Friday, November 22, 2013

Recipe #257: Minestrone Soup

It's soup season!  Here's a classic.  I'm really disappointed in the pictures I took, especially since I got distracted right after I put the cheese on top and it ended up just looking like a white glob for the pictures, but trust me, it was hearty and delicious.  Taken completely unchanged (except for using a can of corn instead of fresh, which wasn't available) from Light....

2 teaspoons olive oil 

  • 1 cup chopped onion 
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 3 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped carrot 
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 4 cups chopped tomato, divided 
  • (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided 
  • 1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta (very short tube-shaped macaroni)
  • (15.5-ounce) can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated Asiago cheese
  • Coarsely ground black pepper (optional) 
  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until softened. Add oregano and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in squash, zucchini, carrot, and corn; sauté 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat.
  2. Place 3 cups tomato and 1 can broth in a blender; process until smooth. Add tomato mixture to pan; return pan to heat. Stir in remaining 1 cup tomato and remaining 2 cans broth; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Add pasta and beans to pan; cook 10 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in spinach, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Ladle soup into individual bowls; top with cheese. Garnish with coarsely ground black pepper, if desired.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Recipe #256: Italian Wedding Soup

I spent a long time looking for just the right recipe for this, but I couldn't find just one that I was happy with between the ingredients, ratings, comments, and so on.... so I came closest to one I liked on and then edited it a bunch!  This turned out better than any of the ones I've tried in a restaurant, I think.  It was fun to make and there were plenty of leftovers that I'm going to enjoy and share with friends.



1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley or flat leaf parsley
1 egg
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
8 ounces lean ground beef
8 ounces ground pork


10 cups chicken broth
1 lb escarole or endive, coarsely chopped
2 eggs
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper

1/2 c orzo, cooked


In a large bowl stir together first 6 ingredients. Stir in cheese and bread crumbs. Mix in meats with your hands. Roll into 1 inch meatballs (about 75).  Place on a greased or lined baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.  This will help prevent the soup from being greasy.   (Technique note:  I was lucky enough to come across a little trick to making these little meatballs much easier to form.  Working in batches, roll the meat out into a tube shape about 1" thick, then cut apart into 1" pieces.  It's then easy to quickly form them into a ball shape while placing them on the sheet.)

Bring broth to a boil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add meatballs and escarole and simmer about 10 minutes.  Add the cooked orzo.  Whisk eggs and cheese in a bowl; then add to soup slowly stirring with a fork to form thin strands of egg about 1 minute.  (Mine ended up more like "crumbs")  Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Recipe #255: Stuffed Shells

I heavily modified a recipe I found on (where else?!?) based on recommendations from others, and it turned out great- fresh ingredients make a big difference.  Maybe some day I'll make my own ricotta cheese.  The original recipe called for cottage cheese, but that just didn't seem authentic.  I didn't quite use all the shells I cooked, and the fresh ingredients are rough estimates to replace the dry ones from the original recipe.  I also added the spinach and black pepper.  This made a lot of food, and even after some second helpings, the dish was still about 2/3 full!  I edited the recipe to reflect how I customized it.

1 (16 ounce) package jumbo pasta shells
4 cups ricotta cheese
12 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1-2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 (26 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh spinach
1.Cook shells according to package directions. Place in cold water to stop cooking. Drain.
2.Mix together ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, and garlic powder. Add basil, parsley, and spinach, and stir into the cheese mixture. Stuff mixture into the shells by piping with a plastic sandwich (or bigger) bag with the corner cut off.
3.Spread 1/3 of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9x12 inch pan. Place shells open side up, and close together in pan. Layer some of the extra shells on top where there's more space.  Spread remaining sauce over top, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.  
4.Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 35 minutes, or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Recipe #254: Dilled Salmon En Papillote

I found this one in one of my neglected cookbooks.  It's similar to other recipes I've posted for salmon using dill, and packet baking..... but still different enough to be its own unique post.  Very flavorful.  I served it with basmati rice.

The recipe is as printed in the cookbook, with my changes in red.


1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out.  (EW!  I used half a bag of fresh, coarsely chopped)
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 salmon fillets (4oz each), skin removed (I used 2 6-oz fillets and left the skin on)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons drained capers (I used less since I only had 2 fillets)
4 teaspoons light butter (I used regular butter, for the skillet and then 1 tsp for each fillet)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees 4.  Coat 4 sheets aluminum foil 12"x20" with cooking spray ((I used 2 sheets of non-stick foil and didn't have to coat them.)

Coat a medium skilled with cooking spray (I melted butter instead) and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and cook for 30 seconds, stirring.  Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the dill.

In a small bowl, combine the mustard and remaining 1 tablespoon dill and 2 teaspoons lemon juice.

Sprinkle the salmon with salt and pepper. Divide of the spinach mixture on half of each sheet.  Top each mound of spinach with 1 salmon fillet.  Spread the mustard mixture over the tops and sides of each fillet.  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the capers over each fillet.  Top each fillet with 1 teaspoon of the butter.  Fold the foil over the salmon and crimp the edges of the foil together to make a tight seal.

Transfer the foil packets to a large baking sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the packets are puffed, although they may not puff.  Cut open at the table.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Recipe #253: Croque Monsieur

All I could think while I ate this is that it's the exotic love child of grilled cheese and biscuits and gravy.  ...except ham instead of sausage.   Oh man...  I linked to this through, which led me to a great blog called  I only made two sandwiches instead of three, but kept the same measurements for the sauce and cheese. I used a good loaf of Italian bread, sliced thick.

  • 1 tbsp butter, plus softened butter for bread
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1½ cups gruyère or emmental cheese, grated
  • ½ cup mozzarella
  • 6 slices bread  (I used 4)
  • 6 slices ham  (I used 4)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C)
  2. For the sauce:
  3. In a saucepan melt butter. Add flour, stirring constantly until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly add milk, stirring continuously, and cook until the mixture thickens a little and is lightly golden.
  4. Remove from heat and add mozzarella, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  5. Lightly and evenly butter bread slices, place them in a baking pan and put it in the oven for 3 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and place the ham slices and about ⅓ cup Gruyère cheese on 3 of the bread slices. Top each with one of remaining bread slices.
  7. Spread sauce to cover the top of each sandwich (crusts, too). Sprinkle evenly with the remaining cheese.
  8. Bake the sandwiches for about 5 minutes then place under lit broiler until cheese mixture on top is bubbling and lightly browned, about 3 minutes.