Snowy Day Soup: Pasta e Fagioli

This year for my Dad’s Christmas present, I’m including a dozen+ frozen dinners. Chili, beef stew, pot roast, and tonight’s installment:

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef*
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • ¼ tsp thyme
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 8 oz carrots, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2-14 oz cans diced tomatoes or tomato puree
  • 15 oz can red kidney beans
  • 15 oz can white northern beans
  • 16 oz chicken broth*
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • ¼ to ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 small bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 8 oz ditali or small shell pasta

large saucepan or dutch oven  Continue reading

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

After a very slow and late start, the tomatoes are coming in quickly. It looks like last night’s hail storm didn’t do as much damage I was worried it had and the tomato harvest will continue.

I have quite a few bags of frozen pureed tomatoes already put up and haven’t really made a dent.  My process is pretty simple, I wash the tomatoes, halve them to make sure there are no surprises inside, puree them, add to a zip bag, and freeze. They are good for up to a year, although I’ve never been lucky enough to get enough to last season to season. Maybe this will be the year. 🤞

And last night, I diced up a couple of the Park Whoppers and added them to pasta, with some parmesan, dried oregano, and basil. There would have been fresh basil, but between the downpour, the hail, and the wind, I did without. LOL

It was yummy. Nothing beats fresh tomatoes.


 

Finally Harvesting From The Garden

Despite an early start to all my seedlings this spring, harvest is late this year. Finally pulling enough tomatoes to do something besides adding them to salads and making my favorite Cucumber Tomato Salad. And a handful of jalapenos were ready this morning.

Every year there must be salsa, and this year I added some dried Mexican Oregano to mimic our favorite restaurant’s salsa. It definitely took my usual recipe up a notch.

I’m still waiting for my tomatillos to be ready for a nice salsa verde.

Peaches have been perfect this year, so Peach Salsa and Peach Chutney are on the menu.

Fresh salsa on the right and pickled jalapenos on the left.

Fresh and Easy Salsa

  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 6 green onions
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ to 1 bunch cilantro, remove stems
  • 2 to 4 jalapenos*, remove stems
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • dash of lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano

blender or food processor

In blender or food processor, add all ingredients and coarsely chop until blended well**.  If you can make a day ahead, it gets even better.  Seal in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.

*depending on the heat you like, if you prefer milder, you can substitute green chilis, which are also in season right now. I’m roasting some tonight to freeze.

**If you prefer a chunkier style salsa, you’d be better off chopping vegetables by hand.

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I’m bummed about the late harvest, but I’ve had a very busy few weeks, so I guess it’s a good thing. I’ll have to start freezing tomato sauce by the weekend.  How do things look in your garden?


 

Dinner Menu: Baked Gnocchi in Fire Roasted Tomato-Basil Sauce

This is an elegant dinner that looks like it took you all day to prepare.  From start to finish I cooked the asparagus and gnocchi in 1/2 hour.  The strawberry bread takes an hour to cook, but it’s a breeze to put together.  So if you feel the need for something special, but still easy, this one could be for you.

On the board tonight:

  1. Baked Ricotta Gnocchi
  2. Broiled Asparagus
  3. Loaf of good crusty bread
  4. Strawberry Bread

Years ago, Christmas Eve is spent eating good food at friends’ Mark and Larissa’s house. Mark’s mom is from Italy and Larissa’s mom is from Japan, and luckily for me, the subject always turns to food from both countries. This year we talked about ravioli, gnocchi and fish in salt domes. I have to confess I’m not a fan of gnocchi. Should be good, right? – potato goodness, covered in sauce. What’s not to love? It just isn’t a favorite of mine. Maybe because I’ve never had it fresh I am missing out. But after we discussed how to make it fresh, well, I don’t think I’d be making it anytime soon. Then I saw a recipe for Ricotta Gnocchi and it sounded good and best of all, easy.  So I’d thought I’d try it. This is what I came up with and it quickly became a favorite of my guests.

Baked Ricotta Gnocchi in Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Sauce

Sauce:

  • 28 oz fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh chopped)

Add ingredients in saucepan, bring to a low boil, reduce to low and let simmer while preparing gnocchi. Continue reading

Grinders: Meatballs and Sauce Revisited

When I was back visiting my dad, I made him a few meals, including meatballs in sauce. I left him the fixin’s for meatball subs (called grinders when I was a kid).

I didn’t realize how much making meatballs and subs was wrapped up in memories of my mom, until I re-read my original post. From 2013:

Meatball Subs1

A few weeks back I made meatball grinders – subs to most people – and was talking to my mom about them, because after all I used her recipe. She told me that one of her favorite things to do is to buy ground beef when it’s on sale and make and freeze a whole bunch of meatballs. Then they are available to make all kinds of good stuff, like meatball soup and various meatball sandwiches.

Until that moment, I hadn’t given meatballs much thought. I mean they’re good, but beyond the occasional grinder, I didn’t really use them.  But now when I make them, I make extra so add to soups, sauces and subs.

I’ll post a basic meatball recipe below and include the grinder/sub recipe. They are just as good with pasta.  At the bottom of this post is a link to vegetarian meatballs if you’d like to go meatless.

Continue reading

Jalapeno Harvest…Again

I harvested about five pounds of jalapenos and purchased a couple pounds of Poblanos and roasted them. I peeled and froze the Poblanos to make Creamy Poblano Soup later. The jalapenos I made into pickled relish and froze.

One issue with roasting the jalapenos as long as I did, is the relish becomes more of a “spread” – they disintegrated when I chopped them.  This is not going to matter to me because they will be used in soups, stews, and on sandwiches and will taste great regardless of the texture.

In the photo, you will see the jalapenos and tomatoes I have harvested since the roasting…and since the photo I’ve harvested that many or more, again. I swear the jalapeno fairy just deposits them on the plants in the middle of the night. They were not there before, LOL.

I’ll most likely buy some more Poblanos and do another round of roasting. But there may only be one jalapeno plant next year.


 

Garden Fresh: A Few Grapes For Smoothies

I processed the few grapes I got this year into juice that I then add to my morning shakes. My neighbor gave me a handful of passion fruit, as an exchange for all my plums her toddler loves to eat. So I also added those to my shake this morning.

Not exchange was not necessary, he can have all the plums he wants! He’s a pandemic baby, born just as we went into lockdown, so I have probably seen more of him than I normally would, as mom and dad walked around the neighborhood several times a day and my office faces the street. Socially distant chats were a welcome diversion.

It’s been my pleasure to watch him grow and start walking and now starting to talk, enough to make his desire to pick plums from my tree clear. Still a nice distraction from work, as far as I’m concerned.

This morning’s smoothie:

Mixed Berry Smoothies

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup ea:  blueberries and raspberries, frozen
  • 4-6 whole strawberries, frozen
  • 1/4 cup fresh grape juice
  • 2 passion fruit (scooped from shell)
  • opt: 1 tbsp ground flax and 1 scoop whey powder

blender

Add all ingredients to the blender and blend well.  This makes 2 thick smoothies.  For more of a milkshake consistency, add 6 ice cubes and blend well. I use frozen fruit, so I don’t add the ice cubes, but sometimes a bit of water to make a smooth consistency.


x-posted at Annie DeMoranville

Garden Fresh: Summer Salsas

The tomato harvest has been lackluster this year. Weird weather has caused the fruit to be small and slow to ripen. Some I’m afraid are not going to ripen at all. The San Marzano, which should be about the size of a Roma, look more like cherry tomatoes. Early Girls are anything but early and no bigger than golf balls. And I have to wonder what the Park Wonders would look like in a good year – beefsteak size for sure. Flavor has been great on all of them, so I take comfort in that.

Since the jalapenos are not only abundant this year, but incredibly hot, I decided to try and roast them to bring out a bit of the sweetness. It wasn’t all that successful, but I did manage to make a couple of jars of pickled jalapeno and freeze them to use sparingly in cooking over the winter. Continue reading