves

2 beef bouillon cubes OR 1 tbsp. of beef base

1 tsp. salt

5 whole black peppercorns

In a large stockpot, add the rinsed peas and cold water. Bring the peas to a boil. Once they come to a boil, take them off the burner and cover the pot. Let the peas and water sit for 1 hour.

Return the pot to the stove and add the ham bone, carrots, onions, celery, bay leaf, beef bouillon, salt, and peppercorns. If you don’t have a ham bone, smoke ham hocks can be used. My grocery does sell them sometimes. Put the lid on and bring the pot back to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. I let the soup cook for about 1.5 hours. Stir the soup occasionally.

I let the soup cool for about a half hour of the hot burner. The next step is putting the soup through a food mill. You don’t want to pour boiling hot soup in the food mill and risk splashing yourself. Before you put the hot soup through the food mill, take out the ham bone, brushing off any split peas. Once the bone cools, pick off any bits of ham that you can. I like to ladle the soup in the food mill that is placed over a bowl. I press everything but the ham bone. If you don’t have a food mill, you could probably use a blender, food processor or an immersion blender. I like my soup smooth, but you could absolutely leave yours chunky. You could take out some of the celery, onions and carrots and then blend the soup so it’s still chunky. When it cools in the fridge it will become very thick. This soup is great to transport to work for lunch, as it won’t thin out until you heat it up. You can add some water when you are reheating, if the soup is too thick for your liking. Take some time this winter and make some soup. You will be surprised at how easy it is!