Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pasta e Fagioli, revisited

I've already made this soup and blogged about it, but back then my picture taking skills weren't all that great, and also the recipe was by weight and I wanted to nail down the ingredients better. So for the first chilly weekend of Fall here I knew I wanted to make it again in my new dutch oven. It was definitely not as much of a chore to make since I wasn't so focused on getting exact weights of the ingredients. This recipe is scaled down to make 4.5 quarts, but I definitely needed my 7 quart pot to cook it in.

PASTA e FAGIOLI (copy cat Olive Garden)
Source: adapted from cdkitchen

a drizzle of olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1/2 of a small 1 lb. bag of baby carrots, chopped
5 stalks of celery, diced
2 (14.5 oz.) cans of diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (32 oz.) carton + 1 (14.5 oz.) can of beef broth
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/4 tsp pepper
2 1/2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped (I used dry)
3/4 tsp tabasco sauce
1 jar (1 lb. 10 oz.) spaghetti sauce (I use Ragu)
1 cup dry small pasta (such as ditalini or elbow macaroni)
salt to taste


1. Brown ground beef in oil. Drain if necessary.

2. Add onion, carrot, celery and diced tomatoes. Simmer 10 minutes.

3. Add beans, beef broth, oregano, pepper, parsley, tabasco sauce and spaghetti sauce.

4. Simmer soup on low for about 30-45 minutes until carrots are almost tender.

5. Add pasta to pot and simmer on low for about 15-30 minutes until pasta is just shy of al dente. As the soup cools, the pasta will absorb the broth. You can cook the pasta separate and add it to the soup after the soup has cooled.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sprinkles Cupcakes

For my birthday (back in April) my WC Sis, Lindsey, sent me the cutest birthday package: a Sprinkles cupcake mix kit, rainbow sanding sugars, the cutest little cupcake cake tester, a beautiful dish towel with all of my favorite colors, and some personalized note cards. I'm so lucky to have been paired up with such an awesome Sis who quickly became my friend. What's even greater is that she's only located 1 big city and a train ride away. We've been fortunate enough to be able to meet up in person twice already, and we always have such a great time together, and for these things I am so thankful. It's so easy to form friendships and bonds with people over the internet. There's a certain anonymity that makes it easy to be yourself. But when you're able to carry those friendships over into real life so easily, it's special.

Anywho, back to my amazing and thoughtful birthday gift that I got like 6 months ago. The Sprinkles cupcake kit has been sitting on a shelf since then, just waiting for me to find the right opportunity to whip them up. I attribute the hold-off on not having butter in the house, or not wanting baked goods around. But last night at 11:00 pm I was home, bored and lonely while the hubs was working. I called him up and whined about how bored I was. One thing I tend to do when I'm bored is bake, so he helped me decide to bake up these cupcakes.

They were really simple to make, the baking time was spot on, and they came out of the oven looking like gorgeous golden mounds of awesomeness. I can't tell you when was the last time I made a successful batch of cupcakes. After finally buying an oven thermometer though, I attribute my many many failed attempts to improper oven temperature. I can certainly tell you how disappointing it is to pull out a tray of deflated cupcakes - I could go on for hours on the topic. But I was so happy that I didn't fail these cupcakes.

I decided to use store-bought icing - it's so much cheaper than making your own. And in these tough economic times, that's what I'm aiming for! (Oy vey, I can feel the agida creeping up - moving on!) Also, I just happened to buy some piping supplies for a breast cancer benefit I'm involved in for a friend and decided to test out my skills with these cupcakes since I'd never piped a piping of icing in my life! I have to admit, it was crazy-fun! I'm going to be piping whenever I get the chance! If I could manage having crazy amounts of cake and buttercream around the house, I might actually go take the Wilton cake decorating class - but really, that's the last thing I need.

The verdict: Now, I've never had an actual Sprinkles cupcake so I can't compare to the real life version, but I thought the texture and density of these cupcakes was perfect. I enjoy a fluffy, dense but not chewy cupcake. Seriously, if I could make cupcakes from scratch and achieve this texture I would be baking cupcakes a whole lot more frequently. I found it to be similar to America's Test Kitchen fluffy yellow cake, but not as dry. Like I said - PERFECT. But the taste seemed a little off. It could be because they sat on a shelf in my house for so long, but I did feel that the flavor in these were lacking. Was it so bad that I've decided not to shovel a few more cupcakes down the hatch? Certainly not. The hubs and I will be enjoying the few that are left after a little mishap in my kitchen whilst photographing these gorgeous kaleidoscopical gems. I thought I loved sanding sugars as much as any one person could - but after receiving the rainbow kind, oh my goodness, my love has grown.

Thanks again, SO MUCH for my birthday present Linds!! I'll light a candle in honor of our half-birthdays!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie

I've had this recipe saved for a few months. I originally saw it on Liz's blog, and again on Melissa's blog with a few modifications. Finally I fit it into our weekly menu. Boy am I glad!! This was so good and really simple to make. The most trouble I had was opening the cans of beans with my manual can opener! Don't worry, a new can opener is on my list of must-gets in the near future :) This was really yummy in it's original version, but I can already get a sense of how it would taste with Melissa's modifications - I imagine something akin to Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza, which I love. Also, I think I might try this some time by adding in some hard taco shells to add some crunch to it. I think this is a great recipe that can be modified here and there to give you a great result, however you might change it.

So if you love Mexican (like me and the hubs do), you MUST try this one!


4 (10-inch) flour tortillas (I happened to buy 8 inch tortillas which fit perfectly into my springform pan)
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced (I used about 1 Tbsp jarred, diced jalepeno)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
12 oz. beer (or 1 1/2 cups water) (USE THE BEER!)
1 package (10 oz.) frozen corn
4 scallions, plus more for garnish (I didn't add mine into the pie because I prefer them fresh, crisp and cold)
2 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a block of colby-jack)


1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan, using the bottom as a guide. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno, garlic and cumin and saute until softened, 5-7 minutes.

3. Add beans and beer to skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 8-10 minutes. Stir in corn and scallions, and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Fit a trimmed tortilla in bottom of springform pan. Layer with 1/4 of the beans (I did 1/3) and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat 3 times, ending with 1 cup of cheese on top.

5. Bake until hot and cheese is melted, about 20-25 minutes (mine was slightly browned at 20 minutes). Unmold pie, sprinkle with scallions. To serve, cut into wedges (serves 5-6).

Apple Pie

Fall is officially upon us! Not just by the calendar, but by the weather as well :) I love fall. I love the crispness in the air, wearing clothes without worrying about if I'm going to be sweating my arse off or not. I just love it.
Seeing as my blog has not been updated as much as I'd like it to be recently, I've been on the hunt for new recipes to try out. I knew that this fall I wanted to try to bake something with apples, and the hubs loves apple pie, so I mentioned it to Ashlee who happened to be updating her blog, literally at that moment, with an apple pie she just made. I always like to use recipes that friends have had success with, so I decided to try hers out!

This was really, really simple. I was scared of making my own pie dough, I've never done it before, but really, it was simple and I look forward to doing it in the future making other pies. The only thing about this pie is that I used granny smith apples, which are known to be more tart than sweet, and you could definitely taste the tartness in the pie. I tried to compensate for their tartness by adding extra sugar, but wasn't able to achieve what I was aiming for. Next time I'll use a naturally sweeter apple.

For the recipe, please visit Ashlee's Blog!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Crispy Yogurt Chicken

I'm a follower of The Pioneer Woman's blog. This is the second recipe of hers that I actually tried. I've heard a lot of rave reviews about this chicken so I knew I would have to give it a shot. I'll regularly make regular fried chicken cutlets, varying it sometimes by adding parmesan cheese or crushed red pepper to the breading. Sometimes we just like it plain with a touch of salt. But I need new recipes for the blog! So this was it. The hubs thought it was a weird concept to dip the chicken into yogurt first, but he actually liked it. And as a healthy alternative it was really enjoyable. I served it with a side salad and this lemon spaghetti and now we're nice and full :)

adapted from The Pioneer Woman

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups non-fat plain yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp dried parsley
1 1/2 cups plain breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cups plain panko breadcrumbs
olive oil spray


1. Line a baking sheet with foil and top with a cooling rack. Preheat ovent o 350 degrees.

2. Trim chicken of all fat and grossness, rinse and pat dry. Cut into pieces to whatever size you like (I cut each breast into about 4 pieces). Season with salt.

3. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and parsley.

4. In another bowl, mix together both types of breadcrumbs and season with salt.

5. Dip chicken pieces in yogurt, then in breading until thoroughly coated. Transfer to baking sheet.

6. Spray each piece with the olive oil spray.

7. Transfer baking sheet to oven; bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

8. If your chicken is not browned enough, switch on the broiler and broil until golden brown. You can also flip the chicken, spray the other side and broil until golden brown.