Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

The Sweet Taste of Success!


The following post, along with my previous three posts were written back in October/November but never posted. Here is the final outcome of my 21 day sugar detox!

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November 8, 2014

The past two weeks have gone by so fast and I am happy to report that both Hubs and I completed the 21DSD successfully (with not one “cheat” or “slip-up”!). Overall this has been a major game changer in our household. We both feel great, have a lot more energy and are really happy we did this.

As for me, specifically, I can say that I feel so much better and the best part is that I do not have those crazy cravings and I no longer get hungry every two hours (nor do I have that “I’m about to pass out if I don’t eat a damn candy bar in the next 30 seconds” feeling). After the initial first week my hunger evened out and I was able to go 4-6 hours between meals and only occasionally grabbed a snack…if I was hungry. After the 21 days I lost about 5 pounds, my skin improved and I was noticeably less bloated.

The end result is that I’ve discovered a love of real food. It is so good. Even before we finished the full 21 days Hubs and I decided to get rid of all of our processed food and continue to eat real food only. Of course, we are not going to eat completely without sugar, but we will not be eating anything with refined sugar…at least not very often; and we will try to limit our sugar intake. In addition to the sugar, we’ve decided to cut out bread, pasta, traditional and whole wheat flour, etc.. These are things I have learned my body does not tolerate well.  We’ve decided to continue to eat dairy (in limited amounts….the only thing different is that we switched to “full fat” dairy so that it is less processed and I try to buy local organic cheese and milk when I can. Occasional rice or quinoa is ok, and overall we are just trying to stick to meat, fruits and vegetables.

Packed up all of our processed food to donate!

Packed up all of our processed food to donate!

I am all for living this way most of the time, but I do feel that if we want a piece of cake or a bowl of ice cream, then we should not deny ourselves. Through this experience I have found that I don’t really “crave” those things anymore and when we did indulge in some molten chocolate cake to celebrate our success it tasted too sweet and was not as satisfying as it once was. Don’t get me wrong, it was freakin’ awesome! But a few bites were enough to make me happy…and then it was just too much sweetness.

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I know that by no means will I ever be perfect and eat a strict Paleo or clean diet. I won’t always shop at Whole Foods, buy organic or grass-fed. And I am ok with that! What matters the most to me is that most of the time I will do my best and try to avoid sugar and processed food and eat as close to the real thing as possible. If I do eat something I know is not the best I won’t let it get me down….those days of feeling guilty for not following a “DIET” to the letter are over. As a matter of fact I won’t feel guilty at all if I have a treat because I know that I am doing my best most of the time.

So my advice to those of you who may be a junk food junkie like me or stuck in the traditional ideas of “dieting” (i.e. low fat, fat free, processed ‘lean’ meals, whole wheat, etc.) would be to consider eating whole foods, listening to your body and finding what works right for you. Stop beating yourself up over that candy bar you ate yesterday and learn to just move on.

Eat to live and fuel your body. It’s that simple! You will love real food, trust me…

As far as completing the 21DSD, my body is definitely detoxed from sugar and I feel great. It was just the start I needed to living a better life. I would recommend this for anyone who is ready to change their ways and open to the facts about the harmful effects of sugar on the body. Do a little research, read some journals, read some blogs and choose what is right for you!

I leave you with one of my favorite recipes that I tried during the 21DSD. I love it not only because it tastes great, but because it is quick and easy! I recommend using fresh herbs (always) but I have made it both with fresh and dried and either way it tastes great! This makes a about 6-8 servings, which is more than enough for Hubs and me. However, I usually always make the full recipe because it makes great leftovers.

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Chicken and Artichoke Bake

Adapted from this recipe at Paleo Newbie.

1 cup cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. dried basil (if using fresh add more)

8 oz. jarred artichokes, liquid drained

20-24 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wash the tomatoes and cut in half and cut the chicken breasts into cubes or bite size pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic and basil.
  4. Add the tomatoes, artichokes, and chicken and stir to coat.
  5. Add mixture to a large glass baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
  6. Serve over rice or eat as is, you can’t go wrong!
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The Last Supper


Just a reminder that I wrote these blog posts back in October but never got around to posting them. I thought it would be good to chronicle my 21 Day Sugar Detox experience for anyone who may be considering it.

October 14, 2014

I am ready.

Tomorrow is the big day. The 21DSD! Hubs has decided to join me in this and after an enormous bill from Whole Foods and bags upon bags of processed and unhealthy foods thrown into the trash we’re ready to go. I’ve created our menus and the preparation has begun.

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I am excited, but know it will be hard because there are some things I just love!!

The things I will miss the most during this time (in order) include:

Diet Coke – oh how I love you! I will miss you so…and don’t take it the wrong way but if this works out, you will never touch these lips again!

diet cokeWine – My weekend indulgence; I love the way you go so well with all things from cheese, to steak, to chocolate, to a good book. Our love affair will probably not end after this, but will be reduced.

wine diet

Ketchup – OMG…I just can’t even! I need ketchup on my eggs!

kethchup

Cereal – You’ve always been there for me when I didn’t feel like cooking dinner. With your sugary flakes and your marshmallow-y goodness.

perfect world

Potatoes – Mashed, fried, baked, hash, you name it…I love it!

potato ninja

Tonight we indulge in our last meal of spaghetti with meat sauce…a big old plate of it. So here is my spaghetti sauce recipe. I usually add ground beef or ground Italian sausage, but it is good without meat too. It is easy and tastes way better than that stuff you buy in a jar! Enjoy!

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Spaghetti Sauce (Modified from this recipe.)

2 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste

2 (6 oz.) cans tomato sauce

½ cup water

1 tbsp. honey (or 2 tbsp white sugar)

2 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. fennel seed

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

½ tsp salt (more or less to taste)

¼ tsp. black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft & slightly browned. Add garlic and continue to cook for about 30 seconds or until the garlic is fragrant.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours minimum. Remember to stir occasionally!

If not using immediately, allow to cool and refrigerate or freeze.

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Happy Belated New Year!


I hope everyone is having a great 2015 so far….and I hope you’re all sticking to your resolutions. I haven’t made resolutions this year, but rather have extended my goals from 2014 (all of which are going quite well!) and added a few new one’s here and there. One of my main goals is to get back to cooking and blogging! Grad school will be over in just four months so there are no more excuses. I’ve had some posts written but never got around to posting so you can look forward to those in the next few weeks. The end of 2014 was full of positive changes for Hubs and me. We are regularly exercising and eating clean. Most importantly we are feeling great, better than ever before. You can look forward to some delicious recipes made with real food.

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So to kick off the return of my blog here is a quick recipe to make zucchini & carrot noodles with red sauce. I use this product to make the noodles but there are all kinds of contraptions on  the market that you can pick up. You can also just use a julienne slicer if you don’t want to buy another kitchen gadget. If you can, I recommend using organic canned crushed tomatoes or make your own.

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Zucchini & Carrot ‘Noodles’ in Red Sauce

(Makes 2 servings)

1 medium carrot

1/4-1/2 small zucchini

1 tsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup organic canned crushed tomatoes

1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning

salt & pepper, to taste

  1. Peel the zucchini.
  2. Using a spiralizer or julienne cutter make the carrots and zucchini into noodles.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the zucchini & carrots and boil for 1-2 minutes. Keep a close eye on them; you want them to be firm and overcooking will cause them to be mushy. Remove from water and set aside.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until heated through. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  6. Add sauce to the noodles and serve!

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Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder


It’s been 10 months since my last post. Very. Very. Sad. At least this time there are some excuses. The first being the adoption of our cute and crazy dog Gemma. That happened all the way back in March, but the adjustment phase for me was a bit long! Don’t worry I will dedicate an entire post to that heartwarming story in the next few posts. Let’s just say I’ve never owned a pet and being a first-time “dog-mom” was not easy some days.

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The next thing that took me away from the blog was starting graduate school. In May I decided to go for it and so far have completed two semesters. I am currently in my third semester. I never imagined working full-time and taking two grad classes would be so hard. There are days when I absolutely feel I have no life other than go to work come home and do school work….weekends are now for school work as well. But I think I’m getting better with my time management and have dramatically decreased my procrastinating ways, which has allowed time for other things.

It is strange, though, what actually made me sit down and type this post. It is due to the loss of my kitchen! Recently we were hit hard by the infamous “Polar Vortex” that has been sweeping the U.S. and we had the misfortune of a frozen pipe that burst. When you wake up and start to walk down the hall and hear what sounds like rain coming from downstairs…you know what you are about to find is not going to be good! Water was coming out of the ceiling, down through the light fixtures, down the walls, all in the cabinets and drawers! It’s been a mess, but we are thankfully moving forward, however we have to get a whole new kitchen which has left me without for almost two weeks now and will probably be without for at least another week or two.

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Hubby set me up with a makeshift work station and so we haven’t had to eat out every night, but I feel like the only food I can make is the mediocre stuff I used to make before I knew how to cook. Although that is not entirely true…I’ve managed to come up with a few great meals thanks to my Nu-Wave Oven, Nu-Wave PIC, and my crockpot.

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But it’s just not the same. I’ve come to find cooking as something that makes me feel happy and de-stressed. I love coming home on a Friday and making a great dinner for Hubs and me. It is just what I need after a long week. (Although let me be clear, our number of take-out nights has drastically increased thanks to grad school!) I like being able to use fresh herbs and ingredients and trying new recipes…something that is just not possible right now.

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So to all of you out there who’ve had to suffer through this ridiculous cold today’s recipe is for a very delicious and hearty chilli. A few things with this chilli…although I used one recipe as my base I made a lot of changes. I also poured over the internet to learn about chilli. I definitely recommend adding your own touches, changing the amount of spices and tailoring it to your own preferences. Also, based on my (limited) research I would recommend using beer as the original recipe calls for. I am certain this will give a unique dimension to the flavor. Unfortunately we do not drink beer so I had none and didn’t see the point in buying any just for this batch of chilli so I substituted beef stock. It was still delicious but I’m definitely going to try it next time…even if it means asking for a bottle from a neighbor!

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Also this makes a huge batch…my slow cooker is smaller, only 3.5 quarts, and this recipe filled it all the way to the top. I was actually worried that it wouldn’t all fit in there, but luckily it did. If you have the same size slow cooker then you may want to cut the recipe down or just make this in a large stock pot on the stove (or get a bigger slow cooker!) or if you’re a risk taker just hold your breath as you add all the ingredients and hope it all fits!  

Hearty Slow Cooker Chilli

Source: Burnt Carrots

Ingredients: 

1 lb beef stew meat, cubed

2 lb ground beef

1 can kidney beans

1 can black beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, diced

1 green pepper diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 (4 oz) cans diced green chiles 

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp cumin

12 oz dark beer or 12 oz. beef stock

1 (14.5 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes (or substitute diced canned tomatoes if you like chunks!)

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut beef cubes into smaller pieces. I cut each cube into fourths.
  2. Brown the beef stew meat and add to slow cooker.
  3. Brown the ground beef. Drain and add to slow cooker.
  4. Add the salt and pepper to the meat in the slow cooker. Then add the beans.
  5. Heat olive oil in the pan. Add diced onions, green peppers, and brown sugar. Cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to brown the onions, keep heat on medium low. Add garlic towards the end of cooking. Once the onion mixture is done, add the chiles, chili powder, coriander, and cumin.
  6. Add onion mixture to the slow cooker. Add the cocoa powder and stir well. Add tomatoes and beer. Stir. Cook chilli on low 8-10 hours.
  7. Serve piping hot with a side of cornbread.

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It’s Been A While…


Well to say it’s been a while is pretty much an understatement. It has been almost exactly 6 months since I posted my last blog. I wish I could say that my life was so busy and amazing that I just didn’t have the time….but the truth is I just didn’t do it!

So I have no important life events or amazing news to share…but I can share that over these past few months I’ve been trying my best to work towards a healthier lifestyle. My focus now is to lose weight (hmmm….didn’t I say that before??), but overall I have come to a point in my life where I want to be healthy and stick around till I’m old and dyed blonde (no grey hair here!). To really make this lifestyle change I am approaching it with baby steps. I have adopted the attitude that every little thing helps….so even if it is just one little change it is still a change and that’s what matters. One of the first things I’ve started doing is trying to cut out as much processed food as possible (although I am starting to think I need a support group to break my Diet Coke addiction). Another step I’ve taken is to try different “health foods”. One of the foods I’ve fallen in love with is the now trendy “Quinoa”. It is very healthy and if you’d like to see why you can read it here…sorry I just don’t feel like going over why it is so good for you! I am overall a picky eater and have a lot of issues with food textures (where was Early Intervention when I was a kid??) so even though I kept seeing Quinoa recipes everywhere I turned, I was hesitant. I finally took the plunge and it’s a keeper. I use it in my salads, replace it for rice & pasta, and use it for breakfast foods like protein bars and “oatmeal” (quinoa in place of oats), etc.

Tonight I decided to modify my Creamy Chicken Piccata recipe and not only make it a “slimmed down version” but to replace the pasta with quinoa. It was so delicious…..I was inspired to sit down and get back to blogging!!!! Woohoo!!

So here it is….a slimmed down healthier version of, ironically my last post…and unfortunately since Hubby was working late I only made this for one person so the serving size is one, but you can easily alter the ingredients to make as much as you want.

Creamy Quinoa Chicken Piccata

(Serves 1)

For the chicken:

4 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded to 1/4″ thick

salt & pepper, to taste

1/4 -1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

For the Quinoa:

1/2 tbsp. light butter

1/2-1 clove garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup fat free half & half

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tbsp. capers

1/2 cup quinoa, cooked

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

To make the chicken, sprinkle both sides with the lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, pepper & garlic powder. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the garlic. Brown the garlic in the butter for 30 seconds to 1 minute and add the lemon juice.

Whisk in the half & half and bring to a slow boil, whisking frequently for about 5 minutes until heated through and slightly thickened (may take longer than 5 minutes).

Add the basil, salt & pepper.

Remove from heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese. At this point, if you want a thicker sauce, return to heat and simmer until slightly more thickened. You can also add more cheese if you like.

Stir in the quinoa and the capers. Serve on a pasta plate.

Slice cooked chicken into thin strips and place over the quinoa. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese, if desired and serve.20130222-204624.jpg20130222-204638.jpg20130222-204653.jpg

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Creamy Chicken Piccata


So like many bloggers…and many many women out there…I am obsessed with Pinterest. I have found such great ideas, recipes, clothes, tips, etc. Today’s post is for one of the very first recipes I found on Pinterest and tried out. Like any recipe it required some adjusting to get it just right, but last night when I made it Hubby & I both agreed that I had hit the mark! The original recipe, “Creamy Grilled Chicken Piccata”, calls for you to grill the chicken but since I didn’t plan ahead to make this I didn’t have a chance to marinade the chicken and thus I just decided to go ahead and make it in a pan. I used all fresh ingredients (no dried herbs, please!!!!) so if you do substitute dried you can just add the dry herbs (ex. basil, garlic powder) directly to the flour, rather than blending them like the directions below. I’ve also made a “slimmed down” version of this which tasted great, as well.  Hubby didn’t even know it was “healthified”, which is my test for how good my “slimmed down sensations” really are (trust me, he usually can tell right away when I make it low-fat). Too make it healthier use whole wheat pasta, fat free half & half, light butter, and only 1/2 cup of cheese and you can use a non-stick pan to eliminate the need for olive oil, or you can grill your chicken like the original recipe calls for.

Make this for a quick and easy weeknight meal or for date night in with your Honey! You won’t be disappointed!!

Creamy Chicken Piccata

(Modified from Plain Chicken)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (approx. 8 oz. each)

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters (or 1 egg)

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 lemons

2 cups fresh pasta, such as penne or gemelli (if you don’t want to make your own it is available in the dairy or deli refrigerated section of the grocery store)

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp. capers, rinsed & drained

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/4 cup asiago cheese (or other cheese of your choice)

  1. Prepare the chicken by pounding to about 1/4″ thick. In a shallow dish or plate combine the flour, salt & pepper. Combine the juice of 1 lemon, the egg substitute, 1/4 cup basil, and 1 clove of garlic in a blender. Blend on high for a few seconds to combine all ingredients, making sure the garlic is finely chopped. Pour this into another shallow dish or plate.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
  4. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, making sure to coat well and shaking off any excess. Next, dredge the chicken through the egg mixture, shaking off any excess.
  5. Place the chicken in the heated oil and cook for about 5 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. (If chicken gets done before sauce cover with foil and place in an oven on the “warm” setting (around 170 degrees F).
  6. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat (I used the same pan that I used to cook the pasta). Add 1 clove of minced garlic and cook just until fragrant (about 30 seconds to 1 minute). Add the juice of 1 lemon. Next add the heavy cream by whisking in and continuing to whisk until heated through. Whisk in the cheese, stirring until cheese has melted. Once sauce has thickened (should just coat the back of a spoon) add the capers and basil and stir until just combined. If sauce is too thick add some of the reserved pasta water a little bit at a time until you reach desired consistency. Last, add the pasta and stir to coat well.
  7. Serve about 1 cup of pasta in a bowl and place one chicken breast over the top. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
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Chicken Thighs in the Slow Cooker


Wow, I can’t believe how much I’ve slacked off on my blogging! First I hadn’t been feeling well…even having to call out sick from work, which I haven’t done in over 2 years!! Then life just got busy with a party for Hubby’s Motor Cycle Club & a girl’s getaway to Atlantic City…the Blog had to take a back seat! Anyway, despite my illness, fatigue and busy schedule, I still managed to cook a few good meals and even snap a picture here and there.

So what’s the best kind of meal to make when you don’t feel like cooking?? A Crockpot /slow cooker meal, of course!  My inspiration for this recipe is from the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummand. The original recipe, Penne with Chicken Thighs, call for the thighs to be cooked in the oven for 1 ½ hours, so I figured why not just throw it in the Crockpot. Be careful with how long you cook this in the slow cooker, though. Even with the low heat of a slow cooker chicken can and will get dried out if left in too long. So, I wouldn’t recommend this as one of those that you start in the morning so it’s done when you return home. It will only take about 2 hours on high (or low if your crockpot runs a little hot…which mine does.) After 2-3 hours use a meat thermometer to make sure the chicken has been cooked through. Remember cooking times are approximate and you can never be sure if meat is cooked thoroughly without taking the temperature. Serve the chicken thighs with any pasta that you like or have on hand. I recommend using my Marina Sauce, but you can use jar spaghetti/marinara if you want to.

Crockpot Chicken Thighs

4 bone-in chicken thighs

1 tbsp. olive oil

Salt & Pepper, to taste

1 tsp. Italian Seasoning

Marinara Sauce

¼ cup parmesan cheese

  1. Season the chicken thighs with the salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet and brown the chicken thighs on both sides (about 3-5 minutes per side).
  3. Transfer to the slow cooker and add the marinara sauce. Cook the chicken thighs in the slow cooker for 2 hours on high or 3-4 hours on low (this depends solely on your slow cooker).
  4. When chicken is cooked through serve over cooked pasta of your choice and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

 

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Jumping on the Meatless Monday Bandwagon


Typically I don’t really like to conform to the latest fad, but eventually I usually “jump on the bandwagon” if it is actually a good idea…like “meatless Mondays”. I have been planning our meals in advance for quite some time now and in an effort to get skinny and healthy again I’ve really tried to make sure we are limiting our red meat consumption, as well as try to have a variety of different foods, which can be challenging. I know Hubby doesn’t want to eat chicken 5 times a week!  I guess another reason why I never considered a “meatless” day is because I love meat & so does Hubby. However, like I said I thought this would be a nice idea for a healthier me (& Hubby gets the benefits too!). I have to admit I was nervous that Hubby wouldn’t go for it, but so far (I’ve only done it two Mondays now) the meals have been a hit with him.

Last night I made 4 cheese stuffed shells with arugula. I know you’re probably thinking that doesn’t sound like a good meal to eat to achieve a skinnier body, but with a little tweaking and some fresh seasoning, this turned out to be one heck of a “Slimmed Down Sensation”! This recipe makes 3 servings (1 serving = 3 shells and approx. 2/3 cup of sauce) and one serving is only 8 Weight Watchers Points Plus. It is super tasty and better yet super filling! Usually I get pretty hungry again after dinner and before bed, but these bad boys filled me up for the whole night!

Can’t wait to try some more Meatless Monday Meals!!!

 

Slimmed Down Four Cheese Stuffed Shells with Arugula

(Makes 3 servings; 1 serving = 3 shells + 2/3 cup sauce = 8 Weight Watchers Points Plus)

9 jumbo pasta shells

1 oz. part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Filling:

1 cup fat free ricotta cheese

½ oz. parmesan cheese, grated

1 oz. asiago cheese, shredded

1 tsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

3 cups arugula, chopped

Sauce:

1 tsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, finely chopped

½ cup fresh basil, chopped

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper.

  1. Cook shells according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
  2. Make the filling. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic. Cook garlic about 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant and just turning brown. Add the arugula and continue to cook for another minute or two until the arugula becomes just slightly wilted.
  3. In a medium size bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan and asiago cheeses. Add the arugula & garlic mixture and mix well to combine.
  4. Fill the shells with approximately 2 tbsp. of the filling.
  5. Make the sauce. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onions. Cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for another 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant.
  6. Add remaining ingredients, except for basil and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Add about 1/3 of the sauce to the bottom of an 8×8” glass dish, sprayed with cooking spray.
  8. Place the shells in the dish and cover with the remaining sauce.
  9. Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese.
  10. Bake in a 350 degree F. preheated oven for 20 minutes. These can be made ahead and refrigerated. If baking from refrigerator cook for 30-40 minutes, or until shells are heated through and sauce is bubbly.
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Flour Tortillas


I wanted to make fajitas the other night for dinner, but had no tortillas. I didn’t want to run to the store so I just did a quick search on the internet to see if I could make them. After reading a few recipes, it was quite clear that these are so EASY!!! They were easy, they were quick and tasted great. Why didn’t I ever try to make these before???!!! I will definitely never buy flour tortillas anymore! I froze the leftovers…and they reheat great in the microwave!

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Flour Tortillas(Makes 12)

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tbsp. vegetable shortening

3/4 cups water

  1. Whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Mix in the shortening with your fingers or a pastry blender until the flour resembles cornmeal.
  3. Add the water a little bit at a time and mix until the dough is able to be made into a ball.
  4. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead a few minutes until smooth and elastic.
  5. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball.
  6.  Use a well-floured rolling pin to roll each dough ball into a thin, round tortilla.
  7. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  8.  Place tortillas, one at a time, into the hot skillet, and cook until bubbly and golden; flip and continue cooking until golden on the other side.
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Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad


Have I mentioned recently how hot it’s been?! Not that I am complaining…I LOVE when it is hot. I’ll take 90s/100s any day. However as much as I love it, the heat does take its toll on me including not wanting to cook anything major or eat anything heavy. I found this recipe for Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad in Cuisine at Home Magazine and knew it would be perfect for dinner on a hot summer night.  I make salad a lot for myself and occasionally for both Hubby and me, but sometimes grilled chicken on a bed of lettuce gets to be a little bit boring. This version with a pecan crusted chicken was a very nice change of pace. It was quick and easy to make and the dressing was delicious!

For the dressing, I highly recommend using “raw honey”. It is a little bit more pricey than regular honey, but it tastes so much better and is better for you. You can usually find it at specialty stores or in the “organic/natural” section of most large chain grocery stores. You will get the most health benefits from it if you can buy it local from a farm. The reason being is that raw honey has pollen in it and every region has different types of pollen. Eating local raw honey will help build up your immunity to these types of pollen. (For more information read this article). It also has a lot of other benefits, so check it out!  If you can’t find raw honey or just want to use the regular kind, that’s cool…but you are definitely missing out! 😉  This recipe makes 4 “entrée” size salads, but can easily be changed to make whatever size you like.

Hmmmm…seems like I have a lot to say about “salad” this week!!!

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad

(Recipe modified from “Cuisine at Home” Magazine)

Honey Mustard Dressing

¼ cup raw honey

3 tbsp. Dijon mustard

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. minced shallots

1 tbsp. cider vinegar

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Pecan Crusted Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½” thick

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

½ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. dried thyme

½ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp. cornstarch

Juice of ½ lemon

1 cup panko-style bread crumbs

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

Zest of 1 lemon

Salad

3 cups romaine lettuce (or mixed greens)

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

1 large carrot, thinly sliced or shredded

4 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the egg, cornstarch and lemon juice in a shallow dish.
  3. In another shallow dish, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, pepper & lemon zest. Add the pecans, oregano, thyme, paprika,  and cayenne.
  4. Dredge the chicken in the egg mixture then the breadcrumb mixture and place in the prepared baking dish.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  6. Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the honey, Dijon, olive oil, shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl for the dressing until blended.
  7. Toss the lettuce, onions, carrot and cheese in a large bowl. Divide salad among four plates.
  8. Slice the chicken and place on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle any toasted crumbs left in the baking dish on top of the salads.
  9. Serve with dressing on the side.
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