easy fajitas with grilled chicken, peppers, and onions.

April 21, 2014 § 3 Comments

So, to tell you the truth, I am exhausted.  Ty & I have been house hunting for several months, and last week  involved several nights spent with our realtor.  It’s so much more of an emotional process than I had anticipated!  Lots of excitement followed by let downs… But my fingers are crossed that something good is just around the corner!

In the meantime, I’m counting on simple recipes like this one to get me through some hectic weekdays.  I’ve made double batches of these fajitas twice in the last two weeks to give us some great leftovers!

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Easy Fajitas with Grilled Chicken, Peppers, and Onions

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen with minor changes

What you need:

  •  1 and 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 6-8 flour or corn tortillas
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 3-5 assorted bell peppers (2-3 large or 4-5 small) – can be red, green, yellow, or orange
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • shredded cheese and/or sour cream, for topping

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What to do:

Start by preparing your chicken.  I like to trim excess fat off of my chicken breasts before thinly slicing them in 1/2 inch strips.  Put the strips into a plastic freezer bag.  In a bowl, combine the lime juice, salt, oregano, cumin, minced garlic, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika.  Pour over the chicken strips.  Seal bag tightly and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes.  (This can also marinate overnight!)

Peel and slice your onion into very thin strips.  Cut your bell peppers into thin strips, as well, removing seeds and stem.  ImageHeat a very large skillet over a high heat.  (You want this pan HOT.)

Once skillet has heated, drizzle with olive oil to coat.  Place your sliced bell peppers in one layer on the skillet.  Allow them to cook for several minutes without touching them–resist the urge to flip them!  Turn one over as a test to see if its begun to char.  If so, flip.  Sear the other side until brown.  Then, add the onions.  Also allow them to char and turn golden.  Once the onions have softened, remove the entire onion and pepper mixture from the pan and set aside in a bowl.   Add another drizzle of olive oil to the pan.   Add the sliced chicken strips in a single layer.  Cook for 4-5 minutes on one side, then flip.  Cook for another 5 minutes on the other side.  Chicken should be browning.  Once chicken is cooked, add the onion and pepper mixture back into the skillet and toss well.  When you are ready to serve, remove the skillet from heat.

I warmed my tortillas on a grill pan until they were slightly charred.  Spoon a generous serving of the chicken fajita mixture onto each tortilla.

ImageAfter snapping these photos, I topped my fajitas with shredded cheese and sour cream.  (You could add other toppings, to your liking, like salsa, corn, black beans, cilantro, slaw, etc.)

Enjoy!

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sloppy joes with bacon and simple slaw.

April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

I got a new camera, finally–my first since 2008!   A Canon EOS Rebel 3Ti!  In full disclosure, I haven’t the slightest idea how to use it.  I am just beginning to read the manual and surf through the dozens of buttons and shooting options.  But I managed to attach the lens and take some photos using the automatic setting.

To celebrate this I made some pretty epic sloppy joe sandwiches.

I should probably mention that prior to making these sandwiches, I refused to eat sloppy joes.  I used to think of it as a mysterious beef mixture, and I just didn’t want any part of it.  That might be because I hadn’t made it myself–I didn’t see how the beef was seasoned and browned; how the sweet and tangy sauce was whisked and boiled.  And, I didn’t realize the potential of using a lightly toasted pretzel bun and some bacon hot off the griddle.  Oh.my.goodness.

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Then I decided it needed just a little something more.  So I made a super quick slaw and added a scoop on top.

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Um, YES.

My personal advice:  Don’t be scared of the Sloppy Joe.

Sloppy Joe’s with Bacon and Simple Slaw

Adapted from Simply Scratch [I followed her family recipe for the sloppy joe meat, but made some substitutions based on what I had in my pantry!  In parens, I noted if I used something different.]

What you need:

  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat or olive oil
  • 1 yellow or red onion, diced
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds ground beef, thawed/uncooked
  • 1 and 1/2 cups, ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 tablespoon yellow mustard (or honey mustard)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • dash of paprika
  • 4 large hamburger buns or rolls (used pretzel rolls from Trader Joe’s)
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 3-4 cups prepared cabbage coleslaw mix
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise (could also use ranch dressing)

What to do:

Begin by heating a skillet over medium heat.  Cook your bacon until crisp, then drain on paper towels.  Set aside.  Reserve one tablespoon of the liquid from the skillet.

Heat a nonstick Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat.  Add the reserved tablespoon of bacon fat (if you don’t want to use the fat, you can use one tablespoon of olive oil.  but trust me that the bacon fat adds amazing flavor!)

Add your chopped onion to the pot and cook until golden, about 5-8 minutes.  Then, add the ground beef.  Allow the beef to cook until it begins to brown.  I let my beef cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon.

While the beef is cooking, you can make your Sloppy Joe sauce.   In a small bowl, add your ketchup, water, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, and paprika.  Mix well.  Set aside.

Also prepare your simple slaw:  Mix the prepared slaw with your chopped green onions and a tablespoon of mayonnaise.  Less is more–you can always add more mayo if you need it.  Set aside.

Turn your attention back to the beef!  Once the beef is fully cooked, remove it from the pot using a slotted spoon.  I transferred the beef/onion mixture to a large bowl, allowing the grease to drain.  Once all meat has been removed, drain the grease and discard. 

Return the meat to the pot.  Pour in the sauce.  Stir well to combine.  Allow the beef and sauce to come to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.  After the beef has simmered, let it cool slightly before preparing your sandwiches.

Slice your rolls in half and warm on a grill pan for 2-3 minutes.  Top rolls with a heaping serving of Sloppy Joe mixture, a piece or two of bacon, and spoonful of slaw.

CHOW DOWN.

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An added bonus for you–the first official food photo taken with my new camera.

I call this Ty meets Sloppy Joe.

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Note: This recipe could make 6 reasonably portioned sandwiches.  But with this guy around, I got about 3 massive sandwiches from one recipe.

smoky chicken chili.

March 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

I thought maybe I’d waited too long to share this recipe.  I thought, yesterday, Spring is here.  No one wants any more cold weather comfort food.  But then, I saw the forecast for Wednesday.  Five to eight inches of snow.  And I may have cried.  But then I thought…

CHILI TIME!

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I know I shared a recipe for a white bean chicken chili last month.  (It’s excellent.)  This recipe for smoky chicken chili has a completely different flavor profile.  It has a deep, smoky, lingering spiciness, the result of slow cooking the onions and allowing the chicken to absorb the spices.  It takes just a little extra time, but it’s definitely worth it.  Also, if you don’t have smoked paprika, I highly suggest you get some to use for this recipe.  (I know they sell it at Trader Joe’s!) It really makes the difference, and I don’t believe that regular paprika will have the same effect.

Smoky Chicken Chili

Recipe from How Sweet Eats, on the Tasty Kitchen blog

What you need:

  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 28-ounce can roasted diced tomatoes
  • 4 14.5-ounce cans white beans (use cannellini or Great Northern or both)
  • 2 4-ounce cans of diced green chilis
  • 1 cup low-fat mozzarella cheese (for topping)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (for topping)

What to do:

In a large stockpot, cook the chopped bacon for 3 minutes.  Add the chopped onion and garlic to the bacon and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes.  The onions should begin to caramelize and brown.

Now, add the shredded chicken, smoky paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper to the pot.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring and pressing the spices into the chicken with a wooden spoon.  This helps to infuse the chicken with flavor.

Finally, stir in the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, beans, and green chilis.  Allow the chili to come to a slow, rolling boil.  Simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the liquid reduces.

Top bowls with some shredded mozzarella and fresh cilantro, if you like.  I liked this chili just as well without any extra toppings.  Enjoy!

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I hope this makes you feel better about this never-ending winter.  It makes me feel better.

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crockpot cheeseburgers.

January 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ground beef.  It kind of perplexes me.  I hardly ever buy it, cause I don’t really know what to do with it, aside from making traditional beef tacos.  But, Ty came home a few weeks ago with about 15 pounds of frozen ground beef — his share from an auction.  So now I feel challenged to think of how to use it – aside from endless taco nights.

I think I found the answer:  these crockpot cheeseburgers.  Simple?  Yes.  Makes a lot?  Yes, so plenty to eat off of for dinner all week long.  Win!  Plus I love finding another go-to slow cooker recipe.

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Crockpot Cheeseburgers

Recipe from How Sweet Eats

What you need:

  • 3 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons mustard
  • 6 ounces cheddar, cut into small cubes
  • buns
  • other toppings as desired, such as lettuce, tomato, and extra cheese

What to do:

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add a drizzle of olive oil.  Put the diced sweet onion in the skillet and cook for several minutes, until it becomes translucent.  Then add the minced garlic.  Cook for an additional few minutes.  Add the ground beef, salt, and pepper, and cook the beef just until it starts to brown.  This will take about 5 minutes.  Transfer the ground beef into the slow cooker, and add the milk, ketchup, and mustard.  Stir in the cubed cheddar cheese.  Slow cook the beef on low for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

I prepared the sandwiches as sliders on toasted King’s Hawaiian buns, with a heaping spoonful of the beef, a little extra cheddar cheese, and some lettuce.

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I’m obsessed with King’s Hawaiian rolls.  They are the best, in my humble opinion.

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What are your favorite ground beef recipes?  I’d love to know.

slow cooker Big Red soup.

January 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

I am not a Nebraska Cornhusker, aka a “Big Red” fan.  I am 100% a Ohio State Buckeye (and a Kent State Golden Flash every now and then because of my fiancé.)  But I sure do love this Big Red Soup.   The soup may be named for a Nebraska football team, but spoiler alert:  It’s just a simple, tasty slow cooker soup that will keep well in the fridge all week long.

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Slow Cooker Big Red Soup

adapted from Taste of Home magazine

What you need:

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat (cut in 1-inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup of chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans of tomatoes in sauce (14.5 oz cans)
  • 1 can of low-sodium beef broth (10.5 oz can)
  • 1 can of low-sodium chicken broth (10.5 oz can)
  • 1 can of tomato soup, condensed and undiluted (10.75 oz can)
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup of picante sauce
  • tortilla chips and shredded cheese for topping

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What to do:

Drizzle your olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Cook the beef until it’s browned on the outside.  Then, put the beef in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Add all of the additional ingredients, except for the chips and cheese.  Let the soup cook on low for 8-10 hours, until the beef is tender.  Ladle the soup in bowls.

Top with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheddar cheese, if you like.

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I definitely like.

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Italian wedding soup.

January 8, 2014 § 1 Comment

Folks, I just have one more meatball-related recipe for you – Italian wedding soup!

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When I was a kid, I thought this was a soup that Italian people ate at weddings.  Seems logical, right?  Well I just Googled wedding soup and learned that “wedding soup” actually means “married soup”—referring to the marrying of the flavors of green vegetables and meat.  Now you know.

Typically, this soup contains some sort of green leafy vegetable, such as escarole or spinach or curly endive, and meat – usually a small meatball made of beef and pork, cooked in a chicken broth.

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Chances are, you’ve had this soup before.  You’ve probably had several varieties.  For this soup, I used my own Italian meatball recipe.  I rolled smaller meatballs with this soup in mind, but you could totally cut larger meatballs in half or quarters.  Otherwise, I loosely followed Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe, with some minor changes and some additions to make the soup more hearty.  This girl needs sustenance!

A quick note:  You can really play with the ingredients of this soup.  Add as many meatballs or as much shredded chicken or as much pasta as you like, etc.  You get the idea!

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Italian Wedding Soup

What you need:

  • 20  small Italian meatballs, or several large meatballs cut into small pieces
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups of small pasta shells
  • 1 pound spinach, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan, plus extra for topping
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

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What to do:

If your meatballs are not already prepared, make them! Otherwise, make sure you have the cooked meatballs ready to go.  If using meatballs that were previously frozen, I suggest defrosting them before adding to the soup.  Also cook and shred your chicken breast.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Season the broth with the dried basil, salt, ground black pepper, and dried oregano, or an Italian seasoning blend of your choice.  Add 2 cups of small shells to the pasta and boil for 8 minutes, until pasta is tender.  Now add the meatballs and the chopped spinach to the broth.  Cook for 5 minutes, then lower the soup to a simmer.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and the Parmesan cheese until blended.  Slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the soup, while continuously stirring the soup in a circular motion.  By stirring gently, you will form thin strands of egg in the broth.  This should take about 1-2 minutes.  Add the shredded chicken and stir well. Taste the soup, and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Serve in bowls topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Note:  Don’t be alarmed if your meatballs crumble while simmering.  Mine became so tender that they broke apart easily while I stirred the soup.  This is a good thing!

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Italian meatballs in homemade tomato sauce.

January 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

As promised, I’m sharing the next recipe in my meatball series:  Italian meatballs in homemade tomato sauce!

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These are the Castelli Family meatballs I shared last week, simmered in a red wine tomato sauce.  This is my Mom’s sauce recipe, inspired by the sauce her mother, my Nonna, used to make.  As a warning, it makes a lot: I had plenty to serve with meatballs and pasta for 6 people on New Year’s Day, plus leftovers that lasted a week, plus three small containers in the freezer for later.  I definitely recommend freezing the sauce in small containers (as opposed to one large container) that you can defrost and use as you need it — makes for some easy dinner nights!Image

With these cold temperatures, I find a large stockpot of this sauce simmering on the stove so comforting.  It doesn’t hurt that it smells divine, either.

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Italian Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Sauce

Recipe from Barbara Doyle (my mom!)

What you need:

  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp dried celery flakes
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes with herbs
  • 1 28-ounce can of chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 2 28-ounce cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 28-ounce can of tomato puree
  • 1 15-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • Cooked Italian meatballs

Note:  I used the Dei Fratelli brand of canned tomato products.  Hunts is a good alternative.

What to do:

Finely chop your celery and onion, and mince your garlic.

Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil (1-2 tablespoons) over medium heat.  Add the celery, onion, and garlic, and cook until the celery and onion are very soft or becoming translucent.  Then, add a teaspoon each of the crushed red pepper, dried celery flakes, italian seasoning, and dried parsley.  If you do not have Italian seasoning, add a blend of dried basil and oregano.  Mix in the spices well.

Now, add all of your canned tomatoes except the tomato paste.  To recap, that’s 2 cans crushed, 1 can chopped, 2 cans sauce, and 1 can of puree.  Stir well, then bring the mixture to a low boil.  Once the mixture is boiling, add the can of tomato paste.  Stir well.

Add 3/4 cup of red wine–this can be a drinking wine or a cooking wine.  Then add your cooked meatballs and let the sauce and meatballs simmer for 1 hour, at least.  The more time you allot for the meatballs to simmer before serving, the more tender they will be, and the more infused with the flavor of the sauce.

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This sauce can be used in an accompanying baked pasta dish, such as stuffed shells or manicotti.  It is also delicious over spaghetti.Image

As my Nonna used to say:  Mangia, mangia!

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