Thank goodness for slow cookers…

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Today was just one of those days. I left my office a little early to get to an appointment that was about 45 minutes away. I left myself an hour. It wound up taking me closer to 2 hours! Crazy traffic, rainy weather, accidents, and just general wacky driving all around!

I did know that I was going to have a long day, so I decided to break out the slow cooker. It becomes like a member of the family once the weather starts to turn chilly. One of my friends is deathly afraid to use one because she’s scared it will burn her house down. I’ve been using one for many years – even since I was a kid – and have never had that problem! In fact I don’t know how I would ever live without it!

I’ve made all kinds of things in my slow cooker – from oatmeal, to meatloaf, to chili, to mac and cheese! This time, I decided to follow the lead of my awesome friend and Zumba instructor, Eva, and make pork in my slow cooker for the first time. This post is what inspired me in the first place. Of course, knowing me, I had to do things a little bit differently, but it came out sooooooooo good!

I took a whole boneless pork loin and trimmed almost all of the fat off. If you take it all off, besides losing flavor, the meat will be pretty dry. I sprayed the inside of my slow cooker with cooking spray and put the pork loin in.

I then added a large can of peeled tomatoes (I forgot they were whole, so I chopped them), a can of tomato sauce, about 3/4 cup of water.

I sliced an onion and about 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, and chopped up a couple of peppers (what I had in the fridge).

I topped it all off with a mix of salt, pepper, Italian herbs, and this crazy awesome stuff called Sheila and Cosmo’s Italian Seasoning. One of my colleagues and her hubby make and sell this stuff themselves, and it ROCKS!

Then I turned on my slow cooker on low and set it for 8 hours – low and slow! When I got home, the house smelled AMAZING – and this is what was for dinner…

Served up over some cooked rice and voila! Italian pork that knocked our socks off!

Do you use a slow cooker?

What’s your favorite slow cooker meal?

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Sunday Prep Day and Pollo Sudado

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To say that I am glad this is a three-day weekend is a major understatement. The last few weeks have been incredibly busy. I’m so glad that I had a chance to finally unwind a bit. Even though I’m off tomorrow, I wanted to stick to my routine and get my shopping and prep done today. Hubby had to go to the office for a while, so I took advantage and hit the grocery store. As you know from last week, my goal is to get out of the store with a bill of $100 or under. Today I flunked. I spent $125 – but I did stock up on a few things, and it included $16 in cat litter which I typically don’t include in my grocery category. So really, I didn’t do too badly. Here is my loot from today:

Not everything made it into the picture either. I had a few other veggies that I had already put away. Now you probably notice one thing that is not typical for me – and there were actually two things that don’t usually make it into my shopping cart. I made a side trip to a small, local produce market that specializes in Latin American foods. I have spent a lot of time in Colombia, so there are times when I get cravings for food from my “second home” (more about that in another post!). I’m sure you see the tomatoes, scallions, and avocados – those are typical fare, along with these two things:

Arepas – corn cakes

Quesito Casero Colombiano – Colombian style fresh white cheese

Arepas are delicious – but very plain all by themselves. I happen to like them toasted with butter  – like you would have regular toast, or with mashed avocado and a little bit of salt. I like to serve them alongside eggs scrambled with tomato, scallions, and cilantro. They can also be topped in lots of different ways, or stuffed with cheese. The queso (cheese) is like what I have there in my scrambled eggs. It’s also great just crumbled on top of a toasted arepa. These are two of the things that help me with my Colombian “homesickness.”

One of the other things that helps me is cooking traditional Colombian food. One of my favorite places to find recipes is a blog called My Colombian Recipes, written by Erica, who was born and raised in Colombia. I have made many of her recipes including Arroz con Pollo (anything with chicken and rice is a hit at my house) and Ajiaco Bogotano (Colombian chicken and potato soup). This was the first time I tried Pollo Sudado – a traditional Colombian chicken stew. As it was cooking, all I could think was “This smells like Colombia!” I made a few variations – but nothing that changed the character of the recipe…just the amounts of veggies. All credit for this one definitely goes to Erica – and it was a real winner with my hubby!

Pollo Sudado (Serves 4)

8 chicken drumsticks or thighs without the skin (I used 6 boneless, skinless thighs because that’s what I had on hand)

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup chopped sweet onion (1/2 large onion)

1 cup chopped red pepper (1 medium pepper)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chopped tomato (I used fresh – you could probably use canned diced, but the flavor won’t be the same)

1 cube chicken bouillon

1 packet Sazón Goya with azafran (typically in the international foods aisle)

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (plus more for garnish)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

8 small potatoes, peeled and cut in half (I used baby reds – that’s what I had)

3 cups water

The ingredients…

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and the red pepper and sauté until onions are translucent – about 3 minutes.

Step 1 – Sauté

Then add the tomatoes, garlic, salt, and pepper and sauté for about 5 more minutes.

Step 2 – Sauté some more!

Add the chicken, water, chicken bouillon, Sazón Goya, and cumin. Bring to a boil and then turn heat to low. Cover and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3 – Add the liquid, seasonings, and chicken.

Add the potatoes and cilantro and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Step 4 – Add potatoes and cilantro.

Serve over white rice. Add more fresh chopped cilantro if desired. I also like to add some fresh avocado chunks!

The finished product!

One of the things I love about this is that it is so simple, yet it is really delicious and it reminds me so much of “home”. Plus, there aren’t too many times when eating potatoes AND rice in the same bowl is actually considered okay!

I hope you enjoy this recipe – and be on the lookout for my post about Colombia, and why I love it so much. It’s going to take me a while to get that all written down… 🙂

WIAW #2 and evil food…

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Happy “What I Ate Wednesday” everybody – and thanks to Jenn at Peas and Crayons for hosting!

Incredibly enough, it’s the first week of October already! I am still in denial. That denial will be made that much easier by the fact that it’s supposed to be close to 80 degrees here in CT on Friday! Say WHAT?!?!?!? Oh well…I’ll take it while I can get it! I absolutely HATE being cold, so the longer it stays warm, the longer I don’t have to deal with ice and snow!

Of course, October means fall is in full swing, and pumpkin spice has invaded everything known to man! I saw a pumpkin beer float with vegan pumpkin ice cream on the Facebook page of one of my favorite Cambridge eateries – Veggie Galaxy. One of my favorite bloggers is doing a whole week of pumpkin recipes over at The Gracious Pantry with today’s yumminess being Clean Eating Pumpkin Candied Popcorn. Yes, please!! I don’t get overly creative with pumpkin, but my favorite thing to do (other than bake a pie) is to make Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal which is seriously like fall in a bowl! (That sounds a little odd, doesn’t it??).

That’s a little mini tasting bowl from the last time I made it. Soooo good and super easy! I’m sure it would work in a slow cooker too, but this was so quick that I didn’t mind at all.

Okay – so now for what I ate today – after all, this is “What I Ate Wednesday”, right??

Breakfast was a ginormous cup of coffee (I really need to stop that habit) along with one of these little babies – a banana chocolate chip muffin! I made them the other day out of some bananas that had truly seen better days…

I love my little bee spoon rest in the background there!  Mid-morning I had my typical Greek yogurt (which I didn’t take a picture of) topped with a few slivered almonds. It was good, but I think I’m getting into a rut. I have to find something new that will still give me that dose of protein I need to get through until lunchtime!

Lunch was a repeat of yesterday – Campbell’s Sweet Potato Tomatillo bisque. Click here to see it, and my little review. I haven’t been feeling well since last Thursday, and soup seems to be doing the trick – somewhat.

I had a Kashi Dark Mocha Almond chewy granola bar at a meeting. I typically don’t like chewy granola bars, but this one was good! Then again, how could you go wrong with mocha, dark chocolate, and almonds! I’ll be looking for this box at the grocery store on Sunday!!

Dinner was one of my go-to meals – my Funky Fried Rice. You can see the original recipe here. I make it a little bit differently every time. This time the protein was tofu, and the greens were a mix of baby spinach, baby bok choy, and baby chard – both red and green. I also added a chopped orange pepper and some slice shiitake mushrooms. You can pretty much make this any way you want to. That’s the great thing about it! That, and the fact that it goes together in about 10 minutes! Here’s what tonight’s version looked like:

It was super yummy! I think I overdid the crushed red pepper a little bit…it was pretty spicy!

Now to the theme for #WIAW – Spooky Snacks and Healthy Halloween Treats! I don’t have any healthy Halloween treats yet, but I do have a spooky snack. This stuff is so good it’s scary! They call it Smartfood, I call it EVIL FOOD!! It’s so good it’s nearly impossible to stop eating it! I have enough trouble with the regular Smartfood…but this is just ridiculous!

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to buy this stuff again… It’s just too good! I literally had to get up and put the bag in the other room to keep me from eating it all!

Thanks for joining me for my second WIAW! Hope you had a great day! Now for the questions of the day…

What’s your “evil food” right now?

Are you a “pumpkin spice” everything kind of person?

Marvelous in my Monday #2

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Happy Monday!

I spent most of my weekend sleeping…stupid cold! I’ve been taking Emergen-C, trying to drink orange juice (doesn’t really agree with my stomach), and trying to rest up. I have been running myself ragged for the last few weeks with my new job, so I’m not surprised that the icky germs finally took hold and knocked me out!!

I got out for a while on Saturday night to help some dear friends celebrate their new home – it’s such a cute, cozy place and I’m sure they will enjoy many years there! We had a great time – drank some wine, ate some yummy food, and laughed the night away!

With all this, I did manage to get some laundry done, and of course I went grocery shopping! My goal for this week was to make it out of the store spending less than $100. I did it! I spent $90.03 and I got all this stuff…

I think that’s pretty good for a little over $90! I used half of the beef to make stew using my favorite recipe from Mark Bittman last night (yummy!). I just do the “regular” recipe, but last night I used garlic infused grapeseed oil to cook the beef. It smelled soooooooooo good in my kitchen!! Of course I have mushrooms, greens, and mixed veggies to make my favorite funky fried rice! The turkey will most likely become chili later in the week, and the chicken will get grilled for salads. I always buy a few different kinds of salad greens – this week was baby spinach, romaine, and a baby arugula mix. I typically have at least 10 Greek yogurts on hand (one for each of us for each day), and I bought some baby cucumbers for snacking. There’s just something refreshing about cucumbers!! I found a new Thai Tomato Coconut soup that sounded interesting, and given my current situation (sick with a cold!!) soup sounded really good to me yesterday. That will probably wind up being lunch tomorrow.

I had another busy day today, but enjoyed a lunch meeting with some colleagues this afternoon at Le Pain Quotidien. I’m sorry now that I didn’t take pictures, but it would have been pretty awkward! Only one of them knows about this blog, and I didn’t think it was really an appropriate time or place to explain! I had gazpacho – which I usually don’t like. I felt like having soup, but the only other option was lentil and I wasn’t in a lentil kind of mood today. The gazpacho was really fresh – and came topped with a few chunks of avocado and a drizzle of basil olive oil. It was delicious as well as pretty! I also had a warm Moroccan chicken salad that had spiced chicken with harissa (a paste of chilis, garlic, herbs, spices, and olive oil), chickpeas, and arugula. It was different from anything I had ever had before, but it was really good! I washed it all down with some green tea, which felt really good on my sore throat.

Well, that’s about it for my MIMM post for this week! Hope everyone else is having a Marvelous Monday! Thanks again to Katie at Healthy Diva Eats for hosting! Have a great week!

What is your comfort food when you’re not feeling well?

Any ideas for how to get rid of this (stupid!!!) cold faster?

Lazy Dinner…

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We all have nights where we really don’t feel like cooking. There are even those nights when take-out is too much trouble. Besides – take-out usually equals too much fat, too much sodium, and too much guilt afterward!! I had one of those nights last night, so I decided to go through my pantry and see what I could find… (You’ll have to excuse my lack of pictures – I wasn’t thinking blog post as I was doing this!!)

I found a bag of vegetable radiatore pasta, a can of artichoke hearts, a jar of roasted peppers, a jar of manzanilla olives, 2 cans of water-packed tuna, a can of chickpeas, a jar of capers, and some vinaigrette. BOOM! Dinner! I boiled the pasta, chopped up the artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and a few olives, drained the chickpeas and tuna, took a couple of tablespoons of capers (drained), and a little of the vinaigrette and tossed it all together to make an AMAZING pasta salad! I also happened to have a little chunk of smoked mozzarella in the fridge, so I cut some into tiny cubes and sprinkled them over the top when I served it.  Quick, cheap, and healthy! Of course you could use whole wheat pasta (which I also had – but I just thought the veggie pasta was pretty!!), add whatever other veggies and stuff you want to. It was a definite hit in our house.

There’s always something healthy hanging around in the pantry…sometimes you just have to be creative to make a meal out of it!

What are some of your favorite pantry staples? Do you have any “toss it all in” recipes that you come back to often for a quick dinner?

A little taste of Mexico…

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This week, I bought a HUGE package of boneless, skinless chicken breast because it was on sale.  I am trying not to overbuy groceries anymore since there are only two of us, but so far we’ve had two meals the white chicken chili and now one of my absolute favorites…fajitas!!

I’m really trying to work on making sure I eat lean protein and veggies at every meal, and this was a good way to get in both.  I snacked on a salad while I was cooking, so that took care of part of the veggies.  I also put extra peppers in the fajitas for good measure.  Usually I make my own fajita marinade, but this time I had found a pouch of sauce at Whole Foods that was very intriguing.  I love the Mexican recipes of Rick Bayless, and I saw some of his products on the shelf last time I was shopping.  I figured I would pick up a few and experiment.  So far, the guacamole mix has been a big hit. Tonight I decided to try the fajita sauce!

In trying to avoid all of the high fat accompaniments (sour cream, cheese, etc.), I decided to add in some healthy monounsaturated fats (and some creamy mouth feel) by using some slices of avocado. Instead of wrapping up all this goodness in a tortilla, I made some rice. Usually I’m not a fan of white rice. In fact, I rarely cook anything but brown rice. In this case, I had a package of rice in the cabinet I wanted to use up, and it happened to be white. I also decided it would probably look better with the plans I had for it…

Deconstructed Chicken Fajitas with Cilantro-Lime Rice

  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 1 sweet onion and 2 bell peppers (I like red & yellow), thinly sliced
  • 1 pouch of Frontera Classic Fajita Skillet Sauce with Chipotle and Lime (or your favorite fajita sauce or marinade)
  • 3 cups hot, cooked rice
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Saute onion and peppers until tender and starting to caramelize. Remove from pan and set aside. Add chicken to skillet and cook through.  Add vegetables back to pan along with fajita sauce and heat through.

In a bowl, combine lime zest, lime juice and chopped cilantro.  Add rice and toss thoroughly.

Garnish with sliced avocado.

Time for a fiesta at my house!!