Monday, April 29, 2013

30 Days of Grilled Cheese with Land O' Lakes: Italian Beef Grilled Cheese

Italian Beef and Grilled Cheese
Italian Beef Grilled Cheese

Land O Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend is the best combination of the most flavorful Italian cheeses—Asiago,
Parmesan and Romano—blended with the creamy goodness of Land O Lakes® Deli American Cheese. Add this delicious cheese to everything from favorite dishes to lunchbox sandwiches or burgers hot off the grill. The creamy, decadent taste truly makes each dish an everyday masterpiece. The Land O’Lakes Test Kitchens have developed recipes and tips that highlight the wide range of uses for this cheese. Find recipes, photos and tips on the Taste of Italy product inspiration page at

Did you know April is National Grilled Cheese Month? And who doesn't love grilled cheese? To celebrate this, Kitchen Play and Land O' Lakes have teamed up for "30 Days of Grilled Cheese" ... Yum. There is currently a gallery at Kitchen Play that lists the 30 bloggers and their grilled cheese creations - one post for each day. What a delicious month! Click the image below to see the other recipes.

My personal favorite grilled cheese is a nutty Swiss paired with deli ham on rye. Simple, but so tasty. For this event, though I decided to do a riff on the famous Chicago Italian Beef sandwich. I sandwiched deli sliced Italian beef between slices of Land O' Lakes 4 Cheese Italian Blend deli cheese and topped it with a classic giardiniera on garlic buttered Italian bread. It was near perfection.

My oldest daughter and I shopped for the ingredients for this delicious grilled cheese and once we got everything home and tasted the cheese we were too excited to have these. The 4 Cheese Italian Blend is my new favorite cheese. It's tangy, sharp and creamy all in one and was the perfect complement to the strong flavors of the Italian beef, giardiniera and garlic bread.

I'll share the recipe below, but I have to share the most important part of this event with you:

From April 1 through May 1, Land O’Lakes will donate $1 to Feeding America every time someone pins or repins a Land O’Lakes recipe on Pinterest. That’s eight meals for a hungry family when you pin a recipe—and eight more every time anyone else repins it. Giving goes viral. Find your favorite Grilled Cheese recipe to pin on

You all know I love that last part, so please follow the link and PIN your favorites to help feed others!

Now, if you've ever had a real Chicago Italian Beef sandwich you know there's no cheese involved and there should be a good amount of au jus, but as a grilled cheese I felt the jus could stay home and the beef and cheese would pair well with the giardiniera and I was right. Give this one a try!

Italian Beef Grilled Cheese
Printable Recipe
Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

4 cloves garlic - roasted in oven until soft (instructions here)
6 Tablespoons salted butter - room temperature
8 large slices rustic Italian bread
16 slices Land O' Lakes 4 Cheese Italian Blend
1/2 pound deli sliced Italian Beef
1 cup prepared giardiniera - chopped

1. Squeeze roasted garlic from skins and blend well with butter until spreadable.
2. Spread one side of each slice of bread with garlic butter.
3. Lay bread on a grill pan or other heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat.
4. Add one slice of cheese to each slice of bread in pan.
5. Layer on beef, giardiniera and other slice of cheese. Top with remaining slices of bread.
6. Cook until bottom side is golden brown and carefully flip to other side.
7. Cook until other side is golden brown and cheese is melted. Be careful not to let your grilled cheese burn!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Land O’Lakes as part of the Kitchen Play Sidecar series. As always, all opinions given are my own.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Simple Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake
Strawberry Cake

I feel I need to begin this post with a disclaimer, so I will. This cake is made with a boxed mix AND a boxed gelatin mix. So, there. If you have any arguments, feel free to dial up Tyler Florence who shared a recipe using a boxed mix in his book, Family Meal. Not only was that cake fabulous, but easy to make, and thus, more likely to be made.

This was made by request as a birthday cake, and perfect for this time of year. Because it's so easy to make but so pretty in presentation it's good for every day or to serve to company. This would also be a beautiful addition to any Mother's Day table.

Any boxed yellow cake will do and any brand of gelatin, as well. Just use the sizes recommended for best results.

Strawberry Cake
Printable Recipe
Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour 45 minutes (includes cooling time)
Serves: 8-10


1 quart ripe strawberries, washed and hulled - leaving one with the stem and leaves
One yellow cake mix (18.25 ounces)
One strawberry gelatin mix (3 ounces)
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar


1. Slice all but one strawberry thinly and set aside. Slice one strawberry from end to stem being careful not to cut all the way through. Leaving stem attached, fan out berry and set aside.
2. Blend cake mix as directed on box and place half of batter in another bowl. Mix gelatin into one half of batter.
3. Pour plain batter evenly into two 9-inch round cake pans. Add strawberry batter to top and swirl with a spoon or fork. Bake as directed on box.
4. Cool cakes completely once baked and remove from pans.
5. Add powdered sugar to heavy cream and beat until fluffy.
6. Set one cake on a plate and top with half the whipped cream and half the strawberries.
7. Add second cake layer and whipped cream. Arrange strawberries in concentric circles from center out. Add berry with leaves to the center.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Asparagus and Salmon Salad

Asparagus and Salmon Salad
Asparagus and Salmon Salad

One of the best flavor combos ever comes together in this fresh salad. Drizzled with a Hollandaise-like dressing it's a great salad for a warm spring or early summer evening when asparagus is at its peak. Poaching salmon is the simplest way to go, but grilling is also a delicious alternative in warmer months.

Asparagus and Salmon Salad
Printable Recipe
Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 30 minutes
Serves: 4


4 salmon fillets, 4 ounces each
1 pound asparagus stalks
1 pound mixed Spring greens
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and white pepper to taste


1. Poach salmon fillets in simmering water or stock (enough to submerge fish in) until done, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from liquid with a slotted spoon and keep covered in refrigerator until needed.
2. Rinse asparagus and gather together with rubber bands at top and bottom of stalks. Remove woody ends with a knife. Set upright in 2 inches of simmering water and cook, covered, for 2-4 minutes or until bright green and tender. Remove from water and cool.
3. Cut asparagus into 4-inch spears and save ends for another use.
4. Divide greens between 4 large plates. Top each with a salmon fillet and 4-6 asparagus spears. Drizzle with dressing.
5. To make dressing, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice. Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Stir until smooth.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Peanut Butter Torte

Peanut Butter Torte
I'm really using the term "torte" loosely here; there is no layering of this cake, but there's so little flour that it can nearly be classified as torte, which as a rule breaker, is good enough for me.

I've been making a cake similar to this for years and years (see that here) and I had a bag of peanut butter baking chips sitting around for some time that I wasn't finding a good use for. I had a moment of clarity and this cake was the result.

Top it with chocolate, of course, for a rich and delicious after-dinner or just with coffee, dessert.

Peanut Butter Torte
Printable Recipe

Makes One 8 or 9 - inch cake

Melt together until smooth:

1 (10 ounces) bag of peanut butter baking chips
6 Tablespoons butter

Allow to cool for 10 minutes

Blend together:

5 egg yolks (set aside whites)
1Tablespoon all purpose flour
1Tablespoon powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add peanut butter mixture to egg mixture and blend until smooth.

Beat until stiff:

5 egg whites

Gently fold egg whites into peanut butter/egg yolk mixture until well blended.
Do NOT overbeat!

Pour into a greased 8 or 9 -inch spring form pan and bake 425 degrees F for 12 minutes or until center is slightly moving, but not jiggly. If you over bake this is will be dry.The center will set as it cools.

Cut into slices when cooled and served with your favorite chocolate sauce - we like hot fudge.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Drink Mix Play Dough

Kool-Aid Play Dough
Kool-Aid Play Dough

This may possibly be the first recipe for something inedible on Cooking with Anne. Actually, the truth is that it's completely edible, just not very palate pleasing. It is, however, pleasing to little hands. My kids come home each day from school reminding me that there are "30-some days left of school!". Their little hearts are soaring ... mine, not so much.

I do love having them home, but they need to be kept busy in constructive ways or complete mayhem ensues. This is one of my favorite "projects" and one of theirs, as well. We don't drink Kool-Aid in our house, or any other drink mix, for that matter. There's too much sugar involved and artificial colorings wreak havoc with little people; especially mine.

Kool-Aid is excellent, though, for coloring and scenting play dough! The kids can help with this, but my own don't have it in themselves to wait for it to cool, so I always make ahead and store it in the refrigerator until they want to play with it. I set it out an hour ahead of time as it's easier to mold at room temperature, then I hand over the rolling pin, cookie cutters, butter knives and the like and they create to their hearts' content. I've been making this for over 20 years and it never fails to please!

Drink Mix Play Dough
Makes 1 color of dough
Printable Recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup table salt
1 packet Kool-Aid or other non-sweetened drink mix - whichever color/flavor combo you like
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1. Stir together flour, salt and drink mix until well blended.
2. Stir oil into boiling water (not just hot, it MUST be boiling) and pour slowly over flour mixture.
3. Stir constantly until a soft dough forms. Mix completely and let stand for a few minutes as the dough tightens up.
4. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until needed for up to 3 months.
5. Bring to room temperature before play time. Return to refrigerator when done using.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Food Bloggers Against Hunger

This post may well be one of the most difficult I'll write because it hits so close to home. You see, I'm no stranger to hunger and neither are my children. Watch this trailer for A Place at the Table before reading the rest of this post. Think for a moment if it were you in this position.

When I first started food blogging it came from wanting to journal my family's food journey and it was originally hand-written in a small notebook. I wasn't chronicling beautiful food or recipes I wanted to try again to get just right; I was writing down what we had eaten each day because I had somehow pulled off 3 meals for everyone and needed to remember it for the next time I went shopping. We were not receiving SNAP benefits or WIC at that time, but we had many times before that. I knew all too well how quickly food disappeared, even when nobody was overeating, and I always feared there wouldn't be enough. So, in times of lean I made sure to write down what worked, just in case I needed to create magic again.

There was a period of time where we ate almost nothing but ramen noodles. At 5 for a dollar, it was sometimes all we could afford. I would set the table with ceremony, a napkin and full set of utensils at each place and if we were lucky a jug full of lemonade, though most often it was just water and ice cubes, but that small thing (ice cubes) somehow made what we were eating seem like more.

Some weeks a sweet elderly neighbor would silently set a paper sack filled with his homegrown tomatoes or cucumbers at the gate and I would cut them up and fan them out on a plate or even add vinegar and sugar to the cucumbers to make a quick salad. The table would always look fuller and the kids wouldn't really miss anything because I spent so much time "preparing" that it would feel like a more elaborate meal.

I knew we'd hit our limit one day when, as I sat a bowlful of noodles in front of my 3 year-old, she exclaimed, "No! No noodles again!" It was a sad moment to me as a mother, but I explained that it was all we had and the next day maybe we'd have something wonderful. Many nights, though, I cried myself to sleep worrying about what we would eat for breakfast the next day.

Ramen noodles were, sadly, a staple. As grateful as I was to have them and their versatility, they aren't very healthy at all. They're laden with fat and sodium and too much carbohydrate, but they're filling and very cheap, so I bought them.

There were nights I would have ground beef or chicken to augment the noodles, more often than not,  though when I had WIC benefits I had eggs and cheese, and then ... we ate like kings. I would make something we came to call "Noodle Fritatta" - noodles and eggs topped with cheese. The nights we had canned vegetables or enough flour and fat to make biscuits were like holidays to us. Yes, canned vegetables because at that time 4 cans for $1 was also within our budget and the cost of frozen or fresh was unthinkable.

The times that we qualified for SNAP benefits were better, but only marginally. I recall with 7 of us getting less than $300 a month (that's less than $1.42 per person a day) and though the name says, "Supplemental", for us, as for many, it was our only source of income for food. Sometimes the embarrassment of using them was so hard. There were often ignorant people who always assumed you did nothing but sit at home all day and collect welfare. The truth was that both my then-husband and I worked and it was still never enough. Meaning, we were paying taxes, too, just like everyone else.

There were periods when we weren't able to pay bills on time and once lost gas to the house, which meant no hot water and no cooking source other than our microwave. Boy did I learn to make a good cake in that thing! Even though we received assistance through WIC, we often didn't have a vehicle and would have to walk to whatever store the benefits were for, which for us was 4 miles away. We didn't have money for the bus so we'd trek out with a stroller in the nicest weather we could wait for. This would take a very long time and often our energy level was not equal to the task.

We also visited the local food bank from time to time and getting boxes of food was like Christmas. The only problem was, there was often not enough fresh food to properly stretch what we were given in cans and boxes to make a full meal. I always felt that people without can openers or even a place to live that received the boxes were so much worse off. I at least had shelter and (most of the time) a place to cook.

Now, things are better, but my life is such that I still wonder some weeks if we'll make it or not. I work 60+ hours a week and as a single mother with no support it's so hard to know for sure if food will remain constant.

I'm lucky enough to have a culinary education and have developed budget recipes for some of the best companies out there (please visit my budget pages at and, and several times over the years I've compiled budget-minded posts, but my personal struggle is still one that has gone from day-to-day to month-to-month.

Before I share my own recipe, I want to share some important things with you. Here's how you can help WIN the battle against hunger:

  • WRITE to Congress. Follow this link and take 30 seconds to write a letter to Congress urging them to reconsider the cuts to SNAP benefits and other hunger programs that they are planning.
  • WATCH  A Place at the Table, a movie about the growing hunger epidemic in America. This link lists the many ways you can watch online and this link lists where you can view the movie at a theater.
  • READ Facts About Hunger. 
  • TWEET Congress to end hunger. Instructions to help are here
  • FOLLOW The Giving Table and Share Our Strength - No Kid Hungry to keep up with the war on hunger.

Lastly ... REACH OUT. I would never have let anyone know we didn't have enough to eat. It was so humiliating to be in that position and many times we fell through the cracks and didn't receive any type of assistance that we may have qualified for. If you know someone who is hungry, if you know of children who aren't eating enough, simply ask if help is needed.

Now, here is the recipe I'm sharing. I can barely stand to cook it because of the negative memories I have of it. It's not bad, not good, I would say it's filling and that's about it. If you do like it and can afford it, add diced ham or peppers or fresh herbs, anything to flavor it.

At its most basic, the recipe costs a mere $1.26 for the entire thing - which boils down to 21 cents per plate if you're feeding 6. When you add cheese or meat, the cost goes up, but still falls below $5 for the whole pan. The recipe in the photo and provided below is with cheese added.

Noodle Fritatta

Noodle Frittata
Serves 6
Ready In: 15 minutes
Printable Recipe


2 packages ramen noodles - any flavor
6 eggs - beaten well
1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheese (whichever you like or can afford)


1. Cook ramen according to package directions, adding flavor packets as usual, and drain completely.
2. Heat a 10-inch non-stick pan over medium-high heat and add noodles, rearranging so the bottom of the pan is covered in a single layer.
3. Pour eggs evenly over the top and scoot the noodles around gently so the egg will fall through to the bottom of the pan.
4. Lid tightly and cook until eggs are set, about 5 minutes. Check and if eggs are not set recover and cook until done, being sure not to burn the eggs or noodles. Adjust heat if necessary.
5. Sprinkle with cheese and cover. Remove from heat and let stand until cheese is melted. You can also set the pan under the broiler to brown the cheese if desired (see photo).

Monday, April 01, 2013

Baked Chicken Flautas

Baked Chicken Flautas
Baked Chicken Flautas

Flauta is the Mexican word for 'flute' and usually refers to a large flour tortilla filled and rolled tightly before being deep fried. This version uses a smaller tortilla and healthier-for-you baking to make a delicious and economical dinner. 
Our entire family is crazy about these. The melted cheese and lightly seasoned chicken within a crunchy tortilla is delicious and can be served with a variety of accompaniments and sides. 

Baked Chicken Flautas

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 6
Cost Per Serving: 1.00 


1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
12 6-inch round flour tortillas
Cooking oil spray

For serving:

Sour cream
Shredded lettuce


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Put chicken in a small skillet and sprinkle with cumin and garlic. Add water and simmer until chicken is tender and falls apart easily, about 1 hour.
3. Shred or chop chicken finely and add cheese. Toss to combine.
4. Add chicken and cheese to the center of each tortilla and roll up. Place, seam side down, on a baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking oi.
5. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve with sour cream, shredded lettuce and salsa.