Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

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My mom is really, really REALLY crafty.

When I say that, I mean that she’s one of those people who can take the most ordinary, seemingly common objects and turn them into something really cool and awesome.This happened a lot when we were little kids. She would buy one of the cheap stuffed animals from the dollar store, then go to the fabric store to buy the clearance fabrics that she would sew into beautiful, sometimes even elaborate dresses to dress the animals in. A lot of the glass and porcelain knick knacks and show pieces in my grandma’s living room are ones that my mom bought from the dollar store and jazzed up on our her own so that they look like they came from a gift shop and cost a fortune. For a while, she even made and sold floral wreaths and jewelry boxes.

When I was around six or seven, me and my sisters were in our church’s Vacation Bible School in the summertime for kids and there was this costume contest. We didn’t have a lot of money at that time, and certainly not enough for my mom to buy three girls fancy costumes to wear. So, being the crafty, innovative person that she is, she decided to construct costumes for all of using items she already had in our house.

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Oh yeah, and I should probably mention that the items were white garbage bags, silver wrapping paper ribbon, glitter and dress-up wigs (two pink, and one blue). The result? Three little angels.

My mom sprinkled glitter over the white garbage bags, then cut holes out of them to fit our arms and legs. She then used the silver ribbon to cinch them at the waist, then curled the ends so that the bags looked like dresses. After putting on the wigs and a little bit of lipstick and blush, our costumes for the contest were complete.

I know it sounds weird and crazy now, but I can still remember feeling so pretty in that costume at the time. I thought my mom was a genius and was so proud of her for coming up with the idea. The reality is that instead of angels, the three of us looked like The Paper Bag Princess meets The Jetsons.

I can’t decide whether the greater miracle was that no one laughed or made fun of us…or that me and my sisters actually won that costume contest.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have my mom’s crafty abilities in using ordinary objects to create physical art that wins contests and makes money.Art’s not my thing- never has been, and likely never will be. I’m just a home cook. However that does mean that I can take ordinary ingredients that some people (including myself) may underestimate and make them into a dish that really exceeds even my own expectations. That’s what happened with this dish.

Small confession: I don’t like ordinary lasagna. For one, I hate ricotta cheese. Two, there’s something about the texture of the noodles, that puts me off. So for years, I’ve just avoided it all together. But then, I found myself with a whole lot of zucchini that I simply had to find something to do with that didn’t involve zucchini bread. I’ve seen variations of this dish done before, so I decided to create my own rendition, specially tailored for my ricotta/lasagna noodle-hating tastes.

I was REALLY impressed with how this came out.  The zucchini is such a great alternative to the pasta, and I actually think it’s a vast improvement on the original. It tastes like pure comfort food, and I’m planning on adding it to the dinner rotation for my family as a regular dish. I’m also bringing it to the party at this week’s Fiesta Friday #32, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener . Give it a try, folks. I don’t think you’ll regret it 🙂

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Zucchini Pizza Lasagna

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Large Zucchini
  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 15 oz. cans of pizza sauce
  • 1 1/2lb ground beef
  • 1lb roll of pork (or turkey) sausage
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 7 oz. pouch of pepperoni
  • 8 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Using a mandolin (or a VERY sharp knife), slice zucchini length-wise into very thin slices, about 1/8 thick.

3. Lay slices on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and sprinkle liberally with salt. Bake in oven for about 10-12 minutes.

4. Using a paper towel, press all the remaining moisture from the zucchini and set aside.

5. Brown ground beef and sausage together in a pan, then drain off excess fat. In same skillet, saute onion and bell pepper in same skillet, until softened.

6. Pour pizza sauce into a bowl and stir in the ground beef, sausage, onion and bell pepper.

7. Turn up oven heat to 375°. Spray an 11 x 13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Layer the zucchini slices in the bottom and spread with pizza sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over sauce, then lay pepperoni over cheese. Repeat layers, ending with pizza sauce.

8. Cover lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle top with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes.

9. Remove lasagna from oven and heat broiler. Place back in oven and bake until cheese is browned, about 2-3 minutes.

10. Allow lasagna to sit for about 30 minutes before eating to allow to settle. Serve.

Southron Spinach and Plum Salad

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Game of Thrones Series Week 3

Happy Mother’s Day everyone! I hope you all get to spend some time with the mothers or mother figures in your lives and make them feel appreciated. They deserve it.

It’s time for another GoT recipe you guys! I hope you’ve been keeping up with the series, if not I’ll post the recipes that I’ve done so far at the end of this post so you can play catch up. Before we get to the food, I’ll say a few words about my favorite parts of last Sunday’s episode:

  • I know that they’re a crazy family, but I just love the scenes between the Lannisters, especially when Tywin is involved. He’s undoubtedly a bad person, but he’s got a strong dose of pragmatism and resolve to survive at all costs that definitely makes him one of the show’s strongest and charismatic characters. So the Lannister’s are out of dough, huh? Never thought that day would come. As I watched the scene between Tywin and Cersei, I thought it was a great conversation between a rich father facing bankruptcy and his privileged, spoiled daughter who’s always been given everything she wants. I loved Tywin explaining the “facts of life” to Cersei and making her aware that she has to ‘take one for the team’ so to speak in order for them to survive as a family.
  • I’m really curious whether or not Daenerys is really going to get the epic battle for the Iron Throne that she’s dreaming of when it seems like every episode just puts up another roadblock/reason for why it’s not her time to invade Westeros and “take what is hers by blood and fire” (God, she used to get on my nerves when was forever saying that in season 2). I know that because she has the dragons, we’re going to get some kind of fancy special effects-laden scene, but I’m not altogether convinced that GoT is going to end with her as the supreme ruler of everything and everyone.

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  • Then of course, there’s Sansa- poor, poor Sansa. Now, not only is she dealing with Little Finger ( who is not only responsible for Joffrey’s death, but pretty much…everything that has to do with the major fallout ofKing Jon Arryn’s Hand- which is also the entire reason that the plotline of GoT got started in the first place) she’s also stuck with her crazy aunt who still harbors  jealousy for her mother and all the things Catelyn had that she never could. And, she has to get married AGAIN to her younger cousin. Sheesh. Sansa just can’t catch a break to save her life. I have a feeling that Sansa is going to end up doing something very drastic and heroic to save herself when this is all said and done- she’s been through too much without having the opportunity to defend or protect herself from all these people who keep wanting to harm her. I hope to God that one of those drastic things is shooting an arrow through Littlefinger’s head.
  • I really liked the short, but powerful scene between Cersei and Oberon. I don’t feel pity for her generally, but I felt for her situation as woman trapped in a ‘man’s world’ while still struggling to maintain her dignity and self esteem- even if it means causing pain and abuse to those weaker than she. I’m still thinking about that line: “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.” It gives me chills because of just how true it really is
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  • Finally an episode with Bran scenes that I can get into! Their escape from Craster’s Keep was pure suspense and satisfaction-especially Bran using his powers through Hodor to get them out of there. Now I finally see the merit behind all those creepy times that his eyes roll back in his head and he sees those weird visions. (Random fact: rolling eyeballs give me pure goosebumps. I just don’t like looking at it.)
  • Too bad Bran and Jon didn’t get to see each other again. I feel like a Stark family reunion (what’s left of them anyway) would be full of so much feels and emotion after all they’ve been though. At least Jon got to see the direwolf again. And at least that horrible Karl jerk got his- from both Jon and one of the women he’d been victimizing. It was a solid call to burn that hell hole to ground. Burn it and bury it forever.

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Guys! I’ve made a discovery- turns out, there’s a Game of Thrones Cookbook. A real one. Actually more than one- there’s an official one: A Feast of Ice and Fire, then there’s an unofficial one : The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook. I was at an outlet store in my hometown a few weeks ago, and I came across the unofficial cookbook on a shelf priced for only $3.99 (that was marked down from an original price of $19.95). Now, you really can’t beat that, can you? So of course, I bought the cookbook (…along with a few others that were also too discounted to not buy. I collect cookbooks like some people collect stamps; there’s never too many. Don’t judge me.)

Question: what IS the actual difference between Official and Unofficial in this context anyway? I read the caption on the cover of the book that reads: “This book is unofficial and unauthorized/ It is not authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by George R.R. Martin, his publishers, or HBO.”

So…does that mean that the other is authorized, approved, licensed or endorsed by George R.R. Martin, his publishers, or HBO? How does that even work? I don’t understand.

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Anyway, official or unofficial, this cookbook is pretty awesome, guys. The recipes are the perfect blend between medieval and still modern enough for the average cook to be able to easily recreate them. I’ve already made a few that I’m super pumped to review and share with you, the first of which being this delightful salad. I’ve never had a salad with plums in it before, but now that I have, I’m pretty much sold on making it a regular occurrence for when I eat salad from here on out. It adds such a special sweetness that is evenly balanced with the acidity of the lemon and orange flavors in the tangy dressing. Throw in some diced chicken or other type of protein, and you’ve got one winner of a meal here.

One of the things I love best about the cookbook is the little introductions that they author gives at the beginning of every recipe that serve to link them to their relevance to the book series. I thought that I could include it in my posting of the recipe here as well.

Thanks for tuning into this week’s  GoT post- stay tuned for next week’s recipe. I’ll give you a hint into two words: Baratheon. Pork.   😉

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

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Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Recipe Courtesy of The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook by Alan Kistler

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

“After a fine day or tourney, Sansa joins the royal court at the riverside for a feast. It’s a magical evening where simply joys and the beauty of the night seem all the more enhanced. This salad of spinach and plums is both healthy yet provides a sweetness to complement the flavor of the night for the young Sansa, who has no idea how far away such lovely times will seem in the months to come.” (A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29 -Sansa)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, torn
  • 4 plums, pitted and sliced into wedges
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 4 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped basil

Directions

1. Arrange the spinach and plum wedges on 4 plates.

2. Whisk vinegar, oil, juices, zests, salt, pepper, and basil in a bowl.

3. Drizzle approximately 1/3 of dressing over spinach and plums on plates. Remaining dressing may be refrigerated.

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Sesame Glazed Sweet Potatoes

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I’ve mentioned to you guys before that when I find a new habit or trend, or something  in general that I like, I will wear it out TO DEATH until I’m either sick of it, or until I find a new something to wear out to death.

Me and my twin sister Jas are really alike in that (among other things: our DNA  also happens to be exactly the same.) Take movies for instance; when we were growing up, we went through a phase where when we found a movie we liked, we watched it every chance we got. I find a new favorite song and it gets put on constant repeat on my iPod . I find a new interesting tv show and will faithfully watch it ever week, or if its old, I will have entire marathons of it on Netflix until I get through it all.

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So far as good goes, I’m on a root vegetable kick right now.  For a long time, I’ve just always wanted to eat a side of root vegetables with my dinner. Mostly it’s been a mix between rutabagas and sweet potatoes. I can decide which I like more honestly. Although it may not seem like it, rutabagas too have a unmistakable sweetness to them that’s so clearly highlighted when they’re roasted. If you guys don’t believe me, then you should try this recipe for Herb Roasted Rutabaga that I posted a few weeks ago- if you’re not typically a fan of them, I promise you: I’m going to make you a ‘believer’ with 2 rutabagas, and a handful of dried herbs. Because I’m a miracle worker….okay not really, but I am a pretty good cook 😉

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 I’m experimenting with different recipes to mix things up so that I don’t get too bored. After all, variety’s the spice of life. Right now, this is my new sweet potato recipe that I’m really fond of.  Trust me, it tastes every bit as good as it looks.

I never would have thought initially to apply Asian style flavors to sweet potatoes. But let me tell you guys, it REALLY works. The saltiness of the soy sauce is perfect with the sweetness of the honey as well as the natural sweetness of the potatoes. The sesame seeds give it a subtle earthy and almost nutty aftertaste. I served them with a chicken stir-fry that I made my family for dinner ( the recipe and pics are very soon to follow).

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Random/Embarrassing Fact: About a year ago, I was on another carrot/sweet potato kick and I ate so many of them that I LITERALLY started turning orange. Seriously. I’m not joking. I went into my doctor for a general check up and she literally gasped and asked what happened to me. I didn’t notice until I stood under a fluorescent light in her office and held out my hands: my palms were the color of a carrot. My skin is naturally kind of yellow, so…suffice to say it just wasn’t a good look. I had no idea that consuming too much Vitamin A (which is dominant  in carrots and sweet potatoes) can do that. Now I do. So as delicious as these sweet potatoes are, I do try to be a little more careful to not make them take up the most space on my plate.

I try. I may not always succeed. Try this recipe and you’ll definitely understand why.

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Sesame Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Recipe Courtesy of Cookstr.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  •  5 orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (yams), peeled
  •  2 tbsp olive oil
  •  Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  •  2 tbsp sesame seeds
  •  1 tbsp honey
  •  1 tbsp soy sauce

 Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

2. Cut the potatoes into large chunks and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. Roast the potatoes for 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until almost tender.

4. Mix together the sesame seeds, honey, and soy sauce. Pour  over the sweet potatoes, and toss.

5. Roast 20 minutes more, or until well glazed and tender.

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Herb Roasted Rutabaga

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When I was very little girl, there was this show that used to come on the tv station Nickelodeon called ‘Allegra’s Window’. It was a very Muppet/Sesame-Street-esque show about a little girl puppet named Allegra that had these mild 3 year old problems (if those can even really exist) that she, her brother and best friend would spend the entire episode trying to solve and overcome. It was a pretty cute show and I still smile even when I think about it now. I don’t know why shows with puppet and human interactions like Allegra’s Window and the Muppets don’t seem to come on that much anymore on kid’s stations. Maybe they figure little kids of today in the age of the iPad and Wii don’t have the attention span of kids from the 90’s like me did- which i find to be kinda unfortunate. Moment of silence for Childhood Nostalgia.

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Now onto the main point: what the heck does Allegra’s Window have to do with today’s recipe? Well believe it or not, the truth is that Allegra’s Window was the very first mention that I had of the vegetable rutabaga. Honest, it was. One of the puppets in Allegra’s town was a zany, goofy kind of chef  puppet called Mr. Cook. It’s been nearly 20 years, so naturally I don’t remember a whole lot from the show, but the one thing that I do still recall is that the only ingredient that Mr. Cook ever wanted to cook with was rutabagas. He was legit always trying to shove a dish of rutabagas into Allegra and her friends faces, to which they would always squeal and yell in disgusted protest. Because apparently for little kids rutabagas are…not very tasty. I know it sounds crazy you guys, but the truth is that for twenty years, Allegra’s Window has successfully put me off ever wanting to have anything to do with rutabaga- which is crazy because anyone who knows me knows that I’m a vegetable-addict. There’s little to nothing I won’t try…except rutabagas (and peas. Don’t ever ask me to have anything to do with peas. It’s just not gonna happen.)

Whenever I saw rutabagas anywhere, I always remembered Mr. Cook and his nasty looking dishes of rutabaga and turned my nose up at it. So I guess that’s really saying something about the power of television over our minds.

….Yeah, I know. I’m weird. Moving on.

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About a month ago, I was having dinner at my grandparent’s house and my grandma offered me this orangey-looking mashed dish that she’d made as a side. When I asked her what it was, she said that it was mashed rutabaga.

Duh- duh- duhhn!

I knew that I’d avoided rutabagas my entire life. I knew that Allegra’s Window had taught me that they were ‘nasty’…but I also knew that it was an impossibility that anything that came out of my grandma’s kitchen could ever, ever EVER be nasty. I tried the mashed rutabagas.

I’ve been believing a lie for the past twenty + years, guys.

Rutabagas are absolutely DELICIOUS.

That night began a semi-obsession with rutabagas that is still ongoing as I speak. This recipe is a result of that, and I can’t recommend it enough. Roasting is the perfect method of bringing out all the natural sweetness of the rutabaga, while the herbs are the platform on which it can stand. Try this, guys…because Everyone need rutabagas in their life.

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Herb Roasted Rutabaga

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 2 large rutabagas, peeled and cubed into equal pieces.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dillweed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning (Like Mrs. Dash)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425°

2. Place cubed rutabaga into 2 9 x 13 glass baking dishes. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until evenly coated.

3. Combine remaining ingredients together into a small bowl. Sprinkle over rutabaga cubes and toss again until even coated.

4. Roast in oven until golden and tender, about 45-50 minutes, stirring half-way through. Serve.

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Honey Baked Chicken

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I’m listening to Pandora music radio as I’m writing this post, so I thought I’d choose it as the topic of conversation (Besides the food. We’ll get to that in a minute.)

Most of you guys have an account with Pandora, right? I mean,  it’s only one of the best inventions out there to hit the internet/technology scene in recent years. For those of you that don’t have one, you’re really missing out. Imagine your favorite artist, album, genre or even song. Then imagine a computerized musical library that will take that artist, album, genre or song, and construct an entire ‘radio station’ centered around it. If you hear a song that you like or are familiar with, you have the option of ‘thumbing up’ that song so that the computer can know to play it again in the future as well as find other songs to play that are similar to it. If you hear something you don’t like, then you have the option of ‘thumbing down’ to let the computer know not to play that song, or any song like it again on your radio. That’s pretty much how it works on every station, on as many stations as you like.

That’s Pandora. Pretty awesome right?

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I’ve said before in the past that when it come to my taste in music, I kinda resemble a schizophrenic. That wasn’t a bad joke, guys. It’s totally true. Anyone who would randomly shuffle though my ipod would be baffled to say the least at just how wide a range of music I’m interested in. I’m telling you, some of them just don’t seem like they were ever meant to be on the same mp3 player. The same goes for my Pandora station. If there’s a method to that madness, I still haven’t discovered it yet.

For example: what kind of person has a station dedicated to Blackmore’s Night (medieval folk music), then a station dedicated to Erykah Badu (neo-soul)? There’s nothing remotely similar about Evanescence (gothic rock) and Cece Winans (Christian gospel), but I’ve sure got a station dedicated to both on my account. The Spice Girls and Disney don’t mix…except in Jess(ica)’s world, that is.

(…Yeah, don’t judge me about those last two, I’m a sucker for 90’s nostalgia.)

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I used to be a little embarrassed about my crazy taste(s) in music, but I’ve come to kind of embrace it now. Music is the most meaningful to me in the ways that I can connect it to my own life experiences. I have certain days in my life that call for a different type of music or sound. Some days my life is best expressed through the smooth, ambient sound of  neo-soul, while others days have a more aggressive, edgy vibe of gothic rock. No one day is the same, but life isn’t like that either. As I sit here writing this post I’m listening to my smooth jazz station, but tomorrow I could be in the mood for some Earth, Wind and Fire. No big deal. Variety’s the spice of life, right?

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I’ll tell you what IS a big deal, though and it’s this chicken. Don’t let the simplicity of the recipe fool you, guys. The flavor in the seasoning on this bird really packs a punch. I’ve made it a few times now, and it’s still a favorite at the homestead. The spices give it an exotic, almost Indian taste so if you’re a fan of that type of cuisine, you’ll really go for this.

And even if you’re not an Indian-cuisine fan, I’d be willing to bet you’d still go for this anyway. Because it’s just that delicious.

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Honey Baked Chicken

Recipe Adapted from “An African American Cookbook”

CLICK HERE FOR  PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs  boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp turmeric

 Directions

1. Arrange chicken in shallow baking pan.

2. Combine butter, honey, mustard, salt, curry powder, coriander, cardamom and turmeric. Pour over chicken.

3. Bake at 350° for  about 45-50 minutes, or until chicken in tender and browned.

4. Serve with rice.

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Chicken Fajitas

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This past week has been quite… eventful.

Obviously I’m talking about Christmas, but for many of us in the mitten state, it was eventful for additional and altogether different reasons. See, last Saturday night (December 21st), much of the Michigan area was hit with the Ice Storm from Hell.  I assure you that that is not an exaggeration. It really was the Ice Storm from Hell. Maybe some of you have been hearing or reading about it in the news. For those of you that haven’t yet, just let me explain.

It all started with rain. Rain that was freezing into ice before it even hit the ground. As a result, it coated pretty much everything it fell on in a thick sheet of ice; trees, roads, cars, roofs…and power lines.

The result of all this: numerous trees collapsed under the weight of the ice, falling on cars and damaging the windshields, or even on roofs and damaging homes. The roads were a skating rink; there were some pretty bad car pile ups and accidents. But none of that is too unusual in Michigan- we can deal with that. The real problem was with what the Ice Storm from Hell (I’ll just call it the ICFH from now on) did to our power lines.

Short answer: carnage. Pure carnage.

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We had hundreds of downed power lines, and 40,000+ people that were left without any power. Even worse yet, our local power company had severely limited resources that quite frankly, couldn’t properly deal with the amount of repairs that had to be done. Keep in mind folks: this was December 21st- 4 days before Christmas. You see where I’m going with this?

Fortunately, my house was not one of the ones affected by the downed power lines. But there were many, MANY of my neighbors, and loved ones that were. I’m not just talking electricity folks. I mean people left in the dark without power or heat…when the temperature was dropping to lows of 10° at night. The mayor advised all affected people to seek shelter in hotels or local specially designated warming centers. It was pretty awful. One day went by, then another, and another, and another…

Yeah. There were thousands of people both in and outside of my town that were left without ANY power or heat on Christmas Day. If that doesn’t suck, then I don’t know what does. As for my crew, we were a very crowded, rather cramped bunch on Christmas- but although the inconvenience to my family was present, it was VERY minor in comparison to others who didn’t have relatives homes they could go to stay in, money for a hotel, or even a Christmas Dinner to enjoy.

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It’s now seven days after the ICFH hit, and though the majority of people  here that were affected have now regained their heat and electricity, there are still too many others that have not. They face the possibility of spending both their Christmas AND New Year without being home, or in a home without heat or power. It may sound like a minor inconvenience, but anyone who’s lost their power for an extended period of time knows that it’s not minor- especially in the dead of winter at the Holidays.

This week taught me a very valuable lesson guys: I learned the importance of being thankful for everything I have. We were crammed together on Christmas- but we were together, with electricity, heat and a wonderful dinner (cooked almost completely single-handedly by yours truly, by the way). That’s something that thousands of people around me couldn’t say.

I’m not trying to preach a sermon or anything at you guys, but…I really just want everyone to try and take a moment to stop and think about the things you have in your life to be grateful for, particularly at this time of year. Don’t take them for granted- they’re not small or insignificant. They mean a whole lot.

Okay, I’m done. Back to the food.

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I’m sure that all of you cookletes out there have a small arsenal of recipes that you can bust out at anytime, throw together in a pinch, and guarantee that it will be a big hit with the members of your household. I’ve got several of my own in my back pocket, and I decided the last time that I made one of them that it was silly for me not to put it here on the blog.

So  ladies and gents, boys and girls: I give you…fajitas.

The best fajitas I’ve ever had- and that counts restaurant fajitas too.

The original version calls for steak to use as the protein. I’ve done that before, as well as using chicken and steak together, and the results have been fabulous with every version. Me and my family just LOVE this recipe. It’s simple, but so flavorful. I love red peppers and onions, so that’s what I used, but if you’re a fan of more variety then feel free to use green, yellow, or orange peppers. They’re delicious too. Fajitas are meant to be put into tortilla wraps, but this recipe is good enough to eat straight with a fork all on its own over rice.

Until next time guys. Remember: try to be grateful for the little things. They may not be as little as you think they are 😉

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Chicken Fajitas

Recipe Adapted from Food.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 flour tortillas (8 inch/20 cm)
  • 1 -2 onion,
  • 2 small sweet peppers, of your choice (green, red, or yellow)

Directions

1. Slice chicken into thin strips.

2. In bowl, mix together 1 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin, hot pepper flakes, black pepper & salt.

3. Add chicken strips and stir to coat, set aside.

4. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in 350° oven for 5-10 minutes or until heated through.

5. Cut onions in half lengthwise and slice into strips, cut your peppers into strips.

6. In large non stick skillet over medium high heat, heat remaining tablespoons of olive oil.

7. Add onions & peppers stirring for 3-4 minutes, until softened; transfer to a bowl and set aside.

8. Add chicken to skillet, cook, until no longer pink.

9. Return onions and peppers to skillet; stir for about one minute.

10. To serve, spoon a portion of the chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla, top with your desired toppings , fold bottom of tortilla up over filling, fold the sides in, overlapping.

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Low Carb Lo Mein

Pic 5

I’m gonna start this off by saying I am very, very, VERY proud of this recipe. I’m blowing/blasting my own horn here, and I don’t mind admitting it. This dish is one of the reasons why I love to experiment so much in the kitchen, why I love buying kitchen gadgets (or borrowing them from my mom) and why I firmly believe that cooking IS a sport that the more you practice at, the better you’ll get. When I first started learning how to cook, making something like this wouldn’t have even crossed my mind. I probably would’ve been afraid of using the ingredients (more on that later), or at the very least, messing the whole thing up. But that’s the beauty of practice and progress, because here we are, and now I get to share this awesome recipe with you guys (and it IS awesome).

Pic 1

I know of very few people who don’t like Asian takeout style lo mein. For those who have never tried it, or don’t know what it even is (?!!!), lo mein is basically just noodles and vegetables that have been stir fried in a zesty, Asian style sauce. If that sounds delicious to you, it’s really just because well, it is.  What’s not to like about it? It’s typically served as a side dish at most major chain Asian restaurants, but I actually like eating it as a main course with egg rolls on the side. I even use it as a kind of litmus test of whether or not I’m going to like the rest of the menu at the place- if they make a good plate of lo mein, then I’ve found 9 times out of 10 that the rest of their food is pretty good too.

Pic 4So what’s the catch? It’s probably pretty obvious to anyone who’s ever had it before. Lo Mein, (along with the majority of the other dishes at Asian restaurants) tends to leave that heavy, bloated, ‘food-baby’ feeling in your stomach that none of us like too much. It’s pasta based, so it’s carb-heavy, but there’s also the likely chance that it’s marinated in high sodium soy sauce then pan fried in peanut oil. And then (because I just have to say it), there are probably some other ‘questionable’ ingredients in the noodles that may have familiar names of normal animal proteins but don’t taste very….normal. You know what I mean.

So what’s the solution to the negatives of lo mein? No, you don’t just have to ‘suffer’ from the food-baby stomach when you eat it. (Although if you do end up getting Chinese take-out, taking 2 activated charcoal pills will ease the discomfort it brings. Don’t ask how I know that.) Don’t worry, you’re not going to give it up completely either.  That would be all kinds of stupid and just wouldn’t make any sense.

What you ARE going to do, though, is make this recipe. Why? Because it’s easy, quick, delicious, and best of all….NO belly bloat. That’s right. You won’t look like you’re 9 months pregnant  or feel like you just ate a stone after eating this. This right here is low-carb lo mein, meaning there’s no actual pasta in it. Now I can just hear some of your thoughts right about now:

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“Sorry Jess. I call bs on that one. I can see noodles in that dish. They’re right there, so how CAN there be no pasta in it?” 

Relax, guys. It’s not a joke. There really is NO pasta in this dish. It really IS low carb. The ‘pasta’ in this lo mein dish comes from two ingredients: zucchini squash, and Shiritaki noodles. How did I do it? I’m glad you asked.

The zucchini, I shredded into what are called ‘ribbons’ with the help of a standard hand-held vegetable peeler that you can probably get at any major department store or multi-purpose grocery store where they sell kitchen gadgets. It’s pretty inexpensive and gets the job done just fine.

Now for the Shiritaki noodles. I’m gonna be honest with you guys upfront about these, but I don’t want you to panic or get freaked out. Deal? Okay. Shiritaki noodles are actually mainly made of… tofu. You ca buy them at major grocery stores or health food stores like Whole Foods in the gluten-free sections. They come in a variety of different shapes and varieties; the type that I usually use is Spaghetti, but they also make Angel Hair, Fettuccini, or even Macaroni. I’ve included a picture below so you can see what they look like:

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Now guys, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: please, PLEASE do not let the tofu scare you away from this recipe. I know that when most of us hear the word ‘tofu’ we instantly think of ultra-bland, ultra-nasty food that only health-nuts and fitness fanatics eat. (Or maybe you think of that Doug episode on Nickelodeon, I don’t know). But coming from a girl who has a genuine appreciation for her carbohydrates (that includes bread, pasta, etc), I promise you: these do taste JUST like the real thing when cooked properly. I’m serious. Don’t worry, the recipe will have all the details you need to prepare them the right way. It’s not complicated at all, and the result is just SO worth it. Think about it; you’re not really eating anything but vegetables, tofu, and meat (which I’ve even gone without sometimes). You make this for your family without telling them the ingredients, and they’re not going to know the difference between this lo mein, and the original. That’s how good this is.

The only real difference they may notice, is that they don’t have a bloated food-baby after eating it…and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

FEED(ME) BACK: Name one ingredient that you’re slightly (or even very) nervous to cook with for the first time.

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Low Carb Lo Mein

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE RECIPE

YIELD: 1 Serving

Ingredients

  • 1 package Shiritaki Tofu noodles
  • 1 medium size zucchini squash (either green or yellow work fine)
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped into small chunks
  • 1/3 cup shredded carrot matchsticks
  • 1/3 cup protein of your choice (ground beef, chicken, turkey, pork, shrimp)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan sauce (like San-J)

Directions

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the Hoisin, soy sauce, lemon juice and Szechuan sauce and set aside.

2. Prepare the Shiritaki noodles. Place a colander in the sink. Open the package and drain noodles in colander. (Don’t get freaked out by the smell of the noodles. It’s the liquid they’re soaked in to stay fresh- we’re gonna get rid of it). Run cold water over the noodles, drain again, then place them in a microwaveable safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 75 seconds. The smell should be gone from the noodles now. If it’s not, microwave for another 60 seconds. Drain one more time. Use a knife to roughly chop noodles, just a little bit. Set aside.

3. Cut the stem off the zucchini squash and discard. Use your vegetable peeler to shred the entire zucchini into long ribbony strands. (Yes, the whole thing).

4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add the zucchini ribbons to the skillet, and sprinkle with the ground ginger. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes. They should be somewhat limp, but still maintain their shape.

5. Add the Shiritaki noodles, meat, tomato and carrots to the skillet. Pour the sauce evenly over all of the ingredients and toss thoroughly.

6. Raise the heat to high, letting the sauce begin to bubble and continuing to stir until the sauce is completely absorbed, and the bottom of the pan is no longer slippery. Remove from heat and into a bowl. Sprinkle green onions on top of noodles and vegetables, and serve.