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Buffalo Chicken Nachos

It’s almost game day!!! As fun as it is to watch the game, you all have to admit that the snacks that go with the game are something to look foward to as well.

I’m a huge fan of ANYTHING with buffalo chicken in it (stay tuned for some more neat ideas with buffalo chicken) so I thought why not add them to nachos to make the ultimate game day nachos? They’re so good that your friends may ask to take some home with them (be nice and let them).

These are ridiculously easy to make (a theme with my blog incase you hadn’t noticed) so you can make them anytime you’re craving a yummy snack.

Ingredients:

– 8 oz boneless chicken breast

– 1 tbsp olive oil

– 1/4 cup hot sauce

– 4 oz reduced light ranch dressing*

– 3 oz reduced fat cheddar cheese*

– 3 oz reduced fat monterey jack cheese*

– 1 bag of tortilla chips

Instructions:

Pre heat oven to 375.

Dice the chicken breast into small cubes. In a saute pan, heat up the olive oil over medium heat and add the chicken and 2 tbsp of the hot sauce. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked all the way through (about 7 minutes). There’s no need to season the chicken with salt since the hot sauce already has salt in it.

In an oven safe dish, or a baking sheet that has been greased, arrange 3/4 of the bag of tortilla chips. Once this is done, sprinkle half of the cooked chicken, montery jack and cheddar cheese. Create a second layer of chips by putting the remaining tortilla chips on top of the first layer and then add the remaining chicken and cheese. Drizzle the remaining hot sauce (adjust to your liking) and the 4 oz of ranch dressing over the top.

Place in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Remove from the oven and SERVE!

Hostess with the Mostess Tip: If you’re doing this for a party, make it easier for yourself by cooking the chicken ahead of time and setting it aside in a bowl (I try to use paper in these situations so that I can toss the bowl vs. having dishes pile up in the sink). If you’re not buying pre-shredded cheese, then make sure you shred the cheese beforehand. That’s really it…this is a super party friendly dish for both the hostess and the guests!

Blue Cheese Sliders with Caramelized Onions

I LOVE a good burger. Some of my best childhood memories are from summer days spent barbecuing with my family, so it’s no surprise that I’ve got a burger recipe on here (it won’t be the last either!). These are so quick and easy to make. Prep time is minimal and once they’re on the grill you can make the blue cheese mayo and caramelized onions for them. By the time the burgers are cooked, dinner will be ready to serve!

Ingredients:

 1 lb ground beef

– 1 tbsp salt

– 1 tbsp black pepper

– 1 tsp freshly chopped garlic

– 1 small shallot

– 1 tbsp hot sauce (this is not enough to make the burgers spicy, but you can leave this out or adjust the amount if it’s too much)

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 1 large red onion

– 1 cup reduced fat mayonnaise (use fat free if you want a healthier option)

– 4 oz crumbled blue cheese

– 10 slider rolls

Instructions:

Finely dice the shallot. Mix the salt, pepper, hot sauce, garlic, diced shallot and 1 tbsp of olive oil in a bowl with the ground beef. Taking a large spoonful at a time, form burger patties that are about 2 1/2″ in diameter and about 1/2″ thick. 1 lb should yield 10 burgers. Grill for 2-3 minutes on each side on medium heat or cook in a pre-heated oven at 375 for 10 minutes, flipping half way through.

While the burgers are cooking away on the grill or in the oven, go ahead and start cooking the caramelized onions. Peel the red onion and cut in half. Slice the onion halves into thin slices. Heat the remaining olive oil in a saute pan and place the onions in the pan. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and continue cooking over low heat until the onions are translucent and slightly golden brown about 5-7 minutes. At this point, turn off the stove and leave the onions in the pan.

The last part of this recipe is the mayo for the sliders. It’s a little tricky to make so make sure you follow these instructions carefully…

To make the mayo for the sliders, mix the mayo with the blue cheese. If you’re feeling a little daring, add a dash of hot sauce to the mayo. That’s it. You’re done.

Hostess with the Mostess Tip – If you don’t have time to grill/bake the patties while your guests are there, make everything ahead of time so that all you have to do is assemble the burgers and serve. Your friends will be impressed at how well organized you are 😉

Cookies and Cream White Hot Chocolate

You know that feeling you get when you bite into a chocolate truffle? That absolutely delicious taste when the chocolate starts to melt in your mouth and you find yourself thinking you’re going to have to grab another truffle because one just isn’t going to cut it? Good news guys – drinking a cup of my homemade cookies and cream white hot chocolate is like eating a handful of truffles. It doesn’t disappoint and will leave you wondering why you ever bothered with the powdered stuff before. 😉

Never made hot chocolate at home before? Well, here’s the thing – in the time it would take you to open up a packet of hot chocolate mix, grab the milk from the fridge, pour it into a cup, warm it up, mix in the hot chocolate powder and begin to drink – you could actually have already made homemade hot chocolate that will taste a thousand times better. And you know what? It actually SOUNDS better to. When you go into work the next day, you can say “Yeah I just whipped up some cookies and cream white hot chocolate” instead of saying “Yeah, I made hot chocolate from that powder packet”. Needless to say, your co-workers will be impressed.

Ingredients:

– 4 cups 2% milk

– 8 oz white chocolate chips

– 4 tsp vanilla

– 4 Oreos

Instructions:

Place the Oreos in a sandwich bag and use a rolling-pin, spoon, hammer (whatever you’ve got on hand!) to smash the cookies so that they look like crumbs. Set the bag aside to use as a topping for the hot chocolate.

Heat up a double boiler and spray lightly with cooking spray. Once the pan is warm, add the chocolate chips and begin to stir them around with a whisk. Once the chips start to melt, slowly add the milk about 1 cup at a time. Add the vanilla at this point and keep whisking until the hot chocolate is hot.

Pour into individual cups and top with the cookie crumbs. Serve immediately.

Hostess with the Mostess Tip: Make this ahead of time (about an hour before your guests arrive) and leave it in the double boiler to heat up right before you’re ready to serve.

Serving Essentials for Your Party

Don’t be scared to host a party (a real dinner party with utensils – not a pizza party). I know it’s daunting when you’re out of the house working all week. By the time the weekend comes around, you’re ready to kick your feet up on the couch with some comfort food and the thought of having people over for ***gasp*** a dinner that you’ve cooked might be the last thing you want to do.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret – your guests will always appreciate any effort you put into gathering your friends together and feeding them. Chances are your friends are just like you – they work, they might have young kids, and while they may be a whiz at predicting what direction the economy is going in, they probably draw a blank at times when it comes to figuring out what to do for dinner. By default this means they will LOVE that you were proactive enough to bring a group of friends together and save them from having to decide what to make that night.

So don’t be scared that you can’t handle this – YOU CAN. Read on for my survival kit of serving essentials – the first step towards hosting a successful party.

Serving Dishes – You can go crazy here with all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors but to start, all you need is a set of plain white serving dishes that will be the perfect backdrop to what you’re serving.

–          Large, deep bowl – to be used for salad or soup

–          Flat, rectangular dish – for appetizers as well as your entrée

–          Round wide dish that is about 2-3” deep – for your entrée

–          Raised cake platter – this will double not only for the most obvious reason (dessert) but can also be used for your appetizers, entrees and sides. The height makes for great presentation and I often break this out for morning brunch or to serve up a main course at dinner

–          Bread basket – any basket will do here. You can line it with a nice kitchen towel (don’t use it in the kitchen if you’re using it for bread!). Don’t invest in an actual bread basket – they tend to be over priced and you can pull one together yourself by buying a long rectangular basket from Wal-Mart or Target and just lining it with a kitchen towel. Note on the kitchen towel – it should be made of thin material. Don’t put a bath towel in your bread basket – your guests might start to doubt your entertaining abilities 😉

Dinner Set or Paper Products – Either one will work. I tend to use a dinner set for small, intimate gatherings (no more than 8-10 people) and paper products for anything above 10. If you’re having a small get together but don’t have a dinner set to serve everyone, or just don’t want to deal with the dishes afterwards, not to worry. There are some amazing disposable plates out there that look just like an actual dinner set.

Regardless of which path you go down, here’s what you will need –

–          Appetizer plates/bowls – choose depending on what you’re planning to serve

–          Salad bowls – this is optional and only necessary if you’re planning on doing a salad course. If you’re just serving salad along with the entrée, no need to get a separate bowl for it

–          Entrée plates – make sure they’re large enough to accommodate everything you’re serving and sturdy. Nobody wants to be that person that ends up snapping a plate in half as they’re trying to cut a piece of chicken. I know this because I’ve been that person – so try to avoid Styrofoam plates at all costs.

–          Dessert plate/bowls – choose depending on what you’re planning to serve

–          Cold drink cups

–          Hot drink cups

–          Utensils – forks, knives, spoons – you’ll need to be careful here and plan it out according to what you’re serving. You will most likely need utensils all the way through dessert and coffee (don’t forget people need spoons to stir sugar into their coffee).

–          Serving utensils – I keep the following on hand all the time – a ladle for soup, large fork/spoon for salad, tongs for pasta; large, flat, spatula like spoons (2) for meat dishes; regular sized serving spoons (2) and cake knives (1-2)

–          Napkins – again, you’ll need enough to get you through dessert

–          Paper towels – These are in case of an emergency clean up – don’t leave them in your garage as you’ll probably end up cursing at yourself if you end up needing them.

That’s it! That wasn’t so difficult was it?

Cheesy Gruyere and Swiss Mini Quiche

 

I love eggs in the morning but sometimes I’m not in the mood to stand in front of the stove and cook them. To be honest sometimes I’m barely functioning in the morning, especially if I haven’t had my first cup of coffee. So, how excited am I at a recipe where I mix together a bunch of ingredients, throw it in the oven to cook and go about enjoying my coffee while I wait for breakfast? Ecstatic doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Ingredients:

– 5 eggs
– 1 1/2 cups of half and half  (substitute with whole milk for a healthier option)
– 1 tsp of salt
– 1 tbsp of freshly cracked black pepper
– 2 tbsp fresh thyme
– 3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
– 3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
– 3/4 cup of panko bread crumbs 

Instructions:
Pre heat oven to 375.

Beat the eggs together and add the half and half, salt, black pepper and 2 tbsp of thyme. Mix together and then add the Gruyère and Swiss cheese. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining thyme with the panko bread crumbs. Using a ladle, pour the mixture into a greased muffin tin, filling up 3/4 of the way. The quiche will rise as they cook so leave some room for this. Cook for 10 minutes and then pull out the muffin tin to spoon the bread crumb mixture onto each quiche, about 1 tsp each. This will ensure the breadcrumbs stay on top and get crispy. If they are added in before the quiche goes into the oven they will sink into the mixture. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes until the top turns golden brown.

Allow the quiche to cool for about 10 minutes. Once they have cooled, run a butter knife along the edge of each quiche to loosen it up and pull it out.

Dress to impress tip – Grab some extra sprigs of fresh thyme while you’re at the store to use for a garnish. Place the extra sprigs in between the quiche to have bright pops of green.

French Toast with Candied Pecans

What do you love most about French toast? Is it that rich, creamy taste when you bite into it? Maybe that slight crunch from it being toasted on a griddle or in the oven? If its neither of those then it HAS to be the sweet taste of carmelized sugar. For me, it’s all of the above but I have a secret ingredient that throws it over the top. One that will make you sit back in wonder and think to yourself why haven’t I had this before?? It’s the candied pecans with a hint of coffee and yes, you CAN have dessert in the morning.

Ingredients:

– 1 loaf brioche bread

– 6 eggs

– 1 1/2 cups of half and half *substitute with whole milk for a healthier option

– 1 tbsp vanilla

– 4 tbsp freshly brewed coffee

– Pinch of salt

– 5 tbsp dark brown sugar

– 5 tbsp butter

– 3/4 cup roughly chopped pecans

– Powdered sugar for garnishing

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, half and half, vanilla, 2 tbsp of coffee and a pinch of salt. Take the brioche bread and cut it into 3/4″ thick slices. Turn on the stove to medium and add 2 tbsp of butter to a non stick skillet. While this warms up, begin to dip the slices of bread in the batter 2 at a time. Make sure you flip the bread over to ensure that both sides are well coated. Place the coated bread slices on the skillet and cook on each side for about 3 minutes until golden brown. Continue dipping the bread in the batter and cooking on the skillet. Once all the bread slices have been cooked arrange them on a platter or a dish.

Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter coffee in the skillet. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of coffee, and the brown sugar and pecans. Cook until the mixture has the consistency of syrup and is dark brown. Pour this over the french toast. Garnish with powdered sugar that has been run through a sifter.

Dress to impress tip – use a cake platter to serve this. The height will make this stand out as a main dish and gives you the opportunity to be a little artistic with your presentation. My favorite way to serve this is to arrange the slices in a circle and drizzle the syrup/powdered sugar on top. You’ll be left with some room in the middle that you can also use to decorate the platter by adding things like fresh fruit or acorns, but I like to take make this a simple presentation where the focus is on the french toast itself.

Hostess with the mostess tip – if you’re serving this dish for a group of people you can save some time by baking this instead of individually cooking each slice. To do this, pre-heat your oven to 375. Arrange the dipped slices of bread in a greased baking dish and pour any remaining batter over the bread. Cook for 20 minutes, flipping the slices over halfway through. You’ll get the same taste and this will give you some extra time to focus on making all the other dishes for your spectacular morning brunch 😉

Breakfast Sausage Patties

Who doesn’t love sausages in the morning? They’re the perfect complement to a sweet breakfast dish (try pairing it with my french toast with candied pecans) or can be eaten in a breakfast sandwich. If you’re like me and never have enough time in the morning then make these ahead of time and freeze them. You can take them out one at a time to have for breakfast each morning. What better way is there to start your day?

Ingredients:

– 1 lb ground beef

– 1 egg

– 1 tbsp salt

– 1 tbsp chili powder

– 2 tbsp brown sugar

– 4 tbsp olive oil

– 1 shallot

 Instructions:
Finely dice the shallot. In a large mixing bowl combine the ground beef, egg, salt, chili powder, brown sugar, 1 tbsp olive oil and the shallot. Heat a non stick skillet with the remaining oil on medium heat. Take the beef mixture and make beef patties out of it, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. These are breakfast sausages, so make sure you don’t end up with 1/2 lb burgers! Begin frying the patties with the remaining olive oil, cooking on each side for about 2-3 minutes until dark brown.* Arrange the patties on a white serving dish.
 *For a healthier version, you can bake the patties instead of frying them. To do this, pre-heat your oven to 375 and bake for 15 minutes.

Eggplant Parm

Eggplant parm is one of those hearty home cooked meals that makes my mouth water (as most foods do). I remember making this for the first time when I was 11 years old one summer. My recipe at that time was a lot simpler – I literally took the eggplant, sliced it and put it in a baking dish with sauce on the bottom, eggplant and then a layer of mozzarella cheese on top. That still tasted amazing and my mom actually let me make it again when we had family from out of town visiting for dinner. I took that as a true sign of success if my mom, the ultimate perfectionist when it came to cooking, let me make something for dinner. If you’re looking for a really short and easy way to make eggplant parm…go for it with my original recipe. I PROMISE it will still taste good – how can you go wrong when there is cheese involved?

My tastes since then have evolved and I’ve experimented a bit to get to this recipe. It’s the perfect mix of richness from the cheese, sweet tartness from the marinara and crunch from the eggplant and breadcrumbs on top. You know that feeling you get when you pull apart a cheesy slice of pizza that’s piping hot? That’s what this dish is like. Your mouth will water as you’re pulling apart a slice of it and you see the ooey gooey cheese with flecks of crispy breadcrumbs in it. I would recommend taking 2 slices of it at a time because there’s no guarantee there will be any left for you to come back to for seconds.

Ingredients:

1 medium sized eggplant

2 eggs

1 ¾ cup of panko bread crumbs

1 tsp of salt

1 tsp of black pepper

2 cups marinara sauce

2 cups mozzarella cheese

¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 tbs olive oil or baking spray

1 tbs freshly chopped thyme (optional for garnishing at the end)

Instructions:

Pre heat oven to 375.

Season 1 ¼ cup of the panko bread crumbs with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Set aside in a plate that is large enough to accommodate the eggplant slices being rolled in the breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and beat. Make sure this bowl is also wide enough for the eggplant slices to be dipped in.

Slice the eggplant into round circles about 1/4” thick (no thicker then this or they will be difficult to cook). Take a slice of eggplant and dip it first in the eggs and then in the breadcrumbs, ensuring each side is covered with bread crumbs. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices and place on a cooling rack for baking. Once all the slices have been coated in the egg and breadcrumb mixtures, place the cooling rack on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tbs olive oil over the slices and sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt and black pepper.  Bake the slices for 15 minutes then remove from the oven.*

In a baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray, coat the bottom of the dish with marinara sauce. Place a layer of eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle ½ cup of mozzarella on the eggplant and then continue with another layer of eggplant and cheese – you should get 2-3 layers depending on the size of the eggplant. Once you have completed layering the eggplant and cheese, put a final layer on top of the remaining mozzarella, parmesan and breadcrumbs. Drizzle with 1 tbs olive oil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

*Placing the slices on a cooling rack to bake will allow the eggplant slices to get crispy. If you do not have a cooling rack, it’s ok – you can still get them crispy. Just put them on a baking sheet and turn them over halfway through so that each side gets toasted.