Lasagna Soup

Soup. I promise it isn’t the only thing I eat. It’s just that it’s been so cold and grey here in Indianapolis lately and soup is quick and easy and I don’t really have to leave the house to get the ingredients for many of them. The next bunch of recipes I post will be so far removed from soup, you will forget I even know how to make it. I swear.

This soup is one of Hubby’s favorite meals. It’s the first thing he ever made for me when we first started dating. When he saw I was making it today he got almost as giddy as he does when he realizes I’m going to make steak for dinner. It’s quite adorable, actually, seeing his eyes light up and watching him bounce around like a little boy on his birthday. This recipe is actually his, too. He got it from some girl he used to date back in New York, but we don’t talk about that. (I won! Haha!!)

Ahem.

I like lasagna soup because it has all the flavors of lasagna without all the fuss. It’s meaty and cheesy and full of vegetables (which I can actually get Hubby to eat!) that are available and inexpensive year-round. Another good thing about this recipe is that it’s easily customizable. If there’s a veggie in it that you don’t like, leave it out! If you want to add one, go ahead. There really isn’t an exact science to this soup. The only things you really need to make it taste like lasagna are the sausage and the cheese, in my opinion. Maybe the tomatoes.

Cheese. It may be the best part of this soup. I mean, it has a quarter of a cup (or however much you feel like putting in) of fresh mozzarella in the bottom of each bowl before you ladle the hot soup on top of it, rendering the cheese melty and stringy and gooey and full of cheesy goodness. Then? To make it even better? You sprinkle some grated parmesan on top. Just in case there wasn’t enough cheese in there for your liking.

Mozzarella

About to be melty, gooey, cheesy goodness!

If you’re into healthy dinners – and I suppose we all should be, right? – just leave out the cheese. You’ll save a ton of calories and the soup will still taste amazing. Want to make it vegetarian? Swap the chicken broth for vegetable. It’s as easy as that!

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

Recipe Source: Joe Ottaviano

  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage (hot or sweet, I prefer sweet)
  • 2cups onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 T garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 14.5 oz can Italian-style stewed tomatoes
  • 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup pasta (any kind is fine, bowtie works well)
  • 2 cups spinach chopped
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Grated Parmesan, for garnish
  • Basil, for garnish

Brown the sausage in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for another 3 minutes, until the mushrooms become slightly soft.

Add the chicken stock, tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to a boil. When boiling, add pasta, cover and cook until pasta is done, about 10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.

To serve, put 1/4 cup mozzarella in the bottom of 4 bowls and ladle hot soup over it. Top with grated Parmesan and basil, if desired.

Advertisements

Sweet Italian Sausage

Today was one of those days when the weather just begged for a hearty soup to be made for dinner. It was grey, windy, a little snowy, and just downright icky outside. I came home from work and decided I was going to make Hubby’s favorite soup for dinner. I thought I had all of the ingredients on hand (a minor miracle, really – the particular soup I had in mind definitely calls for a lot!) and it would be a nice surprise for him to come home to. If dinner wasn’t already made, it would be well on its way.

The soup I had in mind is called Lasagna Soup. I had never heard of it before I met Hubby, and I was a little iffy about it the first time he made it for me. It has mushrooms! I hate mushrooms! At least that’s what I was thinking back then. I’m a little less put off by them now, but I’m still not a huge fan. But the main ingredient, and obviously most important, is sweet Italian sausage. The sausage gets browned in the bottom of the pan with a few other vegetables in the soup before the stock is added and all of that sweet, slightly spicy flavor is intensified and makes the soup absolutely delicious.

I opened the freezer and…no sausage. I did, however, have a pound of ground pork. I am nothing if not resourceful, so I turned to the internet and my trusty Alton Brown books and looked for a recipe for homemade sweet Italian sausage.

I was not disappointed. I found a wide selection of recipes online and one in my Good Eats 2 book. I picked the best looking recipe from the online selection, took out the things I didn’t like, added the good stuff from my main man Alton’s recipe and I think I came up with a darn good sweet Italian sausage. Both recipes called for ground fennel, which I just do not like. At all. So I decided to leave it out. One recipe only called for 1/8 teaspoon of brown sugar. How sweet can sweet Italian sausage be if it only has 1/8 teaspoon of sugar in a whole pound? Not sweet enough, for sure. And as much as I love Mr. Brown, I do not love fresh sage or rosemary, so I substituted fresh thyme. I haven’t used my sausage yet, but it smells amazing.

photo

Sweet Italian Sausage

Adapted from this recipe and Alton Brown’s recipe in Good Eats 2: The Middle Years

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix together. I prefer to use my hands (I take off my rings to make it easier to clean afterwards – even if Hubby doesn’t like it), because I feel like I can get a better idea when everything is mixed this way. You can use a wooden spoon or spatula if you like. Just be sure everything is evenly combined.

If you use your hands to combine, try not to squeeze the mixture between your fingers. Instead fold the ingredients together as if you were kneading bread dough.

Once mixed, this can either be formed into 2-inch patties or left as bulk sausage. Cook as you would store bought patties or bulk sausage. It can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days or wrapped in butcher paper and foil and frozen for 3 months.

Buttermilk Blackout Cake

The sickness of 2013. It got me. It got me bad. And while I was busy being congested and having trouble breathing and battling epic migraines, I was definitely not cooking. I apologize for the unannounced hiatus, but I’m back. And boy do I have an amazing recipe for you to make up for it.

Buttermilk chocolate cake. I keep seeing recipes for buttermilk this and buttermilk that floating all over the internet, and while they have definitely piqued my interest, it wasn’t until the word “chocolate” was paired with it that I decided I had to finally do something about it.

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

As a side note, I made this on Super Bowl Sunday and ate it for dessert not long after the halftime show, when the power went out in the stadium during the game. Because of this little coincidence, I have dubbed this cake “Blackout Cake”.

This recipe also has coffee added to enhance the flavor of the chocolate, which I was a little apprehensive about since I don’t like coffee, but I did as the recipe said and added a cup and a half of strong coffee. I couldn’t taste it at all. Not even when I licked the bowl clean after I put the cakes in the oven (not really, only kids do that right? Oh who am I kidding? I went to town on that bowl!).

I did have to bake the cakes for a bit longer than the recipe calls for – when I checked them at 30 minutes they were still very jiggly in the middle and when I tested them with a toothpick, it came out with raw batter on it. I just kept adding an additional 5-10 minutes to the time until the toothpick came out with moist crumbs like the recipe says.

You guys, this cake was SO GOOD. Very, very rich, but so good. It is definitely a keeper and I will probably make it for someone for their birthday because it needs to be shared, if only so it doesn’t stay in my house begging me to eat the entire thing. Next time I make it I won’t trim the cakes, though. That’s too much work, in my opinion, and I kind of like the old-fashioned look of a rounded cake top. If you’re going to do this, just place the bottom cake upside down on your cake stand so you’re frosting the bottom as the middle layer of the cake. Then place the top cake right side up on top of it. This way the two flat sides are together and your cake won’t be lopsided. The weight of the cake will flatten out the rounded “bottom” on its own. Another trick to keep a clean cake stand while decorating is to stick sheets of parchment or wax paper underneath the cake, then pull them out when you’re finished. Voila! Clean cake stand and beautifully decorated cake!

Buttermilk Chocolate Cake

Buttermilk Blackout Cake

Recipe from Portland Monthly via thepaperseed.com

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/3 cups canola oil (or any flavorless vegetable oil)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly-brewed, extra-strong coffee
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the ganache:

  • 24 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Place flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa in a large mixing bowl. Mix on low with an electric mixer to combine (I used my Kitchen-Aid mixer with the paddle attachment, but it might actually be easier to use a hand mixer once all of the ingredients are added. I used mine when I found lumps in the bottom of the batter and the Kitchen-Aid wasn’t getting rid of them). With the mixer still on low, add the oil, buttermilk and eggs one at a time. Pour hot coffee in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Add the vanilla and mix until the batter is smooth. It will be a VERY thin batter. Divide into your prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes (adjust baking time if necessary by checking every 5-10 minutes until cakes are set). Let cool in pans at least 20 minutes.

Set a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water and place the chocolate chips and whipping cream in the bowl to melt. Do not stir until chocolate has begun to melt and then stir with a whisk until smooth. Cool at room temperature.

Remove the cakes from the pans and place one cake on a serving platter. Trim the top of the cake with a serrated knife to create a flat surface. Put a glob (that’s my technical term) of ganache onto the cake and smooth to the edges using a palette knife or spatula (I don’t have such special equipment in my house, so I used a butter knife). Trim the top off the second cake and place the untrimmed side down on top of the ganache. Put another glob of ganache on top of the cake and smooth it around the sides, adding more ganache as needed to cover the cake. If you need to add a second layer of ganache, place the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm the first layer of ganache, then add the second.

Makes one 9-inch layer cake.

Emergency Chicken Noodle Soup

The other day I got a text at work from Joe: My stomach isn’t doing so hot… I hope I didn’t come down with something.

Uh oh. First of all, I don’t want a sick husband. Who does? It’s not fun, and there’s a good chance you’re going to get whatever it is he has, too. Yuck. Second of all, what am I going to make for dinner that won’t upset an already icky stomach?!

Enter emergency chicken noodle soup. There is a decent amount of “cheating” in this recipe. Where I would normally use homemade chicken stock (or turkey since I have a ton left over from Christmas), it was frozen and I needed dinner fast. I also didn’t have any chicken already made, so while I was at the store for the noodles (which I also didn’t make from scratch) and veggies, I picked up a plain rotisserie chicken.

If you can overlook all of the “cheating” aspects of this soup, it is actually a great, healthy, easy homemade dinner any night of the week. Not just when someone in the family isn’t feeling well. It’s full of noodles and fresh veggies and healthy chicken, and it just tastes good. I used an entire bag of egg noodles in this batch because I like a lot of noodles in my soup, but if you prefer a soup with more broth you can just use half a bag.

Emergency Chicken Noodle Soup

Emergency Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 2 celery stalks (including leaves), diced
  • 1 bag egg noodles
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed, meat chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus more for serving (optional)

Place a large pot over medium heat. Add about one tablespoon of olive oil and the onion and cook the onion until it becomes translucent, about 5 minutes, but don’t let it brown. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant. Pour in the chicken broth and and an equal amount of water (or, ideally, use all broth, but I didn’t have enough on hand), raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the noodles (whole or half bag, depending on how you like your soup), carrots, celery, parsley and chicken and cook until the noodles are tender, about 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley on top.

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

When I think back to a childhood comfort meal, grilled cheese and tomato soup is always the first thing that comes to mind. Who didn’t have this combination at least once growing up? It’s been a really snowy week here in Indy and I decided that a comfort meal was definitely called for, but it needed to be “grown-up” a bit. No pre-sliced, pre-packaged cheeses or soups out of a can for me.

About a year and a half ago, a friend gave me a copy of Cook This, Not That!: Kitchen Survival Guide when I was trying to lose weight for my wedding. In it was a recipe for a healthy version of a grilled cheese sandwich that had bacon on it. And used real butter! I was flabbergasted. To eat bacon and use butter when trying to lose weight? It couldn’t be possible. Or could it? Instead of buttering every slice of bread, the butter is melted in the pan to grill the sandwiches, allowing you to use less butter overall, yet still imparting the flavor to the bread. Green apple slices are also put in the sandwiches to add another layer of flavor AND a serving of fruit to your day.

For the tomato soup, I decided to make a recipe I found on Pinterest that apparently everyone raved over. It called for crushed tomatoes and fresh basil leaves, but since it’s December in Indiana, I bought crushed tomatoes that had basil in them and figured that was good enough. I could smell the basil while the tomatoes were simmering and I couldn’t wait for everything to be ready so I could blend it and dig in!

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Grilled Cheese with Apples and Bacon

  • 1T butter
  • 8 slices whole-grain bread (I only had white bread on hand)
  • 1T Dijon Mustard
  • 6 oz shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced
  • 8 strips cooked bacon

Heat the butter in a large skillet or nonstick sauté pan over low heat. Slather 4 slices of bread with the mustard, then divide the cheese, apples and bacon among them. Top with the other bread slices and add to the hot pan. Cook these sandwiches until each side is deep brown and crunchy, about 10-12 minutes total.

Tomato-Basil Soup

  • 4 cups canned, crushed tomatoes (I used two 28 oz cans)
  • 12 fresh basil leaves plus extra for garnish, if desired.
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick (1/4 cup) butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Simmer tomatoes in saucepan for 30 minutes. Puree, with the basil leaves, in small batches in a blender or food processor. Alternatively, you could use crushed tomatoes with basil (I used Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes in Thick Puree with Basil. I also used my immersion blender to puree the tomatoes in the pan.) Return to saucepan and add cream, butter, salt and pepper while stirring over low heat. Garnish with basil leaves.