Italian Mini Meatball and Tomato Soup

 

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As much as I love living in Michigan…I gotta say, I am getting really sick of this cold weather. Maybe we’ve just been spoiled the last couple of years, but usually by mid March, 20 degree weather is a thing of the past. Last year, we were blessed with 60 degree temperatures and plenty of sunshine by St. Patrick’s Day. 2013 is a different story. Nowadays I get really excited if it’s above 30 degrees in the middle of the day. And the biggest bummer is that these somewhat frigid temperatures are totally screwing up my running schedule. I know, I know. First world problems. But having to bundle up with layer after layer of under armour is definitely making training for my next race a little less fun. I have a 10K in 3 weeks and am having a hard time fitting in longer distances without having my lungs freeze…or ya know, falling flat on my face and breaking my finger.

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Yeah, that happened. A few weeks ago I slipped on some ice at 6am and wound up with a swollen and purple index finger. But once I got to work, my boss whipped out a makeshift splint for me which obviously left me looking super cool. What can I say? I have a talent for attracting catostrophes. But I must say, the one upside to the cooler temperatures is I’ve had a little more time to try out the warm winter-y recipes I’ve been saving. Like this recipe from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life. This soup is warm and comforting, and thanks to the mini meatballs is total “guy food.” (but it is still pretty healthy) I used medium size shell pasta the first time I made it, but I would recommend using macaroni noodles or mini shells because the pasta does tend to soak up a good amount of the broth. The result is a rich tomato soup perfect for a chilly winter…or spring evening.

Ingredients: Adapted from Sweet Tooth Sweet Life

Mini Meatballs: Makes 40 mini meatballs

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/4 finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Soup

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cans ( 10.5 oz each) lower sodium beef broth
  • 1 can (28 oz) Italian style diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup mini pasta shells or macaroni

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, place all meatball ingredients and mix well until spices are well incorporated (mixing with your hands is the easiest way!)
  2. Roll mixture into 1 inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet, evenly spaced
  3. Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through
  4. In a large soup pot, place 2 teaspoons olive oil and heat over medium heat
  5. Add onions and let cook for 2-3 minutes, or until onions begin to soften
  6. Add garlic and let cook for 1 minute
  7. Stir in broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil
  8. Add in pasta and reduce heat
  9. Cover pot and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until pasta is tender
  10. Stir in meatballs and stir until heated through

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Vegetarian Linguine

Nothing quite says “indulgence” like a heaping bowl of fresh pasta. Yet those oversized portions that we often find in our favorite Italian eateries don’t always fit very well into healthy lifestyles. So what do we do when we’re craving an oversized bowl of noodles but don’t want to sacrifice our healthy eating? We make this dish. This vegetarian “pasta” dish is bursting with the flavors and textures that will satisfy your pasta craving, yet pasta is actually missing from the ingredient list. I recently discovered Pasta Slim Linguine, which is made from fresh spinach. It has the same texture and flavor of traditional linguine, yet only contains about 30 calories per serving. Add this incredibly healthy “pasta” to a mixture of sauteed vegetables and fresh parmesan cheese and you have yourself a deliciously healthy dinner. So go ahead and have as big a bowl as you’d like.

Ingredients: Makes Four 1 cup servings

  • 2 (7 oz) bags of PastaSlim Spinach Linguine (found at Better Health Stores, but regular linguine works fine as well)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons Italian Breadcrumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped finely

Preparation:

  1. Prepare PastaSlim according to package instructions (or substitute regular pasta if desired)
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat
  3. Add garlic and onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until onions are soft, stirring occasionally
  4. Add cherry tomatoes to pan and saute for 5 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and juicy
  5. Add zucchini and saute for an additional 5 minutes, until zucchini is tender
  6. Stir parmesan and breadcrumbs into vegetable mixture, add an additional 1 tablespoon of oil if desired
  7. Toss pasta into pan and stir until well combined
  8. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve

Cannoli Cupcakes

“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” It is that famous line from The Godfather that made me love the movie. Because let’s be honest… why on earth would you let a perfectly good dessert go to waste? I think the Italians just have it right. Food is an important part of Italian life and has always been a defining part of their culture. There are an endless number of Italian proverbs centering around the importance of food, and countless books written about Italian cooking. Maybe that is why I’ve always envied those with Italian roots. The emphasis put on food is something that speaks to me. Cooking with my family is one of my very favorite pastimes. And the time and labor that goes into make homemade pasta or tirimisu is to me an exciting challenge rather than a tedious task. But despite my envy for the Italian heritage…being of Irish descent does have it’s benefits. We get to enjoy the festive Irish music and the signature scones filled with raisins and currants. And then again, there is my Irish mother who often operates like an Italian. In her mind, most ailments are usually a result of being hungry. You have a headache? Go eat something. You’re tired? Go eat something. You might be getting a cold? For goodness sake, go eat something. So maybe the Italians and the Irish aren’t so different. After all, it was Oscar Wilde, a fellow Irishman who said ” I cannot stand people who do not take food seriously.” So to celebrate this worldy love of food, I decided to take a cue from the Italians and make a twist on a classic dessert. These cannoli cupcakes are comprised of a moist vanilla cake filled with the classic ricotta filling found in a cannoli. They can be made in both regular sized cupcakes or as the delectable bite sized minis. Either way, I’m pretty sure Michael Corleone and Oscar Wilde would be  fans.

Adapted from FoodNetwork.com; makes 12 regular, 30 minis

Ingredients:

Vanilla Cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream

Chocolate Chip Cannoli Cream:

  • 16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • Sugar “Ice Cream Waffle Cones”

Fresh Whipped Cream:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preparation:

  1. For the cupcakes: Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt in a medium bowl; set aside
  2. Beat eggs, sugar  & oil together in a large bowl
  3. Beat in vanilla & sour cream until well incorporated
  4. Slowly beat in flour mixture
  5. Scoop batter into cupcake liners and bake at 350 (14 minutes for minis; 20 minutes for regular sized cupcakes)
  6. For the cannoli filling, Beat ricotta & powdered sugar together; stir in vanilla & chocolate chips
  7. After cupcakes have cooled completely, scoop out the center of the cake with a small knife; using a teaspoon, scoop the cannoli filling into the cored out centers
  8. For the whipped topping, beat heavy whipping cream & sugar with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form; using cold beaters & cold heavy cream is best
  9. Place whipped cream into a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes
  10. To garnish, sprinkle with mini chocolate chips and a piece of ice cream cone