Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spinach, Black Bean, & Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Have I mentioned yet that I could eat Mexican food every single day and not get sick of it? It is, by far, my favorite type of food, and it's a flavor profile that I regularly turn to when cooking at home. There are about a million versions of enchiladas and enchilada casserole out there. As much as I love actual enchiladas, sometimes I just need the ease and convenience of throwing together a casserole instead of rolling them individually. This casserole takes the ease-factor to a whole new level, because you don't even have to spend time layering ingredients - just combine everything in a huge mixing bowl and pour it into the pan! I'll be eating this for dinner most of this week, and I could probably just eat the pan in one sitting. It is addicting!

Spinach, Black Bean, & Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Lightly adapted from Iowa Girl Eats
Serves 6-8

  • 2 chicken breasts, diced 
  • 1 tsp EVOO 
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 bag of baby spinach 
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 10-oz can green enchilada sauce 
  • 10 oz salsa (I use Pace - chunky mild)
  • 10 oz plain Greek yogurt 
  • 1 cup shredded cheese 
  • 10 corn tortillas 

  1. Preheat oven to 350. 
  2. Heat EVOO in sauté pan over medium heat. Add chicken and season with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder, then cook through (about 7-8 minutes, depending on size of pieces). 
  3. Place spinach in sauté pan with lid and a few tablespoons of water, then cook, covered, until wilted down. 
  4. Remove chicken and spinach to a small bowl to cool while mixing other ingredients. 
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together enchilada sauce, salsa, and Greek yogurt until thoroughly combined (measurements for these ingredients are not exact: I added the enchilada sauce, then used the empty can as my measuring cup for the salsa and the yogurt. It’s about a cup of each ingredient). 
  6. Cut or tear tortillas into bite-sized pieces (I stacked mine in a pile then cut into 8 wedges). 
  7. Add tortillas to sauce mixture and stir to coat all the pieces. Make sure to pull apart tortillas so you don’t end up with a big chunk glued together. 
  8. Add chicken, spinach, and black beans to tortilla-sauce mixture and stir to combine. 
  9. Pour contents of mixing bowl into a greased 13x9 pan and top with shredded cheese (I had a piece of a block of sharp cheddar leftover and a piece of a block of Monterey jack leftover – shredded and combined. Use what you have: Colby jack or a Mexican blend would work well, too. I recommend shredding your own, since it melts the best that way). 
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown around the edges. 
  11. Remove from oven and let stand for ~10 minutes before serving.

"Pro" tips
  • Top with Greek yogurt and hot sauce before eating – I’ve been using this Chipotle Cholula and loving it! 
  • Use sour cream instead of Greek yogurt, if desired
  • Use frozen spinach instead of fresh: just thaw and drain really well before adding it to the mix
  • Use red enchilada sauce instead of green, if desired

Monday, April 14, 2014

Richmond restaurants: two new loves

We went down to Richmond on Friday afternoon to visit with some friends of ours, and while we were there, I had two of the most delicious meals. Y'all know how I feel about food and good restaurants, so I just have to share these experiences with you. If you ever find yourself in RVA (or live there and haven't tried these spots), I highly recommend stopping in!

Dinner on Friday night was at The Daily Kitchen and Bar on Cary Street. We got there around a little after 7 and were told that there would be a 45-minute wait (not unexpected). We grabbed drinks at the bar and prepared to hang out for a bit... well, wouldn't you know, our table was ready before we'd even finished that round! I think we ended up waiting just 20 minutes in the end - worth it! We shared the fried calamari appetizer (delicious, and I'm not a huge fan to start with) before choosing entrees. My eyes fell on the blackened fish tacos and my choice was made! There were lots of things on the menu that looked appealing, and I'm pretty sure I would have enjoyed anything I chose. The fish tacos were fantastic, though, and I loved the homemade hot sauce - it added just the right amount of kick. Our waitress was friendly but efficient, and the atmosphere in the restaurant was casual and lively. It was a nice night out, and we were seated near the patio with the doors wide open. I greatly enjoyed our meal, and would happily go back and try their brunch!

For brunch on Saturday, we ended up with our Plan B - and it was perfect! We tried to go to The Pig and Pearl, but got there around 10 AM, only to find that they don't open til 11 on Saturdays (ummm... what? Odd decision, if you ask me). So, on to the next place... The Black Sheep! Personally, I'm thrilled that is where we ended up, because it was amazing! The Black Sheep is a small, hole-in-the-wall kinda place, near the campus of VCU, tucked away off the main roads. We were seated immediately for breakfast, and started with coffee and Bloody Marys (a brunch necessity, amirite?) The coffee was hot and the Bloody Mary was spicy (though I'd have liked another dash of hot sauce), and both were exactly what I needed. For breakfast, I chose the No Mas Huevos Neuvos - and I am not embarrased to admit that I cleaned my plate. The dish is described on their menu as, "Two eggs served with a wheatberry & black bean chili. Topped with an avocado salsa, served over a griddled jalapeño gritcake. Served with toasted baguette. (Add carnitas for $2.)" You better believe I added the carnitas, and was very pleased with that choice. This is one of the best breakfasts I've ever eaten! Again, everything on the menu looked delicious, and I'd love to go back and try lunch and / or dinner. Yum!

I truly love discovering new dining experiences, and was thrilled that we were able to try not one, but two delightful restaurants during our quick trip to the city. Like I said, definitely add these to your "must try" list - or tell if you've tried either of them before! I am always looking for new recommendations and meals to try, so if you have any suggestions of places we should go, let me know!

Andddd because there hasn't been a cat picture here in several days, at least, I'll leave you with this:

We took a trip to the vet on Friday afternoon, and the most pitiful cat on the planet decided he was safer sitting in the sink than on the table while we waited for his test results to come back. Just look at that face! Pathetic. :)

So tell me...

  • Favorite restaurant? Do you prefer chain places or holes-in-the-wall (no idea how to make that plural appropriately...)
  • What was the best thing you ate this weekend?
  • Does your pet act like the vet is the worst place in the world?! (Honestly, you'd think being in his cage was a death sentence.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sneaking in a day-date

Little-known fact: C and I work in office buildings that are directly across the street from each other. We spend all-day-er'ry-day separated by the distance of a few football fields. People often tell me that this is great and ask if we eat lunch together every day or get coffee all the time... and the surprising answer is that no, we actually do not. And that's intentional! We commute together 2x a day, spend all evening together, and spend the weekends together. We have made a conscious decision to keep our work lives separate, because, for heaven's sakes, there is such a thing as too much time with your spouse. We need time to be individuals!

There is definitely a perk, though, to being able to run across the street for a phone charger when I forget mine, or demanding a coffee break when I'm having a particularly frustrating day. It doesn't happen very often, though, so that makes it a treat when it does occur.

Yesterday, though, we broke the mold and decided to have a real-live lunch date! The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we decided to take advantage of that and walk over to Chop't for salads (I am in love with Chop't - I want one in my living room.) It was refreshing to get away from the office for a bit (very rare for me as I almost always bring my lunch) and spend a little QT with my hubby in the middle of the day. I'd forgotten how much fun that can be! It's also pretty neat to see all the sites that are laying right outside our office buildings - I forget that these are things people actually travel here to visit and see! No big deal, just walking past the Nation's Capitol building on our way to lunch...! :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Putting my face on

I've been wearing make-up regularly since middle school. And, if we're being honest, I've been exposed to it longer than that, because I wore it for dance recitals and gymnastics meets when I was littler. So I'm going on at least 20 years of make-up wearing, which means I've certainly done a lot of things that are wrong for me. I definitely wore blue eyeshadow in the 90s thinking that it would enhance my blue eyes (wrong, so wrong), and I've certainly used too much bronzer (accept the pale-ness!) and all the wrong colors of blush. Some of the pictures of me from the "good ol' days" are completely cringe-worthy, thanks to the make-up that I must have thought looked good. (Bless my mama for letting me do me, but... sheesh. I'd have been embarrassed to be seen with myself! Ha)

Luckily, over the last few years, I've finally settled into some products that are just the right ones for myself. I've slowly but surely cleared out my makeup bag, getting rid of 97 random colors of eyeshadow and 14 different mascaras and a blush for every day of the week. I have whittled my routine down to five items that run the gamut of needs and get the job done for me every day. Additionally, they simplify my life and help me so that I can get my make-up done from start to finish in the morning in under 10 minutes. I figured that if these are the things that work for me, maybe they will work for someone else - so I'm sharing them with you today! Keep in mind, for every day, casual make-up for work or whatever, I usually go for a minimal look, with gentle enhancements without looking overdone. For special occasions, I add a few more products - but this is what I go with Monday - Friday! Take a look.

[all images sourced from links below]

1. Garnier BB Cream // BB creams are all the rage (or were? I don't know anymore) and I'll admit that I don't usually jump on bandwagons quite so hard - but BB cream solved a problem I'd been having for a long time. I have some redness to my face and a few places where my skin is uneven, and for year I'd been applying liquid foundation to try to solve that problem. Newsflash: it never really worked. BB cream was like a gift sent from the gods - I tried the Garnier version first and never went back. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

2. Revlon PhotoReady Pressed Powder // after the BB cream, I apply a light dusting of this powder to my whole face. I've tried about a jillion pressed powders over the years, and have been using this one for the last 18 months or so. It covers nicely without caking, and the shade actually matches my skin really well.

3. Lancome Blush Subtil // this is a makeup splurge, sort of. As far as blush goes, this is not cheap, but it is highly pigmented and lasts FOREVER. I asked a consultant at the Lancome counter to find me a color for everyday wear, and this is what we settled on. Again, I've never looked back. It is well worth the money (and time to get a recommendation from a professional), because I can't tell you how much money I've thrown away over the years on blushes that just don't provide good color or are generally crappy.

4. Naked Palette // do I really even need to say anything about this? If you don't own a Naked Palette, do yourself a favor and buy one today. You will not regret it. It hurt me to throw down the money for this the first time I bought one, but it is now the only eyeshadow I use. Also highly-pigmented, it, too, lasts FOREVER (I'm talking like a year with just one palette - and I use it daily). The colors all compliment one another, and I can mix up any assortment of things and it generally looks good. I use the black shade in this as eyeliner with a separate brush, so it's a 2-in-1 for me in the mornings.

5. CoverGirl LashBlast Fusion Mascara // I discovered the LashBlast Fusion on my wedding day when one of my bridesmaids handed it to me for a touch-up (I know, never share eye make-up, blah blah) and have literally never used anything since. It is hands-down my favorite mascara. Granted, I have pretty good eyelashes naturally, so I don't need a huge enhancement the way some people prefer, but this mascara provides a nice coat that makes my lashes look longer and fuller without clumping. Also, it's cheap. Don't hate it at all.

If you're looking for a tried-and-true product, one of these might work for you! I am all for efficiency in the morning (every extra minute in bed counts) and I know that I can go from looking like a hot mess to polished in just a few minutes. Who doesn't need that?!

Note: there are no affiliate links or any other crap in this post; these are all just the products that I use and love. Promise!

So tell me...
  • What's the #1 product in your makeup arsenal?
  • Do you believe in make-up splurges or savings? I'm a mix, obviously, of drugstore and higher-end products.
  • What is one thing making you happy today?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Delicious dinner & yard surprises

This weekend was everything that weekends are supposed to be. Relaxation, organization, delicious food, quality time with quality people, and sunshine! I am sporting my first (minor) sunburn of the season this morning, thanks to a few hours of yard work and a little porch-sittin' yesterday afternoon - and I'm not even mad! It's a lingering reminder of all the good stuff we soaked up over the past few days.

A quick picture recap, because seeing is believing!

As promised, Friday night was date night! C & I enjoyed a delicious dinner at a local cafe, complete with live music and no phones or TVs. Just what we needed!

Saturday morning was dedicated to organizing the pantry. We had to pull everything out while the painters were working last week, and I refused t put anything back in until we could do it with some thought and planning. Everything sort of got thrown in there when we moved in last August, and it definitely needed some work. I browsed every aisle of Bed, Bath, and Beyond and Target on Saturday morning, and came home armed with a system. It took us several hours, but we are so happy with the results! Now, maintaining this system is another story...

We had plans with my parents for Saturday evening, and they came down early so my mom and I could squeeze in a run. We hit the pavement at the nearby battlefield and got in a great workout together. It was beautiful and breezy - just how I like it! PS: Have you used the FitSnap app? It's a fun way to track workouts right in the moment. I just discovered it the weekend & look forward to using it more!

We decided to take my parents out to dinner to thank them for paying for the painting (a lovely housewarming gift, indeed) and I made a reservation at a local restaurant we hadn't tried yet. It was definitely a good pick! Our dinner at Poppy Hill Tuscan Kitchen was one of the most memorable restaurant meals I've had in a long time - can't wait to share more about this amazing local treasure. I chose the salmon served over shrimp risotto for my entree, and was in foodie heaven. It was insane! I practically licked my plate clean. Yum!

On Sunday morning, we went out to breakfast at the same cafe where C & I had our date (Amy's - love it so much we went 2x in one weekend!). It was a good thing we had a big, hearty meal, because when we got home, we decided that some spur-of-the-moment yard work was in order. Several hours and 16 17 gigantic trash bags later, we had done major clean-up damage in the back yard. Everything was in alright shape when we moved in at the end of last summer, but it needed some major TLC, and we just didn't have the time last fall to do everything that needed to be done. No time like the present! We cut back trees, cleaned our flower beds, raked up a bajillion pine needles, and fertilized the lawn. Very glad to have that all taken care of!

We couldn't waste any of the beautiful day, so C & I wrapped up the weekend with a grill meal: steak and asparagus, plus a mayo-less potato salad. It was the perfect dinner to enjoy while we watched the ACMs. Anyone else see the show? I thought it was great! There are some really talented country musicians out there right now, and I am loving seeing how the careers progress (also, I'm really glad that Taylor Swift isn't dominating the scene any more!).

One last picture for the day... I have a running list of what I call "Yard Surprises" - you never know what you'll find in a new yard, left behind by the previous owners. This was definitely one I appreciated:

So tell me...

  • Do you have a favorite local eatery? We love all the options near us that aren't chain restaurants!
  • Did you fit in a workout this weekend? Tell me about it! I'm so happy that it's outdoor running season again.