Saturday, May 24, 2014

What's cookin'? - Spicy Fish Taco Bowls

I hate fish.

I really do.
I mean, I love shellfish clams, crab, lobster...

But regular fish is not my friend.

I know every health book/website/doctor tells you to eat more fish.

 I just can't do it.

In fact, when I do buy it (because I know it's better for us) it's always the last thing I resort to. It gets pushed aside and looked over in the freezer all the time. When it's the last thing available, I always find some reason to get out of cooking dinner! ("Darn! I forgot we had to eat...! Let's order a pizza instead!")

I mean, my family likes it. It's just me. I usually have the smallest piece available when I do cook it, and even then I have to close my eyes and just swallow.

I have prepared many different types of fish many different ways... flounder, sole, whiting, tuna steaks, haddock... Baked, broiled, fried, aluminum-packet-on-the-grill... Yuk, yuk and more yuk!

I'll have to tell you, I finally found something that makes fish palatable (for me, anyway!).

Cover the fish taste - I found a winner!

Spicy fish taco bowls
It's actually healthy and delicious!
Brown rice, corn, black beans, red bell peppers, avocados, and tilapia .

4 tilapia fillets
2T olive oil
1T cumin
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1t chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 avocado, cut in small pieces
1 lemon
2c cooked brown rice

• In a small bowl mix cumin, cayenne pepper and chili powder. Rub generously on both sides of tilapia fillets.

• Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add fish to the skillet, cook for about three minutes on each side. (You want to make sure it gets almost blackened, and that the fish is cooked through - inside it should be white.)

• Remove fish from skillet and shred, using two forks.

• In the same skillet add: garlic, green onions, corn, and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring a few times (you want the corn to start browning, looking like it is roasted)

• Add the beans and heat through.
(Isn't it pretty?)

• To serve: layer rice, corn/bean mixture, fish, avocados and sprinkle with fresh lemon juice.

A little fresh cilantro would be great as well!

Yaaa! A fish dish I finally enjoy!

May "2/5/15" class - Clean and Simple (CAS)

For the May 2/5/15 class, I went back to basics!

This popular class was originally named a "10/10/10". The premise was that you make 10 cards for $10 - each card was able to be made in just 10 minutes. (Boy, did it stress people out when I set a timer for the first class!)

But I digress...

Simple cards!
My class has evolved over the years to what it is today: making two each of five different designs for $15 (hence, "2/5/15"). Still a bargain at that price and you can save one card for your files and give one away!

Those who have been "regulars" of my class know that it is quite  a challenge for me to keep it very simple! I always want to show you some new product, technique, use ribbon, a cool embellishment, or multiple layers.

Well, this month I finally did it!

I kept it simple!

I looked for inspiration on the Internet... I have a board on Pinterest labeled "Stamping/CAS". When you see something labeled like that it stands for "clean and simple". 

Minimal, yet still beautiful.

Quickly done, yet striking.

These cards garnered good feedback comments at the class. I hope you feel the same way!
Stamps: Best of Flowers (a smaller version of an image from Upsy Daisy)
Card stock: Whisper White, Wisteria Wonder
Ink: Wisteria Wonder
Accessories: paper piercing pack -  essentials, Adorning Accents Textured Impressions Embossing Folder, sponge dauber 
(The Best of Flowers set was part of the 25-Year Celebration and is unfortunately no longer available to purchase)

Stamps: Daydream Medallion,  Sassy Salutations
Card stock: Whisper White (butterflies varied)
Ink: Basic Black
Accessories: rhinestones, Beautiful Wings embosslit

These next two cards were both made using the Wetlands stamp set.

The first card was done on Very Vanilla card stock. We used two markers: Cajun Craze and Always Artichoke.

The second card was done on Pool Party cards stock. These we used a Basic Gray ink pad and a corner rounder. The sentiment is from a retired set.

Finally, we used the Mosaic product bundle - the Mosaic Madness stamp set and matching punch:

This card is very "Pinteresting"....

The original idea came from my "CAS" board. I changed the original colors to Bermuda Bay, Basic Black and Gold - one of the pins I have on my "color combo" board.
Some paper piercing, a sentiment from Morning Meadow hostess set, and the Itty Bitty flower punch (with a pearl) complete the card!

Clean and simple (CAS)!
The next 2/5/15 class will be held on Friday, June 27. I offer two sessions for your convenience: 4:30 PM and 6:30 PM.

The deadline to sign-up is Wednesday the 25th at noon.

Hope to see you there! I will have the NEW CATALOG those who want a copy!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What's Cookin'? - Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Stuffed Shells

Had this one tonight.

So easy!

So good!

Liked by all!

It's a keeper!

In fact, I like this recipe because you could probably prepare it all ahead of time so it would be easy to put together quickly for a weeknight meal.

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Stuffed Shells


• 2c shredded cooked chicken
• 2c cooked chopped broccoli, drained
• 1c shredded cheddar cheese
• 1/4c shredded Parmesan cheese
• 1 jar Alfredo sauce (16 oz.)
• 1 1/2-2c jar spaghetti sauce
• 1 box jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained


• Cook chicken and shred with two forks (I always poach mine, see directions below.)
• Cook broccoli according to package, drain
• Cook pasta shells in boiling water according to package directions, drain

• In a large bowl, mix together: shredded chicken, cheeses, broccoli and Alfredo sauce

• Pour tomato sauce into bottom of 13 x 9 casserole dish

• Fill shells with chicken mixture using a spoon (or a cookie scoop makes it easier!)
• Cover pan with foil and bake 35 minutes in a 350° oven.

** How to poach chicken - Whenever a recipe calls for cooked chicken, I usually follow the simple poaching method:
•Put chicken in a pot; add enough water to cover chicken by 1 inch. 
•Over medium high heat, bring water to a boil.
• Cover pot and remove from heat. Let stand 20 minutes.
use this method with any amount of chicken, and I also use it with the frozen breasts that you get in a bag (no thawing needed) and it is always cooked through!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What's cookin'? - Beef and homemade "refried" bean burritos

I love refried beans!
Growing up, I always had them with my mother's homemade Spanish rice (my grandfather was from Mexico) and tortillas. But they were out of a can...
 If that's not enough, refried beans are typically made with lard. 

Fattening, fattening, fattening!

Maybe refried beans are an acquired taste - I don't know. My family doesn't share my affection for the legumes. They're always the food item that's left on the plate at a Mexican restaurant (at least in my family). I usually take my guys' plates and scoop them up! I use a fork, spoon, tortilla chip - whatever! I'm the opposite of them - I leave the rice behind because it never compares to my mother's recipe!

Of course with two boys (three, if you count my husband) this always spurs a chorus of "Beans, beans they're good for your heart..." 

Never a dull moment in my family, I tell ya.

When I  was studying in Mexico, on my way to becoming a Spanish teacher, I grew accustomed to refried beans at ever almost every meal. We ate them aside meat dishes. They are a staple in traditional dishes like tostadas or chilaquiles. They showed up, too, in the most odd places... along side your fried eggs... 
on top of tortilla chips as a free appetizer at the bar.... 
And I thought, "hey, aren't you supposed to get salsa with those chips?" Apparently it's beans. Nationwide. That never changed.

And why not? Beans are cheap. It's easy to cook them, mash them up, and cook them again with some lard.

Well, I stumbled upon a recipe that made my beloved refried beans without all the fat and added ingredients that come in the can! Even better, they are made in the crockpot!

You can't go wrong with these "refried" beans made in the crockpot! Try them!

*Beans are full of fiber!
*Beans are packed with proteins!
*Beans are fat free!
*Beans are cheap! (Dried, in a bag)
*"Refried" beans freeze well, so you can make a big batch and use them in all different kinds of meals!


First, I will give you the recipe for the crockpot beans. Then I will share with you how to use them in a meal - beef and bean burritos. You'll love them both!
"Refried" beans in the crockpot
As you can see we got this picture from the website from which I also found the recipe. You really should check out this girl's blog! She is a very frugal and healthy cook! She usually gives you to breakdown cost of each serving! (Math is definitely not my strong point so I will refrain from doing that!)

*Makes about 16 cups

2 lbs pinto beans
1 large onion, chopped
4 Tbsp. jarred minced garlic
*Up to 2 1/2 Tbsp salt (This is the absolute max if you don't pre-soak your beans.)
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cumin
10 cups hot water

* You can use as little as 1 Tbsp. of salt

•Rinse the beans in a colander. Pick out any bad beans. (Sometimes there is a small stone in there by mistake, or I look for discolored, deformed, or  halved beans.)

•Combine all the ingredients in the crockpot. Remove any floating beans. Cover, and cook on HIGH for 4 hours and on LOW for 2 hours.

•Uncover, and remove extra liquid. Leave enough liquid to reach the desired consistency when the beans are mashed. 

•Mash beans with a potato masher to desired consistency. 

•Serve warm. Store in air-tight containers in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks, or freeze in ziplock bags for later use.
Now you know how to make them, and that they are a tasty accompaniment to many foods!

Let me show you how I used them one night....

I made these:
Beef and bean burritos

• Brown 2 pounds ground beef. Drain (leave a little grease for flavor)
• add spices** (add a little splash of water if it appears too dry)
• stir in one can red enchilada sauce

• On a flour tortilla, layer:
* shredded cheddar cheese
* Refried beans
* meat

• roll up tortilla, tucking in ends
(Don't you love how you can find any image on the Internet? I do!)

• Top with:
* additional enchilada sauce or salsa
* additional cheese (you can zap it in the microwave at this point in order to melt cheese)
* a dollop of sour cream
* chopped cilantro

** I make my own taco seasoning mix because it is cheaper and also I can control the salt: (1T each of garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and ground cumin, PLUS 1/4-1/2T crushed red pepper)
Make sure you store your spice mix in an airtight container. I use mine all the time!

Buen provecho !

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What's cookin'? - Simple Shrimp

Tonight's meal had sort-of Italian flair.

It started out being based on a recipe I had found on the Internet for "Clean Eating Italian Shrimp". Clean eating means eating more plant-based foods or not eating any processed foods in your diet. I don't fully subscribe to the "clean eating" diet, however, I am always looking for recipes that use fresh ingredients as opposed to processed foods. But every now and then, I will used a canned ingredient. It's simply faster.

This simple shrimp dish was the cornerstone of our dinner. It seemed fast, easy and tasty - the "triple threat".
Because it uses some spices and ingredients common in Italian cooking, I decided that the other foods accompanying the shrimp would also follow that pattern. 

I do that a lot - it's like choosing coordinating clothes. You simply do not wear a polkadot blouse with striped pants, nor do you serve mac-n-cheese with chicken Parmesan (at least not in my home!) 

But I am anal like that....

 Therefore my perfectly coordinated meal consisted of: Italian Shrimp, pastina (with egg)  and Herbed Zucchini "Boats".
Yum! (Of course the boys balked at the zucchini, but my husband and I loved it!)

To make the shrimp, I thawed out 3lbs. frozen, cooked shrimp (that were already peeled and deveined). You throw them in a large frying pan along with: 
•2T olive oil
• one small can tomato paste
• 1 1/2T dried basil 
• 1 1/2t garlic powder
Cook until thoroughly heated.
That's it! Done! It can't get any easier than that!

For the pastina with egg, you can check out my blog post from 4/26 entitled "Italian lunch". This made for a perfect "starchy" side. I grew up with a "meat,  potatoes, veggies" mentality. It is apparent in almost all of my meals that you see on this blog. I can't help it! It's ingrained in my very fiber of being!

So, feel free to eliminate that if you are cutting down on your carb intake!

For the Zucchini "Boats", I used 4 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise.

Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil.
Sprinkle the tops with a mixture of:
•Grated Parmesan cheese
•Minced fresh rosemary
•Minced fresh thyme
•Salt and pepper
(I used approximately 2T of each herb.)
Bake in a 350° oven for 15 minutes.
Then, broil 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese on tops are brown and crispy.

The whole meal came together in less than one half hour! This was great because we had come home late from my youngest son's baseball game and we were all pretty hungry. (Not to mention that this finale week on American Idol, and I had to watch that since it's the only TV I watch these days!) 

The zucchini takes about 20 minutes total, the shrimp and pastina - about 5 to 7 minutes each.

Perfect for a busy week night!
Easypeasy and yummy for your tummy!


Monday, May 19, 2014

What's cookin'? - Asian Noodle Dinner

I recently found a recipe that sounded sooo good- I knew that I had to try it! It was for Asian Noodles with Snow Peas and Mushrooms.

I knew that if I served this as a meatless meal, as it was intended, my boys would not be happy! 

Occasionally trying to prepare meatless meals in an effort to be healthier, I'm often reminded of the old Wendy's television commercial:
(Where's the beef?) .... except that that's my two growing teenage boys saying that!

So, I changed it up a bit and added beef. My thought was that beef would be the perfect compliment to the mushrooms and the brown sauce.
I was right! (thank goodness!) We loved it! I think you could just as easily add chicken or pork, though.

This recipe was a homerun!

In addition to adding beef, I also doubled up on the sauce.
If you prefer a meatless meal, follow the link above to the original recipe. Or, you can follow my version with added meat and double the sauce.

Whatever you do, do not substitute a different kind of oil for the sesame oil. It's a must! It adds a nutty, Asian flavor to the meal. You can find it in the Asian food section of your supermarket.
One box fettuccine
Snow peas (about 40), cut in half
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 green onions, sliced 
2T olive oil
Thin-cut beef (I used 1 lb. sirloin, but flank steak would be good too!)
2T sesame oil
1T sesame seeds
1/2c soy sauce
1/2c honey
2t hot sauce
1/2c chicken broth
2T cornstarch
2T water

* In a small bowl combine soy sauce, chicken broth, honey and hot sauce. Stir, set aside.

* In a medium sauce pot bring 1c water to a low, rolling boil. Add snow peas and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain, and set aside.

* Cook fettuccine in a large pot of boiling water according to directions on box.

* (While waiting for pasta water to boil) slice beef into thin strips. Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add beef and brown over medium-high heat.

* Add sesame oil to beef and heat. Add green onions, sesame seeds and mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms soften and beef is cooked through (about five minutes).

* Stir in brown sauce. Cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until heated through.

* Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl until smooth. Stir into brown sauce to thicken. Heat through (about one minute).

* Drain pasta. Toss with mushroom/beef sauce and peas. Serve.

It was delicious, not to mention easy and fast to make!

 I really think that if you just take 10 minutes time to slice the beef and veggies and/or mix the sauce ahead of time, it just makes preparation easier.

My final thoughts on this dish... after tasting this, don't you think that some crushed peanuts would taste great sprinkled on top? Very Thai!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

What's Cookin'? - Side Dishes, Side Dishes and More Side Dishes!

 Holy cow!

I've been so busy stamping lately that I haven't really posted any food! 

This blog is, after all, called "A Few of My Favorite Things", which includes stamping and cooking! 

But, since my last food post (on the 5th of May) I have had two stamp clubs, a 2/5/15 class, and I have been very busy making my oldest son's graduation announcements.

Oh, I haven't stopped cooking! I just went on a food-posting hiatus! So, it is my intention to do a few recipes tonight and one every day of this week, since I do not have any stamping events scheduled. (Next week I have another punch class so I will be sure to show off what I have created!)
By the way, that is the new Circle Personalized stamp from Stampin' Up! You can get it made to say anything you want! As you can see, I had it made with his name, school and "Class of 2014". 

You can view the stamp info online by visiting my website. Click "shop" in the upper right-hand corner:
Until I post pics from the next punch class (May 28) - I hope you are hungry, because I have a lot to share! My iPhone is inundated with pictures of food! I have to blog so I can delete them and free up some space!

My post tonight will be on side dishes. That way I can squeeze several recipe ideas into one post.

Of course we enjoy (or, at least my husband and I do) the regular side dish of vegetables - steamed, roasted, baked - you name it, I'll make it!  Sometimes it's quinoa, rice, potatoes ...Tonight I will share with you some of the sides that I have made recently. A couple are simple and  a couple are indulgent, with fattening  ingredients.
Pineapple stuffing
This recipe was shared with me years ago when I was teaching at Dover Area High School. My friend Tori E. made it for a school potluck and I fell in love with it! She was gracious enough to give me her family recipe. Since then I have made it dozens of times - a couple of those times it was Easter, since it pairs especially well with ham!

•1/2c butter
•1/2c sugar
•4 eggs
•one 20 oz. can crushed pineapple (use juice, too!)
•3 c bread cubes

* Cream butter and sugar
* add eggs, mix well
* add pineapple and bread cubes, mix 
* pour into a greased 2 quart casserole,
  Bake 350° for 30 to 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and top is golden brown

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Rosemary
It is just as the name implies!

This idea was given to me by my friend Marcia B. I think I make it a little differently than she does only because I misunderstood what she told me in the first place! Regardless, it is fabulous and we love it! 

Until I made this I had never even tasted a parsnip. Now this has become a staple in my arsenal of vegetable dishes.  If you've never had a parsnip, look in the produce section of the supermarket for what looks like a white carrot. My store sells them in convenient bags.

 I love roasting vegetables; it brings out their  sweetness as the sugars rise to the surface and become caramelized.

•Cut carrots and parsnips into "sticks".
•Toss parsnips and carrots with olive oil and kosher salt. (You decide on the amount of vegetables you need)
•Add fresh sprigs of rosemary throughout.
•Roast on 450° for about 20 minutes until soft and caramelized (brown).
Trust me you're going to love it! You'll never pass up a parsnip in the produce section again!
"Beans and Greens"
This is an old Italian "standby".

I use broccoli rabe (rapini) and cannellini beans. But I bet that you could choose any combo!

•Rinse your greens and remove any tough stems.
• Sauté  in a frying pan with a little olive oil and a some minced garlic. (Sometimes I add 2 tablespoons of butter as well, as I do for a lot of my sautéed Italian vegetables)
• add one can drained cannellini beans
• add 1/2 cup chicken broth
• sook until liquid is absorbed and beans are heated through
• season with salt and pepper as desired
Broccoli Stirfry with Garlic and Mushrooms
I think my mom invented this one! She's one hell of a cook! 

This has become a beloved dish over the years - even from my boys like it, and they normally don't eat broccoli!

You will need:
• one head broccoli cut into florets, stem cut into 1 inch pieces
• 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
• 2 - 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
• 2T olive oil
• 2T butter
• salt, to taste

*Sauté  all in a frying pan on medium-high heat. I do the broccoli first,then add the garlic and the mushrooms, because they take less time to cook.

*Cook until broccoli is soft. Add salt last to taste.

Lately I have been adding about 1T of sesame oil too, for extra flavor. I love the nutty, roasted flavor that sesame oil adds! It seems to give it even more depth.