Easy as Pie…Err Tart?

Mushrooms, Gruyere, Baked

Mushroom & Gruyere Tart

Sometimes people get so hung up on names, titles, making sure things fit the mold and are “correct” that they forget to realize what’s actually important.

My Sunday started off well, I strolled the green market, chugging my large coffee, and stumbled across incredible Crimini mushrooms.  My mind immediately decided that a perfect mushroom and cheese tart would be in order.  Little did I know that in a few hours, back at home, this decision would send me in a frantic  Google search on the difference between a tart and a pie and, oh quiche! Ok, I am sure the copious amount of caffeine didn’t help my compulsion, either.

1 hour, 8 browser windows and two crossed eyes later I realized that there probably was no way I would received a definitive answer.

“It’s the dough you use!”

“No, it’s about the type of pan you bake it in”

“A pie a sweet and is only baked on Wednesdays.”

So this had me thinking, doesn’t really matter what we call things?  If I want to call it a tart, I’ll call it a tart – who is going to stop me!

Whether it’s food or in life, it’s all about what you make of it right?

But let me just say, you better make it something delicious.

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Orzo Casserole

Simply put, this dish is quick, delicious and leaves you with plenty of leftovers.  It’s also versatile to make, you can use whatever vegetables or cheese you have on hand.  Try adding black olives or sun dried tomatoes.  And the beauty of it all is that, if you want, you can make it ahead of time.  Either pre-assemble and keep covered in the fridge or freezer until ready for the oven or fully cook when you have some down time.  Cut into portions and freeze for later use.

Orzo Casserole

1 cup orzo
3/4 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups frozen spinach (or about 4-5 cups fresh spinach, steamed)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup Weeknight Marinara Sauce
2 1/2 tsp goat cheese (or 1/4 cup crumbled feta)

Cook orzo according to package directions (about 7 minutes) until al dente.  Drain and drizzle with olive oil.

In same saucepan you cooked pasta in (less dishes rule!) heat remaining olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and mushrooms and saute 3 minutes.  Add spinach and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5-7 minutes. Let cool for 3-5 minutes.

In a lightly greased baking dish spread out 3 tablespoons of the orzo into an inch thick layer.  Add 3 tablespoons of sauce evenly over the orzo.  Spoon on the spinach and mushroom mixture (about 1 cup).    Crumble on 1 tsp goat cheese.  Repeat with remaining orzo, sauce, spinach and goat cheese.

In a preheated 400 degree oven, cook the casserole for 15 – 20 minutes.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Pizza, Pizza!

Pizza get’s a bad rap.  Dough & cheese, can’t be healthy right?

While it should not be a daily indulgence, pizza can certainly be a part of your healthy weekly menu especially if it’s homemade. And if you have the dough already made, your pizza will be ready in less time than it would be if you called your local pizza shop.

With all of the possible toppings, you’ll never have the same pizza twice!

Thursday’s dinner was all about the pizza.  Instead of just sauce and cheese, I made two types, mushroom with goat cheese and ham & cheese.  Both were so good but seriously, the ham and cheese version tasted just like a grilled cheese sandwich! Served with a side of green veggies, this meal was nutritionally complete, satisfying and very tasty.

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pizza
Ham & Cheese Pizza

The best thing about homemade pizza is that there really is no recipe, you can create whatever you want using whatever happens to be in the fridge!  That being true,  below is how these two pies came together.

16 oz whole wheat pizza dough
Olive Oil

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pizza

3/4 cup Weeknight Marinara Sauce
4 cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp goat cheese, crumbled
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Divide pizza dough in half and roll out to desired thickness.  Spread on sauce leaving a small border around the edges (you can drizzle the crust with some olive oil and salt too).  In a small skillet heat olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add slices mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, turning over at least once.  Place mushrooms on the pizza and sprinkle with goat cheese.  Place in oven for 20 – 25 minutes.

Ham & Cheese Pizza

3/4 cups Weeknight Marinara Sauce
2 slices Canadian Bacon (deli ham is good too), cubed
1 1/2 oz. cheddar cheese, thinly sliced

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out the second half of the pizza dough.  Spread on sauce leaving a small border around the edges (you can drizzle the crust with some olive oil and salt too).  Arrange bacon and then cheese on top of pizza.  Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

I ate 2 slices of the ham & cheese pizza (pictured with a bite missing!) and then went back for a small slice of mushroom and goat cheese.  All served with some greens, of course. Another good thing about pizza, it reheats well for lunch the next day (or is good cold!)

Tips & Tricks

On buying vs. making pizza dough

Homemade pizza dough is definitely fun to make and I suggest you make a few big batches and freeze to have on hand.  However, in case you don’t have any homemade on hand during the week, Trader Joe’s makes a great whole wheat dough that only costs $.99 so stock up while you are there!

** Sorry about the late post (this was from last week).

Dinner in 3 Minutes..

Sort of.

It’s no secret that being able to stay on track all week does require some added effort somewhere along the line.  Fortunately, it’s up to you to choose when you decide to dedicate some time to preparation.  Personally, Sunday nights are best for this kind of stuff but if Wednesday mornings work better, that works too!

Having a go-to meal that requires little time when you are actually ready to eat means you have less reason to order takeout or eat whatever junk might be lying around.

Case in point: last Thursday night.  After a few post work drinks with colleagues, I definitely was not in the mood for cooking.  Luckily, 2 weeks ago I made a gigantic batch of black bean burgers*.  And by gigantic I am talking 30 – 35 patties.  That extra time in the kitchen on a lazy Sunday night, however, has already paid off.  They work just as well as a burger as they do on top of salads, in a pita or all on their own.  I’ve even eaten them with breakfast instead of bacon!

So once I got home, I defrosted and heated up two of the patties (topped with some cheese of course), placed on an opened pita and served with some more frozen french cut green beans.

Simple yet satisfying.  Can’t beat that.

*Black Bean Burgers:

Store bought black bean or veggie burgers are also great to keep on hand but I do try and make my own when I can.  Not only can I control the flavor & nutritional content, but the whole batch of burgers only cost me around $4.00.  You would need to spend around $30.00 if you wanted so many pre-made burgers.  That said, my favorites include the Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burgers or their Portobello Mushroom Burgers.

I am still working on the detailed recipe for these black bean burgers.  The taste is definitely there but texture needs some improvement.  But really, you barely need a recipe it’s so simple.  Mash up some black beans with whatever veggies you have lying around.  Mine have diced mushrooms & jalapenos mixed in with some chili sauce.  You don’t have to, but I use an egg to bind these together.  Form into patties & grill on a non-stick pan.

Party Food in a Flash

Parties are meant to be fun.   A time meant to laugh with friends, recounting memories of the past while creating new ones you will look back on someday.

Parties are not meant to be spent hovering over the stove stirring, whisking or making sure nothing is burning.  Even if you are not the host, no one wants to attend a party where everyone is so tired from preparing the food they can’t manage to have some fun.

Both of the appetizers below can be made in advance and put in the oven once you arrive at your final party destination or your guests start appearing.  Either way, they’ll be on the table in a flash & compliments will soon be coming your way.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

These stuffed mushrooms are made for crowd roaming & socializing.  Practically bite size, there are no knives & forks needed here.  Using a crusty bread & not over cooking the green pepper gives these mushrooms a good balance of texture combined with the creamy blue cheese.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

(makes 25 mushrooms)

Printable version

25 cremini, de-stemmed & cleaned*
1 cup white button mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup diced green onion
1 cup small bread pieces (I used a french baguette torn into about quarter inch pieces)
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup low sodium chicken stock (or broth)
Olive Oil

* If serving these as appetizers and not first course or part of a meal, cremini mushrooms work better since they  are smaller and more flavorful than the larger stuffing mushrooms. If you prefer, feel free to use the larger stuffing mushrooms.


In a large skillet, melt 2 tbs. of the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and cook about 3 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and garlic to the onions and cook for another 3 minutes before adding another tbs. of butter and the green pepper. Cook the mixture for 1 minute.

In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces with the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture. Fold in blue cheese crumbles. Once combined, add chicken stock and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle cremini mushrooms lightly with olive oil. Stuff mushrooms with mixture, about a teaspoon each (varies depending on size of mushroom. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and the stuffing is hot.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

When done correctly, sandwiches can be wonderful (and even gourmet) food for a get together.  Most ingredients found in this sandwich can be made ahead of time, assembled and then placed in the oven to warm up at the last minute.  Although they are fine on their own, try serving these sandwiches with a side of honey mustard.

Turkey, Pear & Brie Sandwiches with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

(makes approximately 15 small sandwiches)

1 French baguette, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 lb. thin sliced turkey breast
4 oz. brie cut in thin slices, about 3 inches in length
5 slices bacon
1 cup Vidalia onion, sliced thinly into rings
8 pear slices, half inch thick
3 tbs. butter

Melt 1 tbs. butter in skillet over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, add onions & season with salt.  Cook until the onions are brown and soft, about 20  minutes.  While the onions caramelize, cook the bacon in skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool on a plate lined with paper towels.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread both sides of the baguette with 1/2 tbs butter.  Place the turkey in a single layer on the bottom half of the baguette.  Continue by adding the pear in another single layer (you may need to turn slightly on a diagonal depending on width of the baguette).  Place bacon on top and then the brie.  On the top half of the baguette spread out the onions.

Bake, open faced, in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese begins to melt.  Slice into two inch pieces and serve.

P.S.  Sorry there is no photo of the finished sandwich (it had just come out of the oven).  I was too excited to party!