Saturday, May 07, 2016

Easy Vegetarian Taco Salad

Simple meals are a lifesaver on busy days in our house. With a hubby gone for his job about seventy hours a week right now, my blogging work and the kids' extra-curricular activities, things can get pretty chaotic. Still, we try to sit down as often as possible - around the table - to enjoy a meal together. This Vegetarian Taco Salad is often a go-to for us. I can, literally, whip it up in like, fifteen minutes (or less) and it's filling enough to satisfy my crew. We are big on loaded salads and loaded rice/grain bowls in our house. They just seem to come together quickly and simply when life gets crazy. (Some other favorites? This ONE and this ONE.)


Recently, our seventeen-year old daughter had her first prom. What a fun experience. As her mom, it was so cool for me to help her find just the right dress, assist in planning her hair-do, help hunt for the perfect pair of shoes and spend the day helping her get ready for the big night. This salad is what the rest of the family had for dinner after she headed out the door that evening. (Ya know, once the whirlwind of craziness died down and this mom could catch her breath a bit.)

I tend to keep the ingredients for this salad on hand so that I can toss this together when I'm short on time or things are hectic. Since we are huge fans of Mexican food, taco salads go over well. I do sometimes include some grilled chicken, but more often than not, I serve this vegetarian-style. A drained can of chili beans lends some spice and protein here. And, I usually keep cooked rice in the freezer just for dishes such as this one. I just season it up a bit with some ground cumin and a little salt for this salad. And, yes, I know ... nacho cheese chips. A somewhat unhealthy-ish inclusion to an otherwise healthful salad I suppose. But, golly dang .. they kind of "make" the salad if you ask me. So, I would probably just go ahead and throw them in there if I were you. Afterall, Y.O.L.O! (Shhhh! Don't tell my kids I just typed that. I embarrass them enough and I'm told that Y.O.L.O is so like, three years ago or something.)

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Ultimate Loaded Baked Potato Salad

With grilling season and summer gatherings right around the corner, I thought I'd share my recipe for one killer of a summertime side dish. Potato salad is pretty much a staple at most warm-weather get-togethers. {I actually love potato salad so much that I make it two or three times a month from spring until fall.} I've taken the traditional potato salad and given it one heck of a make-over. It's quite the upgrade actually. Here, we've, basically, got the working parts of a potluck favorite combined with everything we all love about a loaded baked potato.


The result of this marriage is something pretty darn amazing. I start with baking the potatoes instead of boiling them. Once removed from the oven and cut into chunks, the potatoes then get a good dousing of vinegar while they are still warm. (I use the vinegar trick for any potato salad recipe that I make. I think I learned it from watching Emeril years ago. He said that he considers potatoes "most vulnerable" while they are still hot and more easily "accepting" of the vinegar.)

For the dressing, a little sour cream is incorporated in with the mayo for the perfect tangy zip and to mimic those flavors found in loaded baked potatoes. Crispy bacon, lots of scallions (or chives) and shredded cheese get folded in for the perfect "bang" in this firecracker of a potato salad.

Yields 8 - 10 servings.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites


I've been eating a good deal less meat and embracing more of a plant-based diet in recent months. I've not necessarily went all-out vegetarian, but I don't eat much meat on a regular basis. So, I've begun to get more and more creative with swapping in veggies, grains or the like for meat in my favorite dishes lately. (I've recently fallen in love with lentils in place of ground beef in Sloppy Joe Sandwiches, for example.) Since I adore the flavors of Buffalo chicken, I thought I'd take a run at modifying the standard utilizing a little creativity involving cauliflower.


The verdict: I'm like, totally addicted. I could not shovel these little cauliflower bites into my mouth fast enough while I was testing this recipe. I, honestly, did not feel as if I were missing out on anything. In fact, I pretty much prefer this recipe now over using chicken.

The buttery, perfectly-spicy wing sauce is right there in the forefront of each bite followed by the cool relief of creamy blue cheese dressing. And, of course these have to be served with crisp, refreshing celery sticks ... following suit in honor of the original.

I will say that because these bites are baked and not fried, don't expect as crisp of an outer texture on the cauliflower pieces as you're probably used to with Buffalo wings. (I'm sure these could be deep-fried once battered if you're so inclined.) And, although it does take ten minutes or so to dip each little floret into the batter individually before baking, this recipe is a very simple one and comes together quite easily.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Ultimate Morning Glory Muffins

My mother made Morning Glory Muffins all during my childhood. I didn't care for them much when I was young, but came to totally love them by the time that I reached my teens. They fueled me through Saturday volleyball tournaments, road trips with friends and shifts working at our local grocery store. They are hearty, hefty, healthful and downright delicious muffins that hold a special place in my heart.


I shared my mother's version on the blog a few years ago. And, while those are fabulous in their own right, I have come to prefer this version these days. The recipes aren't incredibly different, but these do have the inclusion of crushed pineapple (which adds a ton of moisture and additional flavor to the muffins) and I've made a few other changes that I think make these the Ultimate Morning Glory Muffins.

These muffins are loaded with a bounty of ingredients like, grated carrots, chopped apples, shredded coconut, dried fruit, crushed pineapple, grated zucchini and lots of flavor-boosting spices. The ingredient list may seem long, but the majority of the items are pantry staples that most of us tend to keep on hand. And, the ingredients that you may need to purchase are typically pretty inexpensive ones. You get a lot of "bang for your buck" with these muffins as they are super filling. Just one muffin usually does a great job of really keeping the belly full in between meals or stepping up to the plate as a grab-and-go breakfast option. They freeze incredibly well (I think they are best eaten chilled, by the way), so making a large batch to keep in the freezer throughout the week is so handy.

Yields 12 - 14 Muffins

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Slow Cooker White Pork Chili

With spring just around the corner, I've been trying to work in a few last-minute, end-of-winter comfort food dishes before we turn to a bit lighter fare. My hubby and sons adore chili, so I've been working on a white chili recipe to sub in for my traditional tomato-based, red bean chili ... just to give them something a little different and to mix things up.


The result of my recent testing and experimentation is this amazing White Pork Chili that comes together so easily and beautifully in the slow cooker. There isn't a ton of heat in this recipe, but the chili is still super flavorful due to the inclusion of cumin, chili powder, garlic, oregano and fire-roasted green chiles.

You could easily sub in chicken in place of the pork. (No need to sear the meat if using chicken.) Or, if you wanted to make this vegetarian, just omit the meat and swap in vegetable stock for the chicken stock.

I used a large variety of beans, but you could successfully just use two or three kinds. I would just be sure to try to include the can of White Chili Beans since they come in a mild chili sauce that is part of the flavor component in this recipe. Note that the beans are not added into the chili until the last hour of cooking to prevent them from becoming overly mushy.

Yields 6 - 8 servings.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Baked Apple, Chocolate & Almond Oatmeal

I'm not going to beat around the bush. I'm not gonna sugarcoat anything. I am simply going to get straight to the point and tell ya like it is. You need this oatmeal in your life. Seriously. Like, if I could convince you to make only one recipe from my blog, I think it would be this one. Baked oatmeal - done right - can be life-changing.


It may not be fancy. It may not look like much. Heck, I'm sure you're thinking that I am crazy getting all coo-coo over oatmeal. But, there are just so many reasons why baked oatmeal rules. It's an incredibly, insanely inexpensive recipe to make. It is healthful and filling. It's an awesome dish to feed a crowd if you happen to have guests in town or friends over for brunch. The possibilities to flavor it and change it up to suit your fancy are endless. If you're making it for only one or two people initially, you'll have leftovers (which means you can have breakfast ready to pop in the microwave throughout the week). And, most importantly - it takes almost ZERO time of hands-on work.

Have I convinced you yet?

This particular recipe calls for steel cut oats, so make sure you are not using rolled oats. The recipe requires that you soak the oats overnight in water so that they cook up quicker in the morning. So, don't forget that step. And, I really encourage you to try using a dark chocolate infused with chili (THIS is my favorite) for this recipe. Any type of chocolate should work (probably even chocolate chips), but there's just something magical about the tiny bit of heat that comes from using spicy chocolate in this recipe.

Yields 4 - 6 servings.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Throwing A Chili Party {Plus A Bonus Sweet Potato Chili Recipe}

Hosting a party can be stressful for so many of us ... especially when deciding what to serve to our guests. Setting up a chili bar when entertaining is so much fun and a total crowd-pleaser. The pressure is off of the host during the party and it allows for a casual environment wherein everyone can serve themselves while building their own ultimate bowl of chili. It's the perfect way to entertain when having friends over for game day or movie night.
 

I've assembled some simple tips/ideas for hosting a Chili Party that'll make the day go smoothly and make YOU a total rock star. Also, you'll find the recipe for my Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili at the end of the post. (It is my ultra-favorite chili recipe.)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Simple Hummus {without Tahini}

I've been eating hummus for a long time. It's one of my favorite dips to have with veggies for a snack. However, one of the main ingredients in hummus - tahini (a sesame seed paste) - can be a little on the expensive side and hard to find for some. And, I never seem to use it fast enough when I do buy it since hummus is really the only recipe in which I use tahini. So, it often goes bad before it's used up. In this recipe, I start with toasted sesame seeds that I make into a paste myself. It eliminates the need for purchasing tahini.
 
 
I pretty much always have the other main ingredients (chickpeas, olive oil, garlic and lemons) for hummus on hand. And, I buy sesame seeds in bulk at my local health food store very inexpensively. So, this is a fabulous recipe to have in my back pocket to whip up whenever the mood for hummus strikes or for when an occasion comes up last-minute that I need something snack-y to serve on the fly.

You can embellish hummus any way that you like. It's so easily adaptable. Roasted red peppers are a great addition. I sometimes like chopped green olives sprinkled on top of my hummus for a briny kick. You can add in your choice of herbs or spices to change up the flavors, too. Some prefer garnishing hummus with whole, cooked chickpeas, olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika. And, hummus can be served with pita bread/chips, raw veggies or crackers.

Yields roughly 2 1/2 cups.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Blueberry Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding

This recipe is incredibly simple and quick to throw together. Some of my bread pudding recipes are loaded with a long list of ingredients, but this one requires just a handful of basic pantry/fridge staples and some berries. Everything comes together beautifully to create a dish that can be served for breakfast, brunch or dessert.


If you have some day-old bread, milk, eggs and sugar, you have the foundation for bread pudding. From there, it's pretty much just about flavoring(s) and any add-ins that suit your fancy. I love the combination of blueberries, lemon and vanilla. (Here, I've utilized a vanilla bean to amp up the vanilla flavor, but a good-quality vanilla extract would work wonderfully, as well.)

Whether you serve this hot out of the oven, at room temperature or cold out of the fridge is entirely up to you. I have found that most people who enjoy bread pudding have an opinion on which of the three they prefer. So, it's totally up to you.

Yields 6 - 8 servings.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Ribollita {Tuscan Soup}

Ribollita is a hearty Tuscan soup. There are many variations, but most recipes include beans, vegetables and bread. I've, basically, declared it my new favorite comfort food recipe of 2016. I think you'll find that it's a great new soup recipe for you to try out this year ... and one that you'll come back to time and time again once you've tried it.


Mario Batali has a fabulous Ribollita recipe, which I've adapted here slightly based upon personal preference. I had never made any version of Ribollita until this week. (And, frankly, I'm not sure that I had ever heard of it until I recently saw Mario make it on television.)

I was drawn to this recipe for several reasons. It's bitter cold here in Michigan right now and well, soup is warm. Pretty self-explanatory. Secondly, I've always had success with Mario's recipes. (He is thee Mario Batali for pete's sake.) I, also, like that this is a vegetarian soup. My twenty-three year old daughter has been a vegetarian for years and I've come to follow a mostly vegetarian diet most days. This is a pretty healthy soup ... perfect for kicking off the new year. Lastly, the ingredient list is a budget-friendly one. Grab some dried beans, water, a few veggies, a tiny bit of marinara sauce and some bread ... and you've got yourself the makings of a big pot of heavenly soup. (Splurge a little on some real-deal Parmigiano-Reggiano, though ... totally worth it and it really finishes the soup perfectly!)

Serves 4 - 6.