Tag Archives: cheese

Tazza Toscano aka Those Filled Wonton Thingies

For this year’s New Year’s Eve party, I wanted to make appetizers and finger foods for everyone’s dietary preferences.  This one satisfies everyone but the gluten-free.  It was one I had completely forgotten about until I asked my son what food he’d like to have for the party.  He remembered these when I suggested a filled mushroom as a possibility.  “What were those things you made that one time?  The ones in the wonton wrappers?”  Oh!  The Filled Wonton Thingies!  I knew where to look for the recipe….I think.  Success!  I found the stapled sheets that contained the recipes from a wine tasting we had attended at a local winery and there they were, Tazza Toscana.  Crunchymeltyflavor-y bites of pure yum.  I made them vegan from a non-vegan recipe; easily adjusted to go vegan or not.  These disappeared quickly; devoured by vegans and non-vegans alike!


They’re amazingly easy to put together.


  • 1 lb sausage, breakfast or Italian, cooked and crumbled.  I used Gimme Lean Sausage-style.
  • 1 1/2 cup grated cheddar.  I used Daiya.  (Be careful with non-dairy cheese. Not all of them are vegan.)
  • 1 1/2 cup grated montery jack.  I used Daiya pepper jack.
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 375 F.

First, press wonton wrappers into 24 openings of mini muffin pans.  I discovered that the pestle from my small wooden mortar and pestle worked perfectly for this job.  Try to keep the wrapper as “open” as possible.

press wraps into tins

Bake the wraps for 5 minutes and remove to cooling racks.

bake wraps

Brown the sausage, breaking it up as you go.  I use a potato masher at the end to get a good crumbled texture.

brown sausage

Add cheeses, onions, pepper and ranch dressing to the cooked sausage and stir to combine.

add onion pepper cheese ranch

Divide the filling evenly between the 24 wrappers.  I had to “rob” some of the more generously filled ones to get enough for my 24.

fill and bake

Bake the filled wrappers for 10 minutes and transfer to a serving platter.  They are best served warm, right from the oven.


Stand back.  Tazza Toscano are irresistible and will be immediately pounced upon by your party guests!  So yummy.  So easy.  I really should make these more often!

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Filed under appetizer, Holiday foods, recipe, side dish, vegan

Meatless Monday Stuffed Winter Squash

Oh how I loves me a roasted winter squash!  I have yet to find one I don’t like.  Generally I roast them and serve them as a side dish, but a hearty stuffing brings squash to main course level. Mmmmmm……satisfying!  Perfect for a chilly fall evening, quick and easy-peasy enough to serve on a weekday.  Small squash are perfectly portioned, making them just the thing when cooking for one or two or the whole family.

My favs for stuffing are acorn and the buttercups I used in this recipe.  Use whichever you can find.

  • acorn or buttercup squash, 1 per person as a main course, 1/2 per person as  side dish
  • black beans, I used half a can for the two squash I stuffed
  • Spanish rice, I had some left over and used about 1/2 cup per squash
  • shredded cheese, I like cheddar or a Mexican mix
  • butter, salt
  • green chili sauce for a topping, optional

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut squash in half.  Buttercups have their seed cavity more toward the bottom of the squash, so need to be cut lengthwise, acorns can be cut either way.

Clean out the seeds and stringy stuff.  Cut a little slice from the back of each half so they will sit flat when stuffed.

Butter and salt all the cut edges and insides.

Turn face down on a baking sheet, lined with a silicone mat or buttered foil or parchment.

Bake for 30 minutes and remove from oven.

Mix beans and rice together.

Turn squash over with tongs and stuff with the bean and rice mixture.  Top with shredded cheese.

Return to oven and bake an additional 10-15 minutes; until cheese is melty and browned.

Serve with green chili sauce if desired.  I personally love the whole “sweet and heat” combo of the squash and green chili–yum!   Carnivores won’t even miss the meat!

Stuffed with beans and rice, squash can be a nice alternative to turkey for your vegetarian Thanksgiving guests.  What else do you like to serve for Thanksgiving?

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Filed under comfort food, dinner, Garden produce, Holiday foods, recipe, side dish, Vegetarian

Breakfast Pizza

Pizza is always a good choice for breakfast, no?  I love it when there’s leftover pizza in the fridge.  Sometimes I even heat it up.  But what to do when there is no (gasp!) pizza and you’ve got a pizza kind of cravin’ in the morning?  Make this super easy, fairly fast and yum-yum-yummy pizza with traditional breakfast-y flavors!  (This recipe is adapted from one featured on a package of Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage once upon a time.)

  • 1 tube crescent rolls
  • 1 pound browned sausage–breakfast sausage or Italian or whatever you like!
  • 1/2 can diced green chiles (optional)
  • 2 0r 3 handfuls frozen hashbrowns
  • 2 0r 3 handfuls shredded cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • splash of milk
  • salt and pepper
  • a sprinkling of parmesan

Preheat oven to 375F.

Open the crescents, separate them, lay them equally spaced on a regular pizza pan and smoosh them into a crust, complete with a lip on the edge. (This will keep your eggs from oozing over the side.  Do NOT use a pizza stone for this, unless you enjoy cleaning oozed, burned eggs from the bottom of your oven.  Trust me.  🙂 )

Brown sausage.

Drain sausage and spread evenly over the crust.

Add green chiles if desired.  This was the first time I’d used green chiles in this recipe; they are a nice flavor addition.  However, I used a whole can and it made the crust a bit soggy, so go with just the half-can if you choose to use them.

Sprinkle hashbrown shreds over the top–they can be frozen still.

Then layer on some cheese.

Beat eggs with a splash of milk, salt and pepper.

Pour eggs evenly over pizza, being careful near the edges.

Top with a sprinkle of parmesan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes; until eggs are done, cheese is melted and crust is golden.

Cut with a pizza cutter and enjoy!

Yummy!  Experiment with the idea: meat free, bacon instead of sausage, mushrooms, jalapeno slices, huevos-style with a sprinkling of black beans, top with avocado slices…..mmmmmm!

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Green Chile and Cheese Strata

The grocery store I shop most often has a couple of clearance areas.  One has dented cannned goods and seasonal leftovers, the other has baked goods nearing their expiration date.  I just can’t resist half-price artisan breads; so wonderful to have them on hand for soups and such.  Sometimes this results in leftover partial loaves, which are perfect for yummy breakfast stratas!

Stratas are super easy to make and are super flexible ingredient-wise, but must be put together the night before you plan to serve them.

For an 8×8 strata:

  • approximately 1/2 loaf leftover bread 
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 can chopped green chiles (I’d use two cans if you don’t use pepper jack cheese.) 
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used pepper jack–yum!)

Start by thinly slicing the bread.

Layer half of the bread, tearing it to fill in holes, in a buttered 8×8 pan.

Saute the onions in a bit of oil until translucent.

Stir in green chiles.

Spread half of the green chile mixture over the bread.

Next, spread half of the shredded cheese.

Follow with another bread layer, then chiles, then cheese.

Whisk together eggs and half and half.  Pour over the layers as evenly as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap.  The wrap needs to touch the surface of the strata.

Place another 8×8 pan on the plastic wrapped surface of the strata and weight with a couple cans of veggies or dried beans.  This allows the bread to become thoroughly saturated with the custard.  Refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Bake strata 50-60 minutes, or until puffed, pulling away from the edges and golden.

Cut into squares and enjoy the melty, yummy wonderfulness.

Oh yeah.  The perfect breakfast bite. 

Stratas are great for overnight guests, great to take for a potluck brunch, and awesome left over.  Microwave cold pieces of baked strata for a quick breakfast the next day!

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Parmesan and Thyme Shortbread Crackers

Baking is a cure for a blah day!  Just when my headache from the approaching low pressure system and the general greyness outside nearly had me whupped, I decided to bake something to warm up the house.  Look at these cute little crackers–it just got sunnier in my kitchen!

The original recipe calls them crackers, but they’re more like little, delicate, savory shorbreads.  Mmmmm.  Melt-in-your-mouth, cheesy-herby yumminess.  Super easy to make, and makes 3-4 dozen when you slice ’em thin!

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 oz grated parmesan
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

Get everything ready first–grate the cheese and pull the thyme leaves off the stems.  Just hold the top and pull down the stem.  See how the little leaves stay in your fingers?  Chop finely.

Beat the butter until creamy.

Add flour, parmesan, salt, pepper and thyme. 

Mix until the dough comes together.  If your dough is crumbly like mine was, add cold water 1 TBSP at a time until the dough looks like dough rather than a bowlful of crumbs.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a log 13-14 inches long.  Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Unwrap the log and slice into 1/4-inch pieces.

Place on prepared baking sheet. 

Bake 22 minutes or until firm and golden.  Your kitchen will be smellin’ yummy!

Aren’t they pretty?

And so yummy with a bit of goat cheese on top…

or some onion salsa…

or pomegranate-pepper jelly. 


I personally liked the sweeter toppings–onion salsa and pom-pepper jelly.  The sweet combined with the salty-savory was just perfect.  Now that I’ve seen how easy these are, I want to experiment with other savory shortbread flavors.  Rosemary-almond?  Garlic-white cheddar?  What choices would you try? 

I’m thinking these little crackers, the toppings and a glass of wine sounds like dinner…..yummy!

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Western Colorado Cheese Steak

Isn’t it wonderful when an idea comes together?  Last summer I pickled some peppers from my garden.  Corno di Toros–meaning horn of the bull, as these peppers curl as they grow and are reminisant of bulls’ horns.  I planted them because they are heirlooms, and I am a total sucker for heirloom plants of any kind.  Anyway, everything I read about them indicated they were a mild sweet pepper.  I commenced my pickling and thought, “hmmmmm…these smell kinda hot.”  I took a small bite.  HOT!  Wow.  I continued pickling them and thought about how I might use them this winter; some way to bring a bit of summer garden into the grey days of winter.  Some sort of cheese steak? Like a panini?  Totally forgot about the pickled peppers, until dear friends gave us Wild Onion Salsa for Christmas.  And then today, flat iron steaks were on sale at the grocery store!  Ta-Da!  The premire of the Western Colorado Cheese Steak!

Feel free to adjust ingredients according to what you can find, of course.

  • 1 small flat steak, like a skirt steak or a flat iron, grilled medium-rare
  • cheese; I used swiss
  • dijon mustard
  • your favorite bread; this is a semolina batard
  • pickled hot peppers
  • onion salsa; not hot, kinda sweet, actually.

Grill the steak medium-rare.  Often these flat steaks get tough if you grill them all the way to medium.  Let the steak rest while you get other ingredients ready.  After at least five minutes, cut against the grain into thin slices.

Preheat a panini press or contact grill.  I have a contact grill my mom insisted I needed…..she was right!

Cut bread into slices.  I cut on the diagonal to get larger slices.  Spread each slice with mustard.  Then layer on cheese slices, thin slices of steak, then peppers, then onion salsa.  lay more cheese on the other bread slice, then more cheese then the top bread slice.

Grill the sandwiches until the cheese is melty and everything is heated through, 5-10 minutes.Cut in half and devour!  Look at all those yummy layers!

I really loved the grilled combo of sweet onion, briney hot peppers, savory steak and melty cheese.  It would have been even more yummy if it were snowing, the summer garden contrast with the snow would have been perfect!

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Filed under Canning and preserving, dinner, Garden produce, lunch, recipe

Chicken Parmesan

The other night was one of those too-lazy-to-go-to-the-store-gotta-make-dinner-with-what’s-in-the-house kinda nights.  If you have chicken, milk, eggs, cheese, bread crumbs, pasta sauce and pasta, You could make a yummy and yummy-looking meal like this:

Ingredient amounts will vary depending on how much many servings you’re making.  You can make chicken parm for two or a whole crowd.  I didn’t measure, so all measurements are approximate.

  • 1 pound chicken tenders (I like the portion size of a tender.)
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I like panko for the extra crunch!)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 package pasta of your choice, prepared according to package directions.
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (This is my Zesty Pasta Sauce!)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a 9×13 pan with oil a spread a bit of the pasta sauce over the bottom.

Place tenders a few at a time in a sealed ziploc and pound to a uniform thickness, around 1/4-inch thick, using a wooden mallet or something similar.

Stack them up on a plate until all are pounded thin.

Create a breading station of shallow bowls in this order: milk, flour, egg, and then bread crumbs.

Dip each tender in milk, then flour; shake off excess.  Then dip into egg and then breadcrumbs, coating evenly.  Place into a hot pan with 3 TBSP oil.  Fry until each side is golden brown and chicken is cooked through.  Work in batches, overcrowding will steam the chicken and you’ll loose the nice crunch.  Add extra oil as needed.

Drain on paper towels. Don’t they look yummy already?!  All crispity-crunchity?!  Mmmmmm….

When all tenders are cooked, place in prepared pan and schmear with some pasta sauce.

Then top with shredded cheese.

Bake 30 minutes, until cheese is melty and bubbly.

Serve with prepared pasta and garlic bread.  Top with shredded parmesan if you like.

Such an easy and yummy meal.  Great for the fam on a weeknight, impressive for company, fancy-schmancy enough for date night!  Have a bite!

Super yummy left over as well.  One pound of tenders, a jar of pasta sauce and a package of spaghetti was enough for the three of us and then left overs for two the next day.

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Filed under comfort food, dinner, recipe

Baked Brown Sugar And Walnut Brie

Sometimes it’s fun to bake an appetizer that is as pretty as it is yummy.  Especially when very little effort is needed and you end up with results like this:

Here’s the simple list of ingredients:

  • 1 small wheel of brie
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed according to directions on package
  • a handful of chopped walnuts
  • a handful of brown sugar
  • 1 egg for the egg wash

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Roll the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to smooth it out.

Place brown sugar and walnuts in the center of the pastry, in a little circle approximately the size of the brie.

Unwrap the brie and place top down on the sugar and walnuts.  Note: leave the rind on, or the brie will not maintain its shape as it bakes.

Using a knife or kitchen shears, cut a circle around the brie about 1 1/2-2-inches larger than the brie.  Reserve the trimmings for decorations.

Pick up a side and fold over the brie, keeping the pastry as close to the side of the brie as possible without ripping it.

Continue with other sides until the brie is completely enveloped.  Your folds don’t need to be perfect, because this will be the bottom.

Place the brie on prepared baking sheet.  Make an egg wash by lightly beating the egg with a little water.  Seal the last flap with egg wash and turn the brie smooth-side up.

Brush the top and sides of the pastry with egg wash.  Use a small cookie cutter to cut decorations for the top of the brie, if you choose.  I chose a little heart for those of you starting to plan for Valentine’s Day.  You could also get really creative and design your own decoration using a knife.

Layer the hearts how you like them, brushing with egg wash after each layer.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until pastry is puffed and browned.

Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

How clever are you for creating this appetizer art?  Let me tell you, I was pretty pleased with myself and had to call Michael into the kitchen so he could oooo and ahhhhh over how pretty this brie turned out!

If you want to be extra fancy-schmancy, call it by its French name, Brie En Croute.

Cut into the pastry and find the lovely, creamy, melty brie; along with a bit of sweet and crunch.  Eat it just like this, or with crackers, or bread.  Yummy!  (I transferred the brie to a plate with higher sides so I could take it with me to a party.)

Here’s another Baked Brie I think you’ll like, from A Full Measure of Happiness:  Baked Apricot Brie.  How will you bake your next brie?

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Filed under appetizer, Holiday foods, recipe, Vegetarian

Breakfast Birdnests

Our favorite coffee shop closed last summer, and ever since we’ve been on the prowl for a new one.  Our current favorite (fairly close, small, good coffee, good food, friendly staff) is Coffee Crumbs and Cones.  They have an outstanding breakfast item called a birdnest.  It’s a jumbo muffin-sized parcel of eggy hash brown-sausage-jalepeno yumminess; I haven’t been able to order anything else when we go there. 

The other day I saw a recipe for something that looked similar to a birdnest, and BING! I knew I could adapt the recipe to try and mimic the yumminess of a CC&C birdnest.  Michael thinks I got pretty close!  They are super easy and reheat beautifully in the microwave. Here are a few fresh from the oven this morning.

Here’s how I made them, but you can vary the “mix-ins” to suit your taste.

  • 1/2 a 30 oz package frozen hash browns, thawed. (That’s around 3-4 cups)
  • 1-1 1/2 cups mix-in  (I used ground pork browned with bell peppers, onion and jalepeno)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese, divided (Again, your choice–I used Mexican blend)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 12 tsp (4TBSP) butter for the muffin tin

Preheat oven to 475F.  Place 1 tsp butter in each well of a 12-muffin tin.  

Place tin in the oven for a minute to melt the butter, and then use a paper towel to swirl the butter up the sides of each well, leaving the majority in the bottom.

In a bowl, place hash browns, mix-ins of your choice, 1/2 the cheese, and eggs.

Stir until combined.

Divide evenly among the prepared muffin wells.

Schmush them (technical cooking term meaning press down on the hash brown mixture) a bit and top each with cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and sizzling!  Voila!  Quick, easy and yummy!

Use a knife to cut around the edge of each and lift from the pan to a plate.

Mmmmmm.  Have a bite.

These birdnests could be made smaller (less hash brown mixture per muffin well), baked for half the time, topped with an egg and baked for the remainder of the time.  They could be completely vegetarian by mixing in your choice of sauteed or steamed veggies–think about the veggies you like in quiche.  You could mix in ham or steak or…..you get the idea!  Whatever you think is yummy!

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Filed under breakfast, recipe