Lasagna Stuffed Portabellos

Lent is upon us, and for a lot of people, that means meatless meals on Friday. Fish fries are great, but sometimes it's nice to have another option. Lasagna Stuffed Portabellos are a unique twist on stuffed mushrooms. When I think stuffed mushrooms, I think of the typical appetizer-portioned mushrooms stuffed with a mixture of sausage, cheese, and garlic. Lasagna Stuffed Portabellos are similar, but on a much larger scale. Oversize portabello mushroom caps are stuffed with a ricotta cheese mixture that is very similar to lasagna filling. They're topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, and roasted until tender and the cheese is melted. Surprisingly, they were quite filling as an entree! They reminded me a lot of lasagna, just without the noodles. (Which also makes them a great low-carb or gluten-free entree as well.) Start by prepping the mushroom caps. Remove the stems and scrape out all the gills, and place the mushrooms on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of garlic oil and roast at 425*F for 10 minutes to release some of the moisture. If any excess water has pooled around or inside the mushrooms, blot it dry with a paper towel. IMG_9648 While the mushrooms are roasting, prepare the cheesy filling. It's just a mix of ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella cheese, egg, spinach, and some Italian spices (basil, oregano, and parsley.) Spoon a portion of the cheese mixture into each mushroom cap; then, top with tomato sauce and more mozzarella cheese. IMG_9649 IMG_9650 Return the mushrooms to the oven and bake another 10-15 minutes until the cheese melts. Delish! IMG_9652 Serve the mushrooms alongside cooked noodles with a salad and garlic bread. Searching for other great meatless meals? Look no further!

Lasagna Stuffed Portabellos

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 6 large portabello mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & fresh ground pepper pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ¾ cup finely chopped spinach
  • ¼ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 cup tomato sauce

Method

1. Preheat oven to 425*F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Remove the stems from the mushrooms, and scrape the gills from the cap and discard. Place the mushrooms stem-side up on the baking sheet. Combine olive oil with minced garlic; drizzle over mushroom caps. Season with salt & pepper. Roast 10 minutes and remove from oven. Use a paper towel to blot away any moisture that has collected inside or underneath the mushroom.

2. While the mushroom caps roast, make the filling. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta, egg, Parmesan, 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, basil, oregano, and parsley. Spoon mixture evenly into the mushroom caps. Top each mushroom with a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

3. Bake 10-15 minutes longer until cheese is golden and the filling is warmed through.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

White Chicken Chili

Back in high school, one of my favorite restaurants used to be Ruby Tuesday. (I still like it, it's just not my favorite.) They have an 'endless garden bar' that is quite tasty, and my mom and I would go for their soup & salad meal deal for just $5.99. What a steal! We would take as many trips to the salad bar as we wanted, and we would both get a steaming hot bowl of their White Chicken Chili. Full of meaty chicken pieces, white beans, and spicy green chiles, it was definitely a favorite. IMG_9618 Unfortunately, Ruby Tuesday has since replaced the White Chicken Chili with a much inferior Chicken Tortilla soup... sad day for us. (Also - the garden bar + soup deal is now $8.99! Not such a great deal anymore!) Luckily, I've discovered a pretty close copy cat recipe, and now I can enjoy it anytime at home. It's just a bit spicy, so if you're not a fan of the spice, dial back the cayenne pepper. Bonus? This recipe makes a LARGE pot of soup, so if you're like me, you'll love eating the leftovers all week. It's one of those recipes that gets better the day or two after you make it. Make it a complete meal by serving with cheese quesadilla wedges, cornbread, or tortilla chips. Start by cooking about 2-lbs of cubed chicken breast until tender. Set aside. IMG_9612 Saute a diced onion in the same saucepan until softened. Then, add a whole slew of spices - garlic, cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt, and black pepper. Saute about 30 seconds to bring out the flavor; then, add chicken stock, white beans, the cooked chicken pieces, and chopped green chiles. IMG_9614 IMG_9615 At this point, let it simmer about 20-30 minutes. It will look like sludge, but trust me, it gets better! After it's simmered for awhile, add in the sour cream and heavy cream and stir to combine. Now it becomes a creamy, delicious chili! Serve with additional sour cream, green onions, and shredded cheese.

IMG_9618

White Chicken Chili

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 teaspoons cumin
  • 2-3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 (16-oz) cans Great Northern beans, drained & rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 (8-oz) cans diced green chiles
  • cups sour cream
  • ½-1 cup heavy cream
  • chopped green onions, for garnish
  • shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish
  • additional sour cream, for garnish

Method

1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it is no longer pink. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil (if necessary) to the pan along with the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, salt, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and cayenne and sauté 30-60 seconds more, just until fragrant.

2. Return the chicken to the pan along with the beans, chicken stock, and green chiles. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes.

3. When the chili is finished simmering, remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream and heavy cream.Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve warm, garnished with chopped green onions, cheddar cheese, and additional sour cream.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

Bananas Foster Pancakes

Mardi Gras is in full swing down in New Orleans, so we're doing a little Fat Tuesday celebrating in our household! I love any excuse to cook a themed meal - because cooking should be fun! Bananas Foster is a dessert that originated in New Orleans in the 1950s. Bananas are caramelized in a sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes dark rum. They're usually served over vanilla ice cream, but I decided to turn it into a breakfast treat! IMG_9515 My father-in-law makes the best buttermilk pancakes, and I knew they would taste even better with a bananas foster topping. Definitely kicked it up a notch! This fancy breakfast came together really fast - less than 20 minutes start to finish. First, start the bananas foster by melting a stick of butter in a medium saucepan. Then, add some brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Let it simmer until it thickens slightly. IMG_9507 While the sauce is simmering, mix up your favorite pancake batter. (My father-in-law's best pancake recipe is below.) Go ahead and cook your pancakes while you finish the sauce. This would also be good on top of French toast or waffles, if that's more your style. IMG_9509 After the sauce has thickened slightly, slice up 4 bananas and add to the pan. Let them cook another 3-5 minutes on low, until coated with the sauce and caramelized. Add a few chopped pecans if nuts are your thing! IMG_9514 To serve, simply top the pancakes with the bananas foster, and enjoy! A sweet, indulgent treat to start your day. (They call it Fat Tuesday for a reason! ;) )

Bananas Foster Topping 

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 medium bananas, sliced
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, optional

Method

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook 3-5 minutes until golden and bubbly. Add banana slices and pecans, if using. Cook another 3-5 minutes until bananas are caramelized. Serve on top of pancakes, waffles, or French toast.

Buttermilk Pancakes

Yield: 14-16 pancakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another mixing bowl combine eggs, buttermilk, and oil. Add to flour mixture all at once. Stir mixture just till blended but still slightly lumpy.

2. Pour about 1/4 cup batter for each standard size pancake onto a hot (350 degrees if using an electric skillet or medium heat on the stove), lightly greased electric skillet or heavy skillet.

3. Cook until pancakes are golden brown, turning to cook second sides when pancakes have bubbly surfaces and slightly dry edges.

Source: family favorite

Baked Alaska

Last week, I shared a perfect "Date Night In" dinner recipe for Valentine's Day - Drunken Chicken Marsala. This week, I've got the perfect dessert to follow it with... Baked Alaska! Flourless chocolate cake is topped with your favorite ice cream, and the whole thing is covered in meringue and toasted until it's a beautiful golden brown. Rich chocolatey cake, creamy ice cream, and marshmallow-y meringue? Who wouldn't fall in love with this dessert? IMG_9384 I will admit, there are several steps, mostly to the cake. Flourless chocolate cake is quite a fancy-pants dessert, often seen in high end restaurants. It's rich and decadently fudgy, plus it's gluten-free. (If you don't want to mess with the flourless chocolate cake, a boxed brownie mix would probably taste good as well.) Here we go! For the cake, begin by melting 8 oz of bittersweet chocolate, in the microwave or over a double boiler. My favorite is Ghirardelli. (Use a big bowl, because this will be the bowl that everything eventually goes into.) Set aside to cool. IMG_9363 In small bowl, add 15 tablespoons of softened butter. Stir it up with a wooden spoon or spatula until it's smooth and creamy, almost the consistency of mayonnaise. (You might get a workout!) Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and mix until smooth. Set this aside. IMG_9364 In another small bowl, combine 3 egg yolks (save the whites!) with 1 egg and 1/3 cup sugar. Whisk until smooth. IMG_9365 In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, place the egg whites you saved from earlier. Whip them until soft peaks form; then add 1/4 cup sugar. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form. IMG_9368 Now you've got your four bowls of different batters ready to go. Here's how they get all mixed together. IMG_9369 1.) Mix the butter into the melted chocolate until smooth. 2.) Mix the egg yolks/sugar mixture into the chocolate/butter mixture until smooth. 3.) Fold a small portion of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it; then fold in the remaining egg whites until thoroughly combined. Whew! The batter is finally done. Spread it into a greased 9-inch springform pan, and bake at 325*F for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs on it. Set aside to cool, then place in the refrigerator or freezer. (I made the cake a day ahead and stored it in the refrigerator so it was easier to handle.) Once the cake cools, it forms almost a bowl - perfect for the ice cream! IMG_9373 Next step - the ice cream. Remove the flourless chocolate cake from the refrigerator or freezer and remove it from the baking pan. Soften up 2 pints of your favorite ice cream, and spoon the softened ice cream into the center of the cake, doming it up toward the middle. (I used 'Cherry Garcia' to go with the Valentine's Day theme. Though I thought the ice cream would be more pink!) Return the cake and ice cream to the freezer to firm up again, at least 1 hour. IMG_9376 IMG_9380 When you're ready to serve, whip up the meringue. Place 3 more egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, and whip until soft peaks form. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, whipping until stiff and glossy. Spread over the ice cream and down to the edge of the cake, making sure to seal the edges. Then, using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the meringue until toasty. Alternately, if you don't have a torch, place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Cut into wedges to serve. IMG_9392 Mmmmm, what a showstopper dessert. My husband and I loved this... what a great dessert for Valentine's Day!

Baked Alaska

  • For the cake:
    • 4 large eggs
    • 8-oz bittersweet chocolate , coarsely chopped
    • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    • cup, plus 1/4 cup sugar
    • pinch salt
  • For the ice cream filling:
    • 2 pints your favorite flavor premium ice cream, softened until spreadable
  • For the meringue:
    • 3 egg whites
    • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
    • ¾ cup sugar

Method

1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325*F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment, and spray with cooking spray.

2. Separate 3 of the eggs. Place the 3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg in a small bowl. Set aside. Place the 3 egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.

3. Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside and let cool 5 minutes.

4. Place the butter into a medium bowl and work it with a spatula until it is soft and smooth as mayonnaise. Add the cocoa powder and mix until it is thoroughly blended.

5. Add 1/3 cup sugar to the bowl with the egg and 3 yolks; whisk until mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

6. Whip the egg whites and salt, using the whisk attachment or hand mixer until opaque. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue to whip at high speed until the whites form shiny peaks.

7. Now it’s time to mix everything together. Add the butter mixture to the bowl of still-warm chocolate. With a spatula, gently stir and blend until you have a thick, shiny, smooth mixture. Blend in the egg yolk/sugar mixture, stirring until they are completely incorporated and the mixture looks like brownie batter. Finally, fold in a small amount of the whipped egg whites to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Scrap the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8. Bake at 325*F for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs sticking to it. Cool the cake completely to room temperature. Remove the cake from the springform pan and refrigerate or freeze at least 2 hours.

9. When you are ready to fill the cake, remove it from the refrigerator or freezer. Spread the softened ice cream into the cake and dome it up in the center. Return to freezer for at least 1 hour.

10. To make the meringue, combine the 3 egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high until foamy. Gradually add sugar, continuing to whip on ugh until the egg whites have formed stiff and glossy peaks.

11. Remove the cake from the freezer, and spread the meringue over the ice cream layer, taking care to seal off the edges.

12. Use a kitchen torch to brown the meringue, or place in a 500*F oven for 3-5 minutes until the meringue is browned.

Source: adapted from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

Drunken Chicken Marsala

Anyone else NOT looking forward to going out on Valentine's Day this year? It always seems so overrated. Get all dressed up, wait forever to eat, be rushed through a meal, and then pay probably twice as much as what the meal normally costs, just to say you went out on Valentine's Day? As much as I do like going out to eat, I will always pass on dining out on February 14. (Unless it's getting a heart-shaped pizza, to go of course, from our favorite pizza place.) Instead, might I suggest a fun date night in? Cook a fun meal with your partner, pop open a bottle of wine, and enjoy the entire process. This is typically how my hubby & I celebrate, and will probably be the same this year! (Especially with a 2-month-old, haha.) Drunken Chicken Marsala is a great date night meal - it's a little fancy, but not too over-the-top to intimidate at-home cooks. Juicy chicken breasts are sautéed until golden brown and coated with a creamy Marsala-spiked mushroom sauce. Tender grape tomatoes are added just at the end, and the whole dish is topped with fresh parsley. Served up with mashed potatoes and fresh crusty bread, you've got the perfect meal for lovers! Start by caramelizing two 8-oz packages of baby bella mushrooms in a bit of butter. Cook over medium heat until sautéed and caramelized, about 8-10 minutes. Add a bit of garlic and Marsala wine; reduce and let simmer until thick, adding some cornstarch, cream, and salt along the way. IMG_9192   IMG_9193 Meanwhile, prepare the chicken by pounding it to an even thickness, then coating with a seasoned flour. Pan fry until golden brown and just tender; then nestle into the mushroom sauce. IMG_9198 Add some fresh grape tomatoes and let the whole thing simmer a few minutes more until the tomatoes burst and become tender. Top with fresh parsley and serve with mashed potatoes or crusty bread. (Or both! We are carb lover's in this household.)  

IMG_9200

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 16-oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1-2 cups dry Marsala wine
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 pints grape tomatoes
  • fresh parsley, chopped

Method

1. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.

2. Add the minced garlic and 1 cup wine; reduce heat and let simmer gently to reduce the wine, stirring occasionally. After 15-20 minutes, add the cornstarch/water mixture, cream, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the wine mixture. It should start to thicken slightly.

3. Meanwhile, pound the chicken breasts until they are all an even thickness, about 1-inch thick. Cut into smaller single-serving pieces if necessary. Combine the flour, seasoned salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl; toss chicken pieces in flour until coated.

4. In another large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the chicken pieces for a few minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through.

5. Add sauce and mushrooms to the skillet with the chicken. If it becomes too thick, add additional wine to thin it down. Add tomatoes and simmer 5-10 minutes until tomatoes have softened and burst. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Source: adapted from Pinch of Yum

Slow Cooker Shredded Buffalo Chicken

The BIG GAME is this weekend, and that means it's time to get those slow cookers out! It seems like whenever we watch football with friends, there's always a whole slew of slow cookers lined up, each containing their own delicious food. Chili, queso, sloppy joes, spinach artichoke dip, the list goes on and on! IMG_9154 Today I've got a great recipe for your slow cooker - Shredded Buffalo Chicken! This chicken has all the flavor of classic buffalo wings, but without all the extra fat and calories from the breading and deep frying. It's tasty served on a bun, wrapped up in a tortilla, or served up as a crunchy lettuce wrap. It's really easy to prepare, too, and the leftovers reheat wonderfully. We've actually had it twice in the last 2 weeks! (The first time, we gobbled it up so quick that I never even took any pictures.) To get the chicken started, combine the following in your slow cooker: boneless skinless chicken breasts, a celery stalk, minced garlic, diced onion, and some chicken broth. Let it cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours; then, remove and shred. IMG_9076 Discard the celery and all but about 1/2 cup of the broth mixture. Add the chicken back to the slow cooker and add 1/2 cup of your favorite buffalo wing sauce. Mix to combine, and cook another 30-60 minutes on high to let the chicken soak up the hot sauce. IMG_8968 Enjoy on buns, or in lettuce wraps! Top the chicken with your favorite dressing (ranch or blue cheese), crumbled gorgonzola cheese, and shredded carrots. We liked this meal both ways, but I will admit that my husband preferred the sandwich buns. However, I really enjoyed the contrast of the crisp lettuce and the spicy chicken. The lettuce wraps are a great low-carb option!  

Slow Cooker Shredded Buffalo Chicken

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 1½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup Frank's Hot Buffalo Wing sauce
  • For serving
  • Bibb lettuce leafs or buns
  • crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • shredded carrots
  • ranch dressing

Method

1. Place chicken in slow cooker along with celery stalk, garlic, onion, and chicken broth. Cover; and cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.

2. Remove chicken and shred. Discard celery and all but 1/2 cup chicken broth mixture. Return shredded chicken to slow cooker and add 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce. Cook 30 minutes more on high.

 3. Serve in lettuce leaves or on buns, topped with gorgonzola, shredded carrots, and ranch dressing.

Source: adapted from skinnytaste.com

Black Bean & Roasted Tomato Salad

I often get in a dinner rut... especially when it comes to side dishes! All too often, I just prep the main course, and do a simple green salad on the side, or steamed broccoli. (Not that there's anything wrong with those vegetables, but a girl can only eat so much salad! It starts to get old.) While it's super easy to open a bag of tater tots or chips (and my hubby sure won't complain), I also try to keep our dinners on the healthier side. IMG_9092 Enter: Black Bean & Roasted Tomato Salad. This is a great protein-packed veggie side that's not your usual salad! Tender black beans are combined with sweet roasted tomatoes, green onions, and a citrusy dressing. A sprinkle of feta cheese adds a little extra zing. It tastes great cold or at room temperature, so it's easy to make a big batch and eat from it all week long. The hardest part is roasting the tomatoes. Combine about 2 cups of halved cherry tomatoes in a baking dish, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar, and roast at 350*F for 40 minutes. I used half yellow and half red tomatoes to add a little extra color. IMG_9088 After the tomatoes are roasted, it's just a matter of mixing everything together! Black beans, green onions, lemon zest & juice, and the tomatoes. Toss it all together, and top with feta cheese upon serving. IMG_9090 We enjoyed this as a simple side dish, and I also enjoyed the leftovers over spinach the next day for lunch. I'm also planning a burrito-style wrap with the last of it!

IMG_9096

Black Bean & Roasted Tomato Salad

Yield: 4-6 servings

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & fresh ground pepper pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 14-oz cans black beans, rinsed & drained
  • juice & zest from 1 lemon
  • 2-3 green onions, diced
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Method

1. To roast the tomatoes, place them in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkles with salt, pepper, and sugar. Roast at 350*F for 40 minutes, tossing a few times throughout.

2. To make the salad, combine black beans with roasted tomatoes, lemon zest & juice, and green onions. Serve topped with feta cheese.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

Jalapeo Popper Pizza

Any Buckeye fans reading today?? (What kind of question is that? Haha...) The BIG GAME is tonight, and I've got a great tailgating snack recipe for you! My favorite snack food to indulge in while watching football are these BBQ Bacon Jalapeno Poppers... that I posted about almost three years ago! Jalapenos are stuffed with a cream cheese/cheddar cheese mixture, then wrapped in bacon, brushed with BBQ sauce and baked until crisp. They are pretty time-consuming (and messy) to make, so I don't make them all that often. And, they're way too easy to pop one after the other into your mouth. Before you know it, half the pan is gone! IMG_9003 I decided to take the same flavors, and turn it into a pizza! Thus, Jalapeno Popper Pizza was born. I took my favorite pizza dough, spread it with cream cheese, and topped it with sliced jalapenos, bacon, and two types of cheese. It reminded me exactly of my favorite snacks! Except even better, because now there are carbs involved. Start with your favorite pizza dough (homemade or storebought). I have been using this recipe for years, and absolutely love it. IMG_8996 Grate up some cheese. Freshly grated cheese is SO much better than the bagged stuff, especially when it comes to homemade pizza. I used a mix of cheddar and a mild pepper jack. Be sure to talk to the cheese monger at your local Chief... there were several varieties of pepper jack, and I wanted one that wasn't super spicy. She was able to help me select a good one! IMG_8997 To assemble the pizza, spread the dough with some softened cream cheese, then top with your grated cheeses. Then, top with sliced jalapenos, sliced shallots, and crisp bacon pieces. I took the seeds out of my jalapenos to keep the pizza from being too spicy, but if you like the heat, be sure to leave the seeds in! PicMonkey Collage Bake the pizza according to the directions for your dough, and you've got one big sizzling jalapeno popper! (In pizza form, ha!) IMG_9004 My hubby and I both enjoyed this pizza... I might have to make another one tonight to enjoy while watching the game! (Or maybe I'll settle for some Buckeye Caramel Corn instead... hehe...)

Jalapeno Popper Pizza

Yield: One 12-inch pizza

  • 1 batch pizza dough or refrigerated dough, your choice
  • 6-oz softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated pepper jack cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
  • 2-3 jalapenos, thinly sliced (and seeded if desired)
  • 1-2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6-8 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled

Method

1. Preheat oven to 500*F with pizza stone inside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the pizza.

2. Sprinkle cornmeal over a piece of parchment paper. Roll out pizza dough to a 12-inch diameter (or stretch it out with your hands) and place it onto the cornmeal-topped parchment paper. Spread with softened cream cheese; then, top with grated cheeses, jalapeños, shallots, and bacon.

3. Remove (hot) pizza stone from oven and slide the parchment paper with pizza directly onto the stone. Place back in oven and bake 10 to 12 minutes until pizza crust is golden and cheese is melted.

Source: original recipe

Quinoa, Roasted Squash, and Apple Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

Welcome to 2015! The holidays have come and gone, and if you're anything like me, you're craving some lighter, healthier fare to get this year off to a fresh start. Grilled chicken breasts and steamed broccoli get boring fast, and sometimes it's hard to stomach leafy salads in the winter-time. (At least for me, just being honest!) IMG_8905 I've always had a bad attitude when it comes to quinoa. I've made a few recipes in the last couple years that were NOT good, and I quickly decided that quinoa was a food I just "didn't like". Well, I was watching the Food Network a few weeks ago, and Giada made this delicious looking grain-based salad using none other than - quinoa. I groaned, but decided maybe, just maybe, I would give it one more chance. It's a nutritional powerhouse - it's high in protein and fiber, and also gluten-free. I'm so glad I did, because I love quinoa in this Quinoa, Roasted Squash, and Apple Salad! Cooked quinoa is combined with roasted squash, crisp apples, dried cherries, and toasted pecans with a slightly smoky cumin vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is key here... it's where all the flavor and moisture is! I think my experiences with quinoa in the past were lacking in the flavor and moisture department. Nothing like dry quinoa to turn you away. Start by roasting your squash - roast cubed butternut squash tossed with olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper at 400*F for about 30 minutes until tender. IMG_8901 While the squash is roasting, prepare your quinoa. Cook 11/4 cups quinoa in 2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock about 15 minutes until water is absorbed; then let it sit 5-10 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Using stock instead of watergives it a little extra kick of flavor. IMG_8902 While the squash is roasting and quinoa is simmering, prepare your vinaigrette. Combine olive oil, apple cider vinegar, cumin, and a few other spices in a container with a lid, and shake vigorously to combine. IMG_8900 Once all these elements are done, simply combine everything in a big bowl! Squash, quinoa, baby spinach, dried cherries, and toasted pecans. Let it sit 5 minutes to wilt the spinach; then pour the vinaigrette over all. Toss to combine and serve! It can be served warm, room temperature, or cold, but I liked it warm the best. It would be even better topped with a sprinkle of feta or goat cheese! IMG_8903 IMG_8904    

Quinoa, Roasted Squash, and Apple Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

Servings/Yield: 6 servings

  • For the vinaigrette:
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • ½-1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • ¼-½ teaspoon chili powder
    • dash ground cinnamon
    • dash ground allspice
    • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • For the salad:
    • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
    • cups whole-grain quinoa
    • 4-5 cups peeled & cubed butternut squash
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • ½ teaspoon cumin
    • 1 large Honeycrisp apple, diced
    • ½ cup dried cherries
    • ¾ cup toasted chopped pecans
    • 6-8 cups baby spinach

Method

1. For the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a jar or container with lid. Shake until well-combined. Set aside.

2. For the salad, roast the butternut squash. Preheat oven to 400*F. Place squash cubes in a 9x13-inch pan. Toss with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and cumin. Roast 30-40 minutes until tender, stirring every few minutes. Set aside.

3. While squash is roasting, prepare the quinoa. Bring vegetable or chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan; add quinoa. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and let quinoa stand, covered, 5-10 minutes; then fluff with a fork.

4. To make salad, place baby spinach in bottom of large bowl. Pour warm quinoa and squash over spinach; add diced apple, dried cherries, and walnut pieces. Let sit 5 minutes to wilt the spinach. Pour vinaigrette over the salad and toss to combine.

Source: adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1.

2.

3.

4.

Cranberry Cider Punch

How is New Year's Eve just around the corner already?! We had a fabulous time celebrating Christmas with our families over in Illinois, and made the big drive back to Ohio today. Let me say, traveling with a 6-week-old takes a little bit more time (and patience) than I expected. :) We don't have big plans for New Year's Eve (life with a newborn) but are planning on staying in for some homemade pizza along with a movie marathon. We will still toast at midnight, of course! If you're planning a big party or just keeping it low-key, I've got a great holiday punch perfect for any occasion. Cranberry Cider Punch combines several classic holiday flavors - cranberry, apple, orange, cinnamon - into a zippy punch that can be spiked with hard cider to make it a little more fun for adults. It's cool and refreshing while still being festive for the holidays. (Without weighing you down.) IMG_8616 To start, make the spiced simple syrup. This can be made a few days in advance if you are a planner. Combine brown sugar, water, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and a few orange peel slices in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves; then, set aside to cool and refrigerate until chilled. IMG_8612 When you're ready to serve the punch, combine the spiced simple syrup with apple cider, cranberry juice, and club soda. It's great like that, but if you're feeling especially spunky, mix a glass with half punch and half hard (alcoholic) cider. It's even better. ;) IMG_8613 Cheers to a wonderful 2015!

Cranberry Cider Punch

Servings/Yield: 12-16 servings

  • 8 cups apple cider
  • 4 cups club soda
  • 4 cups cranberry juice
  • 4-6 cups hard cider (alcoholic)
  • For the spiced simple syrup
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
    • 3 cinnamon sticks
    • 3-4 slices orange rind

Method

1. To make the spiced simple syrup, combine brown sugar, water, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and orange slices in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until cool.

2. Once cool, combine simple syrup with apple cider, club soda, and cranberry juice in large pitcher or punch bowl. Add hard cider along with punch to individual serving glasses.

Source: adapted from How Sweet It Is