Salads taste so much better in the summer. There is a crunchy coolness to them that is perfect for evening meals on a hot day. My favorite salad recipes are the ones that work as a whole meal. I have a few different taco salad combinations that I like to use. The Mexican Chopped Salad and the Baja Chicken Salad are good options, but I played around with a new layered chicken taco salad recipe this weekend while my mom was visiting. I made a version that serves a group in a trifle dish, and I also tested it out in Mason jars to make single servings to take to school for school teacher lunches. It was a hit both ways.
2 heads Romaine lettuce chopped (or amount needed for number of people serving)
~3 c. chopped fresh spinach (or amount needed for number of people serving)
1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (11-oz) can white shoepeg corn, rinsed and drained (or any type of canned corn)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 c. cooked chicken, diced (I used 2 roasted chicken breasts)
1-2 c. shredded Colby-Jack cheese
2 green onions, chopped
2 T. fresh cilantro chopped
~3/4 c. salsa
~1/2 c. ranch salad dressing (or dressing of your choice)
tortilla chips, ( ~1/2 c. broken into smaller pieces)
Directions for Assembling in a Trifle Dish
Sprinkle black beans on the bottom layer of the trifle dish. You might not use the whole can. Add the amount of beans you like.
Mix the chopped Romaine and spinach together in a separate bowl. Add half of the lettuce mixture on top of the black beans.
Sprinkle a layer of corn on top of the lettuce.
Sprinkle cherry tomato pieces on top of the corn.
Add the chicken.
Cover the chicken with the remaining lettuce.
Drizzle ranch salad dressing over the top layer of lettuce. I like a light salad dressing layer.
Cover dressing with a layer of cheese.
Spoon desired amount of salsa in the center of the trifle dish on top of the cheese.
Sprinkle green onions and cilantro over the salsa. Sprinkle crushed tortilla chips around the edges. Sprinkle a little more cilantro in the center for garnish.
Offer additional whole tortilla chips, salad dressing, and salsa on the side.
Directions for Assembling in a Mason Jar
Spoon ~1 T. ranch dressing in the bottom of the jar.
Add ~2 T. black beans.
Add a layer of lettuce followed by corn, tomatoes, chicken pieces and another layer of lettuce. Do not overfill.
Sprinkle the top with cheese, green onions, and cilantro.
Put one spoonful of salsa on the top, add the lid and tighten.
To eat, pour salad into a bowl or out on a plate, so the dressing on the bottom will drizzle over the top. Serve with tortilla chips on the side.
You do not need exact ingredient amounts. Use amounts you need for the number of people you are serving. 2 heads of Romaine lettuce and 3 c. of spinach will serve 5-6 adults.
You can add/delete any toppings. I think diced red pepper would be a good addition and possibly seeded and diced cucumber.
I so enjoy making party food, cooking a big dish for a group, or assembling appetizers and class snack foods, but I avoid the daily grind of cooking family dinner that will be eaten in 3.7 minutes followed by kitchen clean-up like the plague (and don’t even get me started on packing school lunches).
If TheRoomDad has taken care of the grocery shopping, I can be persuaded to make fast dinners during the week that have minimal clean up. I have a recipe for turkey apple quesadillas that is acceptable as a mid-week meal. It is an odd combination of ingredients, but the adults and children at my house love them. The other nice thing about the recipe is the fact that all of the key food groups are in one bite, so I don’t have the pressure of having to come up with a side dish TOO. Utensils are not required to eat this “meal”, and we really don’t have to have plates either, so clean-up is a breeze.
Have you developed a resistance to making weeknight dinners night after night after night, or is it just me?
Dijon mustard (I use Grey Poupon)
flour tortillas (any size– I like large then folded in half when heating)
Munster cheese slices (our grocery’s deli section has pre-sliced packs. Cut or break each slice into halves or thirds when assembling the quesadilla)
Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced (or another tart, green apple)
deli turkey, thinly sliced
Mix equal parts honey and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. I start with 1 tablespoon each of mustard and honey. That is usually enough for 4 quesadillas (4 large tortillas folded in half).
If using the large tortillas, spread the honey mustard on half of the tortilla.
Layer 1 1/2 slices of Munster on the honey mustard spread. Since I cut the deli slices into smaller strips, I place ~3 1/2-slices across the half of the tortilla with the honey mustard.
Add 1-2 slices of turkey on top of the cheese.
Place several apple slices on the turkey.
Top the apple slices with 1/2 to 1 cheese slice.
Fold the tortilla in half to close.
Spray a skillet with Pam and using medium heat, cook the quesadilla on both sides until the cheese is melted, and the tortilla is browned.
Remove from heat, cut in thirds or quarters, and serve immediately.
You can purchase a “brick” of Munster cheese and grate the cheese instead of using slices.
Growing up, I always had a pretty traditional Thanksgiving meal that included a cornbread stuffing with chopped hard boiled eggs. I am not sure what region or style that sort of stuffing (dressing?) is, but it was never my favorite part of our Thanksgiving meal (sorry TheRoomMomMom). My parents are from a small town in Kansas, and I know it is the recipe TheRoomMomGrandmom always made. After spending Thanksgiving with TheRoomDad’s family, I found a new stuffing that I love. Thankfully, TheRoomDadMom shared her recipe with me many years ago. It is now my favorite part of the meal.
I know I am posting this stuffing recipe too late for you to enjoy at this Thanksgiving, but I couldn’t get pictures for you before today. Be sure to file it for Christmas dinner and have a great Thanksgiving with your family, friends, and other loved ones!
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped celery, leaves included
1/2 c. butter
1/2 lb. ground pork sausage meat (I like Jimmy Dean)
1/2 c. coarsely chopped mushrooms
8 c. unseasoned bread crumbs (from 1-2 loaves of pre-sliced Italian or other crusty bread)
1 T. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground pepper
1 t. rubbed dried sage
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried rosemary
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. chicken stock (plus more– at least 1 c.)
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. chopped dried apricots
A day or two before you need the stuffing, cut sliced Italian bread into 1/4 in. chunks and spread in one layer on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned and toasted. It usually takes about 15 minutes or so. Move the bread around the pan several times during baking. Let cool and store in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag.
In a skillet, saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
In the same skillet, cook sausage and mushrooms. Pour off any fat and add celery and onion mixture back into the sausage and mushrooms.
Put bread crumbs in the large mixing bowl you used to hold the celery and onions. Pour sausage mixture on top and add all of the seasonings.
Moisten bread crumb mix with 1/2 c. white wine and 1/2 c. chicken stock. Mix thoroughly.
Add a little chicken stock to the beaten egg to thin. Add the egg and apricots to the sausage bread crumb mix. Stir well.
Add more chicken stock if the mix seems dry. All of the crouton pieces should be moistened, but there should not be liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Do not over saturate.
Pour mix into a greased casserole dish. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. When the top is browned, remove from the oven.
If you can find pre-made unseasoned bread cubes, you can use those instead of making your own bread cubes/croutons.
White wine can be eliminated and replaced with chicken stock.
You can use fresh herbs or a combination of fresh and dried. Increase the amount if using fresh to taste.
I pour a little chicken stock on the top after the mix is in the casserole dish before baking.
I usually use 1/2 c. white wine plus one 15-oz can of chicken stock total by the time I finish prepping it all.
I eat carbs and lots of them. Some of my favorite carb alternatives are mashed potatoes, french fries, and chocolate chip cookies. The top of my carb list, however, has to be macaroni and cheese.
I have been perfecting my macaroni and cheese dish since 1993. I started out with the basic recipe my mom always used. She cooked the macaroni noodles, drained them, added butter, milk, and chunks of cheddar cheese in with the noodles and heated on the stovetop. Before baking in a casserole dish in the oven, she added some crumbled Saltine crackers and a few pats of butter to the top. I loved her macaroni and cheese. Little did I know how much better it could be.
Here is the recipe that kicked off the macaroni and cheese improvement plan. I am posting the original recipe but am also including some RoomMom modifications at the end. I will eat this dish for dinner, leftover for breakfast, or packed in a school lunch to be eaten at room temperature.
6 T. butter
1 lb. corkscrew pasta (cavatappi)
5 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
2 t. salt
3 c. grated white cheddar cheese
3 c. grated orange cheddar cheese
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with Pam.
Fill a large saucepan with salted water, bring to a boil, then cook pasta according to directions on the box. Follow the time for al dente.
Transfer pasta to a colander, drain well, and set aside.
In the empty saucepan, melt 6 T. butter over medium heat. When butter bubbles, stir in flour. Cook, whisking, for about one minute.
Continue to whisk and add milk a little at a time. After adding all of the milk, whisk constantly for about 7 minutes or so until the sauce thickens and bubbles around the edges. Remove from heat.
Stir in salt, pepper, 2 1/4 cups of each of the cheeses.
Add cooked pasta to the sauce and stir until the sauce covers the pasta.
Add the pasta and sauce mixture to the casserole dish, sprinkle with remaining grated cheese, and bake until golden brown on top (about 25 minutes).
I use any non-spaghetti like pasta I have on hand. I make this dish with elbow macaroni, penne, bow tie noodles, shell noodles, or any other smaller sized noodle.
I like to mix up the cheese. I use about the amount called for in the recipe, but I usually use a combination of whatever is in my refrigerator. I always have cheddar as the main cheese. I like Cracker Barrel extra sharp orange and Cracker Barrel Vermont white. I usually reduce the cheddar amount a little and supplement with freshly grated Parmesan, some freshly grated Swiss, and I recently started adding several slices of American. Other than the American, I think the cheese needs to be grated at home. The pre-grated cheese does not have as much flavor or melt as well (in my opinion).
I eyeball the butter, flour, and milk amounts. If you are following this recipe for the first time, cook as instructed. Adjust to your taste the next time you make it (and I firmly believe you will be making this recipe a second time).
As soon as school starts, I lose touch with many friends until I resurface again in May when school ends for the year. This year, I am going to make more of an effort to be in better contact. It starts today with a Sunday family lunch/dinner. One of my mom friends from swim team is having us over this afternoon for late lunch/early dinner. It is a perfect time. I can still get all of my Sunday chores finished. We will be home in plenty of time to get kids ready to go back to school tomorrow and be in bed at a reasonable time, and I don’t need a babysitter since the kids are included. My contribution to this afternoon’s linner is a tomato pie.
What are other easy ways to stay in touch with adult friends during the school year? Do you feel like you disappear when after school activities and school projects start?
1 pie crust (I use store bought)
1/2 bag basil, chopped
1/2 bag chives, chopped
4 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. to 3/4 c. grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
Cook pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. You may need to put uncooked beans or other pie weights in the pie crust to keep it from puffing up while it cooks.
Turn the oven down to 350 degrees after the pie shell is finished.
While the pie crust is baking, cut tomatoes in slices and let drain on paper towel for 30 minutes.
In cooked pie shell, layer tomatoes, basil, chives, and green onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and repeat.
Mix mayonnaise and grated cheese and top the pie with the cheese mixture. You don’t have to spread the cheese mixture too much. Just dollop on the center and push down with the back of a spoon. It will spread as it bakes.
Sprinkle the bacon bits on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
I would like to give a shout out to the 30306 Book Club without which I would not have this tomato pie recipe. Many years ago when I was fun and single, I had an amazing book club in Atlanta. This recipe is from that book club. I miss you!