Not Yo Mama’s Vegetarian Lasagna ala Bobbe

I have finally come up with a recipe for vegetarian lasagna that I think is worth sharing. Seriously, we loved this dish!

Recently I was asked by a wonderful lady if I would create a meatless lasagna for her to serve the vegetarians at her dinner party. Happily, I obliged even though I am not typically a lasagna maker. (Something about the ricotta cheese always messes me up and the dish ends up too gloopy.)

I started this dish just thinking about vegetables I like to eat together. Spinach and artichoke always find themselves front and center wearing gold stars, when I start this thought process. Next, what items could I add for taste, color and texture: onions, shredded carrots and chopped Shiitakes! Perfect combo!

Then I thought about my issues with ricotta and I remembered watching an episode of “The Pioneer Woman” where she made hers with a yummy Béchamel sauce (white sauce) instead of ricotta. I questioned this though, because of this being a meatless dish. When there is no meat present, flavors are different and I worried that Béchamel might make a squishy, drippy lasagna. What to do; what to do?

I decided to make a sauce using heavy cream, cottage cheese, finely grated Parmesan cheese, a little corn starch, an egg and some fresh garlic. Then I put together my red sauce and got the rest of my ingredients assembled and ready to go.

Cast of characters:

I should mention too, that I grated a block of Fontina cheese to mix with the bagged Mozzarella for more flavor. To make it easier, and because I was only making this in an 8″ x 8″ pan, I used no boil noodles-they are shorter.

Then it was a simple matter of layering. First, a thin layer of tomato sauce, etc.

Then repeat the layers until the top is reached.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes covered. Then 10 minutes more, uncovered, until brown and bubbly.

The final secret is to let it cool for 20-25 minutes before serving, otherwise, it will wilt as it did below. (I was hungry! It still tasted great!)

Oh and PS, I tested this recipe the night before I made it for my friend. My version didn’t include the carrots and mushrooms. It also had way too much fresh garlic and I had added too much lemon zest to my white sauce. I like to add a little zest to ricotta because it lightens it up, but it didn’t work here because duh, I was using cream. It actually made the dish a little sour. The recipe posted below includes my tweaks. You’re welcome.

((Hugs and love))


Ingredients:
White Sauce:
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 egg
1 ½ cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ tea. Salt
Red Sauce:
(1) 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (OR you can buy a can of San Marzano’s and crush them yourself)
½ jar of your favorite prepared marinara sauce + 2 Tbsp. Olive oil
¼ cup freshly chopped basil
½ tea. Salt
½ tea. Pepper

1 pkg no boil lasagna noodles
(2) 8 oz. packages of frozen, chopped spinach
2 cans artichokes, quartered, then chopped
2 medium onions chopped
2 carrots grated
1 c. Shiitake mushrooms finely chopped (you can leave them chunkier if it’s your preference)
(2) 8 oz. bags of shredded Mozzarella
8 oz. grated Fontina
½ c. finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Prepare both sauces and set aside. Neither has to be heated. Simply mix the ingredients and set aside. This can be done a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator if you like.

Sauté the onions, carrots and mushrooms until the onions are translucent. I started the onions & carrots about five minutes before adding in the mushrooms.

Thaw the spinach, combine it with the chopped artichokes and then squeeze out as much water as humanly possible. I use a cheese cloth. Then mix the cooked onions and carrots.

In a 9 x 13” baking dish, layer as follows:
Red sauce in the bottom
Noodles
Vegetable mixture (about half)
White Sauce
Mozzarella/Fontina Cheese
Red Sauce
Noodles
Repeat
When you reach the top your final layer should be Noodles, Sauce, and Mozzarella/Fontina cheese.
Finish by sprinkling a little Parmesan on top of this.

Cover loosely with foil that you have sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake 30 minutes covered.
Uncover and bake 10 minutes more or until brown and bubbly.
Important: Allow this to cool for 20-25 minutes before you serve it.

PS-I had leftover vegetable filling and cheese that I turned into a crust-less quiche for the following night’s dinner. It was so yummy. Just add 5 eggs and a half cup of cream. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

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Oh, Those Hot (Not Spicy) Italians! (Sliders, of course!)

Lately I have become crazy about any kind of sandwich. I don’t know if it’s a phase or what, but when I think of comfort food, my thoughts turn right to sliders and then my mouth starts to water!

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Last week when I pre-ordered the supplies for our Wednesday Night Fellowship Meal catering job, I made a mistake. (At least, this is what they tell me.) My original menu idea had been soups and sandwiches, but at the last minute I was inspired to make something else. I thought I’d cancelled my soup order, but when I got to the store, it was there. The store had ordered it in, so they informed me that I had to take it. Graciously, they agreed to store it for me until this week.

Long about 2:00 AM Wednesday morning, I started popping around Pinterest, looking for inspiration for my menu. My tomato basil soup is pretty yummy, so I already knew I’d be making this to go along with the home-style chicken noodle waiting for me at the store. I wanted to try some type of slider we’d not done before, so I settled on a version of an Italian slider I found on Pinterest.

The first step is to lay out all of your rolls in greased pans, taking the tops off. Then I made a softened butter mixture that included fresh basil and thyme (from my garden), granulated garlic, and dried Italian Seasoning.

Next is a layer of smoked ham. It’s important to fold the pieces so each sandwich has volume and texture to it. No one wants to bite into a flat meat sandwich. Yuck!

Next is a layer of pepperoni.

Then, a layer of your favorite Salami. This is Genoa.

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Then a layer of Roasted Red pepper. In the interest of time, I used a jarred variety. Were I making this at home, however, I’d have roasted my own peppers.

Then a layer of smokey provolone cheese. (We cut ours into squarish shapes- you don’t have to.)

The next time I make these, I will add one more layer which will be caramelized onions. I planned on doing it this time, but completely forgot about the onions I left in the car! Here, you simply replace the lids and then the fun part is drizzling a mixture of melted butter, Italian seasoning, garlic and Parmesan cheese over the top. Use a pastry brush to ensure every part of the sandwich is covered in butter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. I like to start them off covered for 15 minutes, then finish them uncovered for 5.

We paired these with a choice of tomato basil bisque or chicken noodle soup and a garden salad with sliced mushrooms and artichoke quarters. It was yummy and very very easy to do.

If you have a crowd to feed, sliders are the greatest option!


Ingredients
1-2 sticks of butter
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped basil (optional)
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped thyme (optional)
1-2 Tbsp. Dried Italian herbs (more if needed)
1-2 Tbsp. granulated garlic (more if needed)
1 package of sliced Hawaiian Type rolls. (I used a generic version.) 1 dozen.
1 package of Smoked Ham
1 package of large Pepperoni Slices
1 package of large Salami Slices
1 package of Smokey Provolone slices
1 jar of Roasted Red peppers (at home I would roast my own, but not for a huge crowd)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375.
Grease a baking pan and lay the bottoms of the rolls inside.
In a bowl combine one stick of softened butter with half the herbs of your choice.
Spread the butter mixture over the bottoms of the rolls.
Layer as follows:
1. Folded Ham Slices
2. Pepperoni
3. Salami
4. Roasted Red Peppers
5. Provolone Cheese
6. Put the tops back on.
Melt the remaining butter, add the herbs and then drizzle this over the tops of the buns being careful to coat each one.
Bake covered at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more or until the cheese is melted and the tops of the rolls are a little bit brown but NOT hard.

Who Doesn’t love a Kicked Up Grilled Cheese?

Hubs and I decided to make Halloween night a night of favorite comfort food indulgence. What’s better than a fancy grilled cheese, right!?

Hubs and I are usually very regimented when it comes to our meals. He is a body builder, and I am on a never-ending mission to lose weight. We don’t indulge in breads much, because I could eat an entire loaf in one sitting and most commercial breads have a lot of hidden sugar in them. (We try to limit our sugar intake as well.)

Halloween night we were both feeling like doing something fun, so after some discussion, we landed on the option of grilled cheese. When we both let out a simultaneous, “Yuuuummmmmmmm!”, I knew we’d reached our decision.

The next half hour consisted of salivating over the different ways we could amp up this dish. We decided on thinly sliced zucchini, thinly sliced tomato, Swiss and Cheddar cheeses, caramelized onions, freshly chopped basil, yellow mustard and of course some great bread: thick cut sour dough (my favorite).

I confess to being distracted by trick-or-treaters, (or at least the sounds of them), so I didn’t photograph every step. I have to say, with conviction, that everyone should already know how to make a basic grilled cheese! It’s absolutely not rocket science! I have faith you all do!

You should have all of your ingredients gathered together holding hands next to the pan, because once the bread goes down, you want to work quickly so you don’t burn it.

I started by buttering one side of each bread slice. (I always use REAL butter, anything else is unhealthy.) Then I heated a cast iron skillet to medium-high, melted some more butter and about a Tbsp of olive oil, and placed the first piece of bread butter-side down in the pan. These were big slices of bread, so I did one sandwich at a time. I let the bread sit in the pan for about a minute, turned the heat down a tad, then added my first layer of cheese (Swiss volunteered to be first.) Then I sprinkled on a little yellow mustard.

Then came the thinly sliced Roma tomatoes. (We used the mandolin set on super thin to do these these and the zucchini. If you don’t have a mandolin, slice the tomatoes as thinly as possible. You can use a vegetable peeler to pull off long strips of zucchini instead of medallions.) Just like we did with the tarts, we salted them and left them out on paper towels for half an hour to get the water out of them. Blot them dry before you use them.

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Like I said, I didn’t photograph all of my steps so just use your imagination or squint while you look at the next photos. AFTER the tomatoes, I sprinkled on some shredded sharp cheddar, then came the zucchini. I also failed to mention that I season at every turn. So here you can see some freshly cracked pepper. Don’t use salt on the vegetables because you don’t want any more liquid coming out making your sammie soggy. (Sammie soggy; Say that five times fast! -Sammie-soggy, Sammie-soggy, Sammie-soggy…)

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I totally failed at getting the photo of the BEST part and that is the sprinkling of caramelized onions. We keep those on hand most of the time, so I just pulled mine out of the fridge and used them cold. Then a sprinkling of freshly chopped basil, more Swiss and the top goes on.

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By now it’s time to flip because I’m certain the bottom is golden brown. (I forgot to say this earlier. I didn’t do it this time, but it would have been great to have sprinkled a little granulated garlic or garlic salt in that butter before it went in the pan.)

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Yup. Right on the money.

Cut that thing of beauty in half and pair it with your favorite soup! This is tomato-basil, but I confess that I bought it prepared at my local deli.  No recipe for this today, but I’ll post mine soon.


Do you really NEED a recipe for this?

Ingredients:

• 4 pieces thick cut sour dough bread
• Enough real softened butter to coat one side of each piece of bread (you do the math)
• 1 Tbsp real butter & 1 Tbsp olive oil (for melting in the skillet)
• 1 zucchini sliced as thinly as humanly possible.
• 3 Roma tomatoes sliced like the zucchini
• 4 Tbsp caramelized onions
• 8 pieces of pre-sliced Swiss Cheese
• ½-3/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
• 2 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
• Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Slice your vegetables and lay them out on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let them rest for half an hour. Then blot them dry with more paper towels.

2. Spread softened butter onto one side of each piece of bread.

3. Assemble all ingredients prior to putting the first slice in the pan.

4. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high and melt 1-2 Tbsp butter & 1 Tbsp olive oil in the pan.

5. Put the first slice in, butter-side down, let it sit about 30 seconds.

6. Layer your ingredients: Swiss cheese, mustard, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, zucchini, caramelized onions, more Swiss cheese, then the other piece of bread.

7. Flip and press down. Sandwich is done when the cheese is melted and the outsides are golden brown. Salt and pepper the outside while still hot.

 

Pumpkin-Shaped Cheese Ball ala Bobbe!

Halloween is coming! Here is an easy, awesome recipe for a delicious and festive appetizer to take to your party! Who doesn’t love a pumpkin-shaped cheeseball? The bonus is that this is fun thing to make with your kids too!

In honor of Halloween coming, I thought I’d share one of the most fun recipes in my arsenal. I’m sure a lot of you are either hosting or going to Halloween parties this weekend. If you need to take a really fun appetizer, this cheese ball is delicious and it makes a GREAT presentation!

The photos you see here are from an adult cocktail party I catered this weekend, so my pumpkins don’t have faces on them, but you can absolutely dress yours up as a jack-o-lantern if you wish!

Also, I use this recipe for loads of Holiday parties. I’ve formed it into a carrot for Easter, made it into a Christmas Tree for Christmas and it’s even been a heart for Valentine’s Day!

I regret not having photographed the entire process but you are smart enough to picture the ingredients in a bowl. You start by making the cheese mixture. Once it’s combined, you lay it out onto plastic wrap, wrap it up and form it into a ball. Then I usually find a bowl that’s a little more round, place the ball in it and then refrigerate for about an hour. At that point, you take it back out and start forming your pumpkin shape with rubber bands.  See below?

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Once you have the basic shape, put it back in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. Then take it back out and cut off the rubber bands and remove the plastic. At this point you can add a topper. I saved the top of a bell pepper for this one.

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Once you have your topper selected and in place, all you do is sprinkle the outside with pulverized Doritos. If you don’t like Doritos, crush up Cheetos, or any orange/cheesy chip you happen to like.

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At the party last weekend, I made three little pumpkin cheese balls and used them as decorations for my meat trays. As you can see by the photo, I went out to the garden and clipped a few tomato leaves to make the stems.

At this point, you can add your own touches. Have fun with it and enjoy because this cheese ball is delicious and kids and adults alike, LOVE the flavor!


Ingredients:

  • (2) 8 oz packages of cream cheese softened (I leave mine out on the counter overnight)
  • 1/2 package of Taco Seasoning (any brand)
  • 3/4 a small can of sliced black olives (chopped into tiny pieces)
  • 1 bunch of chives, chopped (you could also use scallions or regular onion)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 small bag of Doritos Nacho Cheese chips (or your favorite orange cheesy chip)
  • Stem from a bell pepper.
  • 4-5 rubber bands

Directions:

  • In a large glass bowl, combine all ingredients but the chips and stem. (I usually microwave the mixture for about 20-30 seconds to soften everything to make it easier.)
  • Turn the mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up and start to form a ball.
  • Place your newly formed ball into the refrigerator for an hour.
  • Once chilled, form the pumpkin shape by using the rubber bands. Chill again for 30 minutes.
  • Place the chips in a zip lock baggie and beat them until they are dust. OR you can use a food processor, but trust me, beating them is more fun!
  • Cut the rubber bands off, remove the plastic, add the topper, then sprinkle the orange dust.
  • Enjoy!

Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Vegetables. One One Pan Wonder!

Beautiful, delicious food doesn’t have to take a million steps to prepare. Check out this one pan wonder…

Dinner doesn’t always have to have dramatic preparation to be both beautiful and delicious. Last night when I got home late, my husband already had the chicken marinating in a balsamic concoction. All I did was figure out what vegetables to throw on a pan and dinner was underway!

I opted for beautiful tri-colored baby carrots, purple potatoes and spiralized beets. (I am on a spiralizing kick lately!) I sprinkled on some olive oil and salt and pepper, then popped them into the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. At 15 minutes, take them out and make a little room on the pan, then add your chicken and pop it all back in the oven for twenty minutes. Last night I got involved with writing for another site and I forgot this step which is why you see no chicken on this pan. No worries. I baked the chicken in the pan it was marinated in.

And here is the finished product. Aren’t they beautiful? Here, I usually sprinkle on a little more pepper and call it a day.

Here is my plated dinner. Okay, I lied. At the last minute we had a taste for some steamed broccoli so we made it. We could have just as easily roasted it on the same pan as the other veggies, but we didn’t decide on it until the other stuff was already in the oven. Beautiful and delicious and no one has to know how simple and easy it was to prepare.

Unless you write a blog about it to tell the world!


Balsamic Marinade Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp honey(optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-4 pounds boneless skinless chicken (There are just two of us so we usually opt for chicken tenderloins as they cook very fast.)

Directions

(Are you ready for this?)

  • Whisk together all ingredients.
  • Pour over chicken.
  • (Wipe the sweat from your brow. That was hard!)

How long you wish to leave the chicken marinating is entirely up to you. I like to let mine sit from 1-4 hours. Just cover it and put it in the fridge. Take it out and let it sit at room temp for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. If you are in a rush, just let it sit half an hour, it will still be great.

Bake at 400 degrees approximately 20-25 minutes.


For the one pan dinner:

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Decide on what veggies you like, roll them around in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and salt & pepper.
  • Pour them on a sheet tray.
  • Bake 15 minutes, add chicken to the pan, bake 20-25 minutes more.

Use your common sense here. If you are roasting soft veggies that will cook fast like zucchini, yellow squash, onions, tomatoes, etc. Put everything, including the chicken, on one pan and cook them together.

When you are roasting dense veggies like potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, acorn squash, etc, start them in the oven at least 15 minutes before adding the chicken.

Lemon Cilantro Baked Cod Fillets

I have always been that person who thought cilantro tastes like soap. That is, until I started living with my husband, who is a fanatic over the stuff…

I have always been that person who thinks cilantro tastes like soap. That is, until I started living with my husband, who is a fanatic over the stuff. At any given moment during the year, we have not one, but two bunches sitting in water on our counter; so over the summer I decided to give in and start using the stuff and now I am hooked.

I adapted this recipe from something similar that called for parsley instead of cilantro. I imagine it would also be great with fresh chopped basil or even rosemary.

I love this recipe because it’s unexpectedly creamy and it smells incredible! Prep time is just a few minutes and you can assemble this dish ahead of time if you need to- just pop it in the fridge until you are ready to bake.

Start off with with cod fillets. We buy ours frozen from Trader Joe’s. Once it’s thawed, be sure to pat it dry on both sides so the melted butter will adhere to it.

Next melt about 4 Tbsp real butter (none of that no fat, low fat, fake butter crap! Use the real stuff!) We buy Amish butter. You can’t beat the freshness.

Now for the dredging stations: 1) This is about 3/4 cup of flour, mixed with a generous amount of smoky paprika, salt and pepper and one of my favorite spice blends: Essence of Emeril.

2) Next, I zested one very large lemon and squeezed its juice (about 3 Tbsp, I said it was large!). For fun, I also zested a Meir Lemon. Then add about 1/4th cup chopped fresh cilantro. When your butter has melted, add it here.

Here it is with the melted butter.

Dredge each piece of cod, both sides in the butter/ cilantro mixture and then the flour. The original recipe called for dredging only one side but I always do both. I suppose you could leave out the flour entirely, but the dish will not turn out as creamy. (It will, however, still be delicious!)

Spray your baking dish with coconut oil (or whatever you have on hand-or leave it out. I forgot this step tonight. It made no difference.), then lay out your fish. Pour the remaining butter/cilantro mixture over the fish. Here, I usually toss in a little more cilantro and sprinkle a little more paprika.

PS: This stuff? It’s your friend when you don’t feel like chopping. Find it at the grocery where you buy fresh spices.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until flakey.

We made roasted butternut squash, zucchini and baby Roma tomatoes as our sides. These just go in at 400 degrees coated in olive oil, salt and pepper. All on one sheet pan. I make then before I bake the fish, the cover with foil and let them rest.

Fresh out of the oven.

The thought occurs to me that I could have mixed the tomatoes in with the squash. I like to keep the zucchini whole, however. It’s a texture thing for me.


INGREDIENTS

4 tablespoons lemon juice

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tbsp smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning

4 cod fillets (6 ounces each)

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Zest of 1-2 lemons

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400°. In a shallow bowl, mix lemon juice, cilantro and butter. In a separate shallow bowl, mix flour and seasonings. Dip fillets in lemon juice mixture, then in flour mixture to coat both sides; shake off excess.

Place in a 13×9-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with remaining lemon juice, cilantro, butter mixture. Sprinkle on a little more paprika & lemon pepper. Bake 15-20 minutes or until fish just begins to flake easily with a fork. Garnish with more fresh cilantro & lemon zest.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Onions.

I first saw these things on Facebook in one of those short instructional videos. I thought they looked delicious and easy. NOT! While they do score high on the deliciousness scale, and I might try to make them again, stuffing these onions was anything but easy!

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I first saw these things on Facebook in one of those short instructional videos. I thought they looked delicious and easy.  NOT! While they do score high on the deliciousness scale, and I might try to make them again, stuffing these onions was anything but easy!

First, it took almost an entire bag of onions to get what you see here. Trying to separate the onion skins proved an exasperating task. I found out I am not skilled at this at all and ended up breaking pretty much all of my onion skins. Then once I did have enough, I broke a couple more while stuffing them. Of course, I  now realize they didn’t have to be perfect and I could have just pieced them together in two parts since they were held together by the bacon, but that’s not my style. (The curse I bear in this lifetime is perfectionism.)

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Ingredients:

You can actually stuff these with whatever your favorite meat or meatless mixture happens to be. If you have a favorite meatloaf recipe, use that. If you have a favorite recipe for stuffed mushrooms, use that. You can even sub the meat out and use mushrooms instead if you like. Ground turkey or chicken would be delightful as well. Make it your own!

2 yellow onions
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 Tbsps. cottage cheese
1 Tbsp. spicy ketchup
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 pack of bacon
1 bottle of BBQ sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, crumbs, egg, ½ cup BBQ, parsley, diced onions, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix together with your hands until thoroughly combined.
  3. Cut top and bottom off onion, cut in half and peel off skin. Then separate the onion into “layers”. Use the larger outside layers.
  4. Stuff your Meatloaf mix between two Onion Layers (essentially making an onion seal around a large meatball)
  5. Wrap each “bomb” with 3 slices bacon and secure with toothpicks.
  6. Bake on a sheet pan with a wire rack (see above) at 425 for approx 40 minutes or until internal temp 165.
  7. Add BBQ sauce all over and bake an additional 5 minutes!
  8. Enjoy!