Creamy Meatball and Tortellini Soup…

Is there anything as comforting as a hot hearty bowl of soup on a cold winter day? Enjoying a piping hot bowl of soup with some crusty bread when the weather outside is cold and snowy – well that to me defines food for the soul.

In the past, the only homemade soup I ever made was my mother’s chicken soup. I never thought about making any others. Then two years ago when I had a tomato crop that was just unheard of and left me tomatoes coming out of my ears, I tried to make homemade tomato soup. And it was fabulous. So I invested in an immersion blender and made homemade broccoli cheddar soup. And the rest is history. I love making homemade soups.

Add the evaporated milk and spinach

Prior to this recipe all my soups were made on the stove top. This time I decided to make soup in the slow cooker. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I am getting more adventurous with my slow cooker, trying things with it that I’d never done before with it. So why not try to make some soup?The basis for this recipe I saw on Facebook and thought, wow this sounds and looks delicious. So I made it (with a few of my own tweeks). All I can say is this one is divine.

So let’s talk creamy meatball and tortellini soup…

Veggies Cut Into Chunky PiecesLesson Learned 1 – It bears repeating, cut your veggies into chunky pieces: Because you cook for extended periods of time in a slow cooker your veggies can break down if you don’t cut them chunky. You want to see and taste your veggies. So don’t be afraid to cut them into chunky pieces. They will cook I promise you.

Lesson Learned 2 – Use different settings to get different results: Sounds pretty logical doesn’t it. But I used to be a one size fits all girl when it came to slow cooker settings. If I started on low, I stayed on low. And the same for high. But I found you can be more creative with recipes when you vary your settings during the cooking process. For this recipe I cooked the basic parts of it, veggies, meatballs and broth, for 6 hours on low. During the last hour I set it on high. I added the evaporated milk, thickener and tortellini and let that cook for 45 minutes on high. Then I added the spinach and let it cook on high for another 15-20 minutes. Everything cooked perfectly.

Italian Sausage MeatballsLesson Learned 3 – Don’t be afraid to be creative: Originally I was going to add chunks of sausage links to the recipe but my husband has a hard time with the casings. So I removed the casings and formed portions of the meat into meatballs. That worked just fine. I also used sweet Italian sausage in my recipe but you can use hot Italian sausage and give the soup a little more kick if you like. You can also use ground beef, but I think the seasonings in Italian sausage give more zip to the flavor of the soup.

This soup tastes absolutely divine. Your should really try this. I guarantee you will love it! You betcha can make this!

CREAMY MEATBALL AND TORTELLINI SOUP...

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

Creamy Meatball And Tortellini Soup1 pound Italian sausage (ground or links cut into chunks)

1 onion, diced

2 thick carrots cut into 1/2 inch circles

2 stalks of celery cut into chunks

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbs. Italian seasoning

2 tsp. chicken bouillon powder

1/2 tsp. salt

4 cups chicken broth

1/4 cornstarch

1/4 cup water

1 12-ounce package of cheese tortellini

3 12-ounce cans of evaporated milk

4 cups baby spinach with stems removed

DIRECTIONS:

Form the Italian sausage into 1 inch meatballs. Place the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, italian seasoning, bouillon powder, salt and meatballs into a 6 quart slow cooker. Pour in the chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

Mix together thoroughly the cornstarch and water. Combine cornstarch mixture with the evaporated milk. Add the evaporated milk and the tortellini to the slow cooker, stir to combine and cook on high for 45 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes on high.

Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Veggies and Meatballs in the slow cooker

 Add the chicken broth

Creamy Meatball And Tortellini Soup

Creamy Meatball And Tortellini Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Stew…

It’s rainy, damp and dreary. The high temperature today will only be in the upper 60’s. Fall is definitely in the air. And when Fall rolls around, my thoughts turn to slow cooker and oven meals. Nothing beats the smell of a great meal permeating the house on a cool, crisp Fall day. So out came the slow cooker and this delicious recipe.

I’m not one for adding canned soup to a slow cooker recipe but I have to admit I was in a hurry so the can of cream of chicken soup was a life saver. There is nothing earth shattering about this recipe. It is basic, simple but very flavorful and it definitely hits the spot on a cool Fall day. And if you’re a novice cook looking to make an impression in the kitchen, this recipe if full proof. The slow cooker does all the work for you. Serve this creamy delight with a side salad and some crusty bread or fresh baked dinner rolls and you’ll have a fabulous meal.

So let’s talk slow cooker chicken stew…

Slow Cooker Chicken StesLesson Learned 1 – Do not overcook this one: So many slow cooker recipes call for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. And with that rule of thumb, quite often you get bland, overcooked dried out food. Only cook this recipe for a maximum of 6 hours on low. I recommend 5 hours. I cooked mine for 4 1/2 hours on low and the last half hour on high (I will explain why in my next lessons learned).

Get to know your slow cooker and its default temperature settings. Some slow cookers have higher default settings than others. The last thing you want to do is the have this stew boiling for 5 hours. This recipe can be done in as little as 4 hours on low. It depends on how big you cut up your chicken. I cut mine up into 1 1/2 inch cubes and they turned out great in the 5 hour timeframe. If you have smaller pieces, 4 hours will be just fine. Don’t be afraid of that.

Stew SauceLesson Learned 2 – Don’t put all of your vegetables in the slow cooker at the beginning: Get to know your veggies. Some veggies will get annihilated if you put them in at the beginning and cook them for 5 hours. I always put in my carrots (and I cut them chunky) potatoes, onions and celery first. With less hearty vegetables I add them during the last half hour. This time I chose to add green beans, but you can do asparagus or zucchini squash or any vegetable that you want to turn out crisp tender. My green beans turned out a perfect crisp tender which is exactly how I like them. And I only added them during the last half hour of cooking. The key was I turned the slow cooker to high for the last half hour and that did the trick. (NOTE: Put frozen vegetables in during the last half hour as well).img_2623

This recipe admittedly is very basic but can be a show stopper for the novice cook, and after all that is cook I am trying to help. But even if you’re not a novice, this recipe is a great one to have in your back pocket when you need an easy but great tasting meal. Enjoy!

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN STEW...

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Slow Cooker Chicken StewINGREDIENTS:

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into large bite sized pieces

1 Tbs. butter, melted

1 large onion cut into large cubes

8-10 small yukon gold potatoes, halved

4 thick carrots peeled and cut into 2 inch logs

1/2 cup diced celery

1 cup fresh string beans, cleaned and trimmed

1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup of milk

1/2 cup sour cream

1 packet ranch dressing mix

Salt and pepper to taste

Flat leaf parsley for garnish, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Coat onion, potatoes, celery and carrots with melted butter and place in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the chicken. Salt and pepper the meat and vegetables.

Mix together the soup, milk, sour cream and ranch dressing mix. Spread evenly on top of the meat and vegetables. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 1/2 hours. Remove the top of the slow cooker and quickly stir the stew. Add the green beans, cover and cook on high for and additional 1/2 hour.

Serve in a bowl or over fresh baked dinner rolls and with a side salad.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stew

 Slow Cooker Chicken Stew

Creamy Garden Tomato Soup…

I warned you about a plethora of tomato recipes as my tomato plants this year have been producing like they are on steroids. A co-work of mine suggested that the strains I’m growing, the indigo rose and tie-dye heirloom tomatoes (pictured below), would make a great tomato soup. I’ve never made home made tomato soup before, so I thought I would try. I really didn’t want to waste any of these great tomatoes and I knew making soup would use up a lot of them.

The Indigo Rose Heirloom Tomato

The Indigo Rose Heirloom Tomato

Tie-Die Heirloom Tomatoes

Tie-Die Heirloom Tomatoes

A while back I posted a recipe for home made Broccoli Cheddar Soup. That was only the second homemade soup I ever made. For years I have been making my mothers chicken and dumpling soup but never thought about trying other recipes. Now after having made this tomato soup I wonder why I waited so long to make a variety of different home made soups. I’m pretty sure I’ll be trying more soup recipes in the future. They are relatively easy to make and so much more flavorful than what you buy in a can. Plus you control the ingredients. And if you look at canned soup, they tend to have a lot of sodium. So take the extra time and try making home made soup. It’s truly worth it.

This recipe is based on a recipe by Ina Garten called Cream Of Fresh Tomato Soup. It’s a great recipe as is, but I made a few tweaks and loved what I got. I used less onion, more garlic, less sugar, more tomato paste, more basil and I finished it off with 1 Tbs. of butter to give it a nice shimmery, satiny look. Many of the reviews of her recipe said not to change a thing, that the soup was fabulous as is. But I know my tastes and I also can tell if I like how things are looking by eyeballing it. The changes that I made worked wonderfully, and I will chronicle in the recipe below what I did.

So let’s talk about making tomato soup…

Carrots and onionsLesson Learned 1 – Cut the carrots into small pieces: I think the carrots add a nice flavor to the soup, but recipes hardly ever tell you how to cut them. Carrots are dense and they take time to cook. And you are trying to soften them with chopped onions which by nature are less dense and can soften more quickly. So cut the carrots small. I cut the carrots in half lengthwise and then in half again lengthwise and then started chopping from there. The smaller pieces soften faster. Also remember to soften the onions and carrots on a medium heat. You’re not looking for the onions to caramelize, you just want them to soften. The carrots will soften slightly but not all the way. That’s perfectly fine as you will be simmering them for a long while and that will complete the softening process.

Lesson Learned 2 – To peel or not to peel the tomatoes: I did a lot of reading regarding whether you should peel your tomatoes when making the soup. I found a lot of different opinions but I chose to peel them. In Ina’s recipe, she tells you to cook the tomatoes with skin on. Later on in the process you take the soup mixture and process it through a food mill to remove any skin and seeds. I don’t have a food mill, so I decided to peel the tomatoes at the very beginning.

Peeled Tomatoes

Peeled Tomatoes

Lesson Learned 3 – How to peel a tomato: Peeling a tomato is really quite simple. All you need to do is to put it in boiling water for 30 seconds, remove it, and the skin will practically peel off by itself. I used this method and it worked like a charm.

Lesson Learned 4 – Using a blender to puree your soup: When using a blender to puree hot soup you need to do a few simple things to prevent having an explosion. First, never fill the blender completely full with hot liquid. Fill it up only to the half way point or even a little less. Second put a towel over the hole in the top of the blender to let steam escape while you’re pureeing your soup. Otherwise you may wind up with soup all over your walls. Or, an even easier way to puree your soup is to use an immersion blender. You stick it right into the hot pot and emulsify the soup right there. Currently I do not have an immersion blender but I am definitely going to invest in one. In the meantime, using a blender worked perfectly fine.

If you haven’t tried making homemade soup you really should. I was surprised at how easy and good it was. So go ahead, walk on the wild side and make some homemade soup…

[recipe: title=”Creamy Garden Tomato Soup…” time=”2 Hours Including Prep” Servings=”8-10″ difficulty=”Easy”]

INGREDIENTS:

3 Tbs. olive oil

1 medium sized red onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, unpeeled and chopped

4 cloves minced, garlic

8-10 garden tomatoes, medium to large in size

1 tsp. sugar

2-3 Tbs. tomato paste

1/3 cup loosely packed and chopped fresh basil leaves

3 cups unsalted chicken stock

1 Tbs. salt (taste along the way and add more if desired)

1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 Tbs. butter

DIRECTIONS;

On the stove, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, place 2-3 tomatoes in the water and cover. After 30 seconds, take the tomatoes out of the water. Repeat this process with all the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes cool slightly, remove the skins with a paring knife. (the skins should come off easily).

Cut the tomatoes and remove and imperfections or gristle. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add the onions and carrots and sauté until tender, 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, approximately one minute.

Put all the remaining ingredients in the pot except the heavy cream and butter. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are very tender. Puree the mixture using an immersion blender, blender or food mill. If using something other than an immersion blender, pour the pureed mixture back into the dutch oven. Over low heat add the heavy cream and stir to combine. Drop a tablespoon of butter into the pot and melt in right before serving.

Serve hot.

[/recipe]

The Ingredients Before Adding Stock

The Ingredients Before Adding Stock

Cook Ingredients in Stock for 45 minutes

Cook Ingredients In Stock For 45 Minutes

Creamy Garden Tomato Soup

Creamy Garden Tomato Soup