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Supper Time: Chicken Meatball Soup with Spinach and Pasta

3 Jan

Holy balls it’s cold out today. 8 degrees when I woke up. The kind of cold that freezes the snot in your nose when you breathe in and makes your eyes water. Winter has landed. Happy New Year from Mother Nature. Yowza.

What warms the bones on a frigid cold day like today?  Homemade soup. MMM soup. Filling, hearty, and this one is quick and easy and fairly healthy with the pile of spinach and the chicken starring as the meat for this dish. Because it’s January of a new year and we know that everyone will be gung ho for the next month trying to stick to their resolution of dieting and losing weight. Me, I’m just glad the holiday binge eating is over and I can get back to eating like a normal person. (Normal meaning that cookies are not part of my daily meal plan, and I can eat meals AT HOME instead of running around all over creation visiting…and grazing…on other peoples food) This is kind of like a lazy version of wedding soup. But it’s still just as good. Add more spinach to the soup if you like to. Double the meatball recipe. Substitute collard greens or kale for the spinach. Whatever tickles your fancy. It’s adaptable. It’s dinner, from scratch and on the table in under an hour – that includes making the meatballs! How awesome is that??? It’s even better the next day, once the noodles and the meatballs have soaked up more of the broth. Make this. Your tummy will thank you. Seriously. It will say “mmm…thanks”.

Chicken Meatball Soup with Spinach and Pasta
1 lb package pasta – whatever shape you want
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
2-3 32oz cartons chicken broth (depending on how brothy you want your soup. The orzo will soak up broth)
Chicken meatballs (1 pound ground chicken mixed with 1/4 cup bread crumbs, 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, 3tbsp chives, 1/2tsp garlic salt and then rolled into 1in balls)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
One 5-ounce bag baby spinach (I add 2 bags. we like a lot of spinach)
1-2 eggs, whisked to combine

In a large pot add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
Add the chicken meatballs and cook in the simmering broth for 10 minutes. Add the garlic to the chicken broth, then add your pasta and cook to package directions. Right before the pasta is al dente, add the whisked eggs stirring with the whisk to create egg threads.
Turn off burner and remove pot from heat. Add the baby spinach and stir, until the spinach is wilted, about 1 minute. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Ladle the meatball-and-pasta soup into shallow bowls, top with shaved parmesan and serve.

*I add some more ricotta to the broth once the soup is done to give it a creamy flavor, about 1/2 cup. You don’t have to do this.

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Sunday Suppers – Wedding Soup

23 Jan

Wedding soup is one of those things that I can remember eating all my life. It was filling and wonderful, especially after a day spent outside playing in the leaves or the snow. As an adult, it’s great to have on a cold day in front of the fire as a way to unwind after a busy weekend. My Bubba had made it all while my mom grew up, and my mom then put her own spin on the “recipe” to make it her own, and I have now done the same. Now, the reason for “recipe” is simple – there isn’t one. My Bubba didn’t write down or measure anything when she cooked. It was just common knowledge she filed away in her brain and would make from memory. Now I know my mom did this too because no recipes exist in all of her things, and she had never given my sister and I anything even remotely resembling a recipe. Essentially these recipes, such as this one, exist from observation. My mom would observe the things my Bubba would use to make something, and over my childhood I did the same. This recipe here is one I took the time to monitor what I was putting into the soup and it’s essentially a guideline. Cooking is something you should make your own, whether you follow a recipe, memory, or improvise and go from scratch. You need to stick to the basic components – meatballs, broth, spinach and carrots. The meatball recipe I listed is almost the same version I use when I make meatloaf, minus a few ingredients – just add some ketchup and coarse ground mustard and you’ve got meatloaf! Feel free to make whatever version of meatball you like, or add/remove any ingredients from my recipe to make it your own.

Again, this is a large yield soup recipe. Cut it in half or make the whole batch and freeze part of it. If you are going to freeze it, leave the pasta out of the portion you want to freeze, that way it won’t get mushy.Note that there is no call out for shredded chicken in my recipe – I omit this step because the meatballs are a mix of beef and turkey, so we’re still getting the poultry component and it just makes it quicker skipping this. Noone misses or notices anyway. Leaving the chicken out lets the meatballs be the star!

My last word of advice – don’t cheat and use store bought meatballs. Wedding soup is so simple to begin with, and there is no substitute for homemade meatballs. There just isn’t. And people will know you cheated because no home cook makes perfectly portioned and shaped meatballs.

Wedding Soup

Ingredients for meatballs:

2 1/2lbs beef/turkey meat mixture

1/2 cup shredded parmesan

1/3 cup chives

2tbsp garlic salt

1tbsp pepper

1 large egg

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1tbsp worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Make bite size meatballs by taking about 1 teaspoon of the meat mixture and rolling it between your palms. Place completed meatballs on a cookie sheet. You should get around 200 meatballs, depending on what bite sized means to you. I got about 196. Set aside.

For the soup:

4 32oz cartons chicken broth, plus 1 additional in case too much broth is soaked up by the pasta

2 10oz bags shredded carrots

1 28oz bag chopped frozen spinach

3 cloves garlic, minced

1lb ditalini pasta (or whatever you prefer, following package directions for cooking)

Bring broth to a boil in a large soup pot. Once the broth starts to boil, add the meatballs, one at a time, SLOWLY so you do not splash yourself with molten hot broth. About halfway through adding the meatballs, give the pot a stir to avoid any of the meatballs sticking together. Once all the meatballs are added, let them boil for about 10 minutes.

Add the bags of shredded carrots and minced garlic, letting boil for about 5 minutes. Add Ditalini pasta (if freezing some soup, remove portion that you would like to freeze BEFORE adding pasta. Adjust amount of pasta you add depending on how much soup remains.) Cook pasta as directed, about 10 minutes. Shut off burner and add spinach. Stir until combined and heated through. If the pasta has soaked up too much broth, add the additional carton of broth.

Serve immediately.

Sunday Suppers: Pesto Chicken and Dumpling Soup

17 Nov

Over the summer, I was swimming in basil. My plants just went crazy. Now, I love basil but there was  only so much I could do with it before it would start looking wilty, brown and sad. So I made a ton of basil almond pesto and froze it. It was time to break some out. It was time to cook some in soup. It turned out to be damn delicious.

If this is the first soup recipe of mine you looked at, just a warning – it makes alot. I generally make a ginormous pot of soup every time I make soup so that we can eat it for days. Because it makes my life easier by be able to plan a few less meals. And it’s nice to know that i’m a few minutes away from a hot, filling, homemade meal. This soup is pretty minimalistic when it comes to ingredients. If you can’t find the frozen dumpling noodles that I used, just use a very wide egg noodle and cook in the hot broth according to package directions. In the mood for some biscuit dumplings? Follow the directions on a box of Jiffy/Bisquick biscuit mix and drop them into the hot broth until done. Pressed for time? Buy a rotisserie chicken and shred that instead of cooking up some chicken!

Pesto Chicken and Dumpling Soup

4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1 large onion, chopped

8 cloves garlic, minced

4 32oz cartons chicken broth

1 8oz jar pesto (i used homemade, you can use storebought)

1 package frozen dumplings (mine are the noodle dumplings – 16 servings worth)

In a large soup pot, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until onion is almost translucent. Add the chicken broth and all of the pesto, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil and add the frozen dumplings (or your wide egg noodles or drop dumplings), cooking according to package directions. Once dumplings are cooked, add in the chicken and stir to incorporate. Serve & enjoy!

Easy peasy.

Sunday Suppers: Zuppa Toscana

15 Nov

We first had this soup at Olive Garden – it’s hearty, wholesome, and I knew I could make something like it without much effort and in under an hour!

It’s a creamy broth, and on the day I made it, I didn’t have any milk in the house! None in the fridge, no condensed milk on the shelves. So I worked with what I had! This is my take on the classic italian recipes out there. I loved it – it was warm and filling with a flavor filled broth that was great sopped up with some Pennsylvania Cheddar Bread!

Zuppa Toscana

4lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 12oz bag frozen spinach

1lb mild italian sausage

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 32oz cartons chicken broth

1 cup light sour cream

1 cup powdered milk

In a large soup pot brown the sausage until cooked through – do not drain. Add in the 3 cartons of chicken broth, garlic and the potatoes. Cook on medium-high heat until the potatoes are cooked through, about 10-15 minutes depending on how large you cubed them. Turn off the heat and add in the powdered milk and the sour cream, stirring until they have both dissolved into the broth. Add in the frozen spinach and stir until no frozen lumps of spinach remain. Serve and enjoy!

Note: The reason for not draining the sausage is because the fats that cook out help to flavor the broth. I did not have a lot of fat in my pan after cooking the sausage so there were no worries. If you have a fattier sausage and your meat looks like it’s a grease stew, drain out some of the fat but not all, leaving enough for flavor. If you want a spicier soup, use hot sausage.

Sunday Suppers – Cheeseburger Potato Soup

10 Oct

As soon as the air gets that crispness to it that only comes with fall being on the horizon, I start my Sunday Soup(or stew/chili) Suppers (say that 1o times fast). I make a huge batch of soup, enough for the husband and I to eat for 3-4 days. This provides us with a hearty, filling meal for most of the week, and also saves me alot of time and prep work in the kitchen. The soup recipes you see here will yield alot, unless otherwise stated. If you’re not into eating the same thing for that long, you can portion this out and freeze it to have soup readily available to you for lunches or a quick dinner. This weekend was not a fall one as the weather was warm and sunny and just plain beautiful. I’m not complaining at all – but I still made this soup because once the soup sunday starts, it doesn’t go away until it’s actually spring!

This soup is wonderfully filling, like a meaty baked potato with all the trimmings. Adjust the herbs and spices to your liking, and always season to taste. While I like a little kick from the pepper, you may want to add less and adjust it up to your personal preference.

Cheeseburger Potato Soup

1lb ground turkey

1lb lean ground beef

2 large Vidalia onions, chopped

1 10oz bag shredded carrots

6 cloves garlic, chopped

4 tablespoons chopped chives

2 teaspoon fresh parsley (you can use dried)

8 Tablespoons butter, divided

2 32oz containers chicken broth

5lbs potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 cup flour

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

3 cups milk

salt and pepper to your taste

1/2 cup sour cream

In a large soup pot, brown beef and turkey; remove from pot and set aside. In the same pot, saute onion, carrots, celery, garlic, chives and parsley in 4 Tablespoons butter until vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes). Add broth, potatoes and meats; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Add flour; cook and stir for 3 minutes. Whisk in about 1 cup of broth from the soup, then add the flour/broth mix to the soup pot, whisking to incorporate: bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add cheese, milk, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream.

Serve with some extra shredded cheese on top and some homemade biscuits – I made the bisquick version on the box – adding in an egg, some chives, and goat cheese.