Simple Tomato Soup

tomato soup 5Winter in Southern California doesn’t exist. To attest to that, I’m currently wearing a tank top and sandals. I have jeans on too, in case you thought I was pantsless. But seriously, this just isn’t right. I saw on Instagram yesterday that it was snowing in New Jersey. I know you East Coast people are probably sick of the cold and can’t believe that I’d complain about the 80 degree weather we’re having today but still…. I’d like to experience a mild winter for once. Since “winter” in California isn’t really happening, I thought now was as good a time as any to share my simple tomato soup with you. This is great for lunch on a cold day (I don’t know much about cold days) or a quick dinner. And this must be served with a grilled cheese. It’s a requirement. At least with my soup. This makes a medium sized pot and is supposed to be an accompaniment soup. Yes, I’m very fancy that way.

Simple Tomato Soup

  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (or crushed)
  • 1/2 small white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning (or 1 frozen basil cube)
  • 1/2 c. half & half
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

In a medium sized pot, heat olive oil on medium. Once heated, add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Then add in the tomatoes (juice too) chicken broth, sugar, salt, pepper, bay leaf and the rest of the seasonings. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and then with an immersion blender, pulse soup a few times to thin it out to a smoother consistency. Turn off the heat and add the half & half. Stir and taste and add more pepper or more sugar if necessary. Serve immediately.

tomato souptomato soup 3tomato soup 2tomato soup 4tomato soup 6tomato soup 7I’m still holding out hope that a little bit of winter will arrive soon. That snow on New Year’s Eve was a total fluke and won’t happen again for at least another 10 years but I’m still wanting to get some use out of my boots. But for now, sandals it is.

Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs

tt ballsGame day is coming up and if you’re like me, it’s a great excuse to eat a lot of food. We’re not much for football in this house, but every year for Superbowl, I make a nice spread and we usually have friends over. This year I’m making about 9 pounds of baby back ribs and loaded potato skins as requested by the man of the house. And of course we’ll have some dips and chips and a bunch of other goodies. But, if you’re still undecided about what you’re wanting to make, I have an idea for you.

I made these meatballs for dinner last night and they didn’t disappoint. They were so tasty in fact that I thought they would be an excellent Superbowl/party snack as well. But really, they make a great dinner option. And they’re quick. And they’re kid friendly. And they taste really, really good. Sounds like a winner, right?

So I have to say this though….I call these teriyaki but there’s really only one “teriyaki” sauce that I use and I really urge you to go out and buy it. My parents have used this sauce for years and when I went out on my own and had my own home, this sauce became a permanent resident in my casa. And that’s Yoshida’s Gourmet Sauce. Mi casa es su casa Mr. Yoshida. I don’t know how to say that in Mandarin or Cantonese, so Spanish will do. But do you get my point? This is the “teriyaki” sauce you should have in your kitchen. And it will be the only one you’ll ever buy after you’ve tried it. But if you want to be really stubborn, use what you’re using. I’m going to be stubborn and stick to my guns though about Yoshida’s.

Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs (makes approximately 2 dozen)

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1/2 c. teriyaki sauce (you know what kind you should use!)
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped white or yellow onion
  • 1 tsp. fresh grated ginger, or 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 clove minced garlic, or 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 c. panko crumbs
  • Dash black pepper

Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl, except 1/2 c. teriyaki sauce. With your hands, combine the meat mixture until evenly mixed. You can either put this back in the fridge for an hour or two or just go ahead and make your balls.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. To make the meatballs, I use a little scooper to ensure evenly sized meatballs, but you can just as easily use your hands. Place all the meatballs in the baking dish. Then pour the 1/2 c. teriyaki sauce over the meatballs. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Tah-dah! That’s it.

tt balls 4tt balls 3tt balls 2tt balls 5I served this for dinner with steamed brown rice and sautéed cabbage and it was just scrump-diddly-dumptious. But like I said, these would make great appetizers for a Superbowl party, or really any party. Basically what I’m saying is, just find an excuse to make these!

Have a fun Sunday. Patriots or Seahawks? Honestly, I’m just there for the food.

Jalapeno Cream Sauce

jc sauce 7One of my favorite restaurants here in town serves this delicious pan fried chicken breast with a jalapeno cream sauce over the top. I order it every time we go there because it’s simply delicious and I just love the sauce. Well, as I’ve talked about before, eating out is SO incredibly expensive and unfortunately, this is a $20 dish at this place so make it at home I must!

Luckily for me (and my family), my experiment turned out pretty well because although I really like that restaurant, I haven’t been back since I concocted my own sauce. And recently, I was talking to a friend about this very restaurant and she mentioned her husband loves the sauce as well. We scheduled a day for her to come over and we cooked this dish right up in my kitchen and she agreed! The sauce tastes very similar to what you get at the restaurant. And it’s so incredibly easy, yet looks like you spent way more time on it.

Jalapeno Cream Sauce

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 c. pickled jalapenos, chopped (these can be found on the pickle aisle)
  • 1/4 c. sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 c. half & half
  • 1 heaping tbsp. flour
  • White pepper, cayenne, salt to taste

In a skillet or saucepan, heat over medium heat. Add butter and let melt. Add in the jalapenos and sun dried tomatoes and let cook for a couple of minutes, until warmed through. While that’s cooking, in a measuring cup, add the half & half and the flour. Use a whisk to combine and stir until smooth. This is the slurry that will thicken the sauce. Add in the garlic to the pan and let sauté about 30 seconds. Reduce heat to low and add in the slurry. Bring heat back up to medium, and whisk. As it comes up to a bubble, it will thicken. Add in the seasonings a little at a time, tasting as you go. Reduce heat to low until ready to serve.  *White pepper and cayenne are very strong flavors so start off lightly.

jc saucejc sauce 2jc sauce 3jc sauce 4jc sauce 5jc sauce 6Once the sauce has thickened and is seasoned to your liking, pour over whatever you like! I love this on a panko coated pan fried chicken. I’ve also served it with shrimp and pasta and it went very well together. The restaurant that I got the idea from, uses it as a dipping sauce for calamari as well.

jc sauce 8And surprisingly, my kids really like this sauce. I just make sure to put it on the side and they dip their chicken in it. Family friendly!

Pasta with Creamy Pesto Sauce

With all of this holiday eating and cooking, making a big meal may not be your biggest priority right now. And you’re probably out of leftovers….. so, here’s a solution to still having a quick, easy, home cooked meal. It would take longer for you to call and order a pizza and wait for it to be delivered, than it would take to make this. This is a dinner we’ve had on our “Meatless Monday” nights. Yes, I’m aware it’s now Tuesday. But it’s great any time you need something fast.

Just be warned, I took pictures of this dish MONTHS and MONTHS ago. Like, almost a year. And I’ve just never posted it before. And the food was taken with my old phone. At night, when it was totally dark. So it’s really not the best picture you’ve ever seen. But make the food anyways, and you’ll see in person it’s much tastier looking than my crappy photography makes it out to be! 🙂

 

pasta ingredients

Don’t be alarmed by the date on the half & half. This is an old picture!

Pasta with Creamy Pesto Sauce

  • 1 lb. pasta, noodle type is your choice
  • 1/2 c. half & half
  • 1/3 c. prepared pesto sauce
  • 1 tomato, chopped

Cook pasta according to directions on box. In a small saucepan, add the prepared pesto and the half and half. Heat on medium low, until warm, and stir together. When pasta is cooked, drain and add to a bowl. Pour creamy pesto sauce over the top and add chopped tomato. Stir and serve.

It’s seriously that easy AND only 4 ingredients. Feel free to add some cracked black pepper or a little bit of grated parmesan but really, it has a ton of flavor already.pasta

Spaghetti Sauce

spaghetti sauce 4OK, so yes, technically, I didn’t use actual spaghetti pasta when I made/photographed this. But, it’s a red, tomato based meat sauce that goes on top of noodles which in my opinion, equals spaghetti sauce. Call it what you want, I call it yummy.

The key to this sauce is letting it simmer and cook down. This is what I think is the spaghetti secret. For those of you who’ve had spaghetti where the sauce is a bit watery and leaching out liquid all over the plate, well, that’s no good. But if you let the sauce cook longer, the flavors develop MORE and the end result is a thicker, heartier sauce that doesn’t taste like liquid tomato. Sad to say, but I’ve actually eaten at restaurants that serve their spaghetti just like that! And I’m sure you have too.

Even though you need to let this simmer, this recipe for me is just about the easiest thing you can make. And a good spaghetti recipe is something everyone needs to know. So for you new cooks just starting out (or seasoned veterans), this one’s a keeper!

Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, bulk (or 1/2 pound each of ground pork & ground beef)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced (that’s a whole package)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 c. red or white wine (whatever you have on hand that’s open)
  • 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp. salt (if using ground pork & ground beef) OR 1/4 tsp. salt (if using Italian sausage)
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat over medium. Once hot, add in the Italian sausage. Cook until almost fully browned, stirring occasionally and add in the onion and bell pepper. Stir together and let cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 1 more minute. Then add in the wine. Stir, making sure to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Let cook for 1-2 minutes or until wine has slightly reduced. Then add in both cans of tomatoes and seasonings. Once sauce starts bubbling, add in the parmesan cheese and stir together until it has melted. Reduce heat to a simmer and leave uncovered on the stovetop for approximately 1 1/2-2 hours, or until it has reduced and reached a thicker sauce stage. Serve over spaghetti or your favorite pasta.

spaghetti sauce 3spaghetti saucespaghetti sauce 2spaghetti sauce 5*This also freezes exceptionally well! So once it’s cooled, you can pop it into a plastic freezer container (even a gallon sized Ziploc freezer bag works great, but make sure to lay flat on top of something) and place in the freezer. I heart having this type of stuff already made and waiting for me in the freezer on those hectic days.

Creamy Cajun Pasta with Andouille Sausage

cajun pastaA pasta dinner is such a nice comfort meal. And I’m all about comfort food!! Especially when I can do a double carb overload. I love eating pasta with bread. Don’t judge. It’s like a must for me.

But it’s nice to change things up a bit so this pasta recipe doesn’t have a red sauce. Instead, it’s creamy and got a little kick to it! So watch out for the little people in your house in case they can’t handle spicy. I got my Andouille at the butcher counter and it was fresh made so it was actually pretty mild but it’s typically packing some serious heat.

This recipe also makes for a really quick weeknight meal because it comes together so fast. And it’s pretty inexpensive. So if you’re tight on time and money, try this one out!

Creamy Cajun Pasta with Andouille Sausage (serves 6)

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3/4- 1 lb. Andouille sausage
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb. crimini (aka baby bellas) mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 c. half & half
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. creole seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil and heat on medium. Add the Andouille sausage. I removed mine from the casing. But other types are fine to slice into coins. Brown up the sausage and break it up. Add in the onions, bell pepper and mushrooms. Continue cooking and stirring for several minutes or until sausage is cooked through. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more. Then add the wine to deglaze the pan. Make sure to stir and remove any bits from the bottom. Let cook until the wine has almost completely reduced. Add in the half and half, as well as all of the spices and cheese. Cook for a few minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly.  Add in the pasta and stir to combine and coat the pasta. Serve immediately.

cajun pasta 6cajun pasta 5cajun pasta 4cajun pasta 3cajun pasta 2

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

pulled pork 7Thursdays are a busy day for me this time of year. My oldest daughter has softball after school and that means I don’t have much time to make dinner. So the slow cooker it is! That way when we get home from practice, we can still enjoy a home cooked dinner that’s waiting for us. I’d much rather prefer that instead of having hungry, complaining little people walking around, whining and asking repeatedly when dinner will be ready.

I like to start this recipe the night before but if you’re pressed for time, it can always be put together the morning of. Just skip the night before step.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • 3-4 lb. bone in pork shoulder
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. each of ground cumin and chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. each of paprika, garlic powder and onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper
  • Dash of cayenne
  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 6 oz. beer

The night before: Mix together all of the spices in a bowl. Sprinkle and rub the spices all over both sides of the pork. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

The next morning: Add the sliced onions to your slow cooker insert. Unwrap the pork and place on top of the onions. Pour the beer over the meat. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 8-10 hours.

When the meat has finished cooking, remove the bone and the layer of fat on the pork. Using forks or tongs, pull the pork apart into smaller pieces. Serve on buns with BBQ sauce.

pulled porkpulled pork 2pulled pork 3pulled pork 5pulled pork 4pulled pork 6*If you don’t drink or like cooking with alcohol, you can omit the beer. I’ve cooked this both ways and I like them both. But the beer adds just that little extra flavor. And I used a whole beer and only poured half of it over the meat. If you’re into morning drinking, finish the beer. If not, you can put it in the fridge and give it to your husband when he gets home from work. Mine asked me why the beer was so flat and why there was only half of it. But seriously, if your husband likes beer as much as mine, he really won’t mind.

Chorizo Quesadillas

cq 5This is a quick dinner (or lunch) that’s a nice change from your regular ole’ cheese quesadilla. And even though this recipe only has a few ingredients, I consider these quesadillas unique since I veered away from the standard cheddar cheese and instead used queso fresco. It’s crumbly, mild and goes great with the chorizo.

I recommend making your own chorizo but if you don’t have the time, store bought works in a pinch. But seriously, don’t let my chorizo recipe scare you off. It’s really easy! And for awhile there, I was scared of store bought chorizo since someone told me it was full of nodes and lips and all kinds of parts I wasn’t interested in eating. BBBUUUTTT, I’ve found that certain markets make some pretty clean and straight forward versions (minus the nasty parts) right there in the store, so ask your meat guy if you don’t have the time, or inclination, to make your own.

Chorizo Quesadillas (makes 3)

  • 1 pound chorizo, homemade or store bought (see my recipe below)
  • 6 flour tortillas
  • 1, 12 ounce package queso fresco, crumbled
  • 1 large green onion, sliced
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

Homemade Chorizo

  • 1 lb. ground pork or ground dark meat chicken
  • 3 New Mexico dried chilies (ancho or guajillo chilies can also be used)
  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. water or chili water
  • 1/4 c. onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. each of chili powder, paprika, ground oregano
  • 1 tsp. each of cumin and salt

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Pull off the stems and remove the seeds from the chilies. Bake in the oven for approximately 5 minutes. Place chilies in a bowl and pour hot water over them. Let sit for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the chilies from the water, reserving the water, and place chilies into a blender, along with the vinegar, onion and garlic. Add 2 tbsp. of the leftover chili water as well. Blend until smooth. Pour the chili mixture over the meat, and add the seasonings. Mix well and refrigerate. This can be made ahead of time or right before it’s time to eat.

To make the quesadillas:

In a skillet over medium to medium high heat, cook the chorizo until crumbly and no longer pink. Drain off grease and set aside.

In a non stick pan or a griddle (I prefer using the griddle since I can fit way more food on it) lay a tortilla down. Add some queso fresco, then chorizo, green onions, cilantro and more queso fresco. Make sure to divide all the ingredients evenly among the three tortillas. Lay another tortilla on top and turn the heat on medium. Let cook for several minutes or until the underside of the tortilla is brown and crisped up. Flip over and cook for a few more minutes. Remove to a plate. Cut and eat! This is yummy with sour cream and salsa on the side.

cqcq 2cq 3cq 4*Quick tip: I do not butter my tortillas at all. I know some people do this when they make quesadillas but I don’t. If you’re using non stick cookware, the quesadillas won’t stick and the heat is enough to crisp and brown them without the added calories of butter. If you don’t have non stick cookware, then use some cooking spray so the quesadillas won’t stick.

Italian Sausage Lasagna

sausage lasagnaI’ve made this lasagna two weeks in a row! So that alone should tell you it’s good. But here’s a few more reasons why you should make this:

  1. This is homemade! After you make it and eat it, you’ll be proud of yourself.
  2. It’s not too cheesy but just cheesy enough.
  3. It’s easy to make.
  4. This is better than restaurant lasagna. Yes, true statement.

I have to tell you that the last time we had this, we almost went out to eat instead. My husband had broken his glasses and he needed new ones ASAP so we figured it would be easiest to grab dinner while we waited for his new glasses. He told me to pick a restaurant. I really couldn’t think of anywhere I was dying to go so in the end, I just suggested I go with my original plan of making lasagna. And it couldn’t have been a better decision! We saved money (especially after spending an arm and a leg on new glasses) and our meal of lasagna, garlic bread and salad was delicious and filling.

So make the same decision as me and get your butt in the kitchen. You know you want to try out a new lasagna recipe!

Italian Sausage Lasagna

  • 1 lb. mild Italian sausage
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1, 15 ounce can each of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce *see note below
  • 2 tsp. fresh basil, chopped or 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 cup water
  • Dash of salt & pepper
  • 1, 15 ounce container of ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of water
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese or mozzarella
  • 6 lasagna noodles, uncooked

*The canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce can be substituted with a large 26 ounce can of crushed tomatoes.

Cook the Italian sausage in a skillet until cooked through and brown. Set aside.

To make the marinara sauce: In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 30 seconds. Then add in the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce (or crushed tomatoes), water, basil and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then let simmer. I only let mine simmer about 10 minutes and then remove from the heat.

While the sauce is simmering, mix the ricotta, egg, parmesan cheese, spinach, Italian seasoning, and a dash of pepper in a bowl until combined.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a lasagna pan (or large, deep rectangular dish) pour in just enough marinara sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Then lay 3 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Use half of the ricotta mixture and spread over the noodles. Add half of the Italian sausage and spread over the ricotta mixture. Then add half of the shredded Italian blend or mozzarella cheese. Add half the remaining marinara sauce over the top. Then go in this order for the remaining layers:

  1. lasagna noodles
  2. ricotta mixture
  3. Italian sausage
  4. marinara sauce
  5. Italian cheese or mozzarella blend

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 1 hour, covered. Then remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for at least 10 minutes. Cut and serve!

sausage lasagna 4sausage lasagna 5sausage lasagna 6sausage lasagna 8sausage lasagna 7sausage lasagna 9sausage lasagna 3sausage lasagna 2

Dijon Grilled Pork Chops

pork chops 2Dijon mustard and pork chops make a happy couple. Add in some thyme and this trio makes a happy threesome that actually works!

For those of you who usually steer away from pork, don’t fear the pork! Embrace the pork! It’s very easy to cook and if you’re careful to not overcook it, a juicy pork chop is just as satisfying as a big steak.

This main dish works for a quick weeknight meal that is sure to please all those picky taste buds in your family. These chops alone have outstanding flavor. But my kids prefer to still use BBQ sauce as a dip. Your choice!

Dijon Grilled Pork Chops (makes 4-6 pork chops)

  • 4-6 pork chops, any cut (I used boneless thick cut ribeye chops)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. each of salt and ground black pepper

Place pork chops in a large dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and then squirt the Dijon mustard on top. Using your hands, rub the olive oil and mustard all over the pork chops. Sprinkle with the seasonings, making sure to coat both sides of chops. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. But the longer, the better.

Heat your outdoor grill on medium high (or an indoor grill pan). The temperature on my grill was almost 400 degrees. For thicker chops, cook 5-7 minutes on each side. For thin chops, 3-4 minutes on each side. Take off the grill and let chops rest on a plate, covered with foil, for about 10 minutes.

Serve with or without BBQ sauce.

pork chops 5pork chops 4pork chops 3pork chopsMy husband used to tell me that recipes that had 5 ingredients or less just weren’t flavorful enough. He now stands corrected.