Saturday, May 29, 2010

"The Cheese Dip"

One of my favorite items to bring to a "bring-a-dish" gathering is the famous cheese dip. I've been making this dip for several years and it is a 100% fan favorite. Most friends tell me "Just bring the cheese dip." What do I love even more about this dip...ITS SO EASY! Its almost a relief to be told to bring the cheese dip. Next time you need an easy appetizer...all you need is a crock pot and 3 ingredients.

"The Cheese Dip"

1 lb Sausage, cooked and crumbled (I use Jimmy Dean HOT because I like the extra kick!)
1 Can Rotel
1 Block Velveeta Cheese

Spray crockpot with nonstick spray
Cut up block of velveeta cheese into 1 inch cubes
Place evenly into crock pot
Turn crockpot to high, the trick is to constantly pay attention. I often switch between high and low and refrain from opening the lid although its so tempting! Too long on high and you will have the cheese burned to the side of your crockpot. Low is always a safe way to go but will take longer if you would like to leave it and forget about it.
Cook sausage on medium until all the pink is gone. Crumble while you cook to get the best results for your sausage. Most times I don't drain my sausage, but if your sausage has an extremely large amount of grease feel free to discard
The best time to open up your crock pot to add the remaining ingredients is when you notice that your cheese cubes have now melted evenly in your crockpot
Add your sausage and can of rotel and stir
Continue to stir until you reach the consistency of your choosing. If you feel the dip is thicker than you like, you can easily add a half cup of milk. I prefer mine to be more seems to go a much longer way.

Most of this recipe is just touch. I've made crockpot after crockpot and have finally found the mix that works for me. I've also added cream cheese to give a creamier texture. Its a completely flexible recipe that is sure to please any group! Enjoy! =)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Southwest Chicken Roll Ups and Balsamic Sesame Asparagus

Another yummy selection of food for tonight! The southwest chicken roll ups aren't exactly "photogenic" but they are a simple weeknight meal that pleases the stomach! I paired this tonight with asparagus that I roasted with a good bit of oils. The asparagus definitely won the show tonight. Enjoy! =)

Southwestern Chicken Roll Ups

You'll need...
6 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I like to use smaller pieces of chicken and reduce the amount "stuffing"...portion sizes can get out of control easily)
6 tablespoons (about 3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (I used Fat Free)
6 tablespoons picante sauce
6 cilantro sprigs (I used extra...I love cilantro)
6 tablespoons Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs (I once again used Panko Japanese Breadcrumbs and sprinkled in Italian seasoning to blend)
Cooking spray

Get cookin!

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Top each breast half with 1 tablespoon cheese, 1 tablespoon picante sauce, and 1 cilantro sprig. Roll up jelly-roll fashion, beginning at narrow end.

Dredge chicken rolls in breadcrumbs. Place rolls, seam sides down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; lightly coat rolls with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until chicken is done. **Note: Mine took WELL over 20 minutes...I would say more likely 35-40.

Toasted Sesame Balsamic Asapargus

2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound asparagus
2 teaspoons Toasted Sesame Seed
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar (I used one packet of splenda)
2 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon Red Pepper, Crushed

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spread sesame oil in foil-lined baking pan. Wash asparagus and break off stalks as far down as they snap easily, 1 to 2 inches from ends. Roll asparagus in sesame oil. Sprinkle with sesame seed. Arrange asparagus in single layer.
2. Roast in oven 10 minutes or until tender-crisp.
3. Mix vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and red pepper in small bowl. Remove asparagus from oven; place on serving platter. Drizzle with soy sauce mixture.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers & Baked O-Rings

Tonight was what I would like to call a "Party in my Mouth". My future father-in-law is originally from Lebanon. Over the past couple of years I've gotten to taste so much fabulous Lebanese cuisine and loved ever bit of it! Many Lebanese dishes include olive oil, garlic, lemon juices, parsley and chickpeas...all of which are ingredients for this burger. I found the recipe for the Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers in Cooking Light, November 2009. I was so pumped to see how it turned out and it was a winner. Consider it a new recipe to the short list! As for my onion rings...its constantly been a recipe that I have been tweeking to get the way I want it. Tonights were a winner!

Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers

1 (8 oz.) red potato
3 T olive oil, divided
1 t minced garlic
1 (15.5oz.) can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, rinsed, drained and divided
1 T fresh chopped parsley
1/2 t salt
1/2 t grated lemon rind
1/2 t paprika
1/3 t freshly ground black pepper
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten

1. Place Potato in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook 20 minutes until very tender. Drain. Cool slightly. Coursely chop, and place in medium bowl. Add 1 T soil and garlic to bowl; mash potato mixture with a potato masher until slightly chunky. Remove 3 T chickpeas; place in a small bowl. Add remaining chickpeas to potato mixture; mash until well blended. Stir in remaining 3 T whole chickpeas, parsley and remaining ingredients. With moistened hands, divide mixture into 3 equal portions
2. Heat 1 T soil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add your 3 patties to pan; reduce heat to medium, and cook 4 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Move to the size and spread 1 T olive oil back into the pan and flip the patties and cook until the bottoms have browned

I served mine on whole wheat buns that I toasted in the toaster oven and they were delish!

Now for the O-Rings....I've been working on this and one day will come up with the perfect recipe. However, tonights were definitely a good version 3.

Baked O-Rings

2 T All-Purpose Flower
1/4 t Salt
Panko Breadcrumbs also known as Japanese Breadcrumbs
Italian Seasoning
1/4 c fat-free egg substitute
2 large onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick and separated into double rings

1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray a nonstick baking sheet with nonstick spray. Mix the flour and salt on a sheet of wax paper. Put the egg substitute in a shallow dish.
2. Coat each double onion ring on both sides with the flour mixture, shaking off the excess; dip into egg substitute, then into crumbs.
**There is a definite method to the madness when using panko. It doesn't stick quite like regular breadcrumbs. If you can imagine your finger as an axle with the onion ring as a wheel, its best to "wheel" your onion ring through the Panko/Italian Seasoning mix. Its also best to use a little at a time with the Panko/Seasoning mix. Once the egg substitute gets on the crumbs laying out they tend to not stick as little as you go will keep your onion rings better battered. Also, keep in mind when you using the panko you are also not going to have a "full" breading. You will notice that in my picture. But, since Panko are crunchy you will still have a good tasting O-ring. **
Transfer to the baking sheet; spray with nonstick spray
3. Bake until browned on the bottom, approximately 10 minutes. Turn and bake until browned, about 5 minutes

This one still needs some tweeking...expect a new recipe in a few weeks. If you like the taste of breading when you normally eat onion rings...this probably isn't a recipe for you. This is more like a crunchy onion slice...even the DF who doesn't like onion likes each to their own. Enjoy!

Breakfast Casserole

Most mornings, there is really no time to contribute to the kitchen. I meander one-eyed to the kitchen to try to find something to hold me over to lunch time. However...I have found a cure! Breakfast Casseroles are virtually one of the easiest make ahead breakfasts that one can make. The best part...its totally versatile! Aside from a few kitchen staples, you can use your own ingredients to create the perfectly customized breakfast casserole of your choice. I used bacon and spinach in mine...but the possibilities are endless...sausage, mushrooms, extra cheese, ham, name it! There is so much protein in this recipe that often times I feel satisfied until my internal lunch time alarm goes off at 11:30am. Enjoy!

Breakfast Casserole ala Sassy Pants

You will need:
- 8x8 Baking Dish (If you do not own one, simply alter the sizes of the ingredients to fit with your baking dish)
- Non Stick Spray
- 1.5 Cups of Egg Substitute
- 1 Cup of Skim Milk
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Cup of Reduced Fat Feta Cheese
- 1/2 Cup of FF Cheddar Cheese
- 6 Slices of Light Whole Wheat Bread, Crusts removed, tear into small 1/2 inch pieces
- 7 Slices of Center Cut Bacon, Cook and chop into small pieces
- 1 10oz box of Frozen Spinach, Cook according to box directions (I usually utilize the microwave here...quickest way) and drain all of the liquid you possibly can out of the spinach

Get cookin!

- Preheat oven to 350ยบ
- Spray baking dish with Non Stick Spray
- Combine all ingredients except for your bread pieces and FF Cheddar into a mixing bowl and stir well
- Place bread pieces into your baking dish
- Pour mixing bowl contents into baking dish and stir around with bread pieces to mix well
- Cook for around 35 minutes or until a knife/toothpick comes will notice the egg start to set
- Sprinkle Fat Free Cheddar Cheese on top and place back in oven for about 5-10 minutes or until cheese melts

**Note: Fat Free Cheddar does not melt very don't be surprised if the texture is more like harder cheese topping as opposed to gooey...but the taste is still amazing

**HOT Tip: I like to put a little Texas Pete on top of my piece when I eat my breakfast casserole...I've determined that hot sauce truly can go on anything!

Buffalo Chicken Lasagna

This is the ultimate favorite of recipes in this household. I started making this a few years ago after hearing about it from Weight Watchers members. Its healthy, filling and just absolutely delicious for those who love spicy and hot foods!

- 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles, uncooked
- 1 lb. skinless chicken breast, cubed
- 3 c. Hunt's 4-Cheese Pasta Sauce
- 1 c. buffalo wing sauce
- 1 1/2 c. water
- 15 oz. nonfat ricotta cheese
- 1/2 c. egg substitute
- 9 slices 2% pepperjack cheese ( I typically sprinkle bleu cheese crumbles over the top)

Preheat the oven @ 350. Spray skillet w/NS spray. Cook chicken over medium/high heat for 4 minutes or until almost done. Stir in sauces & water. In a small bowl, combine ricotta cheese & egg substitute. Spray a 9x13" pan w/NS spray. Spread 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of pan. Arrange 4 noodles over the sauce. Spread more sauce, then a layer of ricotta mixture. Add another layer of sauce, and repeat the whole process until you end w/a layer of sauce. Cover & bake 70 minutes. Uncover & place cheese slices on top, then bake another 15 minutes uncovered. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

** Texture Tip: I usually try to let it set out longer after cooking so that it has a longer amount of time to firm up, this is not an overly solid lasagna, definitely adhere to the portions. I have also made this recipe the night before and reheated it the next day and had much better luck with it being more solid.
** Time Saving Tip: I also try to cook my chicken the night before and cube it up previously to save time to make it!

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