Cheeseburger Pizza!

Pizza is definitely tops on my kids’ list of dinner choices. Most nights it is just cheese pizza or one olive and one cheese, but the kids like to invent pizzas on the nights when we have more time. One of my twins (who just turned 7!) came up with Rainbow Carrot pizza, which is amazing! You have to check out that recipe! We made it again last week for their birthday, along with a cheese pizza, mushroom pizza and this new-to-us, Cheeseburger Pizza. It will now be a part of our regular rotation! It was delicious!

Cheeseburger pizza

Ingredients

½ sweet onion, chopped finely

1 clove of garlic, minced

About 1 ¼ pounds of ground beef

3 teaspoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

1 Tablespoon of ketchup

1 teaspoon of spicy brown mustard

1 pizza crust (My favorite is the Against the Grain GF Crust)

1/2 cup of tomato sauce (more or less, depending on your personal taste)

4 ounces of shredded mozzarella

4 ounces of shredded cheddar (I have had even better results with 2 ounces of cheddar and 2 ounces of aged gouda)

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Add olive oil, onions and garlic to a large sauté pan and cook on medium high, stirring for about 3 minutes. Add the ground beef to the pan and sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Once browned add the ketchup and mustard and stir until cooked. Take crust out of the freezer and cook for about 8 minutes. Remove and add sauce, cheese and then top with ground beef mixture and cook for another 15 to 18 minutes, until the cheese starts to brown. Slice up and enjoy!

Pizza is such a great bridge recipe! You can have a basic cheese pizza and add whatever ingredients you or your family like. Meatball pizza is another favorite in our house. I use my simple meatballs or even have used my Italian stuffed meatballs. What is your family’s favorite pizza topping?

Shop Amazon for some of my favorite ingredients and gadgets for making pizza night spectacular!

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Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast and brunch are two of my favorite meals. I love savory breakfast foods. We have breakfast for dinner at least once a week and this breakfast pizza recipe has become a fast favorite. My father gave me the idea for the hash brown crust over the holidays and I have been making it regularly for my family.

Breakfast pizza

Ingredients

3 russet potatoes, shredded

1 large white onion, shredded

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/3 cup of corn starch

1 ½ teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

1 egg

2 Tablespoons olive oil

6 eggs

Optional toppings: crumbled cooked bacon or sausage, diced avocado, diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, hot sauce, feta or cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain potatoes and onions after shredding (wrap in kitchen towel and squeeze over sink). Place potatoes and onions in large bowl and add garlic, corn starch, salt and pepper and 1 egg. Combine. Heat the olive oil in a 10 inch oven proof skillet over medium high heat. Press potato mixture into pan. Press down with a spatula (you should hear a sizzle). Cook for about 4 to 6 minutes, pressing down on the potatoes occasionally. The tricky part is flipping the pan sized hash brown. Take a deep breath and place a larger pan cover (without a lip) over the pan and flip the pan upside down, leaving the hash brown on teh cover. Place pan back on the heat, add more olive oil if needed and then slide the hash brown onto the pan so that the other side can cook. Cook for another 4 to 6 minutes, pressing down on the hash brown occasionally. Remove from heat and crack 6 eggs in a circle on the hash brown. Place in oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes for runny yokes, longer if you want well done yolks. Take out and sprinkle with your choice of toppings. Serve immediately. It is also good cold for lunch the next day!

I have found that a cast iron skillet is too heavy for me to flip the hash brown crust, but if you have a large spatula or two that can flip the crust without having to flip the pan, the cast iron works great.

Breakfast for dinner can be cereal and fruit or something like this breakfast pizza if you find yourself with a little more time. It can be savory or sweet. Breakfast can be what you want it to be. I often just eat leftovers from the night before. My family thinks I’m crazy, but it tastes good to me! What is your favorite breakfast food?

Rainbow Pizza

Whenever I host Christmas Eve, we try to keep it simple. The big meal is the next day, so the night before we have a dinner of appetizers. It can be casual and low key or elegant hor d’ouvres. A mixture of hot and cold appetizers are more than filling for a small or large group of people.

Pizza is something that can be a dinner in itself or an appetizer for a crowd. It is something most kids will eat and it is comforting.

We have pizza every Friday night. Over the summer my kids started picking different toppings each week. One night, one of my sons suggested carrot pizza. He loves carrots. I was very, very skeptical but I had told him he could pick, so we got some rainbow carrots from Trader Joe’s and this recipe is what came out of it. AMAZING! Even my husband, who does not like cooked carrots, loved this pizza. Try something new, live a little 😉

Rainbow Carrot Pizza

Ingredients

3 carrots (different colors), sliced thinly (I used a mandolin)

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon agave

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

3 small garlic cloves, minced

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 pizza crust (One of my favorites is the Against the Grain crust found in the GF freezer section)

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

½ cup of tomato sauce (more or less depending on your preference for sauce)

8 ounces of shredded mozzarella

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a medium bowl mix vinegar, agave, salt, pepper, garlic and basil. Drop carrots into boiling water for 2-3 minutes and remove, placing immediately into ice water. Drain carrots and put them into the marinade for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Take pizza crust out of freezer. In a small bowl mix the olive oil, salt and pepper. Brush olive oil mixture on the crust and place crust on the rack or a heated pizza stone and cook for 7 minutes.

Take the crust out of the oven and spread tomato sauce over it. Cover with the mozzarella. Take carrots out of the marinade and dry in a towel. Place carrots however you like around the pizza. Cook for another 20 minutes. Take out and serve. Top with some more fresh basil if you like.

You can prepare everything ahead up to the last 20 minutes of cook time. Keep it in the fridge and cook just as your guests arrive for a warm appetizer.

Taking something simple and familiar, like pizza, and putting a new ingredient with it, is a good way to expose your family to new tastes. You never know when they’ll surprise you. Pizza is something you can easily adjust to your family’s tastes, so if the rainbow carrots don’t go over well, try different colored peppers or place the pepperoni in a shape of a Christmas tree.

Here are some past pizza and holiday appetizer ideas to help get you through the holiday season: (Usual disclaimer that if the post is dated before April 2014 it may not be gluten free. Adapt for your needs or send me a message and I’ll adapt it!)

Italian Stuffed Meatballs

Appetizer Ideas for Thanksgiving

Meatballs, Plain and Simple

Entertaining with Appetizers and What to do with the Leftovers

Dinner of Appetizers: Thursday night or special party

 

 

Completing My Cooking Bucket List

It has only taken me two years to (almost) finish my 2015 bucket list. I am working on finishing them before the end of 2016 and starting a new list in 2017!

1. Gluten Free Pretzels or Pretzel rolls

I made the rolls one night in August using a recipe from Nicole Hunn at Gluten-Free on a Shoestring. http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/pretzel-rolls/. They were delicious! We had some leftover pulled pork and meatballs in the fridge so everyone made their own pretzel roll subs for dinner. The next morning we made egg and cheese sandwiches, which would have been even better with some grilled veggies.

2. Poached Salmon (Still needs to be completed)
3. Gluten free Puff Pastry

I made the puff pastry on Valentine’s Day. It was an all day affair. It was delicious! But very time consuming. Again, I used a recipe from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/gluten-free-puff-pastry/. I will definitely make it again for a special occasion.

4. Gluten Free Beef Wellington


I used the GF puff pastry to make Beef Wellington. It wasn’t pretty but tasted amazing! I made a mixture of mushrooms and chicken livers sautéed with fresh thyme, salt, pepper and a little beef stock and spread that on the pastry, when cooled. I used a top sirloin roast because that is what I had in the freezer.  I based my cooking times on the recipe for Beef Wellington in The Good Housekeeping Cookbook from 1973. I did rush it and the meat was warm, so the puff pastry fell off of the roast, but the pastry was buttery and crispy while the meat with juicy and tender. Perfect!  I will definitely make it again.

5. Coq au Vin
I made this way back in early 2015 on Superbowl Sunday. Not exactly traditional Superbowl food, but delicious! Julia Child’s recipe of course, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I skipped the cognac though since I didn’t have any and wasn’t sure if it was gluten free and used King Arthur’s gluten-free all-purpose flour as a thickener. Traditional recipes like this, can easily be made gluten-free. I was so happy with how this came out! It disappeared before I remembered to take a picture!

6. Duck

I made a feast for myself on Mother’s Day, with Karina’s help. I seared the duck breast (saved the fat) and served with lamb chops, a smoked mozzarella risotto and roasted asparagus. It was a real decadent meal! I used the leftover duck fat to make shoestring potato fries the next day! What a treat!

7. Chilaquiles

I made these for my birthday dinner 2016. It was a simplified version using the tomatillo salsa recipe below. I heated up the sauce, added some tortilla chips, shredded cooked chicken, and topped with sunny side up eggs (cooked in another pan), then sprinkled with feta and fresh cilantro. It was so good. The kids even ate it!

8. Develop my own  of GF flours to make an all purpose flour
I haven’t done this yet for a couple of reasons. I am not a great technical cook. I don’t follow recipes exactly. I don’t always measure precisely. I cook from feeling.  So I have taken help from the amazing GF flours already out there. I like to use Cup4Cup and King Arthur’s GF blend.

9. Gluten free pasta from scratch

I have made GF pasta from scratch a couple of times, once without a pasta machine and once with the pasta machine. I still need to do some more testing. Both times, no matter how thinly rolled, it still came out gummy. This is where a good flour blend would help to find a way to take out the gumminess. Anyone have any suggestions?

10. Gluten free gnocchi from scratch
I have made gnocchi several times and it has always come out delicious! I use mostly ricotta and then sweet potato, Yukon golds or leftover mashed potatoes with a little GF all purpose flour. I will write the recipe down soon, I promise! I usually serve my gnocchi with a pesto or light cream sauce.

11. Gluten free bread from scratch that is good enough for anyone to eat

There are two cookbook authors I go to when I want to bake something GF. Nicole Hunn from Gluten Free on a Shoestring which you have heard me talk about a lot lately because of her amazing new cookbook coming out and the other is Roben Ryberg (You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten-Free!).  I have been making Roben’s Everyday Loaf (corn-based) a lot recently. It is a good sandwich bread. More often, I have been making King Arthur’s GF bread mix, but that is expensive as is the GF bread my kids like, either Wegman’s or Trader Joe’s.
12. Gluten free pizza dough that is good enough for anyone to eat.

I haven’t even attempted this yet, but hope to soon. Fridays are our pizza night, so by the time Friday rolls around I’m usually exhausted, so we have frozen pizza (Freschetta’s GF Cheese) or I use the Against the Grain crust to make my grilled pizza recipe below. You can also bake it in the oven at 425 for 12-15 minutes. 

Grilled Pizza (feeds our family of 5 with leftovers)
By Marie Ericson

Ingredients
2  frozen pizza crusts (I like to use Against the Grain)
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 6-ounce can Hunts Tomato Sauce
1 16-ounce block of mozzarella cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper
Toppings, optional and only limited by your imagination! Ham and pineapple, sausage, peppers and onions, fresh ricotta, olives, spinach and feta or leftover hamburger

Directions
Heat grill to about 400 degrees. Brush olive oil on one side of each pizza crust. Put that side down on the grill. Brush the other side of the pizza crust with the oil and close the lid for 2 minutes. Using spatulas (I have found 2 work best), flip the pizza crusts and turn the burners down to low or move crusts to a cooler part of the grill. Close lid for 2 minutes. Top the crusts with sauce, 3-4 Tablespoons per crust. (You will not need all 6 ounces, so reserve the rest for pasta the next day.) Sprinkle about 8 ounces of cheese on each pizza and add any toppings you are using. Close lid and cook until cheese is melted, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on your grill.  Using 2 spatulas remove each pizza and put on serving platter, cutting board or pizza stone and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
For the remainder of 2016 I will try to finish this list by making Poached Salmon, maybe testing flour mixtures to make my own all purpose flour and make a gf pizza dough that is good enough for anyone to eat. I predict the Salmon will happen and the other two…well, maybe next year.  What is on your cooking bucket list? 

Warm weather is finally here!

After this tough winter, I am ready to spend each weekend out at the grill! The same grill that was covered in snow about 3 months ago is now fired up and cooking!

Because I don’t have time during the week, I tend to grill two or 3 proteins and a bunch of veggies on Saturday or Sunday. I use them to make meals through Wednesday like tacos, Asian noodles or just plain leftovers.

As I posted on my Facebook page earlier this weekend, I grilled up some pizza last night! I used a frozen crust, from Against the Grain (which is amazing!) and then topped it with fresh mozzarella and cheddar with marina. One pizza stayed cheese and the other was Hawaiian. I delegated and had my husband cut up a fresh pineapple (he likes to eat around the core after) and then sliced up some ham lunch meat. I use Hormel’s Natural, which is gluten and nitrate free. You can use any pizza you want, even a whole frozen pizza and grill it instead of heating up your house with your oven and less clean up needed too!

Our house has gone completely gluten free because my son’s blood tests showed that he is still getting a trace of gluten and because I switched kids’ lunches a couple of weeks ago and gave the child with celiac a wheat roll. The aftermath made up my mind to go to a completely gluten free house. Tim is still allowed his beer. Paul won’t try drinking that yet 🙂

Think simple this summer. Grilling doesn’t have to be complicated. Grill a frozen pizza. Grill ears of corn (with husks on after soaking in water for at least an hour). Grill hot dogs. Grill peaches. Grill whatever you like. As I usually say, hopefully I will post more about what we are cooking at the Ericson house!

Here are some links of my previous summer fun or grilled food ideas and recipes! Enjoy the warm weather!

Fall, Football, and Tailgating

Those who know me, know that I am not a big football fan but I have been known to host Super Bowl parties just to make the food 🙂 Fall is the season where many spend their weekends tailgating outdoors or in front of the TV cheering on their favorite teams. I was recently asked for ideas for recipes for “football food.” Here are some finger foods, slow cooker foods and grill recipes for your fun fall weekend with or without football!

Finger Foods and Dips
Cheeseburger Egg Rolls (top left of photo below)

These egg rolls were delicious! They are from Rachel Ray. Easy to make but a little time intensive to roll each one up. I served it with ketchup, mustard and bbq sauce for dipping rather than spending the time to make the sauce. The kids went nuts over these!

Corn Dog Muffins (top right of photo above)
These are from a blog called Iowa Girl Eats. I saw them on Pinterest and ran with her idea. I made them in regular muffin tins and made the Jiffy box of corn bread 🙂 and added about 1 cup of shredded zucchini and 1 cup of shredded cheddar and about 1/4 tsp of chili powder (add more if you want more chili flavor or a little cayenne if you want a kick), salt and pepper. Pour the batter into lined or greased muffin tins. I found for the regular sized muffins I cut the hot dogs into thirds and put one piece in each muffin and bake until ready. I found that these took a little longer than usual until the dough around the hot dog in the center was fully cooked.

Pigs in a Blanket with honey mustard dipping sauce. This is one of my favorites. The link is back to one of my previous blog posts about appetizers that has this recipe and the one for Spinach and Artichoke Dip and more!

Slow Cooker foods

Chili
I can’t wait to have my house smell like chili while it cooks away all day! I’m planning to make some on Monday. Its a full meal if you add those corn dog muffins above. Make it vegetarian by making black bean chili and zucchini corn muffins. I like to make my chili in the crock pot these days, which becomes a great vessel for keeping it warm while serving or bringing to a potluck or tailgate party. Throw a can or two of your favorite beans into the crock pot with a can of diced tomatoes, dice a couple of carrots and or zucchini or use whatever leftover vegetables you have on hand (corn, squash, eggplant, parsnips – so many veggies can work), an onion, garlic clove, palmful of chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.Cook on low for 4-6 hours. If you want to add meat, cook it first before putting it in the slow cooker, unless you are using stew meet, then you could throw it in and cook it all day. I have found that ground beef or turkey is mushy if you cook it in the slow cooker with the other chili ingredients.

Short ribs

I can cross short ribs off of my Cooking Bucket List now! So if you are making a meal for friends over the weekend or for Monday night football, these are sooo good! I used the ingredients for my favorite meat marinade as the cooking the liquid, equal parts balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce with garlic and shallots.  

I made a quick dry rub for the short ribs with salt, pepper and thyme and then browned them in the pan. before putting them in the slow cooker for about 8 hours (I had about 2.5 – 3 lbs of meat).

Then I took them out when there were practically falling off the bone and poured the liquid into a sauce pan and reduced it by about half. Add a little flour, 1/2 tsp of brown sugar and a little pepper and whisk together. Add more flour if you want it thicker.  Use as gravy or dipping sauce. Serve with mashed potatoes or risotto or polenta.

Butternut Squash soup – My classic fall go to!

Coconut Curry Sweet Potato Soup – My new fall favorite!

Meatballs  – standard go to for any gathering!

Grilled Food
Pizza – Great for an appetizer or a meal!

Your favorite Steak, pork, ribs, BBQ Chicken or sausages always are a crowd pleaser. I recently made some chicken on the indoor grill. I made a dry rub with brown sugar, salt, pepper and African Smoke spice blend from Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have that spice blend, go buy it immediately! or just use smoked paprika or chili powder. It was delicious! I served it with a beet barley risotto and some steamed carrots, not exactly tailgating food, so I’ll give my recipe for that later 🙂

Soups, Stromboli and Shredded beef

In an effort to continue moving forward, I am trying to continue my menu planning each week. Earlier this week I went to a lecture at the local library on menu planning. It was very informative. The librarian giving the talk is a home organizer and amateur cook on the side. Her home organizing company is called, tidylogic. She gave me some great ideas. The first, I had not thought of before. Start with organizing your recipes into one or 2 locations by type (and time, ingredients, etc as detailed as you have time for). This way when you sit down to plan your meals for the week, you can just write in recipes you want and then you have the recipes easily at your fingertips to find the ingredients to add to your shopping list. This way you also do not get stuck in the rut of make the same meals every week like I do sometimes!

There are many different programs out there either online, Iphone/Ipad apps, or through software you can purchase. Having tried a couple of them, I have realized that you just need to find one that works for you and can be customized. If it doesn’t work for you, then you are not going to use it for the long haul.

Doing this recipe organization (or starting to) has reminded me of recipes that I have had for a long time and have never made. My basic menu plan for each week is:

Monday
Breakfast – cereal and yogurt
Lunch – sandwiches and fruit
Dinner: leftovers
Snacks: chocolate zucchini bread, apple sauce, crackers with peanut butter, cheese stick

Tuesday
B: eggs and fruit
L: quesadillas and fruit
D: Pasta/Rice (this is where you would insert your favorite pasta recipe)
S: yogurt, fruit, whole wheat gold fish with craisins

Wednesday
B: toast and fruit
L: sandwiches and fruit
D: Tex-Mex night (this is where you would insert your favorite enchiladas, chili, quesadilla recipes)
S: wholewheat banana muffins, apple sauce, crackers with peanut butter, cheese stick

Thursday
B: oatmeal with fruit
L: sandwiches and fruit or leftovers
D: Baked potatoes/sweet potatoes with soup (slow cooker day)
S: yogurt, fruit, whole wheat gold fish with craisins

Friday
B: cereal and yogurt
L: chicken nuggets/fish sticks with sweet potato fries or peas
D: Pizza
S: apple sauce, crackers with peanut butter, cheese stick

Saturday
B: Eggs and fruit
L: leftovers/soup
D: Pasta/Rice
S: yogurt, fruit, whole wheat gold fish with craisins

Sunday
B: wholewheat pancakes with fruit
L: leftovers
D: Roast (slow cooker day)
S: apple sauce, crackers with peanut butter, cheese stick

Using this plan, I plug in recipes based on what I have already on hand and what is on sale at the grocery store.  For example, shrimp is on sale one week so I will make my pasta or rice dish on Tuesday with shrimp.

Last week I made a corn chowder for soup night, Stromboli for pizza night and a shredded beef with sweet potatoes, onions and brown rice for Roast/Slow cooker night.

The corn chowder was the same recipe as I made lobster chowder before, just minus the lobster pieces 🙂

The Stromboli was inspired by an episode of the Chew last week when Michael Symon made a pizza roll. I used Trader Joe’s garlic and herb dough with jarred tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella and turkey pepperoni. Tim, Paul and I liked it, but Neil did not (he’s not eating much of anything these days!) and Karina told me that next week we have to make a flat pizza because she doesn’t like the roll 🙂 This picture is not of the finished product. After I cut into it I saw the dough was still raw inside so I had to put it back in the oven. It definitely takes longer to cook this way.

For the shredded beef with sweet potatoes, onions and brown rice I put a London Broil steak frozen in the slow cooker with a can of healthy choice cream of chicken soup, couple of cups of water, Worcestershire sauce, a little vinegar and Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. I diced the sweet potatoes and onions  and sauteed until mostly cooked then added a little water and closed the lid to let the steam finish cooking the sweet potatoes on low. I seasoned them with salt, pepper and Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning. I made the brown rice in the rice cooker with chicken stock. When the steak was read, I took it out to rest and then poured the liquid through a strainer and reduced it. To make a good gravy, I added a little brown sugar and a bay leaf along with the water and cornstarch for thickening.

I use the leftover sweet potatoes to add to grilled cheese sandwiches and quesadillas. Here is a good quesadilla recipe I found for black bean and sweet potato quesadillas. I used the leftover gravy to flavor the stock for lentil soup along with turkey bacon, onion and carrot. My husband also brought leftovers for lunch for a couple of days.

Today, Thursday is soup night, so I am making my old standby, Butternut Squash Soup. The only difference is I added a little ginger to it and when it came time to put the stock in I moved everything to a slow cooker to cook all afternoon and stay safe and warm while I go pick up Karina at school.

Pre and Post Thanksgiving ideas (with a potluck recipe thrown in)

Clearing out your fridge and freezer to make room for all the Thanksgiving goodies while saving your cooking energy for the big day can be challenging, but is doable. You will be happy that you have room in your freezer for some of the Thanksgiving foods that you don’t feel like eating or cooking with any more.

On Sunday I made a potato and kale soup to use up some onions and potatoes that I didn’t think would make it to Thursday and a 1/4 of a bag of frozen kale that I had left in the freezer.

Potato and Kale soup
 



3 Tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, diced (use whatever kind you have on hand or you could use leeks or shallots)
6-8 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced (use whatever kind you have on hand)

1- 2 teaspoons salt (add more to your taste)
1 Tbsp lemon pepper
2 Tbsp coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder (you can use fresh, just add it a couple minutes after the onions)
6-8 cups of chicken stock (use veggie stock if you want to make this vegetarian)
2 handfuls of frozen kale (use a little more if using fresh kale)

 Heat soup pot on medium high. Pour in olive oil. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add potatoes and more olive oil if it looks like things are sticking. Add salt, lemon pepper, coriander and garlic powder. Stir until potatoes and coated. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add enough stock to cover the potatoes and reserve extra for later.  Cook for about 15 -20 minutes or until you can easily smash a potato with a fork against the side. Stir in kale and cook for a couple of more minutes. Then puree using your favorite method. I use a handheld immersion blender and blend until potatoes are smooth. There will be pieces of kale throughout. If you use a blender or food processor, let the soup cool before pureeing.

TIP: This can also be done in a slow cooker by dumping everything but the kale in and cooking on low for 6-8 hours. Then add the kale and let it cook for about 20 minutes and then puree.

Keep it simple this week, make some pasta with jarred sauce or use baby food for extra veggies, do a make your own pizza night like we did last night or make some quesadillas.

Easy Flatbread pizzas




Flatbreads (store bought pizza dough or tortillas will work just a well)
jar of pasta or pizza sauce
shredded mozzarella (or whatever cheese you like)
Whatever toppings you have. Be creative! I used some leftover spaghetti squash (mix in with the cheese), leftover pesto and some sun dried tomatoes on mine. Husband had pineapple on his. Kids just had spaghetti squash.

Follow instructions on package as to how long to cook.

This is also the time of the year for potlucks at your kids school or at friends houses. Here is an easy pasta salad recipe (that does not have to be heated!!) that I recently brought to a family luncheon at my daughter’s pre school.

Caprese and Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

2 boxes of tri colored rotini
1 pint of cherry tomatoes chopped in half
about 6 oz of fresh mozzarella diced
about 10 leaves of fresh basic cut in a chiffonade (fancy word for rolling them up together and slicing)
1 Acorn squash, peeled and cubed (you can use whatever fall/winter squash you like)
Salt
Lemon Pepper
White Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Grated parmesan (I used the stuff that comes in the green can and it was great! but use fresh if you have it)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and put in a large bowl that you would use to transport the pasta salad. While the water is boiling for the pasta, prepare the squash and place it on a sheet pan tossed with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper. Roast in oven for about 20- 25 minutes or until edges start to brown. Take out and let cool. Put tomatoes, mozzarella and basil in a small mixing bowl. In another bowl add 1 part olive oil to about 1/2 part vinegar (depending on how much vinegar flavor you like add more or less). Mix in salt, lemon pepper and grated parmesan to your taste.  Add some of the vinaigrette to your tomato and mozzarella mixture and let sit. Add about 3/4 of vinaigrette to the hot pasta and mix. Cover both bowls and keep in fridge over night. Also cover vinaigrette and put in fridge. In the morning mix the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with the pasta and taste. If needs more vinaigrette add more of the remaining until it tastes like you want it to.

Lastly today, here are some links for leftover ideas!

Scallion pancakes and crispy turkey from Sandra Lee. Here is the video. I’m definitely trying this one!
Turkey enchiladas
Other ideas

Pick up some of the groceries for these easy leftover meals when you do your thanksgiving shopping. That way you do not have to go back to the store!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Dinner of Appetizers: Thursday night or special party

Ask Mamma question: I’m having a party for 30 adults and need some appetizer ideas. The party is at dinner time and I’ve advertised heavy appetizers.

Mamma’s answer: Appetizer “dinner” parties can be as easy or complicated as you want them to be. Stores like Costco and Trader Joes have great selections of frozen appetizers and ready-made platters. They also have great raw ingredients that make entertaining for a crowd easier. Here is a list of appetizer ideas. Pick and choose a couple, thinking 3 of each item per person. Appetizer dinners are also fun for a regular family dinner.

Cocktail meatballs (I have a super easy recipe – 1 part bbq sauce, 1 part apricot jam and heat and serve in slow cooker. Most supermarkets carry frozen meatballs if you don’t want/don’t have time to make your own. Trader Joes even carries smaller party meatballs in the frozen section).

Phyllo cups with jam + goat cheese (premade and cooked phyllo cups, 1/2 tsp of fig, apricot or strawberry jam + crumble goat cheese on top and serve)

Pigs in a blanket with mustard dip (Buy your favorite sausage or cocktail wieners, if raw sausage cook first + then cut in half. Roll sausage/wiener in crescent roll – I use Pillsbury’s – then place on cookie sheet and cook for a little longer than crescent rolls say on package. Mix 1 part Dijon mustard with ¼ part honey and serve with warm pigs.)

Pizza (buy flat bread + cook with various toppings – Caesar salad on one (spread Caesar dressing on cooked flatbread/dough, toss romaine leaves with Caesar dressing and place on top of flat bread, sprinkle with shredded parmesan and add sliced cooked chicken if you would like, then slice into 2 bite pieces for an appetizer; caramelized onion + goat cheese on another – caramelize onions –see these posts – put on top of cooked flatbread and sprinkle with goat cheese, slice and serve!; mozzarella + tomato on another – cook flatbread most of the way, add fresh tomatoes + fresh mozzarella, cook till mozzarella is melted. Top with fresh basil, salt and pepper )

Chicken satay + peanut dipping sauce (Can be too time intensive, but is tasty! Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 20 minutes. Marinate chicken in olive oil or vegetable oil, rice wine vinegar, lime, brown sugar, soy sauce, pepper and basil. Put chicken on skewers. Grill until cooked. For peanut sauce, mix peanut butter, lime juice and ginger.)

Spinach and artichoke dip, serve with pita + veggies (I have a great recipe that I have tweaked from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Ingredients: 1 Tablespoon butter, 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 8 oz package of cream cheese/neufchatel cheese, 1/4 cup milk, 1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach – thawed and well drained, 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, and one jar of marinated artichoke hearts – chopped. One, in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender. Add cream cheese and milk. Cook and stir until smooth. Two, Stir in spinach, lemon zest, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and artichokes. Three, transfer to a serving bowl or mini slow cooker to keep it warm throughout the party and serve with veggies and pita for dipping.)

Sushi platter (Costco has these)

Mini quiches (Costco has really yummy ones)

Shrimp cocktail (buy shrimp whatever way you like, frozen, fresh, cooked. Serve with cocktail sauce)

Cheese platter (Buy a selection of cheeses from Costco or Trader Joes, one cheddar, one blue, one brie or camembert, one gouda or havarti and goat cheese. Serve with crackers of your choice.)

Veggie platter (Buy from your local supermarket or Costco or Trader Joes. Super easy. Worth the cost to save you time from chopping veggies and making a dipping sauce. If you want to make a dipping sauce or your platter does not come with one, buy some hummus and/or mix sour cream with some Italian dressing mix or salt, pepper, thyme, oregano and basil.)

Meat platter (salami, prosciutto, pepperoni, etc – have bulk at Costco)

Spanikopita (Buy frozen already made or mix spinach with feta, lemon zest and Greek seasoning – good one from McCormicks or mix oregano, thyme, mint, salt and pepper, wrap in phyllo dough and bake according to phyllo dough instructions.)

Endive with blue cheese filling and bacon crumbles which are optional (clean endive leaves, mix blue cheese with a little bit of cream cheese or cottage cheese to lessen the sharpness, fill endives with cheese mixture, top with crispy bacon (or can use red pepper if you want to keep it vegetarian) and serve. Sooo good!!

Make some items and leave the rest up to the store. You deserve to enjoy the party too!! This is how I do Christmas Eve dinner. It has become a great tradition of appetizers to graze on while drinking champagne and cocktails.

Keep the questions coming!!

Too pregnant to cook…

Time is now not the only problem, I can’t stand for long enough to cook a meal. I’m almost at the 33 week mark with twins, so my husband has been doing all the cooking now. Here is what we’ve been eating, which are good suggestions for anyone who doesn’t have time and also those who don’t like to cook:

Fish sticks and sweet potato fries (Frozen fish sticks + fries from Trader Joes that all you have to do is turn on the oven, put them on a baking sheet, put them in the oven)


Whole wheat pizzas with artichokes (Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough – take out about 20 minutes before you want to use it, like right when you walk in the door. Roll it out with a little flour to keep it from sticking, throw some jarred sauce on there, mozzarella and then cut up some jarred marinated artichokes – or roasted red peppers – follow the directions on the dough for length of cooking. When done, just sprinkle some salt and pepper to your taste.)

Pesto Tortellini with Italian sausage (Some nice friends brought us some food to make this easy meal yesterday. Boil water and cook tortellini, when done toss with pesto sauce. Take the already cooked Italian sausage and just chop and heat in skillet, toss on the pasta, sprinkle with parmesan and you have a delicious meal!)

Sausage and Perogies (Similar to the meal above, you can mix it up by buying different types of already cooked sausage and the carb. Boil water, drop in Perogies, when done, plate with cooked sausage + steamed frozen peas or another frozen veggie).

Steak, polenta (Use a tube of already cooked polenta – cut it up, add it to a pot with about 2 Tbsp melted butter and about a cup and a half to 2 cups of milk (or I use fat free half and half). Mix with potato masher as it heats over medium heat until smooth, add more milk if you want it smoother. When done add a handful of parmesan + a Tbsp of fresh herbs (optional). Put salt, pepper and whatever herbs you like on steak. We often add coriander. Grill, saute, or cook it however is easiest for you. For a veggie we often use Trader Joe’s soycatash – mixture of corn, red pepper and edamame).


Chicken quesadillas (Buy a rotisserie chicken, take some meat off, put it in a whole wheat tortilla with some shredded cheddar, black beans – from a can, if we have them – then put in a toaster oven until done. Top with salsa + some sour cream).

Being pregnant and having to eat all the time, I often eat some of the chicken and some cheddar for a snack. Without me cooking, we don’t really have leftovers anymore, so end up ordering take out at least once a week and bring canned soup or frozen meals like Lean Pockets to work for lunch.

I don’t know when I’ll cook again, but hopefully soon. I cannot wait to get back into my kitchen!