Thursday, November 29, 2012

Crock Pot Mexi-Mush

The easiest Crock-Pot meal...EVER!!!
I know, I know…it’s been more than two weeks since my last blog post. I could go on and on about the holidays, sick kids, work, and whatnot, but it seems everyone around me is in the same boat so I’d just be preaching to the choir.

Since this time of year is notoriously hectic, I thought I’d share one of my easiest go-to Crock Pot meals. I make it even simpler and less time consuming by using cooked rotisserie chicken. My mom turned me on to this meal right after we brought my daughter home from the hospital. It’s so simple, even the parents of newborns can handle it—and if sleep-deprived zombies can do it, so can you!

The great thing about Mexi-Mush is that you can throw just about any bean/salsa/rice/cooked meat combo in the pot and it will turn out awesome. So, if you don’t see your favorite ingredients listed below, go ahead and add them. You really can’t go wrong. (Think diced green chilis, corn, jalapeños if you like it spicy, etc.) At any rate, here’s what I usually use.

Crock Pot Mexi-Mush
Serves 6-8
Olive oil spray
2½ cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed (I used rotisserie chicken)
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16-ounce) can chili beans (I used Bush’s pinto beans in chili sauce)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilis (don’t drain, you’ll want the juice!)
1 (16-ounce) jar salsa

Lightly spritz Crock Pot with olive oil spray. Add chicken, rice, rinsed black beans, chili beans with sauce, tomatoes in juice, and salsa. Stir to combine. Cook on low for about 2 hours. If your Mexi-Mush gets a little dry, or if you prefer a soupier texture, you can add 1 cup of chicken broth or stock at any point during the cooking process. Since everything in this dish is already cooked, you’re really just heating it through and allowing the flavors to mingle.

Again, I can’t stress how foolproof this recipe is. Just toss the ingredients in the trusty old Crock Pot and heat them up for a couple of hours. You’re done. Had a busy day at work and don’t feel like slaving over the stove? Mexi-Mush. Marathon holiday shopping spree and dreading cooking? Mexi-Mush. In need of a little comfort food on a cold, drizzly day? You guessed it…Mexi-Mush.
It’s hearty, it’s healthy, and it tastes good. Check, check, and double-check. So, give this simple recipe a try and let me know what you think.

Until next time,

P.S. I hosted Thanksgiving this year and made my own cranberry sauce for the first time ever. (I still can’t believe how simple it was!) That little endeavor has inspired me to work on more easy, healthy, and tasty holiday recipes. My goal is to post several of them over the month of December so you can share these dishes with your friends and family over the season. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken and Fancy Vegetables

A simple dish that tastes fabulous and fancy!
A few weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Andrea after my latest obsession, Zumba class. We both had dinners cooking in the Crock Pots at our respective houses and we were swapping recipe ideas.

Her meal was the inspiration for the dish I’m about to share with you. I seriously forgot how yummy and easy it is to bust out the Crock Pot, take a regular old can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, toss in some chicken, add your favorite veggies, and then sprinkle the whole caboodle with a packet of dry onion soup mix. Voila! Dinner that tastes totally decadent but was so-super-simple it’s ridiculous.

I’m calling them “fancy” vegetables because I used asparagus and crimini mushrooms. But you could make this dish with just about any veggies you had on hand.
Here’s what I came up with.

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken and Fancy Vegetables

Serves 3-4


Olive oil spray
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets
1 cup asparagus, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 (10.5-ounce) can reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup (condensed)
½ cup reduced-fat milk
1 packet dry onion soup mix


Lightly spray Crock Pot with olive oil spray. Place chicken fillets in pot. Add asparagus, mushrooms, and carrots. Cover with the can of condensed soup. Pour milk over mixture. Sprinkle dry soup mix evenly over contents of the Crock Pot.

Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high for 3-5 hours.
Being a wife and mommy means that sometimes you’ve gotta take one for the team. For instance, I can’t stand mushrooms (I think they taste like dirt and have the mouth-feel of rubber) but my husband likes them. So I had to step out of my comfort zone to test a recipe that called for an ingredient I don’t really care for in order to appease him—and all of you other weirdoes who like eating fungus.

Seriously though, I couldn’t even taste them in this dish. The onion soup flavor combined well with the “fancy” veggies and the creamy goodness made me forget I was eating one of my least-favorite foods. I just spooned the mixture over a little brown rice and served with a fresh spinach salad for a well-balanced meal.

Sometimes it’s fun to add ingredients to recipes that you wouldn’t normally use. You just might be surprised at how good your culinary creations turn out when you try something a little different.

Until next time,

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tasty Turkey Meatloaf

The perfect HEALTHY comfort food!
“Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf. I hate meatloaf.” Name that flick! If you guessed A Christmas Story, you are correct! I love that movie. I watch it annually and keep it in the DVR list long past Christmas. This year I’ve really outdone myself…it’s actually still in the queue from 2011. Good thing it’s November and just about time to bust it out again.

Anyhoo, watching the poor frazzled mom desperately trying to coerce Randy to “Show mommy how the piggies eat!” has always cracked me up. And now that I have a super picky toddler on my hands, I can totally relate. Now I’m not promising your finicky eaters will gobble this up—my toddler wouldn’t touch it but the baby loved it. But I can say it’s yummy, healthy, and the perfect comfort food for these chilly fall evenings.

I found this basic recipe online and made a few modifications. I added bell pepper, tweaked the seasonings a bit, and tossed a little brown sugar into the glaze for the top. I also omitted the salt and the chicken broth and cut back on the suggested amount of bread crumbs. Here’s what I came up with.
Tasty Turkey Meatloaf
Serves  4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 pound lean ground turkey
½ teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground preferred)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup (divided use)
¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg
Olive oil spray
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and sauté, stirring frequently for about 3-5 minutes (until onion turns slightly translucent and peppers soften).  Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Place thawed turkey meat in a large bowl. Add pepper, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons of ketchup (save the rest for the sauce on top!), bread crumbs, and egg to bowl. Transfer the cooked onions and bell pepper to the bowl as well.

Now for the messy part: Use your hands to fold the vegetables and seasonings into the ground meat. Be sure to really squish it around so it all mixes evenly.
Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with olive oil spray. Press the meatloaf mixture into the pan.

In a small bowl, mix remaining 2 tablespoons of ketchup with the brown sugar and spread over the top of the meatloaf.
Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165-170 degrees.

*You may want to drain off a little of the excess liquid during cooking. (The fat from the turkey along with the water from the vegetables can create a little too much moisture.) Just remove pan from oven at around the 30-minute mark and use a spoon to remove the extra liquid. Return to oven and cook for the remaining 10 minutes or so.
I was really happy with the way this dish turned out. It was really good and it was great to have a little comfort food—without the guilt of eating something unhealthy. I paired the meatloaf with sautéed green beans and
GarlicMashed “Potatoes” and it was the perfect, balanced meal.

If you’re looking for a healthy, tasty twist on boring old meatloaf, give this recipe a try. Let me know what you—and your family—think!
Until next time,

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bison and Zucchini Baked Ziti

Bison: It's what's for dinner.
Before you run for the hills, yes I said bison, and believe me, I was more than a little hesitant the first time my father-in-law suggested I try it. I’m a pretty basic chicken, turkey, and pork kind of gal. But honestly, it’s really good. Think ground beef but way better for you.

According to the USDA, 3.5 ounces of raw ground bison only contains 146 calories. That’s fewer calories than the same portion of beef, pork…even turkey. It’s high in protein with 20.23 grams per serving. It has a low total fat content at 7.2 grams. And it’s lower in cholesterol than any of the other commonly ground meats. (See a nutritional comparison chart of ground meat and poultry here.)
Most baked ziti recipes I’ve seen call for a lot of dairy items: ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese—even sour cream. Well, the hubs and the baby are lactose intolerant so that wouldn’t fly in this house. You’ll notice lite shredded mozzarella in the ingredients below but I actually tried a new dairy-free, soy-free cheese substitute called Daiya and it wasn’t bad. I also swapped ziti noodles for whole wheat penne pasta noodles since they are better for you.

I wasn’t initially planning on posting this recipe—it was just something I tossed together on a whim using ingredients we had around the house and needed to use. However, because BOTH of my kids ate it (actually, the baby actually devoured it), I had to share.
Bison and Zucchini Baked Ziti
Serves 8-10

12-16 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
Olive oil spray
1 pound ground bison meat (or lean ground beef, turkey, or chicken if you’re not feeling adventurous)
Garlic powder
2 medium zucchini squash, chopped
1 (25-ounce) jar pasta sauce (I used Trader Joe's Organic Tomato Basil Marinara)
Olive oil spray (again!)
1 ½-2 cups lite mozzarella cheese, shredded (I used Daiya's vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions in a large pot.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil spray in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground bison meat and a dash of garlic powder and brown, stirring often, until meat is cooked through (about 5-6 minutes).
Remove meat from the heat. Add chopped zucchini, and pasta sauce to the skillet and heat over medium for 5 minutes.

When pasta is done cooking, remove from heat, drain, rinse, and return to pot. Add the meat sauce and stir well to combine.
Spritz a large (I used 9x13) glass baking dish with olive oil spray. Spoon half of the pasta into the baking dish and cover with half of the mozzarella cheese. Spoon remaining pasta over the cheese and add the rest of the cheese as the top “layer.”

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbling and pasta is heated through.
As you’ll note in the picture below, the cheese substitute doesn’t get all browned and bubbly like real cheese does. But even without all the yummy gooey goodness, my version was still pretty darn tasty. The vegan cheese isn’t quite as salty as the real deal so I did something I seldom do—I added a little salt and pepper to the finished product.

Not as gooey and bubbly as "real" cheese, but still pretty yummy!
The hubs and I both liked this dish, however, as I mentioned above the fact that the BOTH of my kids ate it is the reason you’re seeing it here. The baby gobbled it up for dinner and as leftovers the next day. And in my book, that equals epic success.  

If you’re a little wary of the bison meat, I get it. You can wimp out and use ground turkey, chicken, or beef, but I encourage you to think outside the box a little…it’s good for you!
Give this recipe a try and let me know what you—and your kiddos think.

Until next time,