Monday, April 20, 2009

Pioneer Woman's Penne alla Betsy

When I'm cooking, Sadi likes to post up between the stove and the refrigerator. She's not really there to catch falling food objects or to beg for bites. I think she just lays there to inject herself into the center of my activities. She doesn't care that I'm stepping over her or hitting her in the back with the refrigerator door. She just likes to be in the middle of things.

This picture is a good example of Sadi's new springtime 'do. Any of you guys out there with an indoor lab know of that which I speak...their massive shedding capabilities, especially in the spring when it's warming up. To combat the vacuum clogging amounts of Sadi-hair that cover our carpets in the spring, Brent gave Sadi a #6 all over. I'll admit, it's helped with the shedding (a LOT) but it's made my beautiful shiny black dog kinda flat and dull. I've requested that next time he trim her, he avoid anything above the collar line and that he leaves alone my favorite part ever...her Burt Reynolds-quality curly chest hair.

Onto the food:

My husband loves shrimp so he was especially excited when I told him about this recipe, the Pioneer Woman's Penne alla Betsy. I need some help though, interneters. My tomato cream sauce was not creamy. It was very thin. Where did I go wrong? I've seen beautiful pictures of this recipe as prepared by other bloggers (and the PW herself). So, calling all chefs. Tell me, what did I do wrong?

Pioneer Woman's Penne alla Betsy


  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 3/4 lb penne pasta
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh basil
  • salt and pepper

Cook the pasta as directed, until al dente.

Peel, devein and rinse (under cool water) the shrimp. Or be like me and buy pre-cooked shrimp in the Archer Farms bag at Target.

Heat about 1 tbsp butter and olive oil in the skillet, cook the shrimp for a couple minutes until opaque (I went ahead and did this step, even though my shrimp were pre-cooked, in order to warm them up and to season them). Don't overcook. Remove to a plate and let cool for a few minutes.

In the same skillet, heat 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil. Saute the garlic and onion for a few minutes. While it's cooking, use this time to remove the tails from your shrimp (if they have them) and cut them into bite sized pieces. To the onions and garlic, add the wine (I didn't have any wine in the house so I had to use chicken stock). Allow to reduce for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Now add the tomato sauce, stirring well to combine. Reduce the heat to low and add the cream, stirring all the while. Allow to simmer while you chop your herbs (I didn't have any because my basil plants are still babies, I definitely missed the green color and yummy flavor it would have added).

Add the shrimp back into the sauce, toss to coat. Add the drained penne to the skillet and stir it all up. Season to taste and enjoy with a crispy piece of bread! Yum!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

I saw this recipe on For the Love of Cooking a few days ago and knew I had to try it this weekend. I've never made homemade muffins before, I've always taken the easy way out and used a mix. This really wasn't that much more work, and the flavor was SO much better!! I don't think I'll buy another muffin mix now that I know how easy making them from scratch really is.

EDIT: I am submitting this recipe to Joelen's Culinary Adventure's April Tasty Tools event!

Lemon Blueberry Muffins
From For the Love of Cooking via Food and Wine

Makes approx 16 muffins

1 3/4 AP flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup frozen blueberries, plus a few more to top the muffins (I let mine thaw in the refrigerator overnight, I don't know if that's necessary or not)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Zest of 2 small lemons
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 packets raw cane sugar, for topping the muffins

Preheat oven to 357ยบ

Coat a muffin tin in baking spray, or use paper muffin cups, set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour though salt). Stir in the blueberries. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients (milk through lemon juice). Being careful not to overmix, fold the wet ingredients into the dry.

Scoop the batter into the muffin trays, top with a few additional blueberries and sprinkle with the raw sugar.

Bake for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Grilled Corn

This is obviously a no brainer, but it's a good reminder of a great way to cook a veggie.

Clean several corns on the cob
Spread with little margarine
Season with salt and pepper
Individually wrap in aluminum foil and seal well

Place on a grill (or I guess you could do it in the oven) and cook until finished (sorry I'm no help here, I just kinda pull back the foil and see if it looks done).

Pioneer Woman's French Onion Soup

My little brown dog Gracie likes to help out in the kitchen. Sometimes she gets in the way, or does something like express a little too much interest in the ingredients on the counter top. When this happens, along with about any other time she gets scolded, she pulls out the big guns. Brent and I call them her Sad Ears. She uses the Sad Ears when she's very sorry that she's done something to offend you, but wants you to know that she still loves you regardless of her poor behavior. This little picture on the left is a good example of her Sad Ears. She obviously knows how to work me, because the Sad Ears melt my heart every time.

My inlaws came over for dinner a few weeks ago. Soup is one of my father in law's favorite foods, so I decided to try my hand at PW's French onion soup. I had also watched America's Test Kitchen on our public access channel and they had gone over the perfect French onion soup recipe.
The picture is awful, but the soup was wonderful. It took awhile to make, but it was worth it. If you've never been the The Pioneer Woman's website, take a minute to venture over there, it's worth your time too.

French Onion Soup
From The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

1 stick butter
4 large yellow onions, halved top to bottom and sliced nice and thin
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups beef broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
Worcestershire sauce
Several thick slices of baguette
5 to 7 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a Dutch oven, melt the butter then add the onions and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Next, put the soup pot in the oven with the lid slightly ajar. You want the onions to get nice and brown.

Cook the onions in the oven for about an hour, stirring occasionally so they won't stick and burn. Remove the pot from the oven and put over medium heat. Deglaze the pot with the white wine, scraping up all the brown flavorful bits from the pot bottom and sides. (Here's a tip I learned from ATK: you can cook down the onions and deglaze with wine more than once, I think they did it three times. Each time adds a little more flavor. I was in a hurry so I only did it once). Cook the deglazed onions for another five minutes, allowing the wine to reduce.

Add both broths, garlic and a couple glugs of Worcestershire sauce and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Butter one side of the bread slices and broil over low heat until brown and crispy.

When the soup is ready (at this point I decided to add a lot of salt and pepper to my soup, so taste it and see if it needs seasoned), ladle into bowls, place a piece of the crispy bread on top, along with the grated cheese (I love my family but they got Asiago this time, Gruyere was out of my budget) and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Mexican Sour Cream Rice

I just found the pictures from this meal on my hard drive and was instantly reminded how much I enjoyed the rice. Unfortunately, I don't remember much about the pork chop, it must not have been anything special. The rice dish has made it into my side rotation several times since.

Mexican Sour Cream Rice
From: Lauren's Kitchen

1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chile peppers
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1 (8.75 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (I think I left this out)
salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring the rice and chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. In the pot with the cooked rice, mix the sour cream, green chile peppers, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, corn, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish, and top with remaining cheese.
Bake uncovered 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Roasted banana brownie bites and a discussion on hard drives

I've noticed over the past few months that my desktop computer was getting slow. Really slow. Like so slow Brent could barely use it without losing his temper. Turns out, between my music, pictures, and all the other random items I'd collected, my hard drive was over 90% full. I don't think I need to tell you what this does to your computer's performance.
So I welcomed a new addition to my external hard drive! After an entire day of figuring out how to remap my iTunes music, I now have all my precious pictures and music on this sweet little beauty. And I can now actually do something on my computer in five minutes instead of 20...bonus!! I've always fretted about what I would take with me into our 'frady hole (a.k.a. my closet) if the house was hit by a tornado. I would grab my purse, my old childhood teddy bear, my photo albums, my dogs, and now, my external hard drive!
Now onto the food...I've made this recipe twice (blame it on the third trimester). The first time I followed the Picky Palate's recipe exactly. They were super yummy, but mine turned out a little dry. I decided to reintroduced the vegetable oil the brownie mix called for. It definitely helped with the texture, but took it down a few notches in terms of healthiness, I know, but whatev.
Roasted Banana Brownie Bites
3 bananas cut into 1/2 inch coins
3 tbsp cold butter cut into pieces
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 box brownie mix (I suggest the devil's food)
1/4 cup water
3 eggs
(my version: however much vegetable oil the brownie mix calls for)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2-3 tbsp heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
On a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil, place the banana coins, each topped with a piece of cold butter, and sprinkle it all with the brown sugar. Roast for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for about ten minutes.
Reduce the oven temp to 350 degrees
In a large bowl, stir until just combined the brownie mix, bananas, water, and eggs (and oil if you so choose). Scoop into mini muffin tins about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. (keep an eye on them, mine cooked faster, but I think it's because my mini muffin tin is a little darker metal).
Using the microwave, melt the chocolate chips, stir until smooth, then add the heavy cream until glossy and smooth. Dip the brownie bites into the chocolate and enjoy!
(Confession, the second time I made these, I completely botched the frosting. I think my chocolate chips got too hot and started to separate. When I added the cream, the whole thing just turned to goo. I will not share any pictures of this mess with you).
I will share a picture of the yummy roasted bananas as they came out of the oven

Thursday, April 16, 2009


No, I don't have a cookie recipe to share (not just yet anyway, we did make three different kinds of cookies for the birthday party a few weeks ago). The Cookie I am talking about today is my mom's puppy, Cookie the Black Pug! She was just shy of six months when I took these pictures.

Most of the time, Cookie is a crazy puppy who likes to eat things she shouldn't and makes a habit of constantly rearranging my mom's throw rugs. She likes to be the center of attention and isn't intimidated by anything. There was concern how my brown lab, Gracie, would take to Cookie. We were worried Gracie would get too crazy and try to play too rough for such a small puppy. However, just the opposite happened.Gracie was the one who was looking for time-outs and Cookie was the one who wanted to play, hard, nonstop, all weekend! My dogs literally collapsed from exhaustion Sunday when mom took Cookie back to Kansas.

When she wasn't antagonizing Gracie, or chewing on Sadi's delightfully long swishy tail, Cookie found time to terrorize Brent into submission.

Black Bean Hummus

After making the Roasted Red Pepper Hummus from my last post, one of my guests thoughtfully handwashed the food processor so we could prepare our next hummus recipe, this one made with black beans. It also was from My mom found both of these recipes, she uses that website a lot for her online recipe searches.

1 clove garlic
1 (15 ounce) can black beans; drain and reserve liquid
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Mince the garlic in the food processor, then add add the rest of the ingredients along with 2 tbsp reserved bean juice, though the cayenne to the food processor bowl. Puree until smooth. (I just realized after reading the recipe that we added the paprika to the rest of the ingredients instead of using it as a garnish).We might have made a mistake by putting the paprika into the mix, but I don't care. It was SO good, all four of us cooks were eating it so quickly we realized we should have made a double batch so there would be enough left over for the party. Again, we served it with crackers and a veggie tray. This recipe will absolutely be made again in the near future.

Spiced Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I love using my food processor, I even go out of my way to find recipes that require a food processor so I can get it out and use it. This hummus was one of many dishes my mom, our friends Trish and Jan, and I prepared for my birthday party a few weeks ago. I didn't really get 'sweet' from it, but it was good nonetheless.

1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (4 ounce) jar roasted red peppers
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (I left out because I didn't have any)

Using a food processor, puree all the ingredients until smooth.
We served with pita chips and a stick salad (a.k.a. celery and carrots).

Recognize this tree?

In my last post, I bragged about how beautifully our spring was starting out. Exactly eight days later, we received a huge snowfall, covering all the beautiful new vegetation in heavy wet snow. Oklahoma weather is so crazy though, that this heavy snow barely lasted 36 hours before it was almost completely melted.

We took some time to get out and play in the snow since we knew it (thankfully) wouldn't be around for long. I really don't like snow that much, but it's fun for awhile.