Monthly Archives: July 2011


My husband and I are obsessed with this little place in Evanston, called Dixie’s Kitchen and Bait Shop that serves what I find to be the best jambalaya ever! (Sidenote: also a favorite little spot for the Obama’s when they are in town)! So we figured, why not try to make our own version! So we downloaded Emeril’s recipe from and altered it slightly and made it into a crock pot recipe.

Monday night, Josh and I cut up some sausage and chicken and defrosted some shrimp in preparation for our very first attempt at making jambalaya. We added some diced green pepper, onion, garlic, jalapeno, celery, and tomatoes along with chicken broth, Worcestershire, frank’s red hot, some olive oil,a few bay leaves and a whole lot of Cajun creole Seasoning and cayenne pepper. BAM!! We let that all marinade overnight in the refrigerator so the flavors could fully meld together.

Yesterday morning before heading out to work, we threw the mixture into the crock pot and set it on low, hoping we would have a delicious dinner waiting for us when we got home! We didn’t add the shrimp or rice into the crock pot since they would overcook so we grabbed white rice from a Chinese Restaurant down the street and pan-fried the shrimp in olive oil and Cajun creole seasoning when we got home! All in all, it turned out delicious! Luckily we both love spicy food because this was very hot! Maybe it was marinating everything together overnight or maybe it was the hot Italian sausage we used in place of Andouille, either way, a definite success in my book!

Here is the recipe we ended up coming up with:

  • 3 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, sliced
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 T Cajun Creole Seasoning
  • 2 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 t Frank’s Red Hot
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 package frozen shrimp, defrosted
  • white rice

I’d love to hear your feedback if you decide to make your own Jambalaya, if you liked this recipe or how you altered it to make it your own!



Last night Josh and I decided to grill some rib-eyes but wanted to do something different than our usual preparation of garlic salt, cayenne pepper and sauteed mushrooms.
We both love blue cheese and every time we eat at a steakhouse, I always order the blue cheese crust! So I decided to attempt to make my own mushroom, blue cheese sauce! The sauce came out soooo delicious, we decided that we are never eating steaks without it again! It was so good I felt I needed to share so here’s what I did:

I sauteed half a chopped onion and a few cloves of chopped garlic in some butter until softened and then added in the mushrooms for about  5 -7 minutes. I then added a few splashes of marsala wine to deglaze the pan, being sure to scrape up any browned bits that stuck to the bottom. I then added about 3/4 cup of beef broth and brought that to a boil and then let it simmer for a bit until it was thick enough to coat the back of the spatula (about 5 minutes or so). Once thick enough, I added in 8 ounces of crumbled blue cheese, let it melt down and then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste!

Hope you enjoy!!

Kitchen Mishap #1!

I was home alone the other night and decided I would prepare a lasagna to bake the following night for dinner since I had what I thought to be all of the necessary components. I was going to use Trader Joe’s Vodka Sauce in place of homemade gravy (yes  gravy as us Italians refer to it, not pasta sauce) and add in some spinach and mushrooms. My grandma would die if she knew I was using a bottled ‘sauce’ but this was not going to be a truly traditional lasagna nor did I have 6 hours to home make it and let it simmer all day! So I boiled the noodles until al dente, sauteed mushrooms and spinach in olive oil and garlic, made my ricotta and parmesan mixture and was ready to begin assembling my masterpiece! That was until I opened the bottle of vodka sauce, only to find out it had gone bad before I was able to use it! With no sauce, it is nearly impossible to make a lasagna! I searched my cabinets for anything I could use to make a generic, quick substitute for gravy. All I had was a can of tomato sauce and two cans of diced tomatoes. I decided that instead of letting all I had already prepared go to waste, I was going to give it a whirl!

Here it goes I thought as I sauteed some chopped onions and garlic in olive oil until they were soft and then threw in the can of tomato sauce and two cans of diced tomatoes. I added a few bay leaves, some fresh basil and parsley, salt, pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes. I also added a splash of red wine and  let it simmer for as long as I could before heading to bed, which only ended up being about a half hour! I didn’t want to taste the sauce before creating the lasagna for fear it was not going to be good and I’d consider this epic failure #1! So I ladled some sauce into a 9X13 pan, layered noodles on top of it, added the ricotta mixture and some mozzarella, another layer of sauce and noodles, then the sauteed mushrooms and spinach with more mozzarella and lastly, another layer of noodles and sauce and topped it mozzarella and grated parmesan. I covered it and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Being a newlywed (our wedding was May 14th), I didn’t want to tell my husband about my little mishap and put him in the mindset that it was going to be terrible and that his Italian wife can’t even make a lasagna! This Susie homemaker thing is still new and exciting for me, I didn’t want to fail this early on! I brainstormed different ways to make things go better than anticipated and even toyed with the idea of opening multiple bottles of red wine with dinner, hoping that he would then forget if it wasn’t quite as delicious as I hoped! Bad idea since we both had to work the next morning, so it dawned on me to end the meal with something I know would be super delicious! I decided to whip up homemade fudge brownies and top with them with Nutella and dark chocolate ice cream! I knew this would definitely overshadow any bad dinner! As it turned out, the lasagna was fairly tasty, not my best work by any means and my grandma would probably have scoffed at it, however it was edible and we enjoyed it…him more than I but that’s what it’s all about!

Li/ove to Eat

Buon giorno, my name is Val and I am self-proclaimed food junkie from Chicago. I started this blog as a means to do something I love the most: talk about food! It has been brought to my attention, sadly, numerous times now, how my Facebook page is consumed with comments about food, cooking, eating, etc! This gives me a bit more “counterspace” to elaborate on those posts!

I grew up in a traditional Italian household where food was the center of all family gatherings. It brought us all together regularly and keeps us together today.  I had my first baking experience before the age of 3, thanks to my Grandma Rae! She used to let me roll out the dough, decorate cookies, control the mix-master, etc! These are some of my dearest memories, ones I will cherish forever. Thanks to my Gram, my passion is baking and literally, every night, I can be found in my kitchen trying to create something to satisfy my post-dinner sweet tooth!  I am always looking for new recipes to try and am willing to share as many of mine as possible, including numerous secrets of a real Italian Grandmother.

Here is a picture of my brother (age 5) and I (age 3) helping Gram bake! Val 3

Since I’ve been baking/cooking for almost 27 years now, I have had my share of disasters and things haven’t always turned out the way I planned! After all, cooking is a learning process, and I hope by reading this blog, you can learn from my mistakes and together we can make some delicious vittles!

To kick things off, here are a few of my favorite quotes about food:

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”  ~Julia Child

“It’s a way to connect to one’s ancestors and tell a story or a family narrative, or to manage bereavement. In other words, food can be who you are, what you want to remember, what you hope for, and what you’ve lost.”  ~Women’s Health Magazine, Why We Love Food

“If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.”  ~Linda Henley

“No man in the world has more courage than the man who can stop after eating one peanut.”  ~Channing Pollo