Monday, January 13, 2014

Souped up Ratatouille

This is becoming a broken record, so I might as well say it again, "I have the best network of internet cooking friends who are always inspiring me with their creations." Sometimes it's a burger or dessert or a casserole or dip. But tonight it was Susan B's Ratatouille Soup with Sausage and Tortellini. Her recipe is posted on JAP and the minute I saw this dish of loveliness I knew I'd be making it. Doesn't that bowl of veggies, pasta, meatballs and tomatoes look like a little bit of heaven? And best of all, it's a quick soup. I altered her recipe ever so slightly by adding my fav Old Bay Seasoning, a few red pepper flakes and the addition of mini chicken meatballs (instead of the sausage) and I'm thrilled with the results. Hearty and Healthy is what I was looking for, and that's exactly what I got!

Ratatouille Soup with Tortellini and Chicken Meatballs
Makes maybe 6 servings

4 T olive oil
1 medium onion diced
1 small green pepper diced
1 medium zucchini diced
1 small eggplant diced
4 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp oregano
1-1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 28 oz jar Marinara sauce (I used Newman's Own Roasted Garlic and Pepppers)
32 ounces fat free/lower sodium chicken broth

1/2 pound ground chicken
3 cloves garlic grated
1 large egg beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 12 oz frozen bag Tri-Color Cheese tortellini

Ready to cook? I'm ready to re-live the experience and imagine the aromas in my kitchen. Let's get to it. Dice all vegetables and garlic.

In large pan on stovetop, add your olive oil and heat on medium low. Add your veggies, but not the garlic just yet. Cook a few minutes until veg starts to soften. Now add the garlic, salt, pepper, Old Bay and oregano. If you like a little heat, add a 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes. You know I did. Cook another 5 minutes.

When the vegetables are softened and seasoned (don't let them get mushy), it's time to add the liquid. Pour in your marinara.  Then your broth. Increase heat to a low simmer and cook while you make the mini meatballs.

To make the meatballs, combine beaten egg, bread crumbs, salt, pepper and grated garlic. When incorporated into a smooth mixture add the chicken and mix well. Start forming your mini meatballs abour 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. Drop them into the broth/marinara/vegetable liquid and cook about 5-7 minutes. They are so tiny they cook in no time. Now add the tortellini. Keep the soup at a simmer and they will be done in 3-5 minutes. Ladle up and serve. I hope you enjoy!

Thanks for a great recipe Susan. I'll be making this often, and hopefully others will too. It's a another tasty way to get through these winter months.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Dark Chocolate Ricotta Cake, yummmmm

I've been updating and improving my chocolate ricotta cake since I first made it and posted it a little over 4 years ago and realized I never kept up with the changes. So happy new year all, it's time to make this yummy, simple cake and celebrate 2014. I made this Saturday night and as I normally do, I've cut some calories and have a decadent little dessert that I'm excited to share with you. If you've never tried a ricotta cake, all I can say is it's creamy on the inside and just a tad crunchy on the top. It's my kind of dessert, hope you like it too. 

Dark Chocolate Ricotta Cake
use a large loaf pan

2/3 cup AP flour
2/3 cup old fashioned oats ground in spice grinder or food processor
1/3 cup dark baking cocoa (I've been very pleased with Hershey's)
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter softened
1-1/2 cups Splenda no calorie sweetener (regular sugar will work as well)
15 oz part skim ricotta cheese at room temp
3 large eggs at room temp
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tsp instant coffee diluted in 1/4 cup boiling water, then cooled
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Prep your loaf pan with cooking spray and pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Set loaf pan aside and get your dry ingredients together. In a medium size bowl sift flour, ground oats, dark cocoa, baking powder and salt. When you're sifting the oats, you'll end up with some of the hull from the grain. Discard it, it's just a tablespoon or two. Set aside your dry ingredients and let's get to the moist.

In large bowl mix butter and sugar for about 2 minutes until combined. Add the ricotta, coffee and vanilla. Now add the eggs.

Mix until your batter is a little curdled looking. Not pretty at this point, but we're getting there.

Time to add the dry ingredients. I do this in two batches and then add the chips and by mix them by hand.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees and then lower temp to 325 and bake another 45 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan. This is a very rich cake, so I didn't glaze it or even dust it with powderd sugar, but you could certainly do that. Or a dollop of whipped cream would be nice. If you've never tried a ricotta cake before, this is a great introduction to baking with cheese.  Simple and simply delicious.