Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Hello readers! I feel like I am constantly apologizing for disappearing for weeks at a time. But I promise that at least for the next few months you have my undivided attention. :)

Unfortunately, the last bit of winter continues to linger here in New York. The plus side is that I can continue comfortably having my soup without sweat dripping down my face. Yes, a pretty sight I know.

I try to cook for my dog Tyler at least once a week. I know it sounds crazy, but it is cheaper and I control exactly what goes into it. I started doing it last year and came up with a really easy mini meatball recipe made with a heart conscious ground chicken that he loves. It makes so many mini meatballs that I decided to just use the rest for myself after I made his batch (after I add salt for myself of course!). You can use your fingers to roll the meatballs or melon baller if you have one on hand.

I love making meatballs. I don't know why I never thought of making it sooner since they're so easy and I can definitely make them more health conscious. With my beach bachelorettes and weddings this summer, it is definitely weighing heavily on me.

There's no better way for me to enjoy mini meatballs except in an Italian wedding soup. Tasty little meatballs floating in an herby clear broth among the tiny tubes of pasta and sweet vegetables and finished with just a squeeze of fresh lemon and shredded parmesan. It makes my mouth drool thinking of it and the perfect soup to deals spring! The lemon is not necessary but I think it brings a citrusy zing to the soup and gives it a clean taste.

You will definitely have leftover mini meatballs. Just store them in a sealed Ziploc freezer bag and take them out anytime you need them: spaghetti and meatballs, Swedish meatballs, meatball skewers for your next cocktail party, etc etc. They are so handy to have around in your freezer!

This Italian wedding soup is great to make the night before as all the flavors come together overnight. It is also a perfect way to use up leftover pasta. Happy Friday everyone!
Serves 4

For mini meatballs (makes 5 dozen):
1/2 lb ground chicken
1 large egg
1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs
1 tsp herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

For soup:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 fennel stem, sliced 1/2-inch thick (fronds reserved)
1/2 onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp red chile flakes
4 cups low sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1/2 bunch fresh spinach or 1 1/2 cup frozen spinach
20 mini-chicken meatballs
1 cup cooked whole wheat piccolini or small whole wheat pasta
Salt and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
1 lemon, quartered
Shredded Parmesan to top (optional)

For meatballs:
1. In a large non-reactive bowl, add ground chicken and all dry ingredients. Using your hands, mix together. Add egg and mix until well-blended.

2. Using your fingers or melon baller, form gumball size mini meatballs. Place evenly on cooking sheet lined with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Refrigerate for an hour to allow them to firm up.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Place cookie sheet with meatballs in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned on top. Let cool. Reserve meatballs to be used and soup and freeze balance once it comes to room temperature.

For soup:
1. In a stockpot, warm oil over medium heat. Add carrot, onion, fennel and garlic. Sauté for approximately 3-5 minutes until vegetables start browning a bit.

2. Add herbs to vegetable mixture. Stir together and then add spinach. Bring heat to medium high, add broth and bring to a boil. Once it has come to a boil, bring it to low heat, cover the pot and let simmer for 30-45 minutes. This allows all the flavors to really come together.

3. Add pasta and meatballs. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Ladle equal proportions in a bowl and top with Parmesan and a wedge of lemon. Serve immediately while hot.

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