Monday, February 25, 2013

Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken

I have been making many crockpot recipes lately - and it's all for you, my dear readers! I have to admit, I'm not impressed with 4 out of 5 of the recipes I try.....I just don't think they are "blog-worthy"- at least not The Wooden Spoon Diaries blog-worthy Most of the crockpot recipes I try are  bland and mushy! I do my best to post only the best for you all.....but as you know, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince!

Well, I have to say, I think my Hawaiian Chicken is definitely a prince of a recipe! It gets a big "check" for easiness. It gets a big "check" for meat tenderness. And it definitely gets a big "check" for yummy-ness! I served the chicken and sauce over brown rice (I used boil in the bag - another easy "check") and my family's favorite Hawaiian rolls. The meal was pretty sweet, so, if you want to balance flavors I would recommend a side salad. The meat would also taste great in a roll, tortilla or in a baked potato! Enjoy!

3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 onion, chopped finely
1 cup pineapple, chopped (I used fresh pineapple, but you can used canned if you like)
1 to 1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray's - use your favorite)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch strips

Place chicken, chopped onion, chopped pineapple, BBQ sauce and chicken broth in a crockpot. Cook on high for 4 hours. Add the green bell pepper strips to the crockpot 30 minutes before serving. If you add them too soon they will get mushy and overcooked.

                            Remove chicken and shred.

                  Serve shredded chicken and sauce over brown rice. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snickerdoodle Blondies

So I made these yesterday for my husband's office.  I send lots of treats into the office because I do a ton of baking and for the most part, my kids and husband don't really eat it (I know, they are so crazy, right!?!). Unfortunately for the office, these never made it in. Why? Because for ONCE my children and hubby devoured them- I mean they just killed these blondies!  I was in shock! I asked the boys, "Why are you eating these and you never want the other things I bake?" My son responded, "Because, Mom, these are the second best thing you have every made! They are right behind your 'World Famous Chocolate Cake'!" The other two concurred.  Wow, that was a bold statement (if you knew the bar my World Famous Chocolate Cake has set for all other sweets, you would understand the gravity in those words!).

So, all that to say, these are really really really yummy!!! You must give them a try!!! I found the recipe on the blog Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. And here it is verbatim:

1 cup butter or shortening (shortening gives a better texture) *I used butter*
 1½ cups sugar
3 eggs
¼ cup sour cream
2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F
Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between eggs. Mix in sour cream.

Combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, baking powder and salt. Mix into shortening/sugar mixture.

In a separate, small bowl, combine ⅓ cup sugar and cinnamon.

Sprinkle half the cinnamon sugar mix into a 9X13 pan.

Spread batter on top.

Top with remaining sugar mixture.

Bake 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. *I baked mine for 26 minutes.

Let cool completely before cutting.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chicken Ricotta Meatballs

I'm really happy with the way these meatballs turned out!! I thought they were delicious, if I do say so myself! I'm really not a fan of ground turkey (notice how I don't blog ground turkey much? Wait, have I ever blogged anything with ground turkey?)......I find it really dry and bland. I do like using ground chicken, however. Ground chicken has breast and thigh meat in it so it is moist and flavorful. I added the chopped shallots and shredded carrot for a hint of sweet.  Sauteing the shallots and carrots first is a nice way to take out any "crunch"....I don't like meatballs with crunchy onions!!

I made meatballs subs out of these meatballs. You could also serve them with spaghetti and sauce or even plain! Yum! Enjoy!

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/3 cup low-fat ricotta
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 1/3 cup - you can substitute onion if you like)
  • 1 small carrot, grated finely (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbl fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 Tbl dried parsley
  • pinch of crushed pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 400F

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add shallots and carrots and saute till tender, about 4 minutes, stirring often.
In a large bowl, gently mix together the cooked shallot and carrots along with the rest of the ingredients. Do not over mix.

Spray the bottom of a large baking dish with cooking spray.

Take a large pinch of the meat mixture and form it into a 1 to 2 inch ball. Place the meatballs in the baking dish. Continue until all the meatballs are formed.

Bake the meatballs for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.

I served the meatballs on a roll and made a meatball sub. I topped each sub with marina sauce and shredded mozzerella then returned them to a 350F oven for 10 minutes to melt the cheese.

You can also serve these over pasta noodles or on their own! Enjoy!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Favorite Tools: Mix & Chop

I have been wanting to do a post about one of my most favorite kitchen tools for a long time now! I do apologize that it has taken me so very long to introduce you to this marvelous tool....Once you start using it for yourself, you will wonder how you ever managed without it! This life-changing tool is called the Mix & Chop and it is made by Pampered Chef (this post is 100% unsolicited- I just love it).

For many years I shied away from making tacos or bolognase because I could never get the meat chopped finely enough with a spatula and boy do I hate big chunks of ground beef (not to mention the sore arm I always got from trying so hard and for so long to chop that beef). When the Mix & Chop came into my life, all that changed! It chops so well and so quickly....I do believe it is a thing of culinary beauty! Now I boldly approach recipes with ground meat of any kind......Stand back, Chili.....Move aside, Sloppy Joes.....You don't scare me, Spaghetti! Okay, okay, you get the point! But truly, with my handy Mix & Chop, I can conquer all things ground meat! The finely chopped consistency just tastes better; it is more like a restaurant.

So to all you readers I say, run, don't walk (okay, really just open a new browser and mosey on over to Pampered Chef's website) and order yourself a Mix & Chop! You will be happy to have this incredibly simple, yet functional, tool in your arsenal!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sausage Sutffed Zucchini Boats

My friend, Sarah, has been keeping me afloat regarding all the delicious recipes from Skinny Taste that I just have to make! She raved and raved about these sausage stuffed zucchini boats, so of course, I had to try them immediately! Well, let me tell you, Sarah's raving was completely justified! These were delicious! Delicious I tell you!!! And healthy to boot! My only disappointment is that I halved the recipe.....I SO wish I would have had another zucchini! They were just THAT good. And with them having under 160 calories per "boat" I didn't feel the slightest bit guilty for wanting more. This is a meal I would make again and again. My husband agreed wholeheartedly!

I did make a few changes which I will note in the recipe below. Thank you to Skinny Taste for yet another delectable meal! Enjoy!

  • 1 1/4 cups quick marinara sauce (I used good quality jarred marinara sauce)
  • 4 (31 oz total) medium zucchini
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 14 oz lean Italian chicken sausage, removed from casing (Al Fresco)
  • 1/2 cup part skim shredded mozzarella (Polly-O)
  • 8 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400F

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and using a spoon or melon baller, scoop out flesh, leaving 1/4" thick. (I don't have a melon baller, so I actually used a knife and a grapefruit spoon! It worked!) Chop the scooped out flesh of the zucchini in small pieces and set aside. (I only used 2/3 cup of the scooped out flesh and I squeezed out the excess water by putting it in two paper towels and squeezing it over the will be surprised at how much water comes out!)

Drop the zucchini halves in the boiling water and cook for one minute only. Remove and set aside.

Place 1/4 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 12" baking dish, and place zucchini halves cut side up.

In a large saute pan, brown sausage, breaking up as it cooks into smaller pieces until browned; set aside. Heat oil and add onion, garlic and bell pepper. Cook on a medium-low heat for about 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add chopped zucchini, season with salt and pepper and cook about 2-3 minutes. Combine with sausage and cook a few more minutes.

Using a spoon, fill each hollowed zucchini with 1/3 cup cooked sausage, pressing firmly.

Top each with 2 tablespoons of sauce, 1 tablespoon each of shredded mozzarella cheese and 1 teaspoon each of Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and bake 35 minutes until cheese is melted and zucchini is cooked through. (At this point I removed the foil from the dish and turned the oven to broil. I broiled the zucchini for 2 minutes just to get the cheese a little brown and bubbly on the top).

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Breakfast Brownies

I have been tweaking this recipe here and there for awhile now and I finally nailed it! These breakfast brownies are moist, sweet - but, not too sweet for the morning, and filling. Of course, they are quite nutritious, as well! I'm happy to report these brownies contain zero eggs, zero butter and zero oil! They are packed full of bananas, applesauce, oats, and a boat-load of shredded zucchini. The kids think they are getting a huge treat with me letting them eat brownies for breakfast (*cue evil laugh- Bwahahahahaha!!).

They did say, "Mom, these don't taste like regular brownies."  I held my breath and thought, Oh, no, here we go, rejection time! But they finished, "They taste more like your chocolate cake!" Phew!  But really, the kids are right - these don't taste JUST like brownies- full disclosure! I don't want you to bake these for a party and serve them for dessert! Ha! They taste more like chocolate banana bread. I'm sure you and your crew will love them!  Enjoy!

2 c. zucchini (about two medium zucchinis), shredded fine and squeezed dry
2 medium bananas, mashed well
1/2 c. applesauce
1 1/2 c. white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. whole wheat PASTRY flour* (you can find this in any grocery store)
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. chocolate chips (use mini chocolate chips if you can find them)
3/4 c. old fashioned rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350F

Shred zucchini using the smallest hole on your grater. I actually use a microplane to shred my zucchini because it gets it very fine. After your zucchini is shredded you MUST squeeze the excess water out of it. I usually put them in several paper towels and then just squeeze them with my hands over the sink. You can also put the shredded zucchini in a strainer and push the water out. You will be shocked at how much water is released. If you miss this step, your breakfast brownies will be wet! Set the shredded, squeezed dry zucchini aside.

In a large mixing bowl mash the bananas. Add applesauce and stir to combine. Add sugar; stir. Add vanilla and stir. Next add cocoa, baking soda, salt, whole wheat pastry flour and all-purpose flour. Stir to combine. Add the shredded, squeezed dry zucchini and combine. Add chocolate chips and oats.

Pour batter in a greased 9X13 inch glass baking dish. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until the brownies spring back when you touch them. Let cool completely and cut into squares. Try not to snicker when your kids gobble these down and ask for more!!!

*If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, then just use 2 cups of all-purpose flour.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crock Pot Picadillo

I have to admit, I didn't make this Cuban dish in the crock pot....I mean, I was already using a large pan to cook the meat, onions and, I figured, I'm not going anywhere, why dirty my crock pot? I just left everything in the pan and covered it with a lid. I let it cook for about 1 1/2 hours on was just delicious!

So, am I falsely advertising this meal? Nope, not at all! For one, I figured that I'd get more readers to view the recipe if I included the words "crock pot" in the title (shout out to all you busy moms)....and secondly, this recipe, straight from the blog Skinny Taste, says to put the meat mixture into the crock pot! I'm just keeping the integrity of the original recipe alive! However, if you want to be a bit of a rule breaker like me, just cook it in the pan.....

Oh and two more little rules I broke.....I only used one pound of meat (it was MORE than enough) and I ONLY used capers.....this is strictly because my husband hates olives....but, believe me, if I had my druthers I would have olive-d this picadillo up! It was still delicious, though!

I served it over rice with warm flour tortillas. I also had salsa, chips and guacamole on hand. I don't know if that's keeping with this Cuban recipe or not....but, it was good and that's all that really matters. Enjoy!

  • 2 1/2 lbs 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 cup diced red bell peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup alcaparrado (manzanilla olives, pimientos, capers) or green olives
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste
Brown meat in a large deep skillet on medium-high heat; season with generously with salt and a little pepper. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat up into small pieces. When meat is no longer pink, drain all the liquid from pan. Add the onions, garlic and bell peppers to the meat and cook an addition 3-4 minutes.

Transfer the meat to the slow cooker, then add tomato, cilantro, tomato sauce, 1 1/4 cups water, alcaparrado (or olives - or as I did, just capers) (I usually add some of the brine from the jar for added flavor- I added about 1 Tbl) then add the spices.

Set slow cooker to HIGH for 3 to 4 hours or LOW for 6 to 8. After it's ready, taste for salt and add more as needed (I added a little more cumin and garlic powder at the end as well since the crock pot tends to mute the flavors of herbs and spices)**. Discard the bay leaves and serve over brown rice.

**Since I just used a pan and not the crock pot, I didn't think it necessary to add any extra spices.