SoupaPalooza: Tortellini Soup with Beans and Swiss Chard

Soup is the salad of winter. I would never eat a cold salad for lunch in February, but I will definitely eat bowl after steaming bowl of soup. We have at least one kind of soup each week. It’s an easy lunch for me or a great quick dinner with a piece of crusty bread or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Normally, I have some kind of leftover meat in the soup. A piece of ham, some bacon, maybe a few odd bits of chicken. That’s what’s great about soup, you can scrabble it together from any type of leftovers. The soup I’ve made for you today can be vegetarian, just use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. Of course you can also amp up the soup with the addition of meat, if you please.

Tortellini Soup with Beans and Swiss Chard

closely adapted from a recipe from Annie’s Eats

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T tomato paste
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1 1/2 quarts all-natural, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
15 oz diced tomatoes
15 oz cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
2 t Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 Parmesan rind (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
6 oz. dried tortellini
1 bunch Swiss chard, with stems removed and sliced (or other leafy green)
Freshly grated Parmesan, to finish

It’s so much easier if you use the idea of mise en place (having everything prepped before you begin cooking). I used to be a grab-as-you-go kind of girl. But, once I adopted the idea of doing all the gathering and chopping before beginning the cooking process, I ended up with much better results. And, you’re WAY less likely to get halfway in to a recipe and realize you’re missing ingredients.  It’s super frustrating when that happens. It also eliminates a lot of the stress around prepping the ingredients.So take a few minutes and gather everything together. Do the chopping and measuring and off you go.

Gather the ingredients

Even though I gathered everything, everything did NOT make it into the photo. Obviously I was having a moment. 5 points to Gryffindor if you can figure out what I left out. 10 more if you have any idea what that joke means. :)

Forgotten chard

Ah, yes, the chard. You are correct. There were two types of chard when I was shopping, red and white (obvi!). The red is so beautiful! I bought both so you could see them. I used half of each in my soup. You don’t have to do that.  Chard has a super earthy taste. If you’re not customarily an eater of greens, you might want to turn back the dial and go for kale or collards, spinach would also be fine. It doesn’t really matter which green you choose, but definitely put some greens in. It’s good and it’s good for you.

Saute the onions

In your favorite soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Let it get nice and hot before dropping in the chopped onion. Saute the onion until it’s tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Saute another minute until you can smell the garlic.

Add the tomato paste

Believe me when I say, tomato paste in a tube was not available in any store when I was growing up. I only stumbled upon this wonder in my grown-up life. I LOOOOOVE it. I mean love, love, love it. It lives in the fridge and you use only as much as you need. In my grocery store it’s not with the regular tomato paste in a can, but off by itself in the Italian food section. If you don’t have access to this, you can also buy a regular can of tomato paste, portion out teaspoons or tablespoonfuls onto a wax paper lined baking sheet and freeze them. Once they are frozen, plop them in a container or freezer bag and store them in the freezer. Then you can just pull out what you need. You could also do it in an ice cube tray. Not sure you’d want to make ice in it after that, but whatever. That’s up to you.

Rinse and drain the beans

Rinsing and draining your beans is an important step in any recipe. Aside from removing the (grody) bean juice, it also gets rid of a ton of sodium. Much healthier.

Parmesan rinds

This is what Parmesan rinds look like. I get a few in a tub then store them in the fridge. They won’t totally dissolve in the soup so you’ll have to fish them out later. They lend a nice richness to the soup so if you can find them, do put them in. You may have to ask at your cheese counter to get one (if your store even has such a thing!)

Drop in the Parmesan rind

Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind.

Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the sliced chard and tortellini.

Add the tortellini

Return the soup to a simmer and cook the tortellini to package directions. If your tortellini is fresh instead of dry, it will take less time. It shouldn’t take more than about 10 minutes.

With the chard

Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaf. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with croutons or freshly grated Parmesan on top.

Soup!

So there you go! A perfect quick dinner you can serve tonight! A nice piece of crusty bread on the side and I’m in heaven!

Do you have a favorite soup? Do you eat soup in the cooler months or year round?

I’m linking up to SoupaPalooza, you should check it out!

Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by KitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset!

Babka or Bust!

When I saw this Babka recipe in my Cook’s Country magazine I was sitting at piano lessons. But that didn’t stop me from lusting after it. I LUUUUUV bread. All bread. Any bread. Rolls, muffins, loaves, whatever. I have rarely met a bread that I wouldn’t gladly give up vegetables for. And this sweet, cinnamony bread is no different. So the next day, I whipped up my first babka. And it’s GOOOOOD. It was good warm out of the oven, it’s good cold, and it’s good made into toast. I haven’t tried it (yet) but I bet it’ll be good as french toast, if it lasts that long.

One word of caution, and this is for bread in general, not just this babka. Successful yeast dough relies upon blooming the yeast properly. That means that you need the right temperature liquid. Don’t guess, take the temperature of the liquid. This recipe calls for you to do that, many do not. Checking the temperature will ensure much more reliable results.

Babke

Recipe courtesy of Cook’s Country 

Filling

  • 1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg white (reserve the yolk for the dough)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Dough

  • 1/2 cup whole milk, heated to 110 degrees
  • 2 large egg yolks plus 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened

I love to bake. The smell of bread or cookies baking in the oven is my favorite. It warms up the house on a cold day and it puts a smile on the face of anyone who comes in your door!

Ingredients for Babka

For the filling, combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Reserve one tablespoon of filling.

Mix filling

For the dough, heat the oven to 200 degrees, when it reaches temperature, turn it off. Whisk together the milk, egg yolks, and vanilla. I separate the eggs using the shell and two small bowls. You can use a fancy egg separator if you have one, but here’s s tip. Shell bits are attracted to the shell from which they came. So, if you should drop a piece of shell in by accident, you can fish it out using the larger piece of shell it came from. Who knew, right? See? Science is good for something.

Separate your eggs

Using a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, mix flour, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed. You’ll notice that I weigh my flour instead of measuring it in a cup. I find that this yields much better results with my baking. It’s also convenient to have a scale to weigh other foods. If you don’t have a scale, don’t fret. Fluff your flour before spooning it lightly into the measuring cup for best results.

Measure the flour

Once dry ingredients are combined, add the milk mixture slowly and mix until the dough comes together. This should take about three minutes. Set a timer if you need to.

Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. This should take about a minute.

Continue to mix until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth, about 10-12 minutes.

Dough in the greased bowl

Grease a large bowl, transfer dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in your turned-off oven. After about an hour, dough will have risen slightly. Remove from the oven and place in the fridge about an hour, or until dough is about doubled in size and is firm.

Reheat your oven to 200 degrees (again). When it reaches temperature, turn it off (again).

Punch down the risen dough on a lightly floured board or counter. I like to square mine up after punching it down.

Punched down dough on lightly floured counter

Roll out the dough to a 20×14 inch rectangle. I use a ruler to make sure I’m close to the measurements.

Roll out the dough

Spread the filling onto the dough leaving a 1/2 inch margin all the way around.

Spread the filling onto the dough

Start with the short side and roll up the dough into a cylinder. Pinch along the seam to seal. Put the cylinder seam side up and roll back and forth until the length of the dough roll reaches 18 inches.

Dough cylinder

Spread the reserved tablespoon of filling over the top of the cylinder. Fold the dough in half on top of itself and pinch the ends to seal.

Spread the reserved filling onto the dough

Then, gently twist the cylinder twice as if you’re forming a double figure eight.

Twice twisted babka

All this rolling, folding, and twisting is what gives the babka those yummy nooks and crannies for the cinnamon and sugar filing to get into!

Place your babka, seam side down, in a loaf pan lined with parchment. Let the extra hang over the edges, these will be handles later and it will help you remove the dough from the pan. The parchment also keeps the babka from sticking to the pan should any sugary stuff leak out. Cover with plastic wrap.

Put your babka in the pan lined with parchment

Put the bread, covered in plastic, in the turned-off oven until doubled in size, about one hour. Once the dough has risen, take the babka out of the oven and remove the plastic wrap. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat one whole egg lightly. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg.

Bake about 45 minutes or until the loaf is a deep golden brown (about 190 degrees). Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, them remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely (if you can stand to wait!) about two hours.

Babka!

This babka is so beautiful inside and out! It’s wonderful with a cup of tea for breakfast or an afternoon snack!

What do you like to bake? Do you have a favorite baked good? Or a favorite memory of baking?

Meal Planning Part Deux: Five Meals You Can Make This Week

Wordy title, huh? So how’s that meal planning going? Remember, from my post here? Hopefully you’re making a few more meals each week than you were before. I found these WAY prettier meal planners I wanted to share with you, in case you, like me, are motivated by pretty sheets of paper MORE than you are motivated by, well, less pretty ones.

Check these out!

This one’s from Jen Allyson at The Project Girl. Pop over to her site and snag yourself a copy. There are two versions. I love them both. Tell her I sent you.

The Project GIrl Meal Planner

This one is from Ali Edwards. Her blog is awesome and you can head over there to pick it up! This would be great in a binder if you want to keep your recipes, coupons, and meal plans together.

Ali Edwards WeeklyDinner Menu

Okay, now that you’ve got your meal planners and your fav-O-rite pen in hand, here are five easy meals you can make next week and all the stuff you need to make them.

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Chicken Taquitos

Photo courtesy of Annie's Eats

We’ve been chowing on these taquitos from Annie’s Eats A LOT lately. They are SOOOO good! Make some extras and pop them in a bag in the freezer. So quick and easy for lunch!

Get the recipe here. We’ve substituted pork for chicken, and I use low fat cream cheese and shredded cheese. We also use whole wheat tortillas, but you can pick your favorite.

Calzones

Calzones

Photo courtesy Simply Scratch

So easy! Grab some prepared dough and your favorite toppings from the store (if you want to make your own dough, try this recipe from Simply Scratch) And dinner’s ready pronto!

Divide dough into four portions. Roll out into four circles. Spoon one tablespoon of marinara on one half of the rolled out dough. Top with your favorite toppings, keep them to one side.

If you’re using sausage or hamburger, cook it first, and drain off any grease. You don’t want that in your calzone. If you don’t like a strong onion taste you can brown those as well.

Make sure the topping stay about 1/2 in. away from the edge of the calzone. Fold the un-topped half of the dough over the toppings and roll and pinch the two edges together to seal. Use a knife to crimp the edge if you like. Cut a small slit in the top of your calzone so steam can escape. Heat the oven to 450 degrees, dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Place your calzones on the baking sheet and brush with a beaten egg. Bake 12-14 minutes until golden brown.

Slow-cooker Turkey Chili

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Photo courtesy of http://www.myrecipes.com

I know this recipe has a lot of ingredients, but don’t sweat it. You do a little chopping (or buy pre-chopped veggies if you have to) and dump all the stuff in the crock pot. That’s it. And it’s chock full of veggies so you can serve it up with a little cornbread and have a great, healthy meal for your family. Plus leftovers!

Barbecue Chicken Sliders

BBQ Chicken Sliders

Photo: John Autry; Styling: Leigh Ann Ross

These are SOOO good! And kids love tiny sandwiches. Let’s be honest, so do grown-ups. Put a little slaw on the side and you have a meal! Get the recipe here.

And finally . . . drumroll please!

Leftover Soup

Whaaaat?? Seriously, leftover soup. It’s time to use up all the bits of stuff that you haven’t used up in your meals this week. Check out this post for help. Start by sautéing anything crispy (celery, onion, carrots) in some butter or a teaspoon or two of vegetable or olive oil. Add some broth (chicken, beef, veggie, whatev) or canned tomatoes (the diced in juice kind, preferably) and bring to a simmer. Add your protein (meat or beans, or both!). Let it simmer for a bit. When things have softened up (15-20 minutes) drop in anything delicate like frozen veggies, greens, or mushrooms. Continue cooking for a few minutes. Taste for seasoning as you go. A little salt and pepper go a looooong way. Serve up with a nice piece of crusty bread (or leftover cornbread, if you made that with the chili) and enjoy!

So there you go! Enjoy an easy week on me!

Download and print the meal planner 5 Easy Meals Meal Planner Printable.

5 Easy Meals Meal Planner

What meal do you think you might try? Is there a type of meal you’d like to see more of? Have you been using your meal planner?

Mardi Gras Feast: Shrimp & Grits

Fat Tuesday is coming my people. It’s the last day of gluttony before the season of Lent begins. I’m wondering if you’re scratching your head about what all this means. In case this is new to you, Lent is meant to represent the 40 days of fasting in the desert that Jesus observed. It’s a time to get get clean, do things in moderation, and repent before God. While I don’t know anyone who actually fasts for 40 days, I do know many people who give up something for Lent. While the idea is to give up something that stands between you and God, giving up anything that you feel has power over you or prevents you from being the kind of person you believe you should be is a good choice.

Over the years I have given up chocolate or candy, but I usually give up swearing. I know God doesn’t want me to swear, I definitely don’t want my daughter to pick it up, and it’s just a generally trashy habit.

I digress. In celebration of Fat Tuesday, I thought I’d make a great Southern dish for you. I thought about Gumbo or Étouffée, but landed on Shrimp & Grits. Partially because it’s one of my FAV-O-RITE things to eat in the world, but also because it brings back fond memories of the first vacation I took with Mr. Bundt. We like to refer to it as my Shrimp & Grits Tour of the South. Here we are not eating shrimp and grits. Probably because I had them for breakfast and lunch that day.

There are many, many versions of Shrimp & Grits. This one is low-fat and comes together quickly so it’s great for a weeknight meal.

Not eating shrimp and grits

Shrimp & Grits

Adapted from Cooking Light

  • 3T fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 t hot sauce (or more if you like it hot)
  • 1lb peeled and devined shrimp
  • 2 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1c chopped onion
  • 1/4c chopped bell pepper
  • 1 1/2t minced garlic
  • 1c chicken broth (homemade is great, Swanson all-natural, low-sodium is my off-the-shelf pick)
  • 2T tomato paste
  • 1/2 c chopped scallions
  • 5c water
  • 1 1/2c grits
  • 1T butter
  • 1t salt
  • 3/4 c shredded cheddar

Gather your ingredients

Combine the lemon juice. hot sauce, and shrimp and set aside.

Get your sous chef to assist. That’s Winnie, my kitchen helper and floor cleaner.

Sous Chef Winnie

Add your chopped bacon to a large skillet. Fry over medium heat until crispy.

Fry the bacon

Add the onion, pepper, and garlic to the bacon and drippings and cook about five minutes or until tender. Stir occasionally. You could use frozen chopped onion and peppers if you like.

Onions, peppers, and garlic

Add 1/2 the scallions, tomato paste, the shrimp mixture, and the chicken broth. Cook about five minutes or until shrimp are cooked through, stir frequently.

Shrimp collage

Meanwhile, start the 5 cups of water for your grits. Bring to a rapid boil, then slowly add the grits, stirring constantly with a whisk to smooth out any lumps. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, covered, for about five minutes for quick-cooking grits, stirring occasionally. Add the cheese, butter, and salt.

Add the cheese, butter, and salt

Yummy!

Put a few spoonfuls of grits onto a plate or into a bowl and scoop some shrimp mixture with sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions.

Shrimp and grits

Quick and easy Shrimp & Grits! Is this the definitive recipe for Shrimp & Grits? No, but it’s pretty good, especially if you’re easing into the world of Southern cooking. Many call for tasso ham or andouille sausage, sometimes for a lot more tomatoes and all those things are wonderful. But for a quick meal, this is a great option.

How do you celebrate Mardi Gras? Do you give up anything for Lent? What is it and why? I’d love to hear about it! Also, you know this is a sweet food memory for me, more about food memory on Wednesday!

I Like Big Bundts and I Cannot Lie: Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake

You other brothers can’t deny, That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist, And a round thing in your face . . . oh, sorry, it had to be done. Apologies to Sir Mix-a-Lot. But he does. And I do. In fact, I’m so in love with this particular bundt cake that I’ve made it three times since Christmas. And the spellchecker keeps changing bundt to burnt. So if I say burnt cake at some point, know I mean bundt. No one likes a burnt cake.

This is the perfect cake to go with an afternoon cup of tea or coffee, or a light midnight snack! It makes a generous sized bundt so you can take half to a friend, neighbor, or hairdresser.

Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake

Serves 18. Calories 249, Fat, 8.7g

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light

  • 13 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups) plus several tablespoons for flouring the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened + extra for greasing the pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind

Gather the ingredients

Combine 1c sweetened , dried cranberries and 1/2 c fresh squeezed orange juice in a microwave safe dish. Microwave for 1 minute, let stand for 10.

Microwave the orange juice and dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large bundt pan with softened butter. Heavily. Generously. Thickly. Make sure to get into every crack and crevice. When you think you have enough butter on there, put on a little more. Generosity in this step will ensure an easy release later. I use cheap paint brushes for tasks like these then pop them in the dishwasher. Don’t have a brush? Use a knob of butter and a paper towel. After you’ve buttered, dump a tablespoon or two of flour in the pan and shake it around. Coat every buttered surface. Do this over the sink and you can tap out the excess. See? Looks like snow.

Generously grease your bundt panDon't miss a spot!

Weigh your flour or lightly spoon it into measuring cups. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Weigh your flour

In a bowl, mix granulated sugar, and 12 tablespoons of butter on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Mix the sugar and butter on medium speedAdd the eggs one at a time

Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

Beat in the vanillaMix in flour mixture alternately with buttermilkAlternately with buttermilk

Fold the cranberry mixture into the batter. Notice that I’ve given up the mixer for a soft spatula. Folding is simply using the motion of a J (Go ahead, draw a J in the air in front of you, get the idea?) to carefully incorporate the ingredients.

Fold cranberry mixture into the batter

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, but start checking for doneness at 30 minutes. It’s also nice if you can rotate your pan halfway through cooking. Most ovens have hot spots and this will keep your cake cooking evenly.

Pour the batter into the prepared panSmooth the top

Once the cake is done, cool on a wire rack for five minutes, then turn the rack over onto the top of the bundt pan and flip to release cake onto rack and continue to cool. Do not pull a Mr. Bundt and pick the pan up and beat it against the rack. This will not get you a pretty cake. I am not making this up.

Now for the best part! Glaze!

Zest your orange. I use the same orange that I used for juice. No reason to waste any. Do not zest your fingers. Trust me. It will not add to the flavor. Also, don’t zest into the white part of the peel called the pith. It’s bitter and also won’t add to the flavor.

Zest your orange

Combine the powdered sugar, 1/4c fresh orange juice, 1T melted butter, and orange rind. Stir until smooth. Glaze will be loose.

Add the juiceAdd powdered sugarMix until smooth

Now, here’s what I think. And since I’ve made this cake three times I’m an expert so listen up. This glaze is GOOOOOOD. You could just pour it over the warm cake, let it run off, and eat. But that seems to be a waste to me. You can see from the photos that I put a sheet of Cut-rite in the bottom of a sheet pan, sat the rack with the cake on top, and poured on my glaze. This catches the excess glaze but it also keep you from sticking your tongue in there and lapping up the glaze like a crazy person. Not that I’d know anything about that. Then, as the glaze ran off and cooled, I scooped it up with my spatula and poured it over again and again until I had coated the entire cake and used up almost all the glaze. Much messier and a little more time-consuming, but SO worth it.

Icing the cake

Either way, it’s a beautiful, light cake.

Beautiful bundt!

Any foods you’re addicted to lately? What’s your favorite snack cake? Is there a food that helps you get through winter?