Monday, March 10, 2014

Chicken and Spinach Tacos with Creamy White Bean Mash

Since I'm the one who does the grocery shopping and cooking for my family, I'm the one who plans our meals. As a result, I'm the one who usually chooses what we eat. Every once in a while the guys in my life will make a request (Will's is always spaghetti, Andrew's is always pork and asparagus stir fry, and Joe's is always bacon cheeseburger meatloaf), but for the most part, I make the choices.

My choices aren't always met with complete agreement, either. When I told Joe about this particular meal, he definitely gave me the side-eye. The boys looked at it skeptically when they saw their plates, too. But, happily, all three of them loved these tacos once they took their first bite. That's usually the case. You'd think by now they'd have a little more trust in me!

When it comes to mashing, I see no reason why black beans should have all the fun. White beans, with their naturally creamy texture, are perfect for making a mash that is flavorful, velvety, and delicious. With the protein in the beans, the lean chicken, and vitamin-rich spinach, this meal is healthy as well as delicious. These tacos are a tasty and very quick light meal!

Chicken and Spinach Tacos with Creamy White Bean Mash
inspired by Cooking Light

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sour cream
Juice of 1 lime
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch pieces
3 cups baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons
3 tablespoons taco seasoning
2/3 cup water

Warmed flour tortillas
Crumbled queso fresco cheese

1. Heat some vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent. Add garlic and salt and pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Using a potato masher, mash the beans. Stir in the sour cream and heat through. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.

2. Heat some vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook until browned and cooked through. Add the spinach, taco seasoning, and water and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer while the spinach wilts. 

3. To serve, spread some of the white bean mash on the bottom of a flour tortilla. Top with the chicken mixture, queso fresco, and salsa, if desired.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tater Tot Omelet Cups

I struggle with breakfast.

I mean, not with eating breakfast. I love to eat breakfast foods at all hours of the day. The part that I struggle with is the making of breakfast. It's definitely not going to happen when I first wake up, because mornings are another thing that I struggle with. As much as I want to be a morning person...the siren song of my warm bed and snooze button win every time. Nearly 31 years, and this is still a work in progress for me. At this point I don't know if I'll ever be able to change my ways.

So if I want my family to eat a breakfast that doesn't come from a carton of some type, I have to plan ahead. I've been doing some batch breakfast-sandwich-making on the weekends, and I love having those on hand in the freezer. I love having this recipe for tater tot omelet cups in my cooking arsenal, too, because they also freeze really well and are absolutely delicious. They're an omelet you can eat with your hands -- what's not to love about that? 

These are also customizable in lots of different ways; our favorite way is with bacon, green peppers, green onions, and cheddar cheese. But I could also get behind using sausage, ham, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, even broccoli...pretty much anything. They're hearty, simple, convenient, adaptable and delicious -- perfect for a mama like me who just can't get going most mornings. :)

Tater Tot Omelet Cups
adapted from Ella Claire Inspired

36 frozen tater tots
8 eggs
1/4 cup milk
Dash of hot sauce
1/2 pound bacon, chopped and cooked until crisp
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray (really, really well). Cook the tater tots in the microwave for 2 minutes on high heat to thaw.

2. Press 3 tater tots into the bottom of each muffin tin, using the bottom of a small glass (a shot glass works well for this). Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.

3. While the tater tots are baking, whisk together the eggs, milk, and hot sauce. Add the bacon, green peppers, green onions, and salt and pepper to taste.

4. When the tater tots have baked, remove them from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Pour equal portions of the egg mixture into each cup and top each cup with 1 tablespoon of cheese. 

5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until eggs are set. Gently run a butter knife around the edge of each muffin cup and use a fork to pop them out of the cups.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Linguine with Crispy Chicken, Roasted Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onion Cream Sauce

I can't believe it's been almost three weeks since the last time I posted! I guess I've been keeping myself busy in other ways, like playing 1 million games of Hungry Hungry Hippos, cursing the snow that just won't stop, and praying for spring to arrive sooner rather than later. Yes, all of those things are directly related to being cooped up in the house for too long. This winter has sapped my energy for everything; I can count on two hands the times I actually cooked dinner during the entire month of February. It's desperate times around here, folks. Spring needs to get here STAT.

But finally, I found a recipe to pull me out of my blogging funk -- one that I just had to share with you right away. This was our dinner on Saturday night, and I'm already looking forward to making it again. And again...and again...and again. This pasta dish is so fantastic. Basically, you boil some pasta and you roast some tomatoes. You bread some chicken in panko and fry it. You caramelize some onions and toss them with some cream. Then you stir it all together and devour it. Oh yeah.

This pasta has it all. The sweetness of the onions, apple juice and cream are balanced out by black pepper to make a luxurious, velvety sauce. The soft, bursting roasted tomatoes are counterbalanced by the crispy nuggets of chicken. It does use a few pans, but it's more than worth it. It's so perfect that, when we sat down to dinner last night, Will was near tears because he wanted to eat this pasta for dinner for a second night in a row. And these days Will doesn't really want to eat anything, so this was a huge development. If my picky four-year-old loves it, then it will probably taste transcendent to you.

Linguine with Crispy Chicken, Roasted Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onion Cream Sauce
heavily adapted from Everyday Reading

For the pasta:

8 ounces linguine
Parmesan cheese

For the roasted tomatoes:

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the chicken:

1 large chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

For the sauce:

1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Cook for 20 minutes or until browned and bursting.
2. Meanwhile, add the beaten egg to a large bowl. Mix together the panko, Italian breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt and pepper in a separate bowl. Heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan (enough to shallow-fry the chicken). Dip the chicken pieces in the egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture. Fry in batches until golden and crispy; remove to a paper-towel-lined plate and sprinkle with coarse salt.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are fragrant and caramelized.  

4. While the onions are caramelizing, cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions; drain. 

5. Add the garlic to the caramelized onions; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Raise heat to medium-high and stir in the apple juice, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to pick up any browned bits. Let the apple juice reduce slightly, then stir in the cream. Reduce heat back to medium-low and heat gently until thickened; taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Gently stir together the reserved tomatoes, crispy chicken, and pasta. Add the sauce and toss gently to combine. Serve with parmesan cheese.