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Chicken & Barley Stuffed Peppers: Your Kids’ New Favorite Dinner

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I just had to share this recipe with you. Consider it a gift to kick off your summer! I made this recipe a few weeks ago, and it was an instant success. My husband loved it, my kids loved it, and I loved that everyone cleaned their plates. But for some odd reason, I forgot to add it to my weekly menu again, until tonight! We have been grilling like crazy lately, and my kids needed a little variety, so I decided to make these stuffed peppers again. WOW! Another raving success! My husband even ate seconds. I just love a meal where everyone leaves the table well-fed and satisfied!

Now, before you think it may not work for your family, try it. I do not like traditional stuffed peppers. In fact, I don’t really loved cooked peppers, but this recipe is a winner; I promise!

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Ingredients:

  • 4 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers (we love red)
  • 1 lb. of ground chicken
  • 1 cup of diced zucchini
  • 1 cup of barley
  • 2 cans of mild red enchilada sauce
  • 1 tbsp. of ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. of paprika
  • 1 tbsp. of chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1 tsp. of pepper
  • Drizzle of Sriracha (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Brown chicken in a large skillet
  2. Meanwhile, cut peppers in half and remove stems and seeds.
  3. Place 6 halves onto parchment lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes at 450 until tender and charred at the edges. Flip after 10 minutes.
  4. Chop the other 2 halves of peppers and the zucchini into small chunks.
  5. Add the vegetables and barley to the browning meat, mixing well.
  6. Reduce to a simmer and add the enchilada sauce and spices.
  7. Mix well and cover. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the barley is tender.
  8. Remove the peppers from the oven and transfer to individual plates. Spoon a heaping portion of the filling into each pepper and serve immediately.

Variations: You can top with taco cheese or cilantro. Feel free to change-up or add additional veggies, such as frozen corn, diced tomatoes, or onions.

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Buffalo Chicken & Potato Casserole

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“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

We all know this phrase, and I usually can agree with this philosophy, but it can’t always be true, right? Well, at least it’s not true for me when I get a good idea to “fix” something, like say a casserole.

I found a casserole recipe on Pinterest. It’s pretty popular, and there are a bunch of knock-off versions, so I made it this summer to mixed reviews. My mom and my husband liked it, my kids, not so much. I also have a neighbor who tried it based on my Facebook post, but her feedback was so-so as well. Technically, this recipe was not “broken”, but I had an idea of just how to “fix” it.

For me the issue was a flavor thing. It needed a bit more depth. I absolutely loved the technique, but I felt it needed a little more complexity beyond plain hot sauce. I “fixed” it. You’re welcome 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 medium potatoes, cubed with skins on
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • ½ packet of Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing Mix
  • 1 cup of Buffalo wing sauce
  • 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¾ cup of chopped, cooked bacon
  • ¼ cup of chopped green onions

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 500°.
  • Chop potatoes and transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and salad dressing mix, then toss until coated.
  • Line the bottom of a casserole dish with the potatoes and bake for 45 minutes. Check the potatoes around 30 minutes, and stir.
  • Meanwhile, chop the chicken and coat with the wing sauce.
  • Once the potatoes are cooked, remove from the oven, top with the chicken, then sprinkle cheese, bacon, and onions.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 475° and bake for approximately 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the cheese is nicely melted.

**Because ovens can vary, ensure that the chicken is fully cooked prior to consuming.

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Ridiculously Easy Roasted Corn

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I love fresh veggies in the summer. We are so fortunate to live in an area surrounded by local farms that offer fresh veggies at a very low-cost, and I really wanted to enjoy these treasures year-round, so I bought a vacuum sealing system for $20 on an online yard-sale and realized that it was the best money that I ever spent!

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My freezer is full of green beans, berries. tomatoes, and corn. At the end of the season, I went to the farm across the street and bought three dozen ears of corn, then blanched them, and cut the corn off the cob. I then vacuum sealed them in family sized portions. It has been so nice to open a bit of summer during the doldrums of winter.

Last night, I was making a nice dinner for my husband, and I pulled out a pack of corn. I debated just steaming it, or sautéing it with some zucchini, but then I decided to roast it since the oven was hot, and I really didn’t feel like tending to the stove. Well, this was a stroke of brilliance. I will make corn this way from this point forward!

It’s so easy, with one step clean-up, and fool-proof instructions.

Here is the recipe!

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Ingredients:

  • Corn (frozen, or fresh off the cob)
  • Olive oil spray
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh thyme
  • Parchment paper

Procedure:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Spray paper with olive oil spray (Really,you can use any variety of spray.)
  4. Spread corn in a single layer.
  5. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme.
  6. Roast in the oven, about 15 minutes, until the edges start to brown.

That’s it! The nice thing about this recipe is that you can make the whole dish while any meat you are preparing gets a chance to rest. You capitalize on an already hot oven, and it requires no attention. Once it is done, transfer the corn to your plates, or a serving bowl, then sweep the parchment paper into the trash, and clean-up is complete! It doesn’t get any easier than that.

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Blizzard Worthy Chicken Tortellini Soup

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I should call this “Siberian Soup” since this winter in PA has seemed uncomfortably Russian, but I will turn down my dramatic tendencies. This soup came after trying a recipe that was just a bit too heavy for me. Instead of tossing it, I went back into the kitchen and changed the ingredients to make it lighter, and a lot healthier!

Today was certainly the best day to try it, since we are receiving almost 2 FEET OF SNOW! Luckily, my husband was off today, so I could cook warm toasty meals. This soup was a hit! My husband loved it, along with four very hungry little girls, who just came in from the snow.

So, if you are looking for a way to escape the arctic, make a pot of this tasty tortellini soup!

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached & shredded
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian diced tomatoes
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 5 basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 8 ounces fresh tortellini
  • 2 zucchini cut into large chunks
  • 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, poach chicken breasts and shred. (You can put them in your mixer with the paddle attachment and turn on low until shredded)
  2. Sautee onions and garlic in the pot until tender. Stir in chicken broth, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, and chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in zucchini, cheese, and parsley. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top of each serving. Serve with warm garlic bread.

*Note– if you save this soup for leftovers the tortellini will suck up the broth so the result is a more like a stew. Feel free to add more chicken broth if you eat it the next day.

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Buffalo Chicken Chili

Buffalo Chicken Chili

This is one of those great meals that you don’t have to feel guilty about. It is so packed with veggies that your kids and husband will have no clue that you are secretly serving something nutritious! My daughter has asked for it in a thermos to take in her school lunch, and my husband will settle in to watch football with a big bowl of this tasty chili and some chips. It is also a quick and easy, one pot meal that feeds many on a budget. So whether you are entertaining the masses, or just looking for a reprieve from all that is unhealthy, look no further!

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 Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 medium onion,
  • 3 ribs celery
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of buffalo wing sauce, depending on your taste
  • 2 15 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar or blue cheese for garnish

Preparation:

1. Poach chicken breasts in about an inch of water in a large stock pot for about 8 minutes. (or you can use 2 lbs, of ground chicken, cooked & crumbled)

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2.Meanwhile, chop carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in a food processor.

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3. Once chicken is cooked, remove from the pot, reserving the liquid in a separate bowl.

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4. Add 2 Tbsp. of butter to the stock pot (no need to wash it between steps), and allow to melt.

5. Add chopped vegetables, sautéing until soft.

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6. Chop cooked chicken in food processor, then add to the vegetables in the stock pot mixing well.

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7. Add wing sauce and crushed tomatoes. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

8. Add broth, bay leaves, paprika,

9. Allow to simmer on low heat for about 10-20 minutes

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Presentation:

Top with a pinch of cheese, then serve hot with tortilla chips for scooping.

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14

When Recipes Fail: A Commentary on Sucking in the Kitchen and Stumbling in Life

20130704-134110.jpgOver the past 24 hours, I have sucked in the kitchen! There is no fairy magic here. I have just plain sucked. It started yesterday when I botched a double batch of Trix Crispy Treats. I had to bring a dessert to my daughters’ swim team banquet for 180 people. Clearly, these would be the perfect choice, and it was all well and fine, until 5 minutes before we had to leave, I attempted to pop them out of the pan and slice them in to neat rectangles. I was eager to pile them artfully on my fancy cake plate and present the perfect fairy-style wonder.

Only, it was not very magical. The treats stuck to the pan (which I greased) and the marshmallow never solidified! Not to worry. I figured I’d just pop these suckers in to the fridge and firm them up real quick!

UUUHHH…NO!

They remained gooey, but we had to leave, so I hacked off the presentable parts, wrapped the hopelessly gooey ones up and off we went. Well, the car was very warm; it was EXTREMELY HOT & HUMID outside, so by the time they were placed on the table, even the good ones had morphed into a rainbow glob resembling a pile of unicorn poop!

Excuses were plentiful. This had to be the result of the weather, or the cheap generic brand marshmallows that my husband got “a great deal on”. Or maybe it was the lack of sleep over the past two nights. Night #1 was consumed by an over-excited, sleepless 8 year old who just couldn’t wait for the Taylor Swift concert, and night # 2 was consumed by the concert itself. Add on very early morning swimming championships, and no wonder these were not a huge success.

OK, move on, not a big deal. There is more to life than Trix Treats.

Yup, there’s plenty more to life, like horrible chicken.

Onto failed recipe # 2. This afternoon, I was perusing the handy dandy internet when I stumbled across a recipe for the best barbeque chicken, like…ever. (Sorry, Taylor Swift is still fresh on my mind) The only problem was that the first step involved a dry rub, but the idiot who wrote the guide, egotistically refused to give his rub recipe. No worries. I thought, let’s improvise and make our own, ya know…a little bit of this & a little dash of that… OK?

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NO! Not OK!

My rub recipe was way too strong, resulting in the most beautiful but awful tasting chicken on the planet. Really? Who screws up barbeque chicken? Certainly not the Fabulous Fairy! WRONG! I am shamefully raising my hand and owning my defeat. It was horrible and inedible. We ate green beans and roasted potatoes for dinner followed by a bowl of consolation mint chocolate chip ice cream instead. AWESOME!

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Wow! At this point I accepted defeat, blamed a searing sinus headache and retreated to bed, only to lie there awake. Thoughts just came racing into my head, seemingly out of nowhere, about one of my daughters and some upcoming meetings about her school program next year. The next thing I knew, I was wide awake and in tears. Not wanting to wake up my husband, I crept back down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and sort things out. After all, I am a teacher in real life. I have a master’s degree in education plus a gazillion credits past that, and I have taught almost every subject. She’s going into middle school. I teach middle school. It should be a no brainer! Right?

Super Awesome! In all of my mental processing, I burnt the frozen waffle that I popped in the toaster. Clearly, my cooking skills have now regressed to those of a 4 year old.

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So here I found myself holding a cup of tea and a burnt waffle, strike # 3, all while shedding tears of frustration over a meeting that is not even firmly scheduled yet. This is where my moment of clarity came.

My kitchen disasters had nothing to do with the weather, cheap marshmallows, egotistical cooks, or sinus headaches. They were a result of my lack of a recipe in life. My thoughts, fears, critical points to be made, test scores, and witty remarks were all mixed around in my mind like a bad meal. I realized that I need a real plan to move forward with my daughter’s meetings and educational needs. Here I am, The Fabulous Fairy, who can pull out a recipe for almost anything (except a barbecue rub), but trying to tip-toe through a touchy situation without a recipe for success and progress when it came to my own child. Whew!

Lesson learned, tears over.

So, here I sit, at the counter in my kitchen, my recipe central, hacking at the pathetic pile of second string unicorn poop, crafting a recipe for my daughter. I am confident that I will find a plan, and eventually some sleep, but I am going to approach my hurdles with a bit more foresight, organization, and personal forgiveness.

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I guess sometimes we have to remember that we need to nourish our hearts and minds as well as we nourish our bodies.

Good night. Here’s to hoping dinner is more successful tomorrow.

~Kelly, “The Not Always Fabulous Fairy”

6

Family Friendly Lettuce Wraps

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One of the reasons I love Spring Break is that I get to feel like a stay-at-home mom, and join my good friends in their daytime activities. On today’s agenda was a killer kettle bell class that my girlfriends have been agonizing through for the past few weeks. This class, with its drill sergeant instructor, has been a source of curiosity for me, so of course I jumped on the opportunity to try it.

Wow! It lived up to my expectations, and while I am certain that I will not be able to use my arms, legs, abs, or ANY OTHER MUSCLE in my body tomorrow, I loved it. No pain, no gain, right?

Well, since it is my mission not to gain weight, I best be taking the same kick ass attitude towards my diet. So, in order to preserve the benefits of my exercise, tonight we are having lettuce wraps for dinner. The added bonus is that my kids LOVE them!! I’m not kidding, my middle has chosen lettuce wraps over pizza before. Happy wife = Happy life! Here is a meal that will help me achieve my dream of skinny thighs while making my kids happy with a nutritious meal. Everyone wins, and gets to be happy…even if one of us will not be able to walk up the steps for a few days.

Family Friendly Lettuce Wraps

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The Chicken:

1 1/2 -2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast strips
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 cloves garlic – minced
1 teaspoon of powdered ginger
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of honey

Blend all of the ingredients except the chicken in a medium bowl. Add chicken, coating each piece in the marinade, and allowing it to sit for about 1 hour.

Cook chicken strips until they are fully cooked. They can be broiled on a baking sheet lined with foil, about 7 minutes a side depending on the strength of your broiler. You may also grill them on the grill, using skewers, or in a grill pan on the stove top.

Once the chicken is cooked, allow it to cool a bit, then shred or slice in to smaller pieces. Set aside.

The Noodles:

1 5.5 oz package of rice noodles

1 Tbsp. of coconut oil

2 Tbsp. of soy sauce

Cook noodles according to the package instructions and drain. Toss noodles with oil and soy sauce. Set aside.

The Rest:

2 heads of Boston Bibb lettuce

1 cup of shredded carrots

1 cup of alfalfa or bean sprouts

Optional: Chopped green onions, thin sliced red peppers, cucumber ribbons, and chopped peanuts or cashews.

Carefully separate the leaves of lettuce from the head, wash, and dry. Clean and prepare any other fix-ins.

The Dressing:

For an easy weeknight meal, you can purchase pre-made sauces. My family loves Wegmans Sesame Garlic Sauce and Wegmans Thai Peanut Sauce. We drizzle both on our wraps. But, if you are looking to make your own, see below.

Thai Peanut Sauce-
1/4 cup of peanut butter
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp of sesame oil
1 small pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan stir to combine over medium heat until smooth, warm, and blended.

Sesame Garlic Dressing-

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger root

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. of sesame oil

Combine all ingredients, mixing well.

The Presentation:

On a large platter, arrange lettuce, carrots, sprouts, chicken, & any other fix-ins. This will allow each person to choose based on their own likes. Place the platter in the center of the table with tongs or spoons. You can serve the noodles in a separate bowl or on the platter if there is room. Place dressings in small bowls with spoons for drizzling. Finally, put chopped peanuts or cashews in small separate bowls. Each person needs a small plate on which to assemble their own wraps as they go. Now you are good to go for a fun, nutritious meal!

***Variation: If this seems a bit complicated, or messy, tear lettuce leaves on a plate and top with chicken, noodles, and vegetables. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and drizzle with dressing for a Thai Chicken Salad. This dish can be tailored to suit your own tastes, so feel free to add or delete ingredients to suit your likes.

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Chicken & Dumplings

If you need some food love

And a full belly’s your wish

Chicken & Dumplings is the perfect

Fab Fairy dish

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Chicken & Dumplings

The Chicken:

3  boneless chicken breasts– poached and shredded

4 cups of chicken broth

1 cup of carrots,

1-2 cups of cubed potatoes

Any other vegetables that you may have in the fridge– peas or corn

The Dumplings:

1 cup of flour

1 cup of Jiffy cornbread mix

1 tbsp. of baking powder

1 cup of half and half

Preparation:

Boil chicken, broth, and vegetables on the stove in a large pot until cooked thoroughly.

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Once that is cooked, mix 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of Jiffy cornbread mix, 1 tbsp of baking powder, and 1 cup of  half and half.

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Drop the dumplings into the boiling soup and simmer covered for 15 minutes.

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I then placed it uncovered under the broiler to brown the dumplings.

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Crockpot Jambalaya

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A cold rainy day
Will dampen the mood
To get off the couch
And cook some good food.
No reason to fret,
No reason to whine.
Crockpot Jambalaya
Is a meal that’s divine!

Today was a yucky rainy Sunday. The only thing I had to do was run out to the pharmacy. I didn’t want to shop, I would not clean, I just wanted to veg. Cold and rainy weather is not my friend.
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Days like today, I just want warm…a warm blanket, a warm cozy spot on the couch, and a warm tasty meal. The problem is that once I settle into that warm cozy spot on the couch, under my warm fleecy blanket, with my warm snugly doggie at my feet, I don’t want to get up. Crockpot jambalaya is a prefect recipe for this kind of day.

This recipe is perfect for the lazy cooking days. No lengthy prep, no constant stirring, no elaborate finishing process. Just cut, dump, wait, and then eat. In fact, this dish is so efficient in promoting relaxation, I grant you permission to deviate from the traditional dinner table and eat it in the family room while watching a movie as a family.

Tonight, my kids will settle in on the floor, spread a large blanket beneath them, and enjoy dinner, “picnic style”. It is a fun treat, and I use the format to bribe (or threaten) them into eating it all gone (ex. “If you do not eat all of you dinner, we will not be able to have picnic dinners again!”…I know, they will need therapy…blah, blah, blah.) My husband and I will claim the couch, and a movie will be chosen. Peace, family, warmth, and a great meal are the necessary ingredients to make this a fantastic Sunday.

So, whether you are an experienced cook, who just wants to take a night off, or a novice kitchen mom, who is looking for a low-risk start, this is the recipe for you. Not only will your family love it, but you will feel relaxed and fulfilled by your new cooking from the couch skills. Enjoy!

Crockpot Jambalaya

Ingredients:

1 pound of skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound of andouille sausage, sliced
1 pound of peeled, deveined shrimp without tails
6 cups of chicken broth
3 cups so white rice
1 (28 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 cup of chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. of fresh oregano
2 Tbsp. of fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. of Cajun seasoning
1 Tbsp. of fresh thyme
1 tsp. of cayenne pepper

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker. Cook on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours. Stir occasionally.

Garnish with a slice of warm cornbread.

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Chicken Stash

Here is a quick tip to make weeknight, or time crunched meals much easier.

** Keep a stash of cooked chicken in the freezer or fridge to be easily added to any meal.

  • Season boneless, skinless chicken breasts with olive oil and garlic, then grill. These cooked breasts can be stored in the fridge for a few days. Dice them for a salad, add them to fresh sautéed vegetables, or toss with pasta and alfredo sauce. This grilled chicken can also be diced and frozen to add to soups or casseroles.
  • Make shredded chicken to freeze. If you reach the point where you have to cook some chicken before it expires, throw it in your crock pot with a few cups of chicken broth. Cook until it is tender and falling apart. Then shred the chicken and cool before freezing.
  • A great way to shred the chicken is to throw it into your stand mixer with the paddle attachment and give it a whirl. You will have perfectly shredded meat every time!