Tuscan Sausage & Kale Soup

We’re not quite into fall weather yet, but heading into “soup season” I wanted to try out some new recipes.  And with the glut of fresh late-summer vegetables we have, it was a no brainer to come up with this savory, but surprisingly light, Tuscan soup.  For those that aren’t kale-lovers, I bet you’ll have a hard time putting your spoon down!

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TUSCAN SAUSAGE & KALE SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb. Mild Italian Sausage (no casing)
  • 1 Medium White Onion, Diced
  • 4-5 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Large Tomatoes, Peeled & Diced
  • 1 15-ounce Can White Beans, Drained
  • 4 Cups Fresh Kale, Chopped
  • 3/4 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 4 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 Tbs. Dried Parsley
  • 2 Tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 3-inch Chunk of Parmesan Rind

Instructions

  • In a heavy bottom pot, add 1 Tbs. olive oil and brown sausage until cooked through and crumbly – about 8-10 minutes.  Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Add 1 Tbs. olive oil and the diced onion.  Cook 2-3 minutes until translucent and then add garlic.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and any juice to onions and garlic.  Season with 1 Tsp. salt and cook for 5 minutes until tomatoes are soft and begin to break down.
  • Add white wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
  • Add chicken stock, water, remaining salt, pepper, parsley, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir the kale into the hot liquid and simmer for another 5-7 minutes.  Kale will soften and turn bright green, then darken.
  • Add sausage back into the pot along with the white beans and Parmesan rind.  Reduce head and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
  • Serve immediately with a sprinkle of parmesan and/or croutons.

For about an hour of work, you’ll get a rich broth and amazing flavors from this soup.  Homemade stock and fresh tomatoes are best, but using canned for either still works really well.  For a little kick, add double the red pepper flakes or use hot Italian sausage.  The Parmesan rind is optional, but gives a rich nutty flavor to the broth.  Now that we’re wrapping up summer, this recipe will serve you well through the fall months and on cold winter nights too.  Dig in!

Sausage & Pesto Campanelle

After a weekend on the road and eating out, it felt good to be back in the kitchen on a Monday evening!  Taking my recipe for Basic Pesto I created this delicious combination that’s perfect for summer night with a glass of wine and crusty bread.

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SAUSAGE & PESTO CAMPANELLE

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 1/2 Cups Basic Basil Pesto
  • 1 Lbs. Campanelle Pasta
  • 3 Links Sweet Italian Sausage, Casings Removed
  • 8 Ounces Fresh Mozzarella Balls
  • Red Pepper Flakes

Instructions

  • Prepare pesto per my recipe and set aside.
  • Place pasta in boiling water and cook 10-11 minutes.
  • While pasta is cooking, brown Italian sausage in a pan until cooked through.  Don’t break it all up completed as the dish is better with small and large pieces both.
  • Drain pasta and place in a large bowl.  Add in sausage, mozzarella and 1 cup of pesto.
  • Stir together until combined.  You may need to add more pesto depending on taste and personal preference.
  • Serve immediately and top with parmesan and red pepper flakes to taste.

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The combination of crumbly sausage, bright pesto and slightly creamy mozzarella that gives this dish great balance.  No fuss and few dirty dishes for a simply tasty dinner.  Enjoy it with a glass of wine and good company.  Dig in!

Italian Sausage Stuffed Mini Peppers

I was given a pepper roasting rack some years back as a Christmas gift.  And over those years, I’ve perfected this recipe for grilled sweet peppers stuffed with a spicy Italian filling.  Delicious as a football-watching snack and pretty enough as an appetizer to bring to a dinner party.  Try making these for your Super Bowl party tomorrow!  And if you don’t have a special rack, you can use foil to fashion a checkerboard in the same shape to hold these upright on your grill.

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ITALIAN SAUSAGE STUFFED MINI PEPPERS

Ingredients

  • 24 Assorted Mini Sweet Peppers (most groceries sell them by the bag now)
  • 8 Ounces Sweet Italian Sausage
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Instructions

  • Wash and dry the peppers.  Cut off tops and use a paring knife to remove any seeds and white membranes from inside.  Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine sausage (without casing), garlic, oregano, cheese and pepper flakes.
  • Using a small spoon or your fingers, stuff each pepper with the sausage mixture.  Only fill each pepper just to the top and don’t pack it too tight.  The filling will expand when it cooks.
  • Place peppers in your specialty rack or foil grid so that they are standing upright.
  • Grill over low heat for 25-30 minutes.  Peppers will be roasted, blistered and soft while the filling should expand and brown on top.
  • Remove from grill and serve immediately.

Grab yourself an IPA, cocktail or glass of cabernet and savor these salty sweet bites.  I guarantee that you’ll make these a staple snack for the big game or family functions.  And make the small investment in the pepper rack, it’s totally worth the purchase to make this recipe as well as grilled jalapeño poppers!  Dig in!

Chicken Apple Sausage

I’ve been making my own sausage for several years.  And while you definitely need some special equipment, i.e. meat grinder and sausage stuffer, it’s a really fun and actually pretty easy process.  The thought of store-bought sausage makes some people wince – what in the world do they put in that stuff??  Whether you make fresh or smoked, you can control ingredients, flavors and salt content by making your own.  Below is a recipe for fresh chicken apple sausage, flavored with onions, garlic and allspice.  I hope you love it!

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CHICKEN APPLE SAUSAGE

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 Lbs. Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 2 Lbs. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Medium Honeycrisp Apples, Peeled
  • 1/2 Large White Onion
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/4 Tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Ground Allspice
  • 1/2 Tsp. Ground Thyme
  • About 9 feet of fresh hog casing

Instructions

  • Slice chicken into 1-inch strips.  Place in freezer for 15 minutes while you prepare apples and onions.
  • Using the largest holes on a box grater, grate peeled apples and onion.  Sauté in a large frying pan with butter for 10-15 minutes.  They should be soft and moisture should be evaporated.  Allow to cool in bowl.
  • Using a meat grinder, or grinder attachment on your mixer, grind semi-frozen chicken on the finest grind.  Grind into a large mixing bowl so that you have room to mix in spices, etc.
  • Add apple and onion mixture to ground chicken an mix with your hands to incorporate evenly.
  • Sprinkle all seasonings evenly over mixture and then mix again with hands until combined.
  • Place ground mixture into a sausage stuffer.
  • Stuff into hog casings and link into 3-4 inch sections.  Allow to dry on a cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes.
  • You can now cook immediately on the grill or in a pan.  However, the flavors will be better if the sausage rests for a day or longer.  We freeze ours in a vacuum sealer.

The sweetness of the apples combined with the savory onions, garlic and thyme make for a delicious combination!  You’ll find that this recipe has a lot less fat than store-bought sausage so be careful not to overcook and dry it out.  If you have the time and tools, give it a try – I think you’ll find yourself making sausage more often than buying it.  Either way, dig in!!

Krueger’s Tavern – Cincinnati

The OTR (Over-The-Rhine) area of Cincinnati continues to draw great restaurant and retail development and has firmly secured itself as “the place to see and be seen” downtown.  Last weekend we tried a new (to us) spot in Krueger’s and it will definitely be one to come back to again and again.  Situated right on Vine Street it’s on the south end of the strip.  And like some of it’s sister establishments it has just enough seating and an open garage-door-front that gives you a great place for lunch, dinner and/or drinks while watching the eclectic mix of people stroll by.  However, what Kruger’s has that the others do not is an awesome rooftop deck that’s perfect for afternoon sunshine or evening dining al fresco.

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With a fairly nondescript modern american interior, there is seating at the bar, a few tables and then a wall of tables with banquette seating.  It’s warm, comfortable and a little dark – which I like!  There’s a diverse drink menu with craft cocktails and two beers on tap.  That’s right, just two.  You also have your choice of an amazing array of 70 canned beers as well – from local faves to classic PBR tall boys.  We grabbed a few cans and started our lunch with the warm pretzels and beer cheese.  Made with Rhinegeist Cougar and sharp cheddar, it was delicious.  I’m kicking myself that we didn’t add sausage to it!  The cheese is kept warm in a cast-iron skillet over a small flame – bonus points for the fresh presentation and beer cheese that stays steamy to the last bite!

Krueger’s is known for their house-ground burgers and sausages so we naturally had to sample both.  The burgers are fresh with full beefy flavor and perfectly crispy edges.  They’re all doubles and the classic was excellent.  There are A LOT of great burger places in Cincy and this one is right up there with the best.  We also tried the Lincolnshire english sausage with colcannon (a scrumptious mixture of whipped potatoes and wilted kale).  It was perfectly spiced and a really hearty dish.

Overall, we were definitely impressed with the menu and the fact that they do just a few things and do them really well.  The team at TRG, founders of The Eagle and Bakersfield, hit another home run with this one.  You can find out more on their website at kruegerstavern.com.

Hanky Panks

Much like its “frisky” name, these spicy cheesy sausage toasts will light a little fire in you! I often get requests for appetizer recipes that are easy for someone to take a bite and go.  These hanky banks are hearty, delicious and sturdy enough to grab one and mingle with your drink vs. standing around a chip and dip bowl or carrying a plate around.  Prepare these in a large batch and freeze to keep them handy for parties or a quick appetizer with drinks or for unexpected company.  Kids and adults both will love them!

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HANKY PANKS

Ingredients

  • 2 Lbs. Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 Lb. Mild Pork Sausage
  • 1 Lb. Spicy Pork Sausage
  • 1 Tsp. Garlic Salt
  • 1 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 32 Ounces Velveeta, Cut Into Chunks
  • 2 Loaves Light Party Rye

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Instructions

  • In a heavy pot, brown ground beef and sausage along with garlic salt, oregano and pepper flakes.  Drain meat throughly.
  • Place meat back in pot and add chunked Velveeta.  Stir over low heat until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.  It will be thick, but should be able to stir.
  • Remove from heat and spoon roughly 1 1/2 Tbs. of mixture onto each slice of party rye.  Place each finished rye bread on cookie sheets until all bread and mixture is used.  Put cookie sheets into freezer for 20 minutes until they are frozen or at least solid enough to stack in gallon freezer bags.
  • Bag in servings of one dozen and freeze until ready to use.
  • When ready to serve, place frozen hanky banks on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until they are bubbly and slightly browned.  Serve immediately.

It never fails to please a hungry crowd when you bake up a few dozen of these spicy snacks.  They’re perfect for football season and holidays or basically anytime you have no awareness of calorie count!  If you have an aversion to spicy food, feel free to use all mild sausage and/or eliminate the red pepper flakes.  If you want to make these in smaller batches you can also halve this recipe.  However, if you’re going through the process, I highly recommend making the full amount – your family and friends will love them!!

Weiners of Waterton – Waterton, AB

So, I realize that not many people will get the chance to travel to the northern part of Glacier National Park and into Alberta, Canada, but when you have an amazing little restaurant like Weiners, you gotta write about it!  With a winter population of 50 and a summer population of 2,500 Waterton is a beautiful town tucked into the mountains in Waterton Lakes National Park just north of Glacier National Park in Montana.  There are plenty of hikes to take and sights to see – all of which require sustenance along the way.  Weiner’s is the place to find it!

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With a small, simple menu and quick service, this tiny restaurant has tons of combinations of all beef hot dogs or homemade sausages to fill the void left by 5 miles of hiking.  I love the hashmarks cut into either before they’re grilled to order.  Oh, did I mention they’re baking their buns fresh all day long??  From a tame dog with mustard or a loaded spicy sausage topped with kimchi and spicy mayo you’ll be hard-pressed to eat the same thing twice!  We tried all sorts of combinations and not a single disappointment was had.

With the weiner selection comes the option of fresh cut fries or sweet potato fries.  They’re hot, crispy and delicious – my uncle said they were the best sweet potato fries he’s ever had!  Again, there’s a great variety of sauces available for dipping – homemade ketchup, spicy mayo, curry…the choices are endless and awesome!  Do yourself a favor and order both and plenty of dipping sauces, it’s totally worth it.

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I’m impressed with the quality and service of this small place in Waterton.  They’re passionate about food, have great service and do everything right in my opinion.  You can eat at a few small counters looking out the windows or take a seat in the cool air on one of many picnic tables out front.  There’s always a fire burning and you’ll never tire of the view.  They’re still building out their web presence, but you can find them on Facebook and  also basic information on their website at weinersofwaterton.com.