Saturday, July 23, 2011

Southwestern Stuffed Puff Pastry...and Perspective!

"You and I do not see things as they are. We see things as we are;
because it is the "I" behind the "eye" that does the seeing."
~ Anais Nin
I can't remember who told me this true story, very likely Skip Heitzig and I think I was about 16 when I first heard it, but I remember the story well. It goes something like this:

"There was a man who was once robbed of his purse. He wrote in his diary: 'Let me be thankful. First, I was never robbed before. Second, although they took my purse, they did not take my life. Third, although they took my all, it was not much. Fourth, let me be thankful because it was I who was robbed, and not I who did the robbing.' "

What a perspective!!!!!!
Webster's dictionary defines perspective as: one's "point of view", the choice of a context for opinions, beliefs and experiences.

I LOVE how that's worded.
"the CHOICE of a context for opinions, beliefs, and experiences."

Every day when we wake up we have a choice.
We can choose how our attitude and perspective will be for that day!
It sure takes a concentrated effort though, doesn't it?
But WE have the choice...I love that!

What if we chose to have a different perspective then our usual stock response?
What if we purposed it in our hearts to deliberately see the joy over the pain?
What would change? Who would be impacted?

I'd like to leave you with one final thought today.
I know we're all experiencing the ripple effect of a tough economy.
And so in the spirit of perspective, this statistic that I came across in the Live Faithfully homework series by Lenya Heitzig and Penny Rose is worth reflecting on:

"If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep,
you are richer than 75% of this world.
If you have never experienced war, imprisonment, torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million other people.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy."

Sweet Bellas, it all comes down to perspective...
What will YOU choose today?

On that note, I have the perfect dish to turn that frown upside down, and trust me, you don't have to slave in the kitchen all day to serve this elegant meal. This recipe is perfect to serve to guests and the presentation is fantastic. Enjoy, and keep shining Sweet Bellas...

Southwestern Stuffed Puff Pastry
*picture shown above


1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
6 oz. of cooked chicken, shredded or diced

*shortcut: you can used rotisserie chicken or one of those prepackaged cooked and diced chicken packages that they carry in the lunch meat section of your grocery store :)

10 cremini mushrooms, rinsed, de-stemmed, and diced
1/2 small yellow onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
6 oz of cream cheese, softened
2-3 Tbsp of chopped green chile
1 tsp of garlic powder
3/4 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg
splash of water


1)Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet out to a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Cut into six 4 x 4 inch squares.
2) In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, green chile, and garlic powder. spread appx 1 oz. in the center of each square.
3)Meanwhile, in a small frying pan over medium heat, saute olive oil, garlic clove onion salt and pepper for one minute, add cremini mushrooms and cook until onions are translucent. Turn off heat.
4) top each square with 1 oz. of cooked chicken
5)Spoon 1 Tbsp of mushroom/onion saute mixture on top of chicken on each square
6) Top each square with a good pinch of sharp cheddar cheese.
7) Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork or whisk to create an egg wash. Brush the edges of the pastry squares with the egg wash. Fold the corners of the pastry squares to the center over the stuffing mixture and press to seal. Place the filled pastries seam-side down onto a baking sheet. Brush the pastries with the egg wash.
8)Bake @ 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serves 6.

I like to serve this with a caprese salad and roasted asparagus.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore & The Power of Words...

"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body"
~Proverbs 16:24

As I was thinking more on the topic of listening this past week,
I couldn't help but contemplate the other side of the coin...our speech, and the power of those words.

Do you know someone who will often speak before they think? Someone who has no filter in their speech whatsoever, they just blurt out whatever whenever without a second thought? Have you ever been hurt by their words, whether directly or indirectly?

Or perhaps YOU have been that person, knowingly or unknowingly.

I think it's easy for us to shift our thinking to others we know guilty of such, but what about ourselves?
Have you ever said something to someone that you instantly regretted? Why? Was it retaliation? Pride? Frustration?
Maybe you've never intentionally meant to hurt another with your words, but it happened.
The good news? It's never to late to make a change!

Simple words.
In the time it takes to speak them,
those words have the power
to build someone up,
or tear someone down.

Consider for just a moment the sweet effect of gracious words.
They can rescue people from despair, bring encouragement, life.
Gracious words can bring comfort, they can compliment, show our attentiveness,
bring positivity, be helpful, bring laughter, express gratitude, and be a blessing.
No eloquence required.

Sweet Bellas, let your words be a gift.
Let each and every one of us make every effort
to keep the law of kindness on our lips
now and always.

And while your at it, bring a dish over to someone who could use break.
Are there any tired mommies you know?
If not you can bring it to me :)
How about making this...


Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore
Need a fantastic meal that literally cooks itself while you're at work or busy at home, with only 5 minutes prep time...this is it!
The chicken is so juicy it just falls apart. No frills...No fuss...Fabulous flavor!

4 frozen chicken breasts (bone in has that extra flavor, but boneless is fine)
1 28 oz. can of Crushed Tomatoes with basil
1 Teaspoon of Chile Pequin (a.k.a. crushed red pepper flakes)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Green Bell Pepper, sliced and chopped
A large handful of baby carrots
a handful of mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini)
salt and pepper to taste

Layer in the crock pot in order of ingredients listed above, starting with frozen chicken breasts.
close the lid
cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
Serve over rice or pasta, sprinkle with parmiggano reggiano on top. A green salad and some garlic bread are the perfect accompaniment.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Roasted Asparagus Salad & The Art of Listening...

"If speaking is silver, then listening is gold."
~ Turkish Proverb

For so many of us, talking is easy. Listening...not so much. Why is that? Perhaps it's your child recounting every single detail of their favorite movie *for the umpteenth time.* Or your friend explaining every single gritty detail of her messy break up. A relative offering their unsolicited advice on fill in the blank . A stranger rambling on about their political opinions. A spouse describing every single detail as they give you the long version of "the story."

Sweet Bellas, never forget the sheer beauty, wisdom and importance of listening....

Listening can be laborious and require lots of patience, but I firmly believe it demonstrates our love. Anytime we do something for someone that doesn't come naturally to us, it exemplifies our love for them. If listening were effortless, it would also be a lot less loving, yes? We also demonstrate our love for God by listening to Him, not just through obedience, but by really focusing on His words to us, by striving to understand its implications, and being intentional about responding.

As with anything else, listening gets easier with repetition. It may start out as a challenge, and you may find your thoughts wandering at first, but it does get easier with practice. In this situation, I'm convinced that nothing else says “I love you” like speaking less and listening more.

This salad is the last of 3 meals I had a chance to make both of my Grandmothers. It's another dish that screams Summer. It's light and crisp and a beautiful compliment to any main dish but also bold enough to stand alone, perfect to bring to a BBQ or girlfriend lunch.


For the complete recipe to this scrumptious Roasted Asparagus Salad, click HERE and visit the wonderfully talented Velva at Tomatoes on the Vine. She turned me on to this salad and you will love her presentation! She's a special soul and you will enjoy every moment discovering her world.

Fettuccine w/Sweet Corn & Dill

"There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart."
~Celia Thaxter

I'm feeling a little lethargic this morning... guess that's to be expected when my 1 year old is cracking his 2nd molar, my 3 year old's stomach virus is erupting like Mount St. Helens., and baby #3 is shadowboxing in the womb *my bladder clearly the punching bag*

But the day is already looking up...the coffee is ready, an intoxicating aroma of cinnamon roll fabulousness is filling the air, and sleep deprivation aside, this heart is grateful.

Grateful for the little moments.
Moments that feel vibrant and invigorating to be alive.
The moments that make you breathe life in...deeply. The moments that make your heart swell, the moments that make you marvel, that allow you to wonder, that bring your soul to rest. For moments that make you laugh til it hurts, that make you weep with joy, that make your spirit dance.

Grateful for snuggles with chubby cheeked children, for intimate meals and late night fellowship with friends. For celebrations of life, and love. For embraces with the ones you cherish. For lover's conversations that never run dry. For weekend getaways with no agenda and plenty of fresh thoughts to ponder unhindered by time. For long walks and quiet moments of solitude that allow the soul to breathe and indulge in some necessary introspection. Moments that awaken your inner man...passionately.

Recalling just how satiable the simple pleasures truly are.

I first saw this recipe prepared a little over a year ago, and have been meaning to make it ever since. This is the second of three dishes I was able to make and serve to both of my Grandmothers and it certainly lived up to my expectations.
The sauce provides the perfect alternative to a heavy cream sauce, but gives all of the luxury and richness of one. The sweetness of the corn tickle the taste buds and make this the perfect summer pasta to share with the company of kindred spirits.

Invite someone over. Make them this meal. Eat outside. Engage in meaningful conversation. Create memories. Savor every moment.



Fettuccine with Sweet Corn & Fresh Dill
(recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray)


  • 8 ears of corn, peeled
  • About 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • Salt
  • 1 pound fettuccini, tagliatelle or egg tagliatelle (I used 1/2 Pappardelle pasta and 1/2 fettuccine)
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 slices smoky bacon, chopped
  • 1 bunch sweet green Vidalia onions thinly sliced or 3 medium leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced whites and greens, washed and dried
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small red chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 7 to 8 stems of fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped, a couple of tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • About 1/4 cup dill, a generous handful, finely chopped
  • Freshly grated parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1)Place a small bowl in a larger bowl inverted. Balance the ears of corn on the bottom of the small bowl, then scrape the kernels off which will be captured in the large bowl. (I simply used the flat surface of a cutting board for this procedure).
2) Puree half of the corn in the food processor or blender with stock.
3) Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta, salt water and cook to al dente.
4) Meanwhile, heat EVOO, a turn of the pan, in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook to crisp, drain and reserve the bacon and pour off all but about 2 Tablespoons of drippings. Return pan to heat and add whole corn kernels and season with a black pepper and just a bit of salt. Cook corn until it starts to lightly brown at edges, about 5-6 minutes, then add in onions and garlic, chili pepper and thyme and cook together a couple of minutes more. Stir in corn puree and heat through. Then stir in butter and dill. If sauce is too thick, add a ladle of starchy water to pan just before draining the pasta. Add pasta and sace and toss vigorously to coat evenly for at least 1 minute. Adjust seasoning and serve with freshly grated cheese on top.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Eggplant Rollatini Stuffed w/Proscuitto, Smoked Mozz, Fresh Basil & Ricotta

"Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever."
~Author Unknown

I truly cherish the time I get to spend with my grandmothers.
They've lived a lifetime of trials and tribulations mixed with joy and laughter, the stories they can tell...
They've known a simpler life than we live today, they've seen our world change from decade to decade since the 1920's.
I'm sure at times they wonder how things ever got so complicated...I wonder that myself.

All of my husband's grandparents have passed away, and both of my grandfathers have passed away as well.
These two amazing women are the Matriarchs of our family.
They're all we have left to treasure from an era that is drawing to a close.

I could fill up pages upon pages with memories of time spent by their side.
They never ran out of hugs, or my favorite meals, or sweet treats...
And they never hesitated to tell me off if I wasn't doing something right.

It's been 15 years since both of my grandmothers have been in New Mexico at the same time. And so, it was an honor for me to have the opportunity to cook a meal for both of them. I know how much they both love eggplant, must be where I get it from :)

Grandmas, this is for you...

When picking out a good eggplant from your favorite produce area, I've been told to choose one that has a shiny skin with a green top, and that has worked very well for me. So to make my version of Eggplant Rollatini, I begin by cutting the Eggplant lengthwise into appx 1/8" - 1/4" slices. I sprinkle sea salt to both sides and lay flat for at least 20 minutes to let it sweat out the bitterness. Then, I rinse the slices and pat them dry.

Next, I used 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for each batch of slices in my grilling pan and grilled the slices appx 4-5 minutes on each side, just enough for it to become pliable and leave those beautiful grill marks.

Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, I combined 1 small tub of ricotta cheese, appx 4 tablespoons of grated smoked mozzarella, 3 slices of proscuitto that have been sliced and chopped into little bits, 1 clove of minced garlic, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and a handful of fresh basil that I chiffoned to make the "filling mixture." That smoked mozzarella really gives it that extra layer of flavor. If you're having a hard time grating the mozzarella, you can always let it sit in the freezer for 15 minutes and that should help make it easier to grate.

When the slices have been grilled to perfection, I laid them on a flat surface, and used a heaping tablespoon of my "filling mixture" and then rolled them up.

Next, I set them in a baking dish an inch or two apart.

Then, I covered them in marinara sauce and freshly grated parmiggano reggiano. My signature "go to" marinara sauce is very simple. I use 1 large 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 2-3 minced garlic cloves, appx 2 tablespoons of fresh basil chiffoned and chopped again, 1/4 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of chile pequin (crushed red pepper flakes). I let that cook together on low heat for at least 20 minutes or so to let the flavors meld together. It's really that simple. I make a variety of different marinara sauces, but this is the one I turn to most often. The chile pequin gives it just a little spicy kick. I baked it in the oven @ 375 for appx 15 minutes.

I served this with a side of cheese tortellini with pesto sauce and a slice of garlic toast. I used 3 cheese tortellini that I purchased from Trader Joe's, and I make my pesto like this: Combine 2 cups of fresh basil leaves, 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts (pignoli, pinon), 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and a pinch of freshly cracked black pepper in a blender. Blend all the ingredients until mixed well and voila! I like to mix in 1/2 cup of shredded parmiggano reggiano after the pesto is blended for an extra layer of flavor.

Go on, make this for someone you love...Mangia!


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