Category Archives: Recipes by Vanessa

Sopa Seca

Even though I discovered that I enjoy cooking more when I’m not trying to get it done in time for dinner, I don’t always want to eat something out of the freezer. And my freezer can only hold so many different meals at once. So there’s nothing I like more than a really good recipe that’s fast enough to make on a weeknight and makes leftovers for lunch. My mom actually made this recipe (from Food network Magazine) for the first time a few days before I moved to Virginia. I told her how much I liked it and she said she’d give me the recipe because it was really easy to make. The name is Spanish and means dry soup. It’s a really unique dish, and you can make the whole thing with one skillet!

Sopa Seca

You’ll Need:

1 Tbs Olive oil

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 poblano chili pepper, seeded and sliced (I always leave this out because honestly, I just can’t be bothered. LOL)

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Kosher salt (I just use table salt)

8 oz spaghetti, broken into thirds (the recipe calls for whole wheat which I always use anyway, but regular spaghetti would probably work too)

1 14 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 14 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 bunch cilatro, leaves chopped (approx. 1/2 cup loosely packed)

Cheddar or monterey jack cheese (optional)


1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and cook the onions and poblano pepper, stirring occasionally, until slightly soft (about 3 minutes)

2. Add the chili powder, cumin, and salt and continuing cooking for 2 more minutes

3. Add the uncooked spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly toasted (about 5 minutes)

4. Add the tomatoes (juice included), and cook until some of the liquid is absorbed (about 2 minutes)

5. Add the chicken broth and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute

6. reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer, until spaghetti is almost fully cooked (about 6 minutes)

7. Uncover and stir in the beans and all but 2 Tbs of the cilantro

8. continue simmering until the spaghetti is tender and most of the liquid has absorbed

9. Top with cheese and remaining cilantro if desired and enjoy!


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Cheesy Beer Pulled Chicken

I hope you all had a great weekend! I spent the weekend in New Jersey because my best friend (who’s really more like a sister than a friend) got married yesterday! We met online, so our friendship has always been long distance. Of course, I would’ve been at her wedding no matter what, heck I would’ve gone overseas if that’s where her wedding took place! But because we don’t see each other as often as we’d like, being together on such an important day is particularly special. I’m not going to post a bunch of pictures because it was her wedding, not mine. But I do want to share one picture of  the gorgeous bride and myself. Oh and I caught the bouquet, so you know what that means… 😉

For some reason my train was 2 1/2 hours late this morning 😦 (I’ve taken the train between DC  and Newark 6 times now and it’s never even been a few minutes late until now) and I got home at 3:30 instead of 1:00. So my plans to go to the grocery store were scrapped and dinner ended up being pizza. But I wanted to share this recipe that I made last weekend but didn’t have the chance to blog about yet.  It’s easy (crock pot alert!), it’s delicious, and it will definitely become a regular at my house.

This was actually the second time I’ve made it. The first time, I followed the original recipe except for omitting some of the spices I didn’t have and using one less chicken breast. The second time, as I was mixing the spices, I spontaneously decided to make a few changes, and this time it was even better than my first try. You can use this chicken multiple ways, but I highly recommend putting it in tacos!

Cheesy Beer Pulled Chicken Tacos
*Serves 4 or more

You’ll Need

3-4 Boneless skinless chicken breasts (If you use 3, use slightly less of each spice than the recipe calls for)

1 bottle beer of choice (I used what I had on hand, Shiner Bock)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Shredded cheddar cheese

Desired taco toppings

Hard or soft taco shells


1. In a bowl, mix all the spices thoroughly

2. Place chicken breasts on a plate and rub both sides with the spice mixture (I used pretty much all of it, but amount is up to you)

3. Put chicken in the crock pot and pour entire bottle of beer over the chicken (I added a little water too and drained my chicken when I was done. That way there’s plenty of liquid so it cooks evenly but the tacos don’t get soggy)

4. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Shred the chicken as you cook it and once finished, drain in a collander if desired

5. If you’re not making this for a large group and you know there are going to be leftovers, I recommend adding the cheese as you use it. Just microwave the chicken and cheese slowly before serving. If you DO plan to finish it all at once, transfer the chicken to a large bowl and add cheese to taste. Toss it all together  so it melts and serve immediately. Enjoy!

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Sweet & Spicy Honey Glazed Chicken

I can’t actually remember where I stumbled across this recipe, but it sounded really good and easy, so I gave it a shot soon after I first found it. The original recipe is made in a crock pot, but the person who posted it online suggested that it could easily be baked in the oven as well. During the week, I’m gone too long to use my crockpot, and I wanted to make this on a week night. So I just poured the sauce over a whole chicken breast and baked it in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes just like I do with BBQ chicken. the sauce is really good and I’m willing to bet you already have all or nearly all of the ingredients in your kitchen. Just a word of warning, this sauce has a definite kick to it. I had no idea how strong 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes would be! It wasn’t too bad, but I think I might decrease the amount of red pepper flakes a bit next time. Keep in mind though, my mouth is super sensitive so I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to spicy foods :p

Sweet & Spicy honey Glazed Chicken

you’ll Need:

3/4 lb chicken of your choice (I only made one breast and just had extra sauce. If you’re making it in the crock pot, see the original recipe)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/8 cup chopped onion or 1/16 cup onion flakes (I skipped the onion entirely because I didn’t have onion flakes and I was feeling lazy)

1/8 cup ketchup

1 Tbs vegetable oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Brown or white rice (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and place in an oven safe dish

3. In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients and pour over chicken (I didn’t use all of the sauce, just made sure the chicken was thoroughly covered)

4. Bake chicken for 20 minutes or until thoroughly cooked and serve over rice if desired

Note: Sorry for the lack of pictures in my recent posts, I’m totally out of practice!

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Cincinnati 5 Way Chili

I’m back with another great recipe for you all! This is something that my mom has made for years, and I was always excited to see it on the menu. If you’ve never been to Ohio or known anybody who has lived there, you probably haven’t heard of Cinnicinati 5 Way Chili. It’s a very unusual chili that has become famous at a restaurant in Ohio called Skyline Chili. Years and years ago, my mom saw the recipe in the newspaper and cut it out. Confession: I’ve never actually been to the restaurant that started it all!

Even though I loved this dish, I never tried to make it myself until a few weeks after I moved to Virginia. I’d always thought it would be too complicated and I didn’t have all the necessary ingredients. 5 way chili requires a lot of spices, which are expensive. When my mom was first married and would make this, she’d borrow the spices she didn’t have from her mom, who was also a fabulous cook. In fact, the original copy that she cut out of the newspaper still has her notes to herself about which spices she already had and which ones she had to borrow from her mom 🙂 So, keeping with tradition, my mom occasionally sends me “5 way Chili kits”, all the necessary spices premeasured and put in a plastic sandwich bag. Is she awesome or what?! In case you’re wondering, it’s called 5 way Chili because you can have it:

1 way (just the chili)
2 ways (the chili over spaghetti-I told you it was unusual!)
3 ways (over spaghetti with shredded cheddar cheese)
4 ways (over spaghetti with cheese, and chopped onions)
5 ways (over spaghetti with cheese, onions, and kidney beans)

Sound good? Well, here’s the recipe!

Cincinnati 5 Way Chili

You’ll Need:

1 lb ground beef or turkey

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup water

1 cup BBQ sauce (I used Jack Daniels #7 recipe)

1 Tbs chili powder

1 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp tumeric

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp salt

1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate (I usually cut it in a few small pieces but it’s all going to melt anyway)

Optional: cooked spaghetti, shredded cheddar cheese, kidney beans, more chopped onion

my 5 way Chili Kit!


1. Cook onions, garlic and ground beef/turkey in a large pot until meat is thoroughly cooked

2. Drain any fat and return to pot

3. Add bbq sauce and water, bring to a boil

4. Add all the spices and chocolate, cover and simmer at very low heat for 30 minutes

5. serve with desired toppings and enjoy!

Note: There appear to be multiple versions of this recipe. if you google it, you get a version that is completely different from this one and calls for 4 hours of cooking and overnight refrigeration. Um, no thanks! i’ve never had 5 Way Chili at the actual restaurant, but I think this version tastes amazing!

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It’s been a very exciting couple of weeks for my kitchen. So naturally, I’m blogging about it! I was lucky to have my graduation, my 25th birthday, and the arrival of my tax refund all coincide within a few weeks of each other. So my savings account was looking quite healthy. I didn’t spend the money right away because I wanted to wait and see what I got for my birthday and I wanted to think carefully about how I wanted to spend it. It was tough waiting that long (Geminis are not known for their patience!) but it was definitely worth it in the end because my kitchen got a major upgrade! for my birthday, my parents got me a set of three spring form cake pans in different sizes that I’ve been wanting for a long time. And my wonderful aunts bought me a food processor!! I already have the Ninja Master Prep, which is kind of a hybrid blender/food processor, but there are still a lot of things it can’t do. So I’ve been dying for a food processor. Thanks Jackie and Jen!


Speaking of the Ninja, it was prety inexpensive and for awhile I was using it every single day, 7 days a week. Needles to say, it’s not working quite as well as it used too. So with some of my graduation/birthday money, I bought the Master Prep’s bigger, badder cousin, the Ninja Professional Blender


I don’t make smoothies as often as I used too because I don’t have time to make and consume them before work in the morning. But I still love them for a quick lunch, and every foodie should have a great blender. If by chance you’re in the market for a blender, I highly recommend this one. A lot of bloggers swear by the Vitamix blender. I’ve never used a Vitamix before, so I can’t compare the two. But the Ninja handles frozen fruit and ice like a dream (even a whole frozen banana cut in half). And at $99, it’s a bargain compared to the $400 Vitamix. Even better, f you sign up for e-mails from Bed, Bath & Beyond, you can get a 20% off coupon. With the coupon, I got the blender for only $94, including shipping!  The blades down the center of the blender are the secret to blending just about anything into a perfect smoothie. the pitcher, lid and blades are also all dishwasher safe, which is especially nice because the blades are super sharp.

To finish off this post, I’m going to post my first recipe in forever. Last night I tried my hand at making spaghetti with Filetto Di Pomodoro, and it was a success! The first time I had this it was made by mom mom with spaghetti that she also made from scratch and oh my God, it’s so good. I’m warning you now, this sauce is 1. Not a fast recipe at all, and 2. Will ruin store bought sauce for you, no matter how much more convenient it is. So proceed at your own risk! It’s so worth it though. And it’s really not hard, just a lot of prepping/chopping and a long cooking time. It also makes a big batch and freezes well, so you can make it once and eat it for several meals.  To give credit where credit is due, this recipe comes from “The New Complete Book of Pasta.”

Filetto Di Pomodoro
Makes 7 cups

You’ll Need:

4 heaping Tbs minced prosciutto fat or bacon (my mom always uses bacon instead and it tastes great, so I wouldn’t even bother looking for prosciutto fat)

2 Tbs high quality olive oil

1 Tbs butter

3 large white onions, chopped (its all going to go through a food processor eventually, so you can roughly chop these)

4 large fresh basil leaves, minced, or 1 Tbs dried sweet basil

10 very large ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and diced, or 9 cups canned italian plum tomatoes  (once again, my mom and I both used canned tomatoes for this. The sauce is so flavorful I’m not sure you’d notice a difference between fresh and canned)

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Black pepper to taste


1. In a saucepan, over medium heat, saute the bacon in the olice oil and butter until crisp but not overly brown

2. Add the onions and basil, simmer for 6 minutes

3. Add the tomatoes (with juice if desired) and stir well. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently

4. Add salt and pepper and stir well. Raise heat and cook off extra liquid from the tomatoes

5. Allow sauce to cool, then blend it all in a food processor (my food processor holds 7 cups, but I still had to do this several ladlefuls at a time

6. Return sauce to saucepan, heat, and serve over spaghetti


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Crock Pot Mexican Chicken

Tonight I have another recipe for you from The Chronicles of Ruthie Hart. I made it the night after I made her Pumpkin Gnocchi Soup (yes, the very first time!)and this dish was delicious as well. It was also my second time using my new crock pot. I’ve found a lot of crock pot recipes that sound good, but they call for several steps or adding things at specific times. Is it just me, or isn’t the whole point of using a crock pot being able to throw everything in it and not have to bother with it for 6-8 hours? So I was happy when I found Ruthie’s simple, two step, and yummy sounding crock pot recipe for Crock Pot Mexican Chicken . I don’t have as many pictures, since the prep was done in a rush before I ran out the door this morning, but as Brittany likes to say, I got the money shot 🙂

You’ll Need

4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts*

1 16 oz jar salsa of your choice

1 can corn, drained

1 can black beans, drained

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 block of cream cheese

* I learned from my first experience with the Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Chicken that 2 lbs of chicken breasts makes way more shredded chicken than I could possibly eat. So for this recipe, I only used 3 chicken breasts and it didn’t affect the other ingredients as far as I could tell

1. Put all of the ingredients except the cream cheese in the crock pot and mix well. Cook on low for 6 hours (mine cooked for longer than 6 hours because I had to start it before I left for class and I wasn’t ready for dinner at 5:30. It was just fine though)

2. The recipe says to stir occasionally. But as I said, I was gone all day and it was fine unattended. Shred the chicken either as it cooks or before serving.

3. 30 minutes before serving, add the cream cheese and stir very well.

4. serve in tortillas, over chips, or on its own and enjoy!


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Imitation Butterfingers

First up, today’s “eating simply” menu was super short so I didn’t want to devote a whole post to that

Breakfast: Reduced sugar apples and cinnamon instant oatmeal

Lunch: A White Chicken Pizza Lean Pocket (I did buy these at the store yesterday, but I was running really low on supplies and I knew I could finish them off by next Monday)

Dinner: Leftover Best Ever Macaroni & Cheese from the freezer.

*Side note* If you find that you rarely freeze leftovers because they don’t taste right, I have a tip for you. Some things just don’t freeze and reheat well, which may be the problem. But it could also be the way you’re reheating them. I used to hate leftovers from the freezer, until I realized that reheating them in the oven works way better than microwaving them. It takes a little longer, but it’s definitely worth it. You can  do a bunch of cooking on the weekend and then have dinner all week that requires nothing more than warming it up! Now, for a new recipe…

This recipe isn’t from Pinterest (at least not directly), but I did try another desert-y creation! And in all fairness, this does count as cleanning out my pantry because I bought the ingredients about a week ago but haven’t had time to assemble them until now 🙂  I got this recipe from Ruthie’s blog. They sounded intriguing and they’re crazy easy to make, so I gave them a shot. These imitation butter fingers are supposed to taste like the real thing. After trying them, I wouldn’t go so far as to say they taste the same. But they are darn good. And really, how can you go wrong when peanut butter and chocolate are involved? These would be a great item to take to a party…Or to just enjoy on your own!

You’ll Need

Cheez-its (I used the big ones because they seemed like they’d be easier to work with)

Peanut butter

Baker’s chocolate

Wax paper


1. Spread peanut butter between Cheez-its, making as many as you want or have chocolate for

2. Once all your “sandwiches” are assembled, melt the chocolate (I don’t have a picture because stupid WordPress keeps turning it sideways, but I used the Baker’s brand chocolate that comes in a microwaveable cup. It was perfect for this recipe)

3. Dip one end of the Cheez-it sandwich in chocolate and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet (you could also dip the whole thing, but this way is much faster and less messy)

4. Once you’ve dipped all of the Cheez-its, place the cookie sheet in the fridge or freezer until chocolate is hardened. You can eat them right away, but I personally prefer them at room temperature. Enjoy, they won’t last long!
Tip: They’ll get hard quickly, especially in the freezer. But leave them in a little longer than you think is necessary or the chocolate will get soft as it comes to room temperature. Once they’re fully hardened, transfer to a container lined with clean wax paper.


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