Monday, August 29, 2011

Meatfree Monday: Banana Berry Oatmeal

     I love breakfast for dinner. In the summer, I also love light dinners. It's just to hot to eat heavy things. This oatmeal was filling, but not like a big greasy hamburger or heavy pasta would be. It was just satisfying and full of fruit which is a good healthy alternative to our normal pancakes for dinner on Sunday nights!
     This photo was taken from David Zinczenko's cookbook. My photo turned out totally unappetizing! The berries I used were frozen and ran into the oatmeal making it a funky color. The flavor was fantastic, and this photo shows how delicious the dish really is!

1 egg
1 cup milk
3/4 cup quick oats
1/2 cup mixed berries
1 Tbl chopped pecans or almonds
1 tsp vanilla protein powder
1 tsp ground flaxseed
1/2 banana, sliced
1 Tbl plain or vanilla yogurt

  • Whisk everything but the banana and yogurt. 
  • Cook until set (or microwave for a couple minutes until set)
  • Let cool for a minute or two. 
  • Top with banana and yogurt.
Sorry no features of the week this week or next. These posts were schedule to post automatically. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Homemade Tagalongs

     I'm not sure why the Girls Scouts only come to your door with their cookies once a year. I really wish they could come more because I could keep them in business. Those Tagalong cookies are my very favorite. Chocolate, peanut butter, and shortbread all in one. It's pretty much the best thing ever.
    I have a friend who shares my love for these cookies. We were both at Dairy Queen about every other day when they had the Tagalong Blizzard. It wasn't pretty...but it was delicious. She sent me this recipe for Tagalongs that you can make at home. I was a bit skeptical that they would be as good, but I have to say I was impressed. These were great the first day, even better the second day, and I nearly made more when they were finished off on the third day. Seriously, they are that addictive!

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 cups flour (take out 6 Tbl if using white whole wheat like I did)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Chocolate candy coating

  • Cream together butter and sugar. Beat until smooth. Add in the egg. Add vanilla and beat until smooth.
  • With mixer on low, add in salt and flour. 
  • Shape the dough into a long cylinder, about 2-3 inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper and freeze for at least 25 minutes. 
  • Preheat oven to 350*
  • Slice the dough into thin disks and place on baking sheets, about a half inch apart. They don't spread much while baking.
  • Once you have made about 30 cookies (or you could make them all---like I said they are amazing!) wrap up the rest of the cookie dough and freeze for another time.
  • Bake the cookies 8 minutes or until just starting to set. 
  • Place on a cooling rack and cool completely. 
  • Mix together the peanut butter and powdered sugar. Form into small disks and press onto the cookies. I coated my hands with powdered sugar for this step, because it was a little sticky!
  • Melt the chocolate and coat the cookies. Let set before enjoying.
linking up with
Sweets for Saturday

I Was Featured on Sweet Tooth Friday

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's in your freezer?

     Our freezer is being overrun by leftovers. I guess you need a week every so often to clean it all out. This is what we'll be having this week...

Empanadas (This is a new recipe that I didn't get to last week)
Black Beans, Corn, and Rice mixed with Chili Con Turkey They're similar and there isn't enough of either for dinners.
Stuffed Shells
Lunch: Tomato Basil Pizza
Pretzel roll sandwiches with different meats: Mustard Pork or  Scotch Pork (I guess I haven't posted that one yet!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Pretzel Rolls and Beer Bread

     It's that time of the month again! I'm participating in the Secret Recipe Club. Basically, you sign up and you are assigned a blog. You get to pick a recipe from their blog to try and change at your will. Then you make your post about it on the assigned day. All posts for that day are added to a blog hop, so it's easy to see what everyone else made too. It's so fun to see what people pick from your own website too!
     This month, I was assigned to Heather's blog: It's Yummy to My Tummy. There were several recipes I found that I wanted to try....and I'm still going to try the granola bars and the fruit and cheese danish. I ended up choosing two for this post: pretzel rolls and beer bread. I've been wanting to try my own buns for a while now, so the pretzel rolls worked out perfectly. I keep hearing about the Tastefully Simple beer bread, but I've never had it, so when I saw that recipe I had to try that too. Both came out tasting great.
    I really love the pretzel rolls. I've actually made them three times now (in a month!). We've eaten them with grilled burgers, chicken and lunchmeat. Chicken salad sandwiches would also taste great, but that is one thing I love and J won't eat! I think everything tastes better with a special bread, and this one wont disappoint. It tastes just like the soft pretzels at a ballpark...but I'm sure it's much healthier since you know all the ingredients in it! It also freezes well too. I froze them after baking them all the way, but you could also freeze them after a couple minutes in the oven (before they brown) then brown them after thawing.
     The beer bread is very good too. I recommend it as a sandwich bread or as a dipper bit. Alone, this bread is a good basic bread, but the beer flavor compliments and enhances other toppings or ingredients really well. We made grilled chicken with BBQ sauce sandwiches out of this bread. We used a strong dark beer from Trader Joe's (similar to Guinness), but you could use any beer you like the flavor of. Heather said once she made it with cream soda and sprinkled on cinnamon and sugar. I keep meaning to try that! Yum.
     Of course, I changed both recipes just a bit. I substituted white whole wheat flour, which is our family preference. This also means adding in some vital wheat gluten to make sure the yeast works properly.

Pretzel Rolls
1-1/3 cups warm water
2 Tbl warm milk
2-1/2 tsp yeast
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbl melted butter
3-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbl + 2 tsp vital wheat gluten
kosher salt
2 quarts cold water
1/2 cup baking soda

  • Mix 1/3 cup warm water (about 105*) with yeast and some of the brown sugar. Let stand until foamy.
  •  Add the remaining cup of warm water with milk, the rest of the brown sugar, and melted butter and swirl to dissolve. Add flour and mix at medium-low speed. Knead for about 2 minutes. Roll into a 2 foot long log and cut into 12 even pieces. Cover dough with plastic and damp cloth and sit for 10-20 minutes. 
  • Pat dough into rolls or knots (the rolls rose better for me) and arrange on a lightly floured surface about an inch apart. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let pretzels rest for another 30-45 minutes. They should rise quite a bit during this time. 
  • Preheat oven to 425*. Lightly oil baking sheets.
  • In a large stockpot (seriously-Large! When you add the baking soda it's like a volcanic reaction!) Bring the cold water to a rolling boil and add baking soda.
  • Drop two rolls into the boiling water and boil no longer than 30 seconds, turning once. carefully remove and place  on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat.
  • Bake rolls for about 8-10 minutes or until browned all over. 
  • Cool about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Beer Bread
12 oz beer
2-1/2 cups + 2Tbl whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 Tbl melted butter
4-1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
  • Preheat oven to 350*. Grease loaf pan. 
  • Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in beer. 
  • Pour batter into pan and brush on melted butter. 
  • Bake 50-60 minutes until browned.
  • Cool slightly and remove from pan. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meatfree Monday: Fettuccine Alfredo with Veggies

     I'm trying not to get stuck in a pasta or bean rut regarding these meatfree dishes. It just seems like every recipe that has no meat is based around one of those ingredients. Bear with me as I continue the search. I've been pleased with the addition of Meatfree Monday on our pocketbook. I'm also impressed that I don't seem to miss the meat on the days we don't have it. I've always considered myself rather carnivorous.
     This fettuccine was so flavorful! At the end of dinner, J said, "Was that our meatfree dish of the week?" He didn't even miss it! His only complaint was the addition of lima beans. I'll have to puree those next time, I suppose. Ha! In addition to the lima beans, the pasta contains broccoli and cauliflower to really kick up the vegetables. My formerly not-so-picky two year old has recently decided she won't eat anything but peanut butter and jelly, so at least I can trick her into eating something healthy for a couple of bites!
Estimated cost: about $3.50
pasta $1, vegetables $1.50, other $1

adapted from Joy Bauer
12 oz whole wheat noodles
2 Tbl butter
2 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbl whole wheat flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup pureed cauliflower
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
frozen (or fresh) broccoli and/or lima beans

  • Boil pasta. Save about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  • Heat butter in saucepan. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. 
  • Add flour and cook about 4 minutes until paste forms. 
  • Whisk in milk and stir until it starts to thicken. 
  • Stir in the cheeses, cauliflower, parmesan chese, salt, pepper, and paprika. Mix until smooth.
  • Add in drained pasta and broccoli. Heat until broccoli is just tender. Add reserved pasta cooking water if needed. 

Meatfree features of the week...
a small collection of my favorite meat free recipes that I come across as I search the web each week. All the recipes that I post from various blogs will be stumbled to bring a little extra love to their posts...and if you happen to be one of my featured recipes you can grab my "I was featured on Meat Free Monday" button for your post.

Roasted Zucchini Pasta by Ezra Pound Cake

. Granola Banana Sticks from Taste of Home

Friday, August 19, 2011

Blueberry Pull Apart Bread

  A couple of weeks ago I had to go to a family reunion. Of course, we were all supposed to bring one of our favorites, but like a typical food blogger I don't have one favorite. I wanted to make something that would be ok to sit out for a while and something that would be easy to serve. I remembered this pull apart bread that was amazing! When I went to start on it, I realized I didn't have butterscotch chips! This is rare, because I always have butterscotch chips. I was not discouraged. I figured if I could make babka with fruit in it, pull apart bread would work too!
     This turned out so good. When I pulled it from the oven I considered drizzling on a powdered sugar glaze, but I'm glad I didn't. It was just sweet enough without putting you into a coma. The blueberries and cinnamon sugar filling really complimented each other. Think blueberries and cinnamon rolls...
     As an aside, I apologize for the picture. I didn't get to take the best picture because I was rushing to get this done to take to the a disposable loaf pan. That is why the picture is a close up of the bread!

for the dough:
2-3/4 c flour (take away 2T + 2.25 tsp if using whole wheat)
(Add 1 tsp wheat gluten/cup whole wheat flour)
1/4 c brown sugar
2-1/4 tsp salt
2-1/4 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c butter
1/3 c milk
1/4 c cold water
2 eggs, room temp
for the filling:
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
8 oz. blueberries
1/4 c butter, melted
  • Mix 2 cups flour with brown sugar, yeast, and salt. 
  • Warm milk and butter until butter melts. Add cold water. Let stand for 2 minutes.
  • Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix at medium speed for about a minute.
  • Add the eggs and remaining flour, and mix  for another minute. 
  • Cover the dough with a wet towel, and rise until doubled. (1 hour?)
  • For the filling, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. 
  • Knead dough a couple times. Add a little flour if it's too sticky.
  • Roll dough into a 12x20 rectangle.
  • Spread about 2 tablespoons of the melted butter evenly over dough. Add the sugar mixture and sprinkle the blueberries on top of that. Make sure to spread out the bits so they cover the entire surface of the dough.
  • Cut the dough into 6 equal short strips. Make two stacks of dough with 3 strips in each stack. Then cut each stack into 6 equal parts. (Now you should have 12 stacks of 3)
  • Layer the dough squares in a greased (I used parchment paper too) loaf pan, like a flip book. 
  • Let the dough rise for 30-45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350*
  • Pour the rest of the melted butter over the top of your loaf. 
  • Place on a rack in the middle of the oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes. Watch for the bread to turn slightly golden, then cover loosely with foil. This will allow the center to cook, but prevent the top from getting too dark.
linked up to 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chili Mac Cheddar Jack

     This very filling and spicy meal was a hit at our house. Surprisingly, my two year old ate it too. Kid's have such strange tastes buds in that they sometimes love things you think might be too spicy for them. I think if you used plain diced tomatoes instead of those with chiles, the heat would be greatly reduced. Or you could try one can of each.
Estimated cost: about $5.60
pasta $0. 40, lean turkey $2.15, beans $0.55, tomatoes $1.50, other $1

1 lb ground turkey
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans diced tomato with chiles
1 cup pasta of your choice
1 Tbl taco seasoning
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup shredded colby Jack

  • Cook the meat and garlic powder. When no longer pink, add beans, tomatoes with juices, macaroni, and taco seasoning. Bring to boil.
  • Reduce heat to love, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes-stirring occasionally. During the last minute, sprinkle on the cheese and mix so it melts into the dish.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Menu Plan August 14-19

     This menu has a few quick and easy dinners (ie: store bought *gasp*) and a couple of new ones. I meant to try out a new bread recipe today, but I went to make it and saw that it needs to rest in the refrigerator 12-24 hours! I might have to plan another meal for basil bread next week, because it sounded so good and unusual.
     This is also the last week of the Indiana state fair. It's one of the most unhealthy state fairs in the country (Aren't we proud?)  I'm excited to get some molasses for these cookies. Although, I'm not sure I'll try any delicacies this year. I hear they include an ice cream burger, a french toast burger, and deep fried ice cream....although come to think of it, I might try the deep fried ice cream! I didn't see it mentioned on that link, but I hear there is also deep fried kool-aid. That just sounds gross!
Anyway...Here is the menu for this week...

The usual suspects
Yogurt, fruit
Sausage Braid (Recipe later!)

Taco pizza on Beer batter pizza dough 
Pasta with Alfredo sauce (meatfree for next Monday)
Grilled hot dogs with homemade buns
Frozen Stir Fry
State Fair!
Empanadas (quick and easy recipe to come!)
Omelets and muffins

OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday is a link up with hundreds of other meal plans!

Meatfree Monday: Black Beans, Corn, and Rice

     I really enjoyed this dish, and it was so easy! Originally, the recipe called for quinoa, but when I went to get that at the store, it was about $10 a pound. Delicious as it may be, that doesn't fit into our penny-pinching budget. I decided to substitute brown rice instead.
     We all really liked this dish, and we were full afterwards. I think my favorite part was the addition of the corn which really makes it stand out in comparison to other black bean and rice recipes. It just tasted fresher or something. This is really nothing like the black beans and rice I posted a couple of weeks ago!I used a combination of beef and chicken bouillon to make the broth called for in the recipe, but I found a similar recipe by Mark Bittman, that recommended substituting beer for broth instead. Next time around, we may try that and see how the flavors are different...not that they need to be different. I love this dish the way it is!

3/4 cup brown rice
1-1/2 cups broth of choice (or beer)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
fresh or dried cilantro for sprinkling

  • Put rice, broth, onion, garlic, cumin, red pepper, salt and pepper in a sauce pan. Bring to boil, cover, and reduce to simmer. Simmer until most of the liquid is gone. 
  • Stir in frozen corn and beans. Cook until heated through. 
  • Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with cilantro if desired.

Meatfree features of the week...
a small collection of my favorite meat free recipes that I come across as I search the web each week. All the recipes that I post from various blogs will be stumbled to bring a little extra love to their posts...and if you happen to be one of my featured recipes you can grab my "I was featured on Meat Free Monday" button for your post.


 Zucchini Pizza by Crazy for Crust
Now, I need to make this while I still have tons of zucchini!

Homemade Granola from Whole, Fast, and Frugal
I've been meaning to make homemade granola too!

Tortellini Primavera by Hezzi D's Books and Cooks
This reminds me of a dish I had at a restaurant one time

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Philly Cheesesteak

     One place we love to eat, but can't go much anymore is Penn Station. They have nothing for our daughter to eat, so it's a necessary sacrifice. I'm sure there are other places that have Cheesesteak's, but I guess I always order something else.
     Anyhow, I found this recipe by David Zinczenko and thought I could make it at home. It turned out pretty good. I like that he gives alternatives too...a quick way and a slow way to make this sandwich. I'm sure it saves calories too. It seems like a restaurant can somehow make an egg have 400 calories instead of 70!

1 can (8oz) tomato sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
2 Tbl worcestershire
2 dashes hot sauce
3 Tbl mesquite seasoning
4 thinly sliced top round steaks (about 12 oz)
1 bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 onion, sliced
4 hoagie rolls or hot dog buns
4 slices provolone cheese
banana peppers

  • mix the tomato sauce, broth, worcestershire, hot sauce, and 1 Tbl of mesquite seasoning in a resealable bag. Marinated the meat in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. 
  • Remove the steaks from the bag and shake teh rest of the mesquite seasoning onto both sides. Save the marinade.
  • Coat a skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add peppers and onions. Cook, basting with some marinade for about 5 minutes or until soft. 
  • Grill steaks over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per side. Baste with the marinade. Cut the meat into strips. Boil the rest of the marinade in for about 5 minutes.
  • Divide the meat, peppers, and onions among the rolls. Top with cheese, a little marinade, and the pepper rings.
For a quicker version, Try this:
1 onion, sliced
2 bell pepper, sliced
2/3 cup hot salsa
4 hoagie rolls
3/4 lb thinly sliced deli roast beef
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • Cook onion and bell pepper until tender. Add salsa and heat until warm.
  • Put the sandwich together by stacking beef, veggies, and cheese on the rolls. Warm in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Balls

     Do you ever have one of those recipes that just isn't quite right? I think it was my fault really. I should have used a bigger pan. The recipe said to use a sheet cake pan, so I used a 9x13. Apparently, I needed a jelly roll pan or something huge! Anyhow, these "brownies" were very delicious. They were so cake-like, thick and moist that they came apart every time you tried to remove them from the pan. Really, that was the only problem with them. I got so frustrated that I decided to try my hand a cake balls...or truffles...or whatever you want to call them. These things are popping up everywhere.
     Basically, I took my moist cake-brownies and put them in my mixer to combine the frosting and cake. Then I scooped them out with a meatball scoop to form balls. I froze them and dipped them in Almond Bark. They were even better this way. They tasted like ding-dongs! Only healthier...since they have zucchini  in them. Ha!

4 eggs
1-1/2 cups oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
4 Tbl cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups grated zucchini
1 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
3oz cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick butter
2 Tbl cocoa

  • Beat oil and sugar for 2 minutes. Add flour, soda, cocoa, vanilla, zucchini, salt, and chocolate chips. 
  • Pour into 9x13 (for cake balls) or sheet cake pan (for brownies).
  • Bake at 350* for 20-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  • For frosting: Mix ingredients and frost brownies when they are cool.
  • For cake balls: Mix cooked/cooled brownies and frosting until well combined. Form into balls, freeze, dip in melting chocolate, decorate as desired.
linked up to 

Other Zucchini Recipes


Monday, August 8, 2011

Ingredient Substitutions

     I find myself substituting ingredients all the time. Sometimes it's to make a recipe more healthy, and sometimes it's to make do with something I don't have. I thought I would start a list here of the things I do, and maybe you have some suggestions too. It will not only help me keep my list all in one place (instead of on 30 post-its!), but it might help you get some ideas too.

Baking powder (Rule of thumb: 1tsp/1cup flour)  
1 tsp= 1/4 tsp baking soda + 1/2 tsp cream of tartar + 1/4 tsp cornstarch

Baking Soda (Rule of thumb: 1/4 tsp /1cup flour)
1/2 tsp =2 tsp baking powder

Bread Crumbs:
1cup= 1 cup crackers, cereal, oats, potato chips

Banana can be subbed measure for measure...your food will taste like banana though, so be careful!
Applesauce can be subbed for up to 1/2 of the butter in a recipe
1 cup butter = 1 cup shortening

Chocolate, unsweetened:
3Tbl unsweetened cocoa powder + 1 Tbl oil

Cocoa Powder, Dutch Process:
3Tbl= 3Tbl cocoa powder + 1/8 tsp baking soda

Cornstarch (for thickening)
1Tbl = 2 Tbl flour

Cream, Half &Half
1 cup = 2 Tbl melted butter + enough milk to make 1 cup

Cream, Sour
1 cup= 1 cup plain yogurt

1 egg = 1 Tbl milled flaxseed + 3 Tbl water

Flour, Bread:
1 cup = 1 cup all purpose flour

Flour, Cake:
1 cup = 1 cup AP flour + 2Tbl cornstarch

Flour, White to Whole Wheat:
Take out 2 Tbl whole wheat flour per cup substituted (1c white= 1c-2Tbl whole wheat) If using for a yeast recipe, be sure to add 2 tsp vital wheat gluten/cup whole wheat flour used

1 Tbl chopped fresh = 1 tsp dried

Lemon Zest:
1 tsp = 1/2 tsp lemon extract

1 cup = 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Milk, Buttermilk:
1 cup = 1 Tbl vinegar + enough milk to make 1 cup ---let stand 5 minutes

1Tbl oil = 3 Tbl milled flaxseed
applesauce or fruit puree can be subbed for up to half the oil in a recipe (ie: 1 cup oil = 1/2 cup applesauce + 1/2 cup oil)

1 cup chopped = 1/4 cup dried minced or 1/4 cup powdered onion

1 cup = 1 cup butter

honey(or agave, or molasses, or corn syrup) can be subbed measure for measure up to 1/2 cup. Over 1/2 cup, use 2/3-3/4 the amount of sugar called for since honey is sweeter. Reduce other liquids by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey used,  add 1/2 tsp baking soda/cup honey used, and lower oven temp.

1 cup sugar = 3/4 cup honey (reduce other liquid by 1/4cup/cup honey used, add pinch of baking soda to neutralize acidity, lower oven temp by 25* to avoid overbrowning)

Vanilla Bean:
1 bean = 2-3 tsp pure vanilla extract

Menu Plan August 7-12

     We are so excited that Jan's Village Pizza is having their pizza bake-off this week. This is one week we mark on our calendars a year ahead of time. Jan's is our favorite pizza place around here. They serve gourmet pizza such as chicken alfredo, buffalo chicken, baked potato pizza, greek pizza, and much more. They do have 'regular' flavors as well, but that is so boring. Anyhow, the pizza bake-off is where the chefs in the kitchen each come up with a new and unique pizza, and we go taste them all, buffet style, and vote on our favorites. The winner gets a spot on the menu and the least sold pizza on the menu from last year gets the boot.

eggs, toast and jelly
yogurt and fruit

hummus and crackers or veggies

Gorgonzola Ravioli from Trader Joe's
Jan's Bake off
Pretzel Roll deli sandwich
Grilled Chicken and Broccoli
Taco Pizza

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Meatfree Monday: Stuffed Shells

     I was really excited to try my hand at making stuffed shells last week. I had eaten this at a friend's house another time, and it was delicious. I went the simple and quick route this time and used store bought marinara. I recommend using homemade as it does taste so much better, but if you are pressed for time the store bought works too.
     I recently 'stole' a food processor from my mom's house. Apparently, she's had it for quite a while and never used it. Seriously, this is the best kitchen tool. Ever...especially if you like to puree, shred, or hide things in your family's food like I do. I first used the processor to make these stuffed shells. I think I might have over done it a little. In the future I will probably use it to shred the spinach leaves, but I will mix it all up by hand so the texture will not be affected. The taste was not affected, so I'll also be making these shells again!
     Like most pasta dishes, this one was very filling and flavorful. I was worried that without meat and adding spinach, my family would rebel. They both ate and got seconds, so I'd say this meal was a success. I think my husband is warming up to the idea of a meatfree dish each week, and maybe I could even sneak in another day here and there too. It sure does save us money!
     As a side note: if you can't find jumbo pasta shells, you could substitute any noodle and layer the filling/noodles more like a casserole (or lasagna). I think the flavor would be pretty much the same...and you could use whole wheat noodles (I couldn't find whole wheat pasta shells!)
Estimated cost: $5
Shells $1, Ricotta $1.20, spinach $ 0.75, marinara $1.00, other $1

1 box of jumbo pasta shells
2 cups ricotta
2 cups fresh spinach (shredded)
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup mozzarella
1 egg
1/3 cup fresh basil (chopped)
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
3- 4 cups marinara sauce

  • Boil pasta until just tender and drain well. 
  • Combine spinach, ricotta, 1/3 cup Parmesan,mozzarella, egg, basil, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Spread 1/2 cup marinara in a 9x13 (I used two 8x8, so I could freeze one).
  • Fill each pasta shell with the spinach mixture. Arrange shells, filling side up, in the dish. Spoon remaining marinara sauce over the shells. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese on top of shells.
  • Cover loosely with foil and bake @ 350 until heated through (about 30 minutes)
  • Sprinkle with a little more mozzarella if desired. 
Meatfree features of the week...
a small collection of my favorite meat free recipes that I come across as I search the web each week. All the recipes that I post from various blogs will be stumbled to bring a little extra love to their posts...and if you happen to be one of my featured recipes you can grab my "I was featured on Meat Free Monday" button for your post.

White Bean Veggie Burger by Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

Skillet Lasagna by Creatively Domestic

Jalapeno Popper Quiche by Closet Cooking

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes

     We still have a lot of zucchini! I have given some away. I have shredded and stored in the freezer. I have baked. I have hidden it in different things. I have grilled it. I have had it...just about. Just when I think I've had enough, I find another recipe I want to try out...or three. This cupcake recipe is actually a combination of three recipes.
     Of course there are tons of recipes for chocolate cupcakes...and tons of recipes for cheesecakes...and tons of recipes for zucchini chocolate cupcakes...but none with all three together...until now. The idea was born when I realized that I had quite a bit of ricotta cheese left over from my stuffed shells earlier this week (recipe coming on Meatfree Monday!). I knew you could make cheesecake with ricotta, though I had never tried. I also had a couple zucchini from the garden...and my mind just went from there to here...
     These are very moist and rich, especially those smeared with nutella. Isn't everything better with nutella smeared on top? Either way you try it, these cupcakes are delicious.
for other zucchini recipes, see the bottom of this post...

makes 12 (overflowing the mold) cupcakes
1/2 cup + 2Tbl butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-1/4 cup flour
6 Tbl cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup grated zucchini

1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg, separated
3 tsp honey
1 Tbl sugar
3 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla

nutella, optional

  • Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add egg. Stir in vanilla. 
  • Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  • Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture. Add the yogurt.
  • Fold in the zucchini.
  • Scoop into greased/lined muffin tins, filling only about half way (I learned my lesson!). Set aside.
  • For filling: Beat ricotta  with egg yolk, honey, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla until smooth. 
  • Whip egg white separately until soft peaks form. Fold whites into the cheese mixture.
  • Scoop a little of the filling on top of each muffin tin.
  • Bake @ 350* for about 23 minutes or until set.
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from muffin tin. 
  • Smear with nutella if desired. 
linked up to

Zucchini Recipes...
Oatmeal Butterscotch cookies
Zucchini Enchiladas
Zucchini Banana Craisin Muffins (or bread) 
Spaghetti Marinara 
Sloppy Joe Meatloaf
Fresh Veggie Skillet

zucchini fries
zucchini bread
Zucchini Gratin

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Taco Salad

     Two salads in one week here at Penny Pinching Provisions! Although, this one doesn't really seem like a salad. It does have lettuce, but the addition of tortilla chips makes it seem more like nachos. Any way you look at it, it's delicious.
     My favorite part of this taco salad is the dressing. Basically, it's like a Mexican style bruschetta, and it really makes the dish.
You could definitely make this for less by getting less expensive meat or leaving out the meat and using only beans. I've been trying to get at least 90% lean meat when possible.
Estimated cost:  $5.50
spinach $0.25, lean ground beef $2.50, black beans $0.75, multi-grain chips $1, others $1

1 lb lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbl taco seasoning (or 1 pkt or 2 clove garlic +1 Tbl chili powder +1/4 tsp red pepper)
1/3 cup water

4 tomatoes, diced (from garden-yum!)
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

2 cups spinach
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
multi-grain tortilla chips

  • Cook beef. Add garlic and beans and cook for 2 more minutes. Add seasoning (and water if needed) and stir until well combined and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. 
  • Mix the dressing.
  • Divide the spinach among dinner plates. Top with beef mixture, and sprinkle with cheese. Spoon dressing over each salad and serve with chips on the side or crumbled on top.

Summer Salad

     Sometimes it is so hot, I don't feel like cooking a big, heavy meal. Sometimes, I don't feel like cooking anything at all. Last week I made this salad, and it was just perfect for a hot summer evening. Not only is it beautiful, but it's also healthy, light, and satisfying. We served this with a pumpernickel dinner roll.
     My husband was less than thrilled when I told him we were having salad for dinner, but he really enjoyed it. He couldn't believe how well the strawberries and bacon complimented each other. He even liked the dressing, and he is usually strictly a blue cheese guy.
     If you want to have this again for lunch the next day, I recommend storing everything separately. The salad may get mushy if you keep in all in one container.
Estimated cost:  $4
 Spinach $1.20, bacon $0.75, Mandarins $0.40, Strawberries $0.75, Other $1

serves 2-3
6 cups baby spinach (or whatever leaves you like)
6 slices of bacon, chopped
1 cup mandarin oranges
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup diced red onion
3 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp black pepper

  • Mix the salad: spinach, bacon, mandarins, strawberries, and onion.
  • Mix the dressing: oil, vinegar, garlic, and pepper. 
  • Pour dressing over salad.
  • Serve with a dinner roll.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: August 1-5

     I mentioned in my Meatfree Monday post that I overlooked planning and making a meat free dish last week. This week I was so proud of myself for planning two meat free dishes, so I could be one ahead if this should happen again...and it probably will...but with all my good intentions, one dish has already been put on hold. The first on the list was for a quinoa, corn, and black bean dish. I had never had quinoa before, but I've heard it's really tasty and very healthy. I was even getting a little excited about it...until I got the store. It was $10.69 for a one pound bag! That obviously does not fit into our small grocery budget, especially with the price of everything going up. I think I will still be able to use the recipe, but substitute brown rice for the quinoa.

Fruit, Yogurt, and Granola

Nuts and berries
Yogurt Smoothies

Dinners (leftovers for Lunch)
Beef and Mushroom stuffed French Bread
Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Stuffed Shells w/Spinach (Meatfree)
Ikea (like) meatballs and broccoli
Chili Mac
Rice, corn, and black beans (Meatfree)

Special Note

For the present, anonymous comments are not allowed at Robin, Restored due to the large number of spam comments that make it through Blogger's spam filter. I'm sorry about those of you who comment as Anonymous and sign your names. I'll try later to enable the function again.
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