Sous Chef Sunday: Cuban Hot Dogs or Cubano Dogs

Ok, the sons are the sons, and Lord knows I love my boys, BUT in the past few months the lazy/put upon bug has bitten them in the butt. HARD. Yes, I expect you to help with dinner. Is it going to kill you? No. You’ve got no problem eating the 4 course meal, and you expect me to help with homework, run you around, and generally revolve my whole world around anything you deem fit. SO, if I need a little help with some prep work? You’d better pretend to be willing to lend a hand. That being said, their idea of a complicated recipe and mine are totally different. You ask them to dice or chop and onion, and just the thought has them crying crocodile tears. Big babies. That’s what those big fat science safety goggles are for! 😉

That being said, I try to pick my battles. So if it’s actually their turn to cook, or I delegate the job (yep, it happens) I try to keep their sometimes waning enthusiasm in mind. Things like Cuban hot dogs are perfect for these nights. Still relatively easy, but still technically a recipe. Little prep work, mostly just assembly. And pair it with a simple tossed salad? Or some steamed veggies? Dinner. Is. Done.

So for this Sous Chef Sunday were bringing you dogs. Hot dogs, but not just any hot dogs. CUBAN hot dogs. This may not be the prettiest picture we’ve ever taken, but man oh man don’t let that turn you away. This is one of our favorite ways to enjoy a hotdog! So good! It’s a flavor picnic packaged neatly in a little bun.

Cuban Hot Dogs/Cubano Dogs

Cuban Style Hotdogs

4 hot dogs, we prefer the all beef variety
8 thin slices of Swiss cheese
8 slices of deli ham
4 buns
1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced
prepared yellow mustard
4 dill pickle spears

Directions

1. Cook the hot dogs however you normally would.
2. Place the opened hot dogs buns on a baking sheet or in a baking dish and layer two pieces each of cheese and sliced ham over the inside of the bun. When the hotdogs are just about done cooking, put the buns in the oven and broil until they’re toasted and the cheese is melted. This step is optional. I prefer the toasty, melty cheese version, but the hungry sons usually skip it to get it on their plates faster 🙂
3. Place the cooked hot dogs in the buns and top each with a pickle, onions, and a drizzle of mustard.

recipe adapted from Sweet Treats & More

Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad

If you’ve followed us for any amount of time you know that I’ve got a thing for traditions. Every holiday has its own little nuances and little things that, come hell or high water, we are going to adhere to. Another Easter just came to pass, and it’s no exception to the ‘mom is a crazy lady who is dying to make memories’ rule.

For example, every year we go to a local historical park that features a variety of animals and gorgeous gardens and views. It’s a big affair, complete with grandparents and aunts too. Each year we kick the whole shebang off with a picnic lunch. Really. Every year. Sadly though, like everything else it seems, I was pretty sure the older sons had aged out of caring this year, and I purposefully didn’t bring it up because I didn’t want to be all emotional when it was time for us to argue about it and for me to finally have to force them to go by pulling the ‘because I said so, and you’re gonna like it dammit’ card. I mean family time is family time. Right? Non-negotiable. But, to my surprise and utter delight, when I didn’t bring it up and Easter was creeping closer and closer, the older sons started to have a mild freak out.

Umm, excuse me? Of course we’re having an Easter picnic/park day. Duh. How could you doubt me? I was prepared to drag you there by the scruff even if you complained the whole way there, because tradition! But it made my heart so happy that you were that adamant about going yet again.

So, with that emotional crisis averted for all parties involved, we got back to the next most important thing. The food. After all, that’s our biggest tradition and the memories made around it one of our greatest legacies. For us no picnic lunch, especially an Easter Sunday picnic lunch, is complete without potato salad. It’s a staple. We’re not even real picky on the kind as long as it has the same style base. Potatoes, and something creamy, like mayo.

This lightened up, buffalo style version is one of our favs. Soon it’ll be one of yours too 😉

Light/Skinny Buffalo Potato Salad

Light Buffalo Potato Salad

recipe adapted from The Weary Chef

2 lbs red and/or russet potatoes, diced into 1/4″ cubes
generous 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
generous 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2-4 tbsp buffalo wing sauce, we prefer a mild sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced (optional)

Directions

1. In a medium sized pot, add the potatoes and add water until it just covers them. Add about 1 tsp salt, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Allow the potatoes to boil for about 10 minutes, or until fork tender. Transfer the potatoes to a colander to drain, and gently rinse with cold water for about one minute to stop the cooking process and cool them off.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, buffalo sauce, and salt and pepper. Using a spatula, gently fold in the remaining ingredients, stirring just until everything is evenly incorporated. 3. Serve as is, or refrigerate until chilled.

Asian Chicken Wraps

Spring has sprung which, for the sons and I, meant another Spring Break sprung (up) upon us and just as sneakily slipped away. Everybody enjoyed themselves for the most part. A few days were touch and go though. Son # 4 has developed a case of motor mouth. If he’s awake, it’s running. It’s pumpking out questions. Everything is why? And he’s a repeater. It doesn’t matter how fa into a sentence or a story he is, if he gets interupted by anything, he begins again. From the begining, repeating every words just the same, whether it’s the third or fifteenth try. And I mean interrupted by anything. By me, by another thought, but a bird chirping when he’s trying to talk. The whole world must stop and give their full attention to every. single. word. Aside from that he doesn’t talk. He spells. Everything. He asks to spell everything. It’s like having a conversation in textlish. ‘I W-A-N-T … … Mama, how do you spell lunch again? L-U-N-C-H.” Most days it’s cute, but by day 4 I had pulled out the plug. Ear plugs, a great investment for any parent.

But speaking of lunch, with a whole week of everyone home for all their meals I do try to ‘spice’ things up a bit, after all it is Spring Break. Even if we’re staying home we can still pretend we’re on vacation right? We don’t have to be as responsible, and that’s reason enough to celebrate. So plain old, ho hum lunches just wouldn’t do. Sandwiches just scream ‘school day’. We want lunches that loudly proclaim, we’re home for a week full of sleeping in, binge watching tv, and lots of fort building in the woods. I don’t know about you, but we’ve found wraps are a good way to transform a boring sandwich into something that’s so much more. It’s ok to break away from the loaf and leave the boring sandwich behind.

This east meets west, easy wrap idea is perfect for lunch, or even a lighter dinner. And doesn’t an Asian Chicken Wrap sound way more exciting than a sandwich? Chock full of flavor with a perfect chow mein noodle crunch these were the perfect way to say ‘School’s out for Spring Break’.

Asian Chicken Wraps

 Asian Chicken Wraps

4 medium sized tortillas
2 chicken breasts, cooked and thinly sliced into strips
2/3 cup General Tso’s sauce
1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce
romaine lettuce, or other lettuce variety of choice
1/2 cup shredded carrots
4 tbsp chow mein noodles

Directions

1. In a small skillet or pot, add both sauces and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
2. Add the cooked, sliced chicken to a medium sized bowl and pour the prepared sauce over top. Stir to toss the chicken with the sauce until all the chicken is well coated.
3. To make each wrap, add about 1/3 cup lettuce, 1/2 cup chicken slices, 1/4 cup carrots slices, and 1 tbsp chow mein noodles down the center or each tortilla.
4. Fold in the top and bottom of each tortilla and then roll it up. Enjoy!

Pizza Pinwheels

Have you hopped on the Greek yogurt band wagon yet? You’ve at least heard about it, I’m sure. Greek yogurt is great. It’s great for you, and packed with protein. Did you know that in roughly the same amount of calories, Greek yogurt is able to pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half? No? See, this is one of the major reasons that within the past couple years, Greek yogurt has managed to elbow it’s way onto refrigerator shelves everywhere. If you’re wondering what makes it different, besides just the nutrition info, from it’s ‘regular’ counterpart, the Mediterranean version has been strained of it’s whey giving it an undeniably tangier and less sweet, as well as creamier, taste. We’ve gone exclusively Greek in the yogurt department. But we haven’t stopped there. Greek yogurt opens up tons of options in the recipe department. We love swapping it for sour cream in recipes, and even for cream cheese and mayonnaise. There is so much untapped potential there. Chobani has even created a handy conversion chart so there’s no guess work involved.

chobani conversion chart

When I was contacted by them a few weeks ago, I knew it wasn’t going to be a chore to come up with something snazzy to share with you guys that featured Chobani’s Greek Yogurt. Without further adieu, we’re bringing you these Pizza Pinwheels that are #madewithChobani.

 Pizza Pinwheels

Pinwheels are a great option for a variety of needs. Lunches? Check. A denser snack? Check. An alternative to your traditional pizza night? Check. Initially, the sons were suspicious. One bite was enough to woo them though. The seasonings are perfect. The creamy yogurt pairs perfectly with some of our favorite fixings, packing more protein into every bite while leaving the extra calories behind.

Pizza Pinwheels

Pizza Pinwheels 2

4 ounces fat free cream cheese, softened
1/4-1/3 cup plain Chobani Greek yogurt
2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup diced black olives
1/4 cup diced green, red, or yellow peppers
1/2 cup pepperoni
3 medium tortilla shells

Directions

1. In a small bowl, add the cream cheese, yogurt, oregano, and garlic powder. Stir until everything is evenly incorporated and the mixture’s nice and creamy. Next, stir in the cheeses. Using a knife or spatula, gently spread the cheese mixture evenly ever the flat tortilla shells. 2. Once you’ve spread your cheese mixture out, evenly sprinkle the olives and peppers over the cheese mixture. Finally, create a layer of pepperoni over the sprinkled toppings on each tortilla. Gently roll the tortillas up tightly (like a jelly roll), making sure everything stays inside. Wrap the tortilla roll up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 3. Remove from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Cut each tortilla into roughly 8 pinwheels. Serve with toothpicks if desired. Makes roughly 24 pinwheels.

*Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post, and all opinions expressed are my own.*

Hot Ham & Cheese Sliders

These sliders. If you’ve seen them floating around the web, but haven’t given them a try yet, now’s the time to get to it. They really are that good. After my first bite, I could’ve kicked my own self for dragging my feet for so long.

Ooey, gooey finger-lickin’ good. Yes, that’s exactly what these sandwiches are. Prepare for the deliciousness. I think we can all agree that when cheese is involved with any meat, it’s pretty much a wonderful thing. Ham and cheese may be a beloved classic, and most definitely a wonderful thing, but add in the poppy seed mustard butter onion sauce thing and it’s umm, wow! The sauce is what really knocks this one out of the park.

 Hot Ham & Cheese Sliders

So they’re yummy, and super simple to assemble, two things that don’t always go hand-in-hand in the kitchen. Doesn’t that just make them perfect for even your busiest days or nights?

The sons’ and the hubs drool over these things now, even the leftovers (if there are any the next day, which is rare). Are you thinking it sounds great, but bummed because you don’t have tiny any pretty petite buns on hand? If you’ve got some kind of larger bun, you’re in luck. I’ve made these on kaiser rolls, dinner rolls, and once even on hamburger buns with the same drool-worthy results.

Game day, brunch, a regular party, dinner, even a hot lunch. Whatever the occasion these bad boys will be the stars of the show.

Don’t want any pressure? Great. The sandwiches can be made up to a day in advance. Just don’t fix and sauce ’em until you’re ready to heat and serve. Otherwise, you’re going to end up with mush. And I haven’t met a ‘mush’ yet that I actually liked.

Hot Ham & Cheese Sliders

Hot Ham & Swiss Cheese Sliders

24 Hawaiian rolls or slider buns
24 pieces of ham, regular or honey flavored
24 slices of Swiss cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise

Poppy Seed Mustard Sauce:
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1½ tbsp yellow mustard
½ cup butter, melted
1 tbsp minced onion
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions 

1. Spread the mayo onto both sides of the center of each roll. Place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese inside of each roll. Close the rolls and place them close together into a large baking dish, or onto a heavy cookie sheet.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients until evenly combined. Pour the sauce as evenly as possible overtop all of the sandwiches. If you don’t want to use all of the sauce that’s ok. Just make sure to use enough to cover the tops of the rolls. Let sit 10 minutes or until butter sets slightly. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is nice and melted. Uncover and cook for 2 additional minutes or until tops are slightly browned and crisped. Serve warm.

Sous Chef Sunday: Grilled Mac N Cheese Sandwich

If you’ve never had a mac n cheese grilled cheese sandwich, then you’ve never really lived. It’s exactly what it sounds like: creamy macaroni and cheese stuffed into a sandwich with extra sharp cheddar and grilled until melty inside and golden browned to perfection on the outside. Some of you skeptic, health-conscious folk might be thinking that’s just way too much starch in one sandwich. WRONG! Those were my initial thoughts too, but alas, that is not the case. The starchy side and the sandwich aspect work harmoniously well together, creating a euphoric eating experience unlike any other. It’s a fusion of the ultimate comfort foods that results in a beautiful soul food hybrid. This, my friends, is heaven.

This recipe makes two sandwiches at once. Needing more than that? Just double the recipe as needed. I’ve always got to make 3 ‘batches’. Wanting to dial back the cheesiness a bit? You can opt out of adding the extra slices of cheddar? Even the cheese is flexible? Don’t like cheddar? American works well. Prefer a white cheddar macaroni and cheese? Use white cheddar slices, or even mozzarella or provolone. Cheese is very forgiving. 🙂

Grilled Mac N Cheese Sandwich

Grilled Mac & Cheese Sandwich

4 slices Sourdough (or other dense bread)
1½ cups leftover Macaroni & Cheese
8 slices American or Cheddar Cheese
2 tbsp Butter

 Directions

1. In a small nonstick skillet place heat ¾ cup of mac & cheese over medium heat.
2. Once warm (about 3-4 minutes), shape mac & cheese into a pile about the size of the bread and top with 2 slices of cheese.
3. Turn off heat.
4. Butter 2 slices of bread.
5. Place bread butter side down in another skillet over medium heat.
6. Top one of the bread slices with 2 slices cheese.
7. Use spatula to lift corner and check done-ness.
8. When lightly browned turn off heat. Use spatula to transfer mac & cheese rectangle onto cheese covered bread in the skillet.
9. Cover with the other bread slice, toasted side up. Gently press together with spatula and transfer to a plate.
10. Serve immediately.

Ranch Pasta Salad

Summer and pasta salad just go hand in hand at my house.  Quick, economical and delicious!  Now let me beat you to it, yes I know Summer’s long gone and it’s already November. While that may be the case, another thing that go hand in hand in our home, are quick and easy meals. A hearty pasta salad is also a favorite of ours for a light dinner or a really filling lunch. So even though I’m loving living in the land of Soup, Stew, and Comfort Food at the moment pasta salad, or a version of it, still visits frequently. This is one of our favorite creamy/mayonnaise based pasta salads. I don’t make it too too often, but when I do I always wonder why I don’t make it more often.  I normally make it with rotini pasta (I feel the ‘dressing’ sticks to it best), but you can use pretty much any shaped pasta you’d like.

 ranch veggie pasta salad 2

Pasta salad doesn’t have to be the tired stuff of bad salad bars anymore (it’s 2014 people). Think of it as a blank canvas for fresh and flavorful ingredients you can toss in. Just look at all the vibrant colors we’re throwing into this one. They add one heck of a fresh flavor punch.

Ranch Veggie Pasta Salad

I urge you to try a pasta salad with ranch dressing. It’s a lovely, lovely thing.

Ranch Pasta Salad

ranch veggie pasta salad 3

recipe adapted from Inspired Craft Ideas 

1 cup Greek yogurt (fat free is great!)
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 packet ranch dressing mix, plus extra, to taste, if desired
1 lb rotini pasta, cooked
2 large carrots
1½- 2 cups broccoli
1 cup ham
1 cup cheddar cheese
½ yellow bell pepper
½ red bell pepper

Directions

1. Combine the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, and ranch dressing mix. Set aside.
2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, drizzle with a bit of olive oil so it doesn’t stick.
3. Chop the veggies, ham, and cheese into bite sized pieces. Combine with the pasta and ¾ of the dressing. Stir well, add additional dressing if it is too dry.
4. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

If you like this recipe, be sure to check out these other fan/family favorites as well.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Southwestern Chicken Pasta Salad 3

Southwestern Chicken Pasta Salad

4 Sons 'R' Us: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Ranch BLT Pasta Salad

Ranch BLT Pasta Salad

Sous Chef Sunday: Waffle Iron Pepperoni Pizza Pockets

Do you have a waffle iron? Doesn’t it make delicious, fluffy, just perfect waffles? Did you know you can use your waffle iron to make some other, more surprising, dishes? For years I assumed (see that’s what I get bc we all know what they say when you assume something) that mine was only for making waffles. DOH! In my defense, the box wasn’t really helpful either since it only had pictures of gourmet waffles and no helpful hints or recipe tips for anything else. And I was a newly out-in-the-world newly wed anyway, what did I know? Well fast forward to now, and our waffle iron gets it’s own prime-time counter-top space. We use it to make cookies, we use it to make cinnamon roll waffles, and we’ve even used it to make cornbread waffles to serve with our chili (recipe coming soon). But this, THIS is the sons’ favorite waffle iron recipe. Golden brown biscuit outside, melted mozzarella inside. It’s waffle pizza perfection. They make a great lunch, an easy afternoon snack, and they make an even better quick, no fuss dinner on fend -for-yourself nights, aka Fridays. Sorry, but come the end of the week this Momma needs a break and I’m not ashamed to admit it, or to take it. #sorrynotsorry The sons WILL survive, even though they don’t believe me.

So, we’ve got an easy, 5 minute meal, but that’s not all. Like so many of our other favorite recipes, these are easily customizable. Don’t like pepperoni or have other favorite toppings too? Throw some crumbled bacon or cooked sausage in the middle. Is a supreme your thing? Throw some veggies in there and enjoy. You can even spice em up a little by adding a dash of Italian seasoning. You get the idea.

Waffle Iron Pepperoni Pizza Pockets

Pizza Pocket Waffles

(HELLO, crispy savory waffles fortified with pepperoni and mozzarella. I see that warm marinara topping. Look at you, you saucy little thang!)

1 can (16.3 oz) Flaky Layers refrigerated biscuits
8 slices (1 oz each) mozzarella cheese
1/3 pepperoni slices
2 cups pizza or marinara

Directions

1. Spray waffle maker with cooking spray; heat waffle maker.
2. Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Cut slit on 1 side of each biscuit, forming a deep pocket. Place 1 slice of cheese into each pocket. Top cheese with 2-3 pepperoni slices. Press dough around edge to seal each biscuit.
3. Place 1 biscuit on center of waffle maker. Close lid; cook 3 minutes or until waffle is golden brown. Repeat with remaining filled biscuits. Serve with pizza sauce.

Fiesta Tuna Salad Sliders

So one day I reeeeeaaaaallllllly wanted Mexican food. Of the oh-so good tasting, but so-oh not good for your waist-line variety. Like an endless basket of tortilla chips with some of that authentic creamy, white queso for dipping, and maybe even some sour cream and quac on the side. (We want guac. We want guac. Thank you, Elmo for that little ditty that’s now stuck in my head) But that wasn’t on the menu. Going out to eat wasn’t in the cards, and clearly my pantry and fridge were letting me down. (Again, I griped about having no known Mexican restaurants that deliver in my vicinity. Because, well because… how is this not a thing already?!)

Then I remembered this fancy, schmancy recipe (except it’s totally not, but if tasty-ness was currency, it’d be golden). Fiesta tuna salad sandwiches may not have been sinfully delicious chips dipped in warm, gooey queso, but as my Mama always said, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” And it was Mexican food. Good Mexican-style food. Good for you too, to top it all off. My how my day had changed. While I got down to chopping the veggies I’d need, my mood gradually changed from “deprived of tortilla chips” and being lulled to “problem craving coming to it’s conclusion”. Mean Mami Mexican food crisis averted. At least for today. Seriously, you don’t want to get in my way when I’m craving Mexican food. It could escalate quickly and then we’d be in a full-on nuclear melt-down and that just isn’t gonna work for me. Now that I had a new idea, and some direction to go in other than to Old El Paso, I snagged some supporting ingredients from the pantry and salsa-ed my way through the rest of the recipe.  Olé!

Now I’m going to enjoy another delicious sandwich with this spread for lunch tomorrow too, but this time as a tuna melt! Gotta keep those taste buds on their toes. Trying to go light? This makes a great dip with either tortilla chips or crackers. (Hello, my next tailgating party!)

Fiesta Tuna Salad Sliders

 Fiesta Tuna Salad Sliders

recipe adapted from Taste of Home

6 cans, 5 oz each, water-packed white tuna or albacore, drained and flaked
1 large red onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup reduced fat mayo
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced (optional)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp black pepper
12 ciabatta sized slider buns, or more depending on how ‘stuffed’ your buns are
12 slices of pepper jack cheese
lettuce leaves

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients. Set the tuna salad in the refrigerator to ‘chill’.

2. Once the tuna salad is cold, spread it over the bun bottoms. Top each with a slice of cheese and some lettuce.

3. Put the tops back on, and serve!