Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Crockpot BBQ Chicken

This shredded chicken couldn't be easier to make! You're just FIVE ingredients from the perfect BBQ chicken - pile it in slider rolls, stuff it in a baked potato with a drizzle of sauce over top, or make it an easy dinner and serve it on hamburger buns.

Who's ready for spring? I don't know about you but I have grown weary of all things winter. The "dead" trees and grass, along with the long nights, does a number on my mood after awhile! I've decided to go ahead and pull out all my spring decor and at least decorate my house like it's warm, sunny, and colorful outside!

Anyone else itching to put the flower wreath on the door yet?

Until the official grill season comes back around, I've been reaching for my crockpot more and more. I actually used this recipe to make sliders for a party and they were a hit! I frozen the leftover chicken and we'll probably make BBQ baked potatoes with them soon. It's so versatile!

Psst - this is the same sauce I used on these crockpot BBQ chicken wings/drumsticks!

Crockpot Barbecue Chicken
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup honey 
2 teaspoons mustard 
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 

Place the chicken in the crockpot. 

In a small bowl, stir together the barbecue sauce, honey, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce until well combined. Pour over the chicken.

Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or until it easily shreds with a fork. 

Remove the chicken from the crockpot, shred with 2 forks, then return to the crockpot to cook 15 more minutes in the sauce. 

Serve on rolls, potatoes, or on it's own! 

Source: adapted from Food.com

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spicy Stewed Beef

Slow cooked beef is fall apart tender and loaded with flavor! This super easy recipe is begging to be served over the pimento cheese grits I shared this week. Your taste buds will thank you!

This dish is the perfect snow day meal. It's warm, simmers on the stove awhile, has a healthy dose of spice, and sticks to your ribs! We had 1-2 ice days this week. I saw 2 flurries of snow and then the ice began. Watching freezing rain fall is not nearly as beautiful as snow! The schools were out 2 days, then had delayed openings the other mornings, and I was off work 1 day. Thankfully, with the sun out, many of the major roadways melted and dried out quickly so the entire city was not paralyzed for long.

You know we don't do ice and snow well in the south :)

The grits I shared Thursday were made for this beef. I decided to share the recipes separately because both stand on their own. However, when you serve them together, something magical happens. The spice of the beef is so tasty poured over top the creamy cheesy grits. It ranks up there with shrimp and grits!

You can adapt the stew to the crockpot if you need to but it's really not necessary, and dirties extra dishes. It can only cook about 4 hours and crockpot recipes are typically only helpful if you can cook them for 8 hours or more. The grits cook so fast that your hands on time is very low and produces a huge amount of food.

The amount of spice is easily adapted. Don't want any at all? Omit the chipotle. Like burning your face off? Double or triple the amount. 

Spicy Stewed Beef
2 Tablespoons canola/vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons butter
3 pounds stew meat or diced chuck roast
2 chipotle peppers (minced) + 1 teaspoon sauce (from canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
3-4 cups low sodium beef broth
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder

In a large Dutch oven over high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Brown the stew meat about a minute. Add the chipotle peppers and sauce, 3 cups beef broth, chopped onion, minced garlic, cumin, and chili powder. Stir, scraping the browned bits from the bottom, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 3 hours, or until the meat is fall apart tender. Check the meat occasionally and add additional beef broth if needed.

Once the meat is tender, remove the lid and let simmer for 30 minutes to allow the liquid to thicken.

Pile meat and it's juices over top mashed potatoes, polenta, rice, or cheesy grits. Or even stuff into soft tacos!

Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pimento Cheese Grits

Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Creamy grits are combined with the flavorful and familiar taste of pimento cheese for the ultimate comfort dish!

Grits are sorta a big deal here in North Carolina. While we ate them occasionally in Texas, they certainly weren't the staple breakfast item like they are here. At camp each summer, grits are a given at morning breakfast and everyone - kids on up - devour them. They are also a staple on our preschool breakfast menu! This grit loving girl is not complaining about the easy access I have to them now.

I'd never had pimento cheese grits before but a friend mentioned that they were served at a restaurant he had eaten at. I filed it in the back of my mind to try.

Well, for goodness gracious, pimento cheese + grits = love.

If you like either, you'll LOVE this flavor explosion. Though I'm thrilled to eat it by the bowl, I made them specifically to be served under a pile of spicy stewed beef - I'll be sharing that recipe this weekend! As always, kick up the cayenne if you're a fan of spicy pimento cheese :)

Thanks to the quick cooking grits, these whip up in just minutes.

Pimento Cheese Grits
3 cups whole milk
1 cup quick-cooking grits (not instant)
1-2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3 ounces cream cheese, room temp
4 ounce jar diced pimentos, drained
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a boil. Slowly whisk in the grits and whisk constantly until the grits are thickened. This should take around 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup cheddar, cream cheese, and pimentos until well combined and melted. Add the cayenne, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings or add more cheddar, if desired.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Jamaican Jerk Shrimp with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

Shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, and loads of bacon are joined together into a complex, slightly spicy, and delicious dish that's perfect served over steamed rice, quinoa, or couscous. No one would ever know it took less than 30 minutes from start to finish!

For Christmas, we don't usually give each other gifts, per say, but we do handle stockings. I typically get carried away and buy way more than can be in his stocking and he usually does too. This year, he went with a theme for my stocking.


He knows the way to my heart :)

Bacon band-aids, bacon lip balm, bacon chocolate bar, and a bacon cookbook were just a few of the bacon themed items he stuffed in the stocking this year.

This was the first dish I've tried from the bacon cookbook and it was an immediate success! I mean, it does have bacon in it.

It has some heat but not melt-your-face-off spice. The jerk paste is VERY spicy; the recipe only calls for 3 teaspoons (at most) for the entire dish but if you are a melt-your-face-off fan, go ahead and up it to taste. I dare ya.

Can't find the jerk paste? There are lots of recipes online to make your own and look fairly simple to whip up. 

Jamaican Jerk Shrimp with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes
1/2 lb thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, coarse stems removed, cut into thick slices
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup dark rum
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2-3 teaspoons Jamaican jerk paste
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until half the fat is rendered. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic and saute until the onions are lightly colored, stirring often.

Add the shrimp and saute over medium-high heat until they are pink and cooked through. Pour in the rum and scrape up the browned bits. Increase the heat to high and cook for 1-2 minutes to reduce the liquid slightly. Stir in the tomatoes, jerk paste, fennel, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, stir in the cilantro, and simmer for 5 minutes. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Crockpot Asian Pork with Noodles

Let your crockpot do the cooking! Boneless pork, mushrooms, and Asian spices are slow cooked together and served over a mound of rice noodles. Low calorie but incredibly satisfying!

Happy Sunday! I hope that you had a lovely Valentine's Day (if you celebrate) or just a great weekend if you don't. We missed the boat and made reservations too late to get in anywhere so we celebrated on Friday instead! This was probably even better because we were able to still take advantage of the less expensive Valentine dinner special but on a (slightly) less crowded night.

Though we love to dine out on special occasions (or any day, really!), there are many nights that we would rather spend at home, in our PJs, watching TV. And when I can come home to dinner already cooked, I'm a happy camper! While lots of crockpot meals can be bland and disappointing, this one was a hit!

This pork is delicious over rice or noodles but I find rice noodles to be the easiest to make... and aren't we using a crockpot to make our life easier?

You have to sear the pork prior but if you have an early morning, just do it the night before and refrigerate it in the crockpot, ready to go, overnight. 

Crockpot Asian Pork with Noodles
2 lb boneless pork sirloin roast
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons agave
1 teaspoon sesame oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
16 ounces rice noodles
salt and pepper
chopped cilantro, for topping

Season pork on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Brown the pork on all sides, about 8 minutes total.

Meanwhile, combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, agave, sesame oil, cayenne, Chinese five spice, garlic, and ginger in the crockpot. Add the seared pork, cover, and cook on low for 8 hours.

30 minutes before the timer goes off, remove the pork and set aside on a large platter. Add the mushrooms to the crockpot, cover, and continue cooking.

Prepare the noodles according to package directions.

Using two forks, shred the pork. Once the mushrooms are tender, remove 1 cup of the broth and set aside. Place the shredded pork back into the crockpot and mix well. Add the reserved broth back into the crockpot if needed.

Serve the pork and some of the broth over the prepared noodles. Top with chopped cilantro.

Source: slightly adapted from Skinnytaste

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mexican Lime Soup with Chicken

A flavorful chicken soup bursting with lime flavor! Perfect for a cold winter's day.

We have a continuous conversation in our house about whether or not soup, on it's own, is a meal. My vote (of course) is that it is - especially when it's stuffed full of all the main food groups. You're probably shocked to hear that the husband is not as agreeable. Occasionally, though, I serve up a soup that is satisfying enough to pass the test and he's not digging around for a PB&J sandwich to accompany it.

This soup is hearty and delicious despite it's broth base. You don't need heavy cream to make a meal worthy soup! Though similar to chicken tortilla soup, this is lighter and brighter in flavor. Totally guilt free!

A grocery store rotisserie chicken is a huge time saver - so much so that you can easily whip this up on a weeknight.

I know it's tempting but do not reach for bottled lime juice! Lime is the star here and it only shines if it's the real deal.

Mexican Lime Soup with Chicken
For the tortilla strips:
6 corn tortillas
vegetable oil

For the soup:
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
10 cloves garlic
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons lime zest
2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded
1/4 fresh lime juice (from 3-4 limes)
salt and pepper

For the garnish:
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
jalapenos, seeded and diced
fresh cilantro, chopped
avocado, pitted, peeled, and cubed
fresh lime, sliced
sour cream

Preheat oven to 375.

Lightly brush vegetable oil on both sides of each tortilla and stack on top of each other. Cut tortillas into thin strips, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, and season with salt. Bake, turning once, until golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes total. Remove from baking sheet and set aside.

Flip the oven to broil. Place the quartered onion and garlic cloves on the baking sheet. Broil until blackened, about 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from oven and transfer to a food processor. Add 1 cup chicken broth to the processor and puree until smooth.

Pour the processed mixture into a large pot. Add the remaining 7 cups broth, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, cilantro, and lime zest. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and cook another 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Garnish each bowl with reserved tortilla strips, cheese, jalapenos, cilantro, avocado, lime, and sour cream.

Source: adapted from Homesick Texan

Monday, February 9, 2015

Crispy Potato Skins

Restaurant quality potato skins... at home! This easy method promises crispy potato skins in just a few easy steps. Guaranteed to be the hit of your next party!

Though I cook a fair bit, we also eat out quite often and have some "regular" restaurants in our rotation. One of them is a casual restaurant with a huge menu, including some fantastic steaks. Jason almost always orders a steak and I... order potato skins. As my meal. I peruse the menu and usually pick out something else but when push comes to shove (aka, when the waitress shows up), I revert right back to those dang potato skins. On the upside, I'm a cheap date! :)

The key to good potato skins is the crispiness. Without some flipping and broiling, your potato skins are soft sided and, well, like eating a baked potato. Tasty, but definitely not a restaurant style potato skin. This method couldn't be easier and I promise you won't be eating baked potatoes in the end.

The biggest issue you'll have with this recipe is making enough. They will disappear in minutes!

Go ahead... make them for dinner this week.

Crispy Potato Skins
3 lbs small/medium sized russet potatoes*
olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400.

Pierce each potato with a fork several times. Lightly rub the outside with olive oil and place directly on the oven rack. Bake until a knife easily pierces the potatoes, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until cool enough to handle.

Cut each potato in half horizontally. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving 1/4 inch of the potato in place. Reserve the flesh for another use.

Brush the insides of the potatoes with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Flip them over and do the same on the skin side.  

Turn the oven to broil.

Place the potato halves skin side up on a baking sheet and broil until the butter foams and the skin starts to crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Pull the baking sheet out and, using tongs, flip the halves over. Return to the oven and broil until the top edges begin to brown, about 2-3 minutes more.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and fill each half with cheese and bacon. Put it back under the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 4-5 minutes more. 

Remove and top with sour cream and green onions. Serve immediately. 

*Loose potatoes are typically the larger ones. Pick up a 5 lb bag instead; they are usually smaller. 

Source: adapted from Chow

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Creamy Taco Mac

A family friendly 20 minute meal! This is like Hamburger Helper except MUCH tastier. Creamy, flavorful, inexpensive, and {relatively} healthy. You'll be fighting over the leftovers!

I won't lie; Hamburger Helper tastes darn good. While I probably wouldn't buy it anytime soon, I'd have no issue devouring a bowl of it if someone handed it to me. Sometimes a big bowl of creamy pasta just sounds amazing. Thankfully, you can whip up this version just as quickly as the box kind! Sub in whole wheat pasta and make your own taco seasoning and it's even better for you.

This was originally shared over 4 years ago and deserved a revisit! 

Creamy Taco Mac
8 oz. dry pasta (any shape)
1¼ lbs. ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. taco seasoning
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
salt and pepper
shredded cheddar cheese, for topping (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onion. Once the turkey is cooked through, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream, and reserved pasta water. Stir until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper and simmer over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce. Remove from heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Source: Annie's Eats

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Scalloped Potatoes with Bacon and Gruyere

A classic! Creamy, rich, and a family dinner favorite. This simple potato dish deserves a spot in your recipe file!

I remember scalloped potatoes showing up on our dining table quite often as a child and we all LOVED it. How can you not like scalloped potatoes? Everyone's favorite starch baked in cream and cheese until bubbly. Can't get much better... except when you move from the boxed mix you grew up on and sink your teeth into a homemade version.

Sure, the homemade kind is a bit more labor intensive but it's still not bad. Invest in a mandoline and you can whip this dish together in 20 minutes or less. Your oven does the rest!

You can easily skip the bacon if you don't want to mess with it but I love the salty bite it adds. Gruyere is pricey, and you can sub in something else instead (even cheddar!), but for a special occasion, I like the nutty flavor it lends.

Scalloped Potatoes with Bacon & Gruyere
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced thyme
3 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. 

In a large skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon until crispy. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Layer the bottom with a third of the potato slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then layer half of the onions, thyme, and reserved bacon. Sprinkle 1 cup of the cheese over top. 

Repeat with another third of the potato slices, sprinkle again with salt and pepper, and then a layer the remaining onions, thyme, and bacon. Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese over top.

Layer the remaining potato slices and carefully pour the broth over top followed by the cream, being careful to evenly distribute both.

Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove foil, sprinkle on remaining 1 cup cheese, and return to oven to bake an additional 30-40 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and most liquid is absorbed. 

Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Source: adapted from Simply Recipes

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

North African Meatballs with Couscous

One of the best tasting dishes you'll make! A complex blend of sweet and salty that is anything but complex in it's creation. This is one of our favorites!

When you love trying new recipes, you don't repeat meals very often. Which is a shame, really, because I occasionally come across a dud of a recipe (don't worry - I don't share them here!) and wish I had reached for a known winner instead. Since many of my earlier (and, ahem, present) photos leave a lot to be desired, I've tried to pull out favorites from the archives to reshoot. And as a bonus, we get to eat them again!

This is one of those dishes and while the 2nd photo attempt isn't much better than the first, I'm sharing the recipe anyways because it's DARN GOOD. Healthy, inexpensive to make, and simple in it's cooking technique but you would never know it from the taste. It's similar to a Moroccan dish in that it has a complex sweet and salty thing going on. In other words, it's delicious and you should make it.

I don't change it too much from the original because it's got 500+ five star reviews for good reason :)

You can easily sub in ground turkey or lamb instead of the beef!

North African Meatballs with Couscous
For the meatballs:
1 egg
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch ground cinnamon
1 pound ground beef
1/3 cup bread crumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup pitted and chopped briny olives
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
1 (14-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
pinch ground cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the couscous:
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
1 cup quick-cooking couscous
salt and freshly ground black pepper

First, make the meatballs. In a medium bowl, combine the egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground beef and bread crumbs, season with salt and pepper, and combine gently. Do not overmix. Roll into 1 inch in diameter meatballs.

In a large saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat and brown the meatballs in batches until golden on all sides. Transfer once browned to a plate.

Once all the meatballs are browned and removed from the pan, make the sauce. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the hot pan and saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute. Add the white wine and scrape the browned bits off the bottom. Let the wine reduce for 1 to 2 minutes and then stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon. Simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the reserved meatballs to the sauce and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

While the meatballs are simmering, make the couscous. Bring the water, stock, and oil to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the cranberries followed by the couscous. Cover the pan tightly with a lid, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve the meatballs and sauce over prepared couscous.

Source: slightly adapted from Melissa d'Arabian

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