Monthly Archive for May, 2011

Sausage & Bean Soup – Spicing Up the Post

With summer taking its sweet time to get to Northern California, I was tossed another rainy day and decided it was time to get the soup pot out to create a tasty concoction. On the menu = Mixed Bean & Sausage Soup.

As a thank you for your continued reading, I thought it would be fun to spice up my blog post and do a reader give-away. While I seldom do these, when I spoke with the folks at Bertolli, and saw the lovely gift they wanted to pass along, I decided to break from the norm and say ‘yes, I’d love to!’. After this recipe read more on how to win!

Mixed Bean & Sausage Soup

2 TBS olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 ribs celery, strings removed and rough cut

1 lb mild sausage, casings removed

1 (1 lb bag) mixed beans, dried

1 bay leaf

1 ham hock

12 cups water

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup uncooked short grain white rice


In a large-size stock pot, on medium heat, add oil and onions and cook until translucent. Add in carrots and celery, stirring constantly so that the vegetables do not brown. Breaking up sausage into small pieces, add into the pot with the vegetables and cook until the meat is no longer pink.

Add water,beans, and bay leaf; cook on medium-high heat until mixture comes to a full boil. Allow to boil for 30 minutes, with lid partially covering pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low, and place lid on pot. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Check to ensure there is at least 1/2-inch of water on the top of the soup; if needed, add more water. Return soup to a boil and add in rice, stir until well mixed, cover and cook on low for 30 minutes.

Remove ham hock and bay leaf and serve.

Bertolli Give-away

How to win?

Leave a comment about your favorite wine and cheese pairing, then tell me why you would enjoy winning this gift.

What you’ll win…

To complement the fresh, authentic flavors of your favorite Bertolli frozen meal, they will provide you with all of the tools to prepare a delicious antipasto di formaggio platter, including:

· Slate Cheese Board and Chalk Set

· Set of 3 Cheese Tools

· “Cheese & Wine” Pairing Book

· Set of 3 Pronutto Wine Jellies to complement your cheeses

· Tasting Certificate for a free Bertolli frozen meal

(I am a huge fan of the stuffed pasta shells)

The antipasto di formaggio platter is perfect for enjoying a variety of fine Italian artisan cheeses before you prepare your favorite Bertolli Meal. From pungent asiago to buttery fontina, Italian cheeses provide an abundance of culinary possibilities and are just as delectable on their own, or simply paired with a lovely glass of wine.

And if you want to double your chances of winning – and you fancy yourself an Italy aficionado – check out Bertolli Tastes of Italy! Map on Facebook. Upload a tip, story, recipe, or photo from your favorite region of Italy, as a bonus form of entry.

Fine print: Despite how much I adore all of my foreign readers this offer is only good in the United States. Thank you to Bertolli for sending the set to me and offering one to my readers.

Skinny Brazmopolitan – b.tempt’d

This post may just blow your mind, when a foodie goes to a brazier event and finds inspiration, there is something to write about. Wacoal hosted a fun filled “Cocktails and a Fitting” event, filled with everything you’d imagine… their new collection, which included numerous sexy ensembles, and well, cocktails!

Of course there was food, but who wants to chow down when a tasty beverage is within arms reach? This tributary drink is an inspiration of this fun event:
Skinny = my inner lingerie persona
Bras = the room was overflowing with them
Cosmopolitan = were served in abundance

Add up the sum of the three core ingredients and you have a Skinny Brazmopolitan that is under 300 calories.

Skinny Brazmopolitan


1 ¾ oz Cointreau (140 calories)
2 oz Vodka- 80 proof (128 calories)
1 oz Cranberry Juice (15 calories)
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice (2 calories)
1 Lime Wedge (1/8 lime) (3 calories)


Add all ingredients into cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well for 10-15 seconds and strain into large cocktail glass. Garnish with lime slice.

The recipe is simple, but I learned that picking the correct bra for your body is more complex than I had imagined. One of the factoids that I learned from ‘The Bra Lady’, Liz Smith, is that if you gain 5 – 7 lbs, your bra size will change. Hence the skinny drink recipe. More than anything, having lost my Aunt to breast cancer, I was drawn into the fact that Wacoal, via Liz’s work, has raised 2.5MM dollars for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation through the Fit for the Cure® program.

Oh, and if you are looking for some fun and flirty styles don’t miss out on their b.tempt’d line – I’ve got my eye on a few already – as does fellow fashion blogger at Art of Moda.

Cactus & Chicken Sopes – Mexilicious Cup of Flavors

A sope (pronounced “SOH-peh”) is a traditional Mexican dish which at first sight looks like an unusually thick tortilla cup. The base has pinched sides and is made from a circle of fried ground maize that has been soaked in lime juice. This is then topped with refried beans other toppings to create a fist-size self contained Mexican dish.

While I was into this recipe for the fun and the flavor, I confess, I did take a short cut and purchased my sopes at the Mexican market. Toppings can really go in any direction you like, have fun with it. I had a hankering for some tangy cactus (AKA desert shark) accompanied by a melody of flavors.

Desert Shark and Chicken Tortilla Cups


1 ½ lbs paddle cactus leaves (nopales), spines removed cut into cubes

4 TBS white vinegar

½ tsp oregano, dried but not ground

¼ cup cilantro plus more for garnish, fresh chopped

1 large potato, peeled then large cubed

salt and pepper, to taste

1 red onion, sliced length-wise

3 tomatoes, diced

2 TBS vegetable oil

1 package sopes

sour cream (optional)

refried beans (optional)

roasted chicken, shredded (optional)

Panela or cotija cheese (optional)


Cut the fresh cactus leaves into squares. In a saucepan, boil cactus with 1/4 cup water and a large pinch of salt, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until tender and color is no longer bright green. Stir regularly. Drain and rinse well in cold water to remove the slippery film which develops from boiling.

In a bowl, combine cactus with white wine vinegar, oregano and cilantro. Let sit for 30 minutes.

While cactus sits, add enough vegetable oil (approximately 1/8-inch high) to a high-sided frying pan and turn heat up to medium. When oil is hot, gently drop in the sope. Fry until golden brown, moving enough with a spatula so that they do not adhere to the bottom of the pan. A good trick to use when turning the sopes over, is to partially turn them on top of another sope, this will prevent the oil from dangerously splashing out. To keep cooked sopes warm, place on a paper towel on a plate while preparing the remainder of the sopes needed.

In a pot, heat refried beans. Shred chicken and set aside; warm just before serving along with other garnishes.

Heat vegetable oil in a saute pan and add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes on medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent from sticking to bottom of pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Add in the onion and cook 5-7 minutes until translucent. Lower to medium heat and add in the tomatoes for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. If using the cactus separately, as I did in this recipe, heat on stove top, otherwise, add the cactus to the potato mixture for 5 minutes to warm and absorb the flavors. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with cheese and additional cilantro.

Place one sope on each plate and begin to layer with toppings. The recipe above is assembled in this order:

– refried beans

– sour cream

– potatoes, tomatoes and onion mixture

– chicken

– cactus

Serves 6-10


Mexican and other Latino markets, often sell prepared cactus leaves, which is MUCH easier than having to wear gloves and use a paring knife to remove spines. If you would like to see a good video on how to remove cactus needles this I recommend Zarela Martinez’s son, Food Network star, Aaron Sanchez clip that shows you how to work with Nopales & Chayotes.

Tomato Basil Compote – Plump it UP!

As thoughts of this year’s summer garden fill my head, like visions of sugar plum fairies, I wanted to share this ‘oh so simple, yet delicious’ recipe that can be featured many ways. The secret to success…cooking the tomatoes allows the heat to plump-up this fruit masquerading as a vegetable. The finished product is a luscious compote to top grilled foods or serve as a side dish. I like to spoon the compote over pan fried pork chops, place it on top of poached eggs, and use it as a pizza topping. To make it into a quick appetizer, adorn polenta rounds with the compote or add it on top of toast with a dab of ricotta or marscarpone cheese. The possibilities are endless. I look forward to hearing your delicious combinations.

Tomato Basil Compote


1 1/2 TBS olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled & finely chopped

1 1/2 pint yellow, red, and orange tomatoes

salt & freshly ground pepper

8 large basil leaves


Heat oil in a large-size skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook approximately 3-5 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Add tomatoes, season well with salt and pepper, and cook no longer than 5 minutes, stirring often, until tomatoes are just warm and ready to burst. Add basil and cook approximately 1 minute, until just wilted.

If canning to preserve, place in glass jar while still hot and seal lid immediately to make a seal. I like to make a batch of this towards the end of summer so that as we head into the winter months I can break out a jar to recapture the flavors of days gone by.