Creamy Baked Ziti Casserole

Back when I shared this post, I froze the leftover spaghetti sauce.  That’s all gravy, but how many of you freeze food with every intention on eating it in the future and then don’t?  We are guilty of this.  So I was determined to do something with this leftover sauce besides chuck it in the trash in a few months.  

The beauty of cooking with leftovers is, all I need from the grocery store was cheese.  Everything else was already at home in a cabinet or freezer so my grocery bill was awesome.  While at the store I came across something new I’d never seen before, Philadelphia Cooking Creme.  You can find it directly beside the cream cheeses.  So I decided to just give the Italian cheese and herb flavor a whirl. There are so many interesting flavors to try out, I can’t wait to try more!  So if any of you have cooked with this stuff and have any yummy recipes to pass along, please email them to me.

Creamy Baked Ziti Casserole
Creamy Baked Ziti Casserole
1 lb dried ziti
1 10 oz tub Philadelphia Cooking Creme – Italian Cheese and Herb
1-2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup italian bread crumbs

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees 

-Cook ziti according to directions on box
-In a large pot, heat spaghetti sauce until heated through.
-Add 3/4 the tub of Philly Cooking Creme and 1/2 a cup of mozzarella to the spaghetti sauce. Stir until cheese is melted.
-Stir the ziti into the pot with the cheesy spaghetti sauce.
-Add the mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Add the rest of the Philly Cooking Creme to the top of the baked ziti, just dab it on with a spoon.  Sprinkle shredded mozzarella and parmesan over the top, then the breadcrumbs. 

-Cover with foil, and baked in the oven for 25 minutes.

-Uncover the dish and continue to bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Homemade Pimento Cheese

Thank goodness my sister-in-law is also an excellent cook.  She makes awesome…well…everything!  This is her very own recipe for pimento cheese that can be used for the classic pimento cheese sandwich, a kicked-up grilled cheese, on toast, as a dip, or whatever else you like it with.  If you like to make baked cheese bread, sub the mozzarella with this stuff.

1 wedge (about 1/3 lb) mild or medium hoop cheddar, shredded
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons mayo
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2  teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3-1/2 teaspoon Cajun mix, depending on what your taste is!
1 oz jarred pimentos

Mix together the cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and mayo.  
Add pimentos and spices and stir until well mixed.  
Refrigerate for 1 hour.  (Don’t worry if it the spices seem to mild at first, the flavors will intensify in the fridge. If its too mild after an hour, add in some more spices and just mix again!)

Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad

Sometimes I wonder, are there still good people in this world?  Well last night, my question was answered.  First off, I had a “girl’s night” dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.  It was a much needed girl time that we BOTH needed.  I’d left straight from work, made a stop at the gas station, and headed straight to the restaurant.  We had a great time catching up on…life!
When the check came, I searched my tiny purse for my card.  It was no where to be found.  I checked all of my pockets and still nothing…zilch.  Thankfully, I had some cash in my purse which is rare.  So I assumed my card was laying in my car seat or something.  Yea…nope…not there either.  So one the way home (30 minutes away) I gave the gas station I’d stopped at earlier a call to see if anyone had turned in a card.  Another no.  And of course I thought “Great, I’m going to have to cancel my card and it’s going to be a huge pain in my ass to replace.”
Then I decided to call the restaurant just to make sure it wasn’t in the booth or something.  I was greeted by a nice woman and she put me on hold for 10 minutes to go look for my card.  The manager then picked up the phone and asked me what my name was.  I told him and then he burst out laughing.  Umm k, kind of starting to freak out here, what’s up?
He said “We have your card and you will NEVER guess where a customer found it!”…awkward silence from my end, but I realized he was waiting for me to respond, so I asked “Where?”  He replied “IN THE TOILET!!!”
So, an awesome, random customer saw my card in the bottom of a public toilet, reached her hand into the nursty water to save my precious debit card!  I mean, had she left it there and just decided to flush it to toilet heaven I would’ve completely understood.  I asked the manager if the customer left her name so at least I could thank her, but she didn’t.  So there are still people out there who will sacrifice their hand to a public toilet to retrieve and turn in your card!
Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad

Here is the salad I prepared for us to eat for lunch.  To follow the fodmaps diet, I mixed everything together minus the goat cheese.  Then prepared a bowl for my sister and then added the cheese.  She thought the salad was still awesome and refreshing without the cheese. 
Ok, this is one of my favorite salads!  This salad is super healthy and combining the strawberries, lemon juice, and goat cheese creates its own dressing.  Actually, most salads I use a fresh squeeze of lemon juice instead of dressing because it really cuts down on the calories. And it didn’t hurt that the strawberries were from the farmers market!
Fresh Strawberries, sliced
Fresh squeeze of lemon juice
Dash of extra virgin olive oil
Goat cheese(optional)
Chopped nuts (optional)
Fresh cracked pepper
Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and toss. Done.

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

Who else is a sucker for soup?  There is something so comforting and homey about a warm bowl of soup no matter what the weather is outside.  Of course soup is way better in the cold winter months, but in the spring and summer when the produce is at it’s peak, you have to take advantage!  And just the mere mention of Velveeta makes my heart tingle and mouth water.  What’s even better is, I can freeze the leftovers to enjoy during hibernation.  And for the record, I’d cook this over any other restaurants broccoli and cheese soup any day. Enjoy!

broccoli and cheese soup

1/2 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb fresh broccoli, chopped to desired consistency
1 can rotel
1 32 ounce box chicken broth
1 lb velveeta, cubed
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2/3 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup water
salt and pepper

In a stockpot, melt butter over medium heat
Add onions and garlic, and cook until soft
Add broccoli and cook for about a minute
Stir in rotel and chicken broth
Simmer the soup until broccoli is tender (10-15 minutes)
Reduce the heat and stir in the cheese, a couple cubes at a time
Add the milk and garlic powder, stir to combine
In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and cold water, until dissolved
Stir cornstarch mixture into soup, bring to a boil to thicken
Give the soup a taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (I used seasoned salt instead of kosher)
Top with sour cream, chives, bacon, croutons, and even more cheese (you deserve it!)

Lasagna Pie

How awesome is the feeling when a recipe lightbulb goes off in your head?  And how much more awesome if the feeling with that recipe actually works out and is delicious?  Pretty dang awesome!  It started when I was pondering what to make for dinner Friday night after a hellacious week at work for the two of us.  First I thought about the comforting power and simplicity of lasagna and then I started craving crescent rolls.  Crescent rolls are the but not the best bread to slop up the leftover lasagna sauce…what to do, what to do. LASAGNA PIE!  

The crust of course is made out of crescent rolls (a whole lot quicker and simpler than making pie crust). And the pie filling is made up of all your classic lasagna ingredients minus the noodle.  I almost put a layer of noodles but then I thought it would be weird.  And because there are no noodles in this recipe, I believe lasagna pie is even easier and quicker to throw together than a regular lasagna. Nate said dinner smelled great while it was in the oven, and when I brought him his first piece and he took his first bite he said “I could eat 10 slices of this pie!”  So I would consider this lasagna pie a HUGE success and if you don’t mind, I think I’ll pat myself on the back right now 🙂

Lasagna Pie

Lasagna Pie Slice
Lasagna Pie Crust

1 12oz tube of large crescent roll dough
1 lb ground beef (or sausage or even turkey)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup marinara sauce
2 teaspoons italian seasoning
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Spray a 9.5″ pie dish with non-stick spray and line the dish with the crescent roll triangles.  You are forming the crust for your pie. (refer to picture)  Then bake the crust in the oven for 10 minutes.

Season the ground beef with salt and pepper.  Cook the beef over medium heat until browned / cooked through.  Drain as much grease out of the pot as possible.

Remove the pie crust from oven and add the cooked beef on top of the crust.  Form an even layer with the meat.  Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella over top of the meat.  Place back in the oven for about 5 minutes.  You just want to melt the cheese layer.

Remove the pie from the oven and add a layer of ricotta cheese (depending on how much you care for ricotta, adjust the amount).  Pour the sauce over top of the the ricotta, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon italian seasoning.  Next, add the rest of the mozzarella over the top of your pie and sprinkle with another teaspoon of italian seasoning.

Bake the pie for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is nice and melted.  Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before slicing.  Pat yourself on the back and enjoy!

Going Out of Town Potatoes

So the title is self explanatory.  We are going out of town for a few days which means we need to get rid of anything that may spoil while we are gone.  Things such as fresh produce, dairy, and opened products.  The other challenge is to not open anything else while using the spoil-prone items or that will defeat the whole purpose.  So here is where making concoctions comes in handy! And the odds were in my favor.

And with that, we are off to the beach for a few days!  So excited to have a few days off with my chef hubby. The last days we had off together were Christmas, so these are long overdue.  Hope everyone has a splendid week!

5-6 red potatoes, sliced thinly
Parmesan Cheese, shredded
Dried Parsley
Olive Oil
Seasoned Salt
Bacon Bits
Ranch Dressing
Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a large bowl add the sliced potatoes (I used a mandolin), 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (you just want to coat the potatoes evenly), dried parsley, seasoned salt, and mix together.

Cover a baking sheet with foil, spray with non-stick spray, and begin to lay each piece of potato in nice rows, that overlap each other ever so slightly.  

Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top as well as more herbs.  I even sprinkled a little more seasoned salt over the top of mine, because I love the stuff!

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are a golden brown.

As soon as you remove from the oven, sprinkle bacons bits over the top.  

Serve as a side or appetizer on a game day afternoon, with a side of ranch for dipping.  

Additional Toppings/Modifications
sour cream
green onions
cheddar cheese instead of parmesan 
blue cheese crumbles

Cheddar Cheddar Chicken Dinner

Source: Jamie Cooks It Up!

What a busy weekend!  Do you ever have those weekends that you are so busy and have ton of fun, but Sunday night you realize, you got absolutely no rest?  I guess, that is why I feel like a zombie this morning.  But the fun that was had, was well worth it.  

For starters, I went to see the Hunger Games Friday night with some girl friends.  Did any of you go to see the movie?  What did you think?  Before the movie we went to a pizza place and enjoyed some dollar beer specials.  One of the girls said something that I thought was a marvelous idea.  Instead of making New Years Resolutions, only to fail at them every year, she makes a “New Years Theme.”  So at the beginning of every year, she decides on a theme for that year, for example her theme is “projects.”  She has made a list of different projects she would like to accomplish each month and has found the theme works out way better than a resolution.  Not sure what I would like my theme to be for this year, but will definitely give this a try!  What would your New Years Theme be?

This recipe is actually healthier than it looks.  Aren’t those the best?  By using as many fat-free or low fat ingredients as I could or ones with whole grains, I give all of you permission to pig out on this one!  Any dish that has crackers, cheddar cheese, and cream of chicken soup you know is going to be comfort food…simple…and tasty…and don’t forget, simple! 

Oh, and did I mention, I had 2, yes 2, chefs eating at my house when I made this?  Both got happy plate awards x2! haha

Cheddar Chicken Dinner
Cheddar Chicken Dinner
Cheddar Chicken Dinner
Cheddar Chicken Dinner

4 chicken breasts
1 sleeve Ritz crackers (used whole grain and made this recipe with 2 sleeves but ended up with WAY to many cracker crumbs left over, and felt like a HUGE waste!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup milk (used reduced fat)
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated (used reduced fat and also started with 3 cups but had too much left over to justify using 3 cups!)
1 teaspoon dried parsley or Italian seasoning
1 10 ounce can cream of chicken soup (98% fat-free)
3 tablespoons sour cream (used fat-free)
2 tablespoons butter (you need some fat)
1 bunch of brussel sprouts, quartered
2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Cover a baking sheet pan with foil and also spray with non-stick spray.
Add brussel sprouts to the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss them around to evenly coat, then spread out to an even layer.  Set aside.
Cut each chicken breast into thirds
Depending on what stresses you need to release that day you can either:
a. Add all of the Ritz crackers to a large zip lock bag, and beat the crap out of it with a rolling pin.
b. Use a food processor to grind all the crackers
Add the milk, cheese, and crackers to 3 separate dishes.  Add salt and pepper to the cracker crumbs, shake the dish to combine.
Dip each piece of chicken, starting with the milk, next the cheese, and then the crackers.  (You’ll want to press the cheese on to each side of the chicken, and press the chicken down into the crackers.)  Then put each piece of chicken into the casserole dish.
Once you’ve finished dipping, pressing, and adding each piece of chicken to the casserole dish, sprinkle dried parsley or Italian seasoning over the top.  Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, remove the foil, bake for another 10-15 minutes / until the chicken is golden brown.
During the first round of baking the chicken, I add the Brussels sprouts.  They need to roast for 25-30 minutes.  Stirring every 10 minutes or so.
While the chicken is cooking for the last 15 minutes, add the cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and butter to a small pot over medium to medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until the butter is melted and the mixture is heated through. 
Serve the chicken with the sauce drizzled on top and the asparagus on the side.  Depending on how much you love balsamic vinegar, you can add balsamic glaze to the top of the sprouts (store-bought or homemade).

Enchilada Cupcakes

Here’s a new one for you, enchilada cupcakes!  I’ve seen quite a few recipes using wonton wrappers and decided to give them a try.  We were in the mood for enchilada casserole and then I had the thought to stuff some wonton wrappers with enchilada ingredients.  To our surprise, they turned out!

The “cupcakes” were relatively easy to put together, and we should’ve known, anything cheesy is definitely going to be yummy.  Nate ate his with a fork and knife (with manners), and I just picked mine up with my fingers and ate it like a cupcake.  These would be great for party appetizers.  And if you are in a pinch and ALL of your kitchen utensils are in the dishwasher, just whip these suckers up!  I’m not one to judge about eating with your fingers. 

Enchilada Cupcakes
Enchilada Cupcakes

Enchilada Cupcakes

12 wonton wrappers
1 lb of ground beef, browned and drained
salt and pepper
1 bag of shredded cheese
1 10 oz can of enchilada sauce
1 cup plain yogurt (low fat)
1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
juice of half a lime

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Brown the ground beef with salt and pepper.  Make sure to drain any extra grease before using.

Spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray

Press 1 wonton wrapper to the bottom of each muffin tin.

Begin layering ingredients:
1 teaspoon cheese
1 tablespoon ground beef
2 teaspoons enchilada sauce
2 teaspoons cheese
1.5 teaspoons ground beef
1.5 teaspoons enchilada sauce
Top with shredded cheese
(I used spoons for the beef and sauce, but just used my fingers for the cheese.  So these are estimates on how much of each ingredient to use for each layer.  The main goal is for the last layer to be enchilada sauce.  Then top the sauce with cheese)

Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until the sides are brown.  (mine took 26 minutes!)

Let sit for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges.  Use a knife or a fork to remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin.

Top with sour cream, salsa, cilantro, any of your favorite toppings.

Yogurt Mixture:
Just mix 1 cup of plain (low fat) yogurt, green onions, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper.  This is a GREAT alternative to sour cream.  And even when using sour cream, I like to mix the cilantro right into it.  

*You could use any ground meat for this recipe.  Or even shredded!

Lasagna Roll-a-tini

I love when you get a hankering for something in particular.  You have no question in your mind what you want to cook for dinner.  Makes life so much easier!  Last night, I could’ve named my first child lasagna if it meant that was what I would be eating for dinner!  

These little roll ups are vegetarian delicious!  I don’t even think Nate realized they didn’t have meat in them, or that I added a zucchini… And by using low fat ingredients, this meal is healthier than your average lassagna, which to me, only means I can eat more 🙂

Lasagna Roll-a-tini

1 lb box of lasagna noodles
1 24 oz jar of marinara sauce
8 oz of fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, grated
2 eggs
2 cups low-fat mozzarella, shredded 
1 32 oz low/reduced-fat ricotta cheese
8 oz parmesan cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, mix the eggs, ricotta, 1/2 of the mozzarella, 1/2 the parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper together in a bowl.

In another bowl mix together the marinara sauce, mushrooms, zucchini.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, lay a noodle flat and add a spoonful of the cheese mixture and the sauce mixture.  Roll the noodle up and place in a 9×13 casserole dish, seam side down.  Repeat this step until you are out of noodles! (last night I fit 14 into the dish)

(I usually halve the cheese mixture, and freeze one half for a later use.  Makes another weeknight meal SO much easier!  Also, if you have extra rollatini’s that won’t fit in the dish, freeze those as well!)

Pour the extra sauce over the rollatini’s (if you like it saucy you may want to add more, whatever!) and sprinkle the other 1/2 of mozzarella and parmesan over the top. 

Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.  Then uncovered for 10 more minutes or until the cheese is nice and melted.  Let the lasagna sit for 5 minutes before eating.

Chicken Mac and Cheese

Source: Better Homes and Gardens

Every week is crazy in some way, but some just find away to top all the others.  That was this week for me.  However, I did make this yummy casserole on Monday.  Not the most photogenic casserole in the world, but it was the cheesiest, and that was all I was hoping for!

Chicken Mac and Cheese

Chicken Mac and Cheese


1 pound skinless, boneless, chicken breast halves
1 – 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces dried mostaccioli, ziti, or penne pasta
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups milk
8 ounces gouda cheese (2 cups)
4 ounces swiss cheese (1 cup)
2 cups soft sourdough or French bread crumbs
2 ounces finely shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese (1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. In a large skillet cook chicken, Italian or desired seasoning blend, salt, and pepper in hot oil over medium heat until chicken is no longer pink.* Remove chicken from skillet; set aside.
2. In a large pot or kettle cook pasta according to package directions until just tender. Drain; return pasta to pot.
3. Meanwhile, in the same skillet in which chicken was cooked, cook onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons hot butter over medium heat until tender. Stir in flour until well combined. Stir in tomato paste. Add milk. Cook and stir until mixture is thickened and bubbly; reduce heat. Add the shredded cheese. Stir until cheese is almost melted. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add sauce and chicken to cooked pasta in pot; stir to coat. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart square or rectangular baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl stir together bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and 3 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle crumb mixture over pasta mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until crumb mixture is golden and edges are bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.