Crockpot Mexican Qunioa with Butternut Squash

Sunday Crockpot Day!! I had a lazy morning followed by a busy afternoon and evening.. Hello Crockpot! I have never done Quinoa in the crockpot before, but this turned out fantastic! And the extra veggies makes it super healthy!
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I start with 1 cup dry quinoa in the bottom of the crock pot. I then but 1lb of raw ground turkey on top. You could easily replace this with soy crumbles or omit it all together to make this Vegan. I then added cubed raw butternut squash. Butternut squash is a little easier than spaghetti squash, it has hardly any insides to scrape out. I simply chop off the ends, stand it up and peel it down the sides.

I then added 1 can of black beans – DRAINED AND RINSED, 1 can of diced tomatoes with jalapenos – UN-DRAINED, 1 can white corn – UN-DRAINED, 1/2 bag of frozen diced onions, 1/2 bag of frozen diced green peppers. You could do these fresh as well, I just always have the frozen ones on hand, saves time and money. I then topped the whole thing with my taco seasoning: Garlic, Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder, LOTS of Cumin, Paprika, Small Red Cayenne Pepper, and Tajin. I then poured 2 cups of water over the top, closed the lid and cooked it on high for around 5 hours.

It was perfection!!!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried quiona
  • 1 lb ground turkey or vegetable protein (optional)
  • 1/2 butternut squash roughly chopped
  • 1 can drained black beans, rinsed well
  • 1 can corn with liquid
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with jalapenos with liquid
  • 1 cup frozen diced onions or fresh diced onions
  • 1 cup frozen diced green peppers or fresh diced green peppers
  • taco seasoning packet or the mix listed above – go nuts! its always going to be good!
  • 2 cups of water

Add chips and any other toppings you like, put it on a salad, wrap it in a tortilla, freeze it for later!!! Its a hearty and healthy dish. ENJOY!

What are your healthy crockpot go to recipes?? I would love to try them!!

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Coco’s Paradise! An adventure in Honduras Cuisine.

My husband took our daughter out for a date, so I was left with a Friday evening alone. JACKPOT!! So I took myself out to dinner to a little place around the corner I have been dying to try, Cocos Paradise. The exterior is lovely, island themed and inside I found beautiful wooden floors with red and white table cloths and charming decorations.

A hostess greeted me with a smile, and seated me at a charming table by the window.

The menu was diverse including seafood, chicken, pork beef, appetizers, lunch specials, kids meals, and desserts. Everything sounded really delicious and I was impressed that a traditonal paella was one of the options. I asked the server what was some of the most Authentic Honduran dishes they had, she directed me to the lunch menu, and told me I could order them anytime of day. Score! I asked her which was her favorite and she immediately said the SOPA DE MARISCOS. The description was simple: seafood soup. I told her I would have that. She then offered me a seasonal coconut, I could drink the water and then they would cut it open for me to eat the fresh meat. I gladly accepted.

She promptly grabbed a large power drill from behind the bar and headed to the kitchen. Drilling noises were followed by her returning to my table with a large green coconut pierced by a straw. Announcement! : I do not like coconut water! At least not the kind at the store,  and I do not like coconut flavored anything. But this was the most refreshing delicious water I have ever had. I was so delighted in the simple cool sweet water. She was cracking up at how surprised and pleased I was with this coconut. After tipping it all different ways and holding it up to my ear several times to shake it and check that I had gotten it all, she took it back to the kitchen to crack it open. The loud banging coming from the back gave me comical mental images of a large Samoan man beating the coconut against the stainless steel counter. What she brought back was a halved coconut, and a small scraping tool.

Like I said, I don’t like coconut. But I have never had the meat fresh either. The texture was unique. It was not at all dry, nor was it mushy. It was very dense and creamy, yet it carved away like clay. The tool she gave me was a close resemblance to something from high school ceramics class. I loved it. It was so mild in flavor compared to anything “coconut” I had ever had before. This was a great appetizer and something to keep me busy while I waited on my entree.

It wasn’t long before my Sopa was ready. It arrived piping hot and absolutely beautiful. It came with a side of rice and home made from scratch corn tortillas. First, the soup. This soup was so full of flavor, and freshness, yet something was so comforting. The broth was creamy, but not thick. Buttery, but not too rich. It was spicy but not overpowering. It was perfect. I literally burnt my tongue over and over again because I couldn’t stop myself from trying to eat it before it was cool. It was a enormous portion, that I will enjoy the rest of later tonight, something this good won’t last in my house until tomorrow. It was filled with crab, mussels, jumbo shrimp, firm white fish, potatoes, carrots, minced celery, onions, scallions, bay leaves, and parsley. It was heaven. I am not usually the person who orders seafood. I don’t usually enjoy scraping out mussels. I devoured this.

The rice it was paired with was possibly jasmine rice, it was white, slightly sticky, not sweet, and cooked perfectly. It paired beautifully with the soup, but was also delicious all on its own.

I had been so engrossed in the soup that I had forgotten about the tortillas. I saw them and was a little perplexed, usually tortillas are just the holder or vehicle for the good stuff. This was not the case with these tortillas. They were a little fluffier and thicker than typical store bough tortillas, almost like a thin pancake. The were warm, and obviously very freshly made. I didn’t know what else to do but eat them plain. They were so good. I don’t like corn tortillas, but the flavor was so different than usual corn tortillas, and the slight saltiness with fluffy texture went together well with the hearty soup. I told the server I could eat those everyday for breakfast.

I was completely stuffed about halfway through the soup and rice, but I was curious about the yuka I had seen through out the menu. I asked her what it was like and she offered to get me a sample! A SAMPLE!! Who was this goddess server from heaven? She brought me a sample of not only the yuka, but the cabbage and plantains!! I was beyond impressed. How sweet of her to indulge in my culinary curiosity. The cabbage was crisp with a tangy, but not vinegary, more sweet and sour type sauce. I really liked that. The Yukas were more like potatoes that had been dredged, and not at all dry on the inside like potatoes. Lastly the plantains: So, I don’t like bananas, like at all. So here was one more thing I was stepping out of my comfort zone on and they weren’t bad! I didn’t love the them, but they were tasty! They had a banana feel but a completely different flavor, and the char really helped them stand out from your common banana.

I was so impressed with this tiny restaurant. The service, the food, the vibe its incredible. A hidden gem in my small town that is begging for some variety and culture. I can’t wait to back and next time bring my whole family.

Thank you Cocos Paradise!

 

 

Sausage with lentils, onions, peppers and tomato gravy.

Yesterday afternoon cooled off a lot with an approaching thunderstorm. I got a great deal on Italian sausage at my grocery store, and was in the mood for something hearty and spicy.

This dish was satisfying and nutritious. My 8 year old enjoyed it as well, obviously hers wasn’t spicy. I like Texas Pete on just about everything, and this was no exception. This meal also only took about 20 minutes, which is super important on week nights.

I started by boiling some lightly salted water for my lentils. I do a 1:1 ratio of water to lentils. And in a separate med-high heated pan, I added my sausages, and covered it. I let them sear for a minute or two until one side is brown and then I flip them to the other side, add a few tbsp of water, and cover them again. I then added my bag of frozen pepper/onion tri color mixture to the top, and recover. I let this cook all the way down until the veggies are tender, and the sausage is about to pop with greasy, delicious juice.

Making the tomato gravy: In the same pan, I cut down the middle of the sausages allowing the juice to drain into the peppers and onions. I move everything to the sides leaving a clear spot in the middle where I add a slice or two of butter. When the butter is melted, I add it a couple tbsp of flour, salt and pepper. I stir this in tiny circles in the middle until the rue is cooked, and add in an entire can of diced tomatoes, juice and all. Stirring this around in the middle until well combined then tossing in the rest of the veggies and sausages. I do remove the sausages just before serving and slice them, then toss them back in. This dish was SO PRETTY before I hastily added the lentils. The lentils were mushy and creamy, but they belonged on the bottom of this colorful tomato/sausage/pepper mix. But I, not thinking ahead, just piled them all in the same pan and stirred.

I served this with bread, butter and topped with a lot of Texas Pete. It really hit the spot. This amount made enough for 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids. Try it out! It won’t disappoint, and without the rue mix, its gluten free!
Ingredients:

  • 1 pack Italian sausage, any flavor
  • 1 bag frozen tri color onions and peppers
  • 1 15oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 1 cup water and salt to taste
  • TEXAS PETE -as much or as little as you like

How do you like your lentils? They are one of my favorites, and I under utilize them. Help me out with some recipes!!

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Turkey Cauliflower Tacos

This is a pretty simple one, so naturally I’m going to blog about it. I love turkey meat in tacos because its much leaner and healthier. And also a frozen block of turkey meat thrown into a med hi pan and covered cooks all the way through in about 10 minutes. Frozen solid beef however, takes about twenty. I also like that it can be easily ground into smaller bits, especially for tacos.

Adding in cauliflower is an easy way to sneak in a few extra veggies for my family, and they are cheap and stretch my taco meat into making more for everyone!

First lets talk about how I freeze my ground meats. I buy 3 or 5 pounds at a time. 1lb of meat will fit in a sandwich sized ziploc bag. I put them in the freezer flat and thin like books. And no I don’t buy the “freezer” bags. They only stay in the freezer for a week or two before we eat them all, so no need for pricey bags as theres not enough time for freezer burn anyway. I find this saves me a little money, and a little time.

Okay so one brick of turkey meat, frozen in a covered med-hi heated pan. I cover it with chopped onions, salt, pepper and either salsa or a can of diced mexican tomatoes. I love to add Herdez Salsa Casera, its seriously the best salsa too cook with because it has very little sugar. I also add my blend of seasonings instead of a taco seasoning packet, that again has who knows what and unneeded salt and sugar. Here is the list of things I toss in, and is always delicious in anything mexican.

Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder, Cumin (loads), Paprika, Cayenne (very small amount), Garlic, and Tajin. If you don’t know what Tajin is, you’ve got to try it! Its a bit of spice with lots of dehydrated lime in it. It adds a zing to any dish or is fantastic in a margarita.IMG_20170714_205119_602

After I have added all of the above in the pan with the onions, I then add the frozen cauliflower cover and walk away. Everyone juices right up, and in about 15mins the meat, onions and cauliflower are cooked through.

I serve this with rice and beans or even just chips. Its delicious and a family favorite.

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How do you make your ingredients stretch? What do you put in your tacos? I’d love to know! Follow me on Instagram! Link above!!

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

I love this recipe. It takes a little longer to cook, but its one you can walk away from. I hate babysitting the oven. This is also a GREAT alternative to pasta, which I eat way too much of anyway. And for me to say its a good alternative says something, because I do LOVE pasta.

First lets discuss the spaghetti squash. It’s the YELLOW one shaped like a small oblong watermelon. There are several usually grouped together, but this one in particular is more of a SUMMER squash, thus its light texture and flavor vs the butternut or acorn squash that are WINTER squashes with dense heavy flesh, and more of a sweet potato taste. All great. But obviously the SPAGHETTI SQUASH is for SPAGHETTI. Duh.

All of these are cooked the same way in my house. First I grab a BIG knife. And I cut it down the middle long ways. These squashes do not saw like pumpkins!! I kind of stab it and move it a little down and stab it again, and wiggle the sturdy big knife to make it crack a little, and move my knife further down. So stab and crack, stab and crack. Eventually you’ll make it all the way around, and be left with two oblong halves. Scoop out the seeds and the slimy bits, doesn’t take very long, and a soup spoon works great. 20170712_22295520170712_22304820170712_223124

 

I season these clean halves with a small drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, then place them face down in any dish. I like to cover mine with aluminum for easy clean up later, and about a half cup of water in the bottom. Basically the water steams up, helping keep the skin and flesh soft to scoop out.

 

I bake this at 400ºF for around an hour. I know its done when the top of the squash skin is sagging down into the squash and when I poke it, its soft. Like a baked potato.20170712_223158

 

And wham! Done! There are a thousand things you can do with this beautiful roasted squash. The spaghetti and meatballs is one of my family’s favorites.

While that’s roasting in the oven, I go about making my spaghetti sauce. I’m sure most people have their own special way of doing it, but this is mine. Keep it simple.

I take a generic jar of sauce. I really strive to buy the cheapest one–WITH the least amount of sugar. Some of those sauces have 10g of sugar per 1/2 cup serving. ??? I’d rather save my sugar intake for dessert. So I get a jar of decent sauce. I also keep canned tomatoes and minced garlic around, and onions, peppers and zucchini’s and mushrooms depending on my grocery store selection. I also buy pre-made meat balls. I’m sure they’re gross, and here I am preaching about sugar in the sauce and god only knows what the hell is in those frozen meatballs. But I’ll be damned if they aren’t quick, tasty and cheap. Judge all you want, but I can’t afford to be top shelf on everything.

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I love to make sauce in my dutch oven pot thing. I always wanted one of these, because every chef on TV uses one, for just about everything. But any pot will do. The rest is simple. In a medium heated pot goes the olive oil, to cook the onions and peppers, then the softies like zucchini, squash, and mushrooms. When they’re almost done, in goes the super wimpy softie, garlic. Then when they’re all happy and mostly cooked, I like to add butter, because why not. And some salt and pepper. I then add those frozen balls of  mystery meat deliciousness. I let them get pretty warmed up, and pour in my sauce and a can of Italian tomatoes. I also then fill the sauce jar with about half cup of water, shake it up, and pour that in too. You wouldn’t believe how much sauce your wasting by throwing out that un-rinsed jar! And the extra bit of water seems to really help my sauce. Sounds weird, but it works. Then they just cook along on med -low stirring less than occasionally until the squash is done.

I just added the sauce on the squash and baked it with the cheese until melted. It was so easy, the foil was already lined in my pan! After I melted the cheese I just scooped out heavy portions for everyone in a bowl, served salad and called it a night. Delicious, mostly nutritious and CHEAP.

 

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Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash per 3-4 people, 2 people if you’re really hungry
  • 1 jar of your favorite sauce
  • 1 can of Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 green pepper (or a cup of frozen peppers – try these. cheap and EASY)
  • 1 pkg mushrooms
  • 2 small zucchini’s
  • 2 small yellow squash
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil, for roasting the squash and for starting the sauce
  • 1 tbsp butter – not required, just can’t seem to help myself
  • frozen meatballs – I used a fourth of a very very large bag. probably half a regular grocery store bag.
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

What are some of your favorite healthy substitutes?? I’d love to try them!! Follow me on Instagram Link on my page!

Coconut Chicken Curry

I love Thai food. I love Indian food. I love to combine them!! My small town grocery store has a tiny international section and an extremely limited selection of curry pastes and sauces. So I like to pick one and make a combo dish. So Indian curry paste with coconut milk, ginger and basil. And quinoa because I was out of rice.

I started by sauteing frozen chicken on high in olive oil with salt, pepper and curry powder, covered in a deep skillet. Meanwhile I peeled and chopped a sweet potato, 2in ginger root and yellow onion. I added the sweet potatoes and onions on top of the sizzling chicken and replaced the cover. After a few minutes I added minced garlic, and ginger to the top of the sweet potatoes and onions. A few minutes later I pushed everything to the sides of the pan, and placed 2 big globs of the curry paste into the hot oil in the center, stirring in tiny circles for a minute or so keeping it in the center of the pan. Then I stirred everything heavily mixing it all together and turning down the heat to med-high. After a couple of minutes I threw in the basil leaves and poured over a half a can of WELL SHAKEN coconut milk.

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I then closed the lid and walked away. 10 minutes later the basil is dark and wilted, the coconut milk is well combined with the veggies, and chicken, put with steamed quinoa it made a delicious Thai/Indian Sunday Dinner.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Large Sweet Potato
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion
  • 2 Tbsp any Curry Paste
  • 1/2 can Coconut Milk well shaken
  • 1 handful fresh basil
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 4 frozen chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp generic Curry Powder
  • 1 cup dry quinoa steamed with 2 cups water, salt and pepper

I hope you all enjoy this recipe and I would love to try yours!! Please follow me on Instagram and I will follow you!