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rockstar

I like to think that I am a rock star, on many different levels to be honest, but mostly on the “best wife ever” level. I mean, seriously! When it comes to being a wife, I get it right most of the time…Right honey? (She yells over her shoulder to her husband…he moans) Maybe I’m flattering myself?! All right, fine! I don’t always get it right. In fact just when I think I’m getting the hang of this business, and probably getting a little too cocky, I am reminded that I still have a lot of learning to do!

I’m sure, if you are a frequenter of this blog, you think that I am cooking up a storm in the kitchen every day, feeding my little family the best, home cooked, made from scratch meals that I can find from my stockpile of recipes on Pinterest (follow me) and Foodgawker. Well, you would be right! Okay…some of the time…but definitely not every day…and some weeks, not at all.

I don’t work a full time schedule all of the time and when I do, it is with great resistance.  It is too easy for me to lose my groove and become the “get home from work and sit on my butt the rest of the night because I’m too tired to think let alone cook a meal” kind of wife. Not that I’m proud to admit it but it does happen and this is what happened 2 weeks ago…ALL WEEK!  It was so bad that I am even embarrassed to admit to the kinds of things I “put together” for our meals that week. I think I blocked it out of my memory.

The good news is that I was able to acknowledge my shortcomings and use it as motivation for the next week, where I cooked 3 whole meals in a row! I know, I know, starting to gain some of that rock star status back. I made homemade pizzas one night (I use this recipe for my pizza dough and one of the pizzas was topped with Ricotta cheese and Spinach and was AMAZING!), the next night we had Lasagna Soup (a favorite recipe of mine that appeared in a previous blog post), and the third night I tried a new recipe: Quinoa Corn Edamame Salad (because, let’s face it, those last 2 meals were pretty heavy). Click on the links to find the recipes I used (all courtesy of Foodgawker)!

Quinoa Edamame Corn Salad...pretty, right?

Quinoa Corn Edamame Salad…pretty, right?

This week, I’m on a mission to cook EVERY NIGHT! (And yes, I am still working a full-time schedule…begrudgingly) That’s right, I’ve got a plan and so far I’m 2 for 2. Yesterday, I marinated some chicken in Cuties 100% Tangerine juice, then threw it in the crock pot with some BBQ sauce and a little bit of chicken broth, and then walked away from it for a few hours to watch a movie. My favorite way to cook! (It was delicious, in case you’re wondering.) Tonight I have my mom’s recipe for Mexican Cheese soup cooking up on the stove (you’ll have to ask her if you want the recipe)…yum! And here’s my plan for the rest of the week:

Gringo Tacos (as we affectionately call them in my house)

Spaghetti (it doesn’t matter if it’s easy, at least I’m cooking!)

Quinoa Edamame Corn Salad (because it was soooo good the first time)

And

Baked Fried Chicken (old school style from my Betty Crocker Cookbook)

Bam! That looks like 6 dinners in a row! Look out folks, this quasi homemaker is working on her rock star status! What are you eating for dinner this week?

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We have all heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Well, just a few weeks ago I found something in the “trash” that has CHANGED MY LIFE!

I found a Crockpot! An actual, stainless steel and black, practically new, and still working CROCKPOT! In the TRASH! I know, right?! Someone had put it out by the trashcans in my apartment complex. I let it sit out for a couple of days after I first saw it, just to make sure someone was actually trying to get rid of it and that I wasn’t stealing someone’s stuff. When it was still there after those two days, I figured I was safe and I grabbed it and took it upstairs. It was a little dusty but there was no real damage. After a good wipe down, it looked like it had never even been used! I plugged it in to see if it still worked, thinking maybe it was in the trash because it was broken, but nope! It absolutely worked!

My trashcan treasure!

I was so excited because I have always wanted a Crockpot but could never quite justify spending the extra money on something I wasn’t sure I would even use very much. Problem solved! Lifelong dream fulfilled…and for FREE! I am so in love with this crockpot right now! I have used it 3 times so far and each time was a HUGE success. The last time I used it, I made boneless pork ribs. I had just gone to the grocery store and was running late for work. So, I got home and dumped the ribs into my crockpot with some homemade BBQ sauce that was left over from the weekend. It literally took me 2 minutes! I put it to cook on high and left for work. When I got home, 5 hours later, the meat was perfectly cooked and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I served that up with some fresh asparagus and brown rice (the 5 minute, boil-in-a-bag kind) and I had a complete and yummy dinner ready with very little effort! Perfect!

As usual, I ended up feeding a couple extra mouths that night, so it was a good thing I cooked ALL the ribs. It’s like I always say, “If you cook it, they will come!” Needless to say, I am very happy with my Crockpot and I am not ashamed to admit to anyone where I found it! I look forward to sharing some of my favorite crock pot recipes with you in the near future. Although, at this point, the recipes consist of “throw some meat of choice in the Crockpot with some kind of yummy sauce and cook until ready!”

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I have some of my best ideas while in the shower! Unfortunately for you, I can’t bring a laptop in the shower with me and, therefore, a lot of my brilliant ideas for this blog never make it out of the bathroom. By the time I am able to sit down in front of the computer and start writing I’ve either lost my inspiration or find it difficult to stay focused and entertaining. So, I have come to the conclusion that not all of my entries are going to be pure gold (most of them will, but not all of them).

Tonight is one of those nights. I’m writing more out of sense of obligation, having gone more than a week without a new written entry, than out of a sense of true inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, the recipe I am sharing today is one of my favorite quick and easy meals! It isn’t the recipe that is lacking; it is my ability to be witty and charming. So going along with the idea of this meal, I’m going to make this entry short and sweet!

My mom shared this recipe with me a while back and I have used it countless times as a quick meal for those nights when I just don’t have the time to be original. Ha! I’m sensing a theme! I don’t know if there is a name to this recipe or not, maybe I should have asked my mom before writing about it. For tonight, I will call it “Yummy Pasta Bake”.

Goes great with a garden salad!

This “Yummy Pasta Bake” is so easy, it can hardly be called cooking and that is why I LOVE IT! All you need is a package of pasta (penne, macaroni, shells, whatever), a jar of your favorite pasta sauce (I stock up when it’s on sale, so I never use the same one), a half pound of ground beef or turkey (I’ve used both and they are both delicious), and as much shredded mozzarella cheese as you want! After cooking the pasta and the meat separately, throw everything but the cheese in a 9X11 casserole dish and mix it up real good. Top it with your mozzarella cheese and throw in your preheated oven (400°F) for about 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

Viola! Done. My favorite part about this dish is that I always have leftovers! I like to freeze single-serving sized portions for an even easier meal on the run, for those days when we just don’t have time cook. Just throw it in the microwave and you have a delicious homemade meal in minutes!

My mom would be so proud (or maybe just totally irritated, I can’t decide which)! As a kid, I was one of the pickiest eaters ON THE PLANET!! Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, because I did eat, but it is closer to the truth than I would like to admit. I didn’t like sauces or condiments of any kind. No mayo, no mustard, no ketchup, no ranch dressing…gross! I ate my hot dogs plain, my cheeseburgers plain, my salads DRY, and I preferred my veggies raw and crispy. There were so many things I “didn’t like” and never wanted to try, I must have been a real pain in the “you-know-what”!

This carried on way too long into my young adulthood. I would like to say that I am completely recovered now and have reached a point in my life where I will try anything, but this is still not quite the case (I still prefer my hot dogs plain and don’t even talk to me about ketchup or mustard). HOWEVER, I have jumped a lot of hurtles in this battle with food and my eating habits have become much more mature (if I do say so myself).  Well…at least I can say I am more willing to try new things!

It has really only been in the last year or so that I have made the biggest strides conquering my food fears and I think it is directly related to my own adventures in the kitchen. The more I explore and take risks in my own kitchen, the more adventurous I become in other peoples kitchens. That and just the feeling of not wanting to be RUDE!

There are countless things my mom made when we were growing up that I would never touch. Recipes I wrote off as “things I didn’t like” and therefore never ate. Most of these dinners I hadn’t even tried in the first place but, once I got it into my head that I didn’t like them, it was over before it ever started. So when I tell her that I made Stuffed Pepper last night for dinner, she may freak out a little bit! I would never eat her Stuffed Peppers and to this day I don’t even know how she makes them! But Eddie came home with like 10 bell peppers the other day and I was trying to find a way to use them all before they go bad. So I thought, “What the heck?”

Yummmm

I didn’t really use or follow any recipe, I just worked with what I had and what I thought would taste good.  So here’s what I did. I cooked some couscous (another thing I never ate until recently) and then in another pan I fried up some turkey sausage, diced tomatillos, and crushed red peppers. I then mixed the couscous with the sausage mixture in a bowl and added half a can of yellow corn and half a can of some jalapeño black beans. I took my cored and halved bell peppers and placed a chunk of mozzarella cheese in the bottom before spooning my mixture into them. I placed the newly stuffed peppers in an oven pan before filling them to overflowing and sprinkling them with shredded cheddar cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper. Lastly, I slid them in the oven and cooked them at 400˚F for about 25 minutes.

They were delicious and so filling! One half of a large pepper was more than enough for dinner and it’s a good thing too because I had 2 unexpected, but very handsome, extra mouths to feed. Good food and good friends, two of my favorite things!

I think it is time for another food blog. And when I say food blog, I mean dessert blog because this weekend I made some of THE most amazing cupcakes I have ever tasted (if I do say so myself)! Though I can’t take credit for the recipe (because I found it through foodgawker), I will take credit for following the recipe and making one pretty and super delicious dessert. They just might be my best EVER! I’m not joking, this is serious.

My yummy creations!

I had been looking forward to making these grown-up cupcakes for about a month. I came across the recipe for Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes during one of my regular “foodgawking” sessions and was instantly excited. Not because I am the type of person to get super excited about St. Patrick’s Day but because last year two of my very dear friends were MARRIED on March 17th!! This event turned the whole day into a celebration and turned me into a fan of this bizarre green holiday.

Last year, Eddie and I joined our friends Luke and Sam at the Norwalk courthouse on a cool and foggy morning to witness their exchange of vows and commitment to love each other always. This was followed by a Champagne brunch with friends and later a fabulous dinner with MORE friends before we took to Hollywood Blvd for some St. Patrick’s Day festivities! We ended up in a crowded little bar, with an Improv show in the other room that none of us watched, and toasted to Luke and Sam over a couple (and maybe a few too many) Irish Car Bombs. In case you are not familiar, this is a yummy cocktail that consists of a shot of Irish whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream dropped into a half pint of Guinness. In know, right?!

So, what better way to honor their first year of marriage than with a batch of commemorative Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes!?! A chocolately Guinness infused cake with a bittersweet whiskey ganache filling and Bailey’s buttercream frosting… my mouth is still watering!I hope that they enjoyed the treats as much as I enjoyed making (and “tasting”) them. Who knows, maybe this will be the start of a new tradition! I certainly wouldn’t mind enjoying these decadent little cakes every year!

I’m not copying the whole recipe but click here to check it out (and the blog it came from).  I literally followed it step by step, iPhone in hand, with only one exception…

I used twice the amount of Bailey’s Irish Cream in the frosting!

I love cooking for my friends! Having everyone over to my place to enjoy some drinks and a good meal is honestly one of my favorite ways to spend an evening. The more, the merrier! And there is never any shortage of food…I tend to “over-cook” (not in the burnt food kind of way).  The way I see it, I would rather have leftovers than run out of something because an extra person shows up. Trust me… there is almost always an extra person. Especially when your “planning” involves calling your friends at around 5pm that day and saying, “Wanna come over for dinner tonight?”

This past Friday night was one of these perfectly impromptu nights. I told everyone, “Come over, I’m going to cook something!” And they came, and we ate.

Nothing fancy!

I had some shredded chicken left over from the night before and decided to make Chicken Taquitos. So easy! Just roll the chicken in some tortillas and fry. Sometimes I like to mix in a green chili sauce or some cheese with the chicken before stuffing the tortilla. I made a little rice to go with it (authentic Mexican style with Mama Ruiz’s recipe) while Eddie handled the homemade salsa and guacamole. 

Now all we needed were the chips!

There is nothing better than homemade tortilla trips.  They take time and can be a little messy but it’s totally worth it! Heat just enough oil in a pan to cover the tortillas and cut up your “chips” while you wait for the oil.  It has to be hot! 

Fry them until they are perfectly golden brown and then cool them on a paper towel lined plate.

Salt to taste and you are done! Simply delicious!

The only bad news?

We didn’t have any leftovers!

One of the best ways to save money in this town is to eat at home. With so many great and unique restaurants just walking distance from home, it is easy to end up spending all your money (and calories for that matter) eating out!  Don’t worry too much though, there are a lot of great deals to be had and I do intend to devote part of this blog to sharing some of these great dining out experiences with you. However, I also intend to share with you some of my favorite homemade recipes and  this weekend I made some of the BEST soup I have ever made.  It needs to be shared!

Before coming together with the cheesy yum!

I am going to say this right now, this recipe and probably every other one I share came from somewhere else.  I have fun looking through cookbooks and online recipes to find new things to try. I am by no means a master chef nor do I pretend to be! I LOVE foodgawker!!  If you do not have this app on your phone already or the website set as a favorite on your computer, you must do this now! I’m not joking…DO IT!

I found this recipe while “gawking” one afternoon and it sounded right up my ally. I enjoy a good bowl of soup now and then, but until recently I thought I only liked Chicken Noodle Soup.  (If you know me at all, you know that I have been a picky eater my whole life! I’m getting better though, don’t judge me!) When I came across this lasagna soup recipe I thought, “Hey, I like lasagna. There’s no reason I wouldn’t like it as a soup!”  Not to mention the AMAZING amount of cheese in the recipe! So I tried it.  The first time I made it, it came out as more of a pasta. Not enough broth and too much pasta.  It was still tasty, but the second time it was PERFECT!  Cheesy, yummy bliss!  The best part is that it is great left over! I had it for lunch for 2 days after making it! 🙂  Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe (with my adjustments, I cook with what I have!):

for the soup:

2 tsp. olive oil

1-1/2 lbs. Italian sausage  (I used a chicken and cheese sausage, yum!)

3 c. chopped onions  (This sounded like a lot of onion to me, so I just used about 1 cup)

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes  (One packet of peppers left over from pizza delivery!)

2 T. tomato paste  (I didn’t have any tomato paste, so I used a small can of tomato sauce)

1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes  (Yea, I skipped this ingredient! I don’t have that kind of stuff in the house!)

2 bay leaves  (Didn’t have any of these either, but we didn’t miss them)

6 c. chicken stock   (I added an extra 2 cups of stock)

8 oz. mafalda or fusilli pasta  (Use whatever pasta you have!  I used some whole wheat shells)

1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for the cheesy yum: (OMG! This is the best part!)

8 oz. ricotta

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. salt pinch of freshly ground pepper

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente. Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy and absorb all the soup broth. You may even want to consider cooking the noodles separately, and then adding some to individual bowls before ladling the soup over them. This would be an especially smart move if you are anticipating any leftovers. Right before serving, stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheesy yum. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy yum in each soup bowl, sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top and ladle the hot soup over the cheese.

Servings:  8

Source: http://www.afarmgirlsdabbles.com/2011/03/24/lasagna-soup/ adapted from 300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds, as seen in the February-April 2011 edition of At Home with Kowalski’s magazine

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