Lightened Up Chicken Enchiladas

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In my job as a hotel sales manager, I used to work with brides to coordinate their wedding hotel room blocks. And though I no longer handle the wedding blocks, I often hear the many “bridezilla” stories that my colleagues share. We recently had a bride have a complete meltdown over the brand of Kleenex we offered to place in her guests’ wedding welcome bags. Part of me wanted to laugh, and part of me wanted to call this poor girl up and tell her to take a deep breath, slow down, and remember why she was planning this big party in the first place. Nowadays, with all of the wedding blogs and constant wedding Facebook posts, I can see how so many brides can get caught up in making everything “Pinterest perfect.” And it makes me so sad. Planning the celebration of such a big step in life should be an enjoyable, exciting time. And on your big day, the last thing you should be worrying about are those tiny details that no one will remember. The comment I get the most from guests at my own wedding is “You were the happiest bride I’ve ever seen.” That happiness did not come from wearing a perfect dress, or seeing perfect flowers everywhere. The happiness came from getting to marry my best friend. A year and half later, I’m sure very few people remember what our centerpieces looked like, or what our wedding favor was, but they remember how happy we were on that day. And I hope some of our future brides can share that happiness without getting caught up in the details.

As fun as our wedding day was, having all the attention on me was a bit overwhelming. Being a little shy, the role of “the bride” was a bit strange for me. But taking on the role of “the wife” has been absolutely the best. Eric does all the outdoor work, and I get to cook all of our dinners. And this easy dinner recipe got a big thumbs up. I like to make this recipe for chicken enchiladas on a Sunday when I have a bit more time. Typically I eat one enchilada for dinner, and Eric will eat two. I typically let the leftover enchiladas cool completely before placing in a tupperware and freezing. When you are ready to heat up the remaining portions, just place them in a baking dish and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until heated through.

Ingredients: Makes 8 enchiladas

  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups shredded chicken
  • 8 6-inch flour tortillas
  • 3/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese

2.  Stack tortillas; wrap stack in damp paper towels and microwave at HIGH for 25 seconds. Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture in center of each tortilla; roll up. Arrange tortillas, seam sides down, in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with reserved sauce and cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and sauce is bubbly.

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Ranch Chicken Burgers

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I always say I have 3 criteria for a weeknight meal. It has to be delicious, nutritious and easy to make. But recently, I realized there really is a 4th must-have. It has to be easy enough to make to talk on the phone with at least one of my family members at the same time. I talk to my mom, dad, and brother pretty much every day. But whenever I have a tough day, I call Sean first. Yesterday was a rough day. I feel like I’m in Kindergarten writing this but..yesterday someone was mean to me. And just like I did when I actually was in Kindergarten, I went straight to Sean. Back then Sean would take care of things pretty directly. I remember mentioning to Sean that one of the boys in my class was making fun of my height. The very next day, he gave the kid a good firm talking to, and that boy never bothered me again. Just last year, one of my best friends from grade school admitted to still being a little afraid of my brother thanks to that incident. Nowadays, he can’t exactly yell at anyone who hurts my feelings. So instead, he gives me great advice. He told me not to let things that happen during the work day bother me so much. Because at the end of the day, I get to come home to a wonderful husband, great friends, and the best family on earth. And in the end, people can only make you feel bad if you let them. And just like that, I was back to my happy, perky self. Every girl should have a brother like mine.

And now back to dinner. These chicken burgers have already become a favorite in our household. All you need is ground chicken and a few seasonings and you have an incredibly delicious dinner. The use of dry Ranch seasoning adds a great kick to the chicken, and pairs really well with the barbeque sauce of your choice

Ingredients: Makes 4 burgers

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons dry Ranch dressing (unprepared)
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • barbeque sauce to taste
  1. Place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly until well combined. (I found it was easiest to use my hands to mix everything together)
  2. Form 4 even patties
  3. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat and cook each patty for 1 minute per side, just until the patty has slightly browned
  4. Take the browned patties out of the pan and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until done
  5. Place on a bun, adding barbeque sauce or any topping you’d like

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Asian Chicken Stir Fry

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Sometimes I feel like no matter what age we are, we are always looking forward. As children, we look forward to that mysterious land of “high school,” where you can drive a car, stay out late, and presumably have the exact same social life as the cast members of Saved by the Bell. As teenagers, we look forward to “college” where curfews don’t exist and we possess that coveted “independence” we always longed for. And as adults, you’re always thinking of the next phase…marriage, buying a house, having kids, advancing your careers, and finally…retirement. It’s hard to “enjoy the moment” when we are constantly looking forward. The funny thing about me is, I never seemed to look forward to the same periods of life as my peers. As a child, I don’t remember longing for high school or college like most of my friends did. Instead, I always remember thinking that the first few years of marriage would be the happiest time in my life. This is undoubtedly a strange thing for a 13 year old to think…but oddly enough, the current time in my life is something I always looked forward to. But this current phase didn’t quite pan out exactly the way 13 year old me thought it would. Because, believe it or not… it is way better. I’m happier right now than I ever thought was possible. Because coming home to my very best friend every night is truly the best. So rather than spending my time over planning for the future..I’m focusing on enjoying this incredible, wonderful season of life. And one of my favorite things about this phase in life is cooking simple dinners at home. As much as Eric would be perfectly happy eating grilled chicken or pizza every night, I love coming up with different  ideas to mix up our weekday dinners. And this was a recent creation that turned out to be quite the hit. It’s very simple to make, and far cheaper and healthier than hitting up the Chinese takeout place down the street. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients: Makes 2 servings

  • 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups frozen vegetables (I used a “stir fry blend” of broccoli, carrots, green beans & cauliflower)
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked
  • 3-4 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Preparation:

  1. Place raw chicken breasts (thinly sliced) into a large ziploc bag, and cover with next four ingredients (soy sauce through olive oil). Let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes
  2. Heat a large sauce pan over medium high heat
  3. After chicken has marinated, pour entire contents of the bag into the saucepan.
  4. Cook until chicken has cooked through, and add frozen vegetables
  5. Continue to stir until vegetables are heated through
  6. To serve, place cooked brown rice on a plate, and top with chicken stir fry mixture. Top with sunflower seeds

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Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Wraps

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Well guys, the holiday season is almost upon us! The 6 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are without a doubt my favorite time of the year. I get overly excited each and every year for this wonderful time filled with family, friends and, of course, holiday food. But before I bombard you with billions of festive recipes and holiday adventures, I thought I would share my new favorite weeknight dinner. And it all starts with a slow cooker. My mom bought a slow cooker at an estate sale last summer and I have been loving this amazing kitchen appliance. And no, I am not embarrassed that I am excited about an appliance. Even when I was little, relatives would often give me random cooking and baking appliances for Christmas and I loved each and every one of them. At 12, I received my own blender which resulted in tons of milkshake and smoothie “recipes.” At 15, I received a breadmaker which resulted in loaf after loaf of homemade bread. And now, at 24, the slow cooker is the apple of my eye. My new routine is to throw a few chicken breasts in the slow cooker on Sunday afternoon so I have several servings of shredded chicken to use for lunch and dinner throughout the week. Monday I heated it up and mixed it with a healthy serving of barbeque sauce. Tuesday I  used it in a big salad. Wednesday I added it to Chicken Quesadillas and Thursday I made these super easy Chicken Caesar Wraps. Below is both the base recipe for shredded chicken and the recipe I used for the Chicken Caesar Wraps. The nice thing about the slow cooker is that there is no added butter or oil, yet the chicken comes out incredibly moist and tender. So here is (perhaps my last) healthy recipe before the holiday baking season officially begins. Enjoy!

 

Shredded Chicken Ingredients: Makes 6-8 servings

  • 6 frozen chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt (or seasoning of your choice)

Chicken Caesar Wrap Ingredients: Makes 2 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
  • 1/2 cup Caesar dressing
  • 2 wraps
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
  • 3 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese

Preparation:

  1. To prepare the shredded chicken: Place frozen chicken breasts in the slow cooker and cover with chicken broth and seasoning
  2. Turn slow cooker on high, and let cook for 6 hours
  3. After chicken is tender and cooked through completely, transfer chicken breasts to a large bowl, straining any remaining liquid
  4. Using two forks, shred chicken breasts*
  5. To prepare chicken Caesar wraps: Place 1 1/2 cups shredded chicken in a medium bowl and add Caesar dressing, mixing until just combined. (You may want to add more dressing depending upon your preference)
  6. To assemble wraps, place 1/2 cup shredded romaine in each wrap
  7. Top each wrap with 3/4 cup chicken mixture
  8. Sprinkle each wrap with 1 1/2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
  9. Roll the wrap up and enjoy!

*Store extra shredded chicken in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins

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When I was 12 or 13 I wrote down a list of goals I hoped to accomplish in life. Some of them were simple and have already been checked off the list. Write a letter to my 7th grade teacher and thank him for teaching me so much about literature and life. Check. Travel somewhere I’ve never been, completely on my own. Check. And then there were a few goals that will take a lot more work and patience. One of these goals is run in the Detroit Marathon. It’s a bit funny to me that I had this ambition so long ago when running wasn’t even really a part of my every day life. Sure, I ran fairly regularly to stay in shape but I didn’t enjoy it. And running any distance longer than 2 miles seemed absolutely miserable. But over the years, running became so much more than a way to stay in shape. As crazy as it might sound, I think it’s become a big part of who I am. I’ve always been a chronic over thinker, over analyzer and, well, all around spazz. But running somehow balances me in a way I can’t quite explain. Starting every day quietly with only the sound of my feet on the pavement calms me down and settles my over active mind.  So for the last 3 months I have been working at achieving this particular life long goal. I’ve suffered sore muscles, frigid ice baths and 7am Saturday wakeup calls from Eric, encouraging me to get the long run in before the heat and humidity set in. But overall, I’ve really enjoyed the training process. Getting to increase my mileage each week and walk away with the knowledge that I ran 9, 10, 11 miles all before 9am has been an amazing feeling.  In a few days I will run the Detroit Half Marathon.  I may not run the race quickly or perfectly paced but I’m confidant that I will cross that finish line with a flurry of endorphins and sore muscles. So what, you may ask, does this have to do with muffins? Well, one of the things I’ve learned from half marathon training is the importance of proper fueling. I never like to eat before I run, but I started realizing running anything over 6 miles on an empty stomach didn’t leave me feeling too hot. Enter these muffins. They are slightly sweet and chock full of wholesome ingredients. And at only 90 calories a pop, they aren’t so filling that you feel like you’re running with a brick in your stomach. Key for a good run. I started making a batch of these per week, and they are so delicious I may continue baking them even after my half marathon training is done. So whip up a batch of these babies on Sunday, and send me good vibes so I can cross the finish line in one piece!

Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, Adapted slightly from from Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 1 tsp sugar

Preparation:

  1. In a small bowl, soak the oats in the milk and let sit for at least one hour
  2. Combine the oat mixture with the applesauce and egg whites until just combined
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together (whole wheat flour through salt)
  4. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into dry ingredients, set remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon aside
  5. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients until just combined
  6. Scoop muffin batter into a muffin pan lined with muffin liners
  7. In a small bowl, combine sugar and remaining cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over muffin batter
  8. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes

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Two Ingredient Pumpkin Cookies

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Happy First Day of Fall! Crisp mornings, cozy sweaters and baked goods filled with cinnamon and pumpkin easily make fall my favorite season. So I thought I would share a few of my favorite things about the best season of the year to go along with the easiest cookie recipe on earth.

1. Fall Running Weather. Once fall ushers in the slightly chilly temperatures, running becomes so much more enjoyable. And since I already love to run, fall running weather turns me into a running machine. This year I’m training for a half marathon, and I am absolutely loving the crisp morning air and the crunch of fallen leaves on my long runs.

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2. Tailgates at MSU. Ever since we graduated from Michigan State 2 1/2 years ago, my group of college friends try to pick at least one football game to have a big tailgate on our old stomping grounds. You can’t get much better than friends, tailgate food, beer and football. Even if I still don’t quite understand the rules of football just yet.

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3. Baseball Playoffs: This is a relatively new “fall favorite” of mine. Being from Detroit, our home baseball team wasn’t very good for most of my life. But over the last few years, the Tigers have not only become a team to watch, we even made it to the World Series last year. I work a block from the stadium so the excitement of playoff season is definitely infectious.

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4. Pumpkin Mania. Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin spice lattes. Come September, Pumpkin is everywhere and I can’t get enough. So that brings us to the easiest cookie recipe ever. These 2 ingredients cookies, made popular on Pinterest, come together in a flash. All you do is mix a box of cake mix with a can of pumpkin, and after a few minutes in the oven, you have yourself a decadent batch of fluffy, cakelike pumpkin cookies. I like to top them with cream cheese frosting for an especially decadent treat, but they are just as delicious without the topping. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 2 dozen cookies

  • 1 box spice cake mix
  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (store bought or homemade)

Preparation:

  1. Place cake mix and pumpkin in a large bowl and and mix until just combined
  2. Drop batter by the tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet
  3. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes
  4. Let cookies cool and top with frosting if desired

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Almond Bread

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Before I started my massive cookbook collection and before food blogs stormed the internet, my main source of recipes was Cooking Light Magazine. I used to carefully scour page after page of this monthly magazine and rip out recipes even when I was in grade school. I remember making their marshmallow peanut butter brownies for my 4th grade birthday treat (with a little help from my mom, of course). And here we are,15 years later and I am still a huge fan of Cooking Light. From easy dinner recipes to decadent (but healthy!) desserts, I am pretty much a lifelong fan. And this recipe for Almond Quick Bread is yet another Cooking Light Recipe. The bread tastes rich and decadent and is full of almond flavor, yet it is low in sugar, fat and calories. That’s a win-win in my book. I recently made this bread for “my big girlfriend” Alexandra, because she just had her adorable new baby, Alex…who by the way, is pretty much the cutest baby in the world. This recipe is great to give as a gift and a perfect feature at a Sunday Brunch. So next time, skip the decadent bakery bread and try out this recipe- you definitely will not regret it. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 1 loaf, Recipe from Cooking Light

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 7oz package of almond paste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preparation:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine first 3 ingredients (flour through salt) and set aside
  2. In a large bowl, place cream sugar, butter and canola oil together until just combined
  3. Add almond paste to sugar mixture and beat until well combined (about 3 minutes)
  4. Beat in egg, one at a time
  5. Beat in vanilla extract
  6. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk into sugar mixture, beating well after each addition
  7. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and sprinkle with slivered almonds
  8. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes

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“Fully Loaded” Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

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Around here, I tend to consider peanut butter a food group of its own. Whether its smothered on a piece of toast in the morning or its just a spoonful straight from the jar, I definitely manage to fit peanut butter into my diet every day. I love the creamy (or crunchy!) texture and the smooth peanut taste. So I kind of surprised myself when I realized I only have one peanut butter cookie recipe here on this blog. And although my Vegan Peanut Butter Cookie recipe is one of my favorites, I felt I needed to share another cookie recipe that features this delicious nutty spread. And what goes better with peanut butter than chocolate? I threw an assortment of chocolate chips and chocolate covered raisins into this classic, fluffy peanut butter cookie recipe and was delighted with the results.  I added cornstarch into the batter, a tip I learned from Pinterest, and the result was incredibly soft & fluffy cookies. I brought these cookies into work with me because I knew it would probably be wiser to share 2 dozen cookies with my coworkers than to leave them in my own kitchen. Well, I think these cookies were a hit, because they disappeared within hours. Although I added chocolate chips and chocolate covered raisins, you could definitely vary the mix-ins for a number of different peanut butter cookie varieties. (I think crushed pretzels or m&m’s would be delicious!) So have some fun and incorporate some peanut butter into you daily diet. It’s a health food, I promise.

Ingredients: Makes 24 cookies

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chocolate covered raisins

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy
  2. Beat in egg until just combined
  3. Beat in peanut butter and vanilla
  4. Add baking soda, cornstarch & flour and mix until just combined
  5. Place dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill
  6. Remove dough from fridge and stir in chocolate chips and chocolate covered raisins
  7. Place tablespoons of dough onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes

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Chocolate Chip Macaroons

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There are billions of food blogs on the internet and hundreds of cookbooks on the shelves of the bookstore, but sometimes I’ll find a favorite recipe in the simplest of places. Like the newspaper. And I don’t mean the online version of the local paper. I mean the good old fashion black and white paper that is delivered to your doorstep a few times a week. When I was little I went straight for the comics. (Did you really expect a 10 year old to go for the finance section?) Later on I starting skimming through the Life & Home section to read the restaurant reviews and recipes. I still love relaxing on Sunday mornings and leisurely going through all the different sections of the paper. There is something wholesome and comforting about reading the actual newspaper rather than scanning the headlines online. It makes me sad to think the newspaper may soon disappear completely. But while the paper is still being delivered to my doorstep, I plan on taking advantage of the delicious recipes you can often find in it. Like these Chocolate Chip Coconut Macaroon Cookies. My mom saw these in the paper and we immediately decided to whip them up. And with only 6 ingredients and 15 minutes of baking time, they came together in a flash. The cookies are very sweet and chewy with a delicate crunch. And if you are a fan of the chocolate + coconut combination you will love these cookies. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 2 dozen, from Detroit Free Press

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded coconut
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, coconut, egg whites,chocolate chips, vanill and salt
  2. Dampen hands with cold water
  3. Roll the batter into 1 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
  4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden brown

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