Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mix and Match Baked Pasta Casseroles

If your household is anything like mine, then you know that a lot of the times, the amount of variety in the pantry is pretty ... lacking. My goal on a regular basis is to use all that we have, but try to do something different with it ... Mix and Match!! Well, after this idea came to me, I decided to look for some recipe ideas that would enable me to use some of my favorite ingredients to create a dish! I found an article on that had a pretty detailed method with which you can created HUNDREDS of different varieties using some of the same ingredients, by making only a few changes! ... SO, I present to you, Mix & Match Baked Pastas Casseroles!

Here's their step-by-step guide on how to construct your perfect plate!

1. Pick a Pasta

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; cook 1 pound of pasta (choose from these) until very al dente, 2 or 3 minutes less than the label directs; drain.

* Farfalle
* Cavatappi
* Fusilli
* Rigatoni
* Penne
* Ziti
* Large shells

Note: Be sure to undercook the pasta for your casserole; it will soften in the oven.

2. Make the Sauce

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 4 sliced garlic cloves and a pinch of red pepper flakes; cook until the garlic is golden. Crush a 28-ounce can and a 15-ounce can of plum tomatoes into the skillet with your hands; rinse out each can with 1/2 cup water and add the water to the skillet. Add 4 large basil sprigs; simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened, 15 minutes. Discard the basil; season the sauce with salt. (Alternatively, heat 4 cups prepared tomato sauce.)

3. Choose Your Mix-ins

While the sauce simmers, prepare 3 cups meat and/or vegetables (in any combination).

* Italian sausage, crumbled and cooked
* Meatballs, cooked and quartered
* Pepperoni, chopped
* Rotisserie chicken, shredded
* Hard-boiled eggs, chopped
* Roasted red peppers, sliced
* Frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
* Zucchini, sliced and sautéed
* Mushrooms, sliced and sautéed
* Eggplant, sliced and sautéed
* Fennel, sliced and sautéed
* Spinach, chopped and sautéed
* Escarole, chopped and sautéed
* Black or green pitted olives, chopped

4. Flavor the Sauce

Stir one of the following ingredients into your sauce, then add your meat and/or vegetable mix-ins.

For herb sauce:
1 cup each chopped basil and parsley

For creamy sauce:
1 cup fresh ricotta

For meat sauce:
3/4 pound pancetta, diced and browned

5. Pick Your Cheese

Prepare 3 cups melting cheese and 1 cup grating cheese.

Melting Cheese
* Fresh mozzarella, cubed
* Mild provolone, shredded
* Italian fontina, shredded
* Young asiago, shredded

Grating Cheese
* Parmesan, grated
* Pecorino, grated
* Ricotta salata, grated

6. Bake the Casserole

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce and half of each cheese. Spread in an oiled 3-to-4-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pasta. Bake, uncovered, until browned, about 15 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

From these ingredients, I'm pretty sure you can come up with your own version with whatever appeals to you, but if you're having a difficult time choosing which ingredients to combine first, I found three recipes you can try out:

1) Baked Cavatappi With Artichokes and Fennel

2) Baked Farfalle with Escarole and Zucchini

3) Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs and Peppers

Let me know what you think of this idea and if you have any other mix-and-match ideas!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

King's Hawaiian Burger Recipes

Hello everyone! I was browsing through a magazine I recently received and one of the first things that caught my eye were a series of burger/sandwich recipes that I knew I had to share, especially with the summer coming up --- PERFECT grilling season!! These, in particular are by a company called King's Hawaiian!

First, a little bit about the company: King's Hawaiian was founded by Robert Taira in the 1950's after he traveled to the islands of Hawaii, specifically, Hilo. There he attended and graduated at the top of his baking school and went on to open a bakery- Robert's bakery, which was the place where he created the famous Original King's Hawaiian Sweet Bread! Following that, his bakery expanded and moved to Honolulu, and eventually, in the late seventies, to California. This bread can now be found in bakeries, restaurants, etc. for all to enjoy!

I chose the three burger/sandwich recipes that were featured in the magazine to share here, and then I'll provide a link at the end so you can check out more favorites on their website!

So let's get started!

1) The Maui Burger

What you will need for the burger: [1 serving]

1 King's Hawaiian Sandwich Bun
1 (8oz) Angus Hamburger
Shichimi Aioli (recipe provided)
Your Favorite Teriyaki Sauce
1 Slice American Cheese
2 oz. Thinly sliced Maui or Vidalia onion
2 Slices tomato
1 Slice pineapple
1 Leaf lettuce
Pickles and Olives to garnish

What you will need for the Shichimi Aioli:

2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. shichimi togarashi (Japanese red pepper condiment, available in Asian grocery stores)


1) Place hamburger patty on grill to desired doneness.
2) Toast King's Hawaiian Sandwich Bun on grill.
3) Toast pineapple slice on grill.
4) To assemble burger, spread shichimi aioli on each slice of roll; between buns, place hamburger, which has been brushed with teriyaki sauce, then add cheese, tomato slices, lettuce pineapple, and onion.
5) Serve with pickles and olives.

2) Lil' Kahuna Sliders

What you will need: [3 servings]

3 King's Original Hawaiian Sweet Dinner Rolls, cut horizontally in half
3 pcs. chicken thigh meat
4 oz. Italian dressing
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 green bell pepper, cut to the size of the dinner roll
1/2 red bell pepper, cut to the size of the dinner roll
1 oz. red onion, cut to the size of the dinner roll
6 pcs. pineapple chunks
Pineapple top for garnish
Pickle and olives to garnish
3 oz. lilikoi aioli (recipe below)

What you will need for Lilikoi Aioli:

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. lilikoi (passion fruit) preserves


1) Combine Italian dressing, oregano and basil, divide.
2) Marinate chicken thighs with half of the dressing mix for several hours and vegetables with the remaining dressing for half an hour.
3) Grill chicken, vegetables, and pineapple chunks.
4) Arrange on a skewer, cherry tomato 1st, top of bread, onion, bell pepper, chicken, bottom of bread, and a cherry tomato on the bottom to hold sandwich in place.
5) Stick into the pineapple top any style you like.

3) Kauai Club Sandwich

What you will need: [8 servings]

8 King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Mini Sub Rolls
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. prepared horseradish sauce
2 tbsp. chili or cocktail sauce
2-4 leaves green leafy lettuce
8 slices hot, cooked bacon
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 (12 oz.) deli-sliced chicken or turkey


1) Preheat oven to 325°F.
2) Combine first three ingredients until well blended; set aside.
3) Wrap rolls in foil and warm in oven for about 10 minutes.
4) Spread 1/2 of mayonnaise sauce evenly over bottom roll, cover with lettuce leaves allowing edges to slightly extend beyond bread.
5) Place bacon strips on top.
6) Top with tomato slices, then sliced meat to cover entire surface.
7) Spread remaining sauce on top roll.
8) Secure with toothpicks or short skewers.

I haven't had a chance to try any of them out yet, but I'm definitely planning on it! Don't they look ridiculously delicious?

And as promised, for more recipes including those for breakfast, lunch, appetizers, dinner, and dessert, you can check out this website: Let me know which ones you try out!

The pictures in this blog post were taken from the King's Hawaiian website.

Monday, April 9, 2012

California Pizza Kitchen

It was a ridiculously busy weekend BUT I had a chance to go out to eat with my mom and we chose to go to California Pizza Kitchen (CPK)! I took some pictures of what we had to eat, so I thought I'd do an official post! ... It had been a while since we had been to this restaurant, but it is definitely one of my favorites due to their variety of food. If you haven't been there before, let me start off by telling you a little bit about the restaurant from the information I read on their website:

CPK was first opened in 1985 in Beverly Hills, California by Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax, who had a passion for food and the desire to combine creative ideas to create some of the more innovative pizzas there are! Since their opening, they have expanded from California and now have locations all over the WORLD, totaling more than 250! In the US, they are located in more than 30 different states and also are located in a total of 11 countries. As you have probably noticed, CPK also has other various locations such as in major airports, sports stadiums, and college campuses, and have frozen pizza that you can purchase at your own grocery store! Their restaurant menu includes pizzas, pastas, salads, sandwiches, and much more, so you're definitely in for a treat.

While we were there, I asked our waitress what the most popular dishes were and she told us that both the BBQ Chicken pizza and the BBQ Chicken salads are favorites. Well, I have tried and enjoyed both in the past, so we decided to try all new dishes this time (except one), and let me tell you: I am VERY glad that we did!

So the first couple of dishes we ordered were from their newer small cravings menu. First up was the Mediterranean plate! This is what CPK describes is included in the plate: "Tuscan white bean hummus, Feta topped with extra virgin olive oil and a small Greek salad. Served with traditional pizza pita bread." --- In general, I am VERY picky when it comes to hummus and it has to be, "just right" for me to enjoy it. This one, I must say, definitely was! The small Greek salad contained cucumbers, olives, onions, some spices, and I'm assuming some lemon juice, among other things, because it definitely had a slightly tangy kick to it! Definitely wished that there was more of that on the plate! ... I don't know if it's the correct way to eat this, but I created a mini taco with everything that was on the plate: took a piece of pita bread, spread some hummus on it, put some of the Greek salad on top as well as some Feta cheese, and voila! Delicious! I would definitely definitely recommend this plate.

Along with the Mediterranean plate, we got the Spicy Chicken Tinga Quesadilla! The official description of the plate: "Hearth-baked with lime chicken, Queso Quesadilla, and Enchilado cheese, chipotle sauce, caramelized onions, roasted bell peppers, black beans, and cilantro. Served with ranchito sauce." --- Honest opinion about the plate: probably could have done without it. The enchilada itself wasn't very tasty and had sort of a bitter taste to it ... what I'm guessing was from the chipotle sauce. The only enjoyable thing on the plate was the sauce so I guess ... overall rating of the dish: just okay. Would not recommend considering there are so many other dishes to choose from!

Next: a pizza! It's California Pizza Kitchen so of course we had to try at least one! This time, we tried the Roasted Artichoke + Spinach pizza with chicken. The pizza contains, "artichoke hearts, sauteed garlic spinach, Fontina, Mozzarella, and Parmesan with spinach artichoke sauce." --- I was a fan of this one and I think you will be too, especially if you don't eat very spicy foods. This pizza is flavorful with the artichoke hearts and spinach, along with the chicken but it definitely doesn't have ANY spicy-ness, so no kind of extra punch from anything like maybe a couple of their other pizza's do. If you get this pizza, I recommend adding some crushed red pepper that they keep at the table, and you'll be good to go if you eat spicy food! I would order this one again.

Next up- my most favorite dish of the evening AND one of my most favorite dishes from the whole menu: Kung Pao Spaghetti with Shrimp. This spaghetti has a "classic Kung Pao sauce with garlic, green onions, peanuts, and hot red chilies." And the proteins of choice include chicken, shrimp, or both chicken and shrimp. CAUTION if you order this: depending on the chilies, it can get REALLY spicy. This particular evening, it was more spicy than I had EVER had it before ... almost too spicy ... but I powered through it because it was absolutely DELICIOUS. It was a good thing we had that not-so-spicy pizza at the table to take away from the heat but I pretty much end up getting this dish every time. You must try it!!

And so, after that spicy pasta plate, my mom and I decided we had to have some dessert too! :) It's the best part of the meal anyways, right? I chose a Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae! ... Fairly self-explanatory as to what that is: a brownie with ice-cream, pecans, whipped cream, and a cherry on top as seen below! I NEVER complain about dessert and this is no exception! LOVED every bite!

In addition to this, a couple of my other favorite dishes at this restaurant include: the BBQ chicken pizza and BBQ chicken salad as I previously mentioned, the Chicken Tequila Fettuccine (tied with the spaghetti for my favorite dish from their "Pastas" portion of the menu), the California Club Sandwich (no bacon), and their chocolate souffle as well as butter cake! YUM.

Andddd one more: If you haven't tried their Raspberry Lemonade, it's a must. I'll get this with my meal pretty much every time!

If you're craving some CPK after this, the closest location to you can be found here:

Here's a look at their menu with a very convenient "Online Ordering" option:

If you want to try out some dishes yourself from CPK, here's a link to purchase Cookbooks:

And lastly, if you're planning on visting CPK soon, make sure to join their e-club! When you do, you receive a $5 off coupon via e-mail that you can print off. Here's the link to join:

All opinions featured in this blog post are my own. I hope you enjoyed this and let me know what some of your favorite dishes from this restaurant are!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Seven Layer Dip

By far, one of my most favorite kinds of food is Mexican food. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas ... I'm fairly obsessed with it all! AND one of my favorite items to make when I'm in the mood for Mexican food, but not hungry enough for tacos/burritos, is Mexican 7 layer dip, including guacamole and all! So primarily, the recipe for how to make this is as follows:

What you will need to assemble the dip:

Pan for assembly
1 can refried beans
Sour cream
Other toppings as desired

What you will need for the guacamole:

1 Mashed Avocado
1 Chopped Tomato
1/4 Chopped Onion
Chopped Cilantro
Lime Juice


Primarily, make the guacamole. In a bowl, combine avocado, tomato, onion, and cilantro. Mix together and add lime juice and salt to taste. Set aside.

Then, grab your pan and start layering the dip! For the first layer, heat up the refried beans and spread them on the bottom of the pan.

Next take the guacamole you prepared, and make it the second layer!

On top of that, add the salsa for your third layer.

For the next layer, add sour cream and spread. Then, on top add toppings of choice! My choices were: tomatoes, jalepenos, and olives!

And for your final layer, add the cheese.

Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

This is definitely one of my most favorite things to make because it's so quick and easy. I love love making guacamole and eating it with chips too but with this, it's even better! Quite frequently, I take this with me when I go to potluck parties because it seems to be a big hit! ... Do you have your own version of a 7 layer dip? Let me know! :)