Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 3.1.10

So this is the first meal plan for the month of March, but if you looked out my window right now, you wouldn't be able to believe that it's almost springtime. We had snow pretty much every day during the month of February and I just couldn't possibly be more over winter. But the one good thing about the persistent cold weather is that it's still more than acceptable to eat hearty, wintery things for dinner -- so that's what we're doing this week!

: Monterey spaghetti, garlic bread

Tuesday: Balsamic chicken with roasted tomatoes, garlic and cheese orzo, steamed broccoli

Wednesday: Jalapeno popper burgers, baked oven fries

Thursday: Pasta with pancetta, chicken, and mushrooms

Friday: Open-faced chicken parmesan sandwiches, salad

Saturday: Slow-cooked pepper steak, rice

Sunday: Roasted vegetable soup, rolls

Friday, February 26, 2010

Peanut Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables

I've always been intrigued by the use of peanut butter in savory sauces, but it's something I've never tried before. I've always wanted to, though, and this recipe sounded like a good one to try. And I'm glad I did, because this was delicious! I definitely think that peanut sauce is a required taste; it's not for everyone, but we all really liked it -- especially Andrew. I think he would eat these noodles every day if I let him! The use of shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken and steam-ready frozen vegetables makes this meal come together very quickly, which means it's perfect for a weeknight dinner. I'll definitely be making this one again.

Peanut Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables

source: seen on Stephanie Cooks, originally from Eating Well

1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce, or to taste
(use 1 1/2 teaspoons for more heat; I adjusted for Andrew)
8 ounces whole-wheat angel hair
1 12-ounce bag frozen Steam Fresh Asian medley vegetables

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for cooking pasta. Microwave the frozen vegetables according to packaging directions.

2. Whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and chile-garlic sauce in a large bowl.

3. Cook pasta in the boiling water. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Pour the cup of hot water into the peanut sauce; add the pasta, vegetables and chicken; toss well to coat. Serve warm or chilled.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fiesta Ravioli Bake

I saw a version of this dish on The Sisters' Cafe a couple of weeks ago and immediately had a "Why didn't I think of that?" moment. I think it's pretty obvious that my family loves Mexican food, and I'm a sucker for a good casserole, so I knew I had to make this. I tweaked the recipe to fit our tastes, and it was a hit with the entire family (except for the baby, of course). Although Andrew absolutely loves ravioli, I thought this might be too spicy for him, but he actually had seconds. It came together in no time at all, and it was delicious. Since those are my two main requirements for a weeknight meal, I'll be making this one a lot!

Fiesta Ravioli Bake
source: inspired by The Sisters' Cafe

1 package frozen beef ravioli
1 jar salsa
1 10-ounce can red enchilada sauce
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can corn, drained
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
Crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, and cilantro, optional, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain. Meanwhile, combine salsa, enchilada sauce, black beans, and corn. Add to ravioli.

3. Pour ravioli mixture into prepared baking dish and top with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until the casserole is heated through and the cheese is melted. Top servings with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, and cilantro, if desired.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cauliflower Risotto

I've come a long way since the first risotto I ever made. I used to be so intimidated by risotto, but I've made it enough times now to know that once you know the method, there is really nothing to it. And the results taste so delicious; I've never met a risotto I didn't like, and I consider it my ultimate comfort food.

This is a recipe I came up with all on my own in an effort to get Andrew to eat more cauliflower. He's an excellent vegetable eater, but he just doesn't like cauliflower, so for some ridiculous reason I've made it my ultimate goal in life to get him to eat, and enjoy, cauliflower. He loves rice, so I thought if I hid the cauliflower in there he'd never know it (that's worked in the past with macaroni and cheese), but my plan was a huge failure. He immediately saw the cauliflower and refused to eat this. But I really didn't mind all that much, because it just left more for Joe and me.

I'm really proud of myself for this recipe. It's really delicious, and Joe and I both absolutely loved it. Now that I know I can create an entire risotto recipe from scratch on my own, I can't wait to try other variations! Next time I may try a vegetable Andrew actually likes; asparagus, broccoli, or even carrots would be delicious using this method.

Cauliflower Risotto

source: Cassie

6 cups vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock)
2 bay leaves
1 bag frozen cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

1. Heat vegetable stock, bay leaves, and cauliflower in a high-sided saucepan over medium heat until warm. Keep warm but do not boil.

2. Meanwhile, add olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and thyme and cook until onion is softened, then add garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Add butter to skillet, then add rice. Cook rice until it begins to brown and smell nutty. Add white wine and cook until wine is mostly evaporated.

3. Add warm stock to the rice mixture one cup at a time (avoid adding the bay leaves and cauliflower); cook and stir until stock is absorbed. Keep adding stock and stirring until the rice is fully cooked and mixture is creamy (the whole process will take anywhere from 18-22 minutes).

4. Discard bay leaves. Add cauliflower and parmesan cheese to the rice mixture; adjust seasonings as needed. Top with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I have been really excited to share this recipe with you. But I can't take credit for this deliciousness; this is actually my husband's creation. Every once in a while he gets the urge to experiment in the kitchen, and I love these urges because they usually result in some pretty spectacular food. It's also nice to not have to cook for a couple of days, although for some reason I still end up cleaning up after him. I'm going to have to remedy that next time.

Recently Joe wanted to experiment with pizza. He wanted to make BBQ chicken and buffalo chicken versions, and since there is nothing about any of those ingredients I don't love, I was completely on board. One night we had his buffalo chicken pizza (which was good, but needed some tweaking, so we're going to make it again soon and then I'll post the recipe), and the next night he made his BBQ chicken version, which we both fell in love with.

This pizza is so good. It starts out with bacon (and anything that starts with bacon is a win, right?), then you add red onion to the bacon and let it caramelize, mix that amazing combination with shredded chicken, BBQ sauce, and a bit of hot sauce, slather it on a pizza crust, and top it with tons of cheese. Sounds amazing, right? It tastes even better than it sounds. This is a great way to jazz up your weeknight dinner menu!

BBQ Chicken Pizza
source: my culinary genius of a husband

1 store-bought pizza crust
4 strips bacon, diced
1 red onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/2 to 3/4 cup BBQ sauce
Dash hot sauce
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

1. Preheat oven to temperature listed on pizza crust package (usually it's 400 or 425 degrees).

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook bacon just shy of crispy; add red onion and cook until onions are softened and begin to caramelize. Drain mixture on paper towels.

3. In a large bowl, combine chicken, BBQ sauce, and hot sauce; add bacon and onion mixture. Spread evenly over pizza crust. Top with shredded cheeses.

4. Bake until crust is crisp and cheese is melted, according to directions on crust package.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vegetable Lasagna

First, I have to apologize for the terrible picture of this lasagna. I know it looks like a hot mess. Please don't let the photo deter you from trying this, because it really is delicious!

Years ago when Joe and I first moved in together, I didn't cook all that much. We basically lived on pizza rolls, Manwich, and frozen vegetable lasagna for the first year of our cohabitation. Looking back on it now, it sort of makes me sick to think about all the money we wasted on processed foods.

Anyway, processed or not, we really, really loved that frozen vegetable lasagna. I can't remember the brand now, but I remember that what appealed to us was that it was made with a white sauce, not a tomato-based one. It was a nice change from a typical tomato-y lasagna. When I saw this recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website a while ago, it instantly reminded me of that frozen lasagna we used to enjoy so much, and I couldn't wait to try it. It took me awhile to get around to making it, but now that I have, I know it's going to make many repeat appearances in our kitchen.

This tastes exactly like I'd hoped it would: rich and creamy and hearty and filling. I usually don't make a recipe I've never tried before for guests, but Joe's grandparents ended up coming for dinner at the last minute the night I made this, and they raved about it too. His grandma even asked for the recipe, and like most grandmas she is a very good cook, so that made me feel pretty good. I don't know if I can give this lasagna a higher recommendation than that!

Vegetable Lasagna
source: adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 eggs, beaten

15-ounce carton plus 2 cups ricotta cheese
teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
cups sliced fresh mushrooms
cup chopped onion (1 large)
1 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons

cloves garlic, minced
tablespoons olive oil or cooking oil
tablespoons all-purpose flour
to 1 teaspoon black pepper
cups milk
10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
10-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and thoroughly drained
cup shredded carrot
cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups
shredded mozzarella cheese (2 cups)

1. In a medium bowl combine eggs, ricotta cheese, and Italian seasoning. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet cook mushrooms, onion, zucchini and garlic in hot oil until tender. Stir in the flour and pepper; add milk all at once. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in the spinach, broccoli, carrot, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese.

3. To assemble, in a greased 3-quart rectangular baking dish, layer a small amount of the vegetable mixture; top with one-third of the noodles. Spread with one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture, then one-third of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with one-third of the mozzarella. Repeat the layers twice. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

5. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 2.22.10

I cannot believe February is almost over. I have to say that I'm quite ready for March to arrive. Hopefully March will bring an end to all the snow we've had and the beginning of spring. March is also my birthday month. I'll be 27 this year -- I'm starting to feel so old! Okay, so I don't feel old exactly; I just can't believe I'm only three years away from 30. Most days I still feel like a kid.

Anyway, here's the last meal plan for February. I'm really looking forward to eating everything I have planned this week!

Monday: Toasted ravioli with red pepper sauce over spinach

Tuesday: Chicken and cheese crescent chimichangas. These are so good I could eat them once a week!

Wednesday: White chili. I've been wanting to try this all winter, and I'm running out of winter!

Thursday: Broccoli pie, salad

Friday: Chinese take-out. Because I'm not Super Woman, and take-out Chinese is the one food I'll never be able to give up, no matter what.

Saturday: Crock pot chicken soft tacos

: Appetizer night! This is just my excuse to make more spicy sausage dip. I also can't wait to try this white pizza dip. I think it'll be delicious with some crusty bread!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Burger and Fries Friday: Bayou Burgers with Spicy Remoulade

Okay, okay, I know this post is a few days late for Mardis Gras, but who cares? I promise you these burgers will be good any day of the year.

It's been a while since I made a burger, and it was nice to try a new one. You know that whole twice-weekly vegetarianism thing I'm trying? Yeah, well this burger pretty much canceled out both of the meatless days this week. It's a combination of ground turkey, andouille sausage, and shrimp. But at least it's mostly composed of turkey, so it's still sort of healthy. (Let me believe that.)

Regardless, this is a damn good burger. It's definitely got a Cajun kick, and the spicy, tangy sauce is the perfect thing to compliment all the flavors. The original recipe calls for turkey, turkey sausage, and andouille sausage, but I replaced the turkey sausage with shrimp as a wink and a nudge to jambalaya, and I was definitely happy with the results. Definitely give this one a try!

Bayou Burgers with Spicy Remoulade
source: adapted from Taste of Home, February/March 2010

1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil

1/4 pound fully cooked andouille sausage link, casing removed, finely chopped

1 teaspoon Creole seasoning

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground turkey
1 cup fully cooked salad shrimp, thawed and roughly chopped

4 slices cheddar cheese

1/2 cup Miracle Whip

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce

2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish

4 rolls, split

1 tablespoon butter

1. In a large skillet, saute onion in oil until tender. Add andouille sausage; cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the Creole seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add turkey and shrimp to mixture and mix well. Shape into four patties.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook burgers for 5-7 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees and juices run clear. Top with cheese; cover and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.

3. For remoulade, in a small bowl, combine the Miracle Whip, lemon juice, pepper sauce, and relish. Spread rolls with butter and sprinkle with remaining garlic powder. Broil 4 inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve burgers on rolls with remoulade.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pulled Chicken Suiza Sandwiches

One of the (many) reasons I love food blogs is their ability to remind me of a recipe that I saw a long time ago and really wanted to make, and then forgot about for one reason or another. When I saw these sandwiches show up recently on Taste and Tell, one of my favorite food blogs, a light bulb went off. I remembered seeing these in a past issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray and being really, really intrigued by them. My interest was renewed, and I couldn't wait to make them.

Holy cow, this was a good sandwich! It it such a delicious combination of ingredients -- a little bit spicy, a little bit tangy, a little bit sweet, and completely delicious. Because it takes advantage of store-bought rotisserie chicken, this meal comes together in no time at all. I can't wait to make these again! They're the perfect thing for a busy weeknight -- different enough not to be boring, but so incredibly quick and easy.

Pulled Chicken Suiza Sandwiches

source: adapted from
Everyday with Rachael Ray, September 2009

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon honey

1 1/2 cups store-bought tomatillo salsa or salsa verde

1/2 cup sour cream

1 rotisserie-style chicken, skin discarded and meat shredded

4 crusty sandwich rolls, split

4 slices Monterey jack cheese
Tortilla chips, for serving

1. Preheat the broiler. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and honey, then stir in the salsa and heat through. Mix in the sour cream. Stir in the chicken to coat.

2. Pile the chicken mixture on the roll bottoms. Top with the cheese and broil to melt. Set the roll tops in place and serve with the chips.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mushroom and Spinach Turnovers

I'm finding that I'm really enjoying mushrooms lately, which is odd for me since I spent most of my life disliking them unless they were on pizza. This bodes well for my venture into twice-weekly vegetarianism, since mushrooms are meaty and hearty and filling and are part of so many meatless entrees. My almost two-year-old, however? He is not a fan. He picked the mushrooms out of his turnover and only ate the pastry and the spinach. Not that I'm complaining -- my toddler is eating spinach. That in itself makes me feel like I'm doing something right.

I found this recipe in a recent issue of Rachael Ray's magazine, and I knew immediately that I wanted to put it on our menu. Mushrooms mixed with cream cheese and stuffed into puff pastry? I am IN. I changed the recipe up a bit to reflect what I had on hand, and I put the spinach in the pastry instead of serving it as a salad on the side as Rachael suggests, and I have to say we all really enjoyed these. They were really filling as an entree, but could easily be made into small pockets and served as a yummy appetizer. I definitely recommend giving these a try!

Mushroom and Spinach Turnovers

source: adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, February 2010

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound white mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 cups baby spinach
Salt and pepper
Grated peel and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cut into small pieces
1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until the liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Stir in spinach until wilted. Transfer to a bowl along with the lemon peel; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cream cheese and 1 teaspoon lemon juice.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 puff pastry sheet to an 11-inch square, then halve it. Repeat with the other pastry sheet. Arrange one-quarter of the filling crosswise on 1 half of each piece of pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Brush the borders with some egg, then fold the pastry to enclose the filling. Cut 2 vents into each turnover and crimp the edges; transfer to a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with more egg. Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 18 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers

While I was making this dinner, I started thinking about the chicken recipes that I make on a regular basis. I realized that besides the smothered chicken I've made for years, the only thing I ever really do with chicken breasts is stuff them. So I've needed a tasty go-to recipe for chicken breasts that comes together quickly and easily, and this definitely fit the bill. The chicken is really flavorful, and all the spices compliment the sweet bell peppers perfectly. I was going to serve this with roasted potatoes, but decided at the last minute to make mashed potatoes instead, and I'm glad I did; the mashed potatoes were perfect for soaking up the flavorful broth.

I used onions instead of shallots because that was what I had on hand, but otherwise I didn't (and wouldn't!) change a thing about this recipe. This is easy enough for a weeknight dinner, but special and delicious enough for company. And it's relatively healthy, too, which somehow makes it taste even better!

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers
source: Cooking Light, January 2010; recipe also found here

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 1 large) (I used 1 small onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Brush chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; sprinkle spice rub over chicken. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over; cook 1 minute. Arrange chicken in an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes or until done.

3. Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, shallots, and rosemary; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve bell pepper mixture over chicken.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 2.15.10

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you all get to spend some special time with your sweeties today. If you're making dinner at home but haven't decided what you're cooking yet, I strongly recommend this spinach salad to go with your meal and this red velvet cheesecake for dessert. I just know your special someone will appreciate both!

Anyway, on to the meal plan. You guys, it feels so good to plan my meals again. I feel like I have direction and purpose in the kitchen again, instead of just floundering around wondering what the heck we're going to eat. That's probably a bit melodramatic, but it really does feel good to exert control over one aspect of my life, when so many things feel out of control right now. I guess that's what I get for having two children under the age of two. Oy.

We're still sticking with the two vegetarian meals a week thing. We had really good luck with both of our meat-free meals last week, so I'm hoping this week's are just as good!

Monday: Vegetable lasagna, garlic bread

Tuesday: BBQ chicken pizza. I'm so excited to share this recipe with you! This one is my husband's creation, and it is so freakin' good.

Wednesday: Bayou burgers with spicy remoulade, oven rings. Just my own way of celebrating Mardi Gras here in the frozen land of Ohio.

Thursday: Cauliflower risotto, salad. This recipe has been brewing in my head for a while. I'll let you know if it turns out like I want it to.

Friday: Fiesta ravioli bake, inspired by this recipe

Saturday: Peanut noodles with shredded chicken and vegetables, egg rolls (of the frozen variety)

Sunday: Shrimp pot pies, salad

Friday, February 12, 2010

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese

I initially wrote about this salad in my Valentine's Day post last year, but we've eaten it so often since then and we love it so much that I felt like it warranted a post of its own.

If you're having Valentine's Day dinner at home, as Joe and I often do, this is the perfect salad to add to your menu. It couldn't be simpler to make, but it's also a little bit fancy, and best of all it tastes amazing. The goat cheese and strawberries and spinach all compliment each other perfectly. I use a store-bought strawberry balsamic vinaigrette to make this even easier, but you could definitely make your own dressing. This would even be good with just a regular balsamic vinaigrette, but I like the added flavor of the strawberries in the dressing.

I've added grilled chicken to this to make it a full meal, but I think I actually prefer it without the meat. I'd love to try breading and frying goat cheese rounds and incorporating the goat cheese into the salad that way. But however I play with the ingredients, this salad is always amazing!

Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese

1 10-ounce bag triple-washed baby spinach
1 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 package goat cheese crumbles
Salt and pepper to taste
Strawberry balsamic vinaigrette

Combine spinach, strawberries and goat cheese in a large salad bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss with dressing.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

I mentioned in my latest meal planning post that I'm trying to eat more vegetarian meals. I'm doing this for a couple of reasons: to help us eat healthier, and to cut back on our grocery costs. Meat is so expensive, and I'd much prefer to spend less money on it than we have in the past. The problem with this is that my husband is pretty much a carnivore. He loves his burgers and steaks and bacon, which is fine -- I do too -- but I've had a bit of trouble getting him on board with this little experiment. The other night, though, I served him these lasagna rolls, and he didn't make a single comment about the lack of meat. I consider that a success!

I remember seeing these on Courtney's site a while ago. But then I forgot all about them until I was browsing through recipes on the Whole Foods iPhone app and came across the recipe again. I knew these lasagna rolls had to go on our menu, and soon!

We all enjoyed these a lot -- even Andrew ate an entire roll for dinner, and another one for lunch the next day. I made the recipe pretty much as written, just added some mozzarella cheese to the filling, but these are easily customizable to your individual tastes. AND they're delicious, so I definitely suggest making them soon.

Spinach Lasagna Rolls
source: slightly adapted from Whole Foods

1/2 pound (8 to 10) uncooked lasagna noodles

Nonstick cooking spray

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce (I used tomato basil sauce)

1 1/2 cups packed baby spinach

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add noodles and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and gently transfer to a clean work surface.

2. Grease a small roasting pan or casserole dish with cooking spray; set aside. Working with one noodle at a time, spread with about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta, a sprinkle of the mozzarella cheese, and 2 tablespoons of the marinara; top with spinach.

3. Starting at one end, roll up noodle snugly then arrange in pan either seam-side down or with the rolls close enough together to hold each other closed. Pour remaining marinara over assembled rolls then sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella.

4. Bake until golden and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Spicy Sausage Dip

Holy moly, this dip is delicious. I really just can't say enough good things about it. It's spicy and creamy and dangerously addictive. I made this for us to enjoy during the Super Bowl and neither Joe nor I could stop talking about it the whole night. In fact, days later, we are still talking about it. It's that good.

But don't take my word for it. Go make this, RIGHT NOW, and find out for yourself! I promise you won't be sorry.

Spicy Sausage Dip
source: Annie's Eats

1 pound spicy/zesty sausage
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
Hot sauce, to taste

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the crumbled sausage until browned. Drain off any excess fat.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and mix in the tomatoes, cream cheese, and hot sauce. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is warmed through and the ingredients are well blended. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve warm.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Ice Cream

It may sound silly, but when I decided I wanted to have children, one of the things I always envisioned doing with my potential offspring was making snow ice cream every winter. It just always sounded like so much fun, a winter activity we could make into a tradition. And this year, I finally got to start that tradition with my little guy Andrew. We got a massive amount of snow here last week (although not nearly as much as those further east!), and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to let him try snow ice cream for the first time. He helped me collect the snow and mix the ice cream, and when it was ready I served him a bowl. He definitely approved!

This ice cream isn't going to knock your socks off or anything, flavor-wise. It just tastes like vanilla ice cream. It's more about the method than the end product, in this case. I know I'm going to cherish this tradition with my boys every year!

Snow Ice Cream
source: Food Network

8 cups clean snow
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place snow in a large bowl. Pour condensed milk over and add vanilla. Mix to combine and serve immediately.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Texas Fudge Cake

When I saw this recipe on Lynn's site, I bookmarked it to make immediately. But then I got distracted by a certain little eight-pound someone, and I forgot all about it. And then Debbie made it and reminded me how good it looked, so I got my act together and baked it up for us to enjoy on Super Bowl Sunday.

Let me tell you, this is one delicious cake. It's moist and perfectly chocolaty, and the frosting? It is to die for. I'll echo what both Lynn and Debbie said about this cake -- the best thing about it is that it only calls for ingredients that most people are bound to have on hand. That is both wonderful and dangerous for me, because it means that I may very well be tempted to make this cake once a week. This will definitely be my go-to chocolate cake from now on. And I actually just had a piece of it right before I started typing this, so I can confirm that it tastes just as good (if not better!) the next day. Yum!

Texas Fudge Cake

source: Cookie Baker Lynn

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
5 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup water
2 cups sifted flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 batch frosting (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 metal pan.

2. In a medium saucepan combine the butter, cocoa, and water. Bring to a boil.

3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.

4. Pour the hot ingredients into the the dry ingredients. Stir well with a wooden spoon.

5. Add the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Stir until the batter is smooth.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place it in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool. Immediately make the frosting and pour the frosting over the warm cake. Spread the frosting evenly and let the cake cool before serving.


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons cocoa
Dash salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

1. In a medium saucepan combine the butter, milk, cocoa, salt, and vanilla. Bring to a boil.

2. Place the powdered sugar in a large bowl. Pour the hot ingredients over the powdered sugar and beat with a wooden spoon until the frosting is smooth.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 2.8.10: The Triumphant Return!

William will be a month old tomorrow (already!), and now that we're easing into the beginnings of a routine and have burned through (no pun intended) most of the meals I froze before his arrival, it's time for me to start meal planning and cooking on a regular basis again. For the past week or so I've noticed myself slipping back into the "What should we have for dinner? Let's just get take-out" way of thinking, which isn't good at all. I really want to focus on healthier homemade meals for my growing family this year.

Since I'm still on maternity leave and haven't been able to access the internet as much as I would if I were at work, the next few weeks will include some recipes from my cooking magazines. That's definitely a good thing -- too often I overlook recipes in my magazines in favor of something I saw online. This will make me feel like I'm actually getting my money's worth out of my subscriptions!

My goal is to eat vegetarian at least twice a week from now on. I don't think I could get Joe to commit to more than that at this point. He grumbles about the cost of meat, but he grumbles just as much when I serve him a meal without it.

Monday: Mushroom turnovers, mixed greens salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Tuesday: Roast chicken with balsamic bell peppers, roasted potatoes

Wednesday: Cheesy lasagna rolls with spinach and ricotta, garlic bread (Please note: I love the Whole Foods Recipes iPhone app!)

Thursday: Pulled chicken suiza sandwiches, tortilla chips

Friday: Chili, by Joe's request.

Saturday: Chili cheese dogs, French fries. Typically I make chili mac with our leftovers, but chili dogs sound incredibly good to me right now.

Sunday: It's Valentine's Day, and we'll be celebrating with dinner out (followed by a hotel stay made possible by overnight childcare). I can't wait!

And I promise I won't make you look at a picture of him in every single post, but I just have to show you a photo of the almost one-month-old today because I just can't believe how cute he is:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas with Creamy Ranch Sauce

By now you all know how much I love buffalo chicken in all its forms, and I get so excited when I come across a new and unique recipe for it. When I saw this recipe for buffalo chicken enchiladas, I was instantly intrigued.

These were absolutely delicious! The sauce is creamy and tangy and cool, the perfect balance to the spicy chicken. These would be perfect for a Super Bowl party, because they're definitely a crowd-pleaser. Give these enchiladas a shot -- I think you'll really like them! I halved the recipe for just Joe and me, but I've listed the full one below.

Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas with Creamy Ranch Sauce
source: Pillsbury Annual Recipes 2008

1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup refrigerated sour cream ranch dip
2/3 cup chopped green onions (about 10 medium onions)
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
3/4 cup buffalo wing sauce
12 6-inch tortillas
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. In medium bowl, mix soup, dip, and 1/3 cup of the onions. In large bowl, mix chicken and buffalo wing sauce until coated.

2. Spoon 2 tablespoons soup mixture down center of each tortilla; set remaining mixture aside. Reserve 1/2 cup cheese for garnish. Top each tortilla with about 1/4 cup chicken mixture and scant 1/4 cup cheese. Fold sides of tortillas over filling; place seam side down in baking dish. Spoon remaining soup mixture over filled tortillas.

3. Cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

4. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup cheese and remaining 1/3 cup onions. Bake uncovered about 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Southwest Chicken Corn Chowder

I know, I know, two soup posts in a row. But it is winter time, and there's absolutely nothing I'd rather eat in the cold months than a big bowl of comforting, soul-feeding soup. I actually made this chowder late last fall, but for some reason we didn't eat it then -- I think we all got sick and weren't hungry. For whatever reason, I decided to freeze the entire batch to eat when the baby came, and we had it for dinner tonight along with some simple cheddar cheese quesadillas for dipping.

We liked this chowder a lot. It relies heavily on canned cream-style corn and cream of chicken soup, so if that's not really your thing you may want to pass on this. But it is really good: thick and rich and just slightly spicy. Combine everything in the Crock pot in the morning, and when you get home dinner's ready. You just can't beat the convenience of that any night of the week. Next time I make this I'll add some black beans, but that's the only thing I would change about this recipe.

Southwest Chicken Corn Chowder
source: slightly adapted from Another Potful of Recipes by JoAnna M. Lund

2 cups chicken stock
1 10.75-ounce can cream of chicken soup
3/4 cup chunky salsa
2 cups (1 16-ounce can) cream-style corn
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/2 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
1 cup diced raw potatoes
Sour cream, shredded cheese, and chopped cilantro, if desired

1. Spray a slow cooker container with cooking spray. In prepared container, combine chicken broth, chicken soup, and salsa. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.

2. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours. Mix well before serving. Top each serving with sour cream, shredded cheese, and cilantro, if desired.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

I love broccoli soup. I big-pink-puffy-heart love it. I love it so much that I have been known to buy a can of the condensed stuff, heat it up with some milk, and eat it for lunch. (Aaand, how many readers did I just lose with that disgusting confession?)

I also love the real thing, though -- like Panera's delicious broccoli-cheddar soup. When I got this month's issue of Food Network Magazine and saw a copycat recipe for their soup, I knew I had to give it a shot. Last night seemed like the perfect opportunity, since Joe has a "man cold" and was whining for soup. I apologize to any male readers for what I'm about to say, but men? They are such big babies when they're sick.

Regardless, I'm so glad I made this soup, man cold or not, because we absolutely loved it. It's thick, rich, flavorful and creamy. I didn't go to the trouble of making bread bowls, but I did top our servings with croutons, which added a nice crunch and an extra dimension of flavor. The best parts about this meal, though? The newborn slept the whole time I was making it and we were eating it, and the toddler absolutely loved it:

He ate two bowls. It was probably because of all the cheese, but anytime I can get some broccoli in him I'm happy.

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
source: Food Network Magazine, January/February 2010

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups half-and-half

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups broccoli florets
1 large carrot, diced

2 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated sharp white and yellow cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish

1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

2. Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Return to the pot. (Or puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender.)

3. Add the cheese to the soup and whisk over medium heat until melted. Add up to 3/4 cup water if the soup is too thick. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese.