Mexican(ish) Quinoa

Whle in Yakima, (my high school hometown, not to be confused with Walla Walla, where my heart to resides and I consider my true hometown), I attempted to post a few times, but my parents live out of town, to the point where the only Internet available is via satellite. And before you start humming yourself a little Dave Matthews,

I’ll have you know you cannot watch that youtube video at an acceptable speed out at my parents house.

So instead of boo hooing about the fact that I couldn’t update y’all on my super-exciting life, I took a blogging break. I didn’t even read blogs.

Ok, that isn’t entirely true. I did read some of my favorites, and got shamelessly addicted to a new one. My friend, Mandy, tipped me off to The Bloggess, via the now-viral Pick Your Battles post.

I laughed. I cried. I wanted to leave a giant chicken on my own front porch. And I know I’ll be purchasing the greeting card for a friend or two.

While in town, my mom asked me to show her how to make quinoa. She purchased a bag years ago, and let it sit on the shelf, assuming some day she would run across a recipe calling for quinoa. She never did, and eventually threw the bag out. Saturday was her lucky day. I whipped up some of my favorite sauce to marinade our chicken, and set to work on a Mexican(ish) quinoa salad. This recipe isn’t much different than any other quinoa salad I’ve made before, but it is very tasty, and therefore must be shared.

Mexican(ish) Quinoa Salad

Salad Ingredients
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
2 cups chicken broth  (or water)
1 can black beans, rinsed/drained
2 oz cojita cheese, crumbled
½ red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced
½ sweet onion, diced
10 grape tomatoes, halved
½ bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 ½ avocado, diced

Dressing Ingredients
Juice of one lime
3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp chili powder
2 TBS stone ground mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste


Bring chicken broth, or water, to a boil. Add rinsed quinoa and reduce to simmer, 15 minutes. Remove from heat, place lid on pot, and let sit for 5 minutes. Place cooked quinoa in a bowl and place in fridge to cool.

Meanwhile, mix black beans, cojita cheese, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes and cilantro in a large bowl. In a small bowl, wisk together all sauce ingredients. When quinoa is cooled, add all ingredients together, mixing in diced avocado at the end (to prevent browning).

Enjoy as a side dish to chicken or fish, or as a vegetarian entree.

Taco pie

After seeing Donna’s version of Katie’s Crockpot Mexican Lasagna, I knew I needed to eat a piece of the (non)proverbial pie. But I didn’t get my act together in time to actually make Katie’s, and I didn’t have the ingredients to make Donna’s.


So I fell back to an old standby: Cheesy taco casserole*.

*sidenote: wow, look how terrible those food photos are! So happy for extended daylight hours and my increasing camera skills.

But I didn’t have those ingredients either.

Double sigh.

Whatever. I can improvise. And improvising tasted particularly delicious tonight. In part because this recipe is very easy, and also because I love cheese.

Taco Pie

Serves 6


10-12 corn tortillas

1 can black beans (rinsed/drained)

1 cup Morning Star crumbles

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced bell pepper (I used yellow)

1 1/2 cups 1% cottage cheese

3 oz shredded pepperjack cheese

1-2 oz cheddar cheese

1 cup salsa (I used Kirkland Organic)

1/4 cup taco seasoning (or one packet)

3 TBS red taco sauce


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in large bowl, (except tortillas, cheddar cheese and red taco sauce).

Spray round baking dish (or 8×8 pan) with cooking spray and layer 2 tortillas (if round dish) or 3 tortillas (if 8×8 pan).

Spread layer of cheese/bean mixture.

Alternate layers of tortillas and cheese/bean mixture, with tortilla layer on top. Spread taco sauce on top, and sprinkle with cheddar.

Cover dish with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes. If you like your cheese crispy, (really, who doesn’t?), broil on low an additional 2 minutes.

Why hello, crispy cheese.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes, slice and serve with desired toppings. May I suggest avocado?



Yesterday I did not blog about how much I hate daylight savings time. I’m sure you saw enough of that on your facebook feed. Or maybe you were the complainer. But don’t worry, I share the same sentiment. However, yesterday the gym was pure heaven, hardly anyone was there!  I smirked my way through my workout, thinking about how I was getting my sweat on while they were all sleeping in. Lazy bums. But then I had to eat my smirk, because today DST kicked my arse, and I totally skipped my workout.

Snooze, snooze, snooze….reset alarm….force myself out of bed, pour coffee and hit the road. Caffeine and oatmeal fueled my morning.

old fashioned oats, vanilla almond milk, chia seeds, raisins, cinnamon

By lunch my B-6 vitamin finally entered my system. This fabulous salad of spinach, goat cheese, onion, tomato, bell pepper, craisins and homemade dressing helped too.

Plus an apple and some butternut squash soup.

During my late library night I snacked on a nanner, some honey-nana chobani yogurt (which is very sweet, I don’t think I’ll purchase again), and some decaf tea.

And then I decided to check out The Chill Spot, a fro-yo place that if I take a certain route just happens to be on my way home. Funny how that happens.

Upon entering the Chill Spot I discovered it was a self-serve situation. Score!

The Chill Spot offers 8 YoCream, (out of Portland, OR), flavors on tap. They also allow you to taste all of their flavors with mini tasting cups. YoCream has non-dairy, low-fat and sugar-free options as well. Here is a complete list of the rotating flavors + nutritional information.

Also available – a plethora of toppings, all self-serve too!

Options range from your standard fruits, candy bars, syrups to toasted coconut and low-fat granola. And the best part? The price! The Chill Spot weighs your concoction, and you pay 39 cents per ounce. Not too shabby.

Around the corner from the yogurt bar was a fun kiddie station complete with toys, coloring books and foodie magazines.

Okay, it was totally a Leila station. I foresee lazy summer afternoons, sitting on their patio, eating froyo and partaking in a little coloring action so I too can grace their wall’o’art.

All that coloring within the lines? Ya, adults totally were coloring, totally.

And let’s be honest, I’ll probably color on their faux-chalkboard too.

I exited the store with a pecan, vanilla and peanut butter fro-yo topped with cookie dough.

It is currently sitting in my freezer, waiting for post-dinner consumption. I made a chocolate/peanut butter + oreo bowl for the hubs, and Libb requested vanilla with 5 toppings.

Oh and when I got home I was greeted  with a care package from my mom including a super cute honey dispenser, fun forgive me I zinned magnet, her samples from Estee Lauder, (which she always gives me, and I love – I was totally in need of new mascara!), and LACTAID!

My Costco stopped carrying Lactaid, and I was one unhappy camper. When I inquired about the lack of lactose enzymes the Costco employee told me they might get some back during “ice cream season” in the summer. Like being lactose intolerant is a seasonal issue. Ummmm, no. So I started the hunt: Target was out, Fred Meyer was out, even Wal-Mart was out! I braved Wal-Mart and they didn’t provide any stomach comfort!

Mom and Dad to the rescue! Their Costco still sells these magical pills that allow me to consume dairy without any all of the side-effects.

After a quick debate about which leftover we would consume, we settled on taco’s for Tuesday. It isn’t Yakima style, but it works.

Tortillas filled with tomato, onion, black beans, diced green chiles, corn, cilantro and plain fage Greek yogurt.

Now about that froyo in the freezer…

Southwest Cilantro Dip

Last weekend, (wow was it really only last weekend?), I had a Rockband birthday party to attend. I knew about the event, but didn’t actually read the evite. At 2 p.m. the day of I realized, via text message, that I needed to bring a snackie as it was potluck style. Not wanting to go to the store, I needed to get my creative juices flowin’ and I started rifling through my pantry to see what I could come up with. I’d been meaning to try Kath’s cilantro pesto recipe, and knew I could use it, with some tweeking, to create the perfect southwest style dip.

Southwest Cilantro Dip


1 bunch cilantro, stems at the bottom chopped off (top ones are fine)

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani 0%, but you can sub regular plain yogurt or light sour cream)

1 TBS pine nuts

3 cloves garlic

1 serrano pepper

2 TBS lime juice

1 tsp cumin

sea salt to taste

1 1/2 bell pepper, chopped (I used 1 red and half an orange)

1 can corn kernels, rinsed/drained

1 can black beans, rinsed/drained

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 large tomato, or 3 small tomatoes, diced


In your food processor combine cilantro, parmesan cheese, Greek yogurt, pine nuts, garlic, serrano pepper, lime juice and cumin in food processor.

Pulse and scrape down.

Do a taste test and add salt as needed. Pulse until liquified.

Mix sauce with corn, black beans, bell pepper, tomato and onion.

Enjoy as a dip with chips, as a taco filling, on top of cheesy rice or just straight up with a spoon.

Babies and burlattas.

It seems everyone around me is having babies. One thing you should know about me: I love babies. Baby smell, baby chub rolls, baby laugh, baby everything. I have pattened the Leila Swoop, a certain sway/bounce thing I do with babies. I love it because I get an awesome glute/hamstring workout. Moms love it because (generally) their baby stops crying.

The hubs loves that my friends keep having babies because that means I make burlattas. And whenever I make a batch of burlattas for someone else, I may as well make a batch for us. Tomorrow my co-worker is coming back after an eight week maternity leave. So tonight I whipped these up to bring her in the morning.

A burlatta is a delicious mix of a burrito and an enchilada, and it has taken on a life of its own since I first started making them back in 2003. The original mix (shredded chicken, rice, enchilada sauce and cheese) was pretty much the only thing I could make for dinner that wouldn’t send the kids I nannied running for the hills. This was not due to my poor cooking skills, they were just really picky eaters.

Now I make all sorts of burlattas. And I try to make them healthier too. The nice thing about burlattas is that you can throw pretty much any veggie you want in there and they will be forgiving. Below is the recipe for Black Bean Burlattas, but you can sub chicken for the black beans, brown rice for white rice, add cilantro, whatever. They will still taste great.

Black Bean Burlattas

chicken version found here

Yields 12 burlattas

Nutritionals: Cal: 331, Carb: 42, Fat: 13, Pro: 14


1 cup dry rice (cook according to package or bulk bin directions)

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 1/2 cans black beans, rinsed & drained

1 20oz can red enchilada sauce

1 small can diced green chiles

1/2 bell pepper, diced (red, yellow or orange)

1/2 sweet onion, diced

5 mushrooms, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

12 flour tortillas (although my favorite are Tortillaland, they do not hold up well for this recipe because they are too soft. Guerrero or Mission work better)


Cook rice according to package directions.

While rice is cooking dice your veggies.

Heat large skillet pan with olive oil. Add bell pepper and onion. Saute 1 minute.

Add garlic, cumin and mushrooms. Heat an additional 7-9 minutes, or until veggies are tender.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

After rice has finished cooking combine rice, black beans, veggies, 2 cups shredded cheese and 1/2 can of enchilada sauce in large bowl. Spoon mixture evenly between 12 tortillas and place in glass baking dish (I used 1 9×13 and one 8×8). Cover with remaining enchilada cheese and rest of cheese.

Bake 30 minutes.

Serve with sour cream or plain greek yogurt.

Sassy Sunday.

Today’s excursion to Schweitzer Mountain did not happen. When we checked the weather for today it said: 50 degrees and raining.  Not exactly great weather to learn how to snowboard in.

Yet what did we find today? 50 degrees and BLUE SKY!

Meh, no worries. This just means I had more time to do what I love…clean out the freezer and get ready for a week of cooking. We had some questionable beef that needed to be tossed. And I also discovered 3 loafs of Dave’s Killer Bread, 4 La Brea demi-baguettes, 1 1/2 La Brea Rosemary Olive Oil loafs, 1 1/2 La Brea multi-grain loafs and some Oroweat sandwich thins. Hi, I’m Leila, and I’m a carboholic.

With all this newly acquired space in the freezer I’ve decided to actually do a freezer-meal month. I’ve been scoping out Once a Month Mom for a while now, but I’ve never actually made any of her dishes. My friend Kelly did a month of freezer meals and saved a ton of moola at the grocery store. After hearing about her awesome savings (and she uses all organic too), I decided I needed to get on the wagon. ‘

Today, however, was freshtastic, in the moment cooking.

Brekkie consisted of too many cups of coffee w/raw sugar and ff half&half (I actually prefer the ff stuff to the regular stuff…odd? Yes. But I think the chemicals cancel out the lactose because it doesn’t bother my stummy at all). I also had a “fried” egg (I totally suck at frying eggs), 2 slices of thick cut bacon and 2 spinach pancakes. YUM!

Have you ever had Dr. Praeger’s spinach pancakes? I love them! And I am fairly positive I can recreate them with ease. And yes, that would be a Christmas paper plate.

After brekkie the hubs and I took Rilo on a walk. It was so nice out I decided to jog a bit, (as the hubs’ walking stride is pretty much the same as my jogging stride). We wound up doing a 2.89 mile loop according to Not too shabby considering my recent treadmill experiences.

After returning home the hubs decided to break into our garage. Remember how I said it was broken? Well after researching our options the hubs decided to cut a hole a tad bit smaller than the size of a window (which he plans to install in the spring). Thankfully my father-in-law had the necessary tools and he came by to help out.

Rilo looks concerned.

The boys wanted me to crawl in through the hole to investigate what the issue was. Luckily Libb wanted to take my place.

I was much happier photographing the event and sipping on a lunchtime green monster.

The mix: 1 frozen nanner (cut up), 2 handfuls fresh spinach, 1 cup Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla and 1 scoop unflavored GNC whey protein powder. If you are lactose intolerant and cannot stand soy, like me, give Almond Breeze a try. It is tasty, tasty.

After the kitchen was clean and the garage door was fixed I set to work determining what dessert to bring to E’s for our Golden Globe viewing dinner. I was pretty excited about our menu as E made some black bean burgers and was planning to test out my kale chips. I said I would bring salad and a dessert I could cobble together out of my pantry.

Enter Lemon Sassycakes. OMG, how I’ve missed these in my life. I lost the recipe and couldn’t access my old gmail account, where I knew I had emailed them to someone at some point. But I finally found the recipe and have now bookmarked it in three separate locations (including this post), so have no fear, I will never go sassycakeless again.

The key to cute frosted sassycakes? Throw your frosting in a ziplock baggie and cut a tiny hole in the corner.

Squeeze from there and you’ve got a perfectly dressed sassycake, (or any cake/cookie of your choice).

And eat that overdressed one in the back corner first, clearly he doesn’t make a good first impression on your friends and needs to be disposed of right away.

But before we ate the sassycakes (ok maybe we had one or two first), we ate a little kale chip goodness…

with salad and black bean burgers. Mmmm pleasantly full.

Did you watch the Golden Globes? While Jane Fonda can still rock it, I don’t think her 1982 dress can.