Baked Creamy Spinach Chicken Flautas

When you need an easy dinner idea, a packable lunch, or a substantial snack, I’ve got your back.  Here’s what I love about these little cuties:  everything is hidden inside.  Onions…check.  Spinach…check. My kids didn’t even notice.  Just bit right down and gobbled them up.   Sometimes you have to be stealthy with the veggies.

chicken spinach flautas 4

Baked Creamy Spinach Chicken Flautas

1 chopped onion

1 tsp minced garlic (or garlic powder)

2 cups fresh, chopped spinach

1 can, 4 oz green chilies

1 tsp ground cumin

2 cups cooked shredded chicken*

1 brick, 8 oz neufchâtel cheese

20-6 inch tortillas (I used flour, but corn works if you want to call them taquitos)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet saute onion and garlic until very soft.  Stir in spinach and cook until wilted. Add green chilies, cumin, and chicken.  Heat through.
  3. Push everything in the skillet to the outsides, making a whole in the center.  Put the neufchâtel cheese right there and stir it around until it softens and melts into a creamy liquidy pool. Then stir it into the chicken mixture.
  4. Place 2 Tbs of the mixture onto the edge of a tortilla and roll up tightly.  Place seam side down on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Serve with dipping sauces like: salsa, ranch dressing, sour cream, or guacamole.  For dinner add side dishes of tossed salad and cut fruit.

chicken spinach flautas 1

Avocado Crab Rangoon

crab rangoon 6

Avocado Crab Rangoon:

This super simple recipe is so delicious you’ll need to invite friends over to prevent eating the entire batch by yourself!  Avocado replaces the traditional cream cheese in these crab rangoon and enhances the flavor.  That’s delicious news for dairy free freinds.  

crab rangoon 1

Prep time 5 minutes.  Cook time 2-3 minutes per batch.

3/4 cup avocado mashed with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 can, 6 oz, crabmeat, drained

2 green onion tops, snipped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1 48 oz bottle of vegetable oil for frying

Small wonton wrappers (Located in the refrigerator produce section at the grocery store and sold in 60 count packages.) (For a recipe to make your own click here:

Pour the vegetable oil in an electric skillet and heat to 350 degrees. 

crab rangoon 2

Meanwhile, In a medium bowl, mix the mashed avocado, crab, green onion, garlic, sugar, and soy sauce.  Place a teaspoon of crab mixture on each won ton.  Moisten the edges of the wrapper with a wet finger (keep a water bowl handy.) Press the edges together to seal in little bundles.

crab rangoon 4

Deep Fry for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve with sweet and sour sauce.

crab rangoon 5 crab rangoon 3

Prefer to bake yours?  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Spritz with non-stick cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Avocado Crab Rangoon

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Flautas

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Flautas

This low-cost entree is fast to make and really yummy.  They travel well, if you find yourself needing a meal on the go.  A few tablespoons of cheese in each one brings out flavor and adds protein without breaking the bank.  Presenting another meatless main dish to throw into your rotation.  Read more

Homemade Lunchmeat: Pros and Cons

My colleague, Tiffany, at Don’t Waste the Crumbs, recently wrote about making DIY lunchmeat. It sounded pretty easy, so I gave it a try.  Here’s my experience:

Aldi Black Forest Ham

We usually buy Black Forest Deli Ham from Aldi for $3.49 a lb.  The kids love it and I buy it even though it’s “coated with Caramel Color.”  That makes me cringe a little every time I put it in my cart.  What is caramel color anyway?  I finally decided to put aside my fears and just look it up. According to this article, it’s basically toasted carbohydrates and is not any more harmful than caramel sugar.  The problem comes if you are allergic to the carbohydrate base which might contain wheat.  In this case, Aldi says it’s gluten free. We’ve never had a reaction, but we aren’t sensitive to any carbohydrates.

Black Forest Ham Aldi

Sodium Nitrite is the other ingredient that makes me cringe. It is added as a preservative to prevent food poisoning.  You will die much faster from botulism than you will from nitrite poisoning, but it has been shown to contribute to cancer in large doses. The first Trim Healthy Mama book said that while it’s nice to avoid nitrates there are enough antioxidants in one orange to counter any harmful affects from an average serving of preserved meat.  My kids won’t eat oranges :(. Sodium phosphate is a non-toxic salt used as a thickening agent.   Basically you can google any ingredient that you aren’t sure about and decide for yourself if it’s something you are ok with.

Sliced Turkey breast

I started my DIY lunch meat by buying a Kirkland frozen turkey breast from Aldi.  It was $8.99 for a 48 oz package.  At $3 a lb, it would save me $1.50 over buying 3 lbs of lunch meat, but there’s a catch.  Inside the package was a bag of “gravy” weighing 10.6 ounces, leaving me with only 37.4 oz of meat. Uncooked I’m now paying $3.84 per pound.

Sliced Turkey Breast 2

I rubbed the meat all over with seasoned salt and put it in the slow cooker.  I think I overcooked it a tad.  I didn’t really keep track of the time and the juices were caramlized by the time I returned.  It smelled heavenly.  I let it cool on the counter a bit before wrapping and chilling overnight in the refrigerator.  When it was completely cold I weighed it before slicing it by hand.  Trying to get the slices as thin as deli meat.  I wasn’t very good at it.

The finally cooked weight of the meat was 1.6 lbs.  $5.61 per pound.  This is 160% more than just buying lunchmeat.

attempted mandolin

I tried my mandolin slicer to see if it would be easier.  It made a crumbly mess.  You really need an electric knife or deli slicer if you want to automate things.

sliced turkey breast in the bag

It tasted amazing, but crumbled pretty easily.  This is probably because I overcooked it, which would have also reduced moisture content and weight a little bit.

Garlic Bread Sandwich

I had a loaf of garlic bread on hand and used it to make an open faced baked family sized sandwich.

baked garlic bread sandwich

Too bad we were out of tomatoes, that would have been really pretty.  The sandwich was delicious!  A big hit for everyone in the family.


  • It was delicious and not that hard.
  • It may have fewer questionable ingredients (although the turkey breast was brined with a sodium solution and I forgot to check the ingredients before tossing the package to see if there were any cringe-worthy ones)


  • It was a lot more expensive.
  • While it wasn’t that hard, it took more time than just buying lunch meat.
  • It was hard to slice as thin as deli meat
  • It crumbled easily

Would I try it again?  Probably not.  It was delicious but not budget friendly for us.  If I decide to give up lunchmeat altogether to avoid nitrites, cooking a chicken with bones and shredding the meat, would be more cost effective for us.

What do you think?  Would you try it?

Chicken Alfredo Pizza

chicken spinach alfredo pizza 4

I like a lot of variety in our meal planning and won’t fix the same thing twice for months and months, until it comes to pizza.  I never get tired of pizza. Ever.  This could be the single most dangerous thing to my fitness goals.  I’ve tried cauliflower crust pizza; it’s gross.   If I’m serious about fitness and have to have a pizza, I’ll put sauce, turkey pepperoni, veggies, and cheese on a Joseph’s pita.  That’s the only thing that is close enough for me.

chicken alfredo pizza 3

There’s nothing as good as a soft homemade pizza crust.  I have the best recipe and I’m wiling to share.  Read more

Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

Meat and Cheese are the two most expensive categories in my grocery budget. I keep costs down by choosing less expensive proteins a few times a week like eggs.   While I’m not a fan of vegan protein alternatives like tofu and TVP,  I do enjoy fresh or dry roasted edamame.

how to prepare tofu

If someone in my home developed food allergies to all dairy and eggs I’d consider tofutti. Until then…. nope.

Eggs, on the other hand, are little compact nuggets of serious nutrition.  2 large eggs have 140 calories, 12g of protein, and everything necessary to grow a chick = lots of nutrients.   Plus at $1.50 a dozen, a serving of 2 eggs is only $.25.

Grant Slicing Eggs

We like to have hard boiled eggs on hand for snacking.  They are also great chopped on top of a chef’s salad, in egg salad, potato salad, tuna salad, creamed eggs over biscuits, deviled (stuffed) eggs….you get the idea.

Boiled eggs are easy to cook, but may not be so easy to peel.  When eggs are freshly laid, they are slightly acidic which makes the shell stick tightly to the albumin in the egg white and impossible to peel cleanly. The hen covers her eggs with a protective coating as they are laid which keeps this acidic level intact and the egg fresh outside the fridge for 10 days.

peeling eggs

Commercial eggs have the protective coating washed off.  This allows the natural CO2 trapped in the egg to dissipate through the porous shell reducing the acidity and the stickiness of the shell.  Commercial eggs will ripen in the refrigerator to be easy to peel in about 10 days. By the time they reach our homes commercial eggs are typically perfectly ripe.

If you have your own hens, you’ll need to wash the eggs you hope to boil with warm water and a soft cloth before storing in the fridge.  Label them so you’ll be able to tell the date they will be ready to boil and peel (10 days ripened.)  Oiling the eggs for storage will make it impossible for them to ripen to easy peel stage.

Eggs in steamer

We enjoy steaming our eggs instead of boiling them in water.  They don’t crack since they aren’t in the rocking boiling water to knock them around.  We think they are easier to peel than boiled eggs and don’t have the grayish green line separating the yolk from the white, unless we forget about them and over do it.

I use our combo steamer/slow cooker/rice cooker to do it, because it automatically starts timing when the water comes to a boil and sets of an alarm when they are done.  I simply fill the bottom with 2 inches of water, fill the top basket with eggs, set it to steam for 15 minutes and go to something productive.

Peel eggs with a spoon

When the alarm sounds , I use oven mitts to lift out the steamer basket and plunge it into a sink of cold water to stop the cooking process.  When they are cool enough to handle, I tap and roll the eggs on a paper towel (or cloth towel) to break up the shell, then slip a spoon between the shell and the egg.  The spoon curves with the egg keeping it protected and the peel slips off pretty quickly this way. If the spoon doesn’t slide well, I oil the tip with a touch of olive oil.

How about you, does peeling eggs frustrate you? Do you have a family tradition for making eggs easy to peel?



Homemade Calzones


Calzones are my favorite to make, because you can tuck almost any combo of leftovers in them and have a portable meal to go.  We especially like ham and cheddar; turkey, broccoli and swiss; pizza combos; and bbq.  They are great for grabbing to eat at the soccer fields or for a picnic meal.  My kids even like to pack leftover calzones for cold lunches. The whole thing can be done from the homemade dough, to the meal in hand in around 45 minutes, and most of that is wait time. Read more

Mini Chicken Pot Impossible Pies

Food cooked in a muffin tin is adorable (and cooks more quickly than big pans of things.)  If you are packing food for lunches, muffin tin sized food fits in thermoses (like this one) for a hot lunch on the go.  Just pack the food while it’s super hot into preheated containers and it will keep hot for around 3 hours.

I love this recipe, because you can use up little bits of leftovers if you have them.  Less than a serving of peas? No problem.  A few cooked carrots?  Toss them in.  You can use beef instead, or whatever you have on hand.  Here’s the recipe; tweak at will.

1 lb of chicken breast, cooked and diced

1 cup of shredded cheese, Swiss or Cheddar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup baking mix or self-rising flour

2 cups vegetables (chopped broccoli, peas, carrots, corn–whatever you like in fine bits)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spritz muffin cups with non-stick spray. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Use a level ice cream scoop to fill muffin tins. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Do you ever bake non-muffin things in muffin tins?  What are your favorites?


5 Favorite Chicken Marinades

We eat a lot of chicken because it’s so affordable.  Bone in is nice for all the health benefits of bone especially if you are boiling it for broth or soup.  I like a boneless breast for fast cooking convenience.  It’s hard to admit this but I don’t like bones very much….it’s much harder for me to eat bone in chicken emotionally…’s weird.  Just being real.

Recently I’ve been struggling with weight gain. Our busy schedule tempts me to grab something that’s unsupportive to my goals and it shows in my waistline.

Last week, I decided to spend 15 minutes and prep ahead marinated chicken for the freezer.  It’s easy to thaw in the microwave then throw on the table top grill.  The breasts cook in just 7 minutes that way! (Since it cooks from both sides at the same time.)   It takes less time to cook these than to go get take out.

Not all chicken breasts are created equal.  My favorite for marinating and grilling are from Costco.  They are the least expensive brand there, but are nice and thin for uniform cooking

Costco isn’t as close to our house as Aldi, so I ran in and grabbed a bag of frozen chicken for a slow cooker meal.  Aldi’s chicken is a few cents more expensive per pound and it’s wonky.  This type of chicken is okay to dice for casseroles, or to cook and shred into soup, but not so good for marinating and grilling.

Marinating for the freezer is the easiest prep ahead meal type. I start by placing 8 breasts (about 2 lbs) of chicken in each freezer bag.

Then mix up the marinades and pour them in.  If you want to grill chicken in the next 3 days you can seal the bags and stick them in the fridge.  If it’s for later than that, throw them in the freezer.  They will still marinate frozen.

Here are 5 of my favorite marinades.  Do you have a favorite? Leave it in the comments.  I’d love to try something new.

Honey Lemon Chicken Marinade

1 cup lemon juice (I used from concentrate from Aldi)

1/2 cup Braggs Liquid Aminos

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon dried Rosemary

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon lemon extract or zest

 (I used homemade lemon extract–video at the end.)

Combine all and warm slightly to mix the honey in well.  Pour over chicken and refrigerate overnight.  We grilled ours, but I think slow cooking the chicken in the marinade would be yummy too.

Thyme Chicken Marinade

This one is our favorite!  It’s really good with A1 steak sauce for dipping, but you really don’t need anything to help the flavor.

3/4 cup water or oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup vinegar (red wine or rice vinegars are nice)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Fresh Black Pepper

Favorite Fajita Marinade

2 Tablespoons oil

2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1 1/2 teaspoons oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Teriyaki Chicken Marinade

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup pineapple juice

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp ground ginger

Instead of buying pineapple juice, I drain it off a can of fruit, then serve the fruit :).

BBQ Chicken Marinade

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup BBQ sauce

2 Tbs Brown Sugar or Truvia with a splash of molasses

1 Tbs yellow mustard

1 tsp salt

Crushed Red Pepper

 If you are curious about making your own extracts, here’s how I do it: