Thursday, February 13, 2014

Semi-Homemade (AKA Fast and Easy) Italian Wedding Soup.

 
Um, brrrr.  It's snowstorm number 497 of this winter.  We've all said it: We've had enough.

I did have to admit, waking up this morning, I romanticized the snowfall a bit.  There's something just really nice about awakening in a snuggly bed to the purity outside; the stillness paired with the glittery detail is something not easily sound elsewhere.

These pictures were taken on my way to work last week the morning after the last snowstorm we had.  This is the kind of snowfall I mean.  Pretty.  Still.  Romantic.


So about 10 minutes into today's snowstorm - into which I only stepped out ONCE - I am totally over it.  It's cold and windy and plain awful.  


 Cold and rain and ick.  Done.

Figured today was just a good a day as any for piping hot soup.  And definitely not the watered-down stuff you find in a can.

 This is a rip-off from Ina Garten's already incredibly-easy Italian Wedding Soup (link).  However, she makes her own meatballs for it.  If I made the time, I'm sure I could do the same and they'd be amazing.  However, when I'm hungry, things have to be ready ASAP.  I definitely recommend checking out the Barefoot Contessa's soup recipe for some really great-sounding, truly homemade chicken meatballs.  I can't vouch for them because I've never had them, but they sure sound good.


Instead, I used these store-bought turkey meatballs, from BJ's (thanks M!), and cut them in half because they're really huge .. and frozen spinach.  Yes, I know.  Trust me, it's okay: it's SUPER cheap, convenient, quick, and just as good in soup as fresh spinach is.



The big selling point of my soup over Ina's?  This should take less than a half-hour to cook - probably even 20 minutes.  Compare that to the one-hour, fifteen minutes of prep time Ina's takes!  And it tastes fully homemade (You do have the option of leaving the meatballs whole - adds to the authenticity of the "homemade" feel).  It's SO fulfilling, and it freezes well.  I even made another pot of it for E's neighbors - it was very well received!


Semi-Homemade Italian Wedding Soup

What You'll Need:
  • 1 lb pre-cooked frozen turkey meatballs (OR: 1/2 lb frozen turkey meatballs, 1/2 lb hot chicken sausage or hot turkey sausage, cooked and cut into bite-size pieces.  This obviously is a variation, and therefore kinda throws the tradition of MEATBALLS ONLY! out the window - along with the time-saving piece due to cooking the sausage beforehand.  However, I made it this way twice before (you'll see sausage in the very first picture on this post) and it's too friggin delicious.  Worth a shot if you're feeling adventurous.
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 10 cups chicken stock (low sodium is better for you, it's true)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars - or, I use the pretty pasta called Gemelli that you see above.  It gets way too bloated as it sits in the soup, but I don't mind.  Most people would, though.  Stick with the small pasta to start.
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill (optional, really effects the taste but in a good way, I believe)
  • 2 packages frozen whole-leaf spinach (18 to 20 oz total)
 What You'll Do:

Take a swig of wine out of the bottle.  Yes, I do this every time I make this soup.  Whatever.

Take meatballs out to defrost on the counter (or nuke in the microwave in Defrost setting for a few minutes.  Do not get them completely hot - just a little warm.  Cut each in half if you'd like.

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot.

Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Take care not to burn the onions, as they will look odd as little brown specks in your soup.

Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil.

Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender.

Tip:  What I do here is take the lid off the large soup pot (now that I got the broth boiling and the pasta's in there) and put it on top of the plate of meatballs.  The heated lid steams up the meatballs just the slightest bit more.

Add the dill and the spinach to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Add the meatballs, and taste for salt and pepper.  Cook for another three to five minutes, until the spinach is fully separated.

Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan.  Serve with a big piece of crusty bread.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Vanilla Apple Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes


It's a dreary day outside.  Forgivingly warm, but still cloudy and taunting with the threat of storms to start Monday morning.  I'm hanging out with Er, watching football, and prepping myself for the work-week ahead.  I get some solace in spending a few hours getting ready for the wave of emails so I'm not surprised first thing in the morning - no one likes those kind of surprises.

I took a quick break between the Eagles (boo) and the Giants (heck.  yes.) just now to catch up on my blog-reading, and hey, it turns out I've hit a milestone I knew was coming but didn't think it would happen so soon.  Especially since I update this thing maybe four times a year, I don't sponsor or advertise, and really only keep it alive to prevent my creative-writing skills (or what I have left of them; I may have peaked in AP English class when I was seventeen) from wilting away completely like the crimson leaves blowing around outside.

I've officially hit 20,000 blog visits since its launch!

Guaranteed, 10,000 were probably my own visits, making sure the graphics look tolerable and my writing doesn't sound like I use the same fifty words over and over.  So - that means at least 10,000 unique visits, right?  That's gotta be something to celebrate.  I know many blogs get 10,000 views a week, but for me, this is a pretty big deal.  So please pity cheer with me!

So thank you, readers: friends, family, fellow bloggers, Instagrammers and Twitterers, strangers in Austrailia, China, and France that seem to keep finding this blog, internet stalkers, thanks to each and every one of you. 


To celebrate, here's the long-coveted Vanilla Apple Pumpkin Spice cupcake recipe that a lot of you have been lusting after online.  They're really semi-homemade; I start with a BOXED (I'll pause for the choral ::gasp::) spice cake base and add some flair to it.  I'm sure if you make a slammin' spice cake really from scratch already, you A - are most certainly a better baker than I, B - I'm insanely envious of you, and C - you can absolutely use that instead.  I'm just not sure of the conversion.  But, if you are baking everything from scratch already, I'm sure you're eons ahead of me skill-wise and can figure it out.  Definitely let me know if that's the case, I'll edit this appropriately!


Posting these just in time for Thanksgiving.  Hey family - yes, I will be bringing these with me.  Don't worry.

I'm sure I'm riding the tail-end of all food bloggers' "OMG pumpkin spice EVERYTHING" posts .. so I apologize if you see these and are all, "um these have been done a million times already, Christine, so chill."  To that I say, bookmark this page and come back in September 2014!  Maybe I'll hit 30,000 views by then.  ;)

Vanilla Apple Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes


  • 1 box Spice Cake mix (I use Duncan Hines Signature Spice Cake Mix)
  • 1 and ⅓ Cup water
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup smooth unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice seasoning (if you do not own this, do not fret and do NOT spend $6.29 on a tiny little McCormick jar.  See below to make your own - odds are good you have everything you need already!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 small package vanilla instant pudding
Topping:
  • Cream Cheese frosting (I did not make my own.  I used the unhealthy, processed, trans-fat-laden, what the heck is in this stuff, canned frosting.  Please do as I say, not as I do: Find a good cream cheese frosting recipe online and make it from scratch)
  • Cinnamon Sugar
  • Pumpkin candy
  • Optional, but a HUGE bonus: frosting injector (I actually used an unused, brand-new hardware glue syringe from E's father .. make do with what you got!)



Preheat oven to 350°F for metal or glass pans, 325°F for dark or coated pans.

Combine all ingredients listed above (obviously not the topping part).  Mix with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.

Let batter sit in the bowl for 2 minutes to rest and set.

Bake in greased muffin tins for 15 minutes.  You do NOT want to overbake these, so watch closely.  Of course, be sure to test with a toothpick for done-ness.

Let cool and remove from tins.  If you have an injector, use them to poke a hole in the top of each muffin and squirt a little cream cheese frosting.  It really adds a LOT, trust.


Then frost completely, dust with cinnamon sugar, and top with a candy.

Note: If you don't have pumpkin spice - it's OK.  It's totally overpriced and makes no sense because I guarantee you have these ingredients in your pantry already.  Unless you're my boyfriend and have nothing in your kitchen yet.  But that's ok because it's beautifully custom built by his and his father's hands and I am SO PROUD OF HIM.  Okay enough gushing, but I will be posting about it soon.  Get ready because I AM SO EXCITED to share it with you!


Cinnamon.  Ginger.  Nutmeg.  Cloves (not pictured). Allspice. (no, that doesn't mean all the spices you own.  There's actually something called Allspice.)  See?  Not that bad.  Here's a quick-and-dirty Pumpkin Pie Spice recipe for ya:

3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

Mix well.

Oh, and thanks for not commenting on my chipped nail polish.

I just got a new manicure yesterday.  It looks much nicer now.


Let me know what you think.  Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Baked Eggplant with Arugula, Asiago, and Lemon

So I guess it's safe to say this blog has really become more of a, I'll-get-to-it-when-I-feel-like-it writing space for me.

Which is kind of sad.  Every time I sit down to start writing a post (which, honestly, is about once every three weeks or so) .. I easily get distracted.  I spend a lot of time in front of a computer for work every day, which makes time spent away from a brightly-lit electronic screen increasingly valued.

Most times I don't finish writing the recipe.  I just quickly snap a picture of whatever I made, Instagram or Facebook it, and move along.

And pretty much every time I do that, someone inevitably asks:

"When is this going on the blog?"

... alright you guys.  I'm finally caving in.  I'll try to do this more than once every four-five months or so.  By the way, all of you who also have blogs and post a bunch of times a week?  I give you a lot of credit.  This really is no joke.  I admire your dedication, for real.

***

I visited my parents a few days ago for a short stay, and as always, they sent me back to my place with a long hug goodbye and a shopping bag filled with food.  I don't know if they think I never grocery-shop for myself (which, Mom and Dad, I can assure that is NOT the case .. I'm at Shoprite almost every day sometimes) or if they just feel like parenting me in the most hands-on way they still can.  In any event, this is not a complaint - they always hook me up with some really great stuff.

This time around, I got a thick slab of my mom's meatloaf she had baked the night before (meatloaf always sounds bizarre to me, but my mom's is irrisistable), an array of peaches and plums, and a big fat eggplant that was almost perfectly symmetrical and photogenic.

Of course I didn't take a picture of that.

It sat in the fridge at E's house (by the way, I have LOTS of blog material for that ..) for the next four days.  We never got around to a night that we had alone together.  This summer has been incredibly busy - the house is so beautiful and I cannot wait to share it.  The kitchen is just about done and it's custom and picturesque.  E and I have picked out every detail so it's just as we want it.  It's just perfect.

I'm tangenting.  Sorry.  I'll get to all that some other time. 

Finally, tonight, E and I were able to actually relax after work and enjoy the evening.  I posted on Facebook a plea for ideas for dinner recipes involving eggplant (that weren't eggplant parm).  Immediately, I got a direct message from a high school friend recommending this recipe.  I modified it using my tried-and-true baking instead of frying technique, and it truly was a hit.  I paired it with my Summer Orzo Salad (which, again, will be a post of its own) and E raved about it. 

Also: Thanks to everyone who posted recipes, I will be trying them all!  I really know nothing about eggplant other than putting it under heaps of Parmesan and tomato sauce.

This is one of the easiest things to make and is completely filling while being meat-free.  How many of you eat a dinner - frequently - with no meat or seafood in it (that isn't pizza)?  I never thought it was really possible until my mid twenties.  It's truly fulfilling!

Baked Eggplant with Arugula, Asiago, and Lemon



  • 1 large Eggplant
  • Seasoned Breadcrumbs (I use whole wheat; you can use homemade or even go gluten-free and use corn flakes .. I didn't want this super-crunchy though)
  • 1 Egg 
  • 1 cup Arugula
  •  1/2 cup dry, shredded Italian cheese - I used Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano
  •  Fresh Lemon Juice
 Peel and cut eggplant into 1/2 inch slices.  Dredge in salt and set aside for 20 minutes.  Then rinse slices thoroughly with cold water and pat dry.
Read about why you salt an eggplant here.  Also, check out this blogger's irresistible essay about salting eggplant.  A true foodie!

Dredge the eggplant slices in egg, then breadcrumbs, then place on a lightly-greased (cooking spray) baking sheet.
Set in a 400F-degree oven for 15 minutes, turning once.  Set the oven to Broil for another three minutes, until color is toasty brown.

Place on plate and top with cheese, arugula, and a generous portion of fresh-squeezed lemon juice.  About a wedge-worth of lemon for each piece, you know the size wedge you get on your drink from the bar.

Serve immediately.  Enjoy with a light summer salad, a glass of white wine, and a loved one.


Also - how many of you have heard of Thug Kitchen?  It's probably the funniest blog I've ever read.  Google it and check it out - it's chock-full of terrible language, but if that's your kind of humor, you'll love it.

Well, there we go, I actually finished this thing.  I'm pretty amazed!  Maybe it'll be only a few weeks until the next one.  ;)


Friday, April 5, 2013

An Update! And a Salad to Welcome Spring.

Hey Everyone.  It's Friday afternoon.  No one is going to read this right now, and I get that.  Truly.

But I've been neglecting my poor blog.  And my readers. I see my page view numbers going up and up and when was the last time I actually wrote a post?  Even something not all that meaningful?  Does that mean you're looking for something new?  I sure hope so - though I do have some great older recipes here.  I know you're looking for more.  I know I would be, at least.


Sometimes I really wonder if I'm cut out for this blogging thing.  Just when I'm ready to tear the whole thing down, suddenly someone, a friend, an Instagrammer, my parents (!), anyone, mentions to me that "Hey!  I haven't seen anything new on your blog in a while.  What gives?"  I don't even know.  Laziness, primarily; all the other events and goings-on in my life definitely take up my time, but I really need to make it a point to channel my energies into the things that matter to me.  And part of that is GVK.

I'm so grateful that you all keep coming back.  I mean that.

One of my new years' resolutions was to blog more.  I guess I have to update that to my 2Q 2013 resolution.  I really need to speak to you.  I miss my audience!

Anyway, I have some news.

E bought a gorgeous home, as I've mentioned before.  He's deconstructing and reconstructing the whole thing to bring it up to the 21st century; he's extremely handy and has done an amazing work with the full bathroom, many bedrooms, dining room, kitchen, and office.  Now, finally, FINALLY, his beautiful kitchen ...

is ..

Under construction.

So now, the current state of affairs at Girl Versus Kitchen has become ..

Girl Versus Construction Site.


Yes, I still have my own glorious (ha!) kitchen back at my little one-bedroom apartment, but dreaming of the brand-spankin-new kitchen that E's is going to be in a few short months weeks is just too much to resist!

But in the interim, this is E's kitchen:  A hot plate and a minifridge.  And they're in the dining room.

No microwave.  No sink.  No plates, flatware, glasses, or bowls.  Just Solo cups and paper plates.

But come the summertime?  it will no longer be me against my horrible kitchen.  It will be a symbiotic, passionate, loving partnership with a gorgeous, built-with-loving-hands, brand-spanking-new kitchen in which all things (granite counters, slate floors, cabinets, recessed lighting, stainless appliances .. swoon) will be fresh and gorgeous and begging for culinary creation.

Just you wait .. just you wait. 

Ha, like you haven't been waiting for months already.


In the meantime, hope your Easter was good!  This was the first Lenten season in which I successfully abstained from meat EVERY SINGLE FRIDAY.  For those that know me, that is a big friggin deal.

Salads like these helped a lot.


Spring Mix
Yellow and Red Grape Tomatoes
Kalamata Olives
Avocado
Dried Cranberries
Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
The End.

Super easy, and hints of spring abound.

As for Easter, I went back to Hometown, NJ to visit my family - and my dad, whom as you know is where I got my love of cooking (sorry Mom), made me these killer pancakes. 

I don't often do the buttermilk-and-butter-and-actual-syrup thing, but when I do, it's SO worth it.

Looking forward to next week - stay tuned!

Oh, and follow me on Instagram - I post lots of fun stuff there too.




Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Well, Hello!

Hi, new visitors!  If you came here via Eat Yourself Skinny, welcome!  (and even if you didn't, welcome!)  I'm looking forward to posting more, and I'm looking forward to having you!

Helloooo!
I'm excited to finally be working in a new kitchen!  WITH GAS!  E moved into his beautiful house in the middle of January, and has done all the renovations himself.  Naturally, the one room that isn't finished yet is the kitchen.  So not only am I dealing with my own mess of a kitchen, I'm working with a construction site of a second kitchen.  It's going to be gorgeous when it's done, and I seriously cannot wait to share the story with you.

So what have I been up to?



Working out.  A LOT.  I'll probably do a fitness post (or two) at some point.

I went to Punxsutawney, PA for the Groundhog.  For the FOURTH time.



Good lord was the weather bad.  It's fun, but I think I'm done.  LOL.  It's just so far!

AND COLD! 12 DEGREES!  And we got lost.  Ugh.  Not fun.


I went to Sheetz.  If you haven't had the pleasure, it's like a Seven-11 on steroids deer antler spray.  This is an egg and cheese ON A PRETZEL.  OMG.

I have to say, Super Bowl Sunday was quite an adventure!

Here's some of the stuff I made:

Seven Layer Mediterranean Dip from Erin


Football Chocolate Strawberries

via

Pulled BBQ Chicken


And the world's best Turkey Nachos that you will ever taste.  Recipe coming this week!

How was your January?


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

On Purpose.


 The primary thing I've struggled with on maintaining GVK hasn't been lack of inspiration.  Anyone will tell you that 2012, and years prior, have been filled with good eats both in and out of my kitchen.  I've always loved food, as have those closest to me.  Joyous times celebrated with those whom I love, solemn times mourning what was lost and what could have been, hopeful times anticipating what the future would hold - these times all experienced in solitude or community, while enjoying the comfort of a meal, a drink, even something ordinary as a bottle of water on a long car-ride home.

Something as unadorned as a piece of buttered toast.

I came home from work today, impatient and ravenous for warmth, and grateful for the simple white loaf I bought on the last day of 2012.  Over the years, one of the most basic of foods - the crunchy give of the hot bread, the oozing, salted coziness of the melted butter - has been a staple.  How can something so plain be so good?

The primary thing I've struggled with hasn't been desire.  I've wanted to write, truly I have.  Years of creative writing classes have blessed me, or at least once blessed me, with the gift of the written word. I've loved reading and continue to do so, though the time I should dedicate to it escapes before my eyes close each night.  Reading is the best way to fuel writing - drawing inspiration from those around me. 

The primary thing hasn't been boredom.  My days and nights are full.  If anything, it's been due to the busy-ness that I haven't taken the time to sit down and just write.  Though that isn't entirely true either, as many a weeknight finds me parked on the couch watching TV.  What excuse do I have?  None.  I've found time for most anything else in my life which I find meaningful. Why not this?

The primary thing has been purpose.


What do I want to write here?  Why is GVK here?  Why should I be one little fish in a big ol' cliche of an internet ocean, brimming with food bloggers - ALL bloggers - alike?  What purpose do I have?

I don't have recipes every day.  I don't cook every day.  I want a space that I can call my own without being forced - or rather, feeling forced - to blog only my recipes.  There's so much more to talk about - I just want an outlet.

How can something so plain be so good?  Something so plain as a blog.  One of countless others.

Only time will tell.  My aspiration by the end of the year is to find this blog's purpose.  To see where it goes, what I learn, what readers and writers will teach me.  I look forward to find comfort here - and I hope it's well received.



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year ... Again!

Hi all!  Happy 2013!  Everyone's favorite prodigal blogger is back.

Ringing in 2013!
I know, you've heard it before: THIS is the year I'm going to get this little corner of the internet together. 

Truth be told (yes, I know - you've heard it before) I've missed this thing.  I read lots of blogs - food, family, lifestyle - and within me has been this yearning to creatively write again.  Not just to share my love of food, but to have an outlet - a place that I can call my own and yet share with all of you, so many friends and family members that have been begging politely asking me to keep it up.

So I figured, on this quiet New Years' Day, while I relax with E and the furbabes, why not put my crazy undergraduate skills to work (I was a Computer Science major with a Electrical Engineering minor - I know, I don't know how I did it either) and brighten up this blog a bit.  Three hours later, here's my revamp!  I designed the entire template myself, and in my mind's eye, plenty of work still needs to be done.  But, please, let me know what you think!

I'm happy to be back and to get GVK up and running again.  Won't you stay too?  

This week I'll post my take on Mac and Cheese - with some hidden vegetables you won't even taste.  Promise.

See you soon!