Monday, July 1, 2013

Fiesta Chicken Wraps

I don't update my blog for months, and now twice in one day. Amazing what a little free time can do.

I'll make this one short and sweet. I discovered this recipe on, you guessed it, Pinterest! I had made these before, but I don't think I posted the recipe.

Here is the link for Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps by Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Here is her recipe with my substitutions/omissions:

  • 1 cup rice (I cooked in a rice cooker. It yielded 2 cups cooked.)
  • 1 cup cooked, shredded chicken 
  • 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 green onion, finely sliced (white and green parts)
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • shredded cheese (I used a mex cheese blend)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • 6 burrito-sized flour tortillas
           1. Cook 1 cup rice with 2 cups water in a rice cooker. Then drain and rinse pinto beans. In a small skillet, soften the diced red peppers. Add the pinto beans. Cook together until the beans are warm. 
  • "2. Mix rice together with chili powder and garlic salt. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese and sour cream. Sprinkle cheese over tortillas, leaving 1/2-inch border around edges, then arrange chicken and rice mixture down the center of each tortilla.Roll stuffed tortillas, leaving edges open and slightly flatten the wraps with the palm of your hand. 

  • 3. Heat a large non-stick skillet (or griddle) over medium heat for 1 minute. Arrange wraps, seam-side down, in pan or griddle and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2-3 minutes per side. Cooking them seam-side down first helps seal the long edge so they don’t fall apart. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining wraps. Serve warm."

Oven Cleaning Semi-Magic

It seems like it has been forever since I've blogged. I suppose I could have blogged about my classroom, which was awesome. Alas, there was no time for that while I was planning for 3-4 grade levels a week. Eek! I wouldn't have had it any other way. Since summer is here, I can once again (attempt) to update my blog with my amazing recipes and cleaning tips. My latest and greatest scheme has, of course, been discovered on Pinterest. I've been pinning and liking things for months that I have been unable to try. I rediscovered this one the other day and have finally had the time to give it a shot. Now, as much as I love pinterest and all of the "you can do that???" moments, I have learned that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

...but this... THIS is an amazing thing. Some of you may be reading this and thinking one of the following: Who cleans the oven? Doesn't the oven clean itself? I thought I had to 'season' the oven...hmmm. I only use the oven for holidays. Or, my favorite, Why would I even need to use the oven when I have a microwave?

Cleaning the oven is no easy feat, and when I saw this "miracle" cleaning brew, I giggled to myself and thought... yeah right, like that is going to work. I decided to just try it on the oven door. In my almost 3 decades of life, I've learned a few things about myself. One is that I need to start small. No more pulling everything out of the closet to organize, because by the time everything is out, I'm over closet cleaning. Then it's worse than when I started.

The last time I decided to clean the oven, I had to leave the house for the entire day. I had purchased easy off oven cleaner. I knew the original one had a strong aroma...strong enough to take down a full grown grizzly bear if one had decided to come into my house, so I decided to purchase the unscented one. People, the unscented one is probably unscented, because by the time you spray your entire oven your nasal hair is burnt to a crisp and you can't smell anything for 2 weeks. AND it doesn't even work that well. Granted I wiped it out sooner than I should have, but hey, I was convinced that it had eaten through the top layer of oven coating.

Other oven cleaning miracle cleaners have included amonia or the self cleaning oven function built into the oven. After the issue with easy off, I quickly scratched amonia off the list, along with the self cleaning because my oven doesn't have that feature. If your oven does have that option, be careful! There are studies that show heating teflon coating up past 700-900 degrees can emit toxic fumes into your home.

So, now that I've fully explained how I ended up getting to today, I'll let you in on my borrowed oven cleaning semi-magic recipe. Folks, it actually works!

Mix together: baking soda, water, and dawn dish soap. I originally used the dawn with olay that I usually use for my dishes. That worked pretty well when I spot tested the magic brew, so I went out and bought the original, blue, degreaser version of Dawn. It works MUCH better. Mix it up until it has the consistency of buttercream frosting. Then slather it on with a brush or sponge. The original recipe said to let it sit for a few hours and spray with water occasionally; however, my oven has a lot of vents and that option didn't work for me. I let it sit for about 30 minutes and used a scratch free scrubby sponge. I didn't have to do much scrubbing, because most of it wiped right off! Be careful of the little holes and vents in the oven. You don't want to clog those up.

And there you have it folks. The best, non toxic, oven cleaner I've ever used.

You can probably try it with just baking soda and water, but the dish soap REALLY helps cut through the grease quickly.

Disclaimer: Is it going to get off every little spec? No. It will get off the majority of the grease. If you scrub enough, they will probably come off. It worked on my oven door, but I'm too small to scrub the back wall of the oven well enough to get it all off.

 Marinating in le brew

 Wiped it off (After on the left, before on the right)

Wiped it off

 I didn't scrub the top at all. Just rinsed it off.

Definitely looks better than before. Not bad for 30 minutes of marinating and 5-10 minutes of wiping/scrubbing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Banana Muffins...Banana & Pumpkin Muffins

Fall weather is FINALLY beginning to make an appearance here in so cal. The gloomy weather makes me want to craft, bake, organize, and light my vanilla and apple berry spice candles. ::sigh:: How I love the fall and winter months. No longer do I cringe at the thought of turning on the oven. My house smells like yummy fall candles and freshly baking banana muffins.

Banana eating is a phase in our household. Sometimes the whole bunch is eaten within a few days, other times they sit, and sit, and sit in the fruit basket. I hate tossing them, but alas they must go before the gnats start to populate my kitchen. Usually I have three or four bananas left... just enough to make one loaf of bread. Granted the loaf is easier to make than the muffins, but I feel that the muffins are cooked more thoroughly and I'm not left with a mushy-centered banana loaf. This time I had an entire bunch, 6 bananas, left. It was either bake or toss them, so I opted for a lot of baking today. I'm going to try freezing some of them to see if I can prolong their little muffin lives for a breakfast next week. I'll let you know how that works out.

Since I had so many bananas that were seeing their final day, I have not one, but two recipes to share with you today. I made a looooot of muffins.

The first recipe is for Banana Muffins. This recipe is in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook: mentioned in the sidebar of my blog. If you don't have access to this cookbook, here's the recipe:

Makes 1 loaf or 16 muffins.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (4-5 medium bananas)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil (I use canola.)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts. Optional. (I don't use them because I'm allergic.)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a cupcake/muffin tin. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients (except sugar).
In another bowl combine eggs, sugar, and oil. Mix well. Add bananas.
Combine with dry ingredient mixture. Do NOT over mix. The batter should be lumpy.

Bake for 15-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
If you use a loaf pan, bake for about 60+ minutes.
(When I was making the loaf, the top would almost burn before the middle was done cooking. If this happens, place some tin foil, loosely, over the top after about 45 to 60 minutes.)

Recipe 2: Banana Pumpkin Muffins
Here is the original recipe. I made some adjustments after I tasted the batter. Since it's very similar to the Banana Bread Muffins, I used the "seasoning" from that recipe in this one. Here are my ingredients along with the directions from Taste of Home (see link above). Some stuff I substituted or added because I didn't have what it called for.

Makes 16 muffins.

1 stick softened butter (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup mashed bananas (2 medium bananas)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt (Originally 1/2 tsp, but if you use salted butter you need to adjust the salt)

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Mix in bananas, pumpkin, and vanilla. 
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.
Combine wet and dry mixtures.

Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Mine took 31 minutes.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Zucchini Muffins... fail.

Again, I was browsing recipes online. I have a ton of cookbooks, yet using the internet for recipes is so wonderful. Add in the online hoarding boards, Pinterest, and a girl is sitting on just this side of heaven. The crafts, organization, recipes...I digress. Anywho, since I have already accumulated a hoarders dream worth of recipes on there I decided to start actually making them. This time I saw a recipe for Low Fat Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread. Given the 'fail' status of my previous bread making adventures, I decided to make muffins instead. Also, I'm not sure how chocolate and zucchini would taste together, so I made some changes to the original recipe. If you are interested in trying chocolate and zucchini, you can find the original recipe here.

*** Keep in mind that I wrote ALL of this BEFORE I tasted the final product.

At first I didn't think I had enough zucchini. Turns out 1 medium sized zucchini produces about 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini. SUCCESS! I grated it using a cheese grater. About half way through grating, I discovered that the 'small' grate was too small. Then I switched to the larger side and it produced much better shreds. Depending on how much zucchini crunch/taste you want, you can choose which shred works best for you. Here is the difference.

From the original recipe I linked above, I omitted the chocolate chips, and added the spices and lemon zest. When I tasted the batter from the original one, it seemed a little bland.

Makes 12 Muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (You can use 2 cups all purpose flour if you don't have wheat.)
1/2 cup unpacked light brown sugar
1 1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup 'no sugar added' apple sauce
1 1/2 cups loose, shredded zucchini
1 tbsp lemon zest

Preheat oven to 325F. 

Combine flour, baking soda, spices, and salt.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Then mix in sugar, vanilla, butter, apple sauce, zucchini, and lemon zest.
Add flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir gently until combined.

Pour mixture into muffin tin. I lined them with foil cupcake liners.

Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy!

Final Product: 

They look delicious; however, they are still pretty bland. Earlier, while I was searching zucchini bread recipes, I wondered why they all had so much sugar. Now I understand. I also understand why there were chocolate chips in the original recipe. After I photographed and tasted these moist, slightly lemon flavored, bland muffins. I topped a few of them with chocolate chips while they were still warm. Also, not good. Especially if you add the lemon. 

Conclusion: While these look amazing, I think they are flavorless for the most part. I will not be making these again and I'll be finding a new place for bread recipes. I'm thinking Taste of Home or Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart. 

Banana Pumpkin Bread

I LOVE bananas and pumpkin flavored foods. So, when I saw this recipe I was super excited to try it. Half way through I realized that I didn't have any eggs. I couldn't be too upset because my dear hubby had made eggs and toast for both of us for breakfast. After a quick trip to the market, I returned to finish my bread.

After I sliced the loaf, I thought that it needed to be baked longer. It seemed like the bottom wasn't "bread-like", but still a little doughy. The center slices also seemed a little under cooked. The thing I couldn't understand was that the toothpick came out clean. (Yes, I did insert the tooth pick in a few different spots.) Today, when I was referring to the recipe I had discovered online, I noticed that the picture she took of her loaf looked similar to mine. It looks more dense on the bottom. If I made this again, I would probably make muffins. That way it could cook more thoroughly. For me, it was a little doughy, but the taste was still really yummy. Oh, I would also use less cloves. They were a little strong for me. Therefore, I'm placing this recipe in the 'to try again' section of my recipe box.

Here is the original recipe link.

Ingredients from Skinnytaste

  • Baking spray
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves (I would use 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 very ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions from Skinnytaste
Preheat oven to 325°. 

Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan with baking spray.In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin spice and salt with a wire whisk. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add egg whites, egg, bananas, pumpkin and vanilla, and beat at medium speed until thick. Scrape down sides of the bowl.Add flour mixture and nuts (if using), then blend at low speed until combined. Do not over mix.
Pour batter into loaf pan and bake on the center rack for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the pan cool at least 20 minutes, bread should be room temperature before slicing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Frugality vs. Healthy Options

Over snacking and large portion sizes are my downfall when it comes to eating. I also enjoy soda...another downfall. I avoided the inner aisles at the market today, but it seems like the "good stuff" is way more expensive than the "tasty stuff". Why can't the good stuff be tasty? The answer to that question is still a work in progress; however, I'm busily working on recipes that are good AND tasty. "But I don't have time to prepare a healthy meal...", I can hear the excuses already. The good things in life take time, but there are ways to help yourself throughout the week if you are on the go or have a husband that leaves for work before 6:20 every day. Let me say that waking up to make a healthy breakfast and lunch is a daily challenge for me.

So, how can we not spend $$, make a quick healthy meal, and not spend forever preparing it? Yep, you guessed it, the answer to that one is also a work in progress; but, I've come across some things that work for me. Knowing where to purchase good produce for a cheaper price also comes in handy. I find that large chain markets are often almost double the price of a community grocery store. This community store I purchase produce from has a huge variety of produce and herbs for relatively cheap. Look through the weekly ads that are probably tossed without looking at most of the time.

In order to save money (and time in the morning when I'm half asleep and likely to lose a finger if I use a knife), I have prepackaged some snack items such as baby carrots and pb celery. Purchasing the larger bag of baby carrots, a bunch of celery, and a bag of apples is WAY cheaper than buying the prepackaged (with a ton of preservatives) versions of these items. It took about 20-30 minutes to get these three things done. I do prefer to slice the apples in the morning, but there are options for prepackaging those too.

Carrots: Purchase a 16oz bag of baby carrots (99 cents for me today). Place 10 carrots in each snack size bag, along with about 1 tbsp of water to keep them from drying out. This made a week's worth of carrot snacks (about 18 cents/day).

Peanut Butter Celery: Purchase a bunch of celery. Wash and slice the stalks into thirds or quarters. Fill with pb or cream cheese. Place 4-5 pieces in each snack bag. I didn't 'fill' all of the slices I cut because I didn't know how long they would last 'filled' in the fridge. The remainder of the pre-cut pieces, place in a quart size ziplock bag with 1-3 tbsp of water (depending on how much celery you have) to keep it from drying out.

Bagged Salad: Although this is super handy when you're in a hurry, does it really take that long to tear up or cut lettuce? Plus buying the romaine bunch is WAY cheaper than buying the bag of pre-sliced romaine AND it doesn't have that weird processed taste. Today I spent less than $1 on a bunch of romaine and 2 heads of iceburg lettuce. I chopped the romaine and put it in a gallon size ziplock. Ta-da! I give you bagged salad for about 33 cents (without the iceburg). 

Stew meat: Check to see if the larger piece of meat is cheaper. Today, I compared the pre-cut stew meat and the whole piece of meat, both the same size. It turned out that the larger piece was $1/lb less than the pre-cut package. For $1/lb I can cut it myself at I did. 

Freezing: How I wish I had a larger freezer. Freeze the extra sauces that you aren't planning to use right away. Sometimes buying the bagged frozen veggies can be cheaper because they don't spoil so quickly. If you are one for chopping and freezing your own veggies, have at it, but I find that it's better for us if I stock up with the green beans, broccoli, carrots, and corn are on sale for 99 cents a bag. 

Granted the prep work takes a little bit longer, but when it's 5:30 in the morning and I'm trying to put together a lunch that doesn't consist of lays potato chips, pb crackers, and chocolate pudding, I am very happy that I did all of it when I was awake. With all of the snacks already made, all I have to do is put together a sandwich, or a salad, or portion out the dinner left overs, and put in some snacks. This takes 10 minutes or less and my husband isn't eating preservatives all day. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pumpkin Cookies with Chocolate

It is time to break out the Pampered Chef stone. ::sigh:: How I've missed you...

Along with the wonderful holiday season comes overly rich foods that can pack on the pounds... and I LOVE to bake. This poses a huge problem. Pun intended. I follow a blog called Skinnytaste. She has a ton of recipes that are lower in fat etc. Today I decided to try making her Pumpkin Spice Cookies. I had to alter the recipe because my keys are in my husband's car, which is miles away with him at work. Needless to say I had to make due with the ingredients that I had on hand because I didn't have buttermilk OR pumpkin pie spice.

Here is the recipe I used (Copied from Skinnytaste and changed with my substitutions.): For the original recipe click > Pumpkin Spice Cookies

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp salted butter, softened (Original recipe calls for unsalted. Be sure to adjust salt elsewhere)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
  • 1/4 cup 1% buttermilk (Mix 1 cup 2% milk with 1 3/4 tsp cream of tartar. Then measure out 1/4 cup of mixture for recipe)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice 
    • To make pumpkin pie spice mix 2 tsp ginger, 4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp allspice, and 1 tsp nutmeg. This makes way more than what you need for this recipe.
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

For the chocolate glaze:
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tbsp 2% milk
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, whip cream cheese, butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Next add egg; beat well. Stir in pumpkin, buttermilk mixture and vanilla.

Combine flour, spice, baking soda, salt and baking powder; gradually add to pumpkin mixture.

Bake 15 minutes or until golden. 

For the glaze: Whisk confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, milk, vanilla and salt in a bowl.