Monthly Archives: December 2010

CookinFanatic 2010: A Year in Review

I think one of the most amazing parts about having a blog (besides “meeting” all of you of course!) is being able to literally scroll back through your life at any given time.

Almost like reliving those memories all over again, a photo album of sorts.

I decided that this year was definitely worth a look back, hopefully ya’ll will join me! 😀


January started off with a bang!  The Man and I headed out to sea with the rest of the Fanatic Fam on a much welcomed Caribbean cruise.


We ate some delicious food and drank some delicious drinks…

Life is good 🙂

The warm weather didn’t seem to follow us back to Richmond however, since towards the end of the month we got record breaking snowfall here in our fine city!


At least we know someone really enjoyed it 😉


February was quite the eventful month saying goodbye to my tonsils!!!

No more sore throats & trips emergency room in the future (hopefully!) for this gal 😀 


Never ate so much soft food in my life.  If you need a smoothie recipe then give me a call, just sayin’ 😉

The spring got off to a healthy start, with a trip to FitBloggin in March and a chance to meet some amazing bloggers!

Also had a fabulous time hanging out with my girl Brit and getting into all sorts of adventures on our train ride up to Baltimore 😛

New friends + old friends.  Such a fantastic weekend!

April marked the beginning of the farmer’s market… a definite cause for celebration in my book!


Ahhh the thought of those fresh ripe summer tomatoes still brings a smile to this girl’s face 😀

May kicked off with none other than a Cinco de Mayo party!  


Would you expect anything else from this Mexican lovin’ fanatic?

And ended with a 21st birthday celebration for mini-Fanatic!!

How did she get so grown up already?  Wasn’t she just doing cartwheels and playing with Polly Pockets, like yesterday? 😉

June was marked by one of the biggest days in one of my college bestie’s life – her wedding!        

All of our college best friends were finally reunited for the first time in years – it was seriously amazing!

Once the weather got HOT we made a family trip to the Outer Banks in July, which hadn’t happened in ages!

From stops at the roadside farmer’s markets (incredible) to days spend lounging in the sun


To nights spent out with some of my favorite people in the world…


And Mom, if I had any beach pics of you and Dad they’d be up here too, but apparently someone was a bit camera shy 😛  Love you!!

This was a week of summer fun that I’ll never forget! 🙂

Late summer rolled around and The Man and  I had an impromptu August day trip to Virginia beach…

Including an amazing oceanfront meal.

And also celebrated our 2 year anniversary!!!


The start of the fall season included a September trip to Wintergreen resort for an international wine festival…


We all know how much I love me some vino 😉

And ended with a visit to lil’ miss mini-Fanatic to relive our college years!


And enjoy the VTech vs. ECU football game too 🙂

In October, I’ll admit it, I began my love affair with one of the most amazing foodie books ever:

Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy (The William and Bettye Nowlin Series in Art, History, and Culture of the Western Hemisphere)

And began tasting flavors and foods that I never dreamed would be part of my kitchen.  Simply amazing 😀

We also trekked our way up north to see one of my best college friends (pregnant with her first child) and her hubby!

During this trip The Man got to experience NYC for the first time… and I got to spend time in one of my favorite cities everrrrrrrrrr 🙂

So much incredible food was consumed and maybe even some ummmm pink tequila???

Yea let’s not go there again haha…

November was a busy busy busy month!  I made another lil’ trip up north for reasons yet to be disclosed….

(so soon, I promise!!) 🙂 🙂

We surprised The Man with a big party for his birthday…

(He never even had a clue :P)

And I celebrated Thanksgiving with the family who has become my own

Since Fanatic family was out cruisin’ the open waters!

‘Twas delicious.

And now we’ve reached December, the end of December none the less (can you believe it?!), a month filled with family, food and fun.

From making homemade pierogi with the Fanatic ladies…

To baking mountains of sweet treats over at The Man’s parents’ house…

The holidays ended up being nothing short of amazing!

The Polish Christmas Eve dinner tradition carried on another year and wonderful times were had celebrating with the Fanatic Fam 🙂

Eating traditional dishes like our homemade pierogi!

And snuggling up with the cutest dog in the world (IMO :D)

We spent Christmas Day at The Man’s family’s house, in which I received one of the most amazingly thoughtful gifts ever from my one and only love…

Year 1 of CookinFanatic, all wrapped up and bound into a hardcover book.  I was in shock.  And cried.  Alot.

And now here we are, looking a new year right in the eyes.  I seriously can’t even believe 2010 is over?!

In looking back, I can say that I am so truly blessed with family, friends and health… plus all of you, since without ya’ll this blog just wouldn’t be the same!

I seriously can’t wait to see what 2011 will hold…  I hope all of you will come along for the ride, I have a feeling it’s going to be an exciting year 😉


Girls Dinner In!

After the chorizo, chicken and unseen beef that was consumed this week, tonight all I was in the mood for was a meat-free meal!

Lucky for me, lil’ sis agreed to come over and have a girls’ dinner in with me – she appreciates a meatless meal (and beans!) as much as I do 🙂

And don’t worry – The Man had plenty of chicken wings, nachos, etc. while watching football with his buddies – he def didn’t starve 😉

So I set out to make us a healthy, veggie filled dish!

Veggie and White Bean Pasta & “Better Than Fries” Roasted Broccoli

First up, the pasta sauce.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 bag frozen squash
  • 1 can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can white beans, drained
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • sea salt & black pepper to taste
  • *edited to add* there was a splash of white wine & shake of red pepper flakes also involved towards the end!

I normally don’t like to buy canned tomatoes, however these San Marzanos appeared at Whole Foods a few weeks back and I’ve never had them before *shock!* so I had to go for it.

So worth it.

Also, in case you didn’t know, fresh basil freezes wonderfully for later use in cooked dishes.  This is from our basil plant this past summer and the flavor is still spot on!

This was definitely a throw together kind of meal.  A great one to use up some odds n’ ends in the pantry too!

Onion, garlic and squash.

Tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, pepper and beans.

Plus some water to thin it out. 

The sauce cooked away while lil’ sis and I drank away had some time for girl talk 😀

And prepared the roasted broccoli…

Garlic infused olive oil.  Seriously amazing.

I used frozen broccoli this time around, drizzled with the garlic olive oil plus some sea salt and black pepper. Into a 425F oven for about 20 minutes (one flip in between) and you will have an amazing veggie side dish on your hands.

Lil’ sis proclaimed this broccoli to be “better than french fries”….

And if you knew of her deep love for fried taters then you would know how serious this was!

We served the veggie bean sauce over some thin spaghetti too – plus a topping of Parm cheese for moi 🙂

Deelish deelish deelish.

Now it’s movie time!  Anyone seen Knight and Day before?  Hope it’s good 😛

An Epicurean Kinda Night

After picking these up this past Sunday I had no idea what I was going to do with them…

So of course I spent some time during lunch today scouring the internet for a recipe that hit the spot. 

Found it! to the rescue 🙂

Black Bean and Chorizo Stew

Since we all know that sneaking beans into The Man’s food is my favorite pastime (righttttt) I decided to make this recipe my own and modify it to suit our Sir Bean Hater’s  tasting needs 😛

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 package Wellshire Farms chorizo sausage, skins removed & crumbled
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock (or store bought)
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • black pepper & sea salt to taste

First step, saute the onions and green pepper in olive oil over medium until tender. 

Add in the chorizo and garlic towards the end.

I removed the casing from the chorizo and crumbled it, which wasn’t too hard since this chorizo was fully cooked.

After the veggies had softened (about 10 minutes) I added in the spices and black beans.

I ended up warming half the can of black beans in the microwave for a minute then smashed ’em with a fork so they’d thicken the soup.  Another lil’ game of hide-the-beans featuring yours truly, ya know, totally normal? 😉

Then in went the chicken stock – going through this batch like crazy!

Then I let the soup cook over medium heat, uncovered, for another 20 minutes so that it could thicken up a bit.

May not be the prettiest meal you’ll ever serve, but it sure is delicious!!!

A bit more “soup-like” than “stew-like” (probably due to my minor modifications?) but the broth had amazing flavor.  Such a hearty soup too, a little goes a long way!

Next time around I think some diced white potatoes would make a lovely addition to this dish.  But that’s just my opinion 😀

Soups are such a great go-to cold weather meal – I swear I’m a broken record saying this though! 

Good thing it’s warming up this weekend, at the rate I’m dishing out soups in the kitchen we are going to turn into a big bowl of chicken broth 😛

Night folks!

Takin’ It Easy

Phew!  Going back to work after a few days off for the holidays is always tough, anyone else with me on that?! 😛

At least last night I had the perfect easy dinner to get me relaxed and ready for the work week:

Thanks to Fanantic Mom’s ability to know her daughter oh so well, my stocking this year included a delicious soup mix from Frontier Soups for an easy go-to meal!

All I had to do was add chicken, chicken stock and salsa.  Bam.

Good thing I whipped up some homemade chicken stock just that morning too, I mean, what are the chances?! 😉

Homemade chicken stock seriously turns any meal from great to fan-freakin’-tastic.  Trust me. 

Next time you roast a chicken or cook a bone-in piece, just stash the bones in the freezer until you have a snowy Sunday morning to throw together some stock.  Celery, onion, fresh thyme, black pepper and salt plus an hour or two and you’re good to go.

I used Whole Foods chicken breasts, which I cooked in said chicken stock before shredding and adding to the soup mix.

To serve I decided to try some homemade tortilla strips.

I can’t wait to bust out the new tortilla press soon… so soon!

Fresh corn tortillas definitely > than packaged 😉

Corn tortillas in a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. 

Crunch 😀

One or two for garnish was all this needed.  Plus some shredded cheese and sour cream (or Greek yogurt!) to top and dinner – served!

This soup mix was a hit.  The Man and I both really really enjoyed it!

There were also some much needed greens to go with.

After the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals, this light meal was definitely a much welcomed treat!

If you want to pick up this soup mix too, I’m pretty sure they sell it at Whole Foods.  I know I’ll definitely be stashing one away in the cabinet for a fast and delicious go-to meal option 🙂

Now I’m off to relax and sit on my bootay – the Yoga for Buns download I did after work tonight totally kicked my you-know-what!!!

Tears of Joy

Are we all recovering from the Christmas aftermath today?!?! 😛

We’ve gotten quite the bit of snow here in central Virginia but that didn’t stop us from having a most fabulous Christmas, that’s for sure!


Just like last year, Christmas Eve was spent at our house with the Fanatic Fam (here’s a recap in case ya missed it!) and Christmas Day our family plus a few others spent the day at The Man’s parents’ house having a Christmas par-tayyyyy!

Before the party started though there were still a few presents that needed opening… that’s where the “tears of joy” comes into play.

The Man got the entire first year of the CookinFanatic blog bound and made into a book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I seriously started crying right when I opened it.  Well actually, first I was like, “Ummm did you get me an encyclopedia?” then the crying ensued, lots of it. 

The inscription on the first page was enough to send me just over the edge.  Good thing I didn’t have too much eye makeup on 😉

Seriously the most amazing and thoughtful gift ever.  I still can’t believe it!

Now I know why he kept disappearing to his parents’ house over the past few weeks – his Mom helped a great deal in pulling all this together 😀

After cryfest 2010 it was time for the rest of the guests to arrive, each bringing their own contribution to the dinner menu!  There were also a serious amount of appetizers to indulge in as well.  This was definitely food heaven.

Drinks anyone?

My contributions this year were:

Jessica’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip w/ Animal Crackers

A serious crowd pleaser.

This time around I used mini chocolate chips… loved the way they added the perfect chocolate touch!

Kacy’s Mascarpone Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes, mascarpone and some other key ingredients.

These were pretty ridiculously good!

I love trying new blog inspired recipes out for events like this, it’s such a fun way to introduce people to new foods they (and I) may otherwise have never discovered 😀

There were also plenty of other dishes to choose from including the infamous pineapple stuffing


Fanatic Mom’s creamy potato & cornflake casserole

Mac n’ cheese

Creamy green bean casserole

And a ham.

I’m getting full again just writing about it!!! 😉

Everything was delicious and we had the best time celebrating with family and friends! 

Too bad we had to leave a bit early thanks to the “snow storm-that wasn’t supposed to be a snow storm-that turned into a bigger snow storm than they thought” 😛  Oh welllllll

Did you try any recipes that you learned in blog world for the holiday season?  If so, which ones?

Christmas Eve Traditions


From the Fanatic family to yours 🙂

Christmas Eve has always been a big celebration in our house.

Perhaps because we’re Polish and Wigilia (Christmas Eve dinner) is traditionally quite the celebration full of delicious food and drinks!

Told you I’d be making these lil’ suckers again 😀

The Christmas Eve dinner (Wigilia) has either twelve or an odd number of courses served.  This is also a no-meat event.

Our family’s Wigilia consists of seven dishes, featuring many different types of seafood.

This year’s meal mixed in some traditional dishes along with some welcomed new-comers.

Tradition:  Nanny’s Sauerkraut & Noodles

Seriously so easy.  Seriously so good.

Butter, onion, sauerkraut, noodles all seasoned with a good crack of black pepper.

Tradition:  Homemade Pierogi topped w/ Butter & Green Onions

I think we all remember this little adventure 😉

Lots of green onions, so necessary.

As is the stick of butter.  I mean it is the holidays after all 😛

Drizzled on top of the pierogi, definitely necessary.

Newbie:  Clam Stuffed Mushrooms

Got this recipe from an old-school Church cookbook from the area in PA that my family comes from.

The best thing about old school cookbooks is their lack of precision.  A lil’ of this, lil’ of that.  Make it your own, totally my style!

Clams, onions, garlic, mushrooms, bread crumbs, Italian cheese and butter. 

Stuffed into mushroom caps.

And baked until golden.

These were one of the biggest hits of the night!

Newbie:  Cream Baked Fish

Got this recipe idea from this website.

My version included grouper, cooked for a few minutes stove top (season with salt & lemon juice) then covered in sauted onions and baked.

The onions were cooked in the same pan as the fish had been – picking up all those flavor bits.

A sour cream based sauce gets pulled together in the same pan – milk, flour, lemon, salt, pepper and sour cream – then drizzled on the fish and baked for a few minutes longer.

Once again, measurements unknown, but it definitely turned out delicious!  I’ll be making this one again if I can remember what the heck amounts of ingredients went in it haha.

Tradition:  Spiced shrimp

Can’t remember a Christmas Eve dinner without ’em 🙂

Add in the fruit compote (spiced with cinnamon and cloves, so good!) and a side salad (unpictured) and there you have it.

Seven delicious courses.  Mmmmm mmmmm.

This is definitely one of my favorite meals of the year 😀

After the delicious dinner, there was lots of present opening!  We do our gifts with my fam on Christmas Eve, no complaints here 😉


Tortilla Press!!!!!!!!!!!

Ummmm totally normal?

It was a fabulous night.  Christmas Eve may be my favorite night of the year.  Having our family together and carrying on these traditions is so special and just so fun 😀

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!


Pour Yourself a Glass of Wine…

 Why don’t you pour yourself a glass of wine and get ready for some delectable eats, because I’ve got quite a few for ya’ll tonight!! 🙂

Let’s work our way backwards, shall we?

Meatball Subs

It’s what’s for dinner.

This Rachel Ray recipe caught my eye right away and it just had to be done.

I ended up using a bit less garlic & parsley than RR called for though, and only made the meatball part of the equation.

Sometimes premade sauce is just the way it’s gotta be… especially during the busy holiday season!

Ever used a mandolin?  Makes fine dicing a breeze.  This pile o’ onions was done in less than 2.5 seconds.  Or something like that 🙂

In go all the ingredients and then it was time to get messy.

I’ll spare you those pictures 😉

After 12 minutes in a 450F oven they were ready to go.

What is it about the smell of garlic and onions roasting in the oven that just makes life complete?

Or maybe that’s just me…

This particular premade sauce actually turned out to have some great flavor. 

Kroger Private Selection Marinara Napolitana.  I’ll buy you again in a pinch!

Doughy soft wheat roll…

Transformed into nothing short of glorious with a few quick spoonfuls.

And a sprinklin’ of cheese, obviously 😀

We had side salads to go with, but those weren’t nearly as pretty 😉

Mmmm mmmm, this one was a winner!

And now for the sweeter part of tonight’s presentation…

Cookie Extravaganza Round #2!

I headed over to The Man’s parent’s house for a baking fiesta this afternoon… and forgot my camera.

I mean really, who does that?

Grrrrr 😦

But luckily the trusty IPhone managed to capture some great shots so you could get a “taste” of the action!

This Sandra Lee “recipe” for Rolo topped pecan pretzels was such a winner… so delicious and so easy!

White chocolate coated pretzels (Flipz!) topped with a Rolo, into the oven for a few minutes to melt.

Topped with a perfectly placed pecan…

And swirls of candy coating!

There was also some of this:

Cake batter chocolate bark, from who else than the freaking ridiculously talented Jessica.

I mean, does she ever stop coming up with outta control delicious treats? 

I hope the answer to that stays “no” forever… just sayin’ 😛

I won’t take credit for being a part of this one either (other than the tasting of course!) but wish I could because these mint chocolate brownies were so so so good.

Just think:  sweet chocolate brownies topped with cool, creamy mint chocolate fudge.

Yea.  Ridiculous.

Productive day?  I’d say so 😉

Now I must rest up for tomorrow aka sip on more of this delicious vino, Christmas Eve dinner is a pretty big deal in our house and there’s alot to get done!

Merry Christmas Eve Eve <—- does anyone else say that too haha?