Sausage & Apple Stuffed Squash

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This dish just screams fall to me! The squash, the apples, the herbs. Made me want to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a glass of wine, which is exactly what I did right after eating this 🙂 For the presentation that you get with a stuffed squash, the prep and hands-on time is relatively easy. This makes a great dish on it’s own for dinner, or as a side dish for a dinner party. You could even use a roasted acorn squash to serve your Thanksgiving stuffing, if you really want to get crazy! The other great thing about this recipe, you can easily change up the ingredients that you put inside to tailor it to your own diet or tastes. Add some grains, like cooked rice or quinoa, remove the dairy, change the meat to chicken sausage or add beans for protein instead. The possibilities are endless. So get creative and let me know if you try any substitutions. I’d love to hear about it!!

Sausage & Apple Stuffed Squash
3 Acorn squash
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
1 lb ground pork sausage
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled & diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped
1 Tbsp thyme, chopped
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare squash by cutting 1 1/2″ off top and use a spoon to scrape out seeds. (If you want to keep the squash tops for decorative purposes, set them aside until step 5, otherwise, discard them.) Once the inside is clean, cut approximately 1/2″ off the bottom to create a flat surface, trying not to puncture through the bottom of squash into center opening, if possible. (If you do puncture, it will still work, you’ll just need to use a non-slotted spatula when moving the squash from baking sheet to plate to avoid losing the filling.)
2. Use a brush to coat inside of squash in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Place squash on baking sheet and roast in oven for 1 hour.
3. While squash is roasting, prepare the filling. In a skillet or deep frying pan, brown the sausage over medium heat until no pink remains, approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once browned, remove sausage to a plate using a slotted spoon, leaving grease in frying pan.
4. Add onion and celery to frying pan and cook until they begin to soften, approximately 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add apple, cook an additional 3 minutes. Add cooked sausage, herbs, 1/2 cup cheese and salt & pepper to taste, stir to combine and remove from heat.
5. When squash is finished roasting, remove baking sheet from oven. Spoon the filling equally into the squash and sprinkle with remaining cheese. (If you are serving with squash tops, place tops on baking sheet at this point.) Place baking sheet back in oven and roast for an additional 15 minutes. When finished, remove from oven and serve.

Enjoy!

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Poblano Corn Quesadillas

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We officially have a crawling baby! Which means, my life is about to get a little more hectic. As of yesterday, Landon is on the move and ever since then he does not want to be confined in any way, not in the bouncer, not in the playpen. Just wants to be able to move freely. No more setting him down on the play mat to run to the restroom, or turning my back to do dishes while he sits in one spot playing. Nope.
How do moms of toddlers get anything done? Serious question. Already today I feel like I haven’t been able to accomplish a single thing until he went down for a nap. I think this is just a phase as he gets used to his new skills but hopefully he will go back to liking the playpen and bouncer, at least for small amounts of time.

Here is a little update to your plain old cheese quesadilla, with sweet corn, onion and Poblano peppers, these take a basic dish and turn things up a notch. I made these for dinner and they were plenty filling, but if you wanted a bit more substance, you can easily add some cooked chicken as well.

Poblano Corn Quesadillas
1 tsp vegetable oil, plus more as needed
2 fresh Poblano peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 corn on the cob, kernels removed
1 lime, halved
salt and black pepper
3 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
4 6-in tortillas

To garnish (your choice):
Salsa, Guacamole, Cilantro, Sour Cream

1. Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Poblano and onion to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and add the corn. Stir to combine, remove from heat and squeeze half a lime over the mixture.
2. Transfer to a plate and wipe the skillet clean.
3. Heat 1/2 tsp of the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add one tortilla and scatter over it a quarter of the cheese, and a quarter of the Poblano mixture. When the tortilla turns just golden brown in spots, in about 2 minutes, fold it in half, pressing it with a spatula to flatten. Transfer to a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make three more quesadillas. Serve with garnish of your choice.

* Original recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking

Ratatouille Stuffed Shells

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Well, today the baby got himself from lying on his tummy up into sitting position for the first time. I love each new skill he develops but this one has mama in a panic! Crawling is just around the corner which means I’ll be spending this week baby proofing!! And…it also means there will be a DIY baby gate post coming your way in the near future. So, if you’re into that sort of thing, stay tuned!

This recipe is tasty! Lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate vegetarian dishes into our diet here and there. I grew up on a VERY hearty diet, meat, potatoes and a glass of milk at every dinner and I always want flavor, flavor, flavor so sometimes the veggie dishes fall a bit short for me. This one does not! There are tons of veggies, chickpeas for protein and the sauce is full of flavor. In total, it took 40 minutes, which is totally doable for a weeknight meal. If you wanted to make it even quicker, you could easily prep the veggies and sauce ahead of time and then just cook the pasta, fill the shells and pop it in the oven at dinnertime.

Ratatouille Stuffed Shells
16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups diced eggplant
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup diced zucchini
3/4 cup chopped plum tomato
1/2 cup canned unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups low sodium marinara sauce
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp torn fresh basil, divided
3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
cooking spray
4 oz shredded Italian blend cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sauté 2 minutes. Add eggplant and bell pepper, cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, tomato and chickpeas; cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in 1 cup marinara, 1/2 cup basil, black pepper and salt.
4. Coat a 2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Spread remaining 3/4 cup marinara over bottom of dish. Spoon about 2 Tbsp vegetable mixture into each pasta shell. Arrange filled shells in dish; sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 12 minutes. Top with remaining 2 Tbsp basil.

*Original recipe from Cooking Light

Parmesan crusted salmon with lemon cream sauce

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Well, another year older. Not sure about wiser 🙂 One thing is for sure, this birthday felt different. In the past, I haven’t really wanted to celebrate my birthday, do anything special or draw any sort of attention to it. I wouldn’t say that I dislike birthdays, just haven’t wanted to make much out of it for the last 5-10 years or so. Maybe after 21, birthdays just aren’t a big deal anymore.

This year felt a bit different. I didn’t want to throw a big party or anything but I did want to acknowledge it, to celebrate with my husband, to let him dote on me and treat me to a special day. Not sure why? Because I’m a mom now and I cherish any time that I can take advantage of a “special day off”? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just that I’m happier this year than I’ve ever been before?

My friend, Janine, took some 6 month photos of Landon a couple weeks ago. I was showing the pictures to my little sister and she was saying how great they were and what a pretty mama I am. I, in my self-deprecating fashion, said “aw thanks. I just look so tired and like I need to get rid of the rest of the baby weight”. She quickly shut me down, saying the only thing she can see that has changed is that my boobs are bigger 🙂 and that I look happier than she has ever seen me look. Hahaha! Yes, the boobs are definitely bigger. But she was right. I am happier than I have ever been. This little munchkin has brought so much joy to our lives, more than I ever thought possible. Especially because I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have a baby in the first place. (Not sure if I’ve mentioned that or not.) I knew we would be great parents and I knew that I did like children but we also liked our lifestyle. Being able to spend money on whatever we wanted, take a trip whenever we felt like it. You hear “having a baby will change your life” but I don’t think it’s possible to realize the extent of that until it happens. Yes, I don’t get to sleep in anymore, and no, we can’t just jump on a plane and go away without LOTS of planning. But, I can not imagine our lives without Landon in it and now that he is here, I CAN’T BELIEVE there was ever a time that I wasn’t sure I wanted to have a baby. Having a baby does change your life, but my life is better now than I ever could have imagined it.

So, happy birthday to me 🙂 and happy 7 months old to our little guy!!

Parmesan crusted salmon with lemon cream sauce
2 – 2.5 lb side of salmon
4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
For the parmesan crumb
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
cooking spray
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
pepper
For the lemon cream sauce
2 Tbsp butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
For serving (if you want presentation platter)
watercress (I used extra dill sprigs instead)
fresh dill
lemon wedges

1. Remove salmon from fridge and bring to room temperature (if salmon is fridge cold when putting in the oven, add 3 minutes to cook time). Preheat oven to 390°F.
2. Spread panko breadcrumbs on a baking sheet, spray generously with cooking spray then bake 3-5 minutes until light golden brown. Scrap into a medium bowl immediately, add butter and stir, then add remaining Parmesan crumb ingredients.
3. Line the same pan with foil, place salmon on foil-lined pan. Spread Dijon on salmon using a butter knife, just thin coating – like buttering toast. Sprinkle parmesan crumb all over.
4. Bake for 20 minutes until just cooked and flaky (may need to adjust based on oven and size of salmon filet).
5. While salmon cooks, make lemon cream sauce (see below).
5. Remove salmon from oven, loosen from skin, which should be stuck to foil, using a spatula or butter knife.
6. Spread watercress onto serving platter. Use foil to lift salmon onto serving platter, then slide out the foil from under it by slightly lifting salmon with a spatula one section at a time and pulling foil away, tearing the foil if necessary. Serve with lemon cream sauce and lemon wedges on the side.

Lemon cream sauce
1. Melt butter in saucepan over medium high heat. Add shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Leave to boil rapidly for 5 minutes or until reduced by 3/4 or so.
2. Turn heat down to medium. Add cream, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir, then add lemon juice and mustard. Stir again. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon to taste. Be generous with the salt, remember the salmon is not marinated, the only salt is in the topping.
3. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, it will thicken as it cools. It can be served warm or at room temperature.

Loaded Nachos

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I was really feeling that 70°F weather yesterday! And now…back to rain. I can’t wait for more consistently sunny weather. I have so many projects I want to do outside, particularly, finally finishing the back deck. However, that requires paint, so I need to wait for a stretch of at least a few dry days.

On the other hand, the munchkin is officially sitting up…which means crawling is probably not far behind…which means baby proofing. I have plans to DIY some pretty cute baby gates at the 2 sets of stairs in the house as well as the stairs on the deck so that project may need to come first. The list of projects really never gets any smaller. Each time I finish 1 thing, I add 2 more to the list.

So, let’s talk about something less stressful…like these loaded nachos! We have always made sheet pan nachos in this family, but never like this. They usually consisted of some ground chicken, taco seasoning, shredded cheese and salsa and sour cream for dipping. Pretty basic. I decided to make nachos on Superbowl Sunday and this was the result. And let me tell you, we will NOT be going back to the basic version, EVER. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these rivaled ANY restaurant nachos I’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot…hello…massive plate of nachos at Margaritaville in Vegas.

Loaded Nachos
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package taco seasoning
12 ozs tortilla chips
1 15oz can refried black beans
1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeno, diced
2 Tbsp sour cream plus 2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and garlic, and cook until beef has browned, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning. Drain excess fat.
3. While ground beef is cooking, heat refried beans in a saucepan over medium heat until warm throughout, about 5 minutes.
4. Place tortilla chips in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Top with half of the cheeses. Next layer ground beef, black beans, corn and remaining cheese.
5. Place into oven and bake until heated through and the cheese melts, about 5-6 minutes.
6. While nachos cook, mix sour cream and water in a small bowl. You want to just thin out the sour cream so it is easy to drizzle.
7. Remove nachos from oven, top with tomato, onion, jalapeno, sour cream and cilantro.

Enjoy!

Italian Chicken & Tomato Basil Orzo

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Ok mamas…I now have a baby who is suddenly sleeping 10-11 hours at night only waking up once, maybe twice AND taking 1 1/2 to 2 hour naps!!!! I have made a couple changes recently, most notably to his feedings. But I’m wondering, is this normal that there is a shift around 5 months and babies just start napping well? Or is it possible that the feeding changes I made actually made the difference? Just want to know before I go tooting my own horn about sleep training in a blog post 🙂 Haha! That sounds way more “I’m-so-amazing” than I wanted it to.

Anyway…this dinner! I’ve made it twice now, and the second time was just as good as I remembered. It was really simple too, only 1 pot and about 30 minutes (minus putting the chicken in a marinade a couple hours prior), great weeknight meal!

Italian Chicken & Tomato Basil Orzo
For the marinade:
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Italian herb mix
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the orzo:
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
14 oz can crushed tomato
3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp Italian herb mix
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup basil leaves

1. Combine all marinade ingredients and marinade for 1 hour – overnight.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add chicken and cook through, about 8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.
3. Heat 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet, increase heat to medium high. Add onion and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add bell pepper, cook additional 1 minute.
4. Add orzo, tomatoes, broth, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix, bring to a simmer, lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Pasta should be just cooked and still quite saucy. Take it off stove immediately.
5. Stir through parmesan and basil, adjust salt to taste. Spoon into bowls, top with chicken, garnish with more parmesan and basil.

*Original recipe from Recipe Tin Eats

Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars

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I mean…I don’t really feel like I need to say much about these. The name kind of says all you need to know…Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars! We DEVOURED these! Just looking at the photo and remembering how delicious they were is making me want to whip up another batch. They were so easy too, no bake, just chill in the fridge for a bit and then eat to your hearts content. Ok, it’s settled, I’m making them again.

Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars
1/4 cup salted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups finely crushed cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 25 cookies)
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
7 ounces marshmallow crème
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely crumbled cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 7 cookies), plus more for garnish

1.Stir together the melted butter and crushed cookies in a medium bowl. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; lightly grease foil with cooking spray. Press the cookie mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
2. Beat the cream cheese, marshmallow cream, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently fold in the coarsely crumbled cookies. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pan, spreading it evenly over the cookie crust. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days. Lift mixture from the pan using the foil overhang as a handle, and cut into bars. Garnish with more coarsely crumbled cookies, if desired.

*Original recipe from Real Simple

Green Goddess Sandwich

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I started painting my kitchen cabinets about 7 months ago, right when we got home from Hawaii. Also, around the time we found out I was pregnant. The problem, I went to continue painting after finding out a baby was on the way and was of course concerned with the chemicals I was using. I found that the paint de-glosser I was using was EXTREMELY harmful to pregnant women and children (and probably everyone else, but not on the same level as a child’s developing system) so I didn’t continue the project, thinking I was out of luck until after the pregnancy.

Fast forward 7 months, nothing gets you wanting to finish and complete projects around the house like a baby 12 weeks away! Not to mention, a baby shower at my house this weekend!! I did some research and found a safe, non-toxic paint stripper to finish the job. Mind you, I was not even half-way done with the project and now I’m trying to finish it in 4 days…we’ll see how this goes.

I made this sandwich at the beginning of summer and was OBSESSED! It is so fresh and so delicious!! I literally ate it for lunch for a week straight. I thought I’d finally share the recipe with you and you can enjoy it for the rest of summer with all the fresh veggies. The recipe is from www.jillianharris.com who I have a slight girl crush on. She is a Canadian fashion/food/home blogger with great style in all areas, and also one of the hosts of HGTVs Love It Or List It Too.

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Green Goddess Sandwich
whole grain bread (I used Dave’s Killer Bread Good Seed)
goat cheese, crumbled
white cheddar
fresh spinach
fresh basil, thinly sliced
zucchini, thinly sliced
avocado, sliced
margarine or butter
large handful of parsley
juice from 1/4 of a lemon
1 garlic clove
salt & pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Put parsley, lemon juice, garlic, salt & pepper and olive oil in a bullet or small food processor to make sauce

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2. Butter bread on both sides
3. Layer all ingredients on bread and grill in a panini press or grill pan until brown and crispy

Enjoy!

Spring Frittata w/ Asparagus, Leeks and Dill

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I was actually about to blog something different but saw photos of this frittata and realized I never shared it! Crisis averted 🙂 I made this as part of Easter dinner and it was delicious. Makes a great side dish or appetizer for a spring dinner party.

On another note, my friend, J Soltman Photography, and I went downtown Portland to the Pearl District and she shot our first session of bump shots. I am so incredibly lucky to have such a talented photographer friend who lives so close to me who is just as excited about documenting my pregnancy as I am!

Here are a few of my favorite shots but stay tuned for more posts later this week when I’ll share some outfit details…

Spring Frittata w/ Asparagus, Leeks & Dill
5 tsp olive oil
2 large leeks (white and light green parts, well rinsed) thinly sliced
1 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 lb asparagus, tough ends cut off, cut on the bias into 2 1/2″ pieces
10 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 ozs chevre, crumbled

1. Place an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a 9- or 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp (3 tsp) of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, 1 Tbsp water, and 1 tsp of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Remove the vegetables to a plate. Wipe out the pan and let it cool until tepid.
3. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk them together with salt and pepper to taste, the paprika, dill, chives, and leeks and asparagus mixture.
4. Heat the remaining 2 tsp oil in the pan over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and add the chevre. Cook until the eggs begin to set on the bottom. Using a heat-resistant spatula, lift the edges of the cooked egg and let liquid eggs run under to the pan below. Cook for another minute and repeat. When the bottom half of the eggs are cooked, place the pan in the oven and cook for 5 minutes, until the eggs are no longer wobbly at the center. Turn on the broiler and broil the frittata until lightly browned on the top, about 30 seconds.
5. Remove the frittata from the oven and let set at least 5 minutes in the pan, then slice and serve.

Original recipe from The Food Lover’s Cleanse

Party Perfect Appetizers

This last weekend we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday by throwing her a surprise party. It was so much fun to get all the family together for an evening of food, drinks and fun! I’ve never managed to actually pull off a surprise, to keep it a secret and all, but I’d say this was successful. People came in from Washington and California to help celebrate this beautiful, caring mother/daughter/sister/aunt/friend who always tries to take care of everyone else.

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We hosted about 20 people and I decided to go with appetizer sized foods rather than serving dinner when not everyone would be able to sit down to eat. I also have to admit, I didn’t make any of this from scratch…ain’t nobody got time for that when you’re having 20 people over!

Butternut Squash soup shooters with Rosemary garnish
The shooter glasses are 2 ounce shot glasses that I got at Bed, Bath & Beyond. These are great for so many cocktail party treats, I used them in another way at this party…scroll down to see 🙂
I bought pre-made Butternut Squash soup (I used Pacific brand organic soup), heat it up in a saucepan and top with a single sprig of rosemary.

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Crostini with Camembert and Fig Sauce
This one will look familiar, I posted this on the blog a few months ago and it was a big hit.
Slice a French Baguette into approximately 25 slices, top with a small slice of Camembert or Brie cheese. Put in the oven at 400° for about 8 minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and top each slice with a tablespoon of your favorite fig jam or spread.

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Mini Caprese Salads
Slide on a toothpick, 1 Mozzarella pearl, a basil leaf (cut smaller or folded), and cherry tomato cut crosswise. Once you have made all of your “salads”, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a saucepan, over medium heat, simmer 2 cups of balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by half and begins to thicken, about 15 minutes.
Allow balsamic vinegar to cool, plate the “salads”, drizzle with vinegar and serve.

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Meatball Sliders
Super easy! I bought frozen Italian style meatballs, pasta sauce, provolone cheese and brioche slider buns.
In a sauce pan, over medium-high heat, heat the meatballs and pasta sauce. To construct, place bottom of slider bun, half a slice of provolone, tablespoon of pasta sauce, 1 meatball cut in half, half a slice of provolone, top of slider bun.

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French Fries with Ketchup
Cook French fries to package directions, put 1 tablespoon of ketchup in the bottom of a 2 ounce, tall shot glass. Add 5-7 fries, plunged in the ketchup.

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