Friday, May 24, 2013

Get Grilling!

So it's Memorial Day weekend.  It's actually a time that we remember those who died serving our country.  It's a very important time to honor them.  It also seems to be a time that people get together and barbecue.

Here is a previous post I had just before July 4th, there's some great grilling recipes and side dishes listed there- June 25, 2012 Post

And you know that of course I have a Pinterest board with grilling recipes.  :)

In addition, here are a few other grilling recipes that I think are great.  They are healthy and a change from just burgers and hot dogs.

Chipotle’s Adobo Marinated Chicken- I just shared this recipe for Cinco de Mayo but I think it’s great for a party and I generally have a couple of extra marinating or already grilled in my freezer.  Perfect to pull out for a quick meal. 

Buttermilk and Herb Marinated Chicken- This is an outstanding way to grill chicken breasts.  Keeps them moist and flavorful.

Simple Grilled Tilapia- Very easy method for grilling fish, this is really healthy and so great with fresh veggies. 

Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Glaze- Instead of bbq sauce, try making this sweet and tangy glaze with balsamic vinegar and a touch of honey.

Grilled Cilantro Lime Sweet Potatoes- Sweet potatoes (yams) with cilantro and lime, a
fantastic flavor combination. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Slow Cooking- A list of meals for your slow cooker (Crock Pot)

Some people just love their slow cooker (Crock Pot) and can't live without it.  I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with mine.  I do love the convenience it can provide and I have a few standard things I use it for.  But I also think it's not always as simple as it seems to cook with it.  Well, it's simple to just dump ingredients in and turn it on, but it doesn't always yield great results.  I think it's a bit of a science to fill the pot with the right amount and combination of ingredients for the size of the pot.  And sometimes you have a slow cooker that cooks faster than a recipe says it will and you've got burnt food.  So it's frustrating when you want so much to cook a meal with very little effort while you're away from home and yet it doesn't turn out.  My advice is to try to use recipes that tell you the size of the slow cooker and if you have the same size, then the quantities of the ingredients will work. When in doubt, you can double a small recipe for your big slow cooker. Many recipes want you to brown the meat or poultry on the stove before it goes in.  This can be a step that seems like a pain and defeats the ease of a slow cooker, but if the dish is supposed to have the meat still mostly intact, browning or searing it seals in the juices and the flavor.

Now, I know there are a billion blogs and cook books out there devoted entirely to cooking with a Crock Pot.  Some of the recipes I'm sharing are from those sources, but I wanted to put together a list of good recipes that are rather easy, yield good results and aren't filled with processed ingredients.  A bonus is that many of them are very economical and budget friendly.  It's not super long; you could use them all in one month and since several make a good quantity of food, you would have quite a few meals taken care of for a whole month. But even if you just tried several, you will probably find yourself with new favorites to add to your slow cooker arsenal.

Crock Pot Recipes

 I have a Pinterest Board that contains other links besides what is listed here:  Crock Pot Board

Cilantro Lime Chicken- This one is super easy to prep in advance in a freeze bag, then thaw and put in your slow cooker in the morning.  After 6 hours you have something you can eat in tortillas or over rice.  

Carolina Barbecue Pulled Pork- This is the perfect thing to make in your slow cooker.  It’s great to serve a crowd or to provide you with more than one meal. I have many friends who make this pulled pork on a regular basis.  It's really good!

Slow Cooker Chili- I don’t always make chili using the slow cooker, but when I do this is the recipe I use.  It calls for beer in the recipe, which I have used if we have it, or left it out and it’s still good.

Slow Cooker Lasagna- You can have lasagna on a weeknight!  This recipe just has meat, sauce, noodles and cheese, it doesn’t have a ricotta and egg layer.  It’s simple to assemble; you can just break noodles to fit them in the pot.  The recipe includes instructions for making the sauce.  You can always use y our own sauce or use my marinara sauce recipe

Crock Pot Thai Curry- You may have most of these ingredients on hand and simply need coconut milk and chili paste.  Feel free to substitute the eggplant for another squash or use whatever combination of vegetables you like.  Make it healthier by serving with brown rice, I happen to love brown jasmine rice.

Crock Pot Sesame Honey Chicken- Sweet and spicy chicken you can eat over rice or in lettuce wraps. 

Pasta Fagioli- This is a hearty pasta soup, which is the perfect sort of thing for a slow cooker.  Maybe not ideal in warmer weather, but awesome for the fall and winter.  

Crock Pot Rotisserie Style Chicken- A great way to roast a whole chicken that you can then use in a variety of ways just like when you get a rotisserie chicken at the store.

Shredded Beef Tacos- A very inexpensive chuck roast can give you several meals.  You can use the beef for more than just tacos too.  I love recipes like this. 

Chicken Taco Chili- Taco seasonings plus chili powder with shredded chicken, beans, corn, tomatoes and green chilies.  A delicious low calorie chili. 

Crock Pot Hawaiian BBQ Chicken- If you really want to keep it simple, this has three ingredients. 

Clean Eating Crock Pot Pineapple Chicken- Another very simple recipe- it’s just chicken and salsa in the crock pot and then you serve it with pineapple and zucchini. 

Vegan Crock Pot Lasagna- This is such a great recipe using lots of veggies plus polenta instead of pasta (which I love) and again, it's easy to have lasagna on a weeknight.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cinco de Mayo Food

I really don't need a pseudo holiday as an excuse to enjoy Mexican food.  I enjoy it anytime.  Some version of tacos or burritos are a regular occurrence in our house.  So I figured I'd jump on the bandwagon and give you a quick list of links of my own recipes as well as some favorites.  Enjoy them on Sunday or any random day you like.

Tomato, Avocado and Corn Salsa- Not really authentic, but that doesn't stop it from being good.  I'm actually starting to see fresh corn in the store.  However, both kinds of frozen corn sold at Trader Joe's taste great in this too.  Eat it with chips or spoon some on your taco.

Three Methods for Chicken Tacos- There are far more than three methods for making chicken tacos, but here are the three different ways that I typically make them.

How to Make Homemade Tortilla Chips-  I love to make homemade chips when I have the time.  They are so good!  The fabulous blog Simply Recipes recently posted a great tutorial on several ways to make tortilla chips. 

Refried Beans- I stopped buying canned refried beans awhile ago and make my own.  This is the recipe I use.  Sometimes I put a smoked turkey wing in with the beans when they are boiling, which adds delicious flavor. 

Homemade Taco Seasoning- No starch or fillers, just spices.  I stopped buying taco seasoning in packets ages ago but did use the Pampered Chef Southwest Seasoning for years. Then I started just "manually" seasoning taco meat with chili powder, cumin, garlic, etc.  Now I just mix this up a batch of this and keep it in a container.

Mexican Rice- In college, a friend taught me how to make her mom's Mexican rice.  I've made it that way for years and only recently changed it up a bit.  This recipe follows the same method of cooking, just slightly different ingredients than what I do.  I season my rice with a spoonful of the taco seasoning.  

Flour Tortillas- Very easy to make, just a little learning curve with rolling them out.  Super yum to eat.

Chipotle's Adobo Marinated Chicken- Love this, I've made it a lot recently.  It's supposed to be a copycat recipe for Chipotle the restaurant.  I can't say if it is exactly like it, but it tastes good, so who cares?

Fire Toasted Tomato Lime Salsa- Fresh salsa is awesome, but this salsa made with canned fire roasted tomatoes and chilies is really very good.  And so easy to make too!

Here's a little bonus right here on the page- my recipe for guacamole.  Around here, every Mexican food place has guacamole that is full of chopped raw onion and it makes me so frustrated.  It totally overpowers everything and you can only taste the strong onion.  I used to hate onions, now I wouldn't say I hate them, but I use them in cooking just like I would use garlic, it adds flavor, but I really don't care to actually eat onions and certainly not raw ones.  Anyway, all that to say I don't use raw onions in mine except for what might be in the bit of fresh salsa you mix in.  Again, it adds a bit of flavor, but it's all about the awesome avocado.

2 or 3 medium sized ripe avocados (if avocados are from Costco, 2 makes a lot)
Juice from 1 lime or 2 tsp of lime juice
2 TBL fresh style salsa or pico de gallo (Casa Sanchez brand is our favorite)
Chopped fresh cilantro, about 1 tablespoon
Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and garlic powder- season to taste

Remove avocado flesh from the skin and in a medium size bowl mash slightly with a fork, but leave it a bit chunky.  Mix in lime juice, salsa and cilantro.  Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Taste and add more of anything you want more of.  You can add more heat with a dash of hot sauce (like Frank’s or Crystal brand) or a dash of cayenne pepper.