Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Dressing

Sorry for not posting yesterday. I was felled by a horrible cold that I picked up from my beloved little petri dishes children, and I spent the entire day curled up on the couch in a Benadryl-induced haze. I’m feeling much better now, though, and today I have a really delicious fruit salad to share with you.

This is a great way to celebrate summer’s best fruits: cantaloupe, strawberries, and blueberries. Add a tangy, tart, sweet dressing to the mix, and it’s an explosion of flavors and textures. This was a huge hit with my family.

Because of the water content in the fruit, this isn’t something you can make way ahead of time, but you could probably make it a couple of hours before you eat and be okay. You could also layer the fruits (directions for that are in the original recipe, which I’ve linked to below) and get a little bit more time out of it that way. This also isn’t something that keeps well in the fridge, but with a fruit salad this delicious, there probably won’t be any leftovers anyway. I’m taking this to a Labor Day picnic this weekend, and you should too.

Summer Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Dressing
source: adapted from Betty Crocker

For the dressing:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup whipping cream, whipped

For the fruit:

3 cups cut-up cantaloupe
1 quart strawberries, sliced
2 cups blueberries

1. In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, limeade concentrate and powdered sugar with electric mixer on medium-high speed about 3 minutes or until smooth. Fold in whipped cream. Set aside.

2. Mix fruit together in a large bowl. Gently fold in dressing. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 hours before serving.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, week of 8.30.10

I have to post this quickly today. After writing about my grandma's zucchini bread on Friday, I realized it had been a while since I visited her...so that's exactly what I'm going to do as soon as I pack up the boys. There are some good eats coming up this week...I can't wait!

: BLTs, chips, cantaloupe

Tuesday: Ranch macaroni and cheese (OMG YUM), steamed broccoli

Wednesday: Bacon, roasted tomato, and provolone panini, chips

Thursday: Sloppy joes, fries, cantaloupe

Friday: Pizza night

Saturday: Brown sugar bacon waffles, cheesy hash browns

Sunday: Joe’s ribs, grilled corn on the cob, Monterey ranch bread

Friday, August 27, 2010

Zucchini Week: Grandma's Zucchini Bread

Would you believe me if I told you I’d never made zucchini bread before? For the longest time, my grandma and Joe’s grandma kept us supplied in homemade zucchini bread all summer long. But then my grandma moved to an assisted living community, and Joe’s stopped making it on such a regular basis, and fast-forward to this summer when I realized I hadn’t had homemade zucchini bread for at least three years. The only solution was to make my own, and I certainly had enough zucchini on hand to do just that.

The only problem was deciding on a recipe. There’s no shortage of zucchini bread recipes out there, and I had no idea where to start. But then, on the bottom shelf of my kitchen bookcase, I spied an old, pea-green Betty Crocker recipe box. It belonged to my grandma, and she passed it on to my mom when she moved, and I inherited it when my mom passed away. I hadn’t looked through it for a while, but I thought I remembered seeing Grandma’s zucchini bread recipe in there, so I immediately started pawing through the old, stained recipe cards covered with my grandma’s spider scrawl. I ended up finding not just one zucchini bread recipe, but two.

The two recipes seemed to be variations on the same, with just a few changes here and there, and they didn’t include baking temperatures or times. So I had to do a little bit of guessing. I also changed up Grandma’s recipe just slightly, by substituting applesauce for half of the “salad oil” (which is really just vegetable oil, but that’s what she always called it).

When I smelled the loaves baking, I was immediately transported back in time. I love it when foods are attached to long-forgotten memories. This bread tasted exactly like I remembered Grandma’s tasting: rich and spicy and moist and absolutely perfect. I’m so glad I have Grandma’s recipe, and next time I make it I’m going to take her a loaf. I think she’ll get a real kick out of that!

Do you think I sliced myself a thick enough piece? ;)

Grandma’s Zucchini Bread

2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Beat on medium heat until smooth.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add to egg mixture and mix just until moistened. Stir in zucchini and walnuts.

4. Divide batter evenly between 2 greased 8 x 4-inch loaf pans. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (mine took the full 65 minutes). Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans.


As if I haven’t shared enough zucchini recipes with you this week, here are some more of my favorites:

Zucchini casserole
Worcestershire-glazed vegetables
Zucchini alfredo

Zucchini-wrapped pork chops with pesto, tomato, and mozzarella cheese
Vegetable-stuffed zucchini
Summer vegetable and pesto tart


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Zucchini Week: Spicy Turkey, Corn and Zucchini Skillet

I’ve been getting recipes e-mailed to me from Campbell’s Kitchen for a few years now, and I think this skillet dinner is the first recipe from their site that I’ve actually made. I was intrigued by the simplicity (a factor which is quickly becoming one of my more common requirements when making my meal plan), and I thought it sounded like a great combination of flavors.

It was delicious.

The use of the boxed soup made this come together quickly and easily, and it added a ton of flavor without a lot of work. I added some additional seasonings to give this even more flavor, and we topped our individual servings with sour cream. This is definitely a meal I’ll make again.

Come back tomorrow, when I’ll be concluding Zucchini Week with a classic: my grandma’s zucchini bread.

Spicy Turkey, Corn and Zucchini Skillet
source: adapted from Campbell’s Kitchen

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 medium zucchini, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground turkey
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 carton (18.3 ounces) Campbell's V8 Southwest Corn Soup
2 cups tortilla chips
2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

1. Heat the oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cook until it's well browned, stirring often to break up the meat. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.

2. Stir in the soup and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes or until the turkey mixture is hot and bubbling. Top with the tortilla chips and cheese.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Zucchini Week: Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ve had these cupcakes on my list of things to try since last summer, so when I found myself with all that zucchini that needed to be used up, they were the first thing I thought of. And man, am I ever glad I finally got around to making these!

These cupcakes are so incredibly good -- rich and chocolaty, with cinnamon and brown sugar for warmth and walnuts for crunch and chocolate chips to provide those little pockets of gooey deliciousness throughout the entire cupcake. And the frosting is to-die-for delicious: thick, creamy, rich and sweet. I definitely had some intense love for these cupcakes, and my whole family really loved them too. They’ll be a summer baking staple for us from now on.

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

source: adapted from Real Mom Kitchen

For the cupcakes:

3 eggs

1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugar for about 10 minutes or until thickened and pale. Blend oil, vanilla and cooled chocolate into the beaten egg mixture.

3. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; stir flour mixture into egg mixture until just blended. Stir in zucchini, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

4. Spoon batter into 24 paper-lined or greased muffin cups, filling the cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until fork or toothpick inserted in a cupcake’s center comes out clean. Let cool in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans; let cool completely.

5. To make frosting, mix cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Mix in powdered sugar one cup at a time. Mix in cocoa powder. Spread or pipe onto cupcakes.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Zucchini Week: Baked Zucchini Macaroni and Cheese

I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with macaroni and cheese lately. Like most kids, Andrew loves the stuff, and while he would probably be perfectly content with the blue box, I’ve been trying lots of new version that incorporate more vegetables. If he’s going to eat mac and cheese, at least I can make it somewhat healthy for him by sneaking in some cauliflower, spinach and artichokes, tomatoes (that recipe coming soon!), or pureed butternut squash or carrots (which I’m definitely going to try this fall). Every version I’ve made so far has been met with some level of success, and this version featuring shredded zucchini was no different.

We all liked this macaroni and cheese, actually. The idea came from Joanne at Eats Well With Others, but in the end I just used my normal macaroni and cheese method and kicked it up a bit. This hearty and delicious dinner is a great way to use up some of your zucchini bounty, and to sneak some green vegetables into your kiddos too.

Coming up tomorrow: chocolate zucchini cupcakes with chocolate cream cheese frosting. That’s right.

Baked Zucchini Macaroni and Cheese
source: adapted from Eats Well with Others

1 pound macaroni or other short pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 cups zucchini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a kitchen towel, squeeze the zucchini to remove as much moisture from it as possible.

2. Cook pasta in salted water to al dente according to directions on box. Drain.

3. Meanwhile, melt butter and hot sauce over medium heat in a sauce pan. Whisk in flour; cook and stir until thickened, about 30 seconds. Whisk in milk and stir until mixture is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Stir in zucchini and season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Pour cheese and zucchini sauce over pasta and mix well. Pour into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

5. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle mixture evenly over pasta.

6. Bake until the top is bubbling and slightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Zucchini Week: Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Since it’s the last full week of August, and the temperatures are finally becoming much more bearable (thank goodness!), I thought I’d do some summer blog-cleaning and share a week of zucchini recipes to help you use up the last of your crop.

I mentioned before that I was blessed (cursed?) with four monstrous zucchini earlier this summer, so needless to say, I’ve been cooking with it a lot. Thankfully, zucchini freezes really well, so I still have two freezer bags full of the shredded stuff to get me through the winter whenever I need a fix.

I can definitely see myself pining for these muffins this winter. They are super delicious. I used my favorite banana muffin as the base for the recipe, and tweaked it from there to factor in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Andrew took these to daycare on his snack day, and from what I hear they were a huge hit with the kids. I’ll take any opportunity I can to sneak green veggies into the little ones!

Along that vein, come back tomorrow for day two of Zucchini Week, when I’ll be sharing the recipe for baked zucchini macaroni and cheese. The kids will never know it’s in there. I’m such a sneak.

Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 overripe bananas
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

3. Cream butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.

4. Puree bananas, sour cream and vanilla.

5. Alternately add dry ingredients in 3 additions and banana mixture in 2 additions to the egg mixture. Beat enough to incorporate. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips.

6. Spoon into greased or lined muffin tins and bake for about 25 minutes, or until puffed, browned and springy. Makes about 15 muffins.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 8.23.10

I gotta make this quick today, because I'm baking some toffee chocolate chip cookies and they're almost ready to come out of the oven. (Wait until I share the recipe. They smell amazing!)

: Cream cheese chicken enchiladas

Tuesday: Hot dogs, Crock pot mac and cheese (Andrew’s favorite meal lately, which he is starting to ask for on a semi-regular basis, Heaven help me)(and this marks my 548,295th attempt to make delicious mac and cheese in the Crock pot; we'll see how it goes this time)

Wednesday: BBQ sloppy joes, French fries

Thursday: Shredded buffalo chicken salad. This is the second or third time I've made this salad, but I haven't shared the recipe yet. I will soon, though, because this one? Is DEFINITELY a winner.

Friday: Pizza night

Saturday: Chipotle cheddar meatloaf muffins, tater tots, corn on the cob

Sunday: Grilled, Italian dressing-marinated chicken, buttered steamed peas, cheddar biscuits

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roasted Broccoli or Cauliflower

I’ve been having a love affair this summer. This is no secret; my husband knows all about it. In fact, he’s completely on board with it, and even encourages me to indulge frequently.

If you’re wondering who I’m having this affair with, and the answer may surprise you: It’s with roasted vegetables.

Lately, I just can’t get enough of roasted vegetables of all kinds. Give me a vegetable, and I’ll roast it. Asparagus, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, potatoes...No vegetable is safe. I realize that summer seems like an odd time of year to roast things, since it requires a hot oven and hot ovens don’t go so well with steamy summer days, but let me tell you this: I’ll heat up my kitchen to any temperature just to get that nutty, deep, rich flavor out of my vegetables.

My favorite thing to roast is broccoli, and cauliflower is an extremely close second. Since I use the same simple method for both vegetables, I thought I’d share them here in one post. This really is nothing fancy, and it couldn’t be easier. Just cut the broccoli or cauliflower into florets, toss the florets in olive oil and butter, and give them a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. You can add minced garlic if you want, or parmesan cheese or lemon zest or hot pepper flakes. I like to keep it simple, though, and let the vegetables speak for themselves. You won’t believe how delicious roasted broccoli and cauliflower are if you’ve never tried them: The texture gets slightly crispy, and the flavor intensifies into something nutty and magnificent. If you’ve never tried cooking broccoli and cauliflower this way, you really need to.

Roasted Broccoli or Cauliflower

1 head broccoli or cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste (be generous)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle broccoli or cauliflower with salt and pepper, then toss it with the olive oil and butter until it’s evenly coated. Spread in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet.

2. Bake in the preheated oven, 15 to 20 minutes, until partially browned.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer Vegetable and Pesto Tart

Summer is really slipping away from me this year. There are so many things I wanted to do that we haven’t had a chance to -- mostly because of the hot, humid, downright miserable weather we’ve been having in our part of the country. So I haven’t been able to take advantage of summer in the spending-all-day-outside, relishing-the-sun sort of way, but I have been enjoying this summer’s bounty of produce. I don’t know what it is (maybe it’s the humidity I just got done cursing), but this summer’s produce has been some of the best I can remember in recent memory. The sweet corn is so sweet, the tomatoes are so juicy, the zucchini is so...abundant. (Well. To be fair, zucchini is pretty much always abundant, right?)

This easy tart is the perfect dish to highlight summer’s bounty. Sauteed vegetables are tossed with pesto and piled on top of creamy goat cheese in a store-bought pie crust, then the whole thing is topped with tomatoes, a little bit of cheese, and fresh basil. There’s nothing not to love about this seasonal, fresh, flavorful tart. This meal is the perfect way to begin saying farewell to summer.

Summer Vegetable and Pesto Tart
source: adapted from Family Fun

1 refrigerated piecrust (half a 14.1-ounce package), at room temperature
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 small zucchini, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
2 small yellow squash, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
Kernels cut from 1 ear of sweet corn
Coarse salt and pepper
2 tablespoons basil pesto
2 ounces fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg
10 grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup shredded Italian-blend cheese
5 basil leaves, thinly sliced

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a nonstick silicone baking sheet. Place the piecrust on the prepared baking sheet. Fold and pinch a 1/2-inch rim around the edges of the dough, then set it aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, and corn and season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables until they're lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl to cool, then toss them with the pesto.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the goat cheese and the egg until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Use a spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the egg and cheese mixture over the piecrust. Spread the cooked vegetables on top, then evenly scatter the tomatoes and cheese over the vegetables.

5. Bake the tart until the crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let it cool slightly on a wire rack. Sprinkle it with basil before serving.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Triple Chocolate Scotcheroos

I think most of us probably grew up with Scotcheroos -- rice cereal treats kicked up with the addition of peanut butter, chocolate, and butterscotch. At least, I know I did. They were one of my favorite treats growing up. In fact, I have a co-worker whose mom still makes him a batch every time he goes home to visit (which is great for me, because I sit right across the hall from him and he always shares). Just because we’re grown-ups now doesn’t mean we can’t still love those nostalgic desserts of our childhood.

We can, however, take a dessert like Scotcheroos and kick it up even more -- by using chocolate rice cereal and adding indulgently delicious Nutella. That’s what David Lebovitz does in this recipe. The result is a rich, luscious, crunchy-creamy-smooth delight. Joe declared these the best dessert I have ever made, and has been clamoring for me to make them again ever since we polished off the first batch.

I have a feeling your husband or wife will do the same if you make these tonight. They just have that kind of effect on people. They’re so incredibly good.

Triple Chocolate Scotcheroos
source: David Lebovitz

1 cup sugar

1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup Nutella
6 cups crisp chocolate-flavored rice cereal
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch-flavored chips

1. Butter or spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

2. In a large saucepan (at least 6 quarts) over medium heat, bring the sugar and corn syrup to a full boil. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and Nutella, then mix the rice cereal in until completely coated. Press the mixture into the greased pan, making sure the top is smooth.

3. Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips together in a clean, dry bowl set over a double boiler or microwave, stirring gently until smooth and well-blended. Spread over the rice cereal mixture and cool until set.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 8.16.10

I want to say a big thank you again to Lisa and Amanda for posting for me last week so the blog didn't start to develop tumbleweeds. It's back to reality this week, though, so posting should resume as scheduled. Accordingly, here's this week's full meal plan!

: Brats with peppers and onions, chips

Tuesday: BBQ chicken pasta

Wednesday: Pork chops, roasted cauliflower, buttered noodles with parsley

Thursday: Creamy roasted tomato pesto pasta

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Creamy vegetable enchiladas. This is a recipe I have floating around in my head, but I'm not sure we'll have it this week since we had something similar to this last night. We'll just see how I feel next weekend.

Sunday: Stuffed chicken parmesan over angel hair pasta

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guest Post : Amanda's Cinnamon Roll Muffins

Today's post is from Amanda over at Fake Ginger. I'm pretty new to her blog, but as soon as she e-mailed me last weekend, I spent about an hour going through her archives. She makes really beautiful, drool-worthy food, and I'm so honored that she offered to guest post for me! I will be making these muffins myself, and soon. Thanks again, Amanda!

I am so excited and honored to be doing a guest post here at Cassie Craves. I hope you brought your appetites because I've got some delicious cinnamon roll muffins to share today.

If you are familiar with my blog, Fake Ginger, you probably know that I love sweet breakfast rolls. I’ve made cinnamon rolls a billion times and thought it was about time
to make them into muffins. These guys aren’t yeasted like the traditional cinnamon roll but they pack just as much flavor and decadence and would be perfect on any breakfast or brunch table.

I will admit that these are a bit more trouble than cinnamon rolls. You have to make sure you add enough flour so your dough won’t stick when you try to roll, but if you add too much you’ll end up with muffins that are way too dense. As long as you can manage that though, they are a good way to have the cinnamon roll taste without a long rise time of the traditional rolls.

Rolled Cinnamon Roll Muffins
from A Dash of Sass

Makes 1 dozen muffins

1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar added to it (or 1 cup buttermilk)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour

2 TBL butter, room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp milk or cream


- Pour milk into a measuring cup and add the lemon juice or vinegar. (Skip this step if you are using buttermilk.)
- Measure the brown sugar, baking soda, salt, vanilla and egg into a mixing bowl. Add the milk. Add the flour. Stir until thoroughly combined.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or two.
- Roll the dough into a 12-inch by 24-inch rectangle. Spread with butter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
- Roll the dough into a log beginning at the wide side. Stretch the log slightly. Cut into two-inch pieces and put the pieces into greased muffin tins or muffin tins lined with cupcake papers.
- Bake at 375° Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes and then remove from the muffin tins.
- Drizzle with icing (if using) when cool.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guest Post : Lisa's Fruit Smoothies

Today's post is from my friend Lisa over at Recipe Hunter Lisa. Her blog was one of the first food blogs I discovered and one of my biggest inspirations for starting my own. Thanks for the post, Lisa!

I had a neighbor once who was a nutrition professor at a local university and she told me that the healthiest addition to anyone's diet it to start your day off with a fresh fruit smoothie every morning. I thought about that advice a lot and this year committed to having a smoothie for breakfast most mornings of the week. Not only does it fill me up better than cereal but it's healthier for me and my 2-year-old son loves them! I asked her what she puts in hers and she said she always has yogurt, milk and whatever fruit she has on hand -- fresh or frozen. This has given me a great base to work from and I have enjoyed experimenting with different flavors...which are endless with the variety of yogurts and fruits you can purchase. I'd like to share my top three favorite smoothies that I've created so far this year with Cassie and her fabulous readers.

*All of these recipes are for 2 servings

  • 1 orange, peeled and broken into segments
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, halved
  • 8 ounces of orange or strawberry flavored yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or coconut extract (I strongly encourage coconut for that "tropical" feel)
  • 5 ice cubes
Combine in a blender and pulse until smooth.

  • 8 ounces of blueberry or strawberry flavored yogurt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup strawberries, halved
  • 1 teaspoon powdered lemonade mix
  • 5 ice cubes
Combine in a blender and pulse until smooth. (This recipe I was able to get posted on AllRecipes.com and you can check it out here!)

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 8 ounces of vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • 5 ice cubes
Combine in a blender and pulse until smooth.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, week of 8.9.10

Well, it’s happened. I’m in a cooking slump.

This happens to me every once in a while. Nothing sounds good, I don’t feel like cooking, I’m not inspired. But I guess if it was going to happen, this was a good week for it since we’re on vacation -- which is a great excuse not to cook anything fancy.

Don't forget: If you'd like to guest post here next week, e-mail me at cassiecraves[at]yahoo[dot]com. There are still a few spots available! :)

Monday: Sesame ginger chicken lettuce wraps, fried rice

Tuesday: Steaks on the grill (Joe has been clamoring for a good steak for a while now, so I figured I’d better oblige), baked potatoes, corn on the cob with basil butter (which is just a stick of softened butter and a handful of fresh basil, pulsed together in a food processor or blender. So simple, and you wouldn't believe how delicious it is!)

Wednesday: Double bean-stuffed green peppers, fruit salad with creamy lime dressing

: Sweet and sour chicken, rice, steamed broccoli

Friday: Dinner out

Friday, August 6, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly Quesadillas and a Call for Guest Posters

Today’s recipe isn’t even really a recipe. Basically, it’s just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it’s made with a flour tortilla instead of bread. It’s one of Andrew’s absolute favorite lunches, and he requests it at least three times a week.

What makes this a little bit more special than a typical PB&J is that it’s warm, so the peanut butter gets all gooey and the jelly starts to melt. It may sound a little bit strange, but it’s actually incredibly delicious. We prefer the classic version for ours, with smooth peanut butter and grape jelly, but crunchy peanut butter and any flavor of jelly or jam would be delicious in this! (Another thing that would delicious in this: Nutella. But of course Nutella in anything is amazing.)

So maybe it’s sort of a cop-out post today, but I really do have a good excuse: I’m off work for the next 10 days! At this point I’m just waiting for 4:30 to arrive. :) It’ll be pretty quiet around here because since I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to write scheduled posts for next week. If anyone is interested, I’d be more than happy to open up the blog to some guest posts next week! If you’re interested in posting here in my absence, e-mail me at cassiecraves[at]yahoo[dot]com, and I bet we could work something out. :)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Quesadillas

1 10-inch flour tortilla
Peanut butter
Jelly of your choice

Spread peanut butter over entire flour tortilla, leaving a space around the edge. Spread jelly in an even layer over one half of the tortilla. Fold tortilla over and sear quesadilla in a skillet over medium-high heat, until slightly browned and crispy. Cut into wedges and serve.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

Chicken, bacon, and ranch dressing. They’re three flavors that are delicious all on their own, of course, but when you think about it, they were sort of made for each other. The salty bacon, creamy dressing, and savory chicken complement each other so well. They should be best friends forever.

So imagine those flavors, together, on a pizza. Then add in sweet tomatoes, sharp green onions, and tons of gooey cheese.

Yeah. It’s pretty much perfection. Make this amazing pizza this weekend. I promise you’ll love it.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza
source: adapted from Allrecipes

1/2 pound bacon, chopped
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (10 ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust
1/2 cup Ranch-style salad dressing
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped green onions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a pizza pan or medium baking sheet.

2. Cook bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat to desired crispness. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.

3. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until no longer pink and juices run clear. Cool, then either shred or chop into small pieces.

4. Unroll dough, and press into the prepared pizza pan or baking sheet. Bake crust for 5 minutes in the preheated oven, or until it begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven.

5. Spread ranch dressing over partially baked crust. Sprinkle on mozzarella cheese. Place tomatoes, green onion, and chicken on top of mozzarella cheese, then top with Cheddar cheese. Return to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with reserved bacon, slice, and serve.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vegetable Stuffed Zucchini

I am in love with zucchini this year.

I’ve always liked it, but for some reason, this year’s crop is just fantastic. My supermarket gets produce from a local organic farm, and the locally grown, organic zucchini is more than worth the extra $.30 per pound it costs. It is so delicious.

This is just the first of many zucchini recipes you’ll see here on the blog over the course of the next few weeks (because not only have I been buying the stuff at an alarming rate, I was also gifted with four monstrous zucchini recently). As soon as I saw this recipe, I put it on our menu. I love stuffed zucchini but had never actually had a version that didn’t contain ground beef or sausage. But even without the meat, these were so flavorful and filling. Joe and I loved the taste, and Andrew loved the idea of eating his food out of a boat. Served with a simple salad, this stuffed zucchini was the perfect summer supper.

Vegetable Stuffed Zucchini
source: My Kitchen Café

4 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces each), washed
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium red potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium yellow or red onion, chopped fine
5 large cloves garlic, finely minced
3 medium tomatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), seeded and chopped
1/3 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), shredded

1. Adjust one oven rack to upper-middle position and second oven rack to lowest position, then place a rimmed baking sheet on each rack and heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, halve each zucchini lengthwise. With a small spoon, scoop out the seeds and most of the flesh so that the walls of the zucchini are about 1/4-inch thick all the way around. Season the cut sides of the zucchini with salt and pepper and brush them lightly with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Set the zucchini halves cut-side down on the hot baking sheet that has been preheating on the lower rack. Meanwhile, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, salt, and pepper, to taste, in a small bowl and spread in a single layer on the hot baking sheet that has been preheating on the upper rack. Roast the zucchini until slightly softened and skins are slightly wrinkled, about 10 minutes, while simultaneously roasting the potatoes until they are tender and lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. When the zucchini has finished baking, remove it from the oven and using tongs, flip the zucchini halves over on the baking sheet and set aside.

3. While the zucchini and potatoes are roasting, heat the remaining tablespoon oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cooked potatoes; cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil, 1/2 cup cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Divide filling evenly among the zucchini halves on the baking sheet, spooning about 1/2 cup into each, and packing it lightly; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Return the baking sheet to the oven, this time to the upper rack, and bake the zucchini until heated through and cheese is spotty brown, about 6 minutes. Serve immediately.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Southwest Sausage and Egg Bake

As a busy working mom who barely has time to breathe on some nights, let alone cook an involved dinner, this is the kind of meal I absolutely love. It requires some advance prep time the night before, but all I have to do when I get home from work the night we have this is pop it in a preheated oven, and an hour later? We have a hot, delicious, homemade dinner. Incidentally, this is also perfect for Sunday brunch or Christmas breakfast.

There are few things that win me over more than sausage, eggs, and gooey cheese, and this recipe combines them with tortillas to make a tasty and filling casserole my whole family absolutely loved. Use spicy sausage or pepper-jack cheese for a little more heat; add in some bacon or whatever veggies you want. This recipe is endlessly adaptable, so it’s a great method to have in your cooking arsenal.

(Pay no attention to my wonky tomato slices in the photo, by the way. I fail at slicing tomatoes.)

Southwest Sausage and Egg Bake
source: adapted from Taste of Home’s Most Requested Recipes (original recipe also found here)

6 10-inch flour tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch strips
2 7-ounce cans chopped green chilies, drained
1 pound bulk pork sausage, cooked and drained
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
10 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, chili powder and ground cumin
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
Sour cream and salsa for serving, if desired

1. In a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish, layer half of the tortilla strips, chilies, sausage and cheese. Repeat layers.

2. In a bowl, beat the eggs, milk and seasonings; pour over cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Arrange tomato slices over the top. Bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with sour cream and salsa.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Roasted Bell Pepper Pasta

I love roasted peppers. I’ll be the first to admit that I usually buy them in a jar at the supermarket, but I really need to get out of that habit, because making them at home is so easy and results in a fresher, more concentrated taste.

This is the perfect recipe to highlight the amazing flavor of roasted bell peppers. We all really enjoyed this creamy, smoky pasta. It would be delicious with some grilled chicken breast sliced on top, but it’s delicious just the way it is too.

Roasted Bell Pepper Pasta
source: adapted from Kraft Foods

1 pound fettuccine
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 8-ounce tub chive and onion cream cheese spread
Parmesan cheese

1. Heat broiler. Place whole bell peppers on foil-covered baking sheet. Broil, 4 inches from heat, 7 to 10 minutes or until peppers are evenly blackened, turning occasionally. Place in paper bag; close bag. Let stand 20 minutes or until peppers are cooled. Remove peppers from bag. Peel away blackened skins with small knife; discard skins. Cut each pepper lengthwise into 4 pieces; remove and discard seeds.

2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water as directed on package.

3. Blend roasted red bell pepper, chicken broth and crushed red pepper in blender until smooth. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Cut remaining roasted peppers into strips and set aside.

4. Drain pasta in colander. Add pepper puree to saucepan with cream cheese spread; cook and stir on medium heat 1 to 2 minutes or until cream cheese is melted and sauce is heated through. Remove from heat. Add pasta and pepper strips; mix lightly. Top with parmesan.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Weekly Meal Planning, Week of 8.2.10

It’s a short menu this week. The hubs and I have a child-free (!!!!!) anniversary weekend coming up next weekend, and I plan on entering the kitchen only for ice cream and Dr. Pepper.

Monday: We’re taking our annual trip to the Ohio State Fair with our best friends. There will be corn dogs, funnel cakes, turkey legs, and sundry other treats consumed.

Tuesday: Spicy turkey, corn, and zucchini skillet

Wednesday: Chicken cordon bleu in pastry, steamed broccoli

Thursday: Shredded buffalo chicken salad

Friday: Leftovers