Crispy Bacon and Cheese Tortelloni

I cannot even begin to tell you how difficult it’s been to stay awake today. Aside from making lasagna and a Nutella cake for dinner with two of my closest friends last night, yesterday was low key. I slept for nine hours last night, so I should have been wide awake when my alarm went off at 8:45 this morning, but I was far from it. So was my kitty, Stella, who normally jumps up right away when my alarm goes off. Today, she lifted her head, looked at the phone, and went back to sleep. When I finally managed to pull myself up, I was a zombie. I took the longest shower ever, played loud music, and cursed Starbucks for not opening a branch in my bedroom. It’s been like that all day, except much worse now, as it’s thunderstorming and I’m curled up under a blanket. Ok, ok, the blanket is my own fault. But, I fully intend to take a bath and drink some hot chocolate after I finish this post, and then I’m going to bed.

Because I’m so tired, I knew dinner needed to be easy. My original dinner plan was going to be time consuming, and seemed like too much of a commitment tonight. I started frying bacon for a second recipe, only to find out I was missing a key ingredient. (Note: always, ALWAYS make sure you have all the ingredients before beginning a recipe.) So, I decided to fly by the seat of my pants and create something on the spot. This turned out to be the perfect comfort food for a rainy, sleepy night. I mean, who doesn’t love cheese and bacon?! Plus, if you were a fan of my Spicy Sausage Penne, this has a very similar sauce.

Crispy Bacon and Cheese Tortelloni

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What I’m Listening to: last week’s episode of “Once Upon a Time”

Ingredients (makes 2 generous servings)

-3 strips of bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

-canola oil

-12 oz package of cheese tortelloni (I used the Giovanni Rana brand from HyVee. It’s a refrigerated pasta, but I’m sure frozen would be just as good!)

-1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce

-2 oz cream cheese, softened

-1/8 cup of Kraft’s Roasted Red Pepper Italian Dressing

On a cutting board, slice the raw bacon into 1/4 inch pieces. Pour a small circle of canola oil in the middle of a small skillet, and swirl to coat. Heat the skillet over medium heat, adding the bacon. Stir occasionally, until the bacon is crisp. When done, scoop the bacon into a paper towel-lined bowl, to soak up the grease. Set aside.

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While the bacon cooks, cook the tortelloni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

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In the same pan, heat the marinara sauce, cream cheese, and Italian dressing over medium-high heat. When hot, add the bacon to the pan and cover. Let the sauce cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and add the tortelloni. Mix to coat. Serve with cheese (I used a 6 cheese blend) and a side salad. Mmmmmm.

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Alrighty folks, my cocoa awaits. Have a great rest of your night, and don’t forget to “follow” me above!

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Caribbean Jerk Cupcakes

Dear World,

When did my Friday nights become so…lame? Since I finished work today, I’ve gone grocery shopping, gotten my hair cut and dyed (ok, that part was fun), dusted/scrubbed/vacuumed/steamed the main and second floor of my house, changed the sheets on my guest bed, went through my closet and took out all the things I don’t wear anymore, did dishes, did 3 loads of laundry, and started wiping the hard drive on my old laptop. This. This is what my Friday nights have become. And, weirdly, I look forward to it. Is this it? Is this what getting old feels like?

The theme of this week must be “ugly” food, because I bring to you, once again, a recipe that is far from pretty. This is a fun and spicy twist on buffalo chicken cupcakes, and, to be honest, I prefer these to the originals. I can’t take full credit for these; my friend, Tyler, had the idea to sub different sauces for the buffalo sauce. They make a fantastic appetizer, or, a fun main dish, paired with fruit and veggie sides. Disclaimer: this recipe is not a product of health. But it’s so freaking delicious, you won’t even care.

Caribbean Jerk Cupcakes

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What I’m Listening to: “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles and some Florence and the Machine

Ingredients (makes 10-12 cupcakes)

-24 wonton wrappers (They are usually located by the fresh vegetables at the store.)

-8 oz. cream cheese, softened

-1 chicken breast, shredded (or if you’re feeling lazy, one large can of chicken)

-1/2 cup of Buffalo Wild Wings’ “Caribbean Jerk” sauce

-1/2 cup ranch dressing

-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for topping

-cooking spray

 

Preheat the oven to 375. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray. Place a wonton shell in each cup and press down in the middle.  In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese, chicken, sauce, ranch, and cheese. Put a small spoonful of the mixture on top of each wonton shell. Press a second wonton on top of the first. Spoon the remaining mixture on each wonton, then top with cheddar cheese. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.

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Note: These reheat in the microwave pretty well. I put them in for a minute, and then add time if needed. They do lose a bit of the crisp on the edges, so if you like them to be crispy, make up the mix, and then make the cupcakes as you need them.

Baked Eggs in Tomato and Cream Sauce

Happy Tuesday, friends! Is it just me, or is this week already feeling long? It took me 15 minutes to pull myself out of bed this morning! Ok…that’s a lie. It was 30. 30 minutes to drag my sleepy butt out of bed. Oy vey. If only every day was Saturday… But, never fear! I have something to (hopefully) pull you and me both out of this rut, and start the rest of your week off right!

Now, let me start by saying: I am not a breakfast fan. It just bores me, and it’s not as fun as the other meals. I don’t particularly like cereal, and I don’t like enough kinds of fruit to do smoothies. But this recipe, I like. This recipe could turn me into a breakfast enthusiast! I’ve done some small tweaks to the original recipe I found; specifically, adding the herbs directly into the the sauce, rather than sprinkling on top. I think this really rounds out the flavor of the dish, but feel free to try on top as well! Warning: this recipe is not pretty, no matter how many times I make it. Don’t be turned off by the pictures. I promise it’s delicious!

Baked Eggs in Tomato and Cream Sauce

Adapted from: Fork Knife Swoon

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What I’m Listening to: Birds chirping (because when was the last time that happened?)

Ingredients (makes 1 serving)

-cooking spray

-8 oz tomato sauce

-1 1/2 tbsp whipping cream

-1 clove of garlic

-1/4 tsp dried oregano

-1/4 tsp dried basil

-2 eggs

-shredded parmesan cheese

-salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400, then go make yourself busy. It takes about 5 minutes to throw all the ingredients together, and you want to make sure your oven fully preheats, or you’ll have some very runny eggs.

When your oven is ready, spray a small oven-safe bowl or casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour in the tomato sauce. Gently mix in the garlic, basil, and oregano.

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I swear by this stuff! It makes prep time go much faster and it lasts a long time.

Drizzle the whipping cream over the sauce. Crack the eggs directly into the dish.

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At this point, I sprinkle salt and pepper over the top, then finish by adding parmesan cheese.

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Bake in the center of the oven for 15-20 minutes. I like my eggs to have the consistency of a hard-boiled egg, so I sometimes keep them in the oven a little longer. If you are unsure if your eggs are ready, slide a spoon under the cheese and lift. If your eggs are still runny, you’ll know! Serve with toast and a glass of orange juice. Enjoy!

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One more thing…you can stay up to date on all my new recipes on Facebook. Like and share with all your friends!

Pizza Night!

So, I’m aware of how crazy this is going to sound, but I love Sunday nights. Yeah, yeah, I know Sunday nights lead to Mondays, and Mondays are the absolute worst, but Sunday nights are my nights. I make something awesome for dinner, put on my PJs, snuggle my cats, watch “Once Upon a Time” and “Resurrection,” and then spend the hour after them freaking out about how good they were/being too scared to go into my basement. (Really though, what the hell is going on on “Resurrection?”)

Tonight was no exception. I put on my PJs at 5 and went into the kitchen to make one of my favorite meals, homemade pizza!

Homemade Pizza

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Now, the first time I made homemade pizza was about two years ago and IT. WAS. A. DISASTER. You know those Buzzfeed articles with the pictures of food gone wrong? That=my first pizza. But, since then, I’ve perfected a crust recipe I found online, and have made some other tweaks to make this homemade pizza a delicious success. The best part? The whole thing takes under an hour from start to finish. Bam.

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What I’m listening to: reruns of “Modern Family”

Ingredients (Makes one pizza, approximately 12 inches)

Pizza Crust

-1 packet of rapid rise yeast

-1 cup warm water

-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

-2 tsp honey + extra for drizzling

-1 tsp salt

-2 tbsp canola oil

-1 tbsp cold water

Pizza Sauce

-28 oz can of whole tomatoes, drained

-1 tbsp canola oil

-1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar

-3 cloves of minced garlic

-1 tsp salt

-1 tsp oregano

-1/2 tsp basil

-1/4 tsp black pepper

-Dash of red pepper flakes

Additional toppings of your choice! (I used a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, italian sausage, and turkey pepperoni.)

Preheat the oven to 425. In a large bowl, mix the yeast and warm water until the yeast is dissolved.

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This is the kind of yeast I use. You can find it in the spice aisle, usually by the baking soda and cornstarch.

Add the flour, honey, salt, and oil. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Drizzle the water over the top to get the dough to come together. (You may not need all the water!) Form the dough into a ball and let it relax for at least ten minutes.

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While the dough relaxes, put all the sauce ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. I am extremely picky about sauces, but I love this one! Plus, it makes extra, so you can use it for dipping!

Cover a pizza pan in parchment paper. Lightly sprinkle with flour, then place the ball of dough in the center. Roll out to your desired size and thickness, sprinkling more flour on top if your rolling pin sticks to the dough.

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If it’s not a perfect circle, who cares? Mine never are!

Put the crust in the oven for 6-7 minutes. All ovens are a little different, so keep an eye on it. The crust should just be starting to lightly brown, and should sound hollow if you knock on it. After you remove the crust from the oven, drizzle the edge with honey. Trust me, you will be glad you did! Add your sauce, and desired toppings.

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Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Don’t worry if your pizza isn’t pretty; mine rarely are, but taste so good! Cut into 8 pieces (or 4, if you like giant pizza) and enjoy!

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Easy Chicken Fajitas

…can you hear that? It’s the sound of birds chirping, my cats purring, and me breathing a huge sigh of relief. It’s here. Spring is finally, FINALLY here. I could not be more excited! To celebrate, I took a walk this morning. There is a huge park down the street from me that I love to walk, so I did a lap, and then did a quick lap around the lagoon at the end. It was beautiful out, and it felt great to be doing something other than sitting on the couch. Normally, I despise Mondays, but I think this one is off to a great start!

I absolutely love the recipe I am going to share with you today! Now, one of my struggles as a single person is finding the motivation to cook for just me. Like I said, I LOVE cooking, but when it’s rainy out and I’m in my sweats and the “Modern Family” marathon on USA is calling my name, it seems much easier to order a pizza and call it a night. Right? Right. But this recipe is almost as easy…and you don’t have to tip anyone! Score! And, you can recreate the atmosphere of a Mexican restaurant with chips and salsa on your table, and a margarita or four.

Easy Chicken Fajitas

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What I’m listening to: Sara Bareille’s “Little Voice” album

Ingredients (Makes 2 servings)

-2 medium sized chicken breasts (I had chicken strips on hand, so I cut up 5)

-2 tbsp cooking oil of your choice

-1/2 tsp chili powder

-1/2 tsp oregano

-Dash of garlic powder, red pepper flakes

-1/2 a red pepper, sliced

-1/2 a yellow pepper, sliced

-1/2 an onion, sliced

-8 fajita-sized tortillas

-Optional: shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole

Place the cooking oil in a skillet and heat on high. It’s going to seem like you have too much oil, but trust me, you don’t! While the oil warms, rinse your chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place the chicken in the skillet. Sprinkle the seasonings evenly over the chicken, and stir to coat.

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Reduce heat to medium high, and stir occasionally. On a clean cutting board, slice up the onion and peppers. Once the chicken is completely cooked on the outside, add the onion and peppers to the pan. Stir well. Set a timer for three minutes and let the mixture sit. (This will give you time to clean up!)

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When the timer goes off, check to make sure the vegetables are cooked to your liking. I like mine to have a little crunch, so three minutes is perfect. If you’d like softer vegetables, cook a few minutes longer. Heat the tortillas in the microwave for 15-30 seconds. Spoon the fajita mixture onto the tortillas and top with your favorite toppings. Serve with chips and salsa.

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Depending on how full you fill your tortillas, this can make between 6-8 fajitas. If I’m making it just for me, I can make it work for 2-3 meals, depending on how hungry I am. I’ve also made this for dinner for friends, and split three ways, it was plenty. Yum.

Well, have a great night, everyone! Let me know what you think of this recipe and don’t forget to share with your friends!

Spicy Sausage Penne

Happy Saturday! I hope you’re all enjoying your weekend. I know I am! I just finished choreographing “Fiddler on the Roof” for one of the local high schools, so this is the first weekend in awhile that I’ve had considerable free time. I am currently in the middle of an Academy Award-nominated movie marathon/couch coma. Last weekend, my sisters were in town, so we watched “Captain Phillips” and “American Hustle.” I loved CP, but “American Hustle” was the longest 5 1/2 hours of my life…I don’t wanna talk about it. Today, I watched “Gravity,” which was so intense I thought my heart might explode, and when I’m done writing this, I’ll be watching “Dallas Buyers Club.” Oh, movies. How I love thee.

Since this is the first recipe I’m posting, I wanted to start with one of my favorites: spicy sausage penne. One of my ex-boyfriends used to joke that the only thing I could cook was pasta. In reality, the only thing I wanted to eat was pasta, which is not a bad thing. This is a really easy recipe and takes less than half an hour from start to finish, so it’s great for busy weeknights.

Spicy Sausage Penne

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What I’m listening to: Mumford and Sons channel on Pandora

Ingredients (makes 2 servings)

-1/2 pound Italian sausage

-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (use 1/8 for less spice)

-1 1/2 cups penne (or other small pasta shapes)

-1 1/2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce (I go simple with Ragu traditional)

-2 oz. cream cheese, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

-Salt and pepper

-Parmesan cheese

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This is seriously all you need!

Take the cream cheese out of the fridge and set on the counter to soften. Bring a medium-sized saucepan full of salted water to a boil. When the bubbles start breaking on the surface, add in the pasta and cook until it’s your desired consistency. (Cook for a shorter amount of time for a firm texture, and a longer amount for softer pasta.) When the pasta is ready, drain the water. Place the noodles back in the saucepan. If your sauce is not ready yet, add a small amount of vegetable or olive oil to the pan, and stir to coat. This will prevent the pasta from sticking together or to the pan.

After you add the penne to the water, place the italian sausage and red pepper flakes in a heated, ungreased skillet and cook on medium high.

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Break up the meat with a spatula until it is cooked through and there is no pink. I like mine a little on the crispy side, so I usually cook it for an additional 2-3 minutes. When the meat is ready, reduce the heat to medium low and add the spaghetti sauce. Cook until the sauce is hot. Add the cream cheese cubes and stir until melted.

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The sauce will be this nice orange color when you’re done!

Add the sauce to the pan with the noodles. Mix together and top with salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Serve with garlic bread and a green salad. (It also pairs nicely with a glass of moscato d’asti, for you wine fans.)

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That’s it! It really is that easy!

Note: Unless I’m making this for me and a friend, I make half as many noodles (3/4 cup) and mix with half of the sauce. I save the other half in the fridge and will make a separate batch of noodles when I’m ready to use the sauce. You can also make the full amount of noodles, and keep them refrigerated separately from the sauce. It reheats better if you don’t combine it.

Well, my movie awaits. Enjoy your evening and let me know what you think of this pasta!

Welcome to the Table

Hi! I’m Steph, and I love to eat and cook…but mostly, eat. That’s me, over on the left. By day, I am a tap, jazz, and hip hop teacher in the Quad Cities, teaching 15 classes a week for dancers ages 8-18. I also do freelance choreography for one of the local high schools and recently, choreographed a musical for my alma mater. By night, I am a cat mom (yup) and a cooking junkie. I have loved to cook for as long as I can remember. I have vivid memories of detailing my cooking escapades in my diary: making macaroni and cheese (from a box, of course) and helping my dad bake his famous chocolate chip cookies. As I’ve gotten older, cooking has become a stress reliever for me, and one of my favorite parts of my day. I love pouring over cooking blogs in my spare time and experimenting with recipes of my own. My only beef with cooking? (Pun intended.) The lack of recipes for single people! Sure, I love eating a 12 serving chicken pot pie as much as the next guy, but I’m not a fan of leftovers, and I like variety in my meals. So, that’s why I’m here. To save the single people from a life of Hot Pockets and cereal…or a week of eating the same thing. Now, I have a few “rules” before I begin… 1. This blog is a happy place. If you have something negative to say, take it somewhere else. Or better yet, please keep it to yourself. 2. While a good portion of these recipes will be healthy and nutritious, not every one will be, and that’s ok. I am a firm believer that food is meant to be enjoyed, and I want to enjoy as much as I can. 3. Whether you’re a pro at cooking, or have never set foot in a kitchen, you can make these recipes. If you have trouble, ask me for help! It’s what I’m here for. 4. You need noise while you’re cooking. For me, I like music. I know my mom usually has the TV on when she cooks. Find what works for you. 5. Always have a back up plan. Sometimes, a recipe is just going to suck, and it’s better to have a frozen pizza in the freezer, or the Chinese place down the street on speed dial. 6. Lastly, and most importantly, have fun! I hope you’ll find these recipes as enjoyable as I do!   Well, without further ado, let the recipes begin!