Monthly Archives: February 2013

Salsa Baked Chicken

Add this to the list of recipes I’ve been obsessed with as of late. What’s one more, after all?

SBC

I love Mexican food – it’s second only to Mediterranean – and I could easily eat it everyday. It’s one of those things I tend not to make for myself at home though. Why, you ask? Well, I don’t feel like I can really do it justice. Plus, when you go out for Mexican, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some crunchy, salty, so-good-they-might-be-laced-with-crack tortilla chips.

And now you know why I can’t keep tortilla chips in my house. They pose a problem.

This Salsa Baked Chicken is so good on its own you don’t even need the tortilla chips. You’ll still want them, of course – you’re only human after all. Curb the craving by serving your chicken with some brown rice and guacamole. Realize that hankering for tortilla chips really didn’t go anywhere and make yourself reservations at your favorite Mexican restaurant.

Then, make this chicken to tide yourself over.

Onions

Start out by spraying a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and covering the bottom of the baking dish with a layer of thinly sliced onions. I usually opt for sweet onions, so what you’re looking at above is a Vidalia – it’s going to cook down and get even sweeter.

SpinachSalsa

Up on top of your onion slices, you’re going to add some good old leafy greens – hearty spinach. Remember that the spinach will wilt as it cooks and take up a lot less room in the pan as well, so really pack it in there. Then, scatter a couple spoonfuls of salsa over your spinach. What kind of salsa you use is entirely up to you – go with what you know. When it comes to me, there is only one brand of salsa worth buying. Look for the salsa with the classically handsome man on it.

He’ll never let you down.

Salsa

While this brand offers a slew of different salsas, this particular variety is called Farmer’s Garden and it’s far and away my favorite. It’s super thick and chunky thanks to the ton the chopped up veggies that go into each jar. Carrots, bell pepper, tomatoes – you name it – it’s in there. There’s also enough kick to satisfy those seeking heat, but it’s not so spicy that wimps won’t enjoy.

ChickenTaco

On your bed of spinach, lay down your chicken breasts that you’ve generously sprinkled – on both sides – with taco seasoning. If you’re feeling ambitious, knock yourself out and make a batch of homemade taco seasoning. Or, if you’re like me and you’re feeling lazyish – take a helping hand from the stuff that comes in the little packet. I always go for the lower sodium variety when I buy pre-made taco seasoning – I find it to be salty enough on its own, but if you feel the need to add a pinch more, at least you can control the salt content.

How much water weight you want to retain is entirely up to you 😉

BeforeBake

The last layer we’ll need to add before baking is the remaining salsa – just smother those chicken breasts and don’t feel bad about it. All that tomatoey goodness will keep that chicken moist while it cooks and it’ll also seep down to mingle with the spinach and onions.

This is perfection in Pyrex, people.

Salsa Baked Chicken

Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes

adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients:
4 ounces fresh spinach
16 ounce jar of your favorite salsa (I use Newman’s Own Farmer’s Market)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 teaspoons taco seasoning (or more, to taste)
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and put down a layer of thinly sliced onions. Then, top with a hearty helping of spinach and a couple spoonfuls of salsa. Place chicken breasts on top of the spinach, sprinkling taco seasoning on both sides. Pour on the remaining salsa.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 40-45 minutes, or until chicken is tender and juicy and its juices run clear. The time will depend on the size of the chicken breasts.

Sprinkle chicken evenly with cheese, and continue baking for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt) if desired, and serve.

Delicious served over brown rice or black beans with a scoop of guacamole.

Mmmm

Your chicken will need a little bit to bake, so now’s the time to gather your sides. Just because I default to rice and guac doesn’t mean that’s the only option. Black beans would work or even just some simple, warm flour tortillas to wrap this obsession of mine up in. Mmm hmm.

Did I mention that the last ten minutes of cooking time are devoted to topping everything off with shredded cheese and then anxiously waiting/salivating while it melts?

Yeah…I don’t think I’ll get sick of this dish any time soon.

Cornbread Pancakes with Blueberry Breakfast Sauce

These things are stacked – like, literally – not in the urban dictionary/rap song sort of way.

CPWBBS

I ate that whole stack you see right there. All four pancakes went straight from the plate and as a certain character from Austin Powers would say into “my belly.” Undoubtedly, this delicious indulgence will travel a little further south from my stomach only to eventually and permanently land on my butt and hips, but you know what?

Worth it.

You wanna know who couldn’t handle a very similar looking stack of pancakes? My best friend from college, that’s who. It’s important to note that my best from college isn’t some cute little blonde chick (that’s my bf from middle and high school). In fact, the friend I’m referring to isn’t a chick at all. His name is Matt and I think may have I horrified amazed him with my pancake eating abilities. This girl’s got skills.

Let’s play a game called “My Best Friend Is Better Than Yours.”

When Matt came by to nurse his hangover for brunch on Sunday, he brought me a gallon of hand packed Moose Tracks frozen yogurt from the best ice creamery around. Let’s just say Matt’s earned himself an invite for life at my current – or any future – address. This kind gesture also made his poor showing on the pancake front forgivable.

Oh, and Richardson’s Ice Cream – if you’re out there – feel free to send samples or keep me posted if a career opportunity in professional flavor tasting opens up. I’m in.

Butter

Before we get to the unbelievably awesome Blueberry Breakfast Sauce we top these bad boys with, we’ve got to talk about the pancakes themselves. These guys are a little heartier than your average pancake thanks to the addition of cornmeal. They also have that wonderful taste and texture of traditional cornbread without the time it takes to bake up an entire pan.

Better yet – each pancake is kinda like getting that coveted crunchy corner piece of cornbread!

But the best part is – this recipe only requires some pantry staples. So, chances are you’ll have everything on hand already. Start with a little bit of melted butter in a mixing bowl.

EggsSugar

Add in a couple eggs and a modest amount of white sugar – then whisk. So far so good, right?

Buttermilk

After you’ve whisked the first few ingredients, pour in a little buttermilk. Even if you don’t have a bottle of the cultured stuff on hand, you can make your own by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup of regular milk and leave it for a couple minutes to curdle. Cultured is really best since it is guaranteed to give you a thick and fluffy cake, but you gotta do what you gotta do!

FlourCornmeal

All that’s left to do before getting these guys on the griddle is to add in some flour and that aforementioned cornmeal. A few other very important, yet almost invisible ingredients will also be introduced – salt, baking soda and vanilla extract – to be exact.

Batter

Batter up!

Griddle1

Griddle2
Check out these griddle pics and be sure to pay attention to the not-so-preciseness of my pancake pouring. Nobody’s perfect, okay? So, please don’t try to pretend you don’t end up with random batter splatter. It’s the nature of the beast, baby. Embrace it.

Blueberry1

To top your pancakes, you could of course opt for some maple syrup and Cinnamon Honey Butter as Matt did or you could just as easily whip up a batch of Blueberry Breakfast Sauce that will knock your socks off.

To do so, just combine a bit of sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Then, add a little water and a heaping cup full of frozen blueberries. Bring this concoction up to a bubble over medium heat and in just a minute or so – it’ll thicken up and you’ll have yourself an awesome alternative to your average, everyday bottled syrup.

Join the Blueberry Breakfast Sauce bandwagon. It took him a couple pancakes, but Matt eventually did!

Cornbread Pancakes with Blueberry Breakfast Sauce

Yield: 12 Pancakes / approx. 1 cup of sauce
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 3 – 4 people (3 if they have appetites like me or 4 if they’re more like Matt)

pancakes and sauce slightly adapted from Iowa Girl Eats and Taste of Home, respectively

Ingredients:
For the Pancakes
2 tablespoons butter, melted
7 tablespoons + 1 teaspoons sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the Sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions:
In a medium-sized bowl, mix butter, sugar and eggs, whisking to combine. Add all other ingredients, whisking again and allowing to rest until a griddle or pan coated with nonstick spray comes up to temp. As an FYI – you’ll want your griddle on 325 degrees or your stove on medium/medium-high.

When the sides of the pancakes set up and you see small bubbles appear, flip and let the pancakes cook on the other side. When both sides are golden brown, get ready to eat!

Note: you can make the blueberry breakfast sauce while your pancakes are cooking or just keep them warm in the oven (at 200 degrees) after they’re done if you’d prefer not to multitask.

To make the sauce, combine sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan; gradually stir in water. Add blueberries; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Serve warm or cold over French toast, pancakes or waffles.

Stack1

Another reason my best friend is better than yours? Matt didn’t judge me for polishing off my entire stack of pancakes and the pretty fast pace at which I did so.

Everyone should be so lucky as to have a friend like him. I highly recommend finding yourself one.

Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Yogurt Dip)

Tzatziki: never has ever there ever been more sensational a sauce; more delicious a dip.

Tzatziki

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Tzatziki is a traditional Greek appetizer that uses yogurt as a base and gets a whole bunch of good stuff stirred on in. Added info that might be helpful is that the first “z” is silent, so it’s pronounced “tat-zeek-ee.”

We’ve all been there, sitting at a table or standing in line at a little Greek restaurant, not wanting to say out loud what it is we want to eat. I just figured I’d throw you a bone on this one. It’s worth ordering.

It’s also easy enough to make at home, which means you wouldn’t have to order it anywhere, but you’ll still need to tell everyone you know about it.

Yogurt

You know how Greek yogurt is so thick and luscious? Ever wonder how it gets that way when the other stuff next to it on the grocery store shelves is so runny and lack luster? Ready to have your mind blown?

It’s strained to remove any excess liquid. That’s it.

So, if you buy some regular yogurt at the store and put it in a paper towel lined colander set inside a bowl to catch the liquid – and let it sit in your fridge overnight – you’ll end up with yogurt so rich and creamy you’d swear it came from a cute little container with an exotic name and a much higher price tag. Don’t believe me? Just check out that picture above – that’s some strained, store brand stuff, but it sure doesn’t look like it.

DillOliveOil

Instead of taking a sweet and fruity, top it with granola route with our yogurt, we’re steering toward the direction of savory with some simple and delicious classic Greek flavors. Dried dill, which was left over from the Simple Spanakopita I made way back when and some olive oil, which adds a mildly fruity flavor and an even more luxurious texture.

Ingredients

Before you stir that together, add in a little garlic and lemon juice. Make sure you sprinkle in a little salt, too – and then completely forget to label it. Don’t leave it out just because I did.

While we’re on the topic of table salt – and I know you all have heard this a million times, so forgive me – it’s always easier to taste and add more than to regret and wish you could take some out. So, go easy.

Okay, enough of the public service announcement – stir that all around until everything’s incorporated.

Stirred

Perfect! Your Tzatziki is almost ready to go – just one more ingredient and another quick stir.

Cuc

What you see there is about a half of a European cucumber that I’ve grated up nice and fine. I also squeezed any excess liquid out by putting the cuc strands in a couple paper towels and showing it who’s boss. We worked so hard (okay, not really) to make our yogurt thick, it would be a shame to add in all that cucumber juice. Believe you me, you’ll be able to get a TON of it out, too – so you’ll be glad you took the extra step.

Sandwich Stack

Once you’re all stirred up, it’s best to let your Tzatziki sit in the fridge for a little while to allow all of the flavors come together. Of course, I’d understand if you wanted to immediately inhale.

Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Yogurt Dip)

Yield: approx. 2-1/2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Time: overnight
Serves: 8-12

Ingredients:
32 ounce container low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh-squeezed or bottled)
1 tablespoon dried dill
1/2 european cucumber, grated then squeezed of excess liquid
1 clove garlic, minced
salt, to taste

Directions:
Pour yogurt into a colander that’s been lined with two layers of paper towels. Set colander inside a bowl to collect liquid and place in the fridge to let sit overnight.

The next day, discard the liquid that collects in the bowl. Place strained yogurt into the bowl and stir in olive oil, lemon juice, dill, garlic and salt. Once that’s combined, add your grated cucumber.

Best chilled in the fridge for a little while to let the flavors marry, but you could enjoy asap if needed! This makes a delicious dip for crackers or fresh veggies and even doubles as a healthy and flavorful sandwich spread!

Bite

Tzatiziki is as delicious as it is easy to make! Plus, it doesn’t get any healthier than this. Opa!!

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