Monday, January 14, 2013

Big Changes!



2013 has offered lots of changes for me so far, including a brand new site! You can now find me over at Whole Lotta Oven. Don't forget to update your Google reader to keep up with all new posts.  In the meantime, please enjoy the new site!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken Stew


January happens to be one of those months where I just can't get enough soup/stews. The cold weather makes my body crave something warm and comforting. Combine my craving with the benefit of a slow cooker and it's a win-win. The recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook. This has become one of my go to cookbooks when I'm meal planning and has certainly taught me to think outside the box when using a crock-pot for meals. This recipe is a first of many I plan to share from the book. The stew itself has a nice balance of heat. It is hearty and satisfying with just the right amount of spice on the back end. I chose to follow their recommendation and serve the stew with white rice. My husband loved the addition of rice; however I preferred to leave it out so that the stew could remain juicier, without the rice to absorb most of the liquids. However you decide to serve, chances are your family will love a nice warm bowl of comforting stew.

Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken Stew

2 onions, minced
2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 cups chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup minute tapioca
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
2 cups frozen corn
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 chipotle Chile in adobo sauce, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
White Rice to serve (optional)
Microwave onions, jalapenos, garlic, tomato paste, oil, and chili powder in a medium size bowl, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to slow cooker.
Stir broth, tomatoes, tapioca, and sugar into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours on low.
Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, and shred into bite-sized pieces. Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then skim fat from the surface with a large spoon.
Stir in corn and black beans, cover, and cook on high for 10 minutes or until heated through. Stir in shredded chicken and chipotle Chile and let sit for 5 minutes, or until heated through. Stir in cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Source: America's Test Kitchen, Slow Cooker Revolution

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pork Chops in a Sweet Chili and Onion Sauce









Let me first say, this recipe is a winner and has earned a spot on our dinner rotation, but if I'm being honest, this was a meal I didn't think went together all too well. When flipping through the pages of an old cookbook, the pork chop portion caught my eye, but I was skeptical about the cilantro potato salad. After doing a quick search for reviews of the meal, I found I wasn't the only one who thought the combination odd, however most reviews said the two were great together. Even though I wasn't completely sold on the side dish, I added both to our menu. It turns out, they actually weren't crazy and the two did work together and made a delicious meal. The sweet chili and onion sauce provided a subtle, but flavorful accompaniment to the pork chop. The potato salad was nice and light, not to mention full of good veggies. I found myself going back for more potato salad and quite honestly would have loved another pork chop (or at least a half of one). I’m looking forward to the leftovers and its return on our weekly menu. 

Pork Chops in a Sweet Chili and Onion Sauce with Creamy Cilantro Potato Salad


2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 to 6 boneless center-cut pork chops

1 large red onion, finely chopped

1 heaping tablespoon chili powder

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 celery ribs, finely chopped

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the potatoes in a sauce pot and cover with water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, add course salt, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just tender. Drain the potatoes and spread out onto a rimmed cookie sheet to cool quickly, about 10 minutes.

While the potatoes are working, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Place the chops in the skillet and sear for about 2 minutes on each side to caramelize. Transfer the chops to a rimmed cookie sheet and place in the oven to finish off, 7 to 8 minutes, until the meat reaches between 150 to 155 degrees. Remove from the oven and let the chops rest, covered with foil, for a few minutes.

While the chops bake, return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, three quarters of the chopped onion, the chili powder, cumin, two thirds of the garlic, the brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth and simmer until reduced by half. Once reduced, turn off the heat and whisk in the cold butter.

While the sweet chili-onion sauce is cooking, in a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, cilantro, the remaining chopped onions, the remaining garlic, the red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Add to the dressing the chopped celery and red bell peppers. When you are ready to serve, add the cooled potatoes. Stir the potatoes to combine, and check the seasoning.

Pour the sweet chili-onion sauce over the rested pork chops; serve the creamy cilantro potato salad alongside.

Recipe slightly adapted from: Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats

Monday, January 7, 2013

Meal Planning – What Works for Me


Most people dread planning out meals for their family each week. I'm one of the weird folks that love the exercise. I thought I would share my process for planning meals and what works for me and my family as well as share with you our meal plan for this week and going forward in the weeks to come. Hopefully this can help benefit someone else who dreads the meal planning process. Let me start by saying, I understand what works for me won't be the case of everyone, but hopefully my meal planning can at least provide suggestions for you each week!

I plan on cooking at least four meals per week, with one of those meals being a “pantry” meal. Four meals may not sound like enough, but here is my reasoning. First, if I cook for just my husband and me, I always make more than enough so we have leftovers, which takes care of at least one additional dinner if not two. Second, we often share meals with my husband’s family, so I don’t always cook every night. Third, we like take-out on occasion and don’t mind having it as a back-up plan if we run out of food.

The “pantry” meal is just as it sounds, a dish that is made with mostly pantry ingredients. This meal is saved as the last meal of the week. I hate wasting food, especially fresh produce, so if I don’t make it through all four meals each week, the “pantry” meal prevents food waste from happening.

When looking for meal options, I keep a notebook filled with all of our family favorite meals. The meals are categorized by the type of meat used in the dish. This helps me remember all of our options. I am constantly updating the notebook with new meals that we tried and loved. I’m a big believer in variety, so I almost never make the same meal in a month, unless of course we absolutely love it. Other sources of inspiration for new recipes come from Pinterest, food blogs, and my own collection of cookbooks.

This is just a sneak peek at my meal planning for each week. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Here is what's on the menu this week:


Oven-Fried Chicken with twice baked Sweet Potatoes



Pork Chops in a Sweet Chili and Onion Sauce with a Creamy Cilantro Potato Salad – recipe coming soon

Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken Stew served with white rice – recipe coming soon


Pantry meal: Sweet and Sour Chicken


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal


My new role as mom has taught me many things, which isn't that hard to believe. Planning each day now revolves around R and his needs. Breakfast before being a mom was always a grab whatever you could find or quickly put together and run out the door to work. Learning my new role of staying at home and making sure R has a well balanced diet brings a different kind of morning routine. One of R's favorite foods are blueberries. I always keep a big bag of frozen blueberries around the hours for recipes such as this one or to put in pancakes or waffles. After trying this baked oatmeal, its hard to eat from the pre-made oatmeal packets. The oatmeal has layers of flavors and textures and is also a very adaptable. Add in raspberries or substitute for other fruit or nuts you have on hand. If you are short on time in the mornings, make a batch on the weekend and reheat throughout the week. The leftovers are just as good and it is definitely a hearty, healthy, and filling breakfast.

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen), divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 2 quart baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine the rolled oats, half of the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir with a fork to combine. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the maple syrup, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla. Spread the sliced bananas in a single layer over the bottom of the baking dish. Top with half of the berries. Sprinkle the dry oat mixture over the fruit in an even layer. Pour the liquid ingredients evenly over the oats. Sprinkle the remaining nuts and blueberries over the top. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oats have set. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Source: Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson via Annie's Eats