Larrupin

Uncommonly Good

Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup

I came across a Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup in an email today, and since I had a zucchini in the fridge I decided I needed to make it for lunch.

So I did.

Italian Vegetable Soup in Larrupin

I pinned it, and then printed the recipe. I made a few changes off the top, mostly to the sequence of events, and switched out the broth, the beans and the tomato products. My recipe—with the changes—is below.

I started with this deep cast iron skillet acquired at a garage sale. Paid a whopping $5 for the rusty old thing. The size is midway between a skillet and a Dutch Oven. I cleaned it up and this is my first time to use it.

Should have taken a “before” picture! It was a mess.

Iron Skillet, Flea Market Find

Ain’t it purty? Cleaned up right nice, din’t it?

Beautiful seasoning! This is what a well-seasoned iron skillet is supposed to look like! My plan was to resell it because it was so gross I didn’t know if I could get it all the way back. But I might be in love. Even though it’s a no-name skillet, it will do the job.

Celery and onion went in first.

Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup on Larrupin

I always chop the onion last, just in case it makes me cry. When the onions and celery are soft and smelling good, I add the garlic. Garlic will burn if you cook it too long or if the heat is too high so I wait to add it just before the next step.

Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup on Larrupin

I added the carrots here because I’m not a fan of soggy cooked carrots. Adding them now means they still have some crunch when the soup is done. If you like soft cooked carrots, you can put them in the pot at the beginning.

Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup on Larrupin

This is where I added the dried oregano. I could have added it sooner, but I forgot. I like to stir it around and coat the veggies with it before adding the liquids.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I think the veggies take in more flavor when I do this instead of letting the herbs just swim around in the liquid later.

Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup on Larrupin

Now I add the broth, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce. Then the zucchini—I don’t like soggy zucchini either—and the rosemary. I intended to drop in a sprig of fresh rosemary, which is why I didn’t put it in with the oregano, but instead of taking the time to go outside and snip some, I used what I had in the cabinet.

While I waited for everything to come to a boil, I built a salad.

Salad on Larrupin

A couple of handfuls of spring mix; two slices of seasoned, crispy, oven-baked French bread croutons, broken into pieces; a sprinkle of sunflower seeds; and some slivers of Parmesan. I dressed it with homemade vinaigrette: olive oil, cranberry vinegar (homemade), brown and spicy mustard, Worcestershire, Tabasco, garlic granules, and sugar).

When the soup came to a boil…

Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup on Larrupin

… I added the pasta.

Then I ate my salad.

Italian Vegetable Soup in Larrupin

When I finished the salad the pasta was done, and, as pasta does, it absorbed a lot of liquid. I added the beans with the liquid (again, I don’t like soggy, smushy beans) and filled the empty can with water to add to the soup. I didn’t want to dilute the flavor, so I sprinkled a teaspoon or so of chicken bouillon granules on top and stirred it into the mix.

Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup on Larrupin

Salt and pepper to taste. I only added a smidge of salt but I gave it several good cranks of the pepper mill. I add pepper to practically everything.

Then I spooned it into my salad bowl. I used a wooden stirring spoon so I didn’t get a lot of liquid. I gave it a good splash of Tabasco and  garnished with slivers of cheese. I used a potato peeler.

It was larrupin!

Italian Vegeable Soup on Larrupin

Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup

It was 1 hour and 4 minutes from the first picture to the last. The original recipe said 30 minutes, 10 for prep and 20 to cook, but I couldn’t do it that fast unless I had help chopping the vegetables.

This would make a yummy brown bag lunch with a salad, and it will freeze well for leftovers. Leftovers and freezing are two more reasons I don’t overcook the veggies.

1.

3 large stalks Chopped Celery In Dutch oven, sauté onion and celery in oil.

2.

1 medium/smallish Chopped Onion

3.

2–3 Tbsp Olive oil

4.

2–3 Garlic Cloves Minced garlic Add garlic to sauté.

5.

1–2 tsp Dried oregano Season with dried herbs, stir to coat veggies.

6.

2–3 carrots Chunky chopped carrots Add carrots.

7.

1 32 oz box Swanson’s Chicken Broth Pour in broth, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce.

8.

1 14.5 oz can Crushed tomatoes

9.

1 8 oz. Tomato sauce

10.

1–2  stems Fresh rosemary Add rosemary and zucchini. Bring to a boil.

11.

1 small zucchini Thick sliced zucchini

12.

2 cups Uncooked pasta Add pasta. Stir. Cook al dente.

Eat your salad while the pasta cooks.

13.

1× 15.5 oz can Great northern beans Add beans and liquid.

14.

1 15 oz. can Water Use the empty bean can to add water.

15.

1–2 tsp. Wyler’s Chicken Bouillon Granules Sprinkle on top. Stir.
To taste Salt & Pepper

Finish eating your salad and then ladle the soup into your salad bowl.

Garnish Parmesan Cheese
Optional Tabasco Sauce

 

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December 6, 2012 Posted by | Brown Bag, Salad, Soup | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roast Chicken Salad with Feta

I roasted a chicken in the “cool” of the morning today and put this together for lunch.

Look yummy?

It was!

Chicken, avocado, tomato, feta, spinach, bacon and a few other odd and ends made up this healthy, tasty, warm summer salad. It was only warm because the chicken was less than an hour out of the oven, but it would be just as good if I’d pulled the chicken out of the fridge to build this.

Starting at the bottom of the bowl, here’s what’s in it.

  • 1 roast chicken thigh
  • 1/2 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 1 sliced green onion
  • 1 handful torn spinach
  • 1–2 T Athenos Feta
  • 1 slice crispy bacon, crumbled
  • fresh cracked black pepper
Here’s the meat from one cooked chicken thigh.
Add about a half a tomato, diced, and half an avocado, sliced and fanned out.
Next add slices of a green onion and a handful of torn spinach.
Feta and crispy bacon make up the next layer.
Sweet and spicy vinaigrette.

I made the dressing in a recycled pimiento jar. It’s the small jar, the two ounce size I think.

Pour fruit vinegar into small jar with tight fitting lid. I used homemade Cranapple Cider Vinegar. (The red layer in the middle.)
Add an equal amount of olive oil. (Top layer.)
Next add about a teaspoon (or so) of honey mustard, and about a tablespoon of honey. (The botttom layer.)
1/2 teaspoon your favorite herb/s, finely ground.

Tightly cap the jar and shake well. I used about 1/2 of it on this salad. The other half will go on another salad in a couple of days.

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Brown Bag, Salad | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Favorite Ingredient: Feta Cheese

I first tasted feta cheese at Greek House, here in Norman, Oklahoma well over 25 years ago. It was also the first time I had gyros, which by the way, are authentic Greek and the absolute best. Not heart healthy by any means. The gyros meat cooks on vertical spits and the resulting grease is used for the fries.  Oh. My. Gosh. Soooo good. But back to the feta. The gyros plate—a pile of meat, fries, and Greek salad—is garnished with a Greek olive and a cube of feta. It was love at first bite.

For years, eating at Greek House was the only time I ate feta. Here in the big middle of the U S of A,  good ole American processed was the go-to cheese for most families, although sometimes it wasn’t really cheese. I’d long outgrown those orange slices when I came across these scrumptious white cubes of feta. At some point I came across it in the grocery store and put it in my cart. It’s been a staple in my kitchen ever since and I’m always finding, and looking for, new ways to eat it. 

I usually buy Athenos Feta Traditional by the block because it lasts longer than the crumbled feta.  I also like the Athenos packaging because it’s reclosable. When I want some, I’ll slice an appropriately sized slice and break it into chunks to top almost any salad or soup. 

Here it is on my Spinach Steak Salad with lots of fresh cracked pepper. I think I made a red wine vinegar vinaigrette to go with this. It’s a great garnish for soups as well, especially tomato and mushroom soups.

I switched from cheddar to feta as my go-to cheese garnish five or six years ago because I like the different spark of flavor it provides.  Today I found out on the Athenos facebook page that it does more than that. Here’s what they had to say about switching to feta.

Changing your salad topping from cheddar to Feta gives you
1) 6 grams of protein
2) 1/3 less fat and
3) 30% fewer calories!

They didn’t provide a quantity, for the cheeses, but 1/3 less fat and 30% fewer calories for equal portions sounds good to me.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | Salad | , | 1 Comment

Salads, Baked Potatoes, Crackers and Cheese

Here’s what I’ve had for lunch the past few days.

Tuna on Salad

Tuna on Salad

Friday I put the leftover tuna salad on top of a bed of romaine and butter leaf lettuce topped with a few tomatoes, bread and butter pickles and honey mustard dressing.

I planned to get my lunches for the week organized over the weekend and have them read to go on Monday, but alas, I didn’t. I spent the weekend researching my family tree and editing a paper for my nephew so, nothing happened in the kitchen.

Baked Potato and Salad

Baked Potato and Salad

On Monday, I put together a pile of lettuce for a simple salad, grabbed an already baked potato, some sour cream, green onion, cheese and I was good to go. The salad was romaine, butter leaf lettuce, feta cheese, sunflower seeds, croutons, and honey mustard dressing. I cut the potato in half and zapped it in the microwave and then add butter, sour cream, green onion, and grated cheddar cheese.

The baked potato was planned, I just didn’t know when I would need it. One evening last week I baked about 5 potatoes. I doused them in olive oil and wrapped them in foil and put them in my toaster oven until they were tender. I ate one when they were done and turned a couple of small ones into hash browns sometime over the past few days and I had two left. I ate one Monday and had the last one today. Yesterday I had another salad and some crackers and cheese and tomato juice.

My desk is stocked with almonds, pistachios, peanuts, and dried apricots. I also have some crackers, cream cheese and Major Grey’s Chutney in the fridge at work in case of emergency. That has come in handy this week with my lack of preparation.

My crisper is running low, but I want to empty it before restock. If I buy too frequently I overlook something and end up having to toss it. With my slim budget I don’t need to be throwing food way.

I stopped by Target this evening for some dog food and got the very basics on my grocery list: milk, eggs, bananas, grapes, olive oil, yogurt… I think that’s about it. Tomorrow I’ll make a banana drink for breakfast. For lunch I think I’ll pull a frozen sloppy Joe patty out of the freezer and that for lunch. We’ll see if that pans out in the morning. 😉

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Brown Bag, Salad | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roast Chicken Salad

Roast Chicken Salad

Roast Chicken Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Pecans, and Honey Mustard Dressng

This salad started out the same as the one I made yesterday, but it had a totally different taste. I added diced roast chicken, mandarin oranges, pecans and sliced almonds. I dressed it with store-bought honey mustard dressing.

I roast a chicken every few weeks, usually when I see them on sale at the grocery store. I get at least one fresh meal out of it and then I have leftovers of the main meal, chicken for salads or sandwiches, chicken broth, and I set aside all the unappetizing “chicken parts” for the dogs. They love it when I add those “parts” to their bowls.

Roasting a chicken is easy. Just wash it inside and out and put it in a roasting pan. I season mine with a variety of herbs. Tarragon has a distinctive flavor, at least to me, so I don’t usually mix it with other flavors. I have a personal herb blend I use on almost everything especially on chicken. I’ll pour about a half-inch of white wine in the bottom of the pan. Sometimes I’ll add  mushrooms, celery tops, onions and garlic. It goes, uncovered, in an oven preheated to 400° for about 10–15 minutes. When the skin is crispy and golden I’ll put a lid on the pan, or cover it with foil and leave it for another 45 minutes or so.

Roast Chicken Before

Fresh chicken seasoned with rosemary, tumeric, stuffed with mushrooms, celery, and lemons.

As soon as I get it in the oven, I’ll put rice in my rice steamer and turn it on. When the rice is done, the chicken usually is as well.

When the chicken is done, I take it out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes while I get everything together for serving. Then I’ll take the chicken out of the pan and put it on a plate for carving. My favorite fresh hot piece of chicken is the leg quarter so I’ll pull that of and add it to the rice.  I may make a gravy out of the pan juices, but if not, I’ll simply spoon the pan juices over the rice and chicken. Garnish with some slivered almonds and chow down.

Roast Chicken After

Rosemary Lemon Roast Chicken

After I eat, and the chicken is cool I’ll debone it and put the whole breasts and any other meat in a container for future use. I may toss the bones, but if I have time I’ll put the bones back in the roasting pan, add some more water and put them on the stove top and cook them down to make broth.

After the bones cook an hour or so, remove from the heat and let it cool enough to handle. Remove the larger bones with tongs or a slotted spoon . (Don’t feed them to your dogs or cats. They can splinter and cause internal injuries when your pets eat them.) After you think you have all the bones out, pour the broth through a strainer and remove the smaller bones. You can also strain it though cheese cloth if you want to get the rest of the chunks that are floating around.

When the broth is strained, pour it into a tall container. I frequently use a tall plastic to-go cup I’ve saved. Put it in the fridge and the chicken fat will form a layer and harden on the top making it very easy to remove before you use the broth.

I’m in the mood for a BLT tomorrow for lunch. I think I also have an avocado I can add to it. We’ll see if I can’t get around early enough to pull it off.  I’m also looking for my little sandwich maker so I can make grilled sandwiches at the office. At home, my trusty iron skillets are so much easier, but I just realized that little sandwich maker is just the ticket. If I can just remember where I put it. 🙂

April 20, 2010 Posted by | Brown Bag, Salad | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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