Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Squares

This is another recipe from the wonderful blog How Sweet It Is. Based on my assessment of my most popular blog posts, you love her recipes. Remember Creamy Caprese Pasta and Easy Beer Mac and Cheese? She is responsible for both lovely meals. If you like those, I bet you'll like these. 

These are tasty. They remind me of a granola bar, but better and fresher and softer. The best thing about this recipe? There is no oil and no butter. Perfect for those of you trying to incorporate healthy, yet sweet, dishes into your life. Or is that just me?

I would suggest adding a little more chocolate chips and a little more brown sugar if you'd like a sweeter, more dessert-like dish. These were definitely sweet, but not enough to qualify as a dessert in my mind. So, if you're looking for a good snack bar, this recipe is perfect for you. Oh, and guilt-free. Love it!

As always this is my version of the recipe, but you can find the orginal recipe here. Enjoy!


*1 cup flour (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup white flour - all whole wheat flour will be too grainy and dry!)
*1 cup old fashioned oats
*1 teaspoon baking soda
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1/2 cup brown sugar
*3/4 cups creamy peanut butter
*1 tablespoon vanilla extract
*1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
*1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

*In a large bowl, add peanut butter and sugar and mix with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add in vanilla extract and mix until combined.

*Add in flour, oats, salt and baking soda, mixing on medium speed. The dough will look crumbly and you want the peanut butter mix to be broken up into clumps.

*Add milk with the mixer on low speed, and mix until a dough forms. Fold in chocolate chips.

*Make sure dough is completely combined, and roll it into a ball with your hands. Place it in the middle of an 8×8 baking dish, pressing it to fit.

*Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until set and golden on top. Let cool completely, then cut into squares.


Hello, yumminess in a ball.

Golden and delicous.

Guilt-free, tasty snack. What more could you want?

Linguine All'Amatriciana with Spicy Mozzarella Meatballs

I'm guessing you looked at this title and went, huh?! You want me to make what? I can't even pronounce that! Well, at least that's what I said when I read the title. However, I was oh, so wrong. I mean, seriously wrong.

This. Was. Delicious. Oh my goodness. John loved this. I know I say that a lot, but he took a bite and went, "BEST meatballs EVER!" He then thoughtfully reminded me how much he loved BBQ meatballs, especially my Honey BBQ Meatballs. However, he clearly has a new favorite - thank you Katie and Giada! - because he exclaimed several times during the meal that these meatballs were amazing, and, "the BEST EVER!" Score one for me. :)

The original recipe came from Giada at Home, written by the popular Food Network chef. My dear friend Katie posted this recipe on her blog - awesome, check it out! - and I knew I had to try it. After some taste tests along the way I made some modifications, so I've included my version of the recipe below. For the original, go to Katie's blog. Either way, let me know what you think.

And, please, make this ASAP! This. Is. Amazing. We are definitely making it again. And soon. YUM!

On a side note, I must admit that while this is an easy recipe, it is a bit time-consuming, as I've found most homemade meatballs are. Just wanted to let you know in full disclosure. However, I promise you that it is worth it. Oh, it is so, so worth it.

Linguine All'Amatriciana with Spicy Mozzarella Meatballs
Recipe by Giada at Home
Serves 4-6, depending on portions; Yields about 16 meatballs 
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*2 tbsp olive oil
*4 oz pancetta, diced
*1 yellow onion, finely chopped
*4 garlic cloves, minced
*2 pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
*1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
*1 tsp salt
*1 tsp black pepper
*2 tbsp brown sugar
*a few good shakes of Italian seasoning, depending on your taste preference
*1 cup grated fresh mozzarella (or regular shredded int he bag would be fine) and freshly grated parmesan cheese (I had some leftover from Easy Beer Mac and Cheese so I combined the two cheeses)

*1 small onion, grated
*roughly 2 tablespoons dried parsley
*2/3 cup Parmesan cheese (I used freshly grated because I had it on hand, but normally I use shredded in a bag)
*1/3 cup Italian-style seasoned dried bread crumbs
*1 large egg
*2 tbsp ketchup
*3 garlic cloves, minced
*1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
*1 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp black pepper
*8 oz ground beef
*8 oz ground chuck roast
*2-4 oz  mozzarella cheese, cut into 16 cubes about 1/2-inch big
*half to 3/4 box linguine or other long pasta 


*In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the pancetta and set aside.

*Add the onion to the skillet (which should still have much of the oil in it) and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, only about 30 seconds.

*Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, brown sugar, Italian seasoning and the cooked pancetta. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

*Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

*In a large bowl, combine the onion, parsley, cheese, bread crumbs, egg, ketchup, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add the meat. Using your hands, combine the ingredients gently but thoroughly. 

*Shape the meat mixture into 16 1 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Make a little hole in the center of each meatball and place a cube of mozzarella inside. Re-form each meatball so that the mozzarella is completely covered.

*Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes, or until cooked through.

Final Meal Preparation:

*Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

*Serve the pasta with meatballs and sauce on top, and don't go easy on the sauce!
Look at that cheesy sauce...
Forgot to take one before they went into the oven! Oh, I also forgot parchment paper. Whoops!

Tell me those don't look good.

Voila! Made a great next-day lunch, too!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Easy Beer Mac and Cheese

I've noticed that lots of my most popular posts involve pasta dishes. Cue new pasta dish for all of you! This one comes courtesy of the always satisfying and delicious blog How Sweet It Is. As you may recall, she is the genius behind the Creamy Caprese Pasta I made that you guys apparently loved (I know, I did too). If you haven't checked out her blog yet, you definitely should.

Anyhoo...(I say that a lot, don't I? Oh well)

Before John and I were married he knew how to make two things: cereal and mac and cheese (oh, and did I mention this was the shells and cheese version that requires you to cook noodles and stir in sauce?). The hubby just loves mac and cheese! And cheese. But who doesn't love cheese?

Well, when I saw this recipe I knew that I had to make it asap because it seems like a man's dream food.  Turns out, it is. John didn't have seconds, he had thirds. Such an interesting twist on mac and cheese. You can't taste the beer but you get some of the great flavors. Overall the quality of the whole wheat noodles gave it a rich taste. It felt homey and absolutely delicious.

John's only request was that there was a little more cheese. So I melted some cheese, butter and milk and poured it on top. After that, perfection. :)

*2 1/2 cups uncooked whole wheat elbow noodles
*2 tablespoons butter
*2 tablespoons flour
*8 ounces milk (I used skim)
*8 ounces beer (I used an Upland Wheat - gotta represent good ole Indiana!)
*8 ounces freshly grated cheddar cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
*4 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese
*1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (I only had regular paprika)
*pinch of black pepper
*pinch of nutmeg
*1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
*10 large basil leaves, chopped for garnish (whoops, forgot to buy these! I really need a house with a veggie and herb garden)

*Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

*Prepare water for pasta and boil according to directions, shaving 1-2 minutes off of cooking time since pasta will continue to cook in the oven.

*Heat a saucepan over medium high heat and add butter. Once melted and sizzling, whisk in flour to create a roux and cook until bubbly and golden in color, about 2 minutes.

*Add milk and beer into saucepan whisking constantly, then add cheeses and stir until melted.

*Turn heat down to medium and continue to stir, cooking for 5-6 minutes while mixture thickens. It will most likely NOT thicken like regular mac and cheese because of the beer, but you want it to thicken a little bit. Stir in pepper, paprika and nutmeg.

*Add noodles (once cooked and drained) to a casserole dish, then pour cheese over top, mixing gently to combine. Top with panko bread crumbs and an additional sprinkle of cheese if desired.

*Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

*Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then top with fresh basil (if you remembered it!)

Pouring the beer in...Hubby helped me by taking pictures :)

Time to add cheese! Thanks again to the hubby!

Pouring in the cheesy mixture. So grateful my hubby helped with pics :)
Not a pretty picture, but I wanted you to see that mine looked a bit soupy - but did NOT turn out that way at all after cooking!

Out of the oven, topped with crispy bread crumbs, warm and bubbly :)

Warm, gooey cheese, with crispy bread crumbs mixed in.

Just one more...Soooo good!

Friday, August 12, 2011

French Bread Pizzas

TGIF - does anyone else remember when TGIF meant an awesome block of TV (Boy Meets World anyone?)! After a long week back at work and getting my classroom put together - school starts next week!! - I was ready for a fun and relaxing night at home with the hubby and pup. I got just that. :)

The other day I was grocery shopping and saw a really nice looking loaf of French bread. I was immediately inspired to make French bread pizzas this week. After chatting with the hubby, I decided Friday would be the perfect night for some homemade pizzas, a nice glass of wine and a movie (we went old school - Independence Day and it was awesome!).

As it turns out, this was the perfect night for these pizzas. We had so much fun deciding what toppings and combinations to try, and it was so exciting to see them come out of the oven looking golden, bubbly and delicious. And they were. Absolutely scrumptious! I totally recommend these for a date night or just a fun night at home. Feel free to experiment as you like with toppings and even sauces. I've included all the variations we used below.

Ingredients (for the 6 pizzas I made):
*1 loaf french bread, sliced in thirds and then in half
*pizza sauce, homemade or store bought (I went the easy route, aka store bought - - see below for brand, which was great!)
*mozzarella cheese (I recommend a combo of fresh and shredded)
*parmesan cheese
*red onion, sliced finely
*green pepper, julienned
*grape tomatoes, halved
*dried basil
*BBQ sauce
*pepperoni, sliced in half
*spinach (I used frozen and thawed/cooked a cup in the microwave)

Cook each pizza for 12 minutes at 350 degrees (preferably on a pizza stone!). Switch broiler on to brown cheese (I just stared at mine until it was ready, about 1-2 minutes).

See below for my individual pizza directions. 

*BBQ Pizza:
Start with one slice of French bread (see pics below if confused). Spoon some BBQ sauce over the bread. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella or place slices of fresh mozzarella on top of sauce. Add a few green pepper and red onions. Top with a little shredded parmesan cheese.

*Tomato Basil Pizza:
Spoon pizza sauce over french bread slice. Place slices of fresh mozzarella on sauce, and sliced tomatoes between each slice. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese and dried basil on top.

*Supreme Pizza:
Spoon pizza sauce over french bread slice. Sprinkle some cooked spinach over sauce, and place slices of fresh mozzarella on sauce. Add green peppers, red onion, pepperoni slices, tomatoes, and more shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top.

*Veggie Pizza:
Spoon pizza sauce over french bread slice. Sprinkle cooked spinach over sauce. Place slices of fresh mozzarella on sauce. Place tomatoes slices between slices of mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle a little shredded mozzarella cheese on top.

*Pepperoni and Green Pepperoni Pizza:
Spoon pizza sauce over french bread slice.  Place slices of fresh mozzarella on sauce. Top with green pepper slices and pepperoni slices. Sprinkle with additional shredded mozzarella cheese.

Some toppings

Sauces...although I didn't end up using the pesto.

BBQ Chicken pizza and Veggie Pizza

Tomato Basil Pizza

Supreme pizza, pepperoni and green pepper pizza, and tomato basil pizza

Fresh out of the oven - love my pizza stone and how yummy these look!

Chopped Greek Salad with Chicken

Continuing my quest for healthy living (I went for a run before work the past two days!), I started looking up some options for lunches that would be easy to bring to school and eat during my limited lunch break. Otherwise, I might be tempted to get a quick drive-thru meal or go for the vending machines, neither of which would be a great idea. My friend Jourdan told me about this website "Eating Well" and all the great recipes it has. It's where I got the recipe for that Pimiento Cheese and Broccoli Stuffed Chicken Breasts that were oh-so-delicious.

Anyhoo, the second I got to the website I saw a dish I immediately wanted to try. This chopped Greek salad with chicken looked absolutely yummy and perfect for lunch. I have to admit, I began typing this blog post before I even made the dish! I also made a few modifications. I don't care for olives, so I added some pine nuts for a little extra flavor. I also used grape tomatoes instead of regular ones, and I halved the recipe (shown below).

Let me tell you, this salad was amazingggg. When I brought it to the table the hubby said, "That smells really good, which is strange to say about a salad!" He was a little skeptical of the dressing, too, but once he tasted a bit he spooned it all over his salad. I am so glad I made extra of this because I am going to have it for lunch tomorrow! Actually, I'm thinking this salad will become a weekly staple and perfect quick lunch...This salad is filling, satisfying, and delicious. Try it ASAP!!

*1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
*2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
*1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
*1 teaspoon garlic powder
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
*3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
*1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
*3/4 container of grape tomatoes, sliced in fourths or halves
*1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
*1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
*2 tablespoons pine nuts
*1/3 cup red onion, diced or finely chopped

*Prepare chicken (unless you have some leftover or store-bought).

For healthiest chicken, poach: Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a medium skillet or saucepan. Add lightly salted water (or chicken broth) to cover and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 15 minutes.     
*Whisk vinegar, oil, dill (or oregano), garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

*Combine lettuce, chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, green pepper, red onion, pine nuts and feta; toss to coat.

*Spoon dressing over your servings of salad (I prefer to do this because if you have leftovers it keeps the lettuce and veggies crisp and soggy from dressing. You can also toss the whole salad in the dressing if serving it all).

*This is a wonderful low-calorie meal so enjoy it! YUM!

Very finely diced red tomato.

Peeled and seeded, ready to be chopped.

Let the mixing begin!

All mixed up, just waiting for the dressing.

Nice. Salad. I don't say this often.

Did I mention this was a horrible salad?

Monday, August 8, 2011


July 24, 2010 is the day I was blessed to marry the most amazing, kind, funny, intelligent, caring, handsome man. What can I say? I'm a lucky girl. :)  Our wedding day was perfect.  We were surrounded by loving family and friends, and what a celebration it was - 350 guests will do that!  Besides the extreme heat (our poor wedding party in tuxes and long dresses!), it was gorgeous outside, and we have some beautiful pictures to show for it. I've even included a few here. :)

First kiss as husband and wife!

Couldn't be happier!

Our wonderful wedding party

Just as much in love today - if not more - than on our wedding day :)
Our honeymoon was in the picturesque Turks and Caicos.  The sand was perfectly white and smooth, like velvet between your toes. The water was a gorgeous shade of aqua and turquoise.  I'ver never seen water so lovely in my life.  We spent ample time relaxing, but we also took advantage of the island.  We did snuba (a mix of scuba diving and snorkeling), went horseback riding on the beach and through the ocean, parasailed over the island, went on a glow worm tour and night boat ride, and even had a romantic meal on the beach, courtesy of my Aunt Pam and Uncle Russ. We were so, so forutnate to be treated to such a wonderful honeymoon.
Snuba! Your tanks are floating at the top of the water and not on your back. No training required!

So cool to be in the ocean with the horses!

Up, up and away!


Romantic beach dinner for two, yes please :)
 We wanted to do something special to celebrate our one year anniversary, though we weren't able to do something as extravagant as we did for our honeymoon. However, I was lucky enough to receive a buy one get one free airline voucher by registering for my sorority's alumni association (thank you, Alpha Phi!). We used the tickets to fly to Sanibel, Florida, where John's grandparents have a condo righ ton the beach. We spent five days there, frolicking on the beach and in the ocean, and we even took a day trip to Orlando to visit Universal Studios! We saw the new Harry Potter world, which is pretty cool to be honest. John treated us to the express passes, so the longest we waited in line (not counting the Harry Potter ride) was 15 minutes! We literally rode every ride in both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure (minus the kiddie rides). We were so exhausted by the end of the day, but it was well worth it. We know the next time we take a vacation there it will be with little kids in tow and not the same at all!
Harry Potter! It was soooo hot out that day! (And we were soaked from all the water rides Mr. Rapp made us go on!)

Even if we hadn't gone anywhere, I know our anniversary would have been special, because we spent it together, reminded of our special wedding day and how lucky we are to have each other. I am so thankful God put John in my life, and as the days, months, years pass in our marriage I will work to remember that and always be grateful for him. I hope you are lucky enough to have someone as special in your life.

Shrimp Diablo

After getting all the fixings for my tomato meat sauce, I realized that I forgot an important component - the meat. So, I checked the freezer, noticed some leftover shrimp from the baked coconut shrimp I made awhile back. My adventurous side took over and I began experimenting with one of the hubby's favorite dishes to order out.
Every time we have dinner with John's family at Merdian Hills (where our wonderful wedding was!) I know what John will order: Shrimp Diablo. As the title would suggest, this pasta dish is spicy, and, has shrimp in it. The pasta and shrimp are tossed in a spicy (heartburn alert!) tomato cream sauce that leaves you with a satisfying bite.

This dish turned out so, so well, and was not nearly as difficult as I'd thought. In fact, I pretty much used my normal marinara recipe, except I added more garlic, more crushed red pepper flakes and some heavy cream. John loved it so much that he, a) had three helpings the first night, b) came home from school the next day to eat the remaining two servings for lunch, and c) asked me to make it again a mere 4 days later. I'd say that equals a successful dish. :)

Shrimp Diablo
Recipe by Call Me Mrs. Rapp
Serves 2-4, depending on portions
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*4 cloves garlic (or three very large cloves, minced (for sauce); plus 2 cloves, minced (for shrimp)
*5 good pinches crushed red pepper flakes (for sauce); plus 3 good pinches (for shrimp)
*2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
*5-10 leaves fresh basil, roughly cut or torn
*2 tablespoons brown sugar
*Italian seasoning to taste (dried basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary)
*1/3-1/2 cup heavy cream (depending on how creamy you want it)
*several grape tomatoes, some whole some halved
*cooked shrimp (I dethawed and used around 20 from a frozen bag)
*whole wheat penne pasta


*Set a big pot of water over heat (for your pasta). When it boils, add salt, noodles, and olive oil (the oil helps keep the noodles from sticking together). Cook according to pacakge directions.

*Combine olive oil, 4 cloves minced garlic and 5 pinches of red pepper flakes in a saucepan. When the garlic sizzles add the tomatoes, basil, brown sugar and Italian seasoning as desired. Bring the ingredients to a bubble, then reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer while you work on the shrimp.

*After shrimp is dethawed, remove tails. Drizzle olive oil on a skillet and cook shrimp over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes while cooking, for extra heat. Once shrimp is done, remove from skillet.

*Add more olive oil to the skillet, then place tomatoes, 2 cloves minced garlic and 3 pinches red pepper flakes in the skillet. Cook until tomatoes are softened (1-2 minutes) then throw shrimp back in and keep over low heat.

*Once the shrimp and tomatoes are done, whisk the cream into your tomato sauce.

*Remove 1-2 cups of the pasta and place aside. Combine remaining pasta with shrimp and tomato cream sauce. Decide if you need more pasta to your dish (keep in mind that the sauce will thicken as it stands). I prefer my pasta dishes to be a bit...saucier? Something like that.

*Serve with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese for some extra yumminess!

Putting the shrimp and tomatoes into the spicy tomato cream sauce

All mixed up with some shredded cheese on top, a nice indulgence :)

Sooo good! And reheats great!

Low-Fat Waldorf Chicken Wraps

Remember how I said I was working toward a healthy lifestyle? Well, I've got a great recipe for you chicken salad lovers that will leave you guilt-free! I got this recipe from an episode of Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger. Because I love you all so much I spent time searching the Food Network website to find her exact recipe, which you can find here. I didn't make mine exactly the same way, so I'm including the directions for my way below.

This is such a refreshing and light yet filling dish. Instead of the traditional mayonnaise-heavy chicken salad, this substitutes Greek yogurt. You get the creaminess you want without all the extra fat. It's perfect to make for lunch, and if you don't like wraps you can eat it all by its lonesome. I dished it up with some toasted pita and it was yummy. Experiment as you like!

*3/4 cups nonfat Greek-style yogurt
*2 tablespoons mayonnaise
*1 tablespoon lemon juice
*2 teaspoons dijon mustard
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1 teaspoon minced thyme
*1 pound grilled, skinless chicken breasts, sliced or cubed
*1/2 cup seedless grapes, sliced in 1/2
*1/4 cup toasted, coarsely chopped walnuts
*1 medium apple, cored and diced (about 3/4 cup)
*Freshly ground black pepper
*large lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry
*whole wheat wraps, about 8 inches in diameter

*If you haven't bought grilled chicken breasts, go ahead and grill some up on your grill pan or actual grill. Allow chicken to rest before you dice or slice it.

*In a small bowl, comnbine Greek-style yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt and thyme until smooth. Fold in chicken, grapes, walnuts and apples. Season with pepper.

*Place 1 lettuce leaf on a wrap. Spoon about 3/4 cup of the chicken filling onto the wrap and roll around filling. Enjoy!

Ready for the dressing

Dressing! I bet this would be great with a tuna salad, too.

All mixed up! It looks heavy on the dressing, but because it's primarily yogurt it does not taste that way at all.


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