Parmesan Panko Tortellini Appetizer

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I was getting together with some friends yesterday, and was trying to figure out what to bring. I really like fried ravioli and kind of had a craving. Fried food doesn’t transport well, and I didn’t want to smell like fried food either. I had tortellini in the refrigerator, and thought I might be able to do something baked. They turned out great, and there weren’t any left over. In hindsight, I should’ve made more!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links (marked wth *), which means I receive compensation for purchases made using the links.

Ingredients

9oz package cheese tortellini
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2/3 cup grated parmesan
4 tsp Italian seasoning (I used Tastefully Simple* Italian Garlic Seasoning)
2 eggs
Sauce for dipping (I used Tastefully Simple* Garlic Parmesan Wing Sauce)

Instructions

Cook the ravioli according to the package instructions. Cool over ice for a few minutes, then place the ravioli on a paper towel to get rid of excess water.

Beat two eggs and set aside. Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan, and Italian seasoning in a bowl.

Line two sheet pans with a silicone baking mat or parchment. Coat tortellini with the egg wash, then the breadcrumb mixture, one at a time. Place on on the baking sheet.

Bake at 350° for about 15 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs become golden brown. Transfer to a plate and serve with dipping sauce.

20 Uses for Tastefully Simple Bacon Pepper Jam

20 Uses for bacon pepper jamI don’t remember when I first tried the bacon pepper jam, but it was before I even started doing Tastefully Simple. I was hooked and decided I needed to have this on hand at all times. It’s only available seasonally, so I stocked up on several jars before the end of last year’s fall/winter season. I just told my wife it’s back for the current fall/winter season, and she was very excited.

There are so many things you can make with it. Here are some ideas:

  • Deviled eggs
  • Use on crostini with…
  • Top baked potatoes
  • Mix into mashed potatoes
  • Burgers (on top or mix in)
  • Grilled cheese (use a few white cheeses or brie)
  • Spread on bread for BLT or other sandwich
  • Bloody mary
  • Jalapeno poppers
  • Flatbread (Tastefully Simple recipe)
  • Make a dip with cream cheese and swiss
  • Topping for chicken or pork
  • Combine with mayo to make a dipping sauce
  • Glaze for party meatballs
  • Stir fry (add toward the end)
  • Baked beans
  • Glaze for grilled shrimp

Need to buy some? Visit my Tastefully Simple page! (Disclosure: I receive compensation for purchases made using this link.)

Great Aunt Corrine’s Fudge

Fudge

I used to love eating this as a kid. I took it to school as birthday treats instead of cupcakes many times. It’s not as soft as traditional fudge, but so delicious! As my mom says, it’s a tricky recipe, but so worth it. I had to call mom part of the way through to make sure I was doing it right. It turned out almost like I remember. I poured it too late (disaster photo at the bottom), which created some texture challenges, but it still tasted great.

This was also my first time using the candy thermometer I purchased from Pampered Chef. I’m really happy with my purchase!

Ingredients

2 cups sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup milk
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla.

Instructions 

Mix sugar, cocoa, and milk over medium heat until blended and sugar is dissolved. Add butter.

Heat and stir until candy thermometer reads 236. This will take a while and it’ll be bubbling.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool slightly while beating with a spoon until fudge begins to lose its gloss. (These were her instructions, but I waited too long to pour mine and it didn’t spread like it should have. I thought I should’ve poured it a few times, but waited because it still had all of its gloss. Oops! I’ll have to watch it closer next time and see if I can find a better indicator than “begins to lose its gloss.”)

Pour immediately onto a buttered platter and spread it out. (Note: I poured mine onto a platter with parchment and it worked well.) Cut into pieces when cooled.

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What happened because I poured it too late. I was still able to salvage most of it into actual rectangular pieces, somehow! 

Sauteed Rustic Herb Green Beans

Rustic Herb Green BeansThis is one of the sides I made the other night to go with the steak. This uses one of the seasoning blends from Tastefully Simple*. Sometimes people ask why I buy seasoning blends like that when I like cooking from scratch so much. Well, there are times when I just don’t want to have to think about the proportions of oregano to rosemary and would rather only think about how much seasoning I need in general. Plus, it’s delicious, so why not?

You can do these on a sheet pan or in a saute pan on the stove. I made them on the stovetop because all of my oven space was occupied with other things.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links (marked wth *), which means I receive compensation for purchases made using the links.

Ingredients

1 pound fresh green beans
2 tbsp Tastefully Simple* Rustic Herb seasoning
½ tsp salt
Olive oil

Instructions

Preheat saute pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, trim green beans (another shortcut – buy ones that are already trimmed).

Place green beans in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil to coat. Use enough olive oil so that they are just coated, not overly oiled. Add the salt and herb seasoning, and stir/toss to combine.

Add the green beans to the pan. Cook covered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Variation: Preheat oven to 400. Spread green beans on a foil-lined sheet pan and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

Freezer Prep: Combine all ingredients, place in a freezer bag. Move to fridge the morning of (if cooking for dinner), or place the bag in a large bowl of water to thaw. It’s not the end of the world if you put them in the saute pan frozen, just watch out because the ice/oil combo can pop and burn you.

Spiralized German Cucumber Salad

Spiralized German Cucumber Salad

I got a spiralizer this weekend, so I’m trying to make different things with it. Spiralized cucumbers were a success, so I’ll definitely be making more cucumber salads that way. Cucumber salad is one of my favorite sides/snacks. I’m actually eating this one right now while I write this post. It’s dilly and tangy – yum!

Ingredients

2 cucumbers
½ small onion, sliced thin
1 tsp dried dill weed
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Instructions 

Peel cucumbers (optional). Spiralize the cucumbers on a thin setting and pat them dry with a paper towel. You can also cut them into shorter pieces if you’d like. Place into a bowl with the remaining ingredients and stir with a spatula to mix well.

Chicken Fried Rice Tacos

Chicken Fried Rice Tacos

I ate at a restaurant last time I was in Charleston that had hibachi tacos on the menu. They were so good, so I decided I needed to try to make something similar at home. I’ll definitely be making these again!

You could easily make this vegetarian by nixing the chicken and increasing the proportion of veggies. It would also probably be good with cooked pulled chicken – just add toward the end if you’re using cooked chicken.

Ingredients

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup rice
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 zucchini, julienned
⅓ cup bean sprouts
⅓ cup chopped water chestnuts
½ cup mixed frozen peas and carrots
Sesame oil
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha
1 egg
Soft tortillas (flour or corn)
Japanese shrimp sauce or yum yum sauce

Instructions 

Cook the rice (once done, set aside). While the rice is cooking, preheat a wok on the stovetop on medium heat. Meanwhile, prep the veggies (except the garlic) and water chestnuts. Set aside.

Slice chicken into thin, short strips. Coat with about 1 tbsp soy sauce.

Add a small amount of sesame oil to the wok (about 1 tsp). Grate the garlic into the wok using a lemon zester. Cook the chicken for about 5 minutes until almost cooked through. The necessary cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the chicken. Add the veggies and cook for another several minutes (by this time, the chicken should be done).

Turn the heat up to high, add the rice, remaining soy sauce, and Sriracha. Mix to combine. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring about once per minute.

Beat the egg with a fork to scramble. Clear a spot in the middle of the fried rice mixture for the egg, like this

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Stir the egg continuously while it’s cooking so it doesn’t burn (you’ll want it to break up into pieces). Once it’s pretty much cooked, mix it in with the rest of the rice. This is a good time to taste it and make sure it doesn’t need salt. The soy sauce is pretty salty, but I think I added a pinch of salt. Cook for another 3 minutes or so, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Heat tortillas. Spoon mixture onto tortillas and top with Japanese shrimp sauce or yum yum sauce.

Crostini with Boursin, quince paste, & bacon pepper jam

Crostini

This was one of those appetizers I kind of threw together because I had some bread to use, and I needed something fast and easy.

Ingredients

French bread, sliced into thin pieces
Boursin cheese
Quince paste
Tastefully Simple* bacon pepper jam

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Meanwhile, spread one leg of Boursin and quince paste on each crostini. Top with bacon pepper jam. Bake until warm and bread is toasted.

Perfect Steak

Steaks

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links (marked wth *), which means I receive compensation for purchases made using the links.

We had someone over for dinner last night, and steak is usually the go-to when we have meat eating friends over for dinner. Steak is a good weeknight dinner, too, because it’s easy and fast. I love the perfect portions grass fed steaks from Wegmans. The ones I chose yesterday were about 7oz each. While I used sirloins yesterday, this is my go-to method for most steaks (including filet, as mentioned in this abbreviated post). I served these with honey yeast rolls, rustic herb green beans, roasted potatoes, and Ross Andrew “The Huntsman” 2015 cabernet sauvignon.

The cooking times on this are an approximation for a medium cook on a 7oz cut about 2 inches thick, so you may need to adjust depending on the sizes of your steaks and desired level of doneness. My steaks were also cold from the fridge. It’s best if you can allow them to sit out for about 30-45 minutes before cooking, but I forgot to take them out.

Make sure your pan is oven safe – not all pans are. If your pans are not oven safe, you could probably preheat a stone baking dish and transfer the steaks onto that to finish in the oven. Preheating will be key because you want the surface they’re transferred onto to be hot. (I use a Calphalon pan like this one*)

Ingredients

Four 7oz sirloin steaks
Olive oil
Seasoning (I use Tastefully Simple* seasoned salt, but simple salt and pepper is always a good choice too)

Instructions 

Preheat oven to 400° (or 375° on convection). Also preheat an oven safe skillet over medium-high heat. I’m not kidding – give your pan enough time to get really, really hot.

Meanwhile, blot each steak dry with a paper towel and rub with olive oil and a lot of seasoning.

Once the pan is extra hot, coat it with a bit of olive oil. You should be able to tell right away that the pan is hot. The olive oil will be really liquid-y upon hitting the pan, and will smoke a little.

Place steaks in the pan and sear for about 4 minutes. Flip and sear for another 4 minutes.

Transfer the pan directly to the oven, and cook for another 4 minutes. Remove from the oven, and check internal temperature with a thermometer (140-145° for medium). Let them rest for about 3 minutes before serving. (Note: USDA recommends cooking to 145° before resting.)

$170 Reach-In Closet Makeover

$170 Reach-In Closet MakeoverMy closest was driving me crazy. I already have a dresser, but I was definitely in need of more drawers. I had a second dresser, an old one, just kind of shoved in the closet to give myself more storage. It was clunky, and took up way too much room compared to the amount of clothes it could fit. I also had the problem of a bad shoe storage solution, and I was keeping my leggings piled up in one of those cube bins. Oh, and did I mention our closet situation is kind of awkward because it’s technically two closets side by side instead of one big space?

I wanted a few simple solutions for under $200. Well, it was either that, or I was going to splurge on a bottle of Joseph Phelps Insignia. As delicious as that would have been, I opted for the closet.

So I set out on Pinterest. I got a lot of really good ideas. Has anyone noticed that most of these closet makeover pictures have, like, 5 pieces of clothing hanging up? Of course it’s going to look good, you only have 5 shirts! Even though I was laughing at some of the photos on Pinterest, I did end up with a lot of really good ideas. (See my Pinterest board of closet ideas here.)

After wandering around Ikea with my very patient wife for what seemed like an eternity, I ended up with two drawer systems, a hanging organizer, and a shoe bench. I decided on the shoe bench because I have so many ballet flats, I needed something without slats for them to fall though (if you’ve ever looked for shoe racks you’ll notice a lot of them look like this, which is not conducive to a stash of ballet flats.)

Ikea Purchases

Total = $169.96 (before tax)

Brackets for securing the Algot to the wall are included, but you’ll need to get any additional hardware (screws, etc.) separately.

Shopping Tips

  • Don’t forget to take measurements before you go. Remember to account for depth and any constraints from doors.
  • Measure the length of dresses and a sample of other items from hanger to the bottom of the item. This came in handy when I was determining how well the shoe bench would work.
  • Count your shoes, or at least have a decent idea of how many you have.
  • Take a tape measure with you. Ikea has those paper ones, but it’s just easier to bring a legit one.
  • Bring some blank paper and a pencil to sketch ideas while shopping and make sure they look like they’ll work.
  • If you’re the type of person who sometimes thinks of amazing plans that don’t work out so well, bring someone along to give you a reality check. (Thanks to my wife on this one! Pretty sure she saved me from a few stupid ideas.)

Assembly

The Mackapar shoe bench took exactly one hour to assemble. Tip for steps 18-19: Make sure the pieces in step 18 are all the way flush with the board before moving on to step 19. I put all of the shelves on the left side for my flats. The right side is now a good space for Uggs.

The Algot was a lot quicker to assemble. I don’t remember exactly how long, but maybe 15 minutes.

I sandwiched the hanging organizer between the drawers and the wall. I could see myself getting easily annoyed with it if it was just free floating in the middle – too wiggly.

I moved the Closet Maid clothes hanger shelf on the right side closet up a few inches. This was way harder than I thought it would be. I broke 3 drywall anchors in a couple of places. Thankfully my wife is really good at home improvement stuff and came to my rescue. She drilled all of the holes and had the anchors installed in about the time it would take me to do one. So then I had a lot of holes to patch afterward.

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Charleston Chews

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Charleston chews are one of my favorite things. No, not the candy. This is like a brown sugar blondie thing and it’s delicious! I always wait to have them when I’m in Charleston because I’ve been afraid of being disappointed in my own version. I don’t need to be afraid of that anymore! They weren’t as gooey in the middle as I’m used to, but I think I can solve that by baking for a few minutes less.

I researched a few recipes and read a few sections of the “How to Bake Everything” cookbook as I was trying to figure out the best way to make these. The only thing all of the recipes had in common was a stick of butter, a box of brown sugar, and a cup of chopped pecans. The amounts of eggs, flour, and everything else were all over the place. I decided on 1½ cups flour because 2 cups just seemed like a lot compared to everything else. I tasted the batter after mixing in 1½ cups of flour and decided that was enough (I don’t recommend doing this due to the raw eggs.) I think any more would have made them way too floury.

If you have parchment paper, I highly recommend using it to line your baking dish. These were very hard to get out of the pan, and I buttered it very well. Thankfully my Pampered Chef cake tester and releaser helped me work a miracle, and I was able to remove all of the bars.

Ingredients 

½ cup butter, softened
1 box brown sugar (I used light brown, but dark brown might be better)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans
Powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour and baking powder, and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla.

Gradually add flour, beating well until combined. Mix in chopped pecans.

Spread mixture into a 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper (see note in narrative above – I greased it well with butter because I ran out of parchment, and they were still almost cemented into the pan.)

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Let cool, then cut into bars. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.