Sunday, December 27, 2009

Easiest Soup Ever

...or at least close to it.

Brown 1 lb Italian sausage with some chopped up onion. Stir in 2 cans chicken broth, 1 cup water, one can spaghetti sauce (I like the Zesty and Spicy variety by Hunt's) and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and toss in some diced carrots & zucchini, and a cup and half of any pasta noodles (no more than that or they soak up the broth and balloon up to three or four times their size, eventually taking over your kitchen and pushing you out on to the street, leaving you homeless).

Buon appetito

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friends Gather Again

We came together as long term friends again this week for some great food with a bit of an accidental Italian theme going on. You can bet the food was DE-lish! Though two of our members were missed dearly (Brittany and Tess-who we are anxiously awaiting to meet), we quickly realized what a perfect fit our new addition Brooke would be. Oh the laughs....

On the menu were Italian Herb and Cheese Crusted Chicken Rolls, Risotto with Peas and Parmesan, Sugar Coated Pecans, Breadsticks, and Apple Dumplings. Yes, these girls are serious about good eats!!! ;)

I made the chicken. It was actually really easy. I was expecting it to take me a long time and started my prep long before I needed to. The recipe is listed below with brand names omitted...I don't feel a need to advertise ;) Also, I think I would add some fresh minced garlic next time I make it.

Italian Herb and Cheese Crusted Chicken Rolls
Recipe taken from Taste of Home

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Italian cheese blend or part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
8 thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds) - I pounded chicken out to thin, however, I don't believe it was absolutely necessary
2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup Italian Bread Crumbs

*In a medium bowl combine tomatoes, cheese and Italian seasoning. Place 2 tablespoons tomato mixture in the center of each slice of chicken. Roll up chicken to enclose filling. Secure with a toothpick if necessary. Brush with oil, Coat chicken with crusting blend.
*Place chicken rolls, seam-side down, in a foil-lined shallow baking pan. Discard any remaining crusting blend. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes of until no longer pink.

Meili brought the Risotto...

Risotto with Peas and Parmesan
(aka Rachael Ray's Cheesy Risi e Bisi)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
3-4 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup frozen peas

*Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, then garlic and onion and saute, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook another minute or so, then add wine and cook until wine is completely absorbed, 30 seconds. (I didn't use the wine, not because I'm opposed to cooking with wine, but because I didn't have any.) Add about 1 cup broth each time liquid becomes completely absorbed, stirring all the while. Use as much broth as is necessary to result in creamy, slightly chewy rice; this should take about 22 minutes. When rice is cooked to desired consistency, remove from heat and stir in cheese, parsley, and peas and stir to combine and to heat peas through.

Brooke brought breadsticks...of the Pillsbury kind. She reportedly had a bad episode with her biscuit attempt, however, the rest of us find it hard to believe they were that disastrous ;)

*Safely and very carefully open package of Pillsbury breadsticks by peeling paper until it pops and scares the living daylights out of you. Place dough 2.57849 inches apart on a thin, low-sided, non-stick, heat withstanding baking sheet... JK hehehe

And dear sweet Brittany sent her side dish to us even though she was unable to attend.

Sugar Coated Pecans
taken from

1 egg white 1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon water 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound pecan halves 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

*Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease one baking sheet.
*In a mixing bowl, whip together the egg white and water until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
*Add pecans to egg whites, stir to coat the nuts evenly. Remove the nuts, and toss them in the sugar mixture until coated. Spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet.
*Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes.

Many thanks to Smash for the luscious dessert!

Apple Dumplings
Taken from The Pioneer Woman

2 whole Granny Smith Apples
2 cans (8 Oz. Cans) Crescent Rolls
2 sticks Butter
1-½ cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Cinnamon, To Taste
1 can (12 Oz.) Mountain Dew Soda

*Peel and core apples. Cut each apple into 8 slices each. Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan.
*Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir. Add vanilla, stir, and pour entire mixture over apples. Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.

Until next time...enjoy and Bon Appetite!

Friday, November 13, 2009


This week was my turn to host my monthly Bunco group. Lucky me! Usually, when people say, "lucky me," it comes with a hint of sarcasm, but I mean it. I love hosting parties! Because I had informed the girls that we would be playing in what my man and I lovingly call our "adobe basement" (photo taken on the day we moved in, two months ago),

the girls demanded that the food match the environment. I acquiesced to their request by making chicken tacos. When it comes to southwestern fare, I am a big believer of the importance of delicious toppings: black olives, sour cream, and most deliciously, guacamole! Heavenly, avacadoey guacamole. So, for the first, time in my life, I attempted making guacamole from scratch. (After all, is there any other way?) The following recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman's new cookbook, which I highly recommend.

First, dice a bunch of roma tomatoes, white onion, and cilantro. PW recommends equal quantities of these three ingredients, but I had just a bit more tomato than the other two. (I diced 10 tomatoes, 2 large onions, and one bunch of cilantro. I had a large group to feed!)

Then add 1-3 diced jalapenos, juice from 1-2 limes, and a bunch of salt. Toss it all together and taste it using a tortilla chip as your utensil.

And the pico de gallo is finished! Next, we tackle the guacamole. Buy an obscene number of avocados (I bought 12).

Peel and pit them...

Add some salt, and mash them with a fork. Feel free to leave some lumps. No one wants smooth guac. Then, just plop a bunch of your pico de gallo in the bowl and stir.

After several tastes atop tortilla chips, I added some more salt and the juice from one more lime. Then I tasted a few more scoops just to be thorough.

Last step: serve to your friends! We ate it with chips and inside our tacos. Yum!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Sometimes I don't cook.
That's right, sometimes I enjoy someone else's cooking instead of my own.
(um, I hope this confession doesn't jeopardize my membership in BALM)
In fact, going out to eat would be on my list of top five favorite things to do. (the other four change daily, but eating out always remains)
So that's what I did yesterday for lunch; enjoyed someone else's cooking by checking out a Thai restaurant that Nikki had suggested at our last get together.

Thai Spice: 854 Fort Union Blvd in Midvale

It was delicious, fast and totally affordable (average entree is $6!)
Just one word of caution: don't, as I did, overlook words like "hot" and "spicy" on the menu, because they mean it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Jorja's Chili

A couple weeks after I had my baby, my Grandpa Art and Grandma Jorja came over to meet the little guy. Jorja brought a pot of the best chili I've ever had. (Don't tell my dad.) So for Halloween this year, I asked her for the recipe so I could make it for my Halloween party.

In honor of one of my favorite bloggers The Pioneer Woman (who is coming to Salt Lake City on Wednesday as part of the book tour for her new cookbook!), I took some photos of each step to share with you.

2 cups pinto or red beans, raw (I used both because I doubled the recipe)
1 quart tomatoes
1 package Schilling chili seasoning mix (I couldn't find this brand, so I used a generic package)
1 cup ketchup
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp cumin
3 tsp chili powder
1 can kidney beans
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb ground beef
1 red or green pepper, chopped (again, I used one of each)

Soak raw beans overnight. Drain the next morning. Add more water and cook for a couple hours until tender.

Cook onion, hamburger and peppers together.

Give your baby pieces of bread and fruit so he will stop clinging to your leg.

Drain some of the cooking water off the beans. Mix the beans, tomatoes, seasonings, ketchup and hamburger mixture together in a crock pot and cook for 4-5 hours.

Add the kidney beans last. Jorja says you may want to add more tomatoes or water depending on the consistency, but I didn't. I did, however, add a bunch of salt and pepper before serving.

Eat with corn bread muffins (or tortilla chips, or rolls, or any delicious carb of your choice).


Friday, October 30, 2009

Did You Know?

The temperature of butter is critical to the success of your recipes. Butter that is too soft makes greasy, spread-out cookies. The best way to ready butter for baking is to remove it from the refrigerator, cut it into 1/2 inch pieces, and beat it with a mixer until soft and smooth.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Beginnings

Tonight was the first chapter in what will hopefully be a long and delightful story; the kind you return to again and again because its familiarity is comforting and, though you know the ending, it's such a pleasant journey to take to get there that you don't mind the ride. Tonight was the first meeting of the cooking group "Babes a la Mode", a group of gals who are connected in various ways and who want to strengthen those relationships through food and good conversation. Some of us are married, some are not. Some of us are mothers, some are not. Some of us are career-women, some are not. But we're united in our love of all things delicious.

Tonight, I had the pleasure of hosting at my home. Our dinner consisted of a delicious "Nikki's Salad" brought by Nikki, stuffed sweet acorn squash brought Ashley, and cheesecake with peanut crust and chocolate sauce brought by Meili. The main dish, served by yours truly, was an Italian version of Shepherd's Pie, made with pasta as the topping and brought to you by Rachael Ray.

As I looked around the table at our meal, I was quite impressed at the variety of the dishes we had all brought. I was most nervous about the stuffed acorn squash (I knew I'd have no problem downing the cheesecake with chocolate sauce). You see, I don't like squash; never have. And the walnuts with which it was stuffed have never been my favorite; ever. I've always been the kid who picked the nuts out of all the desserts I'd ever been offered. But, in the spirit of trying new things, I said, "dish me up!" and dug in.

What I found surprised me. The squash was tasty; maybe even delicious. The texture was not what I had remembered. The way the sweetness of the apples and sugar combined together with the nuttiness of the walnuts to create a warm, sweet, hearty treat was utterly unexpected. As I ate bite after bite, I kept thinking to myself, "but I don't like squash! I don't like walnuts! I shouldn't like this at all!"

And yet, I did. Liked it so much that I ate it all. And am going to add it to my own recipe box.

Some days I surprise myself. I think I'm so sure of who I am, and what I like, and what I'm going to like, that I fail to take a step out of myself and try something new. I mean, just try it. It's like I'm scared that I won't be myself anymore if I change what I do, if I vary from what I thought was my reality. What I rediscovered tonight was that, though the sum of my past experiences makes me who I am today, they don't necessarily have to dictate who I will be tomorrow; that is up to me.

Bon Appetit