Practical tips, recipes & family-friendly ideas for dinner.

Lemony Chia Breakfast Bread

lemon-breakfast-bread-recipe-with-chia

Who doesn’t love to wake up to a citrusy, lemon breakfast bread on a bright and sunny morning? My first experience with this delicious recipe was when my mother-in-law brought it to our house as her contribution to a family celebration. She posted the original recipe on her blog as a French Lemon Yogurt Cake. I couldn’t get enough of it! However, as I typically do, I started to experiment with the original version to see if I could transform it into a hearty breakfast bread. You see, when it comes to breakfast, my family has a strong preference for cereal, muffins, bagels, scones, etc… In other words, we’re pretty carb-centric. And, my kids are scrawny, so I find myself adding (aka hiding) all sorts of wonderful plant-based proteins to my base recipes for muffins, breads, scones and the like.

chia-hemp-flax-dynamic-trio-breakfast-supplementsFor this lemon breakfast bread recipe, I added chia seeds, hemp hearts, and flax meal. It’s a reliable dynamic trio to turn a basic carb-loaded baked good into a healthy and satisfying breakfast. I doubled the lemon zest and added a drizzle of lemony glaze to amplify the lemon flavor. My kids LOVE lemon flavored anything. The extra boost of lemon made this a sure win with them. Finally, I increased the amount of baking powder in the recipe to ensure a light and airy texture.

Give this recipe a try! I hope you and your family enjoy it and you find yourself making it more than once! 🙂

Happy Baking!

Lemony Chia Breakfast Bread

Ingredients

    For the bread:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds/poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hemp hearts
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax meal
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • For the glaze
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions

    For the bread
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a (8 1/2 x 4 1/4″) loaf pan with parchment paper. If you don't have parchment paper, coat with nonstick vegetable oil spray and dust with flour; tap out excess.
  3. Whisk all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, chia seeds, hemp hearts, and flax meal in a medium bowl.
  4. Using your fingers, rub 1 cup sugar with the lemon zest in a large bowl until sugar is moist. Add the yogurt, olive oil, eggs and vanilla; whisk to blend. Fold in dry ingredients just to blend.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto rack and drizzle with glaze; let cool completely.
  6. For the glaze
  7. Stir together butter, lemon peel and powdered sugar in small bowl. Stir in lemon juice until glaze is smooth. Drizzle on top of bread and let drip down the sides.
http://www.menubility.com/lemon-breakfast-bread-recipe/

Easy Vegetarian Chili & Cheesy Chile Cornbread

vegetarian chili recipe

Few things can warm you up on a blustery Winter day like good, old fashioned chili and cornbread. I remember eating my  mom’s chili growing up, which I would classify as more of a “Cincinnati-style” chili. It was a rich and spicy tomato-based chili with ground beef, kidney beans, and short spaghetti noodles. The noodles were my favorite part. I didn’t care much for the beans, so I would ask my mom to make a small pot of chili for me without beans. Being the loving person she is, she would oblige without complaint. If my kids asked me to do that, I’m not sure I would!

Like me, legumes are hit or miss with my own children, but they have grown on me over the years (let’s say I’m a fan). It’s a good thing, too, because this easy vegetarian chili recipe has 3 different types of beans! I first discovered this recipe in a Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook. For the life of me, I can’t remember how I came by this cookbook. I do know that it was one of my very first cookbooks, however.

This recipe is sooooo simple – you throw everything into one big pot and let it go. It’s almost hard to believe it’s worth trying, but I assure you, it is!  I’ve adapted the recipe over the years, playing with the spices and add-ins. Everyone I have served it to has asked me for the recipe (super flattering!).  I love to serve this chili with a side of savory cheddar cheese cornbread with a buttery, salty crust from being cooked in a skillet. YUM!

I added a note to the recipe below re: adding chorizo or shredded rotisserie chicken as a topping if you have meat lovers at your dinner table. When meat is served on the side, everyone (including vegetarians) wins!

Easy Vegetarian Chili

Easy Vegetarian Chili

Ingredients

    Vegetarian Chili Basics
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 bell peppers - orange and yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/2" strips (poblano or cubanelle peppers are also delicious!)
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, chopped
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder (1 for mild, 2 for medium)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Optional
  • Noodles (parboiled in salted water) - I like elbow noodles, and they can be served on the side.
  • Toppings
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro mixed with 2 tbsp. diced yellow onion and a 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • Guacamole
  • Sour Cream
  • Cheddar Cheese

Instructions

  1. First, before removing from the can, blend the whole tomatoes (in the can) slightly with an immersion blender or mash to break up the whole tomatoes, until you reach the consistency you like best in your chili.
  2. Into a large pot, pour can of tomatoes. Stir in remaining "Chili Basics" ingredients Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 30 to 35 minutes or until bell peppers are tender.
  3. Serve in individual bowls and top with your choice (or all) of the toppings and enjoy!

Notes

If you have meat-lovers in your family, add rotisserie chicken or chorizo sausage as a topping so it can be served on the side!

http://www.menubility.com/easy-vegetarian-chili-recipe-with-cornbread-with-cheddar-green-chiles/

 

Healthy Family Dinner Ideas for Fall

healthy summer dinners: enchiladas, zucchini galettes, sweet potato hash, pasta primaveraAs we transition into Autumn, I’m focusing on a mix of Healthy Family Dinner ideas, some of which include and others that exclude meat. I try to balance out our weekly dinners with a few meat-free meals.  Not all our vegetarian meals are light, but taking a break from meat in lieu of plant-based proteins definitely has us feeling like we’re eating a little healthier.

One dish I’m excited to share with you is a Sweet Potato & Corn Hash with Fresh Tomatoes and Bell Peppers. I am often surprised at the versatility of sweet potatoes and this dish was one of those that emerged, not from an existing recipe, but simply from what we had on hand at the end of the week.  And boy was this one a keeper! We enjoyed this as a side, but I would have been completely happy eating a giant bowl of it as my main course.  Honestly, as good as sweet potatoes are with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, my family enjoys them much more as a savory dish.  If you’re ready for a different take on sweet potatoes, give this savory sweet potato recipe a try.

Healthy Family Dinner Ideas for Fall:

  1. Creamy Chicken Enchiladas Verdes, Spanish Rice, Tomato/Avocado Salad
  2. Lemony Zucchini & Ricotta Galettes with an Arugula & Cherry Tomato Salad
  3. Grilled Chicken & Avocados (see idea below), Savory Sweet Potato & Corn Hash with Fresh Tomatoes & Bell Peppers.
  4. Pasta Primavera (I add broccoli and green beans to this!), Spring Salad, Garlic Bread

southwest chicken rubAlong with the sweet potato and corn hash, we enjoyed grilled chicken seasoned with a wet rub and avocado. For a super quick weeknight dinner, you can’t get more basic than grilled, seasoned chicken. I’m not going to publish this as a recipe, perse because it’s just too simple. It’s just 3 things: Chicken, Olive Oil, and Spice Rub.

To keep cooking time and portion size down, try trimming your chicken breasts down into smaller pieces.  I cut off the tenderloin first, and with the remaining meat, cut portions similar to the tenderloin.

Combine equal amounts of your favorite dry rub and olive oil in a gallon sized ziploc bag (example 2 tbsp. of rub with 2 tbsp. of oil).  I really like Char Crust’s Smoky, Spicy, Southwest Rub. Add the chicken to the bag, seal, and shake or turn the bag until the chicken is thoroughly coated with your spice mixture.  Cook on a pre-heated grill (medium high heat) for 4-5 minutes per side, for a total of approx. 10 minutes.

Char Crust has a variety of flavored rubs, so if you want to mix it up and avoid having the same grilled chicken week after week, it can be as easy as trying different flavors and pairing the chicken with different side dishes. They have a ginger teryaki rub that would probably be great on top of a ramen noodle dish or vegetable fried rice.

grilled avocadosCheck out this super healthy grilled avocado recipe   We grill ours in the half shell, remove from the skin, smash with a little lime juice and cilantro and place grilled chicken directly on top.

That’s it for this menu! Stay tuned for our next summer menu edition that will include a review of the popular dinner service, Blue Apron!

Photo Credits: Zucchini Galettes (Epicurious), Pasta Primavera (Food Network), Grilled Avocados (California Avocado). See links in recipes above.

Savory Sweet Potato Recipe: Corn and Sweet Potato Hash with fresh Tomatoes, Peppers and Basil

Corn & Sweet Potato Hash with fresh tomatoes, peppers and basilThis savory sweet potato recipe is one of those brilliant, yet rare, moments when you unearth a hodge podge of random produce without a plan and improvise those things into a tasty hash. The ingredients, part roasted and part raw, are comforting and fresh, smoky and sweet, earthy and vibrant. The first time this hash was made, it was served as a side to grilled chicken. The 2nd time, I incorporated it into a frittata for brunch. It’s as versatile as it is healthy!

Corn and Sweet Potato Hash with fresh Tomatoes, Peppers and Basil

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 ear of corn
  • 1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 to 1 whole red, orange or yellow bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. coriander
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. combine the smoked paprika, garlic powder, cumin, coriander, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a couple grinds of black pepper in a small bowl. mix until combined.
  3. slice and dice your sweet potato into pieces that are just a little bit bigger than the kernels of corn.
  4. cut the corn off the cob.
  5. combine the corn and the sweet potato onto a baking sheet.
  6. drizzle with olive oil
  7. sprink the spice mixture over the corn and sweet potatoes
  8. with your hands, mix the corn, sweet potatoes, olive oil and spices until thoroughly combined. spread the corn and sweet potatoes out even on the baking sheet.
  9. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, taking out after 10 minutes to flip and redistribute.
  10. While the corn and sweet potatoes are roasting, cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters and the bell pepper into similar sized pieces.
  11. Combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, basil, 1 tsp. olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl.
  12. When the roasted vegetables are done cooking, let them cool slightly before combining with the fresh vegetables in the bowl.
  13. Toss all veggies together in the bowl and serve!
http://www.menubility.com/savory-sweet-potato-recipe-corn-and-sweet-potato-hash-with-fresh-tomatoes-peppers-and-basil/

Easy Rotisserie Chicken Enchiladas

chicken enchiladas verdesWe are one taco-lovin’, chips-&-salsa-eatin’, quesadilla-crazy family, but every once in a while I need to change up the format of our favorite mexican flavors. This easy rotisserie chicken enchilada recipe did not disappoint. On Sunday, our local grocery store sells rotisserie chickens for $4.99 so the recipe is as affordable as it is tasty.  You can enjoy the chicken as-is, or you can use it as a starting point for something far more exciting: chicken salad, chicken noodle soup (or ramen noodle bowl!), pizza or calzone toppings, quiche, pasta, casseroles, you name it, and you can probably work a rotisserie chicken into it. This time around, I had my sights set on creamy, tangy chicken enchiladas verdes.

Easy Rotisserie Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 1 Rotisserie Chicken (or the equivalent in seasoned, fully-cooked chicken)
  • 10-12 soft white corn tortillas
  • 1 16 oz. jar Salsa Verde
  • 1 cup cheddar or queso cheese, shredded and divided in half
  • 1 small can of diced green chiles (mild)
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375.
  2. Next, start harvesting the meat from the rotisserie chicken. I typically use both of the breast, the thighs and legs. Pull the meat from the bones and create a pile of boneless chicken that you can work your knife through to chop into smaller pieces. Take time, working in batches if you need to, to chop the chicken into fairly small pieces. Alternatively, you can shred the chicken.
  3. Wrap your tortillas in foil and place in the oven for about 5-7 minutes. While those are warming, make your filling: In a medium-sized bowl, combine the chopped chicken, 1/4 cup of the salsa verde, 1/2 cup of shredded cheese, diced green chiles, sour cream and half of the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until thoroughly combined.
  4. In a 9 x 13 casserole dish, drizzle a little olive oil and a 2-3 tablespoons of salsa verde. Shake horizontally to spread the oil and salsa around to cover the bottom of the dish. Pull the tortillas out of the oven. Take one out and reseal the foil pouch to keep the others from cooling off too quickly.
  5. Next to (not on) the center of the tortilla, place 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture in a line. Take the closest edge of the tortilla and roll up your mixture in a tube to make your first enchilada. Place it in the casserole dish. Continue with the rest of your tortillas. If you have more enchiladas than you can fit in your pan, put the remaining enchiladas in a small casserole dish and cook or freeze for use later.
  6. Once all of your enchiladas are nestled into your casserole dish, drizzle the remaining salsa verde on top, and finish with the remaining shredded cheese.
  7. Bake at 375 for about 25-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown slightly.
http://www.menubility.com/easy-rotisserie-chicken-enchiladas-verdes-recipe/

For these enchiladas, the grownups in our house usually eat 2 and the kiddos eat 1.  I love to serve them with traditional rice and beans, but we equally enjoy a few unconventional accompaniments such as a mango-avocado salad or roasted corn on the cob (or both)!

I hope your family likes these easy rotisserie chicken enchiladas as much as we do!

Summer Family Dinner Ideas (No.3)

Hello friends! I’ve made it through a month of birthday and holiday celebrations.  Now it’s time to detox (just a little) and get back on track with good, clean eating. Fortunately, healthy options for summer family dinner ideas are as abundant as the fresh summer produce in North Carolina.  In my backyard, tomato plants, peppers and herbs are thriving.  Soon, these plants will provide us with the best tasting and most convenient ingredients possible – one of my favorite things about Summer.

Our 3rd weekly menu in the summer series includes FOUR tasty dinner ideas:

  1. Peruvian Roasted Chicken, Broccoli Salad & Cantaloupe
  2. BLT Sandwiches on Sourdough, Roasted Corn on the Cob, and Watermelon
  3. Crock pot Teriyaki Chicken, Basmati Rice + Summer Fruit Salad
  4. Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli w/Marinara, Kale Caesar Salad & Homemade Garlic Bread

I’ve provided a link to a highly-rated Peruvian Chicken recipe if you’d like to make it on your own. I’ll be trying this very soon.  Honestly though, we usually just buy a whole chicken via takeout from our local Peruvian Chicken restaurant here in Cary, NC. Our favorite is Mami Nora’s.  It’s extremely affordable, slightly addictive, and makes for a quick and easy weeknight meal.

crockpot teriyaki chicken recipe

The Crock pot Teriyaki Chicken recipe (and the photo) comes from my mother-in-law’s blog, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen.  It’s one of her most popular recipes.  Once you make it, you’ll see why!  I’m pairing this up with the Summer Fruit Salad featured in our last menu.  It was so good, we had to have it again.  I do make my own poppy seed dressing, but instead of poppy seeds, I use chia seeds.  You’d never be able to tell the difference and chia seeds are incredibly nutritious! View the nutrition info on chia seeds for yourself!

The Ravioli dinner is simply storebought marinara and ravioli.  If you’re going to use storebought ingredients, I highly recommend trying out some of the “top shelf” sauces.  It’s easy to have sticker shock over the prices, I know, but keep this in mind: these are the closest you’ll get to homemade, and they usually don’t have preservatives or other junk in them.  If you were to make your sauce homemade (which is fabulous), it’ll likely cost as much or more than the top shelf sauce and take a whole lot more of your time.  My favorite top shelf sauce is Rao’s Vodka Sauce.  And if you don’t have Rao’s in your grocery store, you can buy their gourmet pasta sauces online.

Last, but not least, I’ve worked up a new printable menu option for you.  This free download features 3 menus on 1 sheet (3 weeks, essentially) and they are completely blank so you can pick and choose your favorite family dinner ideas from a variety of choices to build your very own menu each week.  Print multiple sheets and keep them handy in a drawer in/near your kitchen.  I’ll be working on a new printable grocery list next so stay tuned!

printable blank menu - free download

Healthy Family Meals for Summer (No. 2)

How is it the middle of July already?! We recently returned from a trip to visit my lovely and amazing in-laws at their beautiful home in Lake Lure, NC.  They are so gracious to host one of my family’s most beloved traditions: going to their Lake Lure home for the 4th of July.  The whole weekend is packed with delightful food, time on the water, naps on the “sleeping porch”, wine tastings (juice tastings for the kids), games after dinner, and lots of love and laughter.  My mother and father-in-law are true gems and would easily win an award for being the best hosts anyone could ever hope for.  I’m not sure if they realized when I married their son (and only child) 13+ years ago, that my entire family would soon be knocking at their door to spend time with them and each other.  That’s what happens when you live in a magical place and treat your guests to the warmest, tastiest hospitality the North Carolina mountains can offer. Oh – and if my in-laws don’t already sound cool enough, check out my Mother-in-law’s awesome food blog, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen!

Now that we’re home, we are back on the cooking train, preparing healthy family meals for our family of 4. Here’s the dinner lineup for the week:hot dog, mac and cheese, baked beansverde chicken tacos

Dinner 1: Baked Alfredo Pasta Florentine with salad & garlic bread

This baked pasta dish would be a great for Winter, too.  However, the addition of basil in this dish makes it tasty and irresistible Summer meal!

Dinner 2: Seared Chicken with Mustard Cream, Rice & Summer Fruit Salad

I just sear thinly sliced chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper, in a saute pan with olive oil. I double the mustard cream sauce in the recipe linked above and serve overtop the chicken on a bed of rice. I typically do not use the watercress in the recipe as good watercress is not readily available in our area.

Dinner 3: Hot Dogs, Homemade Mac & Cheese and Baked Beans

Nothing fancy here, just a nice weeknight staple. I add yellow mustard, ketchup, brown sugar and bacon to my baked beans.  They are tangy and sweet!

Dinner 4: Crock pot Tacos Verde, Spanish Rice + Guacamole Salad

Vegetarian option: try this crock pot recipe with a can of rinsed/drained black beans + 1 sliced onion + 1 sliced bell pepper in place of the chicken.  Cook the bean mixture for 2-3 hours in the salsa verde, and you’ll enjoy some delicious, healthy vegetarian tacos in the end!

Dinner 5: Chicken & Avocado Caprese Quesadillas and Roasted Broccoli

 
 

Printable Menu and Grocery List Update: I’m going to take some time to develop some additional options for the printable menus and grocery lists that I publish.  So… this week, please refer to the blank version of the printable menu and grocery list and try making your very own personal meal plan and shopping list for the week.

Have a great one!

Baked Pasta Recipe: Baked Alfredo Florentine

baked-pasta-recipe-baked-alfredo-florentineThis dish was inspired by a baked pasta recipe on Cooking Light that was promoted as one of it’s best or most popular dishes. After reading the reviews, I thought the “idea” sounded more promising than the recipe itself. Too many reviewers said the recipe lacked flavor and I agreed that it seemed to be missing something. Confident that, with a few tweaks here and there, this baked pasta recipe could be really amazing.  And boy, I was right!

Timing for any recipe is key. It helps everything flow better and makes your life (in the kitchen) just a little less stressful and the recipe less frustrating.  If you have any sides to go with this dish, I’d recommend putting them together while the baked pasta is finishing in the oven. The timing for prepping this recipe goes like this:

  • Make your filling + warm pot of salted water. By warming up your water while you’re working on something else, it will come to a boil quickly when you’re ready.
  • Make sauce + par boil (i.e. undercook) pasta
  • Assemble baked dish and finish in oven.

baked-pasta-recipe-alfredo-florentine2The creamy ricotta filling in this recipe is reminiscent of baked ziti, except it has loads of basil, spinach and garlic in it. I also used part-skim ricotta to lighten up this decadent baked pasta recipe.

Instead of store-bought alfredo sauce, I opted to make my own.  It was my first time and it was suprisingly simple and fast.  Alfredo sauce is essentially 3 ingredients: cream, butter and parmesan cheese.  I used light cream (instead of heavy), backed off on the butter a tad, and seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper. Super easy, super yummy.

While the sauce is coming together, cook your pasta. Whenever you make a baked pasta recipe, it’s important to make sure you undercook your pasta by a couple of minutes because your pasta will continue to cook in the oven in the sauce you bake it in.  If my box of ziti says it’s “al dente in 8-9” minutes, I cook it for 6 minutes in a baked pasta dish.

Please give this Baked Alfredo Florentine a try and let me know what you think!

Baked Alfredo Florentine

Ingredients

    Alfredo Sauce
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup Parmesan
  • 1 garlic clove, zested (on a microplane)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Filling
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup chopped spinach (frozen is okay)
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 7 basil leaves (chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • Other Essentials
  • 3 cups ziti or pasta of choice
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan for the top!

Instructions

    Make the filling:
  1. Whisk together the whole egg and egg white.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.
  3. Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the pasta dish.
  4. Make the Alfredo Sauce:
  5. Melt butter in a small sauce pan.
  6. Add cream, garlic, salt and pepper and warm through.
  7. Whisk in the parmesan and stir until melted.
  8. While making the sauce, cook the pasta in salted water just 2-3 minutes under the amount of time listed on the pasta package.
  9. Assemble your Baked Alfredo Florentine:
  10. Put half of the pasta into a medium-sized casserole dish - one that is fairly deep.
  11. Pour half Alfredo sauce on top of the pasta.
  12. Spoon all of the ricotta filling on top of the pasta+alfredo and spread evenly to the sides of the baking dish
  13. Add the remaining pasta
  14. Add the rest of the sauce
  15. Top with 1/4 cup of mozzarella and a sprinkle of Parmesan
  16. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes until bubbly and starting to turn golden brown on top.
http://www.menubility.com/baked-pasta-recipe-baked-alfredo-florentine/

Crock pot Chicken Recipes: Verde Chicken Tacos

crock pot chicken tacosI’m almost embarrassed to post this as a recipe. Why you ask? Because it’s so insanely simple and easy.  I’ve made it dozens of times.  We share this dinner with friends quite often and the recipe is one of my “most requested”. I do feel like the it’s more of a dirty little secret, though. Hopefully, you’ll agree it’s the best kind of secret to share!  I hope you add it to your repertoire of crock pot chicken recipes.

The type of tortillas you use (crunchy, soft or both) and the toppings you add to this crock pot chicken taco recipe are entirely up to you.  I’ll share what we like to put on our chicken tacos and you can take them or leave them.

The guys in our family… they like soft taco shells, but the ladies prefer crunchy.   Thankfully, Old El Paso sells a combo box of soft and crunchy shells. It’s perfect for our family.  I don’t bother buying the taco “kit” because we don’t need the seasoning or sauces.

The awesomeness in this recipe is achieved by 2 key factors:

  1. cooking the chicken low and slow in the crock pot (or your oven) and
  2. using a flavorful salsa verde as a braising liquid.

slow cooker chicken tacosI prefer chicken thighs any time I’m cooking chicken low and slow.  As you can see by the photos, I used chicken breasts here. My grocery store had a great sale on them and I couldn’t refuse!  Why do I prefer dark meat over white, you ask?  It is a personal choice, so don’t fret if you like white meat better.  Here are benefits and reasons I typically like to use dark meat for braising or slow cooking:

  • I think thighs are juicier, more tender, and more flavorful than chicken breasts.
  • Chicken thighs are typically less expensive.  If you’re going organic, this can help lessen the financial impact of purchasing more expensive organic meats.
  • There are also some lesser known nutritional benefits to dark poultry meat.

If you have leftover taco meat (white or dark), it makes a great quesadilla or can be worked into a casserole. We’ve also frozen it and used it at a later date without compromising the taste at all.

Please give this crock pot chicken recipe a try and let me know:

Did you use white meat or dark? -AND- What are your favorite taco toppings?

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

Ingredients

  • Salsa Verde or Tomatillo Salsa (medium heat, 16 oz.)
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or bone-in, skin-on breasts (approx. 1 lb.)
  • Taco Shells (crunchy or soft tortillas)
  • Taco Toppings
  • Sour Cream
  • Shredded or crumbled cheese (cojita, queso fresco, cheddar, pepper jack, etc...)
  • Cilantro
  • Pickled Red Onions or Jalapenos

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken in the crock pot and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Pour the entire jar of salsa verde in and around the chicken.
  3. Put the lid on your crockpot and set the temperature to 250 degrees.
  4. Cook for 6 hours, then keep warm until you're almost ready to serve.
  5. Just before serving, shred up the chicken (careful to remove any bones if you used a bone-in cut) and place the shredded meat back in the salsa verde. Keep warm until you serve.
  6. Assembling your tacos
  7. Warm your tortillas in the oven according to package directions.
  8. Place the sour cream in the shell first and spread along a narrow line where the rest of the toppings will be added.
  9. Next, add the chicken
  10. Then add the cheese
  11. Then add the cilantro
  12. Finally, add the pickled red onions or jalapenos
  13. Dig in and ENJOY!
http://www.menubility.com/crock-pot-chicken-recipes-verde-chicken-tacos/

 

 

Homemade Mac n Cheese Recipe

mac n cheese recipeA good deal of getting our kiddos to eat what we eat involves compromise.  If I’m going to introduce something new during dinner, I try to make sure it’s accompanied by something familiar, something I know my kids will enjoy.  Mac n cheese is one of our “go to” side dishes.  If my daughter could choose just one thing to eat for the rest of her life, macaroni and cheese would be it.  It’s a safe bet for almost every family I know.

Now, you can go with the brand-name or even generic boxed standbys and be just fine.  If you do go this route, please try doctoring up your boxed macaroni and cheese by following the last 2 steps in the recipe below.  This basically involves adding a handful of small cubes of cheddar cheese and a heaping spoonful or two of sour cream.  These 2 small steps take ordinary mac n cheese and elevate it into something flavorful that the grownups will enjoy as much as the kids.

If you’re like us and prefer the taste and peace of mind that comes from the wholesome, made-from-scratch variety, give this homemade mac n cheese recipe a try.  It’s not as hard (or as heavy) as you might think.

macaroni cheese recipeJust like I mentioned in the post on how to make the best grilled cheese sandwich, making delicious Macaroni and Cheese from scratch involves using more than just one kind of cheese.  The variety of cheese (in my opinion) can differ, so long as all the cheese you use is flavorful.  Think about it this way: the more flavor the cheese has, the less you have to use.  The less cheese you use, the healthier this dish becomes!  In this recipe, I used extra sharp cheddar, parmesan, and gruyere.  I almost always shred the cheese on a box grater just before using it.  I can’t help but feeling that pre-shredded cheese is dry and inferior.  If that’s all you have, by all means, give it a try. Please be adventurous and try a variety of cheeses to find the combination your family likes best.  I would love for you to share your favorites in the comments below!

Homemade Mac n Cheese Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse/kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 2 slices extra sharp cheddar, cut into cubes and set aside until just before serving
  • 1/2 cup gruyere, shredded
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, shredded
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 2 heaping tbsp. light sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium low to medium heat. Also, in a medium sauce pan, bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil (I usually add about 2 tsp. salt to my water).
  2. Once the butter is nearly all melted, add garlic powder, onion powder, 1/2 tsp. salt and a couple of cracks of fresh black pepper. Cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Whisk in flour to make the "roux". A roux is basically flour and fat cooked together to form a thickening agent. Cook the roux, stirring occasionally for about 3-4 minutes longer. It's okay if it goes longer than 3-4 minutes, just keep an eye on and stir occasionally so it doesn't burn.
  4. Just before you add your milk to your roux, make sure your water is at a rolling boil and add your elbow macaroni. Cook for 1 minute less than the time noted on the box label.
  5. Back to the roux. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of skim milk into your small sauce pan. You should notice that the mixture is fairly thick. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth (not lumpy).
  6. Whisk in the remaining milk. The mixture will be considerably thinner. Cook over medium heat until the mixture just starts to thicken up again, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn. As soon as you notice that the sauce is thickening, turn the heat off.
  7. Whisk the shredded cheeses in, a small handful at a time. Take care, not to add more cheese until the previous handful has been fully incorporated. This will ensure a smoother sauce.
  8. Once all the shredded cheese is whisked in, remove the sauce pan from the burner completely.
  9. Strain or drain your elbow macaroni and quickly bring your noodles back to the pan.
  10. Continuing to work quickly, add your cheese sauce. The goal is to have the cheese sauce ready by the time you strain/drain your macaroni.
  11. Once the macaroni and cheese sauce are combined, cook on low heat for another 1-2 minutes. During this time, you are essentially finishing the noodle cook time in cheese sauce rather than water (YUM).
  12. Turn the heat off. Stir in the sour cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you salted your water and roux properly, no additional season should be necessary here.
  13. Just before serving, add the final bits of cubed cheddar cheese and mix into the macaroni so you have little melty bits of cheesy surprises throughout.
  14. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Notes

Any time you reheat mac n cheese, be sure to add a tbsp. or two of milk to prevent the leftovers drying out!

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