please leave your comments, criticisms, recipe ratings & requests or input for future posts! comment or email me at with any of the above.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

recipe of the week: guacamole salad

so i watched ina garten, the barefoot contessa, for the first time on food network last week when we were in las vegas visiting family. there is just something calming and comfortable about her. i would love to sit at her table and eat her food and just chat with her. no wonder she has her own show on food network.

this recipe comes from her kitchen. it was amazing. i was skeptical, but the dinner was an easy 9 in both my husband and i's books. i served it with a piece of grilled chicken and some plain brown rice on the side. it was an absolutely perfect meal.

guacamole salad
modified slightly from ina garten, here
6 servings

3 good-size roma tomatoes, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1/2-inch diced (i left this out, but it sounded yummy to include!)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained
1/2 cup small diced red onion
2 tablespoons minced jalapeno peppers, seeded (2 peppers)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
chopped cilantro, to your liking
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes) (i used 1/2 fresh 1/2 not)
a little less than 1/4 cup good olive oil (more like 3 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 ripe avocados, seeded, peeled, and 1/2-inch diced

place the tomatoes, yellow pepper, black beans, corn, red onion, jalapeno peppers, cilantro and lime zest in a large bowl. whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper and pour over the vegetables. toss well.

just before you're ready to serve the salad, fold the avocados into the salad. check the seasoning and serve at room temperature.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

chicken gyros: world's stinkiest breath and totally worth it

these chicken gyros were amazing. i love love love greek food, so it was really fun to make the sauce and soft wrap bread from scratch on these. this one isn't quick, but it's more than worth it. and beware of the garlic breath you'll have afterward. it was pretty scary. don't make them for your anniversary. :) but the thoughts of the gyros i enjoyed while obtaining it made it again - more than worth it.

chicken gyros
i found and slightly adapted them from my kitchen cafe (she adapted them slightly from Annie's Eats, originally from Elly Says Opa!)
8 gyros

**keep in mind this recipe requires straining yogurt which may take overnight and marinating chicken which will take 1-2 hours so plan ahead!**

for the tzatziki sauce:
16 oz. plain yogurt (i used fat free wal-mart brand and it worked great!)
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (or finely minced)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil

for the chicken:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed (original recipe called for 1 1/4 lbs, i used more like 1 1/2+)

to assemble:
soft wrap bread (or pita bread)
fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
red onion, sliced thin

to make the tzatziki sauce, strain the yogurt using cheesecloth over a bowl (see for more details on this). let strain for several hours or overnight, if possible, to remove as much moisture as possible. (you won't believe how much liquid drains from the yogurt - it makes the yogurt much thicker and creamier.)

shred the cucumber. wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible. mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. drizzle lightly with olive oil. refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

to prepare the chicken, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. whisk together until mixed well. add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix well to coat. cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

cook the chicken as desired, either in the skillet or with the broiler. (I sauted them in a hot skillet.) once the chicken is completely cooked through, transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.

heat pitas or soft wrap bread. top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes and sliced onions. serve immediately.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

accepting pumpkin donations: toasted pumpkin seeds

are you carving pumpkins this year? are you throwing out your seeds? please don't. give them to me. i will toast them and enjoy them instead of letting them go to waste. see method below (thanks to elise at simply recipes with a few minor modifications of course).

my cute husband and daughter getting ready to carve our pumpkin

toasted pumpkin seeds
modified from simply recipes

one medium sized pumpkin
cooking spray

1. preheat oven to 400°F. cut open the pumpkin and use a strong metal spoon to scoop out the insides. separate the seeds from the stringy core. rinse the seeds.

2. in a small saucepan, add the seeds to water, about 2 cups of water to every half cup of seeds. add a half tablespoon of salt for every cup of water (more if you like your seeds saltier). bring to a boil. let simmer for 10 minutes. remove from heat and drain.

3. spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. spread the seeds out over the roasting pan, all in one layer, then spray the top with cooking spray. sprinkle with a bit more salt (i used sea salt). bake on the top rack until the seeds begin to brown, 10-20 minutes. when browned to your satisfaction, remove from the oven and let the pan cool on a rack. let the seeds cool all the way down before eating. enjoy!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

delicious pitas ala mom and a baby

i'm back. i have a beautiful baby boy and i'm feeling great. here he is. i love him.

my mom was here all week spoiling us and playing with my daughter while we were at the hospital. she was amazing. she spoiled me with feta cheese the other night with the most delicious pitas. they were fabulous, so here's the [approximate] recipe. they are a little on the pricey side, so have a splurge night! i should have taken a picture, but i ate them too fast.

sun dried tomato pesto and veggie pitas

whole wheat pita breads
sun dried tomato pesto (the classico brand at my wal-mart is $1.96)
fresh spinach
portabello mushrooms, sliced
roma tomatoes, sliced
sliced black olives
feta cheese
parmesan cheese

spread the pesto on the pitas. cover with spinach and then the other veggies. top with the cheeses. heat in the oven at 350 until veggies cook flat, cheese melts and pita is slightly crispy.

i definitely loved my return to eating feta after being pregnant. thanks for the treat mom!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

recipe of the week: fusilli alla caprese

okay, this was ridiculously good and ridiculously easy. i made a few changes to make it cheaper and less greasy and it was still fabulous. i used whole wheat pasta, too (since i got it for $0.20 a box last week, thank you coupons). try it soon!

fusilli alla caprese
4 servings
modified from giada de laurentiis (found on my kitchen cafe)

i used mozzarella like the original recipe the night i made it, but when i ate it for lunch the next day i used parmesan and liked it lots better!

1 pound fusilli pasta (i used a little less than a pound of rotini)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chopped roma tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves (grow your own!), chopped (or about 5 tablespoons dried basil - this seems like a lot, so maybe add it a little bit at a time)
fresh parmesan cheese, for topping

cook pasta as directed.

in a medium skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute. add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. as the tomatoes cook and soften, smash them. continue to cook until the tomatoes make a chunky style sauce, about 4 minutes. transfer the tomato sauce to the bowl with the pasta. toss to combine. add the basil leaves (if you're using dry, i'd add them to the tomatoes in the skillet) and stir to combine. serve topped with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

what's in my post-partum freezer?

yes, i realize this is a strange name for a post, but i've been sooooo in over my head with freezer meals this week i had to post something about it. for those of you who maybe didn't know, i'm having a baby boy soon! i'm due in less than 2 weeks, but we're saying that he'll be here "some time in october" so when he doesn't make it until the 25th we aren't disappointed. here's my belly about two weeks ago:

i'd say i look about the same today - though maybe my belly is a bit bigger. i can say this with some assurance because apparently i haven't gained any weight in the last 2 weeks - despite the fact that i'm eating dessert every night. oops. definitely different than with my daughter - i steadily gained over a pound a week right up to delivery with her. then again, this pregnancy has been completely different in every way, so why not with weight gain too??

on to the freezer meals! so nice to have on those days after having a baby when you look at the clock and think - "it's 6:30? oh crud." i'm making my favorites (links to recipes provided), regardless of healthiness and even slightly disregarded budget on one. but it's my favorite. and YES, i'll give you the recipe. just don't make it once a week, okay??

what's in my post-partum freezer:
beef stroganoff
my family's recipe - the best!
4 servings

1-2 lbs round steak, cut into cubes or strips (bite size) (1 lb is plenty for 1 batch - 2 lbs or a little more for 2 batches works great!)
flour, salt and pepper (about 1 cup flour is enough)
1 medium onion, chopped
olive oil
1 can tomato soup
2 cups sour cream (the real stuff - no fat free)
1 overflowing tablespoon worchestershire sauce
6 drops tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
garlic salt to taste (1-2 teaspoons)

put flour, salt and pepper in a baggie; add the meat a little at a time to cover with flour mixture. brown the meat in hot oil in batches small enough to fit in a skillet and be able to turn to brown on both sides. as the meat gets done, you can put it on paper towels while you do the next batch. when all the meat is browned, saute the onion in the same skillet. in a separate bowl, mix soup, sour cream, worchestershire, tabasco, salt, pepper and garlic salt. put meat, sauce and onions in a skillet or dutch oven large enough to hold it all. bring to a boil. turn down heat and simmer slowly for 3-4 hours, stirring frequently so it will not stick or burn.

note: if you like mushrooms, you can add canned or sauteed! (i prefer it without)

serve over egg noodles or rice.

Monday, September 21, 2009

recipe of the week: steph's asian beef and broccoli

this dinner was awesome. my friend steph passed along her super easy and delicious recipe and i made some very minor adjustments... and viola! soooooo good and soooo simple. and i love it because it is adjustable to however much you want to make!

steph's asian beef and broccoli

about equal portions:
broccoli florets, steamed to crisp tender
very thinly sliced beef (i used london broil - it's the leanest!)

equal amounts of:
soy sauce


green onions
red pepper flakes

combine enough soy sauce, sugar and water (equal amounts of each) to just cover the meat in a bowl. marinate at least 1/2 an hour (i marinated mine for a few hours). mix in a few large spoonfuls of cornstarch to thicken the sauce a bit.

heat your wok or large frying pan on low and add the meat in the sauce with a dash of red pepper flakes if you'd like. when the meat looks 70% cooked and the sauce is gelling to the meat, toss in the already steamed (crisp tender, not soggy) broccoli (with a bit of water if you feel like your sauce is getting too thick) and a few chopped green onions (optional) and mix around so the broccoli absorbs the sauce too. cover with the lid and let it simmer until meat is completely done.

serve over white rice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

recipe of the week: jalapeno pico burgers with homemade guacamole

this is hands down my husband and i's favorite way to eat a cheeseburger. we try and replicate it at restaurants, but it is always better at home. if you love spicy food you'll love this burger. it's fabulous. pair it with oven fries and some corn on the cob for a perfect dinner.

and notice the recipe for homemade guacamole - it contains the secret to perfect guac. getting a big clump of onions always ruins guacamole for me and onion salt isn't the same, but my friend maggi taught me the secret to fix that in college. you need the onion and its juice for perfect guac. see how below.

jalapeno pico burgers with homemade guacamole

hamburgers, grilled at home
cheese of choice (really good with cheddar or pepper jack)
jalapenos (from the bottle)
homemade guacamole (below)
fresh pico de gallo
extra cilantro
tomato, lettuce or other desired burger toppings

put burgers together as desired with above ingredients. (if you spread the guac nice and thick on the bun and then put the jalapenos, pico and cilantro right on top of it it usually stays together pretty well!)

homemade guacamole

roma tomatoes (optional)
an onion (yellow or white)
garlic salt
lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste if desired

peel, pit and mash avocados in bowl or tupperware (keep a pit to leave in with leftover guac - it keeps it from getting brown as easily). chop a roma tomato or two (or however many you like), leaving middles out, and add to avocado. slice onion in half and then use a spoon to scrape the onion into the bowl, allowing juice and flesh to fall from the onion. alternate adding scraped onion, garlic salt, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste until your guacamole is exactly how you like it! some people like more/less onion so there is no exact science here. just bust out some chips and try it as you go. mmm....

Friday, September 11, 2009

our favorite easy crookneck squash

no matter what delicious thing i try and do to crookneck (yellow) squash, this is always our favorite way to eat it. i know its just squash, but its soooo good. give it a chance. i guess its a good reminder to me that sometimes simple is the most delicious.

easy cheesy crookneck squash

small crookneck squashes, sliced in half as shown above (the little ones from your neighborhood garden are the best)
salt and fresh cracked black pepper
grated cheese

1. boil sliced squash in a pan in just enough water to almost cover it until fork tender.
2. remove squash from water with fork. sprinkle with salt and pepper and grated cheese.


and do share - do you have a squash secret that could oust this one as our favorite??

Monday, September 7, 2009

using your garden: roasted tomato soup and soft garlic knots

i'm only speaking from semi-vicarious experience here since my garden consists of a fairly prolific basil plant and a zucchini plant that is finally yielding its 1st two fruits - and they are both in pots on my front porch (yeah apartment living!). but i do occasionally yield the fruits of my mother-in-law's garden when i visit her. she last sent me home with 3 bags of tomatoes, a bunch of zucchini and some crookneck. clearly i had to make something yummy with all of those tomatoes (okay, everything i made last week had tomatoes) so thanks, meghan from you're gonna bake it afterall, for posting this delicious soup and the garlic knots that i made with them. i seriously felt like i was eating in a restaurant. too good for words.

so if you have a garden, please, use it. i'm jealous. do it for me.

next time i'm going to try it with half milk and half chicken broth to see if a creamy version is just as good. i bet it will be. mmmm....

roasted tomato soup and soft garlic knots
from you're gonna bake it, my changes included
6 servings

3 lbs. vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in half and insides removed
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
6 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 pinches dried thyme
4 cups chicken stock

1. preheat oven to 400F. toss tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet covered in foil and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

2. in a large stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes until the onions start to brown. add the canned tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.

3. use an immersion blender (or food processor) to puree the soup. serve with garlic knots below.

soft garlic knots

for the dough:
3 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast (AKA rapid rise)
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil (i used a little less - probably 1)
1/4 cup milk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water

For the glaze:
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning

1. Make the dough: combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a large food processor. process for a few seconds to mix. add the olive oil, milk and water and turn on until ingredients have formed a ball (it won't take long, maybe 30 seconds). (can also do in a kitchenaid stand mixer or the like - here's the link)

2. knead the dough on a lightly floured surface to form a smooth, elastic dough, adding additional water or flour as needed.

3. place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turn to coat, and cover with lightly oiled/sprayed plastic wrap. allow to rise for about 1 hour, until it has doubled in bulk.

4. divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. roll each into a 10-inch long rope and tie into a knot. take the end lying underneath the knot and bring it over the top, tucking it into the center. take the end lying over the knot and tuck it underneath and into the center.

5. transfer the shaped rolls to a baking stone or a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes, until puffy. meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.

6. make the glaze: finely mince the garlic (or use a garlic press). mix the melted butter and italian seasoning.

7. brush the glaze onto the shaped rolls. bake until set and lightly browned, about 15-18 minutes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

easy peasy lemon squeezies

if you haven't seen disney's "the greatest game ever played" you really should. i don't even like golf and this movie is AWESOME!! the name of these cookies comes from a phrase i picked up from that movie - the main character's little caddy always says, "easy peasy lemon sqeezey" and its the 1st thing i thought of when looking for a name for these.

these are cake mix cookies and can technically be adjusted to throw in whatever with the same ratio (taught to me 1 box cake mix + 1 stick softened butter + 1 egg. i made the sour cream adjustment - i tried this way back when - read here). these cookies are sooooo yummy - i ate something like them somewhere before and decided to make them when i read jenny at picky palate's post about cookies with panko bread crumbs.

so after that long explanation, here's my recreation of the ones i tried once... but made the skinny bovine way of course. the rice crispies give them a crisp/chew that is to die for. love them!

easy peasy lemon squeezies
30 cookies

1 box lemon cake mix
1 egg
1/2 a stick of butter (1/4 cup), softened and starting to melt (use microwave)
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1-2 cups rice crispies cereal (depending on how much of that crunchy, chewy goodness you want to include!)

1. mix cake mix, egg, butter and sour cream together until you have a cookie-like dough. stir in cereal.
2. use a small cookie scoop to scoop cookies onto greased baking sheets. bake 7-9 minutes in oven at 350. cook until edges are slightly brown. definitely error on the side of undercooking.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

recipe of the week: cuban black beans and rice with balsamic avocado dressing

my 1/2 brother is 1/2 cuban - and happens to make delicious cuban food. he made a yummy combination like this one for our family about a year ago and i've been craving it ever since. so here's my version - might just be my favorite food right now. too good for words. and it may be one of the prettiest things i've ever put in my mouth - look at those colors!

cuban black beans and yellow rice with balsamic avocado dressing
4-6 servings
black beans:
1/3 medium onion
1 green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
dash of crushed red pepper (optional - my husband said it needed a tiny kick)
3 cans black beans, one drained
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
a few dashes of black pepper

run onion, bell pepper and garlic through a small food chopper. heat a splash of olive oil in a medium/large pot. add onion, bell pepper, garlic and crushed red pepper (optional) and let cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until it has had time to soften. add black beans, cumin, garlic salt, salt and pepper. stir. let simmer on medium low until beans are heated through - 15-30 minutes.

yellow rice (adapted from emeril lagasse's from here - or make your own or buy some!):
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch cinnamon
3 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons chicken bullion
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups long grain rice

in a medium saucepan, heat the turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon over low heat until fragrant, stirring, about 30 seconds. add the water, salt, and butter and bring to a boil. add the rice and stir well. cover and reduce heat to a bare simmer. cook, covered, without stirring until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

remove from the heat and let sit, covered, without stirring, for 10 minutes. fluff with a fork.

balsamic avocado dressing:

approximately equal amounts of chopped tomatoes, chopped red onion and sliced avocado. (not the best the next day, but if you're going to eat it all without leftovers i'd use about 4 medium/large tomatoes, 2/3 of a red onion and 2 avocados - cut that in half if you're going for leftovers the next day and make a fresh batch of dressing to go with.) cover in a drizzle of olive oil and drench in balsamic vinegar. stir well and let marinate for a few minutes before serving.

put beans on rice and top with dressing. add additional balsamic vinegar to taste if you'd like.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

reposting a favorite

i made this for my parents a few weeks ago and then for our little family again last night with a bunch of fresh veggies from my in-laws' garden. mmm.... it reminded me just how yummy it is and that i never posted a picture last time. hope you enjoy this one as much as we do!

and thanks to my husband for working some magic on the pics - they look pretty good, eh? maybe he has a future as a food photographer! :)

no-cream pasta primavera
4 servings
1 (12 ounce) package penne pasta (sometimes i use the whole 16 oz and just add a bit more sauce)
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned (pricey! use green pepper or leave out! - or splurge)
1-2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
5 spears asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest (i like it better with a little less, but use your judgement!)
1-1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil (originally called for 1/3 cup fresh, but dried is cheap!)
1-1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley (same as above - use fresh if you want to splurge!)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese


1. preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. add penne pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until al dente; drain.

3. in a bowl, toss squash, zucchini, red bell pepper, tomatoes, green beans, and asparagus with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and Italian seasoning. arrange vegetables on the baking sheet, and roast 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until tender.

4. heat butter in a large skillet. stir in the onion and garlic, and cook until tender. mix in cooked pasta, lemon zest, basil, parsley, and balsamic vinegar. gently toss and cook until heated through. remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. toss with roasted vegetables and sprinkle with cheese to serve.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

recipe of the week: cornbread taco bake

i suddenly remembered this delicious dinner my friend emily brought us after i had my daughter. i just had to call her and get the recipe. it is such a yummy, kid-friendly dinner and we loved it! hope you do too.

cornbread taco bake
4 servings

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 can corn, drained (15 oz)
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 heaping cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 of an onion, chopped
1 envelope taco seasoning

brown beef with onions, peppers and taco seasoning. add everything else and simmer until thickened. put in a greased 9X9 baking dish.

1 8.5 oz package of cornbread mix (i used 52 cent jiffy)
french fried onions
cheddar cheese

make cornbread mix according to package directions. add a few teaspoons of french fried onions to the batter. spoon over the top of the filling. bake in oven according to cornbread package directions, removing a few minutes before it is finished to add a few more french fried onions and shredded cheddar cheese to taste. return to oven and cook until cornbread is cooked through.

Friday, July 24, 2009

what made this happy, messy face?

fresh basil of course!

okay, maybe not. it was pastor ryan's homemade bolognese sauce (from the pioneer woman cooks, with a few changes of course) and mommy's homemade noodles. but the fresh basil rocked. i'm growing it in a pot outside my front door and it's fabulous. do yourself a favor. grow some. here's mine. and i kill everything. i call it my "black thumb". apparently basil is easy!

i can't even tell you how good this sauce was. please make some. please.

ryan’s bolognese
from the pioneer woman cooks
makes tons

1 1/2 cups grated carrots

1 zucchini, grated
1 large red onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground beef (i want to try ground turkey next time)
2 tablespoons dried oregano flakes
2 tablespoons dried basil flakes (i used fresh because i'm growing it - soooo yummy!
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 cup milk
fresh Parmesan cheese

heat oil in a large dutch oven or skillet over medium heat. add grated carrots, zucchini and onions and cook for a few minutes.
make a well in the center of the mixture, then add in the ground beef. cook for a few minutes until brown, gradually stirring it into the carrot mixture.
throw in oregano and basil. use fresh if you have it; if you don’t, it’s fine.
when the meat is browned and combined with other ingredients, make another well. add tomato paste and let it heat.
add garlic and stir to combine.
aake a well in the center of the mixture and add chicken broth. stir together.
add worcestershire and stir.
add canned tomatoes.
finally, pour in milk, stir, and let simmer for 30 minutes to 2 hours—however long you need.

serve with pasta and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

homemade noodles

ala better homes and gardens' red checker cook book

makes 1 lb (normal size box of pasta)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 beaten egg yolks

1 beaten egg

1/3 cup water

1 teaspoon olive oil

1. in a large bowl stir together 1 3/4 cup of the flour and the salt. make a well in the center of the flour mixture. in a small bowl stir together egg yolks, whole egg and oil. add egg mixture to flour mixture; mix well.

2. sprinkle kneading surface with the remaining 1/4 cup flour. turn dough out onto floured surface. knead until dough is smooth and elastic (8 to 10 minutes total). cover and let dough rest for 10 minutes.

3. divide dough into 4 equal portions. on a lightly floured surface, roll each portion of dough into a 12x9-inch rectangle (about 1/16 inch thick). let stand, uncovered, for 20 minutes. lightly dust dough with flour. loosely roll dough into a spiral; cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips. shake the strands to separate; cut into 2-3-inch lengths.

4. to serve immediately, cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until tender but still firm, allowing 1 to 2 more minutes for dried or frozen noodles. drain.

5. to store cut noodles, spread them on a wire cooling rack. let noodles dryu about 1 hour or until completely dry. place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. ot dry noodles for at least 1 hour and place them in a freezer bag or freezer container; freeze up to 8 months.

don't be intimidated by this make-your-own-noodles gig. it's easier than it seems - i promise.

the recipe makes about 1 lb - the size of a normal box of pasta which usually makes leftovers for our 3 the following day. we have no leftovers with these. soooooo good. enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

chicken black bean tostadas with cilantro lime drizzle

so we're on a very extended summer vacation and i'm hardly ever home these days. please excuse the lack of posting. we had these babies for dinner tonight and man, were they good!! put your own twist on them or enjoy them just like we did.

chicken black bean tostadas with cilantro lime drizzle
6 servings

1 bone-in chicken breast, skinned, cooked and shredded (i cooked mine about like this plus lime juice)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
lime juice, spices of choice (i used cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne, chili powder)
corn tortillas
tomatoes, chopped
your favorite fresh or homemade salsa
shredded romaine lettuce
sour cream, guacamole or other toppings you like
cilantro lime drizzle (1/2 cup light ranch dressing run through your blender or food processor with a few handfuls of cilantro and a few squeezes of lime juice)

1. prepare chicken ahead [optional] and store in fridge until ready to cook. combine shredded chicken, beans, a few squeezes of lime juice and spices of choice in a sauce pan. cover and let heat on medium/low until hot.
2. heat tortillas until hot and slightly crispy in skillet or in oven at 450.
3. top tortillas with chicken bean mixture, then with lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and any other desired toppings. drizzle cilantro lime dressing over the top.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

i'm eating this right now... mmmm....

i see lots of food bloggers that adapt recipes from cooking light, so i thought i'd try one. dang, it's good. definitely a success. hope you like it!

mexican chicken casserole
adapted from cooking light

2-3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (depends on how big your chicken breasts are)
2 (4.5-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, divided
1 3/4 pounds skinned, boned chicken breasts (about 2)
1 cup chopped onion
3-4 large roma tomatoes, chopped (i had them in my fridge and they needed to get used)
2 large dollops fat free sour cream
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (i used cheddar jack)
4 ounces light cream cheese
1 (10-ounce) can green enchilada sauce
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Cooking spray
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 ounce tortilla chips, crushed (about 6 chips)

1. combine broth and 1 can of chiles in a large skillet; bring to a boil. add chicken; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until chicken is done, turning chicken once. remove chicken from cooking liquid, reserving cooking liquid; cool chicken. shred meat with two forks, and set aside.

2. preheat oven to 350°.

3. heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. add 1 can of chiles and onion; sauté 3 minutes or until soft. Add reserved cooking liquid, tomatoes, sour cream, Monterey Jack, cream cheese, and enchilada sauce; stir well and cook until cheeses are melted. stir in shredded chicken; cook 2 minutes. remove from heat.

4. place 4 tortillas (i sliced mine in half to help them cover the pan better) in the bottom of a 13x9 inch casserole dish coated with cooking spray. spoon 2 cups chicken mixture over tortillas. repeat layers twice, ending with chicken mixture. sprinkle with cheddar cheese and chips. bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. let stand 10 minutes before serving.

i had mine with my favorite red taco sauce. completely delicious!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

recipe of the week: not-so-fried rice

i know.... more asian food. i think it's a pregnancy thing. my dad makes the most amazing bacon fried rice. the only problem is i don't feel amazing after i eat it because it is definitely super greasy. this fried rice is super yummy like my dad's but without the grease (and it has veggies)!! enjoy!

not-so-fried rice
makes a huge wok full (about 6 servings)

2 1/2 cups uncooked white rice, cooked according to directions (i want to try it with brown rice, but i was afraid of husband mutiny against the brown. hehe.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 of a medium onion, chopped
1 1/2-2 cups (or more if you aren't using meat) veggies of choice (i used carrots and broccoli)
1 1/2 cups cooked cubed turkey or chicken - optional (i used some leftover from a huge turkey breast i roasted a while ago and froze)
5 eggs, scrambled
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
green onion tops, chopped

1. heat oil in wok on high. add onions and sautee 2 minutes or until soft. add veggies and sautee until whole mixture is damp from oil. cover and let steam until veggies are crisp-tender (open wok and stir once in a while). about half way through steaming, add meat (optional) and let sautee with the rest of the mixture.
2. add cooked rice to wok and pour soy sauce over the top. mix well. scramble eggs and add to wok. add green onions. mix well again. cover wok and let heat for a few minutes until hot throughout.
3. top with extra soy sauce if desired and very optional... tabasco - i love tabasco on my fried rice. strange i know! hope you like it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

splurge night: part 2

on to the 2nd type of splurging - budgeted splurging (click here if you missed the first type). eating wouldn't be fun if you couldn't use some pricier, more fun ingredients once in a while. here are my guidelines for making your splurge night still budget-friendly:
  • plan ahead - if you're going to have a budget splurging meal, plan ahead for it and each extra cheaply the rest of the week to compensate. also, if you plan ahead you can get things for your splurge while they are on sale. (ex. we love the french dips recipe below, but i don't buy the roast unless i can get it for $1.79/lb or less and i try and find the pepper jack on sale as well)
  • stay in your budget - splurging shouldn't have to mean buying the most expensive ingredients out there, just something you don't normally buy. and put it in the budget. if your food budget is a little tight that month, find another category to squeeze it into. i'm infamous for filing yummy, splurge ingredients into my date budget or my miscellaneous category.
  • have a date/fun budget - sometimes the splurge we want is a saturday night with no cooking - we'd rather someone else cook and clean up. so we have a date budget and that way we can have eating out be a budget-friendly splurge.
this is probably our favorite budgetary splurge. we love, love, love these sandwiches. i never liked traditional french dips, but these are fabulous.

french dips
ala my bff maggi

my french dip decided to fall apart for the picture... but man, was it good!!!!!!

1 package onion soup mix
1 package zesty italian dressing mix (or homemade mix here)
a roast

put roast in crock pot. fill with water. pour in mixes. heat on high. it is done when it falls apart. (depends on your crock pot and the size of your roast.)

serve on yummy french rolls (don't go stingey here - get good ones!), broiled in the oven to toast with pepper jack cheese on them (broil with the cheese on them). carmelized onions are also delicious on them. dip in the juice from the crock pot.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

recipe of the week: bruschetta chicken bake

here's a delicious, easy and beautiful meal by kraft (introduced to me by my friend jenny who also introduced this deliciousness to me). your family is bound to love this one and not even know how healthy they are eating! we like ours with a side of some yummy potatoes, but serve any way you'd like!

bruschetta chicken bake
6 servings

1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 package (6 oz.) stuffing mix for chicken
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. mix tomatoes, stuffing mix, water and garlic just until stuffing mix is moistened.
2. layer chicken, basil and cheese in 3-qt. casserole or 13x9-inch baking dish.
3. top with stuffing mixture. bake 30 minutes at 400 or until chicken is done.

***option: sometimes i put a tiny bit of fat free italian dressing over the top of the chicken before i complete the dish. it's great with or without this, though!

Monday, June 1, 2009

splurge night: part 1

"to splurge or not to splurge? - that is the question."

answer: "splurge, definitely splurge."

having posted my things never to cook with, i figured i should follow up with a little bit of rationality. a fairly darned disciplined healthy eater, even the skinny bovine splurges pretty regularly. but i think that is the fun of eating healthy (besides feeling way better), you have lots of room to splurge! the key is having guidelines.

since i'm a healthy and budgeted cooker, there are 2 types of splurges at my house. here are my healthy splurge guidelines (stay tuned for my budget splurge guidelines soon!):
  • set boundaries - this means sticking to my list of things to never use for the most part. there are plenty of other things i love to use in cooking that aren't particularly good for you though. ex: coconut milk (curry. mmm.), creamy soups (made with milk of course, and maybe a tablespoon or two of butter). see one of my favs below. we love, love, love this soup at our house.
  • know yourself, know your goals - if you're trying to be disciplined and maintain your weight, go ahead - splurge once a week! if you're trying to loose a little, make it once every other week. if you want to loose a lot, make it once a month. we all deserve a reward for our discipline.
  • only make enough for that meal - it's splurge night. not splurge night + leftovers for the next 2 days. have your splurge and then get back to your best habits in a hurry. :)
here is one of my favorite (fairly un-) healthy splurges. like i said, we just can't get enough of this soup. definitely not one of my worst splurges, but i definitely don't make it once a week! :)

parmesan corn chowder
adapted from (here)
pic from
4 servings

2 cups water
2 cups diced peeled potatoes
1/2 cup sliced carrots (i use 1 cup carrots and no celery - just a preference)
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour (i use whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
1 (14.75 ounce) can cream-style corn
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

  1. in a large saucepan, combine the first five ingredients; bring to a boil. reduce heat; cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender (do not drain).
  2. meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter. stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth; gradually stir in milk. bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. stir into the vegetable mixture. add corn and parmesan cheese. cook 10 minutes longer or until heated through.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

recipe of the week: filipino chicken

my mom used to make this when i was growing up, and since my husband spent two years of his life in the philippines on an LDS mission i'd thought i'd try it out on him. he said it tasted just like the real thing. it was sooooo yummy, cheap and healthy! even my daughter, who we can rarely get to eat meat, loved it! (if you don't like vinegar, i wouldn't suggest this one, but if you do you'll love it!)

filipino chicken
6 servings

1 5lb chicken, disjointed (or cut into pieces)
1 1/2 teaspoons peppercorns
3/4 cup cider vinegar
6 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 bay leaves
6 medium cloves garlic, chopped

1. simmer all ingredients in a covered pot for 2 1/2 hours at low temperature. serve with rice (i used brown, but white is more traditional) and steamed/cooked veggies of choice. pour sauce over rice and veggies (i did carrots and green beans because it is what i had!) when serving.

crockpot option (more expensive): 4-6 breasts cooked in crockpot on low.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

always say never

i know, the saying is "never say never", but i'd argue that you should "always say never" to cooking with certain food items. and here's why:
  • heavy cream - it's just plain bad for you. all possible nutritional benefits are outweighed by its bad-for-you-ness. it is extremely high in cholesterol and saturated fat. yikes. even if you love a recipe using heavy cream, try a substitute - milk, ricotta cheese to make pasta creamy, cool whip on your pie. i promise. it's worth it.
  • bacon - it's not in the meat group. it finds it's position in the food guide pyramid right at the top - in the "fats, oils and sweets" category. so, i guess that would qualify bacon as a "fat"? do you really need any more convincing? if you have to, use turkey bacon... and only do it once a year.
  • shortening - again, it's high in saturated fat and cholesterol. not to mention, if i were to imagine the consistency of liquid fat, shortening would be it. yuck.
  • vegetable oil - not made of vegetables. read more about my opinion on this here. choose something better. you can do it. i believe in you. this isn't as hard as you'd think. my husband just realized last week we don't have vegetable oil and we've been married for almost 4 years.
  • butter in excess - i love cookies. i even love to put butter on my toast. but drenching anything in butter is bad. popcorn. pasta. potatoes. rolls. even vegetables. break the habit.
  • soda - drinking soda is the best way to gain weight, become dehydrated, loose bone mass, rot and discolor your teeth. does this sound like a good idea? do a test for me. for one week drink water in place of soda and let me know how you feel. you'll be surprised. (and yes, i drink it on special occasions. i'm not crazy!)
  • fried food - another confession - i love french fries almost as much as i love my husband. sorry hubby. :) but i will never, ever, ever, fry anything in my home. ever. and i don't order fried anything else at restaurants. you can bake, grill, sautee lots of things. no more frying. i even make baked french fries at home to kill my cravings. they are delicious!
that's not a long a demanding list, right? just a few minor changes and you can "always say never" to these icky ingredients/foods, too.

here's a great recipe to try. baked, not fried, chicken parmesan and it was the most delicious chicken parmesan i've ever eaten. visit meghan's blog, you're gonna bake it after all, for this and other great recipes. (and the panko bread crumbs in this recipes are perfect. totally worth it. try an asian market - way cheaper than the progresso brand version at the grocery store.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

recipes of the week: kristi's famous burritos

my friend kristi came up with this delicious recipe that her husband loves and we decided we just had to try it! it was yummy and a great vegetarian option!! mmm....

kristi's famous burritos
8 servings

1 package instant spanish rice, cooked (any kind will work - you should be able to get it for about $0.60. homemade spanish rice would be delicious too - you choose!)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 jalapeno (my addition), chopped
dash of olive oil
1 can black beans, rinse and drained
cumin, garlic salt and pepper, to taste
8 flour tortillas
green enchilada sauce
shredded cheese

1. cook spanish rice according to directions. while spanish rice is cooking, add a dash of olive oil to large skillet and heat oil. add green pepper, onion and jalapeno to skillet and cook until tender, abuot 5 minutes.
2. add black beans to skillet and season the mixture to taste with cumin, garlic salt and pepper. add spanish rice when done. mix well.
3. fill flour tortillas with a generous helping of filling and place in a 13x9" glass baking dish. spoon enchilada sauce over the top then top with desired amount of cheese. bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

top with any topping that sounds good to you. we ate ours with a little bit of sour cream and hot sauce for a little extra kick. enjoy!

healthy cooking on a budget

disclaimer: i don't claim to be an expert on cooking, weight loss or even healthy eating, but i do love to cook, find healthy, taste bud-friendly tricks and most of all, i love to eat!

qualifications: what qualifies me to blog on cooking healthy on a small budget? well, as my husband is still a student, my budget is not what you'd call large. and as for the healthy part, when i was 10 i was diagnosed with pancreatitus - a disease that doesn't effect me much anymore unless i eat food that is too greasy or has too much fat (in which case, well, let's just say i get really sick). this had steered my experience and limited cooking expertise in a health-conscious direction.

please feel free to comment, criticise, rate recipes, try ideas and make requests for future posts!