ramen bowls with chicken & vegetables

Broth-based soups are the perfect canvas for taking on any flavor you want to impart.

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Whether we’re talking a seafood or meat based, a vegetable base, or a combination of sorts, there is really no limit to the imagination what you can do with a good box of stock {or homemade, if you have that!}. It makes for an easy dish, and warms you to the core.

But sometimes, you want a soup that comes together quickly, no? Sure, using the crockpot is great, or letting it slowly simmer on the stovetop for an hour or so, but sometimes that just won’t do. Tempting as it is, you might want to call in take-out…I won’t judge! But next time you’re thinking of doing so, consider making this soup! It’s bursting with flavor, texture, and color. It comes together in just a quick bit, and most of the ingredients you probably have on hand. If not, go crazy and throw in a few substitutions! – short on arugula?…throw in some kale or spinach. – don’t have any chicken?…frozen shrimp would be great!

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This soup is adaptable to any palette, and soooooo.much.better than any take-out can deliver. It can be easily doubled or tripled for leftovers the next day, too!

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Ramen Bowls with Chicken &Vegetables {recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats, original recipe from Easy Gourmet}

Quick to put together and full of flavor, this ramen bowl will warm you through and through. I especially like it drizzled with some sriracha sauce for a bit of extra flavor – and even more drizzled if I’m feeling a bit under the weather. 

Ingredients:

4 large eggs

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup sweet corn

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

8 ounces arugula

1 quart low-sodium chicken stock

6 ounces ramen noodes {I get them at a local Asian market; if that’s not available, a pack from the grocery store will work just fine!}

6 ounces cooked chicken

4 green onions, thinly sliced

optional: toasted sesame oil for drizzling, nori/seaweed pieces from serving

To Prepare:

Begin by soft boiling the eggs so that they can cool. Heat about three inches of water in a small saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Once boiling, reduce the heat until it’s barely a simmer, add the eggs gently and cook for 6 minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath. Let cool completely before peeling.

Prepare the ramen noodles by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Once there, drop in the noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter and add the corn, stirring to coat. Add in the onion. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Once warmed through and the onions are slightly translucent, transfer to a bowl.

Heat the chicken stock just until it’s boiling, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Begin preparing the ramen bowls. In separate sections {it makes for a pretty presentation!} add in the noodles, corn, arugula and chicken.

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Ladle broth over the top, and finish with sliced green onions. The eggs can be halved and served right in the soup, or on the side. Enjoy!

pumpkin chili

Chili is one of the quintessential dishes of the autumn season. It’s versatile, comforting, and can be transformed into thousands of different variations. Some people take it on top of rice, others with spaghetti….left plain, or piled high with cheddar cheese and sour cream and Fritos and onion, it’s a safe bet that few and far between people take theirs exactly the same way.

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The recipe that we’re making here today is probably one of our favorites here in the KK house. I still remember seeing this pop up on my feed, via Skinnytasteat least 2 years ago. My initial reaction was – pumpkin in chili?! So I bookmarked it for later, not sure if it would make it into the crockpot.

…I am so thankful that it did, and the hubs is too! This chili is seriously one of the best flavor combinations that I’ve yet to find in chili. It combines my favorite traditional chili spices {cumin, chili powder, & LOTS of oregano}. The onions and garlic give it that extra punch we all love.

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The great northern beans, when mixed with the green chili and creamy pumpkin, results in the most luxurious mouth feel; it’s truly one that I have not yet been able to replicate in any other recipe. And if you’re concerned that the pumpkin flavor may be too pronounced, fear not! It lends the perfect taste of fall; it lets the other flavors and ingredients shine and takes the back seat. It gives a gorgeous color, however!

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When it comes to the style of meat used, I take a note out of Gina’s book and go with the ground turkey. However, I use a less lean version…we’re going with a 93% lean. But feel free to take liberty, and sub in your favorite! You could go even leaner with the turkey; ground chicken is great {I can attest to this!}, or even mix it up with a spiced sausage and beef mixture {chorizo, anyone? WOW!}.

Just make sure you serve a side of tortilla chips with this dish – you’ll be happy you did!

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Pumpkin Chili {recipe adapted, slightly, from Skinnytaste}

Rich and creamy due to the pumpkin puree added during the cooking process, this chili is sure to warm you through. With just the perfect amount of smoky spice {thanks, cumin and chili powder!}, this is the perfect fall dish.

Ingredients:

cooking spray

1 lb. ground turkey {I like to use 93% lean, but you can substitute as necessary!}

1 medium onion, finely diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 tsp. chili powder

3 bay leaves

1 tsp. cumin

1-1/2 tsp. oregano

1 {15 ounce} can white northern beans, drained and rinsed

1 {15} ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 {15 ounce} can pumpkin puree

4.5 ounce can chopped green chili

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

salt and pepper, to taste

optional toppings: baked tortilla chips, low-fat sour cream, low-fat plain Greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, chopped chives

To Prepare:

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and lightly spray with cooking spray. Add meat and cook, breaking it up until white, about 5-7 minutes.

Reduce the heat slightly and add in the diced onions and garlic, stirring to distribute through the meat. Add in the spices and cook until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes.

Add in the meat/onion/spice mixture into the bottom of the crockpot. Add in both of the beans, the chopped green chilis, and the pumpkin puree. Stir to combine, then add in the stock and the bay leaves. Give one final stir and cover.

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Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.

Once complete, remove the bay leaves and ladle into bowls. Serve with desired toppings – enjoy!

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Let’s Discuss: how do you like to dress your chili? 

smokey sweet potato & chicken soup

Soup season is fiiiiiiiiiinally here! I couldn’t be more thrilled, although I’m sure y’all caught on to that already.

So, let’s talk. I’m the first to admit that even in the hottest, most humid parts of summer, I will crave soup. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. There’s just something that speaks to my soul about a bowl brimming with seasoned broth, emanating the most wonderful aromas. It’s divine.

So now that autumn has hit our quiet little town with full force {the leaves on the tree in our front yard have all fallen down, completely!} it’s time to embrace the heartier, more substantial side of the soup spectrum. Root vegetables, beans and squash find their way into my concoctions way more frequently than they do in the summer months – but that’s what this season is all about, no?

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This soup should be the way everyone welcomes autumn. Pulling out your largest stock pots and preparing to simmer a hearty mixture of vibrant sweet potatoes and a mixture of beans, this will stick to your ribs and leave you feeling full and satisfied, but not weighed down. You’re going to get a great mix of vitamins and nutrients from the vegetables we’re using here, plus a protein boost from the shredded chicken. It comes together quickly, and in just one pot {!}, making it a perfect weeknight meal.

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Smokey Sweet Potato & Chicken Soup {recipe adapted from The Gouda Life}

Easily adaptable to whatever root vegetables and beans you have on hand, this soup makes the perfect weeknight dinner. It’s filling but won’t leave you feeling stuffed. Made even more wonderful when topped with some roasted seeds {pumpkin or sunflower would be great here} and drizzled with a bit of creme fraiche, this is truly a one-pot wonder. I’d recommend making a double batch, if you’re feeling up to it – this freezes beautifully and defrosts easily. 

Ingredients:

olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large sweet potato, diced small {skins on or off}

3-4 cups cooked chicken, pulled or cut into slices

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp. paprika {sweet or smoked}

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. oregano

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock

salt and pepper, to taste

optional: 1 cup of your favorite greens {arugula, spinach, kale, or mustard greens would be ideal in here}

To Prepare:

Drizzle a large pot with a few glugs of olive oil, and turn the heat on to medium.

Add in the diced onion and sweat for 5 minutes, making sure to season with salt and pepper.

Add in the garlic, sweet potato, chicken, beans, and spices and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer {I covered the pot to trap in all the delicious steam, preventing evaporation of liquid. It may reach a boil if you do this, so don’t stray too far from the pot!}.

Let cook for about 15 minutes, or until the sweet potato has softened. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. If opting to stir in the greens, do it now and let them merry with the soup for about 1 minute.

Ladle the soup into bowls, and be sure to serve with toasted bread!

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Let’s Discuss: what are some of your favorite seasonal soups to make? Do you reserve soup for the cooler months only, or enjoy it year round?

summer vegetable lasagna

This recipe I’m sharing today is a fresh and healthy twist on a classic, tried and true favorite – the lasagna.

Now, before all you pasta purists rise up against me, hear me out. Because, don’t think for one second that I don’t love lasagna…I do, I really do! In fact, this is probably one of the classic dishes that as I child I absolutely loathed {ricotta cheese? that was beyond my taste buds then…things have changed now!}. I don’t know what transformed it over the years, but now it’s a total comfort dish, perfect for chilly fall evenings and those blustery winter nights that practically scream “you know you want to make and devour some lasagna!”

But here I go, digressing from the above-mentioned recipe. Getting back on track, y’all; it’s the end of summer, it’s still HOT, and honestly, I’m okay with turning on my oven. But, here’s where it gets a bit tricky – a big, heavy, carb-y pasta dish does not sound that appealing. So I do what I always do….poke around in the kitchen until I find something to make it work. And here enters my plethora of vegetables.

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I know that vegetable lasagna is really nothing new; in fact, if you Google it, so many hits will come up that your head will start to spin. So as I mentioned, I nixed the recipe-searching and came up with my own. We’re basically taking some of the more well-known concepts for building a veggie lasagna, but incorporating a few of my staples into it.

And we’re making it healthy and light! Noodles are replaced with thinly sliced zucchini and eggplant. Canned tomatoes are replaced with hearty slices of garden-ripened fresh tomatoes. And the cheese sauce? We’re using my favorite: my tofu sauce, with some tweaks! Once all baked together, in its bubbly and satisfying glory, it’s divine. So much so that I wish I had doubled the recipe for some freezer meals, because…yeah…we ate the whole pan. In one night.

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Summer Vegetable Lasagna {original recipe, serves 4}

An updated healthy twist on an old favorite! By swapping out noodles for veggies and tofu for cheese {or the majority of it}, we’re basically baking up a vitamin and protein packed entree! Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your taste buds; I think some hot pepper flakes would be wonderful. 

Ingredients {for the “noodles”}:

1 large zucchini

1 large yellow squash

4 large, vine-ripened tomatoes

kosher salt

*special equipment: mandolin {if you don’t have one, simply make thin slices using a sharp chef’s knife}, baker’s sheet lined with paper towels, 9″ x 9″ glass baking dish, food processor 

Ingredients {for the sauce}:

1 block tofu, coarsely chopped

1 large white onion

1 egg, slightly beaten

2-3 cloves garlic

1 tsp. basil

1 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. rosemary

3 to 4 tbsp. nutritional yeast

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Toppings:

nutritional yeast

fresh grated cheese {optional}

bread crumbs

extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the “Noodles”:

Using a mandolin set on the 1/4″ thickness of the flat blade, slice both the zucchini and the yellow squash, making sure to stop before reaching the center seed pods. Lay all the slices on the paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt.

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Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and slice into thin strips. Lay on the paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt.

The goal of salting the vegetables while prepping the other ingredients is to draw out the moisture. After about 10 minutes, blot the first side very well with another towel, making sure to remove any additional salt. Flip the vegetables over, salt the other side, and leave to sit for another 5 to 10 minutes. Repeat the process of blotting and removing additional salt. Set aside. 

*because we are being more liberal with salt than usual {not all of it will be removed when blotting}, I opted to omit the salt from the sauce we’ll be making. Feel free to adjust to your taste buds as needed, though! 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and spray a 9″ x 9″ glass baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

Prepare the Sauce:

Add a few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil into a medium saucepan. Once the oil is hot, coarsely chop the onion and garlic, and add into the pan. Cook until the onions are translucent and they are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add in the herbs and cook for another few minutes, allowing the flavors to marry. Remove from heat.

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In the bowl of your food processor, add in the block of tofu. Top with the cooked vegetables, and puree for 5 minutes, taking care to scrape down the sides to make sure all chunks are eliminated – you’re looking for a consistency similar to ricotta cheese. Add in the nutritional yeast, and blend for another minute. The longer it processes, the smoother it gets; this also helps it cool down quickly!

Once all blended, add the sauce into a mixing bowl. Fold in the egg, making sure it’s fully incorporated.

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Prepare the Lasagna:

In the baking dish, ladle in a small amount of sauce.

Add in the first layer of squash “noodles”, then top with slices of tomato. Ladle on sauce in an even layer. Repeat until you have done about 2-3 layers…you want to finish with the sauce on top.

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Sprinkle with bread crumbs and nutritional yeast {and cheese, if using}, then drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, then increase the heat to 400 degrees for the last 15 minutes.  You’ll want the top to be a nice golden brown, and you’ll notice how bubbly the sides of the dish are.

Remove from heat and allow to cool about 5 to 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

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Let’s Discuss: Do you have any funky twists on lasagna, or other classic pasta dishes? If so, please share!

beer can chicken

I’ve found that, in my years of cooking, the simplest dishes are oftentimes the most show stopping.

Take for instance, a roasting chicken. Such a simple and humble dish, but when served with the right accompaniments, it becomes transformed into a meal more that ideal for serving to guests. The aromatics will transport imbibers to previous memories, perhaps of their childhood, or other fun times associated with said dish.

I’ve taken a summertime twist on this classic roasting chicken – because, let’s be real, who wants to turn on the oven for anything in the middle of the summer? Take a look at this beauty:

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What we’re marveling at is a classic “beer can chicken”….or “beer butt bird”, depending on your preference. I cannot claim credit for this exquisite dish, however much I’d love to. It’s a dish that screams summer to me, so much so that I make it a handful of times each season. The beer does an amazing job of keeping the chicken moist and tender – so much so, you’ll hardly find yourself needing a fork, for both shredding and eating. A few ears of fresh corn and a big salad make this the super dish of summer.

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Beer Can Chicken {recipe adapted from All Recipes}

This is one dish where you simply can’t go wrong. A few minutes of prep work – rinsing and drying the bird, and giving it a spice rub massage – is all that’s needed. I’ve outlined a simple spice rub below that the hubs and I have enjoyed as of late, but feel free to get creative with your own! And don’t be intimidated by the size of the bird; in fact, I may even go a bit bigger the next time, as the leftovers here are glorious! Shredded up for chicken salad, or tossed in creamy alfredo, you cannot and will not be disappointed. 

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken {I used a 5 lb. bone-in, skin-on bird}, with innards removed

1/2 can beer, preferably one more mild in flavor {a pilsner worked great}

cooking spray or olive oil

spice mixture of your choice*

special tools: large roasting dish with handles, heavy duty aluminum foil 

To Prepare:

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat; between 400 and 425 degrees is ideal. Line your baking dish with aluminum foil, making sure to cover all surfaces {this aids in clean-up later on!}. Spray the bottom with cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil. Place the half-full can of beer in the center.

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*Prepare your spice mixture, or feel free to use a pre-packaged one. I mix a combination of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and chili powder in a bowl to rub the bird down with.

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Rinse chicken under cold, running water. Pat dry very thoroughly; any residual moisture will prevent the skin from crisping up. Place on a plate and rub down with spice mixture, making sure to get into all the crevices and inner cavity. I also like to rub it on the breast meat, underneath the skin, for additional flavor.

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Fit whole chicken over the can of beer with the legs on the bottom of the pan; make sure it stands upright on its own. Sprinkle any remaining spice mixture into the cavity {this may cause the beer to foam slightly}.

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Place the baking dish with standing chicken onto the preheated grill, making sure it’s not directly over any burners {in this case, indirect heat is best for cooking}. Close the lid and cook until the chicken is no longer pink and the bone and juices run clear, about 75 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone, should read 180 degrees.

Remove the pan from the grill and cover entirely with foil. Let it rest for 10 minutes, allowing the juices to redistribute.

Using tongs, carefully lift the bird off the beer can {discard this}. Break down the bird and serve with your choice of sides!

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Let’s discuss: Have you every tried making beer can chicken? If you cook this regularly, or any other sort of roasted bird, what is your favorite thing to do with the leftovers!

homemade pizza dough

This is a trip down memory lane for me, y’all.

Since I was in elementary school, my mom has had a bread machine. Homemade breads, pretzels, muffins and the like were never short in our household growing up; in fact, I’m fairly certain the 5 of us would burn through at least one large loaf a week. I have fond memories of coming home from school and walking into the house smelling of fresh bread, which I would then slather with Nutella {old habits die hard, I suppose!}. But I have to say that one of my favorite memories associated with said machine was ‘homemade pizza night’.

You see, every Friday, the family would congregate in the kitchen, crowding around the countertops and bumping elbows to decorate their own pizza. My mom and dad would usually share a large one {split down the middle}, and my 2 sisters and myself would each get our own. I can honestly say that it’s fairly easy for me to cluster my youth by pizza topping categories. The best memories are oftentimes associated with food and communal table gathering, especially with my foodie family, so I’m sure you’re not too surprised by this.

But anyways – as I said, even up through high school, Friday night was always reserved for this family tradition. Sure, as we got older, high school football games on Friday nights may cut into the evening time, but it was still always important for us as a family to keep up this tradition. It’s one that, when I moved away for college, I would anticipate with such enthusiasm upon trips home. It’s real serious.

And today, this is a tradition that my husband and I now share together. The first time he was able to experience homemade pizza, I’m pretty sure he looked like he was in absolute heaven. Paired with a nice bottle of red wine {for you over 21ers!}, this meal is the perfect way to decompress from a long week at work – sit back and let your bread machine do the work, prep a few toppings, and before you know it, you’re tucked in on the couch flipping through your Netflix :)

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Homemade Pizza Dough

this is the recipe that my mom has used for as long as I can remember. It can be adapted to be done in a standing mixer, but the method and recipe will be slightly different. If you don’t have a bread machine, check out this post from Shutterbean. You’ll just need to carve out a little extra prep time. 

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups water, room temperature

3 tbsp. light olive oil

4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. honey

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. yeast {for use with a bread machine}

optional: 1 heaping tbsp. of vital wheat gluten 

extra flour, for dusting your board

cornmeal, for baking sheets/pizza stones

*special equipment: bread machine

To Prepare:

In the following order, add the ingredients into the well of your bread machine: water, olive oil, honey, and the all-purpose flour {make sure to evenly cover the water so the yeast will not mix early with it}. In one corner atop the flour, add the salt. In a separate corner, add in the vital wheat gluten. Lastly, form a slight well in the center of the flour and add in the yeast. Cover it lightly with the flour.

Set according to your manufacturer’s instructions. The particular model that I have has a dough cycle that runs for 1 hour 50 minutes, or if I’m in a pinch, I can run it on the quick cycle for 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Once your dough has completed, turn it out onto a surface dusted with flour. Divide the dough (I typically get 4 personal-sized pizzas out of one batch) and roll out to desired thickness. Lay each onto a baking sheet or pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal.

Now, it’s time for the fun part!!! Let yourself get as creative as you’d like with your toppings/sauces…after all, that’s the best part of making pizza at home! I’ve listed below a few of our favorite, tried-and-true combos…

-marinara/mozzarella/parmesan/pepperoni/mushroom

-marinara/mozzarella/mushrooms/sausage

-marinara/mozzarella/parmesan/pepperoni/sausage/olives

-fresh tomato slices/romano cheese/caramelized onion/spinach/chicken

-salsa {as the “sauce”}/mexican cheese/chicken/pineapple/red pepper flakes

-no sauce{!})/sausage/spinach/blue cheese/hot sauce {drizzled on after coming out of the oven)

-fresh tomato/spinach/proscuitto/caramelized onion/mushrooms

-alfredo sauce/chicken/sausage/diced tomato/basil

…of course, feel free to experiment! Classic combinations are a never fail, so don’t be afraid to go with what you love!

Once you’ve completed your masterpiece(s), place onto baking racks in oven. I typically let mine go for 15 minutes, then rotate pans (top pizza onto lower rack, and lower pizza onto top rack). Depending on your oven, you’ll need anywhere from 8-15 more minutes to complete the cooking cycle. If you like your’s bubbly and crisp like I do, start your pizza on the bottom and let it finish cooking on the top rack.

It’s pure heaven if you sprinkle a bit of fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt on top once they come out of the oven.

Enjoy! This will certainly be a tradition in the making, much as it has been in my family.

shrimp taco bar {at home!}

We’re bringing the outdoor taco stand from the outside in to our kitchen today!

I don’t know about y’all, but there are certain foods that just scream “summer” to me – and tacos are certainly one of them! I hardly ever find myself craving them during the year, but there’s something so satisfying about biting down onto a perfectly warm corn tortilla wrapped around a myriad of fillings that just is heavenly.

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More often than not, good tacos are somewhat hard to come by around here. We are fortunate enough to have an excellent Mexican restaurant not too far from where we live, but sometimes, when the craving strikes, there’s just no time to change out of your yoga pants run out for dinner! Enter these tacos.

Being completely honest, this was one of those recipes I happened upon while preparing dinner a week or so ago. I love to keep shrimp on hand {we have it almost every week…sauteed, grilled, broiled, cocktail-style, etc.} because it’s so easy during these hot months to quickly and easily throw together a delicious and filling meal. Not only is it an excellent source of protein and super lean, but it’s a great vehicle for any sort of dish.

That’s where these tacos come in! I was going for a slightly sweet/smoky overall flavor, with accouterments that would play off those flavors nicely. This is a very easy dish to prepare, and can be adjusted according to your heat preference, flavor combinations, taco styles, etc.

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Shrimp Taco Bar {at home!}

the below ingredients/sauces provide enough “materials” for two people at three tacos each…simply double/triple/etc. to come up with the correct amount for you at-home bar!

Ingredients: {sauteed shrimp filling}

8-10 jumbo shrimp, rinsed and deveined

extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper, to taste

several tbsp. of your favorite Mexican beer

pinch of cumin, to finish off the shrimp {anywhere from 1/2 to 1 tsp.}

pinch of Cajun seasoning, to finish off the shrimp {I probably used a good tsp. or two}

Cook the Shrimp:

Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once nice and warm, add in a good drizzle of olive oil. You’ll want to turn it around the pan several times, to give it a good coating.

Once the oil is warm, add in the shrimp. Toss immediately so the shrimp don’t stick, and season with the cumin, Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. Allow to cook for a minute or so, to develop initial color.

Add in the beer {away from the heat!}. Once back on the burner, turn up the heat to sear off the shrimp – you’ll want some good caramelized color on the sides! Being careful not to overcook, finish off until the beer has reduced. Remove from heat and set aside.

tip: pour off the cooking liquid and save as a drizzling sauce for the top of your tacos; it’s delicious!

Wraps & Fillings:

finely shredded napa cabbage {about 1-2 cups}

mini sweet bell peppers, assorted colors {I julienned about 7}

fresh cilanto

diced roma tomatoes {2-3 small ones is perfect}

julienned onions {green onions or scallions would be great as well}

wedges of lemons and limes

salsa {I used Trader Joe’s}

crumbled queso fresco, about 1/2 to 1 cup

crema**

corn tortillas {I assumed 3 per person, which was the perfect amount for the hubs and I}

Assemble the Taco Bar:

I find it easiest to put out different serving bowls for each topping, spreading out all along the sides of the table for easy access.

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Whatever combination strikes your fancy for your taco stuffing is the way to go! I love a healthy dose of crunchy cabbage, fresh cilantro and tomatoes, drizzled with the crema and sprinkled with queso fresco. Such simple combinations are often the best – I hope you enjoy this fun and easy dinner! And make sure you enjoy it with a cold and refreshing Mexican beer, complete with a lime wedge!

**To Make the Crema: simply mix together one 6 ounce container of plain Greek yogurt with fresh lemon juice, fresh lime juice, a little dash of honey {to cut the tartness of the acidic juices and tart yogurt}, salt and pepper, and a pinch of two of fresh herbs {I used a combination of cilantro, cumin, and a dash of oregano}. You’ll want it thin enough to drizzle over the tops of the tacos, but still not run down to your elbows!

‘get sauced’ pulled pork

Things are getting saucy in the kitchen today, dears!

I don’t know about y’all, but one of my most favorite meals to enjoy during the summer months is pulled pork. Tender and succulent, full of flavor, it’s a great meal that is easily adaptable to any palette. Prefer using chicken breasts and thighs over a pork shoulder? Go ahead and make the swap! Or are you a red meat lover and want to use a chuck roast? Go right ahead!

In addition to being a multifaceted meal, it’s great for summer because we get to use our trusty crockpot. By now, everyone knows that I have a {not-so-secret} love for this great kitchen tool. It keeps my kitchen cool {because I have yet to turn on the air conditioning}, it requires minimal prep work, and I can simply toss it in and set it before heading to the office in the morning. Does life get any better?

I am particularly fond of this recipe because it makes use of some of my favorite herbs and spices. But don’t think of this as a set in stone recipe! It is not that in the least. As I talked about above…just like you meat preference, feel free to swap out any of the ingredients listed below. I promise…you won’t hurt my feelings! You can take a “tex mex” twist on this recipe by subbing in some cumin, adobo spices, and a Mexican beer {I think a Negra Modelo would be fantastic} for the more traditional BBQ spices I’ve outlined. Feeling a little fancy? Throw in other root vegetables {potatoes, etc.} and sub out the beer for a bold red wine. Not a big fan of cooking with alcohol? Simply use a good, quality beef stock {or chicken if you’re cooking with white meat}.

It’s versatile dishes like this that keep me coming back in the kitchen. It makes for a wonderful al fresco dinner, sitting outside and enjoying the summer air, candles lit and music playing. Good food, good company, and good weather is perfection on said days.

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Oh…and it’s absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

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‘Get Sauced’ Pulled Pork {adapted slightly from 100 Days of Real Food}

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. paprika

1 tbsp. salt

2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper {I used closer to 1/2}

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 C. honey

1/4 C. red wine vinegar

1 bottle beet {I opted for a Newcastle, which paired extremely well with the flavors of the pork and spices}

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

4 lbs. pork shoulder, trimmed of any excess fat

 

To Prepare:

In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix together the first six ingredients {all of the spices} with a fork.

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Pour in the honey, vinegar and olive oil. Stir to form a paste.

Place the onion in the bottom of your slow cooker, making sure to create a nice bed for the pork to rest on. Place the pork atop the onions, and then pour the spice/honey paste over all the sides of the pork. Expect some to drip down the sides  – that’s ok! Coating the onions slightly with it will only enrich the flavor.

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Pour in the bottle of beer and mix around to coat the pork. It will come about halfway up the sides of the meat, give or take the height of it. I made sure to place a good amount of the sliced onions on the top of the pork.

Turn the slow cooker on to low and cook for at least 8 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to pull apart with a fork. Mine cooked from about 8am until 4:30pm, there upon which I lowered the crokpot to ‘warm’.

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To Serve:

{optional} Scoop the majority of the cooking liquid, onions and all, into a small sauce pot. Mix well with about 1/2 to 1  C. of tomato sauce {I used homemade marinara because it’s what I had on hand, but ketch up or BBQ sauce would work great too…really anything goes!}. Cook over medium-high heat until bubbly and slightly reduced in volume.

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Served atop toasted buns and pass around coleslaw, shoe string potatoes, salad, etc.

 

summer salmon with roasted asparagus

Hands down, one of my favorite things about this time of year is the abundance of fresh, bright produce and gorgeous seafood. It just doesn’t get any better than that, no?

Happily making my way down the produce and seafood section not too long ago, I couldn’t help but notice lovely stalks of bright green asparagus. This being one of my favorite vegetables, I quickly scooped up a bunch, knowing that half of dinner was already taken care of. Thinking to myself what kind of protein to pair with it, I immediately thought a filet of wild-caught salmon would be absolute perfection. I knew that I had some leftover artichokes and Roma tomatoes at home waiting to be used, so I thought that this would pair well with the salmon as well.

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Not only is this a healthy dinner, bursting with flavor and color, but it comes together in a flash. We start by making a quick dressing of herbs and mustard together, then setting it aside so the flavors can merry together. The salmon gets seasoned well with salt and pepper then placed, skin side down,  onto a lightly sprayed piece of foil. We then build layers of flavor by adding first the tomatoes, then the artichokes, then finally, everything gets drizzled with the marinade. Covered tightly with foil {we’re doing foil packet baked fish, after all!}, everything gets roasted off in the oven.

And, dears, the asparagus couldn’t be any simpler. All we’re doing with these lovelies is tossing generously with salt and pepper, a good drizzle of olive oil, then spreading evenly onto a baking sheet. The end result is a perfectly roasted vegetable, with crispy bits.

A lovely plate for dinner, easy enough to throw together during the week but can be trussed up into a date night at home. Light some candles, pour some wine, and enjoy!

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Summer Salmon with Roasted Asparagus {original recipe}

Serves: 2, & can easily be doubled

Ingredients for the Salmon 

1 lb. fresh, wild caught salmon

1/2 can artichokes, drained and rinsed well

1 large Roma tomato, sliced thin

1/2 tsp. dried dill

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 tsp. dried basil

1 T. honey

2 T. dijon mustard

1 T. whole grain mustard

few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, or chicken stock {used to thin the marinade}

salt & pepper, to taste

 

Ingredients for the Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus, rinsed well and trimmed of any undesirable leaves/stems

salt & pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil

 

To Make {both the salmon and asparagus!}

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the dill, thyme, basil, honey, both types of mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine, and then drizzle in the liquid as needed {I ended up using about 2 tsp of stock}. Set aside.

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Line a baking sheet with foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Place the two pieces of salmon, skin side down, on the foil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Layer each piece with the tomatoes first, then the artichokes, and finally finish with the marinade. Seal tightly and set aside.

Place the asparagus on a piece of foil. Drizzle generously with olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper {sometimes I even like to squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice on there as well – be careful of seeds if you do!} Toss to coat, then either place that sheet of foil on the same pan as the salmon packet {if large enough} or on a separate sheet.

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Roast both the salmon packets and asparagus in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until desired done-ness is achieved {I prefer mine slightly on the pinker side, with a velvety texture}. Give the asparagus a turn about halfway through, to ensure even cooking.

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For an even crispier roasted asparagus, place in the oven 5-10 minutes before the salmon goes in, making sure to toss halfway through. 

let’s talk…fritattas!

A little bit of this…a pinch of that…fold in the contents of that tupperware…

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We’ve all been there, and I wholeheartedly believe it’s not a bad place to be! We’re talking “leftovers night” today, dears! Sometimes, and I would be the first to say I have them more often than I care to admit, you get home from work and all you want to do is throw yourself on the couch, switch on the TV,and veg out. But there’s that nagging feeling called dinner, and it’s pulling you towards the kitchen gut first. Rather than turn to the phone and order {yet again!} your take-out of choice, let’s peruse the fridge, shall we?

…and so begins the story of how this meal came about. The hubs and I had entertained a few nights prior, and after a long day of work, were staring into the fridge. I was {gasp!!} not really in the mood to whip up a full meal, but rather quickly throw together what we had left over – some roasted chicken, leftover roasted veggies, and some greek-yogurt based spinach and artichoke dip. A half-used box of egg whites {remaining from cocktails at said gathering} stared back at me, standing tall and proud next to a few lonely farm eggs. And that…that!…is when the light bulb went off.

FRITATTAS!

How much simpler can it get? A quick toss of ingredients into my trusty sautese pan, whisking up some eggs, letting it set on the stove, and finishing off in the oven. Dinner’s done, just like that!

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And the beauty of this dish, dears, is that you can seriously use whatever you have on hand. Leftover steak? Toss it in with a little crumbled cheese and herbs, and you’ve got a fun twist on a Philly sandwich. Basket brimming with veggies? Make it a meatless dinner! The only thing to remember is season well – from there, you really can’t go wrong.

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Classic Fritatta

{serves 4 for dinner, 6 for a brunch-style dining experience}

remember that this is just a basis to follow…feel free to swap out ingredients as needed. Whatever you have on hand, and whatever flavor combinations you like, will certainly work perfectly!

Ingredients:

2 large farm fresh eggs

6-8 egg whites

salt and pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil {to coat the pan}

assorted herbs – I love to use fresh parsley, rosemary, and basil….but honestly, whatever you have on hand and what flavor combination{s} you like will work fabulously

assortment of meats, cheeses, and vegetables {for this particular recipe, I used leftover shredded chicken, sauteed spinach and artichoke with Greek yogurt, and leftover roasted asparagus/brussel sprouts/cauliflower}

 

To Make:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place rack in the center of the oven.

Generously coat a large non-stick skillet with extra virgin olive oil and place over a burner on medium heat. Gradually bring up to temperature {you’ll notice the oil start to ripple and spatter  – that’s how you know it’s ready}.

Begin by adding in your vegetables and saute for several minutes, until they begin to soften slightly but still retain a bit of snap. Fold in your choice of herbs and/or sauce {in my case, the spinach/artichoke dip I had kicking around the refrigerator}. Bring to temperature, then add in any meats. Cook until heated through. Reduce the heat to medium low.

In an appropriately sized bowl, whisk together your eggs and egg whites. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then gently pour over the sauteed vegetable/meat mixture in your skillet. Allow to sit for one to two minutes, then gingerly use your spatula to “pull” the egg mixture towards the center of the pan – I do this at four or five different edges around the pan. Just make sure to keep your ingredients evenly distributed throughout the fritatta! Cook for another few minutes, until you start seeing the edges of the egg mixture pull away from the sides of the skillet.

Transfer to your preheated oven. Cook for 15  minutes, or until the top of the fritatta just begins to look set. Remove from the oven and cut into wedges. Serve warm, with crusty French bread drizzled with olive oil.

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Leftovers will keep several days in the refrigerator, and it reheats best when done in slow increments.