Fresh Tomato Avocado Salsa

Need a quick topping for grilled fish or chicken? Try chopping up a few fresh veggies like this, drizzling them with balsamic vinaigrette and TA-DAAAH!!! You’ve just taken your dinner up a notch in flavor. I grabbed these ingredients thinking they’d pair well with my husband’s grilled tilapia the other night, and boy, did they ever. We gave it a solid 10 out of 10! So simple, there’s really nothing more to say—let’s just get to the recipe, if you can even call it that…

Makes 4-6 servings

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved and quartered
1 ripe avocado, chopped
2 slices yellow onion, diced
A few sprigs of fresh basil, chiffonade*
A splash of balsamic vinaigrette

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir, and ladle on top of cooked fish or chicken.

*NOTE: Chiffonade is the technique of bunching up herb leaves and chopping into fine, thin strips.

Nette’s Cranberry Salsa

FullSizeRender-2Tomato salsa is so last year! This cranberry salsa has some kick and some sass, just like my neighbor Nette—which is fitting, since I got this recipe from her. You’ll need a food processor or blender to make it, but if you’ve got the tools, it’s a snap to whip up. If you serve it with corn tortilla chips, it’s both gluten free AND dairy free—how many appetizers can make that claim? Not many! At least not the appetizers found on most midwestern buffets in the cold winter months. And if you need more incentive to try this recipe, take note that cranberries are higher in antioxidants than the highly-acclaimed blueberry, and offer 24% of your daily allowance of vitamin C. So stick THAT on your chip and eat it. (Smiley face…)

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup chopped red onion
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and membranes removed, and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño (like Mrs. Renfro’s brand)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

Combine apple, sugar, onion, lime zest and juice, fresh and pickled jalapeño, and cilantro in a food processor or blender and pulse several times. Add cranberries and pulse until grainy. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving for flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

Chicken Enchiladas

FullSizeRender-1Fresh cilantro and parsley take these easy enchiladas up a notch in flavor, so much so, that no one will know the main ingredients are store-bought salsa and tortillas. They’re a great make-ahead meal you can refrigerate, then pop in the oven for a simple weeknight dinner. Or dress them up with a side of fresh guacamole and corn chips, plus a green salad, and you’ve got a company meal that wasn’t a ton of work. I got this recipe years ago from a friend who said it came from a low-cal cookbook, but I’ve always used real cheese (not the recommended reduced-fat stuff), and upped the cheese amounts, so I make no claim that this is still a diet dinner.

FullSizeRender-2IMG_1055Make it even easier by grabbing a already-roasted rotisserie chicken, or grill your own chicken breasts or tenderloins for the meat. If neither of those options work for you, fry up your chicken in a pan. Fresh herbs too pricey? You can use dried herbs, but you’ll take a bit of a hit in end-product taste. Fortunately, the lime and garlic will still bring the zip to the recipe, so you’re safe. A blender or food processor is your secret weapon, making short work of the salsa sauce that is the base of this dish.

Not only is this a quick family dinner, it’s a perfect recipe to have in your arsenal for bringing to friends who need a meal post-baby or due to family crisis. Kids will eat it cause the “green stuff” is pulverized into the sauce and won’t offend their picky little eyeballs, and adults love it because it’s not lasagna or spaghetti, the usual drop-off meals. I’ve not yet tried it using corn tortillas instead of flour, but I’m thinking that would sub in nicely for a gluten-free alternative.

2 cups mild salsa (Pace thick and chunky salsa or picante is just fine!)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried cilantro)
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
½-1 clove garlic, quartered
4 cooked chicken breasts, cubed, or 8 cooked chicken tenderloins, cubed, or 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup shredded mozzarella or monterey jack cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

8 flour tortillas or 12 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Combine salsa, cilantro, parsley, lime juice and zest, and garlic in blender or food processor, and pulse until sauce is smooth. Mix half of salsa sauce with cut-up, cooked chicken, ½ cup mozzarella, and ½ cup cheddar cheeses in large bowl, and toss to combine. Place about ¼ cup of meat mixture down center of tortilla, roll up, and place seam side down in a 9″x13″ baking dish. Continue with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining salsa mixture over the tortillas in pan, and top with remaining grated cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes uncovered. (Can also cover with foil and refrigerate for 1-2 days before baking.)

Cowboy Caviar

IMG_0675Tired of salsa? Give your chips something new to dip with this tasty and nutritious bean and veggie dish. I first had this when my neighbor Tutti made it for a beach party at her cabin. I made a total pig of myself, lingering over the snacks, dipping (and probably double-dipping) into this fresh take on salsa, sans the tomatoes. She finally asked me if I might like the recipe, most likely to get me to move away from the table. Tutti’s recipe had pimentos in it, but I’ve never had those on hand, and the red bell peppers do the job of adding that pop of red. I also add a few more vegetables than she did.

This travels really well, so it’s great for bringing on a picnic or serving at a potluck. I’ve sent this with the guys to cross-country camp for a healthy snack, and the coach LOVED it because the guys got extra protein and veggies—and even the ones who “didn’t eat vegetables” sampled this snack. You can add as many raw veggies as you like, just dice them so you don’t end up with just one large carrot on a chip.

If you have any leftover, this is great on top of chopped salad greens, with some diced grilled chicken. No salad dressing needed – the sauce does it all.

Makes 2 quarts

For Sauce:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can black-eyed beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch green scallions, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, diced
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/3 to 1/2 cucumber, diced
1 can shoe peg corn, does not need to be drained (vacuum-packed)
1 small can diced green chili peppers, drained
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fresh jalapeño, minced
Tortilla chips for serving

Combine vinegar, sugar, and oil in saucepan. Heat on medium until sugar is dissolved. In large bowl, combine all the beans and vegetables. Pour sauce over bean and vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate 2-24 hours. Before serving, drain off excess marinate. Serve with tortilla chips.

NOTE: If you want to be extra-healthy, you can serve this with cucumber rounds instead of chips. Skip the cukes in the recipe, if you go that route.