Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Tasty Italian Favorite

I am a HUGE Italian food fan! My hubby will tell you that I'm all for some good Italian food. So in honor of my love for the delicacy, I decided to make one of my favs, Lasagna! I hadn't made it in loooooong time, so I decided to change it up a bit and use a different recipe. This one is definitely a keeper!

Recipe Courtesy of Gina Neely


1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for pan
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, chopped
1 (8-ounce) jar tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) box no-boil lasagna noodles
2 large eggs
2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 (8-ounce) bag shredded mozzarella
1 (8-ounce) bag shredded Cheddar


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly oil the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. In a large saute pan, over medium-high heat, add 1tablespoon oil and saute meat, onion, and garlic until meat is browned, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon. Drain pan of fat and add stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse, keeping separate before layering so noodles don't stick together.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, then mix in cottage cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper, and seasoning salt. Lay half the noodles in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping by 1/2-inch. Spread half the cottage cheese mixture evenly on top. Sprinkle half the mozzarella and Cheddar evenly over the cheese mixture. Pour half the meat sauce on top. Repeat layering in same order. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan on top. Bake in center of oven 30 to 35 minutes until sauce is bubbling around the edges. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

"Not So Spanish" Pork Chops

I LOVE watching Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals on the Food Network! So naturally, I was very excited about trying one of her recipes. Well, my excitement was short lived as it really didn't turn out very well for me. It wasn't horrible, but the hubby and I decided it won't be in our regular rotation. The recipe was for Spanish Pork Chops that was served with a Spanish Corn Stuffing. Unfortunately the Spanish part didn't quite work out for me. The chorizo that was supposed to go in the stuffing was musshy and wouldn't slice for me. Don't know what I did wrong, but anyhoo, here was my result...

Spanish Pork Chops
Recipe Courtesy of Rachael Ray


4 thick-cut boneless pork chops, center cut, about 2 pounds
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup rioja or other dry red wine, eyeball it, about 1/4 of a bottle
1/2 cup black cherry preserves or all-fruit spread
2 cups beef stock, divided
1/2 pound linguica or chorizo, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 corn muffins, crumbled
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, eyeball it in your palm
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, 4 to 5 sprigs
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped


Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil to the pan, 2 turns around the pan. Add the chops and caramelize the meat, 2 minutes on each side. Transfer meat to a sheet pan and place in the oven to finish cooking through, 12 to 15 minutes. Return pan to stove, reduce heat a bit and add butter to the skillet. Add flour to butter and cook 1 minute. Whisk wine into pan and reduce 1 minute then whisk in preserves and 1 cup of stock. Season with salt and coarse black pepper and let gravy thicken over low heat.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan. When oil smokes, add linguica or chorizo and brown, 2 minutes. Add the celery, onions, peppers, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes then crumble muffins into the skillet and combine with vegetables. Dampen the stuffing with remaining 1 cup of stock and season with smoked paprika and thyme. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.

Remove meat from oven and whisk the drippings into your gravy. Pile stuffing on plates, chops alongside and ladle gravy over both. Scatter parsley over meat and stuffing.

Mother's Day Breakfast

My parents came up for a visit the weekend before Mother's Day. So I took the opportunity to celebrate Mother's Day with my mom early. So in honor of her, I made a special breakfast consisting of french toast casserole, bacon, sausage, eggs, and fresh fruit. She was very pleased!

Thanks Ashlee for the french toast casserole recipe! It was delicious...and I will definitely be making it again! =)

Here is the recipe for those interested...

French Toast Casserole
Recipe Courtesty of Ashlee


4 cups cubed or 8 slices of bread (I used King's Hawaiian)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla


1. Put the bread in 5x9 casserole dish.

2. Mix the ingrediants and pour on top.

3. Squish in the bread to soak it up.

4. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

5. Before baking in the morning, sprinkle 1/2 cup chopped pecans and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar on top and press it in a little bit.

6. Bake on 350 for 30 mins.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yummy Comfort Food

As I've told you guys before, my hubby is definitely a meat and potatoes man. So what better meal to serve to fit that bill than Shepherd's Pie! It's a delicious comfort food at it's best...and here's my first stab at it...

Shepherd's Pie


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped fine
2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup beer
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 cup frozen peas
Salt and Pepper to taste

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup heavy cream, warmed
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and Pepper to taste


1. For the filling: Heat butter in large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add onion and carrots and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add meat, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up meat into small pieces with wooden spoon, until browned, about 12 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste and cook until paste begins to darken, about 1 minute.

2. Add cream and cook until it spatters, about 1 minute. Add broth, beer, soy sauce, and thyme and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick but still saucy, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in peas, adjust seasonings, and transfer to broilersafe 2-quart casserole dish.

3. For the topping: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and water to cover to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, return to saucepan, and mash potatoes with butter and cream until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Spread potatoes over filling, using spatula to smooth top (see photo at left). Brush with egg and drag fork across top to make ridges. Bake until filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Turn on broiler and cook until top is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Serve.

Notes: I used a bag of frozen peas and carrots instead of fresh ones and I omitted the beer.

Here's the result:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sweets for My Sweetie

Ken LOVES sweets! So I decided to try and step it up in the dessert area and keep him a nice variety of sweets around the house. I'm not a huge dessert person, but I do love a good cookie...especially if it has nuts in it! Soooo, chocolate chip pecan cookies fit us both perfectly!

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies


1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
8 ounces milk chocolate and peanut butter swirl morsels
8 ounces pecans, chopped


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Place the butter, and both sugars in a mixer bowl, and cream until well mixed.

3. Add the vanilla extract and egg. Mix well.

4. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

5. Add small amounts of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix well.

6. Fold in the chocolate pieces and nuts.

7. Refrigerate dough for 1/2 hour.

8. Spoon out 1/2 tablespoon portions on a parchment lined baking sheet, 1 1/2 inches apart.

9. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool.

Soul Food Sundays

There's nothing like a good Southern-style, home cooked meal on a Sunday afternoon. For my first Sunday "Soul Food" meal in our new home, I decided to serve up baby lima beans, creamy macaroni and cheese, buttermilk fried chicken, and cornbread. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

I didn't follow any particular recipe for this meal. I just cooked it based on my past how I was taught and my past experience with it.

Here's a look at how it turned out...

Meat and Potatoes Man

My hubby is definitely a meat and potatoes man. So when I found this recipe online, I knew he'd love it...and love it he did! It's a very simple recipe and super easy to make and it's quite tasty. Give it a try for your next game night. =)

Nacho Spuds


2 large baking potatoes (1.5 pounds total), sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
1/2 lb. lean ground beef sirloin
2 1/2 tbsp. E.V.O.O.
1 - 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed
2 tbsp. taco seasoning
1 - 8 oz. package shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2 cups)
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
Salt & Pepper
Sour cream and shredded lettuce, for serving


1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

2. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes with 2 tbsp. olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp. olive oil and the ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Mix in the beans, taco seasoning, and 2 tbsp. water. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring, until heated through, about 10 minutes.

5. Transfer the potatoes to an ovenproof platter. Sprinkle half of the cheddar on top, spoon on the meat mixture, then top with the tomatoes and remaining cheddar.

6. Place in the oven and turn off the heat. Let stand until the cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes.

7. Serve with the sour cream and lettuce.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Beware of the Cookie Monster!

My favorite type cookie of all time is Oatmeal Walnut Raisin! So of course I had to try my hand at baking some...and I'm soooo glad that I did because they were so yummy!

Oatmeal Walnut Raisin Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth.
3. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.
4. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended.
5. Mix in the quick oats, walnuts, and butterscotch.
6. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.
7. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday Brunch

Chicken and Waffles anyone? Oddly enough, this dish is not very well-known. However, it has a rich history in the South. Read more about the dish's origin here.

For my meal, I used a waffle recipe from Emeril and fried a boneless, skinless chicken thigh to accompany the waffle. Delish!

Waffle Recipe
Source: Emeril Lagasse

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 4 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Nonstick cooking spray

1. Preheat a waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
3. In a second bowl, use a whisk to beat together the egg yolks and sugar until sugar has dissolved and eggs have turned a pale yellow.
4. Add the milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.
5. Add the flour mixture to the egg-milk mixture and whisk just until blended. Do not overmix!
6. In a third bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
7. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the waffle batter. Don't overmix!
8. Coat the waffle iron with nonstick cooking spray, if required, and pour enough batter in the iron to just cover waffle grid.
9. Close and cook as per manufacturer's instructions until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. In checking for doneness, open the waffle iron carefully and watch out for steam. Do not open the waffle iron, though, for at least 1 minute.
10. Repeat cooking with remaining batter. When each waffle is done, remove using either tongs or a fork.

Breakfast In Bed Anyone?

This was the first breakfast meal I cooked in our new house. Mmm, buttermilk pancakes, bacon, link sausage, and eggs. Just excuse the overly brown half-pancake on the top. :)

And of course it's all about the presentation! Lovely breakfast for two on a quiet Saturday morning. Gotta love it! =)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Date Night Meal

For our first date night in our new house, I wanted to make a romantic Italian dish featuring a savory sauce and fresh herbs and spices. So I found this recipe on the Food Network site. It was quite a hit with the hubby!

Tomato Herb Chicken

Recipe by: Gina Neely

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken thighs, skinless
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in thick puree
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon lemon-pepper
Hot buttered rice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Pat chicken dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken, meat-side down first, and turning once, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate to reserve.

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan.

4. Add onion to the pan and sauté until tender, roughly 3 minutes.

5. Add the stock and wine and stir, scrapping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to high and reduce by half, about 3 minutes.

6. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and add the dried herbs and lemon pepper.

7. Add the chicken thighs back in. Cover and cook on medium low for 40 minutes.

8. Remove chicken from liquid and serve on hot buttered rice. Ladle the sauce on top and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Notes: I made this dish with Fettucini noodles instead of buttered rice.

Welcome to My Virtual Kitchen!

Being a new wife has brought about many new and exciting elements in my life. We recently moved into our first house and my "domestic diva-ness" has kicked into high gear! So, because of my newly found passion and excitement for cooking, I've decided to chronicle my first year in the kitchen as a new wife.

Because I'm still learning my way around the kitchen and getting a feel for my likes and dislikes, I don't have too many custom recipes of my own just yet. So I'll mostly be trying recipes that I've found here and there online, on tv, or through friends and family. Nevertheless, I'll still enjoy every minute I spend cooking up my delectable dishes! =)