Southwest Slow-Cooker Chicken Tacos ~ The Smell of Crisp

photo 2-2Do you smell that?

Heavenly scent.

Go ahead, take a moment and smell that air outside.  Especially at night.

When the world has settled,

your day has calmed,

and all responsibility has dimmed.

I’m not sure what it is about this crisp, Autumn air.  Why my mind and body react the way they do when I smell it.  I remember smelling that crisp air growing up.  You could catch me at any given age, on any given night with my nose pressed against the screen of my cracked-open window.

Sniffing.

Smelling.

Embracing the changing seasons and all its glory.  Fall.  We all know my fascination.  Obsession.  The magical – all too crisp air.

This dish is perfect for such a night.  All day long the crock pot was doing the cooking as I was doing the working.  I spent just about 4 minutes preparing the crock pot in the morning and when the kids and I walked into the house at the end of the day we were enveloped with the most tasty smells.  Even my youngest was like “Mom!  Do you smell that delicious smell!?”

Yes.I.Do.

My good friend had inquired if I had any good crock pot recipes up my sleeve and so I decided to do some experimenting.  This my friends, was a successful experiment.  Now I am all about using fresh, local, organic foods but seriously – if none are available…look harder!

No, just use frozen organic corn if you don’t want to use fresh.  Make it as easy as you want.  All I gotta say is please, please don’t tweak the measurements of the seasonings.  The taste was perfection.

Do you live above 5000 feet elevation?  Check out an addition after the recipe.

Vegetarian?  Supplement bell peppers, sliced onions, chayote, tomatillos instead.

Like red meat instead?  Add a roast to the pot instead of chicken.

Add a fresh side salad consisting of some organic greens with crisp radishes, jicama, carrots and green onions and you have yourselves one heck of a well balanced – healthy meal.

Happy slow-cooking friends.

Ingredients

2 large chicken breasts
1 (16oz) jar salsa
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained/rinsed
2 corn on the cobs, corn removed
1 Tbsp chili powder
½ Tbsp cumin
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt

Trimmings: shredded cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro, chopped onions, sour cream, corn or flour tortillas

Preparation

1. Add everything except the trimmings to the slow cooker along with ¼ cup of water.  Stir well.

2. Turn slow cooker on low and cook 7-8 hours.

3. Near the end of the cooking time shred chicken or beef using two forks.

4. After 8 hours of cooking and utilizing the trimmings, build yourself a delicious tacos/burritos.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • Add two cups of chicken stock at Step 1.

Compost

  • Corn cobs/husks
  • Cilantro trimmings

Recycle

  • Salsa jar/lid
  • Bean can/lid

Reuse

  • Double recipe and freeze some for another time…

Patty Melts and Smash Potatoes – Smashing Perfectionism

pattymeltThis bitchin’ journey called life!  What a trip.  You think you’re one person a year or decade ago and then BOOM!  You transform.  You learn from mistakes and from the suffering and ill feelings of being in the wrong and you transcend into this person you actually don’t mind being.  Knowing, of course that you keep changing and the person whom you are today is not necessarily (or hopefully) the person you will be a few years from now.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still me.  I still feel the same although the way I think, the way I feel about situations and the way I use to entertain, has changed.  Before company was to arrive I would need my house to be absolutely perfect.  I mean everything.  P.E.R.F.E.C.T.

Not anymore.

Thank god.

How exhausting.

You see I don’t want to care if people are judging me.  I want to sit down and have fun.  Have a happy time with my friends.  It’s exhausting wondering if they are judging the stains on my carpet or that my windowsill seems to be growing a fuzzy small animal of some sort.  I don’t want to have to impress anyone with fancy products or clothes or food.  I know we are not rich, or even close to.  And I’m fine with that.  I am happy with what I have and the time I get to spend with people in my life.  I may have found a portal into what real happiness feels like….I may lose it at any moment.  Yet for this moment.  I have found it.  It’s within me.  Nobody has the power to take it away from me.  Try they will…

I wanted to see my friend.  I miss my friend.  Now that I’m working it seems I speak to her less and it makes me sad.  I know she’s still there, that she is still my friend and she loves me, I just miss her.  So I invite her and her lovely husband over for some dinner and as soon as I hear the word “patty melt” come out of my mouth I feel as though my body must have been taken over by aliens.

Patty melts?

Her husband nods with a big smile, he’s like my husband and loves comfort food.  Meat and potatoes.

And then I say “smash potatoes” and I start feelin’ it.  I start to appreciate the non-gourmet menu coming out of my mouth.

I like it.

I ride this casual wave.

Yeah, my kids playroom is a mess.

I haven’t dusted since last weekend.

I probably should run my vacuum over the couches…

And I’m totally okay with it.  I have my organic ground beef defrosted from Costco.  I have my baby potatoes ready for boil and I made a batch of kale chips as that is my friends favorite snack.  My husband made some home-made ice cream a few hours prior and it is properly chilling in the freezer.  I am ready for a casual evening where the focus will be catching up with my darling friend and her husband.  Chilling out over a board game as the kids zone out in front of a movie.

Just a lovely evening.

So I saw this episode of The Pioneer Woman on one of those rare occasions of watching television and it just so happens to be the show where she makes patty melts and these smashed potatoes.  I’ve decided to use her recipes, and I haven’t changed a darned thing!

Thanks Pioneer Woman and happy cooking friends.

Patty Melts

Ingredients

1 stick butter

1 whole large onion, halved and sliced

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

5 dashes Worcestershire sauce

8 slices rye bread

8 slices Swiss cheese

Directions

  1. In a medium skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Throw in the sliced onions and cook slowly until the onions are golden brown and soft, 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the ground beef, Worcestershire and some salt and pepper. Form into 4 patties.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a separate skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties on both sides until totally done in the middle.
  4. Assemble the patty melts this way: Slice of bread, slice of cheese, hamburger patty, a quarter of the cooked onions, another slice of cheese and another slice of bread.
  5. On a clean griddle or in a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and grill the sandwiches until golden brown. Remove the sandwiches and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet. Return the sandwiches to the skillet, flipping them to the other side. Cook until golden brown and crisp, and until the cheese is melted. Slice in half and serve immediately!

Crash Hot Potatoes (I like to call them Smash Potatoes)

Ingredients

12 small yellow potatoes

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until fork-tender, about 12 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475F.
  3. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Using a potato masher, gently press down to mash each one. The tops of the potatoes should be really textured. Drizzle the tops of the potatoes with the olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. These are absolutely irresistible!

smashpotato

Quick Ramen – Yup, Just As Quick As the 10 Cent Packages

009And so much better for you.  That’s actually not saying much.  Have you seen the ingredients in those Top Ramen packages?  Yikes.  Yet….this girl right here, can’t get enough of it.  I know I’m suppose to be all “green” and eat only wholesome foods but kids, I have a little confession to make.

I’m the human

that loves

dipping her French fries

in a large chocolate frosty.

I’m the girl

who thinks that frying an egg

in bacon fat

should not be left only

to camping mornings.

I’m the person

who thinks that

marshmallow fluff

should be eaten

with a spoon.

The woman who

wants an over-easy egg

added to any burger

she’s about to eat.

In other words, come on!  Who’s perfect?

me1^———-not her

I decided that ten cents a package was just too much money to spend, damn it.  No.  Actually, you can’t beat the price.  Not this recipe anyways.  But what this recipe beats, is nutrition.  Takes about the same amount of time, costs a little bit more

B.U.T.

it tastes better and it doesn’t have ingredients you are unable to pronounce.

This is a one person serving.  A quick, healthy, substantial lunch.  It can be made 100% organic as I have.  Feel free to get frisky with this bowl.  Add some shrimp, chicken, beef, tofu…..the ideas are endless.  More vegetables, use beef broth or vegetable broth….let those creative juices flow.  Here is the recipe for which I just came up with as I was jonesin for a bowl of Asian-style noodle soup.

Ingredients

0103 cups organic chicken broth

2 tablespoons soy sauce

splash of sesame oil

2 scallions, sliced nice

1 bunch organic authentic Japanese buckwheat noodles

Preparation

  1. Add first 4 ingredients into a small saucepan, bring to a boil
  2. Add noodles, cook just until tender (careful, they cook quick).
Noodles won't fit at first.  Finagle them as they start cooking to get them emerged...

Noodles won’t fit at first. Finagle them as they start cooking to get them emerged…

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Scallion trimmings

Recycle

  • Any empty containers such as the chicken broth carton, soy sauce bottle, sesame oil bottle, noodle packaging.

Reuse

  • Nada-that bowl should be slurped clean.

Quick and Easy Organic Bolognese – Life Goes On

bologneseSome may think I am a glutton for punishment.

As I choke down this blueberry spinach carob almond milk smoothie this morning I reflect how I made it through the night.  I had concocted a new Bolognese recipe, one that is easier and faster and as delicious as the one I had posted awhile back.  Just a quick red meat sauce to pour over some spaghetti or whatever pasta you have on hand.  I was unable to taste my concoction but my family gobbled every last bit.  Well, as much as their little bellies can hold.  Thankfully we have leftovers tonight so I don’t have to cook.

Anyways, back to this life goes on topic.  I wanted some pasta.  I wanted some meat.  I wanted to taste this Bolognese sauce, but alas I couldn’t.  Darn it.  I’m on Day 3 of my 21 day cleanse.  I had a smoothie instead.  And this morning, the torture continues.  I made my boys waffles.  I see some leftover waffles right now in fact.  Right there, hands reach away.  But no.  I’ll refrain.  I’ll continue to choke down this blueberry shake.  Tastes so gross.  Note to self: don’t make this one again.  Life goes on though.  Although I am subjecting myself to a crazy, strict regimen, I don’t’ expect the rest of the household to abide by it.  So I must continue my job, which a portion of it is to make my family food.

If you have a picky eater or two (or more) at home, here is your chance to add a handful of spinach or basil or peas to the tomato mixture.  Blend well and they’ll never know the hidden goodness!  Make sure to serve with a side of greens.  I steamed broccoli florets in the microwave for 6 minutes.  Drained any water then added a tablespoon or so of butter and some fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt.

Happy cooking friends and if you have never experienced a cleanse before, although I may complain a lot – it feels good to rid my life of toxins.

Ingredients

2 cans organic diced tomatoes

2 organic garlic cloves

1 – 1 1/2 pounds organic ground beef (I buy the 3-pack from Costco, great price for organic!)

2 teaspoons organic basil or 2 tablespoons fresh-chopped

2 teaspoons organic oregano or 2 tablespoons fresh-chopped

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 beef bouillon liquid packet (preferably from Trader Joe’s-all natural no GMOs)

1 cup water

1 lb of organic pasta, any kind

Organic parmesan cheese

Preparation

  1. Blend first 2 ingredients in blender or food processor until slightly smooth.
  2. Heat skillet and cook meat, breaking up into small bits – until no longer pink; drain excess fat.
  3. Add meat and tomato mixture back into the skillet along with herbs, vinegar, bouillon and water, mix well.
  4. Let simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes or until condensed to a desirable consistency.
  5. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions.
  6. Serve hot over pasta, sprinkle with cheese.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Herb trimmings if using fresh

Recycle

  • Tomato cans/lids
  • Washed out beef packaging
  • Any empty spice containers

Reuse

  • This makes a lot, you will be assured leftovers!  Enjoy the night off from cooking…

Beef & Asparagus Negimaki Rolls

012This recipe is fantastic.  We all loved the taste and the fun twist of having dinner rolled and tied together with a skewer aka swords if you are 2 or 4 years old.  You know that line you heard growing up “Don’t play with your food!” I respectfully disagree.  I think that playing with your food, in moderation, is necessary for kids to figure out what they like, what they don’t like and experimenting with textures and tastes.  We have table manners that we all need to abide by, but then again, it is a loud table.  An abundance of laughter and talking.  And in this case, sword fighting.  Skirt steak is relatively inexpensive cut of meat.  It is thin and long with a rich beefy flavor.  The recipe suggests you call ahead to make sure your butcher has one that is 12 x 4 inches but I am unable to be that organized.  In turn, they didn’t have one for me.  What I found instead was thin cut rib steaks.  It is not just one big piece of meat, but individually portioned meat.  Still thin and I feel that is what is the most important aspect as you have to cut the beef anyways.

016

This would have been nice to grill on the charcoal barbecue but again, I didn’t think that much ahead to start the coals.  I did this on my handy-dandy grill pan and it turned out great.  The trick to get those cool grill marks is to lay the beef down on a really hot grill and not touch it until it’s ready to turn.  Turn just once.  This is a great meal for a dinner party.  Especially if you were fancy enough to individual plate everyone’s dinner and present it to them all purdy.  This recipe is very easy to double and even triple.  I made some sticky white rice to go with this dish (trick to getting it sticky is to rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer with cold water for several minutes).   Read through the recipe, you’ll be surprised at how fast this meal comes together.  And then once you make it you will see how flavorful it is, healthy and fun.

Happy cooking friends.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), trimmed

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and halved crosswise

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 1/4 pounds skirt steak, trimmed

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Preparation

  1. Preheat one side of the grill to medium-high (or build a medium-high-heat fire on one side of a charcoal grill); leave the other side unheated.
  2. Mix hoisin, water, tomato paste, vinegar, sesame oil and crushed red pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a small bowl. Set the rest aside.
  3. Toss asparagus, scallions, canola oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  4. Cut steak in half lengthwise, then cut each long strip in half crosswise to make four 2-by-6-inch pieces. Pound any uneven pieces to a 1/4- to 1/2-inch thickness. Brush the top side of the steak pieces with the 2 tablespoons of sauce. Divide asparagus and scallions among the steak pieces, placing the bundles across the middle. Fold and roll the steak over the bundles and thread a skewer through the overlapping ends of the steak and through the bundle to hold the rolls together.
  5. Place the rolls seam-side down on the hot side of the grill for 5 minutes. Turn and grill until the second side is beginning to char, about 5 minutes more. Move the rolls to the unheated side, cover and cook for about 5 minutes more for medium steak.
  6. Remove from the grill. Brush the steak with some of the reserved sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with the remaining sauce for dipping.

005

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Asparagus and scallion trimmings

Recycle

  • Any used container such as the hoisin jar/lid, tomato paste can/lid, rice vinegar bottle/lid, etc.

Reuse

  • Plastic bags vegetables came in.

Burger Bar – Get Your Meat, Cheese and Bread On

hamburgerI love burgers.  I love the fact that it is a big piece of meat, smothered in cheese on a toasted sesame bun.  I do not do turkey burgers or tofu burgers or soy burgers or any other burger wannabe.  I like a beef burger.  And I know, it is not BBQ weather just yet.  At least not here on this mountain.  But it is coming soon.  I just know it is (it better).  Nothing beats a burger cooked over the open flames on a charcoal Weber barbecue.  Nothing.  Those gas barbecues are not allowed on our property.  I actually did want one for the ease and quickness for which one can cook their selected foods but no.  My husband is a grillin’ machine.  He likes his charcoal and also his “flavored” additions like mesquite.  I have learned to love barbecue because it gives me a slight reprieve in the dinner making department.  Yes, I prepare the meats and other foods that go on the grill but then I sit back and wait.  Or am by my husband’s side with an empty plate and a drool soaked chin.  Anyways, not barbecue weather, we covered that.  I have a cheater machine.  The George Foreman Grill.  Oh yeah baby!  I break this puppy out when I am jonesin for a good burger (and the weber is currently under a blanket of snow).  I buy the 1.5 lb packages of organic beef from Costco.  A bit expensive but I would rather pay the extra than to serve my family a tofurger.  I will not serve my family ground beef unless it is organic or from a nearby farm where I can actually see what is up.

005Okay, burger bar.  I like to put out all sorts of fabuliscious stuff (yes, making up my own vocabulary this post leave me alone, also I’m a bit snarky…don’t mind me, glad you’re here!).  I love a burger with a salad on it, meaning lettuce, tomato, raw onion, fresh crisp pickles and peppercini’s.  Yes, and I’ll add on there thousand island dressing, ketchup and mustard.  I am a wonderment to watch eat this big ‘ol sammich.  Not like that sexy Carl’s Jr. commercial with the buxom woman who drips ketchup down her breasts.  No.  I look more like a zombie of some sort.  Anyways, enough of my beauty.  Making burgers are super simple and fun for the whole family.  Make up the patties (recipe below) grill them up either on a grill pan, George Foreman, or if you are blessed enough with fine weather, a barbecue.   After your burger patties are done, quickly butter some buns and toast them for a few on that same grill pan or whatever you cooked your patties on.  Once those are done you are ready to serve your family, actually let them serve themselves with a burger bar!  Here are some suggested add-ons:

  • crispy bacon
  • sautéed mushrooms
  • fresh lettuce, tomato, onions
  • caramelized onions
  • avocado
  • Ortega chilis
  • cheese: swiss, cheddar, pepper jack, blue cheese, brie, etc.
  • condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, thousand island dressing, etc.
  • pickles
  • fried egg
  • peppercini’s

Be creative!  And if your kids are like my kids they will love making their own choices as to what goes on their burger.  Or if you are like my 4-year-old he’ll have it plain.  Boring!  And for a yummy side-dish you can always make home-made french fries, garden salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, pasta salad…you get the point.

Happy ‘cueing…

Burger Patties

Ingredients

My lovely in-laws sent me the most amazing box from Savory Spice Shop with all the most amazing spices.  I loved how bay leaves were the dividers!

My lovely in-laws sent me the most amazing box from Savory Spice Shop with all the most amazing spices. I loved how bay leaves were the dividers!

1 – 1 1/2 lbs ground beef

1 egg

several shakes of some worcestershire (or some other seasoning such as: I am going to use a teaspoon of this Red Rocks Hickory Smoke Seasoning by Savory Spice Shop)

1/2 large onion finely chopped – optional

1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped – optional

1/2 cup home-made bread crumbs

Preparation

  1. Mix all ingredients.  Come on!  Use those cleaned fingers.  Let your inner-child come out and play!  Shape into 4 hamburger patties by dividing dough into 4 parts.  For each part, roll dough into a tight ball.  Really compact the meat.  Then start slapping the ball from hand to hand making it become flatter.  Once in the form of a disc it is ready to cook.
  2. You’ll want to cook the patties about 4 minutes on each side.  Center needs to be at least 165 degrees.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Egg shell
  • All vegetable trimmings from add-on bar

Recycle

  • Plastic, washed out beef packaging

Reuse

  • Plastic bags vegetables came in

Chicken and Spring Vegetable Lo Mein – Springful Wishing

vegetable-lo-meinYou know, that one day in March where it fools you into thinking Spring is actually here.  It’s warm.  So you put on one of the dozen new Zulily sundresses you have been purchasing as the blizzard blows.  You see some buds on the trees so you then put on the dusty flip flops.  You walk outside and are instantly stunned that the twenty degree weather is actually cold.  But whatever, it will warm up.  Surely, it will.  Afterall you’re going to Denver today, always 10-15 degrees warmer than on this mountain top.  You spend the day in Denver with the kids and husband, touring stpattysBass Pro Shop, watching your children’s eyes pop out of their heads at the height of the buildings.  Eat at a restaurant that is not called “Grandmothers Kitchen” or “Hungry Bear”.  All the while your sweater you threw on at the last-minute seems to be stretching as you have clung to it so tightly all day.  And then, driving home as your husband has had too many green beers (Oh, Happy belated Saint Patrick’s Day!) it starts to hail and sleet.  A fleeting thought goes through your head as you look down at your sundress and flip flops – PSYCH!  March got ya again.  Early April Fools on you!  And as you walk into your cold house, hurriedly starting a fire – a smile appears.  Because you are a smart cookie, yes you are!  All day long, without the work of you, a classic Saint Patrick’s meal has been cooking away in your beloved slow-cooker.  A wonderfully warm, hearty meal, ready to be eaten.

Note to self: it snows more in March than in any other month of the year.

Afterthought: I will still pull out a sundress a year from now with hopeful thinking.  Whatever.

Here is a hopeful meal.  Spring vegetables.  How lovely, for all of you people who get to have Spring.  This is for you.  As for me?  Not just yet…

This meal is one of those meals that has insane taste, comes together quickly and is very healthy.  Also, forgiving…substitute shrimp, tofu, beef or pork for the chicken.

Happy cooking, and all you who get a real Spring-enjoy!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil now as it is less processed and better for you)

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1 – 8 oz package dried lo mein noodles (I found organic at my local City Market!!)

1 small head cabbage, thinly sliced (3 cups)

1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/4 lb. shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled and cut into match sticks

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons dry sherry (or chicken broth with a splash of white vinegar, which I will be using)

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 cups cooked chicken, sliced into bite-sized pieces

Salt

1/4 cup chopped peanuts, for sprinkling

Preparation

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high until shimmering.  Add the onions, garlic and ginger.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat.
  2. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.  Add the cabbage, bell pepper, mushrooms, snow peas and carrot; cook for 30 seconds.  Drain the noodles and vegetables thoroughly.
  3. Turn the heat under the skillet back to high.  When the onions sizzle, add the soy sauce, sherry and sesame oil and let the mixture bubble for a few seconds.  Add the noodles and vegetables; toss well.  Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are fully cooked and the peppers are tender but still slightly crunchy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Lower the heat to medium, add the chicken and cook, stirring often, to heat through.  Season with salt and sprinkle with the peanuts.

High Altitude Adjustment

  • None

Compost

  • Onion, garlic, ginger, cabbage, bell pepper, mushroom, snow peas and carrot trimmings.

Recycle

  • Noodle and peanut packaging.
  • Any used container such as oil, sherry or soy sauce bottles.

Reuse

  • Plastic bags the vegetables came in.
We turned down the spa heat and made it into an indoor pool.  The kids are ready for Spring/Summer as well...

We turned down the spa heat and made it into an indoor pool. The kids are ready for Spring/Summer as well…