I have another post from Fantastical Food Fight - a monthly blog challenge who's theme this month was Slow Cooker Soups. Yum - so perfect for cold weather! I knew immediately that I wanted to do this Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup that I had made before, but didn't post about. It is so insanely easy and delicious.
All you do is add diced onion, carrots, and celery to a slow cooker, along with wild rice and raw chicken (you don't even have to cut it up).
Add chicken broth and poultry seasoning. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.
The Secret Recipe Club is coming to an end, you guys. This is both very sad and a huge relief to me, as I have had so much fun exploring other blogs, but also felt a lot of pressure to meet the timeline. There will be one more seasonal post at the end of this month, and one more regular post in November. I was assigned Cheese Curd in Paradise this month, written by Ashley.
I actually couldn't find a bio page on this blog, sorry Ashley! But I could discern that Ashley lives in Wisconsin, has a son, and loves comfort food! I found a ton of yummy looking stuff while scrolling through the archives.
And pasta recipes, like Homemade Beef-a-Roni, Bacon Cheeseburger Gnocchi Skillet, Creamy Chicken Pesto Gnocchi Skillet, BLT Tortellini Skillet, and Ham and Cheese Gnocchi Skillet (loving these skillet meals).
And some special occasion recipes, like Maple and Shallot Spaghetti Squash, Roast Duck with Wild Rice and Sausage Stuffing, Rack of Lamb with Caramelized Shallot and Thyme Crust, and Seared Scallops with Prosecco Herb Beurre Blanc.
I didn't even get to the desserts, y'all!
In the end, I was torn between this Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken Tater Tot Casserole and this Chicken Bacon Ranch Tater Tot Casserole. So I decided to combine them! By which I mean, use ranch seasoning instead of the seasoning mix in the slow cooker casserole.
It is hard to take good photos of casseroles, y'all, especially in the slow cooker. But the slow cooker was what I loved about this. Throw frozen tater tots, raw chicken, cooked bacon, onions, cheese, ranch seasoning, and milk into the insert and forget about it until dinner time. Perfect. I did feel like it was missing a bit of a creamy element, but I don't know how sour cream would do in the slow cooker.
For ease an comfort, this just can't be beat! Enjoy!
It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! I was assigned Cookin' Mimi - a blog full of comfort food and home cooking with lots of influences like Southern, Southwestern, and some International. The author is a Southern Californian with a Southern family - which explains the variety of influences! She doesn't remember a time when she wasn't cooking.
I was in crunch mode when I chose a recipe, on the search for an easy dinner. Mimi is a big fan of casseroles, like me, so I looked at this Cheesy Broccoli Chicken and Rice Casserole and this traditional Chicken and Rice Casserole, but decided on this Cheesy Green Chile Chicken and Rice Casserole.
But back to the casserole! It is really straightforward and simple - combine chicken, green chiles, rice, and a sour cream sauce; top with cheese; bake; the end. But something in the recipe jumped out at me as unfamiliar - it called for par-boiled or converted rice. What the heck is that? I turned to the internet and found out that by par-boiling the rice, the nutrients of the outer parts are forced into the grain before they are removed - making it something in between brown and white rice. In fact, it supposedly has most of the nutrients of brown rice, an even lower glycemic index, and the soft texture of white rice, without getting as mushy. How had I never heard of this before?! It is perfect to use in casseroles and slow cookers because the texture holds up. It's awesome!
But, there is a downside - unless you are ordering it from Asia, most brands are grown in the Southern US and have high levels of inorganic arsenic, which is toxic. So, you know, don't eat a ton of it all the time.
I have recently joined a group called Improv Cooking Challenge (see my first post here), where we are assigned 2 ingredients to incorporate into a dish each month. This month, the challenge was garlic and rosemary - perfection!
I chose to make a simple pasta with shredded rotisserie chicken, garlic, and rosemary; tossed together with starchy pasta water and Parmesan to make a light sauce. Five ingredients, 30 minutes, easy and delicious. You're welcome, world!
I have been saving Tasty (Buzzfeed Food) videos on Facebook like crazy. They always look so good! So this week, I declared that I must make one thing from a saved link; and I chose these decadent Chicken Bacon Alfredo Lasagna Roll-ups.
Start by cooking lasagna noodles and filling them with a mixture of cooked chicken, bacon, and Alfredo sauce (made with butter, garlic, cream, cream cheese, and Parmesan). I made some changes to the original, using 12 noodles instead of 8 and more filling per noodle to use up all the filling. I didn't like how, in the video, there was chicken and bacon on the top instead of all contained.
Some girlfriends and I have been taking turns making macaroni and cheese (after we got tired of soup). I had been wanting to do something chicken, bacon, and ranch flavored for a while, and found a one-pot stovetop recipe that looked easy. It used velveeta and powdered ranch mix, which I wouldn't normally use, but I knew it would be easy to make early in the morning when I was tired.
It turned out so good! It was creamy and salty, with bacon and ground chicken in every bite. This is really good as a once-in-awhile indulgence. (But now I have 3/4 of a log of velveeta to deal with, hmm... More on that later.) Next time, I would definitely try making my own ranch mix instead of using the packet; but I would keep the velveeta - it provides a totally different texture from a bechamel/mornay sauce. Enjoy!
Chicken, Bacon, Ranch Mac and Cheese
adapted from What's Cooking Love
1 lb ground chicken
3 cups water
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2/3 cup bacon, cooked and diced
2 cups of elbow macaroni (or other short pasta), uncooked
1 packet ranch dressing mix (dry)
1/2 lb (8 oz) of Velveeta Cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4-1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Brown the ground chicken in a large skillet or wide pot on medium heat, adding 1/2 tsp of garlic powder to season the meat. Once the meat is browned, drain the fat.
Then add the water, bacon, ranch dressing seasoning, and remaining garlic powder to the chicken, mixing well.
Bring to a boil, then stir in the macaroni and cover. Simmer on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
Stir in the Velveeta and cook until melted, stirring occasionally. If the sauce is too thin, add shredded cheddar cheese until it is thick enough to your liking.
It's my first Secret Recipe Club post!!! I had been wanting to join the SRC for a while, but wasn't sure that I met the posting requirements, because I don't always post every week. I also didn't have a recipe index for a long time, so that is something that I have been working on. I finally felt like the time was right and asked to join, and here I am with my first post! Yay!
My assigned blog was Renee's Kitchen Adventures, and I had such a great time looking through it. Renee is a stay-at-home mom and former nurse (labor and delivery - what a special unit!), and her story reminded me a lot of my mother. She talks about trying to be healthy and lose weight, and posts healthy recipes based on Weight Watchers points. I, too, am trying to be healthy and lose weight, so I loved that about this blog. Even though our ideas of what constitute healthy food are a bit different (I think fat is healthy), I think this blog will be a great resource and inspiration for me. I also love how accessible and family friendly Renee's recipes are. I think I tend to only post about the really complicated stuff, which maybe isn't so great.
As I was reading through Renee's most recent recipes, I saw a lot that I wanted to try. I love that she has a lot of s'mores recipes, and especially that she made s'mores krispy treats - because I did the same thing! I also really liked the sound of this Almond Joy Poke Cake made with coconut oil, coconut oil is the best! She writes that she isn't ashamed to use boxed cake mix as a shortcut, and I feel the same way! I don't post about them much, but I love to make poke cakes or dress up cake mix in other ways (pro tip: use 1 extra egg, milk instead of water, melted butter instead of oil).
I've been baking way more than usual lately, though, and what jumped out at me the most was this Creamy Lemon and Fresh Basil Chicken Salad. It has been super hot and humid lately, so this is exactly the kind of thing I want to be eating right now.
Following on the heels of last week's post on whipped sweet potatoes with all the best things (bourbon, bacon, brown butter, sage), I am keeping my promise to share a complimentary chicken recipe. This sticky glazed chicken with bourbon, maple, and thyme is easy, delicious, and perfect with the sweet potatoes.
Simply sear bone-in chicken breasts in a large skillet (I used a dutch oven), then add a mixture of chicken stock, maple syrup, and bourbon along with some thyme sprigs. Allow to cook down until the mixture is syrupy and the chicken is fully cooked. That's it - done! It's really so easy. The sticky glaze is super yummy and the bones keep the chicken from drying out. You could easily substitute bone-in pork chops, as well.
Maple Bourbon Glazed Chicken
adapted from Food Network
1 tbsp olive oil
4 (6-oz) bone-in chicken breasts, skin removed
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp bourbon
4 sprigs thyme
Place a large heavy-bottom or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pan breast-side down and sear until deep golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
While the chicken in searing, in a small dish whisk together the stock, syrup, and bourbon. Add the bourbon mixture to the skillet along with the thyme sprigs and continue cooking, turning the chicken occasionally, until the meat is cooked through and the sauce has reduced to a thick syrupy consistency, 8 to 10 minutes. (If the sauce reduces to a syrupy consistency before the chicken has cooked through, add a few splashes of stock to the skillet and continue cooking.)
To serve, remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Spoon the sticky sauce over the chicken and enjoy warm.
A friend of mine asked if I could put together a week of meals that are healthy, easy, and cost effective for a single working mother. I thought that sounded like a great idea! But I definitely underestimated how much work it would be. It's hard to make food for just two people without having a ton of leftovers - so to get a different meal in each night, I had to figure out how to use ingredients in multiple dishes. And I wanted to make sure that they were healthy, had a bit of variety, and took 30 minutes or less to put together. It's a tall order, but I think I managed. Each recipe is sized for two adults, and there is a shopping list included at the bottom of the post.
First up - Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans. This meal is healthy, easy, and comes together in under 30 minutes. I am so in love with this mustard butter (that I discovered making this recipe), I make it all the time now. There are no grains in this dinner, and as far as starchy potatoes go, baby red-skinned are relatively low on the glycemic index. Plus - by cooking more salmon and vegetables than you need, you will already have the ingredients you need for dinner the next night. This meal comes first because fish needs to be cooked the same night that it is purchased for best quality.
The salmon is going to be one of the more expensive proteins for the week, but it is worth it because it is so good for you (not to mention delicious). Gotta get those Omega-3's! However, I do not recommend buying farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is full of chemicals and pollutants. Instead, I recommend buying wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian. The Norwegian salmon is pretty great and I can get it here in NoVA for around $15/lb, and coho goes for $13/lb (versus $29/lb for king salmon, yikes!). If you absolutely cannot swing Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, buy another type of fish instead (cod, halibut, or tilapia would be good).
For our second dinner, we use the extra ingredients from the previous night, plus a few more, to make Salmon Nicoise Salad. The only thing you have to cook for this dinner is hard boiled eggs, and you can do those in advance if you like. Boil more than you need, because we will use some in another dish. Like the previous night, this meal is grain-free and loaded with healthy fats. You can see how big one serving is in this photo - I ate the whole thing, Jasper only ate half of his. So if this is too much food for you, plan to set aside half of it for lunch the next day. It should travel well, just keep the dressing separate.
This is actually the most expensive meal of the week (if it is making 2 servings, and not 4), so the kind of greens you use will matter. I used mache or lamb's lettuce, which I think is really delicious. But there are definitely cheaper lettuces/greens out there. A note on olives - nicoise olives are traditional, but expensive, so feel free to sub kalamatas, which taste very similar. You could even buy jarred kalamatas to save even more.
You know that cheesy broccoli and rice casserole that makes it's way to every potluck ever? That is so bad for you, but so yummy, that you eat heaps of it and you tell yourself that it's got broccoli so it's okay? Well here's your chance to pig out, because this version (made with quinoa instead of rice) is a lot better for you.
Of course, to convince my husband to eat it (and because I wanted more protein without having to make a separate dish), I threw some shredded rotisserie chicken in there. You can see in the photo that I just threw big florets of steamed broccoli in there. I ended up wishing that the broccoli was more evenly spread throughout, so I will recommend chopping it first.
This is hearty, and creamy, and just plain awesome. Kids (and big kids) will gobble it up.