I'm Just Here To Cook…and Eat!

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Pasta with Pancetta and Peas

So, knowing I still had pancetta in the refrigerator from the carbonara earlier in the week, I had to find a use for it. I had actually found one recipe, which much to my forgetfulness, I ended up not having an important ingredient for. So I went back onto my cooking app to find a new recipe. Both recipes were from one of my favorite chefs, Giada De Laurentiis, so I was very happy with either decision. Simple to make, and really quite delicious which is why I love Giada’s recipe’s so much.

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis


1 pound wagon wheel-shaped pasta (rotelle)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces pancetta, finely diced
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
pepper to taste


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the onions to the pan and cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the peas and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the pasta, cooked pancetta, Parmesan, and pepper. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over top. Toss until coated, adding the reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to loosen the sauce. Transfer to a large bowl and serve.



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Apples aren’t just for Fall…

I love apples.  And I love the tradition of an apple pie… I always tell my family, “Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without apple pie”.  And I have spent years trying to perfect my apple pie to taste like my grandma’s.  Her recipe was never written down, and while I digress, maybe I’m not and this blog is yet another reason I am writing to you… so I have a place to write my recipes down and share with my future children, and their children, and their children….

But on to tonight’s dinner.  I recently found an apple chicken sausage at the local supermarket and while in the fall I am always looking for seasonal dishes, fall is my favorite time of year and it’s possible all the cold weather in the northeast lately has made me miss it.  So, I purchased said sausages and thought, well, now what.  Thinking cap on… note pad out… and here is what I came up with.  I recreated this dish tonight to share with all of you and paired it with left over noodles from this weekend’s beef stew and an amazingly underrated fall vegetable, the brussel sprout. As it’s sleeting outside, I’m thinking of a cool breeze and smell of falling leaves…



2 apple chicken sausages
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 granny smith apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
dash of nutmeg
red pepper flakes, Salt, pepper to taste
1/2 cup beer (I used a blonde ale – use whatever you like best!)

Brussel Sprouts

8 oz brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste

sausage ingredients

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a medium saute pan, brown the sausages on all sides.  Once browned, add the oil, sliced onions, sliced apples, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the pan.  Watch that the oil doesn’t burn as the pan may be very hot.  Saute for a few minutes and add the beer to deglaze the pan.  Remove the sausage, slice and add back to the pan until cooked through and the apples and onions are soft.

Meanwhile, in an oven proof dish, add the brussel sprouts, oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Toss and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes until tender.

When the sausage and sprouts are ready, reheat the noodles until warm.  Layer the noodles with the sausage, onions, apples and sauce and serve along side the Brussel Sprouts.


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Rigatoni alla Carbonara

While searching around on one of my cooking apps, I came across a “Comfort Foods” category. To continue the theme from the weekend and of course the perfect way to close out the last week of a cold February, I clicked on the category and started to see what would peak my interest. And I found it. Carbonara. I love carbonara, but I’ve actually never cooked it myself. So, why not give it a whirl? I searched carbonara to find the perfect recipe and low and behold I found one that stood out above the rest and didn’t have the added fat of heavy cream…

Recipe written by Rachael Ray


1 pound rigatoni
1/3 pound pancetta, cured Italian meat, available at deli counter, chopped
Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan)
4 or 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, a few pinches, crushed in palm of hand
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons (about 2 palmfuls) grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more, for sprinkling
A handful fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
A few grinds black pepper


Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When water is rolling, add salt and pasta and cook to al dente, about 8 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.

While pasta cooks, heat large skillet over moderate heat. Saute pancetta in a drizzle of oil until it browns, 3 to 5 minutes. Add extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and crushed pepper flake. Saute garlic 2 minutes. Add wine or stock to the pan and reduce liquid by half, 2 minutes.

Beat together egg yolks, cheese, and while whisking vigorously, stir in a ladle of the boiling pasta water. Beat in parsley and pepper and set aside.

Drain pasta. Add pasta to pan with sauce. Toss pasta with pancetta, then add egg mixture and toss 1 minute, then remove from heat. Continue to toss until sauce is absorbed by and thickly coating the pasta. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve with extra cheese, for passing.


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Cooking with Sister…

Oh how I love sister days!  Despite the rain in my area today, my sister traveled the hour and 10 minutes from her house to mine to have a girls night in.  And what better way to spend a rainy girls night in than with 2 movies and some comfort food cooking on the stove… and of course some wine! My sister also loves to cook and worked for a number of years in a restaurant as a chef.  I learned quite a few tips from her over the years. So get the two of us in the kitchen and it’s so much fun! After a trip to Trader Joes (love this place!) where we bought some snacks and ingredients for dinner and a whole bunch of wine, we both changed into sweatpants and got to chatting.  My sister opened a bottle of wine, and put together a beautiful platter of cheese, hummus, olives, pepperocino peppers and crackers while I got out the ingredients for one of the best slow cooking meals on a rainy day… beef stew. 🙂



1 lb stew beef
1 small onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
4 oz white mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup good red wine
1 14 oz can low sodium beef broth
1/4 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp thyme
red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste
1 lb egg noodles

In a dutch oven, season meat with salt and pepper and brown on both sides.  Once browned, add the onion, carrots, garlic and mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes.

Add red wine to the pan and deglaze.  Reduce the wine and add in the beef broth, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook on low heat partially covered for 1 1/2 hours.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the egg noodle to al dente, 8-10 minutes.  Layer the noodles into a bowl and ladle the beef stew over top.  Enjoy!


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Cheese Ravioli with Mushrooms and Spinach

I don’t know about all of you, but receiving mail annoys me. It’s mostly just bills, if it’s not bills it’s junk, and living in an apartment building you have to remember to stop at the mail box to receive gather your mail (which I always forget).  But when a cooking magazine does sneak in between the clutter, I am a happy happy girl.  When my March issue of Rachael Ray magazine arrived I couldn’t wait to sit down and read (which is typical when my cooking magazines arrive!).  I usually start by drooling over the cover, read the introductions, the recipes, the photos… ear marking practically every page with what I want to test out myself.  This month there was an amazing looking ravioli recipe whose page was folded over right away.  It only took but a few days to realize wait, I recently purchased frozen ravioli! Now, where is that recipe…

recipe written by Rachael Ray, from the March 2013 issue of Rachael Ray Magazine


2 9oz packages (or 1 20oz package) frozen cheese ravioli
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
1 8oz package sliced white mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8oz baby spinach
EVOO, for drizzling


In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the ravioli according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt 1 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toast until golden, 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Wipe out the skillet.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp. butter and melt. Add the mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender and browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach in handfuls, tossing to wilt.
Add the reserved pasta water and the ravioli to the mushrooms and spinach. Stir in the remaining 1 tbsp. butter; toss.
To serve, top the ravioli with the breadcrumbs. Drizzle with EVOO.


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Make your own takeout…

One of my favorite lunch spots during the work week is a local Mexican quick service joint.  I haven’t been getting out much at lunch lately, and I was missing both the food and the company. So after a long day, I knew I had the ingredients at home to make my own burrito bowl… so that’s exactly what I did! Making your own take out can be not only less expensive, but loads of fun.  I will share some other make your own take out meals during our cooking travels together.  This was my first adventure into the burrito bowl world,  but I must say it was quite tasty! What’s fun about a burrito bowl is that while you have the main base of ingredients, you can customize and pick and choose your toppings.  This is great for a nice dinner in, or a dinner party! I chose to create mine with chicken this time, since that is what I had on hand, but we all know the local joints have a variety of meats to choose from.  Create your Make Your Own Burrito Bowl Party with a couple of meats to choose from, rice and beans of course and then put out small bowls filled with all sorts of toppings – cheese, salsa, jalapenos, guacamole, hot sauce, pico de galo, olives, corn, etc.  Even make a pitcher of margaritas to keep the theme going.  So, on to the main event. Here’s what I did…

Chicken Burrito Bowl



2 thin sliced chicken cutlets, sliced
1 pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
mexican Chile spice
salt and pepper to taste


1 can black beans
1/2 chicken broth
1/4-1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste


1/2 uncooked rice
1 cup water


avocado (smashed with a tiny bit of salt – certainly use guacamole!)
picked jalapeno

After slicing the chicken into strips, add to a hot pan over medium/high heat.  Liberally add Mexican Chile spice, and salt and pepper to taste.  (Mexican Chile spice is a blend of spices sold in a bottle which can be found on the spice aisle of your local super market.) Brown the chicken.  Once browned, add the peppers and onions, some additional chile spice, and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the peppers and onions are beginning to soften.

In the meantime, add the uncooked rice to a pot with the water. Rice should always be cooked with a 1:2 ratio, one part rice to two parts liquid.  I’m only using water for this recipe, but you can certainly use chicken broth.  Salt the water for flavor to the rice as you do pasta.  I prefer my rice a bit more on the al dente side, but certainly cook yours through a bit softer! Bring the rice water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and uncover the pot slightly.  Let that remain at a simmer until the rice is cooked.

While the rice is cooking, drain and rinse the can of black beans and add them along with the chicken broth, cumin, salt and pepper to small pot and simmer until warmed through and the beans take on some of the spice flavor.

Once the chicken, rice and beans are done cooking you can begin to build your bowl!  Add a layer of rice to your bowl, followed by a layer of beans drained of the chicken broth.  Next add the chicken, peppers and onions.  Next add your toppings!  I only had avocado, salsa and jarred jalapenos this time around, but feel free to add whatever you’d like!

burrito bowl

And here is my weird secret of eating for the day.  I like to mix mine up a bit.  I have a weird thing about getting everything in one bite.  It doesn’t look the prettiest after you’ve mixed it a bit, but when you get a bite of not only the rice and the beans and the chicken with onions and peppers, but also the avocado and the salsa and the jalapeno all together, you’ll thank me. 🙂  Until next time! Enjoy!

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Welcome To My Cooking World

Cooking relaxes me, and eating and cooking together make me happy.  I’m not a professional by any means, but when I’ve had a long day at work, I know that by coming home, putting on my 50’s style apron, turning on some music, and begin cooking, I can put a smile to my face.  Whether I am creating something new with my note pad next to the stove, or following a recipe sometimes making notes in the margin, I’d like to share with all of you how picking up a cooking knife and hearing the sizzle of a hot pan can make your day that much better. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good meal out also which I plan to share as well! So enjoy, make comments, ask questions, and most of all, smile!