Chicken Fajitas

Today may not be Taco Tuesday, but yesterday was chicken fajita Monday!  Okay… no cool alliteration there, but that doesn’t matter because these chicken fajitas are fantastic!  We have an adorable fajita cast iron pan that we like to use so we can keep the chicken and veggies nice and hot throughout the meal – I highly recommend buying one if you eat as many fajitas as I do!

The seasoning I’m going to give you is enough for several meals worth.  I always like to make extra so I can quickly make fajitas on a whim (it happens quite frequently!).  Use whatever toppings you like – my favorites are salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and even taco sauce.  Maybe I’ll throw in some lettuce in there, too!  When it comes to chicken fajitas, anything goes!

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Chicken Fajitas

Active Prep: 15 min
Cook time: 15 min
TOTAL: 30 min

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • 10-12 oz chicken breast, diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 Tbsp fajita seasoning (see below)
  • ¼ c water
  • 4-6 fajita tortillas
  • Desired toppings (sour cream, guacamole, salsa, etc.)

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a 10-inch cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add peppers and onions; saute until tender, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add chicken to pan. Cook until chicken is done, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and add 2 Tbsp fajita seasoning and water.  Stir until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes.  Serve immediately.  Add a couple spoonfuls of fajita mixture to tortillas along with desired toppings.

Fajita Seasoning:

  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cumin

Mix together in a small bowl.  Use desired amount in recipe.  Store in airtight container. (From AllRecipes.com; author: trmeeds.)

 

Quick Shrimp Scampi

Lenten Fridays.  A chance to dust off those seafood recipes I usually forget about.  Don’t get me wrong, I love seafood!  I just eat a whole lot more beef and chicken (and cupcakes) than fish and shellfish dishes.

This shrimp scampi is super quick to make.  I try to avoid cooking on Fridays (usually I am just ready to unwind from the work week), but this dish is so easy and SO tasty, I don’t mind whipping it together.  I use fully-cooked, frozen shrimp to make it even easier.  Just thaw the shrimp in warm water for about 5 minutes before cooking.  Recipe is adapted from damndelicious.net.

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Quick Shrimp Scampi

Active Prep: 5 min
Cook time: 10-15 min
TOTAL: 15 min

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz linguine
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 lb small, fully cooked shrimp, thawed
  • ¼ c chicken broth
  • ¼ c freshly-squeeze lemon juice (~1.5 lemons)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • ½ c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook linguine according to package directions. Set aside.
  2. In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add linguine, shrimp, chicken broth, and lemon juice. Mix well and cook until heated through, about 3-4 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add lemon zest, parsley, and salt & pepper to taste.
  4. Serve immediately and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Stuffed Peppers

Whenever I think of the meals I ate growing up, stuffed peppers is a meal that takes one of the top spots.  It was one of the few things that my entire family loved and looked forward to.  My mom always baked half of the filling in a separate dish (aka NOT stuffed in a pepper) for me and my sisters (we weren’t too keen on cooked peppers… but she snuck some cooked ones in the filling!).  So we liked it that much more. 🙂

Since I have been obsessing over the sauce I made for the Chicken Parmesan the other night, I decided to incorporate some of that delectable flavor into a stuffed pepper – what could be better?  I used 85% lean ground beef to keep this dish flavorful.  I also cut down cooking time by making a quick batch of Minute rice – no need to wait 45 minutes for that brown rice to cook in the rice cooker!  These keep best when stored in an air-tight container for 2-3 days.

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Stuffed Peppers

Active Prep: 25 min
Cook time: 25 min
TOTAL: 50 min

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 8 medium green bell peppers, tops and seeds removed
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Rice Mixture

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 c cooked rice (white or brown)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ c shredded mozzarella, plus extra for topping

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F.  Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil.  Boil peppers for 5-6 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and let sit with peppers for an additional 5 minutes until peppers are tender.  Remove peppers from pot and place upright in a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes and remaining sauce ingredients; stir well.  Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. While sauce is simmering, heat oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add ground beef, chopping into smaller pieces and cooking until beef is browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes.  Add rice and sauce and mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce temperature to low and simmer until mixture has thickened, about 6-7 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from heat and stir in mozzarella cheese. Fill each pepper with stuffing and top with additional mozzarella cheese.
  5. Add ½ c water to baking dish so peppers are sitting in ½ inch of water. Bake peppers until heated through, about 25 minutes.  Serve immediately.  Makes 8 stuffed peppers.

Chicken Parmesan

This chicken parmesan recipe is one that you will think about all day long, both long before AND long after you make it!  I know I’ve been thinking about it for daysssss.  The breaded chicken is bursting with Parmesan flavor, and the sauce is absolute PERFECTION.  I actually think the sauce is my favorite part of this recipe!  So simple to make, but so flavorful.  I was eating it by the spoonful while it was simmering on the stove. 🙂  I ended up making a second batch of it because I poured so much of it on my chicken and pasta!  It is THAT GOOD.  I am making stuffed peppers later this week, and I think I might use this sauce in the recipe… we’ll see 🙂

Anyways… enough about the sauce.  The whole dish is fantastic.  I hope you get to try it.  The recipe is adapted from a recipe in my beloved America’s Test Kitchen cookbook.  Enjoy!

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Chicken Parmesan

Active Prep: 30 min
Cook time: ~10 min
TOTAL: ~ 40 min

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Chicken

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (~1 lb), cut in half then filleted and pounded ½ inch thick (4 pieces of chicken total)
  • salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • ¾ c grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ c Panko bread crumbs
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 1 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

 Sauce

  • Heat oil in sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients; stir well.  Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve.

Chicken

  1. Preheat broiler.  Season chicken with salt.  Whisk egg and flour together and pour in a shallow dish.  Set aside.
  2. Whisk together Parmesan, Panko, garlic powder, oregano, and pepper and pour in another shallow dish. Dredge each chicken piece in egg mixture, then coat with Parmesan mixture.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place cutlets in pan and cook on one side for 2-3 minutes, until breading is golden brown.  Flip cutlets and cook for another 2-3 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  Place cooked cutlets on paper towel-lined plate to drain, then place on a rimmed baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining chicken.
  4. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over chicken. Place in broiler for 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted and begins to brown.
  5. Serve chicken immediately over pasta (if desired) and top with sauce. Makes 4 servings.

Turkey Chili

Chili is the perfect way to get “un-chilly.”  Okay, sorry, that was a little lame.  But it’s SO true.  A nice warm bowl of chili is the perfect way to warm up after a cold, blistery day.  I made a giant pot of this chili.  It freezes well, so I can freeze in individual portions and grab from the freezer when I need a quick meal.

This chili is loaded with ground turkey and lots of flavor.  It is a recipe based on one from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook.  It takes about 2 hours to simmer the flavors together over the stove, and the flavor gets better over time (the full flavor comes out the next day!).  If you’re looking for a tasty way to warm up this winter, this is your recipe!

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Turkey Chili

 Active Prep: 15 min.
Cook time: 2 hr
TOTAL: 2 hr, 15 min

Ingredients:

  • ¼ c vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced small
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and stemmed, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ c chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 lb. ground turkey (I used 85% lean)
  • 2 (15-oz) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28-oz) can tomato puree
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Add onions, pepper, and garlic cloves.  Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add chili powder, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne pepper.  Mix well.  Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until fragrant, stirring frequently.
  2. Add ground turkey, breaking into small pieces as it cooks. Stir well and cook until turkey is fully cooked, about 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add kidney beans, tomatoes, and tomato puree. Add salt to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, COVERED, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Uncover and continue to simmer for an additional hour, until chili has thickened slightly. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for 5-6 days in an air-tight container.  You may also store in freezer for 3-4 months in an airtight container or freezer bag.

Quick & Juicy Grilled Pork Chops

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re looking at the picture of my terribly burnt pork chop and saying to yourself, why isn’t this considered a failed recipe?  When in reality, this is the opposite of failed.  This is the BEST PORK CHOP RECIPE EVER.

I’ll tell you why – it isn’t burnt.  At all.

Why is it so black, you ask?  That’s the secret ingredient.  The ingredient you’ll never guess.  That ingredient is COCOA POWDER.

I can’t claim this recipe as my own.  This one is all John’s.  He spent the entire summer trying to perfect his grilled pork chops, and he did it.  It’s brined for several hours then rubbed with a cocoa powder spice mixture.  Then grilled for just the right amount of time and in return you get the tastiest, juiciest pork chop you will ever eat!  He created this recipe based on several he’s found over the years – and the outcome is just phenomenal.  Not a chocolate lover?  Don’t worry, this tastes NOTHING like a chocolate-covered pork chop.  The bitter flavor of the unsweetened cocoa powder combines with the flavor profiles of all the other spices and creates magic.  Please try this at your earliest convenience.  It will change your life!

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Quick & Juicy Grilled Pork Chops

Active Prep: 10 minutes
Cook time: 7-10 minutes
TOTAL: 20 minutes (plus brining)

Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in pork chops (~1 lb each)
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together water, sugar, and salt. Add to Ziploc bag with pork chops.  Brine for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  2. Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper generously on both sides.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together cocoa powder and chili powder. Rub mixture into pork chops.
  4. Heat grill to direct high heat. Grill pork chops over direct-high heat for 3 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
  5. Flip pork chops again and grill over medium direct heat for 5-7 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Baked Bruschetta Chicken

While John was away last week, he went to Red Robin 3 times.  THREE TIMES.  It was the only restaurant within walking distance.  By his 3rd trip, he was hamburgered out, so he got a bruschetta chicken sandwich (something I honestly never thought he’d ever order!) with a salad on the side (no fries!!).  He liked the sandwich so much that he suggested I make something like it for dinner this week – so I did!

This chicken is marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing based mixture, baked, then topped with mozzarella cheese, a delicious bruschetta topping (which includes tomatoes, garlic, scallions, and basil).  Served over some crusty Italian bread, you have yourself a delicious and relatively healthy meal that will satisfy both your meat and veggie cravings!  The recipe was inspired by a Hunt’s grilling recipe.

What will I change next time?  I think I’d like to pound the chicken breast nice and thin, and THEN marinate.  The chicken breasts I used were so thick that I think I lost out on some of the flavor from the marinade.  I would also use fresh sliced cherry tomatoes.  Canned tomatoes are great when you don’t have much time, but I much prefer fresh.  That being said, the recipe is superb as-is – but I’m always looking for ways to make it even more tasty!!

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Baked Bruschetta Chicken

Active Prep: 15 minutes
Marinating time: 1-8 hours
Cook time: 25 minutes
TOTAL: 45 minutes (plus marinating time)

Ingredients:

Marinade

  • ¾ c balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 (6 oz) can tom paste
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts (~1 lb each), cut in half

Topping

  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • ½ c balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • ¼ c tomato paste
  • ½ c chopped scallions
  • ¼ c chopped basil
  • 3 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 slices Italian or French bread
  • 6 slices mozzarella cheese (~6 oz total)

Directions:

  1. Whisk together marinade ingredients. Pour into Ziploc bag and add chicken.  Mix until chicken is covered.  Marinade in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 425° Spray a 9×13” baking dish with nonstick spray and add marinated chicken.  Bake until no longer pink in the middle, about 20-25 minutes.  Add one slice of cheese to each piece of chicken and bake for an additional 2 minutes until cheese is melted.
  3. While chicken is cooking, make the topping. In a medium bowl add diced tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette, tomato paste, scallions, basil, and minced garlic.  Mix well and refrigerate until chicken is done.
  4. When chicken is done, toast slices of bread and put on plate. Place chicken breast directly on top of bread.  Top with several spoonfuls of bruschetta topping.

Copycat Moe’s Homewrecker Burrito

This past Sunday morning, I was doing some cleaning around the house, and I got to thinking about my FAVORITE Mexican restaurant (Mexicali), which got me thinking about Mexican food in general, and my brain kept going until I suddenly NEEDED the taste of a Moe’s Homewrecker burrito.  I haven’t even been to a Moe’s in about 6 or 7 years (John converted me to Chipotle, but my love for Moe’s will go on!).  But at that moment, I needed my chicken-and-pinto-bean-and-rice-stuffed burrito with everything else in it.  The closest Moe’s to me is about a 35-40 minute drive, and I didn’t have much spare time, so I decided that I had to re-create the flavor in my kitchen.

You know how when you REALLY want to re-create a favorite restaurant dish at home, and it comes out so disappointing because the flavor doesn’t even come close?  THIS WAS SO NOT THE CASE!  I worried, during the entire burrito-making process, that this was going to happen to me and I would end up heartbroken and burritoless.  This is one of my best copycat accomplishments!  I must thank Christine over at Christine’s Kitchen Chronicles for the inspiration for the rice and bean mixture.

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Copycat Moe’s Homewrecker Burrito

Active Prep: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
TOTAL: 25-30 minutes

YIELDS: 8 (10-inch) burritos

Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, removed from bone and shredded
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 c instant white rice
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 chipotle pepper (see note)
  • 1 Tbsp adobo sauce (see note)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained
  • ½ c water
  • ½ c fresh salsa
  • 8 (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • Sour cream, avocado, cheese, lettuce, or any other filler you’d like!

NOTE: I usually just buy the small 4 oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  You can remove one of the peppers and finely dice it, then scoop out the Tbsp of adobo sauce from the can.  Save the remaining peppers for future use, or add additional for some extra kick/smoky flavor!  If you don’t love the smoky flavor of chipotle peppers, you may substitute with a jalapeño or just omit if you don’t want too much kick!

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, toss together the shredded chicken, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and salt until chicken is well-coated. Set aside.
  2. Prepare rice according to package directions. Should make around 2 cups cooked rice.
  3. While rice is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, cumin, and cayenne pepper.  Add to skillet and heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add pinto beans and water. Simmer until beans are soft, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 cups cooked rice and salsa.  Mix well.
  6. Add ½ c seasoned chicken and ½ c rice mixture to flour tortilla. Add additional toppings as desired (sour cream, guacamole, etc).  Roll up and enjoy!  This tastes great warm or cold.  Makes ~8 burritos.

Here’s how I assemble my burritos for that delicious “Homewrecker” taste!

  1. Spread 1 Tbsp sour cream in center of tortilla.
  2. Add ¼ of an avocado, diced, to the tortilla.
  3. Layer ½ c rice mixture followed by ½ c seasoned chicken.
  4. Sprinkle 2-3 Tbsp shredded Mexican blend cheese over filling.
  5. Fold in sides, roll carefully, and wrap in aluminum foil.
  6. ENJOY!

One-Pan Potatoes and Kielbasa

I would say 4 out of 5 days a week, I get home from work and I’m STARVING.  It’s those days that I pray that we have leftovers or that I’ve planned a super speedy dinner to make.  This potatoes and kielbasa dish is quick to make – I’d say 20 minutes tops from start to that first delicious bite in your mouth!  I had originally planned to make this on Friday, but we ended up getting a pizza instead, so yesterday was THE day.  I would make this every week if I could.  Kielbasa is one of my favorite meats.  Plus I add some veggies to the dish to make it a complete meal. 🙂

If you are in starvation mode and need to eat this ASAP, get those potatoes chopped and on the stove first!  You can chop everything else while they are cooking.  No need to peel the potatoes.  Just make sure they are diced small enough (an inch cube max) to decrease your cooking time – larger than that and you will be waiting a little bit longer.

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One-Pan Potatoes and Kielbasa

Prep and cook time: 20 min

Yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium red potatoes, diced into ½ to 1-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb kielbasa, sliced into bite-size pieces
  • 5 oz spinach (~4-5 cups)
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Add diced potatoes to a medium stock pot. Cover with water and heat on high, covered, until water begins to boil.  Remove cover and boil until fork-tender, about 5-6 minutes.
  2. While potatoes are boiling, dice and chop vegetables and kielbasa. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add pepper, onion, and garlic.  Cook until vegetables are soft, ~2-3 minutes.
  3. Drain potatoes. Add potatoes and kielbasa to skillet.  Cook until potatoes begin to brown and kielbasa is heated through, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to low and add spinach, a cup at a time, stirring until spinach wilts, about 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breast

One thing that’s almost always on sale at the grocery store is bone-in chicken breast.    I suppose I don’t buy them too often, since working with bone-in meats can be a bit intimidating – when, in fact, they are some of the tastiest meats out there!  I decided it’s been far too long since I bought some.  Plus, I am trying to save money (this is a nice cheap dish!).  PLUS, I was in charge of Wednesday Night Dinner this week, and I could come home and quickly throw together a tasty meal.

This roasted bone-in chicken breast recipe is simple to make, but flavorful enough that you could certainly serve it at a dinner party or even make for a holiday.  The trick to this is to keep an eye on the temperature of the chicken, which should be cooked until it reaches 165 °F.  A few minutes too long in the oven could make this chicken go from delectably delicious to disastrously dry.  I adapted this recipe from Blake Royer over at Serious Eats.  Their blog name is spot-on – I sure am serious about this chicken!  I hope you get a chance to make it and try it!

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Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breast

Active Prep: 5 minutes
Cook time: 35-40 minutes
TOTAL: 45 minutes

YIELDS: 6 servings (1/2 chicken breast per serving)

Ingredients:

  • 3 bone-in split chicken breasts, about 1 lb each
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil spray

Directions:

  1. Position upper rack in oven to highest position. Preheat oven to 450 °F.  Line a broiler pan with aluminum foil and set aside. (NOTE: If you don’t have a broiler pan, you can line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and place a metal cooling rack on top.
  2. Gently lift skin off of chicken breasts. Spread 1 Tbsp of butter on each chicken breast in between skin and meat.  Pat down skin and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Place chicken breasts on broiler pan, skin side up. Spray each with vegetable oil.  Roast in oven for 35-40 minutes until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 °F.   Skin should be a golden-brown color (If skin browns too quickly, tent chicken with foil for remainder of cooking time).  Remove from oven and transfer to cutting board.  Tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.