Author Archives: elyse

Quinoa Pudding: How A Super Food Makes A Super Dessert

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Our new foodie hobby is eating at diners. In all seriousness, is there anything that rivals a food joint that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and homemade desserts all day long? Diners are the Baskin Robbins of restaurants—there is an option and flavor for every type of eater.

A few weeks ago, while eating at one of our regular diners, the one I cook for ordered homemade rice pudding. It was absolutely divine. I knew recreating this sweet, old-fashioned dessert was inevitable, yet I wanted to experiment with the traditional form and make my rice pudding as healthy as possible. With a full pack of quinoa in my pantry, I figured why not incorporate this super food in place of the rice? The rest of the ingredients are fairly standard—milk, sugar, vanilla—and difficult to substitute with healthier alternatives without completely changing the overall taste and feel of the pudding.

So how does the quinoa pudding rival that of rice pudding? While the quinoa pudding may not taste exactly like rice pudding, it still tastes incredibly delicious—almost comparable to a dessert oatmeal, especially with the hints of cinnamon. Another plus about this dessert is that it has a versatile taste, meaning you can decorate it with almost any kind of topping(s) you can think of, however, the pudding is still very tasty and satisfying on its own. By far, the best part about my quinoa pudding is its health benefits. When you break the pudding down, it’s really not all that bad for you, making this dessert a new regular in my kitchen. I think it’s important to note that the quinoa pudding could also make a great breakfast alternative that is off the regular beaten path of standard oatmeals and cereals.

Quinoa Pudding

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Ingredients:

-1 cup of quinoa

-1 cup + 1 tbsp sugar, divided

-1.5 cups of 2% milk

-1/2 cup of fat-free half and half

-1 tsp of cinnamon (optional)

-1 tsp of vanilla extract

-1/2 tsp of salt

Topping Suggestions:

-Pistachios and dried cranberries

-Banana and honey

-Brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg

Directions:

-First, you need to soak the quinoa. In a large bowl, combine one cup of quinoa, four cups of water, and 1 tbsp of sugar.  Let the quinoa soak for about a half hour, but make sure you stir the contents periodically. This is an important step because you want to try to eliminate the earthy smell and taste of the quinoa. With a spoon, remove any of the floating pieces of quinoa.

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-In a medium to large pot, combine one cup of sugar, milk, half and half, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and the salt. Bring to a boil, but DO NOT turn the burner above the medium setting of heat. Burnt milk does not a good pudding make. Stir occasionally until the contents come to a boil.

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-Once the milk mixture comes to a boil, add in the quinoa. Let the contents come to a boil.

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-Once the quinoa mixture has come to a boil, lower the heat to low and let the contents simmer for approximately 30 minutes (or until the contents resemble that of pudding), stirring occasionally.

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-The quinoa pudding can be served both cold and warm. I topped the pudding with some of our favorite toppings, but the quinoa pudding is also very tasty on its own.

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-Last and most certainly not least, enjoy without guilt!

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Four Different Recipes Using Chipotle’s Copycat Barbacoa

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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I am about to prove how much I adore Chipotle. When we lived in Charlotte, we ate Chipotle at least once a week, sometimes two, and we never tired of it. We now find ourselves in a region where the closest Chipotle restaurant is over an hour away. Insert extremely sad emoticon. When the Chipotle withdrawal symptoms became too much to bear, I decided it was time to take on the copycat Chipotle barbacoa recipe that I’ve seen all over the internet. Thankfully for us, the outcome exceeded our expectations and we may end up surviving this Chipotle drought of ours.

This particular copycat recipe makes quite a bit of meat and we are just two people. I’m not one to throw food away, so we put the leftover barbacoa to good use. We first used the barbacoa in a Chipotle style rice bowl and it was incredible. Next, we made barbacoa tacos that were absolutely divine. At the idea of the one I cook for, we concocted barbacoa sliders, which were quite the success. And lastly, we used what was left of the barbacoa and made delectable quesadillas.

The barbacoa itself is the closest thing I’ve ever tasted to Chipotle’s version—in other words, it’s absolutely delicious. The meat can be easily utilized in many different recipes (not just the ones previously mentioned), and there is something extremely satisfying knowing that you can use the leftover meat time and time again (literally).

(Note, this is not a plug for Chipotle.)

Ingredients – Chipotle’s Copycat Barbacoa (Adapted from http://www.food.com/recipe/chipotles-barbacoa-copycat-recipe-472445):

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-4 teaspoons garlic, minced

-4 teaspoons cumin

-2 teaspoons oregano

-1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

-1 teaspoon salt

-1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

-2 tablespoons sesame oil (you can also use extra virgin olive oil or canola oil)

-1 cup chicken broth

-3 bay leaves

-3 tablespoons lime juice

-3 -4 chipotle adobo chiles

– Between 4 -5 lbs chuck roast

Directions – Barbacoa

-To create the adobo sauce, combine vinegar, lime juice, chipotles, garlic, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt and cloves in a food processor/blender and mix until the contents are very smooth and blended. Set aside.

-Cut the fat from the roast and then cut the roast into equal pieces – about five pieces.

-Sear both sides of the pieces of roast on medium to high heat in your choice of oil. Sear until the roast browns.

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-Put the meat in the slow cooker and then pour the adobo sauce as evenly as possible over the pieces of beef.

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-Pour in the chicken broth and add the bay leaves.

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-Cook on the low level for at least 8 hours (in all honesty, the slower the cook time and the lower the heat level, the better the outcome).

-Once the cooking time has elapsed, shred the meat in the slow cooker with two forks. Keep on warm until you are ready to serve the barbacoa.

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Ingredients – Barbacoa Rice Bowls:

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-Your desired amount of barbacoa for your rice bowl – about a half cup or so.

-1 bag of dry black beans (this makes a decent amount, so adjust the ingredients if need be). If you prefer, you can use two cans of black beans, but they won’t taste the same.

-Approximately 5 cups of water (for the beans)

-3 cloves of garlic, minced (for the beans)

-1 small white onion, chopped (for the beans)

-Approximately 1 tbsp of fresh cilantro (for the beans)

-2 to 3 bay leaves (for the beans)

-2 tsp salt (for the beans)

-1 1/3 cups of rice (brown or white)

-2 tsp butter (for the rice)

-1 tsp sugar (for the rice)

-1 tsp salt (for the rice)

-1 tbsp cilantro (for the rice)

-1 tbsp + and extra squeeze fresh lemon juice (for the rice)

-Enough water to cover the rice

-1 medium red onion, sliced (for fajita vegetables)

-1 green pepper (for the fajita vegetables)

-1 tbsp sesame oil (for the fajita vegetables)

-Approximately 1 tbsp fajita spice mix (for the fajita vegetables)

-Approximately ½ cup water (for the fajita vegetables)

-Approximately 2 cups of cooked corn

-1 to 2 tbsp fresh cilantro (for the corn)

-Salt and pepper to taste (for the corn)

-A couple dollops of guacamole (if desired)

-A couple dollops of salsa (if desired)

-A dollop of sour cream, (if desired)

Directions – Barbacoa Rice Bowls:

-Rinse the beans. Place the beans, cilantro, garlic, onions, and s+p in a large pot. Cover with the five cups of water and bring the contents to a boil. Once the contents come to a boil, add in the three bay leaves. Cook on low to medium—there should be a constant low boil—for about an hour. Make sure to stir occasionally. Since the beans are going to absorb some of the water, you may need to add extra water to the pot. You will be able to tell because you want the beans to be covered with the water, even when they are fully cooked. The beans are ready when they are soft to the bite. DO NOT forget to take out the bay leaves once the beans are finished cooking. If you’re using canned beans, add all the ingredients associated with the beans (only a few cups of water though), and cook the contents on medium for about 20 minutes.

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-While the black beans come to a boil, combine the rice, butter, sugar, salt, cilantro, and limejuice in a pot or rice maker. Cover the rice with water—enough that the rice is fully submerged—and cook in the rice cooker or on the stovetop until the rice is tender.

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-While the beans and rice cook, it’s time to cook the pepper and onion. On medium heat cook the pepper in the oil for about two minutes. Stir in the onions and cook for an additional minute. Add the fajita spice and stir until the ingredients are well incorporated. Next, pour in the water and mix well. Cook the onion and pepper for about 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are at your level of tenderness.

-Next, take the cooked corn (I just used a bag of frozen corn that steams in the microwave) and put in a medium sized bowl. Mix in the s+p and cilantro and stir until the ingredients are well incorporated.

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-Once all the ingredients are ready, it’s time to assemble your rice bowl. There is no wrong way to do this. Lastly, enjoy!

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Ingredients – Barbacoa Tacos:

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-About ¼ cup of barbacoa per taco.

-Flour tortillas

-1/4 of a red onion

-Your desired kind of shredded cheese

-Salsa

-Guacamole

-Sour cream

-Shredded lettuce (optional)

-Fresh cilantro (optional)

Directions – Barbacoa Tacos:

*Note that there is no wrong way to outfit and eat a taco, so just consider this an optional template.

-Zap your tortilla in the microwave for a few seconds.

-Pile on the barbacoa – about ¼ cup meet per taco.

-Add on your toppings in your desired order.

-Top with some freshly chopped cilantro.

-Most importantly, enjoy!

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Ingredients – Barbacoa Sliders:

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-Barbacoa – about ¼ cup per slider

-Slider rolls

-Shredded cheddar cheese – about 1/8 -1/2 cup of cheese per slider

-Guacamole (optional)

Directions – Barbacoa Sliders:

*As with the tacos, there is no wrong way to dress your barbacoa slider.

-Spread the guacamole (or sour cream, etc.) on the top of the roll.

-Sprinkle half of the cheese onto the bottom of the roll.

-Scoop the barbacoa onto the roll.

-Top the barbacoa with some more of the cheese.

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-Enjoy!

Ingredients – Barbacoa Quesadilla:

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-2 flour tortillas

-1/4 cup to ½ cup of the barbacoa meat (per quesadilla)

-1/2 to 1/3 cup of cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you prefer)

-Butter or oil for the pan

Directions – Barbacoa Quesadilla:

-Coat the bottom of a pan large enough for the tortilla with butter or oil.

-Place the pan on a burner on medium heat.

-Place the tortilla on the pan and add half of the cheese as evenly as possible.

-Spread the barbacoa over the cheese.

-Top the barbacoa with the remaining cheese, place the second tortilla over the meat and cheese and cook – about 3 minutes each side. I always use a plate and press down lightly on the quesadilla while it cooks.

-Let the quesadilla cool before cutting it.

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-Enjoy!

Quick and Easy French Dip Sandwiches

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Some say that the best invention known to man was the wheel, or more recently, modern medicine. While I don’t necessarily contest their importance, I feel that the sandwich should be added to the illustrious list of human accomplishments. In all seriousness, imagine your life if the sandwich had never come to fruition. What would people eat for lunch? Would there even be lunch? Would children survive without their PB&J? Don’t even get me started with the breakfast sandwich. I find the prospect of a sandwichless world very, very depressing.

I won’t bore you with a long history lesson on the etymology of the sandwich, however, I think it’s important to note that the sandwich was named after John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich. Why is this important? Well, around the 1700s, Mr. Sandwich requested his meat in between two pieces of bread because of how convenient it was—he was a regular gambler and eating a ‘sandwich’ at the gambling tables was much more conducive to his time consuming hobby than eating a formal, sit-down dinner in another part of his manor. So from day one, the sandwich has been attached to convenience.

Now let’s get to the meat of it. Dinner sometimes just seems like another chore. On nights where a long cooking session is out of the question, we like to fall back on the sandwich, in thanks to its versatility and convenience. When I crossed paths with a few quick and easy French dip sandwich recipes, I knew our next sandwich night would have to consist of tasty roast beef on a cheesy, toasted hoagie/sub roll with delectable au jus on the side. The French dip sandwiches were such a success that we have been making them weekly for the past two months. The beef and cheese combination is extremely tasty and there is nothing like dipping the sandwich into the mouth-watering au jus. Just add a salad or vegetable as a side to the French dip sandwiches, and you have yourself a quick, easy, and delicious dinner.

French Dip Sandwiches

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Ingredients (makes two sandwiches):

-1 standard can (about 2 cups) of French onion soup

-1.5 cups of beef broth

-Approximately 1 pound of medium cut roast beef (half pound per sandwich)

-2 six-inch hoagie/sub rolls

-Your choice of cheese – enough to put on both sandwiches (I used two pieces of sliced provolone)

Directions:

-Take the roast beef out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature while you’re preparing the au jus.

-Preheat your oven to a high broil (for toasting the bread and cheese).

-In a medium sized pot, combine the French onion soup and the beef broth and bring to a boil, uncovered.

-Keep the mixture at a rolling boil for about ten minutes.

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-During this time, place your preferred choice of cheese on the hoagie/sub rolls and bake until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. You want to time this right so the roast beef ends up on warm and toasted bread. It’s not the end of the world if you need to pop the bread/cheese back in the oven to ensure a toasted sandwich.

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-After the ten minutes has elapsed, turn the burner down to medium-low until the contents have stopped boiling (this is important because you don’t want to put the beef in when the au jus is too hot or else it will toughen the meat).

-Once the au jus stops boiling, take the meat for sandwich and dunk it in the pot for about thirty seconds—you really don’t need the beef to cook in the au jus for that long. With tongs, take the beef out and place it on your toasted bun with cheese. Make sure to grab some of the onions from the French onion soup mixture.

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-Repeat the last step for the second sandwich.

-Carefully ladle out the au jus into a small bowl – I used about 1/3 of a cup of au jus per sandwich – and serve on the side with the sandwich.

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-Lastly, Enjoy!

I Heart Raspberry Pie

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They say Valentine’s Day is a day of romance, but please, we all know this love fest of a holiday is all about the sweet treats and chocolate—at least it is to me. Since everyone and their mother elects to go out to dinner on February 14th, I’ve found that staying in and avoiding the crowds results in a much more enjoyable and relaxed Valentine’s Day. Consequently, Valentine’s Day has become our little excuse to eat our favorite foods for dinner, enjoy a nice cocktail, and indulge in an obligatory Valentine’s Day themed dessert—or just loads of chocolate (or both).

Due to the fact that I’m in mid-move and my kitchen is packed up into twelve different boxes, my cooking and baking has been relegated from detail and order to haphazard and low maintenance. With this in mind, I decided to make this Valentine’s Day dessert an easy one, but tasteful nonetheless.

I was lucky enough to find my pie dishes before the rest of my bake ware, which made the decision easy: a pie with a red berry filling. Since we aren’t in peak season for berries, I opted for a raspberry pie using frozen raspberries. I’ve always been impressed with the way frozen berries bake and they are extremely convenient—especially in the off-season.

A raspberry/red pie doesn’t necessarily scream “Happy Valentine’s Day,” however, a raspberry/red pie with mini heart pieces of dough serving as a top piecrust does. I used a standard piecrust and cut out mini heart shaped pieces and systematically placed them on top of the raspberry filling. Don’t have a cookie cutter? Me neither, so I entrusted my DIY skills to make one out of the end of a paper towel role. Yes, you read that right, and my paper towel heart shaped cookie cutter exceeded even my expectations.

The hearts served as a perfect pie topping and made the pie more attuned with the whole Valentine’s Day theme. Not only was my heart pie pleasing to the eyes, it tasted incredible with its perfect combination of sweetness and that hint of tart from the berries. It was an extremely easy dessert to prepare, making the experience all the more sweet.

Wishing you all have a Valentine’s Day filled with love and food!

Raspberry Pie

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Ingredients + Materials:

-Smaller sized heart shaped cookie cutter (I used the end of a paper towel roll that I shaped into a heart. Wrap the edges in tin foil if you think it to be more sanitary).

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-Parchment paper

-2 9-inch piecrusts

-Approximately 5 cups of raspberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, I suggest letting the berries thaw for about an hour prior to baking time)

-1 1/4 cups of sugar plus another tbsp of sugar

-1.5 tbsp lemon juice

-2 tbsp of half and half (I used fat-free)

-1 tbsp of butter, cut into thin slices

-2 tbsp of corn starch

Directions:

-Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

-If your berries are frozen, take them out of the freezer and pour them into a colander. Leave the berries in the colander for about an hour—just enough time that some of the excess water is released.

-Pour the raspberries into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the one and a quarter cup of sugar, the lemon juice, half and half, butter, and corn starch. Mix well with a spatula until all the ingredients are well incorporated.

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-Roll one of the piecrusts onto the pie dish. Cut off any of the extra dough from the crust, if needed.

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-Place a large piece of parchment paper onto a flat surface and roll the second piecrust over the parchment paper.

-With your cookie cutter (or mock cookie cutter, in my instance), cut out your heart shapes. Make sure you don’t leave too much room in between each heart, or else you may have to roll out the dough for your last few hearts. I used 26 hearts, but depending on how you place them on the pie, you may need a few more or a few less.

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-Pour the raspberry filling onto the piecrust/pie dish.

-Place the hearts with the top of the heart touching the edge of the pie. Proceed to lay down the hearts all along the perimeter of the pie. If you need to move some of the hearts, just make sure you’re careful—you don’t want to drown the heart.

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-Once the outer border of hearts is complete, it’s time for the second set of hearts. You won’t be able to line them up perfectly with the border, so just try and make a second circle. You want to leave a little bit of space in between each heart.

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-Once the second set of hearts is finished, it’s time to complete the center. I only had room for three hearts, so I placed them in the shape of a three-leaf clover.  Note that there is no wrong way to decorate the top of your pie.

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-Take the extra tbsp of sugar and lightly sprinkle over the top of the pie as evenly as possible.

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-Bake your pie at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

-Lower the temperature to 350 and bake for additional 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust starts to brown.

-Let the pie cool for about an hour before serving (you can serve it sooner, the pie just may be a bit runny). To ensure your pie is perfectly set, let it sit out for a few hours before enjoying.

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White Bean and Chicken Chili

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Preface: Chili always tastes better than it appears (in both its white and red forms).

I have never agreed with the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It would be a very tedious and bland world if everyone followed the rules and never thought outside the box—particularly in the foodie world. If it weren’t for adventurous chefs/cooks/famers, we would all be stuck eating the paleo diet (no offense to those who actually choose the paleo diet—but thanks, Monsanto, for slowly killing us with your delicious, genetically modified food!).

Confession: up until a few days ago, I’ve only ever known and enjoyed chili in its beef/tomato form. It’s always been one of those standard dishes I never switched up because I didn’t know there was an equally tasty option out there.  After spending the last couple of weeks with my father—the king of fixing (or improving) unbroken food—I figured why not mix up our chili routine and go with a slow cooker white bean and chicken chili? It has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in the kitchen.

Almost every white bean chili recipe I referenced appeared to look more like a soup than an actual chili, even after these recipes mentioned blending a decent amount of the cooked beans. To really thicken the white bean chili, I decided to incorporate cauliflower into the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients, but blend it with a bit of the beans after the chili cooked to create a thicker, more realistic looking/tasting chili. Cauliflower is one of those foods that is very easy to manipulate the taste and consistency—I find it’s one of the most efficient natural thickening agents and it proved itself useful in my white chili.

My slow cooker white bean chicken chili turned out amazing! There were nuances of traditional chili with the spices and thick consistency, yet the dish took on its own chili form in the most delicious and spicy of ways. Even though there was pulled chicken and vegetables like cauliflower (blended) and zucchini, if you closed your eyes and took a bite, you would think you were eating traditional chili. After taking his first bite of the white bean chicken chili, the one I cook for responded with a simple, “Wow! You should blog about this.”

Ingredients:

-2 large chicken breasts

-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

-2 small white onions (or 1 large), finely chopped

-2 green peppers, chopped

-5 small tomatillos, finely chopped

-1 tbsp canola oil

-1 small to medium cauliflower head, cut into decently sized pieces and stalks chopped off (you’re going to blend the cauliflower, so leave the pieces large enough that they are easy to see/scoop out of the slow cooker)

-1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced

-1 large jalapeño, chopped. I used half of the seeds from the jalapeño, so just remember the more seeds you add to the slow cooker, the hotter the chili.

-1 can of green chilies

-1 standard pack of frozen corn

-1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro

-1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

-2 cans of garbanzo/chick peas, drained and rinsed

-1/4 cup of light sour cream

-1/3 cup of fat-free half and half

-1 pack of chili spice (I used hot, but if you don’t like the spice, adjust the heat accordingly)

-1 white chicken chili spice pack (I used Mccormick’s)

-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional—I enjoy the extra kick)

-Dash of red pepper flakes (optional)

-Approximately 4 cups of low sodium chicken broth (enough that the contents are almost covered with the broth)

-2 tbsp cornstarch

-Salt to taste

Directions:

-In a saucepan, sauté the garlic and onions in salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and about 1 tbsp of canola oil.

-Stir in the green peppers and the tomatillos.

-Sprinkle about 1 tbsp of the chili spice and about a half of tbsp of the white chicken spice over the cooking ingredients. Stir well and cook for about five minutes on medium to high heat.

-While the peppers and onions etc. cook, lightly sprinkle each side of the chicken breasts with both the regular chili spice and the white chicken spice. The chicken should be covered as much as possible. The picture below is what my chicken looked liked with the rub/spices. You should have plenty of both spices left over.

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-Place the chicken breasts on the bottom of the slow cooker.

-Add in the beans, zucchini, can of green chilies, jalapeño, cauliflower, corn, and cilantro.

-Pour in the cooked garlic, onions, peppers, and tomatillos.

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-Sprinkle the remainder of both spice packs over the ingredients.

-Pour the chicken broth over the contents and stir well.

-Stir in the half and half and sour cream and mix well.

-Add in the cornstarch and stir well.

-Cover the slow cooker and set on your desired cooking setting. I cooked this batch of chili on the high, 4-hour setting.

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-Once the cooking time has elapsed, remove and shred the chicken (I always shred my chicken with two forks—I’ve found this is the easiest method). Lightly sprinkle the chicken with salt and set aside.

-Remove as much of the cauliflower as possible and place the pieces into a blender. It’s completely fine if you have some of the other ingredients.

-Remove about a cup worth of beans from the slow cooker and add them to the blender. Sprinkle in a few shakes of salt.

-Blend until the contents are smooth. If you feel you need to, add in a little bit of chicken broth to help the ingredients blend more efficiently.

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-Add the shredded chicken and the blended ingredients back into the slow cooker.

-Let the chili cook on low for about 20 minutes. Serve warm, but let the chili cool a bit before eating. Enjoy!

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A Perfect Holiday Cookie Part Two: Double Chocolate Chip Cookies With Pistachios and Cranberries

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If I had an alias, it would be the Cookie Monster. I never tire of experimenting with cookie dough, especially around the holidays. I’ve baked a few holiday friendly cookies over the past couple of months, but I believe I saved the best for last with my double chocolate chip cookies with pistachios and cranberries.

These cookies have nuances of the classic chocolate chip cookie, however, the taste of the cranberry and pistachio puts these baked goodies in a world of their own. The salty trace of the pistachio counters nicely with the tart cranberry and smooth white and semi-sweet chocolate.  The cookie dough is chewy, yet the pistachios provide the perfect amount of crunch, while the double chocolate leaves you wondering what kind of flavors will burst in your mouth with each coming bite.

Lastly, and certainly not least, the double chocolate chip pistachio cranberry cookies (now that’s what I call a tongue twister) are a perfect Christmas dessert/cookie. I’ve always found it very difficult to incorporate green colored ingredients into baked goods that are natural and not loaded with unnecessary dyes and sugars. The pistachio provides a unique green that contrasts beautifully with the dark red from the cranberry and the stark white from the chocolate—it’s a look that’s off the regular beaten Christmas path, and it’s a taste that is truly distinctive and delicious.

PS: These cookies are perfect to leave out for Santa…He told me so himself.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies With Pistachios and Cranberries

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Ingredients:

-2 sticks of butter, room temperature

-2 eggs, room temperature

-1 cup brown sugar

-1/2 cup granulated sugar

-1 tsp vanilla extract

-2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

-1 tsp salt

-1 tsp baking soda

-1/2 cup white chocolate chips

-1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

-1 cup cranberries

-1 cup pistachios, chopped

Directions:

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. If desired, line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

-In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix well and set aside.

-With either a hand mixer or a standing mixer, combine the butter and sugars until well blended and creamy.

-Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix until creamy.

-Slowly pour in the flour (not all at once, but gradually) and mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated

-Pour in the white and semi-sweet chocolate chips and mix well.

-Add in the cranberries and the pistachios and mix until all the ingredients are well incorporated. The picture below is what my finished dough looked like.

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-Measure out about a tablespoon and a half worth of dough and place on the baking sheet.

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-Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 12 minutes (times will vary depending on oven). If you make the cookies smaller or larger, adjust the cooking time accordingly.

-Once the cooking time has elapsed, take the cookies out of the oven to cool. I slam my baking tray down to the let the cookies settle a bit. Sounds crazy, I know, but I like the look and taste of a flatter/denser cookie.

-Let cool for a couple of minutes and then enjoy!

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Gingerbread Cookie Cupcake Bites

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Have you ever had a fantastic gingerbread cookie? Yeah, me neither. Albeit messy, gingerbread is one of those rare foods that children are actually permitted to play with. Thus, in general, I feel that gingerbread desserts have been relegated to edible Christmas legos that make little kids happy as they build gingerbread houses and decorate them with loads of candy and frosting, however, rarely do they end up eating the actual gingerbread. But no worries—I found a way where us adults (and kids) can have a delicious gingerbread “cookie” and eat it too…

So, what happens when you take homemade gingerbread cookie dough and combine it with the idea of an inverted cupcake? You get heaven in the form of dessert and pure delight for your taste buds. I’m just going to go with my instincts here and call these sweet treats my gingerbread cream cheese frosting cupcake cookie bites (say that three times fast).

These little gingerbread cupcake cookies are a perfect holiday dessert for many reasons. For starters, they’re very easy to make. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making the dough from scratch like me, I suggest using Pillsbury Gingerbread Cookie Dough—it’s a practical and timely alternative. These little cookie cupcakes pack in the mature holiday flavor with spices like ginger, nutmeg, cloves (optional), and cinnamon; yet they aren’t too spicy as the cream cheese frosting—which can be enjoyed with every bite, unlike real cupcakes—offsets the bold taste from the dough with a sweet and creamy touch. In addition, this dessert is very easy to personalize with your preferred holiday colored frosting and sprinkles. I kept mine simple, but never be afraid to think outside the box when baking in the kitchen.

Gingerbread Cream Cheese Frosting Cupcake Cookie Bites

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Ingredients:

-3 cups all-purpose flour

-2 teaspoons ground ginger

-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

-1/8 teaspoon of clove (if desired; this is an optional spice)

-1 teaspoon baking soda

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened at room temperature

-3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

-1/4 cups white sugar

-1/2 cup molasses

-1 egg at room temperature

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-1 regular sized container of whipped cream cheese frosting (or be awesome and make your own)

-Holiday sprinkles of your choosing

*Note: you will need a mini cupcake tin, mini cupcake lining papers, and some type of utensil that can poke a hole through the mini cookie cup cake. I used the end of a corn on the cob holder, but the end of most cooking utensils will work, just be aware that you may have to work with the dough a bit.

Directions:

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

-Line your mini muffin tins with cupcake liners

-In a large bowl, combine the flour, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and baking soda. Mix together with a whisk until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Set aside.

-Either in a standing mixer or with a hand mixer, mix together the butter and sugars until creamy.

-Add to the mixing bowl the egg, vanilla, and molasses and mix until the ingredients are well incorporated and creamy (and be careful with the molasses—it can make a mess).

-Slowly add in the flour a few cups at a time until the mixture resembles dough (the picture below is what my gingerbread cookie dough looked like when ready).

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-With your hands (make sure you wash them prior to this step), measure out about a tablespoon and a half to two tablespoons worth of dough. Roll the dough in between the palms of your hands until a nice little ball forms. Place the ball in the cupcake liner that’s already lining the tin.

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-Continue the previous step until you have filled your trays. I had leftover dough and decided to freeze it for a later time.

-Bake the balls of dough for about 8 minutes. Remember, times vary depending on the oven, so make sure to watch the contents.

-About a minute after you have removed the cup-cookie, insert the utensil you decide to use into the middle of the cookie. This sounds a lot more difficult than it is. You basically want to create an even hole in the middle of the cookie, but make sure not to poke through to the bottom, as you don’t want your icing to fall through.  I find the end of my corn on the cob holders to work best, but I used to use the end of some of my cooking utensils. Don’t be afraid to work and perfect the hole with your fingers.

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-Repeat the last step until each cup-cookie has a hole-like opening in the middle.

-Next, either with a pastry bag or a ziplock bag filled with the icing with a corner cut off, fill the holes of the cup-cookie. You don’t want the frosting hanging over the sides, so be careful.

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-Sprinkle your desired holiday themed sprinkles and voila!

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-Lastly, enjoy!