Chicken with Black Beans, Tomato, and Spinach including Bonus Fajitas Seasoning Recipes

My kids can be seriously amazing for my self-esteem. At the same time they can be a bit too blunt. After trying yet another “mom creation” I got “There isn’t anything you have ever made I haven’t liked!”
Aw! Thanks guys!
“Wait, don’t forget about that one recipe. That one was gross.”
Then they go on to discuss said gross recipe until I have to remind them 99% of the time I succeed. Hahaha. It is all well meaning and I love that they are honest.

That all said here is what we ate last night. I very literally opened my cabinets and thought “Hm….I think I will try this” and proceeded to pull things out.
I am sharing this because it was wonderfully simple and everyone liked it. I was able to make it ahead and so the boys just popped it in the oven for me while I ran to pick Mark up from work. Make ahead meals are vital to us since we have swim team 5 nights a week and we are never home before 7:30. Some nights it is even later. OK, enough chatter, here you go!

Baked Chicken with Black Beans, Tomato, and Spinach (served 7)

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts cut into tender-sized pieces
Fajita seasoning**
1 can diced tomato (use fresh if you have it, but I had canned at this time)
2 cans black beans (don’t forget to rinse these!)
2 packages fresh baby spinach
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Sea salt and pepper

  1. Place chicken in a baking dish and coat pieces with fajita seasoning. Add just a bit of water (1/2 cup at most). Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until done.
  2. Put tomato, black beans, and spinach into a large skillet, cover. Cook on medium until spinach is wilted. (I literally covered and walked away as it cooked. I only stirred once).
  3. When the bean mixture is done add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
  4. Place the bean mixture into a clean baking dish and add the cooked chicken to the top. Cover and place in fridge for later.
    OR
    Place bean mixture in a serving dish and add cooked chicken. Enjoy!
  5. When you are ready to re-heat the dish, place in a cold oven (this prevents the glass dish from cracking), turn oven to 350 degrees and heat for about 20 minutes or until hot.

    Chicken with Black Beans,  Tomato, and Spinach

    Chicken with Black Beans, Tomato, and Spinach

I served this with brown rice and grits (for Elf who is allergic to rice). I used 2 cups of dry rice for our family of 7. This meal was just the right size. There was enough for everyone. There were not leftovers, but we do not like left overs so this is perfect for us.

**I make my own fajita seasoning. It is so good. I store it in a small mason jar. Here is the recipe:

  • 2 ½ Tbs. Paprika
  • 2 Tbs. Pink Himalayan Salt
  • 2 Tbs. Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tbs. Pepper
  • 1 Tbs. Onion Powder
  • 1 Tbs. Cayenne
  • 1 Tbs. Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tbs. Dried Thyme
  • 1 Tbs. Cumin

    *I imagine you could make this vegetarian with tofu or some other substitute. If you do so please let me know how it turned out! We cannot do tofu (Elf is allergic), but I have friends who can and do and this would be helpful knowledge.

    ~Andrea

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Refried Bean Casserole

I have way too many dried pinto beans; several jars full. I have never cooked with pinto beans. I have never even bought canned refried beans before. My only encounter with this food is at restaurants.

As the end of our budgeted month was coming to an end I decided we needed  to use what we had and pretend there was no money at all to buy any food. Since we have actually been in this position not too long ago it was not very hard to convince everyone, even my husband, that we were down and out.

He got a little perturbed at me a few days later when he realized I did in fact have more cash than I had let on. He couldn’t decided if he was amazed at my frugality or annoyed that I made everyone “suffer” because I wouldn’t cave to cravings and made them eat what we had.

Anyway, this is how I ended up in front of the computer trying to figure out what the heck to do with pinto beans. Apparently there isn’t much other than refriend beans or soup. Hmph. People are so unimaginative. We are all sick of soup since we have soup about 3-4 times a week since it is a cheap, healthy, and filling meal for a large family. I was determined I was making something different and good.

I did decided that I needed to play it slightly safe for our first meal. Remember I have never worked with pinto beans before. I also acknowledged that making a new meal can be as easy as taking a tried and true dish and just adjusting it and taking it up a notch.

I made homemade refried beans for the first time ever, knowing that I was going to make a delicious meal out of it. I was determined. I found a recipe online and decided it was my best bet, although I did change it slightly. I added our leftover peppers and onions from the previous night’s meal; fajitas. I also used coconut sugar instead of brown sugar. I use coconut sugar as a brown sugar replacement because it is healthier and full of flavor. Other than those small changes this recipe was a win. This girl perfected refried beans and I am not going to mess with perfection.

refried beans

I used my stick blender on the beans, but I was careful as I wanted a chunkier bean since I was making a casserole. If I was making dip or burritos I would have made it smoother.

refried beans 2

A good recipe does not need to be complicated in order for it to be amazing. I chopped a tomato and added a jar of salsa to the refried beans. Boom. That is all. The refriend beans already had some amazing flavor and I didn’t want to lose that by adding to much “stuff.”
I used a mild salsa since Princess claims she hates spicy foods. It was still really good because the refried beans have red pepper flakes in them.

I put the mixture into a casserole dish and added cheese. I made a small casserole for Elf that was cheese-less as she has a dairy allergy.

IMG_20150111_114342
I can assure you that the cheese-less casserole was just as tasty as the one with cheese. When I took it out of the oven I served it on Romaine lettuce that I had sliced up and warm tortillas that were leftover from the fajitas. I cut our tortillas into triangles and used them like a dinner roll. We didn’t put the casserole on the tortillas.  I used what we had and it was warm, good, and filling. Everyone enthusiastically agreed this was a “keeper” recipe. We ended up with leftovers; enough for TWO lunches!

casserole

Refried Bean Casserole:
One batch of homemade refried beans
One tomato; diced
One jar of salsa
Shredded cheese (optional or use a dairy-free alternative)
Lettuce
Tortillas (homemade is really best)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Mix the refried beans, tomato, and salsa. Put in a casserole dish and add the cheese. I did “grease” the casserole dishes with coconut oil. Partly for flavor and partly because I had no clue if this would stick to the pan.

3. Bake for 20-25 minutes

4. Serve on shredded lettuce with warm tortilla.

I am now determined to create amazing pinto bean recipes and give new life to this under-appreciated bean.

~Andrea

This Week in Pictures January 9-15 2015

Here is a look at random moments from our lives this past week. It was a bit crazy, but full of fun. Enjoy!

Mark and C-Dog playing air hockey at the YMCA before swim practice

Mark and C-Dog playing air hockey at the YMCA before swim practice.

Elf decided that her bed was a cozier place to do school work than at the desk or table.

Elf decided that her bed was a cozier place to do school work than at the desk or table.

Bug after swim team practice. We were waiting for C-Dog to get out of the shower.

Bug after swim team practice. We were waiting for C-Dog to get out of the shower.

I decided to pull out some old costumes. C-Dog was loving Mark's cloak but Sunny was a bit leery.

I decided to pull out some old costumes. C-Dog was loving Mark’s cloak but Sunny was a bit leery.

Family breakfast. Recipe to follow soon! Be on the look-out for it.

Family breakfast. Recipe to follow soon! Be on the look-out for it.

Elf decided to help Princess with her school. Sisters and friends. Princess is learning to spell her color words.

Elf decided to help Princess with her school. Sisters and friends. Princess is learning to spell her color words.

Old-Fashioned Dairy-Free Butter Mints

I am not a huge candy person. I rarely eat it or buy it for my kids. I much prefer ice cream. Candy, to me, is more of a treat meant for holidays.
Due to the fact we have food restrictions I usually make our candy. There is an online shop I can buy some candy at, but it adds up fast. Besides, there is a joy in making treats that are special for those you love.

I have a few tried and true recipes. For example, every Christmas I make pomegranate clusters (recipe found here). This is a favorite and I only make it for Christmas in order to keep it special.

This year I really wanted to try something new. I found a recipe for butter mints and I wondered if I could make it safe for my kids. I managed to successfully change the recipe! Yay! So without further ado here is my recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Old-Fashioned Dairy-Free Butter Mints

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 1 1/4 cup butter substitute (I use Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread)
  2. 3 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar plus 1/4 cup+, if needed**
  3. 1/3 cup Cream of Coconut (this is NOT coconut milk! Make sure you are getting cream of coconut)
  4. 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract*
  5. food coloring, optional (I use natural food coloring)

    **Due to the fact that store bought confectioner’s sugar has corn in it I make my own. All you have to do is put sugar, 1 cup at a time or 2 if you have a high-powered one like Vitamix, in a blender or food processor and make it into powder. Some people will tell you to add a starch but I do not feel it is necessary unless you want to make enough to keep on your pantry shelf. If that is the case here is a good recipe for you.

DIRECTIONS:

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth; about 1 minute-ish on medium-high.  Add 3 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, cream of coconut, and peppermint. Beat on medium-low speed until a dough forms. If the dough seems wet add additional confectioners’ sugar until dough combines; being careful not to add too much. The dough will be crumbly but will come together when squeezed into a ball.

Taste the batter. If needed, add additional mint extract.*Be very, VERY careful how much mint you add; you cannot undo this!!*

This is what the dough looks like pre-color.

This is what the dough looks like pre-color.

If you want multiple colors remove dough from the mixer and separate into smaller balls. I opted for red and green (Christmas colors). Add the food coloring (I started with 8 drops) of your choice to the ball and mix on low speed until the color is well blended. Add more color as needed to achieve the desired look.

Red and Green mints for Christmas! Yes, I realize the red is more pink than red, but I use natural food colors and I think this is more retro looking; very cool.

Red and Green mints for Christmas! Yes, I realize the red is more pink than red, but I use natural food colors and I think this is more retro looking; very cool.

Wash the mixing bowl and the paddle in between each color change and repeat until all the balls are colored. Make sure these are completely dry or they will mess up your dough consistency!

Place a golf ball sized amount of dough in your hands and roll dough into long, thin ropes. I found it easiest to roll all of the dough of one color and place each rope next to each other on the counter. I then used a pizza cutter and cut through all the ropes, creating bite sized pieces. I did have to add a bit of powered sugar to my counters as my house was a bit warm and the dough was getting slightly sticky, but be careful not to add too much!

I cut the mints about 1-1.5 cm long.

I cut the mints about 1-1.5 cm long.

Store mints in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They they will keep for several weeks.

These mints are seriously good. I had to cut my children off or they would have just sat and ate them all! I think 4 at a time is more than enough. I am guessing we got about 200 mints out of this batch.

These mints are seriously good. I had to cut my children off or they would have just sat and ate them all! I think 4 at a time is more than enough. I am guessing we got about 200 mints out of this batch.

*Please note that mint extracts are far more intensely flavored and potent than vanilla extract; You will NOT use a 1:1 ratio! It is more like 1/8 teaspoon of mint extract to 1 teaspoon of vanilla. It is best to add very little and add more as needed since you cannot undo the flavor.
There are different kinds of mint extracts available. You will find mint, peppermint, spearmint, etc.  I used what I had on hand; Watkins Pure Peppermint Extract. Next time I will use Frontier Mint, which has a more spearmint smell to it. Use what sounds, smells, tastes best for you.
I do think I will try other extracts for different holidays. I am thinking that for Easter I will try lemon or orange. I imagine cinnamon, rum, coffee, etc could also work. If you try any of these let me know how they turn out!

If you want to make the dough and walk away for a bit you can store it in the fridge. Wrap it with plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container until you are ready to roll it out.

Enjoy!
~Andrea

This Week in Pictures: January 1-7

A peak at our week.

Today we started to take down Christmas. My tree and the wintery decorations will remain for now. I feel like the Christmas season went by too quickly this year.

January 1, 2015.                                                     Today we started to take down Christmas. My tree and the wintery decorations will remain for now. I feel like the Christmas season went by too quickly this year.

January 2, 2015  I slept awful last night. I wanted to lay on the couch and rest for a few minutes. The big kids pulled out toys for Zen. They kept him happily occupied and contained while I summoned my energy stores.

January 2, 2015
I slept awful last night. I wanted to lay on the couch and rest for a few minutes. The big kids pulled out toys for Zen. They kept him happily occupied and contained while I summoned my energy stores.

The big kids and I emptied the 2 bedrooms and took apart the beds and moved rooms around today. They were amazing. The big boys even helped get Zen's dresser from the basement level up to the top floor!

The big kids and I emptied the 2 bedrooms and took apart the beds and moved rooms around today. They were amazingly hard workers. The big boys even helped get Zen’s dresser from the basement level up to the top floor!

Back to school!

Back to school!

Mark gets home at 3;30 and we have to be ready to leave by 4. That means  dinner is made before lunch and packed up to eat at the YMCA after swim and dance and before AHG and scouts. Mondays are busy, but we love it! Healthy and active!

Mark gets home at 3;30 and we have to be ready to leave by 4. That means dinner is made before lunch and packed up to eat at the YMCA after swim and dance and before AHG and scouts. Mondays are busy, but we love it! Healthy and active!

Swim for the other 2 kids and martial arts for one. Another night at the YMCA.

Swim for the other 2 kids and martial arts for one. Another night at the YMCA.

Saying Good-Bye to 2014 and a Welcome message to 2015

I think 2014 was better than 2013, but 2013 was a mixed year; sweet Zen arrived but Mark lost his job and my grandma died. Was it better or worse than 2014? A baby sure is a pretty amazing thing, but so much “yuck” happened also. As I sit and think about it 2014 was mixed also; we moved back to MO (yay!) but we are still struggling to get back on our feet. It is hard. Every time we feel like we are getting ahead something happens. I could rattle the list out for you, but I am not sure if it would be uplifting (some really cool things happened) or depressing (some really yucky things happened).

I think I will refrain from the list and instead simply say “Good-bye 2014. I will take the lessons I learned and apply them to my life as best I can. I will remember what needs to be remembered and I will let what needs to stay in the past, in the past. Thank you for the good times. Thank you for time in general because it does pass all too quickly.”

“Hello 2015. What will you bring? Can I tell you my hopes? My dreams? My wishes? I hope Mark finds a better job so we can do more than just barely survive. I would love for him to find a job with health insurance so I am not in constant fear of “what ifs.” My dream is that he would, for the first time ever, have a normal job schedule so that we can see him every day instead of just twice a week. My wish is that those in my life fighting illness will be cured. I pray for them every day and I see glimmers of hope, but I also see the reality that chronic illness holds. I wish them to be healthy and fully alive.
I would like you to pass slowly so I can savor the moments better, but not so slowly that the appreciation of time wears thin.
I would like more laughter and less tears. I want more sunshine that is warm on my face. I want my children to have time to run and play and that their innocence lasts another year; please don’t take that from them.
I pray earnestly that you are the year that creates families for my friends and family who have waited so long. Too long.
Please be gentle, 2015. We, the world, have seen enough sadness. Please let this year be a year filled, not with fear, but with love and acceptance. Welcome 2015. I hope we can be friends.”

~Andrea

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