27 February 2010

Risotto Again

I've been called a lot of names in my life. Some of them flattering, some of them not so much. One name I've been called that bemuses me is "Little Martha." Yeah, that Martha. I think I may be one of the few food bloggers that does not hold a soft spot in her heart for her. She certainly is a polarizing figure. I haven't met a single person who is just middle of the road on their feelings for her. Love her or hate her though, the woman is a crafting wiz as well as genius in the kitchen.

Now, I realize that risotto is not necessarily the healthiest food, but Ms. Martha crammed two very good for you veggies into this dish. Tomato and sausage risotto calls for one giant can of diced tomatoes and 10-14 oz. of spinach (it also calls for an onion, but I don't know that much about the benefits of those tear-inducers to say that they are a super food). So the sausage and parmesan kind of cancel out the goodness from the veg, it still tastes incredible and pleases almost every person I know (pretty sure I can count on one hand the people who would not eat this).

To round out our meal, we had a small spinach salad with some fat free vinagarette and small chunk of crusty bread with a schmear of butter). Welcome to my Heaven! Thank you, Martha for giving me a reason to love you.

Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Recipe by Martha Stewart

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, in juice

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, (10 to 14 ounces), washed well, tough stems removed, chopped (about 7 Cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
  1. In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.
  4. Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).
  5. Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.

23 February 2010

"Anyone Can Cook"

This past Sunday, I spent the day with one of my favorite little people in the entire world, my hubby's youngest sister B. B is nine years old, loves the color purple, and has a knack for making me laugh at some of the silliest things. We always play games, we always tell each other stories, and we always have fun together (I've been in her life since she was almost a year old). She's a more shy, younger version of me!

When I first got to B's house, she decided that she wanted to play Monopoly. Now this wasn't just any Monopoly, this was the Disney-Pixar Monopoly! The gamepieces were Nemo, Buzz Lightyear, that red car from that car movie I didn't like, Mike & Sully, and Mr. Incredible! You can't go wrong witha  cast like that! But the best one of all (and the one I got to play as) was Remy from Ratatouille. There's just something about a movie that has the message "Anyone can cook" that just tugs at my little heart.

I can't tell you what initially made me fall in love with the movie. We all know that the thought of a rat preparing a meal would make even the strongest stomach gurgle in protest. I can tell you that now that my favorite part of the movie, and why I watch it over and over again and get a tear in my eye (hey don't judge me!), is near the end when the food critic takes his first bite of Remy's ratatouille and is transported back to his childhood. The feelings of comfort and home overwhelms the great Anton Ego into waiting hours to meet the chef who is from very humble origins himself.

Ratatouille is a comfort food, and lucky for me and my goal of trying to eat healthier, is fairly healthy. Of course because the hubby and I are meatatarians we did have some grilled chicken along with it. To round out our healthy dinner we had a small salad and a chunk of fresh bread with some goat cheese. I borrowed this lovely recipe from Deb over at Smitten Kitchen and for once did not feel the need to do a thing to to it. Enjoy!

Ratatouille's Ratatouille
Recipe by Smitten Kitchen

1/2 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.
  4. On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.
  5. Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.
  6. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.
  7. Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. (Tricky, I know, but the hardest thing about this.)
  8. Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.
  9. Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain

20 February 2010


Earlier this week was Mardi Gras as most of you know. I had the fortune of spending the evening with two of my most favorite people, my hubby and my sister. We got spent the evening in dowtown Tulsa for the parade that was put on by the businesses located in the Blue Dome district. Dinner at McNellie's followed (yummy burgers and beer) where the hubby and the sister played some pool while I tried to take pictures (none of them were very good though). Anyway, a day or two later my sister uploaded her own pictures to her Facebook. Comments kept trickling into my email about some of the ones that had been tagged of me. When I got around to looking at the pictures, I was disgusted at what I saw. I know that I'm a big girl. No one could ever mistake me for being anorexic. But the person staring back at me from those pictures was not the same person I see in the mirror. Needless to say, I started taking stock of what I've been eating (and cooking). I've been making very rich and fattening foods. I'm making a promise to myself to try to be more healthy, and to show I'm serious, I've included the picture that made me sick (all the way at the bottom).

The first recipe I decided to tackle for my new healthier version of myself is a soup recipe I found in Taste of Home magazine. Tomato Tortellini soup is so simple and super tasty. I adapted the heck out of this thing and plan on doing some things even more differently next time (I'll add some grilled chicken and have a smaller portion with a small salad next time to make it extra filling). I hope you'll keep me company as I go on this journey to try to lighten some recipes up. Enjoy the soup!

Tomato Tortellini Soup
Recip by Taste of Homes, heavily adapted by me

1 pckg. (9 oz.) refrigerated cheese tortellini (next time I'll use the whole wheat variety, they just didn't have any this time at the store)
2 cans (10-3/4 oz. each) reduced-sodium condensed tomato soup, undiluted
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3-3/4 cups skim milk
1/4 half and half cream
1/2 chopped oil packed sundried tomatoes (I cheated and used a pre-chopped variety; next time I won't use the oil packed)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1.2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  1. Cook tortellini according to package directions (should just be boil some water, add tortellini, cook for 7-9 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, combine soup, broth, milk, half and half, tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings. Heat through, stirring frequently.
  3. Drain tortellini and carefully add to the soup. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese. Serve and top with remaining cheese.
So we'll call this the before picture, and hopefully by this time next year, the after picture will be much better.

15 February 2010

My New Obsession

Let me start off by saying that I'm glad I saved this recipe for today. There's no way I could possibly cook in my kitchen with the mountain of dishes still sitting in my sink. I know that we should have washed them last night, but we were both so exhausted that it didn't get done. I also should be cleaning them now instead of posting this, but I like you guys a whole lot more than I do the dishes.


I've recently discovered that I love risotto. I love to cook it; I love to eat it; I just love everything about it. Creamy, cheesy, adaptable, simple. I could wax poetic about the many great qualities of risotto. Aside from the thousands of different ways it can be made, the only truly annoying thing about it is that it has to be stirred constantly (I'd say almost constantly, but seeing as this is only my third attempt I don't want to jinx it). I do have a question though. Should I attribute this recipe to Martha Stewart who's own risotto dish inspired this or do I triumphantly claim it as my own? I made her Tomato and Sausage Risotto a few nights ago, and the hubby and I loved it. This recipe is definitely inspired by hers but is also mine. Either way, enjoy!

Tomato and Rosemary Risotto
Recipe inspired by Martha, made by me

1 small onion, diced
Olive oil
1/2 cup long grain rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1-1/2 cups water
3 Tbl fresh basil (or 1 Tbl dried)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked off (or 1 tsp dried)
2 Tbl butter
1/2 parmesan cheese, shredded
  1. Mix diced tomatoes and water in a large pan. Bring just barely to a simmer. Keep warm on a back burner.
  2.  On the front burner, use a glug or two of olive oil in a large pan. Add onions and cook until translucent (if using dried herbs, add them here). Add rice and stir for 1-2 minutes without coloring. Add the wine and cook until absorbed.
  3. Add two ladles of the tomato-water mixture and stir until absorbed. Keeping adding the tomato-water mixture, one ladle at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding the next. This should take about 20-25 minutes. Add the herbs and butter.
  4. Remove from heat and add the cheese. Stir until combined.

14 February 2010

All You Need is Love

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that today is Valentine's Day. It's not my favorite holiday of the year (I shouldn't have to be told when to give love to those close to me; I should be doing that every day), but since this is one of the few I've actually got to spend with my hubby, I'll take it (we've officially spent half of our married life apart due to deployments). We didn't actually get to spend the whole day together since he had to work so I spent the first part of the day with my college roommate and her mom. I love them almost as much as I love my own family.

Anyway, for dinner I wanted to make something special for my hubby so he could just relax and indulge. I made Jamie Oliver's Ultimate Rib of Roast again (I know I complained about the cost, but hubby loved it so much that I had to make it again for him). I also made his rosemary and garlic roasted taters. Then I made my own version of a Martha recipe which I will share with you tomorrow. To top off our meal, I made Red Velvet Cheesecake, but to make it just a bit more special, I made them in miniature form (not quite as small as a cupcake; the pan said Texas Muffin).

Red Velvet Cheesecake
Recipe by Southern Living, adapted by me

17 regular-sized oreo cookies, crushed finely (or 1½ cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs)
¼ cup butter, melted
1 Tbs granulated sugar


Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1½ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa
1 cup sour cream
½ cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
Two 1-ounce bottles red food coloring


One 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
heavy duty foil

  1. Prepare crust: Stir together oreo crumbs, melted butter, and 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar; press mixture into bottom of 9-inch springform pan (I used about 1-1/2 Tbl of crust for each of my muffin-sized cakes).
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare water bath: Fill large roasting pan (big enough for springform pan to fit into) with about 1 inch of water. Place in oven and allow to preheat along with the oven.
  3. Prepare filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium-low speed with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Add eggs and remaining cheesecake ingredients, mixing on low speed just until fully combined. Pour batter into prepared crust (I used about 1/2 cup of the filling for each).
  4. Take out two sheets of heavy duty foil and layer them on top of one another. Place springform pan on top of the foil and wrap the foil gently around the pan and up the sides. Make sure that there are no tears or holes and that the foil comes all the way up around all sides of the cake. Carefully place the foil-protected pan into the water bath in the preheated oven (with the muffin pans, I just placed the pans on the top rack and the water bath on the bottom).
  5. Bake for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 300°F. Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the center is firm. Turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in oven for 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven. Carefully remove cheesecake from water bath and place on wire rack. Run a thin knife around the outer edge of the cheesecake. Cool on rack for a couple of hours, until the cheesecake becomes close to room temperature. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight. Remove sides of springform pan (I kept the muffins in the pans and stuck them in the fridge overnight).
  6. Prepare frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth. Spread evenly on top of cheesecake. Garnish, if desired.

11 February 2010

Cookie Monster

Some of you may know that a couple of weeks ago my hubby wrecked my truck. We had a pretty bad ice storm (nothing like the one we had on Christmas Eve and nowhere near as horrific as the one the east coast is seeing right now). Hubby has to get up super early for work (he works 3 days a week and has to be in at 3:30AM). So on this particular Saturday, his first day of the week, he went downstairs and warmed up my truck. After almost an hour of scraping ice and getting the truck to where it wouldn't shudder and die because of the cold, he slowly made his way to the freeway. Luckily, because he leaves so early, no one else is really on the road. He made his way about a mile down the freeway when he spun out and collided with the new wire barriers (these bad boys tangle themselves up with your car so you won't cross the center median into on-coming traffic). To make a long story at least a little shorter, we had the truck towed to a family friend's auto repair shop. I've known this man and his wife since I was about 12, my sister and I call him abuelo (grandfather en espanol), and I would trust him with my life. After only a week he was able to get my car fixed and back to me. Great turnaround, wonderful customer service, and a heart of gold!

I decided that as a thank you I wanted to bake cookies for the men out in the shop. Not able to pick just one cookie, I decided on three. First I made a simple chocolate chunk cookie bar (the recipe is available on the back of the bag of chocolate chunks, I used Nestle). Then I made a peanut butter cookie (this one used a whole jar of peanut butter, and even though I'm not a fan of PB, I could have eaten the whole batch on my own). Lastly, I made a shortbread with chocolate and toffee (Anne knows exactly which ones these are). These are by far my second most favorite cookie in the whole world (yes, I have more than one favorite cookie; who doesn't?). I can't remember where I got this recipe since I just have it printed out of a Word document. I'll try to find the original and update with it later. For now, enjoy the awesomeness that is this shortbread cookie!

Shortbread Cookie with Mini Chocolate Chips and Toffee

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
3/4 cups toffee pieces (I used Heath brand toffee bits)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cream together butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add flour in batches, mixing after each addition until incorporated. Stir in mini chips and toffee bits.
  2. Shape spoonfuls of dough into small balls (I use a small cookie scoop) and place an inch apart on a baking sheet (I put parchment paper down so the sheet doesn't get all yucky). Flatten each cookie out a little.
  3. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan. Enjoy with a glass of cold milk!

08 February 2010

Gypsy Fail

I spent the entire weekend trying to decide if I wanted to post about my latest failure in the kitchen. You see, I've been super stressed lately about so many things that I just didn't think I should share something yucky with you guys. This morning I decided that since last week is over that I should just get it off my chest.

I tried a new recipe for something called a Gypsy Tart. Now, I had never heard of this pie or even seen pictures of it (the recipe on All Recipes didn't have any user pictures but had great reviews). There were so few ingredients and very simple instructions that I thought for sure this would be a winner. Boy was I wrong! I know it has nothing to do with the recipe and everything to do with me and my crummy oven (I found pictures via Yahoo! Image search). Not only did I manage to burn the top of my tart, but it wasn't even cooked all the way through. I now have a wiggly, jiggly, burnt pie chilling out in my fridge because I feel too guilty to throw it away and too nervous to actually eat it. I think tonight it will find a new home in the apartment dumpster though since she's taking up too much room on the top shelf of my poor fridge.

06 February 2010

I Heart My Nana!

So, remember a few recipes ago how I asked if anyone had a good recipe for tomato sauce? And do you remember how I said that my family doesn't have one? Well, I felt extremely silly when I went through my recipe box and came across a family recipe in my nana's handwriting for tomato sauce. To be completely honest, this recipe is a really good base. There are so many things that can be added to this simple sauce to make it truly your own. I stayed pretty close to Nana's recipe this time around so I could give an honest opinion. Next time, I'm going to add bay leaf and more garlic (probably more spices than that even). Enjoy!

Nana's Tomato Sauce

1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 or 2 cans tomato paste (depends on desired consistency; I used 2 cans)
1 clove garlic, chopped
Basil, to taste
Oregano, to taste
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil

  1. In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is almost translucent. Stir in spices, crushed tomatoes, and paste.
  2. Cook on medium-low heat for an hour or an hour and a half.
Per Nana's notes on the bottom of my recipe card, "You can cheat and use jar sauce, but scratch tastes better." I also added 1 lb ground beef, browned and drained as well as spicy Italian sausage. So yummy!

02 February 2010

Jamie, Jamie, Jamie

You know, I tried to be nice when I broke things off with you, Jamie. I told you the recipe was good and that the meat was fantastic. I even said I'd make it again. Was it really necessary to have a recipe for Chicken and Leek Stroganoff? Did you think I'd come crawling back to you if I'd only just try this recipe? After all, it's much cheaper to make and ridiculously simple to make.

Well you were right. Please forgive me for breaking your heart. The way the leek compliments the cream, the heartiness of the chicken and rice, the lemon! It really was the way back to my heart. And the cookbook you included it in, Jamie's Food Revolution, purely genius! The pass it on pledge in your introduction telling anyone who buys the book to share a recipe from each chapter is perfect for this food blogger. You really know how to make me happy.

All My Love,


Chicken and Leek Stroganoff
Recipe by Jamie Oliver

1 large leek
A big handful of crimini or oyster mushrooms (you know I didn't use these)
2 chicken breast fillets
Olive oil
A pat of butter
A glass of white wine
Small glass of water
Freshly ground black pepper
A bunch of fresh parsley
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 lemon

  1. Cut both ends off the leek, quarter lenthways, slice across thinly, then wash well under running water. Slice the mushrooms. Slice the chicken breasts into little-finger-size pieces.
  2. Put a large frying pan on a high heat and add a good glug of olive oil and the butter. Add the leek to the pan with the white wine, water, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Let it bubble away for 5 minutes, covered loosely with a piece of aluminium foil. Meanwhile, finely chop the parsley, stalks and all. Remove the foil and add the chicken, most of the parsley, the cream, and the mushrooms. Stir, bring back to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Just before serving, cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice of one half in the stroganoff. Season to taste. Serve over a bed of rice with a quarter of the other half of the lemon and a sprinkling of the remaining parsley.