Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Grilled Chicken with Tropical Fruit Salsa

I can't believe it's almost August! For many families, this means summer is drawing to a close and before long we'll all be back to the usual. There are a few things I will miss when summer ends...  the biggest of which is the end of all this delicious fruit! For me, the perfect summer meal is grilled meat + fruit. It's simple, filling, healthy, delicious, and fresh. I know some people aren't sure about fruit paired with meat but I'm a fan. Especially when you pair it with some spice!

This meal? Done in less than 30 minutes (not including marinating time). Also this meal? Around 300 calories a serving! 

I call that a win!

To make it even faster, and tastier, toss together the fruit salsa the night before and just pull it out when the chicken finishes.

Grilled Chicken with Tropical Fruit Salsa
For the chicken:
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless/skinless chicken breast halves
Cooking spray

For the salsa:
2 cups cubed (1/2 inch) seeded watermelon
1 cup cubed (1/2 inch) peeled mango
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all the chicken ingredients, except the cooking spray, in a gallon size resealable bag. Shake gently to coat and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, turning occasionally.

To make the salsa, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready, prepare the grill and coat lightly with cooking spray. Grill the chicken for 5 minutes on each side, or until done. Throw away remaining marinade.

Serve the grilled chicken with the prepared salsa.

Source: Cooking Light (includes nutritional info)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Maple Vanilla Coffee Creamer

Please excuse the delay in posting! I teased this recipe on Facebook yesterday and then got busy and didn't get it written and posted. We have had a super busy weekend and this is the first time I've had a chance to actually sit down at the laptop! Yesterday, we spent the entire day (er, night I guess - we finished at 2:30am this morning...) rebuilding our pantry. I can't wait to show you - it looks SO good and is so much more functional! And of course Sundays are always busy days for me.

I don't know about you, but I'm a coffee addict. I used to only drink it black but in recent years, have seen the beauty in adding some flavored creamer to it as well. Just standing at the dairy section at the store can be incredibly overwhelming with all the flavors now available! Since mass produced flavored creamer has it's fair share of preservatives and ingredients you can't pronounce, I was pretty excited to try a homemade version!

Let me just go ahead and warn you now - you're gonna want to whip up a few batches because before you know it, it's gone. Especially if you drink iced coffee by the gallon like I do! This will last a couple of weeks in the fridge but I doubt it'll stick around that long.

The next time you find yourself out of flavored creamer, grab a few ingredients from your pantry and whip some up ~ just 4 ingredients {and delicious}!

Maple Vanilla Coffee Creamer
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk, half & half, or heavy cream (I used soy milk)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a mason jar, or other container with a tight lid, add all the ingredients. Close lid securely and shake well until blended. Refrigerate for at least an hour before enjoying. {you may need to shake it briefly before pouring each time - the condensed milk is thick and likes to sit near the bottom}

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kung Pao Spaghetti (California Pizza Kitchen Copycat)

Are y'all California Pizza Kitchen fans?

I must admit that I've only dined there once, and it was a long time ago with a large birthday party (ie, pizzas were ordered for the table so I never saw a menu). We have one close but it's also located near a ton of other great restaurants so we always end up dining elsewhere.

I always assumed pizza was the main event there but evidently, they also serve unique pasta dishes! When I first came across this recipe, I got it in my head that it was a Cheesecake Factory copycat because it's really similar to something you'd order there from their massive menu. But turns out, it's from California Pizza Kitchen - and it's SO tasty!

Taking the classic flavors of a traditional Kung Pao Chicken and putting it in pasta is pretty darn brilliant. My inner carb lover rejoices when anything is over pasta! The dish comes together quickly and is actually fairly lean, thanks to non-breaded/fried chicken. You could sub in any protein you wanted (or nothing at all) and it'd be just as delicious.

This was a hit at our house and I hope it's one at yours, too!

Kung Pao Spaghetti
1 lb dried spaghetti
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
3 tablespoons red chili paste with garlic
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1.5 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, cornstarch, soy sauce, dry sherry, red chili paste, sugar, red wine vinegar, and sesame oil. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper (light on the salt since the soy sauce will have salt) and then cook, in batches, until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer cooked pieces to a plate and set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon of oil and garlic to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30-60 seconds.

Stir in the prepared sauce and peanuts. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Add the cooked and drained pasta, green onions, and cooked chicken to the pan and mix well. Serve immediately.

Source: Damn Delicious

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Curry Chicken Salad

This chicken salad is, no lie, my current addiction. It's a good thing I pack my lunch with a reasonable amount because if I were left alone with the entire bowl, it'd be gone in one meal. And though Jason likes it, I've pretty much forbidden him from taking it for lunch.

Just kidding. Sorta.

A few years ago, I made a curry chicken rice salad for a baby shower. The recipe had been passed onto me by a friend and I tweaked it a bit. As much as I love rice, I really wanted just the chicken salad part for a sandwich so I tweaked it again (and actually wrote down the measurements so I could pass it on!).

Y'all, it's so good.

I know curry isn't everyone's favorite but if you are one of those that likes curry powder (not spicy curry - just regular curry powder), you need this chicken salad in your life. It's such a nice change from a typical chicken salad recipe and delicious in a wrap or sandwich.

Or just with a fork, straight from the bowl.

Note: I like my chicken salad to be mostly chicken with a little bit holding it all together. Feel free to up the mayo if you like yours creamier

Curry Chicken Salad - my favorite chicken salad EVER. Curry powder, ginger, and mango chutney send this salad over the top! | See Aimee Cook

Curry Chicken Salad
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons mango chutney
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cups roughly chopped cooked chicken*

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, chutney, curry, and ginger. Add the celery and chicken and mix well to combine. Chill at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld before serving.

*I quickly chop the meat from a rotisserie chicken - the ones from Costco give you about 2 cups of meat

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Power Muffins (blueberries, oatmeal, Greek yogurt)

I'm no good at the whole idea of breakfast.

I mean, I LOVE breakfast foods... just not at breakfast. Because eating breakfast food at breakfast time means that I was up early AND cooking early.

And I really, really, really hate mornings.

Which sorta flies in the face of the whole "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" stance that has been drilled into our heads from the time we were in elementary school. For some reason, a coffee drip isn't an acceptable form of breakfast. Hmph.

So, I'm trying harder to embrace this "eating food before noon" idea so I went in search of breakfast items that were healthy, would jump start my day, could be eaten in the car, and took no prep in the morning.

And y'all, did I find a winner!

This muffin is all those things and then some. They are slightly sweet but not ridiculously sweet (like some high calorie muffins out there). They are dense and filling, super easy, and, hello?!, full of blueberries!

You won't even know you're eating a healthy blueberry muffin!

Power Muffins
Non-stick cooking spray
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup plain oats, quick or regular
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries

Heat oven to 350.

Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside.

In a bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a second bowl, combine the yogurt, honey, eggs, butter, and vanilla.

Fold the yogurt mixture into the dry mixture and stir to combine well.

Gently fold in the blueberries. *the mixture should be very thick but if it's too thick, or dry and crumbly, add some milk until it mixes well

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tins and bake until the top is golden and it springs back when gently touched, about 20-25 minutes.

Note: these can be wrapped individually and frozen

Source: slightly adapted from Domesticated Academic

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken

This recipe is another oldie that deserved a better picture. Y'all, the first picture is SO BAD. So bad I won't even post it here. And my food photography is still not great but I can say with confidence that this picture is 10000x better than the previous one. Go check it out.

I did make it a bit different this time around because I love using the grill as often as possible. The original recipe has you using the broiler so if you're grill-less, you could do that instead. But I don't think it'll taste as good as chicken straight off the grill. :)

We love this chicken! It's incredibly moist and flavorful, with that awesome sweet and spicy thing going on. And, if you have a decently stocked pantry, you won't have to buy any ingredients other than the chicken! 

A spice rub is an easy way to inject a big dose of flavor on a piece of meat. So not only do you have the spice rub going on, you brush on a sticky sweet glaze as you grill it. No marinating and no fuss!

Throw some veggies on the grill at the same time and you'll have dinner in no time. 

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
Cooking spray
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoon cider vinegar

Preheat the grill.

Combine the first 6 ingredients (through red pepper) in large bowl. Add the chicken to the bowl and toss until each piece is well coated. In a separate bowl, combine the honey and vinegar and set aside. 

Turn the grill down to medium-high and lightly oil the grate.

Place chicken on the grill and close the lid. Let cook for 5 minutes. Open lid, turn chicken, and brush with prepared honey-vinegar glaze. Continue turning and brushing with glaze until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. 

Source: adapted from Cooking Light 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chocolate, Strawberry, and Cream Cheese Bundles

We just got home from a weekend at the beach, which is why this blog was quiet all weekend long! We weren't planning any summer travel this year but when some relatives from Texas made plans to come this direction for a week, we quickly added a beach weekend to the calendar so we could see them. Such a hardship, I know :)

Though there was a full kitchen in our condo, I'm not one to cook on vacation. I love to cook, and do it just about everyday, but I love laying on the beach and eating at local restaurants more. Plus who wants to do dishes on vacation? Not this girl!

These bundles were born out of a "need" to use up a few bits here and there. A sheet of puff pastry I had already thawed, some leftover cream cheese, and some flash frozen strawberry pieces leftover from a scone recipe. Chocolate chips are a constant in my freezer so I threw them in for good measure (and because I love chocolate). These are ridiculously easy and sooooooo good. You could easily switch out the fillings, too!

I took pictures along the way because I'm a nerd. And to show you how easy they are. {but really just because I'm a nerd}

First you just roll out a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Puff pastry is uber delicious but quite dainty; you don't want it to stick to your counter or wax paper. I first cut the pastry into squares and dolloped on some cream cheese and strawberries.

Then I added just a few chocolate chips to each:

Then made little bundles, using water to help seal the edges:

Cute, right? Sorta like potstickers. Except better.

Then you just bake until browned!

Note: They are tastiest served warm... but I doubt many families would have issues with leftovers! 

Chocolate, Strawberry, and Cream Cheese Bundles
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup chopped strawberries 
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400.

Unfold the sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the pastry until it's a 12 inch square. Using a pizza cutter, slice the pastry into squares that are 4 inch square (should be 9 total).

Divide the cream cheese between the squares, putting a small piece in the center of each. Then add a tablespoon of strawberries and then top with about a teaspoon of chocolate chips. Smush the strawberries, cream cheese, and chocolate together a bit so they stick together. 

Working with one piece at a time, brush the edges with water and bring the corners together in the center. Twist or press well to seal. Place on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pieces. 

(if you have any pieces that aren't quite coming together, just fold the edge over to create a triangle)

Bake for 15 minutes or until they're golden brown. Remove from sheet and let cool slightly (but still warm!) on a wire rack before serving.

Note: any combination of fillings could be used - shoot for about 2 tablespoons of filling total

Source: adapted from Pepperidge Farm

Friday, July 12, 2013

Chipotle-Lime Pork with Rice & Black Bean Pilaf

Pork. The other white meat.

Y'all remember those commercials? I haven't seen the ad campaign in awhile but it's still fresh in my mind. Chicken is, obviously, America's favorite meat. It's cheap, mild tasting, and versatile. Unfortunately, pork is not as popular but I'm not sure why. Pork tenderloin is way more delicious than chicken in my opinion! And, it also cooks up fast, is versatile, quite lean, and can be impressive enough for guests.

I picked up some pork tenderloins a few weeks ago and decided to go back through my archives and try an old recipe again. I originally shared this recipe back in March 2010 and the photo is completely unappetizing but I remember the recipe being delicious. A friend had passed on the recipe and since it's been awhile, I want to make sure others have the chance to give it a try while it's still grilling season.

Even though the pork marinade contains chipotle peppers we did not find it to be spicy at all. You could boil the marinade and use it as a sauce which would kick up the spice. I decided to go sauce-free this time and the pork was tender, delicious, and flavorful. The rice and pork essentially cook the same amount of time so once you get those both started, you can make the black bean mixture and everything will finish at the same time :)

Eat more pork, y'all!

Chipotle-Lime Pork with Rice & Black Bean Pilaf
For the pork:
1 pork tenderloin
1 tsp oregano
1/4 c olive oil
chopped parsley
2 chipotles canned in adobo, chopped, seeds removed
2 minced garlic cloves
2/3 c. lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

For the pilaf:
1 cup brown rice
2 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 (15.5 ounce) can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley leaves

Make the marinade 4-24 hours prior by combining all the pork ingredients (olive oil through pepper) and pouring over the pork tenderloin. Let marinate in the fridge.
When ready to cook, pull the pork from the fridge (so it'll come to room temp) and preheat your grill. Once heated, reduce heat to medium and lightly oil the grates. Place the pork on the grill and cover. You can either throw out the remaining marinade or boil it and serve it as a sauce.

Grill the pork, turning occasionally, until the internal temp is 155 degrees, which takes 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice into 1/2 inch slices.

While the pork is cooking, start the pilaf. Place the rice and chicken broth in saucepot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook rice, covered, until tender and all liquid is absorbed, 30-35 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and fluff with fork.

Meanwhile, heat oil in saute pan over medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, celery, carrot, cumin, and chili flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not mushy, about 6 minutes. Stir in black beans and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the black bean mixture and hot rice and toss to combine. Garnish with parsley.

Serve pilaf with sliced pork.

Source: Pork is from my friend Kathy & pilaf is from Ellie Krieger

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

(Skinny) Oven Fries

Fries are a huge weakness for me. Fast food fries, to be exact. I've watched the documentaries on how bad McDonald's fries are but they are so.darn.good. And who doesn't love fries with their burger? Crazy people, that's who, because fries and burgers are like ice cream and hot fudge. They just belong together. 

And so, we recently grilled burgers and I fought the urge to fry up some potatoes to go with them. Instead, I reached for a recipe for low calorie oven fries and was, strangely, completely satisfied with the much healthier alternative. These fries are still brown and crispy, thanks to roasting them at a high temp, and the insides are soft and buttery, thanks to the use of Yukon Gold potatoes. And the calories? That's the best part! Only 102 calories a serving! 

These were easy, tasty, and a hit at our house. Try them at yours the next time you're looking for a healthier option to serve your family.

Psst - I went traditional and just used salt but you could throw other seasonings and dried spices on for tasty variations!

{Skinny} Oven Fries
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into wedges
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450.

In a large bowl, toss the potato wedges, oil, and salt until the potatoes are well coated. Spread them in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. 

Bake until browned and tender, turning once, about 20 minutes total.

Makes 4 servings. Each serving: 102 calories; 5g fat (1g sat, 4g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 13g carbohydrates; 2g protein; 1g fiber; 291mg sodium; 405mg potassium.

Source: Eating Well

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Shrimp & Couscous in Saffron Broth

Are y'all getting a ton of rain in your neck of the woods? Man alive, I can't remember feeling this water logged before! Back home in Texas, summer means drought like conditions, water restrictions, and brutal temps. By now, our water bill would have been sky high as we tried to keep the darn lawn alive. But here in North Carolina? Haven't had to water the lawn yet and it's thick, green, and gorgeous. It would be lovely to enjoy if it would stop raining long enough!

I think much of the east coast is experiencing these constant downpours as well but I don't think it's normal for this time of year. I hope? 

The downside to constant rain is that grilling is a bit more difficult, and you know I'm a huge fan of the grill! Thankfully, this recipe is whipped up on your stove top so the weather outside doesn't matter at all. 

We really loved this meal. Doesn't it look like something you'd get at a beach-side restaurant? Israeli couscous is one of my favorite textures and it works perfectly with the plump shrimp, fresh veggies, and saffron. And it cooks up in mere minutes! 

Shrimp & Couscous in Saffron Broth
For the shrimp:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 2 cups)
3 carrots, cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock

For the couscous:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

First make the couscous: Heat oil in a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Add couscous, stir to coat, and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, 1-2 minutes.

Add the water; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until couscous is tender and has absorbed the liquid, 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and stir in butter.

While the couscous is cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium. Add oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Cook the fennel, carrots, and saffron until they start to soften, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

Season shrimp with salt and pepper and add to pan. Cook 1 minute and then turn shrimp. Pour in wine and stock and cook until shrimp are pink and opaque throughout, about 2 minutes.

To serve, spoon couscous in shallow bowls and top with shrimp, vegetables, and broth.   

Source: slightly adapted from Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home Cookbook

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

(Skinny) Strawberry & Blueberry Cobbler

Do you have any big plans for July 4th? The holiday is actually a big milestone for me. Last year, I badly broke my leg and it's been a (very slow and painful) uphill battle since then. It's not anywhere near 100% yet but my life is finally starting to get back to normal.

We have friends from Texas coming to see us this week (weeee!!!) and we have big plans for the 4th that involve lots of outdoor activities. I'm no wilderness girl but I'm embracing my new-found mobility and going to try and participate as much as possible. If you don't hear from me for awhile, you know I overdid it! :)

One of my diet downfalls are potlucks. I'm a sucker for homemade goodies brought by my friends, and the buffet that calls me to graze is more than I can resist. Cobbler typically finds a place at the table for most southern BBQs and picnics so this cobbler is PERFECT if you're trying to eat healthier. Even if you aren't counting calories, you'll still find it delicious and easy.

By swapping out some of the butter for canola oil, and using whole wheat flour, you greatly reduce the calories. Any fruit could be used, too - I went for my faves, strawberries and blueberries, which just happen to be red and blue for July 4th!

Throw it all in your cast iron skillet and it'll be pretty enough to go from oven to table.

Stay safe, don't fall off the porch and break your leg, and HAVE FUN this July 4th!

{Skinny} Strawberry & Blueberry Cobbler
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup reduced-fat milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3.5 cups sliced fresh strawberries
2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350.

Add butter and oil to a 12 inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven until melted and fragrant, 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add milk, sugar, and vanilla. Stir to combine.

Add the melted butter/oil to the bowl and stir to combine. Pour batter into the hot pan.

Spoon strawberries and blueberries evenly over the batter.

Return pan to oven  and bake until the top is browned and the batter around the fruit is completely set, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove to wire rack and cool at least 15 minutes before serving warm.

Makes 10 servings. Each serving: 182 calories; 8g fat (3g sat, 3g mono); 11 mg cholesterol; 26g carbohydrates; 3g protein; 3g fiber; 212mg sodium; 140mg potassium.

Source: slightly adapted from Eating Well

See Aimee Cook

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