Recipe—Whole Chicken in a Crock-Pot

I absolutely love roasting chicken in the oven but I just don’t usually have time during the workweek. Using a crock-pot is a wonderful alternative way to cook an entire chicken. This recipe is super easy and the chicken comes out incredibly moist and is pretty much falling off the bone. Just be sure to be very careful when removing the whole chicken from the crock-pot because it will be on the verge of falling apart. Serve this up with a side of mashed potatoes and your favorite veggie for a dinner made of comfort foods. I even used the drippings from the crock-pot to make a quick and easy gravy which went great with mashed potatoes and chicken.

Note: If you are really short on time in the mornings prepare the entire chicken in the ceramic crock-pot insert the night before and just place the entire thing with the lid on in the refrigerator. Then in the morning you just drop the insert into the crock-pot and turn it on. Wellah! Dinner really can be this easy!

INGREDIENTS
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large chicken

STEPS

  • Combine all the spices in a small bowl.
  • Place the chopped onion and celery in the bottom of the crock-pot.
  • Remove any parts from inside the chicken.
  • Rub the seasonings all over the chicken. (I like to rub some of the seasonings under the skin covering the breasts. This allows the flavors to really seep into the meat.)
  • Place the prepared chicken in the crock-pot on top of the onions breast side up.
  • Cook on high for 4–5 hours or on low for 8–10.
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Recipe—Chicken Caesar Burgers

Everything delicious about a chicken Caesar salad can be found in this chicken burger. It’s got the lemon zest, rich parmesan, and creamy dressing. Many people think of ground chicken patties as bland and dry. After trying these one’s opinion of them will completely change. These are not only really moist but they are also super tasty.  When I cooked these the other night I made my hubby the burger on the bun and I just enjoyed the patty along with a big side Caesar. This gave me a fabulous low-carb alternative. These sandwiches are incredibly quick and easy to make and give you a really great healthy alternative to a beef burger.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb ground chicken breast
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/3 c grated parmesan
salt and pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 c fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon zest
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 c parmesan, shredded
4 sandwich rolls
1/4 c Caesar dressing
8 large romaine leaves
1 large red tomato, sliced

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • In a large bowl combine the chicken, garlic, parmesan, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and lemon zest.
  • Mix the meat and ingredients and form into 4 patties making sure they are the same shape and size as your rolls.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet.
  • Add the chicken patties to the heated skillet and cook for 4–5 minutes per side.
  • While the patties are cooking place the buns cut side up on a cookie sheet and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Flip the buns over so they are cut side down.
  • Remove the patties from the skillet and transfer them to the baking sheet if there is room, if not use a second baking sheet.
  • Top the chicken burger patties with the shredded parmesan cheese.
  • Bake the buns and patties in the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the buns are nice and toasty.
  • Spread each cut side of the buns with Caesar dressing.
  • Place 2 romaine leaves and two slices of tomatoes on each bun bottom.
  • Add the chicken patty and finish off with the top bun.

Recipe adapted from Rachel Ray.

Recipe—Homemade Fish Sticks & Tartar Sauce

The other night I asked my son what he would like for dinner. His reply, an enthusiastic “FISH STICKS!” I was not so enthusiastic. I have never been a fan of the frozen mystery fish sticks you get in your store’s frozen section, I am however a huge fan of good, quality, fresh fish. So I was on a mission to make some out of this world homemade fish sticks. Why not go with one of the best pieces of fish on the market, halibut. These turned out incredible! By far the best fish sticks I have ever had. These were a huge hit not for only my husband and I, but my son loved them. We had a happy family all around. I served them with my macadamia nut rice and some coleslaw. Talk about totally indulgent. We will be making these again very soon.

Note: Halibut filets typically come with a layer of skin on them. Many butchers will remove it for you if you bat your eyes and ask them nicely. So unless you want to remove the skin yourself, see if you can get a butcher to remove the skin from the filet for you. Trust me, it’s worth it.

FISH STICK INGREDIENTS
2 eggs
1 tbsp milk
1 lb halibut filets cut into 1” strips
1 1/2 c panko
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 c vegetable oil

TARTAR SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1/4 c sour cream
3 tbsp mayo
2 tbsp sweet pickle relish
2 tsp capers, minced
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

GARNISH
lemon wedges

STEPS

  • Make tartar sauce by combining all ingredients in a small bowl mixing well. Place tartar sauce in fridge until ready to use.
  • For the fish sticks, whisk together eggs and milk.
  • Add fish strips to the egg wash and gently toss to coat.
  • In a shallow bowl combine panko, salt, and pepper.
  • Remove the fish strips one at a time from the egg wash and coat them in the panko mixture. Set the breaded fish to the side on a cutting board as you finish them.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add as many of the fish sticks to the hot oil as you can making sure not to overlap.
  • Cook for 4 minutes turning once to making sure all sides are a golden brown.
  • Remove the fish sticks from the oil as they are done cooking and place on a paper towel lined sheet.
  • Repeat the last 3 steps until all of the fish sticks are done.
  • Serve fish sticks with the tartar sauce and a lemon wedge.

Recipe—Tropical Macadamia Nut Rice

How many times have you served a side of plain white rice with your favorite dishes? With how quick and easy this macadamia nut rice is you will be looking to spruce up your rice more often. This takes rice to a whole new level. It is sweet and salty and has a great balance of textures with the crunchy nuts mixed in. This is a great side dish if you are looking for food for a luau. I love to serve it with teriyaki chicken and grilled pineapple. Yummy in my tummy! This rice pairs nicely with my homemade halibut fish sticks, any grilled fish, or even grilled pork or shrimp with Caribbean seasonings. Try this out and give your taste buds a real tropical treat. Aloooooohaaaaa!

INGREDIENTS
2 cups jasmine rice, uncooked
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 c green onions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup roasted macadamia nuts, chopped
salt

STEPS

  • Cook rice according to package instructions.
  • While the rice is cooking, lightly toast your coconut in a skillet over medium heat until it turns a nice golden color.  Set aside.
  • After the rice has sat covered per the package instructions, drizzle with olive oil and gently fluff with a fork.
  • Stir in toasted coconut, green onions, macadamia nuts, and season with salt.

Recipe—Creamy Persimmon Pomegranate Salad

During the fall and winter months it can be difficult to find quality ripe fruit for a fruit salad. And when you do find some, you pay an arm and a leg. This is a fabulously simple salad you can whip up in minutes using some seasonal fall fruits. This sweet and creamy salad is great for breakfast or even as an addition to your Thanksgiving meal. I think the walnuts and pomegranate seeds give it a nice little crunch and best of all, it is really healthy!

Note: You may or may not find seeds in your persimmons. I have found them both ways. When you chop them be sure to keep a watch for them and discard any you find.

INGREDIENTS
6 fuyu or amagaki persimmons, chopped
3/4 c pomegranate seeds
1/2 c candied walnuts, chopped
1 c plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp honey

STEPS

  • Combine the persimmons, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts in a medium bowl.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the honey and yogurt.
  • Pour the yogurt over the fruit and gently stir to combine.

Recipe—Quinoa and Cheese

I am a huge fan of macaroni and cheese; I mean come on, who isn’t? It has to be one of my all time favorite comfort foods. Problem for me is that it is not the healthiest item to be consuming on a regular basis. I thought to myself, there has to be a way to enjoy a healthier version of this classic comfort food. So here it is, quinoa and cheese!

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a super grain comparable to couscous or rice and has been around since ancient times. The Incas called it “The Mother Grain.” It contains more protein and fewer carbohydrates than any other grain. It’s also an awesome source of calcium, iron, phosphorous, and vitamins B and E. Quinoa is a great ingredient to work with if you are watching carbs or are on a gluten free diet.

This recipe has all the great qualities a person loves about macaroni and cheese, the rich creaminess, the cheesiness, the crunchy topping, except it makes it healthier. (Shhh don’t tell the kids!) You can even spruce it up by adding in some steamed broccoli or fresh chopped jalapeños. While I wouldn’t call this an equal to macaroni and cheese, it certainly is a great alternative.

Note: If you are only feeding a couple of mouths divvy it up into two 8″ x 8″ dishes and freeze one for later. I love the disposable foil containers you can get at the grocery store. 

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups quinoa, uncooked
1/2 c milk
1/2 c sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 c crushed croutons (optional)

STEPS

  • Cook quinoa according to the package instructions.
  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • Grease a 7” x 11” baking dish.
  • Whisk together milk, sour cream, eggs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  • Stir in cheese and then the cooked quinoa.
  • Transfer the quinoa and cheese mixture to the prepared baking dish.
  • Top with the crushed croutons if you are using them.
  • Bake for 30–35 minutes or until it is a nice golden brown on top.

Recipe—Baked Acorn Squash

I have a confession to make, I know this will make me sound like a total blonde but I want to be sure you all know I’m human and that I don’t know everything about cooking. I am still learning every day. So here I go… until I got my first acorn squash in my organic produce box a few weeks back I thought they were a decorative item. Seriously. Okay, go ahead and laugh now.  I remember seeing them in the grocery stores with all the gourds and pumpkins every fall but I was oblivious to the fact that people actually ate them. I am so glad I discovered that these were in fact edible because they are delicious and I now love cooking with them. I am sharing a recipe for a classic oven baked acorn squash. This is a really sweet treat and a fun way to enjoy the veggie. These squash remind me of my favorite Thanksgiving side dish, sweet potatoes with brown sugar and pecans. Yum! Depending on how many people I have over for turkey day this year I may just even make these instead. Why not mix it up and break out of tradition?

INGREDIENTS
1 acorn squash
1 tbsp butter, softened
salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp maple syrup

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Carefully cut acorn squash in half and using a spoon clean out the seeds and stringy pulp.
  • Coat the inside of each squash half with the softened butter and sprinkle with salt.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar to the cavity of each half.
  • Drizzle a teaspoon of maple sugar over each half.
  • Put a 1/4” of water in a baking dish (This keeps the squash from drying out.)
  • Place the prepared acorn squash in the water cut side up.
  • Bake squash for 1 hour or until they are soft and easily pierced with a fork.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe—Peppercorn Crusted Steak with Bourbon Cream Sauce

Usually when we have steak in our house my hubby does his magic on the grille. The other weekend he was taking his first of many architectural exams. I wanted to surprise him with a nice steak fit for a king to reward him for all his hard work, without having him fire up the barbie. These really turned out to be some great skillet cooked steaks. The sauce was rich and creamy and really dresses up what is already a fabulous cut of meat. This recipe is perfect for a romantic dinner in or a special indulgence.

STEAK INGREDIENTS
2 New York steaks, rib eyes, or filets
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

SAUCE INGREDIENTS
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp yellow onion, minced
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tbsp bourbon
1/2 c beef broth
1/2 c heavy whipping cream

STEAK STEPS

  • Season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper making sure to rub it in.
  • Heat a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add olive oil to the pan and heat.
  • Carefully add the steaks to the pan and cook for 4–5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and flip the steaks.
  • Cook the steaks for another 4–5 minutes.
  • Transfer the steaks to a large plate and cover with foil.

SAUCE STEPS

  • Add oil to the skillet the steaks were cooked in.
  • Add garlic, onions, and peppercorns to the skillet and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent.
  • Carefully add the bourbon to the pan to deglaze. It may ignite so stand back and poor in slowly.
  • Use a whisk to stir and break up all the bits in the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the beef broth and the heavy cream to the pan and bring to a gentle boil.
  • Turn heat to low and simmer.
  • Cook sauce for 3–5 minutes until it begins to thicken, stirring occasionally.
  • Plate the steaks and pour the sauce over the top of them.

Recipe—Blueberry Cream Cheese Danishes

I have posted a few recipes now that call for puff pastry. As I have said before it is a great ingredient! I always keep it on hand in the freezer because it is incredibly easy to whip up some quick breakfast pastries. Here is a fabulous recipe for blueberry cream cheese danishes. One thing I love about these is that you can prep the rolls the night before, refrigerate them and then when you wake up in the morning all you have to do is slice and bake. Perfect for all the company you will be having over around the holidays!

Note: You can substitute the blueberries and jam for any flavored fruit jam you have on hand. I’m really fond of apricot too.

INGREDIENTS
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp butter, softened
3 tbsp sugar, divided
2 tbsp blueberry jam
1/4 c fresh blueberries, chopped
1 package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets, room temperature
flour for work surface
1 egg
1 tbsp water

STEPS

  • In a small mixing bowl beat together the cream cheese, butter and 1 tbsp sugar until smooth and creamy.
  • Fold in blueberry jam and blueberries making sure not to over stir.
  • Sprinkle flour on the work surface and unfold puff pastry.
  • Evenly spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture over the pastry leaving one edge exposed about an inch back.
  • Starting at the edge opposite from the exposed edge roll up like a jelly roll.
  • Wrap your roll in saran wrap and chill in freezer for an hour or fridge for a couple of hours. (This will make it easier to slice through.)
  • Preheat oven to 400º.
  • Beat the egg and water together in a small bowl.
  • Remove the saran wrap and cut roll into 1/2” slices.
  • Place the slices cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Brush the top of each spiral with the egg wash and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  • Bake for 14–16 minutes or until just starting to turn a golden brown.
  • Remove the spirals from the baking sheet and allow to cool.

Recipe—Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

I am a girl who loves her boneless buffalo wings, just not all the calories that come with the batter fried chicken. This is a fabulous adaptation of the classic American appetizer. My husband isn’t really a fan of buffalo chicken but he really enjoyed these to my surprise. To be honest, the two of us finished off the entire batch over some Sunday football and I was guilt free! This is a really great appetizer that is not only quick but incredibly easy. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS
1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 c buttermilk
1/2 c flour
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 c buffalo sauce (I love Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce!)
1 tbsp butter, melted

GARNISHES
bleu cheese dressing
celery and/or carrots

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º.
  • In a large bowl whisk together buttermilk, flour, and garlic salt until smooth. (If the batter seems too thick add more buttermilk a tablespoon at a time. You want it to be slightly thick so that it sticks to the cauliflower. If it is too runny the batter will all drip off while baking.)
  • Place the cauliflower into the bowl of batter and gently toss to coat.
  • Spread the battered cauliflower out on a greased baking dish making sure to shake off any excess batter.
  • Bake for 20–25 minutes turning once until some of the edges turn a nice golden color.
  • While the cauliflower is baking combine the buffalo sauce and melted butter in a small bowl.
  • Remove the cauliflower from the oven and drizzle the buffalo sauce mixture over the top and toss to coat.
  • Return the cauliflower to the oven and bake for an additional 5–10 minutes.
  • Remove the finished cauliflower from the oven and plate with some fresh veggies and a side of bleu cheese dressing.

 

Note (added 01/13/14): Many people have asked about the texture. The batter becomes more like a soft breading on the outside rather than crispy. To get a crispy texture try frying the battered cauliflower. And be sure to shake of excess batter as you place it on the baking sheet so that the cauliflower is lightly coated.