Friday, December 3, 2010

Sausage and Bean Ragout

    This soup competes with any soup Olive Garden could put in front of you.  It is AMAZING.  And so easy. I love soups!  I especially love how colorful this one is, and it's chalked full of meat so your husband will love it too! 

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound hot Italian pork sausage, casing removed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 1/2 cups Chicken Broth 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans italian style diced tomatoes
  • 1 (16 ounce) can white kidney beans (cannellini), drained
  • 1/2 cup uncooked elbow pasta
  • 1 (6 ounce) package fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup grated Romano cheese (or grated parmesan) 


  1. Heat beef, sausage and onion and cook until meats are browned, stirring to separate meat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.
  2. Add broth, basil (I didn't have fresh basil, so I used dried.  Add it to taste but use at least 1/2 tsp), tomatoes and beans. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta and cook until pasta is done.
  3. Add spinach and cook just until spinach is wilted, stirring occasionally (the spinach should wilt almost immediately so don't leave it.  Stir it in and it should be wilted within a minute). Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Serve with additional cheese.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mexican Ceviche

     When I lived in Ecuador ceviche was a very traditional dish that the Ecuadorians were always promoting.  In Ecuador it is mainly shrimp, onion, and lots of tomato and tomato sauce.  Not being a huge tomato fan, I think I only found 1 ceviche that I actually liked.  Well, thankfully the caribbean and Mexican coast also serve ceviche as a native dish and there's a little bit more to it.  I tried this Mexican version and LOVED it!  It's very light, so be prepared to eat about 5 tostadas and don't feel bad about it! It's is such a healthy meal!  I couldn't think of anything that would go well as a side dish, so I filled up on the main dish and just kept going back for more! Here's the recipe: 


  • 11 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2-3/4 limes, juiced (I used the bottled stuff)
  • 3 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3/8 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3/4 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 3 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cilantro, chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced
  •  tostada shells
  • hot pepper sauce (optional)

  1. Place shrimp in a mixing bowl. Squeeze lime juice over shrimp until they are completely covered, about 3 limes. Stir in the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, serrano peppers, avocado, cilantro, and salt and pepper. Cover, and refrigerate 1 hour.
  2. When ready to serve, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Serve on top of tostada shells with a splash of hot sauce, if desired.

       [I let mine marinate for about 7 hours... the longer the better.  Stir every couple of hours in order to keep the flavors even.  Since avocados are touchy, I added them about an hour before dinner so they would be fresh.  Also, I learned in Ecuador that if you let cilantro soak in water, it releases the flavor.  So, I always soak mine or at least rinse it off before chopping.  ] 

Enjoy this fresh treat!  This would also be great as an appetizer, so serve it at your next party! 

Sweet Potatoes to Live for

I never really liked sweet potatoes.  I can remember each year at Thanksgiving my mom poured out the can of sweet potatoes, topped it with corn syrup and marshmallow cream and baked them.  I was never a fan.  But then, I tried SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE.  My life was changed.  I discovered I LOVE sweet potatoes, just not canned sweet potatoes (I share this relationship with spinach as well).  Anyway, this Thanksgiving I was in charge of the sweet potatoes.  I found a recipe that I adjusted and made my own and it was a HUGE hit.  When my brother took his first bite he couldn't stop raving for 10 minutes. So, try this recipe out.  Jackson made me pinkie promise to never ever try another sweet potato recipe again and to make this every single year.  And any time in between! 

When I made this, I used 8 sweet potatoes (some were humongous and some were small)... I estimated that it came to be about 12 c. mashed.  The huge pan of sweet potatoes was gone within 2 days and only 7 people were eating them.  So, make more than you think you'll need! This is for half the batch that I made. 


  • 6 cups sweet potato, cubed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tbl butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup and 1 teaspoon butter, softened
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


  1. Wrap sweet potatoes in tinfoil.  Bake at 325 F for 1 hr.  Let the potatoes cool a bit and then take the skins off, they should slide right off. 
  2. Mash the sweet potatoes in a large bowl (or use your kitchen aid, which is always rather convenient). 
  3. Add the white sugar, eggs, salt, butter, milk and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  4. In medium bowl, mix the brown sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.

Costa Vida Salad Recreated

     Currently, only one Costa Vida restaurant exists in all of Texas.  Sadly, it is located a 3 1/2 hour drive north of where I live.  Since moving away from the western states, I have sorely missed Costa Vida salads.  Unable to fight the craving any longer, I recreated it at home.  This is the fast version, you could also do your research and make it a little bit more legit.  But, I didn't have time for that and I needed my Costa Vida fix immediately! I simply thought back to my BYU days and put myself back in the Costa Vida line, watching them pile the layers into my tinfoil bowl and gathered the necessary ingredients from my kitchen.  Here's what you need: 

Tortillas (store bought or home made - mine were store bought but homemade would make it taste much more like the restaurant)
Rice ( Costa Vida uses "cilantro lime rice", but I had left over Spanish rice to use up, so I just used that )
1 can black beans
Chili Powder
Chicken,Beef, or Pork
Salad greens
Tomato or pico de gallo 
Parmesan Cheese
Tortilla strips

1.  Place your tortilla on your plate.  Scoop your choice of rice onto the tortilla.  (To make spanish rice quickly, just boil some rice and then add in salsa to taste).  
2. Drain the black beans and then empty into a bowl.  Sprinkle with chili powder, mix.  Add black beans on top of the rice.  
3. Next add your choice of meat.  I really love the sweet pork salad but didn't have time to make that so I simply boiled some chicken, shredded it, and mixed in some peach pineapple salsa to give it a sweet taste. 
4.  Pile on the salad greens. 
5.  Scoop chopped tomatoes or pico de gallo on top of the salad greens. 
6.  Add guacamole. 
7.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. 
8.  If you have tortilla strips add those too, I didn't have them. 
9.  Add the ranch.  Or whatever salad dressing you choose. 

Voila!  You have a Costa Vida salad to satisfy your craving and it only took 20 minutes! 

Chicken Broccoli Supper

     I love casseroles and one dish meals.  I love them even more when I don't have to pre-cook anything! This dish turned out to be pure comfort food for me, no stress, fast, and delicious.  I could have eaten the entire casserole dish by myself.  Here's the recipe: 

  • 1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


  1. In a large bowl, combine the chicken (uncooked!), broccoli, macaroni and cheese. Whisk the soup, broth, garlic powder and pepper; stir into chicken mixture. Transfer to a greased 1-1/2-qt. baking dish. BAke, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. 
  2. Stir; [If you are a cheese lover like me, then throw some more cheddar cheese on top for the last 25 minutes of baking, after you stir it] bake 25-30 minutes longer or until chicken juices run clear and macaroni is tender. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Steak and Twice Baked Potatoes

Twice Baked Potatoes
2 large potatoes
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/8 c. sour cream
2 Tbl milk
1 Tbl butter, softened
1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Scrub potatoes well, pierce with a fork 3 or 4 times and wrap in tinfoil.  Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour. 
2.  When baked and softened, slice in half.  Remove the insides, careful to not break the skin, leaving about 1/4 inch to protect the skin and preserve the shape.  ( I discovered that a medium cookie scoop works really well to remove the insides, the edges are sharper and the rounded scoop is less likely to break the skins than a spoon). 
3.  Mash the insides with cream cheese, sour cream, milk, butter, salt and pepper.  Place the mixture back into the skins and top with cheddar cheese. 
4.  Bake at 375 degrees until puffy and cheese is melted. 
5.  Garnish with chives. 


I have only cooked steak once before in my life, and it was a sorry attempt on the stovetop in college.  This time, I googled how to cook a steak and found a technique that suited my liking on  The directions I used are as follows: 

1. Place 10 to 12-inch cast iron skillet in oven and heat oven to 500 degrees. Bring steak(s) to room temperature.
2. When oven reaches temperature, remove pan and place on range over high heat. Coat steak lightly with oil and season both sides with a generous pinch of salt. Grind on black pepper to taste.
[  DO NOT FORGET THAT YOUR PAN JUST CAME FROM A 500 DEGREE OVEN!!  I made this mistake and grabbed the handle of my pan as I was cooking the steak and burned my fingers a pretty good one.  ]
3. Immediately place steak in the middle of hot, dry pan. Cook 30 seconds without moving. Turn with tongs and cook another 30 seconds, then put the pan straight into the oven for 2 minutes. Flip steak and cook for another 2 minutes. (This time is for medium rare steaks. If you prefer medium, add a minute to both of the oven turns.)
4. Remove steak from pan, cover loosely with foil, and rest for 2 minutes. Serve whole or slice thin and fan onto plate.

Despite my terribly burned hand (that recovered by the end of the week) the steak turned out amazing!  This technique is perfect.  Enjoy! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shrimp Alfredo

     Let me count the ways I love Shrimp Alfredo... 1) It's fast.  2) It's fancy.  3) Shrimp is good  
Feel free to add on to the list.  I love shrimp.  And I love Italian food.  And I don't always have a lot of time, so this dish suits me well.

Shrimp Alfredo  (serves 4)
3/4 lb. pasta noodles (angel hair, fettucine, or spaghetti)  
3/4 lb. cooked shrimp - peeled and deveined 
1-2 red peppers (depending on how much you love veggies!) 
1/4 onion
3/4 to 1 jar (16 oz.) alfredo sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbl dried parsley
pepper to taste 
parmesan cheese 

1.  Cook noodles according to directions. 
2.  While noodles are cooking, saute red peppers and heat shrimp in a skillet over medium heat.  When the red peppers have softened up add the onion, sauce, garlic, parsley, and pepper.  Mix well.  When heated through, combine with noodles.  
3.  Garnish with parmesan cheese. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chicken Quesadillas

       I bought crushed red pepper recently for a pasta dish and I noticed that on the back of the bottle it had a delicious sounding recipe for chicken quesadillas.  I was NOT disappointed!  I couldn't stop raving about these quesadillas all through dinner, and I still think about them regularly.  My husband is lucky I have to cook something different every night otherwise I would be tempted to have these every week! Anyway, enough talking it up, I might get your hopes too high!  It's still a quesadilla guys.  [The best one you'll ever eat though!] 

Chicken Quesadilla Recipe
2 c. cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
2 c. cheddar cheese
1 c. chopped tomato
1/4 c. chopped green onions
1/2 tsp. Crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. allspice (I think I used season all, same thing??) 
1/2 tsp. thyme [this is key!]

1.  Spread each ingredient evenly on 4 (8 in.) tortillas.  Top each with another tortilla.  Lightly brush with oil.  Sprinkle with paprika (or sprinkle it on the inside, I think that's what I did). 
2.  Bake in 350 degree oven 10 minutes or until cheese melts. 

Here's another view of the inside: 

Now go make some quesadillas!!  They are so fast and did I mention delicious?!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tangy Apple Turkey Loaf

I cooked with ground turkey for the first time in my life.  It was a spectacular introduction!  I LOVE sweet flavoring with my meat and I found this incredible recipe on that hit the spot!  Here's what you'll need for the meatloaf: 

  • 1 tablespoon and 3 teaspoons butter
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 carrot, grated or chopped
  • 1 apple - peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 lb. ground turkey (or chicken)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1/2 cup and tablespoon dry bread crumbs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbl applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons honey

1.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. 
2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the celery, carrot, and onion with 1/8 teaspoon of salt, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and browned, about 12 minutes.  Stir in the apple, and remove the mixture from the heat.
3. In a mixing bowl, lightly mix together the ground chicken, egg, 4 Tbl. of applesauce, milk, bread crumbs, poultry seasoning, sage, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. Mix in the cooked vegetable-apple mixture. Form the mixture into a loaf, and place into the center of a 9x12-inch baking dish. 
4. In a bowl, mix together 4 Tbl. applesauce, the Dijon mustard, and honey into a smooth mixture, and spread the glaze over the top and sides of the meat loaf.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and cook about 25-30 more minutes. Allow the loaf to rest for 5 minutes before serving.  

     Again, I believe I packed in more seasoning than the recipe called for but that's my own preference!  I served it with lima beans and corn.  I bought a bag of lima beans a while back, remembering how much I liked them as a kid.  After serving them as a side dish alone, I was rather disappointed and wondered how on earth we were going to eat the whole bag! Then, I remembered that the only way I had ever eaten lima beans was from a can, mixed with corn!  So, now I love lima beans again... as long as they are mixed with corn.  :) 
     I also served it with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy.  Funny experience with the gravy - everything was getting done at the same time and I was so pleased that I had timed everything so well.  I added about a tablespoon of cornstarch to the gravy after mixing it with a bit of milk (an important part of cooking with cornstarch - always dissolve it in something cool before pouring it into a boiling mixture, otherwise it will just clump together) in order to thicken it up.  Immediately my pan of gravy foamed up and became very white.  I was intrigued.  This had never happened before.  Why on earth had my gravy turned into a volcano?!  I looked down.  I laughed out loud.  I had just put a heaping tablespoon of BAKING POWDER into my gravy!  They were right next to each other in my cupboard, same shaped canister, same consistency, I didn't even notice! So, I dumped the whole thing down the sink and started over.  I was too amused to be upset, and hey, the volcano effect was pretty cool!  


     I grew up in a home where homemade pizza was a staple in the family diet.  Everyone raved about my parents' pizza and it gained quite the reputation over the years among our friends.  Well, I had been craving pizza for about 10 days so we ordered pizza Sat. night and Sun. night I still hadn't had enough so I decided the time had come to break in our pizza stone that we got as a wedding present.  
    I began with the crust.  Our pizza stone came with 2 packages of crust mix so this time I didn't make it from scratch.  So, I don't have a recipe to post, but you can google a recipe or use a dough recipe from your bread maker book, if you have one.  I threw the dough mix together into my bread machine and pushed the button to mix it up.  Once it was mixed I took it out, and ended up adding extra flour because it was still too sticky.  I rolled it out on the table and then sprinkled the pizza stone with cornmeal to keep the crust from sticking.  Jackson helped me form the dough into an even circle, which was more complicated than you would think.  Be sure as you get the dough onto your stone or pan, to leave at least 1 inch of space to the edge to allow for the dough to expand while baking.  
      I think the key to good homemade pizza is the sauce.  I found a recipe online that I adjusted to my own liking: 
Pizza Sauce
1/2 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 1/2 Tbl oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. paprika

1.  Mix everything together in a bowl.  Taste test.  (I actually never measure spices.  I just throw them in until it looks good and taste it for confirmation) Add more seasoning if desired.  Spread onto pizza dough. 
2.  Add toppings of your choice!  The pic below was taken when I was half-way done topping the pizza... 
We made half of the pizza with ham and pineapple, topped with mozzarella cheese and the other half we loaded up with pepperoni, mushrooms, onion, green pepper, pineapple, ham, and olive (leaving the olive off of my slice of pizza... that's the beauty of homemade pizza, you can individualize EVERY slice!), and topped with lots of mozzarella.

3.  Bake 15-20 min. in pre-heated oven at 400 degrees.  

We pulled it out of the oven and were really surprised at how much the crust had expanded! It looked amazing though and tasted just as good as it looked!