Sausage and Tortellini Soup

by Melissa on April 4, 2013

Spring is in the air, but we have had a recent cold spell that has left me still craving warm, hearty winter foods! This soup recipe was recommended to me by best friend after she recently made it. After she told me that her husband declared “It was one of the best things she had ever made for dinner” I knew we had to try it!

This soup did not disappoint, and the fact that it is so easy and can be made in one pot is a huge bonus. Spicy sausage and cheesy tortellini in a warm, creamy broth with some spinach thrown in for color and nutrition. I served it with some crusty bread, and my family really enjoyed this dinner and I am sure yours will too!

A few notes about this recipe: My grocery store caries 1 pound packs of Italian sausage that contain 4 links of the sweet version and 2 links of the spicy version, I found this to be just the right amount of spice for our family. You could certainly use all spicy to increase the heat, or all sweet to tone it down a bit. Also, I love Better than Bouillon bases and use them to make broth all the time. That is what I used in this recipe, but feel free to use bouillon cubes or even chicken broth in place of the water and adjust the seasoning as needed.

One-Pot Sausage and Tortellini Soup

  • 1 pound package of Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 5 cups water
  • 5 teaspoons chicken base, such as Better than Bouillon Reduced Sodium (or 6 chicken bouillon cubes)
  • 1 15 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 20 oz. package refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 4 cups of baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, to taste

Crumble the sausage into a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the chopped onion and cook on medium heat until onion is soft and sausage is browned, chopping the sausage with a spatula as it cooks. Add the minced garlic and Italian seasoning and cook another 30 seconds.

Add the water, chicken base and evaporated milk. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the tortellini and cook for 5 minutes. Add the baby spinach and let simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes, until tortellini is tender. Portion into soup bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to taste.

Source: Adapted from Party in my Kitchen.

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

by Melissa on March 13, 2013

Macaroni and cheese is one of my all time favorite foods. I have a great recipe for stove-top mac and cheese, but it took me a long time to find the perfect baked version. I am somewhat picky when it comes to baked mac and cheese, it needs to be creamy and cheesy, not dry and grainy. It also needs to be flavorful, not dull and bland. And, a crushed cracker topping is a must!

With just a few very small tweaks, this recipe met all of my requirements and has become a staple in our household. I hope you love it too! Make it soon though, spring is right around the corner!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • 4 cups dried macaroni
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus additional 1-2 tablespoons
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 pound cheese, freshly shredded (my favorite is Vermont Sharp Cheddar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 sleeves Ritz crackers, crushed

Butter a 9×13 or 2 quart baking dish. Cook macaroni in boiling water until firm. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn.

Pour in milk, add dry mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.

Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.

Add in cheese, except for 1/2 cup or so, and stir to melt.

Add salt, seasoned salt, pepper and garlic powder. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed.

Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine. Pour into buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese,  then top with the crushed crackers and a few pats of butter.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Source: slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

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Last December we celebrated my cousin’s birthday and she loves chocolate and peanut butter! After seeing this amazing cake on Pinterest, I made my own version with my favorite chocolate cake and peanut butter frosting.

The cake was a huge hit with everyone at the party and so much fun to make! Since you can’t really go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter, here is how I have made this cake in the past.

P.S. Thank you so much for your kind comments on my last post! Also, these pictures were taken with my Iphone and edited in Instagram.

{Chocolate Cake}

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

{Peanut Butter Frosting}

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high-speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

{Chocolate Trees and Snowflakes}

  • 12 oz. semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate chips or melting chocolate

Over a double boiler, or in 30 second increments in the microwave, melt the chocolate. While the chocolate is cooling, lay out a large sheet of parchment or wax paper.

Transfer the chocolate to a piping bag or Ziploc bag. Snip off  the tip of the piping bag or the corner of a Ziploc bag. Note, don’t make the hole to big. Start small and make it larger if needed.

Draw out your trees and snowflakes with the melted chocolate onto the parchment or wax paper. Let cool completely.

{Assembling the Cake}

Level the cake layers if necessary and fill with a thin layer of the peanut butter frosting. Frost the outside of the cake.

Carefully remove the trees from the parchment with a thin spatula. You will probably break at least a couple, so make extras!  Squirt  a small amount of chocolate on the backs of your trees and place them on the cake, place the snowflakes on the top of the cake.

Sources: Cake, Frosting and Trees (click this link for pictures of the tree making process)

 

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A note from Melissa

by Melissa on March 6, 2013

I have been putting off writing this post. You see, I am a major procrastinator and if I can put something off, especially something I am not looking forward to, I will. That is what happened with this blog, I was not looking forward to updating it, so I didn’t. Granted, I did have some major life changes (trying to sell a house, relocating 600+ miles across the country with my family, new job etc.) but the bottom line was I didn’t make time for this blog because it was not fun for me anymore.

Like many other food bloggers I started this blog as a recipe collection for me, and to have as a reference for my friends and family when they asked me for recipes. But, after 5 years the blogging world had completely changed. I know longer felt like my blog was “good enough”. I couldn’t keep up with all the social media sites necessary to have a “successful” blog, I couldn’t give away hundreds of dollars worth of gifts every year, I couldn’t update with new posts the recommended 3-5 times per week, my writing wasn’t witty, my pictures were far from perfect and I don’t own Photoshop!

I only recently came to the realization that I miss blogging! I miss taking that time to write about recipes that my family and I have enjoyed, and I have made some really yummy things lately! I also miss interacting with all of you. I sincerely appreciate everyone who reads this blog and I miss reading your comments and Facebook posts.

So I am back, and I am really happy to be back! I hope you will continue to stop in from time to time, even if I don’t update as often as you would like or have pictures worthy of hanging in a gallery, or that I can’t give you a new car! But, I plan to keep in mind that this blog is ultimately mine, my project, my pictures and my writing, and I refuse to fall back in to the mindset that it is not good enough.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I will be back with a recipe post soon. We are having a snow day today, and I am taking the time to get caught up! And again, thank you so much for reading! :)

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Chocolate Chip Cookies {my go-to recipe}

by Melissa on February 29, 2012

This has been my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe for many years now, and even though I have shared this recipe before, it was four years ago and I thought it was time to post it again!

I have been baking these cookies a lot lately, but not for me, while not directly anyway! You see, we are trying to sell our house and I read somewhere that you should bake cookies prior to a showing, so your house is warm and cozy. So, I have been making a batch of the cookie dough and freezing little cookie dough balls. Then just prior to the showings we have had, I bake off a small batch and leave a platter of freshly baked cookies out in my now warm and cozy house. :)

People apparently like the cookies, but not the house! After every showing the cookies are gone, but we have yet to get an offer. I am not giving up yet though, and will keep baking my cookies and hoping for the best!

Have you ever sold a house? Any tips or tricks you care to share?

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I use about 1 3/4 cups)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg and egg yolk and mix until light and creamy. Add in the flour mixture, and mix on low until just blended (do not over-mix!). Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.

If you have time, refrigerate the dough for a couple hours. Otherwise, scoop the dough on to the prepared cookie sheets using a medium cookie scoop. Cookies should be about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 9-12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Watch closely and pull out of the oven as soon as edges start to turn golden brown! These cookies are best when they are slightly underbaked coming out of the oven. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container and these cookies should stay soft for a couple of days, if they last that long! If cookies do start to become hard, add a piece of bread to the container (an old trick I learned from my mom!).

Source: Adapted from Allrecipes.com.

{To freeze cookies}

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. Freeze until the dough is firm, about 2 hours. Transfer the balls of dough to a freezer safe container. You can bake the cookie dough right out of the freezer, just add 1-2 minutes to the baking time.

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Super Bowl XLVI Snack Ideas

by Melissa on February 2, 2012

As promised, a round-up of some of my favorite snacks for the biggest game of the year! For even more ideas, check out the Recipe Index. :)

{Savory Snacks}

Pizza Bites- Skip the pizza and make these pizza bites instead!

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Buffalo Chicken Cheese Bites- Like Buffalo chicken wings, but bite size, and better!

Stuffed Sausage Cups- You really can’t go wrong with sausage and cheese stuffed into a Phylo cup!

BBQ Beef Cups- Biscuit dough filled with BBQ ground meat and cheese, one of my husbands favorites!

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 Veggie Bars- A delicious way to add some vegetables to the spread!

{Dips and Spreads}

Queso Blanco (White Cheese) Dip- I know I just posted this yesterday, but it is so good I didn’t want you to forget about it!

Artichoke Dip- Warm and cheesy, artichoke dip is always a crowd pleaser!

Cheddar Ale Spread- Even if you are not a beer drinker, you will love this cheesy spread! Perfect with a bowl of salty pretzels.

Roasted Garlic Hummus- Serve with baby carrots and celery sticks for those people that may be looking for something a little lighter!

Spinach Spread- This almost a required snack at any of our family gatherings, my favorite way to serve it is with a big loaf of Italian bread.

{Something Sweet}

Caramel Corn- Whip up a big batch of this to munch on during the game, although it is so good, you may not be hungry for anything else!

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Cinnamon Toast White Chocolate Pretzels- Another highly addictive sweet and salty snack!

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Kit Kat Cake- Fill this with M&M’s in your teams colors! It is super easy to make and everyone will love it!

Caramel Apple Dip- Sweet and creamy dip served with fresh apple wedges, perfect for a crowd!

Brownies- Serve these warm with ice cream for brownie sundaes! I am drooling just thinking about it!

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Chocolate Football Crispies- You can’t have a football party without a football shaped cookie! Include them on a cookie platter with some chocolate chip cookies or snickerdoodles!

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Queso Blanco (White Cheese) Dip

February 2, 2012

I am back with an amazing appetizer just in time for the big game this weekend! This Queso Blanco dip tastes just like the white cheese dip that you can get at those small, hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants. Even though it is made with American cheese, and there is nothing authentically Mexican about it, it is delicious! It is […]

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Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic-Cranberry Sauce

December 16, 2011

I think I am way overdue to post something savory around here! I love this time of year with all of the sweet treats and other goodies, but we all still need to eat dinner, right? This is a pretty basic  seared pork tenderloin recipe, but the addition of a balsamic-cranberry sauce turns it into something a bit […]

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Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

December 13, 2011

Back when I posted my All About Apples round-up, I included some apple recipes that I couldn’t wait to make during apple picking season. This recipe for caramel apple cheesecake bars was one of them and I finally got around to making them this past weekend. I know I made these bars for the first […]

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Homemade Eggnog Latte {and Starbucks K-Cups review}

December 6, 2011

I remember when Starbucks opened in my town several years ago, I was so excited that my beloved White Chocolate Mocha would no longer be just a rare treat when shopping in the big city. Then, the seasons changed and I was introduced to those beautiful red cups that only come out during the holidays. It was the […]

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