Friday, October 14, 2011

{Day 14} For Real Meals

No, we don't eat rocks. But we are big fans of those cheese pizzas from Costco. A bonus? Recycled boxes can be used for rock sale displays and other kid-inspired enterprises.

So food is a highly personal thing. I'm always a bit hesitant to share recipes with the masses because a) people can be snobbish about food and b) a lot of people have food allergies and specific preferences and c) there are a million food blogs out there written by people who are both passionate and brilliant with food.

But I am keeping it real for 31 days so for those of you who are normal-ish about your meals or just curious about what we eat, I'm sharing a few of our own tried and trues. 

We don't eat a lot of meat around here so you'll notice that these recipes are not the meatiest of fare. Sorry to disappoint all of you ranchers reading my blog.

Salsa Chicken {4 ways}

  • Desired amount of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins
  • Desired amount of jarred salsa
  • Optional: canned diced tomatoes and/or black beans to supplement salsa

(Example ratio: I use a 2.5 lb bag of tenderloins, combined with 2 jars of salsa, 24 oz. or so, a can of diced tomatoes, & a can of black beans.) Dump ingredients in a crock pot or just a large saucepan on the stove. Cook chicken until done. Shred chicken.

Serve chicken mixture over rice with toppings of choice: cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado.

Definitely make plenty of this! It's great leftover and you can even make two totally new meals from it. It's fantastic as quesadilla or burrito meat. If you also have extra toppings, throw those in your quesadillas or burritos. 

If you're in the mood for a yummy Mexican soup, try this: Take leftover chicken mixture, add some chicken broth or part broth / water depending on how much you have. Sprinkle in fresh cilantro, avocado, and a big scoop of leftover rice. You will have an amazing soup identical to the one my favorite local Mexican restaurant serves. Top soup with crunched-up tortilla chips, shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, etc. 

But wait, there's more...the men in my family love to use the leftover salsa chicken to make ultimate nachos! Layer chips, chicken mixture, cheese, and any other toppings you like.

And there you have it: One ridiculously easy dish served four different ways!


Lentil Soup {from Williams-Sonoma Soup

Lentils are super healthy, super easy {no soaking or lengthy cooking time}, and super cheap {less than $1 a bag}. I've been making this soup for years and it remains a favorite.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion (finely chopped) 
  • 1-3 carrots {or a handful of baby carrots} sliced
  • 1-2 celery stalks, sliced
  • {*Note: I throw the veggies in my mini-prep food chopper and they're finely chopped in less than a minute.}  
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Generous tablespoon curry powder
  • 1-2 bay leaves (if desired)
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 bag (16 oz) dried lentils, rinsed, picked over, and drained
  • 6-8 cups broth
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach, or 1 1-lb frozen pack
  • Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil, then add onion, carrot, and celery. Saute until softened (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and saute for one minute more. Add curry powder and cook till fragrant (about 1 minute).

Add tomatoes, juice, bay leaf, lentils, stock to cover, and the lemon slices. Bring to a simmer over medium hight heat. Cover, reduce heat, and cook till lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add remainder of stock and heat up. Discard bay leaf and lemon slices.

If using fresh spinach, add just before serving. If using frozen, add at the end and cook for about 2-3 minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste.


Black Beans and Rice

I sort of made up this recipe so it's a bit different each time I make it. Here's the basic cast of ingredients. These amounts serve our family of 5 and I always have leftovers.

  • 3-4 cans of black beans {drained or not}
  • 1 can diced tomatoes or a cup or two of salsa or a bit of both
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1-2 minced garlic cloves
  • lime or lemon juice to taste
  • Cumin to taste
  • Salt, pepper, garlic salt, etc. to taste
Cook on stove or in a crock-pot. Serve over rice and top with cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, whatever.


Oatmeal Pancakes

My friend gave me this recipe and let me tell you, these are hearty and yummy, a comfort-food sort of pancake. We eat them for dinner. Serve them up with some bacon and fruit and it's a well-rounded meal.

  • 1/2 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 C rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 1/2 C milk
Mix and let set for 10-15 minutes so the oats can absorb some of the liquid.

My favorite pancake add-in's? Banana slices and pecans.

And I'd be remiss if I did not give a big shout-out to the Trader Joe's pumpkin pancake mix that they sell during the fall. We are crazy for these pancakes!


So there you have it. Four faves that are part of our rotation. 

We're big on leftovers and super easy meals to fill in the gaps. We have spaghetti {from a jar} at least once a week with these frozen baguettes from Costco. Sunday nights are always grilled cheese and tomato soup night {from a can.} 

And as I mentioned yesterday, frozen cheese pizzas with some fruits and veggies make a regular appearance. We love the Kirkland cheese pizzas from Costco, 4 for $10. 

Now it's your turn. What are your go-to meals? The so-familiar-you-can-make-it-in-your-sleep meals? We can all use some new real meal ideas to work into our own rotation. 

Just put your recipe in the comments section or link to it in your comment if it's one that's on-line.

{Click on the button for the list of all the days 
& topics thus far.}


  1. Great easy recipes. I am enjoying your posts. My go to is One Pot Spaghetti: 250g beef mince (ground beef), 1 can of condensed tomato soup, 1 can of water, and 1 onion, chopped, 250g pasta of choice. Cook onion until soft in a large saucepan, add beef, and brown. Add soup and water, bring to boil, gradually add pasta then cover and simmer for 10-15min, stirring occassionally until pasta is cooked. Stir though some cheese for extra taste. Serve.

  2. I once said that I loved to cook too! I still do - but like you on my days off or for special occasions. The opportunity cost of working full time (managing a fine dining SLOW FOOD/FARM TO TABLE restaurant) has meant far more hot dogs served to my children over the summer then I care to admit. Serving hot dogs / pizza / reality still gets me because I love and believe in the locavore / slowfood movement. The meals that I prepare need to be the variety that my husband can reheat with little instruction and screaming, hungry children at his side. :)
    Salsa chicken is a a tried and true meal here - love it, love the leftovers!

    Black Bean Enchiladas have been a favorite. They are so inexpensive, and to date is the only vegetarian meal that I've made that doesn't make my husband feel deprived or notice there isn't any meat.

    2 cans (15oz) black beans
    1tsp salt
    1tsp pepper
    2tsp cumin
    Chili powder / cayenne pepper if you want a little more spice to taste - a few tsp
    1 Onion
    *water or tomato puree or leftover tomato sauce

    Put all filling ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Add water or tomato / salsa / whatever you have on hand to get to the consistency you want. I usually add what I have on hand but would guess it is approx 1 1/2 cups liquid.

    1 can 28 oz tomato puree
    Cayenne or chili powder

    Puree ingredients together. (I don't wash out the food processor from the beans - just scrape with a spatula) Taste. If it needs onion / garlic or more spices add to your taste preferences.

    Scoop up the filling and add to a tortilla shell. Roll. Place seam side down in your pyrex pan. Repeat until you've used all the filling mixture.
    Pour sauce over the enchiladas.
    Top with grated cheese if your not vegan and have some to spare.
    Bake in oven @ 350 approx 35 minutes – or when it is all bubbly and looks delish.

    This makes a large quantity, and the enchiladas are very filling so you'll have leftovers for later in the week. :)

    Very inexpensive, and healthy. YAY!

  3. That salsa chicken is one of our favorite recipes. I make it with corn instead of tomatoes, but other than that it's the same recipe. You can also use the leftovers to make soup. I don't really have a recipe, I just do it. Good stuff.

  4. Homemade pizza! Bi-Lo has these great thin crusts that are pre-cooked. We'll throw whatever on it - leftovers, pepperoni, pesto, veggies, then some cheese and pop it in the oven for a quick and tasty meal.

  5. We do salsa chicken a ton too!! We use the leftovers for burritos. It's so easy.
    We also have grilled chicken salad a TON and I try to do variations now and then. Like one night with fruit, another night Greek style, and so on. It's so quick and easy.


Share your thoughts?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin