Sunday, September 30, 2012

Three-Cheese Pesto Lasagna Stacks

I don't know why, but I seem to have a mental block against lasagna.  For whatever reason, I have it in my head that it's time consuming, annoying and tedious to make, and a lot of fuss.  Plus, my anal-retentive tendencies kick in and I hate it when the layers aren't all exactly the same.  I love eating lasagna, but making it always stresses me out.

So when I saw these lasagna stacks, I was super excited - all the components of lasagna, in your own individual portion?  And ready from start to finish in well under thirty minutes?  Score!  And since I love classic dishes with a twist, this was even better - instead of standard meat sauce-tomato based lasagna, this one is layers of ricotta, parmesan, pesto, spinach, and mozzarella.  So cheesy.  So good.  I pretty much loved everything about this dish - from the concept, to the ease of preparation, to the final outcome.  It was all great.  And while I loved this particular combination of flavors, I can't wait to experiment with even more fun combinations - butternut squash, sage, and goat cheese, anyone?

Three-Cheese Pesto Lasagna Stacks
adapted from Simple Weeknight Favorites
serves 4

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 6 oz (about 6 cups) baby spinach
  • 1 lb (2 cups) ricotta cheese (part-skim or whole milk is fine)
  • 1 1/2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2/3 cup (7 oz) basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups)
Adjust the oven rack to the uppper-middle position and heat to 450 degrees.  Brush oil over the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.  Place noodles in a large baking dish or heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water.  Soak for 10 minutes, agitating noodles occasionally so they don't stick together.

Meanwhile, add the spinach to a microwave safe bowl, cover, and microwave until wilted, 2-3 minutes.  Drain and squeeze out the excess liquid, coarsely chop, and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan, egg, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, garlic, chopped spinach, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Stir to combine.

Remove the noodles from the water and arrange in a single layer on a lint-free kitchen towel.  Pat lightly to dry with another towel.

To assemble the lasagna stacks:  Arrange 4 noodles on the oiled baking sheet and spread 1 tablespoon of pesto over each one.  Spread 1/4 cup of the ricotta mixture evenly over the pesto (I found this worked the best by dropping 4 tablespoons over the noodle and then lightly spreading with a small spatula).  Sprinkle with 2 heaping tablespoons of mozzarella, then repeat the layers - noodle, pesto, ricotta, mozzarella.  Finish each stack with a noodle, remaining mozzarella, and remaining parmesan.

Bake until cheese is bubbly is beginning to brown and the filling is heated through, about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then cut each stack in half cross-wise.  using a spatula, stack 2 halves on top of each other, and repeat with the rest of the noodles to create 4 stacks.  Serve.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baked Burritos with Creamy Poblano Sauce

I'm pretty much guaranteed to like any combination of fillings that are wrapped into a tortilla - eat it as is, fry it, bake it, top with sauce, leave it "naked," whatever.  I'll eat it and I'll like it.  And to make it even better - how about if that combination is lean ground beef, black beans, Mexican spices, and plenty of cheese?  And then topped with a creamy poblano sauce?  It's most definitely a winner.

These burritos are basically the perfect combination of spicy, salty, creamy, crispy, savory... the works. I really and truly couldn't get enough.  

When I made them the first time, I used poblanos in the sauce, but I managed to get my hands on some Hatch green chiles for the second batch, and they were obviously wonderful that way as well.  

If you're not into red meat, chicken or turkey could easily be subbed as well... or even do all beans and/or a combination of other veggies make these vegetarian.  However you decided to make them, just make them.  They are quick and easy, relatively healthy, and of course delicious.  

I made these burritos the last week we lived in our old house, and froze half the filling for a future meal.   And then I used that filling to make our first meal in the new house.  Full circle, yes?

Baked Burritos with Sour Cream-Poblano Sauce
barely adapted from Elly Says Opa

  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 lb ground beef or sirloin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup water or chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack, cheddar, or cheese of your preference
  • 4-10 whole wheat tortillas, depending on size (4 for burrito-sized, more for soft taco or fajita sized)
  • cooking spray
Sour Cream-Poblano Sauce
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth (preferably room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (light is fine)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400ºF and spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking oil.
To make the burritos:  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the oil. Add the onions and cook  3-5 minutes until they begin to soften. Place the ground beef in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces, until well browned.  (At this point, drain any excess fat if necessary/desired).
Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for 30-60 seconds before adding in the beans. Add the water or broth, cumin, oregano, chili powder, cayenne, brown sugar and salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon). Reduce heat and simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed
Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the cheese down the center of each tortilla (depending on size) and then spoon some of the beef and bean mixture over the top. Fold the left and right sides of the tortilla in, and then roll the tortilla up, from the end closest to you, to the top. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet, and spray with cooking oil.  Sprinkle the tops lightly with kosher salt.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until tortillas are golden brown and crispy.

Meanwhile, make the sauce.
Place the poblano directly over a gas burner. Using tongs, turn occasionally until skin is blackened on all sides. Place in a bowl and top with plastic wrap or a clean towel, until cook enough to handle.  Alternatively, if you don't have a gas burner, preheat the broiler and place the poblano on a baking sheet.  Broil 6-inches from the heat source, turning occasionally, until blackened and charred. 
Peel the poblano and rinse off any small bits of charred skin, remove the stem and seeds, and dice it.
Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat, and melt the butter. Stir in the flour, cooking for about a  minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and then the diced poblano; continue to simmer, whisking frequently, until thickened.
Add the sour cream and warm through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to low and cover to keep warm until the burritos are done.
Spoon the sauce over the burritos and serve.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Loaded Baked Potato Soup (Crock Pot)

Now that we've moved and Caroline has been in school for a few weeks, we've developed a little routine.  She doesn't have school on Monday, so we usually run some errands in the morning, have lunch while we're out, then after Smith takes a nap, we go do something fun - library, playground, go shopping, etc.   So with busy days, I don't really have the energy to make a big elaborate dinner that night.  Enter the crockpot.  I've been making crockpot meals the past few weeks, and it's been perfect.  We enjoy a super easy and low-maintenance meal to start off the week, I have lunches for myself all week long, and then there's usually enough leftover for another dinner later in the week.  Win, win, win.

Baked potato soup has long been a favorite of mine, so I was excited to try this version.  It's "loaded."  Meaning there's bacon, cheese, scallions, and sour cream.  Hard to go wrong with that, isn't it?  It does take a few minutes to prep for the slow cooker - peel and chop the potatoes, cook the bacon and onions... but I did the prep work while the kids were occupied eating snacks, and it was no big deal.

The soup cooks for a few hours, then some of the potatoes are removed, mashed with a little bit of cream, and returned to the crockpot to thicken up the rest of the soup.  Joey, Caroline, and I all really loved this soup, and even Smith was a fan.  As soups typically do, this one gets better as the days go by.  By the end of the week I dare say it tasted even better than the first night!

Busy days and cooler weather call for crockpots and soup, and this one is most definitely a winner!

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Soup
adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution

  • 8 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 lbs Russet potatoes (about 6  medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 8 oz), plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (light is fine)
  • salt and pepper
  • sliced scallions, minced
Cook the bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and refrigerate until serving.  Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Add the onion and cook over medium-high heat until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and thyme, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until fragrant, an additional minute or so.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minutes, stirring constantly.  Slowly whisk in 1 cup of the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits.  Cook until the mixture is starting to thicken, then transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir in the remaining 3 cups of  broth, potatoes, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper into the slow cooker.  Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, 4 to 6 hours on low (I think it could even go a bit longer than this and be fine).  

Transfer 3 cups of cooked potatoes to a medium bowl with the cream and mash until smooth using a potato masher.  Return the potatoes to the slow cooker, along with the shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.  Stir to combine and let the soup sit until heated all the way through, about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, microwave the bacon on the plate until hot and crispy, about 30 seconds.  Season the soup with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls and top with bacon, shredded cheese, and scallions.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Caroline's Ballerina Birthday Party

Our sweet little girl turned four years old this summer.  I say this every year, but seriously - where has the time gone??  This year was especially fun because we let her choose her own theme.  She absolutely loves ballet and ballerinas, so when she said she wanted a ballerina party, I was very excited.  She just completed her first year of ballet, and we recently attended her recital.  Can I just say that it was the sweetest thing ever, and I may or may not have cried like a baby the entire time she was on stage??

As it tends to do, however, life got in the way this summer.  I had all sorts of fun and girly ideas for the party, but sadly I didn't get to execute them all - Caroline's birthday was smack dab in the middle of my terrible morning sickness, our house hunting, and several doctors' appointments.  So needless to say, I wasn't really on my "A-game."

However, everything still came together and looked super cute and girly.  I went with pink and gray for the color scheme, inspired by the invitation:

Her party was at 2 pm, so in lieu of serving a full meal, we went with kid-friendly snacks and girly sweets.  The easy and low-maintenance menu included:

chocolate and vanilla cupcakes
chex mix
yogurt-covered pretzels and graham cookies
vanilla meringues
Pirate's Booty Popcorn
hot caprese dip with toasted baguettes (not pictured)
fruit tray

As I mentioned before, I wanted everything to be frilly and girly, so I decorated the table with white linens, white and silver serving dishes, and pretty pink flowers.  Caroline loved the flowers and food table!  I served the chex mix and yogurt stars in little snack cups, and they were the perfect size for the kids to just grab and go.

Caroline has quite the collection of dress-up clothes, so we had them out and available for her and her friends to try on and dance around in.  We also cleared out all the toys, area rug, and small furniture from our living room to allow for plenty of space for dancing!  I bought enough wands for each child to have one (and take home), and they all loved dancing around with them.

(Baby Smith photo-bomb!!)

Caroline was super excited to wear her ballet costume from her recital, and the other girls loved wearing their ballet clothes and costumes as well.  For those who weren't as interested in dancing, we set up a coloring station in our dining room, complete with several different ballerinas to color, stickers, and little jewels for decorating their masterpieces (sorry, we didn't get a picture of the set-up though!).

After a few songs and games, the fun began:  cake!  Caroline doesn't get birthday cake at most parties due to her egg allergy, so she was super excited to eat a pretty cupcake.  Note:  long hair, tulle, and fire do not mix well!

Caroline loved her ballerina dance party, and I think all the kids had a great time as well.  I still can't believe that she's four years old already!  And because I think she is the cutest thing ever, I can't resist sharing one more picture from her recital:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmesan is typically one of those dishes for people who don't like eggplant - bread it, fry it, then smother it in marinara, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese.  Don't get me wrong, I love it that way too.  But let's be honest - it doesn't highlight the eggplant.  This version, however, definitely does.  Eggplant slices are pan-friend to achieve that awesome, crispy, golden-brown perfection (good luck not polishing them off right then and there).  They are then layered with San Marzano tomatoes, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, garlic, and herbs.  After a stint in the oven, it all melds together into something magical.

While the dish is baking, a good bit of liquid is released - from the eggplant, tomatoes, and the olive oil - this stuff should not be drained off.  Spoon some over each serving, then use a good crusty bread to sop it up - it's one of the best things about this dish.

This is a pretty rustic dish - as everything is layered, you're just eyeballing each amount, but it doesn't matter that it's not exact.  It's homey, comforting, and pretty much perfect.  I'd even wager to say that those who don't love eggplant will be converts.  It's that good.

Eggplant Parmigiana
barely adapted from Salt to Taste, by Marco Canora
serves 6

  • 4 small or 2 medium eggplants (about 1 1/2 lbs)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-oz) can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 Tbs thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 Tbs dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Heat about 1/2-inch of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Cook the eggplant in batches, until each piece is crisp and golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side, until each piece is golden.  Drain the cooked eggplant on a paper towel-lined baking sheet, salting each batch generously while it's still hot.

Assemble the dish in a medium baking dish (about 11 x 8 inches):  Begin by crushing 3 tomatoes with your hands over the dish, letting the juices fall into the pan.  Scatter the pieces over the bottom.  Season with some of the garlic (about 7 slices or so), a pinch of oregano, a small handful of Parmigiano, salt, and pepper.  Tear and scatter 3-4 basil leaves over the top, then cover with a layer of eggplant, fitting the slices in snugly (it's okay if they overlap a bit).

Top the eggplant with 2 more crushed tomatoes and their juices and a little less than one-third of the mozzarella.  Season this layer as you did the previous one - garlic, oregano, Parmigiano, salt, pepper, and basil.  Cover with another layer of eggplant, 2 more tomatoes, and another third of the mozzarella.  Season as before.  

Finish the dish with a final layer of eggplant, the remaining tomatoes, the remaining mozzarella and the remaining oregano, garlic, Parmigiano, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bake uncovered until the cheese and "sauce" are bubbly, about 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let rest 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with more torn basil.  Serve, spooning pan juices over each serving.  Crusty bread is also a must for serving!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chicken Marsala-Stuffed Portobellos

Chicken Marsala is one of my favorite fall back dishes when eating out.  If I'm not in the mood for anything in particular, it's a good, safe choice.  Ironically enough, I've never actually made it at home.  I love this marsala risotto that I made a few years ago, and I have a pasta recipe that I love as well.  But for whatever reason, making chicken marsala for dinner just seems too.... boring.... I like to make things complicated and weird according to my sister, so I have to do something to mess it up improve a classic.

So when I had some random ingredients in the fridge to use up, chicken marsala stuffed portobellos were born.  This seems pretty reasonable since I apparently really like stuffed mushrooms.  I stuffed big mushroom caps with a mixture of chicken, lots of chopped mushrooms, shallots, garlic, mascarpone and gruyere cheese, and of course a splash of marsala wine.

While it's hard to compare it to classic chicken marsala, this definitely had all the same flavors, and it was well-received by the whole family.  It was pretty quick to throw together, and I see no reason why it couldn't be assembled ahead of time and baked later.  I served the mushrooms over a bed of sautéed spinach, and it was a really wonderful meal.

So while I've still yet to master chicken marsala, when I have dishes like this in my repertoire, I don't mind relegating it to a dish that I just order in a restaurant.

Chicken Marsala-Stuffed Portobellos
Pink Parsley Original

For the mushrooms:

  • 3-4 portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbs marsala wine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the filling:
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup marsala wine
  • 1/2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and use a butter knife to scrape the gills out of the mushroom caps.  In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, marsala wine, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Brush the outside and inside of the mushroom caps with the mixture, then arrange in a single layer, cap side-down, on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Roast about 8-10 minutes.  If the mushrooms give off a lot of liquid, blot it up with a paper towel.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallots and mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are browned and softened, 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the chicken, marsala wine, tomato paste, and thyme, and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine has evaporated.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Rremove from heat and stir in the mascarpone cheese, 1/4 cup of the Gruyere cheese, and the panko bread crumbs.  Stir until the cheese has melted.

Divide the filling evenly among the mushroom caps and sprinkle the tops with the remaining Gruyere cheese.  Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until the filling is heated through and the cheese has melted.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Steaks with Citrus-Soy Sauce & Edamame Slaw

Aside from the obvious question of "how are you feeling?" I am often asked if I'm having any crazy cravings with this pregnancy.  With Caroline, I craved bbq allllll the time.  With Smith, I developed quite an addiction to (decaf) iced vanilla lattes.  And with this pregnancy, I've been all about red meat.  More specifically, steak.  It's not really like me at all, given that I typically only eat red meat about once a month or so - but the babies want what the babies want, right?

This particular steak really hit the spot, too.  New York Strip steak is cooked on the stovetop to your desired doneness (sadly, I overcooked mine quite a bit.  But since it's not recommended to eat medium-rare meat while pregnant, I guess it was for the best).  A quick slaw is mixed up of shredded broccoli, edamame, onion, and toasted almonds.  And the best part - a simple dressing soy-citrus dressing pulls double duty - part of it becomes the dressing for the slaw, and the rest is reduced on the stovetop to create a flavorful pan sauce for the steak.  From start to finish, this came together in under thirty minutes.  I served it with some rice on the side, and it was a super easy meal that would have been fancy enough for company.  And the leftovers were all cooked together the next day to make a pretty fabulous steak and veggie-fried rice.  Pretty great when 30 minutes of cooking gives you two great meals, isn't it?

Steaks with Citrus-Soy Pan Sauce & Edamame Slaw
adapted from America's Test Kitchen, Simple Weeknight Favorites
serves 4

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen shelled edamame
  • 5 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs grated orange zest + 1/4 cup juice
  • 2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs freshly grated ginger
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tbs toasted sesame oil
  • 1 (10-oz) bag broccoli slaw mix
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 3 (10-  to 12-oz) boneless strip steaks, 1-2 inches thick
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled
Place edamame in a bowl, cover, and microwave 4 to 6 minutes, or until tender.  Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

 Meanwhile, whisk the soy sauce, orange zest and juice, vinegar, ginger, and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl.  Transfer 3 tablespoons of the dressing to a large bowl, then whisk in 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil (to the large bowl).  Add the broccoli slaw mix, edamame, onion, and almonds, and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Heat the remaining tablespoon of sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook steaks until well browned and cooked to your liking, turning once (about 3-5 minutes per side).  Transfer to a cutting board and test loosely with foil.  Let rest while you make the pan sauce.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Add the remaining soy sauce mixture to the now-empty skillet and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, one piece at a time.  

To serve, divide the slaw evenly among 4 plates.  Thinly slice the steaks and distribute among plates, and drizzle with sauce.

Monday, September 10, 2012

No-Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies + A Giveaway

I'm sure everyone remembers eating those no-bake oatmeal peanut butter cookies as a kid? They were always one of my favorite cookies. I still really enjoy them, and as a bonus, they have no egg in them, so they're a big treat for Caroline, too!

These cookies are a bit of a take-off from those. They are no bake, and contain oats, peanut butter, and chocolate. Yet they are so much more. They also have toasted almonds, dried cranberries, and chocolate chips.  And they are actually pretty healthy -- for a cookie, that is. Using turbadino sugar and honey gives them a natural sweetness, and they have a good bit of protein thanks to the peanut butter and almonds. To me, they taste a bit like a no-bake cookie and granola bar. Which is a good thing, trust me.

With school back in session, it's always challenging to find a good, filling, yet still somewhat healthy after school snack. Caroline has been enjoying one of these cookies, along with half of a banana as her afternoon snack. A little sweet, just a bit salty, crunchy, and chewy. These cookies hit on all the tastebuds.

One of the fun things about cooking and baking is sharing the photos with friends and family. I do that through my blog of course, but I also use a few social media sites, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I love seeing what others are baking up as well, so it's a fun way to share. In The Raw has developed a fun new app through Facebook called "Au Natural In The Raw" that pixelates an image to make it "censored." It's a fun little app to play around with. I did it with these cookies, but check out the full gallery on their page - some are pretty creative and funny.

Now for the giveaway! If you'd like to win a $100 gift card to, visit the In The Raw website, and leave a comment here telling me which recipe you would make.*   Easy peasy!

No Bake Peanut Butter Oat Cookies
adapted from In The Raw
makes about 22 cookies
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)
  • 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries, coarsely chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup Sugar In The Raw (coarse turbadino sugar)
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 2 Tbs unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup low-fat or reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup smooth, all-natural peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl, toss together the oats, almonds, cranberries, and salt. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, cocoa powder, butter, and milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Boil gently for about 3 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla extract.
Remove from heat and stir in the oats mixture, stirring until a cohesive dough forms.
Scoop 2 tablespoons of the dough and roll into a ball. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining dough, spacing 1 1/2-2 inches apart. Lightly press with dampened fingers to flatten the balls into cookies, then chill about 1 hour before serving.
The cookies can be stored for up to 3 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Serve chilled.

I was provided with Sugar In The Raw products and compensation for this post, but the opinions are my own.

*This sweepstakes runs through 9/30. For the official rules, visit this site.
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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Make Ahead Meals: Stromboli

It's pretty much official. While summer isn't over according to the calendar, in most other ways, it's done. Carefree days and nights are gone, school is back in session, and after school activities have started up. I know how easy it is to fall into the "take-out trap" now. You're tired after a long day, and won't be home until it's practically dinnertime. You're just busy.

This is why it is so important to plan, plan, plan, so you can get home, throw something in the oven, and relax for a few quiet minutes while dinner cooks itself, all without the dread of cooking hanging over your head all day.

That's where this stromboli comes in. You can prep this "inside out pizza" the night before or in the morning, then just bake it when you get home. As it bakes, warm up some tomato sauce and throw together a side salad (or roast some vegetables alongside the stromboli for even less work, which is what I do.) Dinner will be markedly better than take-out or fast food, with barely any extra work.

You can customize the fillings as you see fit. I kept it simple here with cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms. Recently I made an especially delicious version with provolone, mozzarella and parmesan, plus sun-dried tomato chicken sausage and vidalia onions. I'll definitely be enjoying that again soon. Really, anything you'd normally put on a pizza would be great here - any combination of veggies, a simple cheese, sausage and pepper or vegetable combination, barbecued chicken, or even spinocolli!
I took this to a friend who had recently had a baby, and it was a great meal for them as well. Make two, share one!

More Make-Ahead Meal Ideas:
Classic Macaroni & Cheese
Shrimp & Feta Quinoa
Cheesy Chicken & Basil Stuffed Potatoes
Baked BBQ Pork Taquitos
Foil-Baked Fish (Greek-style and Mexican-style)
Crockpot Tequila-Lime Turkey Chili
Crockpot Korean Beef Tacos
Spicy Chicken & Rice Casserole
Vegetable Enchiladas

Make-Ahead Stromboli
adapted from Cook's Illustrated.

Note:  While any combination of toppings can be used here, be careful not to over-fill the stromboli. The entire rectangle doesn't need to be covered. If the toppings are scattered evenly over the cheese, it will be fine. Adding too many toppings will make the stromboli harder to roll, and it could tear. No one wants a leaky stromboli!
  • 1 lb. pizza dough
  • flour, for the surface
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 4 oz. pepperoni
  • 4 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • oil, for brushing
  • pizza sauce, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush lightly with oil.

On a well-floured surface, roll the pizza dough into a 10x12 inch rectangle, with the long-side facing you. If you are having trouble getting it to stretch without springing back, let it rest for about 10 minutes, then try again.

Sprinkle the dough with the cheeses, leaving about 1/4-1/2 inch border around the edges. Top with pepperoni and mushrooms, scattering them evenly over the cheese.

Brush the border with water. Starting with the side closest to you, begin rolling the pizza dough tightly into a long cylinder. Carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheet, and brush liberally with oil and sprinkle with the reserved Paremsan cheese.

Cover with foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, then bake 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, until the outside is golden brown. Allow to cool about 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with pizza sauce, for dipping.

Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare the stromboli as directed. After it's assembled (but not baked), it can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake it, add 5 minutes to the covered baking time (so bake 25 minutes covered with foil, remove foil, and bake 20-25 minutes).