Sunday, October 13, 2013

Easy Toasted Coconut Pie -- posted by Jessica

This is a really easy and tasty recipe found on the back of a box of Jello Coconut Cream flavor Instant Pudding. I made it for the dessert when I made the Pasta e Fagioli. I did not have squares of semi-sweet chocolate so I used about a 1/4 cup chocolate chips (milk chocolate as that is what I had). Also, I used natural unsweetened coconut instead of the flaked sweetened kind. Again, that is what I had on hand. The verdict: Healthy? No. Delicious? YES. LOL. And easy!


2 squares semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups thawed Cool Whip (I just used the whole container.)
1 6 oz. Graham cracker pie crust (or a home-made 9 inch one)
3/4 c. flaked coconut, toasted
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 pkg. (3.4 oz) Jell-O coconut cream instant pudding

Microwave chocolate 1 minute stirring after 30 seconds. Stir until completely melted. Add 1 cup cool whip and 1/4 cup coconut. Stir till well blended. Spread onto bottom of crust. Beat milk and pudding mix 2 minutes with whisk. Spoon over chocolate layer. Top with remaining cool whip and coconut. Chill 4 hours.

Pasta e Fagioli -- posted by Jessica

This recipe is a bit time consuming as it uses dried beans, but it is REALLY good, makes a LOT, and freezes well! The recipe calls for dried navy beans, but I used pinto beans as that is what I had in my pantry. I did have to cook them for longer than the recipe specified. Also, I used one 15 oz. can of tomatoes instead of the 28 oz. called for in the recipe and I used 5 cups broth (a mixture of vegetable broth and beef broth that I had in the freezer) to replace some of the water called for in the recipe. I then used a bit less salt since the broths I used were not a low-sodium variety. I would rather add salt if needed at the table rather than end up with a whole batch of overly salty soup. Also, I used a couple of extra handfuls of pasta which made this nice and thick which I prefer over brothy soups.
Serve with salad and a good Italian bread, you have a healthy and filling meal! (thanks to Cooking Light for this recipe)


1 lb. dried navy beans (or pintos)
1 Tb olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup sliced carrot
1/2 cup sliced celery
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, un-drained
9 cups water [or a combo of water and broth if desired]
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. rosemary
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 cup uncooked macaroni [I used shell pasta]
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Sort and wash beans and place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour then drain.

Heat oil in pan over medium heat then sauté the onion, carrot and celery 5 minutes. Add two garlic cloves; sauté 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the beans, 9 cups water or broth, red pepper and bay leaf. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour 50 minutes. Add salt, oregano, thyme, and remaining two garlic cloves. Cover and simmer 25 minutes or until beans are tender. Discard bay leaf

Place 2 cups bean mixture into a food processor and process till smooth. Return puree to pan and stir well. Add the pasta and cook 7 minutes or until done. Stir in parsley and black pepper and serve topped with grated Parmesan.

Yield: 10 servings

Pesto Cavatappi -- posted by Jessica

I had a nice looking basil plant that I wanted to use up before it got too cold with a hard frost so I came across this copycat recipe of Noodles and Company's pesto cavatappi. I love Noodles and CO. but they are on the pricey side so I don't go there often. But I did try their pesto cavatappi once when we ordered from Noodles for a work lunch. I'm not always a super huge fan of pesto, but I really liked their version; it has white wine and cream in it which helps to mellow out the strong pesto flavor. The original recipe just called for using jarred pesto, but as the whole point was to use up my fresh basil, I found a pesto recipe from Cooking Light website that I decided to try. It made about 3/4 cup total and I used 1/2 cup for the pasta recipe. I froze the rest of the pesto by 1 Tablespoonfuls in an ice cube tray. Once they were frozen, I popped them out of the tray and put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer for future use.
All in all, the pasta dish turned out really well and was pretty easy to prepare. The only change I would make next time, is maybe use more mushrooms (you can never have too many!) and a bit more white wine as the flavor was mostly lost under the pesto.


12 oz. curly pasta (I could not find cavatappi at the store but found a similar spiral shaped pasta called cellantani)
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved (I used 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped)
1/2 pint sliced mushrooms
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup pesto

Cook the pasta to al dente. Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms and tomatoes in olive oil. When the pasta is almost done, add the wine to the mushroom mixture and let it reduce for 2 minutes. Add the cream and reduce for another 1-2 minutes. Stir in the pesto. Drain the pasta and add to the pesto cream sauce. I added a little of the pasta water to thin it out a bit. Top with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley and serve.

Serves 4-6

Basil Pesto

2 Tb. pine nuts or chopped walnuts (I used 1/4 cup of almonds as that is what I had in my freezer, and pine nuts are rather expensive)
2 peeled garlic cloves
3 Tb extra virgin olive oil
4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves (approx. 4 oz.)
1/2 cup (2 oz) grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp salt

Process the nuts and garlic in a food process till minced. Add in the oil and pulse 3 times. Add in the basil, cheese and salt and process till finely minced and blended. 
Yield: about 3/4 cup

Beet Pesto Spaghetti -- posted by Jessica

So, probably, a lot of people would think this is really weird, but I think that red beets are one of the best veggies! They are a beautiful color, healthy, sweet, and taste amazing! So, when I ran across this recipe online, it sounded so unique, I had to try it. It sounds really odd, but it is actually really good! And the spaghetti is a fun and vibrant magenta color! I would maybe use one clove less of the garlic as it was a little strong or maybe the cloves I used were on the large side. It was really good anyway; I do like garlic and, hey, it keeps the vampires away, right? (Especially the stalking Volvo-driving ones!)
The pesto freezes well too, so that is a plus as it makes a good amount. And besides the cooking and peeling of the beets, the recipe is quick and easy to make!


3 large red beets
3 cloves garlic
1/2 C whole raw pistachios (or almonds)
1/4 C lemon juice
1/4 C olive oil
1 C finely grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 lb. spaghetti

Cook the beets in boiling water until tender then peel once they are cool enough to handle. Despair of ever getting the red stain off of your fingers. Quarter the beets and toss into the bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic cloves, nuts, lemon juice and olive oil and run the food processor until you have a smooth spread. Add salt and pepper to taste and fold in the Parmesan.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to al dente, drain and toss with the pesto. I used a little of the pasta water to thin out the sauce a bit. Serve with extra chopped nuts and Parmesan if desired.

Yield: the original recipe said 4-6 servings, but I would say more like 6-8 servings.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Easy Caramel Sauce--posted by Joy

I LOVE LOVE LOVE caramel in my coffee. I am also BROKE BROKE am getting more creative in how to save money and still enjoy life's little luxuries. This morning as I was talking myself out of a Dunkin Donuts run I wondered, "How hard can it be to make caramel?" Not hard at all, as it turns out. This recipe is brought to you by:

I just made it, so I don't know how it is in coffee, but will post an update once it's cooled enough to try :-) I didn't have half and half so I mixed 1/4 cup heavy cream with 1/4 cup 2% milk. And of course I added just a touch extra vanilla because I love vanilla. So we'll see how it turns out... smelled heavenly as I was making it though! (How could it not? brown sugar, cream, butter, salt and vanilla? Yum!!)



Mix the brown sugar, half-and-half, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until it gets thicker. Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off the heat, cool slightly and pour the sauce into a jar. Refrigerate until cold.