Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Philly Cheese Steak Casserole

On Monday nights I have swimming practice until 8 p.m., when I get home the last thing I want to do is cook dinner. So lately I've been trying to make casseroles before practice, so all I need to do is pop it in the oven when I get home. This one was so yummy and really easy. The original recipe actually calls for sirloin steak but I decided to use ground beef instead and I was glad I did. This dish was really cheesy, creamy and low calorie, the best of everything! I definitely recommend it.

Philly Cheese Steak Casserole
Adapted from EatBetterAmerica.com
Serves 6


6 ounces uncooked egg noodles
1 lb lean ground beef
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup green peppers, chopped
1 3/4 cups Progresso beef broth
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2-quart glass baking dish with cooking spray. Cook and drain noodles as directed on package.

2. Meanwhile heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook beef and season with pepper, about 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally until beef is brown. Stir in onions and bell pepper. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon into baking dish.

3. In a medium bowl beat broth and flour with a whisk until smooth. Add to skillet heat to boiling. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens, remove from heat. Stir in half-and-half and mustard. Spoon over beef mixture. Stir in cooked noodles.

4. Cover and bake 40 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake uncovered about 10 more minutes longer or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A few of my favorite things....Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner so I have a found a few things to spruce up your table for the holiday!

Halloween Centerpiece

Martha Stewart always does it right. I found this pic on her website, it was naturally one of many! You can buy synthetic pumpkins and black paint and silver glitter and make these yourself. A local craft store will have black candles , the fake spiders, and cobwebs.

Pottery Barn

This cauldron is great for a dinner party or a kids' party. If you place another bowl underneath it you can put dry ice in it for a really great effect!

Williams Sonoma

These are great for the kids to decorate for a Halloween party.


This would look awesome if you are doing a black/silver color scheme for your party. Or if you have an orange tablecloth to place underneath.

Skull and Crossbones Flocked Placemat and Orange Napkins

I really like this skull and crossbones placemat. It matches really well with the below napkins.
Napkins come in Orange and Black, you could alternate between black and orange by placesetting.

I love napkin rings and I am always looking for new ones, these skulls are great for your Halloween party.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Fall is finally here! Which means I can start cooking with pumpkin again. I know you can use it any time of year but it is just so fall to me. Pumpkin is definitely my favorite fall ingredient. My friend Nicole made a pumpkin cheesecake last year and I have been hooked since. So since the temperature just started to drop last week, I decided it was time to make something with pumpkin. I found these cheesecake bars in Cooking Light and they sounded yummy! I did need to cook it longer than the recipe suggested, but this recipe was still very easy.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Cooking Light
Yields 12 Servings


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (6 3/4 ounces)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 teaspoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
Cooking spray

1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 (8-ounce) package fat-free cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 large egg

Remaining Ingredients:
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare crust, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add flour to pan; cook 5 minutes or until light brown, stirring often. Remove pan from heat. Transfer flour to a bowl; cool completely.

Combine cooled flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and salt in a food processor; pulse 5 times or until combined. Add chilled butter; pulse until mixture resembles fine meal. Press 1 cup of flour mixture evenly into the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; reserve the remaining flour mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

To prepare filling, spread pumpkin in an even layer on several paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes.

Combine granulated sugar, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, and cream cheeses in a bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until smooth. Scrape pumpkin into bowl using a rubber spatula. Add egg substitute, cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, and egg; beat until smooth.

Scrape batter into baked crust.

Combine reserved flour mixture and pecans in a small bowl; sprinkle with 2 teaspoons water. Squeeze handfuls of topping to form large pieces. Crumble over filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until filling is firmly set. Remove from heat; cool in pan on wire rack to room temperature. Cut into 12 portions. Serve at room temperature.

NOTE: The original recipe suggests to cook for 40 minutes but I didn't think that was long enough so I cooked it for 15 more minutes and it was good to go!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Christy's 30th Birthday Cookies

My friend Christy turned 30 on Friday and I helped plan the big party and naturally I made cookies as party favors. The party was a success and everyone had a great time! Happy birthday Spuds!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wedding Favor Cookie Tasting

A friend is getting married in a few weeks and she was thinking about using my cookies as a favor for her wedding. This was the first time I had done anything like this so I wanted to make it special. Her colors are purples but she has since added orange to accent the purple, great fall color scheme! So I did her cookies with a deep purple to match her invites and set up a display to match her wedding colors. I made a variety of cookies in purple and white, with initials, their names, wedding date, and cakes with roses with alternating colors.

Champagne and Invitation

Purple and White cookies.

Hearts and Circles.
Cakes with roses and initials

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cherry Tomatoes Red Clam Sauce with Linguine with Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad

The beginning of the summer Denis and I got a puppy named Cooper. He's honestly the cutest! So a few weeks ago our friends The Beeney's (Matt, Nicole and their cute little Pit,Maya) came over for dinner and we had a puppy playdate! This was the first time they met and it was super cute. I served Cherry Tomatoes Red Clam Sauce with Linguine and Grilled Caesar Salad. It was pretty yummy. I didn't really change anything but the clams, I used little necks instead of the Manila. The biggest difference is the size, littlenecks are slightly smaller than Manila clams. And don't be afraid of the anchovy ingredient it just adds a little something extra to the flavor and the anchovy taste is not strong in this recipe.

Since we had our dinner party/playdate at the end of the summer I used sunflowers to decorate the table with a yellow and blue color scheme. I love tablescaping!

Cherry Tomatoes Red Clam Sauce with Linguine
Rachael Ray
Serves 6
1 pound linguine
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5-6 anchovies
1 pint small cherry tomatoes
1 red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 stems oregano, leaves stripped and finely chopped
a handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
3 pounds Manila clams, scrubbed
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn


Bring water to a boil for the pasta; salt the water and cook the pasta just shy of al dente

While the water comes to a boil, heat olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the anchovies and melt into the olive oil. And the tomatoes, onion and garlic to the pan and season with crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, parsley and pepper. Saute until the tomatoes and onions are soft, 8-10 minutes.

Add the wine and reduce for 1-2 minutes, then melt the butter into the sauce and add the clams to pot. Cover the pot and cook the clams until they open, 6-7 minutes.

Remove any unopened clams and add the pasta to the pan. Toss the linguine with the sauce for about 2-3 minutes so the pasta absorbs the flavors. Add the basil to the pasta and taste to adjust the seasonings.

Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light 15 Minute Recipes
Serves 4


1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 romaine hearts, cut in half lengthwise
Olive oil-flavored cooking spray
4 (1-ounce) slices French bread baguette (1 inch thick)
Caesar Dressing (recipe follows)

1. Prepare grill

2. Coat romaine hearts with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Coat both sides of bread slices generously with cooking spray.

3. Place romaine and bread on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill romaine halves 4 to 5 minutes. Grill bread slices 3 minutes on each side or until toasted.

4. Arrange grilled crouton evenly over romaine halves; drizzle evenly with caesar dressing.

Caesar Dressing

1/2 cup nonfat buttermilk
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, pressed

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Yields 3/4 cups.

NOTE: I used a hand held blender to make it really smooth and blended.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pan-Seared Shrimp and Arugula Risotto

As I have mentioned before risotto is one of my favorite foods, it is definitely in the comfort food category for me. I served this during the summer but it's great for a cool fall night as well. Cooking Light May 2010 issue had a variety of different risotto recipes, my post from June 15th Bacon and Wild Mushroom Risotto with Baby Spinach was taken from the same article. The only problem with risotto is that you need to watch it, stir it and slowly add but it is so easy and I actually doubled this recipe. A few friends came over including my friend Jenny and her husband Andy, and her friend Kumi and we had a relatively quick dinner before we went out and danced like crazy! This was an easy meal to cook for company because it was a one pot dinner and I was able to serve it shortly after they arrived!

Pan-Seared Shrimp and Arugula Risotto
Serves 6
Cooking Light Magazine May 2010


4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 cup chopped shallots
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked Carnaroli or Arborio rice or other medium grain rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

1. Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a small saucepan, do not boil. Keep warm over low heat.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add shrimp to pan; cook 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; set aside.

3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook 1 minute or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup stock; cook 4 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion of stock is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Stir in shrimp; cook 1 minute or until done. Stir in cheese, butter, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove from heat; stir in arugula and basil.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Golf and Wine Themed Cookies

My friend Meghan's (great publicist, thanks Meg) friend was throwing a 30th birthday for her husband and needed some last minutes favors. There are some super cute cookie cutters that are golf related out there but since I only had a few days I did all cookies in the same shape. It made them look really cohesive and coordinate well with the wine themed cookies.

Golf Balls....

Golf Bags...

Aged 30 Years....