Friday, March 30, 2012

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Crescents

It’s taken me 29 years, but I’m finally coming around to sweet breakfast foods. Growing up, I never ate sweet things like doughnuts or danishes for breakfast, because it bothered my stomach to have the first thing I ate in the mornings be so sugary. Maybe my stomach has gotten stronger with age, though, because I find I can definitely tolerate (and enjoy!) a sweet breakfast every now and then at this point in my life. So when I saw these cinnamon cream cheese crescents on Pinterest on a Friday night, I checked my fridge to make sure I had all of the ingredients I needed, and I made them on Saturday morning.

My family devoured these, and I was left wishing I’d made a double batch. The buttery, flaky crescent roll in combination with tangy cream cheese and cinnamon-sugar was just absolutely perfect. I’m sure you have most of these ingredients on hand, but if you don’t, rush out and get them today so you can have these for breakfast tomorrow. Your family will thank you!

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Crescents
adapted from Lil Luna

1 package crescent rolls
1 8-ounce tub of spreadable cream cheese
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Roll out the crescent dough into triangles. Spread cream cheese evenly over each triangle of dough, right to the edges.

3. Brush each triangle with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

4. Beginning with the wide side, roll up each triangle and pinch the edges together to seal. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.

5. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is one of those recipes I’ve literally been making for a couple of years now, and just haven’t gotten around to sharing yet. When I put it on a recent(ish) meal plan, I told you guys that I’d definitely share it this time.

The universe must’ve been laughing, though, because the very night I made this for dinner, I got sick with the stomach flu. And…well, yadda yadda yadda, you know how those things go. So here we are, a month later, and I’m finally able to post this recipe. (I’m being intentionally vague; I know you don’t want the details.) It’s still March, which is still soup weather in my book! All year is soup weather in my book, for that matter.

We love this soup so much. It’s cheesy, creamy, spicy, and flavorful. The corn chips provide the perfect crunch. It’s so easy to make, and the leftovers reheat really well. It’s definitely not the healthiest soup in the world, I’ll grant you that; but once you take the first bite of it and taste how delicious it is, I highly doubt you’ll be thinking about the calories.

Cheesy Chicken Tortilla Soup
adapted from Krista’s Kitchen

1 envelope taco seasoning
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
12 ounces Velveeta, cubed (I used 2% milk Velveeta)
8 ounces shredded Monterey jack or pepper-jack cheese
1 16-ounce jar salsa
1 can corn, drained
1 cup milk
Corn chips, sour cream, and green onions for topping

1. Sprinkle chicken with taco seasoning. Heat the butter in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until the chicken is nearly cooked through.

2. Add onion and cook until softened. Stir in the flour until blended, then gradually stir in the broth. Cook and stir for a couple of minutes, until slightly thickened.

3. Stir in Velveeta, shredded cheese, and salsa. Cook over medium-low heat until cheese is melted. Add corn, then stir in milk and heat through.

4. Garnish each bowl of soup with corn chips, sour cream, and green onions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cake Batter Pancakes

I’ve always told Joe that if we ever have another baby, we need to try to time it so that the baby is born in February. We have the rest of the first five months of the year covered. Will’s birthday is in January, mine is in March, Joe’s is in April and Andrew’s is in May. We’re just missing February to make it five straight months of family birthdays. I really like little patterns/coincidences like that, because I’m a dork.

Anyway, because Will and I have already had our 2012 birthdays, we’ve already eaten these pancakes twice this year. The first time I made them (for Will’s birthday in January), I knew they would become a tradition in our family. They’re so delicious! And what a fun way to wake up on your birthday – to fragrant, cakey pancakes that are drowning in sprinkles and sugary glaze. Happy Birthday, indeed!

Cake Batter Pancakes
adapted from How Sweet It Is

For the pancakes:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cake mix
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 cups milk
Sprinkles or non-pareils

For the glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine flour, cake mix, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix. Add 1 cup of milk, egg and vanilla extract and stir until smooth. Start with 1 cup of milk and add more if needed (you want the batter to look like regular pancake batter, not too thick and not too thin).

2. Preheat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Fold desired amount of sprinkles into batter. Pour batter in 1/4 cup measurements onto skillet and let cook until bubbles form on top, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 minute more.

3. To make the glaze, powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla until glaze forms, adding more sugar and/or heavy cream until you reach the desired consistency. Drizzle glaze over pancakes and top with additional sprinkles or non-pareils.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwiches

I just looked through the list of recipes I haven’t posted yet, and 90% of them involve chicken. I hope you guys like chicken! I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s the protein of choice at Casa de Cassie, so I always stock up when it’s on sale and cook with it at least three times a week. Usually more than that.

This particular recipe takes all the flavors of chicken Caesar salad and puts them on a sandwich. As soon as I saw it, I knew I was going to love it. Back in my less-adventurous days of eating, I’d order a chicken Caesar salad at every single restaurant, every single time we ate out. To this day, chicken Caesar salad still holds a special place in my heart. Okay, I’m done waxing poetic about a salad now. :)

In this simple, mouth-wateringly delicious sandwich, chicken cutlets are breaded and pan-fried, then topped with provolone cheese, bacon, and romaine lettuce tossed with parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing. The sandwiches are served on buttered grilled buns that call to mind the crouton portion of the traditional salad. Joe loved this sandwich and declared it the best chicken sandwich I’ve ever made. I’m taking that high praise and running with it!

Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwiches
heavily adapted from Stephanie Cooks

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 egg
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 slices bacon
2 rolls
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 cup romaine lettuce
Caesar dressing
2 slices provolone cheese

1. Beat the egg in a small bowl. Combine breadcrumbs and salt. Dip each chicken breast in the egg, and then in the breadcrumb mixture. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large skillet (enough to coat the bottom) over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until crispy and cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes per side (depending on thickness).

2. While the chicken is cooking, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

3. In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Spread generously on each roll half. Broil buttered-side up or cook in a skillet buttered-side down until the rolls are browned.

4. Toss together the romaine lettuce, the parmesan cheese, and Caesar salad dressing to taste.

5. Place a piece of cooked chicken on the bottom half of each roll. Top with a slice of provolone cheese, two slices of bacon, and a pile of the salad mix.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 3.26.12

Once again, I’m bringing you my meal plan a day late. I actually think I’m going to start posting it on Mondays, because these days I’m just not able to find the time to plan my meals until the last minute. This weekend, for instance, I was still planning our dinners and writing my grocery list five minutes before leaving for the store.

March has been such a busy month, and my blog has definitely suffered. So has my cooking, for that matter! I haven’t been cooking nearly as much as usual. I do have quite a few delicious things planned for this week, though, and my schedule is starting to slow down ever-so-slightly, so hopefully it’ll be business as usual around here again soon.

Monday: Sausage pancakes on sticks, tater tots. I didn’t get to make these last week, and I’m pretty excited about them. The boys are going to love them.

Tuesday: Chicken suiza pockets, Mexican rice. This meal is still coming together in my mind, but I’m envisioning the flavors of enchiladas suizas all wrapped up inside a crescent roll. Sounds good, right?

Wednesday: Spicy bacon spaghetti

Thursday: Rosemary ranch chicken, baked potatoes, grilled asparagus. It’s time to break out the grill, and I can’t think of a more delicious meal to christen it with!

Friday: Sour cream and bacon chicken, rice pilaf, steamed broccoli

Saturday: Sausage and tomato risotto

Sunday: We have plans for a cook-out with my family. Hopefully the weather holds! I’m responsible for dessert, and am making no-bake Nutella cheesecake pie.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Mozzarella and Pesto

This weather we’ve been having is completely ridiculous, in a really awesome way. We’re projected to have record HIGHS here in Ohio today, and I’m loving it. While I do wish it wasn’t quite so hot already (86 degrees!!!), I’m certainly not going to complain.

The weather has me thinking about grilling, so I thought this grilled chicken recipe would be the perfect thing to share with you today. It’s so simple, and it tastes absolutely amazing. Chicken breasts are marinated in balsamic vinegar, then grilled, then topped with fresh mozzarella, pesto, and a balsamic reduction. Those are literally the only ingredients in the recipe (you don’t even need salt and pepper!), and you won’t believe how delicious this is. The vinegar keeps the chicken moist and gives it tons of flavor, and the gooey mozzarella and earthy pesto are the perfect complements. If you’re looking for a recipe to break in your grill this season, this is it!

P.S. I served this with steamed asparagus, and the balsamic reduction was amazingly delicious on that too. Highly recommended!

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Mozzarella and Pesto
slightly adapted from Stephanie Cooks

4 chicken breasts
1 cup balsamic vinegar, divided
1 8-ounce ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 slices
Prepared pesto

1. Place the chicken breasts and 1/2 cup of the balsamic vinegar in a large bowl. Make sure the chicken is evenly coated and marinate for no more than an hour. Any longer than that, and the acid in the vinegar could affect the texture of the chicken.

2. Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to high heat. Grill the chicken until cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cook until the vinegar is reduced, thickened, and syrupy, about 15 minutes.

4. When the chicken is cooked, top each breast with 2 slices of fresh mozzarella. Broil until the cheese is melted. Top each breast with a spoonful of pesto, then drizzle each with the balsamic reduction.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chicken Bacon Ranch Crescent Bundles

There is one battle that my husband and I no longer fight in our house, and that is the Dinner Battle. I’m sure most of you who are parents know what I’m talking about: “Just eat one bite, honey. Just taste it. You’ll like it. How can you say you don’t like it when you won’t even try it?”

We fought with both of our boys about eating their dinner countless times before we just accepted that no amount of wheedling, threatening, or bargaining was going to work on them. So here’s how dinner works in our house: What’s on your plate is your dinner. If you don’t eat all of that dinner, you don’t get dessert. If you don’t want to eat any of it – okay, but you won’t be getting any snacks later. And that’s it. Dinners have been much more pleasant since I stopped trying to coerce them into eating. Granted, there are nights they just won’t eat (like last night, when I made them peanut butter and honey sandwiches, pretzels, and apples and they barely touched their plates; what kid won’t eat those things?!), but in those instances I just sigh and store the food for the next day’s lunches. My boys are not going to waste away to nothing. I constantly have to remind myself of this.

But then there are nights when I make something like these crescent bundles for dinner, and they absolutely cannot get enough of them. This is one of those dinners that elicited “Mmm” and “That’s yummy, Mommy” and “I want more, please” from both of them. I can’t give these a more rousing recommendation than that!

These bundles are so simple and flavorful, and they’re ready in no time. They’re a perfect weeknight dinner, and a hit with both kids and adults.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Crescent Bundles
adapted from Tablespoon

1 package refrigerated crescent rolls
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
7 slices bacon, diced and cooked until crisp
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon dry ranch dressing mix

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Separate the crescent roll dough into 4 rectangles, press them together to make sure the perforations are sealed, and then cut across them to make 8 squares.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, bacon, and cheese. Place about 1/4 cup of this mixture in the center of each crescent roll square. Bring the four corners over the filling and twist to seal.

3. Place bundles on an ungreased baking sheet. Combine melted butter and ranch dressing mix and brush evenly across the top of each bundle.

4. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the bundles are golden brown.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 3.19.12

Sorry the meal plan is a day late, guys. This has been such a busy month for me that I’m just trying my best to stay afloat and keep up with all of my have-to commitments, let alone my want-to commitment to this blog.

Speaking of commitments, the baby shower I hosted for my sister-in-law on Saturday went off without a single hitch. Everyone had such a wonderful time, and I got lots of compliments on the food. I’ll be sharing a few of the recipes with you in the coming weeks!

Here’s what we’re eating this week.

Monday: Greek beef tacos. I didn’t make these last week (I actually only cooked twice all week!), so I’m looking forward to having them tonight. It’ll actually probably be just me eating them. Joe worked last night, and Andrew has pink-eye and can’t go to daycare, so Joe’s staying up with our boy at home today. He’s such an awesome dad. I’m sure he’ll crash the instant I get home tonight, but that’s okay – more for me!

Tuesday: BLT caprese sliders and chips. How cute are these sandwiches? I can’t wait to try them.

Wednesday: Baked ziti and garlic bread. This version of baked ziti comes highly recommended by Debbie, so I can't wait to try it. And I need to do so before I switch gears to lighter spring meals!

Thursday: Sausage pancakes on sticks, tater tots. As soon as I saw Ree make these on her show, I knew we’d be having them sooner rather than later.

Friday: I’m having lunch with my sister and then going to see The Hunger Games in the afternoon, and I’m not sure what time I’ll get home. We’ll probably order pizza.

Saturday: My cooking club is meeting in the evening, and I’m responsible for the dessert portion of the meal. I’m making tiramisu cake, suggested by my friend Jessie.

Sunday: Spinach-artichoke baked pasta. This sounds similar to a couple of things I’ve made before, but I can’t wait to try this version. If it has cream cheese and sour cream in it, you know it’s a winner in my book.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cake Batter Cheesecake Cupcakes

You may have heard that someone very special has a birthday this month. No, I’m not talking about myself (even though I do turn the big 2-9 today!!); I’m talking about Oreo cookies! Last week they celebrated their 100th birthday. Can you believe that? The familiar chocolate sandwich cookies were certainly a trademark of my childhood, and my kids love them too. To think about all the generations of children before and after me that have grown up eating these cookies is just really, really cool.

You’ve probably seen the limited edition birthday cake Oreos that are available in the supermarkets right now to celebrate this occasion. If you haven’t tried them: GO GET A BAG IMMEDIATELY. They’re so good. On the outside, they look like a typical Oreo – but the filling is loaded with sprinkles and tastes exactly like cake batter. The first time I tried them, I immediately thought of these cupcakes, and I just knew I had to duplicate them using the birthday cake Oreos. And then I thought – wouldn’t it be cool to make the cheesecake filling taste like cake batter, too? Thankfully, someone else thought of this before me, so I adapted her recipe.

These cute little cheesecake cupcakes are just delicious. The middle has the texture of cheesecake, while the outer edges get slightly cakey from the cake batter that’s in the filling. The sprinkles keep their integrity and add a nice sweet little bite to the cupcakes, while the birthday cake Oreos serve as the perfect “crust.” These are the perfect thing to make to celebrate Oreo’s birthday (and mine)! :)

Cake Batter Cheesecake Cupcakes
adapted from Gingerbread Bagels

16-20 Oreos, regular or birthday cake-flavored
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup yellow cake mix
2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles

1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Prepare cupcake pans with paper liners. Place a whole Oreo in each cupcake liner.

2. In a bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese for 3 minutes on medium speed until smooth. Add in the sugar and mix for 2 more minutes.

3. Add in the vanilla and mix. Slowly pour in the lightly beaten eggs on medium low speed and mix to combine. Add in the sour cream and mix on medium low speed. Be careful not to over mix the cheesecake batter.

4. Sift the cake mix over the bowl with the cheesecake batter to remove any lumps. Stir in 2 tablespoons sprinkles. Fold in gently.

5. Using a cookie dough scooper or a 1/4 measuring cup, place cheesecake batter on top of each Oreo. Spread the cheesecake batter out with a small spatula or knife.

6. Bake the cheesecakes at 275 degrees for 30 minutes. Once they’re done baking, chill them in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cheeseburger Lettuce Wraps

This is one of those ideas I stumbled upon on Pinterest, but when it came time to make these for dinner, I couldn’t find the pin. Either I never actually pinned it, or it’s lost among all of my other food-related pins. The second option is the most likely one, as I like to pin All The Things. My name is Cassie, and I’m a Pinterest addict.

Anyway, I sort of did my own thing with these. Lettuce leaves are such a great, healthy vehicle for all types of things, way beyond Asian-style chicken, and I loved the idea of a cheeseburger lettuce wrap. I used all the things I’d typically put on a cheeseburger – onions, tomatoes, pickles, a good bit of cheese – and wrapped it all up in lettuce rather than piling it on a bun. You can obviously customize these any way you’d like, using your favorite hamburger toppings. I drizzled ours with Thousand Island dressing, which we all loved. Delicious, simple, and pretty fun to eat, too.

With potato chips on the side, this dinner came together really fast, and it’s definitely something I’ll make again.

Cheeseburger Lettuce Wraps

1 pound ground sirloin (I wouldn’t do ground chuck for this; you want something less fatty)
Salt and pepper to taste
Montreal steak seasoning to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Lettuce leaves
Shredded cheddar cheese
Thousand Island dressing for serving, if desired

1. In a large skillet, heat a small amount of oil over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and season with salt, pepper, and steak seasoning. When the beef’s about halfway cooked, add the onion. Continue cooking until onion is softened and beef is fully cooked. Drain any excess fat from the beef and return to pan.

2. Stir in diced tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes while you prepare the lettuce leaves.

3. Spoon a portion of the beef mixture into a lettuce leaf. Top with a generous helping of shredded cheese, pickles, and Thousand Island dressing, if using.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 3.12.12

Happy Daylight Savings Time Day! DST is always a double-edged sword in our house: It's nice to have the extra light in the evening, but it's difficult because my kids don't always get the concept of it. I'm hoping the transition this year goes pretty smoothly, but we shall see.

The meal plan is somewhat abbreviated this week, since I'll be spending a lot of time preparing for a baby shower I'm hosting next weekend. I'm kind of freaking out about it, and it's entirely possible that I actually won't cook anything at all this week because I'll be working so hard to prepare for it. At least it's not at my house, so I don't have to worry about having the whole house spotless (because it's sooo not right now).

My birthday is also this week, so we'll actually be going out to dinner to celebrate on Wednesday. I can't remember the last time we took the boys out to eat at a restaurant. Wish us luck.

Monday: Spinach and chicken tortilla bake, Mexican rice. Horrible photo notwithstanding, Joe still talks about this dish as being one of the most delicious things I’ve made, ever. I’m making it a priority to get a better picture this time.

Tuesday: Buttermilk chicken tenders and French fries. I fried up some chicken fingers for another recipe last week, and I just had to try them before I coated them in hot sauce. They were so delicious on their own that I’m putting them, sauce-less, on our meal plan this week.

Wednesday: It’s my birthday! I’m taking the night off from making dinner, of course, and we’re going out.

Thursday: Greek beef tacos. You know I like something when I put it on our menu twice in three weeks. My mouth is already watering, just thinking about these tacos. I may not be able to wait until Thursday to make them.

Friday: Chinese take-out. I’m hosting a baby shower on Saturday, and I’ll have a lot of prepping to do for the food the night before. Dinner needs to be very low-maintenance.

Saturday: Probably pizza or fast food. I’m not even going to pretend to want to make dinner after my hosting duties are through.

Sunday: Chicken tetrazzini. I’m trying yet another version (I didn’t get around to making my own version a couple of weeks ago), and I think this one has definite promise.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mocha Snack Cake with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

“Snack cake” is probably one of my favorite terms in all of food. Just the idea of a cake that was made for snacking is sort of hysterical to me. I mean, who really snacks on cake? Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have cake for a snack, but grapes and almonds are a much healthier 2 PM pick-me-up.

I would define a snack cake as one that is baked in a 9 x 13 pan, is simple to make, and can be kept on hand for a while to cut into squares for snacking dessert. There’s nothing fancy about a snack cake. It’s just no-frills, simple deliciousness. This mocha version with its yummy peanut butter frosting fits that definition on all fronts. The cake itself is incredibly moist, and the addition of the coffee highlights the flavor of the chocolate and makes it taste so rich. Although I wouldn’t typically pair peanut butter with coffee, the peanut butter cream cheese frosting adds a sweet tangy quality and works perfectly with the cake.

The only thing I’ll do differently next time I make this (which I definitely will) is double the frosting. I only had enough for a very thin layer of frosting, and I’m a girl that likes a pretty thick glob of the stuff. This cake would also be delicious with coffee buttercream. Yum!

Mocha Snack Cake with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
slightly adapted from Taste of Home

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brewed coffee, room temperature

For the frosting:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

2. In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat for 2 minutes. Stir in coffee (batter will be thin).

3. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

4. For frosting, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter in a bowl until smooth. Beat in sugar, milk and vanilla. Spread over cooled cake. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mexican Spinach Dip

I mentioned in my meal planning post a couple of weeks ago that a group of my high school friends and I have started a cooking club. The plan is to get together once a month and have a themed sort of dinner, with each of us providing one component (appetizer, main dish, dessert, etc.). For our first meet-up, we had an amazing Mexican fiesta, including blood orange and pomegranate margaritas, fajitas, tres leches cake, and this delicious sopapilla cheesecake-like dessert that I cannot wait to make at home. We had a blast, and there may be a picture of all of us circulating on Facebook wearing Mexican mustaches. That might have happened. We’re all moms, and spending an evening together, reflecting on life and motherhood with women who have known me for so many years, was good for my soul.

My contribution to our fabulous meal was this Mexican spinach dip, which was suggested to me by a lovely reader named Jessi (who is blogless) when I solicited for Mexican appetizer ideas. You guys, this dip is so incredibly delicious. And it’s addictive, too – even after my friends and I had finished our meal and our dessert, we were still eating it. It’s creamy, just a little bit spicy, and has that great earthy spinach flavor. Definitely a winner, and something I’ll be making often in the future! Thanks for sharing this one, Jessi!

(P.S. March’s theme is Italian food, and I’ve been assigned the dessert course. What’s your favorite Italian dessert? Link ’em up in the comments! So far you guys are 1 for 1!)

Mexican Spinach Dip
adapted from Allrecipes

1 16-ounce jar salsa, medium or hot
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, diced and softened
1 8-ounce carton sour cream
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a medium baking dish, mix together salsa, chopped spinach, Monterey Jack cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper.

3. Bake mixture in the preheated oven 12 to 15 minutes, or until bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Greek Beef Tacos

New favorite dinner alert! We had these on Saturday night, and I just couldn’t wait to share them with you. This simple, delicious, Greek version of tacos was a huge hit in our house and has skyrocketed right to the top of the list of my most favorite dinners, ever.

The meat mixture itself is ground beef, garlic, diced tomatoes, Greek seasoning, and spinach. We topped our tacos with cucumbers, olives, feta cheese, and a tzatziki-like sauce that I made with sour cream, shredded cucumber, and red wine vinegar. The result was very similar to a gyro and equally as delicious, in my opinion.

I don’t really know what else to say about these. They’re just delicious, and you should make them ASAP.

Greek Beef Tacos
adapted from Taste of Home

For the tacos:

1 pound lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons Greek seasoning
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups fresh baby spinach
Splash of red wine vinegar
Whole wheat flour tortillas

For the sauce:

1 cup sour cream
Half of a medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and shredded
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

For topping:

Black olives
Feta cheese
Diced cucumber
Minced red onion

1. In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the tomatoes, Greek seasoning, garlic and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until thickened. Add spinach; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Add a splash of vinegar, if desired.

2. To make the sauce, squeeze as much liquid out of the cucumber as you can. Combine sour cream, cucumber, and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Spoon some of the beef mixture into each flour tortilla. Top with sauce and desired toppings.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 3.5.12

It's March!! Although this isn't notoriously the best weather month for Ohio, it does happen to be my very favorite month of the year. My birthday is this month. Adding to my excitement this year are a baby shower I'm throwing for my sister-in-law, and the release of The Hunger Games, a movie I've been anticipating for I don't even know how long.

With the arrival of March, it also seems as though I've regained my enthusiasm for cooking. I made some delicious meals last week that I can't wait to share with you, and I'm really excited about everything on our meal plan this week, too.

Monday: Grilled balsamic chicken with mozzarella and pesto, noodles with roasted cherry tomatoes, steamed asparagus. This chicken looks absolutely delicious. For the noodles, I'll just toss some thin spaghetti with butter, parmesan cheese, herbs, and the roasted tomatoes.

Tuesday: Buffalo chicken quesadillas. Jury's still out on what I'll serve with these, but I'm sure no matter what I decide on, these quesadillas will be the star of the meal.

Wednesday: Crock pot ranch pork chops, mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli. These pork chops are simple, delicious and flavorful -- a perfect Hump Day meal!

Thursday: Chicken and broccoli pockets, rice pilaf. I knew I'd be making these as soon as I saw them on Leigh's blog. We definitely have a mutual love of crescent rolls.

Friday: Salsa chicken taco salads. Everyone makes salsa chicken, it seems, and I'm eager to use it in a taco salad.

Saturday: Not-so-dirty dirty rice. I have a roll of spicy sausage in the freezer just waiting to be used in this rice. My friend Allison tried it and loved it, so I'm sure we will too.

Sunday: Burrito chicken enchiladas. We haven't had enchiladas for a while, and these look absolutely delicious.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Banana Coffee Cake with Toffee Crumb Topping

I have a lot of cookbooks, arguably way more than one person should own, and definitely more than one person needs. The truth is that I find most of the recipes I make online, so my cookbooks don’t get used nearly as much as I wish they did.

That’s why I love this little habit of Will’s. Nearly every night, he picks one cookbook from the shelf, flips through it for a little while, and then brings it to me when he’s finished. Usually I’m in the middle of something else, so I’ll just return the cookbook to the shelf, but occasionally I’ll stop and flip through it for a while. One night recently he brought me A Passion for Baking, and I promptly lost at least 30 minutes of my life looking through it, drooling over and bookmarking nearly every single recipe.

I decided to make this coffee cake first, both because it sounded delicious and because I already had everything on hand. This was a delicious coffee cake. It looks like it would be dense and heavy, but it actually has an airy texture and a mild, pleasing banana flavor. The sweet toffee topping provides a nice crunch, and the toffee flavor works perfectly with the banana. And it makes for such a pretty presentation, too!

Banana Coffee Cake with Toffee Crumb Topping
from A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman

For the toffee crumb topping:

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup toffee bar bits

For the coffee cake:

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed banana
1 cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a 10-inch springform pan or a 13 x 9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place pan on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

2. For the toffee topping, in a small bowl, blend confectioners' sugar and flour. Using our fingertips, rub butter into flour mixture to make a mealy crumb mixture. Stir in toffee bits and set topping aside.

3. In a medium bowl, hand-whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and blend well, scraping bottom of bowl occasionally to ensure there's no unmixed butter or sugar. Add banana, sour cream, and dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until thoroughly blended, about 2 to 4 minutes, scraping mixture on sides and bottom to ensure all batter is blended.

5. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Distribute topping over batter.

6. Bake until cake is done, springs back when gently pressed with fingertips, and see set, about 45 to 50 minutes for a 13 x 9-inch pan or 55 to 70 minutes for a springform pan.

7. Let cool about 15 minutes before gently unmolding onto a serving plate.