Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chicken Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Peppers with a Goat Cheese Sauce

For those of us trying to live a low-carb or healthy lifestyle, is there a better edible vessel for food than a Bell Pepper?  It is hard to think of one that is as tasty and has all the health benefits, like antioxidants and fiber and they are packed with vitamins such as A and C.  Fun fact, a green Bell Pepper has just not ripened into a red, yellow or orange one!  That explains why the green ones are not as sweet, but they have almost the same amount of vitamins.  In this super easy and delicious recipe, I personally prefer to use red, orange and yellow peppers, but use whatever you like!  This dish fills the Bell Pepper with delicious Italian chicken sausage, fresh spinach and goat cheese, which melts into this fantastic tangy and creamy sauce.  It honestly could not be easier, with just four major ingredients and very little prep work.  The end result is a gorgeous and healthy meal that is impressive enough to serve guests.  It is a great dish for a dinner party because you can prepare the whole thing ahead of time, and finish it in the oven when you are ready.  Every time I make this for my family and friends, I am always asked for the recipe.  This works as a terrific light meal on it's own and can also be served with a side salad, quinoa or rice.  You guys really need to make this!

This is what you need:

3 Bell Peppers of any color 
1 bag or 4 cups of raw Spinach or 1 box of defrosted and drained frozen spinach
1-1 1/2 lbs of Sweet Italian Sausage - chicken, turkey or pork would all work
5 oz of Goat Cheese (you can substitute cream cheese here if you don't like goat cheese)
2 cloves of Garlic - minced
2 tbsp of Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
2 tbsp of Parmesan Cheese (optional)

This what you do:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and remove the casings from the sausage.  Crumble the sausage in a pan with 1 tbsp of Olive Oil and the garlic and cook over medium heat until no longer pink.  While this is cooking, slice the peppers in half and remove the stems.  Add them to a glass baking dish and drizzle Olive Oil and Salt and Pepper over each Bell Pepper.  Once the sausage is cooked through, add the spinach and cook for a couple minutes.  Then crumble the goat cheese and cook until it melts into a sauce.  Fill the Bell Peppers with the mixture and top with a little Parmesan Cheese.  Cook at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 3 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Top 10 Holiday Gifts for Kids Ages 8 and Under

Today I am jumping from one passion of mine (cooking) to another; kids!  While I am no expert in what makes a good toy or one that will end up under the bed, lost and forgotten, I do have a 4 1/2 and 2 year old who have more toys than I am comfortable admitting.  The reason for this has nothing to do with their father or I, but it has everything to do with our incredible and giant extended family.  My children have been blessed with four sets of grandparents, nineteen aunts and uncles and more cousins than I can count.  We truly have a "Modern Family" and there is nothing but love between us all and I would not have it any other way.  We strive to make sure our kids know that toys and material possessions are not what the holidays or life in general is all about, but it is hard not to get joy from watching your kids open presents.  With that said, my older daughter and I have gone through all their toys to come up with a list of the favorites that have been used the most for playtime both independently (yay!) and with a playmate.  Any toys that have been outgrown were donated to a local secondhand store in an effort to teach our kids that it is important to give back and help others.  This list includes mostly unisex toys of all sizes and prices and everything comes highly recommended from my kids and myself!  Happy shopping!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Turkey and Veggie Chili

Is there a more suitable dish for a cold night than chili?  I am not sure there is.  Chili is such a hearty and warm dish that is also completely versatile.  There are so many variations and different ingredients that can be used.  It is honestly one of my favorite things to make because it is so easy, can feed an army, is a one pot (or crock pot) meal and you can make it hours before you need it and it only gets better the longer it simmers.  My Turkey and Veggie Chili is one of my oldest recipes that I first started making when I was trying to get my husband to be more open to ground turkey instead of ground beef.  Needless to say, it worked!  Not only does this chili use turkey to lower the fat content, it also is packed with veggies to provide extra nutrients and flavor.  The beans add a ton of protein and fiber making this a healthy and delicious chili.  I make this all the time when we have friends over or for Football Sunday because it is so easy and I can still enjoy my guests without having to be in the kitchen all night.  All you need is a quick pan of corn bread and you have a fantastic full meal done.  People always have seconds and want the recipe, and if there are any leftovers, they make for a delicious lunch the next day!

This is what you need:

1-1 1/2 lbs Ground Turkey (or ground beef)
3 cans of Beans - I use Kidney, Pinto and Black beans because I like the different colors and sizes
2 cans of Diced Tomatoes
1 can of Low Sodium Beef or Chicken Broth
3 Carrots -chopped
1 small Onion - chopped
1 Red Pepper - chopped
4 cloves of Garlic - diced
1 Jalapeno - diced (optional)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 packets of McCormick Chili Seasoning Mix
1 tbsp Cumin
1/2 tsp of Cayenne Pepper (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional Toppings:
Sour Cream

This is what you do:
Cook the turkey in a dutch oven, or another heavy bottom pot with the 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Add the carrots, red pepper, jalapeno and onions when the turkey is cooked through.  After a few minutes add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two.  Empty the chili packets and add the cumin in the pan and cook for a minute or two, then add the two cans of diced tomatoes and 1 can of broth.  Scrape the bottom of the pot with a rood spoon to get all the flavorings off and into the mixture.  Bring to a low boil.  Next, drain and rinse the beans and then place them in the pot.  Mix and lower the heat to low.  Cook for at least an hour and up to 4 hours (the longer the better), stirring every 20-30 minutes with the lid on but cracked.  Once you are ready to eat, taste and add salt and pepper if you like.  Serve and add the toppings of your choice.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 to 4 hours
Serves: 6-10

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Prosciutto Egg Cups

I know what you are thinking; "another prosciutto recipe?!"  And, yes, I know I have several recipes where prosciutto plays a large part.  But it is just so delicious, lower in fat than bacon and it can be used in so many different ways.  This recipe turns it into the most delicious vessel ever used to cook and eat an egg.  It also might be the easiest breakfast or brunch you can make for a crowd or just for yourself.  It involves taking a slice of prosciutto and fitting it into a muffin tin then dropping an egg in the prosciutto cup.  You can add any kind cheese you want and top with pepper and chives and bake for about 15 minutes.  The result is a crispy, salty prosciutto cup with a yummy, gooey egg yolk, (like an egg cooked "over medium"). You could also add some leftover cooked veggies to the cup or  avocado or roasted red peppers.  Basically you can do anything you want and it will turn out fantastic, because, prosciutto.  The best thing about this recipe is it so easy yet beautiful and it really takes no more effort to make for a group of people than it takes to make for one person.  It is perfect for a weekday breakfast, a weekend brunch you are hosting or to make for your family over the holidays. 

This is what you need:

1 Slice of Prosciutto per Egg
1 Egg per Slice of Prosciutto
1/2 tbsp or 1/2 oz of any Cheese (goat or Parmesan is my favorite but cheese is optional)
Cooking Spray
Black Pepper
Chives (optional)

This is what you do:
Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line each muffin tin with a slice of prosciutto and add a little cheese of your choice to bottom, if desired.  Crack an egg in each cup and top with some pepper and chives.  Cook for 13-15 minutes to get a soft, gooey yolk. 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 13-15 minutes
1-2 Eggs per Serving

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Lazy Cake Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who can resist a warm, gooey homemade chocolate chip cookie?  I certainly cannot, so when one of my friends brought these delicious ones over to my house, I knew the recipe would be in my life forever.  These Lazy Cake Chocolate Chip Cookies are so incredibly easy and one of the best cookies I have ever had.  This is perfect if you need a quick dessert to bring to a potluck, holiday party or for a bake sale.  They are fantastic served alone or while still warm with vanilla ice cream and can last for days in a sealed container.  Every time I make them they get gobbled up and people always want the recipe. I know these cookies will become a go-to recipe for you just like it has for me!

This is what you need:

1 box of Yellow Cake Mix
1 stick of Melted Butter
2 Eggs
1 tsp of Vanilla
2 cups of Milk or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

This is what you do:
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and place in a greased glass 9x13 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from dish.  Serve as is or with ice cream for the best cookie sundae ever.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Makes 24 Cookie Squares

Monday, December 1, 2014

My Top 10 Holiday Gift Ideas for the Kitchen

Um, how is it December 1st already?  I really can't believe how fast this year has flown by.  It has been a year of ups and downs for me personally, but that is for another blog post.  This one is all about one of the best parts of the holidays - giving something special to someone special.  I get so much joy out of giving gifts to people I care about.   I haven't started my holiday shopping yet (yikes), but I did go through my own kitchen to list my favorite tools I use regularly to hopefully give you some ideas for people on your gift list.  Some are basic, some are a little off the wall, some would be a perfect stocking stuffer, some are great mid price items and others could work as a big ticket item. Each item is something I love and use all the time, so I can personally give my own stamp of approval!  Happy shopping!