Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Italian Sausage Meatball Minestrone Soup

I am a huge fan of homemade soup. This hearty soup is comforting and will warm your belly on a miserable day.

For the novice cook, I feel that making homemade soup is the perfect introduction into the world of cooking. In fact, the very first thing I ever cooked was a chilled cucumber soup, when I was 11 years old. In those days my family used to go camping every summer on Vancouver Island, near the town of Comox, BC.  My dad loves to fish  and this area is renowned for salmon fishing. One evening, we got ourselves dressed up and we went out for my first ever  fancy dinner  at a restaurant called The Old House. I still remember this meal like it happened yesterday;  my younger brothers and I were on our best behaviour, the waiter even commented on how well behaved we were. I just remember that every bite of food I had tasted wonderful. My mom and I both started our meal with a chilled cucumber soup. It honestly was the best thing I had ever eaten. My mom asked for the recipe from the chef and was actually given a little card with the recipe written on it. That was such a special night with my family. I really do believe that one meal inspired me to pursue a career in cooking.

Italian Sausage Meatball Minestrone Soup

3/4 lb. hot Italian sausage, casing removed
1/3 cup finely ground cracker crumbs

Preheat oven to 375. Mix together sausage meat and cracker crumbs until combined. Roll into small meatballs. Bake on a lightly greased baking  pan until cooked through. Set aside.


2 tbsp. olive oil
one medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. chili flakes, or to taste
1 large roasted red pepper, diced
6 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup pasta shells, or other small, uncooked pasta
1 small bunch of kale, stems removed and chopped
freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste
chopped fresh basil

In a large pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook onion and celery until tender. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook one minute more. Add roasted red pepper, chicken stock, Worcestershire, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about one hour. Add pasta and kale and simmer until pasta is cooked. Add fresh basil, cooked meatballs, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Tags: Soup, Sausage, Meatballs, Minestrone

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Home Style Ham and Bean Soup

Is there anything better on a freezing cold day, than a delicious bowl of homemade soup? I mean, really.  It's the ultimate comfort food.  When I was a kid, my favourite non-homemade soup was Campbell's French Canadian Pea soup. This ham and bean soup reminds me of that.  It tastes great the first day and even better the second and third day. I love to make a big pot of homemade soup and have it for my lunch all week long.

Ham and Bean Soup

8-9 cups water
1 lb. navy beans, soaked in water overnight
1 large ham bone
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large russet potato, diced
1 bay leaf
pinch of thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
chicken stock concentrate, to taste, I use Better than Bouillon
leftover diced ham
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, optional
salt & pepper, to taste

In a large pot add water, soaked beans, ham bone, onion, carrots, celery, potato, bay leaf, thyme and garlic. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the beans are very tender. Remove ham bone and bay leaf. To make a thicker soup, coarsely mash the beans with a potato masher or a quick pass through with an immersion blender (you don't want to completely puree the soup).  Add diced ham. Taste soup and add chicken stock concentrate to taste. Add apple cider vinegar, if using. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Tags: Soup, Ham, Beans,

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Wontons with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

I have to tell you a little something about myself. I love finger foods. Tapas, appetizers, party foods, nibbles, canapes, dim sum. Whatever you want to call it.  This is  my kind of food. I just love to have lots of different little bites of food rather than one big bowl of anything. Variety is the spice of life, or so they say.  Buffalo Chicken Wontons are a nice little spin on the traditional pork won tons, which also happen to be one of my all-time favorite foods.  I mean, you really can't go wrong with Buffalo Chicken anything. I just love that combination of spicy hot buffalo wing sauce with cool blue cheese dip. That is a match made in heaven, if you ask me.

Buffalo Chicken Wontons with Blue Cheese Dip

Blue Cheese Dip:

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup mayo
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Process for a few seconds, until blended but still chunky. Cover and let chill ( Dip is best if it is refrigerated for a few hours before serving).

Buffalo Chicken Wontons:

1 Tbsp. butter
12 oz. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce, such as Frank's Red Hot
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 pkg. wonton wrappers
1 egg, lightly beaten with a a splash of water
vegetable oil for frying

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add butter to pan. Coarsely chop chicken. Season lightly with s&p. Saute chicken until completely cooked. Let cool. In a food processor blend cooked chicken, green onions and buffalo wing sauce, until finely chopped. Remove from food processor and stir in mozzarella cheese. In a small bowl whisk an egg with a splash of water.  On a clean counter lay out a few wonton wrappers. Dip a small pastry brush ( or use your fingers) in egg wash and brush around the edges of each won ton wrapper. Scoop one rounded tsp. of filling in the middle of each wrapper. Fold over in half, pressing the air out. Crimp shut. The wontons should be in the shape of a triangle. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to coat the bottom of skillet. When oil is hot, pan fry wontons until golden brown on each side. Drain on a paper towel lined plate. Serve with blue cheese dip.

Note: A good trick to knowing when oil is hot enough for frying - Stick the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil. If it is the right temperature, small bubbles will form around the wooden handle.

Tags: Appetizers, Party, Spicy, Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese