Friday, August 30, 2013

Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas

It's corn season, and I love corn.

Every time I serve corn on the cob for dinner, I cook up an extra ear or two. There's a million ways to use up leftover corn, but I typically turn it into some kind of salad or vegetable dish.

This time, though, I mixed things up. I wanted fresh summer corn to be the star of our entree. So I stirred it together with some protein-packed black beans, topped it with creamy cheese, and loaded it into a crisp tortilla. These fresh Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas were served up in minutes and devoured even faster.

In case you're interested, here are a few more delicious ways to use up leftover corn:
Therese's Corn & Tomato Salad
California Chopped Salad (With tortilla chips as croutons!)
Quinoa with Corn and Black Beans
Corn and Edamame Summer Salad

Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas
Serves: 2-4 (Depends on how hungry you are.)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 cup corn (This is about 1 ear of corn.)
1 cup black beans
Butter (optional)
2-4 flour tortillas
1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
Salsa and sour cream, for serving

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium. Add onion and saute until softened and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder, salt, and pepper until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add corn and beans and cook for a couple minutes until everything is heated through. Remove filling to a bowl and wipe out skillet.

Add about 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the wiped-clean skillet over medium high heat. (If you want to keep things light, skip the butter.) Place one tortilla in the skillet and top it with a scoop of filling in a half-moon shape. (If you want to make two big quesadillas, use half of the filling in each. If you want thinner quesadillas, use a quarter of the filling in each.) Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese on top of the filling and fold over the tortilla so you have a tortilla sandwich of sorts. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown. Carefully flip the tortilla and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the second side is also golden brown.

Cut quesadilla into wedges and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tropical Almond Granola with Chia Seeds

I'm a total creature of habit, which leads to serious food ruts.

All winter and spring, I ate oatmeal for breakfast everyday. As the weather warmed up, I transitioned to yogurt and a granola bar. Sometimes I got wild and stirred extra fruit into my yogurt. (I hear you all hollering in unison, "Don't get too crazy now, Erin!" Don't you worry. I'll hold myself back.)

Surprisingly, I got a little bored with my meal routine. So I made granola to stir into my yogurt. Because adding granola to yogurt is so much different than having a granola bar on the side with your yogurt.

I guess I'm not such a wild child after all. Sigh.

Tropical Almond Granola with Chia Seeds
Adapted from this Low-Fat Granola recipe

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup agave*
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup sliced almonds**
1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
1/2 cup chopped dried mangos
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup roasted coconut chips***

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together oil, agave, salt, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Add oats and stir until everything is evenly coated.

Spread the oats on a very large baking sheet so they are in a thin layer. (If you don't have a very large baking sheet, use two or three smaller ones.) Bake for 10 minutes.

Stir almonds and chia seeds into the oat mixture. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until granola is golden, crisp, and toasty smelling, stirring 2-3 times to make sure it bakes evenly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Once granola is cooled, stir in dried mangos, dried cranberries, and coconut chips. Store in an airtight container for up to four weeks.

*Don't have agave? No worries. Just substitute maple syrup or honey.
**I would wager that macadamia nuts would be fan-flippin'-tastic in this granola. I almost used them, but they were way more expensive than almonds. If you're in the mood for a splurge, give macadamia nuts a try.
***I bought roasted coconut chips at Trader Joe's. They were delish! If you don't have roasted coconut chips, you could substitute regular shredded coconut. Just stir it in for the last 5-10 minutes of baking so it doesn't burn. (This is no paid advertisement for Trader Joe's. Just an opinion on a product I thought I'd try because it was a really hot day and Danny and I needed an indoor errand to do, and Trader Joe's seemed like just the ticket.)
****I'm sorry for all of the asterisks in this recipe. If you've made it this far into the footnotes, congratulations. You get blog bonus points. You can redeem them for...uhhh...well, nothing. But thanks for reading!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken with Coconut Cilantro Rice

Sorry I fell of the face of the earth interweb for a minute there; I was on vacation. Usually I plan ahead when I'm going out of town and have posts ready for all of you dear readers, but I was a total slacker this time. My bad. I'd like to say it won't happen again, but let's be real. It might.

Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken is the perfect meal for adjusting to life after vacation. Since your trip is over, it's no longer acceptable to eat frozen yogurt for dinner every night. You need to cook at some point. But since I wasn't ready to let go of vacation wholly, I decided to let my crockpot cook for me.

The simplicity of this meal is one of the reasons I had to give it a whirl. It features pantry staples, and you can even use the chicken straight from the freezer. (Just cook it a bit longer if you're using frozen chicken. Maybe an extra hour or so.) The slightly sweet sauce is perfect over Coconut Cilantro Rice. A sprinkle of fresh cilantro on top makes it look fancy so you can trick your family into thinking you slaved over the stove for hours.

If anyone asks, tell them you worked so hard on this dinner that you need another vacation.

Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken
Adapted from a million places online
Serves: 6-8

6 chicken breasts*
20 ounce can crushed pineapple
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for four hours. Once chicken is cooked through, remove and shred with two forks. Stir back into the sauce in the slow cooker. Serve over Coconut Cilantro Rice. Sprinkle with extra fresh cilantro for garnish.

*If you want to use frozen chicken breasts, cook for an extra hour or so.

Coconut Cilantro Rice
Adapted from Bev Cooks
Serve: 4

1 cup coconut milk** (I used light coconut milk.)
1 cup water**
1 cup rice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or more or less to taste)

Bring coconut milk and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in rice. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until rice is firm but tender. (If you have one, you can certainly use a rice cooker in place of cooking rice on the stove.)

Once rice is cooked, fluff it with a fork. Stir in cilantro. Serve with Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken...or anything, for that matter!

**The amount of liquid you use depends on what type of rice you use. Most white rice calls for a 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice. Check the package and adjust the amount of liquid accordingly, using half coconut milk and half water.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

The other day I was trying to decide what to make for dinner, and I stumbled upon a recipe for cheese enchiladas that I'd torn out of an old issue of Cooking Light. The smarty pants at that delightful publication included cottage cheese in their enchiladas. I use cottage cheese instead of ricotta when I'm making lasagna, but I never thought to use it for Mexican food.

If you're not a fan of cottage cheese, don't be deterred! Once the enchiladas are cooked, it turns into creamy goodness. You'd never guess cottage cheese is an ingredient. In fact, the husband does not like cottage cheese. He doesn't like it one bit. But I served him these enchiladas, and he loved them. I just kept the ingredients a secret. Until I shared it with the entire world wide web, that is.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas
Serves: 4

2 1/2 cups cubed or shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup cottage cheese*
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper
10 ounce can enchilada sauce
8 corn tortillas
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salsa and sour cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chicken, cottage cheese, onion powder, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour about a quarter of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of an 8" x 8" baking dish. Place four tortillas over the sauce, overlapping them so they cover the bottom of the dish. Pour another quarter of the sauce on top of the tortillas. Spread the chicken mixture on top of that. Layer the remaining four tortillas on top of the chicken, overlapping them as needed. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over everything and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

*If you're really worried about the texture of the cottage cheese, blend it in the food processor or blender for a minute until it's smooth.

Friday, August 9, 2013


I took a stroll through my neighborhood, pushing Danny on his little trike and admiring the beans and raspberry bushes and tomato plants flourishing in my neighbors' gardens. It got me thinking...maybe someday I'll have a vegetable garden. But "someday" has a few caveats:

  1. I'll need to move to a house with a sunny backyard.
  2. I'll need to devise some sort of automatic watering system because there's no chance I'd remember to water the plants enough to keep them alive through harvest.
  3. I'll need to make an arrangement with the rabbits, chipmunks, and squirrels that they will not nibble on my produce. I will stand for no nibbling. (Do you hear that, chipmunk who was lurking around my potted herbs today?!)
  4. I'll need to win the lottery so I can hire a gardener to tend this hypothetical vegetable garden. Who am I kidding? I don't have a green thumb, and I don't think I'll have one someday. 
Until a lucky lotto scratch-off ticket makes my veggie dreams a reality, I've compiled a list of zucchini recipes to help all you gardeners out there use up your produce. 

Salmon and Vegetables in Parchment--Sounds swanky, but it's really quite simple. 

Herb-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Zucchini--Redolent with fresh herbs and you only dirty one pan. What's not to love? 

Pasta with Zucchini and Lemon-Yogurt Sauce--Easy, healthy, and perfect for meatless Monday.

Summer Harvest Bread--It's called "Summer Harvest Bread." Need I say more? 

Carrot Zucchini Bread--This bread is really good... 

...but I was just looking for an excuse to share that cute picture of my kid baking again.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Honey Soy Glaze

Allow me to set the scene...

It's 6:30 p.m. The husband isn't home from work yet. I'm starving. So starving that I'm pacing the house like a lion at the zoo when it smells the keeper coming with a plate of steaks. I'm opening and closing cupboards in search of food. It is clear to the audience that the shelves are full, but I'm blinded by hunger and don't actually see the contents. I just keep opening. Closing. Opening. Closing.

Now the phone is in my hands. I'm punching numbers like my life depends on it. I need the husband to pick up fast food on the way home. There is clearly no food--NO FOOD--anywhere in the house for us to eat. With one number left to dial, it's like the fog lifts from brain. In the movie adaptation the lights brighten and Ace of Bace's early 90's hit "I Saw the Sign" plays promisingly in the background.

I open the freezer and burrow past ice cream and bagel bites to find a forgotten pork tenderloin. I reach for fresh green beans from the fridge, but clearly they've been there a bit too long. As I toss them in the trash with one hand (Swoosh!), I grab a bag of frozen peas with the other. That'll do just fine, thankyouverymuch. And couscous. That stuff cooks in, like, 30 seconds. I can handle that.

Even if you have to defrost the pork, this meal can come together in about 30 minutes. Maybe a smidge longer if you let the tenderloin rest for a full 10 minutes. But it will keep you from eating Chipotle three days in a row and totally impress your family and friends. In fact they'll be so impressed that they'll take you out for ice cream. Now I'm really dreaming.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Honey Soy Glaze
Adapted from Fresh Flavor Fast by Everyday Food
Serves: 4

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Heat grill to medium-high. Generously season pork with salt and pepper. Whisk together honey and soy sauce and set aside.

Meanwhile, grill pork for about 15 minutes, turning a couple times so it cooks evenly, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees. Brush with honey-soy mixture and grill for another minute longer on each side. Remove pork from the grill, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Friday, August 2, 2013


A few weeks back the husband and I decided to take a stroll with Danny. On our adventure, we stumbled upon a massive garage sale. (They call them "rummage sales" here in Milwaukee, but I just can't get used to that.) The entire neighborhood was peddling their wares on driveways and in garages. Lemonade stands sprung up like weeds. Cars lined the streets as bargain hunters haggled over prices. Some enterprising and talented youths were even playing violins for tips.

The husband and I didn't think we needed anything...until we came upon a smoker for $10. We needed that smoker. The folks selling it were donating the proceeds to the Ronald McDonald House, plus they threw in some wood to get us started and a jar of their favorite seasoning for the meat. How could we pass up a deal like that?

We couldn't. We didn't.

Perfecting smoked pork shoulder has turned into our summer challenge. Since we're still nailing down the technique, I won't share that with you quite yet. What I can share is this delicious BBQ Rub.

It takes about 3 minutes to pull the spices from the cupboard, measure them out, and stir together this simple, flavorful seasoning. And it's incredibly versatile; we have used this BBQ Rub with delicious results when smoking pork shoulder as well as grilling steak.

If you're looking to try something new next time you fire up the barbecue, give it a whirl. I think you'll like it.


6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Stir together ingredients and store in a jar until you're ready to use. I've heard varying opinions on when to apply the rub to the meat, but I've had success seasoning the meat right before cooking or seasoning a few hours before. So, if you think of it and have time a few hours before you want to cook, apply the rub then. If not, don't sweat it. Just rub the seasoning all over the meat right before you cook. Use this rub for smoking or grilling beef, pork, or poultry.