Mexican Chicken Quinoa Skillet



Cooking is an act of love.
My mama used to tell me this all the time. She cooked every night and I carried this desire with me into my marriage… then kids came. It’s not that my desire changed. The task of cooking and preparing a meal just became more difficult. I eventually had a heart-to-heart with myself and decided I had to come up with a game plan to cook meals for my husband and family.
This happened in two steps:
1  menu planning & meal prep
2  one pot meals
Let’s be honest – getting to the grocery store, prepping the food, and then cooking the meal is half the battle. Clean up is the worst part! With one-pot meals, the cleanup is a breeze, and this really speaks to my heart. Not only do I get to serve my family by way of cooking them dinner, but I also get to spend all that “would-be clean up time” with them! Win-win in for the mama books!
I used a skillet to cook this dish. You just need a pot or pan deep enough to hold the liquids that will eventually be absorbed by the quinoa. I’ve also made this recipe in a Dutch oven – my go-to for all things one-pot.

To get the rest of the recipe click HERE

Juicing continued…

Juicing continued…
So as I mentioned yesterday I love juicing! I’ve noticed some major health benefits to juicing which makes the sometimes long process of juicing so incredibly worth it!
When I first started juicing, my mom was fighting cancer. I woke up every morning and made us both a big green juice. She loved it! She felt better throughout the day, was able to keep the juice down, it was easy for her to drink, and it was delicious even when chemo altered her taste buds.
During the last 2 weeks my mom was alive, these benefits changed to me as now it was about the only thing I could keep down. Juice is packed with so many nutrients and you will feel that benefit indefinitely! 
So rewind to the first week of my juicing adventure! I bought our juicer the day before I started a new position at work (which had nothing to do with me buying the juicer I just remember the timing). The first morning I juiced I felt great… then the next day came. I literally came down with the worst “cold” of my life. My poor mom had to wear a mask in the house because I literally looked like a small train ran my over! It was awful! Then comes the next day… I wake up with a million pimples. I have always had extremely dry skin and I’ve never dealt with acne so this was surprising to say the least. I didn’t even know what to do with a zit! At this point I’m still thinking I caught this awful monster from work or something but I would soon figure out my body was literally detoxing. At this time of my life I was running 6-10 miles a day and was in great shape so if someone looked at me they’d think I was really healthy. What they wouldn’t know is up to this point I had dealt on and off for many years with an eating disorder. I’m not going to get into this too much right now but I had a horrible body imagine and was about as unhealthy as could be. In fact my doctor told me to stop running because all things combined I’ll probably have a heart attack.
So after my gross phase of monster cold finally faded my body literally felt healthy! I could feel my energy level rise, my skin looked way better, and I had better hunger/satisfaction in my diet. Another thing I noticed was little things like achy joints, dry eyes, bloated tummy, swollen fingers all were greatly reduced! This was huge for me!

There is no way to possibly consume as many veggies and fruits through whole food as you do through juicing. On average, I will juice 5 zucchini, a bunch of chard, a bunch of kale, 2 cups of spinch, 2 apples, ½ grapefruit, and ginger (which is amazing for your tummy) all in one day! If I tried to eat all this I would be eating all day! Plus it tastes amazing! If you have any good recipes pass them along!


Our Weekend in Texas

Ryan and I decided a couple weeks ago to make a road trip to Texas (more on that reasoning later). We knew it would be a quick trip but the timing with his work just wasn’t working out. At the last minute this week he was told he could have Friday off so we planned to leave Thursday night. Now in a perfect world this would have had us arriving in Dallas about 1pm Friday afternoon, give or take. Well we’d soon find out we were giving more than taking! I called our amazing dog sitter to see if she could stay the weekend and she was free so we rented a car and headed out!
I’ll admit we didn’t leave on time on Thursday. We left around 8 pm so we thought, okay, we’ll be there in time for dinner and can do a few things Friday before heading to our B&B.
*Side note: We love staying at B&B’s. This is for a couple reasons. First of all they are so welcoming and feel like staying at a home (duh because you are!). Secondly, we love to support small businesses! And thirdly, you always get a yummy home cooked breakfast. Well this B&B exceeded our expectation, but more on that later! If you’re traveling to a new place, I highly encourage checking out bedandbreakfast.com to see if there are any great places to stay. It will through you into the area charm much more than a regular hotel room and 9 times out of 10 they are way cheaper and are cozy and romantic!
So anyways, back to our drive. I knew it would be a hard drive since Ryan and I are usually in bed by 9/9:30 and we had 19+ hours ahead of us! Well tough was an understatement. I have really bad vision (yes I have contacts and glasses, don’t worry!) and driving at night, or in “weather” only point out that problem to me more. Driving through Arizona and New Mexico wasn’t bad as we were just trying to find a good system for switching off. About ¾ the way through New Mexico the sun began to rise and that was such a special time because, lets be honest, we don’t typically wake up to watch the sun rise, which judging by the beauty of that morning, is a shame. There is something so powerful about the sun rising and starting a new day. It was gorgeous. So I wanted to stop and take a picture, which is when I got my fist glimpse at what 20 degree weather felt like, holy moly bur!


The next few hours where uneventful. We stopped at Krispy Kreams and Starbucks, which was amazing, then continued on our way for the next few hours. We started to notice snow on the ground a few hours into Texas which got worse as we drove on. I’ll spare you the details of the next few hours because there wasn’t much going on just two sleepy people wanting to make it to Dallas! THEN IT HAPPENED! It was about 4:30pm and according to our GPS we had about 2 hours, give or take, left and we hit traffic. I’m not taking a little traffic, I’m talking turn off your car, you aren’t going anywhere traffic. Which is what we did, turned off our car, thanked God that my Papa and step mom were wise enough to remind us to bring plenty of snacks, water, and blankets, and sat there… For 8 hours! Yes you read that right, 8 hours!


We met some new friends as we were all just stuck in one place. We were so grateful we had just filled up on gas because some people were starting to run out. We did notice one positive thing (which after that many hours you need to find some good in the situation!), which was the willingness for others to help in crummy situations. For us, Ryan let a few people borrow our cell phones to make calls to worries family members as well as helped broken down cars move to a place they could be helped. For others it was letting people share a seat in a warm car to avoid everyone running out of gas. It was really a cool experience, plus we met a bunch of Texans ready to tell us all the great aspects of the state! And remind us this never happens!
Our car was full of frost!


So, fast forward 8 hours, it’s now the middle of the night, the roads are insanely slippery with a coat of ice on top, and we are again, on our way. I seriously spent a combined many hours in prayer as we saw so many incredibly horrible accidents. It felt unreal, like we were watching a bad movie or something. We’ve seriously never seen so many overturned semi trucks, smashed cars, and crying people at one time. It was horrible and my prayers go out to those families and the fire and rescue teams that responded in the 12-degree weather.
Scraping the windshield with a credit card!    

FINALLY!!

So we finally made it to our B&B at 5am! (Mind you, when I said short trip I meant we planned to drive home Saturday night and by now its already Saturday morning… Insert tears here). When we pulled up to our B&B I was instantly in love. It was absolutely gorgeous and the snow just added to how beautiful the old home looked.
Obviously we were exhausted but I have never slept in a more comfortable bed in my life. There was a big fireplace in our room and overall it was the perfect atmosphere and all that we’d gone through to get there was so worth it… even for the fact we were only there for 5 hours! We were meeting with some friends to check out the area at 10:30am so we slept, enjoyed breakfast, then got back in the dreaded car. Thank goodness the car we rented was super comfortable because that could have made a bad situation worse.

We had a blast checking out Dallas/Fort Worth and, because of the weather, not too many people we out so we didn’t hit any traffic driving around the city. We ate at The Rustic in downtown Dallas which was THE best food we’ve ever had. We loved this restaurant! We really appreciate restaurants that buy local, organic, good food. I loved that their meats lived a good life and you could taste the difference in their food. We can’t wait to go back!

*Side note about the food… Guys, this place is seriously amazing! We’ve been talking about it ever since we left! I had a wood grilled turkey sandwich and Ryan had the rustic burger. It was the most flavorful and perfectly cooked meal I’ve ever had. We had the double drip appetizer which was their smoked chips with corn queso and onion dip. Then, my sandwich had wood grilled turkey, texas gouda, and smoked ham on it topped with slaw and apple butter. I also subbed the chips for their avocado salad which I’m already trying to remake tonight! I’m hooked! Ryan’s burger was topped with chopped house brisket, white cheddar, green chili, grilled white onion, and their burger sauce. Then, to top it all off, the manager brought out a slice of their peanut pie. They said it’s for us to have for visiting Dallas and it was amazing. We took most of it home because we were soo full from the food but every part of the meal was incredible. We don’t typically drink alcohol (wine not included!) but in the spirit of celebrating our trip we both ordered a drink, which was delicious, and I could go on about the food for days. It was definitely a place we’ll visit any time we are in Texas! The atmosphere is great, the service was wonderful, and the food was out of this world! We miss it already!

Sadly, after we ate, we headed back along our 19+ journey home to California. We already have a list going of things we want to do next time we visit. We didn’t get to check out McKinney, which I was most looking forward to, but it’ll be great to plan our next trip (in which we plan to FLY). It was a great time overall though. We had fun with each other and made the most out of the situation we were in! Thank goodness driving home was pretty uneventful! We hit rain once driving through Palm Springs until we got home but we couldn’t wait to kiss our babies and judging by their cries and wagging tails… they missed us to!
Until next time Texas… We’ve fallen in love with you!


What We Eat

Nothing bothers me more than wasting food. It’s like throwing money right in the trash and 9 times out of 10, the next time I go grocery shopping, I’m rebuying that wasted food!
The other night I really wasn’t prepared for dinner and thought I’d end up making a meal I had in the freezer plus a salad but I realized I had some squash and a potato on their last leg and needed to make them that night. As much as I love veggies, Ryan is not going to appreciate a meal consisting of just a bunch of different vegetables and frankly, I probably wouldn’t like the meal these items were heading for either.
So after combining a few recipes I’ve seen I came up with the perfect dish to use up all my veggies at once. It was super easy and really could have added a ton of different vegetables if I had others I wanted to use. Very versatile recipe as far as ingredient go!

Ingredients
1 yellow onion
1-2 zucchini (I used two small and has a couple pieces unused)
1-2 yellow squash
1 medium potato
1 tsp minced garlic
Italian cheese blend
dried thyme
salt and pepper
olive oil
*tomato would be a yummy addition to this dish if your family likes tomato or any other round vegetable you need to use up.
Instructions
1.    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2.    Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Saute in a skillet with olive oil until softened.

3.    While the onion and garlic sauté, thinly slice all the vegetables into equally as thick rounds.

4.    Prepare an 8×8 baking dish (I used coconut oil spray). Spread the onion mixture evenly over the bottom of the dish. Place the rounds in alternating order until the dish is full.

5.    Sprinkle salt and pepper and thyme. Add shredded cheese as desired.


6.    Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are about done. Uncover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.
7.    Enjoy!

*This recipe is also great reheated the next day! Depending on how fresh our veggies are will determine how long the dish will keep.
** After thought: If I was going to the store to deliberately make this recipe I would try to find vegetables a little closer in size as our potatoes took longer to cook.


What We Eat

We have a couple staple food item in the fridge at all times. I find we eat healthiest if we have quick meals already prepared. I’d much rather grab something fresh and homemade than eat out if we are in a hurry. Usually Sundays and Wednesdays are my days to make sure all our staples are freshly stocked. Sometimes I’ll use them as a side for dinner if I didn’t have time to prepare a full meal, other times I’ll add them to Ryan’s lunch or eat them myself of course!
I found a set of stacked bowls in 4 sizes from Costco last year and absolutely love them. They always contain the same things in our fridge. My brother and sister in law bought us another set we asked for for Christmas so I use one at all times and have the other either in our trailer or use it for leftovers, etc. I always have one full of quinoa. I love quinoa and it’s great because it can be eaten cold or warmed up.
Another key thing we have is the salad below. I love this salad because it’s so simple to prepare and is super filling. It affectionately has been named the garbage salad because I can basically add any extra veggies from the week’s dinners inside it if they need to be used up! I’m always munching on it and there is nothing bad about it! I sometimes add feta in but even still this salad is super healthy and delicious. It’s also husband approved!
Disclaimer: I make this salad in a large quantity because I want it to last us a few days. If you want less, just adjust the recipe, as you desire. This salad doesn’t last long in our house, but it will keep for at least 4 days in a container depending on the freshness of the veggies being used.
Ingredients
3 cucumbers
2 yellow bell peppers
2 orange bell peppers
1 red onion
1 large can garbanzo beans
feta cheese
olive oil
red wine vinegar
oregano
salt



Instructions
1.    Chop all your veggies into about equal sizes and toss in a salad bowl. Add beans and feta.
2.    Add a splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil so veggies look slightly coated. You want enough to taste but you don’t want the salad to look too wet or have any liquid sitting at the bottom of the bowl. The salad won’t keep as well.
3.    Sprinkle with oregano to taste. Add a pinch of salt.

* I also like to add olives, artichoke hearts, or tomatoes if I need to use it up from another recipe or if I’m just being a little fancy! This salad tasted amazing with quinoa for a little added substance.


What We Eat

One of my favorite feelings is trying a new recipe and it coming out great! As I’ve mentioned before, I find cooking for others an act of love. Whether its for friends, family, or just my hubby and me, I think its such a wonderful act to turn a bunch of individual ingredients into a yummy meal for others. Plus it’s definitely an act of serving… especially as you do the dishes!
Anyways, I made a new recipe for our family this week and according to Ryan it was the second best thing I’ve ever made (Jerk Chicken is still in the lead! Get that recipe here).

Ingredients
1 package futtuccine pasta or linguine pasta
1 yellow bell pepper
8-10 small sweet peppers (I buy the bag of mini peppers from Sprouts)
1 yellow onion
2-3 sausages of you choice (I use spicy chicken sausage)
1/3 cup chopped parsley
¾ cup heavy cream
1 cup pasta water + 3-5 bullion cubes
1 tbsp chopped garlic
*I found “Better Than Bullion” from Sprouts and prefer this over cubes. It has a ton of flavor and made a difference in this dish. I have since seen it at a few different markets and its definitely worth a try. If you use this, you only need about 1 tbsp. You can also just use broth.
Instructions
1.    Prepare your ingredients. Cut peppers into small rounds and bell pepper into small pieces. Chop onion to equal size pieces as other veggies.
2.    Add olive oil to your pan (I started with a large pan and eventually moved to my dutch oven. Looking back I’d just use a dutch oven… Way easier!). Saute oinion, sweet peppers, and bell peppers in the pan until about ¾ done. Add sausage to the pan and cook until done.

3.    Remove sausage from the pan and cut on a diagonal. Return to pan.

4.    Meanwhile, cook pasta to package directions.
5.    Add pasta water + bullion and combine until mixed. Add the mixture to the pan with the peppers and sausage.
6.    Add the cream to the pan as well. Stir to combine. Mixture will begin to thicken.


7.    Add cooked noodles, parsley, and garlic to the pan. Toss to combine.
8.    Serve hot!


*We don’t like tomatoes but adding some halved cherry tomatoes would be good. We topped with shredded Italian cheese blend.

What We Eat

Since receiving my Miss Menu in the mail a couple weeks ago I’ve been so excited to use it! The first week I had it we were on vacation so this week was my real first week of use and so far I couldn’t love it more.
One big thing I noticed is I saved a bunch of money at the grocery store since I knew exactly what items I needed. I was able to buy for the entire week since I planned our meat meals according to the day I went to the store. I also saved a ton of time at the store since all my items were in categories based on how the store is run. So efficient I don’t know why I ever lived without this! Score 1 for organization!
Anyways, I thought I’d combine two days worth of dinners in this post. Tuesday night I made Cajun chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo and Thursday night I made jerk chicken. Both turned out delicious and both were first time recipes in our house! I was so happy they came out good because nothing is worse than spending a couple hours (and more than a couple dishes) on dinner and it going bad. Like I mentioned in an earlier post I am planning to cook every night for the next two weeks. Most of the recipes are new to us with a couple “oldies but goodies” thrown into the mix.
I don’t normally follow a recipe exactly. I like to look at them and get an idea for ingredients then cook by taste. Like my mama did! So these recipes are about as exact as I could get them but I encourage you to add a pinch more or less as you feel fit!
As a side note: Ryan said the jerk chicken is the best meal I’ve ever made… WooHoo!
Cajun Chicken Gumbo
Ingredients
4 cloves of garlic
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 andouille sausage
1 green bell pepper
1-2 stalks of celery
¼ lb okra
1 yellow onion
2 tbs butter (I use unsalted)
2 tbs all purpose flower
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tbs Cajun seasoning
½ -1 cup long grain rice (I use brown)
Olive oil
salt and pepper to taste



1.    Cook rice according to package, or I add 1 tsp unsalted butter to 2 cups boiling water, add rice, and simmer, covered, for about 45 min or until all water is absorbed.
2.    While rice is cooking, prepare other ingredients. Wash produce and remove chicken and sausage from fridge. Peel and mince the garlic. Remove the stems, ribs, and seeds from bell pepper and dice along with the celery. Peel and dice the onion. Cut off stems from okra and cut into small rounds.
3.    Make a roux. In a medium pot (I used a 5 ½ quart dutch oven), melt the butter on medium head. Add the flower and stir constantly for about 3 minutes or until deep golden brown.



4.    To the roux, add a drizzle of olive oil, bell pepper, onion, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Stir frequently until vegetables have softened, about 3 minutes.



5.    Increase the heat to med-high and add the chicken breast, sausage, crushed tomato, cajun seasoning, okra, and about 2 cups of water (I add just under the 2 cup line worth of water). Season with a little salt. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to med-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken and sausage are completely cooked (I cover because I feel the meat is more moist but it will cook slightly faster this way).  Remove from heat.


6.    Remove the cooked chicken and sausage from the pot. Slice the sausage and shred the chicken.


7.    Return chicken and sausage to the pot of gumbo and stir to combine. Add cooked rice. Divide gumbo between two bowls and enjoy!


Jerk Chicken
Ingredients
¾ cup of rice (I used same long grain brown rice from above)
1 can pinto beans
2 scallions
1 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 large carrot or 2-3 medium carrots
1 green bell pepper
1 red onion
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-1 ½ tbs jerk seasoning
2 tbs tomato paste
3 tbs chicken demi-glace
1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

* William Sonoma has demi-glace but it is really pricey! I found “Better Than Bouillion” from Sprouts and thought it worked perfectly! Plus it’s a tenth of the price! Or you can made demi-glace from scratch but its a pain in the behind. 

1.    Cook the rice. In a small pot bring 2 cups water to a boil and add 1 tbs unsalted butter. Once boiling, add rice and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook about 45 min or until all water is absorbed.



2.    Prepare ingredients while rice cooks. Wash and dry produce. Drain and rinse pinto beans. Slice scallions at an angle. Peel and roughly chop garlic. Roughly chop cilantro leaves. Slice carrots into rounds (I didn’t peel the carrots, just washed but if you prefer, peel the carrots at this time). Dice the onion. Remove seeds and ribs and dice bell pepper.
3.    Season chicken with jerk seasoning and salt (I do this once my chicken is already in the pan by doing one side at a time. It doesn’t really make a difference I just feel its cleaner).

4.    In a large pan, heat olive oil and add the chicken (if you haven’t already seasoned do it now).

5.    Cook chicken about 3 minutes per side.

6.    Add onion, garlic, bell pepper, and carrots to the pan. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook until veggies are softened.



7.    Add tomato paste, demi-glace (or sub), pinto beans, and 1 cup water. Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to med-low. Cover with a lid until chicken in cooked through.

8.    Divide rice between two bowls. Top each with a piece of chicken, half the sauce mixture, cilantro, and scallions. Serve with a lime wedge.


At Home Date Night

I have been looking forward to Friday all week. My hubby is home for the next two days and we have a couple big projects around the house to do (including taking down our Christmas décor… eesh!). 

We were planning to go out with friends for dinner and a show tonight but Ryan had to work late and we were forced to cancel at the last minute. This being said I had a couple extra hours to prepare dinner and I thought I’d go for something a little out of the norm for us. Chicken or ground turkey are out typical meats of choice and we are always saying we need to try to make something different… which brings us to tonight! I made pork chops with a peach, rosemary, and sage honey glaze. I originally found a similar recipe on Michaela Noelle. I made a couple tweaks to the recipe and it is definitely going to be a repeat in our house. One big thing we enjoyed was the addition of our Sage Honey from Happy Girls Kitchen Co. in Northern California. We order this honey online and always have it stocked. Its an amazing addition to hot water with lemon or hot tea or of course a dish like this!

Ingredients:
Olive oil to coat pan
pork chops (I used 10oz chops each)
¼ C white wine
2 TBS honey
2-3 peaches diced
2 sprigs rosemary
2 TBS unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

 
1.    In a sauté pan large enough to hold both pork chops with plenty of room, add olive oil and warm. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Add to pan and cook covered on medium for 5 minutes


2.    Flip chops, re cover and cook about 10 minutes longer (internal temp should be about 145 you just don’t want them too tough so use your judgment)
3.    Remove from pan and cover with foil. Set aside
4.    Pour white wine in pan and scrape bottom of pan
5.    Stir in honey

6.    Boil mixture about 2 minutes
7.    Add peaches and rosemary to pan and simmer until peaches soft


8.    Turn off heat and add butter (I added slightly less than 2 TBS because it looked the way I wanted it to but again, its your preference)
9.    Serve with veggies (and potatoes for my husband) and enjoy!