one pan lemon parmesan chicken and asparagus

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We had a whirlwind trip to Chicago in July to celebrate the wedding of my little brother and his beautiful new bride!  I only have one brother and my kids were in the wedding party so it was quite a big event for me.  However, it was a mad dash to get to Chicago.  My son was playing in his all-star baseball games right up until the night before we left town. That meant we didn’t get home until past 8:30 PM and then it was a race to pack all our stuff, including wedding wear!!  So stressful.  I don’t think I relaxed until we got on the airplane. Then it was a flurry of wedding activity while trying to squeeze in visits with family and friends before having to go back home.  I was only home a a mere week and then we were off again to SoCal for baby girl to compete at the national dance competition.
We ate great Chicago food during our trip.  My requisite italian beef, a trip to our favorite local ice cream parlor, a novelty visit to White Castle (since my son has only tasted the frozen kind!) and of course, Chicago style pizza.  All accompanied with lots of good, home cooking by family!  I wish I took more pictures but honestly it felt so good to unplug and just be present without being attached to a phone during the entire trip. Kind of how we used to do it back in the day!  On this trip I had a talk with my son about nutrition and food. I gently mentioned that i noticed that he had put on some extra weight and talked about why it was important to be mindful of what we put in our mouths. He decided to enjoy the vacation without limitations and then work on his diet when he got home.  He agreed that it would be a good idea that he make efforts to cut out some unhealthy snacking and drinking and make better choices about food. I remember being put on my first diet in 5th grade and how it’s caused me to have my own issues with food and dieting and I really want to be careful of how I approach this with my own soon-to-be 5th grader.  We have a great rapport and because of that, I hope I can help him navigate better choices without having to resort to any severe methods of deprivation or traditional “dieting”.  It’s day 3 and already he’s been awesome about turning down unnecessary treats.  He’s been chugging water again (yay!) and because he’s cut out idle snacking, he’s eating better at dinner.  I made this dish and normally the kids would eat it very sparingly but with daughter in a very physical outdoor camp all week and son’s new commitment to eating better, this dish was DEVOURED at night.  Every last bit – no leftovers at all!!!  It’s so satisfying for me to cook a meal in my kitchen and then enjoy it with my family, watching them nourish their bodies with the food.  This is why I do what I do.  Hope you all had a great summer!

One Pan Lemon Parmesan Chicken and Asparagus

recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron

 

Prep time 20 mins
Cook time 20 mins
Total time 40 mins
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, separated
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3-4 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter, separated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Optional: fresh parsley, 1 lemon for topping
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Grab three bowls. Add the flour to one bowl.
  3. Combine panko, 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, dried parsley, garlic powder, about 1/2 teaspoon each of salt (I use seasoned salt) and pepper. Stir.
  4. In the final bowl, add 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest, 4-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on lemon flavor intensity desired), minced garlic, and 5 tablespoons melted butter. Stir. Remove 4 tablespoons of this mixture and set aside.
  5. Slice chicken breasts to the size of tenders (about 1 and 1/4th inch strips) or use chicken tenders.
  6. Coat in flour, heavily dredge in garlic lemon mixture, and then coat in the Parmesan panko mixture.
  7. Place on prepared sheet pan. Use any remaining Parmesan panko mixture and sprinkle over tenders. Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning over the tenders (I use Mrs. Dash lemon pepper)
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes and remove.
  9. Flip the tenders to the other side.
  10. Place the asparagus next to the tenders and drizzle the reserved lemon butter sauce. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese over the asparagus and toss with tongs.
  11. If desired place lemon slices over the chicken (optional)
  12. Return to the oven and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 degrees F.
  13. Meanwhile, whisk remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and 3 tablespoons honey in a small bowl. Add some pepper and parsley if desired.
  14. Remove from the oven and top with the honey lemon mixture and fresh parsley if desired and enjoy immediately.
  15. Do not top chicken breasts with the honey lemon mixture unless eating immediately and aren’t planning on having leftovers since it will make it soggy.

international smoke review

A little while ago, I headed out to the city to check out Ayesha Curry’s pop up at Michael Mina Test Kitchen.  I didn’t go to this popup because I thought Ayesha was going to be in the kitchen –  I knew they’d be dishes she enjoyed to cook and perhaps inspired by or collaborated with her.  She seems like a cool gal who enjoys good food so I thought I’d check it out, especially after hearing that Korean bbq was on the menu.  Sadly, by the time I went the Korean bbq was off the menu for whatever reason but I was excited to check out the other eats!

I have to kick it off by saying the staff at Michael Mina Test Kitchen were so warm, inviting, and fun!  They were attentive but not oppressively so and ummmm the music throughout the whole evening was AWESOME. It had me dancing and grooving in my seat. I even joked that it helped with digestion! What a fun place to be for a night out – I totally recommend as a date night! On to the food!

Here was the menu for the evening:

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First up, snacks!  Shown below are the pickled veggies. Shown in the tiny upper right hand corner are the corn nuts.  OMG these were not your average corn nuts from the store. I don’t like those corn nuts because I always feel like I’m gonna crack a tooth eating them.  But these?  They had the amazing roasted corn flavor with just the right amount of crunch.  And just the right amount of salt!  I’m always wary of places that oversalt and it would be easy to do with this kind of snack but these were perfect! I had to stop myself before I got full on snacks.

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Next was the thai style barbeque shrimp chili (shown below).  It tasted like thai curry without the rice.  Because I had that in my head, I was expecting an overwhelming flavor but it was like curry but taken down a notch.  I was able to enjoy it like a soup and appreciated that the flavors were scaled back.  The cornbread was soooo good. It may have been the first and only time I didn’t use butter on cornbread but it honesty didn’t need it. Yum.

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Next up was the smoked heirloom tomato salad with crispy squash blossoms and white nectarine (shown below).  This was tasty and really refreshing. A good palate cleansing course after the curried flavor in the prior course.  Isn’t it plated so beautifully?  That’s what I lack in my own cooking – the presentation!

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At this point, we were given some supplemental options.  One was a soft shell crab with singapore street noodles and another was the Tokyo hash browns.  I opted to pass on the crab with noodles because I needed space for the BBQ!  But I could not pass up the Tokyo hash brown description. So below, you will see the Tokyo hash browns (which are actually tater tots!).  People, this was my favorite dish of the night. Soy caramel, Kewpie mayo drizzled all over and this toasted nori that just pulled everything together. O.M.G.  I was telling my friend that THIS dish is why I enjoy eating out.  Discovering a new and exciting way to pull together flavors I already know – that’s exciting to me.  And this dish did exactly that.  It was comfort food to the hilt and tasting these familiar flavors in a unique combination was so fun and delicious!  I want to recreate this and serve it up to friends and family.

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And finally… the BBQ.  We chose Ayesha’s spiced chicken, St. Louis style baby back ribs and “Bacon on bacon”.  The other 2 choices were merguez sausage and pastrami. You could add those on but I was already pretty full at this point!  Ok, here is where I need to be really honest.  I mean, this is my blog and I try to be straight up with you all.  Ayesha’s namesake chicken dish – I was not a fan.  The sauce was a bit overpowering and the flavors just didn’t mesh for me.  The BBQ ribs were the best meat option I tried.  It was tender, fall-off-the-bone and tasty.  But I could make those at home.  And the bacon on bacon?  The bread (although toasted) was soggy and fell apart.  Mushy bread = no bueno. Good thing those Tokyo tots filled me up!  The portion size, by the way, was really generous. You get a LOT of food here.  I was just disappointed at the BBQ portion of the evening.

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The corn dish shown below was served as a side.Moroccan street corn.  It actually went well with the BBQ meat, especially Ayesha’s chicken.  But it could not save the BBQ platter.IMG_3204[1]

The tasting ended with a pineapple granita (shown below) that had toasted macadamia nuts, something aloe and some mochi bites.  This was really refreshing and perked up the meal again.  It was the perfect dessert.  Cleansed my mouth and was very light and not too sweet. Had that good balance of sweet and tart. Reminded me of somewhere tropical…. I wish the whole experience ended there.  But they gave us one more bite to end with….

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I was really full but they brought out this bite of devil’s food cake with a peanut butter mousse on top.  It was one bite and really not necessary.  Thing is, it wasn’t very good.  So after bringing the meal back up with the pineapple granita, I left the table with the last bite being so mediocre and blah.  I wish I hadn’t even eaten it.

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So…. my thoughts?  It was a fun and delicious evening.  It had some hits and misses but as one server mentioned, it’s a test kitchen.  They want to try things out.  And for the most part, this was a big hit.  A great date night experience or a night out with friends and like I mentioned, a fun vibe to the whole place.  Ayesha was on an anniversary trip with Steph so alas, no picture with her (ha!) but I’m glad to have experienced it and would recommend  others to try it out.  It definitely gave me a great impression of the Mina Test Kitchen and I’d try out a future pop-up as well.

lamb jam sf 2016

A short while ago, I was fortunate to be the winner of 2 tickets to Lamb Jam SF 2016 from Food Gal’s website.  It was such a fun event and I got to try lots of delicious lamb dishes from the Bay Area!  They had 4 different categories: Mediterranean, Latin, Middle Eastern and Asian.  And they had wine and beer and cider aplenty!  I never knew Syrah was a great pairing for lamb!  Now I know :)  I love learning new things.  I am not a huge fan of Syrah so I stuck with the beer and the lone Pinot Noir there!  Loved Kenneth Volk Vineyards!  I wanted to share with you a few highlights from the event.

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The photo above shows the Baharat Braised Lamb Shoulder with Feta Hummus and a Cucumber, Preserved Lemon and Watermelon Salad from Kuleto’s.  This was such a delight and I loved biting into the tiny pieces of watermelon.  So refreshing!  I want to check out this restaurant just based on this dish!

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This is a photo of Lamb Belly Pancetta, Pan con Tomate, Pickled Quail Egg and Cilantro Mojo from Thirsty Bear Brewing Co.  Not my favorite dish of the day.  It was generous in lamb portion but perhaps a smidge overwhelming.  This was in the Mediterranean room and unfortunately the other 2 tastings ran out by the time I made it to the room.

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Spamb Musubi Licorice Tare, Kimchi, Egg Yolk from Blue Plate. This got mixed reviews from the folks we were chatting with at random tables.  I  thought for sure I was going to love it!  I mean, spamb, kimchi and egg?! But alas, the sauce was so overwhelming and the musubi fell apart as I took a bite.  It was innovative and I’d love to see this again somewhere! I appreciated the concept and think it could really be a winner.  This particular one fell a little short for me.

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This is the Beer Braised Lamb Torta with Stone Fruit Salsa from Pacific Coast Brewing Co in Oakland.  I have to give it to these guys!  They were the last group standing.  They served these up till the bitter end with smiles and nothing but awesome attitudes. It must have been a logistically difficult event to feed so many folks but this group looked cool and seemed to even be having fun!  I was shocked to learn they are just down the road from where I work and I haven’t heard of them!  I will definitely be stopping by.  This torta was amazing and the flavors were bold and well balanced.  The sprouts and guac really added texture and freshness to this sandwich!

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Ok folks. Here it is. The big winner!  Lamb Shoulder Pave Eggplant -Date Lutenisa, Sumac Pickled Corn and Cherry Bomb Harissa from Calavera Oakland!  Yay for Sophina Uong!!! Funny story about this and then the review of the dish.  We were standing in this loooooong line to get to EPIC Steak’s Coriander Roasted Whole Lamb, Tomato-Chickpea Stew and Garlic Herb Flatbread (which was AMAZING – so much so that I didn’t even stop to take a picture before inhaling it – sorry guys!) .  These gentlemen standing behind us were saying that they were skeptical of the Calavera dish because there was no line to get to that dish. They were wondering if it was going to be worth it.  I turned to them and said maybe there’s no line because Calavera has their stuff together and not because a lack of interest.  And then I told them I had tasted it and it was really delicious!!  This dish was HOT! It was spicy hot and it was sexy hot.  Can a dish be sexy? Yes!  Taste this and you may agree.  I haven’t been back to Calavera since Sophina Uong took over but I may convince my friends to give it another shot after trying this award winning dish.  Yes folks, it won for best Asian, best in show and I think people’s choice too!

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Ok.  Now…. this dish is special. It was my favorite dish of the whole event.  Char Siu Onigiri and lap cheong with Lamb Jam from BiRite Market.  OMG.  Everything on this plate was so delicious.  I wanted like 3x as much of each element.  I want this to be a dish I can order for lunch once a week ( I honestly would).  This was awesome.  It was so simple and the flavors were so clean but you could taste the complexity of the lap cheong sausage and the flavors in the lamb jam.  I loved this dish soooooo much!!!!

Thanks for going on this journey with me. I didn’t get a photo of Presidio Social Club’s Lamb and Rice Pot nor Hog & Rocks Mezcal-Adobo Lamb Shanks with Roasted Corn Huitlacoche Salsa.  And didn’t get to taste the empanada from Sabio on Main (that line was crazy too) .  More things to explore and try in the future.  As we left they had these cute lamb cake pops and I wish I could remember where they were from but they were delicious and a fun way to end this great event!

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broccoli and cheese penne

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My daughter dances jazz, tap and hip-hop competitively.  Sometimes I can’t believe I’m a dance mom. I wonder to myself – how did I get here? Oh yes! Because she LOVES it. She started dancing as a tiny 3 year old with her BFF and they just never stopped!  That’s right! Funny thing is, I am not really a girly girl.  I never really learned to do my hair and I have been doing my eyeliner the same way since I was 13 or something.  My hair is usually pulled up in a ponytail or just down, after air drying it.  No frills.  My daughter?  Girly girl! Pink, lace, shoes, makeup, accessories – she loves it all!  I like that she forges her own path and honestly, we’ve let her pick out her own clothes since she was 3 because she would fight my husband in the mornings and he couldn’t handle it anymore. I hang a few pieces that are off limits but otherwise, she can wear whatever she wants to school.  But that also means that there have been days that I’ve picked her up at school and she’s wearing pajamas or thick tights with no pants (what the heck??)!  Oh well, she definitely knows what she likes…

So why all this as an intro to broccoli and cheese penne? My daughter works really hard. She dances 3 days a week and plays softball twice a week. She’s also 6.  She can do chin-ups, flips and monkey bars. She’s just a really strong and athletic girl and I love that about her. But I have noticed that her diet has been changing.  She used to be a carb monster – rice, pasta, more rice, tortillas and more rice. Of course she’d have protein and veggies but she really loved her carbs.  Lately though, she has been a veggie eating monster!  She can’t get enough of cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant and yes, even broccoli. She’s been eating a lot more protein too. I think her body needs the healthy fuel and she feels better eating it.  And I’m more than happy to have another veggie lover in the house.  While the boys groan over a dish full of veggies, my daughter cried happily when she saw that there was broccoli! She literally ate all the broccoli from her brother’s and dad’s plate as well. I’ve found that broccoli seems to be a pretty well liked veggie for kids. I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as my daughter did!

Our family just got back from Chicago but we are heading to Southern California for dance nationals.  Seriously, the things we do for our kids!!!  Her jazz team won 1st place in Regionals last month so we’re hoping they will do well at Nationals.

Here’s my pretty jazz girl and following that ,the recipe!

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Broccoli And Cheese Penne Recipe

recipe from Food Republic

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Level of Difficulty: Easy
  • Serving Size: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 ounces penne pasta
  • 1 pound broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Oil a deep 8-cup ovenproof dish.
  2. Cook pasta in large saucepan of boiling water until tender. Add broccoli for last 5 minutes of pasta cooking time; drain. Rinse pasta and broccoli under cold water; drain, cool.
  3. Combine pasta, broccoli, eggs, cream, milk and cheddar in large bowl; season.
  4. Spoon mixture into dish; sprinkle with combined breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, rind and parsley.
  5. Bake, uncovered, about 40 minutes or until browned lightly and set.
  6. Stand 10 minutes before serving.

ziti (or rotini) and meatballs

 

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You’re all starting to learn that I cook what I want to cook, not even necessarily what I want to eat.  Just what I want to cook. But there are times  I take special requests.  And usually, I try to fulfill those requests during that week or the following week.  Last week, hubs told me one night that he was craving meatballs.  Not meat sauce for his pasta but actual meatballs.  It just so happened that I had some ground beef so I graciously said that I would cook him meatballs!  There was no need for him to also know that I was looking for a way to use up the ground beef anyway!:)  I looked through my recipes and came across this one. These were devoured with much gusto and hubs proclaimed that it’s even better than most restaurants! That is one of his ultimate compliments to me with his other favorite one being, “YOU should open a restaurant and sell just ___________.”  I’m really glad when I can fulfill a craving and get it done on a weeknight! Making meatballs used to have me pausing with apprehension but now, it’s become so easy for me to make!  Mix, separate, kinda roll, kinda shape then baking sheet!

I’ll write an update soon about my trip to Chicago – my little brother got married!

Ziti and Meatballs

recipe from Real Simple

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/4cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/3cup bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4cup grated pecorino (about 1 ounce), plus more for serving
  • 1 pound ziti (or other pasta. obviously I used rotini)

Directions

  1. In a food processor fitted with the coarse grating disk, grate the carrots, onion, and zucchini. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the grated vegetables, 2 cloves of the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. Add the crushed and whole tomatoes (with their juices) and oregano to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon, until the sauce has thickened, 35 to 40 minutes.

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  1. Meanwhile, heat broiler. In a large bowl, gently combine the beef, bread crumbs, eggs, pecorino, the remaining garlic, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Form into 32 meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each) and place on a foil-lined large broilerproof baking sheet. Broil, turning once, until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Add to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Top with the meatballs, sauce, and additional pecorino and serve with the salad.
  3. The meatballs and sauce can be frozen together in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. To reheat, run the containers under warm water until the mixture slides out. Transfer to a saucepan and cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Cook the pasta and serve with the meatballs and sauce.

 

Spicy Chicken Tacos With Corn, Feta, and Avocado

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This spring is KILLING me! I’ve got kids in baseball, softball and dance; and in between practices and games, it’s just nonstop GO GO GO.  I feel like a crazy woman, checking my calendar constantly!  I’m on autopilot so much that I feel like I even need to look at the calendar to see what time I need to go to bed!  I sometimes wonder how things got so crazy and then my friend reminded me that it slowly amped up to this, it didn’t happen all at once. In the fall, I remembered feeling anxiety about the new sports schedules but now, that seems like a piece of cake compared to what I’m currently juggling. But I’ve been eased into it since last August so come summer, I’m going to have so much free time I won’t even know what to do with myself!  Actually, I hope to be cooking at a much more leisurely pace, with iced, fruity drinks!

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.  Man, do I love corn.  Some people (especially moms), when left alone for a night, may reach for a bowl of cereal and call it a night…or maybe even a bowl of ice cream!  But me? My go-to “I don’t want to cook” meal is canned corn.  I open up the top, drain it with the lid and grab a spoon. I don’t heat it, I don’t add butter, I don’t pour it in a bowl. I just sit there with my can of corn and call it a night.  No dishes, no fuss and total satisfaction.  I’ve been told this habit is gross or lazy or weird but to me, corn has everything going for it. It’s sweet, filling and crunchy! Now, do I prefer canned corn to real corn?! Heck, no!  I love corn on the cob. In the summer, I get so excited that I end up buying some every week! Towards the end of the summer my family is crying for mercy, asking for the corn to stop.  And then, it’s a long, cold winter without any fresh corn. I wait patiently until the next season comes upon us. So 2 weeks ago or so, I went to the grocery store and lo and behold, the first of this season’s corn was there!  I cautiously got 2 ears and brought it home, wondering what I would do with it.  I didn’t go crazy and buy 4-6 ears; just 2.  We’re gonna ease ourselves nice and easy into this year’s corn season.  I saw this taco recipe and decided I would use my recently purchased corn for it…and it was perfect. It was awesome for dinner and then a few days later, it reappeared as part of my breakfast burrito filling, along with eggs where it was enjoyed again by the family!  It’s quite simple and delicious!

Spicy Chicken Tacos With Corn, Feta, and Avocado

recipe from Serious Eats

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 chipotles in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon of sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels sliced off
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta, preferably Bulgarian
  • 2 tablespoons fresh juice from 2 limes
  • 8 corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1/2 cup picked cilantro leaves
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted and sliced
  • Lime wedges and thinly sliced scallions, for serving

Directions

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add chicken and cook until browned on both sides, about 6 minutes total. Transfer chicken to a plate.

  2. In the same pot over medium heat, add onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in cumin and oregano until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chipotles and their sauce, stirring to combine, and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and nestle the chicken back in the pot. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a clean plate. Allow cooking liquid to reduce slightly.

  3. Meanwhile, shred chicken with 2 forks. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot and cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes.

  4. In a small bowl, combine corn with feta, seasoning with 1 tablespoon of lime juice and pepper.

  5. Stir remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice into chicken, then spoon onto the tortillas. Serve with the corn salsa, cilantro, avocado, lime wedges, and scallions.

chili cheese dog fondue

IMG_2527[1].JPGThis was a huge hit with my son.  He loved the crescent dogs, he loved the chili cheese dip and he loved dipping the dogs into the dip.  What’s not to like?  I made this with him in mind. Really, it’s all about balancing the healthy with the occasional treats. My kids have never liked fast food.  They’re also strange creatures who don’t like potatoes all that much. Who doesn’t like potatoes?! They don’t like them baked or mashed, nor do they like hash browns or FRIES. They’ll eat fries but often they’ll skip ordering fries when we eat out.

Last summer, my kitchen was out of commission for almost 3 months due to a leak that caused major damage to our floors and cabinets.  We ate out almost the entire time and by the end, my kids were acting like they were being TORTURED.  They had to buy school lunches every day and sometimes we had access to the microwave and sometimes we had access to the stove top but it was sporadic at best. That’s when I realized that cooking meals 5-6 times a week really had an impact on how my kids eat and what they eat. Every night the whole family would chug water after eating out.  There’s so much sodium in restaurants and fast foods! They’d even ask to have cereal for dinner just to avoid having to eating out.  Also, not having a sink HUGELY impacts how and what I can cook (easily).

We learned a lot of lessons during that time with the biggest one being – don’t take home cooked meals for granted!  I still bring up those times to the kids once in a while and they groan when they remember.  What a privileged life, to be picky about the foods we eat and how much of it to eat.  I point this out to the kids to remind them that we live in a place where the food seems never-ending and the choices are limitless while other places do not have these luxuries. Back to the chili cheese dog fondue…I cook a lot at home but that doesn’t mean I always cook super healthy, balanced meals. As my husband tells the kids, even if we eat something “junky” at home, it’s still probably not as “junky” if we ate the same food out. We all acknowledge this around the table, that though it’s not a typical family meal, it’s a meal that is fun.  And so we dipped and shared and enjoyed our quick weeknight meal together, with hardly any dishes (win!).  Have fun!

Chili Cheese Dog Fondue
 recipe from Fake Ginger

Ingredients

2 cans crescent rolls
1 (16 ounce) package Lil Smokies
1 pound Velveeta
2 (15 ounce) cans chili without beans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Unroll one can of crescent rolls and separate into 8 pieces according to perforations. Take each piece and cut into 3 smaller pieces. Roll a Lil Smokie in each piece and set on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining Lil Smokies. (You’ll have crescent rolls left over. Bake them and have a snack!)
  3. Bake for 13 – 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. While the Lil Smokies are baking, melt Velveeta and chili together in a fondue pot or a saucepan over very low heat. Stir frequently until all the Velveeta is melted.
  5. Serve hot fondue with the warm Lil Smokies.

My note:  Use whatever sausage you have – hot dog, smokies, polish sausage, smoked sausage!  As you can tell from my pictures I had smoked sausage so I cut them in thirds or so and wrapped them.  I also kept the crescent dogs whole and didn’t bother cutting the dough smaller like #2 because I didn’t use lil smokies!  It’s flexible:)