Sunday, January 25, 2015

Shredded Mexican Slow Cooker Chicken (like Cafe Rio)

I need to become better friends with my slow cooker. I have only made a couple slow cooker recipes in my day, which include this Mexican chicken recipe, and the refried beans recipe. I will be starting my new schedule this week where I am out of the house for 50+ hours a week, and since I probably can't count on the hubby to have dinner ready when I get home, I might just have to throw things in the slow cooker before I leave for work and come home to a delicious meal. I made this slow cooker chicken recipe the other week and we ate it every day for 6 days. I had seen the recipe posted on a couple blogs and decided to give it a try. I was a bit skeptical about the claim that it was like the chicken from Cafe Rio, but I got to be honest, it is pretty darn close. For those of you who don't know about Cafe Rio, you should really check it out! Apparently it used to just be a west coast thing but now is becoming an east coast thing too, and a Cafe Rio Annapolis opened just a couple years ago. Greg and I had the chicken in a taco salad a couple nights, and we also did burritos. I thought about doing loaded nachos with it too, but maybe I'll do that next time. This shredded Mexican slow cooker chicken is flavorful, moist, and versatile. Little Wendy (9 1/2 months) loved this chicken - I think she likes spice because I ate pretty spicy things when I was pregnant with her. I am pretty sure you and your entire family will enjoy this slow cooker chicken. You will love how easy it is to make and how good it tastes!

Recipe for Shredded Mexican Chicken (like Cafe Rio)

2 1/4 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup of Italian salad dressing
1 packet of Ranch dressing
1/2 cup of water
2 tsp. of chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. of cumin
3/4 tsp. of coriander
1 Tbsp. of prepared (jarred) minced garlic (or 6 cloves of pressed fresh garlic OR 2 tsp. of garlic powder)
1 Tbsp. of dried onion flakes

Put all of the ingredients into the slow cooker. Turn heat on low and cook for five to six hours or until chicken shreds well with a fork. Then shred up the chicken and you are done!

Serving suggestions:
For a taco salad - Put chopped iceberg lettuce on a plate. Add black beans, corn, shredded chicken, torn cilantro leaves, grated cheese, chopped avocado, chopped tomatoes, and sour cream (or Greek yogurt). Drizzle with some lime juice and your favorite salsa.

Burritos/tacos - Use same ingredients as the salad but put in a taco shell or warmed tortilla!

Recipe Adapted from: Our Best Bites

 Recipe makes approximately 10 - 12 servings.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

African Peanut Soup

Years ago, I worked at a teacher resource center in Howard County. It was the best job ever for many reasons. I had an amazing boss who is also a friend and I met a wonderful woman who volunteered there during the week, who also became a good friend. Not only was the job a place with lots of wonderful people, it was also a place where good food was had on a daily basis. The building I worked in was right across the street from a market called Produce Galore, which sadly went out of business the last year I worked at the resource center. Every day I would walk over to Produce Galore to get lunch. One of the things I especially loved there was the soup bar. There were exciting new soups to try every day and I don't think I was ever disappointed with anything that I had. One soup that I got a few times was a peanut soup. It was rich and creamy and like no other soup I had ever had before. I finally decided to try to make the soup (seven years later) and I'm so glad I did! I had no idea it would be so easy. When I searched online for recipes, I came across many different ones and the one I decided to go with turned out great. I served it over rice and added some Greek yogurt on top. This soup is vegetarian (vegan if you omit the cream), but if you want to add meat Greg and I think that chicken or shrimp would go well with it. Greg was pretty skeptical when I told him about the soup when I was making it but he ended up raving about it when he tried it! It makes a lot of leftovers too (we ate it for the fourth time today and are still looking forward to eating the last of it tomorrow night). The soup is rich because of the coconut milk and peanut butter, but if you serve with the rice you don't need much of it to fill you up. We did about 1/2 cup of cooked rice and 3/4 cup of soup per bowl. But you can eat as much as you want! Enjoy.

Recipe for African Peanut Soup

4 cups of vegetable broth
3 cups of coconut milk (I use the So Delicious culinary brand)
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
1 very large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1-inch pieces
1 14.5 ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. of sea salt
1/4 tsp. of paprika
1/8 tsp. of smoked paprika
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A pinch or two of ground ginger
1 cup of creamy peanut butter
*2 Tbsp. of heavy cream
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
Cooked rice, such as Jasmine rice, for serving
Greek yogurt, for garnish
Roasted peanuts, for garnish

*If desired, and if it doesn't matter to you if this meal is vegan, you can add in the heavy cream. I did!

Pour the broth into a large pot and set over high heat. Add in the coconut milk, fire-roasted tomatoes, diced onion, pressed garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, cubed sweet potato, sea salt, paprika, smoked paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and ginger. Give it a stir and let it sit over high heat for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through (you can check this by pricking the potatoes with a fork, if it goes all the way through they are done cooking). Then use a ladle to take out 1 1/2 cups of the liquid and throw out. Stir in the peanut butter and stir until smooth. Remove the soup from heat. Use an immersion blender to puree until the soup is smooth and there are no chunks of onion or potato. Stir in the cream, if using. Then return the pot to the stove and set over low heat for a couple minutes before serving.

Scoop desired amount of rice into a bowl. Top with the peanut soup. Add on some cilantro leaves and peanuts for garnish. If desired, top with a little bit of Greek yogurt (I did this, but Greg did not).

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Recipe makes about 8 -10 servings (if you serve with rice).

Recipe Adapted from: Oh My Veggies, originally from The 30-Minute Vegan: Soup's On! More than 100 Quick and Easy Recipes for Every Season by Mark Renfield

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Black Bean Hummus

Hello and Happy New Year to you! I didn't really make a list of resolutions this year, but my wish for 2015 is to get more sleep at night! Things have a been a little crazy here. I had a rocking birthday celebration a week ago...just kidding. We actually had a dishwasher fire on my birthday. A fire seriously started in a running dishwasher and luckily my husband was home to get the fire out in a matter of seconds. If we weren't home when it happened, we wouldn't have a home anymore. Very scary. I will never run appliances again when out of the house. The only damage we had was a burnt counter top, a ruined Bosch dishwasher, and smoke residue that needed to be cleaned throughout the house. It's really hard not to have a dishwasher. I'm trying to resist the urge to cook and it's getting tougher. I did make a batch of this tasty hummus yesterday and it's the perfect thing to eat for lunch or to snack on. I like it better than the traditional hummus that is made with chickpeas. It's a little spicy and a great consistency. We ate it today with toasty chips and melted cheese...yum! This black bean hummus is easy to whip up and it tastes delicious. Enjoy!

Recipe for Black Bean Hummus

2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 Tbsp. of Tahini (sesame seed paste)
Juice of 1 lime
2 cloves of garlic
5 Tbsp. of medium salsa (I like the Kirkland-brand organic salsa from Costco)
2 Tbsp. of canola oil or olive oil
1/2 tsp. of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper
2 tsp. of cumin powder
A couple pinches of smoked paprika
A few grinds of fresh black pepper

Put all ingredients into the bowl of  food processor and pulse until smooth. Put in an airtight container and refrigerate for a couple hours before serving. Serve with warm tortillas, quesadillas, tortilla chips, or veggies.