Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer Tortellini Pasta Salad

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When we went apple-picking-that-turned-into-peach-picking last weekend, our family decided to have a picnic on the farm beforehand. I like bringing a few things to share, so along with Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars, I knew I wanted to bring some kind of salad. But since I was pretty far along in my pregnancy when we went, it had to be something easy. 
I love tortellini in pasta salad because it adds some extra cheese flavor (and you can't go wrong with lots of cheese). I choose basic summery vegetables to add to the mix, so I landed on artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, black olives and mushrooms. Since we were going to be outside, I opted for Italian dressing to pull it all together rather than a mayonnaise-based dressing. The result was fresh and perfect for a hot summer day picnic. Or for any Labor Day festivities you have planned this weekend. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

  • 1 (12 oz.) bag cheese-flavored tortellini pasta
  • 1/2 cup light Italian dressing, plus more to taste
  • 1 (6.5 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 (8 oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1 (2.2 oz.) can black olives, sliced, drained
  • 1 (4 oz.) can button mushrooms, drained
  • 1 (8 oz.) block Monterey Jack cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Cook tortellini as directed on package. Drain and allow to cool slightly. Add to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, chop the artichoke hearts and red peppers into bite-size pieces.

Toss the cooked tortellini with Italian dressing. Once cooled, add the artichoke hearts, red peppers, olives and mushrooms. Add the Monterey Jack cheese and Parmesan cheese. Mix well.

Add more Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Source: SK Original

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Spaghetti With Spicy Scallop Marinara Sauce

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After I made Seafood Pasta the other week, I was on a seafood and pasta kick. Bay scallops can typically be bought at a very reasonable price in the grocery store, and I find that the frozen ones are even cheaper and work just as well. When I saw some in the store for six bucks, I bought them with the intention of creating another type of delicious pasta dish. And this one didn't disappoint either.
This is one of those meals that you can make after a long day of work, and it won't add to your growing migraine or stress level from the day. Since you crush the canned whole tomatoes by hand, you get chunks of tomato throughout the sauce, which adds nice texture. The simple sauce is seasoned from the garlic, basil and Parmesan rind, plus it gets a slight seafood taste from the bay scallops. Add more or less red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you like your pasta. Enjoy!
Printable Recipe

  • Kosher salt
  • 10 oz. thin spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1 28-oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 1-inch piece Parmesan cheese rind
  • 1/2 loosely packed fresh basil, chopped, plus more for topping
  • 3/4 lb. bay scallops

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the garlic softens, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, Parmesan rind, 1/2 cup water and basil. Bring the sauce to a boil, then stir and reduce the heat to medium low; simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt.

Increase the heat under the sauce to medium high, add the scallops and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque, about 5 minutes. Remove the Parmesan rind, and season with salt and more red pepper flakes.

Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the sauce; toss. Divide the pasta among bowls, drizzle with olive oil and top with more basil.

Source: Adapted from Food Network

Monday, August 26, 2013

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

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This is my go-to pulled pork recipe and every time I make it, it's a huge hit. If something is a huge hit and it takes pretty much no effort, that's even better. You just let the pork sit most of the day in a slow cooker, and by the time you know it, it's ready to be shredded! Talk about easy. The shredding is probably the most daunting part of the whole thing. It's not even hard, just tedious. Make sure the pork cools a little before you start shredding it apart because you might burn yourself (trust me and my poor blistered hands).
I served this on potato rolls, but I won't judge if you pile it up on plain white bread or a hot dog bun. We've all been there before. You can even top it off with some cole slaw for some crunch and a cold contrast to the hot pork. Sometimes I make my own BBQ sauce, but if I don't have time I typically use a brand that has a little kick to it. There's no wrong way, though...just use your favorite. This is sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Printable Recipe

  • 3-4 lbs. pork butt or shoulder
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz. BBQ sauce (homemade or store bought)
  • 2 cups water, plus extra if needed
  • Buns, for serving
Place sliced onion in the bottom of your slow cooker. Place pork directly on top, fat side up.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, mix a couple tablespoons of the bbq sauce in with the 2 cups of water until dissolved.  Pour directly on top of pork. Continue adding water until the slow cooker is filled 2/3 of the way.

Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours. 

Remove pork from slow cooker and place on baking sheet.  Throw out excess water and onions.  Allow to cool slightly. Using two forks, gently shred the pork, discarding fat. Put the shredded pork back in the slow cooker and add the rest of the bbq sauce.  Cook on high for an additional 30-60 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve on buns.

Source: SK Original

Friday, August 23, 2013

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

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Jalapeno Poppers are typically seeded jalapenos stuffed with a combination of cream cheese, shredded cheese and seasonings, then they are coated in breadcrumbs and either baked or deep fried. Now, imagine that same thing, but chopped up and baked over a piece of tender chicken. OH, and with bacon. It instantly changes an addicting appetizer into a full-on meal. The topping is creamy and full of flavor. I just know your family will love this one. Enjoy!

 Printable Recipe

  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast
For the jalapeno popper topping:
  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 3 jalapenos, deveined, deseeded and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 (8-oz.) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
For the topping:
  • 1/2 cup crushed butter crackers (1/2 sleeve)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425º F. Place chicken breasts in a small casserole dish and bake until juices run clear when pricked, about 45 minutes.

While chicken is baking, prepare jalapeno popper topping for chicken. Add bacon, jalapenos, and onions to a small skillet and fry until bacon is crispy and jalapenos and onions are tender. Remove from heat and add to a small mixing bowl. Add cream cheese, mayonnaise or yogurt, and cheeses to mixing bowl and cream together with bacon mixture until well-combined.

Remove chicken from oven and reduce oven heat to 350º F. Spread jalapeno popper topping on top of chicken until well-covered.

For the topping, mix together crushed crackers, cheese, and melted butter. Sprinkle on top of jalapeno popper topped chicken. Bake until crackers are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Source: Adapted from Add A Pinch

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Seafood Pasta

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Chris loves his seafood and he loves his pasta, so when they are combined into one dish, he's head over heels. I don't like to make pasta too often solely because of the carb content, but sometimes I like to surprise him and make an exception. This seafood-loaded pasta called for one of those occasions.
This pasta is packed with seared scallops and shrimp. It uses very simple ingredients, but the flavors blend together to create something dreamy. Plus it gets finished off in the oven, which allows the flavors to meld together a little more. The heavy cream that gets poured on top afterwards is completely optional, but it adds a little extra depth to the sauce that wouldn't be achieved otherwise. Enjoy!
Printable Recipe

  • 16 oz. pasta
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. light butter
  • 1 lb. scallops
  • 1 lb. shrimp
  • 5 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup light heavy cream, warmed (optional)
  • 6 whole basil leaves, chopped
  • Chicken broth, if needed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta for just over half the cooking time (it should still be a little firm).

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the scallops just until they get great color on the outside, about 45 seconds to a minute per side. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of both olive oil and butter to the skillet. When hot, throw in shrimp and brown them, too. (Don't completely cook scallops or shrimp.) Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add a small splash of oil to the pan. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds, then pour in the wine. Let it bubble up and reduce for a minute or two, then pour in the tomatoes (including juice).

Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, then cook the sauce over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes.

Tear off two large sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil. Overlap them on an ovenproof platter (make the overlap about 6 inches or so) with some depth or in a baking sheet. Use your hands to press the foil flat against the platter.

Pour the pasta onto the platter, then pour all the sauce over the pasta (juice and all). Next, pour on the seafood, making sure to add all the juices that may have dripped on the plate.

Gather up the two ends of the foil and roll them down so that they're tightly sealed---do the same with the shorter sides.

Place the platter into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the seafood is fully cooked and the flavors have all had a chance to meet and fall in love.

To serve, open the foil and drizzle a little warm cream all over the top. Throw on basil at the end and serve.

Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pesto Meatballs

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This month I was assigned Gastronomical Sovereignty for the Secret Recipe Club. Kristy is a super talented social media strategist and owns the company ohksocialmedia. Her blog is packed with healthy recipes featuring all organic ingredients, so I highly suggest you check it out yourself. There were a few recipes I was deciding between, but since I had a few jars of pesto on hand, I knew this recipe would be the one to make this month.
My older brother recently went to Paris and my parents went to Italy, and they both brought me back a few food-related items. One of which was pesto. Since I'm a huge fan of the basil-based sauce, I wanted to find a way to incorporate it into a meal besides just plopping it on pasta or on crusty bread. By mixing pesto along with a ground beef base, it gave the meatballs so much flavor and really complimented a simple bed of pasta. I love the idea of this and how they turned out. I can't wait to try other meat and sauce combinations in the future. Enjoy! 

Printable Recipe

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup pesto, homemade or store-bought
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
To serve:
  • Marinara sauce
  • Pasta
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Extra pesto
  • Pasta
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Make sure it's worked in well. Make 1-2" wide balls in the palm of your hand. Place formed balls in the prepared baking pan. 

Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Remove from oven. Either place the meatballs in marinara sauce and serve over pasta with Parmesan cheese. Or mix pasta with olive oil, salt and pepper, then top with a little extra pesto and meatballs. 

Source: Adapted from Gastronomical Sovereignty

Friday, August 16, 2013

BBQ Bacon-Wrapped Brussels Sprouts

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This past New Year's Eve (yes, I realize that was over 8 months ago), my husband and I went over to my friend's parents' house in Georgetown, DC for a small gathering. They host something every year, and it's complete with private chefs, a band/singer, karaoke, a stocked bar and tons of great company. The chefs made everything from lobster to shrimp to filet mignon to salads to chicken.

They also made BBQ Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts.
I had never seen such a thing or even heard of the idea, but I tried one and they were fantastic. Looking at some pictures the other day, I was reminded of them and wanted to give them a go myself. These are fantastic. The Brussels sprouts become very tender, while the bacon becomes extra crispy. The hint of BBQ sauce finishes them off with some crazy flavors. These are great for an appetizer or side dish. Enjoy!
Printable Recipe

  • 1 (12 oz.) bag Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 lb. bacon
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the bacon in half lengthwise. Depending on the size of your Brussels sprouts, cut the bacon in strips in half (for larger ones) or in thirds (for smaller ones). Wrap each Brussels sprout with a slice of bacon. Either secure with a toothpick, or place on the baking sheet seam side down.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the bacon is crisp. Remove from oven and spread each Brussels sprout with BBQ sauce.

Place back in the oven for 5 minutes.

Remove and serve immediately.

Source: SK Original

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta

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I love the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables that can be found in the grocery store or at a farmer's market in the summertime. Everything just tastes sweeter and fresher than it does throughout the rest of the year.
Bruschetta is a simple appetizer that can be made ahead of time and taken out when company arrives. Fresh tomatoes mixed with balsamic vinegar and garlic is served on crunchy bread topped with melted Mozzarella. It's a winning combination. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

  • Olive oil
  • 6 slices crusty bread, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar 
  • 8 oz. fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup packed basil leaves, chopped

Turn on broiler to 500 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

Place bread slices on a baking sheet. Brush olive oil over the tops of each slice. Place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until they begin to brown. Remove from oven.

Top each slice with a piece of Mozzarella. Place under the broiler until the cheese begins to bubble and starts to brown. Remove from oven and top each piece with a spoonful of the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with chopped basil, if desired. Serve immediately.

Source: SK Original 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

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Banana Chocolate Chip Cake is my sister-in-law's recipe. From the first time she made it, my family was hooked. The combination of bananas and chocolate is pure bliss, plus the cake comes out super moist from the use of mashed bananas. This is often requested for birthdays or holiday gatherings and it never disappoints. 
I made this one evening when I was bored (don't you bake when you're bored, too?) and realized that a 9x13" cake was way too much for Chris and me to devour on our own. He took half to work, and he said it was gone in minutes. At the request of his coworkers, he took the remainder the next day and again, it was gobbled up right away. I highly recommend this for a get-together or for a way to impress company. It's easy to make and is great both at room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (325 degrees F if using Pyrex).

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix sugar and vegetable oil. Add in eggs, sour cream, bananas and vanilla. Stir to combine.

Slowly add in flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Bake in a 9x13" pan for 30 minutes (50 minutes if using Pyrex), or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Once cooled, cut into squares and serve. Store in an  airtight container.

Source: My sister-in-law

Friday, August 9, 2013

Pork Tenderloin with Olive-Mustard Tapenade

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Pork...the "other" white meat. I don't cook with it as often as I would like, but as soon as I do I always question what took me so long. Pork is extremely tender (if cooked correctly) and a healthy meat option. It can be grilled or seared on the stove top, but all it really needs is a little salt and pepper to make the flavor stand out.
This particular recipe is also easy to prepare. Simply season the pork with salt and pepper and brown it in a pan of a little oil. The tangy olive and mustard combination on top gives the pork some bite. Serve this Mediterranean-style dish with a simple vegetable side dish and you have yourself a healthy and low-carb dinner. Enjoy!
Printable Recipe

  • 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. pork chops 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted green olives or onion-stuffed green olives
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced 
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Season each cutlet with salt and pepper. Heat oil in pan. Add pork to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until done.

While pork cooks, combine olives and remaining ingredients. Serve olive mixture over pork.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cheeseburger Pie

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This was a staple in our household growing up. It's easy enough to whip together and serve a starving family after a full day of work/school/sports/activities. I know it was hard to get me to eat hamburgers for dinner when I was a child. I distinctly remember sitting at the kitchen table long after the rest of my family had left because I was not allowed to leave until I finished what was on my plate. And that was always a hamburger. Whenever my mom made this, however, there was no stopping me. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup Bisquik
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded OR sliced American cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a pie plate with cooking spray and set aside.

Cook beef, onions, salt and pepper in a skillet until beef is cooked through. Drain and pour into pie plate.

Beat milk, eggs and baking mix until smooth. Pour over beef mixture and bake 25 minutes.

Remove from oven. Top with tomatoes and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Source: My Mom

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sour Cream Coffee Cake Muffins with Streusel Topping

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When a recipe calls for some sort of crumb topping, I know right away it will be a winner. There's just something so special about the combination of brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Just like in my favorite Old-Fashioned Crumb Cake, the crumbs are what makes the whole thing work. If you're like me, you'll be tempted to pick off all the larger crumbs and devour them on the spot. I won't judge you if you do.

Serve these for breakfast or brunch, or for an after-dinner treat with a cup of coffee. For the short time they lasted in our house, I took one for breakfast in the morning and it held me over until lunchtime. The hints of streusel layered throughout the muffin are also a welcome surprise when you bite in. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe
For streusel topping:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp. butter, slightly softened and cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
For batter:
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup (5 tbsp.) butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) light sour cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin tin with cooking spray or line with cupcake liners.
Prepare the streusel topping by combining all ingredients in a small bowl, using a fork to cut the butter evenly into the dry ingredients until well incorporated (it should be the consistency of wet sand). Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, oil and 1 cup sugar on medium speed until well mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Reduce mixer speed to low, and then gradually beat in the flour mixture, sour cream and vanilla just until combined.
Layer the batter and streusel in the prepared muffin tin by spooning a portion of the batter, then a sprinkle of streusel, topped by another portion of batter and a final sprinkle of streusel on top.
Bake muffins for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Remove muffins from oven and let cool in tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Source: Adapted from Just A Taste

Friday, August 2, 2013

Nutella Sandwich Cookies

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You didn't think I could stay away from it for that long, did you?

Nutella, I mean.

It's been a while since I've baked anything that included the chocolate-hazelnut spread, but after my obsession with Nutella Doughnuts, Nutella Oatmeal Thins, Nutella Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies, and No-Bake Nutella and Peanut Butter Cookies....well, I figured I needed to take a break.
But now I've relapsed. Looking through my old recipe collection, I spotted these Nutella Filled Sugar Cookies and started to drool a little. I had a hefty amount of cookies left after making Sugar Cookie Fruit Pizzas, so the only logical thing to do was transform the Nutella stuffed cookies into cookie sandwiches. They're easy to make a sure crowd pleaser. I couldn't get enough of these. Enjoy!

Printable Recipe

  • Sugar Cookies
  • Nutella
  • Powdered sugar
Make sugar cookies as directed. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Spread 1-2 tbsp. of Nutella in between the bottoms of two cookies. Sandwich the cookies together. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Store in an airtight container.

Source: SK Original