Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili

Southwest Chicken Barley Chili

A friend of mine is recovering from major surgery and I promised to bring a meal over to her the other night.  The universe, however, had different plans and I was stuck in appointments for the better portion of the afternoon and into the evening.  Competing with traffic is always an issue and I knew I wouldn’t get home in time to prepare the meal.  I called home and my nearly-fourteen year old daughter came to the rescue!  I gave her a few basic instruction to get her started on the recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Café, told her to read the instructions carefully and crossed my fingers. 

Huge success!  It came out as well as I’d hoped.  Flavorful, hearty and a LOT of leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, un-drained
  • 16 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup medium barley (not quick cooking)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • dash cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into bite-size pieces
  • 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels

Garnishes: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, tortilla chips

Directions

  1. In a large pot (about 6-quarts), combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, barley, water, chili powder, cumin, dried oregano and cayenne (if using). Stir well.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and add the chicken. Stir to combine.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer the chili for 40 minutes, until the barley is tender and chewy and the chicken is no longer pink.
  4. Stir occasionally, while it simmers to prevent sticking and to make sure it stays at a steady simmer.
  5. After 40 minutes, add the beans and corn. Stir to combine and simmer for five more minutes. Serve the chili with optional garnishes, if desired.
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BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

There really isn’t much to be said about this recipe except YUM! It’s a quick pull-together meal that was ready in under 20 minutes.  Kevin, at Closet Cooking, always manages to amaze with his variety of recipes and this was no exception.  The dressing that’s suggested is creamy and satisfying and even the kids requested more of it drizzled over their greens.  I loved it because we’ve become a no-salad-dressing family, using lemon or lime juice instead, but with this list of ingredients I didn’t feel guilty about indulging!
Ingredients
  • 4 small chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 cups lettuce, sliced or torn
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 oz. real bacon bits
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, torn
  • 1/4 cup avocado dressing (below)
Directions
  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and grill over medium-high heat until cooked, about 4-6 minutes
  2. Let the chicken cool, then slice.
  3. Assemble salad and enjoy!

Creamy Avocado Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 lime, juice
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Puree everything in a blender until smooth. Store in fridge and finish within a few days.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Lemonade Chicken

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Lemonade Chicken

This recipe, from Six Sister’s Stuff, has been sitting in my Menu folder for exactly two months and I have no idea why I put off fixing it for so long.  I can say with certainty that it will definitely be made again.  The kids ate every last bite without complaint, that guy I married loved it (though he’s very easy to please when it comes to sweet and sour chicken) and I ate more than I should have, all resulting in some seriously full bellies!  After I modified the recipe a little, it was super easy to prepare and came out a healthier version.

I served this with brown rice and since I knew my schedule around dinner time was going to be spent driving the kids to various activities, I prepped part of this dish earlier in the afternoon; I chopped all the veggies, opened the can of water chestnuts and combined them all in a gallon sized bag.  I also cooked the rice and stored it in the fridge, so I could pull it out when ready to serve (I popped it in the microwave for one minute, just long enough to take the chill off.)

Ingredients

  • 10-12 frozen chicken tenderloins
  • 6 oz., frozen lemonade concentrate (100% juice if you can find it)
  • 5 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • 3 cups vegetables, chopped (water chestnuts, half a red and yellow pepper, small head of broccoli, snow peas)

Directions:

  1. Place tenderloins in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Combine lemonade, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, corn starch and water in a bowl; mix well and pour over chicken.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.
  4. Remove cooked chicken from the slow cooker and set aside.
  5. Toss chopped vegetables in large sauté pan and pour 1/4 cup sauce from the crock pot over vegetables.  Cook on high until veggies are tender – about 10 minutes.
  6. Mix flour into the sauce that’s left in the crock pot, whisking until combined, on low heat.
  7. Pour sauce over rice, chicken and vegetable. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve.

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Creole Jambalaya

Jambalaya

Creole jambalaya, also known as red jambalaya, is a dish that’s usually cooked and served with some type of seafood.  If I had my way I’d add the shrimp, but The Man and the kids would go to bed hungry rather than eat shrimp, so I omit the fish but still like to call this dish Creole. 

Creole jambalaya originates from the French Quarter of New Orleans, in the original European sector. It was an attempt by the Spanish to make paella in the New World, where saffron was not readily available due to import costs. Tomatoes became the substitute for saffron. As time went on, French influence became strong in New Orleans, and spices from the Caribbean changed this New World paella into a unique dish. In modern Louisiana, the dish has evolved along a variety of different lines. Creole jambalaya, or red jambalaya as it is called by Cajuns, is found primarily in and around New Orleans, where it is simply known as ‘jambalaya’. Creole jambalaya includes tomatoes, whereas Cajun jambalaya does not.

And now you know.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium green peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1.25 lbs. chicken tenderloins, cut into chunks
  • 1 T Cajun seasoning
  • 1 lb. Polska kielbasa
  • 28 oz. petite diced tomatoes, un-drained
  • 38 oz. chicken broth
  • 2 cups long grain brown rice

Directions

  1. Place onions, peppers & celery in slow cooker.  Top with chicken then seasoning.  Top with sausage & tomatoes.
  2. Add rice and broth, then press all the rice down so it’s all covered with broth.
  3. Cover & cook on low 5-6 hours. Or on low for 2 hours and high for 2 hours.

*Facts found at Wikipedia

Chicken & Edamame with Orange Ginger Dressing

Chicken & Edamame with Orange Ginger Dressing

This recipe was chosen on impulse one morning while I was browsing for a new dinner to make.  Found at Confections of a Foodie Bride, I modified as I cooked (something I almost never do) and it turned out so much better than I thought. 

As for the chicken, I’d forgotten that the recipe called for chicken in the first place and I didn’t have any prepared so I put it all in my tiny crock pot with the salsa, turned it up to high and let it go for about 2 1/2 hours.  It came out perfect and required almost no prep other than breaking it up before adding it to the main dish.If you have cooked chicken or prefer to cook it on the barbeque, omit the salsa.  I opted to go for long grain brown rice, and started it cooking when there was about an hour to go on the chicken so it’d all come together at the same time. 

The edamame came straight out of the freezer, then was tossed into a colander and run under hot water several times while the rice cooked.  Then I salted them liberally with course sea salt and then set them aside until ready to combine with the main dish

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1.25 lbs. chicken tenderloins, cooked and chopped
  • 2 cups brown rice (1 cup if you want fewer leftovers)
  • 4 cups chicken broth (2 cups if you only use 1 cup of rice)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 large lime, juiced
  • 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • salt
  • 16 oz. frozen shelled edamame, thawed and liberally salted
  • 1 large red bell pepper diced
  • 2 small avocados, sliced
  • Small handful of cilantro, chopped, for garnish  

Directions

  1. Cook chicken and salsa in small crockpot on high for 2 hours or until done.
  2. Cook brown rice, according to package directions, in chicken broth.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together orange juice, lime juice, oil, and ginger.
  4. Add thawed and salted edamame, red bell pepper, and chicken, tossing to coat.
  5. Spoon mixture over brown rice and garnish with avocado slices and cilantro.

This made enough for the five of us with at least enough leftover for two full lunches…and then some.

Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup

Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are always hectic trying to get a real meal on the table for me.  We have so many goodies and snacks that it’s easy to forget to eat well.  Then you add all the baking that’s done for friends and neighbors and at the end of the day I just don’t want to cook.  Mel’s Kitchen Café offers up this soup as the perfect solution – it pulls together so fast and if you’re like me and have a lot of leftover turkey lying around in the freezer this would be the perfect place to use it up. 

If you like things a little spicier, adjust the red pepper flakes to suit your tastes.  The 1/4 teaspoon was perfect for us since the kids still haven’t adopted my love of spicy foods.  It added plenty of flavor without much heat.

I tweaked this recipe slightly by pureeing the onions, peppers and tomatoes before adding them to the pot.  My kids aren’t very picky eaters but these three things are triggers with them for some reason.  Pureeing the vegetables first, led to zero questions about the ingredients in their dishes!

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 can (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, un-drained
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 7-8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (or use about 3-4 cups of shredded, cooked chicken)
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/- inch pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. In a food processor or blender, puree the onions, pepper and tomatoes until smooth.
  2. In a large pot heat oil over medium heat and add the pureed vegetables. Add celery, and garlic. Cook 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the diced vegetables are tender.
  3. Add remaining ingredients (don’t add the cooked chicken, if using, you’ll add it near the end), stir well, and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for about 40-45 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through.
  4. If using cooked chicken, stir it in at this point and let it heat through. Discard bay leaves and serve.

Kicked Up Ramen Noodles

Kicked Up Ramen Noodles

Ramen Noodles stir up memories of the days before I had kids.  Back when sodium, preservatives and ingredients that are un-pronounceable in the English tongue were kind-of hip in a “I’m too young to care what I eat” kind of way. 

This was delicious and I felt like I was cheating, eating all those sinfully curly noodles!  The smells coming from the kitchen were heavenly; peanuts, garlic and, well, do I really even need to mention anything after that?  Cooked up fast, the ingredients were inexpensive and I will definitely add this to my “go to” dinner file.

The only things I changed from Mel’s Kitchen, since I didn’t have hoisin sauce (forgot to pick it up at the store), was I substituted in soy sauce.  It worked well, but I’ll definitely not want to miss out on the flavors of it next time I make this dish.  I also did not have scallions.  GRR!  So it went scallion-less and I pulled out a frozen bag of edamame to green up dinner a little.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8-10 chicken tenderloins
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts (I pulled mine from a package of trail mix since the kids leave those anyway)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 (3-ounce) package ramen noodles, discard seasoning packets!
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 scallions (green onions), sliced thin

Directions

  1. In a large non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium to medium-high heat until it is hot. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Add it to the pan in a single layer and cook, stirring occasionally.  As it cooks, using a plastic spatula, begin cutting it into cubes – continue cooking until cooked through.  Remove the chicken and set aside.
  2. Add the last tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat until hot. Add the red bell pepper and the peanuts then cook until the pepper is softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and set aside with the chicken.
  3. Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to the remaining oil in the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds to 1 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chicken broth. Add Ramen noodles to the pan (you can break them before adding, but we like them long and curly!). Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, tossing the ramen constantly with tongs to separate, until ramen is just tender but there is still a bit of liquid in the pan, about five minutes.
  5. Stir in the hoisin sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil and continue to simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken, peppers and peanuts. Sprinkle with green onions before serving.

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Greek Chicken and Sausage

DSC_6454 copy

Simply?  This was just yummy.  No way around it!  During my trip to Florida for my third half marathon, my friend, gracious host that he is, prepared this dish for us one night.  When I ate it the first time, I’d had a “few” drinks so I wondered if it was really as good as I remembered, and while it seems food never quite tastes the same when you cook it for yourself, this was just as good!  I made a few changes from his instructions because I wanted it as simple and quick as possible. 

I served this with a side salad tossed with a 1/4 cup evoo, teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a clove garlic, chopped, and a healthy sprinkle of garlic salt.  Recipe also courtesy of said Floridian friend.

Ingredients

Pre-heat oven to 350*

  • 10 chicken tenders
  • 1 pound turkey sausage (link), chopped bite size
  • 8-10 fingerling potatoes, cut bite size
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • oregano
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
  • juice from one lemon
  • feta cheese

Directions

1.  Place chicken in oiled 13×9 inch dish and sprinkle both sides liberally with salt and pepper.  Now sprinkle with oregano.

2.  Add sausage and lemon juice.  Drizzle with olive oil.

3.  Add garlic, olives and potatoes.

4.  Cover with foil and cook for about 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

5.  Sprinkle with feta just before serving.

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Southwest Pasta Salad

Southwest Pasta Salad

I didn’t have chicken prepared for this dish, found at Our Best Bites, so I pulled out eight chicken tenders from the freezer, put them in a large skillet and added all the ingredients for Taco Chicken.  I let it simmer, covered, until cooked through, about 15 minutes.  I had the pasta water set to boil while the chicken cooked, chopped the veggies while my oldest daughter grated the zest off the limes and had everything ready to eat in under 45 minutes.  This salad makes a TON.  Definitely something you could make to share or take.  Serves at least 6 adults as a main dish and 12 as a side dish.

Ingredients

  • 14.5 oz. bowtie pasta
  • 1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced or about 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen fresh corn
  • zest from 3 limes
  • optional: 8 oz. cooked chicken, diced (this is fantastic)
  • 1/2 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese

Dressing:

  • 6 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 3 juicy limes)
  • 1/4 cup white wine or rice vinegar
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions 

1.  Zest the limes over a large salad bowl then add the beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, & corn and set aside.

2.  Boil pasta in salted water until cooked.

3.  While the pasta cooks, prepare dressing:  Place the lime juice, vinegar, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt and sugar in a blender.  (Basically everything except the cilantro and oil)  Process until smooth.  With the motor running slowly, add the oil in a steady stream until incorporated.  Add the cilantro and pulse so it gets broken up, but some pieces still remain in tact.

4.  When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse immediately with cold water to cool. 

5.  Place the pasta & chicken in the large bowl with the lime and vegetables.  Toss with dressing. 

For best results, chill for 1 hour before serving.  Right before serving, sprinkle cheese on top.