Friday, August 29, 2014

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

Cheesy. Zucchini. Rice. Now, say that three times fast. Okay, maybe that was a little too easy, but so is this rice. With most every one having access to fresh zucchini this time of the year (especially homegrown), this rice is a must make. It's super simple to throw together and only takes 20 minutes. By the time you whip up everything else, your rice will be done and ready to enjoy. Talk about perfect timing.

Now, go over to your pantry and pull out the following - white rice, chicken broth, zucchini, some cheese and salt, pepper and a bit of garlic powder. Just a few simple ingredients to make such a yummy side dish. Or to be honest, you could just eat it on your own. I would. I mean, I have. Wait, I take it back. I didn't just tell you that. You can't really go wrong with zucchini and cheese. There is just something magical about those two things. Seriously. Plus, this rice goes with just about everything  - chicken, pork, fish. Do you need me to keep going? I am sure it's even good with just grilled veggies or tofu. Don't kill me for saying tofu. It's really good. At least I think so. Some people may beg to differ, but I digress. This rice is sure to become a favorite on your table and even better, you get your veggies in there too (which parents will love and kids will never know - sneaky, sneaky). Talk about win, win!

look at that rice-y goodness

how pretty does that look! yum!

Cheesy Zucchini Rice (Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 medium or 2 small zucchini, grated (no need to peel!)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (sharp or mild - whatever you like!)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 tablespoons milk, if needed

In a medium saucepan, combine the rice and chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and let the rice simmer for 15-20 minutes until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove the rice from the heat and stir in the grated zucchini, cheese, and garlic powder. Add salt and pepper to taste (don't skip this step - I needed at least 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt to boost the flavor). Add a tablespoon or so of milk to adjust the texture if needed. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Who knew rice could be so good!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Skinny Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Yes, you heard me right. Skinny baked chicken chimichangas. Sounds complicated, but I promise they are super easy to make and are even better to eat. And the best part, one chimichanga with guacamole (yes, with guacamole!) is only 350 calories. That's compared to over 1,000 calories for a chicken chimichanga you'd get at your favorite Mexican restaurant. Talk about saving your waistline and your wallet. These babies are so good, that you'll no longer have to go out to Mexican. I kid you not.

To make these fabulous chimichangas, you'll need just a few ingredients - low calorie tortillas, a rotisserie chicken, a cup of shredded low-fat cheddar cheese, cumin, oregano, a cup of your favorite salsa and some green onions. That's it! You don't have to use a rotisserie chicken, but it's the quickest and easiest way to go and you can usually find them for a pretty good deal. Of course you can cook up some chicken breasts as well. You'll need about two cups worth of shredded chicken, so two large breasts should do the trick. Maybe three if they are smaller. Now, for the tortillas. You and I both know that this is what kills the calorie count at many Mexican restaurants. Flour tortillas can range anywhere from 120 calories for a small one to over 500 calories for a large one. Can you believe it? Boy are they good though. I am always on the hunt for ingredients that taste great but are low in calories. A few months ago I came across these amazing light tortillas. You should be able to find them in most stores these days and they are simply the best. Just trust me. If you can't find them, let me know and I may just send you some to try. Just maybe.

Once you have all your ingredients to go, take your rotisserie chicken, remove all the skin and shred up all the chicken. If you have used your own chicken, shred that and place it in a big bowl. Then add chopped green onions, your favorite salsa, cheese, and spices. Mix well and then evenly disperse the mixture into about six tortillas. I use about a half cup measure to evenly distribute the filling. You may find you get seven chimichangas. That's okay. That just means more for you! Wrap each one tightly, tucking all the ends in and place them in an oven safe pan. From this point, you can freeze them for later, save for the next day or bake right away. If you plan to bake right away, don't forget to spray the tops with a little non-stick spray. I know that sounds strange, but it will help them get brown and crunchy without adding too many calories. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown and you will have a fabulous dinner on your hands that everyone is sure to love. I served mine with a dollop of guacamole (I used half a 100 calorie container of Wholly Guacamole), chopped tomatoes and extra green onions. All of that goodness is only 350 calories (with lots of fiber and protein too!) and so delicious. Serve with a big salad and you are good to go!

so delish!

Skinny Baked Chicken Chimichangas (Slightly adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything)

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
1 cup of your favorite salsa
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
2 green onions, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
6 (8 inch) flour tortillas
Non-stick spray (such as Pam)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Mix chicken, salsa, cumin, oregano, cheese and onions. Place about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla. Fold opposite sides over filling. Roll up from bottom and place seam-side down on a baking sheet.
Spray with non-stick spray and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Garnish with desired toppings and serve with salsa on the side. Yum!

You'll definitely want to make an extra batch and keep in your freezer for a quick go to meal!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Frozen Lemonade Pie

It's been hotter than you know what the last few months here in California and when it's over 100 degrees, I don't want to turn on the oven to bake anything. As hard as that may be, it's just too darn hot! The other day I wanted to make something quick and refreshing and I knew just the think - frozen lemonade pie! I first had this pie up in Oregon made by the wonderful Barby. As strange as this sounds, I had never had a frozen pie before. At least that I can remember. When Barby first pulled it out of the freezer she told us it was an ice cream pie, but when I tried it, it was so much more than that. This pie was cool, sweet and tart (yes, all at the same time) and so refreshing. To be honest, I could have eaten way more than the sliver I asked for. It was that good. I can't explain it. There was just something about it. So, when the temperature rose this week, I knew I had to make this pie myself.

I sent Barby an email asking her how she made hers because all the recipes I could find after searching "frozen lemonade pie" were made with lots of ingredients. I remember her telling me that hers was only a few and sweetened condensed milk or cool whips was definitely not one of those ingredients! Come to find out, her fabulous frozen pie only had three ingredients. Only three! I couldn't believe it. All I needed was a graham cracker crust (homemade or store bought), vanilla ice cream and lemonade concentrate. A three ingredient pie that tasted amazing? Now that's what I am talking about. 

You will need a bit of patience with this pie though. You'll first make the crust and then need to place it in your freezer to harden up. It doesn't take long, but about 20-30 minutes or so. When the crust is nice and hard, you'll want to mix up the ice cream (make sure it's soft, but not too soft!) and the concentrate. Again, make sure the frozen lemonade mix isn't too liquidy. Mix the two together until nice and mixed. Give it a quick taste to make sure it's to your liking. If you want to add more lemonade, add it. If not, then don't. I added a bit more because I felt like the lemon flavor wasn't strong enough, but that could just be me. Then, once the ice cream mixture is ready to go, pour it into the crust and, smooth it out and then place the whole thing back into the freezer. That's it. You'll need to keep it in the freezer until it's nice a solid - at least a couple of hours. I'd say three to four, just to be safe. Once it's nice and firm, cut slices and enjoy. This pie may just become your new favorite quick and easy dessert. No one will ever guess just how quick and easy it was!

I made my own crust, but you don't have to.

ice cream + frozen lemonade concentrate

I could eat this whole thing by myself

frozen crust

smooth out the ice cream

and don't forget to add the extra crumbles. yum!

Frozen Lemonade Pie (The one, the only, Barby!)

For the crust (or you can use a store bought crust):

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

For the filling:

2/3 of a 12 oz container of frozen lemonade concentrate (regular lemonade or raspberry lemonade - I used raspberry!)
2/3 of a 1/2 gallon of your favorite vanilla ice cream (I used Dreyer's vanilla bean ice cream)

To make the crust, combine the cracker crumbs, sugar and butter until the mixture is moist and well mixed. Set aside about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of crumbs. Press the remaining crumbs into a pie pan. Remember to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Place in freezer for 20-30 minutes to harden while you make the filling.

To make the filling, combine the softened lemonade concentrate and ice cream (make sure it's soft and not melted!) until everything is well mixed. I used my stand mixer, but you can do this by hand too. Once well mixed, pour the mixture into the frozen graham cracker crust and top with the additional crumbs you set aside. Place the pie back in the freezer for three to four additional hours to harden and set. Enjoy!

Who knew a three ingredient pie would be so good!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Baked Peach Almond Oatmeal

I am sorry I have been away from blogging for so long, but things have been busy the past month. Too busy. And school hasn't even started yet - yikes! We went on on a wild road trip vacation through Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. Our dog got a horrible ear infection. I had my third blogaversary. I got a promotion at work. And, we started working on our bathroom remodel again. see, I told you I was busy. I wasn't ignoring you, promise! Nevertheless, just because things have been busy doesn't mean I haven't been trying out new recipes. I won't dare tell you how many times I've run the dishwasher today. That just tells you how many dishes I've been using and how much of a mess I have been making in the kitchen.

Last week, someone left a bag of fresh and homegrown peaches in the break room at work. I walked by once and didn't grab any. I wasn't sure if I would have time to use them and wasn't sure what I would make. It took me walking by those things two more times before I grabbed a handful. And then I went back again and again. The last time, I just took the whole bag. I am pretty sure the people in the conference room next to the break room thought I was crazy. The peaches smelled so wonderful and I knew I just had to take them.

To be honest, those peaches sat on my counter at home for a few days before I started smelling them when I walked through the front door. It was at that point that I knew I needed to use them before they started molding. One already was and it was only a matter of time before they all started getting funky. Funky peaches are bad peaches. Luckily, I had enough peaches to make two dishes - peach cobbler, which is a must make, and baked oatmeal. Baked peach almond oatmeal to be exact.

I love baked oatmeal. I don't make it all the time, but there are so many flavor combinations you can do. Even better, you can make it ahead of time and even freeze it for another time. Plus, it lasts for days in the fridge for a quick grab and go breakfast. That is if it even lasts that long. It doesn't around here, that's for sure. I've made several other baked oatmeal varieties before, but nothing with peaches. Nor with almond extract. Some may say I have a mild obsession with almond extract. Or was that amaretto? Okay, I love both. This oatmeal is super simple to throw together and will some become a breakfast favorite with your family. I made mind the night before, but you can make your's as soon as you want it. My only word of advice is that if you make your oatmeal ahead of time, add a splash of milk when you warm it up. It makes the oatmeal a little extra special. When life hands you peaches, make this baked oatmeal!

super yummy ingredients

dry ingredients. can you smell that cinnamon?

wet ingredients

sprinkle the peaches all over the bottom

all  baked and ready to enjoy!

Baked Peach Almond Oatmeal (Two Peas and their Pod)

2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 cups Almond Breeze Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk (or any milk you like)
1 large egg
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly (or melted and cooled butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups chopped peaches
Peach slices for the top, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  and spray an 8x8 square baking dish with non-stick spray. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and almonds. In another medium bowl, whisk together the almond milk, egg, coconut oil, vanilla, and almond extract. Arrange the chopped peaches on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pour the oat mixture evenly over the peaches. Pour the almond milk mixture over the oats. Gently shake the baking dish to make sure the milk covers the oats evenly. If desired, add a few sliced peaches to the top of the oatmeal. 
Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden and oatmeal is set. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.

Peaches make everything better.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Easiest Chicken Enchiladas Ever

I am not kidding when I say these chicken enchiladas are the easiest ever. You can whip these up after a long day of work and not feel the least bit tired or make them ahead and freeze them for another day. I usually double the recipe and make one for now and one for those nights where I am in class until 9pm and the captain can just pull them out of the freezer and make himself a nice homemade meal. Quick. Easy. Delicious. Now that's what I am talking about.

All you will need to make these delicious enchiladas are - a cooked rotisserie chicken, your favorite flour tortillas, cheese of your liking (I used pepper jack for more flavor!) and green verde salsa. Of course you don't have to use a rotisserie chicken if you have chicken breasts on hand. Just cook them up in the oven until they are done and shred them up (another good thing to keep on hand in the freezer for quick meals!). Those rotisserie chickens are sold in almost any store (Costco has the best deal!) these days and make for a great grab and go when you need chicken for a recipe. I won't keep boring you with why I love rotisserie chicken. Let's get to enchiladas. If you are using the store bough chicken, pull off all the meat and place into a bowl. If you are using your own cooked chicken, do the same. Then add in shredded cheese and a bit of salsa. Mix up and your filling is ready to go. Now that wasn't hard. Don't forget to put a little bit of salsa in the bottom of the pan you will be using so that the enchiladas don't sick when they bake. Evenly distribute the filling to each of the tortillas, roll up and place in a pan. Then pour the rest of the salsa on top of the enchilada and sprinkle a bit more cheese. Place in the oven and in about 20 minutes, the cheese will be melted and your home will smell like a mexican restaurant. Ole!

these smart and delicious tortillas are seriously the best (and low calorie too!)


don't forget to add the cheese!

pour a bit of salsa in the bottom of the pan to avoid sticking

mix the filling up

roll up in the tortillas

one for now and one for later!

 The Easiest Chicken Enchiladas Ever (Kevin and Amanda)

Make eight (8) enchiladas

1 (16 oz) jar Salsa Verde 2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese 3 cups cooked, chopped or shredded chicken 8 medium (soft taco size) flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon a thin layer of salsa verde into the bottom of the dish.

Combine chicken, 1 cup salsa verde, and 1 cup cheese in a bowl. Spoon about 1/3 cup mixture down the middle of a tortilla. Fold sides over and place seam side down in prepared baking dish. It’s okay if they overlap a bit. Top with remaining salsa and 1 cup shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes until bubbly. Serve and enjoy!

These enchiladas can be made with red salsa too!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Blue Cheese and Bacon Twice Baked Potatoes

Twice baked potatoes are something that is always on the menu in our house. In fact, it's my go to potato. That is if I am not making mashed. The best part about a twice baked potato is that not only can you make them a day or two ahead of time, but they freeze really well too. I love having quick and easy things to grab from the freezer to cook after a long day of work and school. Trust me, it makes all the difference when the last thing you want to do is be in the kitchen cooking. Which , I know sounds weird coming from me, but it's true. Sometimes you are just dang tired!

My mom first taught me how to make her original twice baked potato years and years ago - russet potatoes filled with cheddar cheese and chives! Then years later, she made another version with red potatoes filled with parmigiana and roasted garlic. Fancy. Both are so amazingly delicious and guests always think they are always so fancy. Let me tell you, they couldn't be easier to make. Trust me. Now, as much as I love my mom's two versions, I am always looking for new ways to spice up potatoes. The captain is a huge potato lover and will pretty much eat them in any form he can get them. Well, not sweet potatoes. Maybe someday I can change his mind, but for now, I will stick to regular potatoes. I knew the captain loved blue cheese, so I had to somehow incorporate that into the potato. At first, I thought it sounded strange, but I figured I'd seen it on menus before, so how weird could it be, right?

I did quite a bit of searching some of my favorite blogs and finally came across a recipe that even made my mouth water - blue cheese and bacon. Who doesn't love bacon, right? Come on now. So, I headed right to the store to get the few things I needed and then I came to the cheese section - who knew there were so many types of blue cheese. I seriously stood there for 15 minutes debating on which one to get. Then, I saw applewood smoked blue cheese. Intriguing, no? I thought so, so I through it in my cart and headed home with all my ingredients. Of course, you don't have to use applewood smoked. Just use whatever blue cheese you like or what your store has in stock. Some people say the smellier the better, but I say, just use what you like. No matter what you use, I know you will love these potatoes. Not only could you serve them with a simple salad, but you could also pair them with a nice grilled steak or chicken breast (and veggies, of course). How good does that sound? I am willing to bet that these blue cheese and bacon potatoes will soon become on your go-to list. They are that good. Have I steered you wrong yet? I don't think so.


mash that filling

look at all that blue cheese!

stuff the potato skins

top with cheddar cheese and bacon!

are you drooling yet?

Blue Cheese and Bacon Twice Baked Potatoes (Gimme Some Oven)

Makes 4-8 Servings

4 medium baking potatoes
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (or more to taste)
1/4 cup milk or buttermilk
4 Tbsp. butter, cut into chunks
3/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
8 pieces bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry potatoes. Prick each potato with a fork (so the steam can escape) and bake for one hour or until potatoes are done. You will know they are done when you can stick a knife in and they are tender. Or, if you are running short on time, prick them with a fork and cook in a microwave until tender.
Remove potatoes and let cool just a bit. Cut an opening on the top and hollow out each potato to make four servings, OR, cut each potato in half to make eight servings. You may want to hold them with a potholder as they will still be hot! Scoop out the insides and place in a bowl. Mash, and add butter, sour cream, blue cheese, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic. Beat with a hand mixer or stir with a wooden spoon until fluffy. Carefully spoon mixture back into potato shells. Place in a baking dish. At this point, you can place in your fridge for cooking later, or freeze for another day.
If baking right away, return to the hot oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove and sprinkle bacon and cheddar cheese over each potato. Bake an additional 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly! If you are baking from the freezer, let the potatoes defrost overnight in the fridge and then cook until warmed through. If cooking straight from the fridge, increase the cooking time to 30 minutes, or until warmed through. You'll know they are ready when the cheese is melted and you can smell them throughout your whole house!

A potato has never tasted so good!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Homemade Nutella Ice Cream

I could have sworn I posted this for you guys almost a year ago, but when I looked through everything, it wasn't there. Strange. Nevertheless, today, I have the best ice cream recipe for you. It takes five minutes to throw together and since it doesn't contain eggs, there is no need to stand over the stove whisking egg yolks. And no chance for curdled ice cream. Now that's just gross. Even though there are no eggs in this ice cream, you'd never know there was no custard base. This ice cream is rich, creamy and so so good. Just ask the captain. He's already eaten half the container. Don't tell him I told you that.

This ice cream came about when I had a huge jar of nutella sitting in my pantry just begging to be used. Of course I could use it in brownies or swirled in banana bread, but it has just been too darn hot to even want to turn on the oven and heat up the whole house. Let me tell you, that is the last thing I want to do after it has been over 100 degrees for several days in a row. Since I had another huge jar of nutella in the pantry (it's one of those things I always have, but never open for fear that I will eat the whole thing with a spoon!), I knew I had to make this again and finally share the recipe with you. All you need for this fabulously easy ice cream is nutella, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and a bit of salt. That's it. Blend it all together in a blender until smooth and let chill for an hour or two to let everything combine. At this point, you'll be tempted to just drink the mixture through a straw. And no, I did not do that. I wanted to. Trust me.

Once the mixture has been chilled and is ready to go, give it another quick blend to mix it all up again. Then, as per your ice cream makers instructions, poor the chilled mixture into the machine (I have this machine and it's great!). My machine made this ice cream in about 25 minutes or so. Yours may be faster or longer, but just keep an eye on it. If you want to add chocolate chips or anything else, make sure to do so before it gets too hard. I usually add mine when it looks like soft serve ice cream. Then you know it will mix in really well. After the ice cream is made, you can of course eat it straight from the container, but it's best to freeze it so it becomes a bit more solid. This ice cream stays rather soft, but it will firm up a bit after several hours in the freezer.

Just a warning, this ice cream is completely addictive. I kid you not. And you will probably find yourself eating it straight from the container. Don't say I didn't warn you. Also, if you don't like nutella, you can substitute your favorite peanut butter (just not that all natural stuff - the oil makes for a slippery ice cream!). It's just like the filling of a peanut butter cup. So yummy!

there is really cream in that half and half container, don't worry.




add chocolate chips!

Homemade Nutella Ice Cream (slightly adapted from Scoop Adventures)

3/4 cup nutella
1/2 cup  sugar
1 1/3 cups whole milk (don't skimp here and use 1% or 2%, use the real deal)
1 1/3 cups  heavy cream
Pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla extract (about 1-2 teaspoons)

Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food process and process until smooth.  Chill mixture in refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Once ice cream base is thoroughly chilled, pour base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Pack the ice cream into a plastic container.  Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. Enjoy!

After this, you may find yourself never going back to store bought ice cream again!