Spinach Tortellini Soup

onionsSo, last time I posted, it was about the turkey stock we made from the turkey we made last month. A couple days after we made it, I used the stock to make a soup which had become quite famous at my last workplace. I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about this before, but one of the most amazing women I ever met used to make Spinach Tortellini Soup every time someone on the floor had a birthday. I would make Garlic Bubble Bread to accompany it and we would feast in the break room over the lunch hour. There were never any leftovers, partially because the soup is addicting, and partially because once someone heard that is what we were eating, everyone would come in.

Spinach Tortellini Soup.jpg

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Turkey Stock

A couple of days ago I posted about the Turkey we made on Christmas day this year. While I made the turkey, my dad had been dreaming of stock, so he made stock. Delicious. Since stock isn’t necessarily a standard cooking item in our house, I took note of the steps he took and wanted to share a little bit about what you might do with a leftover turkey carcass.
Turkey Stock
Grab the biggest stock pot you have. After carving the turkey, add it to the pot. Take as many of the vegetables left in the bottom of the roasting pan and put them in the pot as well. Add water and any bouillon you have in the cupboards you want to get rid of (the leftover turkey ingredients will enhance the flavor of the broth. Let it simmer on the stovetop for a few hours (we played some Sequence and Rummikub while the broth was going). I think we ended up making several quarts of broth – I made a soup for us while I was still home and then brought some frozen broth back with me and left some with my parents.

Turkey: Crossing It Off My Cooking Bucket List

There are a lot of things on my Cooking Bucket List. Some of them are things I have accomplished and with which I have succeeded. Others of them are things I have tried and failed miserably while doing. Back in October, I decided I really wanted to make a turkey. Since it was only going to be a few members of my immediate family for Thanksgiving and my parents were spending every night in the hospital with my sister in the months of October and November, I said I would make our Thanksgiving dinner.

turkey 2 turkey 3 turkeyThe day before Thanksgiving, I was preparing to head home to potentially make a small Thanksgiving dinner for my parents and me, but my sister was transported to a different hospital, so my turkey-cooking dreams were passed for Thanksgiving. I was not that disappointed because I spent the holidays with my family and that’s where we needed to be. However, by the time Christmas came around and we still had not cooked that turkey, my dad and I decided to cook the turkey together.

I had been scouring the interweb for most of the fall, searching for the perfect recipe, and I found a great one over at the Multiply Delicious blog. It’s one of several on my Google Reader, where I track different blogs that I read consistently. Labeled the Best Thanksgiving Turkey Brine, I was excited to try it. We had never brined a turkey before and the reports from a couple of my relatives was that the brines they had tried made the turkey so salty. This one does not have much salt in it and seems to really focus on seasoning the turkey through the brine, instead of merely salting it. We had hoped to smoke the turkey on the Green Egg, but the day was just too cold to cook something that big. If you haven’t been to the site before, you should go over just to see how beautiful her turkey looks! I don’t have a photo of my turkey uncarved, but it wasn’t quite as beautiful 

We made a few adjustments to the turkey recipe posted on Multiply Delicious. I was not able to get all of the fresh herbs I wanted to at the grocery store in my small town, so we ended up baking it in the oven. It took a little longer than the recipe calls for to cook our 13 lb turkey, so when I do this again, I’ll likely raise the temperature to 325 degrees. I even got to practice carving the turkey. I doubt I’ll ever have the presentation skills to carve it at the table, but I did okay 

I’ve posted the entire recipe and noted how I modified it for dried herbs and such. We decided this was definitely a keeper and worth the effort beyond our usual turkey preparation.

Thanksgiving Turkey Brine
1 – 12-16 pound turkey (neck and giblets removed and discarded – we kept the neck in)
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced (I used 3 tsp of minced, jarred garlic)
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 sprigs each rosemary, thyme and sage (I used a healthy shake of each of the herbs – maybe 1 ½ Tbsp??)
6 sprigs Italian parsley (I used 2 ½ -3 Tbsp)
1/2 cup iodized salt
3 gallons cold water
One day before baking turkey, prepare brine. Combine all brine ingredients. Place the turkey in extra large brine bag (I used a Reynolds turkey bag in a 5 gallon bucket) and pour brine over turkey submerging it. Place in a cooler surrounded by ice in your hopefully cold garage or if you have room, in your refrigerator. Let turkey sit in brine for 12 to 24 hours (I brined ours for about 18 hours). Remove turkey from brine; dry off turkey with paper towels. Discard brine.

Thanksgiving Turkey Preparation
Inside the turkey:
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 apple, sliced into wedges
1 orange, sliced into wedges
4 garlic cloves, peeled, whole (this again was 4 tsp of minced, jarred garlic)
Under the Bird:
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot. diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, whole (I used 3 Tsp of jarred, minced garlic)
3 sprigs each of sage, rosemary, thyme (Here I used 1 ½ tsp sage and thyme; I had enough fresh rosemary for this)
6 sprigs Italian parsley (I used around 4 tsp of dried parsley)
3 bay leaves
On the Bird:
4 tablespoons ghee, sliced into pats – plus 1 more tablespoon (I used butter)
5 cups low sodium free-range chicken broth
2 tablespoons rosemary, diced
1 tablespoon honey (optional—I used this and it added a nice flavor!)
sea salt and black pepper to season

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. (Next time I would do 325 degrees)
Brine turkey as instructed above. Salt and pepper the brined turkey and cavity. Fill the cavity with carrots, celery, apple, orange, and garlic; bind the legs with kitchen twine (Mine was pretty well contained, so I didn’t need to do this).
In a large roasting pan, spread onion, carrot, celery, garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley and bay leaves. Place the turkey on top of the bed of vegetables and herbs.
Put ghee on turkey, or between skin and breast meat (or a combo of both). I usually melt the ghee slightly if I place on the outside of the turkey. (I rubbed about a tablespoon of butter on the skin of the turkey)
Place the turkey in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Pour half the chicken stock over turkey; roast an additional 45 minutes. Pour remaining stock over turkey and roast 45 more minutes; it will start turning golden brown. Baste with pan juices. (I had never basted a turkey before, either, since we usually use turkey bags – it was awesome!)
In a small bowl, mix together honey, rosemary, and 1 tablespoon melted ghee (butter). With a pastry brush, brush mixture on the turkey.
Cover loosely with foil and roast an additional 45 minutes. When the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165 or 175 degrees, remove from oven, keep covered and let rest at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Transfer to platter and serve.

I did not do a the gravy, because we made turkey stock, but I think this looks delicious as well!
For a simple gravy:
From the bottom of the roasting pan, discard herbs and measure out 1 cup of vegetables and 3 cups of pan juices; puree in a blender or food processor. To thicken, add more vegetables; to thin add more pan juices. Pour through a mesh strainer to make smooth gravy.

Soup Swap 2013

I’m planning a Soup Swap!

On the Snow Day I mentioned a little while ago, I decided to plan a Soup Swap for my colleagues once we returned to campus. It’s a couple weeks away now, but I thought I’d post about it, since I think it will be a lot of fun. Winter has officially arrived – both in terms of snow and temperature. With the return of students around the corner and the start of my classes coming up, stocking the freezer is a logical option and trying to find variety while cooking on my own can be a little bit difficult. Here’s the invite I sent out (copied greatly from another soup swap’s instructions). By the way, you’ll read that January 21 is Soup Swap Day, so here’s your chance to plan a swap before the we get too close to it!

As winter demonstrates it has arrived, I thought it would be fun to do a soup swap, where we can enjoy some snacks and beverages, share soup recipes, and share some soup before we get too far into the start of the academic year.

Since The Big Event is Saturday night and National Soup Swap Day is officially the 21st, the 20th seems like a great day to do this.

How it works:
1. You reply to the invite
2. You make 6 (six) individually frozen quarts of homemade soup — you may need to double your soup recipe to obtain enough soup, beware (commons sizes: ziploc quart plastic containers, bags, jars, yogurt, etc)
3. On the 20th, you come to Gwen’s house, and bring your soup.
4. Enjoy some quality time with other people.
5. Be ready to pitch your soup
6. Draw a number
7. Take turns picking soups to take home with you
8. Enjoy more quality time with other people.
9. Head home.
10. Later, enjoy the six new soups you took home with you.

A few notes:
If you are partnered, have guests in town, or are otherwise interested in inviting more people, go for it. If you bring 12 quarts between you, you take 12 quarts home. It’s as easy as that!

Make sure to label your soup

If you send the recipe for your soup, I will compile them and send them out following the exchange

I’d recommend thinking about storing in a freezer ziploc bag and laying flat to freeze — it will take up less room in everyone else’s freezer later.

Orange Scented Green Beans

Well, now that we’re part way into January, I suppose we should add a little more green into our diets, huh? This is yet another recipe from the holidays – I’m down to the last few, but I was making new recipes and it was a reason to write things down and take pictures, so I’m going forward with them. For the holiday gathering with some extended family, I made these green beans, using some green beans which were found in the freezer. The recipe turned out well – I would definitely cut in half if only using 1 lb of green beans, as the orange flavor was quite extensive.
orange scented green beansOrange-Scented Green Beans
2 lb green beans
Zest of one orange
Juice of one orange
Olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spread green beans on the sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, orange juice, and orange zest. Sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper and sea salt. Bake for about 20 minutes or until green beans are cooked-through and heated.

Breakfast Hash

Over Christmas, we often find a need to use up several different leftovers in order to make room for the big meals we make with all-too-much frequency. One morning, after making the roasted squash recipe I shared a couple of days ago, we had part of a squash which had not fit on my pan for roasting. I also found some leftover ham, parts of red and green peppers, and so I decided to make up a breakfast hash to serve three of us who needed to eat breakfast and wanted to get rid of a few things in the refrigerator.

breakfast hashBreakfast Hash
½ onion, chopped
½ green pepper, chopped
½ red pepper, chopped
1/3 butternut squash, cubed
Ham, diced
Melt butter in a sauté pan on top of the stove, at low- to medium heat. Once butter has melted, add the onion, caramelizing. Once the onion is caramelized, add peppers to soften. Add ham to start melting the fat in the ham, and add the squash to begin cooking. Cook about 20 minutes, stirring on occasion, until the squash is cooked-through. Sprinkle about ¼ tsp of each seasoning at the end of cooking. In retrospect, I would not use the thyme, as the savory flavor in my breakfast food was not appreciated, by either my parents or me. I’ll keep tweaking this recipe and post updates in the future!

Roasted Squash

I do not think I have shared much about my family over the past few months, but my sister spent a lot of time in the hospital between early October and early December. We think it was 26 days, if we add them all up. She was at three different hospitals, and is home and healthy at this point. As a result of her different procedures, however, she is on a soft food diet. This meant that my other sister and I ended up bringing home different sweets to eat during the holidays, as Brenda is also sugar-restricted for the time being. And, as we planned each of the different meals, we planned to eat soft foods. Beyond the Pear Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe I shared a few days ago, we ate a lot of squash. I even joked that it felt like Iron Chef and for each meal the secret ingredient was squash.

I made this recipe two different times throughout the week when I was home. The first time it cooked great and the second time I baked at a higher temperature, which caused the squash to burn a bit. Thinking about some of the different tastes I enjoy and seasonings which have been part of my squash recipes, and looking to see what was in the cupboards at my parents’ house, I made this recipe.

roasted squashRoasted Squash
1 butternut squash
Olive oil
Coarse ground black pepper
Sea salt
Chili powder
Curry powder
Peel and dice the butternut squash. Line a baking sheet with foil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle the squash with oil. Sprinkle with pepper, salt, chili powder, and thyme. Then lightly sprinkle with curry powder.
Bake for 1 hour, turning squash halfway through.