Happy New Year

New Years Photo Booth Backdrop - The EGGWell it has been a hot second or two and a lot has happened since the last time we spoke… For one it is now 2014, so Happy New Year! For two, we sold our house and moved into a swanky downtown loft. Fancy schmancy I know. It is so not me, but then again so me all at the same time. There has been lots of decorating, cooking, entertaining, traveling and creating in the mean time, and I have definitely deserted you all in the process. Some may not have noticed at all, others may not have even cared, but that’s ok either way I am back… For the time being.

I got the urge to write again, because I was inspired to cook something new. I was watching the Food Network yesterday and one of my faves came on, Barefoot Contessa. When she is cooking Italian, as she often does, it’s pretty much guaranteed I am going to like it. I have a couple of staples on the Food Network that rarely steer me in the wrong direction. Between Ina Garten, Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman), and Giada De Laurentiis my husband will never go hungry. Now if I could just convince one of them to move in and do all the cooking. Anyway, Ina was making Spaghetti and Meatballs and it looked delicious. I know it sounds very basic, and it is, but it inspired me to want to cook so it is worthy of a blog post in my opinion. Check out the recipe below and I will let you know how it goes. I think this might be a Pasta Sunday dish. I also posted below some pics of what I have been up to for the past 5 months or so.

The EGG Projects
3DENT Logo Wall Decal // Thanksgiving Invitation // Painted Mirror
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies // Engagement Party Favor Stickers // CranCherry Cocktail
Jute Wrapped Bottles // Holiday Card // Glitter Champagne Bottles

Ingredients

FOR THE MEATBALLS:
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil
FOR THE SAUCE:
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For serving:
  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

  1. Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.
  2. Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.
  3. For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  4. Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti.

Cajun Chicken Fettuccine

Well I am home from Mexico and the wedding was fabulous! Absolutely beautiful. The only problem, I am now sick. My body has totally given up on me and there will be no cooking going on in my kitchen tonight, but that does not mean you can’t cook. So, in honor of Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, I thought I would spread a little cajun action. I chose the simplest thing I could find, since I have never cooked anything cajun before and I totally intend on trying this recipe once I have recovered, but for now it is all you. Let me know how it is if you try it. Happy Mardi Gras and don’t forget Lent starts tomorrow!

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
  • 1 large sweet onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper, cut into ¼-inch strips
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into ¼-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • 4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 jar (15 ounces) Alfredo sauce
  • ½ cup spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook fettuccine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute onion and peppers in oil until tender. Add the chicken, Cajun seasoning and garlic and heat through. Transfer to a large bowl. Drain fettuccine and add to chicken mixture. Stir in Alfredo and spaghetti sauces.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Transfer to a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Sprinkle with cheeses. Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes longer or until golden brown. 

  • Source: Taste of Home
  • Prep Time: 25min
  • Cook Time: 25min
  • Total Time: 50min
  • Recipe Yields: 8 servings

Rigatoni & Italian Sausage Bake

Last night I made a wonderful meal from my 500 Casseroles recipe book. I love this cookbook line, because the recipes are pretty easy and straightforward, and the book is compact but jammed packed with great recipes and even better pictures. I hate cookbooks that don’t have pictures. How do I know what the dish is supposed to look like, or if I even want to make it? Have no fear, this book has tons of pictures and my meal looked almost as good as the one in the book. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but mama did good. Toot toot! I served my rigatoni bake with a side Cesar salad and another one of my attempts to create my own garlic bread recipe. Ehhh the bread wasn’t bad, but I am still working on it and trying to find the right garlic/cheese ratio.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lb. mild Italian sausage
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt ad freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup tomato paste
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans whole tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 lb. uncooked rigatoni
  • 2 cups provolone
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Remove sausage from casings to form small chunks. Brown sausage in large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Set browned sausage aside, and discard all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Sauté onion, garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes with liquid. Break up tomatoes into smaller pieces and bring sauce to a boil. Return sausage to sauce and reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, until sauce thickens.

Preheat oven to 375°F. In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta for 6 minutes, until al dente. Drain and add to sauce. Add ¾ cup grated provolone and chopped parsley, and stir to combine. Transfer to a large (9×13-inch) rectangular casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Remove foil 10 minutes before the end of cooking to brown top of casserole.

Notes: This recipe could feed and army. Next time I will definitely cut the ingredients in half. However, it does keep very well and warms up perfectly.

Grilled Chicken Penne Pasta

Tonight for dinner I made a delowcious meal entirely out of ingredients I already had in-house. I don’t know what was more exciting… Making a meal that tasted better than ok for once, or not having to go to the store and spend 50 bucks to make it happen? I ended up using a store-bought sauce I already had on hand, pasta that I always keep in the house, some veggies I had from meals I made earlier in the week (onion and bell pepper). I wanted to use some mushrooms, but they had gone bad on me. I had one chicken breast and some extra chicken breast tenderloins sitting in the freezer, that I seasoned with olive oil, S&P, and a Homemade Italian Seasoning I made fresh just for tonight. I also had a sandwich roll left over from Sausage, Peppers and Onions night, that I cut in half and made garlic bread out of. I was playing with all second string players and it ended up hitting a home run!

Ingredients

  • ½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14 ½ oz.) can tomatoes, diced
  • 1 (14 ½ oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato juice
  • 2 tablespoons basil (chopped fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped fresh
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to-taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
  • 2 cups penne pasta
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Sauté onions in olive oil until translucent.
  2. Add garlic and cook for one more minute.
  3. Add tomato, tomato sauce, tomato juice, black pepper, salt, basil, and parsley. (Or your favorite store-bought pasta sauce.)
  4. Once sauce boils reduce to simmer and add grilled chicken.
  5. Simmer until pasta is cooked.
  6. Cook penne pasta in boiling, salted water.
  7. Strain pasta and add to sauce.
  8. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese
Notes: Add red pepper flakes for arabiatta and add oregano for a spicier version.

How-To Cook Perfect Pasta

Cooking pasta is simple and easy, which means it is also simply easy to do it wrong. If you want the perfect Italian Pasta with a little bite and clinging sauce, here’s how.

Directions

  1. Boil Water – Start with a very large pot of water, about 6 quarts per pound of pasta. Bring it to a rapid boil. Tip: A pound of pasta feeds about 5 to 6 people.
  2. Add Salt – Put in a lot of salt, about 3 tablespoons. If you taste the water, it should taste like the sea.
  3. Add the Pasta – Drop in the pasta while the water is at a boil and give it a gentle stir.
  4. Stir the Pasta – Stir it occasionally while it cooks. Use the cooking time on the pasta package as a guide.
  5. Taste the Pasta – But watch out — it’s hot! Sample the pasta at about 2 minutes shy of the indicated time. It should be al dente. You’ll finish cooking it in the sauce. Tip: “Al dente” means “to the tooth,” meaning the pasta should still have a little bite to it.
  6. Drain the Pasta – Just be sure to save about 1 cup of the pasta water. If you have a pot with a colander insert, use it to drain the pasta. If not, drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink. (If you’re cooking ravioli, use a slotted skimmer and gently lift the ravioli a few at a time.)
  7. Add In the Sauce – Add the pasta to your sauce and finish cooking it in the sauce. Give it a stir to coat.
  8. Add Pasta Water – Ladle a few tablespoons of the pasta water at a time until you have the right consistency to your sauce. Remember, the pasta will absorb the liquid. Tip: Pasta water helps to thicken the sauce.
  9. Let Simmer – Simmer over medium-low heat — it’ll help the pasta soak up the sauce. Follow your recipe’s instructions for finishing the dish. And that’s all there is to it. Perfecto!

Notes: For more tips and pasta recipes check out the Food Network… It’s my Bible.

Not Just Mac and Cheese

Since I just moved to Houston, the Hubby and I have been checking out the new hood and trying out all the local restaurants. We stumbled upon one that is delowcious to the taste buds, but dangerous to the hips. And since we are going to a February wedding in Mexico, I am pretty sure we will not be frequenting the local eatery for at least a couple more months. The restaurant is called Jus’ Mac, and that is exactly what it is… just mac. However, it is not just any old mac. They have 18 different variations of macaroni and cheese, with ingredients such as avocado, goat cheese, chicken, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, bacon, meatballs and Fritos. Of course you can create your own as well. My personal favorites are the Rustic and the Goat Cheese. I add chicken to both and have it made with whole wheat pasta. That way I somehow rationalize it in my head that it is not that bad for me. I think the owners of the restaurant are geniuses. I am telling you, if you want a million dollar idea, think of something basic and then jazz it up. It works every time. Anyway, Jus’ Mac inspired me to make my own fun, jazzed up, adult version of the old American staple, Macaroni and Cheese, or favorite noodles as they were always referred to in my house. To the internet I went in search of some of my favorite ladies’ recipes. InaPaula… What do you have for me? Don’t worry once I make theirs’ I will tweak it to make my own.

Paula’s Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (an 8-ounce box isn’t quite 2 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stuck) butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 ½ cups (about 10 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 (10 ¾-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Paula’s Directions

Boil the macaroni in a 2 quart saucepan in plenty of water until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain. In a medium saucepan, mix butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. In a slow cooker, combine cheese/butter mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper and stir well. Then add drained macaroni and stir again. Set the slow cooker on low setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

  • Source: Paula Deen
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 3hrs
  • Total Time: 3hrs 5mins
  • Recipe Yields: 12 servings

Ina’s Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
  • 1 quart milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups)
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾ pound fresh tomatoes (4 small)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Ina’s Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Notes: Ina also makes a Lobster Mac and Cheese… Stay tuned for that recipe. She had me at lobster!

  • Source: Ina Garten
  • Recipe Yields: 6 to 8 servings

Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, and deveined
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • ⅓ cup clam juice
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until the shrimp turn pink and is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, ¼ cup basil, ¼ cup parsley, and the red pepper flakes. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine, clam juice, and heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add ¼ cup of the Parmesan, the cooked shrimp, the cooked pasta, and the remaining herbs. Toss together until all ingredients are coated. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve immediately.

Notes: Make it a surf and turf night by serving this delowcious pasta with Sausage and Gorgonzola Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms.

  • Source: Giada De Laurentiis
  • Prep Time: 10min
  • Cook Time: 20min
  • Total Time: 30min
  • Recipe Yields: 4 to 6 servings

Pasta alla Formiana

A couple of weeks ago, Giada De Laurentiis had a delowcious meal on her show called Pasta alla Formiana. Between the huge chunks of cooked tomatoes and the fact that you don’t even have to boil the pasta, I was sold. Definitely having this for dinner sometime this week, except I am going to substitute the pasta with whole wheat pasta. I will keep you posted.

Ingredients

  • Butter, for greasing dish
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ pound (8 ounces) mezze penne or other small pasta
  • ⅓ cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • ¼  cup dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 to 5 very ripe, extra-large or beefsteak tomatoes, cut into ½-inch thick slices

Directions

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

In a food processor, blend together the crushed tomatoes and garlic. Pour into a medium bowl and add the uncooked pasta, ⅓ cup olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Toss until all the ingredients are coated.

Line the bottom and sides of the baking dish with tomato slices. Pour the pasta mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Arrange the remaining tomato slices in an overlapping layer on top of the pasta mixture, making sure the mixture is completely covered. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until the tomatoes are slightly crispy and the pasta is cooked, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving

Notes: If can’t find beefsteak tomatoes, do not fret. A vine ripe tomato will do, you just might have to use a couple extra to make up for the size. This meal pairs wonderfully with Bruschetta with Shrimp Tarragon and Arugula.

  • Source: Giada De Laurentiis
  • Prep Time: 5min
  • Cook Time: 1hr
  • Total Time: 1hr 5min
  • Recipe Yields: 4 to 6 servings

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
  • 2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 cremini mushrooms, halved
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese
  • ½ cup grated smoked mozzarella
  • 1 ½ cups frozen peas, thawed
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

  • Source: Giada De Laurentiis
  • Prep Time: 25min
  • Cook Time: 40min
  • Total Time: 1hr 5min
  • Recipe Yields: 6 servings

Chicken Sausage Rigatoni

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
  • ½ cup roughly chopped onion
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cup roughly chopped green pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with basil
  • ⅓ cup vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. In a large saute pan over medium heat melt butter with oil. Add chicken sausage and brown, 3 to 4 minutes, breaking up large chunks with a wooden spoon. Add onions, jalapenos and garlic and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add green pepper, paprika, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, to taste, and cook 3 minutes more.

Generously salt the pasta water and add the rigatoni. Cook until al dente, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, add tomatoes to the sauce and bring to a simmer, for about 10 minutes. Add vodka and cream and cook a few minutes more. Toss in cheese and chopped parsley. To serve, drain the pasta well and add to the sauce. Mix until pasta is nicely coated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

  • Source: Sunny Anderson
  • Prep Time: 10min
  • Cook Time: 20min
  • Total Time: 30min
  • Recipe Yields: 4 servings