Archive | September, 2011

Salmon with lemon-cilantro vinaigrette and couscous

23 Sep

I found this recipe in an issue of Real Simple magazine last year and I just had to try it. For some reason, I was really intimidated at the thought of making fish at home. I don’t know why, because it really couldn’t be easier and we now make it often. This recipe has become one of our go-to meals. We eat it probably every other week. It’s simple, delicious, and an easy meal to make on a weeknight. It also looks really beautiful on a plate, so it would be a great meal to make for guests. (They don’t need to know how easy it was to make!)


  • 1  box couscous (5-10 oz. depending on how many people you are cooking for.)
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 salmon filets (sometimes I buy it with the skin on the bottom…Matt likes it.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of chopped, seeded tomatoes (or use grape tomatoes cut in half)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)


  1. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Cook the couscous according to the package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Season the salmon with the paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  5. Place salmon filet on a bed of couscous and spoon the lemon-cilantro vinaigrette over the salmon. Enjoy!
(Recipe adapted from Real Simple Magazine, October 2009)
Ingredients for lemon-cilantro vinaigrette

It’s really more of a salsa than a vinaigrette, isn’t it?

Cooks in 5 minutes! Woohoo!

Boil water, olive oil, and flavor packet (optional) according to package directions. Add dry couscous, stir, remove from heat and place cover on top. In 5 minutes it will be ready.

Fluff with a fork and set aside!

Season both sides with salt, pepper, and paprika.

I make 3 pieces of salmon when making this dish because Matt will eat 2 pieces.

Over medium-high heat, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and place salmon filets presentation side down. Don’t be tempted to move the salmon around once you lay it in the pan. It needs time to sear and get golden brown. If you try to flip it before it’s ready, you will have a layer of salmon stuck to the pan. Not good.

While this is cooking, I take this time to clean up any mess I’ve made in the kitchen. My mom always told me to clean the kitchen as I go whenever I’m cooking or baking so that I don’t have a huge mess to clean up when everything is said and done. It really does make a huge difference! Thanks mom! 🙂

After 3-4 minutes, salmon should be ready to flip to the bottom side. Give it another 3-4 minutes and it’s done. You won’t want to cook it too much longer or the salmon could be dry. If the salmon flakes with a fork and is light pink in color, it’s ready!

Serve over a bed of couscous and spoon tomato mixture on top. Yum! In less than 30 minutes, you have a healthy, delicious meal that is super easy to make. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do! 🙂


Tailgate Favorites

18 Sep

Football season is upon us and in our house this means tailgating, get-togethers with friends, and screaming at the Browns on TV every Sunday. When getting together with friends to watch the big game, it almost always means bringing over an appetizer of some kind for everyone at the party to enjoy. I don’t know about you, but I love to graze on lots of different dips and some aren’t always so healthy. I love buffalo chicken dip, but I’ve have had a lot of versions which have been greasy and way too cheesy. I found a healthier version that I’ve been making for a few years now and it is so good that nobody will even know that it is low fat unless you tell them. Another dip that I love to make is Mediterranean Dip. It is full of hummus and veggies and tastes like a greek salad in dip form. Yum. I originally got this recipe from a teacher friend of mine at a school potluck. I love bringing this to parties and I always get requests for the recipe.

Mediterranean Dip


1 (8oz) container of reduced fat garden vegetable or chive & onion cream cheese, at room temperature

1 (16 oz) container of hummus

3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

½ English cucumber, diced

¼ cup chopped Kalamata or black olives

1/3 cup feta cheese

1 tbsp. lemon zest (optional)


Spread room temperature cream cheese on the bottom of a baking dish. Spread the hummus evenly on top of the cream cheese. Scatter the diced tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and feta cheese on top of the hummus. Sprinkle the zest of one lemon over top of the veggies and feta. Serve with baked pita chips.

Recipe courtesy of Angie Baumgartner


Layer of cream cheese

Layer of hummus

Layer of tomatoes, cucumber, olives, feta cheese, lemon zest. Super easy!

I usually use Kalamata olives when I make this, but we already had a can of black olives so I used what we had.

Side note: How cute are my hurricanes with candy corn? I got the idea from Pinterest. Love.


Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip


Two 9.75-oz. (or 10-oz.) cans 98% fat-free chunk white chicken breast in water, drained or 2 cups regular shredded chicken.
One 8-oz. tub fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Frank’s RedHot
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fat-free bleu cheese dressing
1/4 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt or fat-free sour cream.

Note: I often double this recipe if I am serving to a big crowd!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place cream cheese in a medium bowl and stir until smooth. Mix in Frank’s Red Hot, mozzarella cheese, ranch dressing, and yogurt. Stir in chicken until thoroughly combined. Spoon mixture evenly into a deep 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish, or larger baking dish if you are doubling the recipe. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until mixture is heated through. Stir well and enjoy with tortilla chips and celery sticks!
*Recipe courtesy of

These are dips you can graze on all day and not feel guilty about later. They are easy to make, healthy and delicious! These recipes are sure to be a hit at your next tailgate or party!!

Aztec Cake (Mexican Lasagna)

14 Sep

I first had a version of this dish on my honeymoon in Mexico. I had never even heard of Aztec Cake before, but it looked like a yummy, cheesy casserole, so of course I had to try it. (Did I mention that this was at the breakfast buffet?) Anywayyy, it ended up being the thing that I looked forward to eating every day on our trip. This version was layered with corn tortillas, ham, cheese, refried beans, fresh salsa, cheese, cheese and more cheese. Definitely not the wisest choice to eat in the morning before laying on the beach all day, but you only live once, right? I couldn’t wait to come home and try to recreate a healthy version of this recipe. Turns out, it was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. This past week, Matt and I made fish tacos (which I will save for a later blog post) and we had a bunch of leftover corn tortillas. I became determined to find a recipe for Aztec Cake. I finally found one that I liked and made a few tweaks. If you are doing a google search, it is also sometimes called “Mexican Lasagna.” It turned out even better than we expected. This will definitely become a “make again” recipe in the Engler household!

Aztec Cake serves 4-6, or if your last name ends with Engler, 2)


  • 1 pound plum tomatoes (appx.5)
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • corn tortillas (don’t even think about using flour…it won’t be the same!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • corn tortillas (about 12-15)
  • 2 chicken breasts, shredded (I used a rotisserie chicken)
  • 3/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup corn kernels, drained
  • 2 cups reduced fat mexican shredded cheese
  • 1 cup light sour cream

Forgot to include the onion in the picture, but you get the idea.


  1. Blend the tomatoes, onion, garlic with a little bit of water (about 3 tablespoons)
    until smooth in a blender.**
  2. In a saucepan, over medium high heat, pour in the blended mixture, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until it changes its color to a darker one, about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375ºF
  4. Heat the corn tortillas in the microwave by placing the tortillas on top of a plate with a damp paper towel. Place another damp paper towel on top. Microwave for 1-2 minutes until tortillas are soft. This will keep them from drying out and breaking while they bake.
  5. In a baking pan, put some sauce and then cover with a layer of tortillas. Then put some of the chicken, black beans, corn and cheese and drizzle with sour cream. (I microwaved the sour cream for about 20 seconds to make it drizzle-able. (Not a real word, I know.) Repeat 2-3 times and end up with sauce and cheese.
  6. Bake until cheese melts, about 15 minutes. I let it stand for about 5 minutes so that everything will come together nicely when you slice into it.

**Note, if you don’t have a blender, food processor, or magic bullet to blend the tomato mixture, you can substitute 2 cups of really fresh tomato salsa in this recipe. If you do this, try to get the best quality salsa you can find. Because this recipe is relatively simple and includes few ingredients, you want the flavors to shine through.

(Recipe adapted from

Meet Bella, my sous chef.

Just a side note, I strained the sauce after I blended it to remove extra pulp from the tomatoes.

Spices added, things starting to simmer

After 10 minutes, it will look like this! Warm, fresh salsa goodness. This is the point where you really want to taste it to see if you need to add extra salt and pepper. This is the only part of the recipe where I add salt, so you want it to be well-seasoned.

All the fillings

Layer 2-3 times with sauce, tortillas, chicken, beans/corn, cheese, sour cream. Final layer should have tortillas on top with sauce and cheese. I forgot to do that. It still turned out great.

TA DA!! Like I said, I should have placed more tortillas on top and then put sauce and cheese on top of that. It definitely doesn’t look as pretty as it tastes.

This was heaven on a plate. I had at least 2 servings and Matt ate almost the rest of the pan. I have one square left for lunch tomorrow.

This is seriously insanely good. The sauce and tortillas become melt in your mouth delicious together. If anyone tries this, let me know what you think!

Welcome to my blog!

14 Sep

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to cook. It started in high school, watching episodes of Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals with my mom after school. I started helping her make dinner and found that chopping, mixing, stirring and sauteing was therapeutic and stress relieving. I know that for many people, cooking is the last thing that they want to do after a long day at work, but personally, it helps me unwind. In college, I made fancy creations for dinner while my roommates survived on ramen, mac and cheese, and tomato soup with macaroni (I’m looking at you Ali and Sarelle!) 🙂

As I entered into my new life with my husband Matt, I was faced with a challenge. Matt is 6’9 and the dude can eat. A lot. He was also used to eating on budget of $20 a week. Seriously I don’t even know how that is humanly possible with how expensive groceries are, but he managed to do it. We faced a huge food budget challenge when we first moved in together. With my love of creating lots of new and exciting recipes and his frugality, we had to figure out a way to meet in the middle. After a year of living together, I think we have gotten into a nice groove when it comes to cooking. We use coupons whenever we can, check out what is on sale at the store that week and stock up on things we use frequently, and we figure out a way to always use leftover ingredients. Not only have we saved money, but I’ve been able to appease my hubby who hates wasting food. We also have a great routine where I do the cooking and he does the dishes! (Seriously, how lucky am I!) To give him credit, he does all the grilling which I truly appreciate. To me, cooking is a labor of love. I love feeding my husband, family, and friends and watching them get excited over something I made. It is the best feeling and why I love cooking for my friends!

My purpose of starting this blog is to share stories, recipes, and things happening in our lives with whomever might be interested! I have a lot of friends who look to me for culinary guidance (humble brag?) and I wanted to be able to share simple, healthy, delicious recipes that anyone from the beginner cook to the experienced foodie (Hi Aunt Liz!) can recreate in their own kitchen. Because I was blessed to get married this year, I have accumulated a lot more kitchen gadgets and tools than some might have at this stage in their lives. I will try my best to provide swaps and alternatives to a recipe wherever I can.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me! (I sound like a contestant on the Bachelor.)