One thing you may not know about Robert is the man loves his soup! It doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold outside, few things make his heart go pitter pat quite like coming home from class to discover I cooked a big ol’ pot of soup for dinner. For me, while I have been known to have a cup of soup in the summer, soup is really more of a cold weather meal. Unfortunately for Robert, this typically means that I only cook soups during the months of October-March when I can comfortably spend lengthy periods of time over the stove top and not melt.

Lately, the weather in Dallas has been perfect for cooking and eating nice, big bowls of soups, chilis and stews. Needless to say, if Robert’s and my New Years resolution was to eat more of these meals we would be well on our way to meeting our goal! In past winters, I’ve stuck to the same tried and true soup recipes that my or Robert’s mothers cooked to warm our stomachs and souls. This year, however, I decided to try something new.

For over a year now, I’ve heard people talk about how great the Pioneer Woman’s blog was, and it wasn’t until recently that I started reading her posts daily. This was the first of her recipes that I tried, and I am sold. I’ve made a few modifications to meet our tastes, mainly reducing the volume as the first batch I made was way more than even my soup-crazed husband could stomach in a given week.

Tortilla Soup

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
3/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilis
2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups hot water
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp cornmeal, mixed with equal amounts of water
Sour cream, diced avocado, monterrey jack cheese and tortilla chips for garnish


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cumin, chili pepper, garlic powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on chicken breasts, then sprinkle a small amount of spice mix on both sides. Toss to coat. Set aside the rest of the spice mix.

Place chicken breasts on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until chicken is done. Use two forks to shred chicken. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add onions, red pepper, green pepper, and minced garlic. Stir and begin cooking, then add the rest of the spice mix. Stir to combine, then add shredded chicken and stir.

Pour in Rotel, chicken stock, tomato paste, water, and black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered.

Mix cornmeal with a small amount of water. Pour into the soup, then simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Ladle into bowls, then top with sour cream, diced avocado, and grated cheese and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Modified from the Pioneer Woman


So today is the fourth Tuesday in a row that I’ve tried to write this entry.  It’s budget season in the City of Dallas and that means I’ve had Budget Town Hall meetings to attend the past three Tuesdays  that have kept me busy and away from Tasty Tuesdays.  S0 without further adieu, this week’s Tasty Tuesday is Turkey and Spinach Lasagna, a Staci Thetford original!

As a kid my only interaction with lasagna was at church functions and was of the frozen variety generally found at Sam’s.  Needless to say I was not a big fan.  So much in fact that I was convinced that all lasagna must be like this and therefore I did not like lasagna.  How tragic.  Fortunately for me, sometime in college a good friend of mine took me to dinner at one of the local Italian establishments and gave me a taste of their non-frozen, made from scratch lasagna.  I was amazed at how different, and wonderful it tasted.  It would take another 3 years before I would start making it myself, but I was no longer afraid.

I’ve mentioned in a previous Tasty Tuesday that my friend Rachel and I used to cook together weekly.  One of the first cooking adventures we had was a version of this turkey and spinach lasagna.  It was delightful!  I don’t remember the exact recipe we used, but here is the one that I use every time I make homemade lasagna.

1 lb ground turkey (or Italian style turkey sausage)
2 garlic cloves
1 lb package of lasagna noodles
2 jars of marinara sauce (I prefer to use sweet ones for this recipe)
1 lb of mozzarella cheese
15 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 pkg frozen spinach thawed

Back when I first started making homemade lasagna, I used to make the marinara sauce from scratch.  That process made this already time intensive dish impossible for a weeknight meal so I quickly switched to using store bought sauce.  Initially I used Ragu’s sweet onion and garlic but just recently switched to a more natural brand, Cucina Antica where the ingredient list on the bottle contains only the items I would use if I were making it myself and no additives or preservatives!!  I can’t talk up this sauce company enough.  For this recipe I used their Italian Spinach Marinara as I knew it would compliment the spinach perfectly.

To begin set a large pot of water on the stove top to boil.  When ready add lasagna noodles (about 15 if long style and 20 if short) and boil for as long as the package suggests.  Remember not to over cook the pasta since it will cook longer while in the oven to bake.  Once the pasta is done place immediately in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  Set aside.

In the meantime brown your ground turkey in a large skillet along with the two garlic cloves minced. (Note: if using Italian style turkey sausage be sure to remove the sausage from its casings prior to browning.  Also, the garlic would not be necessary in this instance as there is already a lot of flavor in the sausage.)  Cook until cooked through and no pink exists and drain off fat if necessary.  Pour into the skillet 1 and a half bottles of marinara sauce.  Turn off burner and set aside.

Completed Sauce

Completed Sauce

Take the thawed frozen spinach and drain of most liquid being sure not to drain off too much leaving the leaves too dry which will make mixing difficult.  In a medium sized bowl mix together the spinach and ricotta cheese and set aside.

Spinach/Ricotta mixture

Spinach/Ricotta mixture

If you purchased fresh mozzarella you have the option of shredding or slicing the cheese.  While shredding is more difficult given the softness of the cheese than slicing, it does result in a more even dispersion of the cheese throughout the dish and is recommended. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Now for the assembly of the dish.  First, line the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish (or lasagna pan if you have one, which I don’t) with a little bit of the sauce left over in the jar, just enough to make a thin layer on the bottom of the pan.  This will prevent the lasagna pasta from sticking to the pan. 


Sauce lined pan

Sauce lined pan



Now cover the sauce with 3-4 lasagna noodles slightly overlapping, drying off the pasta with a paper towel before placing in the pan.  The number will depend on the length of the noodles and how many it will take to cover the pan.

On top of the pasta spoon about 1/3 of the spinach ricotta mixture and spread over the pasta.  Note, the pasta will be a little wet/sticky even with drying it which might make spreading the ricotta a little challenging, don’t get frustrated, it doesn’t have to look pretty since it’ll be covered up by the other layers.


Spinach Ricotta layer

Spinach Ricotta layer

Now cover the ricotta cheese with 1/4 of the mozzarella.  If you’re using sliced mozzarella, unless you have a fantastic cheese slicer, it is likely that the slices will be of slightly varying thickness.  The important thing to remember in this layer, is to keep an even distribution of the cheese.  In order to do so, you need to take into consideration how the cheese will melt.  This go-round, I chose to use shredded mozzarella and found that it was so much easier to work with and its next to impossible to not get an even melt.  Once the mozzarella is complete, top with 1/4 of the parmesan.


Mozzarella and Parmesan layer

Mozzarella and Parmesan layer

Now top the cheese with the marinara sauce using about 1/4 of the remaining sauce, or just enough to cover the cheese.


First complete layer of lasagna

First complete layer of lasagna

Repeat this layering process, starting with pasta, two more times until you have three layers of pasta and three layers of filling.  After completing the third filling layer (spinach ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and sauce) top with a layer of pasta and the remaining sauce (I usually have to dip into the sauce left in the second jar at this point) and mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.  Your completed lasagna should look like this:


Completed lasagna pre-cooking

Completed lasagna pre-cooking

Bake the lasagna until the cheese is browned and bubbly, about 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit for at least 15 minutes.  This step is important to allow the layers to set and keep you from burning yourself with hot cheese when dishing out the portions.  Cut into single servings and enjoy.  Serves 6-9


The finished product

The finished product


Making lasagna from scratch is definitely time-consuming, it usually takes me 2-2.5 hours from start to finish, but it is also worth the effort.  If you are pressed for time, or are planning to serve this for a dinner party and you don’t want to risk running behind schedule, this can be assembled the night before, covered tightly and refrigerated and put into the oven 1 hour prior to serving.  I’ve had to do that a few times when I didn’t get started early enough with assembly and it’s turned out just fine.  Enjoy.

Today marks the first family originated recipe to be featured on Tasty Tuesdays.  Growing up my mom would make meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans about every other week or so.  My grandmother, Memaw, would also make it most times we headed up to Pampa for a visit.  Because Memaw and Mom were the only two people I ever saw make this recipe I, along with several of my other cousins, attributed the recipe to Memaw and referred to it as “Memaw’s Meatloaf”. 

It wasn’t until a few months ago when my Aunt Dee and Uncle Steve came to visit Robert and I in Dallas that I was informed that the recipe did not originate with Memaw at all.  It was a recipe that Aunt Dee and Mom got at a 4H club meeting and brought home to share.  I still like to call it Memaw’s Meatloaf.  To me, who first brought the recipe into the Holman family is less important than who I remember first making it for me.  That and it’s probably the only meal outside of stew or chili that I remember Memaw making and I feel like I honor her memory every time I make it.

I’ve made some changes to the recipe, mainly switching ground turkey for ground beef, to make it a bit healthier.  I hope you enjoy this family favorite as much as we do.  Also of note, this recipe makes 5-6 mini loaves instead of one large loaf.  Outside of the fact that this is the only way my mom and Memaw ever made it, I like that the mini loaves make it easy for packing a lunch out of leftovers the next way.  If you’re weirded out by the mini loaf idea then go ahead and make into one large loaf, it won’t affect the taste at all.  Also, if you have a family member that doesn’t do onions, then substitute 2 Tbsp dried minced onions from the spice section of the grocery store for the 1/2 cup fresh minced onion.  It leaves the flavor without being overbearing or the texture.  My dad hates onions and he doesn’t mind the dried minced onions in this meatloaf.

For loaf:
1lb ground turkey
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
1 cup cracker crumbs
1 large egg
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
For sauce:
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp Worcheshire Sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine in a large bowl all ingredients for the meat loaf.  








Using hands mix the ingredients together until well blended.  Form into 6 mini loaves about the size of your fist and place onto a greased cookie sheet.  


Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes.  In the meantime, combine tomato sauce, brown sugar and Worcheshire sauce in a small bowl and stir until well blended.  Remove mini loaves from oven and pour sauce over each loaf, leaving a little left over in case anyone wants extra while eating.  


Replace mini loaves to oven and bake for 10 more minutes.  Remove from oven and serve with mashed potatoes and green beans.


This weeks recipe is based on the Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina by Giada De Laurentis at the Food Network.  While I’ve kept the same ingredients as Giada, I’ve changed the quantities to help provide a heaftier meal.  Giada’s version was intended as a snack for kids and therefore produces a somewhat smaller meal.  What I love about this dish is that it reminds me of some of the cassoroles my mom used to make growing up, without all the fat and calories found in the cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups.  This recipe has quickly become a favorite in our house.

1 1/2 cups small elbow pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pkg boneless skinless chicken breast tenders cubed (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 yellow onion diced
1 clove garlic minced
1 large can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 1 small ball of fresh mozz)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a medium pot of water to boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionaly for about 5 minutes.  Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.

While waiting for the water to boil, cut the chicken into small cubes and dice up the onion. Heat up olive oil in a medium saute pan and cook chicken for about 3 minutes then add garlic and onions and cook until chicken is cooked through and onions are soft.  Add mixture to the pasta in the mixing bowl along with the mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and canned  tomatoes.  Stir to combine.

Spray an 8×8 baking dish with PAM and pour pasta mixture into dish.  In a separate bowl combine bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over pasta and dot with pieces of butter.  Bake in oven until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.  When you’re done it should look like this.



Can you tell this is one of Robert's favorite dishes??

Can you tell this is one of Robert's favorite dishes??

Bon Appetit!

This is another recipe that I got from the Nordstrom Flavors Cookbook and it has quickly become a favorites of Robert’s and appears on the weekly menu multiple times a month.  It’s easy to make and includes a lot of fresh vegetables that I think sets it apart from other taco recipes.  And the cilantro lime vinaigrette is a unique and delicious addition to the palette of flavors contained in this dish.  So, without further adieu, let’s get on with the recipe.

1 T seasoned rice vinegar
2 T fresh lime juice
1 T honey
1 small garlic clove minced
1 t minced chipotle chili in adobo sauce (canned in Hispanic section of grocery store)
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 1 T olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Chicken Taco Filling:
2 T canola oil (olive oil can be substituted)
1 pound ground chicken (or turkey if chicken not available)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2t kosher salt
1/2 t pepper
2 T fresh lime juice
1 T soy sauce (I use reduced sodium and it works great)


Start with making the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette.  Combine in a food processor the vinegar, lime juice, honey, garlic, chili and salt and blend until smooth.  Then with the machine running, pour the the oil in a small, steady stream to make a thick sauce.  Then gradually add the cilantro until the mixture is a dark green in color.

To make the taco filling, heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat and add the chicken, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper.  Cook until the chicken is cooked through with no pink.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add lime juice and soy sauce to skillet and simmer until almost completely reduced.  Serve in soft flour tortillas with chopped yellow bell pepper, chopped cherry tomatoes, shredded romaine lettuce, queso fresco and vinaigrette.  We also add guacamole and salsa to the tacos for additional flavors.

Here is a picture of the taco meat with all the sides from our dinner the other night.  Hope you enjoy this favorite meal of ours!

The spread of taco filling and all the fixins

The spread of taco filling and all the fixins

I love food.  I love the way various ingredients come together to make a culinary piece of art.  Initially, while I loved food, I did not enjoy cooking myself.  Until recently.  Now I find the art of cooking enjoyable and even, at times, relaxing.  A few months back my friend Rachel started posting some of her family’s favorite recipes on her blog to share with her blog readers.  Rachel and I used to cook a meal for our husbands together back when we were in grad school at A&M, so this element of her blog helps me feel like we’re cooking together again.  Following in her footsteps, I have decided to have a weekly installment of our favorite recipes and term it “Tasty Tuesdays”. 

The first installment of Tasty Tuesdays will be a Mocha Bread Pudding.  

I found this recipe in the Nordstrom Flavors Cookbook and it has become a staple for when we are asked to bring dessert to a dinner party.  It’s really simple to make but looks like it takes a whole lot more work than it actually does. (which makes you look like a fabulous cook!) Be forewarned, it is very rich but worth every bite.  The recipe makes a lot so for dinners with 5 or fewer people, I recommend halving the recipe and using an 8×8 pan.  Otherwise you will end up eating bread pudding for a week, which may not be a bad thing after all.


Unsalted butter for baking dish

1 cup strong brewed coffee (I recommend using Cafe Du Monde Coffee and Chicory)

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup whole milk

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

4 large eggs

6 large egg yolks

1 loaf french bread (1 pound) preferably a day old and cut into 1 inch squares

8 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I recommend Ghiradelli)

Powdered Sugar for dusting

 If your bread is not a day old, cut it into 1 inch pieces spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees about 10 minutes.  Let cool completely before adding to the custard.

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter a 9×13 in baking dish.

 In a small saucepan over high heat, boil the coffee until reduced to 2 tablespoons.  Remove from heat at set aside.

 In a heavy-bottomed sauce-pan over medium heat, combine the cream, milk and granulated and brown sugars and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

 In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until blended.  Whisking constantly, gradually add the hot cream mixture.  Whisk in the reduced coffee.  Add the bread and stir gently to coat with the custard.  Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the bread has absorbed most of the custard (about 20 minutes).  Fold in the chocolate.  Spread in the prepared baking dish and cover with aluminum-foil.  (I have found that if you let it sit a little longer, say 20 minutes after the chocolate is mixed in, the pudding has a firmer and more full texture.  If you don’t have the 20 minutes to spare it definitely won’t hurt the flavor to cook it after folding in the chocolate.)

 Bake the pudding until it looks set around the edges, about 40 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking until a knife inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 15 minutes more.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

 Sprinkle powdered sugar on top for garnish if desired and serve.