On the Menu for the Week {Getting Back Into the Routine}


Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4

Eggs over medium with sour cream & green tomatillo salsa at Flying Biscuit

Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Jambalaya Mix with bell pepper, onions, and sausage

Buffalo chicken crack dip {corn} quesadillas

Ginger & cumin marinated tomatoes

Cool as a cucumber salad

Chicken satay with peanut sauce

Spinach and garlic butter steak pinwheels

On the Menu for the Week

It’s the beginning of July, which means I can crack my Cooking Light: Annual Recipes cookbook open to a new month! I picked this cookbook up for $2-$3 at the thrift store and it was the best find. It catalogues every single recipe from a year’s worth of Cooking Light magazine into one hardback book. Though it’s from 2004, it doesn’t really matter because food is timeless 🙂 The July section features recipes based around tomatoes, peaches and dinner at dusk, which will undoubtedly make appearances in my On the Menu posts for July!
Traditional & buffalo chicken gluten-free pizza bites {recipe to come}

Cool as a cucumber salad

Tuna and white bean salad {update: not blown away; will post recipe if I can adapt it!}

Salad with Asian ginger dressing

Potato salad

Rice noodles with peanut lime chicken

Chicken salad

And something with my big flat of peaches!

What are you cooking this week? Any great tomato or peach recipes?

Mexican Casserole Variations

When I saw Fannetastic Food’s super easy and adaptable Mexican Chicken Lasagna, I decided to make it as a part of the four course Mexican-inspired meal I was planning to whip up.

I decided to make two different versions of the casserole- one vegetarian and one with chicken. Both had plenty of beans though!

On the big one:
  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded chicken
  • Chopped red onion
  • Black olives
  • Yellow and green sauteed peppers
  • Salsa
  • Canned green chiles (on half)
  • Chopped jalapenos (on other half)
  • Cheddar cheese

On the smaller one:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Chopped red onion
  • Refried beans
  • Black olives
  • Shredded zucchini
  • Salsa
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Corn (cut off the cob)
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Enchilada sauce

I lined both pans with corn tortillas (6 in total)

Next up: refried beans for the smaller one; kidney and black beans for the bigger one

Corn and zucchini for the small one; sauteed yellow and green peppers for the large one

Ready for the oven!

Cover the casseroles with tin foil and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes {until the cheese is melted}. I couldn’t decide which one I liked better!

A sample of both versions served with spiced tomato & chickpea soup and watermelon & feta salad

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If I had my choice, I would have used flour tortillas, but the corn tortillas ended up tasting great anyway- and they’re gluten-free.

Pepper jack cheese would be good in addition to or in place of cheddar cheese.

I made the big one with sour cream and the smaller one with plain Greek yogurt- in the future, I would just use Greek yogurt because it’s healthier and you can’t taste a difference!

The chopped jalapenos were a bit intense {even for me!} so I would stick to sauteed jalapenos or the canned green chiles next time.

Tips for Preparing a Multiple Course Meal

The other day, I prepared a four course Mexican-inspired feast. Throughout my four hours of cooking, I wrote down a few valuable tips for maximizing efficiency and minimizing time and stress when preparing such a big meal.

  • Take the lid of your trash can and move it close to your work stations.
  • Read through all of your recipes first so you know how long each thing takes.
  • Set out items that need to be at room temperature {for example, I needed room temperature cream cheese for my Mexican chocolate cheescake}.
  • Likewise, plan ahead for items that need to be defrosted. For last minute defrosting, place item in a Ziploc bag and place in a bowl of warm water. Do this early on in the cooking process so you don’t have to rush the defrosting. Rotate water every 5-10 minutes.
  • Set up separate stations with all of the ingredients needed for each recipe.
  • Check each recipe to see what ingredients you need for more than one. For example, I used red onions for my watermelon feta salad and my enchilada casserole, so I chopped enough for both at the beginning.
  • Likewise, do the same steps at the same time. For example, open all your cans and then put the can opener away.
  • Roast vegetables {like the red pepper I used} in tin foil to minimize clean up.
  • Be comfortable with a mess. Clean up as you go but realize the kitchen will be a wreck until you’re done.
  • That being said, clean your cheese grater right away. Nothing is worse than trying to pry dried cheese off a grater!
  • Think ahead to what you can make with leftovers. Red onions and black olives from a Mexican casserole and feta from a watermelon feta salad can be made into a simple Greek pasta.

Check out Timing a Multi-Course Meal like a Pro for more helpful tips!

Source: westelm.com via Lauren on Pinterest

Buffalo Chicken Crack Dip

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Remember that buffalo chicken dip recipe that I promised you? Here it is. But I must warn you- be careful. This stuff is addicting- some even refer to it as crack dip.

  • 5 cooked chicken breasts (shred after cooling). Try this method for great chicken!
  • 2 8oz packages of cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons blue cheese or ranch dressing
  • 8-10 oz of Franks Hot sauce (they generally come in 12 oz bottles)
  • 2+ cups of shredded cheddar

Mix together and bake in a casserole dish for 30-45 min at 350 degrees. Serve with tortilla chips, carrots, celery, etc.

Ha, clearly I make no claims of being a healthy food blogger. I always joke that I’m 85% tofu and nutritional yeast and 15% buffalo wings and Bud Light. Gotta have balance in life, right?!

Thank you to Kelley for this recipe!

link roundup for the week

Here’s an interesting video clip on how Starbucks trains customers how to behave {read: why you will be publicly shamed if you ask for a medium coffee instead of a grande coffee}.

For all the recent graduates out there: here’s 10 things your commencement speaker won’t tell you.

I loved this insightful blog post on being busy and prioritizing.

Struggling with the difference between e.g. and i.e.? Let Grammar Girl teach you!

I’m so intrigued by this story of a guy who kept a spreadsheet to track his Match.com interactions. On one hand- hilarious that he has a spreadsheet. Probably pretty stupid to send it to someone. But suing the girl who sent it out? Really? What girl wouldn’t forward something like that to her friends? Though she should have covered up the identities of the other girls… The whole things reminds of the Duke girl’s “thesis ” on her hook ups.

Another one for those of us going on vactions: loving Nutritionella’s Vacation Recovery Checklist.

And a weekly tip from The Kitchn: 4 tips for solo cooking!

tuscan white bean gluten-free pizza

When I was trying to figure out pizza toppings, I remembered my recent Tuscan white bean soup soup and decided to go with a Tuscan theme again. I had leftover cannelli beans from my spicy sriracha bean dip, so I turned to Google for inspiration and found a great recipe on Vegan Planet.
 First I prepped my gluten-free Red Mill pizza crust. I only used half of it, which filled my whole pizza pan.
 I wrapped up the other half for later use!
 Pizza toppings laid out and ready to go

  • White cannelli beans
  • Garlic
  • Tomato paste
  • Chopped roasted red pepper
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • A sprinkling of dried red chili peppers
  • Caramelized onions
  • Feta

Roast red pepper in a 400 degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes on each side; remove from oven and wrap in tin foil. After about 30 minutes, peel skin off {it should come off easily}. If you’d like, buy jarred roasted red peppers.

Caramelize onions {mine were already prepared, which cut down on prep time}.

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium. When the oil is hot, add chopped garlic and saute until it becomes aromatic. Add cannelli beans and heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash with a fork. 

Spread bean mixture and tomato paste onto pre-cooked pizza crust. Layer with other ingredients except feta. Bake for 10 minutes at 425. Sprinkle with feta; bake for 5-8 more minutes.

Enjoy!

on the menu for the week

A few new(ish) ones:

Plus some snacks:

  • Pistachios
  • Fiberful Ends & Pieces
  • Watermelon
  • Chobani

A few things I didn’t get around to making the past few weeks:

And lastly, a few of my go to favorites:

the unexpected costs of cooking

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When I was a senior in college, cooking at home became the norm instead of the exception to the rule of eating out all the time. I started taking lunch to work almost every day and cooking dinner at home most weeknights. Going to restaurants or ordering delivery became a special treat instead of a boring regular thing.

The rewards of cooking at home regularly are tremendous: you have more control over what you eat; it’s healthier; you get to experience the fun of experimenting with different recipes; it’s easier to eat gluten-free; etc. I realized I could avoid the guilt of buying an overpriced sandwich when I knew I could have made the same- or better- at home for a fraction of the cost.

But, as with any lifestyle change, there are pros and cons. The biggest “loss” I faced when I started cooking at home regularly was time- though it’s hard to see it as a loss when I find cooking calming, fun, and rewarding.

But I did end up spending money on different things. The list below is not meant as a deterrent to cooking at home, just a reality check! It does ultimately save a ton of money, but be sure to budget for the following:

Spices {cooking’s not the same without a stocked spice cabinet}

A lunch box, extra Tupperware containers, and Ziploc bags {gotta haul that food to work somehow}

Plastic wrap and tin foil {more food in the fridge to cover and arrange}

Sponges, dish soap, dishwasher detergent, and paper towels {more clean up to do}

Kitchen tools like immersion blenders, food processors, thermometers, etc {I always find that the more I buy, the more I need!}

Cookbooks {not necessary with the internet but fun to have!}

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What other unexpected costs {financial or otherwise} have you encountered  as a product of cooking at home?

balsamic-splashed tuscan bean soup

Some of my best recipe creations come from cleaning out my fridge and using up leftovers {remember my easy lentil chicken bacon soup?}.

After preparing the kale + escarole + tomato bean casserole that I found on The Bitten Word, I had some cannelli beans and canned tomatoes left over. Inspired by a recipe on Food.com, this Tuscan-inspired soup was born!

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Toss in half a chopped onion, a clove of chopped garlic, and 1 1/2 to 2 peeled and sliced carrots. Saute until tender. Toss in half a can of cannelli white beans and half a large can of diced tomatoes with their juice. Cover with chicken or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Add in sea salt, pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes to taste. Sprinkle with a big pinch each of chopped fresh parsley and basil. Simmer for 25-35 minutes or until the flavors are well-blended.* Before serving, add a splash {use sparingly} of balsamic vinegar. 

This is a pretty basic bean soup recipe but the splash of balsamic vinegar really kicks up the flavor and adds a unique element for your taste buds!

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*Have you ever tossed soup ingredients into a pot and tried a bite? It most likely tasted a bit…off, like the flavors hadn’t quite blended. Maybe you could taste the basil or the cayenne or other spice, but all together, the soup didn’t seem to suit your taste buds in the right way.

Generally I find that simmering the soup for longer gives it a flavor with more well-blended depth. You may still be able to taste the different flavors, but the soup feels more coherent, for lack of a better word.

Try mixing up your spices too- I love the coriander flavor in this spiced tomato chickpea soup and the light cumin taste in this polychromatic soup. But remember- sometimes you only need salt and pepper, like in this potato leek soup!