Hamburger Helper ? . . . not in this kitchen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I am a HUGE fan of one-skillet meals (Hamburger Helper excluded). Last night, I used the hot-Italian sausage I purchased from ( to make a Cooks Illustrated Editors' Choice recipe.

Skillet Penne with Sausage & Spinach reminds me of a made-for-summer chili. It has great flavor and take less than thirty minutes from start to finish. The recipe serves 4, so cut it in half for 2 :)

Finding the Sun Dried Tomatoes proved to be a bit tricky… apparently, they are kept in the produce aisle under the fresh tomatoes and not next to canned tomatoes or tomato sauce.

Prep Time: 5 mins (chopping the sun dried tomatoes is bit of a pain)
Wait Time: 15-20 (while the pasta cooks, be sure to stir often)
Cook Time: 10 (cooking sausage, adding ingredients, wilting spinach)

Skillet Penne with Sausage & Spinach Recipe -

TIPS: One sausage = 1/2 pound of meat; all that spinach does wilt down; be careful opening the pine nuts.

# 3 - Enchiladas Verdes

Monday, August 9, 2010

I really didn't cook this weekend. But, I did re-organize my Pyrex (I know, only old married women would ever get excited about this).

I received two amazing sets of Pyrex as wedding gifts and after five hours of laying down some flooring and building an IKEA cabinet, I finally had a place to put them. As I carefully collected every piece I was reminded of a dish I made the first week we were married (and then again a few weeks later for a family from church).

I suggest prepping the sauce and chicken the night before and simply assembling it after work for a delicious dinner.

2015 Update: Forget the homemade sauce - that just is not going to happen these days - I buy the jar (glass) of sauce in the mexi aisle of the grocery now. And this has become a staple in my arsenal of dinners for friends :)

Cut the recipe in half for a great meal for two (or three).

Squeamish vegetarians/vegans beware…

Friday, August 6, 2010

#1 - Sweet & Savory Lamb, Indian Summer Veggies, & Rice Pudding

I've been quite busy with work, travel, and life in general for the past few weeks. During which, my wonderful husband has had to sustain himself on frozen pizzas, any'tizers, & lunch meat sandwiches. (& beer)

Monday, I made a trip to the butcher's shop near work ( and purchased hot Italian sausage, flank steak, bone-in ribeyes, lamb chops, roast beef, peppered turkey, horseradish cheddar cheese, provolone, bacon, bacon burgers, Traders Point Creamery yogurt, and a a loaf of bread (all for about $90).

The plan was/is to make at least three great meals before leaving again next week for training, so my husband doesn’t have to live like a frat-boy.

So, here we go -- this is actually meal #1 (the steak tacos were meal #2)

I found the Lamb and Rice Pudding recipe the first week we were married. It was part of's menu selection. The problem was that the closest grocery store did not carry the cut of lamb required. So, I called the butcher to see if they would have what I needed - and they did!

Unfortunatly the lamb may have been a bit over cooked. I thought it was lacking in flavor and I probably won't make it again -- but perhaps it could have been better if I hadn't 'braised' it for so long.

Luckily, the veggies were fantastic and had a great spicy/sweet Indian flavor - Jordan even enjoyed them (which says a lot)!

The pudding was good as well. Neither of us is big on raisins, so next time I might try adding different fruit or maybe some almonds. It also holds well in the fridge overnight.

Prep Time: 15-30 (cutting veggies takes some time)
Wait Time: 30-60 (only if you are going to cool the pudding)
Cook Time: 40-60 (could be less, I used the same pan for the veggies & meat so I could only cook one at a time)

Sweet & Savory Lamb and Rice Pudding -
Indian Spiced Vegetables -
White Rice -

On the Road Again ....homemade dessert in a hotel?

Have you ever spent a week in a hotel for work? I have… in fact over the last four years, I have spent what amounts to an entire year living “on the road”. And, I've learned a few things. For example....

1) Chicago hotels: the Conrad isn't that great, actually. The Hampton Inn & Suites has a larger suite for half the cost. (The Conrad bathroom is still pretty amazing, though)

2) Orlando transportation: DO NOT TAKE A CAB. Call a car service.

3) New York food: the gyro vendor outside of the Javits is the BEST $5 you will ever spend. Don't forget your Dr. Brown Dark Cherry Cola.

4) Dallas safety: even though you might be staying at a 5-star hotel (the Adolphus) where several Presidents, Queens, and Dignitaries have laid their head, DO NOT go to the 7-eleven across the street. But do check out the amazing Mexican food place around the corner :)

5) Vegas: THE HOTEL (at Mandalay Bay) is amazing! Seriously, do not bother to stay anywhere else. EVER. Ok, maybe the Venetian if you really want to be in the middle of everything. Be sure to grab a crepe in Mandalay Bay, and a moijto in Caesars. Stay away from the blackjack table and play the penny slots. --Editor’s note: Looking for that killer mojito in Caesar’s? It’s tucked away in a corner of the Forum Shops at a little place called Casa Fuente, which is owned by world’s most famous cigar family/empire. Ps… they have a world-class cigar selection locked away there as well—so, don’t skip this if you are at all interested in cigars.

Finally, I have learned how to make an amazingly refreshing dessert in my room. This dessert requires a quick visit to a grocery/convenience store for a half-pint of fresh blue berries, package of strawberries, and Cool Whip Original (my latest obsession). You must then rummage around the hotel for a knife, fork/spoon/spork and a glass of some sort. If you are really desperate you can always use the cups provided in the room ... but after watching that documentary on 60 mins a few years ago I won't touch those things.

Rinse the berries in the sink, cut the strawberries up a bit, fill your glass with the fruit, and then top with the Cool Whip – and dig in!

Taco Night

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Last night we made delicious homemade tacos. Not the Old El Paso's packet of seasoning on some frozen ground beef. Would I do that?

This week I went to a butchers ( and bought Flank Steak. I also made 3 trips to the grocery since I kept forgetting to pick up tortillas, cheese, and sour creme.

The tacos were DELICIOUS! Filled with flavors from the lime and cilantro paste. I paired it with a lime/cilantro white rice (Chipotle), homemade salsa, & left over rice pudding for desert.

I've decide to add some 'times' to my blogs -- since i broke up the prep it didn't seem to take too long -- it just depends on how fast you chop, etc. These times include steak, rice, and salsa.

Prep Time: 15-30
Wait Time: 30-60
Cook Time: 30-40

Steak Taco Recipe -
One-Min Salsa Recipe -
White Rice - (I simply followed the directions on a package of long grained white rice. Then squeezed 1/2 a lime into the rice and added 2 Tablespoons of minced Cilantro leaves.

TIP: The salsa is really easy to make -- I used the bullet my sister bought me for Christmas years ago - the clean up is so much easier then using my large food processor. It takes about 3 mins from start to finish.

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