Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Free Recipe Wednesday! (Monte Cristo Poppers)

Welcome everyone to another Free Recipe Wednesday. I hope everyone is ready for the upcoming holiday and has done all of their shopping already. Today I bring you a recipe that would be a nice little treat for holiday dinner, maybe as a pre-dinner appetizer. These are bite-sized appetizer versions of the classic Monte Cristo Sandwich, which should be a hit at any holiday gathering. A Monte Cristo Sandwich, for those who might be unaware, is basically a ham and cheese sandwich that has been dipped in batter and deep fried. It’s then dusted with powdered sugar and served with jelly. I believe the cheese originally served on Monte Cristo Sandwiches was Emmental or Gruyere but most of the time when I find them in restaurants or diners they’re made with Swiss cheese. You could also use different types of meat if you were so inclined and this recipe actually uses two different kinds. Now of course these are most certainly not the healthiest thing in the world but they’re definitely delicious. Give these a try and let me know how they went over at your holiday dinner in the comments below.

Monte Cristo Poppers

  • 1 qt Oil, or as needed
  • 2/3 cup Water
  • 1 Egg
  • 2/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 8 slices White Bread
  • 4 slices Swiss Cheese
  • 4 slices Turkey
  • 4 slices Ham
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Powdered Sugar, for dusting
  • Jelly, for dipping

1. Heat 5 inches of oil in a deep-fryer or deep pan to 365 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and water.
3. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper and then whisk into the egg mixture until a smooth batter forms; set aside in the refrigerator.
4. Remove the crust from the slices of bread and gently flatten them with a rolling pin or heavy plate.
5. Assemble sandwiches with a slice of turkey, a slice of cheese, and then a slice of ham; cut sandwiches into quarters, and secure with toothpicks.
6. Dip each sandwich quarter into the batter making sure that all sides are coated and gently drop them into the hot oil; fry until golden brown on all sides.
7. Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.
8. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving; serve with jelly on the side.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Gluten Free Friday! (Cheesy Chili Spaghetti Squash Casserole)

Hello again everyone and welcome to another Gluten Free Friday. I hope everyone has had a great week and is looking forward to the weekend. Today I bring you a Gluten Free (and Low Carb) version of Chili Spaghetti. If you’ve never had Chili Spaghetti basically it’s exactly what it sounds like, spaghetti with chili on it instead of a normal tomato based sauce. Well today’s recipe uses spaghetti squash instead of the pasta so while the flavors are a bit different and the squash will be a bit softer than pasta, you still essentially get Chili Spaghetti without all of the gluten and carbs. It’s also fairly healthy otherwise and is high in protein as well at 23g per serving. Personally I think using spaghetti squash instead of pasta is a genius idea and I might even try other recipes using this idea. Give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Cheesy Chili Spaghetti Squash Casserole

For the Chili
  • 1 lb Lean Ground Beef (or Turkey)
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1 Tbsp Chopped Chipotles in Adobo (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 cup Prepared Salsa
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Casserole
  • 4 cups Cooked Spaghetti Squash
  • 2 Tbsp Butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 3/4 cup Kraft Shredded Mexican Cheese
  • Chopped Cilantro (optional)
  • Sour Cream, Salsa, Avocado to serve (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium saucepan brown the ground meat and season with salt and pepper; pour off any extra fat and discard.
3. Add the remainder of the chili ingredients and simmer for about 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the cooked spaghetti squash and melted butter, tossing to coat; season generously with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Spread the squash out in a 12-14 inch casserole dish and sprinkle with 3/4 cup of shredded cheese.
6. Spread the sour cream over the cheese layer then spoon on the chili and spread it out, leaving a 1 inch border of spaghetti squash around the edge; top with the remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.
8. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole or avocado slices as desired.

Approx nutrition info per serving: 284 cal, 20g fat, 6g net carbs, 23g protein

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Free Recipe Wednesday! (Peppered Shrimp Alfredo)

Hello again food lovers and welcome to another Free Recipe Wednesday. Today I bring you a delicious pasta dish. Pasta is probably one of my favorite types of dishes to have but I have to admit that I definitely prefer a cream based sauce over a tomato based sauce. This recipe uses a pre-made alfredo sauce but feel free to make your own if you’re so inclined. Also, you can substitute chicken or another type of seafood for the shrimp if you have that picky person in your family that just doesn’t like shrimp. Despite the number of ingredients and steps this dish is really quite simple to make and I definitely recommend giving it a try. As always feel free to leave comments below and also be sure to come back Friday for a new Gluten Free Friday recipe.

Peppered Shrimp Alfredo

  • 12 oz Penne Pasta
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1/2 lb Portobello Mushrooms, diced
  • 1 lb Medium Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 (15 oz) jar Alfredo Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Grated Romano Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Cream
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper, to taste
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Chopped Parsley

NOTE: Since chicken takes longer to cook than shrimp, if you’re using chicken just pre-cook the chicken and add it on step 6 then move directly on to step 7

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
2. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
3. Meanwhile, melt butter together with the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
4. Stir in onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 2 minutes.
5. Stir in garlic, red pepper, and mushrooms; cook over medium-high heat until soft, about 2 minutes.
6. Stir in the shrimp and cook until firm and pink.
7. Pour in the Alfredo sauce, Romano cheese, and cream; bring to a simmer stirring constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes.
8. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste
9. Stir drained pasta into the sauce, and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Free Recipe Wednesday! (Cheese Ball Special)

Hello again everyone and welcome to another Free Recipe Wednesday.  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and ate tons of delicious food.  For today’s Free Recipe Wednesday I’m giving you 4 delicious cheese balls to try.  It’s a bit of a long post but there’s lots of delicious goodness here.  I think at some point everyone has had a cheese ball of some sort and there are so many different ways that you can make them.  Personally I’m a huge fan of cheese, especially cream cheese, so cheese balls are most certainly a favorite of mine.  Unfortunately it never seems to be a holiday treat but maybe I’ll make one for Christmas dinner this year. Give some of these a try yourself and as always feel free to post comments below with your opinions, ideas, etc.

So the first cheese ball recipe, Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball, is just a basic variation of your standard cheese ball that’s sure to please just about anyone.  You can probably omit the black olives if you happen to have a picky person in the family or just don’t like them yourself.

Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball

  • 6 slices Bacon
  • 2 (8 oz) pkgs Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 (1 oz) pkg Ranch Dressing Mix (Hidden Valley, etc)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 Green Onions, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp Chopped Black Olives
  • 1 1/2 cups Chopped Pecans (optional)

1. Place the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes.
2. Drain the bacon slices on a paper towel-lined plate and once cooled, chop bacon into small pieces.
3. Stir together the cream cheese and ranch dressing mix in a bowl until smooth; add the bacon, cheddar cheese, green onions, and olives and stir until well combined.
4. Shape the mixture into a ball and roll in the chopped pecans; refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

Next we have the Hot Pepper Cheese Ball, which is obviously only for those that can handle a little heat.  The pepper jack cheese and Worcestershire sauce really give this cheese ball its unique flavor.  This one is probably my all time favorite.

Hot Pepper Cheese Ball

  • 1 (8 oz) pkg Cream Cheese
  • 1 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 cup Shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 cup Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 cup Chopped Pecans

1. In a large bowl, stir together cream cheese, cheddar, extra sharp cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, onion powder, garlic powder, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce; cover and refrigerate mixture 1 hour.
2. Shape mixture into a ball and roll in chopped pecans.

The third cheese ball we have is the Pineapple Cheese Ball.  This one, like the following one, is going to appeal more to those that like sweet and savory flavors mixed.  This cheese ball is also good with a little Canadian bacon chopped up in it for that “Canadian Bacon and Pineapple Pizza” type of flavor.

Pineapple Cheese Ball

  • 2 (8 oz) pkgs Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 cup Minced Celery
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Green Bell Pepper
  • 1 tsp Minced Onion
  • 1 (20 oz) can Crushed Pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup Chopped Pecans

1. In a medium mixing bowl combine cream cheese, celery, bell pepper, onion, and crushed pineapple.
2. Divide the mixture in half and form two balls out of the mixture.
3. Roll each ball in the pecans and chill until ready to serve.

Finally we have what I would consider to be a true dessert cheese ball, the Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball.  The cream cheese, sugars, and chocolate chips make this one interesting but definitely a crowd pleaser and kids really enjoy it.  If you’re making multiple types of cheese balls at once you can toss a few chocolate chips in with the crushed pecans so you can distinguish between various cheese balls easier.

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

  • 1 (8 oz) pkg Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup Butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup Confectioners' Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 cup Miniature Semisweet Chocolate Chips
  • 3/4 cup Finely Chopped Pecans

1. In a medium bowl beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth.
2. Mix in confectioners' sugar, brown sugar and vanilla.
3. Stir in chocolate chips; cover, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
4. Shape chilled cream cheese mixture into a ball; wrap with plastic and chill in the refrigerator for an additional 1-2 hours.
5. Roll the cheese ball in finely chopped pecans before serving.