Category Archives: Dinner Recipes

Four Different Recipes Using Chipotle’s Copycat Barbacoa

photo (18)

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):

IMG_3195

-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.

IMG_3158

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

IMG_3165

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

IMG_3174

-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.

IMG_3195

Ingredients – Barbacoa Rice Bowls:

IMG_3242

-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.

IMG_3199

-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.

IMG_3203 IMG_3204 IMG_3207

-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.

IMG_3214

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

IMG_3215 IMG_3216 IMG_3218 IMG_3220 IMG_3223 IMG_3224 IMG_3225 IMG_3237 IMG_3230

Ingredients – Barbacoa Tacos:

IMG_3331

-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!

IMG_3266 IMG_3270 IMG_3278 IMG_3281 IMG_3285 IMG_3298 IMG_3323 IMG_3325 IMG_3340

Ingredients – Barbacoa Sliders:

IMG_3351

-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.

IMG_3342 IMG_3347 IMG_3348 IMG_3351 IMG_3365 IMG_3372

-Enjoy!

Ingredients – Barbacoa Quesadilla:

IMG_3394

-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.

IMG_3381 IMG_3385 IMG_3388 IMG_3393 IMG_3394 IMG_3404 IMG_3402 IMG_3412

-Enjoy!

Quick and Easy French Dip Sandwiches

IMG_3095

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

IMG_3086 IMG_3093 IMG_3108

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.

IMG_3065

-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.

IMG_3068

-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.

IMG_3071

-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.

IMG_3076 IMG_3079IMG_3093 IMG_3110

-Lastly, Enjoy!

White Bean and Chicken Chili

IMG_2784

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.

IMG_2755

-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.

IMG_2757

-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.

IMG_2759

-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.

IMG_2762 IMG_2765

-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!

IMG_2807 IMG_2790 IMG_2787

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

IMG_2278

There are few things in the food world that go together as perfectly as buffalo chicken and blue cheese. I don’t mean to get deep, but they are soul mates and the definition of opposites attract. The heat from the buffalo chicken combined with the sharp, soft, and cool blue cheese creates a taste so unique and harmonious that there is nothing that can compare. If blue cheese and buffalo chicken were Disney characters, they would certainly live happily ever after.

Ironically, I used to loathe blue cheese—yet thankfully, nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain (and my disapproval for this particular cheese and dressing). As I’ve aged, my taste buds have altered greatly. I used to refuse to eat spicy foods, however, I now find myself obsessed with any kind of cuisine containing heat and spice. I’ve always been the type to push limits, and spicy foods are one of the ways I like to test my own personal parameters. So when I came across a few recipes for slow cooker buffalo chicken sandwiches, I knew I had to make them—and as spicy as possible. I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I definitely live to eat and not the other way around.

The slow cooker buffalo chicken sandwiches were hot and wonderful. I tried to make my sandwich as close to a buffalo chicken wing as possible by loading on crumbled blue cheese, blue cheese dressing, pieces of celery, some red onion, and Bibb lettuce for an extra crunch (and bit of coolness). If you’re not one for extreme spice, you can replace hot buffalo sauce with its milder form. The chicken is extremely lean, but you would have no idea as it’s packed with taste, and it makes me feel less guilty for loading on two different kinds of blue cheese. In addition, these sandwiches are extremely easy to prepare, making the experience that much more enjoyable. Just a bit of advice, eat the sandwiches with a large beverage by your side—don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken and Blue Cheese Sandwiches

IMG_2280

Ingredients:

-3 boneless, 98% fat-free chicken breasts

-2 12 ounce bottles of Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce, or your preferred buffalo sauce (You won’t use both bottles, more like a bottle and half, so keep that in mind. Also, if you want to reduce the spice, use the milder sauce).

-¼ cup to ½ cup chicken broth (enough that the chicken breasts are almost submerged in the sauce and broth)

-2 Tbsp of dry ranch salad dressing packet

-1 Tbsp butter or margarine (if desired)

-Dash of salt

-Sandwich buns of your choice

-A few slices of red onion

-Blue cheese crumbles

-Blue cheese dressing

-1 to 2 celery stalks, chopped

-Bibb lettuce

Directions:

-Place the chicken breasts on the bottom of the slow cooker and sprinkle with a little bit of salt.

-Pour in about one and a quarter bottles worth of the buffalo sauce.

-Pour in the chicken broth (enough that the chicken breasts are completely submerged).

-Sprinkle in the dry ranch dressing and lightly stir the contents.

-Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours.

-Once the contents have cooked, shred the chicken with two forks and place back in the slow cooker with the tbsp of butter/margarine. Mix well.

IMG_2209

-When making your sandwich, make sure to use a slotted spoon so you don’t soak your break.

IMG_2214

-Assemble your sandwich as you see fit. I chose to put the Bibb lettuce down first to act as a barrier for the liquid. I then added a bit more buffalo sauce, the blue cheese crumbles, red onion, and celery on top of the chicken. I spread the blue cheese dressing on the top bun.

IMG_2215 IMG_2222 IMG_2227 IMG_2259

IMG_2286

-Enjoy, but be warned: these sandwiches are spicy, so make sure you have a beverage by your side.

My, Oh My, It’s Pie, Pie, Pie!

IMG_1702

“I don’t like pie,” said no one ever. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but one of the many reasons pie is so awesome is that it comes in many forms, satisfying the palette of even the pickiest of eaters.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a sweet type of pie, however, there are few things in life that can compare to a savory, meaty pie.  My mom’s meat pie recipe was such a success in this house that I just have to share it – but I couldn’t share only one pie recipe…

With fall in full swing (woohoo!), my kitchen has quickly become pie headquarters, where both savory and sweet pie recipes have been baked and enjoyed. Hence, I thought why not dedicate an entire blog post to pie? And don’t let the numbers fool you – three baked pies are greater than 3.14 (please, please, get my math joke).

Since coming into this world, my nickname has been — and will forever be — Pumpkin Pie. You can credit my impressive infant body weight for the name.  If I hear “pumpkin pie” in a public place, I immediately turn around expecting to see some close family member or friend. Despite my hatred for pumpkin pie as a kid (blame the nickname!), my adult pallet can’t get enough of the stuff – especially when there is a streusel/crisp topping involved. Yum. So there is pie number two.

Pie number three is actually somewhat crust-less and is what I call a deep-dish apple pie. Instead of crust, you pour a sweet batter over the apples that are smothered in sugar and cinnamon. It’s like a big snicker doodle cookie with apples in the middle. It’s a quick and easy pie to make that has traditional apple pie flavor, but with a sugary/buttery twist.

And lastly, I figured with all this pie talk, the least I could do was throw in a homemade pie crust recipe. It’s an extremely easy recipe that even the most inexperienced baker can perfect. The dough can be used within 30 minutes (after it’s cooled), or it can be frozen and used at a later time. Just don’t nibble on too much of the dough or you may not have enough for your pie.

Meat Pie/French Canadian Tourtiere

IMG_1363

Ingredients:

*Note that the following recipe makes one 9-inch meat pie, but it’s extremely easy to double the recipe and make two pies (meat pie tastes just as good a few days later – just warm the pie back up in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes).

-2 pie crusts (a homemade pie crust recipe is mentioned below, but just know you can use store bought crusts – I have before and they turn out just as tasty)

-1 lb. of ground meat of your choice (I used a mixture of ground bison and ground beef, but ground pork, turkey, and veal can also be used)

-2 cloves of garlic, minced

-1 small to medium onion, chopped

-1 medium potato, peeled and grated (I grated the potato in a food processor; if you don’t have a food processor, chop the potatoes as finely as possible)

-1/8 tsp clove

-1/8 tsp cinnamon

-1/8 tsp ginger

-1/8 tsp parsley

-1/8 tsp sage

-1/8 tsp + an extra pinch thyme

-4 tbsp milk (for coating the pie crust)

-Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

-Place all the ingredients except the pie crusts and the milk in a large pot. Pour in enough water that the contents are just barely submerged. Adjust your stovetop burner to low to medium heat.

IMG_1291

-Put the pot on the burner, and break up the ground meat and stir the contents.

IMG_1294

-Cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for 30 minutes. Do NOT lift the lid during cooking time. The picture below is what my meat looked like when done.

IMG_1300

-While the meat simmers, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place one of the pie crusts in a pie dish and set aside.

-After the contents have simmered for 30 minutes, strain and RESERVE the liquid. (I strained the meat mixture over a large bowl). Set the liquid aside.

IMG_1303

-Place and spread the meat mixture over the bottom pie crust in the pie dish.

-Pour the liquid over the meat. You want to level the liquid with the top of the ground meat.

IMG_1312

-Cover the pie with the second piecrust.

-Brush the top crust with milk.

-Prick the top crust with a fork for venting (at least five times)

IMG_1331

-Bake on the bottom rack of your oven at 450 degrees for ten minutes.

-After ten minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and cook the pie for another 20 minutes.

-Let the pie sit for a half hour or so prior to serving because you want the meat  and crust to continue absorbing the liquid (If you don’t wait a half hour, your pie will be mushy).

IMG_1417 IMG_1415

Pumpkin Pie Crisp

IMG_1702

Streusel/Crisp Topping Ingredients:

-1/2 cup all-purpose flour

-1/3 cup sugar

-2 tbsp brown sugar

-1/2 tsp cinnamon

-1/2 tsp pumpkin spice

-4 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces.

Streusel/Crisp Topping Directions:

-In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients.

-With a fork or a pastry blender, blend the ingredients until the contents are well incorporated and the butter is evenly distributed. There should be pea-sized sugary, butter balls. You may have a few chunks, but that’s okay.

IMG_1561

-See the pie filling directions for the topping instructions.

Pie Filling Ingredients:

-1 pie crust (if you want to do the braided crust, I recommend the amount equal to two pie crusts)

-3/4 cup granulated sugar

-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

-2 large eggs, beaten

-1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree

-1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk (I used fat free, but the typical recipe uses regular evaporated milk)

Pie Filling Directions:

-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

-Place the piecrust in the pie dish and set aside.

-In a bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves. Set aside.

-In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs.

-In the large bowl with the eggs, stir in the pumpkin puree and sugar and spices mixture until well incorporated.

-Slowly stir in the evaporated milk (If you’re using non-fat evaporated milk, I recommend letting the pie filling set in the refrigerator for a half hour.).

IMG_1560

-Pour the pumpkin mixture into the piecrust.

IMG_1563

-Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

-After the 15 minutes has elapsed, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes (times vary depending on oven).

-Remove the pie and let sit for about five minutes, but keep the oven on!

-Carefully, sprinkle the streusel topping over the pie until you have your desired amount.

IMG_1641

-Put the pumpkin pie crisp back in the oven and cook for another ten to fifteen minutes (again, times will vary. If the pie looks like it’s burning, trust your judgment and take it out).

-Let the pie cool for at least an hour and a half before serving. Enjoy!

IMG_1649 IMG_1663 IMG_1699

Deep Dish Apple Pie

IMG_1714

Ingredients:

-6-8 medium apples, peeled, sliced, and halved

-3.5 tsp cinnamon (this is for the sugar/cinnamon mixture that will sprinkle the apples. If you prefer more cinnamon, go ahead and adjust the spice to your preference)

-1 cup sugar + 4 tbsp sugar to mix with the cinnamon

-1 cup flour

-1.5 sticks of butter (margarine can be substituted), melted

-1 egg

Directions:

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

-Fill a 9 inch pie dish (mine is actually 9.5) with about half of the peeled, sliced apples. You can also use an 8×9 inch square baking dish.

-Combine the cinnamon and 4 tbsp sugar and sprinkle half of the mixture over the apples.

IMG_1705

-Pile on the rest of the apples until just about overflowing. You may have some leftover apple pieces.

IMG_1707

-Sprinkle the remainder of the sugar and cinnamon until the apples are completely covered.

-In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, beaten egg, 1 cup of flour, and 1 cup of sugar. Mix together quickly until well incorporated.

IMG_1708

-Immediately pour the buttery/sugar/floury mixture over the apples. Pour as carefully and evenly as possible over the apples. Try to completely cover the apples with the batter. The batter does NOT spread with a spatula very well, so pouring correctly is critical (it’s not rocket science, though).

IMG_1709

-Bake for 30-40 or until the crust starts to brown.

-Let cool for 15 minutes before serving. You can serve this pie warm or cool. Enjoy!

IMG_1720 IMG_1725 IMG_1740

Homemade Pie Crust

IMG_1554

Pie Crust Ingredients:

IMG_1442

*Makes two 9” pie crusts

-2.5 cups all-purpose flour

-1 tablespoon sugar (optional if you’re making a crust for a savory pie)

-1 teaspoon kosher salt

-1 cup/2 sticks of cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

-6-8 tbsp ice cold water (you may use less, just depends on how the dough works itself)

Pie Crust Directions

-In a large, cold bowl, (I filled my with ice water ten minutes prior to using, but you can always refrigerate the bowl in advance) mix together the flour, salt, and sugar.

-Add in the butter pieces.

IMG_1444

-With a fork or a pastry blender, cut into the flour and butter until the mixture forms into a variety size of crumbs.

IMG_1448

-Pour in the 2 tbsp of water and quickly fold into the dough (I used a baking spoon). Pour in another 2 tbsp of water and repeat folding the water into the dough.

-Continue adding water, a tbsp at a time, and folding it into the dough until the contents stick together and are moist enough that it looks like dough instead of a heap of flour crumbs. The picture below is what my dough looked like when ready.

IMG_1459

-With your hands, work the dough and separate it into two equal parts.

-Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for a half hour to cool.

-After a half hour, take a rolling pin and roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and bake accordingly with your pie recipe’s directions.

IMG_1542 IMG_1544 IMG_1545

-To create a braided dough perimeter, roll out some of the pie dough in a long and thin shape. With a knife, cut out three pieces of dough in equal length and proceed to carefully braid the dough. You won’t have enough to do one long braid, so repeat the directions 2 to 3 more times, or until your pie dish perimeter is complete!

IMG_1548 IMG_1551 IMG_1552 IMG_1554

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Coleslaw

IMG_1263

Fall in the South is different. I don’t mean this in any negative way – there is just something peculiar about late October’s temperatures in the mid to high 70s. And where the heck is the fall foliage?

Pumpkin spice and pumpkin flavored everything are still shoved in your face, like in any other city in the United States – particularly at Starbucks. And here in the South, you will still find pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, etc. awkwardly displayed at your local supermarket as if there is a reward for the most elaborate contrived indoor harvest scene.

While it may feel like August (in the Northeast) outside, I’ve turned our apartment into autumn. It first started with the obligatory fall decorations, candles, and baked goods, but recently I’ve been craving and subsequently cooking warm, hearty meals in the slow-cooker (most likely because we’ve been blasting our air conditioner so I can wear slippers and flannel shirts). Last week, we decided to make slow-cooker pulled pork sandwiches with homemade coleslaw, and they were amazing. I got the warmness from the pork, yet the cool coleslaw was a perfect topping – especially since it was 75 degrees outside.

The pulled pork sandwiches were the perfect balance of warm, fresh, and savory ingredients. The pork came out flawlessly tender, and with the fresh coleslaw as a topping, the sandwiches’ flavor was both delectable and dynamic. We had a bunch of leftovers and the sandwiches proved to be a great game-day feast, as well. If you can spare an extra ten to fifteen minutes in the morning, the slow-cooked pulled pork could be ready by your dinnertime. If you’re not a morning person, this is a great meal to cook and enjoy on the weekend.

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Coleslaw

IMG_1265

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

-1 5lbs pork shoulder (standard size)

-1/4 cup of brown sugar

-1 tbsp chili powder

-1 tsp red pepper flakes

-3 dashes of cayenne pepper

-1 tsp onion powder

-1.5 tbsp kosher salt

-1/2 tsp black pepper

-1 onion, sliced

-1 tbsp course ground mustard (I used Grey Poupon)

-1/2 cup of ketchup

-1.5 cups apple cider vinegar

-Add water as needed to submerge the pork shoulder (do so after you have added in the rest of the ingredients)

-Buns for you sandwiches

Directions:

-Place the sliced onions on the bottom of the slow-cooker as evenly distributed as possible.

IMG_1199

-In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, also known as the rub.

IMG_1205

-In a pitcher or large bowl, combine the liquid ingredients (mustard, ketchup and apple cider vinegar).

-Pour into the slow-cooker about 2 tbsp worth of the dry rub ingredients. Next, pour in about ¼ cup of the liquid ingredients.

IMG_1207

-Place the pork shoulder in the slow-cooker.

IMG_1208

-Take the remainder of the dry rub and rub (yes, actually rub) on top and sides of pork shoulder until well covered.

IMG_1212

-Pour the remainder of the liquid ingredients into the slow-cooker. CAREFUL, make sure you pour down the side of the pot because you DO NOT want to wash off the dry rub from the pork.

IMG_1213

-Add in water as needed until the pork shoulder is just submerged. Again, make sure you pour the water down the SIDE of the slow cooker.

IMG_1217

-Cover and let cook for at least 8 hours. If you can cook longer, I suggest the ten hour setting because it leaves the meat that much more tender.

-Refrain from lifting the top of the lid. You do not need to stir the contents; just let the slow-cooker do its job.

-When finished cooking, shred the pork with two forks. Remove the bone (this is extremely easy). It can be done in the slow-cooker, or if you prefer, you can transfer the pork shoulder to a large bowl. If you shred the pork in a separate bowl, make sure you place the meat back into the liquid.

-When the shredding is done and the pork is back in the slow-cooker, strain off half of the liquid.

Make sure to strain off some of the liquid before placing on the sandwich bun -- You don't want a soaked sandwich!

Make sure to strain off some of the liquid before placing on the sandwich bun — You don’t want a soaked sandwich!

-Also, before serving, strain as much liquid as possible from the meat so your sandwich doesn’t turn out soggy. I used a strainer and a slotted spoon to most efficiently remove excess liquid.

Coleslaw

Ingredients:

*The dressing yields quite a bit, so think about adjusting the ingredients if you don’t want the coleslaw generously dressed.

-4.5 cups of cabbage, shredded

-3 cups of red cabbage, shredded

-1.5 cups of carrots, chopped or shredded

-1 cup of non-fat Greek yogurt

-1 cup of mayonnaise (if you want, you can use all mayo or all Greek yogurt — up to you and your taste buds)

-2.5 tsp apple cider vinegar

-2 tsp of sugar

-1/2 to 1 tsp of celery seed

-1/4 tsp of salt

Directions:

-Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, celery seed, and salt in a large bowl. Mix together until well incorporated and then cover with a towel and set aside.

IMG_1227

-To chop and shred the cabbage, remove the cabbage core. In essence, a triangle shape should be cut out from the bottom of each cabbage. Cut the cabbage into fourths.

-Slice the cabbage at its finest point and continue to thinly slice until you have enough. Lightly chop once you’ve sliced off the desired amount of cabbage so the pieces aren’t too long. Place in a large bowl

-Cut the red cabbage the same exact way and mix it in with the green cabbage.

IMG_1222

-Chop or shred your carrots and add them to the bowl.

IMG_1225

-Pour your desired amount of the yogurt/mayo dressing over the cabbage salad and stir/mix until well incorporated. I used about 1 ¼ cups of the dressing and had some left over.

IMG_1233

-To assemble the sandwich, take your desired amount of pork and place it on the bottom bun (remember to strain some of the liquid). Next, add on your desired amount of coleslaw. Top with the bun and enjoy!

IMG_1279 IMG_1286

Taco Tuesday Or Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday

IMG_0833

I live with and cook for a guy who is the antithesis of a picky eater. It’s quite convenient, I must admit. While he will eat just about anything, his favorite type of cuisine is Mexican. I personally feel that favoring one type of cuisine over the other is like picking a favorite ice cream flavor: it just can’t be done. With that said, Mexican food is undeniably one of my favorites.

When we lived in DC, I kid you not, we ate Mexican food at least twice a week – three times a week if you count Chipotle (which you should). We haven’t found a Mexican restaurant we’re head over heels with here in Charlotte, so we’ve been doing a lot of Mexican style cooking at home, while also keeping up our weekly dates at Chipotle (And no, this is not a plug for Chipotle).

A couple months back, we started incorporating Taco Tuesday into our weekly menu. It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made as couple. We have a slow cooker, so I decided it was time to take a stab at some of the slow cooked chicken taco recipes I’ve seen over the years.

The chicken tacos were such a success that I’ve made them once a week for the past month. In addition to being super easy and low fat, the tacos are exceptionally tasty with a bit of a spicy kick – but it’s a spice you can control (both ways) by adjusting the ingredients. While the chicken breasts are 98% fat free, you would have no idea that the meat is so lean. Plus, you don’t need to eat 20 of them to feel satisfied and full (I usually eat two and the boyfriend eats around three).

The slow cooked chicken tacos may take time, but they are well worth the wait. Trust me, the one I cook for said these chicken tacos are as good as any he has ordered in a restaurant. And just remember, tacos are in the eye of the beholder: there is no right or wrong way to top, eat, and enjoy a taco – just as long as you enjoy it.

Slow Cooker Low-Fat Chicken Tacos

IMG_0826

Chicken Tacos Ingredients:

*The allotted amount mentioned makes a decent amount of meat. If you’re not feeding a small army, you can always cut the ingredients below in half.

IMG_0715

-1 pack or approximately 1.5 lbs of boneless/skinless 98% fat free chicken breasts

-1 pack of taco seasoning  (if you want your tacos spicy, choose the “hot” vs. “mild” taco seasoning, or be awesome and make your own. Also note, if you want your tacos really hot, add it some red pepper flakes)

-1/2 can of green chilies

-1 small white onion, chopped

-1 16 oz. jar of your favorite salsa (if you want to make your tacos spicy, I suggest adding a medium to hot salsa instead of mild)

-1 can of enchilada sauce (I used a red sauce)

-1/3 cup of low-fat sour cream

Slow Cooked Chicken Tacos Directions:

-Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker/Crockpot.

IMG_0721

-Pour in the onions, green chilies, salsa, enchilada sauce, and taco seasoning. Stir well until all of the ingredients are well incorporated.

IMG_0730

IMG_0735

-Once the above ingredients are mixed together, pour in the sour cream and stir until completely blended.

IMG_0751

-Set the slow cooker on the desired setting – I recommend 6 hours because it’s easier to shred the chicken, but I’ve done the 4-hour setting in the past and the chicken still tasted amazing.

-If you can, stir the contents ever so often. If you’re not home to stir, it really doesn’t matter – the chicken will come out just as tasty.

-With one hour left in the cooking time, remove the chicken breasts and place them in a large bowl. With two forks, shred the chicken. Place the shredded chicken back in the slow cooker, stir the contents, and cook for one more hour.

IMG_0783 IMG_0784 IMG_0789

*When serving the chicken, be aware of the liquid. I recommend using tongs or even straining some of the liquid from the chicken – you don’t want to end up with a soggy taco.

IMG_0798

Taco Toppings Ingredients:

*One of the reasons tacos are so amazing is that they are very easy to personalize. The following ingredients are my favorites for taco toppings, but go with your taste buds and add whatever you want. Also note that the following ingredients are to be allotted for two tacos.

-2 corn tortillas (these are usually the lowest calorie option)

-Approximately 1/2 cup of shredded chicken (for two tacos)

-1/2 tbsp shredded 2% Mexican blend cheese

-4 tbsp homemade guacamole (2 tbsp for each taco)

-1-2 tbsp of shredded lettuce

-1-2 tbsp fresh cilantro

-1/4 cup red onion, sliced thinly

-1-2 tbsp light sour cream

Dressing Your Tacos Directions:

-This really doesn’t need explaining – just place the toppings in your desired order. I recommend putting the cheese down first because it creates a bit of a liner so you don’t soak your tortilla. If you want your sour cream to look really fancy, I suggest going to Wal-Mart and buying a $1 plastic condiment squeeze bottle.

IMG_0809 IMG_0819 IMG_0840

IMG_0842

-Lastly, eat up and enjoy!