Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Andy's Mexican Lasagna

Hello to all!

I am so sorry I haven't posted in such a long time! Andy and I have had a busy summer shooting weddings with Renner Foto. Things have been crazy, and needless to say, I haven't been cooking nearly as much as a good wife should. Ahhh!!!

On a side note, our good friend Tommy is coming next week...and he said that he has learned to bake many fresh and fun breads and things of that sort. When Tommy is here, exciting things inevitably happen in our kitchen! Stay tuned for some of his recipes coming soon :)

Andy is an amazing cook! I am so blessed, as I have learned so many things from him over the years about mixing ingredients and so forth. Last weekend was one of those wonderful times where I was fortunate enough to experience the yummy, spicy flavors that he perfectly combines together to create his scrumptious Mexican Lasagna.

I didn't take photos of the ingredients this time, but since so many people have requested the recipe, it would be silly for me to have not posted this one.

Get excited! Here it is, in the words of the man himself:

Andy's Mexican Lasagna

1 lb ground sausage
1 lb ground turkey (turkey can be substituted with beef, if you prefer)
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 cans black beans
2 cans red beans
1 can fiesta corn
3 chipotle peppers in adobo (canned)(more peppers = more heat)
15 medium flour tortillas
1.5 lb brick of queso fresco
Salt and pepper to taste

Drain all beans and corn in a large colander. Be sure to get all
liquid out. Finely chop chipotle peppers. Crumble or grate the brick
of cheese. Mix these ingredients into a large bowl with some salt and
pepper to taste. Save ½ a brick of grated cheese for later.

Finely chop the cloves of garlic and the onion and sauté in a large
pan with a little extra virgin olive oil (or "EVOO," as Rachael Ray would say ;) on low heat. Add meat to this mixture when the onion starts to become translucent. Fully cook the meat, adding salt and pepper to taste. Mix the meat into the bean mixture in a very large bowl.

Cut the ends of 15 tortillas off so that they make a square instead of
a circle (Save these ends for a fun treat which I will tell you about later). Layer the bottom of a large casserole dish with thesesquare tortillas. Sprinkle 1/3 of t he cheese you have saved over the tortillas. Put half of your bean and meat mixture into the casserole dish layering the tortillas. Place another layer of tortillas with sprinkled cheese down over the mixture. Put the second half of the mixture into the casserole dish and cover with another layer of tortillas. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top layer.

Cover with aluminum foil loosely so that the cheese does not stick to
the foil when it is removed after cooking. Place in oven at 350 for
45 mins. Remove foil and place back in oven for 15 minutes. Let it
sit for 30 minutes before cutting.


Our Review:

Obviously, this is one of the best things ever! Andy not only knows how to make something flavorful, but he knows how to present it. If you'd like, you can serve this with sour cream, salsa and guacamole :) It is VERY filling!! Keep that in mind :)

The Ends of the Tortillas~ Sopapillas!!!

For a light, crunchy dessert, take the ends of the tortillas and toss them with a little oil. Fry them in some vegetable oil until crispy, then toss in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. It is a sweet delight for after dinner!

As always, feel free to let me know if you have any questions :)

Photos provided by:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stuffed Chicken Burgers

Lately, I have been working very hard on creating a more healthy menu. After all, we are way too young to let what we eat catch up with us.

Tonight, I made Stuffed Chicken Burgers. Intrigued? Read on my was scrumptious!!!


~1-2 lbs of ground chicken (depending on how many people are eating, and how much you want)

~Jar or fresh roasted red peppers

~1/2 cup shredded skim mozzarella cheese

~Italian breadcrumbs

~Whole wheat buns for the burger

~Olive or vegetable oil (optional, for forming burger patties)


Start up your oven broiler.

Thaw ground chicken and place into a large mixing bowl. Add as much of the breadcrumbs as you'd like (I used about 1/3 cup, that might be too much for you, so play around with it). Add some salt and fresh ground black pepper if you wish.

Take about a tablespoon of oil and rub it on your hands so that your meat doesn't stick. Form the meat into thin patties, and place the patties on a greased cookie sheet or foil. Place some of the roasted red peppers and some of the mozzarella on top of the peppers. Once the filling is done, place another patty on top of the other. Form into a burger, pushing the sides together so that the filling doesn't spill out during broiling.

Pop the burgers (which are now on the foil or cookie sheet on your tray) into your broiler. Broil for about 7-8 minutes on each side.

Grab your whole wheat bun, plop the juicy burger on top, add whatever toppings you desire and enjoy!

Our Review:

This tasted like a pizza burger!!! It was so good. And it is MUCH better for you than a regular burger. When you bite into it, you get the all the goodness of the roasted pepper and cheese melting on your really can't beat this experience!

I served these with a side of baked potatoes (I was going to do sweet potatoes, but the grocery man didn't put it in my bag which I noticed tonight. The grocery store is in trouble! Lol). We ate our burgers with sliced tomatoes, a side of pepperoncini peppers, and a ramekin of spaghetti sauce that I made earlier in the week, which almost made it taste like a meatball sub.

This was phenomenal for something so quick and easy! Get excited for a fun and healthy meal!!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Visit to "Tijuana Flats" in Naples, Florida

My husband and his family are from Naples, Florida. I visited for the first time years ago, and immediately knew my appetite would be fulfilled in this town. As Andy had always told me, the restaurants in Naples cater to the cravings of any and everyone. Though it is a big retirement city, people come from all over to experience the food and impeccable service there.

Andy and I visited his family a few weeks ago (March 24th-29th, 2010), and as I do every time I go, I asked my husband to take me to my FAVORITE place EVER~


GET EXCITED! Tijuana Flats is PHENOMENAL. It's really, really, really good, fresh Mexican food. From tostadas to tacos, burritos to enchiladas, their ingredients are so perfectly ripe that it's way too difficult to decide what to have. It takes me a while to order.

Here is what the place looks like inside at the counter you order at...

Andy got one entree...

...but I had to have two!!! :)

I am IN LOVE with their tostadas (pictured above). These fried tortilla chips are topped with fresh chicken, steak or just beans (your choice), black olives, onions, the GREENEST jalapenos I have ever seen, tomatoes and some lettuce. Good's like heaven.

The highlight of Tijuana Flats, for many, is the variety bar of hot/sweet sauces for customers.

I didn't get all of the names, but I got a photo of Andy getting his sauce on!

This place is not authentic by any means. As a matter of fact, the story I heard is that a bunch of college kids from the University of Florida started the place, and the restaurants spread in different parts of the state. If you ask me, there just aren't enough for my taste. Come to Georgia already!

This is my little (but much bigger) brother-in-law, Matt. He lives in Naples, and we are waiting for him to move up to Georgia.

Yes ladies, he is single...and a great catch!

Visit Tijuana Flats if you go to Florida. It is quite possibly my favorite Mexican place EVER!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stephanie O'Dea's "Panda Express Orange Chicken" with a side of her "PF Chang's Lettuce Wraps"

I really like Chinese food. Wait, that's an understatement. I LOVE Chinese food! The sad thing is that Chinese doesn't always love us. A lot of it is filled with MSG and many of the dishes are fried. Namely Orange Chicken.

Orange Chicken is delicious...but again, it's fried. I came across a blog called "Crockpot 365" by Stephanie O'Dea (she is the one who inspired my blog, and my blog setup is actually modeled after hers)- THANKS STEPHANIE!!!

Stephanie O'Dea's Crockpot 365 Blog

She has a recipe for Orange Chicken made in the crockpot..can you believe it? It's marvelous too, just like Panda Express. I made it for dinner last night, and it was so good.

Stephanie O'Dea's Orange Chicken


~1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken, cut in 2-inch chunks

~1/2 cup flour

~Olive oil, for browning the chicken

~1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

~6 ounces (about 1/2 can) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed (no pulp)

~3 tablespoons brown sugar

~1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

~3 tablespoons ketchup


Coat chicken pieces with the flour, and shake off the excess. Throw away any remaining flour. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on the stove and brown the chicken on all sides. Do not fully cook the chicken- just sear it enough for the flour to stick and get a good coating.

Throw the chicken pieces into your crockpot. In a small bowl, combine the orange juice concentrate, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, and ketchup. Taste the mixture. If you like the chicken to be a bit sweeter, add a bit more sugar. Pour the sauce mixture evenly over the chicken, and toss lightly to coat.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for 3 to 4. Serve over brown rice.

Stephanie O'Dea's Lettuce Wraps

PF Chang's may not be authentic...but it's AWESOME! It's a Renner family tradition. Every time we go to Florida we eat there with the family :) We also had our rehearsal lunch there. They don't disappoint.

Stephanie also came up with this recipe, but I altered it a bit, which I will discuss in our review. She also used the crockpot, but since I was using ours for the chicken above, I opted for my wok :)


~1 pound of ground chicken (Stephanie uses 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts)

~2 Tablespoons of olive oil (I added this because I cooked in our wok rather than the crockpot, to soften the veggies)

~1 small can of sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped (I added this)

~5 cloves of garlic, chopped

~1/2 cup onion, chopped

~1/4 cup soy sauce

~1/4 cup white wine

~1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger

~Dash of allspice (or a dash each of cloves, cinnamon and black pepper)

~2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

~Store bought jarred Plum Sauce

~Head of Iceburg lettuce

Put your olive oil in your wok or deep sautee pan and warm oil for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, onion, and chestnuts. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 3-4 minutes on medium high heat.

While that is cooking, mix the ginger, allspice, soy sauce, white wine and balsamic vinegar in a bowl. Set aside.

Wash the ground chicken twice and squeeze out any remaining water. Add to the wok/pan and cook for about 1-2 minutes, adding half of the sauce mixture after 2 minutes, and the remainder of the mixture after another 3 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked thoroughly, your filling for your lettuce cups is ready!

Take the head of lettuce and slam on your counter, so that the root of the lettuce can easily be pulled out (Sounds a little funny, right? If you had a bad day, this is fun. Andy taught me this! Lol). This will make the lettuce leaves come off of the head nicely.

Lay the lettuce cup on your plate, put the filling in, top with as much plum sauce as you like, fold into a wrap and enjoy!

Our Review on the Orange Chicken:

Yummy!!! This was great. I can't believe she was able to put this recipe together. I am so impressed! Just like Panda Express! I served this with brown rice, as Stephanie suggested, and paired it with the PF Chang's lettuce wraps recipe she made as well.

Our Review on the Lettuce Wraps:

Holy cow!!! This was so much like the restaurant! I couldn't believe it. Stephanie mentioned that hers needed a bit of crunch, so I added water chestnuts (I know Andy prefers peanuts, but since I am allergic, he got the water chestnuts instead :). As I mentioned too, Stephanie used her crockpot- since I was cooking the orange chicken, I just made mine on the stove.

She also wished she had used ground chicken, because she had to cut her chicken up into tiny pieces before cooking. I think I will try her way next time, because PF Chang's recipe seems to have small pieces of chicken and I like it better that way; although Andy disagrees and said it was perfect the way I made it. I love my husband :)

Make this! It is unbelievably tasty...and fun to eat!

Photos provided by:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Visit to "Padriac's" and "Social" in Vinings, Georgia

Andy and I frequent going out to eat. It's my favorite thing to do aside from cooking, so let's call this section of my blog "What's Cooking Around Town." It works for me, hopefully it works for you too!

On Saturday afternoon, Andy and I headed to Vinings to hang out with our friends Josh and Eliza. We met them at an Irish Pub called "Padriac's." It was a low-key, casual place. I'm not a big drinker, so Andy got me some sweet champagne/wine/beer thing called "Lindeman's Frambois Raspberry." Eliza got the peach flavor. It was pretty decent for a girly drink.

As we cruised through town, we noticed a few really cool places to eat. Josh suggested we go to a bar called "Social," and apparently the reviews for the food looked impressive, so we headed down the street to experience it.

Social had a great atmosphere. We sat by the window and were there quite a while since the boys were getting their drink on, so we ordered some food. Andy noticed sushi on the menu, so he ordered some sashimi. He said that the smoked salmon was fishy, but the tuna was amazing.

I am allergic to fish, but not shellfish (yes, I know I'm allergic to everything). So, I ordered the shrimp tempura roll.

My roll was okay. I was pretty full from the appetizers I had ordered before the roll, the fried pepper jack cheese sticks with tomato aioli and the filet mignon bruschetta. Sound good? Guess again. I wasn't impressed...but I was hungry, so there wasn't anything left of what I ate. Sorry!

Andy did get a cheese plate with some pecans and prosciutto that he enjoyed.

The company was good :) The food was just OKAY. I think I'll "socialize" elsewhere next time.


Eliza and Josh...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dee's "Chick Fil A Chicken Harvest Soup"

I want to apologize for promising I was going to post last night..I fell asleep early because this was a lot of work, and cleaning the kitchen took some time after the fact! I got tired! Lol. I am posting last night's dinner today instead :) We are having leftovers this evening.

Being from Chicago, I know what good food is. From hot dogs to ribs, italian sausage to pizza, my home state of Illinois seemingly has it all. All but one thing that is...Chick Fil A. (Okay, so they have some in rural parts of the state NOW, but I have yet to see it for myself).

Ahh Chick Fil A...the deliciously hearty, hot, buttery fried chicken on a bun with pickles...or on a morning biscuit. YUMMY! Everything at Chick Fil A is good, but for years, people have raved about the unique, fresh Chick Fil A Chicken Harvest Soup. It helps cure any sickness, and just like a typical southern food, makes you feel good.

I wanted to conquer this recipe since I love soup, so I found it online by someone with the simple name "Dee" in a forum on this site:

Dee's Chick Fil A Chicken Harvest Soup


Chicken Tenders for Harvest Soup:

~2 quarts water

~2 tablespoons chicken base (I got this at Kroger. It was hard to find, but I can't wait to use it again!)

~1 small onion, cut into quarters

~1/2 rib celery, cut into 2-inch segments

Chick Fil A Chicken Harvest Soup:

~1/4 pound butter (1 stick)

~3/4 cup flour

~2 1/2 to 3 quarts water

~2 tablespoons chicken base

~2 quarts chicken stock (made with the first recipe, make the chicken tenders first)

~1 pound fresh carrots, diced

~6 to 7 ribs celery, diced

~1 medium onion, diced

~3/4 teaspoon white pepper

~3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

~Cooked chicken tenders (recipe is the first one following ingredients below)

~10 ounces egg noodles

Cooking the chicken tenders: In a large pot, bring water, chicken base, onion and celery to simmer. Add chicken. Gently simmer until done to 6 minutes. Do not overcook.

Drain chicken and reserve stock. (This will be used for stock in the soup, so keep it). Place chicken in freezer to stop the cooking process. When cool, dice into 1/4 inch cubes. Reserve for next part of recipe.

Cooking the soup: In a large pot, melt butter. Add flour and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly add the 2 1/2 to 3 quarts of water, stirring constantly. (The amount of water depends on how thick or thin you want the soup). Simmer for 20 minutes. Add chicken base and chicken stock.

While the chicken stock mixture is cooking, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a separate pot. Add carrots, celery, and onion. Cook for 6 minutes. Drain. Add to chicken stock mixture along with the white pepper and garlic powder. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add diced cooked chicken tenders.

Cook noodles in a separate pan of boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Add to soup. (Noodles will continue cooking in soup). Simmer for 2 to 3 more minutes and serve.

Our Review:

This was so incredibly tasty and satisfying. We loved it! I served it with grilled cheese and crisp dill pickles, and baked vegetable crackers to dip in the soup. Those crackers soaked up the buttery goodness of the soup in the best way possible! This was a lot of tedious work- and you will need at least 2 hours to make it. It makes a TON of soup though, and tastes so good the day after. I took some to my coworkers today and they all enjoyed it as well.

I recommend making it! You won't be sorry. It puts canned soup to shame :)

Thanks for the recipe, Dee!

Photos provided by:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Deb Perelman's Adaptation of Ina Garten's "Real Meatballs and Spaghetti"

So before I get into this recipe, in case you were wondering, yes, I did change things up a bit tonight with my menu. I am making this today instead of Wednesday because our good friend, Kristin Aschermann, was joining us for dinner and I didn't have time to put things in the crockpot before leaving for work this morning. At least I am still using one of the scheduled recipes :)

I read many reviews on the original recipe for this online- Ina Garten's "Real Meatballs and Spaghetti:"

Ina Garten's Real Meatballs and Spaghetti

She has a show on the Food Network called "The Barefoot Contessa," and makes some really fantastic things. But after looking through her sauce ingredients, I knew I would need a little bit more. Not much more, but since I am Indian and I love spaghetti sauce, I needed more spice. I surfed the net further and found this adaptation of Ina's recipe by Deb Perelman, on her blog:
Meatballs and Spaghetti, adapted liberally from Ina Garten, by Deb Perelman


For the meatballs:

~1/2 pound veal

~1/2 pound pork

~1 pound of ground beef

*I used 2 pounds of ground chicken because it's leaner :)

~1 1/4 cups of fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crust removed)

~2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

~1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

~2 teaspoons of Kosher salt

~1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

~1 teaspoon onion powder

~1 large egg, beaten

~Vegetable oil (I used Canola)

~Olive oil

For the sauce:

~1 tablespoon good olive oil

~1 cup chopped onion (1 onion)

~1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (or more to taste)

~Pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste)

~1/2 cup good red wine (I used 1 because I doubled the sauce recipe)

~1 (14 ounce) can tomato puree (I used 28 ounces because I like more sauce)

~1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

~1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt

~1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

~1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

~Freshly grated Parmesan


Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, onion powder, egg and 3/4 cup warm water (I used chicken broth) in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2 inch meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable and olive oil into a large 12 inch skillet to a depth of 1/4 inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium low heat. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil, but do not clean out the pan.

Make the sauce:
Heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and sautee over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping all of the brown bits in the pan, until almost all of the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce. Cover and simmer on the lowest heat for 25-30 minutes, until the meatballs are thoroughly cooked.

Serve hot on cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, Parmesan, and a sprig of parsley for presentation. We ate this with garlic bread.

Our Review:

We enjoyed this. Kristin said she thought it was "Delicious." I liked this, but Andy thought the sauce was a bit tangy. Also, the meatballs were a bit bland for our taste. I realized though that the meatballs were likely bland due to the fact that I altered the recipe so much- I used ground chicken. If you are going to make this, I suggest using what the recipe calls for. You can always doctor the sauce to your taste, of course. I will tell you that Rachael Ray has a very savory meatball recipe that I will share with you all down the road- I really prefer that one, and her sauce is amazing as well.

I still recommend you try this, as it is a matter of personal preference, but I won't make it a second time. It was too time consuming and not that abundant with flavor.

Updated~ 3/22/2010:

I WILL make this again. This got better day by day, and we ATE UP the leftovers. It was phenomenal. I can't believe what the wine did to that sauce...try this for sure. Andy and I were pleasantly surprised at how it got better. GET EXCITED!

Photos provided by:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nigella Lawson's "Roquamole"

I was going to make this recipe for the first time with dinner tonight, but we decided to have it as an early afternoon snack insead. I got it from Nigella Lawson's show, "Nigella Express," on the Food Network. Here is the link:

Click here to view Nigella's recipe


~1 cup blue cheese (Nigella's calls for Roquefort or St.Agur)

~1/4 cup sour cream

~2 ripe avocados

~1/4 cup pickled jalapenos, from the jar

~2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions

~1/4 teaspoon paprika

~1 bag of blue corn tortilla chips

~4-5 Tablespoons of lime juice (to taste)


~Cut avocados in half and remove pits. Spoon out the avocado into the bowl that will hold your dip. Use a fork to break into pieces and stir, just like you would for regular guacamole. If your avocados are ripe, this should be fairly easy.

~Roughly chop the jalapenos and blue cheese. Add to the avocados along with the sour cream and green onions.

~Cut lime in half, and squeeze into the bowl (as much as you'd like). Mix with your fork.

~Top with a dusting of the paprika and serve with blue corn tortilla chips in the same bowl.

Our Review:

We served this on top of my buffalo chicken chili with the chips, and LOVED it. Andy and I love avocados, so this made them even better! This would be a great dip for company as well.

Nigella did a great job with this dip. Thanks for the recipe!

Photos provided by:

Welcome to My New Blog!

Hi Everyone!

Welcome to my new blog~ "Get Excited About Cooking!" If you have ever been around me, you know that I like to tell people to "Get excited and smile!" I titled this appropriately according to my life motto and the many suggestions I received from good friends. A special thanks to my friend, Kris Melton, for being the first person to come up with this name for the blog.

I love to cook...maybe a little too much! This is why I thought it would be fun to start this blog. I am obsessed with the Food Network and follow the chefs on the channel daily. Please note that the majority of my cooking is done through modification or following of exact published recipes by big names like Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, and Ina Garten, and I ALWAYS give credit where it is due. When reading my posts, you will never question where a recipe came from. I am just sharing the results that I have when I cook/make what the famous cooks do. And I will share photos as husband is a photographer after all!

That brings me to share a little bit about myself with you before I begin: I am an almost 30, very happy Indian girl. I married the love of my life of now 10 years, Andrew Renner, in February of 2009. We live in Alpharetta, Georgia but are both coincidentally from Chicago, Illinois originally. I am a banker at RBC Bank in Alpharetta and absolutely love my job! My family means the WORLD to me- my parents, Aju and Renu Mirchandani, are amazing. I have my Mother to thank for my inspiration in cooking- no matter what I do, I can never be as great of a cook as she is, but I strive for it nonetheless. My passion and dedication to cooking definitely comes from her. And my brother and sister-in-law, Neil and Mariah Mirchandani. We all live within a 5 miles radius- like the show, "Everybody Loves Raymond!" We are very close. I also have a best friend who is like a sister to me- Sandy Reynolds. She is the such a sweetheart! I am very fortunate and thank my stars for all of the good people in my life.

I like to get Andy excited about the food we eat each night for dinner, so I post what we are going to be eating daily on a pink dry erase board. I update it each weekend, since I grocery shop once a week.

These are my recipes for the week of March 14th, 2010. Not only is this fun for me, it keeps me organized so I know what ingredients to shop for. Sandy got me the cute little pink pad on the left- I use it to brainstorm recipes as I surf the net or watch cooking shows.

I highly recommend trying out this method for your weekly meals. It really helps keep things organized, and it makes dinner interesting!

As I begin this blog, I want you all to know that I welcome any and all feedback, good or bad. Please feel free to share any ideas, thought or recipes. You will ALWAYS receive credit for your recipes on my blog, just as I do for the Food Network chefs.

Happy Cooking!

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