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!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Buffalo Roasted Broccoli

I'm always on the lookout for new vegetable sides. Main dishes get all the love.

I absolutely love buffalo chicken (not necessarily the wings, although they're good too). Why not make your vegetables buffalo-style too?

Notes: I'm sans photo for this one because I forgot to take one before we ate it all!

This recipe serves 4 (or two people with leftovers).

This dish would be great to add to fried rice or pasta if you wanted to make it a main dish. You could also use one broccoli crown and one head of cauliflower if you wanted to mix it up.

You'll see the ingredient list is really short and mostly comprised of things that I typically keep in my fridge. It's also fast and easy, so it's a perfect weeknight side.

2 broccoli crowns
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons hot sauce (more to taste)

Directions: Heat the oven to 400.

Cut the broccoli crowns into florets. Arrange in one layer on a foil lined baking sheet.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. Stir the hot sauce and worcestershire sauce into the butter. Pour the mixture over the broccoli. Toss to coat.

Roast for 15-20 minutes until the broccoli can be pierced with a fork. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Q.E.D: Ham and Cheese Crescent Rolls

It's only two weeks into the semester and things are starting to get busy already. Next week I quite literally have a meeting every single day! Time to start thinking up some Q.E.D. meals in anticipation for the weeks ahead.

Notes: I love stromboli and I've wanted to make a mini version for awhile. I had planned to use my homemade pizza dough. But I walked by the crescent dough in the store last week and decided that would be fun to use.

This is such a quick dinner to put together. It took 20 minutes from prep to plate and most of that was baking time!

I used havarti here, but you can use provolone, swiss, or muenster. Those would all work well.

I used a pizza cutter to dice the ham and slice the cheese. I find that easier than a knife for thin deli meat.

Lots of different fillings will work for this. I've made some with just pesto and cheese, and I've made some with pepperoni and cheese. The main thing is to (a) make sure you don't over stuff them and (b) make sure whatever filling you use doesn't contain too much liquid.

I made a simple salad to go with these, but you could make whatever vegetable side you want.

These would also make a great party snack.

1 tube of crescent roll dough (usually 8 rolls per tube)
3-4 slices of deli ham
2 slices of havarti cheese

Directions: Heat the oven to the temperature listed on the back of the crescent roll package.

Dice the ham and divide the pieces into 8 small piles. Cut each piece of cheese into 4 triangles. Line a baking sheet with foil. Open the package of crescent dough and gently unroll and separate all the triangles.

Put a piece of cheese on each triangle. Put a little pile of ham on the wide part of the triangle. Roll up each triangle starting with the wide end. Form each piece into a crescent shape. Pinch the seams together seal everything inside the crescent.

Bake according to package directions until golden brown.

Serve with a vegetable or side salad and enjoy!

Monday, January 25, 2016

No Bake S'Mores Bars

This weekend when we had the big snow I decided that I needed to have some cooking projects to keep me busy. We were at a party not long ago and friend brought over these s'mores bars. They were so good! I should have asked for the recipe before we left, but I forgot. So, I did some Googling and found a similar recipe. I tinkered with it and got some excellent results!

Notes: These are crispy, sweet, and delicious. The fact that they are so easy just makes it that much better. I found a bunch of recipes for them, but this was the one I modified.

Melting marshmallows is a little difficult. They don't melt as fast as you think. I think the best way to do it is to melt the butter first and then put in the marshmallows. Keep the heat low to avoid scorching them. Let them start to get soft before you put in the chocolate chips. The mixture will become uniform as it starts to melt. It will end up being the consistency of thin peanut butter.

Don't skip out on the extra marshmallows. If you leave them out, you don't really get the full s'mores effect. If you don't want to buy 2 bags of marshmallows, just reserve 1 cup from the 5 1/2 from the bag and up the chocolate chips to 2 cups.

1 box of Golden Grahams or similar cereal
1 bag of mini marshmallows (about 5 1/2 cups), plus 1 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
5 tablespoons butter


Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and grease the bottom and the sides with butter.

Open up the cereal and put it in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter, chocolate chips, and 5 1/2 cups of marshmallows together over low heat. Stir continuously until the mixture is uniform (see notes).

Pour the mixture over the cereal and stir together. Fold in the extra 1 1/2 cups of marshmallows.

Transfer to the 9 x 13 dish. Butter the back of a large spoon (or spray with cooking spray) and press the mixture into the dish into an even layer.

Refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut into squares. Store in the fridge loosely covered.

Enjoy your no bake dessert!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Greens and Goat Cheese Scramble

Boy do we have a snow day today. We've got a foot on the ground already and more is coming down as we speak!

Sassy is not impressed with the snow.

What better way to keep your snow day occupied than cooking?

Notes: I made this for lunch, but it could be a nice weekend breakfast.

It actually happens that I end up with small amounts of greens that I need to use up and this is a great way of doing that. I also happened to have some fresh herbs because I was making some spaghetti sauce.

The key to a nice scramble is to keep the heat low. Not really low, but low enough so that the eggs cook slowly.

2 large eggs or 3 medium eggs
1/2 cup of fresh arugula leaves
1/2 cup of fresh spinach leaves
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (oregano, chives, or basil would all work well)
Goat cheese (to taste)


Give your greens a rough chop and mince the herbs. Crumble your goat cheese into small pieces.

Put the herbs in a bowl big enough for your eggs. Crack the eggs into the bowl and beat together with the herbs until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a small amount of butter in a skillet on medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the greens and cook until just tender. Turn the heat down. Pour the eggs over the greens. Start to stir the eggs around in the pan. When the eggs still look wet, but are mostly cooked, add the goat cheese. Gently fold the goat cheese into the eggs.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

What's in the Box? Lunch Crudites

For the second installment of What's in the Box?, I bring you my recent favorite lunch box combination.

Lunch Crudites.

As you know, crudites is a French appetizer of raw vegetables. You're thinking this doesn't sound at all exciting, but I promise you that if you are bored taking sandwiches all the time, lunch crudites is for you.

First of all, it's healthy. You're supposed to be getting 3-4 servings of vegetables every day. How often do you actually accomplish that? It's tricky. Lunch crudites has at least two servings built in. Second, it's easy to pack. You'll notice I have a handy snap-lid plastic container. It's thin enough to fit into my lunch box, but big enough for plenty of veggies. Third, it's versatile. You can include any combination of veggies you want. Fourth, it requires minimal prep time: wash and cut your veggies on Sunday night and you'll have them ready to pack every day that week.

As you can see, I also supplement my lunch crudites with other things because two servings of vegetables is not enough food for me. I'll give you the run down of things I like to include.

Here's a list of all the crudites I've used in various combinations. I usually take two different veggies at a time:
1. Fresh green beans: No, they're not cooked. Raw green beans are delicious! They're crunchy and refreshing.
2. Baby carrots: Packaged and pre-washed? Couldn't be easier.
3. Sliced red, yellow, and green bell peppers: Mix and match or pick your favorite!
4. Sugar snap peas: When these are in season, you just can't beat them.
5. Snow peas: These are great if you're trying to get yourself into raw veggies. They have a nice mild flavor and they're tender.
6. Cucumber: I like the long seedless ones. They have thinner skin.
7. Yellow squash and zucchini: Again, in season these are fresh and delicious

I buy my lunch crudites during my big weekend grocery store trip. When I get home, I wash the veggies and let them air dry on a clean kitchen towel out on the counter. When they're dry, I put them away. For the green beans, all I do is snap off the ends and snap them in half. In the case of bell peppers, squash, zucchini, and cucumber, I slice them. The others I put straight into plastic food storage containers. In airtight containers, the veggies will keep in the fridge for a week. And they're ready to pack when you need them.

I supplement my lunch crudites with all sorts of things:
1. Yogurt: I try to eat yogurt every day.
2. String cheese: String makes the perfect side for veggies.
2. A hard boiled egg: Eggs get a bad reputation, but they're really perfect. Lots of nutrients and protein. I boil 5 of them on Sunday, peel them, and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.
3. Nuts: Again, protein, which I need to keep me going until dinner.
4. Fruit: Most of the time it's apples, but I take oranges too. You're supposed to get 3-4 servings of those too!

If you're bored with sandwiches, enjoy some lunch crudites instead!

Monday, January 18, 2016

What's in the Box? Arugula, Sweet Potato, and Goat Cheese Salad

I take my lunch to work. We don't have a ton of dining options on campus and I don't like having to spend money on food everyday, so I buy lunch supplies during my weekend grocery run.

Coming up with things to eat for lunch, however, can be tedious. No one wants to eat PB&J every day, right? To help you come up with ideas, I thought I'd do a couple of posts on my lunch. So what's in the (lunch) box?

This week it's an arugula, sweet potato, and goat cheese salad. I'm topping mine with pomegranate seeds.

Here's what you need to make at least three of these salads for the week:
1 box or bag of pre-washed arugula
1 medium sweet potato
1 small container of goat cheese

On Sunday or Saturday (whenever you have some time), peel and chop your sweet potato. Toss the cubes with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes until tender. Let them cool and store them in a food storage container in the fridge.

I use this little Rubbermaid container (LunchBlox). It comes with a little tray that sits on top of your greens and holds your toppings. That way you can mix everything together when you eat it. It even comes with a little container for dressing (I'm not using a dressing since I've got the pomegranates and cheese, but you can use what you like).

If you don't have one of these, no worries. Whatever container you have is fine---mason jar salads are all the rage! To pack it in a regular container, put the dressing at the bottom of the container. Then put in the greens and then top with some of the sweet potatoes and some of the goat cheese. When you're ready to eat, just mix everything together.

Now, I usually supplement my salad with more things for lunch (a salad this size isn't enough food for me!). I might bring an apple or an orange, a yogurt, and some salted nuts. But I'll post more ideas like that later!

Enjoy your homemade lunch!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Baked Spinach and Chicken Taquitos (Slow Cooker Option)

Happy New Year, everyone! As often happens, the blog took a back seat to school last term. No matter! It's a new year and a new day, so time to get back to cooking.

For you, I have a fun and delicious finger food: taquitos! Taquitos are often fried, but these are baked. If you're trying to eat healthy for the new year, you've got a good recipe to start with.

Notes: I modified this recipe for my taquitos. You'll notice that these are freezer friendly, which is great. I made enough filling to make two batches, so I might try freezing some. So far I've just made one round.

I made my filling in the crockpot. If you wanted to cut down on your prep time, you could use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. As long as you have about three cups of shredded chicken, you're good.

Make sure your tortillas are warm or at least room temperature. If they're too cold, they'll crack when you try to roll them.

2 lbs chicken tenderloins (see notes)
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 onion
2 heaping tablespoons chili powder
2 heaping tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Hot sauce to taste
1 package of 12 taco-sized tortillas (corn or flour will work)
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 to 1.5 cups shredded cheese (I used colby jack)
Cooking spray

If using a crockpot to make the chicken, slice the onion and lay the slices in the bottom of the slow cooker. Lay the chicken on top and the season the chicken with salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and hot sauce. Pour the diced tomatoes on top. Set the slow cooker on 8 hours on low.

When the filling is ready, heat the oven to 425. Roughly chop the spinach. Shred the chicken with two forks. Mix the spinach, chicken, and cheese (I mixed it right in the slow cooker) until combined.

To assemble the taquitos, place a small amount of the filling (about 2 tablespoons) toward the bottom of the tortilla in the center. Roll it up and put the taquito seam-side down on a baking sheet (the baking sheet needs to be lined with non-stick foil or parchment paper). When you've rolled all the taquitos, spray them lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!