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Cassie Craves

eating my way through life, one craving at a time

Updated: 2018-03-08T00:47:37.089-05:00


Spicy Chicken Peanut Noodles with Cucumber Sambal


Okay, I know this probably looks kind of weird. It's not often that you see hot noodles and chicken paired with a cold salad. It probably sounds even weirder than it looks. And I know you're thinking that the ingredient list seems really long. But basically, you're just gonna have to trust me on this one. Have I ever steered you wrong before?My kids are huge fans of both peanut butter noodles and cucumbers, so when I spotted this recipe I immediately had them in mind. Not surprisingly, they absolutely loved this meal, and so did Joe and I. There's something about the silkiness of the noodles paired with the cool, refreshing salad and crunchy peanuts that is just amazing. All of the ingredients work together in perfect balance. We loved, loved, loved this meal. Spicy Chicken Peanut Noodles with Cucumber Sambalslightly adapted from Tasty Kitchen4 boneless skinless chicken breasts8 ounces dry spaghetti1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnishFor the marinade:1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce1 tablespoon sweet red chili sauce 1 tablespoon brown sugar1 tablespoon peanut oil1/2 teaspoon salt For the peanut sauce:1/2 cup chicken broth1/4 cup creamy peanut butter2 tablespoons  brown sugar2 tablespoons rice vinegar2 tablespoons fresh lime juice2 tablespoons sweet red chili sauce1 tablespoon soy sauce1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or minced For the cucumber sambal:1 cup cucumber, seeded and diced1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced3 tablespoons rice vinegar1 tablespoon sugar1/2 tablespoon salt 1. Preheat grill to medium-high. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti. 2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Toss with chicken and grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove chicken from grill (or grill pan), and tent with foil while preparing the other ingredients.3. Prepare the cucumber sambal by tossing together the sambal ingredients. Set aside till serving. 4. Cook the pasta according to the package; drain and return to the pot. Meanwhile, prepare peanut sauce. Heat broth, peanut butter, brown sugar, vinegar, lime juice, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, and ginger in a saucepan over medium heat to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in salt, then pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat. 5. Top each serving of pasta with a chicken breast and cucumber sambal. Garnish with peanuts.[...]

BBQ Cheddar Meatloaf Muffins


My kids love BBQ anything. BBQ chips, BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs...I could probably pour BBQ sauce over ice cream and they'd eat it. This is so different from the way I was when I was a kid that it makes me laugh. I was completely indifferent to BBQ sauce until my pregnancy with Will. Now, though, I'm with them: I love BBQ anything.

Another thing we all love is meatloaf (aka sauce cake), so it was only a matter of time before I combined those two loves. And thus, these BBQ cheddar meatloaf muffins were born. Let me tell you, it was love at first bite for all of us.

What makes these extra-delicious are the crushed French-fried onions I stir into the meat mixture. They give the meat such an incredible flavor. With only a handful of ingredients, these couldn't be simpler to prepare -- and they are so incredibly tasty. 

I served the meatloaf muffins with corn and coleslaw. The next day, I put a couple of the leftover muffins and some of the leftover coleslaw on a bun to make the most delicious sandwich in the entire universe. I'm giving myself a fist bump for that.

BBQ Cheddar Meatloaf Muffins

1 pound lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups freshly-shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 small can French-fried onions
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, divided
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. Using a food processor or blender, pulse the French-fried onions until finely crushed.

2. Combine beef, 1 cup cheese, the crushed French-fried onions, 1/4 cup BBQ sauce, egg, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Divide into 12 equal portions and place in the prepared muffin tin. Brush remaining 1/4 cup BBQ sauce over each portion. 

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly over each portion. Cook for 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

May Recipe Re-Make Recap


It's June, you guys! JUNE! After that hideous winter we had it's been difficult for me to accept that warm weather is here to say (at least for the next few months), but now it's JUNE and there's no denying it. It's summer! Let's all breathe a collective sigh of relief....Ahhhhh. May was definitely the busiest month we've had so far this year, and that's really saying a lot. Will finished up his soccer season with a total of four goals scored, and is already asking when fall season is going to start. Andrew is deep into his tee-ball season with Joe coaching. He's barely batting from the tee at all anymore, and is making great progress at hitting. He turned six (!!!!) on May 10th and graduated from kindergarten last Friday. It's hard for me to believe that I'm the mother of an almost-first-grader!We've been working on a lot of outside projects -- putting up our pool (and filling it up -- ugh, I'm already fretting about that water bill!), planting our garden, and building a new and improved fire pit. I'm more excited about summer than I've ever been before, thinking about all the fun we're going to have and all the fresh food we're (hopefully!) going to eat. Even as busy as we've been, I managed to cook quite a few meals. Many of our favorites made reappearances this month, including a few recipes I hadn't made for literally years. These grilled chicken Caesar flatbreads are definitely a favorite around here. The chicken is so flavorful and succulent, and I just can't think of much better than eating a portable Caesar salad. ALDI sells naan now for a great price, so I picked some up to use for the flatbreads. I will probably always use naan for these now.Over the winter, when I was pining for warm weather and grilled foods, this grilled pesto chicken with tomato cream penne was the meal I was most looking forward to. It didn't disappoint. It never does.Shrimp po boys are a favorite around here, with kids and adults alike. I should actually start doubling the amount of shrimp, since we're all guilty of snacking on them while I'm frying the batches. I think this is one of the best sandwiches there is.I hadn't made this vegetable lasagna for a few years. When one of my co-workers and his wife had a baby recently, I knew this was the perfect thing to make for them. I made two: one for them, and one for us. It was just as hearty and delicious as I remembered. Unattractive photo aside, you really must try this. It's a delicious meatless entree, and loaded with good-for-you veggies.I also made the new parents a batch of vanilla pudding chocolate chip cookies, because what's more soul-soothing than a batch of cookies when you're dealing with new parenthood? (Or any type of parenthood, for that matter.) This is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Lately, I've been adding 1 cup of dark chocolate chips to the batter, too.I made a batch of creamy stovetop macaroni and cheese to go with steamed broccoli and homemade chicken nuggets, because sometimes it's just fun to eat like a kid. I love this recipe; it's so simple, and the macaroni is perfectly creamy and cheesy.When life hands you rotten bananas, everyone knows you make banana bread. I modified my favorite recipe into muffins this time (they cooked for about 25 minutes). These were a delicious breakfast for us -- while they lasted!This Crock pot pork roast with potatoes and carrots was a perfect meal for one of our especially busy nights this month. I got a new, larger Crock pot for Christmas, so I was delighted that I could fit even more potatoes and carrots in (that's my favorite part of this meal; I mash them with butter and salt, and they are amazing).I reserved half of the pork roast to use for these pulled pork pita pizzas. This was a delicious 10-minute dinner, equally suited for another busy night!This rosemary ranch chicken is hands-down my favorite grilled chicken recipe. The flavor is so amazing, and the marinade makes the chicken incredibly tender. Every time we make it, we're wowed all over again by[...]

Recipe Rewind: Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Onions


Memorial Day cook-outs are all about The Meat. We know this. BBQ chicken, brats, burgers, hot dogs...We load the grill up with all of it, and we go for it

But may I suggest that, this year, you leave a tiny bit of space open for some bell peppers and onions, and make this pasta dish to go alongside all of The Meat? I promise you won't be sorry.

I first made this pasta years ago, and it was long overdue for a reappearance here. This is one dish that's every bit as delicious as it is gorgeous. It's hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main dish, but it's also a perfect side dish. The flavor of the grilled peppers and onions, especially in combination with the basil, is just fantastic. 

This is perfect summer food: It's healthy, simple, and oh-so-satisfying.

Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Onions
from Real Simple
2 medium red onions, sliced into rings
2 large sweet bell peppers, cut into quarters
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
12 ounces (4 to 5 cups) rigatoni
1 bunch spinach, stems trimmed, or one 5-ounce package
1 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) grated Parmesan
3/4 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. In a large bowl, toss the onions, bell peppers, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return the pasta to the pot. Add the grilled vegetables, spinach, the reserved pasta water, and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan to the pasta and toss to combine. Top with the basil and the remaining Parmesan before serving.

Chicken Parmesan Ravioli


It's just a fact that some of the best meals I make are afterthoughts -- things that I throw together only with ingredients I happen to have on hand. Inevitably, those meals are uncomplicated and prepared with straightforward ingredients, and my family always loves them. This chicken parmesan ravioli is a perfect example of that type of meal. I had a bunch of random ingredients on hand that I'd purchased for a dish I never got around to making -- so I made this with them instead. Breaded chicken nuggets, cheese ravioli, tomato sauce, and some chunks of fresh mozzarella and chopped basil tossed in at the end...I think I liked this version better than classic chicken parm, and judging by the way my family inhaled it, I don't think they had any complaints either.Chicken Parmesan Ravioli1 pound chicken tenders, cut into chunks1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs1/2 cup flour 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese1 egg, beatenVegetable or canola oil for frying1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce1 package frozen cheese ravioli8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonadeShredded parmesan cheese1. Place the breadcrumbs, flour, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese in a plastic freezer bag. Dip the chicken chunks in egg, then add to the bag and shake to evenly coat. 2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Fry the chicken in batches until crisp and cooked through. Remove to a baking sheet and place in a warm oven while you prepare the rest of the meal.3. Meanwhile, heat the spaghetti sauce over gentle heat in a medium pot. Cook the ravioli according to package directions; drain.4. Return the ravioli to the hot pot. Add the heated sauce, the reserved chicken pieces, the chopped mozzarella, and most of the basil. Stir gently to combine.5. Sprinkle each serving with additional basil and parmesan cheese. [...]

Sriracha Beef Tacos


As much as I love to cook, I frankly just don't have the time or the energy lately to make dinners that take a lot of time. The Cassie of Spring 2014 is giving the side eye to the Cassie of Fall 2013 (the girl who made chicken noodle soup completely from scratch and bolognese sauce for days) and wondering just who the heck that girl was, and how the heck she had that much time. Cassie of Spring 2014's days are filled with work deadlines and soccer games and tee-ball games and a multitude of social activities that I am committed to, whether I like them or not. So dinner's gotta be easy. And fast.

These tacos take about 15 minutes to make, start to finish, so they fit into my current food philosophy perfectly. They're just ground beef tacos, yes, but they're taken to a completely new level with the addition of sriracha (one of the world's best ingredients, in my opinion). The sriracha is spicy, but ranch dressing and avocado provide just the right amount of cool creaminess to take the edge off. They're fabulous and simple, and a fun and delicious take on taco night.

Sriracha Beef Tacos
adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking and originally from Sweet Beginnings 

1 pound ground sirloin
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion , finely chopped
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons sriracha, divided

1/2 cup ranch dressing
8-10 flour tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese

Chopped tomatoes
Shredded lettuce
Sliced avocado 

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions and cook for 1-2 minutes, until softened. Add sirloin, stir to combine, and cook until browned. Add water, chili powder, cumin and 1 tablespoon sriracha to the meat mixture. Stir, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

2. While taco mixture finishes cooking, combine ranch dressing and remaining 1 tablespoon sriracha in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Warm flour tortillas; spoon taco mixture into tortillas and top with cheese, tomato, lettuce, avocado, and sriracha ranch sauce.

Bagel BLTs


Can we all agree that it's pretty hard to improve upon a BLT? I mean, it's a classic for a reason, am I right? That being said -- I still find it fun to make new and different versions. So when I saw a bagel BLT in a recent issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray, I had one of those immediate I need that nowwww!! moments. I think we had these for dinner the very next night. 

Let me tell you guys, this is an absolutely delicious take on the BLT. Garden veggie cream cheese is one of my favorite food items in the world (I've been known to spread it on Ritz crackers and call that dinner), and it works so well on this sandwich -- with the bacon, in particular. Something about the creamy cheese and the crisp, salty bacon is just absolutely perfect. 

And, with only 5 ingredients and 15 minutes of cook time? I. am. smitten.

Bagel BLTs
adapted from Rachael Ray

12 slices bacon
4 bagels, split and toasted
Garden vegetable cream cheese 
8 lettuce leaves
4 slices tomato

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the bacon on a broiler pan; bake until crisp, 15 minutes.

2. Slather each side of the bagels with a thin layer of the cream cheese. Top each bagel bottom with three slices bacon, two lettuce leaves, and a slice of tomato. Season with salt and pepper and add the bagel tops.

Grilled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Brown Sugar Grilled Onions


If there is one thing that our incredibly long winter did to me (aside from making me curse a lot more than usual and start dreaming about moving to a warmer place), it made me pine for grilled foods of all kinds. Pretty much the second that the weather finally turned warm for good, Joe replaced the grill's propane tank, and we started cooking outside more often than not. We have been grilling All The Things, and these sandwiches are one of our recent favorites.I had a craving for BBQ chicken sandwiches with pickles, and then I thought, why not add some onions to those sandwiches? And why not coat those with brown sugar and grill those, too? And why not add tons of cheese and, also, why not butter the buns and grill those as well? Sometimes I love the way my mind works. Grilled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Brown Sugar Grilled Onions4 chicken breasts1 cup Italian dressing1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauceJuice of 1 orange2 teaspoons chili powderBBQ sauce1 large sweet Vidalia onion, sliced into thick rings2 tablespoons olive oil2 tablespoons brown sugar1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper1 cup shredded cheddar cheese4 sandwich bunsButterSliced picklesMayonnaise1. In a large food storage bag, combine the dressing, Worcestershire, orange juice, and chili powder. Add the chicken, close the bag, and toss to combine. Marinate for 1 hour, up to overnight.2. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Toss together the onion rings, olive oil, brown sugar, and salt and pepper in a bowl.3. Add the chicken and the onions to the grill. Cook until the onions are tender and charred and the chicken is cooked through. Brush both sides of the chicken generously with BBQ sauce.4. Top each of the chicken breasts with a pile of the onions. Add 1/4 cup cheese to each breast. Close the grill and let the cheese melt.5. Butter the buns and add them to the grill, cooking until crisp and fragrant. Serve each chicken breast on a bun with pickles and mayonnaise. [...]

Restaurant-Style Salsa and Queso Blanco Dip


Monday is cinco de Mayo, and there is one thing I know for sure: I am going to be ready for a margarita at the end of it. Bright and early Monday morning, I'm chaperoning Andrew's kindergarten class field trip to the local science center. I'm sure it will be fun, and also that it will be stressful. I will definitely be ready for a siesta instead of a fiesta by the end of the day.When I was looking through my saved Mexican recipes (and there are a lot of them!), searching for something to share to celebrate this fun holiday, it didn't take me long to settle on these two. This is the best restaurant-style salsa I've ever tried, and this is the best queso dip I've ever made. And I firmly believe that they are both required elements of any good Mexican spread.The salsa is spicy, with awesome tomato flavor and the perfect texture and consistency. The queso is...Well, there are just no words to describe the queso, really. It's incredible. I'm telling you, you're going to love both of these recipes -- especially if you eat them together over tortilla chips. Mmm.Restaurant-Style Salsafrom The Pioneer Woman Two 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chilesOne 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves 1/4 cup chopped onion 1 clove garlic, minced 1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced thin, with seeds and membrane 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon sugar 1 lime, juiced1. Combine the diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, cilantro, onions, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, salt, sugar and lime juice in a blender or food processor. 2. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you like, about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed. 3. Refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour before serving. Queso Blanco Dipfrom Seeded at the Table 1 1/4 (1.25) pound block white American cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes1/4 cup diced green chiles, from a can2 pickled jalapenos, chopped1 ounce pickled jalapeno juice2/3 cup whole milk1/2 cup cold water 1. Toss all ingredients into a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 5-7 minutes, stopping to stir after every minute. The mixture might seem watery during the first few stirs, but should come together as a nice runny dip after all the cheese is melted. 2. Serve immediately as a dip with tortilla chips.    [...]

Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sliders


Oh hi. Remember me? It's been a while, huh? Just to catch you up, here's some of what I've been up to in the month-and-a-half since I was last here:1. Taking Will back and forth to soccer practice and soccer games.2. Taking care of the secretarial duties that come with being a tee-ball coach (Joe is coaching Andrew's tee-ball team this year).3. Surviving the end of another tax season at work.4. Reading A Game of Thrones. (OMG so good!)5. Watching Game of Thrones.6. Working on landscaping projects and getting ready to install our pool (!!!) and plant our garden (!!!).  7. Making delicious food and generally being too busy (and too selfish with the free time I do have) to share it with you. Shame on me!One of the delicious foods I've been making are these buffalo ranch chicken sliders, which I have made no less than three times in the last month. Joe and I are both kind of obsessed with them, and can you really blame us? These were inspired by the parmesan ranch buffalo wings Joe made for pretty much every televised sporting event after my lovely bonus mom got me a deep-fryer for Christmas. I've never been a huge fan of wings; I mean, I'll eat them and enjoy them, but I definitely prefer boneless chicken. Wings seem like a lot of work and a lot of mess for not that much meat. So I took Joe's wing recipe, modified it slightly, and came up with these sliders. They're a winner on all levels, and our whole family loves them (I just leave the buffalo sauce off of Andrew's and Will's sliders to make them kid-friendly). We could eat these once a week -- and basically have for the last month. And we probably will have them once a week for all the months to come, forever.Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sliders6 chicken tenders, cut in half width-wise1 cup buttermilk2 packages ranch dressing mix, divided1/4 teaspoon black pepper1 egg1 cup flour1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs 1/2 cup Frank's red hot2 tablespoons butter Vegetable oil for frying3 slices cheddar cheese, cut into 4 squares per slice12 slider buns1 avocado, halved, pitted, and slicedPrepared ranch dressing 1. Stir together the buttermilk, 1 packet of ranch dressing mix, and black pepper in a bowl. Add the chicken and toss to combine. Cover and let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes, up to 2 hours. 2. After the chicken has marinated, scramble the egg in a small dish and add to the buttermilk mixture with the chicken. Toss to combine. 3. Whisk together the flour, panko and remaining packet of ranch dressing mix. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess.4. Heat oil in a deep-fryer or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in batches and cook until browned and crispy, then remove to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. 5. Meanwhile, while the chicken is frying, in a small saucepan, heat the hot sauce and butter over low heat.6. After the chicken is fried, use a brush to spread the hot sauce mixture over each piece. Add a square of cheddar cheese to each piece of chicken. Serve on slider buns with slices of avocado and ranch dressing.[...]

Chicken and Spinach Tacos with Creamy White Bean Mash


Since I'm the one who does the grocery shopping and cooking for my family, I'm the one who plans our meals. As a result, I'm the one who usually chooses what we eat. Every once in a while the guys in my life will make a request (Will's is always spaghetti, Andrew's is always pork and asparagus stir fry, and Joe's is always bacon cheeseburger meatloaf), but for the most part, I make the choices.My choices aren't always met with complete agreement, either. When I told Joe about this particular meal, he definitely gave me the side-eye. The boys looked at it skeptically when they saw their plates, too. But, happily, all three of them loved these tacos once they took their first bite. That's usually the case. You'd think by now they'd have a little more trust in me!When it comes to mashing, I see no reason why black beans should have all the fun. White beans, with their naturally creamy texture, are perfect for making a mash that is flavorful, velvety, and delicious. With the protein in the beans, the lean chicken, and vitamin-rich spinach, this meal is healthy as well as delicious. These tacos are a tasty and very quick light meal!Chicken and Spinach Tacos with Creamy White Bean Mashinspired by Cooking Light1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained1 small onion, finely diced2 cloves garlic, mincedSalt and pepper to taste2 tablespoons sour creamJuice of 1 lime 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch pieces3 cups baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons 3 tablespoons taco seasoning2/3 cup waterWarmed flour tortillasCrumbled queso fresco cheeseSalsa 1. Heat some vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent. Add garlic and salt and pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Using a potato masher, mash the beans. Stir in the sour cream and heat through. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.2. Heat some vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook until browned and cooked through. Add the spinach, taco seasoning, and water and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer while the spinach wilts. 3. To serve, spread some of the white bean mash on the bottom of a flour tortilla. Top with the chicken mixture, queso fresco, and salsa, if desired. [...]

Tater Tot Omelet Cups


I struggle with breakfast.I mean, not with eating breakfast. I love to eat breakfast foods at all hours of the day. The part that I struggle with is the making of breakfast. It's definitely not going to happen when I first wake up, because mornings are another thing that I struggle with. As much as I want to be a morning person...the siren song of my warm bed and snooze button win every time. Nearly 31 years, and this is still a work in progress for me. At this point I don't know if I'll ever be able to change my ways.So if I want my family to eat a breakfast that doesn't come from a carton of some type, I have to plan ahead. I've been doing some batch breakfast-sandwich-making on the weekends, and I love having those on hand in the freezer. I love having this recipe for tater tot omelet cups in my cooking arsenal, too, because they also freeze really well and are absolutely delicious. They're an omelet you can eat with your hands -- what's not to love about that? These are also customizable in lots of different ways; our favorite way is with bacon, green peppers, green onions, and cheddar cheese. But I could also get behind using sausage, ham, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, even broccoli...pretty much anything. They're hearty, simple, convenient, adaptable and delicious -- perfect for a mama like me who just can't get going most mornings. :)Tater Tot Omelet Cupsadapted from Ella Claire Inspired 36 frozen tater tots8 eggs1/4 cup milkDash of hot sauce 1/2 pound bacon, chopped and cooked until crisp1 green bell pepper, finely chopped2 green onions, thinly slicedSalt and pepper to taste 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray (really, really well). Cook the tater tots in the microwave for 2 minutes on high heat to thaw.2. Press 3 tater tots into the bottom of each muffin tin, using the bottom of a small glass (a shot glass works well for this). Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.3. While the tater tots are baking, whisk together the eggs, milk, and hot sauce. Add the bacon, green peppers, green onions, and salt and pepper to taste.4. When the tater tots have baked, remove them from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Pour equal portions of the egg mixture into each cup and top each cup with 1 tablespoon of cheese. 5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until eggs are set. Gently run a butter knife around the edge of each muffin cup and use a fork to pop them out of the cups. [...]

Linguine with Crispy Chicken, Roasted Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onion Cream Sauce


I can't believe it's been almost three weeks since the last time I posted! I guess I've been keeping myself busy in other ways, like playing 1 million games of Hungry Hungry Hippos, cursing the snow that just won't stop, and praying for spring to arrive sooner rather than later. Yes, all of those things are directly related to being cooped up in the house for too long. This winter has sapped my energy for everything; I can count on two hands the times I actually cooked dinner during the entire month of February. It's desperate times around here, folks. Spring needs to get here STAT.But finally, I found a recipe to pull me out of my blogging funk -- one that I just had to share with you right away. This was our dinner on Saturday night, and I'm already looking forward to making it again. And again...and again...and again. This pasta dish is so fantastic. Basically, you boil some pasta and you roast some tomatoes. You bread some chicken in panko and fry it. You caramelize some onions and toss them with some cream. Then you stir it all together and devour it. Oh yeah.This pasta has it all. The sweetness of the onions, apple juice and cream are balanced out by black pepper to make a luxurious, velvety sauce. The soft, bursting roasted tomatoes are counterbalanced by the crispy nuggets of chicken. It does use a few pans, but it's more than worth it. It's so perfect that, when we sat down to dinner last night, Will was near tears because he wanted to eat this pasta for dinner for a second night in a row. And these days Will doesn't really want to eat anything, so this was a huge development. If my picky four-year-old loves it, then it will probably taste transcendent to you.Linguine with Crispy Chicken, Roasted Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onion Cream Sauceheavily adapted from Everyday ReadingFor the pasta:8 ounces linguineParmesan cheeseFor the roasted tomatoes:1 pint cherry tomatoes1 tablespoon olive oilSalt and pepper to taste For the chicken:1 large chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks1 egg, beaten1 cup panko breadcrumbs1/2 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs1 teaspoon Italian seasoning1/2 teaspoon garlic powder1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepperVegetable oil for fryingFor the sauce:1 large onion, thinly sliced2 tablespoons butter1 tablespoon olive oil3 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 cup apple juice1 cup heavy creamSalt and pepper to taste1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Cook for 20 minutes or until browned and bursting. 2. Meanwhile, add the beaten egg to a large bowl. Mix together the panko, Italian breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt and pepper in a separate bowl. Heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan (enough to shallow-fry the chicken). Dip the chicken pieces in the egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture. Fry in batches until golden and crispy; remove to a paper-towel-lined plate and sprinkle with coarse salt.3. Meanwhile, melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are fragrant and caramelized.  4. While the onions are caramelizing, cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions; drain. 5. Add the garlic to the caramelized onions; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Raise heat to medium-high and stir in the apple juice, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to pick up any browned bits. Let the apple juice reduce slightly, then stir in the cream. Reduce heat back to medium-low and heat gently until thickened; taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.6. Gently stir together the reserved tomatoes, cris[...]

BBQ Cheddar Chicken Meatball BLT Sliders


I feel like you guys are probably kind of worried about me at this point. Like, I know you're whispering amongst yourselves over there in the corner. "Does she really eat that much bacon? Does she make anything that doesn't have bacon in it? It might be time to schedule a bacon intervention. A baconvention."  And honestly, I understand where you're coming from. I really do. I do share lots of recipes that include bacon. But I feel that it's important that I also tell you that I make plenty of meals that don't involve bacon. Granted, most of the meals that don't involve bacon leaving me thinking how much better they'd be with bacon, but still. And I promise, one of these days I'll share a non-bacon-centric recipe.But today is not that day.We're talking BBQ chicken meatball BLT sliders today, and they definitely include glorious, glorious bacon. They also include other yummy ingredients, like BBQ sauce and cheddar cheese, but mostly bacon. They're like the most kicked-up version of a BLT you've ever had, and they are amazing. They're super quick, super flavorful, and super delicious. And super BACON-Y. Life is good.BBQ Cheddar Chicken Meatball BLT Slidersadapted from Inside BruCrew Life 1 pound bacon1 pound ground chicken1 cup shredded cheddar cheese1/2 cup breadcrumbs1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper2 cloves minced garlic1 egg1/2 cup BBQ sauceSliced Roma tomatoesShredded lettuceMayonnaise 12 slider buns1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove to paper towels to drain. Crumble 4 strips of bacon or chop it finely. Reserve the remaining 12 strips for the sandwiches.2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the chopped bacon, the chicken, cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, garlic and egg.3. Shape the mixture into 24 meatballs. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.4. Coat the cooked meatballs in the BBQ sauce. Assemble each sandwich with 2 meatballs, 1 slice of bacon (broken in half), a slice of tomato, and some lettuce. Smear the slider buns with mayonnaise and serve.[...]

Conversation Heart Rice Krispie Treats


I used to pride myself on being the mom who always made something homemade, adorable, festive, and time-consuming for my children's various daycare/preschool celebrations. But now? While I still try for adorable and festive, the time-consuming part (and sometimes the homemade part, too) has gone somewhat out the window. Now I'm mostly the mom who scrambles to make something at the last minute. With Andrew in kindergarten now, there is always something to do/make/buy/remember. I know all you other mamas understand where I'm coming from.So, when it comes to Valentine's Day this year, I'm buying a box of SpongeBob or Angry Birds or Mario Brothers cards. And when it comes to Valentine's Day snacks, I'm standing behind these Rice Krispie treats 100%. Who doesn't love a Rice Krispie treat? And this version is adorable and festive, and semi-homemade too! Last Minute Mamas of the world unite!Conversation Heart Rice Krispie Treatsfrom Frugal Coupon Living4 tablespoons butter6 cups Rice Krispies cereal10 ounces marshmallowsRed food coloring2 cups mini marshmallows1 cup conversation hearts1. In a medium to large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add the large marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Stir in enough food coloring to make the marshmallows pink. Remove from heat.2. Add Rice Krispies cereal and mini marshmallows. Stir until cereal is well combined.3. Prepare a cookie sheet with sides by spraying with cooking spray or coating with butter. Butter a spoon or your hands or use wax paper to press the mixture into the pan evenly.4. Press conversation hearts evenly around the mixture. Cool completely and cut into squares or heart shapes. [...]

Risotto with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Spinach


I often marvel at how differently my kids eat from how my brother and I ate growing up. Don't get me wrong, my mom was an amazing cook -- but we ate a lot of the old-school standards: meatloaf with "scalloped" potatoes, lasagna, shredded chicken sandwiches, hamburger hash...that kind of thing. And while all of those things definitely make an appearance on my menu, I also make a much wider variety of foods for my kids. I don't think I tried Mexican food until I started dating Joe (not even Taco Bell -- really!), and I know that I never tried risotto until I made it myself for the first time, well into my 20s. As an adult, risotto has become one of my great food loves. I love the whole process of cooking it, how adaptable it is, and how so few ingredients can come together to make something that tastes so amazingly flavorful. Risotto has it all: texture, flavor, epic deliciousness, you name it. And this recipe right here is one of the best versions I've found. This version is loaded with bacon, caramelized onions (cooked in the bacon drippings), and spinach. It's hearty and flavorful and restaurant-quality. It was a huge hit in my house, and I already can't wait to make it again.Risotto with Bacon, Caramelized Onions, and Spinachadapted from A Taste of Home Cooking1/2 pound bacon, chopped2 tablespoons butter1 large onion, sliced into thin ringsSalt and pepper to taste1 tablespoon olive oil 3 cloves garlic, minced1 1/4 cups arborio rice1/4 cup dry white wine6 cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed1 6-ounce bag baby spinach, chopped1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1. Add the bacon to a large pan over medium heat. Cook until crisp and remove to a paper towel to drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the baking drippings in the pot; discard any excess. 2. Add the butter to the bacon drippings, then stir in the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the onions often so they brown slowly, and let cook for at least 30 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the onions from burning. Like my friend Sarah, I added a bit of water to the pan as needed to keep the onions from burning, which also helped to pick up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Remove the onions from the pan and allow to cool before chopping into small pieces. 3. Add the olive oil to the pan. Add the garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir until it is absorbed.4. Start adding the chicken broth one ladle-full at a time, letting it fully absorb before adding more. This process takes anywhere from 17-25 minutes. 5. Before you add the final ladle of broth, add the caramelized onions, spinach, and half of the bacon. Taste the rice to make sure it's cooked through. Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese. Top each serving with some of the reserved bacon. [...]

December and January Re-Make Recap


I can't remember the last time I was this excited for February to be here. Usually, a winter month is a winter month to me, and I don't really distinguish too much between them. But this year? The fact that it's February means that it will be April in two months. And in April, I'm hoping that it will at last be NOT SNOWY. I'm really excited for it to be not snowy.I'm combining December's and January's recaps in one post this time, since I posted my 2013 favorites at the end of last year and missed December's recap. I just couldn't skip highlighting December's recipes! So the recap this time is absolutely loaded with good stuff that you should rush out and make ASAP. My family loves it when I make two-packet pork chops and ranch-roasted potatoes. This pork chop recipe has become my absolute favorite. I've been using mushroom gravy mix instead of onion soup mix and making a heavier breading to give them a golden crust, and they really do come out perfectly. They're flavorful and crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. And speaking of flavorful -- the ranch seasoning mix makes the roasted potatoes taste so awesome. These foil-baked chicken parmesan sandwiches are a great make-ahead meal. I fried up the chicken cutlets and assembled the sandwiches the night before, then just popped them in the oven after I got home from work for a simple and delicious dinner. I skipped the basil this time, and I really missed it, so definitely add the basil if you have some on hand.I made bacon cheeseburger meatloaf and ranch macaroni and cheese on a night that my father-in-law came over for dinner. It so happened that I wasn't aware he was coming for dinner until I got home from work (thanks, Joe), so I was happy that I had something so hearty planned to make. We all love this meatloaf and this mac and cheese. I think the ranch mac and cheese is the perfect, creamy compliment to the intense flavor of the meatloaf. This smothered chicken recipe has really withstood the test of time in our house. I've been making it for years now, and it's something that Joe and I both still crave. Lately he's been eating it on a hoagie roll with a smear of mayonnaise, but I still like it straight-up: just a big pile of cheesy chicken and vegetables. Mmm.I know I keep hitting you guys over the head with this sweet and spicy pork and asparagus stir fry, but that's because it's just so good. My whole family loves this, and it's the perfect weeknight meal since it's so quick-cooking.I made these dark chocolate cupcakes with coffee buttercream in layer cake form for my mother-in-law's birthday at the end of December. This frosting is just as delicious as I remembered. My mother-in-law claimed this as "her cake" going forward, which I guess shows how much she loved it!I made Joe's favorite meatloaf in December -- the bacon cheeseburger meatloaf -- so I had to make my favorite meatloaf in January. I mostly love this smoky meatloaf for the leftovers; on bread spread with mayonnaise and a slice of Swiss cheese, it makes the best meatloaf sandwiches in the world.Bacon fried rice has become a staple in our home. Sometimes I make it with the honey-teriyaki chicken from the original post; sometimes I leave the chicken and scrambled eggs out and top each serving with over-easy eggs; and this time, I just chopped and sauteed some chicken breasts and mixed them up with the rice. I added corn and left out the bean sprouts this time. I love everything about this recipe: how simple it is, how adaptable it is, how freaking delicious it is.This creamy butternut squash soup is one of my favorite soups -- if not my absolute favorite. I'm [...]

Citrus Chicken Burritos


Well, as if I wasn't already sick enough of winter, this weekend was the final straw. We got about 6 inches of snow and were under multiple snow emergencies and various winter weather advisories...causing my cooking club to postpone our monthly get-together. In two years, it's the first time we've ever had to postpone, and we were all pretty bummed about it. Winter has officially over-stayed its welcome.In blatant defiance of the crappy weather, I'm sharing these citrus chicken burritos with you today. I know they're much more of a summer-type meal, but our cooking club theme this month was Mexican food, and dammit, I'm going to have my Mexican food! (Or at least blog about it.)I love everything about these burritos, from the bright, citrusy chicken, to the pico de gallo, to the rice, to the guacamole...just all of it. They're absolutely delicious. I fail at rolling burritos, so mine are always overfilled and never rolled very tightly, but these are definitely worth the somewhat untidy appearance. I made these on a Sunday because, as Sarah mentions on her site, while they are relatively quick-cooking, there is quite a bit of prep work involved. Just a heads-up if you make these -- and you definitely should, because they're really fantastic.Citrus Chicken Burritosadapted from A Taste of Home Cooking For the chicken:Juice of half a lemonJuice of 1 limeJuice of 1 orange2 tablespoons canola oil1/4 teaspoon cumin1/4 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepper2 boneless skinless chicken breastsFor the pico de gallo:4 roma tomatoes, cored and diced small1 cup finely diced red onion1 jalapeño, seeded and minced 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantroSalt and pepper to tasteJuice of 1 limeFor the cilantro-lime rice:2 cups cooked basmati or other long-grain rice, warm (from 1 cup dry)1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice1 teaspoon vegetable oil2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro 1/4 teaspoon saltFor the guacamole:1 ripe avocado, pitted and flesh removedJuice of 1 lime2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantroSalt to tasteFor serving:4 burrito-sized tortillasSour creamShredded cheddar cheese1. Put lemon, lime and orange juices in a plastic food storage bag with the oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Shake to combine. Add the chicken to the bag, seal and toss to coat. Marinate the chicken for 2 to 4 hours.2. Combine the tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, and chopped cilantro. Stir in the lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.3. Drizzle the lime juice and oil over the top of warm rice; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and salt; fluff with a fork.4. Mash the avocado in a small bowl. Add the lime juice, cilantro and salt. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed (I usually use 2 limes, since I like my guac very lime-y).5. When ready to eat, grill the chicken breasts in a grill pan for 5 minutes over medium high heat. Flip and cook another 4 minutes. Allow to rest before slicing into strips. 6. Warm tortillas on the microwave for about 15 to 30 seconds. Place on a flat surface, evenly distribute the rice and chicken, then top with the pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream and cheese. Fold the flap nearest you over the filling, then fold in the sides. Roll the burrito away from you, keeping it tight to form a log. Repeat with all burritos.[...]

Burger and Fries Friday: Bacon, Caramelized Onion and Cheddar Cheeseburger Sliders


We don't eat hamburgers in our house anymore. I don't know if I told you that. Nope, no hamburgers around here. Instead of hamburgers, we eat crabby patties.That's right. In the tradition of sauce cake and tweetos, my sons have given hamburgers a new name. This one comes directly from SpongeBob SquarePants, which is not exactly my favorite show for them to watch, but I will admit it has gotten me through a stressful afternoon here and there.Up until recently, the boys actually weren't big fans of burgers. They loved the idea of them and the novelty of calling them "crabby patties," but when it came to eating them? Not so much. That is, until it occurred to me to make boy-sized burgers (a.k.a. sliders) and let them choose their own toppings. And thus, Build Your Own Slider night was born. BYOS night has since become a favorite in our house. The boys love having things deconstructed for them so they can build them back up, and these sliders are a perfect example of this (I also do this with them for salads and any type of Mexican meal involving a tortilla). I've made a few different types of sliders for BYOS night, but this is definitely our favorite. The sliders themselves are loaded with caramelized onions, bacon, and cheddar cheese. I offer all the fixings on a big tray, and we each add whatever toppings we like. The possibilities are endless with these!These sliders cook up in no time, and they're such a fun dinner idea -- especially during the middle of the week, when we're feeling burnt out and just really need a crabby patty in our lives.Bacon, Caramelized Onion, and Cheddar Cheeseburger Sliders1/2 pound bacon, chopped4 tablespoons butter2 large sweet onions, thinly slicedSalt and pepper to taste 1 pound ground sirloin1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce1 tablespoon hamburger seasoning (or a combination of salt, pepper, and granulated garlic)1 1/2 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, dividedSlider buns Lettuce, tomato, pickles, and condiments for topping 1. Heat a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.2. Add the butter to the reserved drippings in the skillet, then add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low to medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions are golden brown and caramelized. Set half of the onions aside for topping the burgers later. Cool the other half of the onions, then chop finely.3. Place the ground beef in a large bowl. Add the chopped caramelized onions, the reserved bacon, the Worcestershire sauce, the hamburger seasoning, and 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese. Mix well. Divide the meat mixture in half, then divide each half in half, and then each resulting half into thirds, for a total of 12 sliders. Cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat to desired doneness. Divide the remaining 1 cup of cheese among the sliders and cover the skillet to melt.4. Serve the sliders on slider buns with the reserved caramelized onions and any additional toppings you like. [...]

Smoked Sausage Tortellini Skillet


 I know this is a food blog, but I was hoping we could talk about books today. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I like to read even more than I like to cook. As in, I'm never not in the middle of reading a book. When people hear how much I read, they sometimes can't imagine reading that much, while I can't imagine not reading that much. I'm the person who routinely has about 15 books checked out from the library at any one time...and that's not even counting the books my boys have checked out. When I don't have time read...well, I make time. Whether it's reading on my lunch break at work (which I do every day), sneaking away for 30 minutes in the evening while the boys are playing elsewhere with Joe, or making low-maintenance dinners like this one so I can read a few pages while I'm cooking.Back to books in a second, but let's talk about this meal first. We all loved this. The ingredients are nothing fancy, but they come together to form a really delicious and simple dish. The original recipe didn't call for peas, but I added them for a pop of color and sweetness and vegetable-ness. In addition to being delicious, this comes together start-to-finish in only about 15 minutes. While that's not a lot of time for me to read while it's cooking, that does equal more time to read after dinner, since both the cooking and the clean-up are so quick. It's a win-win!So tell me, what's the best book you read recently? Some of my favorite recent reads are Eleanor and Park, After Her, Shadow and Bone, and The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. If you'd like to talk books with me more, you can find me on Goodreads here!Smoked Sausage Tortellini Skilletadapted from Kevin and Amanda 2 tablespoons olive oil1 pound smoked sausage3 cloves minced garlic3/4 cup chicken stock1 cup tomato sauce1/2 cup heavy creamSalt and pepper to taste1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese1/2 cup frozen peas1 package frozen cheese tortellini 1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Slice the smoked sausage thinly and add it to the skillet and cook until well-browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add the garlic and cook and stir for 30 seconds.2. Add the chicken stock, tomato sauce, heavy cream, and salt and pepper and stir until simmering and bubbly. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the parmesan cheese until melted, then add the frozen peas and heat through.3. While the sauce is simmering, cook the tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions; drain. 4. Add the tortellini to the skillet and stir gently to coat with sauce. Serve.[...]

Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies


It is Friday, January 17, 2014, and I'm calling it: I'm officially D-O-N-E with winter. I'm over it. I don't want any more cold, I don't want any more snow, I don't want any more below-zero wind chills. I'm so ready for spring that I'm practically aching with it.I always get kind of blah during the winter, but this year, it's especially bad. I have no energy and no motivation and I know it's all connected to the weather. Basically, I would like to hibernate until at least April in flannel pajamas, in my cozy house, with my family and a few batches of these peanut butter bacon chocolate chip cookies to keep me company. Why can't that be my life?Let's talk about these cookies, because if anything can pull me out of my wintertime funk it's these beauties. These peanut butter cookies not only have sticky, brown sugar bacon pieces in them; they also have bacon drippings in them. Along with peanuts and chocolate chips, of course. This is another of those instances where I need the smiley face emoticon with the hearts for eyes to describe how I really feel. These cookies are a little sweet, a little salty, and a lot sinful. So, in short, you're going to love them.Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookiesadapted from Food Network 5 strips bacon2 tablespoons light brown sugar1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt  4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 cup roughly chopped honey-roasted peanuts 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips 1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Place the bacon on the baking sheet with space between each strip. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Bake, turning once, until bacon is crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings and set aside to cool. Set bacon aside to cool and, once cool, chop into small bits.  2. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. 3. Beat the butter and reserved bacon drippings in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the peanut butter until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the granulated and light brown sugar until creamy, about 4 minutes, then add the egg and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 more minutes.4. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the flour mixture in 2 additions, scraping down the bowl as needed, until just combined. Stir in the peanuts and all but 2 tablespoons each of the chocolate chips and bacon. 5. Form the dough into 12 balls and arrange 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Flatten with your fingers (the cookies will not spread in the oven); press the reserved bacon and chocolate chips on top. Bake until golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Let the cookies cool 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.[...]

Pulled Pork Pita Pizzas


Have you ever eaten a meal at a restaurant and just kept obsessing over it until either a.) you went to the restaurant again specifically to have that dish one more time, or b.) you finally broke down and tried to duplicate it in your own kitchen? That exact thing happened to me after I tried the pulled pork pizza at Rivage Atlantique during a lunch with my family a couple of months ago. It was so delicious that I thought about it for weeks until I finally decided to make my own version at home. This may sound simple, and it is; it's just pulled pork, coleslaw, cheese, and pickles on a pizza. But the end result is insanely delicious. It's such a wonderful combination of flavors, and one that most people enjoy on a sandwich -- so why not on a pizza?Instead of using pizza crust, I pulled a package of pitas out of the freezer and used those -- they're the perfect size for personal pizzas. The hands-on cooking time is very minimal, making these pizzas perfect for a weeknight. And I can guarantee that they'll make your family very happy! You'll definitely have pork left over, but that's okay; you'll probably want to make these again the next night...and the next.Pulled Pork Pita Pizzasinspired by a meal at Rivage Atlantique For the pork:1 2-pound pork shoulder or butt4 cloves garlic, finely minced2 teaspoons salt1/4 teaspoon black pepper1 teaspoon oregano1 tablespoon white vinegar1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauceFor the pizzas:4 pita breads2 cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese Prepared coleslawRefrigerated pickles, sliced1. Combine garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil, and vinegar. Rub pork with garlic mixture and refrigerate overnight. Cook in a Crock pot on low for 8 hours. Turn off the heat and stir in the BBQ sauce; replace the lid and let sit until warmed through.2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the pita breads on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and top each pita with 1/2 cup of the pork, 1/2 cup of cheese, and sliced pickles to taste. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until pita is crisp and cheese is melted. 3. Top with coleslaw and cut each pizza into slices. Serve immediately.[...]

Skillet Cheesy Chicken Pasta with Broccoli and Bacon


I've had a few signs lately that I'm getting older. There are the gray hairs that are starting to appear on the top of my head, which I promptly pluck out, old wives' tales about seven more growing in each one's place be damned. There's the fact that I went out for a friend's surprise birthday party over the weekend and we ate dinner at 9:00, which was the latest I have had dinner for, literally, years. And then there's the fact that few things these days get me as excited as the prospect of a one-pot dinner. Because one pot = so many less dishes to do. I'm beginning to find doing the dishes very tiresome in my old age.So yeah, I love a one-pot dinner, especially if it involves pasta like this one does. This one-pot dinner also involves broccoli, bacon, and tons of cheese. It's flavorful and creamy, with a great balance of textures, and although there are lots of steps, it's really easy to prepare. And then, after dinner has been enjoyed, there's only one pot to clean. Which means I have more time to do the things that people my age really like to do, like plopping myself on the couch to watch my stories and going to bed early. ;)Skillet Cheesy Chicken Pasta with Broccoli and Baconadapted from Center Cut Cook1 tablespoon olive oil4 strips bacon, chopped2 chicken breasts, chopped into 1-inch piecesSalt and pepper to taste1 onion, finely chopped4 cloves garlic, chopped1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes8 ounces short pasta1 2/3 cup chicken stock2 3/4 cup water, divided8 ounces broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces1/2 cup evaporated milk1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon black pepper1. Add the olive oil to a Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp. Remove from pot with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels.2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste and add to the pot. Cook until browned; remove from the pot and set aside.3. Add the onion to the pot (add more oil if needed). Cook until onions are translucent, then add the garlic and cook and stir for 30 seconds. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes.4. Add the chicken stock to the pot, along with 2 cups of the water. Add the pasta and bring to a boil. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed by the pasta.5. Add the broccoli and the remaining 3/4 cup of water to the pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender.6. Add the chicken, half of the reserved bacon, the evaporated milk, and the cheddar cheese. Increase the heat to medium high and stir until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens, 5 to 10 minutes. 7. Add 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and more as needed to taste. The sauce will continue to thicken as it stands. Sprinkle each serving with the remaining bacon.[...]

Recipe Rewind: Our Favorite Shepherd's Pie


It makes my life much more stressful, but I'm one of those people who gets very, very anxious about the weather during the winter. You'd think after 30 years of Ohio winters I'd be used to the awfulness but somehow, I'm not. This winter has been very snowy and, lately, very cold, so my anxiety has been ratcheted up pretty high.For me, the only saving grace of an awful winter is that it pretty much requires us to eat lots of comfort food -- and there is nothing I don't love about comfort food. I've been making this shepherd's pie (one of my very favorite comfort foods) for years now. I posted this recipe in the very early days of my blog, and I thought it was high time I revisited it here -- because it's just that good.This shepherd's pie recipe has such wonderful flavor -- the cinnamon and cloves make it so interesting and special -- and it's simply ideal for warming you up on the frigid winter days we've been having. The ingredients are humble, but the dish as a whole is exceptionally delicious, and one of my family's absolute favorites.Shepherd's Pieslightly adapted from There's a Chef in My Family! by Emeril Lagasse 5 tablespoons unsalted butter3 large Idaho potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes2 teaspoons salt1/4 cup sour cream3 ounces cream cheeseSplash of milk as needed1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1 tablespoon vegetable oil1 large yellow onion, chopped3 carrots, peeled and diced 3 cloves garlic, minced1 1/2 pounds ground beef3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning2 sprigs fresh thyme 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamonPinch of ground cloves1 tablespoon all-purpose flour2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 1/4 cups low-sodium beef broth1/2 cup frozen green peas1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese1. Grease a casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.2. In a medium saucepan, place the potatoes and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cover with water by 1 inch and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil until fork-tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, the sour cream, the cream cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the black pepper. Add a splash of milk if needed for consistency. Mash with a potato masher until smooth and set aside.3. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then add the beef and cook, stirring to break up the meat chunks, until cooked through.4. Remove the pan from the heat. Tilt the pan away from you, and carefully remove as much excess liquid as possible from the pan. Discard the liquid.5. Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the Italian seasoning, thyme sprigs, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, the cinnamon, and the cloves, and cook until the meat is well-browned, stirring frequently, about 6 to 8 minutes. 6. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and cook, stirring, for about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir well, then add the beef broth and the peas and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs.7. Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserol[...]

Best of 2013: My Favorites


I had the hardest time narrowing down my list of favorites for this year. Although I haven't been doing too much cooking in the past month, 2013 was still a delicious year in my kitchen. I made quite a few recipes this year that became instant family favorites. You'll see a pattern appear in many of my selections: Quite a few of them involve bacon. I don't think it's any secret how my family feels about bacon. :)10. Roasted potato and tomato gyro wraps. These wraps combine so many of my favorite things: crispy roasted potatoes, burstingly sweet roasted tomatoes, and feta cheese. This is definitely a "Cassie meal," as Greek flavors aren't Joe's favorite, but I love having this recipe in my arsenal for those nights when I'm having dinner by myself.9. Bacon and cheddar cornbread cakes with fried eggs.  My whole family loves this meal, and I love how easy these little cakes are to prepare. Using boxed stuffing makes them come together very quickly, and since this meal is made with staples, it's great for nights when I just don't know what to make -- or just really don't feel like cooking.8. Leftover pot roast patty melts. There are very few dishes that I want to make solely for the leftovers, but pot roast has definitely become one of them. I think I enjoy these patty melts the second night more than I enjoy the pot roast on the first night!7. Completely homemade chicken noodle soup.Chicken noodle soup is one of my very favorite comfort foods, and since I made it completely from scratch earlier this year I'll never look back. Honestly, I'm usually not one to enjoy spending hours upon hours in the kitchen (Christmas cookie baking notwithstanding), but this is one of those meals where I just love the whole process of preparing and eating it. It's so...soul-feeding. Chicken soup for the soul, if you will. (Ba-dum-ching.)6. Avocado bacon tomato melts. These melts are one of the most memorable meals I had this year. They're so simple but so incredibly flavorful. They're definitely best in the summer with thick, juicy, beefsteak tomatoes, but I wouldn't turn one of these away any time of the year.5. Bacon cheddar burgers with corn and bacon relish.No list of yearly favorites would be complete without a good burger, and this one? It's definitely the best burger I made this year, and probably the best burger I've ever made. After eating it on this burger, I made the corn and bacon relish no less than 5 times: I used it on chicken, on pork chops, in a quesadilla, and probably ate it directly from a bowl a few times too. I'm not too proud to admit that. Try it yourself and you'll know why.4. Chipotle pork tostadas with pine-apple salsa.   Joe still swears these tostadas are one of the best things I've ever made, and I have to admit that they are pretty incredible. They're slightly spicy, slightly sweet, a little crunchy, a little creamy, and completely delicious. The pineapple-apple salsa is just out of this world.3. Jalapeno popper breakfast scramble. We love a good breakfast dish in our house, and this one is definitely a favorite. It hits all the same notes as a jalapeno popper (cheddar, cream cheese, jalapenos, and bacon), but it's all mixed up with hashbrowns and scrambled eggs to make one decadent, delicious breakfast (or breakfast-for-dinner).2. Peach BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches with peach coleslaw.I remember the night I made these for dinner very [...]