Shredded Pork Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa

I made these tacos for dinner tonight, I love this meal because it took five minutes to get the pork into the crockpot, 10 minutes hands-on time to make the salsa, and dinner was ready!  Each of my three kids ate thirds of this meal, which was pretty amazing! I will make this over and over again.

Shredded Pork Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa

2-3 lb pork loin roast
5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 lime, juiced
1 Tb. canola oil
3/4 c. water

For Serving:
corn tortillas
lime wedges
sour cream

In a small bowl mix together garlic, cumin, sea salt, chili powder, lime juice and oil.  Cover the pork roast with all of the rub and put in the bottom of the crockpot and pour in the water.  Cover the crockpot and cook on low 5-6 hours, shred the pork and mix together well before assembling tacos. To serve put some shredded pork on a warmed corn tortilla and top with sour cream and pineapple salsa.  Serve with a lime wedge.

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Charred Pineapple Jalapeno Salsa

This salsa turned out so yummy.  Sweet at first and then the spicy jalapeno hits.  It goes perfectly on the shredded pork tacos I'm going to post later.  This recipe is from one of my dad's favorite restaurants, Salsa Brava, in Flagstaff.  The restaurant was featured on Food Network, and their roasted pineapple habanero salsa was written in the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives book.  I had to try it!  I followed the recipe the first time exactly and it was SO spicy we couldn't eat it!  So, I made a few adjustments and now I've got it down.  

This salsa is more of a typical salsa than what you would compare to other fruit salsas, such as mango salsa.  I think it would go on a regular taco or salad too.

Pineapple Jalapeno Salsa
recipe adapted from Salsa Brava

3-4 fresh jalapenos (depending on how spicy you like it)
5 roma tomatoes, halved
1 large sweet yellow onion
1 16 oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 c. water
1 c. cilantro

Move your oven rack to the top spot and turn on the broiler.  Cut the jalapenos in half and carefully remove the seeds and ribs, being careful not to touch your eyes! Cut the onion in thick slices.  Lay out the jalapeno halves, tomato halves, and onion slices on a cooking sheet and broil the vegetables until they are charring on the edges, flip the veggies over and broil the second side. (I broiled mine 10-12 minutes on the firsts side and only 5 minutes the second side.)

Once the veggies are charred add them with water, cilantro and pineapple into the bowl of your food processor (or blender) and pulse until the veggies and cilantro are chopped.  Season with salt to your liking. Enjoy with tortilla chips or on a taco.
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Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad

I've posted this recipe before, but the photos were not great terrible. And I realized that the recipe wasn't super precise because when I cook I typically throw a bunch of stuff together until it works out.  This time, I very precisely measured everything!  And I think my photography has improved as well...just a bit.

I like to use baked bone-in chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken for my chicken salad, but you can certainly boil your chicken or used canned if you prefer the ease of that.  For these photos I used rotisserie chicken.  The photo above is my "sandwich", the photo below is my skinny husbands sandwich. Tastes great either way! I also like to set it out with some wheat thins or other crackers at a party.

Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad

4 c. chopped, cooked chicken
3 green onions, chopped
1 medium granny smith apple, peeled and chopped small
1/4-1/3 c. dried cranberries, depending on how much you like.  (I used 1/4 c.)
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 heaping Tb. spicy brown mustard
1/3 c. sour cream or Greek yogurt
1/3 c. mayo
salt & pepper to taste

lettuce, sliced tomatoes, bread and/or crackers for serving.

Mix all ingredients together, taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.  (You can certainly sub seasoned salt, but I like the simplicity of just salt and pepper.) Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

* Note: I have noticed that the Greek yogurt leaves the salad a little bit watery whereas the sour cream thickens it more.  I still use the Greek yogurt :)
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Creamy Southwest Chicken

I seem to have been experiencing Blogger's-block.  If that exists.

Every time I use Blogger, my computer crashes and my husband has to re-install the operating system.  I'm sure it has nothing to do with Blogger itself, but rather that my laptop has some kind of nasty virus that can't be completely undone.  Basically my laptop has spent a lot of quality time as a paper weight lately.  And then once he had it all up and running again, I was out of the Blogging-routine and in the middle of May-sanity (ie: end-of-the-schoolyear-over-commitment).  May-Sanity is over now so I thought I would give it another whirl.

Today I'm bringing you a recipe we really like that is great for summer in HellonEarth the desert because it is all cooked in the crockpot with very little prep!  AND it makes a lot so it's great for a few lunches too.

I found this recipe on ...yah, you guessed it--Pinterest.  Shocking.  I am currently making an attempt to go through my Pinterest account and either make the recipes or crafts I've pinned or get rid of them.  I did adapt this recipe quite a bit to make it more flavorful for us but the base is great!  We like this in whole wheat tortillas, on chips or over rice or quinoa.

Creamy Southwest Chicken
recipe adapted from The Larson Lingo

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (frozen is fine)
1 8-oz block cream cheese
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Rotel, not drained
2 c. frozen corn kernels (I prefer Trader Joe's super sweet frozen corn)
1 packet taco seasoning mix
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
dash of cayenne pepper
Tortillas, tortilla chips or cooked rice for serving

diced red onion
jalapeno slices
shredded cheddar cheese
hot sauce, taco sauce or salsa

Place the chicken in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Put the block of cream cheese, beans, rotel and corn on top of the chicken and sprinkle the taco seasoning, garlic and cayenne pepper on top of everything.  Cook on low 5-6 hours.  When you're ready to eat stir it well and shred the chicken.  Let the crockpot stand without the lid on for 10-15 minutes before serving and the mixture will thicken up a bit.  Serve as nachos or in a burrito with desired toppings.
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Chinese Chicken Salad

Today it was over 100 degrees in Phoenix.  Let the cold dinners begin! During summer (which is really May-October for us) we do lots of grilling, salads, and some stove-top dinners. This salad is a great meal-salad that is filling and tasty, AND my kids ate it up.  You can absolutely make a double batch of the salad dressing and marinate the chicken in some of the dressing before grilling to add even more flavor.

Chinese Chicken Salad

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 c. chopped cucumber
2 large carrots, grated
4-6 green onions, chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
4 oz sliced almonds
1 can mandarin oranges, drained well
1 1/2 lb chicken breast
2 large burrito size tortillas, sliced in thin strips
vegetable oil

Preheat the grill and season the chicken breasts well with granulated garlic, sea salt and pepper, cook until done on the inside, about 12-15 minutes total.  While the chicken is cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat and fill it with about an inch of vegetable oil. To test the oil, put one tortilla strip in the skillet, if it sizzles and starts cooking right away it's ready! If nothing happens, wait a minute longer.  Fry the tortilla strips in batches until crispy, about 2 minutes each small batch. Remove cooked strips to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt.  Continue frying the tortilla strips until they're all cooked.

Once the chicken is cooked, slice it thinly. To assemble salads layer lettuce, cucumber, carrots, onions, cilantro, almonds, oranges and chicken.  Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with fried tortilla strips.

Chinese Dressing
recipe from Ellie Krieger on Food Network

3 Tb soy sauce (I used reduced sodium)
1/3 c. rice vinegar
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 Tb. vegetable oil
2 Tb. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. sriracha
1 tsp. sesame oil
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Teacher Appreciation Ideas

Teacher Appreciation week starts tomorrow, May 6th.  After being a teacher I really appreciate and understand all that teachers do, so I like to send in something every day for the week.  If you're thinking every single day is overkill, just pick one small way to show your kids' teachers that you appreciate them.

I tried to find things that were cute and practical, but not too expensive, being as my little kids have two preschool teachers each (times three days/week is six gifts there), plus my son's first grade teacher, and I wanted to send something in for all of the specials teachers at the elementary school too. So, that's a lot of gifts! Whew! Got it all figured out, all the supplies bought and most of the work done, so I'm feeling prepared.  If you haven't even given it a thought yet, here's a few ideas to get you started, that don't take a ton of time or extra special skills! (Ms. Sons, if you're reading this...stop now! Don't want to ruin the surprise.)

One day I am going to bring in lunch for the whole first grade team. I brought lunch for the kindergarten teachers last year too and I try to choose something that can be eaten cold, so that I'm not trying to time the cooking and delivery of the lunch perfectly OR the teachers don't have to spend their precious lunch time fighting for microwave space in the break room.  This year I made the teachers Southwest Chicken Pasta Salad, fresh fruit and brownies with peanut butter frosting.

I found this great subway art download through Pinterest.  I uploaded the image to Sam's Club and printed it on a 5x7. Then I used Mod Podge and a foam brush to attach scrap paper and the subway art to the back of a clipboard and covered with a few coats of Mod Podge.  For the front I had the little kids (ages 2 and 4) color and sign a note that I typed up.  My first grader wrote his own note. This subway art would look super cute as an 8x10 or 11x14 in a frame too.

Another gift I made is a monogram "wreath".  I found some cute letters at Hobby Lobby.  They're just MDF that I sanded on the edges, made some rolled fabric flowers and attached a ribbon to.  My daughter has a male preschool teacher that we love, but I didn't think Mr. Ty would be in love with a rolled fabric flower "wreath" so I'm in the process of painting his letter with chalkboard paint, thinking that's a little more masculine.

Hobby Lobby had these cute little popcorn boxes that I just loved so I'm going to make a couple batches of double chocolate peanut caramel corn to stuff in the boxes, package it in a celophane bag with a ribbon and tie some tags on. (I typed up these little tags, that I have yet to cut and attach to black cardstock.) I'll add a picture of the finished product! The caramel corn boxes will also be the treats for the specials teachers.

And, I'm going to bring in a latte or sonic drink for the last day.  After a hot day (week) teaching first graders, who wouldn't love a cold treat?

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Meal Prep Can Save You!

You know that saying, "Failure to plan is planning to fail."? Yah, well as cheesy as it is, it is TRUE! Especially when you're trying to eat healthy and lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.  I've mentioned before that I've struggled with  my weight and I have my whole life. Starting in third grade I became the fat kid and the struggle continues! After having three children I have finally learned that I can never just eat whatever I want.  I just can't. I've decided to be okay with that.  Someone told me I should write some tips out to help other people, so that's what this post is all about. 

My normal is to eat as healthy as possible, lots of fresh veggies and fruit and tons of water throughout the week, along with a good hour-long cardio and weights session or class at least four times a week.  On the weekends I loosen up on my diet a little bit and give myself a meal or two off to eat the food that I love, but that I know isn't helping my waistline! (Pasta, pizza, burgers, etc.) I can't just take the whole weekend off and make it a hayday. Disappointing, but true. Honestly, when I have done that I just feel so terrible I can't enjoy it anyway.

Prepping my healthy food ahead of time helps so much. If I have to chop lettuce and wash it, dry it and chop all of my veggies just to make a salad at lunch time when I've worked out and am already hungry, it is really tempting to eat something else! (AKA leftover pizza from said weekend splurge.)

Every Monday morning I chop all of the veggies I plan to use in my egg whites for the week.  The photo above is a small yellow onion, a small head of broccoli, and a bunch of spinach.  I washed all of it and chopped it small to use in my eggs.  That way in the morning when we are rushing to get out the door and to school on time I am not tempted to eat carbs instead of egg whites, which I know will fill me up and keep me full.  (Some other veggies I like to use in my eggs are zucchini or yellow squash, bell pepper, asparagus,  mushrooms...)

At the beginning of the week I also make a big salad that I can eat off of for lunch.  If it's in the fridge then I'm prepared. If I know that I'm going to be running errands after bible study and won't make it home for lunch I can quickly pack myself a salad, some carrots, and hummus and I am not tempted to drive through fast food to eat something that I will really regret!  I have found that I do not make rational food decisions when I feel hungry. I'll also pack myself a snack like a Lara bar and an apple if I know that I'm going to run some errands after a workout.  Too many times I have spoiled the hard work I've done at the gym on popcorn at Target or a frappuccino because I'm so hungry I don't care!

A typical day of eating for me:
Breakfast: sauteed veggies with 4 egg whites and iced coffee with cream
Snack: apple, orange, Lara or Luna bar, EAS shake, or slice of turkey (it all depends on my activity)
Lunch: salad with grilled chicken and vinaigrette OR flat out wrap with veggies and turkey OR leftovers (depending on what we had for dinner the night before)
Snack: baby carrots, cucumber & bell pepper slices with hummus
Dinner: healthy homemade meal...the options here are endless!
Snack: I usually have something after dinner, fresh fruit or an apple with peanut butter are my "good choices".

With just a small amount of prep it takes almost no time to throw together a healthy, filling meal or snack when I am rushed.  Without the prep I find that I eat whatever I can get my hands on when I'm "starving" and then my skinny jeans pay the price!
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Simplify School Lunches

I don't know about you, but I'm so tired of packing school lunches.  Lunches Smunches.  So...I decided to streamline the lunch packing process for the rest of the school year. I WISH I would've done this in August.  This has changed our mornings so I thought I'd share it with you.

Chips: I'm just too frugal to buy those miniature bags of chips so I bought one big bag and separated them into snack size ziploc bags.  I got 20 small bags of chips out of the one big bag that I bought for $2 at the grocery store! I get super excited about savings, I'm a dork like that.  I don't like to pack junk in lunches because...well, I was a fat kid, and I don't want my kids to learn bad eating habits so the one "treat" my son gets in his lunch is 7 Cheetos puffs.  I'm okay with it.

Dairy: I usually pack either a cheese stick or a Greek yogurt tube in his lunch, which is super quick.  This week I put a couple of boxes of Chobani yogurt tubes in the freezer so in the morning I can just grab one and throw it in the lunchbox and it is mostly thawed by lunch.

Fruit/Veggie: I always pack either a fresh fruit or veggie.  Clementines are super simple to stick in the lunchbox and he can peel and eat those quickly at lunchtime.  Robbie doesn't like to have apples in his lunch because it takes too long to eat so I pack a clementine, pear, baby carrots, bell pepper strips or celery sticks.

Sandwich: Throughout the year I will try to be creative with his main lunch item.  Sometimes I'll make a burrito and put it in foil, put a hot dog or leftovers of some kind in the thermos, but I'm tired of the hectic mornings.  No more creativity, it's sandwiches from now on.  Last week I got two loaves of wheat bread and made one loaf of turkey and cheese and one loaf of peanut butter and jelly. I put them in ziploc bags, stacked them in the bread bag, and put them all in the freezer. In the morning I grab a sandwich out and it's thawed by lunch.

To make the turkey and cheese I laid out all of the bread. On one side I put a slice of cheese, turkey on the other and squeezed some mustard in the middle.  I put the mustard in the middle so the bread wouldn't get soggy. 

To make the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I spread a very thin layer of peanut butter on one side of the bread hoping that would keep the bread from getting soggy. Then I topped it with strawberry jam (that I made, yummy!) and on the other piece of bread I spread a thicker layer of peanut butter.

And that's it! Less than 45 minutes of prep work and I have 18 school lunches prepped and ready to go. In the morning it now takes me one minute to pack my son's lunch and move on with life!

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Green Chile Burger with Jalapeno Pesto Mayo

We love burgers.  Seriously.  Just search the burgers/sandwiches label and you will see...kinda obsessed.  Rob requested a burger of some sort this week and he is so laid back, if he ever requests anything I like to accommodate him!

We always like to try burgers with a spicy flair when we are out but both Rob and I don't like that it seems like most of the spicy burgers on menus out there include every. single. spicy. ingredient there is.  Why would we need jalapenos, pepper jack, salsa, chipotle mayo, and habanero sauce on a jalapeno kaiser roll ALL for one burger? OVERKILL. This burger has a great spicy/Mexican kick but not over the top. (In my most humble opinion on the subject.)

I roasted some fresh green chiles that I got in my basket to put in the burgers, but a can of chopped green chiles would work out just as well.  I would say the key to the deliciousness of this burger is the Jalapeno Pesto Mayo, so just bite the bullet and whip up a batch.  The rest of the pesto freezes great to use in a pasta or on a steak sandwich in the future.

Green Chile Burger with Jalapeno Pesto Mayo

2 lbs lean ground beef
3 small shallots, minced (about 2-3 Tb. minced)
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

2 tsp. sea salt
lots of black pepper
1/4 cup canned & drained green chiles,  OR 2-3 roasted green chiles, chopped

3 avocados
1/2 lime
salt & pepper

Jalapeno Pesto Mayo:
4 Tb. mayo
2 heaping  Tb. Jalapeno Pesto (or more depending on how you like it)

For Serving:
provolone cheese slices
sliced tomatoes
rolls or sourdough slices

In a large mixing bowl combine ground beef, shallots, garlic, green chiles, salt and pepper.  Form into 6 patties.  Refrigerate until you're ready to grill.  Smash the avocado and squeeze half the lime over it and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Stir to combine and refrigerate until serving.  For the Jalapeno Pesto Mayo mix together mayo and pesto and set aside.  Heat the grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.  Grill on each side 3-4 minutes, topping with cheese slices a minute before you remove the burgers from the grill.  To assemble the burgers put tomato slices on the bottom bun, if desired, top with burgers, avocado mixture and jalapeno pesto mayo.  Enjoy!

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Buffalo Cauliflower

I know this is a strange idea...but it works!  This winter we got into a bad habit of getting pizza and wings...almost every Friday and it HAD to stop!  I found this recipe on Pinterest and loved that it was a lighter dish and also vegan. We loved this, it is a perfect accompaniment to homemade pizza night.  This is a little more intense as far as prep, but it comes together pretty quickly and it is worth it!  I love that the coating is more of a batter and reminds me of the breading on fried mushrooms.

Buffalo Cauliflower
recipe barely modified from The Curvy Carrot

1 medium head cauliflower, rinsed
1 c. milk of your choice
1 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 c. buffalo sauce
Blue Cheese or Ranch dressing for serving (make your own!)

Preheat the oven to 450. Line a cookie sheet with foil and lay a wire rack over it.  I use a wire cooling rack. (You can grease the cookie sheet generously and lay the battered cauliflower directly on the sheet but it tends to stick.) Chop the cauliflower into chunks.  In a medium bowl whisk together the milk, flour, vinegar, garlic and sea salt.  Gently toss or dip the cauliflower chunks into the batter and transfer to the wire rack or greased cookie sheet.  Bake 15-18 minutes, until just starting to brown and crisp.  Remove from the oven and toss with the bufffalo sauce, returning to the foil lined cookie sheet. (No need to use the rack this time.) Bake another 5-8 minutes. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing.

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Triple Chocolate Blondies

I'm in a blogging lull.  I'm cooking.  We're eating.  I'm even taking photos of some of my food, I am just not getting from the camera to the computer to the editing to the blogging.  Forgive me if you've been waiting for my next post!  Every day I say "I've got to blog today!" and then laundry, bible study, preschool, volunteering, baseball...and so many other things happen and I don't get to it! Turning over a new leaf today!  

It's hard, if not impossible, to go wrong with an Our Best Bites Recipe. This is no exception, these blondies are yummy!  I am not a big baker.  I don't enjoy it, although I certainly do enjoy eating baked goods so it's probably a good thing that I don't bake my own very often.  My husband loves butterscotch anything so when I saw this recipe I made it right away. The original recipe calls for white chocolate chips, chocolate chips and butterscotch or peanut butter chips.  I just used chocolate and butterscotch chips and drizzled the top with white chocolate so it's still triple chocolate blondies!  When you make them, use any combination of chocolate chips that you like.

Triple Chocolate Blondies
recipe adapted from Our Best Bites

2 sticks butter
2 cups light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 cups chocolate, butterscotch, white chocolate or peanut butter chips in any combination.  (I used 1 c. chocolate and 1 c. butterscotch chips)
2 cubes vanilla almond bark or 2/3 c. white chocolate candy melts or 1/3 c. white chocolate chips
1-2 tsp vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 and spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.

Melt the butter and combine in a mixing bowl with the brown sugar.  Add the vanilla and eggs and beat with a hand mixer until creamed together.  Add in the flour and mix on medium speed until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and spread the batter in the pan.  Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Once cool melt your white chocolate (bark, candy melts or chips) in the microwave according to package directions.  Stir in the vegetable oil and carefully pour the melted chocolate into a ziploc bag.  Snip the tip off of the bag and drizzle the bars with chocolate.  Allow the chocolate to cool and harden before cutting into bars.  
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Hummus Crusted Chicken

I found this recipe on Pinterest...as usual. It was a good, very quick and simple recipe.  AND a new and more interesting way to eat chicken breasts, which is always a plus! 

Hummus Crusted Chicken
recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven

4 boneless chicken breasts
salt & pepper
granulated garlic
1 cup hummus, any kind you like.  Or make your own!
1 lemon
smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 450.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and lay the chicken down.  Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and granulated garlic.  Cover each piece of chicken with a generous coating of hummus.  Sprinkle the top with smoked paprika and squeeze the lemon over the top.  Bake 20-30 minutes, checking to make sure the chicken is cooked through.  This was great served with garlic, rosemary & olive oil quinoa and roasted veggies.

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Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad

Someone in our household has been sick enough to stay home for one entire month. I will be so happy to say farewell to March next week!! We are finally better and I'm back to blogging.  To make up for my lack of posts lately, I'm bringing you not only Ranch Dressing, but also this delicious salad.

When I first made the BBQ Chicken Quinoa Salad and we were "mmmmm-ing" Rob said, "You have to adapt this to Buffalo Chicken!"  So last week I made this.  We loved this.  It is perfect for summer.  This would be just as good without the chicken if you prefer vegetarian or you could add an extra can of chickpeas to bump up the protein.

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad

1 1/2 c. quinoa
one cube or 1 Tb. vegetable bouillon
3 c. water

1/2 lb. chicken breast, cooked & shredded
1/4 red onion, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled & grated
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 c. buffalo sauce + extra for serving (I use Frank's buffalo sauce)
1-2 Tb. Frank's Red Hot (optional)
1 tsp. granulated garlic
black pepper to taste
Ranch dressing for serving

Combine the water, quinoa and bouillon in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook 15 minutes.  Fluff the quinoa with a fork and season with granulated garlic and black pepper.  In a large bowl combine cooked quinoa, chicken, red onion, green onion, celery, grated carrots, garbanzo beans and buffalo sauce.  If you like it extra spicy ad 1-2 Tb. Frank's Red hot sauce. Either serve immediately or refrigerate until you're ready to eat.  To serve, fill a bowl with a serving of the salad, drizzle with ranch dressing and extra buffalo sauce.
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Ranch Dressing

I'm trying to cut down on chemicals and random ingredients I don't know so I thought I would try out the Pioneer Woman's ranch dressing.  It turned out pretty good! I like less of a mayo taste so I evened out the mayo/sour cream ratio so if you love mayo, add more of that and less of the sour cream.  I whipped up this batch for the buffalo chicken quinoa salad I'm going to post next and it was great drizzled on top!

Ranch Dressing
recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman

3/4 c. mayo
3/4 c. sour cream
2 tsp. vinegar
lots of black pepper (to your taste)
a few drops of worcestershire
dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. dried dill
2 Tb. dried parsley or 1/4 c. fresh parsley
2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 green onions, coarsely chopped
3/4 c. milk (maybe more)

Toss the mayo, sour cream, vinegar, pepper, worcestershire, cayenne, dill, parsley, garlic and green onions into the blender, pulse until everything is chopped and incorporated.  Pour in the milk and blend to incorporate.  Add more milk depending on the consistency you like.  Refrigerate until you need it.

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Iced Coffee, the Easy At-Home way!

We love coffee.  Actually, we are kind of snobs about our coffee.  There's  no Folgers up in here.  HAS to be Starbucks, Seattle's Best, Tully's or Peet's coffee...sometimes Gevalia if it's on sale and I have a coupon.  I know, I know, "Dunkin' Donuts won in the blind taste test against Starbucks." BUT I could blind taste test tell you which one was Dunkin' Donuts...not a fan (their donuts...another story).  As soon as it gets warm-ish, which is right now for Phoenicians, we go straight to iced coffee for the duration of the summer.  I just can't drink hot coffee when it's hot out.  But I also can't live without coffee...so it's been a problem.

We have tried so many ways to make iced coffee in bulk so I'm not brewing coffee in the morning and freezing it for an hour so it's cold so I can add ice to it so it isn't watered down.  Because we are picky about our coffee, I can't do the "I made regular coffee yesterday and after several hours put the leftover in the fridge so now I'll make an iced coffee out of it" version.  It doesn't taste right,  and we can't have that.  Then, I found it.  The perfect iced coffee recipe that is: delicious AND can be made frugally AND lasts a long time in the fridge!

Of course, Pioneer Woman led me to the right way of doing things.  Once again.  I thought it couldn't really work and I'd be sad when my coffee flunked, but when my Aunt Michelle came last summer she and my cousin made the first batch...and-- It. Works.  I adapted Pioneer Woman's method ever so slightly just because I'm cheap and didn't want to fork over loads of cash for a food service container and cheese cloth (whatever that is) and a beautiful drink dispenser that would never fit in my normal-sized fridge.  Two gallons of this coffee costs $6 or less, depending on the type of coffee you choose. Add in the cost of your own coffee syrup and half and half, and you just CAN'T beat it.

All you have to do is buy an inexpensive Rubbermaid container that will hold 2 gallons of liquid.  I got mine at Walmart for less than $5.00.  Stir one 12-16 oz bag of strong coffee (sometimes I used espresso blend) into 2 gallons of cold water.  Let it sit 24-48 hours.  The longer, the stronger.  We like it strong!

Then, set a mesh strainer on top of a clean soup pot, layer napkins in both directions and slowly pour the coffee over the strainer.

Iced Coffee
recipe from Pioneer Woman

a 2-gallon container with a lid
2 gallons water
1 12-16 oz bag strong, high-quality coffee (If you like DD, go for it.)
mesh strainer
paper towels

half and half
coffee syrup, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, whatever you like in it

Rinse out your container and fill with 2 gallons of cold water.  Stir in the coffee thoroughly, making sure it is all soaked.  Cover tightly and let sit on your kitchen counter for 24-36 hours.  I usually use a 12 oz bag of coffee so I let it sit 36-48 hours. When you're ready to strain the coffee, place the strainer over a large pot or container and line the strainer with paper towels.  Slowly pour the coffee over the strainer and let the grounds collect.  Discard the coffee grounds and pour the strained coffee into dispensers or pitchers to store in the fridge.  I use a glass iced-tea jar with a spout to store mine.

To make a glass of iced coffee, fill a glass with ice (we buy the ice from the store because it stays cold longer!), pour the coffee over and prepare as you like with half and half, vanilla syrup, sugar...or sweetened condensed milk!  My favorite "Saturday coffee" is a glass of iced coffee with a couple tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, a splash of half and half and cinnamon.

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Garlic, Rosemary & Olive Oil Quinoa

This photo isn't a great one of just the quinoa, but I just threw the side dish together, not thinking it would be super tasty...but it was. So when Rob insisted that I blog the "recipe" I had to make it again and take notes, this is such an easy, quick side dish that would go with lots of dinners.  I served it with Hummus Crusted Chicken, which I will blog later, and it was a yummy, healthy meal!

On a side note, I buy my quinoa at Costco in a big bag and it's much cheaper than at the health food store...in case you were wondering.

Garlic, Rosemary & Olive Oil Quinoa

1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
2 Tb. olive oil
2 heaping Tb minced onion (red, yellow or white onion, or shallot)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3/4 tsp. dried rosemary
salt & pepper to taste

Combine the quinoa and water in a sauce pan and cover. Heat on medium-high heat until it starts to boil, turn heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a skillet.  Cook the minced onion 2-3 minutes and stir in garlic and rosemary heating another minute.  Turn the heat off and let the oil sit until the quinoa is cooked.  Once the quinoa is done, fluff with a fork and pour in the olive oil mixture.  Serve right away.

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Chicken Enchilada Squash Boats

It has been a bit of a blogging lull for me the last couple weeks.  I got sick.  Sicker than I can remember being in a long time!  And being out of commission for a week left me behind on life!  I am getting back into the swing of things finally and excited to share this recipe with you...writing this post makes me want to eat it again!

I saw this recipe for Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Zucchini Boats on the Skinny Taste blog and I couldn't wait to make them.  I had loads of yellow squash that I got from Market on the Move that needed to be used up right away and I am currently obsessed with homemade enchilada sauce...so it was meant to be!  I adapted the recipe a little bit to make more....because we eat a lot I guess.  You can definitely eat 2-3 of these boats without feeling super stuffed because they're so low-cal/carb. We liked this so much that I made them a few days later for my sister in-law after she had a baby and they loved it too!

I would like to say that, making homemade enchilada sauce is key. You can absolutely sub a can of sauce if you have to/want to...but the homemade sauce makes it!  On the Skinny Taste blog she gives nutrition facts, I changed the recipe a little bit and added a little more chicken, so this recipe may be a few more calories but that would be a good guideline if you're curious!

Chicken Enchilada Squash Boats
recipe adapted from Skinny Taste

Enchilada Sauce--I recommend making it!  Half the recipe is plenty so freeze the rest for later.

6-7 medium yellow squash or zucchini
1 colored bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 c. red onion, finely chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1/3-1/2 c. chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
2 Tb. tomato paste
1/4 c. + 2 Tb. water
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb chicken, cooked & shredded (crockpot, boiled, grilled, however you like)
shredded cheddar cheese for topping

Wash and dry the squash and slice lengthwise in half.  Using a small spoon or scoop, scoop out the insides of the squash and set aside, leaving a 1/4 around the edges.  Place the squash boats upside down on a plate and microwave 1-3 minutes.  You want to just take the crispness off of the raw squash. After a minute rearrange them on the plate to get even cooking.  While you are par-cooking the squash boats, chop the reserved flesh that you  have set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 400. Heat oil in a large skillet and saute onions & bell pepper over medium heat 2-3 minutes, or until it starts to soften.  Add in chopped squash and continue cooking a few more minutes.  Stir in chopped cilantro & garlic and season with salt & pepper, cumin, chili powder and oregano.  Stir in the tomato paste and water, reduce heat to medium-low and let everything cook together 2 minutes.  Mix in the shredded chicken and heat through.  At this point if you would like the filling a little saucier, pour in a little bit of the enchilada sauce to your liking.  

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray (you may need a second pan depending on the size of your squash).  Pour a little bit of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan.  Fill each boat with chicken filling, press it down and place in the pan.  Top each boat with 2 Tb. enchilada sauce and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. Cover the pan(s) with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Any leftover chicken filling makes for a great salad topping or also would freeze well. This is a great meal to serve with cilantro lime rice, chips and salsa, or Mexican style pinto beans.

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Greek Orzo Stuffed Peppers

These are so yummy and filling, I think that even the most dedicated meat-eaters could be fooled! Or, you could always serve some chicken along side.  I found this recipe on Pinterest, and I'm sad I let it sit on my "recipes to make" board so long.  The recipe calls for sundried tomatoes, which I love but I had a huge amount of roma tomatoes on hand so I tried my hand at oven-drying them.  It worked out great, but it took a hundred years (or 8) so I would recommend you use a jar of sundried tomatoes for this!

I think I'll put this recipe on my list of summer meal ideas because it is all done in the microwave and on the stove so it wouldn't heat the house up like a typical stuffed pepper that is baked.

Greek Orzo Stuffed Peppers
recipe adapted from eatingwell.com

4 orange, red or yellow bell peppers
1/2 c. orzo
1 15 oz can chickpeas
1 Tb. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained & squeezed dry
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/3 c. sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped
3/4 c. crumbled feta, divided
2 Tb red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and pour in the orzo cooking according to directions.  Drain well.  In the meantime, slice the peppers in half lengthwise, through the stem.  Scoop the seeds out with a spoon.  Lay the peppers upside down on a plate and microwave 6-7 minutes, until beginning to soften. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and mash them with a fork, leaving a few chunks.  I like to pull off the skins if I can. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion, cooking 5 minutes or until soft, add in the garlic and cook another minute.  Stir in the chickpeas, spinach, oregano, sun dried tomatoes, 1/2 c. of the feta, vinegar and salt.  Heat over medium heat until all of the filling is hot, then stir in the cooked orzo.  Fill the pepper halves with the orzo mixture and sprinkle with the extra feta.  Microwave the peppers another minute to let the feta melt and enjoy.  Serve with a salad and slices of crusty bread.
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Green Goddess Vinaigrette

This dressing is so delicious.  Seriously, it's our new favorite.  My mom made this recipe up and when she wrote it down for me and I looked at the recipe, it looked weird so I stuck it in the cupboard and forgot about it.  Then, I was at my mom's house and ate the dressing...and that was it.  It.  Is. So. Good. It's all natural, no chemicals like you might find in some grocery store dressings...and it isn't $6 for a bottle!  Win, win.

When you're looking for tahini, might I suggest you avoid purchasing the orange and white can of tahini?  It isn't very good.  At all.  But there are many brands out there in jars that taste awesome and my favorite is the one sold at World Market...and it's a good price.

Green Goddess Vinaigrette
recipe from my mom

1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1-2 tsp. sugar
3 Tb. soy sauce
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1-2 green onions, chopped
2 Tb.(heaping) tahini
1-2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
pepper (no salt because the soy sauce is so salty)
Put everything in the blender and blend until parsley, onions, and garlic is pureed and everything is incorporated.  Refrigerate up to 10 days.
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