Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mexican Casserole

Must start with something completely unrelated - tomorrow is the big "reveal day" for our little one; it's our anatomy scan with the OB and I am so anxious and excited first of all to hear baby is healthy and growing well, and secondly to hear if we're having a boy or a girl!! I'm so excited and cannot wait to hear, so we can start thinking about names and working on our registry and getting the nursery set up... I talk to baby bunny frequently and think of them all day long, but the idea is still a little abstract at this point. I think having a gender and picking a name will make it much more "real" for me. Especially after being a surrogate for my last three pregnancies, it's been a lot different for me mentally this time, just in how I think about this little one, and this pregnancy. I'm so INCREDIBLY excited to practically be at the half way point already, and am ready to enter our third and final trimester and count down the days until we get to meet this little one in person! I can only imagine how surreal and emotional that day is going to be, and can't wait to share it with my loved ones. :)

So, back to the food! I saw the inspiration for this one on Recipe Shoebox (love all the great meal ideas I've found there)! Her Turkey Taco Casserole looked wonderful, but I decided to use ground beef since that's what we already had available.

Kent was on "kitchen duty" for this one, and he was kind of being spastic while he was making it and forgot several steps, didn't pay attention to how he was supposed to layer it, and he left the salsa off the top layer! However, none of that really mattered. This is a very forgiving recipe. It was still hearty, warm, had great flavor, and was a yummy week night dinner. I think this would be one you could definitely prep the night before, refrigerate, then pull out to cook for a quick dinner.

If you're sensitive to spice, start with maybe 3/4 - 1/2 of the called for chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper and add more to taste.

This one reheats pretty well, and my hubby liked it mixed together with tortilla chips.

Mexican Casserole adapted from Recipe Shoebox

1 lb lean ground beef
1 TBS chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with chilies
1 (16-oz) can refried beans
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
2 flour tortillas cut into 1" strips (12 total strips)
1/2 cup salsa, plus more for serving
Suggested toppings:  Sour cream sliced avocado, additional salsa, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through.  Drain, and then add the chili powder, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir well (taste, adjust seasonings if needed). Add the Rotel tomatoes; stir and continue cooking until everything is well combined.  Remove from heat.
  3. In a greased 8x8-inch square baking pan, spread about 1/3 of the beef mixture along the bottom. 
  4. Then spread about 1/3 of the refried beans over the top.  (You can warm them in a bowl briefly to make it easier to spread).
  5. Next, layer 1/2 cup cheese, and four of the tortilla strips.
  6. Repeat layers twice more (beef, refried beans, cheese, tortillas), spreading salsa over the last layer just before adding the last of the cheese. 
  7. Cook at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Allow casserole to cool and set for about 10-15 minutes before serving. 
  8. Serve warm with desired toppings.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Secret Recipe Club: Pizza Balls!

It's time again for SRC! I can't believe this month is almost over and it's time again for reveal day! I was super excited to get Bobbi's Kozy Kitchen this month, and immediately ran over to her blog to browse through her recipe posts and start figuring out just what to make from all the goodies to choose from!! After I browsed a few recipes I went in search of learning more about Bobbi and was amazed to read her story about surviving cancer, and also being a gastric bypass patient (like me)! She is a strong woman and is certainly an inspiration, to say the very least. I was honored to have the opportunity to read about all she's been through.

When I was perusing the recipes, I saw several that jumped out at me (including this one, this one, and this one!!), but eventually I settled on Pizza Balls. Bobbi has a GREAT photo tutorial on how to assemble the balls which was super helpful during the process of putting these together. I didn't change much from her posted recipe, just used the filling ingredients we had on hand and wanted to use (I used 3 slices pepperoni per ball and used a few slices of canned mushroom on about half of the pizza balls along with a small sprinkling of shredded mozzarella cheese.)

This was a fun project that my son was a big helper on - he had his first experience making pizza dough and did a great job! When I got home from work we laid out all the dough discs and filled them with sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms. You can fill these with whatever you'd like - they come out delicious, tender, and it's a great twist on pizza! (My husband said it reminded him of a really good Hot Pocket!)

Placed in the greased 9x13 pan, ready to go in the oven!

After about 20 minutes, golden brown and ready to eat!!

Plated up with some heated spaghetti sauce with some Parmesan cheese.

Pizza Balls from Bobbi's Kitchen

1 package of pepperoni slices (3 slices per ball)
4-ounces of shredded mozzarella
1/2-1 cup of spaghetti sauce (as needed, both for inside the pizza balls, and to serve with for dipping)
Garlic pizza dough (see recipe below)

For the top of the pizza balls:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Garlic powder, for sprinkling
Dried basil, for sprinkling

For the Pizza Dough:
1 1/8 cup warm water
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

For the Dough:
  1. In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, honey and olive oil. Mix with a spoon, then let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add in 2 1/2 cups flour, salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and dried basil, stirring with a spoon until the dough comes together but it still sticky. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball and work the additional 1/2 cup flour (you don’t need to use all if it is not needed) into the dough, kneading it on a floured surface for a few minutes. Rub the same bowl with olive oil then place the dough inside, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours. (I use my Kitchen Aid for the dough prep and mixing.)
  2. After the dough has risen, punch it down and place it back on the floured surface. Using a rolling pin or your hands, flatten dough, and then cut into small rounds using a flour dipped glass. Place the towel back over the dough and let sit in a warm place for 10 minutes.
 For the pizza balls:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. One dough round at a time, press around the edges to spread it out a bit. Add about a 1/2-1 TBS of sauce to the very middle of the ball. Top with a small clump of mozzarella cheese and desired toppings (just enough to fit in the very middle, don’t extend to the edges of the dough.)
  3. Now fold the sides over, one at a time, bring all the edges together over the top of the ingredients to seal them in and make a ball.
  4. Pinch the seam together, and place it seam side down in a 9x13 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.
  5. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with garlic powder and basil.
  6. Bake at 425 for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
  7. Serve with warmed pizza sauce on the side for dipping.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Meal Planning, Week of 4/29/13

It's another week of new goodies to try - as I've been browsing new blog posts throughout the week I find so many dishes that look wonderful, and definitely look like something my family and I would enjoy, and I always save the web links in my AllRecipes recipe box and then browse back through what I've saved over the past week when it's time to create the next week's menu!

I'm really looking forward to all these great looking meals this week, and so my hubby won't get burned out on all new things, I threw in one of his favorites for Friday. :)

Breakfast: Quaker instant oatmeal, 1 blueberry muffin, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1 cup 1% milk.
Lunch: Whole-wheat pita with turkey, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and avocado; yogurt, V-8 juice, carrot sticks
Snack: An orange; 15 animal crackers

Dinner: Mexican Casserole served with garden salad and tortilla chips

Breakfast: 2 cups cereal, 1 cup milk, fruit yogurt
Lunch: Chicken salad & vegetable sandwich on whole wheat; grapes
Snack: 1 cup fresh strawberries; 1 low-fat chocolate muffin

Dinner: Garlicky Baked Penne, Caesar Salad, Texas Toast

Breakfast: 1 scrambled egg with slice of cheese on ½ bagel with cream cheese
Lunch: Chef Salad with romaine lettuce, roasted chicken, mozzarella cheese, hard-boiled egg, tomato, cucumber, and lite ranch salad dressing; 1 dinner roll, 1 cup 1% milk, 1 tangerine
Snack: 1 cup fresh strawberries; 1 low-fat chocolate muffin

Dinner: Crock Pot Applesauce Pork Chops, steamed vegetables

Breakfast: 1 scrambled egg with 1 oz cheddar cheese, 2 slices mixed-grain bread, half cup orange juice.
Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread with mayo, lettuce, and tomatoes; 1 cup cottage cheese with tangerines
Snack: 1 medium apple with 2 TBS peanut butter

Dinner: Creamy Bacon Pasta, Caesar Salad

Breakfast: Small banana rolled in tortilla with 2 TBS peanut butter, 1 cup milk
Lunch: Half grilled chicken breast on salad (romaine, 1 TBS chickpeas, 1 cup grapes, 1 oz Swiss cheese, half cup cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, half cup croutons, and 2 TBS light salad dressing), dinner roll
Snack: Celery sticks with 2 TBS hummus, 1 cheese stick

Dinner: Sweet and Sour Meatballs, brown rice, green beans

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken

This was the meat I decided we should try for tacos and it was fantastic! Such an easy recipe, all in one container in the crock pot, then mixed together once cooked and ready to go! It was absolutely delicious, lots of great flavor and good ingredients mixed together to make a hearty, tasty, filling meal. I couldn't get over how tasty this was and am already looking forward to leftovers tomorrow!! Yummy!! There was excess liquid, so you'll want to use a spoon with a strainer when removing the meat from the crock pot.

I received a soft cloth tortilla warmer from Herdez as part of the Brand Ambassador program and we used that for our tortillas and it was awesome! What a great tool to have for taco night!

In the crock pot, all mixed up.

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken slightly adapted from Your Homebased Mom

4 chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 1/2 cups frozen corn (or 1 can, drained)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
Topping suggestions: diced tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, guacamole, salsa, etc.


  1. Place chicken in crock pot, combine all other ingredients and pour over chicken.
  2. Cook in crock pot on low for 6-7 hours or until chicken shreds easily. 
  3. Blend together completely and serve on tortillas with desired toppings.

Homemade Guacamole

We were having Mexican tonight and it was such a GREAT dinner! Kent fixed everything himself, and he was very proud of how the homemade guacamole came out. It was creamy, perfectly flavorful, a little chunky, and went just right with the Crock Pot Chicken tacos and tortilla chips.

I felt like it was a little salty when combined with the tortilla chips, but Kent and Kenneth didn't think so at all - so I think my pregnancy taste buds were kicking in! But, just in case, I would start with 1/2 tsp salt and add more to taste. I don't add onion because we don't like raw, but if you like it I'm sure it would be great. The original recipe calls for cilantro as well, but again we don't like it so I left it out.

Homemade guacamole is an absolute treat and I can't imagine eating tacos without it!

Guacamole adapted from Bob Cody on AllRecipes

3 avocados - peeled, pitted, and mashed
1 TBS lemon juice
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup diced onion (optional)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
2-3 TBS salsa (or 1-2 roma tomatoes, diced)
1 teaspoon minced garlic

In a medium bowl, mash together the avocados, lemon juice, and salt. Mix in salsa (or tomatoes) and garlic. Refrigerate 1 hour for best flavor, or serve immediately.

Link Parties:

BBQ Block Party

Friday, April 26, 2013

Avocado Banana Bread

I came across this beautiful recipe while browsing Tasty Kitchen for ideas with avocados and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to try it out! I'm always on the lookout for moist and flavorful banana bread recipes that my boys will enjoy, and getting to use one of our creamy and ripe avocados in the process sounded like a bonus to me. The only real change I made was to replace the oil in the original recipe with applesauce and it worked very well for this bread. I only had to bake for 65 minutes, and it was perfectly browned and cooked through.

I, like many others I'm sure, keep a stash of overly ripe bananas (peeled) in my freezer in a Ziploc and love getting to pull a few out for recipes like this one. They work so great for bread recipes or smoothies! Also, a tip, for those who haven't tried this, when you're measuring honey out, spray the inside of the measuring cup with a little cooking spray and it will slide right out instead of sticking to the cup!

I LOVED this recipe - it makes a nice large loaf of bread that bakes up perfectly in the loaf pan, and the flavor and texture were perfect! I had a slice after it had cooled about 10 minutes on the cooling rack (slathered in some butter) and my hubby and I both helped devour a nice thick, warm slice. It was wonderful! It was soft, tender, and chewy all at the same time. Great textures, and the flavor was really nice. Not a super strong banana flavor, but very nice and I would definitely make this one again!

Avocado Banana Bread slightly adapted from MonkeyDudesMom on Tasty Kitchen originally seen on A Stool at the Counter

2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (about 2 small to medium) mashed, very ripe bananas
1/2 cup (about 1 medium) mashed avocado
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In mixer, beat together banana and avocado until well blended and smooth.
  4. Blend in honey, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla, scraping the sides down as needed.
  5. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients just until blended.
  6. Pour and smooth into a well greased loaf pan.
  7. Bake for 65-75 minutes, until toothpick or knife comes out clean, place on cooling rack. Remove from loaf pan when cool enough to handle and finish cooling on a wire rack.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Garlic Butter Baked Tilapia Fillets

We have some tilapia fillets I bought a little while ago and I saw this recipe when I was browsing through all the wonderful food blogs I enjoy reading each week and thought this would be a great and quick weeknight meal for us all. Kent had no trouble putting this one together and getting it in the oven and was surprised at just how quickly and easily it came together! My husband is not a big fan of tilapia but he was surprised that he enjoyed this one! They both cleaned their plates in no time. :) We served this with steamed peas and a Caesar salad for a "carb-free" meal which I'm trying to do at least one night a week for Kenneth.

So glad to find another fish dinner that my boys enjoy! I really love seafood and would love to have it in the weekly "rotation" of meals more often so it's always encouraging to have successful dinners featuring fish or shrimp. Kenneth does really enjoy salmon, and that one always goes over well, and although I enjoy salmon as well I generally like the white fish best myself.

Garlic Butter Baked Tilapia Fillets from The Better Baker

1 lb tilapia fillets
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter, melted (or Smart Balance)
1 tsp. dried parsley, optional
1 tsp. fresh lime juice (we used lemon juice)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400.  
  2. Spray a 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray, or line with foil for easy clean up. 
  3. Place fillets in baking dish in single layer (use additional baking dishes if necessary).  Combine garlic, butter, parsley, lime juice and spices. Pour over fish. Bake about 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

BBQ Mushroom Burgers with Avocado

In my quest to find great recipes to use my yummy, perfectly creamy and ripe avocados up I uncovered this treasure at Tasty Kitchen and I'm so glad I did! These burgers were FANTASTIC!! I switched up a couple small things, but not too much. We really enjoyed the flavor of these with the flavorful and tender mushrooms and that deliciously creamy avocado. It was a fabulous combination! We ended up having a fair amount of mushrooms left and will definitely be making another batch of hamburgers to go with them! Perfect for this warmer weather around here - I love getting to use my grill!! The original recipe called for grilling the avocado, but that's one of the steps I skipped. I'm sure it would be a nice addition to the sandwich, but avocado anyway you slice it is a nice addition. :) We did find the pepper flavor to be a little too strong, so I scaled it back in the recipe below.

We enjoyed these with some baked french fries and onion rings for a quick, easy, and very tasty week night meal!

BBQ Mushroom Burgers with Avocado slightly adapted from dixiechik on Tasty Kitchen

1 pound ground beef
2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1/2 TBS seasoned salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 TBS butter
1 pound mushrooms, washed and sliced
⅓ cups red wine
1/2 - 1 avocado
4 whole hamburger buns
4 slices Swiss cheese
2 TBS BBQ sauce (we love Sweet Baby Rays!)

  1. Combine the beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Form into four patties and refrigerate. 
  2. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and saute for about 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add the red wine, bring to a slight boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring frequently, about 15-20 minutes; allow most of the liquid to simmer off. Remove from heat and cover.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
  4. Cut the avocado lengthwise down the middle, remove the pit, and remove avocado flesh from its peel. Slice into long, thin slices.
  5. Once the grill is ready, add the burgers. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until done in the middle. Add cheese and allow to melt while still on the grill, if desired.
  6. To assemble, spoon some of the mushrooms on top of the burger, a few avocado slices and about 1/2 a TBS of BBQ sauce (to taste).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spanish Pork with White Wine

This is a simple and easy pork roast recipe that I've been using for years - as always I love being all to pull out my handy dandy crock pot for a weeknight meal that I can set and forget!
The addition of the white wine gives this roast a very nice flavor, and you can season lightly or generously with the salt, pepper, and garlic to your personal tastes.
We served this with cheesy mashed potatoes, Caesar salad, and mixed steamed vegetables for a delicious and filling dinner. 
Cooking in all those yummy juices in the crock pot!

Tender and flavorful, ready to enjoy.
Spanish Pork with White Wine slightly adapted from   on AllRecipes.com
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 1/4 pounds pork roast
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cups white wine
1 1/4 cups chicken broth

  1. Chop up the garlic and rub it into the pork; rub in some salt to taste (sprinkle about 1/2 tsp all around the outside - or to taste). Heat oil in a large skillet and brown the pork.
  2. Move the pork to the crockpot and sprinkle with about 1/4 tsp pepper (or to taste), add wine and stock. Cover and set to low for 8-10 hours or until completely tender.
  3. Serve with cooking liquids, or you can use the liquids to create a gravy if desired.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Meal Planning week of 4/22/13

This is a week of a lot of "new" recipes for us. I've been making the Spanish Pork Roast for many years, but haven't ever shared it here before (and even though it's made it onto my menu planning several times, it seems to get bumped!), but pretty much all the other main dishes are new this week! I bought a big bag of avocados at Sam's a week or so ago and they are all ripe and ready to enjoy, so that definitely influenced the menu. I usually only buy one at a time and use them up on sandwiches, wraps, or salads, but I had enough to actually need to look up some recipe ideas for them! I love homemade guacamole and am excited to try that out this week. My husband really enjoys guac too, so I know we'll all enjoy that. If there's leftovers I'm sure we'll have nachos or tacos over the weekend to enjoy it with.

Breakfast: Quaker instant oatmeal, 1 blueberry muffin, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1 cup milk
Lunch: Chicken salad & vegetable sandwich on whole wheat, grapes
Dinner: Spanish Pork Roast with White Wine (slow cooker), Caesar salad and mashed potatoes
Snack: 1 cup fresh strawberries, 1 serving pretzels

Breakfast: 1 slice whole wheat toast, 1 hardboiled egg, orange
Lunch: Lean Cuisine, 2 tangerines, celery sticks with light ranch dressing
Dinner: Avocado and Mushroom Burgers, baked onion rings, garden salad
Snack: 1 pudding cup, 1 cup fresh strawberries

Breakfast: 2 low fat waffles with peanut butter and a banana, 1 cup milk
Lunch: Small baked potato with 1 slice bacon, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream, medium apple, granola bar
Dinner: Garlic Butter Baked Tilapia Fillets with steamed vegetables
Snack: Orange, handful of animal crackers

Breakfast: 2 low fat waffles with 1 cup strawberries and 1 TBS maple syrup, 1 cup milk
Lunch: Whole wheat pita with avocado egg salad and veggies, yogurt, V-8 juice, carrot sticks
Dinner: Steaks, macaroni and cheese, Caesar salad
Snack: Chocolate pudding, orange

Breakfast: 1 cup strawberries, yogurt, 1 bagel with cream cheese
Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich on whole wheat bread (lettuce, tomato, pickles), 1 cup cottage cheese with tangerines
Dinner: Crock Pot Salsa Chicken (served with tortillas), chips, and homemade guacamole
Snack: Orange, handful animal crackers

Sunday, April 21, 2013

BLT and Avocado Salad

I saw the inspiration for this recipe on Lynda's Recipe Box and although I might like to try my hand at homemade dressing, I stuck with my old faithful Hidden Valley Ranch, Light dressing for this one! The combination is WONDERFUL!! I packed this up in a bunch of separate containers and brought it to work for lunch and it was so tasty and refreshing. The combination of salty sweet bacon with the creamy avocado and the crunchy fresh lettuce was perfect. I will definitely be making this combination again! I used iceberg lettuce, since we had a head that needed to be used up, but would probably use romaine next time. Whatever "bed" you put this combination of goodies on, I'm sure you will enjoy it too!

BLT and Avocado Salad adapted from Lynda's Recipe Box
Makes 1 salad

1/2 a ripe avocado, seed and skin removed, diced into small chunks
1 medium ripe tomato, diced into small chunks
2-3 thick cut slices of bacon, cooked to desired crispiness and diced into bite sized pieces
3-4 cups of chopped lettuce
1-2 TBS Ranch Dressing

After lettuce is well rinsed, arrange on a plate. Top with diced tomato, avocado, and bacon. Drizzle with preferred amount of dressing and enjoy!

Suggestions: Some croutons and your favorite shredded cheese might also be nice additions to this one. I think I might throw some cucumber in there too, next time!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan

I love, love, love fresh asparagus. It is a fabulous vegetable, and I can eat this whole recipe by myself (which is probably a good thing considering neither my husband nor son will touch asparagus - sigh).

This is a great, easy, roasted asparagus recipe that goes great with anything! We enjoyed this with a steak dinner. I like to sneak the leftovers out of the refrigerator a couple at a time as a snack too! :D

I don't always add the garlic powder, depends on my mood. You could also throw some minced garlic into the mix in place of garlic powder if you love garlicky asparagus!

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan (slightly adapted from) Diane on AllRecipes.com

1/2 - 1 TBS olive oil
1 pound fresh asparagus, tough ends trimmed
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1-2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place asparagus on a baking dish and pour desired amount of olive oil over top and spread around until asparagus is evenly coated.
  3. Sprinkle asparagus with Parmesan cheese, sea salt, and garlic powder.
  4. Roast in preheated oven until fork easily punctures thickest part of stem, about 12 minutes.