Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What's in the Box? Couscous with Spinach and Fresh Mozzarella

More lunch ideas for you! I decided I wanted a salad, but not a lettuce-y one.

Notes: My grocery store carries tiny little mozzarella balls, so I used those. If yours doesn't, just grab a regular ball of mozzarella and dice it.

I used a garlic and herb flavored couscous. You could use the plain kind and season it any way you want.

1 box of couscous
2 cups of baby spinach
1 cup small mozzarella balls or diced fresh mozzarella


Chop the baby spinach. Cook the couscous according to the directions. When it's finished, add the spinach to the pot. Stir everything together until the spinach starts to wilt. Once it's cool, add the mozzarella.

Store in the fridge. Scoop some out into your favorite small lunch container and pack it up. Enjoy!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Shrimp and Grilled Pineapple Tacos

Earlier this month, I had a birthday. Normally, I love going out to restaurants for my birthday. But I had just come home from a conference the day before and I was tired. I pretty much just wanted to stay home. So I decided to make myself a delicious birthday dinner.

Notes: These tacos were a splurge for me because shrimp is expensive. But it was my birthday dinner, so splurging is the name of the game!

When you cook shrimp, you don't want to mess with them in the pan too much. Just put them in the skillet and try to flip them just once or twice.

Cleaning shrimp isn't so hard. You just need a sharp paring knife. Pull the shells, legs, and tail off. Then look for the vein: it's either along the back of the shrimp or underneath it. Whichever side it's on, run the tip of your knife along that side to expose the vein. Use your knife to scrape the vein out. That's it! It's helpful to have a wet rag or a paper towel next to you to help you keep your knife clean.

3/4-1 pound of shrimp
1 small can of pineapple rings
1 large bunch of cilantro
1 lime
2 avocados
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Soft taco shells

Directions: Look on your soft taco shell package and see what temperature to heat the taco shells on. Set the oven to that temperature.

Heat an indoor grill pan on medium high (I spray mine with some high temp cooking spray first). Grill the pineapple rings for about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from grill and set aside.

Mix the cajun seasoning, cumin, and chili powder together in a small bowl. Peel and clean your shrimp (or just buy the pre-cleaned kind). Put the prepared shrimp in a bowl and sprinkle with the seasoning mixture. Toss (with your fingers) to coat.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter or oil. When the skillet is warm, add the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp start to curl up, turn pink, and become opaque.

Wrap the taco shells in foil and warm them up. While the shrimp is finishing up, cut the pineapple rings into small pieces. Add the pineapple to the pan to warm it through. Roughly chop the cilantro. Cut the avocado and scoop it into a bowl. Squeeze the lime over it and mash it up a little.

To assemble, put a spoonful of avocado on to the tortilla. Add the shrimp and pineapple. Top with cilantro. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What's in the Box? Baked Mini Spinach and Cheese Quesadilla

It's that time of the semester when I fall behind on the recipes. I promise I've been cooking; I just haven't been posting!

Time for another edition of What's in the Box? If you're tired of plain old sandwiches, why not try a veggie quesadilla instead?

Notes: These come out pretty thin, so I don't know how well they will work for lunch all by themselves. I brought some other stuff along with me and had plenty to eat.

I prepped these on Sunday so I had one for each day of the week. Worked perfectly--so much easier than trying to fix them during the week.

Cutting these with a pizza cutter was super easy.

Once these were cooled and cut, I stored each one in a sandwich bag in the fridge. That way all I had to do is throw one in my lunchbox before school.

I ate mine cold (I don't mind cold quesadillas), but you could nuke yours in the microwave at work if you like them warm.

10 taco-sized flour tortillas
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1-1 1/2 cups grated colby jack cheese (or other melting cheese)

Directions: Heat oven to 350.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Put 5 tortillas on the baking sheet. Tear the spinach leaves into smaller pieces. Put a thin layer of cheese on each tortilla. Add a layer of torn spinach leaves. Add another layer of cheese on top (if you like more cheese). Top with a second tortilla.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes until the quesadillas start to brown and crisp. Allow the quesadillas to cool.

Cut into four triangles and store in the fridge. Enjoy warm or cold!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Winter weather has reared its ugly head yet again. Time for a warm and toasty soup.

Notes: This tastes EXACTLY like the inside of chicken pot pie. If you like chicken pot pie, you will like this soup.

I served mine with homemade buttermilk biscuits. If you don't want to bother, grab your favorite bakery rolls.

Since there's lots of chopping involved, you might want to save this for a weekend. Or you could do what I did and do all your chopping on Sunday. I just kept all the chopped veggies in the fridge. Then I just made the soup on a weeknight.

I made my chicken in the crockpot over the weekend. I bought a pack a chicken tenders and just set it on low for about 5 hours. I shredded it, put it in a tupperware container, and it was ready for me along with the veggies.

If you want to forgo the chopping altogether, just grab a bag of mixed frozen veggies! Couldn't be easier.

2 cups cooked shredded chicken
5-6 carrots
5-6 celery stalks
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups green beans in bite size pieces
1 onion
1 bunch parsley
4 cups of chicken stock
1/3 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Prep all the vegetables: dice the carrots, celery, and onion. Mince the parsley. In a large stock pot, melt the butter. Add in all the veggies and parsley. Saute for a few minutes. Add in the flour and stir to coat the veggies. Add in the chicken stock. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down to simmer. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Simmer for at least 30 minutes. About 10 minutes before the time is up, add the chicken and corn. During the last 5 minutes, stir in the milk.

Serve and enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2016

What's in the Box? Spinach Salad with Mustard Brown Sugar Roasted Broccoli

Time for another edition of What's in the Box? I was inspired by my buffalo roasted broccoli to try another version. I thought it would make a nice addition to a lunch time salad.

Notes: This salad is delicious. This one has goat cheese again (can you tell I'm a fan?), but you could sub out some bleu cheese or feta if you prefer.

Baby spinach
Mustard Brown Sugar Roasted Broccoli (recipe follows)
Dried cranberries
Herb goat cheese

In a plastic container or mason jar, place about  2 cups of greens. Add the desired amount of broccoli, cranberries, and goat cheese.

When you're ready to eat, mix everything together and enjoy!

Mustard Brown Sugar Roasted Broccoli
2 broccoli crowns
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 rounded teaspoons brown sugar

Directions: Heat oven to 400.

Cut the broccoli into small florets. Melt the butter in the microwave and then whisk in brown sugar and mustard.

Pour the mixture over the broccoli and toss to coat well. Arrange the broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes until fork tender and starting to brown.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Eat Food, Save Money: Transformeals + Beef and Sweet Potato Chili

We already know that cooking rather than eating out saves you money. We also know that you save even more money if you can use leftovers wisely. 

But here's the problem: leftovers can be boring. I mean, they're quick and easy, sure. Just dump them on a plate or in a bowl, nuke them in the microwave for a few minutes, and dinner is ready. But eating the same thing two or three nights in a row can tempt some people (read: me) to go out. So, I don't love having the same leftovers night after night. 

What I'm calling "transformeals" help me deal with my boredom of leftovers. I can get a lot more nights out of my leftovers if I can use some of them to make something new. 

This recipe started out as Baked Beef and Bean Taquitos (similar to my chicken and spinach taquitos). I made them for the Super Bowl. I had lots of leftover filling, but rather than make more taquitos, I came up with Beef and Sweet Potato Chili.

If you make this chili, you could use your leftovers to make Beef and Sweet Potato Tacos: just add some taco shells, some cheese, and some lettuce. Or you could make a Beef and Sweet Potato Taco Salad: add some chopped romaine, some guacamole, and some sour cream. You can transform your leftovers into something new without much extra work. And for some people (read: me) that can help keep temptations to order pizza at bay.

Notes: Even though I had leftover filling already, I've written the recipe without assuming that you made taquitos first. 

I used 90% lean ground beef, so I was able to use the fat from the beef to cook the potato and onions. If it looks like you don't have enough fat in the pan, add just a little bit of butter or olive oil before you at the potato and onion. Otherwise the potato will stick to the pan. 

The refried beans give the chili a nice thick consistency. I used regular refried pinto beans, but you could use black beans. If you want to cut down on the fat, feel free to use regular beans. Just mash them up before you add them to the chili. 

Those pre-made taco seasoning packets from your grocery store? Use them! If you don't keep tons of spices on hand, there's no use buying a bunch for one recipe. Some of those seasoning packets are under $1. Individual spices can cost $3 each. They're an investment that you might not want to make unless you think you'll use them in the future. 

1 lb ground beef
1 15 oz can refried beans
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes 
1 large sweet potato
1 small onion
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Hot sauce (to taste)

Directions: Dice the onion and peel and dice the sweet potato. Chop the cilantro.

Start by browning the ground beef in a large skillet set on medium heat. Season with salt and half the taco seasoning packet. When there no pink remaining, drain the meat on a plate lined with a paper towel. Return the pan to the heat (see notes). 

Add the onion and potato. Cook until they just start to turn brown in some places. Season with salt and the other half of the taco seasoning. Add the tomatoes, beef, and refried beans. Add hot sauce to taste. If the mixture looks too thick, add some water (about 1/3 cup to start with). 

Turn the heat to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender. Serve with your favorite chili toppings and enjoy!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

What's in the Box? Deli Roll Ups

I am not gluten free, but I know several people who are. I also know several people who are trying to cut down on carbs.

I'm not making a conscious effort to cut down on carbs, but I do try to be balanced about it. If I know I'm having a carb-heavy dinner, I'll try not to eat any at lunch. That can be tricky when you're trying to figure out things to take in your lunch.

Enter deli roll ups!

Slices of deli meat (I used thin salami)
Slices of cheese (I used havarti)
Toothpicks (for assembling)

Directions: Make yourself a little assembly line by laying out your cheese slices first. Lay a slice of meat on top a slice of cheese. Roll it up--not too tight so that you tear your cheese, but not so loose that it doesn't stay together. Shove a toothpick through the middle to keep them from unrolling.

I put them in one of my snap-lid containers and supplemented them with some fruit, vegetables, and yogurt. Delicious!