Breadsticks and Soup for you!

It’s snowing again today. It’s beautiful. Until it turns brown. So today, before the boy went to work, I made some breadsticks and tortellini sausage soup. It hit the spot. There is nothing like the smell of bread baking on a cold winter’s day. The breadstick and soup recipes are from OUR BEST BITES (www.ourbestbites.com). They are simple and delicious. If you are going to make both, start the bread dough first. It has to rise for 45 minutes. The soup is wonderful and I have made a few changes that add a little richness to it. Please make this soup. Now. Tomorrow. Soon. It’s wonderful. I love to bring it to work for my lunch. I zap it in the microwave and I am brought immediately to a happy place. Don’t look at me.

Breadsticks (and Pizza Dough)

If you’ve never worked with yeast, this is the perfect recipe to start. It’s simple and requires very little attention.

1 ½ cup of warm water (about 110 degrees)

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. instant yeast

½ tsp. salt

3 – 4 ½ cups of flour

In a large bowl, combine 1 ½ cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Pour in the water. If you’re not sure about the temperature of the water, pour cool water into the measuring cup and let it sit for 15 minutes. Cool is better than hot. Hot water will kill the yeast and the bread won’t rise. Cool water will just make the dough take longer to rise. No big deal. Stir the mixture. Gradually add more flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger. Add 1 cup at a time. I usually use almost 4 cups. It depends on whether it’s a humid summer’s day or a dry winter’s day. So add and stir.

Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured surface. I like to use parchment paper. I roll out the dough on it and bake the dough on it. Roll the dough in a rectangle and cut into 12 strips with a pizza cutter or knife.

Roll each piece of dough into a snake and then drape it over your forefinger and twist the dough. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. Don’t worry if they touch. Pulling freshly baked dough apart is wonderful! Cover with towel and let rise for 30 minutes. They get all chubby on you!

When there’s about 15 minutes to go, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Rub some butter on top of the breadsticks by grabbing a stick of butter with the wrapper on, and run up and down the breadsticks. Ohhhh bread and butter. Sprinkle breadsticks with garlic seasoning or powdery Parmesan cheese in a can (really) and garlic salt. Enjoy!

This dough is also perfect for pizza. Follow the directions until the forming of the breadsticks. Instead, I stretch the dough onto a cookie sheet that has olive oil spread on it and cornmeal. That’s how I make my pizza.

Tortellini Sausage Soup

I have made this soup many times. My family likes it. It makes a great meal on winter’s night and many leftovers. The recipe is not complicated, but it takes many, simple steps. As always, read the recipe thoroughly before making it. I strongly suggest that you prep all the veggies and have all the liquids and spices on hand. Being prepared makes cooking easier and more enjoyable. Trust me on this.

1 lb. Italian Turkey sausage – removed from casing

4 cloves of minced garlic

1 large onion, diced

½ cup of water

2 15-oz cans of chicken broth

½ cup of apple cider (I use apple juice)

16 oz. can of diced tomatoes (I prefer the petite diced tomatoes)

8 oz. tomato sauce

1 cup of diced carrots

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 medium zucchini – grated

12 oz. package of frozen cheese tortellinis

2 Tbsp. tomato paste (optional)

1 Parmesan rind (optional)

Heat pan on a medium heat and add enough olive oil to lightly coat bottom of pan. Add onions and begin to sauté them until translucent. Add the sausage that has been removed from the casing. Break it into pieces. You can further chop the sausage, as it cooks, so don’t worry. Let the sausage cook and brown slightly. Add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, juice, water, broth, carrots, oregano, and basil. Cover and simmer for ½ hour. I like to add tomato paste. The original recipe doesn’t call for it, but I like the flavor it adds. I try and freeze any Parmesan rinds I have. They are a great addition to a soup like this one. The rind gives it a little creaminess.

Add the parsley and zucchini and simmer for about 15 minutes. I like to use a box grater for my zucchini.  ImageYou can add a little more or less zucchini if you’d like. It melts into the soup when it’s cooking. Children do not even know it’s there (HINT) I even put in any chunks that I can’t grate. Whoever gets a zucchini chunk can clean up or be rewarded in any way you’d like (winky winky)
Add the frozen tortellini and cook for about 10 minutes. Serve this with bread or breadsticks and freshly grated Parmesan on top. I hope this feeds your soul too!

Image 6

Onions 101

Let’s talk about cutting onions. I cut a lot of onions. A lot. So I would like to take a minute and show you how I cut them. Dice them to be more precise.

First, I like to trim the tip of the onion off, and then cut from the root end to where the tip was.

Image 1

This make is it much easier to remove the skins.

Image 2

Once you remove the skins, you are ready to dice. I like to turn the onion onto the flat side, and make slices from almost the root to the end of the onion.

Image 3

Now I place my palm on the onion and press down, while I cut horizontally towards the root of the onion. I don’t cut all the way to the root, but as close as you can.

Image 4

Depending on the size of the onion, you can make one or two horizontal cuts. Please excuse my peasant hands. Hey, they work just fine. Sorta.

Now you are ready to dice the onion.

Image 5

It’s that simple. I suggest trying if first on a large onion. This is a great technique that saves you time when prepping for cooking.  I hope you try this method.

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