Friday, December 27, 2013

Lasagna Cupcakes

Happy Holidays! I hope that everyone is enjoying time with family, friends, and good food. We've had a wonderful time celebrating and are ready to continue into the new year. I'm so thankful that I get school vacation around this time of year.  It fully allows me to enjoy a lot of time out and about, as well as time at home. I love cooking dinner when I'm not rushing around after work.

These individual lasagnas are a perfect dinner and an excellent potluck option. I first discovered this recipe in a Hungry Girl email a couple years ago. I've altered it slightly over time as we've enjoyed this meal. I decided it was finally time to photograph these and post the recipe here. This recipe makes about 12 cupcakes. Enjoy!

You will need:
*olive oil (eyeball about one tablespoon)
*1 pound ground turkey breast
*1/4 tsp. salt, divided

*1/8 tsp. black pepper

*1 cup onion
, chopped
*1/2 cup  mushrooms, chopped

*about 18oz of your favorite marinara sauce (or crushed tomatoes with garlic)
*1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

*1 clove garlic, minced
*10-oz. spinach, chopped (I rarely use frozen spinach. We prefer to sautee fresh, but frozen could definitely work hear if thawed and squeeezed dry)
1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
*1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
24 small square wonton wrappers
*1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey and season with 1/8 tsp. salt and pepper. Cook and crumble until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add onion and mushrooms, stirring often, and cook until veggies are soft and the turkey is cooked through. 

Reduce heat to low. Add marinara sauce and Italian seasoning to the skillet. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

3. While turkey simmers, 

combine spinach, ricotta cheese, egg, nutmeg, remaining 1/8 tsp. salt, and garlic in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.

4. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or olive oil. Be sure the pan is well coated so that the muffins won't stick. Press a wonton wrapper into the bottom and shape up the sides of each cup of the pan. Evenly distribute about half of the spinach-ricotta mixture among the cups, smoothing the surfaces with the back of a spoon.

Next, add about half of the turkey mixture among the cups, smoothing the surfaces with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle each turkey layer with about 1 tablespoon mozzarella cheese. Place another wonton wrapper into each cup, lightly pressing it down on the cheese layer and along the sides of the cup, letting the edges fall over the pan. Repeat the layering by evenly distributing remaining spinach-ricotta mixture and turkey mixture among the cups. Top each cup with another tablespoon of mozzarella cheese.

5. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese has melted and wrapper edges are browned. Cool slightly before removing from pan.

These are best after a few minutes out of the oven. They do reheat well for the filling, but I find that the bottom wrapper can get soggy. I usually try to make them close to serving time. We do still enjoy leftovers for lunch throughout the week when I make them for just the two of us.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Recipe Swap: Crockpot Beef and Broccoli

Sarah is hosting another What's Cooking Recipe Swap. For this swap I was assigned Simple Gourmet Cooking. I had fun browsing Dawn's blog, and it was difficult to decide which recipe to try first! I pulled Dave in to help sort through my narrowed down choices. This beef and broccoli was perfect. I love utilizing the crockpot to cook weekend dinners. We both really enjoyed this dinner and plan to repeat it again. It was the perfect amount for the two of us to enjoy dinner and lunch the next day.

You will need:
*1 cup beef broth
*1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
*1/3 cup brown sugar
*1 tablespoon sesame oil
*3 garlic cloves, minced
*1 pound stew beef or a sliced beef chuck roast
          (We can never get a roast under 3 pounds, so I used the butcher's precut stew beef)
*2 tablespoons cornstarch
*frozen broccoli florets (as many as desired-we used 16oz)
*Rice, cooked

1. Add the beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and garlic to the insert of the crockpot. Stir together to combine.

2. Place the beef in the liquid and toss gently to coat. Cook on low 4-6 hours, until beef is completely cooked, but not shredding when touched.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons of the crockpot broth mixture and the cornstarch.  Add back into the crockpot and mix well. Cook on low for an additional 30 minutes to thicken up the sauce. During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add in the broccoli to heat through.

4. Serve hot over rice.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Walnut Streusel

Thanksgiving is one week away. We are hosting yet again and I am frantically trying to get our menu put together. Every year I start saving recipes in magazines and pin many new ones with the intention to test drive them. Good intentions, but we often end up returning to favorites when we are a week out needing to make a decision. (And yup. That is happening again) These sweet potatoes worked really well last year and are worthy of a repeat. I love potatoes but tend to only make them around the holidays. With the amount of recipes I've collected, that might have to change this year. This recipe was found on Lauren's Latest.

For the potatoes, you will need:
*3 large sweet potatoes

*4 tablespoons brown sugar

*3 tablespoons butter

*pinch salt

*1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the streusel, you will need:
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

*1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Fork the sweet potatoes to create numerous holes. a Bake for about 40 minutes, or until soft.

2. Allow cooked sweet potatoes to cool slightly. Then slice in half, scooping out the centers into a bowl, leaving about a 1/4 inch border of sweet potato with the skin. Place the potato skins back on the baking sheet.

3. In the bowl of sweet potato, stir in brown sugar, butter, salt, and cinnamon until smooth. Spoon or pipe the filling back into the potato skin shells. (We stopped at this step when prepping ahead of time. We made the streusel and warmed the potato skins shortly before serving)

4. In another small bowl, combine all ingredients for the streusel. Mix together until all the ingredients start sticking together. You might want to use a fork to help blend the butter as it warms. Top the filled sweet potatoes with the streusel. Bake 20-30 minutes. Serve warm.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Recipe Swap: Lighter Creamy Garlic Pasta

It's recipe swap time again. I'm thankful to participate in these swaps since they remind me about this little old blog I have here. Sarah over at Taste of Home Cooking hosts these What's Cooking swaps. This month's theme was vegetarian recipes. I was assigned the blog Cookaholic Wife and decided to try this pasta recipe. I didn't make a true vegetarian recipe because I used chicken stock since it's what we had on hand and what the original recipe called for. That could easily be swapped out for a vegetable stock to keep this vegetarian. This pasta dish came together quickly and was a perfect comfort dish. It would thicken more with a heavier milk, but I loved it just the way it was.

You will need:
*1 tablespoon butter
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*1 teaspoon olive oil
*pinch of salt and pepper
*3 cups fat-free low sodium chicken broth
*3/4 cup milk (I used skim)
*1/2 pound linguine
*1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
*fresh parsley, minced, optional (I ended up using some dried parsley topping)

1. Heat the butter, garlic and olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Stir frequently so the garlic doesn't burn.
2. Once the butter has melted fully, add the salt, pepper, chicken broth, and milk. Bring to a boil.
3. Add the linguine and allow to cook according to package directions, stirring frequently so the mixture doesn't boil over.
4. Once fully cooked, stir in the cheese then remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Serve with additional cheese and parsley if desired.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pumpkin Fettuccine Alfredo

Here's another fall pumpkin fix that comes in a comforting pasta dinner. When How Sweet It Is posted this recipe last year, I was immediately interested because of the mascarpone cheese. I love this ingredient in cream sauces. Even though this recipe uses a small amount, I recommend not skipping this creamy addition. We weren't fans of the fried sage leaves. I think in the future I would just add the ones that are baked with the pasta. I tend to be a little boring when it comes to certain herbs as a little often goes a long way for me.

You will need:
*1 pound whole wheat fettuccine
 (I used the usual box I find that is about 14oz)
*2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour

*2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups low-fat milk
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

*1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

*3/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 tablespoons freshly chopped sage leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt

*1/4 teaspoon pepper

*1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
*freshly grated fontina (optional)
*breadcrumbs (optional)
*extra sage leaves if desired
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray or oil.

2. Boil water and cook pasta according to the product directions. Leave about 1 minute off the cooking time since you will be baking the pasta with the sauce. Drain and keep aside until needed.

3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once sizzling, whisk in flour and stir continuously until bubbly and golden, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.

4. Stir the milk into the roux you just created. You want to keep stirring and steadily raise the heat as needed, until the mixture bubbles and starts to thicken-about 5-7 minutes. Next, mix in the mascarpone, parmesan, pumpkin, sage, salt, pepper and pumpkin pie spice. Mix until all ingredients blend and the sauce is thickened.

5. Add pasta to the prepared baking dish. Pour sauce on top and toss well to coat. If desired, add some grated fontina and a sprinkling of bread crumbs. Bake for for about 20 minutes, or until it is bubbly. Serve pasta immediately and top with sage leaves-listed in step 6.

6. If you'd like the fried sage leaves topping,  heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add a few sage leaves at a time to the hot pan and fry for about 30 seconds. Remove and place on a paper towel.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pumpkin Danish

This year is absolutely flying. I found myself shocked that it's October. The school year is in full swing, and we have a ton of apple and pumpkin treats to bake. I am trying to catch up because I love fall. It's always marked for me by the return of football and cool mornings. One thing I could do without is the loss of daylight, but I guess I can be too picky. This pumpkin danish is the perfect treat for a fall morning. I found this recipe on Lauren's Latest.

for the danish, you will need:
*1 tube crescent rolls
6 oz. softened cream cheese

*1/2 cup pumpkin
*1/2 cup granulated sugar

*1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

*2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

for the glaze, you will need:
2/3 cup powdered sugar

*4 tablespoons heavy cream or 1 tablespoon milk

*splash vanilla

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare a baking sheet with a silipat or foil lining.

2. Combine cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, spices, flour and vanilla in a small bowl.

Unroll crescents keeping them shaped as rectangles (not individual triangles) and they them width wise on the baing sheet. (This should cover almost the entire length of a half sheet pan) Press to seal any holes. Cut 1/2 inch diagonal strips up each side of the dough. Next, carefully spread cream cheese filling down the center of the dough so that it is about 2-3 inches wide. Fold 1/2 inch dough pieces you cut so they are up and over filling, alternating sides will give you the braided pattern. (Remove any excess dough)

4. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until filling is set and dough is golden in color. Cool on the baking sheet. Once danish has cooled, remove and add icing as listed below.

5. In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar, vanilla, and cream/milk. You may need to add more cream/milk to get the desired consistency. Drizzle icing over danish. Cut into pieces and serve.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Recipe Swap: Quinoa Chicken

It's time for another recipe swap hosted by Sarah at A Taste of Home Cooking. This month's theme was blogger's choice. I was assigned to read through and select a recipe from The Jey of Cooking. I've visited Jey's blog before and was excited for the opportunity to try another recipe from her selection. It was a tough choice and I plan on pinning some of my many options. After much debating, I decided to make the Quinoa Chicken. I hadn't made quinoa in awhile and was eager to use the bag in my pantry. This chicken dish was fabulous! To make the recipe more weeknight friendly, I cooked the quinoa on the stovetop the day before and kept it in the fridge before roasting. If you are looking for a healthier alternative to a crispy breaded chicken, I suggest you give this a try. It was a great change of pace dinner for us and it'll surely be a repeat in our kitchen.

You will need:
*1 Cup Quinoa, rinsed
*2 Cups Chicken Broth
*4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
*1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
*1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme, chopped, plus additional for serving
*Olive Oil Cooking Spray

1. Preheat oven to 300.

2. Combine the rinsed quinoa and chicken broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.  (This is the step I did the night before)

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread cooked quinoa onto the sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 30 minutes. Cool a bit, then transfer to a shallow bowl.
4. Increase the oven temperature to 425. Place a baking rack over the previously used baking sheet. 

5. Combine the chicken, Dijon mustard, and thyme in a bowl; mix to coat. Place the coated chicken into the quinoa, one piece at a time, pressing to coat both sides then transfer to the baking rack. Spray the chicken lightly with olive oil and bake about 20-30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with additional thyme if desired.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

The school year is now in full swing. We're back to later dinners, earlier sunsets, and quick fix recipes for busy nights. There are some nights a recipe like this takes too long during the week, but I enjoy dedicating time to cooking on other days when I get home earlier. I am still trying to keep our goal of trying at least one new recipe a week in our menu plan. I'm so behind on blogging, that I'm rediscovering things we tried and loved last school year. This chicken is one of those dinners that I'll be repeating soon. I like jalapeno poppers but I rarely eat them. What's not to love when something is cheesy with a bit of a kick? I found this delicious dinner on Elly Says Opa. We doubled Elly's recipe  and it worked out well. The chicken is best the day you make it, but we did still enjoy having a lunch portion as well.

 You will need:
*1 cup panko
*4 teaspoons canola oil
*3 teaspoons taco seasoning
1 egg
 (start with 1, add a second if needed)
*4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2-3 jalapeño peppers, minced-seeds removed
4 chicken breasts

1. Preheat the oven to 375 and place a baking rack over a foil lined rimmed baking pan. Spray/spead the rack with cooking oil.

2. Combine the panko and canola oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir and cook until the panko is crispy and golden in color. Transfer the panko to a shallow dish and mix in the taco seasoning. Lightly beat the egg in another shallow dish.

3. Combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and minced jalapeño in a small bowl. 

4. Cut a pocket into the side of each chicken breast (this is where the stuffing will go). I found it worked best to cut horizontally into the chicken like you were butterflying it. Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper, and then divide the cream cheese mixture evenly into the chicken's pocket you created. Use toothpicks to secure, if necessary.

5. Dip the stuffed chicken breasts one at a time, first into the egg and then into the panko mixture. Press to coat completely. Place the chicken on the oiled baking rack and cook for about 25-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Rolls

Are you ready for some football? We're hosting today's Patriots season kickoff. I am planning on serving this appetizer to our friends as we start another fall football season of Sunday potlucks. We have a local restaurant that makes an amazing buffalo chicken egg roll appetizer. They're deep fried pockets of goodness. I was excited to discover this baked recipe on Can You Stay for Dinner. These rolls convey the same buffalo deliciousness with fewer calories. They may not taste the exact same, but they are a good substitute. You can adjust the amounts below to make more egg rolls. I often do that because they freeze and reheat well. I hope you all enjoy the return of football. GO PATS!

You will need:
*12 egg roll wrappers
*1 cup cooked and shredded chicken
*2/3 cup Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce (or hot sauce if preferred)
*1 cup crumbled blue cheese
*1 cup shredded slaw mix
*blue cheese dressing, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Combine the chicken and hot sauce in a small bowl. Mix until the chicken is coated. Place a small bowl of water near you.

3. To fill the egg roll wrappers, start with 1 tablespoon of slaw near the bottom right corner. Above (not on top of) that put 2 tablespoons of the spicy chicken. Place 1 tablespoon of blue cheese on top of the chicken. You do not want to overfill the wrappers or they will split open while cooking. Fold the bottom of the egg roll over the filling, then tuck in each side corner and continue to roll. Seal the top flap by dipping your finger in the water bowl and running it along the edge. You want to outline it like the seal on an envelope before sealing the roll. Repeat with the remaining rolls.
*The post where I found this recipe (linked above) has great photos if you've never rolled egg rolls before.

4. Place the rolls on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet. Lightly spread, or spritz, olive oil on top of the rolls. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crisp and a light golden brown.

Early prep/freezing notes:
You can prepare the rolls ahead of time on the day you're serving and keep them in the fridge until cooking. If freezing, I prefer to bake them first and then freeze them once they've cooled. The cooked rolls will also keep a couple days in the fridge.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Peanut Butter Reese's Pieces Cookies

Happy Birthday to me!

I did not actually make these cookies for myself, but they are chocolate and peanut butter, so clearly I loved them. Dave is a big fan of cookies but I'm not huge on desserts. I'd rather get an appetizer or eat something salty. But the peanut butter and chocolate combination is too good to pass up. This recipe yielded a lot of cookies. I ended up with about 28 and was able to bring them to a cookout, a friend's birthday celebration, and keep some treats at home. These cookies are packed with flavor but they stay on the softer side as I prefer. The most amazing way to eat these is while they're still warm. This recipe comes from Averie Cooks.

And since it's my birthday, I'm now going to polish off the bag of remaining Reese's Pieces...

You will need:
*1 egg
*1 cup light brown sugar, packed
*3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (homemade won't work here)
*1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
*1 tablespoon vanilla extract
*1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
*3/4 teaspoon baking soda
*pinch of salt
*1 cup Reese's Pieces
*1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the egg, brown sugar, peanut butter, butter, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

2.  Stir in the flour, baking soda, salt, and until just incorporated. (Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl) This should only take about 1 minute. Gently stir in the Reese's Pieces and chocolate chips.

3. Use a cookie dough scoop to form mounds of about 2 tablespoons. Place prepared dough mounds on a large plate and flatten slightly with your palm. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 5 days) before baking. Chilling the dough will keep it from flattening and spreading in the oven.

4. Preheat oven to 350F and remove dough from the fridge. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or coat with cooking spray. Place mounds on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, rotating half way through baking. You want the cookies pale and glossy in the center with set edges. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack.

5. Keep cooled cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 4 months.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Kickin' Chicken

Where did summer go? I can't believe it's time for me to setup the classroom for another school year. I am looking to squeeze in a few more weeks of grilling before the daylight disappears after work and the air chills.

This recipe was another Pinterest discovery. I was interested in the fact that there were few ingredients and they seemed tasty. I am so glad that we tried this. We've enjoyed this chicken on its own, on salads, and in wraps. This is a great recipe to grill marinated chicken and use it for the week in lunches and/or dinners. If you like Frank's sauce, then I think you will love this chicken. It is flavorful rather than very spicy. This recipe came from Sweet Little Blue Bird.

You will need:
*2-3 pounds of chicken (we used boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I think wings and thighs would work well too)
*1 cup Frank's Red Hot Original
*1/4 cup olive oil
*juice of 2 limes
*2 cloves of garlic, minced

1. In a medium bowl, mix together Frank's sauce, olive oil, lime juice, and garlic.  Place chicken in a pan, bowl, or Ziploc bag and cover in marinade.  Marinade in the fridge for at least four hours.

2. Preheat grill. Remove chicken from marinade and grill. With butterflied or thin chicken breasts, I usually cook them for about 5-7 minutes a side.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Recipe Swap: CPK's Original BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad

It's time for another What's Cooking recipe swap hosted by Sarah at A Taste of Home Cooking. This month's theme was summer salads. Dave and I often talk about how we should make some new entree salads, but then we never actually follow through. I was thrilled to receive this salad recipe from Sarah herself for this swap. I've only eaten at California Pizza Kitchen once or twice and never tried this salad. So I can't speak to how much like the original it is, but I can tell you that we loved it! I often grill too much chicken so this was a great way to utilize some leftovers. This meal also comes together quickly which makes it another weeknight rotation option for us.

You will need:
*2-3 Romaine hearts, chopped
*1/4 cup basil leaves, chiffonade
*1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
*1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
*1 cup sweet corn
*2 tablespoons minced red onion
*1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
*1/4-1/2 cup ranch dressing
*1 large tomato, diced or grape tomatoes, halved
*1 ripe avocado, sliced
*2 grilled chicken breasts, diced and tossed in barbeque sauce (or you could grill in BBQ sauce)
*additional barbeque sauce for serving

1. Combine the lettuce, basil, cilantro, black beans, corn, red onion, and cheese in a large bowl. Toss with enough ranch dressing to coat. Place tomatoes around the edges of the bowl; top with avocado slices and diced grilled chicken. Drizzle barbeque sauce on top and serve.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Prosciutto and Melon Pasta Salad

We've been lucky enough to travel to Italy on two vacations. Dining was often outdoors at a slow pace that feels quite opposite to us Americans used to only spending about an hour at restaurants. Prosciutto and melon was our go to appetizer in Rome and Venice. Eating this pasta salad took me back to many happy memories of those vacations. I was finally able to find a local deli with good prosciutto which helped to make all the difference. This recipe came from an idea I tagged in a Cooking Light magazine, and I added it to our weekly menu after it was posted on Prevention RD. We enjoyed this for dinner as an entree. It would also make a great side dish.

You will need:
* about 7 oz (2 cups dry) whole wheat pasta
*1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
*2 tablespoons olive oil
*1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch for pasta water
*1/8 teaspoon black pepper
*2 cups cantaloupe, cubed
*3 ounces prosciutto, ripped into pieces
*4-6 large basil leaves, cut into thin strips
*2 ounces Asiago cheese, finely grated

1. Boil 2 quarts of water in a large pot. Once boiling, add a pinch of salt and the pasta. Cook your pasta according to the box directions. You want it to be al dente. Drain the cooked pasta and briefly rinse under cool water to bring the pasta to room temperature.

2. While the pasta is cooking, squeeze the lemon juice into a medium bowl.Whisk in the olive oil; season with the salt and pepper.

3. Toss the pasta with the dressing mix. Gently stir in the cantaloupe, prosciutto, basil, and Asiago. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

We enjoyed leftovers for lunch the next day. This pasta salad is best when served immediately. I'd recommend making it the same day you will enjoy most of it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Spaghetti Squash Tacos

The Smitten Kitchen cookbook was on my holiday wishlist. As with most of my gifts this past year, I was lucky enough to get two! I passed one copy on to a coworker to enjoy. I am terrible with cookbooks. I get them and read through them eagerly tagging things I want to make. Then the book gets placed on a shelf upstairs and ignored. My menu planning tends to come from other blogs, Pinterest, monthly cooking magazines, and recipes from here. I am (yet again) making more of an effort to cook from my recipe book collection. This was a recent Meatless Monday meal from the SK Cookbook. If you've read through the blog you know that we love tacos. This is a great twist for a meatless taco night. This recipe made a lot of tacos. We enjoyed them for dinner and some lunches. The filling reheated better than I expected.

You will need:
*3 pound spaghetti squash
*2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
*1 teaspoon chili powder
*1/2 teaspoon cumin
*1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
*1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
*corn tortillas

Suggested toppings:
*15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
*4 oz feta, crumbled
*1/4 cup red onion, diced
*1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
*hot sauce, if desired

1. Carefully cut the spaghetti squash in half and scrape out the seeds. (I usually poke numerous holes with a fork and microwave the squash for a few minutes to make cutting easier) You can then roast the two halves or microwave them until tender. If roasting, cook face down on an olive oil lined baking pan in an oven set to 400 for about 40 minutes. In the micro, place face down on a shallow plate with some water and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Use a fork to scrape the cooked squash in a bowl.

2. While squash is cooking, mix lime juice, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt together in a small bowl.  Add to cooked spaghetti squash and toss thoroughly. Taste squash and adjust seasoning as needed.

3. Blister corn tortillas in a dry pan.

4. Use the squash as your base and add desired toppings. We enjoyed the toppings listed above.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Recipe Swap: Grilled Pork Chops with a Balsamic-Maple Glaze

I joined my first recipe swap! Sarah at a Taste of Home Cooking hosts these recipe swaps through our cooking board and many blogs I read participate frequently. When I saw that this month's swap was grilling, I knew I should join in the fun. So I submitted the shrimp packets only to discover that someone else had already shared this great recipe. I then sent in our basic burgers that we still enjoy frequently. I'll admit that I was a bit nervous to be sent any grilling recipe. When I received these pork chops from Sweet Beginnings I was excited. We never think to grill pork chops so this meal was a great change of pace. Our grill has been having a few flame issues lately. I'm not quite sure why the front burner is a constant orange flame. The only change I made was pouring the glaze on top of these instead of grilling with it on at the end. I didn't want to risk dealing with a chop on fire. (This is also why the picture is sauce free. I forgot/was too hungry to take another. oops) This was a delicious dinner and it came together quickly.  I think we'll be making these again soon. Recipe swaps are also a fun way to try a new recipe that I might not have originally selected. I look forward to participating in more.

 You will need:
*2 good quality pork chops (I bought bone-in at our local butcher shop)
*ground coriander
*1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
*1/3 cup chicken stock
*1 tablespoon maple syrup
*1 teaspoon dijon mustard
*1 garlic clove, minced
*3-4 strings of thyme
*1 string of rosemary
*sprinkle of flour
*1/2 tablespoon butter

1. Heat the grill over medium-high heat. Season pork with the salt, pepper and ground coriander.

2. Grill the chops for 6-7 minutes per side. Rotate once during cooking.
For thinner chops, you do not need as long. You don't want to overcook them and dry out the pork. Pork continues to cook a bit when it sits after heating.

3. While your pork is grilling, prepare the sauce. Combine all remaining ingredients, except the flour and butter, in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a simmer. Then whisk in the flour to slightly thicken. Whisk in the butter until melted.

4. When the chops are almost done cooking, remove from grill. Top with a hefty spoonful of the stove top glaze. Allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. We enjoyed some of the extra glaze on a side dish of green beans.

Here are the dishes made in the grilling swap:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Spanakopita Bites

I waste an impressive amount of time on Pinterest looking at food. Dave and I were discussing last night that I probably have pinned more dinners than I'll ever make. In the summer I also pin ideas for my classroom and consider that doing some school work. It's professional development, right?
This appetizer was a Pinterest discovery. It comes from Iowa Girl Eats. I always forget how convenient phyllo cups are. This is a great recipe for a shower, cookout, dinner, or any other get together.

You will need:
*30 frozen phyllo cups (usually this takes 2 packages)
*1 tablespoon EVOO
*1 small onion, minced
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*salt and pepper, to taste
*16oz bag of fresh spinach (you could substitute 10oz thawed frozen spinach)
*6oz crumbled feta cheese
*pinch ground nutmeg
*1 egg, whisked

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the phyllo cups on 2 baking sheets; set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, spinach, salt and pepper. Once spinach is cooked, remove from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl; allow it to cool slightly. (If using frozen spinach you do not need to cook it. Just add it into the bowl on step 3)

3. Add feta cheese, nutmeg, and egg to the bowl of spinach and stir to combine. Spoon mixture into phyllo cups. Bake for about 13 minutes or until cups are golden brown around the edges. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

*You could assemble these ahead of time and keep them in the fridge for a day or less before baking.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Berry Bundt Cake

Baking still happens in the summer around here. I can thank our central air for that blessing.
I love summer's fresh berries. We snack on them and occasionally include them in dinner. I think the best way to use them though is in a treat. I get overly excited when berries are on sale and buy more than two people need. This bundt cake was discovered on Smitten Kitchen when I was looking for a way to use some of our supply last summer. I've made this a couple times and enjoy how versatile it is. You can change the amounts and types of berries to fit what you have on hand. I soon want to try putting some cherries into this recipe. I omitted the glaze because I think this treat is perfect as is or paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

You will need:
*2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

*2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
*1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

*1 3/4 cups sugar

*1 lemon, zest only
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

*3/4 cup buttermilk

*3 cups mixed berries ( I usually use 1 cup each of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease a 10-cup bundt pan using butter and flour.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest for about 3 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Keep the mixer on low speed and add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla.

4. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the mixing bowl batter. You want to add about 1/3 of the mixture then half the buttermilk. Stir to combine and repeat. Do not over mix the batter. Only stir to combine the rest of the flour mixture and buttermilk.

5. Toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Gently fold the berries into the cake batter.

6. Spoon the thick cake batter in the prepared bundt pan and spread the top smooth. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the cake half way through cooking time. The cake is finished when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

7. On a wire baking rack, cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Brie and Apricot Chicken

The weather is not cooperating with my summer grilling. The afternoons and evenings are filled with downpours and scattered storms. Luckily my hoarding tendencies keep options in the freezer, such as chicken breasts. This is an extremely simple and fast meal. It's perfect for a last minute change in the dinner plan. I'm not usually a huge fan of apricot, but I think the jam pairs perfectly with the brie on this chicken. We enjoyed this dinner with a side of green beans sauteed in olive oil and garlic then topped with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. I found this recipe on Peanut Butter Runner and omitted a flouring step to make it even quicker.

You will need:
*2 boneless, skinless thin chicken breasts (or butterflied and pounded thin)
*salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6-8 slices of brie

*4 tablespoons apricot preserves

1. Preheat oven broiler on high with a rack in the top third of the oven.

2. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then saute for about 4 minutes per side. The chicken should golden in color and be mostly cooked through. (It will then broil a couple minutes so it may finish cooking then)

3. Remove browned chicken from pan and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Spread about 2 tablespoons of apricot preserves on chicken and cover with slices of brie. Place under broiler and cook for about 2 minutes until cheese is melted and chicken is cooked completely. Keep an eye on this since it can burn quickly.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Orzo Caprese Salad

It's officially summer! School is out and the temperature is high. The grill is in action and we're enjoying some dinners on the deck again. We hosted another Father's Day cookout this year where I test drove this side dish. I knew I wanted to make a caprese pasta salad with pasta. A quick Google for dressing ideas led me to Savory Simple. We also had orzo on hand so I decided to use this recipe. I think this might become a cookout staple. It was light, tasty, and easy to prepare.

You will need:
*2 cups uncooked orzo
*3 tablespoons olive oil
*1 tablespoon agave nectar
*1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
*1 cup tomatoes of your choice, halved or quartered
*1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed
*2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
*salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook orzo according to package instructions.

2. Whisk olive oil, agave, and lemon juice in a large serving bowl. Add the cooked orzo and toss to coat.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together. Refrigerate until serving. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hummus and Veggie Pizza

This pizza started as a Pinterest discovery. It sounded different and I thought we might like it. Do you ever make a meal and then become obsessed with it? Well that happened here. We've made this pizza a few more times and both Dave and I enjoy it. It also reheats well for lunch the next day. This is perfect for a busy night. I would have never thought of putting hummus onto pizza before seeing this on Just a Taste. I can't wait to experiment with other toppings. Although at the moment this combination seems perfect!

You will need:
*whole wheat pizza dough, room temperature
*roasted garlic hummus (we love Sabra)
*baby spinach, torn
red bell pepper, sliced thin
*small white onion, sliced
*cheddar cheese, shredded
(I did not put any measurements because we usually just eyeball it. If you're looking for guidance, you want about 1 cup of spinach and cheese, then about a 1/2 cup of pepper and onion)

1. Preheat the oven to 475.

2. Stretch the dough onto a pizza stone. Spread the hummus over the dough leaving about 1/2 inch for the crust. (I like to lightly spread some olive oil on the crust) Place the torn spinach leaves, red pepper, and onion on top of the hummus. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

3. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Camouflage Cupcakes

Today is my little brother's 30th birthday. We are now the same age, since I have no idea how he keeps getting older when I stopped aging at 30. We celebrated with a wonderful party thrown by his girlfriend. I immediately knew that I needed to make a camo cupcake for this occasion. He loves to hunt and spend his time in the outdoors. I scoured Google to find the perfect cupcake and frosting method. It is crazy how many different camo cupcake options are out there! Thanks to Pinterest, I decided to use the tutorial on Crafty Mama. This post is not a recipe, but more of a how-to. You can use the cake and frosting you'd prefer. These are simple to make. All you need is a bit of time.

To make the cupcakes, you will need: 
*your favorite white cake batter
*your favorite chocolate cake batter
*green food coloring

1. Preheat the oven according to your cake recipe. (Most likely around 350) Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners.

2. You are going to make 4 bowls of different colored batter. In one bowl, mix some of the white cake batter with green food coloring and a drop of chocolate batter until you reach your desired camo green. In another bowl, mix some white and chocolate batter to make a light brown. You will then use the remaining white batter, and chocolate batter, as is. 

3. Using a spoon, drop the various colored batters into cupcake tins. You want to spread out and layer the colors so that they bake with a camo look. (You could swirl the batter for a more tie-dyed finish). Layer the batters until the tins are 3/4 of the way full.

4. Bake according to your cake recipe. Once fully baked, allow the cupcakes to sit for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
For the frosting, you will need:
*white frosting recipe (I made a buttercream but a cream cheese frosting could work too)
*cocoa powder
*green food coloring

1. Split the icing into 3 separate bowls. One bowl will remain white. In another bowl, combine the green food coloring. In the final bowl, add cocoa powder to make the brown color.

2. Using a flat spatula, try your best to section the 3 colors into a pastry/frosting bag. There are many other online versions of using different bags, piping different levels, etc. I found this one-bag-trick to be quick and efficient. Pipe the frosting onto your cupcakes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chicken Parmesan with Quinoa

Life slowed down in the Boston area last week. I can't seem to write a post without at least referencing the marathon tragedy. Marathon Monday is one of my favorite days of the year.We were spectating with friends on Boylston Street.  We were lucky we weren't hurt but I am still wrapping my head around how many were not that fortunate. I'm incredibly thankful for all those working hard to keep the city safe. "Boston strong" is a short but true statement that I think I will never tire of seeing everywhere. I am feeling wicked proud of the accent these days.

Comfort food is perfect in these times when we're grateful and hurting at the same time. This dish combines the protein of quinoa with the indulgence of chicken parmesan. This recipe comes from Elly Says Opa. I recommend that you make this soon and enjoy it with loved ones.

You will need:
*1 tablespoon olive oil

*1 yellow onion, diced

*3 cloves garlic, minced

*2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

*1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes

*1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

*basil and oregano, to taste

*1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water or broth

*1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cooked and chopped
2/3 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

*2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

*2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
*2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional for serving)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 and oil a 2-quart baking dish.

2. Place the quinoa and water/broth in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. The quinoa is finished when the liquid is mostly absorbed.

3. While the quinoa is cooking, make your sauce:

Place the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently. This should take about 5 minutes. Next, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the balsamic vinegar, scraping anything cooked on the bottom of the pan, and cook until the vinegar is almost fully absorbed. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a low boil, and then simmer until needed.

Combine the cooked quinoa and cooked chicken with the sauce. Place half the mixture in the baking dish, top with about 1/3 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Then add the remaining quinoa mixture. Layer with the remaining mozzarella cheese, and the Parmesan. Top with breadcrumbs.
Cover with foil and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake about 10 more minutes, or until the cheese is lightly brown and bubbling.

5. Optional: sprinkle with parsley and/or grated Parmesan before serving.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chicken Caesar Burgers

Spring is here and I'm absolutely loving the daylight when I leave work. The temps may still be a bit chilly, but I can feel the shift coming. Grilling nights and dinners on the deck aren't too far off! Although I haven't been blogging much, we've been adhering to our goal to try at least one new recipe a week. This leaves me with tons to share on here. These chicken caesar burgers are from last summer. I'm looking forward to trying them again soon. I found this recipe on Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life.

You will need:
*1 pound ground chicken
*1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
*3 tablespoons light Caesar dressing
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*1 tablespoon dried parsley
*1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
*1 tablespoon lemon juice

Optional toppings:
*freshly grated Parmesan cheese
*extra Caesar dressing
*Romaine lettuce
*red onion, sliced

1. In a bowl, combine all the needed ingredients (not toppings!) and mix well. Form the mixture into four patties, slightly indenting each center. Refrigerate the now formed burgers on a plate for about 30 minutes.

2. Grill chilled burgers over medium-high heat, 6-8 minutes on each side. Top cooked chicken burgers with desired toppings. Serve atop a salad or on hamburger buns.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chicken Marsala Casserole

Chicken Marsala is one of my favorite dishes to order out at a restaurant. Dave's mushroom phobia often prevents me from making it at home, but I'm starting to incorporate some mushrooms into cooking. He is often able to eat around them or doesn't mind them as much when they take on another flavor. This casserole is an easy shortcut to a Marsala dinner. I look forward to trying this again soon! This is another recipe discovered on Stephanie Cooks.

You will need:
*2 tablespoons butter
*10 ounces sliced mushrooms
*1 1/2 tablespoons flour
*1/2 cup Marsala wine
*1/2 cup heavy cream
*2 cups chicken broth
*1teaspoon dried parsley
*salt and pepper
*1 cup long grain rice, uncooked
*2 cups cooked chicken breast
*2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir well to coat. Stir in the Marsala wine and cream for about 3 minutes, until it starts to thicken. Stir in the broth, parsley, and season with salt and pepper.

3. In a 9x13 dish, spread the rice in an even layer over the bottom of the dish. Top with the chicken. Pour the mushroom mixture on top. Cover tightly with foil.

4. Bake 35 minutes, until bubbling. Remove foil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and bake 5 minutes uncovered.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sausage Wonton Cups

It's Super Bowl Sunday. While my beloved Patriots are not playing, we'll still tune in for the big game to watch the end of the NFL season. This also concludes our weekly Sunday potluck style afternoons with friends. This appetizer comes from a football get together. A coworker of mine makes these regularly, and I finally tried making them myself. These are creamy, cheesy, and delicious!

You will need:
*16oz frozen sausage
*24 wonton wrappers
*1 cup cheddar jack shredded cheese
*1 cup ranch dressing

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Cook sausage in a skillet over medium heat, crumbling with a spoon or spatula.  Once sausage has browned, place onto a paper towel lined plate to drain the grease.

3. While sausage is cooking, place the wonton wrappers into muffin tin wells. Heat wonton cups in preheated oven for about 5 minutes.

4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked sausage, ranch, and cheese. Spoon mixture into wonton cups and cook for about 10 minutes.

Serve warm.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Peanut Butter Frosted Whole Wheat Banana Donuts

I've previously mentioned my recipe hoarding tendencies. Pinterest might just be encouraging that habit at the moment. This recipe, however, was made back when I first saw it posted on Prevention RD. I love banana bread, Dave loves when I break out the donut pan, so I knew we'd have a winner. I decided to change the frosting on these to highlight the amazing combination of peanut butter and banana. These are a perfect treat for a weekend morning.

For the donuts, you will need:
*6 tablespoons sugar

*1 egg
1/2 cup over-ripe banana, mashed (about 1 1/2-2 small bananas)
3 tablespoons canola oil 

*1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt

*1/4 teaspoon salt

*1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

*1/4 teaspoon baking powder

*3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour

For the peanut butter frosting, you will need:
*3 tablespoons peanut butter
*2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
*about 1/4 cup powdered sugar
*splash of milk

1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Spray doughnut pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is light and pale. Stir in the banana, oil, vanilla, and yogurt.

3. In a separate bowl whisk together the salt, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and flour. Add to the egg mixture; stir together until combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared doughnut pan, filling wells 1/2 way, and bake for 10-12 minutes.

3. Make the frosting topping by combining all ingredients and mixing well. You can add more powdered sugar or milk to help reach desired consistency. Spread on cooled donuts using a flat spatula.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mexican Quinoa

Do you participate in Meatless Monday?  Dave and I started this about a year and a half ago. It began by eliminating meat for one day a week. I would have never guessed how much less meat we would eat over time. We are not vegetarians by any means, but I find we now only cook meat about 2-3 times a week. This  has also helped to lower our weekly grocery bills. If you are looking for a diet change this new year, I suggest giving Meatless Mondays a try.

It seems that quinoa is everywhere lately. The good news about that is how much easier it is to locate and afford quinoa here now compared to when I first started cooking with it. This has the elements of a perfect weeknight dish. It uses one pot, cooks quick, fills you up, and is delicious. We enjoyed this dish warm which I think is perfect for this time of year. It reheated well for lunches the next day. I think it would also make a great cold salad dish in the summer. I found this recipe on Annie's Eats.

You will need:
*2 teaspoons olive oil

*2 cloves garlic, minced

*2-3 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup uncooked quinoa (don't forget to rinse well before cooking!)
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth

*1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

*1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juices

*1 cup frozen corn
*1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

*half of lime, juiced
*Desired toppings-some ideas: shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, salsa, avocado

1. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and jalapenos and saute  for about 1 minute.  Next, stir in the the quinoa, veggie broth, beans, diced tomatoes with juices, corn, and salt.  Allow the mixture to reach a boil.

2. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover.  Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove pan from the heat; stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Serve with any toppings you'd like. We enjoyed cheese, Greek yogurt, and some tortilla chips.