Saturday, October 17, 2009

Soup's On!

Sometimes I will allow my mind to wander and imagine would it would have been like to live during a much simpler time. A time where you stayed closer to home, spent more time together as a family, grew your own food and didn't worry if you had granite countertops and stainless steel appliances...then my phone alerts me to an upcoming appointment or the microwave beeps because my lunch is ready. It would have been so much easier to eat the way I want us to eat if it was all that was available to us. Unfortunately, we are living in a much more "convenient" time. Honestly I would prefer not to trade my washing machine and SUV for some rocks in a creek and a horse-drawn wagon, but I wish I had never developed a taste for processed convenience foods. No matter which organic, all-natural macaroni and cheese mix I buy, it never tastes as good as Kraft's. Even though I have no trouble baking from scratch, sometimes you just need to throw a package of Oreos in the cooler when you are packing a picnic. I actually did get the Oreos today, not caring what they were made out of but instead focusing on the creamy yet granular mystery filling sandwiched between two dark chocolate disks that stuck to my teeth when I chewed them. Good for me? Definitely not. After I ate a few I decided to read the ingredients so that I could feel sufficiently guilty. I discovered that Nabisco has replaced the hydrogenated oil with high oleic canola oil. I have never heard of this before and even after googling it I am still not sure if it is good for you or not.

I have just about run out of my grass-fed beef order and have decided that I will not be getting that package again. Cooking the roasts and ground beef have been easy, but the other cuts have definitely stressed me out. It is very easy to ruin a grass-fed steak. Our new refrigerator came with an Omaha Steaks gift pack and I was so excited to cook the grain-fed sirloin steaks tonight. I knew I could just season them and throw them on the grill and they would be cooked just the way we like them and taste just how we expect them to. From now on we will be ordering only grass-fed ground beef since this is the type of beef we eat the most of, it is almost impossible to ruin and it is the cut of beef most likely to cause illness from e coli bacteria when it comes from grain-fed cows.

Isn't amazing how the changing of seasons ushers in a changing of appetites? Even though it was a 90 degree October day here in Vegas, I still yearn for desserts made with pumpkin and apples and hearty soups. Soup is one of my favorite meals. You can pack lots of vegetables in it that your kids will ignore if they were just side dishes on their plates and they are so easy to throw together. If you are missing an ingredient or like something so much you want to have more of it in your soup, chances are the soup will still taste good. Any leftovers go into my kids' lunch boxes in their handy little thermoses. Our first soup of autumn was a family favorite: lasagna soup. I was even able to use spinach from my garden (yes, the fence is still keeping the chickens out of the garden so things are actually growing!). If you would like to make your own, pickup a baguette of crusty french bread or a lovely ciabatta loaf and prepare as follows:

Lasagna Soup
1 lb. ground Italian sausage (mild or spicy, you choose)
2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, diced
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons garlic, minced
1 can tomato sauce (15 oz I think)
4 cups chicken broth
1 can chopped Italian-style stewed tomatoes (14 1/2 oz)
1 cup of bowties, medium shells or similarly sized shaped pasta
2 cups of fresh baby spinach
1 cup of provolone or fresh mozzarella, diced (I use provolone and the more it smells like dirty feet, the better it tastes in the soup.)
1/4 cup shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese (If you don't have some just use the Kraft stuff)
4 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Brown sausage in a large soup pot. Add onion and carrot and saute for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute another 5 minutes. Add broth, tomato sauce and stewed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until soft. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Divide cheese cubes in individual bowls and pour hot soup over them to melt. Top with parmigiano reggiano and basil.

Feel free to omit the mushrooms if you don't like them. Throw in an extra cup of pasta instead. Use the crusty bread to sop up the remaining tomato-ey goodness.


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