Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fajita Quinoa Filling for Fajitas or Bell Peppers

This recipe is a continuation of my efforts to decrease the bulk in my massive stock of food.  Last week while I was grocery shopping I accidentally hijacked some stranger's grocery cart- embarrassing!  This wasn't realized until after we got home and couldn't find some of the stuff that we had picked up in the very beginning of the trip.  There weren't many surprise items, since we had picked up most of the stuff that the victim had.  However, we did go home with 2 additional bell peppers.

For some reason I decided to base this whole meal off of my stolen peppers.  I knew that I wanted to use quinoa to fill them up since quinoa can host practically any flavor (and to further my mission to use up stuff).

I was pretty proud of these stuffed peppers, especially since I have never had them before.  I could have just put a bunch of the filling in a bowl for Alex and saved his pepper for something else since he just thought that eating the pepper was too much of a hassle.  The measurements given below are just for the filling if you are going to pile it into tortillas.  If you want to go low-carb and fill up the peppers like I did, you will want to increase the seasonings since the heat of the oven will weaken the flavor.  Rating 7.5/10

1 cup cooked chicken- cubed
3/4 cup quinoa- cooked as directed
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes- liquids reserved
1-3 bell peppers- 1 diced for filling and up to 3 sliced in half lengthwise and seeded/ribbed
2 tbsp jalapeno- diced
1 small onion- diced
2 tbsp cilantro
2 tsp lime juice
1 cup Mexican cheese- separated
2-3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp crushed garlic

Cook the quinoa according to the package.
Combine everything in a pot over medium heat!  It's that simple.  Taste and adjust ingredients to suit your needs.

For the bell pepper route: increase the cumin and you might want to consider adding around 3/4 tsp sea salt.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Halve the peppers and fill with the quinoa mixture
Pour the tomato sauce from the diced tomatoes into a baking dish.
Place the filled peppers into the dish and cover with tin foil.
Bake for 40 minutes.
Remove from oven and top with additional cheese.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Balsamic Vinegar Flank Steak Served with Quinoa

Things have been both exciting and stressful this past week.  Here is a sum up: Al got a job, our cat Lyonel had to go to the emergency vet and we spent an arm and a leg on... his leg (he got a massive bloody boo boo).  We haven't had any time to sit down and just have dinner for the two of us until tonight, and it felt so good to do that.  I've been on a mission to use up my stash of pantry items, and this tasty meal made a minor dent.

I had intended the quinoa to be served in a patty, but that was not happening.  If you want to learn how to make the quinoa, head over to Chef Barrs Creations to check it out!  Anyway, I loved this meal.  It took up a bit of time to complete the prep work, but it took less than 30 minutes to cook it all up.  That's with 10 minutes of cooling time!  Alex didn't seem to be a big fan since he doesn't like balsamic vinegar, but he went back for seconds so I'm pretty sure that he liked it :) Rating 8.5/10.
Balsamic Flank Steak
Adapted from Blissfully Delicious (and Jaden Hair)

1 1/2 lb flank steak
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 shallot- minced
2 cloves of garlic- minced
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup chicken, beef, or veggie stock (I used veggie)
2 tbsp soy sauce

To make the marinade: melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add in the shallot and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until soft and fragrant.
Pour in the balsamic vinegar, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add in the sugar, stock, and soy sauce.  Return to a boil and then set aside and bring to room temperature.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade.  Use the rest to marinate the flank steak in a baking dish.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

30 minutes before you preheat your broiler, remove the steak and let it sit at room temperature.  Pat dry before cooking!

Broil for 6 minutes on each side to cook to medium.  Add a minute or two of cooking per side if you like your meat on the medium-well side of done.  Make sure that your meat is cooked through- it may take longer if your cut is thicker.  I cooked the quinoa up in the last few minutes of broiling.

Let the meat rest for a few minutes and cut against the grain.
Reheat the reserved marinade (if you like balsamic vinegar that is) and pour it over your prepared plate for that extra wow factor.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Berry Pancakes with Nutella

I love me some Costco.  Yesterday I blew a lot of money on their monstrous fruit section, so I was eager to dip into my new replenished stock of frozen berries (yum yum!).  Lately I've developed a nutella habit, and I've been eating my berries on top of a mound of nutella lately for a sweet fix (you know you want to too).

I decided to combine my new favorite dessert duo with a little pancake batter, and POOF they turned into a substantial afternoonish brunch.  I whipped up the pancakes and put a layer of nutella in between each one.  I topped the whole thing off with some thawed berries and their juice.  Now I'm stuffed, and I'm glad that I wore loose pants today.  Rating 9/10.


  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of almond milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup of your favorite berries
  • Nutella, or any other delicious pancake topping
Mix together the dry ingredients.
Form a well in the flour and add in the wet ingredients.  Combine thoroughly.
Fold berries into batter.
Pour 1/3 cup of batter onto a heated skillet, flipping as needed to thoroughly cook the pancake without burning it.

Serve piping hot with your favorite toppings!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Piña Colada

Ever since Jamba Juice discontinued this drink, piña coladas have been MIA in my life (and this is a bad, bad thing).  Luckily there was one lone banana browning on the counter, one lime drying up not too far away from the nanner in my fruit bowl (which is infested with onions), in the fridge there was a can of half-used coconut milk and a huge opened cart of almond milk in the fridge that is, in college terms, "undeclared", and the frozen pineapple chunks in my freezer are almost too freezer-burned to be edible.  Now I'm satiated, pleased, and antsy to get into the summer months.  Rating 8/10.

1 cup of vanilla yogurt- I used Greek
1/2 cup pineapple chunks- fresh or frozen
2 tbsp coconut milk cream (this is the thick substance at the top of a coconut milk can)
1/3 cup coconut milk (this is the watery stuff that gain access to after mining through the coconut cream)
1 banana
1/4 cup milk- I used almond and it was nom nom worthy
Ice cubes- optional

Blend everything together and pour into a pretty glass.  Garnish with a lime wedge if you want to get in the mood.

Makes 1 serving

Monday, April 11, 2011

BBQ Enchiladas

Alex and I spent the weekend up at the Wisconsin Dells with my family (which is bigger and better now that my mom got married, but unfortunately my sister was unable to come because she decided that she was too cool for the Midwest and moved out to San Fran).  That meant NO COOKING.  The only food preparation on my part was laying out sandwich meat, which gave me a chance to tune up my deli skills. 

Anyway, we're back and we have a lot of leftovers lying around from last weeks Tex-Mexapalooza.  I found this recipe on How Sweet It Is a few months ago, and I finally took the time to whip this up.  Alex and I took advantage of the nice weather to have a candlelit dinner outside on the balcony.  We proceeded to then kick-back with our cats and talk about all that weird stuff that cat owners talk about. 

These enchiladas were really good, but I wish that I had maintained the original sauce to sauce ratio so that they had a more Mexican flavor.  Alex wasn't a fan of the sweet onions since they still tasted like onions, but I thought that they gave the dish a nice juicy crunch.  To increase the juiciness and the crunch factor, I would recommend adding diced red pepper to either the filling or on top of the cooked enchiladas.  Rating 7/10 by Alex (he took out the onions and wished that there was another vegetable to take their place), 7.75 by me.

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is
  • 3 chicken breasts- cooked and shredded (I broiled mine, which is my new favorite chicken-cooking method!!)
  • 1/2 sweet onion- diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce- I used Smoky Jons (a must for any Madisonian)
  • 24 oz red enchilada sauce- I used 16 oz of Casa Corona which made the BBQ sauce have more of a presence
  • 1/2 tsp bbq season
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese- shredded
  • 1 cup co-jack cheese- shredded
  • Tortillas
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Heat the olive oil  in a pan over low-medium heat
Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions have softened
Mix the BBQ sauce and enchilada sauce together in a bowl while the onions are cooking
Add the shredded chicken, BBQ seasoning, and cayenne pepper to the onions
Pour 1/2-2/3 cup of the BBQ/enchilada sauce onto the filling and stir to evenly coat everything
Add 1/2 cup of each of the cheeses and combine
Spoon enough of the BBQ/enchilada sauce into a baking dish to coat the bottom
Add the filling to the tortillas and roll up
Place the tortillas seam down and cover with the rest of the sauce and cheese
Bake for 20 minutes, let the enchiladas cool a bit before eating (I have a burnt tongue from diving in too early)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Strawberry Mango Sorbet

A few weeks ago I tried making frozen yogurt for the first time.  I never actually looked up how to make it without an ice cream maker, and it flopped.  I figured that making sorbet would be much more forgiving, and it was!  I grabbed some fruit that I have lying around, threw it in the food processor, dumped a tray of ice into it, turned it on and walked away for a few minutes.  If you have a smaller food processor you may need to cut this recipe in half or else make it in batches.  I really wish that I had whipped cream to top this with, but it was delicious as is!  Now, I love frozen yogurt much more than sorbet, so that definitely influenced my evaluation of this treat.  You may want to add more lime juice, if that's your thing!  Rating 7/10.

3 cups frozen strawberries
1 mango- peeled and cubed
1 lime- juiced
3-4 cups of ice cubes
honey- to taste (I liked 3 tbsp)

I pretty much outlined everything already, but here it is again!
Dump everything in a food processor (or crazy expensive blender if you have one).
Turn the food processor on and let it run until everything has been

Nummy Chicken Fajitas

I love a good fajita.  Whenever we go out to a Tex-Mex restaurant, you can bet that I will be judging their fajitas against the fajitas of past restaurants.  I used to make them quite a bit when Alex and I first started living together, but back then I just used fajita seasoning packets. So last night I was tickled when I made these fajitas, and I couldn't stop inhaling them.  At first I was intimidated by this recipe because it required using the broiler for the vegetables, but it was worth figuring out what exactly the broiler is and how to use it to make this meal that much more delicious.  Rating 8/10.

Recipe adapted from Jasmine Tea Blog (who adapted the recipe from Cooks' Illustrated)

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
6 tbsp vegetable oil- separated (next time I make this I'm going to substitute chicken broth)
3 garlic cloves- minced
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 jalapeno pepper- minced
1 1/2 tbsp cilantro leaves- chopped
1 1/2 lb chicken breasts- pounded to 1/2" thick (this speeds up the cooking process)
1 red onion- sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
1 red bell pepper- remove seeds and quarter
1 green bell pepper- remove seeds and quarter
Extra virgin olive oil
Flour or corn tortillas

Prepare the marinade by combining the lime juice, 4 tbsp vegetable oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, jalapeno pepper, and cilantro.  Reserve 1/4 cup of marinade for later.
Marinade the chicken for 30 minutes.
Prepare the vegetables by brushing each side with extra virgin olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place on a pan lined with tin foil.
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  
Remove the chicken from the marinade and try to brush off any pieces of cilantro or jalapeno.
This would be a good time to turn the broiler on and place the vegetables on the second highest rack in your oven.  It should take about 10 minutes for the vegetables to be done.  After 5 minutes  flip the onion rounds.  Remove the peppers if they finish cooking before the onions do.
Lightly oil the grill pan and add the chicken.  Cook 3 minutes per side and then flip.  Once each side is golden, continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until thoroughly cooked.
Slice the chicken and peppers into strips and toss with the reserved marinade and the onions.
Serve over tortillas that have been warmed up in a pan over low heat.  Heating up tortillas in a pan> microwaving them!
Top with your favorite fajita toppings.  My go-to favorites are: guacamole, salsa, diced tomato, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and spinach (if there is room).

This is supposed to serve 4-6 people.  Ha.  Alex and I ate it all!

Pioneer Woman's Chicken Noodle Soup

I've been reading the PW blog ever since I started blogging a few months ago, and for some reason I never ever made one of her recipes.  Until now.  I almost took one bajillion photos to give you a Pioneer Woman experience right here on this little blog, but I've decided to spare you.  I went the homemade noodle route, and I would recommend not making your noodles too thick.  It took much longer for my noodles to cook than my need for instant gratification allowed.  I also decided to go old school on the chicken, and quartered my own.  Overall, I think that this made a good meal.  I'm new to the whole white pepper thing, but I'm hoping that it will grow on me.  The leftovers have provided me with two lunches so far, and I love love LOVE the broth.  I think that my main problem with the noodles that I made was that they didn't absorb enough of the flavor.  Is this a classic chicken noodle soup?  Nope- it is much more savory from the unexpected spices.  Will I make it again?  Probably to spice things up a bit once in a while, but I am still on the hunt for an excellent traditional chicken noodle soup.  Rating 7.5/10.

Recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman
1 chicken- quartered (keep bones in)
2 carrots- diced
2 stems celery- diced
1/2 onion- diced
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp ground thyme
2 tsp parsley flakes
16 oz fresh pasta
3 tbsp all purpose flour (optional to thicken the soup)

Put the chicken in at least a 5 qt pot and cover with 4 qts of water.
Bring to a boil over high heat and then bring down to a simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove chicken and shred the meat off with two forks. 
Return the chicken bones to the water and simmer and low for 45 minutes, covered.
Remove all of the bones with a slotted spoon.
Add in the vegetables, spices, and herbs.  Stir and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high.  Once the broth has heated up add in the pasta and chicken.  Cook until the pasta is cooked all of the way through, about 10 minutes depending on the thickness of your pasta.
If you want to thicken up your soup, mix the flour with a bit of water and then stir into the soup and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Season with additional salt.