What is it with the beginning of the school year and illnesses? Both kids have been sick and now I seem to have caught it, so as I type this up I am “enjoying” a cup of hot alka seltzer and praying that my throat won’t feel as awful as it does now in the morning. Talk about not much of a productive past 7 days.
Anyhow – my husband is out of town, and while I had originally planned on slow-cooking some barbacoa for this Taco Tuesday, I felt it would be a waste if I had a 3lb chuck roast all to myself. Instead of spending more money at the grocery and dragging said sick child #2 out, I worked with what I got and I have to say; I was extremely pleased with the results!
I was introduced to lentils via FitGirlsGuide a couple years back. I haven’t met a bean I didn’t like and I’ve used potatoes in place of meat before, so paired with pico de gallo, I can totally see why this combination can work great if you’re trying to do without meat or you’re a vegetarian. Just make sure you don’t go light on the lentils! They’re high in lean protein and a great source of potassium.
Lentils and Potato Tacos
Skip the meat! A delicious take on tacos using lentils and potatoes.
- 4 6-inch corn tortillas
- 1 cup lentils, boiled
- 2 medium potatoes, diced small and cooked
- 3-4 tablespoons pico de gallo
- ½ cup shredded monterey jack cheese
- ¼ teaspoon fresh cilantro, thinly chopped
- sour cream, optional
- salsa, optional
- Using a small pot, bring 1 cup of lentils and 4 cups of hot water to a slight boil over medium heat. Allow to cook 25-30 minutes, or until lentils seem tender. Drain and set aside.
- At the same time, using a large skillet - add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set heat to medium. Add diced potatoes, making sure to stir with a spatula to prevent burning. Cook until potatoes seem crispy. Set aside.
- When both lentils and potatoes are ready, assemble your corn tortilla - beginning with potatoes and followed by lentils, 1 tablespoon of pico de gallo, cheese and cilantro. Top with sour cream or salsa, if desired. Repeat step with each tortilla.
A gas range is something I am still getting used to. No one quite understands the difference between an electric stove and a gas range until they actually go from having one to the other. I’ve always heard that a lot of food not only tastes different when using a gas stove (or oven), but also cooks much quicker. It’s still too early for me to validate the taste answer, but I can absolutely attest to the cooks quicker one! I learned just how quick after burning french toast.
Since we are now officially in the new home, I can settle in more comfortably and get back into the swing of things – meaning actually cooking again; something I desperately missed both mentally and physically. I always feel so much better about myself when I know where my meals came from and who prepared them. Don’t get me wrong, eating out every once in awhile is nice but not only does it get expensive but it’s also most likely not healthy.
Tonight’s dinner was a late one due to schedules so it had to be something more on the simple side. It’s been some time since I made a marinara sauce and pasta can be both satisfying to all tastebuds and a quick clean-plater. I had most things already on hand, aside from the tomatoes which I happily walked over to Whole Foods to acquire. It’s awesome just how good even a basic marinara sauce can taste. Those tomatoes really do their job!
Tomato? Tomahto? Marinara is a personal preference. I happen to like mine sweet so cherry tomatoes that were roasted in an oven were sure to give my marinara a sweet taste. I made sure to marinate them with some olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, italian seasoning, oregano and fresh basil leaves before I cooked them in the oven for a couple hours. And if you don’t want to get out the whisk and crush your tomatoes after they’re done roasting; you can puree them the lazy (and super smart) cook way – in a blender! Just make sure to pulse for less than a minute if you would like to have some “chunk” pieces to your sauce.
What would you add in your marinara sauce?
A lot of meal plans that I have seen in the past have included a hard boiled egg at some point, be it with an entree or as a mid-day snack. I’ll be the first to admit that while I do tend to eat a lot of eggs for breakfast or as a quick and easy snack, I do not necessarily like them. I never have and I’m way past the “you just may grow to like them” stage. However, there are some circumstances where they taste a little more enjoyable to me, and in a cobb salad is one. I’m not sure if it’s because of the dressing or the ingredients that they’re paired up with; they’re just much more tolerable.
But if you’re an egg lover, then chances are you’ll love this salad as well. It’s simple to make, and really doesn’t take much preparation effort aside from cooking the bacon and hard-boiling the eggs. And the dressing is light and delicious.
Funny thing about these pictures – if you’ve already scrolled down and looked at the recipe ingredients, you know that it calls for blue cheese. Yes, that’s shredded mozzarella cheese in the picture. I had full intentions of eating this Cobb salad with blue cheese and didn’t pick up any at the grocery this week because I made my list knowing that I had a container in the refrigerator whose expiration date wasn’t even close to today’s date.
Don’t trust those expiration dates.
After preparing everything and assembling, I got to the part where I add the cheese and went to open the container. The FOULEST smell, hit me so hard it almost knocked me out! Not to mention that the entire amount was covered with more blue than you typically see. Again, expiration date? The end of August. There was no way I was using that, so I tossed it in a plastic grocery bag and walked it to the garage dumpster verses even taking the chance of smelling that in the trash container in the house. So gross. So THAT’S why I used mozzarella cheese. Tastes good with this version, and you know – if you don’t like blue cheese, you can always substitute it with other cheese choices such as goat cheese, mozzarella, or feta. Whatever is on your plate is always your pick of the crop! Enjoy.
Good ol' fashion cobb salad recipe with a homemade red wine vinaigrette dressing.
- 2 cups romaine lettuce
- 4 hardboiled eggs, peeled and sliced
- 3 roma tomatoes, diced
- 6 slices cooked turkey bacon, crumbled
- ½ cup blue cheese crumbles
- ¼ cup avocado, optional
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon pure honey
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Using a small bowl, mix together all ingredients for dressing with a whisk until well combined.
- Align a plate with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, turkey bacon, egg slices and blue cheese crumbles. Drizzle dressing overtop.
Running short on time during the busy holiday but need something to bring to a party? Use star shaped cookie cutters for watermelon and add red/blue colored fruit to give a fruit salad a patriotic look.
4th of July Fruit Salad
- 1 seedless watermelon
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1 pint strawberries
- 3 gala apples
- 1 pint raspberries
- ¼ cup agrave or honey
- fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- Combine all clean and prepped fruit into a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together honey, lime juice and lime zest. Add to fruit bowl and stir well.
It’s watermelon season! And because so, I challenge you to make this salsa and serve it at your next party; be it the 4th of July or potluck. Just make sure not to tell your family and friends what’s in it at first! Chances are they won’t suspect those small delicious red cubes to be watermelon.
A sweet way to enjoy your favorite summer past-time snack. Don't let the watermelon fool you though, this salsa has quite the kick to it!
- 3 cups seedless watermelon, diced into small cubes
- 2 jalapenos, deseeded and diced
- ¼ cup red onion, minced
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup lime juice
- pinch of salt
- Combine all ingredients into a medium size mixing bowl. Serve chilled with tortilla chips or baked cinnamon tortilla triangles.
It should be mandatory for all salads to include at least one fruit topping. I happen to love fruit so the more, the better in my case. So with that being said, I present to you the holy grail of fruit in a salad:
Paired with chicken, slivered almonds and feta cheese.
Balsamic Chicken and Fruit Spinach Salad
- 4 cups baby spinach
- ½ cup fresh blueberries
- ½ cup fresh strawberries
- ½ cup mandarine oranges
- 3 tablespoons feta cheese
- 3 tablespoons slivered almonds
- 2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Add all salad ingredients into one large bowl. Drizzle dressing over-top and divide between two large bowls.
It wouldn’t be summertime without a fruit salad.
Summer Berry Watermelon Salad
A delicious fruit salad to enjoy during a hot summer day.
- 4 cups watermelon, chopped into cube shapes
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1 pint raspberries
- 1 pint strawberries, quartered
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- Add all ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well. Serve slightly chilled.
Can you go an entire summer without making some homemade salsa of your own? I can’t. I get the itch to create some as soon as I know the local Farmer’s Markets are open for the season. I know the ingredients are available year round in the grocery stores, but I feel more bountiful when the salsa I make is either from my own backyard growing, or from someone else’s.
So I started seeds inside back in March, but because we are still in the middle of remodeling our new home, I didn’t have anywhere to store the plants outside and unfortunately they perished inside. Gutted, but I guess this year’s summer will be more about planning and building a special place for them to grow in the years to come. Luckily, I have perennials that I have planted that are absolutely flourishing outside right now to keep my green thumb busy.
Homemade Medium Salsa
- 6-8 large tomatoes, diced (keep the juices if you like your salsa more on the juicy side)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 jalapeño, seeds removed and diced
- 2 tablespoon minced garlic, or two garlic cloves diced
- 2 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- salt, for taste
- Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl. Chill for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
I’ve been wanting to make some homemade jam for quite some time, so I took the kids to Jacquemin Farms in Plain City to do a little bit of strawberry picking. Every year when I remember it’s strawberry picking time, that time is basically over and we have to wait for it to be apple season before we get to experience anything similar.
We got there shortly after they opened for the day (830am) and I was surprised at how many people were already out in the fields picking! Luckily there were still a bountiful amount of strawberries still on the vines. Enough that we came home with 6 quarts of strawberries; probably triple what I actually needed. So I imagine for the next few days, there will be several strawberry-based recipes. That’s convinent even if you can’t make it out to a strawberry farm; strawberries are in season now so they’re not super expensive at the grocery store!
Washing strawberries is the easy part. Finding somewhere to store them turned out to be a little interesting, so I ended up lining the bottom of one of the 4qt carriers with parchment paper and filled it with strawberries to put in the refrigerator.
Next comes the time consuming part – chopping the strawberries. While there’s always the option of washing your strawberries, cutting off the tops and throwing them in the blender, I happen to like my jam chunky and so I opted to slice small and large pieces instead. This means my prep-time was well over 30 minutes.
Now for the real fun part, cooking strawberries. This is one of the quickest ways to make your entire house smell delicious. It’s such a sweet aroma combined with the lemon and sugar; definitely something that you taste test if your impatient like me.
Your jam will eventually thicken after boiling. Because all stoves cook differently; it may before the estimated time given on the recipe card, or it may be longer. You just have to constantly check as not to overcook.
Aren’t they cute!? I’m in the process of making some cute tags for them as well and will post those when finished.
Old-Fashioned Strawberry Jam
A small-batch recipe for strawberry jam made with fresh strawberries, lemon juice and sugar.
- 4 cups of fresh strawberries, cut into small and large pieces
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Allow strawberry mixture to come to a boil while mixing frequently with a wooden spoon. Scoop up as much foam as you can and dispose in sink. (foam will be a light pink color)
- After removing foam, allow strawberry mixture to continue cooking for 10-15 minutes; constantly stirring. Jam should begin to thicken. If it seems watery still, let it continue to cook but be sure to watch it so that it doesn't overcook.
- When jam seems thick enough your likening, add to clean mason jars and allow to sit out until they are room temperature. Refrigerate after.
- Canned jam lasts 2-3 weeks if it remains in fridge.
- If you want to try a quick set test, freeze a spoon while cooking mixture. When you want to see if jam is thick enough, use spoon to scoop mixture and tilt spoon ovetop a plate. If the mixture runs off the spoon quickly, your jam isn't thick enough.