Lazy Post: Favorite Chicken and Quinoa Casserole

Summer is here, people. While I am easing into summer break (i.e., reading as many books as possible and not doing much else), I am currently baking my favorite quinoa casserole. It is not one of my own recipes, but you should all check it out here. This Mexican-style chicken and quinoa casserole is amazing and lasts all week long. Boyfriend does not even complain about it. 

Pro tip: top it with a little diced avocado if you really want to love your life. 

I will hopefully get some book reviews up this week! 

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Caramel Apple Salad

Since we have discussed my fear of mayonnaise-based salads, we should probably talk about marshmallows in salads. Naturally, this reminds me of every episode of How I Met Your Mother that involves Marshall’s mother, and I do agree with Lily that creamy salads are maybe not really salads. Similarly, marshmallows in salads are generally weird. Except in this one. It is another summertime dessert staple and honestly, maybe I will stop calling it a “salad” in an attempt to remove the weird stigma that may only exist in my very strange mind. We’ll see how motivated I am this summer. 

But hey, bonus – this dessert has under 100 calories (89, to be exact) per serving! 

 
Caramel Apple Salad

Serves 8-10

  • 3 c. chopped apples (I have zero patience for peeling so I don’t. Also, any kind of apple works but Granny Smith is delightful in my opinion.)
  • 8 oz. crushed pineapple in juice (do not drain)
  • 1 package fat free, sugar free instant butterscotch pudding
  • 1 c. mini marshmallows
  • 8 oz. fat free Cool Whip

In a large bowl, combine apples and pineapple and its juice. Once apples are covered in juice, sprinkle pudding mix over them and stir to coat. Fold in Cool Whip, and the fold in marshmallows. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. 

 

Best Ever Cilantro Lime Dressing

Hey guys! I’m alive! With one more full week of school before summer break, I can see the light. I did a ton of meal prep today and decided to go with a salad for my lunches most of the week. I am using a dressing that I adapted from Nordstrom. I always forget how great this dressing is and when I do make it I wonder why I don’t keep it sound more. So, here you go: 

  
Best Ever Cilantro Lime Dressing

Good for 4-6 entree salads, I think

  • 1/4 c. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 T lime juice (add more to taste at the end of you would like)
  • 1 small clove of fresh garlic
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/4 c. canola or vegetable oil (I still don’t know the difference between the two)
  • 3/4 c. roughly chopped cilantro
  • Pinch each of salt, pepper, and ground chipotle chili pepper (do not confuse this with crushed red pepper)

In a small food processor, blend rice vinegar, lime juice, garlic and honey. Add oil in a thin stream (If your mini food processor isn’t fancy enough to have an opening for this, you can add the oil all at once. The world won’t end, I checked.) Add spices and cilantro, pulsing until the cilantro is blended to your liking. Add to everything in sight and enjoy. ūüôā 

Recipe: Breakfast Rice Bowl

Sunday mornings are for cleaning out the refrigerator around here.  Today I threw a few things together to make a super delicious, very healthy rice breakfast bowl.  As always, you could use just about any kind of produce.

Breakfast Rice Bowl

Serves 2

  • 1 c. brown rice, cooked
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 c. chopped baby spinach
  • Italian seasoning
  • 4 large eggs
  • Sriracha (optional, but highly recommended)

Spray two medium/large skillets with cooking spray.  Heat one on medium-high heat, and saute peppers and onions for approximately 3-4 minutes or until soft.  While that is happening, heat the other skillet over medium heat.  Crack the eggs into the new skillet and season with salt and pepper. While the eggs cook, add rice, spinach, and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning to the peppers and onions.  Flip the eggs after the whites are set and finish cooking for another minute or so.  Serve two eggs over half the rice and vegetable mixture.  Add a little Sriracha for extra awesomeness.

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Recipe: Crustless Ham and Spinach Quiche

You guys know I am all about the quiche.  I am also all about finding creative ways to use leftover produce in my refrigerator.  When I was cleaning it out today, this little beauty was born.  This recipe would also be perfect for leftover Easter ham!  

Crustless Ham and Spinach Quiche

Serves 6

  • 4 slices deli ham
  • 3 eggs + 3 egg whites
  • 3/4 c chopped spinach 
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped shallots (onion works too)
  • 3/4 c unsweetened plain almond milk (use regular cow’s milk if that’s your thing)
  • 1/3-1/2 c shredded Havarti cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray pie plate with cooking spray. Lay ham slices in the bottom of the plate, like a crust. 

  

Sauté shallots until soft, about 2 min. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, egg whites, and almond milk in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in shallots, spinach, and cheese. Pour on top of ham.

 

Bake for 40 minutes, or until set. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into 6 wedges. Enjoy! 

 

  

Meal Prep is my Life Saver

Meal prep is my life saver.  Seriously.  I know a lot of people groan at the thought of taking time out of their weekend to plan for the week.  I get it!  You want to spend your weekends with loved ones and friends and relax, not think about your work week.  However, prepping for the week on Sundays has become something that I simply cannot live without.  It does not have to consume your entire day, either.  What it most likely will do is set you up for a week of healthy eating choices.  To me, that is worth the hour or so that I take every week to prepare.  If I have pre-portioned lunches and snacks, plus a few meals started for me, I make healthier choices and feel better all week long.  So, I am going to give you a few examples and tips that I use to plan healthy meals and snacks to save time during the week.  Mix and match what works for you.

I always do my grocery shopping on Sundays. ¬†I keep a Note pad list on my phone for my menus and I use a grocery list app to get ready to shop (I am a fan of the “Buy Me a Pie!” app – weird name, but I can color code items based on their location in the store to make grocery shopping more efficient, and I like that.). ¬†I know there are people out there who also use meal planning apps that basically pull from a database of menus and give you the grocery lists, but I like to freestyle it. ¬†If you do use one of those apps, let me know which one(s) you prefer!

Some menu examples:

IMG_3798[1]IMG_3797[1]*freedom – this week we start spring break, so I am definitely not cooking the first night of break.

Where¬†do I get my meal ideas? ¬†Lots of places: ¬†Pinterest, my cook books, my Cooking Light daily calendar, etc. ¬†When I come across something that would be great for an upcoming week, I note it at the bottom of my weekly meal list. ¬†Then I look at my schedule for the upcoming week. ¬†Do I have any meetings that mean I will be home late? ¬†Do I already have dinner plans? ¬†I am fortunate to have an awesome boyfriend who usually works from home and is willing to “slave over the crock pot” (i.e., turn it on when I ask him to), so I like to use crock pot meals on my later work nights. ¬†I mix and match my recipes to the days of the week based on my projected time/energy levels, and then make my grocery list. ¬†I also list lunch options and snacks. ¬†I am out the door by 6:45 each morning, so it helps to be able to glance at my list and say, “Oh yeah, I’ll just grab this quinoa salad and these snacks for the day.”

I also look at my ingredients. ¬†Does one recipe that I am¬†dying to make call for a small amount of something? ¬†How can I use that ingredient again later in the week (if it is perishable)? ¬† You may have noticed that I made both chili and 3 pounds of taco meat during one of the weeks above. ¬†We get beef from my parents, and it is time to start using up the ground beef. ¬†That week became “Operation: Cook all of the Meats” week, so I made a huge batch of chili on Sunday, ate some of it for dinner, and froze the rest. ¬†Same thing with the taco meat. ¬†Now, I will have weeks in the future where I can just pull those things out of the freezer for a super quick dinner. ¬†Score!

So, here is where my Sunday prep comes into play: ¬†as soon as I get home from grocery shopping, I start my prep. ¬†I find that if I sit down or do something else, my momentum is shot. ¬†I am that weird person who actually enjoys grocery shopping, so I usually come home excited about all the things I can cook (I told you I’m weird). ¬†Some of the things I may do to prepare my meals and snacks in advance:

  • hard boil eggs
  • chop and portion out fruits and veggies (I am big on berries and occasionally forget that I don’t really like carrots, so I will portion those every now and then)
  • make a big salad (usually a quinoa salad) and portion it out for my lunches
  • prepare a casserole or quiche
  • make spaghetti sauce, taco meat, etc. so it is ready to heat when I need it
  • prep the parts of a crock pot meal so I can just set it all out with directions for boyfriend

You get the idea. ¬†I want to be clear that I do not do all of this every week – it varies. ¬†For this week, all I had to do was pop a quiche in the oven and chop some berries. ¬†Some weeks I do more. ¬†Do what works for you. ¬†I get that children take up a lot of time and you like to hang out with your offspring, so if you have little ones running around you may only get eggs boiled or fruit chopped. ¬†Hey, that’s a start! ¬†After awhile, prepping may become second nature like it is to me.

Do you have any great meal prep tips?  Share them!

Recipe: Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Bowl with Tahini Sauce

Last week I was really in a lunch rut.  I was sick of my usual options (even quinoa, which is practically unheard of for me), so I made up this little dish.  It was THE BOMB.  Seriously.  You can use any vegetables that you like Рreally, anything that you need to use up in your refrigerator would work (carrots, bell peppers, onion, etc).  I used leftover roasted chicken from my chicken and broccoli pasta earlier in the week.

 IMG_3517

Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Bowl with Tahini Sauce

Makes 2 servings

  • 2 c. broccoli florets
  • 2 c. cauliflower florets
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2/3 c. chopped kale
  • 6 oz. sliced or shredded chicken, cooked
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste

Preheat over to 425.  Toss broccoli and cauliflower with minced garlic, 1 tsp. olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, shaking halfway through.  While the vegetables are roasting, chop kale and chicken.

Go ahead and assemble these in your lunch containers of choice.  In each container, layer 1/3 c. kale, 1 c. roasted vegetables, and 3 oz. chicken.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper.  Add a dash of salt and pepper and divide into two small dressing containers.

At lunchtime, heat chicken and vegetables and top with sauce.  Healthy and easy!

Recipe: Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

This pasta dish has long been a part of my weeknight rotation. ¬†I generally either use a rotisserie chicken or bake the chicken ahead of time to help the meal come together quickly. ¬†Add a side salad or some French bread and you’re set! ¬†It also keeps well throughout the week for a grab-and-go lunch.

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Chicken and Broccoli Pasta

Serves 4

  • 8 oz. whole wheat angel hair pasta
  • 3-4 c. broccoli florets
  • 12 – 16 oz. cooked chicken (depending on how much you like chicken)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced (trust me, it isn’t the same if you use the bottled garlic)
  • 1/2 – 1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. ¬†While you are waiting, cut a head or two or broccoli into florets (or use the pre-cut broccoli – I do that sometimes) and reheat chicken. ¬†Then, prepare the “sauce”.

For the “sauce” (because it really isn’t sauce), heat garlic and olive oil in a small skillet. ¬†When garlic begins to “speak” (as Rachael Ray calls it, meaning it just starts to sizzle), turn off heat and move skillet to a different (cold) burner. ¬†Add crushed red pepper and let the flavors meld. ¬†Do not turn burner back on.

When water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions.  With about 3-4 minutes left in the cook time, add broccoli to the pot and cover.  Drain pasta and broccoli and then return to pot.  Add chicken, olive oil mixture, and salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with a little shredded Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

*You may want to play around with garlic, red pepper, and olive oil amounts to your taste.

Recipe: Mexican Quinoa Salad

Quinoa salads are my lunch jam. ¬†Lately I have gotten tired of my usual rotation, so I have started experimenting. ¬†This week’s creation is not too shabby.

mexi quinoa salad

The picture really does not do it justice. ¬†However, I also created an awesome quinoa salad last week and did not blog it because I didn’t think to take a picture of it. ¬†Since I made this up directly in the plastic container I take to work, you are just going to have to deal with a not-so-pretty picture (I am quite sorry).

Mexican Quinoa Salad 

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 c. cooked quinoa
  • 2/3 c. black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 c. frozen corn, thawed (Trader Joe’s fire roasted corn is amazing)
  • 1/2 c. tomatoes, chopped (I just had grape tomatoes around so I used those)
  • 2 T. chopped green onions
  • 1 T. chopped cilantro
  • cumin and chili powder
  • 1/2 c. salsa (I used my own)

In a bowl, layer 1/2 c. quinoa, 1/3 c. black beans, 1/4 c. each corn and tomatoes, 1 T. chopped green onions, and 1/2 T. chopped cilantro.  Sprinkle with cumin and chili powder to taste, and top with 1/4 c. salsa.

Evidently, people eat these “salads” cold, but that weirds me out so I heat them up. ¬†Eat it at whatever temperature you like!

Recipe: The Best Tomato Salsa EVER

salsa

This salsa is¬†legendary. ¬†I’m not kidding. ¬†Growing up, we always had this in our refrigerator. ¬†To this day, some of my childhood friends have been known to walk into my parents’ house, open the refrigerator, and look for this. ¬†Still. ¬†The funny thing is, this is by far the quickest and easiest recipe ever.

I did have to specify that this is a tomato salsa in the title because ever since my sister moved to Mexico, my mom has strayed from the original recipe in this post.  Now she is all about some fancy tomatillo salsa, salsa that requires roasting of things, etc.  Not me.  I am not trying to roast things all day or really venture past the canned tomato aisle.  Which, of course, is why I just eat all of her new fancy salsa when I visit.

As always, these quantities are approximate.  I always mix it once, taste, and adjust.  If you do this, keep in mind that the flavors intensify as it sits.

The Best Tomato Salsa Ever

  • 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 green onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 T. lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. – 1 tsp. salt

Are you ready for this? ¬†Just throw everything into a food processor or blender and let it go until the texture is to your liking. ¬†THAT’S IT.

Told you it was easy.  Enjoy, friends!