Saturday, January 29, 2011

slow cooker chipotle-lime chicken

Need a weekday dinner idea?  This chipotle-lime chicken is quick to prepare the night before and super delicious! The flavors are simple but come together amazingly well. The freshness of the lime and avocado is a great compliment to the aroma of cilantro.  Restaurant quality for sure!

The original version of this recipe comes from Robin Miller who has some great slow cooker recipes in her collection!  Her slow cooker jambalaya recipe is one of our favorites!  

Prep Ahead Plan:  Mix all of the ingredients (except the avocado and cilantro) in the slow cooker insert the night before. Turn it on before you head out the door in the morning!

Slow Cooker Chipotle-Lime Chicken
recipe adapted from Robin Miller

1 cup sliced onion
1 cup chopped carrots
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1 T minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce with 1 t sauce from can
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges, for garnish

1. Place the onions and carrots on the bottom of the slow cooker.
2.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place on top of the vegetables.
3. Mix the tomato sauce, lime juice, chipotle chiles, adobo sauce and garlic in a bowl and pour over chicken and vegetables.
4.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve alone or over rice.  Garnish with lime, cilantro and avocado!!!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

cream of tomato soup with basil

We're under a deep freeze here in the Northeast and soup of any kind is a welcome treat in this kind of cold weather!  This recipe for creamy tomato basil soup is warming, filling and easy to make!  It requires about 10 minutes of hands on time and about 45 minutes of cooking time.  Serve alongside the holy trinity of butter, cheese and crusty bread better known as the grilled cheese sandwich. Enjoy!

Prep Ahead Plan:  Make this ahead of time and leave it in the fridge for heat and eat weekday lunches.  Fill up a soup thermos and send some off with your school aged little ones!

Cream of Tomato Soup with Basil


  • 4 tomatoes peeled, seeded and cut up (peeling and seeding them is optional but I like the way it comes out when doing this extra step)
  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 10 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup cream 
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • pepper to taste

  1. Place tomatoes and juice in a soup pot over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. 
  2. Add the basil leaves to the pot. If you have an immersion blender, blend the mixture with it. If not, use a blender or food processor to puree the soup.
  3. Stir in the cream and butter making sure not to bring the mixture to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a swirl of cream on top and some fresh basil leaves for garnish!  

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Barbecue Brisket ~ a perfect Sunday dinner...

This is another great recipe from my friend Mary!  My little non-eater gobbles up every bite of this and even asks for seconds.   Fresh beef brisket is one of the least tender cuts of beef, but it can be made tender and the flavor is tough to beat!  It's perfect for a frigid, lazy Sunday like today.  There is minimal prep work and even less clean up if you buy one of those foil pans like I often do.  The original recipe calls for Open Pit barbecue sauce.  I have had some trouble finding it recently so I use the homemade recipe found HERE.  If I'm not feeling ambitious enough to whip up a batch of that bbq sauce, then I use Sweet Baby Rays brand.  

Prep Ahead Plan:  You can prepare the recipe the day before and let it sit in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.  

Barbecue Beef Brisket
beef brisket-about 1/2 pound per person (fresh beef brisket, not corned beef)*
1 (16 oz) bottle of barbeque sauce or 1-2 cups homemade barbecue sauce (A 1/2 bottle per 3 pound brisket works well but we happen to like it super saucy so I use one bottle per brisket!)

1.  In a 13 X 9" pan place a long piece of heavy duty aluminum foil so that the brisket may be wrapped up well.
2.  Trim some fat off of the brisket (optional).
3.  Pour some bbq sauce in the foil lined pan and place the brisket on top of the sauce.  Pour remaining sauce over brisket and seal the top and sides of the aluminum foil so that the brisket is wrapped up in a neat little foil packet.
4.  Bake at 325 degrees for 3-4 hours.

*If you have a crowd, two or three briskets may be placed on top of each other with barbecue sauce between each layer.  Increase the amount of barbecue sauce as needed! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

piccolini with peas and carrots

recipe  adapted from Giada De Laurentis

I'm always looking for a lunch menu that will appeal to the masses.  What kid doesn't love cheesy pasta?  I can even get Riley to eat this (minus the peas unfortunately).  This pasta dish comes together quickly and is perfect to toss into a thermos and send to school or serve as a family style lunch over the weekend!  I found that using fresh basil is a must!  It really compliments the sweet creaminess of the mascarpone.

Prep Ahead Plan:  I made a big batch of this and will keep it in the fridge to serve over the weekend for a quick heat and eat family lunch (if there is any left)!  You can also make it ahead of time and heat it up before spooning some into a thermos on busy weekday mornings! If you find it has thickened up too much in the fridge, just thin it with a bit of chicken broth or water.

Piccolini with Peas and Carrots
1/2 pound (8 ounces) pastina or other small-shaped pasta (I used piccolini-mini bow ties)
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup chicken broth (maybe an additional 1/4-1/2 cup for thinning)
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
kosher salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leave

1.  Boil the pasta according to package directions.
2.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute onions in olive oil until soft (a few minutes).
3.  Add the carrots and saute a few minutes more, then add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Let the mixture boil for about 5 minutes.
4.  Add the drained pasta to the skillet and stir to combine.  Turn off the heat and stir the cheeses and basil into the pasta mixture until they are melted.  Add additional chicken broth if you think it is too thick!  I added about 1/4 cup to my finished mixture!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

cinnamon honey whole wheat bread with Nutella~ an after school snack (bread machine recipe)

recipe from Betty Crocker's Best Bread Machine Cookbook

After school snack is a never ending battle in our house!  Riley gets off the bus at 4:00 in the afternoon and is STARVING!  She will gladly eat a bowl of strawberries, an apple or any other fruit I offer her, but she always wants something else.  It's so close to dinner, I can't bring myself to give her the cookies, crackers or snack foods she asks begs for.  Popcorn, yogurt, carrot sticks are great options but don't quite satisfy her treat craving!

This bread machine recipe for cinnamon honey whole wheat bread is a healthy snack option that kids will consider a "treat" when you spread a little bit of Nutella on a slice of it!  If you're not familiar with it, Nutella is a hazelnut spread made with skim milk and cocoa.  The girls love it!  Finally, I have won the snack battle (at least for this week).

*I use cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes! It's fun and makes their snack extra special!

Cinnamon Honey Wheat Bread
(2 pound loaf recipe, 16 slices)

1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup honey
2 T butter, softened
2 cups bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 T nonfat dry milk powder 
1 1/4 t cinnamon
1 3/4 t salt
2 1/4 t bread machine or quick active dry yeast

1.  Place all ingredients in the bread machine in the order given.  
2.  Select "Whole Wheat" or "Basic/White" cycle.  Use medium or light crust color.

Enjoy! :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cooking with Kids: Ham and Cheese Croissants

A note about cooking with kids...

The girls love to help me bake.  Riley is the best egg cracking-six year old I have ever met and Talia can engage in a thoughtful conversation comparing and contrasting various features of an Oster bread machine versus a Hamilton Beach.  But I have to admit, when it comes to meal preparation, I find myself shooing the kids out of the kitchen.  

Last night I was reminded why it is important to embrace the chaotic mess after I encouraged the girls to cook dinner for the whole family.  Cooking is a valuable life skill that helps kids to develop their independence.  Preparing a meal for the whole family to enjoy gives the girls a huge confidence boost as they spend quality time with Mike and I in the kitchen.

Santa brought the girls an adorable cooking set for Christmas and yesterday, we decided to put it to good use!  They couldn't wait to put their appropriately sized bowl scrapers, measuring cups and kitchen scissors to work!  Not only did they have fun making these ham and cheese croissants, everyone actually LIKED them.  Unheard of.  

Here are a few tips to help kids stay safe and have fun while you're cooking together:

1.  Choose a simple recipe with less than 5 ingredients where exact measurement is OPTIONAL :).  Provide your child with safe opportunities to tear lettuce, sprinkle cheeses and spread sauces or butters with blunt knives or spoons.  My girls are young so I stay away from cutting altogether unless it involves simple cutting that can be done with kid safe scissors as seen in the pictures.

2.  Be organized.  Have all of the ingredients and equipment sorted for each chef at their own seat, in their own area.  

3.  Take time to explain the process, talking about ingredients and equipment. If you are using cooking as a learning tool it is important to be as talkative and descriptive as possible, especially with younger children. This can be a good time to teach children about color, shapes, textures, measurements, temperature and over all nutrition.  Your kids may surprise you by eating their own creations, even vegetables. Our girls will often try unfamiliar foods when they transform them into personal "creations."  They don't necessarily commit to liking them, but it's a start!

4.  Make it fun. Cooking together should be an enjoyable experience. It should be fun to work together in the kitchen, not stressful! Try to contain your anxiety about crescent dough dangling from the chandelier until after the kids leave the room. 

5.  Involve the kids in the clean up process.  As a parent, you are aware that clean up is a big part of meal preparation.  The kids should be made aware of that too!  Of course you're not going to have toddlers washing dishes but they can help pick things up off of the floor and bring dirty dishes to the counter!  They should know that cooking is a lot of fun, but it is a little bit of work too!

6.  All good cooks wash their hands before touching food!!! Don't forget to educate the kids on the dangers of eating raw foods like eggs and meat or unwashed fruits and vegetables.  Even if you're like me and turn a blind eye when the girls steal a few bites of cookie dough, the raw food discussion is one worth having.

This recipe for ham and cheese croissants is simple and hardly a recipe at all!  We adapted it from our Cook it in a Cup recipe book by Julia Myail. It's  basically the same recipe, minus the cups!  Our croissants didn't fit so well in the cups so we saved ourselves some time in the dish washing department and put them back in the cabinet!

Thank goodness Mike was there to supervise while I shot a few pics of the action!

Riley and Talia were very serious about their work!  

Lola gave up trying to cut her ham into little pieces and decided it would just be easier to eat it. Here she is making her cheese croissant.

She then turned her croissant into a "meatball" and decided to give it a try hoping it would taste like that sugar cookie dough we made a few weeks ago. It didn't.

Talia's hair WAS up at the start of this project....

The girls were beaming with pride as these came out of the oven.   They were so yummy!  

Prep Ahead Plan:  Try preparing these the morning or night before baking them.  Cover them and leave them in the fridge until you are ready to bake them.   

Easy Ham and Cheese Croissants
Makes 16 Croissants

2 packages Crescent Rolls  or click here for a bread machine crescent role recipe
1 cup ham, diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Separate each of the crescent triangles (or role out and cut the dough into 16 triangles).
2.  Sprinkle an equal amount of ham and cheese on the center of each triangle.
3.  Roll up each triangle and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
4.  Bake for 10 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 425 degrees.  Enjoy!!! 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

cheddar ranch potluck chicken

*Getting a picture of the dish immediately after it is prepared, while all or sleeping is often easier than waiting until dinner time the next evening and all the chaos that brings.  It looks really pretty cooked too...I promise.

Eating light sounded like a good idea on January 2nd but we're hungry again over here.  We actually have done a great job of eating super healthy and decided we deserved a little treat this weekend!  I call this potluck chicken because it is a great prep ahead dish to make when serving a house full of people watching football.  It's quick, inexpensive and always a crowd pleaser.

Don't be put off by the ingredient list.  Although it sounds like a strange combination, the flavors marry quite well and are very pleasing to the beer drinking halftime watching palette.  Of course this recipe is perfect for a weeknight dinner too!  Do all the work the night before and leave it in the fridge until you're ready to bake.

Prep Ahead Plan:  Prepare as directed the night before and leave in the fridge until you are ready to bake it!

cheddar ranch potluck chicken


  • cooking spray or butter to grease pan
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki basting sauce (I use Kikoman teriyaki glaze.  It's thicker than a regular teriyaki sauce.)
  • 1/2 cup ranch salad dressing (I use Hidden Valley light ranch)
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 (3 ounce) can bacon bits OR 4-5 pieces of regular fried bacon, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees if baking immediately after preparing.  Coat a 9 X 13 inch pan with cooking spray.
2.  Coat both sides of each piece of chicken with the teriyaki glaze.  Top the chicken with the ranch dressing, cheddar cheese and bacon.  
3.  Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cookies for lunch? Sure! Why not?

My oldest daughter, Riley, is 6 and started attending a full day of first grade in September.  Everyday, I pack a lunch box full of healthy choices and everyday, it comes back exactly the way it looked that morning, unopened and untouched.  I can't really call Riley a picky eater, she is what I call my non-eater. Although she loves fruit and eats tons of it, I worry about what her diet is lacking.  

I decided almost immediately after Riley was born that I would NEVER be a "short order cook."  I make healthy, well balanced meals so my rule is "eat what I make or don't eat."  Gosh that sounds harsh, but imagine the craziness that would ensue as I attempt to make 3 different dinners in order to please 3 different children.  There's not enough time in the day! I try to offer SOMETHING at each meal that I know will be widely accepted and possible even eaten.  I have had numerous discussions with our pediatrician about WHAT I can do to get her to eat, but she insists I am doing everything right by offering healthy options and assures me that, "children are like cougars, they need one good meal a week."  Riley is happy, healthy, energetic and growing like a weed!  I know this is all that matters yet I still can't stifle my concerns.

I find myself referring to nutrition websites and reading the recommended servings in each of the five categories of the food pyramid.  Kids need protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals to give them energy and BRAIN POWER!  A child can not survive on cheez-its and a Stonyfield Farms yogurt smoothie alone,  right?

When she was home with me, I was a little more comfortable with her picky, non-eating habits.  If she didn't eat breakfast I knew I could give her a filling morning snack and if her lunch was untouched, her afternoon snack would be something more than an apple with cinnamon.  Children are cranky enough during the late afternoon hours, no need to throw hypoglycemic shock into the mix.  Now, she catches the bus at 8:40am and doesn't return until almost 4:00 in the afternoon.  That long day requires more substance than those crackers and yogurt can give you!

Aside from those highly coveted Cheez-its, I find myself not including any cookies and/or treats in her lunch box because I don't want that to be all she eats for lunch.  This conundrum inspired me to experiment with cookie recipes that would include 3 out of the 5 food groups and only use natural sweeteners resulting in a healthy, filling "cookie."  The girls loved this recipe! Each cookie offers fruit, whole grains and healthy olive oil.  Success!!!

Healthy, Whole Grain Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Dry ingredients
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups oats (I used Bob's Red Mill which offers 7 grams of protein per each 1/2 cup serving)
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T cinnamon 
  • 1/2 t nutmeg 

  • Wet ingredients
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup applesauce (I used unsweetened with cinnamon)
  • 1 T molasses
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2/3 cup raisins 
    1. In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together.
    2. In a medium bowl, mix all of the wet ingredients together. 
    3. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry. Stir to combine.
    4. Add in the raisins.
    5. Preheat the oven to 335 degrees.
    6. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet.
    7. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden on the bottom of the cookie.
    Makes about 25 cookies

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    slow cooker chicken cacciatore

    I have purchased more butter and flour over the course of the past month than I care to discuss.  We really need to lighten things up this week!  Here is an easy recipe to toss in your slow cooker before you go to bed or head out the door in the morning.  You can serve it over pasta but I think it's filling enough to serve alone, alongside a tossed salad.

    Prep Ahead Plan:  Option 1:  If you're making this on the weekend or you are going to be home, place all ingredients in the slow cooker either the night before or in the morning.  Cook on low for 3 hours.  OR  Option 2:  Place all ingredients in the slow cooker when you are ready to cook it, including FROZEN chicken breast rather than defrosted.  Cook on low for 8 hours.

    slow cooker chicken cacciatore

    1 16 oz jar of tomato sauce or 2 cups homemade sauce ( I use San Marzano Marinara)
    1 onion, chopped
    1 green pepper, chopped
    3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
    6 ounces fresh mushrooms
    6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    6 torn basil leaves
    salt and pepper
    a sprinkling of crushed red pepper (optional)
    2 T dry white wine (optional)

    1.  Pour half of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker.  Layer remaining ingredients in the slow cooker ending with the sauce.  Cook on LOW for 3 hours.
    2.  Serve alone or over pasta with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.