Tofu Tortilla Casserole

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Recipes

I’m a huge fan of Amy’s frozen organic entrees. One of my favorites is their Santa Fe Enchilada Bowl. It’s a lovely little individual serving of corn, pinto beans, layered tortillas, jack cheese, tofu, rice and enchilada sauce. It’s absolutely delicious and makes a great lunch. However, at anywhere from $3 to $5 for ten ounces of microwave-ready food, it’s a lousy value. Thus, I felt compelled to find a recipe that approximates the Enchilada Bowl; the one I found and tried was actually better tasting than Amy’s, and considerably less costly per serving. (Not only that, I can pig out on this stuff without breaking the bank.)

Note that I skipped adding the black olives in deference to B’s hatred of them. Since the Amy’s bowl didn’t have olives in it anyway, it kept the spirit of the original I was trying to emulate.

Tofu Tortilla Casserole

Tofu Tortilla Casserole

Recipe from


9 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 6 wedges
4½ ounces shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup sliced green onions
10 black olives, sliced


1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
12 ounces firm tofu, crumbled
3½ cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons chili powder
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt



  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil.
  2. Stir in onion and garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add cottage cheese and tofu and cook 1 minute longer.
  4. Add tomatoes, cilantro, chili powder, cumin and salt.
  5. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  6. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F.
  2. Spray a 13 x 9 x 2-inch casserole with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Spread 1 cup sauce in bottom of casserole.
  4. Layer with half the tortillas, then sauce, cheddar cheese and green onions.
  5. Repeat the layers; top with remaining cheese.
  6. Bake until lightly browned and cheese is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

5 For $20 Challenge: Authentic Puerto Rican Chuletas and Arroz Con Gandules

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: 5 For $20 Challenge, Recipes

To close the chapter on our 5 for $20 Challenge, I decided to take the package of pork chops and, with a little bit of assistance from B’s bestie Ronni, got the recipe for Chuletas (Pork Chops) and Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas).

I’ve written previously about my version (adapted from one I cajoled out of B’s mother) of this dish; to be completely honest, this one is far better than mine.

Pork Chops and Arroz Con Gandules

Note that to properly prepare this version of Arroz con Gandules, you need to use a thick-walled caldero; nothing else will allow the coveted golden-brown pegao (a layer of deep-brown, crisped rice) to form in the bottom of the pot. If you wish to purchase one, you can find it at Amazon through the link below.



2 pork chops (I used boneless loin chops, but bone-in center cut loin chops work best)
Goya Sazon con culantro y achiote, to taste
Goya Adobo con pimienta (red cap), to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray pan lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. Season the chops lightly on both sides with sazon and adobo. Place them in the pan.
  3. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on thickness, or until internal temperature reaches 165F. Serve with Arroz con Gandules.

Arroz con Gandules


4 C rice (I use medium-grain; long-grain will work as well)
1 packet Goya caldo de pollo (chicken bouillon)
2 packets Goya Sazon con culantro y achiote
6 oz Salchichon (summer sausage will also work), sliced then quartered
15 oz can gandules (pigeon peas), drained
12 oz jar of Goya recaito
sufficient canola oil to coat rice (about 1/4 C)
2 T tomato paste or 1 C tomato sauce
4 C water if using tomato paste or 3 C water if using tomato sauce


  1. Combine the first seven ingredients in a thick-walled caldero on medium-high heat. Stir well to coat rice evenly. Allow the rice and seasonings to warm up for about a minute.
  2. Add either 2 T tomato paste and 4 C water, or 1 C tomato sauce and 3 C water, to caldero. Stir well and raise heat to high, bringing contents of pot to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook until liquid is nearly completely absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  4. Turn bottom to top. Cook another 20 minutes, until a nice layer of pegao has formed at the bottom of the caldero. Serve with chuletas or roast pernil.

Baked Caramelized Mushroom, Onion, Spinach, and Swiss Cheese Frittata

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Recipes

After we’d made strombolis over the weekend with Yahnni, we were left with a bunch of ingredients that begged to be used.  Since I didn’t want to let leftover browned crumbled Italian sausage, cubed Jarlsberg swiss cheese, or sliced cremini mushrooms go to waste, I adapted the following recipe to use them and it turned out very nicely.  Note that I used a greased nonstick deep dish pie pan instead of a tart pan; it worked just as well. In the future I might add sliced parboiled white potatoes to the frittata, shooting for a Torta Espanola vibe. We’ll see.

Baked Caramelized Mushroom, Onion and Swiss Frittata

Baked Caramelized Mushroom, Onion, Spinach, and Swiss Cheese Frittata

Recipe from For the Love of


1 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 sweet yellow onion, chopped
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups of baby spinach
1/4 cup Swiss cheese, diced (I used Jarlsberg)
8 eggs
2-3 tbsp milk
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a tart pan with cooking spray.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms then cook stirring often until caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Add the spinach to the skillet then season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Toss until well combined.

Place some of the mushroom & onion mixture and Swiss cheese into the bottom of the tart pan. Combine the eggs with the milk then season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Whisk the eggs until they are mixed thoroughly.

Pour the egg mixture into the tart pan then add the remaining onion mixture and Swiss cheese to the top.

Place into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the frittata cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy.

5 For $20 Challenge: Honey Balsamic Baked Chicken Thighs

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: 5 For $20 Challenge, Recipes

The fourth evening of our 5 For $20 Challenge found me with just a package of chicken thighs and a pair of pork chops remaining. Chicken thighs are versatile, protein-dense, and almost impossible to screw up.

B. found this recipe and insisted that I make it. The thighs turned out very well, juicy and flavorful with a sticky savory glaze all over. Being lazy, I prepared a boxed rice pilaf (Rice-a-Roni, probably) and a bag of steamable veggies I dug out of the freezer as side dishes. It made a satisfying dinner for the two of us with a fair amount of leftovers.

Balsamic Glazed Chicken

Honey Balsamic Baked Chicken Thighs
Recipe from Just a Taste


1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons chopped scallions
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 1/4 pounds)
1 Tablespoon cornstarch


  1. In a large sealable bag, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, honey, olive oil, minced garlic, minced ginger, chopped scallions and salt. Add the chicken, seal the bag, and then carefully move the chicken around in the bag until it’s thoroughly coated. Place the chicken in the fridge to marinate overnight or for a minimum of 2 hours.
  2. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350ºF with the rack in the center. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  3. Remove the chicken from the bag and reserve the marinade. Shake off any excess marinade from the chicken thighs and arrange them skin side down on the baking sheet. Bake the chicken for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the chicken from the oven and flip the thighs skin side up. Turn the oven to broil, and if necessary, adjust the baking rack so it is about 8 inches from the broiler. Return the chicken to the oven and broil for about 5 minutes until the skin is crisped and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165ºF. (The chicken juices should run clear, rather than pink.) While the chicken is cooking, transfer the marinade to a medium saucepan.
  5. Whisk together the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water. Bring the marinade to a boil then whisk in the cornstarch mixture and continue boiling the marinade, whisking intermittently, until it thickens to the consistency of syrup, about 5 minutes. (The glaze must come to a boil to get rid of any potential bacteria from the raw chicken.) Remove the glaze from the stove and set it aside.
  6. Remove the cooked chicken from the oven, brush it with the prepared glaze and serve immediately.

5 For $20 Challenge: Slow Cooker Creamy Beef Stroganoff

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: 5 For $20 Challenge, Recipes

The third night of our 5 For $20 Challenge found me going back to beef as the centerpiece protein. Since I had nearly a pound of beef round strips for stir fry, I knew I’d have to find a recipe that cooked low and slow if I wanted the beef to tenderize during cooking. As you’re well aware if you’re a regular reader of this blog, we do love our beef stroganoff (remember the Beef Strogundy?).

I found an easy-to-prepare beef stroganoff that’s pretty much foolproof, and tastes darned good for something made using Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup as the sauce base. Note that I changed the original recipe to use sliced cremini mushrooms instead of sliced white mushrooms. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself afterward.

Beef Stroganoff

Slow Cooker Creamy Beef Stroganoff
Recipe from Campbell’s Kitchen

What You’ll Need

2 cans (10 3/4 ounces each ) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
8 ounces (about 1 package) sliced white mushrooms (about 3 cups) (I used cremini mushrooms instead.)
3 medium onions, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds boneless beef round steaks (about 2 steaks), cut into thin strips
1 cup sour cream
12 ounces medium egg noodles (about 7 cups), cooked and drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

How to Make It

  1. Stir the soup, water, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, onions, garlic and black pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the beef and stir to coat.
  2. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours or until the beef is fork-tender. Stir the sour cream in the cooker. Serve the beef mixture with the noodles. Sprinkle with the parsley, if desired.

5 for $20 Challenge: One Pot Cheesy Chicken Taco Rice

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: 5 For $20 Challenge, Recipes

For the second leg of the 5 for $20 Challenge, I had to find a recipe that used a pound of 85% lean ground chicken.  After a fairly exhaustive search, I decided to attempt the One Pot Cheesy Chicken Taco Rice recipe that I found on Host the Toast.  It was a good choice — we’ve made this one several times since.  Most recently, B’s taken to using the Cheesy Chicken Taco Rice as the meat filling in her Stand & Stuff soft tacos (along with sour cream, avocadoes, cheese, tomatoes, onions, and taco sauce).

Cheesy Chicken Taco Rice

One Pot Cheesy Chicken Taco Rice
Recipe from Host the Toast


1 – 1.5 lbs lean ground chicken
½ yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus an extra drizzle for cooking the rice
1½ cups uncooked instant brown rice
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) jar salsa
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 Roma tomato, diced
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 green onion, chopped, to garnish
Fresh cilantro, to taste


  1. Add oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the ground chicken and break it up a bit with a wooden spoon. Add the diced onion and cook until the chicken has browned and the onion is translucent.
  2. Move the chicken and onion over to one side of the pan and drizzle just a bit more oil on the empty side. Add in the uncooked rice and toss it around briefly to toast it.
  3. Stir in the spices, chicken broth, salsa, corn, and black beans. Bring the liquids to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 18 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid has absorbed.
  4. Taste the rice and adjust seasoning to your liking. Sprinkle the tomato, cheese, and avocado over the rice and then cover once more until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Then sprinkle with green onion and cilantro and serve!

5 for $20 Challenge: Carbonnade

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: 5 For $20 Challenge, Recipes

The first protein we chose to use in the 5 for $20 Challenge was the package of two beef chuck tenderloin steaks. These weighed in at about 13 ounces, so our attempt at this recipe was a bit light on meat. Despite that, the finished product was absolutely amazing. Note that the beer I used for this carbonnade was an 11.2 oz bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 8, an imported Belgian Tripel, which worked perfectly in this recipe.  I tried using Chimay Blue the second time I made this carbonnade, and was disappointed — the Chimay was considerably hoppier and its bitterness overwhelmed the other flavors in the dish.  (Stick with the Trappistes Rochefort.)

Beef Carbonnade

Carbonnade (Beef Braised in Dark Belgian Beer)
Recipe from culinspiration

-1 lb. stewing beef, such as chuck roast (avoid pre-packaged stew meat, which tends to be gristly)
-1 Tbsp. flour
-1/2 lb. shallots, peeled and halved (about 5 med.)
-2 small onions, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced thin
-1 Tbsp. butter
-olive oil, as needed
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1/2 c. vegetable or beef broth
-1/2 pint (300ml) dark Belgian beer, such as Chimay Blue
-1 Tbsp. brown sugar
-3 bay leaves
-leaves of 4 fresh thyme sprigs
-handful of parsley, chopped
-1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
-2 gingersnap cookies plus 1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, or one piece Lebkuchen (German gingerbread)
-1 tsp. Dijon or spicy mustard
-salt and pepper, to taste

1. Trim and slice the beef into 1-in. cubes. Pat dry with paper towels (to ensure your meat browns, not steams). Sprinkle with the flour, salt, and pepper, and toss well to coat.

2. Heat half the butter and a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a deep, thick bottomed pot on medium-high until bubbly.

3. Add half the meat to the pot and allow one side to brown thoroughly.  Do not stir for several minutes until a dark crust forms.  Turn with tongs and brown the remaining sides.  Remove the seared meat to a bowl, leaving the oil behind.

4.  Add more olive oil (if needed) and the remaining beef to the pot. Brown and remove to the bowl.

5.  Add the remaining butter to the pan, reduce the heat, and add the shallots and onions.  Stir and shake regularly until softened, browned, and caramelized all over.  Take care not to burn.

6.  Deglaze the pan with a little warm broth, stirring up the brown bits with a wooden spoon.  Add the herbs, reserved beef, beer, and minced garlic.

7.  Sprinkle in the brown sugar and stir well.  Smear the Lebkuchen or gingersnaps with mustard and place on top of the stew (these dissolve and thicken the stew). Stir in cocoa, if using.

8. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cover the pot with a piece of foil, then top with the lid.

9. Simmer for 2-2 1/2 hrs., stirring occasionally. Uncover for the last half hour of cook time.

Serve with buttered, parsleyed spaetzle or egg noodles and lingonberry jam or cranberry sauce.

Lemony Chicken and Orzo

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Healthy, Recipes

This recipe has everything I love going for it. It’s low fat, super high protein, delicious, and comes together easily in 30 minutes or less. It’s very protein dense if you follow the original recipe, but I’ve been known to keep the chicken ratio where it is (have you seen chicken breasts in the grocery lately. We swear they must come from mutant birdzillas, because each breast half weighs in at nearly a pound – so no need to double the chicken) and then double the other ingredients to be able to stretch it enough (and in a very economically sound way, considering the low cost of the other ingredients) to feed a family of 6 or more.

It’s got kind of a Greek vibe to it (think avgolemono soup flavor, but not thickened as much), which I’m sure you could amp up by adding a little Greek oregano and pairing it with a Greek side salad. But it’s super filling all on it’s own.

Lemony Chicken and Orzo

Lemony Chicken & Orzo
Recipe from Family Circle

PREP TIME: 5 mins

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 tsp. each salt and black pepper
1 can (14.5 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 c. lemon juice
2 tsp.honey
2 1/2 tbsp.low-fat sour cream
3/4 cup orzo
8 beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper.
Pour broth and lemon juice into a Dutch oven; bring to boil and add chicken. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 9 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove chicken from pot; set aside. Increase heat to high and cook sauce for 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; whisk in honey and sour cream.
Add 2 cups water to pot and bring to a boil; add orzo and cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add green beans to pot for final 4 minutes of cook time. Stir chicken back into pot and serve.

Per Serving: cal. (kcal) 384, Fat, total (g) 4, chol. (mg) 106, sat. fat (g) 1, carb. (g) 39, fiber (g) 3, pro. (g) 47, sodium (mg) 685, Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Potato Salad with Sour Cream and Dill

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Recipes

B. and I used to pay $6.99 a pound back in the day to get a version of this potato salad at Giant-Eagle’s deli. This recipe is as good as, if not better, than Giant-Eagle’s. It’s also considerably less expensive to make. The nice thing about this potato salad is that it doesn’t really need to sit in the fridge for its flavors to come together. You’re also likely to have most of its ingredients in your fridge and pantry already, so you should be able to make this at a moment’s notice without making any special trip to the supermarket.

Sour Cream and Dill Potato Salad

Potato Salad with Sour Cream and Dill
recipe courtesy of
Prep time: 10 mins Cook time: 20 mins Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 6


2-2½ lbs. red new potatoes
1 cup sour cream.
½ – ¾ cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
½ cup diced red onion
¼ tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. fresh dill, minced
½ tsp. salt


  1. Wash the potatoes and place in a large Dutch oven or saucepan. Cover the potatoes with water by 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and let the potatoes cook for 15-20 minutes, until you can easily pierce the potatoes with a knife and remove the knife just as easily. Drain the potatoes and let cool for about 20 minutes.
  2. Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, and apple cider vinegar until smooth. Add the red onion, garlic powder, dill, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cut the potatoes into chunks and place in a large bowl. Add the sour cream mixture and stir until well combined. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Jello Poke Cake

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Recipes

This was the first recipe I helped my mother to make. When I was a kid, she did all the baking and my father did all the cooking. Given that he didn’t trust me with a rusty butter-knife, I never got a chance to cook as a child; however, Mom let me help with baking all the time. I remember that Mom got a 13x9x2 covered aluminum specifically for the Poke Cake; since it has that fluffy Cool-Whip icing on top, it needs a protective cover when it’s stored in the fridge. B. and I still have that pan, and we still use it for (among other things) Jello Poke Cake.

Jello Poke Cake

Jello Poke Cake
recipe courtesy of


1 (18 1/4 ounce) packages white cake mix
egg, water, oil as needed to make cake
1 (3 ounce) packages raspberry Jell-O gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
8 ounces Cool Whip


Bake cake according to package directions. Cool completely.
Poke cake with a fork. Mix jello with boiling water until dissolved. Mix in cold water. Pour over cake. Top with cool whip. Keep in refrigerator.