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Alfredo Veggie Stromboli made with grab-and-go grocery store staples is easy to put together, and even easier to eat for dinner – Delicious!
Frozen pizza dough is a miracle. I love it so much. I typically keep it around for “leftover night” dinner. I roll it out, add some sauce, pesto or something else, top it with chopped up whatever-is-in-the-fridge and cover it with cheese. It’s one of my freezer staples.
I decided to mix it up and make stromboli. It’s like pizza-stuffed bread! Your entire dinner is wrapped up in dough and baked to perfection. I loaded it with veggies for a meatless meal and used a seasoned cream cheese instead of sauce.
Prepping all the veggies can take some time, so I streamlined the process and bought pre-sliced mushrooms, already shredded cheese and canned artichokes so I didn’t have to thaw them. My favorite, frozen pizza dough, makes dinner come together in only a few minutes. Leave it in the oven for a while and serve. Everyone is happy.
The recipe makes two stromboli, so half it if you aren’t serving a crowd. It disappears pretty fast though, so you may want the full recipe. Alfredo Veggie Stromboli for the win!
I love the tangy flavor from the sun-dried tomatoes and the herby cream cheese. The cream cheese mixed with melty shredded cheese makes the most perfect alfredo sauce once baked together in the oven.
I used canned artichokes because they are processed with water. The jarred type is marinated in oil and seasoning and I find them too salty and overpowering.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 8-oz container sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup canned or frozen, thawed, artichoke hearts
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 7-oz pkg (1¾ cups) low-sodium shredded mozzarella
- 1 2-lb pkg frozen pizza dough, thawed
- Flour for work surface
- ½ cup (5 oz) Philadelphia Cream Cheese
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until golden, 6 to 8 mi; remove from heat. Pat artichoke hearts dry with paper towels and coarsely chop. Combine mushrooms, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and shredded cheese; set aside.
- Heat oven to 400°F with rack in the upper third. Working with half the dough at a time, roll into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Mix together the cream cheese and Italian seasoning. Spread half the cream cheese mixture on dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with half the mushroom mixture.
- Fold dough over filling and pinch to seal the seam and ends. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat with remaining dough and ingredients. Cut a few deep vents in the top of each roll and bake for 30 min; tent loosely with foil, then bake until cooked through, 10 min more.
Get everyone to the table in a flash with more easy dinners like my Shriveled Ogre Nose Pizza. It uses frozen pizza dough too, and is topped with roasted veggies and ricotta. Whip up Corn Chorizo Tacos in a flash for a Mexican-inspired night. Happy cooking!
Golden mixed nuts might be my new favorite party food. Gold makes everything a little more fantastic! I am loving all the edible gold food adornments, sprinkles, dusts and sprays that you can find now. Snacks for my Golden Globes viewing party just got…well…more gold!
I wanted something easy, mostly store-bought to go with some of the other treats, snacks and drinks I am preparing. But I wanted it to be special. I’m very supportive of mixing store-bought prepared foods with things you may have made, or semi-made! Tricks like that let you enjoy the party instead of being completely exhausted from prep.
Mixed nuts are just the thing. You can add little bowls all over the room and on your buffet table so people can snack and mingle. But it is the Golden Globes! It must be just a bit fancier than a can of mixed nuts.
So…I took a can of mixed nuts and seasoned them with a little garlic, rosemary and pepper. Delicious. To make them gold, I sprayed a few with edible gold spray, which you can find in your area or here.
I’ve sprayed nuts to go on top of cookies before, so getting to that place of spraying nuts with gold, wasn’t a stretch. I love them all shimmery and metallic mixed into a simple bowl. And with simple seasonings the flavor is elevated to celebrity status. Ready for the red carpet!
Make these for a fancy party or special gathering. Edible gold spray makes for metallic shimmers in the bowl of savory mixed nuts.
- 2 cups fancy mixed nuts
- 1 can edible gold food spray
- 2 tsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp cayenne
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- crushed pepper
- Spread ¼ cup of the nuts on a sheet of parchment. Spray with gold food spray and let dry a few minutes. Turn nuts over and spray so each nut is completely covered. Let dry.
- Chop 1 sprig of rosemary and leave the others intact. In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the oil, garlic powder, cayenne, chopped rosemary, rosemary sprigs and pepper for 10 to 15 seconds to heat the oil. Toss the remaining mixed nuts with the oil mixture to coat.
- Transfer nuts to a serving bowl with the gold painted nuts mixed in and on top.
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Recipe, Photo and Food Styling Tara Bench
This is one avocado mash fit for a holiday party. Take a good look at this gorgeous dip though, because it won’t last long.
Juicy grapefruit and pops of pomegranates are better than you could even think in guacamole. Seriously I couldn’t stop eating this. Your guests will be so pleasantly surprised.
I wanted something savory and crowd-pleasing, but wanted to use fresh seasonal fruit. I added segments of Wonderful Sweet Scarletts red grapefruit which is actually much sweeter than typical white or pink grapefruit. You get grapefruit flavor, but no bitterness. The pomegranates are the most festive color and give a little texture and tangy burst. Both fruits play off the lime, onions and creamy avocado.
If you’ve never segmented citrus, it is quite simple. I cut off the ends of the grapefruit, stem and bottom, about 1/2 inch in. Then stand it on one flat end and slice the rind and pith off following the shape of the fruit. Then hold it in your hand and slice in between the membranes to remove each segment. I chop my segments up for this recipe.
A fresh take on this favorite snack. The sweet, red citrus takes it to a whole new level! SERVES 6
- 2 large avocados
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 1 Wonderful Sweet Scarlett grapefruit, segmented and chopped
- 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 3 tbsp Wonderful pomegranate arils
- Tortilla chips
- Pit and peel avocados and gently mash in a bowl. Add the salt, lime juice, hot sauce, jalapeno and scallions and stir to blend to desired consistency, chunky or smooth.
- Add the grapefruit segments to the guacamole with the cilantro. Garnish with the pomegranate arils and serve with chips.
This post may include sponsor mentions or affiliate links. For more information please see my disclosure policy.
Recipe: Tara Bench
Photography by Kathy YL Chan and Tara Bench
I live on the upper west side of Manhattan. There are several grocery stores and gourmet food markets, right in my neighborhood that have the most amazing cheese counters. I’ve picked some favorites out over the years and I know a bit about different cheeses, cultures and flavors–but I’m no cheesemonger! It’s still a bit overwhelming when I go to buy a variety for a party cheeseboard.
If cheesemongering isn’t your expertise, then this guide will help you. I’ve included some of my faves and others that make for a good variety and beautiful presentation on a cheese plate. Because…that’s what I’m into.
Party pointers for serving cheese:
• When you shop at your local cheese counter, or gourmet food store, ask to sample the cheeses you’re interested in buying – they expect you to.
• How much should you get? Figure on 1-to-2-oz of each cheese per person. It’s sold by weight so you can add up the numbers.
• Have labels for each cheese on the platter so people can remember the ones they especially like. You can make your own, write it with wax pen on a slate or buy those cute little reusable labels.
• Cheese doesn’t taste its best when served too cold, so take it out of the fridge an hour or so in advance.
Putting together that board:
- You can’t go wrong with a Swiss-style cheese like Uplands Pleasant Ridge from Wisconsin, or even a classic Gruyère.
- Goat’s-milk chèvre, with its tangy flavor, is a crowd-pleaser. I like spicy Majorero Pimentó, rubed withpaprika – or try Cypress Grove Chèvre.
- Every board should contain at least one buttery-soft cheese like Brillat-Savarin, Brie or Camembert Châtelain.
- For an adventurous crowd, choose a pungent cheese that has been “bathed” in salt water or wine for added flavor. Try Stanser Rotelli or an Époisses.
- Not all cheddars are created equal. Include a crumbly English-style variety, such as Grafton Special Reserve Clothbound Cheddar, from Vermont, or a French Cantalet.
- No board is complete without a sharp, fragrant blue. I like Oregon’s Rogue River Blue and Grassland Blue from Minnesota.
• To keep and store cheese, wrap it first in parchment or waxed paper, then loosely in plastic wrap or place in a ziptop bag. Many will keep for several weeks in the fridge.
• Don’t throw out the rinds! Toss them into soups, stews and sauces when you’re cooking for extra richness and flavor.
• A dollop of chutney or jam tastes great with salty, tangy cheeses, while a drizzle of honey delivers sweet balance to sharp cheeses like aged cheddar. Dried fruits and nuts are delicious with many types of cheese and it’s always nice to have rustic bread and plain crackers to nibble on.
This post may include affiliate links. For more information please see my disclosure policy.
Originally published in Ladies Home Journal November 2010
Prop Stylist: Jen Everett
Photographer: Paula Hible
Making little kids laugh has got to be one of the best things on the planet. I love when they lose it! Just toss their heads back laughing. It’s so gratifying to know that they are laughing, not out of courtesy, but because they genuinely think it’s funny. (Well at least most kids haven’t honed the skills of manipulation and the courtesy laugh)
My 3 year-old nephew Sawyer is a sucker for gibberish. All I have to do rattle off a nonsensical sentence to him in a language no one understands and he’s a gonner.
If you just read the name of this recipe to kids, I’ll guarantee at least a crinkled nose and grin. But, I’m pretty sure you’ll get a full blown laugh.
It’s the perfect, pre trick-or-treating dinner. Made with store-bought pizza dough, canned tomatoes, creamy ricotta and colorful roasted veggies, it’s simple enough to prepare–even while wearing your witch hat.
- 3 parsnips (about 1 lb), peeled
- 3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, stemmed and seeded
- 1 zucchini (about 8 oz)
- 2 tbsp cornmeal
- Flour, for work surface
- 1 bag (1 lb) frozen pizza or bread dough, thawed
- 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
- 1¼ cups whole-milk ricotta
- 3 tbsp fresh or 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1. Heat oven to 400°F. Cut parsnips into 2- to 4-inch-long by ½-inch-thick sticks; toss with 1 tbsp oil and ¼ tsp salt. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 15 min.
- 2. Meanwhile, cut bell pepper into thin slices. Cut zucchini lengthwise in half, then into ¼-inch-thick slices. in a large bowl, toss together bell pepper, zucchini, remaining 2 tbsp oil and ¼ tsp salt; add to roasting parsnips on baking sheet. Roast until tender and just golden, about 20 min. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
- 3. Increase oven to 450°F and place rack in lower third. Sprinkle a baking sheet with 1 tbsp cornmeal; set aside.
- 4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough and, using, hands, stretch to 1/8-inch thickness. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Top with half of each tomatoes, ricotta (in dollops) and roasted vegetables. Bake until cooked through and bottom is golden brown, 15 to 18 min. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make one more pizza.
- 5. Transfer pizzas to a cutting board, drizzle with oil and top with oregano.
Recipes by Tara Bench
Original published in Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct 2008
Photography Evan Sklar
Prop Styling Megan Hedgpeth
Food Styling Susan Vajaranant
Frozen spinach is an underutilized ingredient in my opinion. It is awesome in pastas, smoothies and soups for sure. To use it in egg dishes or here with melted cheese however, you need to squeeze all of the excess water out of it. Yes it’s a bit waterlogged from being cooked then flash frozen, but when the water is removed it claims even more places on the menu!
I buy it and put it right in the fridge to thaw for a day or so. It’s ready for me to squeeze, with love of course, and use.
Make this family style on a loaf of French bread split in half. Great served alongside homemade soup!
1 10-oz pkg frozen spinach
1 ½ cups grated Comte or Fontina Cheese
Thaw spinach and squeeze out water until spinach is quite dry. Crumble into a bowl and mix with cheese. Split half a French baguette and toast under a broiler. Pile spinach mixture evenly over toasted halves and broil until melted. Cut in half.
Holiday Dinner Comes Together
Whether you have a traditional roast, meatballs, ham, turkey, fish, tamales or goose (hello Tiny Tim) for Christmas dinner, this gorgeous side will be pretty perfect. Or pretty and perfect. Depends on how you like to look at it.
The perfection comes in the special little hazelnuts sizzled in butter that browns into a tasty golden sauce. It’s just fancy enough for a Christmas Eve, day or holiday dinner, but easy enough that you might just want it on a regular Wednesday.
Tip: Baby broccoli is dark green with tender long stems and tiny tree tops. If you can’t find it in your market, broccoli rabe is a great substitution. I like the mild flavor of baby broccoli though, so I suggest you ask your grocer to order it!
Take advantage of a delicious seasonal vegetable for this beautiful side dish.
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ cup (3oz) skinned roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 lb baby broccoli, trimmed
- ¼ tsp salt
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- For hazelnut butter, in a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add nuts and cook until butter begins to brown and nuts just start to turn golden, about 3 min. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- In a large nonstick skillet, bring ¾ cup water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and cook, turning occasionally, until just tender, 8 to 10 min. Using tongs, transfer to a platter. Stir together nuts, butter, salt and zest; spoon over broccoli.
Recipe by Tara Bench
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal Dec 2007
Photography Quentin Bacon
Food Styling Tara Bench
Prop Styling Bella Foster
Fast And Easy
For many people, being depicted as fast and easy presents an unwelcome connotation.
Not for me, I love the description. Is 10 minutes too fast for you?
I’m talking about cooking dinner people! Geez!
Like a respectable lady, I know how to make it fast and super easy, when it comes to whipping up a side dish. Especially for Thanksgiving, this stove-top-only side dish is quite perfect. It only takes 10 minutes, including the measuring, chopping and cooking.
Ready to start the timer?
This recipe keeps the oven free for the rest of dinner, and can be made in a matter of minutes, especially with the pre-trimmed green beans available at the store!
- 3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 9-oz pkg frozen artichokes, thawed
- 1 1-lb pkg trimmed haricots verts green beans
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp capers
- 1 to 2 tsp lemon juice
- Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add artichokes and cook, without turning, until golden brown on one side, about 4 min. Add beans, garlic and salt on top of artichokes, reduce heat to medium high and cover pan with lid or foil. Steam 3 to 5 min, then gently toss everything together with zest and capers.
- Drizzle with lemon juice and extra olive oil to taste before serving.
Pesto Presto! This savory herb sauce is super easy to whip up. And classic pesto isn’t just for pasta, so blend and enjoy!
Summer hits and all I want to do is eat from the garden. I don’t have a garden though. HA! However, I do have a New York City terrace and have become the best potted gardener ever.
I usually have one big pot of basil growing, along with my tomatoes and other herbs. Last year I tried peas and beans, but they didn’t make it to the kitchen because I ate them as I picked them! The basil grows really well so about every month I get enough to make my classic pesto.
A block of Parmesan lives on the back of my cheese shelf, so I already have that. I keep my pine nuts in the freezer so they don’t go rancid. But if I don’t have pine nuts on hand I use almonds or walnuts! The nuts add a buttery, rich texture to pesto, so mixing it up is just fine.
It blends up in minutes and you can keep it in the fridge for several weeks. Make a double batch if you have the basil, because it will freeze for up to a month.
TIP: To intensify the green color of your pesto, blanch the basil for five seconds in boiling water; then shock them in ice water and squeeze dry; continue with the recipe.
Although is at it’s best on a good bowl of pasta, I use this classic pesto on grilled shrimp or lamb chops, even steak and chicken. I mix it into tomato soup and spread it on bread when I make sandwiches. It’s really the spread and condiment of the summer. Get creative and let me know how you use it in your meals!
To intensify the green color of your pesto, blanch herbs for five seconds in boiling water, then shock them in ice water and squeeze dry; continue with the recipe.
- 4 cups packed basil leaves
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- ¾ cup (3½ oz) pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Combine all ingredients, except the oil, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil into the feed tube. Use immediately or freeze for up to a month.
Recipe by Tara Bench
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal, August 2010
Photo Credit Antonis Achilleos
Food Stylist Cyd Raftus McDowell
Prop Stylist Paige Hicks
Several years ago I was asked to create a recipe for macaroni and cheese with hidden vegetables (remember that trend?). But really how can you “hide” vegetables in macaroni and cheese–it’s pasta, and cheese sauce…anything else stands out like a sore thumb!
After many versions (and then maybe a few more versions, just because it was delicious), the result was prrrretty close to actually hiding vegetables in mac ‘n’ cheese, and since cauliflower is bulky about half the pasta was replaced by this “invisible” veggie. And my goodness is it tasty–like really awesome.
Boursin with herbs adds flavor, but you can swap if for fat-free cream cheese if you like.
- 2 cups (12 oz) cauliflower florets
- Cooking spray
- ½ lb cavatappi or other curly pasta
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups 1% milk
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Pinch of cayenne
- 2½ cups (7 oz) grated cheddar
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- ½ cup (4 oz) Boursin Light Garlic and Herbs Spreadable Cheese
- ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
- Heat oven to 425ºF. Spread cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet and coat lightly with cooking spray. Roast until florets begin to brown, about 10 min. Remove cauliflower and reduce oven to 375ºF.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside. In a large saucepan over medium heat whisk olive oil and flour for 1 min. Add milk, whisking constantly. Stir in mustard, salt and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened, about 8 min. Remove sauce from heat. Add 2 cups cheddar, Parmesan and Boursin and stir until melted. Add pasta and cauliflower; stir to coat.
- Pour pasta into a greased 2-qt baking dish. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup cheddar, then bread crumbs. Bake until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese is bubbling, about 30 min.