Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pasta Fagioli

Even though I live in Orange County and the weather outside isn’t exactly fall yet, I was still in the mood for some warm soup tonight. I called up my mom, who has been raving about all her amazing soups she’s been making this week, and decided to try one of them out myself. I chose a pasta fagioli recipe that she got from a friend and of course doctored up to make it way better than it originally was. I think mine measured up, it was so tasty, and everyone had seconds. It’s super easy to make and I’m not sure you can mess it up. Full of flavor, and warms you right up!

Pasta Fagioli
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic

2 carrots
2 stocks of celery
1 zucchini
1 15 oz great northern beans
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cans of beef broth
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/3 tsp. McCormick’s Italian Seasoning
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt to taste

Simmer for about an hour. Add 1/2 Cup Macaroni (if desired) about 15 minutes before ready to serve.

Happy Birthday to Me!

I had a birthday this past week, and just for fun thought I'd post up a picture of the cake my husband baked, all by himself, for me! He used a dark chocolate cake mix with cream cheese frosting from the can. Boy was it tasty. Congrats babe on your first baking effort! You can practice up every year!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chicken Parmesan

Most Sunday nights Brian and I head over to his parent’s house for a nice family dinner. Since we’ve been married I now feel that I need to contribute to these dinners, bring a salad, or dessert or something. His mom hasn’t really taken me up on this offer, but last week we invited them over to our house for Sunday night dinner. They hadn’t seen our apartment since we got all moved in, and I’m obsessed with my kitchen table and love to be able to set it for a lot of people. Brian even decided to get out the leaf for the table to make it bigger to accommodate everyone. Brittany and Paul (sister and boyfriend) were coming too.

I wanted to make something good, obviously, but not a bunch of new recipes. I didn’t want to stress over if it would turn out or not. So I decided on my red pasta sauce, but I thought that I should add a little something to it. As I was cruising around the Food Network recipes I decided that I would add a little chicken parmesan to my marinara. I had never made chicken parm before, but I watched a couple videos and read through some recipes and decided it wouldn’t be too bad.

I absolutely love my red sauce recipe. Of course it’s my mom’s recipe. It’s been around for quite some time, and is pretty much fool proof. This time I decided to puree it a little bit more than usual with my emersion blender, and I paired it with thin spaghetti instead of our usual penne. For the chicken I pounded the chicken breasts with a rolling pin to about 1/4 of an inch thick. I dipped it in flour, then egg, and then into a mix of bread crumbs, fresh chopped parsley and parmesan cheese. I had a pan with oil heated and could cook about two at a time. I still have a hard time knowing how long it is going to take to cook chicken all the way through. And I’m super paranoid about under cooking my chicken. So when it says about four to fie minutes each side, I still cut one open to see if they are done. Mine took a bit longer because my chicken breasts were really big. I served it all up with some salad and French bread toasted with butter, garlic powder and parsley.

All in all the meal turned out quite tasty. And if you’re not up for the chicken, just try out the sauce, so easy and so tasty.

8 cloves of garlic
2 onions
3 Tbs of Olive Oil

1/8 Cup Parsley
1/8 Cup Basil
2 Tbs honey (if you want it sweeter)
2 can original stewed tomatoes
2 can Italian stewed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes with peppers & onions

Makes enough to go with a one pound box of pasta.

Pound chicken breasts with rolling pin until 1/4 inch thick
Dip in flour, then beaten egg, then dip in mixture of break crumbs, parsley and parmesan cheese
Cook in pan with heated oil until browned and cooked through

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Nothing Says Happy Birthday Like Coconut Cake

Happy Birthday Little Sister!

My younger sister, Brittany, had a birthday this past Tuesday and I wasn’t sure if her boyfriend was going to tackle the task of baking the birthday cake or not. When I asked her if I could make it she said that I was her first choice, and boyfriend was the backup plan! Yay! I asked her what flavor she wanted she said something coconut. I was so excited. I had a coconut cake recipe I wanted to try out. It’s always a little dangerous trying out a new recipe on a special occasion, but I figure, hey, she’s family.

The recipe I wanted to try I actually got from my mother-in-law. It was supposed to be from a restaurant, Cedar Creek Inn, that has amazing coconut cake, but you know those recipes are never the same. As I looked up the recipe last night I noticed that it used a cake mix and vanilla pudding as a base. I don’t know if that counts as “from scratch” but it was going to be a busy day so it was good to save time. As always, I also checked out the food network for recipes. There were some that looked interesting, but like I said, I wasn’t going to time to take on a huge project that afternoon. Bobby Flay’s looked good, but it was quite a project. I came across Ina’s recipe (I love her) but her cake was just a basic white cake with coconut frosting. As I read some of the reviews I found that some of the readers had replaced the water with coconut milk. I thought that sounded like a plan. So in the end I changed my first recipe to incorporate the coconut milk and used Ina’s frosting recipe. Readers raved about her frosting!

The cake was a huge hit. Everyone loved it and it looked so cute on my new cake stand. I think Britt had a great birthday and she said the cake was just what she was hoping for!

Coconut Cake:
*Changes I made: replaced half of the water with coconut milk, and I used a white cake mix because it’s what I had and I didn’t use the walnuts because I didn’t have any.

2 cups shredded coconut
Butter, for preparing pans
Flour, for preparing pans
1 package cake mix, yellow
4 eggs
2 packages instant vanilla pudding, 3.4-ounce boxes of instant
1 1/3 cups water
1/2-cup oil
1 cup walnut halves, chopped

To toast coconut:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and lightly toast, stirring often, 10 minutes. Set aside 1/2 cup for topping the cake.

Butter and flour 2 (9inch) round cake pans.

Mix the cake mix, eggs, pudding mix, water and oil in a mixing bowl. Mix at medium speed until the batter is thick and smooth. (4 minutes) Fold in the walnuts and 1 1/2 cups of the coconut. Divide the batter evenly among the pans.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, or 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pans, then turn the cakes onto a wire rack.

Ina's Coconut Frosting

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Sugar Cookies

Just a quick post on my one attempt at Halloween baking. I am usually totally into the cookie decorating parties, but this year it was just me and I wanted to try out some new Martha Stewart cookie stencils I bought. I was so excited; I found them on sale at Michael’s at the beginning of October and couldn’t wait to use them. Instead of using cookie cutters to cut the cookies out in Halloween shapes, I used my biscuit cutter to make nice, round circles. I then frosted them and attempted to use the stencils to put cute witches, bats and spider webs on the cookies. But what happened was that the stencil would stick to the frosting and when I tried to pull it off the cookie and sprinkles would get messed up. If I didn’t put the stencil directly on the frosting then the picture wouldn’t come out. And if I waited for the frosting to dry, well, the sprinkles wouldn’t stick. It was quite the dilemma. In the end, I managed to get a few to turn out. But that didn’t really matter because the cookies still tasted great! I actually like them the best once the frosting has had time to dry. I have the best sugar cookie recipe. It’s my moms, of course, and I made the dough in less than 10 minutes. Let the dough sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes and then roll it out, cut and bake at 350, for about 8-10 minutes until the edges are just barely brown. I like these cookies soft, and when they get brown they turn crunchy.

It turns out that the pictures on the stencil package showed them being used on unfrosted cupcakes using powdered sugar or coco powder. Oh well, like I said, they still tasted great!

Sugar Cookies:
Mix- beat until light and fluffy:
2 sticks of Butter (2 cups)
3/4 Cup sugar

Beat in:
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Gradually add in:
2 1/2 C flour

Pumpkin Soup & Harvest Moon Macaroni

I was fortunate this past week to have some house guests! My older sister, Mikken, her husband Jeff, and my dad came to stay for a few nights. What better excuse to cook a harvest meal! I’ve been dying to try out some of the fall recipes I’ve seen cooked up on Food Network lately, but they make so much that I needed someone more than just me and Brian to cook for. We actually had a few cold days this week, so I was thinking some pumpkin soup, and a comfort food side.

Last year I tried out a pumpkin soup recipe from Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. It was a Mexican spicy one. I remember liking it, but wanted to try a new recipe this year. I decided to search the Food Network database and found a recipe of Rachel Rays that had about 221 great reviews. And since I was doing a recipe from Rachel, I decided to make a Harvest Macaroni and Cheese I saw her cook up on an adult Halloween meal episode last week. It was actually nice because these two recipes called for a lot of the same ingredients, thyme, and hot sauce, onions, so I thought they would compliment each other nicely.

Trying out two new recipes in one night, and cooking for seven people can be kind of hectic, but luckily Mikken and Dad helped me out, and it was so fun cooking with them! I love my family. Mikk is an excellent vegetable chopper, and Dad worked wonders on the Mac and Cheese sauce. I think I wore them out with all my running around. Mikk had to go take a little nap before dinner was served. All in all the meal turned out great. I thought the Mac and Cheese could have used a little more something, maybe I skimped on the hot sauce, or not enough cheese, but it was good. I’ll try making it again; just try to add more seasoning. The pumpkin soup was amazing. I’ve been eating it for lunch the past two days. I didn’t make the apple relish, due to time constraint, but the reviews said it was a good compliment. I did add a little honey to the soup to take the bitter edge off and we all agreed it was a great touch. I also used an emersion blender to puree the soup. Brittany said, “this meal tastes like fall.” That was the best compliment, totally what I was going for. We used some soft bread to get every last bit of soup out of the bowl.

The recipes can be found at these links to

Harvest Moon Macaroni

Pumpkin soup
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