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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Southwest Rice & Bean Salad

Some nights, I love to make fancier, time-consuming dinners.  I am by no means a fast cook, so I like to give myself plenty of time to prepare a complicated meal, which often means starting dinner in the afternoon.  Not that I mind it!  There’s something so relaxing to me about spending time in the kitchen cutting, peeling, measuring, and cooking.  However, life often gets in the way of my lengthy dinner-making plans and sometimes I just need to make something that’s quick and simple, but better than plain old pasta or baked chicken, two of my old stand-by fast meals.

Enter this rice & bean salad, which is full of fiber, protein, and lots of good southwest flavor!  I like to think of this salad as a main course and side dish in one since it contains rice, beans, chicken, and corn.  And it’s highly adaptable!  Use whatever kind of rice you have on hand (quinoa or barley would also be great!), as well as whatever type of beans are in your pantry.  Red onion can also be substituted for the green onions, lemon juice for the lime, etc.  Furthermore, it all comes together in a flash; basically all you have to do is combine everything together.  Aaand it can be served either warm, chilled, or at room temperature.  Have I sold you on it yet?  If not, let me mention that not only is this salad quick, easy, and changeable, it’s absolutely delicious!  The dressing is slightly sweet, slightly tangy, and slightly spicy if you choose to add the chopped jalapeños.  It lightly coats the hearty rice, beans, and chicken, and you get even get a bit of veggies from the corn and green onion.  My mom summed it up pretty well by commenting that this was “the perfect dinner.”  You don’t have to wait for a busy night to throw this southwest salad together…make it ASAP!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southwest Rice & Bean Salad

5 cups cooked rice, warm or at room temperature

1/2 tsp salt

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups cooked, cubed chicken breast (about 2 medium breasts)

1 12-oz can corn, drained

4 green onions, chopped

Juice of 1 large lime (about 1/4 cup)

2 Tbs red wine vinegar

1 Tbs brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 Tbs finely diced jalapeño pepper (optional)

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

Directions:

Combine rice, salt, beans, chicken, corn, and green onions in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, vinegar, brown sugar, olive oil, chili powder, and cumin until smooth.  Pour dressing over the salad and toss to combine.  Salad can be served warm, chilled, or at room temperature.  Serves 8-10.

(Recipe adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

During the summer months when I’m home a lot of the time, it’s nice to have something around the house to snack on.  I’m always on the lookout for a healthier alternative to usual snack foods such as potato chips, cookies, crackers, etc. and one day I came across this recipe for roasted chickpeas.  They certainly aren’t lacking in the flavor department, but their kick comes mostly from a plethora of spices instead of fat and sugar.  Roasting the chickpeas gives them a great crispy texture, and you can adjust the seasonings to your liking to make them as spicy as you wish.  These are great for a high-protein, healthy snack to eat by the handful during hot summer days…or any time of the year!

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

1 15-oz can chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)

1 1/2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Drain and rinse chickpeas, pat dry, and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together olive oil and spices.  Toss chickpeas in the spice mixture and then place onto a lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, give a quick stir, and then bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. Remove when chickpeas are lightly browned and crispy.  Let cool, and then eat!

(Recipe from Our Best Bites, originally adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking)