Monday, September 29, 2014

Oven-Baked Chimichangas

I ran across this recipe some time ago and just got around to making it.  It's a wonderful alternative to the traditional deep-fried Mexican fare.  It makes great use of leftover cooked chicken and rice.  Serve it with that wonderful Cilantro-Lime Rice (see "Easy Homemade Burrito Bowls," 8-7-14 post) or Joy of Cooking's Spanish Rice (5-12-13 post) and some refried or black beans.

I cut this recipe down to serve just the two of use.  Adjust it to how many you are serving.


1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 (16 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups cooked brown or white rice
2-3 cups diced cooked chicken
1-2 tsp minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (use lesser amount for less heat, greater amount for a bigger kick)
1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (or a combo, or Mexican blend cheese)
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
6 large burrito-sized flour tortillas

Place a rimmed baking sheet i the oven and heat the oven to 450F.  While the oven is heating, in a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil over medium heat until the oil is simmering.  Cook the onion until it is just softened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the beans, rice, chicken, and cilantro.  Season with S&P to taste.

Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover with a damp paper towel.  Microwave the tortillas until they are warm and pliable, about 1 minute (I was able to bypass this step as my tortillas were already pliable). 

Top each warm tortilla with some of the chicken mixture, leaving about a 2" border around the edges of the tortilla.  Fold in the side and roll up the tortilla tightly.  Brush the wrapped tortillas with the remaining oil and arrange them seam side down on the hot baking sheet that has been preheating in the oven.  Bake until the chimis are golden brown and crsip, about 8-10 minutes.  Turn broiler on last 1-2 minutes for a more golden crust.  Serve with guacamole, sour cream, and salsa if desired.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash and Swiss Chard

This was, hands down, last year's most delicious Rookie of the Year (Soup Category)!  I have been itching to make this, but I had to wait until it was officially autumn.  And it is every bit as delicious as I remember.  This will be a staple in my fridge until spring.

It is a vegan recipe (if going with the vegetable stock) and if you are looking for a Meatless Monday meal, you can't go wrong here.  I do step outside of the vegan box, however, because I really like sour cream with this.  Cheese would be good, too.  And tortilla or chip chips.

Unfortunately, I can't attest to its freezability.  Leftovers have never lasted long enough to try.


2 Tbsp EVOO
2 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 tsp minced garlic
2 1/2 cups 1/2" pieces peeled, diced butternut squash (from a 1 1/2 lb squash)
3 Tbsp chili powder (I added about 1 tsp of chipotle chili powder to add a dash of heat)
1 Tbsp cumin
3 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed, drained
2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (I use petite diced tomatoes)
3 cups packed coarsely chopped Swiss chard or kale leaves (remove spines before chopping) SEE NOTE

Heat oil in heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic and saute until tender and golden, about 9 minutes.  Add squash stir 2 minutes.  Stir in chili powder and cumin.  Stir in beans, broth, and tomatoes with juices (if using kale, add at this point); bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until squash is tender, about 15 mintues.

Stir in chard; simmer until leaves are tender, about 4 minutes.  Season to taste with S&P.

NOTE:  I can't find Swiss chard here, so I use kale.  Since I haven't cooked with chard, I don't know just how long it takes.  But the kale takes much longer than 4 mintues.  So I add the kale along with the beans and tomatoes for a longer cooking time.

Recipe Source: Adapted from

Friday, September 26, 2014

Battered and Grilled Whole Cauliflower

I've held onto this recipe for several months because, quite frankly, I was a bit afraid of trying.  The word "battered" threw me for a loop, guess I was thinking of something fried.  I wasn't sure if the "batter" would adhere to the cauliflower, but it did and it's quite easy.  The recipe calls for almond flour which I had never used and really didn't want to buy an entire package, so I picked up 1/2 cup in the bulk section of Earthfare.  It's a very fine flour, gluten-free (for those of you avoiding gluten, you would know much better its properties than I know).  Don't try substituting all-purpose flour....I think it would come out gummy and maybe have a pasty flavor.

It's a really simple recipe but you must, must, must use smoked paprika.  WOW!  What a great flavor!  It wouldn't be the same if you substituted regular sweet paprika.

The recipe gives directions on using a gas or charcoal grill of which we have neither.  We have the standing George Foreman grill and so I started the cauliflower on medium (#3) for 45 minutes.  When I checked it, it was still quite firm so I turned the heat to high (#5) and let it cooked covered for another 30 hour.  Perfect.

I served this with Chicken Tikka Masala (recipe to come) and Papadum bread for a perfect dinner.  So glad there are leftovers.


1 large head cauliflower
1/2 cup almond flour
1 egg
1 Tbsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp water
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Splash hot sauce

Heat a grill to medium-high then prepare it for indirect cooking.  On a charcoal grill, bank the lit coals to one side.  On a gas grill, turn off the burners on one half of the grill.  Coat a large sheet of foil with cooking spray.

Use a paring knife to trim away any leaves and protruding stem from the bottom of the cauliflower.  Be careful not to cut into the head; you want it to remain intact.

In a shallow bowl large enough to fit the overturned head of cauliflower, whisk together the almond flour, egg, mustard, water, lemon juice, smoked paprika, S&P, and hot sauce.  Overturn the cauliflower into the bowl, turning and moving it to coat it as completely as possible with the mixture.

Set the head of cauliflower right side up on the prepared foil.  Spoon any of the almond flour mixture remaining in the bowl over the cauliflower, making sure it is evenly coated.  Set the cauliflower (on the foil) on the cooler side of the grill.  Cover the grill and cook for 1 hour, or until lightly browned outside and tender inside (you can check by inserting a paring knife at the center).

Let the cauliflower cook for 5 minutes, then slice wedges as you would a pie.

Recipe Source:  Chattanooga Times Free Press (AP), 7-9-14, Food Section

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Creamy Chicken and Quinoa Cordon Bleu Casserole

This is a wonderful (and again, easy) dish that so reminds me of those tasty little Cheesy Ham and Broccoli Quinoa Bites (see 3-23-13 post) and a great place to use the homemade condensed cream of chicken soup (see 9-18-14 post).  It's a great one-dish meal or add a simple green side salad and a good crusty bread.  There will be a bit of residual cooking of the quinoa, so don't let it completely thicken in the oven.  I cut the recipe in half since there are just two of us (and made in an 8x8" dish).  Makes great leftovers for lunch the next day.


2 2/3 cups (double batch) homemade condensed cream of chicken soup (see 9-18-14 post), the equivalent of two 10.75 oz cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
1-2 cups cooked, diced chicken
1 cup chopped deli ham (or leftover ham of any sort)
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups broccoli browns, chopped into bite-size pieces if needed
1/4 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.  Lightly grease a 9x13" pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the homemade condensed cream of chicken soup, broth, S&P, quinoa, chicken, ham, Swiss and Monterey Jack cheeses.

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the casserole from the oven, uncovered, and give it a good stir.  Return to the oven and bake uncovered for about 12-14 more minutes (I used a NuWave, cooked for 30 minutes and then for 20 minutes on 1" rack).

While the casserole bakes, steam the broccoli in the microwave or on the stovetop until bright green and just barely crisp-tender.   Stir the broccoli into the casserole, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake another 10 minutes until the quinoa is plump and tender and the edges are golden and bubbling.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.  This is really important as it will help the casserole to firm up and also make sure the quinoa is completely tender.  Serve warm, don't wait too terribly long to serve it as it gets less creamy the longer it sits.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Salsa Fuego Chile con Queso

OK, so since we are firmly entrenched into the fall season (one day, but, hey, I won't step back) and on our (or my) way to soup heaven, we must also think about that second beauty of autumn:  football and appetizers!  Now we're a pretty quiet household here, not much into entertaining.  I do miss the crowds, though, especially during football season (Go Sooners!!!)  But I can enjoy the pleasures of tailgating right here at home.

Gots to love them chicken wings and cheese dip!  I gotta say, I've tried the healthier versions of cheese dip but come on!  We're talking beer and football and let's face it: it's time to indulge after all of those frou-frou summer salads.  And when it comes to cheese dip, you must, absolutely must, use that American icon:  processed American cheese (aka Velveeta {although I do acquiesce and use the 2% version}).

This is the definitive Chile con Queso.  It comes from a Southern Living Cookbook "Off the Eaten Path: Second Helpings" which travels the dives of the South to find those glorious found-only-in-the-South culinary indulgences (it reads like a novel and adds sweet side trips like Route 66 for your driving enjoyment).  This recipe calls from the hometown of my sweetheart, Fort Worth, TX, from a restaurant called Salsa Fuego.  Seriously good queso here.  Get those blenders and margaritas going.  You're set.

SALSA FUEGO CHILE con QUESO (makes 3 cups)

1 large poblano pepper
1 (16 oz) pasteurized prepared cheese product, cubed
1/4 cup chopped ripe tomato
1 Tbso chopped onion
1/4 tsp cayenne, optional (I didn't used)
S&P to taste, optional (I omitted)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped roasted Hatch chiles or 1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles, undrained
1/4 dry white wine
Tortilla chips

Broil poblano pepper on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet 5" from heat 10 minutes on each side or until pepper looks blistered.   Place pepper in a zip-top bag; seal and let let stand 10 minutes to loosen skin.  Peel pepper; remove and discard seeds.  Dice pepper to 1/4 cup measurement.

Combine cheese and 2/3 cup water (don't try substituting milk or it will come apart) in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, and cook, stirring constantly,  5 minutes or until cheese melts and mixture is smooth.

Saute tomato, onion, cayenne and S&P (if using) in hot oil in a large skillet over high heat, 1-2 minutes.  Stir in green chiles and diced poblano pepper; cook 2 minutes or just long enough to warm through.  Add wine, and cook 1 minute.  Stir tomato mixture into cheese mixture.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Recipe Source:  Southern Living's "Off the Beaten Path: Second Helpings,"  by Morgan Murphy p. 32

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mango-Lime Lassi

I've been holding onto this recipe since March and kept forgetting about it.  I was looking for a smoothie variation that I hadn't tried this morning and remembered this. 

It's called a "lassi" which is a traditional yogurt-based drink from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.  They're generally on the savory side but can be made sweet by substituting fruit and/or sugar for spices like cumin.  

I'm posting the recipe as was published, but I ended up tweaking it a bit to my liking.  Not being a big yogurt-eater, the yogurt flavor was a bit too much for me so I used about 25% less.  I also added extra mango for more mango flavor and a bit extra lime juice. 

MANGO-LIME LASSI (2 servings)

2 cups frozen mango chunks
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp agave syrup
2 thin lime slices for garnish

In blender, puree mango, yogurt, milk, lime juice, and agave until smooth.  Pour into glasses and garnish with lime slices.

Creamy Apple and Parsnip Soup

HAPPY FALL, Y'ALL!!!  Glory be!  I just adore autumn and all of the wonderful changes.  Cool sweater-weather, changing leaves, and soup, soup, soup!

And what a great beginning to fall we got here in southeastern Tennessee today....highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s.  There's a nice breeze and I just couldn't stop myself, I had to make some soup.  The problem was which one to choose.  Not to worry though, I plan on going through my soup file one by one.  So if you, too, are a soup aficionado, stay tuned. 

Looking at recipes on the horizon I think to myself "That one! No that one! But that one is my favorite."  Fact is, I don't have a favorite.  They're all so good.  From creamy to broth-based or vegetarian to beef stew, I won't turn down any of them.  Soup is probably my favorite dish to make and to eat.  I had only made one soup with parsnips before (Spinach and Parsnip Soup's one of my favorites!  hehehe) so this recipe was on top of the stack I had prepared for the advent of autumn.  It's a new one for me and, yes, it was no disappointment.

You could keep this vegan by omitting the cream and the flavor is just as good.  It does make a nice bridge between the earthiness of the parsnips and the tartness of the apple.  The Granny Smith I got was on the lemon-end of tartness and I wasn't sure it would work, but it all came together beautifully.  A delicious beginning to my favorite season.


1 Tbsp EVOO
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3/4-1 lb parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 lb tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
scant 1/8 tsp ground cloves (taste when done, add a tiny bit more if you desire)
fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 cup heavy cream
t Tbsp pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

In a large saucepan, heat EVOO over medium-high.  Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add parsnips, apples, garlic, and clove and cook, stirring occasionally, about 1-2 minutes.  Add stock and 6 sprigs of thyme.  Season with S&P.

Reduce heat to medium-low; cover.  Simmer until apples and parsnips are tender, about 25 minutes.  Discard thyme.  Using an immersion blender, puree (or transfer to a blender, puree, then return to pan).  Stir in cream and season with any additional S&P to taste.  Garnish with pepitas and remaining thyme sprigs.

Recipe Source:  Everyday with Rachel Ray, October 2014, Apple Recipes Insert, p. 9

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Homemade Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

I was so excited to find this recipe!  OK, so it might not be sexy, but if you're trying to stay away from as many processed foods as possible, this is one thing you're sure to be falling back on.  An extra plus is that you're most likely to have everything on hand and it can be made in minutes!  And you can pronounce and know exactly what each ingredient is!  Now that's sexy!

(NOTE:  I only made this in the condensed version ready to be used in recipes.  I haven't yet tried diluting it to use it simply as soup.)

HOMEMADE CONDENSED CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP (makes 1+ cup, about equivalent to a small can of packaged soup)

3/4 cup chicken broth (use canned low-sodium, bouillon or chicken base mixed with water)
1/8 tsp poultry seasoning (can substitute a pinch of ground sage, marjoram, ground thyme) or more to taste
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
S&P to taste
Pinch dried parsley
Pinch paprika
1/2 cup milk (I used 1% with great results)
1/4 cup AP flour

In a medium saucepan, bring broth and seasonings to a simmer.

In a small bowl, vigorously whip the milk and flour until smooth.

While whisking the broth, slowly pour in the milk/flour mixture, whisking constantly.

Continue to stir and cook until the mixture bubbles and thickens, 2-4 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add additional S&P (or other seasonings) to taste as needed.  Use immediately in a recipe or cool and refrigerate for up to a week.  It will thicken much more as it cools.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sweet Paprika Skillet Chicken

Want a really quick and easy weeknight dinner?  Here ya go.  Couldn't be easier, especially if you have some of that wonderful Cilantro-Lime Rice (see 9-7-14 post) in the freezer.  A simple, sauteed chicken breast is just about as boring as it comes but a simple fix turns this entree around:  MANGO!!!  A mango slice is the perfect accompaniment to a boring piece of white chicken.  Not only does it impart a lovely, fresh, sweet flavor, but also adds some juiciness, which a chicken breast tends to lack, most especially if it's even the tiniest bit overcooked.

I served this with some whole green beans, but my favorite Go-To Summer Salad (see 5-31-11) post would also be a really nice addition to this super-simple dinner.  Give this dinner 15 minutes and you're ready.  30 minutes and you've probably been busy working the crossword on the side.


2 1/2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4-6 oz each), flattened in between plastic wrap using a mallet (or cut in half {lengthwise} into two thinner cuts if breasts are 8 oz each)
2 Tbsp oil: canola, vegetable, coconut
Cilantro-Lime Rice
Fresh Mango slices
Lime wedges for garnish

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, paprika, S&P, and garlic powder.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and put the spice mixture onto the chicken breasts, rubbing it into the chicken to create an even coating.

In a large, 12" nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot and rippling.  Add the chicken in a single layer (you may need to do separate batches) and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side depending on how thick the chicken pieces are (the chicken will register 160F on an instant-read thermometer when cooked fully).  The chicken will darken quite a bit due to the brown sugar in the spice rub.  Adjust the heat if you feel the chicken is burning or overcooking, it will be dry if it overcooks so cook it just until cooked through so it stays juicy and tender.

Remove the chicken to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces, if needed.

Let the chicken rest 5 or so minutes before serving.  Serve with Cilantro-Lime Rice, fresh mangos, and lime wedges.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Spinach, Avocado, and Sun-Dried Tomato Home Fries Skillet

OK, let me preface this recipe by avidly stating: I am not a breakfast-food lover.  Not for breakfast and absolutely, certainly not for dinner.  I don't think in my entire adult lifetime, I have ever made breakfast for dinner.  And it's been been decades (4 or 5?) since I've actually eaten breakfast for dinner.  I've given it some thought and I think it might stem from my childhood days (evenings, I suppose) when Mom would periodically make waffles or some such thing for dinner (Dad loved breakfast for dinner) and it seems like it was always on a cold, dreary evening (think Ethan Frome setting).

However, I must say that in the last year or so I've actually starting craving an egg here and there.  Not often, mind you, but once or twice a month.  I've been sitting on this recipe for a while and thought it would make a nice breakfast for Jim, only we never sit down for breakfast.  And then yesterday that egg craving crawled into the back of my head and by dinnertime, it was flashing a red alert.  Since I had everything on hand, I took the plunge and made breakfast for dinner!

This is a great one plate meal for breakfast, brunch, or dinner.  It's an updated version of a classic American breakfast adding sun-dried tomatoes and avocado.  The tomatoes add a vibrant taste and the avocados lend a creaminess.  Jim won't eat straight avocados, so I made a bit of guacamole for him.  Also, I only had smoked sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil) which made me think a touch of smoked paprika in the potatoes would be a great touch (yes, it was).  The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of EVOO for cooking the potatoes, but I have an incredible non-stick pan and I wanted crispy potatoes, so I only used 2 Tbsp.  If you're using a great, old cast-iron skillet, you'd probably need more. 


2 medium or 4 small russet potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes, about 4 cups
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
seasoned salt
black pepper
smoked paprika, optional (start with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp)
1 big handful of baby spinach, chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil (or not), chopped
1 avocado, chopped (smashed with a bit of salsa, minced onion and garlic, a touch of salt and fresh lime juice if you prefer guacamole)
2-6 eggs

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat then add potatoes, onion, and garlic.  Season with S&P and smoked paprika (if using) and stir to coat.  Cook 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are golden brown and tender.  Place a lid on top to quicken cooking (but you won't get a crispy edge to the potatoes).

Remove skillet from heat and add baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes on top.  Season lightly with regular S&P then set aside.  Stir if you want a bit of wilt to your spinach (not too long or it will completely wilt) and make sure than skillet is off of the heat source.

Cook eggs to your preference (over-easy/medium/hard, poached, scrambled) then season with S&P.  Spoon potato, spinach, and sun-dried tomato onto plates then top with chopped avocados and egg(s) and then serve.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Crumb-Coated Ranch Chicken

Hello again, Friends.  Sorry for the brief absence, but it's been a tad warm and muggy here and during the weather, our HVAC system bid us a farewell.  It's been stifling and needless to say, I really didn't feel like spending time in the kitchen.  It's been a couple of days of sandwiches or take-out.  But we're back in business with a cool, comfortable house and I'm ready to get back in the kitchen.  I've got a couple of new recipes I'm itching to try and hope I'll be able to pass them on in the next few days.

But here's a chicken recipe that's about as easy as they get (can you say five ingredients?!!!!).  Oh, and juicy and delicious, to boot.  I don't often have very good luck with crumb coatings....seems like they generally come out a bit soggy.  I don't know what made this one work so well, but it had that really nice crisp outside to complement the tender, juicy chicken breasts.  The ranch dressing (my recipe below) helps keep the breasts from drying out.  Serve a little extra on the side, if you like.


2/3 cup ramch/buttermilk dressing
2 cups coarsely crushed cornflakes
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (4-6 oz each)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Place salad dressing in shallow bowl.  In a separate shallow bowl, mix cornflakes, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.  Dip chicken in dressing, then in cornflake mixture, patting to help coating adhere.

Place on a greased baking sheet or in a greased 13x9 baking dish.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until a thermometer reads 165F.

Recipe Source:  Taste of Home, September 2014, p. 39


3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp dried onion
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
S&P to taste

Whisk together until well-combined.  Refrigerate at least a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Easy Homemade Burrito Bowls

I'm going to take a short break, but before I stop posting for a few days, I wanted to leave this incredible, delicious, easy meal-in-a-bowl for you.  And did I mention quick?

Don't let the ingredient list seem daunting.  You're basically layering about 6 items to create this dish.  There is a seasoning mix for the chicken, but if you've got some grilled chicken breasts looking for a home, use those.  Also, I mixed some buttermilk dressing (recipe below) with some salsa and dressed the lettuce.  The original recipe calls for undressed lettuce.  I think you need a bit of some type of dressing for this (salsa, creamy, or vinaigrette salad dressing), or maybe just a squeeze of lime. 

But for me, the layer that makes this dish is the Cilantro-Lime rice.  My oh my!  Gratefully, I made extra so I've got some in the freezer for the next Mexican entree I make which needs a side dish.  And if you've got that nasty Cilantro-Soap gene (yes, it's a real thing...Google it), you needn't worry....the cilantro is thrown in at the last minute, enough for the heat to rid it of that soap taste but still add an incredible depth of flavor. 

You can use the guac recipe below, or just mix your own......I used avocado, salsa, finely minced onion, minced fresh garlic, lime juice, and a bit of salt.

One other thing, I used fresh corn still it's still sweet, affordable, and in season, but I used an all-white cob.  For presentation purposes, I would definitely use all-yellow to add more color.  And all-in-all, outside of the fact that it's mighty tasty, it really is a pretty dish.


1 lb chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups sweet corn kernels (fersh or frozen-then-thawed)
4 oz shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or Mexican blend or cheddar)
1 small head romaine or iceberg lettuce, sliced
Salsa, creamy or vinaigrette dressing, optional
lime quarters, optional

For the seasoning mix:
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional

For the Cilantro-Lime Rice:
2 cups water
1 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime

For the quick guacamole:
3 ripe avocados
juice from 1/2 lime
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
garlic salt, to taste

NOTE:  For the entire recipe, you'll need 1 lime and  Tbsp chopped cilantro.

Mix the seasonings together in a small bowl.  Mist or brush chicken breasts with EVOO then season on both sides with the mix (reserve 1 Tbsp seasoning for black beans) and grill for 3-4 minutes a side over medium-high heat until no longer pink in the center.  Let rest for 5 minutes then chop and set aside.

For the Cilantro-Lime Rice, bring water, oil, and salt to a boil in a saucepan.  Rinse rice in a strainer under cold water then add to the boiling water, place on lid on top, turn heat down to medium-low, and then simmer until rice is tender, about 15 minutes.  Add lime juice and cilantro, stir to combine, remove from heat and let sit covered for a few minutes.

Add black beans to a small saucepan with water and 1 Tbsp seasoning mix.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low to stay warm.

For the quick guacamole, add all ingredients to a bowl then mash with a fork or potato masher.  Taste and adjust garlic salt if necessary.

Scoop cooked Cilantro-Rice into bowls then top with grilled chicken, seasoned beans, cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, shredded cheese, lettuce, and guacamole.  Serve with salsa or dressing, if desired.  Garnish with lime wedges.


3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp dried onion
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp freshly minced garlic
S&P to taste

Whisk together until combined.  Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Lettuce (here or on top)
Lettuce (here or on top of rice)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Creamed Peas and New Potatoes

I don't know why this dish came to mind....I don't think I've eaten it in over 40 years.  It's a dish I used to ask my mother to make for me many years ago.  It was a lucious creamy sauce with soft new potatoes (from her mother's garden) and sweet peas.  I could make a meal out of it all by itself.

While the flavor was just as I remembered, I'm sure back in the 60's they didn't have lo-fat milk.  It was the full-on whole milk; therefore, hers was a bit thicker than the pot I made (I used 1%).  Who knows, she could have even used half-and-half.  So if you want it thicker you could either use a higher-fat content milk or up the roux (butter and flour) by 50% or so.  But again, the flavor is simple and reminiscent: buttery, creamy, with a touch of S&P.  It was like stepping back in time.


1 pound baby red potatoes, quartered
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp AP flour
S&P to taste
1 cup milk

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Boil potatoes for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.  Drain.

Using the same pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour to make a thick paste; gradually whisk in milk, stirring constantly until slightly thickened.  Season with S&P to taste.  Add cooked potatoes and thawed peas to the sauce; simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cookies & Cream No-Bake Chex Bars

I wanted to make a little birthday treat for the receptionist at my dentist's office the other day but didn't want to turn on the oven.  I had found this recipe a few weeks ago, it's quick and easy.  With the introduction of so many new Chex cereal, I've used these a few times in place of the traditional Rice Krispies (see Snicker's Chex Mix, post 2-3-14 which uses the Chocolate Chex). 

You can also make these gluten-free if you pick up gluten-free chocolate cookies (not Oreos, but you can find them at places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc).


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
10 oz bag mini marshmellows
12.1 oz box Vanilla Chex
20 Oreos or gluten-free version, divided
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Spray a 9x13 or 7x11 (depending on if you like them thinner or thicker) baking dish with nonstick spray then set aside.

Roughly chop 16 Oreos then add to a very large bowl with the Chex and set aside.  Chop remaining 4 Oreos a little more fine then set aside.

Add butter to a microwave-safe bowl then microwave for 30 seconds or until melted.  Add marshmellows then stir to coat and microwave for 1 minute and 20 seconds (keep cooking by 15 second increments if marshmellows haven't completely melted).  Stir until smooth then immediately pour over Chex mixture and mix until evenly coated.  Scoop into the prepared baking dish then press into and even layer (you can spray the bottom of a large measuring cup with nonstick spray then use that to press).

Add chocolate chips to a small microwave-safe bowl then microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted and smooth.  Drizzle over the top of the bars then top with remaining Oreos.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Thai Shrimp and Rice Noodle Soup

I was really surprised at how this soup turned out, especially the taste on the second day.  I just ate two bowls and already have a taste for another.  For myself, I would definitely make this ahead of time and let the flavors meld.  However, if you do this, I would recommend that upon reheating (I used the microwave), leave the cooked shrimp out and then just add it the the reheated hot soup so the shrimp doesn't get overcooked.

If you'd like to bulk-up the vegetables a bit, try adding some sliced mushrooms and/or bamboo shoot strips.  And if you're afraid of fish sauce, start with just using 1/2 of what is called for, but again, it really does develop nicely if allowed to rest.

It's a great lunch by itself or I made it a dinner by adding a couple of spring rolls.  Perfect, especially in these hot, muggy end-of-summer evenings.

THAI SHRIMP and RICE NOODLE SOUP (6 {1 1/2 cup} servings)

1 (5.6 oz) can coconut milk (2/3 cup), divided
1 medium sweet or yellow onion, chopped
6 cups shrimp or chicken broth
1 jalapeno chile, seeded, deveined, sliced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp grated lime peel
1 (6.75 oz) package thin rice sticks/cellophane noodles
1 lb shelled, deveined uncooked large shrimp (about 21/30 size or smaller)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup snow peas, strings removed, diagonally halved\
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup lightly packed chopped fresh cilantro

Heat large saucepan over medium heat until hot.  Add 1 Tbsp of the thick coconut milk (from the top of the can) and onion; cook 2-3 minutes or until beginning to soften.  Stir in broth, chile, ginger, lime peel, and remaining coconut milk.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low; simmer 10-12 or until fragrant.

Meanwhile, soak rice sticks according to package directions; drain.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut the noodles so they will be spoon-sized.

Add shrimp, bell pepper, and snow peas to sauce pan; cook 2-3 minutes or until shrimp are pink.  Stir in all remaining ingredients, except cilantro.  Serve over rice sticks; garnish with cilantro.

Recipe Source:  Cooking Club Magazine, Fall 2014, p. 56

Monday, September 1, 2014

Chicken Breasts in Tarragon Cream

I've put off posting this for a few days because, honestly, I just couldn't think of a way to describe how utterly lucious and delicious this dish is.  Granted, you must be a lover of tarragon or don't bother.  And as tempting as it might be, don't make it all the time....this should be one of those "for special occasions" recipes.

I woke up the other morning knowing it was time to rotate chicken into that night's dinner.  Maybe because I had just watching "Julie & Julia" a couple of times and had French cooking in mind, but a tarragon cream sauce came to mind.  Doing a "chicken+tarragon+cream" search, this was the first recipe that popped up.

This recipe does make a lot of sauce.  I didn't notice until I got to the last line of the directions, but it says to "serve with buttered egg noodles" (egg noodles weren't in the ingredients list.)  Since I was serving this with potatoes, I didn't want to do add another starch, so I simply served this lone chicken breasts swimming in this sauce.  Actually, I could eat the sauce by itself.  I need to make a soup out of this......note to self.

Anywho....if you're not going to serve this with egg noodles or pasta and don't want to be gluttonous, consider (cringe) cutting the sauce recipe in half.  You'll still have plenty of flavor...and you can still lick the plate clean.

P. S.  Since there are just two of us, I cut the entire recipe in half, using an 8-oz chicken breast.  I am, however, listing the entire recipe as I found it.


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tsp EVOO
1 small shallot, finely chopped (about 3 Tbsp)
1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
2-3 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh French tarragon
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cooked buttered egg noodles or other pasta, optional

Browning the chicken:
Season both sides of the chicken breasts with S&P.  Heat the oil in a large (10-12") skillet over medium-high heat.  Using tongs, carefully lower the chicken breasts into the pan and cook them for about 1 minute on each side just until they begin to brown slightly.  Transfer the still-raw chicken to a plate.

Poaching the cream:
Reduce the heat under the skillet to low.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until softened but not brown, less than 1 minute.  Add the vermouth or wine and cook for 30 seconeds, then add the cream and half of the tarragon.  Return the chicken breasts to the pan and adjust the heat so that the cream gently simmers.  Cover and cook until the chicken is firm and just cooked through, 4-5 minutes.  To check for doneness, cut into the thickest part of a breast with a paring knife.  There should be no sign of pink or translucence.

Transfer the chicken breasts to a warmed serving platter or individual dinner plates.  The sauce should be thick enough to lightly coat a spoon.  If it is too thin, continue to simmer for about 1 minute and it will thicken.  Stir in the remaining tarragon and the lemon juice, then taste and season with additional S&P if needed.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve right away with buttered egg noodles.

Recipe Source: