Monday, May 23, 2011

Pesto Sun-dried Tomato Stuffed Shells

Using pasta from my pantry up and some ricotta that was in my fridge.  So, stuffed shells!  But of course, I could not just make any stuffed shells.  They had to have a little something special.  They were special are very tasty!  These shells had such a creamy filling that was so full of flavor.  They were filled with a creamy pesto ricotta and roasted garlic and well as sun-dried tomatoes.  My oldest said, "Yum , yum for my Tum Tum!"


  • 15 oz. light ricotta
  • 2 oz. cream cheese (microwaved for 10 seconds to soften)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 4 TBSP pesto
  • 1 egg
  • 3 TBSP chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • a head roasted garlic, chopped
  • 20 shells
  • jar of favorite sauce or homemade

Preheat oven to 350.  Cook pasta al dente (firm to bite).  Drain and cool.
In a medium sized bowl, mix 1/2 cup mozzarella with cream cheese, ricotta, egg and parmesan cheese.  Mix in pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and chopped roasted garlic.  Will be creamy.
Spread 3/4 jar of sauce on bottom of 9x13.  Fill each shell with filling and place seam side up in pan.  Top each with spoonful of sauce and the rest of the cheese.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted and lightly toasted.  Enjoy!

Crab Stuffed Chicken and Crab Cakes

I had some crab that needed to be used up and some chicken, so I did my normal, look on the internet for a recipe.  I was not satisfied with any I found so opted to use the ingredients I had on-hand and make my own. This was delicious!  Tasted rich and felt like we were eating food fit for a king!  I had leftover crab, so I added 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and an egg white and made crab cakes. Next time I would also add some roasted red pepper for added flavor, but it was still excellent.  The crab was the star!  Picture of crab cakes on bottom.


  • 3 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups lump crab meat
  • 1 TBSP fresh parsley chopped fine
  • 1 shallot chopped fine
  • 1/2 TBSP butter
  • 8 ritz crackers crushed
  • sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 2/3 cup white wine


Place chopped skillet and 1/2 TBSP butter in frying pan and cook until just beginning to brown and tender.  Mix together softened cream cheese, shallot, ritz cracker crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper and crab meat.  Set aside. (would also be great with some scallion in it.)

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray 9x13 with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, whisk eggs.  In a separate bowl, place bread crumbs.  Cut slit in chicken and stuff a couple of TBSP of crab mixture in chicken.  Flatten to spread crab stuffing throughout slit and dredge in egg and then breadcrumbs and place in 9x13 pan.  Continue with each piece of chicken.  Divide TBSP or so of butter evenly in empty spaces in pan.  I sprinkled some shredded cheese over each breast too.  (Opt.)  Place in oven.  Cook for 10 minutes then pour in 1/2 cup of wine in 9x13.  Bake for another 25-30 minutes, until wine is bubbling and chicken is cooked through (will depend on initial thickness of chicken).  Don't overcook! you want the chicken tender and juicy.  Enjoy!

Crab Cakes

Follow above recipe for Crab Stuffing and add 1/2 cup bread crumbs, an egg white and some diced roasted red pepper.

Stuffed Artichokes

My Grandma is full blooded Italian (well, some Sicilian) and knows how to make veggies taste amazing! She has made these ever since I was a little girl for holidays and also when they are in season, and it is one of my all time favorite foods.  I could make a meal out of one.  Seriously!  They are so good. 
They are a fair amount of work, but so worth it.  Seriously, go buy some and try this.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it! 


  • 4 artichokes, trimmed and cleaned
  • 8 oz extra sharp cheddar or provolone
  • 1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup jarred spaghetti sauce
  • 2 TBSP water to dilute sauce
  • 1/2 cup water for bottom of pan (can add touch of sauce too)
Clean and trim artichokes.  Cut bottoms flat and trim points off leaves.  Spread leaves some in center.

I steam the stems as well.  Place in steamer basket over water, cover and turn on high heat and let cook for 30-40 minutes, until a fork can go in the bottom and comes out easily.  (They are a tad stinky when steaming)

Let cool and cut cheese into small pieces (I divided mine into 4 chunks and cut it half, then sliced thin.)  In each leaf, place a piece of cheese working from out to in.  Use up all the cheese on the 4.
Sprinkle 1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs over the artichokes trying to get some in each leaf.  Dilute sauce and drizle about 1/2 of it over leaves and then use the rest to top the middle of each artichoke.  Can sprinkle a few more breadcrumbs over the middle for effect.  Place in 9x13.  Place cooked stems in too, if desired.  Dump 1/3 cup of so of water in bottom of the pan so not to dry them out and so they won't burn.  Cover loosely with foil and bake about 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and they are warm through.

To eat: Pull leaves off one by one, scraping each leaf clean with your teeth.  The bottom of each leaf is where the "meat" is.  The other part is not edible... place in bowl and keep eating.  When there is no more cheese and the leave are no good, tear them off.  Cut the "hair" off with knife and eat the heart.  One of the best parts!

Variation:  Dice some garlic fine and sprinkle into the leaves with the cheese before baking.  So good!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pesto Tilapia

I hesitate to even share this because it is not really a recipe, but an idea, but thought it might be nice for those that enjoy fish.  Super easy and super fast.  And did I mention incredibly delicious!  This is great on any fish!  Really great on salmon.


  • Tiliapia fillets
  •  Prepared pesto (I bought some from Costco)
  • fresh grape or vine ripened tomatoes, diced and lightly salted

Preheat oven to 400.   Line baking sheet with tinfoil.  Spray with cooking spray. Place fillets on baking sheet and top with a big dollop of pesto.  Slather over each fillet and bake.  After about 7- 10 minutes, check to see if there is liquid and drain it off if there is.  Place back in oven. Bake about 15 minutes or cooked.  Top with fresh diced tomatoes.

Blueberry Buckle

Blueberries have been on sale and are so tasty so I made blueberry buckle!  It was so good!  I opted to put the blueberries on the top of the cake which made it I think. Blueberries bursting in every single bite. I would definitely make this again.  This is best served the day of making and served warm.



For the cake:
  •  2 cups cake flour (reg would probably be fine)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 5 TBSP unsalted softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk of buttermilk
For the blueberries:
  • 3 cups blueberries
  • juice from half a lemon
  • couple TBSP sugar to coat
  • 1 TBSP flour
For the topping:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 stick butter

Preheat oven to 375.  Spray a spring form pan with baking spray.  Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg, lemon zest and vanilla and beat 1 minute.  Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder add alternatively with milk to butter mixture.   About 1/3 of flour, then 1/3 of milk, etc. mixing until just incorporated.  Pour into prepared pan.

Gently toss blueberries with lemon juice, sugar and flour.  Pour onto prepared cake batter. (Alternative: can mix blueberries in batter gently)

For the topping, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Mix in butter until becomes coarse crumb.  Sprinkle over blueberries.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan, scraping around edges first.  Delicious warm!

Dump Cake

First off, sorry for the bad picture.  We had company, so I couldn't get a really good one.

I think this is a terrible sounding name for a cake, but it is called such because it is dumping a bunch of stuff on top of other stuff.  It is really a shameful dessert, because it uses a bunch of box mixes and cans.  Can I really call this a "homemade" dessert?  Who cares!?  It smells incredible while baking and tastes fabulous.  I got this recipe from a friend of mine in Germany, Julie, and was so grateful for the recipe.  It is a great last minute throw together dessert because it literally takes about 5 minutes to put together.  The hardest part is slicing butter.  Wow, tough stuff there, huh?
Our landlord came to inspect the house and we invited him to stay for lunch (Brad's former boss).  I always keep this stuff on hand and decided to use it up because of our upcoming move.  After his first bite, he said "This is fantastic!".  So there it is. Cheat a little and make something- "semi-homemade."


  • 1 can crushed pineapple
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • about 1 cup coconut (opt)
  • about 1 cup nuts (opt)
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (I cut it from original 2 sticks, didn't suffer)

Preheat oven to 350.  In a 9x13, dump pineapple, followed by cherry pie filling.  Try to spread evenly.  Dump yellow cake mix and spread evenly.  Slice butter in pats and place evenly over cake mix.  Top will coconut and nuts.  Bake @ 350 for an 55 min-1 hour.
Wonderful with ice cream or whipped cream.

Lemon Bars

I am still using up all of my supplies and had a hankering for something lemon and had tons of
lemons.  I wanted to try a traditional lemon bar.
These were very tasty bars.  The shortbread was better than most, very flaky and buttery.  The lemon part was very lemony and smooth.  The corners were a little different texture than the rest, more firm.  The edges browned and that was my favorite part because it was all caramelized. 

I do not think these were nearly as good as the triple citrus bars 
but they were very good!  You can try them and see for yourself!

adapted from Barefoot Contessa


For the crust:
  • 1 stick butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
For the filling:
  • 3 eggs room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup flour
Confectioners sugar for dusting.


Preheat oven to 350.   For the crust, working with paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar until light.   Combine salt and flour and add slowly, while mixing on low and mix until flour is just incorporated.  Pour onto floured surface and gather the dough into a ball.  Press into 8 or 9 inch square pan.  Cook for 15-20 minutes. 
For the filling, zest and juice lemons (about 3 for lemon juice).  Whisk eggs and add sugar, lemon juice and zest and flour.  Whisk until well combined.  Pour over cooked crust and bake additional 30-35 minutes, until center is set and no longer jiggly.  Let cool and dust with powdered sugar.  Cut and serve.  (Best day of making!)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Four Cheese No Bake Macaroni and Cheese

I am trying to use up to prepare for our move what we have so I am getting creative.  We have no box mac n cheese so I decided to do stove top homemade.  It was pretty easy and so creamy and really tasty.  The sharp and parmesan cheeses add the bite and the velvetta and cream cheese make it super creamy. We ate some and had some apple slices and viola!  we had lunch! It took maybe 5 minutes longer than box mix would have taken and that was because the pasta took longer.
A great quick lunch or even dinner in a pinch.


  • Box of elbows or spiral pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups milk divided
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 cup cubed velvetta
  • 2 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded  extra sharp cheddar cheese 
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese


Cook pasta according to directions.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, over med low heat, heat 1 cup milk.  Whisk together remaining milk, flour, dry mustard, onion and garlic powder and add to saucepan.  Whisk milk constantly to avoid sticking. When milk begins to thicken, add cheeses to milk and whisk until all the cheeses are melted.  Cheese sauce will burn if you don't mix constantly.  Drain pasta and pour cheese sauce over.  Stir and let sit for a few minutes if needs to thicken.  If it is too thick, add a splash of milk.  Enjoy! (We had some cheese sauce left over too...  maybe a topper for broccoli?) Can add some toasted bread crumbs or some salsa for a kick!  Add a TBSP of milk if reheating from leftovers and stir well.

Lemon Garlic Chicken with Homemade Tzatziki (Chicken Souvlaki)

So, I looked all over the internet for recipes, which is my norm, and came up with this one.  I get a hankering for this every now and then and because we move so often, it is not easy to find the best Greek place in town.  I finally found one here in Charlottesville about a month before we are moving.  Oh well! 

This was sooo  good!  I love Chicken Souvlaki and I am pretty picky when it comes to the taste.  This delivered!  The kids all ate this up quickly and really enjoyed the meal.  It has the veggies right on it, so it is a meal in a sandwich or flat bread form.  The chicken on its own was divine and I would eat it in a second without anything on the side.  I will be using the marinade again and again for grilling chicken.  Oh, and even if you don't like cucumbers (which I don't), don't be afraid. . .  they are really hidden in the sauce/dip.  Enjoy!


  • 1-1.5 lbs chicken cut into 1" chunks
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • fresh ground pepper (about 5-7 grinds or 1/2 tsp.)
  • skewers
In a small bowl, place zest and juice of lemon, crushed garlic, parsley, oregano and 1 tsp of salt and  the pepper.  Drizzle in olive oil while whisking ingredients to make marinade.  Taste for salt and add more if needed.  You want it a little on the salty side for the chicken.  Set aside. 

Cut chicken into 1" pieces and place in gallon ziplock bag.  Whisk marinade and pour over chicken into bag.  Seal bag and mush marinade throughout chicken.  Let marinate at least 2 hours (I did mine for 6, it was awesome!) and whenever you open the fridge to get something, mush the marinade around a bit (I did this 3-4 times throughout the day.)  Soak wooden skewers for at least 30 minutes in water to avoid burning, or use metal ones.  Place chicken on skewers (I used about 12 wooden skewers) and cook on a hot grill for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.  My kids loved eating the meat off the skewers as well as in the flat bread.


  • 2 cups of nonfat greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber peeled and seeded (or 1/2 seedless as they are bigger)
  • 1 TBSP fresh dill
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt for cucumbers
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (More brings heat to it)
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Grate cucumber with fine grater and place in strainer over bowl.  Salt the cucumber (1-2 tsp) and let sit for about 30 minutes to drain (I ended up squeezing mine dry over the colander).  Place yogurt in bowl.  Add all but cucumber and whisk together.  Add cucumber and mix well.  Let sit in fridge for about 1/2 hour to let flavors meld.  If using as a dip, drizzle evoo over top before serving.  Makes a great veggie dip!


  • feta cheese
  • red onion
  • ice berg lettuce
  • tomato sliced or diced
  • flat bread
  • lemon chicken
  • tzatziki

Warm flat bread in oven.  Place chicken in bread.  Top with iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onion and about 1/4 cup tzatziki, then feta.  Wrap half in foil to hold together.  This worked great for the kids.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Chicken Soup

This is my mom's chicken soup and it is the best!  It is a bit time consuming, but the end results are so worth it.
Our neighbor was very sick with a bad cold and my oldest insisted I make soup for her again and again.  So, I finally made a trip to the store for what I needed and made it.  I made a huge pot, which made enough for a meal for my family, as well as enough for seconds for all of our neighbors family.  Plus, there is another meal's worth in the freezer!   I may be taking it out today as we have a cold going through our household.
We buy soup greens from the Amish store up in New York and use those in it.  If you don't have soup greens, you will need to add some extra spices like onion and garlic powder for flavor.  But I have made this without them dozens of times and it is still fabulous.  Family recipe that won't disappoint!


  • whole chicken, bone in skin on
  • 10 carrots, divided
  • 4-5 stalks celery, divided
  • 2 large onions, divided
  • 1/2 cup dried soup greens
  • water
  • 2 cups Prego spaghetti sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. orzo or rosa marina

Clean chicken, peel 5 carrots and chop in large chunks.  Clean and chop 2 stalks celery in large chunks.  chop 1 onion in large chunks.  Place chicken and these veggies in large stock pot and cover with water.  Add 1/3 cup dried soup greens and some salt.  Bring to boil and let cook at low boil for 35-45 minutes, until legs begin to separate from chicken and chicken is cooked.
Meanwhile, clean and finely chop remaining veggies.  (If you want a lot of broth, place in saucepan with couple cups of water and simmer until begins to get tender 10-15 minutes.  Turn off and let sit.) 
When chicken is done you can either pour through strainer with another stock pot underneath to catch broth, or I lift the chicken out with tongs  and place in 9x13 (challenging) and use a small strainer to sift the chunked veggies out.  Discard the chunked veggies. 
Add the finely chopped veggies (and the veggie broth if opted for extra broth) and remaining soup greens if you have them in the big stock pan.  Simmer lightly while cleaning chicken.  Let the chicken sit for about 15-20 minutes until cool enough to handle.  Pull the meat off chicken and tear into bite size pieces.  Discard skin. (Put the bones in a saucepan with a few cups of water and let the simmer for about 20 minutes for extra flavorful broth to add to soup.)
After veggies are cooked, bring to a boil and add the Prego and pasta.  Cook about 5 minutes and add chicken back in.  Cook until pasta is done.  Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper, garlic powder and or onion powder if needed.  (*hint, if it is flavorless, most likely you need some salt.  Add in 1/2 tsp increments letting each sit for a few minutes before tasting, until good flavor.  I usually leave a little salt needed so people can season to their individual taste.)  Serve hot with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and crackers or crusty bread.

Soup will be gelatinous after being refrigerated.  It will turn liquid once heated.  Freezes great!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Oreo Ice Cream Cake

This cake was made all the time when I was growing up.  It remains one of my all time favorite desserts.  I am not normally a huge ice cream cake fan, but there is something about this combination that is so good!  It is like a snickers bars bottom...  so satisfying, right?  Go get the stuff and make this as soon as the temperature rises.  A great treat to cool you down on a hot day!


  • 1 container of vanilla or cookies and cream ice cream
  • 1 package of reduced fat or reg. Oreo's, crushed
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 1 container of prepared chocolate icing
  • 1 jar caramel sauce
  • 8 oz salted peanuts
  • 1 container ice cream
  • 8-10 oz cool whip

Crush Oreo's to pea size.  I put them in zip lock bag and hit them with rolling pin for this.  Good to get your aggression out, right?  You can do in food processor, but don't get too fine.   Reserve about 1/2 cup for topping the cake and place the rest in 9x13.  Pour melted butter over crushed cookie crumbs.  Mix very well, making sure all of it is coated and shiny (normal recipe uses 1 stick butter, I found that half is sufficient if mixed really well).  Press down with fork or fingers and pack down tightly.
Remove all bits of foil from icing container or transfer to microwave safe dish.  Microwave about 30 seconds to soften icing.  Mix and pour over cookies and carefully/gently spread evenly.
Pour caramel evenly over icing.  Sprinkle peanuts evenly over caramel.
Remove ice cream from freezer and let sit at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes.  Cut off sides and using a large knife slice it about 1" thick and place over peanuts evenly.  Take whatever is left spread to cover cake evenly.  Top with cool whip and cookie crumbs.  Freeze at least 4 hours, overnight is best.  Let sit at room temp for 10-15 minutes before cutting.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Garlic Snap Peas

This is a very easy recipe.  I always get these at PF Chang's and pay way too much, because these are so easy.  Really light and yummy!


  • 2 cups sugar snap peas
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • walnut or olive oil
  • coarse salt

Trim peas if necessary.  Mine were tender and not stringy so there was no need.  Place a skillet over med high heat and put about 1 TBSP oil in the pan.  When oil is hot, add snap peas and saute, tossing/gently stirring constantly.   Cook until they are hot through.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  These are meant to still be crunchy.  Sprinkle with coarse salt.  Serve hot.