armadillas


You on the tube

I’m telling you…Pinterest is a dangerous, dangerous thing and I’m glad I lasted as long as I did without it. Man oh man. You know, I thought Facebook took up too much of my time when it first came out. I was wrong. So wrong. I’m not saying that I spend hour after hour browsing through Pinterest, but I definitely have to make a conscious effort to step away. You just get sucked into this endless array of recipes and crafts and wedding ideas and fashion. It’s a little ridiculous.

But I found a lovely recipe for Pizza Spaghetti Bake! Did you ever eat that as a kid? I remember eating lunch at school and every Friday was pizza day. That was the only time I was really interested in buying my lunch. My parents always packed me one. But sometimes there would be a special Friday where they served Pizza Pasta. Everyone LOVED pizza pasta day. Of course, there were those kids who pre-ordered their lunches and got first dibs, but once they were out of the way it was a fight to the death! Lunch would be over by the time you got out of line and at that point you were one lucky kid if you managed to get a tray.

Tough stuff! I’m so glad I can just make my own now. Recipe courtesy Tracey

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz pasta (I used spaghetti)
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 6 large slices pepperoni
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown the hamburger meat then drain. Naturally, an alternative could be Italian sausage or even ground turkey if you like the healthy route. I decided a little bit of ground beef wasn’t going to hurt me

 

Boil your pasta! Don’t forget to season the water with a touch of salt. It’s okay if the pasta isn’t cooked completely through. It’s going in the oven anyway. I guess it might be a good idea to go ahead and preheat it, huh? That would be 350 degrees please! Once the pasta is boiled and drain, lay it out in a baking dish sprayed with PAM/cooking spray of your choice

 

Layer the cooked beef over the pasta

 

Top the beef with your pasta sauce

 

Tear up your pepperoni and sprinkle it on top of the sauce. I suppose you could just use regular sized pepperoni, but all I had in my fridge was the sandwich stuff. So yummy! Save a few slices for later

 

Sprinkle the Parmesan and mozzarella over the pepperoni until covered. I’m pretty liberal with my cheese…

 

Finally, cover the cheese with the rest of the pepperoni and bake

 

After 30 minutes, pull your pasta bake out of the oven and be prepared to be taken back to elementary school. I like my cheese extra bubbly so I turned on the broiler for a few minutes

 

Now, was that not one of the easiest meals from childhood to prepare? Now that I’ve remembered the thing existed, it’s going to become a regular on my weeknight menu. So much better than just plain ol’ boring spaghetti


Bees knees

Like I said, the Alfredo deserved a post unto itself. It was creamy like I wanted. The peas added great color. And of course, the bacon provided a nice crunch and amazing flavor. Here’s to bacon!

But seriously, this was so easy to make and yet seemed like such a fancy meal. Perfect for someone’s special birthday dinner. Of course, it would have been even better if there had been shredded cheese on hand, but the stuff in that bottle/can thingy worked just fine…though, I am out of Parmesan now. Boo! Time to go to the market again

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of pasta (I used penne)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups Parmesan, preferably grated
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 package bacon
  • 1/2 bag frozen peas
  • Pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil

Cook up the bacon (chopped up)! Which in my opinion is the best part of the dish. I admit I have a problem…

Melt the butter in a large pot. Make sure it’s big enough to hold all your pasta later. In the meantime, boil your pasta in separate pot

Once your butter has melted down, add the cream. Oh, and keep in mind that we don’t want burnt up cream so keep your heat on medium to medium-low. Whatever you’re comfortable with

After only a couple minutes, it’s okay to add the cheese. Stir stir stir! Terrible picture if I do say so myself

Your cheese is getting all melty and your sauce is thickening up. Squeeze in the lemon juice! Mmmm

I’m not adding salt to mine, but I’m pretty generous with the pepper

Toss in the peas please. I bet broccoli would be great in this. Ooh, or some chopped up red peppers. Ideas…

It doesn’t take too long for your peas to warm up, just a few minutes. By now, your pasta should be done. Drain and dump in right into your Alfredo pot

Now for my favorite part. Add the bacon. How exciting!

Because the basil in your box garden is going crazy, sprinkle some on top

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

 

Ah, now that’s some good pasta. All is right in the world for a glorious moment with my fork in my mouth.

Tijuana


Under a minute

Mmm I’m not sure which I like better- Italian food or chicken. Really, these are the staples of my diet. If I’m not whipping up some sort of chicken dish, I’m usually eating something Italian (that is, when I’m not having a Chinese food attack!). I can’t help it. I grew up eating Italian. That’s my comfort food. Plus, some of my best dishes are Italian inspired. It’s just in the blood. It helps that there doesn’t seem to be very many mom and pop Italian restaurants around here either. I have no choice but to create my own. I’m sure there might be a few hole in the wall places somewhere that I just haven’t stumbled upon, but most of the joints so far are either chains like Olive Garden and Carrabbas…or are hella expensive. Remember my post about $5 calzones? Yeah, I’m not about to spend 15 bucks for something I can just make better myself.

There is one restaurant back home that I miss. Ah, Carini’s. Now they had some good food. How I wish there was a Carini’s here in the Hampton Roads. They had great pizza, great stromboli, awesome cheese fries. But my favorite dish hands down was the chicken parm sub. Oh man that was one good sandwich. I have yet to find a chicken parm to beat it. I don’t know if it was the delicious sauce, the generous amount of cheese, or the thick breast they used, but I’m drooling just remembering it. I might just have to open up my own mom and pop Italian place. Maybe I’ll recruit my dad to go into business with me.

Anyway, for memory’s sake I decided to make chicken parmesan for dinner. I would’ve made it into a sub, but unfortunately didn’t have any sub rolls. That’s okay! It was just fine without the bread.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts (keep in mind I’m only cooking for two)
  • 1 bowl flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 bowl bread crumbs
  • 4 slices provolone
  • Tomato sauce
  • Splash of milk
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For this recipe, we’re going to need some hardware. That’s right, we’re getting hardcore here. So, go find a hammer. Of course, if you have a nice kitchen with nice gadgets you can just use a  meat mallet. I prefer to keep things interesting

Now that you have your fancy hammer ready to go, pull out your chicken breasts. Lay down some saran wrap. Place your chicken on the saran wrap. Cover with another sheet of saran wrap. How many times can we say saran wrap?

Alright, pound out your anger! Or just have some fun. If using a hammer, be gentle with your chicken. A hammer doesn’t have as large of a surface as a mallet. Nice and thin!

Preheat you oven to 450 degrees before you forget and have to waste precious time before you can eat. Okay, build an assembly line! Set out your bowl of flour. Season with salt and pepper generously or to taste. Whisk your egg with some milk and set it out in the next bowl. Finally, pour some bread crumbs into another bowl. I used pre-seasoned Italian style


Dredge your chicken cutlets through the flour. Shake off the excess flour

Dip chicken into egg mixture

Dredge through breadcrumbs

Heat a skillet on medium heat. I like medium heat because I’m prone to burning things when I turn up the heat. So I like to play it safe. But if you think you can handle high heat, go for it! Drizzle oil into pan

We aren’t cooking the chicken all the way through. Just until nice and golden on both sides. Mine aren’t as pretty as they could be, but it’s still going to taste rad. Once desired color is reached, put into a baking dish. You can also leave the chicken in the skillet if it’s ovenproof. Save on dishes!

Spoon tomato sauce onto chicken

Layer with provolone

Bake for 15 minutes uncovered. Mmmmmmmm

Boil some spaghetti while the chicken is cooking and warm up some more tomato sauce. I spruced mine up with a little crushed red pepper flakes and some fresh basil from the garden

Don’t forget to salt your pasta water!

Dinner is served! Don’t forget to sprinkle with some parmesan

It might not be Carini’s, but the boyfriend surely wasn’t complaining. Are there any restaurants that you guys miss from your hometown? I know I sure can name a few!

Tijuana

 

 

 

 

 


Worries lead to worts, wrinkles, and grey hair

Sometimes life hits you full force and your reaction is too slow to do anything about it. It’s like that black cloud you keep getting rid of finds a way back and you have to keep pulling out your umbrella. You’re always having one of those days, or one of those months, or heck even one of those years. Maybe your car puttered out or you lost your job or a loved one skipped town without a moments notice. Or maybe you just struggle with your bills. Seemingly worse, someone dear to you can’t stay out of trouble and you feel helpless as what to do for them. Perhaps you’re powerless to do anything at all except wait to hear the judgement.

On those dark days, we all deserve a little comfort. We deserve to feel love and warmth to give us hope that things will turn out better than we ever could’ve thought. When I’m feeling low and am seeking comfort, I head into the kitchen (after finding a big hug of course). It’s not that I have a need to eat, and honestly I’d rather cook for others than for myself. I go to the kitchen because it’s my favorite room in the house. If I could put a recliner or couch in there I surely would. Aside from writing my feelings and thoughts down, cooking is my most therapeutic habit. There’s something extremely calming about pulling ingredients from the cupboards and following a recipe. It’s the act of creation, I suppose, that eases the mind and settles the soul. Like any physical act, cooking gives you a sense of purpose for the moment.

When I want to make comfort food, pasta usually comes to mind. I grew up with an Italian-American father and our meals were thus heavily influenced by his Sicilian heritage (though probably not as influenced as my childhood memories would have me recall). On my mother’s side of the family, pasta was an easy go to meal when people unexpectedly showed up. Spaghetti was common fare. So sometimes, that’s what I think of when I want to indulge in some comfort food- and don’t feel like making lasagna. So that’s what I made last night for dinner after receiving some disheartening news.

If you haven’t guessed by now, it’s safe to say I like things hot! You’d think I was making arrabiata instead of spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; season things to your own taste. If you don’t like an extra extra kick in your sauce, by all means only add a tinsy winsy bit of crushed red pepper. I’m pretty sure I added more this round then I meant to anyway, but I still loved it (I feel for the poor boyfriend though. I’m always adding hot stuff into our food it seems!) Also, there’s only two of us so I didn’t make all that much sauce. Waste not, want not! You can double, triple, quadruple the recipe if you like. Add some wine, too, if you feel like it!

Ingredients:

The Balls

  • 1 lb ground beef (or meat of your choice)
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs (I used an Italian blend but unseasoned is okay)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan (grated is fine)
  • Splash of milk or water
  • 1 tbs garlic
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Small handful fresh basil, chopped

The Sauce

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbs garlic (plus some extra if it suites your fancy)
  • 1 large can crush tomatoes
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • Pinch sugar
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Handful fresh basil, chopped

Since basil is the only thing that seems to be growing in my garden, that’s the herb with which I used to make my sauce. But you can use any Italian herb to your liking- parsley, oregano, mixed blend. Plus, I just really love basil.

First, we need to make our meatballs. Take all those ingredients in the first list and plop them into a medium bowl

I almost forgot the cheese. Wouldn’t that have led to some sad meatballs!

Mix mix mix! Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. This is the fun part! Ah, if only dough were as easy to work with as ground meat…

If you possess a melon baller (unlike me), this would be the time to break it in. A mini scooper of any kind would work as well. Just dig in and make some balls! But some of us have to do it the old fashioned way. Pinch off some meat and roll in between your hands until it forms into a little ball

Keep your meatballs uniform in size so they’ll cook up evenly. I like mini balls, but make them whatever size drives your tractor. You’ll need to stick them in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. Or you can just go ahead and cook them. However, I like the freezer step. In the meantime, chop your onion and mince your garlic if you’re using fresh garlic

Back to the balls! In a heavy (deep) pan, cover the bottom with olive oil and fry your meatballs. We aren’t cooking them all the way through. Just giving them a nice sear is all

I developed a lovely method of swirling the hot oil and balls around in the pan. DANGER: don’t try this at home (or attempt at own risk)

Once the meat is browned (but not cooked), set aside on a paper towel

On to the sauce! Now, I’m not much of a beef fan so I drained the excess grease from my pot (though I didn’t wipe it clean) and drizzled in some olive oil. But by all means, use the beef drippings if you like! Dump your onions and garlic into the pan and cook until translucent

Everything’s downhill from here! Stir in your can of crushed tomatoes

Add sugar, salt, and pepper. The sugar combats the acidity in los tomates

Now add the basil. Add more than this. We LOVE basil. My garden is just a little low on fresh leaves at the moment. I really should get some more plants planted…

Finally, it’s time to add the meatballs back in. Turn heat down from medium to low and simmer for half an hour until the meat if fully cooked. While that bit of magic is happening, don’t forget to cook your spaghetti noodles in slightly salted water. My dad adds a splash of oil to his boiling water and so do I!

Oh yeah, don’t forget to add your crushed red pepper flakes either. You can do that when you add the salt, pepper, and sugar. Or when you add the basil. You could do it when you add the meat, but it’s easier to sir around if you do it beforehand

Buon Appetito! Load a bowl up and sprinkle with some of that shredded parm. If you think it’s too spicy, pour yourself a nice glass of milk. Or think fondly of your late Italian-American grandmother and make yourself an espresso.

Here’s too comfort food and cooking your worries way! Mangia!

P.S. I bet these would make for great meatball subs. Mmm

Tijuana