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Sausage, Bean, and Rapini Soup

I’d be lying if I claimed to love soups. It’s not that I don’t like soup. There are several soups that I enjoy quite a bit, most notably French onion soup (smothered with cheese, of course) and New England Clam Chowder. Homemade chicken soup with orzo or any type of seafood bisque are high on my soup list too. I guess I just don’t really think too much about soup. I never crave it. I rarely get the itch to make it. This is my own loss.

But, on a rare and sudden impulse, I got it in my head that yesterday was a perfect day for soup. I went back to a recipe which I shared with you a few months ago; a Ragout of Sausage, Beans and Rapini. With a few simple adjustments, I turned that ragout into a simple and insanely flavorful soup. I’m pretty sure they should put a picture of this soup next to the definition of comfort food.

This quick and easy soup is bursting with flavor and oozing in nutritional value. You can really feel good about eating this soup. Rapini, also known as Rappi or Broccoli Raab, is one of those bitter greens which is dripping in vitamins and minerals. Combined with savory, spicy sausage and creamy cannellini beans, this simple soup will have you singing.

Sausage, Bean, and Rapini Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
  • 1.5 pound Spicy Italian Sausage, removed from casings
  • 1 1-pound bunch Rapini/Rappi
  • 2 15-ounce cans Cannellini Beans
  • 1 quart Chicken Broth
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the sausage meat. Cook for 7-8 minutes, until the sausage is fully cooked, using a spoon to break up the pieces as it cooks. Pour in the liquid from the cans of beans. Cut off the tough ends of the rapini, then chop the stalks and leaves into small chunks. Add the chopped rapini and chicken broth to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, until the rapini leaves are wilted and the stalks are slightly tender. Add the beans to the soup and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and crushed red pepper, as desired.

Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a hunk of doughy French bread.

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White Garlic Lasagna

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For as much as I love food and all things food-related, there are whole worlds of food content that I’m entirely clueless about. Take, for example, the presence of a food blogging community. Prior to beginning my own blog, I had no idea that such a community of like-minded individuals existed. I emphasize the word, community, because it truly describes the support and camaraderie which exists amongst this group of food-lovin’, food-writing, food-photo-taking people.

And it’s through this group of food-focused people, that a whole other world of food knowledge has been opened for me. I’m talking about the world of food holidays; national days of observance devoted to food. Take, for example, September 26, which is National Corned Beef Hash Day or October 8 which is National Fluffernutter Day. And you can bet your bippy I’ll be celebrating National Bagels and Lox Day when February 9 rolls around. I found out, only after reading another food blogger’s blog, that yesterday was National Watermelon Day. I did an inner dance of joy for the accidental appropriateness of yesterday’s Watermelon Roll post. Then I started probing around for more information about food holidays, cause I’m all over the idea of celebrating food. And I found this link, with a comprehensive list of food holidays.

Turns out that today is Nationa Lasagna Day. How in the world is a girl supposed to let a special day like this go by without a little celebration? So, tonight I’m making a lasagna inspired by my favorite kind of pizza in the whole world; white garlic. My husband and I clash heads on this topic almost every time we order pizza. He asks what kind of pizza I want. I say White Garlic. He says Bleh. Occasionally he’ll agree to a garlic pizza, as long as we add some crumbled sausage on top. But I could eat white garlic pizza every time and never miss the tomato sauce.

You won’t miss the tomato sauce in this lasagna either. For the sauce, I made a basic white sauce, with the addition of minced garlic and a bit of asiago cheese. I could eat bowls full of this garlicky sauce as if it were soup. It would be seriously fantastic over pasta. Then, I threw a bit more garlic in the spinach mixture so the lasagna is absolutely oozing with garlic. For my hubby, I added some spicy Italian sausage to the lasagna, but it would totally work without it. I truly love how this lasagna came out. It’s like having a slice of garlic pizza, between noodles of lasagna.

Happy National Lasagna Day!

White Garlic Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 3 Hot Italian Sausages
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 box No-Boil Lasagna Noodles
  • 1 1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded*
  • 1/2 cup Fontina Cheese, shredded
  • For the Spinach Mixture

    • 1 16 oz package Frozen Chopped Spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
    • 1 15 oz container Ricotta Cheese”
    • 2 tsp Garlic, minced
    • 1/4 tsp Salt
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten

    For the Garlic Sauce

    • 3 Tbsp Butter
    • 1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
    • 3 Tbsp Flour
    • 2 cups Milk”
    • 1/2 cup Asiago Cheese, shredded
    • 1/2 tsp Salt
    • 1/8 tsp Cayenne
    • Pinch of Nutmeg

    *Reduced fat cheeses and milk would work fine with this recipe.

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Remove the sausage meat from the casings. Add the sausage meat to the hot skillet and cook until fully-cooked, using a spoon to break it into small pieces. Set the cooked sausage aside.

    Combine the spinach with the ricotta cheese, minced garlic, and salt. Stir in the lightly beaten egg. The egg will help to bind the spinach-ricotta mixture.

    In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the 1 Tablespoon minced garlic to the butter. Cook for about two minutes. Add the flour to the mixture and stir. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes, until the milk begins to thicken. Turn down the heat. Add the asiago cheese, salt, cayenne, and nutmeg. Stir to combine.

    Spread a very thin layer of the sauce into the prepared baking dish. Lay 3 no-boil lasagna noodles over the sauce. Spread half of the spinach mixture on top of the noodles. Sprinkle with half of the sausage. Drizzle with about a third of the sauce. Lay 3 more lasagna noodles on top. Spread the other half of spinach mixture. Sprinkle the other half of sausage. Drizzle another third of the sauce. Lay 3 more lasagna noodles on top. Drizzle with the remaining third of sauce. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and fontina cheeses. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake for 10-15 more minutes, until the top begins to brown. Remove from the oven and wait 5 minutes before cutting.

    White Garlic Lasagna

    Brunch to BBQ – Meal #2

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    The brunch was a fantastic success, but I must admit that there was a point just post-brunch, when I seriously questioned my grand plan of throwing a party consisting of two separate meals. I mean, after the brunch, I didn’t think any of us would ever be hungry again. Half of us lay paralyzed in a food coma, while the kids climbed all over us and added props to our slumber. The other half was entranced by the steady hum of vuvuzelas while watching the world cup game.

    My sister, in a post-brunch food coma

    But we managed to peel ourselves off the floor and head outside to play a few games and enjoy the post-rain cool temperature. Eventually, there came a time where we could see another meal in our future.

    The weather forecast had been predicting scattered storms throughout the day, so I planned to make sausages with roasted peppers and onions, figuring that if the weather were nice, we’d fire up the grill for the sausages and if it rained, I’d roast them in the oven. Around the time we were ready to eat, the weather was holding steady and dry. But out of sheer laziness, we decided to roast them in the oven anyway. Our menu consisted of the Roasted Sausage, Peppers, and Onions on rolls with provolone cheese, corn on the cob, and a pasta salad courtesy of my sis.

    Here are the details and a few recipes from our Brunch to BBQ Meal #2…

    Roasted Sausage, Peppers, and Onions


    Ingredients

    • 6 Italian Sausages, hot or mild
    • 3 Bell Peppers, sliced
    • 2  Onions, sliced
    • 1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
    • 1-2 Hot Cherry Peppers, chopped
    • 2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut each sausage in half. (This will allow the sausages to release some of their yummy juices into the pepper and onion mix.) Combine sausages, sliced bell peppers and onions, chopped cherry peppers, and garlic in a baking dish.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Toss to combine. Bake in the oven for about 45-60 minutes, until the sausages are fully cooked and lightly browned. The peppers and onions should be soft, but not mushy. Toss the mixture every 10-15 minutes to ensure that the sausages brown on all sides.

    Enjoy on a roll with a slice of provolone cheese.

    Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad

    My sister brought along a Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad. The recipe comes from the Food and Wine section of the NBC Today show’s website. You can find the recipe for Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad by clicking here. My sister added slices of turkey pepperoni, which were a nice touch. This pasta salad can be served chilled or at room temperature, which makes it a perfect party dish!

    Steamy corn on the cob...for 25 cents a cob, you can't beat it!

    Round 2 Results: The Food - 0 The Gourmand Mom - 2

    Brunch – It’s the meal that comes with a Mimosa

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    There’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And then there’s BRUNCH, the meal that comes with a Mimosa. Sign me up for that one! I do love a good, hearty brunch! Aside from enjoying my darling breakfast at lunch time, brunch usually means good times with good friends and family.

    Yesterday, we hosted our first Brunch to BBQ party. And it was a fantastic success, though we never actually fired up the grill. We started with a wonderful brunch and several Mimosas. Then, we lied around on the living room floor until we felt like we could move again, watched a bit of the World Cup and then headed outside for a few games of Polish Horseshoes. My sister whipped up a batch of margaritas and the festivities continued. Later in the day, we enjoyed dinner and then relaxed in the backyard until it was time to sleep. A great day!

    Here are a few details on the brunch…

    Eggs Benedict

    Eggs Benedict

    Ingredients

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Toast English muffins in a toaster. Place on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm while you assemble the other components. In a skillet over medium high heat, cook each slice of Canadian Bacon for a minute or two on each side, until it is hot and slightly browned. Place one slice on each English muffin in the oven to keep warm. Poach the eggs, according to the procedure shown here. Hold the eggs in the cold water bath while you prepare the hollandaise sauce (Recipe here). Prepare the hollandaise sauce and keep it warm above a bowl of warm water. Reheat the eggs by gently placing them in a pot of barely simmering water for about a minute. Remove the eggs and dry on a paper towel. Place one egg on each English Muffin. Top with a spoonful of hollandaise sauce. Serve immediately.  Serves 4


    *As a little variation, use smoked salmon in place of the Canadian Bacon. Just don’t cook the salmon or put it in the oven!

    Salmon Eggs Benedict

    Brunchy Beverages

    Brunch and Mimosas go hand in hand. Bellinis are another brunchilicious option. Both Mimosas and Bellinis are champagne cocktails. Mimosas mix orange juice with champagne while Bellinis traditionally combine champagne with peach nectar. About 2 ounces of fruit to 4 ounces of champagne should do the trick. Substitute other fruit nectars to make your own variation. For a non-alcoholic option, use ginger ale or sparking cider instead of champagne.

    Mango Bellini

    Homemade Cream Cheese with Bagels

    Make your own flavored cream cheese by softening cream cheese and adding your own flavors. For today’s brunch, I made scallion cream cheese by mixing in a bunch of chopped green onions and an olive cream cheese using a mix of chopped olives. Sliced Spanish olives with pimento would work great too! After you stir in your flavoring, put the cream cheese back in the refrigerator to cool before serving. A few other ideas for homemade cream cheese flavors: Smoked Salmon, Strawberry, Veggie, Blueberry, Honey-Nut, Roasted Garlic, Sun-dried Tomato, Maple, Cinnamon Apple, Cherry Almond, Spicy Pepper.

    Homemade Cream Cheese

    Breakfast Pizza

    Breakfast Pizza

    My sister treated us to her breakfast pizza, which as she explains, is based off of a breakfast pizza she saw offered at a Hess gas station. Imagine my surprise! Basing a dish off of something you saw at a gas station?? I suppose food inspiration can come from anywhere! I may base my next Beef Wellington off of Hess’ food offerings. All kidding aside, this pizza is delicious. It’s easy to put together and makes a great dish for guests.

    Ingredients

    • 1 Prepared Pizza Crust (my sister uses a whole wheat crust)
    • 1/2 pound Bacon
    • 1 1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
    • 6 Eggs
    • 1/4 cup Milk
    • 1/4 cup Cheddar, shredded
    • Salt and Pepper

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Allow bacon to drain. Then, crumble it into small pieces. Reserve bacon grease. Whisk the eggs together with the milk. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and then cook in a pan until scrambled. Set aside. Brush the pizza crust with a bit of the bacon grease. Sprinkle about a cup of the mozzarella cheese over the crust. Top with the scrambled eggs and bacon. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and the cheddar cheese on top. Season with a bit of pepper. Bake for about 8-10 minutes.

    Breakfast Casserole

    Sarah's Breakfast Casserole

    A good friend brought along a breakfast casserole, a delicious mix of eggs, cheese, bread, and sausage. She explained that ever since she enjoyed this dish at a friend’s house, it’s been her go-to breakfast recipe. It’s a great all-in-one breakfast dish that’s perfect for a crowd. My mother in law makes a similar casserole, but she uses peppers and onions too. They’re both delicious. I’ll have to get the recipes to share with you soon!

    Part 1 of our day was perfect!  The food, the drinks, and the company were all amazing.

    Round 1 Results: Food - 0 The Gourmand Mom - 1

    To be continued…

    Ragout of Sausage, Cannellini Beans and Rapini with Homemade French Bread

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    Ever feel like life sort of gets away from you?  You’ve got it all under control and then all of sudden everything around you is in complete disarray? The sheets all need to be changed, there’s something sticky on the kitchen floor, a pile of overdue thank you notes are waiting to be written, and tumbleweeds of dog hair are rollin’, rollin’ rollin’ across the living room floor. You know what I’m talking about? Makes my heart pound just thinking about it.  I’m having one of those days right now.  It’s been coming for a while.  So, today I’ve decided to slow down a bit and catch up with life, get my physical and mental space back in order so I can breathe easily again.

    On days like this, it’s nice to have leftovers in the freezer to reheat for dinner. But, in the absence of leftovers, I have a wonderful, simple and delicious recipe to share with you. I was flipping through the channels one day, when I caught the sound of Jacques Pepin’s irresistible French accent. I paused to listen for a bit as he put together his Ragout of Broccolini, Beans and Sausage. It looked so delicious that I immediately ran a search online and found the recipe. There’s even a video at the link, where you can watch Jacques Pepin prepare the recipe along with some other yummy stuff. (Go to about 14:00 on the video for the ragout.) I’ve made this recipe a few times now and it never disappoints. It’s nearly impossible to mess up, so don’t stress too much about the measurements.  A little extra sausage or an extra can of beans is all good.  This ragout is a bit spicy, so if you’re making it for kids or you don’t prefer spicy foods, go ahead and use a mild sausage!

    Ragout of Sausage, Cannellini Beans and Rapini

    A ragout is basically a main-dish stew; pure and simple comfort food. Jacques Pepin’s recipe calls for broccolini, which is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. Broccolini is almost always available in my supermarket.  But, as fate would have it, there was no broccolini available this morning, which left me faced with a substitution issue. There are actually quite a few options, which I think would make suitable substitutions for the broccolini in this dish.  Broccoli, spinach, kale, or escarole would all be delicious.  I chose to use rapini, also known as broccoli raab.  It has a flavor similar to a bitter broccoli, though it’s actually most closely related to the turnip. It’s absolutely bursting with flavor and nutritional value. Blanching rapini in boiling water for just two minutes before adding to the ragout can help reduce some of its bitterness.

    Serve this dish with a loaf of hot, crusty bread!

    Speaking of hot, crusty bread…

    I had the itch to try something new today (in between changing sheets and chasing dog hair tumbleweeds), so I searched around for a recipe for French bread. I’m a total novice when it comes to making bread. So, I bought a French baguette, just in case. When I got home, I threw on my beret (ok, not really) and went about mixing the dough. It seemed way too runny at first.  I was tempted to veer from the recipe and add more of the flour/salt mixture. But, I figured I’d stay the course and see what happened. I didn’t actually believe it would rise. I covered it with a towel anyway and went about my chores. Lo and behold, three hours later, there was a fluffy dough waiting for me.

    Dough after 1st rising

    As directed, I added the remaining flour/salt mixture and began kneading the dough.  It was much stickier than I’d anticipated.  My three year old asked me why I was so angry at “that thing”.

    Dough after kneading

    Flour Fingers

    Again, I found myself doubting whether this was really going to work.  I covered the dough and waited again.

    Dough after 2nd rising

    After an hour had passed, I formed my sticky dough into long loaves, waited the specified 20 minutes, and popped them in the oven.

    Bread baking, over a bowl of water

    I held my breath for 25 minutes.  Then, opened the oven, inhaled the aroma of freshly baked French bread, and retrieved my hot, delicious prize. Perfectly crusty on the outside. Soft and doughy on the inside.

    Fresh baked bread

    Bon Appetit!

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