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Crock Pot Chicken Wild Rice Soup

30 Jan

It has been yet another busy week; some later nights at work, things that have to get done at home, and lots of volleyball in the evenings for me (I can’t complain about that though!) We try every week to plan out dinner for each night and try even harder to stick with it. But, these busy weeks make it easier to say “let’s get takeout” instead of putting the effort into cooking a healthy meal. I do love using the crock-pot when I can, especially since dinner is all done by the time we get home! I often swap recipes with a friend of mine, and he sent me a lower calorie version of chicken wild rice soup, with milk instead of cream. We thought this week would be the perfect week to test out the recipe. You would never have know it was made without the cream! The soup turned out very hearty and creamy.

Crock Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
2 Tbs butter
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
8 c chicken broth (we used low sodium)
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded (you could also use 2 chicken breasts, shredded)
3/4 c wild rice blend
1 c milk
1/4 c flour

1. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and saute until tender (about 10 minutes.)
2. Add garlic and thyme and saute for another minute. Add finished veggies to the crock pot.
3. Shred the meat from the rotisserie chicken, add to the crock pot.
4. Add the chicken broth and wild rice blend to the crock pot. Stir well to mix everything together. (Don’t worry if you think 8 cups is a lot of chicken broth, the rice will absorb a lot and it will cook down)

Everything mixed in the crock pot!

Everything mixed in the crock pot!

5. Cook on low for 8 hours.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 c of milk with the flour until smooth. Add remaining milk. Slowly stir into the crock pot. Turn the crock pot to high for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Slowly mixing together the milk and the flour

Slowly mixing together the milk and the flour

7. Serve and enjoy!

Cream of Chicken Wild Rice Soup!

Chicken Wild Rice Soup!

I sauteed the veggies and mixed everything together (minus the flour/milk) the night before we were planning on cooking the soup. The next day we let the crock pot do all the work and mixed the flour/milk in right before we were ready for dinner, so prep time was not bad at all! I think it took us about 20-30 minutes the night before, with all the chopping, sauteing and shredding.

Now I compare all chicken wild rice soup to a restaurant called Grandma’s up in Duluth, MN. In my opinion they make the BEST version of this soup I have ever had. But since Duluth is a little too far away, we’ve been trying to find a recipe that we could make at home that was close to Grandma’s. We both loved the way this recipe turned out. It was creamy, hearty, tasted delicious and the best part, it was lower in calories! I’m excited for the leftovers too, especially since we are in for another visit from the Polar Vortex! What are your go-to crock-pot soup recipes?

-LG

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce

20 Jan

I’m just going to be upfront with this…I love gnocchi. My mom said it was one of my favorite things to eat when I was little. How can you go wrong with potato, flour and cheese? The best gnocchi I ever had was in Vernazza, a little town in the Cinque Terre region of Italy. I’ve tried a couple of times to make gnocchi at home since then and failed miserably each time…the first time I had really lumpy gnocchi and the second time I had a pile of mush. So I’ve been a little shy about trying gnocchi at home again, but when my co-worker sent me this recipe for a sweet potato gnocchi with a balsamic brown butter sauce, I had to give it a try. I mean, third time’s the charm right?

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce
For the gnocchi:
2 red-skinned sweet potatoes (about 1 lb)
1 15oz container of ricotta, strained in a sieve/colander for 2 hours
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
2 to 2 1/2 cups (maybe more) all-purpose flour

For the brown butter:
8 Tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 c loosley packed sage leaves
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Make the gnocchi
1. Wash the sweet potatoes, prick all over with a fork and microwave them using the baked potato button. (You could also microwave on high about 5 minutes per side) You want the sweet potatoes to be tender.
2. Cut the potatoes in half, and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Thoroughly mash the sweet potatoes.
3. Add the ricotta, stirring until thoroughly combined. Stir in the Parmesan and salt.
4. Begin to add the flour, 1/2 c at a time until a soft, pliable dough forms. Have patience here! Sweet potatoes vary in the amount of moisture they contain, so the amount of flour you will need might vary. But, the trick is not to add too much flour, otherwise your gnocchi will be very dense. After adding about 1 1/2 c of flour I started using my hands to mix the flour in. It made it easier to mix and feel when the dough got to the “soft, pliable” point.
5. Shape the dough into a large ball.
6. Flour a baking sheet and set it aside.
7. Flour your work surface and divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Take one portion and roll it onto your work surface using your hands until it’s about 20 inches in length. Cut about 1 inch pieces to form each gnocchi and transfer them to the floured baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 5 pieces of dough.

Cutting the little gnocchi

Cutting the little gnocchi

8. Using the tines of a fork, press each gnocchi to form little indentations.

Make the brown butter
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you’re making the sauce. I like to add a little olive oil to the sauce to keep the pasta from sticking. The sauce will cook in about the time it takes the water to boil.
2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally.
3. Cook until the foam subsides and it begins to turn a golden brown color (about 3 minutes)
4. Turn off the heat and add the sage leaves, cook for about 1 minute.
5. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Save to toss with the warm gnocchi.

Cook the gnocchi
1. When the water is boiling, add a portion of the gnocchi to the boiling water and stir.
2. Let the gnocchi cook until the float back up to the top, about 1 minute. Be careful not to let the gnocchi cook too long! They’ll take on water and get mushy.

Watching the gnocchi float to the top of the pot

Watching the gnocchi float to the top of the pot

3. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon into a serving bowl. Repeat until all your gnocchi is cooked.
4. Toss with the brown butter sauce, top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

 

I was so nervous but the gnocchi turned out delicious! The texture was right and the sauce had the perfect flavors to compliment the sweet potatoes. It took me about an hour and 15 minutes to cook all of it, not counting the time I left the ricotta out to strain. I suggest a lot of patience with the dough though, take your time and don’t be afraid to add more flour to your work surface or hands to help keep the dough more manageable. Now to add a little bit of protein, I also cooked up some sweet Italian turkey sausage while I was cooking the gnocchi and mixed it in with the pasta. The savory of the sauce and sweet of the sausage worked really well together! I’m really happy that there are leftovers for lunch today!

– LG

Turkey Roll Deliciousness – A Must Have!

6 Jan

It’s no secret that I love food so two of my favorite holidays throughout the year are Thanksgiving and Christmas due to the large amounts of really delicious food that we get to make and eat! But not only do I look forward to the meals that day, one of the best parts is all of the leftovers. I am a huge leftover fan!

Every time we have any turkey leftover, I have made it a house rule that we make one of these Turkey Rolls because they are pure deliciousness! I’ve even gone as far as recreating this meal with rotisserie chicken from the super market but nothing beats having it with leftover turkey!

Finished Turkey Roll deliciousness!

Finished Turkey Roll deliciousness!

Turkey Roll
10 oz turkey/chicken
1c cheddar cheese
2 packages crescent rolls

Dipping sauce (optional)
1c Mayo
2tbsp dijon mustard
1tbsp finely chopped onion

• Preheat oven to 375
OPTIONAL: mix mayo, mustard and onion
• Separate rolls into 16 triangles and arrange in a circle with wide ends overlapping in the center and points the outside.

Fold each triangle over the roll and tuck up underneath

Fold each triangle over the roll and tuck up underneath

• Add turkey and 3/4 cup of cheese mixed together
• Fold outside points of crescent rolls over the filling and tuck under the dough
• Bake 20-25 minutes
• Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese
• Serve with mayo/mustard mixture as dipping sauce

Do you have anything special you like to do with leftover turkey? I’m always looking for great ideas!

– JM

Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie

14 Oct

Crockpot season is officially upon us!  As soon as the weather starts to turn colder and grey, I love to pull out the crockpot (or slowcooker depending on where you’re from), throw everything in the night before, have it cook all day and have dinner ready when we get home from work the next day. (Yes I know you can use them year round, but something feels wrong about using the crock pot in the middle of the summer to me.) It’s so easy and really nice to not always have to cook every night! I do feel bad for Maggie sometimes though since she has to smell the food cooking all day long, then never gets to have any.

We both love chicken pot pie, it just feels like a comfort food to me. I remember eating Marie Callender’s mini pot pies when I was growing up on cold fall and winter days, so it brings back memories of growing up in upstate New York and all the snow we got.  After searching for the perfect crock pot chicken pot pie recipe, we ended up combining elements of a few different ones. Instead of pouring the filling into a pie, we decided to make some refrigerated biscuits and serve the pot pie filling over the biscuits. I’m sure it would have been just as easy to make the pie but the biscuits were a fun twist.

Now, I get skeptical with any crock pot chicken recipe.  I have a horrible track record with the chicken turning out dry, so naturally I was nervous, but it turned out great! The chicken was not dry at all and it was the perfect warm and hearty dinner for a grey and rainy day.

Crock Pot Chicken Pot Pie
3-4 chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces
4-5 red potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups frozen veggies (I used 1 c of corn and 1 c of peas)
1 large (family size) can cream of chicken soup
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans refrigerated biscuits

1. Chop and dice the chicken, potatoes and onion. Place into the crock pot.

2. Add in the frozen veggies, cream of chicken soup and salt and pepper. Stir all the ingredients together so the soup evenly coats all the  ingredients.

The chicken pot pie mixture, all stirred up and ready to go!

The chicken pot pie mixture, all stirred up and ready to go!

3. Cook on low 6-8 hours, until chicken and potatoes are cooked. We cooked it on low for 8 hours and everything was done when we got home from work.

My mom bought me this crock pot as a Christmas gift last year…I have never been more excited to get kitchen gadgets as a present! It has a fantastic feature that allows you to set your cook time, and after the cook time is up, it automatically switches the heat to warm so you dish doesn’t get cold, or keep cooking.

4. When it’s time to eat, bake the biscuits according to the package directions.

5. When the biscuits are done, open them up and serve the pot pie mixture over the biscuits.

Chicken Pot Pie over Biscuits

Chicken Pot Pie over Biscuits

It tasted delicious! I loved having the flavor from the onion in there, plus the heartiness of the potatoes. The chicken was not dry at all, and it fell apart easily. There was enough pot pie filling for us to have dinner that night,  plus leftovers for at least 2 more meals.  The one thing  I would do different though is season the chicken before putting it into the crock pot. We thought the flavor was good but it could have used a little more pepper. Seasoning the chicken as well as the entire mixture might help kick up the flavor just a little bit. This recipe is definitely being saved and made again sometime this winter! Anyone have any variations on chicken pot pie that they have tried before?

Pasta with Basil Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

11 Oct

The weather is slowly turning to fall, which means our garden is just about done for the year. I really enjoyed all the fresh herbs, cucumbers and tomatoes all summer long. For some reason though, our basil and cherry tomato plants  are still growing! I was pulling plants the other day and I think I picked at least 2 cups worth of cherry tomatoes! I needed to figure out something to do with all the tomatoes and basil, quickly before they spoiled sitting around our house. It was perfect timing too, we ran the Twin Cities 10k last Saturday as our race for October and I was still searching for a good pre-race meal. Well with all the basil and tomatoes, what better than homemade pesto with oven roasted tomatoes and chicken over pasta!

Pesto
I’ve always loved Giada’s peso recipe. It’s fairly easy to make and really hard to mess up.
1 garlic clove
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. Add garlic, basil, pine nuts, salt and pepper into a food processor. Pulse until everything is finely chopped.
2. While the blender is still running, slowly pour in 1/2 c of the olive oil. You want the pesto to have a thick but smooth consistency. You can always add more oil if necessary.
3. Add the Parmesan and blend until the cheese is mixed in.

I know pine nuts are expensive, so I’ve substituted walnuts and even almonds in a pinch. I couldn’t really tell any difference in taste between pesto with pine nuts and pesto with walnuts. I know the recipe calls for toasting or roasting the pine nuts, but I always forget this step! I’m sure the flavors would be different, so someday I’ll have to remember to roast whatever nuts I’m using.

Roasted Tomatoes
This could not have been easier to do, and you could use any seasoning you feel like.
As many tomatoes as you want
Olive Oil
Balsalmic Vinear
Salt and Pepper or other seasoning to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Chop all the tomatoes in half or bite size pieces depending on what type of tomatoes you are using. I also cut up some of the extra roma tomatoes we had sitting around.
2. Place into a large mixing bowl. Toss with olive oil, vinegar and seasonings.

Seasoning the yummy tomatoes from the garden

Seasoning the yummy tomatoes from the garden

3. Lay out onto a greased roasting pan or cookie sheet. Roast in oven for 8-12 minutes, or until the skins on the tomatoes begin to shrivel and brown.

Finished tomatoes

Finished tomatoes

While I was roasting the tomatoes and making the pesto, I boiled half a box of rotini (it was all we had left in the house for pasta choices) seasoned some chicken breast with Italian seasoning and baked it in the oven. When the pasta was done, I mixed in the pesto and topped it with the roasted tomatoes, chicken and some more parmesan cheese.

Finished dish

Finished dish

The pasta tasted amazing. All the flavors came together really well with the fresh basil, tomatoes, rosemary and oregano in the Italian seasoning. The flavors were pretty light but it was a filling dish! The whole combination must have been perfect pre-race fuel too. Both Jason and I beat our goal times and set new PRs for a 10k! It was a beautiful course, starting by the capitol building in St. Paul, past the Cathedral, down Summit Ave with all the old houses and back. The best part was finishing on a downhill, running toward the capitol building, what a beautiful view. It might have been the course that helped us PR, but the dinner couldn’t have hurt either! I think we’ll be making this again the night before a race.

After the race with our medals and the capitol building

After the race with our medals and the capitol building

Rosemary Ranch Chicken Kabobs

16 Sep

Now I know it’s after Labor Day, but I’m still trying to hold on to summer by grilling until I can’t stand being outside in the cold! (Then Jason graciously volunteers to go outside and man the grill.) This is one of my absolute favorite chicken kabob recipes. The marinade is so easy to prepare, flavorful, and the best part is, I’ve never had the chicken turn out dry! Plus, who doesn’t like ranch dressing? I’ll marinade a couple of chicken breasts, skewer up some peppers, mushrooms and onions to throw on the grill and dinner is ready in about 30 minutes (well more than that if you count marinading the chicken.) A quick meal is key at our house right now, Jason’s been busy with work and I’m still in the middle of training for my half-marathon (only 5 more weeks to go! I love running, but it will be nice when I don’t have to spend hours each day training) and the last thing either of us want to do is cook an elaborate meal that takes hours.

Ingredients
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c light ranch dressing
1 1/2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T dried rosemary
1 t lemon juice
1 t white vinegar
salt/pepper to taste (although I’ve never used them)
2 chicken breasts

1. Mix the marinade together
In a medium size bowl, stir together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, lemon juice, white vinegar and salt/pepper if you like. Because the olive oil and ranch don’t want to play nice together, it will take some stirring to get everything to come together.

2. Chop the chicken into pieces and add to the marinade
Chicken in the marinade

3. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes
I love to prep the marinade and chicken the night before and let it sit over night. I think it helps make the chicken more flavorful!

4. Preheat your grill to medium to medium-high heat.
While you’re waiting for your grill to heat up, thread the chicken onto skewers and discard the marinade. No reusing marinade that has touched raw meat!
Time to Grill!

5. Time to grill!
Grill the skewers for about 8-12 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle and the juices run clear (the usual disclaimer for cooking chicken)

We usually put the skewers of veggies on the grill at the same time as the chicken so they have enough time to cook.And while we’re waiting for the food on the grill, we’ll cook up some rice. The debate is usually what type of rice, white or brown, and it seems since Jason’s been cooking the rice recently we’re always eating white… hmm, I think we’ll have to change that.

Hot off the grill

Important Healthy Facts
(just the chicken and marinade, all veggies and side dishes are up to you!)
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 40+ minutes (10 minutes to prep the marinade and chicken, at least 30 minutes to marinade)
Cook Time: 8-12 minutes
Calories per serving: appx. 228 (that is if all the marinade was on the chicken while you cooked it)

Penne Pasta with Spinach and Goat Cheese Sauce Recipe

19 Aug

If there is anything you need to know about me, it’s that I love pasta and chocolate (not necessarily together though.) I could probably eat pasta 7 days a week. I’m part Italian and I’ve been lucky enough to have my mom and uncles teach me what they know about Italian cooking and wine making. But, I’m always on the lookout for a good pasta recipe to try. My college roomies and I used to watch Giada on the Food Network after class and talk about how one day we would try out her recipes, especially the one for prosciutto wrapped asparagus (hmm, I still need to try that.) I love her pesto recipe and always make a ton of it during the summer when we’re growing basil in the garden.

So, when I found a Giada recipe for a penne with spinach sauce that looked easy and was healthy I had to give it a try. All I needed was whole wheat pasta, spinach, and a few types of cheese. Jason was excited as soon as I said “cheese.”

Ingredients
1 box whole wheat or multi grain penne
3 garlic cloves
2 ounces goat cheese (I accidentally bought garlic and herb goat cheese)
1 ounce reduced fat cream cheese
6 ounces spinach leaves
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Simple ingredient list!

Simple ingredient list!

Instructions

1. Start boiling a large pot of water. I usually add a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil to the water.  Add the penne and cook until it is al dente, stirring occasionally.

2. Mince the garlic in a food processor. I adore my food processor, it makes it so much easier to make sauces and pesto! Add the goat cheese, cream cheese, and half of the spinach leaves. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Set the cheese and spinach mixture aside.

Finished spinach cheese sauce

Finished spinach cheese sauce

3. Put the rest of the spinach leaves in a large bowl.

4. Save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water before you drain the pasta (this will help distribute the cheese mixture over the pasta.) Put the pasta over the spinach leaves in the bowl.  Scrape the cheese and spinach mixture over the pasta mixture and toss until the pasta is coated. Add the reserved pasta water while you’re tossing the pasta, just enough to moisten the pasta. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top and serve!

Final pasta dish

Final pasta dish

The entire recipe did not take long at all, about 20 minutes total! Perfect to throw together after a long day at work. It looked pretty when it was all done, and tasted delicious too! The sauce was creamy, the goat and cream cheese together was yummy. I’m not a huge fan of strong cheeses (I can tolerate blue cheese, but in small doses.) You couldn’t tell that you were eating a whole wheat pasta either, it did not taste dry at all!

Jason and I always vote on new recipes, either keep it or pitch it. We are definitely keeping this one…but we’d change a few things. I thought it was a little strong on the garlic…probably because I used all 3 garlic cloves AND the garlic and herb goat cheese. (Sorry hon!) Jason thought the sauce could have been creamer, so we decided to double the amount of cream cheese and/or use more pasta water next time. I only ended up using about 2 tablespoons of the pasta water so next time I’ll be sure and use more.

If you give this a try, let us know what you think!

Important Healthy Facts:
Yields- 6 servings
Appx Calories per serving- 326