Monthly Archives: November 2014

Soups on! Tuscan Vegetable Soup with Canellini Beans

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I truly have no story about this soup. It’s not linked to a family memory, favorite restaurant, or anything in particular. I was planning my husband’s birthday dinner last week and needed a starter to go with the meal. It was very cold outside so I knew I wanted to make a soup. My main dish was simmering away on the stove and I needed something quick. I searched online for mediteranean soups and came across this Tuscan Vegetable Soup from Ellie Krieger. It’s made with ingredients I had on hand, makes 6 servings and only took 30 minutes to make from start to finish. This seemed like a winner plus it got a review of 5 stars. I would like to add my 5 stars to that review! Enjoy!
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The recipe is adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Tuscan Vegetable Soup with a few changes. She uses zucchini which I didn’t have so I substituted two peppers and also boosted the amount of vegetables a little. The recipe called for thyme and sage which I also did not have so I used Herbes de Provence which contains both sage and thyme. All we need is parsley and rosemary and we have a song! You know Simon and Garfunkel…
Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine
I can’t be the only one that sings that when I’m cooking with these herbs. Am I?
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1/2 large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 to 3 carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
2 to 3 stalks celery, diced, (about 1 cup)
2 peppers cut into 1″ pieces (I used one yellow, one red but any combination is fine or use 1 small zucchini)
32 ounces vegetable broth
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium canellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chopped baby spinach leaves (or combination kale, Swiss chard and spinach)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons herbes de provence*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, salt and black pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Now add the peppers and or zucchini, mix and cook for a couple of minutes longer.Add the vegetable broth and diced tomatoes with the juice and bring to a boil. Add beans and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the spinach leaves and cook until it’s wilted, about 3 minutes more.Serve topped with fresh grated Parmesan, if desired.
*or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
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How to Turn Leftover Halloween Candy into Jazzed up Chocolate Bark

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What type of candy do you buy for Halloween? Is it the candy you wish you got as a kid? Is it candy you hate so it won’t tempt you?

When I was about 11 years old, I remember the neighbors around the corner handed out full size candy bars for Halloween. That was unprecedented, unheard of, and something I still remember all these years later! It was so exciting, my girlfriends and I switched around our costumes so we could go back a second time without being recognized!

From that day on, I always knew that when I had a house of my own, I would do something special like that for the children in my neighborhood. Fast forward 25 years and I did! Over the years I have given out large gummy lollipops, big bags of potato chips, and one year I gave out giant Pixie Stix that were almost 2 feet long! However, it’s not easy to continue this tradition in my community. Most years we get anywhere from 60 to 85 kids and it gets very expensive to give out that one big thing.

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Now we give out smaller candy, but always the good kind (usually chocolate) and with something fun like glow sticks! I bought 6 bags of candy, 3 dozen glow sticks and we didn’t have much left over. If you do have some left over, don’t bring it to your office; don’t throw it out or freeze it. You have to try this great jazzed up chocolate bark recipe. Aside from being a delicious reinvented treat, it makes a great gift. Be Creative & Enjoy!

Ingredients
1  3/4 cups good quality chocolate. I used 60% cocoa but use what you like
1/2 cup melting chocolate*
2 to 2 1/2 cups chopped candy bars and candy pieces (use as much or as little as you like)

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Prepare a quarter size sheet pan (9 x 13) with parchment paper and set aside.

In the top of a double boiler,* place the chocolates in to melt – stirring often until smooth. Take it off the heat just before all the chocolate has melted. Continue to stir and when it is all melted, gently mix in about 1/3 of the candy.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and using an offset or rubber spatula, spread the chocolate mixture evenly. Sprinkle the remaining candy on top. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours until the chocolate is set. Once firm, break the bark into pieces.

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This will make a nice gift wrapped in cellophane, or placed in a beautiful tin. It looks very pretty with colorful candy, however, I just bought Junior Mints on sale and thinking I might need to make another batch! There are endless combinations. Be creative and let me know what you come up with!

*I use a small amount of melting chocolate because I like the softer and smoother texture this yields after it’s refrigerated; it’s not a hard bark. I also like that contrast of textures – crunchy candy and smooth chocolate. If you like a firmer chocolate bark, use 2 1/4 cups chips and eliminate the melting chocolate.

**You can also microwave the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave in 30 second increments until just melted. Make sure to stir each time you check.

 

Caramel Apples – A New Halloween Tradition in Our House!

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Although today is Halloween, we here in Ohio celebrated last night. It’s one of those midwest things I still don’t understand, like why my kids never get off school for Columbus Day when we live in Columbus, Ohio! Anyway, they call last night beggar’s night and I handed out over 125 pieces of candy, pretzels, lollipops, glow sticks and Twizzlers to more than 75 cutely dressed trick or treaters!

There are some traditions I have for myself on beggar’s night. I usually get my candy ready in a big black cauldron early in the day, pick up a pizza for dinner, make a pot of coffee and wait till 6pm arrives. That’s when the kids start coming and it doesn’t stop until 8pm when either the last little goblin shows up, or I run out of candy – whichever comes first! Last night I broke tradition. This was the first year my youngest son did not go trick or treating. It marked the end of  an era. This year, there was no pizza and no coffee. I didn’t even have my cauldren! However, there were caramel apples – plenty of caramel apples. A new Halloween tradition is born! Enjoy!

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No matter what you roll them in, they are delicious!

6 apples washed and dried well (I used a combination of Granny Smith and Empire) I find cold apples work best
1 pound of caramel (find a local candy making supply store to buy it in bulk so you don’t have to unwrap a million little caramels)
2 tablespoons milk
6 chopsticks
1 cup good quality melting chocolate, white or dark (optional)

Optional Toppings
Mini chocolate chips
Mini m&m’s
Chopped nuts (almonds, peanuts and pecans work very well)
Sprinkles
Crushed Heath bar candies
Crushed Oreo cookies
Sea Salt (this is especially good if you are into the salty caramel craze!)

Line a sheet pan with wax paper, spray it lightly with oil and set aside.

In the top of a double boiler, add the caramel and two tablespoons of milk. Bring the water in the bottom portion of the pot to a boil then lower the heat to a low simmer. It takes about 10 minutes or so to melt down – stir every couple of minutes.

While the caramel is melting, wash and dry the apples very well. Insert the pointy end of the chopstick into the center of the apple. I like to push it all the way down. If it’s too tough, use a rubber mallet to tap it in gently.

When the caramel is completely melted, stir it well then dip each apple in and twirl it around to coat the apple. Let the excess caramel drip off. I use a spare chopstick to take some of the caramel off of the bottom. Then set on the prepared pan. You have to work quickly with the caramel. Now on to decorating…

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You can use any size apple. I found these cute little apples at a local farmer’s market. They came out adorable!

The apples can be made several ways. Just be sure to have fun with it, there is no wrong way to create a deliciously decorated caramel apple!

You can dip them in caramel refrigerate 30 minutes and eat.

You can dip them in caramel and immediately roll into the topping of your choice. Decorate with any combination of toppings while the caramel is still wet, then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set – and enjoy. Decorate one apple at a time after dipping.

You can dip them in caramel then dip or drizzle them with chocolate and decorate with toppings. If you do this step, place the caramel apples in the fridge to set. While they are setting, melt about 1 cup of chocolate melts in a double boiler . You have to wait until the caramel is set before you dip them into the melted chocolate. This takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Then sprinkle or roll them into any topping you like.

Whatever method you choose, place them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set. They should be stored in the fridge if you’re not going to eat them right away and will stay fresh for a week or more. I found the best way to wrap them is individually in wax paper.* Cut a sheet that is about 12 x 14 or larger, depending on the size of your apple. Set the apple in the middle of the rectangle and gently bring each corner in towards the stick, then twist it to close around the stick.

*Fun fact, Thomas Edison is credited for inventing wax paper! How do you like that?

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