Sausage, Kale, and Potato Soup a la Hannah

The Pioneer Woman is the source of this recipe, as is true for many many good recipes.  And a friend pointed us towards this recipe in particular.  It’s like our friends know we love eating or something.  Nice friends.

But I call it mine because I made one HUGE change to this recipe.  Where PDubs (as we affectionately call her at home) uses 4 cups of half and half, 2 cups of whole milk, and a dash of heavy cream, I used 1% milk.  Yep, approximately 6 cups of 1% milk.  That’s a risky change, and one that probably does alter the taste and consistency of this dish.  Without tasting it, I can tell you that PDubs’ version of the recipe is more delicious.

photo by Ree Drummond (found on thepioneerwoman.com)

photo by Ree Drummond (found on thepioneerwoman.com)

Mine, however, doesn’t make me cringe as I pour ingredients into the soup.  And with the broth and sausage and potatoes, the milk difference disappeared really well into the background.  Substitution success!

Also, if you always buy the spicy Italian sausage instead of the sweet or the mild (because that’s just how you roll), I beg you not to add the crushed red pepper that the recipe calls for.  Either spice factor is enough.  Both together might be hotter than spicy chicken wings.  I may or may not know that from experience.

But wait, there’s more to the story.

You’re supposed to let this simmer for a while, right?  For 30 minutes, to be precise.  Which is supposed to happen right after you add milk to the pot.  I did that.  I was feeling super lazy and tired, so I got everything together and literally walked away until the bell dinged.  Turns out that not stirring your milk-based soup for 30 minutes makes your milk smell burned.  Then the smell of burned milk soup might make you cry, as you look at this beautiful pot of soup that you ruined.  It made me feel approximately like this sad panda:

photo from zeroturnaround.com

photo from zeroturnaround.com

Just give it a chance though.  Even if you’re lazy and sometimes forget how to be a good cook, there’s hope.  Stir it a lot and eat it anyway.  It was delicious despite the burned milk scare.  I’m not sure how that was possible, but it happened.

If a meal can be burned and neglected and substituted within an inch of its life and still taste good, I approve.  This, my friends, is a good recipe.

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Tomato Soup Love

A long, long time ago, I lived in Texas.  One of the many benefits of living in Texas is that you have easy access to the La Madeleine restaurant chain.  A chain of restaurants might seem like a lame thing to miss, but it is much less lame if you’ve actually eaten at a La Madeleine restaurant.  It’s like upscale French fast food (which translates to super classy and full of pastries and good things).

When I was a kid, La Madeleine was one of the few faster food options my parents actually enjoyed, so they took us there semi-regularly.  Semi-regularly translates to about twice a year.  Mom cooked for us almost every single day, which I now know is quite a feat.

When we did go to La Madeleine, I struggled with the menu.  How many kids get excited about quiche and rotisserie chickens?  I obviously hadn’t seen the culinary light.  The thing I did love at La Madeleine (other than the eclairs and giant trifle containers full of beautiful strawberries) was the Tomato Basil Soup.  It was epically delicious.

photo from lamadeleine.com

photo from lamadeleine.com

Fast forward to 2010, when I invited Scott over to my house to celebrate his birthday a few days late (or early?).  I made La Madeleine’s tomato soup for the first time with something along the lines of cheesy bread.  I believe it’s as close as I could come to a gourmet meal in the 20 minutes between work and dinner.  The only reason that menu stuck in my mind is that Scott told me later that he doesn’t like tomato soup.  But did he love my tomato basil rendition?  Yes!  It was a good sign for our eating future.

All of that to say that this soup can convert kids and people who don’t like tomato soup.  It’s serious stuff.  It also has serious heavy cream and butter.  Minor detail.  It’s easy to make, it’s one of my all-time favorite soups, and you should try it.  It takes 35-40 minutes to make if you simmer for the recommended time, but only 5-10 of that is active cooking time.  You can make it in 20 minutes if there’s a cute guy you’re trying to impress or if you’re just really hungry.

La Madeleine (Copycat) Tomato Basil Soup*

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups canned whole tomatoes, crushed
  • 4 cups tomato juice (you can use some chicken stock in this mixture instead of all 4 cups tomato juice, but I prefer it with all tomato juice)
  • 15-18 fresh, washed basil leaves (Scott says the more the merrier on this one)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 stick (1/4 lb.) sweet, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine tomatoes and juice in a saucepan.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Let cool slightly.
  2. Near the end of that simmer time, chop your basil leaves very finely and add them to the soup mixture.
  3. Add cream and butter, then stir until both are incorporated.
  4. Serve with basil garnish and your favorite warm bread.  Or warm cheesy bread if you can bring yourself to add some more dairy to the mix.

*Recipe adapted from The Houston Press copycat recipe.  Mine is simpler and gets fewer contraptions dirty.  I like it better.

Rainy Days and Comfort Food

If my birthday dinner theme was butter, today’s overall theme is a terrified dog at home.  Poor terrified dog.  Peanut doesn’t like rainy days.  I’ve tried to tell him that the house will keep him safe (99% of the time), but I think that 1% chance of the house flying away in a storm causes severe dog shakes.  It’s a safe bet that he’s sitting in this position right now:

Image

photo from 67notout.com

What’s a dog to do during epic storms?  Well, in a perfect world, I think Peanut would eat steak during a storm.  He got his very own steak bite during birthday dinner, and he looked pretty darn happy/content/safe.  Who wouldn’t be content with steak and butter on the mind?

Steak bites are a mystery to me.  They’re tiny pieces of steak, so they should probably be tough and over-cooked, but they’re not.  If you follow The Pioneer Woman’s instructions, they’re perfect.  They’re a good way to eat steak relatively inexpensively ($7 for Scott and for me, with leftovers to boot), and they just about melt in your mouth. 

Image

photo from thepioneerwoman.com

Salt + pepper + butter + steak = simple perfection.

Unfortunately for Peanut, we’re fresh out of steak at home.  I’ll see if a dog treat and some belly rubs can substitute for the comfort factor of a well-cooked steak.  Fingers crossed.

Comfort Food + Health Kick

Mondays require special food sometimes, and last night was no different. But what’s a girl to do when she’s trying to be healthy and craving warm, hearty food? Last night, my solution came in the form of spaghetti bolognese. It has quickly became my favorite take on spaghetti, and when combined with spaghetti squash instead of pasta, it’s a total no-brainer.  The wine and carrots add just enough “different” to make it more fun than a traditional tomato sauce.

By FotoosVanRobin [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By FotoosVanRobin [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

My recipe is from Mad Hungry: The Art of Feeding Men and Boys. There are so many good recipes in that cookbook!  I tried making it healthier last night (on top of the spaghetti squash switcheroo), but I would say it’s best exactly as written.  Sometimes I’m lazy and don’t put the diced tomatoes in the blender.  If you have any energy left, use the blender.  Trust me.

You can use bacon instead of pancetta (although it does taste different with bacon).  You can use venison instead of beef.  You can use 1% milk if you’d like.  But keep the proportions of veggies the same, and enjoy.  It smells amazing while it’s simmering on the stove, and it only gets one pot and a cutting board dirty.  Not bad.

Also, I may or may not have been on the local news last night.  It turns out that I’m a whole stinkin’ lot better at cooking than I am at talking to a camera.  Oh well.  I’ll only need to survive on camera a few times per lifetime.

Post-Holiday Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

After returning from Christmas in Colorado with family (tasty food post to come from our CO adventures soon, I promise), my first act in our house was to try to clean up our kitchen.  Somewhere along the line, I forgot how nice it is to start cooking in a kitchen with clean counters and no back log of dirty dishes piled up.  But my mom’s pristine kitchen (most of the time) inspired me.

Then before I knew it, it was time to make some dinner.  Enter turkey leftovers in the freezer.  We liked our Thanksgiving turkey so much that we put a few more in the freezer for later in the winter.  Great price per pound, tasty, easy to cook in one giant lump.  We also found a fresh turkey in our fridge/freezer thanks to some hunting friends.  Scott cooked up that smaller fresh turkey before heading out of town.

Yesterday, I used what we had around (plus a few potatoes and some frozen veggies from the store) to make my own version of Giada’s “Thankful Shepherd’s Pie.”  I would tell you exactly how I changed the recipe, but I think you can really adjust it to suit your needs.  I didn’t have any fresh herbs, so I used dried.  I didn’t have fancy cream or milk, but 1% worked just fine.  I didn’t have any leftover gravy (all gone ages ago), so I used milk and flour to make a rue with the cooked onions.  You get the idea.  Use what you have, enjoy the tasty results.

ImageYou can tell that with all of those adjustments, our pie doesn’t perfectly resemble the original recipe, but it was delicious anyway.  I’m sure the original recipe is even better.  Give it a try sometime.  Or make your own version.  Mmm.

Oh, and did I mention that there’s freshly grated parmesan cheese melted all over the top of the mashed potato topping?