Pasta with Swiss Chards

Pasta with Swiss Chards
1 lb swiss chards, stems removed, washed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp champagne vinegar
1 cup grated Romano cheese
a pinch of salt and pepper for taste

1 lb pasta

Swiss Chards
Swiss chards whole. Remove stems. Wash to remove debris. Then roll a few leaves at a time, and slice into strips


In a large stock pot, start boiling water for pasta.

Then proceed with the recipe while working on the pasta –Add in a pinch of salt when the water comes to a boil. Add pasta. Cook till al dente during this recipe process.

In a separate stock pot, heat up olive oil over medium heat.

Add garlic and onion.  Cook till translucent.

Add in the swiss chards.

Sprinkle with the vinegar  Stir.

Wilt Swish Chard

Cook until the chards have wilted and the inner stems of the leaves are tender.

Toss with cooked pasta and cheese…  Voila!!

Pasta with Swiss Chards


Peppermint Chocolate Graham Cracker Dessert

Tomorrow I plan on making a slew of cookies and a cake from scratch..two dozen butterscotch chocolate cookies, three dozen or more spritz cookies, 24 whip cream filled chocolate cupcakes and an oreo cheesecake. I just didn’t feel like this holiday was complete for me without a minty treat.  Here is what I found to be the quickest and tastiest treat for everyone with a ‘minty’ tooth like yours truly. (I love mint!)

Peppermint Chocolate Graham Cracker Dessert
11 Graham crackers (full sheets)
1 cup Chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 stick of unsalted butter
3 large candy canes, crushed into bits

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

On a tin foil or parchment paper covered cookie sheet, line up the graham crackers.




In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the brown sugar and butter.


Pour sugar mixture over the graham crackers and spread across till all covered.


Place in oven and let bake for 6 minutes.  The mixture will be bubbling and rising a touch above the rim of the sheet.

Add chocolate chips, and spread as they melt.


Add the smashed candy canes (or any topping you’d prefer–if I was in an allergy free home, I would use salted almonds!)


Once the chocolate is set, cut and serve!

IMG_6197 IMG_6198

Thanksgiving Day Menu

Happy Almost Thanksgiving!

Thought to share the menu we finalized for dinner.  This is our first attempt at hosting this big holiday, and for me this is a huge deal.  I usually handle Christmas dinner, which was definitely more my speed, not being confined to making a whole bird, but I am so super excited to tackle this one!  Slightly nervous because my mom’s Thanksgiving dinners have always been a major bonus for us (she is the ultimate cook in the family), but I am definitely excited!   

Let the planning and food shopping begin!  


Our Menu for Thanksgiving Dinner

Mixed Drink:

Valeria’s Pilgrim Kiss -Smirnoff’s Cranberry Vodka with Prosecco, a fresh cranberry and a zest of orange



Olives, artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms, etc..
Beets and goat cheese sprinkled with sunflower seeds
Stuffed mushrooms


Main Course:

Roasted thyme/lemon capon with my mom’s signature sausage stuffing (cooked in bird)



Sauteed peas and artichokes
Roasted root vegetables and butternut squash
Roasted asparagus with toasted panko crumb

And if I am up for it, fresh steamed broccoli

A variety of wines- RED: Merlot and Malbec, &, WHITE: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinto Grigio


Homemade Pumpkin Pie
Homemade Blueberry Pie
Homemade Chocolate Pie


Chocolate Liquer


This is what we’re planning, and I have no clue what my family is bringing, but I told them NO MORE FOOD! Let’s see if they listen.



Sounds good to me.  Let’s eat and drink!!

Darn, not till Thursday!

Enjoy this week, everyone!  Wish me tons of luck, and I will share all the recipes and photoblog our day here.


Sirloin Steak Tip and Baby Bella Mushroom Stew

Sirloin Steak Tip and Mushroom Stew
2 lbs sirloin steak tips, trimmed of fat and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
20 baby bella mushroom caps, quartered
2 cups yellow onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 of a tomato paste can
2 cups beef broth
2 cups thawed frozen peas
1 cup tepid water
2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2/3 cup red wine
3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


Prepped Onions, Garlic and Mushrooms
Prepped Onions, Garlic and Mushrooms
Ingredients: peas, wine, beef stock, s&p and thyme
Ingredients: peas, wine, beef stock, s&p and thyme
Cut tips in as much of a uniform cut as possible.  i use my finger as a guide.
Cut tips in as much of a uniform cut as possible. i use my finger as a guide.

Place steak in a large bowl and sprinkle with flour; turn to coat.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add the steak (shake off excess flour) and sear until browned on all sides but still pink in the center.
Sear Flour Coated Tips
Sear Flour Coated Tips
Remove steak and set aside on a plate.
Remove meat.  Use same pot to cook veggies, utilizing the bits left behind
Remove meat. Use same pot to cook veggies, utilizing the bits left behind
In same pan, add garlic and onions.  Cook about one minute, stirring constantly while scraping up any browned bits.  
Add the mushrooms.
Add the leftover flour to the vegetables; stir to coat.
Add veggies, scraping the bottom.
Add veggies, scraping the bottom.

Then add remaining ingredients..tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, broth, thyme, wine, and water; decrease the heat to medium. 

Bring to a simmer, stirring often, for about 15 minutes till the sauce thickens.
Now add peas and steak, with all the drippings from the plate.
Add flour, broth, tomato paste, thyme and peas.
Turn down heat and let stew for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally scraping the bottom continually.Turn down heat and let stew for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally scraping the bottom continually.

Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.



I love to serve this stew with crispy roasted potatoes on top or a giant slice of a crunchy Italian bread..or both like shown here!  Yum!


Ginger Soy Pork Lettuce Wraps

Gave a crack at making my first Asian inspired dish… lettuce wraps!  It’s one item I love to order when they’re on the menu, and I had to give them a try on my own.

I fiddled with a lot of ingredients, but here is what I felt worked best for a simple taste that was satisfying for the whole family!

Ginger Soy Pork Lettuce Wraps
1 lb. Ground Pork
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
Pinch of Freshly Ground Pepper
2 tbsp. Fresh Grated Ginger
1/4 cup Low Sodium Soy
2 tbsp. White Vinegar
2 Large Carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 Cucumber, peeled and cut into strips
Boston Lettuce, or Iceberg Lettuce, large leaves that are easy to cup the filling

Ginger Soy Sauce:
In a bowl whisk together the soy, ginger and vinegar. Set aside. IMG_5473

In a large skillet over medium heat, sweat the garlic and onions.

Then add the ground pork. Breaking up the meat with a spoon.  

IMG_5480 IMG_5481

Brown the meat completely.

Add two tablespoons of the ginger soy sauce and pepper, mix well.  Remove from heat.

To assemble:
Place a few slivers of carrots and cucumbers to the bottom of a lettuce leaf cup, then top with pork.

Spoon a few drizzles of the remaining sauce on top.

Roll before eating, and enjoy!

Ground Pork with Ginger Sauce lettuce Wraps

Oven Roasted Sausage and Potatoes

Oven Roasted Sausage and Potato
1 lb. Italian pork sausage, for this garlic & cheese sausage links were used
1.5 lb. red bliss potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (with skin on)
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 can tomato paste
2 fresh sprigs of thyme, or, 1 teaspoon of dry thyme
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a bowl mix all the ingredients except the sausage.

Transfer to a deep baking pan then place the sausage atop.

Sausage and Potato before

Roast for 20 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven.

Remove sausage from the pan.  Let stand apart and mix the roasted vegetables well.

Cut each link into thirds.  Place back on top of the potatoes.


Place pan back into the oven.

Roast for 15-20 minutes until the sausage is completely browned and the potatoes are fork tender.

sausage and potato after


Classic Beef Stew

Classic Beef Stew
1.5 lb Beef stew meat
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 8
3 cups of tomato sauce
1 can (14.5oz) stewed tomatoes
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups low sodium beef broth
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup red wine
12 Mini red potatoes, cut in half
10 Cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 Portobello mushrooms, sliced then quartered
4 Stalks of organic celery, roughly chopped
5 Large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for browning beef

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Add all the ingredients except, beef, potatoes, and mushrooms into an ovenproof French or Dutch oven (4Qt).

The prepped carrots, celery and onion.

In a medium non-stick skillet, drizzle oil and heat then add beef. Sear/brown on all sides

Brown the beef on each side.

In French oven add beef to the vegetable mixture.

Then use the wine to deglaze the pan. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the skillet.

After removing meat, deglaze pan with a 1/3 cup of red wine- for this I used a mild Merlot.

Add liquid to French oven. Mix well.

Cover; bake 2 hours, stirring once.

Cover your French or Dutch oven, and insert into heated oven.

After two hours.
After two hours.

Stir in potatoes and mushrooms; mix well.


Cover; bake 1 hour 30 minutes longer or until beef and vegetables are tender.



Classic Beef Stew!
Classic Beef Stew!

Gnocchi with Grape Tomatoes

This pasta dish is one of my favorites for two reasons.. it tastes amazingly rich and it takes MINUTES to cook! Great for those of us who are always on the go! The sauce really only takes as much time as the pasta takes to cook.  Who doesn’t have time for that?  



Gnocchi with Grape Tomatoes
1 Package Gnocchi
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
15-18 Grape Tomatoes, washed and halved
A Few Basil Leaves, whole
1 Large Garlic Clove, sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste


For the gnocchi:

Start by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Once the water boils, add salt, then the gnocchi.  Cook till they float to the top, or per the package’s instructions.


For the sauce, which can be started at the same time you start the pasta:

Over medium heat in a medium-sized pan, heat the olive oil. Add in garlic and saute till translucent.

Add halved tomatoes. Heat through.


Once the olive oil turns a marigold shade (from the tomatoes’ natural juices), gently smash the tomatoes with the back of your spoon. Keep doing so until the sauce thickens.

Add in the basil. Stir, and heat through. At this point, add in S&P to taste.


Before draining the pasta, spoon one ladle of the pasta water and add to the sauce. This will thicken the sauce and help coat the gnocchi.

Drain the gnocchi, add directly to the sauce.

Mix thoroughly and done!

Gnocchi with tomato and basil



Another reason it’s such a great dish is that you can use any type of tomatoes.  I like using grape or cherry tomatoes as we have them always hanging around for snacking.

Unconventional Vegetarian Nachos

I love nachos!

Last night the girls and I were in for a movie night, Harry Potter, of course!, but I had nothing in the house to make more traditional based nachos like I was wanting.  I never really do, which is why I think I love nachos so much.  The variety is endless and I can dash around the kitchen to pull together a snack that rocks.  No exception to the rule last night.  I unpredictably combined a few things that made myself, my 8yr and 6yr old girls super happy and wanting more!

They actually asked me to make this for them again tomorrow.. and I just may! 🙂


Here is a yummy version of what I call “Whatever I Have in My Fridge” nachos…

A heaping pile of baked/salted whole grain tortillas (about a half bag)
1/2 pound buffalo mozzarella, pulled by hand (I like it rustic)
1 stalk organic celery, chopped
1/2 can of dark red kidney beans (not rinsed)
2 tablespoons salsa (from scratch or store bought)
Pinch of dried oregano
1/4 tablespoon dried ground cumin
1/4 tablespoon chile powder
Pinch of Fresh Ground Pepper
Salt to taste, if you need it, but most chips are salty enough



Preheat oven to 400F.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Start layering the chips down on the pan, then add on the beans, salsa and dust with the ground cumin and chile powder.

Cover with the cheese, then top with the oregano and pepper.  (salt would be added now)



Set inside the heated oven and let bake for 5 minutes.  Once cheese is melted fully, cover the nachos with tin foil (loosely) and let bake another 5 minutes.  This ensures everything cooks without the chips burning.
(Yes, even the celery is soft! I love cooked celery..especially on the grill.. try it!)




I hope you try fun food combinations and think outside the box when you have nothing in your cabinets, too!  Most times you can make something truly magical to eat.



Grilled Herbed Chicken Wings

Grilled Herbed Chicken Wings
1.5 lb chicken wings

For Marinade:
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon or six ribbons of orange zest
1 teaspoon dried lavender
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon black pepper


To Clean Chicken:

Fill a large bowl with hot water and a few tablespoons of Kosher salt. Keep a pinch or more set aside to scrub the chicken.


Place the chicken in the water and let stand for a few minutes, then rub with additional salt removing all fat from skin and extra feathers.
Place the chicken in the water and let stand for a few minutes, then rub with additional salt removing all fat from skin and extra feathers.

Clip off the extended part of the wing and remove all surface fats with scissors.

Clip the end of the wings
Clip the end of the wings

Place clean wings on paper towels for drying while preparing marinade.

Lay on dry paper towels to dry.
Lay on dry paper towels to dry.

In another large bowl add all the marinade ingredients.

Rub herbs between hands to release aromas. (and it makes your hands smell amazing!)
Rub herbs between hands to release aromas. (and it makes your hands smell amazing!)
Smash the garlic
Smashed garlic
Crack black pepper
Crack black pepper
Add in orange zest
Add in orange zest

Mix well, then place chicken inside the bowl and coat well with the marinade.

Place chicken in marinade and let stand in fridge for at least an hour or when you are ready to grill!
Place chicken in marinade and let stand in fridge for at least an hour or when you are ready to grill within a day’s time!

Place bowl, covered, into the fridge for at least an hour, or up until one full day.


To Grill the Chicken:

Preheat grill on high to 400F.

Once temp is achieved turn the burners down to low.

Place chicken wing top side down for striking grill marks.  Let cook on this side for 10 minutes then flip.  Cook on opposite side for another 10 minutes; until the meat is no longer pink and the desired golden brown color is achieved.

Citrus Herbed Chicken Wings shown here served with grilled zucchini, summer squash and onions. A perfect grilled dinner!




(photo assistance courtesy of my oldest daughter.)  🙂