Houston, Texas girl stationed with my Coastie in New England ... Mommy to a rowdy little boy and a lovely little girl ... sports fanatic (esp. my Fightin' Texas Aggies) ... foodie ... drinker of wine (and beer and tequila) ... passionate about cookie decorating and photography ....
Lord grant me wisdom of heart to see, The difference in duty and love for me. Give me the understanding to know, When duty calls, that he must go. Give me a task to do each day, To fill the months when he's away. And Lord, when duty is in the field, Please protect and be his shield.
An oh-so-very-special delivery arrived today from one of my favorite shops, Pence Christmas Tree Farm in Pontotoc, Mississippi. But even better than the origin of the mail was the contents of the package -- RAZ products! -- undoubtedly, the greatest Christmas decorations ever.
I swear, I could seriously spend the entire lot of my retirement fund on RAZ Christmas goodies -- they make me giddy. The colors are as bright and gaudy as my treasured Mexican tin ornaments, and just as whimsical and beautiful.
So if we suddenly experience a blessed drop in temperatures, or if cool breezes spontaneously relieve the country from the current oppressive heat wave, you can thank me for bringing a touch of December to the world (and send me a RAZ item as a token of your gratitude).
Color. Glorious color. And even better ... Christmas! Glorious Christmas (in July).
I love anything and everything related to Fall -- especially this year. The faster it gets here, the better. So my heart (as well as my fingers and toes) was positively giddy when I learned that OPI has released their Fall 2011 colors collection -- "Touring America." The colors are linked to different cities in the U.S., based on their culture and personality.
“This collection will take women around the world on the ultimate tour across the USA, with stops in Baltimore, Clarksdale, Hollywood, Jackson Hole, Memphis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, and Tucson,” says OPI Executive VP & Artistic Director, Suzi Weiss-Fischmann. “Autumn is a time for reinvention, and these shades revive classic, iconic colors for fall, from cool heather, khaki and chocolate to warm rose, peach and red.”
I've written before of my favorite "go-to" pasta dinner — Aglio e Olio. I'm now going to share a very close second — Roma Ditalini with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil.
What started out as a favorite summertime dish a few years ago has now evolved into a favorite winter, spring and fall dish. It's simple. The ingredients are fresh. There's ooey gooey cheese involved (a must), and cooking the meal always makes my entire kitchen smell like a fine Italian restaurant — it's fragrant beyond words. Without fail, I have to pour myself a glass of white wine half-way through the process (or maybe a tad earlier), just to complete the experience.
This recipe originated with my girl, Giada. She had a fancy name for it ("little thimbles sciue sciue") -- one I could never quite figure out how to pronounce. Over the years, I've tweaked it some, but Giada still deserves full credit. It used to require a bit of extra effort to find the ditalini pasta, but I've discovered that most grocery stores now carry it; however, if you can't find ditalini, substitute any small tube-shaped pasta, such as pennette.
Oh, and leftovers the next day are divine.
So pour yourself a nice, crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc (my vino of choice with this dish), raise your glass to Ms. De Laurentiis, and get chopping.
4 cups cooked ditalini pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
5 Roma tomatoes (about 1 pound), diced into small cubes
8 ounces cold fresh mozzarella, drained, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 tablespoon course salt
Parmigiano Reggiano curls, for garnish
basil leaves, for garnish
Cook pasta until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often to prevent sticking, about 8 minutes. Set aside in colander.
Dice tomatoes into small cubes and place in medium-sized bowl. Add course salt and let sit while preparing the remainder of the recipe. The salt will draw out the juice from the tomatoes, ultimately adding a moist texture and seasoning to the pasta.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute (being careful not to burn the garlic). Add the tomatoes and saute just until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Add the cooked pasta and remove from heat. Add the cheese and basil, and toss to coat. Spoon the pasta into bowls and use a vegetable or cheese peeler to top dish with curls of Parmigiano Reggiano. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately.
Well, the time has come -- time to pull out the safety gate and guard our sweet little [very mobile] Paige from the dreaded, steep, hard-as-nails, wooden stairs that we've lived in fear of her discovering ever since we moved into this old New England house.
She's crawling, pulling up, and scooting all over the place -- nothing is safe ... everything is fair game ... she's a whirlwind.
And she's so not thrilled with being penned into the living room. I feel like I need to give her a tin cup and a harmonica so she can sing the blues.
So sorry, baby girl. Life is full of disappointment.
I've repeatedly scribed about my love affair with El Pato Mexican tomato sauce. It has a perfect spicy flavor without being overwhelmingly hot, and goes well with so many recipes. I adore it, and it's become a staple in my pantry (added bonus: you can buy it at Wal-Mart!).
So recently when I needed a cool cream sauce for shrimp tacos, I naturally turned to my favorite condiment, El Pato, and added it to yogurt and a few other spices. In the process, I made a pleasant and surprising discovery -- the resulting tasty concoction is good on so many different dishes. I've topped scrambled eggs with it for an amazingly scrumptious breakfast. I've also used it as a dipping side (much like sour cream) for chicken cilantro quesadillas, where it blends so well with warm chicken and ooey gooey melted cheese.
I've now taken to keeping a bowl of my "goes with anything" sauce in a covered glass bowl in the refrigerator. It easily spoons on top of so many different things!
2 cups plain yogurt
1/4 cup El Pato tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon salt
Whisk together yogurt and El Pato sauce. Add cilantro and lime juice, and then remaining seasonings.
Spoon over favorite dishes, such as tacos or quesadillas, or use as a dipping substitute for sour cream.