Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 148 - Taco Casserole

Taco Casserole

Ok, last day of casseroles!  I made a taco casserole last week...and, I gotta be honest.  It was meh, and nothing more.  Would actually make a better dip than a casserole, and would be better served for kids or teenagers who like basics.  It was good, I'd experiment with it again, but not the best thing I've ever made.  Still, I'll share the recipe just in case you have no idea what to cook for dinner tonight!

Taco Casserole

1/2 pound ground beef
1 cup shredded cheddar jack  cheese
1 16 oz can refried beans
1 16 oz can black beans, drained
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 8 oz cans green chilies
1  bag of tortilla chips
1 T chili powder
1 t cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t onion salt

In a large skillet, brown beef, adding in spices as beef is cooked.  Stir in both cans of beans and cook until heated through.  In a 9x9 pan (mine was 8x11), crush enough chips to cover the bottom.  Spread half of bean mixture on top, and then spread 1 can of chilies over beans.  Repeat chip, bean, and chili layers.  Pour can of tomatoes over the top and sprinkle on cheddar cheese.  Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.  Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day 147 - Potato Upside Down Cake

Potato Upside Down Cake

Continuing with casseroles this week, this one is one of my more recent favorites.  I kept seeing recipes on Pinterest for either hash brown cupcakes or potato and onion tarts; so, I mixed two of them together, and made what I'm calling Potato Upside Down Cake. 

Y'all, it is to die for.  Literally, because there is a lot of carbs and butter, but woah is it tasty.  I basically only make hash browns this way, now.  And lately, a little more often than I should!

Picture isn't great, but I promise you will come out with a beautiful potato tart that is easy to serve and delicious!

Potato Upside Down Cake

1 package shredded hash browns
1 onion
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 T butter, divided
Cooking Spray

Heat a 9 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, until any oil you pour in sizzles.  While skillet is heating, thinly slice onion into rounds, just enough to cover the bottom of the skillet (about 3-5 slices usually do it); chop the remaining onion.  When skillet is hot, Melt 1 teaspoon of butter in skillet and spray the rest with cooking spray.  Remove from heat and immediately place slices of onion on the bottom.  Onion should sizzle slightly.  Place about 1/3 of hash browns over onion and spread until fully covering bottom of the pan.  Layer on half of the onion, cheddar, goat cheese, and a little salt.  Add another 1/3 of hash browns and the remaining cheese, onions, and a bit of salt.  Top with remaining hash browns, pressing well into the skillet so that the top of the potatoes rest level and flat.  Dot with butter.  Transfer to oven, and bake at 400F for 40 minutes.  Very carefully invert potato cake onto a serving dish; let cool for several minutes before slicing into wedges and serving. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day 146 - Easy Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Friends, this is day two of my VACATION WEEK YAAAAY in which I feature casseroles from weeks past that will translate well to lunches.  Today, I'm showing you my super tasty Shepherd's Pie that I made for St. Patrick's Day.  And it's just as easy to make as it is tasty! 

Now, I made little individual casseroles, because I had friends over and it's cute.  You can use four 2-cup casserole dishes for this, or one large 8-cup (or 2-quart) casserole dish.  Whatever makes your little Irish heart glad!

Easy Shepherd's Pie

1 lb ground lamb (or beef, in which case you should rename this "Cottage Pie")
1 can mixed vegetables, drained
4 cups mashed potatoes (I made mine fresh using two potatoes, but you may use leftover or store bought)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large skillet, brown meat over medium heat.  Drain fat, and add in vegetables, stirring until heated through.  Divide meat mixture evenly between four 2-cup individual casserole dishes.  Top with about 1 cup each of mashed potatoes, sprinkling 1/4 cup of cheese on top.  Bake at 400F until cheese is melted and tops of potatoes are lightly browned.  Serve with a good salad and a loaf of bread. 

Meat mixture will freeze for several months, so feel free to keep it in your freezer for whenever you have leftover potatoes! Pin It Now!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 145 - Breakfast Casserole

Breakfast Casserole
 Alright, friends, this week I am going on VACATION!!!!!!!!!!  Beach, margaritas, shrimp tacos, a great friend, more tacos!  It will be grand!

So, I'll sort of be taking a blog vacation, but not really.  Obviously I can't post the lunches I'm taking this week, because I'm going to be spending an ungodly amount of money eating out instead (yay!), but I'm still going to post this week.  What you'll be seeing this week is a collection of my favorite southern food...the casserole!  I've collected a few recipes over the last couple of months that I either took to lunch and didn't share, or that I know would transport and reheat well for lunch.  These will all assume that you have access to a microwave for lunch, so if you're packing lunch for kids, then just file these away for nights and weekends!

Today's featured casserole is a cheesy Breakfast Casserole.  It heated up beautifully in the microwave all week, and was very easy to make.  I used the Cheesy Potato Breakfast Casserole recipe from Doughmesstic, and it was great!  Hash browns, sausage, cheese, eggs...yummmm.  Next time, I might use shredded hash browns instead of cubed hash browns, but otherwise I'd keep it the same.  Delicious!  And you should definitely check out the link, since the pictures there do this recipe far more justice than mine did!  Enjoy! Pin It Now!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Day 143 - Fajita Wrap

Cold Fajita Wrap, Carrots, Red Plum

I made steak fajitas last night, and had just enough left over to make a cold fajita wrap for lunch.  I tossed together shredded lettuce, red and green bell pepper, and a little onion.  I laid it out on a burrito sized tortilla, stacked some fajita steak across it, and added a drizzle of low fat spicy thousand island dressing.  Carrots and a red plum rounded it out.  Quick, tasty, easy.  My kind of lunch! Pin It Now!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 142 - Cucumber Mini Sandwiches

Cucumber Sandwiches, Carrots, Pretzel Crisps, and Cheese Cubes

When I was a kid, my school always had a Mothers' Day tea, and each grade had a specific dish they'd always make.  First graders made cream cheese mints, second graders made sugar cookies, etc.  My favorite every year, made by the third graders, were cucumber sandwiches.  Every year I inhaled them, and had no idea why I loved them so much.  At some point down the road, I discovered that not only was the existence of these tiny delights not limited to my elementary school, but that they are really easy to make.  Traditionally you use white bread with the crusts cut off, thinly sliced cucumbers, and cream cheese.  Some people add sprouts or water chestnuts, but I think those people are crazy.

So, here is my grown up version for lunch today.  Multigrain bread, chive flavored whipped cream cheese, and an English cucumber sliced very thin on a kitchen mandolin.  I cut off the crusts and sliced the sandwich into four equal parts, laying them cut side up strictly for visual purposes.  Threw in some carrots, cheese cubes, and pretzel crisps.  Great lunch for an adult or a particularly adventurous kid.  Pin It Now!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Day 144 - Pimento Cheese Sandwich

Pimento Cheese Sandwich, Celery, Apple Slices, Red Plum

Pimento cheese, one of my favorites!  It's so bad for you, though, that I packed a half pimento cheese sandwich on wheat toast with celery, apple slices, and a red plum.  The fruits and vegetables make the cheesy part healthy, right?  Right?!


Anyway, if you've forgotten my recipe for pimento cheese, you can find it here.  Enjoy! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 141 - Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joe Sliders, Apple Slices, Celery

Ok, friends, this week's posts are going to be short and simple, just like the lunches I'm making.  Life is just busy - professional conferences, longer hours, trying to get ready for vacation (yay!), and life in general.  So, this week is going to be all about sandwiches. 

I normally don't eat a lot of sandwiches.  I love a good sub every once in a while, or a nice panini, but I think somewhere between kindergarten and junior year of high school, I got burned out on sandwiches.  This week, however, I'm making an exception.  Sandwiches' lunchtime popularity is because they're easy, fast, cheap, palatable, and a great use of leftovers!  Of course, sandwiches don't have to be just PB&J every day, either.

So, today, I have Sloppy Joe sliders.  I made Sloppy Joes last night (ground beef + canned sauce...couldn't be easier), and put them on slider buns instead of regular sized ones.  Easier to eat, and way cuter.  AND, two sliders fit perfectly into my Easy Lunch Boxes!

I brought a big napkin to microwave the sandwiches on so as not to heat up the apples and celery I had on the side.  Crunchy, delicious, and a good balance of healthy and indulgent! Pin It Now!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Day 140 - Poppy Seed Chicken

Poppy Seed Chicken, Rice, Broccoli, Red Plum

Poppy seed chicken is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.  It's terrible for you, but SO so good.  It's a classic southern recipe, and I add a little cheese to jazz it up.  I made some last night, and had the leftovers for lunch today...which I enjoyed thoroughly.  Paired it with white rice, broccoli,  and a red plum for lunch today.  Dangerously delicious!

For you chia seed users out there, this is a great recipe for adding chia gel - blends right in!  Of course, there's enough processed food in here that my chia gel friends will scoff, but tasty!

Poppyseed Chicken

2 chicken breasts
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 T poppy seeds
1 sleeve butter crackers (I use Ritz)
salt and pepper to taste

In a well greased 9x9 baking dish, place chicken breasts - you may leave them whole, cut them both in half, or chop them into bite sized pieces.  In a separate bowl, mix together soup, sour cream, cheese, poppy seeds, salt, and pepper.  Spread soup mixture over chicken.  Crush crackers and spread on top of soup mixture.  Bake at 350F for 1 hour.  Let rest at least 10 minutes before serving over rice and broccoli.

Above image is of a 8x11 baking dish.  Anything smaller than 9x13 usually works; however, doubling the recipe fits beautifully in a 9x13.

Pssst...If you don't want to wait until Monday to get more yummy recipes and meal inspirations, you can check out my Lunch Ideas Pinterest page, which I update daily.  And if that's not enough, you could follow my general food board, Things I'd Like to Cook, on Pinterest as well.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Day 139 - Cold Lunch with Chia Seed Pudding

Deviled Eggs, Celery with Pimento Cheese, Chia Seed Pudding, Red Plum, Dried Apricots.

I keep hearing how good chia seeds are for you, so I've been trying to incorporate them into my food lately.  They're pretty inexpensive, all things considered, and are supposed to have a lot of health benefits.  So, I throw them into salad dressings, casseroles, etc.  I keep a jar of chia gel (recipe below) in my refrigerator and just throw them into available recipes.  I have also discovered that with three ingredients, you can make a very nice chia seed pudding which is quite healthy and tastes a lot like tapioca least it does to me!

So, for lunch today I had chia seed pudding and other delightful cold lunch items - deviled eggs, celery sticks stuffed with pimento cheese, a red plum, and dried apricots.  Easy to transport, delicious to eat.

I'm including recipes for both chia gel and chia pudding.  By chia gel, I mean chia seeds that have already been soaked in liquid and can be added to most recipes.  It forms a gel-like substance, and keeps for a good while in the refrigerator.  You can read more about chia gel here!

Chia Gel

1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds
2/3 cup water

Combine seeds and water in an 8 ounce jar.  Shake gently to combine, and let gel in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Add spoonfuls to other dishes to increase texture and health benefits.

Chia Pudding

3 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
2/3 cup 2% milk
1 teaspoon honey

Combine seeds, water, and honey in an 8 ounce jar.  Shake gently to combine, and let gel in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  May be served hot or cold.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day 138 - Takeout Leftovers

Kung Pao Chicken and Vegetables, Clementine, Fortune Cookie.

Laziest lunch ever.  I had Chinese takeout last night, so for lunch today I had leftover Kung Pao chicken and vegetables, with a clementine and a leftover fortune cookie. 

Yay! Cookies! Pin It Now!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Day 137 - Chicken and Salad with a New Product!

Salad with Baked Chicken, Red Plum, Dried Apricots

I decided that I needed a salad with some chicken for dinner last night.  I also decided to be lazy and get some bottled dressing, for both dressing the salad and marinating the chicken.  I usually make my own, but every once in a while I just say "what the heck, dressing is on sale and I want to be lazy."  So, I turned down the dressing aisle and encountered one of the most brilliant marketing ploys I have ever seen.

Enter Kraft Sizzling Salads.  As best I can tell, this is a box of two 6 ounce bottles of complementary flavored dressing, one marked for cooking, the other marked for salad.  The intent is that you use one bottle for cooking your chicken, the second for dressing a side salad.  They come in four flavors - Tuscan, Caesar, Asian, and Southwest.  For the one package, you pay the same amount that you would for a 16 ounce bottle of dressing.  So, you're paying a little more, but you get two flavors.  I played around with them, and you could use either dressing in the package for cooking, salads, marinating, all sorts of things.  And each bottle could be used for at least two salads.

Are bottled dressings overpriced and full of chemicals?  Yep.  Do most of us use them anyway?  Yeah, on occasion.  So, which I wouldn't necessarily use these as directed, this is a great little package to inspire your creativity.

I bought then Tuscan package.  I used the peso flavor to marinate the chicken, which I baked and chopped up.  Dressed the whole salad in the balsamic dressing.  Not a bad deal, in all honesty.  Try it and let me know what you think. Pin It Now!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Day 136 - Chicken "Burger"

Chicken "Burger," Clementine, Potato Cracker Chips

I'm calling this a "burger" because it may look like a burger, but it's really just a small piece of pan cooked chicken.  You can get ground chicken and make a burger, but for whatever reason I just don't love the taste of chicken burgers.  However, I love a grilled chicken sandwich...but I killed my George Foreman Grill.   So, I took this piece of chicken and sauteed it in a pan with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and sherry.  Put it on a whole wheat bun with lettuce, mayo, dijon, and a slice of havarti.  Added a clementine and a handful of Special K Cracker Crisps, and there was lunch!

Have you tried Cracker Crisps?  They're not bad.  Looks like their half potato, half rice cracker.  A little better for you than regular chips, and satisfy much of the same cravings.

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Any Pinterest Users in the House?

I'm maybe just a little obsessed with Pinterest.  A little.  Ok, a lot.  I pin every day, and I know I've had a crazy day when it's been more than three hours since I've looked at Pinterest.  I might be obsessed.  Ok, I am.  Are you?

After having a longstanding Pinterest board dedicated to recipes, I've now started one for Lunch Ideas, which you can find by clicking this link.  I just started it a few days ago, and plan to include other people's lunch layouts, good recipes for lunch, organizational ideas, etc.  So, if you're on Pinterest and looking for lunch ideas, you might want to check it out.  You'll probably see some of my own interpretations here, as well!

Happy Pinning! Pin It Now!

Day 135 - Chicken Fried Rice

Chicken Fried Rice, Snow Peas, Clementine

Got lazy last night, ordered take out.  Leftovers for today's lunch include chicken fried rice, snow peas, and a clementine.

Honestly, that's about all I got to say about this lunch.  Quick and easy. :)  Now, go enjoy your day! Pin It Now!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Day 134 - Baked Tilapia and Summer Slaw

Baked Tilapia, Summer Slaw, Pinto Beans, Fiesta Rice

Remember yesterday when I said I was missing summer produce?  Well, I decided to cheat a little and make a meal that I normally save for summer.  I made up some fish tacos last night with rice, beans, and a tasty Summer Slaw.  For lunch today, I decided not to go with tacos and instead a whole piece of baked tilapia over a bed of slaw, with rice and beans on the side.  Then, after taking the picture, I realized that was crazy talk and I couldn't microwave slaw with the rest of it.  So I scooped out the slaw into a seperate container, and added it back in once everything else was microwaved.

This slaw is great with fish, tacos, and anything that's light and summery.  Lots of good flavor, just enough mayo to make it creamy, and great color.

Summer Slaw

1 Belgian endive
1 head radicchio
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T mayonnaise
1 T lime juice
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Chop endive and radicchio finely, discarding ends.  In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.  Pour dressing over radicchio and endive, tossing together until well mixed.  Chill for at least an hour, and serve cold.    Pin It Now!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Day 133 - Lazy Late Night Pasta

Lazy Pasta
I had one of those weekends, y'all.  I was at a convention most of the weekend after a busy week of work, and so by the time I got to dinner last night I was too tired to cook and even tireder of eating from restaurants.  Thankfully, I knew enough about myself to know that I'd feel this way, so I  made sure to have a few things in stock in the kitchen for an easy but good meal.  Dried fettucine, jarred vodka sauce, a can of chopped tomatoes, parmesan cheese, frozen meatballs, bagged salad, and a loaf of frozen garlic bread.  Throw them all together for about 20 minutes and I got easy but delicious spaghetti and meatballs with salad and garlic bread.  Salad and bread went away quickly, but there was enough pasta to bring to work for lunch today.  And it was just as good reheated as it was last night!  I know I've been using a lot of short cuts lately, but some months are crazier than others I suppose.  I'm looking forward to the summer when all the produce is gorgeous! Pin It Now!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Day 132 - Ham Sandwich

Last day of ham week!  And, of course, you can't have a week of ham without a delicious ham sandwich!  I made a smaller sandwich by using a multigrain dinner roll (yeah, I know...that's a huge roll), adding of course some Dijon mustard.  Threw in some celery, carrots, apples, and cheese cubes, and made a pretty healthy meal!  This would be a great meal for kids or adults, and has a lot of different colors, flavors, and textures. 

I will say that the one draw back of ham week is the amount of sodium you get, which I tried to keep in check this week with lots of raw veggies and fruits, particularly at snack time.  I also don't personally like to eat meat every day, but that's certainly not true for everyone.  The upside is that you save a lot of money, have a great opportunity to be creative with your recipes, and all your pre-planning makes prep during the week much easier!

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