Well, it's been a lovely two year break from the blog, but I'm back!

Things that happened in the last two years:

Nick earned his MBA and landed a killer consulting job {now we are finished with higher education.  or so he tells me.}
Nick shaking hands with the Dean of the Business School, because of his awesomeness.

I was a school counselor at a wonderful school that I already miss!

Is there anything better than happy, snuggly kindergarteners? 

We traveled to France, Maine, Vancouver, Mexico, the beach, the mountains, the lake and all our happy places

Nailed it.

I ate approximately 200 pounds worth of tortilla chips at my favorite two Nashville tex-mex restaurants: Saint Anejo and Taqueria del Sol

Y'all.  They make their own chips.  And serve them warm!  You can't bring self-control there!

Moose turned 2.  And then 3.
Snuggle love.

I discovered the fabulous world of barre {more to come on that subject}

Getting some thigh work in. You know, to counteract the chips.

We bought our first house and moved to Atlanta!

Homeowners!  But why with the center part?!

Ok, some other stuff happened too.  But the Atlanta adventure has begun complete with house decorating, restaurant trying, getting lost in Atlanta traffic, and making new friends.  

New life in Atlanta: let's do this.

Internet friends, meet my wonderful friend, Chris.

{He's holding the latest in Italian hot sausage.}

Chris is a fantastic friend from undergrad, and now that we're back in Nashville, we live in the same city as Chris again!  Super pumped.  Chris has many excellent qualities: intelligent, witty, well-employed, great style, but unfortunately, Chris cannot cook... yet.  In my overbearing, pushy-mama way, I declared a few weeks ago to Chris that I wanted to teach him to cook.  Thankfully, he's a good sport and agreed to let me boss him about in the kitchen in the name of helping him.

Confusingly, this man's name is also Chris, and he joined in on the fun of being bossed by me.  {The things boys will do for food!}

{Being bossy.}

I thought teaching Chris (& Chris) to cook would be a fun series for the blog- you can learn alongside the Chrises and get some simple meal plans!  This week's plan was cooking for a crowd: an easy Italian dinner.  The first Chris {yes, differentiating in the kitchen became a little complicated.  To make it more confusing, their last names both start with C, so I couldn't even do the elementary school thing of making them go by Chris C!} will be attending law school in the fall, so I wanted him to have a dinner plan that he could use for a big study group of law friends {because food = friends and my vision of law school runs along the lines of Elle Wood's experience}.

We started with a very simple appetizer: spicy, roasted pecans.  Fresh pecans, sprinkled with Tony Chachere's {say it with me: sssaacheries} and roasted at a high temp for about 6 minutes.  

Then we sautéed some hot italian sausage, minced garlic, oregano, and dried basil, deglazed with some red wine and poured in crushed tomatoes.

Pasta can be the easiest {and cheapest} way to serve a crowd, but Ragu-business is not allowed in my kitchen.  It only takes a few more ingredients to make an infinitely better sauce.

While the sauce simmered, we peeled and sliced fresh peaches for dessert {my peach obsession continues}...

And made fresh whipped cream!  {The bossy hovering continues as I invade Chris's personal space to micromanage cream pouring. Sorry, Chris.} 

I enjoy adding some fresh spinach to the sauce, because it offsets all the carbs in the pasta and makes it healthy.  Duh.  This sauce is also finished with a splash of cream and nutmeg!  Surprise!

Chris is diligently chiffonading basil for our garnish.  Check out that focus.

Supper time!  And a big thank you to Nick for taking all the pictures :)

Italian Dinner for a Crowd
Serves 6, but is easily multiplied

Appetizer: Spicy Roasted Pecans

1 cup whole pecans
1/2 teaspoon Tony Chachere's seasoning

Preheat oven to 450.  Sprinkle seasoning over pecans in a cookie sheet or other small pan.  Roast for 5-6 minutes, or until they smell roasted and nutty, but not burned!

Main Dish: Pasta Bolognese {my version}

1.5-2 lbs hot italian sausage {you can also use mild or a mixture of the two}
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes {optional}
1/4 cup red wine
2 28oz cans of good quality crushed tomatoes
1 cup fresh spinach, torn {optional}
1/4 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 lbs papparadelle pasta 

1. De-case {take it out of the casings} the sausage and sauté in a large pot over medium high heat.  Break the links apart into small pieces as it cooks {about 10 minutes}

2. Fill a large stockpot with about 8 quarts of water.  Salt the water and add 1 tablespoon oil.  Heat over high heat.

3. When sausage is cooked through and a few pieces have a crusty brown edge, add in the garlic, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes.  Stir and allow to cook for 1 minute, or until garlic becomes fragrant.

4. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan and stir up all the little bits of things stuck to the pot.  Then pour in both cans of crushed tomatoes and reduce the heat to a simmer.

5. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions.  Add the torn spinach to the sauce and stir.

6.  As soon as the pasta finished cooking to al dente, drain, then add the cream and nutmeg to the sauce and stir.  

7.  Serve with a garnish of fresh basil and parmesan!

Dessert: Peaches with Fresh Whipped Cream

Fresh peaches {1 per person}
1 cup blueberries {optional}
1 cup whipping cream
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Peel and slice the peaches and place into a large bowl.

2. Pour whipping cream into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add in vanilla extract and sugar.  Whip on medium speed until the cream resembles whipped cream and does not have any runny parts (about 5 minutes).

3.  Serve fruit on a plate with a large dollop of whipped cream!

Note: whipped cream can be made a few hours ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until served.

Don't you hide from that natural talent, Christopher.  

Don't you just adore summer peaches?

This is almost not a recipe, since all I really did was slice some beautiful produce from the farm stand down the road.  I have a feeling I'll be visiting that farm stand verrry frequently.  It's conveniently located across from the library, and with my summer habit of devouring books {and peaches}, that's my go-to corner this summer.  Peaches and fiction, ahhh.

Do yourself a favor and invest in some spectacular balsamic vinegar for all your salads this summer.  This one is a glaze I found at Whole Foods, and I use it on caprese type salads, because it's thicker and easier to make designs with over the salad.  But I'm also a huge fan of the Olive This balsamic that's been aged 20 years.  The longer it's been aged, the less acidic.  Meaning, I would eat that stuff with a spoon.

Watch out, peach paparazzi!  And y'all, I was taken in by a beautiful basil plant at Trader Joe's the other day.  Only $4!!  So now we have fresh basil.  At least, until I possibly accidentally kill it by being out of town for a week and leaving it in the blistering sun.  Oops.  But I'm optimistic.  {As long as none of you saw what happened to my herbs last summer.  They were more like dried herbs in a pot.}

Peach Caprese Salad
Serves 2

2 large peaches
2 large tomatoes
1 handful fresh basil
About 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar {or glaze}
Salt & Pepper to taste

Skin and slice the peaches, and slice the tomatoes.  Salt and pepper both.  Slice the basil into strips {or tear it for that rustic feel}, and layer tomatoes, peaches, and basil.  Sprinkle balsamic over the plate of peaches, tomatoes, and basil.  Voila!

Someone please remind me to water that basil plant.

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