Blistered Tomatoes

I’ve stumbled across a cheap, delicious, fast, practically calorie free side dish (and free on Weight Watchers). Sound too good to be true? Well, apparently it’s not.

We love to buy the containers of cherry tomatoes from Costco, and they sell them in the plain red variety and also a multicolor heirloom mixture that has red, yellow, green, and even purple bite-sized tomatoes. My toddler loves them, to the point that we’ve even resorted to hiding them in the pantry or he’ll drive us crazy wanting them all day. They’ve also ended up under our couch for reasons that still mystify me. We fancy ourselves salad eaters, but often the salad mix and tomatoes end up going bad before anyone can use them. I saw them sitting there the other day and thought, heck, why not.
I had just panfried myself some chicken breast with lemon juice, an attempt at a low calorie meal as I’m trying to get all this baby weight off. I gave my hot pan a quick spray of Pam, and threw in a double handful of tomatoes, and fried them until they were brown and blistered on one side then gave them a good stir. Toward the end I felt they were getting a little dry so I added in a couple tablespoons of water to sort of deglaze the pan. As soon as they started looking a little blistered and wrinkly (about 3 minutes), I added a half a teaspoon of minced garlic and salt, stirring a couple more times. The results were these wonderfully hot, flavorful tomato bites that burst in your mouth with the most potent tangy tomato flavor ever. They tasted similar to sun-dried tomatoes, but without the dry and leathery bit.
Feel free to experiment  by adding additional seasonings.  I tried adding Italian seasonings and it was delicious, a taste reminiscent of spaghetti.  Basil would probably be good, also.

This post was written by Kayte, but because she emailed it to me, it showed that I wrote it.


#TBT – Homemade Goldfish Crackers

If one of your go-to snacks for your toddler (especially when you need something portable) is goldfish crackers, here is an easy recipe to make your own so you can control exactly what goes into them (and it isn’t much).  
I will warn you, though, that you just about have to use a food processor. They are really good.  For the original post, click here.

Mac & Cheese One-Dish Meals

I don’t usually use boxed macaroni & cheese, but when you have a hungry family and not much time, there are ways to beef it up to make a one-dish meal.  

I am cooking lunch for 15 people at Maia Mom’s Dream House every Thursday, and the challenge is to use what they have on hand without buying a lot of other ingredients.  They are able to get groceries from the Dream Center food pantry, so the food on hand changes every week.  This past week I used boxed macaroni & cheese, canned pinto beans, ground beef, leftover cooked chicken, and canned tomatoes to make two different versions, one taco with ground beef & beans and one Italian with chicken and tomatoes.  Everyone ended up taking some of each, and they were both surprisingly good.
Taco Mac & Cheese
Serves 8
  • 1/2 lb ground beef, browned
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 packet taco seasoning*
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 boxes macaroni & cheese, prepared according to package directions
Combine all ingredients except the macaroni & cheese, and simmer for a few minutes while you prepare the mac & cheese dinner.  When the mac & cheese dinner is prepared, add the meat mixture and mix well.  (I added some crushed tortilla chips to the top.)  *Instead of the taco seasoning mix and the diced tomatoes, I used salsa,chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Italian Mac & Cheese
Serves 4
  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken (or browned ground beef or turkey)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (or to taste)
  • 1 small can chopped black olives
  • 1 box macaroni & cheese, prepared according to package directions
Combine all ingredients except the macaroni & cheese, and simmer for a few minutes while you prepare the mac & cheese dinner. When the mac & cheese dinner is prepared, add the chicken and tomato mixture and mix well.
The inspiration for these dishes came from this blog post by The Humbled Homemaker.  (Check out that post for several other suggestions.)

Taco Casserole

As I was rummaging through my refrigerator and freezer, I came across the makings for a simple but tasty casserole.  I had a few corn tortillas that were past their prime, some cheddar cheese, salsa, leftover taco meat and some red beans that I had cooked from scratch.  That’s all I needed to put together a taco casserole.
Taco Casserole

  • 2 cups ground beef, browned (or leftover taco meat)
  • 2 cups cooked beans (pinto, red, black, white, or whatever you have on hand)
  • 6-8 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover bottom of a 8″x8″ casserole dish with a thin layer of salsa. Cover that with a single layer of corn tortillas, tearing as necessary to fit. Add 1/2 the meat, beans and cheese, spreading it out evenly. Add another layer of tortillas, then meat, beans and cheese. Feel free to add more salsa on each layer if you like. It would also be good with cooked corn added to the layers if you have some. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Take foil off and bake for another 5-10 minutes until bubbly and starting to brown. Cut into squares and serve. It is good just as is, but adding any combination of chopped tomatoes, sour cream or feta cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped onions, or fresh chopped cilantro really takes it over the top.

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

It is way too hot here to get excited about cooking, but in the process of trying to use up some leftovers, I came up with a great summer dish.  I had leftover cooked quinoa, black beans and a little bit of pico de gallo salsa.  I mixed them all together and sprinkled a little feta cheese over the top, serving it cold.  It makes a perfect summer meal!
Black Bean & Quinoa Salad
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup pico de gallo*
  • 1 cup black beans (rinsed well)
  • Feta cheese to taste (optional)
Mix together everything except feta, then sprinkle feta on top if using.  This makes 2 generous servings.  Feel free to multiply as needed for more servings (no adjustments necessary).
*Substitute 2/3 cup diced tomato, 1/3 cup diced bell pepper, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and some chopped cilantro if you don’t have pico de gallo. Add salt to taste.

Feta Pesto Pasta

This meal is so simple I’m a little embarrassed to even make a blog post out of it. I wouldn’t, except it’s become a family favorite and my husband would happily eat it every night of the week if it were up to him. These days I’m feeling less than inspired to be ambitious in the kitchen, being 33 weeks pregnant and sporting a significant waddle. Honestly, all I want to do is sit on the couch with my feet up, eating my fetus’ weight in Butterfingers, and work on various craft projects for the nursery. 

What Butterfingers do to ya.
This meal is almost exclusively from Costco (everything but the pasta), but can easily be done with ingredients from a regular grocery store. You just won’t be able to brag that you made 8 meals out of a $9 jar of (the best ever) pesto sauce! Considering a small 4 oz jar at the grocery store is about $5, that’s a very good deal. This dish is so quick to prepare that it is literally done by the time you boil the pasta.

A great use for leftover rotisserie chicken.

My method is to start my pot of water to boil, roughly chop leftover cold chicken (don’t forget to save the carcass for chicken broth), and dice the onion before adding the pasta to the boiling water. Next I throw the onions in a hot skillet to sauté, then add the sun dried tomatoes and chicken just long enough to heat them through. The results look like this:

Onions, sun dried tomatoes, chicken.

When I strain the pasta, I add the cold pesto sauce to the hot pot and dump the pasta in on top of it. This is referred to as “Being Too Lazy To Dirty Another Pan.” Next I simply combine all the ingredients and stir, topping with feta. Voila!

This is probably the tastiest 15 minute meal I know how to make. I have bags of Costco rotisserie chicken in my freezer that will make this meal even easier (as if that’s possible) after this baby comes. The onions and sun dried tomatoes are completely optional, and I’ve substituted fresh chopped tomatoes, broccoli, goat cheese, and other frozen veggies in the past. 

Feta pesto pasta

Feta Pesto Pasta

  • 1 box pasta (penne or rotini works best IMO)
  • 1-2 cups diced cooked chicken (rotisserie works great)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 heaping tablespoons sun dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons pesto
  • feta cheese

Cook pasta according to package. In the meantime, chop onions and chicken. Saute onions, adding chicken and tomatoes and stir until heated through, then remove from heat. When you strain the pasta, add the pesto sauce to the hot pan and cover with hot pasta. Stir all ingredients together and top with desired amount of feta. Serve with garlic bread for best results (and maximum carb overload).

Mustardy Chicken

This is a quick, easy and tasty way to fix chicken.  I usually deliberately make extra, serving it the first time as an entree with potatoes, rice or quinoa and a veggie or two.  The leftover chicken makes a great sandwich and freezes well.  I took it often for lunch when I was still working.
Mustardy Chicken
4 servings

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons prepared mustard (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 cup flour (optional)
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (or almond meal)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt & pepper
  • Paprika (optional – improves appearance)
  • Oil or fat for frying

Beat eggs, add mustard and mix well. Pound chicken until a uniform thickness, the thinner the better. (I put the chicken in a ziplock baggie and pound with a meat mallet.) Cut into serving-sized pieces. (Breasts will serve two, thighs will serve one.) Sprinkle meat with salt, pepper, garlic & onion powder.  Dredge in flour (if using – it helps the coating adhere better).  Dip in egg mixture, letting excess drain off, then in bread crumbs.  Sprinkle with paprika on both sides, and fry briefly.  If your chicken is nice and thin, it will only take a couple of minutes on each side.  
This is one of my family’s favorites, even those who don’t like mustard.  As long as you have thawed chicken, it comes together very quickly.  It is also a great candidate for a freezer-cooking session.