Soup’s On!

How many times do you catch yourself saying “we should really get together more often” or “let’s do this again real soon” when you’re hanging out with friends?  How many times do you actually follow through?  We all have good intentions but “life” gets in the way and we go months before making plans.  When we finally do we have such a great time and then make the same promises all over again.

IMG_0895Well, I’m VERY thankful for friends who take the initiative, make a date, invite us all and stick to it.  We should all be more like that!!

Our friend Nick is exactly this kind of person.  We have been talking for month’s about getting together and cooking for each other and hanging out and we’ve just kept putting it off.  Finally, a couple weeks ago Nick just picked a date, invited us over and told us to bring soup.  The monthly Foodie Pow Wow was born.

My contribution to this culinary endeavor was one of my favorite go-to soups.  You really can’t go wrong with rich, silky butternut squash in the winter time.


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Spiced Granola

    • 1 (2 1/2 pound) butternut squash
    • Cooking spray
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
    • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
    • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • 2 cups water
    • 2 cups peeled, diced sweet potato
    • 2 teaspoons fresh sage
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut squash in half lengthwise, spoon out seeds.  Place squash flesh side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Remove peel and mash the pulp.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat.  Add onion, saute for 2-3 minutes or until starting to brown around the edges.  Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add the squash, vegetable stock and the next six ingredients (through bay leaves) and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and let simmer for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Remove bay leaves.

Place one-third of vegetable mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure twice with remaining squash mixture. Return pureed mixture to pan; cook over medium heat 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Stir in honey.  Top individual servings with spiced granola.

Spiced Granola

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • Handful of dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix oats, walnuts, garam masala, salt and pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake for 10-15 minutes or until fragrant, stirring once.  Remove from oven and add honey, cranberries and sage.  Let cool.

Source: Soup adapted from Cooking Light, Granola by Ruth’s Table

Our other delicious creations…

Red Beans & Rice

Red Beans & Rice

Steak and Black Bean Chili with Cornbread Waffles

Steak and Black Bean Chili with Cornbread Waffles

Cornbread Waffles (yummy!)

Cornbread Waffles (yummy!)

My favorite jams!

My favorite jams!  Goes great with cheese!

Balsamic Strawberries and pound cake (recipe for another day!)

Balsamic Strawberries and pound cake
(recipe for another day!)

“Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honor to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don’t catch steak hanging around when you’re poor and sick, do you?” – Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

Stay tuned for scenes from our next Foodie Pow Wow…


Filed under Appetizers, Autumn, Comfort Food, Date Night, Fall, Healthy, Holiday, Nuts, One Pot Meals, Party Worthy, Potatoes, Soup, Supper Club, Vegetarian, Winter

Happy New Year!

Show of hands, who is still on the wagon with your New Year’s resolutions? Anyone? Yeah that’s what I expected. I should make a resolution NOT to make resolutions. Ha!

Instead of making resolutions that I’m sure to completely ignore I’ve chosen to make 10 attainable goals for myself in 2013. I also vow to not beat myself up if I fall short.

So, I’m putting it down in writing so you can all keep me accountable. :)

1. Blog more.
2. Lose 20 pounds.
3. Hike more.
4. Read at least 50 books.
5. Volunteer more.
6. Paint and take more pictures.
7. Start writing a book.
8. Cook my way through my Kevin Gillespie and Thomas Keller cookbooks.
9. Spend more face time with friends. (refer to #8) :)
10. If I spend money going out to eat make it quality time with family and friends and make it someplace worth it!

In an effort to be more conscious with #2 and #10, I’m going to share with you another restaurant knock-off recipe that I have perfected over the last year couple years. You won’t have to wait for hours to get a table, you can control the quality of ingredients you use and you won’t feel compelled to consume the super-sized portion your served. Your wallet and your waistline will thank me. Sounds like a good way to start the year!


Cheesecake Factory’s Pasta DaVinci

(serves 2, can easily be doubled or tripled for friends!)

  • 2 small chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 4 oz. (half a package) cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Garlic
  • 1/2 cup Madeira wine
  • 1/4 cup tawny port
  • Heavy cream
  • 2 cups penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Fresh parmesan cheese, shaved

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While water is boiling and pasta is cooking make the sauce.

Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add diced chicken and cook 1-2 minutes or until browned but not cooked through.  Add onions and garlic.  Cook another 2 minutes until the onions get some color.  Add mushrooms and saute 2-4 minutes, stirring often.  Deglaze pan with Madeira and port, scraping up any browned bits (yummy!).  Cook 2-3 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half (it will start to look syrupy and bubbly).  Add the heavy cream (one swirl around the pan) and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook another couple minutes to reduce.  Add chopped parsley and cooked pasta and toss.

Spoon into individual pasta bowls and top with shaved parmesan.


I wish you all a very Happy New Year and a blessed and adventurous 2013!


Filed under Chicken, Comfort Food, Date Night, Italian, Pasta, Restuarant Knock-off

Date Night In

I miss my hubby.  He’s been gone for a week and a half and will be gone for another week.  I won’t lie, that sucks.  :(  We get into a routine with him being gone every weekend but these long stretches can be difficult.  Thankfully he doesn’t have to do them very often.

This is why I live for date nights.  I mean really live for them.  After almost 10 years of marriage to a travelling husband date nights are a pretty big deal!  When my husband is actually home on the weekends or random nights during the week we like to get spiffy and hit the town.  There are lots of new restaurants around that are getting rave reviews (which I’m sure we’ll check out at some point) but we tend to hit up our old favorites because our date nights are few and far between!

One of our go-to places is Suzy Wong’s House of Yum.  If you are in the Nashville area and want a cool place to grab Asian fusion before going to get cocktails (which is what we ALWAYS do on date night) this is the place!

So what do we do during those really looooong stretches of time with no weekends off and very little free time?  We have date nights at home!  I will say I am quite proud of this knock off version of my favorite dish from Suzy’s.  I first time we ever went there our waiter suggested it to me.  I was skeptical at first but now it’s all I ever get.  Lesson: listen to your server.  They know best!

Hope you enjoy!

Coconut Chili Fried Rice

Serves 2

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • Garlic
  • 3 cups cooked, cold white rice
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup frozen edamame, shelled and thawed
  • 1/3 cup toasted coconut (sweet or unsweet, your preference)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Spoonful sambal olek (however much you like)
  • 2 eggs
  • Thin sliced scallions for garnish

In a small mixing bowl, mix together soy sauce, brown sugar and sambal olek, set aside.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir fry onions and garlic for about 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring constantly.  Add rice and stir fry 2-3 minutes or until the rice starts to get crispy.  Add tomatoes and coconut, stir.  Add soy sauce mixture and stir fry another 2-3 minutes.  Portion into 2 serving dishes.

Heat a little more oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat (I usually just use the pan I fried the rice in, remove it from the stove for a minute to cool it off).  Crack the eggs into the skillet and cook until over easy.  You want the yolk to still be runny.  Place one egg on top of each bowl of rice.

Garnish with sliced scallions and enjoy!


Filed under Asian flare, Comfort Food, Cooking for one, Date Night, One Pot Meals, Quick cooking, Restuarant Knock-off, Vegetarian

Call Me…Crazy

I’m gonna go ahead and say it…

By the time you’re finished reading this post you are going to think I’m a little (or a lot) crazy…and I’m okay with that.  :)

We all have weird food cravings, those things we can’t get enough of that nothing else will satisfy.  Just go ahead and admit it.  I won’t judge.  You love bologna and grape jelly sandwiches (my Grandma loves them!) or Pepsi and milk cocktails like Laverne and Shirley.  Or maybe you prefer something a little tamer like dipping your fries in mayonnaise or a Frosty (my personal fave).

To each his own I say.

I have a few favorite foods that a lot of people would turn their noses up at.  You’re intrigued now, right?  Two of my very favorite things that I can’t live without are…drum roll please…



Wait!  Don’t run away just yet!!!  Just hear me out!

I am very thankful to have a husband who has an adventurous palate and loves me enough to indulge my weird food cravings…and not judge me for them.  Enter Salami with Marinated Cauliflower and Bitter Greens sandwiches.  Who knew that two of my favorite foods would play so well together?  I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed it but I’m happy they do!!   It also doesn’t hurt that celebrity chef Tom Colicchio endorses my weird sense of culinary bliss.  :)

Just trust me on this one, okay?

Salami with Marinated Cauliflower and Bitter Greens

Marinated Cauliflower Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • 4 soft ciabatta rolls
  • 1/2 pound hard salami, sliced thin
  • 2 cups loosely packed bitter greens (I used mustard greens)
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Using a sharp knife or slicing attachment of a food processor, slice the cauliflower as thin as possible.  Combine cauliflower and rest of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.  Marinate for at least 6 hours.  Make sure to stir the ingredients well before using it on sandwiches.

To assemble sandwiches, cut ciabatta rolls in half (tip: cut the bottom of the bread a little thicker so the marinade soaks in).  Place the marinated cauliflower on the bottom half of the bread, top with salami and bitter greens.  Spread the Dijon on the top half of the bread and cap the sandwiches.   Cut into halves and serve.

Source: ‘Wichcraft by Tom Colicchio

I am so weird…sigh…

What is your weirdest food craving?

ps-the cauliflower is really great all on its own!


Filed under Lunch, Portable/Picnic, Quick cooking, Sandwiches, Summer

Help Me! Help Me!

My Dad was a great cook.  He was a master of ribs and loved Italian food.  He didn’t shy away from a challenge in the kitchen.  He took inspiration from his world travels while he was in the Navy.  BUT, despite all that, one of my Dad’s favorite things was Hamburger Helper.  Why he loved the quick, powdered cheese, pasta and beef concoction I will never know but any time I see the Helping Hand dancing around in commercials or see that familiar box on the grocery store shelves I can’t help but smile and remember the lunches I ate while visiting my Dad on the weekends. :)

Now that I’m all grown up and have a big girl job, a home and a husband I totally understand the need for convenience food but let’s be honest, those things are never very good for you.  I’m always on a mission to find yummy, healthy, budget-friendly, quick-cooking dinners to put on the table.  When I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Annie’s Eats, I couldn’t wait to try it!  The only thing I did differently was add a few more veggies which my Dad would have turned his nose up at (he was kinda picky when it came to anything green!).

This recipe totally blows the boxed stuff out of the water.  It’s DEFINITELY going in the regular dinner rotation!

What are your favorite quick weeknight meals?

Creamy Taco Mac

  • Olive oil
  • 1¼ lbs. ground turkey breast
  • 8 oz. dry pasta (I used mini penne because it reminded me of the box!)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 4 tbsp. taco seasoning (I use Old El Paso in the packet)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Parsley, chopped (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water.  Set aside. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and carrot and cook a few minutes to soften.  Add ground turkey breast and cook until no longer pink.  When the turkey is cooked through add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes or until carrots are tender.  Add the pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water to the pan and stir until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce comes together.  Stir in the frozen green peas (they will thaw as it simmers).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer  3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce. Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese and parsley, if desired.

Source: Slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats – Creamy Taco Mac


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Filed under Chicken, Childhood treats, Comfort Food, Family Friendly, Healthy, One Pot Meals, Pasta, Quick cooking

Cinco de Mayo, Ole!

It’s been a hot, lazy Saturday for me.  I’ve been hanging out, reading a book, drinking coffee, watching the Derby, doing a little laundry, setting up our new computer.  Hmm, guess it hasn’t been so lazy after all!  All that being said, it isn’t lost on me that today is Cinco de Mayo sooo…It’s happy hour at the Richard residence!!

We love Mexican food.  We don’t need a holiday to celebrate our love of all things salsa.  Spicy enchiladas, crispy tacos, refreshing margaritas, you can bet we indulge at least once a week!

One of our favorite places for Mod Mex food is Momocho in Cleveland, Ohio.  One of my besties works there and introduced us to it a few years ago.  I crave the guacamole and margaritas!!!  I’m having one of those cravings right now!  Since I can’t hop in the car and drive the 531 miles to my gastronomical Mod Mex heaven (but guacamole and margaritas for breakfast is tempting!!) I’ll have to make do with my own quite tasty knock off at home.

Guacamole with Pineapple, Jicama and Mint

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup pineapple, diced fine
  • 1/2 cup jicama, diced fine
  • 1 tablespoon mint, chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 clove roasted garlic
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Habanero pepper (as much or as little as you like)
  • Salt & pepper
Place all ingredients in a bowl, mash with a fork and stir to combine.  Serve with your favorite tortilla chips and a nice, cold margarita.  How easy is that?!

It’s pretty delicious but it’s hard to beat the original, the atmosphere, the staff and the great time that’s to be had at Momocho.

The next time you’re in Cleveland (it does rock you know) stop by and see my friend Cristy.  Her smiling happy face will be your passport to a fantastic evening!  Viva Momocho!!


Filed under Appetizers, Healthy, Mexican, Portable/Picnic, Quick cooking, Summer

Adventures in Gourds Part #1 – Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her,
 Put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her, very well.

What?!  This is one of the many nursery rhymes that sort of disturbs me…I’m sure there’s some deep philosophical meaning but I just don’t get it…


I. Love. Pumpkin. ♥  I’m sure you’re all expecting me to break out pumpkin cheesecake (I do make a fantastic one!) or a pumpkin roll or bread or some sweet treat when you hear me say pumpkin.  Well, this time you would be wrong!  Why do we put pumpkin in a box?  Do you think this gourd longs to become a pumpkin pie?  I would say the answer is definitely no.  Not when there are so many delicious things it can become!  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a big piece of pumpkin pie with a tower of whipped cream but the possibilities are really endless.

I encourage you again to step out of your comfort zone.  Try something new: new flavors, new techniques, whatever, just try it.

I’m making it my mission over the next few weeks to expand the horizons of Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater.  I wonder what he would think of my first creation…Pumpkin Risotto with Blackened Shrimp and Apple Ginger Tarragon Salsa.  Eat that Peter!

Pumpkin Risotto with Blacked Shrimp and Apple Ginger Tarragon Salsa

Risotto (serves 2 with leftovers for risotto cakes, recipe follows, or 4 large portions):

  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large finely chopped shallot
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (make sure it’s not pumpkin pie filling, I’ve made that mistake before!)
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots; cook 1 minute or until tender, stirring constantly. Add garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly until rice is slightly toasted.  Add wine; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly or until liquid has evaporated. Stir in 1 cup broth mixture; cook until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 33 minutes total).  I always taste along the way to check the rice.  Stir in pumpkin during with the last of the stock. Stir in cheese and remaining ingredients.

Shrimp (serves 2, can be doubled):

  • 1/2 lb. large shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • Blackening seasoning (I made my own with cumin, chipotle powder, garlic powder, salt & pepper)
  • Olive oil

Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Coat shrimp with blackening seasoning.  Add shrimp to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes (depending on the size of your shrimp it could be a little longer) or until translucent.

Apple Ginger Tarragon Salsa (serves 2, can be doubled):

  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon, minced
  • Ginger, grated (amount depends on how much you like ginger)
  • White balsamic vinegar
  • Honey
  • Olive oil

Mix all ingredients together and serve on top of shrimp and risotto.

Don’t be afraid of the flavor combination or the thought of standing over the pan stirring for half an hour.  It’s worth it, trust me.

Doesn’t that look delicious?!  I bet if Peter’s wife had this recipe he wouldn’t have put her in the pumpkin shell.  Just sayin’…

Bonus recipe time!  Sorry there is no picture…they were so good I scarfed them down before I even thought about it!

Pumpkin Risotto Cakes

  • Leftover pumpkin risotto, chilled
  • Olive oil
  • Leftover shrimp & apple salsa OR mixed greens tossed with olive oil & lemon

Divide risotto into equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties; cook 3 minutes. Carefully turn patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and patties.

Garnish with leftover shrimp & apple salsa or top with a mixed green salad for a light lunch/dinner.

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Filed under Apple, Autumn, Comfort Food, Cooking for one, Fall, Pumpkin, Shrimp