FILL IN THE BLANK: WHEN I THINK OF FALL, I THINK OF… Pumpkin pie. I like to get a fresh pumpkin and cook it. That’s the best. To make it into pie filling, you just cut it in half and roast it for 30 or 40 minutes, until it’s nice and tender, and then you mash it up and add yummy spices like cinnamon and cloves.

NAME A GREAT DISH YOU’VE HAD LATELY, EITHER AT HOME OR AT A RESTAURANT? I just made some Italian wedding soup the other day and it was delicious! Fresh kale, quinoa and homemade chicken broth, absolutely delicious! It’s basically a chicken soup with little meatballs made out of Italian sausage, which I get here at Ranch Foods Direct. Have that with a slice of sourdough, and it’s the perfect meal.

SOUNDS LIKE YOU DO MOST OF YOUR COOKING FROM SCRATCH. I do. It’s more time consuming, but it’s really tasty. I’m a student at the Pikes Peak Culinary Arts program, so that helps inspire me.

WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU’VE LEARNED IN THE PROGRAM? Probably knife skills. I’m learning to be more precise with my cuts. The program lasts for a couple of years, and I’m about a year into it now. It’s mostly for fun. I’m retired from the Air Force, and I thought I would use the GI bill for something I enjoy. So I do that and I’m a full-time mom.

FAVORITE RANCH FOODS DIRECT PRODUCTS? The sourdough bread is top of the line. Every now and then I get the potpies. My teenager likes those. And usually I get some lunchmeat when I’m here.

Traditional Italian Wedding Soup

Made with beef or chicken broth combined with little meatballs and wilted greens, Italian Wedding Soup can be made with or without rice, grains or a small pasta like orzo.

For the meatballs:

1 small onion, minced or grated
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 slice toasted bread, crusts removed, torn into little pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 lb. ground pork and 1/2 lb. ground sirloin (or bulk Italian sausage)
Freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

Approximately 6 cups beef broth
About 3 cups of greens, such as escarole, spinach, arugula or kale
1 large egg
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Additional Parmesan cheese for the top

For the meatballs: Mix the onion, parsley, garlic, egg, bread, salt together in a large bowl. Add the ground pork, ground beef Parmesan cheese and pepper. Mix together. (Be careful not to over-mix or meatballs tend to get tough.) Using your hands or two spoons, shape into little meatballs about 1-inch size. Place on cookie sheet or tray.

For the soup: Bring broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Drop heat to a simmer. Slowly add the meatballs to the broth and cook until they are almost cooked through (about 10 minutes). Spoon off any foam that forms on top.

Add greens to the broth and allow them to wilt (approximately 3 minutes.) Whisk the egg and cheese in a small bowl to blend. Gradually add the egg mixture to the soup, using a fork to gently stir the egg into thin threads in the broth. Adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper if needed, and serve, topped with more Parmesan.