Jun 172013
 

Eating well is all about being prepared, which usually means making meals in advance.  In order to cook more efficiently, you also need to be prepared.  When chicken breasts were on sale at my Price Chopper for $1.99/lb., I bought a large package.  Then, I boiled the chicken and shredded it, and put it in the freezer in 2 c. portions.  I used one container for the Chicken Enchiladas I made a couple of weeks ago, and another for today’s casserole.  It saved me a lot of time.

I know that summer doesn’t generally equal ‘casserole’, but those of us who work in climate controlled environments often still like a hot lunch.  I was inspired by Recipe Girls’s Chicken Spaghetti Casserole, which she had lightened up considerably.  I lightened things just a little further, and this still turned out to be a rich, cheesy casserole.  There is also a lot of it, which means I have no excuse for not bringing lunch this week.

 

chickenpastacasserole

 

Chicken Pasta Casserole

6 oz. whole wheat penne
1 T canola oil
1 large Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1 (10 oz.) package sliced mushrooms
2 c. chopped broccoli
2 cans 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup
1 c. skim milk
2 c. cooked, shredded chicken breast
8 oz. 2% Colby Jack shredded cheese

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta al dente.  Set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat oil, and add onion.  Cook for 15 minutes, until onion begins to get soft and browned.  Add mushrooms and broccoli, and cook for 15-20 minutes more.  Add soup and milk and stir until blended.  Add chicken and stir.  Add cheese and stir until melted in.  Cook on Low for 5-10 minutes until heated through.

Coat a 13″x9″ dish with cooking spray.  Place pasta on bottom of dish, and then top with chicken/vegetables mixture.  Stir to coat.  Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until bubbling.

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Jun 032013
 

One of my favorite summer recipes is Zucchini and Black Bean Enchiladas.  But zucchini isn’t quite in season yet, so I decided to try a different version.  No matter what you stuff in the tortilla, I think the key to great enchiladas is homemade sauce.

This time I used Penzey’s Chili 9000 seasoning to make the enchilada sauce.  It is not too spicy, but does have a lot of flavor, with Ancho Chili Pepper, Cumin, Garlic, Cilantro, Onion, Paprika, Cayenne Pepper, Lemon Peel, Mexican Oregano, Black Pepper, Cocoa Powder, Citric Acid, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Coriander, Ginger, Natural Smoke Flavoring, Fenugreek, Cloves, Fennel, Nutmeg, White Pepper, Anise Seed, Jalapeño Pepper, Star Anise, and Cardamom.  Don’t stress if you don’t have access to Penzey’s, just substitute a mix of chili powder and cumin and you’ll be all set.

The enchiladas themselves were also delicious, and will make great packed lunches for the week.  I still can’t wait to have the zucchini and black bean version again later this summer!

 

chicken spinach enchiladas

 

Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas

1 t minced garlic
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 T Penzey’s Chili 9000
1 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1 T canola oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 c. cooked shredded chicken
1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
6 tortilla, such as La Tortilla Factory
1 c. reduced fat shredded cheddar

To make the enchilada sauce, coat the bottom of a small saucepan with cooking spray.  Add minced garlic.  Cook just until beginning to brown, and then add tomato sauce, spice, and broth.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat canola oil.  Add onions and cook for 15-20 minutes on medium-low heat.  Add chicken, spinach, and 1 c. of the prepared enchilada sauce.  Simmer for 5 minutes, until heated through.

Coat the bottom of a 13×9″ dish with cooking spray.  Fill each tortilla with a heaping 1/2 c. of chicken mixture, and place seam side down in the dish.  Pour remaining enchilada sauce over filled tortillas.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.  Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

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May 282013
 

Since my family was going to be together on Memorial Day weekend, I thought it would be fun to try something totally different: Ethiopian Night!  I have been to a local Ethiopian restaurant and really enjoyed the food, and I did some research online to try and recreate the meal.  First up was a chicken dish, Doro Wat.

When planning this meal, I was optimistic that we’d be spending all day playing at the beach.  So I thought using a crockpot recipe would be very convenient.  As it turned out, I had plenty of time to cook since it was rainy and cold, but it was still nice to have the crockpot do the work.

I merged 3 different recipes to come up with the one below, and I already cut back on the quantity of spices.  But I have to warn you that this version is still HOT.  I used the Berbere spice from Penzey’s, and the first ingredient is cayenne pepper.  So I recommend you adjust the amount of seasoning based on your family’s tastes.

My family forgave me for this oversight, and despite the heat level, almost everyone enjoyed this dish.  The chicken was tender, the sauce was flavorful, and it was most certainly a fun ethnic dining experience.  I served the Doro Wat with collard greens and injera, which I’ll tell you about later this week.

 

ethiopian plate

 

Crockpot Doro Wat

3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 large Vidalia onions, peeled and chopped
1 t garlic salt
1 t dried thyme
1 T Berbere seasoning
1 c. red wine
3 T tomato paste
Juice from 1 lime

Place chicken and onion in the crockpot.  Sprinkle spices, and toss to coat.  Add wine and tomato paste, and stir well.  Cook on High for 5-6 hours.  Add lime juice; stir, and serve.

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May 202013
 

There’s nothing like a turkey sandwich with freshly roasted turkey.  Some of the deli stuff is OK, but most of it is salty, and the texture just isn’t the same.

I admit, cooking a whole turkey is very intimidating, and I’ve never actually done it in my own kitchen.  Instead, I’ve cooked turkey breasts which yield all white meat, without all the fuss. And now I discovered you can cook a turkey breast right in the crockpot!

This recipe, inspired by Skinnytaste,  is perfect for summer.  You don’t have to heat up the kitchen by using the oven, and you can either make a turkey dinner, or use the meat for sandwiches for the week.  If you find a turkey breast on sale (I got mine for $1.19/lb. at Target) it can also be cost effective compared to deli meat.

The turkey in this recipe came out amazing; it was tender, juicy, and reminded me of Thanksgiving.  I did have some trouble with the gravy not thickening up very well.  Gravy is really not my ‘thing’, so I played with it a little but gave up pretty quickly.  If you do love gravy, I think the cooking liquid in this recipe is a flavorful base, but you may need to add more flour.

Even without perfect gravy, I am calling this recipe a success!

 

crockpotturkey

 

Crockpot Turkey Breast and Gravy

1 T oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 t minced garlic
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 c. flour
2 c. vegetable broth
1 c. water
1/2 c. white wine
2 t seasoning (I used Penzey’s Mural of Flavor, but the original recipe called for sage)
1 (4-5 lb.) turkey breast

Heat oil in a frying pan.  Add onion, garlic, and carrot, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until soft and beginning to brown.  Add flour and 1 c. vegetable broth.  Stir to combine, and break up any lumps.  Pour mixture into the crockpot.  Add remaining broth, water, wine, and seasoning to crockpot, and stir.

Sprinkle turkey with salt and pepper, and place in crockpot, breast side up.  Cook on Low for 5-6 hours, until an instant read thermometer registers 165F.  Remove from crockpot, cover loosely with foil, and allow to set for 15 minutes.  Remove skin, and carve away.

For gravy, allow liquid to cool slightly in the crockpot for 10 minutes.  Remove visible fat with a spoon.  Strain remaining liquid into a saucepan.  Simmer on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until thickened.  (Note: My gravy didn’t thicken up well, and needed more flour.)

-Adapted from Skinnytaste

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Apr 302013
 

This recipe does not photograph well.  Actually, it doesn’t look that great in person either.  But since I gobbled it up, enjoying every bite, I decided to share it with you.

I started with this recipe from the Crockpot Recipe Exchange.  But there was something that bugged me about using a whole bottle of BBQ sauce in a lasagna.  I can’t claim to always avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup (hello, ketchup!) but I thought I could do better.  You might say I was inspired by the Penzey’s BBQ Seasoning in my spice cabinet.

Just like in my Crockpot Vegetarian Lasagna, there’s a lot of extra sauce.  It’s perfect for scooping up with some freshly baked bread.  I really liked the BBQ flavor as a spin on traditional lasagna.  So even if this was a mess in my dish, it was a yummy mess, and I’ll make it again.

 

Crockpot BBQ Chicken Lasagna

1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
2 T Penzey’s BBQ Seasoning
1 (24 oz.) container fat free cottage cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
6 oz. lasagna noodles, broken as needed
2 c. reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
2 c. shredded, cooked chicken breast

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, sauce, paste, and BBQ seasoning.  In a medium bowl, combine cottage cheese, Parmesan, and egg.

Layer in your crockpot as follows:  1 c. sauce; 2 oz. noodles; 1/2 cottage cheese mixture;
3/4 c. reduced fat cheddar; chicken; 2 c. sauce; 2 oz. noodles; remaining cottage cheese mixture;
3/4 c. reduced fat cheddar; 1 1/2 c. sauce; 2 oz. noodles; remaining sauce; remaining cheddar.

Cover and cook on Low for 4-5 hours.  Let stand for 30 minutes before serving.

-Adapted from the Crockpot Recipe Exchange

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