Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cheese Please

I have about 8 million recipes backlogged on my hardrive that need to make their way onto this blog. I have plenty of excuses why I haven't been blogging, but excuses are for the birds. So I use this snow day to slack off a little... turn on a movie for the kids, allow the house to remain in utter disarray, leave email and voicemails unanswered, and just sit here and day dream about food.

I made this enchilada casserole a few weeks back... this recipe is EASY! Especially if the words "Enchiladas" scare you. Instead of frying and rolling all the tortillas, you just layer them up casserole style. I actually made this three times in one night - it's that quick. One for the in-laws, one for a new mama of 2 (hi, baby Molly :)), and another to freeze for myself. This is the perfect meal to bring to someone else because you can make it ahead of time, and the flavors are mild enough that most palates will approve. Personally, I threw about 2 tons of jalapenos on top because I like to live on the edge.

This is a Cooking Light recipe that I adapted just a touch by subbing out the sour cream (ewwww) with 0% Greek Yogurt. Then I could add more cheese, of course :)

Easy Green Enchilada Casserole

3 Chicken Breasts, cooked and chopped
2 cans diced green chiles
Shredded cheese (I've tried white cheddar, pepper jack and cheddar and they were all fab... I've never met a cheese I didn't like though)
1-1/3 cup Chicken Broth
2 cans Cream of Chicken
1 cup 0% Greek Yogurt
1 tsp cumin
Onion and jalapeno chopped* (optional)
corn tortillas

This ingredient ended up in my shopping cart too, I couldn't help myself, I wanted to bite those toes off.

I added chopped jalapeno and onion, just cause. Do what you want.
So literally just throw in all the ingredients except the chicken, cheese, and tortillas.
Stir it up, let it get bubbly, and let the flavors all mash together. Thats a technical term.
Cook and chop your chicken. The easiest way or me to do this usually (besides the baker, which I used below) is just to drop the whole chicken breasts into a pot of boiling water, reduce heat, then forget about them for like 15 minutes. When they are no longer pink in the middle, take them out and shred them with two forks or rough chop.
Shred some cheese. Oh, is that a lot?

Layer the bottom of the casserole dish with the sauce

Then layer tortillas

Layer chicken



And begin again. Tortillas! The more layers you do, the easier it will be to cut this into pieces when its done to avoid just gopping it out in spoonfuls.

Make your last layers cheese and sauce

Then fridge or freezer til dinner time, at which point you simply pop in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes... yum

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chicken Alfredo Soup

It's the time of year where I make soup at least 3 times a week! So if you're not a soup lover, my apologies. Check back in May. Personally there is nothing I love to eat more on a cold winter night then a hot bowl of soup. And some bread. Can't forget the carbs. People (usually of the male species) often complain that soup is not filling enough for them. I like this recipe because it is very hearty with tons of vegetables and chicken... one bowl always leaves me full! Best of all it is super easy to throw together, which has led to its weekly appearance in this house.

I love the Pampered Chef Recipes. They are all quick, easy, and multi-palate friendly. I gave this one a bit of a makeover, because there's just something about pouring an entire jar of alfredo into dinner that makes me feel like my pants size just went up one. So I changed it up a bit by bulking up the veggies, increasing the broth to alfredo ratio, and swapping out Classic Alfredo with Light Alfredo.

This recipe was actually made entirely for the Deep Covered Baker in the microwave, but this time I did it in a soup pot. If you have a Baker, check the bottom of this post for the microwave adaptations.

Chicken Alfredo Soup

1-2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 cup of chopped broccoli
1 cup of chopped carrots
1 red pepper
2 handfuls of spinach
Couple cloves garlic
32 oz Chicken Broth (1 box)
1 Jar of Light Alfredo
Salt and Pep
Fresh basil and freshly grated parm for a topper

Superman's face when he asked what was for dinner and I showed him all the veggies on the counter

Heat a bit of olive oil in a soup pan and add some garlic

Oops burned the garlic.
I blame these three.

Got some broccoli florets and some really pitiful looking carrots

Chopped them to smithereens

Add to soup pan

Add in the chopped red pepper, but take off the sticker first :)

Add the whole box of chicken broth (less if you want this to be more creamy. I wanted to stretch the calories so I was ok with a thinner, alfredo flavor)

Add the jar of light alfredo.

Stir it up

Add the handfuls of spinach

Add your chicken - I did mine in the baker, chopped it, and threw it in. You can saute chicken in the pan before adding the veggies, or prebake it, or poach and shred it, or grab a rotisserie chicken from the store, whatever works for you!

Top with some S and P to taste, then bring to a slow boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover and let simmer until ready to serve.

I didn't have any basil to top with, but wouldnt it have been pretty??

For the baker: First microwave the 2 chicken breasts for 6-10 minutes per pound. Chop and remove. Throw the chopped broccoli, carrots, onion, bell pepper, pressed garlic, broth and alfredo sauce all in the baker. Cover and microwave for 15 minutes. Add the chicken back in, stir, and top with basil and shredded parm.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What's To Come...

As we enter the New Year, so many people I have spoken to have stressed Menu Planning as a resolution. I vividly remember as a college student (yes, a college student... who does this???) heading to Panera on Sundays to flip through my favorite cookbooks (pre-WiFi and laptops) and jot down in my planner what I would need to buy at the store for the week to make my weekly meals. I was 19!!! Hilarious to think of now. I didn't do it because I wanted to be organized and on top of things. I didn't do it because I wanted to save money (ok, a little bit because of that). I did it solely because I wanted to eat yummy meals all week long that didn't come from the Dining Hall. From a young age hunger was my driving force :)

So now that life is just a *touch* more chaotic than when I was 19 and in college, I've realized how crucial having a meal plan is to putting food on the table. I can't tell you how often I hear, "Oh, I just don't have time to cook." Well, who does?? No one has time or energy at the end of a long day to try and create something in the kitchen from what may or may not be in the pantry. The only way I get food on the table during the week is by making a plan and sticking to it.

If meal-planning is your New Years Resolution, here are a few helpful tips to get started

  • Don't plan 7 nights of meals. You will never make 7 nights of meals. I don't!! I usually plan 4 to 5, knowing that one week night I'm just not going to have the energy, and on the weekends we'll be eating out, mooching off my in-laws, having leftovers, or throwing together hodge-podge. Start with just 2 nights.

  • Be realistic about the nights you will make dinner. I know personally I am much more likely to make dinner on Monday then I am on Friday. On Friday my motivation and energy is totally shot and I'm picking up the phone for delivery. Plan meals on nights you know you will be more likely to get it done.

  • Try and pick meals that include ingredients you already own. BBQ sauce? Huge Bag of Carrots? Often I enter all those random ingredients in Google and see what recipes she gives me.

  • Write down all the ingredients you need to make those specific meals (it helps me if I put them in groups like Veggies, Meat, Dairy). Then add all the other non-dinner items you need...think school lunches, quick snacks, breakfast items, and maybe a frozen pizza as back-up just in case. I get angry if I have to drag three kids to the store more than once a week so it helps to sit down for 5 minutes and visualize the week's needs. However, I will always make a midnight emergency trip for ice cream if need be.

  • Plan simple meals with less than 5 ingredients. Homemade pizza (buy premade dough, then top with your own fresh ingredients), Teriyaki Salmon, Mexican Hash, Summer Pasta, and Frittata, are some of my favorite go-to simple meals. Try more involved meals on the weekend when you have more time. You might find that it wasn't as difficult as you thought and can add it in the weekly rotation!

  • Write down your meals in a planner. This way when you are meal-planning you can flip back through the prior weeks to recall what has worked and what hasn't in the past. That is the entire reason this blog came to be. I would try awesome recipes all the time but just kind of forget about them. The blog was a way for me to log them for myself while sharing with others. Now when I'm planning my meals I flip through my recipe index to see what I've made before, if I liked it, and how easy it was to put together.

  • Start prepping as soon as you get home from the store. I try and wash off the veggies as I'm putting them away, moving the meat for the week from the freezer to the fridge, and group items that are going to be part of one meal together in the fridge. Then its easy for me to grab them and throw it all together when dinner time comes.

  • Try making big meals on Sunday night that can carry you into the beginning of the week. Lasagna, Slow Cooker Carnitas, meals like that.

What tips do you have for getting dinner on your table??

Here are my meals for the week... and if it's not hyperlinked, then it will be blogged in the near future!


Chicken Alfredo Soup


Quick Kale and Cod


Fish Chowder (w/ cod)


Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Carnitas (making with Chicken Thighs instead of Pork)


left over versions of the Carnitas

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Empty Fridge... Full Heart

I'm depressed to put an incredible Christmas break behind me. Kevin was home with us for an entire week, more time off then he's given himself in our entire marriage! We did lots of .... well... nothing. But we did lots of nothing together, all under the same roof. My house is in shambles, my fridge looks like one of a male college student, and the laundry is piled in corners all over the house, but my heart is incredibly full.

Every year after Christmas we pack up and head out for a few very disconnected days at a cabin my parents own in the mountains. No internet, television, or even cell phone service. We play a lot of board games and read a lot of books and learn how to talk to eachother again without the television to give us something to talk about. Mostly everyone skis during the day, but I was perfectly content to stay by the fire, spend some time with my mom, and cuddle with That Girl Baby. I mean... can you blame me for choosing to squeeze this belly over the slopes??
I was even able to sneak in some solo runs.

There is nothing more cleansing then running alone in the quiet of the falling snow. And even better for me, to do so in the mountains. In a town with the population of 100. Every footprint I left behind on that mountain felt like I was shedding 2010. Every icy cold breath I inhaled rejuvenated and reenergized me for what's to come in 2011.

Now my fridge may be empty... but my mind is clear and my heart is full and I'm ready to embrace whatever 2011 throws my way.

Here's one of my favorite soup recipes, from one of my favorite cookbooks (Daily Soup Cookbook). I've made it a few times already this winter (although clearly, back when the fridge was a little more full) and it's definitely one of my go to's! So healthy, easy, full of flavor, and warms you up right to the core. Happy New Year!

Parmesan Sage Butternut Squash Soup
2 tbl butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 cups Veggie Stock (here I subbed Chicken cause its all I had)
1 3-inch Parm Rind (no worries Ill explain)
Freshly Grated Parm
2 bay leaves
2 Butternut Squash (or for me, 1 big bag of TJ's precut Butternut Squash!)
3 fresh sage leaves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne
S and P to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan

Chop your veggies... no need to make them beautiful, since they'll be all blended up anyway

Ok so parm rind. You know how if you get a block of fresh parm, and there's that tough side that doesn't grate well? That's the rind. Or I think it is.

So I cut off a 3 inch piece of that tough part for the soup. Basically you're infusing the flavor of parm with out all the calories. More flavor + less fat = I like.

Back to the saucepan... saute the veggies for a touch.

Then add the chicken broth, butternut squash, and bay leaves. Let it simmer for 20 minutes.

Look! After 20 minutes my (supposed) rind is still goin strong.

Take out the rind and the bay leaves and put the veggies/broth in a blender. I just got an immersion blender for Christmas and its going to make this recipe soooooo much easier!!

Blend to a puree.

Return to the pot and add 1/8 tsp cayenne, 1/4 tsp nutmeg...

... salt and pep to taste, and some freshly grated parm

Stir it up then finish with my favorite part! The sage. Tear it up with your fingers (releases more oils and flavor) and throw it in the soup before serving.

This went really well with some parm/sage/breadcrumb porck chops I made for the carnivores in the house.