Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bacon and Spinach Baked Ziti

This is a thing of beauty, my friends. Baked ziti is good all by itself, but add in some bacon and spinach? You get baked pasta magic!

Notes: This is just plain delicious. You should make it ASAP.

I added a little less cheese than baked ziti usually has. I just used one ball of mozzarella instead of it plus ricotta cheese. I thought it was just the right amount of cheese and it made the dish not so heavy.

If you wanted to do a lot of this ahead, you could. Assemble the whole thing (minus the bacon on top) and put it in the fridge. Store the crumbled bacon in the fridge separately. All you have to do is take the ziti out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to bake it. Take the crumbled bacon out at the same time.

1 box penne or ziti pasta
1 26 oz jar of your favorite sauce (I used arrabbiata)
6 slices of bacon
10-12 oz. of spinach (I used 2 bags of the pre-washed kind)
2 shallots or 1 small onion
6-7 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of dried Italian herb mix
1 ball fresh mozzarella

Directions: Heat the oven to 375.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high and add the bacon. While the bacon is cooking, mince the garlic and dice the shallots. Fill a stock pot with water and heat on high. When the bacon is crisp, remove and drain on a paper towel.

Add in the onions and garlic to the bacon fat. Season with salt, pepper, and herb mix, and cook until tender. Add in the spinach and toss until wilted. Crumble two of the strips of bacon and add them to the pan. Pour in the sauce, stir to combine, and turn the heat back to medium-low.

When the water boils, add a small handful of salt. Add the pasta and cook to al dente (follow the directions on the box).

While the pasta is cooking, cut the mozzarella ball in half. Dice half of it and thinly slice the other half.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir. Add in the diced mozzarella and stir again.

Pour the pasta into a 9x13 baking dish. Top with the sliced mozzarella and baked uncovered for 25 minutes.

Crumble the rest of the bacon and sprinkle it on top of pasta. Put back in the oven for just a minute to warm up the bacon. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Baked Potatoes in the Slow Cooker + Veggie Pot Pie Spud

When you're busy during the week, the slow cooker is your friend. As it turns out, the slow cooker is more of a friend than I realized. 

Did you know you can make baked potatoes in the slow cooker?! 

This is a game-changer. 

Notes: These potatoes couldn't be easier. They came out great. They were a little brown (probably a bit over done?), but they were fluffy and soft. The skins where nice and tender, so eat the whole thing! The skins have lots of good minerals in them. 

If you're like us, you love a stuffed baked potato! Having them in the slow cooker means that all you have to do when you get home is make the topping. An easy and healthy weeknight meal awaits!

4 Russet potatoes
Aluminum foil

Directions: Rub each potato with a very small amount of butter and sprinkle with salt. Wrap each one in foil. Put them in the slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low. 

Need a serving idea? How about veggie pot pie spuds!

1 can chicken stock
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 bag of frozen mixed veggies
1/2 bag of frozen lima beans

Directions: In a 2-quart sauce pan, melt butter. Whisk in flour and cook for just a minute. Whisk in chicken stock and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in all the frozen veggies. Cook until the mixture thickens and the veggies are tender. 

When the potatoes are done, spilt them open and top with pot pie mixture. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Flourless Banana Pancakes

This weekend I had a craving for pancakes. I don't crave them often, which is why I recently tossed out an old container of pancake mix. Oops.

Luckily, I had just seen a recipe for 2-ingredient banana pancakes. I was skeptical. Could these really be good? As it turns out, they were.

Notes: This batter is thin, so you'll have thin pancakes. This recipe made 6 small pancakes, so if you need to feed more people, definitely double the recipe.

I think I would have liked the batter and the pancakes a little thicker. Next time I'll either add another banana or add in some oats.

The texture on these is a bit spongy---not in a bad way. They're closer to crepes than regular pancakes, so just be aware of that.

1 ripe banana
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
Butter (for cooking)
Syrup or honey (for serving)


Beat the eggs in a bowl. Add in pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon. Mash up the banana with the beaten eggs and stir until combined. The batter will be lumpy, but fully incorporated.

Heat a large skillet or griddle just below high heat. Put a small pat of butter in the pan and coat the bottom. Wipe out excess with a paper towel (watch your fingers). Using a 1/4 cup measure, spoon batter into the pan. When the edges of the pancake start to look dry, flip and cook for another 30 seconds-1 minute. Repeat until the batter is used up.

Serve with syrup or honey and enjoy!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Flourless Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bites

I've wanted to make my own granola bars for a long time, but I haven't found a recipe I really like. I don't like crunchy granola bars. A lot of the recipes for chewy granola bars contain more sugar than I'd like. Granola bars aren't supposed to be cookies.

Well, I stumbled upon a recipe for a healthier oatmeal cookie that actually looked better than some of the granola bar recipes I've seen. Flourless oatmeal chocolate chop bites were born.

Notes: I don't know that these are gluten free, only because I don't know if my oats are gluten free. And is peanut butter gluten free? I have no clue. But I know these are flourless, if that helps!

These taste like a combination of banana bread and an oatmeal cookie. A plus in my book!

These will be easier to mix if the ingredients are at room temperature. If your peanut butter is a little stiff, zap it in the microwave for a few second so it loosens up. I used natural peanut butter here; the oil makes it easier to stir.

If you'd like to keep these egg-free, you could either use another tablespoon of peanut butter or a couple more bananas.

You could use raisins or any other dried fruit instead of chocolate chips.

These cookies don't expand or spread very much when you bake them, so if you want them flatter, be sure to smoosh them a little with your spoon when you put them on the baking sheet.

2 cups rolled or old fashioned oats
1 ripe banana
1 egg
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips


In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and mash the banana. Add in the vanilla, the peanut butter, and the applesauce. Stir to combine (it won't be perfectly smooth).

Add in oats, pumpkin pie spice, and chocolate chips. Stir until well mixed and the dough starts to feel like cookie dough.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350. Put tablespoonfuls of dough on a parchment or foiled lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

Store in an airtight container and separate the layers with wax paper. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Q.E.D.: Roasted Sausages and Potatoes

For you, I have a wonderfully simple Q.E.D. entree. Not only does it take only 30 minutes, it only has 6 ingredients (2 of which are salt and olive oil and you probably already have those in your kitchen). This is a perfect weeknight meal that you can pop in the oven and tend to only minimally. And the end result is delicious and satisfying!

Notes: This is just barely Q.E.D. because it takes 30 minutes of cooking time minus the prep, but the prep is so easy, I think it counts. 

I used Yukon gold potatoes, but you could use the red skinned or fingerling potatoes if you like those better. If you have really small ones, you wouldn't even have to quarter them.  

Serve these with your favorite green vegetable or even a salad. I made brussel sprouts with mine. You could use a steam-in-the-microwave bag of frozen veggies for a really easy side. 

1 pound (1 package) of brats, sweet, or hot Italian sausages
2 pounds small potatoes
1 onion
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend
Olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)

Directions: Heat oven to 450. 

Remove sausages from fridge. Quarter the potatoes (or half the small ones). Slice the onion. 

Arrange the potatoes and onions in one layer on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and Italian herb blend. Toss the potatoes and onions to coat with oil and seasoning. 

Pierce sausages all over with a fork. Place them on the baking sheet.

Roast for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the sausages brown. Flip the sausages halfway through cooking.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Baked Taquitos and Mexican Restaurant Rice

We have yet to find a Mexican restaurant we like here. There's no Mexican place in the town we live in. There are two in the next town over, but apparently they aren't that super (or so we've heard). I'm sure there are lots of places in the city we could go to, but when it's cold, the idea of walking through the city doesn't sound particularly appealing.

As you have probably noticed, I make a lot of Mexican-style recipes at home to make up for our lack of restaurants. Luckily, I found this recipe the other day. Chicken taquitos are not my bag, but a vegetarian version sounded great.

Notes: If you have an onion, feel free to use that for the rice instead of the onion powder. I just used the powder because I didn't have an onion.

I'd use a colby jack or a cheddar in the taquitos. I used fontina and it was too mild. You could barely taste it.

This makes about 8 taquitos, so you'll have egg roll wrappers left over. If you want to use up all your wrappers, just double the filling recipe.

Ingredients for Taquitos
1 can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
Egg roll wrappers
1 small bunch cilantro
1 cup shredded cheese
2-3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Hot sauce, to taste
Small bowl of water
Melted butter (optional)

Ingredients for Rice
2 cups instant rice
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
4-5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon onion powder
Butter or oil

Directions: Heat oven to 375.

Drain the beans (don't rinse). Mince the garlic for the taquitos and chop the cilantro. When the beans are drained, put them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mash them a little with a potato masher. Add in the corn, cilantro, garlic, hot sauce, cumin, chili powder, cheese, and salt. Mix to combine.

To make a taquito, put approximately three teaspoons of filling in the middle of the egg roll wrapper (the wrapper should be diagonal). Moisten the edges of the wrapper by dipping your finger in the bowl of water and running it along the edge. Bring the bottom corner of the wrapper over the filling and tuck it under. Pull in the sides and then roll it up. Place each taquito seam-side down on a foil-lined or oiled baking sheet. Repeat until all the filling is gone.

Brush the taquitos with melted butter. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.

While the taquitos are baking, make the rice. Mince the garlic. Melt butter or heat oil on medium-high in a skillet with a lid. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add in rice and toast for just a minute. Season with salt and onion powder. Pour in tomatoes and water. Turn the heat to medium and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

When the taquitos are done, serve them with a side of rice and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Little Lighter: Banana Pudding Parfaits

See these? These are amazing.

Eating healthy doesn't mean you have to give up dessert. It does mean that you shouldn't eat dessert all the time. It also means you should be creative with what kinds of dessert you eat.

One of my favorite things to do is come up with lighter versions of foods I love. I looove banana pudding, but I'd be fooling myself if I thought it was good for me. I saw this recipe for a slightly lighter banana pudding and I decided to make it even lighter.

Notes: I was perfectly happy with the flavor of the vanilla yogurt, but Scott wanted it a little sweeter. I made them again with some powdered sugar. I added that step, but if you want to keep it light, just leave out the sugar.

Baking the bananas brings out their flavor and their sweetness. You can do this step a little ahead of time.

This recipe makes two parfaits and it can be easily doubled.

2 bananas
8 oz (1 cup) of Greek vanilla yogurt
2 teaspoons confectioners sugar
Nilla wafers (I used the mini ones)

Directions: Heat the oven to 350. Wrap one of the bananas in foil and bake for 35-40 minutes. Allow it to cool completely.

When the banana is cool, peel it and mash it a bowl. Add the yogurt and the sugar and mix well. Slice the other banana. You want pretty thin slices so you can layer them.

In the bottom of a glass, make a layer of Nilla wafers (how many you use will depend on the size of your glass). Top the wafers with a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt mixture. Top that with a layer of banana slices. Do another wafer layer, another yogurt layer, and another banana layer.

Wrap some Nilla wafers in a paper towel and crush them with your hands. Sprinkle the crushed wafers on top of the banana slices.

You can serve immediately or refrigerate. Refrigeration will soften the wafers.

Enjoy a lighter banana pudding!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Eggplant and Chickpea Tikka Masala + New Food on a Budget

This is the debut of Indian food here at the professor's kitchen. I'm not a huge fan of Indian food, but last semester I tried a place in town with some colleagues and loved it. The dish I had was so good I decided to make my own version at home.

It's a new year and it's a great time to try new things. But if you're like most people you've probably made a new year's resolution about saving money. Luckily, you can do both. Here are some tips for trying new dishes without breaking your piggy bank or your resolution:

1. Look before you shop: The Internet is a wonderful thing. You are just a search away from thousands of recipes. Before you go to the store, do some homework. Decide what kind of dish you want to try: Indian or French? Noodles or rice? Meat or no meat? Knowing what you want to make ahead of time helps you plan and helps you budget.

2. Look long-term: Deciding to try new things doesn't mean you have to do it all at once. Pick one or two dishes to start with. There's no reason to make something new every night. Try a new dish on the weekends when you have more time. Make it once a month. Make a list of things you want to try and keep it posted on the fridge. Get the kids involved by letting them pick a dish. If you think long-term, you won't have to break the bank buying specialty ingredients with every trip to the store.

3. Look for dishes with few ingredients: When I decided I wanted to try Indian food, I started searching recipes to see what was involved. Some recipes for tikka masala had an ingredient list a mile long. I picked the ones that didn't. When you're trying something new, don't feel like you have to use the most authentic recipe or the fanciest one. The less you have to buy the more new things you can try.

4. Look for bargains: Did you know places like Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Ross, and Home Goods have food sections? You can get otherwise really expensive specialty ingredients for cheap. For the dish I made, I needed garam masala (an Indian spice mix). At the grocery store, it was pricey, but at Home Goods, it was much more reasonable. Did you know that in the grocery store, often the spices in the international foods aisle are much cheaper than the ones in the baking aisle? The cumin that's in the Latino food section is the same cumin in the spice section, but it costs less. Also, feel free to swap out things on the ingredient list with things you already have. If the recipe calls for tomato paste and you have ketchup, use it. If the recipe calls for smoked paprika and you have regular paprika, use it.

With a little ingenuity and planning, you can try new dishes without having sacrifice your best laid budget plans! On to the recipe!

Notes: This tikka masala was not particularly hot, so we added some hot sauce to ours. The powder I got was no hotter than regular curry powder. If you want a stronger flavor, you could use 3 teaspoons instead of 2. I would start with 2 if you're not sure.

I used plain white rice, but feel free to use brown or Basmati if you're feeling fancy.

1 large eggplant
1 can chickpeas
1 onion
6-7 cloves of garlic
1 bunch parsley
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 cup water or chicken stock
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup whole milk or plain yogurt
Extra hot sauce (optional)
Olive oil
Rice for serving


Start by prepping all the veggies. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and dice the eggplant. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.

Heat the oil (I used about 3 tablespoons) in a large skillet on medium high. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Add the garam masala and cook until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the spices. If the pan starts to look too dry add a little water to the pan.

When the spices are fragrant, add the eggplant. Season with salt. Cook until the eggplant is just tender. Pour in the water or stock. Stir in tomato paste. Turn the heat down to medium/medium low (it needs to bubble, but not vigorously) and cover. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

While the tikka masala is simmering, cook the rice and chop the parsley. After 20-30 minutes is up, turn off the heat and stir in the milk or yogurt. Serve by putting a bed of rice on a plate and then topping it with tikka masala. Sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Individual Veggie Pot Pies

Happy New Year, food lovers! I hope everyone had a great holiday. It's time to start 2015 off with some new recipes.

Holidays are great, but they usually mean LOTS of heavy food. After all the meat, carbs, and sweets, your body needs some serious nutrition. Small portions + veggies fits that bill.

Notes: This recipe can act as a pantry staple if you either (a) make your own pie crust from scratch or (b) keep pre-made crusts on hand. I should have just made the dough from scratch, but I bought some refrigerated pie crusts before we left town for Christmas.

I love Fordhook lima beans and I can always find them in my freezer section, so I added those to my pies. Feel free to swap these out for something else if you're not a fan of limas.

If you don't have ramekins, you can just make a regular-sized pie in a 9-inch pie dish. My ramekins are medium-sized, so this recipe made 4 pies. If you have smaller ramekins, it will make 6.

You'll note that the crust on these pot pies are rather small. That's because I made the mistake of trimming the crust rather than folding it. The crust will shrink when it bakes, so be sure to keep it slightly larger than the ramekins. Lesson learned!

1/3 cup (about 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 can low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend (or just parsley)
1/2 bag of mixed frozen vegetables
1/2 bag of frozen lima beans
1 box of refrigerated pie crusts (I used Pillsbury)

Directions: Heat oven to 375.

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour until a smooth paste forms. Whisk in chicken broth and then whisk in milk. Season with salt, pepper, and herb blend. Allow the mixture to thicken.

Once the mixture thickens, add in frozen veggies. Make sure everything heats through. Turn off heat and set aside while you prep the ramekins.

Put ramekins on a baking sheet. Unroll the pie crusts on a floured surface and roll them out just a little with a rolling pin. Flip over one of the ramekins onto the pie crust. Using a pairing knife, cut out a circle of pie crust that's about an inch wider than the lip of the ramekin. Repeat with the other crust until you have one circle of dough for each ramekin. You can smoosh (technical term) together and roll out the scraps if you need more circles.

Divide the vegetable mixture equally among the ramekins. Put the dough circles on top of each ramekin and pinch the dough around the edge to "seal" the pie. Bake for 30 minutes until the crusts are golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes, serve, and enjoy!