Thursday, April 28, 2011

Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos

Today I was planning to share a side dish recipe with you guys.  It has vegetables and cheese and a crunchy breadcrumb topping.  I made it last night, and it rocked.  But then I got to thinking…  Cinco de Mayo is coming up next week, and I have a whole lot of Mexican recipes in the backlog waiting to be posted.  Seems like the perfect time to share them with you, no?  (Let’s just agree to ignore the fact that I completely ignored posting holiday recipes for Passover and Easter.)

To kick things off right, today’s recipe comes from Mexican food and Top Chef Master Rick Bayless.  If you’re not already a Rick Bayless fan, let me tell you - he’s kind of awesome.  He takes traditional, authentic Mexican recipes and makes them accessible.  And incredibly delicious.  Like that recipe for Jalapeno-Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes I told you about a couple weeks ago.

Or today’s recipe for Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos.  Tacos which are good.  So very good.  And so very, very easy – because you make the filling for the tacos in a slow cooker.  Bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you?  Authentic Mexican food coming out of the slow cooker at the end of a long workday?  Yes, please.  Especially if that food tastes like this – soft corn tortillas filled with tender, smoky chunks of pork and cubes of potatoes steeped in the meat juices.  Topped off with cubes of creamy avocado and fresh cheese, these tacos take slow cooker food to another level. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Fingers with Gorgonzola Dip

Today’s recipe is one I’ve been thinking about ever since I made those crazy good Barbecue Chicken Fingers a while back. That juicy, crunchy, oven-baked chicken was so delicious bathed in barbecue sauce, I knew I had to try it Buffalo-style.

These Buffalo Chicken Fingers taste like the boneless wings you get at sports bars – minus all the fat that comes from deep-frying and butter-laden sauces. But don’t worry. Taking away a lot of the fat doesn’t take away a lot of the flavor. These chicken fingers are spicy, tangy, crispy, and pretty much addictive. They make a fun party food, game day snack, or weeknight dinner.

And since you might need a little help taming the heat (if, say, you go overboard with the hot sauce), there’s the homemade gorgonzola dipping sauce. Your mouth will appreciate the relief – and the rich and creamy flavor. And I’ll let you in on a secret – this gorgonzola dip is way healthier than any blue cheese dressing you’d find at a bar or restaurant. Not that you’d ever know. Because it is goooood. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t particularly like gorgonzola or other blue cheeses.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

30 by 30 List

Yesterday I turned 29. Surprisingly it wasn’t as traumatic as I expected – 28 was a lot harder for me. Last year I woke up feeling older. (If your twenties were quite a while ago, please forgive me this line of thinking.) This year, however, I woke up feeling pretty happy to be celebrating 29 years. I have a wonderful husband, an exciting new job, great friends, healthy family, and a nice place to live. I’ve got nothing to complain about, and I’m committed to spending the last year of my twenties enjoying life and having fun.

And that includes having fun in the kitchen. One way I’m hoping to do that is with my 30 by 30 List. I got the idea for this list from elly says opa!, another food blog I quite enjoy. Following Elly’s example, I have created a list of 30 sweet or savory recipes I want to make and blog about before I turn 30 next year. You’ll notice from my list below that my chosen recipes run the gamut in complexity and flavor. Some are elaborate desserts or time-consuming yeast breads. Others are simple. Really simple. Like “cook dry beans” simple. (Can you believe I’ve never done that??)

As I check these recipes off my 30 by 30 list over the next year, I look forward to sharing my results with you. If you have any favorite recipes for any of the items on my list, please send them my way! I’d love to check them out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

I know I don’t typically share a whole lot of personal stuff with you in my posts, but I’ve got some great news I just can’t keep to myself. And no, before any of you who are related to me get super duper excited, we’re not having a baby. I can’t even get Stan to agree to get a dog…yet. But I’m working on it. In the meantime, I am thrilled to tell you that I began an exciting new job this week. After not working full-time since starting grad school in 2007, this has been quite an adjustment. I’m enjoying the work, but man oh man, I am so tired I could fall asleep standing up.

Needless to say, cooking has not exactly been on my radar this week.  Fortunately, I have a slow cooker to do some of the cooking for me.  Take today’s recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff.  It’s crazy delicious.  And ridiculously easy. Like throw everything in the pot and let it go, easy. No need to brown the meet first. No need to sauté vegetables.  Yes, you have to add some more ingredients towards the end of the cooking time, but all you’re doing is adding them in – nothing difficult whatsoever. Honestly, I was a bit shocked by the depth of savory flavor produced by this simple slow cooker meal.  Served up over buttered egg noodles (or mashed potatoes or rice), this beef stroganoff is comfort on a plate – exactly what you need after a long day’s work.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Baked Banana Oatmeal

Last week my mom and I flew to Florida to visit my Grandma for a few days. (That’d be why I wasn’t around here much in the past week.) Our girls-only trip is becoming an annual ritual that brings together three generations of women in our family. I feel lucky we’re able to do this, and we always have a good time. We also always end up eating out a lot and having lots of “we’re on vacation so it’s allowed” treats, such as containers of cookies found deep in the recesses of Grammy’s freezer. I was good about the cookies this year – only two the whole trip – but there was ice cream, and apple dumplings, and peanut butter-filled pretzels, and more ice cream.

Needless to say, when I woke up this morning, back in my own bed in Nashville, I was in the mood for something healthy – and it doesn’t get much healthier than oatmeal. Oatmeal, you may have noticed, is one of my favorite breakfasts/breakfast food ingredients. I love it baked, cooked up with apples and pecans, stirred into my favorite muffins, and made into granola. Oatmeal is the good stuff; it’s healthy and it fills you up. It’s a good post-family visit/junk food detox kind of thing.

Today’s recipe for Banana Baked Oatmeal is the latest oatmeal recipe to be making frequent appearances in our kitchen. It’s considerably healthier than a lot of the baked oatmeal recipes out there (containing no added fat and relatively little sugar) and it’s chock full of bananas, one of my top-five favorite foods. It’s incredibly filling and is simple to make. It’s also pretty darn tasty with the flavor of bananas and a crunchy, caramelized brown sugar topping. All in all, it’s a pretty delicious way to get back on the healthy-eating wagon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

No-Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is a popular dish in Indian cooking (Punjabi to be exact). As its name suggests, the dish is rather rich. Chunks of chicken are marinated in yogurt and spices and then bathed in a tomato-based sauce that is made rich and luxurious with ample amounts of butter and cream. If you are in the mood for a treat or are in the looking to walk on the caloric side of Indian cuisine, butter chicken is a delicious way to go.

However, I know not all of you prefer your meals with “butter” in the recipe title. For a lighter, more everyday way to treat yourself to the delicious flavors of butter chicken, consider this recipe for No-Butter Chicken. In this healthier take on its namesake, chunks of chicken are cooked in an aromatic sauce redolent with the flavors of onions, garlic, ginger, cumin, and other spices. The sauce gets its wonderful creaminess from non-fat plain yogurt rather than butter or cream. But don’t worry – you won’t miss the fat or calories one bit. (And I’m not one to make that claim lightly.)

The flavor of this chicken is so good that you will likely impress yourself with your culinary abilities. I don’t know about you, but I love it when that happens. I could not believe the amazing taste that was produced with such relatively little work. Just make sure you have some rice or naan to serve alongside this chicken when you make it – you aren’t going to want to waste a single drop of the deceptively rich-tasting No-Butter sauce. It is plate-licking good. Which, of course, is why you need the naan. Because plate-licking is typically frowned upon. Especially if you have company over for dinner.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Chili Mac

There is nothing I didn’t like the sound of in today’s recipe. Buffalo chicken? Oh yeah. Chili? Of course. Macaroni? Yeah, I’m a total carb-addict. So when I first came across this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Chili Mac, all I could think was bring it on! The fact that it is actually ridiculously healthy too? I might have swooned. Or not, I tend to reserve swooning for ridiculously rich and decadent desserts. Or surprise flowers from my hubby. Or a good foot rub. But I digress.

This baked chili mac is a great, family-friendly, weeknight dinner. It is easy to make and uses easy to find ingredients. Plus, as I said, it’s healthy too. The chili mac is made with whole wheat macaroni (or regular if you just aren’t into the whole wheat pasta thing), chicken breast or ground turkey, carrots and celery – the veggies you’d have alongside your buffalo wings, and just a little cheese on top. Or a lot – I won’t tell. All in all, this Buffalo Chicken Chili Mac is a winner.

It also makes enough to feed an army – or six hungry adults. If you’re feeding kids, you might be able to eat for a week. Just make sure you keep an eye on it when you pop the pan under the broiler to melt the cheese. I thought about pretending that I intentionally browned my cheese to the point of being, well, brown… but that wouldn’t exactly be the case. I got distracted for a minute and let the broiler do its thing just a tad too long. Granted, crispy cheese is still delicious, but it is slightly less visually appealing. Keep an eye on yours, and your chili mac will look just as good as it tastes.


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