Cheesy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

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Where do I begin? Recently, one particular boy says I never make casseroles. He’s right, but I was surprised because casseroles are sort of old school. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with that. I started searching for an easy casserole recipe when I stumbled on this one from the Kitchn. Easy it is, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected. This casserole is more of a stew that I ended up serving over rice, not something the original recipe suggests to do. In the end, I think that I’ll need to make a real casserole another day. In the meantime, you’ll enjoy this meal because it’s really easy to prepare, makes plenty of leftovers, and tastes even better the next day.

I changed a few things. I cooked my own chicken thighs and chopped them up rather than buy a rotisserie chicken to shred. I also dumped everything into the casserole pan rather than use a bowl. Saves you from washing yet another item.

Season your chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and cook it up in a heated skillet for about 6 minutes each side. Set it aside and let it cool before you chop it up into bite-sized pieces. You don’t want to burn your hands. In the meantime, dump chopped onion, black beans, canned corn, diced tomatoes, and green chiles in your casserole pan. Throw in a bunch of seasonings: chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and salt. Chop up your cooled chicken and add it to the pan.

Cheesy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Mix it all up and pour a cup of chicken broth over it. Pop it in the oven for 40 minutes until it’s thickened. Yeah, right. This is where the recipe went south. It NEVER thickened. Not even a bit. I suppose the idea was for the liquid to condense, but that didn’t happen. Once I realized this, I quickly made some rice. You can get these quick rice packages that cook in 2 minutes in the microwave. It’s not instant rice! You’re just heating up fully cooked rice. I always have a few on hand for times like these.

While zapping your rice in the microwave, sprinkle a ton of shredded cheese and stick it back in the oven for 5 minutes (not the 10 minutes the recipe states). Let it cool for 15 minutes. Maybe now it’ll thicken? Nope. I think it’s so you don’t burn your tongue.

Serve it over rice garnished with green onions and cilantro.

Cheesy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Not what I expected and frankly, I was disappointed. This wasn’t a casserole at all. It’s a stew! It tasted good, but not fantastic. Whatever. I wasn’t going to let it go to waste so I covered the pan with foil and stuck it in the fridge for another day.

The next day we had salmon for dinner, but the day after that, I pulled out the “casserole” and exclaimed that it was leftovers night. And guess what? It tasted amazing. The flavors infused into something quite special, almost like enchiladas. Not sure if it’s a make again for us, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

Cheesy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Cheesy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/2 large white onion diced
  • 14.5 ounces canned black beans drained and rinsed
  • 14.5 ounces canned corn kernels drained
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 4 ounces diced green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • cooked rice

Instructions
 

  • Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425F.
  • In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook in the skillet for about 6 minutes on each side, until it's browned and cooked through. Set aside to cool.
  • In a 9×13-inch baking dish add white onion, black beans, corn kernels, diced tomatoes and their juices, and diced green chiles (do not drain). Next add chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, ground cumin, and kosher salt.
  • Chop cooled chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the baking dish. Stir to combine. Pour in chicken broth.
  • Bake until the mixture is heated through, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, thinly slice scallions and coarsely chop fresh cilantro.
  • Sprinkle the casserole with 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese and bake until melted, about 5 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with the scallions and cilantro before serving. Serve over rice.

Chicken Stir Fry Noodles

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Noodles are a big hit around here so I’ve been looking for quick and easy noodle bowls. I came across this recipe from eatwell101 that I thought I would try. They claimed you can pull this dish together in 15 minutes. Right. First off, I have to say that this meal was absolutely delicious, but in no way or form does it take 15 minutes to make. Boiling the water and cooking the noodles alone takes more than 15 minutes so I have no idea how they think 15 minutes is enough time. Ok, enough of my complaining. At least it’s super simple to make. Read on. I was up for the challenge, just to prove them wrong.

I got the water started for the noodles. I didn’t time it, but boiling water easily took 7-10 minutes. Cooking the noodles took 12 minutes. How is this a 15 minute meal? Ok, again, I’ll quit my whining.

The original recipe uses chicken breasts, which are leaner, but I typically use thighs. Cheaper and better tasting. Cut them into chunks and pan fry them until barely brown.

Chicken Stir Fry Noodles

Because I was determined to make this in 15 minutes, while the chicken was cooking, I quickly minced a few garlic cloves, shredded a carrot, and chopped up some broccoli. I should have julienned the carrots, but no time for that nonsense!

Once the chicken was half done, I threw in the garlic and carrots. Yikes! I need to make the sauce! I quickly mixed together ginger (which I had to grate…seriously people?), brown sugar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and the kitchen sink. Maybe I should have made the sauce first, but I was following the order of the ingredients. Yes, yes, I should have read the directions first, but I was in a hurry!

During the last 2 minutes of boiling your noodles, throw your chopped up broccoli into the boiling pot of water and let it cook. Drain, and add the pasta and broccoli to the skillet with the chicken. Pour the sauce over and then stir it together until everything’s well mixed.

Chicken Stir Fry Noodles

Whew. It’s done. For such a simple dish, I was exhausted as if I had just completed round 1 of Chopped. Again, how did they make this in 15 minutes?! But I have to say using spaghetti made the dish easy. The sauce was a perfect blend of salty/spicy/sweet. It could have used more broccoli, but I stole a few to dip in ranch. My bad. Best of all, the boys loved it. It’s a make again. Just plan on taking 30 minutes and try to be more zen about it than I was.

Chicken Stir Fry Noodles
Chicken Stir Fry Noodles

Chicken Stir Fry Noodles

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces spaghetti noodles
  • 1 pound skinless.. boneless chicken thighs cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 1 medium carrot julienned or shredded
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • fresh chopped green onions for garnish

Sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot with boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Add the broccoli florets the last 2 minutes of cooking and let them cook with pasta until tender. Drain the noodles and broccoli, and set aside.
  • While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, red pepper, and black pepper in a small bowl.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to a medium-sized skillet and cook chicken in an even layer over medium heat, turning from time to time for 2 or 3 minutes, until slightly golden. Stir in the garlic, and carrots, and cook for a minute more, until cooked through but not overdone.
  • Transfer the cooked spaghetti and broccoli to the skillet, and pour the sauce on top and toss until fully incorporated. Reheat for a couple of minutes and serve the chicken stir fry noodles, garnished with green onions.

Sheet Pan Chicken Meatballs and Charred Broccoli

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I used to be suspicious of sheet pan meals. There’s no way everything can be done at the same time! Now that I’ve tried a few sheet pan recipes with great success (check these out), I think my fear is over. I made this one from BA and it turned out to be another win-win. Be brave with me.

First, you make the sauce. Mix up all the ingredients. Pretty simple. Set some aside to glaze your meatballs (your reserved glazing sauce). Simmer the rest to reduce it down. Set aside (your reduced glazing sauce). You pour this over the meatballs at the end. The reserved stuff will brush the meatballs before you pop them into the oven.

Sheet Pan Chicken Meatballs and Charred Broccoli

Next, prep your broccoli and put them on the a sheet pan lined with foil. BTW, I love broccoli. I eat it practically every day and I’m still not sick of it. Well, maybe it’s because I’m dipping it in ranch, but let’s not speak of that. The point is that I know a lot of you hate it and you can continue being haters. Just leave it off the sheet pan. Or maybe try some cauliflower, carrots, or potatoes, but I honestly don’t know about the cooking times. You might need to pull the veggies off before or after the meatballs are done.

Next make your meatballs. These meatballs are a bit healthier because you use ground chicken. Ground turkey or beef would work well too, but you might have to adjust the cooking times on the beef.

After I mixed all the ingredients together, I found that the meatballs were really wet. If I made these again, I’d probably use half the water and then slowly add more until the consistency was to my liking. When you are done making 12 1.5-diamater meatballs, put them on the baking sheet with the broccoli. Hmmm…I made 13. Close enough.

Sheet Pan Chicken Meatballs and Charred Broccoli

Brush with reserved glazing sauce. Be sure to save some for later. Don’t use the reduced glazing sauce. I know. This is complicated, but delicious.

Bake everything until the meatballs are done, for about 15 minutes.

Sheet Pan Chicken Meatballs and Charred Broccoli

Remove it from the oven, set your oven to broil, brush the rest of your reserved glazing sauce, and broil until the broccoli is charred. Not burnt! Charred is not another word for burnt! Read this.

Pull it out of the oven and serve it over rice. Now drizzle the reduced glazing sauce and nosh. It’s pretty amazing. You’re welcome.

Sheet Pan Chicken Meatballs and Charred Broccoli
Sheet Pan Chicken Meatballs and Charred Broccoli

Sheet Pan Chicken Meatballs and Charred Broccoli

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

Sauce

  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice cooking wine or water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 inches ginger peeled and grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Broccoli and Meatballs

  • 1 1/2 pounds broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil divided
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
  • crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 large egg beaten
  • 4 green onions thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and grated
  • 2 inches ginger peeled and grated
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • cooked rice
  • seasme seeds optional

Instructions
 

  • Mix ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, wine or water, honey, soy sauce, ginger, and pepper in a small saucepan. Measure out 1/4 cup mixture into a small bowl. This is your reserved glazing sauce. Set aside for glazing meatballs later. Bring remaining mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if needed, until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Transfer sauce to a small bowl. This is your reserved glazing sauce.
  • Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 450F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Trim broccoli stems and remove from the crown. Peel off the tough outer skin, if needed. Slice crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut florets into 2-inch pieces. Toss on prepared baking sheet with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of red pepper flakes (optional). Push to the edges of baking sheet to create a space for meatballs. Brush space with the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
  • Mix chicken, egg, scallions, garlic, ginger, panko, sesame oil, pepper, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 cup water in a medium bowl. Gradually add more water (up to another 1/8 cup) until the meat mixture is your preferred consistency.
  • Using wet hands, form into twelve 1 1/2 inch-diameter meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. Brush with some of the reserved glazing mixture. Bake until meatballs are cooked through, 14–18 minutes. Remove from oven.
  • Heat broiler. Brush meatballs with remaining reserved glazing mixture. Broil until broccoli is charred and meatballs are browned in spots, about 5 minutes.
  • Spoon meatballs and broccoli over rice in bowl. Drizzle with reduced glazing sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

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One reason why I think Indian food is so special is because it often requires you to cook your seasonings before using them. This brings out an intense flavor not found in many other dishes. With that said, I decided to try Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala from the kitchn. It’s a wonderful creamy dish with tomatoes and cooked spices that is perfect over rice. And it’s hardly Indian at all. I looked it up and learned that it’s a popular British dish with South Asian roots. Well, this is awkward. This is sort of like saying chimichanga is Mexican food.

While I go research authentic Indian recipes, let’s enjoy this one because I promise that even picky eaters won’t turn this down.

Gather your ingredients and measure them out. Chop up your onion. Mince that garlic. Grate the ginger.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikki Masala

You probably don’t have all these spices in your cupboard. You might be wondering where to get them or when you’ll use them again. I’m happy to say that you should be able to find all of these in your grocery’s spice section. You will not have to go to a specialty store. I recommend getting the smallest containers possible, even if it costs more by weight, because spices lose their taste and potency over time. You really don’t need a tall container of cumin unless you use it a lot.

I changed the recipe order because I didn’t want to dirty up a pan so instead of using a separate pan, I used the saute setting on my slow cooker. Heat oil and then saute your onion for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices, and cook for about 1 minute. When you can smell the spices is just long enough. Add tomato paste and cook for another minute. You want to see that the tomato paste is a little darker than before. Add the diced tomatoes and the rest of the salt. Bring it to a simmer, but to be honest, there was nothing really to simmer. Add the chicken, yogurt, and a teaspoon of salt in your slow cooker and mix it all up.

I cooked this on low for 8 hours. When it was done, I stirred in the cream and served it. The recipe suggests cooking it for another 30 minutes for a thicker sauce, but I found the sauce consistency to be perfect.

Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro. Everyone liked it. The boy did pick out the tomatoes and refused the cilantro (green foods are bad), but they gave this dish two thumbs up. I just like how easy and tasty it is.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikki Masala
Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk (not Greek) plain yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes drained
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  • cooked rice for serving

Instructions
 

  • In a slow cooker, heat the oil using the saute setting. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, garam masala, cumin, and turmeric and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook until darkened in color, about 1 minute. Add the drained tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Place the chicken, yogurt, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in the slow cooker. Stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook on the High setting for 4 hours or Low setting for 8 hours. Stir in the cream. If you prefer a thicker sauce, leave the slow cooker uncovered and cook on the High setting for 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt as needed. Serve garnished with cilantro and serve over rice.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

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Fall is coming up and I want to prepare you with this spin on a chicken noodle soup. I don’t know about you, but I pretty much don’t like canned chicken noodle soup. I know it’s the beloved classic of Americans, but when it’s from a can, the noodles and veggies are mushy. And the chicken? You need a magnifying glass to find any.

I know I just criticized your nostalgic soup so I must be crazy to to tell you to go make some Top Ramen, the crunchy dehydrated nest of god knows what’s in them noodles that you find in every college kitchen. But there’s something sentimental about combining chicken noodle soup with Top Ramen. Reminds me of growing up and then being an “adult” in my first apartment, trying to make ends meet. It’s hot, comforting, and full of noodle goodness.

This recipe comes from Delish, and I’ve thrown in some new twists. Feel free to customize this to your preference with your favorite veggies, or use turkey instead of chicken.

Prep your ingredients. Chop up a couple red peppers and carrots. If you don’t like those, try using celery, broccoli, or bok choy. If you’re a veggie hater, skip it all. Next, thinly slice green onion and mince a few cloves of garlic. Season a couple chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Grab a 4-cup box of low-sodium chicken broth, a couple packages of ramen noodles (throw away the seasoning packets!). Chop some cilantro, cut a lime into wedges, and half another lime to have handy.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Next, heat up some olive oil in a Dutch oven or large soup pot, and saute the chicken breasts until cooked through. Remove when cooked and chop into cubes to the size you prefer. You can skip this step by shredding a rotisserie chicken, but I didn’t have one and I wasn’t about to get into my car to buy one. A word of advice. Always have ground beef, chicken breasts or thighs, and bacon hanging out in your freezer for “emergencies.” Yes, I do have bacon emergencies, but that’s a story for another time.

In the same pot, heat up a little more oil, and toss in your veggies and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until they are softened, but not squishy. Remember, this is not canned soup.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Add chicken broth and simmer. Add your ramen and cook according to the package, about a couple of minutes. Add the cooked chicken and cilantro. Squeeze a lime over it.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Mix it up.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

And that’s it. Serve in a bowl with lime wedges (or not).

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Sit back and enjoy the perfectly cooked veggies with pieces of chicken you can actually see. Slurp up the noodles that your mom scolded you about when you made those sucking noises. Be amazed at how the lime juice improves the taste of the broth, which adds acidity and a little flavor. This soup brings on happiness.

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Ramen Chicken Noodle

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 red bell peppers chopped
  • 2 large carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onions thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 packages ramen noodles discard seasoning packets
  • 1/4 cup cillantro chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • lime wedges optional, for serving

Instructions
 

  • Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Saute chicken until cooked through. Remove from pot, chop into cubes, and set aside.
  • In the same pot, heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Add peppers, carrots, green onions, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft for about 6-8 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer. Add ramen noodles and cook according to package, until tender, for about 2-3 minutes. Stir in cooked chicken, cilantro, and lime juice. Simmer until heated through. Serve in a bowl with lime wedges.

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

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Last week, I shared with you Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets. Lo and behold, I’m still on my foil packets kick. I love Mexican food so let’s make fajitas! I often order fajitas when I go to a Mexican restaurant because I can’t make them at home. Although I do try, no way can I duplicate that sizzling pan experience. Sorry to tell you, but don’t expect this recipe to make up for that. On the other hand, you do get a lot of good flavor without a lot of work that satisfies your cravings. Like the last foil packet recipe, you can cook it on the grill or in the oven. The air quality is still bad here (California is on fire right now) so I’m opting for the oven.

This is a pretty easy recipe. Many thanks to the Kitchn. Slice up red bell peppers (the original recipe calls for green….too bitter!) and red onions. You can use any color pepper or onion. Place them in a large bowl. Rinse and drain a can of black beans, and throw that in. Make sure the beans are well drained. You don’t want to accidentally add any extra liquid or you’ll end up with a drippy mess. You don’t want soggy fajitas.

Add olive oil, taco seasoning, and some salt and pepper. The original recipe doesn’t call for salt, but I think it needs it. Taste your taco seasoning. Not salty enough? Add some salt, mix, and taste it again. It’s really important to taste your food as you cook so the seasoning is how you like it.

After tossing that all together, divide it into four piles on sheets of foil.

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

Need some help on this? Here’s some advice from my previous post:

Now the fun part. Make four large sheets of heavy-duty foil about the size of a small, quarter-sized baking sheet. You could make one sheet and try that out first, and if it’s the right size, make three more of the same size. I took a gamble and eye-balled it, but it worked. You just want to make sure you have about 2″ around the sides for the crimping. If it turns out you made your sheets too small, just make a larger one and place it under the original sheet. It’s all good. There’s no precise science to this. And if you don’t have heavy-duty foil, just double line your packets to prevent leaking.

Season 4 6-ounce chicken breasts with taco seasoning, salt, and pepper. It’s really important that you use breasts as close to 6 ounces or the chicken and veggies won’t be done at the same time. If you can’t find 6-ounce pieces, cut up larger breasts into smaller pieces of approximately 6 ounces.

Next, place each chicken breast on a pile of veggies.

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

Fold the sides and then the edges. Need some help? Check out the tbsp. for directions and pictures. Here’s what mine looked like:

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets
Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets
Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

Grill or oven bake for about 20-25 minutes. Slice chicken into strips and serve with tortillas. I like making a taco, and add grated cheese and guacamole. Super tasty and not a lot of work.

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets
Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

Chicken Fajitas Foil Packets

Ingredients
  

  • 2 medium red bell peppers
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 15 ounces canned black beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning divided
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Instructions
 

  • Grilling method: Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high, direct heat. Oven method: Preheat oven to 425F.
  • Slice red bell peppers and red onions, and add to a large bowl. Drain and rinse black beans. Add beans to the bowl. Add olive oil, 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning, salt (to taste), and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Toss to combine.
  • Prepare 4 (10-inch long) sheets of aluminum foil. Use heavy-duty foil or double sheets to prevent leaking.
  • Divide the vegetable mixture among the 4 sheets of foil, leaving a 2-inch border on all sides.
  • Season chicken breasts with the remaining 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning, salt (to taste), and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place a breast on each vegetable pile.
  • Fold the sides of the foil to meet over the center. Crimp the edges together to create completely sealed packets.
  • Grilling method: Place the packets directly onto the grill grates, cover, and grill until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Oven method: Place packets on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes before opening the packets and serving. Serve with tortillas and your favorite fixings.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

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It’s the end of August. School started a couple weeks ago, which typically marks the end of summer. With the boy in school, it’s impossible to go on a vacation, which is hard because Labor Day seems to be my end of summer. The weather is still hot and I’m ready for a last trip, even if it’s just a quick getaway to Tahoe. Alas, none of that is going to happen this year so one must make do with what one has.

This is where the pineapple comes in. The pineapple? Yes, the pineapple. The pineapple is synonymous with tropical, fun, vacation, and relaxation. It can be eaten plain. It can be controversial (on pizza). It makes a great foo-foo drink (pina colada). And frankly, it’s one of the cutest fruits around. Rejoice the pineapple!

Next, there’s barbecue, another symbol of summer. I’m not going to go into the discussion of barbecue versus grilling. That’s for another day. Today I’m just writing about that delicious, sweet, and tangy saucy stuff. It’s like summer in a bottle. Work with me here.

Camping. I love it. Some of you hate it and I still like you, but for those campers out there, the foil packet is a treasured item. Take some meat. Take some veggies. Shake some salt and pepper over it. Wrap it up. Throw it on the fire or grill. Voila! Dinner!

So I was pretty happy when I found this recipe to help with this staycation: Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets. And it’s super easy.

First, heat up the grill. I’m including this part of the recipe for you grillers out there, but I decided to oven bake mine because I didn’t feel like standing in front of the grill when it’s a million degrees. I compromised by heating up my air-conditioned house with a 425F oven. First world problems.

Cut your pineapple (yay!) into chunks. I cheated and used pineapple my grocery store already cut up for me. I think cheating is perfectly acceptable. You can used canned pineapple too. Or you can cut up a whole pineapple. The choice is up to you.

Slice up your veggies: onions and bell peppers. The original recipe (thank you Kitchn!) called for red onions and green bell peppers. I was all out of red onions, which was a shocker because that never happens around here. I have a constant supply for my big-ass salads. (To clarify, the salads are big, not my ass.) But I did find some white onions leftover from our tacos the other day. Next, I was supposed to use green bell peppers. Ummm. Just no. They are bitter and not tropical at all. You want a red pepper. You can sub for yellow or orange too. Just don’t use green unless you really like them.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Place your fruits and veggies in a bowl and pour in a cup of your favorite barbecue sauce. My favorite lately is Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce, and I’m not getting any money for saying that. Then, throw in some salt and pepper, and mix it up.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Now the fun part. Make four large sheets of heavy-duty foil about the size of a small, quarter-sized baking sheet. You could make one sheet and try that out first, and if it’s the right size, make three more of the same size. I took a gamble and eye-balled it, but it worked. You just want to make sure you have about 2″ around the sides for the crimping. If it turns out you made your sheets too small, just make a larger one and place it under the original sheet. It’s all good. There’s no precise science to this. And if you don’t have heavy-duty foil, just double line your packets to prevent leaking.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Scoop four equal servings of the pineapple mixture on each sheet. Take four boneless, skinless chicken breasts seasoned with salt and pepper, and place it on the pineapple mixture. Pour 1/4 cup of sauce on top of the chicken. Spoiler alert! This is a very saucy dish. I think I would have used less sauce in the pineapple mixture or just brush a little sauce on the chicken. For many of you, you’ll serve this over rice and the quantity of sauce is perfect. Not so much for the rest of you.

Wrap up your chicken and pineapple mixture. Fold the long sides to the middle and crimp. Fold up the ends to seal. I found a really good article on the tbsp. that explains exactly how to do this, with pictures and everything. Mine are not perfect, and that’s ok.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Place your packets on the grill or in an oven (on a sheet pan) for about 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the veggies are tender. I used my trusty meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature chicken was 165F. Just poke through the top of the packet to check. You don’t need to unwrap it. Yes, you will let some of the steam escape, but overall, no harm is done.

After it’s cooked, let the packet rest for about 10 minutes, and then open the packets CAREFULLY to avoid getting a wave of unpleasant, hot steam in your face or burning your fingers. Serve all that goodness over rice or skip it. Deliciousness. The pineapple makes it sweet, but not too much. I think the milder white onion (instead of strong red) along with the red pepper (instead of bitter green) is a much better combination that complements the pineapple perfectly. The sauce gives it a tang to mellow the sweetness out. It’s summer wrapped in a packet.

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets
Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Pineapple BBQ Chicken Foil Packets

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups pineapple cut in chunks
  • 1 medium white onion sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper sliced
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper divided
  • 4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • flat parsley leaves optional, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Heat an outdoor grill to medium-high, direct heat. For oven cooking, preheat the oven to 425F.
  • Place chunked pineapple, sliced onion, and sliced red pepper in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the barbecue sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Toss to combine.
  • Prepare 4 sheets of aluminum foil about the size of a quarter sheet pan, approximately 10 inches. Use heavy-duty aluminum foil or double wrap.
  • Divide the vegetable mixture among the 4 sheets of foil, leaving a 2-inch border on all sides. Season 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place a breast on each vegetable pile. Pour a 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce over each chicken breasts.
  • For each packet, fold the long sides of the foil to meet over the center, and then fold and crimp the short ends to create a sealed packet.
  • Grill cooking: Place the packets directly onto the grill grates, cover, and grill until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Oven cooking: Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 425F for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes before opening the packets and serving. When served, garnish with parsley (optional).

Campfire Stew

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This summer has been a strange one so when our annual camping trip came around, I was both nervous and excited. Nervous…the virus…need I say more? And excited…I really needed to get out of the house before I lost my mind.

If you do have the opportunity to go camping this summer, go for it. Easy to physical distance and just wear a mask if you do come in contact with others, which wasn’t very often. Camping cleared my mind and gave it a rest from the sensory overload that is my life. I spent a week without news, emails, social media, and work, and gained a week of books, floats on the river, and s’mores, which leads me to the point of this blog. Cooking!

Cooking at camp has been a love/hate relationship for me. I want to try all these fancy meals (oh someday I’ll make a dutch oven cake!), but there are a few complications. The dust. The wind. The bees. Oh, the bees! My nemeses while cooking. Plus our camp stove takes forever to heat up anything. What’s this girl to do?

My strategy is to make our dinners at home and heat them up on the stove. I found the perfect recipe for such a situation: Campfire Stew. I made it for this past camping trip for the first time and it was delicious. I just wish I had remembered to take pictures of me heating it up on our old-school Coleman camp stove, but I was distracted by the dust, wind, and bees. “Damn you bees!” as I shake my fist at them.

Start out by cooking whole chicken thighs seasoned with salt and pepper for about 7 minutes until there’s a nice golden brown sear on them. Flip and throw in some chopped onions and minced garlic.

Campfire Stew

Cook for another 7 minutes until the thighs are cooked through. You will be cooking them a little more, but they shouldn’t be raw. BTW, thighs are really forgiving, especially compared to breasts, which dry up if you cook them just a tiny bit too long.

When the chicken is cooked, chop it up into large chunks. At this point, I let it cool and put it in a Ziploc bag. At camp, I will heat up the chicken, add the rest of the ingredients, dodge the bees, and serve. You could do this at home, which for purposes of this blog, I’ll show you what comes next.

Place the chicken back in the skillet, and add seasonings and canned tomatoes. Stir. Add sliced olives and beans.

Campfire Stew

Stir again and simmer until it’s heated through. Take a picture. Ignore that your kid photo-bombed your photo. The food still tastes good.

Campfire Stew

For camp cooking, some might say this looks fancy (work with me here…it looks fancy when served in a disposable plastic bowl along with the finest white plastic cutlery).

Campfire Stew

It’s not the same as grilling a hot dog on a stick (which is amazing in its own right), but this stew is very tasty without a lot of work. I’m impressed at how the flavors meld together without a lot of cooking time. Just a few basic ingredients becomes a quick, delicious meal. Now I have more time to float in the river.

Campfire Stew

Campfire Stew

Ingredients
  

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large onion diced
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 15 ounces diced canned tomatoes
  • 2 1/4 ounces canned sliced olives well drained
  • 15 ounces canned cannellini beans do not drain

Instructions
 

  • Heat oil in a skillet. Salt and pepper the chicken. Cook chicken for about 7 minutes. Flip and add onionis and garlic. When chicken is cooked through and the onions are slightly softened, remove chicken from skillet and cut into large chunks.
  • Add the chicken back in the skillet. Add thyme, mint, oregano, and tomatoes. Stir. Add olives and beans. Stir. Simmer until heated through.

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

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These chicken and rice bowls are amazing. Flat out amazing. There are a lot of ingredients and you need an Instant Pot (go out and buy one already! here’s another reason why!), but it’s totally, completely worth it. Thank you kitchn!

First, do your prep. The kitchn says to do it as you go, but I disagree. Because there are a lot of ingredients, I would rather be prepared than frantically chopping chicken and opening cans. So…dice up an onion. Mince a couple cloves of garlic (lately I’ve been using a microplane/zester and finding it faster). Measure out some chili powder and cumin. Open your cans of broth and black beans. Cut chicken thighs into 1-inch chunks, and season with salt and pepper. Grab the frozen corn, a jar of salsa, and rice. Shred some cheese and chop up fresh cilantro. Whew. Ok, take a break. Admire your work.

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

In your Instant Pot, heat some oil until shimmering, which means there are little ripples rolling in it. Or you can just time it to about 2 minutes or so. Throw in the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion is soft. Be sure to stir it occasionally so the garlic doesn’t burn. Stir in your seasonings and cook until it smells really good, which is really only about a half a minute. I mean it’ll continue smelling good, but don’t get distracted. Add some chicken broth, scrap the bits from the bottom, and simmer for a minute.

Add chicken, beans, corn, and salsa. Stir. Now the technical part: pour the rice over this. Do NOT stir. You might feel compelled to submerge the rain. Just leave it be. Trust me on this one. You’ll then pour some more broth over it, but again, don’t stir.

Set the pressure to high for 10 minutes and let it do its thing. Go watch the news. Actually, don’t watch the news. It’s super depressing these days. Go make a salad instead. It’s better for you than the news.

It’ll take about 10-12 minutes to come to pressure, and I have to say, I love it when Instant Pot recipes tell you this. Yes, it’s faster to cook in an Instant Pot, but when the recipe tells you to cook it for 10 minutes, it’s really at least double than that.

After the Instant Pot beeps, quick release the pressure and then carefully open the lid. Don’t panic when you see the rice sitting on top looking raw. I promise you it’s fully cooked. Just stir everything together, scoop some into a bowl, and top with shredded cheese and chopped cilantro.

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

The cheese is all gooey. The beans are all soft. The rice is all tender. Oh, deliciousness! What’s not to love? This one is a make again.

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Burrito Bowls

Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 15 ounces canned black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 16 ounces salsa
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, or a blend)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro coarsely chopped

Instructions
 

  • Add the oil to the Instant Pot, turn on saute setting. Heat until shimmering.
  • Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes.
  • Stir in the chili powder and cumin. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the chicken broth. Cook, gently scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to loosen any stuck-on bits, and simmer for 1 minute.
  • Season the chicken with the salt and pepper. Add the chicken, beans, corn, salsa, and stir to combine.
  • Sprinkle the rice over the top. Pour the remaining 3/4 cup broth over the rice, but do not stir.
  • Using the manual setting, set the pressure to HIGH for 10 minutes. Close and lock the lid. It should take the pressure cooker about 10 to 12 minutes to come to pressure and begin the 10 minute countdown. When the cooking time is complete, do a quick release of the pressure.
  • Gently stir everything together. Divide between bowls and top with the cheese and cilantro.

Skillet Chicken and Tortellini

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This is super simple and quarantine friendly. All you need is chicken (oh please tell me you can still buy that), cherry tomatoes, and pasta. The original recipe (from The Food Network) calls for ravioli, but the hoarders took it all so I settled for tortellini, which frankly, worked out better in my opinion. We skipped the mushrooms because the boys detest them. The younger boy just had to deal with the tomatoes. Life is rough.

Boil your tortellini. You really can use any type of pasta. The shelves are bare of most pasta except spaghetti, which you can easily use here if that’s all you have. Be sure to salt you water (I just pour a bunch until it’s almost like the sea). When they are cooked (al dente!), drain and drizzle with a little olive oil so the pasta doesn’t stick while you work on the rest of the stuff.

Cut your chicken breasts into chunks, and then season with salt and pepper. I used what the recipe calls for, 1.25 pounds of chicken, but next time I’m using just a pound. That’s plenty. Gather the rest of your ingredients together.

Skillet Chicken and Tortellini

If your store is out of chicken breasts, you can substitute with thighs. In a pinch, you can probably use chicken sausage or rotisserie chicken. Heat up a pan with olive oil and cook until browned, but not cooked all the way through. If you are using rotisserie chicken, don’t season the meat and skip this step. Once cooked, transfer to a plate and set aside.

Skillet Chicken and Tortellini

In the same pan, saute tomatoes, garlic, and vinegar. I love the colors here. Cook a bit until the tomatoes are soft.

Skillet Chicken and Tortellini

Return the chicken to the skillet and then add your pasta, broth, and Parmesan cheese. I was a bit heavy handed with the cheese. You can never have too much cheese. Or bacon. Mmmm…now I wish I had thrown in some diced cooked bacon into this. That would have been good. Next time.

Skillet Chicken and Tortellini

Cook all this until the chicken is cooked through. That’s it. I told you it was easy.

Skillet Chicken and Tortellini

My biggest fear was that it was too simple and would be bland. Definitely not. The boys dug in and I barely had any leftovers. The garlic and tomatoes added most of the flavor while not making it heavy at all. I would call this pretty healthy if you’re not watching your carbs. If you are, there’s a lot of chicken here so it is protein forward.

Skillet Chicken and Tortellini

Skillet Chicken and Tortellini

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • Kosher salt
  • 9 ounces tortellini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into chunks
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
  • 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese grated
  • fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Bring a pot to a boil. Salt water. Add tortellini and cook al dente. Drain. Drizzle and toss with olive oil.
  • Meanwhile, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken. Cook, undisturbed, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring, 1 more minute. Transfer to a plate.
  • In the same skillet, add tomatoes, garlic, and vinegar. Cook until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet and add the tortellini, broth, and Parmesan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Garnish with the parsley.