Crockpot Enchilada Chicken

Oh the crockpot, what a love. Okay, okay-but it is an awesome piece of kitchen equipment I have to say. Since I started working full-time this past summer I have not been in the kitchen as much as I love to be. It has also  been a struggle to think and plan ahead enough to have creative meals and try new things. Needless to say, our family of four is still getting used to this schedule. So, a tried and true stumbled-upon recipe has been put to good use a lot lately, crockpot spicy shredded enchilada chicken. So simple and can adapt well for use in several meals so always make more than you think you’ll need.

Large Crockpot-add all ingredients below in crockpot and cook on low for about 6 hours or until cooked through or on high around 4 hours.

3 lbs Chicken Breasts

Low-Sodium Taco Seasoning or Fajita etc.

Non-fat Salsa of your choice and “heat” preference

Diced Jalepenos, to taste

Red Pepper Flakes, to taste

Cracked Tri-Color Peppercorns

EVOO, 2 Tbs.

1/2 Cup Water

Sliced Peppers, yellow, orange & red yield great slightly sweet flavor and stand up to the spice, green peppers are good also-more powerful flavor though,

To Assemble Enchiladas:

Chicken from crockpot-shredded

Tortillas of your choosing-We like WW Mission Life Balance

Shredded Low-Fat Cheese-Mexican or Mild Cheddar etc.

Red Enchilada Sauce-2 Cans

Light Sour Cream or Non-Fat Greek Yogurt

Diced Tomatoes

Shredded Romaine

Salsa

Black Beans-warmed or Fat-Free Refried Beans

Spray 9×13 glass pan with canola spray

Warm tortillas in microwave according to package

In a large bowl-combine chicken- shredded, cheese, 1 can enchilada sauce, peppers, black beans and any other filling ingredient desired.

Fill each tortilla with about 1/4 cup shredded chicken filling

Roll up like burrito, place seam side down in pan

Cover with remaining can of enchilada sauce and a sprinkle of cheese

Bake until cheese melted, edges of tortillas crisped and heated through-20 minutes or so

Serve with the remaining toppings as desired.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Caramel Rolls

Grandma and Grandson

What would we ever do if our treasured family recipes were not written down and captured as our heritage to pass onto our families and generations that follow? How sad. That is why cooking and recipes are so important to me. No matter what they are with you, waiting to be made again and again. I love that warm feeling deep in my heart when I come across a tattered recipe card with my Grandma’s or Mom’s handwriting. Immediately I think of the last time we made that recipe together, was it for a holiday? Oh that’s right…oh, and I remember the laughter as we bumbled around my Grandma’s kitchen…we made it a “three tush kitchen” no problem!

"Country Cooking School with Grandma!"

How silly we are together, and such different styles of cooking and prepping ingredients! Flour all over the counters, measuring cups and utensils strewn about, oven toasty warm, and coffee endlessly brewing away. Laughter and stories, laughter until we’re in tears and stitches…did we get all the ingredients in? And there’s almost always a “oops” moment, but ah what the heck, it all eats the same, as my Grandma says! How I will long for these moments one day…long for my children to be old enough to remember their kitchen time with Great Grandma…to remember the tastes and smells the way I do. I love my Grandma Oakes.

Baking at the Farm

I wish I had this special relationship with all of my grandparents, however miles have kept us all too often apart over the last years. Recently, my father lost his dear mother, my sweet Grandma Dorothy. She lived in Colorado much of her life, loved so deeply, gave so much…had seven children and raised the last bunch on her own. Can you imagine? She was a spit fire of a woman, so sharp that lady! She loved to read and read and read. She would finish a novel in a day. She had a quaint little apartment for the longest time, and I still remember those visits, sitting at her organ pretending to play music with my brother. The latest latch rug (is that the right term?) hanging on her bedroom wall. Her phone that lit up when a call came in. Her love of movies that my uncle would deliver regularly. She kept an immaculate home and always smelled of the most lovely perfume. I wish I knew what that scent was….I can still smell it. Hmmm.

Family Reunion with Grandma Dorothy

Grandma Dorothy had the most lovely smile and tender laugh. She always sat so poised at the edge of her chair. Never bitter, never downward looking. Quiet in spirit and so strong of heart. She was always looking ahead, even at our last visit just before she passed. I can remember her voice as she commented on the flowers we brought her, and asked about my brother. She always referred to my dad as “David”  and never Dave. He was her baby you see.

Mother & Son

Grandma Dorothy would write the sweetest letters with the crispest penmanship I’ll have you know! She always had a little kleenex  slid under her watch band also and when we would take her out she would wear this cute little triangular hair covering to protect her perfectly set hair. Grandma Dorothy had the sweetest, calmest voice I’ve ever known. She almost always had something sweet to snack on as well, and one of my dad’s favorites in particular were her cinnamon caramel rolls. Oh, how I will treasure these memories and her wonderful cinnamon rolls.  I miss her deeply. So, in honor of my Grandma Dorothy & Grandma Oakes, I share this recipe with you. Their combined recipes are wonderfully delicious.

Mommy & Son Baking Time

Make it slowly and with a joyful heart, kneading out your thoughts and worries into that dough. Kneading until your shoulders ache (it takes a good 10 minutes you know!) and you’ve shed a few tears. (A few of us in my family have found kneading quite therapeutic actually!) And when those rolls come out from the oven, put on the coffee or whatever delights you, sit down with a pretty plate and savor the calm, if even for a moment. Enjoy.

Cinnamon Caramel Rolls

Mix together & microwave until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm, between 110-120 degrees. :

2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

Add 2 rounded teaspoons yeast to liquid mixture once it is lukewarm.

In a large bowl mix together liquid, 2 eggs, & 4 cups flour with a spoon.

Then, one cup of flour at a time, add 3 additional cups of flour. Can mix with you hands if needed.

Once combined into a smooth, elastic ball-knead for several minutes (about 8 mins.) & place in an oiled bowl. Turn dough over once and cover with oiled lid or tea towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

When doubled, punch down and divide into two rounds (or four if you’re new to working with sweet dough.) Use about 1/2 cup flour total for dusting the countertop and rolling out dough. Working with one round of dough at a time, roll into large rectangle.

Soften a stick of butter and divide depending on how many sections of dough you’re working with. Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 1/2 Tbs. cinnamon. Sprinkle buttered dough with mixture. Roll up dough and slice into 24 pieces if working with 2 sections of dough.  Slice into 12 pieces if using 4 sections of dough. This recipe will make approx. 40-48 rolls depending on the width of your slices.

Melt 1 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 4 Tbs. light karo syrup until just boiling/sugar is dissolved. Spread into 2 9×13 inch greased pans or four 9 inch round pans. 1 cup whole pecans or chopped pecans can be added here if desired. Place rolls in pans. Cover, let rise until doubled in size about 1 hour. If your house/kitchen is not very warm, turn oven on to 200 degrees, place pans in oven and turn off the heat. Let sit in oven until doubled.

Bake rolls at 375 degrees for about 18-20 mins. until lightly golden. Cool several minutes and invert on waxed paper placed on a rimmed baking sheet (in case the caramel runs).

Can top rolls with icing made from powdered sugar, butter & vanilla-but the caramel alone is over -the- top!

These freeze well also. This sweet dough can also be used to make plain rolls of various kinds according to the Betty Crocker cookbook of my Grandma’s from back in the day. Crescent rolls here we come!

Homemade Cranberry Scones

Today I spent the morning doing what I love…cooking & baking. I whirled around our kitchen as fast as I could (without making too much of a mess & trying to keep the bottle in the baby’s mouth while stirring and adding ingredients) and while  my son was in preschool I had put together 3 meals for the week, 4 servings of pizza crust and a pan of scones (okay, I was lazy and instead of making individual scones, I used an 11×13 inch pan!). I was thrilled, especially because this meant a few nights freed up of the “what in the world am I going to make for dinner” dilemma and the mad dash to get something on the table that appeals to all the diverse tastes in the family before 8 pm. More than that, though, was the pure pleasure of being in the kitchen (oh, my kitchen time…yeah!) I am trying to focus on more of my culinary skills because I want to fill my family’s tummies with more nutritious fare and give the ‘ol pocket-book a much-needed break on the eating out scene. It’s funny/odd that I seem to have to focus my meal planning and cooking/meal prep. when I truly do love to cook! Not sure what that’s about, but anyhow, since my Grandma was coming this afternoon to sit with the kids, there really should be a sweet little treat to fuel all of their playing. What can I make without eggs and much butter? (Time to shop people!) Scones! I first had these at a tea party in middle school. A dear friend of mine has a passion for putting on teas for woman to bring a little love and encouragement their way, and a chance to do something purely and whimsically feminine! These scones are soooo moist, never dried out and blah. The cream adds such a depth to the flavor and texture as well. Try lots of combinations of dried fruits, extracts, icing or glaze is also great on top, lemon or orange zest is fantastic etc… You can substitute milk for the cream for a lighter version with slightly different texture. To your hearts content, enjoy!

Cranberry Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 Tbs.  baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup dried cranberries

1. Combine the dry ingredients

2. Cut in the cold butter with pastry cutter or two forks until flour is in small pieces the size of peas.

3. Add whipping cream, stir until just moistened.

4. Stir in cranberries.

5. Turn out on lightly floured surface and knead a few times until well combined.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, spray baking pan with nonstick spray.

7. Can roll out dough with floured rolling-pin & cut into wedges or shapes with cookie cutters or make rounds with your hands.

8. Bake for 15-20 mins. or until just lightly golden.

Serve with Devonshire Cream & Preserves (Raspberry is particularly yummy!)

Devonshire Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 Tbs confectioners sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

1. Whip cream until soft peaks form/semi set.

2. Add confectioners sugar and whip until set.

3. Fold in sour cream.

4. Refrigerate leftovers.

Baked Brie & Other Yummy Appetizers

For not huge party goers, my husband and I sure made the rounds this weekend with a child’s birthday party and our dear friends anniversary party. I know, hard-core partying, right!  Well fokes, this is how we shake things up! Anyway, I of course did not have my camera with me (not too hot for the getting into food photography thing, huh!) and wow, did I miss out on some beautiful food photography. It was a showcase weekend for brie! Now, I have never really tried this beautiful cheese, and now I cannot believe why not! It is the most luscious cheese, soft & creamy, subtle flavors that linger on the tongue. At the birthday party there was a gorgeous fruit and cheese tray filled to overflowing with the biggest raspberries I have ever seen and the most appealing little tastes of gourmet cheeses. What a spread, I tell you what. And then I met my new favorite, a lovely little wedge of brie sitting atop a cascade of berries. It first of all was so beautifully displayed it just beckoned me to have a taste. And being that I have never in my life tried this incredible cheese, I had to ask just how to eat it (do you eat the outside…?). This paired so nicely with a cracked pepper & olive oil wheat cracker. Yum. Then…yes people…there’s more…then we arrived at the anniversary party and as I unloaded my goodies (cheater cupcakes & homemade potato skins with  crispy bacon, natural cheddar cheese and green onions) I saw waiting on the granite counter-top the most beautiful appetizer I seriously have ever laid eyes on! Really, it was, (can you say this about food?) this sexy little pairing of seemingly simple ingredients that took my breath away. Okay, I know, sounds silly right, but come on people, it was soooo good! I guess I could let you know what I am drooling over even still…My girlfriend, who is incredibly savvy, deep, beautiful, funny, into all things natural,  fresh whole foods… came up with her own take on a back in the day Betty Crocker appetizer for baked rounds of brie with thinly sliced red onions which have been sautéed in olive oil, combined with red wine vinegar, brown sugar, dried cranberries, and pistachios. This topping sits gently atop the brie and lends its flavors into the cheese as it softens in the oven. It was served in a beautiful shallow crock, the dimmed light dancing off of the sautéed onions, and could be spread onto crusty bits of artisan bread. Oh yum, yum, yum! Beth is a genius! A master crafter of the appetizer. I am serious. And on that note, you all should have tasted her fresh fruit salsa! Oh my word, people! So good! Perfectly uniform chopped fruit-raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, apples, strawberries, brown sugar, orange marmalade & fresh mint…. so so good served with cinnamon sugar pita crisps. This paired with a delicate & slightly sweet white zinfandel was so delicious. And then as if this was not enough, it was time for us to pack the kids up and head for home, another guest had just taken out from the oven what they were calling “pockets of goodness.” Yeah, yeah they were. Again, little slices of brie with fresh rhubarb baked inside a delicate pastry. Mmmm. I ate mine in the car baby! There you have it, now that your drooling all over your keyboard too, there are three awesome appetizers to bring out the best of brie. My new favorite. Enjoy!

Pot Roast and Sympathy…

Was that just funny in my mind? We’ve had a lot of tea around here lately since we’ve all been a bunch of “sickies” as I call it. Anyway, back on topic…after spending nearly an hour building (dare I say-crafting) a pretty spectacular Thomas the Train Track with my preschooler, I caught up on some rest and Good Morning America. To my surprise and delight, one of my very favorite food bloggers, The Pioneer Woman, had her own cooking segment! Way to go Ree! I am so inspired by this woman who is a self proclaimed “city gal” who met her husband in a “smokey bar” as she shared, got married and found herself living on a working ranch! Two seconds later they had four children, lots of responsibilities, not to mention hungry tummies to fill. She laughs that her friends from the city would call her the “Pioneer Woman” since this was quite a new adventure for her. She eventually wanted to document her baking and cooking….thus the beginning of her fabulous food blog, “The Pioneer Woman.” She now has her very own cookbook out also. She records her everyday recipes in such appetizing, beautiful and natural photographs that appeal to your eyes and stomach! I love, love this blog! You will find the link under my blog roll, please take a gander and spend some time. Back to GMA, Ree was featuring a pot roast  (incidentally, this is what’s for dinner tonight at my house) that was a fix it and forget it kind of meal for a hungry bunch with a few special twists. After browning the roast that has been dried off, salted and peppered-she added thyme, roasted carrots & red wine for cooking liquid. This slow cooked on the stove top for about 5 hours and was served up with herb mashed potatoes. See her blog for the full recipe. I love her tips for pot roast, such as, if the meat seems tough it needs to be cooked longer to allow the connective tissues to break down more. Always dry the meat before browning and cook potatoes separate from the roast to keep them from becoming mealy. Roasting the veggies prior to adding to the roast to slow cook adds incredible flavor. There are many more tips on her blog that I am sure you’ll find helpful. Try this recipe for dinner this week!

Tea Talk

My husband just made me a steaming hot mug of my favorite chamomile tea with a drizzling of sweet citrus honey from Yuma, AZ (thanks to my great Aunt & Uncle who frequent the farmers markets) in my very favorite orange Starbucks mug. Yum. It’s official, the “sickness” as I call it now, has found it’s way to my body, yeah. However, even in the blur of taking care of all my “sickies” today is a new day, a new week and I am determined to treat myself better than I have as of late. Yes, I am referring to my steady consumption of cupcakes, cookies, coffee, sugar, sugar, coffee, coffee…well, you get the idea! Even I am surprised at my food choices because I usually have much more moderation and thought into what I put into my body. Must be the “sickness” wreaking havoc on my decision making abilities, right? Sure, that’s it. But, I guess we all have our moments. Anyway, I have done considerably better today and only broken into the last of the cookies once. Hey, baby steps! All kidding aside, I am determined to continue to press into my focus on my physical goals since in the last several weeks I seem to have become a split personality health & nutrition wise! Today’s thoughtful choice, a spicy slow-cooked pulled chicken quesadilla. Sounds like a laborious process, yes, but I had prepared the chicken and froze it a few weeks ago, so defrost took me from hungry to satisfied quickly. Quesadillas are a fave of mine, whole wheat tortillas, reduced fat mozzarella cheese shredded, fat-free refried beans, moist, spicy pulled chicken prepared with Rotel diced tomatoes, diced jalapeno & chili powder. Layer in a skillet, brown both sides and top with mild salsa and enjoy! This should help clear the nasal passages in a hurry! I must, must, must treat myself well no matter how I am feeling. This is my official “get-a-grip” moment! Off to make more tea and rest…

Fevers & Frosting…

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend and everyone in my house is sick! What luck, my poor husband has pneumonia and my son is spiking 103 degree temp! Baby girl is coughing like a seal at the zoo. So, after an entire weekend of taking temps, sucking lovelies out of noses, handing out kleenex, being on hand-washing germ patrol, playing the “drink your fluids” police, fixing toast, making tea, measuring out meds, kissing foreheads, rocking babes, wiping tears….I am emotionally exhausted people! I want to cry, to sit right down on the kitchen floor and have a good wailing blubbering cry! By the time everyone was in bed tonight, tucked in and checked on for the third time each, temps taken again for reassurance, meds given for the night, rocking and lullabies commenced (and driveway shoveled might I add!)…here I sit on the couch, alone, in the dark, snowy night….did I mention ALONE! In quietness…dare I say. Did I cook this weekend? What did we even eat? Ugh…I need a cupcake, or four. Deep, dark, red velvet chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, complements of my step-mother. Thank God for comforting, moist, creamy, delicious, sweet cupcakes! Yes, I know, food can’t make it all better…but since I never went to college to be a nurse but as a mom am required to have the discernment of one without the pay…dang it, cupcake enjoyment here I come!

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