Shredded Barbecue Chicken Sweet Potatoes

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During the summer, we put our new grill to good use. We grilled chicken breasts, shish kabobs or burgers nearly every night for dinner, making the cooking and the cleaning process very quick. So when the weather started to cool down, I was sad to see our phase of quick and easy weeknight dinners come to a close. However, with the help of some Sunday afternoon food prep, I’ve found a few dinner ideas that can come together just as quickly as our beloved grilled dinners. I like to throw a bag of frozen chicken breasts in my slow cooker on Sundays so that we have pulled chicken on hand for salads, sandwiches and a few quick and easy dinner recipes. One of my new favorites was inspired by the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. One of the episodes features a barbecue restaurant in Cleveland whose specialty was Pulled Pork Sweet Potato Skins. As decadant as their dish looked, I knew it was something I could easily make a “lightened up” version of. This dish tastes decadent, but is really just simple baked chicken and sweet potatoes thrown together in a new way.

Ingredients: Serves 2

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded chicken
  • 1/4-1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preparation:

  1. Bake the sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the potato is baked through
  2. Combine the shredded chicken and barbecue sauce and heat in a saucepan over medium heat. You may want to add more or less barbecue sauce, depending upon your preference. (I found this recipe is best with a sauce that isn’t too sweet)
  3. Once the potatoes are done, remove from the oven and cut in half. Use a fork to mash the inside of the potato. Add 1/2 cup of barbecue chicken on the top of each potato and sprinkle with shredded cheese
  4. Return the potatoes to the oven, and bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted
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Pepperoni Chicken

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Getting back into a regular work week is always a little tough after an especially fun weekend. And this past weekend was definitely a fun one. Eric and I had a fancy date night on Saturday night to celebrate our sixth Valentine’s Day together.  This year we visited Giovanni’s Restaurant in Detroit, which features incredibly delicious and authentic Italian cuisine. Sunday morning we got brunch with some friends and spent the rest of the afternoon watching SNL reruns. So, needless to say, I was a bit sad to see such a relaxing weekend end. But one of the ways I’ve learned to combat the Monday blues is to plan at least one special weeknight meal for the week ahead. It’s fun for me to spend a little more time in the kitchen, and it’s fun for Eric because he gets something a little more special than our typical grilled chicken. One of our new favorites is this Pepperoni Chicken. I had some leftover cheese and pepperoni from a homemade pizza and decided to get a little creative. It made my pizza obsessed husband pretty happy, and I thought it was pretty delicious myself. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 3 servings

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 shredded mozzarella
  • 6-8 pepperonis

Preparation:

  1. To prepare the chicken, use a meat mallet to beat chicken until each chicken breast is approximately 1 inch thick, set aside
  2. Set up “breading station” by placing flour in a dish or paper plate. Next mix the beaten egg with 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Next place Italian breadcrumbs in a 2nd dish or paper plate
  3. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To bread chicken, place in the flour dish first, covering chicken completely with flour. Shake off excess flour.
  5. Next, place floured chicken breast in egg mixture until completely coated. Shake off excess egg.
  6. Finally, place chicken in breadcrumbs until completely coated. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts
  7. Place chicken breasts on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Spray each breast with cooking spray
  8. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 180 degrees
  9. Remove chicken from oven, and top each chicken breast with 1-2 tablespoons of marinara, 2-3 pepperonis, and 2-3 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella. Return to oven for 1-2 minutes additional cooking time, or until cheese has melted.

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Weekend in Milwaukee

I’m a little bit behind on blogging, but I thought I would share a little travel recap from our recent trip to Milwaukee over Memorial Day Weekend. I work for Hilton Hotels, and one of the perks of the job is some amazing discounts at Hiltons all over the country. Because of this, Eric and I decided we really need to take advantage of my super cheap hotel room rates for quick weekend trips. This time around we were lucky to be accompanied by two of our favorite people- Eric’s parents!

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Eric had been to Milwaukee once before and insisted that our first stop in town was the Mars Cheese Castle. And yes, you did read that correctly. We visited a castle full of cheese. My husband was one happy camper

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It was basically a large gourmet market that specialized in a variety of cheeses. We had the chance to try some different types of cheddar cheeses, some flavored cheeses and even a chocolate cheese that tasted like a mix between cream cheese and fudge. We left the Mars Cheese castle with some smoked cheddar cheese and some of the most amazing honey pecan barbeque sauce I’ve ever had. Who knew you could find such great barbeque sauce at a cheese store?

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Later that day we went to the Miller Brewery and took a tour of the facility. I was surprised that the tour was completely free, as they not only took as through the entire brewery operations, but they also gave three free 6 oz samples of some of their beers. Trying the beer was definitely a nice part of the tour, but it was really fun to learn the history of Miller. For as large of an operation that it is today, it was nice to hear that it grew from a very small family business.

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The first night we roamed around Downtown Milwaukee and we could not have asked for a more beautiful weekend to walk along the river.

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The next day was filled with another brewery tour, but this one couldn’t have been more different than the Miller Tour. While the Miller Brewery tour was very planned and informative, our tour of Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery was pretty much the opposite. But it was an absolute blast. The tour guides were hilarious and had us cracking up the entire time. They told the story of how the brewery came to be, but at times I felt like we were watching a stand up comedian for how funny their stories were. And the beer was pretty darn good as well. We even got to try their award winning East Side Dark Lager, which according to the New York Times, is  the second best dark lager in the US.

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We also tried the Wisconsonite, a summer weis beer, Fixed Gear, their red style beer, and the White, which is their belgium white. It made for a very fun afternoon.

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Later that night we visited The Safe House, which was a spy themed restaurant that you need a code word to gain entrance to. From the outside, it looked like we were entering an abandoned building, but inside it was covered with tons of spy memorabilia.  It was definitely a fun little venture. And with that, our short weekend getaway was over. But it was a great quick trip with fantastic company.

Ham and Cheese Sliders

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I’ve never really been into football. Rather than plopped in front of the TV on game days, I ‘ve always been known to be in the kitchen or on a running trail on those important fall days . In high school, I think I only made it to one or two of our high school football games, and I spent more time talking to my friends than actually watching what was happening on the field. I was never the girl who had a favorite Lion or Spartan. Heck, I didn’t even know any of the players’ names. But when I went to college, my dad insisted that I go see the Michigan State Spartans play football. I remember that first game I attended with my best friend LT. We were  freshman, and we went to the game decked out in our green and white.

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I actually paid attention to what was happening on the field, but I still didn’t quite “get” football. But then a few years later I met Eric. And for Eric, football was a passion  stronger than anything. So just like he taste tested all my baked goods, and even went on a run or two with me, I decided to give “liking football” another chance. So we attended game after game our senior year and something happened.

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I experienced the enthusiasm of the student section and sang along proudly whenever our fight song was played.  Through the many, many interviews and Youtube videos Eric watched, I started to recognize the fierce loyalty that the players had to each other and to their coach. I learned to love the sharp focus that Coach Dantonio had, and began to laugh excitedly every time we caught one of those rare moments that he actually smiled. And somewhere along the way, I learned that football was much more than just a bunch of guys tackling each other. It is about loyalty to your team and the happy feeling you get when someone responds correctly to your shout of “Go Green” with a spirited “Go White.” It’s about that common bond you share with everyone who proudly wears the same team colors. And though I still don’t completely understand all of the rules of football, I like to think that I’ve finally begun to”get” football. So when our beloved Michigan State Spartans won the 100th Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year’s Day, even I, the former anti-football queen, got a little teary eyed. And while my ecstatic fiance was cheering on the Spartans at the game, I was plopped in front of the TV watching it with my parents. And I got to experience yet another great thing about game day. Game day food. My mom made these somewhat famous Hawaiian Ham & Cheese sliders for our game day meal. You may have seen this recipe on about 100 different websites, and it is definitely worth a try. You use the slightly sweet King’s Hawaiian rolls and a sweet glaze to create the perfect salty-sweet game day food. Bring them along to all of your tailgates next fall-I know I will!

Ingredients: Makes 24 sliders

  • 2 dozen King’s Hawaiian rolls
  • 1 lb. swiss cheese
  • 2 lbs. sliced ham
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Preparation:

  1. Slice rolls in half and layer 2 slices of ham and 1 slice of cheese on each roll; spread rolls out on a lightly greased cookie sheet
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix butter, brown sugar, mustard and Woscestershire sauce
  3. Drizzle butter mixture over all of the rolls, and sprinkle with poppy sides
  4. Cover sliders with tin foil and bake at 325 for 25 minutes

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Turkey Sausage and Spinach Lasagna

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In about a year I will be a married lady. Which means” my single girl” dinners of baked sweet potatoes or a bowl of cereal may be behind me. Because although I find a bowl of oatmeal or a veggie burger to be a perfectly acceptable meal, my husband-to-be might require a little more on his plate. And since I don’t really see myself cooking two separate dinners every night, I thought I should start trying out some recipes that will appeal to both of us. Healthy and light enough for my tastes, but filling enough for Eric. And this lasagna recipe is the perfect combination of the foods we both enjoy. It is chock full of the spinach I love, but it is filled and covered with just enough cheese to keep Eric happy. The recipe comes from Cooking Light magazine, and with 8 servings, it would be a great meal to make on a Sunday afternoon to result in a week full of delicious leftovers. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Recipe Adapted slightly from Cooking Light

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup lowfat milk
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 lasagna noodles
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 (12 oz) package of fresh spinach
  • 5 (4 oz) Sweet Turkey Sausage links
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 ounce shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Preparation:

  1. Combine flour and next four ingredients (milk through bay leaf) in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Cook 8 minutes until thick and bubbly, stirring consistently
  2. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper.
  3. Spread milk mixture onto the bottom of an 11 x 7 inch baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray
  4. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add in lasagna noodles, let boil until noodles are cooked through. Drain and set noodles aside
  5. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add two tablespoons water and fresh spinach; cook spinach for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts
  6. Remove sausage from casings and add to skillet with spinach
  7. Break sausages up with a spoon and let cook  for 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through
  8. Add garlic to skillet and let simmer for 2-3 minutes
  9. To assemble lasagna, place two noodles side by side in the baking dish
  10. Next spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on top of each noodle
  11. Spread a third of the sausage mixture on top of ricotta layer and top with an additional lasagna noodle on each side
  12. Repeat layers twice
  13. Sprinkle top lasagna noodle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese and cover dish with tin foil
  14. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes
  15. Remove baking dish from the oven and turn the oven to Broil mode on high
  16. Place lasagna back in the oven and broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble and brown slightly
  17. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting

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