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)

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)

Crock Pot Chickpea, Lentil, and Butternut Squash Stew

Stew3It’s finally beginning to look like autumn in northwest Oregon. After a long, drawn-out summer of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s (not that I’m complaining), the mornings are getting chillier and the weather prediction for this week is rain, rain, rain. I have to admit that I love the crisp autumn weather, but after a day or two of rain I’m ready for sun again. I think I was spoiled with an unusually sunny summer at home in Washington, and I’m dreading all the the bleak, gray days to come.

The clear, cool days are my favorites. My college campus has a huge variety of trees, and this time of year is so beautiful. I love walking to class under a canopy of shocking red trees, or sitting on a bench and having a leaf fall onto my head. On my morning runs I like to look at all houses decked out in spooky Halloween decorations, and our little apartment is covered in pumpkin/ghost/witch/skeleton paraphernalia. Fall also signals the beginning of soup season, and I’ve been loving my little red Crock Pot more than ever!Stew2

This Chickpea, Lentil, and Butternut Squash Stew is the most perfect fall meal. Despite being vegetarian, it’s packed full of hearty protein and fabulous flavor. The recipe makes about 8 servings, and since I’m only one person I got to enjoy it for 8 meals. You’d think I’d get tired of eating the same lunch and dinner for 4 days in a row, but not with this stew! I actually looked forward to eating it again and again and was sad when it was all gone. The combination of chickpeas, lentils, sweet vegetables, spicy jalapeño and warm curry spices is wonderful, and the longer you cook the stew the thicker it gets. It’s comfort in a bowl, I tell you!

Last Thursday my car battery decided to die, and after a long day of racing back and forth between Les Schwab and classes it felt awesome to walk into the door to a fragrant slow-cooker full of hot stew. Sometimes a good meal is all it takes to brighten up a hard day. Add this fantastic crock-pot meal to your dinner repertoire! It’s great any time of the year!Stew

Crock Pot Chickpea, Lentil, and Butternut Squash Stew

Makes 6-8 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 large carrot, diced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon garam masala (or curry powder)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 cup brown lentils

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes

2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

32 ounces vegetable broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cilantro, for serving (optional)

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, carrot, and jalapeño for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Add in the garlic and sauté for another minute or so. Stir in the garam masala (and cayenne pepper, if you like spice).

Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Add in the butternut squash, lentils, diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and top with chopped cilantro if desired.

(Recipe adapted from Eat Live Run)

Slow-Cooker Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Chili2Last weekend I logged onto my school account with the intention of tackling my Intro to Philosophy homework. It was a Saturday afternoon, and doing homework sounded about as appealing as ripping off my fingernails one by one. Sorry for that not-so lovely image. Anyhow, I scrolled down to the assignment feeling oh-so-motivated, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but….the totally completed, already submitted assignment! I suddenly recalled that I had done the assignment right after class a few days prior to avoid the torture of doing homework on a Saturday. Way to think ahead, Wednesday-version-of-me! I felt like giving myself a hug right then and there. Best. Feeling. Ever.

Who doesn’t love that spectacular feeling of setting out to complete some dreaded task and then realizing that you already did it? It’s like a gigantic birthday and Christmas present all rolled into one. The only problem is that you have to forget the original event in order to be happily surprised later on, which is something that doesn’t happen to me all that often. Sucks to have a good memory, right?! Hah.

The great thing about slow cookers is that you can prepare dinner at an earlier point in the day (with a broad time span, since you can choose whether to cook on high or low) and then walk in the door at dinner time to a hot, homemade meal. When I’m hungry, I’m hungry, and it’s so nice to have food waiting for me when I can’t make it home until later in the evening.Chili4

This Turkey Pumpkin Chili is wonderful for so many reasons: not only is it a fantastic, flavorful chili (one of my favorite foods in the world), but it’s also quite healthy and requires very minimal prep work. You just have to brown a pound of turkey and then throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker. I suppose there’s also a slight bit of chopping involved, but for all intents and purposes this is a highly-doable meal for any busy weekday! Since I cook for one and the recipe makes a fairly large batch, I had leftovers for dayssss, and the chili also freezes really well. You can go the more traditional route and serve it with cornbread, or you can do what I did and spoon it over half of a roasted sweet potato. That combo=heaven in a bowl!

Maybe you’ll even get lucky and forget that you have a Crock Pot full of chili waiting for you, and you can experience that awesome feeling of having one fewer thing on your to-do list! Just don’t forget about the chili completely, because then bad things could happen….I feel I should include that as a disclaimer so you don’t go blaming me for your melted Crock Pot or something of similar nature.

I highly recommend adding this Turkey Pumpkin Chili to your dinner rotation! Its warm spices and plethora of hearty beans/turkey/veggies make it the perfect meal for chilly fall evenings, and it practically makes itself. Enjoy!Chili3

Slow-Cooker Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Makes about 6 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound lean ground turkey

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1 medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes (with liquid)

1 15-oz can pure pumpkin

1 & 1/2 cups water or broth

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the ground turkey, garlic, and jalapeño, and cook until the turkey is browned on the outside (it’s fine if the inside is still pink). Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker. Give it a few stirs to break up the pumpkin, and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. Top with shredded cheese, avocado, and/or sour cream if desired.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The chili also freezes beautifully.

(Recipe adapted from Table for Two)

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Tahini Vinaigrette

IMG_4035Surprising as it may seem, I do actually make food other than dessert. Behind all the butter and sugar, I happen to follow a fairly healthy diet. Of course I taste everything I make (my motto is everything in moderation), but most of it ends up in the stomachs of my friends and family members. Unless of course it’s something like these healthy Oatmeal-Raisin Energy Balls which I may or may not hoard in secret tupperware containers in the way way back of the fridge. Strange as it is, I actually get more excited about stuff like this quinoa dish than I do about chocolate chip cookies. Who am I?!IMG_4037

Now, before you lose all trust in me as a baker/blogger and toss me to the curb as a pitiful soul who chooses quinoa over cookies, you’ve gotta try this recipe! Then you’ll see what I’m talking about. With quinoa as its base, this salad is loaded with sweet balsamic-roasted cherry tomatoes, crispy roasted chickpeas, creamy avocado chunks, and nutritious baby spinach. Then it’s all tossed in a fabulous lemon-tahini vinaigrette–the recipe makes extra, so you can use it to dress other salads as well! My favorite way to serve it is slightly warm, but it’s also delicious at room temperature or straight out of the fridge. My family loves to eat this salad as a main dish for lunch or dinner, but you can also serve it as a side. Or you can do what I did and eat it straight out of the tupperware as a late-night snack!

If you’re looking for a fast, easy, meatlessgluten-free, and delicious dinner recipe, you have to try this! It’s got so many good things going on that I can’t pick a favorite…the juicy, almost caramelized tomatoes? The hidden pieces of smooth avocado? The slightly-nutty, slightly-sweet lemony dressing? Call me crazy to choose leftover quinoa salad as dessert instead of a cookie, but I just couldn’t get enough! The cookies can wait.IMG_4047

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Chickpeas, and Tahini Vinaigrette.

Makes 6-8 servings

For the salad:

1 & 1/2 cups quinoa (uncooked)

1 pint (16 oz) cherry tomatoes

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt & pepper

1 avocado, diced

2 cups baby spinach

For the dressing:

1/4 cup tahini

3 tablespoons warm water

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

1 teaspoon honey

2 large garlic cloves, minced

Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to package directions. While the quinoa is cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When the quinoa is finished, fluff with a fork and allow to cool as you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes and spread onto a lined baking sheet in a single layer. Add the chickpeas to the baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the tomatoes are blistered and the chickpeas are golden and slightly crisp. Cool slightly.

To make the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients in a medium-small bowl. Place the cooked quinoa into a large serving bowl and add in the roasted tomatoes, chickpeas, and baby spinach. Pour on as much dressing as you like (the recipe makes about 1 cup and I like to use about 2/3 cup). Stir gently to coat, then carefully fold in the diced avocado. Serve warm, chilled, or at room temperature.

(Recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen)

Baked Falafel with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

IMG_6874In the little practically microscopic town of my college, there’s a Middle Eastern restaurant that I like to eat at on special occasions. I’ve been there three times throughout this year, each time getting my fill of fresh hummus and pita, chicken shawarma with red rice, mini falafel balls, and the most amazing almond cake. On my tiny island we have a limited number of restaurants, and unfortunately no Greek/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisines are among them. Which is quite sad for all the stuffed-grape-leaf-and-tabbouli-deprived people here on the island, but it makes eating at this particular restaurant at college all the more exciting for me.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, and I’m hoping you won’t judge. Cause it’s kind of bad, as in it makes me seem like the laziest person ever. Which I’m totally not, if you happen to ignore all the hours I’ve clocked watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix in the past transitionary week between the end of school and the beginning of work. We’re talking zero laziness for this girl. Anyhow, I was gifted a food processor last Christmas (ummm, as in 2012), which I was super excited to get and had every intention of using at my earliest convenience, but…..but. It might possibly have stayed in its tight little plastic cover on the carpet of my closet for the past too-many months. And this might be for no good reason other than that I decided it was too much work to wash and put together and learn how to use with all its little slicing/dicing/careful-or-you’ll-cut-your-hand-off tricks. So it might have just sat there gathering dust and shame. But I’m neither confirming nor denying.

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The important part is that now my little food processor is happily out of the darkness and getting quite the workout. Earlier this week I made some energy bites out of dates, flaxseed, cocoa powder, peanuts, vanilla, and honey (which were an experiment, and aren’t quite worthy of posting on the blog–sorry!) and it played a major role in last night’s dinner. The theme was Greek, and the menu was miniature baked falafel balls wrapped in whole wheat pita bread with a lemon-tahini sauce and Greek salad on the side. These falafel balls are gluten-free, vegetarian, easy, and fairly quick. And most importantly, delicious. Just as good as a meal from my beloved restaurant, but a million times cheaper and substantially healthier since the falafel is baked rather than fried. The lemon-tahini sauce is the perfect accompaniment to the falafel balls, and when stuffed inside warm pita bread with fresh greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and feta, it was a regular feast.

Even though I’m kicking myself for not breaking out my food processor sooner, it’s better late than never! And if you don’t happen to be the proud owner of a food processor (or, you know, there’s one sitting in the floor of your closet because you’re a ridiculous lazy fool like myself), you could most likely make them anyway. Just be sure to mash up the chickpeas really well with a fork or potato masher, and use finely minced garlic, green onions, and cilantro. I can’t promise that the texture will be the same, but it’s worth a try! Because no one should miss out on these delicious little chickpea balls of goodness. No restaurant required!

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Baked Falafel 

Makes about 30 small balls, or 15 larger balls

2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

4 scallions, roughly chopped

1 large egg

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

1/3 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/3 cup oat flour (or any other gluten-free flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, add all ingredients except for the flour and baking powder. Pulse about 40-50 times or until ingredients are well-combined but still coarse. Add in half the flour, and pulse several times to incorporate. Add in the rest of the flour and the baking powder, and pulse until combined. If the mixture is too wet, add in more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is moist but still holds together well.

Scoop the mixture into balls about 1 tablespoon each. (Mine were quite small, so if you want more traditionally-sized falafel use 2-3 tablespoons per ball. You’ll just have to increase the baking time a bit.) Drop onto prepared cookie sheets and flatten slightly. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the outsides are crisp and golden-brown and the insides are soft but cooked through.

Lemon-Tahini Sauce

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

Whisk all the ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle over warm falafel balls.

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(Falafel recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats; sauce recipe adapted from My Name is Yeh)

Two-Bean Turkey Chili

IMG_8720I know it’s August, and therefore summer, and therefore most likely broiling hot where many of you live, but I’m posting a recipe for chili today. Yes, it may feel a bit backwards to see a pot of chili simmering on the stove in the middle of August, but sometimes it’s fun to be backwards. Plus I just really, really love chili.

While it’s true that chili is one of my very favorite foods (add cornbread to the mix and we’re entering the realm of my top 5 favorite meals ever), I didn’t actually make this particular chili to be eaten. At least not right away. You see, I’m heading off to the wondrous world of college in just a few short days, leaving behind a pair of poor little empty-nested parents. I keep picturing them wandering around the house in a state of mourning, peering sadly at my stripped-down bed and noting the absence of all my neurotically-labeled “Emma” items in the fridge. (Hey, if you lived with an extremely active 18-year-old brother who, along with his equally active friends, regularly raided your fridge, you might start labeling your food, too!)

Anyway, my mind keeps drifting to all the things that will be different after I’m gone. Who will bake an endless amount of pumpkin-oriented treats throughout the fall? Who will my dad play Scrabble with now that the only other Scrabble-lover in the house is gone? Who will my mom watch soap operas and romantic comedies with now that my brother is leaving? Don’t worry, just kidding on that last one. My mom hates soap operas.

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One thing I do know is that I seem to be the only member of our family who was bitten by the cooking bug, at least during the school year. After a long day of teaching, the last thing my parents want is to come home and make an elaborate anything that takes longer than 15 minutes for dinner. Especially next year, when they’ll have no starving children to feed, minus our food-obsessed beagle. So I cooked up a giant pot of one of our favorites, Two-Bean Turkey Chili, and froze it in gallon-sized zip-locks to be thawed and reheated at my mom and dad’s leisure. With just the two of them, I figure it will be at least three meals’ worth. Now I know that they’ll at least have a few days where they can come home to a hot, homemade, no-fuss meal. Of course, my mom will probably start crying when she sees the bags of homemade chili in the freezer. It’s just their nature, those mothers of ours.

Since I already had the chili made, I figured I might as well post the recipe since it’s so darn good! It’s hearty yet healthy, well-seasoned yet mild, and really hits the spot on a chilly evening. Packed with ground turkey, two kinds of beans, rich tomatoes, and warm spices, this chili can do no wrong. Tuck the recipe away to pull out when the weather cools down, or make it now if you can’t wait! I wouldn’t blame you.

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Two-Bean Turkey Chili

Serves about 6

1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound lean ground turkey

1 medium onion, diced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 medium yellow or red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained

2 15-oz cans tomato sauce

1 Tbs chili powder

1 & 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp brown sugar

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the ground turkey, onion, and garlic until the turkey is cooked through, breaking up the meat along the way. Drain off any excess grease and add the bell pepper to the pot. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the pepper is softened. Add in the beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spices; stir well.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a low simmer. Simmer the chili for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour (the longer, the better for texture and flavor). Make sure to stir the chili occasionally, scraping along the bottom. Serve with shredded cheese, chopped red onion, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, and/or cornbread.

(Recipe slightly adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)