Minestrone Soup with Blue Cheese-Parmesan Meatballs

Sunday is our day to rest, which includes a rest from cooking, so dinners throughout the week have to carry us through the weekend. As the weather turns colder, soup is ideal to comfort from the chill in the air, as well as provide for Sunday’s break from the kitchen.  I have had this Minestrone Soup recipe rolling around in my head for months. It is one of those things you have to get into the kitchen to work it out—even take an entire day just to make it as you imagined. Well, that’s how it is for me, anyway.

Yes, I’ve had those times when not all the tweaks and additions measure up to what my taste buds anticipated, though it is never a waste, I always learn. Fortunately, yesterday wasn’t one of those times :D.  This recipe turned to gold right before my eyes with beefy broth, loads of savory vegetables, and tender meatballs.

Rolling mini-meatballs can be a bit tedious, but I am a perfect bite kind of gal, so there has to be more than just a meatball on the spoon.  The blue cheese is subtle, blending with the Parmesan beautifully, packing deep flavor in each morsel—it was exactly as I imagined. If it is the perfect bite you’re after, you will want a hearty, crusty bread to soak up every drop of the delicious broth too.

Minestrone Soup with Blue Cheese-Parmesan Meatballs

Serves 8-10
For the Meatballs:
2          eggs
1/2      cup  milk
1 1/2   teaspoons  Worcestershire sauce
1/2      cup  bread crumbs [for gluten-free, use GF bread]
3/4     cup  Parmigiano-Reggiano — grated
1/4      cup  fresh parsley — minced
1           teaspoon sea salt
1           teaspoon  pepper
2          teaspoons  unrefined sugar
1/2      teaspoon  ground ginger
1/2      teaspoon  ground nutmeg
1/2      teaspoon  ground allspice
1          teaspoon  Italian seasoning
1          teaspoon  oregano
2         tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
1          medium  onion — finely chopped
3         cloves  garlic — minced
1          pound  ground beef
1          pound  ground lamb
1/2      pound  hot Italian sausage — casing removed
1/4      cup  blue cheese — crumbled fine

For the Soup:
3        quarts  beef stock
2×3 piece  Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
4        tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2  cups  leeks — white and light green part only, coarsely chopped
1         cup  fennel bulb — sliced, then coarsely chopped
1         cup  celery — chopped
6         cloves  garlic — minced
1         cup  carrots — diced
1 1/2   cups  parsnips — diced
2         teaspoons  oregano
1/2     teaspoon  rosemary leaves — crushed fine
1/4     teaspoon  red pepper flakes
2         cans  diced tomatoes — crushed or pulsed in processor
1          can  red kidney beans — drained and rinsed
1 1/2   cups  dry pasta [for gluten-free, use Ancient Harvest Quinoa Shells]
3          cups  baby spinach leaves — lightly packed
1/2      cup  fresh parsley — minced
sea salt and pepper, to taste

For the Meatballs:
In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs with milk and Worcestershire sauce.  Mix in the bread crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper, sugar, and spices; set aside.

Saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until softened.

Mix meats and blue cheese together, add egg and spice mixture and onions; mix thoroughly. Shape into small 1/2″ meatballs. Place meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Broil on HI until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on size of meatballs.  Break one open to be sure they are cooked through, extend cooking time if needed.

Set meatballs aside to finish the soup.  Note: This meatball recipe will produce more than is needed for the soup, though you can add as many as you like. Add the remaining meatballs to a pasta sauce or use for appetizers, simply freeze until ready to use.

For the Soup:
Pour beef stock into a soup pot and add a 2×3″ piece of Parmesan rind, bring to a low simmer (if you do not have Parmesan rind, grate some Parmesan into the stock). In a skillet over medium heat, saute leeks, fennel, and celery in half the olive oil until the vegetables begin to caramelize. Add garlic and continue to cook until garlic is fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add to the soup pot with stock.

In the same skillet, saute the carrots and parsnips in the other half of the olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle with the oregano, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and cook until vegetables begin to brown lightly and herbs are fragrant. Add to the soup pot.

Crush the tomatoes by hand or in a food processor until desired consistency. Add tomatoes with juices to the pot along with the drained kidney beans and meatballs. Stir to combine and simmer until flavors meld and vegetables are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Add dry pasta, spinach, and parsley to the soup and simmer an additional 15 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with more Parmesan and serve with crusty bread or Parmesan-Garlic toasts.

Note: This meatball recipe will produce more than is needed for the soup, though you can add as many as you like.  Add the remaining meatballs to a pasta sauce or use for appetizers, simply freeze until ready to use. A versatile soup, easy to substitute your favorite vegetables in place of any of those listed.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
The Healthy Home Economist Monday Mania
Premeditated Leftovers Hearth & Soul Hop
SS&GF Slightly Indulgent Tuesday
Real Food Forager Fat Tuesday
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursday
Mom Trends Food Friday
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
Easy Natural Food Sunday Soup Night

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Turkey Pot Pie with Gluten Free Pie Crust

Over the past few months, I have experimented with a number of gluten-free recipes, especially on those nights our daughter will be home for dinner.  I have had some great hits and some real misses trying to find what works and still tastes good.  Cupcakes, stews and sauces, and pancakes all turned out, but pie crust was illusive, either crumbly or gritty.  There was advice about grinding the flour more fine or buying certain mixes, but I wanted a recipe that worked with the six flours I already had.

Yesterday, I hit a home run (in the spirit of the World Series).  This pastry crust was easy to handle, light and delicious, without the grit common in gluten-free pastry.  It got a thumbs-up from everyone, even our youngest who is not thrilled about anything GF, so she is my real tell.

Last year I posted a recipe for Inside Out Turkey Pot Pie with Whole Wheat Biscuits, this recipe shows how to make it gluten-free with a traditional pie crust. This one-pot meal is full of comfort for cold winter days.  Often we save leftovers from rotisserie or baked chicken for this recipe, but with the holidays coming, it is a great way to use up those turkeys.

Turkey Pot Pie [Gluten-Free]

Serves: 6
1/3      cup  butter
3/4     cup  onion — minced
1        cup  carrots — sliced thin
1/2      cup  celery — chopped
1/2      teaspoon  thyme
2        cloves  garlic — minced
3/4      teaspoon  salt
1/2      teaspoon  pepper
1/4      cup  sweet rice flour
1 3/4   cups  chicken or turkey stock
2/3      cup  milk
3        cups  turkey — cooked and cut into small pieces
3/4      cup  frozen peas — defrosted

Preheat oven to 425° and prepare pastry crust.  Roll out 2/3 of the crust for the bottom and press into 9x9x2 pan (minimum 2.2 quart).  Pierce with a fork to prevent bubbles and pre-bake the bottom crust at 425° for 5-8 minutes until set, but not brown. Roll out other part of crust enough to top the dish and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prep vegetables and rinse peas to separate.  Melt butter on medium heat, stir in onion, carrot, celery, and thyme and cook until vegetables are softened. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in salt, pepper, and flour.

Add salt, pepper, and flour, stir until mixture is bubbly, 2-3 minutes.

Add broth and milk, heat to boiling stirring constantly.  Stir in turkey and peas; simmer for 3-5 minutes. Adjust seasoning, to taste.  Pour mixture into prebaked crust. Cover with crust, pierce crust with a fork to allow steam to vent.  Bake at 425° for 30 minutes and bubbly.

Remove dish from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Pie Crust [Gluten Free]

Adapted from You, Me & Gluten Free
Yield: 2 crust pie
1       cup  sweet rice flour
2/3    cup  tapioca flour
1/2     cup  cornstarch
1        tablespoon  coconut palm sugar
3/4     teaspoon  sea salt
1        teaspoon  xanthan gum
1        teaspoon  baking powder
3/4     cup  butter — very cold or frozen, cut into small pieces
2        large  eggs — beaten
2        teaspoons  lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

Combine the flours, sugar, salt, xanthan gum, and baking powder in a bowl or food processor until well mixed.

Cut in butter with a pastry knife or in the processor until blended and butter pieces are very small (smaller than peas).

Mix in beaten eggs and lemon juice until a smooth ball forms.  If the room is warm or the dough is too soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour until firm. Sprinkle a little rice flour on a sheet of parchment paper and on a rolling pin to roll out dough into desired shape. Fold in half and place in the pan.

Unfold and gently press the dough into the pan and bake according to recipe directions.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursday
Mom Trends Friday Food
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck

Seasonal Ingredient Map [via Epicurious]: Feature Fridays

Epicurious Seasonal Map

THIS is cool!
An interactive map from Epicurious showing what is fresh and grown locally in your area, by month.  Ever wonder when you can expect local strawberries or winter squash?  Want to be more purposeful about buying locally, but not sure what is available?  Just click on a state and there it is, along with ingredient descriptions, shopping guides, recipes, and tips.  Pretty neat, huh?!  Well, I liked it, though on Fridays I can be easily entertained. 😀  Enjoy!

Chicken Broccoli Casserole with Fried Onion Topping [GF]: Remaking an Old Standby

I imagine most families in America have some version of this soup-mix classic in their recipe rotation, or at least in their distant memory.  Casseroles did not originate in the U.S., but the method of using canned cream soups to bind a hodgepodge of ingredients together in one vessel, is certainly on us.  In the 1930s, The Campbell Soup Company began producing Cream of Mushroom soup, leading to a host of new, quick-fix family meals for home cooks.

Campbell’s® Ready To Serve Cream Of Mushroom Soup: water, mushrooms, cream (milk), vegetable oil (corn, cottonseed, canola and/or soybean), modified food starch, contains less than 2 % of: bleached enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), salt, monosodium glutamate, soy protein concentrate, yeast extract, spice extract, dehydrated garlic, oleoresin paprika.

Thanksgiving green beans, canned tuna, chicken, rice, tortillas, has all been subject to the cream sauce short cut of creamed soups. Throw French’s Fried Onions on top and dinner is served all across the country.  I remember my mom serving it over cooked rice as a side dish and trust me, she knew how to make good gravy, but it was quick and easy.  When schedules are maxed, we have all turned to convenience items like this to get something on the table.

The pity is, generations raised on convenience foods lose the knowledge, skill, and taste for preparing real, whole foods. Butter, cream, homemade stock is abandoned for processed alternatives with sugar, MSG, bad oils, and preservatives.  A couple of years ago, I discovered Emeril’s Green Bean Casserole with a homemade mushroom sauce and I was ruined, never to return to the recipe on the can of French’s onions again.

With resolve to eliminate processed foods from our diet and accommodate our daughter’s sensitivity to gluten, I was determined to make Chicken Broccoli Casserole from scratch.  That’s right, no canned soup or pre-made onions, just fresh ingredients creating a satisfying dinner from a single dish.  Our original recipe includes Paul Prudhomme Poultry Magic to season the chicken, which is a great line of seasonings.  However, it is not available in all stores, so part of the remake includes a mix of spices common in most kitchens.

Oh, and the fried onions … be sure to make a few extra for snacking, and (confession) don’t start hungry or you’ll eat too many before you can get them on the casserole.  So here it is, Chicken Broccoli Casserole with Fried Onion Topping, also gluten-free—a warm, savory, crispy, creamy, and satisfying, one-dish meal; perfect for fall and winter evenings.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole with Fried Onion Topping

Serves: 6
For the Onion Topping:
peanut oil or coconut oil — for frying
1       large  sweet yellow onion — sliced into rings
1       tablespoon  Chipotle Tabasco
1       tablespoon  Worcestershire sauce
1       tablespoon  Tamari soy sauce (gluten-free)
1/2     cup  King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour Mix or whole wheat flour
1/4     cup  cornstarch
1/2     teaspoon  baking powder, if using GF flour
salt

For the Mushroom Sauce:
4       tablespoons  butter
1/2     large  sweet yellow onion — chopped fine
1/2     cup  celery — chopped fine
6       large cloves  garlic — minced
8       ounces  mushrooms — wiped clean and ends trimmed, sliced
1/4     teaspoon  pepper
1/2     teaspoon  salt
2       tablespoons  sweet rice flour or 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2  cups  chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium
1/2     cup  heavy cream

For the rest of the filling:
1       cup  brown rice, uncooked
8      cups  broccoli (about 1 1/4 lbs) — cut into small florets, blanched
2      tablespoons  butter
3-4  large  boneless and skinless chicken breasts — cut into 1″ cubes
1      teaspoon  granulated garlic
1      teaspoon  onion powder
1      teaspoon  oregano
1      teaspoon  thyme
1      teaspoon  paprika
1/2    teaspoon  coriander
1/2    teaspoon  salt
1/2    teaspoon  pepper
1/4    teaspoon  cayenne
pinch  nutmeg
2      cups  extra sharp cheddar cheese — grated
Note: To save a step, the spice mix for the filling can be substituted with 2 tablespoons Paul Prudhomme Poultry Magic

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a 9×13 casserole dish with butter and set aside.

Cook the rice according to package directions. 1 cup of uncooked rice should yield 3 cups cooks rice. Once rice is done, fluff and set aside to cool.  Blanch prepared broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute, drain, and rinse with cold water-or-plunge in water bath and drain again; set aside to cool.

For the Onion Topping:
Separate the onion slices into individual rings. Mix Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce together. Using your hands, combine the onion rings with the sauce in a mixing bowl and toss thoroughly until the onions are coated with the sauce. Mix GF flour, cornstarch, and baking powder in a shallow bowl until well blended.  Dredge the onion rings in the flour to coat (gently tap off any excess flour).

Heat 1/2 inch of peanut oil in a deep skillet until hot enough that onions sizzle, place onion rings one at a time in skillet, but not touching. Fry until onion rings are lightly golden on each side, about 30 seconds. (Since the onions will bake in the oven, you do not want them to brown too much, only set the coating). Transfer to a paper towel lined platter to drain and season onion rings with salt. Set aside. (The onions that are darker brown are great for snacking 🙂 )

For the Mushroom Sauce:
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over med heat and cook the chopped onions and celery until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are soft and golden brown and have released their liquid, 4 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle with the sweet rice flour, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken stock and cream and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover with a lid.

For the rest of the filling:
Mix remaining seasonings together in a small bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, place cubed chicken in the skillet and sprinkle with seasoning mix. Cook over medium heat until chicken is just cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix the rice, broccoli, chicken, and 1 1/2 cups of cheese together in a large mixing bowl until evenly mixed. Mix in cream sauce until incorporated. Pour into a prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Top with fried onion rings. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and the onion rings are golden brown.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Mom Trends Friday Food
Real Food Whole Health Fresh Bites Friday
The Nourishing Gourmet Pennywise Platter Thursday
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
Real Food Forager Fat Tuesday
SS&GF Slightly Indulgent Tuesday

Pad Thai Recipe and Red Boat Fish Sauce

When writing about Emeril’s Wok Seared Duck Salad, I mentioned his recommendation for fish sauce with the ingredient list.  Shortly after posting, Red Boat Fish Sauce asked if I would try their sauce to compare.  I only recommend products I like and use, so it has taken me a couple of weeks to put it to the test.

Starting with Shrimp Lo Mein, I was pleased with the clean, bright flavor that melded perfectly into the sauce without being too salty or fishy.  The second recipe we tried it in was Pad Thai with Beef (below) and again, it brought a balanced dimension of savory flavor.  I was equally pleased to discover this new sauce has so few ingredients, just anchovies and sea salt.

Additives like hydrolyzed vegetable protein is commonly used in commercial fish sauces as a short cut to enhance flavor.  According to Celiac Solution, “HVP (hydrogenated vegetable protein), HPP (hydrolyzed plant protein), TVP (textured vegetable protein), MSG (monosodium glutamate) could contain wheat if made outside of the U.S.A.” This is a concern for anyone trying to avoid gluten and still enjoy Asian foods.

We cannot always be sure about the ingredients used in restaurants, but at home, I use pure, whole ingredients, as close to the natural source whenever possible.  I look for products like Red Boat to add to my pantry because quality ingredients make a difference in taste and eliminating unnecessary additives from our food is important to us.

To find out where to buy Red Boat Fish Sauce near you, just click on the link or order online directly from Red Boat.

Other recipes to try:
Thai Peanut Sauce
Beef Lo Mein
Thai-Style Pineapple Wraps

Pad Thai with Beef

Pad Thai with Beef

Adapted from Emeril’s Pad Thai
Serves 4
8       ounces  dried rice noodles
1/4    cup Red Boat Fish Sauce
2       tablespoons  rice wine vinegar
2-3       tablespoons  sugar or coconut palm sugar, adjust to taste
1       tablespoon  tamarind paste
1/2     teaspoon  crushed red pepper
3       tablespoons  coconut oil
7       cloves  garlic — minced
1       lb  beef, pork, or chicken (or a combination) — sliced in 1/4″ strips; or shrimp halved lengthwise
2       large  eggs
8       ounces  bean sprouts (about 2 cups) — rinsed and dry
2       cups  green onions (2-3 bunches) — white and green parts, chopped
1/3     cup  roasted, unsalted peanuts — coarsely chopped
1/3     cup  fresh cilantro leaves — minced
1        tablespoon  lime juice
1        whole  lime (optional) — cut into wedges for garnish

In a large bowl, combine the noodles with enough warm water to cover.  Soak until just tender, about 30 minutes, then drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, vinegar, tamarind paste, crushed red pepper, and sugar; stir until the tamarind paste and sugar dissolves and is well blended. Set aside.

In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or just fragrant.  Add the meat and cook until the just cooked through, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add the eggs to the skillet and cook, stirring to break up into small pieces, about a minute.  Add the onions and allow to cook for 30 seconds to soften slightly. Add the sprouts, onions, fish sauce mixture, and noodles, and cook until mixed well and warmed through, stirring frequently.

Add the reserved meat and peanuts, and cook for 30 seconds to incorporate into the noodles.  Toss with the cilantro, lime juice, and serve immediately with lime wedges and Sriracha sauce on the side.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Premeditated Leftovers Hearth and Soul

Wild West Dining Tour Offers Tidbits and Tales in Old Colorado City

Take a walk down Colorado Avenue in Old Colorado City and its charm invites you to relax and stay awhile.  Sprinkled among the shops, select restaurants welcome neighbors and visitors stopping-in on a Wild West Dining Tour guided by Samantha Bruner of Colorado Springs Food Tours.  Samantha provides historic anecdotes of the brick and mortar, the boom and bust, and threads of the past, now woven into the fabric of Old Colorado City’s tourism and community.

Food is plentiful, each establishment serving choice samples of their menu, and some include wine, if desired.  The VIP service is friendly and efficient to ensure you stay on schedule with 5-7 restaurants on the agenda. Of course, the tours are wisely arranged on weekday evenings and Saturday afternoon—ideal times to meet the owners and managers who take great pride in their business.  Even with fickle Colorado weather, the walking tours are scheduled year round embracing the weather as part of the unique experience.

Gertrude’s

In our group of six (there can be up to 12), was a mix of locals and vacationers, the tour appealed to each in a different way.  Accustomed to dining in Old Colorado City from our 14 years living on the Westside, my husband and I were pleased to see some of our favorites on the tour.  We enjoyed meeting the owners of familiar haunts and noshing at new places too.  For those visiting from out-of-town the culinary sampling provided insight for dinner plans during the rest of their trip.


Gertrude’s
was our first tasting with Coconut Shrimp and choice wine, followed by wood-fired oven pizza with freshly made mozzarella at Pizzeria Rustica.  Next, we were on our way to Jake and Telly’s for traditional Greek fare including Spinach and Feta Spanakopita. With a toast of ouzo, our send-off was as warm as our welcome.  Just a few doors down, a select scoop of ice cream (I had black walnut!) at Colorado City Creamery was quite refreshing to the palate, Samantha’s storytelling accompanied each delicious stop.

Jake and Telly’s

Paired with each choice sampling of food, all but one restaurant included an alcoholic beverage so be sure to pace yourself.  Strolling between restaurants is a nice stretch for the legs and respite for the stomach.  Upon arrival at Meadow Muffins, we were escorted to their new upstairs lounge to relax with chicken wings and a pitcher of Fat Tire while gaining insight about the mingling of the city’s past and present.  We concluded our outing at Garden of the God Gourmet with a mousse filled double chocolate cup and a bright Two Rivers Riesling.

Samantha creates a delightful experience to the last bite whether you are venturing through Downtown Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, or Old Colorado City.  Colorado Springs Food Tours is a fun way to get to know these unique cities. Visit her website at www.ColoradoSpringsFoodTours.com or call (719) 322-5731 for more information or to book a tour.

Shared on Gallery of Favorites.

Common Cooking Mistakes: Feature Fridays

The Most Common Cooking Mistakes

I like lists it simplifies life.  I don’t like making mistakes in the kitchen it complicates life.  When I Stumbled across this list of common cooking mistakes by Cooking Light, it satisfied both.  Reviewing the list I could relate with two in particular, #3 because I forget baking isn’t like cooking (it requires more precision), and #20 because, well, like a lot of other things I assume I’ll remember (I do the same thing with garlic bread).  It really is a handy list to have around.  Enjoy!