Friday, June 29, 2012

Favorite Things #25 - Monsoon Season

During the middle of June until about the end of July in Arizona we experience something called "Monsoon Season". When I first moved here from PA I had never even heard of this. When I experienced my first dust storm I was amazed at how different the weather can be in the desert. Imagine a GIANT wall of dust heading your way, it is quite amazing.

Here is a photo I found of a big storm we got last summer.

Most of them are not that enormous and crazy, but just before they arrive we get the most gorgeous light and colors in our skies.

This was not edited, just taken with the 'vivid' color mode on my camera. So pretty.

I have been in AZ 16 years and I am still amazed at how beautiful it is.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Best Thing I Ever Ate - Street Food

If you have seen the movie Pulp Fiction then you know that people in Holland love to drown their fries in mayonaise. I have been eating fries this way since I was a little kid so I was so excited to try this when I got to Amsterdam. There are a bunch of little places that stay open late selling 'chips' with various toppings. I went with the classic Chips with Mayo and I loved every bite! Tom and I would often end our day sharing one of these and I still crave them.

'Chips' with Mayo

Have you tried fries with mayo?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Vegetarian Greek Sandwich

I have been absent this week because I have been crazy busy at work, which thankfully does not happen often. I am hoping to get back to my normal schedule this coming week, I have missed visiting all of your blogs!

As it is most definitely Summer here in AZ our eating habits change because at dinner time it is usually about 105 outside and standing over a hot stove does not sound fun. Instead of a full recipe post I am going to share one of our favorite Summer sandwiches. Yes, I said 'our' because Tom will actually eat this.

Greek sandwich

This is a 'Greek Sandwich' and could not be easier. Take some feta and mash it up with a little olive oil and spread it on some toasted sourdough. On the other slice of bread spread some hummus. Pile on some cucumber, tomato, black olive, onion and whatever other veggies you'd like and you are ready to eat. Some other veggie suggestions I would make would be artichokes, pickled hot peppers and roasted red peppers.

I hope you are all enjoying the first few days of Summer and I can't wait to get back to visiting all of your blogs.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pasta E Fagioli

My awesome sister got me the America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two cookbook and I must say, it is amazing. The soup I made from it is also amazing. Pasta E Fagioli is one of my favorites and to be honest I have the Olive Garden to thank for my discovery of it.


This recipe is simple, so lets gather some ingredients and get started.

You will need some bacon, canned tomato, white beans, celery, onion or shallot, garlic, small pasta, chicken stock, oregano, and some crushed red pepper.

Chop up your bacon.

Chop up your celery, I did mine the night before because when I get home from work I am usually really hungry.

Chop your onion.

everything ready to go
Measure out your beans, pasta, stock and have everything ready to go, that is the key to stress free cooking. Have a plan and be prepared, just like those boy scouts.

bacon gets company
Cook the bacon for about 5 minutes or until it begins to brown, then throw in the celery and onion.

veggies and bacon, yum
Let those cook for about 7 minutes then add the oregano, garlic and red pepper flake. Stir that around for about 30 seconds.

beans in
Stir in the tomatoes and the beans and scrape the bottom of the pan to be sure there is no lingering bacony goodness on the bottom.

veggies cooked
Bring that to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

pasta in
Add in the chicken stock and pasta with some salt and fire the heat back up and let this boil away until the pasta is cooked to your liking, probably about 10-15 minutes. That is it, talk about a quick and delicious dinner.

Pasta e fagioli
I love that this made two servings because I was more than happy to have some the next day, I just had to add a bit more chicken stock when I reheated it. I definitely recommend this soup and the great cookbook the recipe came from.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Best Thing I Ever Ate - Cupcakes

My husband and I got married a few years ago in the courthouse with a small reception at our house after for just immediate family. It was exactly everything I wanted, including the food. For our 'cake' we had a cupcake tower filled with Sprinkle's Cupcakes.


Instead of feeding each other, we fed our dogs the dog cupcakes from Sprinkles.

Dog Cupcakes

Tom feeding Joey cake

That is our dog Joey who we lost this time last year, he was the most amazing little character. Oh and yes, my husband did wear a Don Mattingly jersey at our wedding. I wore a plain shirt and jeans. We are about the most laid back people you will ever meet, obviously :)

If you ever have the chance to try Sprinkles cupcakes, I recommend them!

What is the best cupcake you have ever had?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tortilla Black Bean Casserole

I love quick and easy casseroles, I grew up eating them. This one is made up of stuff you probably already have on hand. The recipe comes from my Betty Crocker cookbook.



You don't need much for this one, so preheat your oven and lets get some ingredients. You need cheese, corn tortillas, salsa, garlic, onion, black beans, diced tomato, cumin, and a green pepper. I cut this recipe in half because Tom does not like beans.

Chop up your pepper.

Chop up your onion.

ingredients in!
Now it is time to cook. In a large pan combine the pepper, onion, tomato, salsa, cumin and garlic. Bring this to boiling then reduce the heat to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Look at all the pretty colors!

beans in
Stir in the beans.

bean sauce
Spread 1/3 of the mixture into a baking dish.

Put in a layer of tortillas and add some cheese. You really want to use corn tortillas because flour tortillas tend to get gummy when baked in a casserole like this.

ready to bake
Put in some more of the bean mixture, another layer of tortillas then top with the remaining bean mix.

Tortilla Black Bean Casserole
Bake it for about a half an hour and then sprinkle on some cheese and let it stand for a few minutes until the cheese melts. Or if you are like me and have no patience, put it back in the oven for a few minutes.

Tortilla Black Bean Casserole
I topped it with a little bit of sour cream and was ready to eat. You can add some lettuce, tomato or olive on the top also for some crunch.

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Favorite Things #24 - My New Canon Camera

I love taking photos, but the SLR camera world intimidates me, so I love the ease of point and shoot. I have had the same Canon point and shoot camera for about 5 years and I was starting to get frustrated with the response times and I was seriously just wanting a new one since we will be going to Europe in the fall.

So my awesome husband, with the help of my Amazon wish list, got me a Canon PowerShot SX40 HS with 35x zoom. This thing is so much fun to use! I am going to a Dbacks baseball game this weekend and I can't wait to see how close this zoom can get. For now I am having a blast taking photos of my dogs and just every day stuff.

Here are some photos I have taken just experimenting with some of the settings and features.

fish eye dbacks
Fish eye!

what did you eat dude, your breath smells!
One of the quick motion settings

Tom at the Biltmore
Finally just a picture of my awesome husband at the Biltmore this past weekend for our anniversary.

Do you use an SLR or Point and Shoot camera?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Best Thing I Ever Ate - Appetizer

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to go to Michael Symon's restaurant Lola in Cleveland, Ohio. I went with my sister, my niece and my aunt and we had such a wonderful time. The one thing I had been looking forward to from the moment I knew we were going was the Beef Cheek Pierogies. As you know from a previous post, I love pierogies. You may also remember I love beef cheek, so this is the most amazing combination of both. The sauce is a horseradish cream sauce, which is another of my favorite flavors. It was like he made this dish just for me!

Beef Cheek Pierogies at Lola
If you find yourself in Cleveland I cannot recommend Lola enough, you really must go!

What is the best appetizer you ever ate?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cabbage and Leek Gratin

First of all, thank you all for the birthday wishes, I really had a fabulous day and you guys made the next day just as great :)

One of the blogs I really enjoy reading because the writing is as good as the recipes is Eats Well With Others. The blog writer, Joanne, often writes for Marcus Samuelsson's blog and that is where you can find this Cabbage and Leek Gratin recipe.

Preheat your oven to 350, get some salted water boiling on the stove, and lets grab some ingredients. You need some yogurt, flour, parsley, milk, vinegar, leeks, onion, egg, gouda cheese, mustard and of course, cabbage! I cut this recipe in half because cooked cabbage is not on the approved by Tom list.

Shred up your cabbage.

Clean and chop your leeks. I found that Trader Joes has pre cut and cleaned leeks in their frozen section now, genius idea!

egg mixture
Mix together the flour, egg, milk, yogurt and parsley.

Get the cabbage and leek into the boiling water. Let it boil for five minutes.

While that boils, grate up the gouda. yum.

squeeze out the water
When the cabbage and leeks are done, drain them and press with a spoon to get all of the excess water out.

liquid in
Drop it in a bowl and stir in the flour and liquid mixture.

that is some gouda cheese
Stir in the delicious cheese.

ready to bake
Pour it into a greased baking dish and pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes. This makes the perfect side dish because it comes together quickly and then you can work on the other parts of your meal.

To make the sauce finely chop some onion or shallot.

making the sauce
You are supposed to soak the onion in the vinegar but I totally forgot to do that and just dumped the other ingredients in the bowl. It still turned out just fine.

Mustard Cream Sauce
Delicious. I will be making this sauce again as a pretzel dip soon as well!

Perfectly cooked
After 45 minutes get that gratin out of the oven, doesn't it look great?

Cabbage and Leek Gratin with Creamy Mustard Sauce
Pour a little of the sauce over the top and you have a delicious side dish that would go great with chicken or fish. The sauce provides the perfect balance of brightness to the richness of the leek and cabbage mixture. I will be making this again! Thanks to Joanne for the awesome recipe.