Monday, May 30, 2011

Easy chicken

So I had a friend mention this trick to me once, and it is now my favorite way to cook chicken for recipes. So easy, and it is really hard to mess up. Trust me - it took me months to get over my terror of the crockpot, but once I did, I loved it. Perfect for casseroles, chicken salad, pasta, etc.

I'm not cooking for a large family, so usually I only need a few chicken breasts at a time (never more than a pound). You can use any kind of chicken, but using boneless skinless breasts is probably the easiest and healthiest.

For around 12-16 oz of chicken:

Plug in crockpot.

Press "Low" button.

Place chicken in crockpot.

Pour just enough water or chicken broth to almost cover the chicken breasts.

Cover with lid.

Check in about 4 hours. If cooked through, put breasts on a large plate, discard excess fat, and shred with two forks.

Use cooked chicken in recipe. 

Voila! Moist, perfectly shredded chicken with minimal effort. Since I always tend to overcook chicken if I bake it (fear of pink), this was a lifesaver (being dramatic) for me. You can even cook frozen breasts, it will just take a few hours longer. Try it out with your crockpot - if it's your first time, check a few times because some will cook faster/hotter than others. Some people say they can put their chicken in on low overnight - because I only cook in small amounts it's usually around 3-4 hours on low (perfect to do while you're at church on Sundays). Once you get the hang of it it will be second nature. Try it!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Oreo Pudding Cookies

For the love of all that is sweet, please make these cookies. They are SOOOO good. I will be making variations of this recipe until the day I die. Not joking. Instant pudding mixes should always be added to cookie dough - it gives just a little something to the texture that makes them perfect, in my opinion. 

Served these at dessert night last week and they were gone very fast - I even had a few requests from some individuals (boys, of course) that I make special batches for them. Big hit! Hence the not-so-great picture - I had to take one real quick that night before the last 3 were eaten...

You can find Oreo pudding mix at most large grocery stores...I found mine at Smith's Marketplace. I'd imagine these would be delicious with actual chopped Oreo bits, too, perhaps instead of one of the chocolate bars? 

Oreo Pudding Cookies
recipe modified just a bit from Sweet Treats and More

1 cup butter, room temp
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 large package instant Oreo Pudding mix
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 Hershey's Cookies N Cream Candy Bar chopped into small pieces
1 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Candy Bar chopped into small pieces
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Combine flour and soda in a small bowl and set aside.  Cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in pudding mix until blended, then eggs and vanilla.  Add flour and soda mixture. Stir in cookies n cream pieces and chocolate chips.  Using a cookie dough scooper, place dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.  Let cookies cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before moving to a cooking rack.  Store in air-tight container.  Makes about 3 1/2 dozen. 


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Light Chicken Salad

I love love love this recipe. I make a good-sized batch every few months and bask in a week of wonderful sandwiches. You can add stuff if you'd like - occasionally I add a half-ounce of chopped walnuts to a serving, and chopped apples, craisins, or grape halves could be good. That's what is so great - you can mix and match, add and subtract until you find what tastes best and what works for you.

Chicken Salad

2/3 cup chopped celery
8-9 oz. chopped cooked chicken breast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 Tbsp dried dill weed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp fat-free mayonnaise
2 Tbsp mayonnaise made with olive oil (or regular)
1 Tbsp sour cream (fat-free or light)

In a large bowl combine Dijon mustard, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Mix all dry seasonings into cream mixture, stir well, then add chicken and celery until completely covered. Chill in refrigerator before serving.

Eat it on whole wheat bread or on lettuce leaves to be extra good. This recipe usually yields about 4-5 lunch sandwiches for me, but you can eat tons of it in one sitting and still be pretty guilt-free! :) Make it in larger batches if that's your plan...


Friday, May 20, 2011

Food Fact Friday: How to choose a watermelon

I had always been taught to knock on a watermelon to see if it was good...if it sounded hollow, it was probably ok. However, apparently there is a science to it. Some of this info could have been helpful when Cassie and I were choosing out a watermelon at the store last night - but luckily we turned out with a perfect one. Still, now I know exactly what to look for since peak watermelon season is just around the corner:

When choosing a whole watermelon, look for one that is heavy for its size with a rind that is relatively smooth and that is neither overly shiny nor overly dull. In addition, one side of the melon should have an area that is distinct in color from the rest of the rind, displaying a yellowish or creamy tone. This is the underbelly, the place that was resting on the ground during ripening, and if the fruit does not have this marking, it may have been harvested prematurely, which will negatively affect its taste, texture and juiciness.  

Besides tasting amazing, watermelon is a great source of lycopene, vitamins A and C, and tons of antioxidants that help prevent many cancers and macular degeneration, among other things. It's also supposed to help decrease bloating and boosts skin growth and buoyancy.

Because this food has a higher water content and lower calorie content than many other fruits (a whole cup of watermelon contains only 48 calories), it delivers more nutrients per calorie - awesome, right? So I don't feel bad about eating almost half of a large watermelon myself in the course of two days...

read more about watermelon here

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
6 oz high-quality semisweet chocolate, cut into chunks
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy. Add egg and beat. Mix in sour cream until well blended. With mixer running, add dry ingredients in batches until thoroughly combined. Fold in chocolate.

In a small shallow bowl, sift together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 2 Tbsp cinnamon. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls and roll to coat in mixture, then place them on prepared baking sheet.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until cookies turn golden around the edges. Remove and allow cookies to rest 1-2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Enjoy!

Makes approximately 20 cookies.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spinach and Chicken Tortellini Soup

Once you have everything ready toss in, this soup takes surprisingly little time to make, and you can freeze some of it for leftovers. I modified it from a Pillsbury "Fast & Healthy" cookbook, which has some great quick and healthy (as the title implies) recipes.

I LOVED this soup. Seriously. Loved it.

Spinach and Chicken Tortellini Soup

2 cans (14 oz each) fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/2 tsp dried basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
1 package (9 oz) refrigerated tortellini
2 cups chopped fresh spinach

In a 3-quart saucepan or Dutch oven, heat broth, water, onions, basil and garlic to boiling. Stir in chicken and tortellini. Reduce heat to medium; simmer uncovered about 4 minutes.

Add spinach; cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted, tortellini is tender, and chicken is cooked through. If desired, season to taste with pepper.

Makes 6 (1 1/2 cup) or 8 (1 cup) servings.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Parmesan-crusted Chicken and Asparagus

  This dish is actually one of the most simple dinners I have in my rotation, and if you do it right, looks "gourmet" without being too intimidating.

Parmesan-crusted Chicken and Asparagus
serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
2 Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss Cheese Wedges
10-12 spears fresh asparagus, woody bottoms removed
6 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut chicken breasts through the middle lengthwise, stopping before you reach the end so you can open the breasts like a butterfly. Spread half a cheese wedge on the inside of each breast, then place 3-4 asparagus spears into the middle. 

Fold the top of each breast over and place toothpicks through the open end to keep closed while baking. 

Season the outside of chicken with salt and pepper, then place on baking sheet covered with foil. Sprinkle about 1 1/2 Tbsp Parmesan over each breast, then bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Food Fact Friday: Eggs are not your enemy!

Word on the street has always been that the only good part of an egg is the white - I've been told often that the yolk has no nutritional value. As someone who enjoys an omelette made with a real, whole egg a few times a week, I was happy to see this. And since I keep cholesterol to a minimum from my other foods, I figure that a boost in preventing macular degeneration (which my grandmother suffers from) and breast cancer is worth a little extra fat occasionally.

1. Eggs
Egg yolks are home to tons of essential but hard-to-get nutrients, including choline, which is linked to lower rates of breast cancer (one yolk supplies 25% of your daily need) and antioxidants that may help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Though many of us have shunned whole eggs because of their link to heart disease risk, there’s actually substantial evidence that for most of us, eggs are not harmful but healthy. 

People with heart disease should limit egg yolks to two a week, but the rest of us can have one whole egg daily; research shows it won’t raise your risk of heart attack or stroke. Make omelets with one whole egg and two whites, and watch cholesterol at other meals.

from Prevention's list of
you know how I love my lists.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Foodie Blog Feature

I LOVE browsing foodie/cooking blogs - in case you can't tell by the huge blog list on my sidebar. If it's on there, believe me, it's good. I come across quite a number of blogs looking for recipe ideas, and there are more bad ones than good ones. There are also some which I love to look at, but don't really see myself making the recipes. Then there are the ones that do both. And when they're good, they're good.

I found Skinny Taste through a friend doing Weight Watchers, and as I clicked through the recipes, I thought that her recipes looked delicious regardless of the fact that they are friendly for those who are weight-conscious. The dishes are not too complex and work well for families or not - I just halve a lot of the recipes. Every single one I've tried has turned out really well!

She is a great writer, gives good tips, and posts wonderful pictures of her food. It's also easy to sub and swap in her recipes, to make things just how you like them. Put her in your reader, you won't regret it!

Some of my faves:

Top, from left to right:

Middle from left to right:

Bottom from left to right:


Monday, May 9, 2011

Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas

After a long and drawn out email conversation with Cassie and much googling of the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, we discovered that most yams in America are actually just an orange-colored variety of sweet potatoes - called yams merely to differentiate the regular from the orange ones. There are such things as yams, but usually it's not what people think they are. We received "yams" in our Bountiful Basket, but they seem to taste and cook just like sweet potatoes. Apparently you can substitute either for the other in pretty much any recipe. 

I also added the cheeses and cumin, because I am not a fan of hot food and I love cheese and cumin. Both were great additions, the cheeses making it creamier and the cumin keeping it very Mexican without being too hot. To make it vegan, take out the cheeses and it probably tastes just fine. You can also up the chili powder if you like the kick!

Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas
Modified from Inspired RD, originally from the Vegan Planet Cookbook

2 large sweet potatoes or yams
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
one 4 oz. cans chopped green chiles
1 can black beans, rinsed
one 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 oz Neufchatel cream cheese
salt & pepper
1 ½ cups mild salsa
½ cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese
8 medium whole-wheat tortillas, or 12 fajita-size tortillas
½ cup chopped onion

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash your potatoes thoroughly, then chop into small chunks, unpeeled.  Spread them out on ungreased cookie sheets in a single layer.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through. After 20 minutes, remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the garlic, ¼ cup onion, and green chiles and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the black beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, ¼ cup cheese, cream cheese, salt and pepper. Stir in the roasted sweet potatoes and let everything cook together for about 5 minutes until cheese is melted through.

While the filling is on the stove, prepare a 9x13 glass dish with cooking spray and coat the bottom with about a ¾ cup layer of salsa. Place a large spoonful of filling into the middle of each tortilla, roll it up and place it seam-side down in your dish. Repeat until pan is filled.

Spoon any extra filling over the top, then add remaining salsa, chopped onion, and ¼ cup cheese to the top. Bake the enchiladas in the 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Serve with avocado and sour cream if desired. Enjoy!

Makes 4-6 servings, 2 enchiladas per serving.

I really loved these. A lot. The texture and combination of tastes were incredible - I'll probably put these in my regular rotation for whenever I have a sweet potato hanging around...however, I will have to make pretty small portions at a time, because past a day or two they do not make great leftovers.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Oatmeal Breakfast Pancake

This is one of my favorite new breakfasts. I changed it up a bit from another blog recipe to make it more appetizing to me - and I had the best idea in the freaking world. Seriously, I was so impressed with myself. This is how deliciousness is born. Microwaving a bit of peanut butter with maple syrup - every time I make this now I have to lick the little bowl to make sure none of the mixture is wasted. Try it - on anything. Also added a teensy bit of brown sugar. Which never hurt anyone.

One thing to be aware of: don't expect this "pancake" to be like an actual pancake. It is very dense because of the oats. I suppose you could pulse the oats in a food processor beforehand, but then it defeats the purpose of calling it an "easy" breakfast, which I would say it is. I mix all the ingredients up the night before, stick it in the fridge, then it's ready to go when I cook it the next morning. Top it with my magic concoction and whatever fruit you like, pair it with a glass of milk, and you are GOOD TO GO! The breakfast of champions, I'm telling filling.

Oatmeal Breakfast Pancake 
modified from Inspired RD

1/4 cup Egg Beaters, or 1 large egg
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp unpacked light brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp peanut butter or almond butter
1/2 Tbsp maple syrup

Heat a small non-stick griddle over medium high heat. Beat the egg, oats, vanilla, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour into pan, spread out into a pancake shape and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, in a small microwave-safe ramekin, nuke the peanut butter and syrup together (about 20 seconds), mix well and spread over top of pancake. Enjoy!

Look at that wonderful gooey peanutty-syrup topping. The nectar of the gods, if there ever was one...

Also, do you like that we are still using Christmas plates? We try to run our dishwasher only once a week, so give us a break, ok? It's for the environment.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Food Fact Friday: Fruit or Vegetable?

I thought this was so interesting...and seriously disturbing. All these years, thinking I was being so good and putting vegetables on my pizza.

8 sneaky fruits that you probably thought were vegetables:

1. Avocados
Sometimes called the Alligator Pear, avocados are the fruit from the Persea Americana, a tall evergreen tree that can grow up to 65 feet in height. They are a good source of vitamin K, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, copper, and contain more potassium than a medium-sized banana. Blend your avocado with two other mystery fruits--bell pepper and tomato--to make everyone's favorite dip: guacamole.

2. Cucumbers
Cucumbers are high-water fruits that belong to the same family as watermelon, zucchini, pumpkin, and other types of squash. A very good source of vitamin C and molybdenum, cukes are also a good source of vitamin A, potassium, manganese, folate, dietary fiber, magnesium, and silica. Tasty suggestion: turn those cucumbers into dill pickles.

3. Eggplant
One of the aforementioned nightshades, eggplants are available in a variety of colors: lavender, jade green, orange, and yellow-white. They also range in size and shape from that of a small tomato to a large zucchini. Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, copper, and thiamin (vitamin B1); a good source of vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, and niacin; and also contains phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid.

4. Okra
Immature okra pods are used for soups, canning, and stews or as a fried or boiled vegetable. This seed-filled green capsule is high in dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, protein, riboflavin, niacin, iron, zinc, and copper. Roasted okra is highly recommended.

5. Potatoes
Another nightshade, potatoes are also the most widely cultivated vegetable, I mean, fruit in the world. They provide vitamins like niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin C and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur. They also provide the main ingredient for home fries.

6. Peppers
Plump, bell shaped nightshade fruits that come in purple, green, red, yellow, and orange. An excellent source of vitamins C, A and B6, try them marinated.

7. Squash
Summer squash comes in three varieties--zucchini, crookneck, and pattypan--and is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C. Wash your summer squash under cool running water, cut off both ends, and then cut it to fit the needs of your particular recipe. Winter squash--e.g. butternut, acorn, hubbard, and pumpkin--provides an abundance of vitamin A. Before cooking winter squash, wash it and then cut it in half and remove the seeds and fibrous material in the cavity

8. Tomatoes
This nightshade fruit is popular, versatile, and comes in over a thousand different varieties. Tomatoes are loaded with nutrients: an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin K; a very good source of molybdenum, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, chromium, and vitamin B1; a good source of vitamin B6, folate, copper, niacin, vitamin B2, magnesium, iron, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, vitamin E, and protein. 

Were you as shocked as I was by this list? 

Okay, I knew about avocados and tomatoes, but eggplant?! Bell peppers?! ZUCCHINI?! Those are all my favorite "vegetables"! How the heck am I supposed to get in all my servings now? I wonder if it was better being ignorant...

read the article here
image from here

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo - Chicken Fajita Quesadillas

Happy Cinco de Mayo! And happy birthday to my big sister, Erin. She's a year older and definitely wiser. I've always been a bit jealous that her birthday is on a holiday - not a big one so it overshadows her, but people have lots of parties anyway and it's always easy to do a Mexican-themed party.

Another post from the other blog, but it's a dish I make frequently because it's so easy, filling, and delicious.

One perk - it's a one-skillet recipe! Easy cooking, easy cleanup. Make sure the skillet is well-heated and that you cook the whole quesadilla long enough so the tortilla is firm and almost crunchy.

Chicken Fajita Quesadillas

2 medium, high-fiber whole wheat tortillas
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
6 Tbsp Mexican-style shredded cheese
4 oz boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed or shredded
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly
1/2 medium bell pepper, sliced thinly
Chili powder

Take spinach and cheese and divide between the two tortillas, spreading across each whole tortilla evenly.

Sprinkle chicken with small pinches of cumin, chili powder, and salt to taste. In a non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook chicken until no longer pink.

Divide cooked chicken between tortillas, placing pieces on one half of each. In same skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil and cook sliced onion and bell pepper until tender-crisp and onion is translucent. Layer the veggies on each tortilla on top of the chicken.

Microwave tortillas each for about 30 seconds until cheese on bottom is slightly melted. Fold top half over, then place both tortillas in the skillet you used to cook other ingredients. Cook over medium heat, flipping so both sides are browned thoroughly and cheese is all the way melted. Transfer to plate, cut folded tortillas in half.


Makes 2 servings.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lemon and Asparagus Quinoa Risotto

This is a very tangy dish, but I loved it. It's great as a vegetarian meal because the quinoa is a complete protein and you're getting a good serving of veggies, too. You can also adjust the amount of Greek yogurt and/or lemon juice to make it less tangy, if you like. It makes really delicious leftovers for lunch the next day.

Asparagus & Lemon Quinoa Risotto
Modified from Petite Kitchenesse 

    2 1/4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
    3/4 cup quinoa
    1 cup asparagus, chopped
    1/2 medium onion, chopped
    1/2 lemon (zest & juice)
    1 Tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Soak quinoa in a bowl of water for about 5 minutes. In the meantime, bring stock to a boil in a large pot (you’ll want to use a pot that has a well-fitting lid). Keep the lid on the pot when you aren’t actually transferring things in and out of the pot, to keep evaporation to a minimum.

Once the stock begins to boil, add asparagus. Boil for 5–7 minutes, then transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Place in the fridge or an ice bath. Bring the stock down to barely a simmer and cover.

While asparagus cooks, heat 1 1/2 tsp of olive oil in a large, shallow pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and saute for about 3-4 minutes. Drain quinoa and add to the pan. Saute for about a minute, then lower heat slightly. Using a ladle (or something similar), ladle in just enough stock to cover the quinoa. Let simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, then ladle in the same amount of stock. Continue until the liquid is gone, and the quinoa is fully cooked (when the white germ ring becomes visible around the outside, about 10-15 minutes). If you’re running low on liquid and your quinoa isn’t fully cooked, just add some water to your stock pot, bring it to a simmer, and then continue with that.

As the last of your liquid is being absorbed, add in asparagus. Once the liquid is gone, remove from heat and stir in remaining 1 1/2 tsp oil, Greek yogurt, lemon juice and zest, and parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Makes 4 servings.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Banana Bread Muffins

If there is one thing that makes my heart break, it is to throw away fruit that has gone bad. So when I have a few bananas that are just too ripe to eat, I go for my collection of muffin recipes.

Banana Bread Muffins
Cooking spray
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup unpacked brown sugar
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp lemon zest
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp table salt
1/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray. Blend together oil and brown sugar. Beat in bananas, lemon zest, egg and egg white.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Gently stir half the flour mixture into banana mixture; stir in buttermilk and the remaining flour mixture.

Divide batter among muffin tins. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 15-16 minutes. Let cool in pans and enjoy!