Cheesy Bacon Ranch Chicken Crescent Casserole

>> Monday, January 30, 2012

This recipe is comfort food at it's best!  It's such a delicious combination of flavors that come together to make a fantastic casserole.  It would be really easy to double the recipe if you're feeding a crowd too.  Sadly, I can't tell you how good the leftovers are because my small family of three ate the entire pan.  They are just that yummy.  I'm pretty sure this is a recipe that is going to haunt me until I make it again...which will be very soon!

A few notes about the recipe:  By cooking the casserole without the sauce for 15 minutes, the crescent rolls don't become soggy and hold their taste and texture really well.  Also, I tried to use low fat/reduced fat products as much as possible to cut down on the calories, so while the recipe still isn't exactly healthy, it's not too terrible for you either!

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Chicken Crescent Casserole

for the filling
3 oz low fat cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons low fat sour cream
2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
3 slices bacon or turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
2 small chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
pepper, to taste
1 8-oz package reduced fat crescent rolls

for the topping
1/2 10.5-oz can healthy recipe cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup prepared ranch dressing
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
1 green onion, thinly sliced
handful cilantro, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease small baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, green onions, bacon, chicken and spices.  Mix well.  Unroll crescent dough and separate into triangles.  Place 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the chicken mixture on each triangle and roll up, starting at the thicker end.  Place each triangle in the baking dish.  (You may have a little extra filling left depending on the size of your chicken breasts.)  Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together soup, ranch dressing and milk.

Remove casserole dish from oven and pour soup mixture over top.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Garnish with green onion and cilantro.


Weekly Meal Plan (plus a bonus week!)

Dinners This Week:

Crescent Roll Casserole; Roasted Lemon Broccoli

Lasagna Soup; Green Salad; Garlic Bread

Asian Marinated Steaks; Roasted Mushrooms; Sauteed Sesame Spinach

Pork Mole Enchiladas; Mexican Rice; Sliced Avocado

Spaghetti Carbonara; Sauteed Zucchini & Yellow Squash

I just realized that I never posted last week's meal plan.  I wrote it up and just never actually published the post.  As Finley would say, silly mama!  So here is last week's meal plan with the reviews:

Pimento Cheese and BBQ Bacon Burgers; Sweet Potato Fries; Fresh Fruit - Definitely a calorie-splurge but so worth every bite!

Greek Marinated Chicken; Quinoa Tabbouli - To make up for the decadent burgers, we went healthy the next night.  These dishes are tasty, delicious and the left-overs are great too.

Chicken, Sweet Potatoes and Coconut Curry; Basmati Rice; Green Salad - This curry dish was also really healthy and a big hit with everyone; however, I had problems with the chicken being cooked through well before the sweet potato was tender.  I'll make it again soon and try to tweak the recipe so that everything finishes cooking at the same time.

Mediterranean Pizza - no real recipe for this one but it was a nice change from your ordinary pizza.  My local grocery store (HEB) sells an artichoke spread that I used in place of the tomato sauce.  I topped the pizzas with chopped red bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, sliced kalamata and green olives and crumbled feta cheese.

Since I never published last week's meal plan, I didn't get a chance to review the previous week's meal plan.  So here are the reviews for that week:

Spanish Roasted Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes - Delicious!  Can't wait to make it again!

Spring Frittata - always a yummy vegetarian meal that my whole family enjoys

Creamy Chicken Marsala - this is the second time we've made this dish and we really like it.  I can't ever get my sauce to thicken up nicely, but the flavor is so nice, that I don't mind.

Sweet Pork Tacos with Avocado Cream - Double yum!  Really good and really easy.  Plus is makes a ton so I froze what was left for another meal.

Thai-Inspired Meatballs with Coconut-Peanut Sauce - like an Asian take on spaghetti and meatballs.  Really good and pretty healthy too.  I'm planning on writing a full post on this recipe soon.


January 2012 Potluck - Spanish Theme

>> Friday, January 27, 2012

This month's potluck was hosted by Candace and Craig and they chose to do a Spanish theme, Un Noche en Espana.  As always, the food was fantastic and the time spent with friends was even better.  Below I have all the recipes that we cooked up, and this month I included pictures of the people too!

(FYI - If the recipe doesn't have a link underneath it's picture, then the recipes will be at the very bottom of the post.)

 Stacy's Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

 Erin's Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates (this month's winning dish!)

 Lora's Cheese & Olive Platter with
Amanda's Spicy & Sweet Almonds

 Amanda & Taylor's two Spanish tortillas - the first one had potatoes, egg, mushrooms, turkey bacon & spinach; the second one was traditional (eggs and potatoes)

 Candace's Paella

 Meagan's Spanish Chocolate Torta (AKA Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake!)

Jennie also made some awesome chocolate cake balls with orange frosting as the binder, but I didn't get a picture of them.  Oops, sorry Jennie!

 Jennie, Lora and Meagan

Amanda, Taylor, Casey and Baby Mae

Robyn & Cory

 Lora, Mae, Jennie, Erin, Meagan, Stacy, Amanda, Robyn and Candace

 Andrew and Clint blowing out their birthday candles (sorry you missed it Cameron!)

 Craig holding Mae

 Casey and the Cash-Man

 Robyn, Jennie & Clint

And it wouldn't be a potluck without some rowdy board games!  I think this was right around the time when the girls guessed Andre 3000 (we were wrong) and Craig, who was acting as the reader, got so excited he yelled out the answer (Dr. Dre) before the guys could guess...(Lora, we totally needed you on that question!)

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

1 tablespoon olive oil (can be omitted)
16 asparagus spears, trimmed
16 slices prosciutto

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with olive oil.

Wrap one slice prosciutto around each asparagus spear, starting at the bottom, and spiraling up to the tip. Place wrapped spears on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 5 minutes. Remove and shake the pan back and forth to roll the spears over.  Return to pan for another 5 minutes, or until asparagus is tender, and prosciutto is crisp.  Serve immediately.

Bacon Wrapped Dates

8 oz sherry
1 8-oz package dried dates
4 oz cream cheese
16 oz bacon, cut in half

Marinate dates in sherry for at least 3 hours.  Drain.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a wire rack atop a foil-lined baking sheet. 

Slice dates open (it's really easy to do using kitchen scissors) and stuff each date with a little less than a teaspoon of cream cheese.  Wrap each date with half a slice of bacon and place seam side down on the wire rack. 

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy and browned.

Spicy & Sweet Almonds

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups raw almonds
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
finely chopped fresh rosemary

Mix oil and spices together, add nuts and stir to coat thoroughly.  Spread the nuts on a baking sheet.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 25, or until nuts are toasted.


3.5 oz chorizo, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
2 onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 cups paella or risotto rice
1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
generous pinch saffron threads, about 1/2 teaspoon
scant 1/2 cup white wine
4 1/4 cups chicken or fish broth
6 small cleaned squid, sliced into thick rings
11 oz mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
12 large shell-on uncooked shrimp
1 handful frozen baby peas
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 lemon
salt and pepper

Put a large frying pan or paella pan over medium heat, then add oil.  After 30 seconds, add chorizo.  Fry until golden, about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.  

Add chicken to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and fry for 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden.  Add the onions, garlic and bell peppers to the chicken, stir well and then cook gently for 10 minutes, or until the onions and peppers are softened.

Add the rice and turn up the heat.  Stir well to coat with the oil, then add paprika, saffron, wine and broth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer the rice for 20 minutes, or until nearly soft.  Stir several times as it cooks.

Meanwhile, tap any open mussels sharply on the work surface.  Discard any that do not close after a few seconds.

Add the shrimp to the pan, tucking them into what sauce is left around the rice.  Cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes, then scatter the squid, mussels, peas and chorizo over top.  Cover and cook for another 2 minutes, or until mussels have opened and the squid is no longer transparent.  

Discard any mussels that haven't opened.  Sprinkle parsley over the paella.  Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over paella.


Greek Marinated Chicken with Quinoa Tabbouli

I know I've mentioned on here before that my family lived in the Middle East for several years when I was quite young.  Because of those experiences, we grew up eating a lot of Middle Eastern food way before it was cool to do so.  In junior high, I'm pretty sure I was the only kid who had ever heard of cous cous, tabbouli or baba ghanoush.    Of course, all I ever wanted to do was raid the pantries at my friends' houses to eat "normal" food.  Luckily I've since come around to loving more adventurous foods.

This recipe is wonderful since almost all the work is done ahead of time.  The flavors are simple but utterly delicious and addicting.  There will most likely be quite a bit of tabbouli left over, but it makes for a quick and fantastic lunch, especially served with some pita bread and hummus.  (In fact, this is my go-to lunch most days!)

Greek Marinated Chicken with Quinoa Tabbouli
chicken recipe adapted from All Recipes, tabbouli recipe adapted from my mom

for the chicken:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
2 lemons, zested and juiced
4 chicken breasts

for the tabbouli:
1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
3 roma tomatoes, seeds removed and finely chopped
4 green onions, very thinly sliced
1 cup parsley, minced
1/2 cup mint, minced

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Using an immersion blender, mix well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour marinade into a large ziplock bag.  Add chicken to bag and refrigerate for 8 hours.  

Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa well.  Combine 1 3/4 cups water, quinoa and a little salt in a small pot.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool completely.

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, green onions, parsley, mint and about 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Add cooled quinoa and mix thoroughly.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the chicken, you can really cook it however you prefer - stovetop, grill or oven.  I think it would be best cooked on the grill but since the weather was not good for grilling, I cooked it in a saute pan on our stove.  I quickly seared it, flipping once, over medium-high heat and then reduced the heat to medium-low and cooked it for an additional 10-12 minutes.


Pimento Cheese and BBQ Bacon Burgers

The title pretty much says it all - a delicious and indulgent combo!  This spin on the classic cheeseburger was so mouthwateringly good that I forgot to take a picture before I started eating it.  In fact, my mouth is watering right now as I type!  This recipe takes a little more time than your ordinary cheeseburger but it really elevates the cheeseburger to something extraordinary, so I think it's worth the extra time and effort.  I hope you enjoy this burger recipe as much as my family did.

Pimento Cheese and BBQ Bacon Burgers
adapted from Saveur
serves 3

for the pimento cheese:
3 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 oz white cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons chopped pimentos, drained
3 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise (recommended brand: Hellman's)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

for the burgers:
1 lb ground beef or bison
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons smoky BBQ sauce
6 slices bacon
Hamburger buns
Tomato slices

For the pimento cheese, combine all ingredients and mix well.  Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

For the burgers, in a medium bowl, mix ground meat, onion and BBQ sauce.  Separate meat into three even-sized pieces and form into patties.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat.  Remove cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Reserve 2 tablespoons bacon fat.

Heat an indoor grill pan to medium-high heat and carefully drizzle reserved bacon fat over grill pan.  Season burger patties with salt and pepper.  Grill patties, flipping once, until desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium-rare.  Top burgers with a liberal scoop of pimento cheese and cover pan with a lid to help cheese melt.  Carefully transfer burgers to buns and top with lettuce, tomato and a little extra mayonnaise.


Sweet Pork Tacos with Avocado Cream

This is another recipe from The Meal Planner (seriously, I think her website is my new best friend!) and it's another winner.  The sweet pork paired so nicely with the tangy avocado cream and the hard taco shell.  Since it's a crockpot recipe, there's very little time involved and it makes a ton of meat.  I froze half (probably more than half actually) to save for another meal.  Since Andrew's not a big fan of sweet and savory dinners, I cut down on the amount of brown sugar and thought it was the perfect amount of sweetness - sweet enough to satisfy me but not sweet enough for any complaints from the hubster!

Sweet Pork Tacos with Avocado Cream
adapted from The Meal Planner

for the pork:
3 lbs pork loin roast or pork shoulder
2 cups favorite salsa
4 oz can chopped green chilies
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed

for the avocado cream:
1 large avocado, mashed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons low fat sour cream
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste

to serve:
hard taco shells or tortillas
sliced onions, optional
shredded cheese, optional
corn salsa, optional
shredded lettuce, optional

In the bottom of your slow cooker, combine salsa, green chilies, brown sugar, onion and black beans.  Mix well.  Add pork roast and cook on low for 7-9 hours.  Remove the pork and shred with a fork.  (I cooked mine about 9 hours and I shredded the meat in about 30 seconds since it was literally falling apart.  Lovely!)  Return meat to slow cooker and mix meat into the sauce.  Continue to cook another 30 minutes to 1 hour with lid off to thicken the sauce a little bit.

Meanwhile, to prepare the avocado cream, add green onions, sour cream, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, chile powder, salt and pepper to mashed avocado and mix well.

To serve, scoop sweet pork into hard taco shells and top with avocado cream and any other desired toppings.


Spanish Roasted Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes

 {the finished product!}

{Finley was very interested in watching Daddy carve the chicken}

Oh my gosh, I absolutely loved this dinner!  I literally could not stop eating it!  I've roasted chicken before but none of them have turned out this delicious.  This recipe is company-worthy but with very little effort.  The presentation is beautiful and the herb gremolata really gives the dish a bright, vibrant fresh flavor.  Serve it with a simple green salad or throw some asparagus into the mix and you have yourself a fantastic dinner.  Yum!

I chose to truss the chicken to ensure even cooking and keep the breasts moist.  Here's an excellent YouTube video to teach you how to do it.

Spanish Roasted Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes
adapted from The Meal Planner, recipe originally from Jamie Oliver

2 lbs multi-colored fingerling potatoes, cut in half if large
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (about the same size as the fingerling potatoes)
4.5 lb whole chicken, rinsed with water, patted dry, and giblets removed
1/2 onion, cut into large chunks
kitchen twine
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
11 oz chorizo, sliced on an angle

for the gremolata:
2 lemons, zested
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Make the gremolata.  Finely chop the parsley, reserving the stems.  In a small bowl, mix together lemon zest, parsley and garlic.  Season with a little salt.  Reserve the lemons.

Stuff the chicken's cavity with the reserved parsley stems, lemons (cut in half), and the chopped onion.  Using kitchen twine, truss your chicken.

Grease your baking dish.  Arrange fingerling and sweet potatoes in an even layer in the bottom of your baking dish.  Drizzle potatoes with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Place chicken atop the potatoes.  Drizzle olive oil over the bird and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper and paprika.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Carefully remove dish and sprinkle sliced chorizo around the chicken.  Return dish to oven and continue to cook for 15 more minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.  Remove from oven, tent with foil and let sit for 15 minutes to allow juice to redistribute.

Carve the chicken.  Serve the chicken and potatoes drizzled with pan juices and sprinkled with the gremolata.


Chicken & Edamame with Orange-Ginger Dressing

Since I'm playing major catch-up after having a sick computer for almost two weeks, I'll keep my recap short and sweet.  (PS - I'll update this post with a picture as soon as I figure out how to export my data from my external hard drive to my computer.  I tell you what, it's really difficult to be not tech-savvy in today's world!)

This dish is wonderful!  It has bright, flavorful tastes, comes together quickly for an easy weeknight dinner, the leftovers are great, and it's healthy to boot.  What more could you ask for?  The whole family liked this one and I think it will be served often in our kitchen.  The avocado really pairs brilliantly with the dish so please don't omit it.

And if you've never perused Confections of a Foodie Bride's website, I highly recommend it.  Her recipes are always good and her photography is stunning!

Chicken & Edamame with Orange-Ginger Dressing
adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

the juice and zest of 1 orange
the juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger (I had to substitute 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder because my
     grocery store was out of ginger and it turned out fine...but fresh is always better!)
1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (I used a rotisserie chicken to save time)
1 cup shelled edamame, cooked
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 large avocado, sliced
1 cup brown rice

Cook the brown rice according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl (or blender), combine orange juice, orange zest, lime juice, lime zest, oil, ginger, garlic, and cilantro.  Using an immersion blender (or regular blender), blend until all ingredients are well combined.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To the dressing, add chicken, edamame, and bell pepper and toss to thoroughly coat.  Spoon mixture over cooked brown rice.  Garnish with cilantro and avocado.


Weekly Meal Plan

>> Monday, January 16, 2012

Hi all! My friend Candace recently brought up a very good point - one reason people turn to cooking blogs for recipes rather than cookbooks is based on the assumption that if a recipe is deemed 'blog-worthy' than it must be a good recipe. In essence, the foodie bloggers are taking the recipes for a test drive and letting others know about their successes. The reason why Candace brought this up with me was that she wanted to know about the recipes that I list on my weekly menus - if I actually made them and how they turned out. So in addition to posting my weekly meal plan, I'm also going to do a quick recap/review of the previous week's menu. I hope this will help others in planning their weekly meals too!

On a side note, while I was perusing the web last night, I found a great cooking blog, The Meal Planner. So if you're like me and try to plan ahead for the week's meals, I encourage you to check out her site! And you'll notice that several of this week's meals are from her blog... :-)

Dinners This Week:

Spring Frittata (didn't get around to making it last week so it's on the menu for tonight's dinner)

Creamy Chicken Marsala; Roasted Broccoli

Sweet Pork Tacos with Avocado Cream; Black Beans, Tomatoes and Corn Salad

Thai-Inspired Meatballs with Coconut-Peanut Sauce; Asian Noodles or Rice; Steamed Edamame

Last Week's Reviews:

Chicken and Edamame in Orange-Ginger Dressing - This recipe was fantastic...and so easy! Look for a post later this week.

My Mom's Chicken Noodle Soup - I love this recipe and I'm absolutely amazed that I've never posted it on the blog. I grew up with this soup and every time one of the family is sick, I try to make it. What really sets this soup apart from other recipes is that my mom always makes her own noodles. A little more work but the rewards are well worth it! Oh, and I'll finally be posting it later this week.

Manicotti - I found a manicotti recipe that was stuffed with the usual ricotta/spinach mixture but the noodles were replaced with crepes. I had high hopes for this recipe, but it was merely okay. And Finley refused to eat a single bite of it. I won't be taking the time to make this one again.

Spring Frittata - I've made this one before so I already know it's good! One of the benefits of a frittata over a quiche is that you save a lot of calories but cutting out the pie crust, which is great after the holidays when everyone is trying to cut back a little.

Beef Taquitos; Mexican Chopped Salad - I didn't end up making the taquitos after all. Off the top of my head, I can't remember what I made in their place...but it will come to me eventually. If it was good, I'll post about it. I did make the Mexican chopped salad and it turned out great. Andrew and I ate every last bite of it! I'll post about it later this week too.

Pork Tenderloin; Cheesy Quinoa & Broccoli Casserole - This meal got put in the freezer for another week when we got a dinner invitation to go out with my parents. Whenever we get around to eating it, I'll let you know.

If you've stuck with me and are still reading this, you may wonder why I didn't post anything other than the meal plan last week and why I'm promising to post everything later this week. Well the reason is twofold. Number 1, Finley was sick last week so she was home with me. Luckily, she's all better now though! Number 2, the hard drive on my laptop went kaput after I accidentally dropped a bottle of vinegar on it. The vinegar didn't spill but it did leave a dent right where the hard drive is stored within the laptop. Luckily, Apple is awesome and is replacing the hard drive (for free!) as I type this. I had to commandeer Andrew's computer just to type this post. Hopefully I'll be up and running in the next day or two!


Weekly Meal Plan - January 8th thru January 14th

>> Sunday, January 8, 2012

This whole weekend I've been babying my sweet sick little kiddo. It just breaks my heart when she doesn't feel good! I feel a little guilty, but I do love all the cuddling though. Finley's such an energetic and independent child, so she doesn't let me love on her nearly as much as she used to. Sniff, sniff. But enough about us, here's what I'm planning on cooking up this week:

My Mom's Chicken Noodle Soup (you know, because a sick kiddo needs her chicken noodle soup!)

Stuffed Shells or Manicotti; Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Spring Frittata; Green Salad; Crusty Bread

Beef Taquitos; Mexican Chopped Salad

Pork Tenderloin; Cheesy Quinoa & Broccoli Casserole


Colorful Chicken Salad

You know I love to mix savory with sweet when it comes to dinner. You also probably know that Andrew hates it when I do that. But yesterday I was craving a good ol' homemade chicken salad sandwich. Usually I make a pretty simple recipe with roasted or poached chicken breasts, mayo, celery, and onion, but I was feeling the creative vibe and made a totally different chicken salad. As I was prepping all the ingredients, I was a little worried that Andrew may not like it since I was putting a touch of sweet into the salad. But I had no need to be worried. After Andrew finished his sandwich, he commented on how great it was and promptly fixed himself a second sandwich! At the end of dinner, Finley even remarked that "dinner was really, really good, Mama." Warms my heart!

When I was assembling this chicken salad, I was hoping to create something that was a little tangy (which is why I went heavy on the Dijon and added a little sour cream too) with really bright flavors, as well as colors - orange from dried apricots, bright green from pistachios and deep purple from red onions. I think I succeeded, and I hope you agree!

Colorful Chicken Salad
a Baking and Eggs original

2-4 chicken breasts, about 1.25 lbs, cooked and chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled and chopped
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3-4 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons creamy Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons low fat sour cream
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
lettuce and/or good bread, for serving

Combine all ingredients except lettuce and bread in a large bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to marry. Serve on lettuce as a salad or on bread (or croissants would be great too!) as a sandwich.


Spicy Bean Burritos

>> Thursday, January 5, 2012

This is one of those great meals that you can keep on hand for nights when you don't feel like cooking but you don't want to go out either. I already had most everything stocked in my kitchen and it used up some random odds and ends that were hanging out in my vegetable bin. And it's quick and easy to prepare. I was pleasantly surprised at how those few ingredients combined to make some super tasty refried beans! They had a fantastic, slow cooked homemade flavor without very much time or effort. While they were great wrapped in the burritos, I think they'd be great all on their own too.

Feel free to stuff your burrito with whatever ingredients you enjoy. I used green onions, cilantro, chopped tomatoes, avocado slices, shredded cheese, lettuce and sour cream. I placed the assorted toppings on the table and let everyone wrap up their own burritos. It was fun to do it that way and it was less time-consuming for me. Win, win! For Finley, I reserved some of the bean mixture before adding the salsa so the beans wouldn't too spicy for her.

Spicy Bean Burritos
adapted from Annie's Eats

For the beans:
2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
kosher salt, to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
4-6 tablespoons fresh salsa

For serving:
6 (9 or 10-inch) flour tortillas, warmed
Shredded chipotle cheddar cheese
Chopped tomatoes
Shredded lettuce
Sliced avocado
Chopped green onions
Minced Cilantro
Low-fat sour cream

In a saucepan over medium heat, add oil, garlic, chili powders, cumin, oregano, salt and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring often, until spice mixture becomes fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add beans and chicken broth. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and mash beans to desired consistency.

Spread a large dollop of beans on each tortilla and top with shredded cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, green onions, cilantro and sour cream.



>> Tuesday, January 3, 2012

If you eat Korean food, then you've probably heard of bibimbap. If you watched last week's Top Chef episode, then may remember that Ed made bibimbap. Otherwise, you've probably never heard of this Korean rice dish that is loaded with bulgogi (thinly sliced marinated beef), cooked vegetables and topped with a fried egg. Yum!

The recipe as written takes quite a bit of prep and cook time, but if you plan ahead, you can use leftover vegetables and/or leftover bulgogi meat to save lots of time. This is a nutritious and delicious Asian dish that I just love. I'm a sucker for fried eggs so to me it was pure heaven mixing the runny yolk with the rice, meat and veggies. It's hard to even decide what my favorite part of this meal is - I love the spicy zucchini, the crunchy sweet carrots and the marinated beef is excellent. Oh and did I mention, there's a fried egg on top?!? While those things are my favorites, it turns out that Finley loves the mushrooms - she ate all of them! Andrew and I had to give her the ones of our plates too! And after all the really rich food, I've been eating for most of December, bibimbap is a wonderful change of pace.

recipe adapted from Food Network

Steamed white rice
Bulgogi, recipe follows
1 large carrot
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sherry
8 oz mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
3-4 cups baby spinach
1 zucchini, halved and cut into thin strips
1/2 - 1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce (found in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
Soy sauce, to taste
Sriracha, to taste (the original recipe calls for Gochuchang paste but I didn't want to make an extra trip to the Korean market so I substituted the well-used Thai hot sauce)

Peel the carrot into thin strips with a vegetable peeler. Set carrot strips aside on a large plate.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add oil and mushrooms. Saute for a few minutes and then add sherry. Continue to cook until the mushrooms are softened and have released their juices. Using a slotted spoon, remove mushrooms to the plate with the carrot strips.

In the same pan, wilt the spinach in the mushroom liquid. Remove spinach to the plate with the mushrooms and carrots.

In a microwave safe dish, place zucchini slices and 1-2 tablespoons of water. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and microwave on high for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Drain carefully and toss zucchini with 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of garlic chili sauce. Remove zucchini to the plate of vegetables.

(I did all of the vegetable prep and cooking ahead of time. Just before serving, I microwaved the veggies for 30 seconds to take the chill off. The hot rice, meat and egg sufficiently heated the vegetables.)

In a saute pan, cook eggs over easy and set aside.

To assemble, place the cooked rice in bowls. Place bulgogi and vegetables on top of rice but placed separately so you can see each ingredient. Drizzle the meat juices over the dish. Place egg on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce.

When ready to eat, mix all ingredients together. Let each person season to taste with sriracha, sesame oil and soy sauce.

recipe adapted from Food Network

1 pound ribeye steak
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 pear, grated with juices
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 small onion, grated with juices
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (I used much less)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 12-oz can lemon-lime soda

Place ribeye in freezer for 30 minutes, or until it is partially frozen. Remove from freezer and thinly slice against the grain.

Meanwhile, whisk together remaining ingredients in a large baking dish. Toss meat with marinade until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.

Heat grill (or indoor grill pan) to high. Remove beef from marinade and grill for 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to compile Bibimbap.


Weekly Meal Plan - January 1st thru January 7th

>> Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fun-filled New Year's Eve last night. Andrew and I rang in the new year celebrating with our friends from the neighborhood and fun was had by all. For our New Year's resolution, our family is going to try to be more organized around the house.

Since we're all partied and holiday-ed out, I've tried to plan a menu that is full of healthy meals. It's time for me to lay off the butter and sugar, if I want to comfortably fit into my skinny jeans again!

Tomato Basil Cream Pasta (but there's not actually cream in it & it's vegan = healthy!)

Scallion Turkey Meatballs, Brown Rice with Peas & Carrots, Steamed Edamame

Pistachio-Crusted Chicken & Spinach Salad


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