A Less Traditional Holiday

One of my favorite movies during the holiday season is- A Christmas Story. Remember when the dogs came through the house and ate the turkey? I love that the family then went on to celebrate their holiday dinner regardless… even if it was in a less traditional way at a Chinese restaurant! I don’t remember many untraditional holiday meals in my house growing up. My mother is an amazing cook. But I do remember a few. We ordered pizza from time to time. And now that I have my own family… I’m not as talented in the kitchen as my mom is. I love when our favorite restaurants have holiday menus. I can take the kids and celebrate without having to worry about dishes or cooking. They can start to associate the holiday season with time together around the table with me. It doesn’t really matter if it’s our table or not. The point is… we’re spending time together!

My kids love Denny’s. And I love Denny’s coffee :) Denny’s Season’s Favorites menu is now available and we’ll absolutely be creating new family memories around the table! I’m not a huge fan of Red Velvet but you might be! Be sure to try out the Red Velvet Pancake Puppies or new Red Velvet Milkshake! Do you love pumpkin? I do! There’s plenty of pumpkin in the new pumpkin pancakes! I’m most looking forward to the new Pumpkin Coffee! I’ll be sure to let you know if it’s available in the home brew varieties. You all know how much I love making Denny’s coffee at home! I’m planning on kicking off November with a nice fall holiday meal… The turkey and dressing dinner! It’s served with turkey breast, gravy, stuffing, cranberries, 2 additional sides and bread. The kids love the coziness of a turkey dinner :)

Vice President of Denny’s Marketing, John Dillon, says  “We believe that time spent at the table should be about making memories and being with your loved ones, which is why each year we strive to offer a hassle-free holiday celebration that combines the festive flavors our guests know and love, with the same value and variety that we provide every day.”

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The Season’s Favorites menu is only around for a limited time. Be sure you stop in your local Denny’s before it’s gone!

xo

Kelly

 

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador of Denny’s. This really excites me, because Denny’s was one of my first real jobs as a teenager! You can check out my first post in this series all about my real, authentic, love of Denny’s here. I’d never share about something I didn’t truly feel fondly about! xo -Kelly

That One Time That I Passed on the Fries…

Fries. I. Love. Fries. I love them plain. I love them with ketchup. I love them with beer. I love them with soda. I love them with burgers. I love them alone. I. Love. Fries.

In case you were wondering…. Denny’s has amazing fries. I took the kids to a Denny’s event last week and not only did they order fries… but we ordered jalapeno buttons! Deep fried slices of jalapenos! Oh. Yum. But… I digress. This is about that one time I didn’t order fries. It’s true! I ordered fruit! How novel!

This summer Denny’s launched a few new menu items! My favorite? The chicken salad sandwich! So much so… that I’ve tried to recreate it (scroll down for the recipe). I think I got pretty close to the Denny’s version… but I’m so lazy… I’d rather just head to my local Denny’s and order it! The Denny’s version is made from scratch with roasted, seasoned chicken and served on toasted 7-grain bread. It’s amazing.

Below… you’ll find my own recipe. Let me know if you try it out!

chicken salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boiled chicken cut up into little cubes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup red grapes cut in half
  • ½ cup of chopped almonds (or walnuts if you prefer)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

Add the chopped chicken to a large bowl along with the celery, grapes, chopped almonds (or walnuts), mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Stir them all together until all the ingredients are evenly combined. Chill. Then eat! Yum!

 

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador of Denny’s. This really excites me, because Denny’s was one of my first real jobs as a teenager! You can check out my first post in this series all about my real, authentic, love of Denny’s here. I’d never share about something I didn’t truly feel fondly about! xo -Kelly

Recipe: Roasted Green Tomatillo Salsa

Newsflash: I do indeed make recipes which do not involve a slow cooker.  This is one of them.  I love my green salsa recipe and you will too.  Or scroll down to the bottom for a red salsa recipe which doesn’t taste “dumbed down” but is so full of shortcuts it’s embarrassing.

One nifty trick I learned from the Food Network is that you can turn your salsa into enchilada sauce by sautéeing it with a little flour (I’m simplifying–if you take that literally as the one step to make enchilada sauce, you will be a very dissatisfied, hungry person in the end).  But with that knowledge there are more ways to use this recipe–which is why I make a triple batch most of the time, because if I’m going through the trouble to roast vegetables and get the heavy blender down off the top shelf then I want to make it worth everyone’s while.

I’ve separated the ingredient lists into those for “roasting” and those “used raw”.  Partly because that’s how I remember what to buy at the supermarket without a written list and partly because I don’t have a single photo with all ingredients.

salsa 1Saturated with olive oil, salt the silent killer, and freshly ground black pepper.  Let’s do this.

Ingredients for Roasting:

  • ~1lb tomatillos, husked (one pound is about 1/3-1/2 the capacity of the baggie from the dispensers in the produce department)
  • 1 yellow (or white) onion, chopped into thick pieces or wedges
  • a couple gloves of garlic (yeah I used like ten cloves of garlic here)
  • 1jalapeno pepper, to taste.  Or three.  I used three.

Roasting Instructions:

  1. Organize ingredients on baking pan.  Drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Sprinkle with salt the silent killer and black pepper.
  3. Broil at 500° for 6 minutes.  Keep watching, it could take one or two more minutes before things start browning.  Then remove from oven.

 

Raw Ingredients:

  • one bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (some stem is okay)
  • one bunch green onion, sliced into thick pieces (your blender will pulverize them, so no need to spend the time to slice them shorter)
  • juice of one lime

salsa 2

Instructions:

  1. In a blender*, layer roasted tomatillos, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, green onion & lime juice.
  2. Set blender to pulse, being mindful that a chunky salsa is sometimes preferable to a completely smooth, pureed salsa.
  3. It may require more than one batch in your blender–try to divide the ingredients so that a little of everything is in each batch, and then combine the mixtures.

*I used the Ninja Ultimate Blender for this recipe.  I included the top blade, which is what powers through chunky ingredients like the tomatillos.  This meant that my mixture spent less time at the bottom of the pitcher getting pureed and resulted in a slightly chunky salsa–which is ideal.  I will never use a regular blender again for this recipe.

 

salsa 3

salsa 4

Footnotes:

  1. If you’re a tomatillo novice: you’ll find them in the produce section, usually around the jalapeno and bell peppers, although tomatillos are not spicy.  They look like small green tomatoes covered in a papery thin, green husk.  They’ll roast more evenly if they’re all the same size.  Also, be aware that sometimes there can be dirt on tomatillos which can be rinsed off, but if a tomatillo has black specks which require scraping off, that’s mold.  And mold is no good.
  2. The recipe calls for a jalapeno, but you could use any pepper.  If I’m making salsa just for me, I use habanero or ghost peppers.  You could use a serrano, too.  I suggest starting with a jalapeno and see what you think.
  3. Before juicing your lime, nuke it in the microwave for fifteen seconds.  It loosens up the juices inside.  Thanks for the tip, Rachael Ray.
  4. If you have a Ninja Kitchen blender, use it for this recipe.  I’ve made this recipe for years using my regular blender (food processor works, too) and it does the job, but this recipe is just made for that dual blade on the Ninja.  So efficient.  It works like a dream.

salsa 5MOAR CILANTRO!

I love tomatillo salsa.  The tartness of tomatillos is so appealing, and I love experimenting with different spicy peppers.  If this all sounds fine and good to you but you just don’t have the time or inclination, I give you permission to forgo this recipe and try out my go-to recipe for red salsa which is laughably easy but still tastes like it’s homemade.

You don’t get pictures of this one.  It’s too easy.

You need:

  1. Two cans Ro*Tel Tomatoes & Green Chilies (found on the shelf with other canned, diced tomatoes)
  2. One bunch cilantro, washed and the bottom stems cut off (some stem is okay, just not the thicker, woody stems at the bottom)
  3. One bunch green onion (scallions), roots cut off and the rest roughly chopped into smaller pieces
  4. One jalapeño, stem removed, roughly chopped
  5. Juice of one lime

Put all ingredients into your blender on pulse until you’re satisfied with the consistency.  Add salt and black pepper to taste.  You’re welcome.

rotelThey did all of the hard work for you.

 

Link to your favorite salsa recipe in the comments, or if you have a favorite brand of salsa that you don’t just tolerate but you love, share that too!

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

Slow Cooker Chicken Gyro Bowls

Earlier this month I found something new and tasty-sounding try on BettyCrocker.com: Slow Cooker Chicken Gyro bowls.  Greek food (“Greek food”, as I assume Greek cooks would be offended if I thought this was true Greek food–it’s tasty, though) at home which doesn’t involve something complicated like buying lamb, or owning a vertical rotisserie attached to a broiler–imagine!

One of the reasons this recipe intrigued me (beyond it calling for the use of a slow cooker, for which you already know I have a weakness), is that it calls for pre-packaged flour tortilla “bowls” as a shortcut instead of making or finding pita bread.   I don’t typically endorse any brand of product–despite including photos of the actual ingredients/brand names that I use in a recipe–but as far as I know Old El Paso is the only maker of these soft flour tortilla bowls, so I suppose I’m not endorsing them so much as informing you that this product exists and can add to the convenience of this meal.  (That link takes you to Amazon, because Old El Paso’s website doesn’t finish loading when one navigates to the product’s page.)

 

gyro bowls 1Recognize that micro-plane? I used it to grate garlic cloves this time, but I sold you on this tool way back when.

 

Ingredients for Chicken Mixture

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • juice of half a medium-sized lemon
  • 1/3 cup of water

gyro bowls 6Yeah, it doesn’t look pretty.  Trust the process.

Directions

  1. Put everything in your slow cooker.  Don’t forget your Crock Pot Condom.
  2. Six hours on low, or four hours on high.  Something like that.
  3. Upon completion of cooking, use metal tongs to shred and stir.  Throw in some extra red wine vinegar if it looks dry.  Mine did, so I did.

 

 

gyro bowls 2You can find the Stand N Stuff flour tortilla bowls in the Hispanic foods section at your grocer.

Ingredients for Tzatziki Sauce

  • 16oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 English cucumber (peeled, seeded, diced) (also see photo below)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

gyro bowls 3Pro-tip: After peeling the cucumber use short strokes with it on your grater, instead of dicing by hand.

 Directions for Tzatziki Sauce

  1. Combine all ingredients except olive oil.
  2. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the top.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

gyro bowls 4Two words: YUM!  (Okay–just one word.)

Finally:

  • Prepare sliced red onion, halved grape tomatoes, and feta crumbles to top off gyros.
  • Fill tortilla bowls with chicken, add a few tablespoons of Tzatziki sauce and condiments.
  • Enjoy!

gyro bowls 7

Footnotes:

»  I definitely suggest to avoid low-fat feta cheese crumbles–with the fat goes the flavor, and then the calories which remain are totally worthless because there’s no taste anymore.

»  The Tzaziki recipe calls for just a teaspoon each of dill & oregano but I didn’t find that to be nearly enough.  I probably put a tablespoon of each in my recipe before it finally tasted right.

 

This dish is a tasty one, plus fun for each family member to assemble for him- or herself.

Enjoy!

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

Slow Cooker Dijon Chicken with Mushrooms

I’m back to my slow cooker this week, concocting another recipe following one of my favorite formulas:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts + 1 can of cream of mushroom soup + 1/4 cup of another wet ingredient + a few tablespoons of dry seasoning = YUM

This time I’ve adapted one of my favorite Weight Watchers’ recipes into one I can throw into my Crock Pot.  I love strong flavors, so Dijon mustard is a favorite of mine anyway–combine it with balsamic vinegar and some sliced mushroom and it’s a big hit at my house.

Dijon chicken 2Please note how carefully I stacked those mushrooms for your viewing pleasure.

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2-4 tbsp ground mustard

4 tbsp balsamic vinegar

10-12 fresh mushrooms, washed (one small/normal sized foam container, white button or baby bella)

 

Instructions

1.  Throw everything except the mushrooms into your slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for six hours, or on high for three hours.

Dijon chicken 1Well that just looks like a big mess, doesn’t it?  Please–just trust the process.

 

2.  Midway through the cooking cycle, use metal tongs to flip the chicken breasts over.  The chicken may be tender enough to begin shredding with the tongs, and you should–before you add the mushrooms.

Dijon chicken 3Hear me now and listen to me later: metal tipped tongs are far superior for shredding compared to their silicon counterparts.

3.  Slice up those mushrooms and add them to the chicken mixture.  (You can add them at the beginning of the cooking cycle, but sometimes all that heat cooks the ‘shrooms so thoroughly that their texture becomes an issue with picky eaters.  Add them in the beginning if you must, but I usually throw them in halfway through.  Or add them toward the end of the cooking cycle, but give them at least thirty minutes of slow-cooker heat in order to avoid serving up raw mushrooms with your delicious Dijon chicken.)  Now is also a great time to grind some black pepper in there, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Dijon chicken 4Why did the Fungi leave the party?  There wasn’t mushroom.
WOCKA WOCKA

My finished product was not very pretty, but a whole lot tastier than this photo makes it look.  I served it next to whole wheat penne topped with grated asiago and cracked black pepper.

Dijon chicken 5Dear Food Pyramid:  I swear that’s only a half-cup of pasta. The plate is smaller than it appears.

Footnotes (my specific advice to you is underlined below)

  1. In the end the mixture was too dry to serve over rice or to incorporate into pasta, which were my original intentions.  I could have made a sandwich with it if I’d had foccacia or other crusty type of roll.  Next time I’ll add 1/2 c of broth at the beginning of the cooking so that when I serve the mixture over rice, the juices find their way to the bottom of the bowl and flavor is all over the place.
  2. I should have thought to add whole cloves of garlic.  Dammit Jim, why didn’t I think of that?  They would have slow cooked into sweet dollops of savory goodness after six hours and added that element of delightfulness which only roasted garlic can add to my plate.  Garlic bread also would have been a good choice for a starch.
  3. Mustard is full of salt, so hold off on adding The Silent Killer during the prep and cooking and allow each person at the dinner table make that choice for his or herself.  We all consume too much sodium to begin with, so just take it easy.
  4. I realize I failed to use a green vegetable to really pull this meal together, but that felt really ambitious.  What vegetable side could complement such strong flavors as Dijon and balsamic vinegar?  Comment with your ideas
  5. My kiddo taste-tested two bites and didn’t care for it (made me wonder if I should have omitted the dry ground mustard?).  I was bummed, but whipped up a veggie burger for her while I daydreamed about all the leftovers I will enjoy tomorrow.

 

Dijon chicken 6No Celine was harmed in the assemblage of this blog post.

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

Goat Cheese & Dill Potato Salad

My salivary glands can’t even handle the title of this blog post.

Goat cheese?  I’d eat it everyday, given an unlimited supply of goats and people to milk them and turn that into cheese.  Wait a minute–I live in America!  I think I already have this!  Why don’t I eat goat cheese everyday, then?  I should.  Mmmm goat cheese.

And dill?  I only grow a ton of it in my garden and I’m always looking for ways to use it up.

This was a recent experiment–a savory, delicious experiment which I must share.  And this was so timely of me, given that we have embarked upon BBQ-and-picnic weather and everyone can use a new dish to try or share with your friends and family–don’t be the lame-o who brings the same old, tired, uncreative mustard-based store-bought potato salad to your next potluck!

The dressing here is based on fat-free yogurt, olive oil and goat cheese–I understand that this may seem non-traditional to some of you, so hold your judgment and disdain until I can explain some things at the bottom under “Helpful Hints”.

 

Ingredients:

  • a half dozen or so red potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled goat cheese (eyeball it–it doesn’t have to be exactly 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup of plain, fat-free yogurt (eyeball it, this time with your other eyeball)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, grated (I used a micro plane, seen in the above photo)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch of radishes, thinly sliced and then halved (half moons)
  • fresh dill, chopped–about 1 cup, or the entire contents of the clamshell you buy in the produce department
  • 4-5 green onions, sliced

 

Steps:

  1. Cover the potatoes with water, using a large pot.  Add some salt.  Bring to a boil.
  2. While potatoes cook, whisk together your dressing ingredients: goat cheese, yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, grated garlic, and salt & pepper to taste.
  3. Remove and drain the potatoes when fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Return potatoes to the hot pot, add the white wine vinegar.
  5. Add the sliced radishes and fresh dill to the warm potatoes.  Cover with the dressing and give it a mix until the spuds are evenly coated.
  6. Walk away, put on leather motorcycle jacket, light up an e-cig and reflect on how cool you are because nobody else at the neighbor’s BBQ will bring anything as delicious as what you just made.

 

Helpful hints:

  • You can serve this potato salad warm or cold.  I prefer warm, because I like to be accused of being difficult.
  • This dish is pretty vegetarian-friendly.  If wanted to “beef” it up a little, you could add bacon crumbles or diced ham cubes.
  • This recipe calls for plain, fat-free yogurt instead of mayo.  It’s not that I’m some kind of animal or un-American, but mayo really creeps me out (raw egg yolks, you guys!) and plus is responsible for literally millions of incidents of food poisoning (I literally just made up that number).  Don’t worry, though–as long as you use plain yogurt (i.e. not vanilla) the tangy-ness won’t bother you.  Also, feel free to use plain Greek yogurt if you like all that protein.  The texture won’t matter in the end, so as long as you buy plain yogurt you’ll be in good shape.
  • Regarding the crumbled goat cheese, all of us smarties with Costco memberships will be pleased–they sell logs of Kirkland brand goat cheese cheaper than anywhere else (around $6, in the cheeses aisle).
  • You could swap white wine for the white wine vinegar if you don’t usually keep that on hand–and you only need a splash, so get your wine glasses ready while you make this dish!
  • If you don’t own a micro plane, consider buying one ($10-15, scroll up and click the Amazon link to your right and add one to your cart).  I used it for grating garlic in this case, but it’s also good for grating fresh ginger or cinnamon sticks and for zesting.  It only comes out of the drawer once or twice a month, but it’s inexpensive and handy to have.

Any thoughts or more ideas on this recipe?  Leave them in the comments, please!

dill radishes

 

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.