Monday, December 28, 2015

Italian Sausage, Orzo and Spinach Soup

I have this strange superpower. I'm really good at making things that I can't (or don't) eat. Cheesecake for example. That's my shit. I can "put my foot" (southern expression meaning something is remarkably cooked) in some cheesecake. Just ask my family and friends. I can also make a killer soup, although I'm not a big fan of it. It needs to be a really cold, rainy day in order for me to crave soup, which is rare here in Southern California. My husband, on the other hand, could eat soup every day. Any kind, any day, any time, doesn't matter...

Last weekend, we had our Annual Christmas Cookie Bake. Here's a photo of some of the delicious cookies we baked this year.
While I normally share a cookie recipe from the cookie bake, I decided to do something different this time...
We have this tradition every year where I make a new soup for us to eat for lunch. Over the years I have made some really great soup and I never make the same kind twice. My White Bean Chicken Chili/Soup has become "legendary". Everyone I have given the recipe to loves it and I still get requests for that recipe. As a matter of fact, Yvonne just called me this morning asking me to resend it to her because she has a cold and wanted to make it. It's definitely a "feel good" type of soup. I'll have to share that recipe one of these days.
For this year's cookie bake, I made Italian Sausage, Orzo and Spinach Soup.
In these photos, I didn't have the Italian Sausage, so I used smoked turkey sausage links
The girls really enjoyed it (Teresa even made it for her family a few days later!) so I promised I would share the recipe on the blog. I'm almost embarrassed at how easy it is to make, but hey, there are days when easy isn't a bad thing, right?
So here's my recipe for super easy, super simple, super delicious Italian Sausage, Orzo and Spinach Soup. I hope you enjoy it!

Italian Sausage, Orzo and Spinach Soup
Serves 4

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
3-4 links Turkey Italian Sausage (casing removed)
** Feel free to sub any sausage you like
1 small onion, diced
4 carrots, diced large
2 -3 stalks of celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 14oz can fire roasted tomatoes
7 cups of chicken stock
1 1/4 cup dried Orzo pasta
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste
1 bag of baby spinach
1/4 tsp fresh chopped rosemary


Heat 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned and no longer pink, breaking up into chunks with a wooden spoon as you cook it. Remove sausage to a bowl and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 20-30 seconds or until fragrant.

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, pasta and seasonings. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan to ensure the pasta doesn't stick. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes (you may need to stir occasionally during this process) to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom.

After 10 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings then add the spinach, the chopped fresh rosemary and the cooked sausage. Cook stirring just until spinach is just wilted (approx. 1 minute).

Enjoy immediately while still hot.

Store leftovers refrigerated in an air-tight container.

Note: Over time, the orzo, as with any pasta, will absorb a lot of the liquid. When reheating, you may need to add additional chicken broth to reach desired "soup" consistency.

To make ahead: Cook pasta separately and add to the broth when reheating the soup just before serving.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gingerbread Shortbread #greatfoodbloggercookieswap2015

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is an event I look forward to every year. It's right up there with Thanksgiving and my annual Cookie Bake. For this event, organized by Julie from The Little Kitchen and Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil, thousands of fellow food bloggers from across the globe, bake and swap cookies through the mail with other food bloggers, all to raise money for Cookies for Kids Cancer, a non-profit organization committed to funding pediatric cancer research.

For this year's cookie swap, I baked Gingerbread Shortbread. Shortbread is always a classic during the holiday season, but gingerbread shortbread is even better! Instead of cutting the shortbread into small shapes, I decided to bake them into wedges! Pretty cute, huh? Now that I think of it, cutting them into actual gingerbread men/women shapes would have been cute too!
My cookies were shipped to Ashley from Couture Palate, Susan from A Less Processed Life and Tracy from Pale Yellow. I hope they enjoyed them!
I included some Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice Tea to compliment the spices in the cookies. After all, what's shortbread without tea?

In return, I received Southern Molasses Crinkle Cookies from Rachel at A Southern Fairy Tale, Chai Spiced Oatmeal Cookies and Funfetti Biscotti from Mel Bakes Things and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Forty Cakes. All of the cookies I received were super yummy! Thanks Ladies!
I have to give a special thanks to Lindsey and Julie. Each year they spend countless hours of their time organizing this event. I personally have a lot of fun baking, packaging and shipping the cookies and waiting to see what I receive in the mail in return. But, at the end of the day, it's not about the cookies, it's all about finding a cure for pediatric cancer.
If you are a food blogger and are interested in participating in the 2016 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, be sure to sign up to receive notifications about next year's event here. You won't want to miss it!
Now onto the recipe for these delicious Gingerbread Shortbread....

Gingerbread Shortbread
Makes 16 cookies
Adapted from BHG

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup cold butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces
2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
Turbinado Sugar for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 325F

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

Combine the flour, sugar and spices in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.

Add the butter and molasses to the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Knead the dough to form a ball. Divide the dough in half and place one ball of dough onto each prepared cookie sheet. Pat into an 8" circle. Using your fingers, create a scallop edge.

Sprinkle each round with turbinado sugar, then prick with the tines of a fork (about every inch or so). If desired, make a heart shape on the top of each wedge using a toothpick or small cookie cutter (just make an indentation, do not cut all the way through the cookie).

Cut each circle into 8 equal wedges leaving the circle intact.

Bake at 325f for 15-18 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown and the center is set.

Remove from the oven and recut the wedges while still warm using a sharp knife.

Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Store tightly covered in an air tight container for up to 3 days.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Chocolate Toffee Biscotti #creativecookieexchange

So is everyone else knee deep in cookie baking this month? I know I am! I love to bake and give homemade cookies for Christmas gifts.

The theme for this month's Creative Cookie Exchange was biscotti. Biscotti are actually the perfect cookie for gift giving. They ship well and stay fresh for several days. I have to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of biscotti. They tend to be dry and crumbly, in desperate need of dunking, while I tend to lean towards soft, chewy cookies. These Chocolate Toffee Biscotti, however are different. Due to the addition of chocolate chips and chocolate covered toffee bits in the dough, they are not as dry as the usual biscotti. The chocolate coating on the toffee bits melts into the dough while baking, giving it added moisture, while the toffee bits surprise you with little bursts of caramel crunch. The chocolate glaze and additional sprinkling of toffee bits add an extra layer of flavor.

This batch of Chocolate Toffee Biscotti is being gifted to a special friend/co-worker for her birthday. She happens to love biscotti and chocolate. I hope she enjoys eating them as much as I enjoyed baking them!

Chocolate Toffee Biscotti
Make about 18 cookies
Adapted from

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup natural cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips coarsely chopped
1 cup chocolate covered toffee bits (like Heath or Skor)
Egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons cold water)

1 cup dark chocolate chips melted
1 cup chocolate covered toffee bits


Preheat oven to 350f and line a baking sheet with parchment paper

In a small bowl, combine the hot water and espresso powder and stir to dissolve. Set aside.

Place flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl and whisk well to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (approx. 2 minutes).

Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and the paddle. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, at low speed, mixing just until combined.

Add the espresso mixture and mix on low speed just until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and paddle.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Add the chocolate chunks and toffee beats and mix  on low speed just until distributed.

Dump the dough onto the prepared baking sheet and divide in half. Shape each half into a log approx. 8" long x 1.5" wide making sure each log is approx. 5" apart on the baking sheet since the dough will spread. Brush lightly with egg wash.

Bake approx. 25 minutes or until set and the dough looks done in the center. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on a cooling rack to cool.

Remove the cooled logs and place on a cutting board. Slice into 3/4" thick slices using a serrated knife (cut straight or on a diagonal). It is very important that the biscotti are completely cool before you cut them. Cutting while warm may cause them to break.

Place the cut biscotti back onto the baking sheet and return to the 350f oven. Bake another 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on the baking sheet.

To glaze the biscotti - melt the chocolate chips and drizzle the chocolate over each cookie. Sprinkle with toffee bits.

Allow the chocolate to set before storing.

Store at room temperature in an air tight container for  up to days.

Biscotti (or mandelbrot or any other twice baked cookie by any other name) are one of the perfect Holiday tin cookies! They last forever, and there are so many ways to make them festive. So we’ve got you covered--sweet, savory, low fat, loaded with decadence, you name it, we’ve got it! Happy Holidays!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made: