Spinach and Artichoke Pockets

I love creamed spinach as an ingredient. It has tons of flavor and is great for a sauce and for serious color. I used it in place of sauce in deep dish pizza. This time I thought it would help make spinach and artichoke dip. I baked it into puff pastry pockets to turn dip into dinner!

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Ingredients:

1 pkg creamed spinach
2 cups artichoke hearts
2 tbs garlic, chopped
1 tbs cream cheese
1 cup fresh spinach
4 slices fresh turkey/4 chicken tenders, pre-cooked
1 cup shredded mozzarella/shredded monterey jack
salt & pepper
1 sheet of puff pastry

Directions:

Sautee artichoke hearts in a large pan over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add creamed spinach, garlic, cream cheese, and fresh spinach to the pan. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
Chop and add pre-cooked turkey/chicken, cooking for another 3-5 minutes.
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Roll out puff pastry from ¼ inch thickness to ⅛ inch (sheet should almost double in size)
Cut puff pastry into squares. Lay out if forming into pockets. Or lay into ramekins/muffin tins.
Fill each with spinach/artichoke mixture.
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Add shredded cheese and fold/close.
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Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.
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This was such a fun and different kind of dinner. I made these pockets into ramekins so I didn’t have to worry if they exploded. Smaller ones would be fun for a party.
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The turkey I had wasn’t in tip-top shape (it lived in the freezer for a bit) so I figured it’s only use could be cooked into something. It added a bit of protein but wasn’t a crucial addition.

Any other apps turned dinner ideas out there?

Cookbook: Breakfast for Dinner

Do you make breakfast for dinner? I love to throw that into the mix and it is such a helpful theme for keeping dinner budget friendly and for keeping dinner varied. I was psyched to see Breakfast for Dinner by Lindsay landis and Taylor Hackbarth. Lindsay writes Love & Olive Oil and wrote Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook.
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Besides the beautiful photos, I love that these are different recipes. This is no ‘scrambled-eggs-for-dinner’. These are real dinners, inspired by breakfast. I thought maple glazed meatballs was genius. Habanero-cheddar bread pudding? Yes please! Cornmeal pancakes with beer-braised short ribs also sounded amazing. The sunny side up burgers are a great idea (with a touch of crispy potatoes!) and will definitely be part of my menu planning sometime.
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Italian-Style Stuffed French Toast

adapted from Breakfast For Dinner

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves
½ cup whole-milk ricotta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
3 tbs chopped basil
1 tsp dried oregano
salt & pepper
4 slices french bread
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp garlic powder
1 cup marinara sauce, warmed

Directions:

Mix ricotta, Parmesan, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.
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Cut a pocket into the bread horizontally with a small sharp knife. Cut into the bottom of the bread, starting small and cutting deeper while leaving a ¼ inch intact around the other edges.
Gently stuff ricotta mixture into the bread.
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Whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a shallow dish/bowl.
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Heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium heat and spray with nonstick spray.
Gently dunk and coat stuffed bread pieces into the egg mix.
Pan fry on each side for about 3 minutes.
Top with marinara to serve.
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I loved the flavors. I thought this savory stuffed french toast was great. The original recipe called for sauteed spinach mixed with the ricotta. That would be right up my ally, but I was out of spinach and lots of fresh basil. I left out the spinach, and upped the basil.

Occasionally I crave pancakes, but normally, I’m not seeking sweet for breakfast. This cookbook is perfect for lots of savory options.
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I truly love this book and thought it would be a great gift after being a house-guest. Cooking breakfast just seems so do-able and I think anyone would feel comfortable picking out something and whipping it up. Breakfast for dinner is also super fast…like fast enough to help allow you to watch the entire 3-hour Bachelor finale. 3 hours…that’s like a movie! Nope, don’t know who would need to fit those 3 hours into their week. Surely not me ;)

Full 3 Bite Rule Disclosure: My copy of Breakfast For Dinner was completely complimentary but my thoughts, opinions, and words are entirely my own.

French Bread Pizza

Hope you had a deliciously snowy weekend like I did! Just you wait. I cooked some fun stuff I can’t wait to share with you. Too bad I don’t have an recipe for snow, because we got walloped and there’s plenty to go around. I think our official count was 22 inches.

I’ve shared a great deal of pizzas but I hear all the time how annoying/tricky dough can be. I agree. It can be tough. I’ve had a few struggles myself (like here, or here), so I figured it was about time for a pizza without a doughy crust.

Enter: French bread pizza (forget that the bread packaging says Italian Bread)
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Ingredients:

3 tbs butter/margarine
1 tbs garlic, chopped
½ tsp garlic powder
4 tbs grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
sprinkle of salt, pepper, & Italian seasoning
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella
toppings of your choosing

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Melt butter, adding garlic, cheese, and seasonings.
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Half bread, lengthwise.
Spread butter, garlic, and seasonings onto each half and bake for 5 minutes.
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Remove from the oven and top with sauce and cheese
french_bread_pizza_tobake_590_390Add the toppings of your choice!
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Bake 15 more minutes or until melty and crisp.
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I loved how quick this pizza is. Everything is already cooked. It also cuts into a lot of pieces if you wanted to serve it at a party. 1 loaf ended up being 5 servings. I think it would be the fastest freezer meal to have on hand for when nobody feels like cooking.

The garlic base helps elevate it from a frozen pre-made pizza to an easy but delicious one. I took out half a few minutes earlier than the half we were eating that night. I hoped it’d help the lunch-reheating portion not to be overdone. That’s something you can’t do with a regular pizza!

Also, you remember my sous-chef? Here’s Windsor. He was sitting pretty but the delicious smells of pizza on the counter got the better of him. Don’t his white whiskers make him look distinguished?
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Allow me to introduce my new sous-chef. Bailee comes to us from Maine (much like Windsor) and has been a fixture in the C family for all 8 years of her life so far. She’s living with us now (and maybe for keeps). I’m also her favorite when I’m cooking. She’s a bit portly so Mr. J has a grand-slimdown-plan. So far it has only involved fewer snacks than she’s used to and a few extra trips up and down our stairs. The snow is taller than she is so she’s not overly impressed with the backyard right now.
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Sherry Tomato Soup

Nothing says “winter meal” more than soup. Creamy tomato soup…spiked with wine. The nice folks at Tuttorosso sent me some canned tomatoes to try (and I got a beautiful new le creuset from Mr. J for Christmas) to debut so soup was in order. Don’t breeze through this thinking “didn’t she just make tomato soup?” That was different. this is different.
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I made Ree Drummond’s Sherried Tomato Soup and loved it. It stands up to her thought that after tasting it, “solemnity and peace will be within reach”. True story.

It is totally flavorful and comforting. I served it with some grilled cheeses and was thoroughly impressed. I liked how heavy-handed she is with the sherry. She’s also heavy handed with the cream making this delightful and it off-sets the sherry a bit.

Sherried Tomato Soup

(adapted from Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients:

1 small onion, chopped (next time I’d reduce this to ¼ cup)
3 tbs butter
1 tbs garlic, chopped
28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups tomato juice
2 tbs sugar
½ cup chicken broth
1 cup cooking sherry
1 ½ cups heavy cream
chopped parsley, basil, ground pepper (optional)

Directions:

Heat a pot over medium heat and add onions and butter, cooking until translucent, adding garlic just for the last minute or two of cooking.
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Add canned tomatoes, tomato juice, sugar, and broth cooking for 5-10 minutes to heat through and release the flavors and sugars, not boiling.
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While first few soup ingredients are cooking, assemble grilled cheeses or prep garlic bread.
Reduce heat to medium-low, and add sherry.
Now is an opportune time to start grilled cheeses or garlic bread for dipping. Cook soup for another 5 minutes.
Turn heat off, and add cream & herbs.
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Serve & enjoy!

I loved the super strong tang of the sherry. Mr. J thought it was a bit too intense. You can reduce the amount or cook it a bit longer. I think soup gets a bad wrap and should be very flavorful. None of that Oliver Twist watery cabbage junk. This soup is like a warm itch-less-sweater wrapping like a hug around you.
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I liked this one reheated. If you’re feeling fancy, only add some of the cream to the part you’re eating right then. Reheating the soup, with the cream in it, isn’t for everyone. I like it though. A dollop of plain greek yogurt in each bowl, instead of the cream would be good. I got about 5 good-size servings out of this.

Talk about McSteamy! (Also, I know. I’m aware my placemats are still supporting the holidays. All they need is a flip to the reverse to become winter versus Christmas. I’m delaying the holidays-being-over thing.)
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Full 3 Bite Rule Disclosure: Tuttorosso sent me a set of samples of their canned tomato products to try out and taste. The product samples were completely complimentary but my experience, thoughts, opinions, and words are entirely my own. They are offering an apron giveaway for the first 4,000 people to “like” their page on facebook and who provide an original recipe. Also one lucky winner gets $500 to cooking.com. 

Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprouts Hash

Happy New Year! December included a vacation then the whirlwind of the holidays in MA & ME. It was an awesome few weeks but I feel like now it is is major detox time. Time to eat real food and get back to the routine. There were some amazing meals on vacay, Christmases with both families, holiday parties, a cookie swap, some festive beverages etc.
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I spotted this easy sweet potato and brussels sprouts hash on Culinary Colleen’s blog. It looked awesome for brunch. I thought it could be an easy and balanced dinner.

Ingredients:
2 small sweet potatoes quartered
2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed
4 strips of bacon
1 tbs chopped garlic
2 eggs

Directions:
Partially boil the potatoes and cook until the potatoes are halfway cooked.
Steam the brussels sprouts while pan frying the bacon.
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Drain the bacon, leaving the pan coated with bacon grease.
Cook potatoes, brussels sprouts, and garlic in the bacon pan.
When potatoes and sprouts are getting gently browned and crisp turn to low and keep warm. Add bacon just before serving.
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Pan fry eggs over easy, or poach the eggs.
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Serve eggs over the potato and sprout hash.
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I liked this. It was super easy. I think I should have dripped in a little liquid smoke, but the bacon gave a great smokiness. I don’t think I’d crave this weekly, but it was a nice change up and was only 1 pot and 1 pan to make. Love that!

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Spoiler alert: the soup isn’t life changing. It is good enough. Maybe yours will be better. The flavors were great, it was perfect for a chilly day- I just wish I had a better blender. If you have a good blender, whip up this soup. (literally). I was itching for soup to complete my fall list. It is a good one to celebrate Boxing Day.
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Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower
2 tbs good olive oil
1 cup milk
½ cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 tbs grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp chopped garlic
salt & pepper

Directions:

Cut the florets off the head of cauliflower and roast in a 400-degree oven coated liberally in olive oil, salt and pepper.
cauliflower_soup_raw_590_390Turn occasionally every 20 minutes. Cook for 40 minutes at 400-degrees.
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Add milk, sour cream, Parmesan, and garlic to a blender or food processor.
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Blend until smooth. (mine was less than silky textured)
Add salt and pepper to taste.
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My blending was kind of a catastrophe. I tried my food processor, my smoothie machine, and an immersion blender. My smoothie machine is a Magic Bullet and has been kicking since about 2004? It was my best option here. I just couldn’t do much at a time. It does not chop or dice like advertised. It can puree really well though!

My food processor and blender is one machine and has severely let me down. The blender part doesn’t work well. It whirls and doesn’t seem to do much. The food processor has been great (for the few months I’ve had it) but was dribbling and didn’t even make it smooth.

The immersion is just an attachment to my hand mixer so I don’t expect much…rightly so.

I make frozen fruit & yogurt smoothies verrrrry often to know the liquid ratio is often important, the fill level affects it, and manually scraping the sides or stirring it can help greatly. I was very frustrated and thought it would have looked lovely if it was smoother.

It tasted good. I drizzled a little truffle oil on top since that can make anything better. I served some crunchy toasts on the side for dipping. We liked it, but I wasn’t satisfied with the consistency.

I learned that my tools were inadequate in this circumstance but that Mr. J will make the best of any dinner, despite how frustrated or disappointed I get. It was also a great reminder that roasted cauliflower is reallllly good and I should just make that sometimes. Maybe I’ll redeem myself with another soup. I love pumpkin & black bean. Loaded baked potato could be fun with toppings. Corn chowder is fun. Hmmm. The wheels are churning.

Stuffed Crust Pizza

I don’t know why Pizza is associated with Friday. I think Monday deserves pizza just as much! I was racking my brain to figure out what kind of pizza I hadn’t ever tried. Ahh ha! Stuffed Crust!
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Ingredients:
Pizza dough
3-4 string cheese sticks (I used a provolone mozzarella mix)
1 cup marinara sauce (I use Pastene Kitchen Ready Tomatoes)
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
8 oz shredded mozzarella

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees (if using a pizza stone, preheat it as well).
Spread pizza dough out onto the pan/stone. Make sure it is spread very thin, it will fold in and become an inch smaller.
Cut cheese sticks into small pieces and spread them around the edge.
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Fold the edge over, closing the cheese inside. Crimp with a fork. Be sure the cheese is fully surrounded by the dough. Roll cheese so it is surrounded 1.5-2 times. (unlike mine)
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Bake 10 minutes until doughy edges begin to crisp.
Spread sauce, spices, and shredded cheese on top.
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Return to the oven baking for another 10-20 minutes. Remove when cheese is melted and crust has crisped.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

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I had some oozing sections. I covered those spots with sauce and cheese. I think making sure the cheese stuffing is wrapped around more than once to ensure it won’t bust through the seams.

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas

Today I wanted to kick off a new Friday series. I’m calling this one Tonight & Take 2. I get questions about how I have all the ingredients for everything I make or how I come up with what I make.
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The reason I have an ingredient on hand is because:
a) I live to avoid grocery shopping so leftovers are planned to a T
b) using-what-I-have is my middle name
c) cooking for 2 of us means a whole package/container/item needs creativity so we aren’t eating the same thing day in and day out.

I just don’t usually share how I plan to use the other half. I might use part of the whole for a recipe but now you’re going to see how that happens. I also might make something and space out the blog posts so you think each posted item was spaced out. Aren’t you excited?!

Here are my meal planning tips here and here. Now, back to using an ingredient to make 2 totally different dishes.

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas

Ingredients:

½ roasted butternut squash
1 cup black beans
8 oz shredded monterey jack cheese or pepper jack
1 tbs liquid smoke (optional)
1 tbs salsa
8 wheat tortillas

Directions:

Fill each tortilla with squash, black beans, and cheese.
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Roll up and top with enchilada sauce.
Bake covered for 20 minutes at 350-degrees.
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These were flavorful and I loooved the smoke flavor with the squash. The beans make it filling and balanced. Does this have you thinking about another leftover that would be good in here? Throw it in! Go crazy!

Now, these enchiladas were take 2 on a roasted butternut squash. Round one was a fall pizza with butternut squash, gouda, and bacon.
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Butternut Squash Lasagna Redo

I posted this butternut squash lasagna last year but I thought it it needed a little re-do.
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Don’t judge this lasagna until you try it. It is seriously so good and a great fall food. I love this one! It is much faster to prep & cook than traditional Italian lasagna.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

(adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, roasted
16 oz ricotta cheese
½ cup cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
½ box lasagna noodles

Directions:

Roast butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees. (this could be done the day before)
Combine ricotta, cream cheese, egg yolk, and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.
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Mix squash and chicken stock over medium low heat.
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To assemble lasagna: spread noodles on the bottom of a 9×9 baking pan; top with ricotta mixture and some cheese; layer more noodles; top with butternut squash mixture.
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Repeat laying noodles then ricotta and cheese, then noodles, then squash and repeating until all the layers are used.The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna
Sprinkle some cheese on top.
Bake 30 minutes at 375.
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I sprinkled some fresh basil in there. I love the flavor combo and I hadn’t grabbed a package of sage. I think the fresh-factor is important and sage makes it more fall-ish.

See? Pretty simple and it’ll feed a crowd. It is a great dinner to prep in advance and stick in the oven for just little fuss. It reheated well and I froze leftover pieces.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna (serves 6-9)

1 butternut squash: $1.89
16 oz. ricotta: $1.99
4 oz. cream cheese: $0.62
1 egg yolk: $1.24
16 oz. mozzarella: $3.59
4 oz. Parmesan cheese: $1.98
8 oz. chicken stock: $0.11 ($2.99 jar/25 cubes=11 cents per cube/cup)
8 oz. lasanga noodles: $1.00
total cost = $12.42/9 servings = $1.38 per serving
Even cutting larger pieces (6 instead of 9) comes to $2.07 per serving!

I had some leftover noodles. Early on in your layers, take a quick count how many noodles fit so you don’t run out mid layer when you could have scooched a few. I cut the up the leftover noodles with a little sauce and some cheese. Pow! Pop a meatball on and I’ve got a last minute dinner in the freezer some night! My resourceful Momma taught me well!
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna

What I Ate: Salad Bar

Well, we’ve made it to Friday! Somehow it always seems like an accomplishment. A wise gal, Ms. D, told me “I like to call it big Friday. Thursday is like little Friday.” I like that.

I’ve been really into salads for dinner so I wanted to throw this idea your way. We like salad bar dinner to each customize and because it’s all the fun stuff at the salad bar that make it fun food. Toppings to a sundae.
3 Bite Rule - Salad Bar
There’s nothing super crazy in this bar, but it’s a good use for leftovers!