Restaurant or homemade?

Does this look to you like soup you would order in a restaurant?  It does to me, but this is the absolute easiest and delicious homemade soup.

photo (2)

I have to admit it’s a bit of cheating because I am using the Swanson boxed hot and sour broth I discovered recently. 


But when something is this easy and tastes so good, why not???  There isn’t even a recipe here.  I poured 2 boxes of the broth into a large pot, 1 box of pre-sliced mushrooms, 1/4 bag lentils, a few handfuls of spinach, and 2 packages shiritaki noodles.  You let it come to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.  BOOM lunch (or dinner)  is ready!  It’s a bit spicy so I am the only one in my house who eats it, but it makes me enough for several lunches.  And of course you can add whatever your heart desires to this broth though!

What are shiritaki noodles?  I absolutely LOVE them. They are tofu noodles.  May sound gross, especially to someone who doesn’t like tofu (I love tofu though),  but once cooked they taste like any other noodle!  The benefit is that they are extremely low carb and low calorie.  Perfect for watching your weight but feeling like you are eating someting yummy.  When you open the bag, pour them into a colander and rinse them.  BEWARE it smells like fish so don’t be turned off LOL.  I promise it has no hint of fish taste once cooked.  I like to cut them with a scissor too – makes for easier eating with a spoon.  I prefer the fettuccini noodles because I like wide noodles in my soup.


Seriously, I am addicted to this soup.  Try it!


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Truly fabulous veggie “lasagna”

I sort of modeled this off a few different recipes I found on the internet so I am calling this one my own creation (though I am sure there are hundreds out there).  I really wasn’t sure how this would turn out but honestly, it was unbelievably good.  Even veggie “haters” would like this.  It’s so healthy and nutritious too.  If your family won’t eat it as a main dish, make it as a side dish, and you will have yummy leftovers!  You need about 30 minutes prep time for this.


  • 2 med to large eggplant, tops and bottoms cut off, peeled (optional), and sliced lengthwise (pics to follow)
  • 3 zucchini, tops and bottoms cut off, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced

Everything but the eggplant here:


  • 1 TBSP dried basil (can of course use fresh if you have it)
  • 1 TBSP dried oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese (either freshly grated or shredded from the cheese section, not Kraft in a can)
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  • Pre-heat oven to 375º.  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray, lay eggplant down, season with salt and pepper, and bake for 8 minutes on each side.  I use an olive oil mister to lightly spray the eggplant on the side I plan to season.  If you don’t have one, lightly brush it with olive oil.


  • Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Lay zucchini down to cover the bottom and season with salt and pepper.


  • For the next layer spread out the portobello mushrooms.  Mix the herbs together, drizzle the mushrooms with the olive oil, sprinkle the herbs, and sprinkle a very thin layer of parm cheese.


  • Next layer the eggplant, followed by the tomato.  Add another dash of salt and pepper, top with more parm cheese, followed by panko bread crumbs to cover it.
  • Pop in the oven for 45 minutes or until the top is nice and brown/crispy!

I could have sworn I took a picture of the finished meal, but I guess not.  I’m sorry!  This is what it will look like pre-parm & panko.


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Not your average (boring) chili!

I’ve been experimenting with chili for years and this is the only way I can eat it now.  Once you try this you will never go back to plain ground beef chili!  I actually measured my spices for you yesterday because I know some people are uncomfortable with “just throw some spices in” and that’s how I often cook.  I am glad I did though because it was too spicy for my husband, so now I can cut back on the chipotle.  This wasn’t too spicy for me though, it had the perfect amount of  spice actually.  This makes enough for a pretty large crowd (I would say 10-12 people).  I also make it for 4-6 and freeze the rest.  The prep time was about 30 minutes.


  • 1 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced very small (I like to add a little something to this that people don’t really notice but is healthy ha)
  • 10 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 package ground pork (anywhere from .5 – 1 lb)
  • 1 package andouille sausage, sliced and then sliced in half again (pic below)
  • 1 lb sirloin steak, cut into small cubes
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 1 TBSP chipotle chili powder
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1 TBSP paprika
  • 2 tsp Hungarian hot paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • Seat salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP cocoa powder (trust me)

This is what your meat should look like and also a shot of the andouille sausage I use:


Shot of the sausage after it’s cut:



  • Using a large dutch oven (oven proof casserole dish), melt butter over med-high heat.  Add onions, carrots, and garlic and saute for approximately 10 minutes until onions are transulcent and carrots are soft.
  • At the same time, heat a large saute pan over med-high heat.  Add ground pork, generously season with salt and pepper, and cook until almost no pink appears, breaking up all lumps.  Remove from pan and set aside in separate bowl.
  • Add sirloin to pan and generously season with salt and pepper.  You do not want to cook this all the way, just enough to sear the outside of the meat, but so the inside is still red.  It will finish cooking in the oven.
  • Pre-heat oven to 250º
  • Add the tomatoes and all spices except cocoa powder to the pot with the onions and carrots. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add all the meats and the cocoa powder to the pot.  Mix well.  At this point do a taste test and determine if you need more spices.  You can adjust this any way you like (more salt, more chili powder, etc..)
  • Cover the pot and cook in the oven for 2 hours.  After 2 hours add your beans and cook for 1 more hour.  If you are using dry beans that you’ve soaked as opposed to canned, you will want to cook those the entire time with the chili.

This is what your delicious pot of chili looks like right before you put it in the oven!  I like to serve it with sour ceam, shredded Mexican cheese, and fritos.


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Indian-Style Black-Eyed Peas with Butternut Squash

Well the holidays are over, the pants are tight, so back to vegetarian I go!  I had to google some new recipes so I could make some really delicious meals to get me back into the swing of things.  This was FABULOUS.  It’s super healthy and nutritious too.  How can you go wrong with healthy AND delicious!?!  It is spicy, so if you don’t like spicy food, just nix the cayenne pepper and chilies.  I found this on a great blog called, but I did make some modifications so my adaptation is below.  This makes a lot, enough for 6-8 people as a side dish, or 4 people for a main dish.


  • 2 cans black-eyed peas, drained (of course you can use dry beans if you have 8 hours to soak them)
  • 1 package pre-cubed butternut squash (if the store has this I opt for it every time, it’s just so much easier)
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 fresh chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • pinch of mustard powder (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 TBSP butter (optional)
  • 2 tsp olive oil


  • Coat the butternut squash with the oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast at 425º for 45 minutes.
  • When cooled, cut into smaller chunks:





  • Combine all spices in a small ramekin or bowl.
  • Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat (or you can use cooking spray if you like).  When hot, add the shallots and cook for about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and chilies and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Toss in the tomato, spices, some salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the black-eyed peas and squash to the pan, cover, and cook on lowest heat setting for 15 minutes.





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Bobby Flay’s Toasted Coconut Cake with Coconut Filling and Coconut Buttercream

I made this on NYE and all I can say is WOW!!!!!!  With all the coconut in this you’d think it would be coconut overload (which would be ok with me) but it’s NOT!  I do have to say this recipe is A LOT of work.  I started part of it first thing in the morning and then it took me 2-3 hours in the afternoon to finish it.  It’s worth it!!!  I am not going to reinvent the wheel here though – I am sending you to Bobby’s recipe on Foodnetwork because I highly recommend you print this one out.  I started by looking at my Ipad and eventually got so annoyed I had to print it.

I did make one mistake. I misread the recipe for the coconut custard and used whites instead of yolks and though it didn’t turn out yellow, it tasted completely delicious anyway! The other thing I changed was I didn’t slice the cake layers in half.  I just made a 2 layer cake.  Next time I think I will slice the layers though so there is even more coconut custard to eat….mmmmm!

Also, if you are nervous about making something complicated or don’t bake much, this blog will be helpful for you.  They made this cake and documented it step by step.

Here is my finished product:


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Restaurant worthy penne with vodka sauce!

One of my all time favorite dishes is penne with vodka sauce (I also like to add shrimp,  but I didn’t have any this time).  If I find an amazing penne w/ vodka sauce at a restaurant, I get it every time I go back.  The reason for that is because I was unsuccessful at making it that good at home, UNTIL NOW.  I have been working on this recipe for years it seems and a few nights ago I finally got it right. So now all my efforts are yours for the making!

As some of you may know, I am not a measurer (unless baking) so some of these are approx.  Always taste your cooking periodically and adjust the seasonings to your taste.


  • 1 box penne (1 box for 4-6 people), half box for 2-3 people
  • Small container heavy cream
  • 1 large can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 TBSP butter (I never said this recipe was healthy!)
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 TBSP basil (you can use fresh if you have it)
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3/4 package diced pancetta.  I like this pre-packaged pancetta because it’s easy to work with.  You can buy pancetta from the deli counter if you like, you’d probably need 1/4 lb and slice it into small pieces.



  • Heat large pan on med-high heat and melt butter.
  • Add pancetta and saute until crispy.  Add garlic and shallot and saute for 1 minute.
  • Add vodka and cook until reduced slightly, about 4-5 minutes. 
  • Add diced tomatoes, add basil, and start with 4 twists of salt and 6 of pepper (I can’t really tell you how much to use if you do not ground your s&p because that’s the only way I do it – but try starting with 1 tsp each).
  • Start boiling your water for the pasta.
  • Add tomato paste.  Fill the tomato can 1/4 way with water and add.  Mix well and do a taste test. The pancetta will add a salty flavor as it cooks, so if you think you need more salt at this point, wait until this cooks up for a bit before adding more.  Your sauce should be pretty thick right now.  If it’s too thick for you, add another 1/4 can of water.  Let sauce simmer for about 5 minutes (and do another taste test).
  • Add 1 cup heavy cream and continue to simmer until pasta is ready.

This is what the sauce looks like at this point – amazing, you want to dive right in!


Serve with my homemade garlic bread (recipe below).  Enjoy!!


Making incredible garlic bread is so simple – so much better than frozen.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 loaf Italian or French bread
  • Spreadable butter
  • Sea salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Spice combo (onion powder 2 tsp, paprika, oregano, basil 1 tsp each)
  • Parmesan cheese


  • Slice loaf in half lengthwise
  • Heavily butter each half
  • Lightly sea salt each half followed by a sprinkling of the spice combo
  • Heavily sprinkle freshly grated parmesan cheese on each half
  • Bake at 350º until nice and brown on top like below!


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Do you love broccoli rabe? Great side dish!

My husband hates it, says it’s too bitter, but I LOVE it!!  I got the kids to eat a few bites tonight but they weren’t thrilled LOL.  Anyway – it’s really easy to make and super healthy.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 head broccoli rabe, ends cut off, and chopped in half
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or any type of tomatoes chopped)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (I used about 2 tsp)
  • A few squirts of lemon juice


  • Heat the chicken broth and garlic on med-high heat until bubbling.
  • Add the broccoli rabe and toss it around until it’s all wet and starts to wilt.  Add a healthy dose of salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • At this point taste the broccoli rabe and add more s&p to your liking, if needed.  Add the tomatoes, lemon juice, cover and simmer (low heat) for 15 minutes.  When I serve it, I use a slotted spoon if there is any chicken broth left.  Enjoy!


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