Cooking my way to happiness with Rachael Ray

Taco Pasta Toss

Happiness today came from adding two favorite foods together and having something new for dinner.  Tonights Rachael Ray dinner is a cross between tacos and pasta, very kid friendly and super easy to make.  I would say its a keeper….download it at

All the ingredients are simple and probably already in your kitchen. 

First bring salted water to a boil for the whole wheat penne pasta.

While the penne is cooking, brown some ground sirloin in a skillet with some EVOO.  I used ground turkey (beach vacation is coming soon).  After it is browned, add chopped onion, 4 cloves garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, s&p and a jalapeno, which I had to skip because of kids…someday I will get to add it.  Cook until the onions are tender then stir in tomato paste until it is aramatic.  Then add in some beer ( I think I forgot that part, oops).

Add the sauce to the pasta and toss.  To serve sprinkle with monteray jack cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.  I would even add salsa and sour cream.

Love love love it!!!!  Super easy to cook and clean up.  Perfect 10’s all around and small miracle happened today.  Most everynight I ask my kids what the best part of the day was for them and usually never get an answer or I have to drag it out, tonight everyone answered without much complaint.  Savor the food and the small sweet moments with your kids.


Orecchiette with Pancetta and Peas

It’s March, snowy one day, warm and sunny the next.  Tonight’s “what’s for dinner” is a simple pasta. Orecchiette with Pancetta and Peas. 

I am excited about cooking with Orecchiette because I have never cooked it, I don’t even know what it is.  Back to googling ingredients on my phone while I’m at the grocery store….just like the good old days!!  Orecchiette is a type of pasta native to Apulia (that would be Italy’s boot hill).  The pasta shape resembles a small ear.  In Italian “ear” is orecchio.  Very interesting.  I found Orecchiette at Target. 

Bring salted water to a boil and cook the Orecchiette like any other pasta you would cook.  The secret is in the sauce. While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet heat some EVOO over medium high heat.  Add pancetta, which is an Italian dry cured meat similar to bacon, and cook till crisp.  Then add in one chopped onion, 4 cloves of chopped garlic and ook until softened.  Then stir in some white wine (yipee).  Add the peas and heat through. Season with fresh thyme, lemon peel and pepper.

Combine the Orecchiette with the sauce then add Pecorino Romano cheese and toss.  You are supposed to serve this with some ricotta cheese on top but you can see from the picture I forgot this.  Oh well, fewer calories, my beach vacation is getting closer by the day!

Happiness today came from chopping onions and garlic, cooking with white wine, smelling fresh thyme and lemon peel, eating dinner with my family, not having to plan dinner, dinner taking only about 30 minutes to cook, a nice long walk with Kayt & the dog, laundry being done, sunshine, a picked up house, a clean kitchen, a clean car…..and Foster liked dinner, peas and all!

Warm Provencal Chicken Salad

Tonight’s “whats for dinner” is a warm Provencal chicken salad.  I was not really excited about this recipe but watching Rachael make it on her show today helped inspire me.

Start by coating potatoes, onions, crushed garlic and lots of s&p.  Roast about 45 minutes turning once.  Then you are supposed to roast green beans or asparagus, tomatoes and pitted olives (coated with EVOO) for about 30 minutes.  Call me crazy but I just roasted everything together.  I did forget to get olives at the store so I used artichoke hearts and I picked asparagus over green beans.  I also skipped the tomatoes because they are not in season yet and when you come from the midwest and know how great home-grown tomatoes are you don’t ever buy tomatoes or eat them when they are not in season.

Meanwhile, season the chicken with s& p and EVOO.  Cook the chicken in a cast iron skillet.  Instead of chicken breast I used chicken tenders because they cook more quickly and it saves you the step of cutting up the chicken after it is cooked. 

While the chicken cooks you make the dressing.  THE DRESSING MAKES THE  DISH!  In a food processor place shallots, fresh sage leaves, fresh marjoram, 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and s&p.  Pulse chop the mixture then stream in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup EVOO to form a pesto-like sauce. Fresh herbs equals happiness.

To serve layer arugula (or any cold salad greens), roasted vegetables and chicken.  Top salad with the dressing and toss.  Serve with a crusty baguette.  I served it with a rosemary garlic bread.

Yes I was skeptical in the beginning, but loved dinner.  Kids didn’t hate it either….which in my world that is complete success! I would say this is a keeper so go download it. 

Chili Tamale Bowls

March 9th, and I won’t sugar coat this.  It is very difficult to cook Rachael Ray everyday with life happening.  I wonder  why did I say I would do this?  1. because dinner is needed every night for my family 2. to learn something new everyday and try new things everyday 3. to take time everyday to do something I enjoy, for happiness, to not let my happiness disappear while I am trying to make everyone else happy. I think I’m just tired.  How many days have I been cooking? Since August 1st…..or sometime close to that, and seeing that there are so many people reading this blog makes me feel obligated.  It makes me happy to read all the positive comments too, thank you!!!!!!!

Back to work, tonight’s dinner is Chili Tamale Bowls.  Very interesting recipe….download it at

Start by reconstituting 3 Ancho chili peppers.  That is fancy talk for put the dried Ancho chilis (after being seeded and stems removed) in chicken stock, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until the peppers are soft.

While that whole process is going on, make the chili.  Start with some EVOO in a pan over medium heat.  Brown ground pork and add cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, cloves, salt and pepper. Most of these spices I did not have before I started all this cooking and today they are standards in the spice rack, that is kinda fun. Add onions and garlic to the meat, cook until tender.  Puree the Ancho chili’s and chicken stock in a food processor then add that to the chili.  Finally stir in tomato paste.  Add one large cup of beer, then finish the bottle (not much left anyways).  I would call this a mexican chili.

Then make the tamale part of the bowl.  Start by bringing 1 1/2 cups of stock and 1 1/2 cup milk to a boil then whisk in a cup of quick cooking polenta.  Polenta is very similar to corn meal and found in the same section as corn meal in the grocery store.  Let the polenta thicken then add butter, honey and salt & pepper.

To serve ,put a small amount of the polenta  in a bowl.  Spread it around leaving room in the center for the chili.  Add the chili then top with pepper jack, lime juice, fresh chopped cilantro and scallions.

It did remind me of tamales but much easier to make than tamales.  On a scale of 1 to 10… 8.

Once again I am thrilled that I didn’t have to plan what was for dinner, Rachael does that for me.  Kids loved it and they just think it is now normal in our house to take pictures of what is for dinner.

Meatball Melties

It’s Monday March 8th, still cooking Rachael Ray everyday (except weekends).  Tonight’s dinner was Meatball Melties.  Basically its a meatball burger.  Spring is in the air so I grilled these instead of cooking them in a cast iron skillet. It was even raining a little but I didn’t care, it’s not snow and I am thrilled to be grilling out!

You are supposed to use a meat loaf mix of ground beef, pork and veal.  Rachael said it is usually called “meat loaf mix” in the meat department.  I couldn’t find any so I just used ground beef.  I think I’m getting sick so I didn’t have the energy to go from store to store or even mix it up myself, however I am still cooking so don’t give me any grief.

Mix the ground beef with breadcrumbs, parsley, Pecorino Romano, egg (I skipped this too because we were out of eggs and none of the neighbors were home), garlic, onion, milk, sage, fresh nutmeg, salt and lots of pepper.  Mix up and form into patties.  Drizzle the burgers all over with EVOO.  Then throw them in the skillet or on the grill.

Meanwhile in a sauce pan heat up some fire-roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  This is the sauce that will go on top of the burgers.

When the burgers are almost done melt provolone cheese on top.  Serve with the fire-roasted tomatoes sauce on ciabatta bread.

I thought the ciabatta bread was a little to hard for a burger, I am more of a soft bun girl, however maybe I just had a bad loaf.  The sauce was awesome, really awesome.  The meatball burger was very good too. 

I liked tonight’s dinner but it wasn’t a fav.  Kids liked it too, but not a wow.

Happiness was found in the smell of fresh basil, nutmeg and sage.  Remember life is to short not to use fresh, real herbs. Happiness also came from having dinner all together around the dinner table even it I have to pull the conversation out of the kids……. which is getting easier every day.

Fettuccini all’Alfredo

Friday night…..what’s for dinner?  Fettuccini all’Alfredo.  This is the ultimate in comfort food.  Only 4 ingredients:  , butter, salt & pepper and finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Warm a large shallow serving bowl in the oven while you cook the fettuccini.

After the pasta is cooked, reserve some of the starchy water  before draining.  Add 6 tablespoons of butter (cut up into little pats) to the serving dish then add the pasta over the butter, pour the starchy water over the pasta and butter.  Add 1/2 of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and start mixing it all together, slowly adding in the rest of the cheese. As Rachael say’s “it’s a process”.  Mix in the s&p to tastes.

This is one of the easiest things I have every made. Perfect for a Friday night.  extremely kid friendly, all of my kids loved it.

The happiness tonight comes from all that butter, cheese and fettuccini.  I only had a little, but loved every bite, and since I am running a 5K in the morning I thought it was justified.  In life you always have to take a little good with a little bad, in other words, if you are going to indulge in Fettuccini all’Alfredo you are going to have to run it off especially if you are going to a beach in 53 days.


There were two recipes on the show today, a chicken dish and a fun appetizer.  Since everyone has spring fever at my house we are having the fun appetizer, potstickers, for dinner.  Yes things are crazy at my house and we are breaking all the rules. 

As strange as this sounds, these were really fun to make.  This is the perfect recipe to make with your kids! Of course I only have Kayt home, the boys are running around the neighborhood.  Kayt is in one of her hormonal 10-year-old moods, she has no interest in cooking with me.  Maybe I just need to borrow some kids. Other people’s kids think I am fun and they would probably want to cook with me. 

Start by combining ground pork, fresh ginger, garlic, whites of scallions, sesame oil, and soy sauce.  The recipe also calls for Chinese 5-spice powder and hot sauce too but I couldn’t find the 5-spice and I didn’t add the hot sauce because I thought it might be too spicy for the kids…..see I do really love those little people!  Smash it all together.  Spoon a small amount into each wonton wrapper.  Dab your finger in some water and moisten the edges.  Fold it over and seal it up,  like little half moons.

In a hot skillet of vegetable or peanut oil, sear both sides of the dumplings. Add a little chicken stock and cover the pan.  Steam until the meat is cooked thru and most of the liquid is gone.  Serve with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, sesame oil and scallions.

This is what to make when you are craving chinese take out!  All the kids LOVED them.  What I loved most was the smell of fresh ginger when you grate it and cooking with sesame oil and of course they were really good!

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Bread Pizza

I am thrilled that tonight’s dinner only takes 15 minutes to make.  It has been difficult to try to squeeze in all these dinners that take a lot of time and effort when life gets in the way every single day.  But as I told Kayt this morning at breakfast “its your life…… don’t get to busy to live it”. 

Start tonight’s dinner by filling a deep skillet with water and bringing to a boil.  Then add the broccoli rabe and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes.  Drain well.

Brown some italian sausage and then remove from the pan.  Add EVOO and garlic to that same pan and cook a couple of minutes.  Then add red pepper flakes, a little fresh nutmeg and salt & pepper.  Stir on the broccoli rabe and turn off the heat.

Cut the  bread length wise and put it under the broiler for just a few minutes. 

Mix ricotta cheese with some milk and add fresh thyme, salt & pepper and a drizzle of EVOO. 

Layer the bread with the ricotta cheese mixture followed by the sausage, broccoli rabe, and last but not least top with provolone cheese.  Return to the broiler to melt the cheese.

Dinner took me about 45 minutes….not 15.  That is because kids were in and out, asking for this and that, phones were ringing, my needy dog needed in and out and of course I am the only one that ever hears her and I forgot to get the broccoli rabe so I did have to make a quick trip up to the store.

Still thankful I didn’t have to plan what was for dinner and everyone liked it.  I did skip the broccoli on the kid portion of the pizza just because I was feeling extra nice……actually I was just too tired to hear the complaints.

Do you think Vienna is cooking for Jake tonight?

Greek Chicken with Everything Orzo

Kind of excited to not have something italian tonight.  Ran outside again today and my iPod worked the whole time! Still freezing outside but I wore gloves.  How do you tell when it is the end of winter?  There are no more sets of matching gloves in your house.

tonight’s dinner took only about 45 minutes to make and I did make it at 2:30 in the afternoon to accommodate for all the evening activities.  I chopped up everything that needed chopped up first….this is not only a stress reliever but also a time saver.  Chop up a red onion, one green pepper, pitted kalamata olives and some flat leaf parsley. 

Marinate the chicken in EVOO, smashed garlic, fresh oregano (life is to short not to use fresh herbs), lemon slices and salt & pepper.  Rachael says to marinate the chicken only 10 minutes but I think it only gets better the longer you marinate.  After marinating, cook the chicken in an extremely hot cast iron skillet with EVOO.  Cook about 10 minutes on both sides then squeeze the juice of another lemon over the skillet before serving. 

Meanwhile in a second skillet with EVOO cook the onions and red peppers, season with salt & pepper.  After 5 minutes add 2 cloves of garlic.  Then add olives and tomatoes and cook a couple of minutes more.  Drain orzo (that you have cooking in yet another pot) and toss in serving dish with the veggies.  Add the parsley and feta and black pepper to taste.  The recipes call for greek hot peppers but I opted not to use them because my kids don’t like the heat.

Kids didn’t love dinner but did tolerate it and I am thrilled with just that.  I loved the orzo, the chicken was good but not my fav.  Still thrilled not to have to plan what was for dinner! Yes I am still taking pics as proof that I am a great cook thanks to Rachael Ray!

Slow-cooker Recipe: Asian Pepper Steak

It’s Monday, March 1st and I have been cooking whatever Rachael Ray makes on her tv talk show since August unless I am in a hospital room.

I ran outside this morning because it looked like it was nice out……it wasn’t.  My iPod quit working half way thru….no one should ever be forced to run without very loud music. Not a good Monday so I hope Rachael is making something great for dinner.  I am getting back to my routine of being a New yorker who lives in Kansas City, by that I mean that I grocery shop everyday to get whatever I need to make dinner that night. 

A slow cooker recipe!  My day is getting better!  Basically brown beef sirloin in a skillet with very hot EVOO. Slice the steak into 1-inch thick strips.  Put the steak in the crock pot and dust with cornstarch mixing it up until the cornstarch is no longer visible. 

Then chop up the onion and 6 peppers of various colors and add to the crock pot.  Grate in 4 cloves of garlic…fabulous.  Then add in tomato sauce, soy sauce, fresh ginger, brown sugar and black pepper to taste. Just throw it all in and cook for 4 to 6 hours.  And when you smell fresh ginger all cares in the world are gone, one of the finest narcotics in the spice world.

Serve over rice, I used whole wheat, and top with cilantro and fresh lime juice.  You are supposed to also top with bean sprouts but I opted not to. 

I would say the kids liked it but not an all time fav.  I thought it was easy and good but not really great.

Still thrilled I didn’t have to come up with what was for dinner…… so in my book it is ALL REALLY GOOD!

Now the questions is who will Jake pick and can she cook?