Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking

October 1, 2009

Spaghetti with Beef and Mushroom Sauce

Filed under: beef, freezer, main dish, pasta — Emily @ 9:52 am

This dish was definitely comfort food! It was creamy and delicious–and very easy to throw together quickly.

Spaghetti with Beef and Mushroom Sauce

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz.) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 (10 3/4 oz.) can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 (4 oz.) can sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 t. dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1/4 t. black pepper
  • 12 oz. dried spaghetti
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese

In a large saucepan or a dutch oven cook ground beef and onion until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain. Stir in msuhroom soup, tomato soup, mushrooms, seasonings. Bring sauce to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer covered, for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain. Serve sauce over hot spaghetti. If desired, sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.

Source: Carrie’s Sweet Life (originally from Better Homes and Gardens)


August 31, 2009

Chicken “Divine”

Filed under: chicken, freezer, main dish, make ahead, pasta — Emily @ 6:00 am

I got this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks that I received at a wedding shower—over 5 years ago! Even though I now live in California and grew up in Chicago, I still reminice fondly of our time in Nashville  and feel very connected to some of the Southern heritage and cooking! This is a spin on the classic Southern dish, Chicken Divan. This dish comes together very quick and can be made a day in advance. I saw a Paula Deen show once where she said that chicken divan should be in every wife’s repertoire. I’d never even had it before, so I figure I better get on it!

Chicken “Divine”

4 cups fresh broccoli florets, or 2 packages (10 oz. each) frozen broccoli florets, thawed

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine (I usually use 2 buck Chuck chardonnay)

1 jar (16 oz.) Alfredo sauce

2 cups (4 oz.) grated smoked Gouda or Edam cheese

1/2 cup milk

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 cups cooked penne, macaroni or orecchiette (about 3 cups dried)

2 cups shredded roast chicken, home cooked or purchased

1/4 cup dry Italian-style bread crumbs

Paprika for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

If using fresh broccoli, cook the florets in a steamer until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and drain thoroughly. If using thawed frozen broccoli, squeeze out the excess liquid. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, thyme, kosher salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to high, and cook until the liquid has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Alfredo sauce, 1/2 cup of the cheese, the milk, and nutmeg. Then stir in the cooked pasta, broccoli, and chicken and mix thoroughly.

Transfer to an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish. Top with the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese and the bread crumbs. Sprinkle with paprika, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Tip: This casserole can be made 1 day in advance and refrigerated. It can also be assembled and then frozen. If the casserole was frozen, thaw in the refrigerator and bake as directed.

Source: Bride & Groom First and Forever

One thing I love about this cookbook is that it has a lot of recipes with only 2-4 servings, so it’s perfect for a married couple or an intimate dinner party.

October 25, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Pesto Penne Piccolini

Filed under: pasta — Emily @ 3:56 am

I saw this recipe on one of my new favorite blogs, Picky Palate. She has lots of delicious brownies, cookies and other treats, as well as some easy weeknight meals. This one was definitely a hit!

Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Pesto Penne Piccolini


½ Cup roasted red bell peppers from can or fresh

3 cloves fresh garlic

1/3 Cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 Cup pine nuts

1 ½ Cups basil leaves

½ teaspoon salt

½ Cup extra virgin olive oil

1 lb Penne Piccolini

¼ Cup heavy cream, if desired (I added it for a more creamy sauce, but it’s great just with the pesto as well)


Place roasted red peppers and garlic into food processor. Pulse until well combined. Add the parmesan, pine nuts, basil leaves and salt. With processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Set aside.

Cook penne according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large rimmed skillet or pot. Pour in pesto and stir. Stir in heavy cream if desired. Heat for 5 minutes or until heated through. Best served immediately.

Source: Picky Palate

April 22, 2008

Pasta Perfecto

Filed under: pasta — Emily @ 4:33 am

This is one of the first dishes that Aaron and I ever made together. We sort of came up with the recipe on our own. And while it is definitely not the healthiest of recipes—it is soooo tasty! It is definitely our “go to” special occasion recipe.

Pasta Perfecto
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, divided
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 lb. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound Rigatoni or penne pasta

Sprinkle each chicken breast with 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until all the chicken is cooked through. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until softened, 2-4 minutes. Stir in cream. Cook until mixture is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in parmesan. Simmer, stirring for 1 minute more until cheese melts. Stir in remaining salt and pepper. Toss hot pasta with sauce and divide among 4 serving plates. Makes 4 servings.

Baked Spaghetti

Filed under: pasta — Emily @ 4:04 am

I originally got this recipe from Ally at Culinary Infatuation. It was very delicious and pretty easy to put together. Aaron definitely approved.

Baked Spaghetti
(La Mia Cucina)

1/2 c. chopped onions
1 c. chopped green peppers

1 TBS. olive oil

2 to 3 c. of your favorite marinara sauce
1 (4 oz.) can mushroom slices–I used fresh mushrooms instead
1 (2 oz.) can sliced ripe olives–I didn’t use olives, not a fan
2 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 lb. ground beef, brown and drain
1 lb. spaghetti, cooked al dente 1 wedge (1/2 lb.?) of Fontina cheese, sliced
1 (10 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup (using fat free or low sodium would be fine)

1/4 c. water
1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano or Asiago (I used a blend)

Preheat oven to 350
In a large skillet, saute the onion and green pepper in olive oil until soft, then add the ground beef and cook until browned. Add mushrooms, olives, oregano and enough marinara to coat it all. You want it saucy, but not swimming in marinara. Simmer for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine 1 – 1/2 c. of marinara with the al dente spaghetti – again, you want enough sauce to coat it, but not so much that the spaghetti is swimming in it.
Place half of the sauced spaghetti in a greased 13″ x 9″ x 2″ baking pan.
Top with half the meat sauce. Layer half of the sliced Fontina over the meat sauce. Repeat layers.

Mix soup and water until smooth; pour over casserole. Sprinkle with Romano cheese. Bake, covered, at 350º F for 25-30 minutes, until heated through, remove foil and bake another 5 minutes, or until top has started to turn golden brown and delicious.

November 20, 2007

Baked Mac and Cheese (page 320) and Applesauce (pag 446)

Filed under: fruit, pasta — Tags: , — Emily @ 6:19 am

Aaron was out of town for business on Sunday and I had to work overnight at the hospital, so I was looking for something that I could throw together quickly. On Sunday morning I woke up extra early so I could take a nap in the afternoon. I decided to go over to the Studio City Farmer’s Market near our house. It is an awesome little farmer’s market. Has anyone heard of the actor Ed Begley, Jr.? He’s been in a lot of movies/TV shows and he’s one of Hollywood’s leading proponents of living a “green lifestyle.” He lives in Studio City and he has a booth set up every week at the farmer’s market selling his environmentally friendly cleaning products called “Begley’s Best”. It’s kind of funny. It was such a nice morning—it was slightly cool and foggy (which is a nice change from the always sunny southern California weather)–trust me, it gets annoying, especially at this time of the year. I went over to the market and got a croissant from the local French bakery that sets up a stall—-a legitimate Parisian, flaky croissant, and a fresh squeezed lemonade from another stall—it was heaven! I sat and people watched for awhile and then got some of my shopping done—both for dinner Sunday and for Thanksgiving. There are a ton of vendors: fruits, veggies, pastas, baked goods, pre-prepared meals, jewelry, handmade soaps, clothing, etc… They even have animal rides and little kids rides—it’s really cool–and every Sunday year round.

On to my meal—sooooo good!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

An especially good rendition of a timeless classic. The sauce can be made ahead and blended with just-cooked noodles before baking, or the entire casserole can be assembled a day in advance (I prepared it in the morning and baked it after I woke up from my nap)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 1 1/2-quart deep baking dish. Bring to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan:

6 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Add and cook just until tender:

2 cups elbow macaroni (8 ounces)

Drain and remove to a large bowl. Have ready:

2 1/4 cups grated sharp Cheddar or Colby cheese

Melt in a large saucepan over medium-low heat:

2 tablespoons butter

Whisk in and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes:

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Gradually whisk in:

2 cups whole or skim milk

Stir in:

1/2 medium onion, minced

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

Simmer gently, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in two-thirds of the cheese. Season with:

salt and ground black pepper to taste

Stir in the macaroni. Pour half of the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining macaroni and then the remaining cheese. Melt in a small skillet over medium heat:

1 tablespoon butter

Add and toss to coat:

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni. Bake until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.



It didn’t look quite as blurry on my camera–oh well.


This can be chunky or smooth. A blend of 2 or 3 apples makes the best-tasting sauce. Begin with a tart-sweet apple like Gravenstein or Newton-Pippin, then mix in spicy McIntosh with Gravensteins or winy Staymans with Pippins. Golden Delicious adds sunny sweetness to any blend. This recipe doubles easily (this makes 4-6 servings):

Place in a large, heavy skillet or saucepan:

3 pounds cooking apples, peeled if desired, cored, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1/2 to 3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice, depending on tartness of apples

1 large cinnamon stick

Cover and simmer, stirring often, over low heat until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Stir in:

Scant 1/2 cup white or turbinado sugar or 6 tablespoons mild honey (I used white sugar)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ginger (optional–I omitted)

1/2 teaspoon ground mace (optional–I omitted)

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cook, stirring, until the sweetener is dissolved and blended about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Discard the cinnamon stick. For chunky applesauce, break up the apples with a wooden spoon. For medium texture, crush with a potato masher. For smooth sauce, pass through a food mill or coarse sieve. Serve warm or chilled. I sprinkled cinnamon on top.


Again, I need to work on the close-ups.

November 17, 2007

Bolognese Sauce (Ragu Bolognese) page 307

Filed under: beef, pasta, sauce, Uncategorized — Emily @ 4:43 am

I was initially hesitant about this sauce because it did not seem to have enough tomato in it—but it was still fabulous!! Aaron was in LOVE with this sauce (and he works at a really good Italian restaurant). I may try it sometime with some tomato sauce in it, just for a variation, but it was definitely yummy as is. I served with some parmesan garlic bread. And for dessert—we are having raspberry crumble bars (with chocolate chips).

With beef as the main ingredient and surprisingly little tomato, the many subtle tastes in this famous sauce come together beautifully:

Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta

Heat in a large saucepan over medium-low heat:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 ounce pancetta, finely chopped (optional)–I skipped this step because I forgot to pick up pancetta–I definitely want to try it with this next time

Cook, stirring until the pancetta releases its fat but is not browned, about 8 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and add:

1 large carrot, peeled and minced

2 small celery stalks, minced

1/2 medium onion, minced


Cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.


Add and brown:

1 1/4 pounds coarsely ground beef skirt steak or very lean ground chuck

Stir in:

3/4 cup chicken or beef stock (I used beef)

2/3 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons tomato paste


Two of my favorite cooking products: 2 buck Chuck from TJ’s for cooking and tomato paste in a tube (from Monsieur Marcel gourmet grocery store at the L.A Farmer’s Market)

Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, partially covered and skimming occasionally, until the sauce is the consistency of thick soup, about 2 hours. From time to time as the sauce simmers, add, 2 tablespoons at a time:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Skim the fat off the top before reheating.


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