Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tortellini with Butternut Squash, Sage, & Mushrooms

There are some meals that are good enough to make once but not good enough to incorporate into your regular options.  Then there are some that are all around great that you can't get enough.  This is one of those meals. 

First of all, look at these ingredients!  (And notice my shameless plug for KitchenAid.  I love me some KitchenAid.)  Sage... oh sage.  The smell alone is enough to make you want to add this fuzzy little leaf to your food.  Mushrooms are one of natures healthiest foods, at least according to all those lists floating around the health magazines and websites.  And Butternut Squash, well, YUM.

The first time I made this meal I nearly chopped my thumb off.  Or maybe my hand.  But I have since learned the proper technique on how to chop up this bad boy and enjoy its flavor and nutrients in my life.  High in fiber, low in fat, full of nutrients that help keep strong bones and reduce the risk of serious illnesses... how can you go wrong with that? 

(You can read all about the health benefits of this amazing vitamin-packer HERE.)

Other than amazing ingredients, it is simple:  Cut, toss, cook, and mix.  The end.  And that simplicity comes out tasting, well, amazing.  Which would be why this has become one of my go-to meals.

Company for dinner?  Here we go.
Want something vegetarian?  And again, here we go.
Running low on time?  Here we...  well, you get the point.

(I know, I know, SO MANY pictures of it.  But look at those colors and tell me you would have resisted the urge to capture its beauty.  Uh-huh.  That's what I thought.)

Recipe from Real Simple, October 2011



  1. Heat oven to 450° F. On 2 rimmed baking sheets, toss the squash and mushrooms with the sage, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Roast, tossing once and rotating pans halfway through, until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the tortellini according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water; drain the tortellini and return to the pot. Add the vegetables, fontina, ¼ cup of the cooking water, and ½ teaspoon salt and toss gently to coat (add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry). Sprinkle with additional fontina.
COST: $16.00                 COST PER SERVING (4): $4.00

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1.25.12 -- What I am Loving Wednesday

It's Wednesday again --> YES!  I have actually been waiting for Wednesday to roll around so that I can focus my attention on things I am loving and have a reason to share it with you all.  What a great way to live your day, right?  So, here are the things that are making me happy today, the last Wednesday of January, 2012.  (My oh my this year is flying by!)

1} The fact that I am alive today after an almost near car accident last night on my way home from work.  I am loving anti-lock brakes that work.

2} I've said it before and I will say it again: coconut water with dark chocolate.  I had it once and I am dreaming having it again.  Time to get my butt over to Trader Joe's.

3} Children who turn in their work on time and don't have missing work.  (Of course, I love the children who have missing work as well, but you get what I am saying...)

4} The sunshine.  I am wearing a sweater and no jacket, yet I am not cold.  SWEET!

And for my fab Pinterest finds for today:
(All pictures are linked to original source)

5} These shoes.

6}This look for bridesmaid's dresses.  Not that I am ever going to have a wedding myself again, but for those I help plan, this is my suggestion.  LOVE.

7} These paper hearts for Valentine's Day decorations.  Wax paper and crayons.  Simple.

8} Multiple ways to tie scarves.  I adore scarves. 

9} These words -- my motto recently.

10} I found my own picture on pinterest when I was browsing, and I never pinned it.  I don't know the specific word to describe it, but it is a great feeling. (It is the one on the bottom left.)

And of course, my husband.  Why?  Because he is sweet, handsome, caring, and just all around wonderful.  And he gives the best hugs. 

Happy Wednesday, Folks!


{January 18, 2012}

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I've Got a Love-el-y Bunch of Coconuts (a deedly-dee)

See that blond over there on the right?  Yup, that's me.  A lot younger me, but still me. (Just to give you an idea, that little girl under my arm?  She is in the middle of her first year of college.  So yes, a much much younger me!)  There I am, with my Swedish friend, a South African teenager, and two little Palauans... and of course, a coconut.

Which is what this post is all about.

Last Saturday I mentioned that I found THE DRINK of all drinks.  And truthfully, it was a great one.  I do not take back my claim.  But then I started hearing from people (via blog comments and FB comments and other comments) that many people had never actually had coconut water before.


Although that was my initial reaction, I thought back this moment pictured above.  Notice that Helen (the friend next to me) is holding a coconut and I am not?  It is not because I wasn't given one.  It is because I was given one, and then I promptly gave it away.

It tasted like dirty socks.  What did you expect me to do?

Time, however, has marched on, and I later found myself more long-term in this island nation, and later in the Marshall Islands, and later marrying a Brazilian.  You add all that together and yes, I now love coconut water. 

Roadside stand in Costa Rica

I did a little research and basically found out that the stuff is amazing for you.  A-MAZE-ING.  For example:
  • high in potassium and calcium
  • promotes weight loss (low in calories and sugar)
  • cleanses your digestive tract
  • boosts immune system
  • helps with rehydration
  • and on and on and on...
My man, getting us our much desired coconuts for the day

Of course, some people think this is bogus, and you know, it might be.  Who knows.  But I do know this: It definitely isn't bad for you, that's for sure.  Last I checked eating fruit was a good thing, so I intend to keep on doing it. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sweet Find: Coconut Water with Dark Chocolate

I think I have found the drink of all drinks:
Zico Pure Premium Coconut Water with Dark Chocolate.

(Whew -- that was quite a mouthful!)


Have you ever had coconut water?  I mean, the real stuff, like cut-the-top-off-of-the-coconut-and-stick-a-straw-into-it coconut water?  It tastes nothing like you would expect.  When I think of coconuts, I think of the stuff that comes in the candy bars.  Sweet.  But that is not what coconut water tastes like.  The first time I tried it I hated it.  Hated it.  But over time it grew on me and now I am a fan.  And my body is a fan, too.  Coconut water is so incredibly healthy, filled with all kinds of electrolytes your body needs.  But alas, I do not have any coconut trees in my neighborhood (sigh...) so I must stick to the packaged stuff.  Which is good, too.  But now I found something great...

Coconut water with dark chocolate!  YESSSS!  So maybe there is some sugar thrown in there.  Whatever.  I like sugar.  This stuff is amazing.  I am sure you can find it in many places, but of course I will promote my favorite:  it is a buck-99 at your local Trader Joe's.  Yup, less than the cost of chocolate milk in most places.  Sure is better for me than those Starbuck's-fraps-in-the-jars that I love (the taste of, if not the ingredients). 


I think I have found my happy drink.  Move over Ovaltine and Silk.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mashed Potato & Kale Pancakes (Yes, yet another kale recipe...)

If you are a follower of this blog on Facebook, then you saw that I posted something the other day that went like this:

Trying a new recipe right now. If it tastes even close to how I am imagining it will, then I am about ready to fall in love.

And fall in love I did.  Potato and kale pancakes, folks... it is a winning combination. 

Once again, this meal comes straight from the November 2011 issue of Everyday Food.  I have tried several recipes from this one little booklet, and they have all been excellent.  Here are a couple of them:

Anyway, back to the little potato pancakes.  Easy.  Really easy.

The recipe yielded a lot (that Martha Stewart is not lying when she says it serves six!) so I had a bunch I was able to store in the fridge overnight and make for round two the next day.  Always a great thing when you have really great food, if you ask me.

One major word of caution, though: LET IT COOL DOWN BEFORE YOU GRAB A HANDFUL.  Yeah, I should have thought that one through a little more...  oops. 

The oven kept them warm while the rest were cooking, and then I added it to a plate with arugula and some homemade honey mustard dressing, and viola!  Dinner was served!  And it received a ton of compliments.  I was even told it was the most delicious things we have had for dinner, which means it must be great because I do put a pretty good spread on the table every night.  ;)


  • 2 pounds russet potatoes (about 6), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 leek (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch kale (3/4 pound), tough stems and ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced medium
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. In a large pot, bring potatoes to a boil in salted water over high, then reduce to a rapid simmer. Add leek and kale and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 10 minutes. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.
  2. In a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium-high until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to bowl with vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. With a fork, mash potato mixture until a few lumps remain. With your hands, form into 12 - 16 patties.
  3. Pour off fat from skillet and wipe clean; add butter and melt over medium. In batches, cook cakes until golden on both sides, about 6 minutes, flipping once.
COST: $5.88         COST PER SERVING (6): $0.98
With arugula salad:    $1.38

Check out that price!  SCORE!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What I am Loving Wednesday

Britt over at The Magnolia Pair had or found a brilliant idea, one that I am totally not above stealing:  What I am Loving Wednesdays!  (The best piece of advice I received in college is beg, borrow, and steal -- ideas that is.  It works in my teaching life and so I am extending that to my everyday life :)  )

In no particular order, this is what I am loving right now, on this fine Wednesday in January, 2012.

1) I survived recess duty in 45 degree weather.  Pssshhh, whatever!  Yeah, yeah, I know you are thinking it, but for a coastal California girl, this is award-worthy.  I place it up there with swimming with sharks, which I have done.  I feel equally proud.

2) Monday was a holiday, which means today feels like Tuesday even though I am really only two days away from the weekend... SWEET.

And three fabulous Pinterest finds for us today:

3) This incredibly delicious sandwich.  Looks like heaven on a plate.  Eu quero...

/via keep it skinny/
4) The yellow Converses on this ridiculously adorable couple. 

/via heart love weddings/

5) Everything about this set up, but specifically the wall color.  Does anybody know what it is?  I want it in my living room.  Yes, my living room.

/via better homes and gardens/
 6) My husband.  I know, that should be an everyday thing -- and trust me it is.  This man makes me SO ABSOLUTELY HAPPY, and this morning was no different.  I was in a rush and threw on a sweater, some jeans, a pair of boots, and a just a dash of lip gloss.  He looked at me and said, "You are so beautiful!"  What a great way to start my day!


7) I just received this book in the mail.  YESSSSS!

Happy Wednesday, Folks!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cooking with Friends: Apricot and Walnut Stuffing

A few months ago I read in one of my student's journals that she like to cook.  Taking my comment-making pen (green, by the way, and not red) I wrote, "Me too!  It would be fun to cook together sometime!"  I continued reading, closed that journal, and moved on to the next one, probably to read about a crush on Justin Bieber or something else incredibly important my little 9-year-olds share with me.  Later that day, however, this particular little girl came up to my desk and said, "I would love to cook with you.  When will you have me over?" 

You gotta give the girl some credit -- she knows how to go after something she wants.

Because I was already friends with this particular family (I have had more than this child as my student) and have actually know them outside of school, I did invite her over and we spent a day cooking together.  First, we made French Toast (her request) for brunch.

Then we *attempted* to make homemade peppermint hot chocolate.  Only I didn't know that Dutch Process Cocoa and regular unsweetened cocoa were so different from each other.  Our hot chocolate was OK, but it was definitely pepperminty.

And last but not least, we made apricot and walnut stuffing.  We had a recipe straight from England from one of my friends who lives there, but it was made very differently than I know stuffing so we adapted it and sort of made up our own recipe as we went.  You will also notice that this stuffing made a repeat appearance in my house and showed up on our Christmas table last night.  It was that good.

Cutting up the sourdough to make croutons

The Super-Crouton-Maker

Sauteing the onion, garlic, and celery

We did it!  A day full of cooking!

The finished product.  Yes, it is purple and gold.  I guess it would be a good treat for any LA Lakers fans out there.  Or nobility.  (Anything else you can think of that is purple and gold???)

1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
5 slices sourdough bread cut into small cubes
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut in small pieces and soaked in water for an hour
1/2 cup walnut pieces
3 cups chicken broth
3 T butter
garlic salt

1.  Make croutons.  Take the bread squares and drizzle half of the butter -- melted -- over them.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and mix.  Transfer to baking sheet and cook for 13 minutes on 350 F.
2.  Meanwhile, saute onion, celery, and garlic in remaining butter over medium-high heat.  After about four minutes add broth. 
3.  When croutons are finished, mix in a large bowl with apricot pieces (water drained out) and walnuts.  Slowly pour broth mixture over the top.  Mix.  Allow to sit for five minutes.
4.  Transfer to a baking dish and bake at 375F for 30 minutes, until top is lightly browned. 

COST: $6.70     COST PER SERVING (6): $1.12

And my favorite picture of the day:

"Look, if I turn the apron around I am a super hero!  I am here to save the day!!!"

Christmas in January

Happy New Year!

There.  I feel like I can finally say it.  After waiting for Christmas for so long, it finally came and now I really feel like I am in 2012.

As I mentioned (maybe a million times), my little brother is on leave from his time in Afghanistan.  Although he will be spending most of his time up in Oregon with his wife and her family, they were able to come down for the long weekend to see us.  Which has been WONDERFUL! 

We are not a super sappy and lovey-dovey family, so instead of sitting around crying about the time that has been missed, we headed out the door and did what we really wanted to do: go get food (Applebee's -- yum) and then head on over to Guitar Center.  If you have a music lover in your family you must experience this place.  The boys banged around on the drums while we girls listened, got bored, and then wandered around the store. 

Yesterday, however, was a sappy and lovey-dovey day.  It was full-on Christmas over here.  The last time I was able to spend Christmas with my brother was five Christmasses ago.  He was 18 and on leave from Basic Training, and I was 24 and spending my first Christmas with this new Brazilian boyfriend of mine ;)  The next year I was married to that Brazilian boy (just 10 days of marriage, by the way!) and Tommy was in Iraq.  The following year he was stationed in Kentucky, spending Christmas with a girl he had a crush on named Brittany while we stayed around here.  The year after that Tommy and his WIFE Brittany spent their first Christmas together in Tennessee and we spent Christmas in Brazil with that side of the family.   And this last Christmas found us mailing him packages to Afghanistan, praying for his safety, and me crying on Christmas day because the sun was shining and my brother was no where to be seen, and we decided that Christmas was not going to happen until he came home.  And this weekend he came home :)

Michael Buble crooned out the tunes to us, about Winter Wonderlands, Holy Nights, and things like that, while food was cooked, games were played, and movies were watched.  The house smelled like gingerbread and there was a lot of loved ones around, and it was perfect. 

My favorite picture of the day:

First of all, we all agreed that turkey is kind of a stupid food.  It doesn't have much flavor, costs a lot, and makes you sleepy.  So we opted to have roast chicken for dinner.  Secondly, yes, this apron belongs to me.  But that didn't stop Dan from putting it on and getting work on carving one of our two birds.  You put those two things together and we have a fun Christmas memory :)

Of course, being Christmas, we had all the other stuff.  I know some families eat a ham on Christmas, but that is not the way we roll.  Thanksgiving dinner is so good, so we do it twice.  The holiday season is then sandwiched in between to amazing dinners, my favorite food around.

Of course, we had the tree, the gifts, the cookies, all that.  But the best was having family around.  It may not have been December 25, but it was perfect!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Jingle Bells Keep on Ringing...

THIS is what my living room looks like right now:

Yes, you are seeing that correctly: those are baggies of peppermint (AKA Christmas flavored) candies.  And yes, that is a Merry Christmas bag in the background.  See that light coming from the top right corner?  That is shining down from the white lights on the tree. 

Christmas is almost here.

Before you get all crazy on me and give me a lesson on how to read a calendar, let me explain.  My brother who is currently stationed in Afghanistan (I almost typed Iraq, but that was last time) is home for his mid-tour leave.  Two weeks with loved ones before he picks up and heads back on out.  I am a firm believer that dates on the calendar are merely suggestions, but ultimately having the people you love around you should determine when the holiday-in-question should actually be celebrated.  This could explain why we celebrated Thanksgiving last June (when distant family was in town) as well as three times in November, none of which fell on the actual day, or why my husband and I will be found at home, doing nothing out of the ordinary on Valentine's Day but on Presidents' Day -- when the restaurants are not packed and loud -- we will be out on the town.

Like I said, the dates are merely suggestions. 

Unless, of course, it is my birthday.  That is a date that should be remembered every year, no exceptions.

It may be January 13 today, but Christmas really is two days away.  If you don't believe me, you should have a look under our tree.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chicken and Kale Casserole

I love casseroles.  I think they are really the all-American food.  As far as I can tell, there is no other culture on the face of the planet that throws a bunch random stuff together, throws it in the oven, and then thirty minutes later proclaims that dinner is done.  So easy, and yields a great amount, allowing my little family of two to have leftovers for days.  I am not going to complain that last night my dinner prep consisted of plopping a bunch on a plate, throwing it in the microwave, and setting it on the table with some bread and butter.  My husband ate this for dinner on Tuesday night, lunch for Wednesday, dinner again on Wednesday, and then lunch today.

Poor husband.

But happy wife.

Now, before you go feeling all that bad for him, please remember that kale is his favorite vegetable.  The man loves this leafy green goodness.  So, yes, he has been stuck on repeat with his meals, but I have not heard a single complaint.  I think, however, that it is time to make something different tonight for dinner ;)

Recipe from Everyday Food with Martha Stuart, Nov. 2011 issue

*This recipe yields a TON.  Consider yourself warned.
**Instead of a cooked whole chicken, I used a pack of cooked chicken strips from Trader Joe's.  I just chopped them up and threw it in the mix.



  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 pound large pasta shells
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced medium
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bunches kale (1 1/2 pounds), tough stems and ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken (from 1/2 rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 container (48 ounces) part-skim ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan, grated (2 1/4 ounces)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain; return to pot. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is beginning to soften, 4 minutes. Add kale, cover, and cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to pot with pasta.
  2. Stir in chicken, ricotta, lemon zest, and 1/2 cup Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; top with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Bake until top is golden, 30 minutes.

COST: $19.11      COST PER SERVING (8): $2.39
Plus butter and bread -- about $2.50/serving

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pura Vida

Last week I needed something to post about so I threw some pictures of Brazil on my page and didn't think much of it.  But they turned out to be wildly popular.  I woke up on Saturday morning -- my birthday, by the way -- to see that they had been mentioned and shared within the Blogoverse.  Within a few hours they had several hundred hits, equivalent to what my best posts get in a few days and my regular posts get in, well, let's just say  a long time.  It was a HUGE honor!  I mean, I like my pictures, sure... but to know others liked them as well, it totally made my day.  As lame as this is going to sound, it really was the best present on my birthday.  Sappy and lame?  Maybe.  True?  Absolutely.

Obrigada, Danielle e Rachel!

I know today's pictures are not going to be as wildly popular because I do not have strong ties to the Costa Rican world like I do within the Brazilian world, but I just stumbled across these pictures while looking for the actual food ones I need to post about and decided to share these.  They are not seeking fame or glory, they are just wanting a place to be seen.  Enjoy a glimpse into Costa Rica while I go hunt for those Apricot and Walnut Stuffing pictures :)

(These pictures were taken in La Fortuna, Tamarindo, and Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica last summer on our vacation.  What an AMAZING place.  If you have the chance to go, DO IT!)
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