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Minestrone Soup



Here's a yummy soup recipe when you'd like something with an Italian flare. 
Serve with Artisan bread or Sourdough Baguettes.

1 pound ground sausage
13 oz. Smoked Sausage, sliced
1 cup onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
14 oz. diced tomatoes
14 oz. Italian style stewed tomatoes, crushed
15 oz red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups cabbage, shredded
1 cup yellow squash, sliced
1 cup elbow macaroni
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Brown sausage and smoked sausage in large dutch oven. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender. Add mixed vegetables, tomatoes, beans, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add cabbage, squash, and macaroni and cook for another 10-12 minutes until pasta is tender. Ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan cheese. Serves 8.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Baked Five-Cheese Ravioli



Here is a wonderful recipe I make with homemade pasta. This has become my husband's favorite meal.

1 recipe homemade pasta (See recipe HERE.)

5 Cheese Filling:
10 oz. ricotta cheese
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup provolone cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 egg
2 tablespoons Italian-style bread crumbs
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon minced onion
salt and pepper
egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water)

Sauce:
1 pound ground sausage
24 oz. marinara sauce
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried parsley
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Prepare pasta dough and allow to rest as directed. While it is resting, prepare the cheese filling. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, cream cheese, mozzarella, provolone, and Parmesan cheeses. Stir in egg, bread crumbs, basil, parsley, and onion until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper. 

In small bowl, prepare egg wash and have ready at the work table, along with flour, a rolling pin, brush, ravioli wheel or knife, and a ravioli frame and press.

Roll pasta into 4-6 rectangular strips about 12" x 4". (I use the scraps to get a total of six strips.) Brush ravioli frame with flour. Place one strip of dough over the ravioli frame. Press dough into the frame with the indented tray. Brush dough with egg wash.



Fill pouches with heaping tablespoons of cheese mixture. Place second strip of pasta dough over the filling. Lightly press with your hand or fingers. Seal by running a rolling pin over the top of the dough, increasing pressure until the zig-zag edges of the frame are visible. Turn frame over and remove ravioli from frame by tapping on the counter or by gently pushing out with fingers. Trim squares with ravioli wheel or knife. Remove excess dough and re-roll. Repeat process until all dough and/or cheese filling has been used. 



Place ravioli squares on a baking sheet. May allow to dry up to an hour or may cook at this point. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large saucepan, cook the sausage until browned. Stir in marinara sauce, basil and parsley. Simmer for 10-12 minutes.

To cook ravioli, heat a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. Place ravioli in boiling water and cook for 4-6 minutes until tender. Drain and return to baking sheet.

Spray large baking dish with cooking spray. Place a third of the cooked ravioli on the bottom of the dish and layer with a third of the sauce and a third of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat this process two more times. Sprinkle top with Parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes and then place under a broiler for 2 minutes to brown top. Garnish with additional basil, if desired. Serves 6-8.

Wine Pairing: Serve with Louis Jadot Beaujolais or your favorite Chianti

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

French Toast

Here's a fast and easy breakfast dish to make for your family.

8 slices Texas Toast Bread
4 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon until frothy. Dip slices of bread in egg mixture on both sides. Place on hot griddle sprayed with cooking oil. Sprinkle with more cinnamon and pepper. Cook on medium heat for 2 minutes or until golden brown on one side. Turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with sliced bacon and fresh fruit. Serves 4-6. Yum!
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

A Few of My Favorite Things . . . In the Kitchen

Some of my blogger friends have been sharing posts of their favorite things, and I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite things . . . in the kitchen! 


9" Copper Atlas Pepper Mill - I received this as a Christmas gift several years ago, and it's one of my favorite things in the kitchen. I keep it by my stove and either fill it with whole black Tellicherry peppers or a melange of black, pink, red, green, and white pepper. It works absolutely wonderful and is so pretty on my counter.


3.6 quart Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Covered Casserole in Island Spice Red - This is another Christmas gift from years ago that I absolutely love and use a lot. I love cooking with cast iron and the enameled pots are really wonderful to work with. They are heavy but easier to clean than a regular cast iron pot.

8" Lodge Pre-seasoned Skillet - I could not have a list of favorite things and not include one of my cast iron skillets. This smaller one is perfect for making omelets or fritatas when cooking for two. I also have a larger 12" skillet that I use when frying chicken or making cornbread. If you have never made cornbread in a cast iron skillet, I encourage you to do so -- Soon! Today even! 


KitchenAid 6 quart Professional 600 Series Stand Mixer in Cobalt Blue - This is my second KitchenAid mixer. The first one I owned was a 5 quart Artisan tilt-head mixer that lasted for years, but then I replaced it with a larger version and have really appreciated the extra power this one offers. I love it for kneading my sourdough bread and for making pasta with the pasta attachment. A wonderful product I would not want to be without! If it ever gives out, I'll be tempted to replace it with one in Empire Red!

Bamboo Spurtle Set - Advertised as "not quite a spoon and not quite a spatula but rather a bit of both." The spurtle originated in Scotland in the 15th century and was used for stirring porridge without leaving any lumps. So far, I've used the 13" more than the 9", and I use it for more than stirring porridge!


Polish Pottery Mixing Bowls - I received two of these Polish pottery bowls one year for our wedding anniversary. They are so pretty and are of such wonderful quality. I enjoy using them when making my sourdough bread, something I do several times a week. The beautiful design on the inside and outside just make me smile!




8" Wusthoff Classic Ikon Chef's Knife - A few years ago my husband began gifting me with these knives -- one knife at a time. I'm happy to say, my collection (and knife block) is nearly complete. I really love the smaller size of these knives and also the cream color. Remember, a sharp knife makes a happy cook!



Rusticity Wooden Mortar and Pestle - Another Christmas gift from years past, this time from my middle daughter. I love using this for my herbs and spices. I also have a small marble one that I bought in Silverton, Colorado on one of our summer vacations. I find there are advantages in using both for different things, plus I really love the feel of the wooden pestle in my hand.


18" Mahogany French Rolling Pin - And speaking of wood . . . it took a little bit to get used to this tapered rolling pin, and I admit that I still have not mastered it for making pie dough, but there is something very satisfying in rolling dough with your hands, versus a handle. You have much more control. 


And since I'm sharing about rolling pins, I have to include this Italian Mattarello Rolling Pin my husband gave me for making pastries and pastas. It is a whopping 24.5" and absolutely gorgeous in design. And yes, daughters, this is an heirloom.


And last but not least, the newest addition to my kitchen: Mauviel M'heritage 250C Copper Saute Pan - This is my first copper pan, and although expensive, my family and I are already enjoying the food it has produced. Professional cooks everywhere, including Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and Martha Stewart, exclaim the wonderful benefits of cooking with copper -- heats more evenly and faster than other metals with superior control. Ability to go from stove to oven, and the stainless steel handles stay cool to the touch when cooking on the stove. Lined with 18/10 stainless steel instead of the old tin linings that had to be retinned when it wore out, these will last forever. Mauviel has been making copper cookware since 1830. Products are made in France with a lifetime guarantee. I hope to add a few more pans to my collection in the years ahead, but if you're only able to buy one copper pan, I highly recommend either a saute pan or a saucepan. Watch for sales throughout the year, but only buy through an authorized seller.

Not a tool, but I love collecting Hens on Nests,
and letting them share space with me in the kitchen!
So, that concludes my list of Favorite Things in the Kitchen. You'll notice that most of these items were Christmas gifts. It has taken me nearly 30 years to appreciate a fine tool in my kitchen, and my husband has been my champion in helping me learn to recognize that--whether it's an heirloom treasure from my grandma's kitchen or something new I've been given. Next month, I'll share a Few of My Favorite Things . . . in the Pantry!

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Here's a delicious recipe to try when you're craving chocolate and just in time for Valentine's Day. So moist and chocolaty! (Altered from a recipe found in Southern Living.)

1 cup strong dark coffee, cooled
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon vanilla

Frosting:
2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
2/3 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9" cake pans with waxed paper and grease with cooking spray. In glass measuring cup, whisk together coffee and cocoa. Set aside. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and eggs. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in mayonnaise and vanilla until combined. Add in flour mixture alternately with coffee mixture in 3-4 additions. Divide batter between the two pans. Bake 22-25 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pan and cool on wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.


To prepare frosting: In medium microwavable bowl, combine chocolate chips, heavy cream, and corn syrup. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds, until mixture is smooth. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, vanilla, and 2 cups of powdered sugar. Beat on low speed until smooth. Add chocolate mixture and remaining powdered sugar, adding more cream if needed to bring to a spreadable consistency. Frost layers and sides of cake. Serves 10-12.

Valentine Menu Ideas for Your Sweetheart

My husband and I will celebrate our 28th Anniversary on Valentine's Day this year. Rather than fight the crowds and long lines, we'll often stay home on our anniversary, and I'll make a special dinner. Here are a few ideas for a special dinner with your Valentine. 



Maybe you want to serve French Cuisine:






Or perhaps you have in mind Italian:





Maybe you want to treat your Valentine to a Steak Dinner:





Or perhaps you both prefer Seafood: 






Whatever you decide for your Valentine dinner, I hope it's one you'll cherish forever. May you have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Caramel Fudge Brownies

Here's another brownie recipe sure to please the chocolate lover in your family. These brownies form a lovely crust on top and stay moist for several days.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
10 oz. chocolate chips
6 oz. caramel topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small saucepan, melt butter and add sugar and brown sugar, mixing well. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir melted butter into flour mixture. Add eggs, chocolate syrup, vanilla, and chocolate chips. Mix until thoroughly combined. Pour half of mixture into a greased 9X13 baking pan. Spoon caramel topping over batter. Layer with remaining batter, spreading to edges. Bake for 28-30 minutes until done in center.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Shelly Roark's "I Love You" Crispy Rice Treats

Shelly Roark wanted to grow up and become Wonder Woman. When that didn’t exactly pan out, writing stories became her passion, and her career in journalism found her writing for newspapers and non-profits, like Focus on the Family, American Bible Society, and World Help. She’s the wife of a high school history teacher and mom to three teens, but she’s also been a clown, a ventriloquist, and a puppeteer. The Bubble Who Would Not POP! is her debut children’s picture book. Visit her at www.shellyroarkauthor.com.

Shelly's Debut Little Lamb Book Release: The Bubble Who Would Not Pop

Billy Bubble is ready to burst! The excitement of finally being out of his bottle on a beautiful, sunny day is everything he’s hoped for. But, someone else has bigger plans for Billy. The green-eyed girl with the bubble wand has a special message that needs to get to heaven pronto. Billy’s secret mission through the dangers of the sky - pointy branches, bird beaks, oh my! - will bring him before God, where he’ll learn an important lesson about God’s love and compassion. Join Billy Bubble on his journey of faith, and discover the power of prayer for yourself using a helpful prayer journal inside the book! Purchase the book HERE.

Shelly's Recipe for ‘I Love You’ Crispy Rice Treats

1 (10 oz.) bag large marshmallows
3 tablespoons butter
6 cups crispy rice cereal
Heart-shaped cookie cutter
Baking pan
Non-stick spray
1 (16 oz.) container white frosting
Red, white, pink candies for decorating

Spray baking pan with non-stick spray. Mix the marshmallows and butter in a saucepan over low heat until melted. Add cereal and blend. Press mixture evenly into baking pan. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out small hearts. Allow your children to decorate using the icing and candies. Makes about a dozen small hearts.

Crunchy Asparagus Spears


This is a delicious way to serve asparagus. Try it and enjoy! 

1 pound asparagus
2 egg whites
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 cup Italian-style Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and trim asparagus. In a small bowl, combine egg whites and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper. 

In a separate dish, stir together the Panko, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, paprika, and seasoned salt. Dip each asparagus spear in the egg wash, and then coat in the Panco mixture. Place the breaded spears on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Drizzle spears with olive oil. Bake until golden and crispy about 15-17 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Pistachio Caramel Cookies

Here is a delightful cookie recipe I think you'll love! Enjoy!

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup caramel bits
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup shelled pistachios

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. In small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in caramel bits, coconut, almonds, and pistachios. Drop onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-12 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Makes 4 dozen.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe.