Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rachael Ray's Vodka Cream Pasta!

This dish is actually called "You-Won't-Be-Single-For-Long Vodka Cream Pasta", and according to Rachael, a fan of her show wrote in to say that she made this for her boyfriend who ate it just seconds before he proposed. Really! He said it was the second helping that did it. Well, in our quest to find Sheri's Prince Charming ASAP, how could we NOT give this recipe a try?? I mean, really...what did we have to lose? The vodka cream sauce is fantastic, and we've made it a few times since that first night, always groaning with pleasure as we take the first bite. Although Prince Charming still hasn't made his appearance yet, I think we've figured out the problem...we always make it for ourselves!! Yeah, that must be it...Sheri, you're going to need to invite a special someone over and make it for HIM!!!

So ladies, if you're out to get your boyfriend to take the "next big step", break out the vodka and cream and get to cookin'! We can't wait to hear your results!

Rachael Ray's Vodka Cream Pasta

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves minced
2 shallots minced
1 c. vodka

1 c. chicken stock

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. heavy cream
12 oz. pasta, such as penne rigate
20 leaves fresh basil, torn
Crusty Bread

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Heat a large skillet over moderate heat, and add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently sautee garlic and shallots 3-5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka and simmer until reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes. Add chicken stock and tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble, then reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt & pepper. While the sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes. Stir the cream into the vodka sauce. When the sauce returns to a bubble, remove from the heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with the sauce and basil leaves. Serve immediately, along with crusty bread.

**We like to sprinkle shredded parmesan cheese on top as's tasty!**

Monday, October 26, 2009

Caramel Corn Puffs

You know when you go to a party where there are lots of different snack foods sitting around, and you don't really want to commit to anything, so you just mingle and pick at all the tasty treats you find? Usually in this situation, you find yourself going back to one certain bowl of goodies again and again until you realize that if you don't stop soon, you might embarrass yourself. Well, that's how we found these little of our friends brought them to Bunco one chilly autumn evening, and we were all hooked. Everyone was talking about them. In fact, these corn puffs are so addictive that we refer to them as CRACK, and that is a title reserved for only the most dangerous of foods, because man oh man, if you make these, you're going to eat them.

All of them.

Cross our hearts and hope to die, stick a needle in our eyes.

This is serious stuff here.

So if you're looking for a seriously addictive snack to take to a Halloween or Harvest party, this here is the one you need. Try it out and see what we mean!

Caramel Corn Puffs

2 sticks butter
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. Karo syrup (light)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 pkgs. corn puffs
nuts, optional

Pour corn puffs into a large baking dish or a deep 9x13 dish. In a heavy saucepan, boil butter, brown sugar and Karo for 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla and baking soda (this will bubble up). Pour over corn puffs and stir until well coated. Add nuts if you wish. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Laugh your evil laugh as you realize the addiction you've just unleashed upon your friends!!

**For a healthier version, we use brown rice syrup in place of the Karo**

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pumpkin and Spice Muffins

We insanely looooove the ever popular fall dessert that is the pumpkin roll, but we both admit that we're a little shy about the whole funky process of making one. Which is why, when I took my first bite of this simply-made muffin, I seriously moaned with delight as I couldn't help but close my eyes and smile, because in that moment, in my world, I had just taken a bite from a real, live, authentic pumpkin roll. BUT, in reality, it was just a little old muffin with some killer cream cheese frosting smeared all over it's head.

Muffin or not, whenever you are able to create a reality that actually feels like a dream, life is good.

Life is definitely good when these babies are baking in your oven. They are super-duper moist, and wonderfully flavored, and Oh, the cream cheese frosting takes it so far over the edge of goodness, that it's dangerous!

We like danger in the kitchen!

Not out-of-control oven fires or crazy, sharp, flying knives danger, but........more like the danger of entering the forbidden world of gluttony.

Ooh, gluttony......

So save yourself from the madness of rolling the classic pumpkin roll and take the easy way out for once - whip up two dozen of these marvelous muffins instead!

Pumpkin and Spice Muffins

One Cup Oat Flour
One Cup Pastry Flour
One Cup Sugar
4 Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1/8 Teaspoon Allspice
One Teaspoon Nutmeg
One Teaspoon Salt
One Stick Butter, Melted
One 15-oz. can Pumpkin Puree
3/4 Cup Milk
2 Eggs
3 Teaspoons Vanilla

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Pour pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture. Fold gently until mixture is combined. Pour into greased or paper-lined muffin pan, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle each top with a little cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Once cooled, ice with the following cream cheese frosting, OR eat them plain!

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 Ounces Cream Cheese
2 Tablespoons Melted Butter
3/4 to One Cup Powdered Sugar
Two Teaspoons Vanilla

Mix all the above ingredients on high until soft and whipped. Spread onto each cooled muffin, then EAT!

Note: I brought a plate of these to my friend to thank him for some work he did for me, and he later told me that he ate five of them in one day because he just couldn't stop himself! That's Right!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mac & Cheese - The Real Good Stuff

Oh, how we love Mac and Cheese. It IS the ultimate comfort food in our world. And ALL children love Mac and Cheese.....don't they? Seriously, who doesn't like Mac and Cheese? Mac and cheese is the ultimate partner for any meat entree' on a chilly, rainy, or snowy day.

The problem is, when you say Mac and Cheese, people think of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese out of the box - or in our families - Annie's Mac and Cheese out of the box. And as guilty as we all can be sometimes of eating this childhood food favorite from a box, we only cheat ourselves out of a stellar eating experience by not making authentic Mac and Cheese with REAL cheese!

We've searched the earth for homemade recipes, but many times, are left stunned and overwhelmed by the amount of cheese they suggest using. We want the warm cheesy flavor, but we also want some flair, and that's what this recipe has - flair.

Using the bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, and cayenne to compliment the cheesy sauce is brilliant, because it warms the belly in the most interesting way. Oh, and don't try to convince us you don't have time, because the sauce can be made in the same time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. If you were super short on time, you could skip the phenomenal topping we suggest and bypass the whole bake-it-in-the-oven step, and serve the Mac and Cheese immediately, but we feel you would be selling this recipe short. It is, however, doable.

If you truly love Mac and Cheese, then honor that love by making the real deal tonight.

Honor the love.....

Real Good Mac & Cheese

16 Ounces Macaroni
6 Tablespoons Butter
One Onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 Cup Flour
4-1/4 Cups Milk
1-2 Dried Bay Leaves
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
Sprinkles of Salt, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Nutmeg
One Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
3 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
2 Tablespoons Dried Bread Crumbs
1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, ten minutes before cooking. Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a rapid boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions, or until cooked, but still firm. Drain. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy based saucepan, add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes, or until softened. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the milk, return to the heat, and cook, stirring until a smooth sauce has formed.

Add the bay leaf and thyme to the sauce and season to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened and smooth.

Remove the sauce from the heat. Add the mustard and cheddar cheese, stir until the cheese has melted. Stir in the pasta. Then pour cheesy pasta into a lightly oiled baking dish.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese over the pasta. Dot with the remaining butter, then bake in the preheated oven for one hour, or until golden. Serve immediately.

Note: If your children don't appreciate a little spicy in their macaroni and cheese, then leaving out the cayenne might be a good idea.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Sometimes you just need a little bread with your meal, you know?

We're not big on having bread at every meal, mind you...though that is something we see consistently with our parents and grandparents. Growing up, there was rarely a meal at our table that didn't include a plate of sliced bread and a stick of butter. Dinner was all about filling bellies, folks, not watching carbs! But things are different now, and we prefer to only eat bread when it enhances our meal...not as a filler. Unless it's a really good sourdough or asiago...

I have a love/hate relationship with bread, biscuits, and rolls. I love having them around for dinners of stews, roasts, and pasta...but I hate making them. I don't know why...maybe it's the kneading. Or the waiting.

I definitely hate any recipe that calls for me cutting butter into flour. For some reason, I can't do it! Yes, I know it seems relatively easy, but mine always turns out in a weird consistency, so maybe that's my deal with biscuits. Who knows? They sure do taste good though!

I'll tell you what I do know, though. When I need some kind of bread (like I did last night) to go along with a nice hearty soup (like the rabbit gumbo my brother made), popovers are just the ticket! They could not be easier, or quicker, or YUMMIER!!! They are so light and airy, you won't be able to eat just one! Try them soon,'s soup weather!!


4 eggs
2 c. milk
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 450. Beat eggs just slightly and add the remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth, but DO NOT OVERBEAT!!!

Fill 16 oiled medium sized muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 25 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350. Bake 15-20 minutes longer. Serve with butter and/or jam. We love ours with strawberry!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Orange Zucchini Muffins

I don't know what more we can say about zucchini that hasn't already been said. What can we say? We're in the love with zucchini! WE LOOOOOVE ZUCCHINI! And because we love it, we've added it to another great recipe - a muffin one no less.

These muffins are moist and tasty and children LOVE them!

Orange Zucchini Muffins

One Cup Shredded Zucchini
2 Eggs
3/4 Cup Sugar (could replace 1/4 cup with Sucanat)
1/2 Cup Oil
(we like canola, safflower, coconut, or butter)
2 Tablespoons Orange Juice Concentrate
One Tablespoon Vanilla
1- 1/4 Cup Flour
One Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
One Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

One Tablespoon Sugar mixed w/1 Teaspoon Nutmeg

Place zucchini in a colander and set over the sink. Sprinkle with one tablespoon salt, mix with your fingers, and let stand for 3o minutes. The salt will help pull the moisture out of the zucchini. Gently squeeze the zucchini to release all of the moisture and pat dry with a paper towel.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 regular-size muffin tin wells. Beat eggs in a mixing bowl until lemon-colored. Add sugar, oil, orange juice, zest, and vanilla. Beat until thick and smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Fold dry mixture into the egg mixture, stirring just until well-blended. Fold in drained zucchini.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling about 3/4 full, and sprinkle with sugar-nutmeg mixture. Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center tests clean. Cool for 3 minutes before turning out.

**Can also be made as a loaf of bread**

Monday, October 12, 2009

Italian Tortellini Soup

If you haven't noticed, we've jumped right into comfort foods around here. The weather has been unseasonably gray, rainy, and a bit on the chilly side for the past two weeks or so, so all of the warm and nourishing foods we love most are being whipped up in our kitchens lately.

It's no wonder then, that this little number came to mind. This soup is fabulously flavored as you would imagine from scanning the ingredient list. It was an award winner in a local cookbook years ago, but it will always be a winner in our book!


This is no broth-sipping soup, this is a nice hearty meal swimming in the broth.

If you're Italian, you'll feel right at home with this soup. If you're not, but you're a wanna-be-Italian like me, then this soup just might make you feel like an Italian for a day - maybe two!


Italian Tortellini Soup

3 Slices Bacon (optional) (we like Oscar Meyer turkey)
One Pound Mild Italian Sausage (seasoned hamburger works too!)
One Medium Onion
3 Cloves Minced Garlic
8 Ounces Thinly Sliced Mushrooms (we love Baby Bellas)
2 Quarts Chicken Stock
10 Ounces Cheese-filled Tortellini
2 - 15 Ounce Cans Diced Tomatoes
2 Teaspoons Italian Herbs
or one teaspoon thyme, one teaspoon oregano
One 10-Ounce Package Spinach, chopped
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan

Fry bacon, reserve drippings. Fry sausage, drain. Saute onion, garlic, and mushrooms; set aside. In large pot, bring stock to a boil, add tortellini and cook 5-7 minutes. Add tomatoes and herbs; reduce heat to low. Add spinach, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic mixture to pot. Simmer 5 minutes. Add sausage, bacon, and Parmesan.

As with most soups, it tastes best the second day!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cookies...who doesn't love them?

I mean, there are so many different flavors and textures, what's not to love? From plain, unfrosted sugar cookies to double chocolate chip to oatmeal raisin, and especially all those wonderful creations that only make their way out of the kitchen at Christmastime, cookies are as American to us as baseball and apple pie!! It's easy to get stuck in a rut of making the same cookies every time, and we're no different...but we're trying to break out of our norm and give all those new potentially awesome recipes out there a try. We love our Sweet Pumpkin Chippers first and foremost - because we make them with Ghiradelli chips, of course - but this recipe was sent to me by my friend Anita last fall, and we decided we had to try it. If one pumpkin cookie recipe is good, two can only be better, right?

Give these a try, folks!! You won't be disappointed. When I first made them, my dog stole seven of them off the counter and left two with the frosting licked joke. Of course, I blamed my 3 year old son, who vehemently proclaimed his innocence...until I saw the cream cheese frosting on Scout's whiskers. So from ALL of us (even Scout), these are definitely worth the trouble!!

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt


1 tbsp. vanilla
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 stick butter
8 oz. cream cheese

Heat oven to 375. Cream butter, sugar, and pumpkin. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Sift dry ingredients together and mix in with the creamed ingredients. Drop from spoon onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Beat frosting ingredients until smooth, and frost cookies after they have cooled.

**Note: This is the original recipe, but I like to use 1/2 oat flour and 1/2 white flour, and I also add 1-2 tsp. of flax meal. You know what we always say..."just wing it!!"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pronto Pasta Bake

Fall is in the air, folks...and we don't know about you, but we are ready for some good "warm your belly" type of meals. We all have a couple of those that we make over and over through the chillier that everyone likes and that take just the basic ingredients that you almost always have in your pantry. This pasta bake is at the top of that list around here! It goes together quickly, and is pretty versatile - we often add extra veggies, just whatever we have in the fridge at the time. Not only that, but it makes a pretty good sized amount...a whole 9x13 pan of pasta. That's good for a meal or two, and lunch the next day!

Pronto Pasta Bake

12 oz. rotini pasta (use whole grain if you can!)
2 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped (approx. 2 cups)
1 c. torn spinach leaves (or more, if you want!)
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 (48 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 c. grated fresh parmesan cheese
2 c. shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta and drain.

Chop zucchini and tear spinach leaves to desired size. We like them bigger, but the kids pick them out if they aren't too small to be worth their time, so do what works for you! Press the garlic into a bowl, or if you don't own a garlic press, chop finely. Add zucchini, spinach, spaghetti sauce, and basil.

In a 9x13 pan, layer 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce mixture, 1/2 of the pasta, 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce mixture, and 1/2 of each of the cheeses. Repeat the layers with the remaining pasta, sauce, and cheeses. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 more minutes until the cheese is nice and gooey. Whatever you do, restrain yourself from digging right in and taking a's HOT!!! Let it sit for 5-10 minutes so you don't have blisters all over the roof of your mouth. Trust us on this one!! We've learned the hard way!!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Radicchio Wraps with Turkey and Swiss

Do you ever get tired of eating the traditional salad?

Seriously! Between trying to spear a few measly lettuce leaves while snagging a couple miscellaneous vegetables in the same jab, there's always that concern that maybe you've gotten too much on the fork! That's not good and we've all been there! You stab and stab and stab, and just when you think you've landed yourself a well-rounded bite, you start to raise it to your mouth, only to hear that little etiquette voice inside your head that's sounding the alarm,"Whoa! Too much...tooooo much! You're not going to get that whole load in your mouth without breaking a wing."

You know what wing we're talking about, right...that wild wing of lettuce, the one drenched in salad dressing that doesn't quite fit in your open mouth so it slams upside your cheek and leaves a nice goopy trail of French dressing? Yeah, that's attractive.

What's worse, before you've polished off your salad, chances are, you'll make this error in judgment at least one more time. Sad, but true.

So, we ask you again, "Are you tired of eating traditional salads?"


Well lucky for you, we have the perfect substitute.

If you consider this radicchio recipe a salad, then large lettuce leaves smearing your cheeks with dressing could be a problem of the past, BUT you could also view this as a wrap, where the radicchio plays the perfect substitute for the flour tortilla you would normally use in a sandwich wrap. Each one of those little, refined, white floured tortillas weighs a hefty 100 calories each - and they are so not worth that!

SO! Is it a salad or is it a sandwich?

Sandwich or Salad?
Salad or Sandwich?

YOU decide.

YOU enjoy!

Radicchio Wraps with Turkey and Swiss

1-1/2 Oz. Swiss Cheese (Gruyere or Jarlsberg-yum!) cut into matchsticks
One Granny Smith Apple, cut into matchsticks
6 Ounces Jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
One Small Celery Stalk, cut into matchsticks
8 Ounces Cooked Sliced Smoked Turkey
2 Radicchio Leaves from one small head
One Tablespoon Mayonnaise
One Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
Fresh Chives for garnish

Stir together the mayo, vinegar, and mustard. Set aside. Fill radicchio leaves evenly with remaining ingredients. Drizzle "dressing" sparingly over top. Garnish with chives if desired and then "Wrrrrap her up!"

As always, the possibilities here are endddddddddless! This suggested blend of ingredients make up a sensational salad, but you could do whatever you want with this idea, which is why we love it!