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Dine In: Slow Cooker Crustless Pizza


Slow Cooker Crustless PizzaTonight is our city’s annual Christmas parade, and I can’t wait to take my boys.

We’ve gone to the annual parade every year since we moved to this town, and it’s been a highlight of our Christmas season ever since.

Every year, we bundle up (or at least put on a festive Santa hat) and trek downtown to the square surrounding the county courthouse. It will be lit with white twinkle lights, and the buildings around the square will be festooned in holiday finery.

The parade, with marching bands, fire trucks, floats and, of course, jolly-old St. Nick, winds its way around the square in a cacophony of Christmas cheer. After the parade passes, the large and looming Christmas tree in the center of the square comes to life, the lever to light it up pulled by the Honorary Miracle Child of the year.

I hate to sound cliché, but it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s also a wonderful night to go home after the festivities to a meal that’s warm and ready to eat. True comfort food is a perfect end to the night.

Slow Cooker Crustless Pizza

Ingredients:
2 lbs ground beef
2 Tbs garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs dried, minced onion
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
1 (14 oz) jar pizza sauce
2 cups shredded pizza blend cheese
pizza toppings: i.e., pepperoni, black olives, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, ham

Directions:
Brown ground beef in a large, heavy skillet. When the meat is browned, drain the fat. Spray the inside of the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the beef and mozzarella cheese in the slow cooker and spread evenly across the cooking surface. Pour pizza sauce over meat mixture. Top with pizza blend cheese and the toppings of your choice. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 460, Calories from Fat: 143, Fat: 16 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 174 mg, Sodium: 561 mg, Potassium: 773 mg, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 35 g.

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Dine In – Grilled Beef Kabobs


Grilled Beef KabobsThe weather has finally cooled down and the clean, crisp air is absolutely exhilarating. I mean, I want to roll in the crunchy leaves on the ground and jump into the freshly-raked piles while wearing plaid and boots and drinking apple cider.

I want all things fall, now that it’s finally arrived.

My favorite thing to do on a Friday night is sit on the back porch with a fire in the fire pit and relax with the ones I love. This, of course, includes grilling something delicious.

When I think of the perfect way to end the week, I see my black, wrought iron porch furniture and pinion wood smoke billowing out of the chiminea. I can hear the sizzle as something delicious hits the hot grates of the grill.

This Friday, it will be Grilled Beef Kabobs. If you have time, start marinating these on Thursday night or Friday morning before you go to work or get busy with the hustle and bustle of the day. The extra time in the marinade will make the beef extra tender. For a side dish, double the amount of marinade and soak some cleaned button mushrooms. Then thread them on skewers and grill along with the meat. Grilled bacon-wrapped asparagus would be a great way to round out the meal. Finish by halving Granny Smith apples, brushing them with honey, grilling until tender, and then serving with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Grilled Beef Kabobs

Ingredients:
2 lbs sirloin, cut into 2-inch cubes

Marinade Ingredients:
2 Tbs beef stock or red wine
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Montreal steak seasoning
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried oregano
black pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves

Directions:
Trim the sirloin of visible fat and cut into 2-inch cubes.

Whisk together the beef stock (or wine), balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, steak seasoning, dried rosemary, dried oregano, black pepper, and add bay leaves.

Place in a large, plastic zip-top bag with the meat and marinate for at least 4 to 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Thread meat onto skewers, being certain to leave some room between pieces for even cooking.

When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium-high.

Grill kabobs to desired doneness, about 8 to 10 minutes for rare, 10 to 12 for medium rare or 12 to 15 minutes for medium.

Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 359, Calories from Fat: 161, Fat: 18 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 135 mg, Sodium: 144 mg, Carbohydrates: 1 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 46 g.

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Dine In: Stuffed Pork Chops


Stuffed Pork ChopsWe debated going out to dinner Friday night, but it was drizzling. It had been a long week, and we had to catch up on Netflix.

Staying home and dining in won out.

During the week before, Paul had mentioned making stuffed pork chops for dinner, but the New York Strips that were on sale at Brookshire’s won out.

On Friday night, however, we went for the pork chops.

It’s funny how, in all my love of Southern cooking, I’d never stuffed a pork chop. Paul, however, knew just how he wanted to make them. The house smelled amazing while they were cooking, and the result was fabulous.

Stuffed Pork Chops

Ingredients:
4 (2-inch thick) pork loin chops
2 Tbs Cajun seasoning
1 Tbs black pepper
1 lb Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 box Stouffer’s Cornbread Dressing (including ingredients to prepare it)

Directions:
Cut a slit in the center of each pork chop, creating a pocket. Season each chop with Cajun seasoning and black pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Prepare cornbread dressing mix according to package directions. Set aside.

Brown sausage in a large, oven-proof skillet. Remove meat with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Stir in chopped green onions and cornbread dressing until well-combined. Stuff 1/4 of each mixture into each chop, pressing meat together to seal.

Reheat the sausage drippings over high heat. Sear each chop in the hot pan, turning once to sear each side. Place pan in the oven; cook for 30 minutes.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 1088, Calories from Fat: 707, Fat: 79 g (28 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 264 mg, Sodium: 1419 mg, Potassium: 1057 mg, Carbohydrates: 26.6 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 65 g.

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Dine In: Bacon-Balsamic Brussels Sprouts


Bacon-Balsamic Brussels SpoutsI was slicing the stems off of some Brussels sprouts last week, planning to toss them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper before I roasted them, as I usually do.

Then, I got an idea for something a little different. I very well may have seen it somewhere else, but it struck me as an original idea at the time.

I added in a little bacon and some balsamic vinegar. Oh my goodness, the result was amazing. The bacon added smokiness, and the balsamic cut the sometimes bitter flavor of the Brussels with its sweetness.

The veggies end up roasting in some of the bacon fat that’s rendered, and the result is a delicious, filling dish.

This would make a great side dish for a medium-rare ribeye, grilled to perfection and served on your back porch next to a roaring fire.

Bacon-Balsamic Brussels Spouts

Ingredients:
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 slices bacon, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F.

Whisk the olive oil with the balsamic, salt and pepper. Pour over Brussels sprouts. Stir in chopped bacon. Spread on a baking pan, and roast in preheated oven for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serves 2 to 4 (as a side dish)

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 210, Calories from Fat: 118, Fat: 13 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 21 mg, Sodium: 475 mg, Carbohydrates: 14 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 12 g.

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Shop the Sale: Beefy Cheesy Quesadillas


Beefy Cheesy QuesadillasI’m in full-on comfort food mode!

I want anything that’s warm, cheesy, easy and that my whole family loves because nothing destroys comfort food mojo like complaining at the kitchen table.

This dish fulfills all my comfort food requirements.

I would have to double this recipe to feed my hungry family, but that’s easy (and economical) to do as well.

This is the perfect meal for a cool, fall night.

Beefy Cheesy Quesadillas

Ingredients:
1 Tbs butter
1/3 cup white onions, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 lb Angus ground chuck
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 packet taco seasoning
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
8 (10-inch) flour tortillas
4 cups cheddar cheese/Monterey Jack cheese, grated
butter, for cooking

Directions:
Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet until it begins to bubble. Add onions; cook until translucent. Add ground beef and salt, breaking up ground meat as it cooks and browns. Drain grease.

Mix taco seasoning into the tomato sauce. Add sauce to beef and onions, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

In a large nonstick skillet, melt more butter over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the skillet. Sprinkle with about 1/2 cup cheese (enough to cover tortilla) and about 3/4 cup of meat mixture.  Spread butter on top of a second tortilla, and place over meat mixture, pressing to help seal. Cook until golden on one side. Flip and cook until golden-brown on the second side. Remove from pan and let cool. Repeat with remaining tortillas and meat mixture. Slice into triangles. Serve with sour cream, guacamole and fresh cilantro.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 832, Calories from Fat: 448, Fat: 50 g (29 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 230 mg, Sodium: 1731 mg, Carbohydrates: 29 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 68 g.

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Dine In: Cajun Chicken & Rice


Cajun Chicken & RiceI need dinner tonight to be easy. Super easy.

It’s been a week; you know what I’m talking about. Two nighttime events for work. One nighttime event for school. After-school play rehearsals for one child; early morning training workouts for the other. Add in carpool, homework times two and a full work week, and Friday-night dinner has to come together quickly and easily and be delicious and filling.

Anything with rice qualifies as comfort food in my book, and if you start the rice a few minutes before the chicken, everything will come together perfectly when the chicken and vegetables are finished cooking. We like spicy, so I add quite a bit of Cajun seasoning. However, you can adjust the amount for your family’s tastes. I also prefer to use broth instead of water, as it just deepens the flavor.

Cajun Chicken and Rice

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water or chicken broth
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbs Cajun or Creole seasoning
2 Tbs olive oil
4 cups diced onions and bell peppers
1 (10 oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Louisiana Hot Sauce, for serving

Directions:
Combine rice and water (or broth) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 14 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, leaving the cover alone. (This is always the mistake I make with rice. Don’t. Touch. The. Lid.)

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, and season with a Cajun or Creole seasoning like Tony Chachere’s. Add half of the olive oil to a large pot and set heat to medium-high. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken without overcrowding the pan. Brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes, and then brown on the other side. Remove chicken to a plate to rest.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan; increase heat to high. When the oil is hot, add the onions, bell peppers and more seasoning; sauté until the vegetables become soft and browned.

Add the tomatoes, and then add the chicken back in, along with any juices that may have collected on the plate. Add the cooked rice and stir until well-combined. Add the cheese if desired and stir well to combine.

Serve with Louisiana Hot Sauce.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 610, Calories from Fat: 227, Fat: 25.3 g (9.4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 131 mg, Sodium: 495 mg, Potassium: 662 mg, Carbohydrates: 48.3 g, Fiber: 3.4 g, Sugar: 6.3 g, Protein: 44.8 g.

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Dine In: Haunted Halloween “Stuffed Intestines”


Haunted Halloween "Stuffed Intestines"There are so many fun ways to fix your food for Halloween that even Dr. Frankenstein would be suitably impressed with the experimentation going on in your spooky kitchen.

You can serve dollops of mashed potatoes piped onto a plate to look like ghosts. You can add black olives to deviled eggs to look like a spider nested on top. You can make individual meatloaves swimming in tomato sauce, striped with bacon to look like zombie heads. The options are endless.

This recipe totally made my kids laugh, after the initial shock wore off. It would be great to serve on Halloween night, before you go out trick-or-treating.

“Stuffed Intestines”

Ingredients:
1 box frozen Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets (includes 2 sheets)
3 to 3 1/2 cups Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 egg with splash of water, beaten

Directions:
Thaw the puff pastry according to the directions on the package. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400° F.

Remove sausage from casings and cook through. Drain all fat. Add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese to sausage; stir well.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the two sheets of puff pastry to be about the size of the baking sheet. Cut each sheet into 3 strips length-wise or 4 strips width-wise (either way works). Brush a small amount of water on the short end of a strip of dough to help it to stick the short end of the next strip. Continue to create two long strips with all of the dough.

Spoon the sausage mixture evenly down the center of each strip of dough. Bring the sides of the dough up and around the filling, and pinch together to close.

Start with one end of dough. Arrange it winding around the pan in a way that reminds you of an intestine, using all pieces of dough.

Place the pan in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes, or the freezer for 5 minutes, to chill the dough. Then, brush egg wash over the dough.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until dough is golden-brown. Drizzle with the remaining tomato sauce to resemble “blood.” Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 538, Calories from Fat: 354, Fat: 39 g (11 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 77 mg, Sodium: 818 mg, Carbohydrates: 28 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 18 g.

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Dine In: Chile Relleno Soup


Chile Relleno SoupThere was a time when I made it my mission to taste every chile relleno at every Mexican restaurant in a 100-mile radius.

I think I was pretty successful; there’s really no more relleno dishes left that I haven’t taste-tested. I know to avoid the soggy, greasy dish at one certain restaurant. I know that at another, the golden, crisp goodness and gooey cheese is what I’m going to eat before I even open the menu.

I’ve tried making chile rellenos at home, with varying degrees of success.

However, this soup highlights the essence of the dish, without having to deep-fry anything.

The best part is that you can eat it at home on your back porch in front of a roaring fire on a lazy Friday night. No reservations or gratuity required.

Chile Relleno Soup

Ingredients:
4 poblano peppers
4 Tbs butter
1/4 cup onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 oz cream cheese, cut into cubes
3 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Directions:
Roast the peppers over a gas flame or in the oven under the broiler on high heat until pepper skin is charred and blistered. Put peppers into brown paper bag, and close bag. Let steam and cool for about 20 minutes. Rub the skin to remove as much char as possible. Then, remove seeds and pith; finely chop.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and cook until foamy. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and poblano peppers. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add in the chicken broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the chicken, and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Incorporate cream cheese and cheddar cheese into the broth, whisking until smooth. To serve, divide into bowls, and then top with remaining cheese. Serve immediately with finely diced tomatoes and minced fresh cilantro, optional.

Nutritional Information: Calories from Fat: 341, Fat: 38 g, Carbohydrates: 10.24 g, Fiber: 2.64 g, Protein: 41.11 g, Cholesterol: 183 mg.

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Dine In: Slow Cooker French Onion Soup


Slow Cooker French Onion SoupA few weeks ago, I had lunch at my favorite local bakery and café, a place I eat so frequently that everybody knows my name. It helps that my BFF’s daughter is the manager there, too.

I went in for lunch, and the owner greeted me and suggested that I try the French Onion Soup.

To be totally honest, while I like French Onion Soup, it’s never something I crave or choose off a menu.

She brought me a little cup of soup, and I was hooked. I even went back later in the week for some more, and now I’ve made them promise to alert me on days they are serving the magical soup.

Their French Onion Soup is a secret family recipe. No amount of cajoling could get them to give it up. However, I do know one of the major ingredients, so I set off to find a similar recipe featuring red wine. I also know it’s slow-cooked for hours.

French Onion Soup is definitely a meal that you can dress up for a stay-at-home date night or serve as a hearty fall family dinner.

I can’t wait to make it at home, and then enjoy the leftovers all weekend long.

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

Ingredients:
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large yellow onions, slivered
8 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp salt
1 loaf French bread, sliced into 4 thick slices
6 Tbs butter
1/2 lb Gruyere cheese, sliced

Directions:
Combine bay leaf, garlic, onions, beef broth, wine, salt and pepper in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or more.

Spread butter on 4 slices of bread. Ladle soup into four oven-proof bowls. Top each bowl with a slice of bread, butter-side up, and then add a slice of Gruyere cheese. Broil on high until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 648, Calories from Fat: 351, Fat: 39 g (22 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 108 mg, Sodium: 2470 mg, Carbohydrates: 32 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 8 g, Protein: 32 g.

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Dine In: Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole


Chicken Cordon Bleu CasseroleGrowing up, the gold standard for a fancy meal was Chicken Cordon Bleu.

I figured if we were having that dish, it was a special occasion. This all stems from my parents taking me to a French restaurant for an early birthday, at age 10 maybe, and that clearly made a huge impression on me. Also, that was the first time I had Chicken Cordon Bleu, and I think I requested it for every birthday after that.

Chicken Cordon Bleu is still a pretty snazzy meal in my book, but it’s faster to make in casserole form!

You can purchase a rotisserie chicken to make this dish quickly as a great date night dish for a Friday night.

Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Ingredients:
6 cups cooked chicken, shredded (from 2 lb chicken)
6 oz ham, diced
4 oz butter, melted
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs white wine, optional
2 oz lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
5 oz Swiss cheese, sliced

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken in the bottom of the pan, and top with pieces of ham.

In a food processor, combine butter, cream cheese, white wine (optional), mustard, lemon juice and salt. Blend until thickened. Pour over chicken and ham in the baking dish, and top with slices of Swiss cheese.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until hot and bubbly.

If desired, broil under high heat for 2 minutes to get cheese golden.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 605, Fat: 39 g (22 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 226 mg, Sodium: 928 mg, Carbohydrates: 4 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 57 g.

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