Loaded Nachos

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I was really feeling that 70°F weather yesterday! And now…back to rain. I can’t wait for more consistently sunny weather. I have so many projects I want to do outside, particularly, finally finishing the back deck. However, that requires paint, so I need to wait for a stretch of at least a few dry days.

On the other hand, the munchkin is officially sitting up…which means crawling is probably not far behind…which means baby proofing. I have plans to DIY some pretty cute baby gates at the 2 sets of stairs in the house as well as the stairs on the deck so that project may need to come first. The list of projects really never gets any smaller. Each time I finish 1 thing, I add 2 more to the list.

So, let’s talk about something less stressful…like these loaded nachos! We have always made sheet pan nachos in this family, but never like this. They usually consisted of some ground chicken, taco seasoning, shredded cheese and salsa and sour cream for dipping. Pretty basic. I decided to make nachos on Superbowl Sunday and this was the result. And let me tell you, we will NOT be going back to the basic version, EVER. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these rivaled ANY restaurant nachos I’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot…hello…massive plate of nachos at Margaritaville in Vegas.

Loaded Nachos
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package taco seasoning
12 ozs tortilla chips
1 15oz can refried black beans
1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeno, diced
2 Tbsp sour cream plus 2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and garlic, and cook until beef has browned, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning. Drain excess fat.
3. While ground beef is cooking, heat refried beans in a saucepan over medium heat until warm throughout, about 5 minutes.
4. Place tortilla chips in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Top with half of the cheeses. Next layer ground beef, black beans, corn and remaining cheese.
5. Place into oven and bake until heated through and the cheese melts, about 5-6 minutes.
6. While nachos cook, mix sour cream and water in a small bowl. You want to just thin out the sour cream so it is easy to drizzle.
7. Remove nachos from oven, top with tomato, onion, jalapeno, sour cream and cilantro.

Enjoy!

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Italian Chicken & Tomato Basil Orzo

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Ok mamas…I now have a baby who is suddenly sleeping 10-11 hours at night only waking up once, maybe twice AND taking 1 1/2 to 2 hour naps!!!! I have made a couple changes recently, most notably to his feedings. But I’m wondering, is this normal that there is a shift around 5 months and babies just start napping well? Or is it possible that the feeding changes I made actually made the difference? Just want to know before I go tooting my own horn about sleep training in a blog post 🙂 Haha! That sounds way more “I’m-so-amazing” than I wanted it to.

Anyway…this dinner! I’ve made it twice now, and the second time was just as good as I remembered. It was really simple too, only 1 pot and about 30 minutes (minus putting the chicken in a marinade a couple hours prior), great weeknight meal!

Italian Chicken & Tomato Basil Orzo
For the marinade:
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Italian herb mix
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the orzo:
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
14 oz can crushed tomato
3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp Italian herb mix
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup basil leaves

1. Combine all marinade ingredients and marinade for 1 hour – overnight.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add chicken and cook through, about 8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.
3. Heat 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet, increase heat to medium high. Add onion and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add bell pepper, cook additional 1 minute.
4. Add orzo, tomatoes, broth, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix, bring to a simmer, lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Pasta should be just cooked and still quite saucy. Take it off stove immediately.
5. Stir through parmesan and basil, adjust salt to taste. Spoon into bowls, top with chicken, garnish with more parmesan and basil.

*Original recipe from Recipe Tin Eats

Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars

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I mean…I don’t really feel like I need to say much about these. The name kind of says all you need to know…Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars! We DEVOURED these! Just looking at the photo and remembering how delicious they were is making me want to whip up another batch. They were so easy too, no bake, just chill in the fridge for a bit and then eat to your hearts content. Ok, it’s settled, I’m making them again.

Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Bars
1/4 cup salted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups finely crushed cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 25 cookies)
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
7 ounces marshmallow crème
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely crumbled cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 7 cookies), plus more for garnish

1.Stir together the melted butter and crushed cookies in a medium bowl. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; lightly grease foil with cooking spray. Press the cookie mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
2. Beat the cream cheese, marshmallow cream, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently fold in the coarsely crumbled cookies. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pan, spreading it evenly over the cookie crust. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days. Lift mixture from the pan using the foil overhang as a handle, and cut into bars. Garnish with more coarsely crumbled cookies, if desired.

*Original recipe from Real Simple

Green Goddess Sandwich

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I started painting my kitchen cabinets about 7 months ago, right when we got home from Hawaii. Also, around the time we found out I was pregnant. The problem, I went to continue painting after finding out a baby was on the way and was of course concerned with the chemicals I was using. I found that the paint de-glosser I was using was EXTREMELY harmful to pregnant women and children (and probably everyone else, but not on the same level as a child’s developing system) so I didn’t continue the project, thinking I was out of luck until after the pregnancy.

Fast forward 7 months, nothing gets you wanting to finish and complete projects around the house like a baby 12 weeks away! Not to mention, a baby shower at my house this weekend!! I did some research and found a safe, non-toxic paint stripper to finish the job. Mind you, I was not even half-way done with the project and now I’m trying to finish it in 4 days…we’ll see how this goes.

I made this sandwich at the beginning of summer and was OBSESSED! It is so fresh and so delicious!! I literally ate it for lunch for a week straight. I thought I’d finally share the recipe with you and you can enjoy it for the rest of summer with all the fresh veggies. The recipe is from www.jillianharris.com who I have a slight girl crush on. She is a Canadian fashion/food/home blogger with great style in all areas, and also one of the hosts of HGTVs Love It Or List It Too.

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Green Goddess Sandwich
whole grain bread (I used Dave’s Killer Bread Good Seed)
goat cheese, crumbled
white cheddar
fresh spinach
fresh basil, thinly sliced
zucchini, thinly sliced
avocado, sliced
margarine or butter
large handful of parsley
juice from 1/4 of a lemon
1 garlic clove
salt & pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Put parsley, lemon juice, garlic, salt & pepper and olive oil in a bullet or small food processor to make sauce

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2. Butter bread on both sides
3. Layer all ingredients on bread and grill in a panini press or grill pan until brown and crispy

Enjoy!

Spring Frittata w/ Asparagus, Leeks and Dill

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I was actually about to blog something different but saw photos of this frittata and realized I never shared it! Crisis averted 🙂 I made this as part of Easter dinner and it was delicious. Makes a great side dish or appetizer for a spring dinner party.

On another note, my friend, J Soltman Photography, and I went downtown Portland to the Pearl District and she shot our first session of bump shots. I am so incredibly lucky to have such a talented photographer friend who lives so close to me who is just as excited about documenting my pregnancy as I am!

Here are a few of my favorite shots but stay tuned for more posts later this week when I’ll share some outfit details…

Spring Frittata w/ Asparagus, Leeks & Dill
5 tsp olive oil
2 large leeks (white and light green parts, well rinsed) thinly sliced
1 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 lb asparagus, tough ends cut off, cut on the bias into 2 1/2″ pieces
10 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 ozs chevre, crumbled

1. Place an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a 9- or 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp (3 tsp) of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, 1 Tbsp water, and 1 tsp of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Remove the vegetables to a plate. Wipe out the pan and let it cool until tepid.
3. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk them together with salt and pepper to taste, the paprika, dill, chives, and leeks and asparagus mixture.
4. Heat the remaining 2 tsp oil in the pan over medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and add the chevre. Cook until the eggs begin to set on the bottom. Using a heat-resistant spatula, lift the edges of the cooked egg and let liquid eggs run under to the pan below. Cook for another minute and repeat. When the bottom half of the eggs are cooked, place the pan in the oven and cook for 5 minutes, until the eggs are no longer wobbly at the center. Turn on the broiler and broil the frittata until lightly browned on the top, about 30 seconds.
5. Remove the frittata from the oven and let set at least 5 minutes in the pan, then slice and serve.

Original recipe from The Food Lover’s Cleanse

Party Perfect Appetizers

This last weekend we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday by throwing her a surprise party. It was so much fun to get all the family together for an evening of food, drinks and fun! I’ve never managed to actually pull off a surprise, to keep it a secret and all, but I’d say this was successful. People came in from Washington and California to help celebrate this beautiful, caring mother/daughter/sister/aunt/friend who always tries to take care of everyone else.

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We hosted about 20 people and I decided to go with appetizer sized foods rather than serving dinner when not everyone would be able to sit down to eat. I also have to admit, I didn’t make any of this from scratch…ain’t nobody got time for that when you’re having 20 people over!

Butternut Squash soup shooters with Rosemary garnish
The shooter glasses are 2 ounce shot glasses that I got at Bed, Bath & Beyond. These are great for so many cocktail party treats, I used them in another way at this party…scroll down to see 🙂
I bought pre-made Butternut Squash soup (I used Pacific brand organic soup), heat it up in a saucepan and top with a single sprig of rosemary.

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Crostini with Camembert and Fig Sauce
This one will look familiar, I posted this on the blog a few months ago and it was a big hit.
Slice a French Baguette into approximately 25 slices, top with a small slice of Camembert or Brie cheese. Put in the oven at 400° for about 8 minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and top each slice with a tablespoon of your favorite fig jam or spread.

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Mini Caprese Salads
Slide on a toothpick, 1 Mozzarella pearl, a basil leaf (cut smaller or folded), and cherry tomato cut crosswise. Once you have made all of your “salads”, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a saucepan, over medium heat, simmer 2 cups of balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by half and begins to thicken, about 15 minutes.
Allow balsamic vinegar to cool, plate the “salads”, drizzle with vinegar and serve.

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Meatball Sliders
Super easy! I bought frozen Italian style meatballs, pasta sauce, provolone cheese and brioche slider buns.
In a sauce pan, over medium-high heat, heat the meatballs and pasta sauce. To construct, place bottom of slider bun, half a slice of provolone, tablespoon of pasta sauce, 1 meatball cut in half, half a slice of provolone, top of slider bun.

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French Fries with Ketchup
Cook French fries to package directions, put 1 tablespoon of ketchup in the bottom of a 2 ounce, tall shot glass. Add 5-7 fries, plunged in the ketchup.

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Baked Brie w/ Maple & Pecans

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It has been almost a month since my last post and I have missed you all SO MUCH!!!!

Why is it when you get off track with your normal routine, it seems like such an undertaking to get everything back on track?

The last 2 months have been…insane (does that sound too dramatic?). Yes, insane. To the point that my home, diet and exercise routines have completely taken a backseat. I’ve spent the last few days trying to get back on track but it makes me exhausted just thinking about it. One thing at a time I guess…1 workout, 1 blog post and a clean house this morning…better than nothing!

This baked brie is one of my all-time favorite appetizers. So savory! It is a hit at every dinner party and it would be great for your holiday parties too!

Baked Brie w/ Maple & Pecans
1 small wheel of Brie
1/2 cup pecans
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp maple syrup
crackers or sliced baguette, for serving

1. Preheat oven for 350° F. Place cheese on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until softened, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate; cool about 20 minutes.
2. While cheese cools, place nuts on a clean baking sheet; bake until toasted and fragrant, 7-10 minutes. Sprinkle nuts over cheese.
3. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and maple syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat; simmer until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle warm sauce over slightly cooled cheese and nuts; serve with crackers or baguette.

*Original recipe from Martha Stewart

Sausage & Spinach Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash Puree

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I’m on day 4 of being sick in bed…I am NOT good at being sick like this. I am bored out of my mind and want so badly to get up and leave the house but am such a mess and exhausted that all I can do is lie in bed. So ready for this sickness to be done!

Normally, when I get a cold, I just power through, continue working and kick it in about a day and a half. I have been going going going for the last few months, so when I started feeling sick, I decided to spend the day relaxing and resting. If possible, this made things worse? Either this is the worst cold I’ve ever had or stopping to rest just allows the cold to settle in and get comfortable for the long haul!

Lucky for me, I had some of these stuffed shells leftover in the fridge! This recipe does take a little time, however, the look and the flavors will make you feel like you should open your own restaurant! When I think of puréed squash, I can’t help but think of baby food. Not this time. I was eating it by the spoonful!

Sausage & Spinach Stuffed Shells w/ Butternut Squash Purée
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 onion, sliced
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 pound sausage
2 cups spinach (could also substitute kale)
3 cloves garlic
1 pound jumbo shells, cooked al dente
15 ozs ricotta
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan, shredded, plus more for topping
Olive oil
salt & pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange onion and butternut squash in an even layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 50 minutes.
    2. While vegetables roast, cook sausage in a frying pan over medium heat. When sausage is mostly browned, add spinach and garlic.Cook until spinach is wilted and remove from heat.
    3. Cook pasta to package directions. To keep shells from sticking together, add the to boiling salted water one at a time. After draining pasta, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.
    4. When vegetables are finished roasting, place them in a food processor. Pulse until a smooth purée forms. Allow to cool, then stir in milk and vegetable broth. Pour butternut squash sauce into the base of a 9×13 baking dish.
    5. In a large mixing bowl, stir together, ricotta, Parmesan and egg. Add sausage and spinach into ricotta mixture and stir until well mixed. Fill cooked pasta shells with 3-4 tablespoons of filling. Arrange shells in butternut squash sauce in the 9×13 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, covered with foil, followed by 15 minutes uncovered.
    6. When dish is finished baking, carefully spoon shells along with butternut squash sauce into bowls and top with additional Parmesan.

* Original recipe from Completely Delicious

Walnut, Mint & Feta Brown Rice

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I feel like, as a blogger, I’m supposed to be fairly tech savvy. This is 1000% NOT the case right now. I got a new laptop last week, and I’ve been battling with it non-stop. I guess I’m battling more with figuring out how to use Windows 6 than the computer itself. Either way, its irritating and I keep pulling out the old laptop while the new one just sits on my desk looking pretty. Right now, though, I’m forcing myself to use the new one. It’s working, although, it’s taking me about 3 times as long to edit photos and create a blog post.

I made this side dish a week or so ago when I forgot to buy a veggie for dinner and decided to throw some things together that I had leftover in the fridge and pantry. It turned out so incredibly tasty, it’s now one of my quick and easy side dishes!

Walnut, Mint & Feta Brown Rice
makes 6 servings
1 cup brown rice, cooked to package directions
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 Tbsp chopped mint leaves

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve. How easy is that?!?!

Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and a Turkey Rub

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This is a little all-in-one, your spiced turkey rub plus a homemade broth that sits in the bottom of your roasting pan for basting, your broth will turn into a gravy and we top it off with the MOST incredible mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted. EVER!

The great thing about this combo is you can make all 3, or you can pick and choose. If you are picking and choosing which to make, let me reiterate…BEST mashed potatoes ever 🙂 You wanna know the secret…

Cream Cheese!!! What?!?! I’ve never put cream cheese in my mashed potatoes before, but let me tell you, from now on, that is my key ingredient!

Let’s start at the beginning:

Spiced Turkey Rub
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground star anise
coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp finely grated peeled ginger
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 14-lb turkey at room temperature 1 hour, reserving neck and giblets (discard liver)

1. Place black pepper, coriander, cloves, anise and 4 tsp salt in a spice grinder to combine and form a powder. Reserve 1 tsp spice mixture and combine remaining spice mixture with grated ginger, garlic and butter.
2. Rinse turkey inside and out; pat dry. Starting at cavity end, gently side your fingers between skin and flesh. Slide spice paste under, pushing butte out with a finger on outside of skin. Tie legs together, tuck wings under.
3. You can cook turkey to package directions at this point. No need to baste as the spice paste with baste from the inside out for a crispy golden skin. If you are following the below gravy recipe, don’t put the turkey in the oven just yet…time to make the broth!

Spiced Turkey Gravy
Neck and giblets from turkey
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 1/4″ thick slices fresh peeled ginger
1 bunch green onions, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 cup Chinese rice vinegar
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp cornstarch

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Pat neck and giblets dry; cut into 1″ pieces. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté neck pieces and giblets, about 5 minutes. Add green onions, carrots, celery and sliced ginger and sauté, stirring, 8 minutes.
2. Add rice vinegar and boil, scraping up brown bits, 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth, soy sauce, and reserved spice mixture; bring to a boil. Pour mixture into roasting pan; set rack in pan, arranging neck pieces, giblets, and vegetables around it.
3. Roast turkey on rack, rotating pan halfway through, until a thermometer inserted into fleshy part of thigh registers 170°, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
4. Carefully tilt turkey so juices run into pan; transfer turkey to a platter. Let stand 30 minutes.
5. Make gravy while turkey stands. Strain pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing hard on and then discarding solids; skim fat off tope and discard. You should have 4 cups of stock. Transfer all but 1/2 cup stock to a saucepan; bring to a boil.
6. Whisk together cornstarch and reserved stock; whisk into boiling stock and boil; whisking 2 minutes until thickened. If necessary, add more cornstarch 1 tsp at a time and waiting another 2 minutes while whisking. Serve turkey with gravy.

And now for the BEST part!!! Those incredible mashed potatoes!!

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
3 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tsp salt, divided
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup half & half
4 ozs cream cheese, softened
3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place potatoes, 1 tsp salt and cold water in a stock pot, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 15 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain.
2. Place potatoes in a mixing bowl, add butter, half & half, cream cheese, remaining salt and black pepper. Beat at medium speed with a hand mixer for 30-60 seconds for desired smoothness. Serve with gravy and enjoy!!!