Monday, January 30, 2012

Taco Seasoning

Ever have that moment when you are sure that you have everything for a recipe and then you realize you are out of one key ingredient.  To top it of you are in the middle of cooking, so it's not like you can just run to the store to pick up a measly packet of Taco Seasoning at this very moment.  Oh what to do without that precious packet of Taco Seasoning???  Wait, isn't Taco Seasoning just a few different spices thrown together with a bunch of crap you can't pronounce and individually packaged?  Um, yeah, pretty sure it is.  So couldn't I just mix all of those individual spices together and use that instead?  Absolutely!  Bonus: You lose all the filler junk & you save $$!

I now keep a jar of this in my cupboard and add two Tablespoons to any recipe that calls for a packet of Taco Seasoning.  You can alter it to suit your tastes.  Enjoy!

Homemade Taco Seasoning

8 tbsp chili powder
6 tbsp + 2 tsp paprika
6 tbsp cumin
4 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 +/- tsp cayenne
2 tbsp flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper

Mix all the spices together and store in an airtight container.

Friday, January 27, 2012

White Bean & Tomato Tortellini Soup

I'm always on the look out for new guilt free recipes to try.  When I find one that is low in calories, fat and points, AND Mr. B likes it, I'm a happy girl!  I had seen a few different versions of this soup here and there in the vast world of food blogs and knew it would be just right for a chilly rainy evening.  After several blog, Pinterest, and a Google search I finally found what I was looking for over at Annie's Eats.

White Bean & Tomato Tortellini Soup
Adapted from Annie's Eats

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
9 oz. fresh or 6 oz. dried cheese-filled tortellini
2 Cups baby spinach
Parmesan cheese for topping

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes and cook an additional minute. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, beans, and Italian Seasoning.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir in the tortellini and continue to simmer until tortellini is cooked (dried tortellini will take a little longer than fresh).  Stir in spinach and remove from heat.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan.   Enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Parmesan Chicken Roll-Ups

1, 2, 3... Easy!  That's what this dinner was.  I had 1.) an extra can of Pilsbury Simply French Bread in my fridge, 2.) a night that I didn't feel like going to the store and 3.) a craving for Parmesan Chicken... and wallah, the birth of this tasty treat!

And no, I'm not being paid by Pilsbury to say talk about them again...  All opinions on this blog are my own. :)

Anyhoo, back to the point.  This was one of those quick & easy dinners for which I happened to have everything on hand.  Don't you just love it when that happens?  As for the bread dough, I discovered something this time... if you look closely at the dough after removing it from the can, you will see a seam indicating that it was once a flat sheet of dough that was rolled up.  You can use that seam to unroll it instead of having to use a rolling pin.  MUCH easier!  Of course you could always use any dough you prefer.  You can even make your own if you so desire.

Parmesan Chicken Roll-Ups
Dough (refrigerated or frozen bread dough or pizza dough of your choice)
Pre Cooked Chicken (I used frozen chicken tenders from Trader Joe's)
Marinara Sauce
Cheese (I used Mozzarella & Parm)
Olive Oil
Seasoning (I used my House Seasoning & Italian Seasoning)

Lay out flat sheet of dough & brush with olive oil and sprinkle w/ a little seasoning.  Cut in half to make two pieces.  Spoon a thin layer of marinara sauce over surface of each, leaving a slight edge.  Place chicken pieces in a row on one end of dough.  Top entire surface with cheese.

Gently roll, starting with chicken side.  Place on baking sheet, brush top with olive oil & seasoning.  Into preheated 350 degree oven for 45 min.  

Cut in half. Serve with a side of marinara.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Breakfast Casserole

Question: What to feed a house full of people for breakfast when you've had less than 4 hours of sleep?

Answer:  Something you prepared ahead of time!

This past weekend 11 of us headed up to Tahoe for a 30th B-Day celebration.  I like to have something warm and hearty for breakfast after a night of celebrating, but don't always feel up to spending hours in the kitchen that morning.  I tasted a Breakfast Casserole about a month ago & was determined to recreate it.  These things I knew for sure:

1.) It was prepared in advance & traveled well
2.) It contained those little diced breakfast potatoes you find in the freezer section
3.) The "secret" ingredient was cottage cheese

After a couple of failed attempts to retrieve the recipe, I went ahead and winged it.  And let me just say, I was MORE than pleased with the outcome!  I was so thrilled in fact that in my haste to taste it, I forgot to get a photo.  Lucky for me, my bestie was ready with iPhone in hand to snap a picture of the last pieces before they were totally devoured!

Here's the recipe as I made it.  It was outstanding and received rave reviews.  PS: if you are thinking about omiting the cottage cheese, don't!  No one will know it's in there, not even the picky eaters who "hate cottage cheese".

Breakfast Casserole
1 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup diced ham

8 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups frozen diced potatoes
1 bunch green onions, green & whites chopped
1 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (plus additional for topping - Optional)
1 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (plus additional for topping - Optional)
1 1/2 cups small curd cottage cheese
1 tsp onion powder
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix well.  Pour into a greased 9x13 pan.  Cover and refridgerate until ready to cook.  Place in 350 degree oven, covered, for 30 min.  Remove foil and continue cooking for 30 min.  Top with cheese for the last 10 min if desired.  Remove from oven and let set for 10 min before serving.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Breakfast Time

My bestie over at Delish Life told me abut this quick & tasty breakfast.  Not only is it quick & tasty, but it is a great low cal breakfast option!

Baked Egg Cups
From The Simple Delights

12 Eggs
12 slices of deli ham
1/2 Cup of your favorite cheese (I used Parmesan)
1-2 Sliced green onions
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400.  Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.  Lay a piece of ham in each hole creating a little ham cup.  Crack one egg into each hole and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Once the egg is cooked to your desired level of doneness, remove from oven and top with grated Parmesan cheese and sliced green onions.  At around 100 calories each, this breakfast is hard to beat!  Serve with toast, in an English muffin or on their own.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Quinoa Burgers

YUM, YUM, YUM!!!  I saw THIS recipe from CanYouStayForDinner for Quinoa Burgers, and knew right away that they would be on my table very soon.  (Side note: You MUST check out this blog!  Her story is so inspirational and real!  I can't wait to try more of her delicious looking recipes!)  Oh Quinoa, how do I love you... let me count the ways... If you aren't familiar with Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) read a previous post about it here.  I love the stuff!  I've used it for all sorts of side dishes, in soup, salads & now "burgers"!  Mr. B was pretty excited about the idea of Quinoa Burgers (he's a big Quinoa fan too).  I made the recipe exactly as written and they were great!!  I had mine in a lettuce "bun" but for Mr. B I got some Thin Buns.  One bite into it and I knew we had a winner.  We both uttered several complements in between bites.  In fact, he (the guy who hates leftovers and repeat meals) requested that I use the rest of the mixture for tonight's dinner.  Can't beat that... one prep time, 2 dinners.

If you are a fan of Quinoa, or have yet to try it, give this one a shot.  Maybe your diners will be asking for more too!  Enjoy!

Loaded Quinoa Veggie Burgers
From: Can You Stay For Dinner

•1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
•1 carrot, diced
•4 scallions, sliced
•2 cloves garlic
•15 ounces can black beans, drained and rinsed
•1/4 cup Italian seasoned dried breadcrumbs
•1 large egg, lightly beaten
•1 tablespoon ground cumin
•¾ teaspoon salt
•½ teaspoon pepper
•2 tablespoons olive oil (for cooking)

In a small pot, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil. Add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes; set aside.

In a food processor, pulse carrot until finely chopped.  Add cooked quinoa, scallions, garlic, beans, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, salt, and pepper; pulse until combined but still slightly chunky.

Form mixture into four patties. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium; cook burgers until browned, about 8 minutes per side.

Makes 4 Patties

Serve in a lettuce "bun" or Whole Wheat Thin Buns for low cal options.  (The recipe as written is 7 Weight Watchers Points+ per patty.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Party Time: Progressive Dinner Party

Last month we took part in a Progressive Dinner Party that one of our neighbors arranged.  If you have 3 - 5 houses in the same neighborhood this works perfect since everyone is in walking distance.  It can also be done with houses near by, but driving distance.  (Just make sure to drink responsibly!) 

The concept is simple.  Each house chooses one course.  You start with the first house and "Progress" to the next, and so on.  If driving between houses you may want to have maps to the next location. Either way make sure everyone know the address of each stop.

Our breakdown went as follows:

House #1 - Appetizers & Cocktails
We started the night out with a small variety of appetizers.  It's key to remember that no one wants to fill up too much at any one stop.  There is much eating (and drinking, if applicable) ahead, so pace yourself.  Also, when planning the menu for your house, don't over do it with options.  Too many tasty options this early in the night makes it easier to over do it. 

House #2 - Salad
There we found a nice "salad bar" like set up.  It was nice because everyone could chose their desired toppings and not have any of what they didn't like.  You could however to one large salad for everyone to have a small portion of. 

House #3 - Soup

This is the course we hosted.  I originally thought I wanted to do a few soup options.  However, I ended up doing just one large pot of clam chowder & it was enjoyed by all!  I had bowls of oyster crackers to top it off.  It would be fun to do a few of options, if you had the time of course.  Crockpots would be great for this!

House #4 - The Main Course

It's finally time for the main event and by this point you are probably not exactly feeling hunger pains.  It's important to remember that if you are in charge of hosting this portion of the meal.  So try to keep it simple.  No need for a turkey dinner with all the fixins here!  Our hostess chose a tasty vegetarian lasagna and some homemade focaccia bread.

House #5 - Dessert!
Last, but certainly not least, it's time for dessert! You can offer one item or many options.  Just be prepaird for leftovers!  You may want to have coffee as an option here too.  We were greeted by a small variety of pastries.  A few people opted to to take theirs to go, so some sort of "doggie bag" containers would be nice.

In the end we all had a great time.  Since this was a December party, we ended with one last house.  There we had a gift exchange.  They has some small snack foods and pleanty of beverage options.  Those who were ready to go home did and some of the more ambitious of the the group stayed to play pool and the party continued into the night.  You may want to choose who hosts what baised on what point of the evening their stop is.  It made the most sence to have the last stop of the night be the more party oriented group.  If you are the type that like to end the night at a scheduled time, you may want to opt for one of the earlier time slots.

All in all, find a situation that works best for your group and have fun!  It was great to get to know some of the newer members of the neighborhood better.  We are all looking forward to making an annual event out of it.

If you have any questions on how to arrange your own Progressive Dinner Party feel free to ask away!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Best of 2011

What's for dinner tonight?  Maybe one of these favorites from 2011 will help you decide!

5.) Low-Fat No-Bake Oreo Cheesecake in a Jar!  Why not start with dessert first??  Especially when it's an easy, delicious, and low fat dessert to start your year off on the right foot.  This tasty treat was one of my many Pinterest findings & I just LOVE it!  I've made many other mini jar variations since trying this one.  If you haven't tried the mini jar dessert, do yourself a favor for your next dinner party.  Your guest will love getting handed their own individual dessert!

4.) Cheesy Shell-Stuffed Shells w/ Vodka Cream Sauce  This recipe has made the countdown two years in a row now!  Can't say I'm surprised, seeing as it's one of the most popular dishes among the people I've made it for.  I constantly get asked for when I'll be making it again!

3.) Fresh Corn Tomato Salad  If you are one of the many of my followers that has tasted or made this recipe, I'm sure you know what this is it's second year at in the top!  I have given this recipe to more people then I can count.  And so many of them tell me that they make it repeatedly during the summer.  I purchased a handy dandy "corn zipper" not too long ago.  So I'm sure I'll be making it plenty this summer.  (Maybe I'll even manage to snap a new photo of it!)

2.) Quite Possibly The Best Ever Stuffed Mushrooms  Here's another of my personal faves!  Why do I love these so much?  Because EVERYONE else does!  It's so nice to have no fail recipes in your arsenal that you know people will go bonkers over! 

1.) Chicken in Phyllo Dough  This is not only the most popular recipe of 2011, but is the most popular recipe on this blog of all time!  If you're looking for an easy recipe that is sure to impress, this is it!!!

So there you have it, the most popular recipes (by page view) of 2011.  Stay tuned for the best of my personal faves!