Friday, January 29, 2010

German Pancakes

So this is one I never had in my life til I got married. Jeff's family has these for breakfast occasionally and they are really good. Full of protein and really tasty, these are a hit.

German Pancakes

6 tbsp butter
1 c milk
6 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put butter in a 9x13 pan and melt. Whisk together eggs, milk, flour, salt and baking powder. Pour into baking pan, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Top with powdered sugar or syrup, or your favorite pancake topping. Jeff likes peanut butter and syrup. I think it's great with a dust of powdered sugar.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Valentines Tradition

So Valentines Day is coming up, and this is one of my classic traditions for that very special day. My mom got this recipe somewhere and I have loved them my whole life! I am making them a bit early this year because of a baby shower, but normally this is a special thing I do for me and my husband and family every February. You can use any cookie cutter shape you like, but of course, I usually use a heart shape. Frosted or not, these are a definite hit!

Sugar Cookies

1/2 c butter (1 stick)
1/2 c shortening
2 c sugar, or 1 c sugar and 1 c Splenda
2 eggs
1 c sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla
7 c all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda

Cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar/splenda, and then eggs, one at a time. Add sour cream and vanilla and blend well. Add salt and baking soda and blend well Add flour in parts, blending to combine well before adding the next part (I usually do about a cup at a time). Make sure everything is combined, and if not, knead with hands. You don't have to chill this one, but you can make it the night before and chill overnight as time permits.

Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick, cut with favorite cookie cutter(s), and place on baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes. Frost with colored frosting if desired (recipe below)

Buttercream Frosting

1 1/2 lbs powdered sugar (3/4 of a box or bag)
1/2 c milk
1/2 c butter (1 stick)
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
food coloring

Soften butter in mixer, then add sugar, and milk slowly in parts, alternating each til you get the right consistency. Add vanilla and salt and blend well, and then add food coloring drops and blend to get desired color.

Frogs and ducks for my sister's baby decorating skills need help!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Craisin Cookies

So I wanted to make cookies today, and I decided to see if I could add Craisins to them--I LOVE those dried cranberries! So I looked on the bag of Craisins and found a recipe for oatmeal craisin cookies, and I tried them. I did twist them a bit--changed them to regular chocolate, and we added pistachios (which I don't reccomend, try almonds instead). Here is the recipe, see if you like them as well as I do.

White Chocolate Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

1 stick and 2 tbsp butter, softened
2/3 c brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 1/2 c oatmeal
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 to 3/4 c dried cranberries
1 c milk chocolate chips or white chocolate chips
1/4 c nuts of your choice, chopped. I recommend almonds

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Add oatmeal, and then flour, and then baking soda and salt, scraping between additions and beating well. Add craisins and nuts, and carefully stir in on low setting in mixer. Spoon out onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for ten minutes. Set on cooling rack, and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Chile Ranch Mac and Cheese

Ok, another creation of mine. I worked on this one tonight because I have been craving mac and cheese for about 2 weeks. Jeff has been putting it off for a bit because mac and cheese isnt his favorite, but I finally just decided to make it. So here it is, a twist on Mac and Cheese, that I think its pretty darn good. I added mild green chiles and some ranch seasoning and 3 kinds of cheese. Hope you enjoy!

Chile Ranch Mac and Cheese

1 lb pasta of your choice (I used whole wheat penne)
1 can evaporated milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 c monterey jack cheese
1/2 c cheddar cheese
3 oz cream cheese
2 tbsp salsa
1 4 oz can of mild green chiles
1 tsp ranch seasoning

Cook pasta according to pkg directions to just under "al dente." While pasta is cooking, melt butter in small saucepan, and then add flour and whisk to create roux. Add evaporated milk, and whisk til smooth, then add cheeses and whisk til smooth again (you might want to add cream cheese first so it has time to melt down). Add salsa and chiles and ranch seasoning. Stir to combine. Drain pasta, and pour sauce over top, stir to combine til pasta is well coated, and then bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cheesecake, a delicious low carb treat!

This one is from Lion House again, and I have to give credit where credit is due. I do modify it just a little by using Splenda instead of sugar, and I don't add sugar to the graham cracker crust, and I dont usually do the topping. So I will post the actual cheesecake recipe and then add the other stuff as optional.

Lion House Cheesecake

1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs (about 8 graham crackers)
3 tbsp sugar (optional)
6 tbsp butter, melted

3- 8 oz pkgs softened cream cheese
1 c sugar or Splenda
3 eggs
3/4 tsp vanilla

Topping (optional)
1 pt sour cream
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a large heavy duty ziplock bag, roll graham crackers to a fine crumb. Add butter, and sugar (if desired). Mash bag til combined well. Press into 10 inch deep dish spring form pan.

Preheat oven to 300. In a large bowl or in a mixer. Blend cream cheese well, and then add sugar/Splenda, and then eggs, one at a time. Blend well, then add vanilla. Scrape sides of bowl and blend again. Pour into crust and bake for 55-60 minutes. Prepare topping, if desired, while cheesecake is baking.

For topping, blend sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Pour over baked cheesecake, and bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Picture is actually a variation of this recipe...I swirled Nutella into the cheesecake before baking.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Shredded Beef Tacos

This one is from my husband's side of the family. My family did the cheap way and used hamburger meat for tacos, but occasionally his mom makes these. They're really good, and dont take much effort either. Another Crock Pot favorite--tasty, and easy!

Shredded Beef Tacos

1 beef roast, preferably boneless
1 c salsa (any kind you like)
3 tbsp taco seasoning
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c water

Set Crock Pot to Low setting. Place roast in bottom of Crock Pot, cover with salsa and water, and taco seasoning. Cook in Crock Pot for 8 to 12 hrs (I usually start it overnight the night before and let it stew all night and for the better part of the morning--makes it tender and also helps it absorb all of that good flavor). Remove from Crock Pot and shred beef with two forks. Replace in crock pot, add beans and corn, and heat through.   I also recommend you cut the roast in half or in quarters before cooking, for 2 reasons: 1 because it makes  it easier to shred later, and 2 because when you do shred it, its not in long spaghetti like pieces.

Serve with taco toppings such as cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, rice, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, etc.   Also makes a great addition to taco salad.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

And for good measure...

My sisters are coming tomorrow, and I am making up for lost time. So here is another today. Jeff and I like to try and experiment with different recipes and make them better. One of those recipes is french fries, and another example is fried fish. Put the two together and you get: Fish and Chips! I LOVE fish and chips! So here are the recipes for that.

Fried Fish

4 cod fillets
1 c instant biscuit mix like Bisquick
1/2 c water, plus more
1 tsp cajun seasoning
1 tbsp cornstarch
vegetable oil for frying
malt vinegar (optional)

Much like fried chicken. Preheat deep fryer to 375 degrees. Whisk together biscuit mix, water, cornstarch and cajun seasoning. Should be pretty thin batter (like tempura or crepe batter), so add more if not quite thin enough (you dont want pancake batter for sure). Add fish to batter, coat well. Fry in deep fryer for 3 minutes. Should be golden on the inside and heated through. Serve with french fries, recipe below.

French Fries

4 large russet baking potatoes
salt, pepper to taste, or seasoning salt
frying oil

The night before you want to make these, bake potatoes at 400 degrees for one hour. Chill overnight in refrigerator. The next day, preheat fryer to 375 degrees. Cut baked and chilled potatoes into strips for french fries. Fry in batches in deep fryer for 2 minutes. Salt and pepper as you like.

**Note** This is one twist we have found that has worked. I asked Jeff if it would be a good idea to make french fries out of our leftover baked potatoes and one night he tried it (while I was out of town, darn it) and said it worked beautifully. The reason we liked the baking of the potatoes first is because it cooks the inside completely, so all you are doing when you fry them is crisping the outside, and heating it through. So you're not under or over cooking them--the texture turns out fantastic! As if you fried them twice like restaurants do, but instead its a bit healthier beause they were baked first. Instead of expressly baking the potatoes for this recipe though, when we bake potatoes we generally make a couple extra for hashbrowns or something for another day. Try it out, we're pretty sure you'll like them.

Baked Salmon

Jeff and I have made a rule recently that we need to eat salad and fish at least once a week. Not necessarily both at the same time, but each of them need to be presented at least once a week. I try to make dinner pretty healthy on a regular basis, but we don't really have the cash to eat salad more often than once a week, and there's nutrients in fish that we don't get from other foods. We both enjoy salmon, and we found it in a "bulk" pkg one day for a decent price, so we have been eating salmon recently. Here is how I normally prepare it.

Baked Salmon

1 fillet of salmon, about 4 oz
1 tsp honey mustard
1/4 c soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 drops sesame oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice, or a few lemon slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place salmon in center of a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, fold up edges slightly so liquid doesn't escape. Carefully add wet ingredients, then fold foil into pkt and place in oven for 35 minutes. Salmon should bake and steam in oven. Remove from oven, and let rest for a few minutes, it will continue to steam as long as the pkt is closed. After 5 minutes, serve.

I like to serve this over a salad, or sometimes with rice and veggies.

**Note** If you dont have heavy duty foil, you might want to place your packet on a baking sheet so it doesnt leak in your oven. I usually use "reynolds" wrap, so its heavy duty enough to just sit in the oven by itself, though to be careful I sometimes double it under the fish to make sure.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Writers Block stinks!

This one is for my brother in law. he asked for doughnuts, and I told him I would work on it. Actually I am making these today. I can't think of anything else to write today, so I am linking you to today. Enjoy! I'll let you know what I think when I am done!

Okay, so I made them today and here is the consensus:

1. According to Daniel, they were better than the recipe he tried a little while ago. He liked the spudnuts best.

2. I liked the sweet potato ones better, thought the potato ones needed a glaze or something.

3. You can use half splenda for the sweet potato ones and they turn out just fine. They would probably be good with the icing she has in the recipe, but we just dusted them with powdered sugar and they were GRAND!

4. Definitely doing this again sometime, but I need to find a way to make the spud-nuts sweeter next time, they kinda tasted like fry bread to me, rather than donuts. Maybe I will try making maple icing for the spud-nuts next time, instead of the sweet potato ones. Or maybe for both...haha

5. Daniel says, and I agree with him, that it works best if you have a deep fryer because of the fact that it has a built in timer, and consistent heat method rather than on the stove where you kind of have to play with it. If you use the stove, be careful, and use a thermometer and a timer.

All in all it was a success, and I am glad for the fun and tasty learning experience.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

So this is a recipe I got from a friend and twisted it a bit myself, and it is really good. Carl says he makes it by boiling the squash -- peeling it first, and cutting it into small pieces and then boiling it, and then adding the other stuff. I have found that I get better flavor if you roast it first with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. and its easier to peel because it softens in the oven. So I changed it a bit. You can use whatever winter squash you want, but I use butternut because I love the flavor of it. I use an immersion blender (one of those stick ones you put directly in the pot while it cooks) and it works great, but you can also do it in the blender. Just be careful you don't over heat your blender or it will shut off.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash
1 -2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 c half and half (or 1 c milk and 1 c half and half)
2 c chicken stock or broth
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
sour cream for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut, quarter, and seed squash. Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for about 20 minutes, it needs to be cool enough to handle. Once cool, scoop out squash flesh, and either put in blender, or in large saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken broth, and blend to combine. Add half and half, curry powder, and garlic powder. Combine again, till smooth, silky texture. At this point if you use a blender, move the soup to a saucepan on the stove, and heat thru, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Serve with a bit of sour cream on top, and bread or toast on the side.

Like I said I love the immersion blender for this because I can blend it and heat it at the same time and it works a lot like a whisk on steroids. Everything is smooth and heats at the same time, making it easier to blend together. Immersion blenders are also good for things like the egg nog recipe I posted here, and when you make stuff like instant pudding (yes, I use instant pudding occasionally--the sugar free variety). Even though I like the immersion blender, you dont have to go out an buy one--a normal blender will work just fine, you will just have to heat it again afterward--if you blend everything while it's hot it will overheat your machine and you might end up with a broken blender.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Clam Chowder to die for!

So I dont think I will have time to post something and this is what I will be making for dinner tomorrow--started on the stove and finished in the Crock Pot. I LOVE my crock pot for days when I dont have time or dont feel like spending tons of time on dinner. If you dont Crock Pot often, then this is one you can feel comfortable starting with because you can be assured there is enough liquid that nothing will burn. Anyway, this recipe came from the Boston Globe Cookbook my dad got me when he went to Boston on a business trip. I love the recipe and so far its the only recipe I have tried from the book! I'll have to look through it to see if there is anything else good in there...

New England Clam Chowder
By Boston Globe Cookbook

4 slices bacon, cut up, or 4 tbsp diced salt pork or ham
1 medium onion
1-2 tbsp flour
2 c strained clam juice
1 medium potato, peeled and diced (I dont peel them)
pinch of dried or powdered thyme (optional)
1 c milk
1 c chopped or minced clams
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
saltines or pilot crackers (optional)
1 can corn, drained (my own addition)

To cook right before serving: Slowly cook bacon or salt pork in 1 1/2 quart saucepan, until pieces are crisp. Add onion, and cook, stirring until tender, but not brown. Add flour and clam juice and stir til combined. Add potato, thyme and bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in milk, and reheat but do not boil. Add clams, and reheat again, but do not boil. Taste and add salt and pepper if you need.

Changes for slow cooker:
Preheat Crock Pot to high. Cook off salt pork or bacon, onion. Add flour and clam juice, stir. Pour into warm Crock Pot, add potatoes, milk, thyme, and clams. I also add a drained can of corn. Change heat setting to Low, and simmer in Crock Pot for 8 hours.

1. I sometimes use milk and half and half instead of just milk. Makes it a bit more rich, but also helps with the thickening.
2. Like I said, I also add corn, I like the flavor of it, and it adds good color. I also serve it with a bit of cheddar cheese grated on top.
3. Recipe calls for bacon or salt pork. I have found bacon has a pretty strong flavor that can overwhelm the flavor of the clams. I havent tried salt pork yet, and this time I am trying ham instead because it tends to be milder. The only issue with ham, is that it's leaner, so you might need to add a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil or olive oil to help with the whole roux issue when you add the flour (thickening agent). When adding flour, make sure bacon and onions are coated by it, and then add clam juice. Stir to combine and you will see it will start to thicken right away.
4. Clam juice--you dont need to buy the whole amount of clam juice in the bottle by itself. Most cans of clams come canned in their own juice, and if you drain the 2-3 cans of clams, you'll end up with half of your clam juice right there.

Fried Chicken!

Jeff's favorite food is fried chicken. Give him some rolls or french fries and a big bottle of pepsi and he is good to go. Because of this love of fried chicken, and the gift of a deep fryer our first Christmas as a married couple, we worked out our own recipe and it is a hit! I cant believe I have waited this long to post this one because it's a family fave. We serve it with homemade french fries and ranch dip or bbq sauce. Enjoy!

Crispy Fried Chicken Tenders

2 c quick biscuit mix (bisquick or the like)
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
2 tbsp corn starch
1 1/2 c cold water
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into tenders, or chicken tenders

Whisk together Bisquick with cold water. If too thick, add more water, should be a consistency of crepe batter--pretty thin. Add Cajun seasoning and cornstarch and whisk throroughly til combined. Add chicken and ice, and chill for an hour in refrigerator. Heat deep fryer to 375 degrees, add chicken in batches, and cook for 4 minutes. Chicken should be golden brown on the outside, and you might want to cut the first piece to check its not pink inside. We've made it a hundred times and 4 minutes is about perfect.

**NOTE** Got some recent feedback from a great friend of mine. I guess I need to explain the ice and cornstarch. Both are really there to make sure everything stays nice and crispy. The cornstarch makes the batter light and airy, and keeping everything cold just helps with the crispy part. Kind of like adding club soda to your tempura batter, if you know what I mean.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Pasta with Sausage and Mushrooms

So I told you, we eat a LOT of pasta around here. I have given the reason why before, but mostly its because you can do pretty much anything with some noodles of any kind. It can be eaten so many ways, that I might be able to eat pasta every day for a month and probably not get sick of it. Seriously. You can make any sauce, any meat, and any kind of vegetable and it will go with pasta quite easily. So you'll find these creations a lot on here. One thing you will find is that I use whole wheat pasta generally--more protein and more fiber--makes it better for the diabetic side of me, besides the fact that its really yummy. You'd be surprised, give it a try sometime.

Pasta with Sausage and Mushrooms

1 lb mushrooms
1/2 lb mild italian sausage
2 tbsp tomato paste, or 1/4 c tomato sauce
3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 c milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb whole wheat pasta (you can use regular of course)

Bring water to a boil, add pasta and cook to pkg directions. Meanwhile, in large skillet, brown sausage and break into small pieces. Add mushrooms and cook til dark in color (they will shrink to about half their volume when cooked). Move the sausage and mushrooms to a side of the pan, and 2 tbsp butter to melt. Add flour, and combine with sausage and mushrooms. This will create a roux in effect, but it will probably stick to your mushrooms and sausage, that's okay, it will dissolve. Add tomato sauce/paste, and stir to combine, then add milk, stirring til smooth. Drain pasta when done cooking, and then add to sauce, and stir til pasta is completely coated. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top.

How am I doing? Any suggestions?

Hey everyone. I know I have mentioned this before, but I wanted to just mention it again really quick.

I have noticed I have quite a few different readers from different parts of this country, and a few from some other countries. I love that I am getting lots of readers and I also have some very loyal ones who check this once a day or once every other day! Thanks for your loyalty, it's great to know you like what you see!

I am getting some comments from friends sometimes, letting me know they are trying a particular recipe, or asking questions, or how it was when they did try one. That's really great and let's me know what things are being used and what are not so useful.

If you are using one of the recipes and you love it, or if you found it helpful when I did something like adding notes to the recipe or giving my point of view on different parts of it, or anything of the sort, let me know! I love hearing feedback and getting ideas. Also, feel free to give suggestions or requests for new recipes and I will try to find new ways to do things that you all like. Within reason, of course, I am not made of money being a wife of a college student.

I would love for this to be sort of interactive and made to fit what people like to make or cook. What things does your family like to eat, what are things you find easy? What recipes do you think you could never tackle, and therefore have never tried? What kinds of foods would you love to try sometime, but don't even know where to start?

Let me know!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Breakfast" Cake (as my dad calls it)

Haha, had to start that with a joke, which I now realize is only funny to me. The real title of this recipe is Danish Coffee Cake, but my dad always says, "We don't drink coffee, so we call it 'breakfast' cake," whenever we eat and make this. My grandma makes this Christmas morning to go with our John Wayne Casserole (recipe located here), when we don't have those delicious Spiced Nut Waffles (go here for recipe). Easy to make, but I think Grandma makes it the night before--tastes good warm or room temperature.

Danish Coffee Cake

2 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1 c brown sugar (or half splenda and half brown sugar)
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, add oil gradually and blend well. Take out 3/4 c and reserve for topping. To the remaining batter, add:

1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 c buttermilk

Beat well and pour into large (9x13in) flat pan. To the reserved topping add
1 tsp cinnamon
1 c chopped nuts of your choice

sprinkle topping over cake. Bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then cut and serve.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Who says a roast has to be hard?

Ok, so Jeff and I made this tonight, and it turned out well, so I thought I would share it with you all. Roasted pork tenderloin is actually pretty healthy considering it's pork. It's very lean and super tasty--really moist too--and super easy. We actually just followed the directions on the meat label--with a couple twists of course!

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

1-2 good sized pork tenderloin(s), thawed or fresh
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (we used the pomegranate kind)
salt and pepper
pinch dried rosemary

In a large ziplock bag, place tenderloin pieces. Add oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and dried rosemary. Let marinate a couple hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In well greased cast iron skillet or roasting pan, place marinated tenderloin pieces. Bake for 35 minutes, or until internal meat temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Let rest 5 minutes and then slice into medallions about half inch thick. Serve with mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, rice, or whatever else. I also added this (which is why I liked using a cast iron skillet):

Pork Gravy

drippings from pork tenderloin
1 tbsp flour
2 c chicken stock/broth
1/4 c milk
1 tsp honey mustard

To drippings, whisk in flour. Roux will form in pan, and it will look very thick or kinda chunky--that's normal. Whisking thoroughly, add chicken broth, and work out the roux lumps with the whisk (this takes a bit of patience, but trust me, it will happen and its worth it). Once combined and smooth, add mustard, then milk. Combine well, and then bring to low simmer. Cook 5 minutes, and serve over pork, potatoes or whatever else.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Jeff's Deep Dish Pizza

This was a suggestion from my mother in law, Cathy. My husband likes to take a certain type of food and perfect it and try it a billion different ways...twist it to different flavors and such. So one time when he was on a "pizza kick," as we call it, he decided to try making Chicago style deep dish pizza. It takes some cooking time in the oven, but its pretty darn good. Instead of a pizza stone, you'll need a cake pan, and instead of 30 minutes, it will take an hour. But try it, I am pretty darn sure you'll like it!

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza
by Jeff

1 tbsp olive oil
1 batch of whole wheat pizza dough (go here for recipe)
1 lb mild pork sausage
1/2 lb (8 oz) shredded mozzarella
1/c sliced pepperoni
15 oz pizza sauce
other desired pizza toppings (olives, ham, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In an 8 inch cake or spring form pan (we use the spring form so you can get it out of the pan when we're ready to eat), rub with olive oil, or spray with cooking spray. Spread dough in pan to cover bottom and sides. pour 2-3 tbsp of sauce in bottom of pan to coat the dough. Using fingers, shape sausage into 8 inch circle to fit in bottom of pan on top of sauce. Cover sausage with cheese, then add pepperoni and other toppings. Top with more sauce and more cheese. Bake in oven for 1 hour, then let stand for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Friday, January 1, 2010

So its after Christmas...

...but I still love this soup! And I am sure even though its our tradition to eat this on Christmas Day, its probably just as good any other time of the year. My grandma makes this every year for Christmas....or at least every year she comes to visit us. Our family does the fancy dinner on Christmas Eve, and then on Christmas Day we eat leftovers, this soup, and junk we got in our stockings. It might sound like a weird tradition, but it's my tradition! So....onto the recipe!

Minestrone Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 quarts water
1 veal bone (or beef soup bone)
15 oz can kidney beans
8-10 mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 lb mild italian link sausage, sliced
1/4 lb pasta (any kind you like, she usually uses rotini or fucilli)
parmesan cheese for topping
2 c chopped escarole

In large soup pot, heat oil and saute onion until transparent. Add water, veal bone, kidney beans, mushrooms, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to boil and simmer covered for 45 minutes. Add zucchini, escarole, sausage and pasta, continue to simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered. Remove veal bone before serving. Serve with shredded parmesan or romano cheese. Make at least one day in advance.

**Note: Most of these ingredients you probably keep on hand at home, but you will have to search a bit for the veal/beef bone and the escarole. For those who dont know, escarole is a kind of lettuce green. It stands up to cooking better than lettuce, but it's not as tough as collards or kale. Kind of looks like a head of green leaf lettuce, but smaller. here's an article about it if you are interested. If you go to the butcher station at your store, they can tell you where get the veal or beef (soup) bone. They have them usually in a pkg in the meat section, but if not, the butcher should be able to get you some. Beef bones work pretty much as well as veal, but veal is what it calls for--use whatever you like, I couldnt tell the difference last time.