I’ve been making my own tomato sauces for a few years now, but most take at least a couple hours on the stove. I made up a batch of this quick marinara from Teresa Giudice’s book last week when I made the stuffed artichokes, and I was so pleased with how the sauce turned out after only 15 minutes on the stove! I always have these ingredients on hand in the pantry, so I know I’ll be going to it from time to time for a quick dinner when things “run amuck” in the kitchen.

It was great with the artichokes, and then I enjoyed the leftovers with pasta for lunch throughout the week. I love a chunky tomato sauce, so I just used my hands to break up the whole tomatoes when adding them to the sauce. But, if you prefer a smoother marinara – give the tomatoes a few pulses in a food processor first. Will keep in fridge for up to a week, or you can freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.

I’d been wanting to make these cupcakes for eons it seems, but I was always a little bit thrown off by them. Who wants a margarita cupcake, when there is chocolate or red velvet to be had? Silly girl. We had a newlywed couple over for dinner earlier this week, so I took the opportunity to make them for dessert. Jamie is always declaring my previous cupcake creations “the best she’s ever had”, but she says this one now takes the cake (no pun intended!). It’s a new favorite in my book as well!

The flavors are so light and refreshing, and even with the additional tequila/orange liqueur brushed onto the cupcakes when cooling, they weren’t too boozy. Just a hint! And I loved all the lime zest in the batter. My hands reeked of lime all day long after making these! I’d made Swiss meringue buttercream some time ago, and I remember not being impressed. This frosting, however, was a completely different story. Even while beating, I was unsure. I thought it would be too sweet, and it seemed runny – “I’ll never be able to pipe this”, I thought. Then, all of a sudden, it came together magically to form the perfect consistency. Piped beau-ti-fully. And, definitely not too sweet. Loved, loved, loved it!

I also topped the cupcakes with a sprinkling of fleur-de-sel right before serving. Something about the occasional salty bite hiding in the fluffly cloud of frosting that really “sealed the deal” for me – just like a margarita. Make these now!

This weekend we went over to my parent’s house for dinner. My dad had gone fishing earlier in the day, and came home with a nice sized “rock” as we call them around here, striped bass to the rest of the world. He cleaned it when we were finished with dinner (a gorgeous bushel of steamed #1 blue crabs) and sent us home with a nice sized filet, that I portioned into 4 smaller sized filets.

We get so much gorgeous, fresh seafood around here, I really take it for granted. I already had a menu set for the week, so I decided to make the fish for lunch on Sunday. Usually, I’d fry it an call it a day -  but the filets were so gorgeous, I wanted to do something special. I came up with this dish with what I had on hand, and it really knocked our socks off. I was afraid the salsa would be overpowering, but it wasn’t. The smokey sweetness just played up the flavor of the fish, and it was a nice change of pace from our standard fish fry! Plus, I got to use the pea shoots I’d bought on a whim at Trader Joe’s the week before. They soaked up all the juices from the dish, made for a surprisingly good salad.

If you’re looking for something to do with that abundance of rockfish we’re so lucky to have in our waters right now (or any other substantial white fish – mahi, halibut, etc.) bookmark this recipe! I’m hoping Dad shares some more with us this spring. I’m more than happy to send out a First and Second mate with him!

I don’t watch a lot of “trash” TV, but I will admit that “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” (and various other sundry cities) is a guilty pleasure of mine. The new season started last night, so to mark the occasion, I made a dish from Teresa Giudice’s second book, Fabulicious. She’s full of herself, talks a lot of smack, and is completely wonky – but hey, what woman on those series of shows honestly isn’t? Surprisingly, the recipes that I’ve tried from her book have been good. A super quick marinara, which I’ve made a couple of times, and will be sharing later this week. And, these stuffed artichokes – which were absolutely delicious. A perfect side dish or light main course for the summer months!

Last weekend I went to see Titanic in 3D with an old friend, the very same friend I saw it with 6 times in the theater. I had to drive 3 hours to get to an IMAX theater (go big or go home – right?), so I took the opportunity to stop by Trader Joe’s on the way home to stock up on pantry staples. Artichokes are in season right now, so I picked up 4 and brought them home. I also picked up one of their artisan red wine salamis – they are so good diced up and topping a Greek salad, or in a pasta salad. Or, in stuffed artichokes.

I followed the recipe, up until the point of cooking method. I decided to bake them, as opposed to cooking them in a dutch oven on the stove top. Some other recipes called for parboiling the artichokes first, but I didn’t bother with that. Just let them bake a little longer. The sauce that forms in the bottom of the baking dish was absolutely delicious. Perfect to scoop up with the artichoke leaves you pull off to eat one by one. Will definitely be making these again, everyone really enjoyed them!