Friday, February 21, 2014

February 21, 2014

What a week it has been!  Ryan was out of town on business (well, actually out of the country), so I was holding down the fort.  Typically when he is away we eat some of favorites, including breakfast for dinner and some things that the kids love like homemade sloppy joe's.  But this time he was going to be gone for so long that I dove in and really got cooking!  We did make oat waffles one night, but we tried a bunch of new things.  A few did not get our seal of approval but we did end up with 4 keepers this week.  When it rains it pours!

One of the evenings when Ryan was gone a close friend was also husband-less (he was away, too).  She and her kids came over for dinner and I served them a new slow cooker chicken dish, along with zoodles (one of my favorite side dishes), a new cucumber side salad, and some fruit and fresh veggies.  You would have though we were feeding an army and not just two moms and 5 kids!  They devoured the chicken!  By the end of dinner almost everything was gone including almost an entire pineapple, some strawberries, blueberries and carrots. Some of the kids used bbq sauce or ketchup with the chicken (or carrots, in the case of Liam) but I enjoyed it paired on my fork with the zoodles.  Colorful, flavorful, and delicious!  Owen and I especially loved the cucumber salad.  The cucumbers were crisp, the marinade was spicy enough to be interesting, but it was not overpowering, and the lime juice was fantastic in it.  You definitely want to make this the same day you serve it, and while you can keep the leftovers, they are best for just an extra day or so; much longer than that and they will start to get too soggy to be enjoyable.

But the biggest hit for me this week, far and away, was a salad suggested by my mom.  Apparently she served this as one of the courses for her New Year's Eve party and it was an instant success.  She shared the recipe with my sisters and I; at first glance I was less then interested.  The dressing ingredients were a bit odd but thankfully she had included a note when she sent the recipe.  The note said "Don't let the spinach salad dressing ingredients throw you Elizabeth, everyone at the dinner voted it a keeper."  With that endorsement I took her on her word and made it.  OH MY!!!! Owen and I just couldn't get enough.  The evening I made it I paired it with a tortellini dish that she also sent, and all the kids loved that.  But the salad was just out of this world.  I had to rush off to class right after dinner.  During class I was hoping that there would still be some left when I got home- and there was!  Yes, at 9pm I finished off the salad.  We passed the dressing on the side because not all my kids like dressing on salad, and this way people could use whatever they wanted or nothing at all.  If I haven't convinced you to try this yet here is my last pitch...I have already prepped the ingredients to throw it together to bring for my lunch for my all day Saturday class.  I am telling you - you have got to try this!!!

Well there you have it...4 keepers this week, 3 were great, but one was truly outstanding.  When you look at the ingredients list for the dressing, or even for the salad itself you may think that it is not for you.  Perhaps you should give it a try - you might very well be surprised.  I certainly was!

Happy Cooking!

New Recipes
Superb Springtime Spinach Salad
Cucumber side salad
Slow cooker 20 garlic chicken
Easy Tortellini

Superb Springtime Spinach Salad

Ingredients for the dressing
* 1/4 cup ketchup
* 1/4 cup water
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 2 tbsp cider vinegar
* 1/2 tsp spicy brown mustard
* dash garlic powder
* salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the dressing ingredients until well combined.

Ingredients for the salad
* 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
* 4 slices of crispy bacon, crumbled
* 5 cups rinsed spinach, roughly chopped
* 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
* 1 cup thinly sliced fresh strawberries
* 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
* 1 cup seasoned croutons

Toss together the salad ingredients.  Dress with the salad dressing (or pass alongside for people to dress their own).  Place croutons on top!

OH MY!!!! This salad is really unbelievable.  When I first read the ingredients I was definitely going to pass on it.  However, I was urged to try it, and man oh man - thankfully I did!  Owen and I could not get enough of this salad.  The evening we served it with dinner I had to dash off to class.  I thought of it all class, and when I got home there was a little left...and yes, I finished it!  You have got to try this!

Cucumber Side Salad

* 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
* 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
* 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
* 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
* 3 tbsp olive oil
* 2 cucumbers, very finely sliced
* salt and pepper to taste

1. Dice the jalapeno and garlic and add to a medium sized bowl.  Add the lime juice, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper to the garlic and jalapeno.  Using a whisk incorporate the olive oil.  Set the dressing aside.
2. Add the cucumbers to the dressing and stir to combine.
3. Serve right away or refrigerate for a few hours.  Prior to serving let it come to room temperature for about 20 minutes.

This was not too spicy, just enough to be interesting!  We really enjoyed it!  Very fresh and summery (which was appreciated since it was snowing out when we are it!)

Slow Cooker 20 Garlic Chicken

* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp paprika
* 1/2 tsp pepper
* 2 tsp olive oil
* boneless chicken thighs and breasts, about 2 lbs
* 1 large onion, sliced
* 1 bulb of garlic, separated into cloves (but not peeled)

1. In a small bowl mix the salt, paprika, pepper and oil to form a paste/rub.
2. Place the sliced onions in the slow cooker.  Arrange the chicken over the onions.
3. Spread the paprika paste on the chicken.
4. Place the unpeeled garlic cloves all around the chicken.
5. Cover, cook on low for 5-6 hours.
6. Remove the garlic and reserve to use on potatoes, bread, etc.  Place the chicken on a serving platter and slice if desired.  Enjoy!

 This was a very easy dish, and the house smelled delicious while cooking!  You could use bone in pieces of chicken if desired, though you would likely need to increase the cooking time a bit. We served this with "zoodled" veggies, and cucumber side salad.  Everyone loved this!

Easy Tortellini

* Tortellini, refrigerated or frozen(if frozen, let them thaw before cooking)
* 2 cloves crushed garlic
* 1 tsp dried basil
* 1/4 cup butter
* 2 tbsp cornstarch
* 4 cups chicken stock, divided
* red pepper flakes to taste
* 1/3 cup Parmesan, to finish

1. Bring 3 cups chicken broth to a boil.  Cook tortellini in the chicken broth until tender, and drain well.  If you feel like there is not enough liquid, add another cup of liquid (water or broth).
2. While tortellini is cooking, make the sauce.  In a large saucepan melt the butter.  Saute the garlic, butter and red pepper in butter over medium heat for 2 minutes.
3. Blend the cornstarch and the last cup of chicken stock, then add to the sauce pan.  Cook and stir until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
4. Place the tortellini in a bowl and pour on sauce.  Gently combine.  Finish with the Parmesan cheese.

This was a great, quick and easy main course, but you could also serve this as a first course, or even skewered and served at room temperature for an appetizer. I didn't have enough broth to also cook the tortellini in it, so I just used it for the sauce.  But if you cook the tortellini in the broth it will really pick up the chicken flavor!