Tag Archives: Cheese

Cheap Recipe: Cheddar, Sour Cream & Onion Ruffle Meatloaf

18 Oct
(Sigh.) Is there anything better?

Quick Recipe: Cajun Shrimp with Cheese Grits

14 Jan
Spicy shrimp and cheese grits: the perfect winter warmup.

Red Fork Hippie here, dishing up a warm, hearty way to begin or end a chilly January day: thick, buttery cheese grits spiked with bacon and topped with sauteed shrimp in a spicy roux.

Be forewarned: This ain’t diet food.

The recipe is a riff on an idea I swiped from my favorite Cajun restaurant, Chicory and Chives, which is an awesomely awesome place to have brunch on Saturday mornings, but which also happens to be several miles (and two or three construction zones) away from Red Fork, making it a less-than-ideal choice for weeknight dining. Continue reading

Vegetarian Recipe: Linguine Pesto

11 Jan

Like dining out, only cheaper. And faster.

Grace’s hippie sister, reporting in from Oklahoma with a knockoff of a recipe from her favorite upscale Italian restaurant.

I knew I’d spent way too much time hanging out with Italians when I caught myself adding red wine and olive oil to a batch of Hamburger Helper.

Grace and I grew up surrounded by Italians: Alegnanis, Berras, Calcaterras, Camaratos, Cerniglias, Colombos, Dell’Eras, DeTomasis, Ferraris, Garavalias, Garegnanis, Garnatis, Gualdonis, Marlows, Pisonis, Quaglias, Ranchinos, Sollamis, Spezias, Trapanis, Venegonis … you get the idea.

Somehow, I managed to land in Tulsa — where the Mexican and Lebanese influences tend to dominate the culinary landscape — but while you can take the girl out of Herrin, apparently you can’t take Herrin out of the girl: A cursory glance at the cabinets on a recent Friday afternoon revealed that while I was out of milk, bread, and most other staples, I had plenty of garlic, two kinds of olive oil, and at least seven different types of pasta on hand.

I heard the basil plant on my windowsill calling my name, so I pinched off some leaves and broke out the food processor. It was pesto time. Continue reading

Amazing Recipe: Deep-Dish Pizza Pie Quiche

24 Nov

To view a text-only version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

This was so much better than it had any right to be. I think it's my new favorite food.

Oh. My. Goodness. I need for all of you reading out there at home to know how wonderful this is. Because it is. Truly, it is. Is-is-is, is…IS.


I made this quiche for a Saturday brunch when I knew meals would be happening at random odd times later in the day. The family needed something to tide them over, and I needed something to do with the pepperoni left over from making homemade minestrone. Continue reading

Easy Recipe: Bistecca Caprese alla Griglia (Grilled Capri Steak)

25 Aug

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Go ahead. Tell me your mouth isn’t watering. I Double-Dog-Dare you.

So…our oven is broken. (In case you were scratching your head at the sporadic nature of recent posts, now you know.)

Today I called Hubby from work and asked him to defrost some meat and light the grill before I got home with the kids for the evening. As I spent my day thinking about the barbecue, however, I just couldn’t seem to get myself in the mood for a big old charcoal-grilled steak.

One reason was that steaks always make me crave coffee with dinner, and let’s face it — the weather’s not that cool yet. Continue reading

Low-Carb Recipe: Chicken Cordon Bleu

10 Jun

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

My easy, healthy spin on Chicken Cordon Bleu replaces the bread coating with flax seed, but you can easily swap in wheat germ, chopped nuts, crushed pork rinds, or any number of other low-carb options, depending on what diet you’re on and what’s available at your local discount grocery.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a glass or ceramic baking dish with nonstick coating and set aside.

Split chicken and pound flat.

Take 3 thawed, whole, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 lbs.) and split each one down the middle. Separate the two sides of each split breast and lay them as flat as possible on waxed paper.

50 cents' worth of thin lunchmeat was just right.

Using a meat tenderizer or other heavy tool, pound each chicken breast as flat as uniformly possible. (I pound on the side that was split open, leaving the original outer side still attractive and smooth.) The tenderized chicken breasts should be about 3/8″ thick.

Ham, string cheese & chopped scallions.

Lay about 3 extra-thin slices of ham (I used super-cheap lunchmeat) over each chicken breast, overlapping slices as needed. If meat is not super-thin, you may just want to use 1 or 2 slices per breast.

Unwrap 6 (1-oz-each) sticks of string cheese and place 2 sticks on top of the ham slices in the center of each chicken breast. Alternatively, you could use about 1 cup shredded cheese instead, but the string cheese is much easier to keep contained as it cooks.

If you can't find flax seed, you can mash pork rinds or top with wheat germ.

Dice the green parts of 2 scallions into small pieces and sprinkle some on top of each pair of cheese sticks.

Starting at one end of the flat chicken breast (parallel to length of cheese stick), begin rolling the chicken breast around the ham/cheese/onions. Transfer to sprayed casserole dish, being sure to secure the open edge of each roll firmly underneath to prevent seeping. You can use toothpicks to secure this if you like, but I never do.

Cover before sticking in the oven.

(If you do decide to use toothpicks, it’s a good idea to count how many you put in so you remember how many to remove before you serve the chicken!)

Once chicken has been transferred to baking dish, rub a tiny amount of melted butter over them (optional) and sprinkle liberally with about 2 Tbs. flax seed or other preferred coating.

This doesn't taste like diet food.

Cover with alumnium foil; Bake covered for about 35-40 minutes. Remove foil and cook an additional 10 minutes, or until evenly cooked.

(Remember that because you pounded them flat and placed pre-cooked ham in the middle, they shouldn’t go as long as whole, solid chicken breasts.)

Asparagus makes a nice, low-carb sidecar for this recipe.

Fancy Recipe: Seafood-Stuffed Manicotti with Cream Cheese Marinara

14 Apr

 For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Seafood-stuffed manicotti in creamy marinara sauce.
So fancy.

This scrumptious meal is a great substitute for dining out on celebratory occasions or “date night,” with the added bonus that there’s often leftovers to reheat the next day!

Jamie (my three-year-old son) helped with portions of today’s recipe post. He LOVES stirring things, and brought his little milk stool over to the counter while I was working on the filling and made sad faces at me until I let him climb up on it and help me. 🙂

For this recipe, you’ll need about 12 ounces of small (or chopped), thawed seafood. I used a bag of bay scallops I scored for dirt cheap before Lent ended, but you can just as easily make this out of shrimp, tilapia, imitation crabmeat–whatever’s on sale.

Saute seafood with butter.

Saute seafood with butter.

Warm a skillet over MEDIUM burner heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter/margarine (cheap tub margarine is fine!) and toss in thawed (drained!) seafood.

Let seafood cool over paper towels.

Let seafood cool over paper towels.

Sprinkle seafood liberally with garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Simmer about 4 minutes,stirring often, until fish is opaque in color. Remove from heat and immediately transfer onto paper towel lined plate to absorb grease. If desired, squeeze lemon juice over the cooked seafood before sticking it in the fridge to chill quickly.

Ricotta (but cottage cheese will work just fine).

Ricotta (but cottage cheese will work just fine).

While fish is cooling, empty a 15-ounce carton of ricotta (or cottage!) cheese into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) cream cheese and 1 cup shredded mozzarella.

Jamie helping stir.

If your arm tires, recruit a local superhero to finish the job for you.

Break an egg over the cheese and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon oregano, and 1 teaspoon salt (optional). Stir well.

By this time, the seafood should be cooled off. Add it to the cheese mixture and stir again. Set aside.

Prepared marinara.

Prepared marinara.

At this point, you want to both preheat your oven to 375 degrees AND bring a pot of water (with 1 tablespoon oil) to a rolling boil over HIGH heat.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, mix 1-1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce (any variety) with another 4 ounces cream cheese. Heat over LOW burner heat, stirring occasionally.

Once water is boiling, reduce heat and add 12-ounce package (about 14 pieces) manicotti tube pasta.


Don't have manicotti? Cut cooked lasagna noodles in half length-wise & roll them around filling mixture! (Technically, you're then making "cannelloni," but who's checking?)

Chef’s Note: If you’re shopping at a discount grocery store where manicotti pasta is unavailable, you can always buy regular lasagna noodles, cook them, cut them to half-length, and roll them around the filling mixture.

Now, technically, if you’re rolling the noodle around the filling, then it changes from being manicotti to being canneloni, but hey–if someone feels cocky enough to question your authenticity, I heartily recommend a third Italian phrase:

Bacio il mio culo!

Seafood & cheese mixture.

Seafood & cheese mixture.

Because you only want the pasta to cook to almost-al-dente, keep a close eye on the pot and don’t let it boil past seven or eight minutes at the most. Stir often to avoid tubes getting stuck together.

When pasta is ready, immediately drain hot water and replace with cold (faucet) water over the manicotti. Add another teaspoon of oil if necessary to prevent them sticking together.

Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan and give filling mixture a good quick stir. To make filling pre-formed manicotti tubes easy on yourself and avoid breaking/tearing cooked pasta, try this simple trick:

my manicotti trick

There's a trick to filling perfect manicotti. Here it is!

Take a gallon-sized freezer bag or a plastic icing-decorating bag and hold with one tip or point hanging straight down. Fold top edges of bag down around the hand that is holding it, and begin spooning filling mixture into the bag. Use scissors to trim the bottom “point” about 1″ to 1-1/2″ from tip (large enough to allow cheese AND seafood to pass easily through the opening), and twist the top opening of the bag shut over the cheese, creating a tube through which you can squeeze the filling.

filled manicotti

Go ahead. No one is looking. Wolf it.

Use a paper towel to pat-dry each piece of pasta right before filling it. Squeeze mixture into pasta, and begin placing filled tubes in two rows in sprayed casserole pan.

When all tubes are filled, top pasta with cream cheese marinara sauce and sprinkle with an additional 1 cup mozzarella.

creamy marinara

Creamy marinara just waiting to be drizzled...

Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake approximately 20 minutes, or until cheese topping is melted.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Remove pan, uncover, and serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers–they reheat beautifully!

Cheap Recipe: Mozzarella-Stuffed Mini Meatloaf to Die For…

18 Mar

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Best. Meatloaf. EVER.

This is the yummiest new recipe post I’ve had in a long while. I had this idea maybe a year or two ago, but never actually tried making it because I was concerned it would just wind up a big gooey, lumpy mess. Boy was I wrong!

I finally bit the bullet Monday night and tried it out. Lo and behold, these meatloaves* turned out to be absolutely perfect and the cheesy middles were just divine! (Well, as divine as meatloaf can possibly aspire to be…)

*It should probably be noted that you could attempt this with a regular-sized meatloaf as well as minis, by increasing the bake time (doubling it should be about right), and then you could simplify things even more by simply placing a few string cheese sticks in the center of the loaf rather than dealing with the shredded stuff. 🙂

Turkey and sausage.

I like the minis for 2 reasons: (1) dinner is cooked and on the table in half the time, and (2) the meat-to-cheese ratio turned out wonderfully. The loaves kept their shape and texture while a little bit of yummy, melty cheese worked its way into each bite.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and coat an 8-portion mini loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

A bit of fresh produce...

In a large bowl, combine 1 lb. thawed ground turkey (I got mine on sale for 99 cents) with 1 lb. hot-and-spicy pork sausage (or mild if you like a more conservative meatloaf).

Resist the urge to start mixing early!

♥Chef’s Note: When using turkey instead of beef I like to err on the side of spicy because turkey tends to otherwise “absorb” some of the sausage flavor leaving a blander meatloaf.

Dump 1 cup fine bread crumbs over the meat and sprinkle with one teaspoon each of: garlic powder, oregano and onion powder to taste. (But do not start mixing the ingredients together yet!)

Finely chop half of a yellow onion and half of a bell pepper (I used a red one) and add to the bowl. Crack an egg or two into the bowl and squirt approximately 1/3 cup ketchup into the mix as well.

Use back of a spoon to make indentations in each one.

Now it’s time to start mixing it all together. I never even attempt to use a spoon when making meatloaf–I just dive in and start “kneading” it together with my clean hands. It seems to make for a much nicer texture after it comes out of the oven; I think that’s probably because you’re not over-mixing any part of it. Just work it until the big chunks of individual ingredients are no longer discernable. (This concept is akin to stirring muffin mix only until moistened and not over-mixing your muffin ingredients to get a pleasing baked good in the end.)

Fill each hole with shredded cheese.

Once blended, divide the raw meat mixture into 8 lumps, placing a lump in each of the mini-loaf pan-forms. Flatten the mixture as best you can into all corners of the loaf shapes.

Seal those babies back up!

Take the back of a spoon and press down into the tops of the raw loaves, leaving an impression about 1/2″-3/4″ deep. Now sprinkle shredded mozzarella into each of the holes you just made, packing it as densely as possible. Mound the displaced meat mixture up over the top and press down to seal in the cheese. I used between 1 and 1-1/2 cups total shredded cheese for 8 loaves.

I loves me some ketchup!

♥Chef’s Note: Be sure that if you’re using bagged shredded cheese, you either transfer an appropriate amount to a handy bowl first, or wash your hands at many intervals during the stuffing process to avoid contaminating leftover cheese shreds that are going back in the fridge for later meals!

All done! (Those little white spots are cheese that rose to the surface.)

Once all the loaves are stuffed, squirt a thin layer of additional ketchup over the top of each raw loaf. Bake uncovered approximately 30 minutes for 8 miniature loaves; be sure to adjust times appropriately for other sizes of loaf pans.

Remove from oven when meaty tops begin to brown or any mozzarella that escapes to the surface begins to turn a golden yellow.

You're getting hungry...very hungry.

Serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers; they reheat beautifully! I nuked 4 leftover mini loaves (covered loosely with a piece of plastic wrap) on one plate for 5

Easy weeknight meals are rarely this satisfying!

minutes on HIGH power and they were thoroughly heated without any underheated or overly hot patches.

Cheap Recipe: Pasta con Spinaci (Pasta with spinach)

1 Mar


So simple and so elegant.

This post is almost too easy to call a recipe, but it’s both extremely tasty and very attractive (a double threat in the quick recipe department), so I decided it deserved a little blogospheric real estate after all.

Bring some salted water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Add 12 to 16 ounces any kind of pasta, from elbow macaroni to mostaccioli to spaghetti.

How crazy simple is this?

Regulars to this site already know my affinity for rainbow skroodles (sometimes called “garden rotini”), so of course that’s what I used, but to each his own.

Don't let them boil away to mush!

While pasta simmers, thaw a 10- to 12-ounce package of frozen, creamed spinach in the microwave. Continue microwaving until spinach is hot and steaming.

Chef’s Note: Real, honest-to-blog creamed spinach is absolutely divine in this, but if only regular chopped spinach is available at your local grocery store, it will work too–just add 3 tablespoons cream or whole milk to the hot spinach.

When pasta has reached a somewhat firm al dente state (skroodles, especially, seem to retain a good “bite” to them when cooked), remove pot from heat and drain liquid.

Immediately add 1-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese to hot pasta and stir until melted and evenly distributed.


Add some cheese...

Chef’s Note: The cheese will appear very stringy in the pasta, but that will disappear as soon as you add the creamed spinach, so don’t sweat it. 

Once pasta is coated with cheese, stir in the hot spinach.

Stir in some pretty greens...

Be sure to taste the pasta before adding any additional salt, as the shredded cheese may have already provided some additional sodium.


Serve immediately or refrigerate leftovers. This pasta makes a terrific bed for Sea Scallops Parmesan, Quick Saucy Meatballs or chicken breast!


Cheap Recipe: Twice-Baked Chicken Pasta

5 Feb

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Monterey Jack & red peppers dress up citrus-flavored chicken.

Okay, so I know I’ve used chicken several times lately and roasted red peppers* more than once, but my philosophy is this: if I am still using leftover ingredients, and you made a recipe from this blog recently, chances are you’ve still got leftover ingredients to use up, too. I figured, why not post the remaining alternatives in close succession?

Anyway, this is a specialty of mine I invented when i was still in college and have been making ever since. It’s one of my brother’s favorite things to eat; I used to always make it for him on his birthday, and when he got married in 2005, I gifted his new wife with a cute little box of recipes for things he liked to eat, including this.

Individually flash-frozen chicken breasts in a bag are often cheaper than buying already-thawed chicken by the pound.

*If your discount grocery store doesn’t sell jars of roasted red peppers, you can always substitute a small amount of diced tomatoes, fresh veggies or whatever else they do have.

Roasted red peppers. Quick and easy.

I’ve played with many variations on this theme over the years, including fresh green peppers from the garden when in season, or big chunks of mushrooms. I’ve never been disappointed, so read this recipe with an open mind and try to think of other ingredients in your crisper drawer that can be saved from the compost pile with a well-timed batch of Twice-Baked Chicken Pasta!

(Since it’s the dead of winter right now, though, and produce isn’t on sale, I’m sticking with the canned peppers. You could easily roast your own, but for the sake of simplicity I didn’t. One little jar yields enough roasted peppers for three or 

Just tear 'em up by hand.

 four different recipes if you plan it right. Not bad for $1.69’s worth of something that can hang out in your fridge for weeks without going bad!)

And here we go:

Fast marinade.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9″x13″ glass baking dish and place about 1.5 lbs thawed, boneless chicken in the bottom. (You can use whole breasts, tenderloins–whatever you’ve got.) Top chicken with about 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, hand-torn into small pieces.

In a large measuring cup, combine about 1 cup orange juice with 1/4 cup honey and mix well. Stir in: 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and salt/pepper to taste. Or, you can save yourself time and buy a poultry seasoning packet. (They usually come with a free roaster bag, which you can either use for marinating or just throw away.)

Pour it on and let it soak in.

Once spices are stirred into juice mixture, pour the sauce over the raw chicken in the dish (or a marinating bag) and refrigerate. You can marinate for as little as 15 minutes, or as long as overnight, depending on how much time you have. (We’ll assume you only have 15 minutes for simplicity’s sake.)

Elbow macaroni is a good-sized pasta for this dish.

While chicken marinates in the fridge, bring a large pot of water to boil with about 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and a little bit of salt. Once rolling boil is achieved, reduce heat and throw in about 2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni (or any other pasta you prefer). Simmer until al dente, remove from heat and drain. Leave drained macaroni in the pot until needed later.

Meanwhile, pop the now-marinated chicken into the preheated oven and allow to cook until internal temperature of 165 is reached. Oven time will vary from 15-30 minutes, depending on whether you’re using whole breasts, tenderloin strips, or whatever else, so keep an eye on it.

Leave chicken in the casserole dish with the sauce while cutting it into pieces.

Test chicken for doneness by cutting through a piece with a knife and fork at the thickest part of its center. If juice runs clear and meat is opaque in appearance, we have a winner!

Remove cooked chicken from oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Use fork/knife right there in your glass baking dish to cut meat into large bite-sized chunks. The marinade by this time should be starting to thicken in the bottom of the casserole dish.

Stir in firmly cooked pasta.

Dump drained, cooked pasta over the cooked meat and sauce. Mix well, gently lifting portions of the meat/pepper/sauce to the top of the pasta in different places around the pan for a good distribution of ingredients. Make sure no bland pockets of unsauced pasta jump out at you!

Top with cheese.

Sprinkle the pasta and chicken with about 1-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese and place whole casserole (uncovered) back in the oven. Bake approximately 12-15 more minutes, or until cheese begins to melt and brown slightly.

Back into the oven until cheese is melty!

Spoon into dishes and serve immediately, or refrigerate leftovers. While dishing up the servings, be sure to use a non-slotted spoon to grab some of the sauce from the bottom of the pan and drizzle over the pasta. Then take your leftovers to work the next day and make the breakroom smell dee-lish and your coworkers jealous. 🙂