Monthly Archives: January 2012

Man’s Best Friend

This post is dedicated to a few of my neighbors.

This post is for the happy, loveable yellow lab across the street. She sits in her yard, head cocked to one side, staring longingly across the road when we pull up to our mailbox. Oh, she’s thinking, I want to come and see you SO bad, but there’s this electric fence in the way. Oh please, oh please, come say hi to me!

This post is for the bulldog next door. With his feet turned in slightly, I imagine the low, lumbering notes of a tuba playing in his head as he strolls about, sniffing the grass with his pudgy little nose.

This post is for the dynamic duo from two doors down. An inquisitive pair I have affectionately nicknamed the Tweedle Twins. Occasionally, the Tweedle Twins are seen wandering about, not afraid to explore beyond the boundaries of their own yard. Tweedle Dee is the clear leader – a small-but-fiesty, salt and pepper colored shih tzu. He’s always first to step off the curb and trot down the road en route to some mighty adventure in a neighbors yard. Trotting behind, as if playing a never ending game of follow the leader, is Tweedle Dum, a black lab mix with a rather empty but affectionate gaze. When Tweedle Dee chases a squirrel up a tree, Tweedle Dum does the same. When Tweedle Dee wanders the edge of the forest, Tweedle Dum follows closely behind, exploring each twig and weed as Dee did just seconds earlier. They are a couple of best friends out making neighborhood mischief. I love watching them through my windows.

It’s true we don’t have any pets of our own, but when my pal Branny put the call out for entries for her second Souper Bowl charity event, I just knew I had to participate this time around. See, Branny is a true animal lover and for every entry of a delightful bowl of soup she receives for this event, she will donate $1 to the ASPCA – a definite worthy cause and one I fully support. In the spirit of giving, this post is dedicated to all the furry, four-legged residents in our neighborhood. 🙂 It’s not too late for you to participate too! All you gotta do is whip up some soup, which you totally had planned this week anyway, right? Being that it’s January and all that. Check out Branny’s blog for all the details. 🙂

This Lasagna Soup is like a man’s best friend. Spicy sausage? Yes. Pasta? Of course! Cheesy goodness. Duh. See, totally man-friendly. My man, skeptical of soup most of the time, loved it. I did too. It really does mimic the flavor profile of lasagna. With chunks of spicy Italian sausage, juicy tomatoes and rich ricotta, it’s got all the goodies without the all the spreading and layering of a traditional lasagna. The best part is the generous dollop of ricotta that dots each serving. The ricotta is mixed with some freshly grated Parmesan and mozzarella, and when plopped into the steaming bowl, begins to melt almost instantly, creating a creamy richness in each bite. Oh, it is SO good. Best enjoyed on a cold, snowy January night, of course, where you can warm your hands on the side of the bowl. Maybe even with a furry friend asleep at your feet.

LASAGNA SOUP (Recipe Source: Adapted from Closet Cooking)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound curly pasta
  • 4 ounces low fat ricotta
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 handful basil, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes, breaking it apart as it browns. Remove sausage from the pot to drain. Discard all but about 1/2 tablespoon of the drippings in the pot.
  2. Add the onion to the reserved drippings and saute until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and fennel and saute until fragrant, about one minute. Return the sausage to the pot.
  4. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 to 10 minutes and remove from heat.*
  6. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella in a small bowl. Serve the soup garnished with a tablespoon of the cheese mixture and top with chopped basil. Serves 5 to 6.

*I always find myself conflicted when it comes to cooking pasta IN soup. On the one hand, I like it, because I think the pasta release just enough starch into the soup to give it a touch of silkiness. On the other hand, there’s Sponge Syndrome to deal with. You know, the next day rolls around and you’re ready to ladle yourself up a big bowl of soup leftovers (which are the best leftovers EVER) and, much to your dismay, you find you no longer have soup. The pasta has absorbed the liquid – just like a sponge! D’OH!

I will say, I DID cook the pasta in the soup this time around and I DID have a major case of Sponge Syndrome the next day. However, it is easily restored to it’s former soup glory by mixing a bit of chicken broth spiked with a shot of tomato base in a sauce pan, adding your leftover “soup” and reheating gently on the stove top. Good as new. You may also cook the pasta separate and add that to the soup at the end, if you prefer. 🙂

ENJOY!

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Daily Doldrums

As much as I love my kitchen, let’s be honest, it’s kind of boring in there. And standing in front of the counter peeling, dicing, chopping and what not tends to feel a lot like work. Sure the sharing and eating part is fun, but the prep can be tedious if you’re not in the mood. And the dreaded clean up! Ugh. Sometimes I don’t make an item not because it’s time consuming, not because I have to stand there and chop, but simply because I don’t want to clean up the mess I’m about to make. I hate the clean up part!

Cooking and baking is a lot of fun, but I often find I need a little help to make it…more fun.

Multitasking. It’s what I do.

There’s music, of course. I always have my laptop nearby so putting my entire iTunes library on shuffle is always an option. Sometimes a Christmas song plays in it’s entirety in the heat of summer because I’ve got raw chicken goop all over my hands and can’t switch it. It happens. What can ya do? Sometimes I wrinkled up my nose and think, why the heck is that on here? I don’t even like that song! I’ve got two thousand tracks, a stinker or two is bound to sneak in there. Sometimes I skip the iTunes all together and go for one of my highly embarrassing Pandora stations. (Ahem. Glee Cast. Cough, cough. NKOTB. Throat clear.) Two things: 1. The music from Rent will never go out of style. 2. I still know every single word to The Right Stuff. You do too. 😉

When my awful, off-key singing gets so bad even I can’t stand it anymore, listening to other people talk is a nice distraction. Nothing makes a mundane kitchen task (dishes, anyone?) go faster than an episode or two of This American Life. Joy and Tracy keep me company once a week. Even audiobooks have found their way into the kitchen! I’ve only recently discovered books on CD, because, apparently, I was absent from real-life for the majority of the 1990s. My library has a great selection, likely because no one listens to books on CDs anymore. 😉

The right entertainment can get me totally psyched up to be in the kitchen even when I normally wouldn’t feel like it. I have great admiration for those who get up on a weekend morning and head straight into the kitchen to whip up a delicious breakfast. I am not one of those people. Weekend mornings are for eating cereal and lounging. I like to putz around on the interwebs for hours in my pajamas. Eric sits and watches guys on ESPN yell about football. Very little, if anything, gets done before 11:00 a.m. Then we grumble our way through our chores until well into the afternoon, cursing ourselves for not getting a move on a little quicker in the morning. It’s kind of a ritual.

I had an audiobook on loan from the library that I really wanted to finish before it was due back, so I decided to finish it up this morning while I whipped up some fresh baked donuts. What a great start to the day. There was nothing but relaxation, chuckles (it wasn’t a very serious book*) and good eats, everything a Sunday morning should be and more. Maybe this making breakfast thing isn’t so bad after all.

*It was Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret. 😉 Judy Blume, I will love you always and forever. I don’t care if it has been exactly 17 years since I was 12. That is all.

These little treats were like a burst of fresh, fruity sunshine on a winter’s morning. (Although…what winter, right? Heh. I’m not complaining! Also don’t want to jinx it so I best just shut up about it.) I just adore winter citrus and when paired with frozen berries, you can almost feel the sand between your toes. I’ve had my eye on these Blueberry Donuts with Orange Glaze ever since Nicole posted them (please, please check her out! Her blog is seriously OUTSTANDING! She posts such a great variety healthified dishes, I find myself bookmarking something from her blog at least once a week. She rocks!) and I’m kicking myself for not getting around to making them sooner. I thought the little chocolate donuts were king, but these may bump those from the top spot. They are soft, delicately orange flavored and bursting with berry goodness. The glaze is a great sweet contrast to the tart berries, everything works together in perfect harmony. I scarfed two in about 3.7 seconds. Then later I had another. Say goodbye to the daily kitchen doldrums and make these quick!

BAKED BLUEBERRY DONUTS WITH ORANGE GLAZE (Recipe Source: As seen at Prevention RD)

INGREDIENTS:

For the donuts:

  • 2 cups cake flour (or 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup cornstarch)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce (I used canola oil – the applesauce I had in the fridge had gone fuzzy. Ewwww!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (no need to thaw!)

For the orange glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice + more to thin out, if desired
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and whisk together. Add the orange zest and mix it in.
  3. Add the buttermilk, eggs, applesauce or oil and vanilla extract. Gently mix until just combined, do not over-mix. Fold in blueberries
  4. Lightly grease a donut pan with non-stick spray. Spoon the batter into each cup, filling about half way. Bake 8-9 minutes or until the donuts spring back when lightly touched.
  5. To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar, milk, orange juice and vanilla in a bowl. Add additional orange juice or milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Let the donuts cool in the pan for about 4 minutes. Then remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely
  7. Dip one side of each doughnut in the glaze. Place on the wire rack and let the excess drip away. Allow the glaze to dry and serve immediately. Yield: about 21 doughnuts.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Filed under breakfast, fruit