Caprese Mac & Cheese

This will be a light week here on The Three Bite Rule until after labor day. I feel like everyone really has the mentality that there’s only a short time to make the most of the end of summer. Summer food isn’t over but September is fast approaching!

I have been looooving the 70-degree days we’ve been having here in New England. I like being able to turn the oven on occasionally. I made some Caprese Mac & Cheese with the plethora of cherry tomatoes from the garden.

The Three Bite Rule - Caprese Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

1/2 pound penne rigate
4 tbs butter, and another 2 tbs for topping
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup gruyere cheese
1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1 1/2 – 2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dijon mustard (optional)
salt & pepper
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tbs parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta to al dente.
In a medium sauce pan melt 4 tbs butter over medium heat, then add the flour and whisk together cooking for about 5 minutes.
Add in the milk and cream and stir well over medium low heat until combined.
Drop the tomatoes onto a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Up the oven temp to a broil and cook them for 5 minutes being careful not to let them burn.
The Three Bite Rule - Caprese Mac & Cheese
Slowly add in 3/4 of the cheese and stir.
The Three Bite Rule - Caprese Mac & Cheese
Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and mustard.
Mix in the pasta to the cheese sauce.
The Three Bite Rule - Caprese Mac & Cheese
Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and spoon in 1/2 the mac & cheese.
Sprinkle 1/2 the basil and 1/2 the tomatoes and 1/2 the remaining cheese.
The Three Bite Rule - Caprese Mac & Cheese
Repeat another layer on top of pasta, basil, tomatoes, and cheese.
The Three Bite Rule - Caprese Mac & Cheese
Melt the remaining 2 tbs of butter and mix with breadcrumbs, parmesan, and dried basil.
Sprinkle on top and bake for 40 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Caprese Mac & Cheese
I liked the light flavored cheeses allowing the tomatoes and basil to pop. It felt summery even if mac & cheese isn’t truly a summer dish. I also was proud that the tomatoes and basil were home-grown.
The Three Bite Rule - Caprese Mac & Cheese

Greek Pita Pizza Redo

This Greek Pita pizza is one of the easiest dinners ever. I figured this uber old post circa 2011 deserved a re-do. I love the tapanade, spinach, and feta flavors. Making the pizza on pita bread means less than 15-minutes of cooking time. I added zucchini to it as well in case your farmer’s market finds or garden zuccs are out of control. This is a very veggie-centric meal  if you, like me, ate your weight in fun vacation-foods like pizza, and duck over mushroom risotto, and lobster mac & cheese, and blueberry ice cream…more on that later, now it is time for some veggies.

The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pita Pizza

Ingredients:

4 wheat pita breads
1 cup prepared tapanade
2 cups zucchini, sliced or chopped
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup feta

Directions:

In a large skillet, cook the zucchini over medium-low heat with a drizzle of olive oil, for about 3-4 minutes.
Add chopped spinach and cook for another 2 minutes until the spinach begins to wilt, but doesn’t get over cooked.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pita Pizza
Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
Spread the tapanade over the crusts.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pita Pizza
Then add mozzarella, and the spinach & zucchini mixture to the top. Sprinkle with dried oregano.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pita Pizza
Add feta on top and bake for 10-15 minutes. Cook for ~15 if eating it right away. If reheating another time for a different lunch or dinner, cook 10 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pita Pizza
I love this one. The flavors are all really good and there aren’t many ingredients. One of the keys is the tapanade. I used a red pepper & artichoke tapanade, but any you find would work. I don’t like olives so I use this one or sundried tomato pesto for this pizza.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pita Pizza
I don’t always add the zucchini so that can be optional. Fresh spinach is good or frozen spinach with all the water squeezed out. This one can be whipped up with mostly freezer/pantry ingredients!

Steakhouse Flatbread Pizzas

I was wanting to make his & hers pizzas. I don’t eat beef and Mr. J isn’t into mushrooms so this was the perfect time for individual pizzas. I was really into the idea of buttery mushrooms with a really good cheese. Being pregnant means only pasteurized cheeses and I had envisioned fontina but couldn’t find one labeled as such. I figure they are, but I’m not taking any chances. I found some asiago (labeled as pasteurized) and thought that would be good.

Steakhouse Flatbread Pizza - The Three Bite Rule
I had some naan pieces from Trader Joe’s which made really great individual pizzas.

Ingredients:

Pizza dough/flatbread/pita bread
1/4 red onion, chopped
3 tbs cream cheese
2 tbs milk
1 tbs garlic
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 oz shiitake or portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup mozzarella
1 cup asiago

Directions:

Saute chopped onions in olive oil over medium heat for 5-10 minutes until soft and lightly browned.
Steakhouse Flatbread Pizza - The Three Bite Rule
Mix up the cream cheese, milk, garlic, garlic powder, Parmesan, salt and pepper.
Steakhouse Flatbread Pizza - The Three Bite Rule
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat until it starts to foam. Add in the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.
Steakhouse Flatbread Pizza - The Three Bite Rule
Spread the flatbreads with the cream cheese sauce, then mozzarella and asiago.
Add onions and mushrooms on top.
Steakhouse Flatbread Pizza - The Three Bite Rule
Sprinkle remaining asiago on top.
Bake 5-10 minutes at 350-degrees until toasted and the cheese melts.
Steakhouse Flatbread Pizza - The Three Bite Rule
Enjoy!

I loved this one. The mushrooms were buttery and paired perfectly with the asiago.
Steakhouse Flatbread Pizza - The Three Bite Rule
Mr. J grilled some marinated steak tips and sliced it for the pizza. His started with the same flatbread, cream cheese sauce, mozzarella and asiago cheese mixture, onions, then topped with sliced steak.
Steakhouse Flatbread Pizza - The Three Bite Rule
These individual pizzas were topped with what we each like. These are a great to really customize for separate preferences but would also be a great way to use small amounts of leftovers.

Roasted Beets and Potatoes

I like beets but I really never make them. I think I like them when somebody makes them for me ;)

I mean, the grocery store sells so many ridiculously prepared things yet not roasted beets. It isn’t rocket science to roast them, but trying not to stain my hands, clothes, cutting boards while also not bringing the kitchen temperature to 1000 degrees.

I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do with some beets from the farmer’s market. Off to pinterest! I found The Heritage Cook’s beets and potatoes and thought it was a great combo. I thought it was a great starting point for me. I added the mustard and lemon juice to wake up the flavors and keep it fresh tasting.

Roasted Beets & Potatoes - The Three Bite Rule

Ingredients:

3 beets
2 potatoes
1 sweet potato
3 tbs melted butter
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbs chopped garlic
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp chopped chives
1/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.
Trim the beet greens off the beet and rinse well.
Rub with olive oil and loosely wrap in aluminum foil. Roast for 40 minutes. Poke with a fork to check if they are cooked through. Let cool to room temperature.

Roasted Beets & Potatoes - The Three Bite Rule
Quarter the potatoes, then boil the potatoes until cooked most of the way through.
When the beets are cool enough to handle, use a paper towel to rub the skin off. Then chop into quarters.
Roasted Beets & Potatoes - The Three Bite Rule
Heat a large heavy skillet to medium high heat.
Whisk together melted butter, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, dried rosemary, salt, & pepper.
Roasted Beets & Potatoes - The Three Bite Rule
Add the potatoes to the hot pan and the whisked dressing. Cook for 5 minutes to crisp the potatoes.
Roasted Beets & Potatoes - The Three Bite Rule
Remove the potatoes from the heat, into a large bowl. Add the beets. Pour the remaining liquid over the bowl and toss once. (Tossing too much will make everything beet-colored pink.)
Sprinkle in the fresh herbs.
Roasted Beets & Potatoes - The Three Bite Rule
This was good and paired well with a grilled pork chop. I didn’t want it to be too fall-feeling. Originally I was going to grill the potatoes, but I usually cook them a bit first. I cooked them a bit too much to then grill. I didn’t want them to fall apart, so I added them all to the skillet.

The sweet potato with the beets with the potato all complimented each other.
Roasted Beets & Potatoes - The Three Bite Rule

Kale Pesto Pasta Salad

Last fall Mr. J found a recipe for roasted kale pesto that he served over pork chops and polenta. I loved it and figured the pesto would be great for pasta salad.

The Three Bite Rule - Roasted Kale Pesto Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

1 head of kale
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tbs lemon juice
3 tbs Parmesan
1/2 pound pasta

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Tear the kale off the stems and spread onto a sheet pan.
Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper.
kale_pesto_590_390
Bake for 5 minutes, check and flip being careful not to let it burn. Cook for another 3 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Roasted Kale Pesto Pasta Salad
Transfer into a food processor with walnuts, lemon juice, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
The Three Bite Rule - Roasted Kale Pesto Pasta Salad
Blend until smooth while slowly streaming in the olive oil until you reach your desired thickness.
The Three Bite Rule - Roasted Kale Pesto Pasta Salad
Let cool. Boil salted water for the pasta. Cook until al dente and drain.
Toss with the pesto.
The Three Bite Rule - Roasted Kale Pesto Pasta Salad
Refrigerate over night, or at least 8 hours.
Toss with a drizzle of oil if it is too dry.
The Three Bite Rule - Roasted Kale Pesto Pasta Salad
I loved this. It could easily be a cool meal for some hot-weather. The pesto is unbelievable. I love this pesto but I think it blows regular pasta salad out of the water. That creamy mayo-heavy sweet pasta salad has nothing on this.

I couldn’t believe how much the color changed. The flavor deepens with time.

Zucchini Fritters

Years ago, I did a post of these fritters using summer squash. They were due for a re-do, this time they’re back to classic zucchini. I love them as a side dish and haven’t made them in a really long time. I made enough for dinner and lunch with just 1 zucchini.

The Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Fritters

Ingredients:

1 large zucchini
1/4 cup white onion, chopped
1 tbs garlic, chopped
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs or panko
1 tsp flour
1/4 cup parmesan cheese or feta
salt & pepper

Directions:

Grate the zucchini then press excess liquid out either through a mesh strainer or towels.
Add zucchini, onion, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, flour, cheese, salt and pepper to a large bowl.
The Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Fritters
Mix together. It should be sticky. If too wet, try adding more breadcrumbs/flour/cheese.
The Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Fritters
Heat a large pan with vegetable oil to medium heat. (or preheat an oven to 375 degrees to bake. Bake 20-30 minutes until golden brown)
Test the oil temp by dropping just a shred of zucchini in to see it sizzle.
Spoon 2-3 tbs of the mixture into the oil to fry. Let it cook on the first side for about 5 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Fritters

Flip to cook on the other side for about 4 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Fritters
Remove from the heat and let rest on a paper towel for any excess oil.
Enjoy!

I love these as a side. They go with anything. We grilled some pork chops and had these on the side. Othertimes I’ve had them alongside a salad for a filling meatless meal.
The Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Fritters

Suggested adaptations:

zucchini fritters – Parmesan + feta + artichoke hearts = Greek zucchini fritters
zucchini fritters + chopped tomatoes/sundried tomatoes + basil = summery zucchini fritters
zucchini fritters + shredded potato = lighter potato cake fritter

Marinated Cucumber Salad

Normally I throw English cukes into everything. For this salad, it was all about regular cukes. This is the easiest side dish ever. I threw it together while some pork ribs were slowly doing their thing in the oven, before hitting the grill. This cucumber salad is fresh, crisp, and crunchy.

The Three Bite Rule - Marinated Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber, pealed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/2 tsp dill
1-2 tsp sugar

Directions:

In a jar, shake together the oil, vinegar, dill, and sugar.
The Three Bite Rule - Marinated Cucumber Salad
Add the cucumber slices, and mix well.
The Three Bite Rule - Marinated Cucumber Salad
Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Serve & enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Marinated Cucumber Salad
My mom used to make simple cucumber salads and simple tomato salads. They are such a great fresh side during BBQ season. They go with anything and are exactly what you need with a burger, something grilled, or something saucy.

Brown Butter Pasta with Summer Veggies

I figured out how to take the mystery out of brown butter. Making it in white-bottomed pot made it sooo much easier. There wasn’t a risk of the butter going too far.

The Three Bite Rule - Brown Butter Pasta

Ingredients:

1 stick butter (not margarine or a butter substitute)
1/2 pound of pasta (rigatoni or penne or other short pasta)
asparagus spears
1 cup corn
1 1/2 cup tomatoes (cherry or grape)
6-8 basil leaves (optional)
2 tsp grated Parmesan

Directions:

Heat a large flat pan to medium heat.
Cut the butter into chunks and add to the pan.
The Three Bite Rule - Brown Butter Pasta
Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
Whisk the butter as it melts, watching for it to foam up.
Cut the asparagus into 4ths, and spread out onto a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil. Roast the asparagus for about 7 minutes.
Boil plenty of salted water for the pasta.
When the butter starts to get light tan specks on the bottom, start whisking.
The Three Bite Rule - Brown Butter Pasta
Keep whisking as it gets brown all over the bottom of the pan, and then remove from heat, about 2 minutes. If it stays heating too long it will burn and you’ll have to start over.
Add the tomatoes and the corn onto the pan with the asparagus and return to the oven for about 5-7 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Brown Butter Pasta
Put the pasta into the salted water, cook according to package.
Drain the pasta.
Toss the pasta with the roasted veggies and the brown butter. Sprinkle with basil and a touch of Parmesan.
The Three Bite Rule - Brown Butter Pasta
I loved this. The veggies were a great blend. The asparagus still had some crunch while the tomatoes added some moisture. The corn was pretty much for color and a touch of sweetness. I looove brown butter.

When I’ve made it in my dark-bottomed pots I found it hard to tell when it was done – versus too-done. This time I made it in a flat dutch oven. The glazed pot made it really easy to tell when it was ready. I love the nutty flavor. It is seriously the easiest sauce for pasta. It is good on filled pasta that still need to be the highlight…like lobster ravioli or pumpkin ravioli.

Asian Salad with Peanut Butter Chicken

This salad is sooo easy and only took a few special touches to make it something special. This Asian-inspired salad is the perfect meal to make dinner seem different. If you cook and shred the chicken in advance, this would be a 10 minute meal! I also might skip the chicken on the salad and grill some sesame garlic wing to go with this.

The Three Bite Rule - Asian Salad with Peanut Butter Chicken

Ingredients:

3 chicken tenders, each cut in half
8 oz Broccoli slaw
2-3 tbs sesame soy vinaigrette (bottled or 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tbs rice vinegar, 1 tsp soy sauce whisked together)
1/4 peanut butter
2 tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup edemame, shelled and cooked
orange segments (or packaged Mandarin oranges with no sugar added)
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup crispy wonton strips (found in the produce area, or make your own)

Directions:

Bring a pot of water to a low boil. Then add the chicken. Cook for about ten minutes. Check that it is cooked through, if not keep cooking.
Toss broccoli slaw with dressing in a large bowl.
The Three Bite Rule - Asian Salad with Peanut Butter Chicken
When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken.
In a small pot add the peanut butter on low, stirring occasionally until melted.
Stir in the soy sauce, and remove from the heat.
The Three Bite Rule - Asian Salad with Peanut Butter Chicken
Toss the shredded chicken into the peanut sauce to coat well.
The Three Bite Rule - Asian Salad with Peanut Butter Chicken
Top the salad with orange segments, edemame, cashews, crispy wonton strips, and chicken.
The Three Bite Rule - Asian Salad with Peanut Butter Chicken
I loved this. I could eat this regularly. The chicken feels kind of heavy and thick from the peanut butter, but the sharpness of the broccoli slaw dressing balances it. The sweet oranges are bright with lots of crisp texture from the nuts and wonton strips. The broccoli slaw was a welcome change from other greens. I love it.

This is such a cheap one, especially since it uses very little chicken.

Cost breakdown of Asian Salad with Peanut Butter Chicken:

(cost per quantity that was used)
broccoli slaw: $2.00
chicken tenders: $2.50
edemame: $0.25
packaged oranges: $1.00
cashews: $1.50
wonton strips: $1.00
total = $8.25 for 3 servings, or $2.75 per person

You might be able to grab the edemame from the salad bar, which would make it super cheap without any leftovers. The wonton strips aren’t totally necessary with the nuts so you could skip one or the other if you wanted to simplify a bit.

I’ll totally make this again.

Calzone with Cabbage and flavors of a Reuben

One of my favorite pizza places is Portland Pie Company. I love seeing what their seasonal menu offers. I spotted a reuben inspired sandwich and thought I could vegetarian-ize it to skip the corned beef. I made it into a calzone and it was totally different than any others I’ve made. It has cabbage, peppers, swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and 1000-island dressing.

The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone

Ingredients:

pizza dough
1/2 cabbage
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1/4 red onion
1/2 bell pepper (green, yellow, orange)
8 oz swiss cheese
1/4 cup mayo
2 tbs ketchup
2 tbs relish
2 tbs onion, finely diced
salt & black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven (and pizza stone, if using one) to 400-degrees. Chop the cabbage into thin slivers. Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add the mustard and the vinegar, stirring to combine. Add in the cabbage, tossing to combine. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
Cook for 5 minutes until softened, then remove from the heat. In a small skillet, caramelize the onions over medium heat. When the onions get tan-colored and caramelized, add the green onion chunks. Cook for 3-5 minutes. In a small jar, add mayo, ketchup, relish, onion, salt, and black pepper. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
Shake up the 1000 island jar and taste. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
Stretch the pizza dough out into a flat and even circle. Lay the dough onto a pan or pizza stone so the part of the dough that will become the bottom. Layer the cabbage, the onions and peppers, swiss cheese, and some teaspoons of 1000 island dressing. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
Keep layering all the fillings to fill (and what feels like over-filling) the calzone. Fold the top over and pinch to close. Cut a few slits in the top to vent. Bake 30-minutes. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
Let rest 5 minutes before slicing. The Three Bite Rule - Reuban Inspired Veggie Calzone
This was good. Maybe not amazing, but really good. I loved the acid of the vinegar, the light mustard flavor, and the creamy sweet 1000 island dressing. The veggies were crunchy and I liked that the swiss got to shine. I don’t eat corned beef but I can definitely see people liking that.

suggested adaptations: 
Reuben calzone + corned beef = a true reuben calzone
reuben calzone – pizza dough + wonton wrappers = reuben eggrolls

I like the idea of sandwiches as calzones, or pizzas for that matter. I’ve done a cheeseburger calzone that is sandwich inspired, and a sausage and peppers calzone that is sort of like a sandwich. Hmmm. Maybe my next calzone will be along the lines of a sandwich.