Lentil Soup with Sausage and Ditalini

I suppose it’s that time of the year again when we crave warm cozy meals. this is perfect for sunday dinner (or any night ) will feed about 8 people nicely. freezes perfectly. and served with a beautiful salad and some bread it’s an awesome meal. i make so many soups, and will be following up throughout the winter with all of my wonderful soup recipes, but this one is really special. the lentils add a wonderful flavor and texture, the sausage adds a savory spice. i mix hot and sweet sausage but feel free to go all sweet, i also like the sausage to have some fennel in it, i use italian pork sausage. you can obviously substitute with turkey or chicken sausage. so cozy on up to this one, it’s a true keeper. I believe this recipe came from a cookbook by julia della croce, who has the most awesome italian recipes. i’ve made a few changes for myself, but maybe you will too. this is filling enough as a meal which is how we eat it.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. (1 1/2 cups) lentils

10 cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 lb. sausage, I used 1/2 sweet and 1/2 spicy italian pork sausage , feel free to use turkey sausage /chicken sausage. I like fennel in my sausage, so the italian ones usually have it. i have made it with turkey and it’s delicious.

3 tablespoons olive oil , You may need a little more after you cook the sausage. (see directions)

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 onion chopped (yellow)

1 large celery stalk chopped ( leaves included)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 16 oz. can plum tomatoes, i use the chopped, peeled and seeded ones, along with the juice.

1/2 cup ditalini or any little pasta

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

some flat leaf parsley chopped up (optional)

grated fresh parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

pick over the lentils, remove any stones, imperfect ones, etc. wash the lentils in cold water ( I use a colander to pick through) Transfer to a large pot ( my trusty Le Creuset) large dutch oven. Cover the lentils with broth and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer immediately. Simmer for about 15 minutes. while the soup is cooking , remove sausage from it’s casing ( butcher can do this for you as well) In a large ample frying pan, put the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and when the olive oil is heated up , put in sausage, and break it up with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 10 minutes. Remove sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon. Leave whatever oil is still in the pan, should be about 1 tablespoon.  I usually add a little more olive oil here about 1 more tablespoon should do it. then  add the garlic, onion, celery, and thyme and saute till vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. When veggies are softened, return sausage to the pan. in a bowl or measuring cup i take a few ladles of broth out of pot and mix the 3 tablespoons of tomato paste into it. then add to sausage mixture .  add all ingredients into lentil/broth plus can of chopped tomatoes in their juice.  let all ingredients blend together and bring back to a low boil, then simmer for about an hour. before i serve it i return to a boil and add pasta, it only takes about 8 minutes for pasta to cook through. discard the bay leaf, ladle into soup bowls, add freshly grated parmesan cheese and you’re good to go with a super authentic italian soup. we eat it as a meal alongside salad and some very good bread

*should serve 8 as a meal, with a little left over to freeze

Chicken Stew in One Pot

This is one of  my go to meals when the weather turns a little cold and throughout the winter months.  When I need something to make that’s easy, healthy and comforting. Food for the soul I like to say. I serve this with crusty bread,  and a green salad. It’s very filling and makes a beautiful presentation for 2 or 6. Hope you enjoy, it’s really very easy , just chop up a few vegetables (carrots, onions, and celery, a basic *mirepoix) open a few cans and buy the chicken, don’t be intimidated by ingredients! This recipe inspired from Giada de Laurentis’s chicken stew. I have made a few changes to suit my taste.

*should serve 4-6 nicely with 4 nice size chicken breasts

*Basic Mirepoix is a combination of chopped carrots, celery and onions used to add flavor and aroma to stocks, sauces, soups and other foods. Usually comprised of 50% onions, 25% carrots, and 25% celery.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 stalks celery, small bite size pieces

1 carrot, peeled, cut into small bite size pieces

1 small white onion chopped

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 can chopped tomatoes ( I use San Marzano diced) large 28 oz. can with juice

16 oz. chicken broth (1/2 box) but you may need a bit more so hold on to rest of the box.

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dry thyme

I use 4 chicken breasts with ribs ( I usually go to butcher order 2 chicken breasts with bone in, split in two) if you go to supermarket, either buy 2 large breasts, or 4 smaller ones. Skin on and Bones in! app. 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. total weight. You will be removing the skin, it will add to the flavor of the stew.

1 can red kidney beans drained ( if using organic, do not need to rinse) 15 oz.

1 can black beans drained ( if using organic , do not need to rinse either) 15 oz.

nice crusty whole grain bread

*hot sauce like Cholula is great served on the table so people can adjust seasonings on their own

Directions:

Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy 5 1/2 quart. pot. ( Le Creuset again) heat over medium heat. When oil is hot add the onions, celery , and carrot (Mirepoix mixture). Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. You will taste again towards the end, so if you want to hold off on this step you can. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, tomato paste, bay leaf and thyme. Then add the chicken breasts , press to submerge in the sauce.

Bring the liquid to a slow simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently uncovered until the chicken is almost cooked through, turning the chicken breasts over and stirring mixture occasionally, app. 30 minutes. Using tongs if you have them, if you don’t , buy them, remove the chicken to a plate and allow to cool ( about 15 minutes) Discard the bay leaf, add the beans to the pot ( remember to drain) and bring to a simmer until the liquid is reduced to a stew-like consistency, probably another 15 minutes or so.

Discard the chicken skin and bones from the chicken breasts. Shred or cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Return the chicken meat to the stew. Bring the stew back to a slow simmer. Season again with salt and pepper to taste.

I usually cook , then turn off heat, and bring it back to simmer right before serving.

This should serve 6 well. I serve with a nice crusty whole grain bread. Everything is in the pot, veggies, and protein. Enjoy! it’s delicious. Don’t be put off, it’s really easy to prepare, can be made ahead of time.  If it’s made a few days ahead you may want to add the chicken broth to thin out.

Brussels Sprouts and Apple Salad

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Actually this salad had some lettuce and brussels and apples and walnuts and parmigiana cheese!!!! A-mazingly delicious and super fresh tasting.

I found it on a blog site Once Upon a Chef and made a few changes to it but it was absolutely delicious. Easy ingredients and you can prep ahead and stick it in the fridge all dressed and ready to go. My kind of salad and one I will be making all winter long. The original recipe called for all brussels sprouts but I did 1/2 lettuce mix and 1/2 brussels. You can do whatever you’d like .

Dressing was fresh and sweet because of the honey. This would be amazing as a dinner salad with any protein added.

*salad should serve 4-6 as an appetizer size salad.

Enjoy! and follow me on Instagram @cookingwithcandi

Ingredients:

I used  about 1 12 ounce package of shredded Brussels Sprouts

app. 9 – 12 oz. of any lettuce you’d like I used a combo of different lettuces

1 large apple such as Honey Crisp

3 Tablespoons minced shallots, app. 1 large shallot

4 Tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

6 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 Tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped –to toast the walnuts –pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and set an oven rack in the middle position. Arrange the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. ( no need to spray or oil the pan) Bake, checking frequently until lightly toasted and fragrant (if you smell them you better remove them, they burn rather easily) set the timer for 4 minutes but they will probably take 6 minutes. Allow to cool and chop them up.

3/4 cup thinly sliced  Parmigiano-Reggiano — I use a peeler to slice cheese while it’s cold it’s easier to slice.

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the shredded Brussels Sprouts, lettuce, apple, vegetable oil, olive oil, shallots, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt and pepper; toss well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours to allow the sprouts to soften and the flavors to meld together.

When ready to serve, toss the walnuts and cheese with the salad. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary , then serve.

 

Maple – Dijon Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash.

Here’s a new recipe that I absolutely loved making and loved eating! Tasty and Easy and anyone can do it. All it took was a few pantry ingredients that almost everyone has in their home.

I just love one sheet meals — another reason to go out and buy a large sheet pan if you haven’t done so already. 18 x 13 is the size you’ll need because if you crowd the ingredients they end up steaming and not really roasting. Roasting is what you’re after here.

I chose Chicken Thighs because they can stand up to the cooking time along with the veggies. I didn’t use Drumsticks but you certainly can use both. If you insist on white meat you’ll have to remove chicken earlier than veggies or you’ll have dried out chicken for sure.

Enjoy this lovely sheet pan meal and I added Brown Rice.

Please follow my blog on Instagram @cookingwithcandi— thanks

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce

4 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard, divided

3 Tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup, divided ( used 2 and 1)

6 large bone in chicken thighs, or use 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks or whatever pieces you’d like

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

app. 12 ounces butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch cubes

app. 12 ounce Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

 

and you’ll need some cooking spray — you can use Olive Oil spray or just regular spray

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray an 18 x 13 inch large rimmed sheet pan

In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, 3 Tbsp. of the Dijon Mustard and 2 Tbsp. of the pure Maple Syrup

Season the chicken all over with Salt and Pepper and then arrange the chicken on the sprayed baking sheet

In a large bowl combine the Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, thyme, and olive oil, season with a sprinkling  of salt and pepper here too.

Arrange the vegetables on the baking sheet around the chicken. Pour the Dijon-Maple -Soy sauce over the chicken, turn to coat completely, and pour any remaining sauce over the veggies.

Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the veggies are tender, app. 35-40 minutes. Look at the chicken after 30 mins. I cooked for 35 minutes and it was browned up rather nicely.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1 Tbsp. Dijon and 1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup and remove chicken from oven.

Brush the remaining mixture over the chicken. Bake a few more minutes till browned and perfect looking.

Serve alongside some brown rice or any rice you’d like.

Amazingly Delicious.

Maple Dijon Salmon

photo 2 (3)photo 1This is a very easy and light salmon recipe that is perfect for dinner. I used 2 tablespoons of light mayonnaise but feel free to omit it.   I would cook for a very short time next time and check the doneness of the salmon frequently. It really only needed 8 mins. to roast , and about 3 minutes with sauce on it under the broiler. You can always brush a little more sauce after it is cooked. You’ll just want salmon to be cooked through perfectly–not over and definitely not undercooked. I used a silicone brush to put sauce on salmon and was left with a lot of sauce so I served on the side. Don’t be afraid of the mayonnaise because you really only use such a small amount on the fish itself. The lemon and garlic give it another layer of flavor in addition to the mustard/maple flavor. This is so easy and try the White Beans and Spinach to serve with it.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 pound wild salmon, cut into 4 pieces , I leave the skin on but if you’d like you can remove it. I cooked with skin on but skin stuck to the parchment paper anyway.

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard or Dijon mustard, I used Dijon tonite

2 tablespoons Mayonnaise ( you can definitely use Light Mayo) I did

2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup (nothing beats the  flavor of a real maple syrup) It’s worth it

1 clove garlic, minced

juice of 1/2 lemon

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place salmon pieces on a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Rinse and pat dry the salmon fillets. Season fish with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper; be liberal with salt. Put in oven for 8-10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine mustard, mayonnaise,  maple syrup, garlic and lemon juice. Whisk or stir very well to get rid of lumps of mayonnaise. After the first 8-10 minutes of cooking, brush salmon with mixture and return to the oven for approx.3 – 5 minutes under the broiler or until salmon is just cooked through (which will also depend on the thickness of your salmon pieces.)  I let salmon sit for about 5 minutes before serving. It will continue to cook for a few minutes after it is removed from oven.

Cooking times will vary depending on size of fillets and your oven. In my oven it was 8 minutes to roast and 3 minutes under the broiler. You can play around with these times depending on your needs. Total cooking time was only 11 minutes! I served with a side of delicious white beans and spinach , and for Joel some roasted butternut squash . Rice is always perfect with fish.

*recipe for White Beans and Spinach in a Pan on cookingwithcandi.com

Potato – Zucchini Latkes for Chanukah

It’s almost Chanukah if you can believe it!  These tasty little pancakes are perfect for the holiday and really any day.   Most perfect of all is that you can cook them, freeze them and have them for whenever you want. They make a great appetizer or side dish. My experience with latkes is that they never really taste as good as when you first fry them, but that’s such an impossible task with people waiting to eat and having fifty million other things to do. Latkes are the ultimate comfort food. This is just a little twist on the traditional potato latke .  Usually about 2 – 2 1/2 inches in diameter is the right size, but it’s up to you. Not sure where this recipe hails from. The original from my Grandmother, but the zucchini was added later. My grandmother didn’t own a food processor and it’s a game changer, just makes it so much simpler to do.  I loved my Grandmother’s latkes and not quite sure what she did to make them so delicious but I try my best.

Happy Chanukah!

If you’re not into the zucchini thing just add 2 more potatoes and omit the zucchini.

Delicious served with applesauce , that’s how we do it here.

Ingredients:

6 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered (for food processor)

2 zucchini, cut into large chunks (for food processor)

1 spanish onion, peeled, and cut into quarters (for food processor)

4 eggs, beaten

1 – 2 teaspoons kosher salt ( more to taste) tasting is key here , potatoes can be very bland

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup matzoh meal or bread crumbs ( if you’re making for Passover it’s perfect with matzoh meal)

Vegetable oil for frying

*applesauce for dipping ( optional) this is what we use

* sour cream ( optional) if you like

Directions:

Using the grater blade for the food processor, grate the onions, potatoes, and zucchini. A little trick to these latkes is to drain out as much of the liquid as possible, so I literally squeeze out every drop of liquid with my hands. I let each vegetable sit in a colander to drain as I grate the next one.

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, salt and pepper. Add it to the potato mixture and combine well. Next, add the matzoh meal or bread crumbs.  Taste for salt (start with 1 teaspoon and add more if needed, this is very important for flavor.

Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet or cast iron skillet, over a high flame. You want the oil very hot. I test the oil with a drop of water–when it sizzles, it is ready to fry. I put about 2 inches of oil in the pan, you may need to add more as you start frying. Form pancakes about 2 inches in diameter, place (very) carefully into the oil, and when the edges start to crisp up, turn them over and continue cooking until golden. If you like them flat and crispier, then flatten them out with a spatula while cooking and start with a little less.

*I like the oil to be clean as I fry a lot, so if it starts to run down I usually pour it out, wipe pan with paper towel and add fresh new oil. This is only in the event the oil starts to get very dark from the potatoes. It may not be necessary but sometimes it is. They will just fry up better.

Let the pancakes cool off, and serve plain or with sour cream or applesauce on the side. If you are freezing them, let cool completely first, then I usually use a Hefty Ziploc freezer bag. Mark them with the date, and take them out the night before you need them. They should stay for at least a month in freezer, and probably longer.

*to re-heat I like to use the oven at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet for about 15 mins. depending on how thick they are. Spray the cookie sheet with Pam Spray and you may want to flip them over 1/2 way through. Make sure they are heated throughout. Serve with some of that homemade applesauce on my blog. Enjoy!

What I made for Dinner – Turkey Bolognese

I must say Pasta is probably my most favorite food to eat. Bolognese sauce is one of my most favorites. Today I decided not to go to my usual Bolognese which is delicious but very heavy and rich. I went with a lighter approach today using Turkey and Chicken Sausage because I couldn’t find italian turkey sausage and didn’t feel like hunting it down, and the chicken sausage worked just fine. I did use dark meat turkey because it is much more flavorful, it is ideal but if you really don’t want to use the dark meat use 1/2 white and 1/2 dark or all white meat . The only negative to this sauce is that it really needs 3- 4 hours for the sauce to cook down. The longer the sauce cooks the more flavorful it will be.  This sauce would probably serve 4 nicely with 1 lb. of pasta. You can easily double it and freeze the leftover sauce. So nice to have it in the freezer and just have to make the pasta and you have a wonderful homemade meal. I have now started serving the sauce over shredded zucchini and spaghetti squash.  It is so delicious and you may feel a little bit better eating it over zucchini or spaghetti squash than noodles.  Pasta or Vegetable it’s pretty awesome. Look on my blog for Zucchini Bolognese Recipe for how to recipe, posted 12/20/2012.

Ingredients:

6 Tablespoons Olive Oil, plus more if necessary

1 lb. Italian style Turkey or Chicken Sausage, removed from casings. You can also mix in hot or sweet Italian pork sausage if you don’t mind using the pork.

1 pound ground Turkey ( I used dark meat )

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and finely diced ( app. 2 cups)

3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 28 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes with their juice

1/3 cup tomato paste

1 box. Rigatoni ( or any other macaroni you like ) or spaghetti or if you like use *shredded zucchini or *spaghetti squash ( see notes)

Grated Parmesan Cheese for serving

Directions:

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy pan over medium high heat. ( I use my Le Creuset ) Add the sausage meat and break it up as it cooks, turning now and then, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside, add the ground turkey to the pan along with a good pinch of salt and a few fresh grind of pepper. Cook the meat stirring here and there, for 10 minutes as well, till meat is nicely browned. I remove and put in bowl with the sausage which was set aside. Add another 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook until onion breaks down and gets soft, another good 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice along with 1/2 cup of water. ( You may need more water as you go) Add the sausage and ground turkey, stir the sauce well. Bring the sauce to a boil, season to taste with salt and pepper and turn the heat to low. Cover almost completely with a lid (allowing a little steam to escape) and gently simmer for 4 hours. You may want to add splashes of water if sauce is drying out. After 2 hours I added the 1/3 cup of Tomato Paste, and replace lid and continue simmering for 2 more hours. I added water as it cooked, you’ll have to judge for yourself how much water you add. I added 1/4 cup at a time.

When the sauce is ready for serving, bring a large pot of water and prepare pasta according to package directions.

serve with sauce over the rigatoni ( or any pasta you like) with a nice grating of Parmesan.

Yum!

*so many stores now sell zucchini already shredded and it’s dry and ready to go. The only problem with doing it yourself is that you must get the extra moisture out.

*Spaghetti Squash – just have the store cut it in half because it’s a tough one to cut at home. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and scoop out the seeds. Spray a rimmed baking sheet and turn squash open side down on baking sheet and cook till soft, probably 45 minutes or so. Remove from oven and with a fork remove the inside of the squash into a bowl, it comes out like very thin spaghetti.

Bowtie Pasta with Sausage, Peas, and Mushrooms

Made with Chicken Sausage Tonite

Pan with Turkey Sausage, Crimini Mushrooms, and Peas

Cremini Mushrooms roughly chopped

This is a sauceless pasta. Very light, very tasty, and very easy to make. There aren’t a lot of ingredients, and it doesn’t take a long time to make. My husband, Joel, hates green things and loves this dish. And he even eats all the peas on his plate, which makes me very happy. A shout out to Giada de Laurentis for the inspiration here.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup olive oil

1 lb turkey sausages, casings removed (just squeeze all the meat out; I like Italian-style turkey sausage)

1 box of cremini mushrooms (Baby Bella), approx. 10 oz. (roughly chopped)

About 3/4 bag frozen peas (take them out of freezer about an hour before, just slightly thawed is perfect)

1 lb Farfalle pasta (bow ties) or any pasta you like , bowties are perfect but this time out I used elbows and it was perfect!

Salt and pepper, to taste

Freshly grated parmesan, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large, sauté pan, heat up two tablespoons olive oil (medium to high flame). Add the broken up turkey sausage and make sure to break up the large clumps. Cook for about 10 minutes (I like the sausage browned). When finished cooking, remove sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Heat a little more olive oil (approx. 2 TBSP). Add the chopped up cremini mushrooms and kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (approx. a little less than a teaspoon of each, depending on your taste. Keep in mind that sausage is naturally salty.) Sauté until all the liquid is gone—about another 10 minutes. Add the frozen peas and cook for a few minutes. Return the sausage to the pan and cook for another few minutes (I turn off the heat at this point and just let the flavors blend.)

In the meantime, cook pasta (according to package) al dente. Drain the pasta, reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water from pasta (this is the trick with “sauceless pasta”) and add pasta to the pan with all other ingredients. Combine well, adding some of that pasta water at a time; as needed. Drizzle in the 1/2 cup of olive oil, mixing as you go. Taste for salt and pepper. I also add red pepper flakes, but I love spicy.

Serve with freshly grated parm cheese and you’re good to go.

*Serves 4 as a main dish and 8 as a side.

The Ultimate Comfort Food: Mac and Cheese

 

 

When I think of the ultimate in comfort foods, Mac and Cheese always comes to mind. Now that there is a slight chill in the air we’re ready for this recipe. I have made it for big crowds, and just the two of us. Not the neon orange kind from the box (although when I make it for my grandkids it’s really not all that bad) but the creamy homemade oh so soothing one. I love the creaminess and the richness. You can’t really eat too much of it because of the richness. I just love the crunchy burnt pieces on top, and the smooth texture underneath. I also love it cold from the fridge, which can be a very dangerous thing to have around. So invite a bunch of people over (this recipe is perfect for Sunday get-togethers) and it will disappear. You’ll have just enough left over for a little midnight raid.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb. elbow macaroni or Cavatappi

1 tbsp. kosher salt

1 quart milk , I actually used Skim Plus and it was just fine

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

12 oz. grated Gruyere cheese (approx. 4 cups)

8 oz. sharp or extra sharp grated cheddar (approx. 2 cups)

8 tbsp. unsalted butter (1 stick), divided into 6 tbsp. for sauce and 2 tbsp. for topping with bread crumbs

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg I love freshly grated Nutmeg, either one will do

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs (5 slices of bread with crusts removed. I use whole wheat but white is fine. I do this using a food processor with a steel blade. It’s quick and easy.)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook macaroni according to directions on the box. Drain well. I let it sit and get good and dry while I prepare the cheese sauce.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan but do not boil it. Melt 6 tbsp. of butter in a large pot and add the flour, then the hot milk and cook for a few minutes until the sauce is thickened and smooth. I continue stirring with a wooden spoon during this process. When it is thick and smooth, take it off the heat, and add the cheeses, salt, pepper and nutmeg. I then place the dry macaroni back in the pot I cooked it in and pour the cheese sauce on top. Stir well. I then spray a 3 quart baking casserole dish with Pam and pour the macaroni and cheese into it. Melt the remaining butter (in the microwave is fine), combine it with the fresh bread crumbs and sprinkle the mixture on top of the macaroni. Bake for approx. 35 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on top.

*serves about 8 – 10 depending on crowd, and if it’s a side or main, I served with a light green salad with balsamic dressing.

Italian Wedding Soup with Chicken Balls

Italian Wedding Soup with Chicken Balls

this is one of my absolute favorite recipes. It is a soup , which is also a full meal. It is hearty and pretty healthy.  It is one of my staples from September through April. It freezes well and you can just take it out of the freezer the night before, and you’ll have a wonderful meal the next evening. When you defrost it you will probably want to add broth/water to it. add a little at a time till you get the consisitency you like. Enjoy:)

Ingredients: chicken balls

1 lb. ground chicken

1/2 lb chicken sausage, casings removed

3 slices whole wheat bread for bread crumbs ( I put into food proccesor with steel blade for crumbs) i remove crusts . should be app. 1 cup of bread crumbs

2 teaspoons minced garlic ( 2 – 3 cloves)

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano ( fresh is best) but whatever you have will do

1/4 cup grated Parmesan ( again nothing beats fresh) but whatever you have will do here as well

3 tablespoons milk

1 extra large egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Soup Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small -medium yellow onion minced

1 cup diced carrots ( 3 )

1 cup diced celery (2 stalks)

10 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup dry white wine( use whatever you have open)

1 cup small pasta tubetini, ditalini, stars, etc.

5 ounces fresh spinach, washed and trimmed

*fresh dill ( I love the flavor) add at your own discretion about 1/4 cup minced fresh dill.

Directions:

preheat the oven to 350 degrees  put parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

for the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage,bread crumbs, garlic, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, salt and pepper  all in a bowl and mix well with a fork.  I use a teaspoon, and make 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls and drop onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet. you should have about 30 to 40 small balls. bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. set them aside. (I made about 30 balls, they were a little larger this time out)

For the Soup:

 heat the olive oil over medium – low heat in a large heavy bottomed soup pot ( Le Creuset type pot) Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, about 10 minutes, don’t brown. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil, at this point I let soup cook a while to soften the vegetables, app. 1 hour. ( a low simmer) if you’re in a hurry you can probably do the whole soup in 1/2 hour , veggies will be soft enough to eat. if some of the liquid evaporates you can always add a little more broth.

chicken balls out of the ovenItalian Wedding Soup cooking

 Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook another 6 – 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the meatballs and simmer for another minute or so. taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for another minute or so, the spinach will just wilt. Ladle into soup bowls and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.