Category Archives: Bella Features

Weeknight Meals Made Easy

What’s for dinner? It’s a question most of us ask every day. With evening routines packed full of extracurricular activities, chores and preparation for the following day, we don’t always have as much time as we’d like to make dinner. Fortunately, a quick, delicious and healthy meal can still be an option for your family, even when you’re short on time. All it takes is a little planning, some common ingredients and one trip to the grocery store. Here are five dinners to take you through an entire work week:

Monday

Start the week by putting your slow cooker to work for you. Slice off the tops of four to six bell peppers, but don’t throw them out. Remove the seeds and stuff each pepper with a combination of lean ground turkey or chicken sausage, grated cauliflower, carrots, onion and garlic, plus fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Put the pepper tops back on, arrange the peppers securely in a slow cooker, pour a large can of low-sodium chopped tomatoes over them and cook on low for eight hours. Dinner will be ready when you walk in the door.

Tuesday

Soup can be a quick way to have dinner on the table in minutes – and it allows you to use up vegetables that may be near the end of their shelf life. Try a Broccoli Cheese Soup (recipe follows), a classic favorite that the whole family will enjoy. There’s minimal pre-cooking required – simply steam the broccoli, measure the remaining ingredients, put them in your blender. Blend until smooth, pour into bowls and garnish with extra steamed broccoli florets and bit of grated cheese. For a heartier meal, chop and add grilled chicken chunks. Serve with crusty bread and a salad for a complete dinner.

Wednesday

Whole-wheat pasta with basil walnut pesto is a crowd pleaser. Take fresh basil, Parmesan cheese and walnuts and puree with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice in your blender for a quick and easy sauce. If there are stuffed pepper leftovers, chop and heat for a tasty pasta topping. Make a large batch of pesto and you can use the leftover portion later in the week.

Thursday

Throw together a chicken stir-fry for another quick weeknight meal. Chop up your favorite vegetables, including extra cauliflower, onions and carrots from Monday’s stuffed peppers and broccoli from Tuesday’s soup. Saute the vegetables with cooked, cubed chicken and a mix of soy and teriyaki sauces. Serve over rice and offer a spicy chili sauce for those who like it hot.

Friday

You’ve made it through the week. Why not treat your family to pizza? Top a ready-made, whole-wheat pizza crust with your leftover pesto sauce, cheese and any toppings you’d like. Add peppers, mushrooms and vegetables you chopped for the soup and stir-fry to create a veggie delight. Follow the cooking instructions on the pizza crust package, and you’ll be ready to kick off your weekend in no time.

With a bit of planning, you can shop once and have your dinners set for the week. Buy canned or frozen fruits and vegetables in bulk and try to prepare at least two meals using the same ingredients. Even with hectic schedules, families can prepare and sit down to a satisfying meal every night of the week.

 

Broccoli Cheese Soup  (Yields two cups)

1 cup (240 ml) milk, skim or low fat
1/3 cup (40 g) shredded, low fat cheddar cheese
1 cup (100 g) chopped fresh or frozen broccoli or cauliflower florets, steamed
1 teaspoon diced onion
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon chicken or vegetable bouillon or soup base

Place all ingredients into a blender in the order listed and secure lid. Blend until smooth.

No Tricks Here!

Treat guests to a hair-raising Halloween experience

Whether prepping for trick-or-treaters or hosting a party fit for Frankenstein, turning your home into a haunted house can be fun and easy. With these tips, before you know it, your home will be transformed into the spookiest house on the block.

  • Create terrifying tombstones. Set the stage before trick-or-treaters even hit the front door. Use wood, cardboard or thick Styrofoam to create tombstones that you can put in your front yard. After cutting out the desired shape, use a matte gray spray paint to cover the surface, and then use black paint to write creative epitaphs such as “Dare to Disturb” or “Happy Haunting.”
  • Get creative with pumpkins. Everyone enjoys a good jack-o-lantern, but why not choose to think outside the box when decorating with pumpkins this year? Instead of carving, try spray painting or using your favorite Halloween candy to decorate pumpkins in fun, spooky patterns. Plus, this is a project that even the littlest witch can enjoy.
  • Download a haunted playlist. Nothing is quite as spooky as the sound of doors creaking or ghosts shrieking. Put together a haunted playlist that you can listen to while guests arrive, or stick speakers near an open window to entice the nearby trick-or-treaters to stop by for some candy.
  • Serve spine-chilling treats. Use your free time on Halloween to make these simple but yummy treats designed to look like spiders. Serve them when guests arrive to kick-off the scary festivities.

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Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkin Spiders  (6 Servings)

6 Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins

1/4 cup Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips

Large pretzel twists (2 -1/2 to 3 inches)

12 yellow Reese’s Pieces Candies

Line tray or cookie sheet with wax paper. Remove wrappers from peanut butter pumpkins and place alongside each other on tray leaving 1 inch of space between each peanut butter pumpkin. For each spider, cut 8 matching curved sections from pretzels which will form the legs. Set aside remaining pretzels pieces.

Place milk chocolate chips in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium an additional 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted and smooth when stirred. Transfer to small heavy duty plastic food storage bag. Cut off one corner of bag about 1/4 inch from the tip.

Attach pretzel legs and yellow candy “eyes” to spider with melted chocolate; place dot of melted chocolate on each eye. Allow chocolate to set before moving spiders.

For more wickedly delicious recipes, visit CelebratewithHersheys.com.

Homemade Alternatives to Halloween Candy

Processed, sugar-packed candies are collected door-to-door every year at Halloween. This year, try a different angle with homemade sweet treats that parents can make with their kids for Halloween.

Chef Claire Menck from The Art Institute of Wisconsin loves making ghostly “gorp” wrapped in white parchment paper with her two children.

“Gorp is basically granola mixed with your child’s favorite treats like chocolate candies, peanut butter chips, pretzels, gummy bears, etc.,” she says. To make the granola, take oatmeal and toss with your choice of spices, honey and oil. Lay oatmeal on a sheet tray and toast on the lowest heat possible (usually 150 or 200 F). You can add sugar to the granola, but be careful to not add too much sugar as it can make it hard. Parents can also choose to substitute the sugar with agave or maple syrup. Mix the granola with the tasty treats. Take white parchment paper and draw two eyes. Place a scoop of the gorp into the opposite side of the paper and tie up top for spooky gorp.

Another of Chef Menck’s favorite treats is dried fruit roll-ups wrapped to look like candy. She recommends using local, seasonal fruit. “We always go apple-picking in the fall and come back with more than we need; and so we create dried apple treats.” Cut and peel the apples or your choice of fruit beforehand in half-inch slices. Then mix the slices with spices of your choosing such as cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, etc.

“Make it a tactile experience for your kids and allow them to mix all the ingredients together, maybe even with their hands,” she says. Lay the apples on an oiled cookie sheet, turn your oven on to the lowest setting and slow bake until dehydrated (about 45 to 90 minutes, depending on preference). Take colorful tissue paper or Halloween-themed paper and place under parchment paper. Once the fruit is dehydrated, place a small amount of the fruit on a 4-by-4-inch parchment paper. Then roll and twist the ends to look like a candy wrapper and tie the ends. You can also use dehydrated berries like cranberries for the fruit roll-up candy.

“Chocolate! Can’t have Halloween without the chocolate, chocolate spiders with pretzel legs that is,” says Chef Amy Carter, baking and pastry instructor at The Art Institutes International Minnesota. Begin by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and spray with cooking spray. Melt chocolate chips of your choosing in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl, and stir every so often to make sure chocolate melts evenly. Add rice cereal or bran twigs, or your favorite crunchy grain and then add to the melted chocolate. Stir the mixture until well combined. Take half of a palm-size of the mixture and place on the baking sheet. Add stick pretzels for legs. Add two marshmallows or white chocolate chips for eyes.

“For a creepier spin on your Halloween treats, I recommend truffle eyeballs to liven up a kids’ party,” Chef Carter says. All you need is 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Heat the cream, pour over the chocolate, and whisk in the butter until nice and smooth. Pour the mixture in a pan and chill for 2 hours, or -overnight – just long enough to firm it. You can flavor with anything like vanilla, peanut butter or fruit puree. Then take an ice cream scoop or have the kids help by rolling the mixture into small balls with their hands and then roll the balls in powdered sugar. Top off with a chocolate candy and then take red, edible writing gel to make squiggly lines.

These creative, make-it-at-home-tips are just some fun ideas you can create with your kids as a Halloween project, and then tackle carving the pumpkin.

Crock Pot Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats
Pinch of salt
4 cups water

Put it all in a crock pot on LOW when you go to bed. It will be ready when you awake. Let everyone add their own unsweetened almond milk, nuts, chi seeds or flax seed meal, raisins or frozen blueberries or sliced bananas or diced apple and some cinnamon. (If your family is used to a super-sweet package instant oatmeal, you may want to add a little REAL maple syrup-drizzle it on the top so they can get a little with each bite) Serves 4

Written by Heather Millar Quintana

To find out more healthy back-to-school recipes, pick up our latest issue on stands now!

Wasena City Tap Room

Roanoke just keeps getting better and better when it comes to great places to live, eat and hangout. Wasena City Tap Room, in the Roanoke River House, is the perfect addition to the bar, food and hangout scene! Step into a relaxing pub atmosphere and enjoy their incredible beer selection and tasty meals!

Wasena City Tap Room offers over 30 beers on tap, many of them from our very own local breweries and a wide selection of pub grub with a tex mex style flair! The beer selection cycles fequently and keeps a good amount of the favorites on tap at all times.

To find out more about Wasena City Tap Room, pick up our latest issue on stands now.

Posh Pad: The Perfect Bar Cart

Bar carts have made a huge come back within the last few years.  Call it the “Mad Men Movement” or whatever you like, but they are back in a HUGE way.  Guarantee that if you surf any home improvement website or creative home blogs, you’ll see a slew of bar carts.

Whether you like to have guests over or you enjoy the after work cocktail, having the perfectly stocked bar cart helps you entertain with ease.

Written by Caitlin Cheatham

To find out how to stock the perfect bar cart, pick up our latest issue, on stands today!

Breakfast Casserole

Breakfast Casserole is a hit at my breakfasts, and with good reason.  It’s cheesy, full of potatoes and tasty sausage, just enough egg, and buttery, peppery goodness.  It would be ideal for a great beach vacation breakfast, when you are looking for something easy yet filling to make for a house full of hungry vacationers, or just as perfect for a sunny weekend “breakfast for dinner.”

As it stands, it’s an amazing meal, but you can change it up to suit your tastes.  Not a fan of sausage?  Try beef or turkey burger.  Want more kick?  Add hot sauce or some pepper jack cheese.   Cut up a few ripe tomatoes and toss them on top?  Oh my heavens.

You’ll never look at breakfast the same way again.

For this great recipe and more, pick up our latest issue, on stands now!

 

Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée is one of my favorite desserts and I’m always trying out new flavor combinations, like these blueberry lemon cuties.  Crème brûlée is a dish some people are intimidated to make, but this recipe is really simple and impressive to entertain with.  You can make these a day ahead and flame the sugar on top in front of your family and friends for some extra “ooohs” and “aaahs”!

 

Makes 3 crème brûlées

 

Ingredients
½ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
3 egg yolks
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup fat free sour cream
¾ cup heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons brandy
Sugar topping (fine granulated sugar or raw/turbinado sugar) – about 1/3 cup total

 

Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Place 3 standard size ramekins in a baking dish.  Add a small handful of blueberries to the bottom of each ramekin, reserving some for topping if desired.

 

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale yellow in color.  Add the granulated sugar and whisk to dissolve.  Add the sour cream, heavy cream, lemon zest and brandy and whisk to combine.  Pour equal portions of the cream mixture into each ramekin.

 

Pour warm water into the baking dish until it covers the bottom half of the ramekins, making certain not to get any water into the ramekins.

 

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the centers are just set and jiggle slightly.

 

Remove the ramekins from the water bath, and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 6 – 7 hours until completely cooled.

 

To serve, top each ramekin with some of the refined or raw sugar, and brown with a kitchen torch or broil just until the sugar is browned and caramelized on top (brûlée = burnt).

 

 
Check out more on my food blog, Leave a Happy Plate.