Fall Quinoa Bowl

You know how smoothie bowls hit the food scene over the past year or so? Well, I have yet to try one myself.

Grain bowls are also a thing. And that I’ve decided to make and put my spin on. Although, technically, quinoa isn’t a grain, it’s a seed, making this protein packed bowl gluten free. You could leave the chicken out to make a vegetarian option. Heck, you could even cook in coconut oil instead of butter and go vegan with it!

Possibilities are really endless when you stop and think about making a quinoa bowl. Quinoa itself doesn’t have too strong of a flavor of its own, much like oats or rice, and can lend itself to many preparations – savory or sweet.

What I loved about this meal was that it was a perfect dinner to serve to my entire family. Everything was both adult and kid friendly. My picky two year old ate around all of the vegetables and chicken and solely ate the quinoa – but hey, there are good nutrients in that little seed and a fair amount of protein. Treat enjoyed all of it.

To present the quinoa bowl. I simply topped the dressed quinoa with the fruit, vegetables, and protein in concentric circles to showcase the incredible colors and flavors of fall. Arranging them in lines would be beautiful, too.

An Original Recipe

Fall Quinoa Bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1 C quinoa
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • 1-2 pears, cubed
  • 1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 small red beets, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large cooked chicken breast, cubed
  • 3 tbsp Meyer lemon olive oil
  • 1 tbsp raspberry balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • scallion, for garnish

Steps:

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
  2. In a non-stick skillet melt a little bit of butter. Saute pears over medium heat until tender. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes and cook until fork tender and lightly golden. Add butter as needed. Remove and set aside.
  4. Cook the beets in the same skillet, adding more butter if needed, until fork tender.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Season to taste with S+P. Toss cooked quinoa in as much dressing as desired.
  6. Top quinoa with the pears, potatoes, beets, and chicken. Top with a little extra dressing and garnish with sliced scallions.

Fall Quinoa Bowl | Sew You Think You Can Cook | http://sewyouthinkyoucancook.com

Peanut Butter Crepes

Last month we went strawberry picking. Battling traffic for 2 1/2 hours (one way) for 50 minutes of picking time was absolutely worth it! These strawberries had the sweetest scent I’d ever sniffed. We had 4 1/2 pounds of strawberries making the road trip back home with us. Some green bell peppers, green beans, cherry tomatoes, and local honey hitched a ride, too.

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I’d put out a request to some of my local SoCal bloggers for their best strawberry recipes. And then, I didn’t use a single one! These strawberries barely made it a week. (To be fair, I froze about a third of them right away.) When something is just that good you almost don’t want to waste it as an ingredient. Instead, I decided to do crepes for dinner, filling them with our freshly picked strawberries.

I was quite hesitant with the crepe batter. It’s essentially all egg white and some peanut butter. I thought, “There’s no way!” But, I found the recipe from Natural Noshing’s Secret Recipe Club reveal of my dear friend Tara’s blog. I told myself that, if two people can succeed with these crepes, then it’s bound to work!

The first crepe is always a throw away – me, I ended up with a severely burnt crepe due to a child required my immediate attention. I told myself, “one more try”. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll throw in a bunch of flour and just make regular pancakes. Plan B was never needed. The only problem is that this recipe doesn’t make very many crepes! However, the use of peanut butter actually makes them filling and satisfying enough to feed 2 (and a half) people. You can always stretch out the crepes with whatever fillings you decide.

My crepes were filled with softened cream cheese, cinnamon sugar, and fresh sliced strawberries. Stuart filled his crepes with Nutella, fresh sliced strawberries, and honey. Firecracker had his with Nutella and fresh sliced strawberries.

Other filling options could include banana, jelly, chocolate chips, and/or maple syrup.

Peanut Butter Crepes

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole egg
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 heaping tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter

Steps:

  1. Using a hand mixer, whisk the egg and egg whites until frothy. Add in the vanilla, sugar, and peanut butter until smooth.
  2. Pour 1/4 C batter into a small greased skillet. (I used 1-2 tsp butter between each crepe) Swirl the pan around to create an even crepe. Once the surface bubbles flip and cook another minute. Remove, repeat with remaining batter.
  3. Serve with desired fillings.

*This recipe is adapted from Nora at https://naturalnoshing.wordpress.com/2015/07/26/peanut-butter-crepes-with-cinnamon-cream-cheese-filling-grain-free-src/*

Peanut Butter Crepes  Sew You Think You Can Cook

And if you need an idea for all those leftover egg yolks, might I suggest chocolate frozen custard?

Kale Soup

Back in November my brother-in-law came to visit. We went grocery shopping to pick up some items for football watching and dinner making. Upon their departure we were left with a bunch of kale; a large quantity not a single bunch.

So I made kale chips.

And soup.

And still there was a little bit left to freeze and “sneak” into Firecracker’s smoothies.

So. Much. Kale!

Not that that’s a bad thing. I buy kale hardly ever, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve purchased said green. I have nothing against kale, but I guess I never jumped on the bandwagon a couple of years ago.

This soup though, I can get on board with. But only if there’s bacon with it. Before heating up some leftovers I had to fry a piece of bacon to provide that bit of crunch and salt.

Kale Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices center cut bacon, chopped
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 leek, sliced in half-moons
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 C chicken broth
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • sour cream for serving (optional)

Steps:

  1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.
  2. Add the potatoes and leeks to the pot and cook 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, S+P and cook another 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and 4 C of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.
  3. Reserve a little bit of the kale to make kale chips for garnishing the soup. Add the remaining kale to the soup, cover the pot, and cook 5 minutes until the kale is wilted. Stir in the Worcestershire.
  4. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (Note: If using a stand blender you may need to puree the soup in batches. Leave the lid slightly open and cover with a towel to prevent burns.)
  5. Put the reserved kale on a baking sheet, spray with cooking oil, season with S+P and broil until crispy.
  6. Garnish the soup with kale chips, bacon, and sour cream.

*This recipe is adapted from Food Network Magazine, January/February 2015*

Kale Soup | Sew You Think You Can Cook

Blogger CLUE: Veggie Chili

blogger CLUE

Even though the groundhog has declared it spring, it’s still relatively cold and definitely grey out so the Blogger CLUE crew and I have been scouring our assignments to bring you a wonderful collection of soups or stews.

When I saw my assignment was Azmina of Lawyer Loves Lunch I got very excited! I always love reading her posts and recalled her professing her love of soups, so what could be more perfect for yours truly who doesn’t consider soup a favorite. I did find a couple good contenders though, leek and potato soup or turkey and wild rice soup were quite tempting, and I know my husband would have loved for me to try making pho, but I ended up going with her veggie chili.

I can officially say that I am now a fan of chili. For the longest time it was something I wouldn’t even consider. Then I created my own recipe for chili and professed that “I only like my chili.” Within the past year I’ve ventured out to trying other recipes and have always been happily surprised, so why not give a meat-free version a try? It is Ash Wednesday after all, and that means the Lenten season has begun and the search for meatless recipes is in full force. This vegetarian main course is a perfect fit, especially when the weather is less than ideal.

I did have to make a slight change to the original recipe: instead of a can of crushed tomatoes I used whole tomatoes because the grocery store was out of crushed tomatoes! (Who knew that was a thing.) My substitution actually worked in my favor because I do like some chunk to my chili. Instead of pureeing the veggies before adding the tomatoes and stock, I added the can of whole tomatoes to the veggies and used my immersion blender to crush them along with the veggies. If you like a smoother chili place the cooked veggies in a blender and puree until smooth before adding crushed tomatoes and the remaining ingredients. Additionally, because I left my veggies a little chunky I only used 3 cans of beans instead of 4, using varieties I had in my pantry.

I absolutely loved this chili recipe and it will definitely be in my chili rotation. I find that chili tastes better as leftovers, not something I say about most foods, and it made for a perfect lunch throughout the week; I would place some tortilla chips in the bottom of a bowl, ladle the chili, and top with shredded cheese before popping the bowl in the microwave. The chips get a little soft and provide a subtle corn flavor along with some additional texture.

Veggie Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced – I used orange
  • 3 jalapenos, deseeded and minced
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole (or crushed) tomatoes
  • 3 C vegetable stock
  • 3 cans (15 oz) beans, drained and rinsed – I used dark red kidney beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

Steps:

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven. Add onions, carrots, peppers, and jalapenos. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. If using whole tomatoes, add them to the veggies and crush using an immersion blender until desired consistency is reached. If using crushed tomatoes, place veggies in a blender and pulse until desired consistency is reached then return the veggies to the pot before adding the tomatoes.
  3. Add the stock, beans, and spices. Bring chili to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook 20 minutes, or until desired thickness is reached. If chili gets too thick add additional stock or water. Add salt to taste.
  4. Serve with your favorite chili toppings: cheese, chips, sour cream, chives, etc.

*This recipe is adapted from Azmina at http://www.lawyerloveslunch.com/2012/03/chili-and-cornbread.html*

Veggi chili for Blogger CLUE from Sew You Think You Can Cook

Here’s a list of the other players of Blogger CLUE this month:

SRC: White Chicken Chili

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It’s Secret Recipe Club Reveal Day! In the Secret Recipe Club, each participating blogger is assigned a blog from another participating blogger and secretly searches their site for something to recreate. The accompanying blog post then goes live on reveal day! So while I was immersed in my assigned blog, someone else was picking through mine! I’m so excited to be part of this group, to see what on my blog peaks other’s interests and to stumble upon new blogs and new recipes.

This month I was assigned the blog Shockingly Delicious written by the talented Dorothy. With 25 years of food writing and recipe developing on her resume you can be sure you’ll come to her blog for the food and stay for the stories. On her “About Me” page Dorothy answers the question, “What kind of cook am I?” One of her bullet points is that “leftovers are king” so I know she’ll approve of the reasoning behind why I chose today’s recipe over some of her others.

This week kicks off Halloween week, which I always do themed for the holiday. This year (spoiler alert) I decided to make homemade classic candies. So I originally searched Dorothy’s blog with that task in mind only. The closest thing I could find towards my task was her post on left-over Halloween candy cookies utilizing Snickers bars. (yum) I then managed to stumble upon Cookies and Cream Rice Krispie Treats and I swear, if my grocery store had those Halloween Oreo’s, you know the ones with the orange filling, I would have looked no further! Our waistlines are probably thankful those didn’t happen (at least not yet!).

I ended up going in a completely different direction with the recipe I recreated. I decided to search for something that I could make and freeze for when Baby Boy 2 enters the world in the next week or so. Of course, we did enjoy the meal the day it was made, because you have to taste the food to talk about the food!

I’ve been venturing out on my chili making and decided it was finally time to try the mysterious “white chili”. White chili is “white” because there aren’t any tomatoes, the beans used are in the white/beige/tan family, and the meat of choice is often chicken. That doesn’t mean there isn’t great chili flavor though! This particular version gets its heat from a can of green chiles and a dash of cayenne pepper.

Disclaimer: My chili is far from “white” as I used ground chicken instead of shredded white meat chicken, more pinto beans than white beans, and my vegetable broth has an orange tint to it from the carrots – I actually think chicken stock would have been more appropriate in keeping a lighter chili.

White Chicken Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 can (4 oz) green chiles
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 C vegetable broth
  • 2 cans (15 oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp flour

Steps:

  1. In large pot over medium-high heat saute onions in the oil, season with S+P, until tender. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the ground chicken to the skillet breaking it up until it’s fully cooked.
  2. Add the green chiles, cumin, oregano, and cayenne and cook for 2 minutes, coating the meat and veggies in the spices. Add the broth, beans, and flour. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until desired consistency is achieved, at least 1 hour. (Note: If you want a thicker chili, cook uncovered.)
  3. Serve with desired toppings: tortilla chips, corn chips, cheese, sour cream, scallions, cilantro, etc.

*This recipe is adapted from Dorothy at http://www.shockinglydelicious.com/newfangled-cowtown-white-chicken-chili-for-labor-day-sundaysupper/*

White Chicken Chili for Secret Recipe Club from Sew You Think You Can Cook

To see the other bloggers who participated in the Secret Recipe Club this month click here:

An Orange Potluck Party

Instead of choosing a Fall or Halloween theme for our October potluck, we decided to broaden the category a little bit by going with “orange.” Anything orange in color, containing an orange ingredient, or using the flavor of orange was fair game. Understandably our menu contained a lot of pumpkin and squash.

I brought sweet potato chili. This chili recipe was inspired by my October CLUE assignment Eliot’s Eats. I made quite a few changes to Debra’s recipe, the main one being that I added ground beef to make a hearty chili versus something a little “soupier.” I swapped out the beans for adzuki beans, used crushed tomatoes instead of diced, removed the kale, and forgot about the orange zest.

I first made this chili as football grub when some friends came over. I needed something gluten and lactose free and chili seemed like the perfect solution. And it was a huge hit! Everyone went back for seconds and there wasn’t anything left the next day. Top your chili with tortilla chips and cheese, if desired.

I thought it’d be a perfect fit for our themed potluck and easily transportable in a slow cooker. Be sure to read past my recipe for the amazing collection of “orange” foods. We had a spectacular turn out of over two dozen friends.

Sweet Potato Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 C dried adzuki beans
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided use
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp chili powder, divided use
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 C peeled and diced sweet potato
  • 2 – 2 1/2 C broth (I’ve used both chicken and vegetable)
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp finely diced chipotle in adobo
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley

Steps:

  1. Soak beans for 1-2 hours. Rinse. Cover with water by 2″. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook uncovered 50-60 minutes. Set aside.
  2. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook ground beef in 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Season with 1/2 tsp chili powder, S+P. Set aside.
  3. In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook onion in 1 tbsp vegetable oil until tender. Add 1/2 tsp minced garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the diced sweet potatoes and cook for 2 minutes, allowing them to get some color. Add 1 1/2 C broth and the cooked beans. Simmer for 10 minutes, covered.
  4. To the chili, add the crushed tomatoes, 1 chipotle in adobo, 1/2 tsp chili powder, coriander, parsley, S+P. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked ground beef to the pot. Add 1/2 – 1 C more broth and simmer until the beans are completely tender, approximately 30 minutes. (Note: If you want a meatier chili, cook uncovered. If you want more liquid cook partially covered, and add more broth as needed.)

*This recipe is modified from Debra at http://eliotseats.com/2012/03/01/black-bean-and-sweet-potato-chili/*

Sweet Potato Chili | Sew You Think You Can Cook

Here are the other recipes brought to the orange potluck:

  • Orange Julius: Mix 1 can (12 oz) frozen OJ concentrate, 2 C milk, 2 C water, 1/2 C sugar, 2 tsp vanilla. Add approximately 16 ice cubes and blend until smooth.
  • Pumpkin Spice Lattehttp://thrivinghomeblog.com/2013/09/crock-pot-pumpkin-spiced-latte/
  • Buffalo Chicken Diphttps://www.franksredhot.com/recipes/print/?re=re1242-1
  • 12 Recipes for an Orange Themed Potluck | Sew You Think You Can CookMacaroni and Cheese: Cook 1 lb pasta, drain, and set aside. In skillet, cook 1/2 onion (diced) and 2 tsp minced garlic in 2 tbsp veg oil until tender. In a large pot add 4 tbsp butter, 1 C milk, 1/4 lb Velveeta cheese until melted. Add in pasta, onions and garlic, and 2 C shredded cheese until mixed completely.
  • Gnocchi with Squash, Spinach, and Prosciutto: Cook 1 lb gnocchi according to package instructions, reserve 1/2 C cooking water, drain and return to pot. In a large skillet, cook 6 slices chopped prosciutto in 1 tbsp butter, transfer to paper towel lined plate. Add 3 tbsp butter to same skillet and brown 1 1/2 lb cubed butternut squash 4 min, add 2 tbsp fresh thyme and cook 30 sec, deglaze pan with 1/2 C white wine until reduced by half, add 1 C chicken broth and cook 4 min until thickened. Add squash, 4 oz baby spinach, and cooked prosciutto to gnocchi, adding reserved pasta water as needed.
  • Carrot Pudding: Boil 5 lb peeled and chopped carrots until tender, drain, and mash. Cream 1 C melted butter, 1 C sugar, 1 C brown sugar and add to carrots. Mix in 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp ginger, 1 tbsp nutmeg, 1 tsp ground cloves, 6 eggs, 1 heaping tbsp baking powder, and 1 tbsp vanilla. Pour into a 9×13″ casserole dish and bake 1 hr at 350 deg F.
  • Sweet Potato and Orange Puree with Almond Streusel: Make Streusel: Combine 1/3 C flour, 1/3 C whole almonds, 3 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tsp paprika, 1/2 cold cubed stick butter; refrigerate at least 1 hr. Make Puree: Mix together 4 lb worth cooked peeled sweet potatoes, 1/3 C OJ, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp room temperature butter, 1 1/2 tsp orange zest; place in 9×13″ casserole dish, top with streusel, bake 40 min at 400 deg F.
  • Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Sage Browned Butterhttp://www.melskitchencafe.com/butternut-squash-stuffed-shells-with-sage-browned-butter/
  • Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookieshttp://www.budgetbytes.com/2013/09/oatmeal-pumpkin-cookies/
  • Met in your Mouth Pumpkin Cookies: Beat 2 C butter until fluffy, mix in 2 C sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg until combined, add 2 eggs and 2 tsp vanilla until combined, mix in 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin, slowly add 4 C flour until combined. Drop spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet and bake 10-12 min at 350 deg F. Make icing: Beat together 1/2 C butter, 1 pg (8 oz) softened cream cheese, 3 3/4 C powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla. Frost baked cookies. Garnish wish cinnamon.
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake Barshttp://roxanashomebaking.com/pumpkin-cheesecake-bars-recipe/

Hummus Chicken

My mom came to visit last weekend and while Stuart was off Adventure Racing.

We enjoyed a very girly weekend. We got our nails done, which I never do – I even picked a pink polish color!, we watched chick-flicks and ate popcorn, we went shopping, and she knitted a hat and booties while I worked on another baby quilt.

Oh – and after a trip to Home Depot we changed 7 light bulbs in my house.

Mom and I are perfectly happy with simple snack-style dinners – hummus with pita, popcorn, salad, cheese and crackers, etc. However I did plan to cook at least once while she was in town. I picked out a recipe that I thought she’d not only like but would make back home. Something healthy and simple. And this Hummus Chicken is exactly that. You could even add variation by simply using whatever flavor hummus you like – red pepper, basil, spicy, original! I served the chicken with asparagus. The original recipe suggested serving  roasted squash, but as that would kill me (allergies) I chose to omit the dangerous vegetable.

I didn’t end up making this either Friday night or Saturday while Stuart was gone, and we had plans to go to Sushi on Sunday for dinner so I decided to make the chicken for Sunday’s lunch. And as it was a most beautiful day I knew I’d get to take advantage of some natural light for once! Before plating the food I brought it over to my standard photography site to find that the window panes create shadows that are smaller than my plates. So much for that idea. (Next house – the windows and sunlight will be greatly scrutinized.) But I’ve read up on food photography tips and every blogger and book says to take the food outside. So, I did! And I think it turned out great! (Although we did have to shoo away a bumble bee!) As my schedule doesn’t allow for me to photograph meals outdoors I don’t have a set up or anything, so… my food was put on the sidewalk. But hey, it’s on a plate which is on a placemat. It did greatly amuse me though to be picking food up off the ground to then go inside and enjoy.

Hummus Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 8 tbsp hummus
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Season chicken with S+P. Top each breast with 2 tbsp hummus. Place in a greased casserole dish.
  3. Squeeze chicken with lemon and sprinkle with paprika.
  4. Bake 25 minutes.

This recipe is adapted from Ali at http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/hummus-crusted-chicken/*

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Cilantro Lime Chicken

Today’s edition of Mexican Monday requires prep on Sunday, even though it’s a slow cooker dish! But that’s also what makes it perfect for your Monday, whether you follow my Mexican Monday Menu plan or not. The chicken needs to marinate over night, but in the morning all you have to do is drop it into the slow cooker – no chopping, no measuring!

I found this recipe on a Pinterest post of Paleo Slow Cooker Recipes. Although we don’t follow the Paleo diet trend in this house, I may have some readers who do. Or maybe I’ll get new readers from it! 😉 If you’re looking for new Paleo inspired recipes, check out Jason’s blog, Paleo Pot

But because we don’t follow Paleo, I served this chicken with Rice and Beans

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 5-6 lb whole chicken
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 whole lime
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Steps:

  1. Mix together pepper, salt, cumin, cayenne, and chili powder. 
  2. Dry chicken and rub spice mixture over entire chicken.
  3. Poke holes in the whole lime and rub with spice mixture. Place in chicken cavity.
  4. In a food processor (I actually used the single serve unit for my Ninja blender, a Magic Bullet would work great too!) combine lime juice, garlic, cilantro, and olive oil.
  5. Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag with the marinade. Marinate over night.
  6. Put chicken, breast side up, in slow cooker with the marinade. Cook on LOW 5-6 hours.

*This recipe is modified from Jason at http://paleopot.com/2013/01/chili-cilantro-lime-chicken/*

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Turkey Tomatillo Lettuce Wraps

Mexican food isn’t necessarily known for being healthy, and I know my preference for turning Mexican Monday into Pasta Night doesn’t follow many diets, but it is possible to turn Mexican Monday into Healthy Night. Most taco recipes can be turned into taco salads, or in this instance, a lettuce wrap!

I was excited to find this recipe and Mountain Mama’s blog where she partakes in Taco Tuesday. I hope to find more Mexican Monday inspirations from her as I explore her page.

I absolutely loved this recipe – it was fresh, healthy, and crispy. I think it’s genius to take a store bought salsa and add more fresh flavors to it.

If you don’t like using fresh lettuce as your taco shell, you can substitute soft or hard shell tacos.

Turkey Tomatillo Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 C chicken stock
  • 1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/3 C fresh cilantro
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3/4 C tomatillo salsa
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • your favorite taco toppings, i.e. tomatoes, fresh onion, cheese, avocado

Steps:

  1. In a large non-stick skillet, heat olive oil in medium-high heat. When hot add ground turkey and season with S+P. Brown turkey, breaking up with a wooden spoon. After 5 minutes stir in chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
  2. In a food processor combine onion, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and salsa. Pulse until smooth. Add to the turkey. Cook another 5 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock and cook let simmer another 2 minutes.
  4. Tear off lettuce leaves, fill with turkey, and top with your favorite taco toppings.

*This recipe is adapted from Kelley at http://www.mountainmamacooks.com/2014/01/cilantro-lime-turkey-taco-lettuce-wraps/?subscribe=success#blog_subscription-4*

Lettuce Wraps

Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

Last weekend Tara, from Tara’s Multicultural Table, and I joined hundreds of other food bloggers in Birmingham, AL for Food Blog South. Each of the speakers at the conference had their own inspiring story and advice to give.

Before breaking up for the sessions that interested us most, Virginia Willis kicked things off with a thought provoking list of things she’s learned from cooking: FAITH, faith that sugar, eggs, and flour will turn into a cake, faith in yourself; PATIENCE, this is one that I need to work on the most, not only patience when a recipe calls for it but patience in understanding that a career in the food world takes time; SEASONING, what is life with out a little flavor?, what is a recipe without a little spice?; LAISSEZ FAIRE, don’t interfere with that steak on the grill, don’t focus on what others are doing and focus on yourself; DEDICATION, with dedication comes passion and with both comes success.

The first seminar we attended was Photography & Food Styling run by food stylist Tami Hardeman and photographer Helene Dujardin. Together they taught us tricks of the trade in both styling the food and how best to photograph the food. Helene’s collection of food props (aka plates, bowls, utensils, trays, etc) was enough to make anyone jealous. The less than 1% of her collection that she brought to the conference was like walking through an Anthropologie, a vintage thrift shop, and a Pottery Barn all at once. I immediately had the urge to rush out and find some fantastic pieces. (not that I have) When I research food photography everyone says to use white, that white makes food pop and look more appealing, but I was excited to see that they plated soup in an off-white bowl with a navy center. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to food photography, especially in dealing with my lack of natural light. Which you will see in the photos associated with this blog post – my ability to photograph and then edit cheese shot under artificial light at night is awful! Unfortunately when I asked how to shoot photos without natural light the answer was, “If it’s dark, put it in the fridge and try again tomorrow.” Too bad I only cook after dark… Oh well, I’ll figure it out one of these days… hopefully.

Next we switched tracks where Cathy Barrow shared her experience in turning her blog into a career. Upon returning from the conference I adjusted my twitter account (@Tiny_Chef_829) to be public and have started tweeting my blog posts. In a couple of weeks we get new phones and I’ll be going over to the dark side by getting an iPhone –  I will then figure out what Instagram is and how to use it. I have figured out how to add a contact page to my menu bar! Unfortunately she informed us of the harsh reality that in a world over-saturated with food writers, it’ll be hard to “make it big”.

After lunch Tara and I split up. She attended the Creativity Lightning Round while I attended Better Recipe Writing & Development. Nancy Huges was such a delight! She gave us great advice on creating recipes, tips on how best to write the recipe, and had countless stories to share from her impressive career.  I am now in the process of going through my blog posts and addressing any recipe writing mistakes I’ve made. Attending this session really re-motivated me to create some more original recipes. And that’s exactly what I did when I got home. It’s the recipe at the end of this post. I wanted to utilize one of the many vendors’ products. I had grabbed Roland’s Instant Black Bean Quinoa from their table thinking I could use it for Mexican Monday. I used traditional Mexican spices to flavor the chicken, and am so pleased with how perfectly my end results complimented the quinoa. Additionally, the red bell pepper rounded out the flavor profile perfectly.

Stuffed Peppers

I rejoined Tara for How to Win a James Beard Media Award where Marion Laney and Diane Jackson introduced us to the world of awards.

To round out the conference, keynote speaker Molly Wizenberg, gave an inspiring speech. Before her speech she sat down at our table and spoke one-on-one with us in such a personal way. She understands where we are in our budding “careers” and I found her to be very relate-able. I enjoyed her story and how far her passion for cooking has taken her.  My favorite quote of hers (and I jotted down a few) is

What do I stand to lose by following my nose; what do I stand to lose to not follow my nose.

That philosophy is the reason she’s so successful. And that philosophy is the one I need to stop being afraid of.

An Original Recipe

Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkt (5.46 oz) Roland® Black Bean Quinoa
  • 1 1/2 C water
  • 1 lb chicken, cut into small bite-size cubes
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 C your favorite salsa, not a chunky one though
  • 2 C shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided use
  • 5-6 red bell peppers, tops cut to create a cup and seeds and ribs removed

Steps:

  1. Bring 1 1/2 C of water to a boil. Add quinoa, stir, reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a large glass bowl.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Toss pieces of chicken in seasonings.
  4. Heat olive oil a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot add in chicken and cook 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Transfer to the same bowl with the quinoa.
  5. To the chicken mixture add in the salsa and 1 C of shredded cheese.
  6. Place peppers cut side up in a casserole dish. Fill peppers completely with chicken mixture. Top with remaining cheese. Place the pepper tops back on and bake for 30-35 minutes. Note: I like having a bite to my peppers, if you prefer a softer pepper cook for 45-50 minutes with 1/4 C water or chicken stock in the casserole dish.

Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

Disclaimer: I was not asked to create a recipe using a Roland product. I was provided Roland products for attending the conference. All reviews are my own.