Versatile Creamy Avocado and Jalapeño Sauce

Versatile Creamy Avocado Jalapeno Sauce Elaine Griffin DesignsLast week I was craving, CRAVING something creamy and spicy with crispy melted extra sharp cheddar cheese. For days.

So finally I thought it would be great to put my new gluten free tortillas (really good by the way) to good use and make a creamy enchilada casserole for dinner. The issue is I don’t like red enchilada sauce, only green. The other issue? Not a single store in my town carries green enchilada sauce or any of the ingredients used to make it.

What’s a girl to do? Grab a jar of pickled jalapeños and combine them with my almost over-ripe avocados and make my own tasty sauce!

What I did plan on was having a tasty sauce for dinner. What I didn’t count on was how versatile this sauce would be.

Things I’ve used it for so far:

  • Enchilada sauce for an enchilada casserole.
  • Enchilada sauce for a single serve enchilada (pictured).
  • Sauce for turkey chili loaded sweet potato fries.
  • Sauce for plain old sweet potato fries.
  • Topping for a southwest egg white scramble (pictured).
  • Dip for pretzels.
  • Salad dressing.

So yeah, pretty much everything you might like something spicy and creamy on. In fact this week I’m going to try it on some broiled cod. Another thing I love about this recipe is you can make this as mild or spicy as you like. This recipe calls for you to use the jalapeño juice, so if you don’t want it too spicy you can substitute more lime or lemon juice, or white vinegar to make it easier to blend. You could probably use some water, too. Or, instead of using jalapeños, you could use a can of diced green chili’s, although you would probably also have to add more liquid, as they tend to not be too liquidy.

Versatile Creamy Avocado and Jalapeño Sauce

Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: Varies

The Ingredients

  • 1 Avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 clove garlic
  • A handful of cilantro (to taste), with stems is okay
  • 2 green onions, cleaned and trimmed
  • Pickled jalapeños, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons of oil of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The Method

  • Throw everything in a blender.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Put on absolutely anything and everything you want.
  • Enjoy!

What would you enjoy this sauce on or with?

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip (Blue Cheese Optional)

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip Elaine GriffinI use Greek yogurt in a lot of recipes. Smoothies, salads that require a creamy dressing, smoothies, and I’ve been working on a banana bread recipe, just to name a few. Like many people, I also use it as a sour cream substitute to top quesadillas and baked potatoes, or really anything requiring sour cream.

One of my favorite, and I think most versatile ways to use Greek yogurt is as a substitute for sour cream in ranch dip/dressing. What I love about this recipe is it can be adapted to make a bangin’ blue cheese dip, which obviously is best served with chicken wings and veggies.

Let me give you a  little bit of a back story on this.

I’m from Upstate NY, and that makes me a chicken wing dip purist. Blue cheese, and only blue cheese will ever touch my wings. Then I moved to North Carolina and guess what they serve their wings with? Ranch, which I found to be absolutely appalling, although it was tasty. Listen, when you are faced with only one option for dipping or have no wings, you go with what you can get.

But then I moved back to New York, and all was well and right in my chicken wing with blue cheese world.

Fast forward a few years and the wings and/or salads we order from a restaurant in town has homemade blue cheese dressing. It was literally one of the only good things about this place. This dressing was light and fresh like ranch, but with big chunks of blue cheese. Scrumptious!

Luckily I learned how to make this ranchy dressing myself because surprisingly this restaurant is now closed. On special occasions I make this with light sour cream instead of the Greek yogurt, but since I do like to keep it around for the kids and I to have with veggies as a snack, I generally make it with the Greek yogurt to save on fat and bump up the protein. It’s great on anything you might like ranch dressing on. I also keep some blue cheese around to throw in just in case we are feeling like going that route.

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip (Blue Cheese Optional)

Prep time: 10 minutes
Servings: Varies

The Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Chobani plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons dried garlic powder (amount based on your preference)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons finely chopped green onion, or grated sweet onion (amount based on your preference)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Milk for thinning if using as a dressing
  • Blue cheese (optional)

The Method

  • Mix everything together.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  • Enjoy!

Do you cook with Greek yogurt? What’s your favorite recipe?

This post is inspired by Chobani’s #MadeWithChobani project. All opinions, and this recipe, are my own. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t write it.

Crock Pot Meals Reloaded: Chicken Fajitas

Like many people, I’m totally into crock pot meals now that the cold weather has arrived. It’s so nice to know that at the end of the day, you have a warm, and hopefully healthy meal to settle down to.

When I cook in my crock pot, I tend to cook in large batches, using simple and budget-friendly ingredients. I freeze leftovers for another time, sometimes for a straight up leftover meal, say, if it is something like soup or chili. One thing I’ve been experimenting with is making a dish that is a blank canvas for leftovers reloaded.

Like many of us, the afternoons and evenings can sometimes get away from me. Even if I do have a meal plan, sometimes the hecticness of homework and after school activities get the best of me. It’s so nice to know that I have a back up if I need it. Also, I’m perpetually worried about “lean times” and I feel good knowing I will still be able to feed my family healthy meals in those times.

One of the first recipes I tested was crock pot chicken fajitas. We love fajitas here, as they are pretty versatile as far as everyone being able to prepare them how they like them, and they are very versatile as far as leftovers. The usual suspects of the past are fajita quesadillas and chicken chili. This time, though, I decided to reload them as chicken Philly cheesesteaks, and chicken tortilla soup.

Below is the basic recipe for the fajitas. Adjust amounts and seasonings to your tastes and to the size of your family.

Crock-Pot-Meals-Reloaded-Chicken-Fajitas

Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: all day
Servings: Enough for 3 meals

The Ingredients

  • chicken breasts
  • onions, sliced
  • sweet peppers, sliced
  • garlic cloves, chopped
  • lemon or lime juice
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • salt and pepper

The Method

  • Throw it all in the crock pot, set it, and forget it!
  • After fajitas have cooled, divide them into freezer bags or containers for freezing.
  • *NOTE! Do NOT discard the liquid after cooking. Include it in the container for tortilla soup!*

For the Chicken Phillies:

Additional Ingredients

The Method

      • Heat chicken, peppers, onions (sautee mushrooms first if you are using them).
      • Toast rolls (optional) and melt cheese on them.
      • Add chicken mixture and eat!

For the Chicken Tortilla Soup:

Additional Ingredients

      • chicken stock
      • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
      • frozen corn
      • 1 can of diced tomatoes
      • cilantro, avocado, cheese, tortilla chips or strips

The Method

      • Chop the chicken, onion, and peppers into soup-sized pieces.
      • Add all ingredients to a pot, heat, and serve.

See, isn’t that easy?

What kind of recipes do you like to make that you can re-create?

Sauce Mornay, Basic Cheese Sauce

One of the first things I ever learned to cook was a béchamel sauce. Make a roux with equal parts unsalted butter and unbleached white flour, add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Soon after I learned how to make it into a delicious cheese sauce, also called Sauce Mornay. I think my favorite thing to eat it on, aside from pasta, was broccoli. This was back before we thought about roasting our vegetables or adding anything other than vinegar and salt and pepper to them. Which also holds a special place in my heart, but cheese sauce? It’s holding down the number one spot.

I have now taught my kids to make cheese sauce, as I attempt to break them of a boxed mac and cheese preference. They are starting to prefer it, and also enjoy eating it on sandwiches and veggies!

One thing I like about this recipe is you can make it as thin or thick as you like it. You can add any cheese you like, as long as it melts well. The possibilities are infinite!

basic-cheese-sauce

Sauce Mornay, or Basic Cheese Sauce

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: Varies
Servings: Varies

The Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk of your choice
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • melting cheese of your choice
  • salt and pepper

The Method

  • Warm milk in a pan or in the microwave.
  • Melt butter over low heat.
  • Sprinkle in an equal amount flour, and whisk, letting it cook until softly bubbling.
  • Whisk in warm milk, a quarter cup at a time, fully incorporating the ingredients before adding more milk.
  • When all the milk is added, heat to bubbling in order to thicken, stirring along the bottom of your pan frequently. When it coats the back of a spoon, it is ready to have the cheese added.
  • Whisk in your cheese and stir until it melts. Do not over heat or over stir, as this will make it stringy or chalky.
  • Remove from heat and add nutmeg, salt, and pepper, to taste.

There you have it! If the sauce is too thick, or does become stringy or chalky, gently add a few drops of white wine or more warm milk.

What kind of cheese do you like in your cheese sauce?

Luscious Acorn Squash Soup

Luscious Acorn Squash Soup, Elaine Griffin, The Laine ListWhen I was a little girl, my grandmother made the most delicious acorn squash. She would cut them in half and scoop out the seeds. A pat of butter, brown sugar, and salt and pepper filled the holes. Bacon strips were draped over the top. When they cooked the house smelled like fall. Earthy, baconny goodness. They tasted even better, served whole on the plate – a perfect side dish on cold, fall days.

Every year, when the acorn squash arrive, I scoop them up like it’s my job, and I cook them just like Gram did.

This year, as I browsed through Pinterest, I thought, why butternut squash soup? Why not acorn?

Luscious Acorn Squash Soup

The Ingredients

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • sour cream for serving

The Method

  • Cut acorn squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Season with salt and pepper and place on a foil lined cookie sheet, and cook until tender.
  • Let the squash cool, and scoop out into a blender.
  • Add chicken broth, and blend until smooth. You may have to do this in batches.
  • Pass through a sieve into a soup pot.
  • Heat through, and season with nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
  • Warm half and half, and slowly stir into soup.
  • Serve with a dollop of sour cream.
  • Enjoy!

This luscious soup is magical when paired with a sharp cheddar grilled cheese sandwich on Heidelberg bread!

Do you like acorn squash? What is your favorite recipe?

Grilled Veggie and Bean Summer Salad

Grilled Veggie and Bean Summer SaladLike many people at this time of year, I’m starting to think about what I’m putting in my mouth, and what will hopefully come off of my body. Not just to look good, mind you, but to feel good too.

Eating healthy is generally not a problem with me, as I’m in love with salad.

I make a damn good salad. This salad is no exception. While this recipe highlights asparagus, which is now out of season, ingredients can be substituted as the growing and harvesting season goes on!

Grilled Veggie and Bean Summer Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

The Ingredients

  • Asparagus
  • Red peppers
  • Grape Tomatoes
  • Green onions
  • Celery hearts and leaves – the leaves are super tasty and add a great texture
  • 1 can of beans of your choice – chick peas, cannellini, or black beans, depending on your veggie choices, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of a lemon, or vinegar of your choice
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

The Method

  • Wash and trim all veggies while grill heats.
  • Remove woody asparagus ends, and cut red pepper and remove the stem and seeds.
  • Tomatoes can be left whole, or halved. You can skewer them or put them on a grill pan. In fact, you can put any of the veggies on a grill pan, or put the asparagus and red peppers directly on the grill.
  • Toss veggies (except green onions and celery) with olive oil and salt and pepper.
  • Grill until slightly charred.
  • Remove from grill and chop to desired size.
  • Mix in the beans, and dress with lemon or vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or cold – and enjoy!

Does this sound good to you? What substitutions would you make?

Broccoli and Quinoa Salad

Broccoli and Quinoa Salad Elaine Griffin The Laine ListI know, again with the salad, right? But, they are just so darn good and a super great way to get those veggies in the kids. Plus, quinoa, who knew we would love that?! I sure never guessed.

This is another one of those salads I hope you will use as a base and vary your veggies and/or dressings. Use what you love and what you know everyone will eat!

Broccoli and Quinoa Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

The Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Garlic, to taste, grated, minced, or crushed
  • 2-3 large broccoli heads, chopped to bite sized pieces
  • lemon juice or vinegar of your choice
  • 1 package of quinoa
  • green onions, chopped
  • chopped parsley

The Method

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Add broccoli, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper to a glass baking dish or roasting pan, and toss to coat.
  • Place broccoli in preheated oven and cook until lightly roasted and slightly tender, but still al dente.
  • While the broccoli cooks, cook quinoa according to package directions, adding salt to the water, or substituting chicken stock for water.
  • When quinoa is cooked, place in a mixing bowl and immediately add green onion, parsley, and whatever you would like for your dressing (lemon juice/vinegar and olive oil or regular salad dressing).
  • Pull the broccoli out of the oven and deglaze with lemon juice or vinegar. While scraping bits from the bottom of the pan, add to quinoa.
  • Mix ingredients together, season to taste, and serve warm, hot, or cold!

What do you think of this recipe? What vegetables would you substitute?

Meal Plan Week of June 9th

Another week has come and gone.

meal plan week of June 9, Elaine Griffin, The Laine ListI absolutely cannot believe how fast the last 6 weeks or so has passed since the weather finally broke. 6 weeks in a winter like we just had felt like 6 months!

The last day of school is only 12 days away, and we are beginning to plan our #EndlessSummer plans.

I’m doing a lot of cooking this week and through the weekend to celebrate Father’s Day. Friday is the rocket launch for Cub Scouts, so I’m hoping to be treated with some take out. Mama needs a break!

Meal Plan, Week of May 9th

Meatless Monday: One Pot Pasta with Barilla Pasta Plus & Veggies

This is a variation on the recipe I found on Pinterest, via Rachel Schultz. Obviously I’m leaving out the meat. I can post my version if anyone has any interest.

Medeterranean Chicken with Sauteed Green Beans

I have made this before and it is amazing! I actually have a post written about it, but I need better pics!

California Club Pasta Salad

Another Pinterest find that I will put my own spin on. Thanks to ohsweetbasil.com for this one!

Scout night Grilled Cheese with Avocado, Chicken and Ceddar, served with Salad

I have actually already posted this recipe. I’m looking forward to having it again!

Friday, with any luck, will be take out night.

What are you eating this week?

Meal Plan Week of June 2nd

meal plan week of June 2, Elaine Griffin, The Laine ListI know I am not the only one who cannot believe it is June already! The weather is crazy – today may be close to 90, and by Thursday it is going to be around 70, hence my choice of a leftovers chili.

We are still working on our healthy eating habits. This week my focus is breaking the nasty nightly dessert habit we have. I have been making Greek yogurt fruit smoothies for breakfast in the morning and making a little extra to freeze into popsicles, which I am going to try to sub for ice cream!

Meal Plan Week of May 19th

Monday

Meatless Monday! Barilla Pasta Plus with Mediterranean veggies.

Tuesday

Rotisserie chicken with broccoli quinoa salad.

Wednesday

Track night – sandwiches and salad after track.

Thursday

Scout night – leftovers chili with brown rice.

Friday

Buffalo chicken pizza and veggies with dip.

What are you eating this week?

Sangria, a New Wine from Yellow Tail #Review

It’s no secret I love wine, so you can imagine my excitement when I was chosen to enjoy a Sangria Sunday care package from Yellow Tail wines!

Sangria from Yellow Tail Elaine GriffinThis care package was amazing, and such a surprise. It came with a bottle of Sangria wine, a cute Yellow Tail tote bag, a bottle of nail polish and other manicure/pedicure supplies, and a sweet Sangria scented candle!

It was the perfect care package I have been sorely needing.

This past Sunday, was Mother’s Day, and with near 80-degree temps, was the perfect time to get out on my deck and beautify my freed toes while sipping some of this amazing sangria.

Yellow Tail’s description of the wine is spot on.

Sangria is a delicious mix of citrus and red wine. The aroma is perfumed and enticing with orange rind and red berry notes that splashes onto the palette with a soft, sweet-citrus flavor and hints of spirit.

I would add that it is in no way too sweet. I’m a dry red drinker – like, if it doesn’t make me pucker than I don’t want it drinker. And this, chilled and served over some ice was tasty AND refreshing.

I had such a wonderful Mother’s Day. A perfect mix of hanging with my kids and doing something nice for myself.

To me, Sangria Sunday means relaxing in the sun, and taking some time to remember who I am.

What does Sangria Sunday mean to you?

Disclosure: Yellow Tail did supply me with the wine and care package, but all opinions are my own.