No Muss No Fuss: Salsa Chicken

Salsa Chicken is my absolute favorite crockpot recipe. It makes a ton of food that you can save and reheat easily. We have served it a variety of ways: over rice, in a taco salad, in tortillas with all the usual taco fixings. You could add it to some chili. It’s easy, it’s versatile, it’s delicious. And it doesn’t require a ton of ingredients so it’s pretty easy to make in a pinch.

What You’ll Need:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 1/2 cups of salsa of your choice. (A chunky salsa works better)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of red chile powder
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice.

What You’ll Do:

  • Coat slow cooker with nonstick spray and arrange chicken breast halves in it.
  • Pour salsa over chicken.
  • Cover and cook on HIGH about 3-3 1/2 hours, until chicken is tender and cooked through. (The salsa will thin out a bit as the chicken cooks and makes it’s own juices.)
  • Stir in the cumin, chile powder and lime juice.
  • Cover and cook another 15 minutes before serving.

 

Enjoy!

~C.

 

Previously: Whole Poached Chicken; Simple Sesame Noodles

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No Muss No Fuss: Simple Sesame Noodles

I’m beginning to think that my favorite food is Peanut Noodles. I love them. I could probably eat them every day. Cold, warm, room temperature. I’ll eat them as leftovers for breakfast, scarf them down before I have my coffee. They are perfect for lunch, or as a quick snack between appointments on a busy afternoon. We often make them for dinner, in large batches and try our best not to eat them all in one sitting so that we can continue to enjoy them throughout the week. Peanut noodles are the best. The only problem is that they require a few too many ingredients–as least the recipe I use and love–and I often find that we are missing an ingredient or two, and far too often the ingredient we’re missing is the one we need most: peanut butter.

These Simple Sesame Noodles from Pioneer Woman are my backup whenever I’m craving some asian-style noodles but don’t have everything I need to pull together my peanut recipe. They are so quick and so simple and really, really tasty. And like my favorite peanut noodles, you can make them in really large batches and eat them throughout the week. They keep really well, store easily and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can add some chopped veggies, tofu or chicken for something a little more substantial.

Whether you’re super busy with kids, super busy with work, or just super busy feeling too lazy for anything complicated, I highly recommend adding these noodles to your regular rotation.

~C.

No Muss No Fuss

By my best estimate, it would appear that a solid 80% of the women I hold dear either currently or will very soon find their lives taken over by teeny tiny humans. Babies, I think they call them. It is my understanding that newborns fill your life with joy and wonder, while simultaneously sapping all your energy and free time. I do not have children, but I have heard many stories of how hard it can be to find time to shower during those first few months, much less find time to make dinner each night. So in honor of all my sweet friends who find themselves sleep deprived and strapped for time, I will be taking the next few weeks to share some of my favorite fast, no fuss meal ideas.

I’ll start by sharing my favorite crockpot secret, which is that you can cook an entire chicken in one of these things. It is so simple! D and I have done this a few times and it gives you a lot of food for two adults. All you need is a crockpot and a whole, thawed chicken. We gotten ours at Trader Joe’s in the past and they are affordable and perfectly sized for a medium to large crockpot.

All you have to do is wash and dry the chicken. Remove giblets, etc if they are still included and cut off any lumps of fat. Season the inside and outside of the chicken with salt and pepper and then place it in the slow cooker, breast side up. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 180. That’s it! The chicken will make it’s own liquid so you don’t need to add anything to the crockpot except the chicken.

When it is done cooking, the meat is so tender that it just falls away from the bone, making it easier to transfer from the crockpot to a plate. Pull all the meat off and store it in your fridge. Add strips to salad, dress some with a little plain greek yogurt and curry powder for an easy chicken salad sandwich, heat some up in the oven with a little rice and some steamed broccoli for an easy, healthy dinner. Like I said, it makes a ton of food for two people and is a great way to make sure you’ll have a lot of protein on hand that is easy to add to other things to complete a quick meal.

My recommendation is to get it all set up before you go to bed, leave the chicken uncooked in the crockpot in the fridge overnight, and then all you have to do the next day is plug it in and set it to low with enough time for it to be done in time for dinner.

Easy, peasy!

~C.

One Pot Pasta Dinner

It’s a new year, and I’m still trying to adjust.

I don’t tend to make resolutions because I find that January, right in the thick of winter with still so far to go until spring, is the absolute worse time of year to resolve to do anything. You start out so optimistic and enthusiastic that this year, things will be different, but then the polar vortex suddenly reappears and you endure a string of cold, gray, miserable days, and the toes of all your shoes and cuffs of all your pants get covered in salt and you just throw your hands up in the air and say screw it, who cares if this year is just as crappy as the last one?

What I mean to say is that winter beats the resolve right out of me, and I prefer not to fail at things before I’ve been given a proper chance to succeed. Instead, I like to pick one goal for the year. An attainable, measurable thing that I can do, not a lifestyle or personality change that must be both reached and then maintained. One thing, and I have all year to accomplish it. Something that takes some work, but is manageable. Last year, it was to run a full marathon. I did that in December; it was hard, but rewarding. This year, I want to have a piece of writing published. Essay, article, story, poem. Any piece of writing in any publication that is not a personal blog. That’s it. I can do that.

My only other intention for the year is to simply slow down a bit. Last year came and went in such a flash that I still can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that it is over and I’m already 13 days into a new year. I worked a lot, too much and too hard. I beat myself up physically, from both work and marathon training. We bought a house. We tried (and failed) to sell a house. We moved, and moving is the worst. I slept terribly. I worried constantly. I stressed myself out way too often.

This year, I’m giving myself permission to just sit back and relax a little more often. I’m taking an hour each morning to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book and delay responding to emails or answering phone calls. Nearly everything in life can wait an hour. I’m trying to do things more when I want to, because I want to, and less out of an obligation to myself, to an imagined other, to some confused sense of timeliness. On my days off, I am no longer looking back at my day and admonishing myself for doing nothing. I read. I cleaned up the house. I took the dog for a long walk. These are somethings. These are not nothings. I will not judge myself for how I choose to spend my time. It is my time. I can do whatever I want with it, and this year I will.

Aiding in my effort to take more time to relax and restore, is the One Pot cookbook my mother-in-law gave me as a holiday gift. Though we upgraded in overall space and comfort with the move to a new house last fall, we downgraded in terms of kitchen modernity, and find ourselves living without a dishwasher for the first time since college. Washing dishes is a pain in the butt and a huge time suck, so cutting out any extra pots, pans, bowls and other items from the nightly dish load is definitely a big positive for me. So far, I found most of the recipes we have made from this cookbook to be simple, relatively quick, and really quite delicious. The following Linguine with Tomato and Basil may be my favorite for both how incredibly easy it is to make and how wonderful it tastes.


Linguine With Tomato and Basil

What You’ll Need:

  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 online, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (it was pretty spicy, would recommend only 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 tbsp EVOO, plus more for serving
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

What You’ll Do:

  • In a large sauté pam, combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and the water.
  • Bring to boil over high heat.
  • Cook, stirring frequently with tongs until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and garnish with torn basil
  • Serve with oil and cheese if desired.

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Slow Cooker Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I don’t really do Halloween. That isn’t a hard and fast rule, but generally speaking, when the holiday rolls around I never feel like I have the energy to dress up and party hard and go the appropriate amount of crazy that adult halloween without any kids seems to warrant.

In past years, our neighborhood held a block party and D and I would create games for the trick or treaters and we’d have a huge line of people. It was intense, but it was still over by 9 and I got to wear my normal clothes and then go home and sit on my couch. Our new neighborhood had zero trick or treaters, and there was no small part of me that would have been content to spend the entire night on my couch, in sweatpants, watching movies and eating all of the candy that we didn’t end up passing out. But instead we managed to work up enough festive energy to change into actual clothes (still not a costume; I have to be true to who I am), and join in on a friend’s block party one neighborhood over. It was a good time and we were able to pass out part of the candy we had purchased.

I made this Spinach and Artichoke Dip for the festivities. Served in a bread bowl with tortilla chips for dipping, it was a HUGE hit.

And now we move on to Thanksgiving. D and I will be hosting for the first time this year. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but I’ll be honest that the idea of a house full of people and an entire meal to prepare for 10+ diners feels a little intense. Do you have any go-to Thanksgiving recipes? Side dishes that are easy, but delicious? Things that are perfect for preparing ahead of time to decrease oven and kitchen crowding on Thanksgiving Day? Any great advice on how to manage a first-time Thanksgiving meal? Share it in the comments and help ease my anxious mind.

~C.

 

 

 

 

Quinoa Salad With Maple Vinaigrette

Our neighborhood had a potluck gathering last night. It was so nice to have an opportunity to meet all of our new neighbors and relax on a beautiful early fall evening, chatting and drinking and getting to know everyone. All of the people we met were wonderfully kind and interesting and we felt instantly welcomed into the neighborhood. It was a great night.

Since I was working yesterday and D was busy running errands all day (we still have a lot of settling in work to do!) we didn’t have a lot of time to fix something for the potluck. Needing something quick, but good for sharing, I found this Quinoa Salad. Tossed with pears, baby spinach, and chickpeas in a maple vinaigrette dressing and topped with pecans, it was full of fall flavors. Hearty, but still light, it was a perfect side salad. I’m sure I’ll be making this again in the months to come and I’m thinking it will pair really well with chicken in an apricot or cranberry sauce.

After a very long, busy week of work last week, I am excited to take the day off today. There are a lot of house-related things that I need to get done, but I am very tempted to spend the day on the couch, just relaxing and recouping. In the next few weeks I’ll be launching a new line of designs for my jewelry store, so perhaps I’ll spend the day getting a few more pieces ready for sale. Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ve been working on!

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~C.

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

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We are less than a week from moving day. Our culinary focus has turned entirely towards using up whatever food we have and making quick, simple meals that don’t take up too much time that could be better spent packing and cleaning. We did one last small grocery run over the weekend for a few staples, and we’ll get one more CSA share this evening, but that’s it. With a limited pantry and limited free time, last night I turned to my best friend the crockpot for a little help.

I still had a few weeks of CSA potatoes on hand that I’ve been wanting to use up, and given the cool weather yesterday (and again this morning!), it seemed like a good time for soup.

I love potato soup. It’s so basic, but so hearty and, frankly, uplifting. It’s one of those foods that I feel is kind of taking care of me as I eat it. For this particular soup, I followed this recipe for Loaded Baked Potato Soup. I didn’t include the bacon or the sprinkled cheese at the end. I also didn’t have any chives, so I substituted parsley for some added flavor and a bit of green (just sprinkled on at the end, not cooked in the soup). I couldn’t find our pepper grinder, because I can’t find anything in this house anymore, but it was still plenty flavorful. I served it over a little bit of wild rice to add a bit more thickness (I like really thick soups), with a dollop of plain greek yogurt on top in place of the sour cream.

If you’d like a variation on the potato soup theme, I have done a Potato Leek Soup in the past that was similarly fantastic. It has a few more steps, but is still quite easy to throw together.

If 85% of my kitchen wasn’t already packed in boxes, I definitely would have made and Irish Soda Bread to go along with the soup.

It has been a crazy couple of weeks, but with only 6 days to go, I have to say I’m pretty impressed with how well D and I have been managing this transition. Moving is hard, and so far there have been very few stress-related breakdowns. We’ve got a clear, concise list of what tasks remain and each day we’re crossing a few off and getting closer and closer to being all packed up and ready to start fresh in a new house. I’m getting excited.

 

~C.