Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's Recipe Week! Day 3: My Version of Caprese Pasta

A couple years ago, I shared this recipe for Giada's Caprese Pasta. Then last week, when I realized how many caprese bites I had leftover from our little dinner party (dinner party- now I sound like my mom), I decided I would make her recipe again. But either out of laziness or creativity (let's go with the latter), I didn't look at the recipe and ended up with something that I think tasted even better! So I quickly wrote down what I did (which means all of the measurements below are estimated) so I wouldn't forget how to do it! ...And so I could share it with you, of course!

Balsamic Caprese Pasta
1T butter
1lb. rigatoni
25 grape tomatoes, halved
ground salt
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 package mozzarella pearls
1/4 cup balsamic glaze
15 basil leaves, torn or cut chiffonade
3T brown sugar

Marinate mozzarella in balsamic glaze overnight. Simmer tomatoes in EVOO, 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, add sherry, and cover. Simmer for 5-7 minutes. Smoosh (culinary term) tomatoes, add chicken stock to sauce, and simmer uncovered for 5-7 minutes, until sauce reduces. Add brown sugar. In a separate pot, boil water, add salt, and cook pasta to al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot with butter. Add sauce, basil, and mozzarella and serve.

*Only half of my mozzarella was marinated since I was using leftovers from the caprese bites as part of the dish, but I will definitely marinate all of them next time! The balsamic glaze is sweeter and more subtle than regular balsamic and gave a great flavor to the pasta!

For the other recipes from this week, click on the links below:

Tomorrow, I'll be sharing a recipe I found on Pinterest two weeks ago and have made twice already. Here's a sneak peek:

Don't forget to enter the FREE BLOG DESIGN giveaway!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's Recipe Week! Day 2: Four Cheese Stuffed Shells and Garlic Green Beans with Grape Tomatoes

If you missed yesterday's recipe, it served as the main dish to what I'm sharing with you today.

Stuffed Shells have always been one of my favorite italian dishes. I feel like they're a bit fancier and less common than lasagna. I've made stuffed shells the same way for years, and for some reason I decided this time I would search around a little bit and see if there was a better recipe than the non-official one that's been in my head all these years.

And boy am I glad I did. I don't think I'll ever go back to my old recipe again! Rachael Ray's Four Cheese Stuffed Shells are the bomb. Plain and simple. You MUST give this recipe a try!

Keep in mind, I made this meal for eleven people, so I cooked about 60 shells. To keep it simple, I'm sharing a version that will serve 6-8 people.

1 box jumbo pasta shells
32oz. Polly-O Ricotta Cheese, part skim (I think it's the best!)
4 cups mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup grated Locatelli parmesan cheese
1 cup Asiago cheese, shredded (I bought an 8oz. block from the deli at Publix)
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups of your favorite marinara sauce

Pre-heat oven to 450F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and add pasta. Undercook shells by approximately 3 minutes- they should be softened but still undercooked at the center. Drain pasta and return to pan. Cover with cold water to keep them from sticking together (you can also use a little EVOO instead).

Combine ricotta, half of mozzarella, half of parmesan, half of asiago cheese, parsley, garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix until well blended.

Pour a little sauce into the bottom of a shallow casserole dish (9x11 will work). Fill shells with cheese mixture and arrange them in the casserole dish. Top shells with remaining sauce, mozzarella, asiago, and parmesan cheese. Place shells in oven and cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until cheese melts and sauce bubbles. You can also broil for 5-7 minutes instead of baking.

Garlic Green Beans with Grape Tomatoes
These are SO easy!
3 cups frozen green beans
3 cloves garlic
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1T butter
ground salt

Place frozen green beans in pan. Cover with water. Add garlic. Boil until tender. Drain using the lid of the pan instead of a colander so that the garlic and green beans remain in the pan and all excess water is removed. Turn on heat. Add butter and tomatoes. Cover for at least 5 minutes. The heat will make the tomatoes soften. Stir, add salt and parmesan and serve.

Hummus and veggies and Caprese Bites: recipe here

Strawberry Cheesecake- thank you Costco. :)

Making first-house memories
in our "dining room" that's designed for serving six, not eleven. ;)

Tally was spoiled by our guests (he is definitely not allowed on laps at the table, but what can you do?!)

Family Picture ;)

Tomorrow I'll be sharing a pasta recipe that I came up with using the leftovers from the Caprese Bites. It's a spin-off of this recipe and WAY better! Can I say that?

Don't forget to enter the FREE BLOG DESIGN giveaway!! The winner will be announced a week from today!

Monday, July 29, 2013

It's Recipe Week! Day 1: Pork Medallions in Mushroom Marsala Sauce

I made this last week when we had a large group over for dinner. I needed something meaty and italian that would complement stuffed shells. So when I was talking through the menu with my mom, she suggested I do veal, pork, or chicken marsala. I have always loved marsala wine sauce but had never made my own until last week!

This recipe comes from Fine Cooking, and I followed it pretty much to a tee. It is delicious! It's the first of this week's recipes that will be a part of our regular dinner rotation. Hope you guys like it too!

2lb. pork tenderloin (about 2 tenderloins), trimmed of excess fat
ground salt and ground black pepper
3T extra-virgin olive oil
3T salted butter*
2 medium shallots, finely diced
12 oz. baby bella mushrooms*
1T all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry Marsala
1 cup chicken stock*
3T heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
*original recipe calls for unsalted butter, thinly sliced cremini mushrooms, and chicken broth

Cut the tenderloins into 2-inch thick medallions. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Heat the EVOO and 1T of butter in a large sauté pan over high heat. When the butter is melted and foaming, add meat and sear until nicely browned, 2-3 min. Flip and cook the other side until the meat is well browned and slightly firm to touch but still pink in the middle, about another 2 min. Set aside in a bowl.

Melt the remaining 2T butter in the pan. Add shallots and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté until all of the mushroom liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are golden, about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, and add Marsala. Once the Marsala has almost completely evaporated, add the chicken stock and reduce by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and parsley, return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pan, and cook, flipping the pork once, until it's firm to the touch and still a little pink in the middle (cut into a piece to check). Taste for salt and pepper, sprinkle with fresh parmesan, and serve.

Tomorrow I'll share the recipes for what I paired with this dish: four cheese stuffed shells and garlic green beans with grape tomatoes.

And if you missed my last post, check it out here. The designer who created my new blog look is giving away a FREE design to one of you!

See you tomorrow for Day 2 of Recipe Week!

New Blog Design and a GIVEAWAY!!!

Things are looking a little different around here, aren't they?! What do you think?! I personally am LOVING the new look! (If you subscribe through email, you're probably confused... you'll have to click the link to view this post online or switch to following through bloglovin' so that your email updates show you the "blog version" of each post.)

Tricia Nae Designs completed my blog makeover, and I could not be happier. I knew when I saw her work on my friend Stephanie's blog that she would be the right person for the job. She was SO super quick, very attentive to what kind of look I was going for, and never made me feel like any of my requests were too picky (because let's be honest, I can be pretty "particular" about things- i.e. straight lines, margins, sizing of images, color schemes... basically I have the potential to be a blog designers worst nightmare). I was honestly shocked with how quickly Tricia was able to produce exactly what I was looking for!

And, as you may remember me mentioning in this post, Tricia is giving away a FREE blog design to one of you!

And not only that, she is also offering 20% off for any of her services through September 1st if you use the code NELSEN20 at checkout. Want a new blog button, Facebook header, sidebar labels, or completely new look altogether? Do it before September 1st and you'll get 20% off your entire order!

Here are all of the places you can find Tricia:

And now for the GIVEAWAY!
To enter, just leave a comment below telling me why you want to win- that's it!

The winner will be announced next Tuesday morning.
Winner chosen via



Friday, July 26, 2013

#Summerdays2013 week 9

Day 57: Day at the Zoo!

Day 58: Car snuggles on our way back from lunch :)

Day 59: Afternoon with this little buddy (our sweet nephew, Jackson!) and his daddy while his mama through a baby shower for a friend

Day 60: "A. Started a major yard and house project. B. Found sweet baby birds while we worked. C. Played tennis is the rain. D. Made dinner from the back of a bag of cheese. E. Finally got TV and internet back. #goodday"

Day 61: Lunch with my sweet friend Mary Margaret, her two babies, and Tally at Zoes. And wouldn't you know we saw Matt Ryan (quarterback for the Falcons) walking out right as we sat down on the patio?!

Day 62: My happy place- cooking with a glass of wine.
Recipe here.

Day 62 part 2: Snuggles with daddy :)

You can find me on Instagram @hmnelsen
For the other places you can find me, click here.

Next week on the blog is RECIPE WEEK!!! I'm going to be sharing one new recipe everyday that I've made in the last two weeks. If you follow me on pinterest or have seen the last two #summerdays2013 posts, you've seen pictures of these meals. Rarely (and by that I mean it's never happened) do I go 5 for 5 on new recipes being add-to-the-rotation worthy... these were all SO good! Can't wait to share them with you!

Have a great weekend!