Monday, January 28, 2013

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I love Mexican food, but it's not always the healthiest choice when you're eating out. So I'm always on the lookout for a recipe that isn't too heavy on the fat or cheese, and this adaptation of a recipe I found online fit the bill. While it isn't a fast and easy weeknight recipe, with a little planning it can be. For example, you could substitute rotisserie chicken for the chicken thighs. Or, you could roast the chicken thighs the night before or prep the whole casserole on the weekend to be baked on Monday night (in which case you would need to leave the casserole out to bring to room temperature or increase the cooking time). If you're on the lookout for a fast and easy chicken enchilada recipe, you might want to check out this one  from my files for a weeknight meal and try the recipe that follows on the weekend. But please try it, because it is very, very good.

4 servings (10 WW pts. + per serving)
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
cooking spray
chili powder
1/3 cup freshly chopped cilantro
3 oz Neufchatel  cheese(reduced calorie cream cheese)
salt and pepper
2 cups chopped onions, divided
6 chopped garlic cloves, divided
1 cup lower sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup salsa verde
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup shredded lowfat Mexican cheese
9 (6 inch) corn tortillas
Optional:  2 tbs chopped jalapenos

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

  1. 2. Place chicken thighs in a baking pan and seaons  with cumin and chili powder. Spray with nonstick spray. Cook for 20 minutes, turn over, and return to oven for 20 minutes more. Let cool for 15 minutes then shred chicken with 2 forks.   Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, corn, Neufchatel cheese, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Set aside.
  2. 3. Spray a nonstick skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup onion; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 garlic cloves; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add onion mixture to chicken mixture; stir to combine.
  3. 4. Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups onion, remaining 3 garlic cloves, broth, salsa, 1/4 cup water (and jalapeño, if desired) in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to blend completely (or let cool 10 minutes and puree in a blender).
  4. 5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tortillas; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove tortillas from pan; repeat procedure with remaining tortillas. Cut tortillas into quarters.
  5. 6. Spread 1/2 cup salsa mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 12 tortilla quarters over salsa mixture. Spoon half of chicken mixture over tortillas. Repeat layers, ending with tortillas. Pour remaining salsa mixture over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Top with remaining cilantro.
  6. *********************************************************************
  8. This was absolutely worth the little bit of effort it took to put together. The salsa verde adds just enough spice for me and the serving is quite generous. A bonus is that it is even better reheated!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Easy Garlic Chicken

I'm always on the lookout for recipes that use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I prefer dark meat despite its slightly higher fat content and buy this cut in bulk and repackage it in freezer bags. It's not only delicious and versatile, it's economical as well.  While I have many ways to prepare Asian-style garlic chicken, I don't remember ever using butter in the marinade.  The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of butter, which was far more butter than a pound of chicken called for. The 3 tablespoons  was more than sufficient. The original recipe also called for soy sauce, but I prefer teriyaki. If you want dinner on the table with very little fuss, give this one a try.

3 tbs butter
3 tbs low sodium teriyaki sauce
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbs chopped parsley
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray. In a microwave safe bowl, heat butter, teriyaki sauce, garlic, and parsley until butter melts.  Brush both sides of the chicken with all of the butter mixture. Bake 20 minutes, turn chicken and baste. Bake another 20 minutes, turn chicken and baste. Cook chicken under the broiler another 3-4 minutes on each side, until browned.
I was very pleased with the results of this easy recipe. The chicken was exceedingly moist and flavorful. Nothing beats butter for a satisfying mouth feel. I will be making this chicken often and plan to try it on chicken breasts as well as thighs. There is plenty of  "sauce" left over for those who want an accompaniment for their rice.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I'm a Believer--Overnight Irish Oatmeal

I spend time nearly every day reading my favorite blogs and following links on those blogs, widening my circle of "must reads" and filling my Pinterest boards with great new ideas. One of the more "pinteresting" ideas I came across this week was a very easy method for cooking Irish oatmeal. If you haven't tried Irish oatmeal (steel cut oatmeal),   I urge you to do so. In my opinion, it bears no resemblance to the mush that is regular oatmeal. It is nutty, has a bit of bite left to it, and provides a healthy, filling breakfast. The downside for me was that it took 30 minutes to make with a bit of attention necessary (stirring to keep it from sticking).
Thanks to my addiction for reading about food, I can now have Irish oatmeal whenever I want and with a minimum of effort.

To make 4 servings, the night before, using a large* saucepan bring 4 cups of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Pour in 1 cup of steel cut oats and stir. Cover, turn off the heat but leave on the same burner (the residual heat helps cook the oatmeal), and leave overnight. You'll awaken in the morning with nothing more to do than put your serving in a bowl and reheat it in the microwave.

*the large saucepan is to accommodate the continued boil even after the heat is turned off; I didn't use a large enough pan the first time and had spillage all over the stovetop

Aside from delicious oatmeal ready in the few minutes it takes to reheat in the microwave, clean up was a snap since there was no chance of the oatmeal sticking. Some of my favorite add in's are:

chopped apple sprinkled with cinnamon
peanut butter
sliced almonds

Monday, January 7, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Tacos

I enjoy using my new slow cooker both for the ease of preparation and clean up as well as for the way it allows me to take the "fix it and forget it" approach to cooking (after all, there are quilts to be made, books to be read, sales to be investigated). When I saw a recipe for chicken and black bean tacos on Skinnytaste, I decided to give it a try. With minor modifications, here is the recipe:

Slow Cooker Black Bean and Chicken Tacos

Servings: 4 • Size: 3 tacos •  Points+: 8 pt 
Calories: 313 • Fat: 8 g • Carb: 41 g • Fiber: 8 g • Protein: 22 g • Sugar: 4 g
Sodium: 716 mg (without added salt)


  • 12 oz raw skinless chicken tenders or breast
  • 15 oz can low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed (Goya)
  • 10 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp plus 1/8th tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano 
  • 1 medium scallion, diced
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
For the Slaw: 
  • 1 1/3 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar 
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
For the Taco:
  • 12 crisp corn taco shells
Optional toppings: (not calculated)

  • low fat sour cream
  • pico de gallo
  • 1 medium haas avocado, sliced
  • salsa
  • fat free shredded cheese


Season chicken with pinch of salt, garlic powder, oregano, and half the chili powder and  cumin. 
Add the beans and tomatoes to the crock pot and season with the remaining chili powder and cumin. Place chicken in the crock pot and cover. 
Cook on HIGH 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Meanwhile, combine shredded cabbage with vinegar and oil, season with salt to taste; set aside. 

Remove chicken from the crock pot and shred with two forks. Drain bean and tomato mixture and transfer to a platter, or back to the crock pot to keep warm. Top with shredded chicken, scallions and cilantro.

To serve, warm the taco shells according to package directions. Fill with equal amounts of bean and chicken mixture. Top with cabbage and your favorite toppings.
You'll be clamoring to move dinner up when you smell this cooking. I topped my tacos with low fat sour cream and the cabbage slaw and they were delicious. Next time, I'll add some avocado as well. The 3 tacos were very filling along with a tossed salad. The chicken and black beans would be equally delicious served over some yellow rice.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Another Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

I've come to the conclusion that the real reason I buy spiral hams are so I can squirrel away the bone to use for split pea soup. I dutifully wrapped and froze the bone from the Christmas ham and with the weather forecast predicting very chilly weather for the rest of the week, today seemed the perfect day to whip up a batch. I've posted other recipes for split pea soup, some made in my Dutch oven and others in the crock pot. This is a simple recipe, but it yields a lot of wonderful, thick split pea soup. I love making it in the crock pot because it's so easy. You don't have to soak the peas and the texture is perfect. An added bonus is that  the soup freezes well.

1 lb dried green split peas, rinsed and picked over
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 ham bone (with a generous serving of ham attached)
1/2 - 1 tsp garlic powder
2 cubes of chicken bouillon
6 cups water

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker, nestling the hambone in the center. Cook on high for 5-6 hours. Really, can it get any easier than that? And it makes a lot of soup!

This is a great way to get your veggies in. The carrots make the soup sweet and the absence of potatoes makes it leaner. All you need are some croutons and dinner is served. The soup is very thick; if you prefer it thinner, use some low-salt chicken broth or water.