Confessions of a Real Housewives Addict

Full disclosure?

I’m addicted to the Real Housewives franchise of reality television.

As in, you say Orange County and I still shed a tear over the breakup of Jo and Slade. New York City? I immediately think of the crazy catwalk Ramona did in a fashion show. Atlanta? I think of the dysfunctional relationship of Kim and Big Poppa. New Jersey? Someone needs to get Danielle a straight jacket. Beverly Hills? The home of $60,000 children’s birthday parties. D.C? The party-crashing Salahis.

This obsession for the RH franchise is pointless, but it’s like a trainwreck, I. Can’t. Stop. Watching. Unfortunately, the effects of RH last much longer than the 1 or 2 hours it’s on each week. Take, for instance, this summer when my family drove through Georgia en route to Kiawah Island, South Carolina. We pass through Atlanta and the only thing that goes through my head is Don’t be Tardy for the Party.

Apparently, the trend for Real Housewives turned [bad] singers has continued. Countess LuAnn, from New York City, released Money Can’t Buy You Class this spring and Danielle, from New Jersey, released a collaboration with Lori Michaels aptly titled Real Close this summer. Fortunately, though not all the housewives are wannabe recording artists. Kandi, from Atlanta, was a member of the group of Xscape and is a Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter. She released Fly Above last fall. So there is some street cred mixed in.

But it’s not just my music collection that’s seen the effects of RH…

This obsession has also influenced what comes out of my kitchen, thanks to the Skinny Italian cookbook by Teresa Giudice, from New Jersey. While she’s most notably known for table-flipping in the general direction of Danielle and shoving Andy Cohen down during the reunion special this past season, she’s also a “writer”. Who knew?

I picked up the cookbook during a regular Barnes & Noble browse with Adam as a joke, just to make him uncomfortable as we meandered around the store. Then, I started looking through the recipes. Oh, the recipes. My mouth was literally watering as I read through the ingredients for each dish. I was all “Adam! Look at this!”, “This sounds amazing!”, “OMG I HAVE to make THIS!”. Begrudgingly he took a look, and, to my surprise, said “That does sound good!”

Of course, then I HAD to buy the cookbook and I’m so glad I did. So far I’ve made 3 dishes/sauces from it and all of them have been exceptional, but my favorite is the Arrabbiata (or Angry Sauce) for pasta.  It’s spicy, but not light your tongue on fire. It’s got a great flavor depth to it and tastes even better the next day as leftovers.

Arrabbiata Sauce
from Skinny Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent. About 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in red pepper.
  4. Stir in Basic Tomato Sauce, lemon juice, and pepper.
  5. Bring to simmer.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until lightly thickened. About 15 minutes.
  7. Simmer up to 40 minutes, the longer it simmers the hotter the sauce.
  8. Stir in parsley just before serving.

Yield: approximately 3 3/4 cups, enough for 1 lb pasta

Basic Tomato Sauce
from Skinny Italian

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 28 oz can of tomatoes, crushed or diced in their juices
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add basil.
  4. Simmer for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

Yield: approximately 3 1/2 cups, enough for 1 lb pasta

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A World Without Ro*tel?

Ro*tel Cheese DipArkansas: The Birthplace of Cheese Dip.

Cheese Dip: The State Food of Arkansas. The staple appetizer at practically any restaurant you visit. The required tailgate food. The perfect topping for chips, chili, rice, and, yes, even burgers. It’s simplicity can be summed up in 2 ingredients: Velveeta and Ro*tel. A match made in heaven if you ask me.

Being raised in Arkansas, I’ve never even considered that some people have never had the pleasure of tasting this delightful dish, not to mention being oblivious to the mere existence of Ro*tel. This weekend, however, I learned that one of my dear friends “up North”, Jules, was one of those unfortunately oblivious souls. Upon finding this out, it became my mission yesterday to force her to make Ro*tel Cheese Dip, or as I like to call it – Ro*tel. In a series of IM conversations, a phone call, tweets, and the offer of a Skype session, I convinced Jules to gather the necessary ingredients and make Ro*tel for dinner.

Me: So in two weeks, I’ll be attending the World Cheese Dip Championships in North Little Rock with Adam.

Jules: What IS this obsession with cheese dip in Arkansas?

Me: Well, number one it’s fabulously delicious. Number two it’s the perfect dish.

Jules: I’ve never understood why a restaurant in Arkansas, no matter the cuisine it serves, has cheese dip on the menu. Are you all really that addicted?

Me: Yes.

Jules: So tell me this, how does one buy cheese dip?

[I tweet this question.]

Me: Well, what kind of cheese dip are we talking about?

Jules: You mean there’s different types?

[I tweet this question.]

Me: Yes, yellow and white are the most popular.

Jules: What’s the difference?

[Jules tweets.]

Me: In my opinion, yellow is not as smooth or spicy as white. I typically order white cheese dip whenever I’m at a restaurant. But at home I make yellow, using Velveeta cheese.

Jules: I’m not a big user of Velveeta, but my husband was raised on it.

Me: Okay, then you HAVE to make Ro*tel. If your husband was raised on Velveeta, he’ll love you more than ever after you make this dip.

Jules: What’s that?

Me: Ro*tel? It’s diced tomatoes and green chilies.

Jules: How do you spell it? R-O-W-T-E-L-L-E?

Me: [laughing] No, R-O-star-T-E-L.

Jules: You mean there’s actually a star in its name?

Me: Yes.

Jules: Can I buy it up here?

[I look up where to buy Ro*tel online]

Me: Yep, there’s 5 stores that carry it in your town! Go. Now.

Jules: Where will I find it?

Me: Probably in the canned vegetables, next to the tomatoes. You’ve seriously never seen or heard of Ro*tel before? Wow.

Jules: Okay so besides Ro*tel, what else do I need to make this cheese dip?

[Jules tweets again.]

Me: 1 pound of Velveeta and 1 can of Ro*tel.

[I tweet a reply correcting Jules.]

Jules: How do I prepare the Velveeta?

Me: Dice it up and throw it in a bowl, then pour the Ro*tel on top. Nuke it until it’s nice and melted, stirring about every minute and a half to 2 minutes. I usually drain the Ro*tel because I like a thicker dip, but you can leave the juice if you want a thinner dip, totally up to you.

Later that afternoon…

Jules: I have my grocery list ready! What goes good with the dip for dinner?

Me: Ha! It’s always just my meal.

Jules: Seriously?

Me: Seriously, but you could do tacos, burgers, fajitas, or chili.

Jules: We should just dip our burgers in the cheese dip. Just kidding.

Me: Even better, you could top your burgers with cheese dip…and bacon. I’m serious.

Jules: Ok, I’m heading to the store.

Later that evening…

Jules: So 2 lbs velveeta and a can of rotel?

Me: NO!!!! 1 lb to 1 can.

Jules: So if I make 2 lbs I use 2 cans?

Me: Yes, that’s typically how math works.

Jules: Ok, heating up now.

Me: Ok, how is it? I need an update?

Jules: It was verra verra good! I am stuffed. We all enjoyed it, ate lots.

Me: Yay! Nothing makes me happier than a new Ro*tel lover.

And that, my friends? Is how I convinced Jules to make Ro*tel for the very first time. Everyone loved it and her daughter Caity, who I’m told does not like Velveeta, deemed it “pretty good”.

So to Jules and her family: I’m glad I could educate you on the state food of Arkansas. May you have many many more bowls of cheese dip and Ro*tel in your future!

And for anyone who’s interested in the history of cheese dip here’s a video:

“In Queso Fever: A Movie About Cheese Dip” from Nick Rogers on Vimeo.

image via Adam Kuban on Flickr
Chick Parmesan Sub

Mambo Italiano

Chick Parmesan SubI’ve been looking for easy one or two serving recipes that I can cook when I get home from work. And now that I’m done with Grad School [at least until August] I’m hoping to have more time to cook in my neglected kitchen. After work and a workout I came home and decided to try my first new recipe of the summer…
I actually had no idea what I wanted to eat for dinner tonight, but I surfed on over Tasty Kitchen and decided to peruse the sandwiches. Man, did I hit the jackpot!! I’m a huge sucker for Chicken Parmesan, but the prep is hardly easy and the cleanup, at least for me, takes longer than the cooking. Plus, you can’t ever make just one serving. Luckily, I found I could have the taste of Chicken Parmesan that I love without the frying and the pie tins of egg, flour, and breading strewn across my counter. YAY!
This recipe is simple, hearty, and cheesy and would pair perfectly with a light green salad. Buon Appetito!
Chicken Parmesan Subs
adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1-⅔ whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Halves (cooked)
  • ⅓ Jar Of Spaghetti Sauce (28 – 32 Ounce Jar)
  • 2 whole 6″ Hoagie Buns
  • 1 tablespoon Butter (enough to butter the bread)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • Pinch (or more) of Red Pepper Flakes
  • Approximately 1 teaspoon of Italian Seasonings
  • ⅔ cups Shredded Mozarella Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. Chop cooked chicken breasts into small 1/2-inch pieces. Heat spaghetti sauce in saucepan and add red pepper, italian seasonings and chicken pieces. Cook until chicken is heated through.
  2. Slice hoagie buns in half.
  3. Mix softened butter and and garlic until well incorporated. Spread garlic butter over bread.
  4. Preheat broiler. Place bread on a pan, butter side up, under broiler. Broil until golden and crunchy.
  5. Distribute the chicken mixture over bread. Top generously with cheeses.
  6. Return to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 3 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and let set a few minutes.

Serves 2

Note: You can prepare the chicken breasts however you like – baked, sauteed, rotisserie, etc. Leftover is perfect!

Pizza Margherita

Tonight, I had a craving for pizza. I’ve always been a fan of margherita pizza, but whenever I order it something’s always off. There’s either  too much tomato, too much cheese, not enough basil, etc. etc. I’ve never made a true pizza at home before, but thought it couldn’t be that bad, right? After my daily workout, I headed to K-Roger, as Adam calls it, and picked up the ingredients I thought I’d need.

I laid everything out on the counter and started playing. Well, my playing paid off, because my pizza was fantastic. In fact, it’s taking everything I have not to eat the entire pie in one setting.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can refrigerated pizza dough
  • ~ 5 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 1 vine-ripened tomato
  • 5 -6 basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Italian Seasonings
  • Garlic Powder

Directions:

  1. Roll out the pizza dough onto your baking sheet/stone.
  2. In a small bowl, season EVOO with garlic powder and seasonings to your preference.
  3. Brush oil mixture onto the dough.
  4. Tear apart the mozzarella slices and spread them out across the dough.
  5. Thinly slice the tomato and place slices on top of the cheese.
  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake according to your dough’s directions. (Mine was 450 degrees for 13 minutes)
  7. Once out of the oven, tear basil leaves and sprinkle on top.
  8. Slice and enjoy!

Servings: 8

Nutrition per serving: 180 cals, 7g fat, 6.75g protein, 23.25g carbs, 7.2mg cholesterol

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

I found a tomato basil soup recipe that I like, FINALLY.

I’ve been through 4 recipes and so far?

  • Southern Living let me down
  • Hungry Girl let me down
  • other random blogs let me down
I was hanging by a thread, and I needed this recipe to be good. If for no other reason than I’ve been craving a good at-home version for weeks.

Here’s the recipe I followed:

Ingredients

  • 1 large can of petite diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3 cups tomato juice
  • 8-10 leaves fresh basil
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place tomatoes and juice in a stock pot over medium heat.
  2. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Puree the tomato mixture along with the basil leaves.
  4. Return the puree to the stock pot.
  5. Place the pot over medium heat and stir in the heavy cream and butter.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Do not boil.

Yield: ~5 servings