Sausage Baked Ziti

There’s nothing quite like a plate of pasta comfort food. Baked ziti is definitely the ultimate crowd pleaser, who doesn’t like it?! Since my husband has finally turned the corner and is now capable of eating pasta, this was a huge turning point. A few years ago I would have never been able to make a pasta-only entree for dinner. There is sausage in this, since there does have to be some meat involved in order for him to find it acceptable dinner food, but that’s something I can work with! I love how easy it is to throw ziti together, and with a little extra sauce it reheats easily for lunches or for another night of dinner.

One of my biggest gripes when it comes to baked ziti is that I find most of them are not made with enough sauce. I hate when they are like that, so I made sure to have enough sauce in mine so that it would not be dry. I did this by using a lasagna-like layering approach when I put everything into the casserole dish. Instead of dumping in the noodles, then the sauce, then the cheese etc…I first spread a later of sauce in the empty baking dish and alternated between noodles, cheese, sausage, and sauce to ensure that everything would be covered!

-1 box penne pasta
-1 lb ground sausage
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tablespoon EVOO
-1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
-1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
-1 teaspoon garlic powder
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon thyme
-2 jars pasta sauce (I used Prego)
1. Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta. In a frying pan, heat the EVOO with the minced garlic. Add the ground sausage and cook completely, reserve for later.
2. In a mixing bow, combine ricotta with garlic powder, thyme, and salt.
3. With your casserole dish, pour a layer of pasta sauce. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Top with a layer of noodles, and then spoonfuls of sausage followed by another layer of pasta sauce. Drop spoonfuls of ricotta mixture, then sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Repeat this until all ingredients are used, making sure the top layer are the cheeses. Bake 15-20 minutes, then broil 5-6 minutes to get cheeses bubbly.

Parmesan Herb Baked Eggs

I believe I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again…breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day. There’s nothing better than starting the morning off right is a delicious breakfast and a good cup of coffee, or a mimosa if it’s the weekend! As I was perusing recipes on my usual Foodgawker search, I cam across a photo for an herb baked egg recipe that look so good. When I read the recipe I saw that it originally was an Ina Garten recipe, so I knew it was going to be good! I only made a few changes, like using dry herbs instead of fresh, and I don’t have gratin dishes so I used muffin tins and increased the cooking time a bit. The verdict is that these are really really good! I love the herbed flavor along with the crisp Parmesan cheese. A really nice change to a boring scrambled egg breakfast!

I have to say, I am so so excited for my husband and I’s little getaway next month! We’re planning a weekend getaway to Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Florida. It’s going to feel so nice to just relax for a few days and enjoy some alone time with my husband, we definitely get caught up in the hectic day-to-day busyness. Also, we’re having a no cell phone rule while away! No texting, playing games, or reading Facebook. I want to really getaway!

-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
-1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
-1 teaspoon dried parsley
-4 eggs
-4 teaspoons heavy cream
-1 tablespoon butter, cut into 4 pieces
-1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
-salt & pepper to taste
1. Preheat broiler. Place 1 teaspoon of heavy cream into 4 muffin tins. Place one piece of the butter into each tin. Broil for 3 minutes.
2. Mix the garlic, thyme, parley, and rosemary in a small bowl. In another bowl, crack the 4 eggs.
3. Remove pan from oven, place 1 egg in each tin, top with some of the herb mixture, then with some of the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil about 8-10 minutes.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies with Dark Chocolate Ganache

In cooking and baking, there are just certain combinations that are a match made in heaven. One such combination is peanut butter and chocolate. I hope whoever created the first recipe to combine these two ingredients was deemed a cooking genius.

Since I live quite a distance from my family, I wanted to send my mom something special for Mother’s Day. I knew she loved the chocolate and peanut butter combination (how can you not?) and wanted to find a recipe that was out of this world. After my usually browsing on Foodgawker, I came across these decadent little sandwich cookies. What I really loved about them is that they use dark chocolate ganache as the filling. I also love that these are super easy to make. I made mine a little smaller than the original recipe, mainly because I live the look of these little bite-sized cookies. Since the ganache can be rich, having them this size is perfect. Make sure you have a glass of milk or nice cup of coffee to pair these with!

-3/4 cup peanut butter
-1/2 cup butter, softened
-1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
-1 egg
-2 teaspoons vanilla
-1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
-2/3 cup heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Beat in egg and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Beat into cookie dough until combined.  Using a teaspoon, scoop 1 teaspoon sized amount of dough and drop onto prepared baking sheet. Use a fork to form a criss-cross pattern on top of cookies. Bake  7-9 minutes. Do not over bake!
4. Over a double boiler, heat heavy cream. Add chips and stir to melt, being careful not to overheat. Cool slightly and
spread chocolate filling on bottom of each cookie then top with another cookie form sandwich.

Creamy Mashed Potato Bake

Cats are quite an interesting animal. Bailey is normally such a sweet and loving kitty, always nuzzling and purring and ‘making biscuits’ on his blanket when he’s in a good mood. But sometimes, when the mood strikes him right, he gets this wild instinct to attack and latch onto my ankle as if it were a mouse taunting him. Do you have any idea how painful and startling this can be? He usually only does it when I’m completely unsuspecting it, just minding my own business standing in front of my mirror putting on my makeup. It’s not that he’s biting all that hard, but his claws are razor sharp! After this type of attack episode that would make a lion cower in fear, he’ll trot right off to his sun patch and proceed to go back to the sweet angelic kitty he is.

**Warning: This recipe is made with boxed mashed potatoes, all snooty cooks proceed with caution.**
Whenever I make a recipe that I used to make when I first moved to Charleston and was living on my own I get very nostalgic. I’m not sure why, but I guess partly that it makes me think back to the time when I picked up and moved down here and was just trying to make my way on my own. I used to use All Recipes a lot to find new things to make, and this was one of them. I altered it slightly from the original recipe, like adding cheddar cheese and chives and using ranch dressing instead of the dry mix (I didn’t have any on hand). I really like this since it’s an easy way to jazz up traditional mashed potatoes. The cream cheese and sour cream make it really smooth and creamy, and the ranch and chives give it an extra little kick!
-1 pouch Betty Crocker buttery mashed potatos, prepared as directed
-3 oz cream cheese, softened
-2 tablespoons ranch dressing
-2 tablespoons sour cream
-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
-1/2 tablespoon dried chives
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Prepare mashed potatoes as directed on box. When potatoes are finished and are still in the pot, add the softened cream cheese, sour cream, ranch, chives, and cheddar cheese and stir to combine. Pour into casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes.
 Source: All Recipes

Pan-fried Chicken with Cheddar Waffles

I’m now a firm believer that you haven’t experienced true comfort food until you’ve lived in the South. I’ve loved the time that I’m spending living in this beautiful city of Charleston, and have been introduced to many classic Southern foods and comfort foods. Fried green tomatoes, collard greens, cheesy baked mac n’ cheese, BBQ, fried chicken….yea the South has got some seriously delicious (yet unhealthy) foods. I’ve heard of the fried chicken and waffles combination before, but never tried it. I know it can traditionally be served as a breakfast dish, but I wanted to put a spin on it and make it more of a dinner item. Since our deep fryer is out of commission right now, I pan-fried the chicken breasts. For the waffles, I made them a cheddar garlic waffle by mixing in shredded cheddar cheese and garlic powder into my batter (just don’t add the peanut butter) before pouring it into the waffle iron. Lastly, I made melted garlic butter to drizzle over the top. Did I mention this isn’t healthy?

-1 cup flour
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1/2 tablespoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 egg
-1 cup milk
-3 tablespoons melted butter
-1/3 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-Flour and egg wash for dredging
-2 tablespoons butter
-Salt, pepper, garlic powder for chicken seasoning
-1 clove minced garlic
-1 tablespoon butter
1. To make the waffle batter, combine the 1 cup flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, egg, and milk. Stir in the cheddar cheese and garlic powder. Pour into prepared waffle iron and cook 5-6 minutes until crisp.
2. Heat the 2 tablespoons butter in a fry pan. Butterfly the chicken breasts an dredge in the flour, then egg wash, then back into the flour. Cook 5-6 minutes in fry pan and season both sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
3. In a pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter and add the minced garlic. Melt and keep warm. To serve dish, place waffle on plate with chicken breasts on top, drizzle with garlic butter.
A Seasoned Greeting Original Recipe

Open Faced Chicken Feta Gyros

I have to admit, I am addicted to pretty much all the Bravo Channel shows right now. Aside from a few duds, like Shahs of Sunset and Eligible Dallas (which I watched anyway), there aren’t many shows on that channel that I don’t like. I particularly like Andy Cohen and his Watch What Happens Live after the shows. Every night, he has a ‘drinking game’ where you take a sip of your cocktail every time he says the secret word of the night. This got me thinking, reading blogs could easily turn into a drinking game. The game would be, take a sip of your drink every time you read the word “yum”.

Lately I’ve been browsing Foodgawker and just hitting the “Randomize” button to load a mix of recipes. I came across a delicious looking photo for a Chicken Gyro and knew I wanted to make this! I love tzatziki sauce and really liked this combination of the Greek seasoned chicken, tzatziki, red onions and tomato. I added the feta cheese to give it a little more depth. Since I’m trying to watch my calorie intake right now, I served this open faced and only used 1/2 of a whole wheat pita. It may not sound like a lot but this dish is really filling and I was full from this portion! I definitely recommend this. Oh, and it you’re playing the drinking game….yum yum yum!

Tzatziki sauce -1 cup plain Greek yogurt
-1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
-1 teaspoon minced garlic
-Salt and pepper
-Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Chicken-2 teaspoons minced garlic
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
-2 teaspoons dried oregano
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Whole wheat pita bread
-Fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
-Red onion, sliced thin
-1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Shred the cucumber or chop in food processor. Wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix together the yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

2. Butterfly the chicken breasts and cook in a fry pan over medium heat for 5-6 minutes per side. Season each side with the oregano, lemon juice, and Greek seasoning. When done, cut into strips.
3. To assemble,  place 1/2 of the whole wheat pita bread on the plate. Top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, feta cheese, diced tomatoes and sliced onions.

Source: The Girl Who Ate Everything

Penne Gratinata

Boy am I glad last week is over!! Now that Commencement has come and gone, our work schedule has slowed down considerably. It’s crazy how fast the school year can fly! I’m definitely looking forward to a more relaxed work flow and Fridays off in the summer! I’m making a solid effort this summer to get to the beach more often. Since I only live about 15 minutes from it, I should have no excuses!

When I was in high school and a little in college, I waitressed at a Macaroni Grill. I actually really liked working there and really liked a lot of the dishes they had on the menu. One of my favorites was called the Penne Rustica. I liked it because the cream sauce was so flavorful and unlike any other pasta dish I had before. When I made my 28 by 28 listing in December, I added to make a copycat recipe of the Penne Rustica. After searching around, I came across the recipe! I only made a few modifications…I use fat free half & half in place of the heavy cream, and I didn’t have pancetta so I used bacon instead. You can add chicken or shrimp (or both) to this as well.

Gratinata sauce
1 teaspoon EVOO
-1 teaspoon chopped garlic

-1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
-1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
-1/2 cup Marsala cooking wine
-2 cups fat free half & half

Penne Rustica

-3 strips pancetta or bacon (I used  bacon)
-penne pasta, cooked
-3 tablespoons butter
-1/2 teaspoon chopped shallot
– pinch salt and pepper
-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
-1/4 teaspoon paprika

1. For Gratinata Sauce: Saute EVOO, garlic, and rosemary until garlic begins to brown. Add Marsala wine and reduce by one-third. Add the mustard and half & half, reduce by half of the original volume.

2. For Penne Rustica, saute pancetta or bacon until it begins to brown. Add butter, salt and pepper, and shallots. Add gratinata sauce and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, simmer until sauce thickens.
3. Pour penne into a casserole dish and pour sauce mixture over top. Sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese and paprika. Bake at 475 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

Spinach Pesto with Marsala Turkey Meatballs

So if you haven’t noticed already, Sous Chef Bailey likes to sleep a lot. Normally when I come home from work he’s either slowly waking up from a nap, or too exhausted to even get up from his sleeping spot and he lets out a soft ‘meow’ to let me know where he is. Not surprisingly, because he sleeps most of the day he saves his energy to do wind sprints up and down the hallway from about 11pm-2am.

I don’t use Pinterest all that much anymore, but I do like to occasionally go on and pin some recipes that look like something I’d like to make! A few months ago I came across a delicious sounding recipe for turkey meatballs made with Marsala wine and a spinach pesto with walnuts. Wow! I love coming across a recipe that combines ingredients in ways I’ve never tried before. First, I loved the spinach walnut pesto. It was really good and an interesting switch from traditional pesto made with basil and pine nuts. Second, the turkey meatballs were amazing! I did make a few modifications, like omitting the diced fruit pieces for the meatballs and substituting apricot preserves. I think next time I’ll had a little more Marsala wine in there to enhance that flavor, but overall this is definitely something I’d make again.

Spinach Pesto
-1 box frozen spinach, cooked (reserve 2 tablespoons for the meatballs) 
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1/4 cup toasted walnuts
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-freshly ground pepper
Turkey Meatballs
-1/2 pound ground turkey
-2 tabelspoons Italian or plain breadcrumbs
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-2 large cloves garlic, minced
-1/4-1/3 cup Marsala wine (depends on how much you want)
-1 tablespoon apricot preserves
-2 tablespoons of the frozen spinach from above (cooked)
-2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
-1 egg, lightly beaten
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-Freshly ground black pepper
Spinach Pesto
1. Add minced garlic and the walnuts to your food processor and pulse a few times. Add the spinach and pulse a few more times. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture comes together. Remove the pesto from the food processor and add the cheese, salt and pepper, stir to combine. Serve over hot pasta using a little pasta water to loosen the sauce slightly if needed.
Turkey Meatballs
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the turkey with the onion powder, minced garlic, Marsala wine, preserves, spinach, feta, salt and pepper. Add in the egg and the breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Form into meatballs and place them on a baking sheet and bake 15 minutes.
Source: Inspired Taste