Spruced-Up Spaghetti - the perfect use for leftover spaghetti noodles!

Spruced-Up Spaghetti - the perfect use for leftover spaghetti noodles!

The clock has been ticking loudly in my aging ears. My 39th birthday is tomorrow, so I am preparing for my last full year of being 30-something. In addition to feeling like the middle ages are looming, this is also the end of the season of having more children. This realization has been unexpectedly sad for me!

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Creamy spiced macaroni & cheese

It can be as spicy as you want to make it, and it is deliciously creamy. 

Macaroni & cheese and spicy foods are two of my all-time favorite food loves. There is no better comfort food on the planet than mac & cheese, in my opinion. What makes it even better is that there are so many different ways to prepare it. It is versatile comfort food at its best! And spicy food, oh how I love my spicy food. It is one of the very first things that bonded my husband and I when we were dating. Together we would create a spicy dish in my kitchen and eat it, with a summertime margarita in hand, while sitting outside on my patio. Ahh, those were the days.

When I was asked to create a macaroni & cheese recipe for the Macaroni & Cheese Blog, I knew I wanted to incorporate a bit of spice into the recipe. I absolutely love how this recipe turned out. It can be as spicy as you want to make it, and it is deliciously creamy. 

Cook 16 ounces of large elbow macaroni 3 minutes short of package directions. Rinse and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.

Whisk in 1/4 cup flour.

Add:

1 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 oz. cream cheese

1/3 cup sour cream

4-oz. can diced green chiles

1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced

Stir until thickened, 5-7 minutes.

Add 2 1/2 cups shredded provolone cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted.

Add the cooked macaroni to the skillet and stir until combined. 

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. 

Top with 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 4 white bread slices (crusts removed and torn into small pieces) and toss until lightly toasted.

Sprinkle toasted bread pieces over the baked macaroni and cheese. Put back into oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are golden brown.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Perfect macaroni and cheese

No lie, this mac and cheese is perfect!

Fall is in the air! I love this time of year. Skydiving season is winding down, which means more time with Dan. The cool crispness in the air makes me want to be inside with my family, snuggling on the couch and watching Despicable Me or Tangled for the 900th time. The only bad thing about fall is that we know what's coming. Winter. The time when we are forced to be inside. There's a big difference between wanting to be inside and being forced to be inside. For now I'm glad that I still want to be inside. 

With the windows cracked just a bit, I love the mixed smell of a crisp October day and something delicious baking in the oven. Or bubbling on the stove. Or all of the above. I was looking for the supreme comfort meal when I came across this recipe on the NY Times website. It was everything I hoped it would be. Comfort, cheese, a teeny bit of kick, crunchiness, gooey-ness. But beware! Don't eat a large helping unless you have time to sleep.

Penne with asparagus, sage and peas

This is Week #39 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2010: An Entire Year of Recipes.

This time of year I am all about comfort food. I have gotten into a routine of making a giant batch of something involving cheese and pasta and then eating it over the course of a few days. On the days when I have a container of comforting yumminess sitting in the fridge at work, I obsess about lunch time. Is 10:30 too early to eat lunch? There is something about crisp fall weather and cheesy pasta that go so well together.

I have been so excited to make this penne dish. I basically kept the entire batch to myself, and I think my family was fine with that. The whole vegetable thing must not have been super appealing to them, which I think is just plain weird.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1/2 pound penne pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Add:

3 medium garlic cloves, very finely chopped

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths

Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add 2 cups of chicken stock and boil over high heat until reduced by half and the asparagus are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add:

2 cups (10 ounces) shelled English peas or frozen baby peas, thawed

1/4 cup heavy cream

Boil over hight heat until the sauce has thickened, 3 minutes. 

Stir in the penne and and cook until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in:

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Transfer the pasta to bowls and serve immediately, passing additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table.

A couple notes about this recipe:

I love the addition of sage.

It was super easy to make.

Did I mention it was comforting?

Sister's Awesome Pasta Salad

Sister's Awesome Pasta Salad

I have fabulous sisters. They have helped me through an incredible amount of crap. I am sure they will all have a spotlight on this blog eventually, but for now I would like to tell you about my sister Lissa. She is an amazing, beautiful woman. She has been by my side through all of my son's surgeries and hospitalizations.

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Shrimp tomato and basil pasta and a GIVEAWAY

I received the call last week that I had been waiting for, but dreading. It was the call that determined a date for something that I never want to happen. On June 10th, 2011, my 4-year-old son will have his third open heart surgery. I'm still dealing with the trauma and emotions from his second open heart surgery that took place three years ago. Will we all still be in one piece after experiencing this again?

It is such a very strange thing to have something of this nature on your calendar. Amidst birthdays and dentist appointments sits, "Elijah OHS #3," like it's the most normal thing in the world. I stared at the words on my calendar and knew I had to get out of my office. Crying at work = not fun times. I started driving, with no destination in mind, shedding a few tears into my lap. Then I had the thought that I sometimes have when I'm feeling sad about something. Do something nice for someone. This often helps to lift my spirits. A few minutes later I found myself at Barnes & Noble, purchasing a favorite cookbook. Not for myself, but for YOU. Well, one of you!

So. If you would like to win a copy of Everyday Food: Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart Living Magazine, here's what you need to do!

Subscribe to this blog via RSS feed or friend us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Leave a comment stating which one you did. If you do all three, comment three separate times to be considered for three separate votes.

Check back on April 10th to see if a cookbook will be heading toward your mailbox! I will draw one winner randomly at 6:00 a.m. on the 10th, and I'll put the cookbook in the mail for that person on April 11th.

Good luck!

The recipes in this cookbook are great. They are simple and easy, and this suits my lifestyle so well. I got this particular linguine recipe out of the cookbook and oh my goodness, it is fantastic! It is a simple yet flavorful meal.

Start by seasoning 1 1/2 pounds of medium, peeled and deveined shrimp (tails removed) with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat 4 teaspoons of olive oil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until opaque throughout, turning occasionally, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

To the same skillet, add:

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

Cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add:

A 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes (plus juice)

2 cups water

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have softened and are saucy, about 15 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in:

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Drain and return the pasta to the pot. Add the tomato sauce, shrimp and basil and season with salt and pepper. Toss. Serve immediately, and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

I brought this deliciousness with me to work for the following two days after making it and beginning at 9:30 each morning, I could not wait to eat lunch.

Heart surgery, however, I can most definitely wait for.

Shrimp Tomato Basil Pasta

A simple yet flavorful meal for families on the go!

Contributed by Everyday Food: Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart Living Magazine .

Published Apr 04, 2011

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Serves: 4

Total time: 30 min

ShrimpTomatoBasilPasta"

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails removed)
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 6 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ pound linguine
  • 1 ½ cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces, plus extra leaves for garnish
Instructions:
  1. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 4 teaspoons of the oil over high heat. Add the shrimp; cook until opaque throughout, turning occasionally, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.
  2. Make the sauce: To the same skillet, add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the garlic; cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the canned tomatoes and their juice, along with 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have softened and are saucy, about 15 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat; stir in the cherry tomatoes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente according to the package instructions. Drain; return the pasta to the pot. Add the tomato sauce, shrimp and basil; season with salt and pepper, and toss. Serve immediately, garnished with basil leaves, if desired.