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Southwestern Chicken Soup

2 Apr

It’s amazing the dishes you can create from cleaning out your pantry. My Stepmom threw a bunch of ingredients in a pot one day, and the result was a Southwestern Chicken Soup that has quickly become one of our family favorites. The best part about this dish is that it’s largely made from pantry staples, which makes it super easy to make on the fly.

Southwestern Chicken Soup

Southwestern Chicken Soup

3 large chicken breasts
4 cups chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried cilantro (fresh is great if you have it)
1 can salsa verde
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1 bag frozen corn
Shredded cheddar
Sour cream
Tortilla chips

1. Boil the chicken for 30-45 minutes or until done. Allow to cool on a plate and then shred each piece of chicken with a fork.

2. In a large pot, combine all ingredients through frozen corn and cook on medium for 45 minutes to an hour (you can also cook on medium-low for 2 hours).

3. Laddle soup into bowls and top with cheese, sour cream and crumbled tortilla chips.

Peanut Chicken with Soba Noodles

27 Mar

The best part about this peanut chicken recipe from Cooking Light is that you can control the amount of heat that goes into the peanut sauce. I love the flavor of peanut sauce, but it can sometimes get a little spicy even for me, let alone my three year old. If spice isn’t an issue for you, you can always use store-bought peanut sauce to save a bit of time.

The cucumber soba noodles are a fantastic, light side to go along with the chicken, though I have to admit that I preferred the soba noodles I made a while back to these—still, these were tasty, just a bit less flavorful.

Peanut Chicken Soba Noodles

Peanut Chicken with Soba Noodles

7 oz uncooked soba noodles
3 tbsp rice vinegar, divided
2 tbsp dark sesame oil
2 tbsp honey, divided
¼ tsp sugar
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
1 medium cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
2 tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Cooking spray
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp water
2 tsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste) or chile garlic paste
Chopped fresh cilantro

1. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain and rinse with cold water. Drain. Combine 2 tbsp vinegar, sesame oil, 1 tbsp honey, and sugar in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the noodles, onions, and cucumber; toss to combine.

2. Combine remaining 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce, ginger, and peanut oil in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Thread chicken evenly onto 4 (10-inch) skewers.

3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray. Add kebabs to pan; cook 12 minutes or until done, turning to brown all sides.

4. Combine remaining 1 tbsp vinegar, remaining 1 tbsp soy sauce, peanut butter, 2 tbsp water, and sambal oelek in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle mixture over chicken. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with noodles.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

24 Mar

A couple of weeks ago, we had lunch at Ray’s to the Third in Arlington and split a milkshake for dessert. The “Elvis” milkshake is a blend of banana, peanut butter, butterfingers and bacon (yes, bacon) … and it is AMAZING.

So in honor of my husband’s birthday today (Happy Birthday!!), I decided to try and recreate this ridiculously good combination in the form of a cupcake—though I did decide to leave off the bacon simply because I wasn’t up for making my own candied bacon this weekend.

But seriously, if you’re in Northern Virginia and happen to be near Ray’s to the Third, you need to try that milkshake.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
3 ripe bananas
1 cup water
1/3 cup applesauce (I use this in place of oil)
5 oz peanut butter chips
1 tbsp flour
Chocolate Frosting (store-bought works too)
1 Butterfingers candy bar, crushed

 

1. Preheat oven to 350° and line 24 cupcake cups with silicone or paper liners.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas until smooth. Add cake mix, eggs, water and applesauce and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

3. In a separate bowl, add peanut butter chips and flour. Toss to coat the chips and then discard the excess flour.

4. Slowly fold in the peanut butter chips to the cake batter, mixing well.

5. Fill liners ¾ of the way with cake batter and bake for 19-23 minutes.

6. Allow to cool completely before frosting and topping with a sprinkle of Butterfingers.

Hearty Beef Stew

6 Mar

I am always looking for ways to make recipes easier, faster, and more weeknight-doable. I won’t say that I never make complicated or time consuming recipes, but it’s just not realistic for me to do it on a regular basis and especially not in the 30 minutes I am allotted during the week to get dinner on the table.

So I decided to take this multi-step recipe for Hearty Beef Stew from Cooking Light and just toss everything in the Crock Pot, crank it up, and cross my fingers that I’d end up with something edible. Could the beef have been a bit more tender had I followed the actual recipe? Yeah, probably. But considering how quickly I was able to throw this together in the morning, not bad … not bad at all. The fact that all I had to do when I got home was toast some bread and ladle the stew into bowls certainly didn’t hurt either. So it’s up to you. Follow the recipe at the link above or follow my shortcut and just wing it. You pretty much can’t lose either way.

Beef Stew

Hearty Beef Stew

16 oz boneless beef chuck
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 large onion, sliced
1 ½ cups baby carrots
6 oz sliced mushrooms (about 2 cups)
2 lbs new potatoes
3 thyme sprigs
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 tsp minced garlic
1 ½ cup Guinness beer
4 cups unsalted beef stock
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp low sodium soy sauce

Place all ingredients in a large Crock Pot and stir well. Cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 6-8 hours.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites

3 Mar

I recently made these frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites from Fabulessly Frugal. I liked the idea that they were a two-bite, healthier dessert option that I could easily store in the freezer. So one Saturday, I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper and went to work. Once the little bites were frozen, I popped them off the sheet and put them in a freezer bag for easy storage.

While I don’t think my husband was a huge fan, both my three year old and I loved them! I do recommend letting them sit out for a few minutes before eating them so they thaw just a bit. That way, they’re soft and creamy, just like banana ice cream.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites

3 large bananas
½ cup chocolate chips (either semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
½ cup creamy peanut butter
Toppings (optional- peanuts, coconut, etc.)

1. Line a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment or wax paper.

2. Cut up the bananas into ½-inch pieces. Each banana should give you around 6-8 pieces.

3. Heat the peanut butter and chocolate chips in the microwave on high for about a minute. Then stir until smooth.

4. Dip the banana pieces in the chocolate-peanut butter mixture, being sure to coat all sides.

5. Place them evenly on the parchment or wax paper.

6. Top with toppings if desired.

7. Transfer to the freezer for about an hour until hardened. Once frozen, you can store them in a freezer bag or an air-tight container.

Mu Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps

10 Feb

I tend to find Asian food intimidating. My lo mein never tastes as good as our local delivery place—it is clearly a white girl’s lame attempt at “authentic” Chinese food. So when I saw this recipe for Mu Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps in Cooking Light, I initially just flipped the page, looking for a different recipe to try. But then I decided to go back and read through it, and I figured it seemed easy enough to give it a shot. Turns out, it was one of the tastiest things I have made in a while!

Mu Shu Chicken

Mu Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps

2 tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp dark sesame oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1 (14-oz) package coleslaw (about 4 cups)
6 oz shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast (about 1 ½ cups)
½ cup sliced green onions, divided
12 Bibb lettuce leaves
¼ cup chopped cashews

 

1. Combine first 4 ingredients (through rice vinegar) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic and ginger to pan; sauté 30 seconds.

3. Add soy sauce mixture and coleslaw; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.

4. Add chicken and ¼ cup onions to pan; cook 1 minute or until coleslaw just begins to wilt.

5. Divide chicken mixture evenly among lettuce leaves; sprinkle evenly with remaining ¼ cup onions and cashews.

Spinach and Feta Quinoa Cakes with Yogurt Dill Sauce

28 Jan

I have learned from experience that just because something looks good on Pinterest does not mean it’s going to look (or taste!) Pinterest-worthy.

I happened to have some quinoa left over from dinner the night before, so I thought I’d check out my food board to see if I had previously pinned anything I hadn’t yet tried. These quinoa cakes caught my eye, so I figured I would give them a shot. Worst case scenario, we could always order a pizza for dinner. Luckily for me, this recipe from  Panini Happy delivered!

I served these in whole wheat pitas with the yogurt dill sauce and sliced cucumbers and couscous on the side. Delicious!!

Quinoa Cakes

Spinach and Feta Quinoa Cakes with Yogurt Dill Sauce

½ cup plain Greek yogurt, reduced-fat or whole
2 tbsp finely chopped scallions
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 oz chopped baby spinach
2 large eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cups cooked quinoa
2 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp chopped fresh dill
¼ tsp grated lemon zest
½ cup bread crumbs

To make the Yogurt Dill Sauce:

Whisk together the yogurt, scallions, lemon juice, and 2 tsp of the dill in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate the sauce for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld.

To make the Quinoa Cakes:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium-size bowl.
  2. Add the eggs, quinoa, feta, remaining dill, lemon zest, and about ¼ tsp black pepper and mix well. Mix in the bread crumbs and let the mixture sit for a few minutes to allow the bread crumbs to absorb some of the moisture.
  3. Heat a sauté or grill pan to medium-high heat.
  4. Form quinoa patties about 2 ½ inches in diameter and ½ inch thick. Place the patties on the pan, in batches if necessary, and close the lid. Grill the patties until they’re cooked through and browned on the outside, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve warm with yogurt dill sauce.

Butternut Squash, Chicken and Lentil Stew

23 Jan

My friend Jess shared this recipe from Hallmark Magazine with me several years ago, and it’s been a favorite in our house ever since. The hearty flavors make it perfect for a chilly night, and the combination of chicken and lentils creates a protein powerhouse.

The recipe makes enough for us (two adults and a 3 year old) to have dinner and lunch the next day, so be sure to halve it if you don’t need that much.

Butternut Squash Lentil Stew

Butternut Squash, Chicken and Lentil Stew

2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
¼ cup flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups coarsely chopped sweet onion
2 carrots, cut into pieces
1 large stalk celery, with leaves, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup lentils
4 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
2 tbsp savory
2 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp sage
2 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp pepper

1. Cut chicken into pieces and dredge into flour, salt and pepper until coated.
2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil, add chicken, cook until golden on all sides, about 5-8 minutes.
3. Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm.
4. Add the rest of the olive oil to pan. Add carrots and onion, and cook about 3-5 minutes.
5. Add celery and cook about 1 minute or until softened.
6. Add the broth, lentils and spices. Bring to a boil over high heat.
7. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 5 minutes.
8. Add the squash and cook covered about 30-35 minutes or until both squash and lentils are tender.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste if needed.

Broccoli Bacon Mac and Cheese

19 Jan

Anyone who has a preschooler can tell you that mac and cheese is one of the main food groups. I am lucky that Olivia is a really good eater, but if she’s ever given the choice of what to eat for dinner (or lunch, or breakfast for that matter), the answer will always be mac and cheese.

So I am always looking for ways to sneak in the healthy stuff. For this Cooking Light recipe, I used veggie pasta and mixed in steamed broccoli. The smoky bacon and creamy cheese make this dish seem decadent while satisfying both a picky palate and a nutrition-minded mama.

Mac and Cheese

Broccoli Bacon Mac and Cheese

8 oz uncooked vegetable elbow macaroni
1 bag frozen chopped broccoli florets (I prefer the steam-in-the-bag variety for convenience)
1 ½ cups 1% low-fat milk
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp salt
3 pieces precooked bacon, chopped (like Hormel’s Fully Cooked Bacon)
1 ½ tsp unsalted butter
4.5 oz reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

 

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Meanwhile, steam broccoli according to the directions on the bag.

2. Combine milk and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 1-2 minutes or until crisp. Add butter to pan; swirl until butter melts. Add milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in cheese. Add pasta and broccoli to pan, stirring to coat.

Mac and Cheese

 

Chicken, Mushroom, and Pea Pasta

5 Jan

One of my new favorite frozen shortcuts is the Woodstock Mixed Mushrooms. This organic mixture of shiitake, shimeiji, field, and abalone mushrooms makes any dish seem gourmet when it’s really just as simple as opening up a can or package of regular old button mushrooms.

mushrooms

I love the earthy flavor that these mushrooms give this pasta, and the peas add a nice contract of fresh brightness. The best part is that this meal is straight out of the freezer and kid-friendly, which makes it perfect and doable for a busy weeknight dinner.

Chicken Pasta

Chicken, Mushroom, and Pea Pasta

Frozen grilled chicken strips (like the Tyson Grilled & Ready Chicken Breast Strips)
1 bag of frozen peas
1 bag of frozen mushrooms (like the Woodstock Mixed Mushrooms mentioned above, though you could use fresh mushrooms as well if you have them)
1 package spaghetti
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
Salt
Pepper

1. Cook spaghetti according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the chicken and mushrooms and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the frozen peas and sauté for one minute. Add the spaghetti and remaining olive oil and mix well to combine.

4. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese, add salt and pepper, and toss pasta.