Saturday, February 11, 2012

Zuppa Toscana-like Olive Gardens

Zuppa Toscana
1 pound Italian sausage- I use turkey sausage
Red pepper flakes if you want some spice
1 large onion
1/2 cup white wine
2 huge russet potatoes halved and cut into 1/4in pieces
1/2 bag. Oscar Meyer Real Bacon Bits
4 cloves garlic, minced
a fe
w handfuls of chopped kale
3-4 cups chicken broth
a few cups water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Saute sausage in large pot. Then remove sausage with slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl. In the same large pot saute onions until translucent. Add white wine to get every thing unstuck from the pan. Then add, potatoes, chicken broth, water, and garlic in a pot and cook on medium heat until potatoes are done. Add, bacon and salt, and pepper to taste and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add more chicken broth if needed and put the sausage back in the pot. Turn to low heat; add kale and cream and red pepper flakes if you want that spice. Heat thoroughly and serve.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Vegan Spaghetti

Please don't let the word VEGAN scare you off--there's just no meat or cheese--but the flavor is abundant! This is guaranteed to be a hit even among meat-lovers! And the ingredient list is simple as well as flexible.
1 Green Bell Pepper
1 Large Onion
3 Cloves Garlic
6 or more mushrooms
1 Can Black Olives
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
2 Cans Tomato Sauce
Olive Oil
Italian Seasoning

 When I say the ingredients are flexible, I really mean it. If you have dried onions or sun dried tomatoes (these are both just sliced and dehydrated), use them. If you want to add tomato paste, go for it. You can also add Basil to your spice list (I was just currently out).

Add 2 Tablespoons olive oil to large pan and turn on medium high. Add chopped onions and bell pepper.

Stir with wooden spoon until caramelized (that just means burnt a little). You can add a pinch of sucanat or sugar to speed up the process.

Add Garlic and saute for only about a minute.

Next add the mushrooms and stir for a couple of minutes--just until they become limp.

Olives are next.


By this time it's starting to smell really good!

Add diced tomatoes

And tomato sauce. Stir and simmer uncovered.

Add Italian seasoning to taste (I start out with about a Tablespoon) and salt and pepper. I also like about 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but then, I like things with a bite!
Continue to simmer uncovered while you prepare your spaghetti noodles. This will help the sauce to thicken and mature. If you think you need tomato paste, you can add that now, too.
Cook your noodles as directed--I add a dollop of olive oil to the water and some salt. I prefer whole grain spaghetti, but all I had was the white stuff--again, use what you have and give thanks you have it.

I didn't have French bread, and didn't feel like making any since I already had baked some whole wheat rolls earlier. I sliced the rolls into little bread-like slices and added fresh parsley and garlic to melted butter and spread over the top. A few minutes on watchful broil, and, wow, so good. I even forgot to add salt, and realized afterward that I didn't need it.

 Sprinkle nutritional yeast, Parmesan, or vegan cheese on top and enjoy!


Ok, so pretzels are German cuisine.  But surely they eat pretzels in Italy, don't they?  My timing on these was bad in other ways, too.  I waited way too long to begin forming and baking the pretzels after the dough was ready.  That may have contributed to the way these things look, which is really awful, especially before they were baked.  You'll see.  You'll either laugh or make a squishy face.   

There is everything wrong with posting about pretzels right now.  But I made them.  And so I will post them.  

I should mention that these pretzels do have one redeeming quality.  The flavor is AWESOME!  If you close your eyes when you eat them, it's quite a good experience.

Throw everything into a bread maker and let it do all the work.  

When the dough is ready cut into 16 or so dough balls.  Roll into 16-inch to 20-inch snakes.  

That's better.

Twist into pretzel shape and drop into boiling water/baking soda solution for 30 seconds.

Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Attractive, no?

In their pre-baked state they bear a startling resemblance to these little gems.  Don't you think?

Bake until golden brown, about 12 - 14 minutes.

recipe adapted from Joy the Baker

1 ½ cups warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 ounces butter, melted and cooled
22 ounces all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 cups)
2 ¼ teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast

about 14 cups of water
1 cup baking soda
1 large egg, beaten, with a splash of water
coarse salt for topping
2 ounces melted butter

Add first six ingredients to bread maker pan.  Set on dough cycle.

Place baking racks in the center and upper third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and lightly brush the paper with oil.  It’s important to brush the parchment paper or the pretzels will stick!

Combine water and baking soda in a large pan (8 quart is fine) saucepan and bring to a boil.
While the water comes to a boil, turn the dough out onto a clean, slightly oiled work surface.  
Divide dough into about 16 pieces, depending on how large you’d like your pretzels.  Fewer pieces means bigger pretzels.

Start with the fingers of both hands in the center of the dough, and roll, moving your hands outward as you roll.  Roll the dough along the oiled surface until you have about a 16-inch or 20-inch piece of rope (depending on how large your piece of dough was… the more dough the longer the rope).
Twist into pretzel shape, making sure to seal the ends.

When water has come to a boil, gently lower a pretzel into the boiling water.  Boil for 30 seconds.  Remove carefully, using a flat, slotted spatula.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Brush boiled pretzels with beaten egg, and add coarse sea salt.

Bake until deeply golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack for a few minutes.  Drizzle with melted butter and serve warm.

Soft pretzels are best enjoyed the day they are made.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tour of Italy

Are you surprised? I didn't think so. Maybe its my love for my sweet Italian Grandma, maybe its the blood in my veins, maybe its my cravings for the food...whatever it is Italy has left its mark on my heart and soul. So I challenge you this week to take a tour of Italy. Whether you paint a watercolor of a Tuscan sunrise, plant some Italian basil or make the latest Italian dish you've been craving, let yourself get lost in Italy.