Tag Archives: Party Dishes

Low-Carb Recipe: Spicy Southwestern Ceviche

8 Jul

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

This is a great make-ahead seafood recipe for party dishes or long weekends around the house. If you’ve never tried ceviche before, think of it as a sort of “fish salsa.”

Chef’s Note: Because you’re using time+acid to “cook” your seafood (rather than heat), you’ll want to be sure to use nonreactive dishware and utensils during the marinating process.

Begin with about 1 lb. of boneless, raw fish or seafood.

(I used red snapper, but anything will work, including shrimp, scallops, calamari, or other items on sale at your local grocery.

I’ll warn you; thawed frozen fish will have a mushier final texture than fresh, so if you’re using frozen, be aware of that caveat up front.

Also, you may want to rinse thawed filets in cool water before beginning, depending on what sort of liquid they may have been frozen in, to help the flavor. Basically: the fresher, the better.

Cut the filets into small (3/4″) chunks and place in the bottom of a large glass or ceramic bowl.

Chop one seeded cucumber, one seeded poblano pepper (or other variety) and several green onions into small tidbits and add to the fish.

Sprinkle mixture with 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 2 teaspoons salt.

Splash mixture with 1-2 teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce and add 1 (15-ounce) drained can of diced tomatoes. (You can always use fresh, seeded tomato chunks but I just use canned to save time.)

If desired, canned black or pinto beans are a festive addition to this dish, and also help your seafood budget stretch further!

Squeeze the juice of 4 limes and 3 lemons over the raw fish mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until evenly coated.

Cover mixture with plastic wrap or lid and refrigerate overnight, stirring at least once sometime after the first hour has passed.

Serve chilled in a large dip bowl with vegetables or chips for dipping, or spooned over a lettuce and cheese salad base. Garnish with chopped flat parsley if desired.


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: Easy Deviled Easter Eggs

5 Apr

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

Easy deviled easter eggs

Absorbed Easter egg dye only adds to the charm of these festive little cuties.

If the Easter bunny left behind a few too many colored eggs at your house over the weekend, don’t fret. A batch of these easy deviled eggs will quickly clear them out of your refrigerator door!

Marbelized hard-boiled Easter egg.

We call the dyed ones with cracks "lizard eggs" because they look so neat after they're peeled.

Thanks for this recipe post ultimately go to my mom, Linda, who graciously let me invade her kitchen to photograph her while she whipped these up from the remnants of the kids’ egg-coloring adventure at her house this weekend.

Start with about 2 dozen hard-boiled eggs (Easter or otherwise).

Peel eggs and slice in half lengthwise. Remove solid yolks and place them in a large bowl.

Easter eggs shells.

Amend your garden mulch with Easter egg shells to enrich soil and keep destructive slugs at bay.



Homemade dyed Easter eggs.

Homemade dyed Easter eggs.

Gardener’s Note: Don’t forget to save the broken shells when you peel Easter eggs–they make a charming and colorful mulch amendment around your hosta bed that will keep garden slugs at bay and enrich your soil with calcium!

With a fork, mash the yolks into small, crumbling pieces. Slice softened butter into small pieces and blend with egg yolks.

Mashed yolks with butter and mustard.

Mash yolks, butter and mustard into a creamy paste.

Add about ½ cup of mustard, but don’t depend too heavily on the exact measurement. Just squirt and mix until mixture is mostly creamy.

Fill decorator's (or Ziplock-style) bag with yolk mixture.

Fill decorator's (or Ziplock-style) bag with yolk mixture.

Wilton #106 tip

A Wilton #106 decorator's tip makes a cool filling design.

Salt to taste and stir in about a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce (again, don’t worry about getting out your measuring spoons; just eyeball it.)

Mix in about half a tablespoon of paprika. Don’t stump your toe on it because you’re going to be using more for the topping.

Pipe yolk mixture into egg white halves.

Pipe yolk mixture into egg white halves.

Spoon the mixture either straight into the egg white halves or cut the tip out of a plastic freezer bag and drop a medium-to-large frosting decorating tip in the bottom. (A Wilton #106 drop-flower icing tip makes a lovely design.) Squeeze yolk mixture into egg white halves.

Top with paprika and chives as desired.

Top with paprika and chives as desired.

Sprinkle additional paprika and chives over the tops of eggs. Serve immediately or refrigerate in a covered container.

Cheap Recipe: Stuffed Mushrooms…from Leftovers!

2 Feb

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

I've died and gone to mushroom heaven...

These big beauties are the product of leftover cornbread stuffing from chicken night and a little ingenuity. And, MAN, are they tasty (and filling)!!

Every time we have chicken for dinner, we wind up with enough leftover meat for a whole second recipe later in the week, so I scrape the carcass clean and freeze the meat. However, we wind up with only enough stuffing left from the box mix to sit in our fridge looking dried-out until someone finally gives up and chucks it in the garbage.

That lonely, orphaned celery stalk or green onion stash in the crisper drawer is plenty for this recipe!

These fancy little mushrooms give new life to that “not-enough-left-to-do-anything-with” stuffing. But don’t be fooled by the memories of stuffed mushrooms you might’ve encountered in the past on finger-food tables–these bad boys are a satisfying little meal in themselves! (And you’re probably going to want a fork and knife!)

The fungus among us.

Begin with a large (24-ounce) package of jumbo white mushrooms. (Other varieties and sizes work, too–I just like these ones and they go on sale pretty often at my local grocery store.)

Wash the mushrooms well (remember, they grow in poop!) and pat them dry. With a sharp knife, remove the stems from the caps, hollowing out as much of the cap as possible without accidentally ripping the mushroom in half–which

Dig out as much as you can without breaking the caps.

 is easy to do when the mushrooms are raw and spongey. It’s okay if you bust a couple of them–just throw the broken caps back in the fridge to dress up a spinach salad later in the week!


Is anyone else humming the theme song from "Smurfs?"

Chef’s Note:

You can save the stems if you’re feeling frugal, cut off the hard tips and chop them to use in the filling, but I don’t. They make good compost and the time it takes to prepare them is sometimes more valuable to me than the savings on a few usable molecules of mushroom stem I might’ve scrounged…but it’s a matter of personal choice. 🙂

In a large skillet, heat about 3 tablespoons of oil (any kind) over medium burner heat.

Little bowlies...

 Add the mushroom caps, hollow-side-down and move them around with a wooden spoon until they begin to turn golden underneath. Flip the

Let sausage cook about 2/3 done before adding stuffing.

caps onto their tops and continue to cook until entire mushrooms look partially sauteed. Remove from heat one-by-one and place on a paper towel to soak up excess oil.

While mushroom caps are cooling (there should be little to no oil left in the skillet by now), chop a celery rib or a couple of green onions into very fine pieces. Actually, pretty much any small piece(s) of vegetable will do for this recipe–you want some texture in your filling, and there may be a little pinch of something in

Stretch that leftover cornbread stuffing!

 your crisper that’s about to go bad anyway. It doesn’t take much for this stuffing, and may prevent a little bit of waste in your kitchen. 🙂

Add 1/2 lb. bulk pork sausage to skillet and use your wooden spoon to break up meat into very small tidbits. You can also substitute texturized vegetable protein (TVP) for the meat, or use leftovers like breakfast sausage, ground beef, crumbled bacon, etc. instead of the bulk pork sausage.

Allow the sausage to cook about 2/3 of the way done before adding your leftover poultry stuffing. We usually have about 1-1/2 cups of leftover prepared stuffing mix (think Stovetop) after a chicken dinner. This is PLENTY for filling out the sausage mixture!


Can you imagine how good this smells??

(Be sure to drain meat first if there is a surplus of grease, but a little grease is good for absorbing into the stuffing, which may have dried out a little in your fridge since the original meal it was cooked for!)

"Stuff us, please!"

Incorporate the stuffing into the sausage in the skillet, sprinkle with garlic powder, and allow sausage to continue cooking until no longer pink anywhere. Remove skillet mixture from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, spray a glass 9″x13″ baking dish with nonstick cooking oil and place mushroom caps upside-down in baking dish. Don’t crowd them

Really cram it in there!

too much, since you’re topping them with cheese. You want each mushroom to be able to be removed by itself without dragging cheese off of the others around it.

Spoon stuffing mixture into mounds inside the hollow caps. Once all caps are filled, sprinkle about 1 cup mozzarella cheese over the mushrooms.

Your party guests will never guess they're eating your old soggy leftovers!

Bake uncovered at 375 for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until cheese is uniformly melted. Serve immediately or refrigerate leftovers.

Be sure to separate each mushroom from its “neighbors” cleanly before refrigerating–it will be much harder to do that after they’ve camped out in the fridge or been reheated!

Cheap Recipe: Spaghetti-O Casserole

23 Nov

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

NOTE: Grace’s sister, Emily, is hanging out in the Red Kitchen today. Heaven help us all.

A year or so ago, an Australian friend introduced me to a simple treat from Oz: Spaghetti-Os on toast.

Don’t knock it. Spaghetti-Os taste much better on toast than they do by themselves. I don’t know why, but they do — maybe because putting them on toast causes your mouth to read them as sandwich spread (which is supposed to be mushy) rather than pasta (which is supposed to be al dente).

Cover the bottom of a small casserole dish with croutons.

Anyway, I got to thinking, and it occurred to me that there had to be a way to turn Spaghetti-Os on toast into a kid-friendly casserole. Toast wouldn’t work, because it would turn to mush, but what about croutons? I made a run to the grocery store and came back with Spaghetti-Os, seasoned croutons, a package of American cheese, and some French-fried onions.

As you might expect from something involving Spaghetti-Os, preparation is very simple. First, coat the inside of a small baking dish (I used a little Corning dish, but a Pyrex pie plate would probably work) with cooking spray.

Dump in a can of Spaghetti-Os, cover with American cheese slices, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Fill the bottom of the dish with croutons. Next, dump in a 26-ounce can of Spaghetti-Os.

Cover the top with slices of American cheese and sprinkle with breadcrumbs (optional). Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle some French-fried onions on top. Bake another five minutes.

You could dress this up with some Italian spices, garlic, or fancier cheese (maybe shredded mozzarella), but in the interest of making it kid-friendly, I tried to keep the ingredients as simple as possible. The croutons will soften, but they don’t get mushy, instead retaining a toastlike texture, and the overall taste is vaguely reminiscent of a grilled-cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup.

This would be a great dish to serve at the kids’ table on Thanksgiving.


Cheap Recipe: Two-Way Baked Ramen Casserole

19 Nov

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

Eat this sliced as a dinner omelet, or use it as filling in a delicious lettuce wrap!

A lot of people think of Ramen noodles simply as a cheap alternative to eating a real meal. I prefer to think of them as a helpful, inexpensive ingredient for making a larger, more wholesome recipe.

This meal, based on a variation of an Asian omelet I saw in Taste of Home’s Dinner on a Dime, turned out to be perfect served not only as a baked casserole in slices but also a clever and surprisingly delicious filling for some giant Boston

Eggs & egg whites.

lettuce leaves I found on sale last week at the store. Hence, Two-Way Ramen!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, whisk 3 whole eggs with 6 additional egg whites. Beat in 1 teaspoon cooking oil and 1 teaspoon sugar to egg mixture. Set aside.

Ah, Ramen. Is there anything it can't do?

In a medium or large saucepan, boil enough water to cook 2 packages of Ramen noodles (mushroom or chicken flavored). While preparing noodles, heat a skillet with 2-3 tablespoons cooking oil and about 1 teaspoon soy sauce.

Saute celery, mushrooms & 2 of the green onions in oil and soy sauce.

Dice 2 celery ribs and 3 green onions, setting 1/3 of the chopped green onions to the side for topping later.

Saute the remaining chopped vegetables in the oiled skillet along with an 8-ounce package of sliced, fresh mushrooms (I just used the white cheap kind; you could also use two drained cans of mushrooms instead if the ones in the produce section are pricey).

Use only 1 of the 2 Ramen seasoning packets.

To the skillet vegetables, stir in 1 teaspoon powdered ginger and 1 teaspoon garlic powder. (Of course, you can always substitute fresh garlic and ginger if you have them on hand.)

Mix vegetables and egg mixture into the noodles over medium heat.

Saute until celery is tender and mushrooms begin to darken a little; remove from heat.

Meanwhile, drain the cooked Ramen noodles and then stir in ONE of the two Ramen flavor packets, discarding the other. Add the contents of the skillet to the saucepan of noodles and mix well.

Top the casserole with remaining chopped green onion and ground cinnamon. Yum!

Slowly incorporate the liquid egg mixture into the saucepan, stirring well. Replace saucepan over MEDIUM burner heat for a couple of minutes, until the liquid egg around the mixture begins to form tiny bubbles.

Fresh from the oven!

Immediately transfer the mixture to a sprayed 8×8 glass baking dish. Top with the reserved chopped green onions and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until top begins to brown and all egg is discernably cooked.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely if serving as a sliced casserole, or else use a spaghetti spoon to dish up immediately into Boston lettuce wraps (while casserole is still very warm and

And that's a wrap!

 unsolidified). If serving as lettuce wraps, garnish with large wedges of sliced red bell pepper for a fresh and delicious combination of textures and flavors.

I’m really looking forward to working this meal into the regular lineup from now on. Hubby, who watched with great skepticism when he first saw Ramen noodles, cinnamon and lettuce all going into the same dish, wound up stuffing himself full on the finished lettuce wraps!

I’d also love to experiment with bean sprouts and water chestnuts as well–I think they’d be delicious thrown in the mix! This is truly a winning recipe, and so creative and attractive, too. Guests won’t believe their taste buds, and you won’t believe your wallet savings!

Cheap Recipe: Cheesy Artichoke Dip

3 Nov


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


Gooey, melty, buttery...the perfect appetizer-turned-late-dinner!

This rich and creamy dish, traditionally served as an appetizer, was the perfect answer to a late-dinner dilemma on Monday night at our house. Hubby worked late and the Boy kept me busy running around all evening, so when the opportunity to eat finally struck, we were all pretty tuckered.

However, after one quick glance into the refrigerator…

A giant bag of fresh spinach shone like a beacon, beckoning from the crisper drawer as angels clothed in the purest glittering white samite began to fly around the ceiling singing hymns.


One 10-oz. bag of fresh spinach. There's more in there than it looks like!

Okay, not really, but the spinach did look good, and I managed to find some cream cheese in the fridge that hadn’t spoiled yet, so it was a good enough sign for me.

The end result was so delicious Hubby and I both chomped our way through a bag of tortillas, unable to get enough of the gooey spread!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Empty the contents of a 10-ounce bag of fresh spinach into a large bowl and microwave on HIGH at least 3 minutes or until completely wilted. Scoop the


Press-dry the cooked spinach leaves to remove excess moisture.

 warm spinach up in paper towels and squeeze well to remove excess liquid.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons butter or cheap margarine (the tub kind is fine for this recipe) in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Melted butter, spices, and an 8-oz. block of cream cheese.

and 1 teaspoon salt into the butter. Add 1 tsp minced garlic (or equivalent garlic powder) and 1 tsp onion powder. Stir well.

To the butter mixture, add 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese and mash into mixture using wooden spoon. This may take a few minutes. As the butter and cream cheese begin to blend in the heat, the resulting mixture will look sort of like half-done


Add drained artichokes to lumpy mixture.

 scrambled eggs.

Stir in 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 can quartered artichoke hearts (drained), and the


Beat all ingredients until smooth and creamy.

cooked spinach. Once the vegetables are thoroughly coated with the white mixture, add 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese and stir until well blended.

Spoon mixture into oven-safe, 1-quart dish and sprinkle an additional 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese over the top.


Sprinkle more cheese over the top!

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until cheese topping is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and serve immediately with tortilla chips, wheat crackers or pita chips. (Or just eat with a spoon


Hot and bubbly!

when no one is looking!)


Boy, do I wish I had made twice as much!