creamy cajun pasta

cajun pasta

Some people don’t like pasta. My sister doesn’t like pasta. And I’m all like, “Okay…uh…I mean, that’s cool, I guess..”, but in my head I’m really thinking, “Weirrrdooo….”. Not really. But I do love pasta. Pretty much any time I get a craving it’s for either pasta or a biscuit and let’s be honest: those are basically the carbiest carbs ever. So, sometimes when I make pasta I like to toss in some chopped up vegetables and a protein and I think, “Okay…so…this is pretty balanced.” And then I throw in a bunch of parmesan and heavy cream and ruin the whole thing.

cajun pasta

This dish is a favorite in our house. It’s spicy and flavorful. And it’s simple and quick and really hits the spot when I’m wanting something rich and feel-goody. And it’s super personalizable. Use whatever veggies you have on hand and switch up the amounts if you want to. Get crazy if you feel like it. Mmhmm.

cajun pasta

creamy cajun pasta
serves 4-6
12 oz andouille sausage, sliced
1 cup trimmed and cut fresh green beans
1 cup chopped fresh broccoli
1 small yellow squash, quartered and chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 lb mini farfalle (or the pasta of your choice), cooked according to package directions

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the sausage slices and cook until both sides are browned, about 10 minutes total. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the green beans, broccoli, squash, and peas to the pan and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the vegetables and set aside.
Add the butter to the pan and allow to melt. Stir in the minced garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and allow to simmer until the cream is thickened and reduced slightly, about 7 minutes. Stir in the cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add the parmesan cheese and stir until completely melted and smooth.
Return the sausage and vegetables to the pan, add the cooked pasta, and stir until everything is well coated with the sauce. Serve immediately.

cajun pasta

candied bacon deviled eggs

deviled eggsI remember the day I first found out that my sister was pregnant pretty clearly. I’m pretty sure I was cleaning my toilet when she called.
“Oh my gosh. OH MY GOSH.”
“What?? What is it??”, I responded.
“I think I see two lines. I’m pretty sure I see two lines! I can’t tell. I can’t TELLLL!!”
You see, her husband works the radio for high school football games on Friday nights and this just so happened to be a Friday night. Who else was she going to call? After all, we’re twins, and this was no cake walk. We’d been waiting our entire lives for this conversation. And, for the record, there were indeed two lines.

deviled eggsShe rushed over to my house and we paced around for a while, shaking our hands in front of us trying to release some energy, mildly freaking out while we tried to decide if we should interrupt the football game to break the news…And then, in the midst of the practical hyperventilation shared between the two of us, she says, “….do you have any deviled eggs?”

“….wha…dev…..deviled eggs?” And I sat back for a minute, squinched my face a little bit, and thought where on Earth did that come from? And then two more thoughts popped in my head. 1. This pregnancy craving thing must be hitting her pretty hard. and 2. Who randomly keeps deviled eggs sitting around in their fridge??

deviled eggsThis post is dedicated to that moment. Because I’m pretty sure that deviled eggs will always bring me back to that memory. But it’s also important to note that you basically can’t have a big Southern supper without them. Especially a Southern Easter supper. And oh, yeah, pfftt…I forgot to mention: these deviled eggs are outfitted with candied bacon. Candied. Bacon. Ohh yeah.

deviled eggscandied bacon deviled eggs
makes 12 egg halves
6 eggs
3 bacon slices
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp yellow mustard
smoked paprika, for sprinkling
Place eggs in a saucepan and add cold water until the eggs are just covered. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water. Peel the eggs while still slightly warm and let cool. Slice in half lengthwise.
Meanwhile, prepare the bacon. Preheat the oven to 350º. Place the bacon on a rack that’s set inside of a baking sheet. Mix together the brown sugar and cayenne and sprinkle half of the mixture on top of the bacon slices. Spread and gently pat the sugar to make it even. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip the bacon over and spread the remaining sugar on the slices. Bake for an additional 10 minutes and let cool. Dice the bacon, leaving 12 bigger pieces to use as garnish.
To make the filling, gently pop the yolks from the sliced boiled eggs into a bowl and mash with a fork. Stir in the mayonnaise and mustard until the mixture is smooth. Add the diced bacon and stir to combine.
Add the egg yolk mixture to a plastic storage bag and cut the tip. Squeeze the filling back into the empty boiled egg halves and garnish with the reserved bigger bacon pieces. Sprinkle with paprika.

deviled eggs

strawberry crisp

strawberry crispIt’s spring! It’s spring! …I can picture about 90% of you slowly getting up out of your chairs, making unintentional fists, and muttering something under your breaths about how you still have snow up to your eyeballs and consider it a grand ol’ time when your kids get to play outside because it’s over 35 degrees. I get it. Well…not really. I live in South Carolina for cryin’ out loud. I don’t really get it, but I feel for ya. Just know that the seasons are changing. And it is spring. And if you reach way down deep inside your soul I know you can feel it. Flowers…chirpy birds…50s music…strawberries.

strawberry crispSTRAWBERRIES. It really is almost time for them to be in full force here in the South and there’s nothing like biting into one that’s ripe and sun-kissed. They’re synonymous with warm, sunny days and are as pretty as they are sweet. They’re just happy berries. And that makes them really fun to toss around in some sugar and oats and spices to make a super quick dessert that’s fresh and comforting at the same time. Strawberries + crisp = happiness.

strawberry crispstrawberry crisp
serves 4
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup oats
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 lb strawberries, stems removed, halved, and sliced (about 8-9 medium sized berries)
vanilla ice cream
Preheat the oven to 350º.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, oats, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add the butter pieces and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until everything is well combined and the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
In a separate bowl, add the strawberries and 1/2 cup of the flour mixture and toss to coat. Add the coated strawberries to a small baking dish (or you can use 4 small baking ramekins) and top evenly with the remaining flour mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the berries are bubbly and the topping is golden. Let cool a few minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream.

strawberry crisp

vegetarian tortilla soup

tortilla soupTHERE’S A BABY COMING TO OUR HOUSE. No, not for a visit. For like…ever. I know. I know! It’s crazy. But also really cool and really exciting. And, come to find out, there’s a lot of weird things that happen to a pregnant woman’s food life during the time that she’s growing a baby (who knew). You always hear stories of the ravenous pregnant lady who eats anything that comes within 10 feet of her or the one who eats and eats and never gets full. They’re lies. All lies. Not really, but my experience has been pretty different. I went through the “Let’s see if i can keep this down today!” phase and now I’m in a “I have no appetite” phase. And for a foodie, this is pretty troubling. To see glorious food and simply say, “…meh”.

vegetarian tortilla soupBut. BUT. There are some foods that I encounter these days that still lift me into the air and drag me across the room with their aromas. French fries. Southern biscuits. And this TORTILLA SOUP. I sorta wondered if my body was going to be interested in it when I thought about the recipe because Mexican food, in the beginning, was my you’ve-crossed-the-line-now food that my body rejected 100% of the time. But I always wanted it. So I kept eating it. And my body kept saying, “…ahaha….No.”. So, I wondered if this soup was something my body would turn its nose up at. IT WAS NOT.

vegetarian tortilla soupSo, let me encourage you. If you’re reading this and you’re 1. pregnant, 2. have no appetite, or 3. simply are in a blah mood, this soup may be able to do wonders for you. Because it’s delicious. And it’s filled with yummy flavors and textures and warmness. And you get to top it with crispy tortilla strips. Crispy tortilla strips.

tortilla soupvegetarian tortilla soup
serves 6-8
1 bell pepper
1 jalapeno
1 poblano pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
15 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups corn kernels
optional toppings:
tortilla strips (recipe follows)
sour cream
Move the rack in your oven to the top shelf and set the oven to broil. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil until slightly charred, about 3-4 minutes. Let the peppers cool, remove the seeds from the bell and poblano, and dice. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and let cook for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes more. Add the cumin, chili powder, paprika, and salt and pepper and cook for a few more minutes until everything is coated and fragrant.
Add the tomatoes and tomato paste to the pot and stir until well combined. Add the vegetable stock, cilantro, and broiled peppers and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
Optional: At this point I took an immersion blender to the soup to make it slightly creamier. I blended about half of the soup so that some of it would be smooth, but there would still be chunks left. If you like your soup chunky, it’s totally fine to leave it how it is.
Add the black beans and corn to the soup, cover, and let simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot with toppings.
tortilla strips:
5 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450º. Place the cut tortillas in a baking sheet and toss evenly with the oil. Bake for 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt.

tortilla soup

skillet lasagna

skillet lasagna

Say it with me: skillet….lasagna. Skillet..lasagna. Skillet. Lasagna. I can picture people rising to their feet in a crescendoed slow clap.

skillet lasagna

Let me start by saying that one of my husband’s favorite meals is lasagna. He always asks for it. But…I never make it for him. I can’t be boiling all kinds of pots of water and assembling all kinds of layers and then placing it in the oven to bake for close to an hour. I’ll be honest, that’s a lot of steps for just-got-off-of-work me and, frankly, I’m usually too lazy to attempt such a delicious feat. Plus, it’d probably keep me from succeeding in my weeknight dinner goal: get dinner on the table before Wheel of Fortune comes on at 7:00 (I’m actually 80 years old).

skillet lasagna

So making the discovery that lasagna can be cooked in a skillet was like a revelation for me. I thought, “This…this...could be working?” The ingredients are simple. You use one pan. There’s no boiling the noodles beforehand. You can have lasagna in your family’s face in less than 30 minutes. Ahhh (that’s the sound of some distant choir echoing the joy). Don’t worry. I got super excited, too.

skillet lasagna

skillet lasagna
serves 6-8
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
4 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup water
4 tbsp chopped fresh basil, divided
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup diced onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 lb ground beef
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz (∼half a package) whole wheat lasagna noodles, broken into 1″ squares
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
In a medium mixing bowl, mix the tomatoes, tomato paste, water, and 2 tablespoons of the chopped basil together until well combined. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and red pepper flakes. Swirl around until the oil is hot and the red peppers are slightly fragrant.
Add the onion, let cook for 2 minutes, and then add the garlic. Season the ground beef with salt and pepper (to taste) and add to the skillet. Break the beef up into small pieces and allow to cook until browned (no pink should be left), about 7 minutes. Drain any excess grease, if necessary.
Layer the lasagna noodle pieces in an even layer on top of the ground beef mixture. Pour the tomato mixture on top of the noodles and gently jiggle the skillet so the tomatoes fall evenly into the spaces and create an even layer on top. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the noodles are tender.
Add the ricotta cheese in clumps around the top of the lasagna and gently spread to cover the tomatoes (it’s okay if it doesn’t look perfect). Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of fresh basil over the top and serve hot.

skillet lasagna

chicken enchiladas with roasted tomatillo salsa


I made some roasted tomatillo salsa recently and it really had me craving it on everything: plopped on top of pork, tossed with some potatoes, spread on some toast (is that a thing?), and, most importantly, all intertwined in some chicken enchiladas. So, I followed my craving. I made some enchiladas.


chicken enchiladas with roasted tomatillo salsa

1/2 lb chicken breast
a sprinkle of ground cumin
a sprinkle of paprika
a sprinkle of salt
1 roasted tomatillo salsa recipe
6 corn tortillas
~1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup shredded queso blanco

Preheat oven to 350º. Place chicken on a baking sheet and sprinkle with cumin, paprika, and salt. Roast in the oven until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165º. Let cool and shred. Set aside.
Add the salsa to a large shallow dish. In a skillet over medium heat, add enough vegetable oil to just cover the bottom of the skillet. Add a tortilla and fry until bubbly (about 30 seconds), flip, and fry the other side until bubbly. Dip both sides of the fried tortilla in the salsa and return it to the pan. Fry each side for 15 (or so) seconds until slightly crisp, but still flexible. Move the tortilla to a plate and repeat for each of the remaining tortillas, adding more oil as necessary.
In a medium-sized baking dish, add about 3 tablespoons of salsa to the bottom to prevent sticking. Divide the cooked, shredded chicken evenly in the tortillas, roll, and place seal side down in the baking dish. Brush with a little extra salsa and sprinkle with queso blanco. Cook in the oven until the cheese has melted and everything is heated through, about 12-15 minutes. Serve hot.


roasted tomatillo salsa


Sometimes when I go to the grocery store or farmer’s market, I find myself rattling through the produce section (likely being one of those people who gets in everyone’s way) to simply see the colors and textures and shapes of what’s available. That probably makes me sound like I’m 95 years old, but I have a strange love for fruits and vegetables. And not necessarily for the taste (let’s be honest. some are good, some are bad…), but rather I think it’s for them being the most basic forms of food for us. My husband and I grow a summer vegetable garden in our backyard and there’s not much more gratifying to me than watching a little seed grow into a seedling and that growing into a plant that creates fruit and then being able to use that fruit as nourishment.

I got off subject. So, the last time I was in the grocery store I passed the little basket that holds the tomatillos and I thought, “Dohh, they’re soo cutttte, like tiny tomatoooooes.” Once I got past my inner squeals, I realized I’d never cooked with them before. And then I pictured some salsa verde being ladled over a pan of hot and cheesy and flavorful enchiladas and my hand reached out to grab those tomatillos without my brain even having to tell it to do so. I haven’t gotten to the enchiladas yet, but I did roast the tomatillos to make some salsa. And that salsa was delicious and fresh and bright.


roasted tomatillo salsa

5 tomatillos
1 jalapeno
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 pinches of salt

Move the rack in your oven to the highest shelf or so the rack is about 1 1/2″ to 2″ below the heat source. Set your oven to the broil setting.
Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse in warm water to remove the stickiness. Pat dry and add them, along with the jalapeno and garlic, to a baking sheet. Roast the vegetables in the oven, turning once, until they are soft and slightly charred, about 10 minutes total. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Remove the peeling from the garlic cloves and the stem from the jalapeno.
In a blender, add the roasted vegetables and the onion, cilantro, and salt. Blend until smooth. Serve over enchiladas, with tacos, or as a dip for veggies and/or tortilla chips.


On a random note, I asked my sister recently what she thought about salsa in general. These were her responses:

“Salsa is like life. Sometimes it’s hot and spicy. Sometimes it’s smooth and mild.”
“Salsa makes everything seem like a party.”
“Sometimes salsa makes you overeat.”
“You can use salsa to clear out your sinuses.”

sweet cream scones


Today I made scones. Tonight is the US premiere of Downton Abbey. Am I excited? Chyeah.


sweet cream scones
this recipe is taken from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines

1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unrefined cane sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
heavy cream for brushing
more suar for sprinkling

Blend sour cream, vanilla extract, and baking soda together in a small bowl and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350º. In a large bowl, blend together flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Stir in the sour cream mixture and egg until just barely moistened.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Pat the dough into a 3/4 inch square and cut into wedges. Place them 2-3 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Lightly brush with cream and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown.


parisian hot chocolate


In my last post I chatted about the events leading up to Andy and me deciding to take a trip to Paris and I made French meringues. In this post, I’m going to talk about my five favorite things about Paris and make one of my favorites…hot chocolate.

hot chocolatehotchocolate2

My Five Favorite Things About Paris:

1. The slowness. It sounds funny that I would be commenting on the slowness, considering that there are millions of people in Paris and it’s one of the most well-known cities in the world. What we noticed, however, was that people much more loved the experience of an event rather than the task of getting the event done. For example, in every restaurant we went in, the people around us had obviously been there a long time. There were multiple glasses on the tables with almost empty bottles of wine scattered about. No one was on a smartphone. Everyone was slightly slouched in their chairs, making eye contact with one another, making conversation with one another, laughing, or simply resting in that silence that so many of us categorize as awkward. Eating dinner was not a task (“let’s eat this and get on to the next thing”); dinner was an experience. An experience to be shared with those around you. With the restaurant. With the city. It was a beautiful thing.

2. Versailles. We made the train ride out to Versailles one morning after very poorly trying to kick each other out of the bed super early (changing time zones will do it to you). It was cold and raining and crowded. But it was perfect. That place was spectacular. The palace itself was breathtaking, but the grounds were immaculate, like seeing Augusta National in a different form. Plus, I’m a history nerd and have a strange fascination with Marie Antoinette, so seeing the Petit Trianon and her hamlet gave me a strange/haunting/longing feeling of being in a nostalgic hot air balloon that floated me back in time.

3. The baguettes. The baguettes. Oh, the baguettes. Crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. Oomph. That’s all I have to say about that.

4. Flea Markets. I’m sort of a flea market/thrift store/yard sale junkie anyway, so experiencing it in Paris was like a dream. We spent a lot of time at the Port de Vanves market, which was quaint and relatively tucked away from the rest of the city (yet still large). I could have strolled all day. Each vendor had tables filled with vintage French treasures that would be way more expensive in the United States. Paintings, posters, flatware, clothing. Gah. Everything was beautiful. We left with a vintage coffee advertisement, a Sharpie drawing of Amsterdam (which at the time I thought was Paris, don’t ask), a cup and saucer, and a wool toy lamb for my niece.

5. Hot Chocolate. I probably had 20 cups of hot chocolate during our 8-day trip. I’m not lying. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to and one of the things I will remember most fondly. There was no powder mix to be found and the presentation of it was, once again, an experience. It was usually brought out on a small tray with a little pot of chocolate and a miniature pitcher of steaming milk, allowing you to mix it to your liking. It was deep and delicious. I never had a bad cup. And it was the perfect way to enjoy a bit of evening resting at a cafe while watching the scooters and people pass by.


parisian hot chocolate
(this recipe is David Lebovitz’s. honestly, the majority of our trip was planned by using his website. we found the best restaurants, pastries, you name it. if you’re planning a trip to Paris, use his site. seriously.)
serves 4

2 cups whole milk
5 grams high-quality, bittersweet chocolate, chopped

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk until hot, but not boiling. Whisk in the chocolate and continue whisking until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is hot and steaming. Serve hot.

hot chocolate

french meringues with grapefruit curd


A little over five years ago I remember sitting in Andy’s old house talking about where we were going on our honeymoon. We had been engaged only a few weeks and we both had pretty drastic ideas of the vacation we wanted (jessa=new york city, andy=riding a donkey to the bottom of the Grand Canyon). Since they were both so different, we started thinking of places that may be a compromise. I remember saying, “What about Paris?” and it sounded so magical and perfect for a honeymoon. Turns out, however, that traveling abroad is rather expensive. So, we didn’t end up going to Europe. We did end up going to NYC (I promise there was no arm twisting on my part) and, since then, we’ve always sort of jokingly said, “Yeah, har har, we’ll go to Paris for our 5 year, har.”


Fast forward five years. This past summer we spent a lot of time trying to plan our anniversary trip. The destination varied greatly depending on the day: the mountains, LA, Disney World (because we’re dorks), going back to NYC, Alaska, etc. etc. One night we were sitting on the couch and a thought popped into my head. “Hey. Paris. That’s right…Paris!” And I turned my head toward Andy and bit my lip and sorta giggled (a look that can never mean anything good) and said, “Andy…what about Paris?” And we looked at each other for a few seconds and he said, “Yeah, we can think about that.” And my heart spun around in all directions and I floated to my bed for a night of dream-filled slumber.


I’ll never forget the day that Andy told me he wanted to take me to Paris and that we could make it happen. Our trip was magical. In reality, Paris is just a city. Made of buildings. And pedestrians. And vendors. And restaurants. But to two people who had never before experienced it, it was a grand adventure. I’ll post more later on some of our favorite things, but for this first post, I wanted to try my hand at making meringues. We had one in Paris that was the size of my head and it was light and crisp and gooey. These meringues are just that, but they incorporate some citrus curd to make it a little less traditional.


french meringues with grapefruit curd
recipe adapted from all recipes & zoe bakes

4 egg whites, room temperature
2 1/4 cups unrefined powdered sugar, sifted

grapefruit curd:
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 tbsp grapefruit zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 200º. Prep 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
To make the meringue, whip the egg whites in a stand mixer until foamy. On medium speed, add the powdered sugar a little at a time until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny.
Using 2 spoons, place globs on meringue onto the prepared baking sheets (about 2 tablespoons each). Rinse one of the spoons and use it to make a well in the middle of each meringue (this space will hold the curd once they are cooked). Place in the oven with a wooden spoon in the door so the oven door doesn’t close all the way. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, turn off the oven, leave them there, and let them rest for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool completely.
While the meringues are cooking, make the curd. In the top of a double boiler over medium heat (the bottom pan will have an inch of simmering water), whisk together the egg yolks, egg, sugar, grapefruit juice, and zest until well combined. Whisk continuously until the mixture starts to thicken (this can take between 5 and 10 minutes) and add the butter. Whisk until the butter is incorporated and the mixture has thickened enough that it can coat the back of a spoon (coat the spoon and draw a line on the back of the spoon with your finger. If the mixture is thick enough, the line will stay put).
Strain the curd through a sieve into another container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the top of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming). Put the curd in the freezer for 20 minutes to cool (but not to freeze).
Spoon the cooled curd into the cooled meringues and serve immediately.