Sunday, February 26, 2012

Breakfast Burritos Bonanza

One of my all-time favorite indulgences are breakfast burritos.  I am talking a REAL breakfast burrito. For those of you not lucky enough to partake in one of these delectable meals, a breakfast burrito might contain savory ingredients such as eggs, your choice of breakfast meats- sausage, bacon, ham, or the ever-popular chorizo, potatoes, cheese, and if you really want to go all out, include salsa, sour cream, beans, whatever your heart desires!  However, let me clarify that a real breakfast burrito requires green chili. This is a must.

In Colorado,one can find an authentic Mexican place selling savory breakfast burritos in almost every neighborhood of town or even from a cart.  They used to even deliver to our school. $2 bucks cash and you had yourself the most yummy breakfast creation known to man.  I enjoyed them more than I would like to admit.  However, now that I am back in the midwest, I am lucky if anyone knows what a breakfast burrito is or if they do, it is an oddity sold by the local fast food joints.  I am ashamed to say that sometimes I would even break down and get a paltry fast food replacement, but it is no comparison to the real thing.  Taco John's, McDonald's, even Qdoba has nothing on the genuine breakfast burrito.

So I have been majorly craving these, but also looking for a way to save a few bucks.  We needed an easy meal that we can grab and run on frantic work mornings, so I decided to make a big batch of breakfast burritos and freeze them.  Much to my dismay, this batch does not have green chili. I know, I know- did someone say "hypocrite"?  Oh well, they are still really darn good and the next time we make green chili, I am storing away some extra just for this purpose. I just didn't have the time or energy to take on both of these projects today.

*Makes about 16 burritos
1 dozen eggs
1/2 onion- chopped
1/2 green pepper- chopped
Fresh cilantro (optional)
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 lb. turkey breakfast sausage (You can substitute any meat you choose)
1 bag shredded cheese
1 bag of frozen shredded potatoes
Garlic salt
Black pepper
Salsa or sour cream to taste

Start by browning the meat.

I then chopped the onion, green pepper, and eventually the cilantro.  (I bought cilantro for dinner the other night.  I inevitably always have WAY too much cilantro and it goes to waste.  I thought this was the perfect way to use some more of it up.)

Next, I added the chopped veggies and the black beans to the meat mixture and sauteed.

I then used a large pan to scramble all the eggs at once. I like to add black pepper and garlic salt to my eggs. I also added about a 1/2 cup of water to the mixture to give the eggs a little more fluff. Continue to stir the eggs until they scramble and then remove from the heat.

I also cooked 1 bag of frozen shredded potatoes.

Now it is time for burrito construction.  I used medium-sized sheets of aluminum foil, placing one tortilla on the foil, and then I made a sort of assembly line. I placed each ingredient in the tortilla one at a time.  I scooped the eggs on first, then potatoes, then the meat/veggie/bean mixture. Sprinkle cheese over the top of each burrito. 

Top with salsa and then roll in foil. 

Place the burritos in the freezer.  Now you have a quick breakfast, ready to be reheated and eaten on the go.  Be sure to remove foil before reheating. Enjoy! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

How 'bout them apples?

So I am lucky enough to have a little extra time this morning, as we have a two hour delay.  This is my eleventh year teaching, and I think this is only my second two hour delay ever.  They just didn't really have these in Colorado- probably too complicated with a big school district.  So I am using my time productively...or unproductively- I am not sure. Oh well. Here is a recipe I have been meaning to post. Sorry for the cliche title, but I just had to!  I couldn't resist.

This. is. delicious. I swear it tastes just like a slice of fluffy peanut butter pie, but it truly is healthier.  And did I say delicious?  It is the perfect accessory to my love-hate relationship with apples. They are now the perfect addition to any meal or even for dessert.  I would be apt to say that this is a smarter option that that Dairy Queen ice cream cake that I have been slowly devouring from the freezer since Valentine's Day...

Creamy Peanut Butter Dip
1 cup vanilla yogurt 
1/2 cup peanut butter 
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

In a medium bowl mix together yogurt and peanut butter until well blended.  Stir in cinnamon.  Fold in whipped topping.  Chill until ready to serve.  Serve with fresh fruit.

I had more than I could eat within the week so I just froze it and ate it a couple weeks later with a fresh batch of apples. Nom.Nom.Nom.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Dinner Dilemma

Sorry for my prolonged absence.  I am sure I can find all sorts of excuses that I have not written- some of them legit and some of them not.  Last week was a little crazy, but in a good way.  I celebrated Valentine's Day with my husband with a take-in-bake heart-shaped pizza from Papa Murphy's and The "A-Team" from Netflix.  It was so perfectly us - and no crowds! Then I was invited to play Bunco with a new set of friends (Yay me!), all-the-while packing for my trip to Ohio.  

Last weekend I made it a long weekend and drove back to visit family and my best friend.  It was a wonderful weekend- played IT for my computer-challenged (But they are learning!) parents. I spent Saturday with my best friend who is enduring a time of hardship.  A friend and I pampered her as best we knew how, which included pedicures, a tasty night out (w/ valet parking ya'll!), and 2 coolers packed with pre-made frozen meals that survived the trip from Iowa to Ohio.

Speaking of frozen dinners, I should explain that although I have focused mainly on breakfast and lunch options, I have not elaborated much on what I do for dinner.  Several years ago, a close friend of mine introduced me to "meal swapping".  I was intrigued by the idea, but did not put much thought into it.  I assumed that since it was only my husband and I, that this would be unreasonable. Actually, it is even better because one meal can last us several days! 

About a year later, several coworkers were frequenting Supper Solutions, a place where you can go and prepare your own pre-portioned meals and take them home to your freezer.  This was fun, but also fairly pricey due to the convenience.  Then that was when that little lightbulb went on in my head- I remembered the meal-swapping idea from the year before!

Several of my co-workers in Colorado tried this for a year and overall (with a little practice), we found it to be fun, helpful and a HUGE time-saver.  I had dinner thawed or in the crockpot ready to go on any given day- always something new, different, and delicious. And EASY! It really required me to plan and cook one day a month (usually a Sunday). Then after the swap, I came home with 8 frozen homemade meals that serve six people each.  This was a huge help for busy work/school nights. 

When I moved to Iowa last summer, I was really missing this convenience and camaraderie,and I decided to get a group going. I now have a great group of ladies here who I exchange meals with on a monthly basis.  It. is. awesome.  Talk about saving time....and eventually saving money when you get good at it.

Since so many people have been recently inquiring about this process, I thought I would write about the details of how our dinner co-op works.  

Looking for a way to simplify your dinnertime at home? We fill our freezers every month, but only have to cook one recipe! Every month, we are each responsible for one cooking category. We make the recipe of our choice within the category (8x) (based on how many people participate in the group) and freeze them. Then, we get together once a month and swap the meals. Each person comes with a cooler of 1 meal (x7) and leaves with a cooler with that many different meals in it for the month! Throw the 8th meal in your freezer for you and your family! To ensure fairness, we ask that the meals should be enough to serve 6.

1) Cook/Prep! You cook/prep a meal from your assigned category for the month. Since these are frozen meals, you can technically cook them whenever you have time during the month, freeze them, and bring them in your cooler on the day of the swap.

Sample Monthly Cooking categories

(Any chicken or turkey dish, such as chicken tacos, chicken/turkey casserole, turkey enchiladas, chicken and biscuits, baked chicken breasts)

(Any pork or seafood dish such as Italian sausage sandwiches, sausage and potato soup, ham and potato casserole, tuna noodle casserole, baked fish.)

(Any beef dish such as Sloppy Joe’s, beef burgundy with rice, French dip sandwiches, taco casserole, seasoned burgers for the grill w/buns.)

(With or without meat, such as spaghetti pie, macaroni and cheese, chicken alfredo, baked ziti.)

(Such as breakfast casserole, pigs in a blanket, muffins, breakfast burritos, sticky buns.)

(Chili, white chicken chili, chicken noodles, potato soup, minestrone, beef stew.)

(This does not necessarily mean vegan- just without meat, such as cheese and onion enchiladas, mac and cheese, eggplant parmesan, or veggie soup.) 


I simply rotate names through the list every month.The categories can be changed as we go….I know not everyone likes everything listed, but at least this allows some variety for different preferences. Remember, this is to make our lives easier so I encourage people to use their own tried-and-true things they cook at home. No fancy recipes are necessary, but the blogs below offer some great ideas!

2) Freeze! The meals are usually frozen flat in a Ziploc freezer bag, or you can choose to use aluminum pans if necessary. Type up the prep instructions and ingredients (Or post on the private facebook group page like I made for our group!) and securely attach to each bag or feel free to write directly on the bags if you wish. (There are excellent tips about this- stuff I didn’t even think of- at the second websites below!)

3) Swap! We swap at a certain designated place on the same day every month. It only takes about 10 minutes.

Here are some websites of other co-op groups similar to this so you can see how they work or recipes that are helpful...

Stay tuned for some upcoming "freezer meal" recipes! 

If you have ever participated in a food swap or co-op?  What do you like about it?  If not, would you ever try it? 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

As promised, I am returning today with an awesome recipe I got off of Iowa Girl Eats, but have adapted it to become a "make-ahead" meal for the week. I was craving hot wings, but I am not one for trying to suck all the carnage off of the bones just so I can taste the sweet, hot tang of wing sauce. Plus, I wanted to make a healthier alternative. I also made these on Superbowl Sunday for a satisfying lunch, but then made several more wraps to take to work for lunch throughout the week.

I started with the following ingredients: 
4 boneless Chicken breasts
1 packet of dry Ranch dressing mix 
1 16 oz. bottle of hot wing sauce
1 package of tortillas or wraps.
One small bag of shredded lettuce
One small bag of shredded carrots
1 onion
4 stalks of chopped celery
Bleu cheese or shredded cheddar cheese
*Ranch dressing optional 

I started by placing the chicken and the bottle of hot sauce in the slow cooker.  Sprinkle the Ranch seasoning mix over the chicken. You can place it on low for 6 hours.  I was anxious so I placed it on high for about 3-4 hours and it worked fine.  Shred the chicken as it gets more tender.  

Believe it or not, there is a whole bottle of wing sauce in the slow cooker above.  It was the perfect amount of kick when mixed with four chicken breasts.  

Next, I chopped up my lettuce, carrots, onion and celery and mixed together well. 

I then spread a bit of the meat mixture onto the edge of a tortilla.  Rather than a regular old tortilla, I used Mission 10"cheddar jalapeno wraps because they are easier to "fold".  (I also have serious issues with store-bought tortillas.  Once you have bought fresh, homemade tortillas, nothing else quite tastes the same!)  These worked perfectly because it added a bit more flavor and really complimented the wrap. I then sprinkled some of the veggie mixture on top of the chicken.  Lastly, I strategically placed some bleu cheese on top. If you do not care for bleu cheese, you could easily opt for shredded cheddar. If you choose, you can add a dab of Ranch dressing to the wrap as well, although I would only do this if you plan to eat it right away.  If you are preparing make-ahead, it might become too soggy. 

Then roll it up! I cut each wrap in half to make smaller portions. 

Next, I placed the wrap on a piece of aluminum foil and then I wrapped it. 

I used all of the tortillas I had and then was left with several small Buffalo Chicken Wraps that we both took to lunch almost everyday. The didn't get too soggy and they were delicious!  

We definitely had leftover fixins' of the Chicken mixture and veggies so for a couple of nights, we actually enjoyed Buffalo Chicken tacos placed in small corn tortillas with the veggies and cheese placed on top.  These were even better!  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Craving Corndogs? (Oh yeah...and fruit.)

So it has been awhile since my last post, but I suppose it has been for good reason.  Every night this week has been consumed by conversation with good people.  I was lucky enough to find time to speak with my sister, as well as each one of my best friends this week.  I didn't plan it that way, but it just happened. And it was good.  I set aside my "to do " list each and every night and made time for the ones I love. I often feel like I don't get to chat with my close friends enough since we are literally spread out across this great country.  Sometimes I get down thinking about how I miss them all so much and how we don't speak enough. However, I find it interesting that when you "preoccupy" yourself with other positive influences in your life- hobbies, blogs, working out, reaching out to meet new people, reading a good book- it seems the happiness and positivity comes back to you ten-fold. And the phone starts ringing off the hook. So that is why I have put off writing this blog post for several days now, and for good reason!

So in other news, my weight loss has inevitably slowed down, as I predicted it would. But I am happy to report that I have lost another three pounds- bringing the total to 14!  I am not sure all the recipes I am about to write about helped in that endeavor, but at least they were tasty!

Flashback to Mrs. Chubb's junior year English class. Let me supply you with an analogy:  Football is to Leslie, as oil is to water.  So when Superbowl Sunday rolled around, I was more than happy to stay at home, prep for the week, and cook some yummy goodness, all while the hubby was off paying cards with the boys. I prepared my own Superbowl treats even though I attended no parties.  My day consisted of making the following: banana pancakes (which were immediately consumed), Buffalo Chicken roll-ups, Berry Yogurt parfaits, and Mini Corndog Muffins. Yes, you read that last part right...

The banana pancakes were a recipe straight off of Pinterest so I will not repost here.  They were good, but not brilliant.  In this post, I will introduce you to the wonderful Mini Corndog, as well as yogurt parfaits. Check out my next post (coming soon!) on the Buffalo Chicken Wraps.  They deserve a post all their own.

The Mini Corndog Muffins were to die for.  Lately we have been craving corndogs, but I was not about to go out and buy them. Somehow it is more socially acceptable to make them, right?  Then I saw this delicious recipe on a great blog I have been following- Iowa Girl Eats.

You basically make mini corn muffins and stuff a bit of hot dog in each one- and there you have it- delicious party food! I made a few changes which I will describe here, but I plan to stick to her recipe next time. I used an instant cornbread recipe, which I think worked fine. Of course homemade cornbread is always better.  However, if you are short on time and resources, this is one possibility.

One good change I made was that I substituted buttermilk for the milk. Another thing I tried (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) was that I added a can of corn to the batch.  This made the corn muffins very soft and crumbly- too moist.  If I left the added corn out, they would have been perfecto! And of course I dip them in mustard- never ketchup.  That is a must. Definitely try it out!

I also prepared Berry Yogurt parfaits for the week.  These made simple breakfasts on the go, and it was a nice change from my bi-daily yogurt smoothie. I simply bought blueberries and strawberries at the store. I also bought red raspberries, but they were moldy- poo. I chopped them up and layered them on top of some low-fat vanilla yogurt in several small containers.  I also bagged up some granola (Yum!  I LOVE granola.) in a few separate bags.  When I am ready to eat, I simply add the granola and mix the whole thing together for a delicious, sweet breakfast.

What are your favorite game day snacks?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What I learned from an Iowan Funeral: Tabbouleh

I have learned much since I moved to Iowa.  Much to my dismay, I have learned that college football determines people's schedules and wardrobes on most weekends.  I have learned what a Hawkeye is (I think?) By the way, I cannot find any definition for "hawkeye" in a quick internet search. I have been informed of what a Muskie is (of both varieties). I fished for the very first time in my life...but still haven't caught anything. I have learned what a combine does and what "detasseling" is. Oh, and thank goodness I was lucky enough to stumble upon a "loose-meat" sandwich- a simple, yet satisfying typical mid-western meal!  

Although a seemingly sad occasion, I have also learned that Iowans truly know how to celebrate the life of someone whom has recently passed.  Over the past few years, I attended funerals for both of my husband's grandmothers. Iowans know how to honor those they love, and they do it with FOOD!  Lots of food.  I had never seen anything like it- Iowa funerals are rather somber, traditional, orthodox events; however, they typically end with a full-on catered celebration!  

At one of these family gatherings is where I was first introduced to tabbouleh.  When you Google "tabbouleh", you may turn up results with about eight different variations of the spelling. Tabbouleh is so perfect and simple, no matter how you spell it.  Thank you, Aunt Clara, for allowing me to sample this perfect summer (or winter) salad. 

I was getting bored of the same old tossed salad. I then I remembered this delicious recipe that I first tried at Grandma’s funeral. Tabbouleh is one more example of a nutritious alternative to your typical salad- perfect for a quick lunch.

According to Wikipedia, tabbouleh is a Levantine Arab salad traditionally made with bulgur- a cereal made from wheat.  It is higher in fiber and protein than rice. However if you are gluten-free, as many of my friends are, OR if you live in small-town Iowa, like me, where you cannot find ANY bulgur within an hour's drive, I recommend you make a brown rice tabbouleh alternative. 

          Brown Rice Tabbouleh
Ingredients :
3 cups cooked rice
1 cup chopped, Italian flat-leaf parsley
¾ cup chopped cucumber
¾ cup chopped tomato
¼ cup minced mint leaves
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

The directions are simple: 
In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, parsley, cucumber, tomato, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss well.

I made a large batch and divided it up into small containers.  We ate it about every other day for lunch, and it lasted about a week and a half this way between two of us. This was healthy and delicious! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

1 Potato, 2 Potato, 3 Potato, 4..... I know potatoes are not the most healthy food in the world, but I would also have to argue that they are not the worst either.  At least I want to believe this.  I love potatoes...  baked potatoes, fried potatoes, twice-baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes, breakfast potatoes, julienne potatoes.  Ok, Bubba, you get the idea.  Any kind of potatoes are delicious.  A baked potato can hit the spot- and depending on how you top it- varies in fat content and nutritional value.  So whether you opt for the full-on deliciousness of the loaded tater (to be specific- lathered in sour cream, butter, cheddar cheese, and bacon bits) or maybe top it with some leftover turkey chili or some crisp green onions, and it is a sure winner on these cold winter days.

I recently discovered a quick and easy way to make baked potatoes in my crockpot. Yes- for real. I needed to use up some potatoes in my pantry before they started going bad.  It couldn't be any easier.  Take a few minutes in the morning to throw these together in the slow-cooker and then you have a quick meal ready to go when you walk into the door.  No waiting an hour for the darn things to cook.  No microwaved, chewy potatoes.  You will love this simple, yet rewarding dinner.

First of all, wash each potato and pierce with a fork.  Lay the potato on a small piece of foil. Brush with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  I like to use tasty sea salt just like the restaurants do.

Repeat with all the potatoes.  (It took me about 10 minutes total to repeat this process with about 8 potatoes.)

Simply place all the foil-wrapped potatoes in your crockpot.  No need to add water or anything like that.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

...and you are DONE!  Enjoy your baked potato with a salad or your favorite cut of meat.  I just like to set up my own little baked potato bar for my family with the healthy (and no-so-healthy) fixins' and there you have it- a quick and easy dinner!

What other crockpot recipes do you enjoy or what would you like to see included on this blog?  Please comment and leave your ideas for a future post!