But Sugar is Sweeter

Main Dish

French Apricot Crock Pot Chicken

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Welp, it’s happened.  The first recipe on the blog made almost entirely by John. I don’t mean to  belittle his cooking talents, but I think the fact that I trusted him with making this dinner should tell you something about it’s complexity.  I had set the ingredients (all 3 of them ) out on the counter the night before,  and planned on throwing them in the crock pot before I left for school, but as I mentioned last time, normally I barely get 2 of the same shoes while I’m running out the door, let alone make dinner 8 hours early.   Despite my best intentions, if I wake up a few minutes early, then I simply diddle-daddle around  longer until I am once again rushed to leave.  So John was nice enough to make this for me  in the morning.

While this is certainly not a complicated or gourmet cooking dish, it is definitely something worth keeping in your recipe arsenal.  Also, I should mention that there is really nothing “French” at all about this, other than the fact that it uses American’s version of “French Dressing”.  Nevertheless, this dinner is  delicious and I  had trouble saving my second piece of chicken for lunch the next day.   I found myself eating every last piece rice that the scrumptious sauce had touched.    Plus, its so easy you really have no excuse not to make it – it’s 3 ingredients that you put into a pot.   You can adjust the cooking time to fit your schedule so it’s ready when you get home.   For example, Nikki mentioned that you could use 6 frozen chicken breasts and cook it on high for 4 hours and low for 2 hours, or use 4 fresh chicken breasts and cook it on high for 3 hours.  Since I think one of the best things about crock pots is coming home to them being ready, I prefer to cook things for a longer period of time on low, which I have indicated below.  I think next time I am going to at least 1.5 the recipe because this really made great lunch leftovers (especially when compared to the hospital cafeteria).

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“French” Apricot Crock Pot Chicken

– Serves 4 (or 2 with great leftovers the next day)

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup french dressing (I used Newman’s Own)
  • 1 cup apricot jelly or preserves
  • 1 packet onion soup mix
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for a minimum of  7 hours, but longer is fine.  Serve over rice.

Source: Pennies on a Platter

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Shrimp and Grits

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Wow, it’s been way to long since I posted!  I have a few (debatably good) excuses though.  First I finished up my family medicine rotation with a pretty tough standardized test, then John and I went on vacation to San Fran, wine country and point reyes, and this week I started a rotation in Dermatology in Bryan, OH.  It’s been a busy but fun couple of weeks!

I think my favorite part about vacation had to be Sonoma.  It was a beautiful but relaxed town and if it wasn’t clear across the country I could totally see myself living there someday.  (I checked residency programs, and unfortunately there are none in wine country. boo.)  We also had a lot of fun biking all around San Francisco and across the golden gate bridge, as well as hiking in point reyes national seashore.

Kunde winery

Now that I’m in Bryan, I haven’t really been cooking much since it would require me to fill a whole new pantry with ingredients and transport my favorite pots and pans an hour and a half; however I do have the weekends off so my goal for the rest of the year is to post one time per week.  I’ll start with this recipe for Shrimp and Grits.
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We had this for dinner before we left for vacation, and I have been thinking about it off and on since then.  I made this thinking it would be a nice treat for the butter, cheese and generally southern food loving member of our family, but as it turns out I ended up being the one who was head over heels for this dinner.  Not to say that John didn’t love it as well, I just surprised myself by how much I could love something made with grits and bacon.  The parsley and green onions really help to cut down on the heavy feeling of this dish and I think I might even add more next time.  I was also surprised by how quickly this dish came together and how few unusual ingredients it required.  Now that I have grits in the pantry, I think this is going to become one of my go to weeknight meals because 1) I really loved it and 2) I generally have all these ingredients around and 3) it’s pretty easy to put together.  I know that you’re probably starting to think I must work for Costco or something, but I did want to mention that I found the best large, individually frozen shrimp there for the best price.  Now that I have a costco sized bag of jumbo shrimp in the freezer, I have even more excuses to make this delicious dish again.

Shrimp and Grits

Serves about 4  (I made about half this recipe for the 2 of us)

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup grits (regular or quick cooking but NOT instant)
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 heaping cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 5 slices bacon
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon (about  2 T.)
  • 2 T. coarsely chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, plus more for garnish
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Hot sauce if desired

1. Bring water to a boil.  Add grits to the boiling water and stir.   Add salt and a bit of pepper.  Lower heat, bring to simmer and cover until water is absorbed.  Follow the directions on your box of grits because  cooking times vary.

2. Once thick, remove from heat and stir in butter and shredded cheese. (Feel free to add more butter or shredded cheese – (John would’ve if he was making this…)
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3. Rinse and pat shrimp dry. You don’t want them dripping water when you add them to hot oil.

4. Fry the bacon in a large skillet.  When cooked through remove from the pan and crumble.

5. Add shrimp into the bacon grease pan.  Cook until shrimp turn pink.  Add lemon juice, bacon, scallions, garlic and parsley.  Cook for another three minutes.
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6. Spoon the grits into a serving bowl and top with shrimp mixture.  Add extra scallions and parsley.   Serve immediately.
IMG_1411Adapted from Our Best Bites and Joy the Baker


Bean and Tortilla Pie

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Unfortunately, I can be a bit of a perfectionist.  A lot of times I will plan on putting something on the blog and after making it decide that it is just not tasty enough to share.  After all,  I am putting my personal endorsement on all the items on here, and I don’t want to lose your trust.  Other times I will make something that is delicious but so un-photogenic that I can’t seem to get a nice picture of it, and I don’t want get some kind of ugly photograph reputation.   Well in an effort to worry less about the small stuff,  I decided to post this recipe even though my camera was just not cooperating with me.  It should tell you something  that I thought it was special enough to share even without a perfect picture.

I would describe this as a comfort food dinner.   It’s especially handy to have in the recipe repertoire because it uses ingredients that I can store in my pantry or usually have on hand.    I thought it was just going to turn out like a bunch of flour tortillas layered with beans, but something magical happens in the baking process.  The cheese melts and the tortillas soften, and the whole thing solidifies into a concoction that actually does seem like a pie.  For some reason I didn’t think about the fact that there is a lot of food going into this “pie” and it is way more than John and I could even try to eat.  This is a filling pie, so I’m definitely adding it to my list of good dinners to make for company.
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Speaking of company (such a sly transition :-)), last weekend our family got together to celebrate my Grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary.   They have certainly started a wonderful family to be a part of!  Here’s a picture from our weekend:

love this picture!

Happy Anniversary Grandma and Grandpa!

Bean and Tortilla Pie

Makes: 6-8 servings

  • 4  9-inch flour tortillas
  • 2 T. Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • Pinch of Salt and Pepper
  • 2 – 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup water (or you can use beer if you didn’t drink what was in your fridge)
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1 – 15 oz can refried beans, warmed to spreading consistency
  • 2 cups frozen corn (about 10 oz)
  • 4 scallions, thinly slices plus more for garnish
  • 2 1/2 cups mexican style shredded cheese
  • Garnish: Scallions, tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro, black olives

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. In a large saucepan heat oil on medium-high heat.  Add the onions, jalapenos, garlic, cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper.  Cook until softened, about 6 minutes.

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3. Add in the black beans, scallions, salsa and water, and stir until well mixed.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low to simmer.  Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until most of the water has evaporated.
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4. Once water has evaporated, remove pan from heat and add in the frozen corn and scallions.  Mix to combine.
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5. Lay a flour tortilla in the bottom of a 9-inch springfoam pan.  Spread the tortilla with about 3 T. of refried beans.  Then continue layering by spreading about 1 cup of bean mixture on top of the refried beans.  Top the layer with 1/2 a cup of shredded cheese.
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6. Repeat this layering with the 3 remaining tortillas.  On the top layer, cover the beans generously with cheese.

7.  Bake the “pie” for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.   Remove the sides from the springfoam pan, and top with garnishes of choice. Slice into wedges  and serve warm.

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Slightly Adapted from  The Curvy Carrot


Shrimp, Avocado & Tomato Pizza

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I honestly had no idea what to expect from this pizza.  I had a hundred different directions I was thinking of going with it and I was worried that by trying to combine too many different flavors,  I would end up with a disaster.  I put this on the menu for last week, but I think my fear of failure along with some good rationalization about NEEDING to have  summer fun caused me to go out to eat 5 days last week.  (In my defense I think that’s a personal record, plus once everyone buckles down with school, it will be at least a little bit harder to hang out :-)).  Finally, I decided that I couldn’t  let avocados, tomato, cilantro and limes go to waste, so I concocted this specialty.

Well as you can probably guess based on the fact that I am putting it on the food blog – I really liked this pizza!  It was unique, fresh, flavorful and used up the leftover shrimp I had in the freezer.  (I have a bad habit of buying shrimp and only using half the bag.)   I also used some of the pizza dough I had frozen, which made this pretty easy to put together.  I almost skipped adding the chipotle, but I’m so glad I didn’t because I think it made the meal.  If you are a bacon lover, I think that could also be a nice flavor complement, but I felt like it had enough ingredients without it.  The only part that takes some time is chopping,  so I would recommend doing it at the beginning so you can just go “chop crazy” all at once.  P.S. chopping veggies is a pretty awesome way to wind down!

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Shrimp, Avocado and Tomato Pizza

  • 1 pizza dough ball
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella and/or provolone cheese
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 large tomatos, chopped and drained
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce or 1 t. finely chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 10-20 medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime

1. Preheat oven to  475°, preferably with a pizza stone.  Roll out the pizza dough. Brush with 2 T. olive oil and 4 cloves of minced garlic. Then spread cheese evenly over the top.
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2. In a medium sauté pan  add 1 T. olive oil and bring to medium-high heat.  Add remaining 2 cloves of garlic and stir until fragrant.  Then add the shrimp to the pan and stir for a 1-2 minutes.

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3. Add the tomatoes, scallions and chipotle peppers to the pan, and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes to soften the tomatoes and flavor the shrimp.
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4. Spread the shrimp mixture over the pizza, and add a little bit of cheese on top if you feel like it.
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5. Bake at 475° for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and immediately top with cilantro and avocado.  Squeeze lime juice over top of the pizza and serve.
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A Spice is Nice Original.


Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad

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Usually I’m one of those people who remembers the 4th of July on the 3rd of July, but this year was different.  Since we have some organized and adventurous friends, we had a camping trip planned about month in advance of the holiday weekend.  This was a good lesson for me in the fact that “anticipation is half the fun”, because it really was exciting having something to look forward to.    I even bought some  red and blue marshmallow roasting sticks as well as color coordinating paper plates to take with us.  And of course, I was excited to plan some of the menu.  When I saw this smoked gouda pasta salad, I immediately bookmarked it as a must try, and I thought camping would be the perfect opportunity.

I’m very familiar with the Caprese type pasta salad, and while the tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are tasty, I often feel that they are not strong enough flavors to create an interesting pasta salad.  I’ve made that type of salad many times, and usually end up picking out everything but the pasta.  That’s what I think is so great about this recipe – the pasta itself has some great flavor. It’s also really easy to make and requires pretty basic ingredients.  While you might not regularly buy  chipotle peppers in adobo sauce,  they add a lot of great flavor for a small cost.  The thing that used to annoy me about them is that most recipes only call for 1-2 peppers and I would inevitably let the leftovers sit in the fridge until they looked so gross that I didn’t feel guilty throwing them away- but I have found the solution.  Well, actually I should say that Sara over at Our Best Bites has found the solution: freeze the peppers in individual cubes of how much you might need.  See her post here to see what I’m talking about.  But seriously, don’t skip the chipotles- the adobo has very little spice but adds a smokey flavor that complements the gouda nicely.  Then you can make this pasta salad and eat it out of  individual ziplocs like we did on our picnic (classy I know).  Or don’t do that, and eat it like a normal person, out of a bowl – I’m pretty sure it will taste good either way.

By the way, we went to Mackinac Island.  You should totally make the trip if you live anywhere near Michigan, or even if you don’t.  I did not remember such cool places existing in Michigan – it’s kind of making me change my view of the Midwest (at least until winter comes :-)). IMG_1123

Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad

Serves 10-12 as a side

  • 1 lb (16 oz) Mostaccioli pasta
  • 1/2 cup light Mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Milk (I used part skim, part cream)
  • 5 Tablespoons White Vinegar
  • 1 T. Adobo Sauce From Chipotle Peppers
  • Salt and Ground Black Pepper To Taste
  • 2 pints  Grape Tomatoes, Halved Lengthwise
  • 1/2 pound Smoked Gouda Cheese, Cut Into Small Cubes
  • 30 whole Basil Leaves, sliced thin (chiffonade)

1. Cook pasta according to pasta directions.  Drain and rinse in cold water to prevent pasta from sticking.

2. In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, milk, vinegar, salt, pepper, and adobo sauce.

3. Add the pasta, halved tomatoes, cubed gouda and basil to the sauce in the large bowl.  Stir to incorporate, and add more salt and pepper to taste.  Chill before serving (or keep on ice in your camping cooler).

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

 

 

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Greek-Style Panzanella

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When I put this on our (new) menu board for the week, John had no idea what it was.  I described it to him as  crouton salad, partially because it’s true, and partially because John loves bread and I knew a salad made of it would intrigue him.  I really liked this dinner because it was easy, fresh, and included more than a full serving of vegetables, but the really great thing about it was the John loved it as well.  He even said, “Wow, this was a lot more filling than I expected.”  I served this as a meal on its own, but I think it would also be great as a side dish for a summer picnic.

In terms of cooking, don’t be tempted (as I was) to turn the heat up on the croutons in order to make them brown faster – this actually only makes them burn faster. You do have to watch the croutons while cooking, which is why I think cooking them on the stove is better than the oven.   Just be sure to use a large pan, and to toss the croutons every few minutes.  Also, this makes a lot of salad (way more than John and I could finish), and unfortunately the leftovers aren’t good because the bread gets soggy.  To avoid this, cook the bread and cut the vegetables, but only combine the ingredients you will actually use that day.  Then you can make the salad again the next day for lunch!

Greek Panzanella

Serves 4-6

  • 6 cups rustic bread (about 3/4 loaf), sliced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced (or 1 hothouse cucumber – no need to peel)
  • 1 Red pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 Yellow pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 Green pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 of a Red onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 8 oz feta, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon combined)

1. In a large frying pan heat 1/4 cup olive oil on medium- high heat.  Once hot, add bread and reduce heat to medium-low.  Salt the bread with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss the bread for about 10 minutes until crisp and slightly browned.

2.  Chop vegetables, and in a large bowl combine all vegetables, feta cheese, and olives.

3. In a small bowl combine all ingredients for the dressing and whisk until combined.

4. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss.  Add in the crisp bread and toss until evenly coated.

5. Clean up the kitchen while waiting for the flavors to meld.  Add salt and pepper as needed and serve.

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Slightly adapted from The Curvy Carrot, Originally from How Easy is That? by Ina Garten


Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

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Sometimes I miss college.  Well, let me rephrase.  Sometimes I miss certain parts about college.  Like the part where you can walk up and down the halls of the dorm and always find someone with their door open to hang out with.   And the part where the most important thing on a weekend was figuring out what costume would be perfect for the theme of the next party (okay, so sometimes I still do this).  But the thing I was missing this week was Torero’s – the signature Mexican restaurant in our college town.   Because our meal plan was ridiculous, you could get Torero’s delivered to your dorm room anytime you wanted, on meal plan points.  I had tried a variety of things from the menu, but one time someone ordered Taquitos, I tried one, and I fell in love. I’m pretty sure every time after that, I ordered chicken taquitos myself.  Somehow I happened to never actually read the menu to realize they were deep fried, and although they clearly looked deep fried, I chose to ignore this little fact.

I don’t think I’ve had a taquito since college, but when I saw these baked chicken taquitos on Pink Parsley, I knew I would have to try them.  Not only are they a baked version of my favorite college Mexican treat, but they also use my favorite salsa – Salsa Verde.  (The same salsa I use in  Chicken Enchiladas Verdes).  Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, because these really don’t take that long to put together – in fact I think these are easier to make than the enchiladas.  If I was a little more organized, I would’ve planned grilled chicken for dinner one night, and made sure to cook enough to have leftovers for these the next.  Perhaps one of the greatest things about these taquitos is that you can freeze them (unbaked) and then bake them whenever needed.  Actually, the ones in the picture were baked from a frozen state.      I originally planned to post this the first time I made them – but we ate up all the taquitos so quickly that I didn’t get to snap a picture.  I’ll have to say, they taste just as good from the freezer as they did the first time.  This would also be a great meal for a big group dinner, because once you have the filling made it’s really simple to put together, and have you ever met a person who doesn’t like food they can eat with their fingers?
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Baked Chicken Taquitos

– Recipe indicated is for 20-24 taquitos, which will serve 6-8 people

  • 3 -4 chicken breasts (~4-5  cups shredded)
  • 1 block (8 oz) low-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup salsa verde (tomatilla salsa)
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup  chopped scallion
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded Pepperjack cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 20-24 small  (6-inch) flour tortillas
  • cooking spray

Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil over high heat.  Add chicken breasts to the water, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink when cut into.  Remove chicken from water, let cool slightly and then shred. (You could also use leftover chicken, or roast the chicken in the oven)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and lay a wire cooling rack over a large cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese with the salsa, lime juice, cumin, chile powder, cayenne, onion powder, garlic, cilantro, scallions, and a pinch of salt & pepper.  (Everything but the chicken, cheese, and tortillas).   Once mixed, fold in the chicken and shredded cheeses.

Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of filling onto the lower third of each tortilla, and roll tightly. In order to help the tortilla stay closed, you may want to spray some cooking spray on the seam.   Place seam side-down on the wire rack.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.

Spray the taquitos with cooking spray, then place the wire rack on top of a baking pan (otherwise the cooking spray creates a sticky residue when baked on the cookie sheet.)  Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the tortillas are crisp and golden-brown.  Serve with dipping sauces such as salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.  I think sour cream mixed with salsa would also be delicious.

*To Freeze the taquitos, roll them up as usual but do not bake. Place on a baking sheet in the freezer in order to “flash” freeze them individually. Wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and freeze in a freezer bag.  To bake, remove from oven, and bake un-thawed for 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees. 

Slightly adapted from Pink Parsley Catering, via Pennies on a Platter, Originally from  Our Best Bites