Sunday, April 27, 2014

Shredded Salsa Chicken

My husband and I are serious DIY house project folks. We've done a LOT of projects in our home and are still working on finishing a few things off. Today my amazing husband powered out the last bit of tiling we needed to do in the kitchen. We had a patch of backsplash that had been just painted, and now it's covered in lovely white subway tiles! Yay husband! As awesome as house projects are, kitchen projects tend to leave you sans fully functional kitchen for some lengths of time. Today I cooked in a corner just the size of my Crockpot. 

This is a super easy Crockpot recipe, great for dinner and perfect for cooking ahead for weekday lunches. This chicken makes great tacos, burritos, and salads. I'll be eating this for lunch salads most of next week.

Shredded Salsa Chicken
Makes 6 servings

For the Chicken
4 chicken breasts
1 cup salsa (I used mild this time so my toddler will eat it)
1 15oz can black beans
1 cup frozen corn kernals
1 tablespoon oil
Salt and Pepper 

For toppings
Sour cream
Chopped red onion
Chopped cilantro

Place chicken and 1 cup of salsa in a crockpot. Cook on high for 2 hours. Turn down to low and cook 1 more hour.

When the chicken is 20 minutes shy of done, drain and rinse a can of black beans and set aside. Heat a pan to very hot and add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add corn kernels to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly charred. 

Add corn and black beans to the chicken and cook for the last 20 minutes. Shred chicken with forks and enjoy in tacos, burritos or on salad! I like to top my salad with sour cream, chopped onions, avocado slices, cilantro, more salsa and some hot sauce. Delicious!

Things made this time last year...

Dutch Baby

Chicken Cacciatore

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cranberry Pistachio Energy Bars

So I was flipping through my April issue of Cooking Light and came across a recipe that called for such an awesome mix of ingredients that I just had to try it!  Also, I think (for the first time ever) I either had every ingredient or a perfect substitute.  I swear that never happens to me! 

These Cranberry Pistachio bars looked beautiful on the page and when I saw almond butter, chocolate, agave, cranberries, pistachios, and coconut – I was SOLD!  Not to mention, it called for healthy whole grains like oats and quinoa.  These bars are delicious, and I had 3 other people vouch for that.  I made a couple of slight modifications but Cooking Light deserves all the credit for this one!  Kudos!

Cranberry Pistachio Energy Bars

1c uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats
¾ c uncooked quinoa
¾ c sweetened, dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
½ c salted, dry-roasted pistachios, chopped
1/3 c flaked, sweetened (or unsweetened) coconut
2 tbsp chia seed meal
1/8 c dark chocolate chips, finely chopped
½ c unsalted creamy almond butter
6 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp vegetable oil (or almond or coconut oil)
½ tsp salt
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spread oats and quinoa on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for 8 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool.  Place oat mixture in a large bowl, and stir in cranberries, pistachios, coconut, chia seed meal and chocolate.

Tip: Make your own seed meal!  The original recipe called for flaxseed meal but I only had chia seeds on hand.  Making your own meal is super easy.  Just use a coffee grinder, bullet, or powerful blender to break seeds up into meal.  Seeds often pass through the body whole, so breaking them down into meal allows the body to absorb more of the nutrients from the seeds.

Combine almond butter, agave, oil, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cook 1 min, stirring constantly.  The mixture will thicken slightly.  Pour almond butter mixture over oat mixture; toss well to coat. 

Note:  I used my hands to thoroughly mix in wet ingredients to coat the dry ingredients as it was pretty thick and would have taken forever with a spoon.

Press mixture into an 8” square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350F for 13 mins or until lightly browned.  Cool completely in dish.  Cut into bars or squares.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Baked Cod with Mango Butter Sauce

Spring is in full force in Portland! The flowers are blooming, the trees are leafing out, the temps are rising (thank goodness!) and lighter food is hitting our table more and more often. I found the recipe for this mango butter sauce a really long time ago in some sort of magazine... I made it once, wrote it down and tossed the mag - totally out of character - I wonder what else was in there! Anyway, this is a great, tangy, citrusy, rich sauce that's good on chicken or fish. Most recently we ate this over a super easy cod baked over sliced onions. On the side we had roasted asparagus and rice cooked with saffron, green onions and pine nuts. So good!!

Mango Butter Sauce
This recipe makes plenty for 6 - makes about a cup of sauce

1/2 cup sherry
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 ripe mangos, peeled and roughly chopped (or 1 cup of mango juice, like Kerns Nectar, or frozen mango chunks)
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup of butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Chopped cilantro to top

In a saute pan, cook the shallots in the sherry until the sherry has cooked down to about 2 tablespoons, about 7 minutes.

While the shallots and sherry cooks, peel and chop the mangos. In a blender or food processor, blend mangos, orange juice, and vinegar until pureed. (If using the mango juice, skip this blending step.)

Add the mango juice to the cooked down sherry and shallots. Reduce to low heat and cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in butter pieces, salt and pepper. Keep over very low heat until ready to use.

Baked Cod Over Onions
Preheat oven to 350
Serves 4

4 filets of cod (or other mild, white fish)
1 onion, sliced very finely 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

Spread butter over a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange slices of onion over the butter. Place filets over the onions and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until this fish is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.  

Things made this time last year...

Baked Gnocchi
Potato Galette

White Chicken Chili

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Thai Lemon Shrimp with Coconut Rice

Thai food definitely knows how to wake up your taste buds.  This cuisine often satisfies every mouth-watering desire you could ask for from salty (fish sauce) to sweet (brown sugar) to bright (lemongrass) to spicy (chiles).  These are many common ingredients that you’ll find in Thai dishes.  That being said, you’re not often left thirsting for a little more of something.

I made this for the first time and it has been deemed an automatic weeknight staple (according to hubby).  Not only was this one of the easiest dishes I’ve ever made, it was pretty enough to make for a special occasion - not to mention, amazingly flavorful!  I decided to stick with the Thai theme and serve this with a side of coconut rice and sautéed bok choy.  The richness of the coconut rice balances well with the delicate shrimp and brightness of the lemon.  Seriously, this one is a winner!

Thai Lemon Shrimp:
1 lb shrimp
1/3 c sweet chili sauce
1 lemon, juice & zest
1 lime, zest only
1 tsp chili paste (like sambal oelek)
1 tbsp fish sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp brown sugar
¼ c coconut milk
¼ c cilantro, chopped

Marinate shrimp in the chili sauce, lemon juice, lemon zest, lime zest, chili paste, fish sauce, garlic, and brown sugar for 15 minutes.

Heat a pan over medium heat.  Add shrimp and marinade to pan.  Add coconut milk.  Simmer until shrimp are cooked (2 minutes on each side).  Remove from heat and mix in cilantro.

Coconut Rice:
Cooking spray
2c jasmine rice
1c coconut milk (light or full fat)
2-3 tbsp sweetened shredded coconut
2 tsp salt
2 c water

Rinse rice with water and drain.  Spray rice cooker bowl with cooking spray.  Add rice, coconut milk, coconut, salt and water.  Cook in a rice cooker according to directions.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Strawberry Cheesecake Pancakes

This is another recipe that comes from my chef-friend and family. Oh man, oh man, I am a lucky girl to know these people! They make our world better. Anyway, these are absolutely my favorite pancakes. Ever. They really do taste like bites of cheesecake and the macerated strawberries and the little dusting of powdered sugar we put on top of them add all the sweetness we ever want. We never use syrup on these, they just don't need it. This recipe doesn't make a huge batch, but it's plenty for the two of us and our tiny gentleman. It's fine for four people with a side of bacon or some eggs. I hope all weekends include cheesecake pancakes.

Strawberry Cheesecake Pancakes
Serves 2 a hearty meal, serves 4 a side of pancakes

For the Strawberries
2 cups hulled and sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon sugar
juice of 1 lemon

For the Pancakes
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ricotta (or cottage cheese. I love ricotta.)

The first step is to prep the strawberries so they have time to rest and macerate. In a large bowl zest the lemon and set aside (it's far easier to zest a lemon before it's juiced then try to manhandle it afterwards.) In a small bowl, juice the lemon and add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Slice strawberries and stir into the sweetened lemon juice and set aside.

This weekend I had a tiny helper who LOVES cooking with me!! So sweet and such a good strawberry washer.  :)

In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients - flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl with the zest, whisk together all of the wet ingredients - milk, sugar, egg, melted butter, vanilla, and ricotta. 

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

I love my cast iron pans - I have a griddle pan and a skillet - I use them for EVERYTHING! In a lightly buttered pan cook pancakes until bubbles form on the top and then flip and cook until browned on both sides. 

I keep pancakes warm in the toaster oven while I cook in batches or in a 200 degree oven if I'm doubling this recipe. 

By the way, this recipe doubles really well and the batter keeps for 2 days in the fridge (or in a cooler if you're camping and in charge of breakfast on day 2.)

A few other strawberry or cheesecake recipes...

Things made this time last year...


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chicken and Veggie TJ's Pizza

Trader Joe’s – home of the amazing fresh garlic & herb pizza dough.  I love making homemade pizzas.  I like the fact that I can put all of the toppings on the pizza that I want, make them healthier, and save A LOT of money.  Not to mention, you can eat it hot and right out of the oven when the cheese is still melty and gooey.  Ahhh…bliss! 

Trader Joe’s is featuring the “Out of this World Pizza Edition” of their Fearless Flyer right now.  When it arrived in my mailbox I had to run (not walk) to my neighborhood TJs and pick up all of my favorite pizza toppings.  For this pizza, I chose chicken, marinated artichokes, sundried tomatoes, leafy greens, and red onion.  Totally healthy (well, as healthy as pizza can get) and totally satisfying!  It was the perfect meal to a perfect day of March Madness.

Garlic & herb pizza dough
Pizza sauce
Sundried tomatoes (julienne cut in olive oil), chopped
Marinated artichokes, chopped
Leafy greens, chopped
Red onion, chopped
Grilled chicken breast or rotisserie chicken, chopped
Mozzarella cheese
Black pepper
Italian seasoning

Here’s are some helpful notes about these ingredients:
1.     My favorite pizza dough at TJs is the garlic & herb.  However, you can easily substitute their plain or whole wheat pizza dough.  Yes, they’re all fresh and in the same section.
2.     TJs has cooked, grilled chicken breast ready and waiting for you to just warm up.  How awesome is that?  You can use it for anything in a pinch!
3.     Leafy greens.  I picked up a powerful organic leafy greens mixture from TJs this time to use for the pizza.  It contains baby kale, baby chard, and baby spinach.  You can use just baby spinach if you want but why not add all of the wonderful nutrients with the kale and chard???  You won’t be disappointed!

The beauty of making a homemade pizza is you can choose how much of everything you want and pile it on.  Therefore, I’m NOT going to tell you how much of each ingredient to use here.  That right – if you want more leafy greens then GO FOR IT!  If you want less onion then by all means, put as little as you like!  The whole idea behind making homemade pizza is to personalize it J.

Some things I would recommend are to squeeze out some of the oil from the sundried tomatoes before putting on the pizza.  Also, pile on the leafy greens – they shrink a lot.  Lastly, place all ingredients and then put cheese on top.  I noticed that some of the ingredients might char or dry out if you don’t put cheese over it.  For the finishing touches, sprinkle some black pepper and Italian seasoning on the cheese for a little added spice.

The Final Four is this weekend…I know what I’ll be eating!