Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Gosh, what is there to say about Thanksgiving? It was loud. It was wonderful. Aurelia is a friggin’ doll. My family cooks awesome food. Wine is delicious. So is beer. My family is super fun. I made three pans of roasted broccoli, and it all got eaten. #winning (Happy, Ty?)

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I stayed over at my parent’s house on Thanksgiving night, and we tried to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol but fell asleep soon into the show and decided to call it a night.

The next morning, I woke to coffee and Aurelia in pajamas. Holidays are way more fun with a kid around.

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My family and I are not Black Friday shoppers, but we love thrifting, so we decided to make a day of it. My aunt Dina, Mom, her friend Debbie, my friend Shelby and I headed to Sheboygan to scope out as many resale shops as we could find. My mom’s friend Debbie knows where every resale shop in Wisconsin is, so we followed her lead and discovered some great finds.

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For lunch, we headed to Qdoba, a Mexican grill similar to Subway, where they make the food in front of you and it’s ready in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

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I ordered a Naked Vegetarian Taco Salad with corn salsa, pico, cheese, beans, guacamole and sour cream. It was really tasty and incredibly filling. Cheap, too! And I loved that they weren’t stingy with the guacamole, which is always the best part.

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We also shared some house-made chips made with lime juice and salt.

After we’d been to six or so places and I’d scored circular knitting needles, a cool casserole dish, and some cute clothes, we headed to Manitowoc for a coffee. We decided on a place called Wrap It Up, a place my mom frequents sometimes for lunch with delicious wraps and paninis.

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I ordered a Peppermint Mocha, which was hot, sweet, and delicious.085

 

Mmmm…peppermint.

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We had such a fun day. It was way better than standing in line at a Walmart for a flat screen TV.

I made the two hour drive back home and was really excited when I remembered it was only Friday. Four day weekends are the best.

Hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving!

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Pie Nights

Since I enjoy cooking so much, I sometimes take entire days off from work devoted to the task. St. Patrick’s Day has always been a day for me to cook new (to me) traditional Irish dishes while listening to Irish music and sipping on a glass of Bailey’s. Before Christmas, same thing, although that one mixes baking with wrapping presents with terribly awesome holiday movies in the background like Mr. Saint Nick starring Kelsey Grammar.

For the last several years, I’ve also taken off the day before Thanksgiving, known affectionately to me as “pie day,” because it’s when I make all my baked goods for Thanksgiving. If I was a normal person who made one regular apple pie and one regular pumpkin pie, this probably wouldn’t be necessary.

003 But there’s something so fun to me about spending the entire day covered in flour, washing dishes, and heating my oven as much as it can handle.

Who wants a regular apple pie when you can make a Creamy Caramel Apple Crunch Pie? Why pumpkin when you can make Chocolate Chipotle Sweet Potato Pie and Pumpkin Cheesecake? Why not throw a cake in there, like a Gingerbread Cake Roll with Maple Frosting?

Since I elected to take the day after Thanksgiving off to spend more time with my family instead of the day prior (driving home two hours after a turkey dinner and wine didn’t sound like fun), I had to scale down the complexity of my desserts.

I planned to make Pecan Pie Cheesecake two nights before and two apple pies the night prior, putting my sister Emily in charge of everything pumpkin. No, I couldn’t just make pecan pie or cheesecake, thankyouverymuch. I simply have to trash things up sometimes.

Realizing my cheesecake pan got lost in the move put a damper on things for a bit, as did the discovery that my cat Artemis loves barely-cooled cheesecake. But despite these minor hiccups, the cheesecake turned out as good as last year’s.

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I ended up using a muffin pan lined with tin foil for half the cheesecake, and an 8″ layer cake pan wrapped with foil for the remainder.

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This is the first time I’ve ever made mini cheesecakes, and even though I haven’t tried them yet, they’re so adorable!

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And you can barely tell where I had to do surgery on this cheesecake from Artemis. That little bugger. (That’s my favorite thing to yell when he does something naughty).

I also made a Rustic Apple Tart and added some Maple Spiced homemade jam shipped to me from a friend in Colorado.

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And a Rhubarb Apple Pie with a lattice crust for good measure.

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I honestly think lattice crusts are much easier to make than double crust pie. Plus, then I have leftovers to cut out pretty snowflakes.

The recipe for the Pecan Pie Cheesecake is here. You won’t be disappointed.

Now, since I woke up at 5:00am on my day off, I’m going to watch a few Friends Thanksgiving episodes before I make the 2 hour journey to my parent’s.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I am very thankful for you, readers.

So is Gabby the Gobbler.

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Sunday Bloody Sunday

Some people love Sundays, but I just can’t bring myself to that level of affection. In the back of my mind, I always knew I had school or work the next day, leaving a sour taste in my mouth.

Fortunately, my friends and I have come up with a remedy to stomach any Sunday with a smile: Sunday Bloody Sunday.

The concept is simple. Get together with friends.

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Drink tea.

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Then, when it’s appropriate, switch over to Bloody Mary’s.

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My friend Dan always makes the mix, which is always spicy and delicious.

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The best part are all the garnishes: pickled green beans, cocktail onions, pickles, pickled mushrooms, pickled brussels sprouts, and cheese.

Whilst drinking Bloody Mary’s, we watch Emily watch the Packer game, knit, play cards, play board games, cook, and/or read magazines.

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Oh, and we eat.

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Another recipe from Smitten Kitchen: Cinnamon Orange Breakfast Buns. Holy yum, Batman.

That was breakfast. This was lunch, courtesy of Dave.

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Crunchy bannas with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and caramel sauce.

Sunday isn’t such a bad thing, after all.

Holiday on the Lakeshore

My mom, my sister Emily, and I have a tradition the weekend of Holiday on the Lakeshore of working at the show from 3-8pm on Friday, then heading back to my parent’s house to have a fire, drink wine, and watch our first holiday movie of the year: The Family Stone.

I worked this Friday, so I made the two hour trek to my parent’s house afterwards. I am turning into an old-lady driver and do not like driving on highways in the dark–it’s scary! I ran over part of a dead deer and just about had a heart attack when a leaf scuttled in front of me, and I thought it was some poor critter. *shudder*

I arrived at my parent’s house before Mom and Em made it back, and when I opened the door, I still half-expected our (now passed away) dog Sage to run and greet me at the door, tail-wagging and all excited.

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There’s a strong possibility that I am overly sentimental about….well, everything.

I set to work building a fire while I waited for them to arrive, and I sat in front, cross-legged on the floor, reading Anne of Avonlea on my kindle.

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When they got back, Em made us a lovely snack plate for dinner with smoked salmon, cheese, bread, and grapes.

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With a glass of Cranbernet wine on the side, it was a lovely dinner.

I was so excited to see them that we talked through most of the movie, but that’s okay–I have plenty of time to rewatch it this holiday season. I pulled out the couch, and this was my last view before going to sleep.

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Sleeping in front of a fire is one of my favorite things to do.

The next morning I woke up and shouted “Someone come build me a fire!” but instead Mom made me a fried egg and toasted bread with butter.

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Then we gussied ourselves up and headed to the show.

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Here we are in front of our booth!

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Holiday on the Lakeshore is a two-day gift show with a bunch of local vendors selling homemade pottery, scarfs, jewelry, artwork, food, and, of course TEA!

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We had brewed Chocolate Mint tea to sample, as well as my Maple Walnut Tea Cookies, and Smokey Tea Dip made with Lapsang Souchong. Our samples always go over well. A sure fire way to get people to your booth is to lure them with food. We completely sold out of Maple Walnut Tea, and we sold many bags of Lapsang Souchong.

The local choir came in to sing a few carols during the day, which were lovely.

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Best of all, my friend Shelby came from Green Bay to help us.

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With my mom, Emily, and Shelby there, it was such a fun day. Working at a show can always be a little hectic, but with four people to write receipts, wrap, and explain the varieties of tea, it went quite smoothly.

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Em went to Applebee’s to get us lunch: a honey chicken shrimp dish with green beans and roasted potatoes.

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It was quite tasty, but unfortunately they forgot to give us forks. We tracked down some spoons from the coffee shop, and had fun trying to balance green beans and cut chicken with them.

I was having such a good time that I was a little sad to leave, but I know I will see Mom, Em, and Shelby again at Thanksgiving, so I’ll barely have time to miss them.

Plus Dave promised me a special dinner when I came home, and he certainly delivered: his famous deep dish pizza and two vegetarian pizzas.

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We brought them over to our friend Dan and Em’s (not to be confused with my sister Em) house, where they were hosting a small Dr. Who party.

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Dave and I haven’t started watching Dr. Who yet (horrible, I know), so we stuck to the kitchen until their show was over.

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So much has happened already this weekend that I feel like I have two Sundays. Can’t wait to start my second one!

Green & Cookies

I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work the other day to pick up some cookie supplies for this coming weekend, and I was lured into the produce section.

Our fridge and pantry are in a sorry state, and I simply couldn’t go any longer without something green. I’ve been adding onions into almost everything to get some veg in, but one cannot live on onions alone.

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So imagine Tuesday’s dinner if you will: the rest of a block of cheese, and a big ol’ plate of roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts. And a glass of wine. Conventional it may not have been, but it certainly was delicious.

And after I was back to my normal state, it was time to make cookies.

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I made these cookies for my friend Emily’s bridal shower last year using Earl Grey tea, but I’ve swapped it for Maple Walnut tea to make it more seasonal for Holiday on the Lakeshore this weekend.

003They remind me of a mixture of shortbread and Mexican Wedding Cakes, only with a glaze instead of the fluffy powdered sugar.

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Tea Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp loose leaf tea, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Glaze:

  • 1 tsp loose leaf tea
  • 2 Tbsp hot milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine bowl combine flour, tea and salt.  Gradually incorporate dry ingredients into butter mixture.  Roll dough into 1-inch balls.  Place on baking sheet and bake for 14-16 min.  Cool on rack.

To prepare glaze, steep tea in hot milk for 5-10 min.  Add butter.  Stir in powdered sugar and mix.  Drizzle glaze over tea cakes before serving.

The Weekend That Wasn’t

I’ve decided that last weekend didn’t really count. It was too short, too hard, too emotional, and extremely unsatisfying.

But I did accomplish two things.

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Firstly, I received a bag of daffodil bulbs from one of my dear friends at my old work place in Green Bay. Mom was going to help me plant them when she was up for the weekend, but it started sleeting before we got around to it, and the bulbs and her trowel went into the garage.

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I kept forgetting and forgetting until I sent Mom an urgent email, she said, “They’ll rot!” and I dashed outside Saturday morning to plant my pretty bulbs.

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Hopefully, come spring, I’ll have lots of daffodils greeting me when I go outside. To plant bulbs is the most wonderful kind of hope, isn’t it?

Our second task was pretty horrid. It started as a ridiculously kind gesture from Dave’s mother who ordered us a washer and dryer, and it ended with us having one in our house, so that’s all that matters.

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No matter that in between involved many frustrating phone calls, a $115 dollar trip to Wausau with a U-Haul, cold rain, a trip to the city garage to drop off our old washer, a freak-out at the gas station, and a worried call from Dave that the ducting (?) didn’t fit.

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$19.95, my foot.

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Look how pretty, though!

Our washer and dryer are located in the kitchen, which is kind of a weird place, so we bought some curtains to at least provide a little coverage.

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I spent most of Sunday trying to knit, where I learned that I enjoy casting on way more than actual knitting, and also that my metal needles are far too slippery to be productive. It is one of my goals for the winter to learn to knit, though, so I must keep at it.

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And now it’s Tuesday, so at least Monday’s passed.

I’m looking forward to a good weekend coming up. It is Holiday on the Lakeshore this Friday and Saturday—a big holiday gift show in Manitowoc, WI with local vendors selling their wares, including my mom’s tea shop. I’m heading to her place on Friday night after work to help her and Emily on Saturday, and my friend Shelby is even coming to help. Perhaps next weekend will be twice as good to make up for the last.

Hope you all have a good Tuesday!

Mr. Niceguy or How I Learned to Come Home Late

Of the seven days in a week, I generally cook dinner on three or four of them. One or two weeknights are a free-for-all, and weekends are up in the air. It’s only fair for me to cook (and I like to) when I work eight hours a day, and Dave works a bajillion.

I’m exaggerating a little bit, but he worked SIXTY-TWO hours last week. In comparison, I worked forty-three, which left me almost twenty more hours to cook.

Even still, I came home late on Monday night again to Dave in the kitchen cooking one of my favorites: Shrimp & Grits. I’ve never had shrimp and grits cooked by anyone else, but I’m certain that Dave’s dish is the best. He even took pictures for me again. Bonus.

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The broth for the grits (err…polenta).

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Mushrooms sauteed in butter.

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And shrimp.

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Sliced roma tomato and an egg on top before going into the oven.

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Holy yum, Batman.

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Dave took a picture of me eating it, and it was gone 2.5 seconds after the picture was taken.

Just a Post to Say…

How excited I am for Thanksgiving!

Dave thinks it’s weird that I consider Thanksgiving my favorite holiday when we both love Christmas so much, but my reasoning is that it’s not the actual day of Christmas that I enjoy so much, but the holiday season. And since the holiday seasons starts at Thanksgiving and goes to New Year’s Day, it is the beginning of all things wonderful about winter. (After New Year’s, blech). 

What’s better than a great day of food and family when it becomes perfectly acceptable to listen to Christmas music, watch Elf, and drink Eggnog? Nothing, as far as I’m concerned.

It also means I get to start planning my pies! Planning food is one of my favorite things ever. This year, I’m thinking Apple-Rhubarb Pie, Classic Pumpkin Pie, and Pecan Pie Cheesecake. And I’m already dreaming about a big ol’ batch of the best roasted broccoli ever.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Pizza Bagel Stratta

It’s a shame we’re out of grocery money, because I’ve got a mile-high list of recipes to make from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

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That’s not very strange.

What is strange is that I want to host breakfast parties instead of dinner parties.

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I hated “breakfast for lunch” in grade school. Flimsy french toast sticks served with sickly sweet maple-flavored syrup, powdered eggs whipped into a fluffy, pale yellow mess, and greasy sausage patties. Ugh. Even now, I’m not a huge breakfast person.

But ‘Baked Ranchero Eggs with Blistered Jack Cheese and Lime Crema,’ ‘Potato Frittata with Feta and Scallions,’ ‘Peach Sour Cream Pancakes,’ and ‘New York Breakfast Casserole?’ I’ll be your brunch date anytime.

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We had one uncommon ingredient in the house last night: bagels, and that’s all I needed to adapt Deb’s ‘New York Breakfast Casserole’ into a Pizza Bagel Stratta. A little breakfast, a little dinner, a lotta pizza.

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(I wouldn’t normally post recipes from a cookbook, but this recipe is online, and I adapted it enough that Deb probably won’t hate me. But please buy the cookbook, because it’s amazing).

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Pizza Bagel Stratta

  • 1 1/2 lbs of bagels, cut into cubes
  • 4 oz cream cheese, cut into small bits
  • 6 oz shredded cheese (I used a mix of mozzarella, Parmesan, and feta)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 1 can of black olives, chopped (minus the ten you eat while chopping, like I do)
  • 4 slices of cooked, diced bacon (optional)
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 1/3 cups of millk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 1/4 tsp marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together tomatoes, onion, green peppers, black olives, bacon, and spices.

In another large bowl, whisk eggs with milk.

Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Spread one-third of the bagel cubes in the pan and dot with one-third of the cream cheese. Top with one-third of the vegetable mixture and sprinkle with one-third of the shredded cheese. Repeat layers, saving the remaining cheese.

Pour eggs over bagel mixture, shaking the pan to even out.

Bake for one hour, sprinkle remaining cheese on top of stratta, and bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown and set. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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A Perfect Evening

Try to imagine your perfect day. Of course there’s a different “perfect” day depending on the circumstances; whether it is a weekend or a Wednesday, summer or winter. If it is a weekend, my perfect day simply must involve friends. But if it is a weekday, I am just as content with only me, the kitties, and Dave.

A perfect summer Wednesday would involve a late morning run on a not-too-hot day. I would make myself an ice-cold berry smoothie with spinach for breakfast, shower, and put on clothes that I think I feel I look quite pretty in. Then I’d go grocery shopping, nice and slow, taking time to meander through all the aisles and imagine how many dinner parties I might host had I the money.

I’d take myself out to lunch at a coffee shop, and I’d drink in a book next to my iced tea, until I felt small and wonderful at the same time. I’d come back and make a nice dinner for myself and Dave and we’d watch some funny show together that we’d miss most of from talking, and I would cuddle with the kitties while I ate a cup of frozen yogurt on the couch.

Of course, we can’t always have the luxury of days off. But when it nears winter, we must snatch at what little daylight we have and make the most of it. So yesterday I planned a perfect afternoon. When I got home from work, I put on yoga pants, my ‘I ❤ Warrior’s hoodie, a hat, and my tennis shoes, and I strapped my iPhone to my arm for a run. I also put on my sister Moriah’s gauntlets that I promise I will deliver to her on Thanksgiving.

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Now, my perfect day doesn’t have to involve exercise. Believe me, I am just as lazy as the next person. I can plop myself down in front of the TV for four hours and quash any restlessness I might have with a bowl of pretzels. But most days, I feel more alive after I exercise, especially if it involves being outside, so it is usually part of my perfect day.

I ran a slow 11/2 miles on 15 minutes, then walked another half mile home.

After I finished and let myself get cold again, I made a Rosemary Mint bubble bath, poured myself a glass of wedding wine, and grabbed the cookbook my friends Dan and Em gave me for my birthday, Smitten Kitchen. I lost myself in the water, the warmth, and the wine. Oh, and the food. Oh man, that food.

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After my bath, I put Norah Jones on my Pandora radio, washed dishes, and brainstormed what I could make for dinner. There was no food in the house, only ingredients to make food, so in an attempt to use some frozen mussels and the spinach noodles I bought at the Asian Market, I decided on pasta.

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And because I don’t like dishes, I decided on:

One-Pan Pasta with Mussels

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  • 12 oz pasta (I used the 11.2 oz of spinach noodles, but spaghetti or linguine would work well)
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 3 tbsp pesto
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving
  • 1 lb of cooked mussels

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Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, pesto, and olive oil in a large skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for about ten minutes, until water is absorbed.

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Stir in kalamata olives and capers. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, cook mussels. I bought a box of frozen mussels in tomato garlic sauce, which required only five minutes in a covered pot heating up on the stove.

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If you have fresh mussels, by all means use them. But I love that we can keep frozen mussels on hand. And I was really impressed with this brand.

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I topped my pasta with the mussels and shredded Parmesan, and it was awesome. I had always thought one-pot spaghetti could be construed as somewhat lazy, but the texture of the noodles was so creamy from not having been drained. I’m definitely going to make this again.

After dinner, I sat on the couch with my book, my wine, my cat Athena, and a piece of chocolate Dave brought home for me.

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It was a pretty perfect evening.

Recipe inspired by: One-Pan Pasta