Tag Archives: casserole

Cake for dinner? Why not

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What’s up with all the crazy fad diets out there? One minute carbs are good. The next they’re the devil. Fat is your friend. Fat is your arch-enemy. Protein is the key to losing weight, therefore adding even more protein is the key to losing the most weight. Gluten-free is the best road to optimum health. Don’t eat protein before noon, and then, only eat protein for the rest of the day. And of course one can’t forget the craziest of them all (and I apologize to anyone who has ever gone on this diet, but seriously, it’s whack), the Master Cleanse diet which consists of only consuming a liquid concoction containing water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Yeah, that seems totally logical. The “scientists” behind this one claim that it helps the body to cleanse itself from every day toxins that build up in the body’s system and that it’s the fastest, most effective and organic(?) method of losing toxic body fat in the form of excess weight. I’m not sure where that research was conducted (CrazyLand perhaps) but I definitely don’t buy into this diet one bit. Granted, one will lose weight going on the Master Cleanse, so that claim is actually true. But that’s only because a person is pretty much starving his/herself during that first week of the diet due to consuming fewer than 800 calories a day. One could eat 600 calories of Oreos a day for a week and lost weight as long as that’s all he/she is eating. Come on people! Whatever happened to just eating real food, moderate amounts of it, and not going on some crazy diet that’s guaranteed to be quick fix but obviously can’t be sustained over a long period of time? I may not have taken away everything I was taught during those 4 (or was it 6) years at the Universidad studying nutrition, but I did learn a thing or two about food and diet and overall health. And one of those is that there is no quick fix. There is no secret pill that will magically melt away fat. And that if it seems too good to be true, it more than likely is.

Okay, that’s enough of my little soapbox rant for the day. If you don’t agree with me, that’s totally fine. That’s the fun thing about having your own blog. It’s your forum for voicing your opinion and others can either take it or leave it. And honestly, I’d love to hear your opinion on it. Especially since I can’t guarantee my little rants on diets and nutrition won’t happen again. In the meantime, though, what I can guarantee is that I will continue to post wonderfully delicious recipes containing real, whole foods that shouldn’t be considered “off limits” to anyone because of some wacko diet they’re currently on. And on that note, I have a really tasty recipe for you today that not only contains some delightful full-fat mozzarella and cottage cheeses but also some wonderful carbohydrate filled whole wheat pasta (oh no, the horrors!)

Cheesy Turkey Spaghetti Pie Cake 

(initially this was going to be a pie, hence the name, but I cooked too much pasta to fit in the pie plate… oopsies)

16 oz package spaghetti 

1 cup cottage cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute

1 tbsp canola oil

1 lb. ground turkey breast, 99% fat-free

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

14.5 oz can tomato sauce

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

6 oz tomato paste

2 tsp dried Italian seasoning

salt and pepper, to taste

shredded Mozzarella cheese

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×13″ casserole dish with Pam and set aside.

2) Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and combine with cottage cheese, Parmesan and egg. Mix well. Spread evenly in bottom of casserole dish and set aside.

3) Heat canola oil in a large deep pan over medium heat. Add turkey, garlic, onion and bell pepper. Cook until turkey is no longer pink and onion is softened, about 5-7 minutes.

4) Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, pumpkin, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Turn heat to medium-low and allow to simmer 15 minutes.

5) Pour tomato/turkey sauce over pasta and spread evenly. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

6) Sprinkle shredded Mozzarella over top and allow to bake 5 minutes more.

7) Remove from oven and allow to sit 5 minutes before digging in. Holy yum-sauce! Serve with a nice salad and fresh loaf of bread and you got yourself a stellar dinner.

Definitely not part of the Master Cleanse, totally not Atkins-approved, but undeniably healthy and full of real, non-laboratory manufactured ingredients. Entirely Teeny-approved!

Well amigos, I must be leaving you now. I’m in the process of interviewing new musicians for my mariachi band and two of the young chaps have just arrived to sing-a-ma-jig.

From can to gourmet

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As crazy as it may sound, there are times when I just plain run out of ideas for what to cook for dinner. Yeah, I know, it’s hard for me to believe myself since I’m normally such a creative genius. I try to not cook the same things more than once, or at least not exactly the same as I have previously. I like to keep things fresh and new and keep pushing the envelope with my recipes and creations. Unfortunately, because of this attitude, I sometimes head into the 6:00 hour racking my brain for a new concept of what exactly I should cook. Last night was one of those nights. And as ashamed as I kind of am to admit, I turned to the label on the side of a Campbell’s soup can for recipe inspiration. And even more ashamed to admit that I was actually muy impressed with what I came across. Campbell’s really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to simple, easy meals. Now don’t get me wrong. I definitely did not follow their recipe completely. I still had to spice it up a bit and make it more Teeny-ified. And the results? Well, pretty darn fantastico!

Creamy Chicken and Green Bean Casserole

6 oz box Stove Top Low-Sodium Chicken Stuffing Mix

2 cups fresh or frozen green beans, trimmed

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into 1″ cubes

1 can low-sodium Cream of Mushroom soup

1/2 cup lowfat cottage cheese

1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) Cook stuffing according to package directions. Set aside.

2) Steam green beans until crisp-tender, blanch and set aside.

3) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

4) Mix condensed soup, cottage cheese, yogurt, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a 2 qt. casserole dish. Add chicken and green beans and mix well. Top with the prepared stuffing.

5) Cover and bake 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove cover and bake another 10 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

6) Remove from oven and allow to sit 5 minutes before digging in.

Couldn’t be more simple than that and yet tastes absolutely delicious. I only wish all things in life could be that easy. Like trying to figure out how to change this darn cold, snowy weather into something sunny and warm.

Maybe if I just close my eyes, I can imagine someplace just like that. Oh please, oh please, oh please….

Who wants noodles when you can have tortillas!

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I find it very amusing sometimes when and where I can get the inspirations for my meals and recipes. Just the other day, I was lounging on my feather bed, sipping my morning cappuccino bowl of distilled water and watching an episode of “Garfield and Friends” when the image of a large pan of lasagna popped onto the screen. I immediately thought, “hmm, now there’s something I don’t make very often… I wonder if I should make one for mi padres?” I mean, really. If  a large cartoon cat appreciates a good pan (or twelve) of lasagna, why not a couple of large non-animated humans? The wheels in my head started turning and I quickly got out my mini dictaphone to take down the ingredients and cooking directions I would need to use for later.

Now I know when most people hear the word “lasagna” they think of a cheesy, tomatoey meat-sauce sandwiched between layers of long thick pasta noodles served by a lovely Italian man named Giovanni. And if I wanted to be uncreative and boring, I would have made something exactly like that myself. But no, I am the TeenyLittleSuperChef. Therefore, I wanted to push the envelope, go against the norm, and of course, pay homage to my Mexican roots. So instead I came up with a muy bueno dish I like to refer to as, La Sagna: Mexican-Style.

Mexican Tortilla Lasagna

2 tsp canola oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

1/2 large green bell pepper, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb skinless, boneless ground turkey, 99% fat-free

14.5 oz can tomato sauce

6 oz can tomato paste

1 cup frozen corn

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper, to taste

16 oz. low-fat cottage cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 large egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute

12 corn tortillas

shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Heat oil in a large skillet or pan over medium-high. Add onions, bell peppers, garlic and ground turkey. Cook until turkey is no longer pink and onions are softened.

3) Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, frozen corn, chili powder, ground oregano, salt and pepper. Turn heat to medium-low and allow to simmer about 8-10 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, combine cottage cheese, Parmesan and egg in a small bowl until well mixed.

5) Layer 6 tortillas evenly on the bottom of a 9×13″ casserole dish. They should overlap each other. Top with half of the meat mixture. Top that with all of the cottage cheese mixture. Layer with the remaining 6 tortillas and top with the rest of the meat mixture.

6) Bake 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and top with a nice layer of Cheddar cheese. Return to oven for 5 minutes.

7) Take out, let sit 5 minutes, cut into individual portions and dig in. Delicioso!

I think even Garfield would approve of this one. Mi papa certainly did. I’m pretty sure there was some licking of his dinner plate at the end of the meal… and it wasn’t me this time… well, maybe a little bit. 

Well, on that note, I must be going. I have a piano recital this evening and I need to go brush up on my “Moonlight Sonata.

Beethoven, eat your heart out.

Confession Sunday

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I have a secret. Not a “haha I just pooped in mi mama’s shoe” kind of secret, but one that may cause my credibility as a superchef to falter. But since I want to be totally honest here on my blog, I might as well go ahead and admit my shame. Here goes…. one of the meals mi padre requests me to make for dinner on a pretty regular basis, comes almost entirely from aluminum cans. There I said it. And as much as I like to pride myself on cooking and baking things almost entirely from scratch, some of my tastiest concoctions require no more effort than heating up the oven and getting out the can opener. Now don’t get me wrong. I will never open a box of Hamburger Helper (hello long list of unpronounceable ingredients) and serve it to my friends or family. But I will occasionally open up a couple of cans of tuna and condensed soup, throw them into a casserole dish along with some noodles and frozen peas and call it dinner. Yes, even the most gourmet of superchefs sometimes make meals requiring little time and effort in the kitchen. I’m just trying to be honest with you people. And it actually feels really good to not have to keep this in anymore. In fact, while we’re at it I should probably admit some other things that I may or may not be somewhat ashamed of. My psycho-therapist and life coach told me this would be good for me:

  • I don’t always stretch before or after I work out
  • I only pretend to be afraid of the vacuum so mi papa will pick me up and cuddle me
  • I don’t always wipe after going to the bathroom, but I will scoot my tush on the floor if anything gets stuck
  • I don’t abide by the 5-second rule. I’ll eat it if it’s been sitting there for the past 5 years
  • I don’t know my home phone number, but I’ve memorized all the song lyrics on Shakira’s new album, “She Wolf”
  • I sometimes blame my flatulence on mi papa (it goes both ways)
  • That was me who pooped in your shoe last April Fools Day (Lo siento, Mama)

Hmmm, I hope I don’t get in too much trouble for my last confession. Maybe I’ll blame that one on my Tio Paul instead. She’d believe it.

Anyway, back to my original confession. Since the truth is already out there, I might as well let you in on the secret recipe for one of mi papa’s most frequently requested meals. And please, don’t judge. It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s inexpensive but best of all, it’s totally healthy too.

Easy Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole

8 oz pasta noodles, you can us macaroni, rotini, penne, no-yolk egg noodles etc.

1/2 cup milk, any kind just not sweetened

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup, look for the lower fat/lower sodium variety

1/2 cup cottage cheese

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

salt and pepper, to taste

2 small or 1 large can of light or albacore tuna

1 cup frozen peas

2 cups reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

3) Mix milk, soup, cottage cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, tuna and peas in a large casserole dish. Add noodles and stir well to combine.

4) Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes.

5) Uncover dish, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake 5 minutes, or until cheese is all melty.

6) Remove from oven and dig in. 

So there you have it. And now that you know the recipe, it’s no longer a secret anymore. Confession Sunday can now come to a close. Thank God (is that okay to say?)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must retreat to mi Papa’s favorite room of the house for a bit. Mi mama’s been feeding me a new type of dog food and apparently it’s filled with a good deal of fiber.

Stay loose my friends!