Monthly Archives: August 2012

Homemade Barbecue Sauce & Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Homemade Barbecue Sauce & Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

What better way to celebrate a 3 day and Holiday weekend then with a barbeque. Although we’re missing my favorite part–the grill–I am able to make a killer substitute using our crockpot and making homemade barbecue sauce. I can’t even imagine how good this recipe would taste if we actually had a grill to cook it on. What can you do though–when life gives you lemons. This was the first time I have ever made homemade barbecue sauce. Not only is it super simple, it is super delicious…and the best part? It only takes 5 minutes of cooking time to bring the barbecue sauce together! I won’t ever go back to the bottled kind. Who knew it was so simple? This recipe also makes about 4 cups of sauce that can last in the refrigerator for up to a month if stored in an airtight container. Next summer I plan stock up on the homemade sauce to enjoy for weeks on end.

This barbecue sauce tastes like the sauces that are provided at authentic barbecue places. It’s not nearly as thick as the sugary commercial version, so if that’s what you are looking for, this sauce is unfortunately not it. I will say though, that this barbecue sauce has much more depth than the commercial kind. It’s sweet and tart at the same time (from the brown sugar and vinegar) with a little heat thrown in (from the dry mustard, ginger, and chili pepper). We were pleasantly surprised with how delicious the sauce came out and Matt is already asking for me to make ribs to try it on next.

I was inspired to make my own barbecue sauce because the more I learn about the production of food in our country, the more conscious I am about what we are putting into our bodies. I am really trying my best to become an informed cook to protect the things my husband and I are consuming. So many products have ingredients that you–1. don’t know you’re eating or 2. loads of artificial preservatives and additives. It gives me piece of mind to know exactly what kind of products we are consuming on a daily basis. It is also a bonus because it is good for our bodies too. I would say the only packaged food we eat on a regular basis is 90 second rice and that’s the way I intend to keep it for the rest of our lives. I splurge on a bag of chips probably every three months (but even those are typically organic) and in moderation. I really believe that your body does reflect the fuel that you put in it and you can’t expect to feel well if you aren’t doing your part to treat your body well. That is why I enjoy creating recipes like my crockpot chicken because it allows us to always have a healthy protein on hand and sets us up to make delicious meals with very low effort.

The Ingredients:

Makes about 4 cups of sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups of ketchup
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar (cider vinegar can be substituted if necessary)
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup Reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbs. dry mustard
  • 3 tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tbs. honey
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper and/or red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbs. canola oil
  • Juice from half a lemon

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Peach & Pineapple Salsa

Peach & Pineapple Salsa

I love love love homemade salsa. It encompasses all the deliciousness of summer in a single bite. I try to eat as many fresh fruits and veggies as possible during the summer because not only is it good for your body but it’s when everything taste the best. Nothing compares to fresh picked produce in my book. I can’t wait to eventually have my own garden instead of growing herbs on my urban windowsill.

Anyhow, I make many variations of salsa (try my traditional Vine Ripened Tomato Salsa or Avocado Mango Salsa) but this is one of my favorites! I think salsa is a great, inexpensive way to entertain. I like to make a few variations and allow guest to sample each kind–it makes a get together a lot less boring having variation. This particular recipe is one of my favorites because it is a great balance between sweet and spicy. The fresh peaches and pineapple provide a sweet and tangy quality to the salsa that balances the heat from the jalapeños peppers. Trust me–you’ll love it.

The Ingredients: 

Equipment needed: Food Processor 

  • 3-4 vine ripened tomatoes
  • 1-2 large ripe Peaches, peeled and diced
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of chopped pineapple
  • 1 small red or sweet onion
  • 2-3 large cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of pickled Jalapeños--depending on your heat preference; I actually use a lot more than I usually do in regular salsa because the heat is balanced nicely by the fresh, sweet fruit
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
  • Small pinch of Oregano
  • Salt & fresh cracked black pepper
How to:
  • Roughly chop the red onion into large pieces–rinse under cold water to get rid of the pungent onion smell/taste
  • Add to food processor and lightly pulse to break it down a bit
  • Roughly chop tomatoes and pineapple and add to food processor
  • Slowly pulse to break down mixture
  • Grate 2-3 large cloves with micro-planer directly into food processor
  • Add desired amount of jalapeños based on your heat preference–I added a little less than a 1/2 cup of pickled jalapeños (considerable less spicy than fresh jalapeños)
  • Pulse to desired consistency
  • Stir in diced peaches and add juice of 1/2 lemon or lime–the citrus juice really helps keep the flavors clean
  • Add salt, pepper, and oregano to taste and serve chilled

Individual Taco Cups

Individual Taco Cups

I feel like every time I log onto Pinterest, I see a new recipe converting old faithfuls into individual muffin pan recipes (maybe I’ll start seeing my recipe too! if you all pin me:). Muffin pan meatloaves. Muffin pan breakfast sandwiches. I’ll tell you from seeing all of them, I felt a little inspired to see what else I could come up with. I often make individual cheesecakes in the muffin tin but I wanted to think a little further outside the box. I’ve made egg and potato breakfast tarts for years but was desiring something I had never seen done before. And then it hit me! Tacos! These little cuties exceeded my expectations! Not only did they taste fantastic but these little morsels are perfect for feeding a crowd.

I’m thinking that these will definitely make the rotation for football Sundays (Go Pats!) and any other big get togethers that occur this Fall. I really like to serve foods that are able to be picked up at get togethers because I feel like it really relaxes the mood of any dinner get together AND these could be served using napkins instead of plates–also a huge bonus when serving a crowd. I loved that I didn’t have to heat up the crunchy taco shells in the oven. For whatever reason I hate that step in making tacos. Plus another bonus was that it was essentially a one pan meal! All you have to do is cook the taco meat and then layer each individual cup. I know that your family will love them as much as we do. I used ground turkey and refried beans for the filling but this recipe is very versatile though. You could definitely use black beans instead or even add rice to the taco cups. This recipe is probably on the easiest to turn into a vegetarian friendly meal. I look forward to making them again in the near future.

The Ingredients

Necessary equipment: muffin pan 

  • Wonton Wrappers
  • 1 lb Ground meat–I used ground turkey
  • 1/2 medium onion diced–optional, I always add onion to my taco/ground meat filling 
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Taco Seasoning– my homemade recipe located here
  • Beans– I used refried beans
  • Taco cheese
  • Taco toppings: sour cream, salsa, lettuce etc.

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Peach Sangria & Our New Bar

Peach Sangria & Our New Bar

We decided to break our new bar in right by having a Sangria night. It is actually a chest! It is on casters and is able to be displayed open or closed. I am so in love with it and think that it really adds a lot of character to our apartment. This recipe was inspired from when Matt and I used to frequent a restaurant called Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant while we lived in Indianapolis. Our favorite part of their menu was the Peach Sangria. It is so delicious! What we love about it is that they dice the fruit into small pieces that get wine soaked and super flavorful. Not often do I actually eat the fruit that comes with Sangria but for this particular drink it really is the best part. We even tried hard to obtain the recipe from the bartender–but unfortunately they wouldn’t budge! This recreation is really great though and I am wicked happy with how it came out. Our neighbor, Jenny, usually doesn’t like Sangria but had a few glasses! So I think it’s safe to say this recipe is a success. I added Crystal Light Peach Iced Tea to the mix and it really helped bring out the sweetness of the peaches and add a lot of great flavor to the mixture. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

The Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle Red Wine–we used a Malbec
  • 1 cup Crystal Light Peach Flavored Ice tea
  • 1/2 cup Seltzer water
  • 1/4 cup Peach Liqueur
  • 1-2 tbs. sugar depending on your desired sweetness
  • 2 peaches, diced
  • 1 granny smith apple, diced

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Dulce de Leche Brownies

Dulce de Leche Brownies

Remember that recipe I posted a few weeks back about Homemade Dulce de Leche? Well since that initial recipe, I have gone out to purchase 1. a bigger mason jar so I can make a double batch and 2. been absolutely obsessed with the stuff. In my initial post I commented on how great I thought the Dulce de Leche would be swirled into brownies–and boy was it delicious! The brownies are nothing special, just a regular box mix, but the addition of the carmel is fantastic. I guess the personal homemade touches really do count for something–lucky for Sandra Lee or else her Semi-Homemade show wouldn’t work like it does.

Anyway, I wanted to show how delicious the carmel is in the brownies if you needed a little more motivation to try my recipe for Homemade Dulce de Leche.  I made one side chocolate chips and the other half I sprinkled with almonds. What can I say–I like variety:) I made a huge double batch of Dulce de leche last night and am look forward to mixing it into my coffee and dipping apples into it–tastes like the best caramel apple ever. I love making items that you can use for a variety of things. Enjoy & be on the lookout this weekend for my Peach Sangria–it is amazing! Matt and I drank two bottles of wine the night I created it and that NEVER happens. Happy Thursday!

Chicken Fajita Soup & A Vegetarian Version

Chicken Fajita Soup & A Vegetarian Version

We love all foods that are Mexican in our house. Tacos. Fajitas. Enchiladas. All of it. Sometimes it gets a little monotonous eating the same foods though–and that’s why I like to come up with what I refer to as recipe redos. If you are tired of making the go to dishes, like tacos and burritos, you’ll love giving this dish a try. I not only love Mexican food but am obsessed with soup. I literally could eat soup every day and not get tired of it. Matt on the other hand, refuses to eat soup in scorching weather, so it has been awhile since I’ve made any. Now that the weather is cooling down a bit, it was my free pass to make one of our favorites. This recipe for Chicken Fajita soup is definitely one of my favorite recipe redos. This recipe is also very vegetarian friendly–omit the chicken and add another can of black beans, and you have yourself a high protein meal with a lot of veggies. I like to serve my soup over crushed tortilla chips and cheese as opposed to sprinkling them on top. I like that the chips get soft and they actually help to thicken the soup. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do–it’s the best on cold Fall evenings–plus it can definitely feed a crowd and it’s a one pot meal. Bonus.

The Ingredients:

  • 1 box (32 oz) of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 red peppers–sliced to uniform thickness
  • 1 large red or sweet onion–sliced to uniform thickness
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can condensed chicken soup
  • 1 can black beans-rinsed and drained
  • 2-3 cloves of cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 can enchilada sauce–mine was the medium heat level
  • 1 lb of chicken breast–precooked, I cooked mine in the slow cooker earlier in the day
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pickled jalapeños chopped–or less if they are fresh/based on your heat preference
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of frozen corn (optional)
  • Cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, & avocado for garnish
  • A squeeze of lime juice over each bowl served (optional)

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100% Whole Wheat Waffles. A Sunday Favorite.

100% Whole Wheat Waffles. A Sunday Favorite.

I love waffles almost as much as I love pancakes. I especially love whole wheat waffles because they act as a great complex carbohydrate that keeps me feeling full longer. Eating carbohydrates in the morning sets your body up to have a lot of great energy for the morning and afternoon. Eating carbohydrates also ensures that your body burns exactly what it’s supposed to: stored carbohydrates and fat. If you skip breakfast, your body actually gets tricked into storing fat instead of burning fat because it views the lack of food consumption as a “threat.” As a result your body stores fat (think your body’s very own rainy day fund) for the impending tough times ahead. Not only does your body store fat, it uses protein from your muscles for fuel instead. Using your muscles for fuel leads to muscle break down. Never good. If you eat the right kind of carbohydrates, you’re actually doing your body a favor and setting yourself up for great results in the gym. Simple carbohydrates (think white sugar, breakfast pastries, white bread etc.) are the enemy–they spike your blood sugar and when eating them in excess, encourage your body to pack on the pounds. No bueno. So no more feeling guilty about ingesting the right kind of carbohydrates–complex carbs are the good guys.

Anyway, these waffles definitely do the job of keeping you full because they are super hearty–seriously, I only eat one and I am satisfied for hours. If you’re not sold on eating just whole wheat waffles or if you don’t think that you’ll like the taste, I have a few alternative suggestions for you. If you add a few tablespoons of orange juice to the whole wheat batter, the orange juice actually cuts down on the classic nutty taste (I absolutely love this taste though). Don’t worry though, you can’t actually taste the citrus flavor. If you don’t have orange juice and are still nervous, you can always just substitute half all purpose flour until you are feeling more brave. I hope you enjoy them!

The Ingredients:

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour–I used King Arthur Flour 100% Whole Wheat
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar–I’m sure sugar or agave would work equally as well 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk–I microwave mine for about 30-45 seconds to get the chill off 
  • 1/3 cup canola oil–I usually make substations to keep oil out of my recipes, but keeping the oil in this recipe is actually kind of a must if you enjoy crispy waffles. It’s the secret to getting them crispy and not soggy. I’m sure you could reduce it to a lower amount, but I haven’t really messed with the amount yet
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons of quality vanilla
  • Add a splash of orange juice if you want to reduce the nutty flavor

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Spicy Thai Chicken and Basil

Spicy Thai Chicken and Basil

Thai food is one of our favorite types of cuisines. I have been recently experimenting in the kitchen to try to figure out how to recreate our favorite dishes at home. While out shopping recently, I found a Thai spice mix that I have been wanting to use. I’m not certain of all the spices in the Thai mix but I do know that there is cumin, sesame seeds, dried chiles, and I think some sort of garlic powder. I used the mix to season the chicken in the dish but if you don’t have a Thai spice mix you can easily substitute. I am really happy with the way to dish turned out. I liked the addition of the carrots and the corn because it adds a small amount of sweetness to a spicy dish. The fresh basil imparts a fantastic flavor that I don’t think would be the same with dried basil (so I highly recommend using fresh basil). I served the chicken over frozen whole grain brown & wild rice that only required a few minutes in the microwave. All in all I think the meal was a success and I look forward to making it again in the future.

The Ingredients:

  • 1lb of skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 2-3 tsp of Thai spice blend or use salt & pepper to season chicken
  • 1/2 pepper–I used green because that’s what I had on hand
  • 1/2 fresh snow peas
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced on a bias
  • 1-4-1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 15-18 fresh basil leaves
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 tsp fish oil
  • 1-2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2-3 tbs of Sriracha–based on your desired level of spiciness
  • Brown rice

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