The Easiest Bolognese Sauce Ever

Hi lovelies!

There are some days when you are just craving comfort food. For me, this usually happens on cold, winter nights and when it’s raining – it’s intensified! While at work, I decided that it would be a good idea to make a pasta with a bolognese sauce that night. Not sure what triggered this epiphany  I had – perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was really missing our honeymoon in Italy.

Let me just start out by saying, I’ve been trying desperately to brush up on my cooking skills since the hubs and I are big fans of good cuisine and like to consider ourselves “foodies”. I wanted to find a recipe that was easy to follow but one I could potentially build on. If you search on Pinterest or Google “bolognese recipe”, I guarantee that you will find thousands. The one that I ended up going with was simple, fresh and a recipe I could certainly add my own little flair to.

So here it is.

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What you need:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 1 celery stalk (chopped)
  • 1 carrot (chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. ground chuck beef
  • Shredded or grated Romano cheese
  • The pasta of your choosing

Directions:

In a large pot, add the olive oil and cook on medium-high heat until it’s almost smoking. Add in the chopped onion and garlic and cook until the onion becomes soft and almost translucent (approximately 7-8 minutes). Next, add in the chopped celery and carrot and saute (around 5 minutes). Turn the burner to high and add in the ground beef. Stir until the beef is broken up and fully cooked (no longer pink). Lastly, turn your burner on to medium-low heat and add in the tomatoes and parsley, stirring occassionally until the sauce thickens (about 30 minutes).

While the sauce is cooking, go ahead and cook your pasta in a separate pot. Once the sauce is thick and your noodles are done – it is ready to be served. Pour the bolognese sauce over your bowl of pasta, top with the shredded or grated Romano cheese and enjoy!

What’s great about this recipe is it lends itself to be eaten as is or you can get creative and add your own touch to it. For the olive oil, I used a local, basil-infused olive oil to give it a little extra flavor. I also added some dried basil and Melting Pot’s garlic and and herb seasoning because – well, the stuff is good on everything! Something I’d like to attempt next time? Adding a little bit of red wine…but that’s for another day!

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Recipe Box | The Best Steak You’ll Ever Have

Happy Saturday y’all and happy GAME DAY to all of my fellow Carolina Panther fans!

Tonight, we are facing the Seattle Seahawks and its a big deal for those of us here in Carolina! Last week for the game, we all gathered at our friend Joe’s new pad and brought an assortment of delicious food to share. I made my famous sausage balls but there were some other notable treats (i.e. – caprese skewers, pigs in a blanket, chex mix and mimosas). For those of you who are gathering tonight to watch some football, may I suggest making the best (and I do mean the best) steak you’ll ever have. And get this…it is not done on a grill.

Now bear with me folks, I know this sounds crazy. But with it being unusually cold here, making this incredible, tender filet mignon can be done in a pan and finished off in the oven (restaurant style). This steak can be cut with a butter knife, and it’s decadent, full of flavor and absolutely to die for.

How did I find out about this? A girl friend/coworker told me about it…and I’m telling you, I will never eat a steak any other way again. I’m dead serious. We paired our filet with a spinach-artichoke dip twice baked potato. I’ve included that recipe as well. Enjoy!

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Best steak ever

 Recipe: Best Steak Ever

What you’ll need:

  • Filet Mignon (however many you need)
  • 1/2 Stick of Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

Directions:

  • Pour a little olive oil on each steak (both sides)
  • Grind a substantial amount of fresh pepper on both sides of the steak. Do not be shy, you want to coat it enough so that it almost forms a crust.
  • Sprinkle a good bit of sea salt on both sides. Do not be shy with this either…the salt will help tenderize the steak.
  • Let the steaks sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes so that salt and pepper goodness sinks in.
  • While steaks are marinating, take the half stick of butter and soften slightly so it is easy to mold.
  • Chop 1 tablespoon of parsley, garlic clove (minced) and zest the lemon to get 1 tablespoon of lemon zest. By hand, mix the softened butter, parsley, garlic and lemon zest and form into a log. Put in the fridge to chill.
  • Once steak is done marinating, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Put a little bit of butter in a baking dish and place it in the oven and let it sit while it preheats.
  • Put some olive oil in a pan on high (about 3-4 tablespoons).
  • Place the steaks on the pan when it is screaming hot.
  • Pan sear both sides of the steak until it is brown and forms a crust from the salt and pepper – approximately 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Once finished, take the steaks and put them in the buttered baking dish in the oven and let them cook for about 6-8 minutes for medium rare. About 9-12 minutes for medium (You do not have turn the steaks over).
  • Remove the steaks from the oven, and plate. Take the special butter you made out of the fridge, and put a dollop on top of each.
  • Enjoy!

 

 Recipe: Spinach-Artichoke Dip Twice Baked Potato (Serves 6)

What you’ll need:

  • 3 Large Baking Potatoes
  • 2 Teaspoons of Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons Melted Butter
  • 9 Ounce Bag Fresh Spinach (Roughly Chopped)
  • 3 Tablespoons Cream Cheese (Softened)
  • 1/4 Cup of Sour Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons of Sea Salt (For Seasoning Potato Skins)
  • 6.5 Ounce Jar of Marinated Artichoke Hearts (Drained and Chopped)
  • 1/4 Cup of Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 4 Ounces of Shredded Fontina Cheese (Or a Similar Cheese)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Pierce the potatoes with a fork all over.
  • Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and put in oven for approximately 1.5 hours or until cooked all the way through (soft inside).
  • Take out of the oven and let them cool slightly.
  • While potatoes are baking, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat; add garlic and spinach. Cook the spinach until it is wilted (approximately 7 minutes).
  • When spinach is done, take out of the pan and put it in a strainer. Press against the spinach to remove any excess liquid.
  • When potatoes are cool enough to touch, slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out the middle of the potatoes into a bowl but be sure to leave enough of a border of potato to keep the shape of the skins.
  • Rub some olive oil on the skins and sprinkle with sea salt; set them on a baking sheet.
  • Mix the scooped out potatoes (in a bowl) with the cream cheese, 3/4 of the fontina cheese, sour cream, and melted butter until smooth. Fold in the spinach and artichokes.
  • Place the mixture inside each of the potato halves. Sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese and remaining fontina cheese.
  • Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes (or until cheese is melted on top).
  • Enjoy!

Recipe Box | Have Your Pie + Eat it Too! (Healthy + Easy No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie)

Alright – so if you know me, you know that I have a serious (and I do mean serious) sweet tooth. However, I’ve been on a clean eating kick these last few weeks and I’ve been trying my hands at several different recipes that are both delicious and healthy!

Peanut butter and chocolate are two of my most beloved sweet treats and I’ve been on a mission to find a quick, easy and guilt-free dessert that satisfies these cravings of mine. After doing a little bit of research, I discovered a recipe that I switched up a bit to make my own. When I first stumbled upon it…I had one of those “it’s too good to be true” moments. Could there really be a dessert recipe that is this easy to make and will allow me to feel okay about eating? I just had to give it a try…and I am so glad I did! Goodbye Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and fattening peanut butter pie recipes that are made with cream cheese. Hello healthy, no-bake peanut butter pie!

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For the Crust:

Pre-made Nabisco Oreo Cookie Crust (can be purchased from almost any grocery store)

 

For the Filling:

32 oz. Honey Flavored Greek Yogurt (I purchased mine from Trader Joe’s)

3/4 cup of Natural Peanut Butter (I also purchased this from Trader Joe’s)

 

For the Topping – Homemade Whipped Cream (Optional):

1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract

1 cup of Heavy Whipping Cream

 

Directions for the Pie Filling:

  • Take out a large mixing bowl and whisk together the 32 oz. of Greek yogurt and the 3/4 cup of peanut butter.
  • Once the two ingredients are blended, pour the mixture into the pre-made Oreo pie crust (be sure to spread evenly).

 

Directions for the Whipped Cream Topping:

  • Combine the heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract in a medium size bowl.
  • Beat mixture with a whisk until stiff, firm peaks form. You’re going to need to practice some patience – it could take several minutes.

 

Use a spatula to smear the whipped cream topping on the peanut butter pie. Cover and chill for several hours (or overnight). That’s it, folks! This pie was so incredibly tasty and one would have no idea that it was made with just Greek yogurt and natural peanut butter! If you’re looking to satisfy your need for chocolate and peanut butter that is a little more guilt-free and no-fuss – I’m telling you, this is the answer. Looking to cut the calories even more? Just leave off the whipped topping! This could also be delicious with another pie crust such a graham cracker crust or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can make your own! Enjoy! 

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Recipe Box | Fish with Mango-Avocado Salsa + Cauliflower Mash

So I’ve been really trying to eat on the lighter side and cooking with only fresh ingredients in an effort to eat clean. But I have to be honest, preparing some sort of lean protein and a random veggie just sounds…well, boring. My husband and I are both big foodies and love to take our palettes on an adventure. Not saying that all funky food is bad for you but what I am saying is that eating healthy takes a lot of thought and effort and you have to be careful with what you choose to consume.

After speaking with a couple of coworker girlfriends – I found a way to slightly reinvent the wheel. I was inspired by one of their suggestions which was doing a mashed cauliflower as a starch replacement. This is something I had seen on Pinterest before but had never heard of anyone actually trying it and let me just tell you, she raved about how good it was. As mentioned, I’m super valiant when it comes to food so I figured, why not give it a go?

I decided to accompany the cauliflower mash with fish as the main attraction. My husband and I both love seafood and knowing how good it is for you just makes it that much more satisfying. I had envisioned making a mango-avocado salsa to add on top of the fish so I wanted to find a tasty white fish. I went to the grocery store looking for something that was on special. To my surprise, I saw some beautiful swordfish filets that were relatively inexpensive. I love swordfish and it is not often that I come across it. I picked up the rest of my ingredients and managed to escape the store for around $30.

To make a long story short, dinner turned out just lovely and although Sean was a little skeptical about the cauliflower mash (he loves his potatoes), he was extremely impressed with how it turned out and tasted. Check out the recipe below – I would highly recommend it! Keep in mind, this delicious salsa mixture I created would be fantastic on chicken as well for those of you who don’t do fish. I baked the fish in the oven so you could do the same with the chicken although it would need a bit longer which will vary on the part of the chicken you decide to make.

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For the Fish:

I picked up two swordfish filets but you can use any white fish

For the Mango-Avocado Salsa:

2 medium-sized mangos

3 small-medium avocados

1/2 of a medium-large red onion

1/3 cup of fresh, chopped cilantro (you can add more if you like)

salt + pepper to taste

For the Cauliflower Mash:

1 medium head of cauliflower cut into florets

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

3/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives or green onion (garnish)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Heat a dutch oven on the stove with a water depth of 1/4 inch.
  • Prep the cauliflower head and chop into florets.
  • Put the florets into the dutch oven and cook covered for 7-10 minutes over medium-high heat.
  • While the oven is heating up and the cauliflower florets are cooking, prep all of the ingredients for the mango-avocado salsa. Chop everything up and combine it all in a medium bowl. You want everything to be mixed together so that it is all distributed evenly but not mashed (as we all know – avocado is very soft and delicate). Once this is complete, go ahead and cover the bowl and put it in the fridge to stay cold.
  • Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Once the oven is heated, lightly salt and pepper the fish (on both sides) and then put them on the baking sheet. Stick the baking sheet in the oven and let the fish cook for 15 minutes.
  • Once the 15 minutes is up, take out the fish and turn them over. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  • While the fish is baking, drain the water from the cauliflower florets and put them in a food processor along with the Greek yogurt, salt and pepper for about 1 minute or until smooth. You may need to stop the food processor to scrape the sides as needed.
  • Place the blended cauliflower into a bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Put this to the side.
  • Once the fish has cooked for the additional 10 minutes, take it out of the oven to cool.
  • Put the bowl of cauliflower mash in the microwave to head up for about 1 1/2 minutes on high (stirring about halfway through).
  • Arrange fish on on a plate, spoon the mango-avocado salsa on top of it. Add a lime wedge to the plate for some extra flavor. Add the cauliflower mash and garnish with the chives or green onion (if desired). Serve immediately.

This is a very simple dinner that is both delicious and healthy! You could even take the cauliflower mash a step further and make some brown butter on the stove to pour over it – it’s something I’m definitely going to be trying next time! If you’ve never given cauliflower mash a try before, I would highly recommend doing so (even if you are a little scared to step out of your comfort zone). Enjoy!

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Recipe Box | A North Carolina Exclusive: Atlantic Beach Pie

Alright y’all (I had to say y’all because this recipe encompasses the lovely, southern state of North Carolina) – so I read about this recipe almost a year ago on NPR‘s website regarding the Atlantic Beach Pie and almost dieeed. I’m a girl who loves sweets and anything that is a. local and b. getting this much attention from a national organization is something that I just have to try! So the long and short of it is, I found an article on NPR about the famous Atlantic Beach Pie that is a staple of the South. The recipe is from Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, NC. Katie Workman, the author of The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket, says it’s the best pie she’s ever had. She states “I think the only reaction I had was, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.’ For quite a while that was pretty much the only thing I could say.” {For more of this story, click here}. I am a Carolina girl (born and bred) and the fact that this was something I had been possibly missing out on all of my life kind of ached my soul. So of course, I had to get on this and make it ASAP.

First and foremost – thank you NPR for sharing this recipe with the world – what a gem! Let me just tell you how awesome this pie was…wowza. It is just as incredible as you would think it would be – it is the perfect blend of salty and sweet. The pie has a tangy, citrus and dense custard-like filling and is topped with light and fluffy homemade whipped cream…HEAVEN. ON. EARTH.

So without further adieu, below is the recipe. Enjoy!

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For the crust:

1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers

1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

3 tablespoons sugar

 

For the filling:

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two (I mixed the two)

Fresh whipped cream (recipe below) and coarse sea salt for garnish

 

For the fresh whipped cream:

2 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream

2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions for the whipped cream:

  • Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Beat mixture with a whisk until stiff, firm peaks form (if you’re unsure of what this looks like, please take a look here). You’re going to need to practice some patience here – it could take several minutes.
  • Cover and chill.

 

Directions for the pie:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Crush the crackers finely, but be careful not to crush them too fine or they will turn more into dust. (I used a food processor but you can use your hands.)
  • Add the sugar to the crushed crackers, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8 inch pie pan.
  • Chill the crust in the pie pan for 15 minutes in the fridge.
  • Take it out and stick it in the oven. Bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.
  • While the crust is cooling, beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt on top.

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