Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bonnie's Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken

Our very dear friend, Bonnie generously passed along to me one of her classic recipes that she knew our family would love.  Bonnie knows and truly appreciates what a foodie I am and how I'm always on a quest for a new dish to try...especially a Mexican dish.  :)  Many thanks to our sweet and beautiful friend, Sista B...I post this recipe in your honor.  We love and miss you lots!  xoxo

I so enjoy preparing dinner in my Crock Pot, so as to make the house smell wonderful, with tasty temptations, teasing most all of our senses all day long, until the final reward when dinner is served.  So for this dish in particular, and being on a bit of a health kick, I've combined multiple recipes to come up with the healthiest, tastiest version I could.  This is yet another versatile dish that you can serve over rice, in tortillas or crispy taco shells, serve with chips as a nacho dish, eat it like chili or tortilla soup.  You can make it richer by adding a cut up cube of cream cheese at the end of the cooking process, which is how Bonnie's recipe directs (see below)*.  Or skip the cream cheese and make it lighter, it's still very tasty that way.  On our first attempt at this recipe we made a tortilla soup by adding more broth and topping our soup with avocado, cheese, baked tortilla chips and lime slices.  It was absolutely fabulous.  No matter how you decide to prepare this meal, it's definitely one to add to the repertoire.  Happy cooking! 

4 chicken breast bone-in (I left one breast with the skin on to help add flavor to the broth, also, most of the recipes I saw called for boneless, skinless breasts...I prefer bones in because that also helps add to the flavor)
2 cans seasoned black beans, not drained
2 cans of corn, drained and rinsed
Chicken broth, (the amount depends upon how you will be serving, more for a soup, less for tacos or nachos)
1 package taco seasoning...I prefer McCormick's because I'm partial to the name ;)
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 tsp garlic powder
pepper to taste
1 cup salsa, I used mild "Hell on the Red, " (but why not kick it up a bit with a hotter salsa if you like it extra spicy)
1 can hot Ro-tel tomatoes or use original to make it less spicy
Mexican cheese for topping
Avocado, sliced for topping
Fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges

Put beans, corn, taco seasoning, and broth in crock pot and mix together until seasoning is dissolved. Place chicken breasts on top and spread salsa on chicken. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. 

Shred meat and serve however you want (see explanation above). Garnish with cheese, sour cream, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and hot sauce.

*For a richer version and the way our friend Bonnie prepares it, is to add a small, cut-up bar of cream cheese on top towards the end of the cooking time.  Let melt and once melted stir through and serve with tortilla chips.

**Also, this is such an easy freezer meal to save with any leftovers.  Prepare it with 5 chicken breasts and eat half for dinner and freeze the other half in a gallon-sized freezer Ziploc bag for another meal.  Make sure you let the food cool before freezing it. On the day that you're ready to eat it, let it thaw and then cook on low in your Crock Pot for 2 - 3 hours.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thai Chicken and Shrimp Noodle Salad



Hello again my fellow foodies and Happy Summer to you all!  I've taken yet another break from blogging, as somehow life gets in the way. ;)   I return to you with healthier recipes that I promise won't disappoint.  With our home full again, the girls are briefly back from college and jobs and we've all vowed to eat healthier, exercise more and it's just worked out that we're spending a lot more time with our family unit this summer. :) Needless to say, David and I are loving every every minute...chaos and all.  In addition to our kids all home we have two dogs (lab pups no less), a cat and whatever animal Cassidy has adopted, whether it be a baby squirrel or alley cat...and of course we can't forget our beloved snake, Bond James-Bond, a snake we adopted 4 years ago for Dylan...Who would've ever thought I would have a snake in my house?!  We're definitely glutton's for punishment, but would have it no other way.  With all of our time together we're hanging out in the pool, watching lots of movies and of course, are cooking away, with Avery and Cassidy helping mostly, Dylan's the in-house comedian with his Dad's sense of humor.  There have been a few epic jam sessions with great friends and family...I love, absolutely LOVE having our house full of family, friends, music, painting Altoid tins ;) (don't ask), cooking our favorite foods and whatever creative energy might be happening at any moment.  I do adore summertime!

In the spirit of eating healthier here's a fabulous dish that was a hit with the family.  It's a recipe I tweaked from the one I saw on  I quadrupled the amount of dressing that their recipe originally called for, because I like having extra for a dipping sauce, especially if making spring rolls, which would be the perfect side dish or appetizer.  This dish is a lot like Pad Thai minus the egg and could work out beautifully as a vegetarian dish, adding most any vegetables you prefer.  Another option is to use just chicken or just shrimp...I especially appreciate a dish that is so versatile.  I will be back soon with another healthy recipe.  Happy, healthy cooking everyone!  <3

Salad Dressing:

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fish sauce* (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1/2 cup Asian sweet chili sauce*
4 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup garlic, chopped
pepper to taste

Salad Additions:

9 oz Rice Stick*
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
32 oz bag of raw, medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined, cooked and marinated as  
   directed below**
1 - 1/2 cups cooked chicken (a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store works well)
1 cup green onion sliced thin, divided use for salad and for garnish

Garnish Plate:

1 - 1/2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed

1/2 English hothouse cucumber, very thinly sliced and peeled (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots or red onion
2 red (or green) jalapeno pepper with or without seeds, depending upon how spicy you   
    like it, sliced into thin rings

1/4 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
2 limes cut into wedges

*Available in the Asian foods section in most supermarkets and at any Asian market.

**I marinated the shrimp in 1/4 cup soy sauce with a splash of white wine, a little garlic  
powder, ground ginger for at least 30 minutes.  I sauteed the shrimp in a wok with a little vegetable oil and just a splash of sesame oil until they turned pink.  Or make it easy on yourself, although not quite as tasty, and buy already cooked shrimp.

Two hours prior to cooking time, whisk the first 7 ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl to blend. Let stand at room temperature.

Put together a garnish plate consisting of bean sprouts, cucumber, mint, basil, cilantro, shallots, jalapenos and lime wedges.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Boil rice stick in boiling for 4 minutes.  Promptly drain and rinse under cold water to cool; drain well. Transfer to bowl with 3/4 of the dressing, saving the rest for a dipping sauce, if you so desire.

Add tomatoes, shrimp, chicken and green onion except peanuts and the rest of the green onion, to noodles; toss to coat.

Divide among 6 plates. Sprinkle with peanuts and green onion.  Serve with the garnish plate, Sriracha and additional dressing so your guests can doctor up their plates to their individual liking.  

This recipe is adapted from Epicurious.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

In honor of Father's Day I'm posting some of my Dad's writings again. This is mostly for my kid's and my benefit more than anything.  My Dad was the most inspirational, positive and kindest soul I ever knew.

Shortly after being diagnosed with bone cancer Dad wrote "Notes to My Grandchildren." The title says it all. It's a heart-warming essay full of inspirational advice that he knew he wouldn't be around to give to most of his grandchildren in person. He truly was like no other.

Thank you to my dear friend, LuAnn for typing NTMG so I could post it on-line for everyone to enjoy. You're the bestest friend ever...I love you so much!

The last week of Dad's life, he was in charge of the huge undertaking of "Dallas Acts Kind Week."  My sweet Mom was with David, our daughter, Avery (17 months) and me in West Palm Beach, eagerly awaiting Cassidy's arrival as she was several days beyond her due date.  My Dad strongly encouraged my Mom to go be with us for the arrival of our newest blessing, our Cassidy.  Of course, my Mom had no idea the end was so near or she would've never gone to Florida.  Although, now looking back, I think my Dad knew exactly what he was doing by sending my Mom away.  Cassidy was just 4 days old when we received the call that my father passed away. I believe he sensed his passing was near and wanted to spare my Mom as much trauma as possible.  He wanted her to relish in the beauty of a new life beginning.  Not his ending, as his body has threatened to do so so many times before and she was always there right by his side.  God Bless my beautiful Mother...She and Dad have been through more than anyone should ever have to, but both of them will forever be my heroes.  My sister, Patti was left to help my Dad at home and she and my brother, Mike were with him until the very end....God Bless them all!  My Dad was determined to get through "Dallas Acts Kind Week," which he did and with so much grace and dignity.  

Several weeks after my Father's passing someone pointed out to us the meaning of the Grateful Dead's song Cassidy.  Right about the time Avery was born David became a major Deadhead.  We didn't know the lyrics to the song, "Cassidy" but we loved the name and decided we would name our beautiful daughter after the song, with no idea it was so poignant to our situation.  It's about how one life ends and another one begins.  If you care to read the words, it truly is ironic.  She was definitely born to be Cassidy!  <3

Dad, you are missed each and every day, much more than words could ever convey! I'm so proud to be your daughter!

I love you!
Special K