Sunday, February 24, 2008

My favorite soup

Cheesey Potato Chowder

I got this probably six years ago out of a magazine, sorry, I don't remember which one. I've made many changes to it over the years, so here is my version.

Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 chicken broth cubes
2 cups water
3 cups potatos, diced
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1 can whole kernal corn, drained
4 cups milk
2 tblsp flour
2 cups shredded cheese of your choice

Cook onion in oil for about 4 min. Add water, broth cubes, potatos, carrots, and corn. Boil then simmer for 15 min.

Whisk milk, flour, and salt. Add to soup and boil. Simmer for 3 min or until slightly thickened. Add cheese and cook on low for about 15 min.

Rigatoni, Woodsman-Style

Rigatoni, Woodsman-Style
I got this recipe from but I made several changes. I'll put my changes in red. I'll add pics the next time I make it. This was fantastic, I will make it often.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced I used 4 cloves of chopped garlic
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausages, preferably without fennel seeds Didn't use this at all
1 pound assorted mushrooms, sliced thin I just diced them
1/2 cup balsamic vinager
1 cup seeded and diced canned plum tomatoes, drained I used a can of plain diced tomatoes and I didn't drain it.
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese I used parmesan

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion (garlic), and cook, stirring until wilted, about 4 minutes. Crumble the sausage into the skillet and stir, breaking up the sausage into small pieces as you do, until the sausage is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. I cooked the garlic for a few min and went right on to the next step.

Stir about half (all) the mushrooms into the sausage mixture. Add the remaining mushrooms as those in the pan wilt. I poured in about a 1/2 cup of balsamic vinager and cooked until the vinager reduced. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the mushrooms are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. If the mushrooms give off liquid, allow time for the juices to boil off before the mushrooms start to brown.

Pour the tomatoes into the skillet, stir in the peas, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook a minute or two. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Cook until the sauce is lightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Pour in the cream and bring to a boil. Spoon the ricotta into the sauce and stir gently to mix.

If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, add the pasta to the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring gently to coat the pasta with sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup grated cheese. Check the seasonings, adding salt and pepper if necessary.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

2007 Travels - Cruising

Since the title of my blog includeds the word travel, I should catch up on some of the traveling we did in 2007.

Mexico and Belize
We cruised with Norwegian Cruise lines in March 2007. We left out of Houston Texas and stopped in Progresso, Mexico; Cozumel, Mexico; and Belize City, Belize. All-in-all it was a nice trip, but we weren't huge fans of cruising. Maybe it was the time of year, but the upper sun deck was kind of chilly, too cold for sun bathing or swimming. Then the days that were warm enough for sun activities, the deck was packed and it was wall-to-wall people. We didn't really enjoy life on the boat and found it kind of boring, we probably won't cruise again. People say you can't be bored on a cruise ship, but we disagree. We weren't interested in hanging in the bars all day and night, we weren't interested in the casino, and we weren't very interested in most of the shows. We did enjoy the comic that they had two nights, so that was cool.

Progresso, MX:

We visited some Mayan ruins in Progresso. I can't remember the name of the place. It was really cool and we enjoyed this stop. After the ruins the bus took us to Marida City, MX. It is the capitol of the Yucatan Peninsula. We enjoyed some fantastic mexican food at a whole-in-the-wall little place and purchased a $30 casio digital watch. We forgot to bring a watch and figured we should get something, we're pretty sure we got ripped off:)
Cozumel, MX:

Cozumel was nice and warm. After driving all over the island in a cab trying to find a place to snorkel we finally found a beach on the complete other side of the island from where we started. It was very nice and we enjoyed several hours of sun. We then went back to the port area to get some food and then go back to the ship. We again, enjoyed fab food at another alley whole-in-the-wall. It was great and that day I learned that in Mexico you can take a margarita to go in a plastic cup. Fantastic!

Oh, I also met some really friendly boys in Cozumel:

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mission: Do not go to the store before vacation...

Yup, that's right, I am trying my darndest (is that a word?) to not go to the grocery store for a major shopping trip between now and Sunday. Tonight's dinner is the first of what I imagine will be several kitchen concoction adventures over this week.

Cressent Role Sammies and spruced-up bag alfredo noodles.

I made several different cressent sammies. The one pictured at left is sundried tomato feta/ zucchini/pea pods/red pepper flake. (This one was my fav). I also made mozzerella/red pepper/basil/balsamic, sliced turkey/string beans/blue cheese, and goat cheese/zucchini/asparagus (pictured below to left.)

For the noodles, I took a bag of those Lipton (I think) sides, the Alfredo one. I used 1/2 n 1/2 instead of the milk, threw in a few tablespoons of ricotta cheese, crushed garlic, and some dried basil. It actually made crappy bag noodles taste pretty good.

So, night one is complete and all parties are content. Let's hope Wednesday turns out as good or better. Lucking (can't believe I'm saying that) I have school tomorrow, so R will have enjoy some leftovers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I was busy tonight

A really good work-friend of mine is leaving for a new opportunity. Tomorrow is her going away party, so I made some treats.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting:

They are Angie's Famous Strawberry Cupcakes, I got the original recipe from I put the changes I made in red.

2 1/2 c. cake flour (I used all purpose, b/c I didn't have cake)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/3 c. buttermilk (I used heavy cream)
1/4 c. oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c. chopped strawberries (I used frozen organic strawberries)

My Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, soft
12 Tblsp. butter, soft
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
I added some red food color since it's Valentine's Day.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl.
In bowl of mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time until combined.
Add buttermilk (Heavy cream), oil and vanilla until combined.
Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.
Fold in berries.
Fill cupcake pans 3/4 way.
Bake for 20 minutes.

Mix cream cheese and butter until creamy.
Add powdered sugar and vanilla.
Add food color.

Original Frosting Recipe from Good Things Catered.
1/4 c. strawberries
1 Tbsp. strawberry liquor
1/2 tsp lemon juice
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 Tbsp vanilla

I also made Cherry Cheesecake Brownies.

Original recipe is also from I love this blog, can you tell? I will again put my changes in red. I didn't make that many changes to this one.

I had to bake them in a pie pan b/c my 8x8 was dirty! This is not the best pic, but it will do for now.
Ingredients for brownies:
8 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp cherry juice

Cheesecake portion:
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp sugar
1 egg white
1/2 c. maraschino cherries, finely chopped
2 Tbsp juice reserved from marachino cherries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and prepare 8x8 baking pan.
In medium bowl, cream cream cheese and 2 Tbsp sugar until light and creamy.
Add egg white, and cherry juice until incorporated and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat butter until just melted.
Add the cocoa and sugar and heat, stirring throughout, until uniformly combined.
Remove from the heat and set aside briefly until the mixture is slightly cooled. Stir in the vanilla.
Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously to incorporate. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until just incorporated, then beat vigorously for 30 more strokes.
I did this all right in the sauce pan.

Spread a little more than 1/2 of mixture evenly in the pan.
Carefully spread cream cheese mixture over the batter.
Spread remaining brownie mixture, very carefully, over cream cheese.
Use a toothpick or knife to swirl the cream cheese/cherry mix slightly.
As you can see from the pic, mine wasn't really three layers, it was more like a brownie layer on the bottome, then a swirled layer on top.

Bake about 20 to 25 minutes or toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter (not completely dry).

Friday, February 8, 2008


We went to Greece in October 2006. We stayed three days in Athens and ten days in Oia, on Santorini Island. This has been my favorite trip so far. Ryan said Fiji is still his favorite.

In Athens we stayed at the Athen's Imperial Hotel. It was really nice, and a great value for the price. The only minor problem was that it was a bit far from the cultural district; where the Acropolis, etc... is. But the subway system in Athens is fabulous, so it wasn't too big of a deal, really. The ministry of culture tour is great. You pay one flat rate of 20 euro, I believe and it gets you into several cultural attractions. Acropolis, Parthenon, Temple of Zeus, and more. Athens is really great, if you enjoy big cities, like we do.

Santorini is amazing for relaxing and taking in the view. We stayed at Lena's House in Oia. The owner was great and even let me bargain for the off season price, since we were so close to then end of high season. The weather was perfect. In the morning we would sit on our patio and have breakfast and wait until all the cruisers were gone, then we would go to lunch and bum around. Sometimes on foot, sometimes on a four-wheeler. We took the bus to the Red Beach, on the other side of the island and stayed there for a day, which was very nice. The island is so small that we traveled nearly the whole thing by four-wheeler one day. There are also a few wineries on the island, so we stopped and enjoyed some tastings. Oh, the island is actually a volcano and part of the island sank after an eruption, so the volcano is still there, called the caldera, surrounded by the remains of the island. So we were able to take a little boat trip to the volcano and walk up it and around it. Ryan really enjoyed this, because of the science nerd in him.

We will go back to Greece for sure one day. There are more cultural places to see on the mainland, like Meteora and Delphi.


I know it was more than two years ago now (can you believe it?), but here are a few photos from our honeymoon to Fiji. We stayed at Matangi Private Island Resort. It was fabulous and the staff was great.

We booked through a travel agent for this trip because deciding on a resort was tough and finding flights was not easy. The agent was great, it was South Seas Adventures. Matangi Island Resort was in the mid-to-high-price range. It was perfect. I totally recommend it to anyone considering Fiji.

Getting Started

I've recently started cooking a lot more than I used to and have discovered that I love it! I'm always trying new recipes and adapting them to fit our tasts, but then it's several months before I remember to make something again. I decided that by blogging it here, it would funtion as a visual recipe box for myself and maybe help out other people too. I'll also use this to post about our travels. Enjoy!