Baby It’s Cold Outside

It’s the end of February and normally I would be anxiously awaiting spring and warm weather, but since moving to Chicago, I have been informed that apparently February is only the middle of winter, not the end.  I guess here in the Windy City, it is possible to have snow in may.  I shiver just thinking of the possibility.  So I am thoroughly looking forward to eating a big hot bowl of chicken soup tomorrow.  I am also looking forward to having that “at home feeling.”  Chicken soup just always makes me feel “at home.”

I have come to notice that this blog consumes my thoughts.  All week I was thinking about my dinner Sunday night.  I couldn’t wait to go to the grocery store to buy my ingredients,  I was nervous about my first attempt at making homemade noodles, I was anxious for my friends to try the soup, I was excited to just enjoy dinner with my friends and roommates, and I was even more excited to write all about the entire experience.

My weekly creative journey started today when I went to the grocery store.  I was frustrated by my purchases, because I had a hard time finding the ingredients I am used to.  I prefer Hunt’s over any other brand, but for some reason I can never find Hunt’s whole, peeled tomatoes.  This happens almost every time I make this soup, but I am frustrated every single time.  I stand staring at the canned tomato section for at least five minutes and people are starting to become equally frustrated with me for not moving out of their way.  So I finally gave up on my effort to find the perfect cans of tomatoes and bought my second choice brand.  I always can tell a difference in my soup when I use this brand, so before my cooking adventure even begins, I am slowly failing.

So after my frustration slowly starts to fade, I remember my Grandmother’s secret ingredient.  This ingredient is not necessary, and the soup is still amazing without it, but my curiosity becomes peaked again and I make the purchase.  This is not a cheap purchase and the only reason I decided to buy this particular ingredient is because of this blog.  This is my adventure and I allowed myself to splurge!

I also came across a cookbook today while at the grocery store.  My friend, Nikki, summoned me over to a section with cookbooks  that were on sale.  I immediately saw the one I had to have.  William Sonoma “Breakfast.”  I love breakfast.  I could eat breakfast for every single meal.  When I am out for breakfast I can never make a decision on what to order because I want it all.  Lunch and dinner meals I have a harder time ordering because, to be honest, nothing ever really makes my mouth water like a good french toast, a stack of pancakes, or an omelet.  So, I am excited to start making some of the recipes out of my new cookbook and can’t wait to become a great breakfast chef!

Stay tuned for Adventures in the Kitchen with Italian Chicken Soup, my journey in the kitchen tomorrow making homemade egg noodles and chicken soup for my friends!

This is me and my family (minus the soon to be Brother-in-law). I posted this picture because Sunday is always “family day” and since I am missing Sunday dinner at my Grandparents, I thought I would share my family with you!

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Chicken Soup

Growing up, my mom’s chicken soup was by far one of my favorite meals.  My Grandma’s is just as good, but my mom would always separate the vegetables from the soup for me (I wouldn’t touch it if there were vegetables in there) and I never ate my Grandmother’s until I was older and got over my fear of having anything with color and nutrients touch my food.  My mom was the best for going to such extremes for me- it must have been a frustrating thing to do, but she did every single time without fail.

I’ve made this chicken soup many times, but I wanted to share it with all of you.  It is not your ordinary chicken soup.  I think it is more of an Italian chicken soup because the broth of the soup is mostly tomato based and you top it off with some parmesan.  The only thing is, this time, I am going to attempt home-made egg noodles.  This soup is so good you can eat it without any noodles, but I always particularly enjoyed it with egg noodles.  So in order to make this a challenge and to learn something new, I am going to make my own noodles!

I’ve made homemade pasta before while I was living in Italy, but it wasn’t very successful. It tasted more like eating a ball of dough.  So this time ,hopefully, I can figure out a great recipe, so wish me luck!

I don’t have an actual recipe for this soup.  I learned how to make this after years of watching my mother and a few more years of making it with her over my shoulder helping me along the way.  So this recipe may not be exact, and it may take a few times of you making it on your own to perfect it (just giving you a fair warning), but it is WELL worth it!

Italian Style Chicken Soup

1 whole chicken ( I prefer to buy already separated and cleaned)

1 bag whole carrots

1 bag celery

2 large onions

2 medium cans whole tomatoes, peeled (Hunt’s preferably)

1 lb vermicelli or Orzo (any noodle of your preference really)

Clean chicken and put into pot.  Fill pot completely with water.  Add salt.  Slowly bring chicken to a boil (cooking on medium heat) until all fat has come off, skimming continuously.  Do not over boil or chicken will be dry.

While chicken is cooking, peel and clean carrots and cut into small pieces to your liking.  Cut celery.  Cut each onion into 4 pieces (I prefer to keep them larger in order to remove them easily once finished).

When chicken fat has all come off, after about an hour or so, add carrots, celery, and onions.  Squeeze the juice of each tomato into the pot and then add each tomato.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Do not add too much salt because broth will become saltier over time.

While soup is cooking, break up vermicelli into very small pieces (if the pasta is too long it will become stringy in the soup).  If using Orzo or small pasta noodles, skip this step.

Once chicken is fully cooked and comes off the bone easily, remove from soup and remove bones.  I prefer to separate the vegetables from the broth before cooking the noodles.

Cook noodles in broth and serve!  Add parmesan to taste and enjoy!

Success in the Kitchen!

This would have been just as good with some chicken!

After slaving in the kitchen for a little over an hour, my friends and I enjoyed a delicious meal of caesar salad and pasta with Lucia Sauce!  I would declare this kitchen adventure a true success…especially because one of my roommates went back for not seconds, not thirds, but fourths!  I won’t name names, but lets just say she loved the sauce!  I added shrimp to the sauce and it was so good!  My other roommate really doesn’t like shrimp, but since this is all about adventures, she tried one again!  The sauce was a perfect shade of pink, had just the right amount of spice, and was full of flavor.  I used McCormick spices (cl), Hunt’s crushed tomatoes, and De Cecco penne pasta.  I usually go with Barilla, but for the special occasion I opted for De Cecco.  There was only one small – but annoying problem I ran into while making this dish.  My water wouldn’t boil!!  It took almost 30 minutes to get it boiling, and my sauce was finished so it had to sit on the stove longer than I would have liked.  In the end I don’t think it made a difference (I was afraid I was going to over cook it and turn it orange!!)

The dinner was more than a success in the kitchen.  My roommates and I had a great dinner, great company, and good laughs.  It was a really fun dinner and we even had birthday cake left over from Sweet Mandy B’s to enjoy for dessert.  If you have never been to Sweet Mandy B’s then I suggest you walk on down Webster and buy yourself a cupcake because they are d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s.  And the cake was unreal!  Please let me know if you try the recipe and how you liked it!  I would love to hear some feedback!

Lucia Sauce

My first kitchen adventure!

Ingredients:

½ cup Extra Virgin Olive oil

1 medium onion (Chopped)

3 cloves garlic

1 can crushed tomatoes

1 tsp dried basil

1 pint heavy cream

Crushed red pepper to taste

Sauté onions in olive oil until browned.   Add garlic and basil and crushed red pepper.  Sauté until garlic is translucent.  Add tomatoes and cook for simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add cream and bring to a gentle simmer.  (You may add cooked shrimp or chicken at this time.)

Tip: the finished sauce should be pinker than orange.  The longer the sauce cooks, the more orange it becomes.

 

I'm glad someone really did enjoy my cooking!

Fileno al Mirtilio

Fileno al Mirtilio.  I am rendered speechless at the thought of this.  When I lived in Florence there was this restaurant around the corner from my apartment, Aqua al Due, and I fell in love with this place. Seriously, I went every chance I had.  First of all,  I had the best Vodka Sauce of my life there and I have yet to taste a sauce that compares.  If you have a recipe please send it my way, and I will try it, but I don’t think it is possible to get any better than this sauce.  Second,  I tried MY FIRST TOMATO there.  My friend Laura was eating this Caprese Salad and my mouth was watering watching her eat these bright red juicy halves, so she convinced me to try a bite.  I am not kidding – I was 21 and had never had 1 bite of a tomato.  I can’t  even get into detail the difficulties I had getting around eating them, but tomato’s are now probably one of my favorite foods.  And last, but not least,  I tried the Fileno al Mirtilio.

The Fileno al Mirtilio is a filet topped with this gorgeous purple looking sauce.  In english, it is basically called a “blueberry steak.”  At first, you are not sure what to think. The other options are very original (they serve them as a taster platter and there are 3 options), but the balsamic steak does give the Fileno al Mirtilio a run for its money, but comes up short.  I am not going to post this recipe just yet, seeing as I have yet to find a recipe I trust to be as wonderful as the one I had at Aqua al Due on Via Ghibillena, but will continue my search to find a recipe that will be able to at least compare.

I couldn’t resist posting about this steak because it is something I constantly look for on menus and hope to find, only to be disappointed for the last 3 years (ugh I can’t believe it has been that long).  I just wanted to make some mouthes water with the anticipation of the chance to eat a “blueberry steak.”  And some of you might think this does not sound very appetizing, but you are wrong, I promise.

I am heading to the store today to buy all the ingredients for tomorrow nights dinner!  I am excited to be able to share this recipe with my roommates and friends, so stay tuned for pictures and details of my first kitchen adventure!!

Lucia Sauce

So for my first adventure in the kitchen, I thought I would start with a favorite in my family, Lucia sauce.  Growing up, I was the world’s PICKIEST eater, until I traveled to Italy for the first time and my curiosity was peaked by food.  I actually tried Octopus (AH!)!  I am still pretty picky, but I am working on being more open-minded.  The reason I share this with you is because, even though this sauce is named after me,  I have yet to taste it.   It is one of my sisters favorites and my best friend loves it, but being my picky self – I would never eat anything involving peppers!  So here it goes – I will  try this sauce finally at the age of 23.  I just hope it’s as good as my mothers…

Lucia Sauce

½ cup Extra Virgin Olive oil

1 medium onion (Chopped)

3 cloves garlic

1 medium can crushed tomatoes

1 tsp dried basil

1 pint heavy cream

Crushed red pepper to taste

Salt and Pepper to taste

Sauté onions in olive oil until browned.   Add garlic, basil, and crushed red pepper.  Sauté until garlic is translucent.  Add tomatoes and cook on a simmer for about 30 minutes.  Add cream and bring to a gentle simmer.  (You may add cooked shrimp or chicken at this time.)

Tip: the finished sauce should be pinker than orange.  The longer the sauce cooks, the more orange it becomes.

Kitchen Adventures!

Hello everyone!  This is my first post on my first blog! Kind of exciting and a little scary to be honest.  I am starting this blog as a personal quest to ignite my creativity, and fuel my passions in life.  I guess I am starting this blog in order to hold myself accountable for what I do with my life.  One thing I am truly passionate about is cooking.  I come from a long line of amazing people who do amazing things in the kitchen and I do not want that to fade away with my generation.  I come from a large Italian family where EVERYTHING happens in the kitchen.  Some of my greatest memories throughout my 23 years have been in the kitchen with my family – laughing, crying, discussing, learning, and most of all  – cooking!

So, every week I am going to post a new recipe, either a family heirloom or one I have come across and attempt to create mouth watering dishes!  I will do my best to update everyone on my successes (and failures) in the kitchen.  Hopefully, while embarking on this journey, I can make some great memories with the people around me who will get the chance to taste my experiments!