Rigatoni Lasagna Pie


Rigatoni Lasagna PIe

One of the things I truly love about Facebook, aside from being able to stay connected to family & friends both near and far, is the food pictures and/or recipes which inspire me to get into the kitchen and try them out. Most recently, a childhood friend posted a photo of her rigatoni pie, and it was seriously so pretty, I had to try to make it for that reason alone (well, it also looked delicious). I searched online and found quite a few recipes, and went with two I wanted to modify. Since I knew this pie was going to be a bit labor-intensive, and in the interest of time, I decided to use store-bought pasta sauce instead of making my own, but by all means, if you make a mean sauce, go ahead and use that. I am thrilled to report that this pie turned out amazing and absolutely scrumptious!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta
  • 1 jar (24 oz.) pasta sauce (I used Bertoli Italian Sausage Garlic & Romano)
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
Fill up the springform pan with all of your cooked rigatoni

Fill up the springform pan with all of your cooked rigatoni

Ricotta cheese mixture ready to pipe into rigatoni

Ricotta cheese mixture ready to pipe into rigatoni

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook until al dente (12 minutes for my pasta). Drain the pasta, rinse in cold water and drain again. Stir in 1 tbsp of the olive oil and set aside. (This keeps the pasta from sticking.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Gently stir 1 cup of the grated Parmesan cheese into the cooked rigatoni.
  4. Stand the rigatoni up vertically in a greased 9″ springform pan, using the entire pound of cooked pasta.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan, basil, and oregano until smooth. Set aside.
  6. Use a pastry bag, or put a zip lock bag inside a tall glass, and fill the bag with the cheese mixture. Close the bag and snip the corner of the bag and pipe a decent amount into each noodle (don’t fill all the way).
  7. After piping the noodles with the cheese mixture, carefully pour about 3/4 of the jar of sauce over the whole top and push down as much as possible. (I wanted to save some sauce to heat up and use later for leftovers.)
  8. Top with the mozzarella and cheddar cheese.
  9. Put the springform pan on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has fully melted.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow it to stand in the springform pan for about 15 minutes. Carefully run a knife along the edge of the pan to loosen the pie from the pan, then remove the sides.
  11. Slice the pie and garnish with parsley, if desired.

A piece of the "pie"

Rigatoni Pie

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Smoked Salmon Crostini


Smoked Salmon Crostini

Last month, I was invited to a pot luck party, and was trying to narrow down all of the yummylicious things I could bring that were easy to travel with, didn’t require reheating and would be a crowd pleaser. I decided on these little gems, and they were a hit… not a single one was left. Personally, I think dill adds a nice delicate flavor to the cream cheese mixture, and pairs incredibly well with salmon. The recipe I initially saw for these, called for using a loaf of sourdough bread, but I decided to use whole grain melba toast rounds which worked perfectly, and saved time from having to bake the bread. These tasty treats are incredibly easy to make and throw together in no time, and will be a huge hit with all who try them. If you want to cut down on carbs, or simply desire some variation, you can use cucumber slices instead of the rounds or crackers.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. smoked salmon
  • 8 oz. package cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt (or light mayo)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp. dill leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Dill sprigs for garnish
  • Melba toast rounds, or crackers of your choice

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine all of your spread ingredients: cream cheese, greek yogurt, minced garlic, freshly chopped dill, lemon juice and salt & pepper. Mash it all together with a fork, and mix until well blended.
  2. Spread the cream cheese mix over the top of each melba toast round or cracker.
  3. Top with a piece of salmon and garnish with dill sprigs.

photo-972 photo-971

 

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Baked BLT Dip


BLT Dip

I stumbled across a couple of recipes for this dip on Super Bowl weekend, and being a lover of the infamous BLT, I just had to try it. I took things from both recipes I found, and combined them to make a scrumptious appetizer. I substituted Greek yogurt for sour cream to make this a tad healthier, and if you want to further reduce calories and fat content, you can cut the mayo in half to just a half of a cup, which will produce a bit thicker of a dip (but still yummy).

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. bacon, cooked, drained, crumbled & divided
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 Roma tomatoes (or 1 large regular), seeded, chopped & divided
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F degrees.
  2. Set aside ½ cup crumbled bacon.
  3. Mix mayonnaise, greek yogurt, and cream cheese in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Crumble bacon into mixture and stir.
  4. Add cheddar cheese, green onions, garlic powder, and one tomato, mix well.
  5. Spoon mixture into a shallow dish or pie pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbling.
  6. Sprinkle chopped tomatoes, remaining crumbled bacon, lettuce and green onions over hot dip.
  7. Serve immediately with your favorite crackers or chips.

BLT Dip 3

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Cocktail Meatballs


Cocktail Meatbals

First, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. I haven’t posted a recipe since November, and apologize for my absence, but am back with a very easy and delicious appetizer just in time for the Super Bowl tomorrow (go Broncos), which I found on the back of the Ocean Spray cranberry sauce can (also on the back of the Heinz chili sauce jar). I’ve actually made these cocktail meatballs three times over the past couple of months (today being the fourth), with all of them being just slightly different in taste (and heat) because of the chili sauce I used. I’m giving you the recipe for the mild one as it is “kid friendly”, but will also provide some modification ideas to spice it up. These can be made either on top of the stove or in a crock pot, the latter being a smarter choice if you’re having or bringing to a party. In the interest of time, I’m using frozen, pre-cooked meatballs, but feel free to make your own.

Meatballs CookingIngredients

  • 1 14-oz. can Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 12-oz. bottle Heinz Chili Sauce
  • 1 2-lb. bag frozen, pre-cooked, cocktail-size meatballs, homestyle (not Italian!)
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine sauces in a large saucepan.
  2. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth.
  3. Add meatballs. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until meatballs are heated through, stirring occasionally.

Slow cooker preparation: Place meatballs in a slow cooker. Combine sauces and pour over meatballs. Cover and cook 4 hours on HIGH.

The sweet chili sauce and the chili garlic sauce will add some heat!

The sweet chili sauce and the chili garlic sauce will add some heat!

Modifications to spice up the meatballs: If you desire a serious kick, skip the Heinz chili sauce, and use 6 oz. (3/4 cup) each of the sweet chili sauce and chili garlic sauce pictured above . For just a little spiciness (which I made today), use 11 oz. (a little less than 1 1/2 cups) of the Heinz and 2 tbsp. of the chili garlic sauce.

Cocktail Meatballs Plated

 

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Slow Cooker Beef Ribs – Set It & Forget It


Slow Cooker Beef Ribs

I fully realize this is my third recipe for boneless beef ribs, but figure everyone can use another great and easy crock pot recipe, right? This literally takes about ten minutes to throw everything together prior to cooking. The sauce is just slightly different from my other recipes, but equally as delicious. You can use your favorite barbecue sauce, but I think homemade is always better. A lot of people like searing their ribs prior to cooking them (including me) as it gives a nice, caramelized crust, but it’s not a “must-do”. I’ve including the instructions on how to do that, but feel free to skip it if you desire.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. Chuck boneless beef short ribs
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 3 oz. (half can) tomato paste
  • 6 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. molasses
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion (or 1 tsp. onion powder)
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil (if searing the ribs)

Directions

  1. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat
  2. Season ribs with salt & pepper, and sear on both sides until lightly browned.
  3. Mix all ingredients in crock pot until brown sugar & salt are dissolved.
  4. Add ribs & stir to coat. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours or high for 4.

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Candied Sweet Potato Casserole


Candied Sweet Potato Casserole

With the holidays quickly approaching, visions of dinner menus have been dancing in my head. One of my staples is a sweet potato casserole which always receives rave reviews, and I just realized I haven’t posted it. I took the traditional marshmallow-topped dish, and took it to a new level (in my humble opinion). I also decided to use canned sweet potatoes instead of fresh strictly to save on time.

Ingredients

  • 2 (29 oz.) cans sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 2 tbsp. orange juice (if you’re not an OJ fan, you can use skim milk)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt

Topping

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup candied pecans, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix sweet potatoes, 1/4 cup butter, egg, white sugar, oj, marshmallows, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Transfer to a lightly greased 9″x13″ baking dish.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine topping ingredients and mix well (using your hands) to a consistency of course meal. Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until topping is crisp and lightly browned.

Gourmet Sweet Potato Casserole

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Lean Crescent Taco Pie


Crescent Taco Pie

I regularly receive emails from Pillsbury, and after seeing a yummy one for a Crescent Taco Bake, I decided to buy the few (missing) ingredients I needed. I made some modifications, like I normally do, to make this a bit healthier/lighter and added a couple of ingredients I thought would increase the tasty factor; however, you can omit these if you choose. This is a good basic recipe which can be suited to your own preference, if you have a favorite way to make tacos. Feel free to add jalapeños, beans (refried or black), onions, etc.

Ingredients

  • 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
  • 1 lb. lean (at least 90%) ground beef
  • 3/4 cup salsa (I use medium heat)
  • 2 tbsp. taco seasoning mix (from 1-oz package)
  • 1/2 can Rotel Mexican Lime & Cilantro (optional)
  • 1 cup light shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Shredded lettuce, (optional)
  • Diced tomato, as desired
  • Black olives, as desired
  • Avocado slices/cubes (optional)
  • Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Unroll dough; separate into 8 triangles. Place in ungreased 9-inch square pan or 10-inch pie plate; press over bottom and up sides to form crust. (I had some overlapping, so removed and threw away some of the dough.)
  2. In 10-inch skillet, cook beef over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in salsa, Rotel (if using) and taco seasoning mix; simmer 5 minutes.
  3. Spoon meat mixture in crust-lined pan; sprinkle with cheese.
  4. Bake 18 minutes or until crust is deep golden brown and cheese is melted.
  5. Serve topped with diced tomato, black olives and lettuce (if desired), and avocado and plain greek yogurt on the side.

Taco Bake

 

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Mustard Maple Glazed Chicken With Apples & Leeks


Maple Mustard Glazed Chicken with Apples & Leeks

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while… I did a little traveling to South Florida and went on the most amazing adventure trip to Costa Rica with a ginormous group of friends. Truly EPIC! But I’m back now, and have a scrumptious recipe to share (courtesy of my Mom). I was very anxious to see how the apples would mesh in this dish, and honestly, was blown away when it was done!

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 crisp, sweet apple, chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. canola or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 cup unsalted chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp. coarse ground mustard
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat large sauté pan on medium.
  2. Add 1 tbsp. oil to pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in pan; cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until well browned.
  3. Add leeks, apples, and garlic to chicken; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until leeks begin to soften. Reduce heat on pan to low.
  4. Combine broth, syrup, mustard, vinegar, and thyme, then add to chicken; simmer 2-3 minutes or until mixture thickens and chicken is 165°F.
  5. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 5 minutes to rest.
  6. Slice chicken, serve and enjoy!

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Guinness Molasses Bread


Guinness Molasses Bread

I decided on a whim yesterday, to try making beer bread after hearing my Mom rave about some she had made. I didn’t have her recipe so did a quick search online and found a simple one using regular (non self-rising) flour, which I have on hand. I realized I also had a can of Guinness draught in the fridge from a recipe I made a while back, so decided to look online again for bread recipes strictly using Guinness, and saw a couple with molasses. Mmmmm, molasses. I wasn’t entirely sure how this was going to turn out, and was prepared to toss it if it came out sub-par for my standards.  Fortunately, it came out fabulous and tasted delicious!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour, sifted
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (12 oz.) can Guinness beer (I used draught)
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted + more for greasing pan

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x 5″ loaf pan with butter.
  2. Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Slowly add the beer and stir until about halfway done (all the Guinness has been added, but it’s not totally mixed together), then add the molasses.
  4. Mix until ingredients are just combined, but do not over stir.
  5. Pour/place into a greased loaf pan.
  6. Pour melted butter over mixture.
  7. Bake 1 hour, but check at 50 minutes. Insert a toothpick into deepest part of bread, and if it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, put back in oven for additional 10 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven, let cool for about 5 minutes and take out of pan.
  9. Let cool for 15 more minutes, slice and serve.

Beer Bread

Tips: It is VERY important to sift the flour. VERY. IMPORTANT. Do not skip this step. If you don’t have a sifter, then use a spoon to spoon the flour into a measuring cup. Do not level it off.

This recipe produces a hearty bread with a crunchy, buttery crust. If you prefer a softer crust, incorporate the melted butter into the mix instead of over it.

The Guinness “pub cans” are 16 oz. but have better carbonation, so measure out 12 oz. and discard the rest… or drink it 🙂

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No-Bake Reese’s Peanut Butter Bars


Reese's Bars

Last night, I had a serious craving for something sweet and decided to “cheat” by making a box mix of a Reese’s dessert. I took a little bite to satisfy my fix, and while it was delicious, I knew I could/should, make a homemade version. Thus, I did just that today. I seriously LOVE the incredible combination of chocolate and peanut butter and knew this was going to be amazing. Well, amazing doesn’t do it justice… it’s OFF THE CHARTS! It tastes just like a Reese’s, and doesn’t require any baking, so super easy to whip together. Oh, and only has five (yes 5) ingredients!!!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup graham crackers crumbs
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter, plus 2 tbsp.
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet or milk chocolate

Directions

  1. Line a 8×8 baking dish with aluminum foil or waxed paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, melt butter and peanut butter in the microwave until butter is melted.
  3. Mix in graham cracker crumbs & powdered sugar, and stir until well combined.
  4.  Spread into dish, and place in fridge for about 10-15 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, melt the chocolate chips and 2 tbsp. peanut butter in 20 second intervals until melted and smooth.
  6. Pour and spread over peanut butter mix, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
  7. Lift up out of dish and cut into squares.

Reese's PB Bars

 

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