Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goodbye 2011! Hello 2012!

Whenever New Year's comes around, I think of my dad.  He is all about "wiping the slate clean and starting fresh."  He loves taking out last year's resolutions and seeing how we all did.  We used to even have competitions and keep score as to who kept the most resolutions.  Ryan and I now do our own resolutions.  We make some as a couple and family and then write down some personal ones of our own. 

2011 was an eventful year.  We found out we were pregnant on Memorial Day weekend. We went on an awesome vacation with my family to the beach for the first time in a looooong time, and I went back to teaching at a school I have always loved when they finally had a position open up.  In 2011, we saw two of our family member's diagnosed with cancer-not cool.  My dad spent 7 weeks undergoing radiation and we just got good news before the New Year that he is healing well and his scans are looking good.  He is an awesome example of having a good attitude and determination throughout his ordeal.  We're really proud of him.

So, here's to 2012.  I'm hoping for a healthy year for everyone in the family!  We will finally get to meet our little guy sometime in the next few weeks and I will graduate from grad. school in May.  Hopefully, these fun events just mean there are more to come.

New Year's also means the end of winter break.  It's back to work this week, so I need to be really organized when it comes to our dinners!  I am going to try the following recipes this week:  Sardinian spaghetti, Chicken Chili Stew, and Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce.

I came across the Sardinian spaghetti recipe while searching for New Year's meals to make on Food Network.  I always read the reviews when looking at a recipe on this site and they all were raving about this recipe.  I might make some extra sauce to have frozen and then keep this on hand for anyone who may need a meal due to current surgeries or babies!  The recipe calls for saffron threads, but I think I may just use saffron.
****Sardinian Spagheti****

Prep Time:
30 min
Cook Time:  40 min       Level:  Easy
Serves:  6 servings


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian fennel sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained, seeded and halved, with 1/2 cup juice reserved
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 pound spaghetti
  • 1 cup shredded pecorino cheese


Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, about 7 minutes. Push to one side of the skillet and increase the heat to high. Add the tomatoes, stirring to break them up a bit, and cook until the edges brown and the oil turns red, about 6 minutes. Stir the sausage and tomatoes together.
Add the garlic, bay leaves, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes to the skillet, then scatter the saffron over the mixture. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the parsley, 1 cup basil and 1 teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay leaves.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Add the spaghetti, cooking liquid and reserved tomato juice to the sausage sauce and toss, about 3 minutes. Top with the pecorino and the remaining 1/2 cup basil.

I have an amazing mom who made me a cookbook last year with family recipes in it.  I love it and use it often!  I also have a close relationship with my aunt who did the same thing this year!  She gave us a binder with recipes she uses and that have been favorites in her household.  I have always wanted to try her chicken chili stew.  She actually got this recipe from a friend of hers who is the mom of a friend of mine from college.  Small world!

***Chicken Chili Stew***
6-8 boneless chicken breasts
4 cloves garlic minced
3 medium onions diced
2 T olive oil
6 15 oz. cans chicken broth
6 15 oz. cans Great Northern bans, rinsed and drained
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 10 oz. cans Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies
4 t cumin
1 t oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in an 8 qt. pan.  Add chicken broth and chicken breasts.  Bring to boil and cook.  Remove when done and set aside to cool.  When cool, shred chicken.  Add remaining ingredients plus the shredded chicken.  Keep on medium heat for about an hour until the soup thickens and serve.  Yield 10-12 servings .  Add grated cheese as a garnish.

When we first got married, I didn't have a whole lot of experience cooking my own meals, let alone figuring out what to have for dinner.  I frequented the website A LOT to figure out what to cook.  I came across this pork chop recipe and have made it many times.  The sauce makes the dish.  I never knew pork chops paired so well with dijon mustard, but it does!  So yummy! 

***Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce***
4 pork chops
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 T vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 T unsalted butter
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup country style Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325 degreesF.
Heat a dry 12 inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot.  Pat pork dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add oil to hot skillet, swirling to coat, then brown chops, turning over once, about 8 minutes total.  Transfer to a shallow baking pan, reserving skillet, and bake, uncovered, until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Let stand, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour off fat from skillet, then cook shallots in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until softened 3 to 5 minutes.  Add broth and any juices from baking pan and boil, scraping up any brown bits, 2 minutes.  Add mustartd and cream and return to a boil, then add lemon juice and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Happy New Year and Happy Eating!

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