Chicken Tortilla Soup

Becky’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

(The Mama)

Greg and I are in Neskowin, Oregon this week — a tiny little beach town with impossibly cute houses surrounded by brilliantly colored flowers, some blossoms as big as dinner plates.  I hit the beach cooking, barely having time to gather in a car load of groceries before cooking dinner for a dozen on Saturday night (sour cream chicken enchiladas).  Yesterday, I cooked lunch for 22 of Greg’s extended family members dropping by to hug, share stories and sit a spell between strolls to the beach.  Greg lost both of his parents when they were just in their 50’s (our age!) so connections to them now — people and places — are doubly meaningful.  Since Greg and his siblings were young, Neskowin was the family vacation spot and is where all of them return to, as Greg says, “fill our souls.” So while they are filling their souls, I am filling their tummies.

For the lunch crowd, I served sandwiches and tortilla soup, with blueberry-raspberry bars for dessert. It was perfect for a cool, foggy day at the beach, huddled up with people we love.  Plus it makes a bunch!!

Becky’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

Becky’s Chicken Tortilla Soup


1 seeded red bell pepper
1/2 red onion
3 cloves garlic
2 t. poultry seasoning
2 t. cumin
1 T. brown sugar
1 to 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (medium to hot heat level), available in small cans in Mexican and Spanish food section of market.*

1 28-ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes, divided in half
4 cups chicken or veggie broth (divided 1 and 3)

3 to 4 cups roasted chicken, pulled off bone and diced or shredded ( roasted chickens are available in most grocery delis)
1 cup frozen corn
1 zucchini, dice


steak or grill seasoning (or salt and pepper), to taste

1/4 cup bar-b-que sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

Topping Options:
crushed tortilla chips
grated cheese
chopped green onions
diced avocados
sour cream or Greek Yogurt
wedges of fresh lime


In a blender or food processor put the first seven ingredients (bell pepper through chipotles), half of the crushed tomatoes, and one cup of broth. Blend well.

Pour this mixture into big soup pot and add the rest of the crushed tomatoes and broth.

To this add frozen corn, chicken, and zucchini.

Simmer over medium heat until zucchini is tender and soup is heated through. Season with Steak or Grill Seasoning (or salt and pepper) to taste. To make a creamier soup, you can add 1/2 cup of cream.

To serve, put a handful of crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of each soup blow. Carefully ladle on soup, then top with your choice of toppings.

Vegetarian Version: Use veggie broth, pinto, ranch or black beans in place of chicken. Vegans omit cheese and cream

*I keep the leftover Chipotles in Adobo Sauce in a small Ziploc bag in the freezer and break off what I need to add depth of flavor and heat to other Mexican dishes.

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BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis: Fit for Royalty

BBQ Tenderloin with Green Chilis

I gave my mom and dad the DVDs  to Downton Abbey, which they apparently enjoyed as much as Greg and I did.  (Though she calls it Downtown Abbey, which I think is adorable so I’m not going to correct her.) The PBS Masterpiece Theater upper crust soap opera has taken America by storm.  But it should come with a warning, one that my mother put so well in an email the other night.  “Your father and I can hardly speak plain English anymore.” Alas, ’tis true.

Downton Abbey characters….we are royally hooked

Greg and I also got bit by the Downton Vocal Bug as we watched two hours of the DVD series night after night. It grew apparent as we were readying for bed one evening and I heard a loud  “whack” in the walk-in closet followed by my husband announcing, in a victorious British accent, “I have vanquished a moth!” I paused in the middle of applying my night cream to comment dramatically, “How terribly brave of you, Darling.”

We are fascinated with the servants from the show, called valets (“t” is pronounced), whose sole job it was to help rich people get into and out of their  clothes, shoes, and jewelry, along with keeping the garments washed, pressed and ready to wear at a whim. How I would love a valet, if only to keep my clothes off the closet floor and clean underwear in our drawers.

My father asked about our 4th of July plans yesterday and I told him, “We are just enjoying down time today.  Or as we like to call it, ‘Downtime Becky.'”  And I have to say, the meal I produced for the two of us was worthy of royalty. Especially the steak.

I am not a big ‘hunk of meat’ fan, as a general rule. I prefer meat as an appetizer with veggies and fruits taking up the bulk of my plate.  But a petite tenderloin steak, cooked to medium rare perfection and topped with bar-b-que sauce and green chilis, a tender cut of meat that is incredibly juicy and slices like butter… well, this is hard not to love.

So I bequeath this recipe to you,  to be cooked and served and savored on special occasions when you want to feel rich, and pampered and spoiled.  And if you haven’t seen the two seasons of Downton Abbey,  do yourself a favor and beg, borrow or buy them. You are in for a royal treat.

BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis

BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis


Two tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick, brought to room temperature

1 T. grill or steak seasoning

2 t. Worchestershire sauce

2 T.  olive oil

2 T Bar-b-que sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)

2 T. chopped green chilis

Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce, Montreal Grill or Steak Seasoning, roasted chopped green chili peppers (In a jar! Love this new product)


Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour oil into an oven proof skillet, or preferably,  a grill pan.  Let the pan and oil get “screaming hot.”  In the meantime, pierce one side of the steaks with a fork in several places; turn the steaks over and pierce the other side as well.  Sprinkle both sides generously with steak seasoning and Worcestershire sauce, rubbing it in a little with your hands.

Put the steaks into the grill pan on high, and sear until the meat is golden brown with dark grill marks, just a few minutes.  Turn the steaks over and repeat.

Put a tablespoon of bbq sauce and a tablespoon of green chilis on top of each steak, then put the skillet of steaks in the oven for five minutes to let finish cooking in the middle.

Putting steaks with BBQ sauce into the oven, right before also topping with green chilis

I like our steaks medium rare so this amount of time is usually perfect for us, but of course, cook the steaks to your desired temperature.  A digital meat thermometer is a wonderful thing for this job.  Pull the pan out of the oven and tent the steaks loosely with foil for at least three minutes to let them sit and juices distribute. Serve to oohs and ahhs and applause.

BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis

Avocado Mango Salad “Cocktail” in Jicama Nests

Avocado Mango Jicama “Cocktail” Salad

What would you do if given the gift of one uninterrupted day, a day where your kids, your husband, your friends and your boss gave your their blessing to walk away and create your own perfect 12 hours?  A day to refill your soul?

Some seasons of my life are busier than others and the last two months has been filled to overflowing with people, appointments and a list of “to-dos” that seemed endless.  Seeing his wife was in a state of overwhelm,  Greg hugged me on Friday night and said, “Honey, tomorrow I want you to take the whole Saturday  just do anything you want at any given minute, all day long. Don’t worry about a thing.  I’ll even make my own meals.”

It may have been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard anyone say.  (True to his word, Greg made his own lunch: two pieces of leftover corn on the cob, a piece of leftover blueberry pie and some leftover salad.  Yes, he missed the protein food group, but it was a great improvement over his usual “bachelor diet” when I am away: potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and cereal.)

Saturday dawned with the song “Saturday in the Park” playing in my mind, and the line, “I’ve been waiting such a long time, for Sat-ur-day” echoing again and again.  The feeling of unencumbered space stretched out for the next 12 hours left me near euphoric.

I spent the day writing on our new book in uninterrupted bliss at Denver’s famous Tattered Cover Bookstore, then lunched and wrote some more at The Corner Bakery, over-looking a gorgeous outline of the Rocky Mountains.  When I walked in the house that evening there was a vase of sunny yellow flowers and a loving card from Greg, “Just because.”  I wrote in my Facebook status:  I feel like a wilted flower that has been put in the fresh water of creative work, healing solitude, and the benevolent blessing of a good man who wants little in this life but for me to be happy.  I may yet live!

After I opened the card, Greg and I went to the back porch for our Summertime Happy Hour, a ritual we started in early June to make sure we have a little time to connect before dinner.  One of the things that centenarians the world over have in common is “joyful rituals.” This has become one of our favorites.  I made us clementine mojitos using the mint from my herb garden,  perfectly refreshing.

The day of rest and writing left me infused with creative energy as I cooked supper a little later.   I grabbed a crisp jicama, a vine-ripe tomato, an avocado and a mango out of the crisper.  In my mind’s eye I saw this recipe appear: a pretty salad of orange, green and red nestled in a bed of white grated jicama, drizzled with a fresh lime dressing and served in margarita glasses.  It would be  our “salad course.”   Let me tell you, it  was every bit as tasty as it is beautiful! So cold and refreshing after a 100 degree summer day.

I am delighted to share this recipe  with you,  along with encouragement to take time out for “Fill the Well Day” for your body, mind and soul as soon as you can!

Becky’s Avocado Mango Jicima “Cocktail” Salad

Avocado Mango Salad “Cocktail” in Jicama Nests

Serves 4


2 cups peeled, grated fresh jicama

1 avocado

1 fresh tomato

1 fresh mango

1 T. chopped cilantro or parsley or mint

2 T. chopped green onion

Juice of 2 limes

1/2 t. salt

4 t. honey

4 T. crushed corn or tortilla chips

Cajun seasoning or Tajin chili-lime seasoning to sprinkle on top

Lime slices for garnish

Tajin seasoning: a delightful blend of lime, salt, and chili pepper. Wonderful on this dish!

The flavors of jicama, tomato, mango, green onion and lime blend beautifully


Place 1/2 cup grated jicama in each of 4 margarita glasses or pretty glass bowls to create a white “nest.”   Mix avocado, tomato, mango, herb of your choice and green onion together in a bowl and gently toss.  Place this mixture on top of the grated jicama, dividing evenly in to the four glasses.  In a small bowl mix the dressing of lime juice, salt and honey.  Drizzle evenly over each of the salads.  Top each salad with 1 T. crushed chips and a nice sprinkling of Cajun or Tajin seasoning.  Serve with long teaspoons if you have them and put a slice of lime on each rim.  Have guests stir and toss their salads once they are served to make sure everything gets coated with the lime dressing.

BBQ Guacamole Tacos

Becky’s BBQ Guacamole Taco

(Becky, the Butter Lovin’ Mama)

“Taste memory” occurs when you take a bite of a food that transports you instantly to a time and place from your past. The experience can be positive or negative, depending on the memory around it.

My husband cannot abide green beans. He picked beans in the summer like every good boy growing up in Oregon, then he spent his spent late teens working at a green bean cannery. You know those clinics where they make you smoke cigarettes until you are sick as a dog so you’ll never smoke again? Well, Greg went through the same sort of green bean aversion training. To this day he will not eat, or even smoke, a green bean without protest.

On the other hand he adores blueberries. Never tires of them. As it turns out, his mother-in-law used to bake a special blueberry pie just for him. Blueberries are forever wrapped with the message that “somebody thinks I’m special.”

One of my favorite food memories as girl was a now 50-year-old restaurant in Arlington,Texas called The Candlelite Inn.  (I understand it recently closed but new ownership plans to resurrect it.) It was a curious place, an Italian-themed eatery with red-checked tablecloths that was somehow known for its amazing Mexican food. Thinking back on it now, that seems odd, but at the time it just was what it was. We went to the Italian joint to eat great Mexican fare.

Photos of Candlelite Inn, Arlington
This photo of Candlelite Inn is courtesy of TripAdvisor

On special occasions we kids got to choose a restaurant to eat at, and if given my choice of where to go out for my birthday, I picked The Candlelite Inn. I always ordered their famous guacamole tacos.  (A friend reminded me today that they served their tortilla chips with a big ball of butter! Paula Deen would have been proud.)

For some reason I thought about those tacos the other day, and could somehow remember the exact taste of the guacamole even though it has been at least twenty-five years since I’ve tasted them. Suddenly I knew exactly what was in that guac that made it taste so amazing. The secret ingredient was Italian dressing! (Apparently the chefs here were creating Italian-Tex Mex “fusion” before ethnic fusion cooking was cool.) The tacos were filled at least half way with guacamole and for someone who loves avocados as much as I do, this was bliss.

I made my own version of Candlelight Inn tacos this week and at first crunchy creamy bite, I was transported back to a darkened red and white checked table in Arlington,Texas, my family around me laughing and celebrating by the glow of …yes.. candlelight. Since I’m trying to cut back on meat and expand the veggies and fiber, the filling is made from half ground beef, half beans with my favorite “Becky BBQ Style” seasoning.

What are some of your favorite  Taste Memories?

Becky’s BBQ Guacamole Tacos


12 corn taco shells, warmed according to package directions

1 lb ground beef

1 can chili beans, drained (I like an organic three bean combination as pictured below)

1/2 c. picante sauce or salsa

1/2 c. bbq sauce

1 t. cumin

1 t. smoked paprika

1/2 t. grill seasoning (or salt and pepper to taste)

Guacamole from recipe below

½ cup grated cheese

1 tomato, slice in twelve pieces


In a skillet, brown the beef and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer until flavors have mixed and the sauce has thickened.

Fill taco shells ½ way full with bean/meat mixture and ½ with guacamole from recipe below. Sprinkle with little grated cheese and top with slice of tomato.

Variation: For Vegan Version, omit beef and use extra can of drained beans or crumbled meat substitute instead. Skip cheese or use vegan cheese substitute.

Meat Lovers: You can add more ground beef and skip the beans!

“Candlelight Inn” Memories Guacamole

3 ripe avocados, mashed

1 clove garlic, minced

½ fresh lime juice (1 Tablespoon juice)

1 t. sugar

1/3  cup Italian dressing (I love Olive Garden’s new bottled dressing)

1/2 t salt (or to taste)

Peel and mash the avocados. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue mashing and mixing to desired consistency.

Storing Hint: Put leftover guac in a sandwich bag, push out as much air as you can. It won’t turn brown! Then the next time you use it, just snip a corner of the bag and squeeze out what you need.

Store any leftover guacamole in Ziploc sandwich bag


Snip corner of sandwich bag when ready to use leftover guacamole and simply squirt the amount you want to use.

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Grilled Stuffed Avocados

Grilled Stuffed Avocados

(Rachel – The Vegan-Eatin’ Daughter)

I hit the motherload. Yes, I have a load of amazing mothers in my life.

There is my mother-in-law, Rhonda, who, as we speak, is at the pool with Jackson. Jared is very busy this summer, and she has generously offered to give me writing breaks any time I need them. She walked in this afternoon cheerfully greeting us with her usual “Helloooo, Helloooo.” Her red curly hair tied in a lose ponytail and dressed in a bright colored sundress and flip-flops, she came bearing bubbles and summer toys for Jackson and my favorite french fries. Despite me telling her I wasn’t hungry, I ate them all. She knows me well enough to know I’ll eat the fries if she brings the fries. I love that. Jackson didn’t waste any time crawling over to his Mimi, standing up at the hem of her dress and pointing outside. He knows Mimi takes him outside to play. Mimi is fun and lets him get dirty and play in the mud.

And then there is my step-mom, Pat. She’s a lot like me when it comes to organization and order. I rely on her for any and all communication regarding family events or activities. The Freeman men are not known for their communication skills, but she has somehow learned to speak their language and relay their plans to me. Jackson loves going to Grandma’s house. She and Grandpa take him to the barn to see their horses every other Thursday while we are at home group. Another thing I love about Pat is she loves shopping at Costco. I always leave their house with a bag full of avocados, medjool dates, or berries, because with their busy work schedules they really can’t eat 30 pounds of fresh produce before it spoils. I love that.

Obviously, the mother who carried me for nine months, put up with me through my bratty preteen years and still let me live to share this blog with her, is a pretty good woman. Last time I was at her house, I left her with Jackson for a couple of hours and returned to the kitchen to find a gourmet vegan meal waiting for me and Jackson happily playing with various kitchen utensils in his high chair. She’s like a professional nurturer, able to nurture and love and adore multiple kids of all ages at once. She knows me so well that she called me in Texas all the way from her home in Colorado to tell me she thought I was pregnant, even before I knew. She can tell by the sound of my voice within the first few words exactly how I’m feeling. I don’t have to explain much to her, she just gets me. I love that. We often chat while we are cooking and one of us will say, “I’m making ‘such and such,” and the other will exclaim, “I’m making ‘such and such’ too!” The other day, she sent me her list of upcoming recipes for the blog, including her Confetti Rice Pilaf Stuffed Avocados. I had just returned from the store with ingredients for stuffed avocados myself. So, I give you ANOTHER stuffed avocado recipe. I can’t promise this will be the last time mama and daughter are cooking up the same thing, unbeknownst to each other.

A delicious meatless meal on the grill.

Rachel’s Grilled Stuffed Avocados

Serves 2 entrees (4 appetizers)


Stuffed Avocados
2 avocados, cut lengthwise in half and pitted
2 corn on the cob, soaked & silks removed*
1 poblano pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced into thick rings
2 T. Canola Oil
1 t. kosher salt
juice of 1/2 a lime (~1 T.)

Cilantro Lime Sour Cream Sauce
1/4 c. vegan sour cream (or regular if you eat dairy)
1/4 c. cilantro
1/2 T. lime juice
1/4 t. salt
1/8 c. fresh jalapeno, chopped & seeded
1 clove garlic

Serve with: rice and beans for a complete meal or as a healthy side dish for any Mexican meal



Soak corn in water for 30 minutes and then peel back husks and remove silks. Light coals for charcoal grill. You want the coals to be all white, and no longer flaming. Mix canola oil, salt, and lime in a small bowl.

In a blender or food processor, Blend all ingredients for the cilantro lime sour cream sauce. Set aside.

Brush corn kernels with oil mixture and pull husks back up around kernels. Brush onions with canola oil mixture. Put corn, onions, and poblano pepper (left whole) on the grill. Apply canola mixture as they cook and turn veggies so they cook evenly on all sides. When poblano is charred on all sides, remove it and put it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for a few minutes to loosen the skin. Remove the skins with a wet paper towel. Grill onions and corn for 15-20 minutes until they are cooked through and lightly charred.

Just before taking the veggies off the grill.

Brush avocados with canola mixture and grill flesh side down for 3-4 minutes. Ideally, you’ll get nice grill marks across the avocado (I think our grill wasn’t quite hot enough by the time we got them on so this was not our result, but we decided it didn’t matter because they tasted amazing anyway.)

Cut corn off the cob, dice onions and poblanos to a similar size as the corn kernals. Toss together in a bowl.

Stuff the grilled avocados with the grilled corn, onion, and poblano mixture. Serve two halves nestled on a bed of rice and drizzle with sour cream sauce. Serve beans on the side for a complete meal. Or, just serve one half as an appetizer or side.

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Veggie Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Veggie Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas


My sweet grandmother Nonny raised seven children during the Depression in the dust bowl of West Texas.  She somehow managed this through prayer and love,  hard work and creative frugality.  Leftover biscuit crumbs would be saved and turned into bread pudding.  Precious scraps of meat were collected and added to the ever-simmering pot of red beans.  (A staple my mother ate so often that it took her decades to make friends with beans again.) Even in her old age when finances eased and groceries were more abundant than people under her roof,  Nonny horded every little  leftover to be “re-purposed” into the next day’s meal.

We all laugh about the Thanksgiving when someone spotted a little dab of food on Nonny’s kitchen floor.  A bit of stray stuffing,  perhaps?  “What is that?” my Aunt Etta asked, peering at the blob.  To which Nonny quipped, “I don’t know.  But wrap it in Saran and save it.”

Our generation has just survived its own recession (some surviving better than others), and recent stats show that Americans gained a new appreciation for cooking at home.  And for not being wasteful with the food we buy.  To make good use of all those leftovers, everyone needs a good Clean Out the Fridge recipe.  Pastas and stews are wonderful for this.  But my absolute favorite way to use leftovers is the following recipe for veggie sour cream chicken enchiladas.

If I have a dozen corn tortillas, I can usually cobble together the ingredients for this meal from the bits and pieces of leftovers in my fridge.  The key is to think creatively and use what you have. No sour cream? Try a little Ranch Dressing and Greek Yogurt instead.  If you don’t have the veggies I use in this recipe, use what you have! Any kind of squash, mushrooms, shredded carrots, greens, in almost any combo will be wonderful.  Any combination of cheeses taste great in this recipe, so use up those little bits of leftovers.   All beans will work well, too.  Heck, you can even use ground beef in this dish and call it “chicken.” I’m easy.  Just have fun, use this recipe as a basic guide, and get rid of those leftovers in a tasty way!

*Note to Vegetarians:  Omit chicken and sub more beans or other non-meat protein. 

**Vegans:  In addition to omitting chicken, use Rachel’s recipe for cashew queso, instead of the cheese sauce.  Make it on the thin side as it will thicken up during cooking. Omit cheese in filling and for topping.  It will still be wonderful!

Veggie Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Becky’s Veggie Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Makes a dozen enchiladas, serves six

Note: You’ll need 2 1/3 cups grated cheese, total in this recipe — some for cheese sauce, some for filling, and some for sprinkling on top.

Cheese Sauce:

¼ cup olive oil (or butter, or Earth Balance)

¼ cup flour

½ onion, small dice

3 cloves garlic, grated  or minced

2 ½ c. veggie broth (or chicken broth)

2/3 cup sour cream (I had Mexican crema and Greek yogurt leftover and used a combo of this instead. It was delish in the dish. I’ve subbed a mixture of ranch dressing and cream before. Just look for something white and creamy in your fridge and call it “sour cream”!)

1 1/3 c. shredded white cheddar or Monterrey Jack (Any white cheese will do – I emptied the fridge with a mixture of provolone, Swiss and white cheddar and tossed in a little feta for good measure.)

1 small can of green chilis, diced  (you can sub 2 T. chopped pickled jalapeños or even chopped olives or pepperoncinis)


 2/3 c. shredded white cheddar cheese (or any mixture of cheeses you have on hand)

1 to 1 1/2 c. shredded or diced cooked chicken (Love left-over rotisserie chicken for this, uses up all those little pieces after the family attacks the breasts and thighs and it looks like the buzzards got to it.)

1 16 oz can black beans, drained (I didn’t rinse, feel free to if you prefer. Use another kind of beans if you’d rather.)

1 ½ cups chopped fresh spinach

½ cup corn (frozen, canned and drained…. tonight, I cut the kernels off a leftover piece of corn-on-cob)

1 tomato, diced (red pepper would also work instead)

1/2 t. Mexican or Cajun seasoning (Or chili powder, salt and pepper)

12 corn tortillas

1/3 c. grated cheese for final topping

Dash smoked paprika


Preheat Oven to 375 degrees


Saute onions and garlic in oil in skillet on medium high until transparent.  Sprinkle ¼ cup flour over all, and stir to make a roux. Pour in veggie broth slowly, and stir over heat as it thickens.  Turn down heat,  then toss in cheese (1 1/3 c.) and stir until it is melted, stirring so as not to burn.  Add drained green chilis.  Simmer on low for a couple of more minutes to let flavors mingle, then turn off heat.

Cheese sauce, ready to pour over stuffed tortillas


Mix 2/3 cup white cheddar, chicken, black beans, spinach, corn, tomato and seasonings in a large bowl. Check seasonings and adjust to your taste.

Veggie, chicken, cheese filling


Wrap tortillas, six at a time in a large damp paper towel. Microwave about 30 seconds to one minute until tortillas are moist, soft and pliable.

Tortillas, wrapped in wet paper towel, six at a time, nuked until pliable


Fill each corn tortilla with about ¼ c of filling.  Roll and place seam side down in an 11 by 13 ovenproof pan that has been sprayed lightly with oil.  Continue this until the pan is filled. Carefully pour entire pan of cheese sauce over top, evenly.  (It is okay if sauce is a little thin, as it will bake and thicken.)  Sprinkle top with 1/3 cup more of white cheese, and about a tablespoon of chopped jalapenos if you like.  I like a sprinkle of smoked paprika for color.

Enchiladas going into oven

Bake for about 20 minutes or until cheese is melted, and top turns golden around the edges.  (Sometimes I broil the top for a minute to get it a bit more golden.)

Veggie Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas, just out of the oven

Garnish with diced avocados and tomatoes.  Serve with side of rice.  (I love a good brown and wild rice mix, with a bit of lime and chopped cilantro with this dish.)

Veggie Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

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Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas

When it comes to delicious crave-worthy foods, I’m a hoover and Jared is a hoarder.

Jared saves his favorite foods for when he really really wants them. I admire this in some ways, except that he tends to save them for so long they’re no longer edible by the time he decides to indulge. I’ve tossed out countless cupcakes or cookies that have gone bad while Jared was waiting for the perfect moment to eat them. If he’s not going to eat it before it sprouts eyes and a mohawk, he should at least release his dibs, right? His hoarding tortures me!

Though I will admit his patience comes in awfully handy as the husband to, well, me.

I grew up in a home with three hungry boys and when our mom went grocery shopping, we all immediately raided the refrigerator, battling it out for our favorite snacks. If you wanted that breakfast strudel, you grabbed it before it was gone; there were no guarantees it would still be waiting for you in the morning. Apparently, this is still engrained in my brain.

If something is delicious, I eat it all as soon as possible. Monday night I made these Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas for dinner. They were so good, I woke up the next morning thinking of them. So of course, instead of waiting for lunch or dinner, I ate the rest first thing in the morning (saving two for Mr. Patient’s dinner).

I couldn’t help it! Though the picture isn’t the greatest, these enchiladas are out of this world. The sweet and spicy homemade enchilada sauce with just a hint of cinnamon is like a warm hug wrapped around the always delicious combination of black beans and sweet potatoes. These are definitely going to become a go-to meal around here.

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Rachel’s Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas

Serves 4


8 Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas


1/2 large onion
1 bell pepper (any color but orange or yellow are nice in this dish)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled & chopped into chunks
olive oil
1 t. Salt
1 16oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed


1 16oz can of whole peeled tomatoes (I’m sure crushed tomatoes would work too, but this is what I had on hand)
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1 t. oregano
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
2 t. brown sugar
1 t. red chili flakes
1 T. jarred salsa (or one chipotle in adobo sauce)


Preheat oven to 350.

Bring water in a medium sauce pan to a boil and boil chopped sweet potatoes for five minutes, or until the potatoes are just barely fork tender. Drain.

While the potatoes are boiling, heat about 1 T. of olive oil on medium heat in a large saute pan. Add onions, bell pepper, and salt and cook until onions are translucent. Turn off heat and gently toss in the sweet potatoes and black beans.

In a blender or food processor, mix all of the sauce ingredients until the tomatoes are pureed and the spices are all blended.

Coat an 8×10 baking dish with 1 T. of olive oil, then ladle in a little enchilada sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the dish. Dip each tortilla into the enchilada sauce coating both sides. Add sweet potato filling and roll tightly into a tube. Place in the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat until all the tortillas and filling are used, packing the enchiladas into the dish side by side. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Serve with Spanish rice (add a sprinkle of taco seasoning in with your rice while it’s cooking for a really quick & easy version) and avocado slices or guacamole.

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White Bean Guacamole Dip

White Bean Guacamole

Lower fat, higher protein, and less expensive guacamole that tastes just as good (if not better) than the original.

On Thursday, Jackson and I flew out to Denver to spend the weekend at my mom and Greg’s house. A typical trip to mom’s is never short on activity and this weekend was no exception. In our quick four day visit, we drove to the mountains for a barbeque at my brother and his wife’s new place, went to a nephew’s t-ball game, and hosted a girls night/baby shower for a sweet friend (due any day)! I love packing in as much as I can into a trip. It’s the packing and traveling part that I don’t love so much, especially with this little guy in my suitcase…literally.

Packing is exhausting!

As my mom mentioned in her post yesterday, Jackson is the busiest little baby you ever did see, into everything and always on the go. So sitting with him on my lap for the 3 1/2 hour plane ride home just about wore me out. Trying to keep him off the floor and out of my seatmates’ laps was like trying to hang onto a block of jello wiggling through my fingertips and bouncing out of my hands.

Getting there and back is no easy task, but we make it all worth while by fitting in as much as we can while we are there. That’s how I feel about cooking sometimes too. If I’m going to go to the trouble of messing up my kitchen, I want to get as much out of it as possible. I double a recipe and freeze half or splurge on the best ingredients for maximum taste, or sneak in some extra nutrition when I can.

Guacamole is a pretty healthy snack, it’s full of good fats and fiber, but it doesn’t have any protein and those good fats are still fats, so moderation is key. You have to be like super human to only eat a moderate amount of guacamole though, right? So I like to add a secret ingredient to my guac…white beans. You don’t even know they are in there, but per bite, they increase the protein and lower the fat and calories. Seriously, you have to try this. If you are going to make guacamole, you might as well get as much of a nutritional punch out of it as you can. Also, try replacing the chips with rice crackers to health it up even more.

White Bean Guacamole Dip

White Bean Guacamole Dip

Serves up to 8 small servings


1 15oz can of white beans (Great Northern, Cannellini, or Navy), drained with 1 T. liquid reserved
2 ripe avocados, halved and pitted
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 T. lime juice
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. garlic powder
1 c. cilantro (if you like it)


In a food processor, blend beans and 1 T. reserved liquid until beans are pureed. Scoop the avocado flesh and chopped peppers into the food processor and pulse a few times. Add the lime juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cilantro. Pulse until the desired consistency (I like a little bit of texture and a few chunks of avocado in mine.)

Serve with crackers or chips. I really like these Brown Rice & Flax crackers from Wal-Mart even better than chips with this dip. They’re not only much lower in fat, but they hold up better to the thick dip and I just think they taste delicious.

Brown Rice & Flax Crackers

Just 2.5 grams of fat in 16 crackers, compared to 6.5 grams in tortilla chips.

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Mexican Comfort Casserole & Cashew Queso

Saturday was a big game for my husband’s high school baseball team. I told him as I kissed him goodbye “We”ll be there, look for us in the stands.” Of course, Jackson’s afternoon nap fell at exactly the start of the game. I’ve been trying to keep him on a good sleep schedule during the day as it seems to translate to better sleep at night, so I waited until he woke up. Finally, after sleeping an hour and a half, I quickly loaded him in the car to try and make it to the game before it ended. I tuned into the local radio station airing the game and crossed my fingers that the innings would slow down (the ONLY time I’ve ever wished for baseball to slow down!) We rushed into the stadium as the seventh inning began, our team down three runs.

I sat in the stands next to another coaches’ wife. We both cheered loud when our husbands’ team tied up the game, sending us into extra innings. It was a nail biter of a game!

Sadly, the other team scored the winning run knocking our boys out of their first place spot in district.

“I don’t think I’m going to wait around for them to finish talking to the boys.” I told the other coach’s wife. “I think I’ll head to the store for a few things instead. There’s nothing like Mexican food to cheer Jared up.”

“Yep, I have a pint of Blue Bell in the freezer for occasions just like this,” she nodded.

So I whipped up a mexican casserole, cashew cheese dip, rice, salsa, and gaucamole. Then popped open a couple of Coronas with a twist of lime. Boy was my kitchen a mess, but my husband was feeling like a winner again!

My mom got that little avocado green dip dish for me. It’s an antique from 1960. I think it’s so cute!

Due to that whole baby sleep schedule mentioned above, it was dark by the time we actually sat down to eat, so pics of the Mexican Fiesta were quite meh. Yeah, meh is a word. So I made a plate of leftovers on Sunday for lunch to get better pictures. Leftovers = equally delicious.

Mexican Comfort Casserole with Cashew Queso

Serves 8


2 1/2 c. chopped onions
2 c. chopped peppers (any color or kind — I used green bell and poblano)
3 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
2 zucchini, sliced
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 c. (or 2 16 oz cans) of refried or mashed pinto beans
~12 corn tortillas
Cashew Queso (see below)
Optional garnish: lettuce, tomato, avocado


Preheat oven to 350.

Saute onions on medium to med-high heat with a little oil and salt for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peppers and continue sauteing for 10 more minutes. In the last couple of minutes add the garlic.

In a separate pan, saute zucchini and squash on med-high heat with a little oil and salt & pepper until they just start to brown but are still firm.

Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender combine the fire roasted tomatoes and chipotle peppers in adobe sauce. Pour mixture into a bowl large enough to dip a corn tortilla in.

Now begin layering in a casserole dish (I used two round ones, but you could use one 8 x10 or whatever you have on hand). This recipe is super flexible. If you end up with extra ingredients, just add another layer.

Layer 1: 1/2 of the onion, pepper, and garlic mixture
Layer 2: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce (tear tortillas in half to border edges if needed)
Layer 3: 2 cups of beans
Layer 4: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce
Layer 5: zucchini and squash
Layer 6: tortillas dipped in chipotle tomato sauce and topped with a thin layer of more sauce
Layer 7: 2 cups of beans
Layer 8: 1/2 of the onion, pepper, and garlic mixture

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Top with cashew queso, lettuce tomato, and avocado.

Cashew Queso

Note: this is not my recipe. I got it from a friend and I’m unsure of the source.


1 c. raw cashews
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 orange roasted bell pepper* (red or yellow will work too, but orange gives the most cheese-like color)
2 c. water
1 tsp lemon juice


In a food processor, blend cashews, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, salt,and onion powder into a fine dust. Add about 1/2 a cup of the water and the roasted bell pepper and blend again. Add the rest of the water and lemon juice. Transfer mixture to a pot and heat on medium heat, stirring pretty often until it has thickened to the consistency you like. If it gets too thick, just add a little more water.

*Making your own roasted peppers is easy. Just placing them directly on on a gas burner flame rotating it a few times (like this) or on a pan under the broiler until charred. Then put it in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap for a about five minutes. Rub off most of the skin with a damp paper towel. Voila, roasted peppers!

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