Posts tagged cheese

Treat Yourself (For Less!)

It’s okay to indulge everyone else in awhile, especially on Wednesdays when you’re feeling like the week may never end. Plus I’m going to justify this one with the fact that it can be made with under 5 main ingredients. Give and take, folks.

This recipe is from Giada de Laurentiis of the Food Network, and it. is. delicious. Cheesy with a hint of tomato, it’s comforting in the best way. It’s super easy too, so although you may have to go grab a few ingredients, the short cook time makes up for it.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb Fusilli pasta (For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, this type works best, but feel free to use penne if you’re not a fan)
  • 1 bag fresh spinach leaves
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes (the small circular ones)
  • 1 cup grated asiago cheese (when I made this in China and couldn’t find asiago at the grocery store I opted for the Parmesan-Romano mix instead which worked fine)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (or about a teaspoon of garlic power if that’s easier)
  • Salt and pepper (about half a teaspoon of each)


  1. Cook the pasta, which should take about 8-10 minutes, in which time you can start chopping:
  2. Roughly chop the fresh spinach and slice the cherry tomatoes in halves
  3. While the pasta is still cooking, heat a large pan (all the pasta and everything has to fit in it) with drizzled olive oil over medium heat
  4. Add the minced/chopped garlic and cook for about two minutes
  5. Add the spinach and tomatoes, and cook for another two minutes, or until the spinach wilts
  6. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss with the existing ingredients
  7. Add the cheeses and salt and pepper and stir it all together so it combines into a gooey sauce
  8. Serve while it’s still warm

Here’s a visual guide:

Begin cooking the pasta and while the water boils, chop the tomatoes

Heat a large pan/skillet over medium heat and while it's warming, chop the spinach

Add minced and chopped garlic to the pan and cook for two minutes

Add the tomatoes and spinach and cook for two more minutes

Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss with the other ingredients

Add the cheeses and salt and pepper and stir everything together thoroughly. Serve while warm.

The cheese definitely makes the dish heavier (but also tastier!), so if you want to cut back on the calories, skip the cheese and toss the pasta in olive oil. Don’t skip the garlic or tomatoes and spinach- they make the dish!

Here’s the Food Network’s pasta collection

Check out a couple of my pasta recipes

Try some quick and healthy pasta recipes from


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Finals Edition #2: Spinach

Spinach is one of the foods on our “brain list” this week.  It’s packed with vitamins and long-term memory aids.  Unfortunately for many people, this green tends to need a lot of help when it comes to the taste department.  It’s really great in salad, and for a light spring dish, mix it with strawberries and the dressing I used over the fruit salad from yesterday’s post.  It also works easily in sandwiches or omelets.  But if you’re looking for something a little more comforting than just a salad (go ahead, reward yourself for that all-nighter you pulled), try this hot spinach and artichoke dip.  It’s cheesy and delicious, especially with bread or tortilla chips.  For a healthier option, try it with vegetables like red peppers strips.  It’s easier than it looks, but it does take some time, so make it on a night you have a little free time to relax and de-stress.  We used the recipe for Applebee’s version of the dip, which can be found on RecipeZaar.  

You’ll need:


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare the alfredo sauce and make sure you keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
  3. Thaw the frozen spinach using the defrost option in the microwave, unless it’s already thawed.
  4. Mince and chop the garlic, shred the cheese and soften the cream cheese.
  5. Chop the artichokes.  A good easy way to do this is rinse and drain them then put them back in the can and using a knife, mash them up in the can.
  6. Combine all the ingredients into a medium sized bowl and stir everything together, or if you have a food processor use it: it really helps in breaking up the artichokes
  7. Once the ingredients are thoroughly combined, transfer the mixture to a baking pan.  I used an oven-safe bowl which worked just as well, it’s up to you how you want to serve the dip.
  8. Sprinkle some of the remaining parmesan over the top of the mixture.
  9. Cook at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is crispy brown and melted.
  10. As soon as you put the dip into the oven, slice up the baguette (if that’s what you’re having it with), lightly drizzle each slice with olive oil and sprinkle black pepper and a little shredded parmesan over each. Put the bread into the same oven for about 12-15 minutes.  It’s best if you time it so they’ll come out at the same time.
  11. Let both cool before serving.

Here’s the visual guide:


Prepare the alfredo sauce


Thaw the frozen spinach


Rinse, drain and chop the artichokes


Combine all the ingredients and mix together


Transfer the mixture into an oven-safe bowl or a dish


Slice the bread and prepare with olive oil, black pepper and cheese


Put both into the 350 degree oven


Leave the bread in for 12-15 minutes, and the dip for 25-30 minutes


Other great spinach and artichoke dips to try:

Paula Deen’s recipe at the Food Network: a little on the Spicy side

A recipe with red pepper in it at About.Com

A bunch of different spinach and artichoke dip options from Kraft Foods

Finals week snack suggestion:

Trail mix! Nuts a great source of B-vitamins, which fight against stress.  They’re pretty high in fat though (don’t worry healthy fat), so stick to smaller portions, about 1/4 cup or so.  Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are all good for your immune system.  Mix in some Honey Nut Cheerios (or another cereal) to mix it up and add a little sweetness.  This is a great snack you can make a lot of and then throw in a bag to bring with you on the go.

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Snow day stuffed bread

 One of UConn’s finest qualities?  Definitely snow days (Thanks, Jay Hickey).  They’re the best opportunities to polish your cooking skills, and this Wednesday afternoon my roommates and I are making some delicious stuffed bread.  It sounds and looks complicated, but don’t sweat: it’s actually a pretty simple process, and I’m going to take you through it step by step.  You may not have these ingredients lying around, and without access to a grocery store it might complicate the process, so you try it another time!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A little bit of flour, if you don’t already have some, or if you can’t find anyone to borrow about a cup of it from. If not, buy the smallest amount possible.
  • Two pounds of bread dough (or more depending on how much you’re making).  You can buy it if you want, but I usually just buy it, and you can find it near the refrigerated cheese section or near the deli meats
  • Your “stuffing.”  I like to use one full bag of shredded mozzarella cheese and pepperoni slices.  I also had some parmesan cheesein the fridge today, so I threw some of that in too.  For a healthier option, try onions or green peppers with low-fat cheese.  Ricotta cheese also works well in the bread.  This is where you can get creative, you can pretty much throw in whatever you like and it’ll probably come out good, as long as you don’t over-stuff it.
  • Make sure you have some olive oil in your kitchen.  If you don’t, shame on you.
  • You’ll also need some seasonings.  I like to use oregano, basil, garlic powder, black pepper and a little bit of crushed red pepper (more or less depending on your own taste buds)


  1. Make sure you get the bread dough out early so it has enough time to rise.  I like to leave at least four hours.  The instructions should be on the packaging of your bread/pizza dough, but if not here’s what you do:
  2. After pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees, roll your dough into a nice ball and cover it in flour completely.  Then put it in a bowl and cover the bowl with saran wrap and leave the bowl to sit in room temperature for at least four hours.
  3. After the dough has risen, clear a space and cover the surface with flour.  Then roll out the dough (if you don’t have a rolling pin, spread it out best you can with your hands and smooth any air bubbles with a spoon) and continue to cover it completely with flour.
  4. Once your dough is flattened and spread out into a rectangle about 12 x 10 inches, make sure it’s lightly covered with flour, and then cover it with the full bag of shredded cheese parmesan cheese and pepperoni slices.  Make sure the entire is covered with the stuffing except the very edges.
  5. Sprinkle all the spices over the stuffing, and make sure everything is even.
  6. Here comes the tricky part.  You’re going to fold the bread into thirds.  To do this, imagine you’re separating it into thirds (you can draw a thin line with a knife if that helps).  Fold the outer sections over the middle sections.  You have to do this part quickly, otherwise the stuffing will spill out, so do one side at a time and refer to the picture to see what I mean by folding it over.  
  7. Once you fold it over, make sure none of the stuffing is coming out of the side and that the three sections are even.  Then lightly brush some olive oil over the top of the bread.  I like to sprinkle a little bit of the shredded cheese if there’s any left over the top as well.
  8. Next take a sharp knife to make three slits across the tops, and then three more slits across those ones, so that there are three x’s on the top of the bread.  Don’t make large holes in the bread, just thin slits big enough to let some air in while it’s in the oven (refer to the picture).
  9. Now you’re ready to put the bread on a cooking sheet (be careful here- have someone help you so that you transfer it carefully using a spatula) and pop it in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until it’s golden brown on top.
  10. When it’s all done, let it cool for a little bit before cutting it up and make sure the outside is hardened.
  11. Next cut the bread into slices about an inch wide and four inches long.  Depending on how you fold it and how it turns out (it’s different every time for me), you may have to cut the entire loaf into two slices before cutting it into slices (Again, refer to the picture to see how I cut it).  You can cut it any way you like, it all tastes the same in the end!
  12. Some people like to dip the bread into warm marinara sauce, and others like myself enjoy it all on its own, you be the judge!

Enjoy the snow day and enjoy the bread!  Leave me a comment about what you and your roommates like to cook on snow days, I’d love to get some more great ideas 🙂

5 cooking projects for snow days from

Recipes from another blogger taking advantage of the snow day by cooking

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You Guys Can Cook?

When a friend of mine suggested that we all had dinner together this weekend, I pictured my roommates and I slaving over the stove for a few hours and serving a delicious meal to the four boys that were planning on coming over on Friday night.  You can imagine my shock when it was the boys who said THEY would be doing the cooking for the evening.  My first thought was, you guys can cook??  Since when??  My roommates and I were a bit apprehensive (was it safe to eat whatever they planned on making??), but our curiosity of how their meal would turn out got the best of us, and we welcomed them into our kitchen, a little unsure of what to expect.  The boy chose to make chicken parmigiana over pasta with a side of garlic bread: a bit challenging, and one of my all-time favorite meals.

We were told that the only thing we were responsible for was the wine (check out this article for some great affordable wine choices), and sure enough, the four of them showed up with bags of groceries ready to get their chef on at 7:45 Friday night.  The only thing we did all evening was sit back and get started on the wine, occasionally checking on what was happening in the pots and pans on our stovetop and making ooos and ahhs over the delicious aromas.

About 40 minutes later we were feasting, and believe it or not, the meal turned out GREAT!  The boys did fabulously, and unfortunately for them, we’ve discovered their hidden talents and I have a feeling they won’t get out of making this a regular occasion.  The only downside to letting people, in particular a bunch of boys, cook for you?  You got it… clean up duty.  But that part aside, cooking with friends can be a really fun activity.  To spare them their reputation, no pictures were taken of the boys in action.  But I did manage to get a picture of the finished product, and below is the recipe the boys used to make the meal.  I’ve also included a few links to other good chicken parm recipes, as well as my favorite recipes for garlic bread.

Bon appetit! And more importantly, HAVE FUN!

Great chicken parmigiana recipes:

Easy chicken parm from

Food Network’s Tyler Florence’s chicken parmesan

A simple chicken parm recipe from

More of a visual learner?  I’m a big Guy Fieri fan, and here’s a great video about how to make a quick, yet delicious chicken parm:

It’s pretty hard to screw up garlic bread; and when in doubt, you can always buy it at the grocery store.  But where’s the fun in that?  The nice thing about garlic bread is that there are actually a ton of variations you can try.  Here are some scrumptious recipes:

A great recipe from a fellow cooking blogger

Food Network’s Paula Deen shares her recipe (Who  drool over everything she makes on her show?)

Try this variation: garlic knots from

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