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Jalapeno Popper Pasta


Jalapeno Popper Pasta is a cheesy, spicy dish where comfort food meets an appetizer favorite.  This grown-up mac ‘n cheese dish is filled with tasty jalapeno peppers, topped with garlic breadcrumbs and  is made a little lighter too!

While Mike and I were pretty sure we would enjoy Jalapeno Popper Pasta, because I mean really…between the cheese and garlic breadcrumbs and a nice kick from the jalapenos…it’s a safe assumption, right?  Well, this is how it typically goes down when I want to photograph our dinner for the blog.  I load up a plate for photos and head over to my photo spot.  I tell Mike to go ahead and start without me, but he always says he wants to wait.  (He might sneak a bite or two).  Photos take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on various factors, and then we eat!  These photos didn’t take long, maybe 5 minutes.  I went to the table, and Mike had already finished.  He just smiled and went to load up for seconds.  It’s that good!

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden full of jalapenos, this Jalapeno Popper Pasta is a delicious, new and different way to use them up.


Jalapeno Popper Pasta
 
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces pasta (rotini, gemelli, or any other similar shape will work)
For the Garlic Breadcrumbs:
  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • pinch salt
For the Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 jalapeno peppers, minced (to yield approx ¼ cup)
  • 6 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup Monterey jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. COOK PASTA: Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. MAKE BREADCRUMBS: Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium, nonstick skillet and add breadcrumbs and (1 clove) minced garlic. Stir frequently until breadcrumbs begin to brown and garlic is fragrant. Add a pinch of salt, remove from heat and set aside.
  3. MAKE SAUCE: In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add peppers and cook for 3 minutes, or until onion and peppers are softened. Add garlic during the last minute, cooking until fragrant.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add cream cheese to onion mixture. Stir until melted. Add milk, stirring until incorporated. Add cheese and chili powder and stir until melted and smooth.
  5. PUT IT TOGETHER: Remove sauce from heat. Add cooked pasta to sauce and toss until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. SERVE: Divide on serving plates and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of garlic breadcrumbs. Top with jalapeño rings for garnish (optional).
Notes
Adapted from Rachael Ray

 
It’s my favorite time of month again…the Eating with the Alphabet Challenge hosted by Brenda from Meal Planning Magic!  This month we were to showcase a recipe using a fruit, vegetable or grain that begin with the letters I or J.  I obviously went with J for jalapeño.

The past few months, I have been able to knock out several recipes from my bucket list with this challenge, and each of these recipes have become household staples.  Gotta love a 3 year old who can’t get enough of roasted chickpeas (we go through 1 can every 1 to 2 days!)

Mini Deep-Dish Pizzas made in a muffin tin

Mini Deep-Dish Pizzas

Mini Deep-Dish Pizzas are fun, little individual deep dish pizzas made in a muffin tin.  First you roll out little pizza dough circles and then gently put them in the muffin cups.  Then fill each dough round with your desired sauce and toppings and then top it with cheese.   I used premade dough (from Trader Joe’s), topped them with a marinara sauce, broccoli, red onion and mozzarella cheese, and they came together in less than 30 minutes.  These Mini Deep-Dish Pizzas are completely customizable with your favorite sauce and toppings.  Mini Deep-Dish Pizzas are a definite crowd-pleaser. Besides – there is always something fun about anything in miniature!


Today I am being featured over at Momma’s Meals where I’m being featured as part of Tammi’s Featured Fridays series!  Every Friday, Tammi gets to know her fellow bloggers and makes one of their recipes to share with her family and then with her readers.

I thought it would be fun to make something from Tammi’s site to share with you, and her Individual Deep Dish Pizzas were perfect!  Incidentally I had been looking at an Everyday Food recipe for little deep dish pizzas made in a muffin tin, so these Mini Deep-Dish Pizzas that I’m sharing with you is sort of a combination of the two recipes.

Mini Deep-Dish Pizzas
 
Yields: 12 pizzas
Ingredients
  • Cooking spray
  • All-purpose flour, for rolling
  • 1 pound pizza dough (homemade or store-bought) - in 12 pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup pizza sauce (I used a homemade marinara sauce)
  • Your favorite pizza toppings - about 1 to 2 tablespoons per pizza (I used chopped broccoli and red onion)
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray 12 standard muffin cups with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of pizza dough into 6-inch circles. Place into prepared muffin cup, gently pressing dough into bottom and up the sides. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
  3. Put 1 tablespoon sauce in each dough cup. Top sauce with 1 to 2 tablespoons of pizza toppings and then top with cheese.
  4. Bake until dough is browned and crisp, approximately 12 minutes. Let cool for 2-5 minutes before removing from cups.

 

Sources:  Everyday Food,September, 2010 and Momma’s Meals

vegetarian spinach ravioli lasagna

Easy Ravioli Lasagna

Easy Ravioli Lasagna - takes 10 minutes to prepare using only 5 ingredients.  This is so good!
I am excited to share this recipe with you. Easy Ravioli Lasagna has become one of our favorite weeknight dinners!  It has the delicious flavor of lasagna yet is made with only 5 main ingredients and takes 10 minutes to prepare ~ perfect these days when I find myself juggling a newborn and a busy 3 year old at dinnertime.  This lasagna can also be made ahead (like before leaving for work or, in my case, before the kids wake up) so it’s ready to just pop in the oven at dinner.

Easy Baked Ravoli Lasagna

From the original recipe, I increased the sauce, added some red pepper flakes, and actually reduced the cheese (surprising for a cheese-lover like myself, but it was way too much and took away from the overall dish).  This Easy Ravioli Lasagna is made with spinach, but I think sautéed mushrooms and garlic would also be delicious.  We have made this several times, and it’s always a crowd-pleaser.  Speaking of crowds, this recipe can easily be doubled to fit a 13″x9″ lasagna pan and you’ll have enough to serve a crowd or have lots of leftovers for lunches.  It reheats beautifully!

Easy Ravioli Lasagna
 
Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups pasta sauce (I use Muir Glen Tomato Basil)
  • 20-ounce package cheese ravioli (refrigerated or frozen)
  • 10 ounces frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Pour ½ cup pasta sauce over bottom of dish.
  3. Layer bottom of dish with half of the ravioli.
  4. Cover ravioli with ½ cup sauce and top with spinach and half of mozzarella (1/2 cup).
  5. Repeat with remaining ravioli, sauce and mozzarella. Sprinkle top with Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes, if using.
  6. Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until bubbling and starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and then serve.

Slightly adapted from All You, March 2009

vegetarian spinach ravioli lasagna

Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta

Every time I make Baked Tortellini with Spinach, I am left with 6 ounces of fontina cheese.  While I would happily make it 3 more times, I have also had this Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta dish on my list of things to make for some time now.   The first time I made this dish without mushrooms, and it was good, but I felt it needed something more.  It needed mushrooms.  Mushrooms are not typically my go-to for anything, but it really cried out for something earthy and meaty.  Sauteed in a little garlic, the mushrooms were the perfect addition to this dish.  I used some Parmesan cheese for some of the fontina in the original recipe to give the recipe a little more bite.  Topped with buttery, garlic breadcrumbs, Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta is a delicious and sophisticated twist on macaroni and cheese ~ perfect for company or Sunday dinner comfort food.

Looking to use up the leftover mascarpone cheese?  Try Porcini Mushroom and Spinach Risotto with Mascarpone

Fontina and Mascarpone Baked Pasta
 
Yields: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound medium pasta shells, uncooked (penne or other similar shaped pasta works too)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups skim milk
  • 1¾ cups (6 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I use baby bellas)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Cooking spray
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter (I use light butter)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and keep warm.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Combine flour and milk in a large sauce pan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, and cook for about 10 minutes or until mixture starts to thicken.
  4. Meanwhile, in a nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray, saute mushrooms, with a pinch of salt, until softened (about 5 to 7 minutes). Add 1 clove of minced garlic in the last minute, if desired.
  5. Remove milk mixture from heat and add cheeses, whisking until mixture is smooth. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Add cooked pasta and mushrooms, stirring to coat and combine.
  7. Spray a 13x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray and pour pasta mixture into pan.
  8. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Remove from heat and add breadcrumbs, stirring to coat. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over pasta mixture.
  9. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Adapted from Cooking Light, November, 2006

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese is a delicious, cheesy, veggie-filled baked pasta with a Mexican twist.  It is made with three different cheeses (yum!) and lots of vegetables (yum!).  The chipotle chiles add a nice smokiness and spice which, along with the chili powder, balance nicely with the tomatoes and cheeses.  Black beans give a protein and fiber boost while adding a nice color contrast to the rest of the dish.  A traditional breadcrumb topping is sprinkled over the top before baking.

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese is very easy to prepare and the result is no ordinary mac ‘n cheese, that’s for sure. This recipe makes plenty, and the leftovers heat up nicely for lunches the next day.

Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese
 
Yields: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dry whole wheat elbow macaroni (or other short pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1 (14½ ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, including juices
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from can of chipotle chiles)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting fat and salt.
  2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add chiles, onion, and bell pepper, and cook 4 minutes, or until onion is tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, or until garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently.
  3. Sprinkle with flour and chili powder, and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes, or until mixture is thickened.
  5. Add adobo sauce, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, milk, Parmesan and egg, stirring until combined and cheese is melted. Add cooked pasta and black beans, stirring until combined.
  6. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Pour pasta mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Cheese has always been one of my favorite foods.  As a child I remember sneaking some cheese whenever my mom was in the kitchen, or simply grabbing a Kraft Single on my way out to play.  I also remember my mom always made my brother a ham and cheese sandwich using Kraft Singles, but I liked my cheese plain.  That is…until I discovered the grilled cheese sandwich.  Melty cheese on bread?  So simple yet so delicious!

When I went to college and had my own apartment, I started experimenting with grilled cheese sandwiches.  It was around this time when I noticed Kraft Singles came in more varieties than American, and I was very excited to see they came in Swiss!  I made a tasty little combo with a slice of cheddar, a slice of Swiss, some sauteed onions, all on multi-grain bread.  Grilled cheese perfection every time.  Oh…the memories!

That was all many years ago, yet my love for experimenting with grilled cheese sandwiches continues to this day.  Mike and I like to mix it up with tomatoes, sunflower seeds, onions, bacon (for him)…really nothing too crazy, but always tasty.  This time, I thought it would be fun to experiment with guacamole and make a Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

For a while now, I have had a recipe flagged for a grilled cheese made on the stove top and in the oven, without any butter.  This sounded like the perfect method for the Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  The result?  Amazing!  The stove-to-oven method gives the bread a crispy exterior without any frying or being greasy.  The cheese is perfectly melted, and the guacamole can shine right through.  This Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich is a fun and tasty twist on a childhood favorite.

Do you have childhood memories or a family story to share about Kraft Singles?  You can share your story at https://www.facebook.com/KraftSingles. Put your story on the map and join the conversation about Kraft Singles!

Guacamole Grilled Cheese Sandwich
 
Yields: 1 sandwich
Ingredients
  • 2 slices whole grain bread
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons guacamole, any variety, such as Edamame Guacamole
  • 1 or 2 slices Kraft Singles 2% Sharp Cheddar
  • Cooking Spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
  2. Spread guacamole evenly on one side of each slice of bread.
  3. Place a Kraft Single cheese slice on top of the guacamole on each slice of bread, and then flip to make a sandwich (so cheese on cheese).
  4. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Place sandwich in pan for about 1 to 2 minutes or until bread is toasted. Flip and repeat on the other side.
  5. Transfer sandwich from skillet to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven, cut in half and serve immediately.

Disclaimer:  As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a coupon for free Kraft Singles and a stipend.

Smoked Gouda Baked Pasta with Broccoli

I recently made an old favorite frittata recipe using smoked Gouda cheese.  The good thing about smoked Gouda is that it is so flavorful, a little goes a long way.  That also means that whenever I purchase a block for a specific recipe, there is usually some leftover.  Not a bad problem to have, that’s for sure.  This time I decided to put it to use with a fun twist on a classic ~ Smoked Gouda Baked Pasta with Broccoli.  Who doesn’t love fancy, new versions of macaroni and cheese!

The first time I made macaroni and cheese with smoked Gouda, it was really tasty, but there was something missing.  The smoked Gouda wasn’t as pronunced as I had hoped.  So after experimenting with some seasoning, I found a little paprika was the key.  It really brought out the smoked Gouda flavor.  The broccoli was also a nice addition to this dish, giving a nutrition boost while adding some texture and color.  One can never have too many mac ‘n cheese recipes, and this version is definitely a keeper!

Smoked Gouda Baked Pasta with Broccoli
 
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces short pasta (such as elbows, penne, rotini)
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) smoked Gouda cheese, shredded
  • ⅓ cup (about 1½ ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 12 ounces frozen broccoli florets, thawed and lightly chopped
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened (about 5 to 7 minutes). Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted (about 1 minute).
  4. Gradually add milk, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, and then cook until thickened (about 2 to 3 minutes).
  5. Add cheeses to milk mixture, stirring until melted and then remove from heat.
  6. Add broccoli and cooked pasta to the cheese sauce, stirring until well-blended.
  7. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  8. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, or until bubbly.

Adapted from Cooking Light

lighter baked tortellini fontina cheese with spinach

Baked Tortellini with Spinach

I’m a sucker for anything with cheese.  Cheese pizza, a cheese sandwich, cheesy pasta, it’s all good.  When I saw a recipe for Baked Tortellini, I was beside myself.  Cheese tortellini itself is good.  Bake it in a light cheese sauce, and we’re golden.  In fact, the dinner I had planned was immediately scrapped so that I could make this!

I decided to add some spinach, which was very welcome and an easy way to boost the nutrition of this dish.  I added a little cayenne pepper to perk things up a bit, and also added garlic.  We can’t have pasta without garlic, right?  Baked Tortellini with Spinach is cheesy pasta perfection, made healthier, with a little kick.

Baked Tortellini with Spinach
 
Yields: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups skim milk, heated (I microwave it for about 1 minute)
  • ½ cup fontina cheese, shredded
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 16-20 ounces cheese tortellini (I used 2 10-ounce packages)
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese and set aside.
  2. Set water to boil in a large pot to cook tortellini.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add flour and whisk constantly, cooking for about 1 to 2 minutes, or until flour lightly browns. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, continuing to whisk constantly.
  4. Add hot milk and bring to a simmer, stirring until smooth and slightly thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. While the milk mixture is simmering, add tortellini to boiling water and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or according to package instructions.
  6. Remove milk mixture from heat and add in fontina cheese and cayenne pepper, stirring to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Drain cooked tortellini. Add tortellini to the cheese sauce (milk mixture) and stir until coated. Add chopped spinach and stir until evenly distributed.
  8. Spray 2½ quart baking dish with cooking spray and pour mixture into dish, using the back of a spoon or a silicone spatula to spread evenly throughout.
  9. Sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Cover and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Serve immediately.
Notes
This can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator, up through step 8. When ready just sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake as usual.

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 366
Fat:  8g
Carbs:  46g
Protein:  18.5g

Adapted from Eating Well

individual frittatas made in a ramekin

Individual Spinach Frittatas

We often enjoy frittatas as a healthy, high-protein meal with lots of vegetables and cheese.  While I typically make them in a pie plate and serve in wedges, I thought these individual frittatas would be a cute way to mix things up.  Who knew when cooked in a small, preheated ramekin, the frittata would take on new heights – literally!  I looked through the oven window only to see my cute little frittatas puffing up like a souffle.  All without the beating of egg whites.  How about that!

The recipe below is written to serve one, but can very easily be multiplied to serve 2 or 4 or however many you desire.  Parmesan or Gruyere are both delicious in this, as is mixing up the herbs and seasonings.  The original recipe used 8-ounce ramekins but I used 7-ounce ramekins and they worked fine.

Individual Spinach Frittatas
 
This frittata puffs up like a souffle, which makes for an impressive presentation. While this recipe is written 'for one' it can easily be multiplied to serve more.
Yields: 1 serving
Ingredients
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons grated aged cheese, such as Gruyere, divided
  • 1 tablespoon skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ shallot, minced
  • 1½ cups fresh baby spinach
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano (or your favorite herb mix)
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Place 7 (or 8)-ounce ramekin on rimmed baking sheet and place in oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. While oven is heating, in a large bowl, whisk egg, egg whites, 1 tablespoon cheese, milk, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until softened (2 to 3 minutes). Add spinach and cook until wilted (about 3 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  4. Add spinach mixture to egg mixture.
  5. Remove baking sheet from oven and coat each dish with cooking spray. Immediately pour egg mixture into dish and top with remaining 1 tablespoon cheese. Bake until frittata is puffed up and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Everyday Food Light

healthy cheesy potato soup with broccoli

Lighter Cheesy Potato Soup with Broccoli

So I just logged in to do a final proofread of this Cheesy Potato Soup recipe, and my post was gone.  Blank.  Nothing.  It was my best post ever.  It was witty and insightful, delivered a life-changing message – all.  gone.  Seriously folks…my mommy brain cannot recreate the greatness of that post, so I will simply cut to the chase and get to the real reason why you’re here…the soup!
Lighter Cheesy Potato Soup is one of the tastiest soups I’ve ever had and is also very easy to make. Win-win if you ask me!   I decided to add some broccoli for color and to bump up the nutrition level.  I also added more cheese than called for in the original recipe.  For the love of cheese, it’s a ‘cheesy’ soup!  We’re using reduced-fat cheese here, so this only adds 45 calories per serving.  It is worth every bit, trust me.
The result is a light and healthy soup, filled with perfectly tender potatoes, vitamin-packed broccoli and calcium-rich cheese.  Mike noted the consistency was just perfect for a cheese soup – not heavy, drips off the spoon nicely.  I’d say this is a keeper for sure!

Lighter Cheesy Potato Soup with Broccoli
 
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chopped red potato (about 1 pound)
  • 3-4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 stalk)
  • 1¼ cups skim milk (or 1%)
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) reduced fat (2%) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Sprinkle with flour; cook 1 minute, stirring onion mixture constantly.
  2. Add potato, broccoli, milk, broth and water to pan; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
  3. Add cheese, cayenne pepper, cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Remove from heat immediately once cheese has melted. Top each serving with chopped green onions, if desired.
Adapted from Cooking Light, Jan/Feb, 2012

Four Cheese Lasagna

If we were ranking dinner favorites in our household, this Four Cheese Lasagna would be #1 without question.  There is cheese, cheese, cheese and more cheese.  And if you’re so inclined, the potential for even more cheese.  Yes.  Yum.  Amazing.  In fact, I had an entirely different recipe planned to share with you today, but……I decided it would be wrong of me to keep this from you any longer. It is so good!

I made very few changes from the original recipe, because frankly it’s darn near perfect.  A few items of note:  I have used light butter and regular butter – either one works fine.  I always use skim milk and low fat ricotta cheese, yielding fabulous results.  I use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to make it vegetarian.    The first time I made this, I added gorgonzola, the optional fifth cheese, and prefer it without.  It adds an interesting dimension to the dish, but I realized I’m not really a gorgonzola fan.

There is a little extra time involved in making this lasagna, but every second is worth it.  This lasagna can be served as an elegant dinner for company or as an incredible treat for a lazy Sunday, and the leftovers heat up perfectly!

Four Cheese Lasagna
 
Yields: 8 to 10 servings
Ingredients
  • 6 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 1½ cups)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated finely (about 1 cup), divided
  • 15 ounces low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, plus 2 teaspoons for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups skim milk
  • 1½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 15 no-boil noodles
  • 8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 3 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about ¾ cup) (optional, see note)
Instructions
  1. In a large glass bowl, place Gruyere and ½ cup Parmesan cheese.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg, black pepper and parsley. Set both bowls aside.
  3. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add shallots and garlic, stirring frequently until soft (about 2 minutes). Stir in flour until thoroughly combined, about 1½ minutes (mixture should not brown). Gradually whisk in milk and broth; increase heat to high, cover and bring to a full boil, whisking frequently. Add salt, cayenne and bay leaf, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until sauce thickens (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and discard bay leaf. Gradually whisk in ¼ cup sauce into ricotta mixture. Pour remaining sauce over Gruyere mixture and stir until smooth; set aside while softening noodles.
  5. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place noodles in a 13-by-9 inch baking dish and cover with very hot tap water; soak 10 minutes, agitating noodles occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove noodles from dish and place in a single layer on kitchen towels and pat dry. Wipe out baking dish and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  6. Pour ½ cup sauce in the bottom of baking dish. Place 3 noodles in a single layer over sauce. Spread ½ cup ricotta mixture over noodles and sprinkle evenly with ½ cup fontina. Drizzle ½ cup sauce over cheese. Repeat layering of noodles, ricotta, fontina and sauce 3 more times. Place final 3 noodles over the top and cover with remaining sauce, spreading with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle evenly with remaining ½ cup Parmesan cheese.
  7. Spray large sheet of foil with cooking spray and cover lasagna; bake until edges are bubbling, about 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Remove foil and turn the oven to broil. * Broil until surface turns spotty brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, cut into pieces and serve.
Notes
* If your dish is not safe under the broiler, turn oven up to 500 degrees and cook for 10 minutes, or until spotty brown on top.

Note: If you want to include gorgonzola cheese, sprinkle it on top of the fontina on each layer.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen

 

easy parmesan black pepper buttermilk drop biscuits

Parmesan-Black Pepper Drop Biscuits

There is nothing better than having warm fresh buns, bread or biscuits at the dinner table. Due to the time involved, that is often saved for the weekend. We’re always looking for quick and easy dinners, including accompaniments. Enter the wonderful world of drop biscuits! By simply dropping the dough instead of rolling and cutting, these can be made in around 15 minutes ~ just the amount of time you need to sear your meat, set the table, make a salad, catch up on your blog reading…or whatever you need to do. The result is fresh warm biscuits in no time. How nice is that!

From the original recipe, I used Parmesan cheese instead of Asiago cheese, as I was trying to use up what I had on hand.  Either way is really good.  I added garlic powder, which definitely enhances the flavor in these biscuits.  I have tried using whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour and found the whole wheat pastry flour yielded subpar results.  Light butter or regular butter work fine, but I’m always happy to shave off some calories if the light version works in a recipe.
Parmesan-Black Pepper Drop Biscuits are versatile, quick and easy to make.  Great for a weeknight dinner, a last minute side or simply just because you’re craving warm biscuits.
Parmesan-Black Pepper Drop Biscuits
 
Yields: 8 biscuits
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons light butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese (or Asiago cheese)
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper in medium bowl.
  3. Into flour mixture, cut in butter with a pastry blender (or 2 knives) until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheese and toss well to combine. Add buttermilk and fold until just moist.
  4. Drop dough into 8 equal mounds on lined baking sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are browned.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Easy Spinach & Cheese Lasagna

While working on clearing out the cupboards in advance of our upcoming move, I found myself faced with 3 boxes of lasagna noodles.  How did that happen!  At least it is something I am happy to use, unlike the random can of soup that I have been avoiding.  In lieu of my usual lasagna recipes, which tend to be a bit more labor intensive, I decided to go with something easy and quick to prepare.  This Easy Spinach and Cheese Lasagna is exactly that…and so good!

This lasagna is first simplified by not boiling the noodles.  I used no-boil noodles, but have used regular noodles in the past and they have worked just fine.  Another step is saved by using a good quality pasta sauce from a jar.  A from scratch sauce would of course be fabulous, but we’re going for easy here.  Mix the filling, layer it up with the sauce and noodles, add water, and pop the pan in the oven.  In a little over an hour, you have an easy, healthy, delicious meal.  This lasagna makes plenty for serving guests, or you can enjoy some great leftovers!    

Easy Spinach and Cheese Lasagna
Yields 6-8 servings

15 ounces low fat ricotta cheese
2 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (divided)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (divided)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen spinach, thawed, chopped and drained well
3-4 garlic cloves, grated or minced
2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (25-ounce) jar pasta sauce
9 to 12 no-boil uncooked lasagna noodles

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 9×13 inch non-reactive baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup Paremsan, egg, spinach salt, pepper and Italian herb seasoning.
  3. In another bowl, combine the remaining mozzarella and Paremsan cheese.  This is for the  topping, so set aside.  
  4. Pour 1 cup of pasta sauce in the bottom of the baking pan.  Top with a layer of noodles and then a layer of the ricotta-spinach mixture.  Repeat with another layer of noodles and ricotta-spinach mixture.  Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheeses.  Pour 1 cup water around the edges of pan.  
  5. Cover very tightly with non-stick foil (or foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray).  Bake for 1 1/4 hours.  Let stand, uncovered, for 15 minutes before serving.  

Adapted from Whole Foods

Apple Cheddar Frittata

Since last week ended up being pumpkin week, I thought it would be fun to give a nod to another fall classic this week – the apple.   I enjoy an apple for lunch nearly every day and love using them in new recipes.  This Apple Cheddar Frittata was new to us and will definitely be making a recurring appearance.   The sweetness of the apple pairs beautifully with the sharp cheddar and the red onion balances nicely with the two.

Mike told me this is the best frittata I have made yet, though I’m noticing a trend.  He seems to say ‘this is the best yet’ with everything I make. Hmm… 🙂

Apple Cheddar Frittata
Yields 4 servings

1 medium red onion, sliced
Cooking spray
8 eggs, plus 2 egg whites
1 cup (4 ounces) white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon light butter
salt and pepper, to taste
1 large (or 2 small) Gala apples, thinly sliced (peeling is optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees with oven rack set to the top third.
  2. In a medium nonstick ovensafe pan sprayed with cooking spray, cook red onions over medium heat until softened (about 7 minutes).  Put the onions in a separate bowl and set aside.  
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, 1/2 cup cheese, salt and pepper.  Stir in onions.
  4. In the same pan used for the onions, heat butter over medium.  Add egg mixture, and after 1 to 2 minutes once the eggs have set, arrange the apples on top in a circular pattern, starting from the outside edge.  Sprinkle with remaining.
  5. Transfer skillet to oven.  Bake until frittata is set in the center, about 20 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, release frittata from pan and transfer to a cutting board.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Cut into wedges and serve.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Sweet Onion and Cheddar Cornbread

Chili and cornbread is such a classic combination. On Monday I shared a delicious Black Bean Chili with Roasted Butternut Squash with you. Today I am sharing with you this amazing Sweet Onion and Cheddar Cornbread that with our chili.  Of course, while I have made several cornbread recipes over the years, cornbread with sweet onions and cheddar is a version I did not have a recipe for…until now.

The first step in creating this recipe was to select a base, and for that I went to a very trusty source – the back of the cornmeal canister.  Their Easy Corn Bread was a perfect place to begin.  The rest was a little bit of guess work and crossed fingers.

Sauteed onions and cheddar cheese are the perfect additions that take this basic cornbread recipe to a whole new level. The poppy seeds sprinkled on top add a little visual appeal.  Mike has already requested I make this again.  There is no doubt this Sweet Onion and Cheddar Cornbread will be making a regular appearance at our dinner table this chili season.

Sweet Onion and Cheddar Cornbread
 
Author:
Yields: 16 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (reserve 1 tablespoon for topping)
  • ¼ teaspoon poppy seeds
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. Add onion and saute until softened (about 5-7 minutes). Reserve 1 tablespoon for topping. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar and baking powder.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk milk, oil and egg until combined.
  5. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in onion and and cheese (do not over mix).
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle reserved onion and cheese and poppy seeds on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Adapted from back of Quaker corn meal canister

Porcini Mushroom and Spinach Risotto with Mascarpone

Years ago, I aspired to make risotto for the first time.  But I hesitated, because it was a little intimidating and seemed quite difficult.  Coincidentially, around the same time, I happened to catch a cooking show about risotto.  The chef explained step-by-step how to make it and alleviated any uncertainty I had.  Armed with a recipe from Cooking Light, I was bound and determined to perfect the art of making risotto!
Fortunately, risotto was just as easy to make as the professionals on television led me to believe.  Years later, we are still enjoying that same recipe, however since then I have incorporated a few changes to the original recipe.  I swapped oregano for thyme, added lots of fresh spinach and used vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian dish.
While we enjoy this risotto as a vegetarian entree, it of course makes for a wonderful side dish.  Porcini Mushroom and Spinach Risotto with Mascarpone is a household favorite, suitable for company, and a definite crowd pleaser.
Porcini Mushroom and Spinach Risotto with Mascarpone
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 14 ounces vegetable broth
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice (or other short-grain rice)
  • ¾ cup chopped shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) mascarpone cheese
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine boiling water and mushrooms; let stand for 10 minutes. Drain through colander over a bowl. Reserve 1¼ cups soaking liquid, and chop mushrooms.
  2. In a small sauce pan, bring soaking liquid and broth to a simmer (do not boil), keeping mixture warm over low heat.
  3. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add rice, shallots and garlic; saute 5 minutes, or until the rice gets browned and toasted.
  4. Add wine and cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).
  5. Reduce heat to medium. Add 1 cup broth mixture to rice mixture and cook until liquid is nearly absorbed (about 5 minutes); stirring frequently.
  6. Add remaining broth mixture ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently, until each portion of the broth mixture is nearly absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total).
  7. Remove pan from heat. Add mushrooms, cheeses, oregano, spinach, salt and pepper, stirring gently until combined and cheese melts. Serve warm.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 4 servings
Adapted from Cooking Light
Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach - made in less than 30 minutes!

Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach

(Photos updated 2/23/2012)

As the weather turns cooler, we find ourselves gravitating toward soups, chili, baked pasta, all of those warm comfort foods. I have had a vision for this tortellini soup for quite a while, but simply have not had an opportunity to execute it. Until now…

Filled with healthy vegetables and hearty tortellini, Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach is the perfect comfort food for a crisp fall day, or any day for that matter.  And guess what?  It can be made in under 30 minutes!  Had I realized that, this soup would have been made long ago.

I put a range of 4 to 6 cups for the broth, so you can adjust to your preference. I like my soup on the chunkier side, so 4 cups of broth yielded the perfect consistency for me. I also used frozen spinach, which worked really well.   I recommend using both low sodium broth and tomatoes, so you can control the sodium by adding salt to taste.

As a great weeknight dinner, or a quick any time meal, we are looking forward to enjoying this soup all fall/winter long, and I hope you will too!

Tortellini Soup with Chunky Tomatoes and Spinach
 
Yields: 3 to 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 to 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium diced tomatoes, including juices
  • 9-10 ounces tortellini (fresh or frozen), any variety
  • 1½ teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 10 ounces fresh or frozen spinach, chopped (if frozen, thaw and squeeze out excess moisture)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion for 5-7 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic, and saute for 1 minute.
  2. Add broth and tomatoes. Turn heat to high, cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions.
  4. Within the last minute of cooking the tortellini, stir in Italian herb seasoning, crushed red pepper and spinach. Taste, and add salt and pepper seasoning, as desired.
  5. Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with Parmesan cheese.

 

Adapted from Food Network

Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini

For the second recipe of ‘Zucchini Week,’ I am very excited to share this Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini recipe.  This dish has immediately vaulted its way into our rotation, and frankly we have been trying to find excuses to make it again and again and again.  It’s that good and easy too!

We are huge garlic fans, so I thought slices instead of crushed would be a nice change.  The garlic pieces become a little crispy, which adds nice texture to the dish and the flavor is incredible.  The crushed red pepper gives this dish a little kick as well.  All together, this becomes the perfect topping for ravioli, or any pasta really.

Ravioli with Roasted Zucchini
Yields 4 servings

4 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound fresh cheese or spinach ravioli
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Spray baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.  Set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil
  2. In a small bowl, mix olive oil and crushed red pepper. 
  3. Add zucchini, garlic and 3 tablespoons cheese to oil mixture and toss until thorougly coated.  
  4. Place zucchini mixture in a single layer on a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until tender and golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, within the last 5-10 minutes of baking time, add ravioli to boiling water and cook per package directions (or 3-5 minutes until they float).  Drain and place in large bowl.
  6. Toss ravioli gently with roasted zucchini and garlic, half the parsley, and half of the remaining cheese.  Serve immediately, topping with remaining parsley and cheese.

Adapted from Real Simple

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata with Smoked Gouda

On Monday, I shared with you a summery dessert that uses 4 egg yolks.  I also promised you a healthy way to use up those remaining egg whites.  A promise is a promise!  This Mushroom Spinach Frittata with Smoked Gouda uses exactly 4 egg whites.  How is that for even-steven!

Now I’m not normally a ‘smoked’ fan, but smoked gouda is truly the perfect complement to the earthy mushrooms in this frittata. The spinach gives beautiful color and flavor to the dish as well. From the original recipe, I increased the onion and added garlic. To compensate for these additions, I increased the olive oil by 1 teaspoon.

The result is a delicious protein-packed veggie-filled dish that is perfect for breakfast, brunch, or a light dinner served with a side salad (saving room for Lime Tart for dessert, of course).

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata with Smoked Gouda
 
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped Vidalia onion
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 large egg whites
  • ½ cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese, divided
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, cook 2 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring frequently, until tender (approximately 5 minutes). Add spinach, cover and cook until wilted (1 minute).
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, ¼ cup cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture to egg mixture, mix well.
  4. Pour mixture into cake pan and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese.
  5. Bake 30 minutes or until eggs have set. Cut into 4 wedges and serve.

 

Nutrition Information per Serving (1/4 frittata)
Calories = 177 ~ Fat = 9.6g ~ Carbs = 8.8g ~ Fiber = 1.5g ~ Protein = 13.5g

Adapted from Health Magazine, March 2007

Pasta with Grape Tomatoes and Mozzarella

The first time I made this pasta, I was a little underwhelmed. It was good, but not great. While I love pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella and chickpeas, there was something that just wasn’t doing it for me. However, I was not willing to give up on this recipe so easily. It had all the potential to be something fantastic, just clearly needed a little tweaking. 

First, I decided to marinate the tomatoes and mozzarella in the vinaigrette while I cooked the pasta. I also added some garlic for good measure. It then became obvious. While thyme may offer a unique flavor, it was just not right in this dish. What goes best with tomatoes and mozzarella is…basil! Nothing beats classic caprese-inspired flavors. 

As I hoped, with just a few changes, this dish became something extraordinary. It was simple, delicious and very easy to make. We enjoyed this pasta warm as an entree, but it would also be excellent served as a pasta salad. This quick and easy pasta has definitely landed a spot in our weeknight dinner rotation!

Pasta with Grape Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Yields 4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed

12 ounces pasta (any shape short pasta, any flavor; I used whole wheat & flax rotini)
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Coarse salt and ground pepper

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic and basil.  Add tomatoes and mozzarella and toss until combined.  Set aside.
  2. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions.   Add chickpeas to pot for the last 2 minutes of cooking.  Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. Drain pasta mixture and return to pot.
  3. Add tomato mixture to pasta.  Toss, adding reserved pasta water a little at a time to create a thin sauce to coat the pasta (you may not need all of the water). 
  4. Season with salt and pepper, as desired and toss to combined.  Serve, garnished with basil leaves, if desired.
Adapted from Everyday Food
Veggie Pizza Puffs

Garden Pizza Puffs

Veggie Pizza Puffs

We eat a lot of muffins in this house.  We also eat a lot of pizza.  So when I stumbled upon a recipe for pizza made in a mini-muffin tin, it was like two worlds colliding into something brilliant!

Garden Pizza Puffs are cheesy, delicious and very easy to make. With only about 35 calories per puff, they are a fun and healthy option to satisfy your pizza cravings.

The original recipe is made with pepperoni, which would be pretty good.  I thought it would be even better with made vegetables and herbs.  The recipe written below reflects the vegetables that I used, though you can experiment with the same amounts of whatever meats and/or vegetables you like.  I have also used whole wheat and all-purpose flours, and either one works great.  The beauty of this recipe is the ability to customize everything to suit your preferences.

Served with a side of pizza sauce for dipping or with a dollop of sauce on each puff, these would make for a super cute appetizer at your next dinner party.  Mike and I had 10 puffs each and called it dinner.  These puffs would also be a tasty treat for kids.

Given the unlimited possibilities, I look forward to doing lots of experimenting with this recipe.  In the meantime, we will just have to continue to test several variations of pizza puffs.  Oh the sacrifices we make! 🙂

Garden Pizza Puffs
 
Yields: Yields 24 puffs (see note)
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup skim milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup red onion, chopped
  • ½ cup roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • pizza sauce, for serving
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 24-cup mini-muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Whisk in the milk and egg. Fold in the cheese, garlic, onion, roasted red pepper, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper (if using). Let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir the batter and divide evenly among the mini-muffin cups (fill to about ½ to ⅔ full).
  4. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 mintutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan serve with pizza sauce.
Notes
Yields 12 puffs in a regular-sized muffin pan - adjust baking time to 25 to 30 minutes.

Adapted from Rachael Ray

Kiddie Cheese Square

All right folks, here is a tasty treat for your little ones. Now Adam is not a picky eater per se, but he will not eat plain cottage cheese, and he will not eat plain eggs (no matter how much cheese is added).  Put the 2 together, along with some flour and shredded cheese and voila! Kiddie Cheese Square is delicious, protein-packed, and one of Adam’s favorite lunches!


Making Kiddie Cheese Square could not be any easier – just mix everything together and bake. I typically cut the square in quarters and then wrap each quarter in cling wrap to store (and refrigerate after a couple days).  I have also stored cheese square in the pan, but fridge space is a premium in our house, so storing them as quarters is easier. Do what works best for you.


To serve, I cut 1-2 strips from the square and heat in the microwave for about 5 seconds (enough to heat and soften the square).  I then cut the strips into bite-sized pieces for Adam. At 16 months, he averages about 4 strips per sitting, and at 12 months, he ate 1-2 strips.

I think cheese square tastes like a cheesy pie crust.  Others have remarked it is like kiddie pizza without the sauce.  Regardless of what we think, Adam just thinks it’s great!  Who would have thought that 4 simple ingredients mixed together could turn into something so tasty! 

Kiddie Cheese Square
Yields one 9 x 9 square, serving size varies

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (see note)
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 ounces cheese, shredded (any cheese, such as cheddar, colby jack, mozzarella)
1 cup cottage cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 9 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cheese, egg and cottage cheese.  Add flour and mix until combined.  Be careful not to over mix. (Note: mixture will be stiff to stir, yet sticky to the touch).  
  3. Pour mixture in baking pan.  Using waxed paper, press mixture to spread out and fill the pan.  
  4. Bake for about 35-40  minutes, or until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.   Be careful not to over bake.  Cool and cut into squares. 

Note:  I have tried using whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour, and this definitely works best with all-purpose flour.  Whole wheat flours made the square too dense for Adam to “chew” but might work for a child with molars. 

Adapted from The Everything Cooking for Baby and Toddler Book

Grilled Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers

It is not very often that a new recipe immediately leaps way to the top of the list.  But when I saw a tasty recipe in Experience Life magazine, I think my heart skipped a beat with excitement.  I got that ‘I just found a recipe that will change your life’ feeling.  Cheese, black beans, green onions, garlic and spices, all nestled in a tasty little jalapeno?  Seriously?  Time to fire up the grill!

In fact, I was tempted to simply grab a spoon and eat the filling straight from the bowl.

I resisted and instead stuffed these beautiful jalapenos.  The result is a delightful, healthy twist on a jalapeno popper.

This heavenly dish makes for a perfect appetizer at any summer gathering, yet is easy enough to whip together for a light weeknight dinner.  Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Grilled Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers
Yields 8 (appetizer) or 4 (dinner) servings

16 jalapeno peppers
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
4 green onions, chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the peppers.
  2. Make a lengthwise slit down each pepper, leaving the stem intact; carefully remove ribs and seeds.  (Tip: a quick rinse helps remove the seeds from the inside, lessening the heat)
  3. Distribute filling evenly among peppers (about 1 tablespoon per pepper).
  4. Heat grill to medium heat.  Place stuffed peppers on a sheet of foil on the grill.  Cover and cook until cheese mixture has melted and peppers are softened, about 10-15 minutes.

Adapted from Experience Life

Cheese Enchilada Casserole

Truth be told, after the birth of our son, my husband (Mike) and I fell into what some might affectionately call a “dinner rut.”  Our dinners were something quick and easy for Mike to whip together while I took care of putting the baby to bed.  And the rotation went something like this: pizza (frozen), pasta (fresh ravioli), Pei Wei (sesame chicken!), and eggs (which later morphed into “p’eggs”).  We were tired.  We were hungry.  Sometimes we had pizza 2 nights in a row.  After many many months we were ready for a change.  The baby was older and bedtime a bit more predictable.  It was time to dig into my recipe archives, and the revival of Cheese Enchilada Casserole was born.

Cheese Enchilada Casserole is an easy weeknight meal that’s full of flavor and is healthy too.  With some advance prep work it can easily be assembled and on the table in around 30 minutes.  There are countless variations that can evolve from this basic recipe – add chicken or black beans, vary the cheese or tomatoes or sauce.  Yet it’s just as tasty prepared in the version written below.

Cheese Enchilada Casserole
 
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (8 oz) fat free cottage cheese
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup taco sauce
  • ¼ cup (1 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 9 6" corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Mix first 6 ingredients, through chili powder, in bowl. [This step can be done in advance]
  3. Place 3 corn tortillas in baking dish. Top tortillas with ½ of cheese mixture. Repeat. Top final layer with 3 corn tortillas.
  4. Pour taco sauce over tortillas and top with ¼ cup cheddar cheese.
  5. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Slice into 4 pieces and serve.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Onion Cheese Quesadilla

I discovered this quesadilla recipe while searching for meal ideas for my son, and when I showed it to my husband he said “Yes, please.”  It instantly went on the menu for the week and we’re both very glad it did.

Why have I never made quesadillas before?  Are they difficult?  No.  Time consuming?  Not in the least.  Intimidating?  Maybe a little bit with the whole flipping thing.  Really, these could not be any easier and are so quick to put together. 

There are endless possibilities of fillings, but this time I wanted to keep it simple and stick close to the original recipe.  While my husband and I were eating these wedges of cheesy and onion-y goodness, I could definitely foresee more quesadillas in our future. 

Onion Cheese Quesadilla
Adapted slightly from Weelicious

4 whole wheat tortillas
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup red onion, sliced
cooking spray

  1. Saute red onion in pan sprayed with cooking spray until soft and translucent.  Place in bowl and set aside.
  2. Using another pan (I used nonstick), place tortilla in dry pan over medium heat. Place 3/4 cup cheese and 1/2 the onion on the tortilla and top with another tortilla.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until cheese is melted and tortilla is toasted. 
  3. Repeat with remaining ingredients for second quesadilla.
  4. Slice into wedges and serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole or any of your favorite fixings.

Serves 2 to 4

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Crustless Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

Welcome to Alida’s Kitchen!  For my inaugural post, I am sharing with you a tasty crustless quiche recipe made with a few simple ingredients.  It is so easy to put together!  The cheddar cheese really adds a nice flavor to this egg dish, and broccoli adds great texture.  My husband and I enjoyed this quiche for dinner with a side salad (and leftovers made for great lunches the next day!), although it would be excellent for a brunch or anytime really. 
 

Crustless Broccoli Cheddar Quiche
Adapted from Everyday Food

10 oz. frozen broccoli florets
6 large eggs
1/2 cup fat free half and half
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Ground pepper
3/4 cup (3 ounces) cheddar cheese
Cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 inch pie dish with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Add broccoli; cook 1 minute.  Drain well; transfer to a cutting board and blot dry with paper towels.  Chop coarsely.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half and nutmeg.  Add ground pepper to taste.  Stir in broccoli and cheese.
  4. Pour broccoli mixture into pie plate and bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

Yields 4 servings

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