weeknight bolognese

did you know that christmas is sunday?!?

i didn’t realize it was so close until last week! and that my friends sent me into a minor tailspin…

you see i’m usually pretty organized and to realize that christmas was only a week away and i hadn’t even begun my christmas shopping was a problem. this meant that i only had a week to get everything bought and wrapped. oh geez. but i’m slowing getting it done.

all this last minuteness means that i want something comforting to eat right about now. by comforting i mean some warm and rich and not necessarily dessert. weird right? normally i would be screaming for chocolate or ice cream or cookies or something… but what’s more comforting than pasta? when you think comfort food, i’m sure mac and cheese pop up in that thought process. well this isn’t mac and cheese but there is pasta and there is cheese. oh and there’s wine. and not just like a splash of wine. a whole cup of wine. so let’s recap a little of what’s in the recipe that makes it so good before we talk about how good it is… there’s pasta. there’s cheese. there’s beef. there’s wine. there’s heavy cream.

yeah the mix of those things makes this bolognese delicious. the recipe is from ina garten‘s how easy is that? cookbook. you know… the one where this wonderful thing came from. and once again, ina hit it out of the park! i was looking for a comforting bowl of pasta and oh did she deliver. this bolognese is warm and comforting. kinda like being wrapped up in a hug on a weeknight. and that’s part of the official ina title for this recipe. “weeknight bolognese”. she intends for you to be able to pull it all together on a weeknight. and you can! there’s not a lot of chopping and major prep work so it really is easy.

ina’s weeknight bolognese

  • 2 tbs good olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground sirloin
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tbs dried oregano – which for the record i didn’t have… see i ran out and everytime i see it in a recipe i don’t write it on my list because i think i have it. it’s on the list now. oh and i just subbed with some italian seasoning i did have.
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes – you can go heavier or lighter depending on the heat level you like
  • 1 1/4 c dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbs tomato paste – i highly recommend buying some in a tube so you don’t waste an entire can but it is pricy
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 3/4 lb dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells – i used some of giada’s pasta from target because it was perfect for grabbing hold of the sauce… seriously girl knows how to make a good pasta shape
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 1/2 c freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  1. heat olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. stir in the garlic, oregano (or italian seasoning), and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tbs salt, and 1 1/2 tsp pepper, stirring until combined. bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.
  3. while the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. when the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. add the sauce and 1/2 cup parmesan and toss well. serve hot with parmesan on the side.

a nice piece of garlic bread goes well with this too.

you really should try it when you’re looking for something comforting and easy on a weeknight.

kisses.

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peppermint sugar cookies

i’ve officially decided to do away with the cutesy post titles. it gets kinda difficult to come with something and i’m over. plus i figure most people would rather know what they’re getting into from the get go….

so i have a confession. i don’t like the holidays. this time of year makes me feel very scrooge like. there’s too much stress that comes with this time of year. if i could remove november 20 – december 31 from the calendar, i probably would. i’m all for winter (especially since it doesn’t get bitterly cold here) and all the parties and food and such. i just wish it was parties and foods because it’s fun. that being said, now that i know about these cookies, i might just have to change my tune.

see these cookies are like crack. seriously. think i’m lying? bake yourself a batch and see how long they last around you. maybe you have better will power than i do (which isn’t too hard to say you do). normally when i bake something, i try it but then i bring everything to work… but these little jewels, let’s just say i didn’t bring all of them to work. but now they are gone. and i’m thankful and sad for that.

what is more quintessentially christmastime than peppermint?? just as i feel like maple flavors represent fall (like we have that here!), i feel like peppermints represent winter and christmas. i mean what other time of year do you see candy canes?!? and candy canes combined with a pillowy soft sugar cookie? oh geez. i might have to stash some candy canes away just so i can make these cookies all year long.

peppermint sugar cookies

  • 3 c powdered sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 c butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 egg
  • 3 c flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c finely crushed candy canes, divided
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 2-3 tbs milk
  1. preheat oven to 350F.
  2. beat 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar and butter until fluffy. add vanilla and egg and beat until combined.
  3. in a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. stir to combine. slowly add to mixing bowl, beating until just incorporated. stir 1/2 c finely crushed candy canes.
  4. roll dough into small balls using just under a teaspoon of dough (or use your handy dandy cookie scoop!). rolls balls through granulated sugar to coat and place on baking sheet (because of the crushed candy canes, this dough might stick to your parchment paper or cookie sheet so you might want to use a silpat or cooking spray). bake for 10-12 minutes. remove to wire cooling racks and let cool completely.
  5. while cookies are cooling, stir together remaining 1 1/2 c powdered sugar with 2-3 tbs of milk (you want just enough milk to form a thick glaze). spread or drizzle over cooled cookies and top with remaining crushed candy canes immediately.

feeling scroogelike??

go make these cookies. trust me.

they make me want to say bah humbug less!

kisses.

recipe slightly adapted from: cooking during stolen moments

how much sleep is one person supposed to have?

so you would think that if your electricity went out as you were going to bed and was out while you were sleeping that it wouldn’t effect your sleep in the least… well you would be flat out wrong. especially if you had just gone to the grocery store the night before and woke up at 2a and all you could think about was whether the chicken, pork and bacon you bought for dinner this week had gone bad… yeah. oh and then you start worrying you’re going to over sleep for work because your alarm is on your phone which is now almost dead because you can’t charge it. yeah. that was my night last night. so you’ll excuse me if this post isn’t filled with witty commentary and some really awesome backstory. this is going to be short and sweet.

so we’ve already discussed that i think maple is a perfect fall flavor. and really i do. what is better than maple syrup? not too much. then you throw some pecans in these blondies. plus they’re blondies. i mean cakey, moist, delicious blondies. oh did i mention that this was probably the first thing i’ve brought to work where everyone walked into my office and asked me what they were? yeah. they were that good. even one coworker admitted to eating 3 and not feeling guilty. yeah.

maple blondies

  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 10 tbs melted butter
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c pure maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c pecan pieces
  1. preheat oven to 350F
  2. combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. in another, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup.  add the eggs and vanilla – you don’t have to beat this in a mixer or anything, just whisk until combined
  4. pour the wet into the dry and stir until combined.
  5. stir in the pecan pieces.
  6. spread into a greased 9×13 pand. bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. sprinkle with powdered sugar if you want to

that’s it.

kisses.

recipe from: baked bree

baby it’s cold outside…

it’s finally gotten cold here in the south. and it’s looking like it might stay for longer than a moment. see it usually takes us until at least december to get cooler weather, which usually skips the cooler part and goes straight to cold. during october and november we may get a couple cool snaps here and there but they don’t stay. and to tell the truth, the ones in december don’t always stay. i mean we are in the deep south and the closest thing we usually get to snow is the frost on the ground in the mornings. i’m not a huge fan of these freezing temperatures but they do mean one thing… it’s gumbo weather. i do love me some chicken and sausage gumbo. it’s probably the one thing i could eat and eat and eat. and i do eat it all year round.

seriously.

during the summer when it’s 100F+, i will pull some gumbo out of the freezer, defrost it and heat some up.

here’s the thing about gumbo… everyone has their own recipe. here’s the other thing… mine is never exactly the same batch to batch. i found an emeril lagasse recipe a couple years ago when i decided i wanted to make a gumbo from scratch and it has been my guide ever since. i truly mean it has been a guide since i don’t really “follow” it. see it gives you directions for everything, including how to cook the chicken thighs he uses. well i don’t do that. i always cook a whole chicken (usually a beer can chicken) before hand and shred it up (using some for this pot and freezing some for the next pot). and sometimes it’s not chicken that i use; sometimes (like after thanksgiving and christmas) it’s turkey. and i don’t always use the exact same type of sausage. i always use 2 lbs and usually use one of andouille and one of smoked. but they’re not always the same brand or the same type i used the time before. also, sometimes i get really crazy and use a bottle of beer to give it a little something extra.

so here’s what i’m gonna do for this recipe…. i’m gonna give you emeril’s original in full and let know what i do differently (which i normally do but there’s a good bit of things this time). i feel like you deserve the whole recipe and the opportunity to decide if you want to be bold and experiment or if you want to follow emeril instruction by instruction. either way, you’re making a delicious pot of gumbo.

oh and i do recommend a heavy duty dutch oven… preferably cast iron.

chicken and sausage gumbo

  • 1 tbs plus 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1 lb smoked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, cut crosswise 1/2-inch thick pieces – use 2 lbs (1 lb andouille and 1 lb smoked); i also use local brands (savoie’s, richards, manda), i do live in south louisiana so andouille is kinda our thing.
  • 4 lbs chicken thighs, skin removed – i use a whole chicken or some left over turkey meat. i try to have about 1-2 lbs of meat
  • 1 tbs creole seasoning
  • 1 c flour
  • 2 c chopped onions – i use one large onion and blend it in my food processor with the celery and bell pepper plus a couple cloves garlic.
  • 1 c chopped celery – i use a couple stalks
  • 1 c chopped bell peppers – i use one large bell pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 9 cups chicken stock – sometimes i throw a bottle of beer (a dark amber like abita) in the count of liquid
  • white rice – i cook about 2/3 c of dry rice at a time since i don’t eat the whole batch of gumbo and freeze some
  • 1/2 c chopped green onions – all the ingredients from here down are toppings, i don’t use any of them but you can if you want to
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 tbs file powder
  • Hot sauce
  1. in a large dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. add the sausage and cook until well browned, about 8 minutes. remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. set aside. – i cook the sausage in batches.
  2. season the chicken with creole seasoning and add in batches to the fat remaining in the pan.  cook over medium-high heat until well browned, 5 to 6 minutes. remove the chicken from the pan, let cool, and then refrigerate until ready to use. – since i used chicken / turkey that i’ve already cooked, i totally skip this step
  3. combine the remaining 1/2 cup oil and the flour in the same dutch oven over medium heat. cook, stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, to make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate.
  4. add the onions, celery, and bell peppers and cook, stirring, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. add the reserved sausage, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. stirring, slowly add the chicken stock, and cook, stirring, until well combined (this is the time to also add a beer if you so choose). bring the mixture to a boil. reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
  5. add the reserved chicken to the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, skimming off any fat that rises to the surface. – this is about the point at which i’m done
  6. remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken thighs from the gumbo and place on a cutting board to cool slightly. remove and discard the bay leaves (i just leave mine in there even in the servings that go in the freezer). pull the chicken meat from the bones and shred, discarding the bones and skin. return the meat to the gumbo and stir in the green onions, parsley, and file powder. (again, i totally skip this step since my chicken is the pot and i don’t add an herb garden to my gumbo).
  7. spoon rice into the bottom of deep bowls or large cups and ladle the gumbo on top. serve, passing hot sauce on the side.

and that’s it.

it’s a little time consuming but totally worth it.

kisses.

bestest dessert ever?

so clearly, i’m a huge fan of desserts. i don’t think that information surprises or shocks anyone… when i go out to eat, i’m more likely to order dessert than a drink (or in special cases, drink my dessert). that being cleared up there are some desserts that are in my all time top five faves… what are they you ask?

1. bread pudding – i used to think i wasn’t a fan but then i found out i was wrong. so very, very wrong.

2. pecan pie – i mean is there anything better than pecans, sugar and butter combined into perfect deliciousnes? if you answered yes to that, you’d be wrong.

3. brownies – and yes i mean brownies and not chocolate cake. the two are so similar, especially if you’re a fan of “cake-like” brownies but then my friend you’d be wrong again. see… it’s the fudgy, gooey brownies that are the best.

4. wedding cake – when i say wedding cake i don’t mean just any pretty cake that a happy couple probably paid way too much for since it’s going to get destroyed in about 2.5 seconds. i mean traditional white, almond flavored cake with a traditional buttercream. there’s absolutely no better cake out there. no joke. (p.s. best flavor of snowball? wedding cake.)

5. tiramisu – there are a lot of good things that the italians are known for but this is probably one of my favorites, if it’s not the best thing ever.

that leads me to this (since i know you’ve been waiting with baited breath for the second thanksgiving dessert)….

a tiramisu tie in is what initially made me choose to try this dessert (plus it was pretty much a cinch to make)… you see there’s mascarpone cheese in it. those of you not familiar with mascarpone are probably asking yourself what the heck is a cheese doing in a dessert? i would answer that with i’m sure you’re one of the people in the world that likes cheesecake right? but mascarpone cheese is so much better than cream cheese (which i don’t eat because it’s gross). it gives food a creaminess with a very mild tanginess. it’s just that little something yummy. in fact, i’m usually drawn to a recipe just because it has mascarpone in it.

plus this dessert has booze in it.

for real.

this icebox cake was everything i could have ever wanted out of it plus some. i was expecting it to be good because hey it’s an ina garten recipe. but did i expect to take hold of me like it did? not really. i don’t really know what i was expecting but when i took a taste of the leftover whipped cream/mascarpone mixture, i knew this was going to be trouble for my hips. and it was. but it was worth every calorie.

mocha icebox cake

  • 2 c cold heavy cream
  • 12 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4 c kahlua – i have seen this recipe made using bailey’s instead which i think would be delish. i also think amaretto would also be lovely.
  • 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 24 ounces crispy chocolate chip cookies – ina recommends using 3 (8oz) packages of tate’s bake shop cookies and i did because i happen to know i can buy them at fresh market
  • shaved semisweet chocolate
  1. in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, kahlua, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks
  2. to assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. (ina breaks some cookies to fill in the spaces and so did i.) spread 1/5 of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the cookies. place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another 1/5 of the cream. continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream (i don’t think i actually had 5 layers of each. i just did it until i was at the top of the springform and i was out of cookies/cream). smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut in wedges, and serve cold.

during the thanksgiving meal, my mom asked what my favorite part was…. i initially had to go with the green bean casserole. but that was before dessert. this icebox cake was hands down the.best.thing.ever. pure awesomeness.

seriously.

you need to run (and i do mean run) to the store and buy you a springform pan, mascarpone cheese, and all the other ingredients and make this tonight.

kisses.

recipe from: ina garten’s how easy is that? cookbook

desserts = stressed spelled backwards

weird coincidence no?

i don’t necessarily think that’s some cosmic sign but it’s still an interesting fact… it goes up there with the saying i’ve seen lately and it goes something like, “don’t reward yourself with food. you are not a dog.” ok so they don’t really mesh well together but neither do me and whoever said i can’t reward myself with food. what a fool. here’s the thing i’m an emotional eater… as in… if i’m celebrating, let’s bake a cake or make some gumbo. if i’m sad, let’s bake some brownies or roast a chicken. if i’m angry, well just screw the chicken or beef and stay out of my way towards the sweets. i’m giving you fair warning now. don’t say you didn’t know.

but back to desserts and stress…. those two things don’t actually have anything to do with each other for this post but desserts sure do…. see i told you about the cookies and sausage balls for fusion thanksgiving. and the green beans for thanksgiving thanksgiving. but i haven’t told you about dessert. and there are two. i know! TWO! for this post i’m going to leave you hanging a minute or two about the second. this post is dedicated to the not quite traditional pecan pie like dessert… see i really love pecan pie. like i seriously think it should be mandatory for every thanksgiving and christmas meal. but they can be finicky. they don’t always come out all perfectly and beautifully set. and on top of that i was preparing a lot for thanksgiving day. (i’m not complaining just a statement of fact). so my desserts were simple and i’ve made these pecan bars before. so while there were quite a bit of steps, i knew that going into it. and they were a perfect pecan pie stand in. they are martha stewart’s recipe from her cookies cookbook so you know that domestic diva knows a thing or two about baking. the bars have a buttery shortbread crust with a pecan caramel topping… awesome.

pecan bars

  • 18 tbs (3 1/4 sticks) softened, unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 c flour
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 6 tbs honey
  • 2 tbs granulated sugar
  • 2 tbs heavy cream
  • 1/4tspsalt
  • 2 c pecan halves
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. preheat oven to 375F
  2. to make the crust: in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. add salt, and mix to combine. add flour 1 cup at a time, on medium speed, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition. continue mixing until the dough begins to come together in large clumps.
  3. press dough about 1/4 inch thick into a 9×13 pan. stab the crust with a fork to poke some holes. chill until firm, about 20 minutes. bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. reduce oven to 325F.
  5. to make the filling: place butter, brown sugar, honey, granulated sugar, heavy cream, and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. bring to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. remove pan from heat; stir in nuts and vanilla.
  6. pour filling onto the cooled crust. bake until filling bubbles, 15 to 20 minutes. carefully transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. (ok because i’m slightly lazy i don’t do the following part. i just leave the bars to cool in the pan and cut them there) run a paring knife around edges of the pan, and invert onto cooling rack, leaving the pastry on the rack. invert rack with pastry onto a cutting board, leaving the pastry on the board, filling side up. use a sharp knife to cut into 1×3 inch bars. store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

it has been suggested that i use pecan pieces instead of halves. next time i just might. but i had halves on hand and didn’t feel like chopping them.

what’s that?

you want to know what the other dessert is?

it’s…………..

kisses.