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Wild Rice & Chicken Casserole

20 Aug

Sometimes when it’s the end of the week and you are left with very few options about dinner, you just have to make a casserole. They are quick, easy and taste good, no matter what you put in them. Whether it be leftovers or just a mishmash of frozen vegetables and rice, they always ALWAYS seem to turn out.

Well, I had one of those days where I had nothing planned for dinner and nothing in my fridge. “Surely…” I thought “there must be something I can make!” I scoured my freezer and pantry and came up with this quick casserole. Lucky for me I had a box of Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice and a can of cream of mushroom soup. If you have those two ingredients on hand, you will live to see another day, and your kids will get fed. After you have your basics down, you can change the rest of the recipe how you like. We tend to gravitate towards rice, chicken and broccoli a lot. It’s a pretty common and classic combination. However, this time, there was NO broccoli. (*Side note–I hate frozen broccoli. It is the only vegetable I hate to eat after thawing. It always tastes freezer burnt to me. Am I paranoid or do you guys taste that, too?)
Speaking of frozen vegetables, what a great deal! You get a lot of food for a little price and all those vegetables are typically harvested and frozen within the same day so you know they are fresh. I love having them on hand and throw them into anything and everything when I’m feeling spunky or when I’m in a pinch. Seriously, frozen vegetables are where it’s at.

For this particular recipe, I used my handy dandy frozen peas and carrots. They worked so well and tasted great with all the other ingredients even before it all was baked. But, use what you have on hand! I also topped my casserole with some swiss cheese and toasted almonds for a creamy crunchy bite. After the first bite my husband said “Wow….this is good!” in a surprised tone. He was skeptical at first, but the casserole won him over and he ate the rest for lunch the next day! How do you like that, Gordon? Haha!

I love using the random ingredients I’m left with at the end of the week to make great food my family will eat. It saves money and gives me a sense of accomplishment. So, don’t be afraid to experiment these next few days with the food you think you can’t make anything with. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll come up with! Happy Cooking!

Wild Rice & Chicken Casserole
yield: 4 servings

1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed (or any other meat)
1 1/2 cups frozen vegetables
1/2 cup cream or milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 stalk celery, diced
5 slices swiss cheese (from the deli; or use about 1 cup grated cheese, any kind you have)
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds

Cook box of rice according to packaged directions. In skillet, melt butter and sautee onion and celery over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Once cooked, spoon rice into large bowl. To the rice, add cream of mushroom soup, chicken, vegetables, cream, cooked onion and celery, and salt and pepper. Spread into a casserole dish. Top with cheese and almonds. Cover with foil and warm thoroughly at 300 degrees for at least 30 minutes (and up to 60). Serve with a side salad.


Pizza Stuffed Zucchini

18 Aug
(sorry if this photo looks white and grainy! Blogger is being ridiculous and uploading my photos weird!)

Guess what, friends! I have ANOTHER giveaway coming up next week! Stay tuned for that! It’s a good one you’re not going to want to miss!

Well, summer is coming to a close which means I am up to my eyeballs in fresh zucchini. In an attempt to eat a little healthier and lower my carb intake, I created this handy dandy little 20-minute dinner. Seriously! Only 20 minutes from start to finish. And, I used up my extra large garden zucchini. If you don’t have access to any jumbo zucchinis or friend’s with gardens full of them, pick up some small ones from the store. About 1 per person, or in my husband’s case, 2.

To road map this recipe for you, I sliced my huge zucchini down the center and then in half again. I scooped out the seeds so I was left with 4 skinny zucchini boats–perfect for fillings! Before I filled them, I cooked them in a skillet 5 minutes per side, covered; this gives them a little needed flavor and color. I cooked them enough to be crisp-tender–how I like it. (See recipe tips for softer zucchinis) Then I filled them up with loads of pizza toppings and stuck them under the broiler! Thats it! I did happen to have some cherry tomatoes from my garden around too, so I made a little tomato basil mix for the top. So simple, and so good. It’s like the taste of summer in your mouth. I loved these and so did my husband. My daughter just ate all the cheese off the top! 🙂

Hope you all are enjoying these last few days of Summer before we’re into Fall! (PS- I’ve got some GREAT pumpkin recipes that I’m dying to share with you so fall can’t get here fast enough!)

Pizza Stuffed Zucchini
yield: 4 servings

2 extra large zucchini from the garden or 4-6 small
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large garlic clove, crushed
2/3 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup sliced pepperoni
4 slices deli ham, julienned
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
1/4 onion, sliced thin
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
any other pizza toppings you’d like
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
10 fresh basil leaves, torn (if desired)

Preheat skillet over medium heat with olive oil and garlic. Slice ends off of zucchini and slice down the center lengthwise. Scoop all the seeds out so you are left with a skinny boat shape, about 1/3-1/2 inch thick. (*If you are using large zucchinis, slice in half, this time width-wise so you have 4 ‘boats’ per zucchini. If you are using small zucchinis from the store, you can forgo this step) Sprinkle salt and pepper over prepared zucchinis. Remove garlic from pan. Place zucchinis cut side down in pan and cover. Cook 5 minutes and turn. Edges should be brown. Cover and cook another 5 minutes. Transfer cooked zucchini to a sheet pan. Fill with pizza sauce, desired toppings and cheese. Sprinkle with oregano. Bake under the broiler until cheese has browned. Remove from oven. In small bowl, combine tomatoes with basil, salt and pepper. Top cooked pizza stuffed zucchinis with tomato mixture, if desired.

Recipe TIPS
-I like my zucchini crisp-tender. Meaning it is still a little firm but not crunchy like a totally uncooked zucchini would be. If you would like a softer pizza stuffed zucchini, all you need to do is bake the pizza stuffed zucchinis at 375 for 10-15 minutes (as opposed to broiling). This should soften things up!

Parmesan Pretzel Bites

13 Aug

Even before I received my samples from Saucy Mama, I knew exactly what I wanted to make– pretzels to dip in some wonderful mustard. I am a big fan of mustard, especially some smokey garlic mustard. After one bite, I couldn’t stop craving a hot dog because after all, hot dogs and mustard are meant to be together. I’m kind of still craving a hot dog…..interesting….

Anyways, previous to this post, I did a pretzel stick recipe to go along with some soup. These are very similar to those except quite possibly the lazier version. I’m always opting for the easy way out. So, I defrosted a few dinner rolls for 2 hours or so, cut them in half, dipped them in a baking soda and water solution and then sprinkled on some salt, pepper, parsley and parmesan cheese. How ridiculously simple is that? I realize that they didn’t get as dark as my last pretzel recipe or even pretzels you’d buy at the ball game, but that’s because most of the dough is covered by cheese so they aren’t going to get as dark. Feel free to make these without anything but salt to get the dark color. Both are delicious with mustard, especially gourmet smokey garlic mustard! Yum.

**Don’t forget to enter the Saucy Mama giveaway! See previous post for details! You have until tonight at midnight (pacific) to enter and tell your friends! Winner will be selected and announced Saturday morning!**

Parmesan Pretzel Bites
yield: 12 bites
6 frozen dinner rolls
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup hot tap water
1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
parsley flakes 
parmesan cheese
Defrost rolls for about 2 hours until dough is completely thawed. Cut dough balls into two even pieces. Form into small pillow shapes, if desired. (I was too lazy to do that!) Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Dip dough pieces into baking soda solution and place on greased baking sheet. Brush dough with melted butter and more baking soda solution. Sprinkle salt, pepper, parsley flakes and parmesan cheese over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Serve with mustard.

Shortcut Pierogies

28 Jul
Have you ever had a pierogi before? My Mom would rarely buy them and make them, but when she did–boy oh boy were we in for a treat! Now, I’m not Polish or Ukrainian so I don’t know how to make these correctly. So I purposely made them incorrectly! That’s right! You heard me. This is the untraditional pierogi recipe that takes half the time to make (or less!) than regular traditional ones. This is my kind of cooking. If you are a hardcore Polish or Ukrainian traditionalist, then you may want to avert your eyes and not read any further. 
Now, pierogies are like little dumplings or pillows that are filled with mashed potato, cheese and onion that you boil in water and then fry in bacon grease and onion. At least, thats how my Mom did it. So, that’s how I do it too and these are to die for! Of course it’s a little labor intensive but I took a shortcut by using store bought wonton wrappers. A wonderful time saver! 
If you have an hour or so, then you can whip out a bunch of these! Once you fill the wonton skins, you can freeze them on a baking sheet and then transfer them to some freezer bags and portion them out accordingly. I got a lot of pierogies made during my daughter’s nap one day! And, they make for a quick dinner when you’re in a pinch. Once you start boiling the pierogies, they only take about 3 minutes to cook and then its a matter of browning them up in a frying pan with some bacon and onions. I like mine with lots of cold sour cream and a side salad. I had dinner done within 20 minutes! And, we all loved them! Gordon has never tried or had even heard of a pierogi before, but after we finished dinner, he cooked up some more for a second helping! Love at first bite! 
So if you are like Gordon and have never heard of these little devils before or you have any want to try to make your own untraditional kind, then give these ones a whirl! The flavors are out of this world!
Shortcut Pierogies
yield: about 36
1-12 oz. package round wonton skins (you won’t use the whole thing unless you’re feeling ambitious)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
2 large Idaho potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
a few splashes whole milk
for frying about 12 pierogies, I would use
4 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 small onion, diced
for garnish:
cheddar cheese
green onions
sour cream
Scrub potatoes clean under cold water and prick deeply with a fork or knife. Microwave potatoes until completely soft (about 9 minutes for me). You could also bake them in your oven or use some left over baked potatoes. 

Cut cooked potatoes in half and scoop out the insides into a large bowl. Mash potato with butter, sour cream, salt and pepper. Stir in milk to get a smooth consistency. Stir in cheese. Set aside. **You could also use left over mashed potatoes! Just be sure to stir in the cheese and more milk or cream to get a smooth consistency**
In small bowl, whisk egg with water. To assemble pierogies, take one wonton wrapper and brush the edges with the egg. Place 2-3 teaspoons worth of potato filling into the center. Fold wrapper in half to create a half moon shape and press edges together keeping the potato filling inside and removing any excess air. Repeat this process until no more filling remains. Depending on how much or little you fill your pierogies, you could end up with more or less than my 36 I got. 
Place pierogies on baking sheet in a single layer. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid, about 2 hours. Transfer to freezer bags until ready to cook.
To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, start rendering the chopped bacon. After about 3 minutes of cooking the bacon, add in chopped onion. Once water has come to boil, drop in pierogies and stir. After 2-3 minutes, pierogies should be finished cooking and should float to the top. Using a slotted spoon, drain pierogies and drop into skillet with bacon and onions. Fry pierogies until golden brown on either side or until cooked to your liking. Bacon and onions should be completely finished cooking by this point. Serve warm with sour cream, more cheddar cheese and/or chopped green onions.

Turkey Meatball & Mozzarella Sandwiches

21 Jul
Do I have a great dinner for your families tonight! This is a quick and easy meal that could probably be on your table under 30 minutes! (It was for me a few nights ago.) It was kind of a default dinner because I was missing a few ingredients for what I had originally scheduled….oops! It happens to the best of us. Anyways, I got creative and picked a few things from my garden. Then I defrosted the ground turkey I had, mixed in a few things and that was it! Even though it stresses me out to realize I’m missing an ingredient or two 30 minutes before Gordon gets home from work, it’s at these times that I create some of the tastiest meals! 
**Side note: Let me just take a minute to say that I LOVE my garden–especially the herbs! It is SO much cheaper than buying them from the store. When I originally was purchasing my plants, all the organic ones ended up being cheaper than the non-organic ones! Bonus! Plus, because it’s a garden the herbs keep rejuvenating themselves! Duh! Of course they keep growing! Come fall, I’ll be moving them inside so I can have fresh herbs through winter too. So, moral of the story: growing your own herb garden will save you money and will make all your food taste fresher and therefore more delicious! I am a garden advocate. Ok. The end.**
For this recipe I used fresh basil and parsley as well as a few green onions straight from my garden. Just rinse and chop! Regular yellow or white onions and dried herbs would be fine as well, just don’t use as much! They should be just as moist and delicious. I also baked up some frozen dinner rolls and jazzed them up with some melted butter and garlic salt. Fresh garlic rolls out of the oven is heaven! Plus it makes your house smell great! Those frozen dinner rolls are a life saver sometimes! 
Anyways, these Italian sandwiches are delicious and we all cleaned our plates! It is a meal that will please your entire family and should keep you happy because you’ll only have to spend about 15 minutes at your stove. Also, don’t feel you need to be limited to these sandwiches. Heat up some marinara and have spaghetti & turkey meatballs! They would be delicious as an appetizer too, but I would limit the cheese because things tend to get stringy once the mozzarella is melted. So, enjoy this healthy and fast dinner! Your kids are sure to love it!

Turkey Meatball & Mozzarella Sandwiches
yield: 15-20 meatballs, enough to feed 4
2 tablespoons milk
1 slice bread
1/2 lb. ground turkey
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely minced
2 green onions, chopped (use all the white and most of the green part)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 cups prepared good quality marinara
8-10 frozen dinner rolls, defrosted
1 tablespoon melted butter
garlic salt
Break apart slice of bread into small pieces into a large bowl. Pour milk over bread and let soak 1-2 minutes. Stir to break bread apart more. Stir in turkey, basil, parsley, onion, salt, pepper and garlic until well combined. Form mixture into 15-20 small meatballs (I use a cookie scoop). Preheat large skillet to medium-medium high heat. Pour in olive oil. Fry meatballs 3-4 minutes per side until deep brown. Reduce heat and pour marinara over meatballs. Stir to coat. At this point, the meatballs probably are not cooked thoroughly. So, be sure to simmer covered at least 10 minutes before serving to ensure doneness. (You can simmer this longer until you are ready to serve–just be sure to add splashes of water here and there to keep the sauce at a consistency you like) Two minutes before serving, top meatballs with grated cheese and cover to melt. 
For the rolls, before baking, brush with melted butter and sprinkle garlic salt over the tops. Bake according to packaged directions. Brush hot rolls with any remaining butter.
To serve, cut rolls in half and fill with 2-3 mozzarella covered meatballs. 

Spinach, Bacon & Feta Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

2 Jul

Two or three weeks ago, I became friends with a girl named Natalie who happened to be a featured member on Tasty Kitchen. After reading her blog, Perry’s Plate, and emailing her a few times, we realized that we went to the same college, are part of the same church and know some of the same people! Such a small world! By the way, she is super friendly and nice and has two little rug-rats of her own. If you have never heard of her, I recommend stopping by her site and taking a look around (but only when you’re done here!) Her photos are gorgeous and she showcases the best of the best recipes. 

Anyways, I suggested doing a recipe swap where I try a recipe of hers and she tries a recipe of mine and we blog about it. Well, it took me a few days and countless hours looking through all her recipes to finally just choose one to try. I actually lost track of time on several occasions…..thats how into her site I was! Well my friends, I finally chose her Spinach, Bacon & Feta Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce. This is one of her original creations and it will not disappoint. All of the flavors really work together to make a uniquely delicious pizza. I really liked being able to taste the sun dried tomato pesto along with everything else. Did I mention that this pizza is chock full of bacon, too? Good gravy is bacon good! (It was my husband’s favorite part of this dish!) Anyways, I could go on and on but I need to discuss other matters.

If you don’t already have your sun-dried tomato pesto made and you’re planning on making your own pizza dough (which is what I opted to do) then this is going to take a little time to make. But if you break it up in stages throughout the day or do things in advance (like the day before) then it should be a breeze to come together. All the steps are easy so don’t feel you need to be intimidated by this multi-step recipe. It’s a cinch. Anyways, have fun in the kitchen with this one! It’s great! Thanks for letting me share it, Natalie!

Spinach, Bacon & Feta Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
By: Natalie from Perry’s Plate
yield: 1 large pizza (about 6 servings)

1 lb fresh pizza dough or enough to make a large pizza
12 slices of bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
1/3 cup homemade sun-dried tomato pesto (see recipe below)
1/3 cup pizza sauce
2 or 3 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (about 8 oz)
2/3 cup feta cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread pizza dough out into a rimmed cookie sheet (or round pizza pan, stone, peel or whatever you usually use). Combine pesto and pizza sauce in a small bowl. Spread over stretched pizza dough. Top with fresh spinach, then mozzarella.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the crust is firmed up, but not yet golden brown. Remove pizza from oven and top with crumbled bacon and feta cheese. Return pizza to the oven and bake for another 5-8 minutes or so until crust is golden brown underneath and the cheese is bubbly and browning.

Remove and serve. 

Easy Homemade Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
By: Natalie from
Perry’s Plate
yield: 2 1/2 – 3 cups

2 cups oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thinly (I bought mine julienne)
1 cup shredded fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed

Combine tomatoes, cheese, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse/blend until thoroughly combined. Drizzle a little oil in if it gets to thick to proc ess.

Garlic Bread & Spaghetti Pizza

20 May

Oh my good gravy I have created a big delicious monster of a meal for you today! I know what you’re thinking : “Really?! Spaghetti on a pizza?! Are you kidding me?” No, I am definitely not kidding you. I was thinking that we all love garlic bread with our spaghetti so why not just skip a middle step and combine the two?! I know that this is like carb city on a plate, but once in a while you’ve got to indulge. My little family has been sick and it was rainy outside so I wanted something deliciously warm and filling. Plus our bodies are currently fighting off some viruses so we need all the extra calories we can get…….at least thats what we tell ourselves………….anyways………….about this pizza……….
Its pizza dough covered in melted butter and garlic salt and then topped with a healthy mountain of tomato sauce covered spaghetti and lots of mozzarella for good measure! Are you salivating yet? You just think about the combination in your mouth for a second while I continue–
I made everything from scratch because I had the time but if you’re in a pinch, pick up some prepared dough from the market along with some Bolognese or marinara and some pre-shredded mozzarella. That will cut your prep work in half at least!
Also, as some of you may know, I really like to hide vegetables in my spaghetti sauce and drain my ground beef to decrease the fat and increase the nutrients. Spaghetti sauce is the best place to sneak in some grated carrot, zucchini or any other vegetables you happen to have in your fridge. I also like to use low sodium V8 in place of just plain tomato sauce to increase the servings of vegetables. I tell you, these little changes make the world of difference!
Oh, did I mention its a buttery garlicy bread like crust topped with spaghetti and cheese? This meal is as kid friendly as it gets! Pizza AND spaghetti in one! Incredible! And you don’t have to feel so bad about serving this to your kids either, especially if you were sneaky and added in some extra vegetables!
Anyways, this should definitely make your dinner menu in the near future because yes, it really is that good!
Love you all like carbs,
Garlic Bread & Spaghetti Pizza
1 lb. pizza dough (my recipe is found below)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon garlic salt
2 1/2 cups prepared marinara or bolgonese (make sure its a good one!)
1/2 lb. spaghetti or spaghettini, cooked to al dente
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
parsley for garnish
extra marinara for dipping those crusts
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Spray pizza pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread pizza dough out to be 16-18” across. Place on prepared pizza pan. Brush crust with half melted butter and all the garlic salt, concentrating on the edges. Bake crust for 8 minutes. Mix cooked spaghetti with 2 cups of prepared sauce. Once crust comes out of the oven, brush edges with remaining melted butter. Top with coated spaghetti and spoon on remaining 1/2 cup of sauce to keep pasta moist. Top with grated cheese and bake 2-3 minutes more until cheese has completely melted. Remove from oven and cool 5-10 minutes. Top with parsley if desired. Cut into pieces and enjoy!
Recipe TIPS:
-My pizza dough recipe is pretty easy! In large bowl, combine 1 cup hot water with 2 1/4 teaspoons quick rising yeast (1 packet) and 1 teaspoon sugar or honey. Proof yeast 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 2 1/2-3 cups all purpose flour (start with 2 cups and work your way up). Knead dough 5 minutes. It should be slightly sticky and smooth. Coat in olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot in your kitchen and let dough rise 1-1 1/2 hours until doubled in size. Use as desired.