Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Guacamole and Chicken Soft Tacos

Mom and I found avocados at the store for 68 cents each, so we loaded up the buggy. (Okay, so we didn't buy a entire buggy full, but we did buy more than several. I am used to paying $1.50 for an avocado, so $.68 seemed like a steal.) All those cheap avocados made some great guacamole.

Mom made the guacamole in the food processor using avocados, onion, garlic, lime juice, salt, and salsa. It was really good!

Since we couldn't just eat guacamole for dinner, I also made some chicken soft tacos as a "side." I was going to use a pack of fajita seasoning on the chicken until I looked at the ingredients. It was all stuff with really long names that I didn't recognize- not what I want to feed my family. So, I came up with my own seasoning.

sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts into thin strips
chili powder
cayenne pepper
garlic powder
lime pepper seasoning
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
fresh lime juice

Heat a skillet with some olive oil over medium high heat and add the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken liberally with chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, lime pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir in onion. Cook the chicken, stirring it often, until cooked through. Sprinkle with lime juice.

We served the chicken with wheat (and regular, for Art) flour tortillas, torn lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, black olives, refried beans, sour cream, and salsa.

Jacob seemed to enjoy the chicken. He also took a few bites of my soft taco. Everyone else had more than a few bites of their own tacos. Yum!

Monday, December 28, 2009

French Toast

Art and I got together with some friends from college last night and made breakfast for dinner. We had a frittata, home fries, ham, baked fruit salad, french toast, and a mix of left over Christmas desserts. We had a great time hanging out, cooking, and eating together.

I made the french toast. At home, I usually make a light version of "french toast" with wheat bread dipped in a mixture of egg and milk. But, I wanted to make something special for our night with friends.

I found a recipe in my Treebeard's cookbook. This was very easy to make. I combined the egg and milk mixture beforehand and brought it to my friends' house in a container along with the bread. Once we were ready to cook, I soaked the bread and browned it while talking with everyone in the kitchen. Many said it was the best french toast they had ever had.

1" thick slices French bread (I used two loaves of wheat French bread)
9 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Whisk together all ingredients except bread until well combined. (This may be done in advance, covered and refrigerated. Stir before using.) Put bread slices into the mixture, a few pieces at a time and press down in the mixture to coat. Remove after one minute or when bread has absorbed egg mixture, but before the bread gets soggy and falls apart. Place bread pieces in a pan.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add bread slices in a single layer and cook the bread until golden brown on the first side, about 2-4 minutes. Turn the slices and cook on the second side until golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Repeat until all slices are browned.
Serves 10.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oven Barbecue Brisket

I have never eaten a barbecue brisket that I enjoyed. They have usually been tough and lacking taste. I am more of a pulled pork barbecue fan. But, a barbecue brisket recipe in Treebeard's cookbook promising flavorful meat slow roasted in the oven with home cooked sauce attracted me.

Since we are staying with my father-in-law, I took the opportunity to try out this potentially impressive hunk of meat. This is a great dish to prepare if you have a long day at home. It does not require much hands-on attention, but it does have to cook for almost four hours. The brisket is trimmed of fat, so it is very lean. The sauce comes together very quickly, but I'm sure store bought sauce would be a fine substitute.

I served the brisket with the sauce, bread, roasted green beans, and salad. I was impressed with this brisket. It was so tender and full of flavor. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it.


1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
4 lb beef brisket, trimmed of visible fat
1 1/4 cups barbecue sauce (recipe follows)

In a small bowl, mix sugar, celery seeds, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, salt, liquid smoke. With fingers, rub powder into both sides of trimmed brisket.

Wrap in double layer of foil and place in plastic storage box. Refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.

Unwrap brisket and place in shallow roasting pan. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 300 degrees for 3 hours, or 45 minutes per pound of brisket until brisket is tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Refrigerate 1 hour to let fat solidify from pan juices.

One hour before serving, remove brisket from pan and using a slotted spoon, remove solid fat particles. Reserve pan drippings.

Cut beef into thin diagonal slices across grain and arrange slices in roasting pan. In a small bowl mix 1 cup pan juices and 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce. Pour over sliced brisket.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes until brisket is fork tender.

Serves 8 to 10.

Barbecue Sauce Ingredients
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot, chopped
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a 1 quart saucepan, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add more brown sugar or hot sauce to taste.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cupcakes for a Christmas Party

Last night, Art, Jacob and I went to Art's extended family Christmas party in North Alabama. The party involved a catered barbecue dinner. We were instructed to bring sides and/or desserts.

Since we were traveling to the party, I wanted to bring a make ahead dish that traveled well and could be served at room temperature. I made yellow cupcakes with store bought chocolate icing. I topped them with red and green M&Ms to add a festive flair.

This cake recipe made delicious cupcakes. I made them in mini cupcake pans since I knew there would be other dessert options to sample. The cupcakes were very popular with the kids.

(I do appreciate the irony in a post about cupcakes immediately following a post stating my resolve to prepare healthier meals. I have plans for healthy food for our next meal. Stay tuned...)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Baked Salmon and a Return to Healthier Food

Notice the title of this blog: "No More Nuggets." Any reader of my last several posts will notice that I have lost my focus. The amount of nuggets and other fried and/or processed foods my family has consumed over the last several weeks has been disconcerting. I am willing to accept the blame for this because I prepare our meals. I want to get back on track to healthy eating.
Our family Christmas celebration was a test of my resolve in this matter. Yes, we had white bread covered in sugar and butter for breakfast, but by supper time I was ready to take charge. We had a baked fillet of wild king salmon and green beans.
I roasted the green beans as I always do with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I marinated the salmon in a marinade recipe I got from my mom. The recipe is for grilled salmon, but I baked it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. This meal reminded us that healthy food can be delicious!

1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup frozen orange juice, thawed
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients and pour over salmon in a gallon freezer bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Bake or grill.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monkey Bread

We will be spending Christmas with our families in Birmingham. Since we will be away from home on Christmas, we are having our family Christmas celebration at home today.

As I was growing up, making monkey bread for breakfast on Christmas morning was a tradition my mom practiced for many years.

Monkey bread is a delicious ring of gooey, pull apart sweet bread. Many versions exist, but I love the one my mom always makes using store bought frozen yeast rolls covered with butter, sugar, and butterscotch pudding mix. The little preparation time the recipe requires is done the night before.

This dish has very little redeeming nutritional value, if any. But, having it once a year can not do too much damage, right? I cut down on the amount of sugar just to make myself feel better. I really didn't miss it in the finished product.

1 small box cook and serve butterscotch pudding mix
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 package frozen yeast rolls (the kind that have to rise)
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/3 cup butter, melted

The night before (or, about 8 hours before) you plan to eat this:
Butter a bundt pan.
Mix together the dry ingredients.
Place frozen rolls in prepared pan. Pour sugar mixture over rolls. Sprinkle with pecans and drizzle with melted butter. Cover the pan tightly with foil and place in a cold oven overnight.

In the morning:
Uncover the pan and return to cold oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (leave the bread in the oven) and bake until bread is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. Turn bread onto a plate and serve warm.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Turkey, Corn, and Black Bean Nachos

Betsy and I had a great time in Brazil hanging out with friends, attending a wedding, and eating. We ate so much good food: beans and rice, chicken and cheese pastels, garlic pizza, endless amounts of beef at a churrascaria, pao de queijo, and more. Betsy's friends must think Americans eat all the time.

I was so happy to return to my family after a great weekend. My mom cooked a lot while I was gone, so we had leftovers to eat for dinner last night. (Thanks, Mom!)

Tonight for dinner, I made nachos based on an old recipe from Bon Appetit. This is a comparatively healthy version of nachos that is easy and quick to prepare.

We served this in bowls like chili with tortilla chips on the side. Art and Jacob really enjoyed these nachos. Jacob loves tortilla chips, but wanted nothing to do with a chip covered in nacho fixings. So, I broke up a few chips and mixed them into the nacho fixings. I served it to him with a spoon like chili. He ate a ton!


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup chili powder (Don't be nervous about using 1/4 cup of chili powder- it really adds a nice flavor and is balanced out by the sweetness of the sugar and corn.)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and turkey; season with salt and pepper; sauté, breaking up turkey with a spoon, until the onion is very tender, about 8 minutes. Add chili powder, oregano, and sugar; stir 30 seconds. Add beans, corn, and tomato sauce. Cover; simmer until turkey is cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Mix in lemon juice and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with chips, cheese, and sour cream.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today at 4:15, I am leaving for a long weekend in Brazil. My sister-in-law and I are going for a wedding. My mom is coming up from Birmingham to take care of Jacob while I am away (Art will be giving and grading final exams).

Taking care of a kid for four days is a big burden- among many other duties, Mom will have to learn an entirely new toddler language, learn to assemble and disassemble complicated straw sippy cups, and master changing diapers on a moving kid. So, I have tried to provide a bit of relief by stocking the pantry and planning some meals. I have made my mom a list of snack ideas: frozen pancakes, smoothies, pumpkin bread, apple sauce, etc. I have also bought ingredients to make spaghetti- in my opinion, one of the most easily prepared meals available.

I have soup cooking in the slow cooker for dinner tonight. I searched online for slow cooker recipes and was inspired by a soup recipe on Here is the version I created.

1 lb raw chicken breast, diced
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 10 oz can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tablespoons canned diced jalapeno peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 oz cans chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 oz frozen corn

Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook for 6-8 hours. Serve with tortilla chips and lime wedges.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

A few days ago, I used half a can of pumpkin to make pumpkin pancakes. Today, I used the other half of that pumpkin to make pumpkin bread.

Out of several pumpkin bread recipes, I chose to make a version from Treebeard's cookbook because I had all the ingredients. The bread turned out moist and not overly sweet. Jacob and I enjoyed a warm slice as a snack.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x5" loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
Sift flours, salt, sugar, and baking soda together into a medium bowl. In another bowl, blend pumpkin, applesauce, oil, water, eggs, and spices. Add flour mixture and stir until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dinner Party- Chili, Grilled Cheese, and Choc Chip Cookie

We had Art's Economics 101 students over for dinner. Any student willing and brave enough to come over to his professor's house on a rainy night should be rewarded with a home cooked meal. Usually, the students are not picky; they are just glad to not be eating in the cafeteria. I made chili, grilled cheese, and chocolate chip cookies.

I made the chili with ground turkey, diced onions, garlic, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans (pinto, kidney, black, and great northern), chili powder, salt, and pepper.

Making grilled cheese for 20 was a bit of an ordeal. Art and I formed a grilled cheese assembly line: Art put the cheese in between the bread slices and I grilled. Once one batch of sandwiches was grilled to a golden, gooey perfection, I would pop it in the oven set to warm and start the next batch. This seemed to work well for providing a warm grilled cheese sandwich to each student.

By far the most highly praised item on the dinner menu was the chocolate chip cookie. The cookies were made using a Pillsbury slice and bake cookie log. When buying these, I was a little apprehensive about the quality of the cookies. But, I knew I would be short on time. Obviously, I had nothing to worry about.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chicken Nuggets and Waffle Fries

Tonight, we had Chick-fil-a for dinner. It was delicious. Jacob really enjoyed his nuggets and fries.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lemon Chicken Soup

I came across this recipe in Southern Living. The idea of lemon in a chicken soup was very appealing. It looked so soothing, warming, and satisfying- the perfect supper for a cold day.
This soup was everything I had hoped it would be. The broth had just a hint of lemon with lots of yummy flavor.

I changed up the recipe a bit. Here is the version I made tonight.


  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
  • celery tops
  • leek, cut into large pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 (1-lb.) package carrots, sliced
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Toppings: cooked barley, lemon slices

1. Bring water, celery, leeks, salt and pepper to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add chicken and reduce heat to low, and simmer 1 hour.

2. Remove chicken, reserving liquid, and let cool 15 minutes. Skin and de-bone chicken. Dice chicken.

3. Pour reserved cooking liquid through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, discarding solids; wipe Dutch oven clean. Add water to cooking liquid to equal 10 cups.

4. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in hot oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Add diced chicken, cooking liquid, carrots, and next 3 ingredients. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 20 minutes or until carrots are tender. Serve with desired toppings.

I only used four chicken breast halves instead of the six called for in the recipe. This turned out to be plenty of meat- the soup was packed with tender chicken. Also, the recipe called for boiling the chicken in just water, but I felt like doing so would deprive the meat and broth of an easy opportunity for a flavor boost.

I cooked some barley in a separate pot and served each bowl of soup with a scoop. It added substance and a good texture to the soup.

Art and Jacob really enjoyed this soup. Jacob especially liked the carrots.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Brown Rice with Tofu, Dried Mushrooms, and Baby Spinach

Tonight for dinner, I made a one pot meal in a small kitchen appliance. I assembled the ingredients in the pot, switched the dial to "cook", and waited while dinner was prepared.
I did not use a slow cooker. I used a rice cooker.

This appliance is very handy for making perfectly cooked rice. I also love using it to make brown rice with tofu and spinach. It is really easy and tastes great. I started working on dinner at 4:30. By 4:45, dinner was cooking. And, I was holding Jacob during most of the 15 minute prep time.

If you are scared of tofu, this is a good recipe to help you over-come your fear. The preparation is simple- it only needs to be drained on paper towels and diced. The tofu takes on the flavors of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sesame oil. (You can find sesame oil in the Asian section at the store and tofu in the produce). Or, I'm sure you could substitute cooked, diced chicken for the tofu with excellent results.
The dried shitake mushrooms are re-hydrated during the cooking process. (These are in the produce section with the fresh mushrooms.)

This is one of my favorite meals. I really like the taste and texture. And, I like that it is healthy.

This is not one of Art's favorite meals. Tonight, I asked him how it could be improved. He thought a pound of MSG would help.

In the past, Jacob has eagerly eaten this dish. Tonight, he wouldn't even try it.

Later, we got out the wildberry gelato I bought at the store today. Yum! I had two servings.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I was thinking about how much I did not want the spaghetti I was planning to make for dinner when Art walked in the back door and asked if I wanted to go out. We went to Sakura, a Japanese restaurant on West Street in Germantown.

Sakura has been one of my favorite restaurants in Memphis since I was introduced to it two years ago. Among many other things, they serve a unique selection of sushi rolls that I like to refer to as "southern style." They are huge- two big, messy bites a piece. And, a lot of them are deep fried. If you have never tried sushi, come to Memphis and try these. I think they would seems somewhat normal to even the most sheltered American eater.

Tonight we ordered the Bubba, Joyce, and Tiger Eye rolls- all containing fully cooked fish since I'm pregnant and raw seafood is a no-no.

In previous posts I have expressed my reservations about taking Jacob out to eat. I was a bit nervous about tonight's dinner, but Jacob pulled out his best restaurant manners- well, if we don't count shoving fist-fulls of noodles in his mouth as bad manners. Seriously, he was so pleasant throughout the meal. The only time he got grumpy was when we had to leave. He really enjoyed the Yaki soba noodles (buckwheat noodles with chicken, Chinese cabbage, carrots, and some kind of sauce) and the Miso soup. Maybe we should eat out more often...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkey Enchiladas

I wanted to finish the leftover turkey last night. But, I was tired of eating plain turkey and turkey sandwiches. So, I shredded the turkey and mixed it into Spanish-style brown rice, black beans, and shredded cheddar cheese to make filling for enchiladas. (These were similar to the chicken enchiladas I made several weeks ago.)
This turned out to be an easy and tasty way to polish off that turkey. Jacob loved the filling. I'm glad he finally ate something other than cereal and crackers!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gingerbread Stars

Jacob has recently become aware of the star shape. He finds stars everywhere and points to them waiting for me to call their name.
My mom suggested that I make him star shaped cookies. I am always eager for any excuse to make cookies, so I was very excited about the idea.
I made a variation of a recipe for gingerbread men cookies I found in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. These were really good and they made our house smell like a life-sized gingerbread house. Jacob did not take the cookie away from his mouth while he ate it. He just kept chomping until it was gone. I think he noticed they were in the shape of stars, but , once he tasted them, he didn't care what shape they were.


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teasp baking soda
1/4 teasp salt
1 1/4 teasp ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teasp ground ginger
1 1/4 teasp ground allspice
1/4 teasp ground cloves
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, and cloves. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars together on medium until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. With mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and shape into flattened disks. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand until slightly softened. On a large piece of parchment lightly dusted with flour, roll out dough to about 1/4" thick. Place parchment paper and dough on a baking sheet and freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes.
Remove dough from freezer. Working quickly, cut out dough with cookie cutters. Transfer cutouts to prepared baking sheets.
Bake until cookies are crisp but not darkened, 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cheddar Cheese and Broccoli Soup

Jacob has not been eating much recently. I thought he might not be enjoying the Thanksgiving leftovers. So, I decided to make something new for dinner using ingredients we had on hand.
I found a recipe for soup in The Family Circle Cookbook.

The soup was really cheesy. According to the cookbook, melting the cheese slowly over low heat helps prevent lumps of cheese from forming. In the past, I have occasionally had this problem, but I took the book's advice and this soup turned out smooth and creamy.

Art said he would have gladly paid $9 for this soup and sandwich at McAlister's. (Art is known to hate McAlister's Deli for being overpriced. He calls it "home of the $9 sandwich.") Jacob would not even try it, so maybe he really is just not hungry. A mom has to keep trying, though.

3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 lb broccoli flowerets, cut
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Melt butter in heavy, medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add broccoli and garlic; saute, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Gradually blend in flour; cook, stirring constantly, 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Gradually stir 1 cup milk and the shredded cheese; cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and smooth.
Stir in remaining milk, mustard, salt, and pepper. Gently heat, stirring occasionally, until soup is hot. Remove garlic before serving. Garnish with shredded cheese, if you wish. (I did not do this since the soup already contains 3 cups of cheese!)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Spice-Cured Turkey

Thanksgiving came and went so fast. Our families have returned to their own homes, and we are left here with fewer leftovers than I would have expected.

We had such a good time hosting our family and friends here for supper on Thanksgiving. I have never before hosted a holiday. Having both of our families in one place was really nice! Not having to load up and drive to Birmingham was also really nice!

Having a lot of help made the preparations low-stress. In addition to various appetizers, we had turkey, chicken and dressing, homemade cranberry sauce, broccoli and carrots, pineapple casserole, scalloped potatoes, pumpkin pie, and apple pie.

The spice-cured turkey was a big hit. This was my third time to make this recipe. The turkey has always turned out moist and full of flavor.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Deep In the Heart of Texas

Art had a conference in San Antonio this weekend. Jacob and I tagged along. While Art was conferencing, Jacob and I saw the sights and ate.

A few of our favorite sights were The Alamo, The San Antonio Children's Museum, and the fountains of Main Plaza.

Over the long weekend, we only ate at a restaurant one time- for the other meals we either got take out or ate breakfast at the hotel. My favorites were guacamole at Acenar, cheese enchiladas at Blanco Cafe, and a milk shake from Milam Diner.

Art and I have traveled somewhat extensively with Jacob. Taking Jacob new places is a lot of fun. But, it can be a challenge. Here are some things we have learned that have made our travels less stressful:
1. A portable dvd player is a life-saver. Use it in the car or on a plane- I've even heard of people setting them up in restaurants.
2. Be prepared for in-transit time to take longer than it would otherwise take without kids. Frequent stops in the car help alleviate some grumping. Getting through airport security is already a hassle. Add a small child, car seat, stroller, and diaper bag to the process and it becomes a nightmare. And, airport security will surely search you and your child. So, plan to arrive at the airport early.
3. Airlines will let passengers traveling with small children carry-on more than regular passengers. Take advantage of this and carry-on plenty of diapers, snacks, toys, and drinks. If you are delayed, you will be glad to have all that stuff with you.
4. Be prepared to do less than you originally planed to do. Kids move slowly and require lots of snacks and naps.
5. Try to stay close to the action. Pick a hotel within walking distance of most things you plan to do. Then, running back to your room for a quick nap in between activities is not a big deal.
6. Try to find a hotel that offers suites. Having a second room to close off makes a huge difference in naps and night time sleep. A few hotels we have found that offer reasonably priced suites are Residence Inn, Hawthorne Suites, Homewood Suites, and SpringHill Suites.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Potato and Feta Cheese Nuggets; Thanksgiving Experiment

Since I bought a huge container of feta at Sam's for last night's Spanakopita, I searched the internet for recipes containing feta. I mostly found Greek Salad recipes. But, I had all the ingredients for a recipe for Potato and Feta Mouthfuls, and I thought Jacob might eat it- he still lacks the chewing skills necessary for salad.

The potato and feta mouthfuls were okay. We decided they were missing something- possibly a sauce. We tried them with Dijon mustard, but that didn't help very much. Ranch dressing probably would have been good.

I also made a recipe of broccoli and carrots that I wanted to test as a possible Thanksgiving option. I had been looking for a vegetable that could be cooked on the stove. This recipe fit that description. And, the description in the cookbook promised that it would be "abundant in color as well as flavor." The book also noted the dish could be made a day ahead and reheated in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. This was very enticing.

I found the recipe in Treebeard's Cookbook. Treebeard's is a restaurant in Houston that serves Southern food. I have never been there, but I would love to go- everything I've tried in their cookbook has been delicious. (A friend from Houston gave me this cookbook several years ago.)

The broccoli and carrots had a nice flavor. Art and Jacob both really enjoyed the dish. I think I have found a side to serve on Thanksgiving!

3lb broccoli, cut in florets
1 stick unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
2lb carrots, cut in circles
1 1/2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Blanch broccoli in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon butter in the oil over moderately high heat. Add garlic. Stir in carrots, dill seeds, sugar, salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots are well browned and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Transfer the carrots to a casserole dish and cover.
Add the remaining 7 Tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the skillet and cook over high heat until the butter is fragrant and a deep nutty brown, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and toss to coat. Add the broccoli to the carrots and mix.
Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Greek food is one of my favorite types of cuisines. I especially enjoy anything involving feta cheese.
Tonight, I made quick spanakopita. This is a spinach and feta filled Greek pastry. The recipe only takes about fifteen or twenty minutes to put together.
I only used half the butter called for in this recipe. I also omitted the parsley (the parsley I bought yesterday was either left at the store or somewhere in my car).
The flaky phillo crust was crispy and the spinach filling was cheesy. Art and I really enjoyed having this for dinner. Jacob tried three bites and was obviously not impressed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fennel with Parmesan

I hate wasting food. I was raised to believe that by wasting food, I was personally hurting a starving child in China.
Feeding a finicky toddler has created a lot of wasted food. Even still, I have done everything in my power to avoid throwing away food.
I bought some fennel to use in a seemingly labor intensive potato dish that I never got around to making. Instead of tossing the fennel, I searched my recipes for a simple way to use it. I came across a recipe for Braised Fennel with Parmesan in The Family Circle Cookbook published in 1992 by Simon and Schuster.
The dish was interesting, but not something I plan to make again anytime soon.

2 large fennel bulbs
1 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" round baking dish.
Cut off fennel stalks. Halve fennel bulbs lengthwise. Remove core. Cut each half into 3 wedges.
Lay fennel wedges in prepared dish. Pour chicken broth over. Sprinkle with pepper. Cover with foil.
Bake for 45 minutes or until fennel is tender. Remove from oven.
Preheat broiler. Uncover fennel and sprinkle with Parmesan. Dot with butter.
Broil 2" from heat until top is browned, about 4 minutes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pinto Beans and Cornbread

We had a fun trip to St Louis over the weekend. We were able to have frozen custard from Ted Drewe's for the first time since our move from St Louis over three years ago. I had forgotten how good it is!
Also over the weekend, I learned something new about Jacob- he loves beans. We just happened to have them at two meals and he ate a ton of them.
So, tonight I cooked pinto beans and corn bread. I cooked the beans according to the package directions, and I added a couple of chicken bones, salt, pepper, and chili powder. I made my Ma-maw's corn bread recipe that is listed in a previous post.
Jacob has had beans in the past and did not love them. Because of his recent interest, I have been encouraged to keep reintroducing foods. He might not love beans next week, but maybe he will love tuna salad, or some other food on which I had previously given up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

We are in St Louis to visit friends this weekend. I really like to bring an edible treat of some sort whenever we visit.
I adapted a recipe for cranberry oatmeal cookies listed on I substituted whole wheat flour and added vanilla. I also added some flax seeds based on my enjoyment of Kashi's Oatmeal Raisin Flax cookies.
Flax seeds add a little texture and no real flavor. They are high in fiber. I hardly noticed them in these cookies.
These cookies turned out soft and delicious. I had a hard time saving enough to take to St Louis.
2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons flax seeds
1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
2/3 cup chopped white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheets.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine oats, flours, salt, and baking soda. Stir into butter mixture one cup at a time until combined.
Stir in flax seeds. Stir in cranberries and white chocolate.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared pans. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Moroccan Chicken and Tantrum Worthy Asparagus

My dad was in town for business and was able to have dinner with us tonight. I made a chicken recipe that I discovered in Martha Stewart's Living. I have prepared this chicken many times in the past several months. The preparation is so simple and the result is amazing.

Some of the spices called for in the recipe- like cardamom or coriander- are probably not ones you keep in your cabinet. Trust me and buy them. You will make this recipe so many times, the spices will not go to waste.

I also made an asparagus recipe sent to me by my sister-in-law, Jenny. I have never before made asparagus and I found this recipe very simple.

After sampling a little of each item on the dinner menu, Jacob started kicking and screaming. He wanted something badly. I went through all of the usual suspects- his cup, my cup, various utensils. None of those things were what he so desperately wanted. Then, we figured it out: he wanted more asparagus! My toddler was kicking and screaming for more asparagus. He ate all of the asparagus on my plate and what was left in the bowl. I will definitely be making this again.

olive oil
grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss asparagus with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread on a greased pan. Bake 15 minutes, or until tender. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bite sized pieces. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Return to pan and bake 5 more minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Egg Rolls

My mom has made egg rolls for years. When I was beginning to eat solid foods, she would feed me the filling. She got her recipe from the Birmingham News.
Now I love to make homemade egg rolls for my family as a special treat. I have modified the recipe a bit.
These are so easy and yummy. They are much better than take-out egg rolls.

1/4 small onion, diced
1 package coleslaw mix
2 carrots, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 lb ground pork or chicken
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons corn starch
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying
3 cups vegetable oil, for frying
1 package egg roll wraps (Keep covered with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out.)

Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, coleslaw mix, and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
In a medium bowl, combine 1 teaspoon oil, ground meat, soy sauce, and cornstarch.
Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Stir in meat mixture and cook, stirring, until cooked through.
Stir together meat with vegetables.
Heat 3 cups vegetable oil over medium heat.
Place 3 Tablespoons stuffing on an egg roll wrap. Wrap to close, dampening edges of wrap with a little water to make them stick.
Fry egg rolls in hot oil until brown. Flip and brown on other side. Drain on paper towels.
Serve hot with mustard, sweet and sour sauce, and chili sauce.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ideas for Your Christmas List

My family is already asking for Christmas wish lists. I have such a hard time coming up with stuff to put on mine every year.
In order to help any home chefs with Christmas list writer's block, I have compiled a list of kitchen items I own and use constantly. Feel free to add them to your list this year. And, if you love something I did not include, please let me know so I may add it to my wish list.
Note: Unless specified, the links are to items similar to mine and not necessarily what I own.

Cast Iron Skillet- The one I have is not fancy. It is perfectly seasoned and great for so many uses.
Small Cutting Board- I love that my small cutting board does not hog a lot of counter space and fits in the dishwasher.
Garlic Press- The Pampered Chef garlic press is so easy to use- I don't even peel the garlic.
Pyrex Storage Set- Cooking enough food to have left overs is a big time saver. And, unlike plastic storage containers, glass containers are oven and microwave safe, enabling quick reheating.
KitchenAid 6qt Stand Mixer- This powerful machine makes quick work of mixing. I love the dough hook attachment- it does all the kneading so I don't have to. I was able to find a refurbished model on amazon at a substantial discount. It has worked great for several years.
Oster 10-speed Blender- We received this blender as a wedding gift over six years ago. It has seen a lot of use and still works great. Recently, Jacob broke the glass pitcher. I was reluctant to get a new blender, and was so excited when I found a replacement pitcher at a yard sale. Lesson: Do not let young children play with glass pitchers.
Wooden spoons- Wooden Spoons are great because they won't scratch the non-stick surface of pots and pans. Jacob chews on one when he is teething. And, I am told they make great paddles.
Stoneware- I have mentioned before how much I love baking on stoneware. Like cast iron, a stone becomes seasoned with use and eventually requires little or no grease. Things always cook evenly on a stone. I also have a stoneware bundt pan that I use when making bundt cakes. They always release perfectly from the stone and have a nice outer crust.
Box Grater- We eat a lot of cheese. Several years ago, I was sick of my plane grater and purchased a metal box grater. It is easy to use, versatile, and convenient. It has sides for large and small grates and a side for slicing. And, it is dishwasher safe.
Ice Cream Dipper- We also eat a lot of ice cream. Look no more for the perfect scoop. Pampered Chef makes it. This tool makes scooping hard ice cream easy.
POP Storage Containers
- These storage containers hold an entire 5lb bag of flour. I always transfer the contents of bags of flour or sugar to one of these containers. The contents stay fresh and are easily accessible.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Take Out

My friend Lindsey was in town for business and was able to have dinner with me tonight.

I've mentioned before that we usually invite visitors to the house instead of taking them out to eat. It's much easier with Jacob. Since Lindsey was on an expense account, I thought she would rather eat at a nice restaurant than eat my cooking at home. (I was once a traveling business woman on an expense account and I remember how these things work.)

Back when I was initially planning our evening, I thought Art and Jacob would stay at home while Lindsey and I would go to Houston's. We would take our time catching up over a long, leisurely dinner.

The only problem was that Art had a work dinner, which meant that Jacob would spend the evening with us. I knew that with Jacob in tow dinner would be anything but leisurely. To solve this problem, I decided we would order dinner to go at the bar. Then, we could enjoy Houston's food at home.

This was a great solution! We received our food quickly and took it back to my house. Jacob ate one bite of my chicken and then had an immediate need to go to bed. After I read him a story and laid him down, Lindsey and I were able to spend the evening catching up. Takeout allowed us to have our long and leisurely dinner without the pressure that comes with taking a fifteen-month-old to a nice restaurant.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Today, I returned home from my short visit to Houston. Other than being very sick on Saturday- possibly food poisoning or just horrible morning sickness- I had a great time. I was glad to see Art and Jacob. I was also glad to see they had eaten all the chili.

I wasn't feeling up to a trip to the store, so I needed to make dinner from what we already had. We are almost always well stocked with ingredients for spaghetti. I always make my own sauce. It is easy and versatile. By now, you have probably guessed that we purchase onions, olive oil, and canned tomato products in bulk. I use them all the time!

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz tomato paste
15 oz diced tomatoes
15oz tomato sauce
bay leaf
crushed red pepper and black pepper, to taste
whole wheat spaghetti
Parmesan cheese
Feta cheese
1/4 cup diced turkey pepperoni

Heat oil in a pot over medium high. Add onion and cook until golden, 8 minutes. Stir in garlic. Stir in tomato paste, cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in diced tomatoes, sauce, bay leaf, and seasonings. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with enough sauce to coat.

Cooking Tip: Always stir sauce with pasta immediately after cooking so the pasta will bond with and absorb the maximum amount of flavor from the sauce. (This is a tip I learned from the executive chef on our Princess cruise to Mexico. It really makes a difference.)

Stir in cheeses and pepperoni. (Feta and pepperoni are not usually included in our spaghetti, but I thought I might as well use them since we had them on hand.)
Art and Jacob really liked the meal. I was still feeling a bit queasy, so I ate some pasta with no sauce.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chili, Cornbread, and Pie

I'm going to Houston this afternoon. I will be leaving Art and Jacob to fend for themselves for the weekend. Since I don't want Jacob to eat Taco Bell for every meal, I have made some chili, cornbread, and pie.

Crock pot Chili
1/2 lb dried pinto beans, cooked according to package directions and drained (I cooked them with the bone from the pork butt I made last week.)
1lb lean ground beef, browned with a chopped onion, salt, pepper, and 3 garlic cloves, then drained
1 lb chicken sausage, fully cooked and diced
28oz diced tomatoes
2 15oz cans tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
dash cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cook until bubbling and warm.

Cornbread- This is a variation of my Great-Grandmother's recipe. My mom has made it for years and has recently created this healthier variation by omitting bacon grease and using mayo with olive oil.
olive oil for greasing skillet
1 1/2 cups cornmeal (stone-ground is preferable)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 1/2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 quart buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a 9" cast iron skillet with olive oil. (If you do not own a cast iron skillet, you could use a cake pan.)
Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
In another bowl, combine egg and mayo. Stir into dry ingredients. Gradually stir in buttermilk just until mixture is combined. Pour into prepared skillet. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

I also made a pear butterscotch pie from a recipe I found in Gourmet magazine. Art's coworker gave us some home-grown pears that were perfect for this use. The butterscotch is created by brown sugar melting with pear juices. A warm slice with some vanilla ice cream is delicious! This pie is almost as hard to leave as my boys. I'm sure they will take good care of it for me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup and Popsicles

Jacob has not been feeling well. He received six immunization shots at the doctor this week and they are taking a toll on his little body.
So, I did what any good mother would do and fed him chicken noodle soup and Popsicles. We all liked both, but Jacob especially enjoyed the Popsicle. He pitched a fit when he realized there was none left.


all natural fruit bars from the store

Chicken Noodle Soup


Chicken and Broth:
8 cups water
2 carrots, cut into large pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into large pieces
1 small onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1" piece ginger root
juice of half a lemon
2 lb chicken, bone and skin intact (I used drumsticks)

Place all ingredients except chicken in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add chicken and simmer about 30 minutes.
Remove chicken and let cool until warm enough to handle. Remove skin and bone. Chop chicken into bite sized pieces.
Strain vegetables from broth. Discard vegetables and return broth to pot.

8 cups chicken broth
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package whole wheat egg noodles
chopped, cooked chicken
seasoned salt

Bring broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Boil about 10 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Stir in noodles and chicken. Cook until noodles are al dente, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and seasoned salt.

Pasta with Lamb, Parsnips, Cinnamon, and Feta

Last night for dinner, I made a recipe I saw in the "Fast, Easy, Fresh" section of Bon Appetit. The pasta came together quickly and needed no accompaniments.

Greek-Style Penne with Lamb, Parsnips, Tomatoes, and Cinnamon
November 2009


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 very large onion, halved through root end, cut lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick slices (about 4 cups)
  • 12 ounces medium parsnips (about 4), peeled, cut on slight diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces ground lamb
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
  • 12 ounces penne
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Crumbled feta cheese

  • Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and parsnips and sauté until slightly softened and deep golden brown around edges, about 9 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add lamb and sauté until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon, about 2 minutes. Stir in cinnamon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes with juice; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until parsnips are tender, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

I had never before worked with lamb or parsnips. I enjoyed the lamb- it was tasty and easy to prepare. I was not so fond of the parsnips- the prep time was relatively high and their taste contribution to the dish was not worth the trouble (although, I'm sure the nutritional benefits were).

I thought the cinnamon gave an interesting flavor and aroma to the dish. Art thought it was odd. Jacob was in bed before dinner was ready, so we will have to wait until leftovers tonight for his opinion.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Several weeks ago, when I had a bumper crop of broccoli, I was searching for a broccoli cheese soup recipe. A cheesy, creamy soup, that was still somewhat healthy was desired. The recipes I found included ingredients I generally avoid (e.g. processed cheese) or, ingredients that I do not think should be in broccoli cheese soup (cream of mushroom soup).

Then, Betsy, my sister-in-law, sent me the recipe for which I had been searching. I no longer had all that broccoli, but buying more for this recipe was worth a trip to the store.

I changed the recipe up a bit. This soup was the perfect combination of creamy and cheesy. It really tasted more like a potato cheddar soup with some broccoli.

Jacob and I both enjoyed this soup for lunch today.

3 new potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, peeled and diced
1 cup water
1 small head of broccoli, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
dash celery seeds
1 cup milk
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Add potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, and water to a pot and cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes.
Add broccoli to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
Stir in sage and celery seeds.
Combine milk and flour in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Stir into soup and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add cheese to soup and stir until melted.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Oatmeal Bread and a Date

Tonight, Art and I are going out to dinner without Jacob. While Jacob is hanging out with the babysitter (or, sleeping), Art and I will be enjoying a relaxing meal at Tsunami cooked by Not Me and having an adult conversation. (This restaurant is amazing. If you are in Memphis, you should make a point to go. I love everything I have tried, but the ginger doughnuts with coconut gelato are especially dear to my heart.)

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I can't wait!

Earlier today, while daydreaming about tasting every last bite of dinner, I made oatmeal bread. My mom gave me this recipe.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup honey or molasses
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups boiling water
Combine all ingredients. Stir in 2 Tablespoons oil. Let cool to luke-warm.

4 1/2 teaspoons yeast (2 packs)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water
Dissolve yeast and sugar in water in a small bowl. Let sit in a warm place until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add to above mixture.

3 1/2 cups bread flour
Add flour to dough. Knead about 10 minutes. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean dish cloth, and let rise 45 minutes.
Divide dough in half and put in two greased bread loaf pans. Cover with a dish cloth and let rise 30 to 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake bread 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes in pans. Serve warm.

This bread is always so good. Since it is best enjoyed warm and fresh, I love to give one loaf to a friend. We like to eat it with butter and jam. It is also good to use for peanut butter sandwiches.

And now, an important message from Jacob:

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Homemade pizza is one of the best foods known to man. My mom has made an amazing pizza for years. I have been spoiled and am still never quite satisfied with a delivery pizza.

A pizza created at home can be customized to suit any taste. Art likes a thin, crispy crust. I like a thick, chewy crust. We both love toppings of all kinds- especially cheese.

Tonight, I made a crust based on a recipe I found in Martha Stewart Living. I have made it several times before. The combination of crispy outside and chewy inside suits us perfectly.

I substituted 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all purpose flour called for in the recipe. Since I do not own a pizza peel, I put my shaped dough on a preheated stone and then added the toppings. Then, I placed the stone in the oven and bake the pizza at 500 degrees for about 8 minutes.

I made an easy pizza sauce.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 of a yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz tomato paste
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
dash of crushed red pepper flakes

Heat oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Saute onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir 1 minute. Add tomato paste, stir 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes. Simmer 15 minutes.

(I have noticed the presence of onions, garlic, and tomato sauce in just about every meal I make...)

In addition to the sauce, I topped the pizzas with torn spinach, roasted red bell peppers, turkey pepperoni, grated carrot, caramelized onion, Parmesan, feta, ricotta, and mozzarella.

I realize carrot on a pizza is pretty unusual. I used the carrot to add some more veggie power to the pizza. They were finely grated and not at all noticeable.

Everyone enjoyed the pizza for dinner. And, we will enjoy the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Caramel Apple Bites

Happy Halloween!

We needed to bring a treat to our neighborhood party. Caramel apples are one of my favorite treats, but who wants to eat an entire caramel apple at a party? They are messy and large, leaving the eater with a sticky face and a belly too full to sample other treats.

My solution: caramel apple bites.

I cored and quartered the apples. Then, I melted a bag of caramels and 2 Tablespoons of milk over medium low heat in a sauce pan. I poked a stick in each apple quarter and coated it in caramel. The apple bites were refrigerated until we went to the party.

They did not look as pretty as whole caramel apples, but they tasted just as good.

Friday, October 30, 2009

California Tuna Salad- No Mayo!

Traditionally, I do not like tuna salad. Canned meat coated in mayonnaise is not appealing.
Tuna is controversial because of the potentially high mercury content. Experts seem to agree that this is not a problem if eaten in moderation. Tuna is also a cheap source of omega 3 fatty acids and protein.
Several years ago, I came across a recipe for California Tuna Salad in The Family Circle Cookbook published in 1992 by Simon and Schuster. I was intrigued by the combination of some of my favorite ingredients: lime, honey, cumin, avocado, and roasted peppers. Mayonnaise was no where on the list!
I made this salad for our lunch today, and served it with some torn spinach on wheat bread. I thought the light meal would be a nice contrast to the lasagna we had for dinner last night- and will have again tonight.
Clearly, Jacob did not enjoy the sandwich. Maybe this was because I accidentally put an entire can of water chestnuts in the salad instead of only half a can. While half of an 8oz can would give the salad a nice crunch, the entire can was overpowering. I still enjoyed mine, at least.

1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon liquid red pepper seasoning
1 ripe avocado
2 cans (6 1/2 oz each) tuna packed in water, drained
half of a 7oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced
1/2 of a 8oz can water chestnuts, diced
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley

Whisk together lime rind, juice, oil, honey, cumin, salt and red pepper seasoning. Pit and peel avocado; cube. Toss in dressing.
Flake tuna into bowl with the avocado and dressing. Add red pepper, water chestnuts, and cilantro. Toss to combine. Serve chilled.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lasagna and Oven Roasted Green Beans

Making dinner tonight was an accomplishment; I never thought I would get it done. Jacob was unreasonably grumpy, and I found myself trying to layer sauce, pasta, cheese, and vegetables while holding Jacob, pulling a string on his toy dog, and wearing a hard hat. Many times I gave up and left the kitchen holding a screaming, squirming toddler.

Mr. Grumpy Pants was not my only obstacle. I grabbed the box of lasagna noodles only to find four and a half noodles left. I needed six! Later, I pulled the foil from the box and only got a three inch sheet. How would I cover the 9x13" pan with that little sliver of foil? I improvised with an upside-down cookie sheet.

Finally, I managed to pull the lasagna together and get it in the oven. Jacob even helped me sprinkle on some mozzarella. Never mind that it had only four and a half noodles and was covered with an inverted cookie sheet instead of foil. We were on our way to having a delicious spicy-gross-mixture for dinner.

I made a variation of a lasagna recipe my mom has made for years (she found it on the internet before getting recipes off the internet was cool). The noodles do not have to be precooked: a small amount of water poured around the edge of the pan and a tight covering of foil ensure the noodles are cooked to perfection right in the pan.

I used lean, organic ground beef and cooked it with a small, diced onion. I also added two cooked and diced links of hot turkey sausage to the sauce, which was a nice twist. To add some extra vegetables, I included a layer of baby spinach and a layer of eggplant. (Art didn't notice the eggplant. So, if you are generally not a fan, don't be afraid to go ahead and add it.) The spinach cooked in the lasagna and needed no preparation. I peeled and thinly sliced a small eggplant. I sprinkled each piece with salt and pepper and sauteed in olive oil about 1 minute per side.
Instead of using store bought spaghetti sauce, I made my own.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz tomato paste (put the other half of the can in a container and freeze for another use)
3 15oz cans tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

In a medium pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and stir until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. I also use this sauce in other pasta dishes.

For a side dish, I roasted green beans in the oven. This has been our favorite side dish for a while.

green beans, washed and trimmed (snap off the ends)
drizzle of olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper

Lightly grease a metal pan. Spread beans in a single layer over pan and drizzle with oil. Shake to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in oven preheated to whatever temperature the main dish is cooking- in this case, 375 degrees- until tender, about 20 minutes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cheddar Garlic Bacon Biscuits and Discovery

Art and I like to try new food. If we see an item on the menu we do not recognize, one of us will sometimes order it. Or, if we see unfamiliar produce at the store, we will sometimes buy it. Amazing food that we've never before encountered is waiting to be discovered.

We want to pass this curiosity on to Jacob.

Today, Jacob and I tried an Oro Blanco Grapefruit for the first time. Outside, it looked like an unusually large green grapefruit. Inside, it looked like a typical grapefruit with really thick skin. The flesh was not bitter like regular grapefruit. Jacob ate half of it. If I had left any of my half, he probably would have eaten that, too.

After this exciting adventure into the culinary unknown, we had last night's completely familiar lentil soup for dinner. I also made biscuits. But these were not just any biscuits. They were cheddar garlic bacon biscuits.

Tonight, Jacob ate the soup- he also ate it for lunch earlier. The highlight of dinner was the cheddar garlic bacon biscuits. Art said they made his day.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
6 Tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 pieces bacon, cooked crisp, drained, and crumbled
1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet- I use a seasoned baking stone.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and garlic powder. Using a pastry blender or two forks, blend the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. Stir in the cheese and bacon. Stir in the milk until ingredients come together and seem evenly moist.
Drop large spoonfuls of dough onto prepared sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm. Makes about 10 biscuits.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Homemade Lentil Soup. Store-bought cookies.

A comment on yesterday's blog post inspired today's dinner. Please, keep sharing your comments!

Art had a meeting at work and was not home for dinner, so I kept the meal simple and made soup.

While Jacob ate his lunch, I made some chicken broth to use in the soup. Making chicken broth is quick, it saves money, and it is a good way to control the sodium content of dishes that require its use. It can be made in large quantities and frozen.

I used the bones I froze from the chicken I cooked last week for Chicken Enchiladas. Along with the chicken bones, I used the following:
10 cups water
1 carrot, cut into large pieces
1 onion, peeled and quartered
the tops of 1 bunch of celery (I break off the top part of each celery stalk)
1 bay leaf
1 small piece of ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

I boiled all of these in a pot for about 20 or 30 minutes. I drained the broth and put it in the refrigerator until I was ready to make the soup.

Before dinner, I cooked 2 cups of dry, rinsed lentils along with a generous pinch of salt and a piece of bacon according to the package directions. I drained the lentils, discarded the bacon (Art was horrified to hear of this step), and added them to the soup.

Cooking Tip: Always drain home-cooked beans from the soaking liquid (or, in the case of lentils which do not require soaking, the cooking liquid). The liquid absorbs a lot of the oligosaccharides (simple sugars that cause gas because they are hard to digest) contained in beans.

My version of Lentil Soup was thick and enjoyable. Something about the creamy texture of the warm soup was very satisfying. The bacon cooked with the lentils imparted a slightly smoky flavor.
Jacob ate about five bites and was done. I'm blaming that on the largest snack in history, which he ate about one hour before dinner. Surely he liked the Lentil Soup. Surely. I will see how he likes the leftovers tomorrow.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 1/2 cups chicken broth (add more broth if you prefer a less thick soup)
2 cups lentils, cooked and drained
1 cup brown rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 cup chopped fresh spinach

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Saute onion, carrot, and celery for about 8 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Stir in remaining ingredients except for the spinach. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Ladle about 1/4 of the soup into a blender. Remove the center plug from the blender cap. Place cap on blender and cover with a folded kitchen towel. Puree soup on low until smooth- if soup is too thick, add water by Tablespoonfuls until the desired consistency is reached. Stir pureed soup back into soup in the pot. Season to taste.

Now, to the part about cookies: I bought a box of Kashi Oatmeal Raisin Flax cookies at the store today. They are REALLY good! I have eaten three of the eight cookies in the box. Two of them I ate with some ice cream in the form of a ice cream cookie sandwich.

My goal is to recreate these cookies at home. Maybe I will make enough to share with my family before I eat them all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shells with Spinach. Also, Bacon.

I rarely follow recipes exactly. I love to tweak ingredients. Most of my adjustments involve adding items we love to something (e.g., crisp pieces of bacon mixed into pancake batter) or, substituting healthy alternatives (whole wheat flour instead of white flour). Some adjustments are just necessary.

Before having The Ticking Time Bomb, I would take my sweet time in the grocery store. Which five apples are the best in this pile? Should I get vanilla bean or French vanilla ice cream? I forgot to get mozzarella; I better mosey back to the other side of the store to get it...

Now, I'm lucky if I manage to get to the store, much less purchase half the items on my list. Needless to say, I don't always have every ingredient needed for a recipe.

Last night, we needed something for supper that was not leftover pulled pork for the third meal in a row. We had a large container of fresh spinach I wanted to use before it went bad. I was also craving pasta. I looked through some cook books to see what I could make that combined spinach and pasta. In addition to spinach, we had whole wheat pasta shells, Parmesan, butter, salt, and pepper- four of the nine ingredients in Baked Shells with Fresh Spinach and Pancetta. Never mind the other ingredients- including one in the recipe's title- I just used other items I had that seemed to fit.

My version of the recipe- listed after the original below- turned out well. The tasty sauce clinging to the shells and the gooey cheese topping were a great combination.

Here is the recipe from pages 94 and 95 of PASTA from Food and Wine Books published in 1994 by American Express Publishing Corp.
3 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 Tablespoons tomato puree (tomato puree is like tomato sauce without the added spices)
6 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 lb pancetta, cut into small dice
3/4 lb fresh spinach
3/4 lb medium pasta shells

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 T butter, the heavy cream and tomato puree to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 T Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
In a large frying pan, melt 1 T butter over moderately high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until slightly crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach in batches and cook, tossing until wilted. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2 quart shallow baking dish. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the shells until almost tender, but slightly underdone, about 8 minutes. Drain.
Combine the tomato sauce, spinach, and shells. Transfer to baking dish and top with remaining Parmesan. Bake until very hot, 15 minutes.

Here is my variation on the dish.

2 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 15oz can tomato sauce
6 Tablespoons Parmesan
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 pieces bacon
3/4 lb fresh spinach
3/4 lb medium whole wheat pasta shells
2 pieces mozzarella string cheese, strung

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 T butter, the milk and tomato sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until reduced and slightly thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 T Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
In a large frying pan, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain. Cool and crumble. Drain bacon grease from frying pan and return to stove over moderately low heat. Add the spinach in batches and cook, tossing until wilted. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a deep dish baker- my Pampered Chef baker is seasoned and needs no butter. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the shells until almost tender, but slightly underdone, 8 minutes. Drain.

Combine the tomato sauce, spinach, bacon and shells. Transfer to baking dish and top with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella string cheese. Bake until very hot, 15 minutes.

FTC-mandated disclosure: I have received no valuable consideration in exchange for any of the products mentioned in this post.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Goldfish and Other Snacks

Jacob got grumpy yesterday afternoon while I was preparing dinner. Numerous attempts to distract him failed, so I suggested that Art offer him some Goldfish crackers. This worked: Jacob's eyes were glued to the container full of tasty crackers as Art pulled it out of the pantry. As soon as they were within reach, Jacob grabbed the largest handful he could manage and shoved the unfortunate school of fish into his mouth.

We eat a lot of snacks. When we are not eating snacks, we are eating a meal. Life is much less stressful if snacks are readily available. Jacob eats a lot of Goldfish (Art and I do as well). Processed cheese-flavored crackers for every snack, every day is not the most nutritious habit to develop.

Here's a list of the non-Goldfish snacks we regularly enjoy. I hope you will be inspired to regulate your family's blood sugar levels with some of these tasty options.

1. String Cheese. Jacob loves it. Art loves it. I love it. Processed, yes, but it's a pretty good option.

2. Sliced, Peeled Apple with Peanut Butter. This is a snack that is filling, nutritious, and balanced.

3. Simple Smoothie: Place whatever fruit you have on hand (apple, pear, grape, frozen berries, banana, etc.) in a blender with some plain yogurt and a drizzle of honey. Blend until smooth. Sometimes, I even throw in some pumpkin puree or fresh spinach- just try it. It's a lot better for everyone than snacks laden with hydrogenated oils.

4. Pancakes: Without syrup, pancakes make a great snack food. You can make a batch and freeze the leftovers (separated by plastic wrap) in a sandwich bag. Take one out and throw it in the toaster when you need a quick, portable snack. Try making pancakes from scratch. Doing so is surprisingly easy and you will probably have everything you need on hand. Substitute whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose flour to get some extra fiber (stuff that makes you feel full). I also add pumpkin puree to pancake batter- you can try mixing in sliced banana, chocolate chips, or cooked bacon bits. Seriously: cooked bacon bits make for great pancakes.

5. Fresh Veggies and Hummus. Jacob will eat the hummus on a piece of wheat bread. Fresh veggies are a choking hazard for small children, which I generally try to avoid. Bon Appetit has an easy recipe for hummus that I have made recently.

6. Cherry Orange Oatmeal Outdoors Bars: These bars are my favorite snack right now- my mouth is watering just thinking about them. One small bar will fill you up for hours.

I'm going to go find a snack...

Friday, October 23, 2009

BBQ With Beans, Potato "Salad," Some Carrot-and-Cranberry Salad-ish Stuff, and Apple Dumplings

Taking out-of-town guests to dinner at our favorite local restaurants used to be fun. A little over a year ago, though, I gave birth to the one I affectionately call "the ticking time bomb." Eating out now usually results in Art and me placating Jacob as long as possible with straws, spoons, lemon slices, chopsticks, sips from our water glass--anything. Tick. Tick. Tick. BOOM! Jacob decides the meal is over.

My father-in-law is in town tonight and we ate at home. We ahad a pulled pork recipe my mother-in-law used to make. The recipe is pretty hands-off other than the shredding of the meat. The pork butt (a cut of meat from the pig's shoulder- not the butt) is slow roasted in the oven. The cooking time and temperature can be adjusted to the cook's schedule. The recipe includes a vinegar sauce. We like to serve the pork on buns with a store-bought barbecue sauce.

5lb pork butt
1 1/4 cups water
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon pepper
1/2 Tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons canola oil

Determine how long the pork should cook and preheat the oven accordingly. (When planning, remember to allow about 30 minutes for meat to cool before being pulled.)
Temperature - Bake Time
375 - 1 hour
350 - 1 1/2 hours
275 - 2 hours
250 - 3 hours

Generously salt and pepper the pork. Place in a baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake until pork is cooked through and fork tender. Set aside until it is cool enough to handle. Shred.
For the vinegar sauce, combine water, salt, pepper, and red pepper in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Add vinegar and oil. Return to a boil and remove from heat. Pour over shredded pork.

No pulled pork dinner would be complete without a side of baked beans. I made my mom's recipe.


2 15oz cans baked beans (I bought 365 Organic Original Baked Beans)
1/2 diced onion
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ketchup
2 Tablespoons syrup (I did not have syrup, so I used molasses)
2 pieces bacon, fried and crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a baking dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until bubbly.

Along with pulled pork sandwiches, we had an unusual potato salad inspired by a recipe I found in Southern Living. "Potato salad" is a misleading name for this dish. It tastes nothing like the typical mayonnaise-and-relish-drenched potatoes that normally go by the name. This version is served hot and is full of flavor.

Instead of grilling the potatoes, I bake them in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Also, I use only half the dressing and bacon.

We are also having a carrot and cranberry salad recipe featured in Bon Appetit.

I am considering making this salad for Thanksgiving and want to try it out first. (We are hosting Thanksgiving this year for the first time ever!) In a few words, this salad turned out to be weird. I will not be making this for Thanksgiving, or ever again. The salad tasted like carrots tossed with vinegar rather than the cranberry-y, ginger-y goodness I had been expecting.

For dessert, we enjoyed apple dumplings with Edy's Double Churned Caramel ice cream. Wow. This was good. Again, I based my recipe on one from Southern Living. I substituted 1 cup whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, butter for the shortening, and omitted the pecans. The apples were baked to a soft, fluffy consistency. The sugar, water, spice, and butter sauce baked into a caramel-like syrup that perfectly complemented the apples.

Dessert is always my favorite course, and my apple dumpling did not let me down. It probably would have been Jacob's, too, but he didn't make it that far into the meal. Good thing we didn't go out to eat.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Broccoli Cheese Omelet

This morning I awake at 5:55am. What was that sound? Silence? Normally, I wake up to Jacob yelling at me from his room. In no uncertain toddler babble terms, he lets me know he is ready to get up. I take advantage of this rare opportunity to have a few minutes to myself. Then, I start thinking about breakfast.

We are on a pretty strict breakfast schedule. Every morning Art has oatmeal with dried fruit and a splash of milk, I have Wheat Chex and soy milk, and Jacob has Cheerios with milk and some of my Wheat Chex. Every other morning I make eggs. Occasionally, I will make pancakes.

This morning, since I am still the only person up, I decide to make an omelet.
An omelet is a great way to get veggies and protein at the start of the day.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess I do not eat eggs. One reason for a reader to trust an egg hater's omelet recipe: two egg lovers, Art and Jacob, give this omelet a thumbs up. So, please, keep reading.

Making a picture perfect omelet can be a little intimidating, but I don't let that stop me. If it doesn't come out of the pan perfectly, just call it "scrambled eggs with broccoli and cheese."


1 cup broccoli florets, most of the stem removed
1/2 Tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped spinach
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon milk
dash of salt
dash of pepper
1/2 cup finely grated extra sharp cheddar cheese


Simmer broccoli florets in a small pot of salted boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain. In a small saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and spinach. Stir for one minute, or until spinach wilts slightly. Remove to a plate.
In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper until fluffy. Pour eggs into saute pan heated over medium heat. Let cook until edge of omelet is set. Run plastic spatula around the edge while tilting the pan to let uncooked egg run to the edge. Repeat until omelet is set and no longer runny. Place spinach and garlic, broccoli, and shredded cheese on one side of omelet. Run spatula under omelet and fold in half. Carefully move to a serving plate.

Jacob, not fully awake, and Gerard enjoying breakfast

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas

Our family--my husband specifically--likes anything that can be called a "spicy gross mixture." Mexican fare often fits that description, but healthy food rarely does. With these enchiladas, I was able to put together a spicy gross mixture with some redeeming nutritional value.

Whole wheat tortillas are better for you than white flour tortillas, but Art doesn't really like them. I used corn tortillas instead. I exchanged the typical Spanish white rice for my own spiced-up version of brown rice. Brown rice is much better for you than white rice, and, in Art's opinion, this recipe combined the brown rice's flavor with the spices quite nicely. Instead of sodium-laden canned enchilada sauce, I quickly whipped up my own with items I regularly have on hand. Finally, I added just enough mouth-watering cheese to create the desired "goo factor," but I didn't add so much as to make it heart-attack inducing.

My number one challenge when fixing dinner every night is the fact that Jacob needs constant attention. Being able to focus on food preparation for more than five minutes at a stretch is never guaranteed. That's why I really like meals that can be prepared in short bursts. On days we spend at home, I have time to cook a little here and there throughout the day.

I started tonight's enchiladas this morning. I began marinating the chicken after breakfast. I put the chicken in the oven and made the rice and sauce during Jacob's oh-so-short afternoon nap. Shortly before dinner, I combined it all together and baked it.

My version of chicken enchiladas turned out to be satisfying and flavorful. As a bonus, they are lighter and healthier than what you would typically find at a restaurant. In our experience, restaurant enchiladas have usually been drowned in sauce and smothered in cheese. Art pointed out that he liked how these enchiladas weren't overpowered by either.

1 1/2 lb chicken thighs, skin and bones intact
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon each of salt, black pepper, and garlic powder
1 small yellow onion, diced, divided
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked according to package directions
1/2 of a 6oz can of tomato paste (Freeze the other half to save for another use.)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
15 oz can tomato sauce
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups torn baby spinach
16-20 corn tortillas


Shredded Chicken:
Place chicken in a gallon size freezer bag. Combine 1/2 cup olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a bowl. Add 1/4 of the diced onion. Pour marinade over chicken and seal the bag to close. Shake the bag to cover all the chicken. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 24.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken in an iron skillet or other oven proof dish. Pour marinade over chicken. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. De-bone chicken. (Throw javascript:void(0)the bones in a Ziploc bag and freeze for making chicken broth later.) Shred chicken and place in a medium sized bowl. Refrigerate until ready to make enchiladas. Or, proceed with the recipe.

Spiced-up Rice:
In a saute pan, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add the remaining diced onion and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic cloves. Cook and stir about 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook until heated, about 1 minute. Remove half of onion mixture to a medium sauce pan for use in the enchilada sauce. With the remaining onion mixture, reduce the heat to medium and stir in cooked rice until combined. Add to the chicken and refrigerate, or proceed.

Enchilada Sauce:
Add the can of tomato sauce and bay leaf to the onion mixture you set aside earlier. Stir over medium low heat until combined. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes. Stir in cumin and remove bay leaf. Season to taste. Set aside.

Enchilada Stuffing:
Combine shredded chicken, rice, 1 cup of cheese, beans, and spinach. Stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray a large oven proof dish(es) with cooking spray. (I used a 9x13" and a 8x8" dish.) Heat a skillet over high heat. Heat the tortillas on hot skillet until warm. Place stuffing down center of warmed tortilla and fold each side in. Place in prepared dish, seam side down. Repeat until all stuffing is used. Spoon sauce over enchiladas and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and top with remaining 1 cup shredded cheese. Bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Makes about 16 enchiladas.