Thursday, January 26, 2012

30 minute Valentine's Day meal: Bow Tie Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Chicken

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." ~Luciano Pavarotti

I can put an entire meal on the table is less than 30 minutes! You can do it too, and even for Valentine's Day!

Here's my Italian Cuisine menu:

Appetizer:Toasted Ravioli with sauce
Entree:Bow Tie Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Chicken
Side Dish:Buttered peas
Salad:Italian Salad
Bread:Garlic bread
Dessert: Angel Food Cake drizzled with Strawberry Sauce

Hungry yet?

Here we go!

Bow Tie Pasta with Vodka Sauce and Chicken

*1 pkg. skinless, boneless chicken strips from the meat dept.
*1 bag Bow-tie Pasta
*3 T. butter (NOT margarine- trust me, it's healthier than "plastic" margarine and tastes 10 times better)
*1 tsp. minced garlic (you can buy it already minced in a small jar)
*i jar VODKA Sauce
*Grated Parmesan cheese

Boil pasta according to pkg. directions.
While it boils...

Saute meat in butter and garlic till all pink is gone and meat is just a bit golden.
When pasta is done, drain and add cooked chicken . Pour jar of sauce over and stir so heat from pasta warms the sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan!

There's your main course. Now, the other dishes are what I call "cheater dishes".

Toasted Ravioli

Purchase a box of frozen ravioli and cook according to pkg. directions.
Serve with a jar of PIZZA sauce for dipping .(I like it better than Marinara for these.)

Sweet Peas with Butter

Drain 1 can sweet peas, put 1/4 stick butter on top and microwave for 3 minutes. Stir.

Garlic Bread
Purchase frozen garlic Texas toast. Add your own grated mozzarella if you like. Bake according to pkg. directions.

Purchase a bag of pre-made Italian salad. Add chopped black olives from the can, drained, add a few cherry tomatoes, and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Angel Food Cake with strawberry Sauce

1 store-bought angel food cake.
1 container frozen strawberries, thawed.

Add sugar to taste to the berries, then drizzle over top of cake.

There you have it!

A delicious "optical illusion" of a nice dinner that didn't knock you out, but will knock the socks off your guests when they realize it only took a few minutes to prepare.

If they ask for the recipe, just tell them it's a secret. Then make your family swear to secrecy!

Come back each Friday for my FAST AND FURIOUS FRIDAY MENU!

*If you have a recipe you would like to share or a recipe you would like me to share, email me and I will feature it in a upcoming post.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Caramel topped Brownie Hearts for your Valentine

Last Valentine's Day, I made this very simple, but wonderful dessert for my husband. When I shared the photo on facebook, I had to laugh as the comments of others were praising me for my culinary efforts, when this was an EXTREMELY easy dish to prepare.

It begins with a BOXED brownie mix. (Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines are my choice).
*Prepare according to directions.

As soon as you take it out of the oven, poke holes over top with a fork. Drizzle choclate sauce and caramel sauce over top (Smucker's is a good brand....ROBERT ROTHSCHILD'S is even better, but pretty pricey).

Let stand at room temp.
Cut heart-shaped pieces with a cookie cutter.

Plate it, add vanilla ice cream then drizzle again with sauces for a nice presentation.

In the photo, you will see a chocolate-covered strawberry that I dipped, then added red sugar sprinkles and whipped cream.

Really- ANYONE can make this. EVERYONE will love it! Give it a try!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Easy Individual Trifles--perfect for your Valentine

This is so easy I hate to call it a recipe. It's more of an assembly of a few ingredients, but the end result is so nice, it looks impressive enough to serve to someone special.

You will need only four ingredients.

*Pie Filling or fruit
*Whipped Cream

You can choose any cake recipe you love as the base. I chose store- bought angel food cake, cut into cubes. A pound cake would also work well.

You may also choose your favorite pudding flavor. I chose vanilla and chocolate. I recommend the "cook and serve" packages.(Be certain to cool as directed in fridge) They have the best flavor. But instant pudding (just add cold milk and mix and refrigerate) is fine, and if you have no time, pre-packaged, ready-made will do (but would be my least recommended for this recipe).

Use your choice of canned pie filling. I chose cherry.Sliced strawberries would also go very well with chocolate or vanilla.

Top with whipped cream. (Or use Cool Whip.) For those of you who do not use whipped cream, once you do, that will be your favorite way to top any dessert. Cool Whip is fine, but whipped cream is AMAZING!

Serve in nice stemware for best presentation. (You can get stemware at THE DOLLAR TREE, DOLLAR GENERAL STORE or at thrift stores in your area.)


Monday, January 16, 2012

THE best lasagna recipe

Take it from an Italian must try this recipe!

I love Italian food, but I would be the first to say that although I love pasta dishes (I serve them often at my house), lasagna has never been at the top of my list...until now!

I actually had two servings--two LARGE servings, and so did everyone else when I had a dinner party in my home. (So much for moderation....)

I served it again at an Italian buffet for nearly 30 people at my house on Christmas Eve and again...a big hit!

Another pic when I made it recently. I added more mozzarella on top because well...CHEESE!

Although the recipe calls for a very long time to cook the sauce on low, you don't have to cook it that long (30-45 minutes would do), however, the longer it cooks, the more time for that delicious blend of spices to "get to know each other better"....

This makes a filling meal served with garlic bread and a salad.


1 pound sweet Italian sausage
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information
Amount Per Serving Calories: 448 | Total Fat: 21.3g | Cholesterol: 84mg