Tornados can be good. Sometimes.

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I wrote that last post about my depression.  I want to thank everyone who has reached out and supported me since then.  You have all been so great!  It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one.

My life has been such a crazy tornado of activity since then.  Only three days after I wrote that post, Joe and I took a trip to Bloomington for the weekend and while we were there we got engaged.  Yep!  Engaged!  We’re getting married September 1, 2012.  We’re very excited, but planning a wedding is stressful!  Who knew there were so many decisions to be made?!

My beautiful ring

Showing off my new ring!

We already have our venue (my uncle’s house, in the backyard {yes, there will be tents just in case}), our DJ, our photographer, and my dress.  Oh, my dress.  It’s so beautiful and I wish I could share it, but I can’t because I know Joe reads this.  Just take my word for it.  Beauty in dress form.

We’re definitely on a budget for this wedding, which is good and bad.  Good because we won’t blow our life savings on what really comes down to being a party; and bad because it’s hard to entertain 100 of your closest friends and family when you don’t have a heck of a lot of money to spend.  And you want to be able to remember the day with pictures.  And flowers aren’t cheap.  Oh, and Joe just quit his job so we’re down to one income for a while (gulp).  (It was the best thing, really.  That place is awful.  No one should ever work there.  I’ll be surprised if it’s even in business in a year.)

There will be a lot of DIY at our wedding, much of which I will probably post here to give other brides-to-be ideas on how to do their wedding and reception without going broke.  It can be done, and Joe and I are (hopefully!) going to do it!

Speaking of which, does anyone have any good ideas for food for our reception?  I want it to be original, fun, not stuffy, and yet still inexpensive.  For around 100 guests.  Think it’s possible?  Let me know!

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Virtual Soup Swap ~ Lasagna Soup

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Rachel over at A Southern Fairytale is holding a virtual soup swap contest this weekend.

Rachel is basing this virtual soup swap on the original soup swap started in Seattle in 2005.  This soup swap went bi-coastal in 2006 and the soup swap as we know it today was born.

I would have loved to participate in a “real” soup swap — inviting tons of friends over, everyone bringing 6 quarts of soup to swap (along with recipes!), collecting a bunch of canned food to donate to my local food pantry, and door prizes for all — but it just wasn’t feasible this year.  Next year, though; it’s on.  Get your soup recipes ready, because we are having one heck of a soup swap party at my house!

Since so many people ask me about my (it’s actually Joe’s, but I’m making it tonight* so I’ll take the credit.  I’m sure he’s OK with that.  Right, Joe??) Lasagna Soup I figured I’d use that recipe in the virtual soup swap.

Here ya go!

Lasagna Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 cups onion, chopped (I use a small to medium white onion.  No need to actually measure here.  Or for any of the veggies, really.)
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth (just one of the boxes sold at the grocery.  Or use your own!)
  • 1 (14.5) oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz) can Italian Style stewed tomatoes (this is the size the recipe calls for.  Maybe they have that size in New York, but here I just buy the regular size can.  Those crazy New Yorkers**)
  • 1 cup pasta (any variety works, but I use bow tie pasta; it’s already bite-sized)
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded (garnish)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh basil (garnish)

Lasagna Soup Ingredients

First, you want to take one of those onions (I bought two.  I forgot how much it turns into when you chop it all up)

and chop it right up

Then peel some carrots (save those peels!  They’re great for making vegetable stock!)

and dice them right up.

What?  That’s diced in my book.

OK… I may have chopped them up a bit more before adding them to the soup.

But I like big pieces of carrots in my soup, so they’re still pretty big.

Anyway…

Grab a couple cloves of garlic.

I was at the end of one of my garlic heads so I just used up what I had and got a HUGE clove from another head.

We like garlic ’round these parts.

and mince those cloves up.

 

Then you take those already sliced mushrooms and chop them up even smaller.

OK, so maybe you only do that if you’re like me and you’re not a huge mushroom fan.

If you like mushrooms, go ahead and keep them in those big ol’ slices.

Grab a couple of big handfuls of spinach and chop them up.

When you realize chopping doesn’t work so well (like I did), go ahead and tear them apart with your fingers.

It’s fun.

Now it’s time to cook!

Brown the sausage in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Drop in the onions and carrots and saute for about 3 minutes.

Smells good!

Then add the mushrooms and garlic and saute for another three minutes.

Then ditch the whole soup-making idea and throw all this yummy goodness into a tortilla, grab a glass of wine, and call it a night!

Or you can add the tomato sauce,

the tomatoes,

and the chicken broth and keep making the soup.

Once the tomatoes and the chicken broth have been added, bring the whole shebang up to a boil.

Keep that pot covered while it’s boiling!  You don’t want all of the soup to evaporate away.  Then you’ll just have lasagna stew.  And, while that’s good, it’s just not lasagna soup***.

And lasagna soup is why we’re all here tonight.

While that’s cooking,

recycle all of your containers.

And let the cat help.

He deserves it.

When the soup gets all good and boil-y

add the noodles and simmer until the pasta is cooked, about 10 minutes.

Cover that pot again!

When the pasta is done pasta-ing

(or when it’s cooked through),

add the spinach and cook until wilted.

Use this time to chop up some fresh mozzarella cheese.

Yum!

Go ahead and sneak a piece for yourself.

No one will ever know.

I snuck one and it was so. worth. it.

Sprinkle that cheese in with your washed-out hand.

If your hand isn’t washed-out, that’s fine.

It won’t affect the soup.

I promise.

Stir everything around so the cheese doesn’t all melt in one big huge glob.

(The cheese can be added to the bowls right before serving, too.  Then everyone gets their own big glob of melty cheese right in the bowl!)

But if that starts to happen?  Totally fine.

Just make sure when it’s all served up that you get the bowl with all the cheese.

And it’s done!

Look at all the lasagna-y goodness!

And that big glob of yummy, gooey melted mozzarella.

Divine!

When you serve it, sprinkle some shredded parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil on top.

This soup is seriously good, and so much easier than making lasagna the old fashioned way.

If you need to heat up any leftovers, you can add a bit more chicken stock to the pot.  The pasta is good at stealing all the liquid out of the soup.

 

*This soup was actually made last night, but since I couldn’t find the transfer cord for my camera, I couldn’t finish the post until today.

**Kidding!  I love New Yorkers!  Hell, I live with one!

***Trust me.  I have made this mistake before.  Still very yummy, but decidedly NOT soup-like in the least.

For those of you that like recipe directions to be all in one spot and easy to read, I have included them below:

Lasagna Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 cups onion, chopped (I use a small to medium white onion.  No need to actually measure here.  Or for any of the veggies, really.)
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth (just one of the boxes sold at the grocery.  Or use your own!)
  • 1 (14.5 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz) can Italian Style stewed tomatoes (this is the size the recipe calls for.  Maybe the have that size in New York, but here I just buy the regular size can.  Those crazy New Yorkers**)
  • 1 cup pasta (any variety works, but I use bow tie pasta; it’s already bite-sized)
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded (garnish)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh basil (garnish)

1.  Brown sausage in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onions and carrots; saute 3 minutes.  Stir in mushrooms and garlic; saute another 3 minutes.

2.  Add broth, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce; bring to a boil.  Drop in pasta and simmer until cooked, about 10 minutes.  Stir in spinach and cook until wilted.

3.  Drop mozzarella cheese into soup and stir, or place 1/4 of the cheese into serving bowls and pour soup on top.  Garnish with parmesan and basil.