Open Faced Pumpkin (Jack O’ Lantern) Cheesy Bread

Open Faced Pumpkin Jack O Lantern Cheesy Bread

This Jack O’ Lantern “Pumpkin” Cheesy Bread is another fun lunch idea to serve up in October!

I love playing with food and this is one of those things that makes my kids a little more excited about eating non-candy foods.  Granted, an open-faced cheese sandwich might not be the healthiest thing in their lunchbox, but it’s filling.  And you can make it with whatever kind of bread you like.  It looks better on wheat than white bread, and even better on pumpernickel.

I used the big pumpkins from this cookie cutter set to cut out the bread.  A regular loaf of sandwich bread may be a little small for the big cookie cutter, so you can either use the smaller pumpkin instead, or just flatten out the bread slice a little bit to make it wider.  Like with a rolling pin.  Or your hands, if you’re lazy like me.

Then, take your orange cheese (I used American but if your kids like cheddar, that’s awesome, too) and cut out a pumpkin with the same cutter you used for the bread.  You may have to put two pieces of cheese next to each other to be big enough for the pumpkin, but don’t worry – it’ll all melt together.

On a cutting board, after you’ve cut your pumpkin shape from the cheese slice, use a small knife to carve the face from the cheese.  Draw the face with the point of the knife and then use the knife to lift out the extra pieces.  Then gently transfer the cheese to the bread, lining up the pumpkin shapes.

Put the bread on a napkin and microwave it for 5 to 7 seconds – just enough to barely melt the cheese.  If it melts too much, the face will spread and get mushy.  Remember, you want it to melt just enough to make sure the cheese will stick to the bread and not fall off.

If you’re going to put it into a container for their lunchbox instead of eating it right away, make sure to leave it on the napkin for a minute before enclosing it in plastic, just in case there’s any errant moisture.  Then pack it off, or refrigerate it until the next day.

Happy Halloween!

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Garlic Parmesan Chickpeas

Garlic Parmesan Chickpeas

I pretty much love anything that’s flavored with garlic and Parmesan (esp. my Garlic Infused Parmesan Popcorn), so I wanted to give roasted chickpeas a try.

I thought they were great.  Crunchy on the outside, soft and smooth on the inside, and with a nice spice to them.

They do get a little soft after a day or two, so I suggest serving them the day you make them, like for a dinner party.  But if you want to make them ahead of time, or just for yourself where you’re not going to eat the whole batch in one sitting, then you can broil them briefly before serving them, stirring them and keeping a close eye on them.

Garlic Parmesan Chickpeas

There are only a few ingredients.

Just some butter to help the cheese and spices stick to the beans.

Garlic Parmesan Chickpeas

Draining and drying off the chickpeas only takes a couple of minutes.

It’s important, though, because you don’t want all that moisture from the can on them.  They won’t roast as well.

Garlic Parmesan Chickpeas

See?  Only a handful of ingredients.

Garlic Parmesan Chickpeas

When you pour out the chickpeas onto the pan, be sure to sprinkle any remaining cheese from the bowl over them.  This extra cheese will melt and cook onto them.

Garlic Parmesan Chickpeas

Can’t you just see the yumminess?

Garlic Parmesan Chickpeas

Ingredients:

1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Drain the can of chickpeas and pat them dry with paper towels.

In a bowl, mix the chickpeas with the melted butter.

Stir in the garlic and pepper, mixing well. Then stir in the cheese until all the chickpeas are coated.

Using parchment paper, line a medium baking pan with raised sides. Pour the chickpeas onto the pan, spreading them out, and pour over them any remaining cheese from the bowl.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until browned and crispy.

Store covered.

[Note: These are crunchiest the first day. If they get too soft after being stored, broil them for 5 or 6 minutes before serving.]

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To print the free PDF copy of this recipe, click here:  Garlic Parmesan Chickpeas

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Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

When I was five years old my favorite food was macaroni and cheese.

Nothing’s changed.

Seriously, I could eat this stuff every day.  But it IS nice to change up the elbows and cheddar routine.  And one of my favorite ways to do that is with Gouda.

As you’ll see, I also incorporated sausage into this.  You could do that in a variety of ways, but I chose to fry the sausage and cut it into half-slices.  You could also remove the casing and crumble it into the pan to cook, if you think you’d prefer that.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

I also added half a sweet onion for flavor.  As you can tell from the photos, I removed most of the onion before adding the sausage pieces to the macaroni because they’d become a little too dark for my taste.  I didn’t want the taste of the burnt onion pieces in my final dish, but cooking the sausage with the onions gave it a nice depth of flavor.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

This recipe also calls for a basic roux.  Butter, flour, milk, cheese:  voila.

And pepper.  Gotta have my spice.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Also, I used Corkscrew pasta.  I like to change up the shapes of pasta sometimes, but keep in mind that when using a different shape of pasta than what the recipe calls for, you may need to adjust the amount.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

You could easily use regular breadcrumbs, but I like using Panko sometimes.  I used it here.

If you’re not going to bake it right away, wait to add the breadcrumbs until just before baking.  Sometimes I put a little bit of my mac mixture into a small ramekin or two to keep in the fridge to bake another day.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

And, if your breadcrumbs don’t brown as much as you’d like by the time the sauce is bubbling nicely, then just broil it for a couple minutes.

As you can see from my photo, the Panko don’t brown as quickly or evenly as regular breadcrumbs.  But they’re still toasty, even the parts still light in color, so it still adds a nice crunch to the dish.

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Sausage and Gouda Mac & Cheese

So, here’s the path to yumminess:

Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

2 cups corkscrew pasta
2 to 4 sausage links
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 Tbs olive oil
5 Tbs butter, separated
3 Tbs flour
2 tsp pepper
3 cups whole milk
2 cups (8 oz.) apple smoked Gouda, shredded
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add onion and sausage and cook until onions are translucent and sausage is at least mostly cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and slice into 1/4 or 1/2 inch slices, and cut the slices in half. Return sausage to pan, adding extra olive oil if the pan is too dry, and cook until the pieces are well-browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels, removing any onions that have become too dark (or all of them if you only want the flavor of them in the meat).

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions. Also, in a small dish, melt the 2 Tbs butter and mix the panko into it. Set panko aside.

Melt 3 Tbs butter in a saucepot. Sprinkle flour over it and stir well to create a roux. Add pepper and stir for a minute to lessen the taste of the flour. Remove from heat and whisk in milk. Return to heat and cook at medium high, stirring frequently, until just starting to boil. As soon as it starts to bubble, turn heat to low and stir in cheese. Stir until cheese is fully incorporated.

Stir the cooked pasta and sausage into the cheese sauce. Pour into a baking dish and sprinkle the panko over the top.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes more, or until sauce begins to bubble. If desired, you can broil it for 2 minutes to achieve a well-browned crust on the breadcrumb topping.

(Note: Dish can be stored in the fridge or freezer before baking. Let sit at room temp at least 30 mins from fridge before baking and add 10 mins to baking time. Do not add panko until ready to bake.)

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Print the FREE PDF of the recipe:  Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese

Enjoy!

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Gooey Grilled Cheese Rolls

gooey grilled cheese rolls

These are a fun way to change up your traditional lunch menus.

I originally found the idea on Pinterest, but now the pin doesn’t lead anywhere, and there are examples of this recipe all over the internet, so I’m not really sure who created it.

Anyway, it’s a simple concept:  put a slice of cheese on a slice of bread, roll it up, fry with butter.

Of course, if you roll the bread a little flatter and larger with a rolling pin, it makes it a little easier, but I didn’t feel like it.  Works without it, too.  Besides, finger food in general is pretty popular with my girls, whether or not it’s as picture perfect as my inspiration.  :)

So, here is a collage of the making-the-gooey-grilled-cheese-rolls process:

making grilled cheese rolls

Enjoy!

And let me know if you try any fun variations!