Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related



spags 101

today happens to be what i believe to be – the sweetest day.  it is friday friends.  it’s a loaded gun.  it’s a full glass of water… or wine for that matter.  it’s the start of a playful tumble down a soft and cool grassy slope… the kind where you pick up momentum, laughing all the way. friday is a segway into uncharted territory… the wild and wonderful, or the lazy and delicious.  if you’re like me… it’s a little bit of both. always.  friday holds the promise of 2.5 days of undictated control.  you’re craving oatmeal cookies at ten pm?? giddy up. we can sleep in on Saturday- but for now LET’S BAKE.  (take those capped words how you wish… i won’t tell) – if your night is in… pop on some tunes after the tots go to bed, and take some time to reconnect with your husband/wife/partner. ask them about their challenges this week. talk about a dream you had last night. ask them what their favorite thing is about your home… about your body… listen to them. don’t interrupt. think about why you choose to spend time with this person. what is YOUR favorite thing about them? i can assure you that connections like these will have your weekend off to a fabulous start. tackle a saturday project together. be playful while doing so. always. decide on some dinner together. emphasis on together.  pour their sunday morning coffee. memorize how they take their coffee. suggest you cook their favorite meal later today. offer a way they can earn that meal… whispering or a hand written note usually works best, P.S. 😉  the take away point as i face a fun filled weekend ahead on this lovely temperate friday in the Burgh is this… look at every day as a vacation. when you are not at work, don’t be at work. leave it behind… it never runs out on you, this i promise. look at every evening as an event. ex: it’s TUESDAY bitches!!! i’m gonna stop off for my favorite bottle of wine, grab my tot’s favorite cookies at the grocer, download that new Beiber song that’s been in my head, fix a nice meal for my fam, clean up in the morning (an awesome tip to harness the shiz out of your evening), put a few drops of green food coloring in the tot’s bath to color it like the sea, they pick their bedtime books… but make them tell YOU a story as well. make up an incredibly ridiculous story for them right before you tuck- and give them a jumping off point for their dreams. (be prepared to do this every night… they’ll ask.) then get your dupa back to that reconnecting i talked about at the start of the spill. pat yourself on the back… and thank your Creator… whomever you believe that to be. tomorrow is a new day. bet the farm it’s gonna be great.

the four minute veggie
say ‘i love you’ with this stellar dessert next august.





a nice stand up dinner

so it’s thursday afternoon as i begin this draft chatter offering-  i made a joke on my Facebook page earlier–  tonight would be the kick off of ‘red wine drinking’ season for me… and the reasoning went something like this. Today is the 27th, and 2+7=9, and 9 goes into 27 three times… and everyone knows that 3 is the magic number. it’s logic like this that will have me up until 1am blogging about the pink satin jacket with turquoise cuffs i had as a small child… and how great terry cloth clothing felt.  interpretation: there need not be logic for fabulous things. they just are. tonight will be filled with goodies in all elements, shapes and sizes- starting with the silver lining of being off of work until Monday afternoon. a long weekend is always a beautiful thing. i’m planning to bake up a few rustic pita pizzas for dinner, with the liquid to solid food ratio leaning toward the liquid and the lovely. we’ve been lucky enough to avoid a frost so far, allowing us plenty of freshly torn basil leaves for a topping. i love the end of the harvest when you are savoring sweet sliced tomatoes with every meal… and the crusts from pita pizzas make perfect sponges for the tomato juice on the cutting board. in my house, most meals are consumed while standing in the kitchen- my hubby and i, listening to some of our favorite tunes and watching the tiny tots be young, wild and free. it’s one of our favorite times of the day… and when it’s happening, it’s easy to see why.  yes, we may only get through one Neil Young track and half of a Ray LaMontagne before the tots request Britney Spears… but it’s all part of the charm of our off center, stand up family dinner.  i don’t imagine this part of the day would be half as fun if it weren’t for my love and passion for food. my son (3) used to ask me, “is it gonna be good mommy?” as i prepped a meal… but somewhere along our life path he stopped asking.  now he knows.  he prefers ‘linguini with red sauce’ over spaghettios if you get me.  i’m creating a food conscious little fella – but some girl, somewhere will thank me one day.  tonight there will be wine, and there will be flame in the fireplace, and the flame will be from that of the large red oak that fell on part of our house three years ago. funny how that whole event can be passed off in one sentence as i blog here, but at the time it consumed our lives to the point of exhaustion.  time marches on, and if you’re too busy sitting on your dupa watching Honey boo boo, you’ll miss the beauty hidden in these stolen moments.  sometimes i like to do a pre-blog… leading up to the evening events- and then follow up with a photog synopsis of the magic, and how it all went down.  today is one of those days.

Coppolla cab. red wine season’s first pour.

i feel like weekday dinners should be easy, but no less delicious than a weekend meal would be. anytime there’s sauce and melty fontina cheese involved, it’s bound to be fabulous. this is a meal the whole family can be a part of- kids love to spread their own sauce and sprinkle the cheese all over the top. these bake off at 375  in 7 minutes when placed directly on the rack. enjoy, we sure did!!  see our evening gallery below!


make ahead sausage and cheese fritatta

if you need to host a brunch for any reason, and are in need of an epicenter recipe… use this winner- and branch out in several directions from there. it’s an easy, no fuss, make ahead recipe that is sure to please the masses. the trick is in the sausage. yes-sir-eee, the pig saves the day once again. buy bob evans ‘sage’ flavored. it suits this recipe perfectly, and lends the perfect savory tang you’re after. this recipe is truly versatile, so much so that i’ve once even used some left over garlic bread in it, as well as pre-chopped frozen red and yellow peppers. whatever veggies and herbs i have on hand, that’s what is going into the egg mix. (within reason) the nice thing is that it has to sit in the fridge over night… allowing no stress for you come the next day when you’re ready to eat. simply take it out of the fridge one hour before you’re ready to bake it, and allow it to come to room temperature a bit. It bakes for 50 mins to one hour, and you want to serve it shortly after taking out of the oven- for the best taste. it’s great with a few drops of hot sauce on top, salsa,  alone, or even with Pittsburgh’s favorite condiment, Heinz ketchup.


1 lb of bulk sausage (i love Bob Evans Sage sausage in this recipe)

9 eggs

3 cups skim milk

1.5 tsp dry mustard powder

1.5 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

10 slices white bread, crust removed (or left on, both ways are delish) and cubed (feel free to use some stale ital. bread from dinner two nights ago as well.) 

bell pepper (diced) – i like red or  yellow or orange in this.

handful of chopped fresh spinach leaves if you have them

small piece of onion finely diced (if you have it)

Brown and drain the sausage. set aside to cool. In a large bowl, beat eggs and milk. Add seasonings and bread cubes. Fold in sausage, cheese , peppers, onion and spinach or herbs. Place in your 9×13 glass pan (i use a big round dish and it works out perfectly and looks amazing upon serving.) refrigerate over night. remove from fridge one hour before baking. bake at 350 for around 55 mins. Cool just slightly before serving.

Italian stuffed pasta shells… omg delish!!

So i’ve been making these stuffed shells for maybe seven years or so… with little variance along the way. Well, yesterday i sent hubby to the market with a short list, which included ‘cream cheese’… one of the ingredients for these shells. He instead bought ricotta cheese, as he thought i wrote the wrong thing. i’m pulling my ingredients from the fridge and i say, “where’s the cream cheese?”  he looks at me and says, “you meant to write ricotta, right?” i did not, but i was open to switching it up and test driving them with ricotta… no harm no foul, and i was still glad to get out of grocery shopping no matter what! Well, it ends up they were even better than they ever had been, and we adjusted the salt and pepper together as a team before stuffing all of the shells. we nailed it. i like to top the dish with a few slices of mozzarella or provolone, which i forgot to do yesterday, but they were delish all the same.


start a pot of water boiling to cook your jumbo shells in. cook al dente, as you will be baking them for 50 mins in oven.  Place your frozen spinach in a small strainer and let some warm water drizzle over it to thaw in the sink. squeeze all water out of spinach once thawed and set aside.  Dice half of an onion and add to a large skillet drizzled with olive oil. Add meat to skillet, and saute with onion until meat is browned. in the meantime, finely chop about six cloves of garlic, and add to meat. give a stir, and add your well drained spinach. stir around to combine, and remove from heat to cool a bit. my dump cook self also added a sprinkle of crushed red pepper once the meat began to brown.  Pull out a large bowl and crack an egg in the bottom. add your 15oz container of ricotta,  1/4 cup of parmesan, 1.5 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper, and 1/2 tsp of dried basil. combine. stir in 3/4 cup of shredded mozzarella. once your meat has cooled a bit, add it to the bowl and combine. now you’re ready to stuff the shells. drizzle two pans with a bit of olive oil (see photo) and then add a thin layer of sauce to the bottom of each. (i personally like to use DeFratelli italian all purpose sauce. it comes in a 28 oz can, and you’ll probably need two cans for this recipe.) Stuff your shells and top them with remaining sauce. don’t drown them… as long as you have a modest drizzle of sauce down the middle of each shell row, you’re good. Bake at 350 for 50 mins. Top with cheese near the end if desired. Enjoy with some crusty rustic bread and a big fat glass of Chianti. you’ll make these shells again and again… on that you can bet.


nifty prep trick for tiny tomatoes!!!

so you’re making a salad… a big one… and you are on to the part where you’re set to tediously slice thirty little unruly grape or cherry tomatoes in half. Ughh… what a boring little four minutes you’re about to have. oops, there goes one onto the floor and rollll…. right under your fridge along with the dust bunnies and the random chocolate chip and cheerio.

Let’s make some fun out of this task why don’t we….

Step 1: lay a dishtowel down for anti- slide properties.

Step 2: lay a large dinner plate bottom side up on the dishtowel. Load it with tomatoes in the center part until they are all touching, but still an even layer.

Step 3: place a matching plate on top of tomatoes, right side up.

Step 4: pressing down on top plate with moderate pressure with non dominant hand, cut (with a mighty sharp knife) directly through all of the tomatoes until you feel/see your knife come out the other side.

Enjoy your preparation genius, and impress someone with this, for goodness sakes!!!           i think it’s my favorite prep move so far… bible!!



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