Sunday, August 23, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper and Turkey Wrap

Sometimes Husband and I like to play a game called, "Let's cook everything in our pantry/fridge before we go to the store again." It didn't actually work today because I had to get toilet paper...nonetheless, it did get me searching through the fridge to see what random items I could make lunch out of. I ended up with a new turkey wrap that I was actually quite proud of. Its very rare that my first attempt at a new recipe or dish turns out any good. Usually, I'm disappointed and hem and haw over what I missed and did wrong. This time I can honestly say it didn't need a thing (except maybe a better photo). Granted, this isn't super gourmet--(as such, I barely have an actual recipe to share). But its not just any ol' turkey sandwich, either. Somewhere in between...I think I can handle "in between" for now.


1 flour tortilla
1 Tbsp. chive and onion cream cheese
2 Tbsp. sliced roasted red peppers
5 slices oven roasted turkey breast
2 Tbsp. shredded mozzarella cheese

Spread chive and onion cream cheese in a smooth layer over flour tortilla. Top with turkey slices, red peppers and mozzarella. Starting with one end, roll tortilla over mixture and place seam-side down on baking sheet. Place under broiler in oven for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted and tortilla is slightly brown.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Penne a La Vodka Casserole

For Husband's birthday dinner, I referred to an old favorite--Emeril's Penne a La Vodka casserole. It's hearty, delicious, feeds 12 people (which is perfect for a crowd OR when you're trying to stretch your groceries) AND it gave me an excuse to use another goody from my Foodbuzz Tastemaker package--Emeril's Original Essence seasoning. Sometimes I cheat a little (such as using Vodka Sauce from a jar instead of making it from scratch) but you really can't tell the difference. This time I added roasted red peppers for a little extra kick, and I loved the flavor they added. Bonus: It tastes even better the next day--our leftovers lasted us almost a week!

Penne a La Vodka Casserole
adapted from Emeril Lagasse


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, cut into 1-inch slices
1 pound hot Italian sausage, cut into 1-inch slices
2 large onions, diced
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 jar Vodka sauce
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, sliced into strips
1 teaspoon Emeril's Original Essence
1 pound penne pasta
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
11/2 cups grated mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the sausages and cook, stirring, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are just soft, about 4 minutes. Add the red peppers, basil and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the Vodka sauce and Essence; stir to mix, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Heat about 4 quarts of water with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain well. Combine half of the ricotta cheese and half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano in a large mixing bowl. Add the pasta and toss to coat evenly. Add the sausage mixture and mix well. Add the remaining ricotta cheese and the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano and mix well.

Transfer the mixture to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the mozzarella. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven. Serve warm with crusty bread.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Almost Homemade Chocolate Mousse

After Husband's cake disaster, I needed to think of another dessert for his actual birthday. Preferably, something that wouldn't fall apart and/or leave me in tears. This one came about from the following conversation:

Me: So what do you want for your birthday dessert?
Husband: Pudding.
Me: Like....banana pudding?
H: No, like just regular pudding.
Me: Um...
H: Chocolate pudding.
Me: Are you just saying that because we have a box of chocolate pudding in the pantry?
H: No.
Me: Right. How about chocolate mousse?
H: Whatever...
Me: (Sigh)......

So I remembered this delicious Amaretto Chocolate Mousse that my mom used to make when we had company, and I decided to give it a whirl. It's one of those that made guests think she'd been slaving in the kitchen for hours when really it only took about 15 minutes.My version was more like what I like to call a "progressive recipe". I just kept adding stuff to it until I felt like it was ready. The result? Well, let's just say...I won't tell about the boxed pudding if you won't.

Amaretto Chocolate Mousse

1 pkg Chocolate Pudding Mix (Instant)
1 pkg Cool Whip, thawed
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1/4 cup Amaretto
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Mix chocolate pudding mix and milk according to the directions on the package. Fold in thawed Cool Whip. Pour in Amaretto, mixing well. In a small bowl, beat whipping cream with a hand mixer until stiffened, about 2-3 minutes. Fold into pudding mixture. Stir in cocoa powder and mix well. Cover and chill in refrigerator at least 1 hour. Pour into martini glasses or tea cups and serve.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


It's hard to believe, but sometimes we let bread go stale in my house. You see, Husband is not a carb-fiend like I am, so sometimes I'm left to finish an entire loaf of rustic Italian something-or-other on my own. Normally, this would not be a problem but I'm trying to practice a little restraint (and not be wasteful).

So what's a girl to do when the bread goes stale? Make panzanella! This recipe is loosely based on
Giada's version in Everyday Italian (I do love Giada). I would have followed it exactly, but I didn't have all of the ingredients so I decided to improvise a little. In fact, now that I am re-reading my scibbbled notes, I barely followed it all. Oh well. The inspiration is authentic, even if the dish is not...

adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

6 Roma Tomatoes, sliced
8-10 oz. Italian loaf (or some other kind of good, crusty bread), 2-3 days old, cubed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1 Tbsp. each oil and vinegar

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Add bread, tomatoes and sliced basil; toss well to combine. Let bread mixture sit about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. each of oil and vinegar. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Garnish with fresh basil and shaved parmesan, and serve.

Serves 4.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Husband!

Husband's birthday is next week and at my insistence, we are having a little birthday cook-out with some of our nearest and dearest. I think Husband is a tad bit grumpy about turning 32 (he didn't even want a party!) but I happen to love birthdays, so I put my foot down (and by that, I mean pitched a little fit) and voila! A cook-out it is.

For the occasion, I decided to attempt making one of Husband's favorite desserts--German Chocolate Cake. My morning went something like this:

Step 1. Googled every recipe for German Chocolate Cake ever published.
Step 2. Became enamored with Annie's Eats GCC post. Vowed to make my cake look half as good as hers (she is adorable, by the way. If ya'll don't already read her blog, you need to).
Step 3. Played around on at least 20 different blogs that I love but have not read in awhile.
Step 4. Scolded myself for not keeping my blog up-to-date.
Step 5. Made a resolution to keep my blog up-to-date.
Step 6. Got distracted by the beautiful weather and made plans to lay out at the pool with some friends.
Step 7. Went to the store to buy ingredients where I got further distracted by Betty Crocker's boxed cake and coconut/pecan icing.
Step 8. Convinced myself that Husband would never know the difference.

Successful, huh. In my defense, I planned to make homemade chocolate ganache to pour over the cake. I know that traditional German Chocolate Cake is iced with coconut/pecan gooey yummy-ness, but I had a brilliant idea for a cake topper that needed a smoother (and darker) surface. Husband's wedding cake was poker-themed, with white chocolate playing cards sitting on top and chocolate "suits" scattered around the outside of the cake. I thought they were adorable, so I wrapped them up and stuck them in the fridge to save for another use. A year and a half later, I had my opportunity!! Also, Husband would no longer have to threaten to throw them out.

Now I would like to say that my cake turned out exactly like Annie's masterpiece, and that our friends oohed and aahhed and marveled at my ingenuity. But that would be a lie. It didn't even survive the 12-minute car ride. I'm not entirely sure what happened, all I know is that at one point I heard Husband say "Oh crap", and when I got out of the car to go take the cake from him, the entire thing collapsed in my hands. Needless to say, I cried. Hard. For 20 minutes.

Lucky for me, I am married to a man who is unfailingly encouraging and supportive. Or maybe he just can't stand to see a woman cry...who knows. Either way, he calmed me down and we entered the party---me with black mascara under my eyes and Husband holding what was left of his birthday cake. At the end of the meal, I did what any refined hostess would have done--I stuck the cake in the middle of the table, handed out forks and said, "Dig in."