Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lasagna Soup

I found this recipe in Family Fun magazine, in an article featuring soups from 300 Sensational Soups. It sounds like a great cookbook: one of the other recipes was tomato soup with wee grilled cheese croutons floating about.

This soup is great! Unfortunately, I took a picture of the leftovers, so the pasta had absorbed a lot of the broth and made it more stew-like. The pasta is cooked in the broth, which makes it incredibly flavorful. The soup tastes just like lasagna with a lighter profile and a lot less prep time. Best of all, both boys loved it!

Lasagna Soup


2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage (bulk or with casings removed) I used 20 oz turkey Italian sausage
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
8 ounces fusilli pasta (or rotini or penne)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
8 ounces ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella


In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and sauté, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is no longer pink, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain any excess fat from the pot. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and sauté until the paste turns a rusty brown, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the broth, and the bay leaves and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the pasta, then increase the heat to medium-high and boil the soup until the pasta is tender to the bite, following the time recommendations on the pasta package. Discard the bay leaves, then stir in the basil. If desired, season with salt and black pepper to taste.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, the Parmesan, the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the pinch of pepper. To serve, place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture in each bowl, sprinkle with some of the mozzarella, and ladle the soup on top. Makes about 13 cups. We didn't get 13 cups out of the recipe because so much broth soaked into the pasta/evaporated, but it does make a large amount.

Nutritional Information:
Per serving (1 cup):
Calories 264
Total Fat 11 g (17% DV)
Saturated Fat 5g (26% DV)
Cholesterol 38 mg (13% DV)
Sodium 1162 mg (48% DV)
Total Carbohydrate 22 g (7% DV)
Fiber 1g (6% DV)
Sugars 5g
Protein 19 g (39% DV)
Vitamin C 14 mg (23% DV)
Calcium 259 mg (26% DV)

How to Store Ground Beef

I bought some excellent ground beef that the butcher ground from lean sirloin steaks. Here's how I like to store it in the freezer for convenience.

1. Take about 3 lbs. of meat and put it in a freezer ziploc bag. Flatten the meat so it is evenly distributed throughout the bag.

2. Take a chopstick or long spoon and press a 3X3 grid in the meat (outside the bag). Try to go all the way through to the other side.

3. Label and freeze.

The reason this is convenient is you can easily remove just the right amount of meat you need from the freezer. Each square is a little over 5 ounces of beef, which is a good amount for hamburgers. If you need a pound, take out three squares. Also, since there is very little extra air in the bag, you are less likely to get freezer burn.

This technique works for ground chicken, turkey, and pork as well.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Migas, according to the Pioneer Woman, are a very popular breakfast item in the Southwest of the U.S. I'd never had them until I saw them on her site, but we've had them for dinner a number of times. I am not a fan of the egg unless it is mixed with lots of other good stuff, but these fit the bill. PW's migas are meatless, but I add some crumbled bacon on top - partly because I don't like eggs without meat, and partly because, well, BACON!

(Side note: 2 strips of bacon only has 6 grams of fat and 80 calories - and I only used one per serving: not bad!)

The authentic way to make migas is to deep fry corn tortillas and chop them before adding them to the dish. But I always have broken hard-shell taco shells in the pantry, so that's what I use. You could use tortilla chips in a pinch. Whichever way you go, the tortialls meld with the eggs and give body and flavor - they don't stay crunchy.

Migas (adapted from Pioneer Woman)

4 hard shell taco shells, crushed.
1 whole Jalapeno, Seeds And Membranes Removed, Finely Diced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 whole Green Pepper, Roughly Chopped
1 whole Red Bell Pepper, Roughly Chopped
1 whole Medium Onion, Chopped
10 whole Large Eggs
8 oz. (2 cups) Cotija Cheese, Grated (you can sub any cheese you like with Tex/Mex)
⅓ cups Cilantro, Chopped
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
¼ cups milk
6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

Preparation Instructions

In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Salt and pepper eggs, then set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the olive oil with the butter. Add onions and bell peppers and cook until starting to turn brown/black, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in diced jalapenos and stir to combine. Add tomatoes to the skillet and stir around, then add tortilla pieces, stirring gently to combine.

Reduce heat to low.

When the heat has decreased, pour egg mixture into skillet. Stir gently to cook with the peppers, folding mixture very gently as it cooks. Add in grated cheese and chopped cilantro, and stir to combine.

Serve with bacon sprinkled on top.

Makes 6-8 servings. Reheats beautifully!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shredded Roast Chicken

Update: you can also cook this chicken at 425 for a shorter time period - just don't let it dry out. Lately I've been seasoning it with Paula Deen's house seasoning, which is four parts salt, 1 part black pepper, and 1 part garlic powder.

The chicken in the picture doesn't look incredibly appetizing, but believe me when I tell you it is delicious. Every couple of weeks I buy some split chicken breasts (bone-in, with skin) and roast them for salads, tacos, soup, sandwiches, casseroles - there are so many uses. I used to poach chicken breast (and I do sometimes still for chicken salad), but I find this method to be the most flavorful. It's also easy, healthy, and frugal: you can often find split chicken breasts on sale for about $.99 - $1.50 per pound. In this picture I have five pounds, which yields about 8-9 cups of shredded chicken.

This technique is the one Ina Garten uses. You'll notice the skin is not appetizing - it will be discarded, of course, but you don't want to brown it too much so the chicken dries out.

Shredded Roast Chicken

5 pounds split chicken breasts
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Spray or rub chicken with a little bit of olive oil. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken. Place chicken on a cookie sheet or roasting pan, not touching. Roast for 40-50 minutes (depending on size), until breasts are cooked through. When cool, discard skin and shred chicken. Freeze in 1 or 2 cup portions for future use. You can also save the browned bits on the pan and the bones to make great stock.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Szechuan Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas

This recipe is from Chopsticks, Cleaver, and Wok, a great Chinese cookbok I almost forgot I had. I bought it when I was 20 at Pier One - back when Pier One sold clothes!

The one downside to this incredibly flavorful and healthy recipe is you need to have a number of Asian ingredients. I like to cook Asian food, so I had all the ingredients - they are all things you can find in an ordinary grocery store. But they last forever in the refrigerator, so don't be afraid to buy them if you don't already have them.

Szechuan Chicken with Sugar Snap Peas

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (about one pound)

12 oz. frozen sugar snap peas (can also use 25 fresh snow peas or a stalk of fresh broccoli, chopped)

2 T. peanut or vegetable oil

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 c. chicken stock

2 t. cornstarch, mixed well with 1 T. cold water

2 green onions, sliced


1/4 t. salt

1/2 t. sugar

1/2 t. soy sauce

1 t. oyster sauce

2 t. white wine (or mirin, or dry sherry, or dry vermouth)

2 t. cornstarch


1 t. chili paste with garlic, like Sriracha (more if you like heat)
1 1/2 t. hoisin sauce
1 t. sugar
2 1/2 t. rice vinegar
1 t. soy sauce
1 t. oyster sauce
2 t. sesame oil

1. Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces. Place in bowl. Add seasoning ingredients to chicken and mix well.

2. Prepare sugar snap peas according to package directions and drain.

3. Combine sauce ingredients and mix well.

4. Heat wok and add 1/2 T oil. Add sugar snap peas and stir fry for 1 minute over high heat, adding salt and sugar. Remove from wok and set aside.

5. Heat wok and add 1 1/2 T. oil. Add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add chicken and stir fry for 2 minutes.

6. Add chicken stock and bring quickly to a boil. Cover and cook for 2 minutes over high heat.

7. Add sauce mixture and stir well.

8. Add sugar snap peas and green onions. Mix well.

9. Stir in cornstarch mixture. Cook for 30 seconds. Serve over rice.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Great Oven Fries

These are truly great oven fries! They are a combination of a few different recipes I've tried. The trick is to soak them in hot water to wash off some of the starch, which makes the fries get a crispy outside.

4 small/medium russet potatoes

2 T. olive oil

Kosher salt (preferred, but table salt is okay)

Peel potatoes. Cut into fries - try to keep them roughly the same size.

Preheat oven to 425. While the oven is preheating, soak the potatoes in the hottest tap water possible. Stir them around a bit.

When the oven reaches 425, drain the potatoes and blot them dry with a paper towel. Toss them with olive oil.

Put the fries on a baking pan in one layer. Sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 20 minutes and turn with spatula. Bake 10-20 more minutes, until golden brown.