Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bars

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful weekend! I spent mine in the Chicago suburbs with my wonderful friend, Justine! Justine and I went to college together for a year before she transferred, but thankfully, we’ve kept in touch. Since we’re both insanely busy, visits are rare. She came to my house last year, so I made the drive to see her this time. I got in on Friday evening, after spending some quality time in Chicago rush hour traffic. I got to meet her husband, Dan, for the first time, and her cute little kitty baby, Douglas. Isn’t he precious?

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We had a low key night with pizza, wine, and watching the winter finales of “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder.” (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH on both accounts!) On Saturday, we got ready and walked around her town. I bought a new watch, Justine got some new gloves, and we had lunch with Dan. Then, Justine and I took the L into the city. We shopped at Water Tower and then had dinner at Quartino. YUM.

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The tortellini that I recreated and Cavatelli,,,sooooo good!

After dinner, we headed back to her place to drink wine and watch SNL. It was a perfect weekend!

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So, as I’ve mentioned before, I am not a fan of breakfast. Not. A. Fan. But, I do love Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Like, a lot. I’ve been brainstorming recipes to use it in for awhile, but I kept coming back to these bars. They are a fun and simple twist on Rice Krispie Treats, and only make 6 bars! You can eat them for dessert, or if you’re like me, convince yourself they are healthy enough for breakfast…

Cooking for Beginners: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bars

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What I’m Listening to: “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, and Arianna Grande

Ingredients (makes 6 bars)

-2 tbsp butter

-2 1/2 cups of mini marshmallows

-3 cups of Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Place the butter and marshmallows in a large microwavable bowl. Cook for 1 min, stir. Place back in the microwave for 40-60 seconds until the marshmallows are completely melted. Stir well. Pour the cereal over the top and stir to coat. Pour the cereal into a lightly greased 8×8 or 11×7 pan. Press down with the back of a spoon. Allow the bars to cool completely before serving.

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Elizabeth’s Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

With the holidays approaching, I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing about all the places I’ve lived in. This will be my third Christmas in my own house! Crazy! It seems like just yesterday that I was in my awful first apartment that I told you about. (The smokers, paper thin walls…gross.) After that apartment, was another apartment before I ended up here. It was a bit better than the first one. I could have pets (yay!), I lived on the top floor so I didn’t have to listen to the guy above me, and I wasn’t afraid of getting shanked by my neighbors. I was also excited because a girl I went to college with, Elizabeth, lived in the next building with her husband, Tyler. Once I was settled in, I had her over for lasagna to catch up. After two hours of talking, Tyler came over to join us, and a tradition was born. Every 1-2 weeks, we would take turns hosting dinner at our apartments. Four years later, we are best friends, and are still doing our weekly dinners. How cool is that?!

I get a lot of my dinner inspiration from Elizabeth. She is the master of all things comfort food. Seriously. I feel like I gain ten pounds every time I eat dinner at their house, because I literally cannot stop eating. Yum. The recipe I’m sharing today is not mine; it’s one of Elizabeth’s creations. She made it for me a few weeks ago and I insisted she guest-write a post about it on “Table for One.” (Not the first time I’ve made that request. I think I say it every time I’m over there.) She didn’t want to write, but said I could share the recipe so I am. Get ready to drool all over your keyboard.

Cooking for Beginners: Elizabeth’s Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

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What I’m Listening to: “American Pie” by Don McLean

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

-1 package of raw chicken tenders (usually has 9-10 pieces)

-10-15 slices of raw bacon

-1/8 cup of brown sugar

-1 1/2 to 2 tsp chili powder

-Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. In a shallow bowl, combine the brown sugar, chili powder, and salt and pepper. Set aside.  Wash the chicken and remove any excess skin or fat. Wrap each tender tightly with a strip of bacon. For larger pieces, use 2 strips of bacon. Roll each bacon-wrapped tender in the sugar mixture to lightly coat. Place the chicken on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with sweet potato fries or fruit.

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Pine Nut and Veggie Flatbread

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away? I’m really having a hard time wrapping my brain around that. I still have my Halloween decorations up. I still have my summery TOMs sitting by the back door. And I’m still ordering iced coffee at Starbucks, even though we have a winter weather advisory set for tomorrow. I’m just not ready to let fall go. But, I AM ready for the season of giving to begin! To get myself in the spirit, I’m having a contest on my “Table for One” Facebook page. (Not a fan yet? Click here!) Here’s how it works…

1. From now until 11:59pm on Thanksgiving, refer all your friends to my Facebook page!

2. Have your friends “like” Table for One’s page and let me know who sent them.

3. The person who gets the most people to “like” my page will win a year-long subscription to “Plan to Eat.”

Not familiar with “Plan to Eat?” They are a website that allows you to catalog all your recipes (like Pinterest, but better!) They also feature a menu planner, which compiles a grocery shopping list for you that you can access on any Smart phone. My favorite feature of the site is that they let you decide how many servings you’d like a recipe to make, and then they change the ingredient list accordingly. I’m excited to say that I recently became an affiliate for “Table for One” so if you purchase a subscription on your own, it benefits me and the blog. I’ve been using the site for almost a year, and it makes planning out my meals so much easier! To learn more, click here! I’m so excited about this…are you excited? I hope so. Anyway, on to the main event…

Pine Nut and Veggie Flatbreads! I would love to take full credit for this recipe, but I do need to give a shout out to my friend, Jessica. Jessica and I have been friends for years. We love theatre, we love food…I mean, what else could you want in a friend? Jessica lives in Atlanta now, but whenever she visits, we love to cook. Last fall, we got together to make dinner and this recipe was born…in pizza form. I’ve changed it to a flatbread to better suit one person, but kept all the original ingredients. I can’t stress enough how good these flatbreads are, and how fresh they taste! Plus, they’re pretty, and that’s always nice.

Pine Nut and Veggie Flatbread

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What I’m Listening to: “I and Love and You” by The Avett Brothers

Ingredients (makes 1 flatbread)

-1 flatbread (I use the “Flatout” brand. I’ve used original and rosemary & olive oil)

-1/4 cup of Steph’s pizza sauce (This recipe makes a full batch of sauce, so plan accordingly!)

-1/2 cup of shredded cheese (I used a mix of mozzarella and cheddar)

-1 1/2 tbsp of chopped white onion

-2 small sweet peppers, seeds removed and sliced

-6-8 baby spinach leaves, stems removed

-1/2 tbsp pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 375. Prep all your veggies. Place the flatbread in the oven for 3 minutes to let it get a little crispy. While it cooks, make the sauce. Remove the flatbread from the oven and spread with the 1/4 cup of sauce, leaving about a 1/2 inch crust border. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese, then top with the onion, peppers, spinach, and pine nuts. Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until your cheese has melted. Serve as a light lunch or with soup and a salad.

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Cooking for Beginners: Crockpot Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

Aren’t lazy Saturdays the best? I’ve been up for six hours, and have spent the majority of that time drinking Starbucks, snuggling with my kitty girls, and catching up on my TV shows. Tonight, I’m going to see one of my students in her fall musical. I’d be lying if I said that all my Saturdays turn out this way. Usually, they involve lots of laundry, some yard work, and chasing Stella and Charlee down so I can clip their nails. But, I’ve trying this new thing where I let myself have some actual down time on the weekends, as opposed to cramming every hour with something…so far, I’m a fan!

I’ve heard from a lot of you recently that you’d love to cook more, but you don’t have the time. I hear ya! During the week, I’m lucky if I have the time (or energy) to crack open a can of soup. What if I told you that I had a recipe for you that would take only 15 minutes of your time? Interested? I thought so.

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These Crockpot Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwiches could not be any easier if I tried. Seriously. Here’s why:

1. They have three ingredients. Yes. Three.

2. Aside from cleaning your chicken, there’s no prep. Just throw it in the crockpot and go!

3. As promised, it will only take 15 minutes of your time. Possibly even less.

Are you drooling yet?

Crockpot Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

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What I’m Listening to: several episodes of “How I Met Your Mother”…because, again, this recipe only took 15 minutes of my time!

Ingredients (makes 3-4 sandwiches)

-2 large chicken breasts

-About 1/2 of a 28oz bottle of your favorite Honey BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

-1/8 cup of brown sugar

Wash and trim the fat off of the chicken breasts. Place them whole in the bottom of your lightly greased crockpot. Cover the chicken with the BBQ sauce. (To be honest, I don’t measure; I just eyeball it! You want to make sure that the chicken is completely covered in sauce.) Sprinkle the brown sugar on top; cover. Cook on high for 3 hours.

When your 3 hours are up, remove the chicken from the crockpot and place in a large bowl. Leave the sauce in the crock. Using an electric mixer on low, shred the chicken. If you don’t have a mixer, two forks work just fine! Return the chicken to the crockpot for 10-15 minutes, on the “warm” setting, to allow the chicken to absorb the sauce. Serve on a bun with sweet potato fries or chips!

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Cheesy Chicken Quinoa Casserole

Six years ago, I was in my senior year of college, and I had big plans for after graduation. My friend, Emily, and I were going to move to Chicago, get an apartment together, and…I don’t think we had much figured out beyond that. Oh! We were going to get a water feature…whatever that means. Well, a few months after that, I was offered my current position, teaching dance, so I accepted. Em decided she was going to stay local too, so we hunted for an apartment in the QC. Before graduation, Em changed her mind and moved back up North, so I continued the apartment hunting solo. I ended up in a one bedroom place, close to work. The apartment itself was cute, but the building was not. I had smokers living on both sides and above me so my entire apartment and clothes smelled TERRIBLE! My landlord was a mega creep. I could hear everything the guy above me was doing. EVERYTHING. I had to listen to him cough for three straight months. I’m not quite sure how I survived the year. But, it was my first place to myself, and so it was special.

I made this casserole a lot during those 12 months. I was pretty broke, and didn’t have a lot to cook with at that point. Fortunately, this recipe doesn’t take much in terms of cookware, and I could make it in less than 45 minutes, so it was a winner. I’ve updated it a bit, to include quinoa instead of rice, but it’s delicious both ways. Yes, it’s a weird combination of ingredients, but it tastes oh so good!

Cheesy Chicken Quinoa Casserole

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What I’m Listening to: “I Knew I Loved You” by Savage Garden (Throwing it back!)

Ingredients (makes 3-4 servings)

-1/4 cup of uncooked quinoa

-1/2 cup water

-2 tbsp butter

-1/4 of a white onion, diced

-1/2 cup cottage cheese

-1/3 cup French Onion Dip

-3 tbsp Greek Yogurt

-Salt and pepper

-1 cup of shredded chicken (or 1 large can of chicken)

-2 cups of cheddar cheese

-1 small can of diced green chilies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the quinoa and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn down the heat to low. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. While the quinoa is cooking, melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, until the onion is soft.

Mix the quinoa, onion, cottage cheese, French Onion Dip, and the Greek Yogurt in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread half of the mixture in the bottom of a greased 8×8 baking dish. Top with half of the shredded chicken. Spread 1/2 the can of chilies over the chicken, then sprinkle 1 cup of cheese on top. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve with bread or fresh fruit.

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This was a hit with everyone at my house…

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Cooking for Beginners: 10 Spices You Should Always Have In Your Cupboard

I’ve been thinking about doing this post for a long time. I was at my parents’ house a few months ago, and was looking for something in the spice cabinet when I realized how few spices they had. Although, this is coming from the girl that has a separate spice cabinet, packed to the brim, and all of my overflow filling a shelf in the cupboard next to it, so perhaps I’m not the best person to decide how many spices someone should have. Still, spices intrigue me and I felt they were important to discuss, especially for a beginner’s post. But, how would I pick ten spices only? What if people disagreed with me? That’s when I reminded myself that these are just my opinions, and you don’t have to listen to them if you don’t want to. 🙂

I was actually talking to my friend, Bryan, about this last night. I had made calzones for dinner, and was listing all the ingredients. There are several spices in the recipe, and Bryan commented that he never knows which spices go well together, or what to use them for. Below, I have compiled a list of ten spices to get you started in your kitchen, and suggestions on how to use them. Like anything, everyone has different tastes when it comes to spices, so you may want to experiment a bit on your own to figure out what you like and what you don’t. There are definitely some spices out there that I hate, no matter how much I try to make myself like them. (I’m looking at you, rosemary!)

10 Spices You Should Always Have In Your Cupboard

(Note: all these spices are dry, and may differ in flavor from their fresh counterparts. Always double check your recipe before using.)

1. Salt and Pepper

Ok, that’s probably a given. But, you’d be surprised how many people don’t use salt and pepper! Of all the spices out there, these are probably the most familiar and easiest to use. I use them to season chicken, soups, pasta, burritos, etc. If you don’t have these staples in your kitchen, get them NOW!

2. Cinnamon

When I was little, we would always put cinnamon and sugar on our toast. I’m 27, and still do it. I think cinnamon is essential if you like to bake. A hint of cinnamon goes a long way in cookies, frosting, pancakes…just yesterday, I made a cup of chai tea and sprinkled a bit on top to bring out the spiciness of the chai. I also use cinnamon in the crust for my Mini Nutella S’Mores Cheesecakes.

3. Garlic Powder 

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a lover of garlic! I use garlic much like I do salt and pepper; it goes in nearly everything! Garlic powder works well in pastas, Italian dishes, and as a seasoning for chicken. When I’m bored, I’ll sprinkle a little garlic powder onto the buttered side of the bread in a grilled cheese sandwich to give it extra flavor. I use garlic powder in my BBQ Chicken and Feta Flatbread to season the chicken, and to add to the sauce.

4. Garlic Salt

Yes, you need both! Garlic salt contains salt, whereas garlic powder is just powdered garlic. In my opinion, garlic salt has a stronger flavor. It also has a more noticeable texture, as it’s granulated. I generally use garlic salt as a mix-in, rather than a seasoning or topping. I also don’t use it with salt, as it will generally make your food too salty. It’s a great addition to burgers and chili. It’s also the star in my Garlic Cheddar Biscuits.

5. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

If you don’t want to mess with a mix of spices, you need Lawry’s. We always had it on hand growing up. I generally use it to season meat. It tastes great on steak, ground beef, or ground turkey. I’ve also used it to season french fries and kale chips.

6. Oregano

Oregano makes an appearance in many of my recipes, as it’s so versatile. It’s primarily used in Italian and Greek cooking, and is sometimes called the “pizza spice.” I use it to season my Easy Chicken Fajitas and Oven Roasted Italian Vegetables.

7. Basil

Basil is a sweet, Italian spice. You know the small green leaves you get on top of pizza or pasta at a fancy restaurant? That’s fresh basil. Dried basil can be used in pastas, soups, and sauces. It does have a strong flavor, so I start with a small amount, and then add to taste. Basil is one of the spices I use in my Baked Eggs in Tomato and Cream Sauce.

Note: If a recipe calls for Italian Seasoning, you can use equal parts garlic powder, oregano, and basil!

8. Red Pepper Flakes

I love all things spicy, so these flakes are my best friend. I put them on pizza, in pasta sauces, and in anything that I want to give an extra “kick” to. I use them to season the sausage in my Spicy Sausage Penne and to bring out the flavor of the salsa in my Salsa Chicken.

9. Ground Cumin

Cumin (pronounced “Q-men”) is often used in Mexican, Southwestern, and Indian cooking. I don’t do much Indian cooking, so I can’t speak to that, but I do use it in burritos, enchiladas, as a seasoning for black beans, and my Buffalo Chicken Chili. If you like Mexican food, you should have this spice on hand.

10. Nutmeg

Nutmeg is a mild baking spice. It has not appeared in any of my recipes yet, but I use it a lot! It is one of the main spices in pumpkin pie. I use it in pancakes and have sprinkled it on my hot cocoa. It is also commonly used on eggnog and in fruit pies. Again, if you’re a baker, nutmeg is a great spice to have on hand!

Are these spices currently in your cabinet? Do you have other spices that you use more often? Comment below!

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Garlic and Three Cheese Stuffed Shells

When I was younger, I was fascinated with cooking and baking. I guess it was because I had such great examples. Both my parents cooked and baked a lot when I was growing up, and my Grandmas were always putting food in front of me when I visited. I have vivid memories of making Kraft Mac and Cheese when I was nine, without any help. I was SO excited, and rightfully so…I mean, who doesn’t love Kraft Mac and Cheese? These stuffed shells were one of my first original creations. I’ve changed them over the years as my tastes have changed, and I’ve never been disappointed with the results. Normally, I make shells when I’m having company, as it seems like a lot of work for just one person. But, sometimes you need to eat obscene amounts of cheese alone, so voila! Stuffed Shells for one!

Garlic and Three Cheese Stuffed Shells

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What I’m Listening to: “Look After You” by The Fray

Ingredients (makes 4 shells)

-4 jumbo pasta shells

-1/2 cup of ricotta cheese

-1 egg

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

-1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

-2 cloves (or 1 tsp) of minced garlic

-1/4 tsp oregano

-1/8 tsp black pepper

-1/4 cup + 1/8 cup of marinara sauce (I used Hunt’s No Sugar Added sauce, and highly recommend it!)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the shells and cook for 7 minutes. While the noodles are cooking, mix together the ricotta cheese and egg in a small bowl. Add the other cheese, garlic, oregano, and pepper; mix well. When the noodles are done, drain and set aside.

Grease an individual-sized baking dish*. (See note below!) Spoon an 1/8 cup of sauce in the bottom and spread evenly.

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Spoon the cheese mixture into each shell. I pack mine pretty full, so that the cheese is oozing out. Place the shell cheese-side up in the bowl. Repeat the steps for the remaining shells.

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If you have any additional cheese, spread it over the top. You can never have too much cheese! Spoon the remaining 1/4 cup of sauce over the pasta. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the sauce begins to bubble. Top with shredded mozzarella and bake an additional 3 minutes. This will feed 1-2 people, although I recommend serving with bread and a salad if you are making for two. Enjoy!

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*Note: my individual-sized serving dishes were a pottery set my aunt got me. You can buy individual dishes on Williams Sonoma, or check the Black Friday ads for deals!

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