Tortellini Soup Recipe

I wasn’t going to do another soup recipe this week, but our weather got bitterly cold again, and soup just sounded like a good idea. I was reminded in my Facebook memories about a creamy tortellini soup I made that we enjoyed, but I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere.

So I Googled, and came across this tomato based soup that I had all the ingredients for on 365daysofcrockpot.com  You are going to want to head over to 365 Days of Crockpot for tons of great recipes for both your slow cooker and instant pot.

As I looked at the tortellini soup recipe, I saw that her recipe is for the Instant pot, and while I LOVE my pressure cooker, I felt the 2 different cooking steps she mentions might not save me any time over a stove top method. So after making a few tweaks to the recipe, I was able to very quickly get this soup simmering on the stove as I put the french bread I made earlier in the day in the oven.

Since I was pressed for time, I realized I wouldn’t have time for the spices to really flavor the tomato sauce well, so I opted to use a good jarred spaghetti sauce instead.

I also subbed in a quart of chicken broth for 4 cups of the liquid which also added a good flavor to the soup. Lastly, I upped the veggie count in the soup by grating 5 carrots, and using 2 zucchini.

Once I had the vegetables grated and chopped, I started browning the meat. We love Italian sausage, but it can be a little pricey. One way I save a little bit of money is by purchasing ground pork when it is on sale, and then seasoning it myself with either a breakfast or italian sausage seasoning blend. I try to stock the freezer with pork when it is $1.99 or less per pound. Our favorite premade sausage is about $4.39 per pound, so even by adding in all the spices, it still is a significant savings for our grocery bill

After draining the sausage, I added all the remaining ingredients other than the noodles and the zucchini and simmered for 15-20 minutes. Then, about 15 minutes before dinner, I added them in, so that neither would get too mushy.

All in all, I was very pleased with how the soup turned out. Very hearty and flavorful, and quick enough for a weeknight dinner. We garnished ours with some shaved Parmesan cheese. With some warm, buttered french bread, it was a great dinner for a cold winter’s night. Let me know if you decided to try it this weekend, I would love to hear from you.

Here is the printable recipe:

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Tortellini Soup

A great soup for a quick weeknight dinner

Course Soup
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 people

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp Better Than Bouillon Beef Base
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 24 ounces spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 5 carrots grated or sliced into quarter inch rounds
  • 1 10 oz package frozen or fresh cheese tortellini**
  • 1 medium green pepper diced
  • 2 medium zucchini diced

Instructions

Brown the sausage and drain off any excess grease. Add in the chopped onion and the minced garlic. Saute for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.

Add remaining ingredients, but reserve zucchini and tortellini. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add remaining ingredients and simmer until zucchini and tortellini are cooked by not mushy.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with shaved parmesan and serve with warm french bread.

If you’re looking for more great recipes to try this weekend, check out the

 

 

 

An Organized Fridge

Do you find that you are constantly throwing away food from your fridge that has gone bad? Whether it is leftovers that don’t get eaten because they get pushed out of sight, or vegetables that go bad before you can use them, I know just how you feel.  I felt so guilty wasting food and throwing hard earned money in the trash.

The first thing I do when something isn’t working is to think about how I could organize things better. Nine times out of ten, this really does solve the problem. 🙂

So, several years ago, I logged in to Pinterest and searched refrigerator organization. I saw many fridges using clear acrylic trays corralling items together. Such a great idea, and really a cornerstone of organization- group like items together.

But the real inspiration hit when I saw a picture of a fridge with white plastic baskets that had a pull handle on the front. I loved how it looked, and it would be SO functional. I had to know where to find those baskets. Surely they were from the Container Store, or Ikea. Nope, would you believe Walmart? I believe they were around $3 a piece, and though I have a smaller, older style fridge, three of them fit perfectly along a shelf!  They are made by MainStays and Walmart does not carry the white ones any longer, but I saw some opaque ones at my local store a few weeks ago.

So I bought the baskets, and an acrylic tray or two and got busy creating zones in my fridge.

The acrylic trays are great for things like snack cups, sticks of butter and cream cheese, longer vegetables like carrots and celery, and jars of pickles & relishes. I bought them a piece or two at a time, over the next few months as they are a bit more expensive at the time. Now they can be found at places like Home Goods, and even some at Dollar General. I especially love the egg holders, which fit perfectly under my deli drawer.

The baskets do double duty for me. Some of them hold different types of vegetables like  bell peppers and mushrooms, and others are for condiments and leftover containers. For leftovers I use canning jars and 3 cup rectangular Pyrex containers. These fit perfectly in these baskets, and the handle on the front makes them easy to pull out and see what’s inside.

Pyrex 3-cup Rectangle Glass Food Storage Set Container (Pack of 4 Containers)

So here is a peek at my fridge currently. It makes me really happy to open the door and see things grouped together and accessible. Like any project, it takes a little upkeep now and again to keep it this way, but all and all this has been a good system for me to use what we have, not purchase duplicates, and hopefully waste less food.

a-wise-woman-builds-her-home

Adding bluetooth to an older vehicle

I have an older vehicle that has bluetooth capabilities for making/receiving phone calls, but not for streaming music. I love being able to play music from my phone in the car when I am driving, and plugging in the aux cord and having cords dangling really isn’t my thing.

So I was thrilled when I was scrolling thru a suggested gift list of things on Amazon and saw a bluetooth FM transmitter  for under $20.

Remember when mp3 players first came out and FM transmitters where one way to listen to them in your car? They never really worked that great, so I was surprised to see this new version of them, and even more surprised that the one listed had really good reviews.

So, I added it to my Wish List, and when Amazon emailed me about a Lightning Deal that brought the price down to $13, I couldn’t resist, 🙂

FM Transmitter, Otium Bluetooth Wireless Radio Adapter Audio Receiver Stereo Music Tuner Modulator Car Kit with USB Charger, Hands Free Calling

The T10 is a really impressive looking unit, and has a sturdy feel despite it’s inexpensive price tag. And it was very easy to get up and running in my vehicle. I paired the T10 with my phone, and found an empty FM station on my stereo (91.5 works well in my area). The sound quality is very good and I love not having cords hanging around, it gives a much cleaner look. Also, if you don’t want to use up your data, there is also a micro SD slot on the side of the device that you can use to play music, instead of streaming over a data connection.

The T10 will also work as a charger for your phone and even a tablet. Pretty impressive.

I recommend searching for “T10 Fm transmitter” on Youtube and watching a couple of videos before you set up your device so you can see first hand all of the features, and how to get it up and running in your vehicle.

The one caveat is that if your charger port in your vehicle has continuous power (does not turn off when the ignition is off) the T10 will deplete your car battery if you leave it plugged in for an extended period of time with the ignition off.

Ask me how I know this 🙂 So it is best to consult your manual to see if you have a port that is not continuous, or remember to remove the T10 from the charger when you exit your vehicle.  For short stops while running errands you should be fine, but definitely unplug it when you reach your destination.

All in all, a minor inconvenience compared to streaming music and making phone calls in my car over a bluetooth connection. I highly recommend it if you have an older vehicle and would like to add this functionality to your car.

2018 Keeping It Together- FREE planner!!!!

I not only have a blog, I love to read blogs! You will find a few of my favorites over on the sidebar. And of course I love recipe blogs :). Years ago, I found Southern Plate and absolutely fell in love. Christy Jordan weaves stories of her family and childhood with really wonderful homestyle recipes. She is the author of 3 cookbooks with recipes that are simple to make. I know your family will fall in love with them, just as ours has.

Beyond her blog and regular Facebook page, Christy hosts a group that is more close knit, called Christy Jordan’s Front Porch Fellowship. In that group, we share stories and prayer requests, and Christy frequently does Facebook lives where she shares things she is learning in her own person Bible study. She recently began posting the references daily to what she is reading so we can all read along and discuss together.

All in all, it is so encouraging to find a space on the internet that is positive, encouraging, and full of people that love the Lord. it’s breath of fresh air in my News Feed.

So what is this free planner that I teased you all about in the title? Well, Christy commissioned someone to create a BEAUTIFUL planner just for her subscribers. I have been struggling to find something I like,  that has the sections I need, with a design I love. Friends, I think I have found it <3 I actually squealed when I opened the email from Christy about it.

If you would like to get a copy of the planner for yourself, AND be signed up for emails from Christy when she posts a new recipe, click this link to sign up:

2018 Keeping It Together Planner – FREE!

You will then be emailed the information you need to download your own copy of this gorgeous planner.

***This post is not sponsored in anyway by Southern Plate, though I do have permission to share.  I just happen to love the site, and want to share awesome things with you when I find them***

Ham & Bean Soup- A Christmas Tradition

For many years now, my husband has been given a wonderful spiral sliced ham from his employer at Christmas time. It is a real blessing, because it’s not something we would normally splurge on, so we really enjoy it.

After a few days of leftovers from Christmas dinner, if there is any meat left, we take it off the bone and freeze it. I am much happier to see it again in a couple of weeks, and it feels like a treat all over again, 🙂

But the ham bone? I don’t throw it away, because it makes the most delightful soup.

There are a million ways to make ham and bean soup, and usually I just do a pinch of this and that. But this year I measured and documented, and I am so glad that I did, because this was easily the best ham and bean soup I have ever made. Hubby even said it was REALLY good after he had his first bite.

At Easter dinner this past year, my sister in law offered me her leftover ham bone, which I gladly accepted. I wanted to try it out in my new electric pressure cooker.

So I really put it to the test- I did not soak the beans, and only cooked the soup in the pressure cooker, no simmering on the stove. The soup was really good, and had a nice flavor, but I must admit, a few of the beans were harder than others. Now it could have been that my beans were older, and some of them were just tough. I love my pressure cooker and it was so nice to have the soup done very quickly so I was able to share some with her, but maybe I should have cooked it  few minutes longer.

As you will see below, for my soup this year, I once again used my pressure cooker, but only for the initial cooking of the beans. Because we had a lazy day at home, I let it simmer on the stove for about 4 hours, and the flavor was amazing! Here was my process start to finish:

Note: Detailed  printable recipe at the end of this post

STEP ONE

Soak the beans over night. I do think this is an important step, though it can be skipped, and there are quick soak methods. But I think it does help with digestibility, and is a super easy step, as long as you remember to plan ahead. I use this bowl with a dinner plate on top. Keep in mind that your beans will expand quite a bit as they soak.

STEP TWO

The next day, I drained the soaking water from the beans and put them in my electric pressure cooker. I added a can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chiles, a can of more green chiles, some cumin, diced onion, minced garlic, 3 cups filtered water, and most importantly, a drizzle of olive oil to keep the beans from foaming in the pressure cooker. I selected the Beans setting and hit start.

After the 40 minute cycle, the beans were cooked nicely, the flavors were well infused , and the cooking liquid was thick and rich. Note: that time does not include the cooker coming to pressure, or the pressure being released from the cooker.

STEP THREE

I poured the beans and broth into a large stock pot and added another can of Rotel and another tablespoon of cumin. To that I added 4 bay leaves (leaving them whole to be removed later), and a quart of chicken broth. I also diced up about 2 cups worth of leftover ham, and I added the ham bone.

You will notice I have not at any point added any salt. I did not add any when the beans were initially cooking, because that can make them tough. And I held off at this point because I knew the ham and chicken broth were both salty. In the end, the soup needed no additional seasoning.

This simmered on the stove for about 4 hours. Several hours in, I removed the ham bone to a cutting board and cut the remaining meat off the bone and added it back into the soup.

STEP FOUR

After we enjoyed our soup, I let the remainder cool on the stove before I packaged them up. While I generally store all our leftovers in glass these days, for my soups and sauces, I use plastic containers to freeze them in. I have not had good success with freezing in glass jars, I just don’t think they are as well made as they used to be, and do not withstand freezing well. So I use these thick deli style containers.  For 2 of the containers I left plenty of headroom for freezing, and the third I knew hubby would be taking to work the next day for lunches, so I filled it all the way up.

Whew, this has been a long post, but I hope you enjoyed it and will give making ham & bean soup a try. We are really not fans of beans, but we all love this soup.

***Here is a link to the containers I use from Amazon.com.   I am an Amazon affiliate and will receive a small commission if you purchase through this link, but it will not increase your purchase price. Thank you for buying me a latte every now and then 🙂 ***

DuraHome – Deli Food Storage Containers With Lids 32 Ounce, Quart Pack of 24 – Plastic Microwaveable Container

Here’s the detailed recipe:

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Ham & Bean Soup

A great recipe to make use of Easter or Christmas ham leftovers

Servings 8

Ingredients

For Pressure Cooker

  • 1 lb 15 bean soup mix
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 can Rotel 10 oz
  • 1 can chopped green chiles 4 oz
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbs ground cumin
  • 1 tbs olive oil

For the Stove top

  • Beans and cooking liquid
  • 1 can Rotel 10 oz
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • 2 cups chopped ham
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1 quart chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Pressure Cooker Instructions:  
    Add the oil last, it helps keep the beans from foaming and creating a mess when the pressure is released. Set cooker to the Beans setting, or set manually to 40 minutes, and let the beans naturally release pressure (NPR) after the cooking cycle is complete.

  2. Stovetop Instructions:  
    Add all ingredients to a large stockpot and simmer for 3-4 hours. After several hours, remove ham bone and cut remaining meat off the bone and add the bone and meat back to the pot. Before serving, remove bay leaves and discard.

Recipe Notes

This soup freezes very well, but make sure to leave plenty of head space in container before freezing.

Decluttering and Labeling

After our daughter was settled in at college in the fall of 2016, and my days had settled into their new normal, I determined that I was going to tackle the clutter in our home once and for all. I had read and was intrigued by some of the principles of the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and wanted to see if they could make a real difference in our home.

The KonMari approach is that if something doesn’t spark joy, you don’t keep it. And if you keep it, it must have a home and be well organized.

I have been ruthless in going through my things and getting rid of duplicates, things I have been holding on to “just in case” and things I just don’t need. Kitchen gadgets, craft supplies, clothing, nothing has been left untouched. Numerous trips have been made to the local thrift store to donate things I no longer want or need, and it truly makes me happy to see the clutter leave our home.

After decluttering an area, and finding space for the items I have kept, the final step in this process for me has been labeling items. Sometimes it is labeling a tub of seasonal items for storage, or a shelf in a kitchen cabinet. It makes it easier to return items where they belong, and I think it looks nice as well.

All of my labels use the same theme so everything matches throughout our home. I store all the labels on my computer (backed up to the cloud) so I can reprint labels or create new ones as needed.

Here is one of my kitchen cabinets with various baking and small appliance items.  I love that there is adequate space between each item, and that even if multiple things are out and being used, they are simple to put back in place when I am finished because of the labeling on the shelves. It truly makes me happy when I open my cabinets and see them so well organized.

Do you have goals to declutter your home in 2018? I encourage you to pick just one area to begin with, and really be ruthless in choosing what you will keep. Perhaps you will tackle your closet,  your children’s toys, or a storage area of things you never use. It’s worth the effort for the peace you will feel with a house that will feel more like a home.

Creating a photo backup system

 

On Tuesdays, I am going to share something to help you in your digital life. I might recommend an app, share a skill you can use on your Amazon Echo or Google Home device, or a safety or organizational tip.

Today, I am going to share with everyone a little bit about how I back up and organize our family photos. On the 1st of each month I regularly encourage my Facebook friends to make sure that their photos from the previous month are backed up and to clear their memory cards and phones. Today we will take a look about what that process looks like for me.

My first form of backup is a cloud service that I pay for monthly, Crash Plan. Our family photos are precious, and something that we place enough importance on to put in our budget each month. It runs in the background and backs up the folders on my computer that I have selected, and stores them safely in the cloud. Four years ago, I had BOTH of my hard drives die within days of each other, and I was SO grateful that we had this system in place.

But knowing that no system is completely safe, I choose to backup our photos in other ways as well. I also use Dropbox. Dropbox works a little bit differently, it stores your files on your computer, and in the cloud. We have the Dropbox app on our smartphones, and have the app set to automatically upload all of our phone photos. This not only gives me piece of mind knowing our photos are safe in the cloud, but it also gives me access on my computer to all of our photos, so they are there for me to share with family and friends, or scrapbook with. Our daughter in college also has her photos set to backup to our Dropbox account, so we never have to worry about missing photos if her phone were to be lost or stolen.

And just for added peace of mind, I also have our phone photos set to automatically backup to Google Photos. In my settings I have chosen High Quality (not original quality) to take advantage of Googles unlimited free storage option. Google Photos is also an easy way to share photos with our family and friends.

At the start of this new year, I hope you will make it a priority to back up your photos, especially your phone photos. With such easy, and even free ways to do so, it just makes sense.

Adding moisture and natural fragrance to your home

It has been bitterly cold throughout the US this week, with even colder air on the way this weekend. I noticed that the air in our home had gotten very dry because of running the furnace more, (we do not have a humidifier as part of our HVAC), but I didn’t want to haul out the big humidifier just yet.

So I decided to put a big pot of water to simmer on the stove to get some moisture in the air quickly. And it’s always nice to add a little something to the water to add a pleasant scent to the house as well, without harmful chemicals.

I looked around to see what I could find, and I found a lone orange on the back side of my fruit basket that was leftover from our family Christmas gathering. For drinks we had punch, mulled cider, with iced tea and water in clear beverage dispensers, and I wanted to make it look a little more festive so I added fresh cranberries and orange slices to the water. So pretty!

So I took the orange, (which was starting to dry out a little bit), sliced it thinly with my mandolin, and added it to my pot of water. Next I headed to my spice shelf and grabbed a couple of cinnamon sticks, and my mulling spices.
This spice blend smells amazing on it’s own and includes:  cinnamon, allspice,  cloves, mace and  cardamom seeds, which all compliment the orange wonderfully, I wish you could smell it!

***NOTE: a metal pan is best for this, I had some staining on my enameled cast iron after doing this.***

It was really pretty when it first began to simmer, but throughout the day as I added more water, the water got murkier as the cinnamon sticks began to breakdown. But do keep an eye on your pot and DO NOT let the water completely evaporate. If you are going to be out of the kitchen for an extended period of time, you might want to set reminders on your phone to add additional water to the pot.

For very little effort, in no time at all my house was smelling amazing, and it really did add moisture to the air. The humidity in our home went from 23% to 33% while the mixture was simmering on the stove. Give it a try this weekend and see what amazing scent combinations you can come up with.

A fresh start

It’s been over 5 years since my last blog post, and in that time, my husband had safely backed everything up and retired my blog.

That was the beginning of a busy season of life for us, our daughter’s freshman year of high school. We were very involved in church and 4-H activities, and all the busy-ness of homeschool life. At that time, life was more about doing and sharing what was currently going on in our life, so Facebook became my main outlet for that.

Now, 5 years later, our daughter is in college (and thriving) quite a distance from home and I have a lot more time on my hands. 🙂 I love writing and sharing things I learn and do, and there have been things I have been thinking about that I would like to share about again. Things I cook, homemaking skills, memory keeping, craft projects, tech tips, what I am reading, etc.

And maybe some of this will be helpful to others. I still don’t feel like I am doing anything that you can’t find other places on the internet. But, I have enjoyed so much going back through my older blog posts, that even if all this space becomes is another from of memory keeping for our family, I am OK with that. And if you find something helpful for you and your family, even better.