Saturday, October 31, 2009

Minestrone Soup

Happy Halloween! My folks are coming over to our house this evening to hand out goodies to the trick or treaters. We thought we would eat Minestrone Soup leftover from last night's Halloween party for dinner. However, there's not enough soup left for four people. We're ordering pizza in instead. Also, we're not having Sunday dinner this week. Well, we are eating Sunday dinner, but it is a hodgepodge of leftovers.

I thought, then, that I would share the Minestrone Soup recipe with you. It is a favorite at our house and I make it every so often. Apparently it was a favorite last night as well. This is one of the easiest recipes I know.

MINESTRONE adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 1998 [original recipe title: Hearty Beef, Pasta, and Spinach Minestrone]

1 package (12 oz) Boca Ground Crumbles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 box (32 oz) vegetable stock
1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 package Bear Creek Vegetable Beef soup mix
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini or other "mini"-type pasta (I used mini-penne)
1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry (or not - I usually put it in the soup frozen and let it slowly incorporate)
Extra vegetables: I add some frozen white corn, probably about 3/4 cup
Water: I add water throughout the cooking process to keep everything moist - this soup tends to thicken quite easily and the pasta keeps soaking up the water

Cook the boca with olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until browned a bit more; be sure to use olive oil or the boca will stick to the pot. When you are ready, add the stock and tomatoes. Let these integrate a bit; add more water. Add the soup mix and bring to a boil, simmer about 7 minutes. Add the spinach, stir until the spinach is no longer frozen and the soup begins to come to a boil again. Add water if needed. Add the pasta, lightly boil 7-9 minutes*. Add the corn; allow all to heat through.

The soup is now ready to eat. However, I usually cook it earlier in the day and so at this point I transfer it to a crock-pot, add more water, and put it on low or warm until it's time to eat.

This makes a lot of soup - at least 10 servings. I wouldn't know where to cut back since it calls for the package of soup mix. I might be able to freeze some of the soup, though, by waiting to add the pasta* until last and dividing the soup before adding the pasta.

The original recipe stated a serving size equals 2 cups; when I figured the Weight Watchers points for the original recipe it equals 5 points per serving (that's with ground round).

Minestrone Soup on Foodista

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Party Treats

Friday, October 30th Michael and I are having a few friends over for a Halloween Party. I've finally decided on what we'll be serving. We want to keep it simple, since we aren't serving dinner, just snacks.

Whipped cream cheese, jalapeno jelly, and Crunchmaster multi-seed crackers
Harvest Snack Mix (popcorn, dry roasted peanuts, candy corn, pretzel sticks, and M & Ms)
Wind & Willow Garden Vegetable Cheese Ball
Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
Raw vegetables
Salami roll ups (salami slices rolled up in won ton wrappers and baked until browned)
Pickle roll ups (tortillas, turkey lunch meat and cream cheese rolled around dill pickles, then cut into bites)
Spooky Black Bean Hummus
And a crock of Minestrone soup - for those who need just a bit more.

Happy Halloween Everybody!

After Dinner Thoughts

Dinner was insanely delicious this evening. When I called Mom this morning I gave her the list of choices. She said the pineapple fried rice sounded intriguing. And, it was! It was fairly easy to make - the prep took the most work and that wasn't much really. Mom, Dad, and I loved it! Don't know yet if Michael will be on board for this one, but it will definitely be repeated at some time in the future. A real keeper.

So, along with the fried rice we had a nice green side salad and I made a Pistachio Cake. I had picked up some raw shelled pistachios a few weeks ago and didn't know how I was going to use them. So, today was the day. I chopped then roasted them for about 15 minutes in a 325 degree Fahrenheit oven. Then, I added about 1 3/4 cups to the cake batter; and probably about 3/4 cup on top of the icing. Oh - instead of the icing suggested on the recipe I made a quick cream cheese icing:

8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup smart balance 50/50 spread stick, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 small box instant pistachio pudding mix
about 2 cups powdered sugar (I used what I had)

Mix the first three ingredients together until smooth. Add the pudding mix and beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time - beat until smooth each time. Add to the cake and top with prepared pistachio nuts.

It was much better than I expected. In fact, it was darn good. It looked a bit funky what with being so green, but it wasn't real sugary - and I was really glad for that. I left half of the cake for Mom and Dad and the photo is of the half I brought home. I really need to remember to take my camera over to take photos before cutting.

Everyone enjoyed dinner and will look forward to these recipes again. Until next week - Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Last Minute Dinner Ideas

I've been so busy thinking about and preparing for Halloween that I've neglected thinking about Sunday dinner. This evening I'm trolling the Internet looking for a recipe with garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas) and rice. I've found a few that sound promising, but haven't quite settled on one yet. Here are the recipes I'm considering:

Middle Eastern Garbanzo Rice Pilaf also has sundried tomatoes, garlic, Kalamata olives, goat cheese, capers, and lemon juice - this sounds somewhat similar to the Mediterranean Orzo Salad we had on September 13th that we liked so much. Definitely a possibility.

Thai Heavenly Pineapple Fried Rice doesn't actually call for garbanzo beans, but when I was searching through VeggieBoards I came across a post about the pineapple fried rice and someone suggested adding garbanzos. Sounds intriguing. This recipe includes peas, carrot, raisins or currants, cashews, and onion. If I make this I will add the garbanzo beans.

Garbanzo Tomato Pasta Soup doesn't actually have rice in it. It does, however, sound easy and yummy.

Chickpea Pot Pie is what started this search; this recipe is in the most recent Vegetarian Times that came in the mail this week. It received 2nd place in the 2009 Reader Recipe Contest. You should be able to find it online in a few weeks. Another similar recipe that sounds good is "Chicken" Pot Pie from Vegan Dad. No rice in either of these recipes, just good old comfort food.

All these recipes sound so good it will be hard to decide. I guess it will depend on what I have in the cupboard. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Until tomorrow, here's a photo of this year's Halloween costume. I'm very happy with how it turned out - and it shocked everyone that I actually sewed, myself included! Last night was our monthly bunco girls' night out and each October we dress for the occasion. On the 30th Michael and I are having a few friends over to celebrate the holiday; I'll wear this costume again for the party. No telling if I'll be prepared to cook for next Sunday's dinner too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

I really like my own cooking. I also really like cheese tortellini, spinach, black olives, cheese, and everything in this dish. Needless to say, it was delicious! And, only 7 weight watchers points per 1 cup serving. We had the casserole, green salad and a pumpkin cake my mom made.

After dinner, cleaning up, and taking the trash out for pick up tomorrow, my mom and I started working on my Halloween costume. This year I am going to be Athena, Goddess of
Wisdom, War, and the Arts. We're making a toga/chiton outfit. I picked up some chiffon the other day, but apparently not enough. So, I need to get a few more yards and then we'll finish the costume tomorrow. I've got some fun gold braid as well as some Greek key ribbon to use for trim. I'll have to make sure to take a photo!

Last year I was a tornado - it was a hoot! We used some gray organza-type fabric and wrapped it around an old black dress. Then I made a thunderhead from an old straw hat that I wrapped the gray fabric around and stuffed with tissue paper. I attached matchbox cars, farm animals, and other such stuff to the dress so that when I twirled, the objects spun in the air. I also found a Miss Gulch riding her bicycle ornament that I added to the costume. Red slippers completed the look. Here's what it looked like.

I love Halloween - everything about it! This year I have three opportunities to dress up: bunco, a small party we're hosting, and giving out treats on the holiday itself! I certainly hope the weather holds up this year. Mom and Dad will be coming over to our house to hand out the treats this year and I hope we can sit outside for most of the evening. It's just too much fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Feeling Better - How About Some Pasta?

Whew - thank goodness that cold I had is just about history. I hope that's the end of that for the season. With all the talk about the flu, there's lots of hand-washing going on. We even got those automatic hand sanitizers at work. Better safe than sorry!

So, while I was at home this past week I was able to take a bit of time to think about Sunday dinner before Michael went to the grocery store. I know you're wondering what we're having, so here it is...

Tortellini Spinach Casserole from Taste of Home. This recipe sounds tasty. The recipe list includes fresh mushrooms (I'll use a combination of white button and baby portabella mushrooms), garlic powder (I'll use fresh minced garlic), onion powder (again, I'll use fresh chopped onion), pepper, butter, evaporated milk, brick cheese, frozen chopped spinach, and mozzarella cheese. I plan to add sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, toasted pine nuts, and a splash of white wine.

We'll include a fresh green salad and garlic bread. Mom said she'll make dessert, so for now that's a surprise. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Not this week

This past week I attended the Illinois Library Association Conference in Peoria, Illinois. It was a good conference. However, when I attend conferences it seems I always come home sick. This time I'm coming down with a cold. I think I even know where I caught it. I attended the Reference Forum luncheon at the Pere Marquette hotel. The waiter who was serving our table was sniffing...I can barely think about his handling the plates, glasses, etc...YUCK! Hey - here's an idea to help with health care in the Untied States: make it mandatory for sick people to stay home from work (with pay). That way fewer people will be spreading their germs around so that fewer people come in contact with them and then fewer people end up sick.

Oh well. Being sick means I am not going to my parents house today. I'm keeping my ickyness to myself (as well as my crabby-ness about being sick at all). Luckily I'm off work tomorrow and can hopefully be a better by Tuesday (I'll be 4 days in by then). I'm taking the Zicam rapid melts every three hours - we'll see if I can cut the severity down.

So, no Sunday dinner this week. I'll spend the day lounging around, washing the laundry, considering what might be on next Sunday's menu, and just taking care of myself in general. Michael made some yummy vegetable soup Friday, maybe I'll have some of that.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

After Dinner Thoughts

Okay - all I can say is YUM YUM!!! The Mexican Lasagna was mighty tasty. We also had a side salad and Michael made a cherry pie. For the lasagna, in the future I might add a bit of tomato sauce. While it was not too dry, it could have used a bit more juice. Instead of canned green chiles, I chopped some jalapenos from a jar; I just like jalapenos better. The recipe makes 8 servings, 4 Weight Watchers points per serving - that's terrific.

After dinner Mom and I looked over the three house addition proposals we recently received. We like one of the proposals quite well, with a few changes. I sent our desires to our designer. This picture shows our notes. Hopefully he will be able to get the plans together before too long. We are ready to get this show on the road! If you are wondering what this is all about, well we will be putting an addition on our house for my Mom and Dad to move in with us. There will be a master bedroom and bath and a common area like a four season porch. We need to find out if we can keep our current fireplace and build the addition with it incorporated. To that end, Michael will be visiting the fireplace place this week. Hopefully it will all work out.

I'll be out of town for most of the week, attending a conference. I don't expect to be thinking about Sunday dinner much this week. No telling what will be on the menu, guess we'll find out before next Sunday! Until then, have a great week.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Something Easy

This recipe was in the St Louis Post Dispatch this week and caught my eye. Sounds really easy, fast, and yummy. So, why not? Corn Tortilla and Mixed Bean Lasagna.

Why am I so interested in something real easy this week? Because I don't really want to spend a lot of time inside. I'm bringing the Halloween decor up from the basement and decorating our house inside and out. You see, I LOVE Halloween. It's the perfect holiday to me - no pressure and you can do as much or as little as you want. I want to do more this year than I did last year.

So, enough yakking - it's time to leave the computer and spend sometime outside today! Have a great day yourself - and check back to see how it all turns out.