Friday, October 29, 2010

Italian Grilled Cheese

If you don't try anything I posted this week...try this. Please. Seriously, this could be one of the best sandwiches of all time. Its basically just a grilled cheese that has been taken up a notch on the sophistication scale, but every bit as easy to prepare. Imagine a slice of creamy cheese between two pieces of crusty garlic bread and dunked in warm marinara sauce. This is the snob of all grilled cheeses...a grilled cheese for grown-ups. I don't even know what else to say! Go forth and grill cheese!




Italian Grilled Cheese
  • 1 slice provolone cheese
  • 2 slices of crusty bread (regular sandwich bread will work fine too, but crusty is better!)
  • butter flavored cooking spray
  • garlic salt
Directions:
Spray one side of each bread slice with butter spray.
Sprinkle with garlic salt.
Heat a skillet on medium to medium high heat and spray butter in pan.
Place one slice of bread, garlic side down in the pan and add cheese on top.
Grill for 3-4 minutes until the bread is golden brown.
Add the other slice of bread, flip and repeat until that side is golden.
Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Kale Chips

Get back here! Don't even think about skipping this recipe just because I said the word "kale."

I know what you're thinking. And I know that's something people always say, but really, I know what you're thinking. You could call me somewhat of a picky eater. If you asked my mom she'd probably tell you I'm a very picky eater. Which means that I'd never touched a piece of kale before trying this recipe, and never even considered it because "I know I won't like that." I have seen kale chips on food blogs and sites that I follow for years now. Literally, years. And every time I say, "nope, not for me" and move on, without a second thought.


Then I came across it once again earlier this year and I thought, all these people raving about kale chips can't be collectively off their rocker. So I ran out to the store and spent $1.50 on kale and figured if when they were gross, I hadn't wasted much money and then I'd be able to move on and say "liars!" every time I came across kale chips again.


Well, the only liar would be me if I told you these were gross. They are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Now, stop looking at me like that, I'm not crazy. My children, all three of them, beg me to make these. (Okay, so the baby doesn't actually beg, but she eats a ton of them!) When I asked my 9-year old daughter what she wanted to do for her birthday this year, she told me she wanted to have kale chips at her party. If that's not a convincing endorsement, then I've miserable failed here.You don't have anything to lose but a couple bucks and some cooking spray, so get off your rear and make these! If they totally suck I give you full permission to come back and publicly blast me. Now, go!

Kale Chips
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • cooking spray or olive oil
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375.
Rinse kale and pat dry.
Tear the leafy part off the thick middle stem into large pieces. Anywhere between 1-4 inches will work. I've seen people just throw the whole stalk in there before too! However, the thick middle stalk is very bitter so you want to avoid eating that part.
Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray (or toss the leaves with olive oil), lay out the kale in a single layer, and spray again on top.
Bake - This is the tricky part. Until you know how long these will take in your oven, you really have to watch them very closely. The directions I saw when I first made these said 18-20 minutes and I've found that anywhere between 7-10 is perfect for my oven. So there's a big variable there. You want to watch for the curly ends of the leaves to get crispy, they should feel slightly crisp to the touch, not wilty. Also, if they start to turn brown take them out immediately! If they taste bitter, you've cooked them too long.
Sprinkle with salt when they come out of the oven and serve! You can also play around with other seasonings, we really like them with Old Bay as well.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Crostini

Need a super duper easy, yet fancy finger food to serve at your next event? Look no further! (Do I sound like an infomercial yet?) These crostini take no longer than about fifteen minutes to prepare and they are highly addictive. Don't say you weren't warned.


These are fantastic right out of the oven and also great at room temperature, so you don't have to worry about keeping them warm. I think I actually prefer them room temperature. If you aren't a fan of feta cheese you could substitute goat cheese. I'm sure you could substitute any cheese you like, but the tanginess of feta really works well in combination with the sun-dried tomatoes. Best of all...only three ingredients, my kind of recipe!


Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Crostini
  • 1 loaf of french bread, cut into 1/2-3/4 inch slices
  • 1 container of feta cheese (I buy the reduced fat kind!)
  • 1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil
 Directions:
Preheat oven to 400.
Arrange sliced bread on a baking sheet.
Using the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar (or you can use regular olive oil, but the oil from the jar has so much more flavor!) take a brush and lightly brush the tops of the toasts with oil.
Bake for 5-10 minutes until crisp.
While those are baking, chop the sun-dried tomatoes into small chunks.
Top the crostini with the tomato pieces and a sprinkle of feta.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pepperoni Poppers

These delicious little poppers came out of a recipe fail. Isn't it funny how that happens sometimes? I posted Calzones last week, for which I used store-bought pizza dough. I planned to divide it in four balls and then roll those out into flat disks to make my calzones. I quickly learned that store bought pizza dough really only likes to roll out in the way it was designed to. So I thought crap, what am supposed to do with this big ball of dough!? And, today's recipe was born.


I find that any combination of cheese, dough and pepperoni is pretty much a safe bet. I served these up with some homemade ranch dipping sauce (which I will post soon) and they disappeared within minutes! In light of Halloween, I found myself thinking that these looked like little eye balls! You could pop a sliced green or black olive right in the center of each pepperoni and have a spooky little eyeball snack, that your guests can dip in "blood" (better known as marinara sauce) for your Halloween party this year!



Pepperoni Poppers
  • 1 can thin crust pizza dough
  • 4-5 pieces of string cheese
  • pepperoni
  • ranch or marinara for dipping
Directions:
Separate the pizza dough into 15-20 small balls, around golf ball sized or a little smaller.
Cut the string cheese into 4-5 pieces and stuff into the center of each dough ball. Seal the cheese inside the ball.
Lay on greased baking sheet and press down slightly.
Place a pepperoni on top of each ball.
Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chicken & Rice Skillet

This meal is what I like to call a "leftover round up" recipe. I basically took a few ingredients I had sitting around, mixed them together, and bam - dinner was born. I did a basic chicken and rice version, but on any given day I could have also had corn, mushrooms, peas, spinach, broccoli or other vegetables sitting in my fridge that would have been great additions to this casserole. I wasn't even expecting to post this recipe on the blog because honestly, I didn't have high hopes for its outcome. I didn't think it would be bad, but I didn't think it would be "blogworthy" either. Boy, was I wrong! This ended up being so delicious, you have to give it a try!

Now, its not "pretty," but a casserole's job isn't to be pretty, its to taste great...and this one does!




Chicken & Rice Skillet
  • 2C cooked rice (I used one cup of wild rice and one cup of white rice. Any rice will do, but I really love wild rice. If I'd had two full cups I would have used all wild rice.)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 can cream of chicken (or mushroom) soup
  • 1/2C fat free sour cream
  • 1C 2% shredded cheese
  • 1t garlic salt (or 1/2t of salt and 1/2t garlic powder)
  • cooking spray
  • any other veggies you want to add!
Directions:
Cut chicken into bite size pieces.
Put a large skillet on medium high heat and add chicken and garlic salt. Saute until chicken is browned.
Add in all other ingredients until well incorporated, and serve!
If you like that crunchy, cheesy "casserole" top, you can put it in a baking dish and pop it under the broiler for a couple minutes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Calzone

No, this is not an episode of Seinfeld. But I do love that one!

Being Italian, I have always been a lover of all things bread and pasta, which you will probably notice if you stick around for a while. I often find when I'm meal planning, that I have inadvertently chosen pasta or bread based meals for every single dinner. What can I say, its in my DNA! Who am I to argue with science? I have always been very fond of calzones, but unlike most other common Italian dishes, I've never attempted to make them myself. I should have tried sooner because they were super easy and absolutely delicious!

 The beauty of a calzone, especially if you live with picky people (yes family, I'm talking about you) is that you can cater to everyone without having to be a short order cook! All you need to do is round up everyones favorite ingredients and throw them in. This is a great meal to involve the kids in too, its so easy they can fill their own calzones. That's what I'm talking about, earn your keep! ;-)
  
I made a basic pepperoni calzones, but other suggestions for fillings are ham, sausage, hamburger, chicken, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, a variety of cheeses...basically the possibilities are endless. Be creative!
Calzones 
  • 1 can store-bought pizza dough, thin crust
  • 2C mozzarella cheese
  • 1C ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4C parmesan cheese
  • pepperoni or other fillings
  • marinara sauce for dipping
 Directions:
Unroll pizza dough (it will be rectangular) and cut into 4 equal sections.
Mix together cheeses and egg in a bowl.
Scoop about 1/2C of the mixture onto each square of dough, keeping it contained mostly to one side.
Add your fillings.
Fold dough over, lining up the corners.
Starting on one side, pinch the dough together and use your fingers to fold the bottom layer slightly over the top and press down.
Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cheddar-Beer Fondue

Raise your hand if you've ever gone to The Melting Pot and paid an arm and a leg to cook your own food? I'll admit it, I've been. More than once, even. But in my defense, the second time I went was years after the first and I'd forgotten what a rip off it was.


 Don't get me wrong, I love the whole fondue meal process. It's a fun way to eat dinner. But its something that can be replicated at home very easily, just as delicious, and at a fraction of the price. If I'm spending $100 on dinner I want someone else to cook it, pleaseandthankyou.


I found this recipe and played around with it shortly after my second encounter with The Melting Pot, and couldn't believe that I actually made fondue that (in my opinion) was better! Don't panic if you don't have a fondue pot. Neither do I. Its funny actually, I used to have a really nice one. I used it once and then it sat in a cabinet for years collecting dust until I got rid of it, and now I'd really like to have it back! But a saucepan works just as well, the only difference is that it doesn't look as fancy. And hell, if you want fancy, I hear The Melting Pot is taking reservations. ;-)

Cheddar-Beer Fondue
  •  1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • Dash cayenne (or add a dash of hot sauce to the melted mixture)
  • 3/4 c. beer
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Dippers!
Some of my favorite dippers:
Bread, soft pretzels, bread, carrots, apples, broccoli, bread, cauliflower, sauteed mushrooms, cooked potatoes, bread, tortellini, cubed ham, sausage links...did I mention bread???

Directions:
In bowl, combine cheese, flour, mustard and ground cayenne; mix to blend well. In fondue pot, combine beer and Worcestershire sauce. Set temperature at 375° and heat until bubbling. Gradually add cheese mixture and stir constantly until cheese melts and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Reduce temperature to 200° and serve with crusty bread cubes or other dippers. If you don't have a fondue pot, follow the same instructions using a saucepan over medium heat on the stove.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Green Pasta

No, the actual pasta is not green! I call this green pasta because of all the green veggies that it contains. With the huge amount of vitamins, fiber and nutrients you'll get from this pasta you can afford to do something crazy for dessert...like a DOUBLE Single Serving Cake! Maybe even with ice cream on the side, you ask? Now now, lets not get carried away. We still have to fit into that wedding dress in a few short months. Oh wait, that's me not you.


This is really a very simple dish, but with all the different flavors going on here, it seems much more complex. Its amazing how an easy cheese sauce really dresses up pasta and vegetables. Wait a minute. What am I saying? Cheese sauce makes everything better! Although this particular cheese sauce is one you can feel good about eating even if you're watching your calories. Its also a very eye appealing meal (though you may not be able to tell from the pictures - I can never get pasta to photograph very well!), and in case you hadn't heard, we eat with our eyes first. It definitely looks fancy enough impress guests and they'd never know how easy it was to prepare. The whole meal from start to finish only took me about 30 minutes to get on the table!



Green Pasta
  • 1 12-14oz box short pasta (I used Ronzoni Smart Taste rotini)
  • 2C chopped broccoli
  • 1C chopped asparagus
  • 6C fresh spinach
  • 1 12-ounce can fat free evaporated milk
  • 1C low sodium chicken stock
  • 4T flour
  • 1t garlic powder
  • 1/2t salt
  • 2/3C grated parmesan cheese
  • 2T light butter or margarine

Directions:
Cook pasta according to directions, set aside.
Coat a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
Add broccoli, asparagus and spinach to pan and saute on medium heat until vegetables are tender and spinach is wilted.
In a separate bowl, whisk together evaporated milk, flour and stock and pour into vegetables.
Stir until sauce is thick and creamy, then add in cheese until melted.
Stir in 2T of butter until melted and serve!


Adapted from: Parents.com

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spiced Butternut Squash

I took a cue from the name of this squash when I was thinking of ways to prepare it.
Butter. Nuts.
Sounds good to me! And holy butternuts, was it good. I've really been excited lately by all the ways vegetables can be so delicious. I've been trying to include more fresh veggies in my diet and between this dish and Zucchini Chips a couple weeks ago (and kale chips coming up!), I'm feeling very inspired by the potential veggies have!


I'm not going to lie to you though, peeling and cutting butternut squash is a real pain in the ass. I am actually one of those weirdos who enjoys chopping things up in the kitchen, but the skin of this particular squash is really tough and difficult to peel and cut into. I've seen them sell precut cubes of butternut squash in the store and if you aren't as cheap as me, you might want to just take advantage of that convenience. Actually, I think my fiance might cough up the cash next time, seeing as how he had to spend an hour fixing the disposal that I broke by shoving squash peels down there. So, make sure you don't do that.

In the end it really was worth it though, this squash is so sweet and delicious. I almost felt like I was serving candy with dinner. think pecan pie meets pumpkin pie. Its like a side dish of dessert!

Spiced Butternut Squash
  •  4C chopped butternut squash
  • 1/4C chopped pecans
  • 3T brown sugar
  • 1/2t pumpkin pie spice
  • butter flavored cooking spray (or regular butter if you aren't concerned with calories!)
Directions:
Place squash in a microwave safe container and cover with plastic wrap, leaving a small opening to vent.
Microwave for about 5 minutes until squash is tender.
Spray a skillet with butter spray and turn heat to medium.
Add squash, brown sugar, pecans and pumpkin pie spice.
Saute squash for 10-15 minutes.




Friday, October 15, 2010

Single Serving Cake!

Baked goods are my weakness. I can pass by candy and ice cream all day long, but you put a cupcake in front of me and I'm doomed. For those of you who don't know, I'm currently in a serious diet crunch, preparing for my wedding which takes place exactly three months from today! I'm working out twice a day and counting calories like its my job, so baked goods are the last thing I need right now.


Being that as it may, for some reason Fall brings on this uncontrollable urge to stuff carbs into my face. I have already pulled out all my favorite pumpkin bread and pie recipes in preparation of sharing them with you. Like I said, baked goods are my weakness. I'm an equal opportunity cake lover...but red velvet is my absolute favorite. Against my better judgement the other day at the store, I bought a red velvet cake mix and a can of cream cheese frosting.


Then I went home and we had a little stare-off. Me and the cake mix. I'd pull it out of the pantry, put it on the counter, walk by it a few times. Put it back in the pantry and leave the kitchen. Come back, repeat. Then I remembered a certain brownie mix called No Pudge (which is really very good if you haven't tried it!) that had an option to make a single serving brownie using non-fat vanilla yogurt. I thought it would definitely be worth a try to replicate this method using cake mix, especially if it kept me from baking and entire cake and subsequently eating entire said cake.

Lucky for me, (and now you)...it worked!


Single Serving Cake
(Someone think of a more exciting name for something this awesome please!)

2T cake mix
1T non-fat vanilla yogurt
1t-1T water

Directions:

You can double (or go wild and triple!) this by just doubling the ingredients.

Measure two tablespoons of cake mix and one tablespoon of yogurt into a small bowl. If the cake mix is lumpy (which they often are) make sure you either break up the lumps with the back of a fork or run it through a sifter first. No one wants lumpy cake!

Add 1t of water to start and whisk ingredients together.

Add more water as needed, cake mix should be slightly thicker than the consistency of a normally prepared cake batter.

Put cake mix into a microwave safe bowl or dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Microwave for about 1 minute.

Scoop a dollop of frosting or cool whip on that baby and dig in!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Amazing Pork Tenderloin

I am convinced that a woman invented the slow cooker. It just makes the most sense. You can't tell me that a man would have the forethought to create a machine that allows you to start dinner hours in advance when they don't even know the meaning of the word "plan." If you left dinner plans to a man you wouldn't be eating dinner...or you'd be eating Domino's every night.

Thankfully, I do the dinner planning around here (and a big thanks to the woman who created the slow cooker!). How cool is it when dinner basically cooks itself?! I find this notion particularly appealing on a Sunday when I'm feeling especially lazy.


Although, if you had come to dinner Sunday night and tried this pork you would have thought (after you insisted on hugging me) that I spent all day slaving! The aroma that will fill your house while this cooks is heavenly. The pork was perfectly cooked and the sauce (technically "au jus")....oh, the sauce. You might want to just pour a tall glass of it to drink with dinner. Just look at it. Even cheap wine couldn't ruin it!


Although, since it calls for 3/4 cup of wine, it leaves the rest of the bottle for you to enjoy with your meal! Not that I'm advocating drinking a whole bottle of wine. Not me. I definitely would never encourage that type of behavior. But, you have all that wine just sitting there, and these days people can't afford to be wasteful. I'm just sayin'...

This dish was perfectly complimented by a heaping pile of spiced butternut squash. So good, its like eating dessert and dinner at the same time. But you'll have to stick around for that recipe, its coming next week!

This recipe came from Allrecipes.com and the link can be found below. I note the changes I made and my suggestions.

Amazing Pork Tenderloin
1 (2 pound) pork tenderloin
1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
1 cup water
3/4 cup red wine
3 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce (After reading the reviews, I used 2T because some commented that is was too salty. Next time I'll only use 1T because it was still a tad salty for my taste, but very good!)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Directions:
Place pork tenderloin in a slow cooker with the contents of the soup packet. Pour water, wine, and soy sauce over the top, turning the pork to coat. Carefully spread garlic over the pork, leaving as much on top of the roast during cooking as possible. Sprinkle with pepper, cover, and cook on low setting for 4 hours. Serve with cooking liquid on the side as au jus.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cheeseburger & Fries Casserole GUEST BLOG!

Today I am very excited to direct you to a different blog for my recipe of the day! One of my favorite food blogs, TJs Test Kitchen, invited me to guest post a recipe over there and I'm just thrilled! TJ's blog focuses on healthy eating and counting Weight Watcher points. She has fantastic ideas and recipes. Not only that, she's an inspiration, having lost over 70 pounds so far. How awesome is that? Head over to TJ's blog and check out her recipes along with my recipe of the day...Cheeseburger and Fries Casserole!















Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Crispy Ranch Chicken

As promised yesterday, I am delivering to you Crispy Ranch Chicken! I almost called this "Fried" Ranch Chicken because it truly has that much crunch, but you are all such good people and I'd hate to lie to you. Even though you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference! Okay there, now that was a lie. Nothing tastes like fried chicken except fried chicken. You and I know this. But this chicken is still pretty damn good, and it won't give you thunder thighs.

My two older kids told me that this was "the best chicken they've ever eaten." Now, being their mother's child and all, they may have inherited a teensy bit of flare for the dramatic. Nonetheless, I still think this endorsement by the Picky Twins speaks pretty highly of the chicken!



Crispy Ranch Chicken
4-6 chicken breasts
1C corn flake crumbs (They sell them now with the breadcrumbs in the store, already crushed if you don't want to crush them yourself. We actually think thats kind of fun in my house though!)
1/4C grated parmesan cheese
1T dry ranch dressing mix (or if you are using the leftover from Cheesy Ranch Potatoes, just pour the rest of the packet in, it will be a little more than 1T, but that will just add extra flavor!)
1 container greek fage yogurt (about 4-5oz)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375
Mix corn flake crumbs, parmesan cheese and ranch mix together in a large shallow dish.
Using a pastry brush, coat both sides of the chicken breast with yogurt.
Dip chicken into corn flake mixture, coating both sides.
Place on a greased baking sheet (or rack if you have one) and bake for 30-40 mins until chicken is cooked inside and crispy outside.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cheesy Ranch Potatoes

Do I really have to sell you on this one? Cheese. Ranch. Potatoes. Oh, and did I mention BACON!? Hey wait, get back here! You can't go to the grocery store yet, I'm not finished! You have to sit through the rest of my witty banter and then you may be excused.

I think I may have created the perfect side dish here. I can't think of anything that wouldn't be complimented by these potatoes. Make them for a crowd though, or you'll eat entirely too many! Like I did while I was cleaning up from dinner and my fork kept making its way back into the dish of potatoes. These were a big hit with the whole family. Even the baby (who isn't really a baby anymore, but I refuse to stop calling her that) had three helpings!

Feel free to change up the cheese if you'd like, cheddar would be great or even a mexican blend. I am a huge fan of monterey jack though and I think its perfect in this dish. If you're wondering what to do with the leftover dry ranch dressing mix after you make these potatoes, save it! You'll be able to use the rest for Crispy Ranch Chicken, which will be posted tomorrow!



Cheesy Ranch Potatoes
21bs potatoes (about 5-6 medium/small potatoes)
1T dry ranch dressing mix
1T olive oil
2C monterey jack cheese
6 slices turkey bacon, cooked and chopped (or pork if you prefer)
sour cream for serving

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450.


Wash potatoes and cut into small pieces. Try to keep them all relatively close to the same size.
Place potatoes in a large bowl and add olive oil and ranch mix. Toss to coat.
Transfer to a 9x13 baking dish (make sure you either oil or spray the dish!)
Sprinkle cheese and bacon on top of the potatoes.
Bake at 450 for 30-40 minutes until potatoes are tender.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Zucchini Chips

I love chips. All kinds. In fact, I don't know if I've ever met a chip I didn't like. Unfortunately, they don't like me back...just ask my thighs their opinion on the matter. In an effort to get more veggies into my diet (and less chips), I pulled out this recipe I made a while ago and revamped it a bit. Holy cow are these things good!



Now, you know I'm the queen of all recipes "easy," and this recipe only has a few ingredients, but you might be thinking "hey, that recipe looks like it takes some work!" It does, but just a little, and the end result is so worth the effort. You have to believe that if I say its worth the effort...its worth. the. effort. These things are so addictive, just like potato chips! Even kids will be begging for them, just ask my son who said, and I quote, "Mom! These are SO GOOD! Can I have some more?" What 8 year old boy says that about zucchini??

You can make these ahead of time and flash freeze them for a few minutes, then store them in a ziploc bag in the freezer until you're ready to cook them. However you decide to make them, make two batches, or you'll wish you had!



Zucchini Chips

2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/8-1/4 inch slices
1/2C plain bread crumbs
1/2C panko bread crumbs
1/4C grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs (or 3 egg whites)
1/4-1/2C flour
1/2t garlic powder
1/2t salt
1/2C marinara sauce
cooking spray

Directions
Preheat oven to 450
1. In three separate shallow bowls (I find pie plates work well) put flour in one, eggs (slightly beaten) in another, and the panko, bread crumbs and cheese in the other.

2. Cover a large sheet pan with foil and place a baking rack on top.

3. Start a little assembly line for your zucchini and dip them in the flour, egg, and then panko mixture.

4. Place chips on baking rack, not touching each other.

5. Bake at 450 for 25-30 mins or until golden brown and crispy.




Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shepherd's Pie Meatloaf Muffins

I've been making Meatloaf Muffins for many years now. Its a recipe I acquired back when I started the Weight Watchers program. Those following the program enjoyed this recipe particularly because of the ease of portion control and the low points value. Long after I stopped doing WW, I continued making these muffins because low calorie or not, these things ROCK!

Recently, I was talking to my good friend Jamie (also a long-time lover of meatloaf muffins) about the start up of my blog and the brainstorming of new recipes, and she suggested that I feature Meatloaf Muffins with mashed potatoes on top. Genius! We usually have mashed potatoes on the side when I make these anyway, why not combine the two? Then I thought, with a sprinkle of cheese on top they would be almost like mini Shepherd's Pie's! And so, today's recipe was born.

If you're interested in making the traditional Meatloaf Muffins, you can do so by following the same recipe, omitting the mashed potatoes and cheese, and putting a dab of ketchup on top instead. I made half and half with this batch, but I posted the recipe as all Shepherd's Pie muffins. Try it however you like! Either way, I promise you are going to be making this again and again!

Does he look like a happy little guy!?


While the traditional meatloaf muffins don't look terribly appetizing,
I promise they are absolutely delicious!

One big happy family!

Shepherd's Pie/Meatloaf Muffins
(serves 12)

To make traditional meatloaf muffins, omit mashed potatoes and cheese and put 1t of ketchup on the top of each muffin before baking.

1lb ground beef or turkey
1 package Stove Top stuffing
1 egg white
1/2C water
1.5C prepared mashed potatoes (shhh, I won't tell anyone you made them from a box if you won't!)
3/4C shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375
1. Mix together first 4 ingredients until well incorporated. Its time to get your hands dirty!
2. Divide the meatloaf mixture between 12 muffin cups.
3. Spread 2T of mashed potatoes on top of each muffin.
4. Top with 1T of shredded cheese.
5. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, until center is no longer pink.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Paninis

It seems right now that "Buffalo Chicken" anything is all the rage. I love a good bandwagon, so I'll jump right on! In all seriousness though, how could anything that starts with 'buffalo chicken' be anything but delicious?? Buffalo Chicken Dip is household favorite here, so I decided to start experimenting with other ways I could 'buffalize" (new word! I coined it!) some of my favorite meals. Panini's were a simple way to start. Chewy, crusty bread smothered with ranch dressing, melty cheese and spicy chicken...I think I can rest my case here.

Now, when it comes to panini's most people think they need a fancy machine to make one...wrong! Go ahead and dust off that George Foreman grill (no really, mine had actual dust on it) and it will work just fine. If you don't have a panini press or a Foreman grill, not to panic, all hope is still not lost. You can either cook the panini in a frying pan, grilled cheese style, and use something heavy like another pan to press down on the panini as it cooks. Or you can just put the sandwich on a baking sheet in a 350 oven for about 8-10 mins and everything will get melty and crispy just the same.


This recipe calls for about a cup of cooked chicken, which you can acquire a number of ways. Here is one of those opportunities when a store bought rotisserie chicken comes in handy in a big way. That is one of my absolute favorite time saving tricks! Just shred it up and you're ready to go. You can also use fully cooked store bought chicken strips, or you could even (gasp!) cook the chicken yourself!

Buffalo Chicken Panini

1C cooked, shredded or chopped chicken
1/2C hot sauce (I like Frank's!)
4T ranch dressing (or blue cheese if you prefer)
1/2C shredded cheese (I used Monterey Jack)
Crusty bread (You'll need a sturdy bread for these...foccacia, ciabatta, sourdough... any of those would work fine. I used a sourdough loaf)

Directions

1. Start by cutting your bread into 4 slices. Using your fingers, scoop out some of the bread from the middle, creating little "pockets" for the fillings.

2. Spread 1T of ranch on each slice of bread.

3. Next, heat 1/2C of hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat.

4. Add chicken and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

5. Divide 1/4C of cheese between each sandwich and top with chicken.

6. Assemble sandwich together and place on a hot George Foreman grill or panini press (or use directions above for oven/skillet) for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and bread has nice, golden lines.

7. DEVOUR!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tortellini Alfredo

Well my friends, today is an exceptionally special day. Today I am sharing with you one of my all time favorite recipes, and quite possibly my very favorite of all time. Yes, its that serious. Glad I have your full attention now. This concoction is one of my own creations, although the sauce is based off an Olive Garden copycat recipe for alfredo sauce. Believe me when I tell you, this will blow. your. mind. Now, this has the potential to be a relatively healthy dish...I mean it contains spinach, after all! But for every ingredient in this recipe, there is a much healthier alternative, which I will note. I, however, am going to share this recipe with you in most of its full fat glory. When I make this dish I do use low fat substitutions for the cream cheese and the butter, and can't tell much of a difference. Its definitely a dish that's meant to be enjoyed in moderation if you're watching your waisteline, but its so worth indulging in once in a while.

You might think that tortellini is an interesting option for an alfredo dish, after all isn't it tortellini's cousin 'fettucini' that usually gets all the alfredo glory? I used to be of the same mindset that these two were destined to be together. But then I tried making this dish using tortellini in an effort to make it more "finger food friendly" for my toddler, and we ended up absolutely falling in love with the result and I've never used any other pasta since! So before you ask, you can certainly use any type of pasta you like - but I'm telling you right now:

T-O-R-T-E-L-L-I-N-I.

Got it? Good!

Tortellini Alfredo

18 oz cheese tortellini
10oz fresh spinach
1 pint heavy cream (or fat free half and half)
1 stick of butter (I use light butter)
3T cream cheese (I use nuefchatel)
2/3C grated parmesan cheese
1t garlic powder

Directions:

1.Place one stick of butter in a saucepan on medium heat until melted.

2.While thats working, get started on cooking the tortellini according to directions on package. When its finished drain and place back into pot.

3. Once butter is melted, add in cream cheese and whisk until smooth.

4. Next add your cream and garlic powder keeping the sauce on medium low heat, whisking occasionally. The sauce will need to simmer about 20 minutes.

5. Microwave or steam spinach until wilted and mix into the tortellini until well incorporated.

6. After the sauce has simmered for 20 mins, add in the parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

7. Once sauce is smooth, pour over tortellini and toss to combine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ham & Cheese Crescent Loaf

This recipe is really simple but absolutely delicious. Its a twist on your normal ham and cheese sandwich, but much more exciting. I used crescent roll dough that I pinched together to form a solid sheet. I hear though, that Pillsbury now has a seamless crescent dough sheet. And as I was pinching seams together I thought, "Gee, that seamless sheet would be really nice right about now." I'd definitely recommend trying out the seamless dough sheet for this recipe because it will make things much easier for you, but I worked with what I had and it turned out fine. I'm willing to bet this would be great at room temperature as well, making it ideal for a picnic or someone's lunch box!


Ham & Cheese Crescent Loaf


1 can (8oz) of crescent dinner rolls or seamless dough sheet
4 (large) slices of ham
4 slices of sliced provolone cheese
1/2C shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2%)
1T italian dressing
2T low fat mayo
flour

Directions:


Preheat oven to 375
1. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out dough. If using dinner roll dough, press the seams together.
2. Mix together mayo and italian dressing in a small bowl.
3. Spread the dressing mixture over the dough.
4. Lay out ham on dough, followed by sliced provolone and top with shredded cheddar.
5. Roll up the dough jelly roll style, start with the long end.
6. Once you have your roll, pinch the ends together so that all the goodies stay inside.
7. Bake at 375 for 15-20 mins until outside is golden brown.
8. Allow to cool and slice!