Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tomato Ditalini Soup

My soup recipe collection has really grown as of late. We love homemade soup all year long, especially in the winter. The weather here has been a roller coaster this year...we go from spring-like temperatures to Arctic cold overnight.  As a rule, during the winter, I make at least one batch of homemade soup once a week....sometimes more.  I love soups loaded with vegetables and a hearty broth. Bob loves them with some kind of protein....see, he's a "Where's the meat? kind of guy.

I have quite a collection of specialty cooking magazines here, and a good number of them pertain to soups. While browsing through them to look for some new ideas, I came across this recipe with a very tempting photograph alongside. I've made tomato based soups like Minestrone before, but hadn't made one that had tomatoes as the "star" of the soup. As many magazines as I looked through, I kept going back to this recipe and photo. That was a signal to me to give it a try.

The recipe goes together in no time at all. I stayed pretty true to the original, adding some Italian seasoning to the broth for another level of flavor.  I also used my homemade chicken stock instead of canned broth.  If you want to keep this totally vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

When the pasta was done cooking and I looked at what I had for a finished product in the pan, I wasn't happy.  It was too "watery"...and in tasting it, it didn't have the tomato punch I wanted. Solution?  Tomato paste-a couple rounded tablespoons stirred into the hot broth at the end was all that soup needed to give me the depth of tomato flavor I was looking for.  It added just the right richness and slight thickness to the broth.  PERFECT!  I tasted one last time, adjusted the seasoning, and I was happy.

The soup sat overnight in the refrigerator waiting for lunch the next day. Once heated through, a sprinkle of parsley and shredded cheese is all that was needed.

One spoonful was all it took to know I had a winner.  The tomato and herb flavor was even fuller the next day, with a nice background of onion, garlic and a touch of celery. The ditalini adds just enough bulk to make the soup filling-which made Bob happy. He didn't even say "It would be better with some chicken..."-that's always a good sign!

Seeing those diced tomatoes made me feel like I was eating soup made with tomatoes from my garden, which makes me think summertime-and on a cold winter day, that's a VERY pleasant thought.

Not only is this soup easy, it's a great one to make just before grocery shopping.  It uses ingredients I always have in the cupboard and refrigerator.  If I didn't have celery in the crisper drawer, I'd omit it and add more onion...or maybe a couple of finely diced carrots. No diced tomatoes? Use canned whole tomatoes cut into pieces. That's what I love about recipes like this. They're so versatile and can adapt to whatever ingredients you have on hand.

This recipe is in my regular rotation-not only is it quick and easy, it's one super delicious tomato soup.


(Source: adapted from Cuisine Splendid Soups and Stews magazine)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. finely diced onion
1/2 c. finely diced celery
2 cloves garlic, finely minced, then "pasted"
2 (14 1/2 oz. each) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
4 c. homemade chicken stock OR low sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth can be substituted)
1 1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/2 c. ditalini OR orzo pasta
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
Chopped fresh parsley
Shredded Romano OR Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, Italian seasoning and ditalini.  Bring the soup to a boil.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente, about 10-12 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the tomato paste and stir until it dissolves into the broth and the soup is slightly thickened. If you like a thicker soup, add more tomato paste, then adjust the seasonings to taste. The heaping 2 Tbsp. was the perfect consistency for us.

Serve the soup garnished with chopped fresh parsley and a sprinkling of shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese.  4 servings.

NOTE:  Sometimes the pasta can "drink" up the broth in soup when it sits in the refrigerator overnight.  I fix that by adding a touch more broth when I heat it up or in this soup, a glug or so of V-8 juice works great if I have it on hand.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


One of the many stained glass windows in the St. Andrews Dunes Church.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Brook Shield's Vegetable Health Soup ~ EASY

The recipe is from In The Kitchen With Miss Piggy. I love this cookbook and know this recipe by heart. I gave away so many cookbooks and was relieved that this is still in the collection.

I've had the cookbook since 1996. It's an oldie but there are so many good recipes that I plan share. This is a favorite and hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

I always buy organic carrots. I find them to be sweeter. I also always make my own chicken broth. I make it in my slow cooker and if anyone wants the recipe I'll add it at the later date.

The recipe states that you can use broccoli or cauliflower but I always make the carrot, just love the stuff.


2 large sprinkles of Mrs. Dash (never use)
1 large onion, chopped ( I like using vidalia- when they are available )
2 medium size Granny Smith Apples- peeled, cored and chopped
Vegetable Oil Spray
Any ONE of the following 3 vegetables
1 large bunch broccoli ( do not toss the stems)
1 large head cauliflower
1 large bunch carrots *
1 46 ounce can chicken broth ( make my own and take off any fat- if you need to add more broth if you use extra amount of carrots)


1- Sprinkle Mrs. Dash (if using) on onion and apple. In a non- stick frying pan lightly spray with the canola oil. Saute onion and apple until soft and set aside.

2- Clean the vegetable of your choice and chop into one inch pieces. Steam or parboil the vegetable. Pour the broth into a large saucepan. Add the vegetables which were steamed and the onion and apple to the broth. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

3- Using an emulsion blender ( a regular blender works well also just have to add small amounts at a time ) and mix until smooth.

May be served hot or cold.

I usually add some shredded Parmesan to the top if I have it for dinner.

* Bunch depends on the size of the carrots but usually go with a pound bag. Some are so thin, I use over a pound of carrots. You can use more or less, depending  on your taste.

Note- this such an easy recipe to remember. I buy my organic carrots in Walmart.  A lady was shopping and picked up a small bag of organic carrots and we started to chat about carrots. I asked her if she ever made soup with the carrots and said no. I told her the ingredients and she thanked me and told me she was going to make it.

Gabe and I were shopping and Roy who works in produce told me that lady whom I gave the recipe to was his cousin. Talk about small world.

I made Roy cookies at Christmas and he knows me as the carrot lady. When his cousin told him that some customer gave her a soup recipe and it had carrots in it he said he kinda thought it was me.

It made my day that someone enjoyed it and was thankful for a new recipe.

Friday, February 5, 2016


I'm sure you have a favorite quote or maybe a few. I saw these and there are some pretty good ones in this list.

Here's one from the list

 “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by jerks.” - Sigmund Freud

List can be found Here

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Asian-Style Chicken Wings

Cookbooks....boy have I got a boatload of them.  They're my "reference books"-my "encyclopedias", if you will, that hold valuable information when it comes to cooking and baking.  When I need a new idea-or want to reach back for a tried and true one-I can walk up to any of the bookcases loaded with these treasure tomes, pull a book off the shelf (or 2 or 10 books...) and find a boatload of inspiration. 

This recipe is and oldie but goodie.  My Mom and I each picked up a copy of this cookbook at a church fair we went to years ago. She made the recipe, raved about it, and told me I needed to try it. 

When I saw gin listed as an ingredient in the recipe, I was surprised Mom had made them. Neither she nor my Dad drank gin-and Bob and I don't care for it. She said she was intrigued enough by the recipe to pick up a small bottle and give it a go.  

I like to use freshly grated ginger in the marinade, but have used ground ginger and it works just as well. I use a little less than a cup of sugar-the cup isn't level-and I always use the lower sodium soy sauce.

One of the keys to the wonderful flavor of these wings is allowing them to marinate a good 24 hours-the wings in the photo marinated about a day and a half.  Baking them in a single layer and flipping them over halfway through the baking time allows both sides to glaze up nicely.

Am I ever glad my Mom made these and insisted that I give them a try. One taste and this recipe shot right to the top of my favorites list. I don't know what the gin does in this marinade-you can't taste it in the finished product-but it works some kind of magic. I guess it's that secret ingredient that makes people say "I don't know what's in these, but they taste FANTASTIC!"   They're the perfect mix of soy, garlic and ginger with just the right amount of sweetness, and that slightly sticky glaze is finger-lickin' good. Since the wings are best served warm, I like to make them ahead and put them in a crock pot on low. 

 If you're looking for a new idea to serve at your Super Bowl party, or if your family just loves chicken wings, I hope you'll give these a try. 

Now back to my "library"....I need to put some more of these cookbooks to good use! :)


(Source: slightly adapted from What's Cookin' at St. Catherine's School cookbook, Manchester, NH-recipe from Diane Cote)

1 c. lite soy sauce 
1 scant c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. gin
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger OR ground ginger
2 Tbsp. honey
4-5 lb. chicken wings, cut in half, wing tips removed

Whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, gin, garlic powder, ginger and honey in a small bowl until well mixed.

Place the chicken wings in a heavy resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the wings, seal the bag and  place it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours to marinate. 

Line a large rimmed baking pan with foil, then spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Spread wings in a single layer on the prepared pan. Discard any remaining marinade.

Bake @ 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn the wings and continue to bake @ 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes more or until the wings are golden brown and cooked through. Serve warm.