Tag Archives: sausage

Convenience Foods: Inari Sushi

Inari sushi are one of my favourite specialty sushi at the all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants I frequent. If you’re watching your pocket book, however, they’re a snap to make at home with just a few ingredients. Traditionally filled with cooked and seasoned sushi rice, they may be served plain or topped with egg salad, tuna salad or a variety of other sushi fillings. I’ve also filled the tofu pockets with a somen noodle seafood mixture and with leftover Arborio seasoned Korean style (Yubu Chobap).

You can make your own fried and seasoned tofu pockets, but why bother, when you can buy a can of 16 half pockets for a fairly reasonable price (~$5 CDN, locally) and save yourself the mess? Leftover tofu pockets freeze well in the seasoning liquid once the can has been opened, so they’re practical for single diners.

Seasoned Fried Tofu Pockets

Lap Cheong Sausage Inari Sushi

Lap Cheong Sausage Inari Sushi – makes 15-16 inari sushi

1 cup raw sushi rice, cook as per package instructions
4 lap cheong sausages
2-3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar to season the cooked sushi rice
1 can Hime brand inarizushi

Optional add-ins:
1/4 cup of finely cubed cooked carrot, thawed frozen peas or thawed corn kernels (omitted)
6-8 shiso leaves, julienned
a couple of sweet Japanese thin omelettes (usuyaki tamago), rolled and cut into 1/8 inch strips

Once cooked, you’ll have about 3 cups of rice, enough to fill 15-16 inari sushi. When cooking the sushi rice, lay the sausages over the top of the rice, cook, then remove the sausages and dice. Add the diced sausage to the cooked rice and cut in along with the rice vinegar.

For ease of stuffing the tofu pockets, use 2-3 tablespoons of the rice mixture, shape into an oval and insert it into the opened tofu pocket.

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Sesame Semolina Bread and Soup (Two versions)

NOTE: The potato gnocchi soup below is a tomato based adaptation of the kale and sausage soup posted here.

After an indulgent last dim sum outing with my nephew, on Friday, I used the afternoon to make another bread that I had added to my ‘to do’ list, while I was flourless.

The recipe came from the King Arthur Flour web site and is called a “Sesame Semolina Lunetta”. I have NO idea where the term lunetta comes from … lunetta means ‘little moon’ in Italian but this S-shaped bread doesn’t fit. In French, lunette refers to ‘eyeglasses’ … I guess you can vaguely picture two circles of glass in the S-shape. Sometimes, names have no clear explanation.

The dough turned out very wet but I suspect that my measuring cup didn’t allow me to be precise enough. (Next time, I’d try using the weight option for ingredients. ) Since it was too wet to hand knead, and I didn’t want to dig out my stand mixer, I decided to use a ‘stretch and fold’ process (every 15 minutes for an hour, for a total of 5 S&F’s) letting it rest for a further 30 minutes. I shaped the dough into an 18 inch rope and then coiled it into the S-shape and let it proof until it got very puffy, about 50 minutes.

Since it was still such a wet dough, I increased the baking temp to 400 deg F, rather than the 350 deg F in the recipe and baked the loaf until it got golden brown, 35-40 min (NOTE: 37 1/2 min).

The crust was crispy and the crumb was relatively open. The taste was good and there was a faint scent of sesame from the toasted sesame seed oil used in place of olive oil.

To accompany the bread, I made a pot of kale, hot Italian sausage and potato gnocchi soup. For a change of pace, I divided half the soup and added whipping cream to one portion.

Creamy version served with sliced and toasted sesame semolina bread, spread with pesto and grilled long enough to melt the Parmesan cheese in the pesto.

Soup Duo … Vegetarian Friendly

Half an onion and four cups of stock (vegetable or chicken) form the base of both these soups. Your choice depends on whether you want the final product to be vegetarian or veggie-friendly. For some reason, both of my soups are in the orange-red colour palette.

First, an Indian flavoured vegetarian soup. The soup that inspired this used whole cumin seeds but I couldn’t find them in my pantry and I was out of ground cumin so I used a combination of curry powder and garam masala. For a middle-Eastern themed soup, you may used harissa paste or a dry harissa seasoning mixture.

Spiced Carrot and Red Lentil Soup

Spiced Carrot and Red Lentil Soup – serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
400 g carrots, peeled, trimmed and coarsely chopped
140 g split red lentils, rinsed and drained
4 cups/ 1 liter vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
salt to taste (start with about 1/2 tsp)

Yogurt for garnish
Warmed naan bread, to serve

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the onion in vegetable oil until it gets translucent and pick up some colour on the edges.

Add the curry powder and garam masala and toast for a few minutes to freshen the dry spice mix. Add the carrots, lentils, salt and the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil then cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

Puree the soup with a stick blender, in a stand blender (in several batches) or in a food processor until smooth.

Season to taste and adjust the thickness with more vegetable stock or water. Another option is to add some milk (coconut or regular milk) to thin down the soup.

Serve with a spoonful of yogurt and warmed naan breads, if desired.

A dozen home made ravioli (sweet potato, ricotta and Parmesan cheese) stretched to serve four in this hearty soup which is put together quickly with the help of a liter of stock and a cup of jarred marinara (or spaghetti) sauce. If you have fresh tomatoes, you can peel, seed and dice them and add them to the soup instead. For a vegetarian version, omit the sausages and use vegetable instead of chicken stock as a base.

Ravioli and Vegetable Soup

Ravioli and Vegetable Soup – serves 4

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup fresh corn kernels, cut from a whole cob (diced zucchini are another vegetable option)
3 links hot Italian sausage, removed from casing (optional)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp dried basil or Italian herb mix
4 cups/ 1 liter vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
1 cup/250 ml marinara or spaghetti sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 dozen frozen ravioli, home made or purchased

Frozen sweet Potato, ricotta and Parmesan cheese ravioli

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the onion in vegetable oil until it gets translucent and pick up some colour on the edges

Crumble the sausages over the surface of the pan and cook until no longer pink. Try to break up the sausage as much as possible. Add the minced garlic, corn kernels and dry herb mixture and saute for a few more minutes.

Pour the chicken stock and marinara over the vegetables and sausage. Add about half of the salt and the ground black pepper and bring the soup mixture to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the frozen ravioli, making sure that they’re submerged in the broth and cook covered for 5 minutes, then flip the ravioli and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Serve.

January Wrap Up

WARNING: Picture heavy post

The first month of the new year is almost gone and, while I ate well, I’ve had to be very frugal in my grocery shopping. Which meant foraging in my freezer for things I bought in more affluent days. Some of the meals were very simple while others were a bit more fussy.

Fried pork chop with leftover butternut squash

Ready-made frozen potato, cheddar and bacon filled pierogies sauteed in onions, topped with sour cream and served with Debrecener sausage

Buffalo Chicken wings – Two pounds of wings dressed with sauces/dips included in the box. Added bagged, frozen hashed brown potato patties and salad

 

Chicken Cutlet Caesar Salad – Leftover cutlet, home made croutons and shredded cheddar for extra texture and flavour

Lap Cheong (Chinese Sausage) Steamed Rice

One of my favourite dim sum dishes is sticky/glutinous rice lotus leaf wraps (lo mai gai). Along with chunks of steamed chicken, small chunks of Chinese sausage (lap cheong), Chinese mushroom and scallions are also found in the wrap. I remember pieces of hard boiled egg … but that seems to have disappeared. When I ran across a package of those tasty sausages, I picked it up with the vague idea of making something similar. Instead, I just added them to the top of a pot of rice before cooking it and let the fat melt and flavour the rice. Then I chopped up the sausages, and stirred them, along with green onion and soy sauce, into the rice. A spoonful of sambal oelek for spice and I had a fast and delicious rice bowl for lunch or supper.

Cheese “Boats” or Pies aka Fatayer Jebneh or Khachapuri

Some years ago I made fatayer, a Middle Eastern yeast based pastry which may be shaped in a variety of ways and filled with meat, spinach, mushroom or cheese. Left as flat rounds or mini ‘pizzas’ the dough may be topped with a za’atar paste (a spice mixture made up of thyme, sumac and toasted sesame seed) or a ground meat mixture. The meat ones are called ‘sfeeha’.

Cheese Pies (Fatayer Jebneh) – makes 20 6″ oval cheese pies

Use ~2 oz/56.7 gm per fatayer

To make the dough

3 cups flour, divided (2 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup)
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon baking powder (see note)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup yogurt
1 tbsp granular yeast
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water

For the cheese filling

2 cups crumbled paneer, ricotta or feta cheese  (or some combination)
2 cups grated old cheddar cheese
1/4 cup minced green onion (~2)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Proof the yeast by mixing it with the 2 tsp of sugar and warm water in a cup; the yeast should foam and bubble. If it doesn’t then it has gone bad and you need to replace it with new package.

In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups of the flour, salt and baking powder (if using) until combined.

Add the oil and then rub it into the flour mix with your fingertips.

Add the yogurt and the water/yeast mixture and knead the dough until it forms a smooth soft ball that doesn’t stick to your hands, using the reserved flour as needed. (TIP: lift the dough and slam it into the table 7-10 times during kneading. That will give your baked goods that fluffy interior.)

Oil a bowl with a little olive oil, place dough inside, cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place until it doubles in size.

Push down the dough and then cut into half. Roll each half into a sausage shape and cut into 10 even sized portions. Roll the 20 pieces of dough into balls and cover them with a clean towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each dough ball into an elongated oval shape 5-6″ long. Place 1 rounded tbsp of the cheese filling in the middle of the oval, leaving about 1/2″ around the margin.

Fold one edge of the dough over and press it with your finger tips to seal it. Fold over the opposite side and tuck the dough under the pastry boat. Repeat on the opposite side.

Once you’re done shaping the pastry gently press the top folds down to adhere the dough to the cheese. This helps to prevent the pastry boats from opening up when you bake them

Brush the pastries with milk, egg wash or olive oil to give them a beautiful golden color when they bake.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Rest the pastries for 10-15 minutes after shaping before baking them.

Bake on the lower-middle rack for 15-20 min until the tops and bottoms are golden brown.

Note: If you are going to consume the fatayer soon after baking, keep the baking powder (increases the fluffiness of the dough and allows it to rise better in the oven). If you plan on storing them or eating them over a couple of days omit the baking powder because the fatayer remain softer and more chewy when they are cooled and stored without the baking powder. (Baking powder results in the baked goods hardening a little when they are cold)

 

Recently, I learned about a similar cheese topped pastry called khachapuri made in Georgia (the Caucasus mountains). I was intrigued by the shaping, so I used the same dough and a similar filling (ricotta, cheddar and feta cheese, green onion, salt and pepper)  I’d used to make the fatayer and played with the dough. They looked pretty good (and tasted delicious) but I need to work on my shaping as the boats opened up during baking. NOTE: The cheeses were all frozen and bagged 2-3 months ago so I wanted to use them up.

 

 

Dessert made with leftover pastry from the chicken pot pies

Butter tarts with raisins

Blind baked mini pie shell filled with orange curd and topped with sweetened whipped cream

 

Happy New Year (2018) … Plain and Fancy

My last post of 2017 is a testament to the diversity of cooking … plain home style cooking made with basic ingredients and fancy dishes that you’ll find in elegant restaurants or serve to special guests at your table.

Paprika Potatoes – a PLAIN Hungarian inspired potato dish commonly served in the home kitchen and often meatless. If you want something more meaty, add the pork sausage of your choice, smoked or cured. Hungarian kolbasz (sausages) are delicious but you can use Polish sausages (kielbasa) or Romanian carnati afumati (smoked sausages).

The dish is not a stew but you may leave it more ‘soupy’ if you want to have something to dip into with fresh, crusty bread.

Paprika Potatoes (Paprikas Krumpli) – serves 2 or 3

1 tbsp bacon fat or vegetable oil
1/4 onion, finely diced
1 pound (500 gm) potatoes, peeled and sliced into wedges
1/2 pound (~250 gm) cubed or thinly sliced sausages, cut in half if too big
1/4 -1/2 (1/4 cup) sweet pepper (yellow, orange or red), cubed
1/2 cup diced tomatoes with juice or one medium sized tomato, peeled and diced
1 cup ham broth, or water or chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, more to taste
1 1/2-2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the onion in the bacon fat until it starts to pick up some colour, 5-7 minutes.

Add the diced sausage and continue sauteing until it renders out some of the fat and picks up some colour as well, 5-7 minutes.

Add the diced pepper and continue sauteing for a few more minutes.

Push the contents to one side and if the pan seems dry, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the cleared area. Add the paprika and toast for a minute or so. Add the potatoes and tomatoes and stir through to coat with the paprika.

Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the contents and then pour the broth over everything. The broth should almost cover the potatoes and sausages. Bring the contents of the saute pan to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Stir gently after 5-10 minutes to make sure that all the potatoes are in contact with the broth.

Test to see if the potatoes are tender. Remove the lid and continue simmering if the contents are too soupy. If they’re too dry, add a bit more water and cook for another minute or so.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve.

This is actually a very simple dessert, even though it looks FANCYpuff pastry split and filled with pastry cream. It’s the presentation that makes it special. The French version (millefeuille or Napoleons) uses an icing sugar glaze and a decorative drizzle of melted chocolate. The Hungarian version (kremes) has a very thick custard cream filling, often with gelatin added to give it a firmer texture. I chose a simple Romanian version (cemsnit, krempita or placinta cu crema de vanilie ) with a light dusting of icing sugar on top.

Custard Squares

Puff Pastry Squares – Roll out the puff pastry to 1/8th of an inch thick, cut into desired size (2 1/2 inches by 4 inches) and bake in a preheated 400 deg F oven for 20 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown in colour.

Cool and split in half. Fill as desired.

Tester vanilla custard square

I’m sure I posted the pastry cream filling before but this is a thicker version.

Thick Pastry Cream Filling

2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (or 2 cups if you don’t want it TOO thick) milk, warmed slightly
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces

Beat whole eggs and yolks slightly in a separate bowl.

Mix sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt in a 2 quart saucepan. Stir in the beaten eggs.

Gradually whisk in the warm milk.

Place the sauce pan on the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils; boil and stir 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Whisk in the butter a bit at a time. (NOTE: If your mixture is a bit lumpy, strain through a fine metal sieve.)

Place a sheet of saran wrap over the filling so that it touches the surface, preventing the formation of a skin.

Cool to room temperature.

Sour Cream White Bread and Spaghetti Sauce

I wanted to make a white sandwich bread and picked this sour cream white bread recipe found on “The Spruce” web site for something that was a bit different.

Sour cream replaces the egg, milk and butter found in many enriched bread recipes. The resulting bread was nice and fluffy and tasted great either served as an accompaniment to a bowl of pasta or with jam as a snack.

The bread is meant to be baked in a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan but the amount of dough I had (820 gm) seemed a bit excessive to me, so I made four (54 gm) buns with part of it. I didn’t bother using the egg white glaze suggested to give the loaf a glossy finish, though I did brush melted butter on the buns.

The dough rose beautifully during the bulk proofing in the oven with the light on, taking only one hour, and though my loaf shaping was a bit lacking, the final proofing took only 45 minutes and baked up golden brown. For some reason, I decided to slash the top of the loaf before baking but, obviously, I didn’t put my heart into the matter as the cut turned out pretty anemic.

 

 

The loaf pan was oiled and lined with a small sheet of parchment paper which made removing the finished loaf a breeze.

I didn’t want my buns to round up too much during proofing so I pressed them down after 15 min, as in my earlier hamburger buns, and let them continue proofing for another 30 minutes. I found the oven spring a bit disappointing though the crumb was nice.

While my bread was proofing, I made a quick batch of spaghetti sauce with a couple of 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes (with herbs and spices) and 4 hot Italian sausages. I doctored the sauce with some additional dried Italian herbs and hot pepper flakes and served them over ditali pasta. There was enough sauce for 2 two serving containers to be tucked away in the freezer for later. All in all, a very successful cooking day.

Beef, Bean and Cheese Burritos/ Meat Lover’s Lasagna

I had a pound of lean ground beef in my freezer and, with a bountiful pantry, was torn between various possibilities. The front runners were beef burritos and a meat lasagna as I already had all the ingredients for either one. Including a batch of fresh pasta sitting in the fridge ready to be rolled out.

I decided to make small batches of both starting with a common base.

Ground Beef Base for the Two Dishes

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2-3 small cloves garlic, finely minced
1 lb/454 gm lean ground beef
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano

In a large saute pan, fry the onions in the vegetable oil over medium heat until they become translucent and start picking up some colour on the edges. Add the garlic and continue frying for another minute or so, until the garlic is translucent as well.

Crumble the beef into the pan and fry until no longer pink, breaking up the meat into crumbles. Sprinkle the salt and dried oregano over the top of the meat, stir through and continue cooking for another few minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, drain off the excess fat and transfer half the mixture to another container. Reserve for the meat lasagna.

Unfortunately, my home made flour tortillas weren’t large enough to fold into burritos, especially with anything else inside other than a generous tablespoon of Beef, Bean and Cheese Burrito filling, so I settled for burrito ‘wraps’.

Beef, Bean and Cheese Burritos – enough filling for 8 burritos, 4 servings at 2 burritos per servings

1/2 of the Ground Beef Base from above
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp Spanish paprika
1/4 cup salsa (mild, medium or hot) **
1/2 lb/ 227 gm canned re-fried beans
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Optional toppings or fillings
sour cream
guacamole
shredded lettuce
additional salsa
Mexican rice

8 home made sourdough flour tortillas or purchased regular 8 inch tortillas

** I had a package of taco seasoning (from a Taco Bell taco making kit) left in the freezer from the last time I made tacos so I used that instead.

To the ground beef base left in the saute pan, add the herbs and spices (cumin, chili powder, both paprikas) and stir through, cooking for a few minutes. Add the salsa and re-fried beans, mixing well, and continue cooking until the burrito mixture is warmed through. Take the pan off the heat and stir the shredded cheddar cheese through the mixture.

A picture of the ground beef base reserved for the lasagna and the finished beef, bean and cheese burrito filling.


Fill warmed tortillas with a couple of tablespoons of the burrito filling and then the other toppings or fillings.

Serve with salad.

Meat Lover’s Lasagna – enough for 3 to 4 servings

Meat Lover’s Lasagna – makes one 2.2 lb/1 kg lasagna, fills one 8 x 3 7/8 x 2 15/32 inch disposable aluminum baking pan

Meat Filling
1/2 of the Ground Beef Base from above
1/4 lb (2) hot Italian sausages, removed from casings
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup jarred tomato sauce

For Assembly
8 sheets commercial or home made pasta sheets, cooked until al dente
1/2 cup jarred tomato sauce, reserve 1/4 cup for topping
bechamel sauce (1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp flour, 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, 3/4-1 cup milk, salt and pepper to taste)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
~1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large saute pan over medium heat, crumble the sausage meat, frying the meat until it is no longer pink. Drain off any excess fat. Add the reserved half of the ground beef base and the dried basil. Cook for several minutes. Stir in the first 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350 deg F.

Reserve half of the 2nd 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.

In the bottom of your baking pan, spread 1-2 tbsp of remaining tomato sauce. Lay a sheet of cooked pasta over the sauce and then spread one quarter (1/4) of the meat mixture over the pasta. Spread another 1-2 tbsp of tomato sauce over the meat. Add another pasta sheet and one third (1/3) of the bechamel on top of that. Sprinkle a generous tablespoon of the grated parmesan over the bechamel and then top with another sheet of pasta. Repeat with the meat sauce/tomato sauce, pasta, bechamel/parmesan, pasta layers until you finish with your last sheet of pasta. You’ll have used up all eight of your pasta sheets.

Tuck any excess portions of your pasta sheet down into the pan so that it doesn’t poke up. Spread your reserved 1/4 cup of tomato sauce over the pasta and sprinkle a generous handful of the grated mozzarella cheese over the tomato sauce.

Place your baking pan onto a large baking sheet, in case of over flow during cooking, and bake for 40-45 minutes in your pre-heated oven. If you like a browned top, you can turn on the broiler and brown the cheese … a BIT. Be careful. You don’t want a black cheese topping, especially after all the time you’ve invested in assembling this delicious dish.

Serve with salad.

Soup Trio

It’s fall time and the weather is perfect for coming in to the house to a comforting bowl of hot soup.

The first soup, a copycat version of Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana based on some net surfing, is a hearty sausage and potato soup with kale … cause greens are colourful and good for you. I reduced the amount of sausage called for in most recipes. You just don’t need that much to get loads of flavour. Instead, I used the extra sausage as a pizza topping. And the ham stock I used as a base came from cooking up a smoked picnic shoulder ham and straining out the pickling spices used to flavour the cooking liquid. I’m frugal that way. 🙂

Zuppa Toscana or Kale, Potato and Italian Sausage Soup – serves 4-6

2/3 – 1 pound Italian sausage (4-6 sausages, hot or mild)
1 bunch kale, stemmed, rinsed and cut into strips
4 cups ham stock (chicken, vegetable stock or water)
1 onion, diced finely
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
3-4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
pinch of hot pepper flakes, if using mild sausage and wanting a bit of heat
~1 cup water
1 cup whipping cream (or whole/homogenized or 2% milk)
salt and pepper to taste

Optional

1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme

I should have used a bigger bowl for that sausage meat. 🙂

Prepare the kale leaves by ripping them off the stems (freeze stems for future batches of vegetable stock) and cut into 1/2″ strips. Rinse well in 3 changes of fresh water draining after each one. Reserve.

Remove the casing from the sausages, break up the meat and fry in a non-stick saute pan, large enough to make the soup in, until the meat is no longer pink. Break up the larger chunks of sausages as much as possible while frying. You don’t need to add any additional fat as the sausages will render down, releasing all the fat you need for browning. Remove the sausage meat to a medium sized bowl using a slotted spoon. Drain the fat that came out of the sausages and discard. (see picture below … that’s a LOT of extra fat that you don’t need)

Using just the fat remaining in the pan, saute the onions and garlic until the onions are soft and translucent and just beginning to get browned.

Add the stock, cooked sausage meat, diced potatoes and about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper. (You may add the dried herbs at this point as well, if using.) Cover and bring the soup to a simmer. You can add another cup or so of water to make sure that your potatoes are covered. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are just tender.

Add the kale, cover, and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the kale is wilted.

Stir in the whipping cream and bring to a low simmer.

Taste again for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve piping hot with toasted garlic bread.

I love clam chowder and cream of mushroom soup. This soup is a combination of the two. I tried to make it a bit healthier than the recipe that inspired it as 4 CUPS of half and half seemed a tad excessive.

And here’s the result … a Clam and Mushroom Chowder.

Clam and Mushroom Chowder – makes 8-9 cups of soup

6 strips of bacon (optional)
2 tsp bacon fat, or 1 tsp each olive oil and butter
1 pound white mushrooms, roughly chopped
2-3 ribs (1 cup) celery, finely diced (reserve celery tops, to garnish soup)
1/2 onion, finely diced
4 cups seafood stock (vegetable or chicken stock enriched with clam juice is also suitable)
1 pound waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp ground pepper, white if preferred)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup whipping cream or half and half
1/4 cup flour
4 cups/1 pound shelled frozen clams
water as needed

Garnish with diced bacon or julienned strips of celery leaves

If you wish, cook up 6 strips of bacon until crispy in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Remove the bacon strips to a plate lined with paper towels and allow to cool. Chop up roughly.

Reserve 2 tsp of the bacon fat in the saute pan to fry the vegetables for the soup, or use olive oil and butter.

Add onions to the bacon fat and saute until translucent. Add minced garlic and saute for a minute or two until it starts getting some colour. Add mushrooms and celery. Saute for another 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms and they’re starting to get golden brown.

Add diced potatoes, stock, salt, pepper and dried thyme. If needed, add water until the vegetables are covered by about 1/2 an inch. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when pierced by a fork.

Put the whipping cream and the flour in a jar. Shake to dissolve the flour. Add to the saute pan, stir through and cook until soup mixture has thickened a bit.

Add the frozen clams. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes until clams heat through and the flavors blend.

Taste and add additional salt as needed.

Serve into individual bowls and garnish with chopped bacon or julienned celery leaves.

And, while I’m on a roll, a completely different, RED soup. This Stuffed Pepper Soup has all the ingredients of a stuffed pepper but in soup form.

Stuffed Pepper Soup – makes ~6 servings

1 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small (1 cup) yellow onion finely diced
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (a little over 1/2 of a medium)
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5) can beef broth
2 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish (or 1 tbsp dried parsley)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2/3 – 1 cup uncooked long grain white or brown rice
Cheddar or mozzarella cheese, for serving (optional)

In a large pot heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot add the beef to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally while breaking up beef, until browned. Drain beef and pour onto a plate lined with paper towels, set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in pot then add onions, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and saute 3 minutes, then add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Pour in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth and add parsley, basil, oregano and cooked beef, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring just to a light boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

While soup simmers, prepare rice according to directions listed on package, then once soup is done simmering stir in desired amount of cooked rice into soup*.

Serve warm topped with optional cheese and garnish with fresh parsley.

*For a thinner soup don’t add all of the rice and for a thicker heartier soup add it all. Also, if you plan on having it for leftovers the next day then don’t add the rice to the pot of soup, just add it to each individual bowl, then reserve the rice in a separate container in refrigerator to add to the soup the next day.

NOTE: I used red and yellow peppers cause that’s what I had, and a beef bouillon cube instead of the broth. I added 2/3 cups of uncooked rice with the peppers and simmered it all together for 30 minutes.

Vodka Blush Sauce with Hot Italian Sausage over Polenta

Tonight’s supper was made with pre-made items out of my freezer and pantry and very little time. The results … amazing

Sorry for the less than stellar plating. I was hungry and the food was getting cold.

Vodka Blush Sauce with Hot Italian Sausages – serves 4

2 cups marinara sauce, smooth or chunky
1 cup whipping cream
2-4 oz Philadelphia cream cheese, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tbsp vodka
4 raw hot** Italian sausages, slice into 1/4 inch rings
1 tsp vegetable oil

** You can use mild sausages if you like but the hot version makes your sauce sing with flavour over the polenta.

In a large saute pan, warm up the oil over medium high heat and add the raw Italian sausages. Fry until the sausage is cooked. Drain extra oil if desired.

Add the vodka and stir well until most of the alcohol has cooked off.

Add the diced cream cheese and 1/2 cup of whipping cream, mashing down the cream cheese until it ‘dissolves’ in the whipping cream.

Add the rest of the whipping cream and the marinara sauce and mix together until everything is warmed through.

Serve immediately over individual bowls or plates of polenta … or cooked pasta if you like.

Polenta – serves 4

3 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt (a bit more if you’re using home made stock)
1 cup fine cornmeal

Bring the stock and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Take the saucepan off the heat, and whisk in the cornmeal in a fine stream stirring continuously while you do so.

Continue cooking the polenta for 5-7 minutes (depends on how impatient you are to eat) while continuing to stir. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve immediately.