Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Mashed Potato Balls

This year, I decided to add some additional creativity to my leftovers. When I make my next day mashed potatoes, reheating leftovers seems to go okay, but with regular mashed potatoes after a day, they just aren't the same when you warm them. So, having seen a pin on Pinterest a while back for Fried Mashed Potato Balls, I decided to see how that worked for us. I, of course, didn't actually have the right ingredients, so I improvised a little, but the family enjoyed the results. The recipe that inspired is here.

Fried Mashed Potato Balls
2 c mashed potatoes
1 egg
1/2 c shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend, but any flavor should do)
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c bread crumbs (I don't actually measure, put a little on a plate and then add as needed)

Combine the mashed potatoes, eggs, and cheese in your bowl. Form into small balls and roll in bread crumbs. Place in hot skillet with oil. Turn, allowing them to brown on all sides.

I suppose that you could also make these using fresh mashed potatoes, but you would want to let them cool before adding the other ingredients.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pumpkin Bread

After making the Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake for Thanksgiving, I found myself with leftover pumpkin. I only had a large can at home, so my leftovers were just over 15 oz. I wanted to make something easy with the pumpkin, so I looked for a bread type recipe in my collection. I have made some in the past, but I don't think this was the one - unfortunately, I hadn't written any of them in my cookbook, so I was left guessing. I decided to add chocolate chips to one of the loaves of bread, I didn't have minis, which I prefer in bread, so I used regular chocolate chips.
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (or 15 oz fresh pumpkin)
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray the bottom of two bread pans with cooking spray.

Blend the flour, baking soda, spices and salt, set aside.

Combine the sugar, eggs, oil and pumpkin in a bowl. Stir with a whisk until combined.

Fold in the dry ingredients, stirring until combined. If you are adding chocolate chips, add them and stir to combine.

Pour into two prepared bread pans. Baked for 50 - 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for a few minutes in pans before turning out.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pizza Sticks

It always seems that we get stuck in a bit of a rut when it comes to meal planning. It's not that we don't eat a variety of items, it just seems that every few weeks, I get to the point where nothing sounds exciting and I struggle to plan a menu. Which is something that I hate - it really is so much easier to go into the week with a plan than it is to wing it. The good news is that sometimes, those weeks lead to new ways to enjoy familiar food. The other week, as we were trying to clean out the fridge before vacation, was one of those weeks. I knew the things that I had to use up, but we were so busy planning and packing for vacation, that I never really looked at what I had to lay out a menu plan. Fortunately, one night this lead to a new meal/snack for our menu - Pizza Sticks. We paired it with salad for a nice balanced meal, but they would be great for snack time too. I might consider cutting the biscuits and cheese in half and making smaller portions for a snack or appetizer.

Pizza Sticks
1 can refrigerated large size biscuits (we used Grands)
8 servings string cheese
pepperoni, optional
pizza sauce (we make our own with tomato sauce)

Preheat oven to 350.

Flatten the biscuit, long ways. Place a row of pepperoni along the biscuit, if using. Top with string cheese.
Roll the biscuit around the cheese, being sure to seal the seam and to seal the ends.

Place on a baking sheet, leaving space between the sticks. Bake for 18 minutes.
Warm the pizza sauce and serve with the pizza sticks.
(Tried to cut one in half, but realize that it doesn't really show the gooey cheese center very well)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Braised Short Ribs

Last weekend, we went out to dinner with friends and I tried a meal that included braised short ribs, some fish and polenta. The fish was okay, but the short ribs were amazing. I decided that it was a meal that I would love to make at home. So, as I tend to do, I did a search on the internet. No one recipe that I found was really quite what I was looking for, so in my typical style, I combined several recipes to get to one that worked for me.

I forgot to buy the polenta, so we served it with rice and corn on the side. I used the braising liquid to make a quick gravy to serve as a sauce for the meal. The meal was met with great feedback from the whole family.

I think that next time, I might swap out my braising liquid and use 1 cup strong coffee and 1 cup beef broth or 1 cup red wine and 1 cup beef broth. I definitely will try making it with polenta too.

Braised Short Ribs
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
10 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
12 fluid ounces soda pop
1/2 cup beef broth


Preheat oven to 325.

Dry the ribs off, season with salt and pepper and dredge in flour.
Pour the olive oil into a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the ribs, about 5 minutes on each side.

Place the garlic, onions, tomatoes, and thyme in the bottom of a roasting pan.
Top with the ribs and then pour in the pop and beef broth.
Cover tightly with foil.

Place in the oven for 3 hours. Allow the meat to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Oreo Cream Cheese Cookies

My husband is a big cheesecake fan, but it isn't always the easiest dessert to take with you to a gathering. So, when we were invited to a gathering and he mentioned wanting cheesecake, I decided to find a portable version and discovered these cream cheese cookies. They sounded delicious, so I gave it a shot, making a few adjustments including increasing the batch size.

Now, clearly, they don't have that silky texture of a cheesecake, but from a flavor perspective they definitely are a cream cheese cookie and deliver the flavor. Everyone loved them and I think they were even better the second day (I had left some of the batch at home for us).

Oreo Cream Cheese Cookies

1 cup butter softened
6 ounces cream cheese softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups Oreo Cookies, crushed


Preheat oven to 375 F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, cream together butter and cream cheese until thoroughly combined.

Add sugar and vanilla, mix well.

Add flour one cup at a time and mix on low just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.

Pour Oreo crumbles into a bowl. Scoop dough out and roll into roughly 1.5" balls, then roll in cookie crumbles, coating thoroughly. Be sure to cover the dough balls really well in crumbs, as this is what holds the cookie together while baking.

Space cookies about 1-2" apart on sheet. Bake on center rack about 14-15 minutes and allow to cool on sheet several minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

I actually ran out of Oreo cookie crumbs the one time, so I swapped out the end of the batch to graham cracker crumbs. They were equally delicious in my opinion.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Penne Rustica

There are many meals that we make at home that are based off of restaurant dishes. Perhaps one of our favorites is our version of Penne Rustica, which is based off the dish of the same name from Macaroni Grill. This dish is full of flavor and when made with milk, is reasonable in calories too. According to the Cook'n software calculation, this recipe, which serves six is only 378 calories per serving. For such a flavorful and satisfying dish, I feel like this is a great amount of calories. And with six servings, there is enough for dinner and leftovers for lunch.
Penne Rustica

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons garlic chopped
3 tablespoons Marsala wine
2 1/4 cups milk
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon minced, fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 ounces prosciutto chopped
2 chicken breasts
12 ounces penne prepared, al dente
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon paprika
4 sprigs rosemary

Preheat oven to 500.

For the sauce: saute butter, garlic, and rosemary until garlic begins to brown.
Add Marsala and cook for 5 minutes. Add the milk, Parmesan cheese, chicken broth, cornstarch, mustard, rosemary, salt, thyme, and cayenne pepper. Whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a simmer and keep it there for 10 minutes. Cover sauce and remove from heat.

Grill chicken until cooked through. (I frequently use my grill pan and a bit of liquid smoke, when the weather doesn't permit grilling outside.

For the Penne Rustica: in a glass or ceramic dish, combine pasta, chicken and prosciutto.
Add sauce and stir. Top with Parmesan Cheese and Paprika.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until top is browned.
Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs, if desired.

You can always split the dish between several ramekins and make it as individual dishes as well.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Tomato Basil Pasta

Recently, while exploring Pinterest, I have been seeing a lot of Pins for 'one pot wonder pasta'. It really sounded like a simple and tasty option. I figured it could be good on its owned or enhanced with a bit of grilled chicken. I liked that it all cooks in one pot, so the pasta absorbs the flavor of the broth and tomatoes. I used this version as my source.

The family really enjoyed this. I served it with my homemade French Bread. My son was hesitant at first to try it, but wound up eating the whole bowl that I served him.

Tomato Basil Pasta
Serves: 6

12 ounces pasta
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 large onion, julienned
4 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 sprigs basil chopped
4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil

Place all of the ingredients in a large pot, in order, drizzling the oil on top.
Cover pot and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a low simmer and keep covered and continue to cook for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Homemade French Bread

We really love having bread with our meals. We used to always just buy bread, but a few years back, when my husband picked up bread flour instead of all-purpose flour, rather than returning it, I decided to give a try to homemade breads. I enjoyed making the bread and the end product so much, that now, I almost prefer to make bread. I have gotten to the point, where I think nothing of putting together a loaf of bread for dinner, even during the week.

I stumbled upon this French Bread recipe on Pinterest, when I was looking for bread recipes about a month ago. The first time I made it, I split it into 3 loaves, like the author but the second time I made an adjustment to 2 loaves. I found that it was a better result for me.

This bread is good on its own, but I really enjoy it with butter, especially toasted with a bit of honey cinnamon butter. I think it would make an excellent French Toast bread and delicious sandwiches for a picnic.

My daughter definitely loves the bread, telling me that I could make this type of bread anytime. My co-workers also enjoyed it when I brought in a loaf to share.

French Bread
1 cup boiling water
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening
1 cup cold water
6 cups bread flour
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Place 1 c of water in the microwave and bring to a boil, about 3 minutes.

Place 1/3 c warm water in a measuring cup and sprinkle 1 tbsp of yeast over the water. Using a fork, stir into the water until dissolved.

Place 2 Tablespoons of sugar, 1 Tablespoon of salt and 1 Tablespoon of shortening in your mixing bowl. Use a fork to mash the ingredients together.
Pour the boiling water into the mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of cold water (from the tap) and the water with the yeast to the mixing bowl.

Add 3 cups of flour and mix. Add remaining flour, about ½ cup at a time.
When the dough starts to pull together, dump it onto your well-floured surface and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, using the remaining flour as needed, to keep it from sticking. The dough should be smooth with a nice elasticity. The dough may still be a little sticky, but not too sticky.

Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Cut the dough into two (or three) equal parts. Let it rest another 5 minutes.

Flatten each section of dough into a rectangle with your hands. Roll the long sides in, and then bring up the short sides. Flip the loaf over and smooth the edges, tucking any seams underneath.

Cut three slits in each loaf.

Whisk the egg in a small bowl and using a pastry brush, brush the egg over the top of the loaves, including in the slits.
Place your bread into your 170 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until doubled in size.

Turn the temperature up to 400 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are golden and crispy.

Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 10 minutes.

Allow to cool before slicing.
It makes either 3, 1# loaves or 2, 1 1/2# loaves.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Even though it has been busy lately and we haven't been having typical meals, I was finding myself without appealing ideas for dinner this week, so as I sat down to do my menu planning, I clicked around on Pinterest. One meal that I found that sounded very good to me was Chicken Enchilada Pasta, which had been Pinned from The Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife.

Much like my Taco Stuffed Shells, I liked how this dish combined to family favorites, Mexican and Pasta. I made it for dinner, incorporating a few minor tweaks to the recipe to lighten it up. By my approximation , there are about 12 servings of the sauce, each with about 140 calories. So, with our typical pasta added, it is about 350 calories per serving. I think the extra sauce would freeze fine and of course, would work well for a leftover meal later in the week.

It was voted a definite keeper by all.

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 medium onion minced
1 red bell pepper diced
1/2 anaheim pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
20 ounces green enchilada sauce
2/3 cup red enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup light sour cream


Garnishes: tomatoes, jalepenos, green onions, sour cream, shredded cheese

Cook chicken, chop and set aside.

Boil pasta according to package.

Heat olive oil in a deep skillet and cook onions for 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add chicken, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, salt, and both enchilada sauces. Let sauce simmer for about 8-10 minutes.
Add cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and heated through. Reduce heat. Slowly add the sour cream. Stir until sour cream is well mixed and heated through.

Drain pasta.

Serve pasta topped with chicken enchilada sauce and garnish with desired toppings.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Shredded Buffalo Chicken Sliders

Last weekend, we were driving home from Cedar Point after a visit that was cut short by a crazy storm. Along the way we passed a couple of Buffalo Wild Wing restaurants (or BWs, as I have always known them). It sounded so yummy to me, that I knew that I wanted to fit buffalo chicken into my menu last week. At first, I thought I would make buffalo chicken rolls or wontons, but then I decided to try a different route and make a shredded chicken in buffalo sauce. I have a bag of bread flour that I need to use part of so that I can fit the rest in my container, so I decided that I would make my slider rolls using my everyday bread recipe.

Shredded Buffalo Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 24 ounces)
1 packet ranch salad dressing mix
2 tablespoons butter
1 bottle (5 fl oz) Frank's Red Hot buffalo sauce

Place ingredients in crock pot on low for 6 hours.


Homemade Slider Rolls

1 cup warm water (110 F)
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons active, dry yeast

Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water. In a mixing bowl, place 2 cups of the flour, sugar and salt. Pour the wetted yeast and water into the bowl and stir. Add additional flour, about 1/4 cup at a time. When the dough starts to come together, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Place back in mixing bowl, rub on a little canola oil and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise for about 30 minutes, until dough doubles in size.

Separate dough into 16 rolls (approx 1.5 oz each) and place on baking sheet. Let the rolls rise for about 30 minutes. Then, bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

After the rolls have cooled, slice in half and top with the shredded chicken.

This meal got the thumbs up from the family and is sure to be part of future menu plans.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I am a big fan of banana flavored dishes. You might have noticed that I have a few posts about banana recipes. One of my favorite treats is banana bread - it is especially yummy when it is warm, with a bit of butter and some cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. Sometimes, I like to change it up and put in chocolate chips. This bread, takes that idea one step further, it is banana bread with chocolate chips and cocoa - to make it a yummy chocolatey treat. It has a nice crumb and it is delicious at room temperature and warmed too!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Servings 18

1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter melted and cooled
3 bananas ripe
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, mash the ripe bananas and add eggs, melted butter and vanilla. Stir until mixed. Add the dry ingredients, stirring just to incorporate. Add the chocolate chips and stir.

Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Each slice of the bread (about 55 g) is just 186 calories. I think it makes for a great treat that I don't have to feel too guilty about.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rattlesnake Pasta

When it comes to pasta, we have a lot in our house. In order to not feel like we eat the same meal over and over again, we like to try out new recipes. This recipe is based off of a recipe that is (was?) on the menu at Pizzeria Uno. It is pretty much a chicken Alfredo with jalapenos. Normally, I would mix the jalapenos and a little bit of the liquid that they are in directly into the Alfredo, but since my daughter doesn't like spicy foods, I garnish with them and spoon some of the liquid into each dish.

I have tried to pull out some extra calories, by using milk instead of cream and by reducing the amount of butter that is used. Still, this dish is a 'treat' at approximately 500 calories per serving with the sauce and pasta.

Rattlesnake Pasta

12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 cups milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces shredded Cheddar Jack cheese
4 ounces jarred jalapeƱo peppers sliced
1 box penne pasta

In a large skillet over medium heat combine chicken, 1 tablespoons butter, garlic and Italian seasoning. Cook until chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Cook penne pasta to al dente and drain.

Make a roux: Melt 3 tablespoons butter in the skillet. Add garlic. Stir in flour, salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes stirring constantly. Slowly add milk and half-and-half, continue to stir until smooth and creamy. Stir in Parmesan and Cheddar Jack cheeses; stir until cheese is melted.

Stir in chicken.

Serve over prepared Penne pasta and garnish with Jalapeno pepper slices.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Cherry Swirl Cheesecake

Back at Thanksgiving, I made a Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake (you can find that recipe here). Recently, we had friends over and I decided that a cheesecake would make a great dessert. The Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake recipe that I had used produced a very nice cheesecake, so I wanted to use that recipe, but didn't feel like pumpkin said spring. I felt that I needed to use something for a swirl, but it had to be 'wet'. I decided that for this first attempt, I would try a ready made pie filling, so I picked up a can of cherry pie filling.

I simply swapped the same amount of cherry filling as there had been pumpkin and skipped the pumpkin pie spices. I relied on my mixer to beat apart the chunks of cherry, but allowed some chunks in the swirl. It was met with rave reviews. I was very pleased with the result. It gives me inspiration to try more...I'm not sure what I will try next, but some ideas that I have include caramel (ice cream topping), lemon (lemon pie filling) and chocolate (hot fudge or chocolate syrup).

Cherry Swirl Cheesecake

Servings 10

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter melted
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray 9" spring-form pan with cooking spray. Combine the crushed graham crackers and melted butter. Press into the bottom and up sides of the pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar, and vanilla. Cream until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reserve 1 cup of the batter, refrigerate covered. To the remaining batter, add the remaining sugar and the cherry pie filling. Mix until blended.

Remove the plain batter from the refrigerator and spoon about half onto the crust in dollops. Cover with the pumpkin batter and then dollop the remaining plain batter on top. Using a butter knife, gently swirl the batters together.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Allow to cool on wire rack in pan. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Crustless Pizza (aka Pizza Chicken)

Pizza is a family favorite at my house. The combination of the tomato sauce and the cheese is so appealing to me - in fact, I have been craving a hot piece of pizza and mentioned it to a coworker in a meeting the other day because I could smell the Parmesan and Tomato on her sandwich.

My experience with homemade pizza is that a good amount of the calories are coming from the crust. My friend mentioned that since she is following a low carb diet, she has been eating crustless pizza, essentially all of the toppings in a casserole instead of on a crust.

So, I was intrigued when I saw a recipe the other day for crustless pizza. Instead of a dough or bread for the bottom of the pizza they used chicken breast as a crust.

Pizza Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
tomato sauce
shredded mozzarella
turkey pepperoni
other toppings
onion salt

I started by cutting my partially frozen chicken breasts in half, so as to have two thin pieces of chicken.
Using a tenderizing mallet, I pounded the chicken to make it even (it was already thin, just wanted to even it out for cooking).

Place the filleted chicken in a baking pan.

Top with pizza sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni and any other pizza toppings that you prefer.

Season with onion salt and basil. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.