Monday, February 28, 2011

Caramel Nut Bars

Do you keep well-stocked pantry? By well-stocked, I mean chocolate chips of course—all varieties, semi-sweet, milk, white, butterscotch etc.… Also, its important to keep on hand a bag of caramels. These things are critical so that when the mood strikes or you've forgotten about that potluck that's tomorrow night—you don't have to get in the car and make yet another trip to the store for this or that. Such is/was the case with these bars. With ingredients on hand they are pretty easy to whip up and always a crowd pleaser.

The most time-consuming part of putting these together is unwrapping all the caramels. I would suggest getting somebody in the family, who is doing something mindless (TV), to unwrap them. I might let them eat one (and only one) of the caramels for their effort.

It's a winning combination with gooey caramel, chocolate, butter… Mmmmmm, the buttery goodness! It really stands out—yum! Not to worry however. Each square is just 154 calories (with nuts). The question is, can you stop after eating only one little square? Regretfully, I failed in my attempt.

Caramel Nut Bars
Taste of Home

1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (14 ounces) caramels
1/3 cup milk
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients until crumbly;
sprinkle 1 cup into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan (do not
Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. In a small heavy saucepan, cook and stir caramels and milk until caramels are melted.
Pour over crust. Top with chocolate chips and nuts. Sprinkle with
remaining oat mixture. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool on a
wire rack. Refrigerate until set. Yield: 3 dozen.

Yield: 36 Servings
1 serving equals 154 calories, 7 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 11 mg cholesterol, 104 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

As I mentioned in my last post, Friday night is usually pizza night at our house. There is just something celebratory about pizza and Fridays so they seem to be a perfect pair. This recipe caught my eye years ago, not sure why it took me so long to try it. I always try to incorporate one or two vegetarian meals through the week. This pizza fit the bill perfectly.

The tangy rich flavor of the goat cheese, with the intense sweet flavor of the onions are a wonderful combination.

Add to that the robust flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes and you've get quite a pizza. My hubby and kids (meat eaters), never even mentioned that there was no meat!

Here's how it looked right before I threw it in the oven. This was a winner for my family. Perhaps you'll want to add it to your Friday night menu.

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza
Adapted from Cooking Light

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced onion, separated into rings (about 1 onion)
1/2 pizza dough recipe, (see note below)
1/2 - 1 cup marinara sauce; (see note below)
1/4 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves
2/3 cup (3 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (opt.)

Preheat oven to 450°.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and cook for 11 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently.
Press out the pizza dough on baking sheet. Spread sauce mixture over pizza crust. Sprinkle with sun-dried tomatoes. Top with onion and cheese. Bake at 450° for 10-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Sprinkle with basil. Cut into 6 wedges.

Note: For the sake of convenience, you may substitute 1 (1 pound) Italian pizza crust such as Boboli. You may also substitute the marinara sauce for bottled pizza sauce, such as Contadina.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Perfect Pizza Dough

Back in my earlier days as a cook, the idea of making my own pizza dough was very intimidating. I thought that making homemade pizza dough was for the "real cooks." Growing up I never recall having homemade pizza—ever! When I would visit various pizzerias, I would marvel as they tossed the dough in the air. It all just seemed so… scientific and well, difficult.

Until one day… years ago I received a Family Fun magazine and inside there was a step-by-step to making homemade pizza. When I saw the picture of a little boy—all smiles—pressing out his pizza dough, I thought maybe I could give it a shot.

I've been making my own pizza dough for years now. Sometimes I even toss it in the air, although I look a bit more ridiculous doing so then the "professionals." But hey, I'm learning. Having tried many different recipes through the years, this one has become a favorite and my "go to." It does have a cup of whole wheat flour in it. You may, of course, substitute all-purpose white flour if preferred.

I will be posting a recipe on Saturday for a pizza that will include this dough. You can, however, use this dough with any pizza. This recipe is enough to make 2 large(15 inch) pizzas. You can make one and freeze the other for another time. Or, make in advance and freeze both separately.

Perfect Pizza Dough
(No tossing required)

1 and 3/8 cups warm water
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/4-ounce packet active dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for coating
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (or sub another cup all-purpose flour)
3/4 teaspoon salt

Place warm water in a large bowl. stir in the honey until dissolved, then sprinkle the yeast onto the surface of the water. Let the yeast float there for 1 minute, then stir it into the water.
Combine the flours and salt in a separate bowl. Pour the olive oil and flour mixture into the yeast mixture. With a wooden spoon mix the dough until it forms a ball.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed.
Coat the inside of a large bowl with olive oil. Press the ball of dough into the bottom of the bowl, then flip it over so the oiled side is on top.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch the dough down, separate into 2 equal parts. Lightly dust pizza stone with flour and/or cornmeal. Using a rolling pin spread 1 part on a large pizza stone (or baking sheet). Follow directions for whatever pizza you would like to make. Or simply, cover with sauce and toppings. Bake at 425 degrees 15-20 minutes.

Yield: 2 pounds of dough. This is enough to make 2 large (15 inch) pizzas

Notes for faster prep time: If you have a bread machine you can put all ingredients in and put on the dough setting. Follow manufacturer's instructions.
If you have a Kitchen Aide Mixer you can use your dough hook attachment for all the kneading.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Big Fat Wednesday

Does this look like the face of a girl who is ready for spring? This winter here in the Bluegrass State has been one of the top 10 snowiest winters on record. Consequently, our little Maddie (Big Fat), has been cooped up and stir crazy.

This girl craves lots of exercise every day. We have tried to brave the cold temperatures and get her out as much as we can. It never seems to be enough. She, along with the rest of us, are more than ready for warmer temperatures. Hikes up the pinnacle, fetching her prized blue ball, running after the boys, and all other manner of activity awaits! A smile for that little Corgi face is right around the corner!

Monday, February 21, 2011

South Beach - Hearts of Palm Salad

I have never been on the South Beach Diet, but have read through a few of their cookbooks. The quality of recipes that they churn out has been impressive over the years. Some time ago I had this salad and it has become a favorite. We do consider this however, a special occasion salad. The ingredients tend to be a bit pricey—for a salad, anyway. It is a great salad for a stand alone, take-to-work lunch. It would be a great addition to a brunch menu. It would also make a wonderful complement to many dinner entrees.

Before tasting this salad, I had never even heard of Hearts of Palm. Years back, I could never seem to even find it at my local grocery store (Walmart). They do carry it now, and how convenient that you can find them right next to the cans of Artichoke Hearts, which are also included in this salad. Since cherry tomatoes are not in season now, I omitted them. They didn't look to great at the store.

The salad comes together quickly, by mixing the "wet" ingredients" including the dressing and letting the flavors meld for about an hour. It will also keep well for several days. We had it with our dinner tonight, but have "leftovers" for lunch tomorrow. Looking forward to a tasty, healthy lunch that's already prepared!

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

South Beach Salad

Vinaigrette Dressing:
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14 ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 10 pimiento-stuffed olives, halved
  • 1 head Boston lettuce or Red Leaf lettuce
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, quartered
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved (opt)
To make the vinaigrette dressing: Combine the olive oil, vegetable oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a screw-top jar. Cover tightly and shake vigorously to mix.
To make the salad: Combine the hearts of palm, peppers, artichoke hearts, and olives in a bowl. Add the vinaigrette dressing and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To serve, place the salad on a bed of lettuce leaves and garnish with the egg and cherry tomatoes.

This post has been linked to Eat at Home

Yield: 6 servings, Calories 227

Note: This recipe is optimal for Phase 1 or Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Morning Glory, oh, and…Muffins

Are you a morning person? Most of my family thinks I'm nuts—but I love the morning! What is there not to love? With a hot cup of coffee in hand, the sun coming up, and the promise of a new day, it's easy to be optimistic. And, the best meal of the day—breakfast.

Although the possibilities are endless with breakfast. I still find it challenging to get quick healthy breakfasts on the table when we are on the run. To make matters worse, my boys often will be eating breakfast in the car on the way to school or church. I will definitely be adding these muffins to our morning fare. The recipe produced enough for me to freeze some for busy mornings ahead.

Made with whole wheat flour, oats, wheat bran, dried fruit and nuts—these delights start your day with plenty of fiber and nutrients. For a complete breakfast–if you're concerned about getting enough protein–consider serving with yogurt, or eggs.

Morning Glory Muffins
From Cooking Light

Cooking spray
1 cup whole wheat flour (about 4 3/4 ounces)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon wheat bran
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2)
1 large egg
1 cup chopped pitted dates
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed (about 2 tablespoons whole)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Place 18 muffin cups liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray.
Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine yogurt, banana, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in dates, walnuts, and pineapple. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly with flaxseed. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack.

Note: Substitute other dried fruits, such as apricots or raisins for chopped dates and dried pineapple.

Yield: 18 servings (serving size: 1 muffin) Calories: 186

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Salmon-Wild Rice Soup

Wednesday evening is soup night around the Packed Table. One of the all-time favorites—especially with my husband—is this one. There's never any leftovers no matter how much I make! If he doesn't get to it first, one of the teenagers will leave him disappointed.

Unique and flavorful, this soup delivers a wonderful taste supported by fresh, healthy ingredients like celery and the earthy flavors of mushrooms and wild rice. The creamy stock and hearty chunks of salmon satisfy a hearty appetite.

This recipe calls for canned salmon, however on occasion I make it with cooked fresh salmon. Obviously, the fresh fish enhances the flavor, in a pinch however, canned salmon will do just fine.

This makes a complete meal with the addition of biscuits—we enjoy cheddar garlic biscuits, and perhaps a fruit or green salad.

Salmon-Wild Rice Soup
Adapted from Betty Crocker

  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 medium stalk celery, thickly sliced
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice (instructions below)
  • 2 cans (14 ounce), chicken broth
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 can (15 1/2 ounces) salmon, drained and flaked, bones removed

Wild Rice

Rinse 1/2 cup wild rice under cold water. Heat rice and 1 1/4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoons salt, to boiling stirring once or twice; reduce heat. Cover; simmer until tender, 40 to 50 minutes.

Instructions for soup

Cook bacon in 3-quart saucepan until crisp; drain, reserving 1 tablespoon fat in saucepan. Cook and stir onion, clerey and mushrooms in bacon fat until celery is tender. Stir in flour, mustard and rosemary. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in wild rice and broth.
Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in bacon, half-and -half and salmon. Heat, stirring occasionally until hot.

Yield - 6 (1 cup each) servings; 280 calories per serving.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Make Yourself a Dang Quesa-dill-a!

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

A trophy for the first person who can tell me what movie that line comes from! All the boys in our house can quote practically every line from every movie they've ever liked—and they did like that movie. The quoting of media soundbites makes it in to the common vernacular of our family's everyday speech.

Okay,… if you've given up guessing, I'll tell you. The movie is Napolean Dynamite.

I'd imagine that Napolean's version of a quesadilla would involve a flour tortilla and mounds of grated cheese. It is after all, a staple in our house as well. Today, we're going to kick up the quesadilla a few notches and give it the wow! factor—the likes of which, I'm sure Napoleon has never seen.

The boys had gone off in different directions the other night so I whipped up these chicken-mushroom quesadillas for my husband and me. I'm thankful that I made enough for the boys to have some when they got home later that night. They were delicious. They were easy to throw together with healthy, fresh ingredients. My husband and I both agreed, they were restaurant quality!

These would make a nice dinner meal adding a side and or salad. Or you might consider having them with soup: corn chowder, tomato or black bean. Whatever you choose, give these a try, you won't regret it!

Chicken-Mushroom Quesadillas
Adapted from Ellie Krieger

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked diced skinless boneless chicken breast (1 breast half)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 10-inch flour tortillas (preferably whole-wheat)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
  • butter (for lightly spreading on tortillas)
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom water has evaporated and they begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute more. Add the chicken, cumin, chili powder, and oregano and stir until all the spices are incorporated. Stir in the spinach, salt and pepper and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.

Lay the tortillas on a flat surface. Sprinkle half of each tortilla with 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese. Spoon 1/4 of the chicken mixture on top of the cheese on each tortilla, then top each with 2 more tablespoons of cheese and fold the tortillas over into half-moon, pressing down lightly to seal them closed.

Spread a little butter on both sides of tortilla and place in skillet over medium heat. Place 2 quesadillas in the pan and cook, turning once, until lightly browned and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining quesadillas. Slice each quesadilla in half. Serve with the salsa and sour cream.

Yield: 4 Servings

Friday, February 11, 2011

Strawberry and Chocolate Mousse Parfaits

Valentines day just doesn't seem complete without some form of chocolate and strawberries. Perhaps it is a bit early to be purchasing them. Who can resist, though, the sweet, juicy goodness of a strawberry. To me, it is "nature's candy."

I do tend to be more of a food purist. I prefer to avoid process foods in all forms. The reality is, however, that I do sometimes sneak them in for the sake of convenience. For me, this is an exception, not the rule. Therefore, for the purposes of this recipe, I have incorporated half a package of instant pudding. It makes for a wonderful consistency.

This dessert will be a perfect ending to a nice valentine dinner. How will you be spending your Valentines Day this year?

Strawberry and Chocolate Mousse Parfaits

  • 12 ounces fresh strawberries
  • 4 ounces dark or milk chocolate, shaved
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 pkg. 4 serving size instant vanilla pudding
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream, whipped

Slice strawberries, keep four whole as a garnish for the middle
In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and the pudding mix. Refrigerate until firm and set about 10 minutes.
In a medium size mixing bowl beat the cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the prepared pudding. Fold in the whipped cream. Refrigerate until chilled about 30-45 minutes.
In parfait, champagne glasses or other glassware, evenly distribute the mousses between 4 glasses. Sprinkle each parfait with shaved chocolate. Garnish with strawberries.
If not serving immediately, refrigerate parfaits covered with plastic wrap.

Notes: You can substitute the shaved chocolate for cookie crumbs if desired.
This recipe can easily be doubled.

Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Big Fat Wednesday

Perhaps it is not very comforting to go to a food blog and see the words big and fat consorting together in the title. Not to worry. We are taking a little diversion from food today to introduce you to a member of our family. She would be of the canine variety and her name is Maddie. A few years back our college son dubbed her "The Big Fat." The name stuck—at least with some— okay,… a lot of us. The irony is that for a Corgi—a Pembroke Welsh Corgi that is, she is quite small.

Have I mentioned that we we love our little dog? She is the best pet we have ever had. She is so much fun—full of personality, energetic, and a great addition to our family. She is so cute with her long ears and her little legs. Don't let those legs fool you—she can outrun all of us.

Do you see the pleading in her eyes to please, please throw the ball for me? Fetching her blue ball is one of her favorite pastimes. To her deep regret, Maddie is never permitted to enjoy the meals prepared in our home. She has her own food and treats. However, she is a constant presence at the feet of all those seated at the Packed Table.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash with Scallion Couscous

So what exactly is a Tagine? I had to ask the same question. "It is a Moroccan dish named after the special pot in which it is cooked." Phew, thank you Wikipedia. You can go here to read more about it and see a picture.

This dish is touted, as "ready in 40 minutes." And it was. The most time-consuming part is cutting the butternut squash—mmmmmm butternut squash—so worth it! It's such a nice complement to this dish.

The flavors in this are very bold. In fact, I put it all together and left it simmering on the stove while I ran to pick up my son from piano lessons. His piano teacher asked me, "Have you been cooking?" The aroma had followed me. Thankfully, she said it smelled great! The taste of this dish was just as robust as the aroma. The Packed Table gave this great reviews! Again, a lot going on—but it was a wonderful blend of spices (including cinnamon), that melded nicely with the beef and the squash. Served with couscous, all the flavors integrate nicely . If you're preparing this for young children, you may want to cut the amount of crushed red pepper that you use, or omit it altogether.

Beef Tagine with Butternut Sqash
with Scallion Couscous
Adapted from Cooking Light

  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (1-pound) beef shoulder roast or petite tender roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add beef; toss well to coat.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef and onions; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Add squash; cover reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until squash is tender. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Scallion Couscous

  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions

Bring broth and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually stir in 1 cup uncooked couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork. Stir in green onions. Serve with the Beef Tagine.

Yield: 4 servings

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nutella Ravioli

Today is World Nutella Day! Oh happy day! We are big Nutella fans in our home. One son of mine (3rd in the rank), goes through it so quickly that I find it hard to keep enough on hand. I think he would be happy with a truck-load of it for his birthday. Although there are countless ways to enjoy this spread, his favorite way of eating it is simply spreading it on toast.

For those of you who have never tried it. Nutella is a wonderful, sweet, hazelnut-chocolate spread. In Italy they eat it like we eat peanut butter. You can check out the World Nutella Day website and find some great recipes here.

I thought these sweet raviolis looked so inviting. The recipe uses wonton wrappers filled with a dollop of Nutella and quickly fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar. They were much easier to make then I thought and oh, so delicious! My husband was so anxious to try them, he grabbed one while still hot and had Nutella spilling out everywhere. Too bad I didn't get a picture of that! The best time to eat them is after they have cooled slighty, about 5 minutes.

Start by placing a dollop of Nutella in the middle of the wonton wrapper. Brush all sides with egg.

Fold over to make a triangle, being very careful to press the sides together to seal.

Fry in oil about 45 seconds on each side, until lightly browned.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Nutella Ravioli
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • 16 wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Place 1 wonton wrapper on the work surface. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with egg. Spoon 1 Tablespoon (or a little less), of Nutella into the center of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper diagonally in half over the filling and press the edges of the wrapper to seal. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers, egg, and Nutella.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Add enough oil to a heavy large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat to 350 degrees.

Working in batches, carefully add the ravioli to the hot oil and cook until they are golden brown, about 45 seconds per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ravioli to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Then, transfer the cooked ravioli to a baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven while frying the remaining ravioli. (The fried ravioli can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool them completely, then cover and refrigerate. Before serving, place them on a baking sheet and rewarm in a preheated 375 degrees oven just until they are heated through, about 7 minutes).

Arrange ravioli on serving plate and dust with powdered sugar.

Yield: 16 ravioli

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

With Super Bowl Sunday quickly approaching , it's nice to have an easy, quick appetizer to add to any party. I found the recipe for these bite-sized babies from Cathy over at Noblepig.

You will want to double the recipe for these because they go FAST! For an extra bonus, they freeze well so if you find yourself with a house full of teenagers (often the case around here), you will be prepared. Also great for an after-school snack.

They have a bit of a kick to them thanks to the generous amount of pepperoni in them. If you have picky eaters, you may want to cut back on the amount of pepperoni.

The recipe calls for using a store bought pizza sauce for dipping. However, if you have some of the homemade Marinara Sauce I blogged about yesterday on hand, it is the perfect compliment. I got rave reviews from my crew for these mini bite-sized pizzas!

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs
Adapted from Noble Pig

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces pepperoni, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce (or homemade marinara)
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (opt.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; whisk in the milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.

Stir the batter and divide among the mini muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, 15-20 minutes.

Microwave the pizza sauce until warmed through, then stir in 1 Tablespoon basil (opt). Sprinkle the puffs with the remaining 1 Tablespoon basil (opt). Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce for dipping.

Yield - 24 mini-muffins

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Great Basic Marinara Sauce

After a weekend out-of-town, followed by a bad chest cold, I am back at it. I'm in catch-up mode now, behind on everything. Excited though to share today's recipe with you!

This is a great marinara sauce that is so versatile! It can be made ahead and frozen. You can use this as is for a simple vegetarian pasta with some fresh cheese sprinkled on top. Really though, the possibilities are endless. This recipe may be incorporated into many dishes, including but not limited to; pizza, lasagna, meat spaghetti, eggplant parmesan and as a dipping sauce for various appetizers.

Tomorrow I will be posting an appetizer I will be making for Super Bowl Sunday. The recipe will include this marinara, as the dipping sauce. In the coming weeks, I will be sharing other recipes that will include this hearty, robust sauce.

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add the celery, carrots, salt and pepper until tender.

Add crushed tomatoes and bay leaves. Simmer for 1 hour.

Consider freezing half and using the other half for whatever dish you would like.

Marinara Sauce

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 (32-oz) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)

Yield: About 2 quarts (8 cups); 1 quart will serve 4 over pasta as a first course.