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A Pasta Primavera with Peas, Artichoke Hearts, and Grape Tomatoes

Nothing makes me feel better at the end of a long day than a pasta primavera.  It’s hearty, quick, and DELICIOUS! Even leftover to the next day! Also, the variations of vegetables are endless.   

Pasta with Peas, Artichoke Hearts, and Grape Tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 cup peas
1 cup artichoke hearts (Trader Joe’s sells great frozen ones)
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup of tepid water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt n pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

Artichoke hearts and peas

Artichoke hearts and peas- shown here are the frozen organic vegetables they sell at Trader Joe’s.  They are my go to for a lot of my dishes. LOVE THEM.  But. Before using them, run under warm water and let sit a minute.  Drain and use.

halved cherry tomatoes

halved cherry tomatoes

In a large stock pan, over medium high heat, heat the olive oil and saute garlic and onions till translucent.

onion and garlic

onion and garlic

Add in the artichoke hearts, and coat with the onion and garlic. Let cook for a minute, while stirring frequently.

Then add in the peas.  Coat with the mixture, let cook 1-2 minutes.

Add in water.

artichokes with peas

artichokes with peas

After 5 minutes of cooking, add in the tomatoes.

add in the tomatoes

add in the tomatoes

With your spoon, smash up the tomatoes as they are simmering.

Let simmer for 10 minutes on medium heat.

smash the tomatoes with your spoon as it is simmering together.

smash the tomatoes with your spoon as it is simmering together.

Once the vegetables are tender, salt and pepper to taste, and it is done.

Toss with your favorite cooked pasta and the cheese.

And enjoy!

Toss with pasta.. and DONE!

Toss with pasta.. and DONE!

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A Fun Weekend and Caponata

It was a great weekend!

Started off Saturday with hanging out with new friends, which was a lot of fun. We met this family through the girls’ dancing school. We’ve actually met 4 years ago, gingerly talking in the waiting room of the school every weekend during dance sessions. Just some of the few people I’ll talk to in there..since I am not a dance mom, and the other women in there with us are..let’s just say… uhm, ugly and annoying. Then a few weeks ago this family asked us to come over for an afternoon. We spent a handful of hours together laughing, talking about every topic, and the kids had a blast. So glad they were fun, normal people! We are going to set a counter ‘date’ at the end of May or early June, after all of our lives slow down a bit. A little fun in the sun, barbecuing at our house. I’m looking forward to seeing them next week to set it up. Then we ended the day by stuffing our faces with Belgian waffles at Ihop, which I forget how delicious their waffles are sometimes..and then we made a stop into the Home Depot to buy some outdoor stuff- ant spray, weed spray, grass seed, then a few lavender and rosemary plants.

Then today I woke up feeling energetic, and we spent the whole day in the yard dethatching the lawn, raking needles / leaves, and, cleaning up the past season’s debris. We haven’t done this much yard work since before the kids were born! I had a lot of fun, cause I haven’t been outside much since the Spring started, and I needed to clear my head by breathing some fresh air and getting my hands dirty and calloused. It is true, doing yard work is cathartic… feel so great right now! We spent about 6 hours together chugging along with each chore. We have almost an acre of yard, front and back, which is a lot to maintain, but we did a great job. And had a lot of fun. We took a break with the girls to play some football, which was a perfect way to take the load off from working so hard. Sounds like it would be opposite right? But when you’re laughing and running around, it’s less fatiguing somehow.
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A view of our backyard from the patio after we were done.

Us after a whole day cleaning the yard  :)

Us after a whole day cleaning the yard 🙂

 

Then after all that work, decided to cook my all time favorite comfort food, Caponata. A ratatouille if you will.  I grew up with this dish, and it’s a dish that reminds me of my childhood.  You know that scene in the movie Ratatouille where the critic, Anton Ego, eats Remi’s ratatouille dish, and is immediately transported to his childhood when his mother made it for him?  It’s exactly that for me, too.  My Mom’s version is a vegetarian stew; made of eggplant, potatoes, zucchini and summer squash. Cooked together with tomato till it’s a rich stew. This dish is easy and satisfying. There is no vinegar added as with most jarred/antipasto caponata. This is served hot with a side of crunchy bread. It’s earthy, creamy, warm, and delicious. A perfect way to end a chilly day outdoors working hard for sure.

Sicilian Caponata
1 large eggplant, washed and cubed
2 zucchini, washed and cubed
2 summer squash, washed and cubed
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of tepid water
1/2 can of tomato paste
S&P to taste

All the vegetables you need

All the vegetables you need

Heat up the oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot.

Add in the garlic, sauteing for 5 seconds, then adding in the onions and letting sweat till translucent.

First add in the potatoes. Mix well to coat in the oil. Let cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

Then add in the summer squash, mix. Then add in the zucchini and mix well.

All the vegetables in the pot.

Most of the vegetables in the pot.

Add in the 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil

Once boiling, turn heat down to a medium heat. Add in the eggplant. Cover the pot and let cook for 5 minutes.

Add in the tomato paste, and stir till all melted and the stock of the stew is red.

Add in a half can of tomato paste to a boiling pot.

Add in a half can of tomato paste to a boiling pot.

After stirring in the paste

After stirring in the paste

Turn the heat down to a low/simmer, and let cook for 25 minutes. Stirring infrequently.

Add in the s&p to taste. Let simmer another 5 minutes uncovered.

Simmer for 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the eggplant has basically melted into the dish.

Simmer for 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the eggplant has basically melted into the dish.

Done! The potatoes should be fork soft, the squashes should be reduced in size, and the eggplant should be melted into the stock.

Dish is DONE! Caponata with a nice slice of bread.

Dish is DONE! Caponata with a nice slice of bread.

Ok, well I gotta jet off to get ready for tonight’s two hour premiere of MadMen! I am terribly excited! I have missed my Don Draper and Roger Sterling!!

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Boneless Pork Loin Chops

Boneless Pork Loin Chops
6 Boneless pork loin chops, rinsed with cool water and patted dry
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2/3 Cup Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tspn Dried rosemary
1 tspn Dried thyme
A pinch of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, add in the bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, thyme and s&p.  Mix well.

Press a chop into the dry mixture, covering all sides.

Press the clean, dry pork into the bread crumb mixture

Press the clean, dry pork into the bread crumb mixture

On a baking sheet, cover with parchment and drizzle the olive oil on top.

Place on baking sheet.

Place each piece on an oiled pan.

Place each piece on an oiled pan.

Place into oven, and let cook till golden brown. About 20-25 minutes.

DONE!

DONE!

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Basil Pesto Without Nuts

Basil Pesto– without nuts
1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed, completely dried and base stems removed.
1 large clove garlic, cut in half
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

In a food processor, add in basil, garlic and s&p.

Basil, salt, pepper and garlic in the food processor.

Basil, salt, pepper and garlic in the food processor.

Pulse until coarsely chopped.

Then drizzle in the oil, as the food processor is on, until fully incorporated and smooth.

While the food processor is on, drizzle in olive oil

While the food processor is on, drizzle in olive oil

* If using immediately, mix in the cheese.

Done!

Done!

*If freezing, do not add cheese. Store in an air-tight container, add a layer of olive oil over the top. Cover. Freeze. When you want to use some, thaw and stir in cheese.

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Ground Pork Tacos

This is a super quick dish to make after work, one of my favorites; and there is no way to screw it up!
Also, it is a great way to enjoy tacos without using the packet of sodium that comes in a taco meal kit. Those packets bother me so much; have you ever read the sodium content on them? YIKES! I can never drink enough tequila to wash the salt away. 😉

Pork Tacos
1 lb ground pork
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tspn cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of tepid water

You’ll need a taco shell/tortilla kit, just the shells; either crunchy, soft, or both. My kids like the shell kits with both. Heat the shells/tortillas per instructions on the package.

Spices

Spices

Brown pork in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  As it heats, break up the pork with a spatula/spoon into smaller pieces.

Brown the Pork Meat

Brown the Pork Meat

Drain fat if there is any.

Add in the garlic, spices and water.  Stir together. Cover skillet.

Let simmer, stirring occassionally, until the liquid reduces; about 10 minutes. Add in S&P to taste.

Done!

Done!

Spoon mixture into tortillas or taco shells; top with Colby Jack cheese, guacamole, tomatoes, shredded lettuce or anything you like.. and enjoy!

How I like my taco. Guacamole and lettuce on top .. yup!

This night I made guacamole and topped it on my taco. YUM!

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Flower Cupcakes

As my oldest daughter turned two, in 2007, I was fresh out of the hospital after having her baby sister. With the help, and gracious offer from my parents to host her birthday at their house, my husband and I were able to throw her a great party; and we were able to make the sweetest cupcakes for her, too.

The theme to her party was simple, a butterfly garden. We had purchased everything in pink and green; the balloons, streamers, napkins, tablecloths, plates, utensils, servingware..everything! Hmm, now that I am posting these recent birthday blogs, I see I have an obsession with green and pink!

The cupcake idea was a brainstorm of my husband and mine after seeing candy butterflies in a cupcake book I bought for this occasion. But as we started to cut and place them on top, the flowers were naturally appearing and were prettier. Our oldest daughter loved them!

Cupcakes with Marshmallow flowers and green maraschino cherry centers

Cupcakes with Marshmallow flowers and green maraschino cherry centers

Here is what you’ll need:
A bag of regular sized marshmallows- cut into pieces
Colored sugar
1 Jar of green maraschino cherries, 1 half cherry per cupcake
1 Glass of water
1 Pair of kitchen scissors
Frosted cupcakes

As we all know, marshmallows are sticky, and we found to keep the scissors from sticking while cutting you should dip them in the water between cuts. This helps th scissors glide when cutting the marshmallows and keeps the surface moist to adhere the sugar.

Each marshmallow can be cut into 4 even pieces. 5 pieces are needed to make a flower.

Lay parchment paper over your work surface, so then marshmallows don’t adhere. Lightly coat with sugar over the top side of the 5 cut pieces*. Then lay atop the frosted cupcake in a circle, with the points in the middle touching and slightly overlapping making a flower.

Then place a halved maraschino cherry in the center.

DONE!

*Cut and sugar one set of marshmallows per cupcake at a time so the marshmallow doesn’t dry out and becomes less tacky to hold the sugar. If by chance you waited to long to sugar coat, dab some water on them.

Cupcakes with Marshmallow Flowers

Pink flowers for the girls and blue for the boys!

The Birthday Girl on her favorite toy!

The Birthday Girl on her favorite toy since she was 1yr old!

My parents dining room all set up

My parents dining room all set up for the party guests

Their Kitchen all set up.

Their Kitchen all set up and waiting for food.

The birthday girl so happy.

The birthday girl so happy.

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Polenta Fries

This is a fun dish to make when you have polenta left over.

Polenta Fries
1 serving of instant polenta*
1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano Cheese (then an extra tablespoon or so to sprinkle on cooked fries)
Salt to taste
1 tspn dried rosemary

Prepare the polenta according to instructions on the package. *Usually the instructions are to bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, salt, then add 2 cups of the instant polenta. Stir continously; till you see the polenta thickening and pulling away from the sides of the pot.

At this point, add in the cheese. Mix well.

Spread out 1-1.5 inch(es) thick into a pan. Lightly dust the top with the rosemary. (I like to take the herbs in the palm of my hand, then rub both hands together to crush the herbs, releasing their oils, as they fall from my grasp onto the polenta -or any food. Also, it leaves my hands with an amazing scent.)

You can let set and cool for 3 hours, or, overnight in the fridge.

Cooled polenta in a pan, cut to show thickness.

Cooled polenta in a pan.  Cut to show thickness.

Cut into 1/2 inch strips about 3 inches long, and lay them in a non-stick pan that has been heated on medium heat. Brown on all sides.
There isn’t really a need for oil because the polenta itself has a high water content and browns easily. But if you find that it needs some oil, add a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil.

In a dry non-stick pan, place cut pieces of polenta to brown.

In a dry non-stick pan, place cut pieces of polenta to brown.

Once the fries are browned on each side, place to cool on a rack and immediately sprinkle with the extra grated cheese.  Some of the cheese will melt quickly, and you can always add more if you see it needs it.

Once browned on all FOUR sides, sprinkle with cheese and let cool on a rack

Once browned on all FOUR sides, sprinkle with cheese and let cool on a rack

Let cool and serve!

DONE! Polenta Fries

DONE! Polenta Fries