Five Delicious Flavors For Summer

It is widely known that I am a stress-cooker. Not a stress-eater per se, but a stress-cooker. It is highly relaxing for me to turn up music in the kitchen and just create.

Our custody schedule switches to week on/week off in the summer, so it seems that every summer I struggle terribly the first week or two that the kids are away.  Add to that the fact that we were without my stepkids for two weeks straight too and you can understand why I have been cooking like a mad woman!  For some reason, this summer has been harder on me than normal. I have struggled emotionally with schedule changes that have kept me away from my children much more than normal.

The kids are getting to an age where they want to do fun things with friends and go to camps, but if those fun things are to take place, then I have to give up my custodial time for them to happen. I hate to give up my time, but I want them to be able to have summers they will always remember while doing fun things with their friends.

So I have been cooking… a lot.

I wanted to share five of my favorite recipes that are perfect for summer. We keep these in the fridge all summer long and they provide many meals for our family. The two things that almost made the cut were pimento cheese (if you have never tried it, please make the Magnolia’s Pimento Cheese… trust me) and chicken salad (I don’t use a recipe, but my family adores it!).

IMG_15801) Barefoot Contessa’s Orzo with Roasted Vegetables – This is summery and light. I made it this past time with fat free feta cheese and it tasted just as good. The pine nuts and basil make the dish! If you do Weight Watchers, then each serving is probably about 4 points per half a cup. It’s great with a grilled chicken caesar wrap or a turkey sandwich.


2) Blackbean & Corn Salad with Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette – O.M.G. There are no words to describe this.  I saw the recipe on Pinterest and thought it was worth a try.  I had no idea how I would crave this… It is THAT good.  The only thing I do that is not described in the instructions is I scraped the seeds out of the chipotle peppers first because I didn’t want the heat to be too intense for our kids. It is perfect!

3) Sassy Salsa – This is a recipe I got out of the Raleigh Junior League cookbook years ago and I use it religiously. It’s better than any salsa you can buy in the grocery store and is great on southwestern salads, blended with ranch for a tasty dressing, or as an added flavor for your scrambled eggs. It’s a simple recipe and the only thing I do differently is I use the entire small can of V-8 because I like the salsa to be more red than pink!

IMG_15794) Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad – I have shared this recipe numerous times before, but it is one of our absolute favorites!  My children would eat this every meal if I would let them. Sure there is a lot of oil and cheese, but at least it’s olive oil! I try to stay positive. I keep this in the refrigerator as often as possible because it makes an easy and quick dinner or a simple after-school snack. I have been making this recipe for so many years that I am not even sure where it originated.

5) Frozen Peach Pie – I am not sure where this recipe originally came from either but it is HEAVENLY. I remember my mom making it when I was in high school so I asked her for her recipe and made it a few weeks ago. PERFECTION. It’s perfect to make a few when it’s peach season and then whenever someone you know has a death in the family or a new baby or something, you can pull one out and WOW them!! Thoughtful and yummy.

I hope you all enjoy my favorite summer recipes. I would love to hear what your favorites are for the summer!


Grilled Chicken Pasta

This is probably our most favorite “go-to” recipe.  I can make this and store it in the refrigerator for days.  I love to take it to lunch and my daughter will even take it to school in her lunchbox.  Sadly, we are on a no-dairy trial with my daughter right now, so I wouldn’t dream of torturing her by making this.   So rather than MAKE IT, I will SHARE IT!!!


Our Favorite Chicken Pasta!!!!!!!

Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad

Marinade: 1/2 c. Olive Oil; 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped; 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce; 2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce

Combine all marinade ingredients in a glass dish.  Dip 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in marinade and turn to coat; sprinkle with black pepper.  Marinate at least an hour.   Grill chicken and cut into bite-size pieces.

Cook 1 lb. of rotini and drain.


Add 2 cups of Parmesan Cheese and 1 cup of Olive Oil.


Add 1 1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half.


Add chicken breast and as much chopped basil as you like.  I personally like to add a big handful!

One of my favorite things...

One of my favorite things…

This tastes even better if refrigerated for the day or overnight.  Joe likes to heat it up a little, but I like it cold.

Finished Product!!!!

Finished Product!!!!

Also, if you don’t have time for grilling chicken, we have found that a cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store will do in a pinch (and we do it this way A LOT).


Variation – Chopped rotisserie chicken instead of grilled chicken breast

You can play around with the recipe since I know some people may prefer less olive oil and some may even like to add a small can of black olives.

I hope you enjoy this as much as my party of six does!!!


I Have Gone Quite Quiche Crazy…

Although I think I am a good mom, I have learned over the past couple of weeks that I am not a good “crisis mom.”  I always think of myself as being so strong and confident.  Even my son said to me once when I was wishing Joe would get home because I had a lot on my plate that afternoon, “Mom, you can do ANYTHING… I mean, you were a single mom for EVER.”

That’s true!  I AM strong.  I AM tough.  I can do ANYTHING!

But apparently I CRUMBLE under pressure.  Yes, crumble into a stuttering shell of a human being who just withdraws into myself and loses focus on anything and everything else.

So what do I turn to as a means to relieve my anxiety?  Meds? Booze? Therapy?  No. No. No.


Tasty Thursday came at the perfect time, because I can’t stop thinking about what I want to cook.  When I am in the kitchen with the music turned up, I forget about all of my current external pressures. My worries go down the drain…

Something I have been craving a lot lately is quiche.  I have gone quite quiche crazy.  This is the best quiche out there (because I combined like four of the best recipes I could find to come up with this one).  The kids even loved it.  The recipe makes 2 – 9 inch pie plates.

photo 5

Val’s Crazy Quiche

Pillsbury pie crust or 2 frozen pie crusts

1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 Tbsp. butter
½ c. chopped onion
6 oz. ham, finely diced
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tsp. fresh thyme
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 c. chopped fresh baby spinach, packed
2 bags of shredded gruyere/swiss blend (or just swiss if that’s all you have)

Egg mixture:
2 c. heavy cream
9 eggs
1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
1 c. cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

I bought the Pillsbury roll out pie crust and put one pie crust in each pie plate.  I shaped them and put them to the side.

Melt 2 Tbsp. of butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and stir until onions are softened and beginning to carmelize.  Add the ham, mushrooms, thyme and garlic to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until most of the moisture has cooked out, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool 10 minutes before putting in pie crust.

In one pie crust, pack the spinach on the bottom.  Top the spinach with a cup of cheese.  Finally, sprinkle the bacon on top.

Filling for Bacon Spinach Quiche

Filling for Bacon Spinach Quiche

In the other pie crust, just pour the mushroom/ham mixture into pie plate and spread evenly on bottom.  Sprinkle ½ c. of the cheese blend on top.

Filling for Mushroom and Ham Quiche

Filling for Mushroom and Ham Quiche

Next, put heavy cream, eggs, nutmeg and ½ c. cheese blend in food processor and blend well.  Divide the egg mix between the two pie crusts.

This is what it should look like before you cover it in aluminum foil.

This is what it should look like before you cover it in aluminum foil.

Sprinkle another ½ c. cheese blend on top of the mushroom mixture pie.  I truly believe you can never have too much cheese or too much bacon… ever.

Now that's a lot of cheese!

Now that’s a lot of cheese!

I have found that you need to cover the quiches with aluminum foil for the first half of the cooking so they don’t burn.  I cook them about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven, but you may have to toy around with the time and the heat of your oven.   If you pull the quiche out and it is still a little runny but looks brown enough, then recover with the aluminum foil and stick back in for a little while.

These quiches are heavenly and are absolutely perfect for a fall Saturday afternoon in the South.

Pour a screwdriver into your Ol’ Red Fancy Rednecks wine glass, take the big screen in the yard, light a fire in the fire pit and invite your friends over to watch some college football and eat some quiche.  Sounds like a perfect day to me!!!!


Wait, what was I worried about again?

Val’s Chipotle Pasta with Crab Cakes – Tasty Thursday

As you have probably surmised through my posts, I am a stress cooker.  Some people like to eat or drink or smoke…I cook.

Yeah, I COOK.


And not necessarily for myself.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much time I spent in the kitchen when I was in law school as a single mom at 35.  There is no better therapy to me than turning up the music and cooking.

And I absolutely adore seafood.  I cannot even begin to imagine what life would be like without shellfish.  It makes my heart hurt to think about it.  I think it would be like being allergic to bacon… DISASTROUS.

Some of God's little gifts for my belly.

Some of God’s little gifts for my belly.

So the other day I decided I wanted to try to recreate one of my favorite dishes from a great restaurant in Atlantic Beach, NC.  I knew in my head what I wanted to make, but I wasn’t sure where to start.

I found one of Paula Deen’s recipes for crab cakes, so I decided to start there.  I love to make crab cakes, but I have never actually used a recipe.  It usually has just involved stale hamburger buns and some crab meat because I make them at the river and stale hamburger buns are always around for some reason.

Crab cakes before mixing

Crab cakes before mixing

This recipe uses Ritz crackers instead of bread crumbs.  Definitely worth making.  I used a red pepper rather than a green pepper in mine.  I read a lot of the reviews and saw that a lot of people complained about the crab cakes being too runny.  I followed the advice of some who said not to add more crackers.  Instead I shaped the crab cakes and put them in the fridge to congeal a little before frying them.  They came out beautifully and I would not change a thing.

Frying them up in peanut oil.

Frying them up in peanut oil.

Now for the fun part of the dinner… I made pasta with a chipotle cream sauce.  And it turned out absolutely PERFECT.

How perfect?  Joe actually ate a little and said, “THIS is why we never need to go out to dinner again.”  Yes, it is expensive because of the crab meat, but well worth the money and I ate the crab cakes for DAYS.  So here it is…

Val’s Chipotle Pasta with Crab Cakes

Pasta – Cook a box of Penne Pasta until al dente and drain.

Veggies for Pasta – Chop up half a red onion and half a red pepper.  Cut the corn off of two ears of corn.

Heat about a Tbsp of oil (I used about 2 Tbsp of bacon grease I had leftover from breakfast instead – YUM) in a pan and saute veggies until tender and set aside.

Prepared veggies for the pasta

Prepared veggies for the pasta

I cooked the spinach WITH the veggies and think they wilted too much... I will do it differently next time.

I cooked the spinach WITH the veggies and think they wilted too much… I will do it differently next time.

Sauce for Pasta – Heat three Tbsp of butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Saute two small minced shallots in butter.  Take a can of chipotle peppers and seed & chop 5 chipotle peppers.  Add peppers, 1 Tbsp of the chipotle adobo sauce, 1/2 a glass of dry white wine, and 2 cups of half and half.  Let simmer and stir constantly until it thickens.

When sauce has thickened, add veggies and continue to stir.  Add a container of uncooked spinach (I think my container was 4 oz) and stir until spinach has wilted to your liking.  Add pasta and a handful of chopped cilantro.



Serve with crab cakes for an AMAZING DINNER!!!!  I have to say that I outdid myself on this one.  I can’t wait to have a dinner party soon so I can serve this to my friends!

Feeling Loved… Oh, and Here’s a Recipe.

Have I mentioned today just how much I love my husband?  My birthday was earlier this week and he gave me a new MacBook Pro to help facilitate my writing.


I can’t tell you the joy I feel right this moment since I am sitting on my sun porch with my Snuggie around me (yes, I am a big girl and can admit that I am wearing a Snuggie!!!) with an Oceanside scented candle my sweet friend Leslie gave me and a glass of wine… typing this on my new laptop which is sitting atop my new cushioned lap board which my wonderful sister-in-law Renee gave me.

Do you see the trend?  I have encouragement from all of those around me who know that writing is my passion.  Joe even just turned off the television to come out on the porch and sit with me as I write.  The man is my rock.

Enough of the mushy talk.

Today in our office we held a luncheon to honor one of our attorneys who is leaving to go into private practice.  As with every luncheon we have, a sign up sheet is posted in the break room so that everyone can coordinate what they are bringing.  I am usually on the ball, with my dish on the sheet as soon as the pin is pushed through the paper to hold it to the bulletin board!  Not this time.

After I got home from work last night I was still at a loss as to what I should make.  After searching the pantry and the refrigerator and looking through all of my favorite cookbooks, I decided to make a wild rice chicken salad recipe that my mother gave me years ago that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville, NC always makes to put in the box lunches for the Christmas Homes Tour.  Of course, Crawford and I had to run to the grocery store to get all of the items, but thankfully the recipe is very simple and easy to make so I was not up all night slaving away in the kitchen.


The salad was a tremendous hit!! I always decide on the success of a dish by the amount of people who request the recipe… and there were a lot.  Even my daughter tasted it before school and asked me to put some aside for her to eat as her after school snack! YES, it is THAT good.

So here it is!!!  Enjoy on this Tasty Thursday!


This is so easy and amazing… Just cook the box of wild rice by following the directions on the box and let the rice cool.  Add diced chicken to it (and admittedly, last night I used a large can of chicken breast in mine because I didn’t feel like taking the time to cook… people still LOVED IT!) and the water chestnuts.

In another bowl, mix the mayo, lemon juice and onion.  Then add the two together!!!!

Right before serving, add the grapes and nuts.

HEAVENLY!!!!  ALMOST as heavenly as the sandwich I had with my handsome husband and my sweet bonus babies the other day at a new restaurant in downtown Raleigh, Pogo.  I had the Hammy Sammy which is seared ham, collard greens with bacon and hoop cheese on a cornbread sandwich.  Yes, I’m serious.

It’s hard for me to even type that because it was SO AMAZING.  I can’t wait to go back… and it was only $7.50 with a side of sweet potato fries.



You Ask… I Deliver.

I am not one of those people who hoards recipes and shares with no one.  Not my thing.  If someone likes something I make, then I gladly share the recipe.  Hell, I’ve been known to share my entire personal cookbook when asked!

I posted on Facebook yesterday that I was spending the afternoon making my famous Brunswick Stew.  I had several friends request my tried and true recipe.  Then I took some to our monthly supper club last night and got more requests for my recipe… SO HERE IT GOES!  I can’t take total credit for this recipe because I did use a recipe the first time I made this, but it has changed so much over the years that it is completely mine now.



Very involved, but worth the time!

I personally like to start with two very important ingredients that you will not find on the recipe…  I pour myself a glass of wine and turn on my Bose speaker.  You just can’t possibly cook for five hours straight without these two ingredients.  A sous chef would help too to chop everything up, but if I can do it, then you can do it!


1) Pour chicken stock into a Dutch oven.  Then, using a mesh strainer, pour canned lima beans and liquid through strainer into chicken stock.  Reserve the beans.  Process canned tomatoes and pour into Dutch Oven.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook (stirring often) for 40 minutes or until liquid is reduced by 1/3.

photo 1

2) Mash reserved beans with a potato masher.

photo 2

3) Add frozen beans…

photo 2

4) Dice potatoes and onions and add to lima beans.

photo 1

5)  I make my own barbecue the night before I make Brunswick Stew… everytime.  I like to add BBQ and I tried some stuff I bought at the grocery store once and it ruined my stew.  So I just take about a three pound pork tenderloin and put it in the crock pot with about half a bottle of Harris Teeter brand Eastern NC BBQ sauce (vinegar based).  Cook until you can shred up.

photo 3

I choose to get my chicken from a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store because it’s much easier than cooking my own.

Add shredded chicken, BBQ, mashed & frozen beans, potatoes and onion to the Dutch Oven.  Cook over low heat, stirring often, for 3 hours and 30 minutes.

photo 2(1)

6) Stir in corn and remaining ingredients.


7) Cook over low heat, stirring often, for an additional hour.

This is truly a crowd-pleaser!!!  Every time I make it people go crazy over it and thankfully it makes so much that you can easily divide it in plastic bags and freeze to pull out some other time.  It’s an easy recipe, but it is time consuming because you have to be nearby the entire time.  It can be ruined quickly if allowed to stick, so I like to stir it every five minutes throughout the entire five hour process.

photo(3)Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!!!!



It Tastes Like a Cinnamon Roll Casserole…

I love a birthday!!! My friends know that I have never just celebrated my birthDAY… but I celebrate my birthWEEK and my birthMONTH.  September is the MONTH OF VAL... I don’t just do this for myself, but I also like to celebrate birthdays (and even half-birthdays) of those I love.

One of my favorite things to do is to have a fun breakfast celebration on the morning of the birthday.  My kids still joke about the time I learned that you shouldn’t stick birthday candles in hot pancakes or you will have to pick wax all out of your pancakes!


I have always had an affinity for cheese danishes.  You know, the delicate little pastries that you find most often at breakfast buffets in hotels?  They don’t need to be a fancy variety – no strawberries or chocolate – just a plain cheese danish.


I crave them at times and my co-workers laugh at me.  I mean, we have a BAKERY in the bottom of our office building and they don’t have cheese danishes?!?!?  SO NOT COOL.

This obsession with cheese danishes goes way back for me.  I will never forget the one AWFUL time that I decided to buy a cheese danish wrapped nicely in plastic from a gas station on my drive back from Athens, Georgia.  I was 17 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday.  I bit into the danish and the cheese actually crumbled like powdered cheese in my mouth.  I almost threw up in my car.

Thankfully, I have grown past that moment and appreciate more than ever a truly YUMMY cheese danish.

For Crawford’s birthday celebration last year I decided to try another Pinterest recipe.  I admittedly had selfish motives because it sounded so heavenly that I couldn’t wait to try it.  It was a wild success with the kids at the sleepover and it was a wild success in my office when I made one and took it to work.

The girls at the sleepover said it tasted like a cinnamon roll in a casserole dish.  I think that’s a pretty fabulous description.  Add a little fruit on the side and some bacon and you have a great (and easy) breakfast to try this weekend!



Sopapilla Cheesecake

-2 cans pillsbury butter crescent rolls
-2 (8oz) packages cream cheese (softened)
-1 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1/4 cup butter (melted)
-Cinnamon & sugar

Unroll and spread 1 can crescent rolls on bottom of un-greased pan. Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Spread mixture over crescent rolls. Unroll and spread remaining crescent rolls over mixture. Spread melted butter over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

8 Lbs. Later………..

As promised last week, I want to devote Thursdays to ANYTHING FOOD!!!  I am finding that food is something that occupies much more of my time now (with four kids and a husband) than it did with just two kids and me.  The kids alone go through a half gallon of milk PER DAY!  Not to mention the amount of lunch foods and snacks we have to have on hand to keep the masses satisfied.

I love a schedule.  So now I am trying to plan our menu for the week by what we can get at Costco and then try to spread the food out so that it makes more than one meal.  For example, a copy of this week’s dinner schedule is below:

I'm pretty sure I gained at least 8 lbs this week... YUM-O

I’m pretty sure I gained at least 8 lbs this week… YUM-O

What my goal was this week was to make all of our meals out of one whole chicken and two pounds of ground beef.  It worked out perfectly and kept this week at a relatively gentle punch to the pocketbook.

This is tough for me because I am sharing a lot of my favorite top secret recipes here… so ENJOY!

Sunday Night: Roasted Chicken, Upside Down Baked Potatoes and Wedge Salad

I LOVE the Pioneer Woman.  A while back (I even start talking like her when I think about her) I watched her roast a chicken on her show and couldn’t wait to try it.  That time finally came on Sunday!  It is a fairly simple recipe and it was very good (how could anything with that much butter NOT be good).

Photo credit: The Pioneer Woman

Photo credit: The Pioneer Woman

I highly recommend it because the flavor was heavenly and although I usually don’t eat chicken skin, the skin was crisp and yummy.  Save the chicken carcass and any stock that remains in the pan.

Another fav of mine is Pinterest.  Although it seems a lot of the recipes on Pinterest I have tried have not met my high expectations of the food I cook, I decided to try the Parmesan Upside Down Baked Potatoes.  Holy Cow.  Yes, the potatoes are essentially fried in parmesan and butter.

How could this be bad???

How could this be bad???

This will definitely go down as a recipe we will make again because it was simple and everyone enjoyed it.  My daughter, who is a bacon aficionado like the rest of our family, said it could only be made better if bacon was sprinkled at the bottom of the baking dish too.


Finally, we had a wedge salad with crumbled bacon, blue cheese and tomatoes.  I used my homemade blue cheese dressing, which is actually the recipe of my ex-husband’s grandmother from whom I have gotten many share-worthy recipes.  This blue cheese dressing is a mix of ranch and blue cheese and is good on anything!


Monday Night: Chicken & Pastry, Fruit

Chicken & Pastry is the perfect thing to have the night after doing the roasted chicken because no matter what anyone tells you, the secret to the best Chicken & Pastry is flavorful chicken broth.  My favorite way to do it is to make the broth the night before when roasting the chicken and put it in the fridge.  That way you can take it out the next night and scoop out the fat that forms on top.

So many people spend so much money buying chicken broth, but I like to throw the carcass of the roasted chicken in a pot and add some or all of the following: onions, carrots, fresh parsley, fresh thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper.  Pour a whole lot of water in and bring to a boil.  Once that simmers for about 4 hours, you have an amazingly flavorful chicken broth.

A recent chicken broth creation session

A recent chicken broth creation session

Once you have that ready, you can strain it and make your chicken & pastry.

We are partial to the Anne’s Dumplings because they are just like Gran used to make, but without the flour and rolling pin and MESS!  Plus, they are out of Ayden, NC… and since Heritage Plank Floors is also in Ayden, my logical assumption is that EVERYTHING that comes out of Ayden, NC is good.

And there are always leftovers for days and days!

And there are always leftovers for days and days!

Just follow the instructions on the package and you have an amazing pot of Chicken & Pastry!!  We cut up fresh fruit as a refreshing side.

Tuesday Night: Meatloaf, Mac & Cheese, Green Bean Casserole

This may be my favorite menu EVER.  I have never been a fan of meatloaf, but I sure do love this meatloaf.  And the mac and cheese Joe makes is to DIE FOR and makes a TON.  And I can say with 100% certainty that you won’t find a green bean casserole better than this one!

I found this meatloaf recipe from an ANCIENT cookbook that belonged to my grandmother before she died.  The meatloaf has a great flavor, but the sauce is exceptionally tasty.

Keep reapplying juices and sauce throughout the cooking... AMAZING

Keep reapplying juices and sauce throughout the cooking… AMAZING

The recipe calls for 1 ½ lbs of beef, but there were only four of us eating on Tuesday so we made it with 1 lb and cut everything else down a little accordingly.  I am not very proficient at actually following recipes to the letter anyway.

photo(34)This mac & cheese is also wonderful.  Joe has been making this mac and cheese since we met.  I love coming home from work to find this waiting for me:

He really loves me.

He really loves me.

He apparently got the recipe from a friend at church.  It makes an entire baking dish and we have discovered that we always have enough leftover after one night to make Noodley Boogley the next night!


Joe uses cheddar cheese in place of the pepper jack, but I am sure that kick would taste good!!

Finally, the crown jewel of all of my recipes is Grandma’s Green Bean Casserole!!! I make it to take to any party where a casserole of some sort is requested.  I brought it to my office for a baby shower one day and had to send the recipe out to about 10 different co-workers.  People are fooled by the crushed up Ritz crackers on top and the corn mixed in, but it is indeed green bean casserole.

Print this, cut it out, make copies, share with friends.  It's THAT good.

Print this, cut it out, make copies, share with friends. It’s THAT good.

The kids would eat this every day if I would make it.

Wednesday Night: Noodley Boogley

This recipe was given its name by my mother when I was growing up.  As far as I can tell by doing a quick Google search, this is not a well-known recipe and is evidently just the name my mother made up one night.  It’s my son’s favorite dinner and he requests it nonstop.

It’s fitting that I don’t really have any kind of formal recipe for this.  If you know my mother, then you understand.

I use the leftover mac & cheese from the night before and add extra pasta so there is enough to fill a baking dish.  I make a spaghetti sauce by sautéeing onion and garlic and green pepper and then pour a bottle of marinara over it and simmer.  Once I brown the 1 lb. of meat, then I mix the meat in with the spaghetti sauce.  I think mix it together with the noodles and top with a heap of cheddar cheese.

The kids treat me like I have discovered a cure of cancer when I make this.  They truly think it’s the greatest thing ever.  We didn’t serve I with anything last night because Joe cooked it and then went to softball and by the time I got home with the girls from soccer I was too tired to make anything else!

I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse at our week’s dinners and I would love for you to share any of your “go-to” weekday recipes that go together from one day to another.  I know people who make beef stew and then use the leftover to make vegetable beef soup to freeze, etc.  Please share your recipes for all of us to enjoy as well.

Tasty Thursday – Tomato Basil Pasta

One Pot Pasta

One Pot Pasta – after cooking

My passion for cooking is widely known by my friends.  Even throughout the years when it was just the three of us, I loved to cook as many nights a week as I was able.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love to go out for sushi, but most nights I just want to enjoy the quiet cooking process with some music and a glass of wine.  Over the years I have become quite proficient in cooking for three people.

Things are different now since 50% of the time I am cooking for six people instead of three.  I was never good at portions to begin with and now I am just wayyyyy off.  I am, however, learning certain recipes that will feed us all with little left over.

I have a recipe book I keep on my computer that I keep updated with all of my favorite recipes (yes, please refer to yesterday’s blog about my need for structure) and I am constantly adding new recipes to it if they are a wild success with my husband and my kids.

Last night I tried the “Tomato Basil Pasta” that has been circulating Facebook and Pinterest.  It is a one pot pasta that is supposed to be ready in less than 30 minutes.  Recipe below:

I am known for my inability to follow even the simplest recipe.  I tweak and twist and change until the recipe is my own – so much so that when I give people recipes they complain that it doesn’t taste the same because I change everything so much as I am cooking.

For this recipe, I only changed a little.  I used 2 tsp of the minced jarred garlic instead of fresh garlic and I sauteed the onion before I put it in the pot.  I like onions to be cooked really well, so I rarely put raw onion in anything.

What it looked like when it was ready to cook!

What it looked like when it was ready to cook!

Joe sauteed some shrimp as well to put on top of the pasta which was a highly recommended upgrade to this pasta.

The kids complained about it being a little too spicy, so I may use 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes next time to appease them, but other than that I think this is a great recipe and will easily feed our party of six.  We served it with a little fresh pineapple on the side (which was perfect to convince the kids it wasn’t too terribly spicy) and a LOT of freshly grated parmesan cheese on top.

If you have any “go-to” recipes that you want to share, please do!  I am always looking for new recipes.  I am going to try to post a new recipe every Thursday as part of my “Tasty Thursday” blog.  I will work on taking better pictures for the next one…. Enjoy!!!