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Dine In: Halloween Treats


Spooky Marshmallow DippersI just had a total breakdown.

As I write this, it’s several weeks before Halloween, and I feel quite accomplished to have procured costumes for my two children.

Then, I made the mistake of logging into my Pinterest account and typing “Halloween” into the search bar.

Holy spiders and slithery things, Batman! I thought I was doing well to have costumes nailed down and fake spider webs up all over my house (a few real ones, too, just saying). Now, according to Pinterest, I have to carve watermelons into brains, make black-light lemonade, serve hot dogs shaped as mummies and a cheese bull formed into a skull, and hand out homemade rice treats that look like candy corn.

I think I’ll hibernate until New Year’s.

Let’s be real: I have two kids, two jobs and a daily two-hour commute. I will not be carving watermelons into brains (although the black-light lemonade was pretty cool).

There are a few treats, however, that would be super simple to make for fun on Halloween night and your kids can even pitch in to help.

This is what we’ll be making for ourselves and close friends (seeing how it’s frowned upon in this day and age to pass out homemade treats to strangers). They’re super easy, super cute and make it look like I spend a lot of time on Pinterest.

Spooky Marshmallow Dippers

Ingredients:
24 large or jumbo marshmallows
12 oz vanilla candy coating/bark
variety Halloween sprinkles
orange food coloring
lollipop sticks or straws
wax paper

Directions:
Lay wax paper all over your work surface. Pierce each marshmallow with a straw or lollipop stick.

Follow the directions on the package to melt the candy coating/bark. Stir in orange food coloring to turn your dipping mixture orange.

Pour sprinkles onto a paper plate. Dip your marshmallows into the melted orange candy coating/bark. Allow the excess dip to drip off for a moment and then dip the still wet marshmallow into the sprinkles. Place on the wax paper to cool.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 135, Calories from Fat: 17, Fat: 2 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 48 mg, Potassium: 1 mg, Carbohydrates: 29 g, Sugar: 19 g, Protein: 0.5 g.

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Dine In: Grilled Chicken Nachos


Grilled Chicken NachosI was sitting out on the back porch a few Thursday nights ago with my girlfriends. We’ve transitioned our weekly “Girls Night Out” to “Girls Night In.” It’s just less expensive – and more fun – that way. We love the back porch. It’s covered. I have a fan for when it’s hot and a chiminea for when it’s chilly, and, most importantly, I have a grill.

On Thursday nights, we usually cook out, so we can all stay in the same place and socialize. We’ve gotten pretty creative with our meals on the grill. That week, I really wowed the girls with Grilled Chicken Nachos.

My sons, who were not there for the Thursday festivities, were envious, so I made them again on Friday night. 

Grilled Chicken Nachos

Ingredients:
1 (24 oz) bag tortilla chips
salt and pepper, to taste
sour cream, for serving
salsa, for serving
guacamole, for serving
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1 cup Mexican blend cheese
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup plum or cherry tomatoes, diced
1/2 onion, diced and caramelized
1 Tbs taco seasoning

Directions:
Mix chicken with spices, salsa and tomatoes. Heat on stovetop until warm. 

In a separate pan, heat the black beans and caramelize the onions.

Preheat the grill for indirect grilling over medium-high heat.

Spray grill pan with cooking spray.

Place a single layer of tortilla chips on the bottom of a grill tray. Sprinkle with cheese and then a layer of the chicken and other toppings, topping with more cheese.

Place grill tray on the grill over indirect heat. Cover for 5 minutes, then turn and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Remove from the grill and use a spatula to cut and serve. Serve with sour cream, salsa and guacamole.

Serves 4
Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 1252, Calories from Fat: 483, Fat: 54 g, Cholesterol: 62 mg, Sodium: 1210 mg, Potassium: 878 mg, Carbohydrates: 154 g, Fiber: 20 g, Sugar: 22 g, Protein: 46 g.

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Dine In: Fettuccine with Goat Cheese, Bacon and Cherry Tomatoes


Fettuccine with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Cherry TomatoesSeveral years ago, we had “Pasta Thursday” every week in my house. It didn’t really matter what the dish was, but it contained some sort of pasta.

We’ve gotten away from that in the past few years, and it seems like we don’t each much pasta in the summertime at all.

Now that it’s cooler, pasta and pasta dinners have started reappearing on our menus. The boys love pasta and let’s admit, it’s fast, easy and inexpensive.

This recipe, to me, combines the best of summer flavors with heartier fall fare. While I’d normally take out as much fat as I could, make sure you use the bacon drippings as called for in the recipe. It makes so much of a difference. The original recipe didn’t call for whole-wheat fettuccine, but that’s pretty much all we eat any more. I love the nuttier flavor and the extra bite in the pasta when you use the whole-wheat kind.

This dish is also great to feed a crowd. I think it’s going to make an appearance at a porch party one Friday night soon.

Fettuccine with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp thyme, chopped
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
8 strips center-cut bacon
1 Tbs olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp thyme, chopped
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
9 oz whole-wheat fettuccine pasta
3 Tbs basil, chopped chiffonade (into thin strips)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C). Toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon chopped thyme and 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary. Roast in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft and have started to collapse.

While the tomatoes are roasting, cook the bacon over medium heat in a skillet. Reserve the fat and drippings while cooking. Crumble bacon roughly with your fingers and set aside.

Without washing the skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and drippings to the skillet. Over medium-low heat, add the minced garlic cloves, and cook until fragrant and starting to brown, about a minute. Add the remaining chopped thyme and rosemary, and cook for another minute. Set aside.

Cook the fettuccine according to package directions for al dente pasta. When done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and drain.

Add the cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and bacon to the garlic herb mixture in the skillet over medium-low heat. Stir together and cook for about a minute. Then, add the cooked pasta and toss, cooking for another minute. Add reserved pasta water if the sauce needs more liquid, but this shouldn’t be a saucy pasta.

Serve with plenty of chopped basil on top.

Serves 3-4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 431, Calories from Fat: 205, Fat: 23 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 52 mg, Sodium: 515 mg, Potassium: 944 mg, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 11 g, Protein: 26 g.

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Dine In: Pumpkin Pie Cake


Pumpkin Pie CakeI don’t care what the calendar says; as soon as school starts, it’s fall! Fall means all things pumpkin. Major chains are selling pumpkin coffees, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin cookies and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

Pumpkin in quintessentially fall, from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Thanksgiving pies. I remember growing up in Virginia where it was actually cool by the time school started and enjoying pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake and, of course, carving pumpkins then roasting the seeds to eat!

This recipe sounded amazing as it embodies all your favorite flavors of pumpkin pie in a cake!

Pumpkin Pie Cake

Ingredients:
1 can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 pkg yellow cake mix (gluten-free works as well)
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup nuts, chopped

Topping:
2 (12 oz) ctn whipped cream cheese frosting

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Add the pumpkin, eggs, milk, sugar and spices to a stand mixer; mix well. Next, mix in the cake mix and butter. If you choose to use nuts, mix those in at this point as well.

Pour the mix into two 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Once baked, let them cool completely.

Carefully remove and release them from the pan once they are fully cooled.

When cooled, add a thin layer of frosting on top of one cake, then place the other cake on top of the icing, making a 2-layer cake.
Serve immediately or serve chilled.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 554, Calories from Fat: 270, Fat: 30 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (13 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 104 mg, Sodium: 524 mg, Potassium: 260 mg, Carbohydrates: 67 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 48 g, Protein: 8 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Goulash


GoulashI decided today that it is fall.

I can’t wear boots yet. The calendar hasn’t said it’s officially autumn yet, but it feels like fall. Football is on, soccer season has started, school is in full-swing and one of my friends in Colorado posted a picture of it snowing today. I’d say it’s close enough.

I want to make a big pot of something yummy and soothing this weekend, true comfort food. I adore soups and stews, and I leave them simmering on the stove for hours. They smell delicious, and they certainly let me suspend the belief that it’s fall inside, if not outside.

I couldn’t decide what to make, so of course, I polled my Facebook friends. My friend, Dianna, suggested this:

Goulash

Ingredients:
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red or green bell pepper, diced (optional)
1 (15 oz) can small dice tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
2 cups dry macaroni, cooked according to package directions
salt and pepper, to taste
cheese for topping, if desired

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the macaroni. While pasta cooks, brown the ground beef that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Drain beef well and remove meat to a bowl. In 1 tablespoon oil, cook the onion and bell pepper (if using), until softened. Add the canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add the ground beef back to skillet. Cover and cook about 15 minutes. Remove lid and add cooked macaroni. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Toss well and add cheese, if desired.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 437, Calories from Fat: 71, Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 101 mg, Sodium: 862 mg, Potassium: 985 mg, Carbohydrates: 47 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 11 g, Protein: 43 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Breakfast Egg Rolls


Breakfast Egg RollsWhy are breakfast egg rolls making an appearance on a Friday blog, you may wonder? Because I made them over the weekend and froze a bunch for a quick and easy school-morning breakfast, that’s why!

The egg rolls can be baked or fried. I baked mine at 425° F until the wrappers were golden-brown. I let them cool completely before freezing them.

The sausage gravy was the proverbial icing on the cake for my older son. My younger son wanted to dip them in queso. That worked, too. Next time, I think I’ll add some diced onion and green bell pepper and sauté it with the sausage. Maybe a jalapeño and a little bit of hot sauce for a spicier version, too. I’ll also try it with sausage INSIDE the egg roll.

Obviously, you can easily adjust the amount on this recipe by making more filling and using more wrappers.

To reheat, microwave for about a minute on high.

Breakfast Egg Rolls

Ingredients:
3/4 lb reduced fat ground sausage
4 Tbs flour
4 cups milk
3 cups shredded hash browns
3-4 eggs
2 Tbs water
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Directions:
Brown sausage in a skillet. Remove 1/2 cup to a mixing bowl. Add flour to the skillet and brown a little in the sausage fat. Slowly add milk and stir several times while it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm while making egg rolls.

Mix eggs with the water and scramble the eggs. Cook eggs in a small frying pan just until set. Add to sausage. (Don’t cook all the way through; they will finish cooking when you make the egg rolls.)

Add the potatoes and cheese to the bowl with the sausage. Add 1/2 cup of the sausage gravy mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to blend together.

To make egg rolls, take an egg roll wrapper and put about 1/3 cup of the potato sausage mixture just below the center. Fold over one half to make a triangle. You should have about a 1/2 inch of the bottom part of the wrapper still exposed. With your finger, brush a little water along that edge to help seal the egg rolls. Fold in 2 sides forming the egg roll shape. Then, roll up egg roll.

To fry the egg rolls, heat oil to 325º F. Drop egg rolls into hot oil. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until golden-brown. Drain on a paper towel.
Serve with a bowl of sausage gravy.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 567, Calories from Fat: 292, Fat: 32 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 178 mg, Sodium: 836 mg, Potassium: 606 mg, Carbohydrates: 41 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 9 g, Protein: 27 g.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Feta Spinach Grilled Cheese


Feta Spinach Grilled CheeseWe used to have pizza almost every Friday night for dinner, but this summer, we’ve largely gotten away from that habit.

We’ve replaced pizza with sandwiches. We’ve done make-your-own subs, meatball and provolone subs, steak sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches with bacon and avocado, flatbreads, gyros, veggie pita pockets and all manners of grilled cheese.

I won’t lie: this recipe was a hard sell for my two boys. It has spinach and WHITE cheese, not some of the yellow cheeses we were accustomed to using in our grilled masterpieces, like cheddar. However, after tasting these, which I literally cooked on the grill, they’ve been hooked. I’ve also made this recipe adding one ounce of goat cheese in addition to the feta and mozzarella. Delicious.

Feta Spinach Grilled Cheese

Ingredients:
1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/4 lb frozen cut spinach
pinch of salt and pepper
2 ciabatta rolls
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 oz feta cheese
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s warm and gives off an aroma, add garlic and stir for one minute. Add spinach, salt and pepper; sauté until spinach is just wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Combine feta cheese, mozzarella cheese and red pepper flakes. Stir in spinach and combine well. Spread between ciabatta rolls.
Reheat skillet and toast sandwiches, about 2 minutes per side until golden-brown and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 343, Calories from Fat: 165, Fat: 18 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (9 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 43 mg, Sodium: 582 mg, Potassium: 68 mg, Carbohydrates: 20 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 23 g.

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Dine In: Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad


Lemon Orzo Chicken SaladFamily vacation at the beach entails 19 people in one house under one roof for a week. We love it, but let’s face it: even the closest of families can be so confined.

This year at the beach, it’s rained almost every day, further compounding our “togetherness.” We’ve played games, taken a trip to the local aquarium, had a dance off, played hide-and-seek with the kids (which ended badly with a downed shower curtain rod), watched movies and made T-shirts. There have been funny moments, and there have been a few tense moments.

However, there is always harmony during mealtime. Prep time constitutes happy hour. Then, we feed the kids. After the kids are full, they are dispatched to the “kids’ room” for Legos, pool or Toss Across while the adults eat.

The adults have taken to eating on the porch if the weather is conducive. This summer salad has the perfect, beachy flavors. Salty air, optional.

Lemon Orzo Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
1/4 cup orzo, uncooked
3 cups grilled chicken breast, chopped
1 1/2 cups baby spinach
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup pre-chopped red onion
2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
6 Tbs (1 1/2 oz) goat cheese, crumbled

Directions:
Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well.

Combine orzo, chicken and the next 6 ingredients (through oregano) in a large bowl; toss well.

Combine vinegar, oil, salt and black pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle vinegar mixture over pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 274, Calories from Fat: 71, Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 96 mg, Sodium: 215 mg, Potassium: 488 mg, Carbohydrates: 12 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 38 g.

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Posted in: Dine In, Produce


Dine In: Dominican Rice and Beans


Dominican Rice and BeansAs often happens when my large, extended family convenes, we do what all families do: give each other a hard time.

This week, while we’re all at the beach together, the “hard time” factor is ratcheted up a notch…or two.

We each take turns making a meal for each other during the vacation week. My sister-in-law, Juli, and brother, Andy, grilled shrimp and beef for tacos or fajitas, and Juli made rice and beans.

“These aren’t Mexican,” my brother, Jim, pointed out as we sat down to eat, completely counterintuitive to the Mexican meal Juli and Andy were trying to prepare.

Jim has spent quite a bit of time in Latin America, unlike the rest of us who rely on Pinterest and the Food Network for our exposure to other cuisines.

Luckily, Andy and Juli have a good sense of humor and the “correction” on the name of their dish was forgotten as soon as it was tasted.

This dish of beans, rice and pork cooked in one pot is indeed Dominican in origin. The “peasant food,” so to speak, is filling, easy to cook and great for a crowd.

Dominican Rice and Beans

Ingredients:
8 oz red kidney beans
1/2 lb smoked ham or bacon (coarsely cut into cubes)
4 cloves garlic (coarsely chopped)
1/2 green bell pepper (coarsely chopped)
3 sprigs cilantro (coarsely chopped)
3 medium onions (coarsely chopped)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 1/2 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato (coarsely chopped)
2 Tbs vinegar
2 cups white rice (well rinsed)

Directions:
Soak beans overnight or for a minimum of 3 hours in a large container with enough water to generously cover. 

Drain water, transfer beans to a large stockpot and cover with 5 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the ham or bacon pieces, partially cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add 1 cup of water and continue cooking for 30 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a sofrito. In a food processor or blender, combine garlic, bell pepper, cilantro and half of the onion, and process to a coarse paste.

In a small skillet, heat the oil. Add the sofrito mixture and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, salt, black pepper, tomato, vinegar and remaining onion to the beans, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Do not stir or the mixture will break up and take on a gluey consistency. The dish is done when the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is fluffy.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 371, Calories from Fat: 59, Fat: 7 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 16 mg, Sodium: 671 mg, Potassium: 682 mg, Carbohydrates: 62 g, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 15 g.

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Posted in: Dine In


Dine In: Chicken with Buffalo Fettuccine Alfredo


Chicken with Buffalo Fettuccine AlfredoIt’s no secret I love buffalo chicken. Buffalo chicken ANYTHING, that is. I made buffalo chicken breakfast burritos not too long ago. I can trace the affinity to all things spicy back to when I was pregnant with my first son. We’d ordered a pizza one night, and the delivery driver accidentally dropped off chicken bites with buffalo sauce that he claimed he couldn’t take back to the store.

I ate every last one and licked the sauce out of the plastic container. Oh yes, I did.

The love affair is now 13 years in the making and it hasn’t subsided. I don’t think I’ve licked sauce from anything since that moment, but I can’t be certain of that either. Weak moments, you know.

This recipe combines the best of both worlds for me and my kids. They love fettuccine alfredo. I love buffalo. We all win.

Chicken with Buffalo Fettuccine Alfredo

Ingredients:
1 lb fettuccine pasta
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb chicken tenders
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbs milk
1 1/2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs
2 Tbs butter
1 cup half-and-half
3 oz mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bleu cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, combine egg and milk in a bowl. Add bread crumbs to a separate bowl. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Dredge chicken in egg mixture, followed by bread crumbs. Cook in skillet until evenly browned, about 6-8 minutes per side depending on the thickness of your chicken. Set chicken aside and keep warm.

Melt butter in the same skillet, slowly pour in half-and-half, and stir in mascarpone cheese until it is fully incorporated. Whisk in parmesan cheese, bleu cheese and buffalo wing sauce. Let sauce cook for 1 minute to thicken.

When pasta is ready, drain and combine with buffalo sauce. Serve with chicken tenders.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 660, Calories from Fat: 245, Fat: 27 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 139 mg, Sodium: 929 mg, Potassium: 294 mg, Carbohydrates: 61 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 40 g.

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