Break out the slow cooker to make INCREDIBLE shredded chicken! This is one of my go-to recipes when I need a hassle-free recipe that feeds a crowd (especially around the holidays). Throw a few ingredients into your slow cooker, set it, and forget it (do you remember those infomercials?) Then I usually whip up a quick gravy to finish it all off. Your loved ones will thank you for making this for them.
There are many shredded chicken recipes out there, but this recipe calls for beer and butter. It’s worth repeating – Beer AND Butter! What do they say? Butta’ (and beer) make everything betta’. Or something like that.
When it comes to beer, there are a million styles and varieties to choose from, but for this recipe I think it’s best to use any type of light beer. We typically use a can of Miller Lite, but any light lager will do. Don’t be afraid. The beer adds a nice dimension to the meat that’s mild yet tasty. So don’t skip this step! Then we get to glorious, glorious butter. Butter adds a silky richness to the chicken. It’s a scrumptious combination. Trust me, I’m from Wisconsin. I know my beer and butter.
Spray the slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray or use a liner. Place chicken breast in 5 quart slow cooker. Add the beer, chicken stock, butter and soup mix. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour, then low for 6-7 hours until meat is tender and shreddable. Shred meat and keep warm while you prepare the gravy.
Melt 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter in a small pot. Add flour and whisk, cooking for 1-2 minutes (it should be paste-like). Use 1 cup of chicken stock from the slow cooker mixture (or your own) and slowly incorporate it into the flour/butter roux while continuously whisking. After all of the liquid is incorporated and no lumps remain, raise the heat to medium/medium high until the gravy simmers. Add pepper, salt, and cayenne. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the gravy thickens. Add gravy to chicken in slow cooker, mix, and serve on hot, tasted rolls.
This is my new favorite, quick and easy snack or side dish. This couscous salad is packed with bright flavors from the lemon, basil and fresh vegetables. It’s also light and refreshing, perfect for these warm days ahead of us. Plus it keeps for awhile, so you can prepare it ahead of time for parties.
I didn’t have any chickpeas or garbanzo beans on hand, but I bet a can of these would make this couscous salad more filling and packed with protein.
What can I say about mashed potatoes? Besides that they are buttery, delicious, soul-warming, a holiday favorite and really pick me up when I’m having “one of those days.” Other than that, there really isn’t much to say about mashed potatoes.
My mashed potato recipe is based on many tips from many different potato experts. If you want perfectly light and fluffy mashed potatoes, you must first rinse as much starch off of the potatoes as you can before you even start cooking them. Excess starch can sometimes make your potatoes gummy.
Secondly, boiling your potatoes really leaves them water-logged after they are cooked. Because of all of this water, they don’t have a chance to absorb as much butter or dairy as we’d like. Steaming your potatoes is the best way to cook them.
From there, some people swear by their ricer for a perfect mash. Others like whipping their potatoes. Personally, I like hand mashing them because I like tasting a few chunks in my potatoes. Use your favorite method to mash your potatoes!
Ree, The Pioneer Woman, brings up a good point when she says that mashed potatoes can be very labor intensive, especially with everything else going on during a holiday dinner. The good news is you can make this recipe ahead of time and heat it up when you’re ready to rock n’ roll. I got the ‘make ahead and reheat’ part of this recipe from her.
Here’s how to make some mean mashed potatoes:
Start by peeling your potatoes and chopping them into uniform sizes (I like the skin in my mashed potatoes, so I leave some of them on). Then steam them until they are fork tender.
Smash your potatoes then add lots of delicious ingredients like butter. Lots and lots of beautiful, glorious butter.
Serve hot. When making your potatoes a day or two in advance pack them in an oven friendly dish, top with a few “greens” to make those vegetables lovers happy and drop a few more tabs of butter on top. Yup, more butter. Cover and store in the fridge.
When your special day arrives, take the potatoes out of the fridge a couple of hours ahead of time. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, or until warmed through. Enjoy!
Note: If you would like to make these potatoes ahead of time and serve them later, stir finished potatoes well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through. When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.
5 pounds Russet Potatoes
3/4 cups Butter
1 package (8-ounces) Cream Cheese, Softened
1/2 cup (to 3/4 Cups) Whole Milk
1/2 teaspoon (to 1 teaspoon) Salt
1/2 teaspoon (to 1 teaspoon) Black Pepper
Peel and cut the potatoes into 1-inch pieces that are relatively uniform. Rinse in a colander with cool water for about a minute. Add an inch or two of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and add a steamer basket (if your steamer basket doesn't have legs and submerges into the water, add a wad of aluminum foil to the bottom of the pot so the steamer basket is lifted). Add the potatoes on top of the steamer pot and cook for 25 or so minutes, or until a fork easily slides into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.
Drain the potatoes in a large colander then place the potatoes back into the large pot over low heat. This will allow the potatoes to dry a bit in the pot for a couple of minutes. You can simply mash the potatoes in the pot with a hand masher or use a mixer with the whipped beater attachment, either way, mash the potatoes before adding in the other ingredients.
Turn off the stove and add the butter, cream cheese and about 1/2 cup of milk. Continue mashing until everything is combined. Next, add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper. Add more milk, a couple tablespoons at a time if your potatoes are too stiff. Note: If you are using a mixer for your potatoes, you want to oversaturate your potatoes a bit. After you mix for another couple of minutes, you will see your soupy potato mixture transform into beautiful, fluffy mashed potatoes.
Although all of us enjoy indulging in comfort food dishes from time to time, there are those moments when we feel completely guilty for consuming 1,000 calories in one sitting. If you’re anything like me, that feeling passes relatively quickly but the thought DOES cross my mind.
Cooking at home gives me the chance to control what I eat and it also provides the opportunity for me to make healthier alternatives to my favorite “heavy” meals, including this one.
A lot of times the eggplant in eggplant Parmesan is deep-fried to get that super breaded texture. You can achieve the same amount of crispy tenderness by baking your eggplant instead. This way you don’t have to sacrifice flavor to eat a healthier version of eggplant Parm.
The best part of this dish has to be the marinara sauce. This red sauce is my absolute favorite and you guessed it, I use Italian Plum Tomatoes for the recipe. Absolutely drool-worthy!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil; set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tablespoons water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, oregano, and basil; season with salt and pepper.
Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well; place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn slices; continue baking until browned on other side, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven; raise oven heat to 400 degrees.
Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish; cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Use half eggplant and half zucchini for this recipe for added vegetables. You can also make this ahead of time by arranging everything in your baking dish, refrigerating it overnight, bringing it back to room temperature and then baking.
It’s getting to be that time of year again. Every Fall we are rewarded with the bright colors and flavors of the bell pepper harvest. And of course, a bell pepper can only be made better by stuffing it with a mound of tasty morsels! There are so many ways to prepare stuffed peppers. This is our lazy way.
Start by hollowing out your peppers and boiling them in a bit of water to steam them for a few minutes while you chop and prepare everything else.
Mix all of your ingredients in a bowl and loosely stuff each pepper to the brim. Bake until the meat is cooked through.
Finish these by broiling cheese on the tops and eating them with a bit of ketchup (if you’re into that sort of thing …think meatloaf people!). You can also cut each cooked pepper lengthwise, lay them flat, filling-side up, and add the cheese at that point. You’ll get more cheesy surface area that way. Again, we were feeling lazy and didn’t bother this time around.
Try a healthier version of this recipe by substituting millet or quinoa for the rice or ground turkey for the ground beef. For a vegetarian option, and cooked mushrooms and/or pinto beans and corn instead of meat.
6 large fresh basil leaves or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
8-ounces shredded cheese (we used cheddar and pepper jack)
If you haven't made the rice, start cooking the rice following the package instructions.
Cut off the tops of the peppers, remove and discard the stem and seeds. Place bell peppers cut side up in a large pot with about two inches of water in it. Bring to a boil, cover and lower to a simmer. Steam for 10 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix together the meat, onion, cooked rice, egg, tomatoes, basil, seasonings, and Worcestershire sauce.
Remove steamed bell peppers from the pot. Place cut side up in an oven-proof casserole or cast-iron pan. Gently stuff the peppers with the beef mixture. Drizzle olive oil over the stuffed peppers, along the outside of the peppers, and into the pan. Rub oil all over the outside of the peppers to help them brown.
Place on the middle rack and bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through.
Add cheese to the tops of the whole peppers or cut the cooked peppers in half length-wise and add cheese to each of those halves. Bake for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with ketchup.
Make ahead: You can prep these stuffed peppers to the point before you bake them. Keep them in the fridge for up to 24 hours. When you're ready for them, pull them out of the fridge while your oven preheats, then bake normally.
Quinoa is magical, isn’t it? It fills your belly but it doesn’t fill your waste-line. Quinoa is one of those healthy grains that you can manipulate to make it your own too. I like to cook mine in broth and add fresh herbs and veggies. This salad is tasty at any temperature too – great for those outdoor parties where you don’t necessarily have access to a stove or oven.
My porch garden is doing surprisingly well this year, considering the hot summer we are having. These guys are in full bloom.
And I’m using them in full force. This summer salad is fresh and easy and great for those times when you come home from the farmer’s market and realize that you can’t recall anything that happened in the last two hours but somehow came home with bags and bags of produce.
I was at a friend’s house of mine a few nights ago enjoying an evening of fine conversation (and strong wine) when we started to get hungry. Us ladies searched the pantry for scrumptious treats when she kindly suggested preparing a box of mac and cheese. I looked at her, wide-eyed in disbelief, as if she had just told a child that Santa doesn’t really exist.
“Blasphemy!” I yelped and rambunctiously explained to her how powdered cheese doesn’t do a noodle justice. It should be banned from the United States for posing as a cheese, heck, all American cheeses should be banned from the cheese section … but I digress. I continued my snobbish manifesto until the crooked look on her face made me realize how absurd I was being (I get a little passionate when it comes to mac and cheese, sue me).
Instead of telling her, I decided to show her. It is so easy to make real deal mac and cheese, you may never make boxed mac and cheese again. Once you get the hang of things, you can add other ingredients and play with the concept a bit.
1/2 pound pasta (elbow macaroni, spirals, ziti... your choice)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg
6-ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3-ounces gruyere cheese, shredded
3-ounces colby-jack cheese, shredded
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup crushed Goldfish Cheddar Crackers or Cheez-It Crackers (or both!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of boiled, salted water, cook the pasta to al dente. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a separate pot. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, paprika and cayenne. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the cooked pasta into the cheese sauce and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the crackers to coat. Top the macaroni with the cracker mixture and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes before serving.
The other day at the farmer’s market in Denver I picked up these beautiful cherry tomatoes (among other finds). Inspired by all the market’s fresh ingredients, I decided to make a Farmer’s Market Pasta Salad using their tomatoes and peppers.
This pasta salad turned out great. It was light and satisfying, perfect for the summer. Plus this recipe makes enough to share with a large group. I brought a big bowl of this pasta salad to a big BBQ for the 4th of July.
If you can manage, try making this day before your big event. I noticed that the flavors melded better as time went on.
1 cup organic Italian Dressing (Tuscan is my favorite to use)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 diced green bell pepper
1/2 diced red bell pepper
1/2 diced yellow bell pepper
1/4 to 1/2 diced red onion (according to your tastes)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more for topping
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions.
While the pasta is cooking, in a small bowl, whisk together the dressing, mayonnaise and sugar.
Drain the pasta well, transfer to a large serving bowl and let cool. Add the tomatoes, peppers, parmesan cheese, fresh basil, salt, to taste, and the black pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Add parmesan cheese to top and serve.
Dumplings — the college dorm room staple. Whether you order take-out or keep them frozen in your tiny dorm freezer, they’re easy to reheat and great after long nights of skipping study group and bingeing on beer bongs and cheap shots of cheap tequila.
I have had a bit of an obsession with dumplings lately. First, the wontons, and now DUMPLING MADNESS…
I could totally make a killing at inventing new dumplings and making batches of them at a time. Granted, my dumplings won’t win any beauty competitions, but it’s what’s inside that counts, right?
Don’t judge me food art community. *points* I know who you are.
I made these on a whim one night after grocery shopping. Cue 9:00pm: Miss McBooty hasn’t eaten anything for hours. What is this? The crazy cooking lady starts roasting a chicken, shreds it, and creates her delightful dumpling guts. After three hours… she finally devours these around midnight. I earned that midnight snack I tell you.
The moment I bit into one of these bad boys, I immediately tumbled down college memory lane.
1 pound shredded or ground chicken meat, white meat preferred
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 teaspoons green curry paste
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
Cabbage or parchment paper for your bamboo steamer (you can fry these in a wok with a little oil too)
Oil for sautéing
1 pack of wonton wrappers
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon hot chili oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1 clove minced garlic
Green onions (for decoration)
In a small pan, saute the shallots, garlic and green onion for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken meat and stir-fry on medium-high until the chicken is no longer pink (if your chicken is already cooked, add it in the pan and toss for a few minutes anyway). Add the carrot and the remaining ingredients. Stir thoroughly and remove from heat.
Add water to your pan and prepare your bamboo steamer on the side. Use cabbage leaves or parchment paper to prevent your dumplings from sticking after they steam. You can add some green tea to your water for some added flavor too. Bring the water to a high simmer.
Set out the wonton wrappers with a small bowl filled with water. Lay out one wrapper, place a tablespoon of the chicken filling in the middle, dip your finger in the water and run it along the edges of the wrapper. Fold the wonton so the edges create a seal, pinch and set aside. Continue until the mixture is gone.
Add as many dumplings to your steamer as you can without the dumplings touching each other. Place your steamer in the simmering water and let your dumplings steam for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until the wonton skins are clear. Repeat until all of your dumplings are cooked.
Combine ingredients for the dipping sauce and serve either drizzled on the dumplings or on the side.
You can freeze your dumplings and cook them later. Do not steam them when you prep the dumplings. Instead set them in a freezer bag for use later on. When you're ready to eat them, take them out while your bamboo steamer is warming, and place them in the basket (semi-thawed is fine). Steam until the wrapper turns clear.
My fantastically amazing friend made this for our last pot luck. The spices in the meat are absolutely to die for. I’ve never had anything quite like it.
A little bit of history: Puerco Pibil is a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Península. Preparation of traditional cochinita or puerco pibil involves marinating the meat in strongly acidic citrus juice, coloring it with annatto seed and roasting the meat while it is wrapped in banana leaf.
The recipe requires a lot of prep work (along with ingredients that are not always readily available [research ahead of time], such as banana leaves and annatto seeds), but the extra effort is well worth it and locating some of the ingredients can be fun and take you to new markets/stores! Additionally, a lot of the spices used can be found in ground/powder form but it is always beneficial to grind the spices yourself.
Combine Allspice berries, Annatto seeds, Cumin seeds, Peppercorns and Whole cloves together into a spice grinder. Process until mixture becomes a fine powder.
Cut Habanero pepper removing stems and seeds (careful as pepper and fumes can be hot, gloves can be used).
Cut and hand-squeeze 5 Lemons into blender. Add Garlic cloves, Habanero pepper, Orange juice, Salt and vinegar to blender mix. Liquify until smooth.
Chop 5 pounds of boneless pork into 2-inch chunks. Once complete places meat, powder and liquid mixture in a gallon-size Ziploc bag.
Refrigerate mixture 2-12 hours, flipping every hour (or at least occasionally, for an even coat).
Line 9x12 baking dish with Banana leaves and pour mixture onto leaves, spreading evenly and wrap with excess leaves. Wrap entire dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, creating a tight seal for the cooking process.
Cook at 325 degrees for 4 hours.
Remove and unwrap the puerco pibil slowly and carefully. Optional additions: choice of rice, beans and favorite beverage (Mexican bottled Coke or a cold cerveza are always good pairings).
I wonder how a no-bake cookie gets away with the title of being a type of cookie. Shouldn’t a no-bake cookie be some type of candy? I always consider a good cookie to have an amazing aroma that fills your home while you’re baking them. Hm.
My good buddy Jason and I made these [whatever you want to call them]. I refrained from eating all of them in one sitting… but not for long. I had two immediately and two more after he left (secret’s out). I quickly threw them into a ziplock bag and hid them in the back of my freezer. Panic-stricken, I still indulge from time to time and gorge with my freezer door still open.
3 cups oatmeal (4.5 cups if you are using quick oats)
a dash of salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Place sugar, cocoa, butter, milk and salt in a 2-quart pan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add peanut butter and stir until incorporated into a smooth, chocolately concoction. Add the oatmeal and vanilla and mix. Drop by the teaspoonfuls onto wax paper and cool for 1-2 hours until set.
For faster results, you can place these in the fridge to cool.
Pierogies (pierogi, piroghi…) are a Polish person’s idea of soul food. A pierogie is a dumpling stuffed with various fillings. Traditional fillings include potato and cheese, meat, sauerkraut and potato, cottage cheese and chives, and sweet fillings like prune and cherries.
Like most dumplings, these take time to prepare. Because they are bit tedious and I make these on my own, I usually make a big batch so I can freeze most of them and eat them later. If you can, grab some friends to help. A pierogie-making party provide a great opportunity to meet with friends or family, talk about this and that and feast!
They manufacture pierogie presses to make this task easier, especially if you are tackling these by yourself. I don’t mind pinching the dough together with my fingers so I have yet to invest in one.
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling your dough
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream, plus extra for serving
1/4 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces, plus extra for sautéing
4 large red potatoes
1 large onion and 1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped, divided
4 to 8-ounces of grated cheddar cheese (to your taste)
Optional ingredients for potato and cheese filling: fresh parsley, bacon bits, chives)
For the Pierogie Dough:
Mix together the flour and salt. Beat the egg, then add it to the flour mixture. Add the 1/2 cup sour cream and the softened butter pieces and work until the dough loses most of its stickiness (about 5-7 minutes). You can use a food processor with a dough hook for this, but be careful not to overbeat it.
Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or overnight; the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Each batch of dough makes about 15-20 pierogies, depending on the size.
For the Potato, Cheese and Onion Filling:
Peel and boil potatoes until soft. While the potatoes are boiling, saute the onion in butter until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup sauteed onion in the pan to use later in the sauce. Mash the potatoes with the rest of the onions and cheddar cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Let the mixture cool and form into 1" balls.
Roll the pierogie dough on a floured board or countertop until 1/8" thick. Cut circles of dough (about 2" for small pierogies and 3-3 1/2' for large pierogies) with a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Place a small ball of filling (about a tablespoon on each dough round and fold the dough over, forming a semi-circle. Wet the edges with a bit of water and press together with your fingers.
Boil the pierogies a few at a time in a large pot of water. They are done when they float to the top (usually about 8 minutes). Rinse in cool water and let dry.
Add pierogies to the frying pan with butter and reserved onion and fry until lightly crispy. Serve hot with a side of sour cream for dipping.
These can freeze uncooked for up to several months. You do not need to thaw the pierogies before you cook them. Simply pop them in boiling water when you're ready to indulge. They are done when they float to the top.