Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tomato, Mozzarella and Arugula Towers

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the sweetest.

Like sleeping in an hour. Or being able to roll your window down while driving. Like when that man of mine does my dishes.

I have a million examples. I can't say that I have always been this way but I have learned to appreciate the simple things; the things that your average person may take for granted.

This dish is a great example of that. It's so simple that it seems almost boring...until you take a bite that is.

That man of mine and I started our very simple and sweet Valentine's Day dinner together with this salad. He was surprised to like it as much as he did and I was surprised that it had as much flavor as it did.

I highly recommend this for someone looking to steer away from their standard everyday salad. It's even better when it is the "opening act" of an Italian dinner.

Tomato, Mozzarella and Arugula Towers


1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste
2 medium ripe tomatoes
3 oz part skim mozzarella, sliced into 6 slices
2 cups arugula


In a small blender, combine basil, olive oil, balsamic, a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper. Blend until smooth.

Slice the the top and bottom off of the tomato, discard. Cut the tomato into 3 equal slices and season with a pinch of salt keeping the tomato intact to assemble the same way it was cut.

Place 3/4 cup of arugula on each plate. Create two towers by layering the tomato, mozzarella, arugula, until two towers have formed, one on each plate. Top tomatoes with the remaining arugula then top with fresh cracked pepper and drizzle with oil and vinegar.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bacon Cheeseburger Dip

These pictures are atrocious.

This dip looks awful.

But I beg of you...please don't judge a recipe by a bloggers poor photography and "making food look pretty" skills.

I have this great ability to make delicious food look ugly.

Call me gifted.

But really...this dip tastes like a bacon cheeseburger. It's actually kind of weird. A good kind of weird though. I made this along with the pizza dip for the super bowl.

Yeah, I can't make decisions when it comes to what to make so it tends to be "all the above". An indecisive overachiever does not make for a great mix.

Bacon Cheeseburger Dip
Adapted from


1/2 pound lean ground beef
6 strips reduced-sodium bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 ounces neaufchatel cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup reduced-fat mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
salt and pepper to taste


Cook the ground beef in a pan over medium heat, set it aside and drain the grease from the pan.
Cook the bacon in the pan until crispy, about 6-10 minutes, set aside and drain all but a tablespoon of the grease.

Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute.

Mix the ground beef, bacon, onions and garlic, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, mozzarella, cheddar, worcestershire sauce, ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper and pour it into a baking dish.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the top starts turning a light golden brown and then sides are bubbling, about 20-30 minutes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pizza Dip

I saw the midnight showing of "The Hunger Games" last night.

Not surprisingly, the book was better. Always is.

BUT! The movie did a decent job of following the book with a few minor discrepancies. You'll have that.

I recommend the movie...but definitely the book first.

Have I mentioned I love dip? Yeah, I'm sure I have...but seriously I could (and do) often eat dip as a meal. Really nutritious I know but I frickin love the stuff. All kind of dip. Bring it on.

I made this pizza dip for the Super Bowl this year. It caught my eye on Pinterest and I thought it would be perfect for a football game. It's quite tasty but it wasn't until after I made it that I even realized there was no pizza sauce incorporated in the recipe. I find that odd...though it still tasted like pizza. I think I may try to create a recipe myself that includes pizza sauce. So standby ;)

(Also I feel the need to apologize for the photos. My pictures are never really that great but I had about 2 minutes to get any kind of picture before running out the door so there you have it!)

Pizza Dip
Adapted from


2 c. shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
2 c. shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
1/4 c. grated reduced-fat parmesan cheese
1 c. light mayonnaise
1 c. roughly chopped turkey pepperoni
1/2 c. small diced onion
1/2 c. small diced green pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can (6.5 oz.) mushroom stems and pieces, drained
3/4 c. roughly chopped black olives
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus a bit more cracked across the finished dip


Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, mixing well to incorporate. Spread into a baking dish - either a large rectangle up to a 9" x 13" size, or a large pie plate. Crack a bit more black pepper over the surface and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges are bubbly and the top is golden brown. Sometimes I also place it under the broiler for a minute or two to get the top extra golden pretty. Serve with sturdy crackers or sliced & toasted baguettes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Low-Carb and Low-Sugar Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I recently noticed something about myself.

It may be a combination of my OCD or the fact that I almost always feel overwhelmed but more than once a day it seems that I check my phone with the intentions of finding out the time only to realize a few short minutes later that I was not paying attention and did not in fact have a clue what time it was.

I feel like this isn't normal.

Someone help me.

Maybe I can blame Instagram. Yeah, Instagram distracts me.

See? Anybody have any ideas on how to justify taking random pictures of nothing and spending too much time uploading them using various fun settings and looks? No?

I'll work on it.

This here recipe is one that took a lot of work. I actually made it for Christmas.

Procrastination what?

I offered to bring dessert (shocker) and was told my uncle recently started a low-carb/low-sugar diet. I started racking my brain on how to transform a cheesecake recipe to fit his dietary needs.

I wanted to make something festive and my mind instantly went to this little "hole in the wall" Italian restaurant that man of mine and I went to months ago. I had this smoked gouda mac and cheese with sausage and we finished our delightful meal sharing a mint chocolate chip cheesecake.

Yeah, it exists.

But not so much in "recipeland" so I decided to come up with one myself...that's also low in sugar and low in carbs. I combined about 997 recipes online and prayed to the cooking Gods...

Pretty sure I held my breath the entire time but low-and-behold (is that the appropriate phrase? meh...) it worked out! It was a hit and nobody could tell it was not only reduced sugar and carbs but also reduced fat.

Merry Christmas to all!

Low-Carb and Low-Sugar Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
Dame Good


1 ½ cups ground almonds (or pecans or walnuts)
1 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons Splenda sugar substitute
4 tablespoons melted light butter
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3 (8 ounce) boxes neufchatel cream cheese , room temp
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
2 teaspoons green food coloring (or more if preferred)
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
3 eggs
20 (1 g) packets Splenda sugar substitute or 1 ¼ cups Splenda granular
1/2 cup andes mint chips (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9" springform pan with cooking spray.

Place nuts in bowl of a food processor; pulse until ground into a meal. Add Splenda, butter and cocoa powder (optional) pulse to combine.

Transfer nut mixture to a 9" springform pan and gently press to form a crust on bottom of pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes Remove from oven and cool.

Mix cream cheese in mixer until smooth. Add sour cream. Add 1 egg at a time.

Add splenda, peppermint extract, green food coloring and mix until smooth. Add chocolate chips and mix until combined.

Spray that sides of springform pan with cooking spray and pour in cheesecake mixture. Top with andes mint chocolate chips. Place cheesecake in a larger pan with enough water so that the water goes up 1/3 to 1/2 up the side of your cheesecake.

Bake 38-45 minutes at 375 degrees until cheesecake is set.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ham and Cheese Dip

I have a new obsession.


I know.

That man of mine teases me about my new compulsion to take pictures of any and everything. This was definitely the case on St. Patrick's Day.

What can I say? Beautiful weather makes me crazy happy.

I hope everyone else had a good holiday weekend as well!

I love when a recipe I create actually works out.

I'll admit it. This is not always the case.

In fact, last week I concocted what seemed to be a very promising peanut butter granola. Wrong! I burnt it so bad that it was beyond salvageable. Fail.

I discovered my love of food and creating it when I was around 5 and I was taking everything out of my mom's pantry and throwing it into a giant pot of boiling water and calling it soup.

Since that time I have had many fails, and some pleasant surprises. This dip concoction is one that is now a staple for me. Anytime I go to a potluck or some kind of holiday party, this is one of the ones I always like to whip up.

It's a crowd-pleaser and it's simple to whip together. It's my favorite around Christmastime...maybe because of it's festive colors :)

Ham and Cheese Dip
Dame Good


16 ounces neufchatel cream cheese, softened
1 cup fat-free sour cream
9 oz lean thin-sliced ham, shredded
1 cup reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 oz dry ranch seasoning
salt and pepper to taste


Stir together the cream cheese, sour cream and ranch seasoning. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chilled. (I prefer this dip with ritz crackers the best! :))

Monday, March 12, 2012

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

I finished reading "The Huger Games" series.

I am conflicted.

You see, every time that I finish a book or series that I really get into I go through a roller coaster of emotions.

It starts with an "Alas! I conquered you" But the feeling of accomplishment is immediately followed by a feeling of mourning and "Wow, I am really going to miss you."

I love to always have something to read but I generally need a 1-2 day grace period to get over the last book I read and my strange attachment to the's like losing friends.

There are worse things to have problems with am I right? Growing a little too attached to fictional characters is only cause for minor concern.


Up next? "Water for Elephants"...once I get over Katniss, Peeta and Gale that is...

Wish me luck.

Until then, the other companion I like to turn to, aside from the carefully crafted personalities I read about into the wee hours of the night, is food. Particularly food that has sugar, or carbs...or anything to make me feel guilty about eating it. Because that's what you need when you are grieving the loss of your new feel guilt.

Like this cheesecake.

This would make a grand companion right about now.

Unfortunately, it did not last me that long.

These coconut M&M's will have to do.

(Don't mind the can only hold so still when they are excited to eat something)

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake


2 (8 ounce) packages neufchatel cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 (9 inch) prepared reduced-fat graham cracker crust
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 cup reduced-fat frozen whipped topping, thawed


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside.
Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.
Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Cover with whipped topping before serving.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lightened Spinach Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

Carbs are good.

I don't care what anyone says.

Carbs are better than good.

I always hear girls saying things along the lines of "oh I'm cutting out carbs".

Wait, um, excuse me?!

Isn't that like actually impossible? Impossible like resisting chocolate, or a free pair of heels, or a make-out session with Ryan Reynolds. It can't be done my friends.

Sure, I try to cut out as much white breads as possible and replace them with whole grain and fiber and such but a world without bread, pasta or potatoes is not a world I want to live in.

For those of you who don't fear carbs...then these stuffed shells shall make you salivate as they did me while they were baking. I searched high and low for whole grain shells but apparently they do not least not in my grocery store. Oh well, extra-carby it is.

This is actually a lightened recipe anyway, so the whole white pasta thing might as well get counted out. Am I right or am I right? The sauce I made for it was a meat sauce with ground turkey and chicken sausage but it was my boss's friends recipe...aka, not mine to share but it was delicious! Definitely my go-to tomato sauce. I changed this up a bit to resemble this said sauce so that will have to do.

Spinach Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce
Adapted from


27 (9 oz) Barilla Jumbo Shells
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb 99% lean ground turkey (I froze the leftover meat to use at a later date)
1/2 lb Italian chicken sausage, casings removed (I froze the leftover meat to use at a later date)
32 oz crushed tomatoes (I used Tuttorosso)
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper
2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
8 oz reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 egg
16 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed well
1/4 cup reduced-fat Parmigiano Reggiano


Boil water and cook shells according to package directions, make sure to make them al dente.

Meanwhile, saute onions and garlic in oil. Add turkey sausage and salt and brown until cooked, breaking up in small pieces. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, sugar, salt, pepper and basil, then simmer on low, covered, about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°.
In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, egg, spinach, mozzarella, and parmesan.

Once shells are cooked and cool, fill each shell with (about 2 heaping tbsp) cheese mixture and place on a large baking dish, or two smaller dishes, covering the bottom of the dish with a little sauce.

Top shells with half of the sauce, cover with foil and bake 40 minutes; uncover foil and bake 5 more minutes.

Serve with additional sauce on top.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

Today is Oreo's 100th birthday!

I don't know how I know this. I am not cookie-crazy or anything.

Who am I kidding? If you saw my last post you know I have discovered the birthday cake Oreo's and had a major minor freak-out.

Regardless...Happy birthday Oreo! I may or may not (and by "may not" I mean "without a doubt") enjoy a couple birthday cake Oreo's and a glass of milk for dinner dessert tonight.

I have a very fond "Oreo memory" that I would like to share with you. When I was really young my family and I would go to Golden Corral like everyday or something like that. (I have since decided I am no longer aloud within 100 feet of the place as approximately 11 days ago I went with family and devoured 4 full plates and nearly popped the button of my jeans...) I concocted the same dessert at the end of every single visit. You see, Golden Corral had this ice cream station where they always had super-whipped and super-fluffy whipped cream as well as other standard ice cream fixings. One of those fixings I could never say no to was the crushed Oreos. I would plop a huge cloud of the whipped cream in the biggest bowl I could find and eagerly dump a heaping handful of crushes Oreo's over it and mix it up and devour it as if it were ice cream.

After weeks of doing this, eventually it was done for me as I was shocked to find "my concoction" already mixed together and ready for me at the ice cream station. I proudly declared that day that I was a dessert chef at Golden Corral and invented that very "dessert".


I wish I had some fun Cookies-n-Cream style recipe to post but the closest thing I got is cookie dough dip.

Like that is a bad thing.

Not that I am one of those people who worries about the raw egg in dough or is indeed my favorite part of baking...but for those of you who are, this dip is egg-free.

Yep, no salmonella for you.

Me? I'll risk it. Totally worth it.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip
Adapted from


1/2 cup light butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (a few people have found this to be too much; if you want, just add a pinch and increase to taste. I add the full 1/2 teaspoon and enjoy it!)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (again, you might want to add this a teaspoon at a time to taste. I add the full tablespoon and enjoy it!)
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips


In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the flour, salt, vanilla and chocolate chips. Add water one tablespoon at a time (stirring between each) until the dough reaches cookie dough consistency.

Serve with animal crackers, graham crackers or nilla wafers...Or whatever you shall choose...and dig in!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake

Between reading the Hunger Games series and Pinterest I often lose track of what's real life.

I am not thoroughly convinced that this is a bad thing as my fake life on Pinterest is far more exciting and interesting than the real thing. My Pinterest closet and Pinterest dream home and Pinterest Recipe box are all 100 times more fabulous than what's real.

Mind you, I have very little free time...but it seems to go to reading about Katniss kicking major ass or planning my make-believe life that I will never be rich or patient enough to achieve.

Now that I am reading this in black and white I think it may in fact be sad.

Yeah, it's kinda sad.

Before I go any further...has anyone seen these?!

No joke, when I caught sight of these at the grocery store I immediately yelped and did some kind of victory jig. Then I remembered I was in public and tried to collect myself but I feel the damage was done. Yep, I'm a crazy person.

Put sprinkles in ANYthing and I am immediately transformed into a 5-year-old version of myself. Seriously, put sprinkles on my baked potato and watch me giggle like a school girl.

A very special one.


They have a slight funfetti taste and funfetti is my most favorite. And yes, I am aware that it is really vanilla cake with sprinkles thrown in but I swear to you it tastes better! Somehow it does!

Get them before they're gone!

Moving right along...

I don't know about anyone else but I enjoy pumpkin all year round. This year I was smart and stocked up on the canned pumpkin so I can enjoy it whenever I please.

This cheesecake is great if you don't have the time, or patience for that matter, to bake one. It doesn't have that rich creamy bite you get from a traditional cheesecake but it is a creamy and lighter alternative.

I recommend this.

Most def.

No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake


7 oz Neufchatel Cream Cheese
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (canned is fine)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup brown sugar, unpacked
8 oz Cool Whip Free, thawed
9 inch reduced fat Graham Cracker Crust


In a large bowl using an electric mixer, whip cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar for a few minutes until fluffy. Add Cool Whip and whip until smooth. Spoon mixture into pie crust and chill for a few hours, until firm.
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