Archive for February, 2010

spinach-tortellini-soupSpinach Mushroom Tortellini Soup

5 or 6 large button mushrooms
1 large Vidalia onion
1 clove of Garlic
1 tsp Thyme
1 large can of diced/petite diced tomatoes
1 large can of chicken stock
1 12 oz. package of frozen spinach (thawed) or fresh equivalent
1 small package frozen tortellini
Salt and pepper

Slice the mushrooms. Cut in half into bite-size slices if necessary. Chop the onion. Finely chop the garlic.

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil. Cook the onions until translucent and golden. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two more.

Add the sliced mushrooms. Add a little more oil if necessary. Cook until they get a little color. I like my mushrooms to have a good bite to them — meaty — so I don’t cook them down too much.

Add the can of diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well to incorporate and heat through.

Add the chicken stock and bring back up to a simmer. Add the Thyme and continue to cook.

Add the spinach. Season to taste. I usually add a little more pepper at this point.

Once the soup comes back up to a boil, add the package of frozen tortellini. Keep the soup at temperature and stir in well.

Lower heat to simmer.

Remove from heat and cover.   Check and stir every few minutes or so until the tortellini is done.  It shouldn’t take too long to cook the tortellini through, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Once done, remove the cover and let cool.   It’s done.

This soup is easy, fairly quick, very healthy, and clean.

What’s really nice about this soup is that the base is just onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach. You can add anything else you want to it — tortellini, other pasta, Cannellini beans… Red, white, and green. What could be more molto bene?   🙂

Meat is not necessary in this soup. By not cooking the mushrooms too much, they retain a nice texture and act very “meat-like” in this dish. You don’t even miss it. Use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock if you want a completely vegetarian version.

For a little more flavor, sprinkle with some grated Parmesan on top.

Add a nice crusty bread to sop up the broth, and you have a very easy, healthy, yummy meal.

Perfect to keep you warm in this wonderful New England weather!

Important Tip:

When I make this, like today, I always make a double batch.  If you decide to make a double batch, please note that you will need a 12+ qt stock pot or larger.  This will NOT fit into an 8 qt soup pot.  I know first-hand…  😉

MONOPOLY Gets a Makeover

Author: admin

monopolyHasbro has unveiled the design of the new 75th anniversary edition of their classic board game, Monopoly, set to hit stores in fall of 2010. “Monopoly: Revolution Edition” is slick and round instead of dull and square, with debit cards and an ATM instead of paper money and a banker, clear plastic representations of the classic tokens (bye-bye, little boot!), and clips of popular songs (like Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day,” and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”) that play after certain actions.

This is not the first game to get a modern reboot (there’s an update to the classic Trivial Pursuit, and Scrabble got a face-lift for its 60th anniversary), but Monopoly’s changes will undoubtedly appeal to the 21st century’s techie youngsters. For one thing, the adjusted-for-inflation prizes are more impressive.

Players can collect $2 million dollars for passing “Go” instead of a mere $200 — practically what the average kid gets for losing a tooth these days. But it’s bound to annoy die-hard fans of the comforting classic version, who might send it directly to jail come next fall. (At least they can take comfort in the fact that Monopoly: Revolution retains the classic Atlantic City-based street system.)

So far, the Internet echo chamber’s biggest criticism focuses on the new version’s tight security. It seems that when it comes to Monopoly, half the fun comes from cheating by stealing from the till when nobody’s looking, a loophole the new version closes with its fancy electronic banking. (However, an electronic banking version has actually been on the market for years.) Surely our nation’s tech-savvy youth will somehow find a way to game the “Monopoly” system, assuming they can be pried away from screens long enough to start a game.

For the full article, click here.

beef-mushroom-barleyBeef Mushroom Barley Stew

 
1.25 – 1.5 lbs lean stew beef
1 pkg small pearl barley
12 oz package of white button mushrooms
4 celery ribs
1/2 small bag of baby carrots, already peeled
2 medium Vidalia (or other sweet type) onions
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 can petite diced tomato
1/2 tsp thyme
1 med bay leaf
1 lg can of beef broth
 

Preparation

Trim excess fat from beef.  Cut into small chunks.

Chop celery into bit-size pieces.  I usually slice each celery rib down the middle, then cut into pieces.

Cut baby carrots into pieces.  I recommend using baby carrots instead of those old dead ones left in the back of your refrigerator drawer because the baby carrots are sweeter and more tender.

Chop the onions. 

Mince the garlic.

Slice the mushrooms into uniform pieces.

Cooking

Heat olive oil in the bottom of your stock pot.  Brown the beef on all sides.  Salt and pepper to season.  Remove with slotted spoon.  Do not discard the juices.  Leave them and the little brown yummy bits at the bottom of the pot.

Add a little more olive oil if necessary.  Add onions and cook until they are translucent.  You don’t want to carmelize them, but golden color is nice.  Be sure to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pot as you cook down the onions.

Add the garlic and keep stirring.  When garlic is heated through, and your house is starting to smell really nice, add the celery, carrots, and mushrooms.

Cook and keep stirring for a few minutes, until the veggies start heating through a little, and the mushrooms start to get a little color. Salt and pepper to season.

Add the can of diced tomatoes.  Stir to incorporate everything nice-nice.

Add the thyme and bay leaf.

Add the whole can of beef broth and stir to incorporate. 

At this point, you want a “loose” mixture.  Not like chili and not like chicken soup – somewhere in between.  The veggies need room to move, and we’re going to be adding the barley soon.  If your mixture is too thick, the barley won’t have enough liquid to absorb.

I usually add 1 can of water filled using the diced tomato can. (This also has the added benefit of getting all of the tomato goodies out of the can…)

The Magic

Normal recipe, eh?  So, what’s so magic about this barley stew?

It’s the secret of the thick, creamy, silky texture that we’re going to get that’s the magic.

Most recipes will tell you to add water and all the barley at once, and then just simmer the soup until done.

What I do is add 1/3 of the package of barley, simmer until it’s soft, puffy, and done.

Then, I add more water to loosen, and another 1/3 of the bag of barley.  Cook again until the barley is done.

Repeat with more water and the remaining barley.

When done, cover the pot and set it aside.   Go back and stir it every 10 minutes or so.  Add water if necessary throughout the whole process to keep things nice and loose.  The barley is going to do a final puff when it’s resting.

The result is SO worth it.  The barley releases its starch as it cooks down.  If there’s too much water or it’s all done at once, it doesn’t have a chance to reach that final glutenous stage.  By coaxing it out in batches, when the time the final batch is done and it’s ready to cool, the first two batches have released the gluten at different stages.  It’s this complex reduction and releasing that makes the silky broth.

There’s no other filling or roux or flour or anything needed.  The barley is the substance.

Additional Details

This usually *amost* fills my 8 qt. stock pot — maybe 2″ from the top.  Make sure you have a pot big enough.  The barley will EXPAND.

I usually containerize and freeze what I’m not going to use right away.  This freezes very well.

Serve with a nice crusty bread — it’s a complete meal.

Enjoy!   1-2