Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lightened Up Arroz Con Pollo

"Arroz con pollo" (chicken and rice) is an easy 1-dish meal that could be made together on a weeknight or for a family gathering. The chicken is marinated in Sazon seasoning and vinegar, then cooked briefly on the stove top. You then remove the chicken and add the chopped vegetables to make the (scrumptious) Latin rice. As the rice cooks, you nestle the chicken back into the pot and allow it to cook all the way through whilst cooking the rice. Flavorful and easy, it's a filling meal that is also healthy.

I had read many positive reviews on this recipe, but several mentioned that the rice proportions were way off; thus, I halved the recipe. I also wanted to "healthify" this dish and thus opted to use boneless skinless chicken breasts. The Sazon seasoning can be found in the Mexican/Spanish ethnic aisle at the grocery store. Any Sazon seasoning is fine, but I use this one from Goya brand and love it:

Arroz Con Pollo, Lightened Up
  • 3-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 Tbsp white distilled vinegar
  • 6 tsp Goya Sazon seasoning, divided
  • 1-1/2 tsp Adobo powder (I used Penzey's Adobo seasoning)
  • 1-1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 scallions, chopped (I used up to 2/3 of the green parts)
  • 1/4 cup diced bell pepper
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1-1/4 cups enriched long grain rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • Salt to taste (about 2 tsp)

  1. Season chicken with vinegar, 1-1/2 tsp Sazon seaoning, adobo and garlic powder and let it sit 10 minutes. Heat a large, deep heavy skillet on medium heat, adding 1 Tbsp oil when hot. Add chicken and brown 7 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add other 1 Tbsp of olive oil, and place onion, cilantro, garlic, scallions, and pepper in the deep skillet, and sauté onion mixture on medium until soft, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Add tomato, cook another minute. 
  4. Add rice, mix well and cook another minute. 
  5. Add water, bouillon (be sure it dissolves well) and remaining 4-1/2 tsp Sazon seasoning, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Taste for salt, should taste salty enough to suit your taste, add more as needed.
  6. Add chicken and nestle into rice, bring to a boil. Simmer on medium-low until most of the water evaporates and you see the liquid bubbling at the top of the rice line (this took me 10-15 minutes), then reduce heat to low heat and cover. Make sure the lid has a good seal, no steam should escape (You could place a piece of tin foil or paper towel in between the lid and the pot if steam escapes).
  7. Cook covered for 20 minutes without opening the lid. 
  8. Shut heat off and let it sit with the lid on an additional 10 minutes (don't peak!!!) Fluff with a fork and eat!
Source: Adapted from Skinnytaste

Mexican Chicken Salad- YUM!

This is one of Darin's favorite recipes (one of the very few salads he will eat as a dinner), but I wanted to make it a little healthier for me. This "healthified" salad is nothing new, but tasted yummy! 

I had some pre-cooked salsa chicken, tossed in some chopped romaine lettuce, homemade salsa, and a side of guacamole. It had a ton of flavors without even needing salad dressing!

Place romaine in a large bowl. Top it with some chicken, guacamole, and salsa. 

Pioneer Woman's Restaurant-Style Salsa

We have a few Mexican joints we enjoy eating at, and we love starting our meal with their homemade salsa and warmed tortilla chips. When I first made this a few years ago, I couldn't believe just how similar this recipe was to the Mexican restaurants. And, who knew it would be so easy?

Literally, you take your ingredients, dump it into a food processor, and voila- homemade salsa! Despite it coming from canned tomatoes, it tastes fresh. 

The recipe says to use (2) cans of Rotel tomatoes- I like my salsa with some kick, so I used 1 can of mild and another can of hot (aka. habaneros). This was definitely spicy! If you want it to be more mild, I'd recommend using the mild Rotel tomatoes :) If you want to really get your taste buds kicking, I'd use 2 cans of the HOT tomatoes, and leave the seeds/membranes of the jalapeno pepper on.

This does make a large batch (it completely filled my 8-cup Pyrex bowl). Perfect for a party!

  • (2) 10-oz cans of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles
  • 28-oz can of whole tomatoes, undrained (we drained ours)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced thin (with seeds and membrane) (we removed the seeds/membrane)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (we omitted this)
  • 1/2 whole lime, squeezed (we used 1 lime)
  1. Combine the diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, cilantro, onions, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, salt, sugar and lime juice in a blender or food processor. (This is a very large batch. I recommend using a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.)
  2. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you'd like. I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.
  3. Refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour before serving.

Source: Pioneer Woman

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Honey-Lime Chicken Enchiladas

An easy, weeknight meal that is comforting and satisfying. Not at all authentic, but who cares? It was yummy. The chicken filling somewhat sweet, while the sauce is more savory/spicy so it rounds each other out. We both loved (LOVED) the sauce! I paired this with my favorite Latin Rice and a side salad.

  • 6 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (4 limes, nuked in the microwave for 15 seconds, rolled, and then juiced)
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 pounds chicken, cooked and shredded (I usually boil my chicken breasts and shred them)

  • (2) 10-oz cans of green enchilada sauce, divided
  • 8-10 flour tortillas
  • 1 pound Monterrey-Jack cheese, divided
  • 1 cup heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a large 13x9 baking dish. (I used my large rectangular Pyrex baking dish.)
  2. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a large bowl, and toss it with the shredded chicken. Place the meat into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but preferably a half day or so. (I did this step in the morning before leaving for work.)
  3. Inside the Ziploc bag (that contains the marinated chicken), add (1) 10-oz can of green enchilada sauce. Mix well in the bag.
  4. Set aside 1 cup of the cheese, and begin filling the tortillas with the chicken mixture and remaining cheese. Save any marinade from the chicken/Ziploc bag (I didn't have any).
  5. Place the rolled tortillas in the baking dish as you go.
  6. Mix the remaining can of enchilada sauce with the heavy cream and leftover marinade (if there is any). Pour sauce on top of the enchiladas, and sprinkle the cup of cheese over top.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes until brown and crispy on top.
Source: Adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff

Homemade Taco Seasoning

At our home, I usually have a couple packets of taco seasoning mix but one night we needed it... and I realized we were completely out. I quickly Googled homemade versions, and was surprised to see how easy it was to put together, and I had all the ingredients on hand already.

I've tried different variations on the web, and this version is my favorite version. It has just enough spice and heat that we love, and no starches or thickeners here. Just plan, pure spices.

  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 3 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp beef bouillon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp black pepper

Directions: Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight glass jar (I use this one from Penzey's- the 2 cup glass spice jar.)

Note: I use 3 Tbsp seasoning mix per pound of meat.

The Best Blueberry Muffins

These muffins are phenomenal!

The muffin has a light yet dense crumb with intense blueberry flavor. What sets this recipe apart from the rest is the homemade blueberry jam that you mix into the muffin mix, and it is almost just as easy as the boxed mix. Just a warning that the batter is very thick (so don't worry!)- it will bake into a moist treat. 

Lemon-Sugar Topping  
  • 1/3
 cup sugar (2 1/3 ounces)
  • 1-1/2 tsp finely grated zest from 1 lemon

  • 2 
cups fresh blueberries (about 10 ounces), picked over
  • 1-1/8
 cups sugar (8 ounces) plus 1 tsp
  • 2-1/2
 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
  • 2-1/2
 tsp baking powder
  • 1
 tsp table salt
  • 2
 large eggs
  • 4
 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/4
 cup vegetable oil
  • 1
 cup buttermilk (see note)
  • 1-1/2
 tsp vanilla extract

Note: If buttermilk isn't available, substitute 3/4 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat yogurt thinned with 1/4 cup milk.

FOR THE TOPPING: Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined; set aside.

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. 
  2. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 tsp sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. 
  4. Whisk remaining 1-1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. 
  5. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. 
  6. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. 
  7. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy and thick with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)
  8. Use ice cream scooper large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). 
  9. Spoon a teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. 
  10. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.
  11. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes (I baked mine for 18 minutes), rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. 
  12. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 16 muffins

Source: Cook's Illustrated

Tomato, Basil and Cheese Baked Pasta

Photo courtesy of Love Being in my Southern Kitchen
If you love pasta, basil, and cheese, then this dish is for you! I have my favorite basked pasta dish, but this is very similar to it with the addition of basil pesto. It is also budget-friendly, as this is made in my large rectangular Pyrex baking dish, which can feed a crowd of people!

  • 1 sausage roll (I like to use Bob Evans Spicy sausage roll)
  • 1 pound small shell pasta (I used 14-oz penne pasta)
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan in a slow stream
  • 5 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small to medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian tomatoes, any brand
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup, 10 to 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup store bought basil pesto sauce
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
  • 8-oz shredded mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a 13x9 casserole dish. (I used my large rectangular Pyrex baking dish.)
  2. In a medium dutch oven, brown the sausage. Once browned, remove excess oil in the pan, and place the sausage on a plate.
  3. While the sausage browns, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water. Add small shell pasta and cook the pasta to al dente doneness (the pasta will soak up more juice and keep on cooking after we drain it, so we need it to be a little under cooked). Drain, and let the pasta cool in the pot.
  4. In the same skillet (where you browned the sausage), add the extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and chopped up onions. Cook, stirring a lot, 5-10 minutes until the onions are mushy and look cooked.
  5. Add the tomatoes, dried oregano, tomato paste, and cooked sausage to the onions and stir. When the tomatoes come to a bubble, reduce the heat under the sauce to low.
  6. Stir in basil pieces to wilt them. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to your taste.
  7. To the pasta pot, add pesto sauce, 1 cup of ricotta cheese and 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano. Stir carefully and coat the hot pasta with the pesto and cheeses.
  8.  Pour the hot tomato and basil sauce over the pasta, and transfer this to the baking dish.
  9. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese, and remaining 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano. 
  10. Cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove foil, and bake uncovered for 5-7 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray

Paleo: Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Since I am trying to cut out whole grains/flour, I found this apple cinnamon muffin recipe that uses almond meal (as a flour substitute). I had never made a recipe like this before so I was intrigued and hopeful it would turn out. 

Turn out, indeed. These were heavenly! The mixtures isn't as creamy/batter-like that we're normally used to for muffins, but the texture and flavors were spot on. They are especially good right out of the oven!

  • 1 cup almond flour/meal (I purchased mine at Trader Joe's, but Bob's Red Mill brand is a good one too)
  • 3 Tbsp coconut flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1 heaping Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add almond flour, coconut flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl, and mix well.
  3. Then add your eggs, honey, diced apple, and coconut oil to the bowl, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Using my large cookie scoop, I filled 9 wells into my silicone muffin pan.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Yield: 9 muffins

Source: PaleOMG

Chocolate Toffee Crunch Bars

I had some graham crackers that I needed to use up (and had the rest of the ingredients already on hand), so I decided- what's not to lose? It really easy to put together, and the end result? WOW. These were SO GOOD. Definitely sweet, but oh so good! Since they are rich, I would suggest cutting them into small squares, but I kept going back to the pan. And then another time. And then again. 


  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I threw my graham crackers into my food processor and pulsed until it resembled crumb texture)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or slivered almonds (I used walnuts)
  • 11.5-oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Cut up 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter into Tablespoonfuls.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter. 
  3. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 inch pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven.  (I baked mine for 8 minutes.) 
  4. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup (2 sticks) butter and 1 cup brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Make sure to take it off the stovetop immediately once it starts boiling. 
  5. Pour immediately over baked cookie base. Bake for 10 more minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes, until chips are shiny and soft. Spread the softened chocolate evenly over the top. Sprinkle with chopped nuts.
  7. Cool before cutting into bars.

Source: Adapted from All Recipes

Pioneer Woman's Brisket (

I absolutely LOVED this dish. I was so blown away by it (though it may be due to me never having tried good brisket before)- the flavors, the tenderness of the meat, and the au jus sauce. All perfection.

Pioneer Woman's recipe cooks her brisket slowly in the oven, braising in a beef/soy sauce mixture. Is it an "authentic" Southern brisket? Probably not. Is it delicious? It most certainly is. The brisket is cooked for several hours in the oven. Brisket meat is very tough, and it takes many hours of low heat for the tough connective tissue to break down. 

I've made this 2x- once from a brisket purchased from Kroger, and the 2nd time from Costco. The Costco brisket meat was far superior than the one purchased from Kroger (even though both were considered "brisket cut of meat".) Not sure what happened there, but I'll be getting my brisket from Costco going forward (both were the same price at $5.99/lb). Since it is just the 2 of us, I halved the recipe (but the original recipe is listed below), and we had enough for dinner as well as lunch leftovers for 2 more days. Also, many reviewers said the brisket was too salty, but I thought it was just fine and had the perfect saltiness needed.

We paired this dish with this (lighter version) macaroni & cheese, but it would also pair well with mashed potatoes. We made brisket sandwiches (with melted cheese on top) for lunches the next several days. 

Brisket is a cut of meat from the chest of the cow
  • 2 cans beef consommé 
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 cups soy sauce
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp liquid smoke
  • 10 lb beef brisket
  • Disposable heavy-duty deep roasting pan (optional, but makes cleaning a cinch)
  • Creamy horseradish (optional, as a sauce)
  1. Combine 1st five ingredients (beef consommé through liquid smoke) in a large roasting pan (a disposable is just fine). 
  2. Place brisket in the marinade, fat side up. Cover tightly with foil. Marinate in refrigerator for 24-48 hours. 
  3. When ready to cook, place pan covered in foil into a 300-degree oven. Cook brisket for approximately 40 minutes per pound.
  4. When fork-tender, transfer whole brisket to a cutting board. Slice against the grain and place slices back into the cooking liquid. Serve immediately, spooning juice over the slices. Barbeque sauce may be used, if preferred.
Note: You may store pan in fridge for up to two days or freeze for use at a later date. If fat collects and hardens at the top, remove and discard.

Source: Pioneer Woman

Lighter Macaroni & Cheese

I love macaroni and cheese- it's the perfect accompaniment for just about anything (in my opinion)- Burgers, steak, chicken, or just eating it by itself. The downside is that it's packed with fat and calories. Gina from Skinnytaste made this version (which I'll admit was skeptical to try), but her skinnied version  doesn't compromise on flavor or texture. D ate this and loved it. Why would I continue making full-fat M&C when I can make this lighter version and not feel as guilty for just as much flavor?

  • 12 oz high fiber elbows like Ronzoni Smart Taste
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup fat-free chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper
  • 8-oz Sargento 2% reduced-fat mild cheddar cheese
  • 4 cups baby spinach (we omitted this)
  • 1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
  1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
  2. Spray a baking dish with buttered flavor Pam. Preheat oven to 375°. 
  3. In a large, heavy skillet, melt butter. Add flour and cook over low heat stirring with a whisk. 
  4. Add onion and cook another 2 minutes. 
  5. Add milk and chicken broth and continue whisking, raising heat to medium-high until it comes to a boil and becomes smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper. 
  6. Once it becomes thick, remove from heat, add cheese and mix well until cheese is melted. (There will be a lot of sauce, but the pasta will absorb it all while baking in the oven.)
  7. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, add cooked macaroni and baby spinach. Pour into baking dish. (We used our square Pyrex baking dish.)
  8. Top with grated cheese and breadcrumbs. 
  9. Spray a little more buttered flavor Pam on top. 
  10. Bake for 15-20 minutes (we baked it for 15 minutes), then broil for a few minutes to get the breadcrumbs golden.

Source: Skinnytaste
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