Hearty Tortellini Soup with Garlicky Toasts

Quick, go-to weeknight dinners in our house usually involve breakfast or pasta. I love ready-made refrigerated tortellini tossed with garlic, cheese and broccoli but I was feeling pretty burnt out on that dish.

In a moment of unusual inspiration I got the idea for soup.  Crumble and sauté some pork sausage in a large soup pot, toss in minced garlic, and them simmer gently with beef stock and tomatoes. There is no need to let this simmer slowly for hours to get good flavor, that comes from the sausage and stock. Plus, you cook the tortellini in the soup itself so this is literally a one pot meal.

Hearty Tortellini Soup

I paired the tortellini soup with some toasted farmhouse bread, buttered and rubbed with garlic cloves.  Sprinkle the toasts or the soup (or both) with some Parmesan cheese for extra bite.

Hearty, easy and delicious. After work my husband wasn’t feeling well (crabby and ill) but he proclaimed he felt better after two bowls of this and some relaxing on the couch. He thanked me for the ‘delicious Thanksgiving dinner’. An inside joke of ours, but I know it’s a high compliment.  :-)

Hearty Tortellini Soup

Hearty Tortellini Soup with Garlicky Toasts

  • 1 10 oz package fresh refrigerated spinach tortellini
  • 1/2 lb pork sausage (I like Bob Evans)
  • (3) 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1 clove whole
  • 28 oz beef stock
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • Farmhouse bread (I like Trader Joe’s brand)

Put a small amount of olive oil, just to prevent sticking, in a large stockpot and add sausage. Turn heat to medium and cook the sausage, breaking into crumbles, until browned. Add in the two cloves minced garlic and saute for a couple minutes. Pour in the beef stock, tomatoes and dried basil and bring to a boil.  Read the package instructions for the tortellini and cook them, in the boiling soup, for the amount of time specified- usually between 2 and 6 minutes. When cooking time is up, immediately remove from heat, add salt and pepper.  Ladle into soup bowl and top with cheese if desired.

For the Garlicky Toasts: Preheat broiler for 400°. Slice the farmhouse bread and butter it. Put on a foil lined baking sheet and place under broiler until toasted and golden brown around the edges (keep an eye on them they burn fast). Remove and rub each toasted piece with the remaining whole garlic clove to impart some delicious flavor. You could add some cheese to these as well, and put back under the broiler for a quick melt.

Enjoy!

- Erin

Question of the Day: Do you like soup for comfort food? If not, what is your go-to?

Perfect Chicken Breasts, Every Time!

In my last post I mentioned I would be in Ireland by the time this post went up.  Well, as I write this, Lufthansa airlines’ crew is threatening to strike.  Today.  Like today as in the day I’m am flying out!!! AHHH!

So… I guess you’ll have to check back here later to see if there are any angry diatribes against Lufthansa.  Let’s hope there isn’t.

In the meantime, let’s learn how to make a perfectly golden brown delicious chicken breast.

In most meals, GBD is important for two reasons. 1) You eat with your eyes first and GBD looks a lot better than burnt or pale. 2) GBD just tastes better-  food flavors change based on heat applied, length of time cooked, blah blah blah science.  A food scientist would be better at explaining why GBD is best, but you don’t need that- imagine which is better: browned crispy juicy tenderness or limp soggy paleness.  See, easy :-)

The key to searing a GBD chicken breast is a hot pan and dredging the breast in flour.  That’s is. Once you’ve mastered this, you can stop eating bland chicken and enjoy a healthy meal again. GBD chicken begs to be laced with fresh herbs, spritzed with citrus, or smothered in a marinara or marsala sauce.

I served this with tomato-basil sauce, parmesan cheese and a side of orzo tossed with capers. Simple, quick, delicious.  Try it!

GBD Pan Seared Chicken

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 2 large chicken breasts

Note: This is for two large breasts, you will need to increase the quantities of flour and oil if making more.

Lay the chicken flat on a cutting board and butterfly them by cutting horizontally across the breast. Do not cut all the way through. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture once, shake off excess, and dredge again, shake off excess.

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, place the chicken in (open side down) and cook for about 4-5 minutes, depending on thickness. Turn, and cook for additional 4 minutes on the other side. Use your best judgement, if the juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink in less than 4 minutes, take it out. Still to pink? Leave it in.

Now pour a glass of wine, admire your work, and start eating.

Sláinte!

- Erin

Summer Lasagna

It’s b-aaack. Meatless Monday post that is.

My garden is literally overflowing with ruby red chard so I tried to think of a new way to incorporate the veggie into something seasonally delicious.

Spinach lasagna is good, so why not sub in chard, it works really well!

I threw in some thinly sliced zucchini, another abundant summer veggie.

See, thin slices

I think this is a healthier version of your traditional lasagna because it isn’t swimming in cheese, bechamel sauce or ground beef. It’s overflowing with yummy fresh veggies, light and healthy. Enjoy!

Summer Lasagna

  • 6 no boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups part skim ricotta
  • 24 oz tomato basil marinara sauce
  • 2 generous tbls Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle (a mix of basil, oregano and garlic)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 generous cups of Swiss chard, chopped
  • 1 small/medium sized zucchini 
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, spices, lemon peel and salt and pepper, mix well.  Chop the swiss chard and very thinly slice the zucchini, I used a mandolin to get the right thinness. Quickly sauteé the Swiss chard until it begins to wilt and reduce in size. It should cook down to about 2 cups. This step is important because it releases the excess water from the chard, which would otherwise come out during baking and make the lasagna soggy.

Fill a large baking sheet with hot tap water. Soak the noodles for 5 minutes. This helps the noodle retain a good texture without drying out the lasagna. Spray a 9×9 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Spoon some marinara sauce and ricotta cheese on the bottom, then top with two lasagna noodles. The noodles should overlap in the center a bit and will not reach to the edges of the pan. That is ok, they will expand during baking.

On top of the first layer of noodles, 1) spread ricotta cheese, 2) then swiss chard, 3) then zucchini slices and 4) finish with some marinara sauce. Add another layer of lasagna, then repeat the layering as above.  After you’ve layered the last of the noodles, finish the top of the lasagna off with zucchini slices and then cover with Parmesan cheese.

Cover the pan tightly with tinfoil. Put the pan on a foil lined baking sheet (because it may bubble over and make a mess if you don’t) and place in the oven. Turn the oven down to 375°. Bake  for 50-55 minutes. Remove the tinfoil, and bake uncovered for 10 more minutes, the cheese will brown a little. Let the lasagna stand for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Enjoy!

- Erin

Warm Orzo and Mushroom Salad

Greetings from Michigan my dear readers!

Yup, I’ve flown home for the long Memorial Day weekend to enjoy spending time with family and it has been awesome!

The weather up here has been all sunny skies (a little rain Saturday morning) and in the high 70′s so we’ve spent our days outside going for walks, riding bikes and putting our feet in the kiddie pool. :-)

I love my family so much and really miss them down in DC. As with all the people I love, I show them how much I care with FOOD, so I’ve also been busy in the kitchen. Stay tuned for pictures and recipes from my week at home.

Moving on…. Meatless Memorial Day.  Today’s recipe is for a warm orzo salad.

Orzo is a tiny pasta that looks like long grain rice and it cooks up in hot minute which makes it a perfect grain substitute on busy nights.

Sauteè up some baby cremini mushrooms and swiss chard, toss with cooked orzo and finish with fresh squeezed lemon juice and cracked pepper.  It is warm and comforting without being ‘heavy’.

It makes a perfect main dish for one, or a side dish for two.

Warm Orzo and Mushroom Salad

  • 1/3 cup dry orzo, prepare according to package directions
  • 2 cups chopped swiss chard
  • 8 ounces baby cremini mushrooms
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbl butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbl chopped parsley (optional)

Melt the butter in a large skillet and sauteè the mushrooms over medium heat for 10 minutes. Once the mushrooms start to look tender and shrink in size a bit, throw in the chard and sautee for 5-7 more minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare orzo according to package instructions and chop parsley.  When the veggies and orzo are done, combine both in a large bowl with the parsley and toss to combine.

Season liberally with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Plate the salad and just before serving drizzle with olive oil and the lemon juice. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

Today we honor the servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, have a peaceful  Memorial Day.

- Erin