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How to Beat the Bus Stop Blues

Well, those of you previously lamenting the warm winter temps… I hope you are happy. Winter is here and my morning bus stop is rough… You can find me cowering from the wind, desperately pushing the heat lamp button for relief.

Your snow, your wind and frost tipped trees appeared.

Winter is here.

Guess what winter does to me. It makes me crave all the carbs. All the carbs piled high in sauce.

Perhaps a creamy sauce, one with roasted tomatoes, slowly simmering away. Or a butternut squash sauce.. hmmm..  Topped of with parm and basil… fresh basil.

Like farmers market basil…. that I cannot access for another 5 months at least.  Instead I settle for the “living basil” at my local grocery store and gamble on its longevity.

So in order to beat my bus stop blues, I slice up a butternut squash, roast it away and pray it becomes the sauce my chilled soul is craving.

Sigh. But oo this pasta dish will do.

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So you winter people, join me in some carbs?

You will need:

  • 3/4 Cup of Veggie Broth
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream or Milk
  • 1 Butternut Squash, Cubed
  • 1 lb Italian Sausage
  • Arugula
  • Handful of Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Egg
  • Handful of Basil
  • 1 12-15 oz Container of Ricotta
  • Cooked Shell Pasta (1 package)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper, Cayenne Optional
  • One Chopped White Onion

Preheat your oven to 400 Degrees. Throw the chopped squash and onions on a baking pan. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast them in the oven for about 40 minutes. While the veggies are roasting, heat olive oil, onion and one clove of garlic. Once the onion has softened,  then throw in and brown the Italian Sausage. Once the sausage is cooked, add three large handfuls of arugula to the pan. This will cook down a ton.

Once the arugula has wilted, take the pan off the heat and set aside. In a mixing bowl add the ricotta, the egg and a touch of salt and pepper. Next add the sausage arugula mixture. Combine until evenly mixed.

Take your sausage ricotta mixture and stuff each shell with about a spoonful and a half.

Once your veggies have roasted, add them to your food processor. Add in cayenne to taste and two whole cloves of garlic, 3/4 cup of veggie stock and the one cup of milk or heavy cream.

 Blend away to a nice smooth consistency. Pour your now butternut squash sauce into the bottom of a baking pan. Place the stuffed shells on top of the sauce in the baking pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

Once the sauce bubbles, remove and top with chopped basil and a handful of parmesan cheese.

Dig in, enjoy and forget about those howling winter winds, and tomorrow’s bus stop blues 🙂

 

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Resolving to….?

The gifts are unwrapped…..

The cocktails sipped…

And the many morsels of food consumed. This year we hosted our own little Cajun Christmas Eve feast.

There were crab hush puppies, blackened alligator, red beans, jambalaya and Beignets … Yes mom perfected her Beignets leading up to Christmas and they were as delightful as ever.

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Christmas and the holidays are over. New Years Eve was spent celebrating the wedding of one of my bestests 🙂

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And a week later I was celebrating the nuptials of another!

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Now, I find myself being asked to share my new years resolutions…. and I don’t have any. I’ve never been much for them, as past experience never set a great bar. I have too many things I want to do.  I want to write more, let my creative juices flow… perhaps find myself with an actual camera and take classes?

Like the masses I want to travel.

I have finance goals… I want to be a landlord (competing interests?)… I want a number of things.

I want to rediscover my kitchen and stacks of cookbooks.

Perhaps I take 2016 as my planning year? The year I narrow it down? A year of thinking, of strategy?  A year to save, to question and decide?

What are your strategies for narrowing down your goals? Have you ever taken a “planning” year?

Last but not least, I want more brunch in my life 🙂

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Run, don’t walk to Burch, and order this crab toast! You will thank me 🙂

The Novice Griller..

One thing I’m not….. is a grill master.

Grilling seems like a challenge to me… and sometimes a complete accidental success.

Like that time I totally forgot to turn down the heat and somehow pulled out the steaks at precisely the right second.

Hmm. Accident or genius?

Experimenting with the grill may be my new thing this summer.

When Blue Diamond sent over the new Sriracha Almonds to try, not only did I devour an entire tin to myself; grilling, shrimp and experimenting seemed appropriate.

I attempted to “entrust” then grill up some shrimp!

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While the flavor was there, my technique could use some work!

But hey, that’s what experimenting is for.

Have you tried the Sriracha Almonds yet?

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond.

Birthdays and Kumquat Trees..

When you turn 36, I hear Kumquat trees are the perfect gift.

At least for some 🙂

Yes there’s a back story there, one of lasagna and jokes, cocktails and kumquat upside down cake.

Which naturally leads one to purchase a kumquat tree for a birthday present.

Normal, right?

Yeah, I bought a kumquat tree.

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It was a weekend of birthdays and accidents.

A weekend of wine and Bolognese.

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Baby showers and sperm poems.

Yes, I wrote a poem that may or may not have included sperm jokes.

Bring back the weekend already?!

How was yours?

Friday Favs #4

Its the weekend, weekend. Phew!

Who is ready for Saturday morning sculpt, family dinner and down time? This girl.

This week brought a weird mix of events and I am ready for a wind down.

However with the weird also comes the good.

Linking up with Katie, Heather and Claire for Friday Favs!!

1) With this weeks amazing (yes I mean 35 degrees!) weather, I went on a 1.9 mile run outside. Yep I just said that. Me, the “I hate running, maybe ill try it next year, I’ll stick to the elliptical”, self just said that. Mom, dad, are you on the ground right now in shock? Want to know what’s even more shocking? I liked it. Yes, liked it enough to agree to a 5k. Funny the things or people it takes to push you out of your comfort zone and try something knew 😉 Couch to 5k here we come.

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2) New fur friends. My friend Jen shared her lady crushes this week, and I’m hopping on the bandwagon, fur baby style.

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Best buds. Big and Little.

3) Disasters in the kitchen. Yes, disasters…. I do not recommend this “healthified” curry, whole wheat, all veggie mac n cheeses, not one bit. Though I still think in concept, it sounded delish! I love a good chopping\mixing/experimenting session in the kitchen…. even if it didn’t work out. Who has an actually good version of this veggie curry mac n cheeses?

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4) This bottle of wine. Pinot Noir like I like my Pinot. Full bodied but not too heavy…. 🙂 A 2012 Vaughn Duffy. Someone tells me there were only 99 cases made. Which totally means I’m headed to France 44 to purchase the remaining bottles. If you see these somewhere else, buy it! If not for you, for me…

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5) And as you read this, we are officially one week away from Vietnam! The bucket list trip is on the horizon and I’m ready to go!

Happy Weekend! What are your plans?

Friday Favs #3

 Happy Happy Weekend! How in the world does 5 straight days of work feel so long? I guess thats what a faux-vacation will do to a girl.

So now, a roundup of my favorites from the last week.

Linking up with Katie, Heather and Claire!!

1) Oysters and Champagne- with friends in town and tastebuds numbed, salty foods are a girls best friend. Have you been to the happy hour at The Lowry?

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2) Introducing out of town friends to Punch Pizza. Because, you know, its accross the street and happens to be in my mind, the closest Neopolitan pizza I’ve had since moving out of Florence.

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3)Friends who come to visit and yet make you breakfast in the morning. And not just any breakfast might I add. CREPES. Homemade crepes. They were delicious, from what my numbed tastebuds could taste 🙂

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4)More dinners in.  With these frigid temps and wind chill nightmares, the last thing I want to do after work is head out to dinner.  Give me a bottle of wine and the fuzziest blanket please. Add my sweats, slippers and puppy on my feet to keep me warm.  Or fleece lined leggings, but I’ve totally been wearing those to work this week as tights……

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 5) Friends who drive five hours to see you. And put up with you blowing your nose every 2 minutes, leaking tissues out of every pocket and sounding like a very hoarse man. 🙂

What was your favorite from the week?

The Sauce Off

The office was full of talk for weeks. Good natured bantering, nonstop.

We were about to have a Bolognese sauce off!

Who would make the Bolognese sauce which would reign supreme?

The day of the sauce off arrived and I rushed to gather the essentials. Ok not rushed. I leisurely perused Whole Foods. I could spend hours there choosing ingredients. I’m available for hire, if you’d like a personal grocery shopper 😉

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My sauce sat and simmered for almost six hours. Its all about that simmer.

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Three other sauces arrived and we had quite the taste off. Every sauce was quite different. Mine swung more towards traditional. I cannot fight against my Sicilian Italian roots.

A little voting system was in order..

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Might I humbly say….. my sauce won!

Some argued Venue, that my hosting the completion had a sway. But the sauce SPOKE FOR ITSELF.

Thank you very much.

Have you ever hosted a sauce off or cooking competition?

The No Restaurant Challenge

Have I mentioned that I do not like losing?

That I have a competitive side?

If you challenge me, it is difficult for me not to accept.  Cliffdog knows this. Which is why I think she presented the challenge. Cliffdog challenged me to a entire month of not eating out at restaurants. She was willing to give me four “cheat” days within that month, and a carve out for alcohol.

The purpose: Shed more light on my monthly food costs.

A month of no restaurants?!

I would fail. I literally could not do it. I will not take on a challenge I know I will lose.

But I will agree to two weeks. Two weeks of no restaurants. This is still a challenge for me, as I eat lunch out at least twice a week, and multiple dinners out.

And again, Cliffdog graciously is giving me carve outs. 1) I am allowed to eat out with my aunt who will be in town 2) If it happens to be a date

The challenge starts today. Heres to the menu planning!  Wish me luck 🙂

Have you ever given up restaurants for a period of time?

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Cooking Away

Lets call today bucket list Monday. On my bucket list: take more cooking classes.

Last week mom and I did just that.

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We went to Cooks of Crocus Hill in St Paul. Our chef was funny, informative and all around a good time. We took the Cajun cooking class and in total there were only eight students. I was beyond excited for our Cajun meal. While I don’t remember the years we lived in Louisiana, I’m told its where I developed my love of seafood.

The class size was intimate and allowed for a full hands on experience. Mom and I were assigned to the red beans and rice and the dessert.

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I tried my hardest to eat every single thing.

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After this I was ready to roll myself out and onto my couch. Have I mentioned that that was the best salad I’ve ever had?

Have you ever been to Cooks of Crocus Hill? Have you taken a cooking class?

Lately: Cabin Fever

When the thermostat says 90….. but even the dog is in layers.. time to finally break out the space heater… when after 9 inches of snow the building FINALLY plows your parking lot… in the middle of what, like the 4th polar vortex.

Which by the way, since when do we have polar vortexes?

My cabin fever is about at its max..

Life lately looks like:

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Homemade bruschetta…. chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.

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A little homemade Indian style butter chicken over lentils. Similar recipes abound on Pinterest, I combined a few 🙂

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And Butternut Squash, Kale and Gruyere Barley Risotto from Joanne’s blog, the recipe here. I peruse her blog on the daily and leave too many comments about my carbs habits 🙂

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And Mom’s homemade gyoza…. yum yum.

Whats going on in your kitchen lately?

Cabin fever anyone?