Friday, January 29, 2016

How to Make Quick and Easy "Loaded" Lasagna Soup

Several years ago, I saw the words Lasagna Soup and HAD to read more.  I found Nicole Morrissey's recipe on her lovely blog, Prevention RD, and we probably tried it out the same night, if not the next.

I made variations from the first time I tried this, and I have continued to improve and vary my version of this for a few years now.

I LOVE lasagna and mine is fantastic, but since I have discovered lasagna soup, I don't think I have made real lasagna once.  That's because lasagna is time consuming and makes a real mess by using lots of bowls and dishes, while this is a one pot meal that cooks quickly and is just as delicious.

This soup is definitely one of my family's favorite meals.

The first variation I immediately made to this recipe was to use ground beef.  I prefer this soup with ground beef (chuck, actually), but have made an amazing meatless version of this using farro cooked in stock.  I have also used a combo of lean beef and ground turkey, and last night this soup pictured in photos was made using a 50/50 mixture of chuck and ground pork.  I did not like this near as much and won't add pork into the mix again.

I also added a ton of veggies into the original recipe, to make this more like my lasagna which is also vegetable heavy.  This can certainly be widely varied, depending on what you have that is appropriate on hand.

I brown my meat (or cook farro if I am preparing this without meat) first, and then drain and set that aside.  Then I wipe my pan and add a tablespoon or two of good butter or heat safe oil and gently saute an onion and a bell pepper or two.

 So many delicious dinners begin like this!

You can also use red and/or green onions and any color bells.  Roasted red peppers are delicious in this soup as well.

Once these have cooked and softened a bit, I add a couple of chopped zucchini.

You could also add chopped mushrooms at this point.  I recommend this, for sure, but some silly people in my family refuse to eat mushrooms, so I usually have to leave them out.

After these have softened for a few minutes, I add a lot of minced garlic, about six to ten cloves chopped.  I quickly add salt and spices. I always use my favorite all-purpose seasoning,  Cavender's All Purpose Salt Free Greek Seasoning 7 oz (NO MSG), Himalayan Pink Salt, and I might use ground oregano, ground coriander, and ground cayenne or red pepper flakes.

Then I add in two cans of fire roasted tomatoes.  Last night, I forgot to thaw the frozen spinach so I added it in at this point too.  I had to take a picture, because my soup hadn't looked this pretty at this point before (usually I add spinach later, once I have added stock).

Then I add the browned meat and about two and a half tablespoons of tomato paste, and stir this well.  Then I add two quarts of stock, either beef or chicken or vegetable works well.

After this has simmered for some time, I add fresh chopped herbs if I have them- oregano and/or marjoram, and/or basil if I have that.

Once the soup has simmered for fifteen to twenty minutes, I add twelve ounces of bowtie pasta noodles.  This cooks for ten to fifteen minutes,and then the soup's done.

But don't forget the cheesy goodness!  I mix equal parts whole milk ricotta and shredded cheese.  You can use mozzarella, mozzarella and parmesan, or an italian blend, and lots of black pepper.   Mix well and spoon this at the bottom of the bowls, before ladling soup, or just put a spoonful on top to garnish. Stir the cheesy mix into the soup before eating, and enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Easy Craft Project: Dragonfly Clothespin Clips

Hi, how are ya'll doing?  It has been YEARS since I have posted here, but I thought this easy project would fit nicely here and interest ya'll too.  These dragonfly clips are an easy-peasy, quick, and cute project.  My kids were interested in helping make these, and they loved the results.

These dragonflies work as ornaments for a Christmas or other seasonal tree, happy unexpected decor (I clipped mine to the curtain in my sewing room), fridge magnets, or as a whimsical air freshener for your car, if you add essential oil and clip it to your air vent.  I'm sure you can think of even more clever uses for these cuties.

We made these on the spur of the moment with items we had on hand.  The idea came about quickly when we wanted something pretty to dress up small wrapped gifts for our holiday giving.  I wrapped beautiful small blank books and tiny boxes of chocolates in white paper, tied with gold ribbon, and clipped one of these on top of each package.  All the recipients seemed to really like these cute dragonflies as much as the actual gifts, and they really did make pretty packages.

Dragonfly Clothespin Clips

You will need:
These couldn't be any simpler to make!  Just follow these steps:
  1. Paint your clothespins.  Be sure to paint the inside front and backs, too.  Let dry.
  2. Lay pairs of turquoise, green, and purple colored craft sticks on newspaper or outside. Spray with adhesive, then gently sprinkle glitter to cover.  Let dry
  3. Using a paintbrush, apply wood glue to the center of one of each pair of craft sticks.  Press the other on top of this at perpendicular angles, so that the two wings make an "X" shape.  Let dry.
  4. Use another dab of wood glue atop the clothespin, just behind the spring, and gently affix the pair of wings to the top of the clip.
  5. Attach sequins or googly eyes to the top front of the clothespin with paintbrush and glue. Let dry.
  6. (optional) Glue a small magnet to the underside of the clip.

We have found so many uses for the colored craft sticks that ours are almost all gone!  We used lots of the green ones in various holiday projects, and so I didn't have any green left for illustrating this project here.  I used a pair of yellow, but I don't love the way the yellow looks.  I think the turquoise, purple, and green craft sticks work most nicely for this project.  I gave away all of these that I made with green wings, so I don't have any pictured with green- they were my favorites though!

Be sure to make lots of these because they are perfect on packages and you'll also want some for yourself.  We made a dozen for Christmas and these weren't enough!  My mother-in-law admired the ones we made for my sisters-in-law, and I was sorry that I hadn't made any to adorn her larger package.  So that is why we made these just now, as a gift for her birthday this weekend.  I hope that she will be glad that we did!

Let me know if you make them, and what new uses you find for these happy little friends.  I hope to post more projects here soon.