Penne a la Arrabiata


Have you seen this Eddie Izzard sketch? No? Go watch it. I’ll wait.

Anyone else want some delicious pasta now? Because I sure do. I first heard this sketch years ago, and I had about zero clue what Penne a la Arrabiata was. I figured it was some kind of pasta (nicely done, Jess). Thankfully, this past weekend Mike got the crazy idea to make it. While listening to that sketch. Naturally.

And guess what? Penne a la Arrabiata ROCKS. It is fantastic. It is spicy (thanks, chili pepper flakes), savory (thanks, anchovies), and still weirdly light for a pasta dish (thanks, tomato based sauce). Serve it with some crusty bread to sop up the leftover sauce, and you will be in heaven. And please don’t fear the anchovies – they’ve done nothing to you, all they want to do is make your pasta a little salty and a lot more savory than it really has any right to be.

Penne a la Arrabiata

by The Jess Mess


  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ C flat leaf parsley
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • Small tin of anchovies
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 lb short pasta – penne rigate is recommended
  • Salt


Put salted pasta water on the stove to boil

Mince 4 garlic cloves. Chop flat-leaf parsley. Set aside.

Cut an onion into thin strips. Set aside.

With the stove on low, add a generous glug of olive oil to a large high sided skillet. Add the teaspoon of red pepper flakes and let cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes or until the oil is visibly redder. Watch carefully to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

Once the oil is infused, add the onions and turn the heat up to medium low. Toss to coat, then add ½ tsp salt and the anchovies and stir again. Lid the pan and let onions cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the onions are translucent and soft, and the anchovies have dissolved, turn the heat up to medium high. Add the minced garlic and stir. Once garlic is aromatic, add the can of whole peeled tomatoes one at a time, squeezing each one in your hand to crush before adding. Stir to combine.

Allow sauce to come to a boil while stirring, then lower the heat and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, make pasta. Add pasta to boiling salted pasta water and cook as directed.

When pasta is finished, reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain the rest. Toss the pasta in the pan with the sauce, adding a small amount of pasta water at a time if the sauce is too thick.

To serve, place a portion of the pasta and sauce on a plate. Drizzle with high quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan, if desired.


Add ½ C red wine to sauce before bringing to a boil.

Omit anchovies

Add 1 lb peeled & deveined raw shrimp to sauce before bringing to boil.

Instead of red pepper flakes, use raw habanero or jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced.

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Irish Soda Bread



I’m out of town right now, but since it’s St. Paddy’s day this week I had to stop in to give you my no-fail Irish Soda Bread recipe. I don’t care about your Irish heritage (or lack thereof), your feelings on corned beef or Guinness, or your hatred for the perversity that is green beer. All I care about is whether or not you make this bread. Because you have GOT to make this bread. It’s not a scary bread – there’s no yeast, no rising, and no kneading. Just mix it up, form it into a round loaf shape, and bake it for an hour. That’s it!

Oh and also – don’t make any substitutions, please. If you don’t like raisins, this isn’t the bread for you – and that’s ok! If you don’t have buttermilk, don’t you dare try to sub in regular milk – just suck it up and pay the $0.99 for two tiny half pint cartons of buttermilk. It’s worth it. Trust me.


Irish Soda Bread

by The Jess Mess

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Keywords: bake bread breakfast side

Ingredients (serves 10)

  • 4 C flour
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 C butter (softened)
  • 2 C raisins
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Flour to roll dough
  • Pam or butter for cake pan


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

Cut in softened butter until crumbly. Add raisins.

In a separate bowl, combine egg and buttermilk then add baking soda. It will start to bubble-let it sit for a few minutes then add dry mixture and mix well.

Form dough into a ball then roll on flour.

Use a small amount of butter or margarine (or Pam) to grease 8 or 9 inch cake pan.

Place dough in cake pan and flatten to shape of pan. Grease a sharp knife and score dough with an “X” in center.

Bake for 1 hour at 375.

Let cool and enjoy smothered in butter.

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Salted Pecan Cookies

Salted Pecan Cookies I don’t know about you, but I’m the type of person who breaks out in a cold sweat when my kitchen runs out of any of the following:

  • Butter
  • Brown sugar
  • Flour
  • Chocolate chips
  • Vanilla extract

So when I found myself last weekend with a desperate need to bake cookies and zero chocolate chips, I panicked. I panicked, and I rifled through all of my cupboards, and my pantry, and my fridge, and I finally found half a bag of pecans shoved in the back of my freezer. Close enough.

After a little toasting, and a little tinkering with my standard chocolate chip cookie recipe, these Salted Pecan Cookies were born. So called because I use way more salt in the recipe than you normally see – but don’t worry, it marries the dough to the pecans perfectly. And I do mean perfectly, because even my “I don’t like sweets” husband loved these. In fact, he just walked by while I was writing this, saw the picture, and said “ugh, those were good”.

See? Perfect. Now go make some!


Salted Pecan Cookies

by The Jess Mess


  • 1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C + 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 C pecans, toasted and chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

To toast pecans, throw halved pecans in a dry non stick skillet over medium heat. Toss and mix until you see the color visibly darken – but be careful to not let them burn!

To make the cookies, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy

Add the egg

Add vanilla

With the mixer running, slowly tap in baking soda and salt.

Scrape the sides of the mixing bowl down, turn on low, then slowly add the flour 1/4 C at a time

Add toasted chopped pecans, mix until just combined

Drop by tbsps onto cookie sheet, bake 10 minutes or until just brown on edges

Transfer to a wire rack to cool

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February 2015 Budget

After watching them with admiration for months, I have decided to link up with Franish’s Budgeting Bloggers. I know that while I have my household budget pretty firmly in hand, my own personal budget could use some tweaking. Due to my goal for the year of fixing my wardrobe, I’ve been spending a pretty penny lately on clothing. Which is fun and all, but kind of self destructive when it comes to my other goals for 2015. So I’ve decided to set a cap. I am allowing myself to spend $100 a month on clothing. For some of you, I’m sure that’s a really low number. Others probably think I’m crazy wasteful. All I can say is, this is what works for me, right now. It might change! In either direction! Only time will tell.

Other self-imposed rules:

-No carrying over leftover money into another month. Any leftovers will go straight towards another 2015 goal. My thought process here is that at this point in my life, if it costs over $100, I probably don’t need it. And that’s ok.

-Athletic clothing, underwear, and makeup doesn’t count. Accessories do.


AEO Super Stretch JeggingsSide Split Tee - Target








American Eagle Super Stretch Jeggings: $44.95, on sale for $34.95 (and free shipping!)

Target Mossimo Side Split Tee*: $19.99, plus a 25% off cartwheel deal and 5% off with my red card = $14.25


Total budgeted: $100

Total spent: $49.20


Guys, these jeggings. I really hate to call them that, because they have a zipper and a button and a full compliment of pockets – they’re pretty much just black skinny jeans. But these jeans. They are changing my life. They’re stupid comfortable, and black enough that I can get away with wearing them to my (admittedly more casual than business) business casual workplace. Between these pants and a growing collection of skirts, I haven’t had to touch a pair of dress pants since January. Do you know how freeing that is? I HATE dress pants. They are the WORST. But these jeans? Sweet sweet freedom. Especially when paired with that shirt, a long black cardigan, and my favorite flats. Love.


2015 Goals

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, per se. I’m not really sure when or why I stopped, but never in my adult life have I been into that sort of thing. This year, however, I’ve decided to create some goals for the year. I refuse to call them resolutions. I figure I can get away with that since I came up with them in February, and I’m posting them in March :). So, here we go.

3 Quantifiable Goals

Move 500 miles

I was a runner, once

I used to run! And bike! And then, for various reasons of dubious legitimacy, I stopped. But I want to start again. Basically I just want to move more in general, without the pressure of races or events or things like that. So I’ve decided to set a mileage goal. 500 miles breaks down to a little under 10 miles a week. I’ve decided to count walking, running, biking, and elliptical miles towards this goal (keeping in mind that I’m not biking any centuries over here, I usually max out around 15 miles outside and 8 miles on a stationary bike). For me, this is a completely doable goal that’s still going to be a little bit of a challenge. I hope.

Eliminate small debts

Due to a few extenuating circumstances in the past year or so, we are carrying slightly more debt than we’re comfortable with – specifically the credit card variety. While it is WELL below the national average for credit card debt, it’s still awful to have hanging over our heads.

For the sake of privacy and my family, I’m not going to lay out any real numbers here. But I will speak in terms of percentage. For example, since setting this goal at the beginning of the year, we have already reduced our load by 60%. Which is great! And which leads us to…

Build savings

So how do we ensure that we don’t fall into the credit card debt trap again? Savings! We HAD savings, until a few unhappy events last year forced us to empty the proverbial piggy banks. Due to those events, I’ve spent some time reevaluating how much was “enough” savings. Basically, we had enough savings in the bank to cover one emergency. But life is rarely that fair, right? One has to assume that if you have to make a late Friday night trip to the emergency vet, life will also throw a cracked windshield at you. Or a human medical emergency. Or a home repair. Or SOMETHING.

Again, I won’t use real numbers, so let’s speak in algebraic terms (sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, hah). In the past, we were comfortable when we had $X in savings. Now, after careful reevaluation and some tinkering with worst case scenarios, I’ve decided that we really need $5X. Seeing as it’s currently less than 20% of the way into 2015 and we’re already at $X, I think we’re going to be ok.

3 Fluffy Goals

Improve our garden

Our side yard

We have lived in our house for almost exactly 2 years. Each summer my mom would make the trek from Minnesota to Missouri to visit, and inevitably she would spend the majority of the visit attempting to make something of the hot mess we called a yard. Because of her, we have an adorable herb garden, tomatoes, hostas, and a somewhat doomed raspberry vine, among other things. We are SO grateful for her help, and this year we have decided to strike out alone and turn our yard into a vegetable and flower wonderland. The seeds are ordered, and there is no turning back now. Stay tuned!

Fix my wardrobe

Simple: I want to be able to reach into my closet with my eyes closed, pull out an item of clothing at random, be happy to wear it, and have the items necessary to turn it into an outfit. 100% of the time. I’ve already done the part where I remove everything I am NOT excited to wear, now it’s just a matter of filling all the holes back in to make it functional.

Make our home more inviting and functional

We’ve owned our house for two years now, and it’s still shocking to me how much there is left to do. When we moved in, our house (a basic 60’s-era brick ranch) had been freshly gutted + renovated, with all off white walls, all beige carpet, and a new kitchen and master bath. The only room that had any character left was the guest bathroom, which (aside from a fresh coat of off white paint) was untouched (and sporting some pretty fantastic purple accent tiles). I have (with the blessing of my husband) been working diligently to turn this bland beige thing into something that actually reflects who we are. It’s looking leagues better, but there’s still quite a ways to go.