Saturday, 10 December 2016

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

In addition to the other multitude of foods that I love, soup is high up on the list.

But I'm specific about the soup that I like.  I like creamy, thick, stick-to-your-ribs soup.  Cream of chicken, cream of asparagus, cream of tomato, etc. etc.

In my food blog travels, I came across this creamy Chicken and Gnocchi soup.  I was intrigued.  I love gnocchi, I love a creamy soup, and this one is chock full of vegetables - meaning it was legit healthy.

Now - here's what you need to know - allow me to segue for a minute here.  In the world, there are like a zillion recipes for a zillion dishes.  For example.  My chocolate chip cookie recipe is different from the your favorite, and from your cousins favorite, and her friend's favorite.  Do you see where I'm going with this?

Because of this, I like to test out different recipes to figure out which one I like the best.  Or maybe the first one I try isn't that great and I need to strike out again.

Which is what happened with this soup the first time I tried it.

I was SO excited.  I KNEW it was going to be good.  I could just tell!

And it was......  As waste of my time.  Something about the ingredients, or maybe the cooking method.  Something didn't work.  There was WAY too much olive oil and it was downright gross.

It was a few years before I decided to take the plunge and try again. 

These are all the things you'll need.  Just check out all those veggies!  I feel like a better/more healthy version of myself already.  lol

In a medium pot over medium heat, combine the butter and olive oil and heat until the butter is melted.

Add the onions.

And the celery and carrots.

Then add in the garlic and the thyme.

Cook the veggies until they're nice and soft and tender.  It'll take about 5 - 10 minutes.  Then add in the salt and pepper.

Add in the flour.

Stir the veggies around to coat with the flour.  You'll to cook the veggies and flour for another couple of minutes.

Then stir in the chicken broth.

And then the half and half.  (Okay - so that's the "not so healthy" part of the recipe).

Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.  You can see on the sides of the pot in the picture below that the liquid is thick and hearty.  (this is the part where you're going to cook the gnocchi according to the package directions)

Then add in the chicken.

And the cooked gnocchi.

Cook for a few minutes so that the chicken and gnocchi are heated through.

Add in the roughly chopped spinach.

Then it'll look like this.

And you can ladle the soup into a bowl and it'll look like this.

And this.

And when you dip in a spoon to chow down, it'll look like this.

And this.

I completely recommend serving this with crusty bread, or a crusty bun, or crackers.  But definitely bread so that you can scrape every last drop of soup off the bottom of the bowl.  Trust me - you'll be disappointed if you don't.

This was the epitome of soups for me.  Creamy, hearty, full of vegetables, gnocchi, and chicken.  You could taste the slight hint of olive oil and the salt and pepper seasoned it perfectly. 

While there's some work involved - from start to finish (including prep time) it takes about an hour to make.  That's pretty quick for such a delicious recipe.  Although I've said before that delicious doesn't always need to take forever.

I go through barrels of soup in the winter - this is one of my most treasured favorites!  I hope you love it as much as I do. 

xoxo - Heather

Friday, 2 December 2016

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

I've heard - and talked about - that blogging about recipes you don't LOVE is against all the blogging rules. 

In the past, I've tried recipes and cooked things I wasn't wild about and posted about them.  But at some point along the way, I decided that you didn't want to hear about stuff I hated or was ambivalent about.   You wanted to hear about the dishes that made me smile, the ones that warmed my ribs, the ones that made my tastebuds pop.

I think you can tell - I have LOVED everything I've posted about lately.  So, goal achieved!!

Before I start here.  There's something you need to know.  The original recipe did not meet the criteria above.

So I changed it.  And it was the perfect pasta casserole for a freezing winter afternoon.

It's fairly involved (it'll definitely need to be started early in the day), but when it's -30 degrees C outside, I figure we've all got a little extra time on our hands in the house. 

The reason this takes so long is because you have to start by making a meat sauce.  Which cooks for quite some time. Also, the recipe calls for veal, but I couldn't get veal so I just upped the beef and

Let's kick it into gear.

Heat oil in a large pot and add the meats.  Cook until browned, breaking up the chunks of meat with a wooden spoon.

Add the garlic.

Add the onion.

Cook until the onions are translucent.  Add the salt and pepper.

Then the basil.

Followed up by red wine.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes and the tomato purée.  Stir until combined.  Simmer on low for 2 - 3 hours.

The best part is that this recipe makes a REALLY BIG batch.  The tortellini recipe calls for 3 cups of sauce, so the rest can be portioned into freezer bags and saved for a rainy day.  Which is so great.

You can also plan this so that as the meat sauce is finishing, everything else is ready to go. Totally your call.

Next up is the béchamel sauce.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Then add the flour.  Whisk together and cook until the flour is golden brown.  Don't let it burn!

Then add the milk slowly, whisking constantly.  

Heat the mixture until it is simmering.  Cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly so it doesn't burn or cook to the bottom of the pot.

The mixture should thicken (you can see how it has on the sides of the pot in the picture below), then add in the provolone cheese and stir until it's melted.

Then add the Parmesan cheese and stir until melted.

Add in salt and pepper.  I usually go for about 1 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. 

Then stir in 3 cups of your prepared meat sauce.

Put the pasta in a really, really big bowl.  I used my 32 cup Tupperware bowl and it was perfect.

Pour the prepared sauce into the bowl with the tortellini and stir to combine.

Transfer the pasta and sauce into a 9 x 13 baking dish and top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Cook.  Wait.  Cook and wait.  Get hungry. 

I loved everything about this.  The sauce, the cheese, the pasta.  How it all came together and warmed the frozen cockles of my heart.

You could use any pasta you like.  I do recall seeing a bacon and cheese tortellini pasta and that would be probably wildly delightful.  I used a package of beef/cheese and a package of plain cheese. 

Serve with a Caesar salad and The Bread and that's a meal that is family friendly that will keep bellies full for days.  Or in my case, until dessert.

Xoxo - Heather