Slow Cooker Chicken and Quinoa Chili

Even living in a slightly warmer climate, there’s just something about winter that makes me crave hearty, warm, soups and chilis. These warm and hearty dinners are even better when they basically prepare themselves. That’s one of the things I loved about this chili. I literally threw all of the ingredients in my slowcooker and let time do the rest. The other great thing about this chili is that its good for you! Loaded with good for you quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, and corn and have very minimal fat (especially if you top it with nonfat Greek yogurt and low fat cheese!). Oh, and they go perfectly with those Cheddar Jalapeno Drop Biscuits I posted last week!

I was excited when I found this recipe, but of course I had to make a few adjustments. First, I like a bit of smokey spicy taste to my chili, so I replaced the bell pepper with chipotle pepper. Second, I upped the smokey flavor by using fire-roasted tomatoes. If you can’t find fire-roasted tomatoes (or don’t care for them) you can of course use regular tomatoes, but I really loved the flavor they added. I also cut back just a bit on the chicken stock and added some tomato paste. I wanted a thick chili and I think the result was really great. Finally, I had a huge split chicken breast thawed, so I used that instead of boneless skinless. I’m sure the bones helped to add a little bit of flavor, but to be honest the breast was so tender it just fell away from the bones, and it was kind of a pain making sure that I got all of them out of the thick chili. Next time I’ll probably go the boneless skinless route (and the recipe below will reflect that).

 

 

Best Fajita Marinade

Whew!! It’s been a busy couple of weeks. As I mentioned in my last post, my in-laws flew all the way from Ohio to visit us here in China. Never having been to China (as I think is the case for most Americans!), they wanted to do lots of sightseeing. During their 2 week visit we did a lot of traveling. First we flew to Hong Kong, where we walked Nathan Road, road to the top of the peak, shopped till we dropped at the Ladies Market in Mongkok, and just generally wore out the bottoms of our shoes. After Hong Kong we had just 2 days of rest in Suzhou before hopping on a high-speed train to Beijing. In Beijing we climbed the Great Wall, walked in THE Water Cube, toured the Forbidden City, walked Tiananmen Square, and, of course, ate the most delicious noodles ever!

By the time we got back to Suzhou we had just enough time to squeeze in one last bit of excitement – by riding the scooters to Guanqian during rush hour. If you know Suzhou, you know how crazy that is! Needless to say, I’m exhausted! I *almost* didn’t even have the energy to write this post, but I had to because I couldn’t wait any longer to share this recipe!

I first made this marinade last month and I was blown away by the flavor! My search for the best fajita marinade is now over. This keeps the meat (chicken or steak)  juicy and provides just the right amount of heat and citrus. The key/secret to this marinade is the zest. Donna, from Apron Springs, wrote up a great post about it so if you’re interested in reading about why she chose zest over juice, check it out!

 

Here are a few more great marinade/sauce ideas to add variety to your chicken/fish/beef!
Southwest Marinade
Lemon Greek Chicken
Grilled Marinated Mahi Mahi

Barbacoa Beef for Burrito Bowls

I love parties, I love to cook, I love to make cakes, and I love to entertain, so when one of our friends had a birthday recently, it only felt right to throw a party for her! I knew right away that I wanted to make some kind of Western foods. Something new and different for the birthday girl. Thinking about how much she likes spicy food, Mexican food came to mind. I’ve been absolutely CRAVING Chipotle recently, so I’m not surprised that’s where my mind went. 🙂

With Chipotle on the brain, I came up with party menu plan. Being a little nervous about how my guests react to Mexican food, I thought a buffet style meal would be a safe way to go. That way everyone could take as little or as much of each food as they wanted, and everyone could build their own burrito bowls. I am happy to say the party was a success and the guests devoured the food!

For the bowls I made cilantro-lime rice, black beans, barbacoa beef, and pico de gallo. And because no bowl would be complete without it, I also had freshly grated cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Keep an eye out because next week I’ll be sharing the cake that I made for the party! It’s a pretty one!

 

 

 

Foil Baked Fish with Black Beans and Corn

I’ve been so inconsistent about posting food lately that I’m almost lost about how to even write this post! I really need to get myself back into the swing of things…

In the weeks leading up to “the big move” I pretty much gave up on trying to make and photograph food at dinner time. I was usually too tired after work to put the proper amount of effort into it, the lighting was terrible, and I just couldn’t get into it. It’s also kind of hard to get motivated to make a whole meal when it’s just you you’re cooking for.

On my own, I could happily eat noddles with a little olive oil, garlic, squeeze of lemon and boat load of cheese almost every night for dinner. But during the day (I had a break while the girls were in school) I had much more energy and of course was always looking for an excuse to do anything other than pack my apartment. So I found myself making a lot of my big meals for lunch.

This fish was one of those mid-day meals. I’ve got to tell you, it was one of the best lunches I’ve had in ages. It’s been over a month since I made it and I can still taste it when I think about it.

The chipotle adds a deep smokey flavor that balances out perfectly with the lightness from the citrus in the orange juice. Then there is the punch of cilantro and the little bit of butter makes everything melt together. It’s also great because it’s basically a one dish meal with easy preparation and clean up. Definitely something you should try. I used Tilapia because it was on sale at the grocery store, but pretty much any mild white fish will work. If you’re worried about it being too fishy, try using a fish like mahi mahi since it’s flavor is even milder.

Also, I found this recipe on Pink Parlsey and this week Josie shared a spin-off recipe using chick peas instead of black beans. Sounds interesting!

Foil Baked Fish with Black Beans and Corn
Ingredients
4 skinless white fish fillets (6 to 8 oz each), 1-inch thick
salt and pepper
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce or 1 tsp dry Chipotle chili powder
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (16-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups corn kernels, I used half frozen sweet corn and half frozen roasted corn (from Trader Joes)
1/2 red onion, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees and adjust rack to lower middle position.

Pat the fish fillets dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the softened butter, 1/2 of the chipotle pepper (or chili powder), orange zest, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and half of the garlic. Spread the butter mixture over the fish.

In a medium bowl, combine the black beans, corn, red onion, 2 tablespoons of cilantro, orange juice, remaining chipotle pepper (or chili powder), remaining garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.

Lay out 4 squares of aluminum foil and divide the bean mixture evenly between them. Place one fish fillet on top of the bean mixture on each sheet of foil. Fold the foil in half over the fish and then seal all of the open edges by folding the foil edges up and in.

Carefully move the foil packets to a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through. Carefully open the packets, sprinkle with remaining cilantro and serve.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, The Best Simple Recipes as seen on Pink Parsley