Monday, June 23, 2014

Chicken Enchilada Casserole + That Game!

Did you SEE that game yesterday?

Oh wait. You don't know what I am talking about? The World Cup. I know, here in America it really isn't that big of a deal, but in our half-Brazilian / half-American household it is more than just a soccer tournament; it is pretty much what 95% of our conversation is centered around these days. And I love it!

I haven't always cared about it. In fact, I never had even heard of the World Cup until I was graduating college and a group of my friends didn't come to the graduation because there was a game on. Actually, they came. They just stayed in the back, all crowded around a pickup truck with a TV connected to it, cheering for whatever teams were playing at that moment. Technically they were there, but there weren't really there. I was fuming! These were some of my best friends, they showed up for my college graduation and didn't see me get my degree because of a soccer game?!

I totally get it now.

This household cheers for Brazil. All the way. I mean, my husband comes from a country where every time they play is equivalent to a national holiday. Schools are closed, businesses are shut down, and parties are going on everywhere. Imagine the 4th of July -- continuing on throughout a month. This is a big deal for him, and has become a big deal for me. But yesterday we cheered for the USA (Go, Team, go!).


I think my heart sank at minute five, and then soared from about the middle of the game on... until it almost stopped beating during the last 30 seconds. If you don't know what I am talking about you really should check it out. Man oh man, it was intense.

Objectively, it was a great game. Subjectively, it almost made me cry. So this is what it feels like to really care about sports...

But at the end of the day -- win, lose, or draw -- life goes on. And I don't know about you, but I work up quite an appetite while watching these boys battle it out on the pitch.

To help combat that, I bring you a chicken enchilada casserole.

The beauty of this casserole is that you don't have to really roll the enchiladas. Just stuff them, fold them in half, and layer them in the casserole dish. Quite simple to make and really delicious to eat -- even my husband who dislikes most Mexican food (he doesn't understand why cheese and beans go together, nor does he like spicy things) enjoys this. I guess it helps that I don't put jalapenos in even though the original recipe calls for them.

Some tips: (1) buy cooked, shredded chicken from the deli section of the your local grocery store. It is easier than buying it and making it yourself, and costs about the same; (2) substitute Greek yogurt in place of sour cream -- it is tangy and has the same consistency, and is a little bit healthier; and (3) start cheering on your team in the World Cup! Like I said earlier, go Team, go!!!

Recipe slightly adapted from Everyday Food, October 2011


  • 2 pounds tomatillos (husks removed), washed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 white onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 15-18 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a blender, puree tomatillos until smooth. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and cook until softened, 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomatillo puree and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thickened slightly, 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Briefly run stack of tortillas under cold water, turning to lightly dampen. Wrap stack in a clean kitchen towel and microwave until pliable, 30 seconds. Fill each tortilla with about 3 tablespoons chicken and a sprinkling of cheese, fold in half, and arrange in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, overlapping slightly. Top with tomatillo mixture, cover with foil, and bake until bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream and 2 tablespoons water. To serve, drizzle casserole with sour cream mixture and sprinkle with cheese and cilantro.

COST: $13.09      COST PER SERVING (6): $2.18

Gluten Free    //    Mexican Food

Sunday, June 8, 2014

I'm Here! + Lime-Glazed Cookies

I'm here, I'm here! I hope you didn't forget about me while I was away... I know I didn't forget about you :) A lot has happened since the last time I posted something (on the first day of this year -- over six months ago). A lot has also not happened since then, as well.

Like cooking or baking. That pretty much did not happen at all.

Writing things for fun. Nope.

Doing anything blog related. Nada.

But I do have some good excuses, and I also have some good reasons for coming back.

The last time I posted I looked something like this:

But this time I look something like THIS:

That's right... we're having a baby!!!

So, you can see why I haven't been around for awhile. Between morning sickness for the first trimester and just overall tiredness at the end of teaching all day long while being pregnant for the rest of the time, I had no energy to spend doing something creative in the kitchen. There were many times when I just had no energy to go into the kitchen, let alone be creative. The second trimester was much easier and I started cooking again, but nothing newsworthy. I actually just visited my own blog each week and thought, "What are the easiest things I can make?" Which led us to a diet of fish tacos, leek-baked eggs, and lots and lots of pasta.

But now I am back, and I am back for real!

Last Friday I said goodbye to another group of students and locked my classroom door -- but this time I will not be getting another bunch in the Fall. This time I will be taking care of my own baby boy, my now full-time student as several friends have called him. My chosen career as a teacher was spectacular, and now my new chosen "career" as a homemaker/at-home-mommy will be a new adventure, equally spectacular yet very, very different.

So now, after growing a baby, teaching children to write essays and do multiplication, and writing a master's thesis (oh yeah, I did that as well this year), I am READY to be back in the kitchen. To help me get motivated and hold me somewhat accountable I asked my friends on Facebook if anyone was interested in joining a baking group with me. Nineteen of my friends said yes! The very first recipe we did was Martha Stewart's Lime-Glazed Cookies, and this household of two-and-a-half loved them. It was a nice blend of tart and sweet, and really great to enjoy on a hot summer day. Be forewarned, however... they are small and you might just eat the whole batch in one day. I mean, it's not like we did or anything. Shoot -- who am I kidding? We totally did. Feel free to do the same thing, too. You might just have to find a different excuse as my "I'm eating for two" doesn't apply to everybody at this moment ;)

Thank you so much for stopping by today and reading this. I am very happy to be back on this cooking journey with you, and hope that this finds you well, healthy, and happy. Cheers!

Recipe from Everyday Food, July/August 2004
(Glaze recipe slightly adapted)


Ingredients for the cookies:
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest (from about 2 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Ingredients for the glaze:
  • ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest

  1. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until light, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add lime zest, lime juice, and salt; beat until combined. Add flour; beat until dough is just combined.
  2. Place dough on a 16-by-12-inch piece of parchment or wax paper. Using your hands, shape into an 8-inch log; flatten into a rectangle (1 1/2 inches high and 2 1/2 inches wide). Fold paper over log; flatten sides against work surface. Refrigerate dough until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Slice dough crosswise 1/4 inch thick; place on sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are puffed and barely golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool; glaze.
  4. To make Lime Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until spreadable. Using back of a small spoon, spread about 1/2 teaspoon glaze on each cooled cookie.

Store unglazed cookies in airtight container, up to four days. Glazed cookies are best eaten the day they are glazed.

COST: $3.82 (Less than 20cents per cookie)

Cookies    //    Dessert    //   Baking

Nutritional Information per Cookie
calories 107   •    total fat 6g    •    sodium 1g    •    sugars 6.8g   •    protein 1g

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Garlic-Roasted Chicken Breasts + Happy New Year!

Um, what? When did we go through a whole 'nother year???

And two-thousand fourteen... doesn't that just seem so far in the future? Not like it is the end of today's date... yet it is. Weren't we just all stocking up on extra supplies just in case the Y2K bug destroyed life as we knew it?

However we got here, Happy New Year! I am glad we all made it through another year -- and hopefully thrived. 

I, for one, had a ridiculously busy and crazy (crazy-good) year. Work, travel, extra responsibilities that take extra time, precious moments spent with loved ones...

You may have noticed blog posts dwindling over time... it was not because I didn't care to keep up with it. Rather, it was because I was juggling many balls at a time, and sometimes you just have to let a ball drop here or there. It happens. But I miss blogging. My hope is that I will be able to pick that ball up more, but if it means another ball must drop, I cannot let that happen. We shall what this year has in store!

I hope you are looking forward to wonderful things ahead of you, and that you were able to leave 2013 behind with a smile. Here's to new adventures waiting for us... CHEERS!

Recipe slightly adapted from Everyday Food, September 2003


  • 4 heads garlic
  • 8 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large head of broccoli, stalk removed
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the tops from garlic heads, reserving the bottoms; arrange the tops, cut sides down, in the center of an 11-by-17-inch roasting pan. Place 1 sprig of the rosemary over each garlic top, and arrange the chicken breasts over the garlic.
  2. Place the reserved garlic bottoms, cut sides up, next to the chicken in the pan. Drizzle the chicken and garlic bottoms with the olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper; place the remaining 4 sprigs of rosemary on top.
  3. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes; turn the garlic bottoms cut sides down, and rotate the pan. Continue roasting the chicken until the skin is browned, the juices run clear, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees, about 30 minutes more.
  4. While chicken is roasting, prepare broccoli: heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Add broccoli and pin nuts. Squeeze juice from lemon. Add salt. Cook until tender and remove from heat.
  5. Pour the pan juices into a measuring cup; skim the fat from the top. Serve the juices with chicken and roasted garlic.

The roasted garlic makes an excellent topping for toast. Just squeeze cooked garlic cloves out of paper skin and use a fork to mash on top of sourdough or other rustic bread. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

COST: $14.42      COST PER SERVING (6): $2.40

Unprocessed    //    Gluten Free    //   Dairy Free

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Cream Cheese Hummus Pita Bites

Our neighborhood is pretty awesome. It is December 22 and there are people out BBQing together. The other day one neighbor came over with a plate of cookies and a chat by the Christmas tree. The next day another neighbor called to ask if we needed some extra lights as they had leftovers. And last night we all got together to do a Progressive Party up and down the block.

Yup, we are pretty rockin'.

I know there are many neighborhoods like this -- I grew up in one -- but it seems to be less and less common. At least in my adult years. People are busy, schedules are full, lives are different from one house to the next.  But I am grateful that today I get to be a part of a place that celebrates community.

My contribution during the stop at our house? Sparkling cider and this: cream cheese hummus. Everyone else ooh'ed and ahh'ed, and I smiled because I know it took me five minutes. I mean, really, do I have time during the holiday season to make something time consuming? No, I do not. Which is why this is perfect. Perfectly simple, perfectly delicious. And will go perfectly with our Christmas dinner in a few days... one less thing I have to stress over. That's a holiday win.

(This hummus is great for the usual "dip" and also spread on pita crackers topped with green onions. Both taste fabulous, one looks a little more fancy... you choose :) )



  • 2 cans Garbanzo beans, one fully drained, one still with liquid
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion, plus more for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 package of pita crackers, plus any item for dipping
  1. In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients together until smooth.  Either spread on pita crackers and top with green onion garnish, or serve as dip.

COST: $7.42

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Peppermint Joe-Joe Ice Cream (No ice cream maker required)

I am a lover of peppermint.  Not just at Christmas time, either.  It isn't unusual to hear me order a peppermint hot chocolate at Startbucks in July.  And they comply, albeit with a slight shake of the head. I know -- I am breaking the peppermint rule: it is a Christmas treat, and that's that.

But who says so?  Not me.  I say give me peppermint all year long, and I will show you a happy girl.

My favorite peppermint thing?  Peppermint Joe-Joe's from Trader Joe's.  Crazy goodness, right there. Like an Oreo (but better!) with real pieces of candy cane crushed into the cream.  Um, HELLO.  Could they have created anything better?  No, definitely not.

Except... I did :)

I took my favorite cookie (which we stock up on around Christmas so they can last until about April when they expire -- smart, right?!) and turned it into my favorite type of dessert: ICE CREAM.

Best part is that you don't even need an ice cream maker, just a blender or food processor, and mixer of some sort, and a freezer.  SHEZAM!  Pepperminty deliciousness in a bowl.

Merry Christmas!



  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 5-6 Peppermint Joe-Joe’s cookies from Trader Joe’s
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract

  1. In a blender or food processor, blend sweetened condensed milk with cookies.
  2. Combine whipping cream and peppermint extract in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Beat cream/extract with a mixer on medium-high speed until whipped cream is formed. 
  3. Combine sweetened condensed milk mixture with whipped cream and pour into airtight plastic container, such as a larger-sized Ziploc Smart-Snap container.  Freeze eight hours or overnight.

COST: $6.23        COST PER SERVING (6): $1.04

Ice Cream    //    Dessert    //   Peppermint

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Great FB Cookie Swap: Peppermint Sugar Cookies

It's the most wonderful time of the year... COOKIE SWAP TIME!

I know that sounds a little exaggerated, but seriously, this tradition (now three years in the making) has become one of my favorite things about the holiday season.  Not only do I get to look for the best cookie recipe to add to my collection, and not only do we all get to connect with other food bloggers, but by working/baking/shipping together, we raise money for causes that are worth all that effort.


That beautiful number right there (so pretty, isn't it?) is the amount that was raised for Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a non-profit that works to help fund research that can help children live a full, long, and healthy life.  

This year I chose a simple recipe, straight from Martha: Peppermint sugar cookies.  I must confess, the cookies in these pictures are the old, rejected ones. The weather was so gloomy and I kept saying I would take pictures later, later, later, and this is what I would up with.  But oh!  Oh oh oh.  (Not to be confused with ho ho ho ;) )  I could NOT stop eating these.  Peppermint cookie, peppermint glaze, topped with (you guessed it!) peppermint pieces! The recipe said it made two dozen so I doubled it: 1 dozen for each of my matches, 1 dozen for us... except it made about six dozen.

And I did not share.

Not very Christmassy of me, but if you make these you will understand why.  At least I did share with my cookie recipients.  In the baggies and boxes they went, off to Utah, Arkansas, and another part of California, while I received three batches of delicious cookies from across the map. That is what makes this fun -- bake, raise money, and connect with people you have never met before.  It's a triple win.

A big shout out to the companies that sponsored the cookie swap (by giving in addition to what we bloggers donated): OXO, Pure Cane Dixie Crystals, Gold Medal Flour, and Grandma's Molasses. Their contributions stretched our dollars -- and hopefully bring us one step closer to a cure for cancer!

If you would like to find out about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (and maybe participate next year!), click on their logo below.

Recipe from Everyday Food, Dec. 2012


  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 candy canes, crushed, for decorating

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, use mixer to beat butter, granulated sugar, and ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract on medium-high until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Beat in egg, then flour mixture on low.  Stir in chocolate chips if you are using them.
  2. Roll dough into 1 ½-inch balls and place, 2 inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake until edges are lightly golden, about 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer to racks and let cool completely.
  3. Stir together confectioners’ sugar and enough cream to make a spreadable glaze (if you like a strong mint flavor, stir in up to ¼ teaspoon extract).  Spread a thin layer of glaze on top of each cookie and sprinkle with candies.  Let dry completely on racks.

Can be stored in an airtight container, three days.

COST: $4.79        COST PER COOKIE (24): 20 cents

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Cost of Eating Healthy (and my two cents)


After a busy two weeks, I was getting ready to put something on my blog.  No, not the amazing peppermint cookies I have been chowing down on (because I have yet to take pictures of them -- blame it on the minimal hours of daylight), but something to say, "Hey, I'm here!  Don't forget me!" Something fun. Something cute.

But then I saw this article pop up in my newsfeed on Facebook.  And after reading through it, and then reading through the comments, I changed my plan.

Fun and cute can wait for another day.

Today we need to talk about eating healthy (yes) and the cost of it (yes).  But most importantly, we need to talk about perceptions of this.

I am not going to sit here and give you figures about the cost of eating a healthier diet, because you can find that information quite easily.  I am also not going to share how eating more fruits and vegetables costs more money than packaged food because, at least in the USA, we all know this to be a general truth. My eyes were really opened to this when I took a master's level class on how health impacts a student's ability to learn, and how income impacts health. As you may be aware if you have followed this blog for awhile, that class combined with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution were the main reasons I set out to learn to cook. That is why this blog is here -- because I wanted to be able to eat healthy food that I could afford and still tasted great.

We get it. Eating a healthy diet is more expensive. It is unfortunate, but it is a reality.

I also get that food deserts exist. For the 7-10% of Americans who live in these areas, that is a real problem, and I am not here to offer a solution, because I do not have one. I wish I did...

What I am going to say is this: for those many, many people who instantly commented on NPR's article saying that it costs on average $600 a month PER PERSON to eat healthy, or all those people who clearly commented without reading the article as the examples shared in the comments don't fit with what the article said at all but then rattled on reason after reason why this article is full of BS (with all caps here and there)... let's all just stop and breathe. 

And then, let's read the information, look at where their findings are coming from, see if we agree with it or not, and then move on with our lives.

As for me, I agree. Why? Because I have been pricing out food for the past three years. That was the whole reason I started this blog: to keep a record of what we ate, how much it cost, and then use that information to make wise decisions while planning for what we are going to eat next week. Through this, and finding out tricks like shopping at the Farmers' Market or making beans from scratch, I have learned to keep our food costs quite low.

I get that there are a lot of variables in this equation, and that many things (location, time, availability of products, etc.) can change what is possible. Maybe your shopping style is different than mine. Maybe you don't enjoy cooking and you need something fast.  Maybe you really just want to eat a Big Mac. Go ahead. That's OK, that's your decision. I've been there, I get it. But people, we've got to stop attacking the messenger just because we don't like the message. And please, please, please, let's stop ganging up on people (fellow commentors) because they have a different experience than us.

Maybe you really do spend $600 per month for one person to eat healthy without ever going out to eat.  I am sorry for you, and I hope you find ways to cut back on that. But either way, that's OK. It's your money.

Maybe you really struggle to just make ends meet. I grew up in that reality, and I know a lot of people live in that daily. My heart goes out to you, for I know it is a challenge.

For most of us, though, we probably fall somewhere in the middle. Let's take ownership of our decisions. Heck, when I want a McChicken, I am going to get a McChicken. Yes, even me with a blog on finding healthy food. And that's alright. As long as I don't yell at NPR for it.

What are some ways you have found to keep the cost of food down?

(Looking for some low cost meal ideas? Click for $1 meal ideas and $2 meal ideas (per serving).  Cheaper than a Big Mac :) )

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