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It’s a Good Day {recipe: stromboli}

22 Jan
From Stromboli

Well there is still no baby yet but it’s ok. We had a deck party (beer and snacks and a talent show) at the office this afternoon because it’s employee appreciation week and I do feel appreciated. And we got on the Fortune list again, so everyone’s proud and happy but now it’s time to go home.

I get in the car and roll down the windows because its January and 70 degrees and I drive home and listen to this song and I love it. Not because of what it’s about, but because I like how when I turn it up really loud, the notes of the bass guitar vibrate in my chest cavity and the rhythm of the djembe fills my head and makes me forget about whatever I was thinking about.

And the song ends and I think about tomorrow and how I have no signs of labor so I will likely be back at work but it will be Friday and Fridays are great. I need to do laundry, but why stress about that? I compromise with the dirty clothes hamper that I know will be waiting for me with all of my jeans in it, by thinking that tomorrow maybe I will wear those pants that I sometimes also wear as pajamas, but if I couple them with a nice shirt then all of a sudden they are work-appropriate and then I have this secret that no one knows and it’s that I feel like I’m in kindergarten and it’s pajama day. And who doesn’t love pajama day?

So it’s a good day. It’s a good day to go on a walk with my husband as dusk settles over the neighborhood and a good day to make a good dinner and eat it amidst good conversation. And it’s a good day to wait.

From Stromboli

This recipe is great and I make it when I have random leftover meat. This time, I used ham, salami, sun-dried tomatoes, green peppers, and provolone cheese.  You could also fill it with chicken and spinach and cheese, or any combination of things that you like. It’s like one giant dinner kolache. YUM.

From Stromboli


adapted from Fabulous Foods.

Makes two, each serve 3-4, freeze one for later if you like (instructions below)

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
between 3 1/2 – 4 cups flour

Fillings (mix and match as you like)
about 1 pound thinly sliced meats such as ham, salami, turkey, pepperoni, etc.
about 1/2 pound sliced cheese
1/4 cup grated hard cheese like Romano or Parmesan

Other Options
thinly sliced tomatoes
thinly sliced onions
thinly sliced bell peppers or roasted bell peppers
chopped black or green olives
roasted garlic
fresh or dried basil and/or Italian seasoning

1 egg white, beaten
2 teaspoons parmesan or oregano (optional)

Pasta pauce, if you want to dip your stromboli in it! (optional)

Combine 1/4 cup warm water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining warm water olive oil and salt. Gradually add 1 1/2 – 2 cups flour, mixing until smooth. Gradually add enough remaining flour until you have a smooth dough that comes away from the bowl. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 minutes, working in more flour as needed. Shape into a ball, place in a greased bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise until doubled or almost-doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F and grease a large baking sheet (if you have a pizza or bread stone in your oven you can forego the baking sheet and bake the stromboli directly on the stone).

Punch dough down and cut in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into a rectangle about 10″ x 8″. Arrange fillings like a center stripe on dough. Brush the top with 1 egg white and sprinkle with parmesan or oregano (optional).  Pinch the edges of the seam and tuck the ends of the roll beneath the roll itself.

**At this point, if you want to freeze one of the strombolis, go for it! wrap it tightly in foil and freeze. When you’re ready to use it, let it thaw at room temperature (about 4 hours) and then continue with cooking instructions from here!**

Cut long diagonal slashes, about 1/2 inch deep, along the top of the loaf every 3 inches or so. Bake for about 30 minutes or until bread is golden brown. Cool slightly before cutting and serving, or if you prefer to eat your stromboli cold, cool completely on a wire rack before wrapping and refrigerating.

Original Post:


What not to do When There is Already a lot Going On {recipe: Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Smoked Gouda}

17 Dec

I try to write blog posts after stuff happens, and not while I am in the midst of it. Because as much as you think you may want to, you really don’t want to read my irrational diary entries. You want to read my blog posts. I do, at least. I want to read and write about what I learned or am learning, and not all of the crazy, I-am-sure-I-am-the-only-one-who-thinks-this-crap thoughts that get me to the end point. So I am writing in the morning, when my head is clear and I haven’t had time to think of anything crazy.

That being said, we have slowed down a little this week. The holidays take people out shopping or on vacation, and we have enjoyed a few nights at home this week. I can’t remember the last time that happened. We love everything we do and have wonderful friends and spend a lot of time out doing things, which I never regret. But, I also do not remember the solace and comfort of being home until I am doing it and it’s cold outside and we’re sitting on the couch drinking tea and eating cookies and not even remembering where our cell phones are. That is a good night.

This, in contrast to my days. I am starting to feel a little anxious. Only during the day when I am alone and usually when I am out to run an errand. I think it is becoming real that at any time, this baby could come and shake our worlds at any time, even when I am running to Target at lunch. I am excited to meet it, but I am also excited for it to bake a little more.

Right now it is safe. Feeding it is easy, I don’t have to know when it sleeps or when it wants to play, it sometimes makes me tired but I am sure it is not as tired as I will be later when it’s out and I am trying to get it to eat or sleep or stay awake or not cry. So when I am by myself, I start to think about the latter half, when it’s out, and I get a little anxious.

And when I get anxious I make lists of stuff.

What stuff? Any stuff. Things to do. Tasks to occupy my time with.

The best part of these tasks is that they are usually things that I have never done. When something stressful is going to happen or when something is coming that I know I don’t have control of, I try and give myself jobs that are a little risky, but I know I can master. I do it to build my self-confidence before whatever big event happens. To show myself that I am strong and I can conquer hard tasks. I also usually come up with these tasks close to the stressful event date, because I also like to show myself that I am good in a time crunch. Which I am.

Examples of past tasks are things like creating hand-made soap (this was two days before having six people come to stay at our house), or making personalized Christmas gifts for  20 people (three days before Christmas).

I am writing this blog post because I just put “make homemade marshmallows” on my list. I am confessing to you that I do not need to make homemade marshmallows, but I am going to do it. I don’t care if I have to get up at 5 a.m., it is worth it. I am going to prove to myself that I can be a little anxious about a baby and truly enjoy a quiet night at home but still conquer marshmallows. Alas, at least I am aware? Look forward to a post on marshmallows later.

This recipe is easy, it won’t make you crazy and you should make it. How is that for a segue?

Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Spinach, and Smoked Gouda

serves 6

12 ounces spaghetti

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 10 oz cans sliced mushrooms

1 small red onion, sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

kosher salt and black pepper

16 oz frozen spinach

8 oz smoked gouda (or other cheese that will melt well – mozzarella, brie, or monterrey jack would all work well)

8 oz meat, cooked and chopped (optional, I used leftover spiral sliced ham)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

In another pan, heat the oil over medium heat about a minute and then add the onion and mushrooms, cook about 5 minutes until onions are soft. Add the wine, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook about 5 more minutes

About a minute before the pasta is done, add the spinach to the pasta pot to thaw it.

When the spinach is thawed, run the pasta and spinach through a strainer and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Put the pasta and spinach back in the pot.

Toss the pasta with the cheese and reserved pasta water until the pasta is coated. Stir in the mushroom mixture and meat if you’re using it.

Bistros and Babies {recipe: fresh italian pizza}

15 Jan

Not my babies, just to clear that up. 

From mandolas pizza

We often frequent the Triangle in Austin. I was in college when the Triangle was built, and all I could think was what in the world are they going to fill this development with? It was a huge mixed use space, and I was adamant that no one would ever want to go there. 

You want to know what’s there? Awesome restaurants. Farmer’s Market. Coffee

You know who wants to go there ? Me. All the time.

See, we go to this little italian bistro called Mandola’s because they have this pizza. I would say I love  Mandola’s , and I have only had one item off of their menu. This goes completely against my instincts. I always love to try new things and I roll my eyes at the thought of going somewhere and ordering the same dish as last time. Why would you even do that? You already know what it is going to taste like!

That’s it. It’s like fancy bread with salad on top. Most nights I couldn’t think of a better meal. We’ve eaten that bistro pizza with friends, and family. We split a large one six ways the night that Amber-Rose and Adam told us that they were pregnant with Matea. I ate it with Erika when she was just pregnant with baby Knox, and didn’t even know it yet. Mandolas also has wonderful chocolate cake, carrot cake, italian cream cake…and more. At least I diversify my desserts?

Anyhow, the pizza is simple. It’s a nice, thinner crust baked with proscutto, provalone, and mozzarella cheese, then they pull it out of the oven and throw on top aurgula that as been tossed in lemon and olive oil and fresh salt. 

So, naturally, we had to make it at home. At Sam’s and Whole Foods, they sell a deliciuos flatbread that you have to eat fast (or pass on to your neighbors) because it won’t fit in your freezer, so I started with that. If you want to make your own dough, go for it, but if you’re hungry NOW, grab something prepared. I also used chicken instead of proscuitto.


From mandolas pizza

Fresh Italian Pizza

serves 2

1  pizza crust

3/4 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 t. oregano

2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded

10 cherry tomatoes

4 cups arugula or fresh spinach

3 T. olive oil

2 T. lemon juice

salt and pepper


Turn on the broiler. Saute chicken in a skillet with a pinch of salt and pepper, and the oregano until cooked through. Put chicken on crust and sprinkle with cheese. Broil 90 seconds 4 inches below the broiler coil.

Halve tomatoes. Toss greens with olive oil and lemon juice, scatter atop pizza when it comes out of the oven. Top with tomatoes and a sprinkle of salt.

From mandolas pizza

Original Post:

Roasted Garlic and Vegetable Pasta Sauce

10 Oct


From Hummus

My often officious behavior in the kitchen was everything but this morning, when I pulled out the food processor. I feel a sense of urgency when I get the food processor out. I frantically look through the pantry and think: What in the world should I make with this? I only get the FP out once in a while, because in order to the the impeccable processing job that it does, it uses many, many bowls and blades and requires a lot of cleaning. So, I used it to make peanut butter, hummus, and this roasted garlic and vegetable pasta sauce on its maiden voyage for October.

We built a garden last month, so I am begging my tomatoes to grow so that I can make this whole sauce from our backyard. I used to have a fancy roasted pasta sauce recipe from Ms. Stewart, but I gracefully winged it this time and it turned out even better. 

This is another recipe you can tinker with based on the available veggies that you have. It’s a great way to use up vegetables that may be on their last day – just make the sauce, let it cool, and freeze it for an easy dinner atop pasta noodles later!


From Hummus

Roasted Garlic and Vegetable Pasta Sauce

makes about 3 cups of sauce.


2 pounds of tomatoes, washed and quartered

2 squash (I used one zucchini, one yellow squash. You could also insert a few cups of cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms…anything really in this spot)

1 onion, cut into rings

8 cloves of garlic, separated but not peeled

2 T. olive oil

8-10 basil leaves

2 T. rosemary leaves


Preheat oven to 450.

Toss tomatoes, veggies, and onion in olive oil and spread on a foil-lined pan. Leave one corner of the pan empty and put the garlic cloves there.

Bake 25-35 minutes, or until tops of tomatoes start to brown. 

Remove from oven. Put the tomatoes, veggies and onion into a food processor and let the garlic cool until it is bearable to touch. The garlic is now roasted, so you will be able to easily pull off its skin and throw the roasted cloves into the food processor. 

Add basil and rosemary and process until desired consistency.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days, or in the freezer up to three months.

From Fresh Pasta Sauce

Easter Brunch: Crab Towers, Eggs Benedict, and a Butter Braid

27 Mar

Typically, at Easter, we head to the Resort in The Woodlands for a champagne brunch. The food is fantastic and there is always more to choose from than you can fit in your belly. This year, we visited the brunch at Christmas when my brother was home from college, so we opted to make brunch at home for Easter, sans brother. We had Eggs Benedict, dolled up with prosciutto and spinach, as well as these crab/avocado/mango towers.

Crab Tower and his friend, Egg Benedict


We also had this fantastic carb-loaf called a “Butter Braid.”


Twelve or so servings of flaky pastry wrapped around a gooey, sweet, frosting-like cinnamon frosting and topped with a vanilla glaze. Think glorified Toaster Strudel. Doesn’t get much better than that. The recipe for the Butter Braid involves finding your Butter Braid dealer. I would highly encourage it.

Back to the crab. The crab is excellent, the mint and cilantro highlight the dish with a fresh taste and the avocado provides a touch of creaminess next to the sweet mango. The whole dish is tied together with a mango sauce that is sweet with brown sugar with cayenne and paprika for a bite.

Crab Towers with Avocado and Mango Filling, and Mango Sauce

adapted from Simply Recipes.serves 5. Towers:1 lb of fresh lump crab meat, shells picked out

1 1/2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp cilantro leaves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons mint leaves, finely chopped

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 medium sized mango, diced

1 firm but ripe avocado, diced

Tabasco sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Mango Sauce:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 ripe mango, diced

1/4 cup of water

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/3 cup brown sugar,

1/4 t. cayenne

1/2 t. paprika

1 t. smoked salt or liquid smoke

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Tower Directions:

In a bowl add the crab meat, 2 tsp of cilantro, 1 tsp of mint, the garlic, a tbsp of lime juice, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 10 drops of Tabasco sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix carefully with a fork. Refrigerate.

In a separate bowl add the mango, avocado, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 Tbsp of lime juice, the remaining cilantro and mint leaves, 20 drops of Tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix carefully with a spoon, as not to smash the avocado.

Line 5 small ramekins or desert bowls with plastic wrap for individual towers. Press crab into the bottom third of the ramekin, then the avocado mixture into the middle third, and then more crab to fill the dish. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours or overnight.

Sauce directions:

Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the mango, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes until the fruit is very tender. Add water, bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in all other ingredients and let the sugar and spices dissolve for 3 minutes while stirring.


When you are ready to serve, turn the ramekins upside down on individual plates. Pull off the ramekins, leaving plastic wrap intact, then gently pull off the plastic wrap and drizzle with sauce. serve extra sauce on the side.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

9 Jan

Sunday, I resolved to post more on this blog. And then Sunday, the batteries in my camera died. I have a hard time posting when I am void of photos, probably because I can’t stand cookbooks or recipes without photos. If I don’t have an image of what I am striving for, how am I supposed to make it correctly? At Graphic Design conferences, the best thought leaders say that your best ideas come from someone else’s…nothing is completely new. Look at layouts or images, take different pieces that you like, and make something of your own. I like to see pictures of what I am going to make…am I too appearance driven? Don’t judge me 🙂

Recently, I have been on a made-totally-from-scratch kick. Hence, last week’s very involved frosting. I got into a long conversation with some ladies last night in which AR told us about her homemade yogurt, which sounds fantastic and may be a project later this week, and Mimi shared stories of growing up in Ethiopia, days full of family and fellowship – making cottage cheese from scratch and using natural herbs and plants to soothe ailments. Inspiring, really.

Sunday we met some fantastic folks at church. They moved down here from Dallas in the last few weeks, and we had the pleasure of having them over for dinner. In light of the made-totally-from-scratch kick, I arrived at home an hour before our guests were to arrive with pounds of tomatoes, carrots, and beef. Begin italian frenzy.


I made a fresh Roasted Vegetable pasta sauce that takes a little time, but it is a foolproof, add-whatever-you-have-in-the-fridge recipe. It freezes well too, so use up your veggies that are on their last day, before they go bad.


Roasted Vegetable Pasta Sauce

serves 8.

3 lb vine ripe tomatoes (use roma, or greenhouse, or whatever you can get your hands on)

1 onion

2 carrots

2 T. rosemary

1 T. thyme

3 T. olive oil

1 head of garlic.

any other veggies you have (increase olive oil 1 T for each extra lb of veggies)

Preheat oven to 450

Line 2 baking sheets with foil

Separate cloves out of the head of garlic, but do not remove outmost skin of clove. Place in oven-safe dish.

Slice carrots into1/2 inch pieces, roughly chop onion, and cut tomatoes in half. Toss veggies in herbs and olive oil. Place veggies on baking sheets, tomatoes should be cut-side down. Roast in oven for 40 minutes.

Also place garlic in the oven and roast 40 minutes.

Remove vegetables from oven, and with tongs, remove skins from tomatoes (this is not imperative, but it will give you a smoother sauce.

Pull outer skin off of garlic cloves to reveal a soft, roasted garlic clove. (Roasting the garlic removes its bite. You can eat a whole roasted garlic clove without being in danger of warding off all house guests. This roasted garlic is also great smashed on a baguette slice, or atop a chic salad.)

Now, for the variations.

For a chunky, lighter pasta sauce: remove vegetables and garlic from baking sheet and dish and place in bowl. Beat with electric mixer until homogeneous.

For a chunky, thicker pasta sauce: remove vegetables and garlic from baking sheet and dish and place in bowl. Beat with electric mixer until homogeneous. Pour mixture into a strainer over the sink to rid the sauce of excess liquid.

For a smooth, lighter pasta sauce: remove vegetables and garlic from baking sheet and dish and place in blender or food processor. Process until smooth.

For a smooth, thicker pasta sauce: remove vegetables and garlic from baking sheet and dish and place in blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Pour mixture into a strainer over the sink to rid the sauce of excess liquid.

Freeze extra sauce in airtight containers.


serves 8.

2 lb lean ground beef

2 T. oregano

1 c. italian breadbrumbs

2 eggs, lightly beaten

4 T. olive oil

Combine all ingredients sans olive oil and and form into small balls, 1.5 inches in diameter. Place half of meatballs in nonstick skillet over medium heat, drizzle with 2 T. olive oil and rotate until cooked all the way through. Repeat with second half of meatballs.

Combine with 16 oz.Whole Wheat Linguini, cooked.

Mojitos and Tamale Cornbread Casserole

22 May

Some of our friends have a garden in their backyard (this is very impressive as we know few people with houses and even less with gardens) and are growing some herbs and veggies for the summer season. This weekend, I benefited from the mint plant in their backyard. Amanda came over this weekend to lay out by the pool with me (our perk for living in an apartment complex) with the mint, some mango rum, and club soda…and Saturday afternoon Mojitos were born.


I didn’t even think I liked rum (maybe because we’ve always bought the cheap stuff) but Amanda brought some Mango rum from St. Croix that was very, very good. So good, in fact, that we made them again tonight! Note to Amanda: according to how the grocery store values Mint…you have at least $100 of it if your garden

Mango Mojitos

serves 2.

16 mint leaves

4 T. sugar

1 lime

16 oz club soda

3 oz. Cruzian Mango Rum

Chop mint leaves and divide between two glasses.

Put 2 T. sugar in each glass. If you have a muddler –now is your chance to show it off, if not–a wooden spoon works just fine: crush the mint and sugar together in the bottom of the glass, you are trying to release the mint flavors from the leaves and mix them with the sugar.

Cut lime in half, squeeze each half into a glass and drop the lime into the glass.

Fill glass 3/4 full with ice (this will keep all og the mint from immediately floating.

Add 8oz club soda and 1.5oz rum to each glass.

Stir. Insert straw. Enjoy.

(To complement the mojitos) we had this Tamale cornbread casserole.


This casserole really does not resemble tamales at all, but it is very good, easy, healthy and quite cheap-all things we like. I am not crazy about corn tortillas, but this recipe gets the corn feature of tamales into the dish with cornbread, which I love. The sweet flavour of the cornbread complements the spicy chile powder and the bite of the green chiles. I used pepper jack cheese in the recipe for an extra kick, but you could use cheddar for a sharper taste, or american for a more mild taste.

Tamale Cornbread Casserole

adapted from Hands-Off Cooking: Low-Supervision, High-Flavor Meals for Busy People, Ann Martin Rolke

serves 4.

3/4 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons chile powder (more or less to taste)

2 teaspoons cumin (more or less to taste)

1 (28 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained (Muir Glen makes the best ones around, but I can’t always find them at all grocery stores. Down south, HEB and Randall’s usually have them)

1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained,

1 (16 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 (2.25 ounce) can sliced ripe olives

3/4 cup grated pepper jack cheese (about 3 ounces)

1-pound of Jiffy cornbread mix prepared with 1/3 c. milk and 1 egg as directed.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat ground beef in a large skillet on medium high. Add the onion and bell pepper. Add salt, chile powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef has browned. Remove from heat. Drain excess fat if necessary (if you are using lean beef, there shouldn’t be excess).

Mix in fire-roasted tomatoes, chiles, corn and olives


Grease an 8×8 pan and spoon in filling.

Top with shredded cheese.

Spread prepared cornbread as top layer over cheese.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is browned.