Category Archives: Beyond Easy

Eat, Briefly- Steak Quesadillas (and the salsa I practically drink!)


Wednesday was a looooong day at the office and I wanted something quick and comforting.
These quesadillas are filled with chopped up steak leftover from our last delicious grilled london broil (thank you, freezer!) and plenty of shredded cheddar. I brush the carb balance tortillas with coconut oil and bake for 10 minutes at 350, then broil for 2-5 minutes until the top is a little brown and crunchy.

The Hub had sour cream with his, which is fine, but I slathered mine in my favorite store-bought  salsa EVER Santa Barbara  Salsa Taqueria!  It’s got a fresh, spicy flavor that I love. Try it on eggs, cheese crisps, cucumbers, and cardboard  (j/k….. kind of. I’d probably eat it, if I had enough salsa.)

All that spice needs a refreshing drink to cool things down. Margaritas are yum, for sure, but I haven’t found a lower carb version I love l, andplusalso I wanted something easy!
Hello, Spiked and Sparkling!


These little beauties are new to our market, and DELISH. Spiked sparkling water with a hint of fruit – my fave so far is the Grapefruit and Pomelo. Refreshing, fizzy, and not sicky sweet or heavy. Also 100 calories and only 2 carbs!  My only complaint is that I wish they came in cans, because these would be perfect for pool days! (Don’t be the jerk with glass at my pool!! I will hunt you down and rip you!)
Tonight we have a fun event that I will happily let blow my macro numbers… can’t wait to share it with you tomorrow!


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Filed under Beyond Easy, Drink, Eat, Eat - Briefly, My Faves

Eat- Meal Prep Mondays!

It’s no secret that Keri loves a good menu plan. She loves it almost as much as she loves referring to herself in 3rd person. Ha ha ha (seriously though, I do use 3rd person a lot. Probably has some super deep psychological meaning. OH LOOK, I digress already.)

I am a huge proponent of menu planning as a way to save time and money, and reduce stress on my working mom self.
I have a whole shopping and planning system which I talked about here. I won’t go down that rabbit hole today, as it is deep and long, and probably really scary to innocent onlookers.
BUT in addition to my menu planning, I also love a good round of prep cooking to get my week set up for success.

When I start talking about what I do to prep every week in casual conversation, I get some heavy sideways glances. “Oh Keri, that’s not going to make a difference,” say the non-believers. “I don’t have time to do all of that,” say the negative Nellies.
“That sounds like a lot to do,” say the naysayers.

But nay nay, Naysayers is what I say! (Watch me whip, watch me say nay nay…. couldn’t resist.)
Most Mondays I spend about 1 hour, including clean up,  prepping things I will use to make meals throughout the week. Some prep will actually cover coming weeks as well, as I sometimes grill big batches of chicken breast to freeze for later use, or make a bunch of turkey meatballs and bake them off before freezing.

With my contract writing jobs becoming  more frequent, and my determination to make time every evening to spend with Jr and The Hub, cooking is just NOT something I can devote hours too every night. I know many of you can relate! (Can I get an amen!?)

So,  I thought I’d share this week’s menu and prep with you to show how a quick prep session can make it easy to get dinner on the table lickety-split at night.

This week’s menu:

Monday: Siracha pork and broccoli bowls

Tuesday: Turkey kielbasa with peppers, corn (for the carb lovers in the house.)

Wednesday: Stuffed chicken breast, frozen veggie (probably cauliflower.)

Thursday: Taco casseroles, avocado green salad

Friday: Charcuterie and cheese platter (very typical Friday night fare, I keep a running stash of different ingredients I can throw together after Jr. goes to sleep when The Hub and I finally get to stop and take a breath at the end of the week.0

Saturday: Dinner out at a local spot

Sunday: Pot roast and roasted veggies (I will need to pull this from the freezer on Friday morning, so I make sure it is on the posted menu to help me remember.)

How I prepped:


Oh look – there’s Keri’s kitchen in the thick of Monday prep time.

– The skillet is full of browning meat for the taco casserole, which I season with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

-I have shredded cheese for the casserole

-The crock pot has 1 lb of pork roast being cooked in a mixture of Pampered Chef Asian Seasoning and Siracha.

-On the back left side of the stove I am also hard-boiling eggs for my breakfasts this week, and (not pictured) there are chicken thighs on the grill for my lunches.

-I am cutting red peppers – 1 half pepper for the taco casserole mixture, the other 1 and 1/2 cut in strips for sautéing with the kielbasa on Tuesday. (Note the plastic bag – I keep a trash bag or bowl right on the counter and pitch everything in there so I am not going back and forth to the trash.  Thanks Rachel Ray, for giving that handy tip years ago!)


After setting a little bit of the meat aside for Jr. (who is in his extra picky 4 year old phase,) I toss the peppers and cheese into the slightly cooled skillet of seasoned ground turkey, and divide it into individual large ramekins:


These came with handy lids so I can seal them up and stack in the fridge.  (I do a variation on this type of “casserole” almost every week.  The Bacon Cheeseburger variety is another I have mentioned on ED&BK previously.)

I bag up the pepper strips, divide the eggs and chicken thighs into containers for my daytime meals, and do my dishes.  Just under an hour.

Done and done.


This leaves only a few quick steps each evening:

Monday: drain and shred the pork, add Siracha to taste, steam broccoli (cut, blanched and frozen during a broccoli hording round of prep a few weeks ago.)

Tuesday: Cut Kielbasa into chunks and quick sauté with red peppers. Heat canned corn. Pull previously grilled chicken breasts from freezer for tomorrow

Wednesday: Turn on oven to 375, slit chicken breasts and stuff with pepperoni and cheese and stick in oven to heat for 110-12 minutes. Steam frozen veggie.

Thursday: Remove casseroles from fridge and allow to come to room temp while oven heats to 375.  Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Slice avocado. Serve with bagged salad (so lazy, Keri.)

Friday: Take roast for Sunday out of freezer to thaw in fridge.  From there it goes something like this – watch Jr eat ANOTHER PB&J and “GoGurt Simple” for dinner.  Decide to pick battles. Open wine, put Jr to bed. Pull out selection of meat and cheese (it varies,  but there is always a LARGE pile of prosciutto which Keri doesn’t have to share because The Hub doesn’t care for it.) Stack up high on cutting board along with crackers, cheese crisps, nuts, dried fruit, etc.  Sprawl out on floor with aforementioned wine, and exhale.

Another week of dinners with exactly ZERO pain in my patoot, thanks to one hour on Monday (or Sunday, or whenever it works for you,) spent prepping!

Hooray!!  We should treat ourselves to another glass of wine, no?

What are your favorite time and sanity saving tricks in the kitchen?  I am always on the hunt for great ideas, so shout them out in the comments below and share with all of us!



Filed under Beyond Easy, Eat, low carb, Meal Prep, Menu Lists, Time Crunch Tested

>Marinated Skirt Steak


The Hub loves skirt steak. This is fabulous news for me, because, well frankly, it is pretty cheap. It is hard to argue with the beauty of getting all that beefy flavor for a low-down fantastic price, no?
Skirt steak needs a little love to truly shine – it benefits greatly from a nice long set in an acidic marinade to help it break down a bit, and it is best cooked quickly over high heat. Oh yeah, and if it is overcooked, it is a tough as shoe leather. Luckily it is very easy to prepare well, and simply prepared is how we enjoy it most.
In a zip top baggie combine the juice of 2 limes and 1 tablespoon canola oil with 1 teaspoon of chili powder and 1 teaspoon of cummin and mix well. (Sometimes I zest the lime into the baggie as well, I was just feeling lazy yesterday.)

Add skirt steak (the piece I used was between 10 and 12 ounces) to the bag, close allowing extra air to escape, and massage the marinade into the meat so that the steak is coated evenly. Refrigerate at least 8 hours (I wouldn’t do this for more than 24 hours, even skirt steak will start to break down a bit too much if left in a marinade this acidic for too terribly long.)
Remove steak from refrigerator 1/2 hour before you want to cook it (it will cook more evenly if it isn’t chilled) and set oven to 35o degrees.
Heat large skillet or flat grill on the stove until it is screamin’ hot (hover your open palm just above the cooking surface – are you feeling lots of heat? Time for cooking!)

Place the steak in the skillet and rejoice at the sizzle – that noise is searing in all the juicy, flavorful goodness.

Let it get some nice dark color on that side and then give it a flip and sear the other side.
Now – here’s the thing: you can totally cook the steak from start to finish just like this. OR you can grill it on your Vogner Charking or whatever out on the back deck, if you prefer and it would be delish – no doubt. As long as you have nice high heat and take it off before it overcooks (which depends on the thickness – I’d go 4 minutes a side over direct, high heat, and then make a little cut in the center to see how it looked if you aren’t comfortable testing doneness by touch,) either is a great way to cook skirt steak.
But again, I was feeling lazy. So my steak got seared on each side about 2 minutes and then I popped it on roasting rack and put it in the oven to finish, which took about 12 minutes at 350 degrees.
That way I could concentrate on making some Martinis for The Hub and me while dinner finished cooking.
After cooking, I tented the steak with foil on my cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes (while I defrosted some frozen mashed potatoes and stirred in a bit of cheddar for a side dish) before cutting. This lets the juices re-absorb into the meat a bit.
How you cut skirt steak is important. It is best not to just plate it whole, because if cut with, and not against the grain of the meat, it will still seem tough, even after all that marinating and high heat cooking. So slice thin against the grain. (Slicing the long strip of it into shorter chunks first, which is slicing with the grain, and then slicing those portions thinly against the grain – as pictured at the top of the post.)
Dinner is served.

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Filed under Beef, Beyond Easy, Picture

>Lazy-way Chicken and Broccoli stuffed pasta

>So what do you get when you take cooked Lasagna noodles and spread them with a mixture of:
1 large grilled b/s chicken breast, shredded

1 cup broccoli stems (cooked) chopped fine

1/2 block of cream cheese

3 BIG fresh basil leaves

(blended together in the food processor)

and then roll the noodles up around the filling:

And then bake covered in a simple cheddar cheese sauce at 350 for 45 minutes, covered?

You get stuffed shell perfection, without the hassle of actually stuffing the shells! (and if you are me, you get The Hub to eat the part of the broccoli he usually won’t touch!)

BTW – I was running around Sunday afternoon and evening, and The Hub actually got this out of the fridge at the appointed time, then turned on the oven and baked these all by himself – I arrived home to a piping hot dinner just coming out of the oven! Sah-weet!

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Filed under Beyond Easy, Liquid Cheese, New Twist, Picture

>Everyday Poached Chicken Perfection!

>So I picked up the Jan/Feb edition of Everyday Food to read on the plane back from Indiana earlier this week after visiting this guy:

(nephew Vaughn, seen here eating in a fashion very similar to Aunt Keri’s usual practices.)

By the time I walked through my front door, all I could think about was poaching chicken.

That’s right, poaching chicken. It gets a bad rap sometimes – because poaching chicken, especially white meat, correctly is an elusive process. Often the chicken is bland, or rubbery, or dry, or (gasp) all of the above.

But Everyday Food seemed to have come up with a foolproof process, and I was itching to try it, AND to use that poached chicken to make some of the things suggested in the magazine.

The recipe? (as I said – it is from Everyday Food, Jan/Feb 2010)

1/2 medium yellow onion, halved

1 medium carrot, cut into thirds

1 celery stalk, cut into thirds

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 sliced lemon (optional)

1 teaspoon coarse salt

3 springs thyme or parsley

4 b/s chicken breast halves (about 8 oz each)

In a large, straight-sided skillet or pot, combine all ingredients except chicken; cover with water by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil over high. Add chicken and return to a boil. Cook 3 minutes, then cover and remove from heat. Let stand until chicken is cooked through, about 15-18 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from liquid immediately.

Ok, so first off, I did indeed, do a few things differently, (seriously, Keri NEVER could follow a recipe exactly) so:

I used a small whole red onion, cut in half (because it is what I had)

I used 2 small carrots cut in half (because I didn’t have a medium one)

I used an extra piece of celery (because why not?)

I used pre minced garlic

“coarse salt?” snort – Morton’s for me!

I opted for parsley flakes and no lemon

I actually did 5 b/s breast halves instead of 4

Here are the veggies covered with water:

And after bringing them to a boil I added the chicken:

It isn’t so much what is in that pot kids – it is the method I am interested in here… The whole “bring to boil and then cover and let rest off heat” thing. That intrigued me because cooking too fast is my biggest problem when I try to poach. Even uber-low heat can be too much, it seems.

Can I tell ya – this worked like dream!! I let the chicken rest in the liquid covered for 18 minutes, turning at 9 minutes (really quickly so I didn’t let too much heat out) and it was perfectly cooked. I mean PER-FECT. Juicy, tender, with a flavor that was mild but not bland in the least.
What to do with it? Well, you could just eat it with a light sauce made by reducing some of the poaching liquid, or:

Yesterday I took one of their suggestions and mixed some of the chicken (torn into shreds) with a drizzle of EVOO, 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, a sprinkle of dried parsley and basil, 4 oz of blanched fresh green beans and a whole cucumber chopped up. I let it sit in the fridge until lunch and all the flavors had combined – it was cool and crunchy and really a great lunch salad.
Today was good old chicken salad with a spoon of mayo and plenty of dill relish on wasa crackers with red bell pepper sticks on the side.

I also used some of the poached chicken to make shredded chicken tacos – I shredded the cold chicken and then heated (covered) very briefly in the microwave with a palmful of chili powder mixed in – then used that mixture to fill soft tacos and set out whatever fixins we had around. Mmm mmm good.

Simple, easy, versatile… a truly foolproof technique for poaching chicken.

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Filed under Beyond Easy, Chicken, Picture

>Egg topped noodles -Penny Pincher redo


So when I promised a Penny Pincher version of this fabulous and yummy-sounding recipe from Bon Appetit magazine this week, it was without consulting the magic 8 ball that would have no doubt told me “not likely” or “try again later” or (if it was a REALLY fancy magic 8 ball) “you will be too busy barfing and sipping flat coke this week, Keri.”
I have tummy trouble. 😦
Eating actually sounds like an awful idea to Keri right now – take a picture, this is maybe the 5th moment in my entire 33 years that this has happened.
But the blog must go on, right? So I did it anyway. (Who loves you? Keri does, that’s who!)
What did I do different than the original recipe above? It was all about ingredient substitutions, actually, I followed the same basic steps, but I worked with what I had.
In a pot of boiling water seasoned well with salt, I placed two servings’ worth of Ronzoni Smart Taste spaghetti (actually, I would have loved to use whole wheat pasta in the place of the buckwheat noodles called for in the original recipe, but I got a great deal on the Smart Taste a couple weeks ago, so it is what we had.)
While the pasta cooked, I heated up a swirl of olive oil in a skillet and added 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic to the oil over medium high heat. Within a minute I also added 4 slices of extra lean turkey bacon (salty and crispy and yummy, but less expensive than prosciutto and ALWAYS on hand in my fridge). The bacon crisped and got some nice color, and then I removed it to a plate.
To the pasta pot I added 1 cup of sliced broccoli stems (I usually save them for soup since The Hub only really likes “the tree part” of broccoli, but their bright green color and firm crunch seemed the perfect substitution for Asparagus, which I will buy if the price is right, but didn’t have in the house.) I let that cook with the pasta for about 2 minutes before draining the pasta and returning to the pan, along with some grated Parmesan cheese. I covered the pot to let the cheese get melty and keep everything warm.
Meanwhile, I cracked two eggs into the pan that I had cooked the bacon and garlic in earlier and let the eggs cook over medium low heat, covered, until the whites were set.
I added the bacon to the pasta mixture and gave everything a good stir before nesting the pasta on to two plates and topping with the eggs.
I snuck a bite. It was worth feeling sick afterwards – the salty tang of the cheese and the bacon, the crisp crunch of the broccoli, and the comforting bite of pasta coated with the rich egg yolk all together? It was the perfect bite.
Simple, economical, and super quick – this one is getting made again when I can dig into a whole plate!

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Filed under Beyond Easy, Penny Pincher, Picture, Time Crunch Tested

>Burgers and Fries

> This picture illistrates well two things I love about last night’s Burgers and Fries.
#1. Look at those fries. These are Ellie Krieger’s Garlic Fries and they come out perfect every single time. I promise. You don’t have to feel even the slightest bit guilty about these baked-not-fried beauties. Plus, they are crunchy outside, flaky potatoey goodness inside, flavorful and (in my opinion) beautiful on the plate. Try the fries – serious.
#2. The George Foreman Grill is fabulous. Don’t ditch yours, embrace and rediscover it. See those grill lines on my beautiful burger? Yep – George made them. While allowing fat to drain away (actually, I use pretty lean meat, but still.) In 8 minutes (plus 4 pre-heating) I went from frozen patty to juicy, tasty, perfect burger. A little garlic powder and S&P sprinkled on the top before closing the lid results in fabulous flavor seared into the patty. Not only that – but the George Foreman in your basement costs NOTHING to dig out and use instead of buying one of those crazy-expensive panini makers everyone covets these days.

This meal is quick and cost effective and much healthier than any burger someone might hand you out of a window. Just sayin….

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>Cookie Exchange ..

> Behold my mad cookie prowess!!
Ok, so not really. Not at all. Here is my magic recipe for these:

1. Proceed to supermarket of your choice.
2. Purchase Pilsbury refrigerated sugar cookie dough log, Betty Croker Vanilla Frosting, 1 package candy canes and pre-heat oven
3. roll dough into tiny balls (heh heh.. Keri’s tiny balls) and bake as directed on package.
4. While those bake, unwrap the candy canes, put them in a zip-loc, and smack the crap out of them with the flat side of your meat mallet
5. frost cookies in sloppy manner and sprinkle on smashed candy canes..

Ahhh, Baking With Keri.. so fancy and complicated. 🙂

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Filed under Baking, Beyond Easy, Picture

>Chicken Fingers, and proof that I OWN the Roux!

>Oh look, Keri breaded stuff to put in the oven again – what a huge shock. NOT! Anyway, I did indeed bread up some chicken breast tenders so that The Hub could indulge in some Chicken Fingers and we could have a quick and easy dinner. I did it using the same breading method I did here except I just used plain milk for the wet dip, and I seasoned the crumbs with a generous amount of Cayenne pepper, a bit of Garlic Powder and Salt and nothing else. Then on to the roasting rack they went and into the 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes: (actually it was more like 17 minutes, just to be exact.)

Meanwhile, I had some leftover chopped Cauliflower, and to it I added some Broccoli florets (The Hub only likes the “tree looking” part. Serious.)

Into a microwave-safe covered dish these all went, along with a teaspoon of water. After I finished making the cheese sauce and about 5 minutes before I was ready to serve dinner, they got microwaved for 3 minutes, stirred, and microwaved another minute – then I just kept them closed so the steam kept at ’em until I was ready to put them on the plate.

And because The Hub isn’t hugely keen on veggies in large amounts, and (let’s be honest here) because I can, I whipped up a quick little sauce for the veggies. I melted two teaspoons of “won’t hurt your Hub’s cholesterol” Olivio Spread in a sauce pan:

And added two heaping teaspoons of flour to the melted spread, whisking it together:

except that I am so money at making a Roux now that I don’t need a fancy whisk – I just used a fork, yo:

Then in went a cup of skim milk that had been warmed in the microwave for a minute and it cooked over high heat while I kept up with the fork/whisking until it reached “nape” consistency – it’s French, so you pronounce that last “e” – meaning it will coat the back of a spoon and not slide off, and when you draw a line through it, that line won’t close back up, like this:

Then off the heat I added in 3/4 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese:
… and stirred it :

.. until it was smooth liquid cheese perfection:
This really takes no time at all now people.. It is almost a crime how easily it comes to me, considering how I struggled with it in school… Poor 19 year old Keri with her broke-ass Roux… and underage, so she couldn’t even drink away her failures. At least not in public. BUT I DIGRESS!
So the Chicken is done, crispy and yummy out of the oven after 17 minutes:

Nothing left to do now but get it all on a plate while it is good and hot, complete a cheesy drizzle of deliciousness for those perfectly steamed veggies, as seen on my plate at the beginning of the post.

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Filed under Beyond Easy, Chicken, Liquid Cheese, My Faves, Picture

>Seasoned petite sirloin with steamed basil veggies

>Ahhhh, beef. It’s what’s for dinner. A few weeks ago Albertsons had petite sirloin steak packages buy 1 get 2 free, so I have a fair amount in the freezer at the moment. Here I have cut one steak in half and rubbed the juice of one lime, along with a generous sprinkling of garlic powder and parsley flakes into all sides of the pieces:
I left that to marinade on the counter for about 30 minutes while I changed out of my office attire and prepped the veggies. Using a peeler, I made ribbons out of two small zucchinis:

Then I added in a couple handfuls of frozen corn (The Hub LOVES corn, but not so much Zuchini, so this is my way of getting him to eat the squash – I mix it together,) a palmful (about a Tablespoon) of freeze-dried basil, and a teaspoon of Olivo (good for your cholesterol butter substitute):

I set the veggies aside while I seared the steaks in a hot skillet on each side (in picture below,) and then transferred them to a 450 degree oven to finish cooking (The Hub’s to medium rare, and mine to rare, respectively.)

While the steaks finish in the oven, I deglazed the pan I seared them in with 1/3 cup Vermouth:

I let this liquid reduce by half over medium heat and then swirled in a teaspoon of Olivo.
When the steaks were done cooking, I let them rest while I cooked the veggies in the microwave, covered for 2 minutes. The steaks got a drizzle of the pan sauce before hitting the table. Mmmm. Red Meat.

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Filed under Beyond Easy, Picky Tricky, Picture, Smart Shopping