Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cafe Rio Inspired- Shredded Chicken & Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

My slow-cooker is one of my best friends in my kitchen. With K's work schedule so sporadic, I know that I can throw something in there and once it's finished cooking I can keep it on "keep warm" until he gets home. Last Friday I was really wanting Cafe Rio and though I'm really lucky to have a restaurant 20 minutes away I didn't want to make the drive. Through the help of Pinterest I was able to find this great recipe pinned by Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms. I had all the ingredients which made it even easier (no groceries store runs!). The recipe didn't disappoint! The taste was super close to the real thing, it felt like I did make that 20 minute drive. There's nothing like throwing everything into your crock pot and eight hours later having a delicious meal. Here's the recipe:
Recipe (slightly modified from original post)

2-4 frozen chicken breasts 

1/2 a small bottle of zesty italian dressing

1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 pkt ranch dressing mix (mixed with 1/2 cup of water)
1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
1/4 Tbsp. ground cumin
Place all the ingredients into your slow cooker. I put my chicken in frozen, no need to thaw when the slow cooker will do the work for you. Set on low for 8 hours or high for 5-6 hours.
 Around 5 hours check the progress of your chicken. By this time your chicken should be cooked. 

The best way to shred your chicken without taking it out of the crock pot is by using a hand held mixer. It's super easy, super fast with no mess. Shred your chicken and continue cooking.
I wanted to make tacos with the chicken, though you can also make a salad or burrito. Since I'm still on a healthier eating kick I didn't want to do a creamy salad dressing. I found a Cafe Rio inspired Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette on the Favorite Family Recipe website. It was perfect and tasted divine.
2 tamatillos
1/2 bunch cilantro

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp. diced jalapeno (canned) --you can use more if you would like it spicy.
Juice of 2 limes
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (make sure it is the dressing NOT the vinegar)

Place everything except the dressing into a food processor and blend well. Add the balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing and cover. Place in the fridge for at least two hours before using.

Everything is now set for a delicious dinner. Grab your tortillas, lettuce, sour cream and everything else you want to add. K didn't get home until pretty late but it was worth the wait to eat this delicious meal with him!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Homemade Soft Pretzels

On Sunday, while K & E were taking naps, I was on Pinterest looking at some of the past recipes I pinned. These homemade soft pretzel looked so delicious and I just had to try them. Thank you Pennies on a Platter for the recipe and great instructions. The pretzel came out so soft and yummy. It was so hard to stop eating them when they came out of the oven. The best part was how easy it was to make them. I can't wait to make these again:-)

Here's the recipe:
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for topping
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) instant yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil (nonstick) spray, for pan and bowl
10 cups water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tablespoon water (for egg wash)

Using a stand mixer, combine butter, sugar, salt and warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let set for a couple of minutes.

Using the hook attachement, add the flour little by little until fully incorporated. Mix with the hook attachment on medium speed until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl. If you don't have a stand mixer or a hook attachement that's okay. Just knead the dough with your hands adding the flour little by little until you reach the same results.

Pull the dough out of the bowl and spray the inside of the bowl with your vegetable oil. I just poured a tablespoon in and used my hand to coat the inside of the bowl. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes in a warm place.

Ten minutes before the dough is ready, start boiling 10 cups of water in a large pot. Also, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone. Get your egg wash ready as well by cracking an egg into a small dish and mix in the water.

Once the dough has risen, place on a lightly oiled surface. Cut the dough into 30 equal pieces.  Roll each ball dough into a rope. Taking the ends of the rope in each hand, cross them over each other, twist one turn, then press onto the center of the rope, to form a pretzel shape. Place onto the parchment lined baking sheets.
Now comes a fun part. When the water reaches its boiling point, pour in the baking soda.  Working with two pretzels at a time, place the pretzel dough into the water for 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to help with this process. Once the pretzel has been through the water place on the baking sheet.

 Using a pastry brush, brush the water boiled pretzel dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with koser salt. Once all the dough has been boiled for 30 seconds, bake on the baking sheet for 17-20 minutes or until golden brown on the top.
I swear the aroma is amazing when these are baking. And nothing beats how they taste when they come out of the oven. Have a wire rack ready to place the pretzel on top to cool. Cool for at least 5 minutes before eating. It will be hard but you don't want to burn your tongue right? :-) Enjoy this super tasty treat!!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pancake Hearts

Would you like an easy tip that you can use for Valentines Day without to much fuss or preparation? K made these for E & I this past weekend and they were so much fun!

What you need:
Pancake Batter
Heart Shaped Cookie cutter (any size)
Pam cooking spray

Heat the pan. Spray pan with the cooking spray. Spray the inside of the cookie cutter with cooking spray as well. Place cookie cutter on the preheated pan and pour in the pancake batter. Cook until the pancake is finished on that side and remove the cookie cutter. Flip to cook the other side of the pancake. That's it! Super easy, super cute and super lovey:-) You can even dye the pancake batter red or pink if you want to go the extra mile hehe.
{Thanks April for making this picture super cutesy after K posted it on facebook!}

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Peanut Butter Heart Cookies

I saw this idea on Pinterest. Instead of a chocolate kiss top the cookie with a chocolate heart. So cute and perfect for Valentines Day. We have already posted an incredible peanut butter cookie recipe here but I didn't have shortening on me when I made these so I went with a butter based recipe instead. It was so good and matches the deliciousness of our other recipe. I sent these to the hospital with K and the cookies received raved reviews.

Recipe (adapted from
1 C unsalted butter
1 C Peanut butter
1 C Sugar
1 C Brown sugar
2 Eggs
2 1/2 C 
1 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and peanut butter together. Add the sugar, brown sugar and eggs and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Once mixed, slowly add it to the butter mixture until full incorporated.

Form dough into balls. I like to roll the dough in sugar before placing them on the pan to bake.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes.

While the cookies are baking. Unwrap your chocolate hearts and set aside. Right when the cookies come out of the oven, place a chocolate heart on top of the cookie.

The chocolate heart will melt into the cookie but still keep it's shape. I loved the mixture of peanut butter with ooey goey chocolate. It was yum delish, especially with a cold glass of milk. Enjoy these treats for yourself or make them for your sweetheart. They will definitely enjoy them! :-)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

M&M Blondies

I saw this recipe on Pinterest and saved in on my food board. I'm glad I did because we were invited to dinner at a friends house last minute and asked to bring dessert. I pulled up the recipe, whipped this up and was so excited how it turned out. For Valentines Day you can use pink and red M&Ms to make it more festive. This dessert is perfect with a couple scoops of your favorite ice cream. Most likely you have all the ingredients you need in your cupboard, so keep this recipe close for when you need a quick dessert.

Recipe (found recipe on Baked Perfection)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup to 1 1/3 cup M&M's

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" square pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the brown sugar and melted butter. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Add 1 C of M&Ms and pour into baking pan. Sprinkly 1/3 C of M&Ms on top.
 Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the middle is down. I noticed that the sides finished a lot faster than the middle. So just watch you sides to make sure they don't become well done.

 How fun is this? I love color the M&Ms bring to the dish. It was super yummy and super easy to make.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chicken & Vegetable with Pesto

Back to the world of delicious cooking. This dish can technically be a smart eat if you pair it with whole wheat pasta like we did. But really I think it tastes best with yummy carb-i-licious good-old fashion rotelle pasta. Here's another recipe that we have adapted from my Williams-Sonoma "Italian Cooking" cookbook. Fresh flavors without a ton of ingredients equals fresh tasting Italian food the entire family will enjoy.

2 Zucchini, chopped
1 Yellow onion, sliced
1 Red bell pepper, sliced
2 Tbl olive oil
1 lb chicken breast, cubed
1/4 C chicken stock
Your choice of pasta
1/2-3/4 C Pesto

Chop and slice your veggies and set aside.
 In a wok, place 1 Tbl of olive oil and heat. Once it is hot add your cubed chicken. Cook until chicken is golden on the outside and fully cooked through. Place in a bowl and set-aside.

 Boil a pot of water and add pasta. When pasta is cooked, drain and set aside. You can do this while working on the next few steps.

 In the same wok you cooked the chicken, heat 1 Tbl olive oil. Once the oil is hot, on medium-high heat cook the onions until tender. Add the red bell pepper and zucchini and cook until onions are golden. Add the chicken and chicken stock and cook until chick stock is hot.

 Place in a large bowl and mix in the pesto sauce. Toss in the pasta and mix well. This recipe is pretty simple and the taste is exquisite. Add Salt and pepper to taste and serve while hot. I made this and stuck the bowl in the microwave to keep warm until K got home. He was very excited to walk through the door and smell the delicious aroma.