Tortilla Soup

10-13-11 Dinner Blog

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup – Ya gotta love it!  So easy, so predictable, and so so tasty! Having made this earlier in the week, I just had to warm the soup and serve!

The days were getting more and more crazy.  I needed simplicity.  Serving soup out of a pot did the trick.

I cut and portioned an avocado across the four bowls, ladled soup in each bowl, sprinkled some cheese and tortilla strips and served! Ace!

Tortilla Soup - 4 Servings

The Verdict

An 11 rating across the board!  This soup is a winner!  The flavors mellow and the tortilla strips add great texture and crunch.  Ole!

Tortilla Soup Recipe

For 2 meals + lunches for 2 adults and 2 kids

Ingredients

10-12 Corn tortillas halved and thinly sliced

Canola or olive oil cooking spray

1 T Canola oil

3 Anaheim or poblano peppers diced

2 Peppers, red, yellow, or orange, diced

1 Onion, diced

2-3 t Ground cumin

2 1/2 lbs Boneless, skinless chicken breast (you can also use dark meat if you prefer)

8 C Low sodium chicken broth

1  – 14 oz Can diced tomatoes or other shelf stable container of diced tomatoes

1 – 14 oz Can diced tomatoes w chiles or buy a regular can of diced tomatoes and a 4 oz Can of chiles (I buy mild for the kids)

1 Bag of frozen corn

3 T Lime juice

1/2 C Cheddar cheese

1/4 C Cilantro, chopped

1 lime, sliced into wedges (optional but I usually include)

1 Ripe avocado (optional but yummy)

2 Very thinly sliced radishes (optional, but adds a great accent)

Salt as needed – wait until just before you serve to decide on if you should add any.  depending on the broth you use, you may not.  I always add a little bit and check.  Little bit and check.

Instructions

1.  Preheat oven to 400.

2. Thinly slice tortillas and place in a lightly sprayed roasting pan. Lightly spray and salt  the tortilla strips and put them in the oven.

3. Dice the peppers and onions,  checking on the tortilla strips every 4-5 minutes stirring them around and pulling the strips apart so they can get crispy faster.  The tortilla strips will take about 12-15 minutes.

Important to note:  steps 2 and three can be done earlier in the day or even a day ahead of time.  If you do pre-prep, be sure to store the tortilla strips in an air tight container.

4. Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat and add peppers and onions, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, 3-5 minutes.

5.  Add cumin and stir it in for one minute.  This allows the cumin to really soak in the peppers and onions. 95% of the work is done.

6. Add the tomatoes in their juices, broth, corn, and chicken.  Add the chicken breasts whole.  You will shred them once cooked.

7. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 min until chicken cooks through.

8. Pull each chicken breast out, one at a time.  I put the chicken in the lid of the soup pot to minimize dirty dishes and clean up.

9. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken.  Hold the chicken steady with one fork and shred the meat with the other.  Do this for each chicken breast, returning the shredded chicken to the pot before taking another breast out.

10. Taste test the soup and check to see if it needs salt.  If so, add a small bit, stir and taste.  A small bit, stir and taste, until you are satisfied.

11.  Add the lime juice, stir, and serve, with cilantro, lime wedge, avocado, radishes (if you added these two items),and baked tortilla strips.

12. Tortilla soup anywhere else will never taste the same…

P.S. The jackpot is that the soup will taste even better the next night or the night after, when all the flavors have mellowed further. You can even make the entire recipe one or two days ahead and save yourself a lot of time on “cooking day”.

Baked Chicken, Peas, Fruit, and Side Salad

10-12-11 Dinner Blog – Playing Catch Up

Baked Chicken, Peas, Fruit and Side Salad

Since late July, I have been working on a big project that I am very excited about. On 10-12-11, things really heated up, forcing me to put every spare moment toward the project and temporarily push my blog to the back seat. The first phase of my project ended last Saturday and now I am getting back to my blog! I have plenty to write about as since 10-12-11, I continued to prepare menus and make meals – but there was no time for my blog…

So wrapping up the menu from Oct 10-13:
10-12-11’s menu of baked chicken, peas, fruit and side salad worked. The family thought it a bit boring but it was tasty, rating it an 8. My daughter, quintessential wild card, rated it an 8 ¾!. It is hard when a delicately flavored chicken dish follows a flavorful meal like tortilla soup.

Baked Chicken, Peas, Fruit and Side Salad - Kids Portion

But from a Mom’s point-of-view, it was a fantastic meal! I had already baked the chicken on Monday when I made the chicken for the Chinese Chicken Salad. All I had to do was warm it up, and add some leftover Sweet Chili Sauce. I microwaved the peas, cut the pineapple, made a side salad, and served.

Baked Chicken, Peas, Fruit and Side Salad - 4 Servings

Recipe: Baked chicken, Peas, Fruit, and Side Salad
For 2 Adults and 2 Kids (plus a couple of lunches)

Ingredients
1.75 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast
Canola or Olive oil spray
Sweet chili sauce
Frozen Peas (enough for a family of 4)
Pineapple
Salad and fixings

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350

1. Wash and cut chicken into 3” pieces and place in a lightly sprayed roasting or baking pan.
2. Bake for 15 minutes
3. Cut pineapple, cook peas in microwave for 2-3 minutes, and make a small side salad with your choice of fixings. I used sunflower seeds and thinly sliced radishes. Portion the sides on plates.
4. Check chicken for doneness. If chicken springs back to the touch, like testing a cake for doneness, it is ready.
5. Serve!
6. If you are having chicken another night during the week, cook both portions of chicken the first night. It makes the second night all that much easier!

Tortilla Soup

10-11-11 Dinner Blog

Tortilla Soup

Tuesday Afternoon…

The pressure is on!  Tonight’s meal is Tortilla Soup – the benchmark of all benchmarks – the perfect 10 – actually the meal that gets an 11 out of 10!  Can I do it?!  I don’t know if I can take the pressure!

Basically by Monday evening around 8:30, I had the bulk of the meals prepared for the rest of the week!  Not bad!  Monday’s Chinese Chicken Salad was so easy to prepare and clean up, and knowing that on Tuesday I would be rolling in from carpools at about 6:45, I was going to have to have dinner ready beforehand.  So I pulled the Tortilla Soup together Monday night in about 15 minutes, letting it simmer for an additional 20 minutes.  Kids were doing homework – I was jostling my time between preparing the soup and helping my daughter on the computer with a project she is working on for school.  I also had one eye on my son to keep him focused on homework.  Tortilla Soup is a “super” easy preparation.  I washed the chicken, chopped the peppers, and put everything in the pot following the order in the recipe.  I brought the soup to a boil, simmered for 20 minutes, and stored it in the fridge. I also chopped the cilantro and radishes, storing them in the fridge so I wouldn’t have anything but the avocados to prepare at dinnertime.

Dinner Prep

It was 7:10 by the time I got home from carpool and made a second trip out to drop off shoes that were left in the back of my car. I preheated the oven to 450, put the soup pot on the stove and began slicing the corn tortillas into very thin strips.

Cutting Tortilla Strips for Tortilla Soup

I sprayed the bottom of two roasting pans and spread the tortilla strips out across the two pans. Then I sprayed a bit more canola oil, lightly sprinkle with salt and put in the oven, setting the timer for 5 minutes.

I got out the bowls and cut 2 avocados.  I pulled the cilantro, cheese and radishes out of the refrigerator.

Once the timer for the tortilla strips sounded, I pulled both pans out of the oven, mixed up the strips and put them back in the oven, switching racks and setting the timer for 5 more minutes.

At the 5 minute mark, I pulled the tortilla strips out of the oven and served the dinner!  First I put a bit of avocado in everyone’s bowl except for my son, who had his avocado on the side with a bit of salt.  Then I ladled the soup into each bowl, topping with cilantro, radish, and cheese.  The grand finale was a handful of baked tortilla strips on top.

3 Servings of Tortilla Soup Before Topping with Tortilla Strips

The Verdict:

It’s an 11!  Yes!  That is the nice thing about this recipe.  It is very repeatable.  My son and husband had 2 servings.  My daughter and I found one serving quite satisfying.  The kids requested Tortilla soup again tomorrow.  I had originally planned to serve it again on Thursday night, but who can turn down an 11 rating two nights in a row?!?


Chinese Chicken Salad

10-10-11 dinner blog

Chinese Chicken Salad

I did not do any pre-prep on Sunday because my Sunday was just too busy!  I was a bit worried about whether or not I would have enough time to get dinner on, but in my usual style, I just dove in and got going…

Dinner Prep

I started at 5:40, and after preheating the oven to 400, I washed and cut the chicken.  I place it in a lightly sprayed roasting pan and mixed in some of the Island Teriyaki Marinade (soy sauce, pineapple, garlic, and onion) that I purchased at the store.

I also made a second roasting pan of chicken with the Sweet Chili Sauce that was leftover from a couple of weeks ago.  I plan to use this chicken on Wednesday but cooked it ahead of time which will come in handy.

I put both in roasting pans in the oven for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, I cut and washed the romaine, cut some oranges, and a tomato, and made the crunchies that go on top of the salad.

For the Crunchies:

I melted ¼ C butter (I used Earth Balance) in a pan.  Then I added plain Ramen Noodles, crunched into bits.  I don’t use the seasoning packet – I just throw it away.  Stir on medium heat until the noodles begin to brown.  Then add 1 C almonds and ¼ C sesame seeds.  Stir quickly and remove from heat.

Once the chicken is done, it is time to build the salad.  First portion greens on each plate. Then add some cut up oranges, green onions if you include them, and tomatoes, followed by chicken pieces.  I usually arrange the chicken in a star because I think it looks appealing. (I have always thought that if food looks good, people (including kids), are more excited about trying it.)  Then I poured a small amount of Chinese Chicken Salad dressing on top.  Many are high in calories and fat so read labels when you choose your dressing, and go easy on the pouring.  Lastly, top with the crunchies.

Salad before the crunchies…

Chinese Chicken Salad Before Adding the Crunchies

Salad with the crunchies…

Chinese Chicken Salad With The Crunchies

The Verdict

My husband and daughter loved the dinner and gave it a 9.5.  My son said he liked it but it wasn’t as good as my past Chinese Chicken Salads…  In thinking about his comment, 2 things were different – 1) I didn’t put any green onion in.  I forgot to add it to my grocery list; and 2) Mandarins are not in season so I used Valencia oranges but they were not as sweet as the Mandarins.  Other than that the recipe was the same.  Perhaps his taste buds are off?!!? Interestingly, I am eating it again for lunch (right now), and it tastes great!

3 Servings of Chinese Chicken Salad

Recipe

Chinese Chicken Salad

For 2 Adults and 2 Kids

Ingredients:

1.75 lbs. of Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (enough for a couple of lunches too)

3/4 C Island Teriyaki Sauce

4 Oranges

2 Green onions (green part only)

1 Tomato

¼ – 1/3 C Butter or Earth Balance

2 packs of Ramen Noodles – Noodles only – discard the seasoning packet

¾ C Sliced Almonds

¼ C Sesame Seeds

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400

  1. Wash and cut the chicken and place in a lightly sprayed roasting pan.
  2. Pour Island Teriyaki sauce on top and mix.
  3. Cook in oven for 15 minutes.
  4. In the meantime wash and cut romaine, oranges, green onion, and tomato
  5. Separately, melt the butter and add crushed Ramen Noodles.
  6. Once noodles begin to brown, add sliced almonds, and sesame seeds, mix, and remove from heat.
  7. Build the salad, beginning with a portion of greens, topping with oranges, green onion, tomato, and chicken.
  8. Lightly add dressing and top with crunchies.
  9. Serve and get excited about having another serving at lunch tomorrow!

Oct 10-13 Weekly Menu and Master Shopping List

 It’s Shop on Sunday or bust.  The next two weeks are going to be really busy as I push a big project to close. As I look at my calendar, I will need meals I can prepare ahead of time, or VERY, VERY quickly, given the upcoming weekday schedule.

My kids have some requests, which I have worked into this week’s schedule.  Oldies but goodies…

Weekly Menu

Monday: Chinese Chicken Salad

Tuesday: Tortilla Soup

Wednesday: Baked chicken, Peas, Fruit, and Side Salad

Thursday: Tortilla Soup – The encore presentation!

Master Shopping List

Entrees

5.0 lbs. Boneless skinless chicken breast

Vegetables

3 Anaheim peppers

2 Bell peppers

1 Large onion

1 Bunch, cilantro

4 Radishes

Romaine Lettuce, 1 large or 3 small heads

4 Tomatoes

1 pint Cherry Tomatoes

Fruit

3 T Lime Juice

1 Lime

2 Avocados

6 Mandarins or 3 larger oranges

Fruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner:

5 Pears

8 Apples

1 Pineapple

Grapes

Bananas

Dry Goods

Canola oil or olive oil spray

2 t Ground cumin

8 C Chicken broth, one low sodium

1 28 oz. Can or shelf stable container of diced tomatoes

1 4 oz. Can mild chiles

Salt

Island Teriyaki Marinade

2 Packs Ramen Noodles (noodles only – throw seasoning packet away)

½ C Slivered almonds

1/8 C Sesame seeds

Dairy

¼ C Butter or vegetable spread

Frozen

1 Bag frozen corn

1 Bag frozen peas

Bakery

10-12 Corn Tortillas (or you can use flour if you prefer)

Final Oct 3-6 Weekly Menu and Master Shopping List

Roasted Chicken, Apples, Leeks, with Pumpkin and a Side Salad

This menu works – it was easy and delicious.  I like the new recipes and will definitely keep them in my collection with a couple of changes.  Thank you Real Simple!

1) Regarding the Winter Lentil Soup, you probably don’t have to double the recipe as I did.  The recipe says it serves 6, but I think making the recipe as it was written originally, would easily serve 2 adults and 2 kids (with hearty appetites) for 2 meals – especially if you are going to put it over pasta the second time you serve it.

2) Also, depending on your time, you might do half leeks and half onion (purchased pre-chopped) in the Winter Lentil Soup to save yourself some time.

3) If you choose to make the tomatillo salsa for the chicken enchilada recipe, I would add mango if you are not going to put in jalapeno.  Even if you are purchasing a jar of salsa verde, you might consider adding mango for a change of pace.

Consider shopping this “simple” menu or another menu from a previous week.  Let me know how it goes!

Winter Lentil Soup

Final Weekly Menu – Inspired From Real Simple’s “Easy, Delicious Meals Cookbook”:

Monday: Roasted Chicken, Apples, Pears, and Leeks, Pumpkin, and Side Salad

Tuesday: Winter Lentil Soup with Apple-Cinnamon Muffins or scones or bread

Wednesday: Chicken Enchiladas, with Salsa, and Fruit

Thursday: Winter Lentils over Pasta with Pears, Pumpkin and Side Salad

Chicken Enchiladas (or Burritos) with Fruit and Cherry Tomatoes

Regarding the shopping list, some have mentioned that the list is too spaced out and it prints on several pages.  I apologize for that.  I am working on the next phase of the website and plan to take care of this problem.  Until then, if you copy and paste the list from the website to a word document, you can go to “Format” on your toolbar, click on “Paragraph”, and set the “after spacing” to 0.  Then you can reduce the font size.  This will help minimize the number of pages until I get the next phase of Busy Lives Healthy Eats finished. Thanks for your patience!

Winter Lentil Soup Over Pasta, Steamed Pumpkin, Pears, and a Side Salad

Final Master Shopping List

For 2 Adults and 2 Kids

Entrees

3.0 lbs. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2.0 lbs. Chicken legs

Vegetables/ Fresh Herbs

4 Leeks

2 Small zucchini, diced (optional – only if you are making the tomatillo salsa)

2 Small red onions (1 is optional – only if you are making the tomatillo salsa)

1 Small cooking pumpkin

3 Sweet potatoes

1 Bunch kale

Greens for salad

Tomatoes and other salad fixings – I purchased avocado, cherry tomatoes, figs, regular tomatoes, and carrots

2 Small sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 T Fresh thyme

Optional for homemade salsa made in a food processor for Wednesday night. Or you can save time and just buy salsa verde in a jar:

1 lb. Tomatillos

1 Jalapeno (I am only going to use 1/3 of one)

1 C Fresh cilantro

1 T Fresh lime juice

Fruit

6 Crisp apples (Braeburn, or other)

4 Pears (Bartlett or Bosc)

1-2 Mangos (optional for tomatillo salsa – you can also add to jarred salsa verde for a nice twist)

2-3 Avocados

Extra or other Fruit for breakfast and lunch – I purchased 5 kiwis, 1 small watermelon (last of the season), and extra apples and pears

Dry Goods

3 T Olive oil

Canola oil spray

Shell pasta

1 28-Ounce can whole tomatoes, drained – or other non-canned shelf stable tomatoes

1/2  C Brown lentils

Dr. Oetker’s Apple Cinnamon muffin mix (or other muffin mix – feel free to buy bread, or make something from scratch if you are so moved…)

Salt

Pepper

Dairy

1 ½ C Grated cheddar or Monterey cheese (from cow or goat’s milk)

½ C Plain yogurt (from cow or goat or vegan)

½ C Grated parmesan or manchenga cheese

Frozen

½ C Corn (from ear or frozen and thawed) (optional – only if you are making the tomatillo salsa)

Bakery

12 Tortillas (corn or flour)

Recipes

The Recipe

Roasted Chicken, Apples, and Leeks Pumpkin and a Side Salad

From Real Simple’s Easy Delicious Meals

Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids for 2 meals – or reinvent the chicken the second night and make enchiladas or tacos.

Kid's Portion of Roasted Chicken, Apples, Leeks, Pumpkin and a Side salad

Ingredients:

4 Apples, quartered

4 Pears, quartered

2 Leeks (white and light green parts), halved crosswise and lengthwise

6 Small sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 T Olive oil

1 t Kosher salt

¼ t Pepper

3.0 lbs. Boneless skinless chicken breasts

2.0 lbs. Drumsticks, skin peeled off

Greens for salad and toppings

Pumpkin (already steamed in the oven and scooped from the shell)

For the pumpkin:

¼ t Cinnamon

¼ t Salt

1 t Butter/ Earth Balance margarine

¾ T Maple syrup

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400

  1. Lightly spray olive oil in two large roasting pans.
  2. Add the apples, pears, leeks, salt, and pepper, and spray lightly again.
  3. Add the chicken and rosemary and spray lightly again and nestle the chicken into the fruit and leek mixture.
  4. Roast the chicken for 30-40 minutes.
  5. While chicken is cooking prepare a side salad with salad toppings and low-fat salad dressing, and prepare the pumpkin.
  6. Warm pumpkin in the microwave with cinnamon and salt.
  7. Add butter and maple syrup to the pumpkin and mix well.
  8. Once chicken is ready, warm pumpkin mixture and serve!
  9. See if this recipe doesn’t have “Fall Harvest” written all over it!

The Recipe

Winter Lentil Soup

From Real Simple’s Easy, Delicious Meals

Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids for 2 Meals

Serving Winter Soup

Ingredients:

1 T Olive oil

6 Leeks, washed and cut into 1/4 “ half-moons

2 28 oz cans of tomatoes

2 Sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces

1 Bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into ½ “ wide strips

1 C Lentils

2 T Fresh thyme

2 t Kosher salt

¼ t Pepper

½ C Grated cheese (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot.
  2. Add leeks and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and cook for 5 more minutes.
  4. Add 12 C water and bring to a boil.
  5. While waiting for soup to boil, call mom, or anyone else who is not afraid to tell you the truth,
  6. Once boiled, add sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, thyme, salt and pepper to the soup.
  7. Simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.
  8. While soup is in its final simmer, make muffins, scones, or slice some bread to serve with soup.
  9. Ladle into bowls and serve with grated cheese if desired.

Recipe for Chicken Enchiladas

From Real Simple’s Easy, Delicious Meals 

Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids

How to Fold a Burrito

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs of chicken, cooked

1.5 C Cheese, grated

2 Avocados, chopped

1.5 C Salsa, homemade or from a jar

2 Small zucchini, chopped

1 Small onion. Chopped

½ C plain yogurt (optional)

Optional – Tomatillo Salsa (made in food processor)

1 lb. Tomatillos, papery husks removed

1 Jalapeno, seeded and/or 1 mango, chopped

1 C Fresh cilantro

1 T Lime juice

If your kids are not big zucchini or onion fans, put the zucchini and onions into the food processor and add to the salsa.

Instructions:

Make Ahead:

  1. If you choose to make the tomatillo salsa, put all ingredients in food processor (except mango).
  2. Pulse until finely chopped.
  3. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Dinner Prep

Preheat oven to 400:

  1. Get chicken, cheese, avocados, salsa and tortillas out of the refrigerator.
  2. Shred chicken with 2 forks.
  3. Mix Chicken, cheese, avocado and salsa together in a big bowl.  Add zucchini and onion to mixture if not in the salsa.
  4. Warm tortillas on a griddle.
  5. Spoon a generous, rounded, ½ C of the chicken mixture onto the tortilla.
  6. For flour tortillas, which are larger, fold the sides of the tortilla in, fold up the bottom flap and roll.
  7. For corn tortillas, which are smaller, roll the bottom flap up and roll, making an open-ended tube shape.
  8. Repeat until tortillas and chicken mixture have been used.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  10. Add some fruit or a side salad to the plates while chicken is cooking.
  11. Serve!

Recipe for Warm Winter Lentil Soup Over Pasta, Pumpkin, Fruit, and Side Salad

Inspired from Real Simple’s Easy, Delicious Meals

Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids

3 Servings of Winter Lentil Soup Over Pasta, Steamed Pumpkin, Pears and Side Salad

Ingredients:

Pasta

2 ½ C Winter Lentil Soup

Side Salad

Fruit

Pumpkin

Instructions:

  1. Make pasta according to package directions.
  2. Warm Winter Lentil Soup from earlier in the week.
  3. Warm pumpkin from earlier in the week.
  4. Make side salad
  5. Add some seasonal fruit
  6. Serve!

Winter Lentil Soup Over Pasta, Steamed Pumkin, Pears and a Side Salad

10-6-11 Dinner Blog

Winter Lentil Soup Over Pasta, Steamed Pumpkin, Pears, and a Side Salad

Dinner Prep

This was an easy meal to put together. The soup and squash were already prepared and I had made the pasta earlier in the day, as I knew dinnertime was going to be crunch time.

15 minutes before we were ready to sit down, I warmed the soup on the stove, and the pasta and squash, (separately), in the microwave.  While I was warming everything up, I cut 2 pears and made a green salad with carrots, tomatoes, figs and fresh thyme leftover from the soup recipe, topping the salad with no oil balsamic vinaigrette.  Once the soup was warm, I portioned some pasta and topped it with the soup, being careful not to pour too much of the liquid on the plate.  I served the meal, offering grated Manchenga cheese (from sheep’s milk).  You could use cheddar or Parmesan.

3 Servings of Winter Lentil Soup Over Pasta, Steamed Pumpkin, Pears and Side Salad

The Verdict
I never cease to be amazed!  My son rated it an 8, saying it was really good but one serving of that soup a week was good enough for him.  My husband rated it a nine, saying it was delicious and he really enjoyed the novelty of having the soup over noodles.  My daughter LOVED it and gave it a 9.7!  (I did go lightly on the kale for her portion.) She loves pasta and asked if I would add noodles to the soup recipe when we have it as soup.

I really liked the reinvention of putting the soup over the pasta.  The flavors in the soup had time to mellow and it was delicious as a “sauce” over pasta.

I still have some soup left which I will use this weekend for lunches. …My son may be having peanut butter and jelly instead…

Chicken Enchilada (or Burrito), with Fruit and Cherry Tomatoes

10-5-11 Dinner Blog

Chicken Enchiladas (or Burritos) with Fruit and Cherry Tomatoes

Everything happens for a reason.

Some of neatest inventions have come about “by mistake”.  Take Mrs. Wakefield, for example, owner of the “Toll House Inn” in 1930, who substituted broken chocolate pieces for cocoas powder one day, thinking the chocolate would permeate the entire cookie.  It didn’t and Toll House Cookies were born.

Our mistake with Wednesday night’s meal doesn’t promise fame or riches, but it was a good one.  On Sunday when I was pre-prepping for the week, my husband wanted to help. This is a topic for a different day, but Busy Lives Healthy Eats has gotten the interest of everyone in the family and they all want to be involved!  Nice!  Anyway, knowing that it was easy and used a food processor, (machines are manly), I gave him the recipe for the chicken enchiladas and asked him to make the tomatillo salsa. (This is an optional part of the recipe – you can substitute salsa verde or any salsa if time and energy are in question.)

My husband busied himself with a few quick chops and quickly reported he was done.  I was surprised at how much salsa it made!  Wow!  All that from 10 tomatillos!  It took me a minute to figure out that the zucchini, onion, and corn, that was supposed to go in the enchilada whole, was now pulsed to a pulp in the salsa.  YIKES!  But my initial sense of alarm, was tempered by the fact that a) I was getting help in the kitchen; and b) This might be a chance to create my own Jessica Seinfeld recipe – lemonade from lemons!

Wednesday Night Dinner Prep

It was 4:30 and I had some time. I got out my ‘salsa’ and all the other ingredients for dinner.  First, I shredded 1.5 lbs of the chicken from Monday’s dinner and cut up 2 avocados.  Then I mixed 1.5 C grated cheese, 1.5 C ‘salsa’, 1.5 lbs. shredded chicken, and the 2 avocados in a large bowl, and scooped some of the mixture  into warmed whole wheat tortillas.

How to Fold a Burrito

And with a few minutes left until the chicken was done, I laid out plates, portioning some watermelon and few cherry tomatoes that are plentiful right now.

Baking the enchiladas *or burritos)

Once the chicken was done, I gave everyone one burrito, spooning some salsa on top.

The Verdict

The first bite, yielded some constructive criticism.  The kids thought it was good but bland.  I agreed and was very disappointed.  The original recipe called for 1 jalapeno.  Knowing my kids, that was not going to fly, so I left it out.  Bland was the result.  But fear not, my son had the answer!  “I think it needs mango”, he said.  As luck would have it, I had purchased a mango when I shopped on Sunday!  So. asking the kids to stop eating for a minute, I raced to cut and chop a mango, mixed it in with the salsa, and waited impatiently while everyone tasted their “new” meal.

“New and improved”!  My son and daughter both gave it a 9.5.  My husband who came home later and was immediately given the new and improved salsa gave it a 10!  The mistake of putting all the enchilada ingredients (except for the cheese and chicken) in a food processor was far from a mistake.  Rather than layering all the ingredients on the tortilla, I just put one scoop!  And because the zucchini was blended in, and it just looked like salsa, everyone ate it with smiles!  Thanks Jessica! Perhaps I should try broccoli in their next time!

The watermelon was sweet but the tomatoes were even sweeter!  They tasted like candy! – Really!  My son took some in his school lunch on Thursday!

And the pumpkin?  I totally forgot about it warming in the microwave.  Oh well, everyone was quite satisfied with their dinner – one burrito each and some fruit was more than enough.  Pumpkin is on the menu for Thursday night!

Winter Lentil Soup

10-4-11 Dinner Blog

Winter Lentil Soup

Another day like Monday!  I did not get home to even start dinner until 5:45! Pre-prep to the rescue!

Dinner Prep

First, I heated the oil in a soup pot and added the leeks and some leftover chopped onions I had in the fridge, for about 3-4 minutes.  Next I added the tomatoes and cooked for another 5 minutes.  Then I added 12 C water and brought to a boil.

There’s a lot of down time in this recipe. While I waited for my soup to boil, I could have done laundry, but I talked to my mom instead – procrastination at its best…

Once the soup was boiling, and feeling really good about how easy and mindless this recipe was, I added the sweet potato, kale, lentils, thyme, salt and pepper, simmering for about 30 minutes.  Uh oh, my menu called for apple-cinnamon muffins.  It is a really easy muffin mix, but I didn’t put that on my shopping list. I had forgotten to purchase the mix!  YIKES!

Time for “Plan B”:  I have a recipe for easy scones and decided that was the next best option.  It is a very easy and quick recipe so I jumped on it and made them.  It took about 25 minutes total.  As I finished the scones, the soup was ready…

Once the kids were home from their activities, about 7:15, (my husband was late and would eat dinner later), I served the soup and scones.

Serving Winter Soup

The Verdict:

The ratings are always interesting.  My son rated the soup a 9, and had a bit more soup.  My daughter, who was not crazy about seeing the kale in the soup, had this to say, “When I eat a spoonful that does not have the green stuff in it, it’s a 9.  When I eat a spoonful that does have the green stuff, it is a 7 ½.  I explained that the “green stuff” is kale, and that it has a lot of great health benefits, but it didn’t change her ratings.  My husband, who came home later and ate dinner separately, rated the soup a 9.

Big surprise:  They rated the scones a 10!

I also really enjoyed the soup.  It is a great opportunity to incorporate kale – the flavor of the soup is very mellow.  While you see the kale – and my daughter is not a fan of this, – it does not have a distinctive flavor.  It will be nice to make this again this winter.

But despite the downtime, my total time, from start to sit down was about 50 minutes due to cook times.  Previously, I may have tried to turn this into a crock pot recipe, but thinking about my mini lesson with chef Melanie, this might be a dish where flavors get cooked out.

Possible solution: For nights when I know my schedule is going to be busy – like Monday or many of the days last week – it would be great to make the soup the night before, leave in the fridge and just warm up the next night.  Something to think about …  If you have the pioneer instinct, try making this soup ahead of time, when you have time,  and let me know how it goes!

The Recipe

Winter Lentil Soup

From Real Simple’s Easy, Delicious Meals

For 2 Adults and 2 Kids for 2 Meals

Ingredients:

1 T Olive oil

6 Leeks, washed and cut into 1/4 “ half-moons

2 28 oz cans of tomatoes

2 Sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces

1 Bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into ½ “ wide strips

1 C Lentils

2 T Fresh thyme

2 t Kosher salt

¼ t Pepper

½ C Grated cheese (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot.
  2. Add leeks and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and cook for 5 more minutes.
  4. Add 12 C water and bring to a boil.
  5. While waiting for soup to boil, call mom, or anyone else who is not afraid to tell you the truth,
  6. Once boiled, add sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, thyme, salt and pepper to the soup.
  7. Simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.
  8. Ladle into bowls and serve with grated cheese if desired.

Roasted Chicken, Apples and Leeks, with Pumpkin and a Side Salad.

10-3-11 Dinner Blog

Roasted Chicken, Apples, Leeks, with Pumpkin and a Side Salad

Sunday Pre-Prep

I shopped and prepped for the week on Sunday.  While I normally only spend about 45 minutes prepping, I actually spent just over an hour this time.

Washed and cut all the leeks

Peeled and cut the sweet potatoes

Washed and cut the kale

Washed and cut the chicken

Made the tomatillo salsa for Wednesday

Baked the pumpkin

Why the extra time?  I blame it on the leeks and the kale!  Because the soup and chicken recipes serve 6 and 4 respectively, and I plan to serve variations of these meals on two different nights, I had to pro-rate my ingredients, which left me washing and cutting 8 leeks!  I did not add any additional kale, but washing each leaf and cutting the stem out, is a bit time intensive.

That said, kale is soooo healthy and I know I do not serve enough of it so I am not ready to abandon the kale.  Keeping the kale in the recipe and taking the time to prepare it might be worth it.  The flavor of the soup and my family’s ratings will be the test.  But I am wondering whether or not I could do a combination of leeks and onions instead of having to prep all those leeks. Onions I can purchase pre-chopped, which would reduce my prep time.  More on that later…

Monday Dinner Prep

Thank goodness I shopped and prepped on Sunday.  My day was packed with meetings, volunteer work at school, and carpooling.  I started with my first meeting at 8:30 and didn’t come home to start dinner until 5:40.  My son and I had another meeting at 7 so I was going to have to get going!

I pre-heated the oven to 400, laid out two roasting pans and lightly sprayed olive oil (you can substitute canola oil spray).  I cut the apples and pears and then dumped them along with the leeks and rosemary in the roasting pans, lightly salting and mixing them together.

Moments from putting the Roasted Chicken, Apples, Pears, and Leeks in the oven

The chicken came next which I nestled among the fruit and leeks. I sprayed a bit more olive oil to make sure the chicken was coated, and then popped the trays in the oven for about 35 minutes.

While I was waiting for the chicken, I made a side salad with tomatoes and avocado, and lightly drizzled no oil salad dressing.  For my husband and I also sprinkled some raw granola and sprayed a bit of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Then I got one container of pumpkin out of the fridge.

(On Sunday, I had done most of the pumpkin pre-prep. I had cut the pumpkin, scooped out the seeds, and baked each half, flat side down, in a roasting pan with 1/2” of water for about an hour. Once I could pierce the skin of the pumpkin easily with a fork, I knew it was done.  I let it cool a bit, which also gave time for some of the steam in the pumpkin to evaporate. Lastly, I scooped the meat out of the shell and stored it in two containers in the fridge.)

So getting the pumpkin on the plates last night was easy! I spooned the pumpkin into a bowl, adding ¼ t cinnamon, ¼ t salt, and warming for 1 ½ minutes in the microwave.  Then I added 1 t “butter” (I used Earth Balance, a plant based margarine), and ¾ T maple syrup and stirred everything together.

Once the chicken was ready, I warmed the pumpkin again for 1 minute in the microwave and served the meal, grinding a bit of pepper on the adult servings of chicken.

Serving Roasted Chicken, Apples, Leeks, Pumpkin and a Side Salad

The Verdict

9’s all around!  My daughter had the highest rating of a 9.25…  Everyone felt the chicken was very flavorful and the cooked, soft fruit was a hit. They also ate the leeks and never even asked about them, but if you think your kids would object, just serve the chicken and fruit and leave off the leeks.  As for the pumpkin, it was a show stealer – everyone LOVED it and said it reminded them of pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving!

…And a bountiful dinner it was!

Kid's Portion of Roasted Chicken, Apples, Leeks, Pumpkin and a Side salad

The Recipe

From Real Simple’s Easy Delicious Meals

Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids for 2 meals – or reinvent the chicken the second night and make enchiladas or tacos.

Ingredients:

4 Apples, quartered

4 Pears, quartered

2 Leeks (white and light green parts), halved crosswise and lengthwise

6 Small sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 T Olive oil

1 t Kosher salt

¼ t Pepper

3.0 lbs. Boneless skinless chicken breasts

2.0 lbs. Drumsticks, skin peeled off

Greens for salad and toppings

Pumpkin (already steamed in the oven and scooped from the shell)

For the pumpkin:

¼ t Cinnamon

¼ t Salt

1 t Butter/ Earth Balance margarine

¾ T Maple syrup

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400

  1. Lightly spray olive oil in two large roasting pans.
  2. Add the apples, pears, leeks, salt, and pepper, and spray lightly again.
  3. Add the chicken and rosemary and spray lightly again and nestle the chicken into the fruit and leek mixture.
  4. Roast the chicken for 30-40 minutes.
  5. While chicken is cooking prepare a side salad with salad toppings and low fat salad dressing, and prepare the pumpkin.
  6. Warm pumpkin in the microwave with cinnamon and salt.
  7. Add butter and maple syrup to the pumpkin and mix well.
  8. Once chicken is ready, warm pumpkin mixture and serve!
  9. See if this recipe doesn’t have “Fall Harvest” written all over it!