Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 21 - Rigatoni with Chicken, Bacon, Spinach, and Ricotta

Oh man…could it be??  Am I FINALLY caught up on this 31 Day Challenge?  Tonight…I wanted to make something easy…and something that I could have leftovers with…well that was the GOAL anyway…

Rigatoni with Chicken, Bacon, Spinach, and Ricotta
1 box of rigatoni
3 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (whole)
1/2 lb bacon (cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 medium sweet (vidalia) onion (chopped)
1 large shallot (minced)
Handful of Spinach
1 15oz container of whole-milk ricotta
Salt & Pepper to taste
GARNISH: Basil, Lemon Zest, and Grated Parmesan Cheese


  1. Put a pot of salted water on the stove and get it ready for the Rigatoni.
  2. In one sauté pan, cook the bacon until crispy - pull the bacon from the fat, and let rest on a plate (with paper towels).
  3. Sauté the onion and shallots in the remaining bacon fat until tender.  
  4. At this point, you should be able to add your rigatoni to the water (cook until al dente) 
  5. Once the onions and shallots are tender, add the handful of spinach to the mix, and let wilt.
  6. Then add the ricotta (entire container) to the onion mixture, and let it heat up (season with salt and pepper if needed)
  7. Prepare and cook the chicken with Lemon Pepper - like I did for the Chicken & Stars Soup.
  8. Drain (do NOT rinse) your rigatoni, and add the pasta back to the pot.
  9. Pour your ricotta/onion mixture over the rigatoni and mix well.
  10. Serve, and garnish with whatever you'd like!!!

Please share your recipe stories if you've made any of the ones I've explained in the 31 Day Challenge - I'd love to hear it (be it good or bad!!)

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Day 20 - Citrus Salmon, Roasted Cauliflower, and Sauteed Zucchini

Still playing catch up on the 31 Day Challenge!!  Day 20…Greg had pool…which meant I could make anything I wanted…and I wanted fish…specifically SALMON…because Greg doesn't like fish.  <jerk>  JUST KIDDING BABY!  LOVE YOU!

ANYWAY…tonight, was… 

Citrus Salmon with Roasted Cauliflower, and Sauteed Zucchini
1 head of cauliflower (cut into bit-sized pieces)
1 lemon (sliced into disks)
1 orange (sliced into disks)
1/2 lb fresh salmon
1 zucchini (sliced into disks)
1 yellow "summer" squash (sliced into disks)
1 medium sweet (vidalia) onion (sliced)
2 tsp dill (fresh)


  1. Get that cauliflower in first…cut the cauliflower slightly coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and get them in the oven (at 350).
  2. Cut up the lemon and orange, and put a layer on the bottom of a cookie sheet (this will be the "bottom" of your salmon).
  3. Layer the salmon on top of the lemon and orange, and put another citrus layer on the top of the salmon.
  4. Season LIGHTLY with salt and pepper, and put it in the oven (with the cauliflower).
  5. While your salmon and cauliflower are in the oven…
  6. Put some oil in the pan, and throw in the onion.  Cook them until a little translucent. 
  7. Add the zucchini and squash.  Sauté until SLIGHTLY tender (you don't want it to get too mushy!!)
  8. Take everything out of the oven (and off the stove), and put it on a plate…
  9. ENJOY!!!

Would love to know all your feedback, either on this recipe or any of my other ones!  Feel free to comment!!

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Day 19 - Greg's FAMOUS Chili

Getting a little caught up on my 31 Day Challenge…this post is all about GREG…and his FAMOUS Chili.  No joke, any party, get-together, whatever…people actually REQUEST this thing…so I'll share the recipe (but not all ingredients…you know…secret stuff in there).  It's all about personalizing it…

Greg's FAMOUS Chili
2 medium sweet (vidalia) onions (chopped)
1 & 1/2 green bell peppers (seeded and chopped)
1 large bulb garlic (all skins removed, cloves cut in half)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (1/2 of the liquid drained)
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1/2 28oz can whole, peeled, tomatoes (liquid drained, and tomatoes cut in quarters)
3 14oz cans light pink kidney beans (liquid drained, beans rinsed)
3 sweet italian sausage patties (sautéed in a pan until cooked, and cut into bite-size pieces)
2.5lbs of london broil, cubed to bite-sized pieces (or smaller)
4 Tbl Cumin
6 Tbl Smoked Chili Powder
2 Tbl Chili Powder
3 Tbl Black Pepper
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
3 Tbl Salt
Ingredients FOR LATER:
1 14oz can of whole sweet corn (drained)

THEN, you add everything to the CrockPot with the spices on top… (with the exception of the corn), and cook on LOW for 6 hours and 30 minutes.  Add the can of corn, and cook on low for another 30 minutes.  

NOW…when you're ready to eat, get your accompaniments ready…I prefer my chili over rice, with cheese and oyster crackers on top…but you can serve YOUR chili however you want :)

LOVE to hear about your renditions about chili…comment and tell me how you like your chili :)

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Day 18 - Mark's Memorial Service

It's been a little over a year since Mark left our lives, and a little over two years since he was diagnosed with that evil little disease.  About a month after he passed, I had a dream about him, that was quite emotional, and one that stirred all sorts of emotions...it was rough...and I think it finally gave me peace. 

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of you…I miss you every day, and at least one thing happens every day that I wish I could tell you about. 

I love you, Mark - always.  

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Day 17 - Peach Granita

Yeah, I'm a little behind…don't judge…this week and weekend has been insane…took the cat to the vet, wedding, memorial service, 50th birthday party, and family get-together…all in one weekend was exhausting. 

Remember that 31 Day Challenge?  Yes - I'm still doing it.  I'm just a little behind…so expect a bunch of posts…

Also - remember that time I made Raspberry Granita?  Well, Greg loved it so much, it barely lasted a week in our apartment.  And then, I made a Mango Granita (but didn't blog about it)…again…barely lasted a week. 

On Day 17…I made a PEACH Granita.  

I used the same process as with the Raspberry and Mango Granitas, I just cut back the sugar a little bit.  Rather than 1:1 (sugar:water), it was more like 1:2 (sugar:water).  I also used two cans of peach slices (because the fresh peaches didn't look so great). 


If you've tried any of my recipes, I would love to know what you've thought!  Feel free to comment!  And ENJOY :)

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 16 - NO BAKE Chocolate, Oat, and Peanut Butter Cookies

Confession…I have a sweet tooth.  SHOCKING for those of you that know me…knowledge for those of you that don't.  Anyway…the "tooth" struck again, and made me want to make cookies.  But THESE cookies didn't require an oven (thank GOD because it was like 80 degrees tonight…yes in October…in New Jersey).  AND…they were EASY to make - like 10 minutes at the stove…TOPS!!

NO BAKE Chocolate, Oat, and Peanut Butter Cookies
2 Cups Sugar
4 Tablespoons Cocoa
1 stick of butter
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Cup Peanut Butter
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
3 Cups Oatmeal
2 Tablespoons Flax Seed
1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

In a small pot, combine sugar, cocoa, butter, and 1/2 cup milk.  Bring to a boil, and let boil for 1 minute.  Turn the heat off, and add in the Peanut Butter, Vanilla, Oatmeal, Flax Seed, and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips.  Mix well. 

On Parchment Paper (or Wax Paper) spoon out teaspoon-tablespoon-fulls of the mixture, and form into a cookie shape.  Let cool and harden, and then ENJOY!!  Note - I know that it looks less than appetizing…but trust me when I tell you…they're delicious…and addicting… 

As always, you can catch up here…and if you want to know any recipes I've made…you can go here.  Happy cooking!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 15 - Easy Italian Meatballs

Hellooo!!!  Tonight, I wanted to do something easy…so Easy Italian Meatballs it was!  This is all part of my 31 Day Challenge (shocking), of making something different, every day, for the 31 Days in October - YES!  I can do this!!  I've made this recipe before…but as meatloaf…and it's just as good - you just have to cook it in the oven for an hour to an hour and a half.

Easy Italian MeatballsIngredients:
2-3 pounds of Meatloaf Mix (Veal, Pork, Beef)
3/4 cup Brown Gravy
1 packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1/2 Cup HOT water
1 & 1/2 Cups Italian Bread Crumbs
2 Eggs, whisked
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
Garlic Powder, Onion Salt, Ground Cayenne Pepper, and Badia Chili Powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  (1) Combine all ingredients in a bowl - and (2) mix well (with your hands). (3) Form meatballs, and arrange them on an aluminum-foil lined baking sheet.  (4) Cook them in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until the meatballs are done!

For my side dishes, I always liked carrots, and mashed potatoes…but if you don't have that, we've had rice, couscous, or pasta, with green beans, asparagus, or sautéed veggies.

Either way you serve it, enjoy it!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day 14 - Chicken Pot Pies with Buttery Crust

Day 14…of this crazy 31 Day Challenge…you can read WHY I'm doing this, as well as past posts.  If you want any of my recipes…you can go here!

First up……I would love to know if I still have readers out there!  AND if you've tried any of the recipes from the last 13 days…comments/feedback would be greatly appreciated!!

Second, today was kind of awful…woke up with a 101 fever…so I stayed home from work.  Didn't get out of bed until almost 1 in the afternoon (sorry Mom), and all I wanted was some comfort food…and I didn't want to leave the house (or call for food, cuz frankly I don't have any money to do that).  

SO…I looked in the freezer, and found that I had all the ingredients for Chicken Pot Pies…except for the crust.  Awesome…got something in my head, and then realized I couldn't make it??  But wait…I could do this…I could make an easy dough, right??  Turns out I did, and I rocked at it…it was probably the best Homemade Chicken Pot Pie with Buttery Crust I've ever made…I don't meant to "toot" my own horn, but it was literally JUST what I needed for the way I was feeling (and still am). 

Buttery Crust…
After doing a whole LOT of research online for easy pie crusts, I found this really great recipe from Crazy For Crust…perfect name for what I was looking for, right??  She's got a really great tutorial and picture step-by-step guide on how to make dough…but she's got a food processor - I do not.  So below, are my steps for doing this WITHOUT a pastry cutter, food processor, AND rolling pin.  Don't laugh - I'm not a baker…LOL.

1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), diced and chilled
1 & 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
*Note: If you use salted butter, only use 1/4 teaspoon salt
2-4 tablespoons ICE water
1 egg (whisked for coating the completed dough, when you're ready to cook it)

(1) Dice your butter, and put it right back in the fridge (you want to keep this cold). (2) Wisk your flour and salt together in a bowl. (3) Add your CHILLED butter, 1-2 tablespoons at a time.  Use your fork (or pastry cutter, or food processor - if you're fancy) to gradually "crumble" the butter into the flour and salt mixture.  You want to do this increments of 1-2 tablespoons of butter so the butter doesn't melt or break down and get soft. (4) Keep cutting in the butter until you have reach a texture similar to sand. (5)  Add 2 tablespoons of water to start and mix until the dough forms a ball - you should get something that is a  LITTLE BIT sticky, but still in a ball form.  Add another 2 tablespoons (if needed), but add them one at a time. (6) On a floured surface or countertop, roll out the ball of dough so it can cover whatever it is your covering.  The recipe on Crazy for Crust said it can line a 9" pie plate.  I wanted to COVER two 5" soup crocks, so I altered what I rolled out just a bit, although it doesn't show int he picture below, because I realized that AFTER I had already rolled out the dough (silly DayQuil head).  

After you've rolled out the dough you want to use, be sure to keep it chilled in the fridge until you want to use it. 

Chicken & Pot Pie Filling
The chicken is cooked the EXACT same way I did for the Chicken & Stars Soup, the only difference being, I cut them into bite-sized pieces FIRST. 

Ingredients (for chicken):
3 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (butterflied)
Lemon Pepper
Salt & Pepper
2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Ingredients (for filling):
2 Cups frozen veggies (whatever you have on hand)
1/2 Cup Golden Mushroom Soup
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt
Salt & Pepper (to taste)

Instructions (for chicken):
(1) Take your boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and butterfly them up. (2) Cut them into bite-sized pieces. (3) Season them with Lemon Pepper, Salt, and Pepper. (4) Make sure the seasonings coat all pieces of chicken - mix well!! (5) Cook up the chicken in a sauté pan covered with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. 

Instructions (for filling):
(1) Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix it together. (2) Add your fully cooked chicken. (3) Mix all ingredients with the chicken. 

Chicken Pot Pie with Buttery Crust
This is just for the assembly…obviously all steps above need to be completed first :)

Take the mixture of ingredients and put them into the Crocks (or your ramekins of choosing) just make sure they're oven safe!!  I have to say…if you're going to use anything, use these Crocks from CHEFS…after they came out of the oven, after 10 minutes of cooling, the handles were completely cooled, and able to be touched.  They were great Christmas gifts from my mother last year (thanks Mom!!).

Then, remember your dough you were keeping chilled?  Take them out of the fridge, and cover each of the crocks with dough…

Then coat the dough with the whisked egg…  

And place the crocks into a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes (or until the tops turn golden brown).  

Oh MAN…delicious goodness…


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Day 13 - Braised Beef Short Ribs over Homemade Gnocchi

Hello all!  Catch up on my 31 Day Challenge here!

Our favorite restaurant is Paisano's in our town…they have the best homemade italian food - pasta and everything in between.  Everything is homemade.  Greg's favorite dish from Paisano's is Braised Short Ribs over homemade gnocchi - I am trying to re-create that dish (and it will most likely take MULTIPLE tries)…but this dish is the attempt at re-creating Greg's favorite.  

1st…let's go through the Braised Beef Short Ribs

I'm going to start by saying that we didn't use ACTUAL Short Ribs…our store didn't have them - but we used the closest thing TO short ribs that we could find.  

Ingredients (Braised Beef Short Ribs)
4-5 pounds of beef short ribs
1 chopped onion
5 cloves of garlic - finely minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 32 ounce box of Beef Stock
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
Various Spices to taste (Badia Chili Powder, Garlic Powder, Onion Salt, Thyme, etc)
Note: Badia Chili Powder is not as spicy as other chili powder - don't think that it's interchangeable…
Optional: 8 gloves of garlic (minced), 14.5 ounce can of crushed tomatoes.

Instructions FIRST…you take all of the meat, and GENEROUSLY season with salt and pepper.  Make sure it's coated and seasoned quite well.

Then, take a sauté pan and coat the bottom with olive oil.  Get the pan HOT, and sear each side of the meat on all sides - make sure it's all browned - you're going to want to sear everything in.  You'll most likely need to do this in batches (I needed to). 

When each batch is done, layer them in the crock pot (yes, you'll be using a crock pot)…and place HALF of the container of beef broth in the bottom of the CrockPot. 

Once you're done browning the meat, use that SAME pan you used to sear your meat to sauté your onions and garlic. 

This will start to smell friggin' amazing…I wish this picture had a "scratch and sniff" feature - because, guys, this picture doesn't do the smell justice at all.  

Once your onions are a little translucent, you're going to want to deglaze your pan with a 1/2 cup of white wine. 

Then, add the entire can of diced tomatoes (including the juices), as well as the remaining half of the box of beef stock. You're going to want the mixture to re-heat all the way through, and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Then, add this onion/tomato/beefstock/wine mixture, along with any of your preferred spices (see my list above) to the top of the crock pot. 

Now comes the difficult part - put this on HIGH in the crock pot for 6 hours.  And don't touch it.  I MEAN IT. Don't touch it!!!

Once that's done, take the meat out, and put it on a plate to rest for a little bit.  At this point, it helps to have an assistant (Greg - yay!!) to skillfully skim off the fat from the CrockPot and discard it.  You'll want to leave the delicious sauce in the CrockPot…for now. 

Once the meat has rested for a little bit, you'll want to take all the meat off the bones, and "shred" it…this should happen automatically if it's cooked properly…
*If the meat doesn't fall of the bone, and pretty much shred itself, you're going to want to throw it back in the CrockPot for another hour on high.

Take the meat, and put it into a shallow pan, and put it in the oven at 200 (just to keep it warm).  

Then…go back to your sauce…take the sauce from the CrockPot, and put it in a small stock pot to reduce.  Once I put it in the small stock pot, I added 8 minced cloves of garlic, and the 14.5 ounce can of crushed tomatoes.  Your goat is to let it reduce by almost half.  This will take a while… 

While the sauce is reducing….start the Gnocchi 

Next…let's go through the Homemade Gnocchi

This is literally the easiest Gnocchi Recipe I've ever found.  

Ingredients (Gnocchi)
2 potatoes
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 egg
Salt and Pepper to taste

Take a large pot of water, fill with water and add some salt to taste.  Peel potatoes, and lightly cut into smaller pieces.  Add potatoes to water and cook until tender (but still firm)…about 15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and put it into a bowl - (1) mash them with a fork (or potato masher…if you're fancy and you actually have one…).  (2) Measure out 1 cup mashed potato, 2 cups of flour, and 1 egg into a large bowl.  (3) Combine ingredients until the dough forms a ball.  (4) Then, you're going to take small portions off that dough-ball, and create long tubes.  (5) On a floured counter, cut the tubes into smaller pieces.

Once you're ready to eat, bring another pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Drop in the homemade gnocchi and cook for 2-5 minutes or until they've risen to the surface (kind of like ravioli). Take the gnocchi out of the water, and into a butter-laden sauté pan.  Add some salt and pepper to taste, and let the gnocchi suck up the butter…. #nomnomnom

One you're done cooking the gnocchi, plate everything up…and EAT IT!! 

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