Spicy Mushroom Tomato Sauce over Pasta: Secret Recipe Club

7-9 Spicy Mushroom Tomato Sauce over Pasta

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was afraid of spicy food. She had a very traumatic experience once when she ate a pepper on her pizza by mistake. And she was always very cautious around Indian food. Eventually that little girl grew up, still afraid of spicy food. But one day she ate some buffalo wings. And some Pad Thai. And then she realized that spicy food wasn’t so bad after all. And then the little girl and spicy food lived happily ever after.

Lately I have had an insatiable obsession with spicy food. Given that I used to be a mild-only girl, this is a big change for me. I now cannot get enough of spice. Yesterday I actually suggested Indian food for lunch under my own free will. So when I was assigned Rhonda’s blog The Kitchen Witch for this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I knew I wanted to find something spicy.

When I saw this pasta with spicy tomato sauce, I was sold. This recipe uses crushed red pepper, which used to be my arch-nemesis, but works great in this tomato sauce. I added a pinch of sugar to my sauce to balance out the spiciness, and I added sliced hot Italian sausage instead of making meatballs because I was tired and getting hangry. This is a great spicy, quick, easy, delicious dinner!

Because this was so easy and delicious (and it was way past my dinner time), I only got to snap a photo with my phone which turned out less than desirable.  But I guarantee a happy stomach.

Make sure to check out Rhonda’s blog and what everyone else made this month!

Slightly Adapted from The Kitchen Witch


1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
Pinch of sugar
Dried basil, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 ounces dried pasta
Hot Italian sausage, cooked, optional


Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add oil and let heat for 1 minute. Stir in onion and cook until tender and slightly browned, about 5-9 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Pour into tomatoes and their juice.  Bring  to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.  Let cook and thicken for approximately 15-20 minutes.

Stir in mushrooms, sugar, basil, and crushed red pepper.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Let cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.  Prepare pasta according to package instructions.  Top pasta with tomato sauce and sausage, if desired.

Serves 3-4.

Mushroom Chili Dogs: Improv Challenge


Many people say that television has too much of an influence on children.  Perhaps, perhaps not.

Either way, I love television.  Reality shows, movies, HBO (Best ever!), cooking shows, Real Housewives of anywhere, sci-fi, historical- I will take them all.  And television has been an influence on me throughout my life.  Back in childhood, I had my definite favorites.  I love Lamb-Chop and grew seriously attached to my stuffed lamb Linda because of it (she may or may not still have a place in my adult bed…TMI? I apparently need some more human contact).  Anotehr favorite of mine was no doubt Sonic the Hedgehog

I always wished I could be Tails. Being a fox with two tails that could propel me through the sky was an ultimate childhood dream.  And to be friends with Sonic? I could die happy.  I still can’t even talk about that episode when Tails was considering allying with Dr. Robotnik and betraying Sonic.  Can’t.

Well, when this month’s Improv Challenge came along with the task of using mushrooms and sausage in a dish, I got a wicked idea.  I was going to create a chili dog, Sonic and Tail’s favorite food.

When I first ate a chili dog as a child, I hated it.  And I felt guilty to disagree with Sonic, but what was the appeal young hedgehog?! Now I like chili dogs, but I wanted to update it and adapt it to my tastes this time.  Creating a rich mushroom chili on top of sausage.  Delicious.

I’m having a childhood flashback to when my parents used to sing “Dr. Robotnik, he’s my hero” just to spite me.  I need a chili dog.

From Cinnamon Freud


For the Mushroom Chili:
3-4 cups chopped mushrooms
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

For the Chili Dogs:
4 Italian sausages
4 hotdog buns
Chopped onions, for serving
Shredded cheese, for serving


For the Mushroom Chili:

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add enough butter to coat pan. Stir in mushrooms, seasoning with salt and pepper, and cook until browned and tender, about 5-9 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Stir in ketchup, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat. Simmer until reduced and thickened, about 10-15 minutes.

For the Chili Dogs:

Heat grill over medium-high heat. Grill sausages for about 3-5 minutes per side (this will vary based on the type of sausage being used). Place hotdog buns face down on grill to toast. Place sausages in buns. Top with mushroom chili. Garnish with chopped onions or cheese, if desired.

Makes 4 chili dogs.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of the Harried Homemaker for hosting! Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Vegetable Lasagna


Well, my friends, we made it to 2014.  Last month was full of a lot of holiday cheer, gift giving, butter, and sugar.  But we made it to the other side.  So now it’s time for lots of gym memberships, work outs, and healthy living.  I definitely indulged a lot this holiday season, but everything in moderation right?  I balanced out my bowl of frosting with an apple, so it all evens out.

While New Year’s isn’t particularly my favorite holiday (I spent New Year’s Eve night contently at home after picking up subs, watched my dad light a few bottle rockets at midnight, and went to be shortly after), I do like the idea of a fresh start.  I don’t make formal new year’s resolutions, but here are some of my goals for this year:

1. Read 60 books for pleasure

2. Present my second year project and get my masters

3. Be more flexible

While my eating is pretty much good most of the time, I do sometimes make the choice to indulge.  And now I am happy to make the choice to bring back some more veggies.  This vegetable lasagna hit the spot- a little decadence of pasta and cheese mixed with some delicious veggies.  Perfect for a meatless meal and a good way to start this new year off.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated


For the Tomato Sauce:
28 ounces tomato sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf

For the Cream Sauce:
2 cups cottage cheese
3/4 cup half and half
3 ounces grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the Lasagna:
Salt and pepper
3 globe eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Olive oil, for sauteing
3 summer squashes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 portobello mushrooms, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
12 lasagna noodles


For the Tomato Sauce:

Combine tomato sauce, sugar, oregano, parsley, basil, and bay leaf in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, about 20-30 minutes. Cool slightly.

For the Cream Sauce:

In a bowl combine cream cheese, half and half, Parmesan, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

For the Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon of salt. Line a plate with paper towel. Place eggplant on top. Microwave for 10 minutes, until soft and shriveled, rotating halfway through. In a large bowl mix eggplant, summer squash, and mushrooms together.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, about half of the garlic, and half of the vegetable mixture. Cook until vegetables are browned, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to bowl and repeat with the remaining vegetable mixture. Set aside. Mix olives in with vegetable mixture.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles 2 minutes less than al dente. Drain and set aside.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the prepared 9×13 pan. Place 4 noodles in an even layer on top. Spread half of the vegetable mixture on top. Then spread half of the cream sauce on top. Repeat the process (4 noodles, 1 cup tomato sauce, remaining vegetables, remaining cream sauce). Complete the final layer by placing 4 lasagna noodles on top, the remaining tomato sauce, and the mozzarella cheese. Bake until warm and bubbly, about 35 minutes. Cool on wire wrack for 20-30 minutes. Cut and serve

Serves 4-9.

Homemade Pierogi


Many cultures have their own version of a dumpling or ravioli-  a food in which a filling (often meaty or cheesy) is wrapped by some kind of pasta or dough.  And in every culture, I tend to love it.

My friends, meet the pierogi, Poland’s version of this wonderful food.  For the past several years, I have begun a family tradition of having pierogi for the New Year’s along with some other traditional Polish food fare.  Thank goodness for holidays and an excuse to eat more than normal.

Pierogi are a little work intensive since you are making your own dough and filling, but if you love to cook, they are fun to make!  You can also assemble the little dumplings the night before to bake off the next day. Common fillings are potatoes & cheese, meat, cabbage, and sauerkraut, but the sky is the limit if you are feeling creative.

If you are planning a New Year’s party or gathering, I highly recommend you consider including some pierogi.

Adapted from Aunt Helen


For the Meat Filling:
1 pound ground meet (beef or pork)
1 onions, minced
1 tablespoons margarine/shortening
1 slices stale white bread
Milk or water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

For the Mushroom & Sauerkraut Filling:
1 onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces dried wild mushrooms (optional, can just use more normal mushrooms)
16-24 ounces mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
1 – 1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, drained

For the Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water

Butter, for pan frying


For the Meat Filling:

Brown ground meat. Drain grease and remove. Dry off grease with paper towel. Stir fry onion in butter in a heavy skillet 5 minutes. Add ground meat. Remove from heat.

Soak bread in just enough milk to cover. When thoroughly soaked, about 10 minutes, squeeze out excess milk. Stir bread, salt, and pepper into onion mixture until well combined.

For the Mushroom & Sauerkraut Filling:

Soak dried mushrooms in warm water for at least 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook onion & 1 tablespoon butter until until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms and remaining butter, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender, about 6-9 minutes. Stir in sauerkraut and adjust seasoning to taste.

For the Dough:

Mound flour on a bread board and make a well in the center. Drop eggs and salt into well. Add water; working from the center to outside of flour mound, mix flour into liquid in center with one hand and keep flour mounded with other hand. Knead until dough is firm and well mixed.

Cover dough with a warm bowl; let rest 10 minutes. Divide dough into halves. On floured surface, using half of dough at a time, roll dough as thin as possible. Cut out 3-inch rounds with large biscuit cutter.

Place a small spoonful of filling a little to one side on each round of dough. Moisten edge with water, fold over and press edges together firmly. Be sure they are well sealed.

Fill a large saucepan with water.  Bring to a boil.  Drop Pierogi into boiling salted water. Cook gently 3 to 5 minutes, or until pierogi float. Lift out of water with perforated spoon.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add butter to coat pan.  Fry pierogis in batches, about 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown.  Serve warm with sour cream, cabbage, or applesauce.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole


It is that time of the year to start eating big, warm, gooey casseroles. The cold wind is blowing outside, and I am refusing to leave the warmth of indoor heating.  However, sticking my hands and head in the oven to get out a warm, bubbly casserole is a lovely way to get warm. I have some understanding on Sylvia Plath in the winter months.

So it’s the time for casseroles: with lots of cheese and carbs- and maybe a few vegetables if we are trying to get on Santa’s nice list. One good old favorite casserole for the holiday season is the classic green bean casserole.

Every one seems to love a good green bean casserole- even botany.  And while there is nothing wrong with making green been casserole from mushroom soup and using the canned fried onions, if you love to cook, green bean casserole from scratch is absolutely delicious- and not really that much more difficult. This is perfect for any upcoming holiday celebration- and even better, all the components can be made ahead of time with just a quick bake before serving.

Santa, I am possibly interested in a stocking full of fried onions.  Let’s talk.

From Cinnamon Freud


4-5 shallots, thinly sliced
Flour, for dredging
Oil, for deep frying
1 – 1 1/2 pounds hairicot verts
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 pounds mushrooms, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram


In a small saucepan, fill oil about 2 inches high.  Heat to 375°F. Dredge shallots in flour.  Shake off excess.  Fry for about 1-2 minutes, until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Repeat with remaining shallots. Set aside.  You can make the shallots the night before- just keep stored in layers on paper towels in an air tight container.

Prepare your hairicot verts (or normal green beans).  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  Working in batches, boil the green beans for about 1-3 minutes.  Immediately transfer to ice water.  Remove from ice water.  Set aside.

Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and cook mushrooms until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper (you may need to do this in batches depending how large of a pan you have).  Combine in a bowl with green beans.

In a saucepan, melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add leeks and cook until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper, about 5-8 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Slow whisk in milk and chicken/vegetable stock.  Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened about 5-8 minutes.  Stir in marjoram and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour sauce over green beans and mushrooms.  Stir together and put in casserole dish.  This can also be stored overnight covered in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350 °F.  Sprinkle fried shallots on top of casserole.  Bake until warm and bubbly, about 10-18 minutes.

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Apple Tartlets: Secret Recipe Club


I love this time of year.  Fall is just beginning, the temperature are cooling down, and the leaves are starting to change colors (at least for you people outside of Lubbock who have actual foliage).  Texas weather will be like a Katy Perry song for the next month or so (hot and then cold, yes and then no), but this time of the year just feels magical.  One perk around this time of year in Texas are the many county fairs that pop up.

I missed Lubbock’s county fair last year, but this year I definitely plan to hit it up. State fairs are great for many reasons- one particularly is the snackage.  Deep fried wonderfulness and plenty of chances to spill powdered sugar all over yourself.  No need to sit down for a meal, just buy a bunch of snacks, walk around, people watch, go on the Ferris wheel, and have fun.

Snack power!

For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Denise’s blog, Creative Kitchen Adventures.  Lots of good recipes there to choose from- take a look around.  Being a snack-fiend, I was immediately drawn to her appetizer section.  These tartlets are definitely a little bit fancier fare than county fair food, but sometimes we got to class it up around here.  And the only real way to class up my life is through bite-sized appetizers.

The combo of toppings on these tartlets is fall perfection: sweet caramelized onion, meaty mushrooms, sweet apples with a little bit of bit sugar, and lots of cheese.  Put this on top of buttery puff pastry, and you will immediately feel like you have died and gone to heave.  And you will be at peace with your premature death.

No need to wait for a party to make these (although they are great finger food), just make a bunch and call it dinner. Class.

Then wash it all down with a corn dog, some cotton candy, deep fried Oreos, and lots of powdered sugar.  Because it’s fall.


Adapted from Creative Kitchen Adventures


4 tablespoons butter, divided
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 large apple, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 ounces Gruyere/Fontina cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 sheets puff pastry (1 pound total)
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water


Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large skillet melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer onions to a bowl. In the same pan melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 8-12 minutes, until softened and liquid has evaporated. Add mushrooms to bowl with onion.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same pan and add apple and sugar. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add to mushrooms and onions. Let cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in thyme, Gruyere, and chives. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Place a sheet of puff pastry on each baking sheet. Cut each sheet into 16 squares with a pizza cutter. Arrange tartlets so they are spaced apart and brush with beaten egg. Top each tarltlet with 1 tablespoon of the filling. Bake for 25-27 minutes until golden brown, rotating the pans halfway through.

Makes 32 tartlets.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Giardinara Pasta: Improv Challenge


Today let’s talk about cheese.  What is there to say about cheese besides the fact that it is great?

When I was younger, I tried to give myself the nickname Chedder.  It never really stuck, so instead I used it into a code name for myself when I wrote stories (a whole ‘nother childhood thing there).  When I started typing my stories up, I realized I saw a lot of those red squiggly spell check lines, and I came to a sad realization that I was (am) not a good speller.  Apparently Chedder is spelled Cheddar.

But that revelation did not shake my fundamental believe that any cheese is great, no matter how you spell it.

Now let’s talk about pasta.  Another wonderful food, right?  This month’s Improv Challenge had us combine these two wonderful ingredients: pasta and cheese.  Given my (un)official nickname, I knew I had to create a cheese dish to impress.  It’s really hard to mess up any dish with pasta and cheese, but this Giardinara pasta was especially good for a quick dinner.

First pasta.  It’s chewy, tender, and wonderful. Here I used macaroni noodles because I’ve loved macaroni noodles since I ate the old-school blue box mac and cheese as a kid.  Second some veggies sauteed in buttah (yes, wonderful).  Salt them up good.  Then mix in some cheese and stir it up until it gets melty and delicious.  And voila: a wonderful dinner.

Pasta and cheese.  It makes the world go round.  It makes young babies smile.  It make people want to love and hug each other. Basically, pasta and cheese are magical.  Fact.

Another idea: put your pasta dish in a bakeable pan.  Top with lots of cheese and broil until melted with golden brown spots.  Genius.

Adapted from Cooking Light


8 ounces elbow noodles
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 1/2 cups chopped asparagus
4 carrots, chopped
2 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 small onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup capers
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Cubed mozzarella or grated Parmesan


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon butter, asparagus and carrots.  Cook until browned, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in mushrooms and onions.  Cook until tender, 4-6 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, fennel seeds, dried thyme, crushed red pepper, capers, red wine vinegar, and cooked pasta.  Bring liquid to a boil and cook until mostly absorbed, 3-4 minutes.  Remove from pan and stir in mozzarella or Parmesan if desired.

Serves 3-4 as a main dished, 4-6 as a side dish.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting this challenge!  Make sure to check out what everyone else made.

Veggie Flatbread


What is the difference between a flatbread and a pizza?  Besides an extra $3 at most restaurants for a fancier name, I am not really sure.  In my mind, pizzas usually have a sauce base and cheese while flatbreads are often dressed in oil and vinaigrettes and don’t require cheese.  So I define this dinner as a flatbread.  Call it whatever you want- it will be delicious under any name.

This dish is inspired by a sandwich I tried in Lubbock within my first few days of moving.  After unpacking boxes, assembling furniture, and waiting on movers for two days, my parents and I were in need of a filling lunch that would be quick.  I ate the most amazing vegetarian sandwich at a deli nearby my apartment.  It was so delicious that we ate there again the next day. My parents left, I finally finished unpacking and started adjusting to my new life, but I could not stop thinking about that sandwich.

Since I am a poor student that is often too tried to change out of my PJs and get off my couch, I decided to replicate this dish at home.  I was a little skeptical that my version would not taste as good either due to my cooking ability or the fact that I was really hungry when I first ate the sandwich (and stressed, stressed eating is always a tricky memory).  But my worries were for nothing- this flatbread turned out DELICIOUS.  So delicious that I have eaten it many times, which is huge for me since I tend not to remake the same dinner often. Adding some chicken would be a great addition for those who need their meat.

It’s a vegetarian, filling, and unique flatbread.  Don’t wait- go make it now.

For the Crust:
1 package active yeast
1/2 cup water, at 110°F
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Flatbread:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 portobello mushrooms
Salt and pepper
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, chopped
3 ounces pimento stuffed green olives, sliced
Pinch of madran curry powder, to taste
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
Olive oil, for brushing
For the Crust:

Preheat oven to 475°F.

In in small bowl, dissolve yeast in water with granulated sugar.  Let sit about 10 minutes, until foamy.  In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Pour dissolved yeast over flour.  Stir together with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 10 minutes.  Let sit in a warm place and rise for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.

For the Flatbread:

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper and cook until tender, 5-6 minutes.  Add red onions and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add carrots and olives to pan. Season with madran curry power and salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes and add sugar and white wine vinegar.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, until most of the vinegar has evaporated.  Add mushrooms and red onion to pan.  Toss and set aside.  Keep warm.

Prepare pizza stone or baking sheet.  Roll out dough to desired thickness.  Brush with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.  Top baked dough with mushroom, onion, carrot, and olive topping.  Top with cucumber slices.  Cut into slices and devour.

Serves 2-3.