Italian Sausage & Escarole Stew

Photo by Pampered Chef

We had our first Christmas in our new home, and started what may be a new tradition: Soup Party on Christmas Eve.  Soups are easy and inexpensive to make. Add a vegetable tray, cheese, salami and fresh bread from the bakery and you have a low-stress meal to feed a family! Best of all, I had the guests bring the side dishes, so all I had to cook was the soups.

I made three kinds of soup (which of course, was too much). I made a French Onion soup, and two new recipes: Italian Sausage Stew and Lemon Herb Chicken.  Of the two, I liked the Italian Sausage & Escarole the best.  The recipe comes from the Pampered Chef Soups & Stews cookbook. It was a little spicy thanks to the hot Italian sausage and had assortment of fresh vegetables.

I opted to use a bag of baby spinach in place of the escarole.  I was in a hurry and honestly, not sure what escarole looked like.  The spinach worked fine and actually saved a step since I didn’t have to wash and cut the escarole. The next time I make this dish I think I will leave out the ditalini pasta. It was fine the evening I served it, but it continued to absorb the liquid from the stew as it sat in the refrigerator.  The stew is hearty already, so the pasta isn’t really necessary.

You can get the recipe here, from the Pampered Chef website. Give this one a try, I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

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Easy Broccoli Cheese Soup

What goes better with fresh bread than soup?  I bought one of those large packages of cut broccoli florets at Costco last week.  Not sure what I was thinking, buying 3 lbs of broccoli for two adults and two picky preschoolers!  What to do with all of that broccoli? Make some creamy, cheese broccoli soup, of course!

Here’s what you need:

  •  1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup of butter
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 cups shredded cheese

This is very simple to put together:

1.Begin by steaming the broccoli until just tender, do not over cook. Drain and chop into small pieces.

2.In a large pot saute the onion and celery in the butter over medium heat until translucent.

3.Add the flour, salt and white pepper. Cook until slightly browned, about 3 minutes.

4. Add chicken broth and milk. Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil, stirring frequently.

5. Reduce heat and add the chopped cooked broccoli and cheese.

6. Stir for a few minutes, until heated through.

Makes 4-6 servings as a main dish.  I really enjoyed this soup.  It was easy and I had everything I needed in the house already to make it. I’m planning a soup luncheon for Audrey’s birthday party, and this will be on the menu!

Vegetable Beef Soup

I made a vegetable beef soup for dinner on a cold day.  I took a basic recipe from the South Beach Diet Cookbook, and tweaked it a little to add more flavor.  It’s still Phase One legal for all of you who are doing the South Beach Diet.  And if you’re not, it’s still a tasty and healthy recipe. 

2 TBSP olive oil

1 lb lean beef, cut into cubes

1 rib of celery, diced

1/2 large onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 lb green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 can fat-free beef broth, plus enough water to make 5 cups of liquid

1/2 small head of cabbage, shredded

1/4 bag of fresh pre-washed spinach

1 can died tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot brown the steak with 1 TBSP of the oil.  Remove the steak from the pot and set aside.  Add the other TBSP of oil to the pot and cook the celery, onion and green beans until tender.  Add the garlic and cook a minute longer.  Add the cooked steak, and the rest of the vegetables and water to the pot.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 1.5 hours.

Serve with one of the following:  a squeeze of fresh lemon juice; a few drops of hot sauce; or sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

Minestrone Soup – Slow Cooker

I hosted a small birthday lunch this weekend for my daughter who was turning two.  The weather here is turning cold and rainy so the usual backyard barbecue was not going to be an option.  Rain makes me think of soup, so I decided to make a few soups and serve small sandwiches with that.  The party was a big success and the food was tasty!

I made chili, a chicken & bean soup and minestrone.  I’d never made it before, so it was a gamble, but turned out delish!  I set it up in the slow cooker the night before the party:

4 cups beef broth (I like to use Better Than Bullion and mix it up as needed)
1 large can (28 oz.) of crushed tomatoes
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 potatoes, cubed
2 small zucchini, cubed
1 can (16 oz) garbanzo beans (aka chick peas), drained and rinsed
1 can (16 oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp of crushed garlic
2 TBSP of parsley flakes
2 tsp of dried basil
1 tsp of dried oregano
1 bay leaf
4 oz of pasta
3 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Fresh parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients except pasta in the slow cooker and set on low overnight or high for 4-5 hours.  Add the pasta about 30 minutes before serving.  Garnish with some shredded parmesan cheese.

Be careful not to add too much pasta (or add it too early) or your soup will have mushy noodles.  Also, pull out the bay leaf before dishing it up.  No one wants a piece of tree in their bowl of soup!

Slowcooker Split Pea Soup

The weather finally started to turn cooler last week so I decided to pull out the crock pot and make soup!

2 TBSP Butter
1 cup minced onion
1/2 cup finely minced celery
1 cup diced carrots
7 C. water
1 lb. dried green split peas
1 pork hock
4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. marjoram
1 TBSP salt

Put it all in the crock pot and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.  Pull the ham bone out about 20 minutes before serving and shed the meat.  Put the meat back in the pot and toss the bone and fat.  Serve with crusty bread and butter!