Tag Archives: cheese

Caprese Sliders

Yes, I know, caprese tends to be a little more July than December. After all, tomatoes are a little redder, a little plumper, and a little juicier in the summer. But if I only ate caprese during warm months, I think I’d die. Okay, so I’m dramatic. But I could easily eat it in some way every single day. Even if the tomatoes aren’t in season, caprese can still be good because fresh mozzarella and basil are always available. And if you add a little bit of balsamic vinegar or pesto, it can help you forget that tomatoes aren’t at their best. I needed a caprese fix now so that’s why I made these Caprese Sliders.

Slices of tomato are grilled on the stove (although I didn’t actually grill them) before being layered with avocado, basil, and fresh mozzarella onto warm, doughy rolls smeared with vibrant bold pesto. Really, you don’t need to grill or warm the tomatoes but if the tomatoes aren’t so great, what’s it hurt? In season, I would stick to raw tomatoes but since it’s not, warming them actually makes them a little juicier so I didn’t mind. These sandwiches didn’t stand a chance with me. So what if they fell apart a little bit? Scooping up pieces of a really good sandwich and having juices dripping down your wrists is a sign of a good sandwich. And this is a really good sandwich!

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Heat oven to 400 degrees . Place rolls on a baking sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes, following package directions. Allow to cool. Heat stovetop grill to medium-high. Brush tomato slices with olive oil and grill 2 minutes. Turn and grill 1 additional minute.

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Split rolls horizontally and spread bottom half of each with 1 tsp pesto. Layer each with 1 tomato slice, 2 basil leaves, 1 mozzarella slice and 2 avocado slices. Top with remaining roll halves.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Family Circle magazine

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Cheesy Sausage Balls

I’m pretty slow to the sausage ball party. I first became aware of these little bites from Trisha Yearwood’s show on Food Network and thought that they would be a perfect little nugget for me considering how much I love sausage (turkey sausage, that is). But since then, I suddenly see sausage balls everywhere – on Pinterest, on the Today show, on my Instagram feed. Well, I figured it was high time for me to jump on the bandwagon and I was especially thrilled when I came across this recipe for Cheesy Sausage Balls which has a little different twist than your standard sausage balls.

Sausage, cheese, and quinoa make up the base of these bites which are perfect for a Thanksgiving appetizer. Instead of baking mix, these balls have cooked quinoa which is so much healthier than some floury mix. Granted, baking mixes are super simple and easier to throw into a bowl than cooking up a batch of quinoa but it only takes fifteen minutes for quinoa to cook so you can do it ahead of time and still have some leftover for another dish later. Plus, quinoa is so much better for you! The quinoa actually adds a bit of texture to these sausage balls, a bit of a pop, if you will. I haven’t tried the sausage balls made with baking mix but I don’t think I need to. I’m perfectly happy with these little guys and I bet you will be too!

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 Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine quinoa, cheese, cornstarch, black pepper and sausage in a bowl.

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Shape mixture into 40 (1 1/2-inch) balls. Place balls on a lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

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Bake at 375°F for 18 minutes or until lightly browned and done.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions:

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

Chicken Salad Melts

Why is lunch such a pain? Breakfast is easy. Dinner is usually easy. But lunch? You need something to keep you going that won’t fill you up so much that you can’t get through the rest of a long afternoon. Do you need a super easy, super quick lunch? Well I do! I’ve been working from home lately but that doesn’t mean I’m left with all kinds of time to sit and have a nice long lunch. Between meetings, conference calls and a lot of work to do, I need something fast.  These Chicken Salad Melts are perfect for a quick little bite that won’t take up a lot of time and won’t leave you needing a nap right away.

Precooked rotisserie chicken (a busy girl’s lifesaver) is mixed with fat-free Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, dill, and scallions. The mixture is covered in cheddar cheese and broiled until melted and gooey. Thin slices of fresh apple and leaves of Bibb lettuce round out this little sandwich which can be easily made ahead of time and wrapped up to-go (just heat up the cheese in a microwave or leave it off completely). I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of using Greek yogurt in chicken salad but if there is a nice balance with some light mayonnaise, it can actually provide a nice little tang that you wouldn’t normally get. Give these a try. I mean, it beats yet another boring can of soup or unsatisfying frozen meal!

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Preheat broiler to high. Combine chicken, yogurt, mayonnaise, dill, salt, pepper and scallions in a medium bowl; stir well.

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Place 1/3 cup chicken mixture on bottom half of each muffin. Top evenly with cheese. Broil 1 minute or until cheese melts.

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Top sandwiches evenly with apple, lettuce, and top halves of muffins.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions:

  • Light mayonnaise

Overall Rating: Like It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

Cheesy Penne with Broccoli

I’ve mentioned this before but I’m shocked by how little I eat pasta anymore. When I was a vegetarian, it was all I ate. Which may be why I never lost weight. Now, I appreciate a good pasta meal but I don’t crave it (thankfully). I had some milk and cheese in my refrigerator that I didn’t know what to do with and some lingering penne that just never seemed to go away. This is typically how I decide what foods to make – by looking at what’s left in my fridge/pantry. Because even though I love to cook, I don’t love to spend a lot of money at the grocery. This Cheesy Penne with Broccoli was an easy way for me to use up some leftover staples I had hanging around my kitchen without having to spend a dime.

Cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and cheddar cheese are all melted into an easy milky cream sauce and poured over cooked penne and boiled broccoli. The result is this hearty dish which will satisfy any pasta craving you have. The cheese sauce, even with it’s three cheeses, it light and thin enough to be a backup singer to this song. And even though I get weak (in a good way) when mustard is added to cheese sauce, the best part (in my opinion) is the broccoli. I mean, broccoli and cheese? Yes please. I have to point out that broccoli being my favorite anything is something that never would have come out of my childhood mouth. My how things have changed. Now, I won’t even consider pasta unless it has a veggie in it.

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Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add broccoli to pan; drain. Place pasta and broccoli in a large bowl.

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Combine milk and flour in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Cook 5 minutes or until slightly thickened; remove from heat.

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Add 2 tablespoons Parmesan, cream cheese, Dijon, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheddar cheese, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

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Add cheese mixture to pasta mixture; toss.

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Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions:

  • Whole-wheat penne
  • Whole grain Dijon

Overall Rating: Like It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

Smoky, Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Empanadas with Chimichurri Dipping Sauce

I was in Buenos Aires for work last week and was either working, eating, drinking, or sleeping and didn’t have time for blogging or much else. In Argentina, people don’t eat dinner until sometime after 9pm. One night, we didn’t even finish eating until after 12:30am! I was worried about finding something to eat in Buenos Aires since I’d heard that they eat a lot of meat down there, primarily beef and pork, both of which I don’t eat. But luckily, they had plenty of grilled chicken, plenty of fried cheese, and tasty cheese empanadas. The empanada options there were typically either cheese or pork so I decided to come home and make my own with some chicken and spinach. The result were these Smoky, Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Empanadas with Chimichurri Dipping Sauce.

Precooked chicken, cheese, spinach, onion and pimientos are combined with a creamy mixture of cream cheese and smoked paprika before being folded into empanada dough and baked until golden brown. A quick chimichurri sauce of parsley, oregano, onion, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and red pepper flake adds a bold, fresh flavor which would also be a great addition to any beef, chicken or pasta dish. These empanadas are full of flavor and are perfect for a small meal on the go.

Tip: I found the empanada dough discs in the freezer section of my market, near the international and vegetarian frozen meals. To quickly thaw the dough, remove the discs from the packaging, separate them by the paper between each one and sit at room temperature while you make the filling.

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Smoky, Cheesy Chicken and Spinach Empanadas with Chimichurri Dipping Sauce (makes 10 empanadas)

For the empanadas:

  • 1/2 pound rotisserie or leftover chicken, shredded
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimientos
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3 ounces 1/3-less fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 14-ounce package frozen empanada discs, thawed (such as Goya Empanada Discs)
  • 1 egg

For the chimichurri sauce:

  • 2 cups flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • salt and red pepper flake to taste

To prepare the empanadas, cook spinach according to package directions. Drain and cool slightly. In a bowl, mix chicken, spinach, mozzarella cheese, pimientos, onion, and pepper.

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In a small saucepan, mix broth with cornstarch. Add cream cheese and smoked paprika. Whisk over high heat until mixture is boiling, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape over chicken mixture and combine well, adding salt to taste.

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Place thawed empanada discs on a flat service. Stretch each disc carefully to expand dough slightly. On each disc, spoon heaping 2 tablespoons of chicken mixtures.

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Fold dough over filling to form a semi-circle, then fold edges together and pinch to seal, using a fork. Gently place empanadas, slightly apart, on baking sheet.

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In a small bowl, beat egg to blend and brush generously over each pastry.

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Bake in a 375°F oven until empanadas are golden browned, 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool at least 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

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To prepare the chimichurri sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until desired consistency.

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Spoon into a bowl and serve with empanadas.

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Italian Sausage Hoagies

I really look forward to the fall and football season every year. I love when the weather gets a little cooler and I can throw together a pot of chili or soup on the stove while I watch my team play. This past weekend was the first weekend I’ve actually had since football season started to actual do whatever I wanted and make some food. It has been beautiful and warm the last several days in the Philadelphia area so I haven’t been quite ready to break out the soup recipes. I had a open house at my place on Sunday so I did all of my cooking for the week on Saturday and decided that these Italian Sausage Hoagies would be perfect for watching a little football.

Sweet turkey sausage, red peppers, onions and marinara sauce are combined and piled into hollowed out toasted hoagie rolls. Shredded mozzarella cheese is added and the sandwiches are broiled until the cheese is melted and golden brown. It’s not often that I eat hoagies like this so this was a real treat for me. I even ate my leftovers as open-faced sandwiches which I liked even better. These sandwiches are so easy to make, healthier than your typical sausage hoagie, and perfect for a tailgate or game.

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Preheat broiler to high. Hollow out top halves of rolls. Arrange rolls, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Broil 1 1/2 minutes or until toasted. Set aside.

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Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pan; cook 2 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add onion and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add marinara, bell pepper, and black pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 6 minutes or until bell pepper is crisp-tender.

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Arrange about 3/4 cup sausage mixture over bottom half of each roll; sprinkle each serving with about 2 tablespoons cheese.

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Place on a baking sheet; broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Top with top halves of rolls.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

Asparagus with Red Pepper and Manchego

I might as well chalk my diet up to a lost cause this week. I only have two more days at my current job and I can’t help but take advantage of my favorite Philadelphia eats (like the obsessive chicken over rice from the Halal food truck on the corner, the peanut butter cup popcorn at Go Popcorn, and the chicken tinga tacos at El Vez) while I still work downtown. Since I’ll be moving to Atlanta, I’m trying to get this great food in while I still can (luckily Go Popcorn ships nationwide!). While my taste buds are in heaven, my belly is feeling like a fat puffy gray cloud. Since I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a bite of anything green, it’s time to make some veggies. Both asparagus and red peppers were on sale at the grocery store this past weekend so this Asparagus with Red Pepper and Manchego seemed like the perfect recipe to make in between my not-so-healthy meals.

Asparagus is cooked with red pepper slices, smoked paprika, salt and pepper before being topped with thin shavings of buttery Manchego cheese. Amazing! The asparagus is perfectly crisp, the red pepper is slightly sweet and the smoked paprika is a smoky little cherry on top. Smoked paprika is my favorite thing in my kitchen but I’d never considered using it to jazz up some vegetables. I knew I would like this recipe because what’s not to like but I seriously didn’t expect to inhale it the way I did. This doesn’t feel like a side dish but a healthy little meal in itself. It may not be Halal’s chicken over rice but I think it’s a new obsession.

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Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil; swirl to coat. Add asparagus; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add bell pepper, paprika, black pepper, and salt; cook 2 minutes.

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Top with Manchego cheese.

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Additions: None

Omissions: None

Substitutions: None

Overall Rating: Love It

Source: Cooking Light magazine

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