Orecchiette with Roasted Fennel & Sausage

I love a good pasta dish and I love spicy sausage, so when the opportunity arises to combine those two, I jump on it. This one was  very easy to make and absolutely delicious! Enjoy!

Orecchiette with Sausage & Fennel
Orecchiette with Sausage & Fennel


2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and cut into 3/4 inch pieces (I found this at Whole Foods)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces orecchiette pasta

8 ounces spicy Italian sausage, with casings removed

1 onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons white wine

1 jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


For the fennel: Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Spray a small baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Toss the fennel, oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Arrange the fennel in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast until golden and tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the sausage and break into 1/2-inch pieces using a wooden spoon. Cook until golden and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Add the onion, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until all of the wine has evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for 30 seconds. Add the pasta, fennel and cheese. Toss until all ingredients are coated, adding the reserved pasta water as needed, to loosen the pasta.

Riding With The Gang

Last weekend my riding “lesson” was actually a ride around Lake Tabeaud with FOURTEEN other horses. Below is a picture of most of the gang as we rode up a little embankment to “pose”. I’m the 4th horse from the left (wearing the blue helmet). Not the greatest picture, but it was on my trainer’s cell phone. That’s a good looking bunch of horses!

Riding Group
Riding Group

I rode Cinch again this time and he was an entirely different horse with this many other horses around! Instead of having to fight with him to even move forward, I had to fight with him to keep him from going! Apparently he picked up on the energy of the group (we had several nervous horses who were practicing being around others) and decided he wanted to put some pep in his step!

It was such a beautiful day and I had so much fun riding with other people! It was really cool to see all the different types of horses and their temperaments. I think I’m zeroing in on what I want in my own horse!

Tortellini with Broccoli Pesto

Tonight I made the most delicious dinner and it was super fast! At first I wasn’t sure what I thought of it, but I think that’s because in my first bite I was expecting a standard pesto taste/consistency and was surprised by the broccoli (I know, I know).  This was a beautiful dish… I had some amazing broccoli and it was healthy!

Tortellini with Broccoli Pesto
Tortellini with Broccoli Pesto


1 bunch broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 pound cheese tortellini


Cook the broccoli in a large pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly; reserve the water for cooking the tortellini.

Pulse the broccoli, oil, pine nuts, Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor until finely chopped, 15-20 seconds.

Cook the tortellini according to the package directions, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Drain and return the tortellini to the pot. Add the broccoli pesto and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water and toss to combine. Add more water as needed to loosen the sauce.

Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Grammys in Your Jammies 2014

Another year, another night of me staying up past my bedtime and blogging about music’s biggest night in my jammies. I’ll be blogging live throughout the night… check back for updates! LL Cool J is hosting again this year… I love him! Mike noticed something very interesting about the direction of music – they don’t even televise the best rock album award anymore… sort of sad that we’re so focused on pop that we’re willing to completely marginalize other genres.

I love love love that they’re giving the Music Educator of the Year Grammy Award. This year the winner was Kent Knappenberger. I really wish they would have given it to him live on TV rather than just pointing him out to the audience! I know that my early music educators (along with my parents) were major influences in my life!

The Clothes

  • LL Cool J’s purple velvet suit. LOVE it.
  • Anna Kendrick’s white dress – I can’t decide if I like it or don’t. I love the sexy cutouts, but think that the top makes her look like she squished her boobs down.
  • Krist Novoselic’s 1860’s western inspired suit. Love it!
  • Julia Roberts’ little lacy black dress. What an amazing dress!
  • Zac Brown’s beanie. Just because it’s everywhere, even with a suit.
  • Mary Lambert’s red dress. I seriously love this dress. Modest coverage, beautiful sparkle, great shape!

The Performances

  • Beyoncé & Jay-Z: Wow… that was a very sexy performance of “Drunk in Love“. It was a bit of a strange song and strange performance, but she pulled it off without being trashy… Miley Cyrus, take note. I love me some Jay-Z… this was a great collaboration! Take note both Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke. Just sayin’.
  • Lorde: I love love love “Royals“. Her jerky performance was a little weird, but I’ll chalk it up to being moved by the music. Still can’t believe that voice comes out of a 17-year-old!
  • Hunter Hays: “Invisible” is his new song and is very moving. That said, every time I think I’m starting to really like him (I sing along with the radio) I see a live performance and it seems to just fall flat. It feels like he’s trying way too hard and that it’s really difficult for him to get some of those notes out.
  • Katy Perry: While I’m not the biggest fan of her music, I loved her performance of “Dark Horse“. I like the dark, magical aspect of the staging and loved the crystal ball part at the beginning. Very clever with the “burning at the stake” at the end. She might be someone I go see just to see the performance aspect of her show!
  • Robin Thicke & Chicago: This was a much better performance by Robin Thicke… he needs to get past all of this Miley Cyrus crap and get back to singing. They performed a medley of Chicago songs and then broke into “Blurred Lines” which sounded amazing with the Chicago horn line!
  • Keith Urban & Gary Clark Jr.: This was a great pairing on “Cop Car” – I haven’t heard of Gary Clark Jr before but love his bluesy, mellow voice and mad guitar skills. Keith Urban never fails to delight me with his kick ass guitar playing!
  • John Legend: I love his voice… he’s definitely on my list of people to see live. “All of Me” is such an amazing song… beyond the beautiful lyrics, the chord progressions and dissonance is stunning.
  • Taylor Swift: She’s still a pretty terrible live singer (I did love her acoustic version of “Red” at the ACMs) but her dress during “All Too Well” was amazing! I hated her awkward head banging while playing the piano… it always feels like she’s trying a bit too hard. Plus, I’m getting tired of her teenage angst songs… it’s time to grow up Taylor and move on to some adult content.
  • P!nk & Nate Ruess: Ever since seeing her live a few years back, I’ve absolutely loved P!nk… she is an amazing singer and her performances are always acrobatic and entertaining. I love “Just Give Me A Reason” and am blown away by Nate’s voice.
  • Ringo Starr: Ok, this will get me in a lot of trouble, but I just have such a hard time getting on board with the whole Beatles are the best thing ever thing. Ringo Starr even less so… he has a very limited vocal range and honestly I don’t get what all the hoopla around “Photograph” is.
  • Kendrick Lamar & Imagine Dragons: While it’s great that Taylor Swift loved their performance and rocked out in the front row, it’s kind of sad that those of us at home listened to a bit of silence because every other word had to be bleeped. I really like Imagine Dragons and “Radioactive“, but to me it was a strange pairing.
  • Kacey Musgraves: I love love love her voice and I love “Follow Your Arrow“. I love that her music has that distinct “country” sound to it, but is fresh and young.
  • Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr: Honestly, I’m not even sure what “Queenie Eye” refers to. Not my favorite song, and I’m talking about the man who sang my wedding song (“Maybe I’m Amazed”). Not a great song or performance in my book.
  • Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, & Blake Shelton: Let me start by saying that I cannot wait to see Willie in a few months. Was this their best performances ever? Not by far. But these men are legends, absolute legends and it’s awesome to see them still playing and singing! They sang “The Highwayman”, “Okie from Muskogee“, and “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys“. Freaking amazing.
  • Daft Punk, Pharell, & Stevie Wonder: WTF? I don’t get it. “Get Lucky” is a catchy tune, but I don’t understand the whole Daft Punk thing and it felt like they ran out of places to stick Stevie.
  • Sara Bareilles & Carole King: This was a great matchup. I love how excited to sing Sara Bareilles looked to sing and play with Carole King. I love the song “Brave” and thought they really complimented each other.
  • Metallica & Lang Lang: Let me state the obvious. Lang Lang can freaking play piano. What a cool way to intro “One“. And it just goes to show that excellent musicianship translates across genres – from classical to heavy metal. Very cool to see the interaction between them!
  • Macklemore, Queen Latifah, & Madonna: I think “Same Love” is such a wonderful song. Gay, straight, religious, not, fat, skinny, it’s all the same. Interesting choice to marry a bunch of folks on TV (gay and straight) and then have Madonna come out to sing. But whatever… point made, I guess.
  • Miranda Lambert & Billie Joe Armstrong: These two did a great little tribute to the Everly Brothers with “When Will I Be Loved”.
  • Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Lindsey Buckingham, & Dave Grohl: First things first – Lindsey Buckingham can PLAY guitar. This was a rockin’ little medley that was the perfect finish to the show. Or would have been. They cut the end of the performance with commercials. Terrible.

They Got Robbed!!!

  • Kacey Musgraves: Seriously. Way better music than any of the other folks in the best new artist category. Her album is absolutely amazing! However, her winning best country album, beating Taylor Swift, was awesome.
  • Everyone else in the best pop duo category. Serious, Daft Punk & Pharell over JT & Jay-Z? Or P!nk and Nate Ruess? Lame.
  • Macklemore: I love “Royals” but don’t think it should have won song of the year over “Same Love“.
  • Everyone else in the record of the year and album of the year – again, I don’t get the Daft Punk thing and I definitely don’t think that was the best recorded song of the year.


We watched Prisoners a few months back and I never got around to reviewing it.

Prisoners Movie Poster (from IMDb)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Stars: Hugh JackmanJake Gyllenhaal, and Viola Davis

Runtime: 2 hours 33 minutes

Plot Summary: (from IMDb) How far would you go to protect your family? Keller Dover is facing every parent’s worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki arrests its driver, Alex Jones, but a lack of evidence forces his release. As the police pursue multiple leads and pressure mounts, knowing his child’s life is at stake the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family?

Rating: On Demand.

This one obviously isn’t in theaters anymore, but it’s a really good movie. I’m sure if you’re a parent it’s even harder to watch. Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman play amazing roles – they make you love and hate them all at the same time. This movie makes you question what you would do if in the same situation and shows how quickly a single thought can spiral out of control. Definitely give this one a try!

Ratings Explanation:

  • Theater: This means the movie is awesome. Go see this movie in the theater – well worth the $100 you’ll spend for a night out to see it on the big screen!
  • On Demand: Since no one actually rents movies anymore, this category has changed to On Demand. This means it’s a great movie, but it is as good at home as it is in the theater and worth seeing a little sooner.
  • TV: This means the movie is ok. Wait for it to show up on HBO and see it for free.
  • Skip It: Movie sucks, don’t waste your time.

Love It: EOS Lip Balm

For my birthday this year a friend gave me a gift with the Sweet Mint EOS Lip Balm attached. EOS stands for Evolution of Smooth and they have a whole line of skin and lip care. I have seen these colorful little balls everywhere and have always wondered exactly what they were and if they were any good.

It did take a little getting used to – I’m very much a Chapstick kind of girl, and it’s a bit weird to rub a sphere across your lips, but it’s well worth it. I find this lasts longer than Chapstick and feels much smoother. I can’t wait to try some of the other flavors (honeysuckle honeydew and lemon drop)!

EOS Lip Balm

Potato Bacon Soup

I honestly don’t know where I got the recipe for this one from… I think it was somewhere on the Internet, but I never wrote it down. It was absolutely delish!

Potato Bacon Soup
Potato Bacon Soup


4-6 medium Russet potatoes, unpeeled & scrubbed (note: next time I make this I’m peeling them)

1/2 pound bacon, cut into 3/4 inch

1 cup chopped yellow onion

3-4 tablespoons flour

1 can evaporated milk

1-2 cups milk

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

salt & pepper to taste


Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender. Drain and set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, in a large Dutch oven or pot, brown bacon over medium or medium-high heat. Transfer bacon to paper towel to drain. Empty all but 3 tablespoons of bacon grease from Dutch oven.

Add onion to Dutch oven and sauté until softened and browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in flour until well mixed with onion, creating a paste. Slowly stir in evaporated milk, until entirely incorporated. (If it becomes too thick, add a little milk.) Once a light sauce-like consistency is reached (3 or 4 minutes), add cooked potatoes, hot sauce, and salt and pepper, to taste. Stir to combine. Add milk until soup reaches desired consistency, stirring constantly. (You may have leftover milk.)

Simmer 30 minutes over low heat, adding more milk if mixture becomes too thick.

Remove soup from heat. Stir in grated Cheddar and three-fourths of the cooked bacon. Ladle into bowls, topping with Cheddar and remaining bacon. Serve hot.

Farfalle with Mint Walnut Pesto

Tonight I tried another clean eating recipe and this one was really yummy! It’s another Clean Eating Magazine recipe. It was absolutely delicious! Mike added in some sautéed mushrooms and love it as well! I even liked the wheat pasta, which to date I have hated. Enjoy!

Farfalle with Mint Walnut Pesto
Farfalle with Mint Walnut Pesto


1/2 packed cup fresh basil (with stems)

1/2 packed cup fresh mint (with stems)

1/4 cup toasted unsalted walnuts

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper, plus additional to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

8 ounces whole-wheat farfalle

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

9 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and quartered

Sea salt, to taste


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare pesto: To a food processor, add basil, mint, walnuts, Parmesan and 1/4 tsp pepper. Pulse until roughly chopped, five to seven times, scraping down bowl as needed. Add oil and lemon juice and process for 10 to 15 seconds or until a thick, slightly chunky pesto forms. (NOTE: Try to not process to a smooth paste, keep it slightly chunky.)

To boiling water, add pasta and cook al dente according to package directions. Before draining pasta, ladle about 1/2 cup cooking water into a heat-proof measuring cup and set aside. Return drained pasta to pot and add tomatoes, artichokes and pesto. Place on low heat and stir to combine. If more moisture is desired, add reserved pasta cooking water 1 tbsp at a time to achieve desired texture. Heat until vegetables are heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and additional pepper.

Orange Chicken Stir Fry with Crispy Garlic Dressing

I’ve decided to give clean eating a try… I’ve heard a lot of people talking about it lately and one of my friends has posted pictures of some of the most beautiful food I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m not going all clean (after all, I had In-N-Out for lunch today and there’s no way in hell I could give up pasta), but am going to try to incorporate it into three or four dinners a week. I like the general idea – consuming food in as close to its natural state as possible. Here’s the general guidelines to clean eating – I like it because it’s not a diet plan, you can still treat yourself (seriously, I’m not giving up pasta), and it makes you think about what you’re putting into your body:

Eat the foods made by nature, not man.
Plan to eat five or six meals and snacks throughout the day.
Avoid processed foods (in other words, anything in a box with a label).
Use healthy cooking methods.
Eat before you become super hungry.
Stop eating when you’re satisfied, not stuffed.
Don’t count your calories, fat grams, or points.
Enjoy and appreciate its flavor.

That said, I made a trip to my local Whole Foods and got lots of yummy stuff to cook “clean” dinners over the next few nights. The first up was Orange Chicken Stir Fry, from Clean Eating Magazine’s online recipe bank. The one thing that I did not include was the chickpeas – I bought them dry, not realizing that they needed to be rehydrated and that process takes like twelve hours. So we’re having chickpeas in our salad tomorrow night. This whole healthy cooking thing is harder than it looks!

Mike and I both really liked this meal – brown rice and all. I normally don’t like it because it tastes chewy, but I barely undercooked it and it was delicious! This is definitely going into my recipe book! Enjoy!

Orange Chicken Stir Fry with Crispy Garlic Dressing
Orange Chicken Stir Fry with Crispy Garlic Dressing


2/3 cup brown rice

1 tablespoon olive oil

7 1/2 oz BPA-free canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried

1/4 tsp sea salt

Pinch ground cayenne pepper

1 bunch broccoli, trimmed

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tbsp rice wine or apple cider vinegar

16 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari

1 tsp ground ginger

1 orange, peeled, segmented and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 green onions, sliced


Cook rice according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp oil on medium. Add chickpeas and cook, shaking pan occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and cayenne. Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a steamer basket set over a pot of gently simmering water, cook broccoli until tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare dressing: In a small saucepan, heat 1 tsp oil on medium. Add garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, crisp and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and add vinegar. Set aside.

In a clean skillet, heat remaining 1 tsp oil on medium. Add chicken and sauté for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add zucchini, soy sauce and ginger. Sauté until chicken is cooked through and zucchini is tender, 5 to 7 more minutes. Stir in broccoli, orange, onions and dressing and heat through. Serve over rice and top with chickpeas.

Arena Work

Last week’s riding lesson was amazing. I’m so glad I grew some patience (seriously a big accomplishment for me) and am taking the time to do this right. Horses are way more work than I thought, but I’m absolutely loving every minute of it. I’m also learning a lot about what I like and dislike in a horse.

This time around I was honored to ride Indy, a beautiful 14.2 hand Quarter Horse. I am really leaning towards the Quarter Horse for my own horse, especially one that’s a little bit smaller. I’ve always thought I wanted a really big horse, but have found the less barrel-chested ones to be more comfortable for my long model legs (for those of you who don’t know me, I’m 5’2″ if I’m standing really tall… clearly I’m not all legs).

I did some arena work this time, which was very different from riding on the trail. The focus was working on my gait changes and getting me comfortable with my position on the horse. Muscle memory, if you will. Miss Indy is a bit of a prima donna and definitely tested me throughout the ride. I was having the time of my life trying to anticipate when she would take the moment to try to slow down or, most of the time, speed up – that girl loves to run!

It was a great lesson! I also wore my new gear – the gloves Mike gave me for Christmas and the helmet that Kati & Nate bought me. 🙂 Safety first!

Riding Helmet & Gloves
Riding Helmet & Gloves