Thursday, February 27, 2014

. . . Cheesy & Spicy Sausage Pasta . . .

Holy Yummy, Batman!  You are going to want to run to the grocery store to grab these ingredients to make this pasta dish.  It's so easy but packs a big punch with the slightly spicy and cheesy flavor!  The first time I made this my husband liked it so much he said "You should definitely make this for Christmas Eve Dinner!".  Now that is a compliment I would say.

  I first saw this a long time ago on Pinterest with a little different list of ingredients and then more recently Kevin and Amanda posted it on her blog.  Of course her beautiful photos made me want to make it immediately.  While my photos aren't as pretty as hers I hope you will be just as tempted as I was because it is totally worth it.  I say that it's a little spicy but if you get the mild Rotel it isn't too overpowering at all.  I also liked using Rotini pasta because the sauce clings more to it but you could use any small pasta you have on hand.  I also changed up the cheese a little because I'm not a big fan of Monterey Jack by itself so I used the Colby and Monterey Jack combo cheese instead.  The great thing about this dish is that it's a One Pot Meal!

We did serve this for Christmas Eve Dinner and everyone was crazy about it which made me a happy camper!  After we were all done inhaling the pasta we discussed some variations and the one thing everyone agreed on was how good it would be with chicken or shrimp.  Don't be afraid to change it up a little.  Go on with your bad self and get crazy with it! 
You will need: 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 package smoked sausage
1 1/2 cups diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chiles, Mild is what I used
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces Rotini Pasta
Salt and Pepper to your liking
1 Cup Colby and Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions

Add olive oil to an oven-safe skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add sausage and onions and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes or so. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, Rotel, heavy cream, pasta, salt and pepper and stir. Bring to a boil, cover skillet, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pasta is tender--about 15 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with scallions. Broil in the oven until cheese is brown and bubbly.

 Gather your ingredients
 Slice the package of sausage thinly into discs
 If you didn't buy a packaged of chopped onions then of course chop your onion up and then add the sausage and onions to a heated skillet with olive oil and saute until everything has a nice browness to it.  Add the garlic and saute for a few seconds.
 Add the Rotel, Pasta, Salt and Pepper and Chicken Broth.  Stir it all in.
 Add your heavy cream and combine well.  Cover your pasta mixture and simmer over medium low heat for about 15 minutes or so.
 It's like magic when you uncover it because you've created the perfect creamy pasta sauce.  Sprinkle with 1/2 of the cheese and mix it in then top with the remaining cheese.
 Top with your chopped up scallions and place under the broiler in your oven for a few minutes--check this often to avoid burning it.  You want the cheese to be melted and turn brown and bubbly but not charred.
 The perfect dinner!
Enjoy this yummy meal!

Monday, February 17, 2014

. . . Homemade Peppermints . . .

I realize that technically Valentine's Day is over but due to our snowstorm last week my son's school rescheduled Valentine's Day to today.  I didn't want to make these too early so they would be fresh so I waited until after Valentine's Day to make them so you'll have to excuse me for being so late.  I decided to share because they are so good and it is easy to adapt them for any holiday or occasion.  I'm thinking pastel colors for Easter cut out in mini eggs and 4th of July in red, white and blue cut into little stars and baby or bridal showers in the color of your choice...the list could go on since they are so versatile!

This recipe came from Mom on Timeout and she really has a winner with this one!  They are creamy and minty and are the perfect amount of sweet.  You could use any flavoring you'd like.  I chose mint but was thinking I'd like cinnamon or lemon for them.  Whatever flavor you choose will be awesome I'm sure.

I have actually made these a couple times and learned a lot on my first round.  I had no idea that the mixture never really forms a ball until you knead it and I also learned that the food coloring doesn't absorb real well until you knead it to blend it all in.  My favorite thing is to mix up the colors to create a tie dyed effect.  These would be so cute for a tie dye party with all bright colors mixed together.  
 . . . you will need . . .

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup light corn syrup
4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 - 2 tsp your choice of extract or candy flavoring
**if you are using mint extract add it by 1/4 teaspoonfuls at a time,
tasting between due to the strength of mint extract.  
food coloring - preferably gel to achieve bold colors
White sugar to roll the rolled balls in

Combine butter and corn syrup together in a small bowl with electric mixer.  Add 2 cups powdered sugar and your choice of extract and beat until well combined. Add extract 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon at a time until the mixture reaches your desired flavor.  Remember if you are using mint to be very careful how much you add.  It is very potent.  Mix in an additional cup of powdered sugar.
Turn bowl onto a cutting board or counter sprinkled with last cup of powdered sugar.
Knead the mixture until sugar is absorbed and is completely smooth. Divide dough into as many portions as you want so you can color them with food coloring. Tint with color of your choice but if you want bold colors be sure to use food coloring gel which can be found at stores like Michael's and Hobby Lobby.  Shape into 3/4 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Flatten balls gently with a fork.
Use a small heart shaped (or any shape you want) cookie cutter to cut. Let candies stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 day. Store in an airtight container or package up for gift giving.  

 Mix your butter and powdered sugar together with electric mixer.  Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and flavoring extract and mix well.  Add one more cup of powdered sugar until you have what looks like fine powder.  It is not going to form a dough until the next step.

 Dump 1 cup of powdered sugar on a cutting board or your counter (I used a marble pastry board) and add the flavored mixture to this.  Knead the mixture into the powdered sugar until you get a smooth ball of "dough" as seen below.

 Divide your dough into separate bowls for coloring or if you are just using one color place in one bowl.  Add food coloring gel for bold colors.  I used Wilton Gel Purple and Rose Pink to get my colors.

 Food coloring may not get mixed in completely with your mixer so you will have to knead it again until it's well blended.  

 Roll the dough into 3/4 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.

 Flatten ball gently with a fork so your finished mints have little ridges in them.  It works best to do the ridges before you cut them or you end up flattening your shape.

 Use a small heart shaped cookie cutter to create your finished mint.  You could use any shape cookie cutter as long as they are small.
 Save all your scraps and roll them together to create a tie dyed look.  These are my favorites.

 . . . pretty enough to eat . . .

. . . perfection . . .

 . . . yummy in the tummy . . .
 I packaged mine in plastic Valentine's cups and wrapped them in cellophane and tied a cute "Mint" to be tag to them with tulle ribbon.  Perfect gift for teachers and principals for Valentine's Day!

. . . mint to be my valentine . . .

 This is just a bonus picture to show you what I sent in for my son's classmates.  Grabbed a package of Valentine's Day gummy bears and tied this cute tag to each bag with some baker's twine.  

. . . easy peasy . . .

 . . . Become a follower or subscribe by email . . .

Friday, February 14, 2014

. . . Happy Valentine's Day and Snow Pictures . . .

Happy Valentine's Day to YOU!  Itsy Bitsy Paper is showing the love by sharing a 25% OFF coupon with you for purchases made today!  Coupon Code: VALENTINES

I realize that snow isn't all that unique but to have an 8 inch snowfall in North Carolina isn't something that happens every day in the winter so we are so excited!  This snow that rolled in was record breaking snow with dropping 8 inches of snow in 24 hours.  I have lived here for 17 years and can say I haven't seen snow like this since moving here.  It was such fun to get out and play in it and to turn into a kid again!  We went sledding and made snow angels and walked to the grocery store so we didn't have to drive and drank hot chocolate when we came in.  So much fun!
  . . . Snow Day

 . . .celebrate!

 . . . winter wonderland
 . . . So pretty
 . . . fun in the snow
 . . . perfection

. . . Snow Day selfie

Happy Valentine's Day!