Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Pumpkin Pasta

What better way to celebrate Halloween than with a big pot of hearty, seasonal pasta?(and you thought I was going to say a whole bag of mini Reese's cups...hah who do you think I am?)

Pumpkin Pasta
  • 1 lb short cut pasta, preferably penne
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin (organic is best, be sure to get plain pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling). 
  • 1/2 cup milk (any will do)
  • 1 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 tsp  cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • shake or two of hot sauce (I used 3-4 shakes of Frank's red hot)
  • 7-8 sage leaves finely chopped, plus more for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water and cook the pasta until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and season with 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Cook about three minutes, then add the garlic. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes until fragrant and soft.

Add the pumpkin and stir to combine--about a minute or so for the pumpkin to heat through and soften. Stir in the milk until well combined. Add the chicken broth and again stir(or whisk) until well combined. Season with the remaining salt and pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and hot sauce.

Stir in the cheese until melted. Finnish with the sage. Add the drained pasta to the sauce, stir to coat evenly. Serve up big portions with extra cheese and light garnish of sage. 

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Basics of Herbs

The internet amazes me with the talented people that share their creativity and hard for fo' free. This beauty from Illustrated Bites is the perfect guide to learning your herbs--(perfect for all of the holiday cooking coming up in just a few short weeks!). Who's inspired to start an herb garden? This girl!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Change of Plans...

coming soon!!

Due to an exciting change of events,  today's planned post of Potato Cheddar Soup (in under 30 minutes), has been reduced to a preview of the delicious concoction that's sure to please the pickiest palate. I promise to get the full recipe to you soon...for now just make due drooling at your computer imagining what sorts of toppings you want to load on top. (Consider this, are you adventurous enough to substitute some water for beer in this recipe?...).

In the mean time consider one of these soups to warm you from the inside out...
What are your favorite fall soup flavors?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Southern Fried

With fewer and fewer opportunities to share a meal together, D and I checked out a local barbecue joint that's been serving southeastern NC since the early 80's. As a self proclaimed city girl, there was a time earlier in our relationship where I would have rolled my eyes at the meal suggestion and sat disgusted with a "Katie Face" on. Man, oh man am I glad I married a convincing country boy. Jackson's Barbecue is a no fuss joint serving up the usual suspects in southern barbecue and comfort. I opted for fried chicken, while D, left undecided, went for a combo plate of fried chicken and ribs. The barbecue sauce was sweet and tangy and the perfect coating for the fall off the bone ribs. I enjoyed it as a dip for my first try of fried okra. 

While I wasn't the one sweating it out in the kitchen this time--a change in fare was just the muse I needed to flex my muscles in the kitchen. Coming soon-- a homemade barbecue sauce! (But not before tomorrow's weekly Fall Soup--be sure to check back!)

lunch of fried chicken, ribs, candied yams, mac & cheese and fried okra
no fuss sign {via}
a sweet photo in the entrance (NC has more hogs than people...take that Honey Boo-Boo!) {via}

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Black Bean Tacos

Going meatless a few nights a week is a great way to cut back on your grocery bill and on your calorie in-take. It's also a way to feel pretty good about eating mostly vegetables, NOT  in salad form, for a main course. We've been using black beans as a substitute for beef in tacos for the past few months and I have to say, we don't miss the 'real' stuff at all. Especially when seasoned appropriately and stuffed in these lovely vessels, no carnivore will even question your meatless adventure.

If you don't have time to make the tortillas (but I strongly recommend you do), you can add these on a bed of lettuce for a taco salad or serve it over rice (or crushed chips!) as a bowl. 

Black Bean Tacos (Serves 2 people, 3 generous portions)
  • one 14 oz can black beans, preferably low sodium, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro or 2 tbsp fresh chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 c water
  • sour cream*
  • cheese*
  • lettuce*
  • tomato*
  • hot sauce *
* indicates serving options

In a deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and season with salt. Cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the black beans and heat through. Add all of the spices except cilantro and stir, reducing heat to medium-low.

Add the water and stir. Allow to simmer 3-5 minutes so the "sauce" can reduce down.

Stir in the cilantro at the last minute and serve with your favorite toppings.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Homemade Tortillas

I'm usually not one of those people that dreads and puts off a trip to the grocery store, but some days that after work crowd just seems unbearable to face for just a few items. Suffering from a minor case of the Monday's, yesterday I knew I just couldn't face the express lane.  

After a little research I decided to make my own tortillas to hold our new favorite meatless meal, black bean tacos--recipe coming tomorrow. Several recipes I read included just a few pantry ingredients that I always have on hand, and about an hour of my time (the perfect amount before D got home from work).  This Italian girl rolled up her sleeves and got in touch with her Mexican side...and I'll tell you--there's no turning back to store bought tortillas ever again in this house! Give them a try and you'll never look back either.

Think about the possibilities of fillings--beans and rice, slices of delicious cheese, eggs and hot sauce...the possibilities are endless and there's a 30 minute rest period for your dough to figure out what direction you want to take these babies. 

I used this recipe from Taste of Home and this recipe from Tasty Kitchen as templates for the recipe I ended up using. 

Homemade Flour Tortillas (makes 8 8" tortillas)
  •  2 cups all purpose flour + additional 1/4 c
  •  1/2 tsp baking powder
  •  1 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil.
  •  3/4 cup very hot,almost boiling water 
In a bowl combine 2 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. ( I used my hands and felt SO authentic).  

Next add in the olive oil and mix with your fingers so a fine crumb forms. 

 Heat your water in the microwave for 2 minutes, and pour it into your mixture. Begin stirring with a wooden spoon until it starts to combine (and the water cools down just a little). Grab a handful (this is your additional 1/4 c) of flour and drop it in just before you start mixing the dough into a ball with your hands. This sounds so rustic and like it can't possibly be how I did this, but trust me--with a very hot, sticky mess sticking to my fingers and burning I wished nothing more than to have a third hand to grab some flour and help me out!.

As the dough comes together knead it into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Don't over mix it, so once it's smooth let it be. 

Place it back in the bowl and cover with plastic and allow 30 minutes to rest.

Divide your rested dough in half, then into quarters so you have 8 almost even pieces of dough. Press a piece of dough into a circle on a lightly floured cutting board or surface. Roll out until even thickness (almost paper thin works best) and until about 8" across.  

 Heat a dry skillet over medium heat and place your tortilla in the pan. Cook about a minute until it starts to brown and blister. Flip it and cook until the second side browns and blisters. Keep warm in a clean kitchen towel.

I used the process of rolling out the next tortilla while the first was cooking--so the dough wasn't over worked and getting hard to handle as the kitchen heated. 

Last step---try not to eat them all before you decide how to fill them.  


Monday, October 15, 2012

Baked Doughnut Holes

You want a REAL debate question? Is it a donut or a doughnut? I'm not entirely sure why I chose the latter, as most of my life I've used them interchangeably..but either way we might all agree that they are quite delicious and the best excuse to eat dessert for breakfast. If you haven't noticed around here, we've been cutting back big time on sweets and baked goods but with the cooler weather rolling in my coffee has been longing for a little bite of heaven as a sidekick. After the devastating news that my beloved pumpkin scones weighs in at 500 calories, I knew a baked, homemade version was exactly what I needed.

Our air was up and running so the fears of turning on the oven have long been forgotten. I found this recipe on Pintrest, originally from Sweat Pea's Kitchen, and did something rare for me--followed it to the tee, with the exception of making mini muffins (doughnut holes!) instead of full-sized muffins. The recipe easily made 24 mini muffins, plus 9 standard muffins. 

I doubled the glaze recipe for enough to coat the larger, additional muffins.

**Caution. These guys are SO good you're going to want to eat all of them immediately. This resulted in me only being able to snap a few pictures as the glaze was setting.

Quiet around the kitchen...

Let's just say last week my kitchen got some time off while life got in the way. Fear not friends, donuts were made and there's a whole post of those coming up tonight!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tips for a Fancy Weekend...

Hey friends! I owe you guys a few recipes, but at 83 degrees in our house (our air conditioning bit the dust), we've been eating leftovers and sandwiches and all kinds of things that won't add any more heat to our already sweltering house. So here's to Friday and hoping that you're up to something fun (and maybe a little bit fancy) with friends this weekend. 

With the formalities of the holidays rushing in on us, here's a cheat sheet for what to do with all those extra glasses, knives and forks at your next fancy night out. 

ps. have you seen this movie?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dollar Store Updates

As we continue to settle into our house (and get ready to finalize things into being official homeowners), I keep spotting opportunities for a little bit of cleverness, quirkiness, and decorating. The trouble is our decorating budget is virtually zero, so I need to be creative with things from the dollar store, the dollar section at Target and things lying around the house that can be transformed into something genius (something I know a little about hah).

Simple wire baskets attached to wooden shelves provide storage for vegetables like potatoes and onions.

*kitchen tip: Store potatoes and onion separate since each one makes the other spoil faster. Instead, store them separately, and add an apple to the potatoes. The apple will help keep the potatoes from spoiling.

A roll of burlap can be cut and used as a no sew seasonal table runner. You can also fold it in on itself and sew, glue or even staple it into flower-like shapes to be attached to a cheap branch wreath ($2 at Michael's). *Seasonal wire ribbon is also always at my local dollar store and can be changed out to update a basic wreath, making it a very small investment for year round decor.
{this sad piece of furniture is getting a face lift of paint in the very near future, no judgies..}

These matted frames are only $1 and dress up prints for shelves and tables. Yes, the frame is plastic and the backing isn't the best--but these survived our move and have gone from wall to table top with no problems (except a little tape to secure the backs. There's even glass fronts! 

*not pictured, a variety of lined baskets for attractive under the sink storage. No one needs to see my 96 count tampon box, but right next to it are several pretty baskets keeping my shampoos, hand soaps, and lotions organized under the sink for easy access. (opt. for shallow, plastic ones for corralling cleaning products under sinks).

Haleigh over at Partleigh Put-Together, featured her favorite dollar store finds this week, too. Check out her incredible dollar store DIY.

What are your favorite buys at the dollar store? When D and I are in a rut we go on trips to the dollar store with a $10 budget, and always end up having the best time laughing at some of the off-brand products...