Enchilada-Stuffed Poblanos

I think sometimes healthy or ‘clean’ food gets a bad rap. Many assume that it has to be bland and boring. Plain chicken and steamed broccoli, coming up! But in my research I’ve quickly learned that is not at all true. You can eat healthy food that still tastes good. Focus on flavors and quality and you’re in the money. Look at not just calories, but carb, sugar, and protein counts as well. Make substitutions when you can. You can still have your favorites just by making swaps to lower the bad and raise the good in your meals.
 

And don’t let anyone tell you not to add a little cheese. Like in this dish below.

*Note: I used leftover pulled pork from the 4th of July. You can use chicken, turkey, beef; shredded, chopped, ground. Leftover or fresh made. All vegetarian, even. Whatever floats your boat. This is also a great make-ahead dish. I would suggest adding seasoning to whatever meat you use, especially if you are making it fresh as opposed to using leftovers.

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

½ yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ tablespoon cumin

½ tablespoon chili powder

½ bag frozen corn

1 can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed

1-2 cups worth of whatever meat you are using (see note above) Eyeball this to your preference.

1-1/2 cups enchilada sauce, divided (homemade or store bought; use what you like)

Salt and pepper to taste

5 poblano peppers (make sure they are nice a fat, not too skinny)

Shredded cheddar cheese

Over an open flame on the stovetop, char your poblanos. Put the charred peppers in a plastic bag and seal. Steam for about 10-15 minutes.

Please ignore my messy stovetop!

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft and fragrant. Add in the cumin and chili and mix together. Add in the corn and black beans. Mix all veggies together and cook until corn is thawed and the mixture is heated through.

 

Add the cooked meat to the veggie mixture along with ½ cup of the enchilada sauce. Let simmer until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

While the filling is simmering, take the poblanos out of the bag and wipe the skin off with a paper towel, careful not to tear the pepper. The skin should just wipe right off.

Cut each pepper in half and remove the stem and seeds. You should have two pieces of pepper that look like leaves.

 

Pour ½ cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Spoon a healthy amount of the filling into each pepper half and place in the baking dish. 

Pour the remaining ½ cup sauce over the top of the stuffed peppers and top with cheese.

 

Bake at 350 covered in foil for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

 

They may not be the prettiest looking dish, but they are super tasty! 


Enjoy!

Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas

I’m always looking for ways to eat Mexican food in a healthier way. The flavors of Mexican cuisine are so yummy but eating out at Mexican restaurants usually isn’t the best for you. I find making it at home is a lot easier to control what ingredients you are using so you can still get the delicious flavors but without any unnecessary fat and extra calories. Plus, you can be sure that the ingredients you are using are less processed and much cleaner.

When I set out to make these enchiladas, I wanted to make chicken, but I was out. I, mean, who runs out of chicken?! Me, I guess. I always try to have frozen chicken breasts on hand in the freezer so I can always make something for dinner, even if it is just a pantry meal (chicken with whatever veggies we have on hand). Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and I ran out without realizing it.

I almost just threw in the towel, but then I saw that we had some frozen veggie patties on hand. I’ve really been enjoying the Morning Star Farms Chipotle Black Bean Veggie Burgers. I wondered if I could chop those up and throw them in? I warmed them up so they were thawed enough to break apart and added the “burger” crumbles to the corn and black bean mix. 


Most of the ingredients in the patties were pretty much the same as what I had going on anyway, so it totally worked! They made for some really delicious enchiladas. You would never realize they were vegetarian. I will say, though, that because the patties had some of the flavors I was going for already in them, I did NOT include the can of diced green chiles mentioned in the recipe below. If I had just used regular chicken, I would have included that ingredient.

Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ bag of frozen corn

½ onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded

½ tablespoon cumin

1 small can diced green chiles

Salt to taste

1 bottle enchilada sauce (or homemade)

6 corn tortillas (I used a corn/wheat blend tortilla I found at Trader Joe’s. low fat, low cal, and high in whole grains per serving. 

Low-fat shredded Mexican blend cheese

In a skillet with a little olive oil, sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add the corn and black beans and cook until the corn is softened.


Add the chicken, cumin, green chiles, and some salt. Continue cooking until warmed through. Sprinkle in about ½ cup of the shredded cheese and stir to combine.

 

Pour a little bit of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Fill each tortilla and roll up carefully (corn tends to break easily. You can heat them up in a microwave with a wet paper towel to help with this.). Place each enchilada seam side down in the baking dish. Top with more enchilada sauce and cheese (however much or little you want).



Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.


Quick and Easy Chicken Stir Fry

A super easy and quick way to get in a healthy meal is to do a stir fry. This is another non-recipe recipe. Well, it’s sort of a non-recipe; the sauce has measurements, but everything else is completely interchangeable. 

And technically, the sauce can just be a bunch of things thrown together too. That’s how I ended up with this one. Or even store bought.

A little background: Stir frying is a Chinese cooking technique where the ingredients are cooked in a small amount of very hot oil while being stirred in a wok. If you don’t have a wok, that’s fine; you can accomplish the same end result in a skillet. A wok is nice to use because it’s shape lends itself well to high-heat cooking. The smaller area at the bottom produces a hot area to allow the food to sear and then the food can be pushed up the sides to continue cooking at slower rate while more food is added to the hot bottom. The high-heat cooking helps the ingredients to retain their color, texture, and nutritional value. This style of cooking dates back to the Ming dynasty. At the time, wood and charcoal used to fire stoves was expensive, so the stir fry method allowed people to cook quickly without wasting fuel. By the early 1900s, most Chinese kitchens were equipped with wok ranges.

Stir frying was brought to the US by Chinese immigrants around 1820. In 1945, a cookbook called How to Cook and Eat in Chinese was written by Buwei Yang Chao and introduced the term “stir fry” which is a rough translation of the Chinese term for the technique “ch’ao”. By the 1970s, stir frys were widely popular since they were healthy and quick, allowing families with busy schedules to still have a family dinner.

And that leaves us where we are today. I think stir frying is a method that most people use, especially when trying to get a quick meal on the table. And who isn’t trying for that?

You can use any sort of meat you want, or make it vegetarian. You can use any sort of veggie you want. You can use vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil. You can add any herbs and spices that your heart desires. You can add a sauce or don’t add a sauce. The possibilities are quite endless.

For this stir fry, I used 1 pound of chicken cutlets because they are thin and cook quickly. I used the veggies I had on hand, which were leeks, purple onions, bell peppers (red, orange, and yellow), carrots, collard greens, and broccoli. I would have added zucchini too, but I completely forgot I had one. I also added a lot of garlic. Just try to make sure everything is roughly the same size.


I started with some oil in the pan and let it get hot. I added my carrots first because those take longer to get soft. After a few minutes, I add the rest of the veggies. When they were almost soft, I added the garlic and some salt. Once all the veggies were pretty much cooked, I pushed them up the side of the wok and added a little more oil and the chicken, which I had cut into small pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper. 


Cook until done and then mix the veggies back in. If you are using a skillet instead of a wok and don’t have the space to move the veggies to the side, you can remove them to a plate and add them back in when the chicken is done.

While the chicken is cooking, mix up your sauce. There are probably hundreds of stir fry sauces available, but this is what I just randomly put together and it was yummy:

¼ cup coconut aminos (you can use reduced sodium soy sauce if you’d rather, but the aminos add another layer of healthy ingredients)

A small splash of fish sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

A splash of lime juice

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon or so of cornstarch

Whisk together and when ready, add to the stir fry. Let it come to a boil and it will start to thicken up.

 

Serve over rice, preferably brown rice.

Start to finish, this is a very fast meal. The cooking part is especially quick, so I highly recommend having all the ingredients cut up before you begin.

 

Spaghetti Carbonara 

I’ve always loved pasta. I mean, who doesn’t, really? But I feel like I’ve been taking it for granted my whole life. No matter what diet you decide to follow or how you plan on eating healthy, pasta is usually one of the first things to go. Sure, there are healthy alternatives to regular pasta like veggie noodles, whole wheat pasta, brown rice pasta, even garbanzo bean pasta. The problem is, it just really isn’t the same!

When I made a commitment to eat clean and healthy last year, it put me and pasta on the outs. Now that I’m in a good “maintaining” place (though those last 5 pounds would be nice to see gone!), I feel like I can reacquaint myself with my carby friend again. Every once in a while, of course. For special occasions, like New Year’s Eve, for example.

We don’t usually go out for NYE mostly because everywhere you go is super crowded, crazy expensive, and not nearly as much fun in practice as in theory. All the best New Year’s I’ve ever had were always spent at home or at someone else’s home. It’s warm, you can wear comfy clothes and it’s much cheaper. Plus, there’s still booze, so it’s still a good time!

Since we don’t go out, I always try to make a special dinner for the hubby and myself. This year I decided to make pasta from scratch and use it to make carbonara. Carbonara is one of my favorite pasta dishes and making it with homemade pasta was such a treat! 

I’ve made homemade pasta before when I first got my pasta attachment for my stand mixer, but I just never could quite get it right. This time I tried using Semolina flour and I really think it made all the difference. I used the Bob’s Red Mill brand from Sprouts, but I think you can get it at any grocery store.


It does take some time to make the pasta, but once you do, the rest of the dish just comes right together in minutes. If you don’t want to make your own pasta, go ahead and use store bought.

Spaghetti Carbonara (makes enough for 2-3 plus a little leftover)

For the pasta, I just followed the directions on the package:

1 ½ cups Semolina Flour

½ tsp Salt, optional (I included it in mine)

2 eggs or 3 egg whites, beaten (I did 2 eggs)

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Carbonara:

4 oz diced pancetta

1 leek, chopped, white and light green parts only

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 eggs

Black pepper to taste 

Make the pasta according to the package directions. I tried to be fancy like on tv and just make it on my cutting board. It does work this way, but it is a MESS. This is the part that takes awhile, because once you have all the ingredients mixed together, you have to knead the dough for 10 minutes. It is well worth it though, so pop on some tunes and get to work.


Once the dough is kneaded, cover it in plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.

When you are ready to actually make the pasta, you can either roll it out to your desired thinness and cut it into the shape you want or you can use your pasta maker if you have one. I think pasta makers are worth it and they come in a wide range of prices and sizes. 

I used my attachment with the spaghetti noodle disk in place and got to pumping out some pasta. This time, I didn’t make the little nests that I did before, and they did not clump together, so WIN.

 

Once your pasta is cut (or during the process, if you can do both), make the sauce for the carbonara. In a bowl, whisk together your two eggs, parmesan cheese, and some black pepper. It is important to have that ready to go so that you can add it to the hot pasta right away. The pasta needs to be hot to cook the eggs.


Cook your pancetta and leeks in a skillet until the pancetta is brown and the leeks are softened. When they are almost done, add the garlic and cook until soft.

 

While the pancetta mixture is cooking, add your pasta to a pot of boiling water and cook until done. It only takes about 5 minutes to cook fresh pasta, so keep your eye on it. When it is ready, add it to the skillet with the pancetta and leeks over LOW heat and mix together.

Add in the eggs and parmesan and toss until all the pasta is coated. Some people say to do this off the heat so the eggs don’t scramble, but I’ve never had a problem with the eggs scrambling. I just make sure to keep tossing so the eggs cook through and I am left with a creamy, dreamy sauce.

Then, turn off the heat and serve it up with a little more parmesan on top.

When you spell it out, carbonara seems like a lot of work, but in practice it is actually pretty simple, but it makes a really rich, decadent dish that you will want over and over again.

Slow-Cooker Ham

Typically, in my family growing up, we only had ham twice a year: Easter and Christmas. My parents would go to the Honey Baked Ham store and pick up their ham. On Christmas or Easter morning, we would put it on the counter and let it come to room temperature and eat it that way. They come fully cooked, so that makes things easier. Throw in some sides and the holiday meal was all set. 

Serving ham at Christmas is a tradition believed to have originated with the Germanic people at a tribute to Freyr, who was the Norse god of harvest and fertility and often associated with boars. In Norse tradition, the sacrifice of the boar had the intent of imploring Freyr to show favor to the new year. The boar was roasted and carried into the banquet hall to music and great fanfare. The tradition may have its origins in Classical Germania, Scandinavia and England, but it has definitely spread worldwide and ham is now a traditional Christmas dish all over the globe.

Back to 2016… I wanted to try something a little different this year, so for our little dinner party we had the other night, I wanted to see what my slow cooker could do. Well, now I’m hooked. This is how I will always make ham! I don’t make it often, but when I do, this is going to my new go-to.

Start with a spiral cut ham. You can easily find these during the holidays at the grocery store. Or you can get them year-round at the Honey Baked Ham store. I’ve never noticed them at the grocery store any other time of year, but then again, I wasn’t looking. Farmer John’s does sell hams all year, but they aren’t spiral cut. I got mine at the happiest grocery store on earth: Trader Joe’s. I know for sure they only have them seasonally.

Anyway, you just need the ham, some Honey Dijon mustard, and brown sugar.

***Apologies in advance for the pictures in this post. I was having lighting issues!!***

Coat the outside of the ham in the Dijon. You can pretty much put on however much mustard you like, there just needs to be at least a light coat for the sugar to stick to. After you’ve applied the mustard, add a pretty thick coat of brown sugar. Again, there’s no measurement here. Just eyeball it and use what you like.



Cook the ham on low for 3-4 hours. The ham is fully cooked already, so you aren’t really “cooking” it necessarily. The end result is a super tender and warm ham with a bit of tang from the mustard and some sweetness from the brown sugar, both flavors compliment the salty ham so well.

And what’s really nice? You get lots of great use out of the leftovers. Stay tuned and I’ll share some ideas with you!



Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese (U.K.)

Hi Readers!! I was going to post this awhile ago, but I’ve been sick all weekend. Ugh. Being sick around the holidays is the worst, right? I’ve had lots of things to do so I’ve been heavily reliant on DayQuil to get me through it all. I finally took yesterday to just sit and do nothing and try for some recovery time! 

During football season, my husband and I have friends over to watch the games. We are all involved in a Fantasy Football league and it’s a lot of fun. This past weekend, we had a little spur of the moment dinner party for some of our friends who watch football with us. I made a slow-cooker ham, which I’ll share later, but for our appetizer, I made these little gems. Before I get into it, I will give you a fair warning: THESE ARE ADDICTIVE!!

Ok, you’ve been warned. 

For my appetizer, I made bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese. It’s OK. I’ll give you a minute to savor those words.

This is an appetizer that originated in 19th Century U.K. and if often known as Devils on Horseback. The dates (or sometimes prunes) are often stuffed with almonds, but can be filled with other things like cheese or mango chutney. The dates are then wrapped in bacon and baked until the bacon is nice and crispy. Devils on Horseback are commonly found at Christmastime, but after trying them, I think I will find any excuse I can think of to make them.

This is a fairly simple appetizer to make and the result is a perfectly sweet/salty/creamy/crispy bite.

Bacon-Wrapped Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

15 slices of bacon, cut in half crosswise (don’t use thick cut bacon for this) For the kind I bought, it was the full pound.

30 pitted dates

8 oz log of goat cheese

You should be able to buy your dates pitted, if not, you will have to cut a slit down the side and remove the pit yourself. This recipe assumes you have the pre-pitted dates.

Take your date and find the hole in top/slit down the side where the pit was removed. Carefully open the date.

 

Fill the date with goat cheese. I tried a make-shift pastry bag with a ziplock bag, but that didn’t really work. I also tried using a spoon, but that ended up being more messy than I wanted to deal with. Ultimately, I just used my fingers. The goat cheese is pretty crumbly anyway so it worked perfectly.

Put the date back together and wrap it in half a piece of bacon.

 

Place seam-side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. You could also stick a toothpick in it to hold it together, but I didn’t think it was necessary.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn on the broiler for another 3-5 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy.

Serve hot.

 

I made 30 of these beauties for 5 people and they were gone in a heartbeat!

Shortbread (Scotland)

Believe it or not, this was my first time making shortbread cookies. I’ve made shortbread-like crusts before, but for some reason I’ve never made the actual cookies. I figured it would be really simple. Basic shortbread is made of a whopping three ingredients: 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, 3 parts flour. You can make additions and adjustments from. How easy is that, right?

My first time making this delectable, buttery cookie absolutely did not go as planned. In fact, it went the opposite. And I was lured into a false sense of security while I was at it. I thought it was going well until the end product came out of the oven in a big ol’ mess. I mean, it still tasted good, but visually? Not so much…

I think I may have put a little too much butter in the dough because the shortbread spread out a lot. I also think I rolled it out a bit too thin. I should have left them on the thicker side so they would have been a bit more biscuit like. As I said, they still tasted good, but they just didn’t come out the way I’d visioned.

Now, a little history:

Shortbread originated in Scotland back in the Medieval times, but the first printed copy of a recipe wasn’t until the early 1700s. It began as more of bread that was twice-baked and coated in sugar and spices until it was hardened into a sweetened biscuit. Eventually, the yeast in the bread was replaced with butter and became closer to what we know it as today. Shortbread was expensive at the time so it was considered a luxury and saved for special occasions such as Christmas and Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve celebration). Now a days you can get shortbread year-round and all over the world, but it is still very much associated with the holidays.

Even though my didn’t turn out visually like I wanted, I will still share my recipe. I really do think I added too much butter, so I removed the extra half a stick I added at the end, so hopefully that will help. I also made everything in a bowl with a pastry cutter, but I wonder if using a mixer would have been better to incorporate everything a bit more.

Shortbread

½ cup sugar

1 cup butter, cut into pieces

2 cups flour

a splash of vanilla extract

green and red sprinkles

In a bowl, mix together your sugar and flour. Add your butter and vanilla and cut the butter into the flour-sugar mix until it looks like coarse crumbs. Using a stand mixer may make this easier and better combined. I will try that next time.

Dump the dough out onto a surface, add your sprinkles, and begin kneading the dough together. This takes some patience and is a great arm workout.

Once everything is together and formed into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Roll out the disk into a larger piece. I made mine about ½ an inch and I really think I that ended up being way too thin. Aim closer to about an inch thick.

Cut into the shapes you want (small bite-sized squares, longer rectangles, circles, whatever) and put on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes.

Hopefully the minor adjustments I made to the recipe will help the end result, but even if it doesn’t, it still tastes great! Just don’t enter it into a cookie beauty contest!