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Pasta with Ham and Mushrooms in a Creamy Spinach Ricotta Sauce

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If you celebrate Easter, it’s likely that come Sunday, you may find yourself with an excess of boiled eggs, some ham, and maybe even some candy. With that in mind, I’ve gathered up a few tasty ideas on how to make delicious use of those leftovers, including a brand new, super-simple recipe for pasta with ham and mushrooms in a creamy, cheesy spinach ricotta sauce.

What to do with Leftover Boiled Eggs…

Creole Deviled Eggs

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Deviled Egg Salad

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Pasta with Bacon, Eggs, and Spinach

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What to do with Leftover Candy…

Cadbury Creme Crepes

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What to do with Leftover Ham…

Ham and Corn Chowder

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Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad with Creamy BBQ Dressing (use sliced ham in place of prosciutto)

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Grilled Brie, Prosciutto and Apricot Sandwiches (use ham in place of prosciutto)

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini

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Pasta with Ham and Mushrooms in a Creamy Spinach Ricotta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if necessary
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 2 cups baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 6-ounce bag baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 cups leftover ham, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound pasta, cooked al dente
  • Additional parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper, for garnish

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms. Cook for 7-10 minutes until tender and lightly caramelized. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Add a touch more olive oil to the pan, if necessary, then add the onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes until tender and golden. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the ricotta cheese, milk, and parmesan cheese. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until hot and well blended. Add the mushrooms, ham and spinach. Gently simmer for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as desired. Pour the sauce over cooked pasta and toss to combine. Garnish with crushed red pepper and additional parmesan cheese, if desired.

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Cherry Cordial Brownie Bites

My Lucas is charismatic, enigmatic, and profusely loving. There’s just something insanely captivating about him. He’s a heart-melter for sure, with his big blue eyes, sweet dimples, and long, dark lashes. And he’s mine. More than anyone or anything in the whole world (except perhaps Ninjago legos), he loves me. Not sure how I got so lucky!

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Just look at that face!

The kid says, “I love you sooooo much,” so many times each day that I’d begun to suspect it was just a filler statement; simply something to say when there was nothing else to be said. He even says it in his sleep, when I sneak in at night to kiss his little head before I tuck myself into bed. “Mommy, I love you so much.”

But I’ve come to realize that his words are so much more than sounds to fill the silence. He recently turned to my husband and began to say, “Daddy, I love…” I’d expected the statement to end with his predictable “…you soooo much.” But it didn’t. It was quite beautifully, “Daddy, I love Mommy soooo much.” He’s my precious little lovebug.

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On a recent trip to the grocery store, as we walked hand in hand through the parking lot, he squeezed my hand and expressed his sweet statement of love. I returned the sentiment, then we continued into the store. An older woman, who’d been coming from her car, caught the exchange as we passed. I saw her pause and hold her heart for a moment. We ran into that woman as we made our way through the store and she stopped to comment on my sweet boys. I thanked her and she parted with a friendly, “God bless.” As we began to walk away, she shouted back, “What am I saying? Clearly, He already has.”

He certainly has. I have been so generously blessed in love; a family who cherishes and supports me, a husband I can laugh with, children whose love is more contagious than the flu, and the most beautiful friends, who persistently raise me up. This Valentine’s Day, I will celebrate every bit of that priceless, precious love.

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Sweet treats are the perfect way to celebrate the sweetest people in your life, like these absolutely decadent, truffle-like cherry cordial brownie bites. They start with my World’s Simplest Fudgey Brownies, which are then blended with a bit of cream cheese, until rich and smooth. The luscious brownie mixture is then rolled into small balls with a Grand Marnier (or orange juice, for the kiddies) soaked cherry in the center, before being dipped in smooth, melted chocolate. A drizzle of melted pink candy and sprinkles provide the perfect final touches.

Today’s Focus on Technique – Using a Double Boiler

The process of cooking with a double boiler (also called a bain marie) is an ideal technique to use when preparing delicate sauces, such as hollandaise, or when melting chocolates. In a double boiler set-up, the food is placed in a bowl which is suspended above simmering water. The water provides a gentle, consistent, indirect heat which prevents finicky foods from breaking (separating) or burning. It works in a similar manner as using water bath to prepare custards and other delicate egg-based dishes. No special equipment or dedicated ‘double boiler’ is required to utilize a double boiler technique. Simply fill a saucepan with an inch or two of water. Place a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl on top of the pot, so that the bottom of the bowl dips into the pot, but does not touch the water. Place the food you’re preparing in the bowl, bring the water to a simmer, and you’re set to go!

For more useful tips, techniques, and culinary photo guides click HERE.

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Cherry Cordial Brownie Bites

Ingredients

For the brownies:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the brownie bites:

  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or orange juice (approximately)*
  • 3 dozen dried cherries
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
  • Pink or red candy melts and sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

*Be aware that no alcohol will be cooked off in the preparation of these candies, so it would be wise to use the orange juice for children, pregnant women, or anyone who is avoiding alcohol intake.

Directions

To prepare the brownies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the chocolate chips and butter until smooth, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat. Stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved. Stir in the flour. Add the eggs and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes.

To prepare the brownie bites:

Soak the dried cherries in approximately 1/4 cup of Grand Marnier or orange juice for at least an hour.

Once the brownies are cool, crumble into small pieces, then place in a food processor. Add the cream cheese and pulse until well-blended and smooth. (A food processor would work best for this task, but it can also be done by hand. If combining by hand, cut off the crispy brownie edges before blending, for a smoother result. If using the food processor, it’s not necessary to cut off the brownies edges.) Roll the mixture into small balls (less than 1″ diameter), inserting a soaked cherry in the center as you roll. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, stirring frequently, until smooth. Use a fork to lower each brownie ball into the melted chocolate. Shake off the excess chocolate, then place on a baking sheet, which has been lined with parchment paper or wax paper. Refrigerate until the chocolate has set. If desired, drizzle the brownie bites with melted pink or red candy melts and decorate with sprinkles.**

**Click HERE to see an easy pastry bag technique, which can be used for drizzling the brownie bites.

Makes 2.5 – 3 dozen candies

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Rice Krispie Treat ‘Sushi’

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I’m just about ready to put this chat about ninja parties to bed. (I’ve got a recipe for some really delicious and very un-ninjalike Moroccan lamb meatballs in a minted apricot glaze coming up soon.) But before we bid farewell to ninjas, I wanted to share a quick photo guide for making the rice krispie treat ‘sushi’ which we served as part of our dessert spread. It’s super easy and insanely cute. The hardest part was peeling those darn fruit roll-ups off the wrapper.

You can find lots of variations of this sort of thing all over the web. Here’s how I did it…

You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 6 cups rice krispies cereal
  • A baking sheet
  • Wax paper
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • A few long, soft candies (like twizzlers, gummi worms, or sour straws)
  • Fruit roll-ups (green would be most realistic looking, but might be difficult to find)
  • Swedish fish candies

Step 1: Melt the butter in a large pan over low heat. Add the marshmallows. Stir until melted. Remove from heat, then stir in the rice krispies.

Step 2: Arrange a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet. Spray the wax paper with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the rice krispie treat mixture to the baking sheet. Spray your hands with the cooking spray, then press the rice krispies into a thin (less than 1/2″) even layer.

Step 3: Arrange a few fruit roll-ups (the ‘nori’) on top of the rice krispie treats.

Step 4: Place a couple of the long candies on top of the fruit roll-ups. I used sour straws. Multi-colored Twizzlers or gummi worms would also work well.

Step 5: Lift up the edge of the wax paper and begin to roll the rice krispie treats around the fruit roll-ups and candy. Use the wax paper to help squeeze and tighten the roll.

Step 6: Once you’ve achieved a small ‘California Roll’ size, use a knife to cut the roll from the remaining rice krispie treats. Slice into pieces. Roll in colored sugar ‘roe’, if desired.

Repeat to make additional ‘California rolls’. Alternately, you can roll the candy within the rice krispie treats, but reserve the fruit roll-ups to wrap around the outside of the roll prior to slicing in pieces.

To make ‘nigiri sushi’: Using your hands, mold portions of the rice krispie treats into small oblong clumps. Place a swedish fish on top. Use thin strips of fruit roll-ups to wrap around the rice and fish.

Serve with a bowl of chocolate syrup ‘soy sauce’.

Cadbury Creme Crepes

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Easter candy has taken over the store shelves and my brain. I find myself popping a near constant stream of jelly beans into my mouth, in between chomping on chocolate rabbit ears and peanut butter eggs. My Peeps chicks have been purchased and are currently sitting unwrapped in my pantry, as I await their perfectly stale state. Chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies are dancing through my dreams.

In the midst of this Easter candy madness, my sister requested that I create a recipe for a Cadbury omelette…as in an omelette made using Cadbury Creme Eggs as a substitute for regular eggs. Eager to please my sister, I agreed to this wild request. I spent a few weeks tossing around this Cadbury omelette idea, contemplating whether I could somehow extract the gooey filling from the Cadbury eggs and whip it into a sort of custard which could be folded around the remaining bits of chocolate.

And then I had a better idea. Taking inspiration from the stuffed omelette idea, I decided to make rich chocolate crepes, filled with melty bits of Cadbury Creme Eggs, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and topped with a gooey Cadbury Egg. Yes, that should definitely fit the bill!

Crepes are surprisingly simple to make. You do not need a special “crepe pan” to make crepes. Any flat-bottomed, preferably non-stick, pan should do the job. The trick is to make sure the batter is appropriately loose enough to easily coat the bottom of the pan. Crepes cook quickly, so removing the pan from the heat while pouring the batter will ensure that you can swirl the batter to every edge before it cooks. A rubber spatula and your fingers make the best tools for flipping the crepe. A few seconds later, you’ll have a perfectly cooked crepe!

These sweet and chocolatey crepes are oozing with gooey Cadbury goodness. I can’t think of any better way to enjoy the Easter candy season!

Cadbury Creme Crepes

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 Cadbury Creme Eggs, chopped (plus extra halved eggs for garnish)
  • Powdered sugar, for garnish

Directions

Lightly beat the eggs with the salt, milk, and oil. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, and sugar. Combine the egg mixture with the dry ingredients, until well blended. Add additional milk, if necessary. The batter should move very easily, but not be overly liquidy. Spray a flat-bottomed, non-stick skillet with cooking spray, then heat the skillet over medium heat. Hold the pan off the heat and use a measuring cup to pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the pan. Quickly, turn the pan to spread the batter across the entire bottom. Place the pan over the heat and cook for less than a minute. Use the edge of a rubber spatula to loosen one of the edges. Then, use your fingers to carefully lift and flip the crepe. Cook for a few seconds more on the other side.

Scatter chopped pieces of Cadbury Creme Eggs onto a quarter of each hot crepe. Fold the crepe into quarters over the chocolate. Sprinkle the finished crepes with powdered sugar and garnish with half of a Cadbury Creme Egg.

Make 8 crepes (4 servings)


Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars

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For my grandfather’s 80th birthday, my sisters and I combined our talents in the kitchen to gift him with a membership to our very own Sweet Treats of the Month club. Each month during his 80th year of life, we presented him with various platters and tins of homemade cookies, candies, bars, muffins, and cakes. As my grandmother anxiously watched his waistline and blood pressure, my grandfather eagerly waited by the mailbox for his monthly deliveries. It worked out to be the perfect gift for a man who has just about everything he desires in life.

Turns out that my grandfather wasn’t the only one who thought a membership in the Sweet Treats of the Month club was a grand gift. As the holidays approached, my father made a not-so-subtle Christmas wish to be enrolled in that homemade goodies club. You can imagine his delight when Christmas brought him his first installment of goodies along with the notification of his enrollment in this very exclusive club.

This weekend, we’ll be traveling to see my parents and other family who we’ve yet to celebrate the holidays with. We’ll also be hand delivering my dad’s January installment of treats. The beautiful thing about this exclusive club is that it’s 100% customizable to the member’s tastes. This means that my dad’s year of treats will be heavily focused on dark chocolates, gingery goodies, oatmeal creations, and maybe even a few chocolate-drizzled macaroons.

So, I set out in search of the perfect recipe for the January installment of goodies. Then, as if in answer to my mission, a fellow food blogger, at Liv Life, recently posted a list of her top ten recipes for the year. Included in the list was a recipe for Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake Bars. They looked absolutely luscious and right up my dad’s alley. Her post led me to the original Food Network recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars. After a few little modifications, aimed at running the minty flavor throughout the bars, and a substitution of peppermint patties for candy canes, I came up with these; Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars. Pretty sure my dad will be pleased!


Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from Food Network’s Chocolate Cheesecake Candy Cane Bars

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 15 Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (mint-flavored, if available), crushed
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, melted

For the Filling

  • 1 bar (8 ounces) Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 2/3 cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 8 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon Peppermint Extract

For the Glaze

  • 4 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Light Corn Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 4-5 Peppermint Patty candies, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 baking dish with foil. Combine crushed cookies with melted butter. Press the cookie mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and beat for another minute or two. Melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave or in a bowl set over a pot of boiling water, stirring frequently. Add the melted chocolate and the peppermint extract to the cream cheese mixture and mix until combined. Pour the filling over the prepared crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly puffed around the edges. The center will appear slightly loose. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.

To make the glaze, place bittersweet chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for about 30 seconds at a time, stirring periodically, until completely melted. Stir in the sour cream. Spread the glaze over the cheesecake. Sprinkle with pieces of the peppermint patty candies.  Refrigerate overnight to thoroughly chill. Use the foil to lift the cheesecake from the baking dish and cut into small squares or bars.

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