Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent Style Italian Bread Pizzas

Ash Wednesday Pizzas

Today is Ash Wednesday.  While I am not of a faith that observes many of today's traditions, my family is and I always try to make extra sure that I don't forget their views today and on Fridays during lent.  Respect goes a long way in a family and I value their dedication to their faith. 

I am a good Southerner but even I can stand only so many fried catfish dinners!  I am from the "Catfish Capital of the South" but even a Paris, Tennessee lady has her limits :)

Today's solution to a no meat dinner was Italian Bread Pizza...Lent Style!

1 Loaf Italian Bread
8 oz Ricotta Cheese
2 c Shredded Italian Cheese (I like Kraft Italian Blend)
1/4 c Feta Cheese - optional
1/4 c Grated Parmesan Cheese (again, Kraft is fine)
1 1/2 c Alfredo Sauce (I like Bertolli)
1 1/2 c Spaghetti Sauce (brand of your choice)
1 Bell Pepper
4 Green Onions
1 c Sliced Mushrooms
2 Roma Tomatoes
2 c Fresh Spinach
2 c Petite Shrimp
garlic flakes (or powder, or 1 Tbl. minced )
onion flakes (or powder)

Chop all veggies into a medium to fine chop (depending on how chunky you like your pizza veggies).  Saute (in a pat or butter or in a splash of water for a lighter version) green peppers first until they start to soften, add green onions, then mushrooms and cook until they start to tender.  Add tomatoes at the last minute as they take just a minute to cook - you don't want them mushy.  Drain and set veggie mix aside.

Chop spinach into small pieces.  Saute in a pat of butter for just a minute or two.  Spinach looks big when raw but cooks into 1/4 it's original volume.  As soon as it wilts and turns a darker green, remove from heat and set spinach aside.

Saute shrimp for 4 minutes or so, until they are cooked tender, drain and set aside.

Mix Alfredo sauce with 4 oz of Ricotta cheese, sprinkle in 1/8 c shredded Parmesan cheese.

In a separate bowl, mix Spaghetti sauce with 4 oz of Ricotta cheese and remaining 1/8 c shredded Parmesan cheese.

Slice your bread horizontally then into sections.  I cut big pieces for the hubs and small ones for me.

Spread each slice of bread with just a small dab of butter.  Sprinkle each slice with just a tiny pinch of onion flakes and sprinkle lightly with garlic powder (I like to use heavier garlic on the Shrimp Pizzas).  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Place in a 350* oven for about 7 want it to warm and toast but don't use the broiler (it will burn on you in a New York minute)!

Remove bread...spread 1/2 of your bread pieces with the Alfredo mix, add spinach, then shrimp. Sprinkle with just a pinch of Feta cheese, then top with Italian Cheese mix. (You can omit the Feta cheese of you are not a fan.)

Spread the other half of your bread pieces with Spaghetti sauce mix, add sauteed veggies then top with Italian cheese.

Place bread back on the baking sheet and pop it in the oven @ 350* for 7-10 minutes (until your cheese melts and starts to be golden). 

Remove and serve! 

I don't come up with stuff in my head very often but today I had an "on it" moment and came up with this concoction!  The hubs LOVED IT!  When you're a hit at 6:00 for dinner, you've had a pretty good day Ma'am (or Sir)!

Get creative and use zucchini or other veggies and amp this up to suit.  The secret to really good sauce is mixing the Ricotta with your sauce and adding the makes a wonderful base!

Serves 2-4 depending on appetites and if you want left overs for lunch tomorrow!

You don't have to make both types, just pick a favorite and go with it!  Do all cheeses for the kids and mix in some shredded cheddar!  There are no rules in Pizza....just no meat until after Good Friday!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chicken Cannelloni

My very favorite Italian dish!  Had this today and I LOVED it! 

Mangiare e Divertirsi - Eat and Enjoy!

3 doz. Cannelloni noodles, packaged or fresh, cooked
3 whole chicken breasts, boned
1/4 c. butter
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. drained cooked spinach, finely chopped
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. flour
1 qt. milk, scalded
1 c. heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. butter, for dotting top  

Cannelloni, needs to be cooked....I don't like to boil pasta...I just set it in hot water on the counter for 20 minutes while I get the remaining ingredients ready - then drain well.
Saute chicken breasts in 1/4 cup butter until slightly browned. Remove from fat, drain well, cut into pieces.  I like very small'll have an easier time if you cut your chicken to a fine chop. 
Combine with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese and finely chopped spinach, mixing well. 
Melt 1/2 cup butter.  Use wire whisk to blend in flour; slowly add scalded milk, whisking vigorously. Cook and stir in microwave for 30 seconds per cooking session until all is smooth and creamy. Stir in heavy cream, and add seasonings to taste.
Add about 1 cup of sauce to chicken mixture and mix well. If filling tends to dry while Cannelloni are being filled for baking, add a little more sauce, you don't want this to be a dry mix.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of  filling into each Cannelloni, making sure each tube is well filled. Arrange rolled tubes in two layers in buttered oblong 11 x 9 x 2 inch pan. Sprinkle each layer with grated Parmesan cheese. Cover with sauce, spooning it so that all Cannelloni are well sauced. Dot top with bits of butter.
Refrigerate, covered tightly with foil, overnight if desired, or bake at once. To serve, bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 1/2 hour or until tops are lightly browned and sauce is bubbly.
Makes 2-3 dozen Cannelloni.
Serve with salad or even with just grilled asparagus and tomato'll want a light side to off set the pasta in this dish.  Serve with a crusty bread - you'll want that bread to get all those sauce droplets!  Don't forget the Vino! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crunchy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

You can change this up to include any meat of your choice.  It makes a delicious way to make Sandwich Night much Tastier!

sliced sourdough bread
sliced mozzerella cheese
2 eggs
1/8 cup whipping cream (or milk if prefered)
1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 Tbl. butter
Remove the crusts from the sourdough bread, form sandwich by placing sliced mozzerella between two pieces of bread.  Whip eggs and cream (milk) and place sandwich in the egg mix to coat.  Dredge sandwich in Panko Bread Crumbs.  Melt butter in non stick skillet - add sandwich and grill on both sides until golden.

Crunchy Cheesy Goodness!
This really vamps up the sandwich and makes a beautiful presentation.  Wonderful served alone or with Tomato Soup!  Kids and adults will both rave over ths simple twist on a classic comfort food!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Martini

This is the adult version of Chocolate Milk!  Love, Love, Love This!!!
1 1/2 shots chocolate liqueur
1 1/2 shots creme de cacao
1/2 shot vodka
2 1/2 shots half-and-half
Chocolate Syrup and Chocolate Sugar for embellishment!

Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and pour into a chilled cocktail glass!
Happy Valentine's Day - Romance is Amazing!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

I LOVE bell peppers!  We grow a ton of them each summer but they never last thru the fall.  Today I broke my resolve and bought them at the grocery - I almost passed on from the price!  I think we should grow these professionally, the profit margin is amazing!

1 pound ground beef
1/2 lb sausage (Italian or Country sausage, your choice)
1 cup long grain white rice (cooked)
4 bell peppers (any color pepper is fine)
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the peppers, cut the tops off and discard the seeds and spines.  Blend the ground beef, sausage, cooked rice, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and spices in a mixing dish.  Blend well then stuff into peppers.  You can put the tops back on if you like that look.  Some people like to add a little grated parmesan cheese on top. 

Some like to cut the peppers in half horizontally then add the filling.  They will cook faster if you do this.  It's a good option if you're in a hurry.

Bake at 350* for 40 - 50 minutes.  Peppers should be tender and your filling should be well done in the center.  I like to serve this with corn on the cob and a light green salad.  Normally a summer meal for us but with all the warm weather we've had this Spring fever is way ahead of schedule!  Enjoy!