Hacks from my Happy Place – XIX

Well, I’m almost done with my yearly ‘nesting’ of filling my freezer with yummy soups and stews that will bring comfort during the cold weather of winter. I still need to make a batch of vegetable soup, but that’s by far one of the easiest to make.

I got a new recipe to add to my repertoire for nesting, and I wanted to share it. There’s a cute story behind it. My bestie, Joanne, doesn’t really like to cook. She’s always taking the easy way out, for example, a jar of spaghetti sauce with frozen meatballs added over cooked spaghetti was enough work for her. With her husband being diagnosed with celiac disease and ordered onto a low sodium diet in the past year, and with a son who is a somewhat picky eater, she’s had to make some major adjustments in her cooking.

When I cook, which I love to do, I often take her a serving for her lunch at work. This year, with my bad shoulder and upper arm, I did make a small batch of my cabbage soup, which she loves and shared with her. Well, recently, she told me she had a new recipe for cabbage soup, and my ears perked right up! She saved a serving to share with me, and I was excited!

Opening the lid to the container, I could see it was tomato-based and had some meat in it (I assumed it was browned hamburger meat). My first spoonful procured me some meat and also some white beans of some kind. My first taste led me to thinking about Italian sausage, and I thought she’d did a good job with her spicing (this is a serious weakness for me). Eventually, I did see a little curl or two of cabbage and a few thin carrot strips. It was good, thoroughly enjoyed. I wrote an email to thank her and to describe my experience trying the soup. I teased her about calling it “cabbage soup” because, if she hadn’t told me it had cabbage in it, I’m not sure I’d have known it was in there

She then admitted that it was called “Italian Sausage and Bean Soup’ and then shared the recipe with me. It’s really easy! One pound of loose Italian sausage (the recipe called for hot Italian, but she swapped it for sweet Italian and I concurred), browned and drained. Add a jar of spaghetti sauce, two cans of drained and rinsed Northern beans (she only used one can), a package of coleslaw and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

Of course, I had to adapt this recipe and make it my own! I had a jar of spaghetti sauce that was about 2/3 full (I needed a little bit of it as a topping for another recipe), so I decided I’d treat the recipe accordingly to make 1-1/2 batches. However, being the cabbage lover that I am, I added a large bag (16 oz.) plus a small bag (8 oz.) of coleslaw. Trust me, there’s no questioning that there is cabbage in my soup! I had to cook it longer to get that much cabbage tender, and add some extra water as it evaporated in steam, but in the end, it’s worthy of being called “Italian sausage with beans and cabbage soup”! And, of course, I’ve saved her a serving to try!

Yes, Brad, you’ll be getting some, too!

I also saw a post on social media from a high-school peer that I wanted to share with you, something I’m going to try. The post suggested that, instead of pouring grease from browning/cooking meat down the drain, save it until it’s slightly solid and add some rolled oats to it, making a bar or patty out of the mixture and put it out for the winter birds. My next door neighbor has a pine tree in his yard that is taller than his three-story house and he has feeders out all year long. I figured I’d try to make some of these and attach them to the fence that separates our properties. I don’t think he’ll object!

I don’t know if that’s actually a “kitchen hack” but it involves two things you find in a kitchen, so I thought I’d share it!

I hope, with COVID on the upsurge again all across the world, that you’ll consider doing some ‘nesting’ of your own in case of tighter lock-downs where you are. This soup recipe is a hearty meal to make and freeze!