Soup Under Thirty

Here's a little inspiration from Bologna via cooking-up a brothy and hearty tortellini soup. The tortellini originates from the north-cental part of Italy. Many legends lay claim to the origins of tortellini; none of which I hold much belief in.. from an inn-keeper who replicated Venus' belly button, to claims of tortellini mimicking the shape of a turtle, to replicating 17th-century architectural features of Modena. Whatever you believe, these dumpling-like pasta can become a legend in your kitchen. 

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Eat more greens in your diet!

Adding deep green veggies to your diet will provide you with valuable nutrients that your body really needs during the winter. During cold season, fending off colds means strengthening your immune system. Power up with fennel, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, lettuces, green beans, kale and collards. Drop them in soups. Steaming vegetables is a quick and healthy side dish. Fresh is best. Frozen is the next best option. Canned veggies are the least desirable, because of the high sodium content. (Popeye’s strength may have benefited from 'me spinach', but he had high blood pressure from the high sodium content in his canned veggie.)

This pasta soup dish is wonderful as an appetizer or a luncheon entrée. The best part is that it can be ready in under 30 minutes. Serve alongside my Flatbread Pizzas

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Tortellini Basil Soup

makes 6-8 servings

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1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 cup sweet onion, chopped

8 cloves caramelized garlic

1 cup canned San Marzano Tomatoes, chopped

4 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1 quarter cup fresh spinach leaves, shredded

8 cups chicken or vegetable broth

8 ounces cheese tortellini

1 cup small white beans, cooked or canned

Pinch nutmeg

Grated parmesan cheese to taste

Fresh ground black pepper

Pre heat a medium soup pot to medium temperature.

Add olive oil, onion, garlic, tomatoes and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Pour in broth and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and add tortellini, spinach, basil, and white beans. Simmer until tortellinis are al dente and season with nutmeg, pepper. Add parmesan cheese to taste. Serve with a basil leaf on top. 

NOTE: This recipe requires a good quality tortellini, if you are cooking the pasta in the broth. A lesser quality tortellini will make the soup starchy. If you are not sure of the quality, cook the tortellini separately and add pasta to the soup right before serving. 

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Chocolate Brownie Cookies

As great addition to any cookie platter. Plus, a chocolate treat in under 30 minutes - mixing and baking. But can you wait 24 hours? Probably not, but just save a few because these cookies actually taste even better a few days after baked. Eyes-go-wide open on the first bite. Try my recipe for yourself and you'll agree. For best results use a good quality cocoa.

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Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Makes 3 dozen large or 6 dozen small 

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1 1/3 cups sweet butter

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 Tablespoon vanilla

2 each eggs

2 1/4 cups flour

2/3 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons milk

1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped 

1 cup mini chocolate chips, semi sweet, or chopped chocolate

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar one minute, or until creamy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating lightly after each.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk beating at low speed about 1 minute, or just until blended. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by heaping 2 Tablespoons spoonful on ungreased baking sheet. 

Bake at 350F for 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies will still appear soft and moist when baked, but firm up on cooling. Cool slightly, then remove to cooling rack. About 3 dozen cookies.

Tip: Smaller cookies can be made using 1 Tablespoon dough for each cookie, baking for 8 to 10 minutes.

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Ribs and Sauce

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Ribs & Sauce — a perfect relationship

Everyone has a favorite way to serve ribs. Some like it dry with just a rub, others will dip dry ribs and wet them down with a vinegary sauce; or slather them up with a sugary sticky sauce right before coming off the grill. I'm often asked how I like my ribs the best. Really, I like them both ways, it just depends on what mood I'm in. It's definitely going to be a sticky rib weekend!

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Ribs cannot be prepared in a hurry, so toss a burger on a separate hot grill while you wait. How-to prepare the Ribs.

For Making Ribs with Sticky Sauce:

15 minutes prior to removing the slow cooked ribs, brush ribs lightly with a little sauce to moisten and add flavor. Remove, cut and serve ribs as is or serve extra sauce on side for pouring over ribs. 

GH Rib Sauce Recipe

 Makes 3 cups

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1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon thyme

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons fresh grated orange zest

1 cup ketchup 

1 cup tomato sauce

1 teaspoon hot sauce

Place the onion, green onions, garlic, cumin, thyme, vinegar, orange juice, and sugar in a small pot.  Boil until the vinegar is reduced by half.  Add orange zest, soy sauce, ketchup, tomato sauce, hot sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.

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Craft Brewed Onion Soup

The Addition of a good craft beer to this classic recipe adds another dimension of flavor which compliments the caramelized onion. An IPA or dark beer is better but you can use your favorite brew.

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Beer Onion Soup

Makes 4 servings

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6 cups Vidalia or sweet onions, sliced  

1 Tablespoon olive oil  

1 head caramelized garlic  

2 pints craft brewed IPA beer  

6 cups beef or vegetable broth  

1 teaspoon fresh thyme  

1 teaspoon fresh parsley  

pinch nutmeg  

4 large sour dough bread croutons  

4 slices of Gruyere cheese  

1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese 

Preheat a soup pot. 

Add olive oil, onions and garlic. Cook onions until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add beer and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add broth, thyme, parsley and nutmeg. Simmer for 45 minutes. 

Place sourdough croutons in 4 bowls. Add soup to each bowl. Top with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a slice of Gruyere. Broil for 2 minutes or until cheese melts and is slightly browned. 

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Apple Pumpkin Crumb Muffins

Seems like yesterday I was driving home from the beach (OK, it was yesterday). But then I passed one of my local farm fields filled with pumpkins. So ready-or-not the season has changed. At home I can still enjoy the best of both seasons on the farm and all the goodness from the farm. 

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Autumn is one of my favorite food seasons. So let's get fall started; here's my seasonal spin on the average apple muffin - add pumpkin and crumb. Great to take on-the-go too. Enjoy!

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Apple Pumpkin Crumb Muffins

Makes 18 muffins or 9 x 13 coffee cake 

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For the crumb topping:

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup flour 

3/4 cup oats, not quick cooking

1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1/2 cup melted butter 

Mix all sugars, flour, oats and nuts. Pour in butter and mix until topping looks like wet sand. Do not over mix; topping should have a lumpy consistency. Reserve crumb topping and prepare muffin batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

Lightly grease 18 muffin cups or use paper liners.

For the muffins:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour; or 50/50 whole wheat flour

2 cups pure cane granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon 

3/4 teaspoon ginger 

Pinch allspice & fresh grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup can pumpkin puree

1/2 cup applesauce, or vegetable oil 

2 cups Green or baking apples, peeled, core and chopped into small pieces 

In a large bowl, add flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, pumpkin and oil. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; stirring just to until flour is absorbed. Add chopped apples. 

Add batter into prepared muffin cups 3/4 filled. Top each muffin with crumb mixture and bake.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

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