Pineapple Salsa Chicken

Did you ever have one of those weeks that was so crazy-busy that you felt like you couldn’t catch up?  (Like with field trips, carpet cleaning, playdates, and planning for a weekend out-of-town.)

And then, added to that, your kids get colds and your washing machine breaks?

Well, that was my week.

Even with all that going on, we still needed to eat.  (Crazy, I know.)

I was perusing one of my good friend’s favorite recipe sites, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, and I saw a recipe so simple, so easy and quick, that I had to give it a try.

And this week turned out to be a perfect week to make it.

The Recipe:

Pineapple Salsa Chicken, from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

6 fresh or frozen chicken breasts

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained

2 c mild or medium salsa

Place the chicken in the crock pot and add the rest of the ingredients.  Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.  Using tongs, remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred into bite-size pieces.  Mix the chicken back in with the rest of the ingredients.  The mixture will be fairly soupy – drain off some of the excess liquid before serving, especially when eating it in tortillas.  Serve with tortilla chips and garnishes, like tomatoes, cheese, avocado, sour cream, etc.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first thing – it does not look pretty.   It’s kind of a hodge-podge of the beans, chicken, and pineapple.  But it sure does taste good.  I ended up adding some fresh cilantro and served it with a little hot sauce, sour cream, and grated sharp cheddar cheese – all on a warmed flour tortilla.

It only took five minutes (literally five minutes) to put together.  There was no cutting, chopping, prepping, or anything of the sort.  It was a dump-and-go kind of meal (another food term I need to copyright 🙂 ).

And it was exactly what we needed this week.

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Southwest Chicken Casserole

Several weeks ago, there was a revelation on Facebook (well, at least with many of my *friends*).  Suddenly everyone I knew was liking the Crockpot Girls.

I’d never heard of them before, but they did remind me of my humble beginnings here on the blog – where pretty much all my recipes were from a crockpot, and I complained about Hubs a lot.  (It was a simpler time.)

So I decided to check them out and try one of their recipes, for nostalgic crockpot reasons.

It didn’t quite work out the way I expected.

The Recipe:

Crockpot Southwest Chicken Casserole, changed A LOT from Crockpot Girls

8 chicken pieces

1 t chili powder

1 c enchilada sauce

6 oz tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 c water

1/4 c green onions, sliced

1 poblano pepper, sliced

salt and pepper, to taste

Lightly grease the stoneware with nonstick cooking spray.  Place the chicken in the stoneware.  In a bowl, combine the enchilada sauce, tomato paste, water, and spices.  Spread the mixture over the chicken.  Add onions and peppers.  Cover; cook on low for 7 – 8 hours.

(So I followed this recipe.  And nowhere did it even resemble a casserole when I was done!  It was more like a soup.  I decided I need to figure out a way to fix this.  My additions and changes are below.)

3-4 c your favorite Spanish rice (We had some of Hubs frozen, thank goodness, so I used it – and no, he won’t let me share the recipe.)

6 oz cheddar/jack cheese blend, grated

corn chips

sour cream

salsa

Shred chicken and leave in sauce.  In 9 x 12 baking dish, spread rice evenly along bottom.  Add the chicken mixture as a second layer.  Top with cheese.  Place in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until cheese is browning and slightly bubbly.

Serve with sour cream, salsa, and chips (either crushed on top or on the side).

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

As you could read in the recipe, the original directions from the Crockpot Girls did not pan out.  I have to admit, the chicken was really tasty when I tried it, but I was going for a casserole dish, not a soup.

(I’m not ruling the Crockpot Girls out, yet, though.  I think I’ll have to try a different recipe another time before I judge too harshly.)

But I was SO proud of myself for figuring out what to do next.  (Even though I did give up that day, I admit.  I ended up putting the dish in the fridge, and we had french toast instead.  But I did regroup the next day with a plan.)

I was very lucky that we had the rice in the freezer – that made Day 2 of the Great Casserole Adventure pretty easy.  And really, between the two days, I maybe spent about 20 minutes in prep time.  That’s not bad at all.

Now this looks like a casserole!

And it was really good, too.  It was perfect for the blustery fall day we were having.

The chicken and rice were really moist with its southwestern flavor – and paired with the spicy salsa verde, fresh sour cream, and crunchy blue tortilla chips – it was a party for your senses.

I took a probable disaster and made it work!

Tim Gunn would be so proud.

White Bean and Chicken Chili

I’m a cheater.

Yep.  At least I’ll admit it.

I’ve cooked this recipe before.  (Back during one of my previous attempts to become a better cook.)

It’s a really great recipe from my friend Val at Val’s Gluten Free Favorites… so since I’ve done it before, I decided to tweak the recipe to my (and my family’s) tastes.  Yes, this will be my first time varying from a recipe.  We like our chili pretty hardy and with lots of spice, so I followed Val’s suggestions and added/altered to make that happen (and we don’t have to worry about gluten-free ingredients, so it makes it a little easier).

Here’s my version (the original you can find on the link above):

The Recipe:

1 T olive oil

3 whole chicken breasts

salt & pepper to taste

2 onions, chopped

5 cloves garlic, chopped

2- 4oz cans roasted green chilies, drained  

1 1/2 T ground cumin

1 T chili powder

3- 15 oz cans white beans, rinsed & drained 

3 c chicken broth

1. Warm oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onions & garlic for 5 minutes. 

2. Add onions & garlic into crock pot. 

3. Add chilies, cumin, chili powder, chicken, beans, & broth.

4. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, stirring on occasion. 

5. Shred chicken with a fork.

6. Add salt & pepper to taste.

The Results:

I swear every recipe I like has onions in it.  This, of course, was no exception.  I really wish I’d taken pictures of the cut onions the first time I made this chili, because, if I do say so myself, I am definitely getting better with my knife skills.  (Though maybe not with my capacity estimation – this pan was a bit full…and I still had another onion to add.)

not perfect, but definitely improving

(Oh, and a side note question – why do some onions make you cry like a hysterical baby and others don’t??  I had two yellow onions, from the same store, same place, same day.  The first one I cut no problem, and the second one I had to cut in four shifts because I couldn’t see any more.  Please explain.  Anyone?)

To add to making this recipe a bit more challenging, my lovely twelve month old decided to wake up and be hungry – right then! – for breakfast.  So I fed him as I cut onions, heated them, and added all the ingredients to the crock pot. 

I would just like to see Hubby try feeding a baby/toddler while cooking!  It adds a whole new dimension to the process, let me tell you.

My little helper (images may be altered to protect the innocent)

And that was it, for most of the day.  A little over six hours later, I shredded the chicken, and we were ready to eat.

I topped it off with sour cream, jack cheese, and some fresh-cut cilantro.

Sooo good!

Three out of four family members agreed (my four-year old is way too picky and he doesn’t really count) that it was delicious.

Hubby was even quoted as saying, “This is so good, I could swim in it.”

I concur.

Best Stew Ever

So this one was worth the wait…

And I got to use my new knife (a lot).

Here’s the Recipe:

Hearty Beef Stew, Cook’s Country Magazine

5 pounds boneless beef chuck-eye, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes

3 T vegetable oil

4 medium onions, chopped fine

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

2 c low-sodium chicken or beef broth

3 T soy sauce

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 pound red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 1/2 t minced fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 T Minute Tapioca

2 c frozen peas, thawed

1. Dry beef with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 T oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add half of beef and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to slow-cooker and repeat with remaining beef (you shouldn’t need more oil).

2. Add 1 T oil, onions, and 1/4 t salt to empty skillet and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes.  Add tomato paste and cook, stirring well, for 2 minutes.  Add broth and soy sauce, bring to simmer, and transfer to slow-cooker.

3. Toss carrots, parsnips, potatoes, 1/2 t thyme, and remaining 1 T oil into bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Wrap vegetables in foil packet that will fit in slow cooker.  Stir bay leaves and tapioca into slow cooker; set vegetable packet on top of beef.

4. Set slow-cooker to high, cover and cook for 6 to 7 hours (Or cook on low for 10 to 11 hours.) Transfer vegetable packet to plate.  Carefully open packet (watch for steam) and stir vegetables and juices into stew.  Add remaining 1 t thyme and peas and let stand until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

As you can tell, there was a LOT of chopping and cutting involved.  I was really excited to use my new knife – and it cut like a dream!  I do have to say, though, I think it’s still a bit too big for my hands – but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

I also learned that, apparently, according to Hubby at least, stew is a tandem cooking event.  Or at least he treated it as such. 

In other words, he stood by me the whole time, assisting me with my cutting, measuring, stirring, etc.  For the most part, that was fine.  I was a tad irritated that when I was not chopping my onion properly, he made me start over on a new onion.  Seriously?  He’s lucky I let him stay in the room after that.

Here are a couple of pictures of my cutting handiwork:

My arch nemesis, the onion

Meat (and yes, I got in trouble for using the same cutting board — in my defense, I did cut my meat after all the veggies)

The Results:

So I decided to halve the recipe because it would only be serving 2 (and a quarter, if you count my picky four year old).  That made plenty for us all and left lots for yummy leftovers.

I skipped the parsnips because frankly, I have no idea what they are or what they taste like, so I thought I’d be safe.

Everything went really well (how could it not with Hubs standing over my shoulder the whole time!)…

And surprise to you all, it was absolutely amazing (the title didn’t give it away, did it?). 

Tender, flavorful.  So, so, so good!  Even my four-year old and 11 month old loved it.  That’s a sign of a good meal.

I highly recommend this recipe.  Enjoy!

Black Bean Soup and Homemade Flatbread

Oh, yeah.  The bar is raised – and I met the challenge.

Here are the recipes – (yes, with an s):

Black Bean Soup (from The $7 a Meal Slow Cooker Cookbook)

1 pound dried black beans     

1 onion, chopped    

3 cloves minced garlic   

2 stalks celery, minced  

1 minced jalapeno pepper 

1 T chili powder  

1/4 t cayenne pepper

1/2 t salt 4 c chicken stock

4 c water

2 T masa harina

1/3 c water

1. Sort and rinse black beans and cover with cold water.  Let stand overnight.  In the morning, drain beans, discard soaking water, and combine in a 4 to 5 quart crock pot with remaining ingredients except masa harina and 1/3 c water.

2. Turn crock pot to high.  In small bowl, mix masa harina with water and blend well.  Stir into soup, mixing well.  Cook on high for 30 minutes, stirring once during cooking, until soup is thickened.  Serve with sour cream and guacamole.

Homemade Flat Bread (from foodnetwork.com, Kathleen Daelemans)

1 package active yeast     

1/2 t sugar      

1 3/4 c all-purpose flour     

1 t coarse salt

1 T fresh thyme leaves

3/4 c water (might need more)

1 t oil

1. In the bowl of a food processor combine the yeast, sugar, flour, salt and thyme. Pulse to combine. Add the water in a steady stream until the dough begins to form a ball, turn it on to a board and knead with the heel of your hand until the dough is smooth and elastic.

2. Coat a bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl, and cover with a damp cloth. Put in a warm spot to rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

3. When the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough, scrape it onto the counter and knead it lightly into a smooth ball. Cut into 20 pieces and with a rolling pin roll out to form very flat 5 to 6-inch circles.

4. Preheat a stove top grill pan over medium high. Do not oil. Place bread on hot grill and cook without touching it until you see bubbles on the surface, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and continue to cook 1 to 2 minutes more or until bread has puffed up. Serve immediately.

The Process:

Well, the black bean soup turned out to be so easy.  I even remember to soak the beans the night before.  My husband also attempted to show me the anal retentive proper way to cut an onion that night.  Considering I was fighting a kidney stone and on a high dose of pain pills, I stayed in good spirits – though I can’t remember a thing and am just thankful I still have all my digits.

The next morning was super simple, and I even minced my jalapeno without gloves (gasp).  It was not a big deal at all.  I did pretty much double the salt and chili pepper, as I’ve realized this cookbook is geared toward the conservative when it comes to flavoring.

After that, I was pretty bored.  I was stuck at home for the day, as our car was in the shop, so I needed some more stimulation (I know, two kids just isn’t enough for me.)

So, I decided to try my hand at  making flatbread.  I looked it up online using the term easy which led to me to the recipe on FoodNetwork.com.  

Overall it was a cinch.  My only struggle was with the making the dough into round pieces.  Couldn’t quite get that working for me — and my four year old sous chef wasn’t helping much as he rolled out “turtle” and “car” bread, just for him.

Definitely not round

Grilled to perfection

The Results:

The black bean soup turned out pretty good.  I actually had the great idea to add fresh cilantro which turned it into amazing!  It made a ton, so tonight will definitely be leftovers.

The bread wasn’t exactly what I was going for, but I think that’s because I’d misunderstood what flatbread was.  I was hoping for a crispy, cracker like bread instead of a denser, chewy kind of bread.  It still tasted good, and according to Hubby, it was perfect.  I’ll take that compliment any day.

Yummy

Dinner is served

Stealing my Thunder

Please join me in a little rant. 

My husband, the amazing cook, recipe designer, and general overachiever in the kitchen, has many tools at his disposal.  He has his expensive, chef-grade pots and pans.  He has an amazing Viking range.  He has thousands (okay, maybe dozens) of kitchen gadgets and doo-dahs to help him make the perfect meal.

I have a crock-pot.

Guess what he decided to cook his meal in today?  Guess what smells amazing in my house?  Guess what’s going to blow out any and all recipes I might try?

Haven’t figured it out?  Well, he decided that he’d try cooking in my crock-pot today.  And not some easy recipe from a book.  No, he had to design his own special Pork Carnitas recipe.  And it already smells like heaven.

Crap.

Hashbrown Casserole

This week I wanted to try something a little different.  We’re a family that loves breakfast.  Every type of breakfast – sweet, savory, yum! – we’re in.  One of the things we enjoy doing is having breakfast for dinner.  It’s a treat – that can still be somewhat healthy and balanced.

This week I decided to make the Hash Brown Casserole from The $7 a Meal Slow Cooker Cookbook.  Here’s the recipe:

1 T butter                                      1/2 t salt  

1 onion, chopped                      1/8 t pepper

2 cloves minced garlic            1/2 t dried thyme leaves

6 c frozen hash browns             5 oz evaporated milk

3/4 c shredded mozzarella    1/2 c shredded cheddar

6 eggs

1. Spray inside of 3 1/2 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.  In skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until crisp-tender.  Let cool about 10 minutes.

2. Place 1/3 of the frozen hash brown potatoes in the slow cooker.  Add 1/3 of the onion mixture and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.  Repeat layers, ending with the cheese.

My good news/bad news for the recipe: good news – no raw meat; bad news – I have to chop another onion.

The onion thing drives me nuts for a lot of reasons, not just because I can’t cut anything well (except my own hand, that is), but because I have very sensitive eyes.  I always end up with burning eyeballs and tears running down my face.  I figured there has to be another way!  When I looked up ideas online, I saw a suggestion for grating onion on a cheese grater.  Perfect – it will eliminate the need for a knife, and if I go fast enough, maybe less tears.

I kinda forgot the whole cheese grater – sharp cutting grates thing and ended up grating the tip of my finger.  Can I just tell you that normally that would hurt a lot, but add the joy of onion juices searing the wound, and you kinda get the picture.  Ouch, ouch ouch!

I ended up switching back to a knife awfully fast, and it didn’t seem so bad.  Big chunks, like always, but I wasn’t as scared as usual.

I added the butter and onion and garlic to the skillet and then realized I had no idea what cook until “crisp-tender” meant.  Seriously?  Aren’t these opposites???  Oh, well.  I cooked until the onions turned kinda brown and had some crispy edges.

I added the ingredients exactly as written, and it didn’t look too bad.  It cooked all day…

The Results:

Well, honestly, I wasn’t very impressed.  The casserole did not have a lot of flavor – some roasted peppers or sausage or both would really have made a big difference.  And maybe thinner hash browns instead of the small cubes.  Oh, and a lot more cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella.

So basically, a complete change may have saved this dish.  We ate it.  It was food.  I’m proud everything went fairly well, but not of the dish itself.

Hoping for better results next week.