As with most folks, when it gets cold, me and the poodles want to hunker down and stay warm. All balled up in our slanket (we have a knock-off Snuggie, so I call it a "slanket," i.e., a blanket with sleeves) and trying to keep our collective teeth from chattering.
Soup seems to be the ticket for keeping warm, too, and I've been doing a helluva lot of soup making for the last couple of weeks. And it all started with a big ol' bag of kale, some lentils, and some Italian sausage.
A few months ago, I made a wonderful sausage and lentil stew in the slow cooker. Try as I might, I cannot find the recipe that I used. I know that I got it on line somewhere, and I must have worked directly from the screen and didn't save it or print it out. Annoys me to no end when I do stupid stuff like that.
Anyway, I went searching around the Internets to find something similar and managed to kluge together this concoction for your dining pleasure:
Lentils with Italian Sausage and Kale
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1 cup lentils
1 medium onion, chopped
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced
Italian seasonings (I used the Italian Spice Grinder of Doom)
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 quart chicken stock
2 cups water
2-3 cups chopped kale (I eyeballed this by grabbing 3 good-size handfuls out of the bag)
Place a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once the pan and oil are hot, add the sausage and sauté for 3-4 minutes, breaking it up into small pieces--you can use a fork or even a whisk to break it up.
To the browning sausage, add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, the Italian seasonings (about 3-4 good cranks if you are using the grinder), and the tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, coating the sausage with the tomato paste.
Add a little of the stock to deglaze the pan, then add the rest of the stock and 2 cups of water. Turn the heat up to high and bring up to a bubble. Add the lentils and the kale, stir until the kale wilts in then turn the heat down to medium and simmer 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
Server with the obligatory crusty bread, and I threw some shredded Parmesan on top of my bowl...you know how I feel about cheese, so this should not be a surprise to anyone.
I froze some of this soup for another day and to feed the poodle sitter when she comes. I had plenty of leftover kale and some leftover Italian sausage, so the next evening, I sauteed the sausage with some mushrooms and onions and garlic, threw in some kale and added it to a pot of Israeli couscous. This little number was part of the "you need to use the stuff that lives in your pantry sometime this millennium...and OMG, why do I have 6 boxes of Israeli couscous, 3 bags of arborio rice, and a bajillion other bags/boxes of pasta/grain-type things?" I thought I should get on the stick and use some of this stuff.
Along the lines of the pantry raiding, I've discovered that you can pretty much make a meal with a package of refrigerated cheese ravioletti or tortellini, a quart of chicken stock, a can of diced Italian tomatoes, and a can of beans...cannellini, kidney, even fava beans. Then, all you need is a nice Chianti. Ha. Heat the chicken stock, throw in the tomatoes, add the pasta, and the beans, a little salt and pepper, and in 20 minutes or, viola! It's soup!
Then, I found a recipe for Italian Wedding Soup that was sort of lighter and possibly healthier for you. I got interrupted in mid-copy from wherever I found it, and I didn't get the original source...was possibly on SlashFood. Anyway, I tweaked it too, and here it is in all it's glory:
Italian Wedding Soup alla the Lighter Side
2 large chicken breast, on the bone
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 small carrots, peeled and diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
1/2 lb Turkey Italian Sausage (this is the lighter part!)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper--2-3 grinds
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (or you could use kale!)
1 cup of cooked acini di pepe (mini star-shaped pasta), or 1 cup orzo, or whatever little tiny pasta shape you happen to have on hand--I used some wee tiny shells.
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups water
Sprinkle the chicken with half the salt. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat and add the chicken, skin side down, half the carrots, celery and onion. Cook 4-6 minutes until the chicken skin begins to brown along with the vegetables. Remove the chicken skin and discard it. This is going to be easier said than done if you try to do it in the pot. Trust me on this. I used tongs and a fork to get the skin off, and I couldn't get it all. My pot was probably not so "light" after all. (You could probably do it with the skin removed, too...make sure it doesn't burn.)
Cover chicken with the chicken stock and water. Bring to a slow boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Add the remaining carrot, celery and onion. (I also threw in a few grinds of the Spice Grinder of Doom here.)
Cook 15 to 20 minutes, skimming any foam from the top once or twice. Cover and turn off the heat. Rest 30 to 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink at the bone. (Watch your pot, and don't let it boil too vigorously...my chicken was a little overdone.)
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the meatballs. Combine the turkey Italian sausage, the grated Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic, pepper, and egg in a large bowl. Mix well and form into small meatballs about the size of a grape.
Remove chicken from broth and set aside to cool. Bring the broth back to a simmer and drop in the meatballs. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until the meatballs are no longer pink inside. Add the spinach.
When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from skin and bones, and cut into small chunks. Return the meat to t he soup along with the meatballs and stir in the pasta remaining salt. Serve immediately...I sprinkled a little shredded Parm on top again.
This makes a lot of soup, and it was a little more time consuming than I first thought--mainly because I kept remaking the meatballs to get them just a little bit smaller. Which is probably why I overcooked the chicken.
Speaking of chicken, the Fat Dog is on a boiled chicken diet as of last week. He stopped eating kibble, and that really scared me. You know--when they stop eating and drinking, it's "time." However, I was eating some leftover rotisserie chicken for lunch and he seemed interested. I gave him a bite, and he ate it and got closer and looked more interested. Gave him the rest and promptly went and bought chicken parts for his dinner.
I tried adding some rice, and he would have none of that. Refused to even look at the chicken while it had rice anywhere near it. The New Hotness and the Goldfish are in high dudgeon, because they aren't getting chicken. I explained that when *they* had a terminal disease, *they* could have whatever they wanted...they still aren't happy with me. The New Hotness knows something is up...he curls up by the Fat Dog during the day and looks at me like I should be doing something, anything to help, because he knows the Fat Dog feels bad. I tell him, honey, I wish I could, I wish that more than anything on the planet.
He has good days and not-so good days, and I figure as long as he's eating his chicken, he's still willing to stick around. And, I'm glad for that, as long as it lasts.