Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween edition

Hello everyone, I just wanted to take a quick moment to post the treats I made for Halloween festivities this weekend. A few of them are tweaked from the link I posted corresponding to each, but the originals are great. All of these treats are quick and simple to make. Happy Halloween!!! :D

Click on each picture to enlarge it!

 Dirt Cup: each cup is 1/2 cup instant chocolate pudding,
3 crushed oreos, 1 gummy worm!

The snacks to go with the cheese were Koegel summer sausage, whole
wheat crackers, and sea salt and olive oil crisps. (the face is made with red bell pepper)

Mine do not look anywhere as near as good as the original. 
It was difficult for me to color the layers, but I was okay with how it turned out. 
They still tasted like yummy rice krispie treats, and that's what matters, right? ;) 

For the sake of time, I just bought a boxed brownie mix. 
For the spider web, I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, and used a butter 
knife to dollop the chocolate on as thin as I could.

These were very easy and fun to make. :)  With the last few 
tablespoons of dough I added a few drops of green food coloring.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blackened Chicken and Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

This recipe utilizes a fiesty spice mix! I imagine you can do this with any spice concoction you choose. :) This is actually very similar to the rub I make for baby back ribs, so I imagine rubs are quite versatile.

This is another recipe I found on a blog from pinterest. Continue reading to see my experience!

If you don't like spicy foods at all, this isn't for you. I like spicy foods when they have flavor and aren't just "hot" tasting. This is one that definitely has flavor, but it's not for spice-weaklings. I am surely not someone who is tolerable of high heats, but I think my palate is working its way toward withstanding more and more each time I try something with a zip. ;)

I really enjoyed this recipe because it was extremely fast to prepare and cook! Also, very cheap if you have already invested in your spice collection.

Ingredients (for 1 or 2 chicken breasts):
-1 tsp paprika
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
-1/2 tsp onion powder
-1/2 tsp cumin

-2 tbsp olive oil

-2 cups chicken stock
-1 cup quinoa
-1-2 tsp ? lime juice (not sure, I just kinda added some to taste. not a lot)
-dash of salt and pepper
-2 tbsp cilantro, chopped

optional sauce for wimps ;) :
-1/2 avocado
-2 tbsp greek yogurt

So I think I used half the chicken that the original recipe called for because I pounded down a breast and cut it in half. We're trying to cut down our meat consumption and increase our fruits and veggies, so not only does this do the job, but it's very cost effective! Even if you wanted a whole breast to yourself, pounding down is just a good idea when cooking chicken on a stove top or grill to cook more evenly.
But anyway, I also made double the original spice mix. I think you should make enough to cover your chicken well to maximize flavor. :)

1. Combine all the seasonings in a bowl.

2. Pound down your chicken (I cover the chicken with plastic wrap before I pound it to make sure microscopic raw chicken pieces and juice are not flying around my kitchen and infecting my life) and liberally season both sides.
I didn't pound it yet in this pic. 

3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan that has a lid on medium-high heat for about a minute.
4. Put the chicken in the pan and cook each side for 7 minutes, with the lid on. The sides of the chicken might look burned...or as appropriately named, "blackened". This is normal; your chicken is not burned.

5. After you get the chicken started, put the quinoa and chicken stock in a small pot that has a lid. Simmer on medium-low heat with the lid on for about the same time it takes to make the chicken, the stock should all be absorbed.
6. Now that everything is in the midst of cooking, cut up some avocado and mix with the greek yogurt. This is an optional topping for the chicken to counter-act and cool the spicy-ness.

7. When the chicken is all done, serve it onto the plate, but don't cut into it. Let it "rest" for another 7 minutes so it'll finish cooking through and the juices will stay in. Mmmm moist.
8. Instead of focusing on your rumbling tummy and watching the timer tick down while you wait to dig into your chicken, put the finished quinoa in a bowl. Add your lime, S&P, and the cilantro. Stir.
9. At this point, you probably still have about 4 minutes, but that's okay. Serve your quinoa, pour a drink, and watch this minute-long video. Go ahead, do it:   Watch me for a smile

(One of my favorite videos)

By now... it should be ready to eat! It had my nose running a little bit (I told you, I'm kind of wimpy) but I enjoyed it and Sal loved it as well :)
I almost forgot to take a pic, so here is my plate, a bit eaten :-P

I think some steamed vegetables would fit perfectly with this dish!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Quinoa chili

I saw a picture of a delicious bowl of quinoa on my friend's facebook. His fiance (and my friend) found this recipe on pinterest! So I quickly went to her board and looked for myself. The beautiful looking bowl of chili called my name and that day it was on my menu for the following week :D .

If you've never had/heard of quinoa, here's a short lesson:

Pronounced "keen-wah", it is a grain-like seed from Central and South America. It is high in protein, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus (and more!). Its recognition as being a "super-food" is increasing its popularity and hopefully you'll see it popping up in all grocery stores if it's not already present! You can typically find it near rice. It's a little bit more expensive (I paid $4 for 14 oz dry, which can surprisingly go a long way), but totally worth it.
There are different types of quinoa, the most common being the traditional (brown) sort. On its own, it is pretty plain to taste; that's a great thing about it--you can flavor it in endless ways! People use quinoa in all kinds of dishes...mixed with yogurt, honey, almonds, and/or fruit for breakfast, in salads, in chili, as a side on its own (maybe with some spices), etc, etc. You can cook it, or just soak it for cold dishes. Its versatility is only one aspect of it that makes it one of my favorite foods!

Here is the recipe for the dinner we had this evening:


  • 29 oz black beans, rinsed and drained (use a can or dried. I prefer dried but this takes some prep ahead of time). You could substitute for other beans, of course! There are a lot of good ones out there....
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 32 oz vegetable stock
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic (of course fresh is best, but I never use all the cloves when I buy it so I just go for the pre-minced that you refrigerate)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • avocado and cilantro for garnish (optional)


    1. Peel the potato then chop it, and the onions. 

2. Go ahead and open any cans (paste, beans) and drain the beans if need-be.
Isn't it cute??
3. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.

4. Add onions and sautee until they are soft and smelling delicious.

5. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes.
6. Add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and oregano for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

7. Add the beans, stock, potatoes, and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes.

8. Add the cup of quinoa, and continue cooking for about 30 minutes (simmer, med-low), until the potatoes are cooked and the chili has thickened. Make sure you are stirring it up every few minutes. I have found the rate limiting step is the potatoes. I had mine covered for a little bit, but it was not thickening at all so I took the lid off most of the time, until it was a nice consistency. If yours is too thick by the time it's done, you can add a little bit of water.
Immediately after I poured in my cup of quinoa.

9. While you wait, you can cut up the avocado and cilantro if you decided to include them in your meal. I love both, so of course I did :). As Sal (my husband) pointed out to me, the avocado serves as a creamy, fatty...almost cheese-substitute. I don't know about you, but our traditional chili dinners usually get cheese loaded on. So surprisingly, the avocado filled that void. Mmmm.
Ready to get in my belly.

10. Serve your bowl of chili and top with avocado and chopped cilantro. 

11. Enjoy, save and reheat left-overs for lunch or dinner! I hope this leaves you feeling like I did...full, but light, not that gross "stuffed" feeling. This has easily and quickly become one of my new favorite meals and it will be hard to go back to the previous chili recipe I usually swear by. If you're a chili fan, I highly suggest you try this. 

Feel good about the flavorful meal you just threw together and rest easy knowing it was healthy....and vegan. Did you notice? ;)

Bacon and Baked Potato Soup

So as stated yesterday, I decided to make a warm, filling-sounding soup since it has started to be consistently and pleasantly chilly outside :). I often peruse the kraft food recipe website for ideas, and that is where this recipe originates! They offer some basic and cool categories (chicken, budget, vegetarian, holiday/seasonal). There are a few downsides, in my opinion, such as: pushing certain brands (of course you can just ignore this), dishes that are quite bland, a lot of "pre-made" things (not always bad, but when it's on really easy stuff that just tastes infinitely better to make yourself, I turn my nose up a little). However, these obstacles can be overcome by reading the reviews--there are some really helpful suggestions! And of course, just using the site as a springboard for a "base" recipe. I find myself tweaking the recipe when/where I feel confident!

Anyway, here is the recipe I followed last night, very easy.

Bacon and Baked Potato Soup! (original recipe found here

Ingredients (for two):
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions--for the veggies, just use as much as you want. I love them so I definitely used more than the original recipe called for.
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 2 potatoes (I just used Russet). Cut into cubes. You can pre-bake/boil if you want. I didn't.
  • pinch of pepper
  • 10 slices bacon, cooked (bake it!). I suppose it only takes 5 slices, since I always cut mine in half. 
  • 1 cup of cheese (whatever you like! we used a blend of cheddars)
  • 3-4 green onions
  • 1/4 cup sour cream


1. I started by getting my bacon in the oven. (see link in ingredient list) As it was cooking, I continued on with the following steps.

2. Dice up your veggies! Onions, celery, potatoes (remember, I didn't pre-cook mine. Feel free to do so if you want!).

3. Melt the butter in a pot, and sautee your onions and celery (not the green onions) on medium-high heat.. Make sure they are still a little crisp, since they will continue to cook the entire time.

4. Add the chicken broth, milk, potatoes, and pepper to your pot.

5. Bring to a light boil, and constantly stir. If you don't pre-cook the potatoes, you will have to stir for about 25 minutes, working on mushing them up as they soften.

6. Somewhere during this time, your bacon should be finishing up (if you did it my way). I'd take about half of the strips and crumble them into your pot. I also suggest taking a tablespoon of the grease and add it, as well. It will help flavor everything! Yummmm. Fatttttt.

7. After your potatoes are all mashed up, you should have a pretty thick soup from all the starch. Add 3/4 cup of cheese and stir around until melted! ... and you're done!

8. Spoon out the soup into bowls, topping with a dollop of sour cream, some green onions, some cheese, and the rest of the bacon, crumbled up! SOOO GOOD.

And there you have it! My husband and I really enjoyed this meal. It was enough in itself and felt very "hearty". It was very filling. I think the toppings at the end are really important because each component adds a lot of flavor to the dish. I could see how people might find the soup alone kind of bland without more spices added to it. Afterall, it is mostly plain ol' potatoes!

So there you have it. It really didn't take long and although I didn't exactly calculate it out, it is quite a cheap meal. Everything in this meal was something I already had in my refrigerator except for the green onions. Even if that isn't the case for you, the most expensive part is probably a bag of cheese or bacon ($2 and $3 respectively when found on sale!) which are both items you will have left-overs and can be used in lots of other dishes for other meals that week. We'll definitely be making this again when the nights are cool and our week is jam-packed (oh wait, that's every evening for the fall/winter season ;) ).