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Maple Chicken and Veg

I’ve been working and tweaking this recipe for a while now. It’s a one-pot-dish (my favorite kind) and it involves chicken quarters (always very budget friendly) and some root veggies flavored up with some maple syrup (always yummy!)

This is a dish I tried on a whim not too long ago – and to my shock the 4yr old had seconds…AND thirds – the picky eater 6yr old ate her whole meal without endless talking and talking and talking – AND the Hubby who gets bored with chicken and hates potatoes asked if we could put this dish into regular rotation for dinner meals because he liked it so much!

You can change up the potatoes and vegetable to what ever you like, but I feel the carrots and sweet potatoes in particular really compliment the maple flavoring. Try to stay in the same tastes 😉  Hubby also really likes it when I add one large yellow onion cubed up.

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Ingredients
4 Chicken Leg Quarters
2 Red Potatoes
2 White Potatoes
1 Sweet Potato
3 Large (FAT) Carrots
20 cloves Garlic
1/4 cup Maple Syrup
1/4 cup melted Butter
salt/pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and gather all your ingredients along with a good cutting board and a trusty knife. You’re going to be doing some prep work on this dish – but I promise it’s easy and worth it.

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Prep your veggies. Peel your carrots, peel your potatoes, peel all those cloves of garlic. Peel EVERYTHING!! Some people like to eat the skins on their potatoes. If your family is of this crowd then CONGRATULATIONS! Your prep time has just been cut in half! My family on the other hand won’t go near anything that’s not fully peeled – – – I know, I know, pick your battles, right?

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Cube the potatoes and carrots into roughly one inch cubes. Try your best to keep everything about the same size. Place all those cubed vegetables into a large bowl.

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Combine the maple syrup and the melted butter together and give it a good stir. Slowly pour over all the cubed veggies in the bowl and then toss the veggies to get a good even coating of that mapley goodness. Set the bowl aside for a few minutes.
Pull out two large casserole dishes. Pam spray or grease the bottoms of them and place two chicken quarters into each dish. Salt and pepper the chicken.

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Scoop out your buttered and syrup’d veggies and sprinkle them around the chicken quarters in both dishes. Pour any remaining syrup from the bottom of the bowl over the chicken. Place in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes. Now you can sit back and relax while dinner cooks itself in the oven and the aromas of garlic and maple and chicken float through your home.

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And that’s it! That’s all there is to it! You get your delicious sweet veggies, some roasted garlic cloves, and some juicy chicken meat on a plate and chow down!  Enjoy!!!

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Posted by on April 20, 2015 in Chicken, Dinner, Easy, Entree, Healthy, Kids, Potatoes

 

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Easy Peasy Slow Cooker Pork Chops

I’m a stay-at-home-mom. My days are filled with toddlers running around screaming, crying, laughing, and playing. While this is absolutely the single best job in the world, it is also often overwhelming – I mean, these kids – they EAT! You have to feed them several times a day, every single day! And it better be tasty – but you get extra credit bonus points if it’s also (at least mostly) nutritious as well. In case you didn’t already know this, the job of being a mom can greatly conflict with the job of needing to provide good food that kids are willing to eat.

SO.

Here’s an easy meal that I turn to often. Maybe it can help you too.
You pretty much just dump four or five items into a crock pot during a spare moment in the morning, and at dinner time you have a meal. Pretty nice huh!

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Easy Peasy Crock Pot Pork Chops
Ingredients:
Pork Chops  (I used a package of 5 chops on the bone, but any type of pork chop will do
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup (any “cream of” soup will work – celery, chicken, etc)
1/4 cup Ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
– – – – there is room to improvise here too. I sliced a few mushrooms and added them to the pot, feel free to experiment with whatever you have on hand.

Directions:
1. Put your pork chops into the crock pot.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the cream soup, ketchup, and Worcestershire (and any extra ingredient you might want to add). Mix them all together and then pour the mixture over the chops in the crock.
3. Cook on low for 7-9 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours.
4. Enjoy!  I like to serve mine on a bed of mashed potatoes or rice and use the resulting juices in the crock as a gravy.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Crock Pot, Dinner, Easy, Entree, Pork

 

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Homemade Chicken Nuggets

I’m a mother of two young toddlers, and I babysit regularly for other little toddlers. Needless to say, we are always looking for kid-friendly foods that are a little healthier than the typical boxes, bags, and cans of foods that you can purchase at the supermarket.

Chicken nuggets seem to be an across-the-board hit with kids of all ages. Even the kids that don’t typically like much meat will dig into a nugget. The problem is, how many articles have you read lately about how disgusting the meat is that goes into those frozen store-bought nuggets! It seems like every other week there’s another interview with a chicken factory employee telling us about pink slime, or about how they have to dump the nugget mixture in a vat of bleach to kill off the bacteria. Most recently there was an article from an employee of Purdue Chicken discussing the ins and outs of his factory. (See article HERE) He goes on to give a pretty positive view of the factory, the conditions, and even the quality of the food they process – with the exception of one single food product. He says to avoid the chicken nuggets! They are basically just made out of “skin, a few bones, fat, and whatever meat is attached to the skin.”  Gross!!!

65 cooked nuggets!!

So here’s my recipe. You can make your own chicken nuggets at home. You can do it easily. And you can guarantee that you’re not eating a nugget full of skin and bones! I took a ton of pictures and will break it down step-by-step. The recipe I give will be for one pound of ground chicken, but the pictures are actually from a very large batch that I made. I made 6.5lbs of ground chicken into nuggets, then separated it into several bags and tossed them into the freezer to be taken out and used as needed, just like you would do if you bought one of those freezer bags of nuggets from the store.

Nugget Ingredients:
1 lb Ground Chicken
1 Egg, beaten
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs (We used unseasoned)
1/2 tsp. Pepper
1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp. Onion Powder
1 cup (approx) Vegetable Oil

Breading Ingredients:
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Bread Crumbs
1 Egg, beaten

Directions:

In a large bowl, pour in the bread crumbs, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Mix them together well.

Seasonings

Add in your beaten egg and then your ground chicken and mix to combine. Get right in there with your hands and really mix it together well, you don’t want any clumps of bread crumbs in the middle of your nugget or they will fall apart when you cook them.

Mix all together

Your next step is to start scooping out small portions of your nugget mix and forming them into the actual nuggets. We actually placed a sheet of plastic wrap over our table and formed up the nuggets and left them right on the the plastic wrap while we finished off the rest of the batch – this method really worked out well! Try to keep your nuggets pretty small so they cook up well.

65 Nuggets!

You then need to dredge each nugget in flour. I like to pour a good amount of flour onto a plate and bring that plate right up next to where I’ve laid out my nuggets and dredge them in the flour right there and put them right back where onto the table to wait for the next step.

Dredge each nugget in flour

Ok, now that the nuggets have been floured, they need to take a quick dip in an egg bath and then get coated up in bread crumbs. Again, I like to beat my egg and bring it right up to my laid out nuggets and get a plate full of bread crumbs and keep it right there too. Simply pick up each nugget one at a time, dip in the egg wash, roll in the bread crumbs, and then you can put it back on the table or set them onto some plates to get ready to head over to the stove to be cooked.

Into the egg wash and bread crumbs

At this point, we’re done making up the actual nugget itself and can move on to getting them cooked. In a large frying pan or a large skillet with a good sized lip on the sides, pour in some vegetable oil. You want the oil to be about half as deep as the nuggets you made, typically about one finger width’s depth. Allow the oil a few minutes to heat up and then place some nuggets in to get them cooking. You can cook in batches, you don’t need to crowd the pan to get it all done at once.

Fry in oil for 4 minutes each side

Pan fry your nuggets for about 4 minutes on medium to medium-high heat.

Cooked on one side, 4 minutes on the other side

Flip them over and let them cook for about 4 minutes on the other side and then remove them from the pan. I like to place them on a paper towel lined plate for a minute to help catch any extra oil.

Bagged and ready to freeze

That’s it! Your nuggets are ready to eat! Dig in and call the kids into the kitchen!
….OR…
You can make up a large batch of nuggets all at one time like I did in these pictures. We made 6.5lbs of ground chicken and actually got a nice even 65 nuggets out of it (No, we didn’t portion them out that way on purpose, it just happened to work out nicely like that!) After cooking all 65 nuggets and letting them cool down fully on cooling racks, I put them into a few freezer bags and tossed them into the freezer. Now when my kids want nuggets for lunch, all I have to do is reach into my freezer, pull a handfull out, and reheat them. They have homemade all-meat nuggets on the table within minutes and I don’t have to stress about making a mess in the kitchen to get them fed – – and I also don’t have to worry that I fed my kids a poor quality nugget from the supermarket either!

 

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Brussels Sprouts

I have this little game I play with my daughter every week when we go shopping – I let her pick out something new from the fruit/produce section. Anything she wants is fair game, and I try to steer her to new things to try instead of just getting strawberries every week. It’s brought some delicious dishes to the family, and it has also forced me out of my comfort zone and regular choices of dinner veggies or snack time fruits too.

A huge favorite in this house is broccoli and it’s a pretty small step to go from one small, roundish, green veggie to another – so this week Brussels Sprouts were chosen with glee and I was so pleased to see them get gobbled right up.

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Ingredients:
Roughly a dozen Brussels Sprouts
1 1/2 TBSP Butter
1 1/2 TBSP EVOO
3 cloves Garlic
5-6 TBSP Parmesan Cheese
salt/pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Wash and then trim the stem of each sprout. Slice each sprout in half lengthwise.
2. Melt the butter and EVOO in a skillet over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add 3 smashed cloves of garlic.

(Do you know the smashed garlic trick? Separate a clove of garlic from the head and place it on your cutting board. Lay the broad side of a chef’s knife over the clove and, while still holding the handle with one hand, carefully smash down the knife with the palm of your other hand – pancaking the garlic in between the board and the knife. Now, the trick is, while you’re banging your palm down to crush the garlic, you also want to move the knife a small distance so that the garlic is sort of being smeared and is more smooshed than it is crushed….did this all make any sense?)

3. Remove the three cloves of garlic once they have browned and the flavor has infused into the oil and butter mixture.
4. Add your Brussels Sprouts, cut side down, into the oil/butter mix. Cover with a lid and cook on medium low heat for 10-15 minutes until they are tender all the way through.
5. Remove the sprouts from the pan and top with Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Enjoy!

 
 

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Barbeque Pork Butt

Let the grilling season begin!!

It snowed yesterday morning.  Today we had a high of 72!  What’s a gal to do with such crazy weather??  IGNORE IT and grill anyways.

Simple and delicious, this is the easiest, tastiest, pork you will ever grill.

A few years back I was sitting at the dinning table and eating some leftover pork the Hubs had made the night before. It struck me that if a man had made me this dish on a date – served it up for dinner and then proposed right there and then, I would have had no choice but to say yes (after I finished chewing my bite of delicious pork of course). How else would I have been able to guarantee I would be able to eat this amazing dish again!? :-D
….though of course I had no idea how simple this dish was to make at the time. Now I know I could simply have made it myself.

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This dish is so delicious you will eat too much of it the first night. You will be full and try to put the rest away as leftovers but you will still be sneaking pieces out and eating while you do it. If you are fortunate enough to manage to save some leftovers, you are in for a pleasant surprise. This is one of those dishes that reheats soo well, it’s even better the next day! The time in the fridge just gives the meat longer to soak in all the BBQ sauce. MMMmmm!

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I do want to mention that it has to be Open Pit BBQ Sauce, even if you do not like Open Pit. Trust me, it makes all the difference. I personally do not (well, did not) care for Open Pit at all, but this dish simply isn’t the same any other way. No, I’m not sponsored by Open Pit and I don’t receive any compensation from them – though I wouldn’t turn it down if they offered!

Ingredients:
Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder
Open Pit BBQ Sauce
Aluminum tin or other pan
…..that’s all folks!

Directions:
1. Heat up your charcoal grill, using a sufficient amount of coal to keep it running for a few hours.
2. Push all coals to one side of your grill. Fill an aluminum pan with water and place it on the grate over the coal side of the grill.
3. Place meat on the cool side of the grill and put the lid on the grill. Make sure your vents are open on the grill lid. Set a timer for 30 minutes and walk away.
4. When your timer goes off, open your grill and flip the pork over and make sure your pan still has water (if it doesn’t….add some). Set your timer for another 30 minutes.
5. Repeat this cycle until your pork reads 165 to 170 degrees with a meat thermometer. Roughly two to three hours depending on how thick your meat is.
6. When your pork has cooked through, remove from the grill and set it aside on a cutting board. Get a casserole dish or other similar sized dish and pour enough Open Pit BBQ Sauce to thoroughly cover all of your pork. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and put the whole thing into your microwave and warm it through. Heat it for one or two minutes at a time, stirring occasionally, until it is steaming hot.
7. Slice your pork into thin pieces and place into hot BBQ Sauce. Make sure to really dredge it in there. Don’t be shy, let the stuff swim in it.
8. That’s it. Serve as it is and let your happy eaters fish out their own pork, slathered in sauce, and don’t hold back.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2013 in Dinner, Easy, Entree, Pork

 

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Herb Focaccia Bread

Now I know everybody thinks their own kid is the cutest kid ever – but I have to admit mine definitely have their moments where I just KNOW mine have just mastered the art of distracting me with their cuteness.

When she was only two years old, my daughter had this habit of trying to distract me from putting her down for her nap. She would lay down in her bed and holler out to me that she needed a specific toy or blanket or whatever nonsense that she thought would work at the time. And then she had the brilliant idea to distract me with food (because even my children know my brain is always churning in the background and thinking of menu plans or what new foods I can get the kids to eat). What this all ended up in, was a three week stint where my two year old would be bellowing out that she wants to get out of bed so she could go in the kitchen and help mommy make some “forgotcha bread” for daddy because he really likes it for a dinner treat.

Thus “Forgotcha Bread” was invented in our house and it makes a pretty regular appearance. Besides, it’s totally cute to see my kids and my husband all crowd around trying to dip their ‘forgotcha bread’ into a tiny shared bowl of olive oil and Parmesan cheese. It’s one of those happy family bickering, bantering, sharing type moments at the table that really warm my heart.

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This recipe is a bread machine recipe. I’m not sure how to convert it if you don’t have a bread machine. I actually got this recipe almost exactly from the Cuisinart Recipe Booklet that came with my bread machine – this isn’t one of my own inventions this time around. I altered some of the spices/quantities that flavor the bread and the topping, but the bread recipe is theirs.

(The quantities I list is for a small, one pound loaf. It is enough to feed my family of two adults and two young kids with some leftovers for the next day.)

Ingredients:
(Place ingredients into bread machine in this order:)
3/4 cup Water 80-90 degrees
1 1/2 TBSP EVOO
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/4 tsp Parsley
1 tsp Salt
2 1/8 cup Bread Flour
1 tsp Yeast, Active Dry or Bread Machine

For the topping you will need:
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 tsp Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Basil
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder

Directions.
1. Place ingredients into Bread machine in above order. Set bread type to Dough/Pizza Dough and the size to Small/1 LB size. Press start. (Machine will run for about 1 hour 25 minutes.)
2. When the bread machine is done, remove the dough from the bin and punch to deflate. Let rest for 10 minutes.
3. Brush a cookie sheet with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle with a little cornmeal. After dough has rested, roll out on a lightly floured surface to approximately 8″ x 6″ and place it upon the prepared pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 40-50 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 450 F and with oiled fingers, press indentations about one inch apart and 1/2 inch deep all over the surface of the dough (see picture below).

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Drizzle the dough with some EVOO and sprinkle with teh kosher salt, Parmesan cheese, and herbs (it will collect in the little divots you made with your fingers a bit). Place the dough in your preheated oven and bake until deep golden brown and puffed up with a crispy crust – approximately 10-15 minutes.
5. Let the bread cool on a cooling rack and then slice up and serve with some olive oil and Parmesan cheese for dipping. Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in Bread, Easy, Party Foods, Sides

 

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Crockpot Chicken Spring Wrap

I love my crock pot. In my early cooking days, my crock pot was my best friend in the kitchen. It can turn a cheap, tough cut of meat into something edible and delicious – it can make almost any dish a creamy, savory dish that is perfect comfort food on a cold day – AND I somehow felt that the crock pot was more reliable in making sure my cuts of meat were cooked all the way through (whereas I was still learning and wasn’t as reliable…).

Now I’m older and I have found new reasons to appreciate my crock pot. Not the least of which is that I can find a few minutes at some point in the middle of the day – somewhere near lunch time – to throw a few things into the crock and turn it on….and then as my day gets crazier and more hectic and the kids are in my hair and hubby wants his dinner, all I have to do is take the lid off the crock and Wah-lah! Dinner!

This is one of those dishes that we use two different ways. Cook up the chicken, slice it nicely, and you have either a perfect set up for a “grilled” chicken cesar salad, or you can serve it up on a flour tortilla with a bed of greens and you have an easy chicken wrap. We eat the chicken both warm and cold since it’s already been cooked, so it’s great for a picnic or a lunch on-the-go too.

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Ingredients:
2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
1 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
2 TBSP Butter
1/4 cup water
3 TBSP Lemon Juice (or the juice of one lemon)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tsp Chicken Boullion or 1 TBSP Chicken Soup Base
1 tsp Parsley
Wrap makings/toppings: (Flour Tortillas, Ranch Dressing, Lettuce/Spinach)

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, combine oregano, salt, and pepper. Rub all of the seasoning mix into your chicken on both sides. Brown the chicken in butter in a skillet and transfer into your crock pot. (Just brown it, you aren’t actually cooking it yet.)
2. Add water, lemon juice, garlic, and bouillon to the skillet you had browned the chicken in. Bring it to a boil and loosen the browned bits of chicken from the bottom of the skillet. Pour the mixture over the chicken in the crock pot.
3. Cover your crock and cook on low for 4-5 hours.
4. Baste the chicken and cook on high for 15-30 minutes until chicken is tender.
5. Remove the chicken from the crock and allow to ‘rest’ 5-10 minutes and then slice into strips.
6. Serve either in a wrap or in a salad – enjoy!!

 

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