Category Archives: Main Course

Smokin’ Hot Buffalo Chicken Calzones

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If you like Frank’s buffalo chicken dip, then you’re going to love this recipe. It’s basically Frank’s buffalo chicken a la calzone…or as I call it: smokin’ hot buffalo chicken calzones.

The soft, pillowy dough works wonders to tame the spicy, cheesy chicken mixture. We use our versatile pizza dough recipe for calzones. One batch of dough is enough for two calzones.

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For the boys: pepperoni pizza calzones. For the adults: buffalo chicken calzones. Both varieties were a hit.

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Smokin’ Hot Buffalo Chicken Calzones
¼ cup Frank’s hot sauce
1/8 cup ranch dressing
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups cooked, chopped boneless chicken
4 oz. cubed cream cheese
½ recipe of pizza dough

Pizza Dough
3 cups flour
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
2 Tbsp olive oil

Prepare pizza dough a few hours in advance to allow it to rise. Use half for this recipe and save the other half for another calzone or pizza crust.

To prepare dough, stir yeast into the warm water. Add flour and salt to a food processor with a dough blade in place. Turn on the dough setting on the food processor and stream the yeast water into through the feeder tube into the food processor. Then, stream in the olive oil. Turn off as soon as the dough ball forms. Remove, dough ball and place in a large bowl coated in olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for at least a few hours.

To prepare calzone, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the chicken, cheeses, hot sauce, and ranch. Divide the pizza dough in half, and set the other half aside for another use. Toss a spoonful of cornmeal or flour on a sheet of parchment paper, and then use a rolling pin with a bit of olive oil on it to roll out the dough into a rectangular shape. Top the dough with the mix to form a line of mix down the middle. Cut slits in the dough on either side of the mix, and criss-cross the dough slices over the mix. If you’re really feeling crazy, slather a bit of melted butter over the top of the dough. Oh yes we did!

Bake for 30 minutes or until dough is browned and cheese begins to ooze out of the slits. Leftovers reheat great for lunch the next day…that is if there’s anything left over. Not in our house.

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Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with Chipotle Cheddar

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We had our first big snowfall of the season this weekend. Over a foot of snow fell in the course of 24 hours.

I have to admit, I was probably even more excited than my kids to go play in the snow.

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We bundled up in our snowpants, jackets, hats, mittens, and boots and headed out for some winter fun. The snow was light and fluffy…perfect for sledding and making snow angels…but not quite ideal for snowmen.

So, what do we make for dinner on a snowy, weekend evening? Comfort food, of course. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

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I came up with this concoction based on what we had on hand. Most meatloaf recipes call for crushed crackers or breadcrumbs to bind everything together. I thought…why not try rolled oats??? And, instead of just ground beef, since we like a little kick, I used a combination of ground beef and hot Italian sausage.

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I also replaced the typical cheddar cheese with chipotle cheddar. And, for the piece de résistance, I layered a few strips of bacon on top.

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Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf with Chipotle Cheddar

1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1 cup shredded chipotle cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
Dash of salt and pepper
A few strips of bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except the bacon in a large bowl. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. Dump mixture into loaf pan and press down with a fork. Invert loaf into a 9 x 13 baking pan. Discard plastic wrap. Cut bacon slices in half and layer over meatloaf. Bake for 60 minutes or until temperature reads 170 degrees. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

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Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and salad. The salad in this picture is super simple: spinach, apples, almonds with lemon olive oil dressing (equal parts fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil whisked with a dash or sea salt and pepper).

Marinated Venison Kebabs with Bulgur

It’s deer hunting season here in Minnesota.

If your family is like ours, it’s quite likely you’ve got some venison in the freezer this time of year. You may even have some from last year to use up to make room for this season’s latest meat, like we do.

It’s been an unseasonably warm week here for November, with high temps almost in the 60’s.

While cleaning out our chest freezer, we pulled out what was left of last year’s venison, and decided that grilling just felt like the right thing to do on such a mild fall day.

I’ve been tweaking my venison marinade recipe for years, and it’s hardly ever made the same way twice. There are a few basics that I always begin with, however: olive oil, salt and pepper, and garlic.

Then, to that I’ll add whatever sounds good that we have on hand, like lemon juice, bbq sauce, hot sauce. It really depends on how we plan to serve the venison. For fajitas and tacos, I’ll add some salsa or taco seasoning to the marinade.

Let it sit and hang out in the marinade in the fridge overnight, or in a pinch for just a half hour or so, and then fire up the grill!

Marinated Venision Kebabs

1 lb venison steak, cubed
8 white button mushrooms
4-5 small sweet peppers
1 lemon
2 Tbsp garlic olive oil (or EVOO and one clove diced garlic)
2 Tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
salt and pepper

Cube venison and set aside.

To prepare marinade, whisk together the juice of the lemon, the olive oil, the hot sauce, and a dash of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add venison cubes, and allow to marinate for 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on how much time you have in advance.

Wash and dry peppers and mushrooms. Cut stems off peppers, and remove seeds inside. Cut peppers in half width-wise. Load up skewers by alternating between venison cubes, mushrooms, and peppers. This should make about 4 kebabs.

Grill over medium heat until veggies are soft and steak is cooking to your desired doneness.

Crack open a tall one, and serve kebabs with a side of bulgur or brown rice.

Mozzarella Smothered Chicken with Mushroom Gravy


SO…I’m thinking I should have named this blog “How I Bribe My Kids To Get Them To Eat Well”…catchy, isn’t it? Before I get to the recipe, let me just start by saying we were mighty impressed by the deal that was brokered between the Youngest and the Oldest tonight at dinner, with the end result of dessert earned by all.

But, let me back up. You see, today was a busy day. It started with BACON. Yes, crispy bacon frying up in the pan. This morning. I know what you’re thinking: wait…it’s not even the weekend? Who has time to make bacon on a WEDNESDAY… on a workday??? Well, that, my friends, would be this crazy food blogger…yours truly…who got up an extra 15 minutes early to make some bacon for the Oldest as a special treat. Bacon is by far the Oldest’s favorite breakfast food. Not that he’d only eat it at breakfast. He would eat it noon or night, in the dark and in the light, with a fox, in a box…you get the point. And, it’s the only meat he will happily eat.

On the other hand, the Youngest hates bacon. Knowing this, I made something else that…I assumed…both would happily devour. Parfaits. Yogurt, Cheerios, and sliced berries. The Oldest chowed down his breakfast in less than 60 seconds. No lie. The Youngest gave me a look of disgust, announced that he no longer liked parfaits, gave his parfait to his brother (which the Oldest happily gobbled down, too) and proceeded to grab a cereal bar from the cupboard. Well, one out of two isn’t bad, right? Oh yeah, and the Youngest was also upset because bacon usually means pancakes (well, sure, on the weekend it does) and pancakes are the Youngest’s favorite breakfast food. This is when I threw up my hands and admitted defeat…at least for the morning.

Which brings me back to dinner. Fast forward through a hectic work day, topped off by an even more hectic rush to make it to swimming lessons, followed by a mad dash to get something on the table thereafter.

So, I made this:

Mozzarella Smothered Chicken with Mushroom Gravy

4 thick boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package mushrooms, sliced
8 thin slices mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper, to taste

Slice chicken breasts in half width-wise to make 8 thin breasts. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown over medium-high heat. Once breasts are cooked through and browned, transfer to baking dish. Top breasts with sliced mozzarella. Turn on oven to broil setting. Then, prepare gravy by melting butter over medium heat in same pan that chicken was cooked in. Use a fork to scrape the brown bits from the pan to incorporate with the butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Mix the milk with the cornstarch and add to pan. Mix and cook for another few minutes until sauce thickens and bubbles. Pour sauce over the top of the mozzarella covered chicken and broil for just a few minutes until cheese and sauce begin to bubble. Serve with garlic mashed potatoes.

Ok, so now that you’ve got the recipe, back to the deal that was brokered over dinner. The boys plates consisted of a few bites of chicken, a mashed potato volcano, a handful of sugar snap peas, and a mountain of sliced strawberries. The strawberries were the first victims to leave the scene. Next went the potatoes. Then, the two voracious eaters just stopped and stared. The Oldest loves veggies but DETESTS chicken. The Youngest likes chicken but is not a huge fan of peas. Before either of us parents knew it, the Youngest…bless his clever little heart…had negotiated a peas for chicken swap. In a blur of motion, food was shared, and two plates were empty. Amen.

I guess I should mention that the chicken was delicious. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare it, smoothered in the creamy moz and gravy mix. Comfort food to the max. We paired it with a delicious 2002 Beaujolais. Just another ordinary day in our extraordinary life.

Voodoo Sirloin Kabobs

Ready to turn up the heat on September? These spicy, flavorful skewers are guaranteed to make you believe that it takes some form of black magic to infuse so much taste into these tender cubes of beef.

I picked up a 3 pound package of sirloin steaks this week at Target and wanted to try something a little different than the typical “salt – pepper – grill” routine. So, I did a little browsing online and came across this recipe from AllRecipes.com. I modified the recipe by replacing the cayenne pepper with Frank’s Hot Sauce and also just substituted garlic olive oil for the beef boillion and water.

I’m not sure about the voodoo thing, but they are certainly spicy, delicious, and a great new addition to the standard rotation. We paired them with grilled snow peas and some organic brown rice. And, I know what you’re thinking…what about the kids? Nope. Not a chance. The Oldest had a spinach, snow pea, and strawberry salad with a side of brown rice. The Youngest had a few nibbles of hot dog, few nibbles of rice, and a giant mound of strawberries. Shhhh….don’t tell them what they’re missing…

Voodoo Sirloin Kabobs

Adapted from All Recipes

1 1/2 lb sirloin steak, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 tsp Frank’s hot sauce
2 Tbsp garlic olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed

Whisk together salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, and hot sauce to make the marinade. In a large, glass bowl, toss sirloin cubes with marinade until well coated. Refrigerate for a few hours…at least 2 or 3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Add sirloin cubes, onion slices, and tomatoes to skewers in an alternating pattern. Grill for 10 – 15 minutes, or until desired doneness, turning once halfway through.

Spicy Italian Sausage and Mozz Calzone

Calzones are so versatile, because there’s no “right” way to fill them. I typically use whatever cheese and meat we have on hand. What a great way to clean out the fridge, while still crafting something hearty and pretty darn impressive looking.
The latest version we’ve been enjoying recently involves a little spice and a little ooey-gooey mozzarella…
Here’s a trick for the Italian sausage. I buy the Jennie-O Lean Hot Italian Turkey Sausages. They come in a package of 5 sausages. When I’m making a recipe that calls for 1/2 pound of Italian sausage, I’ll use 2 1/2 of the sausages (just slice them open, remove from casing, and break up with a fork in a hot pan to brown). Then, I’ll freeze the rest of the sausages for another recipe later. You could do the same with a one pound package of ground Italian sausage, but I prefer the sausage in casing…makes it super simple to measure out just the right amount.
If you have time to make the dough in advance and let it rise for a few hours, that works best. In a rush, I’ve made it just before baking, and it’s turned out just fine as well.
The Dough:Mark Bittman’s Basic Pizza Dough Recipe

The Directions: Prepare one batch of dough (you’ll use the entire recipe of dough). Preheat oven to 375. Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with a tablespoon of cornmeal. Continue rolling dough to form a thin, rectangle. Add 2-3 tablespoons of pizza or spaghetti sauce down the middle of the dough length-wise. Next, brown up about 1/2 pound of mild or hot Italian sausage and place on dough on top of sauce. Then, add a dash of Italian seasoning. Finally, add some shredded cheese. I use about 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella. Using a sharp knife, make slits down both sides of the dough length-wise, about an inch apart. Starting at one end, criss-cross the strips from either side over the dough and over eachother. When you get to the end, tuck the last to strips under to secure. Transfer calzone on the parchment paper to a baking sheet or pizza stone and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until dough is brown and toppings begin to bubble through the slits.

Stuffed Crust Pepperoni Pizza

Homemade Pizza: Take Two. Since my first homemade pie turned out well, I decided to venture into something a bit more challenging…stuffed crust pizza.
Same dough recipe as last time. However, this time I rolled it out a bit thinner, added mozzarella string cheese around the edges, and rolled the crust over the string cheese to form a rectangular shape.
With the mozzarella sticks tucked safely inside their doughy home, I added the usual suspects: a little sauce, way too much fresh grated mozzarella, and a handful of pepperoni.

The only thing that kept this from being pure cheesy, pizza-ey nirvana was that I just couldn’t wait to get this cooking, and I made the mistake of putting it in before the oven was completely preheated to 500 degrees. As a result, the pizza cooked a bit slower which caused some of the cheese in the crust to ooze out into the middle of the pie. No worries, still tasted great. Live and learn.

The Dough:Mark Bittman’s Basic Pizza Dough Recipe

The Directions: You’ll need about 8 cheese sticks for the stuffed crust. Use whatever toppings you like. To bake, preheat the oven to 500 (and wait until it actually gets there…unlike my impatient self). I use a rectangular pizza stone that preheats in the oven. While the oven is preheating, spread a sheet of parchment paper on a cutting board. Toss a little cornmeal on top of the parchment paper. Rub a bit of olive oil on the dough, and roll it out on the parchment paper. When the crust is stuffed and the toppings are added, slide the pizza with the parchment paper onto the stone in the preheated oven. Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes until cheese is melted and pizza is golden brown.

An evening in Germany…

Weisswurst…knackwurst…leberkaese…YUM! We had a German feast for dinner the other night. No, it wasn’t the standard bratwurst most people associate with German food, but rather some of the traditional meats that are more difficult to find in the U.S. We’re fortunate to have an authentic European meat market, bakery, and deli here in Minnesota. Kramarczuk’s is over 50 years old, and they sell just about anything you can imagine in the way of European sausages, meats, and baked goods. They even have a small grocery section with imported items like Milka chocolate bars, Haribo gummy candies, and Bavarian mustards.

Weisswurst are white sausages that hail from the Bavarian region of Germany. These sausages are made with veal, pork, and parsley and are typically made fresh in the early morning and eaten by Germans no later than mid-day because they are highly perishable. To eat them, Germans will either cut them in slices and remove the skin or cut the ends off and suck the meat from the casing…a honed skill known as “zuzeln”. No weisswurt meal is complete without some sweet Bavarian mustard (weisswurstsenf), a tall weissbier, and a pretzel on the side. We like ours with spaetzle!

Knackwurst are short, fat sausages with a deep orange hue that taste quite similar to beef hot dogs. They are traditionally made from veal, pork, garlic, and other spices and are often served with sauerkraut and potato salad.

Leberkaese is basically German meatloaf, and it’s DELICIOUS! The name literally means liver-cheese, although it contains neither. It typically is made with corned beef, pork, onions and spices baked in a loaf pan. When I lived in Bavaria, I ate this just about every day, and it’s by far the food I miss most from there. A thick slice of Leberkaese on a Kaiser roll (Leberkaese Semmel) is the much tastier Bavarian version of our fast food hamburger. Leberkaese can be served warm or cold. I typically slice it and fry it for a few minutes on each side until slightly browned. Then we’ll eat it with a crusty loaf of artisan bread and a side of spaetzle or a German mixed salad.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite German food? Where do you find it in the U.S.?

Fearless Pheasant Nuggets…(or Tame Chicken Nuggets)

Living in Minnesota, our extra freezer is well stocked with wild game and fish year-round. We use this versatile batter recipe for deep frying just about everything. It works well for fresh caught walleye, crappie, blue gill, or perch filets…all of which our kids happily devour. We’ve also used it to fry up cubed halibut brought back by friends from fishing trips to Alaska.

This particular recipe is for pheasant. The Hubs makes regular trips to South Dakota each year and often brings home a limit of birds. We typically freeze each bird individually in gallon freezer bags. Then, when we’re ready for a meal, we will thaw one or two birds, remove the meat from the bone, cube and bread the meat, and then deep fry it until golden brown.

If you don’t have a hunter in the family or just want to try something a bit more tame, then you can simply used cubed chicken breast in this recipe for some tasty, homemade chicken nuggets.

We serve these tasty little nuggets with ranch dressing or tartar sauce. Ketchup is also a welcome dipping option for the boys.

PHEASANT NUGGETS

2 cups all purpose flour
1 pheasant (about 1-2 lbs of meat)
2 eggs
1/8 cup milk
2 cups corn flake crumbs
cooking oil (enough to fill deep fryer)
salt and pepper, to taste

CRUMBS: Pour corn flakes into food processor and process until finely crushed. You will need about 3-4 cups of corn flakes to make 2 cups of crumbs. For a faster alternative, purchase a box of corn flake crumbs from the baking aisle.

PREP: Fill deep fryer with oil and preheat to 400 degrees. Prepare pheasant by removing the meat from the bird (and the other unpleasant stuff…like BB’s and bits of feathers). Cube meat, dry with a paper towel, and set aside. For the batter, use three shallow dishes. I like to use 9 x 9 glass baking dishes. In the first dish, add the flour and mix in a bit of salt and pepper to season. In the second dish, mix the eggs and the milk. In the third dish, add the corn flake crumbs and mix in a bit of salt and pepper, too.

COOK: Working in small batches, batter the nuggets by dipping them in the flour, then the egg mixture, and finally the crumbs. Then, add the nuggets to the deep fryer basket and fry for a few minutes until they become golden brown and begin to float. Remove from oil, drain nuggets, and place on a paper-towel covered plate. Continue working in batches until all nuggets are cooked. Serve with ranch dressing or tartar sauce.

The Hubs bags some birds in South Dakota.

Amy’s Notes: Don’t make more than you’ll eat at one meal. The batter does get soggy when refrigerated and reheated. They still taste ok leftover, but it’s not the same as fresh out of the fryer!

“Souper” Ham and Potato Chowder

We celebrated Super Bowl Sunday in our household with plenty of munchies and a “Souper” Bowl dinner – Ham and Potato Chowder and crusty New French Bakery bread. The boys got to choose between soup or cereal. Can you guess what they picked? They opted for Cheerios. No shocker there.


Although, since it was a special event, the Hubs let each of them pick a snack from the grocery store. The Oldest picked a can of BBQ Pringles, and the Youngest picked a bag of Munchies (you know…the Cheetos, Doritos, Sun Chips, and pretzel snack mix). We even let them have a Sierra Mist…a rare treat in our house…so rare that the Youngest crinkled his nose when he tried it and said it tastes “spicy”. He didn’t drink more than a few sips the whole night. Meanwhile, the Oldest downed his in about 10 seconds. So it was Cheerios, apple slices, and snacks for the kids, which left plenty of soup for the adults at our “Souper” Bowl party.

This recipe makes about 8 servings. I like to think of it as more of a chowder than a soup because the roux thickens it up to a nice stick-to-the-spoon consistency. The leftovers are even tastier…if you actually have any left. One word of advice though…stir a bit of milk in before reheating the soup, as the leftover chowder is a bit too thick after refrigeration. I haven’t tried freezing this recipe yet, but leave a comment if you have had any luck with freezing and reheating chowders. I have a seafood chowder recipe that freezes well…which reminds me…I probably should dig that one out and whip up a batch soon! I’ll be sure to share the recipe when I do make it…it’s a keeper.

“SOUPER” HAM AND POTATO CHOWDER

1 cup diced ham
4 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1 can chicken broth
2 cups milk
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 diced onion
1 cup corn
1 1/2 cups water

Toss potatoes, carrots, onions, ham, chicken broth, and water in a stockpot. Press garlic into pot. Season with a bit of salt and pepper to your preference. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Slowly add milk, whisking continuously. Simmer for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Add corn to stockpot. Then, add contents of saucepan to the stockpot. Stir and serve immediately.

The Oldest and Youngest watching the big game.

Your Turn: What did you serve during the Super Bowl? Any flops or keepers? Leave a comment and share your “super” successes and failures.