Fast and Fresh Fajita Salad


It’s almost summer and it’s hot. Who wants to spend a lot of time in the kitchen?

Since we do not have central air-conditioning, my summer cooking has to be light and fast (for the sake of my sanity!).

Consequently, my go-to summer dishes are mostly salads.  This Chicken Fajita Salad is a favorite because it’s fresh, fast and, best of all, FILLING!

Chicken Fajita Salad

Let’s make this short and sweet, shall we?

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Serve fajita mixture over lettuce and top with whatever you like!

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Other good choices also include: Black Beans, Fresh Corn, Olives, Jalapeños, Tortilla Strips

Here’s to summer and simple summer cooking!

Have any great salad ideas to share?  I might need them!  🙂

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Chicken Fajita Recipe

Serves 4

*2 Tablespoons olive oil

*12 ounces uncooked chicken breast, sliced 1/2″ thick

*1 red bell pepper, julienned

*1 large clove of garlic, minced

*1 large green bell pepper, julienned

*1 large red bell pepper, julienned

*1 medium yellow onion, sliced

*1 Tablespoon chili powder

*1 teaspoon cumin

*1 teaspoon salt

*A few dashes of Liquid Smoke

*Pinch of red pepper flakes

*Juice of 1 lime

In a large wok or skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon oil over high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the chicken and minced garlic and season with the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper flakes and Liquid Smoke.  Cook on one side for a minute.  Stir chicken around and cook another couple minutes until full cooked.  Transfer chicken to a large bowl.

In the same skillet, heat another Tablespoon of oil until hot.  Add peppers and onions and cook one minute without stirring.  After a minute, stir the veggies and allow to cook again without stirring.  (This will allow the veggies time to caramelize slightly.)  Cook to desired tenderness (3-5 minutes).  Add veggies to the chicken.

Toss chicken, peppers and onions with the juice of one lime.  Serve over greens or in warm flour tortillas.

Fish Tacos on the Grill


Is it just me or can you never have too many quick and healthy dinner ideas in your pocket?

A favorite of mine is fish tacos topped with pineapple-mango salsa.

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I just love how all of the different flavors blend together in this dish.  Who’d have thunk that fish would taste so good inside a corn tortilla?

Pair with a lightly dressed slaw, and you’ve got dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less. (Unless you plan on catching and cleaning the fish yourself.)

Fish Tacos with Pineapple Mango Salsa

Let’s start with the salsa so that the flavors have time to marry.

(You could also make this a day in advance.)

For the salsa, you will need:

*1 cup cilantro, rinsed and roughly chopped

*1 medium tomato, diced

*1 cup fresh pineapple, diced

*1 large jalapeno, small-diced

*1 large mango, peeled, seeded and diced

*1/4 cup red onion, small-diced

*1 teaspoon salt

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Combine all ingredients thoroughly and set aside.  Makes approximately 4 cups.

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Now for the tacos!

For the tacos, you will need:

*4  3-ounce Tilapia (or Cod or Swai) filets

*8-10 corn tortillas (depending on how many people you are serving; Dave and I eat about 2-3 each.)

*1 lime

*Olive oil

*Salt, cumin and chili powder

First, prep the grill if that’s how you choose to cook the fish.  (Otherwise, preheat oven to 415 F.)

Grab a long piece of foil and on half of it, arrange four Tilapia filets.

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Season both sides of the fish with a brush of olive oil mayo, a dash of cumin and chili powder, a pinch of salt and a squirt of lime juice.

Now fold the other side of the foil over the fish, fold up the edges and seal tightly.

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Next, brush tortillas on both sides with olive oil.

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Place foil packet on the hot grill (about 450 degrees), cover grill and cook for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove packet from heat and set aside.  Do not open the package just yet, however.

Allow the fish to “rest” while you heat the tortillas.

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Heat tortillas for 30 seconds on each side or until they are soft and pliable.  Transfer to a plate and cover with damp paper towels to maintain pliability.

Open foil packet, and flake fish using a fork.

Divide fish among the tortillas, top with salsa and serve immediately.

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Happy grilling, everyone!

That Time I Killed Something and Ate It


It’s been a crazy week so let’s end it on a crazy note, k?

So, have you ever killed something and ate it?

(Wow.  What a rhetorical question considering that here in Texas almost everybody has freezers stocked with animals they’ve killed and are planning to eat.)

Though I could never butcher a chicken or a cow, there was this one time…

That Time I Killed Something and Ate It

Back in September, while visiting our lovely friends in Maine, we purchased some lobsters from one character of a man at a roadside stand. 

(I mean he was a CHARACTER!  Just like Popeye incarnate.)

However, the excitement of having only paid $20 for three lobsters melted away the minute I opened the bag and peeked in at the wriggling creatures.

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“Uhh…I don’t think I can do this.”

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“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!”

Not an attractive expression, but then again, not an attractive task.

(BTW, have I ever told you that my nose does weird things in certain lighting?  Well, it does.)

Anyway, I started the water, muttered a quick prayer over the crustaceans, and…well…carried on with dinner.

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“OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GAAAAAaawwwwwwD!!!!!”

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“I’M SORRY I’M SORRY I’M SORRY I’M SORRY I’M SORRY I’M SORRY I’M SOoooorrrrrRRY!!!!”

Once the last of the lobsters were in, I slammed the lid on the pot and shed a few tears.

However, just twenty minutes later…

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…my tears dried and my smile returned.  After all, the little lobsters were now in lobster heaven and dinner was ready!

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So with that, we ate them.

(Steaming lobster any time soon?  Cook them according to these instructions.)

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This post was brought to you by my favorite Far Side cartoon:

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Vietnamese Spring Rolls


Glad to be here Lori (and Lori’s readers)!

Even though an Idaho summer is probably not as hot as a Texas summer, I’m sure we all appreciate summer dinner ideas that do not involve turning on our ovens.

One of my favorite summer dishes is Vietnamese spring rolls.

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Unlike it’s fried relative, Vietnamese spring rolls are prepared with softened rice wrapper and filled with meat, vegetables and softened glass noodles.  (Though I prefer mine sans noodles.)

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You can find rice wrappers in the international food section of larger supermarkets.

As far as what combination of meat and veggies to use, the sky is the limit.  My favorite is crab, avocado, carrot and cilantro but you could also use lettuce, mushrooms, bean sprouts, etc.

And if you don’t already own a bottle of chili-garlic sauce, it’s what you’ve been missing all your life.

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This salty/spicy/tangy condiment really brightens up any Asian dish, especially dipping sauce!

So if the weather is creeping higher and higher where you live, grab some fresh ingredients and serve up some spring rolls tonight!

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Ingredients

(Makes 12 rolls)

*12 rice paper rounds

*4 cups simmering water

*2 medium ripe avocados, sliced

*1/2 a bunch of cilantro, rinsed and coarsely chopped

*4-5 scallions, green and white parts thinly sliced

*4 large carrots, peeled and grated

*2 cups shrimp or crab (optional for vegetarians)

*3 cups softened glass noodles (traditional but optional–They make the rolls too dry and chewy for my taste)

*Soy Sauce

*Chili-garlic sauce

*Fish sauce

For starters, I like to add some flavor to my crab and shrimp by tossing them in a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce and a splash of fish sauce.

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Next, set up all of your ingredients in an assembly line because once you soften a rice wrapper, it will get sticky very quickly.

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Pour water into a skillet and bring to a simmer.  Remove skillet from heat.

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Dip a wrapper into the water and allow it to soak for 10-15 seconds until it starts to soften a little.  Do not over-soak.

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Sprinkle a clean work surface with a teaspoon or so of water.  This will prevent the rice paper from sticking while you work.

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Place the wrapper on your work surface and add a few shrimp or a couple tablespoons of crab along the center.

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Layer on a couple tablespoons of carrot, a couple slices of avocado and a sprinkling of scallions and cilantro.

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To wrap, bring the bottom of the wrapper up and over the filling.

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Fold in the sides of the wrapper…

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…and roll the rest of the way up.

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For a dipping sauce, mix a couple tablespoons of chili garlic sauce with a few tablespoons of soy sauce or fish sauce along with a sprinkling of chopped scallions.

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Mmmm…don’t mind if I do.  Chomp!

Here’s to light and refreshing summer dinners!

 

 

Eggplant Lasagna


Attention Calorie Counters,

Looks like lasagna is back on the menu!

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Depending on your diet, “pasta” can be a very, very bad word.

Thankfully, there are vegetables that can pose as pasta, i.e. eggplant

When sliced and baked, this purple veggie takes on a buttery texture and nutty taste that begs to be paired with cheese and hearty marinara!

If you are short on time, however, DO NOT attempt adding raw slices of eggplant instead.  The resulting texture will be similar to chewing on a flip-flop!

Here is how I prepare eggplant for a delicious and healthy lasagna…

Eggplant Lasagna

For an 8 x 13 dish of lasagna, you will need:

  • Two medium to large-sized eggplants
  • Large jar of marinara sauce (I prefer Classico) or 3-4 cups homemade marinara
  • 1 large (32 oz) container cottage cheese, drained and divided in half
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella

Slice eggplants into 1/2-inch slices.

Line a baking sheet with foil and coat well with cooking spray.

Place a single layer of eggplant slices on the baking sheet.  Drizzle slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

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Bake at 375 degree for 15 minutes or until slices are soft and pliable.  Allow slices to cool to room temperature.

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At this point, you can either assemble the lasagna or store the eggplant in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to  a week or the freezer for up to 6 months.

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Layer ingredients in this order:

  • a thin layer of marinara (about 1 cup sauce)
  • an even layer of eggplant slices
  • a layer of half of the container of cottage cheese (or you could use ricotta) sprinkled with dried basil, Parmesan cheese and mozzarella
  • repeat one more time
  • top with a final layer of eggplant, marinara and mozzarella cheese

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Bake the lasagna at 400 degrees until bubbly (25-30 minutes).  Allow dish to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Low carb, low cal, and, more importantly, delicious.  You won’t miss the noodles!

(And the dieting gods will rejoice…)

Savory Cabbage Rolls


Cabbage rolls.

Are they a Polish dish or a Swedish dish?  A Russian dish or a German Dish?

I have no idea.

All I know is that I tend to crave them around Saint Paddy’s Day.  (So to me, they are an Irish dish!)

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Wow.

Never thought I would ever crave such a thing as a cabbage roll.

As kids, my sisters and I would wear tall socks to the table whenever Momma served cabbage rolls.  During the course of the meal, we would gobble up the meatball and then very carefully sneak the cabbage into our socks.  Once dinner was over, we’d ride our bikes to the end of the street and dump the leaves in the bushes.

Yes.  We were naughty, ungrateful children.

But somewhere between the ages of 6 and 31, I grew to love these little nuggets of comfort.  I find they are like pot-stickers…only healthier!

Savory Cabbage Rolls

This recipe is my adaptation of Smitten Kitchen’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and Italian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls.

(The entry has great step-by-step photos which is why I am not posting as many of my own…)

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Photo courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. Yum!

To Prepare:

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil.

Parboil about 16-20 Napa cabbage leaves in small batches for about 30-45 seconds until the leaves are soft and pliable.

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Remove leaves with tongs and place on a towel to dry.

NOTE: Make sure to remove all excess water from leaves or your dish will turn out watery.

Using a paring knife, cut out the thick center stem.  (This stem kinda gets in the way and makes the rolls…well…hard to roll.)

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In a small bowl add 1 heaping cup of bread crumbs.  Pour 2/3 cup whole milk over the bread crumbs and stir to combine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 1 lb ground beef (or chicken or turkey or sausage…)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, small-diced
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • Large pinch of fennel seeds

Mix all together until just combined.

Stir in breadcrumbs until just combined.

Roll meat into 16-20 two-inch balls.  Place one ball in the middle of a cabbage leaf and wrap the leaf over the ball.

NOTE: I prefer to make little pouches, but you can also roll them like an egg roll.

Set the pouch seam-side down in the bottom of a Dutch oven or large pot.  Repeat with the rest of the meat and cabbage.

Pour one 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes over the rolls.  Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt evenly over the tomatoes.

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Bring pot to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat, cover pot and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.

Serve hot.  (And with a pint of ale while you’re at it.)

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As a lass I was not very smart,

Because cabbage would cause me to dart,

But then I turned old,

And craved cabbage rolls,

Now the leaf is my favorite part!

Happy [Early] Saint Patrick’s Day!

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas


The best way to express love is sometimes a diamond ring and sometimes a box of chocolates.

And always a plate of enchiladas.

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Sour cream chicken enchiladas to be exact.

Whenever I want to serve up something special for friends or family, I almost always choose this dish.  There’s just something about its creamy-saucy-cheesiness that says, “I love you and appreciate you.”

And since I will be away for a week, what better food to leave my husband to nibble on while I’m gone?

The best thing about this recipe?  No canned soup!

Yes, I know.  A can of Cream of Chicken makes for a faster meal.  But do you really want to digest a jiggly yellow substance that contains DEHYDRATED MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, and CHICKEN FAT?  (Didn’t think so, but, trust me, this sour cream sauce will only require ten minutes of your time.)

Hope you enjoy these enchiladas as much as we do!

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Makes 19 enchiladas, serves 6-8

PREPARATION

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

To the skillet add:

-1 medium onion, chopped

-2 medium chicken breasts, cubed

-2 medium cloves of garlic, minced

-1-2 long green chilies, diced

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/2 teaspoon cumin

Saute for 5-7 minutes until chicken is cooked though.  Scrape chicken mixture into a separate bowl and set aside to cool.

Cook’s Note: To save time, you can use pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.  Just stir the chicken into the onion mixture at the very end just to warm it up.

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In the same skillet, melt 1/4 cup unsalted butter.

Lower heat to medium and whisk in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour until the mixture is smooth.

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Whisk this “roux” continuously and let it to come to a bubble.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Slowly pour in a little bit of low sodium chicken broth and whisk vigorously until smooth.

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Add a little more broth and whisk again until smooth.

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Whisk in the rest of the broth until smooth.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin and cook the sauce for another 3-5 minutes, stirring often. 

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(What are those little green and red bits?  Sometimes I like to add a few tablespoons of my Green Chile Sauce in along with the broth.)

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Turn off heat and stir in 1/4 cup chopped green chilies and a cup of sour cream.

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Now get yourself a big ol’ block of Colby jack and grate at least half of it.  (Or do this step ahead of time.  Or find a helper.)

Cook’s Note: I prefer to grate my own cheese because it melts so much lovelier.  Meanwhile, the pre-grated stuff contains potato starch to keep it from sticking.  Not so lovely.

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Dump chicken mixture onto a large cutting board and coarsely chop into bite-size pieces.

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Now for the tortillas!  Both flour and white corn tortillas work wonderfully in this dish.  This time, I went with corn.

Cook’s Note: Instead of wasting time and calories frying the tortillas, I just heat up a few at a time in the microwave for about a minute until they are limp enough to roll.

ASSEMBLY

Spray an 8×13 dish with cooking spray and evenly spread a couple tablespoons of the sour cream sauce along the bottom.

Place a couple teaspoons of both chicken mixture and cheese along the middle of a tortilla and roll up tightly.

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Place seam-side down into dish and repeat until the dish is full.  (I usually do two rows of eight and two along the bottom if there is a gap.)

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Never sure what to do with that leftover space in the corner?

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Cut a tortilla in half, fill and roll and place in pan.  Perfect fit!

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Pour sauce on top and spread with a spatula until all of the enchiladas are evenly covered.

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Sprinkle about a cup more of grated cheese on top and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until bubbly.

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Serve with refried black beans and a plethora of fresh veggies like cilantro, tomato, lettuce, avocado and lime wedges.

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On a personal note, thank you for showing the love by reading!  If you ever come to visit our house, I’ll whip you up a batch of these. Deal?

The Recipe

Makes 19 enchiladas, serves 6-8

Ingredients

*2 Tablespoons olive oil

*2 medium raw chicken breasts, cubed

*1 medium yellow onion, chopped

*2 cloves garlic, chopped

*1/4 cup unsalted butter

*1/4 cup all-purpose flour

*1 teaspoon salt, divided

*1 teaspoon cumin, divided

*2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

*1/2 cup chopped green chilies

*1 cup sour cream

*2-3 cups grated Colby Jack cheese

*20 white corn tortillas

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions, garlic, chicken, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon cumin and saute until chicken is cooked through (5-7 minutes).  Allow chicken to cool slightly before transferring to a cutting board.  Roughly chop the chicken into bite-size pieces.  Set aside.

In the same skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook until bubbly.  Gradually whisk in broth until smooth.  Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon cumin.  Cook sauce until thickened, stirring occasionally to avoid lumps (3-5 minutes).  Remove sauce from heat and stir in chilies and sour cream until smooth.

Spray an 8×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Evenly spread a couple tablespoons of the sour cream sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Set aside.

Warm a few tortillas at a time in the microwave until they are soft (45 secs-1 min).  Place  a couple teaspoons of chicken and a teaspoon of cheese along the middle of a tortilla.  Roll tortilla up and place in baking dish seam-side down.  Continue with remaining tortillas.

Spread sauce over enchiladas, sprinkle with cheese and bake at 400 degrees until bubbly (about 30 minutes).