Delicious Fridays

Friday afternoon, my company had it’s third annual Thanksgiving feast during lunch. Everyone brought in a recipe, and at the end we voted for winners. I decided to make Not Your Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie. While I had lots of compliments, I didn’t win. That’s okay, though, because I devoured a whole lot of deliciousness; broccoli casserole, stuffing, corn salad, pumpkin dumplings, cumin and cayenne mashed potatoes with caramelized onion, and topped it off with some peanut butter brownie mousse parfait. I scored the recipes of almost everything I liked, and can’t wait to make it!

Needless to say, I was stuffed (and lethargic) all afternoon. So when I got home, for one of the first times, I wasn’t ravenous for dinner. Eventually, though, I was hungry enough to make something. Having one sweet potato left over from making the pie as well as an avocado and typical Mexican fare (cilantro, tortillas, cheese), I racked my brain for a solid 20 minutes. Eventually I went with a chili cheese burrito and a side of spicy sweet potato fries. It was quick to make and really delicious. A perfect simple Friday night dinner to accompany watching Millionaire Matchmaker and What Not to Wear… guilty pleasures for a Friday night home alone!

Chili Cheese Burrito
– Serves 1 –

½ can of your favorite chili (I used Amy’s Organic Spicy Veggie Chili)
1 flour tortilla
½ cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
½ avocado, sliced
¼ cup scallions, diced
¼ cup cilantro
2 tbsp sour cream

1. Heat chili over medium heat until bubbly, remove from heat
2. Place sliced avocado, diced scallions, and half of the cheese on the tortilla, followed by chili, sour cream, and remaining cheese
3. Roll and enjoy!

Spicy Sweet Potato Oven Fries
– Serves 1-2 –

1 sweet potato
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp taco seasoning
1 tsp Adobo seasoning
½ tsp cumin seeds

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Peel and slice potato long ways, coat in olive oil then sprinkle with spices
3. Spray a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, flip, then bake an additional 10 minutes
4. Enjoy!

Not Your Typical Burger ‘n Fries

Sometimes you just need some less-than-super-healthy-for-you food. This week’s dinners involved a lot of meat, which has been different for us since we really don’t eat meat much these days. There were quite a few yummy recipes in my queue that involved meat, and I didn’t feel like trying to find substitutes, so I went with it and I’m glad I did!

I had been all set to whip up Mexican Stuffed Shells (numero dos) for Thursday night’s dinner, until the crafty Katie of You Are What You Eat or Reheat posted yet another mouth watering, less-than-good-for-you dish. Seriously reading her blog makes me feel like we’re food twins. Mexican Stuffed shells? Fiesta in my mouth. Pepperoni and cheese puff balls? Classless deliciousness. Tater tot casserole? Been there, loved that. So, when she posted her latest weekly installment of “White Trash Wednesday,” I knew I needed to make it immediately. Enter the Burger and Fries Pot Pie.

There’s been a trend in most of my dishes recently; casseroles, soups, chili, and savory pies have definitely become the front runners for weeknight dinners. I think the big reason why I enjoy them so much is because they make a lot, and this leaves my fiancé and I enough for leftovers either the next day for lunch, or even the next night for dinner. So when I realized that I could have a burger and fries in a casserole dish with likely leftovers, I was all about it.

Since I hadn’t planned on making this at the beginning of the week, we had to stop on our way home to grab a can of diced tomatoes and frozen French fries. Luckily there’s a pretty stocked Target on our way home, but that often times results in me spending more money than I should. Seriously, is there anyone out there that can go into Target and actually leave with just what they went there for?

Other than browning the meat and onions (and some habaneros for good measure), all that’s required of you is to layer everything into a baking dish. As much as I love cooking and making extravagant and delicious meals, sometimes it’s just as enjoyable to throw a few things together, put it in the oven, and be done with it. Yep, despite my façade of running, cooking & baking, working, going to school, and trying to have a smidgen of a social life, I’m a lazy girl at heart. And to be honest, as Katie says, we all have a little white trash in us.

Burger ‘n Fries Pot Pie
– Serves 4 –

1 1/2lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz)
2 cups frozen crispy French-fried potatoes (from 20-oz bag)

1. Heat oven to 450°F. In 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook beef and onion over medium-high heat about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain well. Sprinkle flour over beef mixture. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in tomatoes; heat to boiling. Remove from heat.
2. In ungreased 1 1/2-quart casserole, spread beef mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Arrange frozen potatoes evenly in single layer on top.
3. Bake uncovered about 20 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Open Faced Tacos

In a perfect world, there would be more hours in the day available for me to do the things I enjoy: run, cook, read, SLEEP!, etc. However, as we all know this world is far from perfect, and most of my day consists of driving in New Jersey traffic to and from work, sitting in a cube for 9 hours, and then trying to create a delicious meal as quickly as possible to leave enough time to do homework, getting in a workout, and somehow having a little time to relax and plan a wedding. Boy oh boy, life is going to be so fun when I throw kids into the mix!

But I digress… Monday night’s dinner was a nice twist on our regular burrito, with a little less work. I actually had a little more time available, because it’s been rainy and I finally got back to running over the weekend. I was able to complete a mile on Saturday before stopping because the uncomfortable feeling in my ankle/heels started to become a little more painful. Then on Sunday I tackled two miles, and immediately came home and threw my entire foot in a bowl of ice water. I probably could have done another mile, but I didn’t want to push it and I also felt terribly out of shape. I struggled to keep myself going slowly enough not to make things worse, but by the end of that second mile, I was glad I stuck to a 9:30 minute mile pace. Tuesday’s 3 miler was back to an 8:40ish pace, but it definitely hurt afterwards. I’m slated to run a 5k October 9th so I’m hoping I’ll be up to 3.1 miles somewhat comfortably. As of right now, I’m not sure if I’ll pull out of the race or not. We’ll see what the next week and a half has in store.

Dinner was pretty straight forward – some taco sized tortilla shells, refried beans, cheese, ground beef with taco seasoning, and salsa. From there you can really make it your own, depending on toppings (of course you can swap the ground beef for soy crumbles, or nothing at all). I decided to dice up and sauté a few pieces of yellow onion, and a habanero pepper to add some heat. I mixed it into the ground beef that had been cooked with some taco seasoning, chili powder, and adobo. Other than that, I just had to slather the taco shells with refried beans (Old El Paso has a fat-free spicy version – yum!), throw the toppings on the shells, and bake. I suppose this open faced taco is similar to a tostada, however I didn’t use actual tostada shells. My parents have them, though, and they’re awesome.

They were definitely like mini Mexican pizzas, which I was more than okay with. Combine Mexican food and pizza? I’m sold. Next time, though, I’ll probably switch up the toppings and do something a little out of the box. But I encourage you to give these a try!

Open Faced Tacos
– Serves 2-

1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 yellow onion – diced
1 hot pepper – diced (jalapeno, habanero, etc.)
taco seasoning and other spices to taste
4 taco sized torilla shells
1/2 can refried beans
1 cup shredded cheese blend (“taco” or “Mexican” will work)
1/4 cup salsa
(sour cream, guacamole, and other fixin’s are optional – and delicious!)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Grease baking sheet(s) and place torilla shells on them
3. In a skillet, brown ground beef with onion, pepper, and seasoning until completely cooked
4. While skillet mixture is cooking, spread the refried beans evenly on the taco shells
5. Drain the meat, and evenly distribute on top of taco shells, finishing it off with an even coating of cheese
6. Bake for 10 minutes, or until taco shells have a slight brown crisp
7. Top with salsa and enjoy!

Polenta Take 2: Pizza Style

After making the Polenta & Pinto Bean Pie, I had quite a bit of polenta left over. So, after doing some research (a.k.a Googling), I decided to try my hand at a polenta crust pizza. I suppose it’s less of a polenta crust pizza, and more of a polenta-styled pizza, since you need a fork and it isn’t super crispy like pizza (well, New York pizza at least).

By having little of it’s own flavor, polenta really allows you to do whatever you’d like with it. I can only imagine the different flavor combinations that could top a little slice of polenta – yum! At any rate, I decided to go with regular mozzarella cheese and some sautéed onions and peppers. It was actually really delicious, and surprisingly filling. Since the pre-cooked polenta I bought was rectangular, our pizza was more Elio’s shaped than anything else, which was a nice gourmet and healthier throwback to a childhood favorite.

Onions & Peppers Polenta Pizza
– Serves 2 –

16 oz polenta (tube or squared)
1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup sliced yellow onion
1/4 cup sliced green pepper
1/3 cup tomato sauce (any variation will work)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and coat 9 x 13 baking dish
2. While oven is heating, sauté onions and peppers in pan with just cooking spray (no oil) until slightly soft (onions are beginning to become translucent and peppers have a slight char)
3. Slice polenta into desired pieces (depending on shape, how many you’d like to make) and place in greased baking dish
4. Top polenta with equal amounts of sauce, cheese, onions, and peppers
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes

Simple Vegetarian: Polenta and Pinto Bean Pie

After searching for which vegetarian cookbook I got this recipe from, I was able to find it! This bad boy comes from Quick-Fix Vegetarian by Robin Robertson, and it’s delicious! I’ve actually never had polenta before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. To me, it tasted a lot like a Matzo ball, which I love. So I’ll definitely be adding polenta into our diet a little more regularly; it’s a nice alternative to pasta and rice.

The recipe itself is straight forward and easy. Aside from the 30 minute cooking time, it took a whopping 5 minutes to prepare. It uses pre-cooked polenta which adds to the convenience factor, but I’m sure you could cook-up your own if you have the time. Just a side note, it took my fiancé and I a solid 30 minutes to find the polenta in the grocery store on Sunday. We looked everywhere; pasta section, international section, rice section, refrigerated section. Finally we called our friend that happens to work at that particular Wegmans, and he directed us to it’s proper location (all the way in the corner of the pasta aisle).

It’s also really filling. I made the entire recipe, and there was enough for another large meal (as in TWO dinners!). We added some home-made poor man’s guacamole and a little sour cream and paired it with a salad. I decided to heat up what was left over still from the two dinners for breakfast, and paired it with an egg – not bad! Of course being the failure that I am, I didn’t take a picture of the deliciousness. To be fair though, it’s quite a messy dish once you cut it up and put it on a plate, so I don’t think a picture would have done it justice anyway. You’re just going to have to make it to find out!

I have quite a bit of polenta left over, so I’m going to attempt a polenta-crust pizza. I have no idea how it’s going to turn out, but with some onions and peppers on top, I can’t imagine it being horrible. We’ll see!

Polenta & Pinto Bean Pie
– Serves 4 –

16 oz. package cooked polenta
16 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
16 oz. of salsa or picante sauce (mild, medium, or hot)
4 oz. can mild green chiles, drained (one small can)
1 Tbsp chili powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the polenta into 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange in the bottom of a lightly oiled 9- or 10-inch square baking dish. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, combine the pinto beans, salsa, chiles, and chili powder, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and spread over the polenta.
3. Top with shredded cheese and tortilla chips. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer to lightly brown the top.

Happy quick & easy veggie nomzing!

Yet Another Quickie: Hormel Chili

In our constant effort to save time and money, my fiancé and I have come up with a few weekly staples that we like to rotate. Aside from the tortellinis and the always delicious burrito [which we had Monday, shh], we also have some Hormel chili on hand. Now, I’m not talking just your regular can of beans and/or meat, I’m talking gourmet style (well, for a can that is).

Hormel’s “Chili Master” line of chili comes in four variations; chipotle chicken, roasted tomato, white chicken, or three bean. Often times they’re on sale at the store, 3 for $5 or something of that nature. So, when they are, we stock up. I’ve had three of the four (no white chicken yet), and they are all really good. Clearly good enough that we keep buying them!

There’s a lot of great things about chili. It can be eaten alone, or on top of a starch; a potato, rice, pasta, or in tonight’s case, whole wheat couscous. I know, I know, it sounds totally weird. But it works! Typically we have the chili with just some long grain rice. Tonight, however, after I got back from my run and was waiting for the man to return from playing soccer, I decided to make it with couscous. Now, this isn’t any type of couscous – it’s whole wheat and from one of my favorite stores, Trader Joe’s! It takes about 8 minutes to make, from boiling a cup of water with butter to then letting it sit for 5 minutes.

Pairing the lightly spiced chili with it’s chunky pieces of black beans, corn and tomato on top of seriously fluffy and buttery couscous was a really great combination. Considering I’m not a huge rice fan, this was a really nice change of pace. My fiancé even made note that it wasn’t anything like he’d ever had before, but in a good way. I never seem to make couscous to serve with “normal” things. I’m a big fan of mixing chunky salsa into it, too.

I like to think I eat decently (most of the time) and I think the chili covers a lot of my dietary needs (served with a salad, of course)! Plus a little bit goes a long way. So whether you’re having it alone or as a topper to a starch, you’ll definitely be full quickly, and it isn’t that type of full that wears off in an hour – it sticks around.

I can’t recommend this enough for a quick and easy meal. Whether you’re in a hurry or just don’t feel like actually making anything, Hormel Chili is a super quick and easy way to enjoy something that would typically take hours. This way, you can let Hormel do all the work for you! It’s nice to take a night (or in my case, week) off from slaving in the kitchen every once in awhile.