white bean chicken chili

I’ve never been a huge chili fan.  As an adult, I’ll be polite and eat it if someone invites me to dinner and serves chili.  I’ll eat, but I wouldn’t ask for seconds.  In fact, I’ll probably feign fullness about 3/4 of the way through the bowl.  If there’s anything else on the menu, I’ll order that.  My poor mom, though.  Oh, the torment.  As a child, I hated chili.  The world record for the longest time taken to eat a teaspoon of chili was most certainly set by yours truly in 1973.  If there was a way to consume that teaspoon of chili without ever allowing said chili to touch my teeth, lips, or tongue, I mastered it.  There weren’t enough Saltine Crackers in a box to make a bowl of chili palatable to my budding taste buds.

And my mom was a good cook!

So how I became fixated upon white bean chicken chili, I have no idea.  For some reason, a couple of years ago, I began ruminating.  White beans instead of kidney, chicken instead of ground beef, lots of flavor from fresh veggies in lieu of dried spices, etc., etc., and the obsession was born.

This recipe is absolutely, positively going in the regular rotation.  It’s so good, so flavorful, so healthy and delicious, I can’t wait to make it again.  Even the kiddo, who has the world’s slowest chili eating record in her cross-hairs, wasn’t terribly offended by getting chili on her teeth, lips, or tongue!  How’s that for raves from an 8-year-old??

If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional red bean and beef chili, this one is an excellent replacement.  It goes together quickly and doesn’t require a lot of attention while it simmers to perfection.  It was even better the next day, too.  Serve it with some baked tortilla chips, cheese, cilantro, and/or low-fat sour cream to adapt to your particular tastes.  I think it’ll be a hit.  Enjoy!

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White Bean Chicken Chili (recipe courtesy Mayo Clinic Diet Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz diced chicken (I used a roasted chicken)
  • 3 C white beans, cooked, or 2 14-oz cans
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) low-sodium diced tomatoes
  • 4 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 medium orange or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 6 Tbsp reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • low-fat baked tortilla chips

Directions:

  1. In a large soup pot, add chicken, beans, tomatoes and chicken broth.  Cover and simmer over medium heat.
  2. While soup mixture is simmering, spray a nonstick pay w/cooking spray.  Add onions, peppers, and garlic, and saute approx 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the onion and pepper mixture to the soup pot.  Stir in the spices and simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes, or until veggies are soft.
  4. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with cheese (optional) and cilantro.  Serve with baked chips.

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hoisin-grilled chicken with soba noodles

If my kid had to choose one thing to use as a dipping sauce…because, well, meat can’t be eaten in our house unless dipped in something, she’d choose barbecue.  Her sauce of choice is Sweet Baby Ray’s Sweet & Tangy.  She’ll put it on everything, but particularly her least favorite meat of all time: chicken.

Isn’t chicken supposed to be every kid’s favorite meat?  I mean, it’s generally tender, virtually devoid of any offensive flavor (or, flavor of any sort unless dredged in Sweet Baby Ray’s)?  Well, not my kid, I guess, resulting in this recipe being a sort of double whammy – she detests chicken and the sauce is NOT Sweet Baby Ray’s.  The sauce is better, in my opinion, but I don’t have the culinary sensitivities of an eight year old.

I love hoisin sauce.  I love Asian-inspired dishes.  I won’t go so far as to say I love chicken because handling raw chicken is enough to make me contemplate full-time vegetarianism.  But once it’s cooked, I’m OK with it.  Fortunately or unfortunately, chicken is flavorless unless you do something good to it.  In this case, the sauce.  The hoisin adds sweetness and the chili-garlic the heat.  I love the savory warmth of dark sesame oil, too.  But the really interesting flavor comes from the Chinese 5-spice blend.

You can make your own at home; it’s a combination of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and Szechuan peppercorns, but 5-spice blend is readily available in the spice aisle at your local grocery store.  The spice adds a deeper warmth to an already savory combination of flavors.  Overall, this Asian-inspired barbecue sauce was quite good.  Don’t worry, Sweet Baby Ray’s.  A certain eight year old will  make sure my pantry remains well stocked with your products.  Nice change of pace, though.  Enjoy!

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Hoisin-Grilled Chicken w/Soba Noodles (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, July 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 3 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 ounces uncooked soba noodles (or pasta of your choice)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 tsp lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste), or 1 tsp chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken; toss to coat. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken; cook 10 minutes or until done, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Thinly slice across the grain,
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add noodles; cook 2 minutes. Add peas; cook 1 minute or until noodles are tender. Drain. Combine rice vinegar and next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Add noodle mixture; toss to coat. Arrange about 1 cup noodle mixture in each of 4 shallow bowls. Top each serving with about 3 1/2 ounces chicken. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and onions.

hoison_grilledchicken©zouptonuts***Cook’s Note:  Per the picture, I was convinced I had Soba noodles in my pantry when I didn’t.  Substituting any pasta will serve you well, however.

pan-seared steak with red wine-cherry sauce

I’m a huge fan of the sweet cherry – being a native Michigander, and all.  My husband, a native Ohioan, believes Michiganders are willing to put cherries in anything; pies, bread, wine, soda, sausage, you name it.  And, on that count, he’s right.  Frankly, I think it’s just a jealousy thing.  He’s from Ohio who managed to marry a girl from Michigan.  Ohio has….um, well, no cherries.  Their state tree breeds a poisonous nut, for Pete’s sake.  Yeah, it’s totally jealousy.  Not to mention, Michigan is full of peninsulas and Ohio is pretty square.  Not a peninsula to be found.  Hence, I dubbed this syndrome “Peninsula Envy.”  He thinks I’m being funny.  Denial is the first sign.

If you’re married to a Michigan girl who grew up spitting cherry pits into the sand on the front porch of the family cottage, and cherries start to show themselves in grocery stores (sadly, not Michigan cherries) round about Father’s Day, it’s a good bet you’re getting something for dinner with cherries in it.  Fortuitously, the July issue of Cooking Light arrived at the house late last week.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  Cooking Light is one of my all-time favorite cooking magazines.  Everything I’ve cooked from the magazine has been consistently good.  This issue certainly doesn’t disappoint – it’s full of amazing looking dishes, and even gave a shout out to Traverse City, Michigan, home to the Cherry Festival, on The Hungry Traveler 2013 top 10 list of delicious food excursions across America.

The red wine cherry sauce was quite good, especially infused with the star anise.  I had to make two alterations; one discussed below and the other being obvious from the photo.  The recipe called for beef tenderloin steaks, but I sent the man to the store and he came home with filets.  Cooking time quickly adjusted and they came out pink and perfect!  I served the steaks with garlicky almond green beans (poo poo’ed by the kiddo…too much garlic, apparently), which were delicious, and the man of the day gave the meal two thumbs up.  A perfect manly meal for a perfectly wonderful dad.  Enjoy!!

Seared Steaks with Red Wine-Cherry Sauce (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, July 2013)

Ingredients:

  • 4 (4-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 cup sweet cherries (such as Bing), pitted and halved
  • 1 star anise
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine (Merlot or Pinot noir)
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 425°.

2.   Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Sprinkle steaks evenly with salt and pepper. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add steaks; cook 4 minutes. Turn steaks over; bake at 425° for 5 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steaks from pan.

3. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté 2 minutes or until just tender, stirring frequently. Add cherries and star anise; cook 1 minute. Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Discard star anise. Stir in butter. Spoon sauce over steaks.

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Cook’s Notes:  I couldn’t get whole star anise in the bulk spice section at my local organic grocer, so I ended up with anise seed, instead.  Very fragrant, but supposedly not as flavorful.  Because it was anise seed, I didn’t add it with the cherries.  Instead, I bound the anise seed in cheese cloth and let it steep in the wine for about 30 minutes ahead of cooking.  The wine really picked up the anise flavor and it definitely flavored the sauce.

chicken on the grill – easy marinade

Grilling and salads.  That’s what I’m doing, lately.  This was a last minute marinade that came together with stock pantry items and had nice flavor.  It’s nothing wild or over-the-top, so it’s pretty kid friendly, but had nice flavor which I attribute to my substitution of fresh, minced garlic instead of garlic salt.  The fresh garlic gives a bigger flavor punch while also reducing sodium in the finished product.

I served this with Harvest Grains Blend by Trader Joe’s and a green salad for a light, tasty dinner that didn’t involve heating up my kitchen in this desert heat.  If you’re bored with chicken (I completely understand that), I think this marinade would work nicely with pork, shrimp, or fish, as well.  Enjoy!

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Chicken on the Grill (recipe adapted from Grilling: Food Writers’ Favorites)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp garlic salt (I used 1 Tbsp fresh garlic, minced, to reduce sodium)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

Directions:

In a large resealable bag, combine oil, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and garlic salt.  Add chicken cubes.  Seal plastic bag and turn to coat all chicken pieces evenly.  Refrigerate at least 30 to 45 minutes, turning once or twice.

Remove chicken from marinade and discard remaining liquid.  Thread chicken cubes on metal skewers.  Place skewers on gas grill over medium-high heat.   Cook about 10 minutes, turning occasionally, or until chicken is done.

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Cook’s Notes:  Give this marinade a kick with some red pepper flakes or a splash of hot sauce.  Instead of a side salad, skewer some veggies and cook those on the grill with the chicken.

beef and lentil sloppy joes

First off, I’m going to apologize for posting two sandwich recipes in a row.  Generally, I like a little more variety in my rotation than that.  But these just…happened.  And they were too good not to share.

Second, this recipe sort of just happened after a conversation with the husband about buns, and how bad buns can spoil the whole….sandwich experience.  (You see now why my mom always liked to call them rolls).  Anyway, in a rush through Target a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a package of their Market Pantry brand hamburg buns.  Wow!  What a huge mistake.  If ever there were Worst Buns Ever competition, that’d be the winning bun!  They were flimsy, flavorless, flaccid, and forgettable.  Not that the bun (roll – sorry, Mom) needs to knock your socks off.  But to hold up to sandwich fixin’s with any sort of juicy, gravy, or sauce, well…flimsy, flavorless and flaccid won’t cut it.

Not that this post is about buns.  Ahem…rolls.  Just saying, if you make these, select a better quality bun.  Oh, and a skim coat of butter and a little time under the broiler doesn’t hurt, either.

So, on to the real reason for this recipe:  it just sounded good.  My husband had his cholesterol checked a while back and, despite my predominantly healthy cooking choices, it was still elevated.  With exercise and supplements, he’s been able to get it in to a healthier range, but it made me ever more mindful of how food choices (especially if you’re pre-disposed to high cholesterol) are so very important.

What attracted me to this recipe in the first place was the lentils.  They’re a super source of protein, inexpensive to purchase, easy to cook, and provide a whole host of health benefits.  You can read more about lentils here at Whole Living and Alive, but if you’re not including more lentils in your diet, you really should give them a try.  Adding them to Sloppy Joes is just an act of pure genius!  The original recipe actually used lentils as a replacement for the beef, but I followed the adapted recipe, then made a minor change of my own to adjust the seasoning for my sometimes picky eater.   After having tried them (they were delicious), I think completely replacing the beef with lentils would be a perfectly acceptable way to go for a truly meatless dish.

As you can see, my little Sous Chef was helping me cook dinner that evening.  We only had one minor disaster!!  Yikes!  Thankfully, the tomato sauce was right out of the can and wasn’t hot when it sloshed over the edge of the pan.  We decided that one might have gotten us downgraded on Worst Cooks in America!!  The end product, though, was really good.  Lots of flavor, even without the chili powder, and great texture.  Next time I might actually try them without the beef.  Enjoy!

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Beef and Lentil Sloppy Joes (recipe adapted from One Ordinary Day)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked green lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder (I left this out completely, but 3 Tbsp is just way too much chili powder: adjust according to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • burger buns or sandwich rolls

Directions:

  • Place lentils in a sauce pot with the 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and and simmer for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.  Drain and set aside.
  • When the lentils are about halfway cooked, heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute ground beef until crumbled but not fully cooked through.  Add the onion and saute until beef is no longer pink. Add garlic and saute about one minute.  Add the cooked lentils, oregano, and salt and mix.
  • Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and combine…gently.  Cook for about 10 minutes and then add brown sugar and mustard.  Stir until well blended.
  • Reduce heat to lowest setting and let the favors come together for about 10 minutes.
  • Serve on broiled or grilled buttered rolls.

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Cook’s Notes:  Easily adaptable to a completely vegetarian meal.  I think these would be just as delicious with only lentils and no beef.

pulled pork bbq (slow cooker style)

Can you ever get enough pulled pork?  I think not.

A friend gave  me this recipe a while back and I hadn’t made it for fear of being accused of being on some strange shredded meat binge.  Finally, the temptation was too great and I gave in, even though I had made shredded something-or-other fairly recently.  But it’s about the easiest recipe ever written and I was in an “I don’t want feel like lingering over dinner” kind of mood.  Four ingredients, people.  Four ingredients and that’s about all the lingering over dinner you’ll need to do.  I always feel like there’s some kitchen fairy magic going on with these meals.  Ingredients in, lid on, twelve hours later, dinner is served.

I’ve seen various recipes like this one calling for the addition of a carbonated beverage.  Does anyone know why?  Honestly, I’m not sure what the added benefit might be, because I think the meat really gets it flavor from the onions and whatever spectacular bbq sauce you choose.  So, if anyone can offer any hints as to why soda of any kind is frequently seen in slow cooker recipes like this, I’d love to know.  The finished product had absolutely no Ginger Ale overtones, whatsoever.

We always top our shredded meat with coleslaw.  We’re quirky that way.  Feel free to do the same, or just slather in more saucy deliciousness.  Enjoy!

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Pulled Pork BBQ

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs pork roast (shoulder or butt)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 cup ginger ale
  • 1 (18 ounce) bottle favorite barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s) barbecue sauce, for serving (optional)

Directions:

  • Slice one onion and place in crock pot.
  • Put in the roast and cover with the other onion, sliced. Pour over the ginger ale. Cover and cook on LOW for about 12 hours.
  • Remove the meat, strain and save the onions, discard all liquid. With two forks, shred the meat, discarding any remaining fat, bones or skin.
  • Return the shredded meat and the onions to the crock pot and stir in the barbecue sauce. Continue to cook for about another 2 hours on LOW.
  • Serve with hardy rolls and additional barbecue sauce. Any leftovers freeze very well.

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Cook’s Notes:  Shoulder or butt are recommended because the meat shreds very well.  It is a fattier cut, but the fat pretty much falls away after cooking and is easily removed from the crock pot before shredding.  Also,  the original recipe cooked for 12 hours the first round, and another 4 to 6 after straining, shredding, and adding the sauce.  I think mine would have been cooked to mush by that point.  Another 2 hours to let the flavors develop was plenty for us.  Also, the original recipe gave a tip on how to freeze ready-made sandwiches.  Personally, that just sounds disgusting.  I can only envision a soggy pile of goo coming out of the microwave upon re-heating.  My preference is to keep the meat and bread separate until I’m ready to eat.  Most importantly (as with any shredded meat sandwich where sauce or coleslaw is involved), make sure your sandwich buns can stand up to all that moisture.  I noted to serve with “hardy rolls” in the directions above, and I can’t emphasize that enough.  Unless you don’t mind eating your pulled pork with a fork.  In which case you can simply call this recipe pork-on-a-fork!

mu shu pork wraps

These were delicious.  I don’t think there’s anything else I can add.  Oh, yes, and messy!  Not to mention really easy to make.  And delicious.  Did I say that already?

I’m a Cooking Light subscriber, but I must have overlooked these somehow when I received this issue, because I’d have been all over them like…well, nothing you want to talk about in a cooking blog.  Whatever the reason, they went unnoticed until I was working on a weekly menu plan some time last month.  The combination of ingredients was enticingly colorful and…crunchy.  I’m a crunch person, so I can’t go wrong with any dish full of  crisp, fast-cooked veggies.

Although the original recipe called for a head of green or Savoy cabbage, the day I did my shopping I was in a purple kind of mood.  This dish wouldn’t have a lot of color otherwise and I thought the purple cabbage would be a nice compliment to the carrots.  (I know you’re all busting out your decorating color wheels right about now).  Also, everyone’s always telling you to eat a rainbow, right?   Purple cabbage is full of antioxidants and has more of vitamins A and C, and iron than green cabbage.  So, it looks pretty in the dish and it’s good for you!

The prep for this dish is really simple and the ingredients go together quickly, so it really is perfect for weeknight cooking.  My only lament is I didn’t find the recipe sooner.  Enjoy!

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Mu Shu Pork Wraps (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, September 2012)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head green or Savoy cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 (8-ounce) boneless pork loin, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots $
  • 4 mushroom caps, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided $
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 package flour tortillas

Directions:

  1. Remove any loose outer cabbage leaves. Shred remaining cabbage to measure 2 cups. Combine soy sauce and next 3 ingredients (through cornstarch). Cut pork crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack several slices vertically; slice pork into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Repeat procedure with remaining pork. Add pork, carrots, and mushrooms to soy sauce mixture; toss.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Add 1/4 cup onions; sauté 30 seconds. Add shredded cabbage and water; sauté 2 minutes. Remove cabbage mixture from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add remaining 1/2 cup onions and garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add pork mixture; sauté 3 minutes or until done. Add cabbage mixture; toss.
  3. Place about 1/3 cup pork mixture into each tortilla, wrap and serve.

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Cook’s Notes:  The original recipe uses the large, outer cabbage leaves for the wraps.  As I’d recently fed my husband dinner wrapped in lettuce, I opted for something a little more substantial and used the tortillas.  You can only get away with lettuce wrapped meals so many times a month!

pork and brussels sprouts stir fry

I’m a huge fan of the Brussels Sprout.  It’s probably my favorite vegetable of all time, or a close second to….hmmm (long pause while I think about what might be a close second).  Nah, it’s the Brussels Sprout, hands down!  Sadly, though, for lovers of these delicious orbs of savory goodness, the season is quickly coming to an end.  Yes, spring vegetables are on the way.  There will soon be bunches upon bunches of young, firm spears of vibrant green asparagus, which I also adore.  But I’ll miss the Brussels Sprouts clear through to next winter.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, yet again.  It seems to be where I’m finding a lot of really good recipes these days.  The only adaptation I made was to reduce the amount of chili pepper paste from 2 tablespoons to just a smidgen over 1 tablespoon given a seven-year old was eating and I’d rather have not quite enough heat than too much.  Reduced heat means increased odds of the kiddo actually trying what I’ve cooked for dinner.  It turned out to be just the right amount for us and it’s clearly an ingredient, like the garlic, you can add/subtract according to your palate.  I never reduce garlic, though.  That would be a travesty!

This dish got thumbs up around the table.  It’s super easy to put together and calls for just a handful of ingredients.  I served it with Jasmine rice – which is very aromatic and flavorful on its own, but didn’t overpower the great flavors of this dish.  I’d say it’s probably even better for lunch the next day but I didn’t get the chance to find out.  No leftovers.  That’s a winner at our house.

So gather ye sprouts while ye may, right?  Indulge in the best of winter veggies before it’s too late.  Enjoy!

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Pork and Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry (recipe courtesy BetsyLife – A Sunny Perspective)

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved and loose leaves removed
  • 2 scallions, whites and greens sliced separately
  • 2 Tbsp Gourmet Garden garlic paste
  • 2 Tbsp Gourmet Garden chili pepper paste
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 c bean sprouts, fresh

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add pork and cook until golden; transfer to plate.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprouts to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Add scallion whites, garlic and chili pepper; cook 1 minute. Add soy sauce, brown sugar and 1/4 cup water; cook until sauce is slightly thickened.

Return pork to pan and toss to coat. Top with scallion greens and bean sprouts and serve immediately.

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Cook’s Notes:  The first time I made this recipe I used the designated amount of pork (1/2 lb), but I have to admit I felt cheated on the meat.  This time I doubled the pork to a full pound and found that to be a better proportion, especially with a full pound of Brussels Sprouts.  Also, I used Earthbound Farm Organic brand for the garlic and chili pepper paste.  The brand of your choice will do.

slow-cooker pulled beef and beer sliders

The Super Bowl!  Ahhhh, yes.  There’s only one reason I agree to attend gatherings centered around professional sports and that’s the food.  I can only stomach the antics and machismo of a bunch of overpaid prima donnas if my own stomach is full of good grub.  Oh, and if there’s beer!  Because what you’ll need to pair with this recipe is not wine (sorry, my dear Carolyn), it’s beer.  We paired it with Bell’s Amber (a craft brew from my native Michigan) and the combo was delicious.

Serving the beef as a “slider” sandwich is perfect for a party where there’s going to be a lot of other food, too.  Our friends had laid out a nacho/taco bar and pork carnitas, so we added the sliders with toppings of cole slaw, pickles, peperoncinis, and some sharp Vermont cheddar cheese.  The meat was incredibly tender and flavorful, and the mini sandwiches were a hit with the kids, too.  This recipe is definitely a keeper – lots of flavor with pretty minimal work, and would be yummy any time of year when you’re feeding a crowd.  Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Pulled Beef and Beer Sliders
(recipe courtesy Jersey Girl Cooks)
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 Ingredients:
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 lb beef roast (chuck, bottom round or shoulder roast works)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 12 ounces beer
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays Sweet & Tangy)
  • 12 to 16 mini slider rolls or potato rolls
  • optional: serve with extra BBQ sauce, cheese, pickles, peperoncinis or crispy onions
Directions:
  1. Place the chopped onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Season roast with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then place roast in the slow cooker.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the beer and BBQ sauce. Pour over the roast.
  4. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  5. When meat is cooked, shred and serve on slider rolls with any of the suggested extras…or, anything else you prefer.

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***Cook’s Notes:  I used a round roast which cooked up beautifully in about 10 hours.  I strained the juice and saved it for re-heating leftovers.  Next time I might tinker with the quantities of beer and BBQ sauce called for during cooking.  I would have liked a little more BBQ flavor, but the meat was still delicious when prepared per the recipe.

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chicken with pepperoni-marinara

This is the perfect quick ‘n dirty dinner meal.  It’s in my regular rotation, particularly on the nights I’m running late, or behind, or I’ve simply procrastinated myself into a dinner emergency.  My favorite thing about this recipe is the pizza overtone:  cheese, pepperoni, tomato sauce, but without all that thick crust guilt.  The chicken is just a protein bonus!!
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The original recipe calls for regular pepperoni, but this night I happened to have turkey pepperoni on hand.  In my opinion, the turkey pepperoni is every bit as yummy as regular pepperoni (which I admit, I love), and with a lot less fat.  The sodium content is still off the charts in my book, but the recipe calls for a fairly minimal amount of pepperoni and I don’t add any additional salt during preparation.
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So, that’s that:  a quick ‘n dirty blog post for an easy-to-prepare, delicious, healthy dinner even the kids will should love.  Enjoy!
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Chicken with Pepperoni-Marinara Sauce

Recipe Courtesy: Cooking Light, January 2012

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 16 slices pepperoni, coarsely chopped (I opted for turkey pepperoni this time)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce (such as McCutcheon’s)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (I use whole mozz, sliced)

Directions:

1.  Preheat broiler to high.

2.  Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add garlic and pepperoni; cook 2 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add oregano; cook 30 seconds. Add marinara sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in basil.

3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning after 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

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