Italian Wedding Soup with Cheese Tortellini

Several years ago my good friend Kate Lawson, former food writer for The Detroit News shared her Italian Wedding soup recipe with my daughter. It quickly became one my families favorites. I have of course altered it to be my own & to suit our taste buds over the years. Hers was of course dynamite, but I love to be creative in the kitchen.

Pro Tip: I always use fresh veggies from the garden or the farmers market if in season & if not I purchase them. Fresh veggies always give a much fresher flavor to this delicious soup!

Meatballs:

1 pound lean ground beef
1 small red onion minced- about ½ cup
1 egg (farm fresh are best)
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 fresh clove of garlic, minced
1 TBSP Italian Seasoning- see my recipe here: https://bit.ly/3dRCzIW
½ tsp Himalayan sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper

  1. In a large bowl mix all ingredients until evenly blended.
  2. Form into walnut size or 1” balls.
  3. Place on a cookie sheet and place in the fridge for 30 minutes until firm.
    Makes approximately 24-28 meatballs.

While the meatballs are setting, start soup.

1 TBSP butter
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sliced baby carrots- cut into ¼ inch coins
½ cup minced red onion, packed
1 fresh clove of garlic, minced
1- 48oz container of beef broth
4-6 tomatoes pureed to make 2 cups OR 1- 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes or sauce
(I like to use either a variety of Heirloom tomatoes or Roma’s)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ tsp Himalayan sea salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
1- 16 ounce bag of 5 cheese tortellini
1 cup baby spinach, packed

  1. In a large pot put oil, butter, onions, carrots, and minced garlic in. Cook on medium heat for approximately 7-10 minutes or until veggies are fork tender.
  2. Add meatballs into veggie mixture, mix thoroughly, and sauté meatballs until golden brown on outside- approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Add broth, tomato puree, parmesan cheese, salt & pepper; stir until thoroughly blended, cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally bringing to a low boil.
  4. Add tortellini and spinach, stir in and cook for 7 minutes.

This is a hearty soup and is delicious served with fresh Italian bread. Sprinkle a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese on top & enjoy!

What’s your favorite soup? Tell me in the comments!

If you enjoyed this blog, please LIKE it & Follow me for weekly posts!
Happy day friends,
Jean

My Top 5 Reasons to Support Local Farmers Markets

The Ann Arbor Farmers Market https://bit.ly/3AHViQd

One of my favorite things to do is attend area farmers markets. Whenever I travel I immediately look up any surrounding farmers markets, and you better believe if we can attend, we do! 

Here are my Top 5 reasons to support our local farmers markets.

1. Support your local economy by supporting your local farmers & entrepreneurs! 

As educated consumers we want to know where our food is coming from. We’re tired of food being mass produced on assembly lines with labels sporting names of ingredients that can’t even be pronounced. We
want clean & healthy food locally sourced & grown.
Where do you get this great stuff you ask? You get it at your local farmers market!


The Ann Arbor Farmers Market https://bit.ly/3AHViQd

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)  Released August 17, 2020,
“On an average market day, 916 households shopped across markets in the U.S. and spent $14,547 per farmers market. Farmers Market Managers served as paid employees in 4,321 markets, while in 3,162 they served as volunteers. On average, the paid Farmers Market Managers earned $18.40 per hour. Managers worked an average of 19.4 hours per week. “
Taken from https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/pz50hd694/gx41n598k/jd473j98z/nfar0820.pdf

2. Support your local farmers & entrepreneurs!

Direct marketing of farm products through farmers markets continues to be an important sales outlet for agricultural producers nationwide. Small businesses can get their product out to a fresh target market at a very reasonable cost. Markets can eliminate the need for a brick and mortar facility and all the expenses associated with it. Most importantly, it allows customers to build relationships with producers. You can see the positive impact of supporting local from this infographic for the Kalamazoo Michigan Farmers Market. 

Kalamazoo Farmers Market Metrics http://pfcmarkets.com/

3. Explore new varieties of fresh fruits & veggies, & other healthy foods!

I’ve often been asked, “What’s an Heirloom?” or told  “I’ve never seen a purple carrot!!!” Well, you’ll find a plethora of Heirloom varieties including purple carrots at most farmers markets! 

Tomatoes are by far the hottest item in the Heirloom market, but there are several varieties of eggplant, squash, carrots, beans, and so much more. 

Besides  providing a wide range of fresh fruit and veggies, you’ll be dazzled by a slew of delicious baked goods, dairy, egg and meat products, honey and maple syrup, body care products, both fresh and dried herbs, along with all types of artisan products. Some of these include handcrafted baskets, wooden bowls and cutting boards, as well as beautiful pottery, jewelry and several forms of art media. Pricing is typically very reasonable when compared to brick and mortar stores. Everything at the market is fresh from that day or the day before, unlike grocery store produce which has been shipped and transported for days.

4. Education- Kids programs, Cooking demos, & More!

Many markets incorporate kid’s programming, cooking demos, health fairs, & live music, to name just a few! The reason is simple: it is every market’s mission to provide healthy, nutritious, reasonably priced food to all people.

The farmers market is an ideal project for every community to incorporate. It promotes healthy eating, and enables community members to build relationships with their local producers.

One incredible program many farmers markets offer is The Power of Produce Club (POP Club). The POP Club provides both an educational & entertaining opportunity for children to engage in their market with the opportunity to discuss produce with the market farmers while exposing them to new & unique fruits and vegetables. ” In addition to participating in educational activities, POP Club kids receive vouchers to spend at the market, allowing them to make their own shopping decisions at the market.”

Ask your farmers market manager if this is available, if not tell them how to participate!

5. Connect with your community!

Farmers markets provide a place where the community can come together, meet and shop locally. The market is a gathering place for friends and family.  Markets offer fresh products locally produced, face-to-face interaction with producers and artisans, live entertainment, family activities, all the while supporting the local economy. 

Infographic taken from Farmers Market Coalition

Check out this great video https://youtu.be/uUm6coaRKBQ

“According to the USDA, Farmers Markets are an integral part of the urban/farm linkage and have continued to rise in popularity, mostly due to the growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm. Farmers markets allow consumers to have access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, enables farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers, and cultivate consumer loyalty with the farmers who grow the produce.

Direct marketing of farm products through farmers markets continues to be an important sales outlet for agricultural producers nationwide. USDA celebrates National Farmers Market Week, view the Proclamation (pdf), (the first full week in August) each year and as of 2019 estimates, there are 8,140 farmers markets in the US.” Taken from https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/local-regional/research-publications

Dave & I at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market!

Thanks for taking the time to read my article. Please like it & leave me a comment!
Let me know what your favorite farmers market is, and where it’s located! I’d love to visit if I’m ever in the area! Maybe we can meet up for a coffee!

Please share this blog if you found it informative, and follow me on Facebook for fun & informative content!
Happy day,
Jean!

My Cookbook is Returning… mid to end of September!

Gardens, a wedding, and more!

It has been awhile since I penned any lines here. This was a place I often meandered to when a reprieve from the daily chaos was needed. This was my happy place… and it will be again!

I’m so excited to return and share the many wonderful things which have happened in my life since my last entry.

Over the last six years a couple of my children have grown & had children of their own (I’m a grandma two times… more boys!), one became a Marine, and my youngest started playing football. My life is filled with so much joy… and still some chaos- but we focus on the joys. Life is too short! 

In just a few short weeks I will marry my best friend, and the best thing that has ever happened to me.

But that’s not it friends! I have a few big projects in the works.

I am working on publishing a new cookbook with all my favorite recipes, AND a compilation of For Dragonflies & Me blogs in one concise book both in print & eBook!

Even more exciting is my new Podcast in the making… you’re gonna love it!

Of course these will all take some time, but I promise to keep you updated on the progress.

I might even have a call out for my book cover!

Keep posted for weekly blogs and of course follow me on Facebook for updates, beautiful photos, and fun memes!

Thanks to Moonlight Photography for taking our beautiful engagement photos!

See them at https://www.moonlightphotographymi.com/

Planting Garlic: Now’s the time to get your garlic planted for next years harvest

Now’s the time to start thinking about planting your garlic for next years harvest… Read On!

For Dragonflies And Me

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Garlic is gold. This gold takes patience for sure.

The clove is tenderly placed in the cool earth and then carefully buried into a wintery grave.
The ground freezes with this little life waiting… sleeping…
Snow falls. Insulates. Freeze.

Soon will come the spring… my time of joy will come again. When I can step outside, closing my eyes to inhale the good clean smell of mud… grass… wind through the trees… earth smell. All you gardeners reading this are holding your breath… imagining and understanding fully what I’m saying… goose bumps…

You know because you love the same things I love.

Dirt.
Air.
Seeds.
New life.

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So now that I’ve got you all excited to garden again… here’s the easy as one, two, three planting guide!

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1. Using your nicest, largest bulbs, divide them into separate…

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How-to Start seeds in-doors, Homemade Liquid Fertilizer Recipe

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The longing of my soul for warmth and sunshine is becoming deeper everyday… especially now that the calendar says it’s truly spring. I, as I’m sure so many others, are anxious for warmer days. This winter was a trial for many of us die-hard gardeners… even for winter lovers.

I long to place my hands into the warm soil… sense the life force that dwells within the seeds… watching life spring forth out of nothingness… yes we are gardeners.

Many of you who are my friends on For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page have witnessed many changes take place in my life over the last several months. I’ve sadly left my beloved farm in the thumb of Michigan for a newer, brighter location that I now call home. I am blessed to be living at a wonderful greenhouse/nursery that I am in my literal heaven on earth. I would like to thank all of my followers for their patience as I needed a hiatus from the love of my life… my writing… But now things are in order and I feel that I can put my whole heart back into my passions…

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We are like plants… we are conceived… we are born… we live… we struggle… then all too soon we will die. But… in the midst of all this we find joy in life and living it to the fullest…

It is spring… and I am ready to live my life to the fullest… I hope all of you will continue to join me here as I share my love with all of you…

It’s time to start thinking about starting seeds and planning our gardens. Starting Seeds in doors is very easy and extremely rewarding! All you need is a few everyday household items~

*If you buy organic baby lettuce, greens or spinach than you will have access to those handy clear plastic containers with lids. These are perfect for seed starting. Be sure to poke several drainage holes on the bottom of the container.

*Fill your container about 2/3 way full with a good organic potting mix. Plant your seeds as package describes. Be sure to follow planting dates on packet. Water accordingly.

*Put the lid on, which will give a greenhouse effect. You will not have to water due to the condensation that will be created.

*Put in a sunny window and wait until seeds start to sprout see seed packet instructions.

*Once the seeds start to germinate, remove lid and water according to packet instructions. Another easy but more extravagant way is to set your flats on a table and hang lights on ‘s’ hooks with light chains from the ceiling in a warm basement or other room. The lights must be no more than 3 to 6 inches from the top of the flat (or the plants once they start growing), so be sure to make your light set up adjustable. Plain old fluorescent shop lights work best for starting seeds, or you can even purchase ‘grow lights’ from greenhouse supply companies or seed catalogs.

*You can go to any big box retailer and purchase really slick ‘seed starting’ kits. Follow instructions on kit…. and enjoy! Transplant outdoors following packet instructions.

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Here’s an easy and inexpensive recipe for liquid fertilizer. You can use this for both house plants as well as your outdoor potted plants. I’ve shared this recipe before, but it’s worth a repeat.

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Easy Liquid fertilizer~ to give your house plants and potted outdoor plants an extra boost, add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt and 1 teaspoon of fish emulsion plant fertilizer to 1/2 gallon of water, then stand back and watch’er grow! Extra fertilizer water can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Please feel free to share this information with your friends… and I hope you’ve found it helpful.  Please be sure to follow me on Facebook for daily posts!

Happy Day,
Jean

 

 

 

 

Hybrid vs. Heirloom Seeds, Heirloom Varieties of Basic Garden Fair and some Yummy Root Storage Crop Recipes

Just seemed like the right time to re-share this

For Dragonflies And Me

You’re probably wondering why I am talking about seed shopping and gardening in December… well I realize some of my readers live in areas where they have the luxury of year round planting. While others, like myself living in cold climates have green houses and hoop houses to play in. Yet other home gardeners in cool climates are trying to get through these next few months cheerfully! I say, “Who cares if the calender says December!”… now is the time when us gardeners yearn and long for the arrival of those beautiful seed catalogs! As they make their arrivals in our mailboxes we gather them together, cozy up with a cup of java, a fuzzy blanket on our favorite chair with a notebook… ready to start making our lists of ‘new’ varieties! We flip and long for the life that spring and summer bring into our lives… we long even…

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Heirloom Seeds: Why they’re better and my favorites varieties

Hello all…

Check out my new post over at Farm to Table, Field to Plate!

http://outdoorsexperiencejournal.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/heirloom-seeds-why-theyre-better-and-my-favorites-varieties/

 

 

The Promise of Spring: 5 garden planning tips

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“It’s raining but the tulips are still managing to poke their green shoots out of the mud, a promise that spring is coming, and so is the sun. I suppose I owe it to them to at least keep my head up until then.”
Quote adapted from one by Writers Block

Only 57 days till my beloved spring. The new life I long for along with all her secret promises will soon come up out of the ground. The snow drops and crocus’ and then the daffodils and tulips rising up to greet me each day. Sending me silent messages of love to encourage me on through the last of winters dead days.

New life… but presently life is dormant. Still and cold.

Winter is filled with dreams and anticipations of planning new garden projects.
Spring is one of new beginnings… fresh hopes… dreams of what will be…

The dream I’m ever longing after is feeling the dirt once again along with the warmth of the sun.Close up of my garden plan I drew out.

I thought with all this dreaming we’d look at something all of us die-hard gardeners are doing… planning our gardens.

Here are 5 garden planning tips to get you started in the right direction.

1. Gather all your seed catalogs, sticky notes, a pen and high-lighter along with a note pad.  Once you’ve decided on the amount of space you have in your garden you’ll know what you need and the quantities.

2. Decide on the varieties that you want to grow.  The best way to do this is to plot out some time when you can sit and peruse your catalogs. Read variety descriptions carefully to determine light, soil, moisture and spacing requirements.

3. Draw your garden design out. I always draw out my gardens so I have a visual to see. You don’t have to get as detailed as mine… I just enjoy the whole planning aspect.  You can use graph paper or a piece of notebook paper. Be sure to think on your space and it’s limitations.

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4.  Determine available space.  When planning your garden you need to keep in mind space limitations and each plants growing habits. For example, a tomato plant should have three square feet for proper growth and maturation.  Think about your isle ways when planning this. If your isles are two feet wide, then plan your tomato row with three feet and then two on both sides. You’ll need a total of 7 feet minimum for a row of tomatoes.  Look at the plant descriptions in the catalogs.DPP_0011

5. Soil testing. I advise, especially for first time gardeners to test your soil. You can buy a simple soil test at most garden centers or take your sample into an agency that offers this service. You will have better success if you know what your soil may be lacking. It could be something as simple as calcium/lime or copper.

Although there are many other aspects to getting your garden plan done, these are the basics to get you on your way!

Enjoy friends,
Jean