Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Italian Wedding Soup

Now I must be honest and let you all know that I am not Italian. Luckily for me that is not a requirement for making this tasty soup. 

I really wasn't feeling the soup vibe until my coworker came into work with a bowl of this for lunch the other day. It smelled divine and made my humble ham and cheese seem just a little too humble. My coworker is actually one of those people that is super good with the habit of making a big batch of something then bringing it for lunch every day. That is both a cost effective and time saving habit to have. I admire her ability to do this.

I don't have that ability. I'm a throw a bunch of stuff in a bag and hope for the best at lunch person. Sad, right?

But, I can happily make this soup for dinner and maybe if I'm lucky the leftovers will last a couple of days.

Now if you haven't had Italian Wedding Soup before, basically it's a clear broth soup with some veggies, a green leafy veggie and little meatballs. For my version I like a hearty green so I used Swiss chard, which is a mild, yet hearty green and can stand up to the cooking of the soup. My meatballs are made of ground turkey. These little guys are tender and moist. Plus since they're made of turkey they help make this guilt free!

Italian Wedding Soup

For The Meatballs:

1 (1.3 lb) Package Ground Turkey (I used 94% Fat Free)
2 Large Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
1 Egg, beaten
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp Panko Bread Crumbs
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper

For The Soup:

1 tsp Canola Oil (Or any cooking oil)
1 Small Onion, chopped small
1 Stalk Celery, chopped small
3 Small Carrots, peeled, sliced into circles
1 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
3 Cups Swiss Chard, chopped
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
10 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock
1 Cup Dried Ditalini or any small pasta shape

To Prepare The Meatballs:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Use a fork to mix so that the meat doesn't get too mashed up. 

3) Scoop teaspoon sized amounts of the meat mixture and use your hands to roll them into balls. Lay on a sheet pan that has been lined with foil and sprayed with nonstick spray.

4) Place the tray of meatballs into the preheated oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

To Prepare The Soup:

1) Heat your pot over medium heat. Add the oil and let that get hot. Add the onions, celery, carrots and parsley and cook until translucent or about 5 minutes. Add the Swiss Chard and cook another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2) Add the chicken stock and then add the meatballs to the pot. Stir the pot and then turn heat to medium-low. Let slowly cook for 1 1/2 hours. 

3) After the soup has cooked for the 1 1/2 hours turn the heat back to medium and add your pasta. Since this is a small pasta shape it will cook quickly and not need to boil. Plus I like to let it cook a little slower so it will absorb more flavor. Once the pasta is cooked you can serve your soup and enjoy!

I recommend serving this soup with some crusty bread and a little extra parmesan cheese on top. It's great for a cold winter night, but light enough for a warm spring evening. Or you can be like my consistent coworker and make a big batch for those dreaded workday lunches! Whatever you choose, this soup is sure to satisfy.
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Valentine's Day is coming! Are you excited? Are you a lover or hater of this love oozing day? 

I personally am a fan of the day, BUT I wasn't always. Before my boyfriend and I started dating I was most certainly not a lover of Valentine's. He actually made his move on Valentine's day of 2009 with two single roses and a "Happy Valentine's Day" and it was the cutest, sweetest thing ever! He nabbed me right then and there! Sorry I'm having a cheese fest here. 

Seriously though I wish I had made more of the holiday before then and wasn't always such a negative Nancy about it. You don't have to be in a relationship to enjoy spreading the love. Do something nice for your Mom or Grandma or even a complete stranger! And really, who says it has to be only on February 14th that we express our love and kindness? 

In fact, you can start spreading the love right now by making someone special these deliciously decadent brownies! That's what I did as a surprise for my Dad last night. Which he didn't end up having one since he went to bed so I sneaked one into his lunch for work today. I bet he was surprised when he went to lunch today! See that? I'm spreading the love!

This recipe was adapted from Culinary Concoctions By Peabody's recipe for "Red Velvet Swirl Brownies", which she adapted originally from Sunny Anderson, host of “Cooking for Real”.

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

For the brownies:

1/2 cup (1 stick) Salted Butter, melted
1 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1/8 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Red Food Coloring (I used Wilton's Icing Colors in "Red Red")
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Eggs
3/4 cup Flour

For the cream cheese swirl:

1 (8oz. package) Cream Cheese, softened
1/4 cup Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease an 8 x 8 in pan.

2) In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer add the butter and sugar. Mix until just combined. Add the vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring and vinegar one at a time and mix between adding each ingredient until just combined.

3) Pre-whisk the eggs in a separate bowl then mix into the other ingredients. Then using a rubber spatula gently fold in the flour until just combined. Add the batter into the pan, reserving about 1/4 cup of the batter that will be used on the top of the brownies to swirl with the cream cheese layer.

4) To make the cream cheese layer, in a medium sized bowl cream together the softened cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla. It will look a little like runny frosting. 

5) Spread the cream cheese mixture over the brownie batter that is all ready in the pan. Dollop the extra brownie batter on top of the cream cheese layer then, using a knife or toothpick, swirl the layers together. Swirl as much as you like until you get the desired level of "swirl". 

6) Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven and let cool entirely before cutting. 

I drool a little every time I look at these. They're fudgey, creamy, rich and a perfect treat to give to someone you love or care about. Is it me or does the swirl in the left brownie look like a heart? It's love!

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Red Wine & Sweet Chili Sauce Braised Short Ribs

It's cold! 

So when it's cold and dreary what's better than stick to your ribs braised meat? Not much I'd say. 

I went to the store today with my heart set on buying short ribs. I was on a mission. I arrive at the meat department and the shelf was bare! Nooooo! I must make my beloved short ribs! There happened to be one of the workers standing there and I inquired about the ribs...he had just added them to his prep list and they would be ready in a few minutes. Perfect!

Ten minutes later he handed me four packages of short ribs to pick whichever ones tickled my fancy. I walked away with three packages of fresh cut, meaty short ribs! What service! The lesson? Don't be afraid to speak up and ask for what you're looking for. Even if it's not on the shelf or in the case, they may have it and can cut it fresh for you. 

Now I know short ribs can be time consuming and mildly intimidating, but honestly when you break it down by steps it's super easy. The time consuming part you can't really help because these babies need time to cook. Time is the only thing that will let them tenderize and get that luscious, meaty goodness. Trust me though, it's worth the effort and the wait!


Red Wine & Sweet Chili Braised Short Ribs

12 Bone-In Short Ribs
1/2 cup Flour
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Celery Stalks, large chop
3 Carrots, peeled, large chop
1 Large White Onion, large chop
3 Large Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 (6 oz) Can Tomato Paste
1 (5 oz) Bottle Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
Salt and Pepper to Season
1 Cup Sweet Red Wine
3 Cups Low Sodium Beef Broth
2 Cups Water
1 Fresh Bay Leaf
6 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

1) Place your Dutch Oven or large (oven-safe) pot onto the stove top over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and let that heat. You want the pan and oil to be good and hot to sear the short ribs.

2) On a plate combine the flour, kosher salt and pepper. Lightly coat your short ribs on each side with the flour then place into the pot to brown. Brown the short ribs on each side, don't be afraid to let them sit on one side for a couple of minutes so you develop that good brown crust. Once a short rib is brown on all sides remove from the pan and place on a plate. Continue this until you have browned all of your short ribs.

3) Meanwhile, place the celery, carrots and onion into your food processor and grind into almost a paste. Also preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

4) Once all of your short ribs have been browned and set aside, there will be a good amount of fat that rendered off from the ribs, drain off all of the fat from the pan leaving only a tablespoon or so in the pan. Add the ground celery, carrot and onion mixture to the pan and let it cook and brown over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Be sure to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, those bits taste good! 

5) Next add in the garlic, tomato paste and chili paste and let cook an additional five minutes. 

 6) Stir in the wine and let cook for about 2 minutes. 

 7) Add the beef broth and water and stir until all is combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Yes, taste the cooking liquid! This is what is going to flavor your meat, now's the time to fix it if it needs fixing!

8) Place the short ribs back into the pot with the cooking liquid. Depending on the size of your pan you may have some pieces completely covered in liquid and some that stick up a little. This is fine, the goal is to get everything covered at least 3/4 of the way with liquid. Add the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

 9) Cover the pan and place into the oven and cook for 3 1/2 hours. Then uncover and cook for an additional 30 minutes to let the sauce reduce and get thick and delicious. Halfway through the cooking time be sure to stir the ribs around and if need be you can add extra water if the sauce begins to reduce too much. When they are finished cooking you will have tender, juicy short ribs that will come cleanly off the bone.

Do you ever watch Chef Anne Burrell? She has this saying, "Brown food tastes good!", she often does it in this meat eating growl, it's really quite amusing. But what she says is true! Brown food does taste good, you want your ribs to be browned well in the beginning and for them to caramelize deliciously while cooking. 

I served these ribs with roasted garlic mashed potatoes. If you don't want mashed potatoes you can do a creamy polenta, risotto, roasted veggies. You need something hearty to go along with the richness of the short ribs. 


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