Friday, May 27

Black Bean & Corn Quesadillas

Ryan and I love Mexican food, so I thought we could try making a healthier version of quesadillas.  I’ve come across vegetarian recipes for quesadillas and when I saw this one, I thought it sounded pretty good.  Plus Ryan and I just bought our own tortilla press!  I’m going to attempt to make homemade corn tortillas (the authentic Mexico kind) soon. I figured if we like this recipe then I can make it down the road when I’ve mastered the tortillas.

 The quesadillas cooked to perfection and came out a wonderful golden brown color.  Ryan and I both agreed they tasted quite good and wouldn’t mind adding these into our weekly meals.  The filling had a really nice texture and in all honestly I didn’t miss having meat.  I found that I enjoyed the spinach and mushrooms incorporated into the filling but because there was such a small amount the flavors weren’t very prominent.  When I make this dish again, I plan to double the amount of spinach and mushrooms.

Black Bean & Corn Quesadillas
Adapted from recipe #370331 by CaliforniaJan,
Serves: 8
Prep time: 10 mins.
Total time: 20 mins.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onions
  • 1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (10 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 (8 inch) flour or whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese, divided
  • salsa, for garnish
  • sour cream, for topping if desired


  1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, spinach, and mushrooms cooking until softened; about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Stir in beans and corn.  Then add sugar, salsa, and pepper flakes; mix well. Cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.
  3. Drizzle oil in a large skillet (enough to lightly coat the bottom) over medium heat. Place a tortilla in the skillet and sprinkle evenly with cheese.  Spoon bean mixture on top of cheese and again sprinkle with cheese. 
  4. Place another tortilla on top.  Cook until golden then flip and cook the other side. Repeat process with remaining tortillas and filling.

Sunday, May 22

Chicken Marsala

I recently saw a Weight Watcher’s commercial that talked about how their website offers many different recipes.  It will even allow you to type in the main ingredient you have and it will present all the recipes within the program that you can make with that ingredient.  I wanted to browse their recipes as we’ve made one in the past and enjoyed it.  I knew you’d have to be a Weight Watcher’s member to access the recipes so instead I went to my favorite recipe site,, and used Weight Watcher’s as my search term.  It returned a lot of Weight Watchers recipes and as I went through them I found this one for Chicken Marsala.  I’ve had Chicken Marsala in restaurants, which I really enjoyed, so if this recipe tasted as good but with fewer calories, then this dish would be a winner.  Note: If you’re part of the Weight Watcher’s program, this dish is 4 points per serving.

I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand except for fresh mushrooms and Marsala wine.  You can use any type of mushrooms that you like for this dish.  I purchased mini bella’s.  They are packaged whole and I find that they have a lot more flavor than the pre-sliced mushrooms grocers offer.  I bought 2 packages as the recipes calls for 2 cups, however 1 package would have been enough.  When you get them home all you need to do is place them upside down (stem facing up) and slice them to your preferred thickness.  In addition to the mushrooms if you’ve never bought Marsala wine before, you will find this cooking wine down the regular aisles and not the wine aisle.  Typically it’s down the same aisle as vinegar.
The directions for this recipe are very easy to follow.  There’s one tip I can offer and that is to flatten your chicken breasts if they’re thick.  The chicken breasts I had were cut quite large and thick.  I prefer them to be thinner which also helps cut down the cooking time.  I don’t have a meat mallet so instead I put the chicken on a cutting board, placed a sheet of Saran wrap on top (serving as a protective layer) and beat them with a rolling pin.  The rolling pin is heavy enough to do the job and won’t get dirty if Saran wrap is used.  You’ll notice the directions below state to cook the breasts for approximately 3 minutes on each side.  This time will vary depending on the size of the breasts.  I noticed mine took longer.  Before you finish cooking the chicken it’s a good idea to slice into the middle of the breasts and double check that the inside is fully cooked (no pink remains). 

As the mushrooms cook they really diminish in size, so the volume of mushrooms is a lot less than what you started with.  If you love mushrooms like we do, then I would suggest doubling the mushrooms (and mushroom sauce ingredients).  I halved the recipe by only cooking 2 breasts, however I still cooked the full amount of mushrooms (4 servings). It was perfect for us.  If we had less mushrooms we would have been left wanting more. 

When everything was assembled and ready to eat, this dish looked great.  When we tried it, we both agreed the chicken was very moist and topped with the mushrooms it tasted amazing.  This dish tastes restaurant quality and you’d never know it’s a much healthier version.  While we were eating my husband had an idea.  He said he’d like to try making a sandwich using the Chicken Marsala and top it off with a slice of melted swiss cheese.  I think he’s on to something! 

Chicken Marsala
Adapted from Recipe #294720 by Lainey6605, 
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 5 mins.
Total Time: 25 mins.
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup marsala wine
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

  1. Generously sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add chicken and cook fully, about 3 minutes on each side.
  4. Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm.
  5. Add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring frequently.  Cook until browned, about 3 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle mushrooms with flour, stirring to blend.
  7. Add the Marsala wine and chicken broth; bring to a boil.
  8. Let the mixture simmer until it has slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  9. To serve, place mushroom mixture on top of the cooked chicken breasts.

Saturday, May 14

Mini Turkey Meatloaves w/ Honey Garlic Sauce - Baked Sweet Potatoes

Ryan and I have been incorporating turkey a lot more into the dishes we make. It’s supposed to be healthier than red meat and we actually enjoy the taste of it. Sometimes we can’t even tell the difference when we’ve substituted it for ground beef.

Ryan likes meatloaf and I think I’ve made it one time for us during the 8 years we’ve been together. When I stumbled across this recipe for turkey meatloaf, especially since it has mini loaves, I thought now’s the time to try making meatloaf again. And of course I was sold on the honey garlic sauce. One of the other main selling points to this recipe is that the mini loaves can be frozen after they’re baked (much cleaner and easier than one large loaf).

I wanted to make a side to go along with this dish so I chose to make baked sweet potatoes. At first I was going to make one baked potato for each of us until I found the recipe below for baked, bite size sweet potatoes with seasonings.

The meatloaf recipe calls for some ingredients that I would not expect to find in a traditional meatloaf, however I guess you could say that this meatloaf has a twist. One of the ingredients that really threw me for a loop were the water chestnuts. These did not sound appetizing to me at all, especially in meatloaf. After reading online reviews, I noticed many people left out the water chestnuts and instead substituted diced carrots. I came super close to substituting with carrots, however at the very last minute I decided to stick with the original recipe and use the water chestnuts. You’ll notice that another ingredient is evaporated milk. This type of milk is sold in a can and can be found down your grocers baking aisle. 

The steps for assembling the meatloaf are easy as everything is combined together and put into muffin tins. I altered the recipe a little bit so that it contains less sodium. Many of the reviews complained the original dish was too salty and offered their suggestions of how to fix this, which I followed. When everything is combined, you’ll notice the mixture is very wet. This is okay, this is what makes the mini loaves so moist. There is one thing I must warn you about….DON’T fill the muffin tins to the top. I thought I’d fill them to the top so I wouldn’t have to dirty another pan, and I regret that decision. When the loaves were baking, they started to overflow a little and some of the grease dripped in the oven. I ended up putting a baking sheet on the shelf below the muffin tin so that it would catch the dripping. All this can be solved by filling the tins ¾ of the way full. My muffin tins might have been a little on the small side too, which is why they may have overflowed. In the end I had some very messy tins (fingers crossed they come out of the dishwasher nice and clean). There’s a tip I learned on TV, after the fact, that would have been helpful in this situation. Grease the top of a muffin tin with some oil before putting into the oven. This way if muffins or whatever you’re cooking overflows it will be very easy to clean the pan as the extra/overflow can just be wiped away. 

The potatoes were super easy to make as well. Just be careful when cutting the sweet potatoes. They’re tougher to cut through and the knife can easily slip. I actually had my first accident in the kitchen because of this and sliced the top of my index finger. I kind of panicked when it didn’t seem to stop bleeding under the water. Luckily Ryan was at home so I was able to yell for him to come help me. In the end it was okay, but now I’m going to be much more careful when cutting. 

When everything was finished cooking, and I put together the dinner plates, they looked amazing! Even Ryan, who didn’t know what I was making, was impressed by how tasty they looked. We dug in and both agreed the mini turkey loaves were very good. They were very moist and the sauce tasted excellent on top of them. I also proved myself wrong. The water chestnuts were a great addition to the meatloaf. I didn’t taste their flavor, however they added a really nice texture to the meatloaf. The potatoes tasted very nice as well and were a great side dish to have with meatloaf. 

Mini Turkey Meatloaves with Honey Garlic Sauce

Adapted from Recipe #57770 by * Pamela *,
Yields: 12 mini loaves
Prep time: 15 mins.
Total time: 45 mins. 

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey 
  • 1/3 cup water chestnut, chopped fine
  • 3/4 cup fine breadcrumb
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 3 tablespoons lite or reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup green onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium instant chicken bouillon*
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
 *These are not bouillon cubes, these come in a jar and are ground up granules 

Honey Garlic Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons lite or reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic

  1. Combine all meatloaf ingredients into a large bowl.
  2. Mix with large spoon to thoroughly blend. Don’t use a mixer this as the mixture will become too fine.
  3. Divide mixture into ungreased muffin/cupcake tins. Fill only ¾ of the way full.
  4. Bake at 350˚F for 30-35 minutes.
  5. During the last 10 minutes that the loaves are cooking, combine all sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan. Cook and stir on low heat until hot and bubbly.
  6. When loaves are done, remove from pan and serve with honey garlic sauce
  7. Note: If you’d like to freeze some of the loaves, wait until they have cooled before placing into a Ziploc bag to freeze.

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Adapted from recipe by Jenncook,
Serves: 3
Prep time: 10 mins.
Total time: 1 hour 10 mins.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 pinches dried oregano
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2 pinches ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly coat the bottom of a glass or non-stick baking dish with olive oil.
  2. Wash the sweet potatoes. Skins can be left on, but if preferred without skin, peel. Cut into medium bite size pieces.
  3. Place cut sweet potatoes in the baking dish and toss with spoon until they’re coated with some of the olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle the oregano, salt and pepper over the potatoes (tossing potatoes while sprinkling to coat).
  5. Bake for 60 minutes or until soft.

Sunday, May 8

Challah Bread - Fancy Shmansy Bread

When I saw this recipe the picture reminded me of when I was younger and my mom’s friend would make us delicious bread with poppy seeds. I have no idea if this is the same bread, but it looked great and I can only imagine it would taste amazing. The bread looks like something you would purchase from a bakery as it’s very detailed and I figured this would be a good challenge for me.

Before I began cooking I looked up Challah bread online and learned that it’s a traditional Jewish bread eaten on Shabbat. You will also see it referred to as ‘egg bread’ because of the amount of eggs used in it.

The recipe had wonderful reviews online, however the only issue was that it called for preparing the dough in a bread machine. I don’t have a bread machine, however I figured I that there’s a way to alter the recipe and make it by hand. I looked at some other Challah recipes and got an idea of how I should prepare the dough without a bread machine. I didn’t know this, but with a bread machine, the dough rises while it’s in the bread machine. Then machine kneads it and allows it to rise. Making the dough without a bread machine is not hard, you’ll just find yourself kneading the dough more and planning enough time for it to rise. If you have a bread machine, then you should refer to the original recipe and follow those instructions vs. the directions I have created below.

The ingredients are items you most likely already have in your kitchen. I had everything but the poppy seeds. The recipe also states that you can use sesame seeds, but I had toasted sesame seeds and I didn’t know if those would work as well since the bread cooks in the oven and the seeds are already cooked. Instead I decided to buy each type of seed at the store and try both since this recipe produces 2 loaves. 

The steps for making the dough are actually quite simple. Really what takes the longest amount of time is allowing the dough to rise. All in all this takes about 2 hours, so if you’re looking to make bread and eat it the same day, prepare it earlier in the day. OR you can always make the dough the day before and bake it the next day which is what I did. There is one tip I can share about allowing the dough to rise. I learned this the hard way after I had a disastrous mess in the kitchen from pizza dough that I set aside to rise. Typically recipes will state that you should cover the dough and allow it rise in a warm place. The previous dough I made said to cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Don’t EVER do this without putting a protective layer underneath the towel like Saran wrap. I didn’t and the dough expanded so much that it overflowed out of the bowl and stuck to the towel so bad that I had to throw the towel out. So now when I need to place the dough in warm place, I always cover the top of the bowl with Saran wrap first, then I run a kitchen towel under hot water, wring it out, and place it on top of the bowl. You can then either put the bowl in the microwave or the oven for the rising to take place.

Covered & ready to rise for 1 hour

Placed in microwave to rise
After the 1st rise.  Doubled; airy & fluffy.

 If you follow the directions you can’t go wrong. I can tell you that the dough will be sticky. That’s okay, the dough for this bread is naturally sticky. I suggest liberally dusting your hands with flour before handling the dough as this will prevent it from sticking to your hands. Also generously dust the counter with flour before placing the dough on it. For the strands, roll dough from the center out until they become long and thin. Think of how you’d make a worm with Play-doh. Use the same technique to make these strands. Honestly once the strands are made it’s pretty fun to braid them. After they’re braided, just make sure to smoosh down the beginning and end points, folding them under the loaf. This will make it so that the bread doesn’t separate while cooking.


Ready to be seasoned

Be creative with the seasoning and have fun. I divided the loaves into thirds and put poppy seeds on one section, sesame seeds on another, and sesame, poppy, kosher salt, and some garlic seasoning on the last section. Play around with it and see what seasoning you prefer after the bread is finished and you’ve taste tested them all. Also, keep an eye on the bread while it’s in the oven. An egg wash is used to coat the top of the bread so this part of the bread will brown faster than rest. I prefer a lighter top. When I saw the bread had just the right amount of golden color for us I took the loaves out and covered the tops with foil. You can then continue baking them and the foil will protect them from darkening any further.

Going into the oven the loaves looked great and I have to say when they came out they tasted just as good! My husband and I each had a slice of warm bread with some butter on it and we both agreed that it was very tasty. Ryan even thought it looked like I bought it from a store. And the loaves were very big too! We saved a loaf for ourselves and gave our neighbor one since there’s no way we’d be able to eat all the bread. Something to keep in mind for the future…I learned that you can freeze the dough after it has risen the first time (but not after the 2nd rising).

Challah Bread
Adapted from Recipe #142387 by Mirj,
Yields: 2 loaves
Prep Time: 2.25 hours
Total Time: 2.75 hours

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • sesame seeds or poppy seed

  1. Add luke warm water to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle in yeast and stir. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Add to the yeast mixture: egg yolks, salt, flour, sugar. Mix well and as the mixture begins to take on more of a solid form (starting to form a dough ball), add the oil.
  3. Transfer dough to a well oiled, large mixing bowl. Cover and place in a warm area (such as a microwave or oven). Allow to rise for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
  4. After dough has doubled, punch down the dough while in the bowl and allow to rise for a second time, doubling in size (approx. 1 hour).
  5. Divide the dough in half (1 for each loaf).
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Divide each piece into three sections.
  8. Roll each section into a long strand.
  9. Pinch the top 3 strands together and braid the strands. Once the braiding is finished pinch the bottom ends together. Gently fold both top and bottom pinched ends underneath the loaves.
  10. Repeat process with remaining dough, to create the 2nd loaf.
  11. Place loaves on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Make sure to spread apart as the loaves will increase in size.
  12. Brush the dough with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or a combination of both.
  13. Bake for 30 minutes.

Sunday, May 1

Bourbon Chicken - Carry-out at Home

This is a recipe I found online that we’ve made quite a few times. Think Chinese carry-out but without the breading. As you know from my previous posts, I love sauces and this dish has a very nice sauce. When we eat at Chinese restaurants we typically order the infamous Orange Chicken or General Tso’s Chicken. They’re so good, even though you KNOW they’re not great for you. That’s why when I saw this recipe I could tell the sauce would taste good and since the chicken is not breaded it would definitely be healthier than ordering carry-out.

The only ingredient you may not have on hand for this recipe is ginger. Don’t use powdered ginger as the taste is just not the same. I suggest using fresh ginger and grating it OR buying chopped ginger that comes in a jar. I keep a jar of chopped ginger in my fridge as it’s always nice to have on hand when you decide to make a random dish like this. You’ll notice that apple juice is also called for in this recipe. What I’ve come to realize is that apple juice as well as orange juice are used in quite a few recipes for sauces. If you’re like me and you don’t regularly drink these beverages, keep a small stash of single serving size bottles on hand. In the past I’ve bought large bottles, used what I needed, and the rest went to waste. The small bottles allow you to use just the right amount without leaving much waste. 

The cooking directions for this recipe are really quite simple. When preparing the sauce keep in mind that it will be a very thin sauce. Look at the consistency of the sauce in the skillet before you add the chicken and see if it’s to your liking. If you’d prefer it to be thicker you can always add a little bit of cornstarch. I like that the sauce is thin because I typically serve this dish with rice and the sauce can easily be poured over the rice for extra flavor. Also, one tip I’ve learned along the way is to not fully cook the chicken (slightly browned on the outside) in the skillet as it will continue to cook when it’s added to the prepared sauce and simmered (for 20 minutes). This will allow the chicken to stay moist and not overcook.

Bourbon Chicken
Adapted from Recipe #45809 by LinMarie,
Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 mins.
Cook Time: 20 mins.

  • 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 -2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet.
  2. Add chicken pieces and cook until almost fully cooked.
  3. Remove chicken and set aside.
  4. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Stir to combine well.  Pour into the skillet and heat over medium heat, stirring a few times.
  5. Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
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