CHICKEN AND BLACK BEAN FAJITA SALAD

A family favorite is fajita salad–a sure-fire winner when we treat ourselves to eating out at a good Mexican restaurant. Now we can treat ourselves to fajita salad at home. The combination of chicken, red onion, red bell pepper, and black beans came together beautifully. Delicious!

Chicken and Black Bean Fajita Salad

Flour Tortillas

4 medium-sized flour tortillas

1 tbsp olive oil

2 large chicken breasts, sliced thin into bite-sized pieces

1 medium red onion, sliced thin

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup salsa

1 tbsp lime juice

1/2 tsp chili powder

3 tbsp minced parsley (or cilantro), divided

3 cups chopped romaine lettuce

1 cup halved grape tomatoes

1 avocado, sliced thin into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 275 degrees; drape tortillas over oven racks as pictured and bake 12-15 minutes until crispy

2) Meanwhile, in large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat; add chicken to skillet and cook, stirring often, until chicken is lightly browned; add onion and red bell pepper and cook 5 minutes until veggies soften; stir in black beans, salsa, lime juice, chili powder, and 2 tbsp parsley (reserving 1 tbsp) and cook 5 minutes; remove from heat

3) Place tortilla shells in center of plates and divide fajita mixture between servings; top each with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, cheese, sour cream (optional), and reserved parsley; serve with extra salsa, if you like

Servings: 4

CHICKEN-ZUCCHINI-CANNELLINI BEAN MEDLEY

I’m not big on zucchini unless it’s breaded, fried, and bad news for my waistline, but it was a wonderful addition to this tasty dish. And then there was the cannellini beans and spinach. Many thumbs up!

Chicken Zucchini Cannellini Bean Medley1

Chicken Zucchini Cannellini Bean Medley2

1 tbsp olive oil

4 bone-in chicken thighs

2 cups coarsely chopped red onion

1 peeled and coarsely chopped zucchini

1 cup red bell pepper, sliced

1-15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

1-1/2 cup pasta sauce (I used marinara)

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

1) Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat; add chicken and brown 2-3 minutes each side; transfer chicken to plate and keep warm

2) Add onion to skillet and, stirring often, cook 5 minutes; reduce heat to medium and stir in zucchini, red bell pepper, cannellini beans, and spinach and cook 3 minutes; stir in pasta sauce, wine, basil, oregano, rosemary, salt, and pepper and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally

3) Return chicken to skillet and spoon sauce over pieces; reduce heat to low and cover skillet with lid; cook 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through; serve chicken smothered in sauce and spinkled with Parmesan

Servings: 4

COUNTRY HAM AND SPLIT PEA-LENTIL SOUP

As one of Senior’s favorite soups is split pea with ham, I decided to forego can and can opener and go the homemade route. For a different take, I used half as many split peas and replaced the missing half with fiber- and protein-rich lentils and substituted good old salty country ham for a ham hock. Thumbs up all around!

Country Ham and Split Pea-Lentil Soup

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup diced onions

1 cup matchstick carrots

3/4 cup diced celery

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried oregano

6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (definitely reduced-sodium if you use salty country ham)

8 oz chopped country ham

3/4 cup dry green split peas, rinsed

3/4 cup dry lentils, rinsed

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 cup minced parsley

Optional: sour cream for topping and minced parsley

1) Heat oil in large soup pot over medium-high heat; add onions, carrots, celery, thyme, and oregano; cook 8 minutes, stirring often

2) Add broth, ham, split peas, lentils, vinegar, and pepper and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cover with lid; stirring occasionally, cook 45-50 minutes until split peas and lentils soften

3) Using an immersion blender*, puree soup lightly (you’ll want to retain the texture of some whole peas, lentils, and ham); stir in parsley, cook 2 minutes, and serve with optional toppings, if you like

*Note: If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree half the soup in a regular blender (Careful! Soup is hot!), then stir pureed soup back into un-pureed soup.

Servings: 4 dinner-sized portions

TOMATO CHICKEN KALAMATA OPEN-FACED SANDWICHES

I served this lovely sandwich to my mother and sister for lunch when they flew in from Nevada for our son’s graduation last spring. Not only is it fairly easy to toss together (with a little pre-chopping and dicing), but it’s delicious and oh-so-pretty. The Kalamata olives and pepperoncini are the real stand-outs in this dish. Wonderful!

Tomato-Chicken-Kalamata Open-Faced Sandwich

2 tsp lemon zest

2 tbsp lemon juice

2-15 oz cans chicken breast, drained

3 cups diced tomatoes (I used Campari)

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, sliced

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup parsley, minced

1/4 cup green onions, sliced

1/4 cup pepperoncinis, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

4 thick slices french bread, cut on the diagonal

olive oil (for french bread)

sea salt

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2) To large bowl, add lemon zest, lemon juice, chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, parsley, green onions, pepperoncinis, 2 tbsp olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper; set aside

3) Brush top of each french bread slice with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with sea salt; bake in oven 7-8 minutes

4) Place a french bread slice on each of 4 plates; spoon chicken salad over bread and serve

Makes: 4 hearty servings/6 lighter servings (if you add a couple slices of french bread)

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 05/22/12.

BEEF AND BLACK BEAN MEXICAN PIZZA

A pizza crust topped with beef, black beans, red bell pepper, corn, and tomatoes. What’s not to like? Although Black Bean and Chicken Tostada Pizza remains one of my favorite pizzas, this one comes pretty close. Definitely a keeper.
Beef and Black Bean Mexican Pizza

DOUGH (or you can buy pre-made pizza dough)

1 tsp active dry yeast

3/4 cup warm water

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbsp olive oil

PIZZA

1 lb lean ground beef

2/3 cup finely chopped red onion

1/3 cup matchstick carrots

1/3 cup diced red bell pepper

1/3 cup frozen corn, thawed

1-14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

2 tbsp taco seasoning

3/4 cup quartered grape tomatoes

1 cup salsa (I used mild)

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 green onions, sliced thin

DOUGH:

1) Dissolve yeast in water and let sit 10 minutes

2) To large bowl, add flour, salt, and olive oil; stir to combine; add water-yeast mixture and stir until dough comes together (I do this by hand); place dough in lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 1 hour

PIZZA:

3) Preheat oven to 450 degrees

4) To large skillet over medium-high heat, add ground beef and onion and cook 5-6 minutes until beef is lightly browned; reduce heat to medium and stir in carrots, red bell pepper, corn, black beans, cilantro, and taco seasoning and cook 5 minutes; stir in grape tomatoes and immediately remove from heat; set aside

5) Lightly oil large circular pizza pan; roll out pizza dough to fit pan; bake crust in oven 3 minutes

6) Remove crust from oven and evenly spread with salsa; spoon beef-bean mixture over salsa; bake in oven 8-10 minutes until crust is golden; scatter cheese and green onions over top and bake additional 2 minutes until cheese melts; remove from oven, slice, and serve

Servings: 4

COVER REVEAL: The Redeeming: Book Three in the Age of Faith Series

The Redeeming, Book Three in the Age of Faith series, has an official release date of May 24, 2013. Here’s a peek at its lovely cover:

Cover Redeeming Final

CHICKEN-CHICKPEA-POTATO SOUP

I adore chickpeas–hot, cold, and in between. And, apparently, my guys aren’t immune to their charms either. Though this recipe makes four hearty servings, Senior was disappointed when, in answer to his request for a second serving, I had to tell him we had scraped the bottom of the soup pot.

Chicken-Chick Pea-Potato Soup

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried sage

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1-10 can chicken breast, undrained

2-1/2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced

1-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup matchstick carrots

2-1/2 cup chopped fresh baby spinach

1) To large soup pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil; add onions, celery, thyme, sage, and black pepper and cook 6-7 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables are tender

2) Add chicken broth, chicken breast (including liquid), potatoes, chickpeas, and carrots and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and cook 25 minutes

3) Using an immersion blender*, puree soup lightly (you’ll want to retain the texture of some whole veggies and chicken); stir in spinach, immediately remove from heat, and serve

*Note: If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree half the soup in a regular blender (Careful! Soup is hot!), then stir pureed soup back into un-pureed soup.

Servings: 4 dinner-sized portions