I just want to start off by saying, there are tons and tons of food blogs out there. Many with better pictures than mine, better writing skills, and just better overall food-blogginess; yet you’re here right now, reading mine. So thanks. Thanks for sticking with me and reading my silly posts and taking the time to comment- it really makes my day. My pictures may not be crystal clear and totally flawless, but you know what? I sort of like them that way- that’s exactly how our food looks before we sit down and dig in. I don’t spend an hour adding tiny pieces of parsley, or taking a cloth and wiping away stray crumbs or melted cheese that doesn’t belong. I like stray crumbs. :) And I like my blog. And I’m thrilled beyond words that you like it too. So again, thanks. Thanks for being really fantastic readers. I really, really love you all.

Ok, now that I’m done being sappy- here is a fantastic recipe for quesadillas. We made these this weekend and ate like big-fat-pigs! I was originally going to make these (do those not look insanely delicious?! I can’t wait to try them!), but didn’t have any bbq sauce. Then I remembered how much we adored the chicken kabobs I made a few weeks ago, and decided to just make quesadillas out of them (Good call, Amy!). These were cheesy, slightly sweet, a little spicy….a totally delicious meal! Can’t wait to make them again!

Grilled Chicken, Pineapple and Veggie Quesadillas

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup Lime Ponzu, plus more for brushing (If you don’t have this, just use soy sauce, a pinch of sugar and a little lime juice)
fresh pineapple, sliced (you’ll only need about 1/4 of the whole pineapple)
1 red bell pepper, cut into slices
1 red onion, sliced into rings
1 jalapeno pepper
pepperjack cheese
cilantro
large tortillas

Place the chicken in a large ziploc bag with 1/2 cup of the ponzu and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
After 2 hours, grill the chicken over medium-high heat (about 5 minutes on each side). When the chicken is nearly done, add the peppers, onion and pineapple to the grill and brush with the additional ponzu while cooking. Turn only once and remove as soon as the chicken is done cooking.
Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then slice diagonally.

To assemble: preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle a little pepperjack cheese on two tortillas (as much as you like- I used about 1/3 cup for each), then top with the sliced chicken, pineapple, peppers and onion. Top with a sprinkling of cilantro then place another tortilla on top of each. Bake for about 5 minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt.
Cut quesadillas into 4 pieces. Serves 2.

*To keep the edges of the tortillas from curling up on the sides, dip your finger in a little water and brush along the outer edge of the tortilla just before baking.

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In the Summertime, you grill. Period. If you don’t know how to grill, you better learn, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s not Summer without grillin’. Of course, that’s just my own personal opinion; I have lots of them. Probably way too many. Just ask my hubby. Or my mom. Or my second grade teacher.

Honestly, one of my favorite grilled things to eat is chicken breast marinated in my favorite marinade, Lime Ponzu. It’s so amazingly simple, and the chicken turns out so sweet and juicy. We were having company recently and I thought the Ponzu marinated chicken would be great to serve along with my grilled corn salad and pineapple rice. Then I took it a step further and thought, “why not do a Ponzu shish-kabob with red peppers, red onions and pineapple?” Perfect! So that’s what we did and boy am I glad! Those kabobs were amazing! The chicken was perfectly tender and juicy, and the peppers, onions and fresh pineapple paired so well with the Ponzu- almost kind of a “Hawaiian” flavor. Totally delicious! We’ve made them twice since then! If you’re looking for a great grilling meal- look no further, because these are as easy as they come, yet really, really flavorful and delicious!

Easy Grilled Chicken Shish-Kabobs

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/2-3/4 cup Lime Ponzu (You can find this in the Asian section of the grocery store, next to the soy sauce)
3 red peppers, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 large red onion, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 fresh pineapple, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
freshly ground black pepper to taste
skewers (wooden or metal- if you use wooden, make sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling so they won’t catch on fire)

Place the cut up chicken in a large ziploc bag with the marinade. (*Save 2 or 3 tablespoons of the Ponzu for later use.) Refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours.
Take out the chicken and dispose of the marinade. To assemble the kabobs, place the red pepper first, then the chicken, then the pineapple, then the onion, then repeat with the same order. Try to fit two of everything on each skewer. You’ll end up with around 12-14 skewers.
Grill the kabobs over medium-high heat for about 8-11 minutes, turning 3 or 4 times, until the chicken is cooked through. Occasionally brush with the reserved marinade and season with the pepper. Remove from heat. Serve with rice and a cold salad and enjoy! Serves 4-6.

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Grilled Chicken Fajitas…

First off, I want to thank you all for the birthday wishes! I feel like my readers and my food blogging buddies are my real life friends- it means so much to be able to share my special day with all of you! I had a fantastic birthday; my sweet hubby treated me like a queen and I loved every minute of it (you gotta take advantage of it whenever it comes around, girls!)! And the piece of chocolate cake that was as big as my head (seriously!) that I had at dinner was the cherry on top of a great day!

Now on to the good stuff- fajitas! Sometimes I feel like the only Tex-Mex I ever fix anymore is fajitas; but we just love them so much it’s hard to stray away from them! Normally when I make fajitas, I use steak and cook them in a large skillet with beer, salsa and a few other “secret” ingredients- they’re pretty hard to beat, if I do say so myself! However, when we go out to our favorite Mexican restaurant, Joe T. Garcia’s, I always, without fail, order their chicken fajitas. They’re slightly sweet, spicy and amazingly tender and juicy. So when I saw this recipe for grilled chicken fajitas that called for brown sugar, I knew I had to try them! The finished product was excellent and we really enjoyed them- they weren’t quite as good as Joe T’s, but hey, no one could EVER live up to Joe T’s standards! I suggest you give these chicken fajitas a try next time you’ve got a hankering for good Tex-Mex; you won’t be disappointed!

Grilled Chicken Fajitas
-The Way the Cookie Crumbles, originally from Cooks Illustrated

1/3 cup juice from 2 to 3 limes
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
table salt and ground black pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds) pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds (do not separate rings)
1 large red bell pepper, quartered, stemmed, and seeded
1 large yellow bell pepper, quartered, stemmed, and seeded
8-12 (6-inch) flour tortillas

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, 4 tablespoons oil, garlic, Worcestershire, brown sugar, jalapeno, cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Reserve 1/4 cup marinade in a small bowl; set aside. Add another teaspoon salt to the remaining marinade. Place the chicken in the marinade; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 15-30 minutes. Brush both sides of the onion rounds and the peppers with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it smooth side down on the grill over medium-high heat; discard the remaining marinade. Place the onion rounds and peppers (skin side down) on the cooler side of the grill. Cook the chicken until it’s well browned, 4 to 5 minutes; using tongs, flip the chicken and continue grilling until it’s no longer pink when cut into with a paring knife or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers about 160 degrees, 4 to 5 minutes longer.

Separate the onions into rings and place them in a medium bowl; slice the bell peppers lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips and place them in the bowl with the onions. Add 2 tablespoons reserved unused marinade to the vegetables and toss well to combine. Slice the chicken into 1/4-inch strips and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons reserved marinade in another bowl; arrange the chicken and vegetables on a large platter and serve with warm tortillas. Serve with rice, refried beans, sour cream, grated cheese, salsa and additional cilantro if desired.

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Crunchy, Fruity Chicken Salad…

You may not know this but chicken salad is one of my favorite things to eat. I love it! But surprisingly, I’ve only posted one recipe for it on my blog and it wasn’t even my own personal recipe. Well it’s been long enough!

There are SO many different ways of making a good chicken salad – my mom sometimes puts pineapple and almonds in hers and my grandmother puts a little whipped cream in hers. They’re all different and they’re all so good. Mine is a bit different from theirs, but not too much. I love it because it’s really crunchy, sweet and salty at the same time. Mmmm, just talking about it makes me hungry for more….. This is a perfect meal- it’s light, refreshing and keeps really well in the fridge for lunch the next day. You really need to try this one; I promise you’ll love it as much as we do!

My Chicken Salad

1 small rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded
2 celery stalks, chopped
handful red grapes, sliced in half (we like lots)
1/2 cup lightly salted cashews
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4-1/3 cup mayonnaise (start with 1/4 cup and see if you need more)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
pinch cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and taste for seasoning; chill until ready to serve.

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Lime Ponzu Chicken Burritos…

What exactly is “Ponzu”, do you ask? Well, to quote the good people of Kikkoman, “Ponzu (or citrus seasoned soy sauce and dressing) is the latest Japanese flavor to reach the American supermarket shelves. It has the perfect balance of salty, tangy and sweet to enhance a wide variety of foods.That’s what it is. And they sent me some to try. I just can’t say no to free stuff. Or food. Especially free food. When Foodbuzz asked me to try the newest Kikkoman product- Lime Ponzu – of course I was more than willing. I’m really glad I did, too- this stuff is wonderful! It’s basically just a really flavorful soy sauce, and it goes GREAT on chicken. I can’t wait to try it on shrimp, either! One of the suggestions they made was trying the Ponzu on Tex-Mex. Wait, wha?? However, they didn’t lead me astray – these burritos were delish! The Ponzu adds so much delicious flavor to the chicken. We really, really enjoyed them!

Yum.

Lime Ponzu Chicken Burritos

1/2 pound boneless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons Kikkoman Lime Ponzu
1 cup white rice
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
salsa
chopped fresh cilantro
shredded lettuce
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
large, burrito-sized tortillas

Place the chicken and Ponzu in the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours (or on high for 3-4 hours). After cooking, shred chicken (be sure not to throw out any of the leftover cooking liquids- just mix it in with the shredded chicken) and keep warm in the crockpot.
Cook rice according to directions on the package. Cook beans over medium-low heat until heated through.

To assemble:
Place 2 or 3 tablespoons of the shredded chicken on the tortilla, top with rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa, sour cream and cilantro (and anything else you want!) and fold into a burrito.  Be prepared for a big, fat, messy, drippy burrito – Freebirds Style! Oh yeah!

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Arroz con Pollo…

…or Chicken and Rice; whichever you prefer. I guess I should call it that since, clearly, I am not Spanish-speaking. But just saying something like, “I’m making Arroz con Pollo” sounds way more interesting (and yummy) than “chicken and rice”. Who wants to eat chicken and rice when you can eat Arroz con Pollo?! I got this recipe from Amy at She Wears Many Hats and it’s totally delicious!

Honestly, the entire time I was making this I kept thinking (and laughing) about that episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel switch jobs with Ricky and Fred. Ricky and Fred are in charge of cooking dinner while Lucy and Ethel are out working their new jobs (at the candy factory…love it!).  Ricky suggests Arroz con Pollo and chocolate cake for dinner, and of course it all goes wrong…seriously one of my favorite Lucy scenes of all time!

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice)
-adapted from She Wears Many Hats

4 quarts (16 cups) water approx. (enough to cover chicken)
1  4 lb. (approx.) whole chicken
1-2 stalks celery; rough chopped
1 small sweet onion; diced
1 teaspoon pepper – divided
1 teaspoon salt – divided
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 1/2 teaspoons parsley
3 cups long grain white rice

In a large stock pot bring water and chicken to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for at least 1-2 hours.
Once simmering is complete, remove chicken to cool in order to de-bone. Let broth continue to simmer and reduce. When cool enough to handle, de-bone chicken.

Remove all broth from pot (or use another pot) and put approximately 6 cups broth back into pot along with the rice, chicken, celery, onion, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes stir in another cup of broth. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Continue to add broth, stir, cover and simmer for 5 minutes at a time until rice is done. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed. Serves 6-8.

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I realize that lately, I’ve made quite a few recipes that I claim to be “the best ever”. I guess I’ve just been really lucky with my choice of recipes here lately…what can I say? Apparently I have great taste! ;-) And here’s another one to add to that “Best Ever” category; the Homesick Texan’s Salsa Verde Sour Cream Enchiladas…these are pure gold, my friends. Pure. Gold. I have to be honest, when it comes to sour cream enchiladas, I’m not a big fan. They just always seem really bland to me, and I almost never order them at restaurants. But when I spotted these on The Novice Chef, something about them was just reaching out to me…“make me, Amy; make me!”. Thank the good Lord I did; after just one bite, hubby and I both deemed these the BEST enchiladas we’ve EVER had. That’s a pretty serious statement, y’all. Tex-Mex isn’t something we take lightly down here…it’s serious stuff. But these are seriously good enchiladas. I will most assuredly be making these over, and over, and over again.

Salsa Verde Sour Cream Enchiladas
-seen on The Novice Chef, originally from the Homesick Texan

4 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I cooked mine in the crackpot for about 5 hours)
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 Jalapeno, seeded, minced
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups sour cream (I used reduced-fat and it was still insanely good)
16 oz jar Medium Salsa Verde
1 & 1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
12 flour tortillas, small fajita size
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack
1/2 medium onion, diced

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt butter over medium-high heat. Saute onions and Jalapenos until soft and then add the garlic, cooking for 1 minute. Stir in the flour and let cook 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the chicken broth until smooth and let cook until bubbly. Stir in the sour cream, salsa, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cilantro until the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat.

Spray/grease a 9×13 baking dish. Add 1 cup of sauce to the bottom of the pan. Add chicken and cheese to the center of each tortilla and roll, placing seam-side down in the dish. Pour the sauce over the enchiladas, top with leftover cheese, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until top is brown and bubbling.

Yields: 12-15 enchiladas

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Baked Chicken Empanadas…

I know, I know – more Mexican food. But hey, we can’t get enough of the stuff, ok? Back when we had my family over for the Super Bowl, my Nana brought these chicken empanadas and MAN, where they good! Not too spicy, full of flavor, and the best part – they’re baked instead of fried so you can feel better about eating a lot! ;-) Luckily, I had made some homemade guacamole – they were perfect together! We all loved these- they got gobbled up pretty fast! Luckily, I managed to save a couple for my lunch the next day, and the good news is, these re-heat perfectly. I’ll definitely be making these again! SO glad Nana decided to bring these over! Give ‘em a try – they’ll be perfect for your next “Mexican Feast”!

Chicken Empanadas
-Paula Deen

3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1 (8-ounce) package shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese blend
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
Water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large bowl, combine the chicken and next 7 ingredients. Unroll 1 piecrust onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 15-inch circle. Cut out rounds, using a 3-inch cookie cutter. Re-roll dough as needed. Repeat procedure with remaining piecrusts, making 12 to 15 circles total. Arrange 1 round on a clean, flat surface. Lightly brush the edges of crust with water. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of chicken mixture in the center of the round. Fold the dough over the filling, pressing the edges with a fork to seal. Repeat with the remaining rounds and chicken mixture. (Up to this point, the recipe can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month). Arrange empanadas on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

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Cheesy Chicken Chowder

A few months before our wedding (golly, that was over three years ago!!) my sister gave me a very special cookbook.  She worked really hard collecting her favorite recipes, gathering pictures and getting everything organized and put together in a cute little book. I happened to think this was the coolest present ever since I had no idea how to cook, really- and had hardly any recipes of my own. But thanks to my big sister, I now had a nifty book full of tried-and-true recipes that were simple and no-fail. To this day, out of all the volumes of cookbooks I own (and trust me, there are quite a few!), I still turn to my homemade collection of Lindsay’s recipes whenever I need a good, comforting meal. Some of my favorites include Fiesta Soup, Chicken Parmesan and the recipe I’m posting today – Cheesy Chicken Chowder.

chickchowder1

This one can’t be beat- it’s as simple as can be, yet totally delicious. Perfect for these cold evenings we’ve been having lately (love it!), and it makes enough for you to get at least two meals out of it. I love the chunks of potatoes and chicken, with the richness and creaminess that feels like it should be way more fattening than it really is (the most fattening part is the cheese melted in it)! This is one of those soups that always gets made every year as soon as the weather gets cooler – it’s comforting, filling and down-right delicious!

chickchowder3

Cheesy Chicken Chowder

4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced onions
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
8 oz Velveeta cheese, cubed (1 loaf)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken

Combine the broth and the vegetables in a large sauce pan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over low heat. Add the flour, whisking until smooth. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in the milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Gradually stir in the vegetable mixture, soy sauce, cheese and chicken. Cook until the cheese melts and the soup is thoroughly heated.

chickchowder2

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Adventures in Pizza!

We really like making pizza at home – it seems to taste so much better when you can put exactly what you want on it, exactly how you want it. Normally we like fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, lots of cheese (duh!), and sometimes black olives and green olives. Mmmm… But recently I saw this pizza on a fellow foodie’s blog-Taste of Home Cooking- and although it’s not something I’d normally make, it looked totally and completely delicious (in an odd, intriguing sort of way..).

buffalopizza1

(Please forgive my dark pictures – it’s getting to be that time of year where my pictures start to suck thanks to lack of sunlight…).

Buffalo Chicken Pizza – I know, it sounds really weird and maybe a little bit gross, but trust me…it’s gooood. I totally loved the combination of flavors – the spicy, tangy buffalo chicken with the sharpness of the blue cheese and a little hint of onion flavor from the scallions. I was so glad we gave this pizza a chance; it was really tasty and perfect Friday night/movie watching food! Do yourself a favor and at least give it a try…you’ll probably be really pleasantly surprised!

Buffalo Chicken Pizza
-seen on Taste of Home Cooking

Pizza dough
1lb chicken breasts, cut into small cubes*
1/2 cup Frank’s hot sauce
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 scallions, chopped on a bias
Blue cheese crumbles
Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the Frank’s and butter in a small saucepan. Add the chicken and heat over medium until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Roll out the dough and place on a pizza pan or sheet pan. Top with a little mozzarella cheese. Add the blue cheese, spread into a thin layer. Scatter a few scallions on top. Using a slotted spoon add the chicken, being careful not to put on too much of the Frank’s (it will get soggy/greasy). Add just a few dashes of the Frank’s here and there on the pizza, then top with more mozzarella cheese and the remaining scallions.
Bake the pizza for 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly.

*I chose to boil my chicken first, shred it, then toss it with the melted butter/Frank’s mixture.

buffalopizza2

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