Recipe: Mexican Potato Casserole

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Gotta love those recipes that are born from “What am I going to cook for dinner tonight” and “Dang, I need to use up some of that 5 lb bag of potatoes” and “What do I have in the freezer???” And once again, this is a hubby-love recipe… as in hubby loved it. He ate a bit after us but he came and found me in the bathroom while I was bathing our boys and said “Oh my goodness. THIS is really good.”

And then he told me again after his second bowl.

And again after his third.

Yep. Score.

Mexican Potato Casserole

Ingredients

  • 5 or 6 medium sized yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can ROTEL
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken (or Cream of Potato or Celery if you are vegetarian)
  • 1 can of pinto beans, drained
  • 1 1/2 cup colby jack shredded cheese, divided
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 5-6 dashes Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce (or similar)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Steam the potatoes on the stovetop until “al dente”. (Can I use that term for potatoes?)
  3. Meanwhile, stir the cumin, garlic salt, and pepper sauce in with the beans and mix to combine.
  4. Mix together the corn, cream of chicken, rotel, beans, 1 1/4 cup of cheese.
  5. When the potatoes are ready, mix them in with the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Pour the mixture into a 9×13 dish and cook for 17-20 minutes.
  7. Let cool and enjoy!

Recipe: Build A Perfect Salad

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I don’t know an.y.thing. about nutrition and so whenever I make a discovery I assume that probably everyone else out there that is even remotely nutritionally focused knows about it. And this is one of those things.

However, I have learned that there are actually quite a lot of “I don’t know an.y.thing. about nutrition” people out there with me. So, if you are a nutrition junkie, feel free to say “Wow – I’m so happy that she has learned this since I have used this trick my entire life!” and if you are a nutrition newbie, then feel free to say, “Wow – I’m so happy that she has learned this since I have never thought of doing that!”

Here ya go.

Build A Perfect Salad

(for two salads)

Ingredients

When choosing your ingredients… think about colors. It’s amazing how easy it is to get a variety of nutrients when you simply vary color. Plus, to me, a pretty salad is always immediately more appetizing than all green. So, if you have a green celery… then choose a bright orange carrot. Or if you have a red tomato, choose a yellow bell pepper to compliment it.

  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 large celery stalks
  • 10-15 salad tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • fresh oregano (or other herb or optional)
  • feta cheese, optional
  • lettuce
  • salad dressing

Instructions (I put my “commentary” in italics!)

1. Get out your two salad bowls, cutting board, knife, and all your veggies.

2. Start out with chopping up the carrots, celery, and halving the tomatoes. As you go you’ll see how the bowl really fills up with the “good stuff”. If you realize that you’ve got way too much of a particular ingredient just put the extra in a tupperware for tomorrow.

3. Add in your peanuts, kidney beans, oregano, and feta and mix everything together. That’s right… no lettuce yet!Just look at how full your bowl is of all the good roughage with all the good nutrients… too many of our salads are filled with 80% LEAVES because that’s what we put in first… but I think that’s part of the reason that we all get so burned out on them!

4. So, NOW, add your leaves (aka: lettuce) and some dressing.

5. This step is negotiable, but I always chop-mix my salad at this point. I like to do it because it is a good way to really mix everything together, plus I have terrible TMJ and so my bites have to be pretty small. You can chop-mix it by dumping it all out on a cutting board, but that is a mess and a half. Or you can get a good serrated knife (like a steak knife) and a fork and just cut it up a lot. OR, you can do my favorite method and get a pair of these salad choppers which I use for tons of stuff.

Okay, so it’s not like some kind of phenomenal life altering recipe… it’s more of a method. But it’s gotten me to build and eat more substantial salads instead of a bowl full of mainly leaves.

{My bowls before the leaves}

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Recipe: Quick & Easy Avocado & Tomato Salad

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One of the things about doing a Daniel Fast (essentially vegan eating) is that it makes you eat healthy real quick. Well, on Wednesday, all I wanted was to slap some peanut butter on a piece of bread and call it lunch, but… well, that’s not Daniel Fasty, so I had to come up with something else. My husband’s grandmother, Nanny, makes this tomato and avocado salad a lot that is delish and she puts something on it that I thought was balsamic vinegar, but after making my (which was also delish) that’s not it. So, once I talk to her and figure it out I’ll add that on here as well!

I know this is easy and half of the world has probably already made this before, but I thought I’d throw it on here because it might be a lunch option you had forgotten about.

Quick & Easy Avocado And Tomato Salad

(Have you noticed that almost all of my recipes say “Quick and Easy” in the title? There’s definitely a theme running through my cooking!)

  • 1 avocado
  • 3/4 cup of salad tomatoes
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cut up the avocado into chunks and cut the salad tomatoes in half and sprinkle in the parsley.
  2. Pour the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the mix and stir the salad.
  3. Eat! Really great with iced tea!

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Recipe: Easy & Light Tortellini Toss

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I really wanted to call this Found It In My Fridge Tortellini Toss because that was my inspiration… stuff in my fridge. I knew that tonight was cheese tortellini night, but lately the tortellini bake that I make has been too… heavy and greasy. So, I wanted to make something a little bit lighter and this one just sort of… happened!

What I love about it: tastes restauranty and it only took me 15 minutes, start to finish!

Easy & Light Tortellini Toss

  • 1 lb cheese tortellini (I like the tri-color kind from Sam’s)
  • 3 Tbsp butter (or olive oil if you prefer)
  • 1/4 chopped onion (frozen is okay)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1-2 tsp Ana’s Herbs (or other Italian seasoning), to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 orange (yellow, or red) bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 20ish cherry (salad) tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup white wine or white grape juice
  • 1 tsp parsley OR basil, chopped fine

You could veganize this by using another kind of tortellini and using oil each time instead of butter.

  1. Cook the cheese tortellini according to package directions, drain, and lightly coat with olive oil to prevent sticking.
  2. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet and saute the onions and garlic. Add the Ana’s Herbs, and allow to soak up the oil for about a minute or two, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add in the olive oil and then toss in the bell peppers for a minute or so, then add the tomatoes, wine, and parsley and allow to cook, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes depending upon how firm you want the veggies.
  4. Add the cooked tortellini to the skillet and mix everything together. Serve, and enjoy!

{I wanted to show you this picture of my cut tomatoes because,
yes, there is a Nerf gun partially on my cutting board.
When you have two boys, you just never know when you might get attacked!}

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{Such an easy starter to a light pasta sauce… right here: oil, onions, garlic, and Ana’s Herbs/Italian Seasoning}

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{I knew these were gonna be pretty in the mix!}

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{This is how I finely chop the parsley… with kitchen shears! Very culinary of me, right?}

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{Look how beautiful these are in the pan sauteing!}

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{The final product… even the hubs said it looked “fancy”!}

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Recipe: Easy And Fast Rice And Beans (Vegan)

Easy Beans And Rice - a rainy day meal

Truth be told, I only wanted rice for dinner (I won’t get into the gory details as to why), but my husband was going to require something a bit more substantial. So, I figured it was the perfect time for him to have rice and beans. I could just eat my rice and then load on a bunch of beans for him. No clue where to start, I looked through several recipes but didn’t have all of the ingredients for any of them, but I felt like I got the overall “feel” for the recipes, soooooo I took a plunge and made up my own, and he LOVED it! {Whew!}

But one thing I’m not sure of… is it “Beans and Rice” or “Rice and Beans”???

Easy And Fast Rice and Beans (Vegan)

  • 2 cups of cooked rice
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion (frozen is fine)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 can RO-TEL (here is a recipe if you want to make your own from scratch)
  • 1 (15 oz) can of black beans (undrained)
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 4 to 5 “squirts” of hot pepper sauce (y’all know Frank’s is my fav)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • lime or avocado wedge (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat large skillet on the stove at medium-high and heat the olive oil.
  2. Saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until crisp tender and then stir in RO-TEL and thyme. Let it cook for about three to five minutes while the juices cook out.
  3. Stir in beans, hot pepper sauce, and cumin. Lower heat to medium and let simmer for 7-8 minutes, stirring once.
  4. Serve over rice and top with lime or avocado!

Oooooo, I was so happy to see all the bright red tomatoes! I bet this would be even more beautiful with the homemade RO-TEL!

Easy Beans And Rice - tomatoes simmering

Yummy, yum, yum said the hubs!

Easy Beans And Rice - side shot

Recipe: UNstuffed Mexican Style Bell Pepper Casserole

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I purchased a bunch of green bell peppers at Sam’s last week intending to use them for stuffed bell peppers, but the more I thought about making stuffed bell peppers the more I just couldn’t muster up the energy to make them. They really aren’t that difficult, although the whole process of getting them to stand up never comes easily to me for some reason, but they are kind of difficult to eat. Plus, my bell peppers always end up a bit… soggy. And, well, that’s just plain ol’ gross. With this recipe because they only are in the oven for about 15 minutes, they still have a bit of crunch to them!

I remembered seeing a recipe for UNstuffed Bell Peppers, and although I couldn’t find it on Pinterest, I did find a couple of others that sorta reminded me of the basic idea, and then I made my own (vegetarian) version! It would be vegan if you just left out the cheese! I would love to try this with black beans as well, but we were out tonight.

A question for my experienced cooks: could I make this ahead and refrigerate it?

UNstuffed Mexican Style Bell Pepper Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (frozen is fine)
  • 3 teaspoons of minced garlic (jarred is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes (regular would probably be okay too)
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup corn (frozen is fine)
  • 1/2 cup pasta sauce (I used tomato and basil but I’m sure any would be fine)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 6-8 dashes of Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 3 green bell peppers
  • 1 cup colby jack cheese, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese chunks (if you want… we are feta freaks and so I put it in a lot of stuff where it doesn’t make “sense” but it always seems to be soooooo gooooooood!)

Instructions

  1. Cook rice according to directions.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  3. Lightly spray a 9×13 casserole dish.
  4. Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Saute garlic, onions, dried basil, and 1/2 teaspoon cumin until soft (about 3-5 minutes).
  5. While vegetables are cooking, cut and seed the green bell peppers. Cut into 2 inch chunks and arrange along the bottom of the casserole dish.
  6. In skillet, add fire roasted diced tomatoes and let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes while the juices cook out a bit.
  7. Add in kidney beans, corn, tomato sauce, 2 teaspoons cumin, and cayenne pepper sauce. Stir to combine and allow to heat through.
  8. Stir in rice.
  9. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of colby jack cheese lightly over bell peppers in casserole dish and 1/4 cup of feta cheese on top of colby jack.
  10. Spoon the vegetable and rice mixture into the bell peppers in the casserole dish.
  11. Sprinkle with remaining colby jack and feta cheeses.
  12. Cook at 350°F for 15-20 minutes, or until colby jack is melted (feta rarely looks melted).
  13. Serve and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes and then enjoy!

As soon as I arranged the bell peppers and saw how pretty it all was, I started to get excited!

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This step is really important I think because it lets some of the flavors come together without it having to spend a bunch of time in the oven.

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I could hardly wait when I pulled the dish out of the oven. It looked beautiful and smelled DIVINE!

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Recipe: Caribbean Black Beans (Crock Pot & Stove Top Versions)

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We… LOVE this recipe.

My reasons: tasty. easy. a man favorite. simple. fast to prep.
Hubby’s reasons: tasty. tasty. tasty. and ummmm, tasty.

Caribbean Black Beans (Crock Pot & Stove Top Versions)

Ingredients

  • 2 (15 oz) cans of black beans, drained (not rinsed)
  • 1 (8 oz) can unsweetened crushed canned pineapple
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (I use frozen)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (if fasting, leave this out… you won’t even notice)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • cooked rice

Instructions For Crock Pot (5 minute prep, 4-6 hours on LOW)

  1. Put all ingredients in crock pot and stir.
  2. Cook on LOW for about 4-6 hours.
  3. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and then serve with hot rice.

Instructions For Stove Top (5 minute prep, 30 minutes)

  1. Combine all ingredients in large soup pot on stove top.
  2. Turn to medium heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
  3. Remove the lid, turn to medium-low heat, and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
  4. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes and then serve with rice.

I got the inspiration for this version from this recipe.

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Recipe: Semi-Vegetarian Chickenless Pioneer Woman Chicken Spaghetti

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Okay, no laughing at my title. I had trouble naming this stuff!

The hubs and I have been really eating pretty light lately… well, more like rabbits, lot’s of healthy type stuff involving kale, parsley, and cilantro. He’s trying to slowly transition some of our meals into juicing (we’ll see how that works, neither of us are terribly keen on cleaning the juicer cause it takes forever, so that tends to thwart our motivation at times).

Anyway, I was just fixated on Chicken Spaghetti today (or, as we used to call it at church camp, Chicky-La-La). But, not eating meat again this year sorta gets in the way for having CHICKEN spaghetti. But then I started thinking about how many recipes I have “converted” from omnivore recipes to vegetarian (or at least semi-vegetarian… meaning there might be some animal product in there somewhere), and why not Chicken Spaghetti.

So, I searched for a recipe that used cream of chicken (cause, remember, I’m not a good healthy cook quite yet) and lo and behold when this recipe popped up from The Pioneer Woman, I took heed! So, I did almost exactly what she does only I switched out her chicken for mushrooms and black beans. But, really… look at her version, she has all these beautiful pictures of her chopping everything and laying everything out, etc. It was quite helpful to me (the amateur).

My husband was a BIG fan. As in… go back for seconds… twice. So, here we go…

Semi-Vegetarian Chickenless Pioneer Woman Chicken Spaghetti

  • 1 can Black Beans, rinsed
  • 5 Mushrooms, chopped into chunks
  • 3 cups Dry Spaghetti, Broken Into Two Inch Pieces
  • 2 cans Cream Of Chicken
  • 2 cups Shredded Colby Jack Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Finely Diced Green Pepper (this was a little more than 1/4 of a large bell pepper)
  • 1/4 cup Finely Diced Onion (I used frozen… wait, no, I just realized that I entirely forgot it!)
  • 1 jar (4 Ounce) Diced Pimentos, Drained
  • 2 cups Reserved Chicken Broth From Pot (I used a chicken bouillon cube in the water I cooked the spaghetti in)
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon (to 1/4 Teaspoon) Cayenne Pepper OR 10 dashes of Frank’s RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Additional Shredded Colby Jack Cheese
Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook spaghetti, in water with a chicken bouillon cube, until al dente. Do not overcook. Reserve 2 cups of “broth” before draining.
  3. If desired, saute mushrooms in some olive oil for a few minutes until a little tender.
  4. In a large bowl, combine black beans, mushrooms, cream of chicken, colby jack cheese, green pepper, onion (if you remember), and pimentos and stir just until mixed.
  5. When spaghetti is cooked, stir it into the mixture.
  6. Add seasoned salt and pepper sauce (or cayenne pepper) and 1 1/2 cups of reserved “broth” to the mixture and stir until combined.
  7. Place mixture into a casserole dish (I sprayed mine just to be sure) and cover with remaining cup of shredded cheese.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly. (The Pioneer Woman suggests that if the cheese starts getting too cooked to cover it with foil).

She also mentions that you can cover and freeze up to six months, or cover and refrigerate up to two days! So, to my friends that are due with a baby in a couple of months… plan on having Semi-Vegetarian Chickenless Pioneer Woman Chicken Spaghetti for your meal!

Recipe: Pepper Sautéed Kale & Veggies Quinoa Bowl

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Well, I wanted to make frozen stir-fry tonight (because it’s easy), but my husband has officially turned his nose up to frozen stir-fry. (His parents recently brought us Pei-Wei for dinner and, well, it has ruined him… he only wants the good stuff.)

So, I decided to get cuh.raz.y. tonight and try to make something with the huge load of kale he bought at Market Street the other day.

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And this is what resulted. (My original inspiration came from this recipe at VegWeb… which is a nifty little vegetarian site.)

Pepper Sautéed Kale & Veggies Quinoa Bowl

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup frozen onions
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped (I used three big “stalks” of the stuff and one little one… I will probably double or even triple that next time for more kale action)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped into chunks
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 2-3 mushrooms, chopped into chunks
  • 1 small tomato, diced OR 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained in the colander
  • 1 can red kidney beans (black or butter beans would work as well, I think)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin (more or less depending upon your taste preferences)
  • 9-10 “shakes” of Frank’s RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce (this stuff is uh.maz.ing. I discovered it with this recipe for Black Bean Soup which is now my absolute favorite thing in the world to make, plus my husband loves it!)
  • 1 cup of quinoa… cook it according to the package directions
  • feta, optional (we put feta on ev.er.y.thing. but I bet any shredded cheese would be good too, or none at all!)

Instructions:

  1. If you haven’t already chopped your veggies, do that first… chop: the kale, red bell pepper, mushrooms, and tomato.
  2. If you haven’t already cooked the quinoa, get that started as well.
  3. Get some water boiling, cause you are going to boil the kale in just a minute.
  4. Heat up a large skillet to medium-high and pour the oil in. Saute the garlic and onions until tender.
  5. Add in the bell pepper, mushrooms, corn, and water. Saute until tender-firm.
  6. While the veggies are sauteing, boil the kale for three minutes and then drain in a colander.
  7. When the kale is finished and drained, add it as well as the tomato and beans and stir it all together.
  8. Sprinkle the cumin on as well as the Frank’s hot sauce and stir. Let it cook for two or three minutes.
  9. While the seasoning cooks in, place the quinoa in the bottom of the bowl, and then spoon in the sauteed veggie mixture.
  10. Sprinkle with feta, if desired, and enjoy!

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Recipe: Easy Cheesy Veggie Pasta Bake

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Easy Cheesy Vegetable Pasta Bake

I love this meal… and it gets double love because my husband said he loved it too… in fact, he said it twice! And then it gets triple love because it can be made ahead and refrigerated!

I got the original idea from this baked tortellini recipe over at Real Mom Kitchen.

Ingredients
• 16 oz dried penne pasta
• 1 cup frozen broccoli
• 1 cup frozen zucchini
• 1/2 cup whipping cream (not as good but will work: whole milk or half and half)
• 1 Tablespoon of Ana’s Herbs (or other Italian seasoning mix… although if you can find some Ana’s Herbs, get some… they are awesome! Their website has stores where you can find it)
• 1 1/2 cup shredded cheese (mozzarella or colby jack)
• 1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
• 1 jar (24oz) of spaghetti sauce (I usually use a basil and garlic kind)
• 4 Tablespoons butter, divided
• 1/2 cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Instructions:
1. Get out broccoli and zucchini so they can defrost just enough to separate from each other to be mixed.

2. Cook penne according to instructions until al dente. Drain and stir in a tablespoon of butter to keep from sticking.

3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine spaghetti sauce, cream, Ana’s Herbs, and 1 cup of Parmesan cheese.

4. Add in zucchini, broccoli, and penne. Stir until evenly combined.

5. Stir mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, then with bread crumbs. Drizzle remaining butter, melted, over bread crumbs.

6. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes and let cool for 10 minutes. Then serve!

It’s really easy and I love that I can incorporate frozen veggies without having to remember an hour in advance to get them out to defrost.

I’d love to hear some other variations you think would be good (and easy) in here. I was thinking some pre-chopped mushrooms? What else?