Apricot-Glazed Chicken

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There’s something about this Apricot-Glazed Chicken that just makes you feel classy. Maybe it’s the word “apricot.” Or perhaps it’s the glaze—I’ve always been intimidated by glazes for some odd reason. Little did I know, glazes are just a bunch of stuff mixed up in a bowl and drizzled on top of something else. Regardless, this classy-sounding dish doesn’t take nearly the effort you’d expect it to.

This is another recipe I got from the fabulous The Weeknight Cook cookbook. This cookbook is true to its name; most of the recipes I’ve tried from it actually can be cooked on a weeknight, which means about 30 minutes or less for me. I’ve found that most recipes that claim to be “30 minute meals” actually take twice that long, unless you have a team of people chopping and assembling stuff for you, so an entire compilation of recipes that all more or less take 30 – 35 minutes is a big win as far as I’m concerned. Especially when they’re as fancy-sounding (and tasting) as this one. A+, Williams-Sonoma!

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Apricot-Glazed Chicken
From The Weeknight Cookbook
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup apricot jam
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp whole grain or Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered, and thinly sliced
    • turns out, I have no idea what a fennel bulb looks like, so I couldn’t find it at the store, and just left it out altogether

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper to your liking. In a large ovenproof pan over medium-high, heat the canola oil.

Toss in the chicken (using tongs, of course, and possibly oven mitts, if you have PTSD like me), and cook, turning a couple times, until golden brown, 8 – 10 minutes total.

While the chicken is browning, stir together the jam, vinegar, mustard, garlic, and 1/2 tsp salt. (That’s all it takes to make a glaze! Who knew?!) Brush the glaze over the chicken, leaving a tablespoon or so in the bowl. Add the fennel to bowl (assuming you know what that is and where to find it), and toss with the rest of the glaze, then add it to the pan over the chicken.

Place the pan directly in the oven, and bake about 10 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked through.

And that’s it! I served it with good ol’ mac & cheese and green beans. Enjoy!

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Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

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Whoa, it’s been a month since I last posted. To say this summer has been crazy so far would be the understatement of the year. Between traveling for work, traveling for fun, traveling for not-so-fun, and people traveling to me, I have not even had time to breathe, let alone blog.

But things are starting to slow down a little, and I can finally take a breath. Just the one. But that’s OK, I’ll take what I can get.

The good news is, I’ve still been photographing and making note of my favorite meals over the past few weeks, so I’ve got a nice archive going to create posts from! So for my first post back, I’m going for my favorite thing to cook: dessert.

Remember a couple months ago, when I said I needed to start watching what I was eating to lose some chub before our beach vacation? Well that didn’t last long. Just a couple weeks after that declaration, I desperately needed something sugary. Plus, we were on the brink of summertime, and these Pink Lemonade Cupcakes just screamed summer. So I caved. Lay off me, OK?

The good news is, they’re from Skinnytaste, and only about 120 calories each (that’s my rough guess including the frosting I added, at least). I could’ve done worse for my dietary collapse, right?

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Pink Lemonade Cupcakes
Adapted from Skinnytaste

Ingredients:

  • 18.25 oz box confetti cake mix (I actually used white cake mix and just added sprinkles)
  • 2 1/2 tsp powdered sugar-free pink lemonade mix (like Crystal Light)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • lemon zest from half of a lemon
  • 2 drops red food coloring
  • 8oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a couple cupcake tins with 24 paper liners. I like to spray my liners lightly with nonstick spray, but that might not be necessary.

Stir the water and pink lemonade powder together. Combine the cake mix with the pink lemonade mixture, along with the applesauce, lemon zest, and oil in a mixer and mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Add a few drops of food coloring until it’s pretty and pink (but not so many that it looks like you murdered something).

Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake tins, filling the cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.

While the cupcakes are cooling, whip up your cream cheese frosting. Drop the softened cream cheese into a fresh mixing bowl, and whip it up real good, until it’s light and fluffy (do it better than I did in the picture above… You can see that it’s still a little thick. I was impatient!). Mix in the powdered sugar, then the vanilla.

Spread the frosting over your cooled cupcakes, and promptly devour one. Heck, have two if you want.

Shrimp & Spinach Penne

Time for another old favorite! As much as I love testing out new recipes, sometimes, after a failure or two, I just need the comfort of knowing a dish is going to be good after all the effort. That’s where my A-List comes into play. I’ve got a few recipes that I always know I can throw together for a good meal, no doubt about it. And this is one of those meals: Shrimp & Spinach Penne.

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It’s healthy, tasty, and easy to get on the table in 30 minutes. And it’s got that rustic flare to it, that makes you feel like an Italian chef while you’re making it. I mean, just look at these shrimp and tomatoes sizzling in the pan, and tell me that doesn’t look awesome:

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Then, you add in the spinach, and it turns into this beautiful, colorful masterpiece:

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So if you ever need a confidence-boost in your cooking abilities, give this one a shot. You’ll feel like a pro in no time, and your payoff will be a delicious, healthy dinner!

Chicken Taco Chili

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Taco + Chili = delicious. Throw in “skinny” and you’ve got delightful. Add in “couldn’t-be-easier,” and you’ve got perfection. (So, for those not paying attention, Perfection = Taco + Chili + Skinny + Couldn’t-Be-Easier.)

And therefore I present to you, Skinnytaste’s Chicken Taco Chili.

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In all seriousness, this meal couldn’t be more perfect for Dan & me. My favorite food is tacos (well, any and all Mexican food, really), and I think he’d agree that his favorite food is chili. And of course, Skinnytaste has healthified it up, meaning I can add sour cream and Fritos on top, without even feeling guilty. And for an added bonus, it makes an entire Crock Pot worth, so it feeds Dan and I for two dinners, and approximately 50 lunches.

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In this case, since I was heading out of town for five days, it fed both of us for one dinner, and then fed Dan for roughly three dinners and three or four lunches, and still had some leftover when I got back.

Serve this with brown rice, if you’d like, top it with a teensy bit of low-fat shredded cheese, and of course, finish it off with sour cream and Fritos. Then, devour it.

Chicken & Spinach Rollatini

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First, I would just like to sincerely apologize for the horrible food photography on this blog. I read these other blogs with their gorgeous pictures of their food, and I’m aware that mine are awful. See, my problem is, I finish making a meal, and get so excited that I immediately dig in. Then, about halfway through, I’ll think to myself, “man, this is good, I gotta tell someone about this.” Then I remember that I have this blog, then I remember to take a photo—when it’s already half-eaten and my plate is mess. Who can possibly wait long enough to lug out their DSLR and find the right lighting and adjust the aperture and identify the best focal point? Not to mention, actually plugging that camera into their computer and editing the image before posting their blog. For now, my crappy iPhotography will just have to do. Sorry bout that!

Now that that’s out of the way, onto the recipe. This recipe was perfect to satiate a craving for Italian food, without all the fatty, carby nonsense that usually comes with it. Chicken & Spinach Rollatini… It feels like you’re eating delectable Chicken Parmesan, but really, you’re nomming on healthy ol’ baked chicken with spinach.

And of course, it’s pretty easy to make. I feel like that almost goes without saying on this blog. I rarely do difficult-to-make meals. Ain’t nobody got time for that. In fact, I got home from work later than expected the night I made this, but with Dan’s help dipping the Rollatinis in the breadcrumbs, I managed to get this meal on the table—OK, let’s be honest… couch—in about 40 minutes, including the 25-30 minute baking time.

Just pair it with some whole wheat angel hair and a couple spoonfuls of marinara, and whaddaya know, you’ve got a meal. This one’s officially added to the monthly rotation!

White Bean Chicken Enchiladas

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Happy Cinco de Mayo! To celebrate, I thought I’d share the first of my semi-healthy recipes, which also happens to be perfect for this holiday.

I should preface that I’m very aware that what I consider “semi-healthy” is (for the most part) not actually healthy or diet-friendly. I just try to look for things I would normally crave, and find lightened-up versions of them. That way, I know it’s at least better for us than what I would usually make.

These White Bean and Chicken Enchiladas are actually not too bad at all. The worst part of the whole recipe is the tortillas, and if you use whole wheat or low-carb, then you can soften that blow a little bit. It looks like there’s a ton of cheese dumped on top in the photo, but there’s really only about 1/2 cup or less of low-fat cheese sprinkled on them. The creamy green chile sauce melts in with the shredded cheese, though, giving it that delightfully melty texture.

These take a little bit longer than my typical meals—about an hour all in. They definitely pushed my skills right to the limit, with three different pieces of the meal going on the stove simultaneously at one point (cue cooking meltdown!)… But in the end, I think it’s pretty fool-proof. The filling and sauce both probably simmered a little longer than they were supposed to, because I was working on the Cilantro-Lime Rice I served with this, but they still turned out delicious, super-filling, with just a kick of spice.

Dan even declared these as my best Mexican food yet… And I cook a LOT of Mexican food, so that’s sayin’ something!

Chess Squares

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Prepare yourself. This is probably the last indulgent recipe I’ll share for a while.

*Gasp!*

Those who know me know that I loooove sweets, and I rarely bother trying to resist them. I’d much rather run an extra mile or two than deprive myself of something delicious. Unfortunately, I’ve been slacking on the “extra mile or two” part lately, and it’s resulted in an “extra pound or ten” on my thighs. And now, we’ve got two vacations booked this year, both of which will require swimsuits, and the first of which is less than two months away.

So, for the next few months, it’s no more delicious desserts, lots more miles on the pavement.

Luckily, when I made this resolution, I had already whipped up a big batch of these positively divine Chess Squares.

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Like, a big batch. And obviously I wasn’t going to let these ooey, gooey, buttery, creamy, delectable treats go to waste.

So the hubs and I devoured them all. I practically licked my plate clean after each one (and I’m not even exaggerating).

I used reduced-fat cream cheese, as always (I honestly don’t know why anyone ever uses the full-fat stuff), but otherwise followed the recipe.

Please make them. And enjoy them. And describe them to me. And maybe let me smell them.

…It’s going to be a long few months.

Pan-Seared Salmon

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks
This one’s an oldie but a goodie; I usually make it once a week.

Some of you may know that I second-degree burned my right hand/arm a few years ago—that was all thanks to *this* pan-seared salmon. Regardless, it’s still my favorite way to make salmon, especially now that I’ve (mostly) overcome the PTSD from my incident.

I originally got this recipe from “The Weeknight Cook” cookbook, but I’ve adapted it over the years to be my own special recipe; my one and only of the sort. Now that I’ve somewhat perfected the process, I feel obligated to share, so no other poor soul mangles her arm 6 months before her wedding by learning the hard way. Please excuse the awkward step-by-step… There’s a reason I didn’t go into teaching.

Here’s what you’re gonna need:

  • 2 salmon filets
  • 1-2 TB canola oil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • pinch parsley

The first trick I’ve learned with pan-searing in oil is to let the pan get hot before adding the oil. This helps prevent sticking. I have amazing All-Clad pans that conduct ridiculous heat, so I usually let it heat on medium for about a minute to a minute and a half.

Once the pan feels hot (hover your hand a couple inches over it—don’t touch it, silly), add the oil. An important note here: use canola oil, not olive oil. My father would disown me if I didn’t emphasize that. Leave a comment if you really want me to explain why.

While the oil is heating for a minute or two, you can prep your salmon. Another key tip here that is apparently common knowledge but no one ever taught me (lookin’ at you, mom and dad): if you rinse your salmon off, make sure it’s super duper mega dry. Apparently, oil and water don’t mix. This is what caused my burning oil explosion 2.5 years ago. I can’t stress it enough.

Once you’ve thoroughly dried your salmon, season it with garlic powder, salt and pepper on both sides. I don’t actually measure, so the amounts above are an estimate. Just rub it in all over the filets.

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

Once the oil is hot (just baaaarely smoking, nothing crazy), add the pinch of parsley. This just flavors the oil a little. It also prepares you for the sizzling terror that’s about to follow with the salmon (OK, maybe I’m not totally over the PTSD yet…). It should sizzle a little bit when you toss the parsley in. That’s usually a good indicator that the oil is at the right temp.

Now you’re ready to add the salmon to the pan. Tongs are clutch here. (Mistake #2 in the Great Burn Incident of 2010: tossing the salmon in haphazardly with my bare hands. Fool move.)

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

This is the scary part, but try to remain calm. The oil will sizzle and probably bubble when you add the salmon. It might even pop a little. Place the filet in the pan gently, and step away for a second. Repeat for the second filet. You can’t really see the volcanic oil horror show going in my pan here, but trust me, it’s there:

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

If that terrifies you as much as it does me, grab a splatter screen and cover that puppy up. This is probably not necessary for most sane people, but given my clear mental issues, it’s very necessary for me. I also find that it helps steam the fish a little bit and help it cook all the way through faster.

Give it about 4-5 minutes, then flip it—carefully! It’ll probably be delicate. I’ve broken many a salmon filet in half in the flipping process (I let Dan eat those ones). Give it another 4 minutes or so, and you should be left with this perfectly cooked, lightly crisped salmon. I usually serve it with saffron rice (or “yellow rice,” as we call it here in McKinney, Texas) and broccoli or green peas.

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

It’s one of our family faves, and usually makes the weekly menu! Hope you like it too, and I hope you’ve all learned a thing or two from my mistakes.

Easy Berry Cobbler

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Phew! It’s been a crazy few weeks at the Jones household. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and work trips galore. In fact, I’m quite looking forward to being home, in my own bed, for seven days in row this week–the first time that’s happened in over two months. I’m a borderline recluse, so that’s a big deal for me.

This week, I had a work trip, but I didn’t have a lot of time on Sunday to prep anything big for Dan. Luckily, thanks to my parents, our freezer is fully stocked with delicious burgers, chicken, steaks and other yummies from Omaha Steaks, so I knew he wouldn’t starve.

Still, I had to do something, so I figured I’d at least make him a dessert treat. I’d spotted this recipe for a “lightened up” Berry Cobbler from Weight Watchers, and thought that would be a better choice than my usual calorie-packed cookies and cakes.

I’ll admit, trying out a new cookie recipe, or whipping up one of the gazillion pies I’ve been wanting try, or even some good ol’ cupcakes would’ve been tastier, and probably more fun, but the truth is… This baking habit of mine is making us a little chubby. Or at least, making me chubby, and making my husband handsomer somehow, though he claims he’s getting chubby–how does that work, by the way?! Men and their high metabolisms suck.

Regardless, for a lower calorie dessert, this was truly tasty, and unbelievably easy! Dump some frozen berries, topped with cake mix, polished off with diet 7-up. Bake, and done. Plus, you get to top it with vanilla ice cream (Dreyer’s Slow-Churned, to be specific)–my ultimate favorite dessert–so that’s a bonus.

Give it a try next time you’re looking for a lowish-calorie treat!

Chicken Pillows

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Today is Dan & I’s anniversary. I typically struggle with what to cook for special occasion meals, because everything I want to make is out of my league (and I’m terrified of screwing up an important meal), and nothing I’m capable of making ever seems “special” enough.

So I searched and searched through my cookbooks and blogs, and nothing was striking my fancy. Until I landed on these beauties (mine aren’t quite “beauties,” as you can see, but the originals are): Chicken Pillows. Just the name was enough to draw me in; anything that speaks to my constant desire to be asleep is right up my alley.

As soon as I read the ingredients, I knew I was in: crescent rolls (let’s be honest, that’s all I really needed to hear), cream cheese, shredded chicken, crackers… Yes, yes, yes, yes. Sold.

I used reduced-fat cream cheese (which Dan just discovered is called “neufchatel,” and is positively tickled by), reduced fat Crescents, and reduced fat Ritz crackers–every little bit counts, right?!–but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely. If I’d been better prepared and had cooked and shredded the chicken in advance, this would’ve taken thirty minutes flat. Having to cook and shred the chicken first, it took me roughly 45 minutes. Luckily, we had lots of leftover Twice-Baked Cauliflower from last night’s disastrous meal (which maybe I’ll share when I recover from the trauma), so I didn’t have to worry about throwing a side together too.