Crock Pot Mexican Chicken Enchilada Soup

I was gifted an awesome crock pot last year for Christmas, but have only used it a handful of times. The reason I haven't taken greater advantage of this awesome tool (dinner that cooks while you're at work = amazing) is because I'm an anxious freak. 

I tried to leave a chicken dish to simmer away while I was at work once a few months ago and I thought about it alllll day. I did not think about my delicious dinner like a normal human. Instead, I obsessed about all the potential harm a crock pot could do while it sat on my counter for 8 hours, namely setting my kitchen on fire.  Yes, I realize that the purpose of this machine is to turn it on and leave it... and I realize that there's little to no chance that this thing could get hot enough to start a fire, but like I said ... anxious freak. 

So now I only use the crock pot while I'm home, which kind of defeats the purpose. But, at least I don't have to spend an entire day considering calling the fire department to "just check on my home". 

Here's what you'll need...

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup onion, chopped 
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
8 oz can tomato sauce
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
3 tsp chili in adobo sauce
15 oz can black beans
2 cups frozen corn
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup pepper jack cheese for topping 

Here's what to do... 

Heat olive oil in crock pot and set to "saute". If your crock pot does not have this function, you may do this step in a pan. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion has softened (3-4 minutes). 
Change crock pot to "slow cook" and add all remaining ingredients except cheese and cook for 4-6 hours on low. 
After 4-6 hours, remove chicken breast from crock pot, shred chicken and return to soup. 
Serve and garnish with cheese. You may also top with scallions, additional cilantro, sour cream, or some crushed tortilla chips. 

roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes with a lemon tahini dressing

I was looking for a side to pair with some spinach pie (another recipe for another day) and decided that I needed something more than a simple green salad. I decided that another vegetable would work well, and its really hard to resist sweet potatoes and butternut squash when Trader Joe's cuts them all up for you in little perfect cubes (hello, time saver!). So that's how I landed on this recipe.

On another note, if you don't have a proper roasting pan, I suggest you add one of those bad boys to your holiday wish list. I used to do most of my vegetable roasting on a sheet pan, but that clean up is a bi...really annoying. The non-stick roasting pan I use now makes for an easy clean up. I also love that it has nice tall edges so I can shake my veggies around mid roast without any spillage. 

Back to the pretty orange taters and squash... 

Here's what you'll need...
1 lb butternut squash cubed in bite size pieces
1 lb sweet potatoes cubed in bite size pieces
1 small red onion, cut into thick slices (about 1/2 inch)
1/4 cup slivered almonds 
handful of fresh parsley, chopped 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon water
juice from half a lemon
1/2 tbsp dried oregano 

Here's what to do... 
Heat oven to 400 degrees. 
Add cubed butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and onion to a roasting pan. Coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until squash is tender and caramelized slightly on the outside. Stir through vegetables once or twice while roasting to insure even cooking. 
While vegetables are cooking, mix dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. 
Once the roasted vegetables are done, plate and top with parsley and almonds. Drizzle tahini dressing over the top and serve. May be served warm or room temperature. 

soft and chewy m+m chocolate chip cookies

I'm still on the hunt for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. This weekend I added a secret ingredient (well not so secret since I'm about to share it) to the classic cookie dough recipe and really enjoyed the results. This ingredient kept the cookies from flattening out and becoming too crunchy after cooling. 

I'm pretty sure that adding M&Ms only improves the classic chocolate chip cookie recipe, but if you're not a fan (you're silly) and you may absolutely leave them out. I mixed them into the dough this time, but next time I make these, I might leave them out and instead place them on the top of my cookies right before baking so the colors are a bit more prominent. Obviously this doesn't affect the taste one bit! I ate more than my fair share of these while tailgating and, per usual, could not stop myself from indulging in a bit of cookie dough between baking batches. 

Here's what you'll need... 
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
5 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2-3 cups of M&Ms

Here's what to do...
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
In a large mixing bowl, mix butter and sugars until well combined. Add in eggs and vanilla and mix until combined. Add flour, pudding mix, baking soda, and salt. Add in your chocolate chips (and m&ms if you would like to do so at this point). 
Using a cookie scoop or a spoon, place dough 1 in apart on baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned. 
Cool on sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack. 

lemony chicken orzo soup

Cooking on weeknights can be super overwhelming. 

I dont know if I've shared this fact on the blog before but I grocery shop every day. Yes, you read that correctly... every single day (If I plan on cooking that is).

The reason for this is three fold:
1. I cannot, for the life of me, go to the grocery store and pick up all of the items that I need. It's like a disease. I've tried lists, but somehow I seem to leave them at home. Or I look at them and mentally cross all of the items off, but in reality, I forget the damn garlic

2. I like certain things from different stores and therefore there are four distinct stores that I must hit up periodically depending on what items I need. Sure I realize that I'm an insane person, but it is what it is. Meats from Whole Foods, produce and cheese from Trader Joe's, brand name items like Oreos or Goldfish (I said periodically, okay!) from Jewell or Target, and then there's this one little mart down the street that sells Boar's Head deli meats (random).

3. How the hell do people meal plan? How am I to possibly know what I'd like for dinner on Thursday on Monday night? Impossible I tell ya! That's like picking out your outfits for the entire week. Yeah, right. 

Anyway, this is reason I'm sharing this healthy, tasty, soup. Daily trips to the grocery store can be a little exhausting, and having to remember 5 ingredients is a lot easier than having to select 20 items from a maze of shelves. 

Here's what you'll need... 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, chopped into small pieces
2 celery stalks, sliced into thin pieces
8 cups of chicken broth 
2 cups of cubed or shredded chicken (I prefer small cubes) and cheated with a rotisserie chicken
1 1/2 cups orzo 
2 lemons (juice and zest)
1 bay leaf 
salt and pepper to taste

Here's what to do... 
Heat olive olive in large pot over medium heat. 
Add onion, garlic, carrots and celery and cook until vegetables are tender (about 5 minutes). 
Add in juice and zest from both lemons, bay leaf, chicken broth and chicken and bring to a simmer. Cook over low low-medium heat for about 15 minutes. 
While soup is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook orzo according to directions on box. When orzo is done cooking, strain and store in a separate bowl to prevent orzo from soaking up the soup broth. Season soup with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowl and add orzo. Serve and enjoy!

I learned that the separate cooking and storage of pasta or noodles in soups is the only way to prevent them from becoming too saturated with liquid. If you do not plan on serving all of the soup, and would like to keep the soup for leftovers, always prepare and store this way! 

whole wheat pumpkin bread

I've made this bread three times already this year. It might seem a bit excessive but it's that good and  beyond easy. I love making a simple bread like this on a Sunday morning and then having fresh bread for breakfast the entire week. With the fall months coming to an end, I'm feeling the need to get my pumpkin fix in anywhere I can before it's no longer seasonal. I also incorporated a good amount of whole wheat flour to keep this a bit healthier. Feel free to add chocolate chips, nuts, cranberries, etc. It would be a great base for a number of add ins!

Here's what you'll need... 
1 (15 oz. can) pumpkin puree
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice 

Here's what to do...
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans or mini loaf pans. 
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla and sugar until combined. 
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and spice. 
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until combined. 
Pour into pans and bake 70 minutes for large loaf and 50 minutes for mini loaf or until firm to the touch and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.