Italian Grilled Cheese

I don’t know what it is, but there is just something about a delicious buttery grilled cheese. What I miss about NJ is the amazing grilled cheeses you could get at diners. I didn’t know that having a diner in every town was something that was not the norm across the country. At least where I live in SC, there are no diners at all. So that means that the only mouth-watering grilled cheeses are going to be coming from my kitchen. I had gotten the idea of wanting to put an Italian spin on the classic grilled cheese. Not that that concept is a new one, but I did come up with this recipe on my own…and I do say it was delicious. My husband even asked for this again the next night! I think what makes this different is cooking the shredded Parmesan cheese onto the buttery side of the bread. Serve this with marinara dipping sauce and Parmesan cheese coated fries.

Ingredients-Yields 2 sandwiches

-4 slices white bread, I used Arnold Premium Italian bread
-2 slices provolone cheese (not smoked flavor)
-2 slices mozzarella cheese
-2 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan cheese
-2 tablespoons butter, melted
-1 tablespoon butter, melted
-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
-salt to taste
-marinara sauce for dipping
1. With the 2 tablespoons melted butter, stir in the shredded Parmesan cheese, the garlic powder, and a few dashes of salt. Baste one side of each slice of bread with this mixture, making sure they are generously coated with the cheese. Add more if desired.
2. With the remaining 1 tablespoon of melted butter, baste the other side of the bread. (The Parmesan cheese is only on one side).
3. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and spray with Pam. Place the butter only side down in the pan and cook until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Flip bread slices and place a slice of provolone on one slice and mozzarella on the other slice.Cook 1-2 minutes then combine bread slices. Continue cooking and flipping until cheese has melted and bread reaches desired crispiness. Serve with marinara dipping sauce.

Baked Dijon Salmon

One of my favorite things in cooking is when a recipe lives up to my expectations. There’s nothing more disappointing than salivating over a dish when I’m preparing it, only to be let down by a less than stellar meal. The tang from the Dijon mustard is immediately followed by the sweetness of the honey combined with the crunch of the panko making it so incredibly delicious! This is also a quick & easy dish, only two small mixing bowls and one baking sheet, making cleanup a breeze.

I can’t believe February is on Wednesday, meaning the Superbowl is right around the corner! I’m hoping we are able to have a few people over to watch the game, especially since my Giants are in it! I also want to be able to plan what I’d make. I know I definitely want to try a BBQ chicken baked spring roll and a loaded baked potato dip but not sure what else. It also doesn’t help that I have an all day event the day before the game, so I really need to get to planning the menu!

-1/4 cup butter, melted
-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
-1 1/2 tablespoons honey
-1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
-1/4 cup finely crushed pecans
-4 teaspoons parsley
-2 salmon fillets
-salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. In a small bowl, stir together butter, mustard, and honey. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together breadcrumbs, crushed pecans, and parsley.

3. Season each fillet with salt and pepper and then brush generously with honey mustard mixture, and sprinkle the tops of the fillets with the bread crumb mixture.
Place salmon on foiled-lined baking sheet.

4. Bake salmon 15 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork.


Chicken Piccata Parmesan

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love lemon. So its no surprise that I love a good Chicken Piccata. This is such a simple dish to throw together, but the amazing flavors make it taste way more intricate than it really is. I based my recipe off of my Betty Crocker’s Italian Cooking cookbook and only made a few small changes like increasing the amount of lemon juice and adding 2 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese to the sauce to make it a little creamier. This is a must have staple recipe to add to your recipe box!

On a side note, I’m wondering if “winter” will ever come to the Lowcountry?! Don’t get me wrong, I love the mild weather here…since it is going to be in the 70’s this week, but it would be nice to have something that feels like winter at least for a week. As much as I love Charleston, I do occasionally miss seeing a snow storm, being snowed in, snow days, hot cocoa, burning a fireplace, etc. But I’m sure I’ll get my fill of that in a few weeks when I am going up to Maine for a mini family weekend getaway to celebrate my grandma’s 80th birthday! I am so so excited to go, nothing like a little family fun!

Ingredients- Yields 2 servings
-2 boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded to even thickness
-Flour, egg, and Italian bread crumbs for dredging
-1-2 tablespoons EVOO for sauteeing
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
-salt and pepper to taste
-2 lemons
-1 cup white wine
-2 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat the EVOO in a frying pan and add the minced garlic, saute for about 2 minutes. Coat the chicken breasts in the flour, then egg, then bread crumbs to coat. Add the chicken breasts and season with the garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Saute 6 minutes.
2. After 6 minutes, flip chicken breasts and pour in the 1 cup of white wine and 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice. Cook for 6-7 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked. Remove chicken and plate. With sauce still in pan, add 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and whisk until cheese is combined and sauce has thickened a little. Pour over chicken and serve over angel hair pasta. Garnish with wedge of lemons.

Zucchini Ravioli with Dill Sauce

I’m not exactly sure where I saw this, I think it was on Foodgawker at some point, but I remember seeing a ravioli made of slabs of zucchini…what a cool idea! I did some searching around and this was pretty similar to it. I had an idea to stuff these with a simple ricotta and Italian blend cheese mixture, coat them in bread crumbs, fry them up and serve them with a fresh and cool dill sauce recipe from my Williams Sonoma Seafood cookbook. I was really please with how these came up! I love the crispness of the zucchini and the cheeses and the zucchini were such a great combination with the dill sauce.

Normally, I hate when step by step photos are included, but that really only applies when its a photo of a super easy or common technique…like melting butter in a pan, or stirring everything together. I just wanted to include two here to you can see what they look like when you fold the ends up. You can use the ricotta mixture as a glue, but I also needed to secure some with toothpicks for a few minutes until it held together on its own.

I served these at room temperature or just slightly warm since the dill sauce is a cold sauce. These would also be good to serve singly as an hors d’oeuvre.

Ingredients-Yielded 4 ravioli
-2 zucchini
-Flour for dredging
-Plain or Italian blend bread crumbs for coating
-1 egg whisked with dash of milk
-1 cup ricotta cheese
-1/4 cup Italian blend cheese
-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/8 teaspoon pepper
-3-4 tablespoons EVOO for frying  
1. Cut zucchini length wise into thin slabs until you have 8 usable slabs. Arrange two slabs to create a cross. Repeat to make 4 raviolis.
2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, Italian blend cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place about a tablespoon of the mixture onto the center of the zucchini cross. Fold bottom layers up and press into ricotta. Its ok if part of the zucchini snaps, mine did too. Just as long as part of them stay intact. Next, fold the other zucchini arms up, use more ricotta cheese as a glue…secure with toothpicks as needed. Set aside.
3. Preheat the EVOO of medium-high heat for frying. Dredge the zucchini ravioli (minus any toothpicks) in the flour making sure to cover all sides. Next, dredge in the whisked egg and milk mixture, and then finally coating with the breadcrumbs making sure it is generously covered.
4. Place zucchinis in frying pan, fry about 2-3 minutes per side until golden and crispy. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with a few teaspoons of more Italian blend cheese, place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes until cheese has melted and is crispy. Let cool. Top with dill sauce and serve at room temperature or slightly warm.

Dill Sauce
-8oz plain yogurt
-1/2 cup sour cream
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
-1 tablespoon lemon juice
-dash salt

1. Combine all ingredients, serve chilled.

Oven Fried Chicken Tenders and Dipping Sauce

Well didn’t that weekend go fast! Ugh! I had planned to unpack from last weeks trip to NJ and catch up on laundry…but I pretty much just did a bunch of nothing, except watch a Law & Order SVU marathon. I swear, if there is L&O SVU marathon on I get nothing accomplished.

This is another dish I had on m 28×28 list, Oven Fried Chicken with Dipping Sauce. My husband and I like a fried chicken chain called Raising Cane’s and they have the best dipping sauce I’ve ever had! Obviously, it’s a secret recipe but I was able to find something online that comes pretty darn close, and is a nice alternative to a typical honey mustard sauce. I love the crunch that the cornflakes give the chicken tenders!

-2 chicken breasts, cut into strips

– 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for dredging
-salt and freshly ground pepper
-4 cups cornflakes
-2/3 cup buttermilk
-3/4 teaspoon ground sage
-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. On a plate, season the flour with salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the cornflakes in a Ziploc bag and crush them either with a meat tenderizer or with a rolling pin. Pour the crushed flakes into a wide bowl or onto a plate.

3. In a large bowl mix the buttermilk, garlic powder, and sage. Dredge the chicken in the flour, then give each piece a good buttermilk bath and then roll in the cornflake crumbs to coat completely.

4. Arrange the chicken pieces on a baking sheet. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until cooked through and crispy.

Ingredients for Dipping Sauce
-1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
-1⁄4 cup ketchup
-1⁄2 tablespoon garlic powder
-1⁄2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
-1 teaspoon paprika
1. Stir all together and serve with fried chicken.
Source: Food Network
Source: Chowhound

Baked Mac n’ Cheese

Finally Friday!!! I plan on doing nothing exciting this weekend, unless you consider unpacking, cleaning and laundry exciting. Next weekend I have the honor of being a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding so I want to save up my energy for that! I have a feeling it’s going to be quite the wedding.

Living in the South there are a few staple comfort food items that I really want to master, one of these being the baked mac n’ cheese. I’ve got to hand it to them, Southerners know how to make a mean mac n’ cheese.  I’ve tried a few recipes in the past and there just seemed to be a little something missing. This one to me covers all the bases. It has got tons of cheddar cheese, it stays creamy but not liquidy (ew I hate liquidy cheese), and the top gets nice and crispy. The salt and garlic powder give it flavor so it isn’t bland at all. I’ve been reheating this for lunch at work and it reheats well in the microwave for about 1 minute.

-3 cups uncooked macaroni pasta
-1/2 cup evaporated milk
-1/3 cup milk
-2 eggs
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper.
-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
-3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
-2 tablespoons butter
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. With cooking spray, generously coat a 9×9 baking dish. Cook the macaroni. Once cooked, strain and return to pot with the 2 tablespoons butter, coat noodles in the butter.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, regular milk, and eggs. Add the salt, garlic powder, and pepper.
3. In the 9×9 baking dish, spread an even layer of 1/3 of the cooked macaroni. Cover macaroni with 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Top that with the remaining macaroni and then the rest of the shredded cheese. Add more cheese if needed to the top layer to make sure it is completely covered. Pour the milk mixture evenly over the macaroni and cheese. Bake 35-40 minutes until golden brown on top. If needed, broil 5-6 minutes to make top cheese layer crispy and golden. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.
Source: B Sweet

Maple Panko Salmon

When I first moved to Charleston nearly 5 years ago (omg I can’t believe its been that long), I used to eat fish quite often. That was during my phase when I had no idea how long to cook chicken and either cooked the hell out of it right off the bat, or didn’t cook it long enough which required me to put it back in the oven which resulted in cooking the hell out of it. I found cooking fish much much easier. Salmon had always been one of my favorite types of fish when prepared properly. I prefer it with a sauce that packs a lot of flavor…I don’t want to be overwhelmed with the flavor of the fish. I had found this recipe on All Recipes and hadn’t cooked it in quite a while. The only change I made this time was adding the 2 tablespoons of Panko on top. It absorbs some of the sauce and becomes deliciously caramelized on top and adds a nice bit of texture to this dish.

-1/4 cup maple syrup
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
– 2 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
-1 pound salmon

1. In a bowl, combine the syrup, soy sauce, garlic powder, and pepper. Add salmon and marinate in the fridge for 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Fold edges of foil up to create a pouch. Place salmon on foil and pour sauce over top. Sprinkle with the Panko and bake for 15 minutes, or until fully cooked.

Source: All Recipes