Spinach Yogurt Pesto Pasta with Chicken

spinachyogurtpesto

Thanks so much for your comments in my blogiversary post! It seems like quite a few of you would love more ideas for healthier dinners, and I’m happy to oblige! I’ve been meaning to get back into meal planning, and so here’s the start of more savory dishes on this blog. :-)

This recipe is part of a virtual cooking party that Jessica of My Baking Heart is hosting, along with the folks at Stonyfield Yogurt. Ever since I started my weight loss journey, I’ve been slowly, but surely paying more attention to what I’m eating. One of my biggest struggles is with snacking, so I try to keep our fridge full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is actually one of the easiest snacks for me, since I can just grab a container and go to town. Some fruits are grab and eat, too, but I find that greek yogurt is filling (seriously, check out how much protein is in greek yogurt!) and takes care of my sweet tooth. I recently noticed that Stonyfield has a greek yogurt line, and gave it a try. It was absolutely tasty, and a bonus–it’s organic!

I’ve recently become more aware of organic foods, and one thing that I found interesting is the difference between “natural” and “organic” on food labels (this is with the exception of meats). I always thought natural was a good thing, but not necessarily. For example, foods that may contain pesticides, growth hormones or GMO can still be labeled as “natural”, but it cannot be labeled as “organic”. It’s really interesting — here’s an infographic about it.

Besides just grabbing a container of yogurt to have as a snack, I really like using greek yogurt in my cooking and baking. Personally, I really don’t like mayonnaise. If a recipe calls for mayonnaise, I usually can replace it with plain greek yogurt (hello, chicken salad!). I also use it in baking, and I’ve noticed it works especially well in quick breads/muffins. This recipe uses greek yogurt to make pesto into a creamy sauce, and it works beautifully. The greek yogurt addition to the spinach pesto makes it seem more like a pesto alfredo sauce (without the added cream/butter). I decided to add some grilled chicken to the pasta, and it made for the perfect weeknight dinner. If you wanted, you could even make the spinach yogurt pesto sauce in advance (up to 3 days), and all you would need to do is grill the chicken and boil the pasta. Easy peasy!

Spinach Yogurt Pesto Pasta with Chicken
Source: adapted from My Baking Heart

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 oz. organic Italian dressing
  • Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain Stonyfield Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. organic whole wheat pasta

Directions:

  1. Marinate the chicken in the Italian dressing for 2-4 hours.
  2. Once the chicken has marinated, sprinkle Cajun seasoning over both sides of the chicken breasts. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Place 1 tbsp. canola oil in a cast iron skillet or grill pan, and wipe the oil with a paper towel to evenly distribute the oil over the surface of the pan. Preheat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat, until hot. Gently place the chicken on the cast iron skillet, and sear the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side. Using oven mitts, place foil over the cast iron pan and then place the pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked all the way through.
  4. While the chicken is cooking in the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is coming to temperature, make the spinach yogurt pesto sauce. Place the garlic, spinach, basil, pine nuts, lemon juice & zest in the bowl of a food processor or blender and chop the mixture until everything is finely chopped. You may have to stop to scrape down the bowl a couple of times. Once the mixture is finely chopped, allow the processor or blender to run on low, and slowly add in the olive oil. Pour the mixture into a small bowl, and add in the Parmesan cheese and yogurt. Season the pesto with salt and pepper. Cover the pesto with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  5. By now, the pot of water should be boiling. Add in your pasta, and cook the pasta until al dente (following the directions on the box for your specific pasta). Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Then, drain the pasta and return the pasta to the pot, tossing in the pesto sauce. If the pasta appears to be too dry, add in the reserved pasta water, 1 tbsp. at a time.
  6. To serve, place some pesto pasta on a plate, slice up 1/2 of a chicken breast and place that on top. Garnish the dish with either some lemon zest or Parmesan cheese. (Serves 6.)

Since this is a virtual cooking party, there are 5 other bloggers who made this dish as well, putting their own unique spins on the recipe. Don’t they all sound delicious?

My Baking Heart – Garlicky Shrimp & Pasta with Spinach Yogurt Pesto
Kasey’s Kitchen – Spinach Yogurt Pesto Pasta over Chicken Milanese
Apple a Day – Penne with Spinach Yogurt Pesto, White Beans & Tomatoes
Mrs. Regueiro’s Plate – Spinach Yogurt Pesto Pasta with Sausages
Sunny Side Up – Chicken and Spinach Yogurt Pesto Pasta

Also, it wouldn’t be much of a party without something fun for you guys, right?

The generous folks at Stonyfield want to offer one lucky reader of The Nifty Foodie a case of their yogurt and a cookbook!

It’s a giveaway prize that would definitely get me excited about cooking with yogurt (or hey, I wouldn’t blame you if you want the yogurt to snack on…have you seen the new Cafe Latte flavor? I feel like I NEED to find it in my store to try it!)

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: This giveaway is sponsored by Stonyfield and is open to readers in the continental US only. Entries will be accepted until February 4th at 12:00am (central standard time). Winner will be emailed (make sure you leave an email address in the form), and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

DISCLOSURE: Stonyfield supplied me with free products in exchange for a post in the Virtual Cooking Party, as well as the prize being offered in the giveaway. All opinions are 100% my own.

The Time You Save & A Calphalon Giveaway

With the holiday season just around the corner, time with family and friends is so important. The holidays can be very hectic, between the shopping and party planning, but if you can save some time on the day to day tasks (like cooking for your family/cleaning up afterwards), you can definitely etch out some time with your loved ones.

Calphalon recently relaunched their popular Contemporary Nonstick line, and is all about helping families save time with “The Time You Save” campaign. One of the key new perks about the cookware is that it’s now dishwasher safe! So, you can make your quick, weeknight meals, rinse the pot/pan out & place it straight in the dishwasher with your plates & utensils. Calphalon realizes that The Time You Save is valuable, so taking away the task of doing the dishes after a meal is great! You can now take some time away from the kitchen, and instead, enjoy that time with your family decorating the house, wrapping gifts or building a gingerbread house for the holidays! :-)

Also, along with Calphalon’s “The Time You Save” campaign, I wanted to share a couple of recipes with y’all, featuring their new cookware that requires very little hands-on time in the kitchen. :-)

calphalon_thetimeyousave_1

Calphalon sent me their new panini pan, as well as their 8 quart multi-pot with steamer to use for some time-saving recipes. I used their panini pan to make a chicken panini, using leftover roasted chicken, and I used the multi-pot to make a chicken tortilla soup.

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Smoked Turkey & A Giveaway!

smokedturkey

Whew! What a busy weekend it was!

It all started with a good 3 miles of running after work on Friday. This half marathon training stuff is crazy. Just crazy. I’m only running 3-4 miles now, and I can’t imagine going 4 times as far!! Then, Saturday, we decided to do a practice holiday meal (since we’re probably hosting Christmas this year…YAY!) and invited the in-laws over…smoked turkey, potatoes, green beans, a twist on cranberry sauce that knocked everyone’s socks off (sharing that Wednesday) and a great dessert that I’m sharing with you guys Friday! It’s going to be a week of Thanksgiving…with a twist…on the blog. I hope you all LOVE it as much as we loved it!

Can I also brag a bit? As far as my side of the family goes…Christmas shopping is ALL DONE! I just have to get something for my husband, and of course, help him out with his family’s gifts. :-) Once I get started on shopping, I am a gift shopping machine. I kind of want to go in the attic and grab our container of gift wrap, but I think my husband would give me a permanent side-eye. Ah well…now to just relax and finish making the gifts that I plan on crafting.

So, that picture may not be the most picture perfect turkey (I think it’s because I didn’t butter the skin well enough and I tore it…womp wah), but OMG…it was SO tasty. And that’s all that matters, right? (especially once it’s carved up) Making the turkey in a smoker is a fun twist on the traditional oven-roasted turkey. It’s full of smoky flavor, and since the turkey is injected with a whole jar of marinade, the turkey is crazy moist.

NOTE: This recipe is intended for an electric smoker (we own a Masterbuilt one).

Smoked Turkey
Source: Dadgum, That’s Good

Ingredients:

  • one whole turkey, thawed
  • 1 bottle buttery creole injection marinade…make sure it comes with an injector or purchase your own (we used Tony Chachere’s)
  • cajun seasoning (we used Tony Chachere’s)
  • apple wood chips, for smoking
  • apple juice
  • water
  • 1 stick unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Fill the smoker’s water pan 1/3 of the way full with half apple juice and half water (about 3 cups for our particular water pan). Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F. Rinse out and dry the thawed turkey in the sink (don’t forget to disinfect the sink after this!). Using the injector, inject the turkey (in various areas) with one full jar of the buttery marinade.
  2. Liberally season the skin (and carefully underneath the skin) of the turkey with cajun seasoning, being sure to rub it well into the skin. Cut the butter into small pats, and carefully place them under the skin of the turkey.
  3. Add a small handful of apple wood chips to the smoker (we have a special loader for this). Open the smoker, and place the turkey on a rack high in the smoker (in the center of the rack) and close the door. Every hour or so of the cooking process, add another handful of apple wood chips to your smoker (no more than 5 times for the whole cooking process of the turkey). Smoke the turkey for about 30 minutes per lb., ensuring that the internal temperature of the turkey breast reaches 165 degrees.
  4. Remove the turkey from the smoker and place it on a rimmed baking sheet, covering the entire turkey with foil to allow it to rest. Allow the turkey to rest for about 30 minutes before serving.

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“Zapp’s” Crusted Baked Chicken

Zapp's Crusted Chicken

I absolutely love finding new ways to cook chicken. Most of the time, we try a recipe once and we’re like eh, not doing that one again. But, once in a while, we find ourselves a keeper. I was a little skeptical of this chicken recipe, because we just don’t have the best luck making baked boneless chicken into something flavorful. However, this recipe called for kettle chips and well, they know how to make kettle chips down here in Louisiana!

Zapp’s chips are sort of a staple here. My favorite flavor is the Spicy Crawtators, which is reminiscent of the flavors you get from a crawfish boil. If I could send all of y’all a bag of Zapp’s chips, I would. They’re just that good. So, it was a no-brainer to use this flavor for this chicken. It just made for the perfect coating. Now, while potato chips aren’t the healthiest, I’m sure this chicken is better for you than eating fried chicken! (Sorry Popeye’s…) I served this with some mashed potatoes, since there’s nothing like dipping your chicken in mashed potatoes. :-)

Note: While I’m using Zapp’s in this recipe, if you want to make this recipe and Zapp’s aren’t in your store, you can use any spicy kettle chip.

Different note: Zapp’s has no clue who I am, so while it sounds like this is a promotional post, I swear it isn’t at all.

Zapp’s Crusted Baked Chicken
Source: adapted from My Life as a Mrs.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 bag of spicy kettle chips
  • 1 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Tony Chachere’s (or any other cajun seasoning)
  • pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice the chicken breasts in half, thickness-wise to result in 4 pieces of chicken. Pound out the chicken to an even 1/2 inch thickness.
  3. In a gallon size ziploc bag, pour the buttermilk in and add the spices. Close the bag and give it a good shake to distribute the spices. Add the chicken to the buttermilk mixture and allow it to marinate for 10 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, crush your kettle chips to a flaky looking consistency and place the crushed chips in an 8×8 pan.
  5. Place a metal (oven safe) cooling rack inside of a rimmed foil-lined cookie sheet. Take the chicken pieces out one at a time and sort of shake off the excess buttermilk while still in the bag. Then, pat the chicken in the pan to coat with chips and flip to coat each side well with the crushed chips. Place on a baking sheet. Repeat with the other three pieces.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Garlic-Rosemary Chicken with Potatoes

Garlic Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes

I recently discovered just how amazing roasting a whole chicken is. It was always one of those things that I thought that you should just leave to the more seasoned home cooks, so needless to say, it was always intimidating to me. I figured that if I ever try to roast a chicken, it will come out looking boiled, lack in flavor and probably be under or WAY over-cooked.

I remember perusing a local store one afternoon, when I approached the usual packs of chicken breasts that I buy. Right next to it was a sign that said “69 cents/lb. whole fryer chicken”. I thought to myself…wait, a whole chicken is just $3? I pay more for a latte at Starbucks! So, I got brave and bought a whole chicken.

I brought it home and started looking up recipes to roast a chicken. I wanted it to be simple, because when I’m trying something new, I just want it to be as easy as possible so there’s little room for error.  As I’m reading the recipe, it says to remove the giblets. What? I have to remove things from the inside of the chicken? Ugh.

So, I stuck my hand in the cavity of the chicken as if it was some sort of mystery box that was going to bite me or something, dreading the worst. My husband was right next to me laughing so hard, because I’m sure the look on my face was priceless. However, it really wasn’t as bad or gross as I thought. I sort of laughed at myself for being intimidated by those stupid giblets. :-P

After removing the giblets, it was all about seasoning the bird. Seasoning…I can do that. Anyone can do that.

Then, before I could place the chicken in the oven, I had to truss the chicken (aka tie the legs as close to the chicken as possible and make sure the wings are close to the chicken as well to avoid those from over-cooking). Yeah, that wasn’t too bad either. So, I put the chicken in the oven and prayed a few times that I wouldn’t mess this up.

Less than 2 hours later, my chicken was done. Perfectly cooked. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to roast a whole chicken! I was hooked! $3 for a meal, folks…can’t beat that! Plus, you can use leftovers to make soup, pot pie, etc. Oh and double plus, you can use the leftover bones and skin to make chicken stock! Awesome, right?

So, this past week I was back in the grocery store and I saw the ad that said “59 cents/lb whole fryer chicken”. That’s right…59 cents. I bought two chickens this time. One for me to roast and one for my husband to test his new oil-less turkey fryer on.

This time, I decided to try garlic rosemary chicken. Anything with garlic catches my eye, and this involves a LOT of garlic. Like 20+ cloves. :-)  Plus, the potatoes catch all of the drippings and roast with garlic cloves, making for some pretty fabulous roasted potatoes. :-)

This recipe was the first one I’ve made that involved brining, but really, that wasn’t too bad either. I noticed that this chicken was much more moist too and I would think that would have to be from the brining. :-) Definitely worth it!

Garlic-Rosemary Roast Chicken with Potatoes
Source: Cooks Illustrated

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs.), giblets discarded

    For the brine:

  • 1/2 cup table salt 
  • 10 cloves garlic , unpeeled
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

    For the paste:

  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 medium cloves garlic , minced or press through garlic press (2 tsp.)
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt 
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil plus extra for brushing chicken

    For the potatoes:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. small red potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes (2-inch), quartered
  • 10 cloves medium-large garlic , unpeeled
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp.  ground black pepper

 Directions:

  1. For the chicken and brine: Combine salt, garlic, and rosemary in zip-loc bag; seal, pressing out air. Pound with meat pounder or rolling pin until garlic cloves are crushed. Transfer mixture to large container or stockpot and stir in 2 cups hot tap water; let stand for 10 minutes to release flavors. Add 6 cups cold tap water and stir until salt is dissolved. Submerge chicken in brine and refrigerate 1 hour.
  2. Remove chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels (the more you dry it, the less it will smoke in the oven since you’re adding oil to it). Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Set V-rack in small roasting pan and lightly spray rack with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. For the paste: Stir together the rosemary, minced garlic, salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil in small bowl. Rub about 1/3 of the paste in cavity of chicken. Carefully loosen skin over breast and thigh on each side; slip half of remaining paste under skin on each side of breast, then, using fingers, distribute paste over breast and thigh by rubbing surface of skin. Tie the ends of drumsticks together with kitchen twine and tuck wings behind back. Rub all sides of chicken with 2 teaspoons oil and season with pepper. Set chicken breast-side down on prepared V-rack and roast 15 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, toss potatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves, olive oil, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. After the chicken has roasted for the first 15 minutes, scatter potatoes and garlic in single layer in roasting pan. Then, put the chicken back in the oven and roast for another 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the roasting pan from oven and decrease oven temperature to 375 degrees. Using tongs or wads of paper towels, rotate chicken breast-side up; brush breast with 1 teaspoon oil and stir potatoes to avoid burning. Continue to roast until chicken is medium golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast and thigh registers about 160 and 175 degrees, respectively (this took my oven about an hour). Transfer chicken to large plate.
  6. While chicken rests, transfer potatoes and garlic to large paper towel-lined plate and pat with additional paper towels to dab off excess oil and drippings. To serve, carve chicken and serve with potatoes and garlic. (If you like more carbs like me, the roasted garlic is excellent on some french bread.) :-)

 

Cream Cheese and Pesto-Filled Chicken

Pesto Chicken

My husband and I aren’t big-time menu planners. At the end of the night, I usually grab a bag of meat from the freezer*, and the next day, we figure out what the heck will be for dinner. One night, I ended up thawing chicken breasts, and was drawing a blank since the past two weeks, I pretty much cooked up all of our favorite usual week-night recipes. So, I had to basically scour the Internet for something weeknight friendly (simple), somewhat healthy and flavorful. This fit the bill.

I was extremely surprised at how fast this dish came together. It was so flavorful and easy to make. Plus, it’s from Eating Well, so you know it’s not that bad for you. Next time, we’ll probably add cajun spices to the chicken just to give it a good kick, but other than that, this recipe was really great!

*Now, to explain the whole bag in the freezer concept. My husband and I purchase meat in bulk when it goes on sale. Then that same day, we use our Foodsaver to portion out things (either in 1 lb. increments or 2 meat cut increments). I highly recommend it this way, since it saves us $2-$3/lb.

Cream Cheese and Pesto Filled Chicken
Source: adapted from Eating Well, found on Carrie’s Sweet Life

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp. basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1-1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Combine the cream cheese, pesto and pepper in a small bowl using a fork.
  3. Cut a horizontal slit along the thin, long edge of a chicken breast half, nearly through to the opposite side. Open up each breast and place one-fourth of the filling in the center. Close the breast over the filling, pressing the edges firmly together to seal. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts and filling.
  4. Lightly beat egg white with a fork in a medium bowl. Place breadcrumbs in a shallow glass dish. Hold each chicken breast half together and dip in the egg white, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. Discard the leftovers.
  5. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts; cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Place the chicken, browned-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 20 minutes.

Creamy Baked Chicken Taquitos


Creamy Chicken Taquitos

It’s no surprise that my husband and I love tex-mex food. Our go-to favorite home cooked meals are usually tex-mex, and when we go out to eat, it’s usually at a tex-mex place. Obsessed, much? :-)

Whenever we go to our favorite tex-mex place, my husband either gets the fajitas or the flautas. I like to know that I can replicate what we eat when we go out, and heck, I can make fajitas, but flautas? Flautas intimidate the heck out of me! Why, you ask? Well, flautas are fried, and I hate frying. I either under-cook or burn the food. It’s always bad when I want to try to fry. I just can’t figure out frying. (I guess that’s a good thing, health-wise!)

When I saw this recipe for taquitos, flautas popped in my head. Sure, taquitos aren’t flautas, but they are pretty dang close! And the best part, these taquitos are baked. Whew…escaped frying once again! :-)

Let me tell y’all something…these taquitos are NOT the frozen taquitos that you buy in bulk in the frozen section. I swear. The ingredients sound so simple, but whoa, these taquitos are absolutely delicious. My husband even said that this may just be his favorite home-cooked meal that I’ve ever made (and I’ve made a lot of things…this is HUGE folks!)! The combination of cheeses makes these taquitos just like the title says..creamy, and the combination of ingredients just makes these taquitos so flavorful! Now, to note…for the chicken, we used an extra chicken breast that I cooked for these enchiladas, so the flavors were already in the chicken, which I think helped to put this dish over the top, but I’m sure if you use any pre-cooked chicken, these will still taste pretty awesome.

Creamy Baked Chicken Taquitos
Source: mildly adapted from Pink Parsley Blog, originally from Our Best Bites

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup salsa
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tbsp. chopped scallions
  • 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
  • 1/2 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Pepperjack cheese
  • 8-12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese with the salsa, lime juice, cumin, chile powder, cayenne, onion powder, garlic, cilantro, scallions, and 1/4 tsp kosher salt.  Fold in the chicken and cheeses.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
  3. Working 3 tortillas at a time, stack them on a microwave-safe plate and cover with plastic wrap.  Cook 30 seconds, or until tortillas are soft and pliable.
  4. NOTE: Be careful when working with the tortillas…they are hot right out of the microwave! Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of filling onto the lower third of each tortilla, and roll tightly.  Place seam side-down on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
  5. Spray the taquitos lightly with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt.  Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the tortillas are crisp and golden-brown.  Serve with salsa, sour cream, queso and/or guacamole.

 

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

There are some dishes that just were not meant to be photographed by me. I’ve attempted to take pictures of these enchiladas 4 separate times, and something always goes wrong. So, the result is a picture of an enchilada with a torn tortilla…enchiladas, you win. The resulting dish just isn’t pretty. In this case, looks are very deceiving, y’all. These enchiladas are even better than the ones at my favorite tex-mex joint! I absolutely love them, and this is now our go-to recipe. :-)

The first time I tried enchiladas was actually in college. See, I don’t like beans, and for some reason, I always thought every enchilada had beans. So, when one of my friends ordered them, insisting the ones at a restaurant were the best ever, I asked her what was in them. When she didn’t say beans, I had to try them. Why was I deprived for so long? Now, I usually order enchiladas when we go out for tex-mex. I prefer enchiladas to fajitas…crazy, eh?

Chicken Enchiladas
Source: mildly adapted from Pink Parsley Blog, originally from America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 jalapenos, 1 seeded (the other not, for an extra kick)
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, grated with a microplane or minced
  • 3 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large roma tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (most of the times, we only need 1 large chicken breast…2 is just too many)
  • 1 cup extra sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 12 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas
  • cooking spray
  • salt and ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place onion and jalapenos in a food processor until chopped very fine.
  2. Combine the onion, jalapenos, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and oil in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, and chopped tomato. Cook the sauce on medium-low, until slightly thickened, 5 minutes.
  3. Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through (thickest part reaches 160 degrees), about 12-20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside to cool.
  4. Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the onions to a large bowl and set aside. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to the onion mixture, and add 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1 cup cheese, and the cilantro. Toss to combine.
  6. Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; Microwave on high until warm and pliable, 40-60 seconds. Working with the tortillas one at a time, spoon 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture on the left side. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.
  7. Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with cooking spray. Place in the oven, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the tortillas start to brown slightly (skip this step if you don’t like the crunch…my husband loves a good bit of crunch to these).
  8. Reduce heat to 400. Remove enchiladas and pour sauce evenly on top. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil, and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until heated through.
  9. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese browns. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas

I can’t believe it’s April already. Wasn’t I just wrapping Christmas gifts last week or something? :-) With Spring in full force, it’s time to fork out the grill! I absolutely LOVE warmer months, because I’m a sucker for grilled everything! Also, usually my husband volunteers to do the cooking on grilling nights. (Win!)
My husband and I are huge fans of Tex Mex. One of our favorite restaurants to visit is a tex mex place. They have some killer queso blanco, the margaritas are just so tasty, and their fajitas? My goodness…they are majorly yummy! However, at $15 an order, it’s not the most $$ friendly meal, so I wanted to find a way to make this at home.
 
Of course, I had to turn to food bloggers for some help, and I came across this one on The Way the Cookie Crumbles. The ingredients are simple, and the recipe is fool-proof! Best of all? It involves the grill! (Note: If you don’t have an outdoor grill, you can always use an indoor grilling pan like I did.)
 
The only thing I would change about this recipe is that I would keep the ribs and seeds in the jalapenos, because these fajitas really didn’t end up that spicy. 
Grilled Chicken Fajitas
Source:  The Way the Cookie Crumbles, originally by Cooks Illustrated
Ingredients:
  • ⅓ cup juice from 2 to 3 limes
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
  • 1½ tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • table salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds), trimmed of fat, tenderloins removed, pounded to ½-inch thickness
  • 1 large red onion (about 14 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick rounds (do not separate rings)
  • 1 large red bell pepper (about 10 ounces), quartered, stemmed, and seeded
  • 1 large green bell pepper (about 10 ounces), quartered, stemmed, and seeded
  • 8-12 (6-inch) flour tortillas
Directions:
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, 4 tablespoons oil, garlic, Worcestershire, brown sugar, jalapeno, cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper. Reserve ¼ cup marinade in a small bowl; set aside. Add another teaspoon salt to the remaining marinade. Place the chicken in the marinade; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 15 minutes. Brush both sides of the onion rounds and the peppers with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it smooth side down on the hotter side of the grill; discard the remaining marinade. Place the onion rounds and peppers (skin side down) on the cooler side of the grill. Cook the chicken until it’s well browned, 4 to 5 minutes; using tongs, flip the chicken and continue grilling until it’s no longer pink when cut into with a paring knife or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers about 160 degrees, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Meanwhile, cook the peppers until spottily charred and crisp-tender, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or twice as needed; cook the onions until tender and charred on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes, turning every 3 to 4 minutes. When the chicken and vegetables are done, transfer them to a large plate; tent with foil to keep warm.
  3. Working in 2 or 3 batches, place the tortillas in a single layer on the cooler side of the now-empty grill and cook until warm and lightly browned, about 20 seconds per side (do not grill too long or the tortillas will become brittle). As the tortillas are done, wrap them in a kitchen towel or a large sheet of foil.
  4. Separate the onions into rings and place them in a medium bowl; slice the bell peppers lengthwise into ¼-inch strips and place them in the bowl with the onions. Add 2 tablespoons reserved unused marinade to the vegetables and toss well to combine. Slice the chicken into ¼-inch strips and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons reserved marinade in another bowl; arrange the chicken and vegetables on a large platter and serve with the warmed tortillas.

My first Vlog entry: Easy Pasta Salad!

You may not know this, but in real life, I’m a fairly shy person. I love blogging because my voice comes across in my writing, however, the subject of vlogging has always made me nervous.

I will say, though, I really do love watching vlogs from bloggers I’ve followed for a while. I always have an idea in my head about how people’s voices sound, and usually I’m wrong. It’s always a fun surprise to actually hear a blogger for the first time, you know?

Well, I definitely had to bite the bullet when Foodbuzz informed me that a recipe idea I submitted for their Tastemaker’s Program was accepted! The criteria was to make a vlog featuring my simple (30 minute or less) recipe that uses Newman’s Own products. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the package at my door!! It included quite a few salad dressings, pasta sauces, and ::gasp:: a FLIP CAMERA!! So, thank you so much Foodbuzz and Newman’s Own for this amazing opportunity. You helped me take the giant leap into vlogging. :-)

Hope y’all don’t laugh at me too much. I stumbled on my words a few times, but I think I actually want to do this again!

FTC disclosure: I was supplied Newman’s Own products and a Flip camera for free, but my opinions of this recipe are completely my own.