Guest Post: Lessons on finding the best cast iron skillet by Doug Thomas

Doug Thomas

Doug Thomas, my friend and fellow founding member of the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group, spends a lot of time researching and collecting cast iron cookware. He is one of Nevada’s reigning State Dutch Oven Champions and recently competed in the 2014 International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championship Cook Off. I asked him awhile ago if he’d be interested in writing some guest posts for my blog as his knowledge on cast iron, both new and vintage, is boundless. Below is a lovely article on what types of cast iron make the best skillet, along with some tips on collecting vintage pieces.

What is the best skillet for cooking and why?

Without a doubt the best skillet for cooking is made of cast iron. Cast iron skillets hold heat more uniformly and for longer periods of time than other types of metals. Additionally, they should be bare cast iron, not coated with enamel or porcelain. They should not have wooden handles so they can be interchanged from stovetop to oven. Bare cast iron cookware, however,  does require seasoning with oil to seal the pores of the metal to prevent rusting and provide a smooth surface. Bare seasoned cast iron also imparts a certain flavor to the food being cooked and many medical personnel proclaim that it adds a certain amount of iron to the cooked food. Some doctors have even proclaimed that iron supplements can be reduced or eliminated with regular cast iron cooking.

What brand is the best?

There are many differences of opinion as to which brand is preferred. Perhaps one of the best skillets is the one grandmother or great-grandmother used.  With proper care, cast iron skillets can last indefinitely. In addition, the early cast iron skillets were manufactured differently than the ones currently made. They were thinner and therefore of lighter weight. The surface of the metal was also very smooth compared to the porous surfaces found today.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Skillet with Griswold markings. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Early manufacture of cast iron skillets began in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  One of the earliest companies was Griswold. Their pans were marked with “ERIE” due to their production in Erie, Pennsylvania. In the early 1900s this was changed to “GRISWOLD.”

Another company, Wagner Ware went into business in 1891 and continued making cast iron for over a century. Today there is a Wagner and Griswold Society that is still quite active. Beware of Wagner skillets currently being sold in cardboard boxes as they are made in Asia. This skillet says “Wagner’s 1891 Original” and was manufactured between 1991 and 1999.

Lodge Skillet with Lid

Lodge Skillet with Lid

Lodge is the only factory still making cast iron skillets in the U.S.A. today. They were founded in 1896, and are manufactured in Tennessee. The current skillets are quite porous and thick-walled compared to the earlier versions.

Skillet with Piqua marking. Photo courtesy of etsy.com.

Skillet with Piqua marking. Photo courtesy of etsy.com.

A lesser-known skillet manufacturer was the Favorite Stove Company. It manufactured pans from the 1910s through the 1930s. These skillets have a very smooth surface and are lightweight. The bottom says “PIQUA” or “FAVORITE PIQUA.” Some have a smiley face under the name. This is an excellent skillet that is often overlooked.

Wapak Hollow Ware Chief Marking. Photo courtesy of ebay.com.

Wapak Hollow Ware Chief Marking. Photo courtesy of ebay.com.

Lastly, the Wapak Hollow Ware Company was formed in Wapakoneta, Ohio in 1903 where it produced several lines of “thin wall” skillets that were lightweight until 1926. These are currently some of the most sought after pans. Some have the word “WAPAK” on the bottom and the most collectable ones have the crest of a Native American chief on the bottom.

Several companies currently import cast iron skillets and include: Bayou Classic, Camp Chef, Coleman, Old Mountain and Texsport.

Choose your cast iron skillet wisely and it will treat you with a lifetime of pleasure.

My Big Fat Greek Meatball Gyro

Wow. Here it is, August already, and I didn’t realize how long it’s been since my last post. Where did July go?

Summer is always super busy for me, as I’m sure it is for everyone. I hope all of you are taking advantage of sunny days and warm weather. I am trying to get outside as much as possible, packing in camping trips, Dutch oven events and dog trials while the good weather lasts. Maybe I should call this post “My Big Fat CRAZY Summer!” Because it has been.

But, since I actually have this one weekend off, I thought I’d share a fun twist on a Greek classic. The traditional gyro is usually served with lamb, but not everyone may be a fan (like my husband). And, as I am always trying to find ways to jazz up staple proteins like ground beef, I found this fun recipe to create a meatball version of the gyro. This meal is quick, tasty and can be pretty lean if you use lean ground beef or ground turkey. You can take it one step further and turn it into a lettuce wrap, instead of using pita bread or Naan. So many options for a light and tasty summer dish.

What really makes the gyro so tasty, for me, is the creamy and slightly tangy tzatziki sauce made from yogurt and fresh cucumber. And it is probably one of the easiest and healthiest sauces to make.

TTzatziki Saucezatziki Sauce Ingredients
1 6 oz. container Greek Yogur
1/2 Cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, and diced
1 clove Garlic, crushed
Salt to taste

Remove the seeds from a cucumber and dice.

Remove the seeds from a cucumber and dice.

Add the diced cucumber to a bowl with the Greek yogurt.

Add the diced cucumber to a bowl with the Greek yogurt.

Add the crushed garlic clove.

Add the crushed garlic clove. Season with salt to taste.

Combine thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve with the gyros.

Combine thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve with the gyros.

My Big Fat Greek Meatball GyroGyro Ingredients
1 lb. lean Ground Beef
2 Eggs
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 tsp. dried Marjoram
1 tsp. dried Oregano
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper
1/2 Cucumber, sliced
8 oz. Grape Tomatoes, halved
Naan flatbread (found in deli section of most grocery stores; Pita bread or lettuce leaves may be substituted)

Place the ground beef in a bowl.

Place the ground beef in a bowl.

Add the two eggs.

Add the two eggs.

Add all of the spices, including salt and pepper.

Add all of the spices, including salt and pepper.

Combine thoroughly.

Combine thoroughly.

Form into large meatballs. This will make about 12-18 meatballs.

Form into large meatballs. This will make about 15-18 meatballs, depending on the size.

Spray a cast iron griddle with cooking spray and heat to medium temperature.

Spray a cast iron griddle with cooking spray and heat to medium temperature.

Cook the meatballs, turning often to cook evenly. Internal temperature should be between 155 - 165, depending on how rare you like your beef.

Cook the meatballs, turning often to cook evenly. Internal temperature should be between 155 – 165, depending on how rare you like your beef.

Starting to get a nice sear.

Starting to get a nice sear.

If you are using Naan, warm in a microwave for 30 seconds to soften. Add the meatballs, tzatziki sauce, cucumbers and tomatoes. Opa!

If you are using Naan, warm in a microwave for 30 seconds to soften. Add the meatballs, tzatziki sauce, cucumbers and tomatoes. Opa!

Dutch Oven Lovin’ and Some Bitchin’ Chicken

Did you know you can make lumpia in a Dutch oven? You can and, man, is it good!

Filipino lumpia made in a Dutch oven.

So, I may have been away from my blog too long, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking! It’s summer time and Dutch oven season is in full swing. My Dutch oven group, the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group (NSDOG), was busy this month with two events – a delectable global Dutch oven cook-off (meaning, make an international dish in your little black pot) and a first-time class at the Lahontan State Recreation Area, where members of the group taught about 25 participants. Both events had great turn-outs and tasty dishes.

Lahontan class participants put a lasagna together.

Lahontan class participants put a lasagna together.

I started NSDOG in 2009 as a way to hone my cast iron cooking skills and find like-minded individuals. Now the group has over 150 members and we are often invited to cook and/or teach for the community. We are a diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds and locations, but we all share a common passion for cast iron cuisine. It amazes me still how fabulously we get along and work well together. Our Dutch Oven Lovefest knows no bounds!

My buddy Doug enjoying cast iron cuisine

My buddy Doug enjoying cast iron cuisine

My friend Doug, also a founding member of the group, makes a zesty chicken dish called Butch’s Bitchin’ Chicken, which is a hit at the classes we teach. It is simple to make (especially for beginners), packed with flavor, and not too hard on the waistline. My husband never ate this totally rad dish before (did that sound a little ’80s to you?) so I converted it to my kitchen Dutch oven and served it up for dinner last night.

IMG_8004Ingredients
4 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 1/4 cups Chicken Broth
1/2 cup diced Sun-Dried Tomatoes (packed in oil)
8 oz. Fettuccine Noodles (try whole grain for a healthier version)
1/2 cup Pesto
Salt, Pepper and Italian Seasoning

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Mix with your hands until the chicken is thoroughly coated.

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Mix with your hands until the chicken is thoroughly coated.

Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven and place chicken pieces inside.

Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven and place chicken pieces inside.

Pour in the chicken broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Boil the noodles in a separate pot. Drain and mix in the pesto.

Boil the noodles in a separate pot. Drain and mix in the pesto.

Add the noodles to the chicken.

Add the noodles to the chicken.

Combine.

Combine.

Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve with a garnish of fresh basil. Ummm...dare I say it? Yep, totally bitchin'!

Serve with a garnish of fresh basil. Ummm…dare I say it? Yep, totally bitchin’!

Shrimp with Fresh Basil, Thai Style

Photo courtesy of Lodge Manufacturing

Photo courtesy of Lodge

A while ago, my husband gave me a copy of the latest edition of the Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook. I don’t know if other cooks and foodies are like me, but I spend more time thumbing through my cookbooks than actually trying some of the recipes. For me, the attributes of what makes a fine cookbook are a wide variety of dishes, beautiful photographs (preferably color), easy to follow recipes, and little tidbits thrown in on history, techniques, and possible ingredient substitutions. I am also partial to cookbooks with spiral bindings, as they remain flat on the counter when you are working through a recipe.

Lodge’s cookbook meets most of my criteria. It doesn’t have the spiral binding, but quite frankly, most cookbooks don’t. But it has everything else — a variety of dishes, including breakfast frittatas, soups, stews and gumbo, delectable surf and turf dishes, desserts, and an entire section just on cornbread — and an easy-to-follow design with numerous color photos, simple directions, and sections on caring for cast iron, metric conversions, and even tips on bean hole cooking.

The recipes are diverse, not only in cultures (American, Asian, Indian, Cajun, Mexican), but in the different types of cast iron skillets, griddles, bakeware and ovens that are recommended for cooking. Overall, a great cookbook!

Following is a recipe that I tried from the cookbook, something that caught my eye as I love Thai food. I modified it a little, adding some julienned carrots and removing the jalapeno pepper from the recipe. This recipe is very simple, extremely flavorful, and fast to make. And it gets the thumbs-up from my hubby, so what more does one need!

Oh, and stay tuned! I will be giving away two copies of the Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook in the near future. Details to follow in a future post.

Thai Basil ShrimpIngredients
2 Tbsps. Asian Fish Sauce
2 Tbsps. Water
1 tsp. Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp. Sugar
2 Tbsps. Oil (Canola or Vegetable)
1 Lb. medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup thinly sliced Onion
1/2 cup Carrots, julienned
1 Tbsp. chopped Garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped Green Onions
2 Tbsps. coarsely chopped fresh Cilantro
3-4 torn Basil Leaves

Stir together the fish sauce, water, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Prep the remaining ingredients, so you can add them quickly when they are needed.

Stir together the fish sauce, water, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. Prep the remaining ingredients, so you can add them quickly when they are needed.

Heat oil in a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet, until it becomes very hot, about 30 seconds. Turn to coat the skillet evenly. Add the shrimp in a single layer.

Heat oil in a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet, until it becomes very hot, about 30 seconds. Turn to coat the skillet evenly. Add the shrimp in a single layer.

Cook on one side, undisturbed, until the shrimps' edges turn bright pink. Toss well and turn all the shrimp cooked side up so the other side can cook, undisturbed, for 15 seconds.

Cook on one side, undisturbed, until the shrimps’ edges turn bright pink. Toss well and turn all the shrimp cooked side up so the other side can cook, undisturbed, for 15 seconds.

Add the onion, garlic and carrots and toss well.

Add the onion, garlic and carrots and toss well.

Thai Basil Shrimp

Cook 1 minute, tossing occasionally…

...until the onion softens and becomes fragrant and shiny; continue tossing so it wilts and softens but doesn't brown.

…until the onion softens and becomes fragrant and shiny; continue tossing so it wilts and softens but doesn’t brown. Stir the fish sauce mixture to make sure the sugar is dissolved and pour it around the edge of the pan.  Toss well to season the shrimp, then let cook, undisturbed just until the shrimp are cooked through and the sauce is bubbling.

Add the green onions and cilantro, and toss well. Tear the basil leaves into 2 or 3 pieces each,. Add all of the basil to the pan over the shrimp and toss well. Cook 10 seconds.

Add the green onions and cilantro, and toss well. Tear the basil leaves into 2 or 3 pieces each. Add all of the basil to the pan over the shrimp and toss well. Cook 10 seconds.

Serve over cooked rice. Enjoy!

Serve over cooked rice. Enjoy!

M.I.A.

Well, in case of you have been wondering why things have been quiet on The Skillet front over the past month or so, here’s why I’ve been Missing in Action.

One of my dogs had elbow dysplasia surgery in early April and this is her feeling good on her meds.

One of my dogs had elbow dysplasia surgery in early April and this is her feeling good on her meds.

My brother-in-law and his family came for a visit, and I thanked them by backing my new car into their headlight. Yep, brilliant!

My brother-in-law and his family came for a visit, and I welcomed them by backing my new car into their headlight. Yep, brilliant!

I now get up at 5:30 in the morning to take my dog on her therapy walks and get to see beautiful sunrises like this one.

I now get up at 5:30 in the morning to take my dog on her therapy walks and get to see beautiful sunrises like this one.

My Dutch oven group, the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group, fed the masses at the Genoa Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival.

My Dutch oven group, the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group, fed the masses at the Genoa Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival.

We served Dutch Oven Lasagna.

We served Dutch Oven Lasagna.

Skillet Cookies

Skillet Cookies

Drunken Buffalo Stew

Drunken Buffalo Stew

Five Alarm Texas Chili

Five Alarm Texas Chili

Sourdough Rolls by Terry Bell, The Dutch Diva. These are cheese and jalapeno.

Sourdough Rolls by Terry Bell, The Dutch Diva. These are cheese and jalapeno.

We fed hungry mountain men.

We fed hungry mountain men.

Cowboy poets like Tony Argento, pictured here.

Cowboy poets like Tony Argento, pictured here.

And even Sarah Winnemucca visited our camp.

And even Sarah Winnemucca visited our camp.

Last, but certainly not least, my husband decided we needed to foster a mama cat and her four kittens.

Last, but certainly not least, my husband decided we needed to foster a mama cat and her four kittens.

We've named them all, so I think they'll be staying. This one is Mikey.

We’ve named them all, so I think they’ll be staying. This one is Mikey.

Welcome to my zoo!

Welcome to my zoo!

So, as you can see, life in my household is never dull. But I promise to get back to cooking and will have future posts coming soon.

Happy spring, everyone!

A Flavorful Life – Tex Mex Chicken Panini

I spent St. Patrick’s Day weekend at a dog trial in northern California. The trial was a blast and I always enjoy spending time with agility dogs and the humans who love them. I found myself chatting with one of my agility buddies (the human kind), expounding about how busy my schedule was and how it would only get busier in the summer when I had to juggle Dutch oven events, dog trials, a full time job and quality time with my husband. I wasn’t complaining and I actually blurted out to my friend that “I have a full life.” Not “I have a full schedule.” “I have a full life.” It made me pause.

How often do we think about our lives in this way? I imagine we all have busy schedules juggling jobs, family obligations, hobbies, school, or other pursuits. We each are given one life to live and it is up to us to make it a flavorful one. The fun part is that we get to season it to our own tastes. The challenge is finding the right balance for all of those seasonings. Despite how hectic my schedule gets, I much prefer my crazy flavorful life to a bland one.

Funny how dog trials always give me too much time to think. Now that I got carried away waxing philosophical, following is a very flavorful recipe for a Tex Mex Chicken Panini that I hope adds a little spice to your life.

Tex Mex Chicken PaniniIngredients
2 cups cooked or rotisserie Chicken, shredded
1/2 of a 10-oz. can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Chiles
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped Cilantro
1/2 Tbsp. minced Garlic
Salt and Pepper
2 French Bread Sandwich Rolls
1 Red Bell Pepper, halved
1/2 White Onion, cut into slices
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

Roast the bell pepper and onion slices for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

Roast the bell pepper and onion slices for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven.

The onions should be tender and the pepper skin should begin to blister.

The onions should be tender and the pepper skin should begin to blister. A little char adds more flavor.

In a bowl, combine the chicken, Rotel tomatoes, mayo, cilantro and garlic.

In a bowl, combine the chicken, Rotel tomatoes, mayo, cilantro and garlic.

Mix lightly but thoroughly.

Mix lightly but thoroughly.

Assemble the sandwich with a layer of the chicken mixture.

Assemble the sandwich with a layer of the chicken mixture.

Then some of the roasted onions.

Then some of the roasted onions.

And slices of the roasted bell pepper.

And slices of the roasted bell pepper.

Finally, top with the shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Finally, top with the shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Grill in a panini press or grill the sandwich on a cast iron griddle on medium-high heat. Place a bacon press on top.

Grill in a panini press or on a cast iron griddle on medium-high heat. Place a bacon press or small skillet on top.

Grill on each side for 2 minutes until golden grill marks appear and the cheese melts.

Grill on each side for 2 minutes until golden brown and the cheese melts.

Cut it in half and enjoy some slightly spicy goodness.

Cut it in half and savor the spicy goodness.

Wild Mushroom and Beef Soup

Well, a little skiff of snow fell last night, reminding me that winter really is still here, even if spring is supposed to arrive early. Yesterday, it was 55 degrees here in Reno. Current temp…about 35. Sounds like a good day for soup.

Here’s a tasty recipe for some earthy wild mushroom and beef soup. Dried wild mushrooms or soup mushroom packets can be used for this recipe. They are usually found in the produce or soup sections of your grocery store. Any ‘ol mix of mushrooms will do.

Wild Mushroom and Beef SoupIngredients
1 1-oz. package dried wild mushrooms or soup mix mushrooms
2 cups boiling water
3 Tbsps. vegetable oil, divided
2 lbs. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 shallots, chopped
2 medium carrots or about 20 baby carrots, peeled and chopped
1 lb. bag baby Dutch yellow potatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsps. tomato paste
2 32-oz. containers low-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
Chopped parsley
Fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional)
Worcestershire Sauce (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the dried mushrooms and boiling water. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the dried mushrooms and boiling water. Set aside.

In a Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsps. of oil over medium-high heat until very hot.

In a Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbsps. of oil over medium-high heat until very hot.

Season the beef with salt and pepper.

Season the beef with salt and pepper.

Add meat and cook in batches until browned on all sides, about 2-3 minutes.

Add meat to Dutch oven and cook in batches until browned on all sides, about 2-3 minutes.

Remove to a plate.

Remove to a plate.

Lower heat to medium and add another Tbsp. of oil to the Dutch oven. Saute onion, carrots and garlic until softened, about 7 minutes.

Lower heat to medium and add another Tbsp. of oil to the Dutch oven. Saute onion, carrots and garlic until softened, about 7 minutes.

Nicely cooked veggies.

Nicely cooked veggies.

Add the tomato paste...

Add the tomato paste.

and combine thoroughly.

Combine thoroughly and cook for about 2 minutes.

Return the meat to the pot.

Return the meat to the pot.

Add the beef broth and wine.

Add the beef broth and wine.

Add the potatoes and bring to a boil.

Add the potatoes and bring to a boil.

Drain the mushrooms. Chop them and add to the soup.

Drain the mushrooms. Chop them and add to the soup. If you want an even heartier soup, add the sliced fresh mushrooms as well.

Simmer the soup for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until beef and potatoes are tender.

Simmer the soup for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until beef and potatoes are tender.

Don't be surprised if your soup smiles back at you.

Don’t be surprised if your soup smiles back at you.

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce for a little added flavor.

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce for a little added flavor. Enjoy!

Golden Gate Lemon Chicken Spinach Soup

If you are trying to get your kids to eat the green stuff and the Popeye routine of “it makes you strong – agugugugu” doesn’t work, maybe this tasty soup with spinach as one of its star ingredients will help. Tell them that, if they eat their spinach, they might grow up to be Colin Kaepernick. Okay, it’s Super Bowl Sunday and I had to get my Niners/Nevada Wolf Pack props in somewhere. So, in honor of my husband’s favorite football team and Nevada’s favorite quarterback, enjoy a bowl of Golden Gate Lemon Chicken Spinach Soup. It’s not exactly party food, but it just might help your muscles grow. Next thing you know, you’ll be giving your biceps a big ‘ol smooch. I hope there will be a lot of Kaepernickin’ going on today. Go Kap!

Golden Gate Lemon Chicken Spinach SoupIngredients
1 Tbsp. Oil
2 – 4 Shallots, diced
1 Carrot or about 15 Baby Carrots, sliced
2 32-oz. containers of Chicken Broth
2 Bay Leaves
4 cups Garlic Rotisserie Chicken, shredded
1/4 cup Lemon Juice, about 2 lemons
6 oz. bag, Baby Spinach
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil in a cast iron Dutch oven.

Heat oil in a cast iron Dutch oven.

Saute the shallots and carrots together...

Saute the shallots and carrots together…

until they become soft.

until they become soft.

Add the chicken broth and bay leaves.

Add the chicken broth and bay leaves.

Bring to a boil.

Bring to a boil.

Let simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

Let simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

Add the chicken.

Add the chicken.

Add the lemon juice.

Add the lemon juice.

And the spinach.

And the spinach.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for a couple of minutes until the chicken is heated through and the spinach gently wilts.

Enjoy! P.S. the broth is perfect for bread dippin' while you're Kaepernickin'.

Enjoy! P.S. The broth is perfect for bread dippin’ while you’re Kaepernickin’.

Mother-Daughter Cream of Potato Soup with Dumplings

As a child, I loved my mother’s cream of potato soup. Whenever I was sick, that’s what I wanted to make me feel better, along with a hot cup of tea with cream and sugar. As a child, I didn’t realize how bland my mother’s soup tasted as it was very basic…milk, butter, onions, potatoes and a little seasoning. As I grew up and began to expand my palate, I decided to experiment with her very basic soup and make it my own. Today’s rendition is packed with flavor and lots of goodies like carrots, red onion, turkey sausage, and dumplings. No matter how much I change what I put in her soup, I still keep the basic foundation. And every time I make it, I always remember my childhood cravings and how good my mom’s soup continues to make me feel.

Soup Ingredients
1 Potato, peeled and diced
1 cup sliced Carrots
1/2 cup Red Onion, chopped
6 – 7 oz. Turkey Sausage, diced
2 1/2 cups Milk (okay to use low-fat to make this a leaner soup)
1 cup Chicken Broth
2 Tbsps. Butter
2 Tbsps. Flour
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper

Dumplings Ingredients
2/3 cups Bisquick baking mix (use the HeartSmart variety)
3 Tbsps. low-fat milk

First, make the roux, which is a thickening agent of equal parts fat and flour.

In a small saucepan, melt 2 Tbsps. of butter.

To the melted butter, add 2 Tbsps of flour, the salt and pepper.

Combine to get a thick, bubbly, gooey mixture.

Add 1/2 cup of milk to the roux and stir continuously over low heat until completely combined.

In a Dutch oven, add 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of chicken broth, and the roux mixture. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, but be careful not to scorch the milk.

Once the milky mixture is boiling, add the potatoes, carrots and red onion.

Cover the Dutch oven and let the soup simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes until potatoes are cooked through.

While the potatoes are cooking, saute the turkey sausage in a cast iron skillet until they are slightly brown and heated through.

You also have time to make the dumpling dough by mixing 2/3 cups of Bisquick mix with 3 Tbsps. of milk until a soft dough forms (forgot to take a picture of the dough).

Once the potatoes are cooked, add the turkey sausage to the soup.

Form teaspoon-sized dumplings and drop them into the soup. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot with a couple of plump dumplings. Invite your mom or daughter to join you…or the whole family for that matter. Enjoy!

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup – my absolute favorite soup on the planet, hands down. I first ate it, believe it or not, in the cafeteria at the university where I work and have been hooked ever since. Rich in simplicity, it consists of four ingredients – meatballs, chicken broth, spinach and pasta. Although traditionally served at Italian weddings (thus the name), I use it as one of my go-to soups when I have a cold or simply want some warm comfort in my system. I can’t get enough of it.

Ingredients
1 Egg, lightly beaten
3/4 lb. Lean Ground Beef
1/2 cup, chopped Onion
3 Tbsp. plain Bread Crumbs
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp. dried Parsley
Salt and Pepper
2 32 oz. containers of Chicken Broth
5 oz. fresh Spinach
1 1/2 tsp. dried Oregano
8 oz. Acini di Pepe Pasta

First, the meatballs:

Put the lightly beaten egg in a large bowl.

Add the ground beef…

Onion…

Bread crumbs…

1 Tbsp. of the parmesan cheese and the parsley.

Combine all ingredients.

Form beef mixture into meatballs, about 1 inch in size. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Place the baked meatballs in the bottom of a cast iron Dutch oven.

Cover the meatballs with the chicken broth.

Add the spinach.

And the oregano.

Combine ingredients and cover the pot. Let it simmer 10 to 15 minutes to allow the spinach to wilt.

Spinach as it gently wilts.

Cook the pasta in a separate pot for about 11 minutes. Drain and add to the soup mixture. Let it simmer for an additional 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve hot with a sprinkle of some of the remaining parmesan cheese. Enjoy!