Sunday, December 30, 2007

Italian Wedding Soup

aka Little Meatball Soup

My paternal grandmother is pure Italian. When we would visit her for Thanksgiving she would always serve this soup with dinner. I remember always looking forward to it, and if she didn't have it I would be disappointed.

When my mom and I finally learned how to make it, Progresso used to make an escarole soup and that was the only way we knew how to make the soup (well, the basis for it anyway). Then one day I could never find the canned escarole soup so I was at a loss for what to do and so we went a few years without this fabulous soup (because we stopped visiting this grandma because she wasn't exactly local anymore) until, one day I got up the guts to face the fact that escarole is a fresh leafy green available in my grocery store and that it wasn't gross to boil what, to me, was "lettuce." So I gave it a shot and it turned out fabulous so all was right in the world again. And so I shall share the basis of this recipe with you

about 1 pound of ground beef, seasoned as meatballs to your liking (I season mine with garlic, italian bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, mixed with 1 egg)

2 chicken breasts (or you can use canned chicken)

1 head of escarole, chopped and rinsed

1 large can of chicken broth plus a carton of chicken broth

chopped celery and carrots

1 small onion, minced

salt/pepper to taste

about 1 cup orzo pasta

1. In stockpot add broth, escarole, celery, carrots and onion. Set pot to simmer.
2. Begin forming meatball mix into tiny meatballs, dropping in the pot as you form them.
3. Once soup is simmering, season with salt/pepper and add chicken breasts.
4. Cover and simmer on low for several hours.
5. When meatballs are cooked through, boil water separately and cook orzo pasta according to package directions (approx. 9 minutes).
6. Drain and rinse orzo and add to soup.
(Note: the broth is not an exact science. Add more water/chicken broth to your liking. And keep an eye on it while the soup is simmering to make sure it doesn't evaporate.)

Enjoy with a sprinkling of cheese, and some buttered crusty bread!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Holiday: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Over the years I've tried every single chocolate chip recipe I've seen that anybody said was the best. Thank you, again, Katie, for sharing this America's Test Kitchen recipe! Everybody loved them!!

I did want to add my notes because I messed up an entire batch by not chilling the dough enough. The trick I found that worked best for me was to go all the way up to the forming dough ball part, and twist to get 2 halves, as instructed. But then what I did was I put each dough ball onto some parchment paper and stuck them in the fridge for about an hour. It helped the dough chill quickly enough for me to not have to wait too long to bake them and resulted in a PERFECT cookie. I even made a batch with NO chocolate chips because my friend Jess and I really just love the dough sans chips. They were also a hit!

Holiday: Cream Puffs

Thank you, Katie, for inspiring me to give these a shot! They were a hit! And SO easy!

Basic Cream Puff Dough

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil.
3. Stir in flor and salt until the mixture forms into a ball.
4. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl.
5. Using stand mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well.
6. Pipe onto prepared baking sheet in Tbsp size.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes in preheated oven until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
8. When shells are cool, pipe the cream into the shells.
9. Dust with powdered sugar.

(Note: Pipe cream into shells before serving. We piped the night before and the next day they were not as good as when we first piped them that night. And piping takes no time at all so it's really no big deal. Lesson learned!)

For the cream, we used this Williams-Sonoma recipe.

Holiday: Chewy Coconut Cookies

My friend Dana and I wanted to try something new this year. We came across this recipe. We both agree that it was an easy, likable recipe and we would both make them again. I'm linking you directly to the allrecipes recipe so you can view the comments left by others who tried the recipe (can I say "recipe" one more time?). We followed the recipe exactly, but would definitely add some toasted coconut for a little extra coconut flavor. Enjoy!

Holiday: Butter Cookies

My FAVORITE holiday cookie by far is the butter cookie. I'm loyal to my grandmother's recipe and I have no idea where it originates from. I just know that when grandmom came over to visit on Christmas Eve that she said, "Are those my cookies?" And so, without further adieu, here is the recipe!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/3 cups flour

1. Cream butter.
2. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
3. Beat in eggs and almond extract.
4. Gradually blend in flour.


Fill press with dough. Form desired shapes on ungreased cookie sheet (Note: this will not work on parchment paper or on a silicone baking mat - cookies must be pressed directly onto the cookie sheet). Decorate cookies to your liking with sprinkles (my fave is colored sugar). Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove immediately to wire rack to cool.


Chill dough. Roll dough thin (this dough does not spread or puff). Use desired small scale cookie cutter (I just used a small round measuring cup I had). Transfer cut dough shapes to cookie sheet and decorate. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 8-12 minutes - depending on how thick you rolled the dough out.

(Note: I've also used a small cookie scoop and jus flattened with my fingers, decorated and baked. This is helpful if you don't like to roll out dough.)

I hope that someone else is able to get as much joy out of this recipe that my family does :)