Category Archives: Weeknight Dinners

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

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We have a pulled pork recipe that is a staple in our home.  Everyone loves a great pulled pork sandwich, but most people do not have 5 or more hours to cook on the grill after working all day.  The key is to start out with a good quality piece of pork.  I love cooking with boneless pork butt (shoulder).  Now, I know there are differing opinions on whether to get bone-in or boneless, but for me the best bet is boneless.  The slow cooker method makes a delicious faux smoking method when apple cider vinegar and liquid smoke are used.  This is definitely a delicious, healthy, and inexpensive meal that can be made for your family.  The uses for the leftover pork are endless!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

4-5 lb boneless pork butt (shoulder)

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 cups water

1 Tbs liquid smoke

1 bottle of your favorite or homemade BBQ sauce (I used Bone Suckin’ Sauce)

Directions:

Combine ingredients through liquid smoke in a slow cooker.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Take out pork and let cool until able to shred with two forks.  Discard cooking liquid from the slow cooker. Put the meat in the slow cooker with sauce for 30  minutes on high.  Serve and Enjoy!

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Spiced Shrimp with Ginger Rice and Peas

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With summer here I have had an urge to definitely start trying to eat lighter at night.  We usually eat dinner fairly late to most people and with the heat this summer, lighter meals would definitely help out.  I love going to the half price bookstores and picking up cooking magazines to leaf through.  I found a bunch of copies of Everday Food and could not pass this recipe up once I saw it.  This is one of those recipes that can be thrown together any time, since I always have these ingredients.  Wow, I did not know a recipe could be so simple.  This recipe came together in 20 minutes and was delicious.  The hubby and I both loved it.  I will say that the lime definitely makes the flavor combination dance on your tastebuds.  This one is definitely a keeper recipe.

Spiced Shrimp with Ginger Rice and Peas
from Everyday Food

Ingredients
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 cup long-grain white rice
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
lime wedges, for serving

Directions
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high.  Add scallion whites and ginger and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 minutes.  Add rice and 1 1/2 cups water and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and top with peas.  Let stand, covered, 5 minutes, then add scallion greens and fluff rice with fork.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss shrimp with cumin and coriander and season with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high.  Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until opaque throughout, about 4 minutes.  Serve shrimp with rice and lime wedges.

 

 

Crunchy Asiago Chicken Nuggets

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This heat is unbearable, and therefore my appetitite has honestly packed up and left.  I usually do not eat a lot during the summer, but these last few days have been particularly bad due to the heat.  When I was looking through recipes for the hubby and I, this one immediately jumped out at me.  It had all the criteria I was looking for: light, quick, and easy to make.  Well, this recipe did not disappoint.  We used several dipping sauces not just the honey mustard.  Instead we also went with marinara, bbq, sweet and sour, and buffalo wing sauce to accompany our nuggets.  These definitely are a versatile recipe that can be changed into whatever suits your tastebuds that day. 

Crunchy Asiago Chicken Nuggets

from  How Sweet It Is

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 cups low-fat buttermilk

2 cups panko bread crumbs

1 cup seasoned regular bread crumbs (I used homemade with italian seasoning)

1/3 cup flour (any is fine, I used whole wheat)

1/2 cup freshly grated asiago cheese

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup dijon mustard

1/4 cup honey

2-24 hours before serving, cut chicken breasts into nugget-like chunks. Season with the salt and pepper then add to a bowl and pour buttermilk over top. Let soak for at least 2 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then lay a wire rack on top and spray with non-stick spray. Add honey and mustard to a bowl and mix, then set aside. Add bread crumbs, flour, cheese, garlic powder and paprika to a bowl and mix thoroughly. Remove each nugget directly from the buttermilk to the bread crumb mixture and coat, then set on the wire rack. Repeat with the rest, then spritz each nugget with olive oil or non-stick spray. I usually just use Pam because I like the “spritz” it gives.

Bake for 7 minutes, then remove pan from oven and gently flip each nugget with kitchen tongs and spritz again with oil or spray. Bake for 7 minutes more, then serve hot with honey mustard.

Mojo Marinated Chicken Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

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We are loving summer, but have really not started to enjoy our grill to the fullest since we have been traveling so much.  Well, we decided this weekend that we need to start grilling out more!   Weber grill has some of the best cookbooks, and the new one we purchased is no exception.  Chicken tacos sounded amazing and this recipe did not disappoint.  I would put the fresh salsa on fish tacos or even a shingle to be honest it is that good.  The first bite and we both looked at each other declaring that these were the best tacos we have ever had.  Everyone definitely needs to try these right away they are worth it.

Mojo Marinated Chicken Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

from “Weber’s Charcoal Grilling – The Art of Cooking with Live Fire”

Marinade:

¼ cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno chile pepper, including seeds
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (without tenders), about 8 ounces each

Salsa:

1 medium yellow onion, cut into ½ inch slices
extra virgin olive oil
10 medium tomatillos, about ½ pound total, husked and rinsed
1 small jalapeno chile pepper, stem removed
¼ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 medium clove garlic
½ teaspoon dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt

12 flour tortillas (8 inches)
3/4 cup sour cream

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the marinade ingredients. Place the chicken in a large, resealable plastic bag, and pour in the marinade. Press out the air and seal the bag tightly. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade, place the bag in a bowl, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

2. Prepare a two-zone fire for high heat.

3. Lightly brush the onion slices on both sides with oil. Brush the cooking grate clean. Grill the onion slices, tomatillos, and jalapeno over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until lightly charred, 6-8 minutes, turning once or twice and swapping their positions as needed for even cooking. Be sure the tomatillos are completely soft as you remove them from the grill. Combine the onion slices, tomatillos, and jalapeno in a food processor along with the remaining salsa ingredients. Process until fairly smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Pour the salsa into a serving bowl.

4. Check the heat of the grill. You may need to add more charcoal to the fire for medium heat. Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the marinade. Separate the tortillas into 2 piles of 6 tortillas each. Wrap each pile in a sheet of aluminum foil. When the fire is ready, brush the cooking grate clean. Grill the chicken over direct medium heat with the lid closed as much as possible until the meat is firm to the touch and completely opaque in the center, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once or twice and swapping their positions as needed for even cooking. At the same time, grill each packet of tortillas over indirect medium heat until warm and soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken and tortillas from the grill. Keep the tortillas in the foil while you slice the chicken as thinly as possible.

5. Put some sliced chicken in each warm tortilla. Pass the salsa and sour cream for toppings. Serve right away.

French Bread Pizza

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It is no secret that we love where we live, and one of the reasons is all of the wonderful places to eat in the area.   One of our new favorite places is Three Wise Men Brewery.  Not only do they have wonderful beer and service, but their pizza is amazing!  They use all local toppings as well as make the cracker thin crust with their IPA.  All of the toppings are so unique and fresh that it definitely keeps us not only wanting to come back for more, but also have cravings for it.

I really wanted that pizza tonight, but instead I figured to go low key and stay at home and use up some of the ingredients we have in the fridge.  We had leftover pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce, and garlic bulbs which were a great start to a pizza.  I decided to roast the garlic whole in the oven.  This has become one of our favorite toppings ever since we tried it at Three Wise Men.   Then, I decided to go over to a wonderful little market by our house and get fresh sausage (sweet Italian for the hubby and turkey Italian for me) and a French loaf.  With all these choices we were both able to make our own creations to enjoy.  The recipe below is merely a jumping off point.  Please make it your own and go crazy with the toppings and sauces, but make sure to get hearty enough bread to withstand the pizza.

French Bread Pizza

1 loaf french bread, halved

1 jar pizza sauce

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1 bulb roasted garlic

½ lb sausage cooked

20 pepperoni slices

Any other toppings that sound delicious to you!

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Spread the pizza sauce on top of the french bread slices, then top that with the cheese, sausage, pepperoni,and roasted garlic.  Bake the pizzas on a cookie sheet for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the cheese is bubbly and browned.

Tex-Mex Casserole

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So this past weekend we went to Chicago for 24 hours, yes I said 24 hours! And let me tell you, we packed so many great things into that time.  We went to the Cross town Classic and our Cubbies WON, then we went to ride the ferris wheel at Navy Pier since the hubby had never been.  We decided that night we would do what we love best, trying 3 or 4 restaurants and getting an appetizer and cocktail at each. We went to Dick’s Last Resort, Bin 36, House of Blues, and Smith and Wollensky.  It was such a great night! Then we returned home to pick our little doggies up and go out to the in-laws.  It was a wonderful BBQ with family, and also I have to admit I loved seeing my little Killian on a pool raft.

So after a simply AMAZING holiday weekend, I needed something comforting yet light.  This seemed to fit the bill in my mind, but I was unsure how it would come together.  I mixed a couple of our favorite dishes, and then added some extras hoping to give it more flavor.  Let me tell you, it turned out great!  The dish had the comforting macaroni taste, yet it was so light.  It also had the wonderful spice level I was hoping to achieve.  My hubby added a little hot sauce and taco sauce to the top of his, and the flavors truly began to pop. It is a quick and easy meal too, beacause I made it before tennis and popped it in the oven with no hassle when we came home.

Tex-Mex Casserole

1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 cup sweet onion, grated
1/2 cup diced orange bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon 25 % Less Sodium Montreal Steak seasoning
16 oz. crushed tomatoes
1- 10 oz can of Rotel Tomatoes with Green Chiles
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp chili powder
2 cups frozen corn
2 ounces shredded Mexican 4 Cheese blend
1 1/2 cups dried macaroni style pasta
1 cup shredded Mexican 4 Cheese blend

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray.  In large skillet brown ground beef with onions, bell pepper and red pepper flakes. Season with Magic Dust or steak seasoning.  Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, oregano and chili powder. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the frozen corn and simmer for a few more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the 2 ounces of cheese until melted. Gently stir in the cooked pasta. Pour all into prepared casserole dish and top with shredded cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.

Mexican Pizza

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I remember when I wanted something sinful as a child my mom would take me to Taco Bell and get me a mexican pizza and an order of cinnamon twists.  The pizzas were crunchy and cheesy, but had a delicious creamy bean layer.  Boy how my tastes have changed.  Now do not get me wrong, I would still love to have one of those mexican pizzas, but part of me is afraid every good memory I have of them would be wiped out.  Well to say the least I was craving a taco bell run, but instead I decided to not make a run for the border.  These were perfect for my hubby and I, since we could each make our own variations.  Both of us started with the same base of meat and beans, but the second topping was a free for all as you can tell by the picture.  My hubby loves his olives and I love my tomatoes, which made it so great for us to each have our own.  So everyone go crazy with the toppings and make this pizza your own memory, just like I did.

 

Mexican Pizza

adapted from For the Love of Cooking

Ground Beef Mixture:
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb of lean ground beef
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • grey salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 4 oz can of diced fire roasted green chiles
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and break the meat into crumbles. Add the onion as well as the seasonings then cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the green chiles then stir until well combined. Set aside.
Other Ingredients:
  • Flour Tortillas
  • Black Refried Beans
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Salsa
  • Tomato, diced
  • Avocado, diced
  • Green onions, diced
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Sour Cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat. Layer a flour tortilla with refried beans then place on baking sheet; add a bit of the beef mixture then top with another tortilla.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes; remove from oven and spoon a bit of salsa on top of the top tortilla then top with cheese. Return to the oven and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and top with the toppings of your choice from the list above. Serve with more salsa and sour cream. Enjoy.

 

Italian Beef Sandwiches

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I am one who absolutely loves crusty bread for a sandwich, and let me tell you this one was a winner.  Now do not get me wrong I have been making this recipe for a few years now and love it, but recently have made several changes to it.  I may be biased, but it is amazing now!  Believe me you cannot go wrong with this recipe.  Especially if you like reinventing leftovers this recipe is for you.  There are so many things to do with the leftover meat such as quesadillas, loaded baked potatoes, or even the flautas that I posted earlier with leftover pork instead.

 

Italian Beef Sandwiches

3 lb roast (I used chuck roast since it was on sale)

1 jar of whole peperoncinis

8 oz fresh mushrooms sliced

2 cups low sodium beef broth

3 Tbs dried minced onion

1 Tbs garlic powder

6 slices provolone cheese

1 french baguette loaf

 

Place ingredients through garlic powder in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  When done cooking place in refrigerator overnight so that all the fat can separate.  When ready to eat, skim all the fat off the top and shred the meat.  Place meat back in slow cooker and cook on low for 2 hours.  Cut french baguette into the sandwich size desired and place provolone cheese on each.  Place under broiler on high for 2-3 minutes until browned and bubbly.  Put the meat on each sandwich and place some of the au jus in a cup for dipping.  Freeze all leftovers after completely cooking to enjoy at a later date.

 

 

Calzone for Two

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After a fun weekend of traveling to Chicago for a Cubs game, I was trying to think of something simple to make for dinner.  I had a craving for pizza, but did not want take out or frozen, but also did not feel like making homemade dough.  Then it hit me, a calzone would be great!  I remember being a little girl, shopping with my mother and begging her to stop at Sbarro.  I absolutely loved their spinach calzone and a garlic knot.  What if i could combine the calzone and garlic knot?   That is exactly what I set out to do.  My hubby’s favorite toppings are pepperoni and sausage so I decided to use that for a filling.  I used a refrigerated pizza dough and spread it out to a really thin layer.  It worked wonderful to stuff with the fillings I chose.  The outcome was a delicious, cheesy, and comforting dinner.

 

Calzone for Two

1/2 lb of Italian Sausage

1/2 package of turkey pepperoni

8 oz can of mushrooms

1 1/2 cups of mozzarella blend cheese

3 Tbs grated parmesan cheese

1 tube refrigerated pizza dough

2 Tbs cornmeal

1 jar tomato sauce with basil

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Brown the sausage and drain.  Roll out the dough very thin.  Spray non stick cooking spray on a cooking sheet and dust with cornmeal.  Place the dough on the baking sheet.  Layer the cheese, sausage, cheese, and pepperoni until all is used up.  Place 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce over the filling.  Fold the dough over on itself.  Crimp the edges closed with a fork.  Spray the top with non stick cooking spray and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.  Bake for 14-16 minutes.  Split the remaining tomato sauce between two ramekins and warm in the microwave for 1 minute.  Cut and enjoy!!

 

Enchiladas

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So please excuse the picture it is messy, but truth be told that is what happens when you have a whole lot of cheesy goodness on your hands.  Enchiladas are one of our favorite Mexican dishes when made properly.  For me there are two aspects of an enchilada which can make or break them, the sauce and the filling.  I am definitely a veggie lover, but there is something about a spicy meat filling.  The sauce needs to have spicy flavor with a sweet undertone.  I have found the perfect sauce in my opinion for this, Frontera Grill’s enchilada sauce.  It is the perfect sauce for any type of meat or veggie filling.  I have tried it with beef, chicken, shrimp, and black beans.  All were phenomenal!

Beef Enchiladas

1 jar of Frontera enchilada sauce (or your favorite sauce)

6 flour tortillas

3/4 lb lean ground beef

1/4 cup corn kernels

1/2 cup black beans

1/2 cup crumbled queso fesco

1 cup shredded colby jack cheese

1 small can of olives

2 roma tomatoes diced

1/8 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Brown beef in skillet over medium heat and drain.  Mix 1/3 cup of enchilada sauce, corn, black beans, beef and crumbled queso together.  Brush the tortillas on both sides with the olive oil and bake in oven for 3 minutes.  Turn oven up to 400 degrees.  Put 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.  Fill each tortilla with 1/3 cup of the mixture and place seam side down in the pan.  Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sauce, colby jack, diced tomatoes, and olives.  Place foil over the pan and bake in a preheat oven for 20 minutes.  Take foil off and continue to bake 8 minutes.  Top with salsa, guacamole, lettuce, or any of your favorite toppings.