Saturday, February 27, 2010

Baja Chicken Salad with Taco Vinaigrette

1 pkg (12.5 oz) taco seasoning mix
1 T brown sugar
½ c oil
½ c cider vinegar
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 to 2 T oil
1 pkg (10 oz) mixed salad greens
1 c grape tomatoes, halved
½ c sliced red onion
2 2/3 oz shredded Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese blend (2/3 c)
1/3 c dairy sour cream
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
3 T sliced ripe olives
Blue tortilla chips

1. In medium bowl, combine seasoning mix, brown sugar, ½ oil and vinegar; mix well. Place chicken in shallow medium bowl. Pour ½ c seasoning mixture over chicken. Reserve remaining mixture for dressing.

2. Heat 1 to 2 T oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. With slotted spoon, remove chicken from seasoning mixture; add to skillet. Cook 5 minutes; or until no longer pink in center; stirring frequently. Discard remaining used seasoning mixture.

3. In large bowl, combine mixed greens, tomatoes and onion. Add reserved seasoning mixture; toss to coat. Arrange salad mixture on serving platter. Top with chicken, cheese, sour cream, avocado and olives. Arrange tortilla chips around salad.

*A delicious basic recipe for chicken salad that can be adapted as needed.  Besides using regular tortilla chips, a Roma tomato, and leaving out the onion, the only real change was how I cooked the chicken.  I put a handful of frozen chicken tenders in the crock-pot, then mixed the dressing as instructed but left out the oil:  2 T taco seasoning, 1 T brown sugar, and 1/2 c cider vinegar.  After removing the fat drippings from the chicken, I added half the dressing mix (about 1/3 cup) to the crock-pot and let it cook through.  The chicken tasted great shredded and it didn't need the oil.  Later when I was ready to put dressing on the salad, I added 2 T extra virgin olive oil to the remaining dressing mix.  Very good.

Chicken and Artichoke Salad

To serve hot, spread salad on slices of frozen Texas toast, sprinkle with shredded Colby-Jack cheese, and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

4 c chopped cooked chicken breasts
14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
½ c chopped toasted pecans
½ c mayonnaise
1 t celery salt
½ t pepper
1. Stir together all ingredients; cover and chill until ready to serve.

Makes 4 servings.

*These were good and we finished them all, but they're not something I would crave.  Fun to try something new!

Friday, February 26, 2010

How to cut a mango, a picture guide

I add this only because I have had many messy experiments with slicing mangos.  This worked like a charm!
1.  Slice the mango nearly in half, just to the side of the pit.  Make another slice just to the other side of the pit.  Your mango should be in 3 sections. 

2.  Make 3-4 cuts through the fruit, but not through the skin lengthwise.  Make the same cuts widthwise.
3.  Turn the fruit inside out.  The fruit cubes should easily peel off the skin.
4.  With the middle section, peel off the skin and cut remaining fruit away from the pit.  Keep in mind the pit look like this.

Lemon & Cilantro Shrimp

Prep Time: 15 Min
Cook Time:  5 Min
Ready In:  20 Min

Servings 6


1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lemon, zested
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 tomato, chopped
salt to taste
1 lemon, juiced
ground black pepper to taste

1. In a bowl, toss shrimp with lemon zest and cilantro to coat.

2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle oil with salt, then stir in the shrimp, lemon zest, and cilantro. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes, or until shrimp are opaque, adding tomato the last minute. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with remaining oil, lemon zest, and olive oil from the skillet. Squeeze lemon juice over shrimp, season with pepper, and serve immediately.
3.  Serve mixed with thin spaghetti pasta or mixed greens.
*This was thrown together with ingredients I had on hand.  I wanted to fix a low-fat recipe that tasted good and this fit the bill.  Jeff said, "This tastes like something I would order at the Olive Garden."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

Yield 4 dozen

Adapted from allrecipes

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. In a large bowl, cream together shortening, margarine, brown sugar, white sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the oats until just combined. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until just light brown. Don't over-bake. Cool and store in an airtight container.

*Excellent recipe; soft, moist, flavorful.  We did add some chocolate chips as well a handful of white chocolate chips (as requested by my nephew Wyatt who was cooking with us).  You can experiment with add-ins; raisins or craisins or nuts may have been nice in place of the chocolate.

Simple Sweet & Sour Chicken

1 Reynolds Oven Bag, Large Size
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks in juice
1 medium green or red bell pepper, cut in rings
Hot cooked rice

PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

SHAKE flour in Reynolds Oven Bag; place in 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

ADD brown sugar, vinegar and soy sauce to oven bag. Squeeze oven bag to blend in flour. Add chicken, pineapple and green pepper to oven bag. Turn oven bag to coat ingredients with sauce. Arrange ingredients in an even layer in oven bag.

CLOSE oven bag with nylon tie; cut six 1/2–inch slits in top.

BAKE 30 to 35 minutes or until chicken is tender. Serve over hot rice.

*This truly was simple and tasty, plus the bag made for a very easy clean up.  I highly recommend this for four reasons: (1) easy ingredients that I usually have on hand (except for the oven bag--I wonder how this could adapt for the slow cooker), (2) very yummy and also kid friendly, (3) simple clean up, (4) low in fat.  Amber has another recipe that is quite similar called Hawaiian Chicken.  As far as taste goes, I prefer the Hawaiian Chicken (the chicken is fried and breaded, of course it should taste better), but the other reasons listed above make this a valuable recipe.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Grilled Pineapple

Adapted from allrecipes, I don't have a grill so I made changes to cook it in the oven.


1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 fresh pineapple
2 tablespoons chopped macadamia nuts
1.  Preheat oven at 425 degrees.
2.  Combine syrup and butter; set aside.
3.  Slice the pineapple about 1/4 inch.
4.  Place pineapple on rack over tinfoil lined cookie sheet (I use a cooling rack--make sure yours is safe enough to use at high temperatures). 
5.  Brush pineapple with maple butter and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn pineapple, brush on other side and cook for another 10 minutes or until heated through.  Sprinkle with nuts. Serve with remaining maple butter.
*However you grill pineapple, it is delicious.  I used peanuts in place of the macadamia nuts.  They were good, but if you don't have any, they are not mandatory.  Everyone at the table loved it.  I'd also like to try another version with canned coconut milk.

Caramel Dip

(To make 1/2 recipe, follow italics)
½ c butter (1/4 c)
8 oz sour cream (1/4 c)
15 oz pkg light brown sugar (1 c)
2 c coarsely chopped pecans, toasted (optional) (1 c)
Apple, pear, or other fruit slices

1. Cook first 3 ingredients over low heat in a 3-qt saucepan, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until smooth.
2. Stir in pecans. Serve with fruit slices.

Makes about 2 cups.

*We had this for a FHE treat and it was a hit!  Even after halving the recipe, it made at least double of what we needed.  I did use walnuts in place of pecans; toasted in the oven at 425 degrees for about 3-5 minutes.  The only change I would try next time would be to let the brown sugar dissolve in the butter completely before adding the sour cream.  I mixed the first 3 ingredients all together at first and even after letting it simmer for longer than 5 minutes; it was still a little sugar grainy.  Could experiment with a little less sugar to begin with and see how it turns out.

*We served with fresh pineapple, strawberries, bananas, and apples--d e l i c i o u s!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chicken Lasagna

I randomly found this recipe one day and have been anxious to try it.  See the orignal recipe at PinkBites.  My changes are in italics.

For the chicken filling:
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (I used 3)
1/2 t of crushed bay leaves (original called for 1 bay leaf added to water to boil the chicken)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper

For the white sauce:
5 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
4 cups of warm milk
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

For assembling the lasagna:
1 package of lasagna noodles (the orignal recipe used "no-cook" type, but I used 9 regular noodles) 
1 lb of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup of grated parmesan

Make the chicken filling:
Cook chicken, sprinkled with crushed bay leaves, in the crock pot on low for 4-5 hours. Shred the meat. In a large pan, heat the oil and cook the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Mix in the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and let it simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.  Add chicken.

Make the white sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium pot or pan. Add the flour and cook it until it's no longer raw, about 3 minutes, stirring. Add the warm milk slowly to the pot, whisking it constantly until all the milk is added and the sauce is smooth. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking until the sauce thickens it up enough to cover the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the stove and set aside.  I let this simmer on low while I shredded the chicken and prepared the other items.  It simmered for probably 10 minutes, but it didn't need to.  The nutmeg is very strong, so you may want to decrease this seasoning by a little bit, but I liked it.  Next time, I'm going to half the salt and pepper in the white sauce.

To assemble the lasagna:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spoon some of the white sauce on the bottom of a large (9x13 inches) baking dish. Make one layer of lasagna noodles (4 sheets per layer, or 3 cooked noodles), cover it with some of the chicken filling and top it with some mozzarella, then white sauce. Make sure the white sauce is spread evenly, specially on the sides of the dish, so you won't end up with dry edges. Keep making layers of noodles, chicken, mozzarella and white sauce, finishing with the white sauce remaining. Top everything with the grated parmesan. Cover the lasagna dish with foil, being careful not to let the foil touch the sauce. Bake it for 40 minutes, remove foil and let it get golden and bubbly, 10 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and wait 10 minutes before cutting the lasagna.

This recipe required some work--as well as dishes--but I enjoyed making it.  I'm sure it would get easier with practice.  Jeff wasn't a big fan of the onions (I could have guessed that, even though I tried to chop them very fine).  All my children ate it and I could make this again, but it didn't quite make it as a requested regular.