Category Archives: Main meal recipes

Crock-pot Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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Happy Thursday!  Today I wanted to share a long overdue recipe with y’all.  First off, I can’t speak highly enough of my crock-pot these days.  It is the best kitchen side kick ever… ever.  I love being able to come home and have minimal prep work for a meal.   When looking for new recipes to create, my favorites are meals from restaurants that can be remade into healthier versions.  People rave over P.F Chang’s Lettuce Wraps and they have been on my radar for awhile.   I’ve made these Thai chicken lettuce wraps a few times over the past now, modifying the recipe each time, and finally nailed down a near-perfect one!   I guarantee these are cheaper and healthier! 10 minutes of prep and then let the crock-pot do the work.

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 shredded carrots

1 small can chopped water chestnuts

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup honey

one head of iceberg or romaine lettuce

Directions:

Place chicken on the bottom of crock-pot.  Combine honey and soy sauce and whisk until well-mixed. Add chopped onion, carrot, and water chestnuts to soy mixture, mix well, and pour over chicken.

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Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6-7 hours.  Remove chicken and shred, then mix well with the rest of the ingredients in crockpot.  Spoon chicken mixture into lettuce leafs.  Serve with rice if desired (I like adding it to mine)!  Enjoy!

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Quinoa Pizza Bites (gluten-free!)

HAPPY HUMP DAY!  Man, for being such a busy week, I feel like we are moving at a glacial pace.  I’ll admit, I’ve been sneaking home from lab early this week to beat the cold (it has been 50 degrees in our building due to heating issues), but it has made for more time for recipe creations and pictures–which brings me to today’s recipe, Quinoa Pizza Bites!

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I’ve been making these for quite some time now, but am just getting around to blogging about them.  They are great for so many reasons.  Pizza is one of my most frequent cravings—but I do not want to splurge on that many calories that often!  These pizza bites satisfy my craving, are gluten free, AND can be adapted for a vegetarian diets…heck, with the base of quinoa, egg, and cheese, you could come up with a lot of creative combinations! 

The other thing I love about these pizza bites is that they store well in the fridge and are great for grab-and-go lunches.  Other than cooking the quinoa, these are super quick to whip up and they pack a lot of protein thanks to the quinoa as the “crust”!

Quinoa Pizza Bites

Ingredients:

1 heaping cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella shredded cheese

1/3 cup chopped  tomato (I used roma)

1/3 cup chopped onion (yellow or white, I’ve tried both)

1/2 cup cooked ground beef or turkey (can substitute mushrooms for the vegetarian folk!)

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. parsley

1 tsp. pepper

1 beaten egg

Pizza sauce for dipping

Directions:

Prepare quinoa according to directions on package preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, adding the egg last.  Mix thoroughly, as the egg is what holds the bites together! Press a heaping spoonful (about 2 tbsp) into a greased muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes.  This recipe usually makes 9-10 bites.

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Helpful Hints:

**Sometimes, I add in one egg + one egg white if I feel my mixture isn’t sticking together before I put them in the muffin pan.

**I despise mushrooms, but my friends who are vegetarians RAVED about these when I made a batch with mushrooms instead of beef.  Veggie lovers, I think you could come up with some AWESOME combos!

And lastly, I’ll leave you with this embarrassing picture I took after I was trying to be creative with the pizza sauce. Pizza sauce does not drizzle as pretty as glaze! :)

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#fail

Now you tell me…what would you put in YOUR pizza bites? And have you ever taken a food photography course?

The easiest, cheesiest, most delicious chicken recipe EVER

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I’m just going to come right out and say it (don’t mind me repeating the title), that this chicken is the BEST chicken I have ever eaten.  I make it at least once a week.  It is simple to prepare and soooo incredibly flavorful!  I would have never thought to put mayonnaise and cheese together as a topping for chicken, but after trying it, I cannot stop craving it!

The recipe is almost too easy for how delicious it is!  Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Ingredients for Easy Cheesy Chicken (2 servings):

2 chicken breasts (or one large one split in half)

3 tbsp. light mayonnaise

1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic salt

2 heaping tbsp. fiber one crumbs (ground up fiber one, easily done in food processor)

Directions:

Take one large chicken breast and split in half (or use two smaller ones)

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Place chicken in a baking dish.  I like to put foil on the bottom of mine because it gets messy during baking!

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Next, whip up the cheesy topping. Combine mayo, parmesan cheese, and spices.

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Spread over chicken.

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Top with fiber one crumbs.  You can also use bread crumbs, but I think fiber one is a healthier option, and it tastes very similar to bread crumbs with chicken.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes uncovered at 350 degrees.

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Crockpot Chicken Chili

First things first.  It’s beginning to look a lot little like Christmas!emilyschristmas

Yep, that’s how last Saturday night was spent for my roommate and I…homemade chili and cornbread, putting up our Christmas tree (straight up 1950’s metallic from my grandma’s basement), movies on demand…all in our sweats.  It was glorious.

And this chili?  chilifinal

AHHHHMAAAAZZZZIINNNNNNNG.  Seriously, I know I’ve said it about a lot of recipes I’ve been posting recently, but it is SO easy and delicious.  Thick, hearty, and the right amount of spice… just how I like my chili!  I also like using chicken instead of beef for a more lean option.  I adapted this recipe from skinnytaste to make it taste more like my mom’s and am so pleased with how it turned out.  I definitely am adding this to my regular rotation of crock-pot soups that I go to during the winter months!

Ingredients for crock-pot chicken chili:

1 can tomato sauce

1 can black beans

1 can chili beans in medium sauce

1 can diced tomatoes (with chilies, if you like)

1 can corn

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 packet taco seasoning

2-3 chicken breasts, raw, fat trimmed

Optional toppers:

reduced fat shredded cheese

reduced fat sour cream

corn bread (my faveeeeee!)

avocado

tortilla chips

Directions:

In a large crockpot, combine all ingredients except chicken and mix well.  Place chicken in crockpot on top of other ingredients.  Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8-9 hours.  Remove chicken when done and shred.  Place back into crockpot and mix well.  Top with your favorite ingredients. Simple as that!!

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Whole-wheat cornbread and honey…DELICIOUS.  Tortilla chips make good chili toppers too!

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I love my crockpot.  You should love your crockpot. End of story.

Quick Chicken Enchilada Casserole

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You know those people who can’t ever have their food touching?  I’m the opposite.  Like, totally opposite.  I usually combine most things I’m eating on my plate, making my own little jumble.  It’s the only way…and maybe the reason why I LOVE a good casserole.  Seriously, combine a bunch of ingredients and bake it off in the oven?  Sign me up.  This casserole is one of my all time faves and I make it all the time!   It is easy to prepare and is so fast—perfect for the days I get home from lab late.  It also makes enough for leftovers and reheats well!

Ingredients:

6-8 corn tortillas, torn up

1 8 oz can. corn

1 8 oz. can reduced sodium black beans

3 roma tomatoes, diced

2 cups shredded chicken (or chicken cut into 1/2 inch pieces)

1/2 cup light sour cream

1/2  cup salsa

3/4 cup reduced fat Mexican or cheddar cheese

Directions:

Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line bottom of baking dish with half the tortillas.

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Combine all other items except cheese and mix well.  This is the “enchilada” filling!

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Spread half of the enchilada filling into baking dish over the tortillas.

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Sprinkle half the cheese onto the enchilada layer.

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Repeat!  I like to add an extra layer of salsa onto the top of mine, but it’s up to you!

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Bake for 25 minutes at 350 or until bubbly!

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So good. Chicken, cheese, and salsa…how can you go wrong?

Cheesy Chicken Crunchers

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When my sister and I were kids and we’d go out to eat with our family, I can’t really remember if I had any certain pattern or tendencies to what I ordered.  My sister on the other hand, had one order and one order only.  For as long as I can remember, as long as the restaurant had her one thing on the kids menu, she was set.  Anyone have a guess to what it was?

Chicken tenders.  Rain or shine, night or day, that girl loved her restaurant chicken tenders. 

It wasn’t until we were older that our mom found the best recipe for homemade chicken tenders and it became a weekly regular for dinner.  Making them yourself may seem like a lot more work than buying the premade frozen kind, but it is totally painless and as a bonus, you actually KNOW what’s going into your chicken tenders!  WOOOOO!  Seriously, this is a super quick and easy recipe, it’s approved by all ages, and you  get to eat them with ketchup (i LOVE ketchup).  WIN.

Ingredients for Cheesy Chicken Crunchers

2 chicken breasts, fat trimmed

3 cups corn flakes

1/2 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

1 egg + 2 egg whites or 1/2 cup egg beaters

2 tbsp. low-fat milk

1/2 cup flour

dash of pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut up chicken breasts into 1/2-1 inch strips

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Crush cornflakes.  I throw mine in a big ziploc and crush them using my hands.  Mix in cheese.

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Mix eggs and milk in small bowl. Mix flour and pepper on a plate and set aside..  I also poured the cornflake mixture onto a plate.  Place all three close together for an easy “breading station”

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It’s breadin’ time! Roll chicken strips in flour.

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Dip in egg wash.

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Press and roll in cornflakes.

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Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Grease with cooking spray and place breaded chicken on the foil

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Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for 7-10 more minutes or until crispy golden brown.

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Yummy!

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Enjoy! Happy Tuesday!

Zucchini Lasagna…the best I’ve ever had!

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Hi hi hi!  Everyone enjoying the weekend?  It has been beautiful here.  I’ll make this short and sweet today, because the Packers are on!  Last week at the farmers market, I bought the biggest zucchini i have EVER seen.

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The best part was that it was only $1 at the farmers market!  I mean, look at it compared to that banana….wahhh!

Anyways, as fate would have it, Gina over at skinnytaste had just posted about zucchini lasagna.  I’d always been curious, so I tried it out.  Annnnnd…..

DELICIOUS.  I’d say it is the best recipe I’ve attempted since I started this blog.  Seriously.  I don’t think I’ll ever make normal noodle lasagna ever again (and I even LOVED the normal kind my mom would make).  Using sliced zucchini in place of the noodles makes this dish gluten free and cuts out calories from your traditional lasagna.  One cup of traditional cooked lasagna is approx 300 calories, where as one cup cooked zucchini is roughly 40 calories*  And in reality, it tastes JUST as good, if not better!!

*Calories and serving calculated using supertracker from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/supertracker-tools/supertracker.html

I highly highly highly recommend this dish. It make take a little more time to slice and grill the zucchini, but I think it is worth it.  I halved the original recipe to make a smaller amount, but it would still easily feed 3-4 people!

Also, I’d recommend getting a mandolin to use as a slicer.   I bought a cheap one and although it was still pretty hard to slice because my zucchini was GIGANTIC, i would have never been able to do it with just a knife. If you have a smaller zucchini, it should slice easier with a mandolin!  I would still advise that when buying a mandolin, you get what you pay for.

Ingredients for Zucchini Lasagna:

1/2 lb. lean ground beef (I used 90/10)

2 medium or one extra large zucchini , thinly sliced

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 beefsteak tomato, diced

2-3 leaves basil, finely chopped

1 1/2 + 1/4 cup tomato sauce/spaghetti sauce of your choice

1/2 package of low-fat ricotta cheese

1/4 cup egg beaters

1/2 + 1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Brown meat over medium heat.  While browning, slice zucchini lengthwise. With my cheap-o mandolin, it was still pretty hard to slice the zucchini because my zucchini was GIGANTIC.

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Using a George Foreman grill (or grill pan if you have one) grill zucchini for 2-3 minutes on each side.  Set aside.

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Dice onions and mince garlic, sauté in olive oil for 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat.

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Dice tomatoes.  Combine meat, onions and garlic, tomatoes. 1 1/2 cup sauce, and basil in a large mixing bowl.

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Mix ricotta, egg beaters, and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese in a small mixing bowl.  You are now ready to start layering!

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Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of an 8×8 dish.

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Layer on zucchini slices.  I used the ugliest ones for the bottom!

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Spread a layer of ricotta mixture onto zucchini.  Top with 1/3 of mozzarella cheese mixture.

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Next, spread half of the meat sauce mixture

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Repeat with another layer of zucchini, ricotta, and sauce!  Add an extra zucchini and cheese layer on top so you end up with 3 total zucchini, 3 ricotta/cheese layers, and 2 meat sauce layers.  Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

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Cover with foil.  Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

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Have a fabulous rest of the day!  Go Pack!

Thai night- squash curry and crab rangoons!

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I love curry.  So much, that I literally crave it every day.  Before I came to graduate school and really branched out in food, I used to shudder at the word.  Sure, sometimes I would opt for sesame chicken at the local chinese buffet, but beyond that, I didn’t venture very far. It wasn’t until I actually started being interested in the food I was eating and hanging out with friends who liked going to new and different restaurants that I really started to love food.  I also was introduced to my good friend, Jiab, from Thailand!  She always brings in authentic food to work that she whips up at home and I am always mooching a sample. :)  Her food is delicious, so last week, a few of us got together for “girls night” with wine and Jiab’s expertise teaching us how to make curry and crab rangoons!

I should also preface, that this is probably not the healthiest of recipes I have ever made or eaten.  We all deserve a little splurge now and then though, right? :)

Ingredients:

1/2 asian squash, cut into bite size pieces

1 15 oz. can coconut milk

1 small can red curry paste

2 tbsp. peanut butter

1 tbsp. fish sauce

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

1 tbsp. sugar

Dried red chili peppers (to taste)

Rice (however much desired)

Directions:

Peel and cut up half an Asian squash…a giant pumpkin looking squash that is green on the outside.

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Next, to a large pot, add one can of coconut milk, stir over medium high heat

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Next, add peanut butter, red curry paste, and fish sauce, mixing well.

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Next, use the empty can from the coconut milk to add one can water to the mixture.  Add uncooked chicken and stir well, keeping heat at medium high so the chicken cooks through!

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Dump all of the chopped squash in, keep stirring!  Add 1 tbsp. sugar and dried red chili pepper to taste (totally optional on the chili pepper, if you are a wuss like me).  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Turn to low to keep warm if you are still preparing other items.

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Meanwhile, either on the stove or with a rice cooker, prepare rice as a side.

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For crab rangoons:

Combine  8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, 1/2 cup imitation crab, and 1/2 an onion in a food processor.  Process for about 30 seconds, until well mixed.

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Lay out wonton wrappers (found at most grocery stores) on a baking sheet.  Place a about a tbsp. of cream cheese mixture in the middle and fold over to make a triangle, shown below.

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Once folded, make sure there aren’t any air pockets.  Dip finger in water and moisten the edges of the wonton wrapper to ensure it is sealed!

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Next, fry in peanut oil on stove on high heat or bake for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees.  We chose to fry ours that night, but I have also baked them (a MUCH healthier option!) and they still were crispy and fabulous!

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The end creation.  SO YUMMY.  I heart my coworkers and Thai food.

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Easy (and Healthy!) Stuffed Chicken Florentine

 

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I’m here, I’m here! And I’ve finally had time to grocery shop, use my kitchen, and try some new recipes!   I have a love affair with spinach (making up for lost time I hated it as a kid), and was looking for a away to use up a bunch of extra I had last week.  These stuffed chicken breasts turned out great and took very little time to prep- perfect for you busy people!

 

Ingredients for Stuffed Chicken Florentine:

2 boneless chicken breasts, fat trimmed

2 cups fresh spinach

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 laughing cow light swiss cheese wedge

2 tablespoons marinade of choice (optional)

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Using a meat mallet or heavy can, flatten chicken breast to 1/2 –3/4 inch thick.

Wilt spinach in olive oil over medium high heat, adding garlic about 2-3 minutes in.  It should take about 8-10 minutes for spinach to wilt.

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Spread laughing cow cheese wedge evenly over the 2 chicken breasts.  Top with spinach.

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Roll chicken and secure with toothpicks.  If desired, top with marinade.  I had leftover herb and garlic marinade that I wanted to use up and it was a nice flavor!  Place in a greased pan (I used a loaf pan) and cover with foil.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 15 minutes more.

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I also paired that with steamed broccoli and my new favorite side dish, Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains blend!  A better choice than my usual baked potato.  A half cup of this stuff is very filling!  Wierdly enough,  I also love using it with peanut sauce!

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Enjoy that last little bit of this gorgeous weekend!

Easy Peasy Grilled Pizza

I love pizza.  But in the summertime, especially with this sweltering heat, who wants to turn their oven on?  Not me! 

So here’s the solution…why not grill your pizza?  I was skeptical at first, but now that I have tried it, I am hooked!  It is perfect for you pizza lovers out there who want to take advantage of summer grilling and don’t want your house to feel like a sauna from the oven.  Here’s what you do–

Grab a pizza dough (either homemade or pre-made), I chose Trader Joe’s herbed pizza crust. Lightly oil the pizza crust and stretch (or roll) across an  oiled pan.  Depending on how thick you like your crust, roll to desired thickness, and at least 1/4 inch.

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Heat the grill to medium (about 350 degrees).  Spray lightly with cooking spray and carefully place dough on grill.  Close cover and let cook for about 7-8 minutes.  Using a spatula, check underside of crust.  If golden brown, flip crust, if not, let it cook for longer!

Our novice “flipped” crust on the left, with the others still on their original cooking side on the left.

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After flipping the crust, add sauce, toppings, and cheese.  Close grill cover and let cook for 7-8 minutes (this time will need adjusting depending on how big your pizzas are, ours were the size of personal pizzas).  Check bottom of crust with a spatula for brown color and crusty texture. 

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Our finished pizzas.  Not too bad for a first time, eh? 

More tips for grilling pizza:

The thicker the crust, the longer the cooking time needed at a lower temperature.  Beware of a gooey middle even though the outside may look done for a thicker crust!

It might not hurt to check pizzas more frequently after toppings are added, to avoid a black burnt crust.

We used a gas grill for our pizza grilling escapades.

 

ENJOY!