Tag Archives: entree

Italian Wedding Soup for the soul

Good morning afternoon!

The man of the house is working today, and it’s a lazy Sunday for the women of the house! I’m blogging, drinking tea, catching up on DVR’d shows, doing laundry and relaxing before a busy week, and Stella has assumed her usual Sunday position beside me, snoring on the couch. I am planning to wake her lazy, furry butt up soon to go for a walk. It’s a beautiful, sunny day – but it’s still FREEZING! Spring is almost here, but it sure doesn’t feel like it! The weather network says we’re sitting at MINUS FOUR. Can you believe it?! I’d settle for 0 C at this point, but -4 C! I just can’t. Thankfully I’m heading to some warmer parts for a business trip this week. We have a jam-packed schedule, so I don’t think I’ll be soaking up the sun too much, but it sure will be nice to escape these chilly temps for a few days!

I realized after I was almost done writing this that it’s St. Patrick’s Day! I think my dad’s mom has some Irish roots, but my red-headed hubby (who actually has Scottish heritage) is about my closest Irish connection. So, while all of you lads and lassies are celebrating your roots, here’s a recipe that’s far from Irish, but celebrates my roots!

On cold Sundays, I crave warm dishes that fill my house with comforting smells. I made Italian Wedding Soup a couple of Sundays ago, on a day similar to this, and it was a perfect Sunday meal. This recipe (and the beautiful soup tureen to accompany it!) was given to me by my mom’s first cousin, Linda, at my wedding shower last summer, and I was so excited to finally try it. It was super simple and so satisfying!

Start by heating a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot, and adding a finely chopped onion and three finely chopped carrots (I used a handful of baby carrots). Cook for about four minutes, until the onion starts to brown.

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Add one clove of finely chopped garlic (or half a teaspoon of minced garlic from my beloved Costco jar!) and two teaspoons of sage, and cook for about a minute. Don’t overcook the garlic – a minute is perfect to release the fragrance of the garlic.
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Start to build the soup base with three cups of chicken broth (or three chicken stock packets and three cups of water, which is what I did). Add in half a cup of parmesan cheese or one parmesan cheese rind. If you buy a brick of parmesan, don’t throw away the rind! I often use mine in soups or add them into my tomato sauce. The flavour it gives is unreal. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for about 7 or 8 more minutes.

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While your soup is simmering, start the mini pork meatballs that make this soup truly filling and pleasing. If you’re not a fan of pork, use ground beef instead! In a large bowl, mix half a pound of ground pork, three tablespoons of breadcrumbs and a clove of garlic, finely chopped. I also added about a tablespoon of parmesan. Form into one-inch meatballs and set aside.

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When your meatballs are formed, increase the heat of your soup to medium-high. Add in three quarters of a cup of small, round pasta. I used orzo, because it’s what I had on hand, but you could any variety of small, round pasta.

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Cook for about six minutes, then add your meatballs. Let them cook for about four or five more minutes, until they are firm and float to the top. If you added a parmesan cheese rind, scoop it out and discard it now before it’s too hard to fish out.

You’re almost done! Stir in eight ounces (half a large container) of baby spinach. I had to do this in batches. The spinach wilts down beautifully, and brings the dish together.

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Ladle into bowls and serve with a hunk of crusty bread.

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This soup was delicious, and like so many soups, was almost better the next day because all of the flavours had melded together even more. Recipes like this with a long list of ingredients can be intimidating, but the majority of these ingredients are fridge and pantry staples. It all came together in under an hour, and made the house smell fabulous! I typically am more of a fan of creamier soups, but a bowl of this gave me the same warm feeling. Easy and pleasy. 🙂

Well, I’m off to get started on my laundry, and to drag the lazy white furball beside me out for a walk! Have a great Sunday!

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Easy weeknight lemon-pepper chicken and potato wedges

I have a love/hate relationship with Sundays.

My ideal weekend includes a productive Saturday and a relaxing Sunday. I usually spend my Saturday mornings cleaning the house (I try to do it a little bit at a time through the week, but it never seems to happen that way) and catching up on laundry. If Alex is working, I might spend the day with my mom at Costco or go grocery shopping/errand running. If he’s home, we’ll make breakfast together (and by that I mean he’ll make breakfast while I drag my lazy butt out of bed!), and work on house projects, wander around Home Depot or some other home improvement store, or take Stella for a walk. I like getting things done on Saturday so that we can take it sloooow on Sunday.

This weekend was a little bit different. On Friday night after work, my mom and I took off for a little shopping getaway. She found a great deal on a hotel in Buffalo and we went over for the night for some shopping and mother-daughter time! My mom and I are besties . . . seriously! It was so nice to have some time for just the two of us. We hit great some great sales and had some great eats! Saturday morning we had brunch at the hotel. Mom had a three-cheese fritatta and I opted for the buffalo-chicken breakfast panini. They were both fabulous, and we were absolutely stuffed!

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ImageOur meals kept us going as we shopped until we dropped – allllll day! We finally stopped around 4:30 on Saturday at Panera Bread for dinner before we went home. A cup of broccoli-cheddar soup and half a Frontega chicken panini for me . . . and a cup of French onion soup and a spinach power salad for mama!

ImageMmm, I love me some Panera. It’s finally making its way to Canada with a few locations near me, but I haven’t been to any of them yet. Probably a good thing that it’s not near where I live . . . I’m sure I’d visit far too often!

Anyway, we made it home and then I met up with Alex at our friends’ house before going to a Buck ‘n Doe for friends of ours. It was a super fun, but late night! What made it worse is that we changed the clocks ahead early this morning. I love that our days will be longer, but hated that we lost an hour today! Sundays always go by way too quickly, which is why I haaaate them, and today seemed to fly by. We did have a nice relaxing day, had lunch with friends and a delicious steak dinner, but it went by way too fast. I could have used an extra hour!

Earlier last week – before this beautiful weather hit! – I had a craving for some warm, soul-pleasing food. You know what I’m talking about, right? The meal that usually takes all day to prepare; one that fills the house with the best smell. But it was a weeknight, and I just wasn’t in the mood to get fancy. On nights like these, chicken is usually my go-to. I was smart and took out a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts to defrost the night before. When I got home, I decided I would make easy lemon-pepper chicken with asparagus and potato wedges.

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I started by combining about a teaspoon of lemon pepper seasoning with a teaspoon of garlic powder. I sprinkled it all over the chicken breasts and popped them back in the fridge until I was ready to cook.

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Meantime, I cut three medium-sized potatoes into wedges and soaked them in water for about an hour.

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This releases some of the starch in the potatoes, so that they become extra crispy when you bake them. Soak them for as long as you can – at least 30 minutes – and pat them dry with paper towels thoroughly. Drizzle some EVOO and seasonings of your choice – I opted for plain old seasoning salt. Lay them on a non-stick sprayed baking sheet, and pop them in the oven at 400 F for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.

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I put my asparagus in the oven at the same time as the potatoes. Baked vegetables are our fave around here. Whether it be broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower or even Brussels sprouts, a drizzle of EVOO and lots of salt and pepper does the trick for seasonings, and baked at 400 F for about 20 minutes keeps the crunch of the veggies that I love so much.

I decided to brown the chicken in a frying pan for about three or four minutes on each side to get an extra-crispy coating, then finished them in the oven along with the potatoes and asparagus. The chicken took about 15 more minutes in the oven, but be sure to cook them until they are no longer pink inside.

ImageThis was a simple, satisfying dinner that came together quickly. I had time to play with since Alex wasn’t due to arrive home until about two hours after I got home from work, but it could easily come together even quicker. The potato wedges were crispy, the asparagus was crunchy and vibrant green, and the chicken was perfectly spicy and tangy! A super soul-satisfying meal.

ImageI can’t believe it’s already so late – I know we only lost one hour, and it’s worth it, but I always find this is a weird adjustment! Here’s to a great week of sunshine and good eats!

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Home run!

I love experimenting and trying new things in the kitchen. Sometimes things don’t work out – like my brownie dessert from a few weeks ago. But sometimes, I hit it out of the park. Crunchy Buffalo Ranch Chicken is one of those recipes.

Toot, toot.

Hear that?

Just me . . . tooting my own horn.

😉

Crunchy Buffalo Ranch Chicken combines spicy buffalo wing sauce with tangy ranch seasoning, all rolled into crispy French-fried onions. This recipe is definitely a take-out fake-out. It doesn’t mimic a restaurant recipe, per se, but it certainly tastes fast-food worthy!

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I work for two food trade magazines and, as part of my job, from time to time I am required to attend industry trade shows. At one show, I visited a company’s booth for a demonstration and received a bag of these crispy fried onions. They’re the crunchy garnish that restaurants often serve over top of salads, burgers and steaks. The bag sat in my pantry before I realized that the expiry date was soon approaching and I should try something with them. The back of the bag had recipes on it, including one that used the onions as breadcrumbs for chicken. When I turned to the trusty ole’ Internet, I found that other people had done this with rave reviews, and made some modifications to the recipe.

I started by cutting two boneless, skinless chicken breasts into nugget-sized pieces. You could leave the chicken breasts whole, but this ensured more of the crunchy coating covered each bite.

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Prepare your dredging station. My usual breading process starts with dipping the meat in a beaten egg, followed by breadcrumbs and seasonings. In this recipe, I replaced the egg with my favourite buffalo wing sauce, and crushed up about one cup of fried onions into a breadcrumb consistency. For an extra kick, I added a package of ranch seasoning into the onions (usually I use homemade ranch seasoning, but I had an extra package kicking around). I’ve seen smaller packages of these fried onions in the salad dressing/crouton aisle at the grocery store. If you can’t find them, don’t sweat. Just substitute something else crunchy for the breading, like corn flakes – but don’t skip out on the ranch seasoning!
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The chicken pieces were dunked into the buffalo wing sauce and rolled around in the onion and ranch powder mixture. Line up the chicken pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 F for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. DSC_0649

The buffalo wing sauce makes the chicken so tender, and with a crunchy coating and bite sized pieces, this chicken is perfectly poppable.

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You guys, this chicken is the bomb. I’m not even kidding . . . I would make this (and eat it) every day if I could. And it got a double thumbs up from hubby – and my mama! She may or may not have kept the chicken I gave her to try all to herself. Hey, I’m not judging . . . I may or may not do the same thing!

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Super Bowl eats, part 2

Like I mentioned in my last post, we had some friends over to watch the Beyonce concert Super Bowl on Sunday night. Chili and baked potatoes are the perfect winter comfort foods, and are pretty low-maintenance when you’re feeding a crowd that includes hungry, burly, football-watching men. 🙂

I love trying new recipes, but I’m always skeptical of trying new things when I have to bring something somewhere, or feed company. Case in point: I made a brownie fruit pizza for my friend Melissa’s baby shower on Sunday, and it was an epic fail, presentation-wise. A brownie crust topped with a cream-cheese frosting and fresh berries – seems pretty foolproof, right? Well, it tasted great, but I think it sat on top of a hot stove for a few minutes before it was served, which caused it to melt. 😦 Look how nice it looked before I brought it to the hall!

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Oh well – we still munched on it afterwards, and although it was a gooey mess, it was still delicious!

Anyway, all that said, chili in a Crock Pot is pretty hard to screw up, but I wanted to stick with a pretty basic recipe. However, I have heard (and read) several times that a certain unexpected ingredient adds a great kick to chili – chocolate! I was excited when I found this recipe and picked up everything I needed from the short list of ingredients at the grocery store.

I started the chili on Sunday morning by browning two pounds of ground beef (from Jepson’s Fresh Meats, of course!) with two chopped onions and four cloves of garlic, diced into small pieces.

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When the meat was nicely browned and caramelized, I added the mixture to the Crock Pot along with two 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes . . . DSC_0512

. . . an 18-ounce can of mixed beans . . .

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. . . four additional minced garlic cloves and some spices: three tablespoons of chili powder, a tablespoon of cumin, a teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

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And the two ingredients that made the chili stand out – a teaspoon of hot pepper sauce . . .


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And two tablespoons of chopped baking chocolate. Yum!

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Give the ingredients a good stir, set the temperature to low and let it simmer away for seven to eight hours!

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I have to admit – I’m not a huge chili fan. I already told you about how much I hate tomatoes, and let’s face it – tomatoes are a main component of chili! But this recipe was pretty delicious, and I enjoyed it topped over a hot baked potato. 🙂 The rest of our guests seemed to like it too – I was counting on having leftovers for lunch, but it disappeared! Not that I’m complaining – I think the biggest compliment to any chef is having empty plates and serving dishes!

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Alex’s bowl – a blurry picture, since he grabbed the bowl right away to gobble it down!

On to the baked potatoes: no real recipe here, just a bunch of baked potatoes scrubbed and poked, drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt and baked at 400 F for about an hour and a half, or until done. I made a whole bunch and baked them in recyclable aluminum trays covered with tin foil for easy cleanup. Serve the potatoes alongside chili with tons of toppings on the side . . .
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Sour cream, jalapeno peppers, green onion, bacon bits, broccoli, cheese and salsa . . .

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And check out these adorable chocolate-covered strawberries my sweet friend Audrey made! Not a chili topping, but a delicious dessert! 🙂 We also munched on bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, buffalo chicken wing dip, meatballs and nachos. It was a feast, I tell ya, and the perfect Super Bowl (or any!) Sunday meal. I’m still full!

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Blog fail, dinner win

It’s been eight days and I’ve only blogged about dinner ONCE! And only three entries total. Major fail. Or, as the Kardashians would say, just maj.
(Edited to add: ew, did I really say that?)

In hopes of redeeming myself (and my language), I cooked up a delicious meal of my favourite comfort food, spaghetti and meatballs. It’s too easy – and delicious – for words. So much so that Alex and I ate in silence for probably five minutes while we inhaled. Nom.

I shared our sauce-making secrets (well, there’s really no secret – just a whole lotta love and passion!) last week. Pasta and sauce is truly mouthwatering on its own, but a girl’s gotta please her hubs and throw in a little meat here and there. Lucky for me, I’ve got a connection in that department. <shamlessplug> If you’re in the Hamilton, Ont. area, check out my stepdad and stepbrother’s stall at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market – Jepson’s Fresh Meats. Delicious beef and pork, and great guys to boot ;). Tell ’em I sent you! </shamelessplug>

Anyway. These little balls of meat are made from fresh ground beef and the addition of a few essentials. A pinch each of garlic salt, pepper, oregano, basil, fresh-grated parm and sweet red pepper flakes (which I forgot to photograph), plus an egg and about a quarter cup of breadcrumbs – enough to make sure the meatballs hold together. DSC_0460

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Mix ’em all together and roll into perfect-sized little meatballs. Pop them on a cookie sheet and into the oven to broil for about 7 minutes, until they start to turn brown and caramelize. Yum.

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Meanwhile, start the liquid gold – err, I mean sauce. For the least Italian person ever, Alex is super appreciative of the culture and food . . . so much so that he found it absurd that my grandparents wanted to order KFC the last time we were there for dinner. Hey, us foreigners love the colonel too! 😉 He also KNOWS not to get between me and these jars. Don’t you dare rinse it out until I’ve salvaged every last drop from the jar. This stuff is too precious to waste!

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To the pot of sauce, I add a halved onion, a couple of cloves of garlic and spices to taste. (Note: these aren’t necessary if you’re using store-bought sauce, as they have their own flavours.) The onion wilts down and Alex eats it with the pasta – almost his favourite part. I added most of the same spices that I added to the meatballs – oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, S&P. I actually prefer the sauce plain with no added spices, but I’m learning to adapt. When the meatballs are nice and brown, add them into the sauce and cover to let them simmer away with the sauce. All those flavours permeating each bite of meatball . . . I’m almost salivating again.
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Meantime, boil a pot of generously salted water. Don’t skip this step – the salt cooks right into the pasta and adds so much flavour to it. Tonight we had spaghettini – not as thick as spaghetti, and not as thin as angel hair – juuuuust perfect. When your pasta is ready, drain it and serve, topped with more freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Can I just say . . . drool. Trust me, this plate is totally worth skipping dessert for. It would have been even better served with a hunk of crusty bread, but I forgot to stop and pick a loaf up after work, and let’s face it – there are more than enough carbs in this dish.

Well, I’m off for my Friday night post-pasta nap! I’ve got lots more exciting things on the menu for this weekend, including delicious appetizers, a decadent dessert and the perfect Super Bowl Sunday dinner. Have a great night!

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