Vodka Spiked Spaghetti

I don’t know about you but I happen to love simple recipes that pack a punch. For instance, pasta is an easy dinner any weeknight. I was not one of those kids that loved pasta growing up either in fact I detested it. However, every week, without fail, my mom would make spaghetti. I ate it, but I never understood why we had to have it. I mean, I would have rather had fried shrimp and French fries.

You don’t know this, but I’m chuckling out loud because now it all makes sense. You see, my mom was a hard-working woman who not only had to work a hard day each day, but also had to juggle a picky eater, she had to maintain a household and a husband. She was an amazing mom and woman; she still is. But I never appreciated that spaghetti each week. It was a humble meal, but it was hot and she always put a little twist on it.

I always thought we were having spaghetti because she liked it and wanted to have it for dinner, which annoyed me because I did not want it. I remember she used to pile her plate with spaghetti and top it off with a bunch of grated Parmesan cheese. I do that now, you know. Often times I wonder if it is because my mom did it or if it was the beginning of my love for cheese. I still do that to this day – pile a load of cheese on my spaghetti. It reminds me of my mom. It makes me thankful that she took the time to make me a hot dinner after a hard days work. She could have easily come home and made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; I was lucky!

As I got older I realized pasta was not so bad. I actually like it and crave it now, especially with my individual twists. I try not to use bottled sauces, so my pasta usually comes in different sauce flavors so I don’t get bored with it. Take a look at my newest addiction.

 

 

Nutritional Value:
Servings: 4
Serving Size: 2 ounces pasta
Calories: 421.7
Fat: 11 g
Carbohydrates: 52.3 g
Fiber: 5.5 g
Protein: 9.1 g
Points+: 9

Ingredients:

 Recipe Adapted from 6 Bittersweets

  • ½ pound dry angel hair pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon chicken bouillon
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • ¼ cup half & half
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt &pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, to garnish

  

Directions: 

  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain & keep warm.
  • Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat
  • Add onion to pan, sauté 4 minutes or until tender
  • Add pepper, garlic and bouillon, sauté 1 minute
  • Add vodka and bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about half
  • Stir in 1/3 teaspoon salt, pepper and tomatoes then bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes
  • Remove skillet from heat and let cool slightly
  • If you have an emulsion blender, puree the sauce in the pan {otherwise, place tomato mixture in blender and process until smooth.}
  • Return tomato mixture to pan. Mix in the cream, and then cook the sauce for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly
  • Remove from heat. Stir in cooked pasta & basil.
  • Serve & Enjoy!! 

 

 

 

Tuscan Sun Dried Tomato Alfredo Ravioli

The last few days have been a whirlwind. Since Nick and I bought our house our parents have been encouraging us to come pick up some of our belongings from their homes. Time was beginning to become tight because Nick’s parents recently built a new house, sold the one they live in now and are planning to move out in mere weeks. So, with a government holiday on Monday, we decided to take the plunge. That’s just what we did. For 5 days we rode all around Pennsylvania and Virginia in a big Penske truck. Other than a bout with a stomach bug that quickly halted all plans on Saturday and Sunday we had a great time.

While in Pennsylvania we celebrated Nick’s mom’s birthday. It was a great time. We actually went to an awesome place called the Accomac Inn. It has a rich history and beautiful home by the Susquehanna River. I cannot wait to go back there. I had Scallops with Andouille Sausage followed by the Surf & Turf, which included lobster, steak, scalloped potatoes, and fresh vegetables. It was so good, but so much food. I mentioned to Nick that I should have ordered another Scallop appetizer instead of the dinner. I would have been satisfied with that! If you’re ever in the area it is definitely worth stopping by for great food and fantastic service. I certainly cannot wait to go back there!

Before we left on our great journey northward I made an awesome ravioli dish. Please excuse the pictures; it just doesn’t do the recipe justice. I promise it was delicious, hearty and filled with great creamy and tomato flavor!

______________________________

Nutritional Value
Servings: 8
Calories: 250
Fat: 13.1 g
Carbohydrates: 21 g
Fiber: 2.7 g
Protein: 9.6 g
Points+: 6

_____________________________

Ingredients:

Recipe Adapted from MyRecipes.com

  • 17.5 ounces refrigerated cheese & basil Ravioli
  • 1 ounce Sun Dried Tomatoes, small dice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 ½ cup half & half
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
  • Garlic salt
  • Ground pepper

Directions:

  • Prepare pasta according to packaged directions
  • Meanwhile, heat butter over low heat until it melts completely to coat the bottom of a large pan
  • Increase the heat to medium heat, pour in the half & half a little at a time while whisking continuously to smooth out any lumps that may form.
  • Add the lime juice, tomatoes, pepper, garlic & sun dried tomatoes and whisk a bit more.
  • Add the Parmesan cheese then remove from heat*.
  • Pour over the pasta & enjoy!

*The cheese will thicken the mixture quickly. So remove as soon as you find the right consistency and before the cheese begins to separate in a funny way.

xoxo Mel

Creamy Pasta w/ Spicy Italian Sausage

I thought about honoring hump day with a Wordless Wednesday post. As I began editing the pictures and internally smiling about how much I loved the recipe and couldn’t wait to share it with you all, it suddenly hit me. How could this be a wordless Wednesday post when I wanted to slap the recipe {filled with words and explanations} onto the pictures.

What a big let down.

So instead of a wordless post now you have all of these random thoughts about a post that slipped through my fingers and should be more of an afterthought than it is.

Some of you may already know this, but some of you may not: we are building a house. We started the process at the beginning of the year and now it is in its final stages. This is the best part by far {at least for me!} I love seeing everything come together. However, with building a house comes a bunch of other responsibilities, namely packing, thinking about packing, hiring people to move us, buying fun things and not so fun things and making sure our business continues smoothly.

My head spins every day because I don’t want to fail any of you and I definitely don’t want to fail our clients. Oh, and then there is the small issue of two doggies that demand attention every single minute of the day. Not even when they are asleep can they attention to be diverted from them.

They make my life so much better. Secretly, all I want to do is play with them all day long. If their love and loyalty could pay the mortgage and bills I would stop everything and become a professional player-with-the-doggies. That’s not going to happen so I must continue along. 

While I may be making a lot of the same things lately, I do have room to squeeze in new recipes. This one has quickly become our favorite and has earned its way to the permanent rotation. Take a look at this delicious {one pot} Creamy Pasta with Spicy Italian Sausage.

Nutritional Value
Servings: about 8
Calories: 354.2
Fat: 19.5 g
Carbohydrates: 25.3 g
Fiber: 2.1 g
Protein: 18.3 g
Points+: 9

Ingredients:

Recipe Adapted From Kevin & Amanda

  • 1 pound Spicy Italian Sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 {14.5 oz} cans diced tomatoes {drain the tomato juice from 1 of the cans}
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • ½ cup to ¾ cup whole milk
  • 8 to 10 ounce pasta
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon pepper
  • ½ tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup Pepper Jack Cheese

Directions:

  • Spray a large oven safe skillet with cooking spray
  • Heat the skillet over medium high heat
  • Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Remove and slice into small ¼ inch rounds
  • Return the sausage to the skillet and continue to cook for another 4 to 6 minutes
  • When the sausage is sufficiently browned, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minutes
  • Add the broth, tomatoes, green chilies, milk, pasta, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
  • Bring to a boil, cover skillet and reduce heat to medium – low
  • Simmer until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes
  • Remove skillet from heat and stir in ½ cup cheese then top with remaining cheese.
  • Broil until cheese is melted and bubble 

 

 

 

This recipe is incredible! Really, Nick and I totally love it. It’s super simple to make AND it is created in ONLY ONE dish! Hello? Clean up is a cinch. You can change the pasta, the types of cheese you use or even the flavors in the dish to mix it up a bit. I cannot help getting excited about this recipe.

Give it a try! Seriously!

xoxo Mel 

Bolognese Sauce

I’m sitting in my mom’s house alone with two dogs. Somehow I did not expect my visit to Williamsport to be a direct reflection of my life in Northern Virginia. It is kind of funny, actually. It is not like I’ve been officially abandoned or anything; my mom had an appointment this morning and Nick took the opportunity to go get his haircut. I guess it’s the perfect opportunity to write a blog post.

This week is going to be filled with delicious food and fun. I’ve already got one day of Hawaiian Ice and pizza in my system. Today is going to be filled with gyros, cactus taters and more Hawaiian ice! I love the Lycoming County Fair. I’ve gone every single year of my life as far as I can remember, so it was awesome that Nick took a few days off work!

However, before we left Nick and I tried to keep a relatively healthy diet so that we could enjoy some over the top fair food. Take a look at this delicious Bolognese Sauce! It is INCREDIBLE!

Nutritional Information
Servings: about 12
Calories: 203.8
Fat: 12.6 g
Carbohydrates: 7.4 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 12.7 g
Points+: 5

Ingredients:

Recipe Inspired by Emeril Lagasse & Ree Drummond 

Lots of Pam

1 pound spicy sausage, cooked and crumbled

½ pound lean ground beef, cooked

1 small to medium onion, small dice

1 cup carrots, small dice

¾ cup celery, small dice

2 tablespoons Dried Oregano

2 Tablespoons Dried Basil Flakes

1 {6 ounce} can Tomato Paste

5 to 6 cloves garlic, pressed

4 {14.5 ounce} cans Diced Tomatoes

½ cup chicken stock

1 cup whole milk

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat Pam in large skillet over medium heat. Add grated carrots and onions and cook for several minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Add the ground beef and spicy sausage to the skillet

Cook until the beef and sausage is warmed through again

Add the oregano and basil and mix thoroughly

Add the tomato paste and let it heat through

Then add the garlic and stir well to combine

Add canned tomatoes mix thoroughly and add the milk, salt and pepper

Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours

Make sure you stir periodically

Serve with pasta and enjoy!

This makes a ton of servings. Nick and I actually froze a couple of bags because it was just too much for us. I’m looking forward to a cool evening to whip it out and serve it up with some grilled baguette and pasta. Give it a try & enjoy!!

xoxoxo Mel 

Pasta w/ Sun Dried Tomatoes & Creamy Cheese Sauce

Yo, yo, you diggity yo! Right now I'm watching Sophie chase her own shadow {essentially}, she's actually running around crazy puppy style. In the background, I have E-TV on {which just happens to be what I was watching last night!}. The Kardashians are on. Do you watch that show? I used to like the Keeping Up with the Kardashian show, but I read something recently that has changed my opinion slightly. I read that Kris high suggests these girls create drama on screen to increase the ratings. Is that true? I mean, I thought reality television was actually reality.

I am totally dumbfounded that anything on the show could be staged.

Outrageous!

Hypocrisy!

I am totally appalled.

In all seriousness, I AM JOKING.

I am not that naïve, I promise. However, it did upset me to read some of the information regarding the Kardashian Empire… if that is what we’re calling what they have done.
What exactly have they done?

I guess it does not matter, I like watching the show to see what they are wearing, what blasphemous scandal they are caught up in and the way they relentlessly torture their greedy mom-manager.

Okay, let me move along.

I am sitting on our gigantic LoveSac with Pipsqueak squeezed in beside me while Sophie is chewing on all of his beloved rawhides; possessions he has not had to share for most of his life. He is not having a great time right now.

I am stressed out because he is having a rough time and, not to mention, the myriad other issues swirling around in my mind, including training this small yorkie heathen and the weight I have gained because I am eating everything in site.

God, please help me help myself.

Speaking of my weight gain, all I can do is sit here and think about what to make for dinner and all of the good stuff we have been eating this week. I think I have dinner under control, which is a relief {sort of}. Part of me thinks I need to fast to shed these couple of pounds. 

We had breakfast for dinner on Monday, you remember those Pancake Muffins stuffed with Bacon and Syrup, right? Go check them out if you missed the recipe! Tuesday we had this FANTASTIC pasta dish. Take a look at this Rigatoni with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Creamy Cheese Sauce!

Nutritional Information
Servings: about 15
Serving Size: about ½ cup
Calories: 294.6
Fat: 15.4 g
Carbohydrates: 28 g
Fiber: 2.4 g
Protein: 13.2 g
Points+: 8

Ingredients:

Recipe adapted from Very Best Baking 

  • 1 jar Sun Dried Tomatoes {Bruschetta}
  • 2 to 3 cups cheese blend, shredded
  • 1.5 cans Evaporated Milk
  • 1 box Rigatoni
  • ½ tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • ½ tablespoon Pepper
  • ½ tablespoon Italian Seasoning

Directions: 

  • Prepare pasta according to package directions, adding sun dried tomatoes to boiling pasta water for the last 2 minutes of cooking time, drain
  • Meanwhile, combine evaporated milk, cheese, basil, garlic powder and pepper in a medium saucepan.
  • Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted
  • Remove from heat
  • In a large bowl, combine the pasta, sundried tomatoes and the cheese sauce. Stir until well combined
  • ENJOY!

I whipped up some basic garlic toast to go with this meal, though the pasta is pretty heavy on its own.

I also made the ENTIRE box of pasta because I knew Nick needed lunch for the week. It makes a ton of servings – I would say about 14 or 15. If you do not need this much, just scale everything back by half. That should would perfectly!

Give this a try you won’t regret it!

xoxo ~ Mel 

Taco Stuffed Lasagna Noodles

Good Morning Friends. It’s Friday.

Thank Goodness.

This week was very strange. It seems to have passed by me quickly, yet in the same way it has stuck around far too long. That’s weird, isn’t it?

Oh well. I’ll take being weird over some other dysfunction.

I don’t know if any of you noticed, but Facebook is rolling out some significant changes to our personal pages; i.e. the Timeline.  Well, now Facebook is forcing the pages to do the same thing. So in an attempt to voluntarily switch my page over and get it all figured out, I updated to the Timeline on Wednesday. Boy what a craptastic idea that was. My page is unavailable pretty much all of the time now. I’m not very happy about that.

Facebook, do you hear me?! I am not happy about this.

Please, fix it?

I hope to get it fixed soon. Please bear with me while I try to figure it all out.

Okay, so let’s talk about food, eh? I am not shy about how much I adore Mexican food. Well, I decided to make a kind of Mexican/Italian dinner the other night. I pretty much attempted to stuff a lasagna noodle with my favorite Mexican flavors. The noodles turned out pretty well. So today I have Taco Stuffed Lasagna Noodles. Let’s get down to breakfast.

Nutritional Information
Servings: 6
Serving Size: 1 Stuffed Lasagna Cups
Calories: 229.5
Fat: 5.6 g
Carbohydrates: 28.4 g
Fiber: 1.2 g
Protein: 14.8 g
Points+: 6

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Cilantro Lime Rice
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ¾ cup water
  • taco seasoning {cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt & pepper}
  • 8 Gluten Free lasagna noodles, cooked per instructions less 2 minutes
  • 4 ounces shredded cheese, your choice

Directions: 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Prep the Cilantro Lime Rice now and set aside while you prep everything else!
  • Grease a medium skillet over medium heat and add the ground beef.
  • Cook until no longer pink. Drain and return to the skillet
  • Return the skillet to the stove and add water and taco seasoning. Allow to simmer on low.
  • In the meantime, cook lasagna noodles according to package less 2 minutes. For example, if it takes 8 minutes to cook the noodles, boil them for 6 minutes. Drain and allow to cool
  • Grease large cupcake tins with cooking spray
  • Cut two of the lasagna noodles into thirds. You will have 6 small slices
  • Take one piece of pasta and form it to fit into each of the muffin tins
  • Now, add a couple of tablespoons of the cilantro lime rice to the bottom of the lasagna noodle. You want it to take up about half of the noodle.
  • Take one of the small slices of noodle and lay it on top of the rice, separating the bottom from the top of the rolled noodle
  • Now, add a couple of tablespoons of the taco meat mixture. Fill it to the top. Sprinkle it with cheese.
  • *Note: the mixture will level out and bake down in the oven. It will appear to have shrunk a bit when the cups come out of the oven. Don’t fret!
  • Repeat the process for the remaining 5 cups
  • Bake for about 30 minutes
  • Remove and allow them to cool. I serve mine with some lettuce. You could also add some sour cream, avocados, salsa, etc. It’s really up to you.

Enjoy!

Until Next Time,

Happy Creating 

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Baked Ziti {with a cheddar twist}

Happy Wednesday foodies!

Have any of you ever been unable to focus?

I feel well rested.

I think I am even moving on from the debacle that was my life last week.

But for some reason my mind is completely batty. I cannot focus. I have no concentration.

I cannot even hold a thought for more than a couple of minutes.

My dog has more intense concentration skills than I do when he’s playing with his ball.

What’s wrong with me?

I don’t know what’s going on either. Usually when I feel overwhelmed, I eat. That’s just what I did this morning. I packed away a bag full of popcorn and an ice cold Coca-cola! It was the real stuff, too; not the diet version of a classic. Now I feel slightly guilty and like a complete glutton. Yes, yes. I hear you – that is my life most days.

I noticed I lacked the requisite concentration skills earlier today when I wanted to figure out what to cook for dinner tonight and thought about it almost 100 times and have yet to do anything about it. I still have no idea what I’m making for dinner AND I have spent less than one minute thinking about it.

There may be no help for me.

Last night I whipped something up that is pretty simple, yet very delicious. Baked Ziti is a classic, but you can do so much with the flavors {if you really want to.} I kept it pretty basic last night and it came together in just over 30 minutes. It’s perfect for those weeknight dinners when you don’t have much time to prepare and are at a loss for what to make {kind of like me today}.

Nutritional Information:
Serving Size: 1/6th
Calories: 279.5
Fat: 10.6 g
Carbohydrates: 34.8 g
Fiber: 2.4 g
Protein: 13.9 g
Points+: 8

Here is what you will need:

  • 1 ½ cups Tomato Basil Spaghetti Sauce
  • 1/8th cup Parmesan Cheese
  • ½ box (8 ounces) Pasta, cooked
  • 6 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, no sodium added
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • *any heat you would like to add to your sauce

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  • Cook pasta according to box, drain
  • Place sauce, tomatoes, seasoning in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until heated through {about 5 to 10 minutes}, then remove from heat
  • In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, sauce and 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Mix thoroughly
  • In a lightly greased baking dish, pour the pasta mixture and level it out
  • Top with remaining shredded cheese and parmesan cheese

  • Crack some fresh pepper on the top
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is nice & bubbly
  • Remove & enjoy!

Nick really loved the cheddar cheese & parmesan cheese mixture. I am not a huge fan of mozzarella cheese, so we don’t see it much in this house {or in any of our food}. Unless I am ordering out from some place, I shy away from mozzarella. I used to be addicted to the stuff, but I think I went a little overboard.

Either way the sharpness of the cheddar and parmesan elevated the flavor of the dish, especially coupled with the acidity of the tomatoes in the sauce. You should all give it a try!

Until next time,

Happy Ziti Bakin’

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Crock Pot Italian Chicken & Potatoes

Yo, yo, yo Foodies! It’s Tuesday. It’s raining. It’s a perfect day for hot chocolate; yet, I have no milk.

Oh and my dog is wet. I need an adequate raincoat and rain boots for him.

Likely situation: he’ll tear the boots off.

Rain, mud and snow are a lethal combination when you have a long haired dog. Life is all fun and games until his hair is soaking wet and he smells like a dumpster diving terror.

Whatever.

I have not cooked since Thursday, November 17, 2011. I think. I started to go through withdrawal almost immediately, but then my week of chaos took over and I only had time to focus on my website and you foodies later in the evening, when my brain had no ability to function. I apologize again for being incredibly absent last week. I will do my best to plan better; but, life has a way of throwing intense curveballs your way when you’re not looking.

Outcome: bruise on face. Yep, that was me last week.  {No not literally – I really don’t need you all thinking I actually had a bruise on my face from some horrific instance. Remember, it was an analogy after all!}

Currently I am sitting at our make-shift dining room table {really a card table, but that’s another story} watching Roseanne reruns. I was never allowed to watch Roseanne, but I did when my parents were not around. Now it seems it’s one of the only television shows that helps my brain stop focusing on all of the stress and anxiety I am feeling. For that I will be forever grateful… oh and to Netflix, too – for they are the reason I can watch Roseanne all day today.

Wondering why I am even writing something today? I mean, I have not cooked anything for more than a week. Well, I do have some clutch recipes that I have not blogged about. I have them in my little notebook, tucked away, ready to be debuted to the world. They are not the most gourmet recipes, but let’s face it I am not that gourmet, either {at least not at this point in my life}. Today I have an easy and delicious Crockpot Italian Chicken and Potatoes recipe. It incorporates some of my kitchen’s basic staples, which makes it a great go-to recipe.

Nutritional Information:
Serving Size: 1/6th
Calories: 285.6
Fat: 3.1 g
Carbohydrates: 30.75 g
Fiber: 3.25 g
Protein: 33.75 g
Points+: 7

Here is what you will need:

  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can Roasted Garlic & Onion Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 (10 ounce) can Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
  • 1 (8 ounce) can Tomato Sauce
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 5 potatoes, medium dice
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic powder
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

  • In a large crock pot, add all of the ingredients

  • Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours {or until the chicken is completely cooked!}
  • Shred the chicken into medium sized pieces before serving

This recipe is easy. I mean, you prepare it and forget it for several hours. Um, hello? This is not rocket science! I hope you all give this a try sometime soon, especially on those days where you have a ton of things to do outside of the house. Put it in your crock pot before you leave and when you get home you’ll have a perfectly great meal! {Add a little garlic bread and voila! You’ve got a meal!}

Until Next Time,

Happy Crock pot cookin’

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Braided Calzone

Yo, yo, yo foodies! It’s Friday, can you believe it? I certainly can. It’s been quite a week. The week started with sickness and ended with a tornado. What a whirlwind! Are you wondering about the tornado? I don’t know if any of you remember, but yesterday I mentioned that it started to down pour when I wanted to take Pippy outside. Well it was not just rain; it was horizontal rain, thunder and lightning, which was accompanied by gusts of hurricane forced winds. I was kind of excited because I love those types of storms. However, I knew I was going to have to go to Quantico to pick Nick up from work. I left just after 5pm, when everything seemed to simmer a little bit, and BAM a tornado touched down {just north of where I was on I-95N}. If any of you experience I-95 on a regular basis, you know even the slightest glitch in the flow of traffic equals stopped cars for miles. Well, last night a 20 minute trip took an hour. I found out it was a downed tree in the middle of the interstate, because I saw it as I passed by it. Yep, there was a tree just resting in the far left hand lane.

Life became a little bit easier for a couple of miles, but was crazy right around the Quantico exit. Thank GOD that I was getting off; my patience could not take much more.

Before I took off for Quantico, I checked the weather channel and it warned me of possible Tornados, and Nick called to tell me about what he was hearing; I scoffed at it. Luckily I was spared any devastation, but people north of us were not so lucky. There was a lot of damage in isolated areas because of these storms and the tornado; but the last I heard there was no deaths or injuries. Whew.

What a Thursday.

I hope it does not rain tomorrow because we’re going to Annapolis for the boat show. Nick’s dad just bought a boat and he’s super excited about all of the excursions in its future. His dad has a lot of exciting adventures {leisure & business} coming up in his life and we’re happy to celebrate this one. There was talk that we’d go up to Annapolis tonight, but that is not happening. I am looking forward to tomorrow because we’ll be able to spend time with Joe {Nick’s dad} and two of my favorite people in the entire universe – Aunt Lynda & Uncle Larry. I LOVE THEM!!! Seriously, they are two of my favorite people in the whole wide world. I am so looking forward to spending time with them!

Maybe I’ll take pictures and post our adventures next week.

Back to today – it’s Friday. That means I have a Kid-Friendly Friday segment for you today. Nick loves Calzone and I have promised to make him one for quite some time now. I finally did this week. This was so fun and easy to make that I think your kids would love making it. So here is its debut – Braided Calzone.

Nutritional Information:
Serving Size: 1/8th
Calories: 157.8
Fat: 10.5 g
Carbohydrates: 6.6 g
Fiber: .45 g
Protein: 8.5 g
Points+:  4

Here is what you will need:

  • 1 pizza dough ball
  • 1 jar pizza sauce
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced thin & sautéed 
  • 1 to 2 cups cheese, shredded
  • 1 sausage link, cooked & crumbled
  • Any spices you like {garlic, hot pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, etc.}

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  • Roll out pizza dough ball in a rectangular shape {something that could fit on a baking sheet}
  • In the middle third of the dough ball, spread the sauce, seasoning, cheese and sausage

  • Slice the right & left sides of the calzone dough into 1-inch pieces
  • Now, braid – fold one piece of the right side toward the left side, then fold the left side toward the right side; continue with the braiding process until completely done

  • Place a piece of foil on a baking sheet
  • Lightly grease the foil
  • Put the calzone on the greased foil lined baking sheet
  • Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and cooked through

  • Allow to cool for a few minutes
  • Cut & enjoy!

We absolutely LOVED this! Nick would have wanted to add ricotta to the mix, and maybe I’ll do that next time, but this was perfect with the ingredients listed above. We TORE through it… really, it did not last that long!!

Your kids will love helping to layer the ingredients and braid the bread. Give it a try this weekend! You will not be disappointed!

Until Next Time,

Happy Braiding {Calzone} bread! 

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Fettuccine with a Creamy Tomato Sauce

Good Morning Friends! It’s MONDAY! CELEBRATE! Right?! Oh wait, Monday’s are allotted a dark cloud of doom. Crap. Monday. Oh man, it’s Monday. Good Luck.

In all seriousness, I hope you all had a fabulous weekend and will have an even more fabulous Monday. I had a great weekend. It was cold and dreary; the perfect Fall combination. Nick and I love the Fall and Winter seasons. I think Nick better appreciates October and November, but I love {the idea of a fall-ish} September, but definitely October through March. I love when the air becomes crisp and cool and jets immediately into a cold, wintery air.

Snow. Please come fast, hard & steady this year for me.

I sat around and watched movies and drank hot chocolate from a cup overflowing with whipped cream and curled up in oversized sweats with a blanket as an accessory. I was in heaven. It was the perfect fall weekend; I never wanted it to end.

But here we are staring straight in the eyes of Monday morning and all I can do is sip from my most recent cup of hot chocolate that still has far too much whipped cream for somebody of a higher sophistication than I.

Because today is Monday I have a Meatless Monday segment for you. It is delicious and would be a perfect dinner for tonight. Last week I was having a hard time finding inspiration; I was in a rut. While I was searching aimlessly throughout the big bad internet database of pictures, recipes, renditions and personal tastes it hit me that I wanted to make a pasta dish. {Mostly because I was running out of time, knew it would be a quick dinner and I probably had all of the ingredients I needed.} However, I needed to do something to kick up {what could have been} an ordinary pasta dish.

It was not ordinary.

Today I give you Fettuccine with a Creamy Tomato Sauce.

Nutritional Information:
Serving Size: 1/6 + 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Calories: 350.8
Fat: 12.8 g
Carbohydrates: 50 g
Fiber: 3.6 g
Protein: 7.6 g
Points+: 9

Here is what you will need:

Recipe Adapted from Ree Drummond: The Pioneer Woman

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • ½ tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 20 ounces tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ½ to ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 12 ounces Fettuccine {3/4 box}

Directions:

  • Cook pasta according to packaged directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water
  • Heat butter and oil over medium heat, add garlic and sauté for a minute
  • Pour in tomato sauce, salt, pepper, sugar, onion powder, Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper
  • Stir and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot

  • Remove from heat and stir in cream

  • Stir in pasta and sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese on top of the pasta
  • Serve immediately & enjoy!

I LOVED this dish. I fell instantly, head-over-heels in love with this dish. I paired it with those spicy meatballs I blogged about last week. It was a perfect dish. I wanted to eat all of it, but I did not.

I hope you all give this a try. It’s a perfect fall dish and a great way to liven the recipe up a bit!

Until Next Time,

Happy Pasta Makin’

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Spicy Buffalo Sausage Meatballs

Good Morning Everybody! I cannot believe today is Thursday. I am really looking forward to this weekend because Mother Nature is blessing us with cold weather here in NoVa, which is something I have been looking forward to since we moved back to the east coast. I mean, I’ve spent the last 12 months in sunny, hot {dry or humid} climates, but no cold, wintery or fall days.

More than a year ago Nick and I moved to the Mexican border where we experienced nothing but hot days, dry air, and a bright ball of sun beating down on us every single day. We had just missed the monsoon season in Arizona last September {I still have a hard time believing they have a monsoon season. I mean, randomly heavy rain showers every day does not equate to monsoon season}. Anyway, I saw one rainy day in Arizona and it was in late September or early October. I remember because we were still living in a hotel and I kept thinking this place may not be so bad if the chill that comes along with the rain is more frequent. That did not happen.

For eight months I lived in hot Arizona and then moved back to the east coast at the end of spring. Northern Virginia is borderline part of the south. I mean, some people talk with a southern accent that is unexplainable {unless they originate from the South} and the weather has mocked me all summer long. I don’t think that the D.C. area constitutes the South, but the weather here is incredibly similar – sticky, hot, humid and really no reprieve.

I grew up in Pennsylvania where summer days were long and hot, but we could always count on several cool, rainy days. With the rain, the temperature changed and those occasional unseasonably cool days made me happy and excited for transition to fall and winter.

It has been cool exactly one day this summer in Northern Virginia. Now that it is officially Fall, I have patiently waited for cool, crisp weather, while consistently complained when mother nature failed to deliver.

This weekend Mother Nature is going to pull through.

I am excited.

I am excited to cook ‘fall’ food and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream over flowing from the cup.

Did I seriously write an entire page about weather?! Really, what is my life coming to?

Let’s get to food. Last night I became a crazed foodie with ideas for dinner. Usually that means I have no idea what to make and am frantically trying to bring something together. I found this awesome recipe over on Rachael Ray's website for meatballs and wanted to make them. So that’s what I did. I paired them with this phenomenal pasta recipe, which I will share with you next week.

I adapted the meatballs a little bit to our tastes & what I had in our house. So today I give you Spicy Buffalo Sausage Meatballs. {Sounds weird, I know… I didn’t have ground chicken so I substituted spicy sausage}

Nutritional Information
Serving size: 4 meatballs
Calories: 100
Fat: 8.8 g
Carbohydrates: 1.6 g
Fiber: .4 g
Protein: 3.2 g
Points+: 3

 Here is what you will need:

  • Olive oil
  • 4 spicy sausage links, casings removed
  • ½ small onion, fine dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cajun seasoning
  • ¼ cup hot sauce + a couple of tablespoons

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  • In a large bowl, combine the ground sausage with the onion, garlic, salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, and hot sauce
  • Lightly grease a baking sheet
  • Roll the mixture into about 20 meatballs and line them on the baking sheet

  • Drizzle the meatballs with more hot sauce and olive oil
  • Place in the oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through and golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes

  • EAT!

They are super simple, deliciously spicy and would pair well with any pasta dish or be a great appetizer or snack. One of the best things about this recipe is it only includes a few ingredients and these are relatively healthy to eat! We were so impressed and LOVED them so much!

I hope you all give them a try. They are such a delicious twist on the regular meatball.

Until Next Time,

Happy Meatballin’

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza

Good Morning Friends! We have successfully made it mid-way through the work week. Isn’t that a relief? Well, I hope it is for some of you. I never understood the made-it-to-mid week-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel shtick. Especially when I was in school, it seemed like all of my deadlines were redlining and it sent me into a critical frenzy to finish everything by Friday. Back then, I wished Monday would have stayed around forever.  For those of you who do not have any looming deadlines this Friday, C.E.L.E.B.R.AT.E. for you have made it half way through the dreaded work week.

Yesterday I wrote about Oven Roasted Chicken and how easy it was. It was delicious, and aside from having to handle an uncooked chicken body, it was kind of fun checking off a milestone in foodie world. After all of that effort, we ended up having a ton of leftover chicken. By the time Nick got home on Friday night he was tired and wanted to pass out. He had enough energy to eat a little something, tell me he was proud of me for cooking it, and then he traveled off to dreamland.

A lesser person would have been disgruntled to have gone through all that disgusting raw bird preparedness for a few lousy bites, but I was too obsessed with the fact that I did it, that our roof could have blown off and I would have giggled.

I knew I needed to figure out something to do with the leftover chicken. To be honest, I am not a fan of eating leftover chicken, turkey, etc., unless it is disguised in some way. I have always been that way. It hit me over the weekend that I was going to make some sort of pizza using that chicken. So today I have a delicious Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza for you!

Nutritional Information
Serving Size: 1/8 pizza
Calories: 175
Fat: 9.4 g
Carbohydrates:  8 g
Fiber: .8 g
Protein: 14.6 g
Points+:  5

Here is what you will need:

  • Homemade Pizza Dough, found here
  • 4 ounces chicken, cubed
  • Ham pieces, 2 medium thick rounds, julienned
  • ½ can tomato sauce
  • ½ jar pizza sauce
  • Italian Seasoning, to taste
  • Garlic Powder, to taste
  • Basil, to taste
  • 2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded
  • Corn Meal

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  • Warm the pizza and tomato sauce together, add the Italian seasoning, garlic powder and basil, to taste, and allow the tomato sauce to get warmed through
  • Chop the chicken into small pieces and julienne/chop the ham into small pieces

  • Roll the dough ball into a circle or whatever shape you like
  • Lightly grease your pizza wheel and sprinkle some corn meal on it so that it lightly coats the bottom of the wheel
  • Place your pizza dough circle on the pizza wheel
  • Using a ladle swirl the pizza sauce all over the pizza dough so it is completely coated
  • Crumble the chicken and ham all over the pizza

  • Sprinkle the cheese all over the top so it is completely covering the chicken and ham

 

  • Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and cooked through
  • Remove, cool and EAT!!

 

This was such a great pizza idea! It was the perfect way to eat up some leftovers, create a delicious pizza flavor and have fun with my panda bear on Monday! It was refreshing to see him home at 5pm on Monday evening. {Though 5pm is still late, considering he leaves at 5am, but I won’t go there.}

I think this is a great way to get your kids involved, show them that leftovers are not cringe-worthy and they get to eat delicious pizza. Seriously, try it!

Until Next Time,

Happy Pizza Makin’

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Steak & Blue Cheese Pizza

Happy Thursday Foodies! It’s quite a Thursday. I am stressed out and Nick is stressed out. However, I am glad to report Pippy is not stressed at all. In fact he has successfully taken over the Love Sac and is fast asleep in typical Pipsqueak fashion. My stress is twofold. First it is due to a *bee* of a person who I have talked about many times before. I wish I could literally block her from my life but, alas, facebook will not allow me. Damn fascists. Second, I am stressed because Nick is stressed. He is not necessarily stressed because of the work he is doing, because he loves protecting this country and all things CT. He believes that he is contributing great things to this country and I know he is. Because I have no idea who reads my blog in his agency I will keep my mouth shut about the particulars. I think it’s important that people know that he busts his ass butt to make sure he gets his tasks completed efficiently and effectively while doing whatever else he is tasked to do. He’s a hard worker, he believes in his agency and its work and is dedicated to securing this country; I cannot say the same about others.

I apologize for venting, but this morning is particularly gruesome. 

Anyway, moving right along…

Keeping up with the theme of my posts this week I have another fabulous pizza for you again today. I apologize if you’re getting bored of my pizza creations, but I was absolutely in LOVE with these pizza flavors and I could not help but create as many as I could! This next one evolved out of a small brainstorming moment Nick and I were having. I was pretty skeptical about the flavor and how I was going to make it perfect for both of us. It turned out delicious and packed full of wonderfully sharp flavor.  In fact, I ate almost all of it. I did not want to share!

Are you ready to know what this fabulous pizza is?! Well, today I have a Steak & Blue Cheese Pizza! This pizza is no joke!!

Nutritional Information:
Serving Size: 1 slice
Calories: 239.25
Fat: 16.75 g
Carbohydrates: 10.25 g
Fiber: .79 g
Protein: 13.2 g
Points+: 7

Here is what you will need:

  • 5 ounce steak, sliced thin
  • Garlic powder
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ tablespoon dried basil leaves
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ small can tomato sauce
  • ½ jar tomato sauce
  • 4 or 5 sheets blue cheese, divided
  • ½ cup to ¾ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Corn Meal
  • Hot sauce {to taste}

Directions:

  • Find the process for making the dough here
  • About 30 minutes before the dough is done, add pizza sauce, tomato sauce, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning and dried basil leaves to a medium sauce pan
  • Incorporate ingredients fully and heat over medium heat until hot
  • In another saucepan over medium heat, add milk and allow to heat through, whisking continuously. When the milk is hot, add the flour and whisk continuously until it is fully incorporated.
  • Add 3 sheets of the blue cheese and whisk until the cheese is completely melted. If the sauce is too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of milk at a time until it thins out just a bit
  • Add the thinly sliced steak to the mixture, making sure the meat is completely coated with the cheese sauce

  • Keep warm
  • When the dough is finished, preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Lightly grease pizza wheel and sprinkle corn meal all over the base
  • Roll out the dough ball into a shape that you prefer and remove it to the pizza wheel
  • Swirl the sauce around on the pizza dough so that the dough is completely covered
  • Add steak & blue cheese mixture to the pizza

  • Crumble the remaining pieces of blue cheese on top of the steak

  • Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top of the steak so that everything is completely covered

  • Bake for at least 30 to 35 minutes; checking to make sure the bottom of the pizza is cooked through

  • Serve with some Hot Sauce & ENJOY!!! 

I LOVED this pizza.  I know I have said that about every pizza this week, but I am telling you I ate this pizza without much control and batted my eyelashes at Nick so that I could finish it off. I gave him ONE bite of the last slice. *Hanging my Head in Shame.* I am not a very nice girlfriend sometimes!!

I didn’t starve him or anything; he ate the remaining Hawaiian Pizza, which was nothing to scoff at!

I hope you all give this recipe a try! I LOVE IT and I may make it again this weekend!! Hahaha Oh man, I have to stop talking about this pizza or I’ll make it again right now.

Happy Thursday!

Until Next Time,

Happy Steak & Blue Cheesin’ 

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Taco Pizza

Happy Wednesday Foodies from dreary Northern Virginia. I love this day, but I wish it was cooler. Actually, I wish it was cold! I have Netflix streaming one of my favorite ‘reality’ television shows that I can only watch when Nick isn’t around. The background noise & the dreariness outside makes for a pretty awesome morning. 

Anyway, moving right along…

Facebook has some new changes, have you all noticed that? I like when facebook updates, it makes my obsession with the social networking site a little more intense. However, they missed the mark this time. I am not a huge fan of the inability to see the recent posts at the top like we used to. I enjoyed that option! I mean, I would sign on, see all of those posts worthy enough to be in my top posts newsfeed, but then I switched over to most recent posts and was able to follow the live newsfeed – I like that! However, I do not have that option anymore! Whatever, Facebook! Thanks for raining on my parade!

I guess my theme this week is Pizza. I could not help myself, so I made a ton of it in the last couple of days. In fact, I am already plotting my new pizza flavors for this weekend {if I can talk Nick into having more}. Today, though, I have one of my ALL-TIME favorite pizzas! It is no joke.

Are you ready for it?      Yes?     Okay.     It is…….

TACO PIZZA!! Woop!

I first learned about Taco Pizza when I was younger and having fun at Knoebels Grove! It was a place that I went every summer – in fact, I still try to go once each summer, it is traditional after all. Plus, the pizza there is award winning. If you are ever in the area you need to stop by and pick up a slice of Cesari’s Taco Pizza! It is to – die – for!

I tried to replicate the pizza I know and love and I think I got pretty close. Let’s dig in.

Nutritional Information
Serving Size: 1 slice
Calories: 244
Fat: 21 g
Carbohydrates: 31.8 g
Fiber: .575 g
Protein: 16 g
Points +:  10

Here is what you will need:

  • Pizza Dough – find the recipe here
  • Corn meal
  • ½ pound beef
  • 1  LARGE jar taco sauce
  • 1 packet hot & spicy taco seasoning
  • 2 cups cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup lettuce, shredded
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • Hot sauce

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  • Brown the beef over medium heat and drain
  • Once the beef is cooked, remove it to a small sauce pan and add the taco sauce, taco seasoning, garlic and cayenne pepper to and heat over medium heat until completely cooked through

  • Roll the dough ball out into a circle or whatever shape you like
  • Lightly grease your pizza wheel and sprinkle some corn meal on it so that it lightly coats the bottom
  • Place your pizza dough circle on the pizza wheel
  • Squeeze some hot sauce on the base of the pizza dough

  • Using a ladle swirl the beefy taco sauce all over the pizza dough so it is completely coated

  • Sprinkle the cheese all over the top so it is completely covering the beefy taco sauce
  • Squeeze a little more hot sauce over the cheese

  • Bake for at least 30 minutes. Check the bottom to make sure the pizza is fully cooked before removing it!
  • Top with shredded lettuce and a side of hot sauce AND ENJOY!!!

This was such an amazing pizza pie. It was not as healthy as I would have wanted it to be, but every so often it is acceptable to eat a heartier pizza with some extra calories!

I hope you all give this a try! I love, LOVE, LOVED this pizza. I could eat it every day!

I hope you enjoy!

Until Next Time,

Happy Taco Pizzain’ 

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Hawaiian - Style Pizza

Happy Tuesday Friends!! It’s Tasty Tuesday here. Well, it’s tasty here every day, especially lately. On Saturday I made homemade pizza. Nick loves making pizza and coming up with great pizza ideas and he has been talking about making pizza since the last time we had it, which has been a long time. So we made some kick ass homemade pizza this weekend. I was so addicted to the crust that I could not stop thinking about pizza. We finished up what was left on Sunday and I felt a sense of sadness consume me. I knew that we could easily make more pizza next weekend, which was the plan. [Even though I’m dying to go eat all of the shrimp I can at Red Lobster… there is no saving me with this craving.] However, I could not wait that long.

Remember – I have a problem with self control.

So yesterday I whipped up two more pizza pies! Yep, in a matter of 3 days I made 4 pizza pies. As I sit here and type it is taking me every ounce of control not to pop up and eat a slice or two of leftover pizza. Over the course of several days I will be giving you the recipes for these amazing pizzas. 

The one thing I love most about making my own pizza is the countless possibilities I have; consider a normal cheese pizza and then imagine it piled with your favorite toppings. You are not limited to the standard pizza options from your local pizzerias! Today I have a great pizza option that I am sure many people will love. Take a look at this Hawaiian Pizza! It is to die for!

Nutritional Information:
Serving Size: 1 slice
Calories: 169
Fat: 10.3 g
Carbohydrates:  8 g
Fiber:  .8 g
Protein: 11.2 g
Points+:  4

Let’s get down to business:

Here is what you will need for the dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water - somewhere between 100 to 110 degrees F, plus some extra if you need later
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
  • 5 cups all purpose flour, plus some extra if you need it
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • Olive oil, for drizzling 
  • Corn Meal

Directions:

  • Put the water in a small bowl and add the yeast, stirring until it is dissolved
  • In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together
  • Add the yeast mixture and stir until soft dough forms
  • If the dough is too dry add a tablespoon of extra water at a time; if the dough is too sticky add a tablespoon of extra flour at a time
  • Transfer the dough to a floured work surface
  • With floured hands, knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic, about 10 to 12 minutes
  • Drizzle the inside of a clean bowl with olive oil
  • Put the dough in the bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel
  • Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free place, until the dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours
  • Using a fist, deflate the dough in the center and cut into 3 equal - sized pieces
  • Form the dough pieces into 3 balls and put into 3 oiled bowls
  • Cover each bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let rest for 1 hour

Now for the Hawaiian Part:

  • ¼ fresh pineapple, sliced thin
  • 3 slices cooked ham, medium thickness
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ jar pizza sauce
  • ½ small can tomato sauce
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • ½ tablespoon dried basil leaves
  • ½ tablespoon Italian seasoning

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  • Combine pizza sauce, tomato sauce, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, basil leaves and Italian seasoning in a medium saucepan over medium heat just until the sauce is fully incorporated and hot
  • Roll out the pizza dough into a circle or whatever shape works for you
  • Lightly grease a pizza wheel and then sprinkle with corn meal
  • Put the formed pizza dough on the pizza wheel
  • Using a ladle swirl the pizza sauce on the dough so that it covers the base completely
  • Add ham and pineapple slices on top of the sauce, covering as much of the pizza dough base as you like [save a few pieces of ham & pineapple to top the cheese with]

  • Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the pineapple & ham so that the pizza is completely covered with cheese

  • Top with additional ham and pineapple slices
  • Cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the bottom of the dough is cooked to your liking!
  • Remove, allow to cool for a couple of minutes & ENJOY!

I loved this pizza. I particularly loved the flavor of the ham melding with the sweetness of the pineapple and the sharp flavor of the cheese. It was delicious!! It took us a lot not to eat all of it in one sitting!

As far as pizza dough is concerned, I personally love my pizza dough done, nothing soggy and nothing limp. However, that does not mean I like my crust burnt. I will tell you that happened this weekend with one of our pizzas [the crust was burnt at the top, not the pizza] and I COULD NOT get enough of it. The dough is that good. I hope you give it a try and create your own pizza pie!

There is nothing like making your own pizza, eating it and having it be as healthy as this particular pie!

Give it a try! I promise you will not be disappointed!!

Until Next Time,

Happy Pizza Makin’

 

 

Baked Spaghetti

Happy Thursday Morning Foodies! It’s another gloomy day here in NoVa, which is okay with me. I have really been enjoying the rainy days here. However, rainy days in other parts of the country are not as easy going as my rainy days. For instance, my lovely hometown in central Pennsylvania currently is under water. I cannot believe it. Well, I can believe it because so much of the area is a flood zone.

Let me paint a picture. Williamsport is located in a valley, between beautiful, luscious mountains. It’s such a fun experience growing up there, especially with the changing of the seasons and snowy days. Imagine being surrounded by beautiful and deep reds, oranges and yellows in the Fall and in the Spring when hints of green start to emerge around you with chirping birds and skinny squirrels. Imagine a town in a snow globe, being covered in beautiful flakes of snow each year; where all of the bare tree branches are coated in a glistening soft white powder. It’s beautiful. It’s fun to look at from the comfort of your home with a hot chocolate in your hand. It’s fun to go out and roll around in, sled ride down the dike and run through the closed streets on days off from work and school.

Dike? Oh yes. Did I forget to mention that? Our little city has a windy, rapid ‘stream’ flowing through it; the stream is otherwise known as the Susquehanna River. Normally it is impotent. In fact, during the Spring & Summer season many people are ‘river rats.’ They go down each weekend with a camper, firewood, marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate to set up shop. It’s a weekend getaway and everybody enjoys some loud music, adult beverages and a swim in the river.

That was not me. My mom did not want me to spend too much time at the river because she had this fear I was swimming in not-so-nice things and, let’s not forget, I was her only child who was allergic to everything and asthmatic; she had this reoccurring fear that something bad was going to happen to me and the adults around would not know what to do. She still has that fear. I will tell you it has not become less annoying over the years.

I mean, for instance, think about a college kid walking through airport security in CHINA and having a bunch of medication and a nebulizer - a machine to treat an asthma attack. Yep, that was me and all because my mom was too overprotective. I spoke minimal Chinese and it was a year after September 11, 2001. I’m surprised I was not detained in a Chinese prison as a suspected criminal.

Anyway, back to my hometown. That harmless river comes alive with large amounts of rain or melting snow. And I mean it COMES ALIVE. Currently, it is doing a lot of harm to my proud little baseball town. It is flooding streets and homes, businesses and parks. The monstrous Susquehanna River is wreaking havoc on Williamsport, Pennsylvania and the surrounding towns. It happens, I guess. I mean, it is a fact of life when living in low lying areas surrounded by mountains and a river. All of the rain is sweeping down the mountains into the towns below while, simultaneously, the river is rising due to large amounts of localized rain. It’s a horrible situation for everybody involved.

I am sending my thoughts and prayers to everybody being affected – my old friends, Mom & church family there. I hope you all are safe and recovery is swift. From my lips to Gods ears.

How does this have anything to do with food? It’s all pretty depressing, right? Well, I will tell you how it all relates. A lot of people are home from work and school today; effectively stuck inside. After a day of playing video games, watching movies, drinking tea and reading books, dinner is going to come knocking. And, today, I have the BEST dinner for your family. I mean it. It’s a traditional meal made a slightly different way and you can easily add food accessories to round out the meal. Are you ready for it?! Today I give you Baked Spaghetti!

I ate a lot of spaghetti growing up and now, as an adult, I am pretty sick of it. It has never been my favorite meal and I do not think it ever will be. However, I wanted to give this baked Spaghetti phenomenon a try and I am sure glad I did! This was delicious and super easy to make.

Nutritional Info:
Serving(s): 6; Serving size 1 square
Calories: 323
Fat: 21g
Carbohydrates: 33g
Fiber: 3.6g
Protein: 18g
Points+: 10 per serving

Here is what you will need:

  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 spicy sausage links, cooked & crumbled
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with basil and garlic
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ onion, small diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • ½ tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • ½ pasta sauce [optional]
  • 3 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 1 cup cheese, shredded
  • 2 ounces crumbled Feta cheese

Directions:

  • In a medium sauce pan combine the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water over medium heat and allow to simmer

  • Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium heat add the olive oil. When the oil is heated, add the diced onions and garlic to the skillet and allow to cook until translucent.

  • When the onions & garlic are cooked through, add them to the tomato sauce
  • Add the Italian seasoning, Cajun seasoning, sugar, salt, pepper, dried basil, oregano and incorporate fully. Add the bay leaves, reduce to low heat, and cover for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  
  • *If you want to use the spaghetti sauce add it now!
  • After about 30 minutes, add the crumbled sausage to the pasta sauce and stir to incorporate fully

  • After about an hour, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  • Cook the pasta according to the packaged directions
  • When the pasta is fully cooked, drain and remove to a bowl. Mix in the feta cheese.

  • Grease a baking dish and add a ladle full of sauce to the bottom of the dish
  • Add a layer of pasta and cover with some pasta sauce to cover fully; repeat the layers ending with sauce

  • Top with the cup of shredded cheese

 

  • Bake for 30 to 40 minutes and serve!

 

As much as I fight against making spaghetti, I LOVED this dish. It is packed full of flavor with a hint of spice, which is totally what Nick and I love about most dishes. One of the best parts of this meal is adding food accessories side dishes. Imagine a nice salad, a piece of garlic bread or large meatballs towering around a piece of this baked spaghetti!

I hope you all give this a try!

Until Next Time,

Happy Baking Spaghetti

Mexican Manicotti

Happy Tuesday Foodies. It's the beginning of the work week; meaning, Tuesday is now the new Monday. Isn't it funny how that happens? We dread Monday's, but when we have a long weekend with a Monday off, Tuesday's become the new Monday.  I am looking forward to something; I don't know what it is or when it starts, but I'm looking forward to it.

That sounds weird, huh? I am not looking forward to Friday, there is no reason to look forward to the weekend. All weekends are the same and I am always equally as excited for the weekend. I am looking forward to the simplicity that life sometimes brings; especially after a chaotic personal storm. That's what I am looking forward to. I have no idea when it will happen, but I desperately await some simplicity in my life. So many things are happening to me and all I want is it to stop.

Tomorrow I was scheduled to have a procedure done to evaluate my kidney to see if there is some scarring that may be causing me pain. The procedure is not invasive, but it required me to fast all day today. I was not looking forward to that. However, I had to reschedule because I woke up feeling like a bus hit me. I'm feeling a little better now, but now there are other complications with the procedure. Sometimes I hate insurance companies. Sometimes I don't understand why their policies benefit them and not their policyholders. Sometimes I wonder why people do not boycott insurance companies, demanding better service and coverage.

Sometimes I wonder why life has to be so difficult.

The one thing about my life that is simple is cooking.  I love cooking. I wish I could cook all day long. It calms me, it makes me happy, and I love the outcome. One of the most recent dishes we made was Mexican Manicotti. The recipe was passed along to me by a friend of mine - Christina. We were really close when we were in high school, but like a lot of friends, we grew apart. However, we recently reconnected with the advent of Facebook and we have been able to correspond much more. Because she is a super awesome person, she suggested I give her Mexican Manicotti a try. I am so glad that I did. I tweaked it a little bit based on the ingredients we had, but it was PERFECT and delicious. In fact, I wish I would not have sent the rest of it to work with Nick.

Nutritional Info
Serving Size: 2 stuffed Manicotti Noodles
Calories:  336
Fat: 24
Carbohydrates: 30
Fiber: 5
Protein: 30
Points+: 12

The dish is super easy to make and even easier to eat. Believe me. So let's get started.

  • Here is what you will need for my version:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large chicken breast, shredded
  • Manicotti shells
  • 1 packet spicy taco seasoning
  • 1 jar hot picante
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Cheese, shredded
  • Sour cream [optional]

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  • In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat
  • Add chicken breast, season with salt & pepper and cook until no longer pink

  • When the chicken is completely cooked, remove  from heat and allow to cool
  • When the chicken is cooled, shred into small pieces and then mix with the spicy taco seasoning

  • Grease glass baking dish
  • Stuff mixture into uncooked shells with the chicken mixture
  • Place shells in greased dish

  • Add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the dish, do not pour over the top of the shells
  • Cover with picante

  • Bake for 45 to 55 minutes
  • Cover with cheese and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is hot, melted & bubbling to perfection!
  • If you are using sour cream, add that here too!!
  • Allow to cool for a couple of minutes and enjoy!

I LOVED this dish! It was super spicy, which is something that Nick and I both love. If you are not too keen on spicy dishes, just get mild picante. It will tone the spice down quite a bit; I'm positive of it!

I only used half of the box of Mancotti noodles. It was the perfect serving for us. I would say each person could eat 2 or 3 stuffed manicotti noodles, but it's really just a preference. Nick and I both ate 2 each and he took 2 to work. So that is what I am calling a serving size! I would suggest pairing a nice, hearty salad with the dish or some fresh vegetables, especially if you do not think you will be full after two pieces.

I loved this dish and cannot thank Christina enough for this recipe!! It's definitely on our permanent rotation list!

I hope you all give this a try!

Until Next Time,

Happy Manicotti Makin'

Mini Chicken Lasagna Cups

Happy Friday Foodies! A week ago everybody on the eastern seaboard was preparing for Hurricane Irene; can I tell you that we are STILL dealing with her. No, we did not lose power, have overwhelming destruction or water damage at our home. So why am I still dealing with this storm? I will tell you. Base Quantico must have taken everything offline as a precaution and, while most sections of base had no problem going back online, Nick’s building did not have that luxury. In fact, he did not have work on Monday and went in at noon on Tuesday. I could tell you what he does. I could tell you what he did in the military. I could, but I will not. Everything he deals with is highly classified; however, I will tell you that he protects each of us EVERY SINGLE DAY. He is my super hero and I can guarantee that kids dream of doing what he does. Hell, I dream about doing what he does. Seriously.

Why am I talking about this? Well, Nick and I plan to go to Pennsylvania to visit my mom for this long weekend, but he has been working super hard, super long hours all week in order to trudge through all of the information that exists out there in the world; making sure nothing slips through the cracks. I had hoped today would be different, but I am not that lucky. It seems like he will be gone until later this evening, which means a late night on the road. And to add to all of this, Nick has been so crabby all week. He feels a lot of pressure to protect this lovely country of ours and he is swamped. SWAMPED! So he’s been so stressed all week, it has not been fun. I hate seeing him this way. Honestly, he is NEVER like this; he doesn’t allow most things to bug him…. Well, that’s not true. When things bug him, he easily compartmentalizes everything so he can function with minimum amounts of stress. [He just happens to do the exact opposite of what I do – I freak out & let stress get to me.] That is why he is perfect for me; in my craziest moments, he looks at me and it puts me at ease; with some words of encouragement, of course! Hurricane Irene, you’re still killing me!

Today is Friday, thank God for that! And you know what Friday’s bring, right?! Well, on this blog it means another Kid Friendly Friday segment! I have a great recipe for you all today! Today I give you Mini Chicken Lasagna Cups. I have been seeing these things everywhere lately, but I wanted to make them my own way. Enter: chicken. I have been meaning to use some chicken and I knew with being away this weekend I was going to have to do something with it; these were the best option! They take some time, but getting your kids involved will be so much fun.

Serving Size: 2 cups
Calories: 312
Fat: 19.6
Carbohydrates: 13
Fiber: 1.5
Protein: 22
Points+: 8

 Let’s get down to business. Here is what you will need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 1 cup garlic & basil spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup park skim ricotta cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ tablespoon pepper flakes
  • 24 wonton wrappers
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • In a medium skillet, add olive oil and cook chicken over medium heat until golden brown
  • Remove the chicken and shred into small pieces

  • In a medium bowl, combine the chicken and spaghetti sauce, mix until fully incorporated

  • In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, salt and pepper, garlic & pepper flakes and stir to combine
  • Grease a 12 cup muffin tin and a wonton wrapper in each cup
  • Add a tablespoon of ricotta into each muffin tin

  • Top each ricotta filled muffin tin with a tablespoon of the chicken mixture

 

  • Sprinkle the top with cheese
  • Place another wonton wrapper over the cheese and repeat the layering process again – first, ricotta, then chicken and then sprinkle some cheese to the top

 

  • Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the wonton wrappers have a golden brown tint to them
  • Cool for a couple of minutes and eat away!

These little cups are so delicious and filling. Believe me, when I took them out of the muffin tins they were so heavy. I was pretty surprised how full I was after eating the first couple of bites. These would be great for any weekend festivities; imagine serving these as an appetizer instead of wings or pizza bites. I think your family and friends will want to spend the weekend rummaging through your refrigerator looking for leftovers!

I hope you give these a try with your little sous chefs!

Until Next Time,

Happy Mini Lasagna Makin’! 

Stewed Tomatoes NOT from a Can

Happy Tuesday! I have to admit that I’m addicted to many things, but this morning I’m addicted to Bravo Television; specifically The Real Housewives of New York [RHNY]. About a year ago I decided to give watching one of the Housewives shows a shot and BAM! I was addicted. Nick could not believe it. He is constantly asking how an educated & reasonable person could like this series? Honestly, I do not think my addiction to "reality" televsion has anything to do with education or reason. I like the television I like even though I've been around the academia block. He makes fun of me each time it is on and heckles me until I feel bad enough to change the channel; despite having more than one television – meaning, he could easily go into another room and watch his own junk show.

Another issue I am running into this morning – it is overcast outside! Therefore, I am feeling quite lethargic this morning. I am thoroughly enjoying the overcast skies but it does not help peel me away from my obsession with a marathon of RHNY. I need to join a support group.

So how does this all tie in with food, you are probably wondering. Well, it really does not to be perfectly honest. However, this RHNY is going to be on all day and, if you’re like me, you’ll want to whip up something quick so that you don’t miss a minute. Nick has been talking about Stewed Tomatoes for weeks so I decided to give making them a try! Surprisingly they were pretty easy to make and they were a huge hit with Nick [Reader’s Note: I do not like Stewed Tomatoes on their own!] This dish was for Nick exclusively! Now I do not mind baking Macaroni & Cheese and adding some Stewed Tomatoes or adding them to a chili or another dish, but eating them own their own makes me cringe!

It is a super easy dish, so let’s get down to business.

Here is what you will need:

  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled & chopped with the seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 small can diced green chilies 
  • 3 basil leaves

Directions:

  • Method for Peeling Tomatoes: 
  •  
    • Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil
    • Drop one tomato at a time in the boiling water for about 10 seconds
    • Remove the tomato to a bowl of ice water long enough for the tomato to cool
    • Use a knife to make a cut around the top of the tomato and then slide the skin off
    • **NOTE: Make sure not to leave the tomatoes in the boiling water for much longer than 10 seconds, it will start to cook & you do not want that!

  • After the tomatoes are peeled, chop & de-seed the tomatoes

  • Put the peeled, chopped and seedless tomatoes into a medium sized saucepan
  • Add butter, sugar, salt and pepper to the tomatoes
  • Heat to a simmer, and then reduce heat to medium low
  • Let simmer for about 30 minutes or until tomatoes are cooked, soft & all of the flavors have blended together
  • Remove basil leaves
  • Add additional basil, butter, sugar, salt and pepper to your liking [or don’t add any at all!!]

See how easy these are to make? You will miss nothing in the 30 minutes that it takes for the tomatoes to simmer! In those moments I whipped up some macaroni and cheese so that I had something to eat for dinner; and, of course, I mixed in the stewed tomatoes. They were really yummy! It was fun to make stewed tomatoes from scratch rather than using a can! Though I will never give up on my canned tomatoes; I know some of you are probably gasping for air after reading that statement!

I hope you all give these a try!

Until Next Time,

Happy Stewing Tomatoes!! 

Salami Calzone

Happy Tuesday everybody!! This afternoon is going to be a bit crazy, which means the whole day is going to be chaotic. When we moved a lot of our belongings were damaged and none of it is really inexpensive. From our beds to all of our furniture and designer lamps, we are talking thousands of dollars in damage and today is D-day. We have a third-party agent [employed by the moving company, argh] coming out this afternoon to assess all of the damage. My hope is he is fair, but he is employed by the company that we are demanding replace all of our broken furniture so never can one know what the unofficial [or official] policy is between the two.

Because this guy is coming later this afternoon, dinner will be a modified version of an adult dinner. I do have some awesome ideas for dinner, but I cannot give away my secrets! For you today, however, I have something amazing! I don’t know about you but I love pizza, subs and everything else that you can buy at a pizzeria. I’ve made pizza in the past [I actually have another GREAT idea for a pizza, but that will come another day] so I wanted to do something a little different. Well what I have for you today is easy and delicious. I give to you a Salami & Cheese Calzone!

Inspired by Food Network Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 ½ cups shredded pizza cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 (13.8 ounce) tube refrigerated pizza dough
  • ¼ pound deli sliced salami
  • ¼ pound sliced provolone cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  • Place a baking sheet upside down in the oven
  • Beat the eggs and parsley in a small bowl

  • Pour half of the egg mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the shredded pizza cheese

  • Reserve the remaining egg mixture for brushing on the crust
  • Turn another baking sheet upside down; line with parchment paper and brush with olive oil
  • Unroll the dough on the parchment paper and pat into a rectangle
  • Spread the cheese & egg mixture over one half of the dough, leaving a slight order along the edge

  • Top with the salami, followed by the provolone

  • Fold the other half of the dough over to cover the filling
  • Crimp/Roll the edges to seal, then pierce the top of the dough in a few places with a knife

  • Slide the calzone with the parchment paper onto the hot baking sheet, bake 15 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining egg mixture, then continue to bake until the crust is golden – about 10 more minutes

  • Let rest, cut into wedges & eat away!

This was such an easy meal! Next time I will likely make my own pizza dough, but because this was my first time I did not want the whole process to go terribly wrong. I would have been a little upset if I had spend an afternoon making pizza dough and then for some reason ended up throwing it away! 

Take my word for it, THESE ARE EASY!! The best part about making this is having the ability to dress it up or dress it down with whatever flavors you want! Be prepared. There may just be another one coming down the line!

Until Next Time,

Happy Calzone Makin'