Tag Archives: quick dinner

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.

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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°.

Bacon, tomato, and corn pasta

Is it creepy that every day I’m more and more convinced that I moved to the best place on earth? Are you tired of me going on and on extolling the virtues of living in the woods? Well, tough! Cause I love it here, and you get to hear all about it.

That’s not to say that there aren’t things that are tough, but everything seems so much more balanced than previously. I worked crazy long hours this week, but that just means I get a three day weekend. It’s been cold and gloomy this week, but last weekend was gorgeous and this one promises more of the same. We have a lot of yard work and cleanup on the agenda in the coming weekends (having moved into a place that was vacant and had the bare minimum done to the landscaping) but we have a hot tub to sink into after completing the work. See, it’s hard to get cranky when you’re surrounded by awesome.

I also continue to be amazed at the wildlife that surrounds us. Take for example this adorable (and nuisancey) deer. Sure, it means extra protection on the garden and apple trees, but that sight there still takes my breath away. Ok, maybe it’s because I’m screaming, “Cripes! Watch out for that deer!” but still.

Deer-1

So yeah, it’s been a busy, busy week, and I’m ready to collapse with a book (perhaps into the aforementioned hot tub). But that’s ok, because this tasty-asty pasta comes together in a snap. The bacon, of course, is amazing, but the balsamic cuts the richness. And fresh corn and tomatoes, yum! Even if it doesn’t look like spring yet, delish produce is making it’s way into the stores up here. Normally, you’d find me going on about the importance of local vegetables, but let’s be honest, it’s been a long winter, and that “fresh” sweet corn is starting to look awfully good. So don’t wait until high summer to make this, in fact, don’t even wait until tomorrow!

Enjoy!

Bacon tomato corn pasta

Bacon, tomato, and corn pasta

3 ears corn
8 ounces spaghetti
1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1/2 – 1 inch slices
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper diced
1 1/2 cups tomatoes halved
1Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove corn from cobs and set aside. Place cobs in water and add pasta. Cook pasta to desired doneness. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water. Toss pasta with 1/2 Tbsp oil. Return pasta to pan, covering to keep warm.

Meanwhile, cook bacon over medium high heat until browned. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel. Drain all but 1 tbsp of bacon fat from pan and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and green pepper. Cook 1 minute. Add corn and cook about 3 minutes more. Add tomatoes and basil and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in vinegar.

Add vegetables and bacon to pasta, toss with reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with Parmesan.

Crockpot pork tacos with beer

I am having another amazing week. Getting tired of hearing that yet? I really can’t believe how much happier I am in the woods. It’s like the decision to pack in city life and just move on is reaffirmed every day. In fact, I can hardly believe that we’ve only been here eight months!

Not to be all sunshine and giggles, this week was a little tough. After all having two jobs is time consuming, and though I remember May being crazy busy when I was a student, turns out I had no idea just what that meant for grown-ups. Not that I’m laying claim to that title, mind you. But for every tough thing that happened, something amazing happened.

Culminating in yesterday’s wildlife “adventure.” I love having birds around. Always have. In fact one of the first things I did when we moved up here was request a bird book (Himself’s mother to the rescue again!). Now, you’ll find that and my inherited binoculars paired together on the porch on the reg. So naturally, I have a ton of bird feeders. We’ve got one outside the bedroom window. And since we put it up, I’ve been fascinated by how fearless those agile, little chickadees are. But I had no idea just how fearless until I went to change out the feeders yesterday. I just sauntered up, new feeder in hand, and I realized these birds weren’t going anywhere. I slowly grabbed my phone and started taking a few shots. And those birds just went on pigging out, swooping in short flights all around me. It was amazing. I dropped off the new feeder, and grabbed the big camera. Still showing no fear, these birds tried to figure out just what I was doing. And that’s when this happened.

Chickadees

You can bet I’m going to try to repeat that scene again today. Especially since Mr. Blue Jay found the new feeder sturdy enough to hold both him and his raucous cries. All signs that spring has finally arrived, I mean it is May already.

In fact, it’s almost Cinco de Mayo! You might be inundated with fiesta flavored recipes, but I bet you won’t find one as easy (and delish, I dare say) as this one. As if pork tacos aren’t tasty enough, I went and put beer in there. Yeah, I said beer. In your tacos. Soon to be in your FACE. Cause you’ll be busy stuffing it. Amirite?!

Ok, all hyperbole aside, these tacos are super, amazingly, unbelievably tasty! The assembly couldn’t be easier either. Mix it all up, walk away, come back and stuff your face. Keep in mind though, 3 lbs of pork is a lot. This is the recipe that you serve to a crowd and then sit back and relish the accolades.

Enjoy!

Crockpot pork tacos with beer

Crockpot pork tacos with beer

Adapted from Crock Pot Cheddar Beer Chicken Tacos at How Sweet It Is

1 medium sweet onion
2.5 – 3 pound pork roast
10 ounce can of tomatoes (I used Rotel’s tomatoes with green chilies)
1 green pepper
1-12 ounce bottle of beer
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons dried cilantro (optional if you’re not the cilantro freak I am)
Taco shells or tortillas
Favorite toppings: lettuce, tomatoes, more green pepper, and of course cilantro cream sauce

Roughly chop onions and place in the bottom of a crock pot. If necessary, remove butcher twine from pork roast, and place on top of onions. Drain tomatoes, reserving juice, and place on top of pork. Roughly chop green pepper and add on top of tomatoes.

In a medium bowl, mix together beer, reserved tomato juice, and taco seasonings. Carefully pour over and around pork roast. Cover and cook on low 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

Just before serving, shred pork with two forks. Assemble tacos. Stuff your face.

Sausage stuffed baked apples

I would guess it’s pretty obvious, but I seriously love cooking. I mean, I go though those periods where I’m ready to throw in the dish towel and swear we’re only eating out from now on. Himself does try to help, but I imagine it’s about the same as me offering to build us a bookshelf. Not gonna happen.

Really though, what can be more magical than looking at disparate ingredients in your fridge and creating something amazing. Especially when it comes together with exactly no effort. Though not for the blog, that’s exactly what happened yesterday – some olives, a little (brand name) olive marinade, chicken breasts, leftover flatbread, all topped with tzatziki sauce. Put those ingredients together and we had a Greek feast.

I’ve still had that weirdo relationship with food ever since that plague-like episode with the stomach virus, so getting excited about a dish is a pretty fantastic occurrence here. And then to have not one, but two dishes I want to devour (besides bread and cheese that is), well then, that’s really saying something about those dishes.

The second of those dishes is these sausage stuffed apples. I know, they’re really more of a fall dish, but it’s cold enough up her this week, that I don’t feel a bit bad about sharing this. And before you say something silly about sausage and apples not going together, I bet you’d eat a sweet, nutty acorn squash stuffed with sausage, so there.

You can make this with any kind of sausage, but I was busy turning what was already in my fridge into awesome, and so I used hot and spicy pork sausage links. And we are talking serious heat here, my friends. Put that with the bite of the ginger and you have something I want to put in my mouth. Mmmmm. You should totally put this in your mouth too!

Enjoy!

Sausage stuffed apples

Sausage stuffed baked apples

(adapted from Morning Food: Breakfast, Brunches and More for Savoring the Best Part of the Day)

4 tart apples
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
4 ounces cooked sausage, crumbled or chopped (4 oz = appx 6 links)
¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Chopped green onions to garnish

Preheat oven to 275º. Wash and core the apples. Using a paring knife, enlarge the cored hole, until the remainder of the apple is about ½-¾ inches thick. Fold a 6-inch square of aluminum foil around the bottom of the apple. This will hold filling mixture in place.

Finely chop the insides of the apple you just removed. In a saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add apple and ginger and cook 3 minutes.

Add sausage to apple and ginger mixture. Place cored apples in 8×8 pan and fill with sausage mixture. Cover pan with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and top each apple with cheese and onions. Return to oven uncovered until cheese melts. Let cool slightly before serving.

Sweet potato, olive, and spinach pizza

Soooooo, lovely invisible interweb friends, here it is another Thursday. With the best of intentions I set goals, oh way back when, that had me posting on Wednesdays and Saturdays. But these days, by the time I get settled in for the week at both jobs, I look around and here it is Wednesday, and all the creative energy? Well, it’s left the building. So Thursdays, you want to get a little creative together? Yeah, me too. You and me Thursday, let’s make a pact to come visit all our invisible interweb friends together. K?

Whew, now that’s out of the way, I can feel a little less like I’m playing catch-up. Which is good, cause I feel like we’ve been catching up from being in this cities this weekend too. We had a wonderful, amazing, super fun whirlwind trip getting to see family and friends. And came away laden with the raddest of gifts. All in some way related to food. There were fantastic wine coasters from my BFF; homemade beer and Penzey’s spices from my brother; cookbooks from my mother-in-law; muffaletta from my father-in-law, and sourdough starter (!!!), green tomato relish, salsa, and pear sauce from Himself’s woodworking buddy just to name a few. Unrelated to food, but also AMAZING, is a poster that my brother got me – all of the words in all of Emily Dickinson’s poems used to create a gorgeous image and a beautiful necklace from my sister-in-law. All that, plus foodie dinners and sushi, and a trip to the co-op to visit friends and stock up on vanilla pods and smoked salt, and all in just two days.

I’m feeling awfully rich in friends and family after all that. But once we got back, someone asked Himself, “So when did it feel like you were headed home? Saturday afternoon on the way to Minneapolis, or Monday afternoon headed back up north?” The answer for both of us was unmistakably when headed north. In fact, right now I am relishing the quiet (and that homemade beer!), taking a moment to breathe before another fun-filled weekend.

Fun-filled weekends are the inspiration for this pizza. Ok, actually a recovery from a fun-filled weekend. Looking in my fridge, I realized that those items I had bought with the best of intentions last week were getting a little close to the use it or lose it stag. And from necessity, amazing deliciousness is born! Ok, I can just imagine my father-in-law’s face as he reads the recipe, but I promise you Peter, and you too, invisible internet friends, something magical happens between the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, the salty goodness of the olives, the tang of the blue cheese, and the warmth of the spinach. In fact, I love the combination so much, it’s going in tonight’s dinner of falafel and sweet potatoes on a bed of spinach, drizzled with olive dressing. Are you drooling, cause I am! Just five more minutes until that falafel is done a-baking.

K, enough with the chitter-chatter, let’s eat already. You go make this pizza, whilst I make a salad out of my leftover sweet potatoes.

Enjoy!

Sweet potato, olive, and spinach pizza

Sweet potato and olive pizza

Per individual pizza:
Pizza dough
Scant 1/2 cup roasted sweet potatoes (see directions)
1/2 cup pizza cheese
2 tablespoons chopped olives
Small handful torn spinach
Sprinkle of blue cheese

To roast the potatoes:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Peel potatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Slice into 1/4 inch slices. Place into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss potatoes to coat. Roast 30 minutes.

For the pizza:
Stretch favorite dough recipe (of course, by that I mean mine) into oblong shape on greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with pizza cheese. Top with sweet potatoes, olives, spinach, and blue cheese. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.

Roasted dijon vegetables with andouille sausage

Did you miss me chickadees? This gal couldn’t even get out of bed over the entire weekend, let alone create a blog post. I had that rotten, body aches, sore throat, raspy cough, fever and chills, terrible thing that’s been going around up here. So it was just me, endless tissues, all the blankets, and terrible dance shows on Netflix alternated with episodes of Private Practice. That and fever dreams of Taye Diggs shirtless in a tutu. What can I say, this gal was sick.

And now, on the mend, and significantly less zombie-like, all I crave is fresh vegetables. This morning, stopping downtown, I found myself daydreaming of the farmers’ market and the gorgeous recipes that would spring to mind simply with a short walk down those bounteous aisles.

While we have great grocery stores up here, you know as well as I do, that produce is a little dull these days. Winter vegetables have had their moment, and the fabulous tastes of spring greens, peas, and radishes have yet to join my table. It’s just a matter of time my friends, yesterday I ventured outside in just a sweater! And while I surely can’t plant anything yet, I can plant my behind in the greenhouse. In fact, I have every hope that Himself will see fit to set up the greenhouse tonight, so I can spend the early evenings basking in the sun’s warmth.

While I bask away, grab what veggies are looking best, and toss them together in this easy recipe. Feel free to substitute whatever catches your fancy, but stick with the potatoes as a base. The last of your winter parsnips would be a great change if you’re not feeling particularly carrot-y. But you’re going to want to gobble this up with some crusty bread. The roasted sweet of the veggies is perfectly set off by the tang of the Dijon and the slight spice of the andouille. Yum!

Enjoy!

Roasted dijon vegetables and andouille sausage

Roasted dijon vegetables and andouille sausage

Adapted from Taste of Home’s Roasted Kielbasa & Vegetables

5 to 6 peeled potatoes, sliced into ¼ inch slices
¾ cup baby carrots, roughly chopped
½ red onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, cut into slices
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons hickory or bbq seasoning
Salt and pepper
10 oz smoked andouille sausage, cut into ½ inch slices
1 small yellow squash, roughly chopped
1 cup corn
1 cup asparagus, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large roasting pan, toss potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic with the olive oil. Sprinkle with hickory seasoning, salt, and pepper. Roast in oven for 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from oven and evenly distribute andouille, squash, corn, and asparagus over the potato mixture. Return to the oven for an additional 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and toss mixture with Dijon mustard. Serve immediately.

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