Friday, December 30, 2011

Crock Pot Barbecue Pulled Chicken

If something only has two ingredients can you really call it a recipe?  This was so good that I'm going to go ahead and say yes.

As you can probably tell, I have been all about the crock pot lately.  I had it in the back of my mind to do a pulled pork or chicken dish, but every time I ventured near the pork section of the market, I shrunk back in dismay.  Something about the huge, fatty cuts of meat were just not doing it for me.  Then, I remembered that chicken breasts make excellent barbecue as well.  There are many variations on this recipe that range from using a spice rub, homemade barbecue sauce, coke or root beer for cooking and pan searing.  While they all sound good, I did none of these things.  Instead I put the uncooked chicken in the crock pot, topped with my favorite jarred barbecue sauce, and cooked it for 7 hours.  Let me tell you, it smelled amazing around here.

Crock Pot Barbecue Pulled Chicken
1 1/2 pounds chicken  (I used boneless, skinless breasts, but you can use any cut of chicken here)
Jarred or homemade barbecue sauce

Combine chicken and barbecue sauce in crock pot.
Cook on high for an hour.
Reduce to low and cook for 5-6 hours.
Using two forks, shred chicken.  It should shred very easily.
Add more sauce as desired and keep warm until ready to serve.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Salmon with Cranberry Glaze and Spinach Risotto

We had a very quiet Christmas around here this year.  I was due on December 24th, which meant that it was likely we would be spending Christmas in the hospital.  December 24th came and went, as did the 25th, 26th and 27th (I'm writing this on the 28th and holding out hope!).  In any case, major travel or hosting plans were not in the cards for me this year, so we had Christmas dinner for two.  This also meant I got to spend six hours sitting in front of the fire and wore yoga pants all day.  Given my current mood, this was ideal. 

Fish is incredibly easy to cook.  This particular salmon was individually portioned filets separately vacuum packed and frozen.  I would highly recommend checking out the frozen fish section at your market, I find that it's easier to find fish that has been wild caught, and the prices are better.  Most of the fish at the counter has been previously frozen, anyway, and this way you don't have as much pressure to cook it the same day.  This was so straightforward I hesitate to call it a recipe.

Baked Salmon with Cranberry Glaze
salmon filets, pat dry
cranberry vinaigrette

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Line a baking or broiler pan with foil.
Top salmon with cranberry vinaigrette and bake for about 10 minutes.
Turn on the broiler for a minute to caramelize the glaze.  Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn!

I'm sure I've posted my risotto recipe before, but since it's one of my favorite foods ever, I'll share again.  Risotto is time consuming, and takes a good 30 minutes of near constant stirring, so plan accordingly.  By that I mean have a drink and/or a helper at the ready.

Spinach Risotto
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth (may sub some of the broth for wine)
1/2 bag (a few handfuls) baby spinach

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.
In a separate saucepan, heat broth over medium.
Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes.
Add Arborio rice and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until lightly toasted.
Pour in hot broth, one ladle at a time.  Stir until completely absorbed before adding next portion.
Continue until all the broth has been used, this can take about 30 minutes.
At the end, stir in spinach to wilt.

Of course you can use any vegetable you like here, I just happened to have spinach in the fridge and thought it would pair well with the salmon. 

If you have risotto leftovers you want to reheat the next day, add a little water or broth before heating over medium low heat.  This will help prevent sticking.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cranberry Vinaigrette and other uses for leftover Cranberry Sauce

Let's say you have leftover cranberry sauce from some holiday meal.  Or, like me, you randomly decided to make cranberry sauce on a whim and now need to use it up in some way other than eating it straight from the bowl. In any case, you are in luck, because I've been eating cranberry sauce in one form or another all week.


Cranberry Vinaigrette
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
1 clementine, juiced (1/4-1/2 cup orange juice)
1 teaspoon maple syrup (or sugar, or agave)
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil

Quantities are estimated here, you can just eyeball, and taste along the way to adjust to your preferences. I used a couple tablespoons each of vinegar and olive oil.

In a food processor or blender, combine cranberry sauce, orange juice, and maple syrup.
Add in balsamic vinegar and mix well.
Slowly add olive oil with motor running.

This was perfect over greens with pears and goat cheese.  I also have plans to try it as a glaze for baked salmon.  If that isn't a disaster, I'll share in a few days.

Other ways to use leftover cranberry sauce:
Smoothie with yogurt, milk, and frozen cherries or blueberries
Yogurt parfait layer.  Extra points for adding crushed graham crackers.
Spread on a sandwich along with turkey, cheddar and lettuce
Swirled through cheesecake bar

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Turkey Meatloaf

I made this last Sunday night, meatloaf and mashed potatoes seem like the type of thing you make on Sunday night during football.  I am pleased to report that the outcome of both the meatloaf and the football were positive, so everyone in our house was happy.  This is comfort food at it's best.

Turkey Meatloaf
recipe from Health Magazine

Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (I think this is the most important meatloaf ingredient)
1/3 cup chicken broth (I subbed veg because I was out, you could also just use water)
3 Tablespoons ketchup
1 - 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (my package was 1.3 pounds, anything around there will work)
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add in garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute.
Stir in Worcestershire sauce, broth or water, and 1 Tablespoon ketchup.  Remove mixture from heat.
In a large bowl, mix turkey, breadcrumbs and egg.
When slightly cooled, add onion mixture to meat and mix well.  Using your hands works best here.
Form turkey mixture into a loaf shape and put on a baking sheet or dish covered with foil.
Brush meatloaf with remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup.
Bake for 1 hour, or until cooked through.  I checked with a meat thermometer to make sure the middle reached 170 degrees.
Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Baked Brie topped with Cranberry Sauce

Baked brie is one of my favorite cocktail party treats.  It's simple to make, and always makes a big impact.  Puff pastry is fun for all.

I had a bag of whole cranberries in the freezer since last year.  I got sucked into the advertising campaign of buy one to use now, buy one for later.  I get sucked into most advertising campaigns, so this is no surprise.  Some combination of very late pregnancy nesting and my usual cleaning neuroses led me to empty out everything in the freezer, so the cranberries needed to be cooked.  I normally top baked brie with jam, so cranberry sauce seemed like a good festive alternative.

Simple Cranberry Sauce
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 bag whole cranberries, fresh or frozen

In a saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil.
Add in cranberries, return to boil.
Reduce to simmer, and cook for at least 10 minutes, until berries have burst and cooked down to desired consistency.
So easy!  No need for can shaped cranberry sauce any longer. 

Baked Brie in Puff Pastry
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 6-8 oz. wheel of brie, top rind removed
cranberry sauce or jam of choice
egg wash

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Depending on the size of your wheel of brie, use a rolling pin to roll out puff pastry slightly.
Place brie in the middle of puff pastry and top with sauce.
Gather sides of puff pastry, sealing filling inside.
Place on a lined baking sheet.
Brush with an egg wash.  (I skipped this step, but it gives the pastry a nice golden color.)
Bake for 30-40 minutes until pastry is browned.

I served with apples and pears, which made excellent cracker alternatives.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mediterranean Casserole

This is another easy vegetarian dish.  I usually have the bulk of the ingredients (chickpeas, rice, canned tomatoes, spinach, onion) on hand, so it's a good option to keep in mind.  My completely sporadic posting schedule might make it hard to see, but I usually try to balance our eating for the week by offsetting any meat based or heavy dishes with lighter vegetarian fare. 

Mediterranean Casserole
1 cup uncooked brown rice, steamed according to package directions
1/4-1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1 bag fresh spinach, or one box frozen spinach, thawed
8 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook brown rice according to package directions. 
Stir in yogurt or sour cream and set aside.
In a saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Saute onion for about 3-5 minutes.
Add in chopped garlic and spices and cook one more minute.
Mix in chickpeas, diced tomatoes and spinach and cook for 5-10 minutes.
In a casserole dish sprayed with cooked spray, spread rice in a layer.
Pour vegetable mixture over rice, distributing evenly.
Top with feta and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Serve hot or at room temperature.

On the second day we ate this, I left it in the oven a little long by fault of the commuter train, and found little olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top spruced it back up. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reese's Peanut Butter Cookies

Kicking off Monday morning with cookies.  And not just any cookies, these old school cookies that have been gracing bake sales and parties forever.  There are times when I want to make fancy, multi-step, gourmet cookies, and there are times when 20 minutes and 1/2 a cup of peanut butter are all I can muster. 

Perhaps since it's Christmas week you are attempting to keep things healthy in anticipation for the weekend.  If so, I apologize and promise that we'll be eating lentils later in the week.  Or, if you are like me and are 39 weeks pregnant (or just like cookies), you have declared this your final hurrah and are enjoying every last bite. 

Reese's Peanut Butter Cookies
recipe from Hershey's

1 package mini peanut butter cups
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place peanut butter cups in the fridge or freezer.  I'd say just store them there until you're ready to make this recipe. 
In a large bowl or mixer, beat butter, both sugars, peanut butter, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.
Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well.
Using a mini cookie scoop (my recommendation), spoons, or your hands, shape dough into 1 inch balls and put in mini muffin tin.
Bake 10 minutes until puffed and lightly browned on the edges.
While the cookies are baking, unwrap the peanut butter cup candies.
Remove cookies from oven and immediately press a peanut butter cup into the middle of each cookie. 
Allow to cool in muffin pan. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

African Peanut Stew - Slow Cooker

I make a lot of soups in the winter, in case you haven't noticed.  Warm, healthy, and easy, all the things I look for in a recipe.  When I can throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker and be done, that's just an added bonus.  I had intended to save some of this soup and stick it in the freezer for post-baby time, as I've been doing a lot lately, but we managed to eat it all. This was likely due to me eating it directly out of the crock pot for pre-dinner snack the night Jon came home late.

Slow Cooker Peanut Stew
recipe from Peas and Thank You

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons curry poweder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon minced ginger (I used fresh and grated it)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
dash of cinnamon
1 14 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes with juice
1 can light coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed

Add all ingredients to the slow cooker.
Cook on low for 6 hours.
Depending on how thick it's gotten, turn to high for the last hour of cooking.

That's it!  Couldn't be easier.  
As with most soups, this gets even better the next day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Potato Soup with Broccoli and Kale

This is another pantry recipe.  At any given time, you probably have most, if not all, of these ingredients on hand.  As such, it's a great idea to have in the back of your mind for an easy lunch or supper. 

While I was watching Rachael Ray the other day I took note of her garbage bowl.  If you haven't seen it, the garbage bowl is just the bin she uses to dispose of scraps, containers, etc. while she's cooking.  You can go online and purchase your very own garbage bowl for the reasonable price of $19.99.  Or, you can just use one of the many bowls you already have.  I take it one step further and use produce bags.  For any given recipe, I am usually emptying some produce bag, so I leave on the counter, put all my cooking scraps and trash in it, and toss it when I'm done.  This isn't any genius idea, but it does save me a lot of time because I'm not turning to throw things out all the time. 

Back to the soup. 

Potato Soup with Broccoli and Kale
1 Tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 Tablespoon flour
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2-3 cups potatoes, chopped
2 cups green vegetables (I used a combination of broccoli and kale)
3+ cups vegetable broth

In a pot, melt the butter over medium heat.
Add the onion and celery, and cook for about 5 minutes.
Mix in flour and cook, stirring, until it is light brown.
Add a little of the broth, just to keep the flour from burning (about half a cup).
Mix in potatoes and spices.
Depending on what other vegetables you use, you can add them now or wait until after the potatoes have cooked and been pureed.  I opted to add the broccoli stems, but not the florets or the kale.
Pour in broth to cover potatoes.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes until potatoes and very tender.
Using an immersion blender, or in batches in a regular blender, puree the soup.
Add additional broth or water to desired consistency.
Add in remaining vegetables and heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

I topped mine with hot sauce.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Soup - Crock Pot

I love my Crock Pot.  Not only does it make a delicious dinner ready when you get home at night, but you get to say "set it and forget it" as many times as you want while it's cooking.  Or maybe that's just me.  This is one of those especially easy Crock Pot recipes that requires hardly any work in advance.  You do need to plan ahead to soak your beans, but that's just putting beans in water overnight, so as long as you remember, it's not tough.

Crock Pot Spicy Black Bean Soup
1 pound dried black beans, soaked overnight
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1-2 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sea salt and ground black pepper
~4 cups vegetable broth or water

To soak beans - rinse dried beans in cold water.  Put in a pan or bowl with a lid and cover with several inches of water.  Let sit 8 hours, or overnight.  Drain and rinse.

In the crock pot, stir together all ingredients through salt and pepper.
Add enough liquid to cover by about an inch.
Cook on high for 4 hours, switch to low for at least 2 hours.
Puree using an immersion blender, if desired.

This soup is very healthy.  High in fiber and protein, and low in fat.  That's why you can get away with topping it however you like.  I went with avocado, salsa, sour cream, and a cheese quesadilla for dipping.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Peanut Butter Yogurt Fruit Dip

Normally, if I want to dip apples, you will find me with my hand in the peanut butter jar.  Literally.  The jars of peanut butter I get at BJ's are about the size of my head.  I saw the idea for this recipe in an ancient magazine in the waiting room at the mechanic's this week, and thought it sounded easy enough to try.  It was delicious, and would be a great dip to offer with not just fruit, but graham crackers, cookies, and maybe even carrots and celery. 

The measurements don't matter much here.  I pretty much just used equal parts yogurt and peanut butter, with a little honey and cinnamon.

Peanut Butter Yogurt Fruit Dip
2 Tablespoons plain or vanilla yogurt
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and stir well.  Serve immediately or keep refrigerated.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chicken Paprika

Chicken Paprika is such a vintage 50s recipe.  Chicken with a cream based sauce.  But there's a reason it's stood the test of time, for me at least, and that reason is that it's deliciously good comfort food.  Inspired to make this by Jenna of Eat Live Run, a fan of 50s vintage comfort food, herself.  Jenna served hers with homemade dumplings, but I went with egg noodles and broccoli.

Chicken Paprika
recipe from Eat Live Run

1 pound boneless chicken breasts, sliced thinly
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp paprika
sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp flour

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the onion, chicken, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne and cook until chicken is browned.
Add in garlic for the last minute of cooking.
Pour one cup of chicken broth into the pan, increase the heat to high to bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken to a separate bowl and set aside while you make the sauce.
Stir together the sour cream and flour, and add this to the pan of chicken broth.
Cook over medium low, whisking often, until thickened.
Add the chicken back in to warm through, and serve over noodles.

Pumpkin Apple Curry Soup

This recipe could also be known as: things in my fridge that really needed to be used up.  Such things included: homemade pumpkin puree that had been in the freezer since last winter, a really sad, wrinkly apple, and a few cups of recently defrosted chicken broth.  That's one of things I love about soup, though.  You can throw anything in the pot, and if you add the right spices and cook it long enough, it's delicious. 

Pumpkin Apple Curry Soup
1- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (butternut would work here, as well)
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
olive oil
1 Tablespoon curry
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth

In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add chopped onion and celery and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
Add in apple and spices (curry, cumin, salt and pepper).  Stir and cook for one minute.
Pour in pumpkin puree and chicken broth.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.
Puree using an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender or food processor.

I garnished with a few salted pumpkin seeds and hot sauce.  Excellent for dipping grilled cheese.

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