Tag Archives: cheese

Easy cheesy potatoes

I hope you guys have had an amazing weekend. Like me, you should be sitting back, relaxing, patting yourself on the back for getting those few pesky chores done and smiling on all the fun you just had. Because like me, you just had the perfect summer weekend. That totally happened for you too, right?

This gal got to go to Duluth and see her indomitable brother not only complete Grandma’s Marathon, but do it with a smile on his face. In a word. Amazing. Oh and one more. Inspiring.
It was great to see him and our friends push themselves past their limits. Also super fun was cheering on all those runners, friends or not.

Grandmas Marathon-1

Then today on a foray for breakfast, we met a couple of amazing small farmers, selling produce fresh from their greenhouse. They had everything we were looking to do (albeit on a much larger scale). They were certainly the nicest couple, and willing to share some pointers and fantastic produce. Brekkie was quickly followed by a nap in the hammock and now I’m re-energized for more.

Now, fill in the gap in time (and space) between those two paragraphs and fill it with talking, laughter, and foodie love. Yeah that was my very perfect weekend. And now to top it off with the easiest side dish in all the lands. Now keep in mind, I live in the frozen tundra so even in June, it’s no big to have my oven on for 30, but if you live in warmer climes, pop these into a well oiled foil packet and toss ‘em on your grill. Easy, cheesy, comfort food, and the simplest side dish imaginable.

Enjoy!

Easy cheesy potatoes from thePenandthePan

Easy cheesy potatoes

2 lbs potatoes
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
¾ – 1 cup shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.

Clean, trim, and peel potatoes (if desired). Slice potatoes into ¼ inch pieces and place in 9×13” pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Top with onions and green pepper. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Bake uncovered at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and potatoes are pierced easily with a fork.

Comfort quesadillas

So here I have the easiest of recipes for you. So easy the ingredient list consists of you opening your fridge and taking a gander at just what is hiding (and perhaps languishing) in there. These are my go-to comfort food, especially when it’s a solo dinner, and they are so crammed full of all those favorite veg that I always, always over buy. In my mind everything can go into a quesadilla fresh mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes – heck yeah. Maybe you found that jar of banana peppers you’ve been meaning to use up, or those green chilies looking for a vehicle to your tum, or maybe its those last two delish olives taking up all that space. Yup, they all belong in there too. And I suppose, you could even throw some meat in there. You know, if you had to.

As a comfort food, they can’t be beat. Easy, delish, and the avocado on top will melt away the worst of days. And I’m putting that to the test. Someone made a rather large mistake, certainly not the end of the world, but I am a pretty harsh critic when it comes to this gal. But you know, I did find out I’ve got an audience. A big one. So there’s that, right?

That said, at least I have tons of fun to distract myself from all of that (and before you start gnashing your teeth wondering, “what the heck did you do, Jess?!” It was a typo. A small typo. But on a big stage). But yeah, fun! Next week marks the start of my summer hours. Yeah, you read that right, summer hours! So that’s pretty rad. But even more immediate is getting to watch my brother cross the finish line at Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday and then another trip to the bear bar! Yeah, bears. In real life.

In the meantime, let’s go comfort ourselves with quesadillas. Quesadillas oozing with cheese and dripping with salsa. Yeah. That.

Enjoy!

Comfort quesadillas from thePenandthePan

Comfort quesadillas

per quesadilla
1 tortilla (the size is up to you, how much comfort are you feeling?)
¼ cup or less shredded cheese
assorted vegetables, raw or cooked
butter for tortilla

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Butter one side of your tortilla and place in pan. Add vegetables to one side of tortilla. Sprinkle cheese over entire tortilla.

Just as cheese starts to melt, fold tortilla in half. Continue to cook, flipping frequently, until both sides are lightly browned.

Gyro inspired stuffed chicken

Well invisible internet friends, it’s good to be home. It may have just been a whirlwind overnight trip, but it made me love this place all the more. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love all the city has to offer, but it was great to roll down for a rocking show, lunch with some fabulous ladies, and a little retail therapy, and then hop back into the car, watching the houses get farther and farther apart. And to watch the traffic lighten imperceptibly with each passing mile, until there was nothing around but trees and fields and the smell of the pines floating in through the open car windows. It was also pretty rad that at the end of that three plus hour car ride, there were some loving arms, happy cats, chirpy chickens, and exciting wildlife awaiting me.

WednesdayWildlife from thePenandthePan-1

That, my friends, is what a hummingbird looks like when they finally sit still (much like I’m going to this afternoon).

Course, there are a few things that I wouldn’t find amiss if they just happened to find themselves transplanted to the woods from the cities. I mean, who can live very long without the deliciousness that is Mediterranean food? I’m telling you, gyros, dolmades, spanakopita, and falafel, these are my kryptonite. Just typing those very foods may have caused my mouth to water just a teensy bit. Who am I kidding? Typing those may have resulted in a full out tummy growl in anticipation. Sorry tum-tum, no dolmades for us today.

It’s cravings for foods like these that inspired this stuffed chicken I have for you. Adapted from my feta, olive, and artichoke chicken breasts (more Med flavors, anyone?), these taste just like a chicken gyro sans the pita. Don’t skimp on the tzatziki and tomatoes, they’re going to elevate this to the next level. Serve this bad boy on a bed of couscous with my Greek green beans and you’ll never have to leave the woods!

Enjoy!

Gyro inspired stuffed chicken from thePenandthePan

Gyro inspired stuffed chicken

Tzatziki sauce to top
½ cup plain yogurt
Shredded cucumber, pressed to remove liquid
1 ½ tsp white wine or rice wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Pinch of dried oregano

Stuffed chicken
¼ cup shredded mozzarella
2 ounces goat cheese
3 tablespoons red or sweet onion sliced thinly and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon oregano
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 ¼ lbs total)
1 large egg white
½ cup bread crumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fresh ripe tomato to top

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together cheeses, onion, garlic and oregano and set aside. In a shallow dish, large enough to accommodate the chicken breasts, lightly beat the egg white. In another shallow dish, mix together breadcrumbs and salt and pepper.

Cut a large pocket along the long edge of the chicken breast, being careful not to go through the chicken breast completely. Holding the chicken breast flat with the palm of one hand, carefully run the paring knife in a slight circle, following the curve of the chicken breast.

Stuff ¼ of the cheese mixture into each chicken breast. Holding the edges of the chicken breast together, dip the top of the breast in the egg white and then in the breadcrumbs. Place in baking dish.

Bake chicken at 350° for 35 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest, non-stuffed portion of the breast reads 170°.

Smashed potatoes from Closet Cooking

You know what’s amazing and awesome and about to happen to this very gal?! Getting to see your favorite band, in your favorite venue, with your favorite sibling! I’ll be real honest here, I can’t focus on a whole lot else right now. Tomorrow immediately after work, I’m hopping in the car for a solo camera venture across the state, landing in Minneapolis just in time for dinner with friends and then a night full of ROCK! All that excitement to be followed on Saturday by lunching with some favorite ladies, a little retail therapy, and another scenic route home. Just me, visits with rad people, and exactly zero pressure.

It did cross my mind to stay for a second day, but on the way into work this week, I looked around at all the peeps coming to vacation in this town, and I thought, “Huh, do I really want to miss out on a fine weekend afternoon in what will surely be the shortest of summers?” The answer was an emphatic no. That coupled with the fact that the ever talented Himself is willing to work on my car on Sunday, and it’s a def no-brainer, not a single moment wasted away from my north woods paradise.

That said, I’m crazy excited to go, and have exactly zero interest in planning elaborate meals this week. So, because I’m a grown up, it’s appetizers for dinner! Boom! Cause I can. I love this recipe because you can fancy it up for your friends, or do what I did and use leftover bits and pieces languishing in my sad fridge. Intentional ingredients, happy accidents with leftovers, either way, these little bites are so yummy. Think a potato skin with more potato and less grease and guilt.

I’ve copied over the original recipe from Closet Cooking in case you’re ready to wow your friends, but if you just want a little comfort snack, you’ll get the gist of it and adapt away.

Enjoy!

Smashed potatoes from thePenandthePan

Smashed potatoes from Closet Cooking

1 pound new potatoes (about 1-1 1/2 inches across), washed
2 tablespoons oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 strips bacon (optional)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup sour cream
2 green onions, sliced

Bring the potatoes and enough water to cover them by an inch to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until a fork can easily be pushed into them, about 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes, before draining them.

Place the potatoes on a greased baking sheet and ‘smash’ them by pressing down on them with something like a potato masher, the bottom of a glass or bowl, etc.

Brush the potatoes with oil, season with salt and pepper and bake them on the top shelf of a preheated 450F oven until golden brown and crispy on top, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile cook and crumble the bacon.

Sprinkle the cheddar onto the potatoes and optionally broil for a minute to melt the cheese.

Top with the sour cream, bacon and green onions and enjoy as a side or as an appetizer!

Option: You can cook and smash the potatoes a day ahead of time.

Layered leftover nachos

Uhhhh, what do you mean it’s only Thursday. You can’t be for reals. Nope, I refuse to believe that. Surely it’s been well over a week since we visited last. I mean, just look at everything that’s happened. Well, ok, I mean just look at everything I accomplished. Uhh, I mean, I’m sleepy, go ‘way.

It’s not so much that I’ve actually gotten that much dones, as it is feeling stretched in too many directions. You know the feeling. But this is no space for whining, right, I mean you definitely prefer me when I’m wine-ing (yeah that’s a thing that will definitely happen this weekend). Bonus points, my weekend started about thirty minutes ago. Winning! Comp time is the best time.

I feel like I’m nattering on saying much the same I’ve said in weeks past. So instead, let’s look at pretty pictures. Yayyyy! Pictures! Of nature!

Eagle take off

Pretty rad, huh? As much as I’d like to take credit for that shot, it was all Himself. Don’t mind me as I’m over here drumming my fingers, trying to contain my jealousy. He’s the better photographer. Though I did get this one in the yard.

Deer in yard

Sigh, I know it doesn’t compare. But really now, I can’t have *all* the talent. I mean just looky here at what I’ve done with your leftovers. It’s like magic up in here. So, the name may not be the most glamorous, but the taste will knock your socks off. I made this with my leftover crockpot pork tacos with beer. And it was glorious! This is more of a technique, since your nachos are going to depend on how much meat and veggies you have left over. Get creative here, it doesn’t have to be taco meat on these nachos. Have some leftover chicken breast? Shred it up and toss with some salsa. Have some black beans and sweet potatoes in the fridge? Oh yes, my friend, super tasty! Think way outside the box here. What’ve you got to lose?

The recipe makes a huge plate of nachos. Think of those over the top restaurant nachos. We’re talking more than enough to share in a group. But not to worry, everyone will inhale them.

Enjoy!

Layered leftover nachos

Layered leftover nachos

2 cups leftover meat, shredded or chopped into bite sized pieces
2 cups cheese
Tortilla chips
Assorted veggies – green pepper, green top onions, tomatoes, etc
Cilantro cream sauce and guacamole to serve

Preheat oven to 350º. In a small baking dish, place a layer of tortilla chips. Top with ½ meat, 1 cup of cheese, and half the veggies (except tomatoes if using). Place another layer of chips on top. Repeat meat, cheese, and vegetable layers. Top with tomatoes.

Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes. Serve with cilantro cream sauce and guacamole.

Greek green beans

Four glorious days off in a row! I love my jobs, but this dose of “idleness” and sunshine is just what I needed.Note the “idleness” in quotes. You know me, days off of work just means that I’ll find a different way to fill that time. Friday was filled with spring cleaning and today is full of cooking and delicious recipe ideas. Then sandwiched in between was a great visit from my brother and an awesome Easter dinner with g’ma and g’pa.

Today is one of those days I yearn for in the middle of a stressful week. It’s gray and a little chill out, but that just means puttering around in the kitchen with a giant mug of tea is the perfect way to spend the day. I get to fill my house with delicious smells (and tastes, of course), all the while not feeling guilty about being indoors. After all, testing recipes and prepping amazing things for this week’s lunch is awfully important too. Well, that and shopping for purses on the interwebs, I mean, this girl’s gotta accessorize too.

These delicious green beans might have been my favorite part of the aforementioned Easter dinner. The crunch of green beans with the fresh herbs and bite of lemon just gets up and yells “SPRING!” to me. Nope, not a subtle flavor here. These beans crawl right up in your face. And the only thing that’s going to make them any tastier is when the beans, mint, and dill are fresh picked from my garden. This is sure to be my (and yours too!) go-to green bean recipe this summer.

Enjoy!

Greek green beans

Greek green beans

Lightly adapted from Bon Appetit

1 ½ lbs green beans, cleaned and trimmed
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh mint leaves
1 ½ tablespoons chopped, fresh dill
zest and juice of one lemon, less if desired
½ cup feta cheese

Preheat oven to 350º.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. Place into a 2 quart casserole dish. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until heated through. Serve immediately.

Squash and apple gratin

The fall harvest is starting to show up everywhere, and I have a confession to make about it. I just cannot pass up winter squash or apples at this time of the year. I’ll open my refrigerator and suddenly find that I’m inundated with squash and apple. But then I’ll find myself passing by the farmers’ market or grocery store, or one of those rad roadside farm stands, and I just can’t help myself. It’s the only time of the year that I succumb to something like this, but guys, it’s bad.

So, what was I to do, but try to combine both the apples and squash in a casserole? It was the only answer, really. The sharp cheddar cheese is important. The flavors of the cheese and apple, bring the squash to the next level. Don’t mess around with those medium cheddars, they can’t stand up to this job. Save ‘em for your sandwiches and crackers.

So even if you take away nothing else from this post, I have to share this tip with you. I heard it a couple a years ago, and have been using it since. We all know winter squash is a right pain to cut. So here’s the trick, take a sharp knife and pierce the squash several times, then pop it in the microwave for two, maybe three minutes. Let it cool slightly, then slice it up. Easy, breezy.

And now back to that gratin. This recipe is adapted from an old Betty Crocker side dish cookbook for Squash and Cranberry Gratin, but is a little sweet to my taste, though I love the mix of squash and cranberry. You can expect to see those flavors in the near future.

Enjoy!

Squash and apple gratin

Squash and apple gratin

Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Squash and Cranberry Gratin

3 cups winter squash (1 large-ish squash)
⅔ cup finely chopped tart apple (1 medium apple)
½ medium onion chopped
3 Tbsp butter, melted, divided
Salt and pepper to taste, be generous
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon ground sage
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Pierce squash several times with sharp knife. Microwave whole squash for 2 minutes. This will make the squash easier to cut. Cut squash into fourths and remove seeds. Place cut sides down in a microwave safe dish, cover and microwave until tender, about 14 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Discard squash seeds and scoop squash into a medium bowl, mix in apples, onions, garlic, sage and 2 Tbsp melted butter. Press into lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle squash with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese over squash and then top cheese with panko breadcrumbs. Drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

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