Friday, July 27, 2012


Growing up in East Texas in the 80s and 90s, my exposure to Italian meats was non-existent. I always thought ground beef was standard for pastas and lasagnas. I had no idea that there was a whole world of delicious flavorful meats like prosciutto, pancetta, and Italian sausage. Once I discovered these gems, my love for Italian food grew even stronger. So when my mom sent me a recipe for a lasagna made with Italian sausage (she too has expanded her horizons when it comes to Italian food), I decided to give it a try.

My mom found the recipe in a magazine ad for Johnsonville Italian Sausage. It was pretty easy to make and really good. She sent me a copy of the recipe, but you can also find it at the Johnsonville website. You can buy mild or hot Italian sausage. I used hot, and because it was mixed with all of the cheeses and everything else, it really wasn't too spicy. This is a great dish for when you have company because you can make it before they come, and put it in the oven in time for it to be ready after they arrive. This way you're not having to cook with your guests around.

Josh told me the night we had it that it was good, and the following day he said again how delicious it was. That's when you know you've got a winner!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Slow Cooker Steak and Gravy with Cheesy Garlic Crescent Rolls

As part of my agreement with my friends to write more (see previous post), I took a picture of our dinner tonight so that I could share it with all of you.

Like most American women I have become a huge fan of Pinterest. I especially like it for finding and saving recipes. It's a great way to discover new recipes or to organize your own. Tonight I tried a recipe I pinned awhile back. A friend of mine cooked it for us once and I liked it, so I made a few changes and gave it a whirl. You can find a link to the recipe for Crockpot Cube Steak and Gravy here. The only thing I changed was adding a bag of baby carrots, a sliced onion, and a small bag of red potatoes that I had cut in quarters. I like cooking vegetables with meat in the slow cooker so that I have an entire meal ready to go. You can also use less meat and fill up on the veggies instead. When I plated the meal, I topped it with a little chopped parsley for some color and freshness. It's still kind of an ugly dish, but if you check out the recipe, the blogger freely admits that! I thought the meal was pretty good, but next time I might try a different meat. The cube steak was okay, but not great. I am thinking I might use a pot roast instead. The veggies did well, so I would do those next time. I might also add more flavoring, perhaps another envelope of soup mix, maybe beef broth instead of water, or extra pepper? Looks like I need to experiment a little more. I am a big fan of the slow cooker, so I am trying to beef up my recipe box in that department.

Alongside the steak and gravy I served a little something new I made up last minute, Cheesy Garlic Crescent Rolls. They were really good, and so easy! Josh and Jack both loved them. I bought Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (the canned kind you find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store), then followed the directions for cooking them, but before rolling them up, I placed a little sharp cheddar cheese inside. After rolling them I sprinkled a little parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and chopped parsley over the rolls and baked them according to the package directions. I think you could make many variations of these rolls with whatever cheese, spices, or other items you might have on hand. Super easy and delicious!

Santa Fe Weekend

Last weekend I went on a girls' trip with two of my best friends from college, Heather and Beth.When we graduated from college we decided we should do a trip like this annually. Well, that was seven years ago, and last weekend was our first time to do it. Sometimes life just gets busy. Between jobs, weddings, babies, and everything else, we have put trip planning aside. So after seven years we finally did it. My friends were sweet enough to travel out to New Mexico so we could spend the weekend together in Santa Fe.

We had a wonderful time catching up, laughing, relaxing, and eating plenty of amazing food. One of the things we talked about was holding each other accountable to do things we want to do, which for me is writing more. So, I am starting today! Back to the blog! I have a recipe to share, but first I have to talk about our incredible meals in Santa Fe.

I often scour the web reading blogs, urbanspoon, and other reviews looking for great dining in Santa Fe. There are so many restaurants there, but I do not want to waste a meal going somewhere bad. Through my previous research, I had a few ideas in mind, and my friends also helped look up places while we were there (gotta love iphones, they are a traveler's best friend). Our first meal was Friday night at La Boca. When we arrived the restaurant was full and without a reservation, we would not have been able to get a table for awhile. However, there just happened to be three open seats at the bar, so we were able to sit there. We ordered a bottle of wine and split the chef's choice of five tapas. It was fun not knowing what dish would be next, and each one was delicious! The bartender was great and very helpful as we chose our wine. The atmosphere was wonderful as well. I would highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Santa Fe and will be back the next time I am in town.

Saturday we ate dinner at Luminaria. This restaurant is located at the Inn and Spa at Loretta, which is a beautiful place that I would love to stay at sometime (I'll be checking online frequently for deals). The restaurant has one of the most beautiful patios I have ever seen, and is literally right next to the historic Loretta Chapel. The lighting, the furniture, everything just combines for a lovely setting. It was a great place to enjoy a dinner with friends and would also be a romantic spot for a date. I would not recommend bringing kids (at least not for dinner). The food and wine were both delicious. I wish I would have been a little hungrier so that I could have enjoyed an appetizer and dessert as well. Seriously, everything on the menu sounded amazing. They bring complimentary bread as well as an amuse bouche. I was aware of what an amuse bouche was not from my fine culinary adventures but from watching "Top Chef." TV isn't all bad folks. For those of you who are either inexperienced in the world of fine dining or television's culinary competitions, an amuse bouche is a small bite brought out before the meal to prepare your palate. Ours was a spoonful of crab ceviche which was quite good. Overall, Luminaria was a beautiful setting in which to enjoy great food and conversation.

Sunday morning we had one last meal to savor before leaving Santa Fe. We decided on brunch at Cafe Pasqual's. I had heard so many wonderful things about this restaurant and was dying to give it a try. This small restaurant is extremely popular, and you will often find a crowd near the door, especially around breakfast time. We didn't have to wait too long in spite of the crowd, and the meal was definitely worth the wait! The food is all fresh and everything on the menu looked wonderful. I had a great chile relleno with a fried egg over easy. The atmosphere in the restaurant is colorful and fun.

That wraps up our culinary adventures in Santa Fe, and I think all three of us would agree that our meals might have been our favorite part of the trip! I had so much fun with these girls and cannot wait for our next trip (this time we are hoping to make it a year from now rather than seven). If you have good friends like mine that you do not get to see very often, plan a trip. It is so much fun!