Meaty Minestrone Soup (Gluten Free)

Minestrone

1993

I laid there in my bed listening to the rain drum down on the farmhouse metal roof. The noise a constant low vibration with water dribbles making their way down the gutters. My room sat above the family room and every night I could here Dad thunk his recliner foot-rest into the chair and walk to the kitchen for his ice cream bed-time snack.

The savory air from dinner still hung in the air. It was full-on Autumn and the temperatures where plummeting. They were even calling for snow on Halloween this year. 

2014

The pond beyond my backyard is rippling with rain drops and the leaves are disappearing from the trees with help of the stiff breeze. My baby girl is singing in her bed, determined out out-wit nap time. My son is crunching away on his after school popcorn snack. I wonder if his second loose tooth will make it through the day or if a Golden Dollar will make it’s way under his pillow tonight. It is full-on Autumn and the temperatures are plummeting. They are even calling for snow. It’s Halloween. Time for some warm soup.

Meaty Minestrone Soup

Ingredients:
1 pound hot sausage, removed from casings
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 can green beans (reserve liquid)
1 can hot and spicy chili beans (check label for gluten)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups beef stock
2 cups water
2 cups gluten free pasta or prepared rice, cooked per package directions.

Preparation:
• In a large dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat, brown spicy sausage until no longer pink, drain if needed, add onions and cook until softened.
• Add carrots, zucchini and celery. Stir to combine.
• Add (including all liquid) green beans, chili beans, diced tomatoes, beef stock and water.
• Stir and bring to a boil over high heat.
• Turn heat down to simmer and cook for three hours, stirring occasionally.
• Serve in individual bowls topped with cooked pasta or rice. (Do not add pasta to soup until serving.)

• Notes:
This soup is spicy, but for an extra kick use spicy or Italian green beans and/or spicy tomatoes.

Perfect for the slow cooker! Brown sausage and soften the onions. Add to crock pot with all other ingredients. Set crock pot on High for 4-6 hours.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

gumbo

At the age of nineteen I had climbed the retail ladder and accepted a Store Manager position at the educational/developmental toy store where I had worked since graduating high school. Even though I was a full time student at University, I jumped on the chance because it meant full benefits and a nice raise.

One of the first things I needed to do was hire more staff, and finding morning and day-time (quality) applicants was a challenge to say the least. Then one day a lovely lady named Jennifer walked in.

She had two boys who just started all-day schooling, and she was looking for a little job to keep her busy during those hours. Perfect. I hired her on the spot. This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

Jennifer was the hardest worker. Always looking for something to do, even on the slowest days, and thriving on the busy hum of retail during the holiday months. I trusted her with all my heart and we became fast friends, even though our age difference was nearly ten years and I was neither married or a mother. I looked up to her. She had a great family, a wonderful husband and the most genuinely thoughtful and mindful boys.

I was in a very different place than her. I lived alone in a one bedroom apartment, worked forty-plus hours a week, took three college courses and dated a new guy about every six months, all the while finding time to hone my hobby of swing dancing a few evenings a week.

At the store, early morning cleaning and stocking lent itself to open conversation. We talked about life, love and family quite a bit and one particular day I was in a lurch over a boy. I looked at Jennifer and recalled her wonderful husband, children and family. I wondered how it all came into place so easily for them. So I asked.

Her response was far from ‘motherly’ which I so appreciated. She was a little matter-of-fact, and said ‘you will just know’. She expand on that a bit, and I soon realized this boy wasn’t the Ultimate Love.

A year later.

I asked her the same question.

She asked if I was talking about my dance partner. I said yes. She smirked and said ‘I think you know’.

…and I did.

Jennifer gave me this recipe and it is one of the first things I made for Mystery Man.

Gumbo

Ingredients:
1/4 cups olive oil
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons* Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium green pepper
1/2 cup green onion tops, finely chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
12 oz Adelle’s Cajan Style Andouille Sausage, chopped into bite- sized pieces (see prep notes)
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces (see prep notes)
8-10 cups water
4 cups cooked white rice (I use Jasmine Rice, two cups dry = four+ cups cooked)

*Jennifer uses 1/4 cup seasoning. This is too spicy for our family. If you can handle it, go for it!

Preparation:

• Place the chicken in the freezer and chop all the vegetables and set aside.

• Heat a large dutch oven/stock pot over medium-low and cover the bottom with olive oil. Using a flat edged spatula (metal or wooden, not plastic!) stir flour into oil constantly until flour is balled and turns to a medium to dark brown color. A burnt popcorn smell is common.

• Turn the heat to high and whisk in five cups of water. Add creole seasoning and black pepper. 3-5 more cups of water and whisk – this should be a thin gravy with no lumps.

• Turn heat down to medium-low and add green pepper, celery, parsley, onions. Let this cook for 8-10 minutes while you chop the sausage and chicken.

• Add sausage and chicken to pot and bring to a boil for one minute.

• Turn heat down to very low and cook for a minimum of three hours. Add more water if needed and add more creole if desired.

• Serve over white rice (do not mix rice into gumbo)

Notes:

This can be transferred to a crock pot and left on low all day. The secret to good gumbo – do not add anything else!

Gumbo freezes well. Place frozen block in a heavy pan and heat gently.