Three Ways with Shredded Chicken

When I’m meal planning for the week, sometimes I like to just cook a bunch of chicken, shred it, and save it to use in various dishes throughout the week. It cuts down on time spent preparing meals after a long day of work, and you can switch up what you’re going to make with it. Here are three of my go-to meals using shredded chicken.

Salsa Chicken Tacos

All you have to do for these tacos is mix your chicken with your favorite salsa and put it on a tortilla. Doesn’t get much simpler than that! My favorite toppings to go with the salsa chicken are avocados, shredded cheese, sliced onions, halved grape tomatoes, and fresh cilantro.

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Summer Salad

I love a hearty salad with fresh summer produce, and chicken adds extra protein to it. My favorite summer salad uses butter lettuce, Vidalia onions, strawberries, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, and chicken, drizzled with avocado ranch. You can also add toasted sunflower seeds for some added crunch.

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Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese

I love grilled cheese, and I love buffalo chicken, so what’s a more perfect combo than a Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese? I make my own buffalo sauce (see recipe below photo), toss the chicken in it, and use sharp cheddar and American cheese on the sandwich. You can either make your grilled cheese in a panini press or just in a skillet (what I do).

Here’s my recipe for homemade buffalo sauce:

1/2 cup of hot sauce (I use Texas Pete)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1. Stir together all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.

2. Bring to a slow boil while stirring constantly.

3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

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Moroccan Halibut en Papillote

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Now that it’s officially summer, it’s time to cook light and easy dishes that won’t weigh you down after a day spent out in the heat. I love cooking seafood in the summer, and a nice, light fish dish is always my go to. It still packs a punch of protein but I always feel better after eating fish than a heavy meat dish.

This weekend, I had a friend over for dinner and we decided it was a perfect summer night for some seafood. We thought about making fish tacos, but after evaluating my pantry stock, I was inspired to make a Moroccan dish. I think I’ve mentioned my Try the World box subscription before, but I had some spices and couscous from last month’s Morocco box that I hadn’t tried out yet, and I was ready to experiment. We picked up some halibut fillets from Whole Foods and decided to make halibut en papillote (in parchment paper packets). Cooking fish en papillote may sound fancy, but it’s actually so easy and so quick. You just throw everything together in the little packet with some oil and it all cooks together. To learn how to make and fold parchment paper packets, check out these instructions.

For my Moroccan-inspired halibut, I seasoned the fish with a little salt first, then sprinkled kefta rub on top, added some tomatoes, garlic, raisins, and herbs to the packet, and drizzled it with culinary Argan oil. Argan oil is a traditional Moroccan oil, but feel free to use olive oil instead.

Once everything was ready to go, I folded up the packet (learn how to fold a packet here) and stuck in the oven.

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12 minutes later, we had perfectly cooked flaky halibut.

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The taste of this Moroccan halibut was so delicious and flavorful. The kefta rub gave it just the right amount of seasoning without overwhelming the flavor of the fish, and the Argan oil imparted a nutty taste. The tomatoes cooked down and the raisins (also typical to Moroccan cuisine) were a sweet complement to the spiced kefta taste. I served the halibut over couscous with sautéed green beans.

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I will absolutely be making this dish again. You can also play with the elements of your packet and the vegetables you include and seasonings you use. Get creative and let this Moroccan dish inspire you!

Moroccan Halibut en Papillote
(makes 2 servings)

2 (6oz) halibut fillets
Sprinkle of salt
1 tsp. kefta rub
3 Tbsp. Argan or olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
Grape tomatoes, halved
Raisins
Parsley
Parchment Paper
Hot cooked couscous

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Place one fillet on one half of each parchment paper packet. Lightly sprinkle each halibut fillet with salt. Rub 1/2 tsp. of kefta rub on top of each fillet.

3. Arrange garlic, tomatoes, raisins, and parsley to your preference with fish on one half of parchment paper. Drizzle with oil, about one and a half tablespoons over each fillet. Fold paper in half and crimp edges to seal. See instructions here.

4. Bake for 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

5. Remove fish from packet and serve over couscous.

Putting Together the Perfect Picnic Cheeseboard

It’s finally picnic season and I couldn’t be happier. Now is the perfect time to get outside and eat alfresco, while the weather is warm but not too hot yet.

I had been feeling really inspired lately to have a picnic after I received the cutest book in the mail at work (perks of the job – we get to review cookbooks) called The Picnic.

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I absolutely loved everything about it — the cover design, the recipes, and most importantly, the picnic tips. It’s packed with everything from coming up with a themed picnic menu to 99 ways to use a Mason jar to a blanket buying guide.

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I showed the book to all my friends and they loved it, too. We were looking for the perfect excuse to have a picnic when opportunity presented itself to us, tied up in a perfect little picnic basket. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens was having an event called Flicks Among the Flowers, where they show a movie outside on the lawn. People are free to pack a picnic and bring in whatever snacks or food they want.

We knew this was our chance to go all out for the first picnic of the season. My friend Lindsay made a delicious pasta salad with homemade pesto and I decided that I wanted to put together a cheeseboard for our perfect picnic. I love cheese, and there’s nothing I love more than a good cheeseboard. I checked my pantry to see what accompaniments I had and set off to pick the perfect cheeses.

Generally, you want to aim to have at least one cheese from each type of milk – goat, cow, and sheep. You also want to vary the cheeses in texture and looks. So some soft cheeses, some hard, and some semi-hard.

I decided on four cheeses to give a good variety. Once I selected my cheeses, I got some extra additions to put out on the board (almonds and dried fruit) and matched what accompaniments I already had to the cheeses I picked. I already had a large variety of honeys, jams, and spreads that were from various places, people, and some from my Try The World box subscription. (Side note: if you haven’t heard of Try The World, you definitely need to check it out. Each box is themed from a different country and is full of food products from that country. I love it!)

Here are the cheeses (and their respective accompaniments) that I used:

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The Cheese: La Tur by Murray’s Cheese (bottom left in photo)
This is a triple cream cheese made from cow, goat, and sheep milk. It smelled strong, but wasn’t extremely strong tasting. It was earthy, rich, and super creamy. The edges were melty and the inside was slightly firmer but perfectly spreadable on a cracker.
Type: Triple cream, soft cheese
Paired with: I didn’t pair anything with it specifically because it’s a stronger cheese, but we did try it drizzled with lavender honey, and that was a good combination.

The Cheese: Skellig Cheese by Kerrygold (bottom right in photo)
I knew I wanted a harder cheese on the board, so I was looking for an aged cheddar. I came across Skellig Cheese by Kerrygold and was intrigued by its description as a sweet cheddar. This is now one of my favorite types of cheese. It was rich, sharp, and finished sweet. It was so good.
Type: Cow’s milk, semi-hard to hard
Paired with: I paired this with lavender honey, but also excellent on its own.

The Cheese: Apple Smoked Gouda Cheese by Red Apple Cheese (top right in photo)
I love gouda cheese, so there was no way it was going to be missing from my board. Smoked gouda is a good option to provide some variety and a different taste to the board. This apple smoked gouda had a flavor profile that was nutty, with notes of applewood and smoky flavors, but the smoked taste didn’t overwhelm the cheese. It was the perfect balance because some smoked goudas can be too smoky. It was also a good texture that fell between the harder cheddar and the soft triple cream and goat cheese.
Type: Cow’s milk, semi-hard
Paired with: Chestnut spread from my French Try The World box. The sweet nuttiness of the chestnuts paired well with the nuttiness of the gouda.

The Cheese: Goat Cheese by Ile de France (top left in photo)
It’s not hard to find good goat cheese, and I normally get mine from a local farm called Stone Hollow Creamery but I was in a pinch this time and just grabbed some goat cheese from the grocery store. Ile de France makes a pretty good goat cheese if you’re looking for an affordable option for your board. It’s creamy, has a distinctive goat cheese taste, and is a good spreading cheese.
Type: Goat’s milk, soft cheese
Paired with: Fig Jam, also from my French Try The World box. Goat cheese pairs well with any fruity jam.

There are so many great cheeses that make for wonderful cheeseboards. Play with different combinations of types, textures, and flavors and I promise you’ll be the envy of every picnic!

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

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So I have this trick. And it might change your homemade pizza game forever.

Here in the South, everyone owns a cast iron skillet, and they cook everything from chicken to cornbread in it. Many people even have well-seasoned ones that have been passed down to them. But my mom never cooked in cast iron so I bought my first one about a year ago to teach myself how to cook in one. What my mom did teach me though (among many other things) was how to make homemade pizza. She would make the dough and we would help roll it out and choose our favorite toppings. Homemade pizza night was always a favorite night in our household, and I still like to make it for myself.

One night last year, after moving into my solo apartment, I realized my roommates were always the ones with pizza pans and I didn’t actually own one myself. I had already bought all the ingredients to make pizza and wasn’t going to give up on this. I thought about making it on a baking sheet but then I caught a glimpse of my cast iron skillet and thought “…what if?”

I don’t want to brag, but it.was.genius. The crust turned out so much crispier than pizza made on any pizza pan or pizza stone I’ve tried. The crust edges were perfectly crisp to bite into and chewy on the inside and the bottom crust was so crispy that you could hold up your piece of pizza and not worry about it flopping over and losing your toppings. Now, baking my pizza in a cast iron skillet is the only way I do it.

I’m not really giving you a recipe here for pizza, but this is more of a technique post. You can use pre-made (not pre-cooked) fresh pizza dough from your grocery store’s bakery or your favorite dough recipe, and choose whatever toppings you like. Here, I’m demo-ing with a margherita pizza and just used pre-made dough for ease (but homemade is always better).

First, and probably most importantly, you have to grease your skillet, and grease it well. I pour a little olive oil into the pan and then rub it all over the bottom and up the sides with a paper towel. If you don’t do this, your pizza will not come out easily.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Roll out your dough to desired thickness and fit into greased skillet. Fold over edges for crust (I like a thick crust). Using a fork, poke holes in dough all over. Put skillet with dough in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. This helps to crisp the crust a little first so the toppings don’t make it soggy.

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Take skillet out of the oven very carefully using oven mitts, as skillet will be EXTREMELY hot. Put on a heatproof surface and top your crust with desired toppings. I did sauce….

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…cheese (in this case, I used fresh mozzarella)…

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…and more cheese (Parmesan this time) and seasonings.

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Return skillet to oven and bake for another 15 or so minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly and crust is golden brown.

Remove skillet from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Transfer pizza to a cutting board (it should slide right out if you greased your pan well) to slice it (you should not attempt to use a knife or pizza cutter while pizza is still in the skillet). Enjoy!

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Here are those steps condensed:

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

1. Grease skillet well with olive oil.
2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
3. Roll out dough and fit into skillet. Fold over edges. Poke holes all over in dough using a fork.
4. Bake dough in skillet for 10 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and top with desired toppings.
6. Return to oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly and crust is golden brown.
7. Slide pizza out of skillet and cut on cutting board.

Some of my favorite topping combinations are as follows:

Margherita

Italian red sauce
Fresh mozzarella
Grated parmesan
Italian seasoning
Fresh basil (when I have it)

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Barbecue (sorry I don’t have a pic!)

Barbecue sauce
Shredded cooked chicken
Red onions
Colby-Jack cheese

Fig and Goat Cheese

Olive oil as sauce base
Fresh figs
Goat cheese
Toasted walnuts
Arugula
Balsamic drizzle

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Sun-Dried Tomato Guacamole

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Hola amigos! Sorry I’ve been MIA for the past 10 days — I was on vacation in Aruba! More on that coming soon. So anyway tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, and even though it’s not a traditional Mexican holiday, I love any excuse to gorge myself on tortilla chips and drink too many margaritas (sorry in advance). But going out to eat on Cinco can be a pain in the you-know-what with long waits, rushed service, and not enough margs, so this year, consider getting some friends together and having your own little Cinco de Mayo party. Everyone can bring a dish, and you can bring this awesome guacamole.

I love a good guac, and a newish place that we have here in Birmingham called Babalu has some of the best in town. They make it right at your table, but what makes it unique is that they use sun-dried tomatoes in it instead of regular fresh tomatoes. I was a little skeptical at first, but the tanginess of the tomatoes actually compliments the avocado really well. I’m hooked on it, so I decided to make my own version of it.

The best thing about making guacamole is that it’s so easy. The hardest part, honestly, is finding avocados at their peak of ripeness. You can tell an avocado is ripe when it is soft and slightly gives to your touch (if it gives way too much, it’s overripe). Luckily, Publix pulled through for me today! I like my guacamole chunky, so I actually make crisscross cuts in the avocado halves before scooping out the pulp and then slightly mashing it together with the other ingredients. And if you’re a little unsure of the best way to halve, pit, and peel an avocado, here’s a helpful video. If you’re using oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, make sure you pat them dry on paper towels first.

Once you’ve got all your ingredients chopped up, you just have to throw it all together, grab some chips, and serve. I guarantee it will be gone in no time! (FYI I made a smaller batch to serve about 4 people, but this recipe can easily be doubled/tripled to feed a crowd!)

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Sun-Dried Tomato Guacamole

2 avocados, halved, pitted, and pulp scooped out
1/4 large sweet onion, chopped
4-5 sun-dried tomato halves, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
Lime juice to taste

1. In a medium bowl, mash avocado to desired chunkiness. Add onions, tomatoes, and salt, and stir together. Season with lime juice to your preference.

2. Serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Change it up:

  • If you like it hot, add some chopped jalapeños to the guacamole.
  • Swap red onions for the sweet onions.
  • Add some chopped, fresh cilantro.

Bourbon Honey Broiled Oranges

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There’s nothing like a leisurely weekend brunch, and it’s even better if it’s homemade. I love getting together with friends to cook brunch on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Making broiled oranges is a simple but beautiful addition to any brunch. They look impressive but they are actually super easy to make. 🙂

My inspiration for these came from an Old Fashioned cocktail. The oranges are sprinkled with sugar, drizzled with bourbon honey, and finished off with a little ground ginger. Feel free to substitute regular honey for the bourbon honey. I used bourbon honey from one of my favorite North Carolina companies, Cloister Honey. Check them out if you haven’t heard of them!

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For the oranges, I used Cara Cara oranges because they are my favorite, but if you prefer a less sweet, tangier citrus, you can use navel oranges or even grapefruits for this recipe.

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To make these beauties, split the oranges in half and cut around the pith around the edges to detach the orange from the peel and through each natural section to make them easier to eat. If your orange halves are having trouble standing up straight, cut a little off the bottom so they won’t roll around.

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Sprinkle each orange half with a pinch of sugar, and drizzle with honey.

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Sprinkle a pinch of ground ginger on each orange half.

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Broil for 8-10 minutes or until bubbly and slightly charred.

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Serve warm, topped with a dollop of greek yogurt, if desired!

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Bourbon Honey Broiled Oranges
(makes 4 servings)

2 Cara Cara oranges
Sugar
Bourbon honey (can use regular honey)
Ground ginger
Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

1. Turn oven broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Slice two oranges in half. Using a sharp knife, cut around edges to detach orange from peel, and cut through each natural segment.

3. Sprinkle each half with a pinch of sugar. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of bourbon honey over each orange half (more or less to your preference). Sprinkle each half with a pinch of ground ginger.

4. Broil for about 8-10 minutes or until bubbly and slightly charred. Top with Greek yogurt, if desired. Serve warm.

Sweet Chili Chicken Stir-Fry

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I love stir-frys. They are one of the easiest things you can make — you just throw it all in the wok/skillet with some oil, stir it all up until cooked, and boom, you’re done. And the combinations of stir-frys are endless. Asian stir-frys are typical, but you can also make some pretty delicious vegetarian and superfood stir-frys.

My little sister is visiting for the week, and being 16, she can be a little picky about her food. But she loves Asian food and she loves stir-frys, so making a chicken stir-fry for her was a no-brainer. This Sweet Chili Chicken Stir-Fry was delicious. It had just the right amount of spice to it and got the stamp of approval from the picky eater.

I marinated the chicken for 30 minutes in a sweet chili marinade I threw together from pretty much all of my Asian sauces.

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Then I sautéed some onions until translucent…

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added the chicken…

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and cooked it until the chicken was cooked through and onions were soft.

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At this point, I added the veggies. I used a bag of pre-chopped stir-fry vegetables because, hello, convenience, but you can definitely take the time to chop your own veggies and add any of your favorites.

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Cook the veggies until soft. Serve stir-fry over hot cooked rice with extra soy sauce and sweet chili sauce and enjoy!

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This recipe makes enough for 3-4 servings. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be exact with your measurements in stir-frying. Adjust the marinade/sauces and vegetables to your taste preference.

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Sweet Chili Chicken Stir-Fry

Marinade:
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

Stir-Fry:
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
12 oz. vegetable stir fry mix
1/2 medium onion, sliced
Oil for frying (Vegetable or sesame)
Low-sodium soy sauce (for flavoring)
Hot cooked rice

1. Stir together all ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl. Place cubed chicken in a Ziploc bag. Pour marinade over chicken. Seal bag and shake to distribute marinade evenly. Place in refrigerator and marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

2. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to become translucent.

3. Add chicken with marinade to skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Onions should be soft and translucent at this point.

4. When chicken is fully cooked, add vegetables. You will probably need to add some more oil at this point. Cook until soft and cooked through. Drizzle soy sauce over stir-fry to your taste preference.

5. Serve stir-fry over hot cooked rice with additional soy sauce and sweet chili sauce.