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

My Top 5 Kitchen Gadgets

I am obsessed with my kitchen! This is probably because I love to cook…
Over the last few years I’ve added to my kitchen collection of gadgets so I’m going to list my top 5 favorites for you!
1.    Teavana holds my heart. I love a great cup of tea and as far as I’m concerned they hit it on the head with two pieces I can’t live without (I know I said 5 things but these two go hand in hand!). I love their PerfectTea Maker (when making tea for myself only) and the Breville One Touch Tea Maker (when making a few cups at a time). These two pieces do essentially the same thing, just in different quantities. For the Perfect Tea Maker I can make a big glass of iced tea or a cup of hot tea for myself. The Breville maker makes a much larger quantity. The Breville also boils the water, whereas the Perfect Tea maker needs you to boil before hand. Both are amazing pieces I use regularly!
2.    My Le Crueset Dutch Oven. This was the first major thing my husband bought me when we were dating. It is still one of my most used pieces in my kitchen. I have since then invested in many different Le Crueset pieces but I use my dutch oven at least 3 times a week… and it’s a piece that will outlive me so it’s fun to think my babies will cook with it one day!
3.    Our juicer. When I first thought about investing in a juicer I did a ton of research! I talked to friends, searched the internet, and browsed William Sonoma and Sur la Table until I was confident I found one I liked. My mother in law bought a slow juicer and I knew I didn’t want one of those (see my reasoning why here) so I finally decided on the Breville Juice Fountain Duo. It was quite an investment but I’ve used it religiously for a few years now and it works like a champ! I’m so happy with this purchase!
4.    Our Le Creuset Grill Pan. Seriously ladies we all need this! I refuse to grill (if you do grill, I strive to be more like you!) but I love grilled food. I am a stay at home wife for the most part so I feel that it’s the least I can do to have both a clean home, and dinner prepared when my husband gets home. This means no grilled food for us… until I bought this piece. I cook everything from veggies to fish to meats on it and best of all it transfers from the stove to the oven so I don’t have to dirty any more dishes! This pan does it all and I have been so impressed at how much it will do for me.
5.   Our Stacking Bowls. My mother in law gave this collection to us at one of my bridal showers and it is the most useful bowl set ever! It literally has every size you’d ever need and because it’s a set it all fits together perfectly making storing the set a breeze! I think this is just a staple for all kitchens.

Juice, Juice, Juice

I love juicing! I started juicing after visiting with a friend who made an delicious juice for me and I have nothing but amazing things to say about it! I bought our juicer during my mom’s battle with cancer and started seeing the health benefits immediately. During the last few weeks my mom was alive I pretty much lived off of juice alone. It was the only thing I could keep down at the time and I was happy knowing I was at least getting some good nutrients.
I’ve tried 3 different kinds of juicers and am completely pleased with the one we bought. You can find the link by clicking here. My mother-in-law bought a slow juicer so I experienced that method of juicer from her and I’ll tell you the difference. The slow juicer had a difference consistency than our juicer did and my husband in particular was not having it. If you are one to like pulp you might not mind it so much, just remember that orange pulp and kale pulp are different and kale pulp is not for me! Some people argue that slow juicers give more nutrients and all I have to say to that is whatever floats your boat. No matter the difference, you are receiving SO very many nutritional benefits by juicing tons of yummy greens that if it’s easier for you to consume less pulp and more free juice I say a regular juicer is for you! But hey! To each his own!
Over the last past couple of years I’ve narrowed down my favorite juices and I’ll list some simple and yummy recipes below! I’m going to list them in single serving amounts but when I make juice I typically make enough for 3-4 glasses. I’ll post one big recipe (my go-to) at the very bottom. Cheers and happy juicing!
*Keep in mind: You can make some delicious fruit juices just remember the more fruit you add the more sugar you are consuming. Sometimes this makes for the perfect treat, but adding more greens than fruits makes for some delicious and extremely healthy juices. It’s all about balance!
Summer Beauty
1 bunch kale
2 handfuls spinach
¼ pineapple
2 apricots
1 small green apple, cored
½ inch ginger
The Basic Green
1 bunch kale
2 large handfuls spinach
2 stalks green chard
1 green zucchini
2 small green apples, cored
¼ inch ginger

Sweet Orange
1 orange
1/3 pineapple, peeled and cored
2 carrots
½ lemon, without the rind

Dance to the Beet
1 medium green apple, cored
2 small beets, cleaned thoroughly
3 large carrots
½ inch ginger
handful spinach
(Beets are tricky to juice, I strain my juice before serving to make sure its pulp free!)
Cheerful Cherry
3 large kale leaves
2 large leaves of romaine lettuce
1 green zucchini
2 stalks celery
1 large carrot
1 medium green apple, cored
handful cherries, pitted
½ peach

Family Sized Greens
4 green zucchini
1 large bunch (about 7-8) rainbow chard
2 bunches kale
3 cups spinach
4 stalks celery
5 small green apples, cored
2 peaches, seeded
½ large grapefruit
1 ½ inches ginger

*When storing fresh juice, store in glass jars (I used Mason jars) and fill to the tiptop so NO air is left in the jar. Seal with a lid and refrigerate up to a few days.

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!

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.
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.
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

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).

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.
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
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
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.

Glamis Weekend

Happy Monday! I have always had Mondays off so for me the workweek hasn’t started yet and today is my day to get all the rest of my errands done. Last Friday, Ryan and I drove with the three wiener babes to Glamis for the weekend. A bunch of my family from a few different states met us out there and we had a blast catching up and spending time together. We bought a trailer last October and Ryan will jump at any chance to use it!
The day my husband and I picked up our trailer. My Jenna looks pretty towing. (Yes I name my cars!)
Unfortunately, it was super windy all weekend so that was a bummer but other than that we were happy no one got hurt and nothing terrible went wrong… We had a great time riding and spending time together!

The wieners hate the car. The first hour of the drive was full of tears… Some from them, others from me. But we made it through our 4 hour drive.

Barely… by the look on Heidi’s face!

The wind made the sand so soft we ended up getting stuck once… How many men does it take to move this heavy sand car? Well about 9!

The wind made for such a clear and beautiful sky!

This week I am excited to start filling up my Miss Menu as I’m committing to cooking everyday (except tonight as we have a doctors appointment about an hour from our house)… three times a day! I’m so excited to make a couple new dishes for Ryan and I. Of course I’ll also be adding a couple of our oldies but goodies into the mix! 

This morning was an egg scramble and green juice as we scrambled out the door… Ryan for work and I am off to start my day. On the menu for lunch is a garden salad with extra cucumbers and tonight will be our one and only eating out meal (hopefully!) at Zovs. If you are ever in the Irvine, CA area I highly recommend this restaurant! I’m sure I’ll be posting a picture of our little date night later.

Tomorrow, however, I will be attempting a brand new recipe! Excited to see how it goes. Cooking is definitely something I love to do and I know it is something my husband appreciates me doing. I jump at the opportunity to serve my man and this is definitely a way that benefits us both!

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!

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!

A New Kind of Salad

Lunchtime is always tough for me because of my work schedule. Thankfully, or hopefully, this will all be changing as I’m leaving my job in a couple weeks, but for now it sticks. Since I start work at 4am, breakfast usually consists of a protein shake or a scoop of homemade granola and my ever-present coffee. I don’t eat at work as I try to work straight through my shift and leave. When I get home I feel lost between craving a proper breakfast and making plans for dinner. Lunch is lost. This being said, I am trying really hard to change this habit!
I have always love salads but I tend to get bored of them after a while. When I think of salad I think lettuce with some goodies on top and dressing… which is soo wrong! I now choose to think of salads as anything that I’m tossing together in a bowl to munch on.. Sort of.

1 cup cooked quinoa
½ sliced cucumber
1 bell pepper (I prefer orange or yellow)
2 tbs cooked corn
2 tbs black beans
Ponzu sauce to taste

When I cook my quinoa I use chicken broth or veggie broth as a substitute for water. In my opinion it gives a little more flavor and I prefer the texture better. It is such an easy food to cook and I typically make a big batch once or twice a week depending on that week’s menu. It keeps really well in the refrigerator, although in my house we eat it within a couple days. It’s definitely a family favorite and this little wifey isn’t complaining because it’s healthy to!
If you’ve never had Ponzu sauce I highly recommend you try it! It has great flavor and adds great flavor to any dish! If you don’t have it at home, I also like a splash of teriyaki or soy sauce plus the juice of half a lemon or add some garlic to rice vinegar and use that combo. Just be cautious with soy sauces because they aren’t quite as light and forgiving as the Ponzu.

I will add a couple other family favorites using quinoa this week. I have a ton to use up as my goal is to make dinner everyday throughout the weekend. No going out for us this week!