Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chunky Tomato Basil Sauce

Since its the week after Christmas and our pockets are a bit light Im trying to cook dinner with what I have on hand. Since I had a bunch of basil left over from my caprese salad I decided to try to make a tomato basil sauce with what I had in my pantry. Its a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy and bursting with basil. Its a very chunky sauce ans tastes great with whole grain spaghetti.

2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 large sweet onion (chopped)
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup water
2t balsamic vinegar
4t sugar
1/2t dried basil
1/4t crushed red pepper
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves

1.Heat olive oil in pan. Add onions and garlic. Saute over medium heat until soft
2. Add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, water, sugar, dried basil and crushed red pepper. Stir
3. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer, stirring frequently, 50-60 minutes
4. Remove from heat. Stir in fresh basil leaves. Serve with your favorite pasta

Cranberry Nut Clusters

A couple years ago I started making candy for Christmas. Everyone else was making cookies and I wanted to be unique. Each year I raid my pantry and toss in whatever I think would be tasty covered in chocolate. This year I came up with these bad boys. Its a pretty basic recipe, melt, dump, spoon, done.

Anyone can make this candy and it looks so professional and makes a great gift. Everyone raved about these! They are sweet, salty and tangy! They will be added to the list to return next year.

1.5 cups dried cranberries1 cup salted peanuts
1 cup salted cashews
1lbs vanilla candy melt or white chocolate chips
 50 candy cups

1. In a medium glass bowl melt candy in the microwave stirring every 30 seconds until smooth (if using chips you will need to add a little shortening)
2. Stir in cranberries and nuts
3. Quickly spoon into candy cups
4. Place tray of candy in fridge for 10 minutes

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pepperoni Rolls

These are so good and quite easy to make.... the kids can even help. I usually double the batch for parties.

Rhodes Frozen white rolls (36 ct)
Sliced pepperoni (1 pillow pack)
1lb mozzarella cheese (cut into 36 pieces)
Mild banana pepper rings*

1.Allow dough to rise according to direction on the package.
2.Preheat oven to 350
3.Flatten risen roll in your palm. Add piece of cheese, 3-5 pepperoni, 1-2 banana pepper rings.
4.Fold dough to completely cover the filling. Be careful not to leave holes or cheese will run out
5.Place fold side down on greased cookie sheet.
6.Bake 8 minutes. Open oven and brush the tops with melted butter. Bake 12 more minutes or until brown.

*These can also be made minus the pepper rings. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

S'more pops

Holy crap these suckers are good!  In the past I have made chocolate covered marshmallows. I have even made chocolate covered marshmallows on sticks... but never EVER did I think of coating those tasty chocolate covered marshmallows in graham crackers to have an instant s'more. I snagged the idea from the awesome blog Gimme Some Oven. 

50 large marshmallows
1lb of milk chocolate (if using chocolate chips you will need to add a little shortening to thin/smooth it out. I used candy melt)
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs (give or take I didnt really measure)
50 lollipop sticks
* A thick piece of styrofoam (optional but will make your life easier and your suckers prettier)

1. Insert stick into marshmallow about 3/4 of the way in
2. In a glass cup (I use my pyrex measuring cup) melt chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until creamy smooth
3. Dip marshmallow in chocolate
4. Sprinkle all over with graham cracker crumbs
5. Insert sticks into styrofoam block (if no styrofoam place on wax paper)
6. Repeat
7. Put s'mores in the fridge for 10 minutes to allow chocolate to set

I made over 100 of these yesterday and packaged them prettily with some cellophane bags and ribbons to give as Christmas gifts. Of  course that only left me with a few to photograph so these are the ones the chocolate didnt totally coat, but they were still delicious.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chicken Fried Rice

This comes out of your freezer and tastes JUST LIKE TAKEOUT! Im not joking here either. Its amazing! The cool thing is you can make it in mass quantities and freeze it. Just thaw the bag and in 10 minutes you have dinner! I adapted my version from this recipe from the oamc guru Tish at the Zaar. Its a gigantic recipe. I make 8 freezer packets from it.(feeding 2 people)  Feel free to divide it to meet your needs.

For the rice mix:
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups chopped carrot
1 chopped sweet onion
12 cups rice (cooked and cooled and yes you can use minute rice if you want)
2lbs of chopped cooked chicken (yes you can use leftovers)

1. Mix everything is a large bowl.
2. Portion, label and freeze.
I get 8 bags out of this with 2 servings each in them. Portion your bags according to your family's needs. Just adjust the quanties below.

To cook a 2 portion bag:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs
3 TBSP soy sauce

1. Thaw bag and squeeze to break up rice
2. Heat oil in large skillet
3. Fry rice in hot oil over medium heat stirring frequently for 5 minutes
4. Add soy sauce to taste. (about 3 tbsp more or less to taste)
5. Push rice to the size of the pan. Add eggs to other side
6. Allow egg to cook until thick. Break up and the stir into rice
7. Serve

This is an easy thing to make for dinner. I serve with a couple egg rolls (I buy a big bag of frozen from BJs)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Asian Chicken Salad Bar

Every now and then I get a craving for an Asian inspired salad with mandarin oranges, nuts and chicken. I ate them alot when pregnant. Applebees, Panara and even Wendy's have their own take on it. This is mine. It uses grilled chicken instead of fried because Id rather use my calories elsewhere. Its loaded with crunchy goodness! I didnt really measure as I kinda made it a "salad bar" so everyone could help themselves and create their own. This is what should make a salad bar for about 8 people. They will be dinner sized salads. There may be extras depending on how your clan fills their plates

*16oz chopped romaine lettuce
*16oz chopped iceburg lettuce
*4oz chopped napa cabbage
*2 carrots matchsticked
*1 bag of frozen peapods (defrosted)
*10 oz dry roasted almonds
*1 (24.5) oz jar of mandarin oranges (i used dole)
*1 (4ish) oz package of crunchy wonton strips (found in salad section made by fresh express)
*1 medium can of LaChoy rice noodles
*2-2.5 lbs of grilled chicken (depending on how carnivorous your crowd is. You tend to need more meat if their are more men)
*Seasoning for chicken (I use Pampered chef Asian seasoning mix because I have it, but you can pretty much use anything you want. A little garlic and soy would be really good. You can also use leftover chicken)
*Your favorite Asian salad dressing. I used Asian Ginger from Marzetti. You will probably need 2 bottles for 8 people. (or you can make your own! I was going to but I was out of sesame oil)

1. Season and grill chicken.
2. Mix romaine, iceburg, napa cabbage and matchsticked carrot in a BIG serving bowl.
3. Put other ingredients in their own bowl
4. Give your guests a plate and tell them to dig in

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cheesy Sausage Quiche

Every Christmas morning my mom makes this awesome sausage quiche(its her own recipe) Its not as light and fluffy as traditional quiche as it contains no cream. It is however very cheesy and delicious. As kids we always quickly devoured both pies. Its a very kid friendly meal. Now I like to make this for dinner on occasion. The recipe makes 2 pies.

2 pie crusts
12 eggs
1 roll of sausage (I use Bob Evans)
4 cups shredded mozzerella cheese
1 pkg Good Seasons dry Italian dressing mix

Preheat oven to 350
1. Brown sausage and drain thoroughly
2.Crack and beat eggs. Add Italian dressing packet and stir
3. Add cheese and sausage to egg mixture and stir
4. Lay pie crusts into pie pan and pinch down the edges
5. Divide egg mixture evenly among both pans
6. Bake 50-60 minutes

2 pies = 16 servings I go ahead and make both even though its just the 2 of us eating because the leftovers are excellent both cold and microwaved. Plus it only costs about $10 to make both pies (shopping sales obviously which I do) even if you dont make your own crust (which I dont because hello I have a 2 month old)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Macaroni Grill Carmela's chicken rigatoni

Nothing makes my mouth water quicker than the words marsala cream sauce!! This is my copy cat recipe for the Macaroni Grill's Carmelas chicken rigatoni. It so delicious and decadent (and I dont want to know the calories in it... I know it's BAD) I get this everytime I go to Macaroni Grill. Since we are budgeting I cant afford to go out to eat as much, I came up with my own version. This will make 3 big bowls. (like restaurant portions) You will need to grill your chicken breasts and carmelize the onion prior to starting... but then its super fast to make. Like 5 minutes fast! You can use leftover grilled chicken too!

8oz baby bella mushrooms (i use more than MG does in my version. You can use less if you arent a shroom lover)
1/2 sweet onion carmelized (cook down with butter until soft and mushy... I use marsala to de-glaze the pan)
8 oz grilled chicken breasts (chunked)
salt and pepper
2t dried basil
4oz of Marsala wine
10 oz heavy cream
12oz rigatoni (cooked)
2oz shredded parmesan

1.Melt butter in pan. Saute mushrooms, chicken, basil, carmelized onions salt and pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes
2.Add Marsala wine and cook for 1 minute
3.Add heavy cream and bring to a boil. 2 minutes
4.Dump cooked rigatoni in pan (if you have room in your pan. If not dump mixture over bowl of cooked rigatoni and mix
5.Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese

Just look at the mushroomy cheesy goodness! If you love chicken marsala... this is it on steroids!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Peppermint crusted marshmallows

I make these peppermint crusted marshmallows at Christmastime. They look so pretty in a candy tin and make a great gift. Plus they couldnt be easier to make and they are very inexpensive.

1/2lb white mint candy coating
5 crushed candy canes
30 marshmallows

1.Heat candy coat discs in microwave safe cup stirring every 30 seconds until smooth
2.Once melted dip marshmellows into candy and then dip into crushed candy cane.
3.Place candy side up on a cookie sheet. Place in the refridgerator for 10 minutes until chocolate sets.
4.Package in a pretty tin.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Freezer Hash Browns

Bags of frozen hash browns cost $2.50-$3.00 each at the grocery store. Sometimes if Im lucky I can find them on sale 2/$4. That is for a 2pound bag.

Potatoes on the other hand can be pretty cheap. Usually you can get a 5lb for $2-$2.50... or if you are lucky like me you can score a 10lb bag at Giant Eagle for $1.49. With potatoes so cheap why am I spending money on bags of frozen hashbrowns when I can make my own? Here is the recipe I use. I adapted it from this one

5lbs potatoes
vegetable oil
salt and pepper (or seasoning salt) to taste

1. Scrub potatoes (you can peel if you wish... I dont)
2. Cut into around 1/4" squares
3. Rinse and dry squares, toss in a big bowl
4. Coat with vegetable oil. I just pour a little in and stir. Repeat until potatoes are covered.
5. Season to taste. You can use just salt and pepper or add garlic powder, onions, paprika... whatever. I used zesty seasoning salt.
6. Dump potatoes on a cookie sheet. Make sure its a single layer for best results. For 5lbs of potatoes I use 2 cookie sheets.
7. Preheat oven to 450. Bake potatoes 15-20 minutes or until tender
8.Remove from oven and allow them to cool
9. Once cooled place cookie sheet in the freezer and allow for them to freeze.
10.Once frozen portion them in a freezer bag or seal in foodsaver bags

To cook: Microwave frozen hashbrowns for 1 minutes to defrost slightly. The cook them in a preheated pan with a little oil (or butter) until browned.

**I freeze mine in 1lb pouches. I get 5 bags from this recipe. I saute mine in a little butter and add onions and green peppers.

So that is 5lbs of hashbrowns for about 75cents.... maybe 85 if you count the cost of oil/salt. So a 2lbs bag cost me 37cents! Smells like a bargain to me!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cinnamon Toast roll ups

These cinnamon toast roll ups are sweet and tasty right from your freezer. Not only are they quick and easy but they make your kitchen smell divine!

1 8oz brick of cream cheese (softened)
1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar (divided)
24 slices of white bread
1T cinnamon
3T butter/margarine (melted)

1. Beat cream cheese, egg yolk and 1/4 cup of sugar until smooth.
2. Trim crust from bread. Using a rolling pin (or whatever works) flatten each piece of bread
3. Spread cream cheese mixture over flattened bread
4. Roll it jelly roll style
5. Mix 3/4 cup of sugar with cinnamon in a shallow dish. Place melted butter in a shallow dish.
6. Dip roll up in butter and roll then in the cinnamon and sugar mixture
7. Place roll ups seam side down on a cookie sheet
8. Place cookie sheet in the freezer until roll ups are stiff (about 2 hours)
9. Bake and enjoy or toss them in a freezer bag to grab on the go

To bake: Peheat oven to 400. Place frozen rolls on a cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes

Recipe adapted from Mr Food

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stuffed Shells

This is my awesome recipe for stuffed shells. They freeze wonderfully and taste fresh reheated. I like to make them after a big batch of sausage and peppers and use up the leftover sauce and sausage as my sauce. You can use whatever sauce you have handy whether it be homemade or a jar of prego.

1 package of shells
2 eggs (beaten)
16 oz Ricotta cheese
1lb shredded mozzerella (1/2'd)(sometimes I use more)
8oz granted parmesan (1/2'd)
1T dried parsely
1t salt
1t pepper
1 jar sauce (or homemade 26oz)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Boil your shells
2. Mix eggs, ricotta, 1/2 mozzerella, 1/2 parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper until well blended. Toss in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill
3. Fill cooked shells with cheese mixture and place in a glass 9x13 pan.
4. Pour sauce over shells
5. Top with remaining mozzerella and parmesan cheeses
6. Bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes

This recipe makes a 9x13 pan full of cheesy shells. Since its just the 2 of us eating we get 4 meals out of this (8 big adult servings) We eat one fresh from the oven and freeze the other 3. If you have a bigger family you can easily double this recipe and make 2 pans (eat one and freeze one)

To freeze: portion shells in food saver bags (or other freezer bag) and seal
To eat: Thaw in fridge. Toss in the oven(or the microwave if you are me and lazy) til hot. I usually top with a little shredded mozzerella to make it taste like fresh baked
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