Pastina Soup


For a long time, I was a staunch believer that a soup is not a meal.

But as a lot of my food obsessions go, out of no where I was craving soup one day. So I had some. And then I had some more. The bf didn’t complain when we had lots of soup for dinner, even during sweltering summer, since he had been a soup-lover in a food desert since our relationship started.

So I have made broccoli and cheese, french onion, gumbo, and more. This pastina soup is a soup my bf has talked about in great awe as a food from his family. I was lucky enough to get to travel up and try the soup, and I was hooked in its simplicity. It is an Italian style chicken noodle soup. Made from scratch, it is a perfect dinner as a chill starts to come in the air.



For the Chicken Stock:
1 whole chicken*
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped

For the Pastina Soup:
1/2 onion
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup pastina or other small pasta
Chicken from stock, chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated


For the Chicken Stock:

Place chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Put on low heat (the water should bubble occasionally and produce steam only). Cook for at least 2 hours, up to 6 hours. Add carrots, celery, and onion and cook for another 2 hours. Strain stock into large bowl.

For the Pastina Soup:

Grate onion, carrot, and celery. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery stalks. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2-4 minutes. Stir in stock and bring to a boil. Stir in pastina and cook for 4-6 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper (will need a significant amount since stock is unseasoned, make sure to taste). Cook until chicken is warmed through. Serve and top with grated parmesan cheese.

From Cinnamon Freud

*You can use any combo of chicken or reserved chicken bones for the stock. I have done this with a whole chicken, with wing tips mixed with old bones, and more. Just make sure to have chicken to put in the soup! Same thing with the veggies, you can use scraps of veggies that you have saved too and can add in other veggies and herbs.

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.

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.


There are pros and cons to still being a student.  One con is that I still have homework (booo), but a great pro is I still get a spring break.  Spring breaaaaaaaaaaak! Now, my spring breaks have never been wild enough to elicit all those “a”s.  Instead, they are really a time to relax and recuperate.  It’s been a stressful semester, which means I need comfort food and lots of it.

What is the one dish that makes you think of home?  The meal that brings up memories of gathering around the dinner table after a long day of school followed by watching way too many preteen television shows while snacking on potato chips.  Mine is my mom’s lasagna.  It was a rare treat since it took a long bake time and was best saved for those few cold days we had in Houston.  One bite of this lasagna causes immediate relaxation and comfort.  A perfect meal for anyone who is feeling a little stress.

From My Mom

For the Tomato Sauce:
30 ounces tomato sauce (Contadina is our preferred brand)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon granulated sugar
For the Lasgna:
1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage, removed from casings
9 lasagna noodles
2 cups cottage cheese
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon parsley
4-6 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

For the Tomato Sauce:

Combine tomato sauce, oregano, parsley, basil, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over low heat, uncovered. Continue to simmer for 45-60 minutes until thickened.  Keep warm.

For the Lasagna:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Brown sausage and cook until cooked through.  Drain off grease if needed.  Stir sausage into tomato sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook lasagna noodles one minute shorter than al dente according to package directions.  Drain and cover with cold water. (A helpful tip from my mom is to cook an extra lasagna noodle in case on breaks while cooking . And you can snack on it while the lasagna bakes if you don’t need it).

Mix cottage cheese, oregano, and parsley in a large bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread a small amount of tomato sauce (with no sausage) on the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.  Layer 3 lasagna noodles on top.  Spread about half of the tomato sauce on top.  Spread dollops of 1 cup of cream cheese on top.  Layer half of the mozzarella on top.  Layer 3 more lasagna noodles on top.  Spread remaining tomato sauce on top, reserving about 1/4 cup.  Dollop remaining cottage cheese and mozzarella on top.  Top with remaining lasagna noodles.  Spread remaining tomato sauce on top.

Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand at least 15 minutes.  Cut and serve.

Serves 6-8.

Eggplant Calzone

This is not delivery, nor is it DiGiorno.  It’s better- much better.  Homemade pizza is so much better than your local chain delivery or your store bought frozen pizza.  Now, those pizzas are a perfect fix when you need a quick, easy meal, but when you have a little more time, homemade pizza is completely worth the extra effort.
Homemade pizza is not hard at all, just requires a little waiting often for your crust.  A homemade calzone only involves one additional step: fold your pizza dough over your toppings.  And instead of putting your pizza sauce inside, you use it as a dipping sauce.  Eggplant is a perfect filling for calzones: it’s soft and tender.  And if you eat your vegetable for dinner, it’s a perfect justification to eat a lot of cheese.
From Cinnamon Freud
For the Dough:
1/2 cup water, 110°F
1 package active yeast
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Tomato Sauce:
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
For the Calzone:
1 medium eggplant, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 ounces fresh mozzarella
Italian herbs
For the Dough:
In a bowl, combine water, yeast, and sugar.  Stir together.  Let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.  Pour yeast mixture over top and stir together with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.  Transfer dough on to a lightly floured cutting board.  Knead until soft and elastic, about 10-15 minutes.  Divide dough into two pieces. Let rise in a warm place until approximately doubled in size.
For the Tomato Sauce:
In a saucepan combine tomato sauce, granulated sugar, oregano, and basil.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until sauce is thickened.  Set aside and keep warm.
For the Calzone:
Preheat oven to 475°F.
Layer your eggplant in a single layer on paper towel.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and let stand for at least 20 minutes.  Wipe away the excess moisture.  Chop into bite-size pieces.  Toss with olive oil and spread in single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10-20 minutes (will vary depending on the size of your eggplant), until cooked through and tender.  Set aside.
Prepare your pizza stone or baking sheet.  Roll dough out.  Spread ricotta cheese on half of the pizza, leaving a border at the edge.  Sprinkle eggplant and mozzarella on top.  Season with salt and pepper.  Carefully fold your pizza dough on top of your filling and roll the edges up to seal.  Brush the outside with olive oil and sprinkle Italian seasonings on top.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve with tomato sauce
Makes 2 calzones.

Eggplant Caponata Pasta

Besides food, one of the other great loves in my life is television.  These two great loves are united in a great show on ABC: The Chew.  Its description of a daily talk show about food may seem silly or boring, but this show is great.  The hosts are a great mix of fun personalities and their themed episodes are often fun and campy.  It’s a great show to watch for entertainment and great recipes and techniques.

This recipe is from the oh-so-Italian Mario Batali.  Pasta is topped with a sweet and tangy tomato eggplant sauce.  A definite repeat for an easy Italian dinner.  Make it while watching The Chew (weekdays at noon on ABC).

Adapted from Mario Batali

2 eggplants, chopped
Olive oil
8 ounces linguine
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup crushed tomatoes (or substitute any tomato sauce)
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 cup currants
Salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 425°F.

Spread eggplant in a single layer on top of paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt.  Let stand at least 20 minutes.  Pat dry.  Toss eggplant with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil.  Spread in single layer on baking sheet.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, until tender.  Set aside.

Cook pasta according to instructions.  Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add onion and cook until tender, about 7-10 minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, anchovy paste, red wine vinegar, capers, and currants.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add eggplant and cook until warmed through, 3-5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve sauce over linguine

Serves 4.