Chipotle-Lime Chicken Taco Salad, Week 4

This is definitely my current favorite Cook Smarts meal. I love the flavor, simplicity and time it takes to make this dish! Basically, you mix the marinade/sauce- use half of it on the chicken as a marinade and half you add some sour cream and use it as a dressing! The biggest chunk of time on this meal is waiting 30 minutes (up to overnight) on the marinade!

Avocados, fresh tomatoes, tortilla chips, our favorite bibb lettuce- yes please!

Marinate the chicken in a spicy chipotle pepper, adobo and lime sauce- yes please!

They are really as good as they look- now that’s a plate of nachos!

One of us added cheese!

I tried to get the perfect combination of chip, chicken, tomato half, lettuce and avocado in every bite!

Shepherds Pie-Cook Smarts Week 4

I’m wildly excited to be using Cook Smarts still. 4 weeks of fantastic experiences in the kitchen. Spoilers: Neither of us loved this dish in the “please repeat” category, but both of us were delighted to eat it. One of the most intimidating parts of the meal planning process for me is hoping we both enjoy the meal. I put a lot of emotional investment into my choices that ultimately I set myself up for disappointments. Cook Smarts has taken this emotional component out of the equation. We both agreed that as often as possible I will cook from their menu. If there’s a dish that both of us are really, genuinely uninterested in, I might skip, but unless this happens I will be cooking from the menu.

We discovered that while the flavors of this dish were really well done, and everything was cooked properly, neither of us are interested in eating it again. However, I thought this would make a fantastic meal-to-share with anyone who enjoys “meat and potato” type meals or particularly loves shepherd’s pie. Also, this dish would freeze really well. If you make meals for families and want a gluten-free, non-dairy dish that’s hearty and comforting, this might be your meal. (To make it dairy free I subbed non-dairy sour cream and just skipped the butter).

Shepherd’s Pie seasoning mix: so yum!

Freshly chopped onions, yummy tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce.  

The before photo!

That’s a lot of food in that side profile! 

Apparently I misread the directions because I was supposed to have chopped green onion pieces left to sprinkle over the top, oh well!

Her remake of last night’s recipe

I realize that a good portion of my posts about Cook Smarts might sound like a sales pitch, (and let’s be honest, I’d totally appreciate a remuneration package for my advertising), but that’s not the case. This subscription service has revolutionized our week nights and my hope in sharing this is that someone else will benefit as well.

Most of the meals are 30-45 minutes from start to plating and every single meal uses fresh ingredients (and sometimes frozen, boxed or canned, as well. I haven’t gone off the deep end!). I’ve made my own seasoning mixes, my own salad dressings, salad mixes and the list goes on. My confidence in the kitchen is skyrocketing. This isn’t to say that every dish has turned out perfectly or that we’ve loved every single meal, but we’ve enjoyed a majority.

Take tonight’s meal for example. I had chicken thighs thawing in the fridge and since tonight wasn’t an “authentic Cook Smarts” night I was going to do something really simple. However, newly inspired with last night’s dish I decided to do a variation on the meal and repeat it! The only thing I changed was using peas instead of the avocado and orange salad for the side. To be fair, a post from Cook Smarts today inspired my creativity. They shared a “cooking mad libs” post about the “secret” formula for many of their dishes and encouraged making your own substitutions. You can find this post on facebook or in their articles.

I felt so empowered to make a creative meal to enjoy in my home! Full disclosure, I love pinterest, I have a fantastic “on the menu” board. I have every intention of cooking through my list, but I’ve been burned too many times with untested or just-plain-bad recipes. I had every intention of making out my own menus and creatively cooking meals, but I had a lot of emotional investment in A) the meal turning out perfect, B) hoping my husband would love it, C) that I would love it, that I crippled myself before beginning. Now I have the perfect excuse to try new foods, recipes etc that have been tested so as long as I can follow directions the meals will turn out.

We’re learning a lot through this process. We’re trying dishes we may never have experienced and learning we do like green eggs and ham sometimes! (Okay, that was just my Dr. Seuss humor sneaking out.)

Thanks for following along on my cooking adventures. If you decide to sign up, let me know, I’m excited to have more people enjoying their kitchens and dining experiences!

Week 2, Meal 4, Breakfast Burritos with spinach and tomato salad

Breakfast Burritos

We actually ate these for breakfast! We had so much food this week because we changed our plan from eating the meals as dinner and the following day’s lunch to eating the meals for dinner two nights in a row. This meant Friday night we were eating the leftover skillet chicken! Yum! So Saturday morning I made these burritos and a salad for breakfast! We ended up snacking on the salad all day.
  Sautéing onions! Yum! Also, I didn’t read the directions correctly and left more green pieces mixed in so some of those pieces charred a bit. Oops!

Scrambling eggs- yum!  

We added some of the pieces of tomato meant for the salad to our burritos. And it was very good!

4 servings
Breakfast Burrito with Black Beans:
Green onions – 4 stalks, chopped
Cheese (opt) – 2 oz, grated (Like cheddar, Jack, or colby)
Eggs – 6
Sour cream (opt) – 1 Tbsp + more for serving
Black beans (14 oz / 397 g can) – 1 can, rinsed and drained
Cooking oil – 1 1/2 Tbsp
Salsa – 1/2 cup
Leftover roasted potatoes – 2 cups
Tortillas, burrito-sized – 4 (Try some fun flavors like spinach or sundried tomato if your store carries it)

Spinach and Tomato Salad:
Roma tomatoes – 2 , chopped
Baby spinach – 4 oz
Paprika – 1/4 tsp
Red wine vinegar – 1 1/2 Tbsp
Brown sugar – 1/2 tsp
Cooking oil – 3 Tbsp (like grapeseed, vegetable, or avocado)

Week 2, Meal 3, Skillet Chicken with Chard and salsa over roasted potatoes

Skillet Chicken with Chard and roasted potatoes 

And in other news, I signed up for a three month subscription, so more incredible meals heading our way!


This was my first time cooking with rainbow chard. It’s so bright and cheerful. I love the colors in this meal! I was shocked in the grocery store by how much the recipe indicated I should buy. Turns out they were right, it does cook down substantially!

I subbed red potatoes for the dish, because I like them better than white. Probably I would sub in purple potatoes when I make this again for an extra pop of color. Because, why not! I wasn’t thrilled with the flavor of these potatoes. I only lightly salted them, so that was probably part of it. I like how they teach you to roast the vegetables. Our oven is just so temperamental that several pieces charred a bit more than intended. Oh well. Win some, lose some!


4 servings 

Roasted Potatoes with Paprika:
Baby or new potatoes – 1 1/2 lbs, quartered
Olive oil – 2 Tbsp
Paprika – 1 tsp
Ketchup or hot sauce – for serving

Skillet Chicken with Chard:
Chicken thighs, boneless & skinless – 1 1/2 lbs (Feel free to use breasts if you prefer white meat)
Garlic powder – 1 tsp
Garlic – 3 cloves, minced
Chard – 2 bunches, leaves torn, stems chopped into 1/2″ pieces (Pick your favorite color chard. 2 bunches may seem like a lot, but it will cook down so much)
Cooking oil – 1 1/2 Tbsp + 1 1/2 Tbsp
Salsa – 1/2 cup
Lime – 1/2, juice of
Sour cream (opt) – 1/4 cup

Week 2, Meal 2, Classic Tacos! with lettuce and avocado salad

Classic Tacos! with lettuce and avocado salad

This was my 5th solo Cook Smarts meal. We learned several things from making this recipe. I made this meal Wednesday evening.

  1. Multitasking in the kitchen is mostly a good idea. And what I mean by that is, I misunderstood how to season the ground beef. So what I’m saying is, multi-task with caution.

2. Tomato paste in a tube that allows refrigeration/storage = win.

3. Mixing in all the ingredients to the pan ahead of time and cooking them with the meat, reduces assembly time which means you get to eat faster. Win.

4. Definitely remove the seeds from the tomatoes to make “crushed tomatoes” at home.

5. We definitely want to subscribe to Cook Smarts for 3 months! I’ll be setting that up this weekend! Yay!

6. The avocado salad was incredible!

7. Neither the seasoning mix I’ve made from the Good Eats cookbook, the other one I tried,  or this recipe are quite right, yet. Although, to be fair I didn’t season this round properly so maybe that’s on me.

8. Following the directions on the box of taco shells + our oven = burnt shells. Burnt corn taco shells = ew, seriously, ew.


9. Next week in our cooking adventures I’ll be changing the serving sizes to two, we don’t quite have the containers to easily send leftovers for lunch in a manner that keeps them palatable. So we’ve been using leftovers for the following night’s dinner instead. As I’ve been having fun cooking new dishes we’re going to reduce leftovers and do something different for lunches..

4 servings

Taco Night:
Lean ground beef – 1 lb
Coriander – 3/4 tsp
Cumin – 1/2 tsp
Paprika – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Chili powder – 1/4 tsp
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Jalapenos – 2, diced
Onions – 1, diced
Iceberg bibb lettuce – 1/4 head, sliced
Cheese (opt) – 2 oz, grated (Like cheddar, Monterey, Colby)
Cooking oil – 2 Tbsp
Crushed tomatoes – 3/4 cup
Tomato paste – 1 Tbsp
Lime – 1/2, sliced into wedges
Taco shells – 8 (Use smaller tortillas if you prefer)
Sour cream (opt) – 1/2 cup
Salsa – 1/2 cup (Pick a tub of your favorite salsa.)

Iceberg Bibb Lettuce and Avocado Salad:
Iceberg bib lettuce – 1/4 head, sliced
Avocado – 1, cubed
Paprika – 1/4 tsp
Red wine vinegar – 1 1/2 Tbsp
Brown sugar – 1/2 tsp
Cooking oil – 3 Tbsp (like grapeseed, vegetable, or avocado)

*At their request I’m only including information that is part of their free content in my posts: ingredients list*

Week 2, Meal 1, Fish ‘n Chips or rather Fish Sandwich with kale ‘chips’

Original Recipe

Second week of using Cook Smarts menu/meal plan service. This is my second week of free meal plans, you just create an account and they are available to you! Yay!

Again, I’m really impressed with how smoothly the process is handled:
1)choosing the recipes,
2)creating a grocery list and
3)preparing the meals

I clicked a few buttons over the weekend, looked through my cupboards and I was quickly off to the shops! Ahhh my soul sighed.

This might have been my first meal using kale and making kale chips, but I’m not sure. I wouldn’t say I royally ruined these, I mean, they were edible, but they lacked the ‘wow’ factor of other favored dishes.

Also, not to be redundant, but I LOVE presenting a meal at the dinner table! I actually missed making a meal over the weekend. We prepared some fabulous dishes and ate fantastic food, but there’s something newly satisfying about bringing a meal to the table. (This may fade after the new wears off!)

This meal felt a bit involved for some reason, maybe it was because our oven is persnickety and I could only do one tray of kale chips at a time, so it took longer than it should have. Additionally, I chose to make my fish bites pretty small so this increased the number of rounds in my smaller pan.

The homemade tartar sauce was great. I wasn’t a fan of how often the recipe wanted me to add salt, so I reduced that.

All in all though, I’m very pleased with how this meal turned out!

I’ve decided that for next week’s menu, I’ll be signing up for a subscription! Yes! I’m so excited!

The whole recipe is available if you create an account, as they’ve requested I’m only listing out the ingredients here on my post.

4 servings Metric
Fish Sandwiches:
Tilapia – 4 fillets (Or use other white fish like cod. If you don’t eat seafood, try this with chicken thighs.)
Iceberg lettuce – 1/4 head, sliced
Flour – 1/2 cup
Egg – 1
Panko breadcrumbs – 3/4 cup
Cajun spice – 1 tsp
Cooking oil – 1 Tbsp + 3 Tbsp
Homemade tartar sauce – 1/2 cup (Ingredients listed separately)
Burger buns – 4 (If you can find kaiser rolls, those would be great!)
Kale Chips:
Kale – 1 bunch, leaves torn off of stems (Buy dino or lacinato kale if you have a choice. If you want to make a lot of kale chips, buy more than 1 bunch!)
Olive oil – 2 Tbsp
Tartar Sauce:
Mayonnaise – 1/2 cup (Substitute with Greek yogurt if you prefer. You may need to thin it out with some milk unless you like it thick and creamy!)
Capers – 2 Tbsp, chopped
Lemon juice – 1 Tbsp