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Zucchini-Beef Enchiladas

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Enchiladas are one of my favorite foods, but they are a bit filling and heavy for summer fare.  I had a few zucchini to use up, and decided to try adding one to enchiladas.  Worked great, added some low-calorie nutrition & a little extra texture without detracting from the yummy flavor.  These were a hit, and we all liked them so much, I know I will never make my Mom’s Beef and Cheese Enchiladas without zucchini added in again.  And pssst: you can totally “bake” these in the microwave – doesn’t take long, just until the cheese is melted.

Zucchini-Beef Enchiladas

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1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium zucchini, quartered & chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
2 1/2 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning (or 1 packet store-bought)
2 tablespoons water
15 corn tortillas
1 (8 oz) package cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 (19 oz) can red enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×13 dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Heat skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil, swirling to coat bottom of pan.  Add the zucchini and cook about ten minutes, stirring often, or until soft.  Remove to a plate, then add the ground beef and cook until browned.  Drain and add taco seasoning, water, and the cooked zucchini.  Stir well and cook a few minutes longer. Remove from heat.

Wrap four tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside a cup of the cheese to use for the top. Take tortillas one at a time, keeping the others wrapped, and put a little cheese in a line down the middle, then some of the beef mixture, about 2-3 tablespoons. Roll up tight and place in prepared dish. Repeat, warming additional tortillas as necessary, until all the filling is used. Pour enchilada sauce over the top, then sprinkle the remaining cheese over. Cover with foil and bake about 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Veronica’s note: I know it’s so much easier to buy pre-shredded cheese, but you just will never get the same glorious melt that you get with cheese you’ve shredded yourself. It’s worth the few minutes and extra clean up. Also, if you’d like to “bake” these in the microwave, it’s best to divide the recipe between two smaller microwave-safe dishes. Keep an eye on it and just let it go until the cheese is melted – should take five minutes or less. I prefer to do a few at a time on a plate.

Low Country Boil {Northern Stovetop Version}

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I got this recipe from my friend, Suzie, who ironically lives up North, so I don’t know how authentic this is to the “low country” but it’s really good!  I actually ate this whole recipe by myself over the course of several days while pregnant because Den hates shrimp. Usually I avoid shrimp dishes because I don’t like to prepare myself a separate dish, but this is so worth the minimal effort.  So flavorful! The second best part is, this is an indoor version you can make on your stovetop any time of year.

Low Country Boil

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4 cups red potatoes, quartered
4 ears corn on the cob, cut in half
1 (14-16 oz) package polish sausage or kielbasa, cut into bite-size pieces
2 lbs. of uncooked large shrimp

For the stock:

12 cups water
1 package Zatarain’s crab boil
1/4 cup Old Bay Seasoning
1 lemon, quartered
1 large onion, quartered
9 whole cloves of garlic (or to taste)
3 tablespoons kosher salt (or 1 1/2 tablespoons table salt)

Add all stock ingredients to a large stock pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add potatoes and corn and boil for 15 minutes. Add kielbasa or polish sausage and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn down heat to medium and add the uncooked shrimp. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until shrimp turns orange, and drain into a serving dish. Serve with butter and old bay seasoning mixed together and/or cocktail sauce. Enjoy and have plenty of napkins ready!

Veronica’s note: you can use frozen “mini” corn on the cob, and add along with the shrimp at the end.

Sweet Salsa Slow Cooker Meatballs

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Independence Day!  It was the best 4th of July of my whole life, and hands-down the best day Joshua’s ever had period. I want to share some photos but will be doing that tomorrow.

Today I have a simple crockpot meal that is great any time of year, because in summer, it doesn’t heat the kitchen, and in winter, it’s just nice to have something hot and ready at the end of a cold day.  I got this recipe from my friend, Holly, who actually had posted it in response to a mutual friend’s request for crockpot recipes on Facebook. I nabbed it and made it soon after because I’d just made my own apricot jam.  These were very satisfying and tasty.  Hope you enjoy, and stay cool!

Sweet Salsa Slow Cooker Meatballs

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1 (26 oz) bag frozen meatballs
3 bell peppers in different colors, sliced (optional)
1 (24 oz) jar salsa
1 (18 oz) jar apricot preserves

Place the meatballs in the bottom of your slow cooker and layer the bell peppers over, if you’re using them.  Whisk the salsa and apricot preserves together in a bowl, and pour over the top.  Cover and cook on low until heated through, 6-8 hours. Holly suggests serving over rice or with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Recipe source: adapted from Holly W.

Italian Goulash

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I love Mom’s Goulash, and mostly refuse to make any other recipe.  But this one reminded me of my early cooking attempts, and I’m glad I decided to try it.  Before I knew how to make goulash, I used a jar of pasta sauce with the macaroni, and cooked some onion and green pepper in with the hamburger and stirred it all together.  It was good, but not really goulash at all.  Maybe it’s the stewed tomatoes, or the consistency (see bottom photo for a truer representation), but this one seems more goulash-y, and also much, much better.  The Italian sausage gives it another depth of flavor along with the homemade sauce.  Really good stuff.  Maybe not better than Mom’s, but still very good.

Italian Goulash

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1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 (20 oz / 1 ¼ lb) package sweet Italian turkey sausage
1 large onion, diced
1 (14.5 oz) can roasted diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can whole stewed tomatoes, cut up or mashed
1 (29 oz) can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
Tomato juice for leftovers (optional)

In a large pot/stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the meat and onions together until cooked through. Add the diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, soy sauce, basil, oregano, and garlic. Stir together and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in the uncooked macaroni, recover, and simmer for another 20 minutes. Let stand for 5-10 minutes and serve.  The noodles will absorb the sauce over time, so if you have leftovers, it’s best to add a little tomato juice to them before reheating.

Veronica’s note: Your finished goulash will not be swimming in sauce like mine is in the picture.  I made it late the night before, and all the pictures looked like this:

So I added tomato juice (Mom’s trick) to some leftovers the next day and photographed them in natural light for a better photo.  So just combine the pretty clear & bright picture with the consistency of the above photo and you’ll get an idea of what your finished goulash will look like. :)

Recipe source: adapted from The Avid Appetite

Preacher Tuna Salad

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Mike and Nancy, our preacher and his wife, invited us and two other couples to dinner after the evening worship service several Sunday’s ago, and we dined on sandwiches, chips, veggies, and fruit – the perfect “after church meal” because everything could be prepped in advance and put out to serve upon arrival.  I was absolutely delighted to discover that the tuna salad had been prepared by Mike himself!  I do know men that cook, but not very many, so this just tickled me to pieces to know that our preacher had made the main part of our supper.

Nancy told us there was only two things he makes, and judging by how much we loved his tuna salad, I’m probably going to be wanting the recipe for his other specialty soon!  He informed me there was a secret ingredient before I bit into it, so I was prepared to encounter it. Apples! Of all things.  I’ve never ever heard of adding apples to tuna salad, but he said it helps cut the fishy taste. I agree, it does cut it!  And I can’t tell you how good it tastes and feels to bite into a crisp chunk of sweet apple in a tuna sandwich.  So good.  Maybe you have to taste it to believe it, and I hope you’ll make this so you can experience it for yourself.

Mike doesn’t really use a recipe, but he gave me the ingredients he uses, and I’ve included my own measurements for those ingredients in this recipe.  Definitely add more or less to suit your own tastes.

Preacher Tuna Salad

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1 can tuna, drained well
1 hard boiled egg, diced
2 slices of apple, diced (use a sweet variety)
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish or finely diced sweet pickle
2 tablespoons diced sweet onion (optional – Mike doesn’t use onion, but we prefer it this way)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients in a bowl & serve on bread or croissants for that extra-special preacher touch. Makes 2 sandwiches.

Recipe source: Mike O’Neal

Italian Grilled Cheese

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I love quick, easy meals like sandwiches in the summer.  Usually cold, but this is one grilled cheese I really enjoy when the temps start to rise.  I think because it reminds me of bruschetta, which reminds me of summer.  Probably because that’s when fresh basil abounds!  This is a very nice change from the traditional grilled cheese, and I love the flavor of the basil and melty mozarella and tomato all together…almost like a Margherita pizza but in the form of a quick sandwich. Can’t beat that.  Bring on the melty bruschetta/pizza sammich.

Italian Grilled Cheese

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8 fresh basil leaves
8 thin tomato slices
4 slices provolone or mozzarella cheese
4 slices Italian bread ( 1/4″ thick)
2 tablespoons prepared Italian salad dressing

Layer the basil leaves, tomato slices and provolone cheese on two slices of bread. Top with remaining bread. Brush outsides of sandwiches with salad dressing. Grill, uncovered, over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cheese is melted. Makes 2 sandwiches.

Blackened Chicken with Roasted Garlic Alfredo

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Dennis is a huge fan of blackened meat.  And by blackened, I don’t meant burnt (that would be me that likes burnt meat), I mean meat that’s been rubbed with spicy blackening seasoning.  So when I ran across this recipe, I knew it would be perfect for Father’s Day.  It was perfectly suited for him, is impressive, but simple to prepare, which is pretty much a requirement for all the recipes I make these days.  It was incredibly delicious, and I would make it again, and again, and again.

Blackened Chicken with Roasted Garlic Alfredo

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2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
1 tablespoon blackening seasoning
1 (10 oz) container Buitoni Light Alfredo sauce
1 tablespoon roasted garlic
8 oz bowtie pasta, cooked to al dente & drained

Drizzle olive oil over chicken breasts to lightly coat. Sprinkle blackening seasoning liberally over both sides of the chicken. Heat skillet on medium-high and cook chicken 3 minutes on each side. While chicken is cooking, heat Alfredo sauce and roasted garlic. Add pasta and toss; divide between two dishes. Slice chicken and place on top of pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Veronica’s notes: In a pinch, you can sprinkle in some garlic powder to taste instead of the roasted garlic.  Also, Bertolli’s jarred light alfredo works great for this recipe if you can’t find the fresh stuff.

Recipe source: Plain Chicken

Here’s the card I made for Dennis this year.  It may be my favorite card I’ve ever made. :) He loved it!

Last-Minute Lasagna


This isn’t the greatest lasagna of all time, but it’s really good (quality does depend on the products you use), and it’s really FAST!  And that makes it a winner in my book. I served this to company (Nana Donna, AKA Momma Donna), and she said she had no idea it wasn’t real lasagna and she really enjoyed it a lot! So if you ever need a meal in a hurry, this one’s a great one to try.

Last-Minute Lasagna

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1 (24-26 oz) jar pasta sauce
2 (16 oz) containers frozen large, cheese or beef ravioli
1 (10 oz) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed dry
8 oz mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup (2 oz) grated Parmesan
Fresh basil or parsley for garnish, if desired

Heat oven to 350° F.  Coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray, spread 1/3 of sauce to cover the bottom of dish. Cover with half of the ravioli, half of the cheeses, all of spinach, 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat with another layer of ravioli (not all the ravioli may be needed), spread with remaining sauce and top with remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes more. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe source: Real Simple, as seen on Nutmeg Notebook

Other Italian favorites…

Lasagna & Garlic Bread – really good stuff! Possibly my favorite lasagna recipe.

shrimp-scallop-scampi-4-6-10Shrimp & Scallop Scampi with Linguini – a restaurant-worthy meal.

Really Great Spaghetti & Meatballs – this is the easiest way to make spaghetti and meatballs, and it’s just fantastic!

Butternut Squash Lasagna

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My friend, Lynn, shared this recipe with me in the early fall when my grass was still green, and as you can see from the green in my photos, I made it immediately.  I’m so glad I’m finally getting around to sharing it before winter squash and hot comfort meals are forgotten in favor of salads and meals that can be cooked without turning the oven on.  This is definitely one to try before winter gives way to spring.

Lynn said she makes it every fall, and sometimes adds Italian sausage and caramelized onions to hers. Well, those additions didn’t sound optional to me and I’m so glad I found the time to add them.  This is a rather involved recipe but definitely worth the time. Utter deliciousness! Slightly sweet & creamy squash, gooey cheese, with layers of flavor from the onions and sausage…a big winner with our whole family.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

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3-5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (1 1/2- to 2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
1 lb. Italian sausage
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
Pinch of nutmeg
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium heat. Add the cubed squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet, cover, and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the squash to a mixing bowl or food processor and mash. Season the squash purée to taste with more salt and pepper; set aside.

Heat 3-4 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onions slowly turn brown and caramelized, adding additional oil if necessary, about 30-40 minutes. Stir into the squash.

Cook the Italian sausage in a skillet over medium heat, breaking it up and crumbling it with a spatula until cooked through. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly butter a 13×9 glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Cover the bottom of pan with one layer of lasagna noodles. Spread half of the squash purée over the noodle, then half of the sausage. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the cheese. Repeat layering once more, finishing with a layer of noodles covered only by white sauce.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove cover, sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna and continue baking until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, about 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

Recipe source: Mother Earth News with adaptation by Lynn S.

More squashy favorites…

Sausage & Spaghetti Squash Breakfast Pie – yes, you can have your breakfast casserole without all the carbs! A creation of my own that I’m pretty proud of. Seriously yum.

Garlic Chicken & Bacon Spaghetti Squash Alfredo – I don’t like pasta alfredo, but this…is heaven.

Slow Cooker Moroccan Turkey Stew…seriously one of my top favorite things I’ve eaten in the history of ever.

Classic Spaghetti Carbonara

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This month for the Secret Recipe Club I was assigned to Kate is Cooking and while the girl doesn’t like sweets, but does  enjoy alcohol (opposite of me on both accounts), I had so much fun perusing her delicious recipes. A lot of them spelled comfort, and I’m all about comfort food, especially this time of year as the weather turns cooler.

I like that Kate creates a lot of her recipes by taking what she likes from several different ones and combining them, as I’ve done that quite a bit myself. And I hope she is honored I did the same with the recipe I chose from her blog: spaghetti carbonara.Classic Spaghetti Carbonara | veronicascornucopia.com

Have you heard of it? It’s basically the Italian way of having breakfast for dinner – mixing eggs and bacon (guanciale if you want to be really traditional) into your pasta. It’s so creamy & yummy! However, the authentic way to make it is with a raw egg yolk sitting on top that you mix in as you eat to create a silky sauce.  Now, I love a runny yolk in an over-easy or poached egg, but I really had to push myself outside my comfort zone to follow through and try it with the raw yolk on top. I’m not scared of salmonella, as I’ve eaten my weight in raw cookie dough, French Silk Pie, and tiramisu without a problem, but just the idea of eating a straight raw yolk. Heebie jeebies!

Turns out, I prefer it with the whole egg mixed into the pasta, and as you can see by the golden hue of my pasta, I did go ahead and do it the way I was comfortable with, then just added a yolk on top to go ahead and try it. It does add a rich silkiness to the dish, and I say go for it if you’ve never tried it and aren’t afraid to.  But I like it just as well with it all mixed in – you choose which way you’d like.  Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Kate, and expanding my foodie adventure horizons!

Classic Spaghetti Carbonara

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3 tablespoons Kosher salt or 1 tablespoon table salt
1 lb dried spaghetti
1/2 lb bacon or guanciale
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
4 large eggs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Bring 5 quarts of water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Cook the pasta about a minute less than the package directions, to al dente. You’ll want to reserve a cup of the cooking water before draining, but I will remind you of that later when the time comes. :)

While the pasta is cooking, cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide, or dice the guanciale into small pieces. Cook in a large skillet over medium high heat, along with the garlic cloves, just until the bacon begins to crisp. Don’t make it too crispy or it won’t meld with the pasta. When it’s done, remove the garlic (makes a great pre-dinner snack – just delicious!), and drain off all but 2-3 tablespoons of the bacon grease.

While the bacon is cooking, break the eggs into a large bowl or pasta serving dish. If you prefer to serve with egg yolks on top, separate the eggs and set the unbroken yolks aside with the whites alone in the bowl. Beat the eggs or egg whites with a fork until frothy. Add some freshly ground pepper and the cheese.

Now, to put this together. Drain the finished pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking water. Stir a small amount of water into the eggs to temper them and prevent them from scrambling when you add the hot pasta. Add more water until you’ve reached about 1/4 cup, then quickly stir in the pasta with a pasta spoon. Add the bacon and grease to the pasta and stir well. The egg, bacon grease, Parmesan, and pasta water become your sauce! If it is too thick, add additional pasta water until it is your desired consistency.

Mound the pasta in pasta bowls or onto plates. Top each serving with a sprinkle of parsley and an egg yolk if you reserved them to serve this way. Enjoy!

Recipe source: adapted from Kate’s Kitchen & Ruth Reichl’s recipe in Garlic & Saphires.

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