Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

This is the soup I had my eye on that I needed to make bulk sausage for.  It turned out really well.  The original recipe comes from www.twopeasandtheirpod.com.  I made a few changes to suit my family.  My husband claims that this is one of my better soups.  Enjoy!

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup
Yield: 6 - 8 servings


1 lb. homemade Italian Sausage (bulk), rolled into 1/4 teaspoon size balls
1 tablespoon olive oil (more if you used lean pork for sausage)
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 - 10 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 28 oz. can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
2 cups chopped baby spinach
2 cups cheese tortellini (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper, to taste


1.  In a large skillet, brown the mini sausage balls until cooked through (use a tablespoon of olive oil, if necessary).  This should take about 5 - 7 minutes.  Drain off the grease and place the sausage balls on a plate lined with paper towels.

2.  In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the red peppers, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes.  Cook until peppers are soft, about 3 minutes.

3.  Stir in the broth, tomatoes and spinach.  Bring to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook until tortellini is tender, 7-8 minutes.  Stir in the fresh basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Stir in the sausage balls and heat until warm.  Remove the bay leaf and serve.

The Creative Cook

Monday, December 30, 2013

Homemade Italian Sausage

I found a recipe for a Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup that called for 1 pound of Italian sausage.  It sounded like a recipe that my family would love.  The only glitch was: the recipe called for the Italian sausage to be made into tiny meatballs.  Since I certainly did not want to take a bunch of sausages and squeeze the meat out of them, I planned to buy the Italian sausage in bulk.  I thought I had seen bulk Italian sausage in a grocery store before the holidays but, of course, it is no longer available.  I thought about it for a while and decided it would be a better idea if I made my own bulk Italian sausage.  After all, how hard could it be? Well, I ran out to the butcher to buy ground pork only to find out that our local butcher shop closes at 1 pm on Saturday afternoons.  Why? Who knows!  Anyway, I had my mother with me and she suggested that we buy some pork and have it ground at the local grocery store by the butcher.  Ahem...  no that does not work because we have been told that "they are no longer allowed to grind pork."  Why?  I assume because of the bacteria or something like that (possibly law suits).  I was convinced that I should just go ahead and buy the packaged ground pork ... until I took a look at it.  OMG!  It was almost entirely fat.  Yuck!  That was when my mother offered to take the pork and grind it herself in her KitchenAide Mixer that she has a meat grinder attachment for.  We had the butcher cut up the meat into strips which was supposed to make it easier. Apparently, my mom said it wasn't easy at all.  There was a bunch of gristle or something that kept clogging up the grinder.   Double yuck!  Now I know better.  I will go to the butcher earlier in the day and get my pork ground by them.  Anyway, here is the recipe I used.  It comes from www.kitchensimplicity.com.  It is written as a spicy Italian sausage recipe but it can be adapted to be mild or sweet.  Just reduce the pepper and increase the maple syrup to your taste.



3 lbs. ground pork (lean is okay)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1-1/4 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (ground or whole)
¼ teaspoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme


Place all ingredients into a large bowl.  Mix together until evenly combined.  Divide equally into desired amounts.  Wrap each packet in plastic wrap and place into a large plastic bag.  Freeze or place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before using to let flavors combine.

The Creative Cook

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Homemade Pizza Sauce

This is our favorite pizza sauce.  I have used this recipe many times.  It is always great.  

Homemade Pizza Sauce
Servings: 8


6 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1-1/2 teaspoons Pure Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons Red Wine (optional)
¼ cups Water

Preparation Instructions:

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Whisk together until well combined.  Place over low heat and cook until heated through.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Almost-Famous Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

My son absolutely loves the broccoli-cheddar soup from Panera.  I recently found out that there are Panera soups available for sale at our local grocery store.  I bought the broccoli-cheddar Panera soup from the store last week.  My son was thrilled with it. He wanted it again but when I went to the store they were all out of the broccoli-cheddar. He doesn't like any of the other Panera soups so I thought I would try making a copycat version of the Panera soup.  This is the recipe I found on the internet.  Try it yourself.  I liked it but my son told me he said he liked it just so I wouldn't feel bad.  I really don't think it tastes like the Panera soup but it is good broccoli-cheddar soup.  

Almost-Famous Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
By Food Network Magazine
4 Servings


6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 7-inch sourdough bread boules (round loaves)
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
1 large carrot, diced
2-1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated sharp white and yellow cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish


1.      Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth.  Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
2.      Meanwhile, prepare the bread boules: using a sharp knife, cut a circle into the top of each loaf, leaving a 1-inch border all around.  Remove the bread top, and then hollow out the middle with a fork or your fingers, leaving a thick bread shell.
3.      Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.  Discard the bay leaves.  Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth; you’ll still have flecks of carrot and broccoli.  Return to the pot.  (Or puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender.)
4.      Add the cheese to the soup and whisk over medium heat until melted.  Add up to ¾ cup water if the soup is too thick.  Ladle into the bread boules and garnish with cheese.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Skillet Lasagna

I made this easy quick lasagna for my boys on a snowy Sunday afternoon.  They loved it.  I used a combination of two skillet lasagna recipes.  Enjoy!



¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 pound 95% lean ground beef
1 (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
6 no-boil lasagna noodles
Parmesan cheese for grating


1.      Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add in 3 tablespoons olive oil then toss in onion with ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil.  Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft.  Add in 2 cloves garlic and cook for another minute, then add in ground beef, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon.  Cook until just browned, about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If there is excess liquid in the pan, feel free to drain a bit.  Remove beef from heat and set aside.
2.      Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add in remaining 2 cloves garlic, cook until golden, 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon fresh basil, add remaining salt and pepper, cook until saucy, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a blender and puree.  Return 1 cup of the sauce to the skillet and reduce the heat to low; reserve the remaining sauce.
3.      Meanwhile, mix the ricotta, egg, parmesan, the remaining 1 tablespoon basil in a bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
4.      Place 2 lasagna noodles over the sauce in the skillet.  Layer half of the ground beef on top and season with salt and pepper.  Cover with half of the ricotta mixture, a few pieces of mozzarella and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved tomato sauce.  Repeat the layers, ending with noodles.  Top with the remaining sauce and mozzarella.  Cover and simmer until the lasagna is cooked and the cheese melts, 20 to 25 minutes.
5.      Let rest for a few minutes before slicing.  Garnish with more parmesan and fresh herbs.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Slow-Cooker Hash Brown Casserole

When I told my husband I was making hash brown casserole, he wasn't very excited because he doesn't like hash browns.  When I told my son I was making it, he wasn't thrilled because he doesn't like sausage.  I told them they would both wind up liking it and they did. All my other guests also enjoyed it.  The only change I made was that I used Eggbeaters so I would not have to crack a dozen eggs. My problem was that I had made it a bit too early for my event the next day.  I put it in the crock pot around 10 pm and it should have been put into the crock pot around 11:30 or later.  It takes 10 hours.  My guests were not arriving until 11 am the next day.  I will tell you that if you try to cook it longer than 10 hours it will get a bit too brown.  I kept it on warm after the initial 10 hours on low and it still got overcooked. Next time, if I get too tired to stay up, I'll put on my alarm and get up around midnight to make this casserole.  That is how good it was. I found this recipe on www.myrecipes.com and it said that it came from Gooseberry Patch July 2011.

Slow-Cooker Hash Brown Casserole
Serves 8


1 32-ounce pkg frozen shredded hash browns
1 pound ground pork sausage browned and drained
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 dozen eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper


Place 1/3 each of hash browns, sausage, onion, green pepper and cheese in a lightly greased slow cooker. Repeat layering 2 more times, ending with cheese.

Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper together in a large bowl, pour over top.

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours.


The Creative Cook

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cranberry-Apple-Raspberry Relish

This recipe came from a flier I got from my local grocery store.  It turned out really delicious.  I would make it again.

Cranberry-Apple-Raspberry Relish 
Makes about 12 Servings


12 oz. (about 3 cups) fresh cranberries
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup orange marmalade
12 oz. (about 3 cups) frozen raspberries, thawed
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped


Cook cranberries, orange juice, sugar and cinnamon on a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes or until some cranberries are popped and mixture is thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.  Refrigerate for a few hours and serve.  Relish will keep refrigerated for about 2 weeks.


The Creative Cook

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Blueberry Tea Cake

I made this Blueberry Tea Cake for the day after Thanksgiving.  I had decided to invite a few people over for a brunch on Friday.  It turned out to be a favorite.  I wanted to make something with blueberries in honor of my nephew.  He absolutely loves blueberries.  This tea cake is very easy to put together and doesn't take long to bake.  It is so much easier than the Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake that I used to make.  This recipe comes from http://damndelicious.net/2012/03/15/blueberry-tea-cake/

Blueberry Tea Cake
Yields 9-12 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 lage egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

For the crumb topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of Salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Lightly oil an 8 x 8 baking dish or coat with nonstick spray.
2.  To make the crumb topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl.
3.  Add the cold butter and toss to coat, using your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.
4.  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
5.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
6.  Beat in egg and milk until well combined.
7.  Gradually add flour mixture to the sugar mixture at low speed, beating just until incorporated.
8.  Gently fold in the blueberries.
9.  Spread the batter into the prepared baking dish.
10. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the bread cubes.
11. Place into oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.
12. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.


The Creative Cook