Chili Cheese Dip

Chili Cheese Dip
adapted from
THIS recipe

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15 ounce) can chili
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 tomato, chopped & seeded
chopped chives for garnish

Combine all the ingredients above except for chives and mix thoroughly.
Place in baking dish and bake for 20-23 minutes until warmed and bubbly OR place in mini crockpot to keep warm.
Garnish with chives.
** I made this a day in advance and replenished my mini crockpot as needed.

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Mexican: Light & Refreshing

For dinner tonight, a friend came over to catch up on girltime. I prepared a quick dinner that was light, flavorful and used what I had on hand, since the hubby to the car to work today. (And it was a perfect chance to cook beef for myself since my hubby doesn’t eat beef!) With that said, here’s what I came up with and was pleasantly surprised what a little creativity can do!

Mexican Steak “Pitzas” with Cilantro Cream

1 lb beef flank steak, finely chopped
1/2 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon southwest seasoning
1 teaspoon Sazon con Cilantro seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon canola oil for cooking
4 gyro pitas
1/2 cup shredded mexican blend cheese
1/2 finely diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
2-3 tablespoons water

– Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
– In a skillet over medium high heat, add the cooking oil, onions and garlic; saute until softened.
– Add the beef and seasonings and cook until browned.
– Meanwhile, place your gyro pitas on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes to soften the pitas. Remove the pitas from the oven and set aside.
– When the beef has cooked thoroughly, carefully spoon the beef over the warmed pitas to cover completely.
– Top the beef with the shredded cheese and bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes until cheese has melted.
– While the pitas are baking, prepare the cilantro cream by combining the cilantro, sour cream and water. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
– When the pitas are done baking, remove from the oven and top with the cilantro cream and chopped tomatoes; serve.

Tex Mex Quinoa Salad

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 chicken breast, boiled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 stalk green onion, sliced
2 japelenos, finely diced
1 can sweet kernel corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add the quinoa and chicken broth. Cook until done and set aside.
Meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss.
Add the slightly cooled quinoa to the bowl and toss
Season with salt & pepper to your taste.

Killing Two Birds with One Salsa!

Salsa is quite a popular condiment and in fact, I believe it’s even more popular than ketchup! Today I wanted to try making a variation of the traditional tomato salsa and to use it as a way to kick up the flavor in other dishes. I found a Tomatillo Salsa Verde recipe from Simply Recipes and it worked out beautifully. After I made the salsa, I used it to make Salsa Verde Chicken Quesadillas.

Here’s my adapted version of Simply Recipe’s Tomatillo Salsa Verde:

1 1/2 lb tomatillos
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
Salt to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic

Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cut in half and place cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin.

Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, Jalapeño peppers, sugar, garlic & red pepper flakes in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are coarsely chopped and mixed. (You can process it finer to your preference but because I planned on using it further, I chose to do it coarsely.) Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator. Serve with chips or as a salsa accompaniment to Mexican dishes. Makes 3 cups.

Using the recipe above, here’s my recipe for Salsa Verde Chicken Quesadillas:

1 1/2 cup prepared salsa verde
2-3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
stack of flour tortillas
1 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese
cooking spray
sour cream, salsa verde, chopped tomatoes for garnish

In a freezer bag, place salsa verde with chicken breasts. Allow it to marinate for 30 mins.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place marinated chicken on baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 mins.
Remove chicken from oven and cool. When cooled, chop up.
Place chopped chicken in a large bowl.
Add cheese and a tablespoon of prepared salsa verde.
Use chicken mixture as a filling for quesadillas.
Spray one side of flour tortilla with cooking spray and lay sprayed side on hot skillet over medium high heat.
Add 1-2 tablespoons chicken filling on top pof the flour tortilla and place another tortilla on top.
Spray the top of flour tortilla with cooking spray and flip in skillet when bottom is lightly browned.
Continue cooking until filling is melted and quesadilla is lightly browned on both sides.
Service with sour cream, additional salsa verde and chopped tomatoes.

Just Grill It!

It’s a gorgeous Saturday here in Chicago and we’re taking advantage of our grill. For lunch, I made this Dijon Tarragon Grilled Chicken which used up some random ingredients I had on hand. I served this with a portabello mushroom & spinach pilaf too!
Here’s the recipe for Dijon Tarragon Grilled Chicken:

1/3 cup chopped fresh (or dried) tarragon
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
Chicken pieces or boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine first 5 ingredients in processor. Process until smooth. Place chicken pieces in 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Pour tarragon-mustard mixture over chicken; toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour or refrigerate 2 to 4 hours, turning occasionally.

Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Place chicken on barbecue. Cover and grill until chicken is almost cooked through, turning every 5 minutes and basting with marinade, about 30 minutes. Grill without basting until chicken is cooked through, about 7 minutes longer. Serve chicken hot, warm, or at room temperature.

I’m also submitting this to the Eat Healthy: Protein Rich blogging event, hosted by Sangeeth. Check out her blog for some great recipes too!

The hubby is off to work this afternoon so I’m flying solo for dinner. Since it’s just me, rather than having a full meal I’m snacking. One of my favorite snacks are nachos… or anything crunchy & salty that I can dip into something preferably cheesy.

I had some leftover ingredients from yesterday’s corn & black bean salad, as well as a package of Trader Joe’s guacamole. In my pantry I had a tub of On The Border Cheese. My random snack/dinner? A five layer dip w/chips!

3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup guacamole
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup shredded cheese or prepared nacho cheese
1/4 cup pico de gallo salsa

In a pie plate, layer the above ingredients in order, with the sour cream on the bottom.
Enjoy with tortilla chips & a margarita!

Leftover Lasagna Fiesta!

Finally, the cooler weather has set in! I’ve dug up some leftovers from my freezer and found a chicken & black bean filling waiting to be used up. This filling was initially made for my previous Calzone/Ravioli party a few weeks ago. It includes shredded chicken, sliced bell peppers (green, red & yellow), onions, garlic, black beans and green chilies. With my leftover filling, I decided to make a chicken mexican lasagna.Here is my recipe for Chicken Mexican Lasagna

1 lb chicken breast or thighs, boiled & deboned
salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder to taste
1 can black beans
1/2 cup each sliced bell peppers – green, red & yellow
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jar salsa
1 bag mexican blend cheese
18 corn tortillas

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except salsa, cheese & tortillas.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a 9×13 baking dish, spray the bottom & sides with cooking spray.
Place 6 tortillas in the dish to cover the bottom.
Add half the chicken mixture over the tortilla layer.
Sprinkle with 1/3 bag of cheese.
Place another layer of tortillas over the cheese.
Add the remaining chicken mixture over the tortilla layer.
Sprinkle with 1/3 bag of cheese.
Place another layer of tortillas over the cheese.
Pour jar of salsa over the tortillas.
Sprinke with remaining cheese.
Cover with foil & bake for 45 minutes – one hour.

I served this with sour cream and extra salsa.

Enchiladas with Sweet Surprises

After having leftovers and boring hot dogs the past couple days, today I made dinner using a unique recipe shared by my friend Cara. She introduced me to the idea of using sweet potatoes and black beans as fillings for burritos. Well, I felt adventurous and made pork filled enchiladas using sweet potatoes and black beans.
Popular in the American South, these yellow or orange sweet potatoes are elongated with ends that taper to a point and are of two dominant types. The paler-skinned sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin with pale yellow flesh which is not sweet and has a dry, crumbly texture similar to a white baking potato. The darker-skinned variety (which is most often called “yam” in error) has a thicker, dark orange to reddish skin with a vivid orange, sweet flesh and a moist texture.
Here is my recipe for Pork, Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas:

1 can peeled, cubed sweet potatoes
1 can cooked black beans
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. ground cumin
4 tsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 cup roasted, shredded pork
12 eight-inch soft corn tortillas
tomato salsa, sour cream, and cheese for topping

- Preheat oven to 350.
- Rinse sweet potatoes with water in a colander to wash
away any light syrup it was packed in.
- Rinse black beans with water as well.
- Combine potatoes, beans, garlic, onion and lemon juice
and process in food processor.
- Place sweet potato mixture in a bowl and add seasonings.
- Add shredded pork and fold into mixture.
- Spray with nonstick spray a large baking dish.
- Spoon about 2/3 to 3/4 C. of the filling into center of
each tortilla, roll closed, and place seam side down
in baking dish.
- Cover tightly with foil & bake 30 min or until hot.
- Serve topped with salsa, yogurt and cheese...
or any of your fave toppings.
I topped my enchiladas with Fage greek yogurt
and shredded cheese, along side of a
sweet corn, black bean and tomato salad.