Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pasta Perfection

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know that I'm a sucker for pasta.  I have over 30 pasta recipes on this little blog {not mine of course.  I'm not a chef...I just know how to follow recipes :)}    Pasta is, by far, my most favorite thing to eat.  I could absolutely eat it every single day.  I really do try to refrain.  My jeans pretty much beg me to take it easy on the carbs :) This dish would've been perfect without the addition of said carb, but I'm pretty sure it adds to the overall delightfulness of this meal, so don't leave it out.

Pasta can be really heavy depending on how you prepare it.  This, however, is anything but filling.  It's light and robust all at the same time.  No heavy sauces.  No crazy ingredients.  If you ask me, it's perfection in a bowl.  

SPICY SAUSAGE AND PEPPER PASTA

12 oz. Penne Pasta {I used Penne Plus, Market Pantry}

2 TBSP. Olive Oil

2 cloves garlic, minced {I used 1 Tbsp. pre minced garlic}

1/2 red onion, sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced

1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced

 1 pkg. Smoked Turkey Sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices

Crushed red pepper, to taste

Grape tomatoes, halved {to taste}

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil {more or less depending on your preference}

Shredded parmesan cheese, to taste

Salt & pepper, to taste



This little dish takes no time to prep and cook.  You'll spend most of your time...a whopping 5 minutes...slicing the veggies, herbs, and sausage.  

Go ahead and start cooking your pasta according to package directions.  Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and the sausage, onion, veggies, and garlic.  Toss in some crushed red pepper while you're at it.  I added quite a bit because we love a little kick in our food.  Add as much...or as little...as you want.  Saute for about 5 minutes or until the veggies & onion soften up.   


Remove the sausage, onion, & peppers from the heat and set aside.  Drain pasta and return it to the pot.  Now toss in the onion/pepper/sausage mix.  And don't forget to add the tomatoes and basil, too.  Mr. Spouse isn't a huge fan of tomatoes so I didn't add too many of those. Toss ingredients until well mixed.  


Now serve yourself a generous helping and top it off with shredded parmesan cheese.  It's okay to be liberal with your serving of cheese...trust me ;)


From start to finish, this dish took me about 25-30 minutes to get on the table.  I know I live my life in exclamation points and I'm a bit dramatic about everything, but seriously...this is AMAZING!!!!!  And if amazing doesn't quite explain it, let me give you a few synonyms that will....
Awesome.  Incredible.  Wonderful.  Marvelous.  Delectable.  Savory.  Scrumptious.  Palatable.
{Insert your adjective here.}

If you're looking for a quick weeknight meal that's easy to prep and takes no time to get on the table and in your mouth, look no further.  Absolute PERFECTION.


When I make a recipe for the very first time, I follow it to a T.  I don't like to veer away from it because, like I said before, I'm not a cook.  After I have it for the first time, I'll figure out what needs to be added/omitted and then eventually make it again with those changes.  When I make this again...which will be VERY soon...I'll use the WHOLE pepper and more red onion because I love a pasta brimming with loads of veggies.  A definite keeper!!!!



Monday, September 1, 2014

Orange You Glad?!

Remember last week when I told you how much I love my boys teachers?!  I wasn't kidding.  I know how hard and tiring that first week of school can be.  And to anyone who's ever taught before, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about...



Can I get an amen?!

Needless to say, I really wanted the boys teachers to know how much I appreciate them and what they do for my kids.  I know the sacrifices they make.  The late nights.  The 18 hour days.  The missed dinners.  And bedtime prayers with the kids.  And the mind numbing exhaustion which doesn't seem to let up until sometime around June :)  I appreciate them more than they know.

I won't be sending little gift baskets to school every week.  I'm pretty sure I'm finished for a while.  But I will send them little things every now and then.  It's nice to feel appreciated and to know that what you do is acknowledged.  Especially that first week.  

After sending the teachers their survival kits on the first day, I decided to end the week with a small little basket of fun to wish them a happy weekend.  There's no better weekend than the weekend following the first week of school...especially when it's a 3-day weekend.  WELL DESERVED for sure!


This idea is nothing new.  I didn't create it.  I just borrowed it.  And you can find lots of them on Pinterest.  Here's my little take....





And here's what we put inside...



Orange basket, ribbon, and mini clip chalkboard were all found in the party section at Hobby Lobby.  
Of course, you could add your own perfect spin and put in anything orange you can find, too.  

I tucked all the goodies into a spare piece of burlap I had hanging around and then sent the boys off to school.  Uh...should've rethought that whole idea.  They had quite the time getting out of the car and carrying them inside.  Whoops!  



I went ahead and changed the printable to say "Have a great weekend!" instead of "Have a great 3-day weekend!" so that they can be used any time of the year :)  You can download a printable copy by clicking on the pic below.




Orange you glad it's Labor Day?!  I love time off to spend with my family....and I'm off to do just that!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Holy Frijoles

My grandpa makes the world's most amazing charro beans.  I salivate just thinking about them.  They are so full of flavor.  Recently I found out that my grandpa is a bit of a fibber.  It's actually my grandma who's been making them, but grandpa has been taking all the credit.  That rascal.  Either way, their beans are so delectable.  

My mom celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago and I decided to host a little weeknight birthday party for her.  A couple of my siblings are just a little picky {and by little I mean that they don't like anything}, so I wanted to make sure that I made a meal that would appeal to everyone's palates.  So Mexican it was.  

I decided to make my Baja Crockpot Pork Tacos, taco rice, and charro beans, but I was in a bit of a quandry because I had NO idea how to make said charro beans.  Especially the kind of charro beans my grandpa...errr...grandma makes.  I wanted to phone it in and ask grandma to make them for the party, but instead I resolved to figure out how to do it myself.  

I'll go ahead and tell you that I ended up finding this little recipe that didn't require half the effort that grandma puts into hers.  She soaks her beans overnight and pours so much love into them.  I won't give myself that much credit.  Even though these beans were nothing like grandma's, they were just as full of flavor and easy to boot!  A winner all the way around.  Even my picky siblings raved about them :)

EASY WEEKNIGHT CHARRO BEANS

4 {15 oz.} cans of pinto beans

1 {10oz.} can of Rotel {I used Mild}

1 {4 oz.} can chopped green chiles

1/2 cup chopped onion {I used a little bit more}

6-8 sliced of bacon, cooked & cut into bite sized pieces

Handful of cilantro, stems removed, chopped



First things first...cook your bacon.  I always bake mine because I STINK at frying it.  Grease stains for days and I always end up burned.  I follow this little kitchen tutorial.

Once your bacon is cooked, crumble it into tiny pieces and set aside.  Combine ALL of the ingredients...included the crumbled bacon...into a large pot.  Season to taste with pepper and salt and let it simmer on the stove top for an hour.  

BOOM.

Easy charro beans that are ***almost*** as good as grandmas :) 

This recipe fed 11 adults with a little bit leftover after dinner.  Next time I'll be sure to double the recipe because there's nothing we love more than leftovers!  Okay....there are a lot of things we like better...but leftovers are pretty darn fantastic :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Let the Finger Food Season Commence!

I love this time of the year.  High school football games {because in Texas, that's sort of a thing}, festivals, tailgating, parties...I just love it all.  Actually, I could do without the high school football.  It's not my favorite.  I don't get to see Mr. Spouse much during these next few months, so I could definitely do without high school football. {Does that make me less of a Texan?!}  I do, however, love all the get-togethers.  Really...I love all the food at those gatherings.  This is the season of finger foods.  Getting stuffed off of grazing without having a full fledged meal and boy do I love to graze.  

My dear friend, Amy, always makes the best finger foods.  She introduced me to the most irresistible trail mix and my favorite summer cocktail.  When she brought this little number to our last girls night in, I was instantly hooked...and it absolutely couldn't be easier!!  


Girls nights...in or out...would definitely qualify as my most favorite gathering.  I'm glad I have girlfriends who love to eat as much as I do :)

TAILGATE CHIPS

1 large bag Kettle Brand Crinkle Cut Chips {Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper}

1 large tub of pico de gallo {or you could make your own}

1 tub of Feta Cheese


I'm pretty sure this needs no explanation, but if you're anything like me, you have trouble toasting bread.  So hear goes...

Spread out a layer of chips on a long serving dish.  Now top that with some pico...and then some feta.  Now another layer of chips...pico...and feta.  

BOOM.


You might even want to pick up an extra tub of feta and pico depending on how flavorful you like your chips. 

When Amy made this for our girls night in, she sprinkled bleu cheese on the top instead of feta.  Not gonna lie...I don't like bleu cheese at all.  Shockingly, I ate it up when Amy made it, but when I recreated the dish I had to 86 the bleu stuff and use the feta instead.  

OH.MY.YUM.


I can't tell you how many times I've made this since our girls night.  It's too easy NOT to make.  

Your chips will get a bit soggy after a while if they're sitting out for too long.  You can pop 'em in the oven at about 200 for a few minutes to soak up the moisture.  Plus, that adds a nice little texture and heat for something a smidge different.  In all honesty, you won't have to worry about that....they'll be gone in NO time!

This is definitely a finger food I could eat through every season!!!







Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back to School

 For most schools here in Texas, yesterday was the first day of school.  This is an event my boys have been anticipating for the last month.  Once all of our summer travels were over, they would excitedly ask, "when do we go back to school??!?!?!?!?"    For the last few weeks ,the excitement has been building.  The boys met their teachers last week and they haven't been able to stop talking about school since they walked out of their brand new classrooms on "Meet the Teacher" night.  Excited would be an understatement...for all of us ;)

I decided to do a little something special for their first day back.  This was completely unnecessary and over the top.  Ridiculous and absurd.  {Insert your adjectives here}.  BUT...every now and then I like to do things that surprise even myself ;)  And it was an added bonus that I didn't have to buy ONE.DARN.THING for this little special back to school breakfast!  Being a teacher with lots of goodies on hand sure has it's perks ;)


Like I said, I had everything on hand.  I randomly collect globes, so yes...I had those, too.  The only thing I really had to do was print out those little subway prints and put them in a few extra frames I had in my closet.   I haven't done anything like this in forever and I forgot how much I really do enjoy it.  Lawd knows this may never happen again ;)

My youngest, Grant,  woke up in a terrible, horrible, no good mood {I'm blaming it on the nerves} and my oldest, Landon,  was FIRED.UP.  He was SO excited about his special back to school breakfast.  Grant pretty much told me it wasn't that cool and refused to eat the blueberry muffins and fruit I woke up early to make from scratch.  So honey buns it was....nothing like a big plate of processed food for breakfast.  No time for arguing on the first day.  At least he sat at the table to eat.  We'll call it a success :)





After breakfast, Grant was in much better spirits.   He was even willing to take our annual first day pics.  Landon has started to do this funky I'm-smiling-but-I'm-really-not-smiling kind of smile and that's always fun to look at after the fact.  Bless.  Gosh dang I love these boys.  Fake smiles and all ;)


I made their little first day prints in the frames.  If you have kids going back to school this week or next, you can make these, too!  I created a little power point file with grades Pre-K - 5th and all you have to do is insert your info.  Here's the fonts you'll need...

You can download the power point and insert all of your own info :)




I know I told you this before, but I absolutely LOVE the boys teachers.  They are so sweet and so precious.  I know it's going to be an AWESOME year!!!!  Because I love teachers so much, I REALLY love to treat the boys teachers to little unexpected goodies throughout the year. There are a MILLION of these floating around out there, but I went and recreated the wheel because these are the "favorites" I wanted to know from their teachers.  There are lots of other teacher questionnaires out there, but they didn't have all these exact "favorites" included.  If this is something you think you can use, just click the pic below to download your copy.  

Speaking of little treats, I made these for the teachers for their first day of school!


I LOVED putting this together!!  I got plain terra cotta pots {Michaels} and painted them with black acrylic paint.  They dry in about 2 minutes so this was a SUPER quick project.  Then I just took a white paint pen and wrote the teachers last names on the surface.  I found that great little leopard print burlap ribbon and Michaels and used that to tie around the rim.  I only needed one roll of the ribbon.  Our school colors are blue & white.  I found that polka dotted tissue paper in the party section at Target.  Then I just started piling all the goodies inside.

Here's what I included....


There are TONS of ideas for teacher survival kits on Pinterest if you're wanting to assemble your own!

I tied little tags around each item with a little "blurb" about what it was for.  I did this BEFORE I realized it would've been easier to just type up a little something to put in the basket.  



If you want to create a little survival kit for your child's teacher...or your teammates...just click on the pic below for your printable download.



Well that sure felt good to just dive right back in and start blogging after such a long hiatus!  I've been stockpiling recipes and randomness to share.  And I have a new blog design coming SOON!  Can't wait to get back on this train :)



Monday, January 13, 2014

The Meal That Rendered Me Speechless

There are times when I’m completely and utterly speechless. Granted, those moments are few and far between, but when they do happen food is usually involved.   And not just because I’m too busy stuffing my face to talk.  This recipe looked too good to pass up and I was so happy the list of ingredients and prep time didn’t scare me away.  One bite in and I was speechless.  Completely and totally speechless.  This is, hands down, one of the most flavorful meals I’ve ever eaten or even cooked for that matter!  I’m usually one for the quick prep and minimal clean up type meals, but this was worth every.single.second spent in the kitchen. 

CARNITAS AVOCADO PIZZA

via Damn Delicious

2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. kosher salt

3-4 lbs. chuck roast

2 Tbsp. canola oil

2 & 1/2 Cups orange juice

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 jalapeno, thinly sliced

1 premade pizza crust {I used Boboli.  You could make your own, but that was just another step I didn’t want to take}

1 Cup tomatillo salsa

12 oz. mozzarella, cut in tiny chunks

2 green onions, diced

diced avocado

Chipotle Avocado Mayonnaise

1-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1 avocado, pitted & chopped

1/4 Cup mayonnaise

1/4 Cup Greek yogurt

juice of 1 lime

1/4 tsp. salt

 

I know, I know.  Seems like a lot.  And it is.  But TRUST me when I say it’s totally worth it. 

carnitapizza1

Not really sure why that bottle of Lawry’s marinade made it into the picture, but it has absolutely NOTHING to do with this recipe, so just ignore it!  Moving right along…

Let’s go ahead and get your meat ready first.  You’ll wanna make this about 3-4 hours ahead of time.  This slab of meat is meant to be slow roasted…and OH so delicious.  First let’s take the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and kosher salt and mix it up. 

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Then go ahead and rub that spice mix ALL.OVER the meat.  Oh my yum.

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Pour the oil into a dutch oven…or large pot…and plop the meat on top.  Heat on med/high heat and lightly sear both sides of the chuck roast until it’s nice and brown {2 minutes, give or take}.

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Now pour the orange juice on top and cover.  Let it roast for about 3-4 hours or until it’s tender and falling apart at the touch.

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Before the meat is ready, go ahead and prep the rest of the pizza.  Grab your olive oil and heat it on the stovetop.  Then go ahead and add your jalapeno, onion, and bell pepper to the skillet.  Cook on medium high heat for about 5-6 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

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As the peppers are a’cookin’, you’ll wanna prep the pizza crust.  Now you could definitely make your own crust, but ain’t nobody got time for that.  SO I bought a Boboli.

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Set the crust on a pizza pan and top it with the tomatillo salsa.  I had to improvise.  My grocery store doesn’t carry such greatness, so I had to mix my own and here’s what I used.

carnitapizza2 carnitapizza7

Now spread the salsa all over the pizza crust. Notice the edge I left around the perimeter.  You’ll wanna leave a nice little edge for the crust.

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Then top with the sliced mozzarella.  As you can see, I wasn’t afraid to pile it on thick.

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The remove the veggies from the stovetop and spread on top of the mozzarella.  Salivating yet?!

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Now bake according to package directions, remove, and set aside.  By now, your roast should be tender and falling apart.  Go ahead and shred the meat and evenly spread across the top of the pizza.

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Now here’s where you’ll want to go ahead and make the chipotle avocado mayonnaise.  Add the chipotle peppers, mayo, yougurt, lime juice, salt and avocado to the blender.

carnitapizza10 carnitapizza11

Puree until nice and creamy.  I went ahead and put this little concoction into a little condiment dispenser {squirt bottle} so that I could drizzle it on top of the meat.  I’m so fancy.

Speaking of meat, let’s get back to the pizza.  Top the meat with the diced green onions and chopped avocado.  Y’all.  I added a very GENEROUS helping of avocado because I love it thismuch

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And don’t forget to drizzle the chipotle avocado mayonnaise all over the top.  I swear it makes the meal!!!!  Don’t leave it out!!

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OH.MY.YUM!!! {Did I say that already?!?!?}

Can you see why I was speechless?!  My taste buds were exploding.  Absolutely and totally TO DIE FOR.  Just don’t plan on making this for company…you’ll wanna keep this all for yourself!!!

carnitapizza19

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Something To Keep You Warm

There’s nothing I love more than a warm bowl of soup on a cold winter night.  A bowl of soup and my snuggie, of course.  I mean, who doesn’t love a snuggie?!  But I digress.  There’s truly nothing more comforting than a hearty bowl of soup laden with flavor…and a heaping scoop of shredded parmesan.  When I found this recipe, I knew it would be a keeper and I couldn’t have been more right.  The original recipe says to make this in a crockpot, but being the forgetful cook that I am I didn’t prepare for that at all.  So I made it the old fashioned way….right on the stovetop.  And it.was.AWESOME.

CHICKEN PARMESAN SOUP

via Foxes Love Lemons

3-4 garlic cloves, pressed

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 (14.5 oz} can crushed tomatoes

1/2 lb. – 1lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup chopped white onion

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes {we used a smidge or two more…we like it spicy!}

4 oz. mezze penne pasta {I think Ditalini would be good, too!!}

 

chixparmsoup1

First get started chopping the veggies & herbs.  Don’t forget to press your garlic, too!  These are some of my most favorite flavors right here, people.

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Add the garlic, bell pepper, onion, basil, oregano, crushed tomato, chicken broth, & red pepper flakes to a large pot.  Stir in half a cup of shredded parmesan and add the chicken.  I cut my chicken into bit sized pieces because I feel like that makes it cook faster.  Am I fooling myself?!  Who cares.  The added step was hardly noticeable.  When I’m trying out a new recipe, I typically like to follow it verbatim before I add my own little spin.  That means I can be a little too precise when it comes to measurements and such.  I could only find a 28 oz. can of the crushed tomatoes and just to be 100% sure I had the right amount, I had to measure it out with one of my favorite kitchen tools.  I could’ve easily just poured half the can in the pot and called it a day, but my OCD got the best of me.  Dangit.

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Now return the pot the the stovetop and cook on medium – high heat and cover, stirring occasionally.  I cooked the soup for about 10 minutes before I added in the pasta.  You’ll only need 4 oz.  I accidentally added the whole box.  Let me just tell you that it was darn delicious just like that, but heck if it was a lot of pasta.  It soaked up most of the “soup” and I ended up adding more chicken broth.  It was AMAZING, but next time I’ll use less pasta….maybe even try the Ditalini.  And y’all…it was even better the next day albeit more of a pasta dish instead of soup.  HA!! 

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Cook on the stovetop, covered, for about 30 minutes.  Then pour yourself a steaming bowl and top with a generous amount of shredded parmesan cheese.  Ohmiword.  Definitely one of the best…and EASIEST…soups I’ve ever tried!  A winter favorite, for sure!