Zuppa Toscana.

Zuppa Toscana.

In just under six hours, the clock strikes December. Winter is here, loud and clear. The scattered snowfall and quickly dropping temperatures are here to stay for the next 3-4 months.

With the onslaught of cooler temperature comes my desire for warm, hearty soups. Today, I decided to throw together a simple, but delicious 7-ingredient Zuppa Toscana. (Bonus: I bought all of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s for $17.00! Score.)

Ingredients: One pound of ground hot sausage (I chose a spicy chicken sausage for a lighter soup.) / One small, diced onion / Four cups of chicken stock / One red pepper, diced and roasted / One bunch of kale, chopped and destemmed / One package of gnocchi / Half cup of heavy cream

PicMonkey CollageDirections: Dice the red peppers and roast them. / In a large stockpot, cook the sausage with the onion until both are cooked through. / Remove as much of the grease from the sausage as possible. / Add the chicken stock and roasted red peppers and bring to a simmer. / Reduce the heat to low, and add the kale and gnocchi. / Cook for about five minutes, or until the gnocchi has cooked through. / Add the heavy cream and stir together. / Season with salt and pepper. / Serve and enjoy.

IMG_0001

The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: Go ‘Head and Go Ham Sammich.

The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: Go ‘Head and Go Ham Sammich.

Another weekend, another picnic. This time, the theme was #teambonding. My boss wanted to gather our team together to celebrate the success of our Global Leadership Conference, and to rally the troops before we head into the madness of the holiday season. Again, I found myself in the midst of a what should I make dilemma. So, I turned to Pinterest.

 I scrolled, scrolled, scrolled through the pages of appropriate side dishes, and nothing caught my eye. I had almost decided on an easy plate of crudités when a delicious looking crescent roll kind of thing appeared on my screen. I took a quick glance at the necessary ingredients and darted off to the grocery store.

IMG_5832

As soon as I got home, I quickly started assembling the crescent roll things – I’m still not sure what to call them – getting excited at the simplicity of it all. To me, each ingredient was as simple as a letter. But letters, when assembled correctly, create words and words create stories and the possibilities are truly endless.

spinach4

 

15 short minutes later, my things were done and my mouth was watering. Crispy golden crescent rolls swaddled slices of honey-baked ham, bright green spinach and creamy garlic and herb cheese. I popped one into my mouth, threw the rest into a container and made my way to the picnic.

My crescent roll things, along with my boss’ ribs and my coworker’s homemade macarons, were fingerlickin’ good. Almost as good as the team bonding. Flong, anyone? (Special shoutout to our team mascot: Vinnie Lambo.)

photo 2-2 Ingredients: 1 Lb. Fresh sliced honey-baked ham / Fresh Spinach / Spreadable Cheese (like Laughing Cow’s Garlic and Herb Cheese) / 2 Packages of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Directions: Preheat oven to 400˚. Grease baking sheet. Spread cheese on unrolled, uncooked crescent roll. Layer ham and spinach. Roll crescent roll, and place on baking sheet. Continue until you’ve assembled all of the crescent rolls. Bake for 12 minutes, and enjoy.

The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: Cooking a Casserole.

The Pittsburgh Food Diaries: Cooking a Casserole.

Casserole. It’s not really an attractive word. In fact, it often conjures up memories of horrible family dinners shared over meals gone very, very wrong. Well, Monday night, for some reason, I decided to make a casserole. (Actually, I do know the reason. I wanted something inexpensive and simple to make, and something that would leave few dirty dishes behind. In case you were wondering, this meal was neither simple – my own fault – or easy on the dishes.)

Here comes Pinterest to the rescue. Again. I decided to make a chicken and rice casserole, but with a little bit of a Mexican twist.

Ingredients: cooked brown rice, shredded chicken, corn, black beans, Greek yogurt or sour cream, green chiles, chunky salsa, grated cheddar + Monterrey jack cheese, and cilantro.

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients (except for cilantro) in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to casserole dish and top with extra cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Enjoy. Preferably with a margarita on the rocks, no salt.

Serve With: A fruity and spicy Rioja or Tempranillo.

ricebake-3Now, for the entertainment value. The recipe calls for 4 cups of cooked brown rice. It took me only a few moments after I dumped 4 cups of uncooked rice into (non-boiling) water to realize my grave error. Not only did I end up with approximately 12 cups of brown rice, but it took forever since I didn’t have the patience to wait until my water had reached a rolling boil. Long story short, I burnt a significant portion of the rice. Good thing I made extra. Next time, I’ll be using Uncle Ben’s instant brown rice. I should also note that the mountain of dirty dishes is still sitting in my sink. Oh well, at least dinner was delicious!

Fierce Foodie.

Fierce Foodie.

It’s Friday night, and I’m sitting in my living room watching Chopped, with my brand new Julia Child cookbook at my side. There is no hesitation when I say, “I’m a foodie.” Image

Here are a few of the foods that I just cant get enough of!

Image

1.  Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter.  Trader Joe’s describes it as “a deliciously unusual spread reminiscent of gingerbread.”  Food bloggers describe it as “spreadable cookies” and “Christmas in a jar.” None of these descriptions are more accurate than the other in describing this incredibly delectable treat.

Image

2. 34˚ Rosemary Crispbread.  I have to admit, I first taste these crackers only one week ago.  I was spending time in Maryland with my family last weekend, and my aunt had packed these for my young cousin to snack on.  Later that evening, she served them to me with goat cheese.  I have always been a fan of plain ol’ cheese and crackers, but the delicate flavor of rosemary shines through for a little extra oomph.

Image

3. Kale.  A supertrendy superfood, kale is one of the healthiest vegetables around.  I enjoy mine most sautéed in a salad with dried cranberries and almonds.

Image

4. Grape Leaves. Grape leaves are used in the cuisine of number of cultures, from Greek to Arab to Romanian to Bulgarian. They’re best when stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat, and spices, and spritzed with a bit of lemon juice.

Image

5.  Butternut Squash Soup.  When fall comes around, my adoration for soups grows stronger.  Last year, for the first time, I made my own version of this savory soup, and I fell in love.  Top with sour cream and salted seeds, and voila, a comfort food for fall.