Mexican Cauliflower “Rice”

Mexican Cauliflower Rice_1 on Whisk Together

Good Morning!  It is our First Day of School here!

  I finished “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty.  I think her last name rocks!  What a fun last name, don’t you think?  But anyway, the book is hilarious, the ending is jaw dropping and the conclusion perfect.  Great beach read and fun fiction.

Here’s a photo of my reading buddy, Oreo 🙂

Oreo on Whisk Together

Recipe:  After making Cauliflower Fried “Rice”, I thought we would try a Mexican version to go with our beef enchilada burritos.  That recipe is next!  The food processor makes this super simple to pulse into little bits of rice.  Everything is made in the skillet in less than 15 minutes!  You can make this one day and store it in the fridge or freezer – it reheats great.  The recipes makes enough for 7-8 servings, so you could freeze some of it if it is too much food for the week.

Mexican Cauliflower Rice can be served inside a lunch burrito, a breakfast burrito, a side dish to chimichangas, tacos, enchiladas, dinner burritos, taco lasagna, Mexican beef casserole, quesadillas, taco chili, etc.  Add a can of black beans on top tossed with a little cumin and chili powder for a veggie and protein dinner.

I used salsa verde and a green bell pepper in this recipe.  But feel free to use what salsa and bell peppers that you have on hand.

Mexican Cauliflower “Rice”
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 Tb. olive oil or bacon fat
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 green or red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cut off the florets from the cauliflower head. Chop into same size chunks. Pulse the cauliflower in the food processor about 15 times – about the size of rice. This will take 2-3 batches.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.
  3. Add onion and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes or onion is translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and spices. Cook thirty seconds.
  5. Add the cauliflower rice and salsa. Put the lid on the skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 7-8 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and salt and pepper to taste. Add tomatoes and cilantro. Serve warm.
  7. Alternatively, you could mix everything together into a baking dish and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees – being sure to stir halfway through.


Roasted Tomato Soup and Saving $3,800 Per Year

Roasted Tomato Soup-3858

Hi ya’ll!  I’ve been taking and editing about 75-100 photos per night for Vacation Bible School this week!  Not a lot of new recipes going on, but here is….

What I did learn this week in the kitchen:

1.  You can double the Whole Grain Chia Waffle recipe.  It does great!  I add an extra 1/4 cup of milk because the batter is a little on the thick side.

2.  You can use a whole pound of Italian Sausage or Italian Turkey Sausage instead of 1/2 beef and 1/2 sausage in the Tortellini with Italian Sausage.

3.  Making a Taco Braid is fun.  But using Whole Wheat Pizza Crust instead of the regular Pizza Dough is not as tasty. I love Whole Wheat Pizza Dough… but not with taco meat.

How to Save $3800 per year on Whisk Together

In addition, I wanted to include how we save $3800 per year.  I know there are a LOT of lists out there.  I tried to keep this practical and thought-provoking and hopefully something new.

Where did I come up with the $3,800 figure?  Here is my breakdown:

1.  Haircuts at Home ($240)

I purchased a Wahl Hair Cutting kit back in 2004.  The new one they have looks really cool!  Mine’s all black and boring.  This kit that I bought in the past did come with a DVD to help learn how to cut hair.  Back to our regularly scheduled program…
I help cut my husband’s hair about once every 4-6 weeks.  At $15 per cut (and that’s not including a tip) and 8 cuts per year = $120 (or $1200 over 10 years!)
I use the same Wahl clippers to cut my son’s hair once every 6 weeks or so.  Let’s say he is cheaper at the hair salon and we don’t tip (which would be bad… but I don’t want a tipping debate on how much to tip and how I skewed my numbers) = 8 cuts at $10 each = $80
Now my daughter’s hair needs cut only every 12 weeks or so.  That’s $40.

For guys, it is relatively easy to cut hair.  Use the right clipper guide for his hair (we like 1/2″ guide for overall and 1 and 1/2″ for the front).  The instructional video is now on Youtube as well.

For girls, it isn’t so easy.  But wait!  There’s YouTube!  In this 6 minute video, my daughter and I figured out how to cut her hair.  Nothing fancy, but it’s what she wanted.

I can’t cut my own hair.  If you need a cheap place to get a haircut, locate a salon school nearby.  Our salon school charges $6 for a haircut.

2.  No cable/satellite and no landline ($900)

Charter would LOVE to sell us cable and a telephone line.  We played that game before – hook us in with a great intro rate and then after 12-18 months we are way in over our heads!  Our family watches a handful of shows which are almost all on Netflix or Hulu.

I signed up for their free trials.  I put the “Cut off” date for the trial on my calendar to alert me that my trial would end.  But, instead we let it go and kept them both and cut off cable.  I do miss watching “Elementary” and the “Food Network”….  Sometimes.  But we DO get to watch: all the seasons of “Merlin” (I can’t believe it ended!), “The Good Wife”, “Castle”, “Once Upon a Time”, “Agent Carter”, “Marvel: Agents of Shield”, “Frasier”, “Third Rock from the Sun” and many others.

Amazon Prime has movies and TV shows as well.  But it doesn’t work with Chromecast since they have their own “Amazon Firestick”.  It might work for you though.  Or we could just get the stupid stick.  OR Amazon could change it so I can Chromecast without buying their stick!  Ha!

3.  Saving my money at Vanguard instead of a brick and mortar bank ($63)

Back when I had a full time job at Citibank, I was one of those weird people who listed to the afternoon radio talk shows.  Here in St. Louis it was always about how to save money.  Or in other words – the best way to use the money you have.

US Bank and many others have a savings account and/or money market account rate set for .05%.  It used to be higher before the recession.  But for now, it is .05%.  You could get a tiny bit higher if you lock your money in a CD or deposit over $1,000,000 into a savings account that would earn .05% more and that would be silly.

At this rate, $1000 in a money market account would earn you 50 cents…..for the ENTIRE year.  Putting that same amount into a mutual fund at Vanguard could earn $63 per year.  (Assuming that the rates are going to be about the same… the past year earnings have been as high as 9%, but the lowest I have seen is 6.3% so I’m using that number).

Now #1:  this is money invested.  No future guarantees of course.  But since the stock market will more than likely be higher in 10 or 20 years (we hope) then it is a better return.  Actually with inflation, money sitting in a 0 or .05% account is losing money because of inflation.  The best way to save is not to spend your money.  True.  But letting it sit also causes you to lose money through inflation depreciation.

#2: This is only money that you have AFTER  you have an emergency fund in a liquid account like those savings and money market accounts that don’t make any money.  In case something were to happen, an emergency fund is necessary and Dave Ramsey gives a great “baby steps” outline on how to get there and why.

#3 This is also money AFTER you have paid the debts off or refinanced the house.  Say you have a mortgage for $100,000.  Over 15 years, the interest is $24,305.  Over 30 years, the interest is $56,567.  That’s $27,000!  (Based on 3% 15 year and 3.5% 30 year.  30 year mortgages are always higher because the bank is at a greater risk.)

Vanguard is one of the least expensive management firm out there and never changed or sold my accounts like other companies do.  I did a search and some other people have done the same as I have: tried different places to invest and moved EVERYthing to Vanguard.  Just a .5% change in the management fee can mean tens of thousands of dollars lost at retirement age.  (I’m 35 years old, so gives you an idea as to why that would matter to me.)

Fees can destroy your return.

Why do I have a Vanguard account?  I taught public school for two years and therefore had money in a 403B retirement account.  It’s like a 401K in the private sector.  When I quit teaching, I wanted the money to earn a better interest rate somewhere with low overheard fees.  So hence why I did all this research.  No, we don’t have tons of money.  I wish!

4.  Investing in a toaster oven (my pizza oven) in order to eat out less ($1780)

I think I might spend more than average at the grocery store, but we started eating out a LOT less.  Gas money saved, time saved, healthier eating and just better food over all.  For our family of 4, eating at a fast food restaurant costs about $25 per meal.  Do that once a week and you have $1300 per year.  Eating at a sit down restaurant costs about $40 per meal – Do this once a month- at about $480 per year.

A few years ago, I purchased a toaster convection oven.  What prompted me?  It was 115 degree heat index here in St. Louis for almost 2 months and over 90 degrees for 3 months.  Too hot to grill and too hot to turn on the oven.

I use the toaster oven every single day to toast bread, broil 4 grilled cheese sandwiches at once, bake pizza, roast vegetables, bake oatmeal, keep meals warm, bake appetizers, extra oven space during the holidays, and reheat leftovers so they are crispy and not soggy.  Eating leftovers is super frugal.  But sometimes they are not very good out of a microwave and 2 extra minutes in the toaster oven turns a cold, soggy pizza into a crisp, fresh slice of pie.

I know it was a little money to buy it in the first place, but avoiding eating out several times a year over the past five years as saved us ten times what it cost.

Where do we shop for food?
1. Aldi:  produce, butter, cheese, cream cheese, raisins, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, canned pumpkin.
2.  Trader Joe’s:  dried fruit, nuts, tea, seasonings, chips, cage free eggs, milk, mascarpone cheese, baking powder, cookies, chocolate, frozen fruit and vegetables, lasagna, turkey corn dogs, white whole wheat flour, and the kids get a treat for finding the stuffed animal in the store.
3.  Costco:  fruit and nut bars, yogurt, meat, fish, frozen wild blueberries, fresh spinach, cinnamon, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, lemon juice, olive oil, strawberries in season.

None of these places take coupons I know.  But after kid #1 got sick and almost ended up at the doctor’s office because of a “freebie” I found while clipping coupons, I stopped clipping them and started shopping at other stores.

5.  Exercising at home instead of the gym ($840)

Our local YMCA charges $70 per month for a family membership ($70 x 12 months).  This does include childcare and all kinds of cool things.  People have different goals.  People need the motivation of a gym membership and I get that.  Being a healthy weight will save time and money in the long run as well.

One of the commenters on my blog mentioned “Fitness Blender” workout videos, and I have been hooked ever since.

1.  I like their upbeat personalities
2.  I like that there is no music.
3.  They have a variety of low impact and high impact/challenging workouts.
4.  They have a great website where you can put in your desired time, workout level, target area, etc.
5.  These workouts really work!  I gained 5 pounds this past year, but my clothing size stayed the same.
6.  They wear normal workout clothes.  (Sorry… watching bikinis every week 5 times a week?  Doesn’t motivate me.)
7.  Every video 100% quality and is 100% FREE.

I’m not saying Jillian Michaels does not work.  I still love those workouts.  But after 3 years of the same one, it is nice to pull from a different variety.

Link: FitnessBlender and Youtube Channel Fitness Blender

The past 3 years I have been at 135 pounds.  This year recently I am up to 140 pounds.  Truthfully though I tried on my jeans and they fit just fine.  I think it is the heavier weight lifting on Fitness Blender that caused the weight gain.  That or the Twizzler Bites cherry flavored 🙂

**Note:  I am not paid to promote or post about any of these blogs, videos, websites or products.  They are just items I use on a daily basis that help save us money and make every day go a little smoother.**

Roasted Tomato Soup-3851-on Whisk Together


This soup is PERFECT for this time of year!  Tons of tomatoes and basil are at hand and ready for picking right now.  Not in the mood for hot soup in the summer?  No problem!  Cool to room temperature and freeze until winter.


Roasted Tomato Soup
Author: Mary Ellen P. Riley / Whisk Together
Serves: 8 servings
  • 3 pounds ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tb. butter
  • 1 -28 ounce can plum tomatoes, whole tomatoes or diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 cups water or chicken broth
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment or foil. Spray with olive oil cooking spray. Lay the tomatoes cut side up on the sheet. Spray with more olive oil cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 40-45 minutes.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Cook until translucent and turning brown – about 10 minutes. Add garlic. and cook 30 seconds.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients: canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken broth or water. Add the roasted tomatoes with their juices as well.
  4. Turn heat to medium high and get the soup up to a boil. Turn heat down to medium or medium low and simmer for 40 minutes.
  5. At this point, you can use a blender to puree the soup in batches, or an immersion blender, or a food processor, or a food mill with a coarse blade.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. I like to sprinkle shaved Parmesan cheese on top.
Recipe adapted from The Barefoot Contessa[br][br]Recipe will easily cut in half


Summer Vegetable Tian with Caramelized Onions

Summer Vegetable Tian on Whisk Together2

*Book Update*  I finished “Before Happiness” by Shawn Achor and find it even better than his first book, “The Happiness Advantage.”  The problem with a lot of these college studies is their sample source:  young college students.  Most of us aren’t young college students and most of us were not privileged to attend Harvard, Yale or Columbia.  Nevertheless, the book is a fountain of great information, some funny side notes and practical use into the family and professional life.

I am almost finished with “Million Dollar Arm” which is a fun and fast read.  I don’t really care about sports all that much, but this book is so fun to read that the subject doesn’t matter.  The gripping story about two young men brought back from India to the United States to learn to play baseball professionally is just crazy – people prepare all their lives for this event and these two boys are so dedicated that they make it to the minor leagues!

  (Amazon photo)   (Amazon photo)

*FREE FOOD and FREE SNACKS*  “Graze” has been advertising a bit on my Facebook feed, but I finally received a coupon to try a whole box of snacks absolutely FREE.    Now here is the link so you get your first box free as well.  It is like Netflix starting out – you just cancel before getting charged if you don’t want anymore- but still get to try out their stuff.  I love natural and I love free!  🙂  You get a free box “coupon” in your account, and then order your box.  It didn’t charge me for it and due to arrive in a couple weeks.  I can’t wait!

nibble box

Here is the link for free food!

**Recipe **  “Tian de Courgettes aux Tomates”  This recipe is from France and called a Summer Vegetable Tian.  I have seen it called a gratin elsewhere.  Most produce boxes this time of year are going to be FULL of zucchini and tomatoes.  The summer vegetable tian uses many of them and rightfully so.  I made half a batch and should have made the entire 9×13 because it went so fast.  The kids… well, they weren’t thrilled, but they tried it.  Personally, I think it was worth it because it was so delicious and highly recommend it.   Not quite the looker in presentation – it makes up for it in taste.

Everything tastes better with Caramelized onions on it anyway!

What I’ve been eating like almost every day:  Whole Wheat Waffles with natural maple sugar free syrup every morning substituting applesauce for oil and white whole wheat flour for the AP flour.  We eat these at least 4 times a month!  Trying mainly at dinner time and work from there.

Update on family favorite Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins:  using applesauce for oil, white whole wheat flour for AP flour and no brown sugar, each muffin is 158 calories each!  That might be good or bad for you…. I dunno.

Summer Vegetable Tian with Caramelized Onions


  • 1/4 cup olive oil (might not use it all up... that's okay)
  • 3 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4"
  • 2 garlic cloves, mince or press
  • 1 lb. zucchini, 1/4" thick
  • 1 lb. yellow squash, 1/4" thick (or use same amount of zucchini)
  • 1 lb. plum tomatoes, 1/4" thick
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/4. tsp. dried thyme
  • black pepper
  • 2 oz. Greyere cheese or Parmesan cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)


  1. Spray 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. In large nonstick skillet, add 2 Tb oil. Heat over medium heat. Add onions.
  4. Cook with 1/2 tsp. salt for 12-15 minutes.
  5. Add garlic. Cook 30 seconds.
  6. Take onions and garlic and pour into prepped 9x13 pan.
  7. Shingle the zucchini, squash and tomatoes in one layer.
  8. Sprinkle 1 Tb. oil and thyme. Add salt and pepper.
  9. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the foil and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 20-30 minutes.

Recipe without Plugin:

Summer Vegetable Tian with Caramelized Onions

1/4 cup olive oil (might not use it all up… that’s okay)
3 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4″
2 garlic cloves, mince or press
1 lb. zucchini, 1/4″ thick
1 lb. yellow squash, 1/4″ thick (or use same amount of zucchini)
1 lb. plum tomatoes, 1/4″ thick
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/4. tsp. dried thyme
black pepper
2 oz. Greyere cheese or Parmesan cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)

Spray 9×13″ baking dish with cooking spray.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In large nonstick skillet, add 2 Tb oil.  Heat over medium heat.  Add onions.
Cook with 1/2 tsp. salt for 12-15 minutes.
Add garlic.  Cook 30 seconds.
Take onions and garlic and pour into prepped 9×13 pan.
Shingle the zucchini, squash and tomatoes in one layer.
Sprinkle 1 Tb. oil and thyme.  Add salt and pepper.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake 20-30 minutes.

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

Next post I am working on…

Lose 30 pounds

Caprese Lasagna Roll-Ups

Good morning!!!  I have so much to tell you.  First of all, I was in the Dominican Republic last week.  Since we stayed at the super awesome Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, I couldn’t make or cook anything.  They give you room service just like on a cruise – whenever and whatever you want!  My husband and I went by ourselves (Thanks Grandma, Grandpa, Maggie, Sarah and Kathleen!) and had the best vacation ever.  Hard Rock really does make you feel like a rock star.  Here are some of my favorite photos and some of the resort.

CAM00312  Pretty Desserts!  (Phone photo)

CAM00314 Lady Gaga and a Phone in the bathroom!

Punta Cana Punta Cana_2 Punta Cana_3 Punta Cana_5 Punta Cana_6 Punta Cana_11 Punta Cana_15 Punta Cana_16 Punta Cana_18 Punta Cana_24 Punta Cana_26 Punta Cana_28 Punta Cana_30 Punta Cana_34 Punta Cana_36 Punta Cana_40 Punta Cana_42 Punta Cana_43

Of course, I read lots of books as well and I will get to those later.  But first the recipe!

This was a relatively fast and easy recipe.  Rolling each lasagna up made it look pretty, but was a little time consuming.  The flavors were delicious – especially since the tomatoes were fresh and home-grown.  I love everything Caprese!

Caprese Lasagna_9 on Whisk Together

Caprese Lasagna Roll-Ups
yield 8 servings

8 lasagna noodles (not the No Boil)
14 oz. shredded mozzerella
3/4 cup Ricotta cheese
1 egg or 1 egg white
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
4-5 Roma or small tomatoes the size of a lasagna noodle, sliced 1/4″ thick
1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced thin
1 cup marinara sauce*

*Marinara sauce:  you can purchase this premade.  I opened a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes and added 1 Tb. of the Wildtree Spaghetti blend right into the can and stirred it.  That’s it!  Or you could take a little oil and onion, saute with some garlic and oregano/basil/salt/pepper and add 28 oz. crushed tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes.

1.  Bring a large stockpot filled with water to a boil and boil the lasagna noodles.  I had trouble fitting them in a Dutch Oven, but the stockpot would be tall enough.
2.  Add your lasagna noodles once water is boiling and cook per the box directions.  Drain, and do not rinse.
3.  Turn on the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 7×11 pan with cooking spray.  Add about 1/2 cup of marinara sauce to the bottom of the pan.
4. While the noodles cool, make the cheese mixture:  combine your Ricotta cheese and egg.  Add 12 oz. mozzarella and Parmesan.  Mix that up really well.  Add some black pepper to taste.
5.  Now time to assemble!  Take you noodle and lay it flat.

Caprese Lasagna on Whisk Together
Add about 1/4 cup of cheese to the noodle and spread.

Caprese Lasagna_1 on Whisk Together

Layer 4 slices of tomato.

Caprese Lasagna_2 on Whisk Together

Sprinkle with basil.

Caprese Lasagna_4 on Whisk Together

Roll your lasagna noodle up from the short side.  Place seam side down into the pan.

Caprese Lasagna_6 on Whisk Together
6.  Add about 1-2 Tb. of marinara sauce on top of the noodle.  Repeat with all the noodles.
7.  Before putting in the oven, feel free to add some more cheese on top.
8.  You can cover the top with a piece of foil sprayed with cooking spray to keep the edges from getting too crispy.  Or leave it off if you like that.
9.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil if you used it and Bon Appetit!  Feel free to top with more shredded basil!

Caprese Lasagna_8 on Whisk Together

Recipe from Cooking Classy

Caprice Pizza

Caprice Pizza_6CR

Book Club:  We discussed “Light Between Oceans” by ML Stedman last night and everyone really liked the book.  It has great reviews on Amazon, too!  Our next book is “The Giver” by Lois Lowry and I may try and read that tomorrow because my Middle School Language Arts test is in a week.

Recipe: I love love love Dewey’s Pizza!!!  It is a local pizza chain here in St. Louis.  My favorite is the “caprice pizza” because it is so different and I don’t care for greasy toppings that make my stomach churn with grease.  So, if you want a vegan recipe or something new to try, this is a great one if you like all things caprice like me.  I did my best to copycat their pizza and I believe this is really close.  It would be spot on if I could have their dough recipe 🙂

Caprice Pizza
8 slices

1lb. pizza crust – buy at the store, or make yourself (Dewey’s Pizza sells their dough balls, too.)
4 Tb. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup shredded mozzeralla
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
3-4 roma tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons (or use dry if not available….)

Caprice Pizza_1CR     Caprice PizzaCR   Caprice Pizza_2CR

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  (Personally, I let my stone heat inside the oven as well and make the pizza on parchment.  Then I can slide the parchment and the pizza onto the hot stone which gives it that crispy outside and gooey inside.)  Get your pizza dough ready.  Premade dough balls I let rest for 20 minutes.  Roll into a large circle.

Caprice Pizza_3CR

2.  Mix your olive oil and garlic together.  Brush onto the dough.

3.  Sprinkle cheese evenly.

4.  Lay out the tomatoes.

5.  Sprinkle the basil.

6.  Bake for 14-20 minutes.  I’m sorry for the wide range of time.  It depends on if you use a stone, or a preheated stone or what type of dough you used.

Or, make only half the recipe if your kids like pepperoni instead!  Enjoy!

© Mary Ellen Riley/ Mary Riley Photography All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

Caprice Pizza_4CR

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