Mac-O-Lantern

Mac O Lantern not baked

It’s almost Halloween. I thought I’d share an easy and fun recipe to make with the kids or to make for the kids at heart. The unbaked peppers look so cute, but the baked ones look perfectly scary for Halloween with their shrinking skins and their (unintentional) burnt tops. Feel free to stuff your peppers with rice, quinoa and other vegetables if you want to go vegetarian. I just thought the macaroni and cheese resembled the pumpkin innards which made this more fun.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 pounds of lean ground beef (or turkey or chicken)
  • 1/2 of a red onion. diced
  • 1/2 a cup of spaghetti or tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 box (7.25 ounces) Kraft macaroni and cheese (or any other brand)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 6 orange bell peppers

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  2. Foil line a small baking sheet.
  3. In a large skillet, brown the ground meat over medium high heat. Drain excess fat.
  4. Add onions and cook until almost translucent.
  5. Add spaghetti/tomato sauce, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Stir until well mixed and turn off heat.
  6. Prepare macaroni and cheese according to package using the butter and milk.
  7. Meanwhile, cut the bell peppers into jack-o-lanterns. Discard the seeds and white membranes. Be sure to leave enough of the top to use as a lid. I like to make sure there is enough opening in the mouths I carve so you can see the noodle mixture coming out like pumpkin guts.
  8. Once your macaroni and cheese is ready, combine in your large skillet with your meat mixture. Mix well.
  9. Stuff your peppers with the noodle and meat mixture. Put them on your prepared foil lined baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes until bell peppers are tender.

Mac O Lantern

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Slow Cooker Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Crockpot Lentil and Vegetable Soup

What’s that? I’m posting a vegetarian dish? Yes, believe it or not, I actually like a lot of vegetarian dishes. It’s just hard to find a vegetarian dish that my picky “meat and potatoes” son will enjoy as well. So I have to take baby steps with him and made a vegetarian soup. And slow cooker recipes are the best. Just prep your ingredients, put into your slow cooker and let it do all the work! Hopefully, my friend, Sue T. will approve. This recipe makes 6-8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups lentils (green or red)
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bag (5 ounces) baby spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 6 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place all ingredients but the baby spinach, in your slow cooker. And pour in the vegetable stock.
  2. Cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 8 hours.
  3. Stir a few times throughout the cooking.
  4. Add the baby spinach during the last 10 minutes of cooking cycle.
  5. If you like a more brothy soup, add in 1-2 cups additional stock.
  6. If you like a more creamy soup, carefully ladle out 1/3 of the soup into your blender and puree. Add back blended soup to slow cooker and mix well.
  7. Salt to taste and garnish with chopped parsley.

Crockpot Lentil and Vegetable Soup 2

Mexican Vegetable Soup

Mexican Vegetable Soup 1

If you took a quick glance at my most recent posts, you might think I’m all about sweets and chicken. While I’m not going to confirm or deny that may be true, I do make other recipes as well. You might even say somewhat healthy ones every once in a while too.  So for my vegetarian friends out there, I have not forsaken you. (Yes, I’m looking at you Sue T.!)

This soup recipe can be altered to whichever vegetables you have or that are in season. It is called vegetable soup afterall. I used what I had on hand. The flavor of the soup was reminiscent of a chicken tortilla soup without the chicken or tortillas. And be forewarned, this recipe makes a lot of servings (6-8) for you to share on a cold winter’s day.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 bell peppers, diced (I used 1/2  each of an orange, red and yellow bell peppers)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons  ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups diced roma tomatoes
  • 2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen or 1 can of corn)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can (4 ounce) diced green chile peppers
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1-2 zucchinis,  sliced

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS:

  • avocado slices
  • cilantro
  • lime wedges or lime juice
  • Mexican crema or sour cream
  • shredded cheese
  • tortilla chips

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot.
  2. Add bell peppers, carrots and onions to pot. Cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir occasionally.
  3. Add in minced garlic, cumin and cayenne. Stir and cook for a minute.
  4. Add in tomatoes, corn, black beans, diced green chiles and vegetable stock.
  5. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil.
  6. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Add in zucchini.
  8. Re-cover and simmer for another 10 more minutes, or until the zucchini is tender.
  9. Serve immediately with optional toppings. Mexican Vegetable Soup 2

Asparagus Beef

Asparagus BeefWho needs take-out when you can make it yourself? I’m always finding myself looking at various dishes at restaurants thinking I could probably make it. And if you have been following my blog, you know I’m all about quick and easy recipes.  For my vegetarian friends, just omit the beef and you should have a tasty vegetable stir fry dish.

MARINADE INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 ounce sirloin or flank steak, sliced into thin strips
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil for cooking, separated into 2 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon
  • 1 pound of asparagus, sliced in an angle into thirds
  • 1 small bell pepper, sliced into small strips
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon oyster flavored sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • cornstarch slurry (2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a bowl mix together marinade ingredients and add beef strips. Set aside.
  2. In another small bowl prepare the sauce by combining sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and the chicken stock. Mix well. Set aside.
  3. Heat up wok or skillet on high heat.  Swirl in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to coat wok or skillet.
  4. Quickly spread the beef slices around the pan in an even layer. Let it sear for 15-30 seconds without stirring. Then give it a quick stir to sear the other side. The meat should be browned and no sticking should happen if you got the pan hot enough. Take the meat out of the pan and set aside.
  5. Keep the wok/skillet on high heat and add one tablespoon oil.
  6. Add in asparagus, bell peppers, onions and minced garlic.
  7. Stir for about 10 seconds and add the shaoxing wine. Cover, leaving the heat on high. Let it cook for 20 to 30 seconds. Remove the cover. Add the beef back to the pan.
  8. Add the sauce mixture. Stir vigorously and let the liquid bubble up.
  9. Stir up your cornstarch slurry to make sure the starch is dissolved and pour in about half of it. Stir for a few seconds. If the sauce is still thin, add more slurry. If it’s too thick, add a little water or stock.
  10. Plate with rice and serve immediately!

Easy Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas

chichen-fajitas-1Okay. I admit it. I am a picky eater. You will not find green bell peppers or yellow onions in my fajitas. I love every type of bell peppers except green. I will always substitute whenever a recipe calls for green bell peppers. As for red onions, they just happen to be my favorite type of onion. I always have them on hand. Don’t get me wrong, I like yellow onions too. But I ALWAYS have red onions. So feel free to substitute your favorite colors of the rainbow for this dish. You can even omit the chicken and use sliced portabella mushrooms and add other vegetables to make a fantastic vegetarian fajita.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper sliced
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts sliced into strips
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons Mexican seasoning (chili powder, crushed red peppers, cumin, garlic powder, oregano and paprika)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • tortillas and your favorite fajita sides for serving
  • lime wedges for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.
  2. Place onions, peppers and chicken in 9×13 baking pan or dish.
  3. Drizzle and coat with olive oil. Sprinkle Mexican seasoning over dish. Top with lime juice. Toss to coat.
  4. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, stirring halfway.
  5. Serve with tortillas and your favorite fajita sides. Add lime wedge to each plate for garnish and extra lime juice if wanted.

Makes 3-4 servings.

chichen-fajitas-2

One Pot Chicken and Rice

Tex Mex Chicken and RiceChicken and rice are my  favorite “go to” ingredients. There are so many ways to  prepare the two. For this recipe we are taking the fabulous bold flavors of the Southwest and going Tex Mex style. This is my kind of comfort food wrapped up in one colorful, piping hot bowl of deliciousness. And for my vegetarian friends out there, just skip the chicken.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 chicken breast, pounded thin and cut into small chunks
  • 1 small red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 24 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 can (14 ounces) black beans, drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Morton & Bassett Mexican Blend seasoning (cumin, garlic, onion, paprika, pepper and thyme)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add chicken pieces and cook each side for 2 minutes or until cooked through. Remove chicken onto a plate and set aside.
  3. Add onions, bell pepper and garlic to skillet. Cook 1-2 minutes until onions and bell pepper are softened.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes, broth, corn, and black beans into skillet.
  5. Next add Mexican blend seasoning, cayenne pepper and brown sugar.
  6. Bring to a simmer and then add rice.
  7. Stir, cover with a lid and turn down heat to medium low.
  8. Cook for about 15 to 18 minutes until rice is cooked and most of liquid is absorbed.
  9. Add chicken and stir.
  10. Sprinkle with cheese and cover skillet with lid for 3 to 5 minutes for cheese to melt.
  11. Serve garnished with green onions or cilantro pieces.

Tex Mex Chicken and Rice Skillet

 

Egg Cups

Egg Cups PlatedThese were so much fun to make. If you have young children and want to introduce them to cooking I think these would be an ideal beginner’s dish. There are so many different variations you can make depending on what ingredients you like or what you have on hand. I made vegetarian ones and for my son I did a take on a Denver omelette using ham, cheese, bell pepper and green onion.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 eggs (will make 12 egg cups)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

FOR VEGETARIAN EGG CUPS:

  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 2 large shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup baby spinach, diced

Egg Cups 1

FOR HAM AND CHEESE EGG CUPS:

  • 1/2 cup diced ham
  • 12 tablespoons shredded cheese, divided (I used cheddar and mozzarella mix)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, diced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Meanwhile, generously spray muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. (For easier clean up, use baking cups instead of cooking spray.)
  2. Break eggs into a large bowl or 4 cup measuring cup. Add milk, salt and pepper. Whisk until ingredients are combined.
  3. Add equal amounts of your vegetables (or ham and cheese) into each cup of your muffin pan.
  4. Pour in egg mixture into each cup about 3/4 of the way up for each.

     

  5. Bake egg cups for 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes up clean.Egg Cups 6
  6. Let cool for a few minutes before taking egg cups out of pans.Egg Cups 7
  7. Serve with your favorite condiments or none at all.

You can keep these in an air tight container for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave.

Egg Cups Plated 2