Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

I really didn't plan for this blog to turn into a food blog, but it seems that all I have done on here lately is whine about being sick and share Crock Pot recipes.  The two do go hand in hand a bit.  I haven't really felt like doing much creative recently, so about the most exciting thing I have done of late is occasionally cook something.

That said, I made something new today, Italian Wedding Soup.

Italian Wedding Soup
I've eaten it before in restaurants, but I have never made it.  In googling up recipes for it, I found out a little of its history.  It turns out that Italian Wedding Soup, doesn't actually have anything to do with weddings.  The name is a mistranslation of the Italian phrase minestra maritata referring to the "marriage" of the meat and green vegetables that are standard to this soup.  Ingredients may vary in different recipes, but there will always be some type of green vegetable, such as spinach, escarole, or kale; and meat, usually meatballs made out of beef and/or sausage and sometimes chicken.  These are cooked in a clear chicken broth.  Other vegetables may also be added, as well as lentils or small pieces of pasta.  Here is what I used. 

To start:
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used frozen.)

1 large onion, chopped
Leafy heads off 8-10 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach

3 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
4 cubes Wyler's Chicken Bouillon
4 cups diced carrots
2 boxes of Swanson's Chicken Broth

I put the chicken in the Crock Pot frozen.

Boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, about half a pound.

Then I chopped up the celery, onions, and spinach.

Lots of leafy celery

Chopped up spinach

One humongous onion, chopped.

Onion, celery, and spinach, chopped and all mixed up.
I put the onion, celery, and spinach in the Crock Pot and added the garlic powder, black pepper, dried parsley flakes, 4 cubes of chicken bouillon, diced carrots, and chicken broth.  I set the temperature on Low for 8 hours, then headed to bed.  (I could have cooked it 4 hours on High instead, but I was starting it the night before.)

And this stuff.

Into the Crock Pot on Low for 8 hours.  (Overnight)

In the morning I stirred it well, breaking up the piece of chicken as I went.  (I love the boneless, skinless thighs for soups because they fall to pieces so easily.) 

Then I made the meatballs.

1 pound of extra lean ground beef
1 pound turkey Italian sausage
1 egg
1/2 "tube" of Premium Whole Wheat Crackers, crushed
1/2 cup Kraft Three Cheese Blend
1 tablespoon Black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning

Extra lean ground beef and turkey Italian sausage

This stuff went in with the meat.
I added the ground beef, sausage, egg, crushed crackers, Three Cheese Blend, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, basil leaves, and Italian seasoning  together and mixed them up well.

Ground beef, sausage, egg, crushed crackers,
Three Cheese Blend, pepper, garlic powder,
onion powder, basil leaves, and Italian seasoning

All mixed up.
I formed the meat mixture into one inch balls, ending up with a little over 100 meatballs.  As I made them I placed them in casserole dishes that I had sprayed with Pam.


I put the pans of meatballs in the oven to brown, at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then I stirred them around and cooked them for another 5 minutes.  At this point they were nicely browned, although still a little pink inside.

Meatballs, browned and ready to go in the Crock Pot.

After I took them out of the oven, I put them on paper towels for a bit, to drain off the excess grease.  Then I added them to the Crock Pot. 

Also added:
1 more box of chicken broth

I stirred it well and reset it on Low.  I let it cook for a couple of hours, then I tasted it and added a few more spices.

2 more cubes of chicken bouillon
2 tablespoons of beef bouillon

Several shakes of garlic powder, to taste
Several shakes of ground basil, to taste
Several shakes of pepper, to taste 
Several shakes of oregano, to taste
Several shakes of Italian seasoning, to taste

At this point I added the extra chicken bouillon, and the beef bouillon, plus several shakes each of garlic powder, ground basil, pepper, oregano, and Italian seasoning, to taste.  Then I let it cook on Low for a couple more hours.

This stuff too.

Mmmmm, garlic bread.
When the soup was almost done I made a loaf of garlic bread to go with it.  (Okay, I heated up a loaf of pre-made garlic bread.)

Three Cheese Blend was
the perfect finishing touch.

When the soup was ready I ladled up a bowl and sprinkled on some
Three Cheese Blend.  All that was left to do was grab a piece of garlic bread and enjoy!

Oh yeah!

Seriously yum!

Linking up to:
Whatever Goes Wednesday
Crafty Sasse Wednesday Link Party
A Round Tuit

Thursday, January 26, 2012

This is Getting Ridiculous

Remember how I said I was feeling better?  I finished the Prednisone on Sunday and by Tuesday I was getting a little more wheezy.  I didn't think much about it at first; I assumed it was just my body adjusting to not having the Prednisone.  Wednesday it was getting worse.  Today I coughed and wheezed for the doctor and he put me back on Prednisone and added an antibiotic.  Good times.

Today's dose, 3 little Prednisone and 1 ginornous Azithromycin.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Worth the Wait Chicken Stroganoff

I made something new for dinner yesterday.  It is still a work in progress, so I wasn't planning to blog it and I didn't take pictures as I went.  It came out sooooo good though, I thought I would go ahead and tell you about it. 

We are rather short on groceries around here, because no one has felt up to a real grocery shopping, so I was kinda winging it with what I had on hand.

Chicken Stroganoff
2 lbs. boneless, skinless, raw chicken (I put it in the pot frozen.)
2 boxes Swanson Chicken Broth
10 cubes of Wyler's Chicken Bouillon
1-1/2 cups on cooked diced carrots (3 of those little carrot cups I like)
1/2 cup dried minced onion (I was out of fresh)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup dried parsley flakes
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
A few good shakes of garlic powder
A few good shakes of pepper
1 - 12 oz. package of egg noodles
2 pints Light Sour cream
1 can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup
(Measurements are approximate)

I started it early in the morning, around 5:00 AM.  I put all of the ingredients except the noodles, sour cream, and mushroom soup in the Crock Pot and cooked it on high for about 6 hours.  During that time I stirred it occasionally and at about 4 hours I took the chicken out, shredded it, and returned it to the pot.  I also tasted it then and added a little more garlic and pepper, to taste.

When it was approaching the 6 hour mark, I boiled the noodles, al dente, in a separate pot, rinsing them when they were done.

I then turned the Crock Pot down from High to Warm (Warm, not Low) and added the cooked noodles, sour cream, and Cream of Mushroom soup.  I stirred it until everything was well blended, then left it on Warm the rest of the day to thicken up.

I stirred it a few times in between, but it took at least 6 hours before it really thickened to my liking.  (Which was just getting to be supper time, because I started it so early in the AM.)  Once it thickened nicely - Oh! My! Goodness!  It was luscious.  It really just got better and better the longer it sat on Warm.  We had our last servings about 11:00 PM before we turned off the pot and put the leftovers in the fridge and it was absolutely incredible at that point.

My daughter declared it the best thing I have made in a long, long time.  It made a Crock Pot full, which usually lasts for several days and/or allows for several servings to be put in the freezer.  We nibbled on it all evening and when we went to put it up, this is all that was left.

It had already been in the fridge a couple of hours when I decided to take the pic.
Just about enough for lunch for one.  The entire family has declared it a success.

There is a little tweaking I would like to do.  I would like to use fresh onion and some real celery.  My daughter tells me not to mess with it, that it is perfection as is.  I also wonder about just adding the noodles into the Crock Pot uncooked.  I see recipes that call for that, but I always worry it might get gummy. 

I think it could be thickened faster if it was on Low, rather than Warm, but I would want to babysit it fairly closely if I did that.  I would not suggest turning it back to High after the sour cream and Cream of Mushroom soup are in it.  Dairy stuff can get yucky pretty quick on High in the Crock Pot.

If I were making it when I wasn't going to be around to babysit it, I think the best way to do it might be to put the chicken, etc. on to cook the night before and let it cook all night on Low.  In the morning, I could shred the chicken, add the noodles, sour cream, and Cream of Mushroom, then leave it on Warm all day while I was gone.  It would probably be just right by supper time.

Next time I make it, I'll take pics.  :)

Note:  My daughter and I are of different opinions of what to call it.  We both agree that the name should reflect how frickin' long it took to make it.  (Of course it could be made much faster on the stove top, but that would probably require a good bit of standing over it stirring and I believe that is an activity best avoided.) 

Her suggestion is Night and Day Chicken Stroganoff, mine is Worth the Wait Chicken Stroganoff.  She says she is adding it to her recipe book as "Night and Day..." but this here is my blog, so guess what I'm calling it.  ;)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Getting back to normal...

We are slowly, but surely, working towards normal around here.  I would not say that I am "sick" any more, although I am still dealing with a residual cough and such.  My energy level, which is none too chipper on a good day, is starting to improve a bit.

My son is a lot better than he was last week, but he still has a wicked, wicked cough.  He will be up and perking for bit, then he just kind of crumples and heads back to bed for a couple of hours.  It's progress though.

In breaking news, Christmas is, finally, almost put away at our house.  We had planned all along to leave our decorations up until after we had our family Christmas celebration on January 7/8.  I even chose to have an artificial tree this year, so it would last that long.   That turned out to be a wise move; the tree looked almost as good when we took it down as it did when we put it up six weeks earlier.  I am impressed.

I expected to pack it all away right after the visit.  The plague hit us instead.  We simply have not been well enough to deal with it, so it has waited.  And waited.  And waited. 

Packed up!
We were finally able to tackle it this weekend.  At this point, everything is packed up in its respective boxes waiting to move to the storeroom.  We will do a little tweaking of the organization in there tomorrow, then my son will get the boxes (which are currently stacked in my dining room) packed away.  Then, at last, it will all be out of sight and out of mind for the next eleven ten months.  Ahhhhhh.

 Update, 1-25-12:  Done, gone, finished!  All. Put. Away.  Yaaaaaay!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

He Gets Some Good Drugs Too

My son has had this horrible crud too, running about 5 days behind me with it.  He was starting to perk up from it and, aside from still having the really nasty cough, was beginning to feel almost like himself.  Until he wasn't. 

A couple of days ago, he started heading downhill again.  He just came back from the doctor; the verdict is bronchitis, which earns him antibiotics.

This crud is nasty.  I recommend avoiding it, if at all possible.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Meatloaf Muffins!

I have been wanting to make meatloaf and I had some unfrozen ground beef tick-tocking in the fridge, so I decided today needed to be the day.

I wanted to do something a little different and thought about making it in muffin tins.  I googled up some recipes to get an idea of how much meat would fit in a muffin pan, how long I should cook it, etc.

All of the recipes I saw called for using 1 1/2 pounds of meat and made enough for one pan of 12 muffins.  I decided to make a double batch, because, well, I have two muffin tins.  I figured the extra muffins would be great to freeze to pull out for lunches and such.

This is more or less the ingredients I used.  More, because I ended up not using the gravy mix and the onion powder.  Less, because I forgot to put the eggs in the pic.

This is what I actually used:
3 pounds of ground beef
2 eggs
1 small raw onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 cup of finely chopped raw spinach
1/2 cup of diced, cooked cooked carrots
2 cups of crushed Rice Krispies or similar cereal (or crackers, bread crumbs, etc.)
2 cans of Campbell's Tomato soup
A little salt
A little pepper
A little garlic powder

I used Rice Krispies instead of crackers or such, because I had most of a box left from making almond bark crispies a few weeks ago. 

My first thought was to pour the cereal in my big measuring cup and just crunch it up with a cup.  I thought it would be easier to measure it, but it was quickly obvious that the idea was a fail.  Instead I just dumped it in a Ziploc and squished away.


It took a couple of go rounds, but I got enough crushed to make 2 cups of crumbs.

I added the Rice Krispies crumbs, carrots, and eggs to the meat.


I also added the spices, about half the chopped spinach, about 3/4 of the chopped onion, and about 2/3 of the tomato soup to the meat.

Then I added the last of the chopped onion and spinach into the rest of the tomato soup.

 I mixed the meat up well.

I then spooned the meat into the muffin tins and topped each one with a couple of spoons of the tomato soup mixture.

I put it in the oven at 350 degrees.
Since my oven is rather small, I was concerned about having both pans cook well, so I put them in staggered like this for 20 minutes, then switched the pans and cooked them for another 20 minutes.  That seemed to be the perfect timing.

While the meat was cooking, I threw together a green bean casserole.  My recipe is here.  I rarely make green bean casserole, except on holidays, but I went in the kitchen a few days ago to find that my daughter had bought a couple of cans of onion rings and left them on the counter with this note attached.  :D  How could I say no to that?

All done and, oh my goodness, it was delicious!  I am so glad I made the double batch; I am really doubting any of it will make it to the freezer.  This dish will definitely see a repeat performance!


I ended up with a little more meat than would fit into the muffin tins.  I took that meat and baked it in a loaf pan.  It was only about an inch deep, but it made just enough to make a couple of meatloaf sandwiches.  (I looove me some meatloaf sandwiches.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Finally, a visit!

My sister, Whozat and her daughter, Peeper, have been in town visiting for a little over a week.  Unfortunately, between our illnesses and theirs, we have seen very little of them.  In fact, the only time that I have had a chance to see them was on "Christmas Eve".  They were supposed to head home last Friday, but when another round of illness hit, Whozat called the airline and postponed their return until Tuesday.

I decided that I was well enough to visit for awhile today, even though I am still pretty coughy and yucky.  They have already been exposed to it, so they came on over to spend the afternoon. 

We had a great time just visiting and catching up a bit. 

And of course, Peeper was her charming little self the whole time.  We had pulled our old set of Waffle Blocks out of the store room for her to play with, but she really preferred the cats' toys.

80s Era Waffle Blocks
Ribbon Dancing

Fun with fuzzy worms!

Peeper also looooves this game.  She's a puppy giving her Mama puppy kisses.  Mama is not quite as fond of it as Peeper is.  ;D



Sunday, January 15, 2012

Good Drugs

This crud I have had has been kicking my butt.  Unfortunately, I am limited on what I can take for it.  I have some weird reactions to some medications and I can not take any decongestants or cough suppressants.  Thankfully, I can take plain expectorants.  {{{Musinex}}}

The wheezing was bad enough the other night that they put me on a course of Prednisone.  It is helping.  At this point I will feel pretty good for a few hours, then I will crater for awhile.  The wheezing is much better though.  I have had a couple of bouts in the last day or two, but nothing like it was the other night.

I first developed asthma when I was about 35.  I had never had a problem with it before that.  Generally, it is very minor.  Most of the time, these days, I really don't have much problem with it.  I don't normally take any medication for it and usually only use the Albuterol inhaler on occasion. 

If I get an upper respiratory infection though, all bets are off; I may be on the inhaler every few hours for months.  Bleah.  I am hoping this course of Prednisone will kick it out though and let me get back to normal!  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Besties

These have been my best friends lately.
Between the Musinex, some kind of off-brand 8 hour Tylenol, my Albuteral inhaler, amd the Hall's Honey Lemon Cough Drops, I have meds that I take at 12 hour intervals, 8 hour intervals, 4 to 6 hour intervals, and 2 hour intervals.  The only way I can keep up is to write it all down.  The Kleenex (the kind that have the lotion in them) are PRN.