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!

 

kid-friendly · Recipes

Can’t wait to make this tasty Broccoli Toss!

What a week!! I had a crazy, crazy time at work, and I’m ready for some easy food. I was reading Parents Magazine on the train in this morning and saw this Crunchy Broccoli Toss, and I just know Georgia would love it. She loves beans, edamame and “trees!” (as she calls broccoli — which is funny because so did my little brother when he was a tot). Anyway, I can’t wait to make this and I just wanted to share it with you, too. Happy Weekend!

broccoli toss

Recipes

Roasted Squash Pizza

Yes, squash! And kale, and caramelized onions, and apples, and  a balsamic reduction. The secret sauce that pulls it all together? Greek Yogurt!
You all know that I love substituting Greek Yogurt into baking recipes. I’ve done it in baking, and in place of sour cream atop all my chili recipes, and in smoothies left and right. But recently it struck me: why not put Greek Yogurt onto a white pizza? It’s tangy, it’s a little sweet, and in recent years the flavor options have exploded. I briefly considered making a reworked Hawaiian pizza, with pineapple Greek Yogurt, diced ham, onions and mozzarella, but after recently trying some unexpectedly delicious squash tacos, it got me thinking about the versatility of root vegetables and gourds. For this recipe, I used an acorn squash, since the skin is edible and it cooks down into a very sweet, mellow taste when diced and roasted. I pre-cooked the ingredients for this pizza in a saute pan ever so briefly, then assembled it on the pie and popped into the oven for just ten minutes of crisping. Voila!

Kale wilts a lot when cooked, and is a well-documented nutritional powerhouse. It can be tough to eat raw, so even when I’m using it in a salad I like to mix it with a variety of leafy greens chopped very fine. Kale, like other cruciferous vegetables, supports a healthy heart and digestive system, and provides an irresistibly earthy flavor to any dish. If you don’t like it or prefer not to use it, spinach would be an acceptable and tasty substitute.

This recipe makes use of several ingredients that you’ll probably have in double, simply by virtue of the quantity in which stores sell squash (which is whole) and kale (which is in large bunches). It also only calls for half a container of Greek Yogurt, so you could easily buy or make two pizza pies and then cook two of these babies back to back, and use up all your ingredients.

I know it may seem odd, but I actually chose Coconut Blended Chobani as the sweet base for this pizza. Why? Well, coconut seems unexpected, and I like that! I personally love the flavor, and this is a standby choice for me to keep in our house to share with Georgia alongside fresh fruit as a snack. She also loves the mango and pineapple flavors, which I send to daycare with a side of granola. And, just like coconut oil imparts a faint aroma and flavor to the food it cooks with, this yogurt provided a creamy, sweet foundation that made you say “hmm, what’s that I’m tasting?” with every bite of the finished pizza.

IMG_3222

Roasted Squash Pizza

The quantities below are for one pie; to make two, simply double. Many store-bought pie crusts are sold as a pair anyway, and you can always refrigerate the spare for another pizza recipe, or to make homemade oven chips tossed with oil and seasoning for a savory little snack.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pizza crust, homemade or store bought
  • 1 package Chobani Coconut Blended Greek Yogurt
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 acron squash, cubed into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small bunch of kale, shredded into pieces and stems discarded
  • 1 tart apple, cut into bite sized pieces, peel on
  • salt and pepper to taste

optional: balsamic reduction for drizzling (but you really should keep this step, even if it means buying a bottle of glaze instead of making your own!)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 or whatever temp the dough calls for, if you’re using packaged crust. Cut up the apple and set aside.

In a medium-sized saute pan over medium-high, heat a bit of olive oil and add the sliced red onion, stirring, until they just become translucent. Add the kale and cook for a couple of minutes until it just starts to shrink but hasn’t fully wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cubed acorn squash to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the kale is fully wilted, the onions have begun to caramelize, and the acorn squash is browned and becoming tender. Remove the pan from the heat.

Prep the crust by spreading about half the package of yogurt onto the surface in an even layer, adding the kale, onion, and squash directly from the pan, distributing evenly over the pizza.

Sprinkle the cubed apples over the pie and drizzle gently with the balsamic reduction, using a light hand.

Place the completed pizza into the oven for 10 minutes or however long the packaged crust calls for; check to make sure the edges aren’t burning. It’s done when the crust is beginning to brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool briefly, and dig in!

I rough cut my homemade pizzas in six or eight pieces depending on my mood, always using kitchen shears. Depending on the type of pizza stone you have, you may need to add more oil or flour to prevent sticking. I have one like this and love it. These slices reheat very well, too. Just pop a few into the microwave for 1 minute or reheat over low in a small nonstick frying pan until warm. Enjoy 🙂

Looking for more ways to use Greek Yogurt in cooking and baking? Check out  my Strawberry Yogurt CakeOrange Creamsicle Cake, and this Spicy Penne Rosa with Shrimp, which has a creamy tomato sauce, a kick of heat, and some heart-healthy spinach. Lately I’ve been making my own parfaits with the seasonal granola selection at Trader Joe’s, grapes, and apples, since those are the two fruits we have in abundance these days due to toddler preferences and our recent orchard excursion. Greek Yogurt makes an awesome addition to overnight oats, too! Be sure to head on over to Chobani’s recipe page to get even more inspiration.

Barn

Have a wonderful week, and I’ll be back soon with some Thanksgiving ideas … plus a sneak peek at our Christmas card photos, which I can’t wait to share with you (teaser above!) Let me just tell you, portrait sessions with a two year old are NO. JOKE!  🙂

Special thanks to Chobani for inspiring this post.

***

Grow Your Own Way · Recipes

Ladies and gentlemen, we have tomatoes! (+ caprese salad)

After all that midnight watering, Mark’s garden is peaking right now, with basil, eggplant, and — most excitingly — tomatoes simply bursting all of a sudden!

and they are irresistible, just like someone else we know…

 

“mommy, a-mate-o’s!”Must be the new gardener we brought on board.

 Abundant tomatoes = caprese every night!

and, because I’m being so good by having salad, buttered bread alongside.

 

My mind was blown when I realized that supermarkets now sell pre-sliced fresh mozzarella balls (!!) which cuts the prep time for this salad down to almost nothing.

To assemble: layer sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil (whole leafs or shredded; it’s just a matter of how you like it) in a plate and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then season lightly with pepper and salt. Want to get a tad fancier? Make a balsamic reduction by simmering the vinegar in a pan with some honey for about ten minutes until it turns syrupy. A good rule of thumb is 4:1 balsamic and honey to make a tasty reduction, so for example you could use 1 cup vinegar with 1/4 cup honey and have some left over. Or, you can just buy balsamic reduction 🙂 This salad is served as a main dish for lunch in Italy or as a starter at dinner, not as a side as we usually serve salads in America. Some recipes omit the balsamic altogether, keeping only the olive oil, and some add only pepper, not salt. Its colors are meant to evoke the Italian flag and you can find this on the menu almost everywhere in Italy, because it’s so filling and healthy. As with most fresh recipes, the better ingredients you can find (freshly cracked pepper, good olive oil, heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella), the tastier this will be.

Fantastico! Happy eating!

Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Pork in Citrus Sauce (plus, a tutorial on brining meat)

Here is the how-to on brining that I promised a couple posts back. It’s very easy! And it makes cooking potentially tough meats impossible to screw up. I’ve never had dry pork chops since learning to brine before cooking. 

I used to do this a lot back when we’d have dinner parties and I was a very strict vegetarian, and it always got rave reviews from our guests. So if you can make something good without even tasting it, it’s got to be a fairly decent method.

IMG_0858

How to: Brining

Brining is a process of soaking meat in brine, a.ka. salty water, often alongside onions and other vegetables or seasonings to draw in flavor, moisture and to tenderize cuts of meat that tend to dry out while cooking. Generally speaking, you can brine any meat using the following ratio: 4 TBSPs of salt for every 4 cups of water. You want to use enough water and salt to completely submerge your meat, so keep adding water and salt in a ratio of 1:1 (tbsp to cup) in whichever container you are going to use to brine. Since my fridge is small, I use a large plastic freezer bag sealed and nestled into a mixing bowl. Any container that closes will do. I brine overnight or while I’m away at work, but you can brine in as little as one hour! Just make sure you rinse off the meat between brining and cooking or the salt taste will be overwhelming. And as far as seasonings go, you can look to aromatics like fresh ginger, thyme, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, garlic, even sugar. If you are hoping to brine a holiday bird, like a large turkey, or a roast, definitely make sure you give it overnight to soak. For the following recipe, I used sliced red onions, since I was planning to use them in the finished dish as well.

IMG_0859

Pork Chops in Citrus Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Pork chops (double recipe for larger crowd)
  • 1 red onion, sliced (you can use the same one from brining)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • flour for dredging (I’m still using and loving TigerNut)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • olive oil for the pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

If you’re brining, do that as early as the night before or as close to cooking time as one hour prior. Drain and rinse the meat and onions or whatever else you use to season the brine, reserving the pork chops and sliced onions.

Season the chops with salt and pepper on each side. Dredge in flour.

Heat a saute pan to medium-high and coat with olive oil. When the oil is hot, cook the chops until golden on each side, 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

In the same pan you used to cook the chops, reduce the heat to medium and add another bit of olive oil. Add the red onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, quickly.

Add the lemon and orange juice and zest and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced by a third, just two or three minutes. Return the pork to the pan and simmer until the sauce is thickened, 1 or 2 more minutes. Taste the sauce and if it’s too tangy, sweeten it with a pinch of sugar or maple syrup!

IMG_0848

IMG_0852

IMG_0853

IMG_0856

IMG_0860

IMG_0861

I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart using what I had on hand.

When I sent Mark for pork chops at Trader Joe’s, he got the bone-in kind, which I don’t really eat because I’m not big on country-style cuts or rib meat and lots of fat. It did, however, come out just the same as when I use boneless loin chops, so you can get whatever you like! Here’s a good reference guide to pork cuts, which sometimes have non-intuitive names like “New York Chop.” 

pork_cut_guide

I hope you enjoy this one. I served it with a fennel & bean salad that could really be its own vegetarian main meal, which I’ll be blogging about next week! I always like to serve pork chops with mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes and applesauce. More often we have it in the fall, but I wanted to change things up a couple weeks ago and this was very light thanks to the citrus flavor profile! My family ate it up and I hope yours will, too.


Recipes

Trader Joe’s Tag: Chimichurri Rice with Chicken Sausage

Y’all know I love me some Trader Joe’s. So when I discover a new recipe that only uses TJ’s ingredients, I’m doubly excited! We go there for groceries probably every two or three weeks, pick up a few of our favorites plus a couple of new treats, and fill in the regular food haul from Target, the farmer’s market, or (if we have to) Shaw’s or Stop n’ Shop (so expensive!) This one has a slight kick that’s balanced nicely by the sweet sausage. It goes freezer-to-table in a flash.

20140805-123909-45549756.jpg

This has a moderate level of spice to it, and easily turns from a side dish into a full meal with the addition of sausage links and fresh vegetables. You can use any variety of sausage you prefer. The seasonings in the rice include garlic, ginger, creme fraiche, cilantro and pepper.

20140805-133309-48789110.jpg

Chimichurri Rice with Chicken-Apple Sausage & Fresh Peas

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bag Trader Joe’s Peruvian-style Chimichurri Rice (frozen)
  • 1 package chicken sausage, any variety you like (we chose apple)
  • 1/2 pound fresh sugar snap peas, ends trimmed

DIRECTIONS

In a good-sized skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage slices until just starting to brown. Add the veggies (in my case, peas) and cook for just a few minutes. Add the entire bag of frozen chimichurri rice to the pan and cook, stirring, until heated through. Enjoy hot with a glass of crisp white wine!

20140805-143833-52713150.jpg

I had lots of extra peas left over from the huge farmer’s market bag after eye-balling the amount for this recipe. I eat them raw, dip them in ranch dressing, or steam them, sometimes garnished with lemon zest or mint. And of course, they make the perfect addition to any stir-fry or grain salad. And they’re so plentiful right now!

In baby news, we suddenly have a big girl on our hands — her first birthday party planning is in full swing, she took her first steps this weekend, and she’s moving into the “transition room” (1-2 years) at day care today (SOB!) She’s not shy about exploring our house these days, including the stairs, cat food dishes, DVD player and breakable vases. It’s never a dull moment. Last weekend, she and daddy had a special breakfast date together while mom got her nails done!


Minted's Limited Edition Art Prints

Uncategorized

Melted Zucchini Pasta

OK. Last zucchini post of the year, I promise. This recipe is great for a couple reasons: Number one, it’s easy; and number two, it’s a new take on zucchini that’s perfect for when your tolerance is growing thin (like at the end of the summer). Simmering the diced zucchini over medium heat for half an hour lets it fall apart into an earthy, nutty paste that you’ll mix with some starchy pasta cooking water to form a simple yet satisfying sauce. It’s great for the transitional weather between summer and fall.

Melted Zucchini Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pasta, especially something that grips sauce well
  • 2 large zucchini, diced very small
  • olive oil for the pan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • freshly shaved parmesan
  • optional: cream cheese to thicken the sauce (or omit for dairy-free)
I tried Giada’s Fusilli Col Buco, which is a corkscrew shaped pasta that’s twice as long as spaghetti (doubled over in the package). “Col buco” means “with a hole,” and it refers to the way these coils look as if you could stick a straw right through the “hole” in the spirals. I really liked this product.

Directions

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, toss the zucchini and olive oil and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown and fall apart (20-30 minutes, depending on how small you diced the zucchini).

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water until boiling. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, or just underdone.

Add at least one cup of the starchy pasta water to the zucchini when it’s getting near done; let come to a boil. Stir and add more water as necessary to create a creamy sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the zucchini mixture with a healthy dose of salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low until combined.

If you’re using the cream cheese, stir in now while it’s still warm. Otherwise, top with a liberal dose of freshly shaved parmesan cheese and serve warm.

This recipe came my way from Real Life Delicious. Enjoy!