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Posts Tagged ‘Comfort Food’

When my younger son visits from Kentucky, he always has a list of favorites that I’m REQUIRED to make.  This soup I made on his last visit just made the “must have” list.  Hmm, pretty soon his visits will have to be a month long!

COPYCAT ZUPPA TOSCANA

We love the soup at Olive Garden and have been happy with this acceptable copycat recipe.

Serves : 6
Prep Time: 0:35

1 lb. hot/spicy Italian sausage – crumbled (I used Johnsonville brand)
1 – 3 oz package Oscar Mayer Smoked Bacon Bits – be CAREFUL not to pour the bacon bits in and let the little moisture packet fall in the soup! (or save your cooked bacon and add)
1 qt. water
(2) 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth (I used Swanson Organic Chicken broth in the 32 oz container – use all of it)
2 lg. russet (baking) potatoes – slice in half lengthwise and then slice into ¼ inch slices
2 garlic cloves – minced
1 med. onion – chopped (about 1/3 cup)
2 cups chopped kale (cut pieces slightly larger than would fit on a spoon.  Cut the leaves off the thicker part of the stem.  Discard stems.)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper – to taste (heavier on pepper – it doesn’t need much salt because of the bacon)

-In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces as you fry it; drain, set aside.
-Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion in a pot; simmer over medium high heat until potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes – don’t overcook because it will be cooking an additional 10 minutes).
-Add sausage and bacon back to pot; simmer for 10 minutes.  (Skim any fat off the top that you can.)
-Add kale and cream to pot; season with salt and pepper; heat through.  Don’t boil.

 

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Drain the grease after frying

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Boiling the onions in the broth

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Don’t let this little packet fall in!

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The finished product

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This is your goal!

Stormy weather and I start thinking comfort food! I made a huge batch of Albondigas (meatball soup) for my husband to take to work so his co-workers wouldn’t have to leave the building during the storms we’ve been having in San Diego this week.

I saw where a group of bloggers who visited Martha Stewart’s studios had eaten some Albondigas soup that was prepared by one of them. It looked good but frankly, I thought mine looked better. It’s a hearty, flavorful soup that always results in a request for my recipe. So here it is, for those of you who have been patient with me to write again…

Albondigas

First make Spanish Rice
(Lightly brown 1 cup long grain white rice in a little oil until rice turns whiter. Saute with onion until onion transparent. Add 1 8 oz can tomato sauce, 1 chicken bouillon cube and 1 ½ cup water, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer on medium heat until all liquid is gone – about 15-20 minutes)

Let cool a few minutes.

Make stock for soup. Take 2 garlic cloves and saute in a little oil in a large 6 or 8 qt Dutch oven. Add one 16 oz. Can Hunt’s tomato sauce and fill the pot to within about 2 inches of the top (you need to leave room for the meatballs that you will be adding) with water. Chop 2 green onions and chop some cilantro and drop in the stock. Add 2 Tbsp chicken bouillon (Knorr sells the powder form in the Mexican food section) and bring to a boil. Remove the garlic cloves when it comes to a boil. While you are waiting for the stock to come to a boil, make the meatballs.

Meatballs:

1 ½ pounds hamburger (I use Costco’s)
¼ pkg Jimmy Dean REGULAR pork sausage
1 cup of the cooked Spanish rice (see above)
2 eggs, beaten
2 finely chopped green onions
chopped cilantro (equal in volume to the green onions)
salt & pepper

Gently mix all the ingredients by hand (mixing them too much makes them hard, so just mix enough to blend ingredients). Drop the meatballs into the BOILING stock, one by one (about 1 rounded teaspoon). Let the fat/foam come to the surface and skim off. When it looks like all the fat has risen (about 15-20 minutes), add ½ head chopped cabbage, chopped carrots (2 or 3) and (2 or 3) zucchini to the stock. I also love to add a diced chayote (a green vegetable with a seed-like center. Cut out the center and cube the rest, skin and all.) Let cook until vegetables are tender.

When I serve my soup, I usually put a big spoonful of rice in the bowl.

This is a double-batch...

Drop the meatballs in the boiling stock

Skim off the foam that rises to the top

Add the bite sized cabbage

Add the remaining vegetables, leaving the zucchini for last

That’s all there is to it!  Serve with a side of rice and tortillas.   Try it, you’ll like it!

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The other day, my friend Caron and I must have been talking about Russia and family and when I mentioned that I loved Stuffed Cabbage rolls, I asked her what she called them.  She answered “Stuffed Cabbage” which cracked me up (I don’t know if she knows how funny her dry answer was to me…Ha!).  I was trying to see if she called them Haluptsi, Galumpkis or one of the other similar sounding names I’ve heard for these Russian/Eastern European delicacy.  We always spelled it Haloopsy and I’ve eaten it since I was knee-high to a grasshopper (where’d that saying come from anyway?). That’s me on the left with Big Sister Terry.

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When we reminisce about fond childhood memories, it’s not unusual for the memory to be better than the actual experience.  However, there is one that I’m positive is not skewed or distorted.  That would be the memory of going to “Aunt” Olga’s house, nestled among the agricultural fields in Imperial County, in what seemed like a magical spot of solitude out in the middle of nowhere.  We were invited for Sunday dinner many, many times growing up.  “Aunt” Olga was not really our aunt.  She was a nurse at Calexico Hospital, a descendant of Russian immigrants, who was a neighbor to my parents when Mom was pregnant with my older sister.  She was present at the birth of my older sister and helped my Mom during her second pregnancy (me!).  Both my parents and the Himes moved away from that street where they made their acquaintance and they continued to be lifelong friends.

My late Aunt Olga (and her husband, Uncle Albee) were unique.  If I tried to describe Aunt Olga so you could visualize her, you’d have to picture this tall woman (probably close to 5’10”) with piercing blue eyes who had the added mystique of missing her middle finger on one of her hands (I forget which hand now…).  Aunt Olga was one of those people who got just inches from your face when you were talking to her directly (you all know people like that, right?) and she would wag that hand up and down for emphasis in a kind of wave that would keep my eyes glued to it in spite of my best efforts to be polite and NOT stare!  She used to joke that she lost it in some dramatic way but I think the true story was that a dog bit it off and there was no saving it.  Who knows?  (ADDED NOTE:  I just found a picture of Aunt Olga.  Notice how Uncle Frank has his eyes cast downward? Ha!  He was trying to not look at the hand either!  LOL!)  Now, Uncle Albee was a sweetheart.  Big, horn-rimmed glasses dominating his face and his bald head with the small rim of hair that just made him all the more endearing.  He delighted in whistling just like the birds surrounding his property.  You’d hear the tweet of a bird that you thought was near and perplexed, turn around to see him laughing as he’d tricked you YET again! 

Olga (middle)

Olga (middle)

Their “ranch” out in the country was designed with a “great room” with all the bedrooms and the kitchen surrounding this “hub”.  Behind the BIG sectional couch in the corner was a box.   This box was FILLED with toys and we would run into the house, give her our perfunctory hugs, kisses and greetings and then run to the room to grab the “play box” and dump it into the middle of the floor.  We kept ourselves busy for hours as they visited with my parents in the kitchen, always the headquarters for all things important.  I’ll never forget the time we first walked in and Aunt Olga was still cleaning tomato sauce off the walls and ceiling.  Her pressure cooker had EXPLODED (!) and there were tomato bits all over the place.  Nonplussed, she already had another pot of cabbage rolls on the stove simmering away!

Aunt Olga also had a Great Dane and I think we have pictures of one of us actually getting a ride on this beautiful creature.  I think their dog before the Great Dane was the sister to the Black Cocker Spaniel we had when I was just a toddler.   We have pictures of us in our “swimming pool” (really…just a metal tub) with the dogs sitting there watching over us.  They also had a croquet set that was set up outside (remember those?).  We would go out there and expend a lot of pent-up energy playing a game where everyone was pretty much equal in their skill level.  We would laugh and laugh as someone tried time and time again to get that darn croquet ball to hit the darn stick at the end.  Oh, to go back to one of those Sundays again.  We hadn’t a care in the world!

When it was finally time to sit around the BIG table in her country kitchen, we would be fidgeting in our seats as we anticipated the delicious feast that was in store for us.  Aunt Olga would always use a big white tureen (much like the one in my photograph) and a HUGE bowl of mashed potatoes.  What kid doesn’t like mashed potatoes?  Hers were always so creamy and flavorful and I think, after all these years, I’ve mastered the art of making great mashed potatoes.

I hope you try making this at least once.  When Aunt Olga gave me the recipe when I was newly married back in 1979, she recited the ingredient list and when I asked her how much salt and pepper to add, she told me to just pick off a chunk and taste it.  “Eww!” I said, “RAW?”  She said, “Aww, it won’t HURT you!  I’ve been doing it for YEARS!” Well, even though I knew she was a nurse, I just couldn’t bring myself to take a bite of raw hamburger and instead, I came up with an acceptable measurement.  

When I made these series of photos, I was trying to quickly make some pictures to give to my sons to give to their (someday) wives.  They love this dish and I’m sure they will be reminiscing someday with THEIR kids about the fun times we had sitting around our table eating this wonderful dish.  Thanks Aunt Olga!

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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – Haloopsy

 

2 lbs hamburger (no more than 15% fat)

1 c. cooked white rice

1/4 lb. mild pork sausage

1 small white onion, finely diced (about ¼ cup)

1 clove garlic, minced

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 large head cabbage ( or more if you like)

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 16 oz. can tomato sauce (divided)

 

Cut a good portion of the core out of the cabbage. Parboil/steam the cabbage, core down, in a big pot.  Slowly peel off and separate leaves and set aside on a plate.

 

Mix the meat and other ingredients together in a big bowl.  Using a large spoon, put a dollop of meat mixture inside the leaf and fold the cabbage up around the meat and place seam down in a big Dutch Oven.  Pour some diced tomatoes into the bottom of pot. You can also lay down some of the inner leaves of the cabbage that remained if you’d like.

 

Put a layer of cabbage rolls in the pot. Cover with more tomatoes and 8 oz (1 cup) of regular tomato sauce.  Repeat layer. Top with remaining tomatoes. Cook over a simmering temperature for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Gently lift cabbage balls and move around in the pan to prevent scorching halfway through cooking time. You can add a little water if your dish is becoming too dry.  Be careful not to scorch the cabbage.  Serve with mashed potatoes.

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Being under the weather, I’m trying to think of things that are comforting.  For some reason, my Nana (my maternal grandmother) has been on my mind a LOT lately.  Maybe her spirit is trying to soothe me.

Nana always had something on the stove that filled her humble little house with the BEST aromas! She was well-known in the little border town of 10,000 I grew up in.  Every Sunday she would prepare mass quantities of food to be sold after the services to those hungry souls who’d fasted before coming to church.  My grandmother never had a car but never needed one as someone would stop and give her a ride when they saw her walking to and from the grocery store or other destinations.  Her hobbling gait that could best be described as being like the back and forth motion of a metronome,  made her easy to spot as people were driving.  I was amazed at her ability to prepare these huge pots of menudo (tripe soup), breakfast burritos, and delicious machaca (shredded beef) burritos along with homemade salsa and chorizo (mexican sausage) .   Her energy level always left me in awe.  You know, they tasted EXACTLY the same, week after week.  I strive to have that consistency but she set a high standard that I have yet to meet.

Recently I made my “budget” empanadas that were just like the machaca-filled ones that my Nana always made but I filled them with picadillo (pronounced peek-ah-THEE-yo) which is a hamburger, potato, onion, green pepper mixture that fills the stomach and doesn’t empty the pocketbook.

Look tempting?  Here’s how you make ’em…

 

Little dough balls are prepared and kept moist under floursack towel

Little dough balls are prepared and kept moist under floursack towel

Filling is added leaving a 1 1/2" margin for crimping
Moisten the edges & crimp edges

Moisten edges & crimp

 

Ready to hit the hot oil

Ready to hit the hot oil

My sweet Nana

My sweet Nana

 

I’ve seen some amazing food blogs and I feel a little inadequate because I don’t purport to be a great photographer OR writer.  I just want to share my love of food, much in the same way my Nana did.  I can’t invite you to my home to share, so I hope you enjoy these pages!

Empanadas

 

3 cups of all purpose flour (LA PIÑA brand is preferred)

1 tsp. salt

3 Tablespoons Crisco shortening (original recipe called for lard)

1/2 c. warm water

1/2 c. milk

 

Spoon flour lightly into measuring cups. Add salt to flour. Cut in the shortening using a pastry cutter or fork until mixture resembles small peas.  Add milk/water mixture a little at a time until the dough holds together. Knead it just a little to get it soft and smooth. If it’s not, add a little more shortening to the palm of your hand and incorporate into dough to make it a soft dough. 

 

On a large wooden cutting board, form little balls about the size of a ping-pong ball.  Cover them with a dampened flour sack dishtowel and let them rest for at least 30 minutes.  Roll out into a circle about 5 to 6 inches across and place meat mixture in the center.  Leave a 1″ space around the edge.  Moisten with water and fold the bottom edge over the top and keep crimping all the way around to make a good seal.  Fry in hot oil or Crisco.

 

The hamburger (picadillo) filling can be made whatever way you choose.  The basic ingredients are 1 1/2 lbs. hamburger, 2 medium-size finely diced russet potatoes, 1/4 cup finely diced green pepper (or Anaheim chili) , 1/4 cup finely diced onion, 1/4 c. tomato sauce (if you can find El Pato brand, it adds a little kick to the meat) salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste.  Some people add olives to their picadillo or jalapenos, or raisins and other spices.  Feel free to come up with your own favorite!

 

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