Vodka Sauce (Penne alla Vodka)

Never mind the long ingredient list & huge number of steps, this sauce is e-a-s-y & fast! It is quite flavorful as it is & is already muted with cream, so you can even skip the sometimes obligatory sprinkle of Parmesan.

2 cans petite diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz each
1 onion, diced
1 T tomato paste
1/2 c red wine
2 cloves garlic, pressed
pinch red pepper flakes
1/3 c vodka (or red wine, or white wine, but probably not beer)
1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1 lb. pasta, cooked

  1. Heat oil in a large pan.
  2. Drain & puree one can of tomatoes.
  3. Drain the other can of tomatoes & add them to the puree.
  4. Saute the onion & tomato paste until the onion edges are starting to get brown & there is a good bit of fond in the bottom of the pan.
  5. De-glaze the pan with half of the red wine & continue to cook until the wine has evaporated & more fond has developed.
  6. De-glaze the pan again & cook until the wine is thick & nearly evaporated.
  7. Add the garlic & red pepper flakes, cooking 30 seconds until garlic is fragrant.
  8. Add the tomatoes & vodka & bring to a simmer.
  9. Simmer uncovered, stirring often, until the alcohol cooks off, 10 to 12 minutes.
  10. Add the cream & cook until hot all the way through.
  11. In a large pot, combine the sauce & pasta and cook until sauce is slightly absorbed (about 2 minutes)
  12. Served sprinkled with fresh basil.

Candied Roasted Pecans

This should work with other nuts as well, but I don't know. I just l-o-v-e pecans & I look forward to that time of year when the smell of German Roasted Pecans fills our local mall. Now I can get that same flavor any time of year right in my own home!

2 egg whites
1 T vanilla extract
2 1/2 c pecans, whole or halved
1/2 c turbinado sugar (Sugar In The Raw)
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt
sprinkle of cayenne pepper for heat, optional
paper bag, oatmeal container, or other covered container
  1. Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees
  2. Whip egg whites & vanilla together until foamy but not fluffy (about 2 minutes with my handheld mixer)
  3. Fold in pecans
  4. Pour sugar, salt, cinnamon, & cayenne pepper into paper bag & shake to mix.
  5. Add coated pecans to bag & shake to coat
  6. Spread pecans onto parchment paper in a  rimmed baking sheet 
  7. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes
  8. COOL PECANS 30 min before eating (THEY ARE HOT!)


My mom always made this sweet corn meal drink for us after we had been playing in the snow. I remember it as being the remedy for the bone shattering Indiana cold & boy could I use it today! Back then, she had to have it sent to use from our relatives in Colorado, but now you can find blue corn meal from Bob's Red Mill right at Walmart! Sometimes, she even whipped some up for us as a warm morning breakfast. Mmmmmmm!

I like to use turbinado sugar (Sugar In The Raw) instead of piloncillo, but I feel like piloncillo is more "authentic." Sometimes you can find it in the produce section at Walmart or in the "Mexican" section. Sometimes you can even find it with other sweeteners. If not, don't fret, my mom just used plain white sugar.

1/4 c blue corn meal (harina de atole)
2 1/2 c milk
1/8 c piloncillo or turbinado sugar (Sugar In The Raw)
1 t vanilla extract
sprinkle cinnamon (optional)
  1. Mix atole, milk, sugar, & extract in a pan, whisk well to eliminate lumps
  2. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened (about 15 to 20 minutes)
  3. Serve hot with a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired
I've heard that you can use regular Masa Harina instead of Harina de Atole, but I've never ever tried it. Comment me if you give that a try & let me know how it goes.

Black Bean Soup

We're digging out of a major blizzard today & nothing sounds better than some thick & delicious soup. The best thing about this is it is cheap, cheap, cheap! If you don't have ham, just leave it out. Mostly it just adds some salty flavor & could probably be subbed out for a tablespoon of bacon bits if you were really desperate to have it in there, but to make a meatless meal, just leave it out.
I didn't get a pic with the sour cream & red pepper flakes on it.
The fam dug in before I could get that done!

1 pound black beans
8 oz ham, chopped or cubed
1 bay leaf
8 c water
1/8 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 T butter, melted
1 T olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
6 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped
3/4 T cumin
3 c chicken broth

  1. Boil the beans, ham, bay leaf, baking soda, & salt in a large pot until beans are cooked through (about 90 min) adding more hot water as necessary.
  2. Sauté the onions, celery, & carrot in the oil & butter until onions are lightly browned.
  3. Add garlic & cumin to the veggies & cook until very fragrant but not browned, 30 to 45 seconds.
  4. Add cooked veggies & chicken broth to beans & heat through.
  5. Serve topped with sour cream & a sprinkling of red pepper flakes.