Fresh spring pasta

After the snow last week, it has been a wonderful warm couple of days. Whenever we get spring weather I always want to switch over to light fresh recipes. This is so simple and wonderful.

Mix 4 roma tomatoes (diced) with some chopped fresh basil.
Stir in a little good quality olive oil, 1 clove of garlic, a little salt and pepper.

Let sit at room temperature.

Cook your pasta. I used whole wheat fettuccini. Drain the pasta and mix with the tomato mixture.

Top with a little shredded cheese.

This is so fast and delicious. I’m looking forward to the summer when I will have my own tomatoes and basil growing outside and I can have this any evening for a quick meal.

Wrap Dress

I just finished making this dress. I used Very Easy Vogue pattern # V8379 as my guide.

I used a super stretchy navy blue knit. And it was a very easy pattern. There were 4 pleats in the front of the dress, I think that was the most complicated detail in it. The pattern was good, except I thought it left out an important detail. This is a wrap dress, so there needed to be a place for one of the ties to come through the dress. I just left a hole at the seam on one of the sides and it was fine. I think the interfacing on the facing turned out a little too stiff. It will relax with wear, but next time I might use a lighter weight interfacing so it has more bend.

The dress also has a nice split cuff detail on the sleeves.

I would guess it took me about 12 hours start to finish to make the dress. I also overcast all of the raw edges so that added to the time.

Very Nice. I will likely end up with more then one of these dresses in my closet.

Shepherd’s pie … kind of

So we had a jar (actually a box) of trader joes gravy left over from thanksgiving. Seeing how it is now 3 months after thanksgiving I decided that I needed to use it up. We also had a package of instant mashed potatoes. You must know that I hate (HATE) instant mashed potatoes. I think they taste like paste. I did not buy the instant mashed potatoes..someone else in the house did.

At any rate, I was stuck with these two items and I needed to use them, so I decided to make a shepherds pie. But since the gravy was turkey gravy, it wouldn’t be real shepherds pie. It would be made with chicken.

So it was a weeknight and I figured that I could just throw together this meal since the gravy and the potatoes were already done. This was a mistake on my part and this turned into a much bigger adventure.

So I had some chicken already cooked and in the refrigerator. I boiled some carrots until tender. I “cooked” the instant mashed potatoes. All I needed to do was add the gravy, put everything together and throw it in the oven. BUT when I opened the gravy I thought it smelled…funny. Not rancid, rancid would have been better. You know where you stand with rancid. But funny…that is a whole different story. I stood there in the kitchen for 10 minutes smelling the gravy and trying to decide if it was ok or not. I finally got up the nerve to taste it. Still not rancid, but definately not right. Metallic is the word that comes to mind. So I decided the gravy was no good, and I hoped the little bit that I tasted wouldn’t kill me.

Now I was left with everything ready to go for shepherds pie, except I had no gravy. I was too close to being done with dinner to let that stop me though. I had no choice but to make the gravy from scratch. The good thing is, it’s crazy easy.

Start with a roux; butter and flour in a sauce pan.

Cook the roux until golden brown, stirring constantly.

Add two cups of hot chicken stock. Wisk until smooth.

Add salt, pepper and garlic powder (not garlic salt)

At this point my gravy was a bit thin, so I thickened it with some corn starch that had been mixed with some water.

The final ingredient was a splash of milk.

That’s it for the gravy. So I added the carrots, chicken and some frozen peas to the gravy and mixed.

I poured that into a large oven proof dish and then topped with the mashed potatoes.

When you make shepherds pie, if you don’t get a *tight* seal with your mashed potatoes over the entire dish, gravy will shoot up out of the dish like a volcano and make a mess. That is what happened to me. Ok, maybe it isn’t like a volcano, but gravy certainly went everywhere.

So I didn’t get a nice shot of the finished product with a beautiful golden crust (cause it was covered in gravy). But here is the finished product plated up.

We had ours with a nice green salad and some mac-n-cheese (because I didn’t think shepherd’s pie was starchy enough on its own).

Anyway, it was good. And Jason was just happy to have mashed potatoes and gravy…even if the mashed potatoes were instant.

Beer Bread

It has been 12 or 13 years since I made beer bread. I used to make it fairly often…I don’t know why I stopped. Beer bread is delicious and it is SOOOOO easy to make.

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1T baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 beer

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

My husband’s favorite beer is bass… so that is what I used tonight. Add the beer to the dry ingredients and mix.

Pour the mixed batter into a greased loaf pan. bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.


This isn’t a traditional gumbo…it’s not. I don’t like seafood or okra. But this is a lovely version and it is quite good.

3/4-1lb chicken (diced)
1 package smoked sausage (diced)
1 onion diced
1 green pepper diced
1 red pepper diced
1 can diced tomatoes
32oz low sodium chicken stock
1 can beer
salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, cayanne pepper, jalapeno pepper

This is super easy. brown the chicken in a large stock pot. Add the sausage, onions, peppers and garlic. Saute with olive oil until everything starts to get golden brown.

Add everything else. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Cook for an hour or two. Serve with rice.

Happy Valentines Day

I got the VERY Best Valentines day present ever today! My husband and son both made self portraits in the form of little felt finger puppets. I was sooo surprised and I love them.

I love the candy too…

Pasta Bake

We had a little tiny bit of left over pasta sauce…like less then a cup. It wasn’t enough for us to have another night of pasta with sauce on it. So I started thinking and decided to make a nice pasta bake. It was easy and it used the little sauce that was left and turned it into something different and delightful.

Here’s how.

Cook your pasta. I used mini whole wheat bow tie pasta. And drain well.

Place the pasta in an oven proof contain (preheat the oven to 350)

In a saucepan, put a tablespoon or so of butter over medium heat. Once it has melted add about a tablespoon of flour. (this makes a roux). Cook your roux until golden brown. You must stir constantly or it will burn…so stir stir stir.

Once your roux is ready, get a whisk and some 2% milk. Add a little bit of milk to the roux and whisk until you get a thick paste. The roux will get thicker and more pastelike when you first add the milk. Don’t worry that is what it is supposed to do. Once that milk is blended add more milk (I probably used 1.5 cups of milk total).

Then I took a couple of handfuls of grated 2% cheese. I used a mexican blend but other cheeses would be fine also. Add that to your milk/roux sauce and whisk until the cheese is melted. Finish with a little salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta. Top with the left pasta sauce.

Bake for 30mins or so.

Tasty and a good use of leftover pasta sauce.

17 Bean Soup

We were at Trader Joes yesterday and I spotted their bags of 17 bean mix. It has been very cold recently and a hot bowl of bean soup seems just right.

I don’t usually cook with dried beans, it’s not because I don’t like dried beans. But they take longer to cook and you have to soak them overnight. I took advantage of the weekend and had my beans soaking last night so they were ready for me today.

Here are the beans soaking.

1 lb beef stew meat
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can beer
16 oz chicken stock
12 oz baby carrots
1 package Trader Joe’s 17 bean mix
a couple of handfuls of whole wheat bow tie pasta
salt, pepper and oregano

I started with the beef. It takes FOREVER to cook. So get it going first.

In a large stock pot, brown the meat in olive oil and then add the onions, tomatoes, garlic and beer.

Put a tight fitting lid on and let it cook for 1.5 hours. Stiring occasionally and adding more water as needed.

When the meat is tender, add the drained beans, the chicken stock and carrots. Season with Salt, Pepper and Oregano. Let cook until the beans are tender.

In a separate pan cook the pasta. Drain the pasta and set aside. When the soup is done add the pasta and serve.

Serve with a nice crusty french bread and large green salad.

Perfect for a cold January Day.