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.

IMG_8819

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.

IMG_7898

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.

Moroccan Halibut en Papillote

1434928862.239366.IMG_8751

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.

1434928859.146186.IMG_8702

12 minutes later, we had perfectly cooked flaky halibut.

1434928859.745470.IMG_8707

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.

1434928861.706759.IMG_8742

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.

photo 1 (10)

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.

photo 2 (10)

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:

IMG_7229

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!

Spiced Pork Chops with Balsamic Spiced Wine Plum Sauce

I know I haven’t posted in forever, but this time I have a legitimate excuse…my laptop died! For good. I knew it was coming soon — my trusty MacBook Pro was about to turn 5 years old next month and it had been through a lot. And by a lot, I mean college. ‘Nuff said. The problem was, I refuse to use anything other than a Mac (and it is my industry’s standard anyway) but was having a hard time stomaching the thought of spending that much money on my current tight budget, so I kept putting it off for weeks. Fortunately, I did get a promotion at work, so finally I just sucked it up and went and bought my new baby yesterday! I’m now using my new MacBook Pro as we speak and it’s so fast and shiny! Such a difference from my old MacBook, which was about to become “vintage” in August, according to Apple. But the best part is that now I can finally get back to blogging! And I created a delicious recipe just for that reason.

The inspiration for this recipe came from the summer fruits I bought the other day. I was looking in my fridge and wondering what I could make with what I had already since I don’t plan on spending any money anytime soon (thanks computer). My bag of plums and nectarines caught my eye, along with a bottle of Spiced Wine a friend had given me. I already had pork chops, and thus my recipe was born. This recipe is so easy to make and has a lot of great flavors! I’m not sure how easy it is to find Spicy Vines Spiced Wine, but I’m sure any brand (or sangria) would work fine.

SpicedPorkSpiced Pork Chops with Balsamic Spiced Wine Plum Sauce

Sauce:
1 plum, julienned
1 nectarine, julienned
1 tsp. sugar (optional – my plum was a little tart)
About 1/2 cup spiced wine (enough to fully soak fruit in)
Balsamic Vinegar

Pork:
2 boneless pork chops
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Other:
1 clove garlic, minced
Olive oil

First, prepare the sauce to allow fruit to soak in the flavor of the wine. Place fruit in bowl and pour in wine; stir to coat. Cover and let sit about 30 minutes. (You will add the balsamic later).

Mix together cinnamon, cloves, salt. and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle and rub evenly over pork chops.

Heat olive oil (enough to cover bottom of skillet) in pan on medium-high heat. Cook pork chops about 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Add garlic and stir constantly, so as not to burn the garlic (you can add a little more oil to prevent this), for about 30 seconds. Add the fruit mixture and balsamic vinegar to taste; stir. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until pork is fully cooked. Mine took about 5 minutes. Remove pork chop to plate, pour sauce over top. Enjoy!