Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mexican Lasagna

Happy hump day!  I apologize for my slight absentee this week.  Monday night was my first night back to yoga class since the car accident.  Tuesday, I wanted to sit down and blog, but would have failed on the photograph because the camera battery was all out of juice.  Guess it's just been one of those weeks.  And you know when it's been one of those weeks, I'm always glad to have a make ahead dish ready to go into the oven when I get home.  That way, I can relax a little while things are bubbling away in the oven. 

This Mexican Lasagna does just the trick.  It is simple to make ahead and is ready when you need it.  And, I think it might even be pretty kid friendly.  Cheesy, chicken, enchilada-like goodness; what kid doesn't like that?

Mexican Lasagna
(adapted from Weight Watchers)

Non-stick cooking spray
1 lb. shredded, cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can corn, rinsed and drained
2 4 oz. cans diced green chilies
2 cups fat-free sour cream
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons taco seasoning (I used Penzey's)
4 cups (roughly 2 cans) of enchilada sauce
2 cups 2% cheddar cheese
18 medium corn tortillas

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a lasagna pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, mix your chicken, black beans, corn, green chilies, sour cream, cream cheese, and taco seasoning together until combined.  Set aside.  Ladle and evenly spread one cup of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of your lasagna pan.  Arrange 6 tortillas in the bottom of the pan, overlapping pieces to cover the surface.  Top the tortillas with half of the chicken mixture.  Top chicken mixture with 1 more cup enchilada sauce and 1 cup cheese.  Layer 6 more tortillas on top of the sauce and cheese.  Spread the remainder of the chicken mixture, top with 1 more cup sauce.  Layer the remaining tortillas.  Ladle and spread the last cup of the enchilada sauce and sprinkle the remaining cheese.  Bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.  Let stand for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. 

I made my lasagna ahead of time, covered it, and stored it in the refrigerator.  When I was ready to bake it, I covered the dish with foil and stuck it in the oven while the oven was pre-heating so I was not sticking a cold glass dish into a hot oven.  If you do make and store the dish before baking, make sure you either stick it in the oven while it is pre-heating or let the dish stand at room temperature for a good 30-40 minutes before sticking it in a hot oven.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Menu Post

Friday's tapas party was a huge success! We enjoyed several glasses of sangria, which I will be making again, lots of laughs, and good food.  Saturday we went shopping and got lunch at a little Parisian cafe in Prairie Village, Cafe Provence.  After lunch, we went to the Country Club Plaza and continued shopping.  By the time we finished shopping, we were exhausted and just grilled steaks at home.  My sisters and mom just left this morning. Hopefully, we can all get together soon!

After all of the weekends' events, I just got the menu planned and was not feeling like fixing anything extravagant this week.  Monday night, I will be returning to yoga class. So, I really need something that is ready to just stick in the oven.  My Mexican Lasagna is an easy make ahead dish that will provide us with two nights worth of meals and left-overs for lunches later in the week.  Later in the week, Justin has class and I have appointments, so I made another make ahead dish, Chana Masala.  Finally, when the weekend arrives, we are hoping to enjoy the lovely weather and grill some pork chops with a side of Tuscan Potatoes & Peppers that can steam in little foil packets alongside the pork while everything grills.  Here is this week's rundown:

Monday 2/27        Mexican Lasagna with Salad

Tuesday 2/28        Left-overs

Wednesday 2/29   Chana Masala served over Rice

Thursday 3/1        Left-overs

Friday 3/2            Grilled Pork Chops with Tuscan Potatoes & Peppers
or Saturday 3/3

I hope everyone has a lovely week and will continue to keep you posted with these simple recipes!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tapping into Tapas Part II

  Today's lesson will be on how to make Grape Leaves Stuffed With Herbed Rice.  Don't be intimidated.  Think of the grape leaves as burritos.  Just smaller burritos.

The first step you will need to complete is to prepare your rice and let it cool for a little bit. While the rice is cooling, make sure to rinse the brine off you grape leaves and pat them dry with a paper towel. Then lay and flatten out one grape leaf and spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons, of rice onto the leaf. If you have a larger leaf you can probably use 2 tablespoons. For the smaller leaves, I would suggest using only one.

Next, fold the bottom of the leaf over the filling, like so and then fold in the sides like so.
Finally, roll the little guy like a burrito and place in a storage container until you are ready to serve.  Continue stuffing and rolling until you have used all of your rice.  See it that wasn't so bad was it?

Grape Leaves Stuffed with Herbed Rice
Adapted from Cooking Light

2 cups water
1 cup long-grain rice
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garam masala
24 grape leaves
Juice of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a pot, bring water to a boil.  Add rice, green onions, parsley, dill, mint, salt, and pepper and gently stir.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is tender.  Set aside to cool.

Rinse the grape leaves with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Discard any stems.  Set the leaves on a plate.  Prepare and flattened one leaf.  Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the rice, depending on the size of the leaf, onto the leaf.  Fold the bottom of the leaf over the filling.  Then fold in the sides and tightly roll the leaf like a burrito.  Continue filling and repeating the rolling steps with the remaining grape leaves.  When you are ready to serve the grape leaves, steam the rolls for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Cool to room temperature.  Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over the rolls just before serving. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tapping into Tapas Part I

Tapas, or small plates, are becoming the new budget friendly rage. After recently dining at a local tapas bar, I realized I need to try this at home.  Making tapas at home can save you even more bank; however, can take a little time and preparation.  In the long run, I'm hoping the time factor won't come back and bite me where the door should have hit me.  So, I've carefully selected my menu. I am working at streamlining as many things as possible so all I have to do is assemble and enjoy girl time with my sisters and mother.  Here is the menu rundown:

Sangria- Red wine... buy cheap, don't waist your money here.  Think Washingtons or Lincoln cash here.  I purchased two very cheap bottles ($3.99) of sweet red wine.  Let the other flavors pick up the cheap wine flavor.  Trust me, I've made many a sangria before with wine I am too embarassed to mention.  Not that I'm a wine snob.  I plan on mixing the red with some red apple schnapps, fresh ginger root, two sliced apples, and one sliced orange.  I am pre-mixing the wine, schnapps, and ginger tonight to let the flavors marry together.  On Friday, the apples and orange will take their plunge.

Gluten-Free French Bread- You can even save more money here with a cheap loaf of regular French bread from you local grocery store's bakery.  I and my mother are GF.  So, I have a sweet stalk pile of gluten-free bread in my freezer from the holidays when GF bread was on sale.  The bread will be used in two different formats.  One, as a dining utensil for the warm spiced lentils.  Two, as another tapas served toasted with a lovely topping of smoked Gouda cheese and a tomato vinaigrette.

Warm Spiced Lentils-  Lentils are very cheap and good for you.  I streamlined part of my lentil dish by pre-soaking my lentils and cooking the first part of the recipe in my crock pot over the weekend.  All I did was take 1 cup lentils, 2 dried bay leaves, 1/4 teaspoon ground clove, 1 lemon cut in half, and 1 onion quartered and put it in the crock pot.  I poured enough water to cover over 2 inches above the lentils and set my crock pot on low for 6 hours until the lentils were softened.  Then, I removed the bay leaves, lemon, onion, and drained the excess water. I am storing the lentils until Friday and will be heating and adding and sauteing an onion, garlic, chopped tomato, and spices to serve with bread.

Grape Leaves Stuffed with Herbed Rice- I will be streamlining these babies tomorrow as I want the herbs to keep some of their color, but blend all of the taste together.  Look for a post tomorrow on how I do this.  I did spend a little bit more than what I bargained for here; however, have now started  fresh herb garden in my house which will eventually make its way outside this summer.  I use a ton of fresh herbs in my cooking, so I think in the long run this was a budget helper.

Bread topped with Smoked Gouda & Tomato Vinaigrette- This will need to be assembled on Friday.  I saved money on the Gouda by purchasing a hunk at Costco.  I know the  excess cheese will make for other good munchies throughout the weekend.  How can you not love Gouda?

Ham, Roasted Red Pepper, & Goat Cheese Skewers- Will be assembled tomorrow or Friday.  Safe yourself time by purchasing sliced ham from your deli and a bottle of red peppers. You can save money by buying your goat cheese at a whole sale store such as Sam's Club or Costco.  Need I say anything about toothpicks?  They are cheap anywhere.

I will be sure to keep all of you posted on these yummy recipes.  It is very exciting to be experimenting with some new Spanish flavors.  I look forward to sharing the Grape Leaves assembly tomorrow!  Stay thirsty my friends.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

GF French Dip Sandwiches

I've been really into sandwiches lately.  Have you noticed? Deconstructed sandwiches turned salads, talk of wanting to tap into my savings of gluten-free breads, etc.  After browsing through many recipes for slow cooker French dip sandwiches, I finally came up with a way to make my own without the beer, French onion soup mix, or bouillon cubes most recipes suggest.  There are only six ingredients to this juicy, meaty bad boy that you can throw into a crock pot/ slow cooker.  Set the cooker on low, go to work, and imagine this...dinner is done when you come home.   
Just, slice your bread, add your cheese, bake some fries.  It is that easy.  And who doesn't love a good French dip?

Gluten Free French Dip Sandwiches

1-2 lbs. eye of round beef, or other cut suitable for roasting
1 box reduced-sodium beef broth (roughly 4 cups)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dehydrated chopped onions
Gluten free French bread, or other good sandwich bread
Swiss cheese

Set your slow cooker on low.  Season beef with salt and pepper and add to the slow cooker.  Next, pour the broth, Worcestershire sauce, and onions on top of the beef.  Let cook for 6-8 hours.  Turn your slow cooker off.  Let the meat sit in the juices and cool for 20-30 minutes, slice your bread, then shred or chunk your meat with two forks and arrange on your bread.  Top the meat with cheese and your other slice of bread.

* If you are hesitant to use the Worcestershire sauce due to the carmal coloring, you can omit it.  I would suggest possibly adding another 1/2 tablespoon of the dehydrated onions for an added flavor boost if you choose to do this. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sandwich Turned Salad

As I was browsing through my old Cooking Light magazine collection, I came across a recipe for a chicken club sandwich.  The picture was a thing of sandwich beauty.  I seriously considered tapping into my stock pile of gluten-free French bread I've been saving.  I wanted that sandwich.  Then a lightbulb went off somewhere in my head and said, "Why not make it a salad?"  The result, was a crisp, refreshing, and fulfilling bowl of delight that even filled my hungry Bear.
To make my Chicken Club Salad, I just seasoned two chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder.  Then I sauteed them and topped them with a little bit of wing sauce for a little kick. As the chicken cooled off, I crisped my bacon and cut the rest of the veggies.  You cannot see the dressing very well, but there is a little bit of buttermilk ranch dressing I made using 1 cup fat-free sour cream, 1 cup light mayonaise, and my new Penzey's Buttermilk Ranch Dressing & Dip mix.   If you do not have a Penzey's spice store near you, I've included the link above and you can order their spices online.  Before Penzey's, I thought a spice was a spice.  Not true!  Penzey's spices are quality and will take your cooking to the next level.  Trust me. And, there spices are gluten and MSG free.

Chicken Club Salad

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 slices center cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup 2% cheddar cheese
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 cups bagged lettuce of your choice, I used hearts of romaine
1/4 cup Light Ranch dressing

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to the skillet.  Season both sides of the chicken breasts with garlic powder, salt, and pepper, add to the skillet, and saute for 4-5 minutes on both sides until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the pan and let the meat rest.  If you have not already cooked your bacon, add the bacon to the pan and fry until the bacon is crisp.  Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to cool.  When the bacon is cooled, crumble into little pieces, then slice your chicken breast into bite sized pieces.  Divide the lettuce into two bowls.  Topp each salad with the cheese, tomatoes, avocado, dressing, bacon, and chicken.  To make assembling a breeze, you can pre-make and chopp all of your ingredients the day before. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dirty Bananas & a Menu Post

After such a hectic last week, I am looking forward to some quality time in the kitchen trying some new recipes.  Cooking is so therapeutic for me!  I find that I am feeling my most cheerful when I can get to yoga class throughout the week and when I can spend some time in the kitchen.  Good news is, I've completed all of my physical therapy and have been cleared to be able to go back to the gym and yoga!  Yeah!  To celebrate being able to go back to exercising, I have a lovely, healthful menu planned for the week.

Sunday night we will be enjoying chicken club salads.  In last month's Cooking Light, I saw a mouthwatering open-faced chicken club sandwich and thought that I'd deconstruct the sandwich and make it a salad.  Monday and Tuesday, we will be dining on the ever so popular blogosphere meal slow cooker French dip sandwiches with another popular blog side kale chips.  I've studied several recipes and have an idea of how to adapt the sandwich recipe so it is sans gluten.  Wednesday and Thursday, I will be experimenting with a touch of India by serving chana masala served over rice.  Friday, my mother and youngest sister will be rolling into town.  To entertain them without the La Bodega disappointment, I am making my own tapas- warm spiced lentils, grape leaves stuffed with herbed seasoned rice, and grilled gluten-free bread topped with smoked Gouda cheese and a tomato vinaigrette.

And, not to leave you all without a fun little recipe here is a cocktail my family and I enjoyed last weekend.  When I was a little girl, my grandfather always made ice cream drinks.  Bailey's and Kahlua for the adults and chocolate shakes for the kids.  My father has carried this special tradition on into our family.  You always know it is a good night when Chris, my dad, gets the blender out and whips up a few cordials:)  His latest beverage since vacationing in the Caribbean, a Dirty Banana.  These are traditionally made using rum cream; however, none was to be found so we used Rum Chata.  Ohhhhhh, Rum Chata!  This stuff tastes like a shot of French toast.  So good!  Here is how we made our Dirty Bananas

  Dirty Bananas

1 very ripe, frozen banana
1/3 cup coffee liquor
1/3 cup Rum Chata

In a blender, blend all ingredients until smooth.  This is a lovely taste of the Caribbean!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

P.B. King

  I am not a baker.  I cook, but normally do not bake.  On a chemically speaking level, I understand what occurs when you cook something.  I understand boiling, sauteing, searing, fats, oils, and spices.  When you add sugar to the mix, somehow that throws off my game.  Baking is just a little on the edge of being a little too much for me.  I could pay all the attention I want to many recipes to get them to turn out right, but baking just never works out for me.  My cakes and cookies normally turn out dense when they should be fluffy.  My bread, the same.  And just when I did get all of the fluffiness down with regular flour, I go and cut gluten out of my diet.  Not to quote Avril Lavigne or anything, but I find myself singing, "Why do you have to make things so complicated?"  I guess that is just how I roll, the cookie dough that is.

This Valentine's day, my hubby made his Valentine request a little too late.  He wanted Nike socks.  Instead, I made him peanut butter cookie cups where peanut buttery goodness is the king.  Peanut butter rules in all ways using a peanut butter cookie base, peanut butter M&M's, and peanut butter mini Reese's peanut butter cups. I think he is happier right now with the cookies than the socks.  This is the first legit baking recipe that is gluten free and totally my own recipe.  Not to say that there might be some other recipe very similar to mine out there in the blogosphere, Internet, or wherever.  But, I totally came up with this on my own. I am not ripping it off from anyone else and now declare myself a little more comfortable in the baking department. And, it came out the way it should have.  Not too dense, not too rich, all using gluten free flour. 

I've tried using other gluten-free flours before; however, many taste like crap.  Yeah, I said crap.  While browsing the isles of William's Sonoma, the Bear discovered a gluten-free flour blend called C4C or Cup 4 Cup.  I debated over purchasing the flour as it was $20.  Being it was right after the car accident and I was on some good pain meds I thought, "Eh, what the heck," and bought it.  We came home, I made brownies using the C4C as a substitute for regular flour and the Bear said they were the best brownies I had ever made.  I figure I'm on to something.  Thus the P.B. King Cookie Cups are born!  Make these sans the C4C if you are a gluten eater or with your favorite gluten-free blend, but GF friends C4C is totally worth the $20!

P.B. King Cookie Cups

Mini muffin tin lined with mini muffin wrappers
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup egg substitute (or one large egg, I just had egg substitute around so that is what I used)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup C4C or other flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bag peanut butter M & M's
1 bag mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and white sugar.  Add the egg substitute and vanilla extract and beat until combine.  In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually beat the dry ingredients to your wet mixture.  Finally, add the M&M's and Reese's.  Stir until combine. 

With a cookie scoop or two tablespoons, divide your mixture into your muffin tin.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 20-30 minutes before consuming, then enjoy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Weekend Re-Cap

This weekend was my birthday weekend.  In honor of my birthday, my father, stepmother, and Erin, my middle sister, came for a weekend of fun in KC.  We did a little bit of shopping on Saturday and then went to La Bodega for dinner.  Dinner was, well, um, eh.  That is all I can say, eh.  My husband had made reservations and then we had to wait 20 minutes for our table.  We enjoyed some sangria while waiting, which was okay.  Then we ordered several different tapas (small plates) to share.  Maybe I over expected, but most of the items we felt we could have made at home.  For example, half an ear of corn on the cob drizzled with cheese skewered onto toothpicks.  It was good, but just eh for $8 a plate.  They also didn't bring out all of the plates we ordered.  While we didn't get charged for what we did not receive, it was just an overall "eh" experience.  But, it was fantastic to see my family!

This week we do not have much of a menu planned.  With the Bear's class, meetings, and parent-teacher conferences on the agenda we won't be at home much.  Not to disappoint though, I will be sharing a couple of little recipes with you all tomorrow and Friday.  So, stay tuned and enjoy your week!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Broccoli Beef Stir Fry

  Did I ever tell you that I didn't really like Chinese food for a LONG time?  I used to eat it a lot in high school.  Creston had a notorious Chinese place, I think it was Chung Garden...but since we were teenagers, we nicked named it "Shlong Garden."  Anyway, the food was pretty good.  I think the sweet and sour chicken actually contained chicken, beef was actually beef, and pork was pork.  The food was so laden with MSG, however, that after an hour I was always violently throwing up.  I don't think it had anything to do with the cleanliness or food poisoning.  No one else in my posy ever got sick.  My body just can't handle MSG.  It took me many years to realize this.  I avoided food from any Asian decent for many years because it just didn't agree with me.  Now that I am aware of this fact, it is much more enjoyable and I make it myself because the Bear loves it and I am in control of what and how we cook it.  Here is one of my favorite MSG free recipes.

Broccoli Beef Stir Fry

1 lb. lean beef such as eye of round cut into 1-inch strips (I get the "stir fry" beef at my grocery store that is already cut)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1 bunch broccoli, cut only the florets
2 cloves crushed garlic
1-inch peeled ginger, finely grated or minced
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce (make sure it is MSG and gluten free, I use Hy-Vee or Market Pantry)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (ground chili paste)
1 bunch chopped green onion
4 cups cooked brown rice (cook according to package directions)

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil and beef.  Cook for 3 minutes, then stir and toss the beef around to cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove the beef to a bowl and set aside. 

While the beef is cooking, whisk together the soy sauce, water, brown sugar, sesame oil, and sambal oelek in a small bowl. Set aside.  After removing the beef from the skillet, add the broccoli to the skillet.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the sauce mixture and beef back to the skillet and lower the heat down to medium, stirring constantly.  When the sauce reaches your desired thickness, remove from heat and add the green onions.  Top over hot brown rice.  You can use extra green onions for garnish.

P.S. I don't really eat with chop sticks as seen the photo:)  These were left-over from a sushi craving I had last week.  Actually, sushi sounds pretty good and I might have to visit my favorite place tomorrow after physical therapy since I'll be in that area.  If you live in KC and the Overland Park area, check out Ichiban Sushi on the corner of College and Quivera. I love my little sushi man!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Great Pumpkin

This weekend, I took my Halloween pumpkin from this to this------------------------------------------------>

I know it's a littler late/early, in the year for a pumpkin recipe.  And, you might be thinking one of two things.  First, "How did she keep her pumpkin around for so long without it rotting?!"  Second, you are probably thinking, "How and why on earth would she want to make a soup out of it?!" 

Well, I kept the pumpkin nice and healthy by hiding in the basement from my husband.  Every fall when pumpkin season arrives, he raises a stink about my pumpkin purchase.  He always says, "Once fall is over, you're getting rid of it in the trash."  The funny thing is, in the last eight years I've known him, I've never thrown a pumpkin away.  One time, I left the pumpkin out on the front stoop of one of the condos we lived in. It froze and snowed, and I just kicked the pumpkin into the snow and shoveled a bunch of snow over it.  The next spring, we had precious little pumpkins growing in the front yard:)  Those little gems weren't thrown away either.  I gave the mini pumpkins to my students as prizes.  A few years later, I got the most perfect Cinderella pumpkin.  I gave that pumpkin to my mom so she could grow pumpkins in her yard.  This year, I didn't have anyone to give a pumpkin to, so I chose to hide it try and make soup.  Luckily, Justin has a good sense of humor about my pumpkin loving shenanigans. 

Pumpkin Soup

1 Pumpkin
2 cups croutons (I used some stale gluten-free bread cut into 1-inch cubes and toasted them in the oven)
3 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 teaspoon dried time
2 dried bay leaves
2 boxes reduced-sodium chicken broth

First, spray a large roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Next, with a sharp knife, cut a lid on the top of you pumpkin, as pictured below. 

With an ice cream scoop or a large spoon, discard the guts and seeds.  You can keep the seeds if you enjoy roasting the pumpkin seeds for a snack.  I chose not to, as I had soup to tackle.  Place the pumpkin into your roasting pan.

Using the pumpkin as your cooking vessel, dump all ingredients into the pumpkin, give it a good stir, and place the lid back onto your pumpkin.

Place the pumpkin into the oven with the lid on the pumpkin for one hour.  You may have to lower your oven racks so the entire pumpkin will fit into the oven.  After the pumpkin has been in the oven for an hour, remove the lid, and roast for one more hour.  You can serve the soup in it's brothy state garnished with a little Parmesan or other lovely cheese.  I took on the extra challenge of pureeing some of the pumpkin (with the skin removed) and broth for lovely velvety texture.  I will warn you that no matter which method you choose to serve the soup, IT MAKES A LOT OF SOUP.  Make it for your friends, family, or a party.  I'm using mine for lunch this week and the rest for future soup meals.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Love Tacos

I have this Tiffany's necklace that has T & Co. engraved on it.  I got the necklace while I was in Vegas with my friend Sam for a girls weekend.  It was my first time really gambling.  The entire trip I was so stingy about my money and finally got the nerve to play a little video Black Jack on the machines.  We were in Caesar's Palace and I was feelin' pretty lucky.  I won hand after hand.  When things weren't looking good, Sam would tell me to just cash out and try another machine.  By the end of the night, I won $250!  Since it was money I didn't plan on having in my pocket anyway, Sam and I went to Tiffany's and I bought the necklace.  

Later that summer, I wore the necklace out to a well known Mexican restaurant here in Kansas City, Manny's.  I always get their chicken tacos.  As I was singing, literally singing, my praise about how much I love tacos, my friend said, "Do you have Taco engraved on your necklace you love tacos so much?" 

The answer is no, but I do love 'em.  It's pretty hard to screw up a taco and they typically do not disappoint.  Normally, they are deep fried and dripping with flavor.  I have a lighter version that isn't dripping with oil, but rather juicy cilantro-lime slaw.  Here is my favorite recipe to make at home.

Chicken Tacos

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch strips
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bag angel hair slaw
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 thinly sliced green onions
1/8 teaspoon grated lime rind
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup light mayonnaise (I am digging Hellman's olive oil mayo right now)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Avocado, sliced
Corn Tortillas

Place sliced chicken breast into a large Ziplock bag.  In a small dish, combine cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and stir until combine.  Shake spice mixture onto the chicken, seal the bag, and shake until the spices evenly coat all of the chicken. 

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Spray with non-stick spray and add the chicken.  Cook for 3-5 minutes per side.  While the chicken is cooking, pour the angel hair slaw into a large bowl.  Add the cilantro and green onions.  In another small dish, whisk together the lime juice, lime rind, mayo, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Drizzle over the coleslaw and stir until combine.  Let set for 10 minutes, then stir again as the juice will begin to break down the cabbage and the mixture will not be as dry.

Set a medium sized skillet or griddle over medium high heat.  If you are using a skillet you will only be able to heat the tortillas one or two at a time.  If you have a pancake griddle you can heat several at a time.  Place corn tortillas onto the skillet or griddle.  Heat the tortilla(s) until they begin to fluff a little, then flip and heat another minute or so.  Remove from heat with a spatula.  Fill with the chicken, avocado, and slaw.  For an added burst of flavor you can squeeze a little lime juice over the top.  Yum!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saturday Menu Post

This week, I'm keeping things pretty simple, but will be serving a variety of ethnic flavors.  With Super Bowl Sunday tomorrow, I wanted to keep things light and decided chicken tacos would fill the need for party food while watching our caloric intake.  In the middle of the week, we are having a Chinese take-out inspired dish.  Friday, my father, stepmother, and middle sister will be coming down to celebrate my birthday.  I thought it would be nice to entertain with my Cabernet braised beef short ribs.  Here is the rundown:

Sunday 2/5          Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw

Monday 2/6         Left-overs

Tuesday 2/7         Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry over Brown Rice

Wednesday 2/8    Left-overs

Thursday 2/9        Pizza

Friday 2/10          Cabernet Beef Short Ribs with Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Green Beans

Saturday we are going out for my birthday.  I've requested La Bodega, as I have been begging Justin to take me their for a couple of years now.  It is a Spanish tapas bar with a wide variety of items on the menu.

For your groceries you will need:

1 bag of angel hair slaw
2 bunches of green onions
2 shallots
1 large yellow onion
Ginger root
1 bunch broccoli
1 avocado
2-3 limes (depending on the size)
1-2 lemons
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
1-2 heads of garlic
1 lb. red skinned potatoes
1 bottle reduced sodium soy sauce (if you do not already have this in your pantry)
Corn tortillas
1 box brown rice (if you do not already have some in your pantry)
1 can reduced sodium beef broth
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 lb. stir fry beef
1 lb. boneless beef short ribs (you can get the bone in if you choose, it will add more flavor, but increase cooking time)
Sour cream (light or fat-free just check to make sure they have the starches listed, I use Market Pantry brand by Target)
Skim milk
1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
1 bag frozen green beans

Pantry items you will need or possibly purchase:
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Garlic powder
Olive oil
Corn starch

Well, I am off to watch more basketball with the Bear.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kind Words

I often think that we do not express kind words to people enough.  We get so caught up in the moment, negativity, or whatever else might be happening around us to just stop and reflect on things that are positive.  But it is when we halt our mental negativity and find even the smallest amount of positivity, we begin to change.  Suddenly, things don't seem as bad.  We can use this positivity and kindness to find strength, a structure of support to help us overcome hardships. 

As a special education teacher in an urban school, I am surrounded by hardship, varying degrees of disabilities, ethnicities, and challenges.  It is very easy to get caught up in the stress the students bring to school and the stress of other teaching situations.  When this happens, I have learned (and this is better said than often done) to stop.  Stop and look at any small factor that might be positive.  Then I tell that child or person what they did that was positive and how it made me and/or others around me feel good.  For example, "(Name of child or adult), I really like how you smiled today!  It made me and so and so smile too."  We need to pass it on!  It makes us feel good and others feel good in return:)  I have also learned that when we stop and spotlight positivity in mysterious ways, problems turn around and eventually are resolved.

On another, but similar subject, I went to Iowa State University.  Iowa State has not always had it easy in the wide world of sports.  I think it excites any Cyclone when ESPN has any good news to share over just flat out embarrassing news about our athletic program.  My stepmother recently sent me an article regarding the recent win over Kansas State.  KSU is one of the top dogs in the Big 12.  The other night we finally triumphed!  If you choose you may read on about the kind words an outsider from the Big 12 had to say:

Either way you read this post, my message is- positive thinking, kindness, and sharing that positive energy WILL eventually triumph. Try it and see what it can do for a really sucky situation no matter how big or small;)