Monday, January 16, 2012

It Never Gets Old!

There are many things that never get old for me. One of those things is chicken soup done Mexican-style. I have tried so many versions...and I love them all. I will keep making my old favorites and every fall and winter, I will try new ones and add new favorites to my list.

Here are a few new Mexican soup discoveries I made this year.

I may be sharing a sequel to this post in a month or so...I've got a whole pile of Mexican chicken soup recipes that I still want to try!

Mexican Chicken Soup


1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 cup water
1 envelope reduced-sodium taco seasoning
1 can (32 ounces) V8 juice
1 jar (16 ounces) salsa
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn, thawed
6 tablespoons reduced-fat cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro


In a large nonstick skillet, saute chicken in oil until no longer pink. Add water and taco seasoning, simmer, uncovered, until chicken is well coated.

Transfer to a 5 qt. slow cooker. Stir in the V8 juice, salsa, beans, and corn. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until heated through. Serve with cheese, sour cream, and cilantro.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition information: 1 1/2 cups with 1 tablespoon eac cheese and sour cream and 1 teaspoon cilantro equals 345 calories, 7 g fat, 72 mg cholesterol, 1,315 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber.

Source: Taste of Home. You can find it here.

Notes: The only change I made was to skip browning the chicken (and therefore, I didn't add the oil called for in the recipe) and I lengthened the cooking time to about 6 hours since I hadn't cooked the chicken prior to adding it to the slow cooker. It was really delicious.

Southwestern Chicken Soup

Makes 4 servings


1 (12 ounce jar salsa verde)
3 cups cooked chicken pieces (1 small deli-counter rotisserie chicken or leftovers)
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
3 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
Tortilla chips, optional


Empty the salsa into a large saucepan. Cook 2 minutes over medium-high heat, then add the chicken,beans, broth, and cumin (if desired). Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top each bowl with a sprinkling of onions, a dollop of sour cream, and some tortilla chips (if desired). Four a soupier dish, use 4 cups of broth.

Nutrition information: 381 calories, 124 mg calcium, 27 g carbohydrate, 91 mg cholesterol, 13 g fat, 5 g fiber, 4 mg iron, 35 mg protein, 6 g saturated fat, 668 mg sodium.

Source: Real Simple, October 2004, found on You can find it here.

Notes: The recipe suggests using a rotisserie chicken or leftovers. This time, I cooked my chicken in a slow cooker and shredded it prior to adding it to the soup. But you could poach it and dice it as well.

Throw In Whatever You've Got Mexican Chicken Soup


2 (14.5 oz) cans peeled, diced tomatoes with jalapeno peppers in tomato juice, undrained
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can black beans
2 (11 oz) cans chipotle white corn (Mexicorn, yellow corn, or white corn--canned or frozen--could also be used)
1 1/2 lbs. diced chicken breasts
1 packet taco seasoning
Favorite toppings (such as sour cream, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, diced avocado, cilantro, etc.)


Place all ingredients (except for toppings) in a slow cooker. Stir to mix. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Top with favorite toppings.

Source: I made this one up myself.

Notes: After making and eating so many different Mexican or Tex-Mex chicken soups, I thought to myself "I'll bet I can create a soup of my own based solely on what is currently in my cupboard right now." And I was right! This soup was so, so yummy. I had bought the diced tomatoes with jalapeno peppers for another recipe and bought twice as much because I figured I could use it later. That's the same story with the corn. As for the chicken broth, beans, chicken breasts, and taco seasoning, I always keep those on hand.

This one really could be changed to fit anyone's tastes or based on what you have in your pantry and fridge. You could use any kind of beans, for instance. If you don't have tomatoes with jalapenos, you could add regular diced tomatoes and a 4.5 oz can of diced chiles. Or, you could add a diced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (just one pepper from the can...unless you like things really spicy!). As the title says, use any Mexican or Tex-Mex ingredients that you think would work.

But as for the ingredients listed above, I can vouch that they work! This was a yummy soup!

Creamy White Chili


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cans (15 oz each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can white hominy (optional)
2 cans (15 oz) chicken broth
2 cans (4 oz) each chopped green chiles
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream


In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion, and garlic powder in oil until chicken isn't pink. Add beans, hominy, broth, chiles, and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. remove from heat. Stir in sour cream and whipping cream. serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Cook's notes: The recipe is written as I originally received it, but I usually boil my chicken ahead of time and shred it while it is warm. Then I cook the onion and garlic powder in oil, then add the shredded chicken, beans, broth, etc., all except for the sour cream and whipping cream, which I add at the very end. I also usually only use one can of chopped green chiles. For my family, I always make a double batch (which makes 8-10 servings). If you like a thicker soup (more of a chili consistency), you can add 1/2 cup of potato flakes to thicken it, or use 1-2 tbsp of cornstarch (mixed in water until smooth before adding it to the soup--otherwise, you will get lumps).

Source: My father-in-law made this for us on Christmas. He got it from Stacie Stone.

Notes: This was a delicious soup. I have never personally made it, but from how it tasted, I wouldn't change a thing from what is written in the recipe above.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

That's a Spicy Meatball!

Do you know what comes in handy? Frozen meatballs. I keep them on hand because my 11 month old likes to eat them from time to time (I cut them into tiny pieces and he gobbles them up). They also come in handy for dinner. The great thing about frozen meatballs is that you obviously keep them in your freezer, so you can use them whenever it's convenient for you. You don't have to use them up before they go bad or before they expire (that is, unless you keep them in your freezer for years because they eventually will go bad and expire). They just wait patiently for you in the freezer until you are ready for them.

I started keeping frozen meatballs on hand before I had any children because I discovered a yummy recipe called Stuffed Meatball Pizza. This is a great pantry-style dinner because besides the fresh basil, you can pretty much keep all of the other ingredients on hand all the time. So, I'm sharing that recipe with you tonight.

The next recipe I'm sharing is one I actually created all by myself just today. I had seen a ton of recipes for slow cooker lasagna and I was so curious to see how well it would actually work. Among other things, I wondered if the noodles would become soggy (they actually don't), and if it would come out looking as nice and layered as traditional lasagna (sorry, it doesn't).

I used the following as my inspiration: my mother's lasagna from my childhood (her lasagna used cottage cheese and eggs), my freezer and pantry (using what I had on hand because I couldn't make the dinner I originally had planned for tonight) and finally, a recipe by Betty Crocker, which you can find here.

I'm actually pretty proud of how my lasagna turned out. It was pretty tasty! It's a lot faster and easier than traditional lasagna.

However, as soon as I started breaking the lasagna noodles to fit my slow cooker, I was absolutely sure that it wouldn't come out looking as pretty as the Betty Crocker lasagna picture. I would definitely like to know how they accomplished the impossible feat of making their lasagna look that beautiful. However, pretty or not, it was yummy and it hit the spot.

As a bonus, I'm including a "recipe" for meatball subs (which is basically a sandwich that requires no recipe at all).

Buon appetito!

Stuffed Meatball Pizza


18 Rhodes Dinner Rolls or 12 Rhodes Texas Rolls, thawed to room temperature
1 egg, beaten
2 cups grated Italian blend cheese, divided
16 ounce package pre-cooked frozen bite-sized Italian meatballs, thawed
1 cup marinara sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves or 1 tbsp fresh
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Parmesan cheese
Extra marinara sauce, for dipping


Spray counter lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Combine 9 dinner rolls or 6 Texas rolls together and roll into a 13-inch circle for bottom crust. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest. Repeat above steps with remaining rolls to make the top crust.

Remove wrap from first dough circle and place the dough in a sprayed 12-inch deep dish pizza pan to cover the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with 1 cup grated Italian blend cheese. Top with meatballs. Drizzle marinara sauce over meatballs and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Sprinkle with basil and crushed red pepper. Remove wrap from remaining dough circle and place dough over all ingredients. Press edges of bottom and top crusts together to seal.

Brush top crust with beaten egg. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Using a sharp knife, cut 2 vent holes in top crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Serve with extra marinara sauce for dipping.

Source: This is a Rhodes Bread recipe which can originally be found here.

Notes: The only problem I have had with this recipe is that the bread crust gets done a lot sooner than the inside mixture does. The first time I made this, I pulled out my beautifully browned pizza pie only to discover a cool inside. We ended up microwaving it so that it was hot inside and out. So, here's my suggestion to combat this: heat the marinara and meatballs together either on the stove top or in the microwave while you are making the crusts. So, rather than adding cold fillings, you will be adding warmed fillings. So, your crusts will become lovely and browned and your fillings will be just the right temperature.

The only other change I made was to add fresh basil. The recipe doesn't specify whether fresh or dried basil is being called for. Because only 1 teaspoon is being used, I assumed that it is asking for dried basil. However, the first time I made this, I had a basil plant with a ton of fresh basil leaves, so I used that instead. It tasted so good that I don't think I'll ever make this with dried basil.

This is also one of those great recipes that is even better the next day. The flavors have time to meld and it tastes awesome.

Sarah's Slow Cooker Lasagna


2 eggs
1 (16 oz) container cottage cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded or grated)
2 jars pasta sauce
1/2 lb. lasagna noodles, uncooked
1 lb. frozen Italian-style meatballs, thawed and cut in half (or you can use 1 lb. ground beef browned with one diced onion, 1-2 cloves of minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning)
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese


In a blender, add two eggs, cottage cheese, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Blend until smooth.

Spray a slow cooker with cooking spray or use a slow cooker liner.

Spread about 1 cup of pasta sauce on the bottom of your slow cooker. Top with enough lasagna noodles to cover the sauce and make a layer that covers the sauce (you will need to break the noodles to fit--the noodles can overlap).

Spread half of the cottage cheese mixture evenly over the first layer of lasagna noodles.

Top cottage cheese layer evenly with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and place half of the meatballs on top of that.

Evenly pour one cup of pasta sauce over your meatballs. Add more lasagna noodles on top of the meatball/pasta sauce layer, breaking to fit.

Repeat each layer one more time: a layer using the rest of your cottage cheese mixture, followed by a layer using 1/2 cup mozzarella, then a layer using the last of the meatballs, and finally a layer of one cup of pasta sauce.

To finish, top with a layer of lasagna noodles topped with the last cup of your pasta sauce and a final 1/2 cup layer of mozzarella cheese.

Cook on low heat setting for 4-6 hours.

Source: This is my own creation as mentioned above and inspired by my Mom's traditional lasagna recipe and a recipe found on the Betty Crocker website.

Above: Again, it wasn't the prettiest lasagna ever, but it was easy and tasty!

Notes: You can use as many noodles as you would like. I used about half of a one pound box, but if you use a little more than that, it will still work out fine. Also, I only had one jar of pasta sauce, so I improvised for the rest of the pasta sauce. I used two (14.5 oz) cans of Italian stewed tomatoes. I drained them and diced them finely using my kitchen shears (it's really easy--you just cut your scissors right in the can until the tomatoes are cut up). So, I used the Italian stewed tomatoes on the very bottom of the slow cooker and on the very top. The middle layers were Barilla's mushroom pasta sauce. It was really yummy!

I cooked my lasagna for about 5 hours and it was just right. The noodles weren't mushy and the flavors were nicely blended.

Italian Meatball Subs


Italian-style frozen meatballs
Pasta sauce
Mozzarella cheese slices
Hoagie rolls


Place meatballs and pasta sauce in a slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Or, you can heat your meatballs and pasta sauce together in a saucepan over medium-high heat until the meatballs are warmed and the sauce is bubbly. If that's not fast enough for you, you can heat your meatballs and pasta sauce together in the microwave until the meatballs are heated through.

Split and toast hoagie rolls.

Place 1-2 slices of mozzarella cheese on the bottom half of each hoagie roll and top with meatballs and pasta sauce. Place the top of the hoagie roll over the meatballs and enjoy!

Source: There's no specific recipe for this. It's just one of those things that I put together myself after enjoying a meatball sub at a deli.

Notes: I didn't include ingredient amounts because it just depends on how many sandwiches you want to make. I would say that per sandwich you would need one hoagie roll, between 4-6 meatballs, just enough sauce to coat the meatballs, and 1-2 slices of cheese. It's as easy as that. It's a great and easy dinner idea to throw together on short notice.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

No Way! This is Canned Tuna?!

In the past, canned tuna meant a lovely tuna fish sandwich to me. Tuna fish sandwiches don't have to be boring. You can get creative by adding nuts, herbs, fancy kinds of mustard, etc. Very satisfying.

But I only eat so many tuna fish sandwiches and I had a ton of canned tuna in my pantry that I needed to use up before being forced to throw it out.

So, a couple of months ago, I was flipping through my monthly Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine and I came across a recipe for tuna casserole. This wasn't your average tuna noodle casserole. It used a completely different kind of pasta (usually, it calls for egg noodles) and it also called for panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). It intrigued me. Besides that, I happened to have all of the ingredients for this particular recipe in my cupboard already, so it meant that I didn't have to go grocery shopping before making dinner...for another day at least (I really hate grocery shopping).

I like canned tuna, but I've never really seen many uses for it. I mean, besides making tuna sandwiches and your basic tuna noodle casserole, what else can you use it for?

But then I made this tuna noodle casserole and my whole mind-set changed. I thought to myself "This was GOOD. What else can you make with canned tuna?" So, I did some searching and I realized that there is a LOT that you can make with it! I found all of my recipes this time around on the Martha Stewart website. Say what you will about Martha, but she's a woman who respects the pantry. I've constantly been amazed at how many creative recipes are on her website which successfully make use of seemingly boring or commonplace ingredients. Seriously, I will never look at canned tuna the same way again. I used up all of the tuna in my pantry and had to buy more. Plus, you can bet that I will definitely be stocking up on tuna for my food storage from here on out. I still have a whole slew of recipes for tuna that I want to try, but I'll include those in a part 2 blog post sometime. I figured that I had better get these tuna recipes on our blog so that other people besides myself can actually try them!

Oh, and in the process (and among many other delicious discoveries), I found a tuna sandwich that will blow every other tuna sandwich you have ever had right out of the water.

I hope you liked them as much as I did.

I will begin with the recipe that started it all...

Tuna Casserole


Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 pound tubetti or elbow macaroni
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 ounce Parmesan, grated (2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced small
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cans (6 ounces each) solid light tuna packed in water, drained and flaked
1 cup frozen peas, thawed


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 2 minutes less than package instructions (it will be undercooked). Drain. In a small bowl, toss together panko, Parmesan, and 2 teaspoons oil.

In pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, 8 minutes. Add flour and whisk to coat onion with flour. Slowly whisk in broth, then milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes. Stir in pasta, tuna, and peas, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer tuna mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and top with panko mixture. Bake until sauce is bubbling and crust is golden, 17-20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Martha Stewart website and Everyday Food magazine

Notes: I used a whole pound of ditalini. I seasoned my casserole quite generously with salt and pepper. This was so good. The texture of the ditalini and the addition of peas made this so delicious. Oh, and my picky eater oldest son liked this, so that made it even better!

Spaghetti with Tuna, Lemon, and Breadcrumbs


Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 pound spaghetti
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons slivered Kalamata olives
2 cans (6 ounces each) chunk light tuna in water, drained


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse bread and 1 teaspoon oil until coarse crumbs form. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Bake until golden, tossing occasionally, 6-8 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta, and return to pot. Add lemon zest and juice, parsley, olives, and 1 tablespoon oil; toss, adding enough pasta water to coat. Add tuna, toss gently. Serve sprinkled with breadcrumbs.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food, January 2009.

Notes: Another way to make the breadcrumbs would be to toast the bread in a toaster and then pulse the bread in a food processor or blender. Also, I used a whole pound of spaghetti (as I've mentioned before, I hate it when a recipe calls for less than a box of pasta. What am I supposed to do with 1/4 pound of spaghetti later on?). I also really like lemons and olives, so I increased the amount of lemon juice and olives used to suit my own taste. This was seriously so good. Surprisingly good. I would seriously serve this to company it was that good (unless my company hated fish, of course). Besides that, this recipe was so fast and easy. It literally only takes as long as it takes to cook and drain the pasta...and then you're done! I like those kinds of recipes A LOT!

Mediterranean Tuna-Noodle Casserole


1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for baking dishes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound wide egg noodles
2 red bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
4 cans (6 ounces each) tuna in olive oil, drained
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and thickly sliced
5 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil two 8-inch square (or other shallow 2 quart baking dishes). In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles until 2 minutes short of al dente; drain, and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a 5 quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium. Add bell peppers; season with salt and pepper. Cook until crisp-tender, 4-6 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Gradually add milk, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a simmer.

Remove from heat; add mixture to noodles in pot, along with tuna, artichoke hearts, and scallions. Season with salt and pepper, and toss. Divide between prepared baking dishes, and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food, October 2007

Notes: We have actually already shared this recipe before (though we didn't post a picture of it last time). This recipe is actually freezer friendly and if you want directions on how to freeze and reheat it (as well as recipes for some additional freezer friendly casseroles), click here. I used cooking spray for the baking dish (and I used one 9x13 inch pan instead of two 8-inch square baking dishes). I also used tuna in water instead of olive oil because that's what I had and it still tasted great. Finally, I used 2 cans of artichoke hearts because I love them and you can never have too much!

This sauce is deceiving because it doesn't really thicken up until it cooks in the oven. I was worried that it would be thin and runny...but it wasn't. It was just right.

Tuna Tomato Pasta


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
3 cans tuna, well drained
2 cans crushed tomatoes, with juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, thyme, or rosemary
1 pound penne or fusilli pasta


Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Heat a medium saucepan and add the olive oil, swirling to coat the pan. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Add the tuna and stir, being careful not to break up the chunks too much.

Stir in the tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Add the chopped herbs a few minutes before serving.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta, drain, and toss with the sauce. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and an extra sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

Source: Mad Hungry recipe by Lucinda Scala Quinn from October 2010 found on the Martha Stewart website.

Notes: The recipe doesn't specify whether to use two 14.5 oz cans of crushed tomatoes or two 28 oz cans. I decided to err on the side of having too much rather than not enough, so I used two 28 oz cans (besides, I like tomatoes and I needed some 28 oz cans for another project). However, after having made it, I think the recipe is referring to two 14.5 oz cans. But I thought it was really yummy using two 28 oz cans, so I would just tell you to go by your own personal preference. If you like a lot of sauce (and I do), use the larger cans. Otherwise, use the smaller ones.

This recipe is best the first night. When it is fresh and piping hot, it is so rich and flavorful. When you eat it as leftovers, it does start to taste just a tad bit fishy. Again, I used tuna packed in water (because that's what I had).

I made it using fresh oregano. But it would be equally delicious with the thyme or rosemary suggested in the recipe.

Tuna Nicoise Sandwich


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cans oil-packed tuna (6 oz each), drained
1/4 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
8 inch country style round bread loaf
3 tablespoons jarred olive tapenade
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 hard-cooked large eggs


In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, white-wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard; season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Transfer 2 tablespoons dressing to another bowl; toss with tuna. To remaining dressing, add cucumber and red onion; toss to combine.

Cut an 8-inch country-style round bread loaf in half horizontally; remove most of soft interior bread. Spread 3 tablespoons jarred olive tapenade on bottom half. Top with 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, then 2 hard-cooked large eggs sliced; season with salt and pepper. Top with tuna, then cucumber mixture, and close sandwich.

Wrap sandwich tightly in plastic and place between two baking sheets. Weight with a heavy skillet. Let stand 1 hour (or refrigerate, up to overnight). To serve, cut into quarters.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food, July/August 2009

Notes: Rather than canned tuna, I used tuna packed in pouches this time around. I doubled this recipe (and made two loaves or a total of 8 sandwich servings). So, I used two pouches of tuna (enough to total 24 ounces of tuna, which would have been the equivalent had I used canned tuna).

I would suggest that you remove some, but not most of the interior bread. This is a very moist sandwich and it might get too soggy if you remove too much bread. I removed a lot of the interior bread and pressed it for about 40 minutes (rather than an hour). If I had waited too much longer, it would have been soggy. It is a messy sandwich, so keep some napkins nearby.

But honestly, this is everything a tuna sandwich should be. It's the tuna sandwich I've been waiting my whole life for! :) It has so many strong flavors that you think it might be overwhelming, but all of the flavors work together beautifully to make one super tasty sandwich.

Oh, and if you're intimidated by the name, Nicoise is pronounced "nee-swahz" (you can hear the pronunciation here.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Breakfast for Dinner

Sometimes there's just nothing better than having breakfast for dinner. All sorts of elaborate breakfasts just take too long to throw together most mornings when you're rushing to get off to work or to get the kids fed. Quality breakfast takes a little more time. Either you can make these more time-consuming breakfasts for dinner, or you have to save it for lazy Saturdays and holidays.

Yesterday, I shared my all-time favorite type of breakfast: pancakes. Today, I'm going to share some other favorite breakfast-for-dinner options.

Below, you will find recipes for waffles, breakfast casseroles, French toast, and omelets.

Oh, and just a quick note on the French toast. I don't typically follow a recipe...I just eyeball it. But I'm sharing a good recipe to be used as a guideline if you don't feel comfortable just winging it. However, I'm also sharing my method as well.

As for these yummy recipes, I hope you like them as much as we did!

Mom's Best Waffles


2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon granulated or packed brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/ teaspoon salt


Heat waffle maker. If necessary, brush with vegetable oil before batter for each waffle is added (or spray with cooking spray before heating). In large bowl, beat eggs with hand beater until fluffy. Beat in remaining ingredients just until smooth.

Pour about 1/2 cup batter from cup or pitcher onto center of hot waffle maker. (Check manufacturer's directions for recommended amount of batter.) Close lid of waffle maker.

Bake about 5 minutes or until steaming stops. Carefully remove waffle. Repeat with remaining batter.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information: 380 calories, 22 g fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, 38 g carbohydrate, 1 g dietary fiber, 9 g protein.

Recipe Notes: Set up a serve-yourself waffle bar and offer pie filling toppers like cherry, blueberry, and apricot.

For 7 grams of fat and 255 calories per serving, substitute 1/2 cup fat-free cholesterol free egg product for thee eggs, use fat-free (skim) milk, and decrease oil to 3 tablespoons.

Source: Betty Crocker. I don't think this recipe can be found online at this time. I found it in an old recipe book/magazine from at least ten years ago.

Notes: I would strongly recommend that you spray your waffle iron in-between each waffle. I decided to skip this step for my very first waffle and the whole thing stuck to the waffle iron and I had waffle crumbs instead of a whole waffle. After that, you can bet that I greased my waffle iron each time. I also used cooking spray instead of the oil.

Also, the recipe says that it makes 6 servings. Perhaps their waffle iron is bigger than mine, because mine made more than 6 waffles. If I remember correctly, it made 9 (or maybe even 10). I guess it just depends on the size of your waffle iron. But this is a great basic waffle recipe. You can't go wrong with this one.

Classic French Toast


6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
6 slices (1-inch-thick) bread, preferably day old
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Pure maple syrup, for serving (optional)


Whisk together eggs, cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Place bread in a shallow baking dish large enough to hold bread slices in a single layer. Pour egg mixture over bread; soak 10 minutes. Turn slices over; soak until soaked through, about 10 minutes more.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet, and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry half the bread slices until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to wire rack; place in oven while cooking remaining bread. Wipe skillet, and repeat with remaining butter, oil, and bread. Keep in oven until ready to serve. Serve warm with pure maple syrup, if desired.

Source: Martha Stewart website. You can find it here.

My Easy Version of French Toast


Milk (even skim milk works)
Cinnamon, to taste (optional)
Vanilla extract, 1-2 teaspoons, to taste (optional)
Cooking spray
Wonder Bread Texas Toast (I really like this because it is already cut thick)
Maple syrup, fruit, powdered sugar, whipped cream, or any and all of your favorite toppings)


Slice each piece of bread in half diagonally. Whisk together eggs and milk. The ratio of milk to eggs that you use is up to you. It just depends on how eggy you want your French toast. I prefer about 2 parts milk to 1 parts egg. For instance, something like 6 eggs to two to two-and-a-half cups of milk. As I said, I just eyeball it. You can make this to suit your own tastes. Once your eggs and milk are beaten together, you can whisk in some cinnamon and/or vanilla, if you like.

Heat a pan on medium to medium-high heat on your stove top. When the pan is heated, spray with cooking spray. One by one, dip each piece of bread into the egg mixture and then place into your pan. Repeat until the pan is full (but no overcrowded). Allow your bread to brown (1-3 minutes) and flip over to brown the other side. Remove from pan and place on plate. Repeat in batches until you have made as much French toast as you want (whether that's half a loaf or the whole thing--it's up to you!).

Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

Source: Just me.

Canadian-Bacon Strata

This savory breakfast pudding can be prepared the night before through step 2 and baked the next morning. Let the strata chill for 2 hours, and it will be nice and moist. If you leave it overnight in the refrigerator, it will be even more custardy.


Butter, softened (for pan)
4 English muffins, split, toasted, and cut in half
1/2 pound sliced 9about 10 slices) Canadian bacon, halved
1 1/4 cups shredded (6 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
8 large eggs
3 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco


Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish (oval or square), set aside. In dish, alternately arrange, cut side down, muffin halves and Canadian bacon. Sprinkle with cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper, and hot sauce until combined. Pour over muffins and bacon; cover lightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet; remove plastic wrap. Bake until puffed and set in the center (see note above), about 1 hour and 30 minutes. (Tent loosely with foil if strata starts to brown too quickly.) Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Source: Martha Stewart website. You can find it here.

Notes: This is so, so good. So much better than you would ever think from the picture. I made this originally because I was scrounging for a recipe to make because I hadn't gone shopping and needed a dinner to make from what I already had in my fridge.

I used more English muffins, however. I think the original recipe is supposed to be more eggy than bready. I made this in a 9x13 baking dish (which is a 3-quart baking dish and the recipe called for a 2-quart baking dish) and if I had only used 4 English muffins, they would have been swimming around instead of being beautifully lined up as in the picture of the recipe on the website, found here. Also, I think their Canadian bacon was a lot thicker than mine was (which was very thinly sliced--25 calories per slice).

So, here's what I did: I used eight English muffins. Rather than only placing one halved slice of Canadian bacon between each halved slice of English muffin, I used two halved slices between. I did NOT increase the eggs, cheddar, Parmesan, milk, Dijon, salt, pepper, or hot sauce. Yes, this made mine more of a bready casserole than the one on the Martha Stewart website (which I believe was intended to be more eggy).

But it was still FANTASTIC. The egg mixture is so flavorful. This is such a savory and comforting strata. Serve it with some fresh fruit and possibly some juice and that is all you will need for a hearty meal.

Do-Ahead Breakfast Bake


1 cup diced fully cooked ham (6 oz)
2 boxes Betty Crocker Seasoned Skillets hash brown potatoes
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (1 cup)
1 tablespoon dried chopped onion
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (8 oz)
1 cup Original Bisquick mix
3 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 eggs


Grease 13x9 inch (3 quart) glass baking dish with shortening or cooking spray.

Layer ham, potatoes, bell pepper, onion, and 1 cup of the cheese in baking dish. In large bowl, stir Bisquick mix, milk, pepper, and eggs until blended. Pour into baking dish; sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Cover; refrigerate at least 4 hours but no longer than 24 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until light golden brown around edges and cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes.

Tips: For fewer calories and less fat, use Bisquick Heart Smart mix instead of the Original Bisquick mix, and use 1 cup fat-free egg product instead of the 4 eggs.

Try different types of cheeses in this recipe. Swiss and Monterey Jack work well, but you can also try seasoned cheeses, such as shredded taco cheese or pepper Jack cheese.

Makes 12 servings

Nutrition information: 240 calories, 12 g fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 620 mg sodium, 19 g carbohydrate, 1 g dietary fiber, 14 g protein.

Source: Betty Crocker. You can find it here.

Notes: I really liked this, but I think in the future, I would use frozen hash browns instead of the box of freeze dried potatoes called for in the recipe. It would significantly cut down on the sodium in this recipe and I think it would taste even better. I might also use fresh (or frozen) diced onion instead of dried.

Mozzarella Omelet with Sage and Red Chile Flakes


1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, at room temperature
Fresh sage leaves, optional


Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl, stirring gently with a whisk.

heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of egg mixture to pan, and spread evenly in pan. Cook the egg mixture until edges begin to set (about 1 minute). Slice front edge of spatula between edge of omelet and pan. Gently lift edge of omelet, tilting pan to allow some uncooked egg mixture to come in contact with pan. repeat procedure on opposite edge of omelet. Continue cooking until center is just set (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle half of cheese evenly over half of omelet. Loosen omelet with a spatula, and fold in half. Carefully slide omelet onto a plate. Repeat the procedure with remaining oil, egg mixture, and cheese. Garnish with sage leaves, if desired. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information: 256 calories, 19.7 g fat, 18.2 g protein, 1.8 g carbohydrate, 0.1 g fiber, 431 mg cholesterol, 2 mg iron, 538 mg sodium, 165 mg calcium.

Source: September 2011 Cooking Light. You can find it here.

Notes: I almost always use cooking spray in place of oil for these types of recipes. This can also be made in the microwave. Spray a flat bowl or a plate with a lip (to avoid spills) with cooking spray. Beat egg mixture and pour onto the bowl or plate. Microwave for 30 seconds. Check for doneness. Sprinkle with cheese and microwave for an additional 15-30 seconds. Check for doneness. If necessary, microwave for an additional 15-30 seconds. Remove omelet from microwave, fold in half, and enjoy!

East Meets West...Pancakes!

I LOVE pancakes. I'm one of those people who orders pancakes over many other delectable choices whenever I go out to eat for breakfast--even though I know they can be much more easily duplicated at home than certain other types of breakfast items. I just love them and can't pass them up.

But the beauty about pancakes is that they come in so many forms. It seems like everyone has their own version of them. Yes, from the east to the west, you can find some kind of pancake everywhere you go.

So, I thought I would share some delicious ones that we have enjoyed.

German Pancakes


6 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick of butter


Place cube of butter in 9x13 baking dish. Preheat to 400 degrees. Beat eggs, flour, milk, vanilla, and salt in a blender for 2 minutes.

Pour blender mixture into the pan (once the butter is melted) and cook for 20 minutes (or until it is nicely puffed and browned).

Source: This is the recipe that my in-laws make every time we have breakfast get-togethers.

Notes: Honestly, I had never tried these before I had them at one of our breakfasts. They are really good and surprisingly easy to make. When I made them, I used half a stick of butter (instead of a whole stick) and they worked just fine and still tasted fabulous.

Dutch Baby Pancake


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium cast-iron or ovenproof nonstick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat; set aside.

In a blender, combine eggs, milk, flour, salt, vanilla, and 1/4 cup sugar. Blend until foamy, about 1 minute. pour batter into skillet; bake until pancake is puffed and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Working quickly, dot pancake with 1 tablespoon butter, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar and lemon juice. Slice into wedges, and serve immediately.

Source: Martha Stewart website.

Notes: This is really similar to a German pancake. However, this one has sugar inside and on top of it, so you can serve it as-is. No need to add syrup or any other toppings (or you still can, if you like!).



For the Crepes:

3/4 cup plus 2 tabespoons whole milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Filling:

16 ounces cottage cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup, plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved, bean discarded (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

For the Fruit Topping:

Favorite pie filling (such as blueberry or cherry)
Favorite fresh fruit (such as fresh berries with a dusting of powdered sugar)


Make the crepe batter: Whisk together milk, 1/2 cup water, 2 tablespoon melted butter, and the eggs in a medium bowl. Whisk in flour and salt; set aside.

Make the filling: Puree cottage cheese, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a food processor. Transfer to a medium bowl. Set aside.

Make the crepes: Stir together remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter and the oil in a small bowl; reserve 1/4 cup for cooking blintzes. Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush pan using remaining butter-oil mixture. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter into pan; swirl to form an even layer. Cook until bottom is lightly browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Once the bottom is browned, add 2 tablespoons of the filling into the middle of the blintz (no need to turn the blintz over before adding the filling). Fold the crepe over the filling (a traditional blintz has all sides folded over to form a square, but I was too lazy, so I only folded two of the sides in, more like a crepe). Once the sides are folded, heat for another 30 seconds or so to warm the filling and so the crepe will set up. Remove blintz from pan to a warm plate and repeat until all of the blintzes are made.

Top with desired topping and enjoy.

Source: This is a combination of two recipes. A Martha Stewart recipe that I found here and a Kraft recipe that I found here. I was trying to recreate a recipe that we used to have when I was a kid. It was a recipe that my Mom lost in our pre-blog period. Our blog definitely makes it a lot easier to keep track of all of these great recipes! It makes me sad for all of the great recipes that were lost during the Dark Ages.

Notes: Blintzes take a little bit of's kind of like being a short order cook. But once you get a good rhythm, it's a lot of fun! Oh, and rather than adding oil and butter to the pan each time I started a new blintz, I used cooking spray instead (easier and fewer calories--still tasted great)

Old-Fashioned Pancakes


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for serving
Vegetable oil, for the griddle
Pure maple syrup, warmed, for serving


Place a heat-proof platter into a warm oven (at 200 degrees).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add in the egg, milk, and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Whisk from the center, slowly incorporating the flour. Rest the batter for 10 minutes.

Heat a large well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or favorite griddle over medium-high heat. Swirl the remaining tablespoon of butter in the skillet (or use oil to coat the griddle) and immediately pour in 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. When bubbles rise to the surface, flip the pancakes, slightly reduce the heat, and cook until the bottoms are golden and the centers are cooked, about 1 minute. (Rarely does the first pancake work because it takes a bit of time to get in the groove with the heat, fat, and batter.)

As the pancakes comes out of the skillet, place them on the warm platter in the oven until ready to serve. serve a stack of 3 pancakes, topped with more butter and the maple syrup.

Source: This is a Mad Hungry recipe found on the Martha Stewart website.

Notes: I'm ashamed to say that this is the very first time I made pancakes from scratch. Before this, I always used Bisquick or a mix. These were soooo good. The butter in the pancake batter makes these taste so rich and buttery that I didn't need butter on top of my pancakes. Yum. My tummy is growling for these right now.

Cheesecake Pancakes



1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
2 cups Original Bisquick mix
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Strawberry Syrup:

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup strawberry syrup for pancakes


Slice cream cheese lengthwise into four pieces. Place on ungreased cookie sheet; cover and freeze 8 hours or overnight.

Brush griddle or skillet with vegetable oil, or spray with cooking spray; heat griddle to 375 degrees or heat skillet over medium heat.

Cut cream cheese into bite-size pieces; set aside. In large bowl, stir Bisquick mix, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, milk, and eggs with whisk or fork until blended. Stir in cream cheese.

For each pancake, pour slightly less than 1/3 cup batter onto hot griddle. Cook until edges are dry. Turn; cook other sides until golden brown.

In small bowl, mix strawberries and syrup; top pancakes with strawberry mixture.

Source: This is from the Betty Crocker website here.

Notes: These were sooo good and sooo addicting. The picture above is shown without that you can decide if you want to use strawberry syrup or maple syrup yourself! I served mine with maple syrup (because I just love maple syrup) and they were awesome both ways. Very addicting.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Doesn't That Just Beet All?

I really like beets. Some fruits and vegetables do better than others in canned form. Peas? Blech. Always buy frozen peas because canned peas look like army green colored mush (in round form, of course), and they no longer taste like peas. And why did anyone decide to can grapes (as found in fruit cocktail)? They just taste...weird. But beets? Those are pretty darned good when they are canned. And where do I like my canned beets? In my salads.

So, I'm going to share two salads that use canned beets; one that uses a recipe and one that really needs no recipe at all.

Beet, Blue Cheese, and Toasted Walnut Salad


1/4 cup orange juice
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 can (14.5 oz) sliced beets, drained
2 tbsp crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted


Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add beets; toss well. Cover and chill for 2 hours.

Arrange lettuce evenly on individual plates. Spoon beet mixture evenly over lettuce, using a slotted spoon. Reserve remaining orange juice mixture.

Sprinkle blue cheese and walnuts evenly over beet mixture. Drizzle reserved orange juice mixture evenly over salad.

4 Weight Watcher's points per serving. Makes 4 servings (114 calories per serving).

No Recipe Required Beet, Mushroom, and Pea Salad


Canned sliced beets, drained
Frozen peas, thawed
White button mushrooms, sliced
Romaine lettuce, cut, torn, or shredded (however you prefer it in your salad)
Favorite salad dressing (I find that with this combination, a creamy dressing is fantastic--such as Ranch or Blue Cheese)


Place lettuce on each plate. Top with desired amount of beets, peas, and mushrooms. Top with your favorite dressing.

Source: Every time I went to a salad bar, this was my absolute favorite salad combination. No source, no recipe...just my favorite salad topper combination.

Above: I like my beets husband prefers his sliced. So here is his plate!

Below, you will find a new beet salad addition added on April 6, 2012. My sister mentioned this recipe in her comment and I just barely found the recipe in my Everyday Food Fresh Flavor Fast cookbook, so I'm including it in this post since it fits so nicely here.

Orange, Roasted Beet, and Arugula Salad


1 large beet
2 navel oranges
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bunches arugula, washed well and dried
5 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wrap beet lightly in aluminum foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Cook until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 45-50 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into wedges.

Peeling beets: Once the cooked beets are cool, rub off the skins, using paper towels to keep your hands from staining.

Meanwhile, prepare oranges: Slice off both ends of each with a paring knife. Cut away the peel and white pith, following the curve of the fruit. Holding the fruit over a bowl, cut along membranes to release whole segments. Squeeze juice from the membranes into another bowl, and add any accumulated juice from the segments.

Add oil, vinegar, and mustard to orange juice; season with salt and pepper, and whisk to combine. Add arugula, and toss to coat with dressing. Divide the arugula among four plates. Top with beet wedges, orange segments, and goat cheese. Serve immediately.

Recipe note: The beet can be roasted up to a day in advance of serving the salad. Although the red beet contrasts nicely with the orange wedges, a golden or chioggia beet can be used instead.

Source: Everyday Food Fresh Flavor Fast cookbook, ISBN: 978-0-307-40510-4. You can find it here.