Sunday, June 30, 2013

Simple Crock Pot Italian Wedding Soup with Kale

I just came back from a month long trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where I was born and raised. We have an amazing soup there called Italian Wedding Soup, which, I just found out, is not actually Italian.

At any Italian restaurant (or often any restaurant) in Pittsburgh, you can order a bowl of Italian Wedding Soup. My favorite kind is the light version served at the chain restaurant Olive Garden. Since I was not very cultured and didn't travel much before moving out of Pittsburgh, when I went to the Olive Garden in California I tried ordering Wedding Soup. It's not usually on the menu in Pittsburgh because it's such a popular item and everyone knows it's there--you just have to ask for it. But the California waiter had no idea what I was talking about.

I always thought Italian Wedding Soup was an Italian tradition. Though, apparently, Italian Wedding Soup is a Western Pennsylvania tradition started by immigrants to the area. According to my quick research, Italian Wedding Soup is a mistranslation of a soup called "marriage soup," which is actually Spanish.

Here is a quick version to make in the crock pot using kale instead of the traditional spinach. Italian Wedding Soup is usually made with really tiny meatballs and pasta. Unless you make the meatballs yourself, you might not be able to find them small enough, but you can always cut slightly thawed frozen Italian meatballs into quarters before putting in the crock pot.


1 small package frozen italian meatballs (15-20)
5 oz can low sodium chicken, rinsed and drained
32 oz chicken broth
2 cups kale, stems removed and chopped (can also use spinach)
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup-1/2 cup pastina pasta
parmesan reggiano for serving


1. Add meatballs, chicken, broth, spices, and onion to slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on high for 3 hours.

2. Add pasta and kale (or spinach) to the pot, and cook for an additional hour on high. Serve
topped with parmesan reggiano if desired.

Coconut Coffee Ice Cream

I just came back from a month long trip to the East Coast, and it was so very hot and humid while I was there. The difference between Pittsburgh and California summer is not the temperature but the humidity. However, every building or house in Pittsburgh has air conditioning. I've just come home to a sweltering apartment with only one window air conditioner in the bedroom. If there was any humidity in the Bay Area forget it--we would rent a place with central AC. And every place would have better air conditioning.

The past few summers living here have been very mild, but for some reason it's July in Mountain View and 90 degrees. Tuesday it's supposed to go up to 100 degrees! After spending over three weeks in air conditioning this apartment is awful. The heat is bearable but draining. So I was super tired after my flight and decided to make an easy, no cook, coconut ice cream to beat the heat. My chocolate chips were actually melted in my cupboard from the heat, so I made coffee ice cream out of instant coffee instead. It makes a nice pick me up as well, which I needed! Make sure your coconut milk is full fat and chilled for a day or two in the fridge. It also helps to chill the bowls and containers you will be using, especially if it's a hot day. Oh my, this coconut ice cream is so delicious--it tastes like a Starbucks Vanilla Frappaccino with whipped cream. 


2 cans full fat coconut milk, chilled
2 tablespoons instant coffee
3/4 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Add coffee and sugar to a medium bowl and mix together.      

2. Open cans of full fat coconut milk. Solid part should be at the top if fully chilled. Leaving the cream in the can, drain only the light liquid coconut milk into the bowl of coffee and sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.

3. Prepare your ice cream maker. I just need to get my frozen bowl out of the freezer and set it in the mixer. Stir the coconut cream remaining in the can into the coffee/milk mixture until well blended. Immediately pour into ice cream maker. Let mix for 25-30 minutes. Freeze to harden or enjoy soft.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Eggless, Dairy Free "Egg" Salad

I've been eating tofu a lot lately, and it's not because I need to. I love eggs and meat, am not going vegan, and have no food allergies. But I love the taste of tofu, and I love how light and easy it is to digest. It's cholesterol free, virtually carb free, low in calories, and still packs protein. My stomach feels untroubled after eating tofu--feels more relaxed and slim.

I was a little wary of tofu at first. It seemed foreign and tasteless. Then I realized it's what you do with tofu that makes it delicious--just like the dairy free products I use. I started putting it in scrambled eggs and omelets, then added it to flavorful dishes like curry and soup. I really got crazy and made a recipe using tofu to make dairy free chocolate mouse. It's pretty delicious. I love that Chipotle now has a tofu option for their burritos. I usually get chicken, but after trying the sofritas, I was completely sold. I noticed a huge difference in how my stomach and body felt after eating a burrito bowl with sofritas versus chicken. Tofu is just so much easier for the body to digest.

This tofu recipe is quick to mix up and full of flavor. Experiment with different spices to see what suits your tastes. Eric is adverse to this particular recipe because it has sweet relish in it--he hates vinegary things. But I love pickles. For a totally different flavor, I want to try it with curry next. The best thing about this tofu salad? No egg boiling, peeling, or slicing!


1 12oz package silken tofu
1/4 cup vegan mayonaise
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons sweet relish
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
green olives for garnish *optional


1. Remove tofu from packaging, draining water, and place on paper towels. Pat dry. Mash or crumble the tofu into medium bowl.

2. In a small bowl, mix vegan mayonnaise, turmeric, pepper, paprika, mustard, salt, and then add to tofu.

3. Mix in celery, onion, relish, and parsley. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve on crackers as an appetizer, in a bowl as a veggie dip, or make an egg salad sandwich. It's so delicious!