Slow-Cooker Southwest Chicken

chicken2Growing up in Colorado, I never had a single snow day. Sure, there were days when we woke up to 4 feet of snow and icy roads, fallen tree branches and skating-rink puddles, but school was never called off. Snow plows and road salt were always at the ready, and most Coloradans are pretty darn good at driving in treacherous conditions. I was a child of the rockies, and winter just entailed snow. Then I moved to the Pacific Northwest.

I still remember my very first snow day. I was in third grade, and it was my first winter in Washington. When snow showed up on the weather report, the entire school was buzzing with excitement. Snow was (and is) a pretty rare occurrence on our little island, even in the depths of winter. When I woke up to a measly 2 inches of snow and found out that school was cancelled, I was excited yet confused. Why didn’t anyone have snow tires? Where were all of the snow plows? Not to mention that snow was the only thing anyone seemed able to talk about. Still, I was a 9-year-old with a day off from school and a backyard full of snow. I happily went along with it!

Here in my little corner of Oregon, it’s pretty much the same thing. The slightest bit of ice on the roads often results in schools being called off, although with last year’s crazy 18-inch-accumulation snow storm I could understand why we got three snow days in a row. Still, last week’s cold front brought us a whopping .2 centimeters of frosty snow…and a widespread shut-down of numerous local schools. Say what?!chicken5

My university was one of the few schools in the Portland area that managed to stay open, and I was shocked that we were in the minority! My friend from Idaho and I spent the day snickering at all the weaklings who couldn’t handle a little frost. Granted I’ve probably become one of those weaklings during my eleven years in Washington, but the Coloradan in me still thinks it’s pretty funny. All jokes aside, I’m glad everyone (to my knowledge) stayed safe!

All this cold weather makes me crave hot meals more than ever. Over the weekend I busted out my beloved Crock Pot and made one of my favorites. I discovered this Slow-Cooker Southwest Chicken a few years back and continue to be in awe of its quickness, cheapness, deliciousness, and versatility! It only requires FOUR ingredients (although I’ve added a few extra spices down below) and is as easy as dumping everything into your slow cooker and flipping on the switch. I’ve made it with both black beans and white beans, red salsa and salsa verde, and even crushed pineapple subbed for the corn (sounds weird but it’s awesome)! You can eat it over brown rice, rolled up in tortillas, on top of mixed greens, or chili-style with tortilla chips for dipping. It’s the perfect weeknight dinner, and leftovers store great!

Stay warm and make this Southwest Chicken for a hot lunch or dinner. It has such simple, standard ingredients that you might not even need to make a trip to the store! Which would be a good thing, considering all the legitimately icy roads around the country right now. It’s always good to be on the safe side, whether we’re talking about an inch of black ice or a teeny tiny patch of snow crystals. Haha.chicken4

Slow-Cooker Southwest Chicken

Makes about 4 servings

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup prepared salsa

1 15-oz can black or white beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-oz can sweet corn, drained

2 teaspoons ground cumin (optional)

1/2 teaspoon coriander seed (optional)

For topping: shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped olives, sliced avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.

Directions:

Spray the bottom of a slow-cooker with cooking spray. Place all the ingredients in the slow-cooker and stir to combine. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low for 6-8 hours, until the chicken pulls apart easily. Use two forks to shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Serve with tortillas, corn chips, rice, quinoa, etc.

(Recipe adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

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Cinnamon Apple Bread

bread(Sorry for the atrocious pictures…soon I’ll be back at home with my brother for the holidays and you’ll get some quality photos, I promise!)

Those of you who are avid readers might remember a recipe way back in 2012 for Apple Cinnamon Bread. Actually, I would be quite impressed if anyone does remember…I’m sure you all have better things to keep track of than my recipe arsenal! The reason I bring it up is to erase any kind of confusion between the two recipes. That back then was Apple Cinnamon Bread. This right now is Cinnamon Apple Bread. No, there is no logical reason for the ordering of the words; I just didn’t want two identical-sounding recipes. Because these are not the same bread. Not at all. The Apple Cinnamon Bread from 2012 consisted of a fragrant, cinnamon-spiced quick bread filled with chunks of juicy apple and topped with a crunchy cinnamon-sugar crust. It had a soft, tender, coarse crumb and was bursting with the flavors of fresh apple pie. My house smelled incredible while it was baking!

The Cinnamon Apple Bread from 2014 consists of a sweet, vanilla-scented bread layered with a thick cinnamon swirl and diced apples. It also has a soft, tender, coarse crumb and is bursting with the flavors of fresh apple pie. My apartment also smelled incredible while it was baking! As you can see, although the two breads are pretty different (one is a cinnamon bread with apple chunks and a crunchy topping; one is a plain vanilla bread swirled with ribbons of cinnamon-sugar and diced apple) you can’t go wrong either way!bread2

Despite the fact that every store in the country seems to have jumped straight from Halloween to Christmas, IT IS STILL AUTUMN. To me, November is very much a fall month. Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, the sidewalks are still covered with orange and red leaves, and our windowsill is still lined with about 40,000 tiny pumpkins and gourds. Yesterday JC Penney had Christmas music playing in their shoe section, and I was forced to jam my earbuds into my ears and blast non-Christmas music to drown out the premature rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.” Make no mistake–I am a Christmas FANATIC–but not until December. Right now it’s just wrong. Shame on you, JC Penney DJ.

Help acknowledge these last few weeks of autumn by baking a loaf of Cinnamon Apple Bread! Your kitchen will smell like an apple pie, and the resulting bread is soft, sweet, and fabulous. Cinnamon-apple is one of my favorite combos, especially when it’s layered into a tender loaf cake. The holidays will be here soon enough, but there’s definitely enough time for one last fall recipe….i.e. this bread!bread3

Cinnamon Apple Bread

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)

1/2 cup milk

1 large apple, peeled and diced (I used a mixture of Gala and Granny Smith)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9″x5″ loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides as needed. Beat in the vanilla until smooth.

Add in half the flour and the baking powder, mixing briefly. Beat in the yogurt and milk, then the rest of the flour. Mix just until no flour streaks remain.

Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter half of the diced apples evenly onto the batter, then use a spoon to lightly press them down. Sprinkle half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture on top of the apples. Pour the remaining batter over the top, followed by the rest of the apples and the rest of the brown sugar/cinnamon. Press everything down lightly, then bake for 50-55 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

(Recipe adapted from The Happier Homemaker)

Turkey, Black Bean, and Kale Taco Filling

tacos1This recipe isn’t fancy. It’s certainly not gourmet, and it isn’t exactly a show-stopper. But. This recipe is made with simple, inexpensive, healthy ingredients. It’s full of lean protein, vitamin-rich veggies, and mild southwest spices. It’s extremely quick and extremely versatile. You can pile it into cute little corn tortillas, fold it up into soft flour tortillas, use it as a filling for enchiladas, mix it up with brown rice, or wrap it in lettuce leaves for a low-carb option. I ate it over quinoa with avocado slices on top and it was delicious!

No super skills are required for this recipe either. Everything is sautéed in the same pan, and from start to finish it takes about 20 minutes. Perfect for those busy weeknights! I know I’ll be making this in the future when I want a fast, easy, healthy, and delicious meal.

Well…yup. That’s about it. I guess this post will be quick and simple, just like the taco filling! Enjoy!tacos3

Turkey, Black Bean, and Kale Taco Filling

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound lean ground turkey

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bell pepper, diced

2 cups kale, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon coriander seed (optional)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the turkey and onion until the turkey is cooked through. Add in the jalapeño pepper and garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add in the bell pepper, kale, and salt and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the kale is wilted and the bell pepper has softened.

Stir in the black beans, chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, and black pepper. Lower the heat and cook for an additional 5 minutes to heat the mixture through. Serve in tortillas, over rice or quinoa, or use as a filling for any Mexican-type recipe. Add toppings such as avocado, shredded cheese, or salsa if desired.

(Recipe adapted from Green Lite Bites)