As Rachel Ray would say. I don't consider myself a RR fan by any means. I never watch her shows and the commercials drive me batty. (What's with that OHHHHHHH she always lets out at the end of the commercials? Annoying, much?) Last week at the gym, they had ABC on one of the TVs so I happened to catch the 2nd half of a show. I suppose it wasn't that bad and I was really interested in the dish she made - a healthier version of Roasted Pasta alla Norma . It's not like I've ever had the real version of Pasta alla Norma, but I knew I wanted to make this soon! This was the first time M and I have ever eaten eggplant. He saw the flesh of it and looked freaked out. It was pretty funny. The dish was very, very good. I can't wait to eat some for lunch tomorrow!

Roasted Pasta alla Norma
(Roasted Tomato, Eggplant and Garlic Pasta)

1 large whole eggplant
1 large head garlic
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
2 pints grape tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound cavatappi pasta (they didn't have any at Hyvee, so I used Rotini)
A large handful of fresh basil leaves (about 20 or so), torn into pieces (Hyvee was low on fresh basil, so I had about 10 leaves and then added some dried basil)
1/4 pound chunk ricotta salata cheese, crumbled or substitute 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (no ricotta salata.. I used lowfat ricotta, only a 1/2 cup)

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.

Cut 4-5 slits on one side of the eggplant and place it slit-side-up on a baking sheet. Trim about an inch off the top of the head of garlic, just exposing the tops of the cloves inside. Place the garlic on a piece of foil, drizzle it with a little EVOO, wrap it up and place it in the oven alongside the eggplant. Roast them both for about 30-40 minutes, until the eggplant looks like a flat tire.

When the eggplant and garlic only have about 15 minutes left to roast, put the grape tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle them with some EVOO and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the tomatoes to the oven and roast for about 15 minutes.

Place a large pot of water over high heat with a lid on it and bring up to a boil. Once boiling, add some salt and cook the pasta to al dente (with a bite to it), according to the package directions. Right before draining the pasta, remove and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta-cooking water.

Once the eggplant, garlic and tomatoes are all roasted, remove everything from the oven. Split the eggplant open and scoop out all of the roasted flesh with a spoon, discarding the skin. Transfer the flesh to a large serving bowl, along with the roasted tomatoes.

Squeeze out the roasted garlic flesh from the papery shell and add to the eggplant and tomatoes. With the back of a fork or a potato masher, smash up the eggplant, tomatoes and garlic until thoroughly combined. Add the torn basil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and the reserved pasta-cooking liquid to the bowl, stirring and smashing to combine.

Add the pasta and toss until thoroughly coated. Divide the pasta between four serving bowls and top each one with some of the crumbled ricotta salata or a large dollop of the ricotta cheese. Serve with your favorite salad alongside.

3rd Time's A Charm

I've tried to make this guacamole twice before and each time I manage to screw it up. We had tacos last week so I decided I had to try this one last time or I would never try it again. Well... success! I'm so excited, it was delicious.

Holy Guacamole
From my friend Stephanie, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse

Yield: 1/2 to 1 cup
1 avocado, peeled, halved, and seeded
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. minced yellow onion
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. Baby Bam (recipe at bottom)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. green pepper sauce

Chop avocado halves and place in mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mash together until mostly smooth. Stir to evenly distribute ingredients. Serve immediately or store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

Baby Bam

Yield: about 3/4 cup
3 tbsp. paprika
2 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. celery salt

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir well to combine, using a wooden spoon. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Nanner Bread

This was my first time making banana bread. I'm not really sure why I never made it before. It was so easy. Usually when I bake things, I never bake for as long as the recipe states. Since this bake time is 50 - 75 minutes, I didn't even think to check it before 50 minutes. This still turned out so good, just a little darker than I would have liked. I will definitely be making this again!

Banana Bread
From: Amber's Delectable Delights

3 bananas, smashed
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc)


1) Combine all ingredients except for nuts, using a mixer. Add nuts and mix by hand
2) Grease bread pan, Cook for 50 minutes at 350 degrees
3) Check with toothpick for doneness (may need to cook longer, possibly 15 more minutes)

This recipe can also be turned into muffins. Simply scoop the batter into 12 muffin cups. Cook at the same temperature but reduce bake time to 25 minutes


Perfect Sunday Evening Meal

I was so excited it was light til after 7:00 last night. As much as I hate losing an hour, I love the fact it's going to stay lighter longer. That also means an extra hour to try and take a good picture of my food! Well of course we didn't end up eating last night until it was dark out so I wasn't able to get a good picture. Oh well. Our dinner was delicious. We had:

Cornmeal crusted chicken with cheddar, green and red peppers
Green beans with warm bacon dressing
Trish's Smashed Potatoes.

The recipes for all those are below....

Cornmeal crusted chicken with cheddar, green and red peppers

After seeing 2 different stuffed chicken recipes recently, one on elly says opa and one on Healthy Eats and Sinful Treats I really wanted to make some stuffed chicken. I never had before but the recipes sounded so good. I decided that I wanted to use cornmeal, cheese, and red and green peppers.

4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup red pepper
1/2 cup green pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cornmeal
1 egg, beaten
2 heaping tbsp cilantro (or to taste)
black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Spray 9x13 baking dish non-stick cooking spray.

Combine cornmeal, cilantro, and black pepper in dish. Dip chicken in the egg and then in the cornmeal mixture.

Place chicken in baking dish. Sprinkle cheese on 1/2 of one breast, add peppers and top with more cheese. Fold chicken over cheese and pepper mixture, secure with toothpick. Repeat with all breasts.

Place in oven and cook for 30-40 min or until done.

Green Beans with Warm Bacon Dressing

I found this recipe in the March 2008 Cooking Light. This was my first time ever using fresh green beans. We loved this so much I'm planning on making it again later this week.

1 pound fresh green beans - trimmed
2 strips of bacon
1/4 cup chopped shallots omitted
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
S&P to taste.

Cook green beans in boiling water for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Cook 2 strips bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add shallots to drippings in pan; cook for 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add garlic and green beans; toss to coat. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and salt and pepper.

Trish's Smashed Taters

This recipe is from my friend Trish. My husband is really picky when it comes to mashed potatoes but he loved these. I cut the recipe down because it was just the 2 of us. There aren't exact amounts... just eye ball everything

5lb bag red potatoes
1 1/2 sticks butter
4 oz cream cheese
Lowry's Seasoning Salt
Minced Garlic
Onion Powder
Green onion
Black Pepper

Partially peel potatoes, boil until soft - Drain.

Combine 1 1/2 sticks of butter, 4 oz. of cream cheese (more if desired), Lowry's seasoning salt, minced garlic, onion powder, chopped green onion, black pepper, just enough milk or cream and potatoes. Mix until it reaches desired consistency.


Take me back to yesteryear...

I know this isn't exactly blog-worthy. If my blog was called Simply Gourmet, you wouldn't be reading about it right now. However, I felt i had to include it for 2 reasons:

1) It reminds me of my favorite Lenten Friday meal growing up.
2) My blog is called Simply Tasty and this is both, Simple and Tasty.

Lets talk about reason 1 first. Being catholic, I don't eat meat on Friday's during lent. I hated this growing up because so often that meant fish sticks. I hate fish, actually I won't eat anything that lives in the water. One Friday meal I loved was bagel pizzas. How cool is making your own mini pizza on a bagel when you're a kid? I loved it. This is the slightly more adult version of that (notice I said slightly).

Reason 2 - If slapping some Ragu, Kraft shredded cheese and veggies on a pita isn't good enough for you, you could always making your own sauce, make your own dough and shred the cheese to make this more more extravagant. However, my time is quite constrained lately. Ragu, Kraft, Pita, and Veggies work for me.

Without further adu, I give you.....

Veggie Pita Pizza

1 Pita
Tomato/pizza/spaghetti sauce of your choice
Chopped veggies of your choice( I like red and green peppers, onion, zucchini, and broccoli)
1/2 tsp minced garlic shredded cheese of your choice

1) Line cookie sheet with parchment paper
2) Place pita on parchment paper, spread sauce on pita. Sprinkle shredded cheese to taste.
3) Saute veggies in olive oil for 3 -5 min.
4) Sprinkle veggies on cheese
5) Bake pita pizza for 7 - 10 min @ 425 depending on desired crispiness.


This stuff's the....

S%!$. That was the text message I received (well the edited message) from my husband today while I was at work. I had planned on making this yesterday after work and bringing it in today for my coworkers. Well, things didn't go as planned yesterday and I didn't end up starting on this til 7:30 last night and it wasn't set when I went to bed last night. Getting up at 4:40 is bad enough, I didn't feel like taking the time to cut squares this morning before work. So I had to wait all day til I got home at 2:45 to try this.

I'm happy to report it was well worth the wait. These are fantabulous! I can't wait to make them for a group of people. I first saw this recipe a few weeks ago on Dinner & Dessert and my eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw the pictures. I knew I HAD to make them!

Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars
from Dinner & Dessert
originally from Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats

3/4 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional (I omitted the nuts and used chunky PB for the topping)
4 cups miniature marshmallows

1-1/3 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups crisp rice cereal

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture. Stir in nuts if desired. Spread in a greased 15 x 10 x 1″ pan. (I used a 9×13-inch pan)

Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over cake; return to oven for 2-3 minutes. Using a knife dipped in water, spread the melted marshmallows evenly over cake. (I didn't spread the marshmallow, mine were already in an even row) Cool.

For topping, combine chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and well blended. Remove from heat; stir in cereal. Immediately spread over bars. Chill.

Yield: 3 dozen



My favorite cookies have become the Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies I first saw on Good Things Catered. I love these things and make a new batch every other week or so. On Saturday I wanted to make some but was low on chocolate chips. I looked around and decided to add some other goodies to make up for the lack of chocolate chips. I crushed up some bite size Heath Bars, chopped up a bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate bar, and added some espresso powder.

Thick and Chewy's Cousin

These cookies are definitely different than your normal chocolate chip cookie. After I made the first dozen I decided to roll the cookies in sugar before putting them on the cookie sheet. That was the key, it added just a little bit of sweetness, just enough to balance out the espresso and the bittersweet chocolate. I love these bad boys. If were to make them again, I wouldn't crush the Heath Bar quite so finely. The big chunks of Heath provided a nice contrast to the other chocolates.

You can find the recipe HERE

Instead of 1 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips I did:
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
8oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4oz chopped Heath Bar
1 - 2 tbsp espresso powder
Sugar - to roll dough in


I found this recipe a while ago on ... and a cookie for dessert. I finally got around to making it on Tuesday. This meal is perfect for when you want something good and filling that is friendly on the budget. In order to save myself some money I just substituted a few of the ingredients with things I had in my cabinets. This makes a ton of food, the leftovers are quite tasty too.

Beef Penne Pasta Casserole
...and a cookie for desert
originally from meals.com

1 pound dried penne pasta, prepared according to package directions (I used rotini)
8 ounces lean ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups water
2 cans (6 ounces each) Italian tomato paste (I used some spaghetti sauce I had on hand)
1/3 cup red wine or water (I used more than that... maybe 3/4 - 1 cup) :)
1 tablespoon beef flavored bouillon (omitted)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (I used an Italian cheese blend)

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

COOK beef and onion in large saucepan, stirring occasionally, until beef is no longer pink. (I seasoned the turkey with parsley, oregano, salt and pepper) Add water, tomato paste, wine and bouillon; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until flavors are blended.

LAYER ingredients as follows in ungreased13 x 9-inch baking dish: 1/2 pasta, 1/2 sauce and 1/2 cheese. Repeat layers; cover.

BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Season with salt.

FOR FREEZE AHEAD:PREPARE as above; do not bake. Cover; freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator. PREHEAT oven to 350° F. BAKE for 45 to 55 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Season with salt.
Serving Size: 6