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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Breakfast Paninis

When I was a little girl, probably 7 or 8 years old, I remember my mother telling me that pancakes were for dinner one night. I thought she had lost her mind. I can clearly recall thinking: you can’t have breakfast for dinner – it’s just not right. Now at 26, breakfast for dinner is one of my favorite things to do. Usually I will do this when it will be just me for dinner. It’s really quick, affordable, and perfect for one person because I almost always have everything I need on hand.

As I sat at work, waiting for my computer to find the file I needed, I started brainstorming about what to do for dinner. By the time I finally had the file – dinner plans were set. Breakfast sandwich!

Personally, I am a huge fan of the breakfast sandwich. I won’t lie; I love them because bacon and cheese are a fairly standard choice. While I have always loved bacon (sadly I could eat a pound of it by myself), I haven’t always been a huge fan of eggs. As a kid I would dip my sausage, bacon, or toast in the yolk of a sunny side up or over easy egg, but I wouldn’t touch scrambled or eat the whites. It wasn’t until I was 18 or 19 and managing a restaurant inside of a charming hotel that had a Sunday brunch that I actually started to even consider trying them. We had an omelet station on the brunch and the omelets just looked so GOOD! And after a long Saturday night, they were calling to me. I would load them up with every veggie possible, some bacon, and a ton of cheese. Not to mention a good amount of salt and pepper. Nowadays, I will eat eggs in a variety of ways but never plain or by themselves. I guess you could say they have to be “masked” in some way shape or form.

Back to dinner! Tonight I made a breakfast sandwich for dinner. It was super simple and ready to eat in about 15 minutes. This delightful dinner had crispy bacon, eggs with red bell pepper and onion, and creamy havarti cheese on a ciabatta roll. Say it with me now: Mmmmmmm!

Ciabatta Breakfast Sandwich

1- Start your bacon or sausage or even ham.
2- Dice up onion and red bell pepper. Sauté till soft in a small sauté pan.
3- Whisk together your eggs with a little splash of milk and S&P. I used two eggs.
4- Once the veggies are soft, add a little more butter and then add your eggs.
5- Here you can either scramble your eggs or make them omelet-like. I was going for omelet-like but I got distracted and had to switch to scrambled. Tastes the same but omelets are easier to work with in a sandwich.
6- Slice ciabatta and layer each side with sliced cheese. Place the eggs on the bottom half, the bacon of the top half, and then put the two halves together and mush down.
7- Here you have several choices: 1-eat as is, 2- toast up in the oven or 3- press it.
8- I pressed mine using my decade old George Forman that is still kicking. It took about 3-5 minutes for the cheese to melt and the bread to get a nice crunch to it. Before adding it to the grill, I find that lightly brushing the bread with a little EVOO helps keeps it from getting burnt.

Interesting Food Fact: Ciabatta literally means “carpet slipper”. Who knew? Well… the Italians I guess.

My thoughts on this dish: Quick and simple – which I love. Havarti was a great choice for cheese because it melts really well and got nice and gooey. I love ciabatta and it had a nice crunch on the outside, but still chewy and soft on the inside. I would have loved if my eggs where omelet style, but scrambled with the peppers and onions was good too. And with all the cheese on there I didn't have to worry about the egg falling out of my sandwich. This is always a good thing in my book.
Kitten ^..^

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Quick Trip to Italy: Italian Flag Pasta

Usually by the time 6pm roles around on a Monday night, I am not in the mood to think about dinner - let alone actually cook dinner. I think this is why BD and I got into having Monday night as “slow cooker” night.

Yesterday I was in the mood for some food comfort and I had not made this dish in quite some time. I came up with the idea a couple of years back and it’s one of BD’s favorites that I make. I’m naming it Italian Flag Pasta because you have all the colors of the Italy’s flag and of course – it’s Italian!

Italian Flag Pasta

*This recipe serves maybe 4…??? Let’s just say that we had about double leftover after we were done.

- 3 Italian sausage links (use more or less if you like – I used mild)
- 3/4 red bell pepper, sliced thin
- ½ large white/yellow onion, sliced thin
- 8 basil leaves
- 8oz fresh mozzarella, cubed
- 2 cups of tomato sauce
- ½ pound rigatoni or ziti pasta
- Little bit of EVOO just for sautéing


1 -Take the sausage and remove the casing. You can do this by making a very small incision along the sausage and slowly peeling it back. I remove the casing because if left on while browning, it won’t retain the shape that I want. Then pop them into the freezer for about 15 minutes. This will allow them to harden slightly and it will be easier to slice into ¼ discs. Then in a large sauté pan, over med-high heat, add a little EVOO to coat the bottom of the pan and brown the sausage on both sides.
Once I get them all in the pan and in a single layer, I add a little salt and some pepper. When the sausage is browned on both sides, remove from the pan.
2 - While that is browning, slice your veggies, basil and cheese.
*Basil you can either tear, chop or chiffonade. I prefer the chiffonade because it’s prettier. It’s very simple to do: just layer the leaves on top of each other; roll into a little cigar; and then slice.

3 – Add some EVOO to a sauté pan and add your onion and peppers. Add S&P and sauté until soft. Takes about 10-15 minutes.

4- Once soft, add the sausage back into the pan and add tomato sauce. I used Hannaford’s Roasted Garlic tomato sauce. It’s probably one of the few jarred sauces that I will use because the flavor is really great. You can use any you prefer or even your own homemade. FYI: Hannaford is Sweet Bay’s private label.
5- Sauté everything together until sauce is heated through.
6- Once the sauce is hot and the pasta done, add the pasta to a large bowl, the sauce with veggies and sausage and stir together. Then add your mozzarella cheese and basil and toss.


My thoughts on this dish: This dish always full of flavor and so easy to make. It's a great go-to for me, a good crowd pleaser, and feeds your soul. Wow, that was corny! My favorite part of this dish is how the cheese melts just enough to be soft and gooey. I also love the contrast of texture between the cheese and the browned sausage that retains a bit of a crust from the pan. And the fresh basil really gives it a nice burst of freshness. I'm usually not too picky with fresh or dried herbs, but with this dish its fresh basil or none at all, in my opinion.

Kitten ^..^

Brown Baggin' Scavenger

Today I wanted to be bad and go pick something up for lunch rather than my traditional brown bag lunch. I reallllly wanted to, but I resisted temptation. I brown bag it for two very simple reasons: it helps keep me thin and my wallet fat. It's that simple. However, it can be dull and boring, but it really doesn’t have to be.

Four years’ ago when I managed a restaurant, I could eat anything and everything and stay the same size. This was because I was running from point A to point B and then back to A roughly a hundred times a day. I should have got a pedometer and tracked how many miles I walked in a regular day. When I got a “desk job”, I quickly realized that eating out everyday for lunch was not only costly, but it wasn’t very figure friendly either. So I attempted to change all that.

I started with Lean Cuisine. It seemed simple enough: hot lunch… tasted OK… and was cheaper than what I was spending. Eventually, I got sick of them. Then I went to soup... then deli sandwiches... then fruits and veggies... now I am eating cereal for lunch….and am bored with it.

It’s not that I am trying to lose weight, but I am not trying to gain weight either. Plus, I like to eat – a lot, and the last thing I want to do is “diet” for dinner. So my “regiment”, as I like to call it is to watch what I eat during the day and then enjoy dinner at night. I try to not overeat at dinner, and I try to limit myself to fast food only once a week. (I confess… I am addicted to always delicious Taco Bell)

Wow, I’ve really digressed!

Back to the subject at hand: Next week what I plan on doing is switching it up once again, and I will be sharing what I make and the results here. I’m thinking wraps with protein, little bit of cheese, lots of veggies and no dressing, sauces and what not. I’m hoping I can become rather inventive with these and not just go with the fairly traditional ones. Thus being more exciting for me and you.

Stay Tuned!

Monday, July 20, 2009

NOT A Food Network Star

Don't get me wrong - I love the Food Network. It's one of those channels that when I'm looking for something to watch I automatically check to see what's on. However, on this particular day - there wasn't anything on... so I surfed. I came across a show on FitTV (honestly, I didn't even know this channel existed) called Just Cook This! with Sam the Cooking Guy. I saw gnocchi on the screen so I was intrigued and settled in for awhile. Before I knew it I was sucked into a mini-marathon of Just Cook This!
Sam the Cooking Guy
(Photo Courtesy of

There is nothing overly exciting about Sam, or his food, but that's what I kinda like about him. He comes off as very relatable, easy-going, and regular guy that wants to show everyone how to cook something good. In short, his "Culinary Point of View" is very similar to mine: Cooking doesn't have to be hard, and food doesn't have to be really fancy to be great food. Well that's what I got from it anyway. Plus, he is a smart-ass which kinda keeps it interesting.
I've linked his Website so you can check him out: Sam the Cooking Guy


Friday, July 17, 2009

Leftover Genius - Taco Empanadas with Avocado Ranch Dip

The other night for dinner BD suggested Taco Salads. I didn't take pictures of that feast - which was pretty tasty - but I did have a stroke of genius the next night when trying to find a way to use up the leftover. Personally, I am not a big fan of straight leftovers. I try to make just enough for dinner or I will freeze some in individual containers for lunches or quick dinners a couple weeks down the road.

In my fridge was:
- Taco meat
- Pinto Beans
- Red Onion
- Shredded Mexican Cheese
- and from a couple of nights prior, refrigerated Pillsbury biscuits. The home-style kind - not the flaky ones.
So in my attempt to use up leftovers and remove some various Tupperware containers I went to work. After some thought I decided that I wanted to take the dinner rolls, stuff them with the leftover taco fix ins and make a makeshift empanada. At least that's the best description I could come up with.

Taco "Empanadas"

- Leftover taco fixings
- Pillsbury refrigerated biscuits


1- To start I warmed the taco meat (and the pinto beans) up for about a minute in the microwave. I didn't want them super hot but I wanted to be sure they wouldn't be ice cold in the middle after baking.

2- The next thing I did was take each roll and flatten them out -somewhere between an 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch. I didn't use flour but I did spray the rolling pin and the cutting board with a little Pam. This worked well for me.

3- When each of those were ready I mixed the pinto beans, taco meat and minced red onion together. I spooned a generous couple of spoonfuls in the middle of the biscuit and then I topped it with the cheese.

4- The next step was sort of tricky and honestly I did not master it. The next thing you want to do is fold the biscuit in half and mold it around the mixture. You want to try and seal the edges as best as possible so that the inside yummy goodness doesn't leak out. Mine ended up looking like little half moons which I thought was kinda cute. Below is a pic before they went in the toaster oven.
I know you're jealous of my "well-seasoned" pan!

5 - Next I just threw then in the toaster oven on 400 and kept an eye on them. Once they were nicely browned on top and bottom, I knew they were done. It took about 12 minutes but that will vary on how thick the dough is after you roll them out.

* For the taco salads I had made an Avocado Ranch dressing/dip. While I'm sure there are recipes out there of this, my inspiration actually came from Chili's. Its really easy to make and I usually do it off the cuff.

Avocado Ranch Dip

(print recipe)
- 8oz of sour cream
- 1 avocado
- dry ranch dressing packet
- Lime juice
- S&P


1- Slice the avocado, remove the pit and spoon out the flesh or fruit. Squeeze a little bit of lime juice and add S&P. Then smash the hell out of it with a fork, muddle, spoon - whatever you have!

2- Once the avocado is smooth, add the entire 8oz of sour cream. Mix together.

3- Next add about half of the ranch packet. I would actually recommend doing this little by little and tasting it as you go. This will allow you to control how much ranch flavor it will have. You can also adjust the S&P and lime juice if you like as well.

My thoughts on this dish: I actually would have preferred less ranch taste but BD wanted the ranch to be very prominent so I went a little heavy with it. I thought this overpowered the avocado flavor, which I secretly think was his plan. Anyway in the end we used about 3/4 of the packet. Still, I thought it was a great break from the traditional sour cream and guacamole to the salad and it actually went even better with my taco empanadas.

The finale!

My thoughts on this dish: I definitly need to perfect the sealing part but luckily nothing leaked all over the pan. Also, I think next time I will add some more cheese to it. It wasn't quite as cheesy as I had wanted. Originally I was a little worried that the Mexican flavor would meld well with a regular biscuit but it was great. In fact, my intentions were to only each two of the three and save the last one for BD when he got home from work.....that didn't happen.

These turned out to be great finger friendly food. No drips or the middle falling out of the other end when I bit into it. Always a plus in my book. Another thought I came up with was maybe making these in half portions for an appetizer at a cocktail party. A little bit of prep work but easy to do and really economical as well.

Update 7/20: Last night I saw Paula Deen make cuban empanadas using the same style biscuit. She fried her's (of course!), but it made me feel less like a noob, I guess.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Get your Vote on!

A dear friend of mine shared this link with me the other day. is having a Food Photo Contest. You can no longer enter the contest but you can vote for your favorite!

Food Photo Challenge

I would not recommend viewing this site on an empty tummy. Some of these pics really rawk!
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