Sunday, February 5, 2012

The BEST Grilled Chicken Tacos

My husband loves tacos. In fact, during our first year of marriage we had tacos or taco bake (perhaps I'll share that recipe one day) once a week.   Starting our second year of marriage I vetoed that request and we've had tacos/taco bake maybe three times. I'm not a huge ground beef gal, so tacos are definitely not a favorite of mine. I got completely burned out on taco bake and could honestly go the rest of my life without having it again. However, when I saw this recipe a light bulb went off. This was a great way to make the hubs happy, since it's tacos and ME happy, since it's chicken!

If you look at the recipe below it may seem a little over-whelming. There seems to be a lot of ingredients and a lot of work but it's really not. Although there are a lot of ingredients I had everything on hand except the chicken thighs. The only thing I changed from the original recipe was that I left out the cilantro because we aren't big fans.  I also didn't grill the pablano pepper for the sweet corn salsa. 

Grilled Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:

For the Chicken:
2 lbs. boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs
2-3 cloves of Garlic, grated
1 teaspoon Chile Pepper
1 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
1 cup Beer, any kind
2 tablespoons Sesame Seed Oil
Juice of half a lime

For the Sweet Corn Salsa:
2 Cups Corn {fresh or frozen}
1 Poblano Pepper, seeded and diced small
1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced small
3 tablespoons Red Onion, diced small
1/2 a Lime, juiced
1/2 a teaspoon Sugar
Kosher Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Garlic Habanero Sour Cream:
 
2 Garlic cloves, grated
2 Habanero Peppers, seeded and diced small
1/2 cup of Sour Cream
1/2 tablespoon Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper, to taste


Directions:

For the Chicken:

Combine the garlic, spices, sesame seed oil, beer and lime juice in a medium sized bowl.

Place chicken thighs in a re-sealable bag, pour the marinade over top and toss to coat. Seal the bag and place in refrigerator for 2 hours.


Preheat grill or grill-pan to medium-high heat then place chicken on grill.

Cook 4-6 minutes on each side or until chicken is cooked through then remove and set aside.

Allow chicken to rest a few minutes then slice chicken into bite-size pieces.


For the Sweet Corn Salsa:

In a large bowl combine all ingredients and toss together.

Place plastic wrap over bowl and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.


For the Garlic Habanero Sour Cream:

In a small skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and add garlic and Habanero peppers and saute about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and place in a food processor with sour cream and salt and pepper.

Blend together until combined well.  Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.


Assemble tacos on flour tortillas as desired and enjoy!
I'm telling you, these are AHHHHHH-MAZING! I loved them, the hubs loved them; this recipe was a winner and one I will be making more often!!!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

BBQ Sauce & Ribs

I love BBQ sauce and have collected several recipes to make my own over the last two years but for one reason or another I just never got around to actually making it.  Last weekend I bought some ribs at the grocery and thought I would try my own sauce. I had a bottle of store bought waiting in the pantry incase mine failed. 
I'm a sweet BBQ sauce girl, I like my sauce thick and sweet and a little smoky but not too much. When I found  Erica Lea's version I thought it was the perfect first-time homemade sauce to try. I didn't have liquid smoke which the original recipe calls for and like I said, I don't love a super smokey sauce so I just left that out. I also heated my sauce so it could reduce and thicken a bit, plus I really like my sauce to be warm.
I love this sauce and will be making more of it. The ribs turned out great and I cannot wait to make them again. Previously I made my ribs in the oven but this time the crock pot did all the work and the results were probably better, in my opinion. The meat was super tender and fell right off the bone which is how I like my ribs. Next time you want some BBQ, make your own sauce. It's really easy and I liked this sauce a little better than the bottled stuff I normally buy.

BBQ Sauce 
Adapted From: Cooking for Seven

Ingredients:
1 (6 oz.) Can Tomato Paste
1 Cup Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup & 2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Onion Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
3/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder

Directions:

Whisk all ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat over medium low heat until warm.

For the ribs:

I purchased one package of spare ribs and cut them into 4 servings of 4 ribs each. I placed them in the crock pot and cooked on low for 4-5 hours. Then I poured 1 cup of the BBQ sauce over the ribs and cooked 1 more hour. When serving, I like to brush extra sauce on my ribs but that's my personal preference.
This recipe can easily be doubled and you can give your friends and family some sauce. Is there anything better than a homemade gift? Not in my opinion!

Do you have a favorite BBQ sauce?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sweet & Sour Chicken

I've made this sweet and sour chicken several times; it's my favorite.  Steve and I love Chinese food but we don't like to spend the money on take out. Don't misunderstand and think we never order in, we do but we've really been trying to scale back.  I like to make a side of rice (brown or white depending on my mood) and it's honestly just as good as take-out.
It's much cheaper than ordering from a Chinese restaurant and it's really easy which is always a plus! I'm ashamed to say I've purchased several different sweet and sour sauces at the grocery in the past but I never liked any of them. This homemade version taste great, is easy, and again it's super cheap. You probably already have all the ingredients you need. If you don't have rice vinegar you can use white vinegar instead.
Sweet & Sour Chicken
Source: Brown Eyed Baker
Printable Recipe

Sweet & Sour Chicken

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

For the Chicken:
3-4 boneless,skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ cup canola oil

For Sauce:
¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Working in batches, toss the chicken in cornstarch and then coat with the egg.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat and again in batches, brown the chicken on all sides.

Place the chicken in a single layer in a baking dish.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the chicken, toss to coat.

Bake for 1 hour, turning the chicken every 15 minutes.

*I like to make two batches of sauce so I can dip my chicken. I put my second batch in a small sauce pan and heat on low for a few minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 Goals

I'm not big on setting New Year Resolutions. I don't really like to set myself up for failure and it seems like that always happens when I try to make resolutions. Instead, this year I've simply made some goals. These are not items I can check off a list once they are complete nor are they things I will do for one year and then just forget about in the years to come.  My goals are behavior changing and new habits I want to start now and continue forever.  So, in case you're interested here are my food/cooking related goals for 2012 and beyond!!!


1. Read recipes all the way through. Are you guilty of looking a recipe over only to find half way through it's going to fail because you have already messed up the next step because you weren't prepared for what came next? Or perhaps you're like me and think you've went over the ingredient section well enough only to find when you skimmed you missed the one item you don't currently have? I am AWFUL at not reading recipes all the way through, thoroughly before beginning. This silly little habit has led to many failed recipes and MANY MANY cooking tantrums. Yeah, I totally throw little 3 year old type fits when I figure out I have messed up a recipe or I don't have all the ingredients. I'm not proud, but it happens.

2. Try something new at least once a month. I don't just mean a new recipe, but a new food type or ingredient.  I want to expand my cooking abilities and my palate so I'm going to try really hard to experience new foods this year.

3. Waste less. This may be my biggest and most important goal.  This will coincide with Goal #1, if I can do a better job at making sure I have everything I need I won't waste items. This happens all too often...

I find a new recipe and buy all the ingredients then when I'm about to make the dish I realize I don't have all the ingredients so I make something else instead and eventually forget about the original dish and when cleaning my fridge/freezer/pantry find expired items...YIKES!

I also want to eat my leftovers. I don't know about you but I was a super spoiled child (I may have shared this before) and NEVER EVER EVER ate left overs. My mom cooked every day and I'm not sure we really had leftovers often but when we did I never had them.  This is a habit I carried into adulthood and I'm not proud that we waste a lot of food that I save and tell myself I will take for lunch or eat for dinner again and my spoiled self refuses and makes another meal instead.  There are so many people in our world that do not have access to good nutritious food and because I don't want it I toss it away. I need to be more thankful for what I've been given and do my part to waste less.

Did anyone else watch "The Big Waste" on Food Network? WOW! It really opened my eyes to how much we Americans waste and it's not just left overs and spoiled food, it's good edible food that we don't consume because it's less than perfect!

4. Cut the junk! I'm no "health nut" nor am I trying to be. However, after evaluating what I actually consume every week (making a list of everything I ate each day for 2 weeks) I wasn't happy with myself.  Although I don't eat a ton of junk food (chips, cookies, soda, etc) I do eat a lot of items that aren't truly healthy or beneficial to my health.  This includes cutting out a lot of processed foods. Do you ever look on the back of those labels? YUCK! Filled with sodium and sugar and preservatives, it's kinda scary actually. I love fruits and veggies but I don't eat them enough, honestly I have no excuse for this. So, as far of cutting out the junk I want to replaces it with good healthy items and "super foods".

Have you set any new goals for this year or New Years Resolutions? Do you have any good ideas to help me stay on track? I'd love to hear some feedback!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Coconut Ginger Rice with Chickpeas

Steve has been sick all week with a really bad cold and I hoped that this dish would brighten his spirits and make him feel better. Nope, wrong again. I really liked the rice but apparently the hubs doesn't really care for coconut - I somehow didn't know this and was already preparing dinner when he informed me. I was hoping it would be one of those instances where he would change his mind after trying it. Although he said he liked it, I don't think it was his favorite.
My only complaint was that it needed to be a little spicier and my laziness was partly to blame. The original recipe calls for a fresno chili and my grocery doesn't carry those (among many other ingredients I need but that's another story) and I didn't want to go down town Lexington to a Mexican Market this weekend. It's been really cold here and even snowed.  I HATE getting out when it's snowing and super cold. That being said, next time if I don't have a fresno I will use a jalapeno and try to spice it up just a bit.  I think it would have made a huge impact. That being said, I still really enjoyed it.

Coconut Ginger Rice with Chickpeas 
Adapted From: Rachael Ray
Printable Recipe

Servings: About 5

Ingredients:

1 inch Ginger Root, grated
1 Roasted Red Pepper, chopped*
1 Lime, zested (reserve juice)
2 Tbsp. butter
4 Scallions, chopped (whites & greens)
1 Cup White Rice
1 1/3 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock
3/4 Cup Unsweetened, Shredded Coconut
1 Can Chickpeas, drained

*Original recipe calls for 1 fresno chili

Directions:

Heat butter in a medium sauce pan on medium heat.

Once butter is melted, add grated ginger, red pepper, lime zest, and scallions then stir together.

Add 1 cup of rice and coconut and let toast a few minutes.
Add chicken stock and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid.

Allow rice to cook 15-18 minutes.

In the last 5 minutes of cook time, add in drained chickpeas.

Turn off heat and add lime juice just before serving.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Buffalo Wings

I love buffalo wings. It's funny because I had never had wings until just a few years ago but I quickly became addicted. I enjoy the boneless wings as well but there's something about a nice bone-in wing that's been smothered in buffalo sauce that gets me excited.  Somehow it had never occurred to me to make my own version at home.
A few weeks ago they had bags of "party wings" on sale and a light bulb went off..."make your own wings Meagan, duh!" I must give myself a little pat on the back if that's okay, my wings were pretty darn good. I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to spicy food, mine has to be on the mild side so these wings are not hot but just the right amount of sweet and spicy that suits me.  If you wanted hot wings you can always add more hot sauce of course.
We had friends over Saturday early afternoon to watch the game and these were perfect game fare.  For those of you who don't live in the great commonwealth of Kentucky and are wondering, what's "the game" I will fill you in...when I say "the game" I mean The University of Kentucky and this weekend we just so happened to be playing Louisville (please note the tone of disgust when I say Louisville) Hehe.  Luckily we won the game and ended our afternoon with these pots of goodness. Next time you're hosting people over to watch a game make your own wings, it's simple and yummy.

Buffalo Wings
Printable Recipe 

Ingredients:

1 bag chicken wing sections
1 bottle (17.5 oz) Texas Pete buffalo sauce (or brand of choice)
2 tbsp. Texas Pete hot sauce (or brand of choice)
1 stick butter
canola oil


Directions:

In a large pot heat 2 - 2 1/2 inches canola oil to 360 degrees F.

Fry 5-8 wings at a time until golden brown, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan melt 1 stick of butter and add 1 bottle of buffalo sauce and 2 tbsp hot sauce.

When wings are golden brown, remove from pot and allow to drain on paper towels.

Toss wings in buffalo/butter mixture.

Remove from sauce and place on serving platter.

Serve with left over buffalo sauce if desired and ranch


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: A New Year & Weekend Ramblings

I cannot believe 2011 is gone and 2012 is here! YIKES!!! Where did the year go? Steve was off all last week so this weekend we tried to take in the last few moments of relaxation we could. Saturday we had friends over to watch the basketball game.  For those of you not from Kentucky, "the basketball game" means The University of Kentucky. We took Greta for a walk and just hung around the house most of the weekend, it was great!

Here are some photos I took:
Although we didn't watch the ball drop on New Years, I was actually awake when it turned 2012! This is quite an accomplishment because I can't tell you the last time I was up to ring in the new year, it was sometime back in college. On Sunday Steve built me a diffusion panel. I've been complaining that I had no way to take photos of dinner because it's dark when I get off work and without any natural light, my photos are just garbage.  Luckily, Taylor had just posted about a cheap way to take photos with artificial light. 
In the above picture, the hubs is putting the final touches (hot glue) on my diffusion panel. He even thought to make little legs on the bottom so I don't have to prop the panel, YAY! I'm very excited to use my new panel and halogen light and I'll be sure to let you all know how it works out. I didn't have vellum that was suggested on Taylor Takes a Taste so I used muslin cloth. The pup wasn't too thrilled that both her parents were working on a project that didn't involve her and when we were done this is what we found:
Silly girl, she isn't allow on the couch.  Funny how she's so sweet when she's doing something she shouldn't be. I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year and I'm looking forward to sharing lots of new recipes....starting tomorrow!

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