Penne alla Vodka 

Published November 16, 2015 by Meal-issa

There is nothing more comforting or delicious to me than a big bowl of pasta. Spaghetti with meatballs, Fettuccine Alfredo, Carbonara…the list goes on and on! This one is special and unique because of its creamy pink sauce with a vodka finish. You don’t actually taste vodka, it is just a subtle something in the sauce that you know is there and it makes it extra special and sexy. (Yes, I just called a sauce sexy) Curl up on the couch with your favorite movie, person and /or pet and dig in to this delicious pasta with the sexy sauce! 

You will need: 

  

Kosher or sea salt

Olive oil

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Penne pasta (or your favorite short-cut pasta. Penne is great for this because the sauce cuddles up inside the tubes of the pasta)

4-6 garlic cloves, minced (depending on your preference, I used 6)

2 shallots, diced

Crushed red pepper, to taste 

2-3 Tablespoons tomato paste

28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (I used one and a half) 

3/4-1 cup vodka

Your favorite Sausage or ground turkey (this is optional. I used Spicy Italian chicken sausage from Trade Joes) 

A cup or so of heavy cream 

Fresh basil, torn 

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese 

Boil water for pasta. When water comes to a boil add salt until water tastes like the sea. Cook pasta as directed or about a minute shy of done if you wish to continue cooking in the sauce. When cooking pasta I always reserve a mug of the starchy cooking water in case the sauce needs to be thinned later. 

Start by cooking the sausage as directed. I cooked the chicken sausage for 14 minutes on medium until lightly browned all over. Set aside. 

  

In the same pan, add about 2 T olive oil and butter (if butter sizzles too much, lower heat to med-low) once butter is melted, add shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper. Stir occasionally to make sure it just sautés and softens but doesn’t brown or burn. Once shallots are soft (3-5 minutes) add tomato paste and stir. Let cook for a minute or so together. 

   

 

Next, add your vodka and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Let vodka reduce by about half, it takes a few minutes so keep an eye on it. 

   

 

Add your crushed tomatoes and a good pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes or longer if you have the time. 

  

Once your sauce has cooked the desired amount of time, reduce heat and add the heavy cream until your sauce is a beautiful pink color. Stir and try not to drool. 

  

Taste for seasoning. You don’t want it too salty as the cheese will add more salty flavor once you add it.  I cook my pasta shy of al dente and let the pasta cook with the sauce for a minute.

  

Cut up your sausage and add to the mixture. 

  

Add as much or as little Parmesan cheese. I, of course, use a lot. Tear up some fresh basil, throw it on in and mix it all together. Taste again for seasoning. 

  

Once I serve the pasta, I always add more grated cheese and basil. I added some shaved Parmesan as well. Now the fun part; dig in!! Enjoy! 

  

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Hydrating Hair Mask

Published November 20, 2014 by Meal-issa

Hello, friends! Today has been rather productive, to say the least. I made lots of baby food, rolled and cooked meatballs for dinner and freezing, am cooking a roasted garlic spaghetti sauce as we speak-all while taking care of my (hurricane) son. My son just went down for his nap and my housework is all done, so I decided to whip up a quick hair mask. Egg yolk, olive oil and/or coconut oil and honey. That’s it. All things you probably have in your pantry. Put it on your hair, have a glass of wine, catch up on your DVR and get yourself some gorgeous hair!

Here’s what you need:

2 Egg Yolks (use the whites too if your hair is oily)
Teaspoon either olive oil or coconut oil (I used half of each)
Tablespoon honey

Spray your hair it ha water bottle or add a little water to the mixture. Apply roots to ends, focusing mostly on the ends. Put hair up in plastic grocery store baggy and leave on for at least 30 minutes, longer if desired. Rinse thoroughly with cold-lukewarm water. This is very important, as hot water can cook the egg. Shampoo until hair is clean of any remaining egg mixture. I shampoo rice. Add a touch of conditioner and style as usual, or let air-dry.

Note: if your hair is short you need less. Adjust accordingly.

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And I have to add a pic of my sauce…

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Results:

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Bacon and Eggs Pasta?

Published November 16, 2014 by Meal-issa

One word: Carbonara. One of the easiest, most delicious dishes to make-with very few ingredients. I need fast dishes like this with the little one. He doesn’t like mommy to do anything that doesn’t include him, so it has to be done quickly while he entertains himself for all of 5 minutes. (Seconds)

Okay, so I’m an eyeball-the-ingredients-kinda-gal, so I’ll do my best to give you the measurements I used-but trust me when I tell you that my best dishes (hubby will vouch for me) are the ones I make using what I have in the fridge and cupboards and just throwing it together. Usually when I follow a recipe my husband can tell. So if yours looks OK with less than the recipe calls for, or needs more of something, by all means, follow your instinct! You are the chef in your house, try things out. Cooking should be fun, creative and always made with love.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started!
Here’s what you’ll need:

1 pound long-cut pasta, I used whole grain Angel Hair (reserve about a cup of starchy water)
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch-1/2 tablespoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (I used a little more than half a tbs, adjust to your taste)
4-6 slices of bacon (I used center cut)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
2 large eggs
Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Chives or Parsley to taste, thinly sliced (I used both)

Boil water for pasta, cook according to directions on the box (about 30 seconds to a minute less if you want al dente). When water starts to come up to a boil, add lots of salt. The water should taste like the ocean. Before draining the pasta, reserve about a cup of the pasta water. (I use a mug to scoop the water out) While water for pasta is boiling, chop bacon into small cubes. Heat skillet on medium heat until hot. Add olive oil and let sit for about 30 seconds or so and then add the bacon and crushed red pepper flakes, pepper, and a pinch of salt. Let the bacon cook for about 2 minutes before touching. Continue to stir bacon every few minutes until just shy of desired crispness. Push all the bacon to one side of the pan and add the garlic. Mix the bacon and garlic together. Cook-stir for a minute or so, until garlic is fragrant and soft. Crank heat up a little to medium high and add the wine. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits from the bacon at the bottom of the pan. Let wine reduce by half. Make sure sauce is ready for the pasta; pasta needs to be hot when you add the egg. Mix the egg, pepper, pinch of salt, and enough cheese to mix with the egg in a bowl, making a slightly thick consistency. Use about 2 tablespoons or so of the hot pasta water to temper the eggs. Drain the pasta and add straight to the bacon mixture, turning to coat in the bacon fat. Remove pan from heat. Add the egg/cheese mixture, constantly mixing the pasta with tongs. Mix well. If pasta seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water to make a creamy, glossy sauce. (Use as much or little as you need) Add the parsley and/or chives and taste for seasoning. Mine usually needs a pinch of salt, more pepper (I love it!), and lots of cheese! (I’m part rat.) And Voilà! This dinner is simple yet so delicious! Enjoy with a nice glass of wine, a side salad and some garlic bread- or as is!

Wine isn’t pictured. I was too busy enjoying a glass. 🙂

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Mmm…bacon.

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With the wine…

IMG_1184-0.PNGThe egg/cheese mixture, garlic, and the wine decides to make an appearance.

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Are you drooling yet?

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What about now?

IMG_1181-0.JPGBuon Appetito!

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CaraMel-Issa no mo’

Published November 8, 2014 by Meal-issa

So…if you read my first blog you know that I wasn’t really diggin’ my username, Caramelissa. I wanted a play on something foodie but I also wanted to get started on my blog, so I quickly settled. Caramel is sweet and I’m much more of a savory girl than I am a sweet one. (Personality included.) My beautiful cousin Jenn and I went to a local coffee shop to grab some hot chocolate and catch up. She’s very creative and I just knew she wild be the perfect person to get my own creative juices flowing. She suggested the word Meal. A (pink) lightbulb went off-MEALISSA! Again, it’s cheesy and dorky but that is so me. So, friends, let’s take a moment to bid Caramelissa farewell and let’s give a nice warm welcome to Meal-Issa!

Now that that important piece of information is out of the way I wanted to quickly follow up on yesterday’s blog where I gave myself three non-productive goals. Not only did I write the blog, take off my hideous chipped polish and blow dry my hair, but I also put a little color on my face!

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Annnnd I went and visited my friend who encouraged me to do a little something for me. We had a great day hanging out with my little guy and just being. No dishes, no laundry, no scrubbing toilets. I consider that a day well spent! Hope everyone’s taking time to stop and smell the roses. 🙂

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Me me me

Published November 6, 2014 by Meal-issa

Good morning! Mornings these days have been a drag due to my teething son who seems to be allergic to sleep. Actually, morning, noon, and night have been, truth be told. But this morning was a good morning. I got to sleep a little more than usual thanks to my husband, and I feel refreshed and ready to take on the day! (I think the coffee is working.) I’m going to try to set up three small goals for myself today. But not productive goals. As a stay at home mommy, everyday is productive. (Some more than others.) These are goals that are to make for a happier home which can only mean one thing; a happy wife/mommy. The past couple of weeks have been rough, with this past week being one of the roughest. My 8-month-old is more like a toddler in some ways (places to go, people to see…ACTIVE) than he is an infant and he requires tons of energy and attention. (Can I get some sleep to go with that energy, kid?) Now I know what you’re probably thinking, “a baby who needs attention!? Alert the media!”, but that isn’t the issue at hand. (Not sure if issue is the right word, but the coffee hasn’t kicked in enough to think of an alternative.) The “issue” is that my normally happy, bubbly, smiley, sweet little guy has become a sad, angry, needy, crying mess. (If he was my boyfriend, this would be where we break up.) So the days of feeling like SuperWoman are replaced with days of feeling like Shrek. My home is messier, my appearance is…(cough, Shrek), and my overall approach to the day is off. I can’t change the fact that my son is teething but I can change how I handle it. A friend came over yesterday and reminded me that it’s OK to set aside some time for me. When my son does finally take a nap (which lately is all of 20 minutes) I use that time to catch up on my household chores or to do my prep work for dinner. Today I am going to make the time to:

1. Write this blog. (Wrote it while my son climbed all over me-back to being SuperWoman…ok, SuperShrek)
2. To wash and blow dry my hair. So simple, but I feel so much better about myself when my hair is blow dried as opposed to this messy, wavy air-dried mess I’ve had going on for the past week or so. (If I get to put a little makeup on, even better!)
3. To remove this chipped polish and polish my nails, even if it’s just clear.

I know these may seem insignificant, but when I feel pretty on the outside I am happier on the inside. I feel better. And a happy, relaxed mommy and wife makes for a happy home. So today I am not going to feel guilty about slacking off a bit and I am going to use free time to do little things for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I do them here and there but they are always stressful due to being mixed In with an active baby and housework in between. Today I am making it a point to make myself a priority and the housework can take the back burner. (Guilt-free)

What are some things that you do to make you feel better? Hope everyone has a blessed day!

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CaraMEL-ISSed [ized]

Published November 6, 2014 by Meal-issa

So since I’ve created this dorky username it only feels right that I kick off my recipes with something CaraMELized, right? I knew you’d agree! Let’s start off simple with a recipe for my CaraMELized Onions. I LOVE me some caraMELized onions. I use them on burgers, as a chicken topper, in sauces, soups, anything that calls for something special.

CaraMEL-ISSed Onions

1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1-2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter salt and pepper to taste
1 Teaspoon white sugar
2 Large Onions, White or Yellow, sliced into thin half-moon slices (I like yellow-they tend to be a tad sweeter)
1/2 Cup Marsala Wine or Sherry (invest in a good bottle. They will last and are totally worth it!-usually around $9)
Water

Grab a skillet large enough to hold the onions comfortably. Preheat on medium high heat for a minute or two. Add the oil and heat another minute. Add butter. Once butter starts to melt completely, add the onion slices. Spread evenly and leave alone for a few minuets. Give them a stir every few minutes. After about ten minutes sprinkle with the sugar, salt and pepper. Stir. If onions start to brown too quickly, lower the heat a tad, and/or add a little water. Continue to cook-stir onions until they start to turn a light caraMEL color and get soft, adding water as needed if the onions begin sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once onions are all brown and soft, add Marsala or Sherry to deglaze. When the wine starts to bubble use a wooden spoon to scrape up the bottom of the pan. (Lots of flavor lives there) Boil wine until it reduces to almost nothing. Turn off the heat. Taste for seasoning. Let cool and keep in refrigerator 3-4 days or freeze for up to three months.

Enjoy these on pizza, burgers, in sauces, in soups, mashed potatoes, whatever floats your boatload of onions!

If you want to do this with red onions use balsamic vinegar in place of Marsala. Delicious over simple salt and pepper pan-seared chicken cutlets.

Gotta start somewhere…right?

Published November 6, 2014 by Meal-issa

Ahhhhhhh!!!!! Am I really starting this blog? Finally?? Okay. I have been bouncing back-and-forth in my head for months now about whether or not to write this here blog. Who am I? And more importantly, who cares what I have to say? What if my recipes aren’t that good? Do I really “gotta start somewhere” or should I just not start at all? Let’s start with a little about me; I’m Melissa. Hence the oh-so-creative play on words that is my username. Caramel. Issa. Okay, so it’s not that clever. But I did the best that I could with the time I had to name it. (All of 5 seconds) I was shooting for a play on the word caramelize and landed somewhere between a play on said word, and caramel. In my defense, I wanted to do CaraMel-Issa but this site wasnt having it. I wanted to get started and knew that if I didn’t just pick a name and do it now, id still be trying to decide whether to do it or not. I quickly chose a (not-so) clever name and here we are. Back to who I am. (Again, does anyone care? Just in case my moms reading…) I am a 30-year-old Housewife and Mother of one. I have a beautiful and perfect 8-month-old boy named Nico(las). While perfect, he is also quite active and requires lots of attention and time. I also have a beautiful and perfect 30-year-old husband named Nico(las). While also perfect, he is also quite active and requires lots of… I think you know where this is going. My boy and my man need me in different ways. But they both rely on me when it comes to their food. I prepare all of their meals for them. I make sure my husband has lunch to take to work (almost) every day, a hot meal waiting for him when he gets home from work every night, and a nice breakfast on Sunday mornings. (usually French toast per his request) I make my sons food in our baby food processor. I like to know that we are eating healthy (most of the time) and saving money. I’m an old-fashioned type of wife and mother. I love to cook. I love to nurture. I love to take care of my boys! Okay, maybe that isn’t old-fashioned. However, I love fulfilling my role as a woman and I love the same of my husband fulfilling his role as a (my) man. To me, part of those roles includes the wife (me) staying home and taking care of our child and our household, while the husband goes to work and provides for his family. Aha! Old fashioned. Hear me out. Both of my parents worked when I was a kid. I would go to my grandma’s house after school until my mom picked me up. My granny is great and took great care of me, but there’s nothing like having your mom home to take care of you. I wanted to be able to be the one raising my son. I wanted to be able to send my husband off to work with a lunch that I packed, knowing he would have food to eat that was (semi) healthy and would save some money. I wanted to have dinner on the table every night. I just love the idea of taking care of my little family. I also love the security my man provides. But don’t let my Suzie-homemaker ways fool you; I wasn’t always this way. Let me backtrack a bit. When I met my husband, I knew how to “cook” very few things. French toast (only bread and egg-blech) and grilled cheese sandwiches (again, just bread and cheese) were about as good as it got. My mom is the best cook and when I lived at home, there was no need for me to cook because she always did. She stopped working when I was in my teens, but she always had dinner on the table whether she worked or not. I was into makeup and going out, not cooking. Something about my husband (then boyfriend) made me want to learn how to cook for him. And me. But mostly him. I wanted to do something special for him to show him how I felt about him and express it in a way that I hadn’t. I wanted to feel womanly and take care of my man that way. I have always wanted to know how to cook. But I was afraid that I just wouldn’t be any good at it. The thought of it overwhelmed me. But now, I was ready! I called my mom and asked her how to make her famous spaghetti, which includes lots of garlic and spices. Turned out, I only had garlic and tomato sauce, so that’s what I used. (I know!) Knowing what I know now, I’m positive that it didn’t taste good. But that night, to me, it tasted great because I had made it myself and I had made it with love. (Corny but true.) I started becoming interested in cook books and cooking shows. After reading some cook books and watching cooking shows for a few days, I decided I was ready to try to take on something else. Something gourmet. Something by a “real chef”. I found a Rachael Ray recipe for Ginger-Garlic Fish in Parchment (paper) and Lemon-Chive noodles. Sounded easy enough, throw some veggies and fish in parchment paper, boil some pasta…piece of cake, right? I went grocery shopping since I didn’t even have any spices, much less the makings for a “gourmet” meal. I remember calling my mom asking her where to find an item and she suggested that I could substitute if I couldn’t find it. What!? No way! I had to get everything the list said verbatim. Now, some of my best meals are the ones where I take a look at what I have and create something out of it. But I digress. I went home and started carefully reading the directions and following along. This was a breeze! Dump some stuff in a bowl, a chop here, a boil there and BAM- I had prepared an entire meal! I was a grown-up. A meal preparing, fancy grown-up! I set up some candles and tried to create a cozy environment complete with a movie, and this fancy dinner I had prepared. I was so excited to dig in! I cut open my fancy parchment pouch. What an aroma! I instantly smelled the ginger, garlic, and the sweet and sour scent of the soy sauce-honey-rice vinegar mixture. I anxiously took my fork and cut a piece of the fish along with some mushrooms and scallion. I had to try my creation all at once! (Dramatic much?) Not bad! I definitely didn’t mince the ginger enough and it could use some more salt and pepper, but overall it was good! Success! Onto the noodles! Now I LOVE noodles. LOVE NOODLES. I also love lemon. And chives. I am extra excited for these. I dig in. Hmm…that’s an odd flavor. Not at all what I had dreamed up in my head. That’s…sour. And bitter! That’s terrible. Ter-rible. I look over at my guy who is eating them up with a smile. Was he crazy? He isn’t a big fan of asian cuisine (I learned this post-“realchef”-meal) or lemon. He claimed to love it and even insisted on eating the leftovers. Had I missed something? These tasted like battery acid with a hint of chive, so either he was lying or he was lying. We laugh about it to this day because he always declares me to be the best cook and “everything she makes is amazing!!…except for those lemon-chive noodles.” Ha! I love him. He ate those disgusting noodles simply because he appreciated that I had made him a meal and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. What a guy. Had he not done that I might have not had the will to want to continue to try more cooking for him. This is my way of saying your sour noodles are amazing too! So go for it…get your hands dirty and have some fun in the kitchen! Put on your cutest apron that you never use, blast some tunes and make passionate love to your food. 😛 I hope you enjoy my recipes as much as we do. Happy cooking! 🙂

‘mel-issa