Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

30 Oct

For the final week of Crocktober, I’m whipping up Thai Chicken. Let’s take a moment of silence to mourn the end of this delicious month.

Like the previous Crocktober recipes, this one is a snap to throw together. This recipe uses my absolute favorite chicken products, SmartChicken boneless, skinless thighs. Yes, you read that correctly. This dietitian LOVES dark meat chicken!

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Nutritionally speaking, it’s not that different than breasts, but worlds apart in flavor and texture. In fact, I love chicken thighs so much, that you can always find at least a couple pounds in my freezer.

The recipe. Drumroll please…………

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Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

Ingredient:
2 small bell peppers (any color), sliced
1 white onion, chopped
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 (16 ounce) bottle Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing & Marinade
1 tbsp Thai chili paste
1 tbsp honey

Directions:
1. Place peppers and onions at the bottom of the slow cooker. Place chicken on top.
2. In a small bowl, mix together peanut butter, dressing, chili paste and honey. Pour sauce over chicken.
3. Cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours, or HIGH 3 to 4 hours.
4. Remove from slow cooker and serve over brown rice, in lettuce wraps or as a salad topper. Garnish with cilantro and peanuts (optional).<

Slow Cooker Italian Pork Chops

23 Oct

If you’re looking for a simple and delicious supper, then you have come to the right place. This Slow Cooker Italian Pork Chops recipe puts a twist on the traditional spaghetti meal that many of us make. Plus, it uses ingredients that I ALWAYS have on hand and takes just minutes to mix up.
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Feel free to add in extra veggies (peppers, shredded carrots, mushrooms) for a nutritious bang. Serve with a side salad and your meal is complete!

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Italian Pork Chops (6 servings)

All you need:
6 (1-inch thick) boneless pork loin chops
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (25 oz) jar pasta sauce
1 (13.25 oz) box whole wheat rotini noodles, cooked (for serving)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (for serving)

All you do:
1. Place pork chops, salt, pepper, onions, garlic and pasta sauce in 4-quart slow cooker.
2. Cover slow cooker and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours. Serve with cooked rotini noodles and mozzarella cheese.

Moroccan Beef and Sweet Potato Stew. Crock-Pot and Freezer Meal

16 Oct IMG_8687-0.JPG

It should be no secret that I love my Crock-Pot (her name is Kate). And I’m happy to report that “Kate” has done it again.

I’m always searching for slow cooker recipes that are a bit different, but still simple. I use my slow cooker because I don’t have time to slave away in the kitchen. This recipe has everything. Simple, delicious and nutritious. It is simple enough to whip up on a busy morning before work AND would make a terrific freezer meal.
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*Recipe courtesy of Beef It’s What’s For Dinner.

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Moroccan Beef and Sweet Potato Stew
Ingredients:
2-1/2 pounds beef Stew Meat, cut into 1 to 1-1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup regular or golden raisins
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with garlic and onion
Salt
Hot cooked couscous
Chopped toasted almonds (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Directions:
1. Combine flour, cumin, cinnamon, salt and red pepper in 3-1/2 to 5-1/2-quart slow cooker. Add beef, sweet potatoes and raisins; toss to coat evenly. Pour tomatoes on top.

2. Cover and cook on LOW 8 to 9 hours or on HIGH 4 to 6 hours or until beef and potatoes are fork-tender. (No stirring is necessary during cooking.) Season with salt, as desired.

3. Serve over cooked quinoa. Garnish with almonds and parsley, if desired.

Homemade Laundry Soap

11 Sep IMG_8297

I have been making this laundry soap for 3 or more years now and wouldn’t ever go back. I came across a recipe that seemed simple enough and only used 3 ingredients. Many homemade laundry soaps seem to take several ingredients and a lot of time. I love this soap for so many reasons.

1. No over-powering scent. Unless you purchase unscented laundry soaps, most are so strong that you can smell them through several washings. I am really sensitive to fragrances, so this is a HUGE plus in my book.

2. Effective! I have 3 kids (ages 5, 3, and 6 months) so I know a thing or two about weird stains. Ketchup? Grass? Carrots/Sweet Potatoes? Coffee (on my clothes – I have 3 kids, I need caffeine)? Mystery stain? This stuff has taken it all out!
Plus, my husband is an ultra-marathoner. He runs. A lot! With all that running comes a heck of a lot of stink! (Sorry hunny, but it’s true). This soap takes care of it, without masking the odor.

My husband after finishing his most-recent 50 MILE race!

My husband after finishing his most-recent 50 MILE race!

3. It is inexpensive. Traditional laundry soap is SO expensive. This laundry soap, not so much.

4. It is easy to make. Some homemade soap recipes have you boil water, grate soap, etc. All things that take TOO much time in my book. I’ve said it before, I’m not lazy, I’m efficient. If there is a better way to do something for the same result, I’m all in.

The magic 3 ingredients you need are:
Fels Naptha (you can use any bar soap you want, but I really like this. It seems to be the best at stain-removing).
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Washing Soda (not baking soda) and Borax
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You can find all three ingredients in your laundry aisle.

To make, you take the Fels Naptha soap, unwrap it and place it on a microwave-safe plate. -This is where this recipe differs from most. Place the soap in the microwave and cook until it puffs up like a marshmallow. Take this slowly, you don’t want to scorch your soap. For 1 bar, in my microwave, I start out cooking for 90 seconds and cook additional 30 seconds as needed. For 2-3 bars, start out cooking for 3 minutes, then 30 seconds added on. Once it is all puffy, take the plate out of the microwave and let cool completely. **Note, the soap and plate will be hot. Also, if you are sensitive to fragrances like me, you will want to have a little ventilation as the smell of the hot soap can be strong. I solve this problem by opening a nearby window and letting the soap cool outside.

Soap all puffy in the microwave after cooking. Look at how huge it is!

Soap all puffy in the microwave after cooking. Look at how huge it is!


Soap from above. Note, I made 3 bars.

Soap from above. Note, I made 3 bars.

The next part is fun. Once the soap has cooled, put it into a resealable plastic bag and crush up into a powder.

Then add your washing soda and borax to the bag. I use a ratio of 1 part Fels Naptha to 2 parts washing soda and 2 parts borax.

For example: 1 bar Fels Naptha, crushed is about 1 cup. So I would use 1 cup crushed Fels Naptha, 2 cups washing soda and 2 cups borax. The recipe really isn’t scientific, so if you aren’t exact, it doesn’t really matter.
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Once you get everything all mixed up you are ready to use in your machine. This can be used in energy efficient machines or traditional machines. All it takes is 2 tablespoons per load. I use an 1/8th cup coffee scoop (typically found next to the coffee in your grocery aisle).

I’d love to know what you think about this soap once you’ve given it a try!

Honey Mustard Chicken Nugget Bites

27 Aug

Oh me, oh my! These chicken nugget bites are a keeper. Consider them pinned!

Honey Mustard Chicken Nugget Bites

27 Aug IMG_8068

Oh me, oh my! These chicken nugget bites are a keeper. Consider them pinned!
I’m always on the look out for recipes that are easy, quick, healthy and delicious (I mean, who isn’t?). My kids are always asking for chicken nuggets (thanks to a certain grandma who has been known to take them to a specific restaurant that serves said nuggets), but I’m fairly picky when it comes to my chicken. So I set out to create a chicken nugget that all of us would like.

The recipe is so simple and easy. It requires only 3 ingredients and my 5-year-old and 3-year-old did most of the work.

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All you need is honey mustard dressing, honey mustard pretzels and chicken. Bam!

First, cut boneless, skinless chicken into nugget-sized pieces (or leave whole). Marinate with dressing for 1 hour (or overnight).

Grind pretzels up in a food processor (or smash them in a zip-top bag).

Take marinated chicken and dredge through pretzel crumbs, making sure to coat all sides.
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Place chicken on a broiler pan (or if you are like me, put a cooling rack on a pan). For crispiness on all sides, you will want to do this.

Look at those adorable helping-hands!

Look at those adorable helping-hands!


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Place in a 325 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (or until cooked through).
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Honey Mustard Chicken Nugget Bites

Ingredients
1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken (I used thighs)
1 cup honey mustard dressing (I used Cardini’s)
12 ounces honey mustard pretzels (I used Snyder’s)

Directions
1. Cut up chicken into nugget-sized pieces.
2. Place chicken and dressing in a container to marinate at least 1 hour.
3. Once ready to cook, preheat oven to 325 degrees.
4. Grind pretzels in food processor.
5. Dredge marinated chicken in crumbs making sure to coat all sides.
6. Place chicken onto a sprayed broiler pan or cooling rack on top of another baking pan.
7. Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes (or until chicken reaches an internal temp of 165).

Grilled Corn with Kale and Cabbage Chop Chop Salad

16 Aug IMG_8011

I have a confession to make, I am an Iowa girl and I don’t really like corn. Or maybe I should say that I am VERY picky about my corn. I have learned to tolerate it when mixed into a recipe, but typically shy away from “corn-y” recipes. I will include the obligatory corn-on-the-cob once per summer (mostly so my kids don’t grow up complaining that they were denied corn), but besides that, you won’t find corn much on my menu. That’s right, no mid-week frozen corn as a side dish. As for canned corn, it makes me a little nauseous. Creamed corn? Fahgettaboudit!!

Now, with that being said, I found my new favorite salad recipe and it features, you guessed it, – CORN! This salad has everything you could ask for. Garden-fresh ingredients, sweet, salty, tangy, crunchy, creamy. YUM!

The original recipe is found here and I just made a couple changes because of the ingredients I had on hand.

The process is simple. Grill the corn.
Grilled Corn

Chop the vegetables and layer on a platter.
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Make the vinaigrette (totally worth the extra 2 minutes of work).

Cut the corn off the cob and layer on top.
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Enjoy!

Grilled Corn with Kale and Cabbage Chop Chop Salad

Ingredients:
1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped*
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp kosher sea salt, divided
3 medium ears sweet corn
3 tbsp butter, softened, divided
2 c. baby kale
2 cups chopped cabbage
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped green onions

To make:
1. For vinaigrette, in a small container with tight-fitting lid, combine lime juice, olive oil, honey, jalapeno, cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
2. Preheat grill to medium heat for direct cooking. Husk corn removing silk. Brush each ear with 1/2 tablespoon softened butter. Place corn over direct heat. Grill for 8 to 12 minutes, turning and brushing every 2 to 3 minutes with additional butter (total of 1 tablespoon per ear), until browned on all sides. Remove from grill and cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, line a serving platter with kale and cabbage. Top with avocado and tomato slices. Using a sharp knife, cut corn from the cobs; discard cobs. Spoon corn over tomatoes. Sprinkle with remaining sea salt. Drizzle vinaigrette over top.

*Note: Chile peppers contain volatile oils that can burn skin and eyes. When working with chile peppers, wear protective gloves.

Jerk Turkey Burgers with Mango Slaw

27 May Jerk Turkey Burger with Mango Slaw

Summer weather is here and the grill is our go-to cooking device. There are so many reasons we love grilling!
1. Food just tastes better grilled
2. Less clean up (no pots and pans, just a tongs or flipper)
3. Cooking outdoors is just “cool”
4. Our oven is broken! YIKES…

These burger are one of my favorites. They require a few ingredients and some chopping, but are worth the effort. You can make up a double batch and freeze individually for a quick, mid-week meal.

Turkey burgers are typically dry (due to the leanness) and bland (turkey isn’t as strong-tasting as beef), but this recipe conquers both. They are moist because of the apples and veggies and jerk flavoring really gives these zip. Plus, the mango slaw on top adds crunch, sweetness and really makes the burger. I use the recipe found here with a few adjustments, of course! I have made the recipe with both mango chutney (as called for in the original recipe) and apricot jelly (all I had on hand), and much prefer the apricot jelly.

I like to make up the coleslaw first so it has time to chill and all the flavors have time to party! Combine coleslaw mix, diced mango and red bell pepper. {Check out my post for how to peel and cut a mango}.

Mango
You’ll have to excuse the missing pieces, I had to sample for “quality assurance”!

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Stir together mayonnaise and jelly. Stir into coleslaw mixture; cover and chill until serving time.

Mango Coleslaw

In a large bowl, combine egg, apple, bread crumbs, onion, jerk seasoning, cilantro and salt.
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Add ground turkey; mix well.

Don't be afraid to really get in there with your hands.

Don’t be afraid to really get in there with your hands.


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Shape into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. To get evenly-size burgers, I like to divide my mixture into quarters then shape.
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Brush patties with olive oil and grill. Cook, flipping once until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Serve on a hearty bun and top with the mango slaw.

Jerk Turkey Burger with Mango Slaw

Jerk Turkey Burgers with Mango Slaw

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. coleslaw mix
1 mango, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 c. thinly sliced red bell pepper
2 tbsp light mayonnaise (I use olive oil mayo)
1/4 c. apricot jelly
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. chopped apple
1/4 c. whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 tbsp Jamaican jerk seasoning
¼ cup tsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound ground turkey
1 tbsp olive oil
4 hearty buns, split

Directions:
1. Combine coleslaw mix, diced mango and red bell pepper. Stir together mayonnaise and jelly. Stir into coleslaw mixture; cover and chill until serving time.
2. In a large bowl, combine egg, apple, bread crumbs, onion, jerk seasoning, cilantro and salt. Add ground turkey; mix well. Shape into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. Brush patties with olive oil.
3. Preheat grill to medium-high. Place patties on lightly-greased grill rack. Cover and grill 14 to 16 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, turning once halfway through grilling.
4. Grill buns, cut-sides-down, directly over medium heat about 2 minutes or until light brown.
5. Serve each burger on buns topped with 1/4 cup coleslaw mix.
6. Serve remaining coleslaw on the side.

Crock Pot Black Beans

28 Apr black beans

I. Love. Black. Beans.
I add black beans to almost everything – salads, soups, pasta, frozen vegetables, rice and other side dishes. I have even put them in brownies!
black beans
Since time is a very valuable commodity, I have always used canned black beans. But since being home on maternity leave, I decided to give making my own black beans a try. I know of others that make and freeze their own beans, but always thought of them as dedicated “foodies” and people with more time on their hands than me. Well, I am here to say that making your own dried beans is oh-so-easy. And I am now officially hooked.

I made up a double batch because my crock pot is pretty big. You could just do 1 bag if you have a smaller 3 qt. pot.
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Making them is simple and took way less time and energy than I thought it would. I’ve always thought that you have to pre-soak your beans, which was a limiting factor for me.

There are many different conflicting opinions on the best way to make dried beans, but I have taken the most efficient method. (Remember, I’m not a lazy cook, I’m efficient – there’s a difference.)

To make, rinse your dried beans in a colander and remove any stones or “ugly” beans.
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Place beans in a crock-pot and cover with water so it is about 1.5 inches above the beans. (I use the “finger method to measure). Your fingers should be touching the beans and the water will be about half way between your first and second knuckle.
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I added two bay leaves and a little salt to help keep the beans from getting mushy (1/4 tsp for 2 pounds beans). Again, when to add salt to dried beans is a source of discussion, but for simplicity, I add mine right away. After all, the benefit of using the crock pot is so “she” does the work for me. ;)
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Turn the crock pot on HIGH for 3-4 hours (check at 3 hrs). I like my beans a bit firmer since I almost always cook them when I add them to my dish.
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Drain beans and rinse with cold water.
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Package beans in freezer bags. I chose to use 1 cup per bag and cute snack bags. One cup is a great size and I find it super easy to pull a bag (or two) from the freezer to add to any meal.
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I find the smaller bags size (1 cup vs 2 cups) makes it easier to through just a little in a dish. If I want 2 cups, I can take out 2 packs, simple as that!

Spiced Lentil Salad: A Salad I Can’t Stop Eating!

28 Apr Lentil Salad

I am always on the lookout for delicious salads. Lettuce salads are great and all, but sometimes I like a little something different. I came across this delicious lentil salad on Pinterest and was a bit leery because of all the different spices, but thought I’d give it a try. Man, am I glad that I did. I couldn’t stop eating it. I went back for thirds and only stopped because I wanted to save some for the next day! -My adventurous-eating daughter even had seconds.
Lentil Salad

Lentils are one of the yummiest sources of folate (also know as folic acid) – just one cup of cooked lentils provides you with almost 90% of your daily recommended intake! Folate is critical in the prevention of birth defects during pregnancy, but also functions to support red blood cell production and help prevent anemia, allows nerves to function properly, helps prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures, and may help prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s disease. Phew! All fantastic reasons to dish up!

This salad is easy to throw together and I like it best served cold. It has so many different flavors going on. It is sweet, salty, spicy and savory. As my meat-loving husband put it, “I could give up meat if all our meals tasted this good!”

We served this with chicken and kale salad the first night and for leftovers the next day we mixed it all together (lentils, kale, and diced chicken). Heaven!

Lentil Salad

Spiced Lentil Salad

Ingredients:
1 lb. dried lentils lentils
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 cup raisins (I used golden raisins)
1/3 cup capers

Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. mustard
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

Optional add-ins:
Arugula
Kale
Walnuts
Goat cheese
Fresh herbs: flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, basil
Sprouts
Crispy seasonal veggies

Directions:
1. Rinse lentils well, drain. Place in a pot and cover with a 3-4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take about 20 minutes in total. You will know they are cooked if they still retain a slight tooth – al dente! Overcooking the lentils is the death of this dish. Be careful!
2. While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.
3. When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled slightly but still a little warm, place lentils in a large serving bowl and toss with dressing. Add onion, capers, and raisins. If using other add-ins such as herbs, greens, or cheese, wait until just before serving. Otherwise, this salad can hang out in the fridge for a couple days.

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