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.

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.

Friday Lunch Edition: Red Pearl Restaurant

Woohoo it’s Friday! This week has just seemed to drag on and on and on. But it’s finally the weekend and nothing starts the weekend off right like another delicious Friday lunch. If you work around the Homewood area of Birmingham, you have got to put Red Pearl Restaurant in your regular lunch rotation.

Red Pearl is located inside Super Oriental Market off Valley Avenue and is arguably the best Chinese restaurant in Birmingham. The building doesn’t look like much from the outside, and you walk into what looks like just a small Asian market. There are tanks of fish and bullfrogs along one wall (yes, bullfrog is a specialty on the menu). But turn right to go into the restaurant and you’ll find a beautifully decorated and newly updated dining room.

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When we got there, there was a line to be seated due to the lunch rush, but it moved quickly and even after standing in line, sitting down and ordering, eating, and then walking around the market to purchase items, we were only there a few minutes past an hour. Service was quick but attentive.

At lunchtime during the week, you have the option to order off the lunch menu or the regular menu. Wesley ordered General Tso’s Chicken from the lunch menu and I opted for the Chicken with Garlic Sauce from the regular menu. Each dish came with white rice. We also got an order of Steamed Mini Pork Soup Buns to split. Since the food is meant to be served and shared family style, they bring the dishes out to you as they are ready. It’s nice to know that your food isn’t sitting in the back getting cold.

The Chicken with Garlic Sauce was our waiter’s favorite dish, and he definitely made a good recommendation. It was tossed in a slightly spicy sauce with large pieces of white meat chicken, bamboo shoots, onions, carrots, and peppers. Red Pearl will adjust spiciness to your preference so I had asked for mine to be just a little spicy, and it was the perfect amount. It added a little kick but didn’t overwhelm the other flavors. It was by far some of the best Chinese food I have ever had. I would definitely order this dish again.

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The General Tso’s Chicken was also really good. As you know, General Tso’s is breaded and fried, and tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. Again, the sauce had the perfect amount of kick to it. The breading was still crispy and you could tell it was freshly made. If this is your go-to Chinese takeout dish, give Red Pearl’s a try. It’s such an upgrade from the soggy kind that comes in a plastic to-go container. You know what I’m talking about.

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The soup dumplings are also worth trying. If you like regular pork dumplings, you will probably like soup dumplings. When you bite into them (and you must eat them whole in one bite), you get a rush of flavorful broth in your mouth. They were also the perfect mini size. I’ve had them at Mr. Chen’s in Hoover (another great Chinese restaurant) but they were a little larger and harder to eat in one bite there.

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After we finished our lunch, we walked around the market to see what kind of interesting products they had. You can find every type of Asian ingredient, sauce, or produce you could ever need there. I was delighted to find that they had some of my favorite Asian candies, as well as mochi ice cream, which I can’t find anywhere else. I picked up some mango ginger chews and red bean mochi ice cream. Commonly called red beans although they are Adzuki beans, these beans are normally eaten sweetened and made into red bean paste for use in traditional Asian desserts. Don’t be weirded out. They taste nothing like the beans you are thinking of, and red bean mochi and red bean mochi ice cream are both delicious.

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I can’t say enough about Red Pearl so you must go try it for yourself. The food is full of flavor, the market is authentic, the servers were all kind and helpful, and did I mention it’s cheap?! The lunch specials range from $5.99-7.99 and the main entrees are only $6.99-8.99 on average, and a little more for seafood ($9.99-11.99). And the portions are huge! I took some of my chicken home for leftovers. So next time you’re looking for a way to spice up your lunch routine (or dinner!), you can know that you’ll always get a good meal at Red Pearl. Now where are those leftovers….I’m ready to eat it all over again!

Chicken, Rice, and Black Bean Bake

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This is one of those “pantry recipes” – aka a recipe that I just threw together from whatever I had in my pantry and fridge. It’s super easy and you’ll probably have most of these ingredients on hand anyway. It’s great for a quick weeknight meal when you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen!

Chicken, Rice, and Black Bean Bake

4 cups brown rice, uncooked
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (16-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp. Mexican seasoning blend, plus more for chicken
1 tsp. dried oregano
1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salsa
Shredded Cheddar or Mexican-blend cheese
Sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. In a 13×9 inch glass casserole dish, stir together rice, chicken broth, black beans, 1 Tbsp. Mexican seasoning blend, and oregano.

3. Sprinkle chicken all over with Mexican seasoning blend. Place chicken over rice mixture in casserole dish. Top chicken with salsa and shredded cheese. Cover casserole dish with foil.

4. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and test to see if liquid is absorbed, rice is tender, and chicken is cooked through. If not, cook for 10-15 minutes more. Top servings with sour cream.

Change it up:

  • Use taco seasoning instead of a Mexican-seasoning blend.
  • Use salsa verde instead of regular salsa and Monterey Jack cheese instead of Cheddar or Mexican-blend.
  • Top servings with avocado and fresh cilantro.

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Cajun White Chicken Chili

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Y’all it has been so cold here in Birmingham. I’m so glad it is the last day of February because I am ready to move on from this freezing weather into spring! After two months of 20-degree weather but no snow (why is it cold if it’s not going to snow), we finally got some snow this past week. I was so excited. I love snow and was afraid I wouldn’t see any this year. Growing up in North Carolina, I was used to seeing it at least once a year. Birmingham is a little more iffy on that matter. We got about two inches of snow on Wednesday and of course I had to go out and play in it. We had a snowball fight, made a snowman, and went sledding (in a kayak)!

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Anticipating this snow all week, I knew I had to make a warming, comforting meal to accompany the cold weather. I had some chicken in my freezer and a can of cannellini beans in my pantry, so I decided to make a white chicken chili. I got creative and decided to put a Cajun spin on it (inspired by a recent trip to Louisiana). I was given some Mexi-Cajun seasoning a few months ago that I decided to incorporate and it gave the soup so much flavor. You can find the seasoning I used here, but I’m sure any type of Cajun seasoning would work just as well.

This soup is so.good. I couldn’t get enough of it. The flavors in it are warm-you-to-the-bone good. It has just the right amount of kick to warm your belly but not enough to burn your mouth for hours after. Seriously, this is the best thing to make on a chilly day. Oh and did I mention the best part? It’s made in a slow cooker! So all you have to do is throw all the ingredients in it, set the timer, and go out and play in the snow while it’s cooking. When you get back, a warm meal awaits you. Can’t beat it.

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I made a batch of Green Chile Cheddar bread from Soberdough to go along with it. If you haven’t heard of them, check out their mixes. You just add a can or bottle of beer to most, bake, and enjoy. I’m obsessed.

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This recipe makes about 4-5 servings, but it can easily be doubled.

Cajun White Chicken Chili

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15.5 oz) can cannellini beans
1 (15.25 oz) can corn kernels, drained
1 (4-oz) can mild green chiles
2 Tbsp. Mexi-Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Toppings: Cheddar cheese, sour cream

1. In a 4.5-quart slow cooker, add chicken and next 9 ingredients. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3-3/12 hours, until chicken is cooked through.

2. Remove chicken from slow cooker and shred with forks. Return to slow cooker, stirring to combine. Top servings with Cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Change it up:

  • I love garlic, and this soup is definitely garlicky. If you’re not a huge fan of garlic, try 2 cloves of garlic.
  • Want more spiciness? Use hot green chiles instead of mild. Want less heat? Reduce the amount of Cajun seasoning.
  • Add avocado and fresh cilantro to your topping options.

Pantry Recipe: Chicken with Basil-Feta Topping

So I’m going to start categorizing some of my posts as new ideas come to me – I did my first “Repurposed Leftovers” post and this will be my first “Pantry Recipe” post. Pantry Recipes are recipes that I threw together from the ingredients I had – mostly because I had various things I needed to use up before they go bad! These are also the recipes I didn’t have to go out and buy ingredients specifically for – therefore saving me time and money (most importantly). Look for “Repurposed Leftovers” as a full recipe or as an added blurb to the end of posts.

Last week I had some chicken breasts, feta, and fresh basil I needed to use up. I evaluated what I had in my pantry and what I could make with what I had. Italian breadcrumbs and some fresh lemons caught my eye. I decided to bread and pan fry the chicken and make a lemon-basil-feta topping to go with it. The chicken breasts I had were HUGE so I actually butterflied one and made the both halves, saving one for a lunch – so the recipe measurements are portioned for 2 small chicken breast halves. It was super easy and super fast – perfect since I was going out with friends later that night. I made some brown rice and peas to round out the meal.

IMG_5317Chicken with Basil-Feta Topping

Chicken
1/2 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Salt
Pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
Basil-Feta Topping

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken breasts in breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl, or place chicken and breadcrumbs in ziptop bag and shake until fully coated.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add oil. Add chicken to pan; cook about 5 minutes to brown. Flip chicken over, cook about 5 more minutes or until done. Top each half with Basil-Feta Topping.

Basil-Feta Topping
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp. olive oil
Dash of pepper
1/4 cup feta cheese

Combine lemon juice, basil, oil and pepper; stir well. Add feta; stir until fully coated. (Ingredients don’t need to be specific – I did mine to taste but these are my general measurements.)

Repurposed Leftovers: Chicken Nuggets

As I mentioned above, I was working with two chicken breast halves. Well about halfway through dredging the first breast half, I decided to actually cut the second half up into little chicken nuggets. I breaded and fried them just like the breast and saved them for lunch the next day. The next afternoon, I made some honey mustard sauce (1 tbsp. Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp. honey, splash of lemon juice) to dip my chicken nuggets in and had an easy, yummy lunch. They kind of tasted like Chicfila nuggets – who wouldn’t love that?

If you have any leftover feta topping, you can use it to top salads or sandwiches.

Peanutty Baked Chicken

Love this book!

Love this book!

Today was an absolutely beautiful day outside. It was sunny and 70 degrees. And when the weather is nice, I feel inspired to cook. Since I work for a cookbook publisher, I have a lot of cookbooks at my disposal. I grabbed my Cooking Light “Complete Meals in Minutes” book and decided to try the Peanutty Baked Chicken recipe. A challenge for me has been learning to cook for one, so I try to find recipes where I can repurpose the leftovers for another meal. I made 2 cutlets (versus the called for 4) and ate one for dinner, then cut up the other to top a salad for lunch tomorrow. It worked out perfectly!

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The preserves I used

This recipe was so easy to prepare and it was yummy! Like I said, I only made 2 cutlets, so I halved the ingredients. My chicken took a little longer to cook than the recipe says, but I think it was because my cutlets were thicker than 1/2 inch. I also used fig preserves instead of peach chutney, mainly  because the grocery store didn’t have peach chutney, but also because I love anything fig. And fig preserves can be spread on a pita chip and topped with goat cheese for a delicious snack! So I knew I would use it in other ways. The fig gave the dish a bit of sweetness and it worked well with the peanuts. And the best part about this dish is it’s healthy – coming in around 280 calories!

I got some beautiful fresh green beans at the grocery store tonight so I made those as my side. I steamed the green beans and then mixed them with 1/2 tablespoon butter and seasoned to taste with garlic salt. So easy but so delicious.

Here’s the original recipe I followed:

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Look at those beautiful green beans!

Peanutty Baked Chicken Cutlets
From Cooking Light

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup peanuts
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
4 (1/2-inch-thick) chicken breast cutlets (about 1 pound)
Cooking spray
1/4 cup peach chutney

Preheat oven to 500°. Combine honey and mustard in a small bowl; stir well. Place peanuts in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Combine peanuts and panko in a shallow bowl.
Brush each cutlet with honey mixture; dredge cutlets in panko mixture. Place cutlets on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; lightly coat cutlets with cooking spray. Bake at 500° for 8 minutes or until done. Serve with chutney.