Dad’s Easy Mediterranean Chicken

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My dad recently sent me this chicken recipe, which he says received rave-reviews from his dinner guests. Of course I had to try it, and I have to agree – this is one tasty dish! It is full of flavor . . . actually, I’ll let my dad describe it to you . . .

“This recipe offers an exotic blend of flavors, orchestrated by the turmeric, that will appeal to adults, but probably not children. It assumes a Dutch oven but will work just as well in a crock pot or other lidded vessel. In that case, do the initial sauteing in a frying pan and transfer to the final cook pot.”

I altered his recipe slightly to work with the ingredients on hand, but the essential ingredients and flavors are the same.

3/4 cup chopped onion
8 oz package mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic minced
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2/3 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes (or whole cherry tomatoes)
1 14oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup artichoke hearts, cut into bite-size pieces (canned or marinated)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
Olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, sauté the onions and mushrooms in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1-2 minutes. Remove the contents from the pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the chicken thighs for about 2-3 minutes per side. Add salt and pepper as desired. Remove browned thighs from the pan if you need more room for the un-browned ones, and add more oil as needed.

Once all the thighs are brown, add them back to the pan along with onion and mushroom mixture and all other ingredients. Lightly stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil, and then reduce heat to simmer (uncovered).

My dad likes to simmer the mixture for 2-3 hours until the mixture has a meat sauce consistency with all the ingredients well ‘blended’. He also suggested serving it after 40-60 minutes of simmering, at which point the thighs will still be intact (which is what I did). Serve over rice.

Thanks for the recipe Dad!

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Burrito Bowl

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Happy Friday everyone! On Fridays I get a bit lazy and slack off on my domestic duties a bit. After a busy week, the last thing I feel like doing is preparing a big dinner. I usually have some extra homemade meals in the freezer, but I also like “re-purposing” leftovers into a delicious new meal like this one.

The beauty of a burrito bowl is that you don’t even need a recipe. My basic burrito bowls consists of leftover carnitas meat (if you haven’t tried my carnitas recipe, you are missing out!), rice, and beans. Then you can toss in whatever else sounds good. Chopped bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, shredded lettuce, fire roasted chiles, sauteed onions – the possibilities are endless.

Leftover carnitas (or any leftover taco meat)
Leftover brown rice
1 can black beans, rinsed
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Sour cream
Green onions, chopped

Heat the carnitas and the rice in the microwave until warm. (Tip: add about a teaspoon of water to the rice and cover, before reheating. This will prevent the rice from being too dry.)

To serve, place a generous scoop of carnitas, rice, and black beans into each serving bowl. Sprinkle with a bit of cilantro, and then add a spoonful of sour cream and salsa. Top it off with a few green onions. Mix it all together and enjoy your delicious no-cook dinner!

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Heart Brownies

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Hello, my friends! I wanted to share these cute heart-shaped brownies that I made for my sweeties for Valentine’s Day. They are super-easy to make, but still look cute and taste yummy. All you do is bake your favorite boxed brownie mix, cut it into shapes with a cookie cutter, and then decorate to your heart’s content.

These would be great for themed birthdays, bake sales, and holidays — just change the shape: shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, pumpkins for Halloween, trees for Christmas, etc. I topped my brownies with white chocolate, caramel sauce, and sprinkles, but you can choose your own favorite toppings. My daughters love pink, so I made two brownies with extra white chocolate and pink sprinkles just for them.

1 box brownie mix
White chocolate
Caramel sauce
Colored sprinkles

Bake the brownies, per the package instructions. (Note: this works best with thicker, cake-like brownies, so I added an extra egg, and reduced the water, as suggested on the back of my brownie box. I also replaced the oil with applesauce, just to make them a bit more healthy.) Allow the brownies to cool completely (to save time, you can bake the brownies a day in advance).

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the shapes, and set them aside on a plate or piece of waxed paper.

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, following the package instructions, until melted. Use a spoon to drizzle the melted white chocolate over the brownie shape. Then drizzle the caramel sauce over the white chocolate (you may need to microwave your caramel sauce for a few seconds first).

Let stand, until the white chocolate hardens, and then enjoy all of your hard(ish) work!

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Sweet Potato Fries

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I’ve tried several recipes for sweet potato fries, all with varying degrees of success (or failure). This recipe from the Food Network is the best recipe yet! The fries are full of flavor, tender on the outside, and crisp on the outside. Click here to view the original recipe, or you can follow my slightly modified version below.

Sweet Potato Fries

2-3 medium sweet potatoes
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Thoroughly wash the sweet potatoes to remove any dirt from the skin. Cut the sweet potatoes into French fry shapes, about 1/2-inch wide by 3-inches long.

Add the sweet potatoes and the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and toss together until well coated. (Note: if you use more olive oil (4 tablespoons vs 3 tablespoons), the fries will have more of a “fried” texture.)

Spread the sweet potato fries out on a large baking sheet, making sure the fries aren’t crowded. I usually need to use more than one baking sheet.

Roast the fries 20-30 minutes, stirring once, until the fries are very dark around the edges. I’ve discovered that the sides of my oven are hotter than the middle, so some of my fries on the edges of the pan will be a bit burnt when the rest of the fries are perfectly done. Every oven is different though, so adjust your baking time, if needed. Enjoy!

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Crispy Baked Chicken Strips

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I’m not much for kid food, but I love a good chicken strip (or chicken tender, chicken finger, etc). Something about the tender chicken surrounded by crunchy breading make them irresistible to me – and my kids.

This is my new favorite chicken strip recipe! Panko bread crumbs make them extra crispy, and they are baked, not fried, so they are healthy too – bonus! 

I served these with super-delish sweet potato fries and some dipping sauce.

Next time I make these, I’m going to double the recipe and freeze the extra chicken strips (after they’re cooked). You can reheat them in the toaster-oven (or regular oven) to maintain their crispiness. Try the chicken strips sliced over a green salad or pasta, or maybe a chicken parmesan sandwich (hmm, I’m going to work on that recipe).

1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with olive oil or cooking spray.

Add the flour to a shallow dish, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Add the eggs to a second shallow dish, and beat lightly with a fork. Set aside.

Add the panko bread crumbs, Italian bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese to a third shallow dish, and stir to combine. Set aside.

Cut the chicken breasts into strips, about 1 ½ inches wide, and 5 inches long. Season with salt and pepper.

Now, create your assembly line. Start with the chicken, then the flour, egg, bread crumbs, and lastly the prepared baking sheet.

Next you’ll bread the chicken, using the “wet-hand/dry-hand” technique (this will keep your hands goop-free and make the coating process faster). Drop a chicken strip into the flour with your left hand (wet-hand), and then use your right hand (dry-hand) to coat the chicken with flour. Shake off the excess flour and then drop the chicken into the eggs (don’t touch the eggs with your right hand). Use your left hand (wet) to coat the chicken with egg, and then drop the chicken into the bread crumbs. Use your right hand (dry) to coat the chicken with bread crumbs, and then place the chicken onto the baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining chicken strips.

Make sure that the chicken isn’t crowded on the baking sheet; otherwise the chicken won’t get crispy. You may need to use more than one baking sheet, and cook one baking sheet at a time.

Bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is cooked through and the breading is golden brown.

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Oven Roasted Carnitas

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I’ve always prepared carnitas in my Crockpot, but I found myself without a Crockpot the other day, so I decided to try cooking carnitas in the oven instead. Oh. My. Word. I’ve always thought my Crockpot carnitas were really good, but these oven roasted carnitas are amazing. The flavor is doubled, the meat is super moist and tender, and there are all of these little crispy bits that you just can’t get in the Crockpot.  

My husband loved this recipe and said I should only make carnitas this way from now on. The Crockpot carnitas are still great, especially for busy weeknights, but this is the recipe to use if you want really amazing carnitas. I always make a big roast, and then freeze the leftovers for another meal (carnitas tacos anyone?). Also, you will need a large ovenproof pot with a lid (I use an enameled cast-iron dutch oven) for this recipe.

1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (4 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 limes, sliced into wedges

Mix together the salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Cut the pork roast into several large chunks and trim off any large areas of fat. Coat the pork with the spice mixture.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Add the meat in batches and brown well on all sides. Don’t add too many pieces of meat to the pot at once, or else they won’t brown well. Turn down the heat, if needed, to prevent the spices from burning.

Add all of the browned meat back to the pot, cover tightly with a lid and place the pot in the oven. Bake until the meat is tender enough to be shredded easily with a fork, about 2 ½ to 3 hours. This is what it will look like when it’s done. 

Remove the pot from the oven and use a large spoon to skim off the fat from the pan juices. Use two forks to shred the meat and combine with the pan juices.

Serve with lime wedges and tortillas, and prepare for carnita nirvana!

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How to Eat a Pomegranate

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It’s pomegranate season and now is the time to get your pomegranate fix! These wonderful fruits contain antioxidants, potassium and fiber, so they are healthy as well as delicious. Pomegranates can be tricky to eat, so I’m going to share my method for harvesting all of those tiny seeds (a.k.a. arils). This process will take about 5 minutes – well worth the 15 minutes of complete silence that I get from my children while they enjoy the fruits of my labor!  

Choosing a Pomegranate:
Select a pomegranate that has a bright and shiny red exterior, with no cuts, bruises, or brown spots. Brown spots are usually an indication of rotten seeds on the inside, so select your pomegranate carefully. A ripe pomegranate will also feel heavy in your hand.

Removing the Pomegranate Seeds:
Slice off the stem-end (not the crown-end) of the pomegranate, just enough so that you see a few of the pomegranate seeds (about ¼ inch into the pomegranate). Use your knife to score the skin into wedges all the way around the pomegranate. Don’t cut too deep – just enough to go through the skin. 

Put a medium bowl in the sink and fill it with water. Pomegranate juice can stain, so I use a bowl of water to contain the inevitable spray of pomegranate juice while I’m prying out the seeds. Submerge the pomegranate in the water and use your hands to break the pomegranate apart into wedges. Remove all but one of the wedges from the bowl.  

While holding the pomegranate wedges under water, use your thumbs to gently pry out the pomegranate seeds, letting them fall into the bowl. Continue for the remaining pomegranate wedges. (Note: Ripe pomegranate seeds will be plump, shiny, and bright red. Discard any seeds that look cloudy or soft.) 

Drain the water and enjoy!

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Perfect Beef Chili

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Chili is a simple meal, consisting usually of meat, beans, tomatoes, and spices, but if you ask 10 different people to describe the perfect chili, you will likely get 10 different answers. I, for example, like to have veggies in my chili, but my husband considers this chili blasphemy. (That doesn’t stop him from devouring several bowls of my chili, however.) 

I realize that your idea of the ideal pot of chili may be different than mine, but for me, this is the perfect beef chili: thick, hearty, and tons of flavor (without being spicy). I keep the chili mild, for my kids, but I like to add a dash or two of hot sauce to my bowl, after serving. If you like your chili spicy, then you can add a couple of diced chili peppers, before simmering.

1 lb ground beef
1 15oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cubes beef bouillon
1/4 cup beer
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon hot New Mexico chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of water

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, and cook, using a spatula to break the beef up into small pieces. When cooked through, drain the excess grease and return to the stove.

Add all of the remaining ingredients to the pot, stirring well to combine. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 2 hours.

Serve hot, with a slice of cornbread.

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Boeuf Bourguignon

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Well, I finally got up the courage to make Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. There aren’t too many recipes that intimidate me, but this dish is legendary and, frankly, I was afraid that I would mess it up.

I’m happy to report that it was much easier to prepare than I expected, and IT IS SO GOOD! This is no ordinary beef stew, my friends. As Julia put it, “It is certainly one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man.” Picture this: tender potatoes smothered in a rich savory sauce with melt-in-your-mouth pieces of beef, topped with mushrooms and onions sautéed to golden-brown perfection. Oh, and did I mention it also has bacon – and wine? 

I tweaked the recipe just a tad to suit my taste (and laziness) but most of the ingredients and steps are the same. You must make this recipe soon, but be sure to allow plenty of time, as this will need around 3 hours to cook (don’t worry, only about 30 minutes of that is hands-on).

8 oz of bacon, cut into 2-inch long pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
3 lbs beef rump roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot sliced
2 ribs of celery, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced (divided)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups full-bodied red wine
2-3 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6-8 yukon gold potatoes, cut into quarters
1 package mushrooms, sliced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch Oven or enameled cast iron pan (something that can be used both on the stovetop and in the oven) over medium low heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook until the bacon is browned lightly. Remove the bacon to a plate, reserving the bacon grease in the pan.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the bacon grease and heat over medium-high heat. Grab a wad of paper towels and dry each piece of beef before placing it in the hot pan. Only add a few pieces at a time, so they don’t touch. Sauté until nicely browned on each side, then remove to the plate with the bacon, while you brown the remaining pieces of beef.

Remove all of the beef from the pan, and then add the carrots, celery, and ½ of the sliced onions (you may need to add a bit of oil to the pan first). Cook until the vegetables are lightly browned. Return the beef and bacon to the pan, and then add the salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the flour and toss to coat. Place the pan, uncovered, in the oven for 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, toss the meat again, and then return to the oven for another 4 minutes.

Return the pan to the stove and turn the oven down to 325 degrees.

Add the wine and enough beef broth so that the meat is barely covered. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, and thyme. Bring to a simmer on the stove, then cover and set in the lower third of the oven. Cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours, adjusting the heat if needed to maintain a very slow simmer.

While the beef is cooking, add the potatoes to a large pot of water and boil until tender. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining sliced onions and sauté for several minutes until golden brown. Remove to a plate and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Sauté the mushrooms in batches, so the mushrooms have plenty of room to brown (remember from the movie . . . “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!”). Add the mushrooms to the onions and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place several potato pieces in a large bowl, cover with the beef and broth, and then top with the sautéed mushrooms and onions. Prepare to say “Yum!”

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Chiles Rellenos Casserole

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I love chiles rellenos, but I don’t always have time to make them. If you do have time though, I highly recommend my recipe for chiles rellenos that you can find here

This chiles rellenos casserole has the flavor of classic chiles rellenos, but is more family friendly and easier to prepare. I’ve added some ground turkey for a more substantial meal, but it would also be great as a meatless casserole.

I used the “Mexican” blend of shredded cheese, but you could try pepper jack if you like it spicy, or even add some cream cheese for a creamier texture.

1 lb ground turkey
1/2 onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-2 cans whole green chiles (depending on the size)
2-3 cups shredded cheese, divided
1 can chopped green chiles
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey and onion, and cook, breaking up the turkey into small pieces with a spatula. Stir in the cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. When the turkey is fully cooked, remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

Remove one of the whole green chiles from the can and tear one side of the chile open, so the chile lies flat. Scrape out any seeds, and then lay the chile flat in the bottom of a 7×11 inch baking dish (or similar size). Continue until the bottom of the baking dish is completely covered with chiles.

Top the chiles with about 1 cup of shredded cheese, and then all of the meat. Cover the meat with the remaining shredded cheese. Drain the can of diced green chilies and sprinkle them on top of the cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and flour. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the casserole dish.

Bake for about 50 minutes until bubbly and golden brown. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

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