Mini Cinnamon Rolls

When my cousins, sister and I all realized we had off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and didn’t have plans we decided to throw together an impromptu brunch. I didn’t start planning my contribution until right before bed the night before so I knew whatever I made had to use things already on hand.

A quick survey of the fridge and I found a tube of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls – my first thought were these “apple pie roll-ups” we made in my 7th grade cooking class (think pigs-in-a-blanket with apples instead) but I didn’t have apples on hand. I started browsing the Pillsbury website to see if there was something similar and stumbled across this recipe. 

These were perfect for our brunch – quick, easy and the small size meant nobody felt guilty taking two (or three).

Mini Cinnamon Rolls
(adapted from
Makes 20 mini rolls

1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® Crescent Recipe Creations® refrigerated seamless dough sheet
1/4 c. butter , softened
4 t. sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. milk
If using crescent rolls: Unroll dough; separate dough into 4 rectangles. Firmly press perforations to seal. If using dough sheet: Unroll dough; cut into 4 rectangles.

Combine softened butter, sugar and cinnamon until well blended. Spread 1 T. of the mixture evenly over each dough rectangle. Sprinkle each with raisins.

Starting with short side of each rectangle, roll up; pinch edges to seal. With serrated knife, cut each roll into 5 slices. Place slices, cut side down, in ungreased springform pan .

Bake at 375F degrees for 17 to 23 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle over rolls. Serve warm.


Zesty Sloppy Joes

During the summer, I’m generally pretty good about eating well. I love all the fresh produce that’s abundant. This time of year, though, I crave comfort foods – anything warm and saucy.

These absolutely hit the spot – and I was pretty excited that each sandwich only clocked in at 249 calories. It’s nice to have guilt-free comfort food!

Zesty Sloppy Joes
(adapted from Taste of Home August/September 2003)
Serves 8

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1/2 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 t. sugar
1 t. celery salt
1 t. onion salt
1/2  t. paprika
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
Hamburger buns

In a Dutch oven, cook beef and green pepper over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.

Cook, uncovered, 30-40 minutes longer or until thickened. Discard bay leaves. Serve 1/2 cup of meat mixture on each bun.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Another pot of soup. Another cookbook down. Another entry for Branny’s Charity Souper Bowl.

This was from a Longaberger cookbook I got at my bridal shower.  It’s a beautiful book with a lot of down-to-earth but not too simple recipes. I had put off trying this book because I was afraid they wouldn’t be that good – after all, Longaberger is known for their baskets, not cooking. This recipes was great, though. It is one of the best soups I’ve ever made.

It also gives me the opportunity to plug the Charity Souper Bowl hosted by Branny Boils Over again. For every soup recipe she gets, $1 will be donated to the ASPCA. It goes to help cute little guys, like this one:

That’s Rocky, our other cat. We adopted him the same time we adopted Kali. They’re best buds and they make our house so much more fun. Thanks again, Branny, for supporting such a great cause!

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
(from Longaberger’s Fresh From the Pantry: Recipes for Every Day)
Serves 6

1 1/2 c. chopped yellow onions
1 T. minced garlic
2 T. olive oil
1 28 oz. can peeled, whole plum tomatoes
4 c. chicken stock
1 t. dried marjoram
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. fresh basil, chopped
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped

In a dutch oven, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until transparent. Stir in the tomatoes, stock, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Simmer for 45 minutes.

In a blender, puree in small batches until smooth and then return to dutch oven. (To do this, I dumped all of the soup into a large, glass batter bowl and then poured it into the blender in 2-3 c. batches.)

Stir in the cream, fresh basil and fresh parsley.

Chocolate Jack Daniel’s Cupcakes

When Mark and I moved into our apartment, my brother, PJ, bought us this giant bottle of Jack Daniels:

It’s his drink of choice and he’s been chipping away at it every time he comes to hang out since. He’s moving to Florida next month so we had a little going-away lunch for his last weekend. To mark the occasion, I knew I wanted to make some Jack-infused treat. These cupcakes were perfect – super moist with a good kick of whisky flavor. Everyone – especially PJ – loved them!

I frosted these with a basic, chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Jack Daniel’s Cupcakes
(adapted from piratecupcake on Bakespace)
Makes 12 cupcakes

1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. brewed coffee
1/2 c. Jack Daniel’s 
1 sticks of unsalted butter, cut in to one inch pieces
1 c.  sugar 
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt 
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla

Heat coffee, whiskey, butter and cocoa powder in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, whisking until butter is melted. Remove from heat, then add sugar and whisk until dissolved, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool 5 minutes.

While chocolate mixture cools, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Whisk together egg and vanilla in a small bowl, then whisk into cooled chocolate mixture until combined well. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Batter should be thin and bubbly.

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake at 325F degrees for 22 minutes.

Mini Broccoli Bacon Quiches

I have a love/hate relationship with eggs. I love how full they keep me (less snacking!) but I generally don’t like how they taste. If you’re handing me a scrambled egg, it has to be smothered in A LOT of cheese or I’ll be gagging it down.

This recipe is awesome because it’s got enough “stuff” with the eggs that I really enjoy them but they’re not drowning in cheese.  They make a great weekend breakfast but they can also be made ahead and heating up on busier mornings. A minute and a half in the microwave heated these up perfectly – it tasted fresh from the oven again.

Mini Broccoli Bacon Quiches
(from Cooking for Two, Summer 2007)
Makes 2

1/2 c. fresh broccoli florets
1/2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1 bacon strip, cooked and crumbled
2 eggs
1/2 c. half-and-half cream
1/8 t. salt
Dash garlic powder
Dash lemon-pepper seasoning

Divide the broccoli, cheese and bacon between two 5-in. pie plates coated with cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt, garlic powder and lemon-pepper. Pour over bacon.

Bake, uncovered, at 350F degrees for 15-20 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Penne with Cauliflower & Breadcrumbs

I saw this recipe while flipping through the Sunday papers and it looked like a great comfort food dish. Mark was a little  hesitant to try it because of the cauliflower but he really liked it – we both did.  The cauliflower added a really nice creamy texture to the dish. 

 The recipe below was supposed to be for two servings but there was more than enough for me to take for lunch the next day.

 Penne with Cauliflower & Breadcrumbs
(from November 2010 dash magazine)

4 oz. penne
3 c. cauliflower florets
1 T. butter
1 T. dijon mustard
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1/4 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Boil pasta and cauliflower until pasta is al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 c. cooking liquid. Return pasta and cauliflower to pot.

Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in mustard. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until golden – about 7-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add cream, parmesan and cooking liquid to pasta. Toss over medium heat until sauce simmers – about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Top with breadcrumbs and serve with extra parmesan.

Pasta and Bean Soup

This was an excellent pot of soup for an excellent cause. Branny Boils Over is hosting a Charity Souper Bowl event to raise money for the ASPCA. So, this little post is going to be helping out some animals that really need it. How could I pass up that opportunity?

I couldn’t – especially with this one in my life:

That’s Kali – one of our two cats. (She likes hanging out with her fellow tuxedo buddy.) Mark and I are both strong believers in animal adoption; we got Kali last January and bringing her into the family was one of the best decisions we ever made. She’s such a little love. And, she helped with this pot of soup by batting dropping carrot pieces around the kitchen. Stuff like that is par for the course around here.

The soup itself is wonderful – packed with veggies and perfect for lunch on a cold day. It comes together quickly enough for a weeknight dinner too. It’s also quite figure-friendly – the original recipe (linked below) clocks in at 218 calories per each 1 1/2 c. serving. I made a few small adjustments to the original recipe but the number of calories in this version should be close.

Pasta and Bean Soup
(from Light & Tasty, February/March 2006)
Serves 5

1 c. uncooked small pasta
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 1/2 c. water
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (14 1/2 oz. cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 t. dried basil
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1 can (15 ounces) white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups shredded fresh spinach

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick saucepan, saute the celery, carrots, onion and garlic in oil for 5 minutes. Stir in the water, tomatoes, broth, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until carrots are tender.

Drain pasta; stir into vegetable mixture. Add the beans; heat through. Stir in spinach; cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.

Stuffed Zucchini

I finally broke into my cookbook stash to start my Cookbook Project for the year. Since we’re trying to eat better, Prevention’s Quick and Healthy Low-Fat Cooking featuring Pasta and Other Italian Favorites (whew!, what a mouthful!) seemed like an obvious starting point.

I had steered away from this cookbook in the past because I feel like we do “Italian” a lot as it is but this book had a lot more than your standard spaghetti and lasagna. This recipe was a home-run and there is plenty of others I’m interested in trying, so this cookbook gets to stay on the shelf.

We always end up doing the same vegetables for dinner, so this was a nice way to mix things up. I really liked them and Mark, who isn’t a zucchini fan – finished his too.

Stuffed Zucchini
(adapted from Prevention’s Quick and Healthy Low-Fat Cooking featuring Pasta and Other Italian Favorites)
Serves 2

1 Zucchini
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. finely chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 plum tomato, finely chopped
1 t. italian seasoning
Pinch salt and pepper
2 T. bread crumbs
1 T. grated parmesan cheese

Cut each zucchini lengthwise in half. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a shell. Reserve the pulp.

In a medium frying pan over low heat, saute the onions and garlic in oil for one minute. Add the zucchini pulp, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the zucchini is tender.

Spoon the filling into the zucchini shells. Sprinkle 1 T. bread crumbs and 1/2 T. parmesan cheese over each zucchini half.

Place zucchini on a non-stick baking sheet and roast at 350F degrees for 15 minutes or until the zucchini are hot and the top is brown and bubbly.

BBQ Bacon Apple Chicken in the Slow Cooker

This is, hands down, my favorite slow cooker recipe. It takes less than five minutes to prep and is easy to size up or down, depending on how many people you want to feed.

Of course, because I like it so much it photographs awfully. Trust me on this one, it tastes a whole lot better than it looks!

BBQ Bacon Apple Chicken
(adapted from the November 2009 issue of All You)
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts
4 slices of bacon, raw
1 small granny smith apple, peeled and shredded
1/2 c. BBQ sauce

Wrap two slices of bacon around each chicken breast and place it in the bottom of the slow cooker. Mix together shredded apple and BBQ sauce and pour over top of the chicken. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Spinach dip seems to be a staple at parties – and everyone has their own spin. This is my favorite recipe for baked spinach dip. The cheese makes it extra creamy and gives it a nice flavor. And, there’s bacon.

We made this for Christmas Eve but I’m posting it now because it would be a great munchie for the football playoffs. It’s great served with crackers or bread chunks as dippers.

Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip
(from AllRecipes)

8 slices bacon
1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 (14 oz.) can quartered marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 (5 oz.) container garlic-herb flavored cheese spread
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 (8 oz.) container sour cream
1/2 c. mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain and crumble into a medium bowl.

Mix spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic-herb flavored cheese spread, Parmesan cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise into the bowl with bacon.

Scoop mixture into a 7×11 inch baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven 20 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned.