Slow Cooker Chicken and Avocado Soup

I am back to cooking with chicken this week and I finally get to share one of my favorite slow cooker recipes. This chicken soup has everything.  It has cheese, avocado and even home made tortilla strips – it’s amazing. Slow cooker meals are my favorite because you can get everything ready in the morning, go to work and then come home to a fabulous dinner. Of course I always start by chopping my veggies but this can be done the night before. After I get my ingredients together, I dump everything in the crockpot, literally.

I normally set my slow cooker to the lowest setting so that it is just finishing when I get home.

Sometimes slow cooker meals can be bland but not this one. The cheese helps this dish out a lot. When I made the tortilla strips, I added a little cinnamon sugar on the kids’ strips. This usually helps with any fuss that may occur. This meal did take a long time to cook but you won’t even notice – Yeah Crockpots!  And this was enough to repeat.  I just cut up more avocados, cilantro, and tortillas for easy “no fuss” leftovers. By the way, there are a few ingredients that are totally optional but will take this soup to the next level.  Try it and let me know what you think.

Ingredients:

2 – 2.5 lb. boneless/skinless chicken thighs

4 c. chicken broth

3 celery stalks, sliced

3 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1 tbsp. ground coriander

salt and pepper, to taste

2 15 oz. cans white beans, drained

8 oz. shredded cheese, any light cheddar

2 tbsp. lime juice

1 avocado, sliced

cilantro leaves, optional

sour cream, optional

2 -3 Tortillas (corn or flour), cut into strips

Directions

1 Add chicken, broth, celery, carrots, peppers, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, beans, salt, and pepper to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 4 to 6 hours.

2 With a knife and fork, shred chicken in the slow-cooker.

3 Add cheese, lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt to slow cooker.  Stir until cheese melts and soup thickens.

4 Baked Tortilla Strips: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Slice the tortillas to desired size. Arrange in single layer on large baking sheet. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray and add a pinch of cumin, salt, and pepper. Bake 4 to 5 minutes until desired crispness is achieved.

5 Spoon into bowls and serve topped with cheese, avocado and tortilla strips. Sprinkle cilantro and a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

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Stuffed Peppers with Turkey and Mozzarella

So this is day three of my turkey recipes. Today I stuffed peppers with cheese and turkey – how can you go wrong. I halved the ground turkey I cooked yesterday and put it in the fridge for this recipe. I always try to ensure a smooth transition into cooking when I get home from work.

So my favorite thing about stuffed peppers is when I bite into a super crispy bell pepper.  In order to get them crispy you have to go the extra mile and blanch. It takes a bit more time but it is so worth it.

This is a super easy recipe that everyone should enjoy. If the kids don’t like it, I just add a ton of cheese until they can’t see any veggies. They almost forget that they are eating healthy stuff.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb ground turkey

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

2 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella, divided

3/4 c. ricotta

1/3 c. shredded fresh basil, plus more for garnish

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 bell peppers, halved

Balsamic glaze, for drizzling

DIRECTIONS:

1. In large pot, fill peppers with water (to prevent floating), and fill pot around peppers with water until peppers are fully covered.

2. Cover pot and bring to a rolling boil on high heat. Bring the temperature down to medium-low and let peppers hard simmer for three minutes, or until tender.

3. Using slotted spoon, transfer peppers to ice water to cool. Place in baking dish for stuffing later.

4. Preheat oven to 350º. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add turkey and season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook until turkey is no longer pink. Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, stir together tomatoes, cooked turkey, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and garlic and season with more salt and pepper.

6. Stuff tomato mixture into peppers and sprinkle tops with remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Pour water into baking dish (to help the peppers steam) and cover with foil.

7.  Bake until peppers are tender and cheese is melty, about 25 minutes.

8.  Garnish with more basil, drizzle with balsamic glaze, and serve.

Pita Nachos with Mango Salsa and Turkey Bean Dip

This is another easy turkey meal that took 30 minutes to prepare. I cooked the turkey before I left for work this morning and stored it in the fridge.

I also pre-cut mangoes and avocados just in case I was short on time. I already had some salsa from last week and I splurged and bought pre-cut tomatoes 🍅.

When I got home from work I was easily able to pull everything out of the fridge and start cooking. My only issue was keeping the kids out of my mangoes. I managed to save enough to salvage the recipe.

I added the mangoes to my salsa and set it aside. Next, I combined the ground beef, beans, cheese, olives and tomato in a baking dish. I put the mixture in the oven and let the cheese melt over everything for about 15 minutes. The fun part of this recipe was making the nachos. Sure you can buy nachos at the store but these taste so much better. I added cumin to the pita bread for extra flavor. I’m sure an Italian seasoning or cinnamon sugar (for the kiddos) would work well too.

I pulled the nachos and dip out of the oven and it was perfect. I garnished it with the last bit of cilantro I had left over from last week. I always try to find ways to incorporate cilantro so it doesn’t go to waste.

This was such a fun and timely recipe. The Super Bowl is coming up and I think I’ll do a repeat of this recipe to add to the festivities.

Ingredients:

Salsa

1 ripe mango

16 oz fresh salsa

3 tbsp. fresh cilantro

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ tsp salt

Nachos

6 piece reduced-carb whole wheat pita bread

nonstick cooking spray

2 tsp cumin

½ lb ground turkey

1 can low-sodium black beans

2 cup shredded cheese

2 oz olives

1 diced tomato

1 avocado

Directions:

1. To prepare the salsa, in a mixing bowl combine the mango, cilantro, lemon juice and salt. Set aside.

2. To prepare the nachos, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Cut pita bread into triangles or other fun shapes.

3. Arrange the pita triangles in a single layer on two baking sheets. Lightly spray the pita with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with cumin. Bake until very lightly crisp, about 5 minutes.

4. Cook the ground turkey in a nonstick pan until cooked through. Set it aside.

5. Layer the turkey, black beans, tomatoes and olives on top of the toasted pita chips and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese is melted.

6. To serve: Put the nachos on a serving platter and top with sliced avocado, salsa and cilantro. You have the option to add sour cream.

Pineapple and Turkey Meatballs

I’m doing three easy ground turkey recipes this week. Mostly because my husband gave me a funny look when I told him I was going to cook chicken – AGAIN. This is the first of three great turkey transformations.

I selected meatballs because (1) I saw a PBS special on meatballs and it made me hungry,  (2) I thought it would be a great 30 minute meal – as long as I pre-cut my veggies, and (3) it was sweet, had pineapples and an easy sell for the kiddos.

When I got home from work I put the veggies on the skillet and started to cook.  Next time I will cook the veggies in the morning after I cut them.

This was a fun recipe because the kids could help. It seems like they like the food better and eat more when they are a part of the process.

Everything came out great. The family liked it. I originally planned to cook some rice but my grocery shopping skills were not up to par this week. I forgot the rice and used egg noodles instead.  They were just as good.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

Fresh thyme, to taste

1 (14-1/2 ounces) chicken broth

1 (15 ounces) tomato sauce

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

1 (8 ounces) crushed pineapple with juice

1/4 cup ketchup

1 slice of bread

2 tbs milk

3/4 pound ground turkey

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups egg noodles

Directions:

1. Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion, bell pepper and carrot; saute 5 minutes, until softened.

2. Stir in broth, tomato sauce, brown sugar, white vinegar, pineapple with juice and ketchup. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, soak bread in milk in large bowl until milk is absorbed. Add turkey, egg, salt, pepper, thyme and garlic powder. Shape turkey mixture into 12 meatballs, about 2 tablespoons each.

4. Drop meatballs in sauce; simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes, turn over as needed.

5. Remove from heat. Serve over noodles.

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Dinner Review: Husband’s Simple Oven Baked Catfish

I’m giggling to myself as I post this because my husband isn’t expecting a review on his dinner skills. On Sunday my husband volunteered to cook dinner and I took him up on the offer. I will admit he has become quite the cook since we meet in 2008. Let’s just say he’s come a long way. He can cook almost anything without a recipe and he shines when he is cooking New Orleans specialties (his home town). Immediately after volunteering to cook he went to Fresh Market and picked up some catfish to bake. We already had a sweet potato and salad ingredients to go with the fish.

We “oven cook” meals a lot. I also read the term “sheet cooked dinner” on someone else’s blog. It’s basically a protein and veggie dredged in oil, salt and pepper and cooked on a foil-lined sheet at 425 degrees. It’s super-easy, super-convenient and super easy to clean. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can get everything on one pan (if they have the same cook times). This was not our scenario. My husband put the chicken and sweet potatoes in the oven at different times. Obviously the sweet potato went in 40 minutes before the fish since fish bakes quickly.

Overall, and since he is my husband, I give his finished product an A++++. See the recipe below for this simple, easy dinner meal. Thanks for reading.

Ingredients:

1 -1 1⁄2 lb  catfish

4  tbs melted butter

1 lemon (optional)

3 minced garlic cloves (or more if you like garlic like I do)

1  tsp sugar

1⁄2 tsp salt and pepper

1⁄2 tsp thyme

1⁄3 cup  breadcrumbs

Directions:

1 Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease or spray a baking dish.

2 Rinse fish filets and pat dry. Lay them flat on a foil-lined baking dish.

3 In a small bowl, combine melted butter, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper and thyme. Stir and Pour over fish.

4 Sprinkle breadcrumbs generously over the fish.

5 Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes or until filets are cooked through.

6 Squeeze the lemon over the fish (optional).

Watch this easy video:

Lunch Ideas Kids Love

Ok, Ok, I know I am supposed to be a dinner strategist (self proclaimed) but as a parent I have to delve into the lunch arena on daily basis. I try to put myself in my daughters shoes and make lunch extra special. I just remember lunch being my favorite subject (YES) at school. It was the only time, other than recess, where I could talk freely with my friends, express myself and fuel my body. My parents didn’t make my lunch, I had free lunch, so I ate whatever was on the line. My favorite day was usually pizza or nacho day. Whew – I went way back. After two years of making lunch, I will now share some things I’ve learned along the way.

Don’t worry if you give your kids sandwiches everyday.

I read so many blog posts were parents try to re-invent lunch. I have seen everything from black bean tacos, to mediterranean slaw, to cold chicken wings. Some of it looked great – for me. I just wasn’t so sure if my picky 5-year old would enjoy any of it. My fix – I bought a lot of crust cutters and made fun shapes with bread and cold cuts. It delighted her. Soon she started making special requests. She’d say, “I would like a dolphin today.” Sometimes I do change it up. I have substituted the sandwich for a hotdog, wrap or rolled meat and cheese bites.

Come up with fun ways to inject veggies.

42930182-83f9-43d4-aea6-e14e49abcc0dSometimes I worry that my daughter isn’t getting a well-rounded meal. Besides dinner, she didn’t eat many veggies. In order to rectify this, I got a vegetable spiral slicer to make fun spirals out of carrots and zucchini. I would post a pic but the spirals are quickly consumed.

Find fun fruits.

I always try to inject fun fruits into my daughters lunch box. This week I bought a starfruit. She loved it. I did, however, have to watch a YouTube instructional video to cut and serve it. It came out great, although she ate it before I could get it in her lunch box. I also mix and match fruits to add variety. My favorite fruit for her are raspberries because she promptly puts them on all her fingers and waves at me.

Add a treat. Don’t skip this.

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I always try to add a treat as an incentive for my daughter to eat all of her food. Most times I add a cookie or Hershey kiss but lately I have been making fun trail mix. She really likes it and it breaks up the lunch monotony. I normally make it out of whatever I have on hand (candy, nuts, dried fruit) and add it to a plastic baggie.

Don’t always expect a thank you.

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Sad to say but this can be so true. My parting advice is to not expect a thank you…but sometimes kids surprise you with thanks and kisses! I can spend 15 precious minutes customizing the perfect lunchbox and my daughter may say, “can I order lunch instead,” or “can I have a lunchable.” It doesn’t hurt my feelings any longer. I am happy knowing she has the best lunch during the best part of her day.

Dressing the Dinner Table

With Valentines Day quickly approaching, I thought it was a good time to re-decorate my dinner table. I think it puts the family in a good mood at dinner time. Decorating the table is an important — and fun — part of the holiday season.

I try to make the table as festive as possible. Instead of pulling out the same old decorations year after year, I switch things up and buy or make new table decor. I didn’t have time to make anything this holiday so I picked up a couple things from my favorite stores.

I bought a table runner, hearts, and string lights. I really like to add magic to the dinner table with decorative lights and candles. The lights in the pics below are cool because they came with a remote. Instead of turning them off one by one, I click them all on/off in one motion. It’s so awesome.

I am not sure if my husband cares but the girls love when I re-invent the table for the holidays. I’ll probably be on Etsy searching for Saint Patrick’s Day decor soon. When I finish that table, I’ll post new picks.

Pork Loin Tacos

Ok so I am posting my last leftover recipe for pork loins because (1) I used all my pork loin and (2) my family will disown me. I did have fun re-inventing pork loins for four days. Transforming leftovers is one of my favorite things to do. Depending on what I have in the fridge, tacos are my number one “go-to” dish to flip leftovers. In this case, I had left over pork loin, but I normally use whatever I have. I’ve also done this with leftover chicken and beef.

dinnerstrategies pork loin

I chop up my leftovers into small pieces, season them and sauté them in a skillet along with cooked onions and taco seasoning. I have actually made taco seasoning from scratch – but not this time. Just a couple of simple, fresh, and in some cases canned additions can give pork loins a whole new flavor. Usually the finished product in no way resembles the original dish.

I usually don’t have time, patience or tools to make my own taco shells so I use store bought. I found these amazing store-bought taco shells at a new Sprout Grocery store that opened in my neighborhood.  I will try to use these often because they taste amazing and authentic.

dinnerstratefiestortilla

I just lightly fried them on each side and served the tacos alongside some fresh salsa and corn, cheese, canned pineapples, sour cream and sliced avocado.

I must admit, pork loin is more exciting as tacos. And I can finally use my left over cilantro. My recipe card says 1 cup but I put as much in my food as possible. I am the biggest cilantro fan.

This meal takes about 20 minutes to prepare. I am always short on time, so anything I can do to get food on the table fast is a win-win for me. Try it and let me know how it worked out.

Click the links to see the original  pork loin crock pot meal I made a couple of days ago.  You can probably make some spanish rice to go with it.


taco receipe card


Watch this easy video for more. Happy cooking!

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Pork Loin 2.0

This left over recipe is an easy way to re-enjoy all that extra pork loin still in the fridge.  I know the deal, it’s not as exciting as the first night but it is too much to throw away.  Well hopefully this post can change your perception of that old piece of pork.

I actually eat leftovers quite often and have learned a lot.  My #1 piece of advice is – NEVER, NEVER, NEVER – use a microwave to re-heat food.  It sucks the life right out of already lifeless leftovers.  If you put a day old pork roast in the microwave, good luck trying to chew it.  It will be like chewing rubber.

When I re-heat meat, I normally cook it on the stovetop in the juices it was originally cooked in.  If you don’t have original juices, the next best option is to cook it in either a stock (chicken or beef) or a wine/bouillon cube mixture (a bouillon cube add to cooking wine).  This usually re-energizes the flavor, moistens it, and makes it edible.

Best of all, this is the quickest thing you will probably make all week.  Let’s face it, we are all short on time, so this technique is definitely a winning dinner strategy that will allow you to spend more time at the table and less time in the kitchen.  Try it and let me know how it worked out.

Click the links to see the squash side dish and original  pork loin crock pot meal I made a couple of days ago.  You will definitely want to pair it with something special.


Recipe Card


Adobe Spark

Watch this easy video for more. Happy cooking!

Continue reading “Pork Loin 2.0”

Honey Maple Squash

This Honey Maple Butternut Squash is an easy way to enjoy butternut squash – steam roasted with honey, maple syrup and butter.  You can’t go wrong with this winning combination.

I hadn’t planned on cooking squash but I couldn’t resist after I saw the pics online. I did, however, have to make some changes.  I omitted the rosemary and nuts because I didn’t have either.

I made this dish on a weeknight, not knowing what to expect.  I had my pork loin in the crockpot so all I had to worry about was a side when I got home from work.  My husband thought I was crazy for trying to tackle squash on a weeknight.  I decided I had to prove him wrong.

After making the dish, I found out how wrong I was.  This was harder than I thought.  First, actually cutting the squash in half is a feat – squash has extremely hard skin.  I had to put some serious muscle into it.  Next, I had to de-seed, gut and peel it.  Again, the skin is hard so I really had to bear down.  My final under-estimation was the time it takes to cook squash in the stove – at least 45 minutes to an hour.

In the end, after tasting this dish, I would do it all over again but I would use a different strategy.  I would cut, de-seed, and peel the squash in the morning and put it in the fridge so I can baste it and pop it in the stove when I get home.  I would do this after putting my pork loin in the crock pot since I have more free time in the morning, before work.

If you strategize, you can make this amazingly sweet, sea-salty squash during the week.  It’s too perfect to save for the weekends.

See below for the squash side dish I made to go with my pork loin crock pot meal from yesterday.


Prep Time: 15 m

Cook Time: 1 hr


Ingredients:

  • small butternut squash
  • Cooking oil, for brushing
  • 1/4cupmaple syrup
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 2 tbspbutter
  • 1/2tspdried thyme leaves
  • Sea salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tbspmaple syrup

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds and pulp from the squash and discard. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the skin to expose bright orange flesh. Place on prepared baking sheet, cut side down. Brush squash with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

3. Remove squash halves to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut slits 1/4-inch apart in the squash, cutting almost but not all the way through. *Tip: I used chopsticks to act as a guard to prevent cutting too far down.

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Use chopsticks as a guard

4. Return cut squash to the same baking sheet. Heat the 1/4 cup maple syrup and 2 Tbsp. butter in the microwave or a small saucepan until the butter is melted. Stir well to combine. Brush with maple/butter mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle dried thyme leaves over squash.  Pour 1/4 cup water in to bottom of pan, then return to 425 oven for 35 minutes.

5. Remove from oven.  Drizzle a bit of maple syrup over each half. Sprinkle with finishing salt.  Pair with a summer salad or pork loin.

Watch this easy video for more. Happy cooking!

Continue reading “Honey Maple Squash”