Apple Cider Muffins

I was craving a warm, tasty apple muffin.

(Darn Pinterest and all the autumn treats floating around.)

But we didn’t have any apples – and I couldn’t get out of the house because of the napper.

We did have some apple cider and some applesauce, so I decided to see what I could do…

The Recipe:

Apple Cider Muffins, adapted from

1 egg, room temperature

1/4 c applesauce

1 c whole wheat flour

2/3 c all-purpose flour

1 c apple cider

2/3 c sugar

1/2 c butter, room temperature

2 t baking powder

1 t cinnamon

dash of ground nutmeg

dash of ground cloves

1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease or line 12 cupcake wells.  In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg and applesauce, beating well after each addition.  Whisk together flours, baking powder, spices, and salt.   Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture, then 1/2 of the cider, and repeat, ending with the last of the flour and mixing only until incorporated. Pour into prepared cupcake pan, filling each cup 3/4 way full. Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Well, these certainly hit the spot.

And I think I did a pretty good job of taking a very sweet cupcake recipe and mellowing it out a bit into a muffin, with a couple healthier substitutions (though I did leave the sugar and butter alone).

I especially enjoyed the slightly dense texture that was full of the cider-y spice flavor.

I think if I were to make these again, I would add some apple chunks to give it that little extra ‘something’ to make them even better.  (And it would NOT use the cupcake liners – these babies stuck hard to the liners, so beware.)

Oh, and if you want another take on Apple Muffins, check out Smidge’s Saucy Apple Spice Muffins… hers look divine!  (And proof that great minds think alike.)

Crescia al Formaggio {Belated Easter Cheese Bread}

Have you ever seen a recipe on a favorite site and knew immediately that you wanted to make it?

And then it promptly left your overfilled brain.

But then another favorite site decided to make it, too… and then it was burned into your memory, taunting you with visuals of crusty, cheese-y goodness?

(Or maybe that’s just me.)

Well, several weeks ago, John from the Bartolini Kitchens made this amazing bread for Easter.  And you all know how I am about bread – so I immediately was pumped to make it.  But life got busy…and I forgot.

But the bread gods must’ve been looking out for me because soon after, Smidge, at Just a Smidgen, made it, too!

So, here I am, take three on this (obviously) wonderful bread.

The Recipe:

Crescia al Formaggio, adapted from King Arthur Flour

2 1/2 c bread flour

1 1/4 t instant yeast

3 large eggs

1 large egg yolk, (white reserved for glaze)

1/4 c warm water

1/4 c (4 T) softened butter

1 t salt

1 t ground pepper (black if you don’t mind the specks, white if you do)

1 1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese, or a combination

Beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny.  It’ll be sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process if necessary.  Add cheese.  Beat until well combined.

Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with a damp cloth, and set it aside to rest/rise for 45 minutes in a warm place; it may not much, so don’t be worried.

Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl, and allow it to rest/rise for an additional 45 minutes; again, it may not seem to rise much — again, that’s OK.

Divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12″ log, and braid the logs.  Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.  Cover the loaf lightly, and allow it to rise for 90 minutes (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should have become noticeably puffy, though it won’t have doubled in size.

While the loaf is rising, put your oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle, and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk the reserved egg white with 2 teaspoons cold water, and brush the top of the loaf.  Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F.

Remove the bread from the oven, and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

So, I kind of forgot to check the total amount of time needed to make this bread.  I realized, as the bread was doing the first rise, that I would not have enough time to finish it before leaving for an appointment…so I had to change the rise times from the original – I made up for it by making sure the bread rose in a warm place with a slightly damp cloth.  Just these small changes seemed to make the yeast super happy and ready to grow.

My other downfall for this recipe was a problem with separating my eggs.  This, honestly, was the very first (and second!) time I’ve ever not been able to do this.  Normally, I am an egg separating savant.  Seriously.  Hubs always gives me a hard time when I separate eggs, because I do it right over the batter, etc., full of confidence, and have never messed up.  While making this bread, though, I not only broke the yolk, but the second time I tried, the shell collapsed and my yolk fell into the white.  I was not a happy camper let me tell you (though I was glad that Hubs was not home to gloat).

Other than those little snafus, the bread worked like a dream.

And that cheesy bread smell filled the house for hours – bonus!

The bread actually had a really strong cheese flavor, since I mostly used Asiago, and the pepper added fun spice throughout.  The texture was all that you want in a bread: crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside.  All in all, just as good as I expected with the recommendations from the blogs above.

We had it with a salad, but I think it would be just heavenly dipped in a homemade marinara sauce.  Or even toasted with some butter.

Another bread win at our house.  🙂

Happy Wednesday!

Pizza Bread

Oooh, have I got a good recipe for you today…

As you all know, I love to bake – especially breads.  And I’m trying to be better at cooking meals, not just baking.  So I get super excited when these two worlds can collide; like they did the other night.

This is another one of my Pinterest finds, fitted to my family’s tastes.

And, as a bonus, it’s really quite easy to do.

The Recipes:

Pizza Bread, adapted from The Ivory Hut

1 t yeast

1 t sugar

3/4 cup warm water

1 2/3+ bread flour

1 t kosher salt

1/2 c bell pepper, chopped

1/4 c pepperoni, chopped

1/3 c onions, chopped

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

1 T olive oil

Sprinkle yeast over mixed warm water and sugar in a bowl.  Let it sit for 5 or so minutes until foamy, then add in flour and salt.  Mix (using a mixer, spoon, or your hands) just until it comes together.  Add pizza toppings and knead for 5-8 minutes.  Dough will be tacky, but feel free to dust with a bit more extra flour if it seems too sticky.  Let rise for about 1 hour, covered in a warm place, then put in the refrigerator for another hour.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and flour a Silpat or waxed paper.  Roll out into a rectangle about 11×17”. Sprinkle cheese over top.  Then, using the Silpat or paper, fold along the long side, like an envelope.  Seal sides so cheese is not exposed.  Let rest while you preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Let oven stay at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.

Bake the bread, either on a pizza stone or baking sheet, for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  About 3 minutes before taking it out, lightly brush the top with olive oil and let it finish baking.  Let rest on a wire rack to cool slightly before slicing.

Serve warm with homemade Marinara sauce for dipping.

Marinara Sauce

2 T olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1- 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 t sugar

1/4 t red pepper flakes

1 t oregano

1 t basil flakes

1/2 t salt

1/4 t onion powder

Heat oil and garlic in saucepan over medium-low heat for 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients.  Raise temperature to medium and let simmer for 20 minutes.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Last year, I admitted my love of boxed pizza rolls and made my own fresh and tasty version.  And they were really, really good.  But…they took forever to make.  Now this recipe gives you the same general concept, but so much easier and quicker.

(I have to admit that I was a little concerned going into this.  It was either going to be amazing or a big giant flop.  So glad it was the former.)

Making the dough was just like making regular dough, with just a couple of extras.  And the best thing – you can substitute and choose whatever filling ingredients you want to use.

When mixing, I highly recommend using some good old-fashioned hand-kneading to get all the fillings incorporated – the KitchenAid didn’t quite do it in that respect.  But once it’s mixed throughout, the rest is super simple.

Hubs commented that it looked like I was making fruit cake.

It was easy enough that I even made my own marinara sauce, from scratch, with no recipe!  (Though I have to shamefully admit that I did burn the garlic at first.  But that’s what happens when the UPS guy shows up, the kids and dog go crazy, and you get distracted by opening pretty packages.  Or is that just me?)

The finished loaf wasn’t the prettiest in the world, but really, you’re slicing it up anyways – so it doesn’t really matter.

Can you just imagine the cheesy bread smells coming from my kitchen?  (Frankly, I had to just imagine, too, since the burned garlic nastily smelled up the whole entire house.)

The flavor of this dish was all that I was hoping for and more.  The peppers, onions, and pepperoni were in every bite – and dipped in the marinara, it was just like a fluffy deep dish pizza.  Everyone loved it (yay!).

My only change for next time would be to roll the dough up in a spiral, so that the cheese could be spread out over more than just one section.  But, as far as changes go, that’s just a small one.

Not only would this be perfect for a meal, it would be a great appetizer to bring to a party.  (And it just looks cool when sliced.)

I can’t wait to try it again with other toppings.

Bon Appetit!

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuffins

The mojo is slowly working its way back into my life.

And this recipe certainly helped.

It’s the best of two very good worlds: the world of doughnuts and the world of muffins.  In this recipe, I have married these two treats into a union of tasty goodness.

And it took less than 15 minutes to do.

The Recipe:

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Muffins, adapted from In Good Taste 

1 c flour

1/2 c sugar

1 T baking powder

2 t cinnamon

1 egg

1/2 c milk

1 t vanilla

4 T vegetable oil

3 T melted butter

2 T sugar and 1 t cinnamon combined in a bowl

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Stir dry ingredients together.  Add egg, vanilla, and milk and whisk together for one minute.  Add oil and continue to whisk until well combined.

Grease muffin tin.  Fill each 2/3 way with batter.  Bake for 7-9 minutes.  Allow doughnuffins to cool for a minute or two.  Then brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle sugar mixture on top.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

A little creativity goes a long way to getting back your mojo, let me tell you.

I had seen a more traditional doughnut-flavored muffin on Pinterest that peaked my interest.  And then I remembered that I had found an easy baked doughnut recipe last Spring (that I’d actually remembered to put on my Wish List).  So I thought, why not try putting the ideas together.

And I did.

And it worked really, really well!

One of my favorite parts was that my house smelled like a warm doughnut shop while these were baking.  It made me super excited for them to be ready.

The doughnuffins puff up really tall in the pan, so don’t let that scare you.  And you probably want to leave them in the oven a touch more than you think – a couple of mine were still a little doughy on top, even though the edges were golden brown.  Perhaps a toothpick test might help.

The taste of these was SO good!  Very, very light like a doughnut, but also like a muffin.  Sweet and cinnamon-y (which I admit I cannot even say), with the melted butter and sugar topping on top.  Yummy!  (I even had to invite my friend over to try one while they were still warm, since I didn’t think the boys would truly appreciate them.)

So, for just 15 minutes of your precious time, you can enjoy this delightful breakfast indulgence.

It’s a win-win, I tell you.

And it may just get your creative cooking juices flowing.

Stuffed Peppers {with Beef, Rice, and Romano}

I’ve been having a hard time in the kitchen lately.

Not because I’m struggling with the cooking, but because I’m having a hard time with the meal planning.

(I know, you all feel so bad for me that I have to plan one whole meal each week.  I don’t know how the rest of you do it.)

I can find a great main dish – and then have difficulties finding sides.  Or vice versa.  It’s so frustrating.

So, when I saw Greg’s original recipe for stuffed peppers – I was inspired.  And then when I clicked on one of his attached links for other stuffed pepper ideas, I knew I’d found what I was looking for; a whole meal, in one very tasty dish.

The Recipe:

Stuffed Red Peppers with Beef, Rice, and Romano, adapted from Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide

½ lb ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

4-6 large peppers, tops cut off (stems removed) and chopped finely

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 ½ c white rice

2 c beef broth

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 t coriander

1 t turmeric

2 T fresh cilantro chopped

5 oz Romano cheese

mozzarella cheese to taste

Sauté onion in oil until softened, then add beef and brown.  Add chopped tops of peppers, coriander, turmeric, garlic, celery and rice.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour in tomatoes and stock.  Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add cilantro.

Place in oven at 365 degrees and bake until rice absorbs all the liquid, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, scoop out seeds and pith from bottoms of peppers.  Place in a greased baking dish.

When rice is done add Romano cheese and mix well.  Scoop into pepper halves.  Top with a sprinkle of mozzarella and bake for about 10 minutes.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Let’s just get this out of the way right from the start.  I got the wrong meat.

What? (You might ask.)  How in the world could you have messed up getting ground beef?!

(In my defense, I was grocery shopping with two rather boisterous boys, hopped up on sugar from the bakery cookies, who were getting very bored rambling along with me.)

When I saw the ground beef section, all they had were huge mega-packs of meat (yes, our small town store often lacks some of the basics – but what they do have, they want us to get in bulk).  Anyways, I looked over to my left and saw a section of what I thought was ground beef.  It certainly looked like ground beef, so I got some.  When I finally got to cooking away, I learned that instead I had purchased cube steak.  (Only me.)

Hubs came to my rescue, mid onion-sauteeing, and chopped it up in the food processor.  Apparently, it was then actual ground beef, and all was back on track.

Now, if you like your kitchen to smell warm and inviting with a little spice, this is the meal for you to cook.  The sauce/filling smelled amazing.

After the sauce/filling cooked for a bit, and an ample amount of Romano was added, it was all ready for the peppers.  I was a little worried about actually filling the peppers, but Hubs suggested using an ice cream scoop.  It worked like a dream.

(We kinda had some crazy-shaped leftover peppers to use – so that’s why the green ones look a little odd.)

After adding a bit of mozzarella and another quick bake, this was the deliciousness that was revealed…

Perfectly cooked, with a little spice paired with the sweetness of the bell pepper, cheesy and flavorful throughout; it was a perfect all-in-one meal.

That we got to eat for several meals.

And when it’s just as good as leftovers, too, you know you’ve found a winner of a meal.

Bon Appetit!

Baked Persimmon Bites

Do you know what a persimmon is?

I’d seen them before, but had never actually had one until yesterday.  We got several in our CSA box this week, and neither Hubs nor I knew what to do with them.

Of course, being a type A, must-know-everything kinda person, I looked them up and found out that a persimmon is an autumn fruit – a “true berry” like a tomato.  Our’s were Fuyu persimmons, I learned.

Most websites suggested eating them raw, but I also wanted to prepare or cook them in some way.  One of my friends suggested topping them with some spices and baking them in oven.  Sounded good to me.

To start off, I sliced them up.

I loved the starburst shape in the middle and the yellow-orange coloring.  I did take a small taste, but it really didn’t seem to have much flavor.  I was hoping the baking would bring it out a bit.

Next, I out them on parchment on a baking sheet and added a little cinnamon and nutmeg.

I baked them at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the edges began to curl up.

We ate them warm – and they were still fairly chewy (not crunchy like I was expecting).  To be honest, they weren’t my favorite.  The only real flavor came from the spices, not from the fruit.

I later learned through a little more research, that you want them to be soft and juicy-ripe to get the real flavor.

I think I’m going to wait to use my other two.  Maybe try making a persimmon cookie or pudding – which are two popular ways that have been suggested to me.  Or just try them raw.  I’m not ready to give up on them yet.

Some people love them, and I hope, when they’re ready, we’ll love them, too.

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

I’m not a big fan of Rachael Ray.  (Yep, I said it.)

Frankly, I find her a bit perkily annoying, and she gives me a headache.  (Please don’t judge me.)

But I admit, sometimes, sometimes, she has a borderline brilliant recipe.  And I can’t help myself – I am drawn to trying it.  That’s what happened with this recipe.  It went against my very nature, but I took a deep breath and went with it anyways.

The Recipe:

Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia, adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray

¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or I substituted with 1/2 c parmesan and 1/4 c bread crumbs)

2 teaspoons paprika

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

4 tilapia fillets (about 1 pound total)

1 T lemon juice

2 T olive oil (I refuse to call it EVOO!)

Preheat the oven to 400°.  In a shallow dish, combine the cheese, crumbs, paprika and parsley & season with salt and pepper.  In separate dish combine lemon juice and oil.  Dip the fish in the olive oil mixture and then dredge in the cheese mixture.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until the fish is opaque in the thickest part, 10 to 12 minutes.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Did you see how easy the recipe is??  I mean seriously, I didn’t have about half the original ingredients, but I subbed away.  And guess what?  It worked.

I didn’t have enough parmesan, so I just grated some of my leftover french bread with it, and voila, a crispy crust.  I also didn’t have actual lemon wedges, so I just added some lemon juice to the olive oil.

Additionally, I didn’t have any fresh parsley (subbed dried) or regular paprika (subbed smoked paprika) – so I pretty  much changed everything, but only just slightly.

Pretty, isn’t it?

(I do have to say, the smoked paprika was a little strong for the mild fish, so if you make this, definitely use the regular paprika.  It wasn’t bad, mind you, just a little over-flavored.)

Served with a baked potato and some fresh green beans, a meal was had.  With only 10 minutes of prep and 10 minutes of cooking (not including the baking of the potato), this is my kind of meal to make.

I hate to admit it, but RR can cook.

Maybe I can watch her show on mute?

Creme Brulee Baked French Toast

Hubs and I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to cooking.

In the past couple of months, it’s definitely been more love than hate.  He’s been super helpful – only adding advice when asked.  He’s had great suggestions when I’ve asked.  He’s showed me shortcuts when asked.  (Do you see a pattern here?)

As long as I’m seeking assistance, we get along great.  It’s only when I’m not, and he does anyways, then I get annoyed.

Let’s just say our good streak ended rather abruptly the other night.

It started with the recipe.  This delectable recipe originally came from a lovely Bed and Breakfast we stayed at on our first anniversary.  They owners were kind enough to share the recipe with us, and we’ve been enjoying a fancy, delicious breakfast occasionally through the last ten or so years (with Hubs making it, of course).  I decided I wanted to try making it because it sounded very good – and it’d been a long time since we’d last enjoyed it.

The only copy of the recipe I could find was in Hubs’ database of recipes.  (Yes, he has a database.  Of recipes.  He calls it a computerized cookbook.  Whatever.)  Anyways, I found the recipe, checked the ingredients list, and picked up the only ingredient we were missing – vanilla pudding mix.

(I know what you’re thinking, but seriously, this is one of the secret ingredients that makes it amazing.  And no, you won’t get the exact recipe with all the secret ingredients.  Mostly because I screwed up that part royally – and had to ad-lib.  But we’ll get there.)

Anyways, the recipe forgot to mention that it should not be instant pudding mix.  Guess what I picked up?  Anyone?

I may have gotten upset at Hubs.  He may have gotten defensive about his database – supposedly it’s not perfect.  We may have had a slightly heated discussion while he attempted to help me fix my caramel mix.

But I’m digressing a little early here.  Let’s start with the recipe.  Just keep in mind I had to seriously adapt it from their original, so I don’t feel bad about sharing it for everyone to see.  And I used my version of the caramel sauce – because I had to.

The Recipe:

Creme Brulee Baked French Toast, adapted from Cricketwood Country B&B

1/2 c butter

1 c brown sugar

2 T maple syrup

1/2 t vanilla

2 T half n half

french bread

6 eggs

2 1/2 c half-and-half

2 t vanilla

1/2 – 1 t orange zest (to your taste)

1/4 t salt

In small sauce pan, melt butter over med-low heat.  Whisk in sugar, syrup, 1/2 t vanilla, and 2 T half n half.  Whisk into smooth caramel sauce, about 5-10 min.  Pour into bottom of 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish.  Cut bread into 1 inch thick slices.  Layer bread in one layer on top of caramel sauce.  In bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, vanilla, zest, and salt.  Pour evenly over bread.  Cover and chill in refrigerator overnight up to 1 day.  Remove from fridge 45 minutes prior to baking.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cover with lightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until edges are golden.  Serve immediately.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Well, let’s go back to that original caramel sauce.  This is what it looked like:

Not very smooth, huh?  And Hubs kept trying to tell me to keep stirring and it would all just come together.  This was before he realized I had used instant mix.  And actually, the more I stirred, the more butter leached out of the sugar.  It was pretty darn frustrating.  (Especially with the extra advice I was getting.)

I eventually scrapped that mix and moved on to a new one.  This is where Hubs and I had a better moment.  He helped me figure out how to keep the caramel sauce a little soft by adding the syrup.  Round two turned out much better.

Then I added some of my wonderful french bread.  But, apparently (according to Hubs), I did it wrong.

How can you put bread in wrong, you ask?  Well, I guess there are too many open spaces, not covered with bread.  Don’t you see them all?  I mean, there are huge gaps.  How could I have done this?  (Noting the sarcasm, I hope.)  Anyways, fine, I added more bread.

Then I added the custard sauce – and that was wrong, too.  My bread supposedly did not suck up enough of the custard sauce, so I got to add more bread.  If you can’t tell, I was getting a little frustrated with the love of my life.

The good news was, I was done until the next morning.  So I didn’t have to hear any more recommendations.  And he slept in – so I did the rest without him (not that it was hard, but I’m sure there would’ve been something I could’ve done better.)

all soaked up and ready to cook

Anyways the morning went smoothly – though it is quite a while from removal from the fridge to actually eating.  So be sure to take that into consideration when you make this.

But look at the results.  Golden brown and crispy on top, creamy-spongy sweet in the middle, caramel-y thick goodness on the bottom.  It’s making me hungry just looking at it now.  But this is one of those recipes you can’t make too often.  I only guarantee it calorie-free on special occasions.  Otherwise, it’s not the healthiest meal on the planet.  😉

But man-oh-man, are those calories worth it!

And so was a little sparring with Hubs.

Next time, though, I am definitely cooking when he is not around.

It’s just safer for our marriage.

Southwest Chicken Casserole

Several weeks ago, there was a revelation on Facebook (well, at least with many of my *friends*).  Suddenly everyone I knew was liking the Crockpot Girls.

I’d never heard of them before, but they did remind me of my humble beginnings here on the blog – where pretty much all my recipes were from a crockpot, and I complained about Hubs a lot.  (It was a simpler time.)

So I decided to check them out and try one of their recipes, for nostalgic crockpot reasons.

It didn’t quite work out the way I expected.

The Recipe:

Crockpot Southwest Chicken Casserole, changed A LOT from Crockpot Girls

8 chicken pieces

1 t chili powder

1 c enchilada sauce

6 oz tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 c water

1/4 c green onions, sliced

1 poblano pepper, sliced

salt and pepper, to taste

Lightly grease the stoneware with nonstick cooking spray.  Place the chicken in the stoneware.  In a bowl, combine the enchilada sauce, tomato paste, water, and spices.  Spread the mixture over the chicken.  Add onions and peppers.  Cover; cook on low for 7 – 8 hours.

(So I followed this recipe.  And nowhere did it even resemble a casserole when I was done!  It was more like a soup.  I decided I need to figure out a way to fix this.  My additions and changes are below.)

3-4 c your favorite Spanish rice (We had some of Hubs frozen, thank goodness, so I used it – and no, he won’t let me share the recipe.)

6 oz cheddar/jack cheese blend, grated

corn chips

sour cream


Shred chicken and leave in sauce.  In 9 x 12 baking dish, spread rice evenly along bottom.  Add the chicken mixture as a second layer.  Top with cheese.  Place in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until cheese is browning and slightly bubbly.

Serve with sour cream, salsa, and chips (either crushed on top or on the side).

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

As you could read in the recipe, the original directions from the Crockpot Girls did not pan out.  I have to admit, the chicken was really tasty when I tried it, but I was going for a casserole dish, not a soup.

(I’m not ruling the Crockpot Girls out, yet, though.  I think I’ll have to try a different recipe another time before I judge too harshly.)

But I was SO proud of myself for figuring out what to do next.  (Even though I did give up that day, I admit.  I ended up putting the dish in the fridge, and we had french toast instead.  But I did regroup the next day with a plan.)

I was very lucky that we had the rice in the freezer – that made Day 2 of the Great Casserole Adventure pretty easy.  And really, between the two days, I maybe spent about 20 minutes in prep time.  That’s not bad at all.

Now this looks like a casserole!

And it was really good, too.  It was perfect for the blustery fall day we were having.

The chicken and rice were really moist with its southwestern flavor – and paired with the spicy salsa verde, fresh sour cream, and crunchy blue tortilla chips – it was a party for your senses.

I took a probable disaster and made it work!

Tim Gunn would be so proud.

Margherita Pizza Rolls

I have a shameful, shameful secret.

Something I do not admit to many people.  But I’m sharing it today, because I think I’ve been healed and can move on with my life.

Here goes: I love (not just like), frozen pizza rolls.  You know, those nasty preservative-filled, fake meat, bazillion calorie rolls you find in the freezer section.  I think I may have lived off them for a bit in college.  Nowadays, I will sneak them when Hubs is away (such as when he and my four-year old were camping) because he makes complete fun of me when he sees them.

Well, we’ve been on a bit of an all-natural food kick around here.  (We’re trying not to eat anything boxed – and if we do, we make sure we know what all the ingredients are before buying it.)  Anyways, I made the decision mistake of looking at the back of one of those boxes.  Oh, boy – that was a long list of ingredients.  Half of which I couldn’t even pronounce.  Yikes.

So I enjoyed my very last box of pizza rolls, sadly vowing never to touch them again.

And then, just when I’d figured I was done forever with pizza rolls, I saw this at one of my favorite blogs, Crustabakes.  And I knew I had to make them.

The Recipe:

Margherita Pizza Rolls, inspired from Annie Eats – but a good portion of the recipe is mine

Pizza Dough: (there are weird measurements because I halved the recipe)

7/8 c warm water (about 110 degrees)

1 1/8 t of yeast

1 t sugar

1 T oil

2 c bread flour (yes, Hubs buys this in bulk)

3/4 t salt

Place warm water, yeast, and sugar in small bowl.  Mix and allow to get bubbly – about five minutes.  Add oil and stir.

In mixer, place flour and salt and give it a quick mix.  Add liquid ingredients and mix for about five minutes – using dough hook to knead.  Roll out onto floured surface (dough may be a tad sticky).  Knead in flour until you can form a ball.  Place in oiled bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch dough down and divide into 16-20 equalish pieces.

Pizza Rolls:

about 2 c crushed tomatoes

1/4 c chopped fresh basil

about 4 oz mozzarella, cubed into about 1/2 inch pieces

olive oil

dried basil

fresh grated parmesan or cheese of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Flatten small piece of dough.  Place some tomatoes, mozzarella cube, and fresh basil on top.  Pull up sides to contain filling and pinch together at top.  Place in greased pie pan, seam side down.  Repeat with all dough pieces.  Brush tops with olive oil.  Sprinkle on dried basil and parmesan cheese.  Cook in oven for about 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I am never going back to that boxed crap again.  These were de-li-cious.  And really, not that hard to do.  I think I also enjoyed that this was kinda half-baking, too, not just dinner.

One of my inspirations for this dish came from the overabundance of tomatoes we have in our garden right now.

Crushing them was a little harder that I had thought, so our bite had pretty good-size tomato chunks in them.  But, really, I’m not complaining.

Placing the filling on the dough and pinching was a little tricky, too.

But after about five, I had it down pat.  And they looked so pretty in the pie dish (not necessarily uniform in size, I admit, but pretty all the same).

And if I thought they were pretty before…

Check out the after!  I almost didn’t want to eat them, they were so lovely looking.  But, somehow, I forced myself to try one.

After that, I didn’t look back.  And between me and the fam, we demolished those rolls.

So the boxed rolls are officially banned.  And if I need a little pizza snack, I know what to do.

I feel healthier (and less shameful) already.