Salsa Chicken Bowls

Never go to the grocery store without a list…especially after you have a baby.  I couldn’t remember the ingredients for a new recipe to save my life, and I just got lucky with what I had on hand with this one!  And I was still missing the cilantro.  But, it still tasted great, but the bowl would’ve tasted better with some cilantro and other fixin’s.  My inspiration for this one was the chicken rice bowls at Taco Bell.  I haven’t had one in years, but I thought I could recreate my own chicken rice bowl at home.

One app that we’ve found very helpful is called OurGroceries.  It was shared with me by my awesome sister-in-law.  There are plenty of “To Do” and grocery list apps out there, but this one is by far the most helpful.  You can link/share the list between as many people as you’d like.  So Nate can add items to the list and I can see the same list on my phone.  No matter who goes to the store that day, we both have THE LIST!  Easy peasy.

Spicy Chicken Bowls - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

1 lb of chicken breast
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 jar of salsa
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups of rice
2-3 tablespoons Taco Seasoning (I concocted my own blend)
1 cup sour cream

Optional Ingredients
Green Onions
Shredded Cheese

-Add raw chicken to crock pot and pour the soup and salsa over the top.  Sprinkle your taco seasoning over the sauce, and cook on LOW for 4-5 hours.

-Shred the chicken at the end and add the sour cream.  Stir to combine.

-Serve over rice and beans, and top with whatever fixin’s you like!

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Here is a quick one for you.  Great for potlucks, picnics, or week day lunches.  This is really a no-fuss side that if you can boil water, you should have NO problems giving a try!

Mediterranean Pasta Salad - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

Mediterranean Pasta Salad - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

1 lb rotini pasta, al dente (or your favorite pasta salad pasta)
1 16 oz sundried tomato vinaigrette (I used Kraft)
1 8 oz jar of sundried tomatos in oil, drained, rinced, and chopped
1 14.5 oz can of artichoke quarters, drained and chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 small  red onion, diced
8 oz of feta cheese
2 teaspoons dried oregano

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl or tupper ware and that’s it. 

Store in the fridge.

*This pasta salad tastes better if you make the night before and let it chill in the refrigerator.  It tastes even better 2 days later!

Sweet and Sour Pork

Source: Coleen’s Recipes

I asked Nate what he thought about this dish and his exact comment was “It tastes like Chinese takeout…only better?” and then he told me to be sure to make it again.  And he was right, it did taste like Chinese take out only better.  Most of us who love Chinese takeout, love to not think about how it was prepared.  But, lets be honest people, Chinese takeout is NOT good for you.  You could argue that it is good for the soul and good for comfort, but eventually suffering a heart attack doesn’t comfort me at all!  Well, here is a great alternative!  Serve it on top of brown rice and again, you’re skipping the fried rice you may have opted for at the takeout counter.  I’m also thinking, this sauce would be great with chicken and/or shrimp.  Enjoy!

Sweet and Sour Pork - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

2-3 pound lean pork roast
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup white vinegar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup
20 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained


-Brown the pork roast on all sides and place in crock pot

-Mix the rest of the ingredients in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil.  Then pour into the same crock pot.

-Cook on low for at least 4 hours or until tender (I went for 5!).  Spoon the sauce over the meat every so often, but not needed.

-At the last 30 minutes, add some corn starch to thicken the sauce (I added 3 tablespoons of corn starch mixed with 3 tablespoons of cold water)

-Brown the pork roast on all sides and put it in your slow cooker. Mix everything else and bring it to a boil, then pour it over the meat.
-Cook on low for 4 hours or until very tender (spoon the sauce over the meat every once in a while).
-Serve over rice.

Spicy Pork Tenderloin

Source:  Add a Pinch

Pork is not a staple in our house.  Reason?  Because Nate’s job revolves around pork.  If you saw, touched, smelled, and tasted pork all day, would you ever crave it for a meal?  Don’t think so.  In fact, we often shudder at the thought of eating pork…especially barbecue or ribs.  Every now and then, we think we would enjoy a barbecue sandwich, only to order one, take a bite, and immediately regret our decision.  It’s actually funny when this happens, because we do it to ourselves.  People often ask us what our favorite foods are and our answer is usually “Well, a shorter list would be what we don’t eat, and that’s pork!”  Except bacon, love us some bacon!

While in the grocery store and noticed how inexpensive pork tenderloins are and couldn’t remember a pork tenderloin that I had eaten ever being bad.  So I decided to take a whack at it.  This recipe was so delicious, easy, and saucy.  If you do not like your food spicy, you can easily control the heat level with the amount of sriracha sauce you add to the mix.  We will definitely make this over and over.  I’m excited to try it on the grill once the weather warms up.  Nate even commented that the meat was cooked perfectly…thank you very much 🙂  

Spicy Pork Tenderloin - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

Spicy Pork Tenderloin - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

-1 3-4 pound pork tenderloin
-½ cup barbecue sauce
-¼ cup grape jelly
-2 tablespoons Sriracha Sauce
-2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Place pork tenderloin into a large ziploc bag.

Whisk together barbecue sauce, grape jelly, sriracha sauce, worcestershire, garlic and pepper. Pour half of barbecue sauce into the ziploc bag with pork tenderloin. 

Remove excess air from zip top bag and seal. Place in the fridge for at least an hour…overnight is best.  Cover and save the extra barbecue sauce in the fridge as well.

Bake or grill pork tenderloins until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. (I baked mine for 25 minutes at 400 degrees and then turned the heat down to 350 degrees for another 15-20 minutes)

Remove from oven or grill and wrap with aluminum foil (to keep warm) for five to ten minutes.

Brush with some of the extra sauce and serve with extra sauce on the side.

Make Now and Freeze For Later

Nesting hit me this weekend.  One day it was in the form of cleaning and the next it took the form of cooking.  Here are the recipes I used to make several casseroles and breakfasts to freeze for later.  And, I have to tell you, having food and meals already taken care of, takes such a huge weight off our shoulders!

First things first, I have one complaint for the grocery stores.  Can all the products and brands get together and decide on the same quantities to offer their products in?  I wanted to make 12 muffins.  Well, the muffins come in packs of 6, the sausage in packs of 8, the cheese in packs of 11 or 20, and the eggs in packs of 12.  So I ended up making 8 muffins with sausage, egg, and cheese and 2 muffins with just egg and cheese.  The same thing happens with hot dogs and hamburgers.  Grrr, anyways…

One extra step I took for all of this was buying disposable casserole and meat loaf pans.  This will allow for easy clean up when the time comes to actually eat these dishes which will be another huge time saver once the baby is here.  It also allows me to still have the use of my glass casserole dishes, in case I actually have time to do some cooking.

The List
Turkey Sausage, Egg, and Cheese English Muffins
Turkey Meatloaf
Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf  
Pioneer Woman’s Baked Ziti
Chicken Manicotti 
Chicken Baked Spaghetti – didn’t have time to get to this one.  Will post if I get to it! 

Turkey Sausage, Egg, and Cheese English Muffins 

12 english muffins (I bought the whole grain for an extra hearty muffin)
12 turkey sausage patties
12 eggs
12 slices of cheddar cheese

-preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray
-Crack 1 egg into each muffin hole
-Use a fork or whisk to pop the yolk and sprinkle a bit of pepper onto each egg
-Bake in the oven for 25-30  minutes until the egg is cooked through. (The eggs will be well done.  I know we all prefer our eggs cooked differently, but because these are going to be frozen, it’s better just to bake them completely)
-Remove eggs from oven, run a knife around each edge, and the eggs will pop out easily.
Open and layout all 12 english muffins
-Add 1 turkey sausage patty to each english muffin
-Add 1 slice of cheese to each english muffin
-Add 1 egg to each english muffin
-Add the top of the english muffin to finish
-Wrap each in foil and label for later

-Optional- add the reheating directions and date to a large freezer ziplock and add all of the muffins wrapped in foil to that freezer bag.  This helps me keep the freezer organized.

Ready to Eat Directions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
If muffins are thawed, bake in the foil for 15-20 minutes
If muffins are frozen, bake in the foil for 30-40 minutes 
*You could also microwave these, but you must remove the foil first.  Also, the upside to baking in the oven, the muffins will toast up!

Turkey Meatloaf
1 egg
3/4 cup of milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup quick cooking oats
1/3 cup italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 pound lean, 99% fat-free ground turkey

2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard

-Spray 2 mini meatloaf pans with non-stick spray

-In a large bowl, whisk the egg and milk together.  Then add the cheese, oats, breadcrumbs, onion, and seasoned salt…stir to combine.  Add the ground meat and mix with your hands.  (Don’t over mix, or the meatloaf will be tough)

-Split the meat mixture into 2 portions and set in the greased baking pans.

-In a small bowl, stir the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard together.  Spoon over each of the loaves.

-Cover with foil and label with date and reheating directions

Ready to Eat Directions

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Bake uncovered…
-If defrosted, bake for 40-45 minutes, until meat is cooked through and juices run clear
-If frozen, bake for 55-60 minutes, until meat is cooked through and juices run clear

*You could easily make this into 1 whole meat loaf.  But I decided it would be better to split these into 2 different meal portions.
*I‘ve made these into mini-meatloaves also, check out that recipe here. 

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf   
Source: What’s Cookin, Chicago?
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small onion, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pasta sauce (homemade or store bought)
1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend

-Spray 2 mini meatloaf pans with non-stick spray

-In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. (Don’t over mix, or the meatloaf will be tough)

-Split the meat mixture into 2 portions and set in the greased baking pans.

-Top the meatloaf with pasta sauce.

-Cover with foil and label with date and reheating directions

Ready to Eat Directions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Bake uncovered…
-If defrosted, bake for 40-45 minutes, until meat is cooked through and juices run clear
-If frozen, bake for 55-60 minutes, until meat is cooked through and juices run clear
-Top with shredded mozzarella and place back in the oven for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted.
-Allow meatloaf to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving

Chicken Manicotti
With this one, I already had extra filling from the last time I made this in the freezer.  So I thawed it out, cooked some manicotti noodles, stuffed them, placed in a casserole dish, covered with sauce, sprinkled some cheese, covered with foil (labelled with date), and place it in the freezer.

Here is the entire recipe again, but the original post can be found here.  


1 8 oz package cannelloni or manicotti

4 cups finely chopped cooked chicken (32 oz / 2 lbs of raw chicken)
1 8 oz containers chive-and-onion cream cheese

1 8 oz containers regular cream cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 cup / 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1-2 24 oz jars of favorite marinara sauce
Top with Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of dried oregano


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

In a large bowl, add chicken, cream cheeses, spinach, mozzarella cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic salt, and pepper. The original recipe says to stir…I say, get your clean hands dirty and mix it yourself.  Like you would a meatloaf.

Slice the pasta lengthwise on one side, through the other side (you should be able to lay the noodle flat) Spoon about 1/2 cup chicken mixture into each shell, gently roll up the manicotti / pressing cut sides together. Place, cut sides down, in 2 lightly greased 9 x 13  baking dish. 

Pour marinara sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with dried oregano and parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until heated.

**FYI** So I bought a different brand of manicotti for the 3rd batch and the cooking directions said to boil for 9 minutes (the other brand said 7).  And after 9 minutes, those things were falling apart!!!  I still assembled the dish, but it was not as pretty as the other 2.  Sometimes you can’t trust the box directions!  
Pioneer Woman’s Baked Ziti
Source: The Pioneer Woman

When I first read over this recipe, it sounded like it would take forever and a lot of work to make my own sauce.  But, I was pleasantly surprised.  The sauce was simple to throw together and let simmer for 30 minutes.  And of course I had the added plus of my house smelling like spaghetti.  You could easily brown meat and add your favorite jarred marinara sauce to cut down on time.

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 whole Large Onion, Diced
1 pound Italian Sausage (I forgot this!)
1 pound Ground Beef
1 can (28 Ounce Can) Whole Tomatoes, With Juice
1 jar (28 or 32 Ounce) Marinara Sauce
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
Salt And Pepper, to taste
16 ounces Ziti Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente
1 tub (15 Ounce) Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
1 1/2 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 whole Egg

DirectionsFor the sauce:
-Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
-Add onions and garlic and saute for several minutes, or until starting to soften.
-Add Italian sausage and ground beef and cook until browned.
-Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.
-Add tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.
-Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
-Cut off the heat and let the sauce cool down, but remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down.

-In a separate large bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).
-Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down.
-Pour the pasta into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.)
-Add the cooled meat sauce from the pot and toss to combine.

-Add half the coated pasta to a large casserole dish or lasagna dish.
-Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella cheese.
-Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella.
-Cover with foil, label with date and reheat directions

Reardy to Eat Directions
-Thaw out the casserole
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until bubbling.
-Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Don’t Feel Like Cooking Nachos

There has been over a week long stretch of cold, cloudy, and rainy days here.  At first this weather makes you want all the autumn goodies, and then after a week, you get to feeling down right lazy.  -AND- it was Monday, so all we wanted to do was go straight home and to bed, but we had to eat, and you’re crazy if you think we wanted to take a trip to the grocery store! The furthest I was going was to the pantry and back to the couch.  So nachos became a good idea and were extremely satisfying on this cold and rainy night.  Gourmet, I know.

1 a bag of tortilla chips
1 small can of chili (I prefer Texas Pete)
1 14 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained (feel free to use fresh, this is what I had on hand!)
1 bunch of green onions, finely sliced
1-2 cups of shredded cheese (I used quesadilla cheese)
Optional toppings – salsa, sour cream, cilantro, hot sauce, guacamole, avocado, corn, lime juice, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cover a baking sheet with foil, for easy clean up.  Spread out tortilla chips in an even layer.

Spoon beans and chili over the tortilla chips.  Sprinkle tomatoes, green onions, and cheese over the top.

Baked in the oven uncovered for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Top with optional ingredients. Last night we added sour cream, more green onions, cilantro, and hot sauce.

Eat directly from cooking sheet or move to a plate.  

Pasta Salad

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this recipe yet.  My sisters and I ate this ALL the time growing up.  Still do actually.  No one else’s pasta salad has ever come close to this one because it is the best!  It is the perfect dish to bring along to a cook out or potluck, or make a batch of it to eat throughout the week.  The salad takes almost no time to throw together, so when I’m in a pinch to make something this is my go-to side dish. 
1 lb box of tri-color spiral pasta
1 16 oz bottle Zesty Italian Salad Dressing (I use Kraft)
1/2 a 2.26 oz bottle of Salad Supreme Seasoning (I use McCormick)

Add whatever veggies you like or have on hand, chopped up of course. 
Green onion
Red Onion
Bell pepper

-Cook pasta according to package directions.
-Add all chopped vegetables, dressing, seasoning, and cooked pasta to a bowl or a food storage container.  Stir to combine.  
-Cover and refrigerate.  Eat once it is cool but flavors will develop more overnight.
*If mixed in a food storage container, it is fun to put the lid on and just shake it!  Fun job for the kiddos.

A Greek version:
Use Greek dressing instead of Zesty Italian
Add fresh basil or dried oregano instead of salad supreme
Add cherry tomatoes, olives, sweet peppers, feta cheese.


Recipe Swap: Home Made Salsa

There is nothing that we love more than chips and salsa.  It really never gets old and is always delicious.  The great thing about pigging out on salsa is that it is super healthy for you, so you don’t have to feel guilty about over indulging…except for the chips.  Darn them!

So when doing a recipe swap with Mike from Mr. Shine’s Food Blog it was a no-brainer which recipe I was going to choose! I only made a few adjustments.  Oh yea, and you may have heard of Mike’s wife Ashley from The Shine Project.

Home Made Salsa

Home Made Salsa

4 small California white peaches (or 2 large)
5 tomatoes
1/2 a cucumber
4 tomatillos
2/3 of a red onion

2 teaspoons roasted garlic
2 cups cilantro
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
juice from 2 limes
a couple pinches of salt
a couple grinds of pepper

Give the peaches, tomatoes, cucumber, tomatillos, and red onion a rough chop.
Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. And pulse until your desired consistency.  

The salsa was so yummy and I even brought it to a neighborhood cook out.  Everyone loved it!  I also want to try the Mexican Hummus.


Tomato Chicken Bake

This is the last dish that I served my mother, aunt, and sister for Mother’s Day.  It concludes my “Low Fodmaps Diet” challenge.  The challenge was to cook an entire meal according to the diet guidelines, but also make dishes that were enjoyable for everyone.  Judging by all the clean plates and all of us going for seconds, I’d say it was a success!

This chicken recipe…despite my under done potatoes (which I will be making this dish again shortly to get it down to a science!) was delicious!  I think this was the most moist chicken I’ve ever had.  It really gave a juicy steak a run for it’s money.  All of the ingredients compliment each other and make the dish look lovely.  Add you can’t ignore how simple it is to throw this stuff into a casserole dish and bake it.  Being such a healthy dish is an added bonus, which means you can eat as much as you want, right?

tomato chicken bake

tomato chicken bake

1 tbs olive oil
6 chicken breasts
5 red potatoes, quartered
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1/2 cup white wine, eyeball it
6 slices of lemon
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a medium to large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Season each side of the chicken breasts, add to the skilley, and brown on each side.  Remove the chicken to a 9 x 13 casserole dish and add the tomatoes on top of the chicken.

Add the potatoes to the same skillet and cook until golden brown on each side.  Add the potatoes to the casserole dish.  (Do not skimp on this step.  I did, because I got really impatient and my potatoes turned out to be under done!  Not a fun crunch.)

Place a slice of lemon on top of each chicken breast.  Pour the white wine over the top.  Sprinkle the rosemary and fresh cracked pepper.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender. 

Just because I don’t use our dining room table enough, here is a picture of the table setting before we chowed down!

table setting

table setting

Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad

Sometimes I wonder, are there still good people in this world?  Well last night, my question was answered.  First off, I had a “girl’s night” dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.  It was a much needed girl time that we BOTH needed.  I’d left straight from work, made a stop at the gas station, and headed straight to the restaurant.  We had a great time catching up on…life!
When the check came, I searched my tiny purse for my card.  It was no where to be found.  I checked all of my pockets and still nothing…zilch.  Thankfully, I had some cash in my purse which is rare.  So I assumed my card was laying in my car seat or something.  Yea…nope…not there either.  So one the way home (30 minutes away) I gave the gas station I’d stopped at earlier a call to see if anyone had turned in a card.  Another no.  And of course I thought “Great, I’m going to have to cancel my card and it’s going to be a huge pain in my ass to replace.”
Then I decided to call the restaurant just to make sure it wasn’t in the booth or something.  I was greeted by a nice woman and she put me on hold for 10 minutes to go look for my card.  The manager then picked up the phone and asked me what my name was.  I told him and then he burst out laughing.  Umm k, kind of starting to freak out here, what’s up?
He said “We have your card and you will NEVER guess where a customer found it!”…awkward silence from my end, but I realized he was waiting for me to respond, so I asked “Where?”  He replied “IN THE TOILET!!!”
So, an awesome, random customer saw my card in the bottom of a public toilet, reached her hand into the nursty water to save my precious debit card!  I mean, had she left it there and just decided to flush it to toilet heaven I would’ve completely understood.  I asked the manager if the customer left her name so at least I could thank her, but she didn’t.  So there are still people out there who will sacrifice their hand to a public toilet to retrieve and turn in your card!
Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad

Here is the salad I prepared for us to eat for lunch.  To follow the fodmaps diet, I mixed everything together minus the goat cheese.  Then prepared a bowl for my sister and then added the cheese.  She thought the salad was still awesome and refreshing without the cheese. 
Ok, this is one of my favorite salads!  This salad is super healthy and combining the strawberries, lemon juice, and goat cheese creates its own dressing.  Actually, most salads I use a fresh squeeze of lemon juice instead of dressing because it really cuts down on the calories. And it didn’t hurt that the strawberries were from the farmers market!
Fresh Strawberries, sliced
Fresh squeeze of lemon juice
Dash of extra virgin olive oil
Goat cheese(optional)
Chopped nuts (optional)
Fresh cracked pepper
Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and toss. Done.