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Mu Shu Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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

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

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.

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Broccoli Bacon Mac and Cheese

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

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.


The Best Pumpkin Bread. Ever.

I love, love, love pumpkin bread! Nothing says “fall” more than those warm, spicy flavors. Luckily, my husband and daughter share my love. In fact, after I make this bread for the first time each fall, Olivia asks for it at least once a week. The best part is, the recipe makes three full-sized loaves or, in my case, one full-sized loaf and 4 mini loaves. We usually eat one of the mini loaves right away and then tightly wrap the rest and freeze them. I take out a loaf the day before we plan to eat it and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

This is the best pumpkin bread I’ve tried—moist, cakey, dense (but not too dense), with a nice crust. Simply put, it’s delicious!

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour three 7×3-inch loaf pans or one 7×3-inch loaf pan and 4 mini loaf pans.

2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Adapted slightly from allrecipes.com Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread


Shrimp Tacos with Corn Salsa

I’m a sucker for shrimp tacos, but I’m not going to lie—this shrimp taco recipe from the August 2013 issue of Cooking Light left me a little disappointed. I followed the recipe (other than adding tomato to the salsa) and found the shrimp bland, and the tortillas completely fell apart. I do think, however, with a few small adjustments, I could love this recipe. So that’s how I’ve written the recipe below—with my suggested changes. Grilling the corn and shrimp would definitely improve the flavor, and using flour tortillas instead of corn would solve the fall-apart issue.

Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp Tacos with Corn Salsa

2 ears fresh corn
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped green onions
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbsp fresh lime juice, divided
1 tsp fresh minced garlic
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 diced peeled avocado
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp honey
¼ cup light sour cream
8 (6-inch) flour tortillas

1. Husk corn, and wrap each ear in aluminum foil. Grill over medium heat for about 20 minutes, turning 4 times to ensure even cooking. Allow the corn to cool and then slice off kernels.

2. Combine corn, onions, tomato, cilantro, olive oil, garlic, 1 tablespoon juice, salt, pepper, and avocado in a medium bowl; toss gently.

3. Combine shrimp, 1 tablespoon juice, and honey in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Skewer shrimp and grill over medium heat for a couple of minutes per side or until they turn completely pink.

4. Combine sour cream and remaining 1 tablespoon juice in a small bowl.

5. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates. Top each tortilla with about ¼ cup corn mixture, about 4 shrimp, and 1 ½ tsp sour cream mixture.

Shrimp Tacos


Carolina Barbecue

Barbecue is a polarizing type of food. Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, Carolina … they’re all different, and they all have their die-hard fans who will swear that THEIR type of barbecue is the best. Me, well I was raised near the border of Virginia and North Carolina. When I was little, my Papa would drive to Hertford, NC each week for breakfast with his buddies and would always bring back large Styrofoam containers packed with the most delicious, juicy Carolina barbecue.

I think that’s where my love affair began. And the love only grew stronger each time my mom made this recipe at home. The only barbecue I ever make is my mom’s Crock-Pot Carolina barbecue recipe. The spicy, sharp vinegar flavor topped with sweet, creamy coleslaw … it’s just the perfect combination.

Carolina Barbecue

Carolina Barbecue

4 lb pork roast (I usually get a shoulder)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
Hot sauce
Crushed red pepper

1. Put pork roast in Crock-Pot on high.

2. Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil and simmer for 7-8 minutes. Pour the sauce over the pork roast.

3. Turn the Crock-Pot to low and cook for 12 hours.

4. Chop up the pork roast and pour the liquid from the Crock-Pot over it. Mix well.


Lamb and Hummus Pitas

I love Greek food. Back in my hometown, there’s a Greek festival every year and I go just for the food. I eat my way through enough loukoumades to last the entire year. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

So it’s no surprise that, when I saw this recipe for Ground Lamb and Hummus Pita “Pizzas” in Cooking Light, I immediately wanted to try it. And I wasn’t disappointed. You guys, these are seriously delicious. We ate ours as pita sandwiches instead of pizzas, and I served them with couscous on the side. My daughter couldn’t really eat the pitas because they were so big, so we just mixed everything into her couscous and she loved it.

Lamb and Hummus Pita

Other than what I just mentioned, the only other change I made to the recipe was adding reduced fat feta cheese. Word to the wise though: this recipe only calls for 6 oz of ground lamb. Most stores sell ground lamb pre-packaged by the pound, so just be sure to portion out the right amount of meat or increase the other ingredients based on how much you use. If you don’t want to use ground lamb (it’s pricey- I lucked out and found mine on a killer sale for $5.99 a lb!!), I think ground sirloin or ground beef would be equally tasty.

Lamb and Hummus Pita

Lamb and Hummus Pitas

6 oz ground lamb
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
3/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup water
½ cup chopped seeded tomato
1 ½ tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 (6-inch) pitas or naan
½ cup plain hummus
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp reduced fat feta cheese crumbles

 

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble lamb. Remove lamb from pan and drain.

2. Wipe out pan and add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and next 4 ingredients (through cinnamon); sauté 1 minute. Stir in ½ cup water and tomato; bring to a simmer. Cook 4 minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften.

3. Stir in cooked lamb. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.

4. Spread 2 tablespoons hummus on each pita or naan. Top each with about 1/3 cup lamb mixture. Sprinkle evenly with cilantro, pine nuts, and feta cheese.


Chinese Chicken Salad

My friend Jessie made this Chinese cabbage salad for girls’ night years ago, and it instantly became one of my favorites. Since then, I’ve added roast chicken to make it a full meal rather than just a side. The flavor reminds me of the Chinese Chicken Salad from California Pizza Kitchen, which I love. This salad is also great with shelled edamame tossed in.

Chinese Chicken Salad

1 pkg chicken ramen noodles
½ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup butter
½ cup slivered almonds
1 bag coleslaw mix
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/8 cup sugar
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
6 chopped green onions
2 cups pulled rotisserie chicken
1. Crush ramen noodles and brown in a skillet over medium heat with butter, sesame seeds, and almonds. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

2. Add the seasoning mix from the ramen noodles to the mixture; set aside and allow to cool.

3. To prepare dressing, whisk together vegetable oil, soy sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil.

4. In a large bowl, combine noodle mixture, coleslaw mix, onions, and chicken. Toss with dressing and serve.