Monthly Archives: February 2016

Book Review: Mexican Slow Cooker

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My newest cookbook is the Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider and it is one that should be on your counter, too.  For a bottom line up-front (BLUF) take on the book: I love it, but it is not a book for everyone.  I love the pictures, the obvious thought that went into creating authentic Mexican dishes and the flavors that this food delivers. This is definitely not a “dump and go” slow cooker book and I love that about it. I think there are plenty of those books out there and I’m not yearning for more of those kind of recipes. Having an authentic, inexpensive Mexican meal that I made myself with some prep in the morning and some prep right before dinner makes me feel like I am winning at dinner.

This book is a great option for the “weekend warrior” or home-intermittently-during-the-day type of person. This book has a few recipes that could be last all day in a slow cooker for people that are out of the house all day.  Most recipes are intended to be cooked in four to six hours on the low setting and most do require some prep (fifteen or more minutes). If you have a machine that switches to warm after that amount of time and are gone for several more hours this could be problematic. Although, I think this type of slow cooking is the best type of slow cooking. It allows me to sleep in on a weekend, drink some coffee while I slowly take in the recipe then char some chiles and get the cooker going and I haven’t missed that “golden window” of time where the recipe is a wash if I wait too long. For most of the recipes if you start them by lunch you’ll have an amazing dinner.

These girls love their lentils!

These girls love their lentils!

I love that this book has so many recipes that are freezer friendly.  We love leftovers because it makes a home-cooked meal easy and freezing does the same. I know I will continue to make these recipes and freeze some so that I can have an easy Mexican meal (or at least parts of it) ready quickly.

I wanted to try out a variety of the recipes that are different from things I’ve made at home before. We ended up having to substitute ingredients for several recipes because our grocery store options are limited, but we still loved the recipes. Here is our take on the recipes we tried:

Sopa de frijol (page 13). We shop at a pared down American grocery store so opted for pinto beans and regular oregano. I wanted to make this early in the week so we used store-bought beef broth instead of caldo de res.  This soup requires turning off the cooker and allowing it to settle for fifteen minutes to skim the fat from the top. The impatient part of me after a long day wanted to just eat already but doing this patient resting of the dish to allow easy removal of the fat made for a perfect dish.  This one was definitely spicy and smoky and really felt Mexican.

I love slow cooking overnight and then storing food quickly no safely in a 2" deep covered casserole dish. Makes dinner so easy!

I love slow cooking overnight and then storing food quickly and safely in a 2″ deep covered casserole dish. Makes dinner so easy!

Sopa de lentejas y longaniza (page 25). Our store sells the cured chorizo but not longaniza so we made a substitute.  We are a lentil-obsessed family so I figured this one would be a huge hit.  Four out of five of us loved this one. Hubby found this one underwhelming, but the rest of us loved the hearty, smoky flavor. This one was not spicy at all but had great flavor from the chiles.

Frijoles de olla (page 104).  I used less crushed red pepper than this one called for so that it would be kid-friendly and these are awesome. They came out just the right texture; tender but not mushy. These are great as-is but I can’t wait to try them in the frijoles refritos!

If you are looking for a book to give you authentic Mexican recipes this book definitely delivers. If you are looking for a slow cooker book that has quick prep time, easy to find ingredients and long cook times this book may not be right for you. We are really happy with this book and have already grabbed the ingredients to make costillos, torta de tamal with carne Colorado and burrito Ahogado.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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Best Ever: Mardi Gras Faves

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We love Fat Tuesday and all of the Cajun and creole flavors that go along with it.  We usually try to make a week long event of it so that we can fit in all of our favorite recipes.  Here is a list of our favorite recipes to help you celebrate Mardi Gras.  Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for the best last-minute Fat Tuesday recipes.  Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Crawfish Etouffee: Swoon!  If you have never had etouffee you MUST try this recipe.  One word: bacon.  Convinced yet?  It is not difficult to make but has huge flavors.  We have made this one with crawfish and have used frozen parcooked shrimp when we can’t find the crawfish.  This is the recipe that makes me a little jelly that I am not from Louisiana.

Crawfish etouffee will make someone fall in love with you. I promise.

Crawfish etouffee will make someone fall in love with you. I promise.

Chicken-and-Sausage Gumbo: This is one of our favorite recipes even though it is not as traditional.  There is no roux in site for this one, but it does contain the “holy trinity” of onions, peppers and garlic.  We always sub the green pepper for an orange or yellow one since we like the flavors better that way.  We like to use jasmine rice with this since it has a mild flavor.  This is a more tomato-ey gumbo and with some hot sauce it is divine.

Mr. B’s Gumbo Ya-Ya: If you are looking for a traditional chicken and sausage gumbo this is the recipe you are looking for.  It takes about two hours or so to make so if you can wait that long then definitely give it a try.  The prep is really easy, but there is some hands-on time when you make the roux.  And you have to make the roux as patiently as it calls for or the flavors and colors will not be quite right.  It is worth every ounce of patience you can muster.  And trust me, you can stir the roux if you have to {very carefully} hold a baby in the other arm.

We like the Chicken-and-Sausage Gumbo heavy on the rice.  Yum!

We like the Chicken-and-Sausage Gumbo heavy on the rice. Yum!

Pan-Seared Shrimp Po’ Boys: Because the shrimp are pan-seared it is a little lighter than a traditional po’ boy.  The sauce is what really makes this one special.  We have tried lots of po’ boy recipes and keep coming back to this one.  It has tons of five-star reviews, ’nuff said.  This is the first one that is great for a last-minute Fat Tuesday party.

Chicken-and-Sausage Jambalaya: When the recipe calls for a rotisserie chicken you know that it is going to make your life easier.  This is one that we have made with some frozen parcooked shrimp instead of the chicken (just add the shrimp right before serving instead of when you add the rice) and it turns out just as good.

This dirty rice is one of our fave one-pot meals.

This dirty rice is one of our fave one-pot meals.

Dirty Rice with Smoked Sausage: This is one that you can grab the ingredients on your way home today and impress everyone with your Fat Tuesday prowess.  It is quick and easy and since there are so many veggies it can be a one-pot meal.

I hope you have a great Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday!  If you are looking for more recipes like this check out John Besh’s latest cookbook.  Thanks for reading!  Have a great week!

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Week in Review: Keepin’ it Simple

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This week we started out with hubby still out of town. Last minute trip to Portugal, cool, huh?!  At least it was cool until I took all three kids to church by myself. Thank goodness we ate dinner before church since Ryan really sucked the life out of me while we were there. From pulling his pants down (including underwear!) to screaming “alleluia” during the homily it was non-stop crisis management with no Olivia Pope in sight. Luckily we kept dinners easy this week to help us recover from the weekend.

Hubby was making silly faces and had our Chloe giggling!  Thank goodness he's back!

Hubby was making silly faces and had our Chloe giggling! Thank goodness he’s back!

Sunday: Meaty Mushroom Ragu and Salad.  I love mushrooms and try to eat them as much as possible when hubby is not home for dinner. Mushrooms and pasta, such a perfect combination, yet this pasta just didn’t deliver. The pasta shape didn’t feel right for the sauce and the flavors in the sauce didn’t feel like they were working together, more like they were competing. We already deleted his recipe from our meal planning app. At least the salad was good!

Monday: Leftovers.  Hubs was still out-of-town for dinner so I kept it easy. Leftovers with another salad. I bought some balsamic “creme” for drizzling and it is tart and slightly sweet and the kids will eat just about anything with this stuff drizzled on top!

Prepping for Valentine's Day with our favorite: Reese's Hearts!

Prepping for Valentine’s Day with our favorite: Reese’s Hearts!

Tuesday: Mexican restaurant with friends.  Friends of ours introduced us to a restaurant that has a kids play room, genius!

Wednesday: Leftovers. We still had some leftovers in the fridge so we stuck to our usual Wednesday leftovers plan.  Ciao, meaty mushroom ragu!

Thursday: Gnocchi with sausage and tomato. I had a meeting over dinner so hubby made some gnocchi with turkey sausage and a can of diced tomatoes and some other spices. Gnocchi and turkey sausage are two of our fave freezer staples these days.

Friday: Frozen pizza and salad. We are in teething crisis mode with Chloe and this week felt SO long so we kept it easy with a frozen pizza and salad. Ryan claimed he didn’t want the pizza since it had pineapple on it so he just ate salad. Gotta love the balsamic drizzle!

Frozen Hawaiian Pizza and Salad made for an easy Friday night meal.

Frozen Hawaiian Pizza and Salad made for an easy Friday night meal.

Saturday: Spicy penne, “lunch for dinner”, hubby had leftover gnocchi.  We putzed around at the grocery store so we ended up arriving at home right around 6pm. Oopsie!  I quickly made the kiddos a sandwich and have them some fruit, pickles and a cheese stick then hubs and I were left to fend for ourselves.  He opted for the leftover gnocchi and I quickly made penne with spicy tomato sauce, similar to the one in the Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen.

What did you eat this week?  What are you planning on having for Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day?  Thanks for reading!  Have a great week!

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Week In Review: Salad of my dreams

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We try a lot of new recipes around here.  Pretty much every week we are trying something new.  This was a habit I got into when I worked as a clinical dietitian and I had clients that needed recipe recommendations and it has since spiraled into an obsession with trying new recipes.  The crazy thing about it is that usually we are trying new recipes and can say that they taste great…like that other thing we had however long ago.  It is a rare thing when we taste something that really tastes like nothing we have ever had  before.  We had this sort of experience with the kale salad this week.  It was really a Caesar salad with Caesar in quotations.  Caesar salad just doesn’t do this salad justice.  And kale salad, pfff.  You may think kale salad is SO 2015.  It’s not.  This salad is literally the salad of my dreams.  You’re welcome that I linked it below. 🙂

Hello, lovahhhhh!  This kale Caesar has really been starring in my dreams lately.

Hello, lovahhhhh! This kale Caesar has really been starring in my dreams lately.

Sunday: Kale “Caesar” Salad and Pasta with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Sauce. Let me just start by saying that the pasta was good.  The sauce definitely had a slight gamey flavor with the lamb, but if you like lamb {we do} then you will like it.  Now, about the salad.  Oh my goodness!  This may be my new favorite salad of all time.  It was the best Caesar salad I have ever had in my whole life.  It made me fall even more in love with Damaris Phillips than I already am.  We might make the pasta again, but we will definitely make the salad again.  Maybe everyday.  It was that good.

Monday: Korean-Style Chicken WrapsI signed up to bring a meal to a mama with a new baby (cutest baby of all time, next to my kiddos, of course!) who has a deployed hubby.  What a hard gig she has!  I decided to make one of our fave Asian recipes since it has the best homemade Korean barbecue sauce ever.  By some miracle the weather was gorgeous and hubs was able to actually grill the chicken outside. If you are looking for some new, un-run-of-the-mill chicken recipes that are perfect for weeknights check out this cookbook from Food & Wine (just click the image below).  You will be glad you did!

Tuesday: Chicken Cassoulet-Style SoupI couldn’t decide what to have for dinner and wanted something meaty and hearty and bean-y so I looked at my pantry and freezer staples and decided to make this.  It is SO easy to make and we all love it.  We just toss it together then it simmers for a little bit and then dinner is ready.  So quick and so yummy.

This pantry/freezer staple soup is a lifesaver on nights I can't decide what to make for dinner.

This pantry/freezer staple soup is a lifesaver on nights I can’t decide what to make for dinner.

Wednesday: Leftovers.  Easiest day of the week!

Thursday: Citrus and Chile Braised Short Ribs with Cucumber SaladWe really liked this one but it pains me how much inedible portion there is with short ribs.  I’m  not even going to go into how un-dietitian-like short ribs are as a cut of meat.  But how much you pay for the bones that you can’t even eat?! I die.  Sure, bone both is super trendy, but c’mon.  Anyway, we did really like the flavor of this and it was easy to make so we will make this recipe again, but with a different cut.  I was thinking maybe flank steak because it is lean or a pot roast since they are budget friendly and it is easy to pick the healthy meat portion away from the fatty parts.

My sweet Chloe is 11 months already!  Where has the time gone?!

My sweet Chloe is 11 months already! Where has the time gone?!

 

Friday: Thai Chicken Curry with Jasmine Rice.  To be fair, maybe the curry that we used wasn’t quite strong enough.  We bought a wimpy, mild one so that the kids would eat it.  The flavor of the coconut milk came through which was great, but it just tasted like gravy and not curry.  It really didn’t hit the mark for us so we won’t make this one again.

Thank goodness for long roasts and slow cookers during baby teething season!

Thank goodness for long roasts and slow cookers during baby teething season!

Saturday: Steamed Kielbasa, Sauerkraut and PierogiesHubby ended up going on a work trip last minute…to Portugal.  Poor him, right?  At least I had heard about it on Friday so I was able to go to the grocery store and get what I needed to make this slow cooker recipe that is my absolute favorite slow cooker recipe.  This recipe is a great alternative to slow cooker stews and super quick to put together.  If you like any of the ingredients in the recipe name I urge you to give it a try.  If you are interested in more recipes like this check out Family Circle magazine.  We have been subscribing for a few years and it is one of my new faves: a little fashion, a little home, a little kids and hubby, and some recipes! I love it!  Click the image below to find out more info and to subscribe!

Thanks so much for reading!  Did you have anything great to eat this week?  I’d love to know in the comments section below!

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