tortellini soup

Earlier today it was rainy, nasty, and the tornado sirens even went off - like they did last night - and last weekend. Fortunately we're all good here... unfortunately, it sounds like there was some damage in the city from a tornado here and that there is some damage in some areas back home - and I wish everyone who was affected the best, as I'm sure it's not easy right now - so if that's you ... [inserting good vibes here].

Looking out now, you'd never know. The sun is shining and it warmed up quite a bit - which I wasn't totally expecting.  Since it was cooler and rainy earlier, I thought it would be a good idea to make some soup. By the time it was done, it was warm and kind of humid and not exactly soup weather, but it was good regardless. :)  And it felt good to make some real food because when I was cooking for one for a couple of weeks, I didn't make a whole lot. And now that I think about it, the only other thing I really made-made was soup, too - the zesty tomato soup I made one other time. This time, I made a tortellini soup - and used a recipe from allrecipes.com called Mushroom, Leek, Chicken Sausage Tortellini soup. It was delicious! I'm not going to repost the recipe here, because I pretty much followed it.  Here are the only notes I have from it:
  • I had some leftover beef broth, so I used up the last of that (2 c.) and did 4 c. of chicken broth
  • The chicken sausage I had was some kind of spicy - and it added a lot of flavor to the soup. Really nice. 
  • The recipe says to add salt and pepper to taste -- I didn't add any, and it didn't need it. So don't add any until you taste your soup. You may not need it. 
  • For the hot sauce, we didn't have Tabasco, but I used Frank's Red Hot.
All in all, we loved it and served it with some bread and strawberries on the side. Here's what it looked like:

Give it a try. You can thank me later.



I don't eat Subway a lot, but kind of regularly -- and I have some favorites. The spicy italian, the steak and cheese, and the veggie. Which one of these is not like the other?  ....

I think my favorite, though, is the chicken bacon ranch on flatbread. Mmmm...

So, when I was at the store one night, I was hemming and hawing about what I wanted for dinner. And then I saw a package of 4 ciabatta buns and it hit me: I want homemade chicken bacon ranch ciabatta. Mmm...

There was some leftover chicken, so I cut the ciabattas in half, put some cut chicken on one side, then cooked bacon, and a little shredded cheese. I baked it, open-faced, probably at 350 for 10-13 minutes. I should really write things down when I don't have a recipe, as my directions now are somewhat less than helpful. I may as well say "I used a heating device for a period of time until it was good."

Anyway, when it was done, I put some ranch dressing on the bun top, put it together, and enjoyed. It was really yummy and I recommend.

And the nice thing was that I had grabbed some roast beef, so we used the other two ciabatta buns a couple of days later for french dips. No photo of that, though. Sorry. :(

Do you have a favorite sandwich? Subway or otherwise? Always looking for ideas....


holy cheese

I love macaroni and cheese, but have only had it out of a box at home and only a couple of times at restaurants. Keith had been wanting to try homemade - the kind with real cheese instead of the pouch of cheese-flavored powder. So, when we ended up with a bunch of cheese in the fridge (not probably a coincidence), we gave it a shot and I used this recipe for guidance, but because I didn't have any processed cheese (i.e. Velveeta) that it calls for, I put a message out on the trusty allrecipes.com message board to ask if I really needed a Velveeta-like cheese or if I could go with what I had. The response I got was helpful, so I'm sharing it with you -- the Velveeta-like cheese is what gives it the creaminess and without it, it might not be so creamy. However, someone said that I could add a little cream cheese to it, which I did have, to get that texture. I also dressed it up a bit with some onions, green peppers, and red pepper flakes -- and this is about what I ended up with. 

Macaroni  & Cheese
1/3 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. chopped green pepper
2 c. macaroni
1/4 c. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. ground mustard (generous)
1 tsp. pepper
2 c. milk
1 c. shredded cheddar (heaping)
1 c. shredded muenster (heaping)
4 oz. cream cheese
2 c. milk
Red pepper flakes
2 c. macaroni 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Saute in a bit of olive oil the onion and green pepper in a large saucepan. Prepare a 2 qt. casserole dish by buttering.  Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni, and cook until not quite done, about 6 minutes. Drain. 

Once the onion and green pepper are tender, set them aside in a small dish and, in the same pan melt the butter over medium heat, then blend the flour, mustard powder, and pepper until smooth.  Slowly stir in the milk, beating out any lumps -- once it's smooth, add the cheese slowly - cream cheese first, and then the shredded cheeses, about 1/4 c. at a time, stirring constantly until it's thick and smooth.  Add the onion, green pepper, and a dash or two or red pepper flakes and stir. Add the noodles to the cheese sauce. 

Pour the mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkle the top with the crackers. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes before serving. 

Here's what it looked like: 

What I learned is that homemade mac & cheese is very good and cheesy, as it should be. However, it's pretty time consuming to make. I think I'll definitely make it again sometime, but I'm not going to give up on the boxed, cheese-flavored powder kind completely when I want something a little quicker. 

What do you think? Do you have a mac & cheese recipe to share that will convince me not to go back to the box?


guilty pleasures

I don't normally post more than once in a day, but it's cold and wet outside, so I'm staying inside... and I decided that I'm going to tell you a secret. 

One of my guilty pleasures is watching General Hospital - yes, a daytime soap opera. Thanks to modern technology, I can catch up on episodes by watching them online since I'm obviously at work at 2 p.m. CST when it's airing on ABC. And I do. Regularly.

When I was in college, a roomie of mine was a huge GH fan, and - because we usually had to be in class when it was on, we would set the VCR to tape it. Remember the VCR?  Anyway, we would come home from class and watch it together, and she got me hooked and, after she graduated and I was still in school, I kept taping it on the VCR and watching it (while my other roomie would watch Days of Our Lives). The third roomie laughed at us, I think.

After I graduated from college I worked in a job where I was most often working evenings, but ended up missing it quite a bit and wasn't taping it anymore. I watched when I could and then weened myself off. Probably about 8-10 months ago, and I'm not sure what triggered it, but I started watching episodes online and am hooked again.

The funny thing about soap operas that the actors for the same characters can change - and life goes on in soap-land like nothing has changed.  And its amazing how you can get used to the new actor relatively quickly. Alternatively, there are some actors who were on the show in the 70s and are still on it now.  They may have taken breaks in between, but they came back.

The other thing I find interesting is that kids in soaps can age suddenly to be a few years older than they were -- and suddenly they are teenagers.  And that takes a little while to get used to, but then everything seems OK, again. Yet, for some reason, the older actors never seem to age at all. Some of these people look exactly the same as they did 10 years ago. Normally, I don't think I would like that kind of inconsistency in a show, but for some reason, GH is my guilty pleasure. I mean, seriously, name one primetime show that does this stuff?

Regardless, I am coming out as a GH fan. Judge me if you want.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Are you a closet soap fan?

cuban wraps

It's been a few posts since I posted any food-related stuff, though I have several things to catch up on. And since I'm cooking for one for the next week or so, yet, I a little lost on inspiration -- so now is as good a time, as any, to get caught up. Right? :)

At least a month ago, now, we had made a pork roast and because there's just two of us, there was obviously leftovers. This is really Keith's idea, and I just helped put them together. His favorite sandwich (or at least in the top 5) is a Cuban sandwich, but we've never made them at home -- so we did, but as a wrap.

What you need is:
  • Ham slices
  • Pork roast slices
  • Pickles 
  • Swiss cheese slices 
  • brown mustard
  • mayo
  • jalapeno tortillas

In a small frying pan, place 1 medium-thickness slice of ham (or more if you have shaved) first, and then layer 3 slices of pork roast on top. Heat, and then flip in the pan. Cover with swiss cheese and melt.

In the meantime, prepare your tortilla with a little mayo and brown mustard spread around the center. Add pickles. 

Once the meat is heated and the cheese is melted, add it to your tortilla, and wrap it up!

Be sure to grab a napkin, because they're messy, but delicious.

I'll admit that I was skeptical about the whole mixing ham with pork roast idea, but it totally works - and it's a good, easy way to use up pork roast - especially if you have some deli ham and the other stuff around most of the time like we do. If you don't have/like tortillas, you could use bread and make it a sandwich - I think you would make it panini-style but I'm not really sure - you might have to ask Keith. :)

What's your favorite sandwich or wrap to make?

Or, do you have any inspiration for cooking for one?


the lesson

This clip from Sex in the City is probably the best way to describe the lesson - it's about 3 minutes, but worth it.

In short: back up your files on your computer. I'm serious. I don't care how you do it, just please have a back up.

And don't say It won't happen to me. I am too careful about what I do. Because it will. And I was, too.

I had a nasty virus on my computer that tried to eat it alive last night. I'll try to make a really long story medium-length. For someone like me who is normally pretty careful about installing (or rather not installing) things that are unfamiliar, having this virus was a) unexpected and b) unpleasant. Really - mom gets annoyed at me sometimes because I don't open most of the email forward she sends me.  (love you mom!)

When I restarted my computer after installing some normal updates (java, firefox, etc...), it kept telling me that I had viruses, threats, security breaches, etc... it was coming from pop-ups, my alert center, etc. At first, it looked like it could be legitimate because it was a virus through a fake version of AVG Spyware 2011. AVG is something legitimate that I have downloaded on my computer as a spyware program - and it was a pretty good fake. What didn't look legitimate was that the pop-ups told me that I have to pay $27.99 to download the upgrade to AVG 2011 in order to run it.  Fortunately, I know to know that's not real, or safe, to have my only option to get back into my computer to be to pay $27.99 (unless it's the Best Buy Geek Squad telling me that's what it costs to fix it).

I couldn't do anything. I couldn't get on the internet to google the problem (on firefox, internet explorer, or google chrome). I couldn't access my files. I couldn't run my actual spyware program.  I couldn't do anything. Thankfully, we have 4 computers in the house at any given time, so I was able to use a different one to google the problem, download an anti-malware program, burn it to a disk, and put the disk in my computer. From there, I was able to run the scan.

Virus scans take a long time. I had it in my mind that I wouldn't go to sleep until I had it fixed, but after it scanned for an hour, and it was well after midnight, I fell asleep. In the morning, I woke up, the scan was done and there were 5 viruses/threats that it was able to get rid of. Good enough. And I was off to work.

It wasn't until I came home tonight that I had a chance to check out the damage. And at first look I could see my internet (including my bookmarks and history)was working fine, my programs appeared to be there, and it was running pretty well, which was a relief. That being said, the fact that all of my some of my folders on my hard drive and a ton of my files (read: all of my pictures [important] and some other stuff [moderately to not important]) were gone. Awesome.

Upon further look, I found about 800 files in my recycle bin - oh good! I can restore them!

Nope. The folders they belonged in were gone. They had no place to be restored to.  Awesomer.

Special thanks to Jim for giving me the idea to look in a windows restore area that has previous versions of the hard drive saved. Jackpot! and Awesome. For real.

When I tried to copy folders back over, it said they already existed, but they didn't show up. Try again. Still claims the folders exist already. Sigh...

Then we figured out how to 'unhide' folders and voila! It was back! As I type, things are loading back up, and everything is back.

You may be wondering at this point why, if I was able to restore everything on my computer without going to my backup, why I'm getting on my back up your darn files soap box. Because what if they weren't there? What if it had crashed completely.

Take a moment and think about the feeling you would have if you lost all of the files on your computer. Everything.

Now think about the feeling that you would have if that happened, but it was OK because you had them saved someplace else.

Quite a difference, huh? We're pretty reliant on technology and, if you're like me, have a lot of your important stuff on your computer. All I know is that I can tell you that I was pretty relaxed about this whole situation because I had my important stuff backed up. And that, my friends, is worth more to me than 100 x the cost of the backup system and time it takes to do it occassionally.

Have you had experience with a nasty virus? Were your files backed up?


war of the roses

My drive to work each morning is about 25 minutes, give or take. On the way, I typically listen to a local morning show - you know, one that talks about the news, traffic, celebrity news, and various silly or serious topics. This morning, they did one that they do pretty regularly (at least once a week... seems like more sometimes) and it's called War of the Roses. And I have mixed feelings about it - I can find so many things that annoy / bother me about it, but I find it intriguing. The same feeling I have about mullets, actually.

Anyway, the point of war of the roses is to have a woman call in, tell why she's worried that her boyfriend is cheating on her, and deceptively try to find out if he is or not. They do this by having one of the radio show hosts call said boyfriend and pretending to be from his cell phone company; he is asked to answer a 2-question survey, and in return they will send a dozen longstemmed red roses to anyone he chooses.  You probably see where this is going, but just in case - if boyfriend sends roses to girlfriend, all is well. If boyfriend sends roses to someone but girlfriend, he's a cheater and girl finds sad validation in her fears.

It's stupid and pretty annoying, right? But I'm intrigued and can't "look away" - like when you see a mullet. There are so many questions:

  • Seriously? 
  • If you're that insecure about the relationship, is his potential cheating really the root problem?
  • What if he's not cheating and you just jeopardized his trust by calling a radio station to try to out him? (well-played, by the way)
  • What if he sends the roses to you - how you know he didn't just get lucky by picking  you over another girl he's seeing?
  • Seriously? (again) What possesses you to call a radio station to deal with your relationship?
  • Why does the guy always answer the phone when it's a number he doesn't know - doesn't he screen calls? I do. It's the point of having caller id. 
  • Why is the guy always willing to take the survey? Would you?
  • And simply - Why? Just why. 
 The girl this morning had already kicked this guy out a couple of times and she knows he has cheated on her before. They have a kid together. He has (apparently) been begging to get back with her. She wants to know if he's cheating again (but is he? she kicked him out?) before she considers taking him back (again). 

This brings up another question: how many chances is she going to give this guy?

Anyway, they did the skit, and he sent the roses to Ashley. His girlfriend is Teresa. Busted. He claimed that Ashley is his sister. Teresa said he doesn't have a sister named Ashley. He said it's his sister's nickname. Girlfriend says no it's not. Insert a bunch of blurred out F-bombs here.

So, at this point, I think: Why am I still listening to this? Ridiculous.

Because it's a radio mullet, and I can't look away. Oh, and the kicker? Noone actually gets any roses.

Do you have things that you drive you crazy, but you can't look away (or change the station)?


people watching

People watching is something I enjoy, a lot and I think most of us do. I was thinking about this today from a couple of different angles. First, there is the fun one - where you're in a crowd of people you don't know - like when I was at the State Fair the day that K.I.S.S. was performing and there people walking around in their K.I.S.S. t-shirts and their faces painted -- and even better, the people who were in full-out super fan K.I.S.S. costumes.

At the state fair, and many other large gatherings, you're bound to see lots of things - mullets, people with dogs in clothes, stylish people, not-so-stylish people, people holding hands, people fighting, people laughing, drunk people, tall people, short people, purple, blue, or rainbow hair ... and the list could go on forever.

I love going to these types of things with my friend Emily, because we can say what we're thinking without saying a word. We've known each other long enough and have been to enough stuff together that when we want to comment on something, we do it with our eyes. Because I saw it, and I know she saw it, and I know we're thinking the same thing. And vice versa. Sometimes our eyes say nice things (Oh that's cute or that guy is hot) and sometimes our eyes say things that are kind of judging (let's be honest).Yesterday at the St. Paul Craft-stravaganza was no exception.

But it's not always judging. This morning, for example, I was in church I saw an older woman who looked like she was crying. I wondered:
  • Did something happen recently that triggered something? 
  • Does she really love the song they're singing? (I did - it was one of my favorites.) 
  • Maybe her grandchild was one of those three kids who just got confirmed up front? 
I saw the young man sitting next to her (presumably her grandson?) put his arm around her, and they looked at each other, and she smiled and wiped her eyes. I never found out the answers to any of my questions, but it was really endearing, nonetheless.

I once played a game with someone where we picked people out of a crowded bar and tried to figure out: what do they do? who is that with them? what's their personality? have they been married? do they have kids? It's all based on assumption - and not necessarily being petty or judgmental, but it was more about curiosity. Curiosity about something we wouldn't find the answers to - but fun in the process.

So, the other aspect of this I was thinking about was the more personal, long-term kind. Watching people we know over the years - what do we see, learn from, and know about them? A common example here would be parents. We watch them and -- whether we like it or not -- will likely eventually turn into them, at least to some extent. We learn work ethic, how to treat people (and how not to), about honesty (and dishonesty), political beliefs (or disbelief), faith (or not), and, again, the list goes on... Fortunately, I've been pretty darn lucky with pretty darn good parents to watch. But that's not the reason I bring this up - at least not for today.

Left: Lavaine 
Right: Me & my godparents (I'm the cute baby)
Thanks Amanda for letting me use these pictures!

We recently lost a wonderful member of our family - a father, grandfather, brother, son, cousin, and godfather (to me and, I believe, 11 lucky others). Although he was my mother's cousin, he and his wife are like another uncle and aunt to me - and their kids are my cousins. We spent a lot of time together when I was young, so I had a chance to watch - and here's what I saw (from both him and his wife): kindness, laughter, a contagious smile, love, affection, and faith. To those of you who know him, this comes as no surprise because I know you saw the same things - and maybe more than I'm not articulating well.

But, last week, I had a chance to hear what someone who I had never met saw and learned from Lavaine. It was a radio clip from a member of the family that owned his workplace; he sent condolences on behalf of the company and shared some memories of having him as a colleague and a mentor. This is a world I knew very little about, but it was so interesting to hear how he affected others outside of the family and the ridge. 

In the audio clip, he said things like: 
"I worked with him ever since I was like 10 years old... [list all of the various positions he held]. I had the fortunate to work under his supervision when I was in high school and college."

"He taught me the importance of customer service... communication, attention to detail, hard work, completion of a project (even if I didn't want to do it!)."

"He would always say we always make errors - everyone makes them - what you do is you admit it, you resolve it, you learn from it and you move on."

"I wouldn't be who I am today. He has done so much for me, for my family, for our business... etc."
First of all, how cool is it that they thought enough of him to do this radio spot about him? It's not something I've probably ever heard on the radio. Second, I find it really interesting to hear this side of things - something I was not at all familiar with - his relationship with and value to his colleagues. It definitely made me smile. :)

What about you? Any good people watching stories?