Chicken Fajita Bowls with Mexican Cauliflower Rice

So I’m pretty active on Instagram. I’m not the best at taking pictures of my food, so I really love scrolling through people’s Instagram feeds with beautiful food pictures. I try. I like to think I’m getting better at it, but still. Taking lovely food shots is not my forte.
 

One of my favorite types of pictures are when people do food bowls. I don’t know if this is a new trend or if it just photographs well, but they are so beautiful. The food is organized so cleanly and is usually very colorful. I can’t get enough of them!

All that was said to introduce this Chicken Fajita bowl I recently made. I’ve made similar things before and I swear I posted them on here, but I guess not. Which just means I need to make them again so I can post them again and practice taking better pictures of them! See, it all works out.

This is a super easy weeknight meal that is totally family friendly and can be customized to your tastes.

Chicken Fajita Bowl

Makes enough for 2-4 bowls, depending on how much you put in them

 

Mexican Cauliflower Rice:

– 2 tablespoons Olive oil

– ½ onion diced small

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 bag riced cauliflower (I used the 12 oz bag from Trader Joe’s)

– 1 ½ tablespoons (or so) of tomato paste

– ½ tablespoon each garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder

– Salt to taste     

Bowls:

Mexican cauliflower rice (you can use regular rice or Mexican rice if you want)

Shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)

½ purple onion, sliced

½ each red, orange, and green bell pepper, sliced

Shredded cheddar cheese for topping

Plain non-fat greek yogurt for topping

Guacamole or avocado slices for topping

Place the onion and bell pepper slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss with some olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the Mexican cauliflower rice:

In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic and saute until just starting to soften. Then add the cauliflower rice and cook for about 7 minutes until cooked through. Add the seasonings and tomato paste and stir together until well mixed.

 


Once the rice and veggies are ready (either the cauliflower rice or whatever rice you want to use), you can assemble your bowls.

 

You can be fancy and do layers and sections and organize the whole thing by color or whatever. Or, if you are not planning on taking a photo and you couldn’t care less what your bowl looks like before you eat it because you are just going to mix it all up anyway, you can just throw everything together and have at it.

As long as it tastes good, who care? You do you, love.

Meaty, Cheesy Lasagna 

Recently, some friends of mine had a baby, a little boy. This was baby number 2 for them (their oldest daughter and my oldest son are the same age).

As someone who has had a couple of kids herself, I can attest to the fact that after having a baby, the last thing you want to do is worry about making dinner (or breakfast or lunch for that matter). Not only are you exhausted in the first couple weeks while adjusting to this new person now living in your house, but you are also just completely engrossed in the sweet, sweet baby snuggles that your newborn is providing you with. 

That’s why I think one of the best things you can do for someone after having a baby is to bring them food. Preferably something that will create leftovers that will last them a few meals. I’m talking some good comfort food here. It will give them one less thing to worry about taking care of and they will appreciate it more than you could even imagine. Trust me. 

There are many options that would make for a good meal to take to someone, but this is one of my favorites. This lasagna is so good. It’s meaty and cheesy and pasta-y (yeah, I said it…). Paired with some warm, buttery garlic bread and a nice salad (you gotta get a little green in there!) and you’ve got yourself the perfect comfort food meal. 

I’d like to point out that this lasagna freezes very well and lasts up to 2 months in the freezer. This makes it a good addition to any freezer meal plan you may have if you do the make-ahead meals, or if you know lots of other people will also be bringing someone food. This way they don’t have to eat it right away. 

Lasagna may have different components to prep, but it is very easy to put together: 

9 Lasagna noodles, boiled per package directions

1-1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef (you know those packages at the store aren’t exact. You can also use turkey if you want.)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tsp each salt and pepper

15 oz tub of ricotta cheese

2-1/2 cups of Italian cheese blend

2-3 cups tomato sauce (homemade or jarred; it doesn’t matter)

Boil your noodles per the package instructions and set aside. If the noodles are done early, drizzle a little olive oil on them so they don’t stick together.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown your ground beef. When it is almost done, carefully drain as much of the rendered fat as you can, put it back on the stove and add the garlic, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. You don’t need much salt because of all the cheeses you are going to use. Mix together until the meat is cooked through.

Add the tomato sauce and let simmer for a few minutes.

Now assemble:

Spread a little tomato sauce on the bottom of your pan. (PS: I love these disposable aluminum pans for freezer meals and meals to take to friends.)

Add a layer of noodles, then 1/3 of the ricotta, 1/3 of the meat sauce, and a 1/3 of the Italian cheese blend.

Repeat the layers, ending with the cheese blend on top.

Bake covered at 350 for 40-45 minutes, then uncovered for another 10-15 until the cheese is all bubbly and golden brown.

 

Sorry I don’t have an “after” shot of the baked lasagna, but since I was giving it to a friend, I didn’t want to bake it first. I did receive a text message the next day saying they all loved it so much and everyone had seconds. They barely saved room for the chocolate cake I made them for dessert, which I will share in my next post because it was super easy and the frosting was to die for.

What’s your favorite take-along or freezer meal?

Easiest Meatloaf Ever

When I think of meatloaf, images of a Norman Rockwell-esque, 1950s all-American family come to mind. Little Bobby and Susie run off to play with the neighborhood kids, while dad’s at work and mom’s busy in the kitchen, after playing Bridge with the girls while the kids were at school, of course. It’s comfort food. It may seem dated, but it really is the definition of a tried and true classic dish. 

Clearly, I thought meatloaf was as American as Apple Pie. However, I was slightly wrong. Meatloaf actually has European origins dating back to the 5th century. It is actually a traditional German, Scandinavian, and Belgian dish, and has many global iterations. For example: 

* In Austria, the meatloaf is wrapped in ham before being baked. Denmark also adds ham or bacon to the top of their meatloaf.

* Many countries add hardboiled eggs, such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Germany, Greece, and many others.

* Chilean meatloaf is considered a staple of Chile cuisine in areas having been influenced by German settlers in the 1800s. In addition to beef, they include carrots, sausages, and hardboiled eggs.

* In Cuba, they add ground ham to the beef and cook it on the stove-top instead of baking it in the oven

* In the Czech Republic, they also add hardboiled eggs, but they also sometimes add gherkins, or small pickles.

* In Puerto Rico, they include potatoes and red beans in the meat mixture. 

American meatloaf has it’s origins in something called scrapple, which is very popular in Pennsylvania. Scrapple has been around since Colonial times, but contemporary meatloaf as is common today didn’t appear in cookbooks until the 1800s. Meatloaf gained it’s popularity mainly during the Great Depression because it was a good way to stretch a food budget. 

Fun Fact: Meatloaf was voted the seventh-favorite dish in the US by Good Housekeeping. 

There are so many ways to make a meatloaf. You can change the seasoning, you can change the type of meat you use, you can change your add-ins. This recipe here is my go-to. It is super simple and perfect for a weeknight. It bakes in the oven for about an hour, but the prep time is next to nothing, so you just throw it together, put it in the oven, and move on to other things while it bakes. And my kids like it, so that make it a winner in my book! 

2 pounds of ground beef (you can do a mixture of meats if you want)

3/4 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt 

1 egg

Splash of milk (helps keep it moist!)

In a bowl, combine all your ingredients. 

  

You can form the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or you can use a loaf pan.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup ketchup with 1/4 cup brown sugar. Pour over the top of the meatloaf and bake another 10-15 minutes.

  

DONE! Serve with potatoes or veggies. This also makes a really yummy meatloaf sandwich the next day.
 

Some fun alterations I’ve made are adding crumbled (cooked) bacon, shredded cheese (different kinds), using BBQ sauce instead of the ketchup mixture, wrapping it in bacon, using turkey instead of beef… I recently saw that you can smoke a meatloaf! I may have to look into that and put my hubby’s smoker to the test! 

What’s your favorite way to eat meatloaf?

15 Bean Soup 

One of my favorite things about Fall is that it is soup weather. There are so many delicious ways to make soup and I think, for the most part, they are pretty healthy and satisfying.

My mom used to make a soup like this when I was growing up. She would use navy beans and the leftover ham bone from Christmas Eve dinner. It was always something I looked forward to.

For this one, I used the bag of 15 bean mix that you can get at the grocery store. (You can discard the seasoning packet, unless you really want to use it.) There are so many good beans in here and changing up the beans from my mom’s navy beans just adds a bit more nutrition to the dish. The taste was still a nostalgic treat and so yummy. Just what I needed on a cold night fighting whatever sickness has invaded my body.

They say no matter how old you are, you always need your mommy. Well, even if she couldn’t be here to take care of me, at least her soup can be!

You just need:

1 lb bag of beans
1 ham hock
ham, diced
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

The night before, place the dry beans in a bowl and cover completely with water.
The next morning, the beans will have soaked up most of the water and look like this. You can leave them like this until you are ready to make your soup.

In a big soup pot, add a little bit of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic until soft. Then add some diced ham. Stir around a little bit before adding the rest of the ingredients. You can add a little bit of salt and pepper at this stage, but I tend to wait until the end to see how much seasoning it might need.

Add the beans, ham hock, and bay leaf. Cover with with water, about 2 inches above the top of the beans. Bring to a boil for about a minute, then reduce to a low simmer and cover.

That’s it. Seriously. Just let it sit for about 2 hours, stirring every so often.

When you’re done, remove the bay leaf and taste it to see how much salt and pepper you want to add. I usually add a little bit of salt and a generous amount of pepper. Serve it up with some bread and enjoy on a nice cold night!

PS: This makes a lot of soup. I store it with the ham hock in the soup just to keep the flavors going strong.

Enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie 

I’m going to confess something: I made this for dinner a few nights ago and immediately uploaded the pictures. I saved the post as a draft with the full intention of coming back to it later that night after the kids went to bed. Instead, I immediately forgot all about it.

Oops!!  So, I am hoping I remember exactly what I did. I do make this pot pie recipe quite often, which is great when I’m making it, but not always when trying to tell someone the recipe. I tend to make it on auto-pilot so to know what exactly I do requires a lot of concentration.

Chicken pot pie is really a delicious and comforting dish. Perfect for this time of year. And what’s really great is you can make lots of adjustments to make it how you want.  You can change the vegetables around or leave them out if you really want. You can use chicken or leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Or no meat and make it vegetarian. You can use homemade dough or store bought. I’ve even used puff pastry before and that is so yummy (what isn’t yummy with puff pastry?!)

Here it goes…

For the crust:
1-1/2 sticks of cold butter, cut into small cubes
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white vinegar
5-6 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1/2 onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth (if you are making this vegetarian, use vegetable broth)
3/4 cup milk or cream
about 2-1/2 cups shredded chicken. I used 2 chicken breasts
Vegetables (more on this in the instructions)
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, add all the dough ingredients except the vinegar and water. Cut together with a pastry cutter or two knives, if you don’t have a pastry cutter. Make sure the butter is really cold. Cut the butter into the flour until it looks like small peas.

  Add the vinegar and about 4 tablespoons of water to the flour mixture. Stir together until all incorporated. If you need to add more water, do it 1 tablespoon at a time until it all comes together.  Put the dough in the fridge until ready to use. This is for a double crust. If you only want to use a top crust for your pot pie, just divide it half and freeze the half you aren’t using for another time.
  In a pot or large skillet, melt your butter and add your onions. Cook until soft.  Add in your flour and stir together until a paste forms. Let it cook for a couple minutes to get out the raw flour taste.
  Add your chicken broth and stir to incorporate the roux.  Add the milk or cream and let it come to a low boil. The mixture will thicken up. If it is too thick, you can add some more milk or broth. Reduce to a simmer.
Add your chicken and vegetables. More on the vegetables:

My usual combo is potatoes, peas, and carrots.  I forgot to check my veggie supply before I started and all I had on hand was broccoli, so that’s what I used.  It was still really good.

No matter what you use, make sure the veggies are cooked first, especially if you are using potatoes. What’s great about this is you can use frozen veggies and just throw them in the broth mix. They will thaw very quickly.

  Turn off the stove after the veggies have thawed mostly and take your dough out of the fridge. Divide it in two (one for the top crust and one for the bottom). Roll them out to the size of your baking dish.
  Put the bottom crust in your dish. Fill in any gaps with extra dough that may have flapped over the side of the dish. It doesn’t have to look perfect; this isn’t a beauty pageant. It’ll be delicious.  Pour in your filling.
  And top with the rest of your dough. Fold under the excess dough and poke a few holes in the top to let the steam escape.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Remember the filling inside is all cooked, so you just really need to cook the crust.
   This is really so yummy! And comfort food at it’s finest. Plus, my kids love it, so that makes it even better :0)

Dish #12: Chicken Parmesan (Italy)

I love Chicken Parmesan. It’s so warm and comforting to me. I mean, you have pasta swimming in a rich tomato sauce topped with crispy chicken covered in gooey cheese. What’s not to like? And it’s easy to make, so even better!

Not surprising, this dish originates from Italy. While the exact origins are unknown, the northern town of Parma and the southern regions of Campania and Sicily all claim it as their own. The dish is referred to simply as parmigiana and is made with fried eggplant (aubergine). The version using a breaded and fried meat (veal, chicken) is popular in other countries, particularly those with a high Italian immigrant population.

My recipe is very basic:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, butterflied so you have 4 thin-ish pieces
salt
2 eggs
1-1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I use panko)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 sliced provolone cheese (mozzarella works great too)
Extra virgin olive oil (a couple big tablespoons is fine. Enough to cover the bottom of the pan)
Prepared spaghetti noodles
Tomato sauce (jarred or homemade ) /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d2a/73440846/files/2014/12/img_2889.jpg

In one bowl, beat up your eggs with a fork.

In a second bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, oregano, basil, and garlic powder.

Add your oil to your skillet over medium high heat. Prep the chicken while it gets up to a hot temperature.

Dip a chicken breast in the egg, covering all sides. Let the excess drip off.
Dip the chicken in the breadcrumb mix, covering all sides. Press the crumbs in so it really sticks.
Repeat with the other pieces of chicken.

When the oil is hot (flick a little water in the oil and it should sizzle), put the chicken in. Cook it for about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over to the other side. Ladle some sauce over the top and top with a couple pieces of cheese on each piece of chicken and put the skillet into a 350 degree oven (make sure your skillet is oven-safe. If not, you can let the chicken sit in the skillet for a couple minutes to crisp up and then transfer to a baking dish and add your sauce and cheese at that point). Let the chicken finish cooking in the oven, probably another 7 minutes, or until the cheese is all melted and gooey. (Check the chicken before serving to make sure it’s cooked all the way. The timing depends on how thick the chicken is).

Coat the noodles with sauce and put on a plate. Top the noodles with the chicken and serve, probably with a light green salad because it’s a pretty rich dish. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d2a/73440846/files/2014/12/img_28911.jpg

If you’re feeling particularly carby, serve some garlic bread on the side. Because, yum. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d2a/73440846/files/2014/12/img_2892.jpg