Italian Wedding Soup

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By: Corinne

I love soup. While I tend to move away from soups in the summer in favour of salads and BBQ, we still seem to get a good number of summer soup days here in Thunder Bay – rainy, chilly, and perfect for soup.

Full disclosure- despite living in a city with a large Italian population, I’ve never actually had Italian wedding soup. What inspired me to try this was the lunch time leftovers of a co worker(who is actually Italian). I love soups, and was intrigued by the tiny round pastas. I asked her about her lunch and she told me it was just ‘chicken broth, little meatballs, spinach and pasta’. So I tracked myself down some Acini de Pepe and set forth on investigating just what goes into an Italian Wedding Soup. Of course, it turns out that like many other traditional things, it seems like this soup has a wide variety of ingredients. Mostly inspired by Giadia De Laurentiis聽but with some additions and omissions.

Time: ~15 min prep, 30 min cook

Serves: about 8 servings

You Will Need:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • handful of fresh grated asiago or parmesan
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or cream
  • fresh pepper
  • 12 cups chicken broth (or 12 cups water, 6 tbsp veggie bouillon)
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • 150g frozen chopped spinach – could probably have used some more, but that’s all I 聽had 馃檪
  • 1 cup Acini de Pepe or other tiny pasta

Combine broth, and if you have one, a parmesean rind. Bring broth to a simmer.

Combine milk and bread crumbs, then mix with all other 聽ingredients for meat balls. Shape into small balls using a scant 1/2 tbsp of mix 0r less if you want really tiny meat balls. As you shape them, drop them into the simmering broth. Continue until you have used up all of the meat.

Add spinach and allow to continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Note, no harm will come to the soup if it simmers for an hour rather than 20 minutes 馃檪

Prepare 1 cup of Acini de Pepe聽聽or other tiny pasta in a separate pot. When pasta is cooked, put a generous portion of pasta in each bowl and ladle soup over top. Garnish with more asiago if desired.

I like to prepare the noodles separately for leftovers- as I find too many hours sitting in soup makes pasta too mushy. Putting a little bit of butter on the leftover plain pasta while it is hot will keep the extras from sticking together. 聽This way it can be kept separate until reheating. Leftover soup (without pasta!) can be frozen.

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Chickpea Caprese Salad

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By Corinne

Little tastes more like summer to me than basil. I grow a large pot of it on my deck every year, and add it to everything.

This is a twist on the classic mozza, basil, and tomato salad. The addition of chickpeas makes it perfect for a light summer meal, or a lovely side at a BBQ potluck.

You will need:

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • about 20 bocconcini halved (about 7 oz)
  • 2 cups of delicious tomatoes – if you are using ‘juicy’ ones, seed them first. I halved mini san marzano tomatoes because I’m a bit obsessed with them
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 3 tbsp to 1/4 cup of finely minced red onion- depending on the ‘power’ of your onion
  • generous handful of fresh chopped basil. If you don’t have fresh basil- make another recipe!
  • about 1/4 cup of a good balsamic or possibly a balsamic reduction
  • generous grind of black pepper
  • salt if desired, I tend not to use any when using the canned chickpeas

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Taste your red onion. Sometimes they are VERY strong, in which case, less is more so to speak. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix! Will need a quick stir up before serving.

If you are using a “regular” balsamic, you may want to add a tbsp or two of oil in order for the ‘dressing’ to be thick enough and not too vinegary. The one I used was a rather sweet and thick balsamic and I didn’t need that addition.

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Creme Br没l茅e

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By Corinne

Creme br没l茅e used to be my go to going out dessert. It seemed like somehow it was really difficult to make, and since I’m not generally one for desserts, it took me several years to give it a go.

Then it became my favourite entertaining dessert (well, until I started making homemade icecream). I love that you can prep it the day before and then just add your sugar and br没l茅e it up before serving. 聽And despite a reputation for being finicky, it’s actually very simple. Only a few times have I not had it turn out and I’ve made this MANY times! Once when I tried substituting some half and half for some of the whipping cream (it didn’t set properly and was a bit runny) and another time when my eggs got a bit scrambled- it was still delicious, just not quite perfect 馃檪 Despite the fairly detailed instructions, these are actually quite quick to make, and are pretty forgiving.

Time: 10 minutes prep, 20 min bake, 4-24 hours chill

Serves: 4-6 depending on the size of your ramekins

Oven:350F

You Will Need:聽

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • scant 1/4 cup sugar + more for topping
  • 1 vanilla bean, or 2 tsp vanilla

Separate yolks from whites and set aside. Whisk 1/4 cup sugar with the egg yolks. Put the 2 cups of whipping cream into a heavy bottomed pot and set on medium low. You do NOT want your cream to boil. Split your vanilla bean, scrapping out all the seeds. You now have two choices, you can save your bean and add it to a few cups of sugar to make some vanilla sugar, you can add it to the beans in your jar of homemade vanilla extract – which one day I will get around to making, or to be super decadent, and creme br没l茅e is about decadence, you can add it to the pot of cream.

When the cream is steaming, add a tbsp or two at a time to the measuring cup that is holding the eggs and sugar. Whisk as you add it. Keep doing this until you have about a cup of egg and cream mixture in your measuring cup and then pour back into the pan, whisking constantly. The point of this is to ‘temper’ your eggs and to keep them from turning into scrambled eggs when you add them to the hot cream. Keep on medium low, whisking for another 2-3 min then remove from heat.

Divide mixture between ramekins. Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet, or another dish you can pour some hot water into- again, this will depend on the size/shape of your ramekins. 聽Fill the dish with water until it is halfway up the ramekin. Place (carefully!) in preheated oven. Mine are always done in exactly 20 min, but if you’re using deep ramekins it will take considerably longer. They are done when they have set but still ‘jiggle’. To test for doneness give the pan a gentle nudge. If they are done it won’t look like liquid sloshing around, but will still have some ‘jiggle’.

Cool for 4-24 hours UNCOVERED in the fridge. I find if you cover them before they are completely cooled you get condensation on the surface, and then when you try to add the sugar to br没l茅e them, the sugar just kind of melts into them but it’s hard to get that nice hard crack topping.

For the br没l茅e part, sprinkle 1/2 – 1 tbsp of sugar over each, and using a kitchen torch br没l茅e them up! I usually put mine back in the fridge for ~10 min to cool things down so you get a nice crack when you tap your spoon on your sugar crust. You can also do this step in the oven under broil- but you have to REALLY watch them- it will seem like nothing is happening and then they are done. Or burnt. So be very careful if you’re doing them this way. You must watch!

Easy Strawberry Jam

By: 聽Julie

Time: 聽about 2 hours, depending on tools you use and how fast you chop.

They’re here, they’re here!! 聽It’s strawberry time in Southern Ontario. 聽They are a little pricey this year, I paid $22 for a flat, but they are soooo sweet and delicious. 聽So sweet, in fact, that my jam is probably the sweetest jam I’ve ever made. 聽If you are looking for a jam with less sugar, don’t make this. 聽The ratios of fruit to sugar to lemon juice allows the jam to set and protects you from bacteria. 聽You should always follow safe canning practices. 聽If you are not into canning, you can still make this and keep it in the fridge for a month.

You Will Need

  • 4 cups of strawberries, chopped small, my manual food processor worked great for this
  • 4 cups of white sugar
  • 1/3 cup of lemon juice. 聽Don’t use real lemon juice, use bottled for canning unless otherwise specified in your recipe. 聽The acid content is constant, which may not always be the case for real lemons. 聽It could vary which may allow the acidity of your jam to be too low, encouraging bacteria growth.

Tools Needed

  • 5 half pint jars, or whatever you prefer to use
  • large pot to boil jars
  • large non-reactive pot to boil jam
  • jar tongs will make your life easier
  • wide mouth funnel
  • small ladle

Prepare The Jars

Boil jars, including lids, you are going to use for at least 10 min before starting. 聽Combine the strawberries and the sugar in a non-reactive pot and allow to sit for an hour. 聽Add lemon juice and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. 聽Allow to boil for 12-14 minutes. 聽I begin testing the set at 8 minutes by putting a small amount on a cold plate I keep in the freezer. 聽I let it stay in there for 2 min and if the jam wrinkles when I push it with my finger, the jam is set. 聽Experienced jammers will feel the difference when they stir. 聽You will feel some slight resistance and the jam becomes clearer and darkens to a beautiful ruby red.

When you are confident with your set, scoop off any foam from the top, ladle the jam into the clean jars and place the lids on. 聽Screw on the rings lightly (just hand tight until you feel resistance then stop. 聽You need the air to be able to escape from the lids). 聽Place jars in canner and boil for a min of 10 minutes.

My favourite way to eat this is on toasted basic white bread.

Favourite Marinated Feta Dip

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By Corinne

This is a dip I always request from my friend TL- though I think I am more generous with the lemon and less generous with the oil. I also fondly call it my ’emergency’ feta dip, as I can make it in minutes, 聽I almost always have the ingredients on hand, and people always seem to love it and think there is something magic about it. This is the basic favourite, feel free to improvise- there is a lot of room for variation with the seasonings. In the summer when I have fresh herbs I use them- they are prettier. Sometimes, I put in some thyme when I have it. Delish served with little rounds of bread, crackers… or umm… with a spoon.

Time:聽10 minutes or less

Serves: 4-6 as a little appetizer with bread

You will need:

  • 250 g (1 3/4 cup) crumbled feta
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic minced
  • generous grind of black pepper
  • 4-5 tbsp oil (olive or canola)

Crumble feta and add all ingredients together. Mix well. 聽Best if you can let it sit for an hour or two to let the flavours get right in there, but also good eaten immediately 馃檪 If you let it sit, you might find that the oil and lemon separate a bit, just give it a good stir before serving.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

By: Julie

Serves: 12 extra large muffins

Time: 聽30 min. 聽10 min prep, 20 baking

June is my favourite month. 聽It’s warm enough to make you forget the rip-your-face-off Canadian winter wind, yet it’s not scorching. 聽Also there is rhubarb, the lemons of the Canadian shield. 聽It has delicious tartness and amazing smell and flavour. If you’re thinking of planting your own patch, it’s easy to grow here. 聽It does best where there are cold winters and cool wet springs. 聽You can use Rhubarb to flavor just about anything, but I love it best in baking and combined with strawberries it’s amazing. 聽After making a yummy Rhubarb Custard Pie, I had about a cup and a half left over and the obvious answer to that is magic muffins. 聽This recipe is inspired by the pie flavors, including the nutmeg. 聽Mmmmm. 聽Nutmeg.

Strawberries are not quite ready here yet. 聽It will be another week or so before I can stuff my face with their sweet goodness. 聽I thawed some frozen whole strawberries and used those. 聽If you use frozen fruit for your muffins, include the juice. 聽That’s where the flavor is.

You Will Need

  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup applesauce
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cup rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cup strawberries, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

Preheat your oven to 350F and grease a muffin pan. Mix the wet ingredients in a large bowl. 聽Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. 聽Fold dry ingredients into wet until just combined. 聽Gently fold in the rhubarb and strawberries and spoon into muffin pan. 聽Bake for 20 – 25 min until a skewer inserted into the center of your muffins comes out clean. 聽Enjoy.

Ma’s Rhubarb Custard Pie

By: 聽Julie

Serves: 聽1 9-inch pie

Time: 聽10 min prep, 50-60 min bake

Anyone who has ever eaten my Grandmother’s food will tell you it’s the best they’ve had. 聽Because it is. 聽I grew up eating like a queen. 聽One of the things she made that is on my list of favorites is Rhubarb Custard Pie. 聽It is simple, but amazing. 聽Ma used 3/4 a tsp of nutmeg, and this is what really makes it stand out, but if you are not a fan of nutmeg like my mother you can substitute some or all of it for cinnamon. 聽The sugar seems like a lot, but if your rhubarb is tart you will need every bit of it.

You Will Need

  • 1 double crust pastry recipe, like Flaky, Tender, Tasty Pie Crust
  • 4 cups of rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup of packed, light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs – well beaten
  • 2 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350F

Roll out bottom crust and place in 9 inch pie pan, trimming edges. 聽In a large bowl, mix the sugar, salt, and flour together until well mixed. 聽Add the eggs and mix. 聽Finally, add the rhubarb. 聽Pour into prepared shell.

Roll out top crust onto lightly floured counter. 聽Use a pastry cutter or a pizza wheel to cut at least 9 1-inch wide strips. 聽Place strips vertically across pie 1 inch apart. 聽Fold down every-other strip in half and lay a strip across horizontally, 1 inch from the pie edge. 聽Unfold the halved pieces over the new strip and fold down the next 2 strips. Add another horizontal piece and unfold the folded strips over top. 聽Repeat until the crust is complete. 聽Trim the excess and tuck the strips underneath the bottom crust.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 50 min. 聽Check occasionally and use a pie crust shield if necessary. 聽Insert a knife to make sure it’s set and allow to cool before serving. 聽I had to give mine an extra 10 minutes to brown the crust the way I like. 聽The result was tart and delicious with perfect crust.