Thursday, February 28, 2013

Italian Chili


I love a good winter soup! There's just something nice about eating a bowl of steamy goodness after a long snowy day. As I write this, it is snowing like crazy! Snow is like the equivalent of natures "mean girl." So beautiful, but very cold and unpleasant. No worries, this soup will help you with any icy discomfort you may experience!

1 lb of Italian Sausage
1/2 yellow or red onion
1 red or green bell pepper
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 14 oz can Cannellini Beans (you can also use great Northern or even chick peas)
1 14 oz can kidney beans
1 14 oz can of diced Italian Tomatoes
1 26 oz can of pasta sauce

Saute the sausage, pepper and onion together until the meat is browned and the onion is translucent. Then add in the seasonings. Once this has cooked together for a minute or two, add in all the canned ingredients. I like to drain the beans; the liquid doesn't add anything to the soup and it's not particularly good for you. With the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce I add in the whole thing and fill them up about half way with water. Let this simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes and serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan Cheese and a side of Magic Bread. Enjoy!

Monday, February 25, 2013

 Crispy Chicken Tacos

"There's never a bad time for a taco." My mom said it very well, and I would have to agree. Mother does know best in this case. I'm not sure of a day (except in times of illness) where I have ever thought "I'm not really in the mood for tacos." It's just one of those things you can always count on to be a good idea. 

I will say that not all tacos are created equally. The shell has to have a bit of crunch and the filling needs to be juicy and tender as well. I'm sure someone has come up with a scale that measures goodness in the amount of juice that's running down your arm. That's important, too.

You may be wondering why you should fry your own taco shells when the packaged kind are already so good. I have to agree, I would take a crispy packaged shell over a floppy home fried one any day. However, when you get the golden crispy crunch of a home fried taco right, there are few better things in life. Scout's honor. 

2-3 chicken breasts
1/2 large can of red or green chile sauce (you can freeze the rest)
salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon of each)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
 You could also use my Chile BBQ Chicken recipe post

6 to 8 corn tortillas 
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
salt for sprinkling

I typically cook the chicken and sauce in the slow cooker until the chicken shreds easily. You could also take leftover chicken and just add the sauce to it. Once you have your chicken and sauce looking like this, add the cheese. I drained off some of the chile sauce so it would not make the tacos soggy. You can reuse the sauce for salsa on top of the tacos when they are done. Keep warm and off to the side while you make the shells.

Heat the oil until it looks shimmery and feels warm when you hand is placed above it. Make sure your fire extinguisher is near. Safety first, friends. Gently place the tortilla in the oil. Turn it over when you see a few bubbles and the edges start to brown slightly.  Brown the other side slightly as well.

 When both sides are light brown, gently fold the shell in half. This part may take a bit of practice. You have to find the sweet spot of browned but not so browned the tortilla refuses to bend without breaking.

 To be on the safe side, I fry them very lightly and then let them crisp up while they are folded.

 Drain off most of the oil and sprinkle liberally with salt. If you are doing a lot of the shells, you can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until you are ready to serve them all.

Fill the shells with the meat and serve with salsa, cheese and certainly a few napkins!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lasagna Soup


Lasagna was always something that screamed "company is coming" to me as a child. My mom makes what I think is the best lasagna in the world. It's rich, meaty and so tasty. There are times when I think about making it. Then I ponder a few things: do they make a small enough container of cheese to make just one pan of it? How many jars of sauce should I get? If I make the original recipe can I fit the second 9 X 13 pan in the freezer? It's just down right complicated.

So, if I want to have a delicious lasagna like experience this is a much better alternative. It has all the same great flavors and it tastes like something special. If you wanted to do this in the slow cooker, just brown the meat and then add it along with everything else. Cook it on low for about 4 to 6 hours. 


1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb Italian Sausage
1/2 onion, diced small
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 26 oz can of spaghetti sauce
1 15 oz  jar of Alfredo Sauce
15 oz  of milk
2 to 3 cups of shell or macaroni pasta, cooked

Start by browning the sausage and beef together in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the meat has mostly browned, add in the diced onion and the spices. When the onion has become translucent, add in the sauces and the milk. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper or more garlic powder and Italian Seasoning if you feel it needs it. I like to let this simmer together for a while before adding the pasta as it will get too mushy. 

After about fifteen minutes of simmering, add in the pasta. Cook for about five to ten minutes more. If the soup has thickened too much, you can add in some milk or even chicken stock. 

I like to serve this with magic bread and a sprinkle of Parmesan Cheese. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

 Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

I'm not sure it would even be possible to calculate how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I have eaten in my life. I always liked it as a kid but my habit really started in college. It's cheap, easy to make and doesn't really need to be refridgerated. I still eat at least one peanut butter and jelly sandwich per week but I do like to mix it up with a peanut butter and jelly dessert. 

This is a recipe I adapted from the Barefoot Contessa. It' always surprising to me how much people love this dessert. Everyone likes a taste of childhood I suppose. They were even my boyfriend's dessert choice for his birthday. Not only are they a big hit, they are pretty easy to make. 

For them you will need:
1 stick of softened butter 
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup of creamy peanut butter ( crunchy works well, too)
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup strawberry jam ( grape is also really good)
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

 Combine the butter, sugar, peanut butter and vanilla. Add the egg and mix well until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Add the flour, salt, and baking powder gradually and combine just until mixed.

Spray a 9 X 9 pan well with cooking spray. Take a little more than half of the dough and make about nine small blobs of dough. Squish the dough until it covers the bottom of the pan well. Make sure to make a bit of a lip on the edges so the jam doesn't overflow. 

 See how the dough has an almost pizza like crust around the edge? This helps keep the jam in. When it gets hot, the jam turns into a sticky lava that is really hard to get out of the pan.

Sprinkle the dough with about 1/2 the chopped peanuts. Then spread the jam over it making an even layer.

 Make more squished balls out of the rest of the dough and place it over the top. It's ok if little bits of the jam poke through. If you have extra dough, make the edge a little more reinforced. The jam sticking really is an issue if you aren't careful. Then, sprinkle over the remaining peanuts.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until it is evenly browned. Cut into bars and serve with a tall glass of milk. Enjoy!

Monday, February 11, 2013

 Spicy Sausage Alfredo

Alfredo sauce was always a special thing when I was a kid. My dad is not a huge fan of creamy sauces so they were a bit of a rareity in our house. It either meant we were at a restaurant or he was off on a business trip. As an adult I have loved putting Alfredo sauce in all different types of dishes.

 This is one of my favorite ways to use Alfredo sauce. It combines the rich and creamy texture with a nice spicy heat. If you like things are a little more mild, you can add less or leave out the red pepper flakes completly. I used spicy Italian sausage for this but you can use any you have on hand or whatever you prefer. 

For this recipe you will need:
1 lb of Italian sausage
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 small jar of Alfredo sauce
1 cup of milk
1 lb of linguine or spaghetti

First, heat a very large pot of water to a boil while you make the sauce. When it comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta. It should be about done when the sauce is done as well.

 For the sauce, brown the sausage until it is no longer pink. Add all the spices and mix well. Add in the Alfredo sauce to the sausage and turn the heat to low. Fill the jar with the milk and shake to get all the delicious sauce out and add this to the sausage mixture. Let this cook for a few minutes and taste it for seasonings. The sausage I used was pretty salty so I didn't need to add any extra seasonings. 

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix well. Let this cook together for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to mix well together. I sprinkle on a few more pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese before serving. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

 Chile Chops

My dad has taught me all kinds of important things: how to manage finances, how to sand and stain wood and most importantly how to make the best pork chops. I consider my dad a pork chop whisperer of sorts. It's like he can sense when the pork has just become not pink in the center but still so moist and juicy.

While I'm not as good as him, these are my favorite pork chops. They are spicy and super juicy. I like to serve these with Spanish Rice and a nice side of vegetables. This recipe is also a great way to shake up just ho hum pork chops.

You will need:
2 thin cut pork chops
2 teaspoons chile powder
1 teaspoon dried ground chile (you can use cayenne power if you can't find ground chile)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  Pat the chops dry with a paper towel, this will help them brown nicely.


Combine all the spices in a small bowl. Mix them really well.

Pat the spice mixture on the chops. It will seem like a crazy amount of spices for each of the chop, but I slather both of them with all of it. If you want to use less, feel free to do so. 

 Brown them on both sides over medium heat until the center is just cooked.