Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Famous Mexican Lasagna

Now most of you know (and love me for) my mexican lasagna... it's become quite the staple in answering "what should I make tonight?" questions :) So yes... I am finally going to share the recipe beyond my 3 fabulous college roommates and even include the secret ingredient.

What you need:

- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 or 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 small to medium white onion, diced
- 1 can of refried beans
- 1 cup of salsa
- 1 cup of spaghetti sauce (the secret ingredient!)
- 1 tbsp. of taco seasoning (optional)
- 1 lb. pre-shredded Mexican blend or cheddar cheese
- 1 packet of tortillas (small or medium in size)
- baking dish about 2-3 inches deep

The "How to":

  1. pre-heat oven to 350
  2. mix all the veggies (tomatoes, green peppers, onions) together in a bowl, set aside
  3. mix refried beans, salsa, spaghetti sauce and taco seasoning in a bowl... adjust sauces depending on how saucy you want it
  4. thinly layer the bottom of your baking dish with salsa
  5. tear and arrange tortillas on the bottom of the pan

  1. layer as follows: bean mix, cheese, veggies, tortilla (and so on till you reach the top)
  2. on the top layer have plenty of cheese
  3. cover baking dish with foil and place in oven
  4. dish done once top layer of cheese melted


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Palm-size Pies!

If you're having a bunch of people over for that odd time of after-dinner but still too early for just coffee or drinks, why not make mini pizzas!

What you need:

  • pizza dough
  • pizza sauce (recipe below)
  • cheesa (I used cheddar)
  • Pizza toppings
  • Baking pan
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic

(ok fine, I cheated and bought dough from Jimmy's (www.jimmysfoodstore.com) which is an awesome little Italian grocery store in Dallas)

The "How To":
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350
  2. Roll out dough into 3 inch diameter pies. Using flour helps to keep it from folding back
  3. In a bowl, pour olive oil (about 1/4 inch high) and put the smashed, whole cloves of garlic in the bowl. Heat in microwave for 25 seconds
  4. Spread oil over the mini dough pies and put in oven for 10 minutes (until they puff up a little bit)
  5. Take the pizzas out and spread the pizza sauce and top with cheese and toppings
  6. Place back in over and heat until cheese is melted

Pizza Sauce -

What you need:

  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • Spices: onion or garlic powder, oregano, basil, black pepper, salt, sugar, red crushed pepper

The "How to":

  1. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl
  2. Let sit before spreading on the pizza to allow flavors to combine

Why Hello there... Have you been eatened?

Chocolate Mascarpone Cake (courtesy of Chow.com)
This dessert looks really hard to make is actually really easy... and the best part is that it's a no bake!

What you need:
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. of vanilla or 2 tbsp. of imitation vanilla
  • 1/4 cup of blackberry liquor (optional) or fresh berries (I used blue berries)
  • 2 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 8 oz. container of mascarpone cheese (find at an Italian grocery store or Central Market)
  • 1 box of chocolate graham crackers

Equipment: mixer, spatula, platter or a springform pan or really whatever you have to make this in

The "How to":

  1. Combine the cream, sugar, vanilla, liquor and/or berries, cocoa powder and mascarpone cheese in a mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until mixture becomes thick
  2. start layering the graham crackers in your pan and then the cream mixture. Alternate the layers until you reach the top
  3. Cover and place in fridge for 4-5 hours

I'll admit this one made quite the mess in the kitchen... there was a "uhm where did the sink go?" moment. Next time, I'll post a picture of Hurrican Piyusha and the deadly kitchen disasters!

Southeast meets even more East

In the attempts to be more cultured and vary up the nightly dinner routine (not to mention continue on my current health kick), I attempted to re-create a recipe that I saw from none other than Rachael Ray (with a Piyusha-twist)

Hoison Noodles

What you need:

  • 1 lb. of whole wheat spaghetti
  • Olive oil
  • 2 bell peppers (I used red and green, but you can use any that you have), thinly sliced
  • 2 clove of garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
  • 6-7 baby corn, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks green onions, chopped
  • 2 limes
  • Hoisin sauce or Piyusha's make-shift of hoisin sauce (recipe below)
  • Hot sauce
The "How To":

  1. Begin cooking the spaghetti in a large pot according to box instructions. Cook al dente (not all the way)
  2. In a skillet, stir fry onions, garlic, baby corn, green onions and grated ginger for about 2 minutes
  3. Add in hoisin sauce, lime juice from both limes, hot sauce (to taste), and a 1/2 cup of the water from the spaghetti pot (when starchy)
  4. Once spaghetti is al dente, drain from water and add spaghetti to stir fry. Turn until spaghetti is coated
Now for Piyusha's make-shift Hoisin sauce (inspired because yours truly forgot to buy this at the store... oops!)

"Hoisin Sauce":

Combine the following ingredients in a bowl:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. red crushed peppers
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
  • garlic paste of 3 cloves of garlic (mince garlic and add in salt, continue to mince and mash garlic until it becomes a paste)

Look how happy my hubby is! This quickly became a favorite of his!

Creamy Bruschetta

Who doesn't love bruschetta? I would (and have) eat it as a snack turned to meal if I could! This is a quick and easy way to make the basic bruschetta make your friends go.. hmm what is that! I made this amount for 6 adults (one medium to large piece of bread each).


What you need:

  • 2 roma tomatoes, remove seeds and then dice
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 3-4 leaves of fresh basil, torn (cutting can bruise the leaf)
  • 1-2 tbsp. of ricotta cheese
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice (you can cut back on this)

TIP: If your onions have a tart, or sharp taste, soak them a little bit of white vinegar before adding them in the bruschetta mix (don't forget to drain the vinegar before adding it in!)

The "How to":

  1. Mix the tomatoes, onions, basil, salt, pepper, ricotta cheese and lemon juice
  2. Really it's a one step process :)
The foundational bread:

What you need:

  • loaf of french bread, sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces
  • buttered with garlic powdered sprinkled

The "How-to":

  1. Pre-heat over to 350 and place the bread on a baking dish
  2. Bake until golden brown
  3. Let cool and top with bruschetta mix

Happy Birthday Mom!!

For my mom's bday, I made her a yummy cake that was sugar-less! I love Target!

TIP: Don't have different colors of icing to decorate your cake? Use kool-aid, flavoring or fresh fruit!

I used root beer flavoring in a white icing for my mom's cake!

Shell-i-cotti (A new twist to the classic manicotti)

Bear with me while I become corny with the title of my food creations... it may sound dorky but it's sooo good. I decided to invite my parents over for dinner to celebrate my mother's birthday and having been accused of only knowing how to make two things, I decided to surprise my mom with a twist on one of favorites, manicotti.

Ingredients for the cheese stuffing:
  • Large pasta shells
  • 1 small-medium white onion, finely diced
  • 1 small can of mushrooms, chop into smaller chunks
  • 5 oz. of frozen chopped spinach
  • 8 oz of cream cheese
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz of mozzarella cheese, shredded (or the handy dandy "Italian blend shredded cheese")
  • Handful of flat-leaf parsley (also called Italian parsley), finely chopped
  • Spices: salt, pepper, oregano
  • Pasta sauce, you can use pasta sauce from the store but I've included a simple recipe below as well
The "How-to"

  1. Place the pasta shells to boil according to the directions on the box. Only cook them 1/2 to 3/4 of the way (al dente) since they will finish cooking in the oven later. Speaking of oven, go ahead and pre-heat to 350
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, 1/2 the mozzarella, onions, spinach, mushrooms, parsley, salt and pepper. Now the fun part! Playing with your food.. get your hands in there and mix it all together!
  3. Once mixed, set aside to see if your pasta shells are finished (again, you want them to be a little stiff to hold the cheese mixture and they will finish cooking in the oven)

  1. Drain the hot water and then rinse your pasta shells with cold water (this will stop the cooking process)
  2. In a shallow cooking dish, place a thin layer of pasta sauce on the pan (this will prevent burning)
  3. Stuff each of your pasta shells with the cheese stuffing and place in the cooking dish
  4. Pour pasta sauce and the remaining mozzarella cheese on top
  5. Cover with foil and place in oven, bake until cheese on top is melted
Ingredients for the pasta sauce: (you can use the ready made bottle stuff too)

  • 1 can of diced tomatos
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • basil (if you have it)
  • 2 pieces of Roasted red bell pepper, chopped
  • Olive oil
The "How-to":
  1. Heat oil (about one turn of the pot), not too hot otherwise you'll burn the garlic
  2. Sautee onions and garlic
  3. If you like your sauce smoother, then in a blender, add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, roasted red bell peppers, add in the sauteed onion/garlic mix... add in basil and pour back into pot till it boils
    If you like it chunky, then add the diced tomatoes, sauce and chopped roasted red bell pepper to the pot and boil
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. TIP: if your sauce it too sweet, add a tbsp. of red wine vinegar (or white vinegar). Don't have that? Add lemon juice.
To add a different texture to your sauce, add some alfredo to it and make a tomato cream!

Veggie Chili

There's nothing better than being a Texan and lovin' a good bowl of chili. Like any good chili, you can put just about anything in it and it'll taste good... Make sure your can opener is ready and get out a nice big pot!

This may be a good time to let you guys know that I generally add spices based on taste.. a pinch here, a splash there... it's all based on your taste buds really. I know officially understand what my mom meant when she said "Piyusha... just one fingers worth."


  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bell peppers (I use red and green but whatever you have on had is fine), cut in chunks
  • 1 can kidney beans (white or red)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I get the southwestern seasoned one)
  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1/2 can refried beans (you can add more later if you need a thicker chili consistency)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup of cooked penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp. chili powder or chili paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • tomato paste or tomato sauce (optional)

The "How-to"...

  1. Sautee the onions and garlic until the onions are clear, then add the bell peppers
  2. Add in all of the canned products (black beans, kidney beans, corn, refried beans, diced tomatoes), mix well. Add in the tomato paste only if you want a more red color to your chili
  3. Add in spices and mix well.
  4. Add in vegetable stock or water
  5. I add in the pasta at this point since it'll give the chili a more starchy texture and the pasta won't easily break once the stock is in
  6. Let boil and make sure the spices are to taste

I enjoy the chili the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to settle in. Top the chili off with cheese, chives and sour cream.... MMMMMM I really want some now!

Oh! Best part is you can freeze your chili! I make extra and the next time I have craving, I can just pull it out and thaw it out. Fantastic!