Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Spinach-Artichoke Grilled Cheese

Crisp, buttery grilled bread stuffed with creamy melted cheese and a 
hot and bubbly spinach artichoke spread. It's like everybody's 
favorite party dip in a sandwich. 

My weekday lunches usually consist of a big salad, a bowl of homemade soup or a healthy, homemade wrap. On the weekends I'll splurge a bit, especially on lazy days with nowhere to be but home. 

I love a good grilled cheese sandwich, but wanted something more decadent, something cheesier and messier. My spinach-artichoke dip is so freaking delicious, and has inspired other recipes like these stuffed shells, so why not turn it into a sandwich? 

Thick sliced bread is a must for this. The outer layer gets buttery and crisp when grilled, while some of the bread stays fluffy and soft, soaking up all of that cheesy goodness. 

In addition to the creamy dip, I layered on sliced Fontina cheese, a cheese with a mild nutty flavor that melts fabulously. 

If you love spinach-artichoke dip, and you love grilled cheese, I promise you will love this sandwich.

print recipe
Spinach-Artichoke Grilled Cheese
Crisp, buttery grilled bread stuffed with creamy melted cheese and a
hot and bubbly spinach artichoke spread.
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 small clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 c Spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 14oz can Artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp Cream cheese, softened
  • Pinch each Salt and pepper
  • 4 Thick slices Crusty Italian bread
  • 2 TBSP Butter
  • 4 slices Fontina cheese
Heat olive oil in a small saute pan. Add the garlic and spinach, season with salt and pepper and saute until the spinach has wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add the artichokes and cream cheese. Stir until completely mixed.Spread one side of each slice of bread generously with butter. Heat a large griddle/grill pan. Add 2 slices of the bread, butter side down. Top each slice of bread with half of the spinach-artichoke mixture followed by 2 slices of Fontina cheese, and then put the other slice of bread on top, butter side up. Grill until browned, about 3 minutes, and then flip and cook until browned. Slice and serve.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 Sandwiches

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Fried rice no rice! And no, you won't miss the rice.

Ricing cauliflower for fried rice is something that has been on my list to try for a while now, but I just haven't put it on the menu or taken the time to come up with a recipe. Last week I was doing some work around the house with The Chew on in the background when I heard Clinton Kelly start to talk about making fried rice with riced cauliflower. I had to stop to see if it would be a recipe I'd want to try and it was - simple flavors and not overwhelmed with other veggies, just carrots and baby bok choy.

A half of a head of cauliflower made so much fried rice - probably 5 servings. The cauliflower was a nice substitute for rice - not the same by any means, but it really held up and took on the flavors of everything I added. What a great, healthy alternative to traditional fried rice!

Cauliflower Fried Rice
Slightly adapted from: Clinton Kelly


  • 1/2 head of cauliflower cut into small florets
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 bunch green onions, minced
  • 1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 heads of baby bok choy, thinly sliced 
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced on a bias
  • 1/2 c edamame 
  • 1/4 c low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • Optional: chopped mint leaves and chopped roasted peanuts
  • Place the cauliflower florets in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped; set aside.
  • Heat the sesame in a large skillet over high heat. 
  • Add 3/4 of the green onions and all of the garlic and ginger; stir until fragrant. 
  • Add the carrots and bok choy; cook for 2 minutes. 
  • Add the cauliflower, edamame and soy sauce. Stir until everything is combined. 
  • Serve topped with the cilantro, lime wedges, chili garlic sauce and the rest of the green onions. 

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Shredded Flank Steak for Tacos (Slow Cooker)

The main thing I use my crock pot for is making shredded meat - pulled pork, shredded chicken, and shredded beef. And most of those things get used for tacos because tacos are awesome! I may have a slight taco obsession...

But in all seriousness, taco night is a great night in our house. The only thing we all need to agree on is the meat. After that, everyone can choose their own tortilla - I prefer corn, Jon prefers flour and the little one prefers crunchy. Same goes for the toppings - we all dress our tacos differently. My favorite toppings are pickled red onions, cilantro, queso fresco and some fresh lime juice - how about you?

On this taco night I chose to go with beef and picked up a nice flank steak. The preparation is easy - just rub it up with a nice spice mixture and put it in the slow cooker with a few more ingredients. Let it cook for several hours, shred with a fork and serve. 

When I make shredded meat I always make enough for at least 2 nights. One night we'll have tacos, and then we can have tostadas, nachos, sandwiches, or something completely different all together, like a pasta or rice bowl. 

I can check off so many boxes with this recipe - prep ahead, easy, weeknight meal, makes great leftovers, and makes everyone happy! 

Shredded Flank Steak for Tacos
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

  • One 2-lb flank steak
  • Spice mixture - 1 Tbsp each chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder; 1 tsp each oregano (or Mexican oregano), salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper. 
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes with juices
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • 8 oz low sodium beef broth or cooking stock
  • Mix all of the spices and rub all over the beef
  • Put the beef in your slow cooker and add the tomatoes with juices, jalapeno, white onion, cilantro, lime juice and broth.
  • Cook on high for 4 hours and turn to low for 4 more. 1 hour before serving, shred the beef with 2 forks. Keep on warm until ready to serve. 

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Creamy Tomato-Garlic Pasta with Chicken and Bacon

Sometimes when I'm creating a new recipe I sit with a pen and paper and really think about what I'm going to do. I write it out a few times, add, delete, change, and then test it. I'll tweak a bit and then write a final recipe.

Other days I'll grab a few things I have in the fridge not knowing exactly what I'm going to do, and just wing it. After doing this for years and never remembering exactly how I created a recipe, I now keep a pad of paper and pencil on a nearby counter and write as I go!

I used the wing-it method to create this recipe. I was craving creamy pasta, had already defrosted chicken, and spotted some bacon that need to be used up. As I was mincing garlic, I saw 2 tomatoes and a jalapeno and decided to throw them in. I love when these recipes turn out so great!

I have such a weakness for creamy pasta dishes, but I try not to make them too often. So when I do, I might as well go all out, right? Bacon AND creamy, cheesy pasta? Yes, please.

The combination of creamy bacon with crisp, smoky bacon in this dish was so perfect. Make sure you follow the instructions to cook the chicken in some of the bacon grease to really take that bacon flavor through the dish. The jalapenos added just the tiniest bit of heat while the tomatoes were bright and a touch sweet. If you don't want the heat, you could easily keep the color by using peas or chopped spinach instead of jalapenos.

So when you need to satisfy a creamy pasta bacon craving, put this on your menu! It won't disappoint.

Creamy Tomato-Garlic Pasta with Chicken and Bacon
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 2 chicken breasts cut into cubes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno (optional); seeded and minced
  • 1/2 c light cream
  • 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb small/medium shape cooked pasta
  • Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned and crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Once cooled, crumble. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon grease from the pan. 
  • Season the cubed chicken with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Add chicken to the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a dish and keep warm. 
  • Add olive oil to the pan and heat. Add the garlic, tomatoes and jalapenos; saute 3 minutes. Very lightly smash some of the tomatoes with the back of your spoon/spatula. 
  • Lower the heat and add the cream. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low to maintain a simmer. 
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese. Once combined and creamy, return the pan to the heat over low and add in the chicken, and half of the bacon. Add the pasta slowly, stirring (you don't want to add more pasta than the sauce can handle). 
  • Adjust salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve topped with the rest of the bacon. 

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Healthy Apple-Walnut-Raisin Muffins

Back to school time means needing to have a lot of grab-and-go snacks around in addition to needing a lot of snacks for the lunch box.

My little one started first grade last week and since her lunch is so early, she is coming home so hungry! I'm sure some of that has to do with the fact that she's too excited and distracted at lunch to eat. I see how long it takes her to eat dinner most nights - I can only imagine the level of craziness, noise and distraction in a cafeteria with 100 other 6 year olds.

I try to pack lunches and snacks that are healthy and filling, low in sugar, and easy to eat. Muffins make the perfect snack for all of those reasons.

These muffins were inspired by carrot muffins that I made several months ago. They start with whole wheat flour and don't use any sugar - pure maple syrup provides some sweetness. Since apple season is starting, I was inspired to create a fall muffin with grated apples. Walnuts and raisins provide some other textures and flavors.

These are very simple, straight forward muffins to make (this is coming from someone who doesn't enjoy baking all that much so you know they have to be easy!). I was able to make 12 full sized-muffins and 8 mini-muffins with the ingredients below.

I had one of these this morning at work and it held me over for a long time. I think I will be making these several times this fall - the perfect mid morning snack, lunch snack, or afternoon pick me up!

Healthy Apple-Walnut-Raisin Muffins
Adapted from: Healthy Carrot Muffins with Raisins

  • 1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 cups peeled and grated apples (note - don't grate your apples until you are ready to add them to the mixture as they will turn brown)
  • 1/2 c roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c raisins tossed in 1 tsp whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c pure maple syrup
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 c vanilla fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line muffin tins with papers 
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Add the grated apples, chopped walnuts and floured raisins and stir to combine.
  • In a medium bowl combine the oil and maple syrup, beating together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well, and then add the yogurt and vanilla and mix well. 
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a big spoon until just combined (a few lumps are ok). 
  • Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups and sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a pinch each of sugar. 
  • Bake for 13 minutes, or until the muffins are golden on top and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  • Place the muffin tins on a cooling rack to cool. Once completely cooled, store covered for 2 days or in the fridge for up to 4 days. 

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cheesy BLT Stuffed Jalapenos

Cheesy and creamy with bacon. Need I say more? You will want to make these ASAP!

With so many jalapenos from my dad's garden I knew I'd have to make a fun appetizer. It was a holiday weekend, after all, and holiday weekends are made for good eats. Who cares that we already indulged at a Polish festival on Saturday and a German festival on Sunday... it was still a holiday so the rules go out the window!

These are jalapeno poppers with a twist, inspired by my love of creamy, cheesy dips, bacon, and summer tomatoes.

To prepare them, wash your jalapenos, halve them -

And then using a small paring knife, carefully cut away the ribs and seeds.

Mix up your ingredients for the filling and spoon into the jalapenos.

Bake for about 10 minutes, top with more cheese and then turn on the broiler for a minute.

Top with more bacon, green onions and tomatoes for serving.

These exceeded all expectations that we had for them. We devoured them, even though the peppers were so, so spicy. After sending pics to my dad and cousin, I already have requests to make them again. I can't wait :)

Cheesy BLT Stuffed Jalapenos
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 8 jalapenos, washed, halved, seeds removed
  • 4 slices raw bacon, diced
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp shredded cheddar cheese plus more for topping
  • Pinch of salt, pepper and garlic powder
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Cook your diced bacon in a skillet until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Reserve the bacon grease.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, cheddar, and 1 TBSP of the bacon grease. 
  • Stir in most of the green onions, tomatoes and bacon - reserving some for topping
  • Generously spoon the mixture into the jalapenos 
  • Bake for 10 minutes; top with the remaining cheese and turn on the broiler for one minute. 
  • Transfer to a serving plate and top with the remaining green onions, tomatoes and bacon. Serve immediately. 

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Sweet Garlic-Lime Shrimp with Spicy Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

As we start a new school year (my baby girl is going to first grade!!), I'm all about planning quick and easy meals that are delicious and healthy. If I can do some prep ahead, even better. And if it gives me leftovers for lunch the next day, it is perfect in my opinion!

This meal has so many things going for it - it is healthy, quick, full of flavor, some of it can be prepped ahead of time, and the quinoa makes great leftovers both hot or cold. You could also eat the shrimp on its own with some grilled veggies, or you could eat the quinoa on its own or with some other protein, like grilled chicken. Oh, and did I mention it is delicious?

Shrimp is something you can grill or pan fry in less than 10 minutes so I always have a bag of frozen shrimp in my freezer for quick meals. I'll watch for when the store has the 2lb bags of 21-25 or 26-30 count shrimp on sale for $9.99 - you really can't beat that deal.

For this dish I wanted the shrimp to be sweet, sticky and bright. Using sweet hoisin sauce and zesty lime along with a bunch of garlic gave me exactly that.

To balance out the sweetness of the shrimp, I made a spicy quinoa with jalapenos, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro and lime, and to keep it easy I did all of my chopping ahead of time. We were so happy with the flavors in this, and the shrimp and quinoa worked so well together.

As far as timing goes, start your quinoa right away. Once it gets simmering for several minutes you can start your shrimp and everything will finish at the same time.


Sweet Garlic-Lime Shrimp
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled
  • 1 tsp hoisin sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional; omit if you don't want any heat)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Mix the hoisin, lime juice, red pepper flakes and garlic. Pour over the shrimp and marinate 30 minutes to 2 hours. 
  • Heat the oil in a stainless saute pan. Remove the shrimp from the marinade and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Saute the shrimp approximately 6 minutes until cooked through. 
  • Serve immediately.

Spicy Cilantro-Lime Quinoa
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 each of a red and green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of a white or sweet yellow onion, minced
  • 4 sm tomatoes, diced (1c)
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno, minced (more for more heat)
  • 1 c quinoa, rinsed
  • 2.5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan
  • Add the peppers, garlic, onion, tomatoes and jalapeno; saute 2-3 minutes
  • Add the quinoa and stir until everything is combined
  • Add the broth and simmer, covered, approximately 10 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and simmer another 3-5 minutes until the quinoa is cooked (mostly tender with some bite) and most of the liquid has absorbed.
  • Stir in the cilantro and lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Grilled Corn Salad with a Chili-Lime Vinaigrette

Sweet summer corn - isn't it the best?

My favorite way to prepare it is grilled - charred, to be exact - and that is what inspired this salad.

Charred corn is packed with smoky flavors, so pairing it with something bright and zesty with a touch of heat works perfectly. I used cilantro and lime for the bright and zesty flavors, grilled red onion for some sweetness, crunchy red pepper for texture, spicy jalapenos for heat, and a dressing featuring chili and lime to pull it all together.

This Grilled Corn Salad can be eaten as a salad or you can really get creative with it. Picture it on fajitas or tacos - the perfect topping! Put it on top of grilled chicken or fish. Or just grab some chips and scoop it up like salsa!

I will definitely be making this one a few more times before the summer corn runs out.

Check out two of my other favorite summer corn recipes here -
     Grilled Corn with a Chipotle Lime Butter
     Mexican Grilled Corn Salad with with Citrus Aioli.

Grilled Corn Salad with a Chili-Lime Vinaigrette
Original Recipe by Mary Ellen of Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations


  • 6 ears corn, cleaned (remove husks and all silk) and washed
  • 1 red onion, sliced into rings (don't separate within the rings)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • Handful of cilantro, washed and chopped
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper
Dressing Ingredients
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  • Zest from 1/2 of a lime
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Mix all of the dressing ingredients together and chill until ready to serve.
  • Heat grill to medium high
  • Brush/spray the corn and red onion with olive oil; season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill until charred in spots (to your liking), about 15 minutes. 
  • Stand the corn on end. Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels into a bowl. 
  • Chop the grilled red onion
  • Add in the red pepper, jalapeno and cilantro
  • Toss with the dressing and serve. 

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