Tag Archives: cheese

lettuce leaf tacos!

mmm tacos. Who doesn’t love a good taco every now and then? The beauty of the taco is that you can make it exactly how you like it and it’s still a taco (ie: hard shell, soft shell, choco taco 🙂 ). Although I do love me some of those pre-made corn taco shells or a soft flour tortilla to support my beef and cheese, we decided to go the healthier route for our taco night this time and use these large, beautiful romaine lettuce leaves.  We made some fresh guacamole to complement the earthy lettuce shells and topped the tacos with cilantro and lime for a tasty version of the classic beef and cheese taco.

First, the guac. I like to make guacamole with just a few ingredients ’cause I love avocados so much.

All I use are avocados, red onion, fresh cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper.

Chop, chop, chop…

…then mash, mash, mash…

…and you have one of the most easy, yet most delicious condiments on the planet.

From here all we did was brown some ground beef, mix in a little taco seasonings, and served it atop a large lettuce leaf with some cheese, chopped tomato, guacamole, fresh cilantro and lime. Nothing fancy, but downright delicious.

Nothing processed or refined in this spin on a Mexican? American? traditional dinner food. Whole foods and tons of flavor. YUM!


Steak Chili

I love making chili in the winter time and there are so many different styles to try. I asked Greg to make chili for us one weekend and he decided to make chili with steak (beef chuck roast) instead of traditional ground meat.  He began by trimming the meat and cutting down the 3 1/2 pound roast into cubes. Coincidentally, this occurred during Maryland’s nail biter against Virgina Tech and provided him with a good outlet for all that anxious energy. Maryland won by the way!

We used the dutch oven again for the chili, like we did with the Cincinnati Style Chili we made several weeks ago. For this chili version,  start off by browning the meat on the stove top and drain the excess liquid.

It does not have to be cooked all the way through at this point, because it will go in the oven for another 3+ hours.  However, once you get a nice brown coating, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

At this point it is pretty chunky, but it will cook down over the next few hours and each part will be rather indistinguishable.

Before three plus hours in the oven (above) and after (below).

It thickened up quite a bit and all of the bug chunks of meat cooked down and became much smaller with an almost shredded like consistency.Similarly, most of the other ingredients (tomatoes, onions, peppers) also cooked down and created a thick sauce like texture.

We topped it with some shredded cheddar cheese, raw yellow onion, and avocado. YUM!

Chili is so good for leftovers too! Hope you like it!

Recipe for Steak Chili

Spaghetti (Squash) and meatballs!

I have heard a lot about spaghetti squash throughout the winter on the many food blogs I read and I finally tried it a few weeks ago. I REALLY liked it and I found it to be a great alternative to pasta or rice, or really any starch you need to soak up some sauce. It’s almost like tofu in the sense that it has very little flavor of it’s own and conforms to whatever you want it to be. It is relatively easy to make and did I mention there are like 50 calories in the entire squash and very few carbs!

I decided to pair it with on of my favorite things to make and eat, meatballs!

First the making of the “spaghetti”.

Conveniently, the directions for how to cook the squash are on the sticker. I microwaved it for about 12 minutes and then baked it for an hour in the oven.

Now doesn’t this look scrumptous! Yeah, it’s pretty gross looking but forge ahead and it will be worth it!

Scrape out all the parts that remind you of a pumpkin, ie: the seeds and orange clumps. After that you basically just use a fork to pull out the strands.

Looks like pasta right?

It produces quite a bit of  “spaghetti”. I would say at least six servings, if not more.

On to the meatballs!

It’s all pretty self explanatory from here on out.

Yeah, enough meatballs to feed a small army. Leftovers!

Recipe for Meatballs

Pesto Shrimp Bake

Recently, we hosted a dinner party in which we featured one of our best talents: cooking shrimp perfectly- of course!  Last summer, or fall actually, when the garden was reaching some of it’s last days, Greg whipped up some pesto and we froze several jars of it for occasions such as this. We did not want to be busy cooking when our guests arrived, so it was the perfect thing to use since it was already made.

First, check out the table scape complete with real dining room chairs! wahoo, we’re adults now!

For an appetizer we used our new cheese board to display four cheeses: parmesano reggiano, pecorino romano, some really sharp cheddar, and parano (my recent fave).

We also served a salad that if anything was Greek-esque: romaine, cucumber, tomato, feta and pine nuts.

Now on to the main event. Like I said we used some pre-made homemade pesto. When making pesto ahead of time, it is suggested that you add the cheese when you are ready to use it, versus adding the cheese before you freeze it.

The pesto as it dethawed:

and with a generous heap of cheese:

This thickens it up quite a bit and adds a ton of flavor.

The raw shrimp were peeled and placed in a casserole baking dish. The pesto went over top of the shrimp…

…and was thoroughly mixed in

Next, a layer of freshly grated cheese atop the scrimps.

Pine nuts! Whenever we make the trip to Pittsburgh, we always stock up on pine nuts. They are worth the price, but especially at the price Penn Mac sells them for! YUM.

This went into the oven and baked while we sampled the cheese and ate salad.

We topped it with fresh tomato once it was done baking and the shrimp were cooked through.

We had the romantic mood lighting going- sorry for the flashy picture!

We served it along side of some pasta… along side, not on top!

This was a key point Greg wanted me to stress. The dish is meant to stand alone and is not intended to be a pasta sauce per se, although it went quite well with the pasta.

This is the best picture I have of it– extreme closeup, ahh!

With the scent of basil in the air, this dish made me even more ready for summer! It was a crowd pleaser too, which is always good.

Recipe for Pesto Shrimp Bake

Recipe for our Simple Basil Pesto

Crab and Spinach Ravioli

This dish has to be the BEST thing we have ever made. I don’t think I can give it the title of the best thing I have ever eaten in general, but that’s only because I can’t remember everything I have eaten and that’s a hell of a title. Seriously though, this dish was sooooo amazing!

We envisioned making our own ravioli from scratch but realized we don’t have a pasta maker or a rolling pin so there would be no way to get the pasta as thin as we needed. Luckily Whole Foods carried some fresh pasta sheets and we were able to cheat a little bit- or as I would like to say, make our dream a reality with a little help. One day I will actually make the dough for this and roll out the pasta, but for now this worked beautifully.

Here is one sheet rolled out.

For the filling we used crab meat. Harris Teeter had a ridiculous in store special/sale on crab meat- this one pounder was cheaper than a 1/2 pound. That is quite, um,  special.

We mixed it with some other goodies- including ricotta cheese, spinach, and seasonings.

The real stars of this dish are the cheeses we used: parmesano reggiano and pecorino romano. We had a Whole Foods gift card and purchased some really good and expensive cheeses (thanks Pops and Donna!). It was so worth it! These cheeses played a major role in this dish and made it so flavorful and rich.

The parmesano reggiano

The pecorino romano

Had to add a little to the filling.

Then it was time to start making the ravioli.

To make the ravioli, we placed a sheet of pasta on top of this one. We used an egg wash to help the top sheet stick to this one.

Once the top was on, we just sliced the dough with a pizza cutter and pressed the edges together.

We actually made these ahead of time and kept them in the fridge for a few hours before we were ready to eat. Once we were ready, we brought up a pot of water to a boil and cooked these for about 3-5 minutes, or until they were floating.

While that was going on, we made the sauce. Oh, the sauce. This sauce is sinfully good… it’s made with butter, cream and cheese and the parmesano reggiano is the real superstar.

The black pepper made such a difference here. It really brought out the flavors of the sauce even more so and complimented it nicely. This meal was such a lesson in how fine ingredients make such a difference. Even after dinner, every time we would walk in the kitchen we could smell the intense flavors of this sauce. It doesn’t re-heat that well, so just eat it all in one sitting! haha… you will want to though 🙂

Recipe for Crab and Spinach Ravioli

Recipe for Parmesano Reggiano/Pecorino Romano Alfredo Cream Sauce

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8-Layer Taco Dip

On Saturday, it snowed more than the predicted 1-inch and we were semi-snowed in for the night. I think we ended up getting closer to six inches, which was a pleasant surprise.  Though this ruined our plans to head into DC for the night, we reconciled by making a sinfully delicious taco dip and purchasing a rather large bottle of Crown Royal. All was good…

The making of the dip- all 8 layers:


da beans


no, this is not icing



4 & 5.





those are jalepenos on the right side

You can’t really go wrong with any of these ingredients individually let alone when combined into a super-dip! We served it with some tostitos chips and happily munched away. This dish is straight up junk food at it’s finest. Mmm…

Recipe for 8-layer taco dip

Taco Salad

This recipe is really easy!

the peppers and onions should be sauteed until soft

We tried to add avocado but the one we had just wasn’t ripe enough 😦 I topped this with a salsa ranch dressing we had in the fridge but you can have it with sour cream, guacamole, or any other dressing you like. Simple, but good.

Recipe for Taco Salad

Two Pizzas

For dinner tonight we decided to make pizza at home because trying to find good pizza in suburban Maryland is IMPOSSIBLE. We went to a local Italian market called Marchone’s to get some of our ingredients. We bought enough dough for two pizzas, their homemade red sauce, and two hot sausage links. We decided to make pizza number 1 a barbecue chicken pizza and pizza number 2 a margherita style with sausage. Both came out great and highly recommend Marchone’s for any ingredients you need for an Italian meal. Also, the sandwich line was very long, which is also a good sign that their subs are good too! We must try those soon…

Pizza #1

After several hours of thawing...

both doughs

chicken mixed with Stubb's bbq sauce

the good stuff

before baking...

after baking

after baking

there was some extra crust so we folded it over

Recipe for BBQ Chicken PizzaPizza #2fresh hot sausage from marchone's.. i love when food comes in deli paper!

before baking

after baking

Recipe for Margherita Pizza with Sausage

Making pizza is an activity I highly recommend! If you live where we do, you will surely be pleased and you get to add whatever toppings you like, making it even better.

Gratin dishes

One of the best parts of being newly married is using the new things we received as gifts! My sister gave us four gratin dishes from Crate and Barrel and we used them tonight for Greg’s famous mac and cheese. To know Greg is to know his mac and cheese. It’s SOOO good. He was making it for a work function on Friday and made a little extra to go with our steaks tonight. The steaks were also a gift and were shipped to us frozen a few weeks ago. Anyway, on with the mac and cheese prep…

Greg started out by making a roux.

lots of black pepper

…and then he put in an entire bottle of Cholula hot sauce hence the vivid orange hue.

…and then he forgot to take pictures of the rest of the process! Essentially, he added the cheese to the roux and once it was thoroughly mixed in and melted he poured it over the cooked pasta. He topped it with more cheese and baked it to perfection!

We enjoyed it with the seared steaks and broccoli (which was cooked with a little olive oil and parmesan cheese).

dinner at the bar

We are still working on the honeymoon planning as well. I think we are getting closer to making a decision and may be heading to Jamaica! Hopefully by the weekend we will have this settled… either way it will be great and I can’t wait!

Recipe for Mac and Cheese (almost fire version)

Chicken Carbonara Casserole

It’s Thursday night and we have made some really good meals this week. Energy and motivation are slightly down for me, but not for Greg. He was the creator of this dish, which utilized some of the leftovers we had in the fridge. He ended up making what he dubbed, “chicken carbonara casserole”. Once you read the recipe you will see that it is a perfect title- except if you are expecting to see fettuccine noodles or some other pasta derivative. We aim to eat low-carb for most of the week, but this could have easily and quite tastily been served over said carbs. Honestly though, I didn’t even miss them. This was that good.

He started out the casserole by chopping up the leftover broccoli we had from the broccoli cheese soup, blanching it, and placing it on the bottom of the casserole dish.

Then added some chopped mushrooms, which he sauteed first with some oil, salt, and pepper.

Then he re-heated a leftover bacon and onion mixture and placed it in the casserole.

bacon makes everything better

He then chopped up some leftover chicken from last night and added that.

Now on to the good stuff: the carbonara sauce. For this he made a basic roux with some roasted garlic, added half and half and skim milk, “Italian” mix cheese and some grated Parmesan, and generous amounts of ground black pepper.

He then poured the gooey cheese sauce over the casserole and added another layer of the Parmesan.

Lastly, he baked it for about ten minutes, and broiled it for an additional 5 to get the top nice and brown.

After a garnish of fresh chopped tomato and basil, dinner was served!

After dinner we continued to work on the honeymoon planning. I think we have narrowed it down to the Domican Republic, but we still have some details to figure out, like which resort to go to. It’s hard to tell from the websites what they are really like, but at some point we are just going to have to pick one and trust our instincts. My only criteria is that I would like the resort to have a swim-up bar (priorities people!).  Oh, and also that it’s clean, has decent food, and has some sort of nightlife 🙂 Hopefully, we will find just what we are looking for very soon and then we can really start to get excited for it! Below is the recipe for tonight’s dinner. I have to admit we did not measure out everything so these are my best guesses.  We used the half and half and milk mixture to cut some fat but you can use 3 cups of any dairy that you like.  There should at least be some fat in the dairy though as skim only may be too thin.

Recipe for Chicken Carbonara Casserole

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