Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chicken Parmesan Pasta

Raise your hand if you're tired of me posting chicken recipes! Listen, I am well aware that at least 85% of the savory dishes I post here involve chicken in some way. There are a few reasons for this: 1.) Chicken goes on sale all the time, and when you cook on a budget like I do, that is a very good thing; 2.) It's so versatile; it can be stuffed or shredded or breaded or pounded, and can be used in pretty much every ethnic cuisine there is; and 3.) It is the only meat my children will eat. Well, sometimes I can get them to eat pork, but that's about it. Besides, I think everyone is always looking for new chicken recipes, right? Maybe I should just rename my blog to "Cassie Craves Chicken" and be done with it. ;)

So here's yet another chicken recipe for you, and this one? This one, my friends, is a real winner. I've made it a handful of times now and it is safe to say that it's solidly on the Family Favorites list. It's a simple, quick way to enjoy chicken parmesan, and it cooks entirely on the stovetop, so there's no need to even turn on the oven. Best of all, it's absolutely delicious!

Chicken Parmesan Pasta
adapted from Creative Kitchen

1 pound chicken tenders, cut into chunks
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
Italian seasoning to taste
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, diced (you can use fresh, block, or do what I do, which is use some of the boys' string cheese)
1 pound penne or other short pasta
2 tablespoons butter
Additional parmesan cheese

1. Place the breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese in a plastic freezer bag. Dip the chicken chunks in egg, then add to the bag and shake to evenly coat.

2. Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken in an even layer and cook on all sides until browned and cooked through. Remove the chicken to a baking sheet, cover with aluminum foil, and keep warm in the oven.

3. Cook the pasta to al dente in boiling salted water; drain, return to pot, and add 2 tablespoons of butter and a handful of parmesan cheese. Stir until melted.

4. Drain and wipe the skillet you used for the chicken, then return it to the heat and add the one tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. Add onion and season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion is softened. Add garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds, then stir in the spaghetti sauce. Add Italian seasoning and additional salt and pepper to taste.

4. Combine pasta, reserved chicken pieces, sauce, and diced mozzarella and stir to combine. Sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese and serve.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Peach Blondies

Now that summer is starting to wind down (finally! already!), I'm taking advantage of all of the fresh summer produce while it's still available. Peaches are definitely my favorite of the fruits in that category, and I'm a little sad that I didn't get to bake with them more this year. I need a board on Pinterest specifically for all of the peachy baked goods I've pinned lately!

I did make these peach blondies earlier this summer, and they were a huge hit with everyone who tried them. The peaches keep the blondies so moist, and the brown sugar and cinnamon give them such a rich, warm flavor. To guild the lily, I whipped up a quick cream cheese glaze for the blondies using some peach nectar I drained from a little plastic cup of the boys' peaches. Although the glaze is definitely optional, I highly recommend it. I thought it complemented the blondies perfectly. Although if you don't feel like making the glaze, I big scoop of vanilla ice cream would be perfect with these...just sayin'.

Peach Blondies

For the blondies:

2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced

For the glaze:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon peach nectar

1. Combine brown sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla and mix until well-blended. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and add to wet ingredients. Fold in peaches. Spread evenly in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

2. To make the glaze, mix together cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and peach nectar until fully combined. If the mixture is too thick, add more peach nectar. If it's too thin, add more powdered sugar until it reaches the desired consistency. Spread glaze over blondies.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chicken with Feta, Roasted Tomatoes, and Garlic Butter Spinach Spaghetti

We had this meal this past Friday night, and it was so fantastic I just couldn't wait to share it with you. It was borne from a surplus of spinach and tomatoes in my fridge, neither of which I had a plan for, and both of which were nearing the end of their freshness. Needless to say, both ingredients found an incredibly delicious home in this recipe.

Both of these recipes are prepared with uncomplicated, basic ingredients, which I'm finding are my absolute favorite kinds of recipes these days. The dishes are simple to prepare, and I'm sharing them together because I think they should absolutely be served together. The chicken, roasted tomatoes, feta and luscious buttery spaghetti all complement each other so wonderfully. My boys and Joe couldn't get enough of the noodles, and we all wanted more (so you may want to increase the amount of spaghetti to at least half a pound!). And not only was this meal delicious; it was pretty healthy, too!

Chicken with Feta, Roasted Tomatoes, and Garlic Butter Spinach Spaghetti

For the chicken:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to uniform thickness
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
4 roma tomatoes, sliced
Crumbled feta cheese

For the spaghetti:

1/3 pound spaghetti noodles, broken into thirds
3 tablespoons butter
6 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange tomato slices on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and add one tablespoon of olive oil; toss to evenly combine. Roast tomatoes in an even layer for about 10 minutes, or until softened and beginning to brown. Set aside, covered, until serving.

2. Heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to skillet. Cook until chicken is well browned on both sides and juices run clear; remove from heat, place on a plate, and cover with foil until serving.

3. To make the spaghetti, cook the noodles in boiling salted water to al dente; drain. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When melted, add garlic and salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant. Add spinach to drained noodles and pour the garlic butter mixture over the top. Toss to combine and wilt the spinach.

4. Spoon some of the pasta onto each plate. Top the pasta with a piece of chicken, some of the roasted tomatoes, and sprinkling of feta cheese.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Southwestern BBQ Shredded Chicken Sandwiches

Ever since I made this sandwich, I have been thinking about it constantly. I realize that sounds pretty pathetic, but there you have it. I was literally laying in bed last night before I went to sleep, thinking about all of the things I love about this sandwich. The smoky-sweet-spicy BBQ sauce, the gooey cheese, the crisp corn relish and the soft avocado...ah. It's just an amazing sandwich, with the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

These sandwiches are endlessly adaptable, and they can take as much or as little time as fits your lifestyle. Use a rotisserie chicken and they're ready in minutes. Or cook the chicken and BBQ sauce in a Crock pot and shred the chicken before serving. Either way, these sandwiches are absolutely delicious. For me, it's the incredible corn relish that just takes them over the top. The relish is even good on tortilla chips, as I can personally attest. I could eat it every single day!

Southwestern BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
corn relish adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking

For the chicken:

4 strips bacon, chopped
1 medium red onion, diced
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped chipotle in adobo
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups cooked and shredded chicken

For the corn relish:

2 cups corn kernels (I used canned, and it was fine)
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sandwiches:

4 slices jalapeno havarti or pepperjack cheese
1 avocado, pitted and thinly sliced
4 sandwich buns

1. Preheat a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until nearly crisp. Add onion and continue to cook until onion is softened. Add BBQ sauce, brown sugar, chipotle in adobo, and cumin. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Once the mixture is bubbling, stir in the chicken and reduce the heat and let simmer while you prepare the corn relish.

2. To make the relish, combine corn, jalapeno, roasted red pepper, and cilantro in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together the honey and lime juice. Pour the lime juice mixture over the other ingredients and toss together. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

3. To make the sandwiches, top the bottom half of each bun with some of the BBQ chicken mixture. Top with a slice of cheese, a spoonful of the corn relish, and sliced avocado. Spread the top of the buns with mayonnaise and serve.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Chicken and Vegetable Pasta with Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

We're nearing the end of summer and that, in itself, seems like a ridiculous sort of thing to be saying. How is summer almost gone already?! My oldest has started preschool. A year from now, he'll be going to kindergarten. And that's all I'm going to say about that... *sniff sniff*.

Anyway, I think this is a nice sort of meal to bridge the seasons. It's loaded with veggies, but the pasta is tossed in a luscious roasted garlic cream sauce, which makes it feel very rich and fall-like. This pasta tastes like something you'd order in a restaurant -- but you get to make it at home and eat it in your bare feet, which is always a plus in my book. :)

Chicken and Vegetable Pasta with Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

1 head of garlic
Salt, pepper and olive oil for roasting
2 chicken breasts
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
12 ounces penne pasta

1. Preheat oven to 375. Cut the top off of a head of garlic to expose the tops of cloves. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Loosely wrap the aluminum foil around the garlic, pinching the seams to seal. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the cloves are tender and start to turn golden brown. Allow to cool.

2. While the garlic is roasting, heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest, covered with aluminum foil, until you're ready to serve.

3. Cook the penne to al dente in boiling salted water.

4. In the same skillet you used for the chicken, melt the tablespoon of butter and olive oil. Add zucchini, red bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms and cook until onions are translucent and the mushrooms are browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the cloves into the skillet. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the garlic and mix into the vegetables.

5. Add the white wine and stir until reduced by half, using a wooden spoon to release the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in cream and heat through until slightly thickened. Add the parmesan cheese and stir to melt. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

6. Add the sauce to the penne and arrange each portion on a plate. Slice the chicken into thin strips. Top each serving with some sliced chicken and additional parmesan cheese.

Monday, August 20, 2012

French Onion Chicken

This wasn't necessarily the prettiest dish to photograph, but it sure was absolutely delicious, and that's what's really important, right?

I've been tossing around the idea of a French onion chicken dish for a while now, and I finally got around to trying it. I was so pleased with the results; this dish has all the same flavor notes as a bowl of French onion soup, minus the actual soup: sweet caramelized onions, a crispy element (Panko-breaded chicken, in this case), a hint of thyme, melted cheese. I used sliced muenster cheese because that's what I had on hand, but feel free to use whatever type of cheese you like. This chicken is a delicious and different dinner and a fun new take on a classic favorite!

French Onion Chicken

4 to 6 chicken breasts (uniform thickness)
1 stick butter, melted
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded or sliced muenster, gouda, or gruyere cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 teaspoon of the thyme leaves. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized.

3. While the onions are cooking, combine panko, 1/2 teaspoon of the thyme leaves, and the salt and pepper in a dish. Dip the chicken in the egg, then in the panko mixture.

4. Heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Cook the chicken until it's browned on both sides, then move it to the casserole dish in a single layer. Top the chicken with the onions, then the cheese.

5. Bake for 15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melted.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Three Cheese Baked Meatball Subs

Our weather has cooled down a lot lately, and it's making me really excited for fall to get here. Fall is, hands-down, my very favorite season. The food, the football, the weather, the wardrobe...I love it all. The temperatures were so reminiscent of fall over the weekend, in fact, that they put me in the mood for a hearty dinner. I asked Joe how he'd feel if I made meatball subs for dinner, and I swear I saw his eyes light up.

I didn't use his favorite meatball recipe for these, since hot Italian sausage is still a bit too spicy for the boys. Instead, I used a combination of ground sirloin and mild Italian sausage as the base for the meatballs, then added all of the usual suspects: onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, and seasonings. I used split hoagie rolls for the subs, and I lined the rolls with tangy provolone and sharp Romano. After adding the meatballs and sauce to the rolls, I topped them with fresh mozzarella and baked them in the oven. And voila!: three cheese meatball subs. A hearty, flavorful, delicious meal to transition into fall, and definitely a new family favorite.

Each roll fits three or four meatballs, and this recipe makes 35 to 40 meatballs -- so even if you make all six of the hoagie rolls that come in the pack like I did, you'll have quite a few left over. I froze the remainder, and I'm really looking forward to having them again sometime this fall.

Three Cheese Baked Meatball Subs

For the meatballs:

1 pound ground sirloin
1 pound mild or sweet Italian sausage
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper
1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
Drizzle of olive oil

For the sauce:

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1 14.5-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 jar of spaghetti sauce (any variety)
Salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste

For the subs:

6 hoagie rolls
6 slices provolone cheese
6 tablespoons grated Romano or parmesan cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. To make the meatballs, add the sirloin and sausage to a large bowl. Grate in the onion using a microplane, then add the rest of the meatball ingredients. Use your hands to gently combine all of the ingredients, without over-mixing. Form into meatballs, each a little smaller than the size of a golf ball, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven.

3. While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce. Melt the olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven (you want something large, because you'll be adding the meatballs later). Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the onion is softened and translucent. Add in the garlic; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add in the sugar and stir until the onion and garlic are coated with it. Stir in the diced tomatoes and the sauce, and taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and stir gently to evenly coat them. Reduce heat to low and let the sauce and meatballs simmer together.

4. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Line another baking sheet with the open hoagie rolls. In the bottom of each roll, place a slice of provolone cheese (cut in half so it'll fit, if needed) and a tablespoon of the Romano or parmesan. Place three or four meatballs in each roll, topping with additional sauce. Top each roll with a generous helping of the fresh mozzarella.

5. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cheeses are melted and the rolls are crispy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Baked Chocolate Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze

Today, on the eighth day of the eighth month, Joe and I are celebrating eight years of marriage. Eight years. It seems impossible to me, yet here we are, two beautiful sons and a mortgage and a lifetime later. He really is an amazing man, and I'm super lucky to have him.

Joe is a huge fan of sweets, which isn't surprising, because he's so sweet ;). (No more sappy stuff, I promise.) He is particularly fond of doughnuts, and has been known to come home from work on a Saturday morning toting a box of half a dozen of the tasty treasures. Since I've been trying to make more breakfasts on the weekends (you know, the kind that require more effort than pouring milk over cereal), I decided to bake us a batch of doughnuts one recent weekend.  Joe would say that my doughnut pan doesn't get nearly enough use anyway. (He's right.)

These are everything you'd want out of a chocolate doughnut. They're moist, cakey, sweet, and dipped in a decadent chocolate glaze. We all loved them. They're made with pantry staples, so as long as you have a doughnut pan (and if you don't, why not?!), you should definitely make them this weekend.

Happy Anniversary, babe. Maybe I'll bake you another batch of these this weekend, if you're really nice.

Baked Chocolate Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze
doughnuts adapted from Stephanie Cooks; glaze adapted from

For the doughnuts:

1 3/4 cup cake flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze:

6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

1. To make the doughnuts, preheat the oven to 325. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt and whisk together. Stir in the milk, eggs, oil and vanilla until well combined. Transfer the batter to a large plastic bag and cut one corner off. Pipe the batter into greased doughnut pans, filling 2/3 of the way. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until springy. Allow to cool in the pans for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

2. To make the glaze, melt the butter in a small suacepan over low heat. Stir in the cocoa powder and milk. Cook the mixture, stirring, until it thickens and comes to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and add the vanilla. Stir in the powdered sugar, adding more in 1/2 cup increments as needed to make the mixture smooth and slightly thicker than syrup.

3. Dunk each doughnut in the glaze, top them with sprinkles, then set them aside while the glaze hardens, about 30 minutes (the waiting is the hardest part). Makes 12 doughnuts.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

BBQ Chicken Taquitos

I've made these creamy chicken taquitos dozens of times now, and my entire family just loves them. So when I saw a version of them that incorporated BBQ sauce, I was instantly in love with the idea. I was even more in love with them when I tasted them! These taquitos are so delicious -- creamy, cheesy, and smoky, with a crispy outer shell that doesn't even require any frying. The filling can be made ahead of time, so these are perfect for a busy weeknight. Even the boys enjoyed them, so I'm happy to say I'll be making them frequently in the future!

BBQ Chicken Taquitos

4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
8-10 6-inch flour or corn tortillas
Cooking spray
Ranch dressing and/or BBQ sauce for dipping

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese, BBQ sauce, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, brown sugar, salt and pepper, red onion, green onions, and cilantro until all are fully incorporated. Add in the chicken and cheese and stir gently to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper and more BBQ sauce if needed.

3. Place 3 to 4 tortillas on a microwaveable plate, slightly spread out but overlapping. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 20 seconds. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

4. Fill each tortilla with approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling and roll tightly. Place each filled tortilla seam side down on your baking sheet. Spray rolled tortillas with cooking spray and lightly sprinkle with salt.

5. Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden brown and tortillas are crispy. Serve with ranch and/or BBQ sauce for serving.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Grilled Hawaiian Chicken Sandwiches for a Sixth Anniversary

Today I'm guest posting over at A Taste of Home Cooking. My friend Sarah's blog recently reached the six year milestone, and she's celebrating with a week of guest posts. I could choose any recipe from her blog to make, and I chose these delicious sandwiches. Go check out my post, and be sure to congratulate Sarah on this huge accomplishment!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Roasted Cherry Brownie Cheesecake

Oh gosh, you guys. I really don't even know where to begin with this one. I think this is one of those situations in which the photo just speaks for itself, but I'll try to compose myself enough to write some words, too. 

I didn't eat a lot of cherries growing up, other than the maraschino variety on the top of my ice cream sundaes or the chocolate-covered version in boxes of assorted chocolates (which I still have an intense dislike for to this day). And then I started dating Joe, who introduced me to the Wonderful World of Fresh Cherries. Joe could easily put away a pound of them in one sitting. He's passed his love for cherries on to me, and more recently, to our sons, who can both pound cherries like a boss. As soon as cherry season begins, we're bound to have at least two pounds of them in our refrigerator at all times.

I knew I wanted to bake with cherries before the season ended, and there was no shortage of recipes that sounded absolutely amazing, but when I saw this cheesecake I knew that it was The One. We were blown away by this cheesecake, and it's probably one of the best cheesecakes I've ever made. As if the brownie base isn't enough, it's topped with sweet roasted cherries, and then with cheesecake whipped cream. Yum, yum, and yum! It's sweet without being too sweet, and it's such an elegant, gorgeous dessert -- the perfect way to use summer's cherry bounty.

Roasted Cherry Brownie Cheesecake
adapted from Beantown Baker

For the roasted cherries:

1 1/2 pounds cherries, stemmed and pitted
1/4 cup sugar

For the brownie layer:

1 box brownie mix
Water, oil and eggs called for on the box
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the cheesecake:

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the cheesecake whipped cream:

4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream

For the garnish:

Whole cherries

1. To make the roasted cherries, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place pitted, chopped cherries in a small casserole dish or cake pan. Top with sugar and stir. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare the brownie batter and stir in chocolate chips. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with baking spray. Spread the batter into the pan and back for about 14 minutes, or until the brownies are just set but not completely cooked through.

3. While the brownies are baking, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until well combined and smooth. Add in the eggs and vanilla on low speed and set the mixture aside.

4. Carefully spoon 1 cup of the roasted cherries into the center of brownie, leaving a 2-inch brownie border along sides of pan. Place remaining roasted cherries in a covered dish and refrigerate until ready to serve.

5. Gently scoop the cream cheese mixture over surface; carefully spread to edges of pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is set, but jiggles when the pan is lightly tapped. Leaving the cheesecake in the oven, turn off oven and crack oven door. Allow to come to room temperature. This will take about an hour. Cover and chill at least 4 hours before serving.

6. To make the cheesecake whipped cream, beat the cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in 1/4 cup whipping cream until smooth. Add the rest of the cream and beat until it has the consistency of whipped cream (don’t overmix).

7. To serve, slice a piece of cheesecake and top with a spoonful or two of the reserved roasted cherries. Finish with a dollop of the whipped cream and a fresh whole cherry.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

BLT Gyros

A month or so ago, a bunch of food trucks set up shop right in front of my office building, for one day only. To say I was like a kid in a candy store is a complete understatement. I was incredibly, dorkily excited about it, and it took me forever to decide what I was going to try. New York-style pizza? Duck tacos with fresh cherry salsa? A cheeseburger with two grilled cheese sandwiches as its bun? So many options!

I ultimately decided a BLT pita from the pita truck, and I was so happy with my choice (although I still want to try that burger...). It was loaded with bacon and generously drizzled with a creamy, delicious sauce. I went home and raved to Joe about it, who told me I should try to duplicate it at home. He just confirmed what I was already thinking.

I adapted the food truck pita in a few ways. While the pita had shredded mozzarella, I chose feta instead. And I used a traditional tzatziki sauce. For the tomatoes, I used some sweet little yellow guys from a friend's garden that were just bursting with flavor. These were absolutely delicious, and such a fun new spin on a BLT.

BLT Gyros
inspired by Pitabilities

12 slices bacon
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Shredded lettuce
Feta cheese
4 pitas or flatbreads

1. Cook bacon to desired crispness; drain on paper towels.

2. Spread a layer of tzatziki sauce on each flatbread. Top each with lettuce, three slices of bacon, some of the tomatoes, and a sprinkling of feta cheese.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vegetable Tostadas

These tostadas were the result of one of those "Hmm, let's see what I have on hand" moments. In this case, I had a ton of produce in the refrigerator  (as I think most of us do during the summer months) and quite a few canned goods in the pantry, and no idea how I was going to use it all. I came up with these tostadas on the fly, and man, were they ever delicious. I topped fried corn tortillas with vegetarian refried beans, vegetables seasoned with Mexican spices, and feta cheese. Feta may sound like an odd choice, but its tangy flavor worked so perfectly with the spices (you could also use queso fresco, if you have that on hand). Yes, the tortillas are fried, but at least they're topped with lots of good-for-you vegetables!

This meal comes together so quickly, and it's really good and relatively healthy. If you have filling left over, mix it up with rice and serve burritos for dinner the next night.

Vegetable Tostadas

1 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1 medium yellow summer squash, sliced into half-moons
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 can vegetarian refried beans, warmed
8 tostada shells or fried corn tortillas
Feta cheese and cilantro for topping

1. Preheat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, summer squash, and onion and cook until vegetables are softened. Stir in garlic and cook and stir for an additional 30 seconds.

2. Add corn, black beans, tomatoes, salt and pepper, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Heat through.

3. Spread each tostada with a layer of refried beans, then top with some of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with feta and cilantro and additional toppings as desired.