Monday, August 19, 2013

Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken

 We woke up Sunday morning to the slow drizzle of rain, the kind of weather that makes you want to crawl under a blanket on the couch and read a good book. I had just started The Shoemaker's Wife, and spent a perfectly lazy day under a quilt with a cup of coffee and my kindle. I was in no mood to fuss in the kitcen, so I sent Josh to the store for a few ingredients and pulled out the slow cooker. 

This recipe will make your house smell good for hours. It just so happened we had a six pack of Negra Modelo in the house, which was the perfect match for this Mexican meal. 

Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken
4 raw chicken breasts
1 can pinto beans, rinsed
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes (14oz)
1 can rotel (10oz) - substitute if you don't like spicy
1 bag frozen corn 
1 jar of salsa (12oz)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp taco seasoning (I use this allrecipes version)
brown rice or quinoa (optional)

Toppings: monterey jack shredded cheese, diced jalapenos, diced avocado, cilantro, sour cream
  1. Place chicken breasts on the bottom of slow cooker. Pour the tomatoes and salsa over the chicken, then add the beans, corn, cumin, and taco seasoning. 
  2. Cook on low for 5-7 hours, until the chicken easily shreds when the pot is stirred.
  3. Serve as a soup or over rice or quinoa, then add toppings of choice. (I loved the cheese, avocado, cilantro combination) with a cold Mexican beer on the side! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Peach and Blueberry Crisp

 A warm scoop of fruit crisp topped with vanilla bean ice cream is one of the simplest pleasures in this life. I think of myself as a (dark) chocoholic, until moments like tonight when I remember how much I love the old-school classic desserts.

I turned to the trusted Joy of Cooking for this simple and scrumptious treat. My friends, this is a definite keeper. Just ask the Salmon men, you would have thought their spoons were shovels!

 Peach and Blueberry Crisp  
4 cups fruit (can mix - blueberries/peaches/blackberries)
1 stick cold butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup quick (not old fashioned) oats
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Rinse the berries in a colander and set aside to drain. Remove paper wrapper from butter and set wrapper aside. Cut the butter into teaspoon size pieces and place in a mixing bowl. 
  3. Add the flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Using 2 knives or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is chunky, with pieces resembling small peas.
  4. Use the wrapper from the butter to lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Shake any remaining water from the berries and pour them into the baking pan. Sprinkle the vanilla extract over the berries and stir to blend. 
  5. Sprinkle the flour-sugar mixture over the berries. 
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serves six. Perfect with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top! 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This is the only oatmeal raisin cookie recipe I will ever need. It's absolutely perfect, and I have the recipe committed to memory. There are a lot of things I struggle to remember (song lyrics/key and wallet location/birthdays) but this recipe is not one of them. I speak with a proud sense of knowing the "important" things in life, which are often the most simple. 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
¾ cup butter (must be room temperature)

½ cup white sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 and 2/3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins (soak in boiling water)

  1. Preheat oven to 35o degrees
  2. In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, oats)
  3. Soak raisins in boiling water until ready to strain into mixture to plump up
  4. Cream butter and sugars in mixer.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well.
  6. Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined but do not overmix. 
  7. Strain raisins and add to dough.
  8. Drop cookie dough onto baking sheet lined with Silpat (or parchment paper) and bake for 10 minutes. Cook on cooling rack. 

Preacher Cookies

You want to know what I did this weekend? I baked lots and lots of cookies. My house is short four sticks of butter, and the few straggler cookies are now in Josh's truck to take to work in the morning. 

I owe the inspiration for this post to my new hiking friend for pulling out a bag of preacher cookies at the midpoint of an 8 mile hike. I used to make these in PA school, and have not made them in ages. The taste of gooey peanut butter and chocolate melded together with oats is glorious. After that cookie, I walked a little faster with my chin a little higher. Just Friday, I had to call a local emergency when I realized one of my surgeon's sons had NEVER tasted or heard of a preacher cookie. That gave me just the excuse I needed to whip up a batch. 

Not to worry, I remedied the situation and he is now a devout fan.  I took a bagful to my father-in-law for his birthday, and he is convinced that eating a few of these cookies is equivalent to hearing a good sermon. Amen! 

Preacher Cookies
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
3 cups oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Mix first four ingredients and bring to a boil in a saucepan for one minute - stir continuously while sauce thickens, then take off heat
  2. Off heat, add remaining three ingredients (oats, peanut butter, vanilla)
  3. Stir and drop on wax paper until cool

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Healthy Fettucine Chicken Alfredo

Friends, it's time for a heart to heart confession. I trust that you will not judge. My restaurant career began as a Applebee's...and I loved their chicken broccoli pasta alfredo. This is around the time I was a freshman in college and thought a pack of Oriental flavor ramen was a perfectly acceptable breakfast, lunch or dinner. I also ate a chick-fil-a biscuit for breakfast almost every day. Those were great times. 

A few months later, I faced a rude awakening when I learned that my favorite pasta dish from Crapplebees (as I fondly called my place of employment) packed 1200 calories, and I black listed all things alfredo.  That was the end of a sad/happy story, until a few weeks ago, when I dubiously pinned a recipe for a Creamy Cauliflower Sauce that claims to "taste just like alfredo" according to Pinch of Yum blogger Lindsay. With an suprising sense of blind faith, I took her word and headed out to Kroger with my shopping list. 

The pasta and the sauce was doggone good, as we like to say in the South. Did it taste JUST like alfredo? No, there is no substitute for heavy cream and butter. Was it doggone good? Yes. Did Josh finish his bowl? Why yes, as a matter of fact he did. 

Creamy Califlower Sauce
from Pinch of Yum

8 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp butter
6 cups cauliflower florets
6 cups chicken broth or water (she uses vegetable broth)
1 tsp salt (more to taste) - I needed more and added my favorite seasoning (knorr aromat) at the dinner table
1/2 tsp pepper 
1/2 cup milk 
  1. Melt butter over medium heat in nonstick skillet. Saute garlic for 2 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Remove from heat.
  2. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Add the cauliflower and cook, covered, for 7-10 minutes or until cauliflower is fork tender. Do not drain.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cauliflower pieces to the blender. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth, then add garlic/butter mixture, salt, pepper, and milk. Serve the sauce while hot. If sauce starts to look dry, add a few drops of water, milk, or olive oil.
Healthy Fettucine Chicken Alfredo
serves six (or four hungry) friends

1 package fettucine (I used whole wheat)
1 batch of Creamy Cauliflower Sauce
4 cups broccoli florets, roasted (drizzle with olive oil, roast at 375 for 25 minutes)
4 chicken breasts, grilled or sauteed (diced into pieces)
Seasoning for chicken (I used Tony Chachere's)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, diced in half
Freshly grated parmesan cheese for topping

  1. Season and grill chicken breasts, and be sure to cover in foil and rest for 10 minutes prior to dicing into pieces. 
  2. Cook noodles according to package directions. Reserve a cup of pasta liquid and drain in collander. Return pasta to pot, and add creamy cauliflower sauce, then stir well. 
  3. Add tomatoes and stir. Divide pasta into 2 bowls (you will have leftovers), and then top with roasted broccoli, diced chicken, and parmesan cheese.

This is what happens when you drink one of those delicious watermelon mojitos before cooking dinner! 
the deal in our house - the cook never does the dishes. Sorry, Josh! 

Watermelon Mojito

During the last two miles of a grueling thirteen mile hike today, I started dreaming of a refreshing summer adult beverage. My go-to libation up to this point was a plain mojito, but today I needed a little OOMPH. You know, Oomph. Like when you look in the mirror and realize your outfit is missing the perfect accessory, or when you taste a salsa and realize you left out the diced jalapeno. That was the feeling I had today, until I strolled into the produce section of Kroger. 

Hello, watermelon. Oh my goodness golly gracious (grandma approved version of what I was really thinking) go and make this right now!!

Watermelon Mojito
10 fresh mint leaves
8 chunks of watermelon, pureed in a blender1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
1 cup crushed ice
1 and 1/2 ounces white rum
splash club soda
optional for extra sweetness - simple syrup

  1. Place mint leaves (tear into glass) and 1 lime wedge into pint glass. Use a muddler to crush the mint and lime to release mint oils and lime juice. 
  2. Add watermelon puree and 2 more lime wedges, and muddle again. Do not strain. 
  3. Fill the glass almost to the top with crushed ice. 
  4. Pour the rum over the ice, and fill the glass with club soda. Add splash of simple syrup if desired. Garnish with the last lime wedge and enjoy!