Layered Italian Dinner

I was actually planning to grill this dinner. Sometimes between checking the grill and preparing the meal the grill got taken. That’s the risk you run with a communal grill. Instead, I seared the vegetables as hot as I could in a cast iron to replicate the grilled texture and flavor. The result was good. By cutting deep into the bowl, you can make the perfect bite that mixes all the flavors of this dish together.

RECIPE:  Layered Italian Dinner
Makes 2 Servings

Cutting Board
Cast iron pan

2 Small Zucchini
1 Tomato
1 Hot Italian Sausage
2 oz Homemade Pasta
Balsamic Vinegar
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Chili Powder

1) Begin boiling a pot of water, and cook pasta as directed.
2) Slice the tomato into slices from bottom to top. On the zucchini, chop off the ends and then slice into long sheets (about 4-6 per zucchini).
3) Toss any tomato that didn’t slice well into a cast iron pan with a hot Italian sausage.
4) Place sliced tomato and zucchini in a bowl and pour balsamic vinegar, sprinkle in garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and parsley. Stir until everything is well coated.
5) Once sausage is almost fully cooked, chop up into smaller chunks and throw back into the pan to finish.

6) In a bowl, layer pasta on the bottom, topped with sausage.
7) With the hot greasy cast iron pan, sear zucchini slices and tomatoes flipping once they are seared and cooked. The searing keeps the balsamic marinate in the vegetables.
8) Layer zucchini on top of sausage, and the tomatoes on the very top.
9) Serve with a knife and fork so you can slice through all the wonderful layers of juicy flavor. IMG_1339

This meal is extremely filling and super low calorie. The amount of flavor it packs into a small bowl makes it seem like an Italian restaurant moved into your mouth.

Green Vegetable Frittata

Some days I crave vegetables. Not a side of vegetables, but a meal filled to the brim with a variety of vegetables. The heat has lessened my appetite, but not my craving. To me, the frittata is the quiche’s cousin. They both are a mixture of eggs, and filling (meat, cheese, vegetable, or combination there of). While I love quiche, with or without crust, they take a while to bake. A hot oven was a no no with the temperature reaching the upper 90’s. A frittata can be made on the stove and finished quickly under a broiler, aka…minimal heat released. Here is my recipe for green vegetable fritatta.

RECIPE:  Green Vegetable Frittata
Makes 3 Servings

Cast Iron Pan
Cutting Board
Oven set to Broil on High

5 Eggs
Half a Green Pepper
1 Small Zucchini
2 Scallions
4 Garlic Scapes
1 oz Pepper Jack Cheese
1)  Chop vegetables and saute over medium heat until slightly softened. Season with salt and pepper.
2) Chop or shred the cheese finely.
3) In a bowl, use a fork or whisk to mix together the eggs, a dash of milk, cheese, and rosemary.
4) Pour vegetables into egg mixture and give it a quick stir. IMG_1303
5) Butter the bottom of the cast iron pan.
6) Pour eggs and vegetable mixture into cast iron pan and cover.
7) When eggs have set except for the very top, move pan under the broiler until the top also sets.
8) Serve warm as is, or with hot sauce or ketchup.


Mexican Grilled Pockets

First off, this recipe is not my own. My fiance surprised me and had dinner in the works when I got home. The pictures were taken by him, and he gave me the recipe for the write up.

Secondly, he is on a grilling kick. If there is a way to grill it, he will find it. The tortillas needed to be used, and he ran with it from there.

RECIPE:  Mexican Grilled Pockets
Makes 3 Servings

Cutting Board
Two Pans
Cast iron grill pan
Cast iron pan or weight

4 Small Sweet Onions
1/2 Orange Pepper
Black Beans
Avocado Oil
Chili Powder
Garlic Powder
Cayenne Pepper
3 Medium Tortillas

1) Chop sweet onions and orange pepper into small pieces.
2) In two different pans, saute onions and peppers low and slow.
3) Put black beans in the blender with chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, and avocado oil. Blend into a nice bean paste!
4) Heat grill pan until nice and searing hot.
5) In each tortilla, layer beans, onions, and peppers in the center and fold  into a pocket.
6) Put the pocket on the hot grill pan and press down with another cast iron pan or weight. Once grilled, flip and grill the over side.
7) Serve with salsa or hot sauce.


Spice Up My Life Cake

We have a container of sugar free Italian Sweet Creme Coffee Creamer in the fridge from when we had guests (I think its coffee mate brand). The issue is neither me nor my fiance use it in our drinks, and this almost full container has been staring at me every time I open the fridge for the past 2 months. Rather than trash the creamer, I decided to figure out a way to use it in a new creation.

My biggest issue was the coffee creamer was insanely sweet with a distinct flavor. I knew I had to bring in some equally strong flavors to balance it all out. The result, is a fabulous spice cake with apples, raisins, and walnuts. It surprised both of us with how good it tasted.

RECIPE:  Spice Up My Life Cake
Makes 6 Servings

Cutting Board
Kitchen Aid Mixer
Cake Pan
Oven Heated to 350

2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons MolassesIMG_1316
1 Cup Sugar Free Italian Creme Coffee Creamer
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1/2 Tablespoon All Spice
3 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Apples
1/2 Cup Walnuts
1/2 Cup Raisins
Oil to grease pan

1) In a kitchen aid mixer, beat two eggs with 1/2 cup white sugar.
2) Add 2 tablespoons molasses and 1 cup coffee creamer.
3) Mix in 3 cups all purpose flour and spices.
4) Finely chop 2 apples and a 1/2 cup of walnuts.
5) Add apples, walnuts, raisins.
6) Pour batter into a greased cake pan. It should be on the thicker side of cake batters.
7) Bake for 35 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until a tooth pick comes out clean.
8) Serve as is if you like mildly sweet desserts. If you want something super sweet, add a light glaze made with powder sugar, milk, and lemon juice.


Why does the first slice never come out pretty???

Cheesy Meaty Nachos

I decided to branch out with these nachos. Instead of the usual oven melted cheese, I decided to make a nacho cheese sauce, like they do at snack stands, but better! These nachos came out amazing and flavorful, and surprisingly spicy! I hope you enjoy these!

RECIPE:  Saucy Meaty Nachos
Makes 2 Servings

Cast Iron Pan
Cutting Board

1/3 Cup Skim Milk
3 oz Pepper Jack Cheese
1/2 T Corn Starch
Leftover hamburger patty
1/2 a Green Pepper
Corn on the cob
Sweet Onion
4 oz Ranch Flavored Tortilla Chips


1) Crumble leftover hamburger patty into cast iron pan and season with paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder.
2) Cut corn off the cob, and chop sweet onion and green pepper.
3) Add chopped vegetables to the cast iron pan. Add a touch of water to evenly spread around the seasoning and slightly steam the vegetables.
4) In a pot, heat the milk on medium until steaming.
5) Finely slice 3 oz of pepper jack cheese and sprinkle and toss with 1/2 a tablespoon of corn starch until covered.
6) Slowly add the cheese to the milk while stirring constantly until a sauce in formed.

7) Place 2 oz of chips on each plate.
8) Top each plate with half the veggie and meat mixture.
9) Drizzle with cheese sauce (I need to drizzle better next time).
10) Serve immediately with hot sauce or salsa.


I may have had a food induced nap after this lunch.

Modified Rarebit

I love using leftovers in new and different ways. The cheese fondue was amazing, but I had no idea what to do with the leftover cheese. My mom gave me the idea of doing a modified version of a Welsh Rarebit. For those who don’t know, the Welsh Rarebit is a cheese sauce poured over toast. While this sauce is not traditional rarebit, I believe it captures the spirit of the meal.

RECIPE:  Modified Rarebit
Makes 2 Servings

Cast Iron Pan
Cutting Board
Oven set to Broil on High

Leftover Cheese Fondue
Green Onions

1)  Cube leftover bread and chop green onions and place in cast iron pan.
2) Broil ingredients until the cheese cubes are toasted brown.
3) Pour leftover cheese fondue and return under broil until cheese is hot and ready.
4) Serve hot.

Everything’s Just Peachy Burger

With bonus recipe! Yes, you read that right. There is a bonus second recipe for my Ukrainian side salad. I’m not sure what the actual salad is called, but I ate it pretty much every other day when studying in Ukraine.

It is a hot summer night, so of course we cracked open some beers and lit up the grill. This recipe is for Everything’s Just Peachy Burger.

RECIPE:  Everything’s Just Peachy Burger 
Makes 3 Burgers 

Meat Grinder
Cutting Board

Bacon (1 slice per burger)
A1 Steak Sauce
Lemon Juice
Meat (Beef)

IMG_12781)  Grind meat and form into 4 oz patties.
2)  Slice the peach thing and wrap in foil.
3) In a bowl, mix together steak sauce, honey, and lemon juice.
4) On a hot grill, put down patties and packet of peaches on the main grill, and slices of bacon on the top shelf of the grill.
5) Once all the components are cooked, layer as bun, patty, bacon, peaches, sauce, bun.
6) Take a bite and everything in your life will be peachy as well.


RECIPE:  Ukrainian Side Salad 
Makes 3 Burgers 

Cutting Board

1 Medium Onion
2 Cucumbers
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
Dried Dill
(Please note, fresh tomatoes and dill are better. Sometimes you have to work with what you have.)
1)  Chop onion and cucumbers nice and small.
2) Layer in a bowl, onions, cucumber, tomatoes, dill.
3) Stir until thoroughly mixed and delicious. Serve chilled. IMG_1276

Cider Cheese Fondue

Fondue may sound like something out of a bad seventies dinner party or a niche overpriced restaurant, but it is amazing. My family did fondue for holidays, and they were the most memorable dinners. The very nature of fondue forces you to talk to others, eat slowly, and make merry.

My fiance and I recently received a fondue pot (Thanks to my folks!) . We have used it twice in the last three nights. The first was an oil fondue, and the next was a cheese fondue. Next weekend, we will do chocolate to cover the full trifecta of fondue.

Below is my recipe for cider cheese fondue.

RECIPE: Cider Cheese Fondue
Makes 1 Pot

Cheese Grater
Cutting Board

1 Lb Cheddar Cheese
2 Tablespoons Corn Starch
1 Teaspoon Dried Mustard
1 Green Onion
4 Garlic Scapes
1 Dry Hard Cider

1)  Turn fondue to level 6. Chop green onion and garlic scapes.
2) Toss chopped vegetables into the fondue pot to begin cooking.
3) Shred cheddar cheese, and toss in a bowl with corn starch and dried mustard.
4) Pour in the hard cider. Let it bring itself to a boil before turning the temperature down to three.
5) Slowly whisk in cheese by the handful until its fully melted.
6) Dip pieces of bread and pickle into the delicious cheese fondue.

Bread Maker Bread: Classic White

This may be my favorite white bread to make in the bread maker. Its soo good. It holds together a little better than some of the other bread recipes (doesn’t crumble completely). I use it for my morning toast, in fondue, and for garlic bread.

RECIPE: Classic White
Makes 1 Loaf

Bread Maker
Measuring Cups and Spoons

11 oz skim milk, warmed
2 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Margarine
4 Cups Bread Flour
1 3/4 Tablespoon Sugar
2 Teaspoons Yeast



1)  In the bread maker, layer the ingredients in the order listed above (liquids, then solids).
2) Set the bread maker to start immediately (don’t want the milk to spoil!) and do a light or medium crust level.
3) Enjoy! As you can tell, we dove into our loaf as soon as it was out.



Apple Raisin Crumble

Crumbles are one of my favorite summer desserts. They are filling, sweet, and capture the essence of the season. You can make them with apples, blue berries, rhubarb, strawberries, raisins, pears, peaches, and whatever other fruits you find at the farmers market. I decided to use the last of my canned apples this year to start of the crumble season.

I apologize ahead of time, I don’t have exact measurements. You make crumbles enough times and you have a feeling for the ratios. These are approximations that I eyeballed.

RECIPE: Apple Raisin Crumble
Makes 6-8 Servings

Baking Dish
Oven heated to 350

1.5 – 2 Cups Oatmeal
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Crisco
1 Quart Canned Apple Pie Filling
1/3 Cup Raisins

1)  In a baking dish, mix together the drained apple pie filling and raisins.
2) In a bowl, mix together oatmeal, brown sugar, and Crisco by hand until crumbly.

3) Pour crumble over the entire baking dish.
4) Bake for 20 minutes or until the top browns.