Welcome Home...Almost!

Many of you may know that the man & I are building a home. Building a home is quite the experience for me. This is our first house together so to build it from the ground up is exciting and scary all at the same time. I have been very blessed to live in brand new properties for the last several years, but they have all been apartments, so to extend that to our very own home is sometimes surreal. Really, I sometimes have to pinch myself to make sure this life I’m living isn’t some cruel fairytale.

Front

I know this is a blog dedicated to food, but so many of you have become my faraway friends that I feel safe sharing this part of my life with you. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m super excited about this new phase in my life and just wanted to share a glimpse with you!

The beginning of the process was very interesting for us. To begin our journey Nick and I watched hours and hours of HGTV. Purely from the standpoint of efficiency, we would watch these property virgins attempt to find a house. We watched them complain, coo, throw tantrums, and demand everything on an incredibly limited budget. We judged these people on HGTV, we laughed at them, we cringed, and even got frustrated. However, it was like we were shopping for our own house from the very comfort of our house.

Interesting enough we were reminiscing on this very thing last night. As we began discussing our own process we realized we had only seen 8 physical properties. Yep, we only saw 8 properties. {However, we saw HUNDREDS of houses online. Fear not, fine folks. Nick and I did plenty of due diligence, but mostly from the comfort of our home!} It was the last property that we ended up choosing. It was such a dreamlike moment. We literally walked through the model home five minutes before the woman was set to close her doors for the day. We ended up putting a deposit on the LAST set of walkout basements that were available. And our property is butted up against a retention pond that is zoned so NOBODY will ever be able to build behind us.

Me Celebrating on Deck-nobody will EVER build back there!

Divine Intervention? You bet your ass! 

Kitchen Progression w/ BacksplashHuge Window in Kitchen!

The best part about building a house is choosing all of the fantastic options to put into your house. We spent a lot of money in a couple of places because we knew it would be tons more expensive in the long run if we didn’t and we saved on some things knowing it would be much easier and cheaper to do it later {ex: hard wood floors}. Unless you have an unlimited budget I would suggest not choosing hardwood floors from any design studio. The price is highly inflated for no reason at all, in my opinion. Also, in my opinion, I would not do much to the basement. We were really lucky that our basement was fully finished. If it had not been fully finished I would have been frustrated, but I don’t know if I would have wanted to spend any money down there!

Okay, so I’ve rambled… a lot. Why on earth would you let me ramble so long?

Nick wants a Wind Turbine - he's measuring

Nick is scouting out a place for a wind turbine - in his dreams!!

Part of the back, including our beautiful deck with stair lights.

The worst part about building a house is waiting for the finished product. It was easy at the beginning because 7 months seemed like a long time, but now with less than 3 weeks remaining it is very difficult to push the house out of my mind. It is what consumes my thoughts every single day.

Because of this house process I have been slacking on the blog. I hope you can all understand. By the end of the holiday season I intend to be back up and running consistently.

I cannot wait to share this new chapter with all of you. I hope you come along for the journey. I cannot wait to invite you into our new home with delicious recipes and new pictures of my beautiful kitchen!!

Ciao for now,

Mel

Vegetable Pasta with Pepper Jack Cheese

Happy Monday Foodies! I cannot believe it is Monday already. This weekend was pretty low key; Nick and I shopped around for furniture and other miscellaneous new house items. I love this part of the process and am having a good time trying to find awesome pieces for our new house!

Unfortunately, however, we were not able to go up to the house. The contractor told us that nothing new had changed from the previous week. I look forward to going to the house every weekend so one absent of that adventure makes me somewhat sad. Fear not, kind folks, I will be going up this weekend for sure. In fact, this is a big weekend because most everything will be finished AND we should be able to pick out our furniture. I’m so excited!

I know I have not been posting regularly, like I used to. Much of that can be attributed to being busy with the house and our business. I apologize for my sporadic presence lately. I hope to post regularly toward the end of the year or by January. Don’t worry though; I will definitely have recipes, just not every day! I apologize.

Speaking of recipes I do have a fantastic one for today. It’s light, yet hearty, packed full of great flavors AND super healthy!   Take a look at this Vegetable Pasta and Pepper Jack Cheese!

Nutritional Information
Servings: about 8
Serving Size: 1 ½ cup
Calories: 170.6
Fat: 5 g
Carbohydrates: 22.8 g
Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 7.6 g
Points+: 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces pasta, cooked
  • 1 bag green beans, cooked
  • 1 bag peas, cooked
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, juice drained
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded

Directions:

  • Turn on the broiler to high
  • Cook pasta according to boxed directions, drain and return back to the pasta pot
  • Microwave the diced tomatoes on high for about 45 seconds
  • Combine the cooked vegetables, tomatoes and pasta together in pasta bowl
  • Add the garlic salt, red pepper flakes, and 3 ounces pepper jack cheese. Incorporate all of the ingredients together
  • Fill oven proof dishes with the pasta {I used my beloved crocks} and sprinkle with the remaining cheese
  • Broil the crocks in the oven until the cheese is bubbly and browned
  • Remove and ENJOY!

This recipe is super easy to make, obviously. Plus it is packed full of tons of vegetables and spicy flavors. It was a huge hit with Nick; but he LOVES vegetables. I don’t have a particular affinity for vegetables.

If you need something easy and delicious as a side dish make this!

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 

Spicy Sausage Juno

I’ve been trying to start this blog post for more than an hour and I cannot seem to get motivated to find the words. There is no reason why I should be without words, but for some reason I am speechless.

I decided I would just begin writing with the expectation of some divine intervention where the words would spill onto the page. That didn’t work. I started to write about things irrelevant to this portion of the website.

Then I took a break to yell at Sophie who keeps sucking and licking portions of the carpet; or more recently just tried to lick an active surge protector. Really?! I’ve given her rawhides, ice cubes, and various other toys to chew on and she wants to eat the carpet and lick on surge protectors? I hope she grows out of this.

Did I tell you guys I tried to cut her bangs? Rewind. I should probably tell you this little monster is afraid of almost everything: the peanut butter jar, the immobile vacuum cleaner, the tape gun, blow dryer, etc. She’s afraid of everything, but those things I think she should be afraid of like the oven or the dishwasher. She wants to jump into those things because curiosity takes hold and she cannot stay away. Well, she is officially afraid of scissors. I attempted to cut her bangs and now she looks like a hot mess. I feel horrible, yet it fits her personality. Well, that is what Nick says. That could have been his way of making me feel better.

Anyway, I haven’t been cooking that much lately. Well, I’ve been cooking easy things or recipes I’ve already prepared before. However, this week has been different. I have been cooking up a storm and one of the recipes I worked on is this Spicy Sausage Juno recipe.

Nick is the first person to have introduced me to Juno’s. If you don’t know what a Juno is it is simply a mixture of diced potatoes, cheese, breakfast meat, eggs and various spices {of your choice}. The best thing about making this recipe is it is super easy and super delicious. Check it out!

Nutritional Information
Servings: 6
Calories: 343.8
Fat: 20.3 g
Carbohydrates: 18.6 g
Fiber: 1.5 g
Protein: 21 g
Points+: 9

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Spicy Italian Sausage, cooked and sliced into rounds
  • 3 to 4 white potatoes, diced
  • 8 eggs
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • hot sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • Fill a medium saucepan with water, add a dash of salt and bring to a boil over high heat
  • Add the potatoes and boil under the potatoes are fork tender, drain and set aside
  • Coat a large skillet with cooking spray
  • Over medium  - high heat add the sausage slices and diced potatoes to the skillet and allow to cook for about 3 minutes.
  • While the cooked sausage and potatoes are in the skillet, add the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt and pepper to a bowl and whisk until the eggs are light and fluffy
  • Reduce the heat to medium
  • Add the eggs and the cheese to the skillet and allow the eggs to set for about a minute or two
  • Using a spatula begin to flip the ingredients around like you were making scrambled eggs {which is essentially what you’re trying to do… scramble the eggs while coating all of the sausage and potatoes with the cheese and eggs}
  • When the eggs are completely cooked remove and enjoy! 

I love Juno’s because I love potatoes, cheese, eggs and spicy sausage. I mean, who doesn’t love those ingredients? I have been thinking about making them again this week with bacon. I am salivating sitting here thinking about this meal!

I hope you give it a try!

xoxo Mel 

Peanut Chew Brownie Bites

I think chocolate is a perfect friend to Monday. There is something about coming off a weekend high and diving into a Ghirardelli brownie on Monday morning. Don’t you agree? Well today I took a regular brownie to another level. I added pieces of peanut chews. I love peanut chews. My mom used to give them to me as a child; they were my favorite treat for a long time. I figured the crunchy, caramel flavor of the peanut chews would be a nice addition to brownies.

And, I was correct!

Take a look at these delicious Peanut Chews Brownie Bites!

Nutritional Information:
Servings: 48
Serving Size: 1 Brownie Bite
Calories: 75.3
Fat: 3.3 g
Carbohydrates: 10.5 g
Fiber: .4 g
Protein: .6 g
Points+: 2

Ingredients: 

  • 1 package Ghirardelli brownie mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 package peanut chews

Directions: 

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  • In a large bowl, combine the brownie mix, egg, oil and water. Mix together until the mixture is completely incorporated and smooth looking
  • Break the peanut chews up into pieces
  • Add the peanut chews to the brownie mixture
  • Pour into mini cupcake tins
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean
  • Remove. Allow to cool. Enjoy!

These little guys are so easy to eat so beware!!

xoxo Mel

Bite Sized Hot Chocolate Brownies

A very happy Monday to all of you foodies! I am sitting in sweats and a t-shirt on a beautiful fall day, so I cannot complain. This just happens to be the beginning of my favorite time of year. I like the changing of the seasons, particularly from summer to fall. There is such great things attached to this time of year: frosty mornings, changing leaves, hot drinks with whipped cream, sweaters and jeans, a/c off and windows up, and crisp fall evenings.

However, while the fall makes me happy, the best thing about fall is the ever-present winter. I love winter. I love the possibility of lots of snow – I am in love with snow.  I always have been. I will press my nose against the window and wait for the flakes to fall. Seeing snowflakes descend from the heavens has always made me warm and excited inside. The last couple winters have been mild ones for me, so I am anxiously awaiting a cold fall and wicked winter. Many people may be appalled by my wish, but I am sick of the heat. I have spent the last few years living through intense summer heat and incredibly mild winters. I have been patient enough. Mother Nature if you can hear this: I want COLD days and a WICKED winter – snowmageddon of 2012-2013 is the kind of winter I want!

Now I know I must have lost plenty of you with my last statement, but I am prepared to win you back. Monday’s are notoriously bad days; while I think Monday’s get a bad wrap most weeks I have not escaped the wrath of the first day of the work week. I know how bad it can be. So I have a recipe packed full of chocolate. Knock, knock, knock I said CHOCOLATE!

Oh whew, you’re still there! Take a look at these delicious Hot Chocolate Brownies. I promise these little bite sized pieces of goodness will make any week great!

Nutritional Information:

Servings: 33
Serving Size: 2 Brownie Bites
Calories: 99.1
Fat: 3.9 g
Carbohydrates: 16.5 g
Fiber: 1.2 g
Protein: 1.3 g
Points+: 3

Ingredients:

 Recipe Adapted From Meet Me in the Kitchen

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 12 tablespoons I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cups miniature chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons Nesquick
  • Powdered Sugar {optional}

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F
  • Coat an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray, set aside
  • In a medium mixing bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and Nesquick
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, sugar and eggs
  • Whisk in dry ingredients until just combined
  • Stir in chocolate chips until combined, leaving a few to sprinkle on top
  • Pour batter into baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips
  • Baked about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean
  • Sift powdered sugar over the entire batch, if you so desire. {I desired!}

I cut these into small bite sized pieces because they were super rich in flavor. I knew it would be a problem if I left them in my house, so I sent them to work with Nick. I figure I get the contact high from making them, testing the batter, and enjoying one or two then I can send the rest away into oblivion for somebody else. I don’t need all of those calories!

I hope you give these a try!!

xoxo Mel 

Cheesy Breaded Chicken Breasts

My mind is racing 100 miles per minute over everything but this website lately and I apologize. Usually when I am stressed out I eat, but I’m desperately trying to lose a couple of pounds so instead I’ve been shopping for clothes. I am an addict when it comes to shopping, yet I have done my best the last two years to quell that urge. That streak all fell apart last weekend and now I cannot stop myself. I have baskets, yes BASKETS, full of clothes in several online retailers websites. I feel guilty for buying anything else, so I just stare at them periodically throughout the day.

Being stressed means that I somehow squander away hours of the day without even knowing it on things I cannot even remember dedicating time to. I have a serious problem. Life may be better when we close on this house, but I am not holding my breath.

Sometimes I think life will be better tomorrow, but I have to remember my life is today and tomorrow is not promised. I know the grass is not greener on the other side; and, honestly, when I start thinking that way it only makes my stress level rise. Anyway, usually when I get stressed I eat. I told you all that, right? I tend to gravitate toward unhealthy things, which doesn’t help me in life at all. The foods I choose tend to be macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes & gravy, pizza; anything with cheese, starch, and carbs really does the trick. Well, I attempted to make my choice slightly healthier than usual. Take a look at these Cheesy Breaded Chicken Breasts.

Nutritional Information
Servings: about 6
Serving Size: 1 chicken
Calories: 212.7
Fat: 6.5 g
Carbohydrates: 13 g
Fiber: .5 g
Protein: 25.1 g
Points+: 5

Ingredients:

  • Oil
  • 2 or 3 large chicken breasts
  • 1 serving {1.1 ounces} cheddar goldfish crackers, crumbled
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2  eggs, whisked
  • salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup Bisquick 

Directions: 

  • Cut the chicken in half and pound it to ¼ inch thick
  • Take three bowls: in one place the Bisquick, in another the whisked eggs with salt & pepper, and in the third the crushed goldfish crackers and parmesan cheese
  • Dredge the chicken, first cover in the bisquick, then the eggs and finally in the goldfish crackers
  • In a large frying pan, add oil and heat over medium heat
  • Add half of the chicken and fry until golden on the outside {and the chicken is completely cooked}
  • Remove and repeat with the remaining chicken

Enjoy! 

Super Sized Breakfast Panini's

Tuesday, September 11, 2012.

It was eleven years ago on this very day that I was a college freshman getting ready to attend my very first college function. I was a naïve kid that knew nothing of the world. I had been sheltered and guarded from almost everything known to man, including the ways of the world.

I remember I was running around on my dorm floor trying to figure out what my new friends were going to wear to this required event for college freshman. It was a beautiful Tuesday morning, not unlike today. And then it happened: our country was attacked with a brutal intensity; an intensity that I had not yet known as a young adult. That day, forever, will remain seared into my brain… into everybody’s brain.

Each year on this date it is like a vacuum sucks me back to the infancy of 9/11/01. I remember the moments unfolding, my new friends huddled around my small dorm room television, my friend writing quotes in her journal, my RA asking us to give blood and the college requiring all of us to remain on campus.

You see in the infancy of the attacks there was a hijacked plane over rural Pennsylvania. I was going to school in a small western Pennsylvania town. And there was a plane unaccounted for and somewhere in proximity close enough to my school that it could have become an issue. We were safe. We now know that a group of brave people retook that plane to save people in this country. That plane went down in Somerset just an hour from my school. In those moments of uncertainty all we were required to do was stay put and safe.

My life was forever altered that day. I was a naïve college student that knew nothing of the world. I was foolish. I was youthful and inexperienced. In the years since 9/11 I have traveled to Europe, Africa and Asia. I furthered my education. I lost touch with those girls that I once sat around my freshman dorm watching events unfold. I have lost 175 pounds. I have met the love of my life, a soldier. He is my hero. His buddies continue to be in the trenches of our mission to protect the USA and her allies. I fell in love with two Yorkshire Terriers. I learned how to cook and started a blog. I have started a business. I have started building a house. Many things have changed in the last 11 years, yet on this day every year I feel like my 18-year-old self, grasping for explanation, frenzied in disbelief and appalled for reasons beyond my comprehension. I see the towers hit and fall. Each year I relive {we all do} the same moments we once lived more than a decade ago.

This day will always be the same to me. It will always feel the same. I will always be a naïve college freshman listening to the banter of others better educated than myself analyze and discuss the horrors of this attack. I will forever feel like a sponge to the knowledge that exists to be better and know more.

In the years that have passed so much has changed for me. I mean, I’m sitting here writing a blog post for hundreds and thousands of potential people to read. Never could I have imagined I would have a large audience of people to communicate with. I have a very easy and delicious recipe for you today. I happen to love bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. So I decided to take it up a notch. Be prepared, because this is a HUGE breakfast sandwich you may not be able to eat the entire thing. {Sadly, I could not}.

Nutritional Information:
Servings: 1 or 2
Calories: 483.25
Fat: 17 g
Carbohydrates: 47.6 g
Fiber: 1 g
Protein: 7 g
Points+: 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices bacon, cooked crispy
  • 2 tablespoon skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 1 ounce cheese
  • 1 Torta Sandwich Roll

Directions:

  • In a bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, hot sauce, salt and pepper until light and fluffy
  • In a medium skillet, over medium heat, cook the egg like you would cook an omelet. Remove.
  • Heat your George Foreman grill. Spray it with cooking spray.
  • Now, cut your sandwich roll in half. Add the bacon to the bottom of roll. Add the egg. Then top with the cheese of your choice {I used extra, extra, sharp aged cheddar cheese. Of course!}
  • Grill your sandwich on the George Foreman until the cheese is fully melted and the sandwich has nice little grilled marks on the bun.

Eat and enjoy! I loved this sandwich, but I was only able to eat ½ of it. I was so sad because I love bacon, egg, cheese and the ROLLS! Oh, the rolls are heavenly. If you have a huge appetite, this is the breakfast sandwich for you.

xoxo Mel

Jalapeño Popper Macaroni & Cheese

I have serious addictions in life. One of them is to McDonald’s breakfast. I went off of it, cold turkey, last year. However, a couple of months ago I decided to split a breakfast value meal with Nick and I’ve had McDonald’s on the mind. Today I woke up and could not talk myself down from the ledge and caved.

Yep, I went to McDonald’s for breakfast. As I always do, I feel incredibly guilty. I never feel good about myself after I eat something that isn’t exactly healthy for you. I’ll regret it for the next 48 hours.

I’m slightly crazy.

Anyway.

Other than that particular addiction, it is no secret that I have a particular affinity for macaroni and cheese and all things jalapeno popper. It was only a matter of time before I decided to pair the two together.

Take a look at this deliciously cheesy and spicy Jalapeno Popper Macaroni & Cheese!

Nutritional Information
Servings: about 20
Serving Size: about ½ cup
Calories: 241.7
Fat: 12.8 g
Carbohydrates: 20.8 g
Fiber: .9 g
Protein: 12.6 g
Points+: 7

Ingredients:

13 ounces Cheddar cheese, cubed

6 ounces American cheese, cubed

6 ounces Cream Cheese, softened

1 can Cheddar Soup

2 cups half and half

1 box pasta {you pick your style}

4 pieces bacon, extra crispy

2 jalapenos, small dice {remove the seeds if you want lessen the spicy blow}

Salt

Pepper

Red Pepper Flakes

Directions:

In a large stockpot, bring water to a boil and cook your pasta according to the directions. Drain and set aside.

In another stockpot, add the cheddar cheese soup, half and half and pepper

Over medium heat, incorporate the two until the soup is fully melted

Add all of the cheese and whisk until the cheese is fully melted

Taste and adjust seasoning according to your pallet {you can add some salt now if you want to, but the cheese should have enough sodium}

Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and incorporate fully

Add the diced jalapenos, red pepper flakes and bacon

Incorporate all of the ingredients and serve it up!

This serves as a meal on its own… even for Nick. If you want to pair something with it maybe you could add a side salad? However, if you decide to cut this recipe in half {because you’re not as crazy as I am about having tons of macaroni and cheese} this would be a perfect side dish with some chicken or steak and vegetables!! It can add to a balanced meal… if you’re not like me, that is!

Enjoy!

xoxo Mel 

 

Spicy Sausage Breakfast Gravy

Happy Friday foodilicious friends! I never thought I would be a dog person; my mom never let me have a dog. I had a cat growing up. Her name was Mitten and she was the cutest little kitty cat in the world. It was not until I was a senior in high school that she got sick and at that point my mom refused to get another animal, even though I thought we should have a fur baby around.

When I met Nick he had a Pippy. If you don’t know what a Pippy is, take a look. How could one not love a fluffy boy with a smile? Pippy was the first dog I ever loved. Now, I have a Sophie, too. I’ve never had a puppy before so there is a huge learning curve with this little four-legged fur baby. She’s kind of crazy.

Pippy

Wondering what the point is? I am wondering the same thing, too.

Oh yes.

I used to think dogs smelled bad. Sometimes I would gag. Now my both of my little fur babies are probably the dirtiest dogs on the block and I still pick them up and love them. I still kiss them and let them sleep next to me.

I’ve gone crazy.

Pets will do that to you, I suppose.

Sophie

Nick and I have decided to forgo children. We love our fur babies and believe they will be enough of a challenge for us. However, we also thought that having dogs would make life easier to manage; i.e. travel, outings, vacation, work, meetings, etc. While many of you parents will argue that raising children takes much more work than having pets I have to tell you everywhere we take them they have a bag.

Yep, they have a legit travel bag. It’s bigger than your traditional diaper bag. Having a second dog is a serious commitment.

Whew boy.

Let me not get started about how Sophie is under my feet all of the time, especially when I am in the kitchen. For instance, the other night I was making this fantastic breakfast for dinner meal. I was in a crazed state of haze running around the kitchen checking up on everything. One of the things I was making was this delicious Spicy Sausage Breakfast Gravy. I love biscuits and gravy. Who doesn’t?

Anyway, on top of it all I had to make sure I didn’t kill the pup. She is tiny and is always foraging around in the most inappropriate spaces. In fact, she tries to jump into the oven AND the dishwasher.

I’ve almost had a heart attack about 100 times.

Oy.

Anyway, take a look at this delicious creation! It’s the best creamy gravy ever!

Nutritional Information:
Servings: 8 to 10
Serving Size: 1 biscuit and ½ cup gravy
Calories: 323. 2
Fat: 14.2 g
Carbohydrates: 34. 8 g
Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 11.6 g
Points+: 8

Ingredients:

1 to 1 ½ pound Spicy Italian Sausage Links

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups Fat Free Half and Half

1 container Flaky Biscuits {or homemade}

Pepper

Red Pepper Flakes

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Cook the biscuits according to directions

In a large skillet, lightly grease and preheat over medium – high heat

Add the sausage links and cook all the way through, about 10 minutes

Remove to a cutting board and set aside

Over medium heat, whisk the flour into the same skillet with the sausage grease. Whisk until the flour is completely incorporated and then slowly add the half and half. Whisking continuously over medium heat add the entire 2 cups of half and half

Bring the cream to a boil and reduce to medium – low heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes

In the meantime, cut the sausage links in half and add them to your blender

Blend until the links are chopped up into small pieces

Add the sausage pieces to the cream gravy, and then add the pepper and red pepper flakes

Allow to simmer for another 5 to 6 minutes

Pour about ½ cup over a biscuit and ENJOY!!!

I love this meal. Really, I LOVE it! It is hearty and packed full of such terrific flavor. Seriously, I could eat it once a week. I can only ever eat 1 biscuit with gravy at a time. It fills me up that quickly. I am really not complaining but the flavors in this gravy make my heart happy and I always want to eat more than I can fit into my stomach!

I hope you make it this weekend!!

xoxo Mel 

Bite Sized Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Happy, Happy Wednesday! Last night was breakfast for dinner in our house. I love breakfast for dinner because it’s easy and delicious. How can you go wrong with breakfast food? However, last night I got carried away for some reason and it was pretty stressful in the kitchen. It must have slipped my mind that I don’t cook for an army of people, it is just Nick and I. Needless to say, Nick has breakfast for the rest of the week.

One of my favorite things in the world is a fluffy pancake. It was not until I moved here that I was able to perfect pancake making. That is a fact. One day it just came to me and now my pancakes are out-of-this-world delicious. I decided to make a new version last night to switch things up a bit.

Oh. Em. Gee.

That’s all I have to say.

I may make pancakes again tonight just because they were that good. Take a look at these Bite Sized Apple Cinnamon Pancakes.

They are heaven on earth.

Nutritional Information
Servings: 7
Serving Size: 2 pancakes
Calories: 87.8
Fat: 1.9 g
Carbohydrates: 15.2 g
Fiber: .7 g
Protein: 2.7 g
Points+: 2

Ingredients:

Recipe Adapted from The Chatty Mom

1 cup Bisquick

½ cup skim milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup applesauce

1 tablespoon Splenda

Directions:

Heat skillet/griddle to 375 degrees F

Mix the bisquick, milk, egg, cinnamon, applesauce and Splenda in a bowl until fully combined

Grease your skillet/griddle

Pour about ¼ cup of the mixture on your griddle to create a bite-sized pancake

Repeat until you use all of your mixture

Serve with some syrup & ice cold milk!

Honestly, one of the biggest reasons I love pancakes is so that I can drink ice cold milk. I am not a huge milk person, but I will drink a glass or two with warm pancakes. LOVE!

Enjoy!

xoxo Mel 

Mini Taco Bites

I cannot believe it is already Tuesday and the third week of August. Holy crap. Where does the time go? I know time flew by this weekend because my bestie, Scott, was visiting. We spent most of Saturday at our new property. I love going up there because it is a constant reminder of how much I will love living there. Because our community offers so much in the way of activities and amenities we thought it would be a great adventure to take Scott up to explore a little bit. Also, it doesn’t hurt that we have two professionally designed and signature golf courses. So we decided to hit a round of 18. After 18 holes we sat down and stuffed our faces at our country club for dinner. Seriously, we ordered almost everything on the menu. It was nice to catch up over dinner. It doesn’t hurt that we can check up on the construction of our house. I think we will go up again to play some golf this weekend, too.

I cannot wait to get out of Fredericksburg and this apartment complex. It is such an incestuous building that we are living in that it feels like the walls are closing in on me the moment we drive through the gate to come home. It does not help the cause that we live in close proximity to some of the most intolerable people that have graced my life in quite some time. I mean, the husband smokes like a chimney, doesn’t appear to appreciate personal hygiene and may be dumber than a pile of bricks {he attempted to make an argument that unions were not protected by the constitution}. At that moment, almost a year ago, I wrote him off. I cannot talk to somebody who has the potential to spew ignorance and believe in it.

Yes, I have a low threshold for stupid. But, can you blame me? He cannot take a breath without spewing his liberal banter {not that I mind liberal banter… I tolerate it as much as I stomach conservative banter} and puffing on a cigarette. He’s giving everybody around him lung cancer. Oh and each time I see him I have a hard time not breaking out in hysterical laughter. That piece of the puzzle inhibits most conversation.

I crack myself up.

I’m sitting in my office and I’m making myself giggle at the thought of this entire soliloquy.

Anyway, I didn’t cook much of anything this weekend. That was not my plan, actually. But I have to roll with the punches. However, I do have a fantastic appetizer recipe for you. Well, I guess I am a little biased. I love tacos. I love crescent rolls. Because of this love I decided to marry the two together. How about some Mini Taco Bites? They are delicious. Take a look!

Nutritional Information
Servings: 15
Serving Size: 1 Taco Ball
Calories: 82.8
Fat: 5 g
Carbohydrates: 6.8 g
Fiber: 0 g
Protein: 3 g
Points+: 2

Ingredients:

¼ pound ground beef, 90% lean

2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

1 container crescent rolls

¼ to ½ bottle taco sauce {hot}

Cumin

Cayenne Pepper

Paprika

Pepper

Salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Cook the beef, drain and return to the skillet

Add ¼ cup water, taco sauce, cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper to the ground beef

Mix thoroughly and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens up

While you wait for the mixture to thicken up, roll out the crescent rolls. Do your best to real seal the perforated edges of the crescents {instead of crescent triangles we you want a pizza – like rectangle}

Now cut the rectangle into 15 squares {slice lengthwise into thirds and then widthwise into 5 sections}

Fill each square with ½ tablespoon of the taco meat mixture and sprinkle with a bit of cheese

Seal completely

Place each crescent ball on a pre-greased baking sheet

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown

Enjoy!

They are super easy to eat, so be careful!! You could also dip it in some extra salsa or something. I didn’t have time for semantics; I just started popping them in my mouth. But we all know I have a slight self-control issue.

Enjoy!

xoxo Mel

Mini Cheesy Corn Dog Muffins

Attention, attention my bestie is in transit and I’m super excited. I fear that I’m about to fail him in the fun department because I have absolutely nothing planned. Really, who would want to be my friend? I’m sure I can have Pippy and Sophie entertain Scott until Nick gets home! On top of it all, I have nothing planned for food. Hopefully that will work itself out by tomorrow morning, but that still leaves the slightly awkward issue of dinner tonight.

Oh well.

Today I have a fantastic kid friendly recipe. Take a look at these Mini Cheesy Corn Dog Muffins. I heart them tremendously.

Nutritional Information
Servings: 24
Serving Size: 1 Corn Dog Muffin
Calories: 85.8
Fat: 6.6 g
Carbohydrates: 4.8 g
Fiber: .2 g
Protein: 1.7 g
Points+: 2

Ingredients:

Recipe Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

¼ cup melted butter

¼ cup Splenda

1 egg

½ cup heavy cream

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup white cornmeal

½ cup flour

¼ teaspoon salt

5 all beef, cheese filled, hot dogs, cut into 1 inch bites

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Combine butter and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine

Add eggs and whisk to incorporate. Add heavy cream and whisk to incorporate

In a separate bowl, combine baking soda, cornmeal, flour and salt. Stir to combine. Whisk into wet ingredients in two batches

Spray a mini muffin tin with non-stick spray, and spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into each mini muffin cup

Place one hot dog bite into the middle of each cup

Bake 8 to 12 minutes, or until cornbread is golden brown. Cool and enjoy!!

These little guys were so good. You could easily use boxed cornbread instead of making yours from scratch. Either way these little guys will be the hit of the meal!

xoxo Mel

Broccoli Cheese Bites

Yesterday a dog in our community was bitten by a water moccasin. Let’s talk about being terrified. I checked up on the status of the dog this morning and she is doing well; thank God! I would have been mortified if something like that happened to Pippy or Sophie.

I love my little fur babies, even though Sophie has been barking all morning. I really mean that, she has been barking the ENTIRE morning. She is essentially trying to get Pippy to play with her. She’s so adorable, yet widely annoying at times. I love them both. The best part about the entire situation is that Pippy is in old man mode and could care less about this little fur ball. He’s going to wallop on her in a minute. Then she’ll go back to barking at her toys instead. She usually barks for two reasons: she wants to play desperately or she is terrified.

Last night I had to put her in Pippy’s crate while I was cooking dinner because she kept getting under my feet. Imagine a 3.5 pound pup chasing your toes while you’re handling hot food, raw food, and everything in between. I seriously think she would jump in the oven if she had the chance. Anyway, I put her in Pippy’s crate and she got lost in the blankets.

Yep, you read that correctly.

She got lost in his blankets. Terrified she began growling, crying and barking to find her way home. The worst part about it was that I could not save her because of the food I was handling. I mean, these Broccoli Cheese Bites were just one thing I was handling…. Raw eggs? I couldn’t just pull her to safety. {She was not in danger… don’t think that!}

Now that I’ve written too much information about my pups, I might as well move along to these delicious Broccoli Cheese Bites. They are great!

Nutritional Information
Servings: 15
Serving Size: 1 bite
Calories: 128.6
Fat: 8.5 g
Carbohydrates: 6.6 g
Fiber: .5 g
Protein: 8.9 g
Points+: 4

Ingredients:

Recipe Adapted From Stacey Snacks

16 ounces chopped broccoli, thawed and drained of liquid

1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded

3 eggs

1 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl

With your hands, form small patties and lay on a slightly greased baking sheet {I made larger palm-sized bites|

Bake for 25 minutes, turn the patties after the first 15 minutes

Let cool and enjoy!

I seriously made these larger than I think I should have, but they were a perfect size for my Panda Bear. You can easily double the amount this recipe makes by making smaller broccoli bites.

xoxo Mel 

Creamy Mango Orange Sorbet

Let me tell you how excited I am right now.

Okay, ready?

I’M TOTALLY STOKED!

My bested friend, Scott, is coming to visit us this weekend. Admitting that we have not seen each other for 6 months would make me a horrible friend, right? Well, then, I won’t admit to that. However, in the {slightly} significant period of time since I have last seen Scott he has bought a brand new car, traveled to New England for the government, his sister got engaged, Nick and I started a business, and started building a house.

My, my how life quickly swirls about.

I’m totally excited to see him.

Oh and if you didn’t realize it yet, I’m back! Sometimes regrouping is all one needs to rebound from a lull in life and food. I have great plans for the upcoming weeks and I’m excited to share some of these fantastic recipes that I have in my mind. I’m starting off easy today with this perfectly Sweet and Creamy Orange Mango Sorbet.

Nutritional Information
Servings: 1
Calories: 132.5
Fat: 0 g
Carbohydrates: 33 g
Fiber: 3.5 g
Protein: 2.3 g
Points+: 4

Ingredients:

½ cup mangos {fresh or frozen}

¼ cup fat free vanilla ice cream

¼ cup orange juice

½ cup ice

Directions:

Add all of the ingredients to your favorite blender and blend until you find your desired consistency. It should not be smoothie like, just a bit thicker.

If you want to make this a smoothie just add a bit more orange juice and VOILA!

I hope you love this as much as I did!

xoxo Mel

Jalapeño Popper Stuffed Burgers

I think I am coming down with something. I just feel off. Have you ever had a day like that? It’s a beautiful day outside and all I can think about is crawling back into bed and hoping tomorrow comes feeling a bit better.

Instead I am watching the Olympics.

I love watching the Olympics. Particularly, I love watching swimming, diving, gymnastics and track and field. I cannot wrap my head around how these people do what they do.

What they do is incredible.

If you’re going to watch the Olympics this weekend, I have a great recipe for you. I mean, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to watch the Olympics on an outside television while splashing around in your pool? I might actually do that. Though I may end up doing something completely different like returning a loaner vehicle to Pennsylvania. It could go either way.

Anyway, if you end up lounging around and want to grill something up take a look at these delicious Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Burgers. Oh yes, I went there! Take a look!

Nutritional Information:
Servings: 8
Serving Size: 1 hamburger + 1 bun
Calories: 340
Fat: 17.3 g
Carbohydrates: 19 g
Fiber: 1 g
Protein+: 24 g
Points+: 9

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef

4 ounce Fat Free Cream Cheese, room temperature

8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 jalapeño, small dice

2 slices bacon, cooked extra crispy

1 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Mix the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, jalapeno, bacon and pepper together in a medium bowl until fully incorporated

Make 16 small round beef patties

Take about half to one  tablespoon of the mixture and put it in the middle of 8 of the hamburger patties

Top each of the stuffed patties with the other patty

Seal the edges completely so the mixture is secure and will not ooze out while grilling

Grill until the beef is fully cooked and the cheese is nice and melted

Grill a hamburger slider bun, top with some leftover popper mixture and ENJOY!

I love jalapeno popper anything, just take a look at these jalapeno poppers, this quiche, this jalapeno popper stuffed chicken or jalapeno popper dip. See what I mean? I’m in love with the flavors!

I hope you give these hamburgers a try this weekend. They will bring the heat but you can easily cool yourself off with this delicious lemonade!

xoxo Mel 

Four Cheese & Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

I happen to love Macaroni & Cheese. I learned to love it at an early age because my mom used to make me some kick ass macaroni and cheese when I was growing up. I never imagined that I would be making the same macaroni and cheese years later, all on my own with my mom’s recipe. Even when I started making the macaroni with cheese I always thought I would have to call my mom to help me through the process.

Nope.

Now I just throw all of the ingredients together and voila I’ve got a delicious dish! I’ve been adding and adapting the recipe along the way to make it perfect for me {of course} and I think I finally did it.

Oh, yes, I have FINALLY DID IT. I think I make the most delicious, perfectly creamy and super cheesiest version of macaroni and cheese. I can die happily now…

Well, actually, I would like some time to make a few more pots of this macaroni and cheese first.

::Warning:: This is not the healthiest recipe I have ever made. However, take a look at this Four Cheese & Bacon Macaroni and Cheese. Try not to drool.

Nutritional Information
Servings: about 25
Serving Size: about ¾ cup
Calories: 260.2
Fat: 16.2 g
Carbohydrates: 16.8 g
Fiber: .8 g
Protein: 13.3 g
Points+: 7

Ingredients:

1 cup pepper jack cheese, cubed

2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, cubed

1 cup white American cheese, cubed

½ cup fat free cream cheese, room temperature

1-cup skim milk

1-cup heavy cream

2 cans cheddar cheese soup

1-box pasta shells

4 slices bacon, cooked extra crispy

1-tablespoon pepper

1-tablespoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

Boil Pasta according to box, drain and set aside

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, add the 2 cans cheddar cheese soup, milk and heavy cream

Whisk together until the mixture is completely incorporated and beginning to bubble slightly

Add the pepper, red pepper flakes, the pepper jack, cheddar, American and cream cheeses to the mixture

Mix until the cheese has fully melted and the mixture is now a nice creamy and thick mixture

Now at this point you have 2 options: First you can pour the pasta and cheese mixture into a crock pot and allow to cook on low for 2 hours OR you can combine the cheese sauce and pasta together in a large stock pot.

Either way, add the crumbled bacon to the mixture right before you are ready to eat

ENJOY!

This makes a TON of pasta. Seriously, you could feed 15 people with this recipe so be prepared. I NEVER make just a little bit of macaroni and cheese so Nick and I have been eating it all week so far. It will likely last until Friday and I’m perfectly okay with that. If you want to cut the recipe in half, just reduce each of the ingredients by half. It’s that simple!

Enjoy!

xoxo Mel 

Cookbook Winner: CONGRATULATIONS

CONGRATULATIONS Shany Conroy! You are the winner!! 




Please email me within 48 hours to claim your prize. Include your home address!! {cooking.with.mel.p@gmail.com}

 

xoxo Mel 

Summer Fruit, Feta & Candied Pecan Salad

So I just finished a bowl of macaroni & cheese and a cup of diet coke. I think it all equals out… I think. You will see the recipe for this macaroni & cheese later this week, be prepared. Arguably, I think it is the best mac ‘n’ cheese I have made to date. *Gasp*

It is that good.

I started writing a blog post earlier and was sidetracked. My alternate path led to this blog post on Because Life is Complicated Enough… go read it!

Anyway, after being a glutton with my macaroni & cheese I thought it important to talk about a really healthy salad for these warm summer days.
See, I’m giving you very, very healthy meals so you can save your calories this week. Believe me after I share this macaroni & cheese recipe you will start saving your calories just so you can eat as much as you want.

Really, it is THAT good.

Okay, okay. I won’t mention it again… at least not in this post. Let’s get down to my salad, which just came to me one day. Take a look at this Summer Fruit, Feta & Candied Pecan Salad.

Oh man, it’s so drool worthy.

Nutritional Information:
Servings: about 8
Serving Size: about 1 ½ cup
Calories: 95
Fat: 5.2 g
Carbohydrates: 9.5 g
Fiber: 1.3 g
Protein: 3.8 g
Points+: 3

Ingredients:

18 candied pecans, chopped

2 bags of salad mix {choose your favorite}

½ cup feta, crumbled

¼ cup Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 pear, chopped

1 peach, chopped

1 plum, chopped

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients together and ENJOY!

This recipe is super easy and perfect for any summer evening. It’s been very hot here lately and this comes together in minutes and doesn’t require any heat in the kitchen.
Enjoy!

xoxo Mel

Stuffed Feta & Spinach Sliders

Have you all heard about the Pennsylvania State University {PSU} scandal? I guess you would have had to be living under a rock since November to miss it. I grew up in Central Pennsylvania; I was born and raised there. State College {home to PSU} is right down the street from me. Many of my friends were and still are die-hard Penn Staters.

I never was.

I do not know why I chose to rebel against PSU. I grew up obsessed with Notre Dame. When I was in department stores I would make a beeline toward the Notre Dame apparel; I mean, who doesn’t like a warm college sweatshirt in the fall? I had to navigate all around the PSU gear.

Though I have never been a fan of Penn State I never harbored any resentment or hate for the school. And while I never was attached to the school I do have some serious opinions and analysis of this scandal that has unfolded for the past 6 or 7 months.

I will not express those opinions on this section of my website because I think it may garner a response that will be ugly. However, I will say this: we must remember that innocent children were harmed, assaulted and victimized at the hands of an adult. As a society it is our duty to protect and nurture children. Those actions {and inactions} that led directly to the abuse should be punished. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the lawful thing to do. It’s the moral thing to do.

If anybody can say otherwise needs a reality check.

Now football season is officially on the path to game-day. I mean the Steelers reported to camp this week, right? One of the best things about the fall is all of the delicious tailgates associated with football. I have a FANTASTIC recipe for your first tailgate… OR for your next cookout. Take a look at these Stuffed Feta & Spinach Sliders!

Nutritional Information:
Servings: 8
Serving Size: 1 hamburger + 1 Slider Bun
Calories: 255
Fat: 10.1 g
Carbohydrates: 18.5 g
Fiber: 1 g
Protein: 20.5 g
Points+: 6

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef

½ cup feta

½ to 1 cup chopped spinach

1 teaspoon lemon juice

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Make 16 small round beef patties

In a medium bowl mix together feta, spinach, lemon juice, salt and pepper

Take about half a tablespoon of the mixture and put it in the middle of 8 of the hamburger patties

Top each of the stuffed patties with the other patty

Seal the edges completely so the mixture is secure and will not ooze out while grilling

Grill until the beef is fully cooked and the cheese is nice and melted

Grill a hamburger slider bun, top with some extra spinach, tomato and mustard!

ENJOY!

I hope you give these a try. They are delicious!

xoxo Mel