Friday, May 29, 2009

Nut Balls!!!!

I know what you are think- she's lost it-"Nut Balls??? What's next???" But honestly, these are a really YUMMY and equally important, NUTRITIOUS snack and little fingers love them (as well as my husband!) If you have ever had a LARA BAR, this is essentially a home made version of one. They are SUPER EASY to make, quick, and last long if kept in the fridge (or longer if you freeze half the batch!). They are full of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. There aren't very many ingredients, but you could really change things up and get many different variations, I will share with you my favorite. Here we go:

  • 1 1/2 cup of nuts your choice ( I use 1/2 cup raw cashews, 1/2 cup raw pepitas, 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds)
  • 8 dates rolled in coconut (sold at Trader Joe's or Lassen's or Whole Foods- they come in a little tub, the dates are pre-rolled in coconut, that's not something you have to do)
  • cinnamon (as much as desired)
  Okay, first you are going to pour all of your nuts in your blender. I use my Vitamix for about 10 seconds until everything is finely chopped, almost like a chunky powder. If you leave the nuts too large, it will be hard to get them to mesh with the dates.
  Next, scoop the nuts out of the blender into a bowl and add 1/2 your dates. Take out something to mash with, I use a pastry mashing tool, you can use a potato masher or fork or even your hands. You want to incorporate the nuts throughout the dates. Generously sprinkle some cinnamon to the mixture. Add the remaining dates, continue to mesh together and sprinkle some more cinnamon (I am fairly generous with my cinnamon sprinkling, it's your flavoring- taste a smidge to decide if you have enough in your batch). Once you have a pretty good mixture of nuts and dates and your happy with your cinnamon, you are going to start balling the "dough" just like cookies. I make mine into small, bite size balls for Emery to chew on, but if you have older kids, you can make them a little larger (or if you wanna get in on the yumminess, make some larger ones or bar shaped ones for yourself). Place them on a plate, then cover them with plastic wrap and let them set in the fridge for a bit. You can freeze half the batch or keep them in the fridge to last about 2-3 weeks before they get dried out. Enjoy and experiment with different types of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and seasonings!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lime Chicken Soft Tacos

then, these are delicious! Just made them tonight, so I will do my best to recall the things I liked and some things I would modify for next time. For starters, these are great on a summer night- they have a little fiesta feel to them, would be fun and easy for company. 

1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 lime, juiced
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp white sugar
2-3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1-2 tomatoes, diced
2 cups lettuce, finely chopped
Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
*sour cream
**The original recipe didn't call for sour cream or guac but after making it, my husband and I agreed this would be a great addition!

Ok you guys, super easy and not very time consuming, the most prep you have will be to wash and slice your chicken breasts. I cut mine into long, thin strips like in a fajita. Once your chicken is cut and ready to cook, heat a drizzle of olive oil in your pan and toss the chicken in. Let is get a good sear/brown color on the first side before flipping it and stirring it around. Let your chicken cook until it's almost done (about 7-10 minutes) and while it's cooking, you are making the "sauce" with the lime, red wine vinegar, s & p, sugar, and garlic. I made my "sauce" (it's more like a juice than a sauce) in my measuring cup and then poured it over top my chicken, stirring it around while it's doing it's final cooking. In the last minutes, I threw my green onion and cilantro in, let it cook just a smidge longer. Then pull it off the heat. You're pretty much done. Chop some lettuce, tomato, shred some cheese and heat up some tortillas- build yourself a soft taco, top it with sour cream, guac, and/or salsa and enjoy!

Serve with: corn on the cob and it's a complete meal!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad...

OK, this one's right off the stove- and pretty good for a first-time-make... if you like Chinese Chicken Salads you will definetly like this! Here we go, it's really simple and quick...

2 big chicken breasts (or 3 small), cubed and browned with a little s & p
1/3 cup green onion (about 2 stalks), chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 red bell pepper
2 carrots, shredded
1 bag pasta (bow tie or the multicolored Radiatore from Trader Joe's is yummy)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (cheapest to buy in bulk at Winco), toasted

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar (red wine vinegar would be my second choice if you don't have rice)
1 tsp sesame oil
3 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp ginger (comes in a jar)
1/4 tsp pepper

For starters, mix the dressing ingredients together, shake and refridgerate so that it has some time to chill together :). Next, get the water boiling for your pasta and get out a frying pan to toast your sesame seeds. I add a little drizzle of olive oil to the frying pan and toss in your 1/4 cup sesame seeds, constantly turning them until browned. Scoop them out and set them aside. Next up- prep the chicken. Wash it and cut it into bite size cubes or slices. Add a little olive oil to your pan and brown your chicken. I have said this before, but the best way to get a good "brown" to your chicken is to put it in your pan and let it sit, don't start turning it over and over. Once it gets a good sear on one side THEN turn it over and do the next side/sides. Add a little s & p to your chicken to give it some flavor. Alright, your chicken is cooked, your pasta is cooking, your dressing is chilling- time for the veggies. Peel your carrot and then shred it, chop your bellpepper, green onion, cilantro, and add it to your pasta bow. Strain your pasta, add it. Throw in your toasted sesame seeds and drizzle your chilled salad dressing to the mix. Toss it to make sure everything is coated. You can serve this dish warm or cold, it's great the second day- tons of flavor and great for a picnic, BBQ, or potluck! * One thing I might throw in the next time I make it is some chopped snap peas for an extra crunch!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Strawberry Salad....

Tis the season for yummy salads.... so here we go with a few of my favorites! They can be used as a side dish (just leave out the chicken) or they can be served as a whole meal- you choose!

2 hearts of romaine
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup candied pecans, chopped
8- 10 strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup feta (or blue) cheese, sprinkled on top
1/2 cooked chicken breast (per person), chopped
*avocado optional (if you're a lover of it!)

Grill up some chicken, lightly seasoned, or use leftovers if you have some. Like always, wash, chop, and chill your lettuce. Chop your parsley, nuts, and chicken. Slice your strawberries right before serving, add your cheese and dressing and toss! I have also added avocado to the mix and it was very tasty! 

For a great dressing, see my recipe for "Refreshing Dressing" or use Brianna's dressing with a Strawberry on the Bottle. For those of you local to Bakersfield, this is a knock off of my favorite salad at Cafe Meds! 

Refreshing Dressing...

6 TBSP olive oil
6 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
honey to taste ( I add quite a bit of honey to cut the vinegar & citrus flavor)

Mix it all together and refrigerate! Great light and tangy flavor.

Steak Cobb Salad...

Ok, so this was a fun, impromptu meal last night. We had a leftover steak (pretty good size) from the night before, so I decided to give a Cobb salad a whirl, and what a good whirl it was! Pretty self explanatory, but for the record, here's what I put:

2 hearts of romaine, washed & chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
6 stripes of bacon, cooked & chopped
1 hard boiled egg, sliced
1 avocado, chopped or sliced
1 steak, cooked and chopped (hot or cold would work)
1/2 cup blue cheese *** optional (if you are a blue cheese fan)

First things first, cook your bacon ( I used the apple wood kind from Trader Joe's it was really good and has a little less "junk" in it than other brands). Also, hard boil your egg if you don't have a hard boiled egg handy, it just takes a few minutes. Then I washed my lettuce and refrigerated it so it stayed nice and crispy. Then I washed and chopped everything else, added the cheese, and tossed it together and made the "Light Salad Dressing" and topped it off. It was really, really good. Quick, easy, light and a great use of leftovers!  

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thai Chicken Wraps with Spicy Peanut Sauce...

The "Salad Portion" of the meal...
The "Chicken Portion" ...
The "Finished Product"- DELICIOUS!!!

OK folks, if you read my family blog then you know that my husband made me a fabulous anniversary dinner that is now in my top 5 favorite meals, so I thought I would share the recipe with you! It is a Rachel Ray recipe, so you can google hers, or you can check out this one, I simplified it and added a few things- either way you will love it!

Ingredients for Chicken:
3 chicken breasts or a package of chicken tenderloins
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP canola oil
1 TBSP grill seasoning

Ingredients for Salad Portion:
1/2  cucumber, peeled, sliced and halved
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups bean sprouts
3-4 scallions, sliced
12 basil leaves, chopped (*optional, use if your a basil fan, can go without)
3 TBSP mint leaves, chopped ( a must!)
1 TBSP sesame seeds
2 tsp. sugar
2 TBSP rice or white vinegar

Spicy Peanut Sauce (spice can be optional!)
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter, room temp
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 TBSP rice or white vinegar 
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper *** optional, if you don't want the kick- leave this out!

Don't forget the Tortillas!!! I love the spelt ones from Trader Joe's- they go great with this meal!

This meal is really easy to whip up- you will chop all the salad ingredients and mix them into a large bowl. Next, wash your chicken, put it on a skillet on the stove with the "chicken ingredients" and brown the chicken. Once it's cooked, slice your chicken into bite size pieces and add it to the "salad ingredients" bowl. Toss that together. Lastly, whisk all the "peanut sauce ingredients" together to make the sauce (mine was more of a spread than a dribbley sauce, but none the less, very tasty!)

Warm a tortilla, spread the peanut sauce on it and then scoop some of the chicken salad mixture onto it. Roll it up and enjoy!