Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Chicken and Black Bean Tacos

I almost considered putting "messy" somewhere in the title of this recipe but was a little worried it would scare people away from trying it. ;) They are messy but man are they worth it! These little tacos are deceptively simple and surprisingly delicious. I had tried experimenting with something else and when that didn't really work, I modified it for this recipe instead. So yummy!

Just a note: for this recipe, I used canned Parmesan cheese. Normally I believe in using only freshly grated Parmesan cheese. While that would work for this recipe, there is something about the canned variety that gives it a nice flavor.

Chicken and Black Bean Tacos
Recipe from Cucina di Harwood

2-3 chicken breasts
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes {the sweet onion variety is really yummy!}
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Canned Parmesan cheese
Shredded cheese
Shredded lettuce
Corn tortillas

Cook your chicken breasts, using the skillet method, in 2-3 cloves garlic. When cooked through, shred. Add the beans, tomatoes, cumin and Worcestershire sauce; cook for 5 minutes, uncovered. When ready to serve, sprinkle with canned, grated Parmesan cheese, per your preference. Serve on warmed corn tortillas with shredded cheese and lettuce. Fold in half and eat up!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How To: Cook Chicken

A lot of people out there aren't going to need to read this post. If you are one of the people in this world who already has a killer chicken cooking method, please just look through the archives for some other deliciousness or come back tomorrow because I do have a yummy recipe for you then.

Cooking chicken is really a simple thing. However, I have known a lot of people {including myself} who get a little scared with cooking chicken. It is one of those things that you definitely want to be cooked through and in an effort to be sure it's entirely done, it often becomes dry and over-cooked. So I'll share here three methods for cooking chicken that always work for me. Please note that these chicken cooking methods are meant for when you need precooked chicken for a recipe {like the one I'll share tomorrow}. 

The Skillet Method {my personal favorite}:
This is my favorite method because it's fast, it works for me every single time, and it makes the most delicious, moist chicken. Yum! I love it. 
Choose as many chicken breasts {or thighs} as you'll need and that will fit in the skillet you will use. If you use frozen chicken, be sure it is thawed before beginning this method.

You'll need:
1 Tbsp oil
1 garlic clove for every chicken breast you are cooking, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Lid to fit said skillet

Pour your oil into the pan and let it get hot {have your temperature set to about medium-low}. If you're not sure the oil is hot, add a small bit of garlic. If it begins to sizzle, the oil is hot. If it just sits there, it needs to be heated a little more. Add the garlic and allow it to sizzle and cook for a few moments - just be careful not to let it burn. Add the chicken and cook it for exactly two minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook the other side for exactly two minutes. {I'm not lying here, people - this works! Exactly two minutes.} At this point, add the salt and pepper to your preference. Now put a lid on that chicken, turn on a timer for  6-8 minutes {the length of time will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken. A thicker breast usually takes closer to 8 minutes. I've also had rather thin fillets finish cooking in 5 minutes, though it has to be pretty thin.} and allow it to cook - no peeking until your timer goes off! When the timer goes off, you can check your chicken to see if it needs more time {I usually just slice open the thickest part of the meat - I'll just be cutting or shredding it anyway so I don't mind if it has a slice through it}. If the juices run clear - as in, they aren't pink at all - your chicken is done. If there is still a little pinkness to the meat or juice, cook it for another minute or two. Voila! Quick, delicious chicken.

Crock Pot Method:
What you'll need:
Chicken broth or stock
Seasonings to fit your preference

Place the chicken into your crock pot. Pour chicken broth over the top. It doesn't have to be completely covered in broth but it will need to cover a fair amount of it. Season according to your preference. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the chicken is cooked through.

Boiling Method:
I like this method when I need something a little faster than the crock pot method and I still want to cook a lot of chicken {usually with less effort than the skillet method}. 
What you'll need:
Chicken Bouillon
Seasonings to fit your preference

Place the chicken in a large stock pot. Add water until the chicken is covered. Add chicken bouillon according to the measurements on the package. {You could also just use chicken broth or stock or plain water. I like the flavor from the broth or bouillon better than just water.} Add the seasonings according to your preference. Heat the water to medium-high and boil slowly for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Note: my brother-in-law uses the boiling method when he wants to have barbeque grilled chicken. He gets the chicken cooked up by boiling it and then marinates it in barbeque sauce in the refrigerator, often overnight. Then he puts it on the grill and lets it heat up and get some of the grilled flavor. It's so much faster than barbequing raw chicken and you don't have to worry about whether or not it's cooked. And it still tastes really good!

For each of these methods, you can easily cook the chicken up, shred it and place it in the freezer for quick meals.

I hope these methods are helpful for someone. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Monday, February 6, 2012

7Up Biscuits

When I want a fast, yummy bread-like side for a meal, I make these biscuits. They are so light and airy, a perfect combo with just about any meal. I love how yummy and versatile it is. You could leave out the Italian seasoning for some plain, fluffy biscuits. You could also sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar for a sweeter version. Oh, so good!

7Up Biscuits
Recipe from Your Homebased Mom
Yield: 9-10 good sized biscuits
Takes: 10 -15 minutes, plus baking time

2 C Bisquick
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C 7-up
1/4 C melted butter
Italian Seasoning

Add sour cream into Bisquick and mix together; add 7 Up.  The dough will be very soft. Sprinkle additional Bisquick onto the counter and pour dough onto it. Gently knead a little additional Bisquick into the dough and then pat the dough out to desired thickness (about 1 inch)  Use the bottom of a glass or a biscuit cutter to cut out biscuits. Place melted butter into 9 x 9 pan.  Dip each biscuit in the butter and then turn over and place into the pan {the dipped part should now be on top so it is topped wit butter as well as sitting in it}. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Bake in a 450 oven until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

I used to think I didn't like Brussels Sprouts. I'm really not a big fan of steamed vegetables. Some people hear that and think I'm nuts. And maybe I am. But I can't help it. I just can't love it. And since that was the only way I had ever been introduced to Brussels sprouts, I didn't think I liked them. However, this recipe is just another example to me of how vegetables can become so tasty if you just prepare them a different way. {I first learned that with asparagus.} We got some Brussels sprouts in our bountiful basket a couple weeks ago and since we really do want to try everything I decided to look up other ways to eat it besides steaming it. And holy moly am I glad I did! I liked these so much, I made them two nights in a row {for those of you who know how much I hate having the same thing two days in a row, you know this is a big deal}. My mouth is watering as I look at all these pictures. I think I need to go make some more.

First, it's a nice, bright green.
Then we'll add some sugar for sweetness.
It begins to add some more golden color.
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
Recipe from Eat, Live, Run!
serves 2-4 as a side-dish

Time: 20 minutes

12-14 large brussels sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Shake of kosher salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup almond slivers, toasted

Slice each Brussels sprout very thin until you have a mound of Brussels sprout ribbons. I also made sure to chop up the center part of the sprout really well. It doesn't create "ribbons" like all the leaves of the sprouts and I didn't want huge chunks. So just chop it up, too. Heat the olive oil over medium high in a large skillet and saute the garlic for 30 seconds. Add the Brussels sprouts and continue sauteing for another 4-5 minutes, until bright green and tender. Add the sea salt and brown sugar and toss together. Finish by adding the toasted nuts.

Don't forget the delicious nuts.
Eat up! So yummy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Strawberry & Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

This is the best stuffed French toast I've ever had. I'm rarely a fan because the toast is just soggy and mushy - so not good. But this stuff was good. It was tender inside {without being mushy}, had a nice crunch from baking and the caramel-y crunchy stuff on the bottom? Delicious! We made this for one of our mornings watching General Conference last October. It may just become a conference tradition.

Strawberry & Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
Recipe from Jamie Cooks It Up!
Time: 20 minutes prep + overnight refrigeration then 60-90 minutes baking
Yield: 10 servings

1 loaf french bread
1/2 C melted butter
3/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C corn syrup

8  oz cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 C sugar
1/2 C strawberry jam

8 eggs
1 C milk

Fresh Strawberries
Powdered sugar
1. Combine the butter, brown sugar and corn syrup.
2. Slice up your bread. You want the pieces to be about 1/2 inch thick.
3. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Pour the butter/brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the pan.
4. Smooth it all out, so it covers the bottom entirely.
5. Lay your slices of bread on top of the buttery brown sugar. I had to cut some of my slices in half, still turned out great! You can have them touch each other, just not overlap.
6. In a separate bowl combine the cream cheese, egg, sugar and strawberry jam. Beat with hand held beaters (or in your stand mixer) until nice and smooth. Pour it right over the top of the bread.
7. Layer more bread over the top of the cream cheese filling.
8. In another bowl (ok, this takes a lot of bowls!) combine the 8 eggs and 1 C of milk. Whisk them around until well combined. Pour over the top of the bread.
9. Sprinkle the top of the bread with some cinnamon.
10. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
11. Bake in the morning at 350. Depending on how quickly your oven cooks, and how cold you keep your fridge you will need to bake it for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. It needs to soak up all of the egg and milk juice, and have time to caramelize along the bottom. Take the foil off for the last 15 minutes of cooking.
12. Serve with fresh strawberries and powdered sugar. You can also use frozen strawberries. This is the middle of the winter after all! Just be sure they have had a chance to thaw.


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