Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tortellini With Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushrooms

It's election day!  Two stories:
1. When I checked in to vote, the cute little old man was finding my name.  After looking at my ballot, he said, "So, your first name is Frank" and looked up.  I smiled at him as he quickly realized that my first name is not Frank, clearly.  Although, I could be the girl named Frank like the boy named Sue.  The two of us would be unstoppable.  Too bad dear ol' Johnny Cash has passed on.  He'd be behind me 100% for a new song about a girl named Frank.

2.  I'm not too big into politics, but luckily, my husband is, so he filled out my ballot.  However, when I was on my way to vote, I saw a candidate's sign on the side of the road with some brightly-colored helium balloons flying around in the wind.  I read whose sign it was and made up my mind that I'm voting for that person.  Balloons are fun, so clearly, so is the politician that put up those balloons.  Don't you think that politics needs a little more fun?!  I'd like to see this taken to the next level.  Freshly baked brownies next to campaign signs.  Massage therapists willing to work their magic while spewing a candidates views on political issues.  Heck, if one of them offered a plate of this tasty pasta for a vote, I'd give my vote in a heartbeat!  This stuff is amazing.  The sausage gives it a little heat, the cream gives you the advantage of gaining some winter padding, the fennel adds a delicious new taste, and the spinach provides some nutrition.  And the cheese... well, it's cheese!  My husband and I loved this meal so... very... much.

Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushrooms photo

Tortellini with Italian Sausage, Fennel, and Mushrooms

1 T olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, halved through the core, thinly sliced lengthwise, about 3 cups
1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed, sausage coarsely crumbled
1 8 oz. package of mushrooms
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T fennel seeds
1/2 c heavy cream
1 c. low sodium chicken broth
16 oz. tortellini
5 oz. package of fresh baby spinach
1/2 c Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sliced fennel, sausage, and mushrooms.  Cook until the sausage is cooked through- 12 to 15 minutes. Add garlic and fennel seeds; stir 1 minute.  Stir in the cream and chicken broth. Boil until the liquid is reduced and very slightly thickened- 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the tortellini according to package directions for al dente.  Drain.  Return the tortellini to the same pot.

Add the sausage mixture to the pot with the tortellini.  Toss over medium heat until blended.  Add spinach and toss for a couple minutes until the spinach is slightly wilted.  Stir in 1/2 c Parmesan cheese.  Add 1/4 c mozzarella if you love extra cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Roasted Tomato Salsa

My kids found this "Mommy Journal" that I had written in when my first two kids were 4 and 2.  They were reading the entries tonight, and one of them read:

Owen (he was about 2 1/2) opened the pantry door, sighed, and said, "Oh, great.  No more Cheetos."  He then slammed the pantry door and walked off.  

Ha!  That's my boy!  I always loved Cheetos.  He also loves and chips and salsa, and he gave this salsa the stamp of approval.  It is seriously so good.  It tastes similar to Chevy's salsa, and I love that stuff.  It takes some time to prepare and roast the vegetables, but after that, it's so simple!  I liked this better than my Sweet Heat Salsa that was always my go-to recipe.  Shoot... I'd drink this stuff for breakfast.  Add some guacamole, enchiladas, and beans, and you've got one amazing meal!
Roasted Tomato Salsa
Source: Theyummylife.com

7 Roma tomatoes
2 Anaheim peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 medium onion, cut into 6ths
3 cloves garlic
1/4 c cilantro
1 t. dried oregano
1 1/2 t. cumin
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/4 c. lime juice
1 1/2 T. apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the top of the Roma tomatoes and half them.  Place them on a cookie sheet.  Put the whole peppers, the cut onion, and garlic cloves on the cookie sheet as well.

Roast for 30 minutes.  Oh, man.  Your house is going to smell delicious!

Once the thirty minutes is up, remove the cookie sheet and place another cookie sheet, inverted, on top the hot one.  This will allow the vegetables to get steamed.  Leave it be for ten minutes.  After ten minutes, remove the top cookie sheet (it'll be hot!).  Peel off the skins of the peppers and tomatoes. They should come right off.  Discard the skins.

Remove the veins and seeds from the inside of the peppers- unless you want to breath fire after eating the salsa.  In that case, leave them in.

Place all the roasted ingredients in a food processor, add the remaining ingredients, and pulse until it reached your desired consistency.

Place it in the fridge for four hours or overnight.  The flavors will blend wonderfully with the extra sitting time.

Hooray for delicious salsa.

Amazing BBQ chicken

So, I have this two year old daughter.  She is the cutest thing, but man have the terrible twos started!  She used to go to bed with no problem.  Apparently, she has jumped on the "I hate bedtime" bandwagon all of the sudden.  The other night, I was getting her a drink.  She spotted her cup being filled, and she instantly started screaming and ran under the table.  I moved a chair to be able to reach her, and she continued to scream as she scurried to the other side of the table.  Sigh.  I'm getting way too old for this!  Finally, I got down, grabbed her by one leg, and dragged her out.  Her screams pierced the ears of everyone within a mile radius, I'm sure.  As I was walking her upstairs, calmly talking to her to see what she wanted, she continuously screamed, "NOO!" at everything I suggested.  I get into her room,  She's flailing about, boneless and squirmy.  I ask her if she wants me to read some books.  
 "Uh... How about I put you in your crib and you can just scream?"  
"Do you want a story about your baby hippo?" 
 "Noo!"  She's really laying it on thick and trying to escape my clutches.  
"Okay, do you want another story about a crocodile like last night?"
"NOO!!"  I'm ready to call a priest over to exercise the demons at this point.
Out of desperation I ask, "Do you want a story about cheese?"
Then silence.  She rested her head on my shoulder as if she wasn't throwing a massive tantrum the size of Mt. Rushmore and patiently listened, awaiting a story about cheese.  Well, folks, I told her a wonderful cheesy story about cheese, and she was good to go. 
I couldn't help but laugh after the fact that it was cheese that calmed her down.  I, for one, love cheese, and it makes me happy.  :)  

Surprisingly, this chicken recipe is cheese free!  Ahh!  It's a miracle!  I CAN cook things without cheese and heavy cream. This BBQ sauce just may be my new favorite.  It is so flavorful, and the consistency was perfect.  I can't wait to try it on ribs!  I know that buying a bottle of BBQ sauce is loads easier, but this sauce's deliciousness is well worth the effort and will blow any other bottled sauce out of the water.  Now that it's fall and just in time for BBQ weather... er...  Hey!  if you live in Las Vegas, it's always BBQ weather!  :)  


Amazing Grilled Chicken
Source: BBQ sauce recipe "Still House Barbecue Sauce" from Barbecue Bible Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades by Steven Raichlen

1 c whiskey
1 c ketchup
1 c cider vinegar
1 c packed dark brown sugar
1/2 c onion, finely minced
2 T Worcestershire Sauce
1 T Tabasco (or less if you want less heat)
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t liquid smoke

2 Chicken breasts
Your favorite rub or seasoning (I used Magic Dust from Memphis BBQ)

Combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan.  Bring to boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 20-30 minutes.  Stir every once in awhile.

The sauce will reduce quite a bit from the simmering, but it makes it thick and flavorful.

While the sauce is simmering, preheat the grill to medium.

Slice the chicken breasts in half lengthwise, so they are thin.  Sprinkle both sides with the rub or seasoning of your choice.

Grill the chicken over medium heat for 5-6 minutes per side.  After the second side has cooked, baste it with some of the BBQ sauce.  Flip it and baste the other side.  Let it cook for one minute longer.

Serve with your favorite sides like potato salad, corn bread muffins, baked beans, corn on the cob, or whatever else you like.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Apple Nut Muffins

Let me take you back to the last week of September.  My kids had already started begging me to let them put up Halloween stuff.  I put it off as long as I could, but the last Saturday before October I gave in.  I brought out my giant bin of Halloween decorations, set it inside, and I went back outside to finish cleaning the garage.  My kids took it upon themselves to put out all the decorations- in the best way that they could as a 6 and 8 year old.  It was all I could do with my OCD issues to let some things be different than they have been for years and years.  Luckily, I baked some of these tasty muffins to mellow me out.  These were great!

If you read the post that goes along with the Caramel Apple Pie, I still have some apples from my friend that gave me a giant load of apples and pears!  They are never going away!  When I went to get apples from her, she handed me some photocopied pages of a small cookbook and smiled.  When I read the title, it was a "Fall Baking Cookbook" and there was a whole section on orchard fruit baked goods.  Oh, dear!  I could have made a different one every day of the week for two weeks!  I did try these muffins, which were phenomenal.  My kids gobbled them up,  

Source: From a small "Fall Baking" cookbook from a friend

1 1/2 c flour
2/3 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c oats
1 T baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/8 t nutmeg
1/8 t ginger
1 c coarsely chopped peeled apples
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c chopped pitted dates (I omitted these- mainly because I think they look like mummified cockroaches)
1/2 c butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/4 c milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease muffin tins or use paper muffin liners.

Combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ginger in a large bowl.  Add the apples, walnuts, and dates (If using)

In a small bowl, whisk the butter, eggs, and milk until well-mixed.  Stir into dry ingredients until all the flour is incorporated.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.  It makes 12 muffins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  

Cool and eat!

Pumpkin Streusel Waffles with Vanilla Syrup

I always like to imagine that someday I'll own a little Bed & Breakfast in some beautiful vacation spot where I can cook amazing meals for guests.  If I did, I'm pretty sure that these waffles would make an appearance in the fall.  The vanilla syrup and waffles came from two different sources, but they are so perfect for each other.  I may have to keep canned pumpkin on hand year round for these bad boys.  I promise they are worth the effort!

Source for waffle recipe: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/pumpkin-cinnamon-streusel-pancakes/

Source for vanilla syrup: http://houseofyumm.com/banana-cream-waffles-with-homemade-vanilla-syrup/

Vanilla Syrup:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups water

For the cinnamon streusel:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Pumpkin Waffles:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the syrup:
In a medium-sized pot, bring the water to a boil.  Combine the cornstarch and water.  Add to the water, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until thickened.  Remove from heat.  Add in the butter, salt, and vanilla.  Let this cool while you make the waffles.

For the waffles:
Prepare the streusel topping first.  In a bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Mix with a fork.  Add the cold, chunked butter and using a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the waffles.  In a medium bowl, mix the milk, canned pumpkin, egg, oil, and vanilla.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix just until all the flour is incorporated.  

Heat the waffle iron and spray it with cooking spray.

Pour about 1/3 cup onto the waffle maker.  Close the waffle lid and let it cook for 3-4 minutes or until it's golden brown.

Place the waffle on a plate, sprinkle some streusel on top, and drizzle with the vanilla syrup.  

The original recipe was for pancakes, so feel free to use it either way.  It's delicious no matter what!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

World's Best Rolls #2 (actually should be #1 because they really are the best!)

Well, folks, hell has had another ice age.  It has frozen over again!  Last time, it was because I asked my oldest brother, who never used to cook, for a recipe.  This time, my mom asked me for this roll recipe.  WHA??!?  My mom has been using the same roll recipe for as long as I can remember, and it is fabulous.  They are wonderfully soft and tender crescent rolls.  They've graced our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and many Sunday dinners for years and years.  Well, I bring these puppies over to dinner today, and they were hands-down the best rolls I've ever tasted.  They were so soft, and the texture was perfect.  With a little bit of butter (or a lot), I thought I'd died and gone to buttery roll heaven.  I swear that henceforth I shall never make another roll recipe again.
World's Best Rolls
source: http://fabulesslyfrugal.com/delicious-rolls/

Makes 2 dozen
  • 2 Tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1-1/2 cup scalded milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 6-7 cup flour
In a small bowl, combine the warm water (it should be between 105-110 degrees for the yeast to work), yeast, and sugar.  Stir to combine.  It will foam up after five minutes.  If it doesn't foam up, the yeast has been killed.  Start over!  

While that is foaming, put the milk in the microwave for about two minutes to scald it. Pour it into whatever you'll be mixing the dough in.   Let it cool for a couple minutes and add the oil, sugar, and salt.  

Stir in one cup of flour.  Add the two beaten eggs.

Add the yeast mixture.  Mix.  Add the remaining 5-6 c of flour, one cup at a time.  Stir after each addition.  I added 5 1/4 cups of flour.  It should be a bit sticky.  

Knead the dough until it is smooth.  Cover and let it raise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Grease two 9x13 pans.  Shape the dough into 24 rolls- put 12 in each pan.  Cover and let raise for 30-60 or until doubled in size again.  I once read somewhere that the less you handle the dough, the more tender it will be.  Once the dough is out, I gently rip it in half, then each half into fourths.  (eight pieces total)  Then I break each of those into thirds.  Who knew you'd actually need to know fractions as an adult. Do whatever works for you as long as you get 24 rolls out of it.  

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Brush those babies with butter and devour them!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Caramel Apple Pie

This.  Pie.  Apple pie on its own is over the top delicious and as American as it gets.  Well, take that and add caramel sauce, pecans, and a streusel topping.  Sweet mother of cute little baby animals.
It's a must try.  By using a pre-made shell, it comes together really fast.

Don't forget to serve it warm with a scoop or five of vanilla ice cream!
Caramel Apple Pie
source: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/caramel-pecan-apple-pie

  •  1 teaspoon lemon juice
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  3/4 cup chopped pecans
  •  1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
  •  4-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  •  1 tablespoon cornstarch
  •  1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping, room temperature
  •  1 unbaked pastry shell (9 inches)
  •  3 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  •  2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup sugar
  •  6 tablespoons cold butter
  •  1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping, room temperature
    *If you're going to make two pies with this recipe instead of one massive one, double the streusel topping.

In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, lemon juice, and vanilla.  In another bowl, combine the pecans, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch, Add this mixture to the apples and toss to coat.  Pour the caramel sauce in the bottom of the unbaked pastry shell.  Top with the apples.  Drizzle with butter. 

As a side note- this recipe is supposed to make just one massive, mound of apple pie deliciousness.  I made it into two pies that weren't as high.  You can see in the pictures that there was still plenty of apples to go around for two shells.  

In another bowl, combine the flour, chopped, pecans, and sugar.  Add in the cold butter.  Using a fork, cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle over the top of the pie.

*If you're doing two pies, double the amount of struesel topping and divide it evenly among the pies.  
Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden.  Immediately drizzle with caramel topping.

Cool on a wire rack.