Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Italian Wedding Soup

133. Rain was pouring down, with winds up to 40mph, while I was snug in the house. What a great day for soup! Chicken soup, but not just any chicken soup, Italian Wedding Soup. This is one of my favorite meals to make and my family is always happy to come to the table.

My recipe came from an old cookbook that I got my Old Country Kolachi from. A dear lady from Youngstown, Ohio shared this recipe. It is so very simple but includes a variety of steps.

Italian Wedding Soup

1 3-4 lb chicken
pot of water
salt
5 or 6 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
medium onion chopped, (optional)
fresh parsley, chopped
1 large head of endive, escarole or other green you prefer, chopped (spinach or kale)
1 pound of ground meat
1 cup of grated romano or parmesean cheese
Place the chicken in a 6 to 8 quart pot and cover with water. Cook the chicken till tender and remove. (The original recipe does not add the chicken back into the soup but I do. ) Pull chicken away from bones, cut up and return to strained stock.

In a separate pot, place carrots, celery, onion and chopped greens. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Pour cooked vegetables and liquid into the larger pot.

Mix together the ground meat, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Shape into tiny meatballs.
In a large frying pan brown the meatballs.
Transfer the mini meatballs into the large soup pot.
Bring the soup to a boil and then simmer on low for 30 minutes

(This next part of the recipe I do not do because of the high fat content and I don't like the egg drop soup effect...but here is the recipe.)
Just before serving, prepare the following:
6 eggs
1/4 cup Romano cheese grated
Black pepper
Beat together with a fork. Bring soup to a boiling point. Stir in egg mixture by drizzling over the soup as you stir. Continue boiling till egg is cooked.

Wedding Soup Croutons

3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
The consistency will be similar to corn bread batter.
Pour batter into a greased 9x9 baking pan. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or till golden brown. When cool, cut into small cubes for croutons.
Serve along with the soup on the side.
You can also have a bowl of freshly grated parmesan or Romano cheese to sprinkle on top.
This soup is great to use as a first course for special occasions or for any reason!

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy."
~William Blake

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hummingbird Cake

132. What do you do with overripe bananas? Make banana bread? Here is a beautiful alternative, a Hummingbird Cake. My daughter gifted me with a Southern Cakes cookbook by Nancie McDermott. It is an enticing book with luscious photos of cakes. I found a fantastic cake that uses overripe bananas and pineapple...and who can resist cream cheese frosting?
Last summer we had a large amount of ripe pineapples so I canned most of it in heavy syrup. The pineapple sure comes in handy for a variety of uses. Rather than using canned pineapple, I used the preserved pineapple.
Hummingbird Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple (do not drain)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups mashed ripe banana

  • Pecan-Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour three 8-inch or two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, and use a fork to mix well. With a large wooden spoon, mix in the beaten eggs, oil, vanilla, pineapple, bananas and pecans. Mix well, stirring gently just enough to blend everything into a good thick, nubby batter. (love this description!)
Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans and bake at 350〫 for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cakes are nicely browned and pulling away from the sides of the pans. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks or folded kitchen towels for about 15 minutes. then gently turn out the cakes onto wire racks or plates. Turn the layers top side up, and let them cool completely.

Pecan-Cream Cheese Frosting:
To make the frosting, in a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter and beat with a mixer at low speed to mix well. Add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and beat until the frosti
ng is fluffy and smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape down the bowl and blend everything thoroughly.

Add the pecans, and stir well. (I did not add the pecans to the frosting but left them whole to decorate with. )

To complete the cake, place one layer, top side down, on a cake stand or a serving plate, and spread frosting on the top.

A trick I have learned is to place a dolope of frosting onto the cake platter. This helps to hold the cake in place so it does not shift. Place the second layer, top side up, on the first.

Frost the sides and then the top

.

Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes or so, to help the icing set.

What a beautiful cake this is. The top layer of cake was baked in a decorative round pan to add whimsy.

Sliced, the cake is tall and you can spot chunks of pineapple and bits of pecans.

Hummingbird cake history

Southern Living magazine generally is credited with the first reference to Hummingbird Cake. It published the recipe in its February 1978 issue, submitted by a Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, N.C. But Mrs. Wiggins did not include an explanation of the cake's unusual name, which remains a mystery however folklore has it that the hummingbird is a symbol of sweetness.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chicken and Potato Soup with Bacon

131. For Christmas this year my family added to my kitchen cookbook collection by giving me a wonderful soup cookbook. It is from (Parragon Publishing,
ISBN 9781407581156)
And, a beautiful stand for my cookbooks.
In my soup cookbook was a yummy recipe for "Chicken & Potato Soup with Bacon".
The recipe called for onion and garlic to be sauteed in butter and then add the bacon. I decided this would make the soup very high in fat and cause an oily consistency. So I sauteed the bacon separately and drained it well. I crumbled the bacon and placed it in a serving bowl to sprinkle on top of the soup.
"Chicken & Potato Soup with Bacon"

1 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
9 oz. smoked lean bacon, chopped
2 large leeks, sliced
(I added a stalk of celery also)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 lb 12 oz potatoes, cubed
7 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped
4 tablespoons heavy cream :(I used milk)
salt and pepper
cooked crumbled bacon and sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the chopped bacon and leeks and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring. ( I did not add the bacon at this point)
In a bowl, mix the flour with enough stock to make a smooth paste and stir it into the pan. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Pour in the remaining stock, then add the potatoes and chicken.
Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, until the chicken and potatoes are tender and cooked through.
Stir in the cream and cook for another 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with the cooked bacon and flat-leaf parsley and serve immediately.

I also made a batch of biscuits and cut them into star shapes.
What a delicious soup...and you can cut down on fat and calories just by substituting a few ingredients.


Soup is a lot like a family. Each ingredient enhances the others;
each batch has its own characteristics;
and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavor.
~ M. Kennedy

Monday, January 18, 2010

5 Minute Chocolate Cake

130. When I received an email the other day telling me that a piece of chocolate cake was only 5 minutes away, I had to find out.

My sweet friend Wanda sent me the email and thought I would enjoy this recipe. It is crazy, but it works. The recipe she sent me is as follows:

5 MINUTE CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons
chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large
coffee mug (MicroSafe)

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well..
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
EAT ! (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous).

And why is this the most dangerous
cake recipe in the world?

Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!

So here is my process. I started with a large mug.
I mixed the dry ingredients together.

The cake began to rise above the cup rim at the 2 minute mark. It was so cool!
When I turned the cup upside down the cake came away from the cup. I sprayed the cup with cooking oil spray before adding the ingredients. Slicing it in half, the cake was baked through but was slightly dry in the very center.
The texture is a bit gummy but the flavor is like a brownie. Very chocolaty and delicious.
Since the chocolate worked so well...I had to try a white cake.
Because I eliminated the cocoa, which is 2 Tablespoons of dry ingredient,
I added 6 Tablespoons of flour and about half a teaspoon of vanilla.

It baked beautifully!

The white cake was gummy also but flavor was very good.

Next...my Maggie said, "Let's try a Red Velvet Mug Cake". What a great idea...so I followed the chocolate cake recipe and just added red food coloring with the liquids.
I found that mixing the batter till it becomes very bubbly helps the cake to rise higher and be less gummy.

This cake will not have the same texture as a standard cake but if you have a craving for Chocolate Cake and only have a few minutes...it does the trick! Thanks Wanda! What a fun recipe!

"I have this theory that chocolate slows down the aging process.... It may not be true, but do I dare take the chance?"
-- Author Unknown

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Knedle ze śliwkami or Polish Plum Dumplings

129. We are all familiar with the dumpling; soft, chewy, comforting little dough pillows. One of my most favorite memories as a child was my mothers handmade Polish Plum Dumplings or "Knedle". Knedle ze śliwkami means dumplings with plums. In our backyard was a small Italian plum tree or as some refer to these plums as prune plums. They were about the size of a large walnut and would turn a purple/blue when fully ripe. I haven't had these dumplings for many years and when we traveled to Poland, and I saw these plums for sale by the street vendors, my memories and taste for these dumplings grew.

I just had to make some! So, my dear honey was sent on a mission to find Italian blue prune plums. When all was said and done...5 stores later...he brought home the closest he could find to these plums. They were larger, and had more of a burgundy color and were not as sweet as the Italian blue plum. But they were put to good use! I found a similar recipe for these wonderful dumplings at A Cat In The Kitchen's Blog. She has a beautiful post of her recipe and other traditional Polish favorites.
First I made my dough...which my mother always told me, "You just have to know how it is suppose to feel, measurements aren't always the same." The dough must be soft and pliable with slight stickiness. Adding just enough liquid so the dough will hold together but not stick to your hands. You can find a similar recipe here.
I let the dough rest for 20 minutes and then break or cut off small pieces and form it into a circle.
Then you place a plum, seed in, onto the center of the dough. I'm sure you could remove the seed but this may cause seeping of the fruit juices. If you leave in the seed, you will experience that "popping" or breaking open of the plum when it is broken open and the juice squirts out!
Seal each dumpling making sure there are no openings. Set them aside till all are rolled.
Drop into a boiling 6 quart pot of water with a teaspoon of oil added. They will drop to the bottom, so lightly stir them to keep from sticking.
Once the dumplings begin to cook, they will rise to the top. Continue to boil them, rolling them often to cook all sides. The boiling process not only cooks the dough but also the plum inside. Allow time for the plum to soften and become tender. You may need to taste test, my favorite part.
I also drop the remaining dough in small bits along with the dumplings...you can't let it go to waste.
After the dumplings are fully cooked, remove with a slotted spoon to a buttered casserole dish.
Pour over melted butter to keep the dumplings from sticking to each other.
Since this was always considered a dessert treat, I served the Knedle immediately with cinnamon and sugar.
You can either serve them in individual bowls or allow everyone to serve themselves.
It is fantastic when you break open the dumplings and the fruit juice squirts out into your bowl.
So juicy and beautiful! And the color is fantastic. Serve with warm melted butter, sugar or sugar and cinnamon mixed and whipped cream if you so desire.


One of my favorite quotes:
"The pessimist complains about the wind,
the optimist expects it to change,
but the leader adjusts the sails."
William Arthur Ward

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