Monday, April 29, 2013

Skillet Chicken Nachos

I was talking to my brother one night and he told me that his wife (Natalie) makes these skillet Chicken Nachos the eat often.  I immediately knew I had to try them and went out the next day to buy the ingredients.  They were definitely right up my alley and so easy to whip up!  It is a pretty healthy mixture and hits the spot when you are craving some possibly not so healthy nachos.  I made it again a couple weeks later on a Friday night when I just wanted to have a big plate of nachos and watch a movie on a Friday night.  Thanks Dan & Natalie - this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Skillet Chicken Nachos
From: Natalie Bos/ Betty Crocker
Prep time: 10 min
Cook Time: 10 min

1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped (or green)
1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (7oz) can whole kernal sweet corn, drained
2 cups shredded mexican cheese blend
tortilla chips
olive oil

1. In a 12 inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Cook chicken in oil 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink in center.

2. Stir in Taco seasoning, tomato sauce, bell pepper, beans, corn and 1 cup of cheese.  Reduce heat to medium; cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until heated through and cheese is melted.

3. Divide tortilla chips between plates, spoon chicken mixture evenly over chips.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and cilantro.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lemon Meringue Cake

I wanted to make a spring dessert for Easter and came across this Lemon Meringue Cake.  I love lemon and prefer cakes to pie, so I decided to give it a try.  I haven't ever made anything with meringue or the custard inside, so this was an adventure. Luckily I had some time on my hands to tackle this recipe. I didn't do everything exactly right and had to google a couple of things during it, but everything turned out great! It was really light, sweet, and lemony.  Perfect spring/easter dessert.

A couple of things I learned that weren't included in the original directions:
- The cake and filling can be made the day before, but the meringue should be made the same day so it doesn't sweat/droop.
- Meringue should be made in a stainless steal or glass bowl that is clean and completely dry
- Meringue took a lot longer to beat than I thought it would - I didn't time it but it was probably around 5-7 minutes or maybe more
- Use eggs that are at least a couple days old because the whites whip better with older eggs

Lemon Meringue Cake
From: Heat Oven to 360
Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 35 min

For the cake:
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole egg, plus 2 egg yolks (save whites for meringue)
1 cup plain white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

For the filling:
2 egg yoks (save whites for meringue)
1 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp butter

For the Meringue:
4 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Heat oven to 350.  Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat int he egg and egg yolks.  Mix together the flour and baking powder and then beat into the creamed mixture alternating the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Stir in vanilla and lemon extracts, mixing well.

2. Butter and flour an eight inch round cake tin.  Pour in the batter, level off and bake at 350 for 20-25 min, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove froom oven.  Let sit in pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto rack to cool.

3.  For the filling, combine the flour, sugar, and salt on the top of a double boiler.  Mix together the lemon juice, water and egg yolks and then stir into the four/sugar mixture along with the lemon zest.  Place over simmering water and cook, stirring until thickened.  Remove from heat and let cool5 minutes, then stir in the butter until melted.  Set aside until cool.  NOTE: This can be done in the microwave as I did - stir every minute until the curd is cooked.  There is a greater chance the curd may be a little grainy, but I didn't have this problem and it is much faster.

4. Place the cake layer on a plate (one that can handle some heat) and spread the lemon filling over.  Beat together the room temperature egg whites and cream of tartar in a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl that is clean and dry at a low/medium speed until the mixture begins to turn foamy.  Then continue to beat slowly adding the sugar and beat on medium/high speed until mixture is stiff (soft peaks), but not dry.  This takes several minutes, do not stop halfway through to take a break.  Meringue is done when it is not runny and when you can hold a spoonful of it upside down and none drops off (or when you swirl a spoon through it and the swirls hold their shape indefinitely).  Also, this should be done the day of, not the day before if it can be avoided.

5.  Spread meringue over top and sides of cake.  Place in 350 degree oven and bake until the meringue browns, about 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.  serve at room temperature, cutting slices with a wet knife - this helps prevent the meringue from tearing as you cut it. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mexican Two Bean Chicken Chili

Yes, I know it is almost may, but here in Chicago it is unfortunately still cold, which means, chili weather.  My friend Kathy from church made us this chili a while back and we liked it so much (probably because of the southwest flavors) that I had to ask for the recipe.  I made it again and it was very easy and hit the spot.  I think I'll even make this in the summertime occasionally.  She served it with cornbread which I really liked (dipped it right in the chili), but you could serve it with tortilla chips too if you wanted.

Mexican Two Bean Chicken Chili
From: Kathy Munson
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min

1 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
2 (14oz) cans chicken broth
1 (16oz) jar thick and chunky salsa
1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Optional toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, fresh cilantro
Serve with: tortilla chips or corn bread

1. Place all ingredients in a large pot.  Bring to a boil; then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

2. Serve with Tortilla chips or corn bread, and top with desired toppings.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Slow Cooker Spicy Lime Shredded Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Avocado Salsa

A slow cooker recipe that is Mexican and is for South Beach diet phase 1? Sign me up.  This turned out really tasty and I LOVED the avocado salsa on top.  It really added to the dish.  We ate this in lettuce cups, but you could easily serve this with regular taco shells.  It was very similar to the Santa Fe Chicken Tacos, but without the corn and black beans.  I'll make this again, maybe in some tacos next time!

Chicken Ingredients
Avocado Salsa Ingredients

Slow Cooker Spicy Lime Shredded Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Avocado Salsa
From: Kalyn's Kitchen
Prep Time: 5 min for chicken, 5-10 min for salsa
Cook time: 8 hrs on low

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup mild or medium tomato salsa (I actually used a whole 16oz jar)
1 tsp onion powder
1 can (4oz) diced green chiles, not drained
1-2 Tbsp Cholula, or Tapatio or other hot sauce
2 T fresh squeezed lime juice
Iceberg lettuce

Avocado Salsa Ingredients:
2 avocados, diced
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (who am I kidding, I got tired of pulling off the leaves so I probably only used 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1. Trim visible fat from chicken breasts.  Spray the inside of slow cooker with cooking spray and lay chicken in the bottom.   Mix together salsa, onion powder, diced green chiles, lime juice, and hot sauce.  pour mixture over chicken.  Cook for 8 hours on low.

2. When chicken is done, remove each piece witha  slotted spoon and lay it on a plate or cutting board.  Turn the slow cooker to high and leave the lid partly off so steam can evaporate.  Shred chicken with 2 forks, or let cool enough to shred with fingers.   Put chicken back in crock pot and mix with sauce.

3. Mix together avocados, lime, onion, and cilantro in a bowl.  Wash lettuce but keep in bowl shapes.

4. Fill each bowl with a scoop of chicken mixture and a scoop of avocado salsa and eat like a taco.

If not on on SB diet Phase one, you can eat in a taco shell instead of lettuce wrap.

Monday, April 15, 2013

4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Squares

This recipe is everything a peanut butter treat should be.  It is smooth, creamy, and has just enough peanut butter and chocolate, but not so much that it is too rich to eat.  I still really like my original PB Bars but this recipe only makes about half as much so it is better for a smaller group or if I end up eating 1/2 the pan myself.

4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Squares
From: Souffle Bombay
Prep time: 20 min
Chill time: 3 hrs

1 lb white chocolate
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips (or 12 oz)
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Line your 8x8 or 9x9 pan with parchment or waxed paper, leaving an overhang.

2. Melt the white chocolate int he microwave for about a minute, stir until the chocolate is melted and creamy.  Add in the peanut butter and stir until blended smooth.

3. Spread mixture in pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until a bit firm.

4. In a saucepan, combine your milk chocolate and cream and heat over medium high heat until melted and smooth, stirring constantly.  Pour/smooth over peanut butter mixture.

5. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Later, lift out candy and cut into small squares.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Lettuce, Tomatoes, Black Beans, Corn, and Peppers with Cilantro Lime Dressing

I see a lot of quinoa salad recipes on Pinterest that have quinoa as the base, and then add in some beans, or chopped vegetables.  I wanted a salad that had both lettuce and quinoa as the base with some southwest flavor so I decided to make my own.  For the dressing I made a few tweaks on the one from the Southwest Pasta Salad and used that because I thought that would compliment the flavors nicely.

I have to say, this is my new favorite salad!  The pictures I took (One with my phone and one without the dressing) do NOT do it justice! This is a perfect spring/summer salad and can be a side salad or a main salad, and is so good even the next day!  Not to toot my own horn, but I would HIGHLY recommend this salad!

Salad Ingredients

Dressing Ingredients
Quinoa Salad with Lettuce, Tomatoes, Black Beans, Corn, and Peppers with Cilantro Lime Dressing
Created by: Elizabeth Serrano, Dressing adapted from: Our Best Bites
Prep time: 20 - 30 min

1 cup uncooked Quinoa
1 can Black Beans, Drained and rinsed
3/4 - 1 cup frozen corn (or 1 can corn, drained)
1/2 a container of grape tomatoes cut in half
1 Red (or green) bell pepper, chopped
Mixed Greens
1 Avocado, chopped (optional)

6 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 3 juicy limes)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp chili posder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 - 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1.  Cook Quinoa in water according to directions on box.  Meanwhile, prep vegetables.  Once quinoa is cooked, fluff with a fork and remove lid to let cool a bit.

2. Prepare dressing:  Place all dressing ingredients except cilantro into a jar and close tight.  Shake until all mixed.  Add cilantro and shake again.  Set aside for flavors to mingle.

3. When quinoa is cool (or at least no longer hot.  Mix together lettuce, pepper, tomatoes, corn, black beans and quinoa into a large bowl.  Before serving, pour dressing over salad and mix thoroughly.  Add avocados if desired.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Easy Baked Pesto Chicken

This could not be easier and was totally delicious.  It is a Phase 1 recipe for South Beach Dieters, but I served it with some whole wheat pasta and pasta sauce so it became a phase 2 meal.  We both liked it and so did Bill's sisters who were were having over that night.  I used store bought Pesto (making it super easy) but you could make your own.

Easy Baked Pesto Chicken
From: Kalyn's Kitchen
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 35 min

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I ended up using tenders instead)
salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375.  Trim fat from chicken pieces then cut each chicken breast lengthwise into 2 or 3 pieces (or just use tenders).

2. Spray 9x13 pan with non-stick spray then spread 1/4 cup basil pesto over the bottom of the dish.

3. Lay chicken strips over the pesto, then spread 1/4 cup more basil pesto over the chicken.

4. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake chicken for 25 minutes.

5.  Remove foil and sprinkle chicken with 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese and let cook 5-10 minutes more (until cheese is melted).  Serve hot.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sugar Free Powdered Sugar

I didn't know making powdered sugar was so easy!!!  I'm trying to eat less sugar but I still like my sweets so when I made some Chocolate PB Eggs the other day I wanted to use SF powdered sugar.  I used Truvia to make mine because my local grocer doesn't have a wide variety to choose from, at turned out great and couldn't be easier!  It is also good to know in case you are making something and run out of powdered sugar, you can just make it yourself from regular sugar!

Sugar Free Powdered Sugar
From: Chocolate Covered Katie
Prep time: 5 min

1 cup xylitol or Sucanat - I actually used Truvia, because that's what I had
optional: 1-2 tsp arrowroot or cornstarch to prevent clumping. (I didn't use this)

1. Place ingredients into blender or food processor.  Blend/Pulse until sugar becomes powdered (It will smoke a little, but that's ok). This can also work for regular sugar or brown sugar.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Beef Enchiladas

I want to start making some freezer meals so of course I searched pinterest and found several I wanted to try immediately.  This is the first one I made and I think it turned out great.  It was a little spicier than I expected, but I think it was due to the enchilada sauce I used.  I made a double batch and put one in a 9x13 pan to give to my parents and the other I split into two 8x8 pans.  We ate one 8x8 pan right away and the other a couple weeks later and both times it was very good.  An easy freezer meal to keep on hand.

Beef Enchiladas
From: The Virtuous Wife
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 45 min

1 pkg flour tortillas
1 lb ground beef
2 10oz cans red, mild, enchilada sauce
1 16oz can refried beans (optional)
1 4.5oz can chopped green chiles
1 pkg taco seasoning
8 oz Mexican shredded cheese mix
sour cream and salsa for serving

1. Brown the ground beef on medium high heat.  Drain any grease from the pan.

2.  Add the taco seasoning and stir.  Add the chilies and stir.

3.  Add can of refried beans. (can use 1/2 - 1 can - beans make it moister).  Stir until the beans have "melted" into the beef mixture.  Turn off heat.

4. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray and one can of enchilada sauce into the bottom of the dish.

5. Spoon about 2 heaping tablespoons of the beef/bean mixture into the center fo the tortilla.

6. Roll up the tortilla and place into the pan, continue until all the enchiladas are done.

7. Pour remaining sauce (1 can) over the enchiladas.

8.  Sprinkle the cheese over the enchiladas.  Cover tightly with tinfoil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.   Allow to cool for 5-15 minutes before cutting into them.  Serve with sour cream and salsa if desired.

If Freezing.  Cover and freeze after sprinkling with cheese.  To cook: defrost dish and follow directions for baking.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Layered Mexican Casserole with Chicken and Pinto Beans

South Beach Diet Phase One is hard for this girl who loves her Mexican food when tacos, chips, and margaritas aren't allowed.  I didn't think I could make it 2 weeks with out some type of Mexican food (sad isn't it), but when I saw this casserole I thought it just might work to fill my need for Mexican food.  I never thought a healthy casserole could taste so good!  It was so good I had to restrain myself from eating the whole pan!  The leftovers were just as delicious. I will say though, it is more work than it looks to be and leaves a bunch of dishes to be cleaned.  But it was totally worth it.  Next time though, I may just use the enchilada sauce straight from the can instead of heating it to reduce it.  Would cut some time and steps (and a pan to wash) and I don't think it would change the taste that much.

Layered Mexican Casserole with Chicken and Pinto Beans
From: Kalyn's Kitchen
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Cool Time: 10 min

1 can (15oz) Mild Green Chile Enchilada Sauce - I actually used 2 10 oz cans because I couldn't find a 15oz one
2 cans (15 oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 onion, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 green pepper, diced in 1/2 inch pieces
2 tsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 can (4oz) diced green chiles
3/4 cup light sour cream
4 cups cooked, diced chicken (I used two large breasts)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 cups grated low fat Mozzarella - I did a mix of Colby Jack and Mozzarella
1-3 Tbsp Green Tabasco sauce or other hot sauce (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375.  Put the green chile enchilada sauce in a  small saucepan and simmer over low heat until the sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to one cup. (I think I will skip this next time, adds and extra step and not sure that it really changed anything).

2. Heat olive oil in a large heavy frying pan, add onion and green bell pepper and saute until they are softened and starting to barely brown, about 5 minutes.

3. Stir in Cumin and drained beans into onion and gr pepper mixture and cook 3-4 minutes (or until beans are hot.  At this point I mashed up the beans a little bit using a potato masher, but you don't have to.

4. As soon as the enchilada sauce has reduced to 1 cup, place it in a bowl to cool and stir in the diced green chiles with juice.  Taste and add hot sauce if desired.

5.  When mixture is no longer hot, but can be warm (I popped mine in the freezer for a minute or 2) stir in the sour cream, diced chicken and sliced green onions.

6.  Spray 9x9x3 casserole dish with non stick spray.  Spread half the pinto bean mixture over the bottom of the dish.  Followed by a layer of chicken/sauce mixture.  Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese over the layer.  Repeat with another layer of beans, chicken mixture, and cheese.

7.  Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and nicely browned on top.  Let stand 10-15 minutes before cutting, then serve. (I served mine with some salsa and hot sauce for those who wanted it).


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