Saturday, September 27, 2008

Three Cheese Stuffed Shells

I recently made these shells for my brother's birthday dinner. I thought that I would post them because they're really quite easy and taste great. This shell recipe is very similar to a lot of recipes for cheese manicotti, but these shells are so much easier to stuff. I will never stuff manicotti shells again...unless someone begs me to. These can be made a day or two ahead of time and refrigerated, then just pop them into the oven 45 minutes or so before you are planning to serve them.
I didn't think to get a picture of them once they were all hot and bubbly, sorry...but I was hosting a dinner!! Here is a picture of the shells after I drained the water off of them. If you place them on a piece of foil sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, they cool off faster and don't stick together. The other two pictures are of the shells stuffed. I did a pan with regular marinara and a few with pesto my brother requested. Of course, you do need to cover the shells with sauce once you are done stuffing them!! These are fabulous with the french bread recipe I posted a little while back!

1pkg Jumbo Shells (about 20 shells)
1 beaten egg
12 oz Cottage Cheese, drained
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T snipped fresh parsley
1 lb, 10 oz jar of Spaghetti Sauce

Cook pasta shells according to package directions. (Make sure to not over cook them, or they'll be too soft!) Drain well and cool shells in a single layer on a piece of greased foil or parchment paper. For filling, stir together egg, cheeses, and parsley. Spoon filling into each cooked shell. Pour a small amount of spaghetti sauce into the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan or large casserole dish. Place shells in a single layer in pan and pour enough sauce over shells to cover them. (If you’re making a lot of these, you can also layer or stack the shells with sauce in between them. See picture above.) Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, or until heated through. Makes about 4 main dish servings.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Better than WHAT Cake?

We usually call this "Skor Bar Cake" at our house, just to avoid the word "S-E-X". Anyway, this is a really yummy cake, and if you've never had it, you're seriously missing out. If you've never made it, you should. It's SO easy. I've had this made with a german chocolate cake mix before, but I just don't think it's as good as Devil's Food....mmm...I certainly know why the name of this cake contains the word "devil"...

1 Devils Food Cake Mix, plus ingredients to make it according to package directions.
1/2 Jar Caramel Ice Cream Topping (I'm partial to Mrs. Richardson's brand)
1/2 Jar Hot Fudge or Fudge Ice Cream Topping (again, Mrs. Richardson's)
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
8 oz Cool Whip
5 Skor Bars (Health Bars work too)

Mix and bake the cake mix according to package directions in a 9x13 pan. While cake is baking, mix together the toppings and milk until well blended. Once cake has baked and cooled, poke holes in it all over with a skewer or chop stick. (a knife works too) Pour all of the yummy topping mix over the cake and let it sit in the fridge for for 6-8 hours or overnight if you have time. It will soak up most of the toppings. Put the candy bars in the freezer for a while or overnight. This will make it a little easier to break the candy bars up without melting the chocolate on the candy bar.

Just before serving, put the candy bars in a zip lock bag and let out all of your frustrations! "Frost" the cake with the cool whip, and sprinkle with the candy bar pieces. Serve with your favorite ice cream! You can make this more fancy by using real whipped cream and adding a handful of chopped roasted almonds. YUM!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Zucchini, Zucchini and MORE Zucchini

I've been baking all day...a birthday cake for my brother (more on that later), granola bars with craisins this time, and Zucchini cookies (see below), not to mention this little project. This is what only one corner of my kitchen looks like...I have some work ahead of me.
Why does Zucchini grown at the wrong time of the year? In my opinion, the best thing to do with Zucchini is to bake with it. (Although, I do love it sauteed in a little bit of olive oil and fresh garlic...yum) But, I never want to bake in the middle of the summer when I have tons of zucchini, do you? So, I just wanted to share this tip about Zucchini that my friend Kim Mills shared with me a few years ago. Do you know that you can freeze these lovely squashes? You can't really make what you would make with fresh zucchini, but zucchini that has been frozen is great for baking with.
Here's what I do: I take the big zucchini's that aren't any good for much of anything and put them through my Kitchen Aid shredder on fine shred. (You can also just use your cheese grater if you want.) Then, I package it in sandwich baggies, each 2 cups (just because that's what most of my recipes call for). I then put several full baggies in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer. In the middle of the winter when you don't want to pay $3 a pound for squash, you just get a baggie out of the freezer, thaw it, and dump it into your zucchini bread ingredients and everything is great. However, zucchini tends to release all of it's juices while thawing, so don't be surprised if your little shredded zucchini is floating in liquid by the time it's thawed. Make sure to dump it all, or at least most of it, into your recipe. This is where all the yummy moisture in your baked goods comes from.
And, that's my tip of the day...or week...or my only tip so far! If you don't have a garden, go beg some big zucchinis from your neighbor and get to shredding. When it's frigid in February and you want some zucchini bread, you'll be glad you did!

Low Fat Zucchini Cookies

Honestly Folks, I'm not one to sacrifice taste when it comes to dessert. I do not make low fat cookies or cakes or whatever. I got this recipe from the munch n' crunch blog (see side for link) and decided to try them while I had all of my shredded zucchini out. Look at those yummy chocolate chips and pretty green flecks! They are actually really good. I wouldn't have guessed that they were low fat if I didn't make them myself. They're more of a cake-like consistency, but the oatmeal also gives them some chewiness. So, go ahead...try them...and don't feel guilty if you eat six or seven! (At least that is what I told myself as I was sampling every batch that I got out of the oven.) My first batch was a little dry (just a little tiny bit, don't panic) so I put the next one in for one minute less...and wallah...perfection! Mine took 9 minutes. I used whole wheat pastry flour, which is light and fluffy and perfect for baked goods. You can get it at any type of natural foods store like the Good Earth or the new Sunflower Market that just opened near me. (I am in love with that store!) I thought that 1/2 tsp. of cloves was a bit much, so next time I'll use 1/4 tsp of cloves, and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, but that's just my preference. I also added 1/2 tsp of vanilla. Make them. Now...before Zucchini is no longer in season!!

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup applesauce
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup grated zucchini (fine grate)
1 cup chocolate chips
* Optional Items: Protein powder, wheat germ, craisins, etc.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Cream together sugar, butter, applesauce and egg with a mixer on low speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add dry ingredients, alternating with grated zucchini. Once all ingredients are well combined, fold in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon full onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until cookies are barely starting to turn brown around the edges. Let cookies stand for 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring them to a wire rack for cooling. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

***NOTE: I put them all in a tupperware, and the next day, they looked a little different, but don't be alarmed. They are still pretty tasty for a low fat cookie.

Nutrition Facts: per 1 cookie Calories: 86 Fat: 3 grams(2 grams saturated, 1 mono-unsaturated)Carbs: 14 grams Fiber: 1 gram Protein: 1 gram (My batch made 40 cookies, so that's about 1 1/2 points on Weight Watchers)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Baked Spaghetti

This is an easy week night meal that is popular with kids and adults (at least at my house, it is!). It sounds weird to add the cream of mushroom soup on the top, but it adds a lot of flavor and is creamy and good. You can also add some chopped olives if you like!

½ medium onion minced
1 Lb. Hamburger
2 C. Mozzarella Cheese
Jar of Spaghetti Sauce (24 oz or larger if you like it saucy!)
Mushrooms (optional)
12 oz Spaghetti
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
¼ C Water
Parmesan Cheese
Olives, chopped (optional)

Brown hamburger with onion and drain. Add Spaghetti sauce and mushrooms. Simmer over low heat until heated through. Boil Spaghetti according to package directions only until slightly undercooked. Layer spaghetti, sauce and cheese in a greased 9x13 pan. Mix soup and water, and pour over layers. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and olives. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Crusty French Bread

I finally figured out how to take some close up pictures, and I'm still experimenting to see what looks best, so bear with me until I become a better photographer!

This is a recipe that my Aunt Vicki acquired in a cooking class that she took in High School, I think. It's been around for a while. I have been making this recipe for years, and I love it. It's so versatile. I've used it to make pizza dough. My mom used it to make focaccia bread once. I add some garlic and Italian Seasonings to it to make a soft white bread that goes great with Italian food. (This is my brilliant Mother's idea) It's just yummy! I made this for dinner last Sunday and my brother ate almost an entire loaf himself. This bread is best hot, and isn't quite as good the next day, so don't plan on making tons and freezing's just not as good!

5-5 ½ C Flour
1 pkg. Yeast
2 C Warm Water
1 Tbs. Shortening
1 Tbs. Sugar
3 tsp Salt
1 Egg white
1 Tbs. Water

Combine 2 C Flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Add warm water and shortening (I always substitute 1 Tbs. of Olive Oil when I make the Italian style loaf) and beat until smooth. Add remaining flour and knead on floured surface until dough is no longer sticky. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise until doubled (1-1 ½ hrs.). Punch down. Shape into one long or 2 small loaves and place on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with combined egg white and water. With a sharp knife, make 3-4 diagonal slashes across top of loaf. Let bread rise for another 30 to 40 minutes. Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes (30-35 for 2 loaves, or 40-45 for one loaf) or until light golden brown. For crustier loaf, bake with a shallow pan of water on lower oven rack. For Italian style bread, add 1 tsp. Italian seasoning and ¼ to ½ tsp garlic powder (or 1-2 cloves of pressed garlic) to dough while kneading. Serve hot with butter or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Easy Cucumber and Tomato Salad

We are growing both cucumbers and tomatos in our garden this year, and one of my favorite things to do is to chop them up and throw them together with some balsamic dressing. They look so pretty and taste so good!
I just buy a packet of Good Seasonings Italian Dressing mix, but instead of using what it calls for, I use balsamic vinegar and olive oil and mix it according to the package directions. For a different taste, sometimes I use apple cidar vinegar and canola oil. Both dressings are easy, and fabulous on these veggies! Sometimes I add a little bit more water and a little less oil just to save a few calories. These are two of my favorite dressings!

Cinnamon and Raisin English Muffins

My kids love English Muffins. I try to buy the healthy ones that are whole grain. Their favorite ones are the whole grain with cinnamon and raisins, which cost almost $3 for six, and never go on sale. So, I came across a recipe for English Muffins. After a few times making it, I think that I finally got it down. Who knew that you could make home made English Muffins? They don't have all of the nooks and crannies that regular English Muffins have, but they sure are good! Don't be intimidated, they're pretty easy to make. I tried making them with all whole wheat flour, and they were a little too dense, so I would suggest adding *** half white flour as the recipe below calls for. Enjoy!

1 cup milk
3 Tbs. Honey
1 1/2 Tbs. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
¼ cup shortening
3 C All Purpose Flour
3 C Whole Wheat Flour (I used White Whole Wheat Flour)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ C raisins

Warm the milk and shortening in a small saucepan until the milk bubbles (don't let it boil!) and the shortening is melted. Then, remove mixture from heat. Mix in Honey, stirring until dissolved. Let cool until lukewarm. (this is important because you don't want to kill your yeast) Once the mixture has cooled to lukewarm, add your warm water, and the yeast. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the milk mixture and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add salt, cinnamon, and the rest of the flour, or enough to make a soft dough. Knead for 7-10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down. Roll out to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut rounds with biscuit cutter, drinking glass, or empty tuna can. Sprinkle waxed paper with cornmeal and set the rounds on it to rise. Dust tops of muffins with cornmeal also. Cover and let rise 30-45 minutes. Spray griddle with non-stick cooking spray. Cook muffins for about 25 minutes at 300 degrees on an electric griddle, flipping every 5 minutes. (You can also cook in a large frying pan on the stove top. Cook for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes on medium low.) Allow to cool and place in plastic bags for storage. To use, split and toast. Makes about 18-20 muffins.

***Revision: After I started grinding my own wheat, I have made these with all whole wheat flour, or 5 C whole wheat flour, and 1 cup AP flour, and they turn out fabulous! There is something about grinding the wheat that makes it not quite as dense!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Creme De Menthe Brownies

This recipe is for those of you who think that my blog is too healthy!! My sister-in-law, Emily, made these brownies for my birthday, and I LOVED them. I've always enjoyed mint and chocolate, and these really hit the spot. I love making easy and delicious desserts, and this one fits into this category because it uses a brownie mix!

Crème de Menthe Brownies

1 brownie mix
Eggs (according to mix package)
Oil (according to mix package)
1 (10-ounce) package Creme de Menthe baking chips (recommended: Andes)
Shaved Creme de Menthe thins (recommended: Andes)

Frosting: 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan. Mix brownie mix, eggs, oil and water according to the package’s directions. Add baking chips and bake according to package directions. While brownies are baking, prepare frosting. Combine butter, cocoa, confectioners' sugar, vanilla and milk in a large mixing bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until dry ingredients are moistened. Beat at high speed until spreading consistency. Remove pan from the oven and allow brownies to cool in pan on wire rack. Spread with chocolate frosting. Top with shaved mint thins.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Chicken Caesar Pizza and Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

I found this recipe on the "Taste the Joy" blog (see links to the right). It was really good! The recipe calls for a Boboli pizza crust, but I made my own, and I'll post the recipe for the pizza dough. I used Briann's Caesar dressing because it's my favorite. I also used a large leftover chicken breast that we grilled that had been seasoned with Italian seasoning, garlic and a little olive oil. I added some chopped green onion and tomato to the pizza before I cooked it. Without the salad on top, it reminded me a lot of Papa Murphy's Chicken Garlic pizza. With the salad, it reminded me of something that you order at California Pizza Kitchen. Yum!

Chicken Caesar Pizza

1 Boboli pizza crust
fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
romaine lettuce, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes
1-2 chicken breasts
1 C Cardini’s Caesar dressing
2 C mozzarella cheese, shredded

Cut chicken into thin strips and sauté in 2 TBS Caesar dressing. Brush 2 TBS (I added a little bit more than this) of dressing on pizza crust. Top with mozzarella cheese and cooked chicken. Grate Parmesan cheese over top of pizza. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is hot and melted. While pizza is baking, combine lettuce and tomatoes in bowl and coat with dressing and Parmesan cheese. Let pizza cool 10 min and top with lettuce mixture.

Now for the crust:

I think that I found this recipe on, but I can't remember. We have mostly used this pizza crust for grilled pizza, but it is good baked as well. I have made a few different pizza crusts that call for whole wheat flour, but I feel like the ones that have ALL whole wheat flour are too dense and overwhelming for pizza. I think that this one is a good compromise with part white flour. When I made the Chicken Caesar Pizza, I split the dough in half and rolled out two (one plain cheese for the kids, of course!) thin crust pizzas on two different greased cookie sheets and baked them for 15-20 minutes. This made a lot of pizza, and we had great leftovers!

Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand for about 10 minutes, until foamy.
2. Stir the olive oil and salt into the yeast mixture, then mix in the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. Tip dough out onto a surface floured with the remaining all-purpose flour, and knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3. When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 thin crust, or leave whole to make one thick crust. Form into a tight ball. Let rise for about 45 minutes, until doubled.
4.Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Roll a ball of dough with a rolling pin until it will not stretch any further. Then, drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size, place on a well oiled pizza pan. Top pizza with your favorite toppings, such as sauce, cheese, meats, or vegetables.
5. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes (depending on thickness) in the preheated oven, until the crust is crisp and golden at the edges, and cheese is melted on the top.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

I was a little hesitant to try this recipe just because the mixture of ingredients sounded...well, different. But, I am a sucker for things that go on top of rice, and this looked SO easy...I decided to try it. I buy the big container of taco seasoning at Costco, and it seems a little bit on the hot/spicy side. So, I reduced the taco seasoning to 2 Tbs, and will probably use about 1 1/2 Tbs next time just because I like things more on the mild side. I was done with this meal before the rice was done cooking, so I can honestly say that this dish and a green salad can be made in less than 20 minutes! I LOVE those kids of meals! I got this off of the blog/link on the right called "Taste the Joy". She has some fun looking recipes!

Sweet and Spicy Chicken

¾-1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 Tbs. Taco Seasoning
1 tsp. Oil
1 ¼ C Salsa
½ C-3/4 C Peach or Apricot Jam
Rice, cooked

Cut chicken breasts into ½ inch squares. Toss with taco seasoning. Spray a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and add 1 tsp oil. Brown chicken in oil over medium-high heat, then add salsa and jam. Cook until heated through. Serve hot over steamed rice.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Grilled Potatoes and Onions

My new favorite recipe blog is: (see the link on the right) I tried 3 new recipes from their blog last week and LOVED them all. Unfortunately, this is the only one that I remembered to take a picture of, so here you go... I always have problems coming up with things to go with meat when we're grilling, and this side dish was SO great. The smoked paprika is NOT regular paprika, and is SO delicious! I used Yukon Gold potatoes, just because I had some that needed to be used. These packets were so easy to make...I did it all by myself on the grill!! Make sure to try this before grilling season is over! (or, if you're like us and grill all year around...enjoy them from now on!!)

1 potato per person (any kind of potatoes work)
1/2 small onion per person
1 Tbsp. butter per person, cut into pieces
1/4 tsp. salt per person
Freshly-ground black pepper
Smoked paprika
Aluminum foil

Tear sheets (1 per person) of aluminum foil into about 16" pieces. Fold each in half into a sqaure, and set aside. Preheat grill. Slice potatoes into pieces about 1/4" thick. Slice onions about 1/8" thick. Place 1 potato in the middle of each foil square and dot with butter pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then sprinkle GENEROUSLY with smoked paprika. Remember, paprika is super mild, so it's hard to add too much. Top each pile with onions. Fold edges in and secure tightly. It's important to get a good seal because the moisture will cook the potatoes and onions and you want all those yummy juices, so if it seems like there's not quite enough foil, wrap packet in another layer.Turn heat on grill to low. Place each packet on the grill. Close lid for 15 minutes. Turn and allow to cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully open each packet (or, even better, let each person open their own packet--hey, less work for you, right??)