Italian Sausage and Feta Calzone

I almost didn’t write a blog post about this meal because I didn’t think it was worthy of its own post. I considered it “unblogable” until my kids tried it. They were so excited about it. My 5 year old looked at me and said, “mommy this is so yum. You need to put this online.” The two year old just shoveled it in her mouth and didn’t say a word. I have never had a dinner reaction like that before, so here I am – posting!

Well at least I got to use a lot of stuff in the fridge I had left over like my last bit of feta and some pasta sauce.  I got this recipe from a pillsbury box a long while back and have used/adapted it often.  I started this recipe by cooking a whole pack of Italian sausage.  It was greasy so I had to drain it.  I used 1/3 of the meat for this recipe and I saved the rest for later.  After I unrolled the crescent rolls, I added sauce, feta, mozzarella and meat, and closed it up.  Not as beautifully as pillsbury but good enough.  The calzone baked for about 15 minutes and was ready.  I served it with homemade fries.  I could have easily added more stuff, like bell peppers and onions, but I will save it for next time.

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Ingredients:

– 1/2 lb Italian pork sausage
– 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury crescent dinner rolls
– 1/4 cup pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce
– 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 oz)
– 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
– 1 egg, beaten

Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 375°F. Grease or spray cookie sheet. In 10-inch skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.

2.  On cookie sheet, unroll dough and separate into 4 rectangles; press each into 7×4-inch rectangle, firmly pressing perforations to seal. Spread 1 tablespoon sauce on half of each rectangle to within 1 inch of edge. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons cheese over sauce; top with one-fourth of sausage mixture. Fold dough over filling; firmly press edges with fork to seal. Brush top of each with egg. With fork, prick top of each to allow steam to escape.

3.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until deep golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm.

Dinner Strategies Meal Plan 2: Chicken Dinners

 

Today I am sharing last weeks meal plan if anyone is interested. I have three great dinner ideas! I hope these posts make it easier for you to get dinner on the table! And don’t feel like you have to make every single recipe…usually their is plenty left over for the next day. These meal plans are meant to be a guide! Feel free to change the plans up to meet your needs!

The meal theme for this week is chicken.  I made the following:

Slow Cooker Chicken and Avocado Soup

Chicken Corn Chowder with Corn Bread Waffles

Pineapple Chicken and Rice

Just click the link to see view the ingredients and directions.

 

Here is the grocery list.  I tried to pick three very different recipes with similar ingredients to cut down on waste.  I also use a lot of cabinet staples to cut down on the grocery bill.  Let me know what you think.

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Pineapple Chicken and Rice

This is my last chicken meal for the week and also my favorite.  It was my favorite because it was the quickest.  I make this meal often but I try to add new elements to make it better each time.  This time I was in the grocery store and found some cool things in the asian food section of Harris Teeter.  I found fortune cookies and black sesame seeds.  These two things made this meal extra fun.  At the end of dinner, everyone opened their cookies and got great fortunes, except for me.  Mine said “pick another cookie.”  Go figure.

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To start, I loosely chopped my pineapple, onion and bell peppers because I wanted them chunky and used my rice cooker to make my rice sticky.

 

When I was done cooking the meat and veggies, I mixed in an easy, sweet pineapple sauce while everything was still in the skillet.  When the chicken and sauce was well blended, I scooped it out of the skillet and put it on top of a bed of rice.  I garnished the meal with black sesame seeds and a fortune cookie for a fun twist.

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Ingredients:

  • 8 oz can diced pineapple, reserve 1/3 cup juice
  • 1/3cuplow sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3cuplow sodium chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbs toasted sesame seed oil
  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • black sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
  • fortune cookies (optional)
  • rice, for serving
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.  In a medium saucepan, whisk together the pineapple juice, honey, soy sauce, chicken stock and cornstarch. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the mixture is the consistency of syrup. Set the sauce aside.

2.  Add the toasted sesame seed oil to a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, and bell pepper and cook until softened, 1-3 minutes.  Add the chicken to the pan and season it with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and stir until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the sauce to the pan and stir until combined with chicken. Add the pineapple and cook for an additional minute.

4.  Serve the chicken atop a bed of rice.  Garnish with sesame seeds and a fortune cookie.
Check out this easy video for more!

Valentine Dinner Surprise

Happy Valentine’s Day! Now that my girls are old enough I decided to teach them to appreciate this special day. We started off by making cards for class. Found some cool card seedlings that grow if planted. She will have a ball passing them out. And I hope parents will appreciate the non-candy gift.

Next, we made Valentine’s Day breakfast smoothies. I’m not sure why but my kiddos don’t have huge sweet tooth’s – unlike me. So instead of baking something sweet, we made smoothies together. Smoothies are so easy with a Ninja. The kiddos couldn’t wait to eat the heart shaped strawberries.

Finally they opened Valentine’s Day gifts after dinner. I think this will be our Valentine’s Day traditions from now on.

Strawberry Nutella Smoothie

Ingredients:

• 1 whole banana

• 3-5 fresh strawberries

• ½ cup of milk

• ¼ cup of crushed ice

• 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder

• 1 tablespoon of Nutella

Instructions:

1 Add banana, strawberries, crushed ice, Nutella, cocoa powder and milk to blender.

2 Blend until smooth.

3 Top with a strawberry and enjoy!

Chicken Corn Chowder with Corn Bread Waffles

Hi everyone!  Tonight I am making another crock pot master piece.  If you are wondering why I am using my crock pot so much, it’s because my stove is broken.  It just went out, not sure why, but it happens.  I should get another one this week, so until then, I am having fun with some of my lesser used kitchen gadgets.  I decided to do a chowder because I used to make this for office potlucks.  I would cook off the chicken and dump everything in the crockpot and let it cook until the potluck started.  And to top it off, I would make some honey cornbread in the oven to go with it.  It was always a hit.

This time with no stove, I had to get creative with my cornbread.  I decided to make it in a waffle maker.  I thought it be a fun twist.  The kids were bummed, however, when they found out they were having corn bread with dinner instead of waffles.  They ate it any way.

INGREDIENTS:

Chowder:

1 lb chicken, cubed

1⁄2 onion chopped

2 carrots, chopped

3 red potatoes, cubed

2 (15 ounce) can corn (regular and creamed), drained

2 cups chicken broth

1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

salt and pepper, to taste

Cornbread:

3/4 cup milk

1/4 melted butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey

cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Place carrots, potatoes, onion and corn in crock pot. Put chicken pieces on top. Add chicken broth. Add salt and pepper.

Turn crock pot to low and cook 4 to 6 hours. During last 10 minutes of cooking add evaporated milk and cheese. Stir.

To make Corn Bread: In a large bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the milk, butter, oil, honey and eggs; stir to combine until moistened. Batter should be the consistency of pancake batter, so you may need to add a little more milk. Heat cooking spray in waffle maker. When hot, scoop a dollop of mixture in the waffle maker and cook cornbread in accordance with waffle maker instructions. When golden brown, remove from the waffle maker and serve with chowder.  Enjoy!

Check out this easy how to video!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Avocado Soup

I am back to cooking with chicken this week and I finally get to share one of my favorite slow cooker recipes. This chicken soup has everything.  It has cheese, avocado and even home made tortilla strips – it’s amazing. Slow cooker meals are my favorite because you can get everything ready in the morning, go to work and then come home to a fabulous dinner. Of course I always start by chopping my veggies but this can be done the night before. After I get my ingredients together, I dump everything in the crockpot, literally.

I normally set my slow cooker to the lowest setting so that it is just finishing when I get home.

Sometimes slow cooker meals can be bland but not this one. The cheese helps this dish out a lot. When I made the tortilla strips, I added a little cinnamon sugar on the kids’ strips. This usually helps with any fuss that may occur. This meal did take a long time to cook but you won’t even notice – Yeah Crockpots!  And this was enough to repeat.  I just cut up more avocados, cilantro, and tortillas for easy “no fuss” leftovers. By the way, there are a few ingredients that are totally optional but will take this soup to the next level.  Try it and let me know what you think.

Ingredients:

2 – 2.5 lb. boneless/skinless chicken thighs

4 c. chicken broth

3 celery stalks, sliced

3 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1 tbsp. ground coriander

salt and pepper, to taste

2 15 oz. cans white beans, drained

8 oz. shredded cheese, any light cheddar

2 tbsp. lime juice

1 avocado, sliced

cilantro leaves, optional

sour cream, optional

2 -3 Tortillas (corn or flour), cut into strips

Directions

1 Add chicken, broth, celery, carrots, peppers, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, beans, salt, and pepper to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 4 to 6 hours.

2 With a knife and fork, shred chicken in the slow-cooker.

3 Add cheese, lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt to slow cooker.  Stir until cheese melts and soup thickens.

4 Baked Tortilla Strips: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Slice the tortillas to desired size. Arrange in single layer on large baking sheet. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray and add a pinch of cumin, salt, and pepper. Bake 4 to 5 minutes until desired crispness is achieved.

5 Spoon into bowls and serve topped with cheese, avocado and tortilla strips. Sprinkle cilantro and a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Check out my videos on Youtube!

Dinner Review: It’s A Southern Thing Kitchen and Bar, Durham, NC

I love cooking and creating fast, kid-friendly meals during the week.  On the weekends, however, I like to eat out and try different things.  I get a lot of inspiration from local restaurants.  I always try to order something new and different but every once in a while I gravitate toward staples.  This particular evening, my family and I ended up at “It’s a Southern Thing” in Durham.  I love eating in Durham because there are so many great restaurants and this was no exception.

menu

There were so many things that stood out on the menu.  I decided to get the Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings, which was a terrific choice.  My husband got the Smoked Pork Chops.  I wasn’t sure how much the kids were going to eat or how big the portions were, so I ordered a kids burger with fries and let the kids split it.  That actually worked out.  The split portions were just enough for two kids.  The kids will probably talk about me later in life for never letting them have their own meals.

For my meal, they did a great job on my chicken and dumplings.  It was very flavorful.  I must say, that they nailed it.  I sampled my husband’s meal and it was very good and nicely presented.

One of my favorite things was the décor.  The sign coming in was a bit cheesy but it added to the charm.  There was also a nice, relaxed vibe.  The place was full of booths, cushions and wood.  We ate in the overflow room which had a lot of space and was kid-friendly. The service was excellent too! We got tons of check-ins, drink refills, and attention.

I’ll definitely be back – so many temping things on the menu to try next time!  This was definitely an interesting take on southern comfort food.  If you are ever in the Triangle, I highly recommend checking this place out.

Dinner Strategies Meal Plan 1: Turkey Dinners

 

I am starting a new feature on this blog! Every Thursday or Friday, I will be sharing a Weekly Meal Plan. I will share three dinner ideas for the week! I hope these posts make it easier for you to get dinner on the table! And don’t feel like you have to make every single recipe…usually their is plenty left over for the next day. These meal plans are meant to be a guide! Feel free to change the plans up to meet your needs!

The meal theme for this week is turkey.  I made the following:

Stuffed Peppers with Turkey and Mozzarella

Pita Nachos with Mango Salsa and Turkey Bean Dip

Pineapple and Turkey Meatballs

Just click the link to see view the ingredients and directions.

Here is the grocery list.  I tried to pick three very different recipes with similar ingredients to cut down on waste.  I also use a lot of cabinet staples to cut down on the grocery bill.  Let me know what you think.

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Stuffed Peppers with Turkey and Mozzarella

So this is day three of my turkey recipes. Today I stuffed peppers with cheese and turkey – how can you go wrong. I halved the ground turkey I cooked yesterday and put it in the fridge for this recipe. I always try to ensure a smooth transition into cooking when I get home from work.

So my favorite thing about stuffed peppers is when I bite into a super crispy bell pepper.  In order to get them crispy you have to go the extra mile and blanch. It takes a bit more time but it is so worth it.

This is a super easy recipe that everyone should enjoy. If the kids don’t like it, I just add a ton of cheese until they can’t see any veggies. They almost forget that they are eating healthy stuff.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb ground turkey

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

2 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella, divided

3/4 c. ricotta

1/3 c. shredded fresh basil, plus more for garnish

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 bell peppers, halved

Balsamic glaze, for drizzling

DIRECTIONS:

1. In large pot, fill peppers with water (to prevent floating), and fill pot around peppers with water until peppers are fully covered.

2. Cover pot and bring to a rolling boil on high heat. Bring the temperature down to medium-low and let peppers hard simmer for three minutes, or until tender.

3. Using slotted spoon, transfer peppers to ice water to cool. Place in baking dish for stuffing later.

4. Preheat oven to 350º. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add turkey and season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook until turkey is no longer pink. Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, stir together tomatoes, cooked turkey, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and garlic and season with more salt and pepper.

6. Stuff tomato mixture into peppers and sprinkle tops with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Pour water into baking dish (to help the peppers steam) and cover with foil.

7.  Bake until peppers are tender and cheese is melty, about 25 minutes.

8.  Garnish with more basil, drizzle with balsamic glaze, and serve.

Pita Nachos with Mango Salsa and Turkey Bean Dip

This is another easy turkey meal that took 30 minutes to prepare. I cooked the turkey before I left for work this morning and stored it in the fridge.

I also pre-cut mangoes and avocados just in case I was short on time. I already had some salsa from last week and I splurged and bought pre-cut tomatoes 🍅.

When I got home from work I was easily able to pull everything out of the fridge and start cooking. My only issue was keeping the kids out of my mangoes. I managed to save enough to salvage the recipe.

I added the mangoes to my salsa and set it aside. Next, I combined the ground beef, beans, cheese, olives and tomato in a baking dish. I put the mixture in the oven and let the cheese melt over everything for about 15 minutes. The fun part of this recipe was making the nachos. Sure you can buy nachos at the store but these taste so much better. I added cumin to the pita bread for extra flavor. I’m sure an Italian seasoning or cinnamon sugar (for the kiddos) would work well too.

I pulled the nachos and dip out of the oven and it was perfect. I garnished it with the last bit of cilantro I had left over from last week. I always try to find ways to incorporate cilantro so it doesn’t go to waste.

This was such a fun and timely recipe. The Super Bowl is coming up and I think I’ll do a repeat of this recipe to add to the festivities.

Ingredients:

Salsa

1 ripe mango

16 oz fresh salsa

3 tbsp. fresh cilantro

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ tsp salt

Nachos

6 piece reduced-carb whole wheat pita bread

nonstick cooking spray

2 tsp cumin

½ lb ground turkey

1 can low-sodium black beans

2 cup shredded cheese

2 oz olives

1 diced tomato

1 avocado

Directions:

1. To prepare the salsa, in a mixing bowl combine the mango, cilantro, lemon juice and salt. Set aside.

2. To prepare the nachos, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Cut pita bread into triangles or other fun shapes.

3. Arrange the pita triangles in a single layer on two baking sheets. Lightly spray the pita with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with cumin. Bake until very lightly crisp, about 5 minutes.

4. Cook the ground turkey in a nonstick pan until cooked through. Set it aside.

5. Layer the turkey, black beans, tomatoes and olives on top of the toasted pita chips and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese is melted.

6. To serve: Put the nachos on a serving platter and top with sliced avocado, salsa and cilantro. You have the option to add sour cream.