kid-friendly · Recipes

Salsa Verde Enchiladas

Every year I swear I’m going to talk about the weather less on this blog, and then the first mildly warm week rolls around, and all I can think about is how amazing it is that the sun makes people so much happier.

My birthday is Monday, and it’s always a toss-up as to whether it’ll be pleasant or dreary. I never grew up having outdoor birthday parties! Too unpredictable, as anyone with a late April Boston baby can attest.

I have a few traditions for my birthday every year. Get a pedicure (alone), make Mark take the day off if it falls on a weekend, and drag the whole family out for Mexican food. This year, it falls on a week day, and I have to spend it at the DMV of all places, but after that … AFTER that, we shall eat Mexican food.

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I’m the only one who really loves Mexican food in our house, although I’m gradually converting Georgia with tortilla chips, cheese and soft taco bread. (Are there people alive who don’t love those things? I don’t want to meet them).

This year, a new restaurant opened near us called 3 Amigos that I can’t wait to try. I was heartbroken when the former restaurant in that space, Fuloon, closed its doors suddenly in August. It was such a well-kept secret for excellent, spicy Sichuan cuisine! But 3 Amigos has gotten rave reviews in the short few weeks since its grand opening, and the cocktails sound to-die-for. They call themselves a tequila infusion bar; I’m not sure what that even means, but I am willing to test it out. I’ll report back my review!

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Sometimes, like a few weeks ago, I had a hankering for something Mexican when it wasn’t my birthday, so I whipped together this simple enchilada recipe and literally ate the whole thing myself: first for dinner one night, then for lunch the next three days in a row. It’s too good! I never got sick of it.

If your family doesn’t mind a little kick, this has medium spice and comes together very quickly — perfect for a weeknight. It’s even simpler if you pick up a rotisserie chicken and use that instead of boiling and shredding two chicken breasts, as I did. You can always dial down the heat by choosing a “mild” salsa instead of the Pace Salsa Verde I used (which is surprisingly complex for a mass market salsa brand — lots of garlic, lime and tomatillo hints in there!) Or, you can cook up the chicken and shred it one night, then save for dinner the next day. Once you have shredded chicken ready to go, this comes together fast and cooks for less than half an hour.


Salsa Verde Enchiladas

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 24-oz. jar salsa verde
  • 3/4 cup light cream or half-and-half
  • 4 TBSP (1/4 cup) sour cream
  • 1 package corn or flour tortillas (about 8, size depending)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1.5 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the light cream and sour cream in a bowl with the salsa and stir to combine. Set aside 1 cup of this mixture to pour in the bottom of the baking dish later. To the remaining salsa/cream mixture, add the shredded chicken and stir until coated.

Start by pouring about half the reserved salsa mixture into the bottom of a your baking dish; spread into a thin, even layer. Set aside the rest for the top.

Taking a tortilla in your hand, scoop a spoonful of the chicken mixture in and roll to close, placing in the baking dish seam side down. Repeat until the dish is full.

Pour the rest of the reserved salsa mixture on top of the tortillas, then top with the shredded cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes until the cheese bubbles, or up to 5 minutes longer if it’s isn’t browning and crispy at the edges. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • I used Pace Salsa Verde, which is medium heat; you can substitute any green salsa. Pace is sold at Target, where I shop weekly, and their salsa comes in the right 24-ounce size I needed for this recipe. If you buy a smaller jar, buy two.
  • You can sub in 1 full cup of half and half if you don’t like sour cream.
  • You can use corn or flour tortillas, and they can be any size; I’ve made this with a dozen of the smaller rounds, and about 8-10 of the larger tortillas.
  • I boiled and shredded my own chicken breasts, but it’s even faster if you pick up a rotisserie chicken; or, you can buy packaged shredded chicken at Trader Joe’s and Wegman’s; or, you can hit a salad bar and buy already-shredded chicken, sold by the pound.
  • In these pictures, I had taco blend shredded cheese on hand, so that’s what I used. It looks and tastes even better if you grate a block of white Monterey Jack cheese. You can also buy this pre-shredded from Sargento at Target!
  • I haven’t tried doing it this way, but I bet these would taste good if you put some more of the cheese inside each tortilla as well as on top. If you try that, let me know! Sounds delectably gooey.

Recipe adapted from Everyday Reading.


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Notoriously hard to photograph, I promise you these enchiladas are more delicious to eat than they are to look at. I love having these with a heaping side of guacamole or sour cream, and topped with fresh cilantro (another thing nobody else in my house will eat!)

If you want to shred your own chicken, here’s how to do it. 

  1. Pat the chicken dry and then season on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large stockpot (I used this one) place the chicken in the bottom and cover with an inch or two of water, then bring to a boil. Lower heat to a rolling simmer and cover.
  3. Cook over medium heat for about 12 minutes or no longer than 14 minutes; you can test the temperature with a meat thermometer, and they should read 165°F.
  4. Remove to a cutting board or clean plate and shred. I find this is easier to do when they are still hot, so I shred right away and then store in an airtight glass container for when I’m going to cook them, always within 24 to 48 hours. I use two forks and just tear in opposite directions, pulling the meat into shreds of whatever size I like to use.

Poaching chicken is a great way to keep the meat moist and full of flavor. The leftover poaching liquid can be re-purposed as a stock/base for soup, and you can add other aromatics to the water to complement the ultimate recipe you’re using the chicken in, such as onions, garlic, bay leaves, whole peppercorns, ginger, even wine.

Happy meal prepping this weekend, and let me know how you like this one!

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Holidays · Recipes

Chicken Chili

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One of the only redeeming things about winter settling in — and darkness falling before I even leave work — is the option to cook chili again. (Well, that and the idea of taking a nice, hot bath every night with my New Yorker, kitty, and a glass of wine…but back to the chili.)

This has been a rough couple weeks, right? After Election Night, I had a hard time putting two words together or getting dressed for work on time, never mind meal-plan, set up the slow cooker in the morning, or pack myself a healthy lunch, if I’m being honest. Luckily, I had some leftovers of this at the ready, thanks to the big batch I made at my freezer meal workshop last March…which I know I keep mentioning, but has honestly helped me entertain more times than I can really count this past year. If I hadn’t inherited a freezer full of food in August from a friend moving to Seattle, I’d be planning to do another workshop as we speak.

This can be frozen ahead, but it can also be made all at once. If you do freeze ahead, be sure to double bag and give it at LEAST 36 hours to defrost in the fridge before cooking. Mine was frozen solid and took two full days to thaw safely in the refrigerator.

Chicken Chili

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lbs lean ground chicken
  • 3 TBSP dry buffalo seasoning*
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 medium-large onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 15 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz. can white or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 TBSP olive oil**
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 2 cups chicken broth (veggie works fine too)

To serve as toppings, or on the side: a bag of corn or tortilla chips, blue cheese or ranch dressing, hot sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese, corn bread.

* I used Wildtree Blazin’ Buffalo seasoning. Other options include Frank’s Red Hot, McCormick, or something from a specialty store like Williams-Sonoma.

** I used Wildtree Garlic Grapeseed Oil. Any other oil that tolerates heat well is fine; you can pick one with flavor infusions you like.

DIRECTIONS

(If you are freezing ahead, then you’ll need three bags: one smaller bag for the chicken, buffalo seasoning, salt and pepper; and another for the rest of the ingredients. Then double bag in a larger bag for storage, and thaw before cooking).

In a large pot on the stove top over medium-high heat, pour in the chicken, buffalo seasoning and salt and pepper. Use a large spoon to break up the chicken while it’s cooking.

Once the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes, add  everything else except the chicken stock and cook for five minutes.

Add the two cups of chicken stock and bring to a slow boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

To serve, place in bowls with condiments of your choosing. We had corn muffins, sour cream, cheddar cheese, hot sauce and tortilla chips. Blue cheese, ranch, corn chips and green onions would also be great toppings!

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Have a great weekend everyone! We are going to eat out for Thanksgiving this year after losing such a beloved member of our family in August, and then try again next year for building a new tradition. Here’s where we are eating. If you’re looking for good T-Day recipes, check here for cranberry sauce, buttery mashed potatoes, two ways of doing Brussels sprouts, and these balsamic roasted green beans, which I adore despite the horrendous photos. I’ll leave you with this sneak peak from our holiday card photo shoot last weekend, thanks to our friend Thais at TDM Photography.

Looking for a great deal on your own holiday cards? Check out TinyPrints, which is offering up to 40% off foil and glitter cards this weekend only — until 11/20! — and 30% off anything else. Click here and use code GIVESHINE!

Tiny Prints - Birth Announcements and More

kid-friendly · Recipes · Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken

Inspired by a popular post on Damn Delicious (one of my favorite cooking blogs), this recipe for Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken is beyond foolproof, with no braising, marinating or prep work required — just toss it in the slow cooker, come home after work and eat. You can use any cut of chicken and it still turns out moist and delicious. The original recipe called for chicken thighs, but boneless breasts were on sale and are something Georgia prefers, so we decided to try the recipe with those instead. And it worked perfectly. Life = easier, just like that!

Honey Garlic Slow Cooker Chicken

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 Chicken thighs (or two packages of boneless breasts, which I used here)
  • 16 oz. red potatoes (half a 2.5 pound bag)
  • 16 oz.baby carrots (one bag)
  • 16 oz. green beans, trimmed (one bag)

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (preferably reduced sodium)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Dried oregano, basil, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste (about a tablespoon total)

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix the sauce together and set aside.
  • In your slow cooker, nestle the potatoes and carrots into the bottom of the pot, then layer the chicken on top. Pour the sauce over and set to cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
  • The original recipe calls for basting every half hour, which is fine if you are home but not fine if you’re working. It turns out well either way.
  • In the last 30 minutes of cooking, add in the green beans.
  • Serve warm on a cold day!

OK, so this doesn’t photograph very well as a finished product. Trust me when I tell you it’s even BETTER as leftovers! 

This is a great recipe to pair with the Maple Dijon Pork Chops I posted about a couple of weeks ago when you’re meal planning for the week, because you can buy one bag of potatoes and use half in this meal and half with the chops; the same goes for the green beans.

Are you all set for Halloween?? We are in full Spooky Swing. Last weekend was the “Boo at the Zoo” event at the same place where we hosted Georgia’s birthday party this year, and we had a blast with friends riding the kiddie rides, seeing the animals in their exhibits, dancing to some monster tunes and of course picking up some toys and (healthy) treats along the walking paths. Monday we had a trick-or-treat in my office, which was another hit, and tomorrow G has her preschool Halloween party. It’s an exhausting life when you’re three — and the actual holiday hasn’t even hit yet! I’m not sure Rapunzel’s wig will make it to Monday intact… 🙂

Have a great rest of the week everyone. 

kid-friendly · Recipes

Butternut Squash, Sage & Sweet Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

Years ago, I saw this on one of those online Trader Joe’s recipe forums where folks share the meals they make using only TJs ingredients. It took me until now to try it, with a few tweaks to suit our tastes, and it’s a definite keeper for weeknight cooking. It involves minimal cleanup and barely any prep, especially if you buy those grocery packages of chopped fresh butternut squash instead of rasslin’ with a whole one yourself. I chose to use poultry seasoning here because it’s quick to grab in the produce section pre-packaged and we like the taste of it; you could swap it for something you like better. It WILL make your house smell like Thanksgiving morning!

I’ll also point out that you can swap another kind of squash, too. This recipe isn’t fussy. We really like caramelized red onions, but again, any type will do.

Butternut Squash, Sage & Sweet Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 a butternut squash, cubed (or buy pre-cut; it’s much easier)
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 package chicken sausage, halved (I used TJ’s apple maple flavor)
  • 1 packet poultry seasoning (thyme, sage, rosemary)
  • 4-6 garlic cloves (peeled and left whole)
  • olive oil for the pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F. Prep the squash, sausage, garlic and onion.

On a sheet pan lined with foil, lay out the squash, onions and sausage links and drizzle with olive oil, shaking to coat. Nestle the garlic cloves and whole branches of herbs around the edges for flavoring. Season the entire tray with salt and pepper to taste, then place in the oven.

Cook between 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until everything looks browned and the squash are cooked through. Times may vary depending on your oven.

Discard the sage, rosemary and thyme — it’s ok if a few pieces stay on the food — and keep the garlic and the onion if you like them. They should be softened and mellowed out in taste, and thus OK to eat. Taste for seasoning and add more if you feel it’s needed. Serve warm!

I love this because it only uses one tray, so cleanup is fast.

I actually had a whole butternut squash hanging around, so I used half of it here and then roasted the other half, cubed, in a smaller baking sheet on the rack below this in the oven and ate it later in the week with a rotisserie chicken I bought on the way home from work. Done that way, you get two easy after-work dinners out of it!

Georgia loved eating the tender roasted squash and the sweet sausage, too. Trader Joe’s has so many varieties of chicken sausage and you could use any of them here. You could also use spicier sausage instead of sweet, but it will make the dish that much greasier and a tad less healthy. The whole point, though, is that it’s customizable, cheap, and doubles well if you have a larger family. If you try it, let me know what you think!

 

Recipes

Chicken Piccata for Two

I don’t eat chicken that often, but when I do, this is one of my favorite dishes. It looks so simple on the surface but so many flavors lurk within, and it’s always so satisfying. I’ve never really had a go-to recipe for it, though, and it always seemed silly to order chicken in a restaurant when there are so many more complex dishes and new cuisines to try when ordering out. Plus, chicken? Put it right alongside pasta and risotto as having the biggest markups of any food you could order in a restaurant.

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Well, now I’ve lost my fear of doing Chicken Piccata right, and thanks to one of my first Blue Apron deliveries way back when, I now have a date-night dish that I whip up for just Mark and I to feel special without any of the hassle I was expecting.

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Chicken Piccata for Two

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Chicken Cutlets
  • 6 Ounces Fresh Linguine
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Bunch Garlic Chives
  • 1 Organic Lemon
  • 1 Large Bunch Parsley
  • 3 TBSP Chicken Demi-Glace (reduced stock)
  • 3 TBSP Flour
  • 2 TBSP Butter
  • 2 TBSP Capers
  • 2 TBSP grated Parmesan Cheese

DIRECTIONS

Wash and dry the fresh produce. Heat a medium pot of water to boiling on high. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Cut the garlic chives into ½-inch pieces. Zest the rind, then quarter and deseed the lemon. Pick the parsley off the stems, discarding. Thinly slice half the parsley, keeping the rest whole. Rough-chop the capers.

Separate the strands of the pasta by hand and add to the pot of boiling water. Cook 2 to 4 minutes, or until al dente (still slightly firm to the bite). Reserving ¾ cup of the cooking water, thoroughly drain the cooked pasta; rinse under cold water to prevent sticking. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Rinse and wipe out the pot.

While the pasta cooks, pat the chicken dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the flour on a plate. Coat the chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess. In a medium nonstick pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the coated chicken and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and add half the butter. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

To the pan of browned chicken, add the chicken demi-glace, capers, sliced parsley, the juice of 2 lemon wedges and ¼ cup of water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, occasionally swirling the pan, 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly; season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside in a warm place.

In the pot used to cook the pasta, heat 2 tsp olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic, garlic chives and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 4 minutes, or until the garlic is golden brown and the garlic chives are bright green.

To the pot of aromatics, add the cooked pasta, Parmesan cheese, remaining butter and ½ cup of the reserved pasta cooking water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until heated through and the sauce is slightly reduced in volume. If the sauce seems dry, gradually add the remaining pasta cooking water to achieve your desired consistency (I usually use all of it). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the finished pasta between 2 dishes. Top each with a finished chicken cutlet. Garnish with the whole parsley leaves and remaining lemon wedges. Enjoy!

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Want to make it vegetarian? Try using Seitan instead of chicken.

Miss that white wine flavor of many piccatas? Deglaze the pan of chicken with a splash before proceeding to add the next ingredients.

Can’t get enough lemon taste? Squeeze the quarters over the dish before plating instead of just using as a garnish. That’s what I did.

Need some more veggies? Serve a salad alongside.

Chicken cutlets too thick for your liking? Pound them flatter before cooking.

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This takes me under an hour start to finish (probably around 40 minutes total) and is a stress-free recipe that turns out a special dish. I hope you get a chance to try it soon.

Georgia and I are going away for Labor Day and will be back shortly after, hopefully with lots of fun pictures. See you then!

Baby & Toddler · Grow Your Own Way · Recipes

Sneaking veggies into food (with toddler-friendly risotto recipe)

Well, I suppose it was inevitable: the day where my toddler figured out junk food exists in the world, and that she’d prefer to eat cookies, fruit juice and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese than mom’s home cooking. Hoping it’s just a short-lived phase, I’ve adapted by sneaking in greens where I can and holding a firm line on her requests to snack the day away. “More?” “Cookie!” and “Mine” are her new favorite words, especially when pointing to mom’s coffee, a bag of fruit snacks or (cringe) the drive-through menu.

There are a couple key things I’ve done to get through this temporary eating issue.

One is to make smoothies with greens like celery and lettuce blended in, since they add nutrients without turning the flavor detectably non-fruity.

Secondly, we’ve gone back to sending fruit & veggie pouches to daycare for snack time. She sucks them down as readily as her applesauce pouches without realizing there are greens mixed in with those pears and apples.

Since she loves mac n’ cheese so much, I’ve tried to make my own more often, and to buy better boxed versions from Trader Joe’s and Annie’s — as well as to mix in peas, diced green beans or broccoli, since covering them with cheese seems to get her to accept more veggies. 

I also shredded carrots into my homemade marinara, and she was none the wiser.

Finally, last week I realized I had a very adaptable recipe in my arsenal: risotto. By finely dicing carrots, onions, celery and celery greens with cut up sweet chicken-apple sausage, and swirling in a spoon full of low-fat cream cheese right at the end, I made a toddler-friendly version of one of our favorite dishes.

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She not only finished some off of our plates, she ate it by herself for lunch the next day, and even scooped a handful out of my bag while I was packing up leftovers to take to work! So we know it’s a keeper.

Here are my other two favorite risotto recipes:

An important note: I do choose to leave in the step with white wine, even while cooking for Georgia, because it’s a critical component to the final texture of the arborio rice. However, omitting it won’t ruin the dish completely, if that’s what you’d prefer to do.

In other news, Mark and Georgia planted our garden this weekend! This year, we are having strawberries, peas, tomatoes and basil:

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This is a kid who loves getting her hands dirty! I went online pretty much right away and ordered her this gardening play set from Green Toys, and already it’s a huge hit. She loves to help daddy with the soil, seeds and plants!

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Have a great week everyone and get out there to enjoy some nice weather now that it’s here to stay 🙂

Recipes

Chicken w/ Capers & Artichokes

I have no words for how bad the commuting is in Boston these days, so I’m not even going to address it — just share a great recipe for cold, snowbound days. 

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We made this two weeks ago and I added the leftovers to some yellow rice a couple days later, with the chicken shredded, for a respectable second-round meal. I also wondered if it would be good on pizza with some salty cheese on top, which I might try next time I make this. Or I might toss with some cheese tortellini. If I try any of those combos, I’ll let you know and update this post!

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Lemon Chicken with Capers & Artichokes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 – 1.5 pound package boneless chicken cutlets
  • 1 jar capers
  • 1 jar marinated artichokes
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • splash of chicken stock
  • seasonings of your preference for the chicken
  • olive oil

DIRECTIONS

FYI, the sauce should take about the same amount of time to prep and cook as the chicken, between 10 and 15 minutes.

Cover a roasting pan in aluminum foil. Cut the chicken cutlets to desired size and place in the pan, then drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper or other blend, such as Trader Joe’s 21-seasoning salute. Just be careful not to over-salt because the capers and artichokes are already pretty briny from being marinated/preserved.

Preheat the oven to 350, put the chicken in the oven, and start the sauce on the stovetop.

In a stainless steel sauté pan over medium-high heat, cook the entire can of marinated artichokes. Add in the capers (drained). Cut one lemon in half and juice both halves into the sauté pan with the capers and artichokes. Cook and keep reducing liquid.

Transfer the chicken to under the broiler, placing the lemon rinds in the pan for flavor before you do so. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn while you finish the sauce.

Continue cooking the sauce on the stovetop, adding in a splash of chicken stock until it reduces and turns almost syrup-like. Turn off the heat.

When the chicken is browned, take it out from under from under the broiler and remove the lemon rinds; reserve. Pour the sauce over the top of the chicken and squeeze any remaining juice from lemon rinds before serving. Voila!

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I didn’t try these flavors on Georgia, but Mark was a big fan and scooped up a huge portion. It was filling and delicious!

Oh, and in case you didn’t hear, the long list of James Beard semi-finalists was announced today. Boston was pretty well represented ~ especially Alden & Harlow in Cambridge, in the running for best new restaurant.

Have a safe commute & stay warm, wherever you are. XOXO