Tag Archives: cheese

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Zucchini Quesadilla


Katie:  Although I haven’t been too ambitious with cooking lately, this was a simple creation that turned out delicious!  Using what I happened to have at home, I blended about 1 tablespoon of homemade pesto with 1 jar of roasted red peppers for a tasty sauce.  I spread it on a whole wheat tortilla, topped half with zucchini slices and shredded cheese, and cooked it.  So simple, yet so good!




Chicken Parmesan Pockets

Katie:  I’ve thought about making calzones, but have been intimidated by the amount of prep work required just to prepare the pizza dough.  So when I spotted this recipe for Chicken Parmesan Wraps from Can You Stay for Dinner?, I was excited at the possibility of a quicker version of calzones.  Rather than using homemade or even store-bought pizza dough, Andie used egg roll wrappers.  Great idea!

I prepared the pockets as written, except I cooked the chicken breasts in a panini grill.  I made a few adjustments to the marinara sauce, including adding balsamic vinegar, which really enhanced the flavor.  The sauce took a little while to simmer, but otherwise these were pretty simple to prepare.  The pockets were crispy and tasted great with the flavorful marinara sauce.  These would probably be great with other fillings too, like mushrooms or ricotta cheese.  Now I just need to decide what to make with the leftover egg roll wrappers!

Chicken Parmesan Pockets (slightly adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner?)

makes 6

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 6 egg roll wrappers (each 7 inches squared)
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add one tablespoon olive oil.  Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirred frequently, for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned.  Lower the heat if necessary to prevent the onion and garlic from burning.

Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and stir until the mixture is smooth. Add the remaining sauce ingredients (Italian herbs through balsamic vinegar), stir, and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Lower the heat to the lowest setting, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the bottom does not burn.

Chicken Parmesan Pockets:

Cook the chicken in a panini press or pan until lightly brown and thoroughly cooked.  Let cool, and then shred with two forks (or your fingers), pulling against the grain of the meat.  Mix the shredded chicken with one cup of the marinara sauce in a small bowl.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Cover a cooking sheet with parchment paper.  Lay the egg roll wrappers on a clean work surface.  Layer each with a few leaves of spinach, then the chicken mixture, and top with the cheeses.

Lightly brush two adjacent sides of the wrapper with water and fold the upper left corner downward, covering the filling and forming a triangle, and press to seal on the bottom right corner. Press to seal each of the sides. Repeat with remaining wraps.

Place all 6 filled wraps on the baking sheet without touching each other, brush lightly with the remaining tablespoon olive oil, and bake for about 12 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Serve with warmed marinara sauce for dipping.

Homemade Cheesy Crackers

Katie:  I haven’t posted anything in awhile, but I’ve still found some time between studying and other activities to occasionally try something new.  For my mom’s birthday, I gave her the tough choice of requesting something sweet or salty.  She chose the latter, so I decided to try making some homemade cheesy crackers.  They were much easier to make than I expected, and they turned out great!  I made them as directed, but mixed in some smoked paprika and sprinkled them with sea salt before putting them in the oven.  The pungent smell when they came out of the oven was irresistible!

Cheddar Crackers (adapted from various online sources)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
  • 3-4 Tbsp. water
  1. Pulse the flour, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika in a food processor, then add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the grated cheese a little at a time until the mixture again resembles coarse meal.
  2. Pulse in 3 to 4 tablespoons of water, one tablespoon at a time, and only enough so that the dough forms a ball and rides the blade.
  3. Remove the cracker dough, wrap it in plastic, and chill for 20 minutes or up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  5. Roll the dough out to 1/8th-inch thickness directly onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  (You can cover the dough with plastic wrap to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin.)  Using a pizza or pie cutter, cut 1 inch squares, separate them slightly, and  bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or until crackers are golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.  They probably won’t last that long!

Stuffed acorn squash

Matthew:  I’ve been accumulating squash from my CSA for the past few weeks and I finally had a break in more perishable vegetables and was able to use some of them.  My friend Beth, who is a genius in the kitchen, sent me a recipe for Stuffed Spaghetti Squash with glowing reviews.  I instead used acorn squash, but it still turned out great.  The recipe also calls for marinara sauce.  It would have been great to use homemade sauce, but since I didn’t have any on hand, I found some good quality canned sauce.  As Beth said, this is really a great recipe for using up random vegetables.  I actually used so many vegetables that they didn’t all fit back in the acorn squash halves, so I had to use another baking dish for the extra.  This is definitely a d0-over!  Here’s the recipe:

Italian Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Prep: ~ 45 minutes total time, 20 active prep.  chop/saute all the veggies while the squash is cooking and it’ll be quick.


– 1 spaghetti squash
– 1/2 T. olive oil
– 1/2 chopped:
bell pepper
summer squash
(or anything you need to get rid of)
– 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 cup spinach
– 1/4 tsp salt and pepper
– 1/2 c. bread crumbs or almond meal if you’re going gluten free
– your fav marinara sauce (~ 1 cup)
– 2 oz. shredded mozzarella
– 1 oz. parmesan

Preheat oven to 400F. Halve the squash length-wise and scrape out the seeds. Place the halves of the squash in a large pot of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool.  (I roasted my squash which worked fine.)

In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil. Add celery, carrots, peppers, salt and pepper and cook veggies until softened. Add zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and spinach and cook an additional 5 minutes.

Scrape the meat out of the squash and place in a large bowl. Add the sauteed veggies, breadcrumbs, and marinara sauce. Mix everything together, then return the mixture to the empty squash halves. Top with extra marinara, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. Bake until the top is bubbling and melted.

Eggplant, Tomato, and Mozzarella Tart

Katie:  Compared to the beginning of summer, the farmer’s market seems to be offering a wider variety of produce as the summer goes on.  We’ve gotten heirloom tomatoes a few times, which have been very flavorful.  Last weekend, I also bought some small purple eggplants.  I wanted to try something different with them,  so I tried this recipe for Eggplant, Tomato, and Smoked Mozzarella Tart from Cooking Light.  I couldn’t find smoked mozzarella at the store, so I just used regular mozzarella cheese, and I skipped the mint leaves and just added extra basil.  My tart doesn’t really look like the picture in the recipe, but I think it turned out pretty well for my first tart.  The fresh herbs and heirloom tomatoes made it very flavorful.  I was also able to convince two non-eggplant eaters to try it!   I might try a variation of this recipe again, maybe with other roasted vegetables, such as zucchini.

Soupe a l’Oignon (French Onion Soup)

Bill:  Jill was inspired to make some French Onion Soup this weekend.  She noticed that we had 3 containers of chopped onions in the freezer.  It was a good day for soup since it was only 40 degrees with a wind chill in the low 30s.  She used this Soupe a l’Oignon recipe from The Best of Cooking Light Soups and Stews cookbook.  It took a while to caramelize 6 cups of onions.  You can tell from the picture below where she’s reading her book.  The soup was topped with baguettes and cheese broiled in the oven.  It was really good.

Smoky Barbecue Chicken Pizza

Katie:  This post could also be titled “How we ended up eating dinner at 9pm” or “What to do with leftover whiskey”, but I think I’ll stick with “Smoky Barbecue Chicken Pizza”.

I felt like making pizza this weekend and wanted to try something new.  The recipes I found varied from those using pre-baked crusts and bottled sauces to recipes with instructions for homemade cheese. While I didn’t adventure into cheese making this weekend, I did decide to make my own pizza dough and sauce.  When I spotted this recipe for Smoky Barbecue Chicken Pizza, I couldn’t wait to try it.  Flori couldn’t wait either, so although I had planned to make it a day later, after finding the ingredients I decided to make it that evening.  A few hours later, my pizza was done.  Although this was a time-intensive project (especially the sauce), the results were worth it.  The sauce was very flavorful due to the long simmering time and had just the right amount of spiciness.  The chicken was juicy and soaked up the barbecue flavor.  Although the original recipe didn’t include mushrooms, I think they were the perfect addition.  The only addition that might improve this pizza would be caramelized onions, but after a few mediocre attempts in the past, I’ll leave them to the experts (aka Mom).  Since I made a few changes to the original recipe, I’ll post my version here:

Smoky Barbecue Chicken Pizza (adapted from Food People Want)

  • Flatbread dough, doubled recipe (for 8 servings; reduce other pizza ingredients accordingly for fewer servings; I used 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 3/4 cups whole wheat flour)
  • Smoky Barbecue Sauce (I only made a few minor substitutions for ingredients I couldn’t find)
  • 350g boneless, skinless chicken breast (3/4 pound or about 1 ½ cups shredded chicken)
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 120g (4 oz.) brown mushrooms, sliced
  • olive oil
  • shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese (1 – 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped (optional)

The barbecue sauce takes awhile to prepare, but it can be made in advance. The chicken can also be prepared ahead of time.

  1. Prepare the barbecue sauce according to the directions.  This can be made in advance or should be started a few hours before your planned serving time.
  2. Prepare the flatbread dough.
  3. While the dough is rising, cook the chicken.  Place chicken and 1 ½ cups water in a nonstick pan.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover, and cook 10-12 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Drain well.  Once cool, shred the chicken with your hands into smaller (about 1-inch) pieces.  Set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 500° F.
  5. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a pan on medium heat.  Add sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until mushrooms become slightly softened.  Remove and set aside.
  6. Add another teaspoon of olive oil to the pan and cook the sliced red onion until slightly softened but not browned or carmelized, about 5-7 mintues.  Set aside.
  7. Combine shredded chicken and 1 cup of barbecue sauce.  If the sauce or chicken are cool, warm in a saucepan on low heat.
  8. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with cornmeal.  Roll out prepared dough.
  9. Spoon a thin layer of the extra barbecue sauce onto the dough and carefully spread it to the edge of its borders.  Top with a thin, even layer of mozzarella cheese followed by pieces of the warmed chicken, red onion, and mushrooms.  Top with a bit more cheese.
  10. Bake until the crust is crisped and golden and the cheese is bubbling (8-15 minutes; watch closely).  Remove from the oven, sprinkle with freshly chopped cilantro leaves, and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings