Chicken Tortilla Soup

Well, it is getting cold very quickly this November and I am not a big fan of cold weather. I tire very quickly of being cold. So when I was meal planning this week I knew a soup would need to be on the menu and because I am from the South, obviously some type of Mexican dish is on my mind, so Chicken Tortilla Soup was the perfect choice. Even though I menu plan (ok so I sometimes menu plan…), I rarely am ever prepared to make dinner so I am always trying to find recipes that do not take long to make. Most Chicken Tortilla Soup recipes called for proper planning and a crock pot. I decided to mix and match a few different recipes to make my own ‘quickly’. I had all the ingredients on hand, which I love when that happens. There are about 16 ingredients that go into this, but they are all common ingredients and easy to prepare (seriously, I opened a few cans and used my knife twice).  I was very pleased with how it turned out, it warmed me up and satisfied my craving! Hubby loved it too. I would say that he went back for ‘seconds’ because it was that good, but truth be told, he just eats a lot LOL. This recipe was easily enough for a family of 4, or even 6 if you have little ones!! I wouldn’t half it though, just have leftovers or maybe freeze some. (**disclaimer: I have never froze this soup and cannot attest to how it holds up in the freezer, however I don’t see why it wouldn’t).

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:

2 breast of chicken (can use more)

2 cups water

1 can chicken broth

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can rotel tomatoes (I used cilantro and lime and highly suggest it)

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (but crushed is suggested by many others)

1 can red enchilada sauce

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups frozen corn

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp minced onion

1 tbs fresh cilantro (or 1 tsp dried cilantro, you can use much more!!)

salt and pepper to taste

6 corn tortillas

Toppings: Shredded Cheese, avocado, fresh cilantro, sour cream

Directions:

Cut chicken into small cubes and sauté with salt and pepper until cooked. In a large pot, combine all ingredients (expect toppings and tortillas) and the cooked chicken and bring to a boil, simmer for 30-40 minutes. Then cut tortillas into thin, shorter strips (I used a knife and cut them in half then cut the halves into smaller strips). Add the tortilla strips to the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Top with your favorite toppings.

Chicken with Sun Dried Tomato-Basil Sauce

I posted this photo on Facebook last week and had many requests for the recipe…

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so here ya go!! This dish was so delicious! One of my new favorites! I rarely ever follow a recipe to the letter, but this one I did because I did not think it needed any changes! It was very yummy and next I would double the sauce because it was barely enough for a pound of pasta. I found it on Pinterest, but here is the site for the original recipe: http://www.gabbiskitchen.com/chicken-with-sun-dried-tomato-basil-sauce.html

Chicken with Sun Dried Tomato-Basil Sauce

6 boneless, skinless chicken tenders, thawed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup onions, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 shallot, minced
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped (in package, NOT oil packed)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 16 ounce package spaghetti, uncooked

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add chicken & grind fresh pepper on each side. Cover & cook until done, about 5 minutes on each side. (When done, chicken will have NO pink on the inside.)  Remove from heat and set aside, keeping covered.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, & shallots, cooking 1-2 minutes, just until soft.  Add sun dried tomatoes; stir. With a whisk in hand,  add flour & stir.  Slowly pour in chicken broth, whisking constantly to remove any lumps.  Add cream, still whisking.  Whisk that sucker to death! (just kidding).  Continue whisking for 3-4 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken.  Take off heat and let sit; it will continue to thicken, feel free to stir every so often as you cook the spaghetti:

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.  It is done when it is soft, but still has a bite; al dente please.

Add fresh basil to sun dried tomato sauce and give it a good stir.

Place spaghetti noodles on serving plates, placing chicken directly on top of noodles.  Spoon as much sauce as you would like over chicken & noodles; enjoy!

Vegetarian Protein

For the past few years my husband and I have been 90% vegetarians. Basically, we do not cook or eat meat at home and typically choose vegetarian options (ok him more than me)! When I tell most people this I normally get the response “then what do you eat?”. Well, I have to be a little more creative cooking at home since I also do not really like cheese (let me clarify: I HATE white cheese and will NOT eat it, yes I am prejudice against white cheese and I am not afraid to admit it!). So cooking without cheese and meat and still trying to make sure we get all the nutrients that we need is a little tricky and I have to get creative sometimes. I normally have to incorporate lots of veggies and starches with fish or some of our favorite ‘meats’, Morning Star soy-protien meats. I love cooking with all fresh ingredients to keep it healthier. My husband being a fitness specialist and ‘health enthusiast’ (I promised not to call him a health nut any more lol) encourages us to eat as health as possible. I came across this new recipe that is vegetarian and so delicious!! It was Pasta with Chickpea Garlic Sauce (click the link for the recipe). You blend the chickpeas with chicken broth, which sounds gross at first to be if I am being honest, but it was GREAT! It was packed with protein and had great flavors! This is being added as a staple for our household! Easy, quick, healthy, and cheap! Hope you enjoy!

Sharing food with friends makes it taste so much better…

There are few things in life that I enjoy more than a room full of friends and food! Recently we were able to celebrate a good friend’s graduation from Coast Guard “A” school. The Myers are good friends of ours and we always have a great time with them no matter what we do, but there is one thing that we share, a love of good food! I recently stumbled upon a recipe for Taco Bites on the most wonderful website ever, Pinterest! I am not exactly sure the original source of this recipe because it has been repined a great deal. There are also a few different variation to this recipe, so here is what I have come up with after making these a few times now. Enjoy this easy, pretty healthy, crowd pleasing appetizer. 

Taco Bites

Ingredients:

– 1 lb ground turkey meat (can use beef, but turkey is a healthier option)

– 1 package of taco seasoning 

– 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

– 1 can corn, drained and rinsed

– 2/3 cup water

– 1 package of either Wonton or Egg Roll Wrappers (wonton is preferred, there is an extra step if using egg roll wrappers, but it it no big deal)

– 2 cups grated Cheddar Cheese approx.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*. Brown grown meat. Drain any grease and mix in 2/3 cup of water, taco seasoning mix, about half the black beans and corn. Let all the water absorb. Spray a mini-muffin pan with cooking spray. If using Egg Roll wrappers, cut them in 1/4, if using wonton wrappers they are already the size you need. Push one wrapper into each slot, push them to make a bowl. Fill each bowl with the meat mixture, then top with cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes. The cheese will be bubbly and the edges will begin to brown.  Then repeat. Using 1 lb meat will get you two full batches with a mini-muffin pan (each batch makes about 24). You can half the recipe and get 24, but trust me you will want plenty of these!! You can top them with your favorite taco toppings: sour cream, salsa, guacamole, lettuce and tomato… whatever you desire! I love topping mine with my own homemade guacamole! 

Guacamole

Ingredients (pico de galo):

1 tomato  or 3 roma tomatoes, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped  

1 small bunch cilantro 

Ingredients: 

3 avocados

1 lime

garlic salt

Directions:

Combine all chopped ingredients for the pico de galo. I normally chop big chunks and throw it all in my food processor. Then peel and mash avocados. Add the juice from one lime, about 4 tablespoons of pico de galo (or enough to give it texture and it does not just blend in), and then a good coating of garlic salt. Mix well. You should be able to taste a tad bit of salt and lime and lots of yummy goodness! I am sorry for not having exact measurements, but I normally keep adding until it taste just right. I modify it based on the number of avocados that I use. Next time I make it, I will try to measure and update this.

Patience…

…is a virtue I have never really had, however recently the Lord is really calling on me to use it more than ever. In the past four months I have been tested with so many things that have forced me to learn to simply wait on the Lord. My husband and I began house hunting for our first home together. We have been renting from his father for a year now and have been blessed with our current home, but we figured it would be wiser to put our money into something of our own instead of just ‘throwing it away’. We found a home we LOVE and it is just about perfect for what we want, even the price! So we put an offer in over 45 days ago to the bank, as our dream home is a short sale. I am not sure why it is called a short sale, there is nothing short about it! We put the offer in at the asking price, which the bank had approved prior to our bid for someone else, hoping to get a quicker response. However, here we are 45 days later and we have only had the bank respond once with a counter offer, guess they were not satisfied with the asking price. So it has been a week since the counter and I am so anxious and excited. I have had to exercise a great deal of patience since this process started in January, but it is really wearing thin, not that it was very thick back in January! I have also started two new part-time jobs in addition to my other three part-time positions. Starting something new has had my patience exercise level higher than ever, a good kind of exercise, but nonetheless it is being exercised! We have had some car trouble and are waiting to see how a few other things pan out before we make any big decisions regarding said troubled car. There are so many other things happening that are presenting themselves constantly as an exercise of my patience. So there are many things that are testing my patience. I have had to use my patience and faith more than ever lately it seems. I believe God uses different things in your life to teach or show you something, and I think He has been teaching me to lean on Him and trust in Him, so I have been going to His Word and prayer to allow Him to teach me patience during this time of life. The funny thing is that things always seem to happen when they need to happen, although it may not be when we want them to happen. So for now I am patiently waiting on life to happen, I just hope I remember to live the life that is here now while I wait.

So to pass the time I have been trying some favorite new recipes… hope you enjoy this one that my husband and I loved!!

Stuffed Mexican Cornbread

Ingredients:

3 boxes Jiffy Cornbread
3 eggs (as stated on Jiffy box)
1 cup milk (as stated on Jiffy box)
1 lb ground meat (any meat will do, I use soy ‘beef’)
1 package Taco seasoning
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Rotel* tomatoes
1-2 cups shredded cheese (I use cheddar, but a taco blend will work great)

Directions:

1. Brown meat with taco seasoning (may need to add a tiny bit of water for mixing). Add corn, beans, and tomatoes.
2. Mix cornbread, eggs, and milk.
3. Grease 9×13 baking dish and pour 1/2 of the cornbread mixture in the dish and spread evenly. Add meat and cheese and then spread the remaining cornbread mixture on top.
4. Bake at 450* for 20-25 minutes, or whenever the cornbread is no longer wet, stick a toothpick in to test.
*you can modify this recipe by adding whatever spices and extras (like the corn, beans, and Rotel) you like.

This recipe is easy and quick, and requires not a lot of patience!!!

Our first Christmas as Mr. & Mrs.

Our first year of marriage has been a first so many new things, including our first Christmas together as man and wife. We had a tree that was given to us by my mother-in-law. She found the tree on the side of the road, in the box, in perfect condition! YAY for free!! We started our decorating with putting the tree up together… then we realized that the lights we had were for the outside of the house, not the tree!

So we made a super quick trip to Ace Hardware at 7:45pm, they close at 8pm, just in time!! On our way home, we stopped at a friends house who had just baked over 75 dozen cookies!!! One of the cookies she made were ‘thin mints’, made from Ritz crackers and mint chocolate!
They were amazing!! I had make them as soon as we ran out. Alll in all this season, I made about 6 or 7 dozen of these easy, bakeless, delights! (Recipe: Melt 8 oz of chocolate, mix in 1 tbs of peppermint extract, and dip Ritz crackers fully into the chocolate, decorate with sprinkle!) So we left several hours later with bags of cookies and a great unexpected night together! Once we got home, we went into focus mode and got our tree looking pretty good! I really loved our Christmas decorations this year, so much so we did not take them down till January 20th!! LOL

Our 1st Christmas Tree

Our Christmas festivities started with the traditional Christmas Eve ‘Giordano’ Italian Feast. My husband’s father’s side gets together and lavishly eats tons of wonderful seafood (which I am allergic too, but we find me plenty to eat!). We then open presents always youngest to oldest. My nephew, Cole, is 3-years-old and such a joy to watch open gifts this year. He is a true child, he opens his favorite toy and it’s all over! He, in true kid fashion, opened clothes and then tossed them behind him to move to the next!! It was very funny! And I am not sure why, but I think at the coaching of my husband, everyone had to wear their bows on their heads!! Truly a blessing being with wonderful family!!

Cole opening gifts
Grandpop and the grandkids (minus Pete, Eryn & Cole, it was past bedtime)
Cole helping Grandpop
Joe and I with his parents, my wonderful in-laws ❤

On Christmas Day we started with our family of two’s Christmas… hubby got to open his first stocking! 🙂

Joe's first stocking
We had a wonderful breakfast with our best friends, the Dennis’. We ate Pumpkin Gingerbread French Toast with fresh cranberries (recipe coming soon)! The guys had salmon omelets with a variety of veggies (bell and habanero peppers, tomatoes, and onions). We exchanged gifts and enjoyed our time together. After our brunch was finished, it was off to the in-laws for Joe’s mom’s side’s Christmas dinner. We had all the wonderful traditional Christmas favorite foods and conversations. We all had a blast watching my nephew, 3 year old Cole, open all his presents. Two of my favorite gifts to give was to my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law. I made them both patch-work table runners. It was hard work, but very rewarding! This Christmas I was truly blessed and loved and thank God for such a wonderful time of the year to celebrate Jesus!

Chocolate and Friends, could life be any better?

Two of the greatest things that God gave us are friends and chocolate!! About a year or so ago I would spend so many moments pouting about not having friends. I made a complete life change about three years ago and changed my circle of friends from many acquaintances and a few close friends to one trusted close best friend! I only had a small circle since I had moved from Texas a few years ago, leaving all my friends behind. I still had friends that I talked to when in shared environments, but still felt so alone and unloved at times. Life was so crazy, I was changing, and many friends had made life changes as well. Even though I had a really great friend, she still had a life and responsibilities, and well to be honest, I am kind of needy, ok maybe a lot needy at times. So I felt alone and friendless. My husband, at the time only my boyfriend, heard my cries often, as did the Lord. My husband would encourage me to reach out to others, but I have never really been that kind of person, I always let others reach out to me. I am getting better at this, but still feel apprehensive most of the time. Over the past year, my life in this area has changed so much. I have developed a deeper friendship with my one best friend, as well as developed so many new friendships. God heard my silent cries and answered my prayers. Recently I was talking with a few friends, joking about not having friends. We actually counted my friends and defined what a friends was. We came up with friends that I inherited from my husband and his friends that we hung out as couples, and friends I actually had an active friendship with. It was eye-opening because I had more friends than I realized. I had been blessed without really realizing it. God is so awesome!

This past week I really reflected on my friendships. I have been thanking God for the few friends that I am developing fairly newer friendships with and looking forward to all the wonderful memories that I will make with my friends. There have been so many times that I have had the opportunity to make such wonderful memories with my friends. One of those times has been this week. I was able to spend time with one of my friends, Stacia, helping prepare for and attending her birthday party, as well as another friends birthday party. I also got a few more moments with my a few of my new friends, Vanessa and Brooke, at different times this week. And I cannot wait till tomorrow, when I get some quality time with my best friend!

One thing that makes friendship better: CHOCOLATE!! I have made my Flourless Chocolate Cake on two occasions, once was a dinner with my best friend, Kristin, and this past week for my friend, Stacia. It is kind of like my friends, so incredibly sweet and wonderful!! So here is my recipe that I use for my Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Chocolate Ganache, enjoy (hopefully with your best friends!!) Thank you Lord for such wonderful friends… and for chocolate!

Flourless Chocolate Cake
Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white sugar
18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (Baker’s squares, or morsels, can use bittersweet as well)
1 cup butter
6 eggs

Directions:
1. Grease 10 inch round (spring foam preferred) pan (you can also grease, then use parchment paper, greased, on side and bottom or just bottom). Wrap outside with foil well. Preheat over to 300*.
2. In small sauce pan over medium heat combine water, salt, and sugar. Stir till completely dissolved and set aside.
3. Either in top half of double boiler or in microwave (my preference) melt the chocolate. Pour chocolate into a large mixing bowl.
4. Cut the butter into pieces and beat butter into the chocolate, 1 piece at a time. Beat in hot sugar-water. Slowly beat in eggs, 1 at a time.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place the cake pan into a larger pan and fill the larger pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
6. Bake cake in water broth at 300* for about 45 minutes. Center will look wet, chill cake overnight in pan. To unmold, if not in spring foam, dip bottom in hot water for 10 seconds and place on a plate upside down.

Raspberry Chocolate Ganache
Ingredients:
1/4 cup raspberry jam
6 ounces whipping cream, heavy cream, or non-dairy creamer
1/4 cup butter
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Directions:
1. In a small sauce pan, heat raspberry jam, whisking until almost comes to a boil
2. In another small sauce pan over medium heat combine cream and butter to a simmer and remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk till smooth. (you may need to set it back on the heat for a second, you just want to be careful not to burn the chocolate.) Add jam and whisk well.
3. Spread on cooled (does not have to be after the overnight, just cooled enough) cake while still in the pan. Shake gently to distribute evenly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight until sets.
4. Run a knife around the sides to help loosen.

The Flourless Chocolate Cake does not need the Ganache because it is already very sweet! I like to serve it with a ton of fresh berries, or even pretzels!

Hosting… lots of work, but totally worth it

Last week we celebrated my husbands birthday at our home. He wanted to be surrounded by his family and friends for his birthday. It was the first time 90% of our family and friends have been to our home since we were married over 7 months ago. I was raised with the thinking that your home should be presentable, and welcoming to all, and have really tried to make it that. This party was just one of hopefully many more times that I can open my home to family and friends.
There was a lot of prep work that needed to be done the week prior with many projects around the house needed to be finished. I used the motivation of over 50 people would be in my house to get me moving. I finished all the bedroom projects that I had been working on for months (I will post all that entailed soon). I also had a ton of ‘brandi-izing’ as my husband calls it, I call it cleaning, organizing, and arranging, to make our house a home! However, when Saturday rolled around, and the party was only one day away, there was so much to be done for the party, as I took it upon myself to provide all the food (well except the baked ziti so wonderfully provided by my father-in-law). I called in reinforcements, my friend Brooke! We cooked from around 1pm till after 6pm, and I continued later that night and the next morning.
The menu consisted of:
~Pigs-ina-blanket: little sausages wrapped in crescent rolls and cheese (cut each triangle in 3s and sprinkle cheese and roll the sausage, back at 350* for 15-20 minutes until golden).
~Cheese dip: Velveta* cheese block and a can of Rotel* diced tomatoes, heated till melted.
~Roasted Eggplant & White Bean Humus: Roast cubes of eggplant in oven (350*) drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper, in a food processor blend the cooled roasted eggplant, 1 can of white cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed, 2 garlic cloves, 1/3 cup fresh parsley,3 tbs lemon juice, and add olive oil for thick creamy consistency as you blend/process. Best if let sit in the refrigerator for flavors to set it.
~Frito pies: A bed of Fritos* topped with chili, cheese, and any other preferred chili toppings. I made the chili by browning 2 lbs of ground turkey and 1 onion chopped. Then added 1 large can of crushed tomatoes, 1 can of stewed tomatoes, 1 8oz jar of salsa, 1 can corn drained and rinsed, 2 cans kidney beans, 4 tbs chili powder, 1 tbs garlic powder, oregano, paprika, basil and sugar (brown or plain). You can add red or green peppers also, as well as any other peppers if you like it a little spicier. Cook in crock pot for about an hour.
Sweet Potato Burritos: (these can be made with larger tortillas to accommodate the hungriest members of your family!) Start with 4 cups cooked & mashed sweet potatoes, Saute 4 cloves of garlic and 1 onion chopped till soft. Stir in 6 cups of kidney beans (drained) then mash, add 2 cups of water gradually and heat till warm. Add 3 tbs chili powder, 2 tsp ground cumin, 4 tsp spicy brown mustard, 1 pinch cayenne pepper, 3 tbs soy sauce (allow a few minute to cool for handling). Divide mixture of beans and sweet potatoes evenly between warm flour tortillas, top with shredded cheddar cheese, fold tortillas burrito style (fold end in, then fold over and roll up). Bake on baking sheet for 12 minutes (350*). Serve warm. Can be frozen and reheated, they taste amazing still!
~Quesadillas: made by my good friend Bill, a recipe that I cannot share myself… sorry!
~Chocolate and regular Rice Krispies Treats
~Strawberry confetti cake: I tried to make my own cake from scratch, but used wheat flour causing the cake to be heavy and tasted like corn muffins, not cake!! It was the worst thing I ever made… So I resorted to the Betty Crocker Strawberry Supreme cake mix that I add sprinkles to. Turned out very moist! I topped it with orange icing to make a basketball for my husband, his favorite sport. Poor thing was having so much fun he didn’t even get a piece of his own cake 😦

Overall, the party was wonderful and so much fun being with so many friends and family! It was worth all the work that went into it just to see my husband have a wonderful day! Happy Birthday Joe!! I love you!!

Easiest Corn on the Cob EVER!!

Recently I found the easiest, healthiest way to cook fresh corn on the cob and have to share it with you all!! No more shucking the corn, clean out each hair by a scrub brush and your hands, boil in a pot of water (which takes out most of the nutrients), and lather in butter and salt.

The first step is to pick a healthy tasty corn on the cob at the store still in its husk. You need to peel away the very top of the husk to make sure the corn is not eaten away by bugs or dried up.

When you are ready to cook the corn, preheat your oven to about 425*F, wrap the corn (in the husk) in foil, and place the corn in the oven. Cook for about 20-30 minutes till the corn is slightly softer than uncooked (its hard to undercook or overcook corn this way). When you cook the corn in the husk, it stays moisturized and locks the flavors in, giving a roasted taste full of nutrients.

Let the corn, still wrapped in foil, cool for a minute, then unwrap the foil when cool enough to touch. Next, grab, with a towel or cloth, the very top of the corn, grabbing all the hairs and the husk, pulling straight down, then repeat for the other side, breaking the bottom off. The corn is now shucked and clean of any hairs in two easy pulls!
Now your ready to dress up your healthy nutritious corn up anyway you chose. However, this corn is tasty enough that no dressing up is needed. You could go with the good ole’ traditional option: butter and salt; or the new healthier and tasty option: lime juice and lightly sprinkled with Cayenne pepper (my husbands favorite!).

So enjoy summers favorite vegetable without all the hassle and mess!

Easy and quick yummy…

I have never been a fan of eggplant, but I bought it in hopes of finding a great recipe I would actually like. The consistency of eggplant normally turns me away from eating it. One day I was watching the Food Network and came across eggplant croutons, and it looked so yummy. I have made the eggplant croutons twice, and we love them, the consistency is crunch and soft, they are best on top of a hearty salad. The best salad dressing we found to go with these croutons was a Poppy Seed dressing, which is sweet and light, but any lighter dressing I think suits it best. The eggplant croutons are so simple and are such a great addition to so many meals. The eggplant croutons only take about 10 minutes or so. Hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

Eggplant Croutons
Ingredients:
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs (I use Italain for extra flavor, I also add in a little Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and onion powder)
Directions:
In three shallow dishes put egg, flour, and bread crumb mixture each in the seperate shallow dishes.
Heat oil in a deep pot on medium to high heat
First toss eggplant cubes in the egg, then lightly poweder them in the flour, then coat them well in the bread crumb mixture.
Fry croutons in the oil until golden.
Let drain on papertowels to soak up the oil.
Serve

We are going to try to them with marinara sauce, we’ll see how they turn out. Eggplant Croutons