Garden Fresh Marinara Sauce

Isn’t it amazing that you can plant a $4 pack of tomatoes seedlings in the spring and Vine to Spaghetti sauceget 100’s of vine fresh tomatoes a couple of months later?  Garden fresh food is hands down the most amazing thing to cook with.  You can take a stroll across your yard and pluck ripe vegetables  & herbs right off the vine.  And if you love to cook, with a small amount of patience and a little work you can turn a ripe tomato into homemade spaghetti sauce!

What you need:

  • 20-24 large Roma tomatoes
  • 4 large garlic gloves peeled and cut in ½
  • 2 tablespoons tomatoes paste
  • 3 large sprigs of fresh basil
  • EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes if you like a little heat!

What you do:

  • Wash & remove the core from the tomatoes, set aside.
  • Bring large pot of water to a boil.
  • In small batches, drop the tomatoes into the water and boil until the skin starts to naturally peel.
  • Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and drop them into an ice bath.
  • Remove the skins from the tomatoes.
  • Repeat the above 2 steps until all tomatoes are peeled.
  • Crush the tomatoes using your hands until they are in small chunks.
  • Add EVOO to a large stockpot pan and sauté garlic for 30 seconds.  Do not burn!
  • Add tomato paste and stir until combined, about 3 seconds.
  • Add tomatoes, fresh basil, pinch of sugar, red pepper flakes and season with salt & pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil.
  •  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45-60 minutes until reduced and sauce is thickened (make sure you boil the water out otherwise it’s really runny).
  • Remove basil stems and large chunks of garlic.
  • Optional: Let the sauce cool and puree in a food processor or blender if you like your sauce smoother vs. Chunky.

I love Chicken and Dumplings!!

Recipe: Chicken and Dumplings
By: Mike Lata

What’s my inspiration:IMG_0898

Today is my six-year wedding anniversary and I think I am the luckiest girl in the world.  I have an amazing, loving and hard-working husband (he even does my laundry!).  On our anniversary, we have a tradition unlike any other.  You guessed it, watching The Masters.  Actually, that is my husbands tradition.  I on the other hand, spend my time cooking a nice anniversary dinner while making unsolicited comments about the outfits worn by the golfers and laughing at what seem to be inappropriate comments made by the announcers (yes, like a 15 year old boy).  Makes it more fun for me.

This gem of a recipe was found on the great ipad app Epicurious.  Prepping the meal is a bit tedious since you hand make the dumplings and need to peel and chop the vegetables.  However, I promise it’s worth it.  The dumplings are light, fluffy and fun to eat.  The sauce has a fresh, savory flavor.  I have made this a couple of times and personally feel there aren’t enough dumplings to go with all the chicken and gravy.  Now, I make either a double batch of dumplings or buy a roll of biscuits and have leftover chicken and gravy over that.  So dang yummy.

What you need for Chicken and Dumplings

  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour plus more
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

Chicken and gravy:

  • 10 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 celery stalks, cut crosswise into 1/4″-thick slices
  • 1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled, cut into 1/4″-thick rounds
  • 1 leek, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4″-thick slices
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan

Make the gnocchi! 

  • Gently mix ricotta, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, egg, Parmesan, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl just to blend (do not overwork).
  • Form dough into a ball (it will be sticky); wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  • Place dough on a lightly floured work surface.
  • Divide dough into 4 equal portions and cover with a clean kitchen towel.
  • Using your hands, roll 1 portion into a 1/2″-diameter rope; cut crosswise into 1/2″-thick pieces.
  • Lightly dust gnocchi with flour and transfer to prepared baking sheet.
  • Repeat with remaining portions of dough.
  • Cover gnocchi with a kitchen towel and chill until ready to cook.
  • DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 months ahead. Freeze on sheets, then store, frozen, in an airtight container.

Make the chicken and gravy!

  • Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan.
  • Add chicken; reduce heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through, 20-30 minutes.
  • Remove chicken; let cool slightly and shred into bite-size pieces.
    Gnocchi; Chicken and dumplings
  • Bring broth to a boil and cook until reduced to 8 cups, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and cook, whisking constantly, until roux is pale beige in color, about 15 minutes (do not brown).
  • Scrape roux into simmering broth; whisk until thickened and broth coats the back of a spoon.
  • Reduce heat to low and add vegetables.
  • Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add shredded chicken and herbs.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Chill, uncovered, until cold; cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before serving.

Finish the dish!

  • Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until gnocchi float to the surface, about 2 minutes (slightly longer if frozen).
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to bowls, dividing equally.
  • Ladle chicken and vegetables with gravy over.
  • Season with pepper and top with Parmesan.

Cornmeal Crusted Chicken with Goat Cheese & Sausage Stuffing

Source: Food & Wine Magazine

What’s my inspiration?Chicken Kiev; Stuffed Chicken; Sausage and Goat Cheese Chicken
Meat stuffed in meat, cornmeal and goat cheese!  What?  Doesn’t sound appealing?  It is totally delicious!  I stumbled on this recipe while looking for a new way to use cornmeal.  As usual, the first time making anything is more time-consuming than planned and can be a bit messy.  You have to stumble your way through prepping ingredients (in the right order), make sure you assemble everything correctly, and cook it long enough so it’s actually done.  I find that you have to use your best judgement when cooking a meal the first time because let’s be honest, the pre-identified time and temp on recipes rarely seems accurate.  After I tried this recipe once, I was hooked and the food prep work and cooking got much easier.  I know that goat cheese sounds a bit scary but combined with sausage and fresh, bright parsley, it was incredibly creamy and with the cornmeal crunch on the outside, divine!

This is so tasty, I was able to convince my family to allow me to make it for Christmas.  While this may not seem like anything abnormal, I come from a Swedish family with strong traditions.  In this case, there is a long-standing tradition of eating my grandma’s AMAZING swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and…pre-made chicken Kiev’s which have their own unique appeal (ooozing butter when you cut into them!).  While I like traditions like everyone else, I thought this minor chicken Kiev change was a worthy tradition twist.  Now lets hope that making 20 of them goes smoothly and they are as good as I think they are 🙂  Wish me luck!

What you need:

  • 5 1/2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed, meat crumbled and cooked
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons canola cooking oil (vegetable oil works too)

What you do:

  • In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, sausage, cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the parsley.
  • With a sharp knife, make an incision along the side of each chicken breast and cut into the middle, making a pocket without cutting through the edges. Fill each breast with the goat-cheese mixture and pinch the cut side of the breast together to seal in the stuffing.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water. Mix the cornmeal with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Dip each chicken breast in the cornmeal mixture to coat lightly, then into the egg mixture, and then back in the cornmeal.
  • In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes / side. Turn and continue cooking until golden brown on all 4 sides and cooked through (about 12-15 minutes depending on how big your chicken is.

Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and a simple green vegetable like brocoli

Turkey Carcass Soup (yes, seriously)

What’s my inspiration?

Leftover Thanksgiving turkey carcass.  Need I say more?  I don’t have to but I will because I can’t help it.  So how does one go about getting a turkey carcass when they don’t even host Thanksgiving?  Just ask.  I did.  My brother-in-law looked at me with concerned confusion and said “what?”.  I repeated, “Can I have the turkey carcass?”.  He followed with a questioning “sure” and proceeded to place it in a plastic Target bag.  Totally hilarious to me for some reason.  As he handed it over to one excited guest, he looked at me as if I had lost my mind.  Clearly, turkey carcass soup was not something on his bucket list of things to try.


Regardless, I understand turkey “carcass” sounds totally nasty.  But trust me, it makes a fabulous stock for your soup.  When you add more turkey, carrots, celery, noodles and seasoning, it’s truly delicious!  So go ahead, creep out your family and make them a fabulous carcass soup.  Mmmm!

What you need – stock & soup:
  • 1 turkey carcass and some leftover turkey (for stock)
  • 2 white or yellow onions (for stock & soup)
  • 1 large bag of carrots (for stock & soup)
  • 1 bag of celery (for stock & soup)
  • 1 package sliced mushrooms (for soup)
  • Parsley (for stock & soup)
  • Thyme (for stock & soup)
  • Bay leaf (for stock)
  • Peppercorns (for stock)
  • Salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, sage, thyme, marjoram and chicken bouillon cube for seasoning soup
  • 1/2 bag egg noodles (I use multi-grain)

What you do – stock: 

  • Remove all the usable turkey meat from the turkey carcass  – set aside to add to soup later.
  • Add to large soup pot: 1 onion (quartered), 1/4 of the carrots (chopped), celery tops, parsley, thyme, 1 bay leaf, and some peppercorns.  **Use your judgement when adding the spices, I would say about 1/2 teaspoon of each depending on how much stock you are making.
  • Break up the leftover bones of the carcass so they don’t take up too much room in the pot.
  • Put the bones and skin into a large stock pot and cover with cold water.
  • Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to a minimal simmer.
  • As the soup simmers, skim off any foam that may float to the top of the stock.
  • Cook for at least 4 hours partially uncovered.

    Reduced stock

  • Strain the stock through a very fine mesh strainer removing all bones, vegetables, etc.

What you do – soup:

  • Cook egg noodles and set aside
  • With your stock already made, add chopped carrots, onions, mushrooms and celery in equal parts. Add some parsley, and garlic.
  • Add seasoning – poultry seasoning, sage, thyme, marjoram and/or a bouillon cube.
  • Cook at a bare simmer until the vegetables are cooked through.
  • Add remaining shredded turkey meat to soup.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • At the very end, add the egg noodles and serve!

Try serving with beer bread!

Cashew Chicken with Brown Rice

What’s my inspiration?Cashew Chicken
I LOVE all things Asian food related.  What’s not to love – fresh vegetables, sweet & spicy meat and it’s usually healthy.  My heaven.  I found this tasty take out inspired dish while surfing Pinterest one wild Saturday night at the cabin.  The original pin came from Eclectic Recipes who based this dish off of Martha Stewart recipe.  I just added some red & green pepper so the meal was a bit more well-rounded.  Let me tell you what, it was fast & easy and taught me that even this meat & potato girl could make an Asian inspired dish (something I have no skill at).  Now that I have cashew chicken under my belt, who knows, maybe Pad Thai and Spring rolls next.  Watch out!
  • Next time around, I would use less hoisin sauce then suggested below, it was a little sweet.
  • I added some Sriracha to give the dish a kick and it made a WORLD of difference.  Took away some of the sweetness.


What you need:
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
  • 8 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3/4 water or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • Sriracha – if desired
  • Serve with white or brown rice

What you do:

  • Cook rice according to package directions. 
  • Preheat large skillet or wok over low heat.
  • Add olive oil, garlic and cashews to skillet. Saute over low heat until garlic becomes golden, but don’t let the garlic brown, or it will become bitter.
    Cashews & Garlic 
  • Add peppers and any other vegetables you want
  • Salt and pepper chicken. Add chicken to skillet and cook until chicken is no longer pink. 
    Adding Chicken 
  • Add cornstarch to a small bowl with the water and mix well. 
  • Add cornstarch and water to chicken. Then add hoisin sauce and vinegar.
  • Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, until sauce has thickened. 
  • Season with Sriracha sauce if desired.
  • Just before serving, add green onions and serve with rice.

Grilled asparagus and diced pancetta

What’s my inspiration:

Let’s be honest.  Don’t you just want a great meal sometimes without all the hassle?  I know I do.  Because of this (or maybe temporary laziness), I find ways to make the same thing in a more quick and easy way.  Do you love Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus but don’t want to spend the time wrapping up those pretty green  sticks of goodness?  Guess what, you don’t have to!  With this little trick, even the lazy cook can put together a fabulous side dish.  But don’t tell anyone, because even thought it’s simple…it still looks like a dolled up & impressive side dish.

Don’t mind my terrible picture of the finished product.  It was dark out and I have a piece of crap camera!!

What you need:

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 packaged diced pancetta
  • EVOO
  • Pepper


  • Usually I suggest pepper AND salt to season a dish.  But with the pancetta being as sodium packed as it is, skip the salt.

What you do:

  • Heat Grill or Oven to 375
  • Cut of ends of asparagus and dice into 2-3 inch pieces
  • Combine asparagus & pancetta in a grill pan or on a cookie sheet, drizzle with EVOO and season with pepper
  • Cook about 20 minutes or until pancetta is sizzling and asparagus is heated through but still crisp

Eggplant Parmesan

What’s my inspiration?


A big purple eggplant and a girls night…hehe!  Plus, the guys were away in Mille Lacs for a Bachelor party, so that gives us girls the chance to cook something amazing.  My husband will eat almost anything (I’m lucky), but some of these boys are picky, picky, picky!  I’m sure eggplant isn’t on their list of new food items they are dying to try.  But my girls love to try new things and this was our chance.

Now this vegetable may look intimidating, but with a good recipe, they are quite delicious.   I have made this dish before and it was good, but we made a few tweaks this time around and now it’s right on.  Even though this is a vegetarian dish, it is very hearty and almost tastes as though there is meat in it.

We served it with Jeannes amazing spicy turkey meatballs and some grilled chile cheddar bread from Great Harvest Bread Company.

So don’t be scared by this lovely purple vegi, I promise you will enjoy this dish.

What you need:

Me & Jeanne

  • 1 large eggplant – sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 1/2 cup flour
    3-4 eggs
  • 1 box Panko Bread Crumbs – Italian Style
  • Canola Oil – for frying
  • 1 jar Marinara Sauce (Try Rao’s, its AMAZING!)
  • 1 -2 large balls of fresh mozzarella – sliced
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Basil – julienned
What you do:
  • Prep all ingredients – slice eggplant and mozzarella, julienne basil
  • Put flour, egg and panko in 3 separate, shallow dishes
  • Bread eggplant one by one – coat in flour, dip in egg and coat in panko.  Set aside on plate
  • Heat oil until shimmering
  • Fry eggplant in oil until browned on both sides (about 2-3 minutes / side).  Do not burn or  over cook.  You will need to do this step in batches.

    Erin = amazing eggplant fryer

  • In 9×13 oven safe dish, layer eggplant, slices of mozzarella cheese, basil and sauce.  Repeat layers until all ingredients are used (Layer just like you are making a lasagna).

    Eggplant, Motz & Basil

    Ready for oven!

  • Cover with tin foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is hot.
  • Remove from oven and let stand 5-10 minutes. Cut and enjoy!

    Eggplant Parm & Meatballs