Phew! Finals are over and I have a few weeks off before resuming classes. I am looking forward to getting back into the kitchen over break and trying all the recipes I’ve been stockpiling during my study breaks (aka periods of pure procrastination!) It is finally feeling a little bit more like the Holiday season now that I’ve caught up on sleep and feel like a real member of society again. I am in the preliminary stages of my Holiday shopping and have already brainstormed a few really great gift ideas. One of my gift ideas is actually a little bit of an at home project, so I look forward to sharing that after the Holidays! It seems like a great project and I can’t wait to get it started tomorrow morning. I’ll be sure to share after the Holidays when all of my gifts have been dispersed! I love giving personalized gifts because I feel that it really shows people just how much you care. I am also excited about creating all my favorite Holiday recipes! A particular favorite of mine is my candied almonds! I’m planning on making them this week and will be sure to share the recipe. They are to die for!
On to today’s recipe:) On a quick trip to Whole Foods I saw that Bibb lettuce was on sale for $1.99, avocados were on sale for $1.00, and ground chicken was also ridiculously on sale. I couldn’t resist any of these items and because of my underlying love of lettuce cups I knew I had all the makings of a very quick and healthy meal. If you know me at all, you know that I love all things spicy food. So naturally, I knew these ingredients would lend themselves very well to creating a twist on the traditional Asian inspired lettuce cup. It was undoubtedly a success and I’m not certain I’ll ever transition back to using taco shells after coming up with this recipe redo. One can’t beat tasty and healthy! Plus cutting the calories from the taco shells allows me to feel a little less guilty about having a small scoop of my homemade vanilla ice cream in the freezer (recipe to follow soon!).
I made a very simple guacamole to add on top. I used one avocado, a 1/4 cup of sweet onion which I rinsed under water to get rid of the pungent onion taste/smell, and a small handful of pickled jalapeños which I minced. I added a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper and mashed it all together with a fork. I let it hang out in the fridge while I prepared to the rest of the meal.
- 1 head Bibb Lettuce, pre-washed and leaves separated
- 1 pound ground chicken, turkey, or beef
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
To a small bowl, add:
- 1 tsp Chili powder
- 1/2 tsp ground Cumin
- A liberal pinch of Cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp Worcestershire
- 1/2-1 tsp Sriracha or hot sauce
- Fresh cracked black pepper
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Thanksgiving dinner was a success! Matt and I had a wonderful meal and I thoroughly enjoyed putting my own twist on a few classic recipes. We did, however, miss our families and look forward to spending time with them on Christmas. Our Thanksgiving menu included: homemade cranberry sauce, semi-homemade cornbread stuffing, chive and cream cheese mashed potatoes, homemade yeast rolls, and of course turkey and from scratch gravy. I also made a few desserts! You can check out my quick and delicious apple pie recipe and be on the lookout for Matt’s favorite dessert, cream cheese pumpkin roll. We had a lot to be thankful for this year and I am so glad I was able to prepare such a flavorful meal for my well deserving husband.
The turkey was fantastic! I stuffed the cavity with oranges, lemons, sage, thyme and fresh sprigs or rosemary. I made a compound butter with sage, thyme, rosemary, and fresh cracked black pepper that I spread on the skin of the turkey. I basted the turkey regularly with pan drippings and some melted butter infused with the same herbs I listed above. It was so good! I’m glad we have a lot of leftovers!
One of Matt’s favorites sandwiches is the Turkey Cranberry sandwich from Paradise Cafe and Bakery. I decided to draw inspiration from that when looking for a way to repurpose our leftovers. I used my homemade cranberry sauce (Never made it? It’s so easy! Throw a bag of cranberries into a small stock pot with 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, a splash of orange juice and apple cider, as well as a generous pinch of cinnamon and orange rind and let it simmer on the stove until the cranberries break down and the sugar thickens the sauce. It only takes about 20 minutes and is a thousand times more delicious than the canned variety!) and avocado on this sandwich and it really made the sandwich fantastic. I also added a generous sprinkle of my semi-homemade cornbread stuffing (I’ll fill you in on this recipe later!).
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We love all foods that are Mexican in our house. Tacos. Fajitas. Enchiladas. All of it. Sometimes it gets a little monotonous eating the same foods though–and that’s why I like to come up with what I refer to as recipe redos. If you are tired of making the go to dishes, like tacos and burritos, you’ll love giving this dish a try. I not only love Mexican food but am obsessed with soup. I literally could eat soup every day and not get tired of it. Matt on the other hand, refuses to eat soup in scorching weather, so it has been awhile since I’ve made any. Now that the weather is cooling down a bit, it was my free pass to make one of our favorites. This recipe for Chicken Fajita soup is definitely one of my favorite recipe redos. This recipe is also very vegetarian friendly–omit the chicken and add another can of black beans, and you have yourself a high protein meal with a lot of veggies. I like to serve my soup over crushed tortilla chips and cheese as opposed to sprinkling them on top. I like that the chips get soft and they actually help to thicken the soup. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do–it’s the best on cold Fall evenings–plus it can definitely feed a crowd and it’s a one pot meal. Bonus.
- 1 box (32 oz) of chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 red peppers–sliced to uniform thickness
- 1 large red or sweet onion–sliced to uniform thickness
- 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 can condensed chicken soup
- 1 can black beans-rinsed and drained
- 2-3 cloves of cloves of chopped garlic
- 1 can enchilada sauce–mine was the medium heat level
- 1 lb of chicken breast–precooked, I cooked mine in the slow cooker earlier in the day
- 1/4-1/2 cup pickled jalapeños chopped–or less if they are fresh/based on your heat preference
- 1/2-3/4 cup of frozen corn (optional)
- Cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, & avocado for garnish
- A squeeze of lime juice over each bowl served (optional)
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Inside out burgers are my favorite way to eat cheeseburgers. My favorite part about them is that you can always count on the cheese being 100% melted and gooey…nothing is worse for me than ordering a burger and the cheese isn’t melted. The great thing about this method is that you can stuff burgers with a whole bunch of precooked ingredients. I’ve tried cooked bacon for inside out bacon cheeseburgers and assorted veggies before like peppers & onions. It really helps transform the ordinary into something a bit more special.
I made my burgers with ground chicken as I am not a beef eater. I normally make turkey burgers but the ground chicken was the better deal at Whole Foods that day. I used spicy steak seasoning and some fresh jalapeño to give the burgers a nice spicy kick. Some hints for these burgers: only flip your burgers TWICE (no burger likes being serially flipped)–you’ll know when they are ready to turn if you watch the level of doneness make it’s way up to the middle of the burger…you can actually observe a color change in the meat (really pink to white in chicken & turkey; pink to brown in ground beef). Tip #2: do not use your spatula to pancake your burgers–doing so will only make you lose all the liquid in your burger and leave you a dry hockey puck. No one likes hockey pucks for dinner.
If you have a digital meat thermometer you can easily determine your level of doneness. My $8 dollar score from C&B actually lets you choose how you like your meat cooked–like an actual well done setting etc. Pretty cool–what a cheap and useful kitchen gadget (obviously if you’re making chicken and turkey burgers you have to cook them 100% the way through). Once I’ve flipped my burger once (if I’m pan frying) I usually add about a 1/4 cup of liquid (chicken stock works great for poultry burgers, beef stock for beef burgers, or water will even do the job) and throw a lid on the skillet to let the burgers steam a bit. Doing this really helps ensure that your burgers don’t dry out. I had this meal prepared and cooked in less than 20 minutes including clean up. Not too bad I’d say.
Yields four 1/4lb burgers
- 1 lb of ground meat–I used chicken
- Steak seasoning
- Salt & Pepper
- Olive or canola oil
- Low fat shredded cheese--I used Pepper Jack cheese
- Fresh jalapeño–optional
- Sweet onion
- Fresh garlic
- Condiments: ketchup, mustard, avocado, spinach etc.
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I absolutely love avocados! They honestly may be one of my favorite things to eat. I thought it was crazy when I discovered this paring that I didn’t think of it sooner. It may seem a little weird at first but trust me it is so delicious. The avocado really helps to make Mac & Cheese even more creamy—I never thought that was possible! It’s definitely buttery and smooth but probably a dish I wouldn’t make on the regular since it is so rich.
You can really taste the avocado though…next time I may even omit the cheese sauce and just eat avocado pasta. Matt liked it but was craving a crunch to go along with it. I agree that it was in need of a salty crunch–maybe pancetta crumbles or garlic bread.
- 10 ounces dry elbow macaroni–I used the Barilla Carrots & Squash–the pasta offers 1 full serving of veggies per serving. Bonus.
- 2 cloves garlic–use your micro planer to grate the garlic right into your food processor
- 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice–I used lemon because it’s what I had on hand ( it’s important to use because it prevents the avocado from browning)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese–or your favorite–we like the spiciness that Pepper Jack offers
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Reserved avocado chunks–to throw in at the end for garnish
- The original recipe calls for fresh Cilantro–1/3 cup–but I omitted it because Matt doesn’t like Cilantro. I also added a small pinch of cayenne pepper to the avocado mixture.
Who doesn’t love a good BLT?
Well…I don’t because I hate tomatoes….and mayonnaise….with a passion. So maybe I don’t love BLTs in a traditional sense–but this recipe I came up with is more than fantastic. It’s delectable.
Let me set the recipe redo stage for you:
- Brown sugar & cracked black pepper center cut bacon
- Low fat mozzarella cheese
- And the star of the sandwich–homemade sun dried tomato pesto
I almost wish that I would have made an extra sandwich to keep in the fridge for later. Give this recipe a shot–but don’t make the mistake I did–make a few extra sandwiches.
Necessary equipment: food processor
- Center cut bacon
- Brown sugar
- Cheese of your liking
- Whole grain bread
- Sun dried tomatos
- Fresh cloves of garlic
- Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
- Salt & fresh cracked black pepper
Since I already made yummy salsa, I thought it was only appropriate to make Pulled Chicken Tacos for dinner!
I had already shopped for the necessary essentials for a divine Mexican meal. Thanks to my crockpot chicken it was going to be able to be pulled together in less than 15 minutes with minimal clean-up. Success. I even make my own taco seasoning! It’s so easy to do and much better for you because the sodium content in the pre-made packages can easily exceed your recommended daily allowance. Plus you can make a large batch if you want to because it stores great! Once you try it, you’ll never eat the other stuff!
It’s a mouthwatering recipe…give it a try!
The Ingredients: Taco Seasoning
Recipe makes enough seasoning for 1lb of meat
- 1 tsp Chili powder
- 1/2 tsp Cumin
- 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
- Cayenne pepper–based on your heat preference
- Dried Oregano–Oregano is one of those spices that people love or hate–so add to taste or omit it
- Small pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt & fresh cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup of water
- 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic
- Pre-cooked chicken
- Whole wheat tortillas
- Taco fixings: black beans, spinach, cheese, avocado, & salsa
I had never been a huge fan a mangos but after dining at Cuba Libre in Old City (fantastic food!) and sampling their Avocado-Mango Salsa I quickly realized that I was missing out! The next time I hit Produce Junction (located in PA & NJ…a land of amazingness! think whole sale fruit & veggies…CHEAP!) I grabbed a few. They weren’t ripe initially and since I was craving them ASAP, I popped them into a paper bag with an apple for two days. Heard of this before? All I remember from my years of chemistry is that apples produce a gas that acts as an accelerant to help ripen other fruits! Thank you chemistry for the practical lesson for once! Anyhow, I created a few yummy things to share!
Matt & I are obsessed with guacamole so I knew after we sampled the salsa at Cube Libre I would have to figure out how to recreate it. Please forgive me! I forgot to take a picture! Next time for sure…that is if I can abstain from stuffing my face! ha!
- 1 ripe mango
- 2 ripe avocados
- 1/4 cup red onion (a little or a lot…you call the shots)
- jalapeños (optional)
- juice of 1 lime
- small pinch of cayenne pepper
- salt & pepper
- Dice the mango–a great how to located here: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_cut_a_mango
- Follow the same rules with the avocado–I love dicing them in similar sizes because it really helps the ingredients to mesh & do their delicious things!
- Add the 1/4 cup of diced red onion to the mix–if you aren’t a huge fan of red onions, give them a rinse with cold water! it realllly helps to take the bite out of the onion and mellow them out (seriously, try it!)
- Dice the jalapeños…as few or as many as you like depending on your preference
- Give the lime a roll on the counter or pop it in the microwave to “really get the juices flowing”–name that chef!
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Mash it around with a fork to help really bring the ingredients together
Refrigerate until chilled and serve with tortilla chips–homemade or store bought. As you can tell it’s definitely just a recipe you can throw together. It’s super refreshing and perfect for summer.
Not to mention the great health benefits of avocado and mangos! Seriously good food for your body. It’s a win win snack! Tasty and great for you.