Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cheesy Stacked Enchilada Skillet Bake

Getting a wholesome, comforting meal on the table at dinnertime doesn't have to be a hassle. This recipe is such a simple one - quick and easy enough for busy weeknights. Layers of corn tortillas, ground beef in enchilada sauce, corn kernels and lots of cheese come together in bubbly, beautiful harmony to create a meal that kids and adults love.

I think you'll appreciate just how versatile this recipe is. Shredded cooked chicken can be subbed in for ground beef, for example. A drained can of black beans can be layered in with the corn if you so desire. A little Mexican rice can be tossed in. And, frankly, this would be perfect to throw together using up leftover beef, chicken or pork after Taco Night. What a fun, creative way to reimagine leftovers into a whole new meal.

A large, ten-inch cast iron skillet is recommended for this recipe. However, a medium-sized casserole dish would work fine if necessary.

Serves 6 - 8.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

I think that most of us can agree that Macaroni and Cheese is like, one of the best dishes on earth. It's pretty much one of the ultimate comfort foods in life. I make many versions, but I really like this one because of how incredibly easy it is. It, literally, is just a dump-everything-in-the-slow-cooker kind of recipe. Stir it up, plop the lid on, turn the temp to low and walk away for a few hours. That's it. Seriously. {You don't even boil the noodles first.} The pasta ends up perfectly cooked {not mushy at all}, an amazing creamy sauce is created and the flavors are simply spot on.

This takes just a short time to cook {three and a half hours or so}, so I like that this is something I can get going shortly before the kids get out of school and it's ready just in time for dinner around six o'clock. This, also, would be just perfect as a side dish for Sunday dinner after church.

A warning, however ... this is {obviously} not diet food. It has pasta and butter and cheese and milk and eggs and more cheese. So, it definitely doesn't quite register on the "healthy" scale. But, isn't that what we love about Macaroni and Cheese? It's totally supposed to be a little indulgent and a whole lot of yumminess.


Yields 6 servings {as a side dish}

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Retro Cherry Pineapple Crunch Dessert

This is really taking it back retro-style to a dessert that I recall several of my family members making when I was growing up. And, it was something that my best friend's mom made on a regular basis. First, however, a little disclaimer ... this dessert is the furthest thing from healthy. Like, the ingredient list consists of two store-bought canned items, a cake mix, a little coconut and lots of butter. {Yeah, that kind of "furthest thing from healthy."} So, this is maybe something to make like, once a year on the occasion that you're craving it or simply wanting a dessert on the fly with little effort. What it lacks in nutritional value, however, is redeemed in how darn good it is. {Like, try-not-to-eat-half-of-it-all-by-yourself good.}

This is, basically, a dump cake. But, since I absolutely hate that name, I refer to this method of making a quick dessert as a "crunch cake" or "crunch dessert." {And, actually, it's really not a cake, so let's stick with "dessert."}

I combine both pineapple and cherries in this recipe. I am in love with the pink-hued result of the two fruits. I, also, like the contrast of both texture and flavor ... a little zip and tang from the pineapple along with the sweetness of the cherries. And, the coconut on the top is really recommended, so try not to skip it.

Yields 6 servings.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Easy Falafel Salad with Savory Pita Croutons

If you're a lover of falafel sandwiches, wraps or platters like I am, this is a fun take on the traditional way of serving {and eating} those delectable little chickpea fritters. And, with a couple of store-bought shortcuts, this salad is on the table in about fifteen minutes. It's fresh, healthful and light, yet is hearty enough to serve as a casual meal for two.

I'm always looking for fresh and unique salad ideas. I pretty much could live on salads all throughout the summer months. If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know that I have gravitated towards more-frequent and deliberate meal prep with the focus on what I like to call "Intentional Eating." Instead of aimlessly grazing about my fridge and cupboards during the day {nibbling my way from a string cheese to a handful of granola to a spoonful of nut butter}, I have been trying to keep fresh, healthful ingredients on hand that either incorporate quickly into interesting, cravable salads or grain bowls for myself OR they inspire me to take a little time to meal prep a few days worth of quick-to-grab lunches.

Having frozen or fresh store-bought falafel on hand is especially lovely for me. I adore falafel. I do enjoy making from-scratch falafel, but don't always have the time {nor do I always want to take the time} to do so. I like to get bags of frozen falafel from Trader Joe's to keep on hand. But, I have, also, been noticing both refrigerated and frozen varieties more frequently in regular grocery stores, too.

NOTE: When I have made homemade falafel, I always follow Alton Brown's recipe. It never disappoints.

And while I do often make hummus from scratch, there are many really good brands and flavors of store-bought hummus these days. {I prefer the garlic or roasted red pepper versions of hummus for this salad.} I utilize hummus here as the base for the dressing. With just a bit of water to thin the hummus, you've got a quick, flavorful salad dressing that really ties everything together. With both falafel and hummus already in the fridge, whipping up this delicious salad is a total breeze.

Yields 2 servings.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Peach and Gorgonzola Salad with Maple Pecans and Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette

I'm gonna keep this short and sweet {just like this recipe} ... this salad rocks. Like, seriously rocks. And, besides being totally delicious, it can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. {I timed myself the last go-round that I made this and it took all of twelve minutes.} It's so ideal for hot summer days when we just want something light, refreshing and quick for lunch or dinner - without having to heat up the house or fret too much.

With peach season kickin' right now, this salad really is a celebration of my favorite summer fruit. {Fresh strawberries, sliced apples or sliced pears could be swapped in if peaches aren't in season as you read this post.}

All it takes to whip this up is spending four minutes making the maple pecans, then allowing them to cool while the quick dressing is assembled and the salad is put together. {The only real knife work required is the slicing of one peach and a red onion.}

If you wanted to invest the time, topping with some sliced, grilled chicken would make this a more-hearty salad if desired.

This recipe yields two servings, but you could easily adapt the recipe to make several servings or even make one large salad for sharing.

Yields 2 servings.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

BLT Naan Flatbread Pizza

If you're a lover of BLT Sandwiches, this is a recipe that you're going to want to try. The ingredient list is a short one and making these little pizzas is a breeze. Bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, green onion and mayonnaise meet up atop pillow-y, soft naan flatbread. I utilize naan bread to make a variety of pizzas. {My favorite is my Cheesy BBQ Flatbread with Grilled Vegetables.} Using naan as a starting point for a quick, easy dinner is a no-brainer. It can easily be found in the bakery section of most grocery stores these days {I like these} or you can search online for recipes to make your own at home {something I plan to try very soon}.

Our eighteen-year old daughter works at a pizza restaurant that serves an amazing BLT Pizza. I based the development of this recipe upon their concept. But, since we love naan for pizza, I decided to swap it in to take the place of traditional dough. Worked like a charm.

The pizza is assembled by melting a little shredded cheese on top of the naan, then piling on cooked bacon and the vegetables. Drizzle on some mayo before service for the perfect dinner, lunch or snack.

Yields 2 servings.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Cool and Creamy Vegetable "Pizza" Crescent Cups

These Cool and Creamy Vegetable "Pizza" Cups are fun twist on the traditional version of veggie pizza that many of us know and love. They are perfect appetizers for summertime parties or you can even enjoy them as a light meal. They are easily customizable - use whatever fresh vegetables that you love or have on hand - and they seem to always be one of the first things to be devoured at parties.

For the recipe, you'll, basically, need a couple of tubes of refrigerated crescent seamless dough sheets, a few simple ingredients to make a cream cheese/sour cream filling and some fresh vegetables. After a short bit of oven time and a few minutes of cooling, the crescent cups get a dollop of cool and creamy filling before being topped off with your chopped veggies of choice.

From my experience, these can be made up to six hours {or so} in advance. While I do enjoy them just fine the next day {if there are leftovers}, they are best when freshly-made the day of service.


Also, note that the recipe yields sixteen "cups," but is easily doubled or tripled for large crowds. And, to clarify, the cups are made in muffins tins with regular-sized wells - not mini muffin tins.

Yields 16 cups.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Peach and Cherry Chocolate-Studded Crisp

What I love about fruit crisps is that I can pretty much make them year-round and still feel like I am keeping in line with the season. In the fall, I make many versions of apple crisp. In the spring, I like incorporating rhubarb into my crisps. I've made pear versions during the winter months and now that it is summer, my mind immediately turned to cherries. The inclusion of peaches, as well, was pretty much a given since they are one of our favorite fruits in the JD household and I figured that they would pair well with the cherries.

I spent a couple of days testing some versions of a peach and cherry crisp. I purchased both fresh cherries and frozen for recipe testing, but knew that I wanted to stick with fresh peaches since they are easy to work with and are pretty fabulous this time of year. When all was said and done, I much preferred using the frozen cherries, however. First, using frozen cherries is an easy time-saver compared to pitting and handling fresh ones. But, I actually liked how the frozen cherries came together with the fresh peaches upon baking. I don't like crisps that are too runny, so the texture and consistency was perfect for my preference. And, the frozen cherries seem to have a sweeter, fuller flavor in the end.

Since I don't think I had ever tried incorporating chocolate into a crisp, I decided to toss on some dark chocolate towards the end of baking. It totally elevated the crisp and added another flavor element that I just loved.

This is a recipe that comes together in a matter of a few minutes. Then, it bakes off for about thirty minutes in the oven. Of course, a crisp must be topped off with either ice cream, whipped cream or a little yogurt at the time of service. And, as a bonus ... if you have any leftovers, I give permission for you to enjoy them the following day for breakfast.

Serves 4 - 5.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Lemon-Kissed Homemade Tapioca Pudding

Sometimes we just crave old-school, from-scratch desserts ... recipes perhaps that our mothers and grandmothers made throughout our childhoods. For me, that often means desserts like, homemade banana pudding, Texas sheet cake and gelatin pretzel dessert. It, also, means tapioca pudding. My grandmother used to make the best homemade puddings. My favorite was always tapioca, which works well for me even to this day because it is, also, my kids' favorite type of pudding.

I have made traditional tapioca pudding numerous times for my children over the years. Recently, I experimented with a lemon version. And, I just adore the fresh twist. The lemon is not overpowering, but is present just enough to rock the boat in the typical-vanilla-pudding sea. And, this pudding isn't one that is overly sweet, which is part of why I love making it at home. I control the ingredients.

Basic pantry and refrigerator staples are the foundation of tapioca pudding - pearl tapioca, milk, water, vanilla, eggs, salt and sugar. With a touch of lemon zest and juice added, the result is a super satisfying, refreshing and unexpected dessert that I'm sure you'll fall in love with, too.

Keep in mind that you need to use actual pearl tapioca. (Do not use the instant tapioca powder that is typically used as a thickening agent.) Also, note that the lemon flavor will develop as the pudding completely cools and hangs out in the fridge. So, don't think when tasting it at the time of preparation that the lemon essence isn't present. It will be there ... just be patient. The pudding really does need, at least, a few hours to chill in the fridge for the perfect consistency and for the flavors to develop.

Serves 4.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Festive Farro Rainbow Taco Salad

If you're anything like me, taco salads are a favorite. The blending of simple ingredients into one salad that's loaded with spice, texture and freshness always seems to be a hit. In our house, we prefer our taco salads without meat. {This particular one could easily be adapted to include some grilled chicken or shrimp, however, if you desire.} I find that the farro is pretty hearty and actually mimics the texture somewhat of ground beef. I season it up simply in this recipe by blending it with fresh salsa, so it has a lot of flavor and a little kick. Building this salad using blue tortilla chips, tomatoes, corn, iceberg lettuce, sweet peppers and cheddar cheese drives home the rainbow theme and yields quite the pretty presentation.

Farro is a grain that is pretty easily found in most supermarkets these days. You could replace it with brown rice or quinoa if you'd like here, but I think you'll agree that the use of cooked farro is a great choice in taco salads.

This taco salad is hearty and filling enough to be a meal all on its own. And, it makes for a quick and easy-to-prepare weeknight dinner that is especially satisfying in the summer.

Serves 4.