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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Cheese Danish

Since I've had a sweets week, I thought I'd end it off with some more sweets.  My family and I adore this recipe, it is super simple to make and kinda impressive at a brunch or morning meeting. It is absolutely not too late to wake up and have homemade cheese danish for breakfast tomorrow! 

Cheese Danish 

2 blocks cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cans crescent rolls

1/2 c. powdered sugar 
2-3 Tb milk
dash vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Using a hand mixer blend together the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla.  Open a can of the crescent rolls and lay them on the bottom of the 9x13 pan, pinching the seas together.  Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crescent layer.  Open the second can of crescents and lay it over the cream cheese layer.  Bake uncovered 40-45 minutes, crescent rolls should be golden brown.  Let the danish cool 20 minutes before spreading the glaze over the top.  To make the glaze whisk together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla and spread over danish.  Enjoy warm, room temperature, or my favorite, cold!

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Dipped Pretzel Rods, Homemade Valentine's Treats

Here is a quick, last-minute homemade Valentine's Day treat for you.  I used to be a first grade teacher...so I can relate to the zillions of lollipops, conversation hearts, and Pixy Sticks teachers all over the United States will have piled on their desks tomorrow. I wanted to make something for my kids' teachers that they might enjoy more than a Fun Dip Valentine so I planned to make some Oreo Truffles, because who doesn't love those? But Robbie's teacher has been doing Weight Watchers very successfully and I didn't want to throw her off so I made these.  So. much. easier. than making Oreo Truffles! If you make a quick Wal-Mart run for pretzel rods and pink candy melts you could whip out these cute little treats in 20 minutes!  

Dipped Pretzel Rods
idea from A place for Amy

1 bag pretzel rods
1 bag candy melts, whatever color you like
foil or wax paper

Break the rods in half and set aside.  Put 1/2-3/4 of the candy melts in a glass bowl and melt according too directions.  Put a sheet of foil or wax paper out on the counter. Once the chocolate is melted pour it into a short glass or small coffee cup to make dipping easier.  Dip each pretzel and lay on the wax paper to harden.   Put on the sprinkles as desired.  I wrapped up five dipped pretzel halves in a cellophane bag with a scrap paper tag and some ribbon I had lying around...and easy as can be, done!

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Chocolate Mallow Fondue

Valentine's Day is right around the corner!! Truly truly, I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's.  I think it excludes people, puts extra pressure on loved ones (especially men), and we should really appreciate our loved ones more than one day a year.  That being said, it is what it is and I AM so thankful for my husband so I'm going to tell him especially on this day.  But, this year we are going to focus on our kids and start a tradition to do fondue with them for dinner & dessert (which is an idea I stole from my friend).  Going to a restaurant on Valentine's Day is  not fun.  Not. Fun.

I have made this chocolate mallow fondue so many times, but sadly have never remembered to take a picture, so I will update with a photo later this week!  BUT, if you trust me at all...believe that this is a delicious treat and try it!  I love my fondue pot, but if you don't have a fondue pot, this would work out just fine if you made it in a sauce pan on the stove (medium heat) and poured it into a little dipper crockpot on the warm setting.  This makes a lot, but the leftovers are great and work perfectly as hot fudge!

For dinner, I am going to try this cheese fondue recipe for the first time, so I'll let you know how we like it!  For dipping in the cheese fondue: smoked turkey sausage, steak, french bread, soft pretzels, granny smith apples and red bell peppers.

Chocolate Mallow Fondue
recipe from my friend 

2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 oz bag)
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 7 oz jar marshmallow fluff
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

graham crackers
Oreo cookies
cream puffs
rice krispy treats

Turn your fondue pot onto medium.  Pour in the marshmallow fluff and sweetened condensed milk.  Stir with a rubber spatula constantly until the marshmallow fluff is melted.  Add in chocolate chips, milk and vanilla and stir constantly until everything is melted and incorporated together.  Turn pot to low.  When you're finished, transfer leftovers to a container and refrigerate. This will keep a couple of weeks in the fridge.

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BBQ Chicken Quinoa Salad

We love quinoa.  And we really love bbq chicken, so when I saw this recipe pop up I knew I had to make it! We really liked it and I think you could make different variations of this salad.  A little ranch drizzle would be great too!  We ate it warm, but the next day Rob and I both ate it cold for lunch leftover and it was great both ways.  For a filling, protein-rich, low fat dinner it was a hit! I'm thinking this will go into our regular summer dinner rotation because I always have my eyes out for cold make-ahead summer dinners around here.

BBQ Chicken Quinoa Salad
recipe adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny

1 1/2 c. dry quinoa
3 c. water
dash salt

3 c. shredded cooked chicken 
1 can corn, drained well
1 can black beans, drained well
1/2 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
1/3 c. cilantro, chopped
salt & pepper
1/3 c. bbq sauce

chopped cilantro
diced avocado
shredded pepper jack cheese
bbq sauce
ranch dressing

Bring the water to a boil in a large sauce pan.  Stir in quinoa & salt and lower heat to medium-low and cook 15 minutes.  Remove quinoa from heat and fluff with a fork.  Stir quinoa, shredded chicken, corn, beans, bell pepper, onions, cilantro, salt, pepper and bbq sauce together in a large bowl.  Top with extra cilantro, avocado, shredded cheese and a drizzle of bbq sauce and/or ranch dressing. Enjoy!
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Homemade Enchilada Sauce & Enchilada Stacks

 We really, really, really like Mexican food.  Like, a lot.  If you've read this blog more than a couple weeks you've probably noticed that already.  I saw this recipe for homemade enchilada sauce and I had to try it, because I don't typically love canned red enchilada sauce.  This is a keeper!  We all loved it.  I adapted the recipe a bit to be vegan/vegetarian by using veggie stock instead of chicken and I used a cornstarch slurry instead of a roux so it would be gluten-free and not have any added fat/calories from the oil. It makes a lot, so I have plenty in the freezer to make chicken enchilada soup next week. 

Homemade Enchilada Sauce
recipe adapted from Shrinking Kitchen

1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 c. chili powder
1 Tb. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder (you can sub some grated onion for this)
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. veggie stock or chicken stock
2 Tb. cornstarch

Dump the fire roasted tomatoes into your blender and puree.  In a medium-large sauce pan combine the pureed tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, garlic, onion and salt.  Warm over medium heat.  In a small bowl mix together 1/2 c. of the veggie stock with the cornstarch and stir until combined well.  Set aside.  Stir the remaining 2 1/2 c. of stock into the tomato sauce mixture and bring to a simmer.  Slowly stream in the stock/cornstarch mixture and stir to combine well.  Simmer the sauce 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and use as desired.  I highly recommend the chicken Enchilada Soup or Chicken & Cream Cheese Enchiladas, or try the recipe for Enchilada Stacks below!  Freeze any extra sauce for your next use.

Enchilada Stacks

This recipe can be adapted very easily to your liking.  Substitute shredded beef for chicken, black beans for pintos, add corn, rice, various types of cheeses, etc.  It would be fun to set out all sorts of enchilada fillings/toppings and let everyone customize their own!

corn tortillas
shredded chicken
homemade enchilada sauce 

shredded cheese
chopped onions or green onions
black olives
sour cream

Prepare the pinto beans ahead of time in the crockpot.  Cook the chicken either on the grill or in a crockpot or use rotisserie chicken.  To make the enchilada stacks it helps to have all of the ingredients/fillings hot and ready to eat.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and heat the tortillas a minute or so on each side.  To assemble layer a corn tortilla on a plate, top with shredded chicken & Mexican pintos and a layer of enchilada sauce.  Lay on a second corn tortilla and repeat the layers ending with a generous amount of enchilada sauce.  Top with your desired garnishes, I chose half a smashed avocado and some diced onion.  (I would've added a dollop of sour cream if we weren't out of that!)  Yummy!
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Black Bean Soup with Cilantro Lime Rice

This soup is super yummy, easy and inexpensive to make and just so happens to be vegan...even though you'd never know it!  It has such a great bright punch of lime in with the spicy black beans.  I ate some leftovers for lunch today and it's great leftover.  

If you can't find Cuban black beans, just add in extra seasoning.

Black Bean Soup with Cilantro Lime Rice
recipe adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Black Bean Soup:
2 tsp oil
1/2 an onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cans seasoned black beans, drained but not rinsed (I used Trader Joe's Cuban black beans)
1 Tb. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 can rotel
1 c. green enchilada sauce
1 1/2-2 c. water (depending on how thin you want your soup)
1 1/2 c. veggie stock
salt & pepper
Avocado for serving

Heat the oil over medium heat in a soup pot.  Add in the onion and cook until translucent.  Toss in the garlic and stir to cook quickly.  Add in the beans, chili powder, cumin, rotel, enchilada sauce, water, stock, salt & pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat and simmer 15 minutes. (Start the rice now.) Once the soup has simmered, remove half of the soup from the pot and blend it until pureed.  Add the pureed soup back to the pot and stir to combine.  To serve, put a scoop off cilantro lime rice in the bottom of a soup bowl and cover with a ladle or two of soup.  Top with avocado slices.

Cilantro Lime Rice:

1 1/2 c. white rice
3 c. water
1 Tb. butter or margarine
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 juicy lime

While the soup is simmering, bring the water to a boil in a medium sauce pan and stir in the rice.  Cover, turn heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the rice stand a few minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and stir in margarine, cilantro and squeeze the lime juice in.  Toss to combine.
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Peanut Butter Frosting

This frosting.  Oh this frosting.  I kind of wish I didn't know about this.  Pretty sure I ruined my healthy-vegan-January with these brownies. (Actually, never mind.  I ruined it way before this.) It is so good.  I take no credit for this recipe, we just followed someone else's recipe completely but I had to share it with you!  If you're still looking for that quick, delicious, life-changing, fattening dessert to scarf down while you watch talk to your friends as the Super Bowl is on tomorrow---make this! I think this frosting would be super on some chocolate cupcakes as well.

Peanut Butter Frosting
recipe from allrecipes.com

1/2 c. butter, softened to room temperature
1 c. creamy peanut butter (I'd probably not go with all natural pb)
2 c. powdered sugar
3 Tb. milk

Cream together butter and peanut butter with a mixer until well blended.  Beat in powdered sugar 1 c. at a time.  Add in milk one tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is at a consistency you like.  Spread on cooled brownies or cupcakes.

*For these brownies I used one box of Betty Crocker dark chocolate brownie mix, mixed according to the directions and baked in a 9x13'' pan.  Let them cool all the way before icing or else the frosting will melt.


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