10 minute Guacamole Chicken!!!

I was so excited to discover this combo and this is SUCH an easy weeknight dinner.  It only takes 10 minutes *if* youhave precooked chicken to use, otherwise you would want to roast your chicken first.  I like to either grill a bunch of extra chicken on the weekends, or roast some up early in the week so I do have it on hand (see this method).  Also if you already have guacamole.  I do this when we have leftover, and save it covered in plastic wrap with as much air squished out as possible to prevent browning.  (I don’t have a good guacamole recipe yet, but a version with plenty of lime, tomato, and garlic will make this pop!)

Guacamole Chicken

-boneless skinless chicken breasts, roasted or grilled
-cumin
-guacamole, about 1/2 cup to 4 medium breasts
-sliced jack, mozzarella, or other white cheese.

Preheat oven to low broil.  Cover a sheet pan with foil; arrange chicken. If pieces are very thick you may want to spice them lengthwise. 
Sprinkle each breast lightly with cumin, then spread with guacamole. Top with cheese slices–I like to tear them to fit the chicken, which also helps preserve the guac if you want leftovers.  Broil 10 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. 
Serve with chips or cilantro lime rice.  Enjoy!

(And by the way, cilantro lime rice really is as easy as throwing some cilantro and a spritz of lime in your rice!)

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Apple Pancakes

I’ve been in a rut for a while. A pancake rut. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but once a week for the last four or five months, we’ve had pancakes for dinner. Not waffles, not french toast, not omelettes, not anything else that could qualify as breakfast for dinner. Just pancakes.

Granted, we have had several varieties of pancakes. Sour cream pancakes. Blueberry sour cream pancakes. Fluffy pancakes. Diner-style pancakes. Strawberry cornmeal pancakes. Blueberry cornmeal pancakes. And most recently, apple pancakes.

While several of the above-mentioned pancakes are very good – good enough to be repeated multiple times, as happens when you eat pancakes weekly for months at a time – I think the apple pancakes were the most unique. And of course, the most appropriate for this time of year.

We brought home sixty pounds of apples Monday, and having never made apple pancakes before, I went straight to one of my most trusted recipe sources – smitten kitchen. And I was not disappointed.

Between the apples and the added vanilla and cinnamon, these pancakes are perfect for fall. And something about them (the crispy outside and softer inside? maybe the vanilla?) is reminiscent of french toast, one of my favorite breakfast foods of all time.

So, without further ado, head to your kitchen and make these. (Or to the orchard to pick apples for them.) And if you’re not one to get up early and make breakfast, no worries; they’re just as good for dinner.

Apple Pancakes (from smittenkitchen.com; my notes in italics)

2 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups of milk or yogurt (I used milk and am only assuming that the yogurt will work as well)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
3 medium apples, peeled and coarsely grated (I used yellow delicious, but will use a more tart variety next time) I used Empire and Jonagold, varieties with a little more tartness.
Extra flavorings (see recipe notes) 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp cinnamon
Vegetable oil, for frying Or butter
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

1. Mix the eggs with the milk or yogurt in a large bowl.

2. In a smaller bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together.

3. Combine the wet and the dry ingredients and stir in the apples and whatever other flavorings you see fit.

4. Heat a thin layer of oil in a skillet over low to medium heat. Drop large spoonful of batter into the pan and flatten it out a little (otherwise, you might have trouble getting them to cook in the center) and cook until golden brown underneath. Flip the pancakes and cook them for an additional two or three minutes.Thoroughly flatten if you want a thinner, crispier pancake.

5. Either dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately, or keep on a tray in a warmed oven until you are ready to serve them.

Spinach Bacon Frittata

This recipe is easy.  Four ingredients, 20 minutes.  It is good for you.  Lots of spinach.  It is delicious.  Cheese and bacon.  All the quantities are divisible by 2, so it is simple to adapt.  It is also gluten-free.  The Kraft people came up with a winner in this one!!

The hardest part is cooking the bacon. You can just cook the slices you need in the skillet you will use, but when you are cooking bacon, you might as well cook a bunch.  My sister-in-law has shown us all the secret to cooking bacon: in the oven.  So much easier!  I can’t believe that for most of my cooking years I have been frying it in a skillet!

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Cook your bacon on a foil wrapped baking sheet, in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on how crispy you want it to be.

If you don’t want to cook more than you need for this recipe, then cook the desired number of slices in a non-stick skillet.  Remove them, but leave 1 to 2 Tablespoons of drippings in the pan.  If you have cooked your bacon on a sheet, you can get the drippings from there.

In your same skillet, cook the spinach in the bacon drippings until it is tender; about 5 minutes.

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While the spinach cooks, mix up the rest of the ingredients. Beat your eggs. Crumble the bacon that you cooked and drained, and add it to the eggs along with the shredded cheese. Add some pepper if you like. Mix well.

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Pour the egg mixture over the spinach.  DO NOT STIR.  Not now.  Not later.

20150218_181542Cover the mixture and cook until the center is set, over medium heat.  20150218_181601You will be tempted to do something to the mixture, but don’t.  Just let it cook.  (You do want to check to make sure your heat is not too high).  The time it will take to cook will depend on how many servings you are making.  It is not a long cook though, 5 to 10 minutes.

We like it with this chili sauce-20150218_18151320150218_184200

That easy.

Spinach Bacon Frittata
(from Kraft) Serves 3

6C baby spinach leaves
6 eggs, beaten
6-8 T shredded cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Cook bacon. Reserve 1-2 T drippings. Cook spinach in drippings in non-stick skillet until tender, 5 mins. Mix egg, cheese and bacon. Add some pepper if desired. Pour egg mixture over spinach. DO NOT STIR. Cover and cook until center is set.

Crockpot Lasagna

I actually haven’t made this in quite a while, and I’ve never taken pictures of it, but a friend asked me for the recipe and this seemed like the easiest way to share it. I discovered this in the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook my mom passed on to me when I got married six and a half years ago, and I’ve only made “real” lasagna once since.

Helen’s Lasagna (from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with your Slow Cooker)
Makes 6-8 servings

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
29-oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup water
6-oz. can tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
8-oz. pkg. lasagna noodles, uncooked
4 cups (16 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) small-curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook beef, onion, and garlic together in saucepan until browned. Drain.
2. Stir in tomato sauce, water, tomato paste, salt, and oregano. Mix well.
3. Spread one-fourth of meat sauce in ungreased slow cooker. Arrange one third of noodles over sauce.
4. Combine the cheeses. Spoon one-third of mixture over noodles. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining meat sauce.
5. Cover. Cook on Low 4-5 hours.

Really, Really Good Turkey Wild Rice Soup

This year, we spent Thanksgiving with my in-laws, and in addition to bringing home an assortment of pies, we also got a share in the leftover turkey. This week in Wisconsin has been one of snow and freezing rain, prompting all of us to start our winter hibernation.

So compliments of the Wisconsin weather and leftover turkey, here is a crockpot soup recipe which will warm you up from the inside out this winter.

P.S. You will want a big crockpot for this.

Turkey (or Chicken) Wild Rice Soup

2 C leftover turkey or chicken

1 C diced celery

1 C diced carrots

1 small onion, diced

scant 1/4 C butter

scant 1/2 C flour

2 C chicken broth

1 7-8 oz. package long grain or wild rice (a butter and herb or chicken flavored package is fine)

1 can cream of chicken, celery, or mushroom soup

2 C water

1 1/2 C milk

3/4 t salt

3/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Dice vegetables, saute with butter in saucepan 5-7 minutes, until veggies start to get tender. Add flour to form a roux, slowly add 2 C chicken broth and allow to simmer 2-3 minutes, until thickened.

In bottom of crockpot, place diced turkey or chicken. Pour rice on top of chicken, then add can of cream soup, and thickened vegetable mixture. Pour extra 2 C water on top.

Cook on high for 3 hours, or on low for 5-6 hours. About an hour before serving, add salt and pepper, as well as milk. Warm milk slightly before adding to prevent curdling.

Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and parsley. Serve with your favorite crusty bread.

German Apple Cake

It’s fall. Which means it’s apple season. In our family, this season is characterized by a multitude of yummy, yet somewhat nutritious, recipes. The pre-eminent recipe is that of cider apple donut holes, which will blow your mind, and blow your socks  off, and then prompt you to devour the whole batch in under 48 hours. And which is also a little low on the nutrition aspect. But that recipe is for another day.

Besides the donut recipe mentioned temptingly above, you may think you do not need another apple recipe. But, in fact, you do.

And this is it.

We were introduced to this recipe after inviting friends over for dinner, and asking them to bring the dessert. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of our lives, as they brought this dessert, and so changed our lives forever.

This stuff is great. It is quick to put together, keeps well, doubles awesomely with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream, and will take the whole aura of fall, compress it into a bite of this cake, and allow you to savor the season. The dark, cinnamon-y, molassess-y sweetness of the cake and the deep, moist texture remind me most of an apple cake version of zucchini bread. I mean, how can you go wrong?

So grab your apples, grease your cake pan, and prepare to change the lives of your next dinner guests with German Apple Cake.

German Apple Cake

4 C peeled, diced apples (about 4 large)

2 C sugar

1 C oi

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 C flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 C chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9×13 pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and  mix well. Stir in the apples and nuts by hand. The batter will be quite thick. Spoon into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake at 350 F for 50-55 minutes.

(Original recipe from http://www.penzeys.com)

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Hubby’s Favorite Chicken

My sister sent me this recipe last winter when she and her husband were living in Oxford. They were on a tight budget, so in trying to economize, she came across a recipe for chicken and vegetables that calked for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. As far as chicken goes, that’s about as inexpensive as you can find besides buying a whole chicken.

Being in seminary, we were on a tight budget, too, so I made this dish several times over the winter. I like it because it’s inexpensive and quick to put together. Now that the weather is cooling off here in the north and there are signs winter is coming sooner than later, I put it back in the meal rotation and we had it for dinner last night.

I knew my hubby liked the dish because he had okayed my making it more than once, but I was surprised to hear him tell me as we were cleaning up last night that it was probably his favorite way to eat chicken. One thing he can’t handle is dry meat, and this is anything but. It’s super moist and flavorful, and he doesn’t mind the veggies either. 🙂

Hubby’s Favorite Chicken and Veggies

(I’ve adapted this recipe from the original my sister sent, which I can’t find, but this one is similar. We also like to round out the meal with these biscuits and homemade jam.)

5 chicken thighs (I’ve made it with 2-6, just adjust the veggies and seasonings accordingly)
3-4 medium potatoes, cut into eighths
4 carrots, chopped into one-inch pieces
5-6 cloves of garlic (the original recipe called for whole cloves, but I never have those, so I use minced garlic instead)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450. Place potatoes, carrots, and garlic in greased baking dish. Combine salt, thyme, and pepper, and sprinkle half the mixture over the vegetables. Place chicken thighs on top, skin-side up, and sprinkle with remaining salt mixture. Bake for 45 minutes.