Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Extending My Vacation....

How was your Memorial Day holiday weekend?  I hope it was fabulous! 

Mine was very nice but a bit hectic.  We entertained five visitors at our house from Friday to Monday.  I did a ton of cooking beforehand - made three pizzas, cooked two pounds of meatloaf, baked brownies and two batches of lemon bars.  We also barbecued so I marinated steaks, chicken and sausage.  I made homemade salsa then made a cookie cake.  It was a bit non-stop in the kitchen.  I enjoyed playing hostess even though I was washing towels each day!  I did manage to find time to sit and kick back several beers each afternoon though.  :-)

So yes, I ate way too much food over the weekend.  I also absorbed too much sun from our beach trip and now my back is sunburt badly.  Oh well, at least it was only my back and not my entire body.  The redness and the soon-to-be peeling is worth the time I spent enjoying the sun and the waves and especially watching my three year old laughing nonstop for an hour when the water splashed her knees. 

That being said though, I am feeling very worn out.  I didn't take time to meal plan or even research or read blogs over the weekend for ideas this week.  I'm just going to wing it or throw together last-minute meals for dinner.  My freezer is still very stocked so I can dig into that for supplies as well.   I'm working longer hours at work this week while my boss is on vacation.  Therefore, I decided to extend my vacation and take the rest of this week off....  I will not be blogging or posting a meal plan.   Actually, I will try hard to avoid the computer altogether.  I have a book I want to finish reading and return to my friend who let me borrow it.  And I just need some down-chill time after talking, cooking and entertaining so much for four days.

So this is a quick hi and then a pause until next week when I'm feeling reenergized and refreshed about life and cooking again.  Until then, enjoy yourself and stay well!

Remember, it is good to take a break from time to time.   I know I need this one and that I'll be a new and improved Mandy ready to learn, laugh and cook again soon!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brunch Casserole

I wanted to try a new breakfast meal that encompasses all my favorite ingredients - eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and more.  This is what I came up with after browsing a few inspirational recipes online.  It has nearly everything I go for, except for grits and pancakes.  But those can be served with this wonderful dish. 

I can't wait to serve this up for my family visiting this weekend for the Memorial Day holiday.  I know they'll love it as much as my husband and I did.  It's so filling too! 

Mandy's Brunch Casserole
(Serves 8 to 10)

1 pound bag of shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
1 small bag (3 oz) of bacon bits (or use your own crumbled turkey bacon, about 1/3 cup)
1 medium onion, diced
6 eggs
1 can of cream of mushroom soup - I used fat-free, low sodium kind
2 cups of shredded cheese - I used reduced fat cheddar
1/2 cup of milk - I used 2%
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper seasoning to taste - I used at least 1/2 tsp of each
1/2 cup of green onions, diced for topping the casserole

Note: I make it easy on myself and use the bags of potatoes and bacon, like this:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Spread the hash brown potatoes at the bottom of the pan.  It should cover the entire cassrole dish with some going up the sides as well, like this (pictured below):

In a medium skillet, cook your onion and bacon until brown, about seven minutes.  Set aside when done.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, cream of mushroom soup, parmesan cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper and 1 cup of the shredded cheese.  Mix and stir well until all blended.  Add in the cooked onion and bacon.  Stir until mixed together.  Pour over the hash brown potatoes.

You can now either bake immediately or leave in the fridge overnight to soak.  If you bake right away, then top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese and the green onions.  If you place it overnight, then wait to top with the cheese and green onions right before baking! 

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes in the oven.  Test it by placing a fork or knife in the casserole.  If it comes out clean, your breakfast is ready.  If not, let it bake a bit longer.  Mine was ready after the first test.  We sure devoured this up! 

What do you serve a large crowd for breakfast?  Do you make any casseroles similar to this that your family loves?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Easy Thai Chicken Wraps - the kids will love these too!

I took a leap and tried this ethnic-inspired wrap last week.  Surprisingly, my family really liked it.  Even my three year old ate it twice for dinner.  That's probably because it tasted a lot like the peanut butter in it.  She loves her PB&J sandwiches.  Now I have another way to give her some protein and sneak in a veggie too.  These are NOT spicy at all, not the way I make them.

Easy Thai Chicken Wraps (Serves 4 to 5)

2 cups of shredded or ground chicken
1/2 cup of shredded or pureed carrots
6 Tbsp of creamy, all natural peanut butter
4 Tbsp of soy sauce - I used low sodium type
4 Tbsp of rice vinegar
3 Tbsp of water
1/2 tsp of chili powder
5 to 6 whole wheat flour tortillas

Heat a large skillet on the stove.  Spray lightly with cooking spray.  Toss in your ground or shredded chicken and the carrots.  Cook for about 7 minutes.  Remove from heat.

In a small, microwaveable-safe bowl, place your peanut butter.  Heat on high for about 15 to 20 seconds.  Remove from microwave.  Scoop the peanut butter into a larger bowl.  Pour in the soy sauce, rice vinegar and water.  Whisk until smooth.   Sprinkle in the chili powder and stir. 

Scoop the peanut-sauce mixture over the chicken and carrots.  Coat them until all is covered.  Use a large spoon or spatula.  

Warm your whole wheat flour tortillas in the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Then scoop out a portion of the thai chicken into the center of the tortilla (about 1/3 cup in size).  Then tuck and fold the edges and sides around so that no chicken mixture will be visible or fall out. 

Serve warm.  We ate ours with cream style corn.  This was a surprisingly filling meal.  I served my husband two wraps but he could only eat one. 

This freeze well too.  I froze three wraps and ate on them later in the week.  I simply wrapped them in aluminum foil and then took them out the freezer in the morning.  I let one thaw at room temperature and warmed it in the microwave for about 30 seconds before eating.  Tasted like it was freshly made!   :-)

Enjoy this little bit of something different to your boring old sandwich routine!  :-)

Note: If you have peanut allergies or don't like peanut butter, you could try substituting almond butter or sun butter.  I haven't tried it so I can't personally vouch for the flavor but I think it would still taste great.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (May 23 - 30, 2011)

This week, I'll be cleaning and doing prepwork for visitors that we're having on Memorial Day weekend.  We're going to have a full house - our own little family of three (plus our dog) and five additional guests (3 adults and two kids) are coming to stay with us.  Therefore, I'm not taking on any new meals in my plan this week but rather tried and true favorites of ours that I know everyone will love.  Some of it I'll freeze for our guests and the rest I will keep in the fridge until their Friday arrival. 

Even though I'm not making anything new this week, I do have several new recipes to share with you - including a new sandwich wrap and a brunch casserole that would surely please your family.  So stay tuned for that later this week.

Here's my plan for the coming days!

Monday, May 23 - Chicken Parmesan with honey mustard sauce - This is a wonderful recipe from my cookbook!  Maybe I'll share this recipe here soon.  I will serve these with a side of green beans and homemade bread.

Tuesday, May 24 - B.L.A.T sandwiches (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato) with my easy, guacamole dip and baked chips

Wednesday, May 25 - Leftover Chicken Parmesan or Eat out with friends

Thursday, May 26 - Veggie-Turkey Meatloaf - another great recipe from my cookbook!  I will freeze these for our company to enjoy over the weekend! 

Friday, May 27 - Make our two favorite pizzas for our guests arriving: Barbecue Chicken and Ranch Pizza AND Muffuletta Pizza too!  Serve with salad

Saturday, May 28 - Enjoy a big cookout - grilled chicken and sausage, garlic-tequilia-lime shrimp, my awesome low-fat potato salad, cauliflower fritters and more!!

Sunday, May 29 - Brunch Casserole.  Then we'll enjoy a late picnic lunch or eat out, a day at the beach perhaps? 

Monday, May 30 (Memorial Day)- Leftovers Buffet from the weekend - where we line up all the food remaining and go for it like we're at Shoney's, Hahaha!  Choose from barebecue foods, pizza, meatloaf and more!

Desserts:  I'll have an array of desserts on hand for our guests to enjoy too.  I'm hoping to make these past treats that I've posted on here:

1) S'mores Cookie Cake Bars

2) Bananas Foster Crumble Cake

3) Double Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

What are your Memorial Day weekend plans?  Are you cooking, ordering out or just figuring it out as you go along? 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Easy, Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

I tried this creamier version of tomato soup recently at a recipe club exchange and was reminded how much I enjoy this dish.  Everyone has their own style for this soup but this is one of the easiest and fastest ways you can throw it all together. 

Of course fresh ingredients are best but when you're pressed for time or if your farmers market doesn't have basil leaves and your tomatoes are already turning brown and soft, just do it like this.  Your family won't really even know the difference anyway. 

I like this soup in the cold months and in the warm months too.  During winter you can dip your grilled cheese sandwich in there and make it a heartier meal.  In the summer months, when it's so hot you can hardly stand it, you can eat this cold or at room temperature and it won't make you sick to your stomach! 


Easy, Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

(Serves 6, makes about 8 cups)

4 cans (14.5 oz) of diced tomatoes - I used petite tomatoes - read label carefully for no added salt, sugar or preservatives
4 tsp. dried ground basil leaves (Or use 12 fresh leaves cut up if you have them on hand!)
4 Tbsp real, all natural butter - I used Kerrygold Pure Irish brand
1 cup of half and half cream - I used organic creamer marked from Pasture raised cows
sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1-2 tsp of lemon juice to garnish (optional)

Heat a medium size sauce pan on the stove.  Pour in the canned tomatoes (juices included).  Simmer on medium-high until the liquid starts to burn.  Remove from heat.  Add in the basil leaves, half and half cream, butter and any seasoning you wish to add.  Stir until the butter has melted. 

Gently pour the tomato-basil liquid into a blender or food processor.  You may need to do this in several batches like I did.  Puree until smooth.  Serve immediately or portion out for several servings like I did so I could enjoy this for lunch a few times this week! 

This freezes well!  I hope you try it and find it tasty too.

Do you eat soups during the warmer, summer months?  Does the heat affect how you eat? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Simple, Summer Berry Pie

I made this easy dessert on Saturday to welcome my husband back home after being on a week-long business trip.  There are so many berries in season right now here in Florida so it seemed like a good idea.  This would make a great Memorial day weekend treat for you as well, especially by decorating the top with blueberries, red strawberries and some white whipped topping. 

I love these simple, throw-together kind of pies that require miminal work and taste amazing.  I hope you enjoy this one!

Simple, Summer Berry Pie
(Serves 6 to 8)

1 deep pie crust (I used a whole wheat, organic kind OR make your own)
4 cups of berries, divided in half (I used a mixture of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
8 oz package of reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 container of whipped cream topping, reduced fat or fat free
1 cup of organic, all natural sugar
4 Tbsp. unbleached flour (I used whole wheat)
A few berries for garnish (optional)

Grease a deep dish pie plate generously with cooking spray.  Use a ready-made store bought pie crust or make your own.  (I have done it both ways, depending on my time and the ingredients I have on hand).   Bake your pie crust at 400 degrees for about ten minutes.  Remove from heat and it let it cool completely. 

Melt the 8 oz package of cream cheese in the microwave.  Spread it across the bottom of the pie crust.  Wash and thinly slice two cups of the berries.  Set the other half aside.  Place the sliced berries over the creamed crust.  Spoon 1/3 of  the whipped cream over the strawberries, covering all of them.

Place the other two cups of berries in a large bowl.  Mash them until juicy.  In a medium size pot, boil your mashed berries on the stove with the sugar and flour until thick, about ten minutes.  Stir frequently so the strawberry liquid does not burn.  Substance will resemble a jam-like texture.   Let this liquid cool before handling.  Once cool, pour mixture into pie covering almost to the top, like this:


Top pie with remaining 2/3 of the whipped cream.  Cut into 8 slices. Enjoy!  
The pie stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to five days.  I do not recommend freezing this particular pie because the jam-texture of it causes the crust the become a bit soggy after prolonged exposure to cold.

Do you like your pie hot or cold?  Or both ways?  Do you make any summer pies that you love?   

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta

I saw this wonderful recipe posted on my bloggy pal Lara's website.  She has such great, easy family recipes that always catch my eye.  When she described this one as pasta that tasted like a hamburger, I knew I had to try it.  Her words didn't disappoint me either. 

I did tweak her recipe to add in some bacon, a liquid-based steak seasoning and a can of tomato sauce to give it a saucey texture.  The end result was amazing!  My husband loved this one and didn't even mind leftovers for two days!  I think you'll enjoy it as well.  It was a quick, simple recipe that I threw together after I came home from work.  Everything was ready in less than an hour.

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta

Adapted from Recipe Shoebox

(Serves 6)

1 box (12-ounces) of whole wheat pasta - I used penne
1 lb. ground turky meat
1 onion, diced
1 can (14-1/2-oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1/2 cup of shredded or pureed carrots (optional)
2 Tbsp. mustard
3 Tbsp. ketchup
3 Tbsp. dill pickle relish
1 Tbsp. steak sauce (I used A-1)
1/4 tsp. salt or Cajun seasoning
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, reduced fat
1/2 cup of chopped green onions
1/3 cup of bacon bits

Cook your whole wheat pasta according to package directions on the stove.  Grease a large skillet generously with cooking spray.  Brown beef with chopped onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.  Stir in the diced tomatoes, the tomato sauce, pureed (or shredded) carrots, mustard, ketchup, relish, steak sauce, and salt/seasoning.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for about seven minutes. 

Add in your bacon bits and the chopped green onions.  Cook for another five minutes.  Stir in the drained pasta.  Cook for about 3 minutes more. Top with the cheddar cheese.  Remove from heat; stir and serve.

We topped ours with some additional cheese and served them with green beans.


Enjoy!   This is a good one!  Thanks again Lara! 

How often do you cook pasta dishes?  I realize that we have some kind of noodle meal at least once a week.  I love it!  We buy the whole grain or whole wheat pasta.  It's so easy to add vegetables to your pasta and sneak in a few purees too.  Tomato sauce can easily hide things like carrots, cauliflower and more.  Think beyond just the meat and red sauce the next time you make pasta dishes.  And if you have any good ones you make, please share them here too! 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (May 16 - 22)?

Wow, last week flew by fast!  I stayed so busy helping out friends by babysitting or delievering freezer meals to a needy family.  I ate from my freezer with previously prepared meals or I ate out.  My husband came back to town yesterday after being gone for a week.  So we finally sat down and had a great, normal meal as a family.  I even made a summer berry pie, a simple recipe that I intend to share later this week. 

I hope to post three new recipes this week - a pasta dish, a salad dressing and a dessert.  I'm also working on a post where I discuss how I do Saturday morning cooking (2-3 hours in the kitchen) that saves me a lot of time later on.  Stay tuned for those!

In the mean time, here is what I have lined up for this week.  I'm continuing with the less is more, simple is good -

Monday, May 16 - Easy Thai Chicken Wraps with a side of steamed veggies (carrots, broccoli, etc.)

Tuesday, May 17 -
Turkey burgers and Beer-Cheese soup (both are currently in my freezer)

Wednesday, May 18 -
Leftovers or Eat Out with friends

Thursday, May 19 -
Chicken Tacos, with corn and pinto beans

Friday, May 20
 - Upside Down Pizza by Recipe Shoebox, with a side salad

Saturday, May 21
 - Sicilian Rice Ball Casserole with a side of Broccoli Fritters

Sunday, May 22
 - Homemade Chili in the Crockpot with cornbread cake (This makes a ton so I freeze 2/3 of it for later use!)

Next weekend I hope to do several hours of prepwork in the kitchen, work for visitiors that we'll be hosting for Memorial Day weekend.  I'll attempt to make a few different desserts listed in my cookbook (such as my delicious cocoa fudge cookies, low-fat brownies and banana toffee squares).  I also intend to do some chopping of onions and peppers along with some shopping.  That way I can enjoy my time with family after they arrive and spend less time slaving over the stove!

Here is the one additional, new dessert I hope to make this week and freeze for the holiday weekend as well.  This one should be easy to make and freeze for simple retrieval on Memorial Day weekend -

Dessert: Angel food cupcakes with meringue frosting!  Yummy and low-fat.  Plus my sister-in-law and her family loves angel food cake.  So hopefully they'll like this version of it.  :-)

What's on your meal plan this week?  What great dish have you made lately?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Better Than Grandma's Ginger Snap Cookies

My grandma always kept ginger snap cookies in a silver canister.  As a child, I remember vividly watching her reach into the cupboard for that tin to hand my father and me several cookies.  It was a tradition for us to receive those and we'd come to expect them at each visit.  Those cookies were good but they were the hard kind, not the soft and chewy cookies that we sometimes prefer. 

Since Mother's day just passed, I was feeling sentimental about my family - how I don't see them very often.  I felt the need to enjoy my grandmother's ginger snap cookies; however, I know she's not well enough or even physically able to make me a batch of these treats.  Therefore, I decided it was time to make my own, perhaps even create some that are better than grandma's.  I am happy to report that I have achieved that goal with this recipe.  My dad was happy to receive a handful of these treats and my mom was too!  I delivered more than a dozen of them to my parents recently.  Even my grandma was able to try some too.  They raved about how good these tasted and how soft they were too!  :-)

Better Than My Grandma's Ginger Snap Cookies

(Makes 3 and 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies)

2 and 1/2 cups of flour (I used half all-purpose and half whole wheat)
2 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of butter, cut into pieces (two sticks, I used Smart Balance brand)
1 egg
1/4 cup of molasses
1/3 cup of sugar in a small bowl, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and take out 2-3 cookie pans but leave them ungreased.  In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves.  Stir well. 

In a separate bowl, place the egg, sugar, butter and molasses.  Beat with an eletric mixer for about three minutes.   Add the dry ingredients to the beaten liquid mix.  Stir together by hand.  Shape the dough into round balls, like in the picture below:  

Dip each ball into the sugar that was set aside in the bowl.  Arrange on your ungreased cookie sheet an inch or so apart.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Let the cookies cool for two minutes before serving. 

Enjoy!  These are so easy to make!  You can even freeze these too.  Simply place them on a plate or in a plastic container to freezer for  a few hours.  Then move them into a plastic storage bag.   To defrost, simply place the storage bag of cookies on your countertop for a few hours, until they reach room temperature.  Or eat them nearly frozen - they are good that way too!  :-)

Do you have a dessert or special dish that reminds you of a grandmother or other elderly relative in your family?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Skinny Pepperoni Pasta Salad

Last week was "Teacher Appreciation Week" at my daughter's daycare/preschool center.  It was only her first couple of days attending the place but I didn't let that stop me from making or giving something special to her caretaker each day.   Even I can be creative last-minute.  

However, since I didn't have time to go shopping, I looked in my pantry for items on hand to make a side dish for their "Teachers' Potluck" last Friday.  Thank goodness I'm usually well-stocked with a variety of food items.  After digging around my shelves for ingredients, I came up with this simple and tasty pasta salad.  I heard that everyone really enjoyed it!  I only tried two bites of it so that the rest would go to the school staff but I doubt anyone could only eat one serving of this!  :-)

Skinny Pepperoni Pasta Salad

(Serves 12 - 15)

1 box (13 oz) of whole wheat (whole grain) pasta - I used rotini
1 cup (8 oz) of cubed reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 and 1/2 cups of chopped green onions
1 bag (4 oz) of turkey pepperoni mini slices
1 cup of Zesty, low-fat Italian dressing - We always keep a bottle of this stuff on hand for marinating and grilling

Cook pasta on the stove according to the package directions.  Drain in a collander.  Run cool water over the pasta so it's not hot when you're combining it with the remaining ingredients. 

In a large bowl, combine the cooled pasta, cubed cheese, green onions, pepperoni slices and tomato pieces.  Stir.  Add the Italian dressing last.  Combine and coat the pasta well. 

Serve.  Or you can store in a plastic container in the fridge until ready to eat.  Past will keep in the fridge for up to three days.

This is a lighter, more refreshing salad that I think you'll enjoy in the warmer months.  It's like having your own delicious salad bar at home!   

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (May 9 - 15, 2011)?

Hi!  Happy special day to you all you moms out there!  I also say happy "Mother's Day" to all the men and women and children who play a nurturing role in the lives of kids or someone they love.  Many people are like mothers to us but they haven't given birth.  Even though I'm not much into commercial holidays, I do appreciate a day honored for the hardest job I've ever had - becoming and continuing to be a mother to my precious daughter Vivian. 

As I've just returned to the workfore this past week, I realize how precious my time at home has been with my three year old.  I'm so glad I had that year and a half to spend getting to know her, shape her and just play with her.  I know I'll still get to do these things as she grows up but we may not ever have a year like the one that just past.  I'm so grateful for it.  I love being her mom even during the really difficult times.  It has given me such a gift and so much to laugh, cry and love about! 

In honor of all moms out there, I'm taking it EASY this week.  Actually it works out good because my husband will be out of town, traveling and working long hours.  So for much of this coming week, it will just be my girl and me.  Therefore, we will be eating from the freezer, having a breakfast for dinner and eating out a few times too.   Here is my meal plan for the coming days --

Monday, May 9
- Macaroni and Olive Salad

Tuesday, May 10 - Eat Out at a Kids-Eat-Free Friendly Restaurant

Wednesday, May 11
- Make a Breakfast for Dinner -- Scrambled Eggs and Pancakes

Thursday, May 12 - Eat from freezer: Veggie-stuffed meatloaf, side of corn

Friday, May 13 - Takeout: Sushi

Saturday, May 14 - Open Faced Sweet and Spicy Meatball Sandwiches, serve with spinach and parmesan cakes

Sunday, May 15 - Sausage and Penne Pasta with side salad and homemade bread, from my cookbook


For one dessert, I'll make these -

Black bean brownies with mint frosting - boy do these look good!  I've seen recipes with black beans hidden in them for cakes and other desserts.  I'm finally going to try it out for myself!!

Have a great week everyone!  I have two pasta recipes I'll be sharing along with a cookie recipe that is better than my grandmother's one I grew up with!  So, check out those yummy dishes here later in the week!   And again, Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco de Mandy - Chicken Enchilada Rice Casserole

I love how we Americans take it upon ourselves to celebrate any other country's holiday when it involves food!  :-)  We indulge in Irish food for St. Patty's Day; then of course in May we do Cinco de Mayo.  Most of us don't even know why we celebrate it.  After all, it's not a special day for us the way it is in Mexico.  But we don't care - it's an excuse to eat, live and party it up Mexican (Latin American) style! 

I am no exception.  I've participated in parties and potlucks that involve Cinco de Mayo celebrations.  I have even been known to bring in my Latin American music CD's and dance moves too!  :-) 

A few days ago I made this wonderful, easy Mexican dish.  It involves all the traditional good stuff but I added (snuck) in some healthy veggies too.  My family really liked it and my husband didn't even know that spinach and carrots were in it!  A win-win for all!  And a great party food too.  Enjoy!

Chicken Enchilada Rice Casserole
(Serves 6 to 8)

2 cups of shredded, pre-cooked (boiled) chicken
2 cups of cooked brown rice
1 packet of taco seasoning mix (such as McCormick's with no MSG)
3/4 cup of water
1 lb. (19 oz) can of enchilada sauce (Or make your own or just use tomato sauce)
3/4 cup of salsa
1/2 cup shredded or pureed carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped or pureed spinach
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
2 tsp cilantro, chopped
6 - 8 whole wheat flour tortillas
2 cups of shredded cheese, reduced fat

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease the bottom of a 2 QT (11x7 inch) baking pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Place your precooked chicken in a lightly greased skillet on the stove.  Cook for about five minutes then add the water and taco seasoning mix.  Simmer for ten minutes or until most of the water is cooked into the chicken.  Add the brown rice, pureed spinach and shredded carrots.  Add 1/3 of the salsa and 1/4 of the enchilada sauce to further season the chicken mixture.  Cook for another five minutes and remove from heat.  Toss in the cilantro and green onions.  Stir to combine all ingredients well. 

Pour another 1/4 of the enchilada sauce at the bottom of the greased baking pan.  Place 3 to 4 of the whole wheat flour tortillas at the bottom of the pan.  They can be overlapping.  Pour another 1/4 of the enchilada sauce, another 1/3 of the salsa and about 1/3 of the shredded cheese on top.  Then spread half of the chicken-rice-veggie mixture above that. 

Then repeat with a layer of another 3 to 4 flour tortillas followed by the remaining 1/4 of enchilada sauce. Top with the remaining half of the chicken-rice-veggie mixture. Sprinkle with cheese, remaining salsa and any remaining sauce still in the can. 

Place in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  Let it cool for about ten minutes before cutting and serving.  I sliced mine into 8 generous pieces. 

Freeze leftovers for up to three months.  Reheat in microwave.  Muy bueno! 

Are you eating Mexican food on this year's Cinco de Mandy, I mean Mayo?  :-)  What's your favorite Latin American dish - tacos, burritos, fajitas or something else?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cauliflower Fritters

We ate this tasty caulflower side dish with our Garlic-Tequilia-Lime Shrimp over the weekend.  Tasty and caulflower??  You might be asking yourself why those words are in the same sentence.  Believe me, it's hard to imagine, I know.  But yes, it's true.  Cauliflower can be yummy, especially if you cook it like this recipe below.

My husband's friend came over and joined us for dinner that included these veggie fritters.  After he took one bite, he said, "I think this is my favorite way to eat cauliflower."  I couldn't agree with him more!  See if you and your family agrees with us too! 

Cauliflower Fritters

(Makes 10 - 12 patties)

1 head of cauliflower, steamed and chopped finely (about 3 and 1/2 cups)
1 cup of whole wheat flour
2 eggs
2 cups of reduced fat cheese of your choice (I used monterey-cheddar blend)
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup of warm water
1 tsp garlic salt
dash of Cajun seasoning
cooking spray or oil

Steam your cauliflower for about ten to twelve minutes on the stove.  Remove from heat and let it cool before chopping into fine pieces.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped cauliflower, whole wheat flour, eggs, cheeses, water, garlic salt and seasonings.  Stir well with spoon or your hands.  Form mixture into small patties, about 3 inches wide.  I made 12 patties with mine.  Set aside.

Heat a large skillet on the stove at medium high.  Spray cooking oil or use about 1/4 cup of olive oil for the bottom of the pan.   When the pan is hot, place your cauliflower patties in skillet.  Cook on one side for 7 to 10 minutes.  Flip over and cook the other side for 5 to 7 minutes.  (Note: I cooked four patties at a time in my skillet). 

Transfer cooked patties to a serving dish.  Sprinkle with a teaspoon of shredded and/or Parmesan cheese for garnish.  Enjoy!

You can freeze any leftovers for up to three months.  Remove from freezer and simply reheat in the microwave.

Do you have any great summertime vegetable recipes?  I am looking for other new, easy and delicious ways to get my family to eat more veggies!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Grilled Garlic-Tequilia-Lime Shrimp

This is my new favorite way to eat shrimp!  We've made this recipe several times over the years.  However, this past weekend I perfected the marinade.  It was the perfect combination of garlic (tons of it!), lime and a hint of tequilia flavor.  Soooo yummy! 

Fire up your grill and try out this amazing, delicious recipe!

Grilled Garlic-Tequilia-Lime Shrimp

(Serves 3-4)

1 pound medium shrimp, cleaned with tails on!
3 bell peppers, cut into 1 inch or bigger squares (I used a green, red and orange)
1 large sweet onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. tequilia
2 tbsp. lime juice (one lime)
zest of one lime
3 garlic cloves, minced (I actually doubled this because I love garlic!)
wooden or metal skewers to hold the shrimp, onions and peppers

Clean and devein your medium shrimp but be sure to leave the tails on.  Cut your peppers and onions into one inch size chunks.  Arrange your shrimp and vegetables onto the skewers. I alternated a shrimp with a vegetable, placing an average of four shrimp and four veggies per skewer.  Set aside.

Rub a garlic clove around the storage or plastic container where you will let the shrimp and marinade sit.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, tequilia, lime juice and zest and garlic in a small bowl.  Stir well.  

Place the shrimp skewers into the storage container that has been rubbed by garlic.  Pour the marinade over the skewers.  Place in the fridge and let it sit for 2 to 4 hours prior to grilling. 

Grill shrimp and veggie skewers over hot coals or use a gas grill.  Shrimp only take five minutes or less.  Watch them carefully so you don't overcook them as they will become hard or too chewy. 

We served ours with salad, a side of cauliflower fritters (recipe coming soon) and homemade bread.  I love grilling season!

What are your favorite things to put on the outdoor grill?  Do you have any special marinades or sauce recipes?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (May 2 - 8, 2011)?

The job starts on Monday.  I'm very excited!  As I move further along in the new role, I'll share more here.  But for now, I can tell you that it was my personal decision (and preference) to re-enter the workforce.  The job has nothing to do with food or cooking but I think it will give me several creative outlets and be a lot of fun too!  :-) 

I've done a lot of kitchen prepwork over the past few weeks to prepare for the new transition so I think (hope) it will go smoothly.  However, this week I'm keeping my meals easy and mostly light.  I will try out a new sandwich recipe and a new one-dish skillet pasta.  Over the weekend, I will experiment with a new breakfast meal and a crepes recipe with sausage too.  I'm going to only attempt one dessert this week.  The rest will be family stand-by's and favorites of ours. 

Here's what I have lined up: 

Monday, May 2 - Mediterranean Chicken Sandwiches with leftover Cauliflower Fritters from my freezer

Tuesday, May 3 - Cheeseburger Skillet Pasta with a side salad

Wednesday, May 4 - Leftovers or Eat Out with Friends

Thursday, May 5 - Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Friday, May 6 - Barbecue Chicken and Ranch Pizza

Saturday, May 7 -  Breakfast: Makeover Hashbrown Casserole, scrambled eggs
Dinner: Sausage Crepes with homemade Caesar salad

Sunday, May 8 - Mother's Day Brunch - Eat Out. 
Dinner: Eat from freezer - Sausage and black bean soup

AND  I hope to make just this one dessert - Peanut Butter Pretzel Torte - to celebrate my first week at work!  :-)

I will be sharing a delicious grilled shrimp recipe along with a scrumptious cauliflower side dish recipe too.  Come back and visit me soon for that! 

What's on your meal plan this week?  Do you have any special plans or food that you'll be eating for Mother's Day!? 

I hope you have a wonderful week!