Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Oven Fajitas

I'm sorry for my recent absence! I've been in full "get ready for baby" mode! I'm due in just 3 days and I think I'm finally feeling ready. I've been organizing, cleaning and stocking my freezer with meals and my pantry with yummy snacks! Not to mention buying final things, washing baby clothes and trying to get some rest before a newborn keeps me up all night!

One of the first meals I made when meal planning were these oven fajitas. They are simple, flavorful and can be easily whipped up. You could also cut up the raw ingredients and then freeze them to make one night. Simply thaw and then follow instructions accordingly. 

I will be making these again soon for sure since they allowed for leftovers and were quick to throw together-perfect for a new mom! 

Oven Fajitas
recipe courtesy Budget Bytes

Serves 4

1 Tbsp chili powder
½ Tbsp paprika 
½ tsp onion powder 
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp cumin
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp sugar 
½ tsp salt
½ Tbsp corn starch
or your favorite premixed fajita/taco seasoning 
1 large onion
2 green bell peppers
1 red bell pepper
1 pound chicken breast or chicken tenders
2 tbsp vegetable oil

8 tortillas 

Optional toppings: lime, sour cream, cilantro


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix spices together unless using pre-made mix. Cut onion, bell peppers and chicken into long strips for fajitas and place in a medium bowl. Toss chicken and vegetables with vegetable oil and spices until coated. 

Place chicken and vegetables in oven safe dish and bake for 35-40 minutes, tossing once half way through. 

Layer chicken and vegetables on tortillas and top with sour cream, squeeze of lime and chopped cilantro.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Cabbage Slaw

Are my husband and I the only ones obsessed with street tacos? We love fish tacos, carnitas tacos and unique versions like from our favorite restaurant, Torchy's Tacos. I wouldn't call us taco "connoisseurs" but pretty close. 

So many of my best memories in recent years involve delicious tacos-at the beach on the Oregon coast, Taco Tuesday date night with my husband when all I needed was some alone time with him, our favorite taco place in my hometown where our family goes, and trip to California with my girls munching on tacos. 

So many memories all wrapped up in little tacos. 

To me, the best part of any good taco (especially fish tacos) is not only the delicious meat (I don't often choose veggie only tacos) but that delicious crispy and flavorful slaw on top. And I finally feel like I finally mastered my own version of those slaws for when we make tacos. I used a shredded coleslaw mix so that I could whip up my own batch whenever and in smaller batches. 

I HIGHLY recommend eating this slaw over the carnitas taco recipe I posted last week in corn tacos. Everyone will love you. People will cheer. And the memories. So many good memories to be had with delicious tacos.

Cabbage Slaw for Tacos
The Apron Gal

Serves 12-16 (can easily be halved for a smaller batch) 

14-16 ounce package coleslaw mix like this (shredded cabbage, carrots, etc.) or you can be an overachiever and cut around 6 cups of your own mixture of fresh cabbage, radicchio and carrots :)
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped red onion 
Juice of 1 Lime
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup, scant mayonnaise  
Dash of Salt

1/2 jalapeno, optional 


Finely chop the red onion and cilantro (chop and add desired amount of jalapeno here also). Add red onion and cilantro to shredded coleslaw mix. Stir in juice of the lime, apple cider vinegar, a dash of salt and then gradually add in mayonnaise until desired sauciness is achieved.

Let chill for 1 hour to let flavors meld properly (recommended but not required). 

Cook's Note: I don't recommend making this too far in advance as you don't want the coleslaw to get soggy. You could certainly wait on adding the mayonnaise until slightly before serving and have everything else mixed together. 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dark Chocolate Pairings and a Girl's Night In

Guys, this whole pregnancy thing is getting real! I'm due in only 5.5 weeks and I'm totally in this "soak up my last days of freedom" stage. Yes, yes, I know having a child will be the most amazing experience and I can't wait, but I'm also not naive enough to think my life won't be changing drastically. So I'm doing my best to soak up sleeping late, staying up late, date nights out and hanging with girlfriends for hours on end. When Ghirardelli asked me to indulge in their 72% Twilight Delight Intense Dark Chocolate Bar I didn't hesitate. And what came to mind instantly? A Girl's Night In with my favorite ladies to let them in on the dark chocolate feast as well.

Of course, being such good friends, they agreed to come eat chocolate with me and we had a blast. We paired our Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate with raspberries, strawberries, pineapple and some marshmallows. It was the perfect balance of the rich dark chocolate with the sweet fruits. And they all agreed that this wasn't just any ordinary chocolate- Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate was smooth and indulgent and we savored every bite!

Although the chocolate was great, the best part was catching up with the girls. It's so important to have good friends in life and I feel so blessed to have some of the best just down the street. We laugh and commiserate over baby worries, husband stories and our own insecurities and it's so great to have good friends to go through life with. I hope you have some good girl friends to gather for some chocolate, girl chat and laughter. 

 Since none of us drink alcohol we drank just water so we could truly embrace the dark chocolate and fruit flavors without any distractions!

This Intense Dark Chocolate is Girl's Night Approved! 

And.....did I mention there are other awesome flavors of the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate?  My other favories inlude: 72% Twilight Delight (seen above) Sea Salt Soiree, Hazelnut Heaven and Toffee Interlude. Definitely grab a few flavors for your next Girl's Night or  I guess, if your boyfriend or husband is lucky enough- a romantic chocolate and fruit night for 2 (my husband was jealous this spread wasn't for him!).

And if you are in Austin this week, make sure to stop by Ghirardelli's booth at the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival. Ghirardelli will be featured at the Grand Tasting, the VIP Lounge and the Sips & Sweets Desserts Party. You won't want to miss them!

Visit Ghirardelli Dark for other pairing ideas like dried fruits, nuts, and beverage options. They also have great ideas to help you plan your Girl's Night In or that romantic date night if you are a better wife than me! And be sure to come back and comment and let me know your perfect pairing and upload your own photo of your perfect pairing on the Ghirardelli website!

Thank you to Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate for sponsoring this post and allowing me to share my perfect pairing.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Crock Pot Carnitas

You guys. I rarely make a recipe, eat the leftovers day after day after day and then want to make it AGAIN the next chance I get!

THIS is one of those rare recipes. These carnitas are moist, crispy and flavorful and could be used so many different ways. I made a delicious homemade cole slaw (recipe to come soon!) to accompany these in corn tortillas and we couldn't  stop eating them.

It's an added bonus that these are made in the crock pot so you can leave it while you are at work, then come home to the moist and flavorful meat. Then while you get the rest of dinner ready you can crisp up the meat in the oven and voila! And for heaven's sake...DO NOT SKIP the oven part! You will be sad if you don't get those crispy pieces that add great texture and help bring out more flavor also. 

Definitely work this into your meal plan soon-kids, husbands, and guests alike are sure to love this! 


Look at all that delicious crispy carnitas! (I could have let it get even crispier but I grew impatient!)

Crock Pot Carnitas
recipe courtesy The Weary Chef

Serves 6-8 

3-4 lb. pork roast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1 teaspoon. cumin
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper, optional
16-oz. jar of green salsa
1 can beef broth
½ c. milk
Corn tortillas 
Desired toppings:  cole slaw, guacamole, salsa

Mix spices together. Place pork roast in slow cooker. Sprinkle roast with spices. Pour salsa and beef broth over roast. Cover and cook on high 6-8 hours or low 8-10 hours, until meat can be shred easily.

Once the pork is done, preheat oven to 275 degrees. Remove pork from the slow cooker (keep cooking liquid!!) and shred on a cutting board using two forks, removing the pieces of fat. Place shredded pork on a foil lined (or Silpat lined) baking sheet.

Pour ½ cup of cooking liquid and ½ cup of milk over shredded pork. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes-1 hour (depending on your oven) until brown and crispy.

Serve with tortillas, cole slaw, gaucamole, salsa or anything else your heart desires! 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Meal Planning for Beginners

I'm so excited to share this post with you today! I'm constantly trying to figure out better systems for my life to make me happier, healthier and more organized. "Meal planning" is this popular thing to do around the internet but I always found it intimidating until I created a system that works for me. And since it works for me, I thought it might work for some of you!

I'd love to hear other suggestions as well and what is working for you as I continue perfecting this system. So please comment or email me if you have other awesome tips!

How do I start meal planning?
The first thing you need to figure out is what your goal of meal planning is. Are you starting a new diet, trying to save money or trying to bring your family together more? Different goals will shape your meal planning slightly differently. Make sure you are keeping your goals in mind as you go! 

Our meal planning was motivated by 5 goals:

1. Be healthier- Eating at home is almost exclusively healthier than eating out.
2. Save money- We can feed the 2 of us and have leftovers for even cheaper than fast food.
3. Avoid 5pm frustrations-Nothing is worse than both getting home from work and realizing one of you didn't thaw the chicken or pick up that missing ingredient etc. 
4. Waste less food- Without a meal plan, I forget a lot of the fresh vegetables/leftovers etc. we have on hand and throw away too much food. I hate being wasteful and I hate throwing away money. 
5. Try new foods and develop new favorites- When we are cooking without a plan we tend to stick to the old standbys and those get old fast! 

The Best 5 Tips for Starting Meal Planning

1. Be realistic
  • If you are currently cooking dinner one time a week, don't expect to jump to cooking 6 gourmet meals a week. I was cooking 1-2 times during the week and am now cooking 3-4 times as well as 1-2 times per weekend. If you try to cook every meal instantly, you will get frustrated by not staying on track and give up. Start slowly, maybe just plan 1 week at a time and then over time, as you get more confident, plan further in advance.
2. Use what you know
Please note potato bar does not have an "e" on potato. That would be my Idaho husband that had a slight lapse in spelling.
  •  Write down all the meals you already know how to make. You will be surprised by how much you know! Most people are comfortable making tacos, pasta, sandwiches, omelettes, pancakes etc. Not every meal on the meal plan is gourmet or even officially "cooking." Again, this all relates to your goals. If your goal is to only cook new things, you may not include this but I find most people's goals include saving money and eating healthier. You can certainly do that by making a sandwich or an omelette for dinner!  This was just our first round of "favorites"-we certainly know how to make other things so we need to update our list too!
3. Write it down
  • Call me old school but for all my gadgets and devices, when I meal plan, I do use my computer for looking up recipes but I hand write my meal calendar and my shopping list. This gives me the satisfaction to not only write updates on the calendar but cross off meals when they are completed successfully and who doesn't love that feeling? I also bring both papers with me to the grocery store and keep the meal plan on the fridge so my husband is also aware of the meal plan each night. 
  • I print one month calendars at a time from this website.
4. Be flexible
  • I currently plan one month out at a time- of course, there will definitely be times when plans change and I have to work late and miss a meal. Or in my current pregnant state, not everything I planned a month ago may sound good. Feel free to move days around and update as necessary. It's a guideline for your sanity so don't freak out if you decide to move things around.
5.  Leave adequate time to plan
I set up my station with my computer, calendar, grocery list, and cookbooks/favorites list
  • I think part of the reason I always failed at meal planning was I expected to do it in 10 minutes. I would say it takes me at least 2-3 hours to plan out 1 month of dinner meals. Now granted, I'm indecisive and a food blogger so the average person may need less time. But I would say set aside 1 hour anytime you are going to meal plan so that you feel you have the time to do the adequate internet and pantry research necessary for meal planning success. 

I hope these first tips for meal planning helped you! I'll dive even deeper next time!
Next time in the Meal Planning Series: Grocery lists, meal planning resources & creating a calendar key


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