Cooking Without Drama

The Faux Foodie: So Easy Sangria

I know that a lot of you out there have a secret.  And no, it does not involve how many times you’ve read the 50 Shades trilogy.  It involves something you are even more reluctant to share.

You can’t cook.  Despite two cooking channels, Top Chef, and a bazillion magazines, cookbooks, websites and blogs, cooking terrifies you.

Whats worse is that you are surrounded by people who can cook.  People who love to talk about food.  People who not only know the difference between regular and extra virgin olive oil, but people who have spent more on the bottle of olive oil they used to drizzle on the tomato salad than you spent on your whole food budget for the week.

Well, help is here.  As they say, Fake it Till You Make It!  So I am here to help you fake it.  Whether or not you make it, is entirely up to you.

The easiest way to fake it is to have a few signature dishes that people love so much that every time there is a pot luck or you entertain, people expecting you to make that dish.

or of course, a cocktail.

So lets start with something easy- Sangria.  Sangria is easy, tasty and I bet that with a little bit of thought you could swap out ingredients all year and have a seasonal Sangria every month.   In fact, if I get 5 comments between the blog, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, I will even feature the Sangria of the Month, using the ingredients that are freshest or best symbolize the month.

Without Further Ado- August Sangria

In August the peaches are at their best.  In fact I am sure that there is a law stating that when fresh peaches are in season, you are required to eat one every day.  If not, I will run for President in 2016 and make it part of my platform.

August Sangria- Makes 1 Pitcher (8-10 Servings)

Bottle of Wine.  (I used a 750ml Spanish Red- Feel Free to use a white if you prefer)

2 teaspoons of sugar or 1 packet of stevia

2oz triple sec (others use gin, but I never have gin in the house)

1 Lemon, cut into 8ths

1 Lime cut into 8ths

2 peaches, peels on rough chopped

16oz sparkling berry flavored water (I’ve also seen ginger ale or tonic water used)

Here are the instructions-Brace yourselves

1. Pour Red wine, sugar and triple sec into pitcher-stir

2. Squeeze citrus and add to pitcher

3.  Add peaches to pitcher

4. Refrigerate for several hours to overnight (There is a make ahead element- but if you don’t serve with lots of ice- or pop in the freezer for 15 min before serving)

5. Prior to serving, add sparkling water.

And look at that.  Add a veggie and dip platter, and maybe some cheese and sliced baguette (the thin loaves of bread) and you have a party right there.

And the fact you bought the veggies, dip, cheese and baguette from the grocery store pre made and put them on your own plates and hid the evidence in the garbage?

Your secret is safe with me. 😉

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Paleo Without Pity- Mexican Style Slow Cooker Chicken

Before I started reading the Blog A Year of Slow Cooking, I thought that my crockpot was primarily a winter thing, where I would make chili, pasta sauce, meatballs, etc.

However after being reminded that cooking in the crockpot means that you are not heating up your kitchen, I became a devotee and the pot comes out all year long.

I make some great chicken in a variety of ways.  It always comes out moist and is great to have for salads, stirfries, mixed in with paleo mayo and stuffed into a tomato or just eaten straight out of the bag.

I usually do 2 bone in chicken breasts and get 1 full dinner for 4 out of it, or I add 3 and have some for leftovers.  This chicken also freezes well.

Place the frozen chicken breasts into the appropriate sized crock pot.  I find its better to crowd the crockpot a little than have things too spread out, but you can get around that if you add more liquid.

I use chicken broth, 3 garlic cloves per breast and an envelope of  Simply Organic Spicy Taco Seasoning and a chili in adobo and toss it in the pot with the chicken.

Then I set it on low and cook for about 8-10 hours.

Then I shred and we eat.  And its yummy!

Recipe:

Mexican Slow Cooker Chicken (2 Breasts)

Ingredients
2 Frozen bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
Chicken broth to cover
Envelope of Simply Organic Spicy Taco Seasoning
1 Chili in Adobo
6 Cloves of Garlic

Directions
Place breasts in slow cooker
Combine broth, taco seasoning, chili and garlic, pour over chicken
Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours
Remove from slow cooker, remove the skin, shred and use.

Paleo Without Pity-Chicken Meatballs (And My Sitter is Better Than Your Sitter)

Everyone knows that the secret to sanity as a parent is to have a good baby sitter so you can go on dates with your spouse, which helps keep the marriage happy.  We have always been pretty lucky to have good sitters that we have found though the Daycare, but our sitter Lisa is really the tops!

She not only watches the kids and does fun art projects with them, but when we go away for family trips she house and dog sits as well.  Our dog is happy because she is not in the kennel, and we are happy because the kennel is expensive and Lucy is always mad at us after she goes there.

In addition to taking care of the house and dog, Lisa often cooks for us and leaves things in the fridge.  Before we went Paleo we used to come home to a couple dozen fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, but this time when we came home, we came home to awesome chicken meatballs and eggs and veggies in muffin cups.  I don’t have the egg recipe yet, but I have these perfectly paleo meatballs.

So Lisa, thanks for your awesomeness!  We will miss you when we move!

Turkey/Chicken Vegetable Meatballs (Serves 4-6)

1lb ground turkey or chicken

2 medium carrots (or a handful of baby carrots)

1 bell pepper (you choose the color)

5 large white mushrooms

handful of fresh parsley

1/2 yellow onion

2 cloves garlic

2TBS Italian Seasoning

1/2 tsp ground pepper

2tsp garlic salt (optional)

1. Heat oven to 350

2. Combine all veggies in a food processor or blender and process until small chopped

3. Empty veggies in lage bowl, add meat and seasonings, mix completely

4. Form into balls and bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 25 minutes, or until golden brown all over and fragrant.

I liked the meatballs as is, although the veggie chunks were too obvious for the kids.  I would not cook these for a long time in sauce unless you want a meat & veggie sauce, but I added a can of diced tomatoes to the meatballs in the fridge and microwave them briefly to warm and the tomatoes really add some nice flavor.

So there you go, perfectly paleo meatballs and indisputable proof that my sitter is better than yours (sticks out tongue)

Paleo Without Pity-Mango Curry Chicken and Tostones

I saw this recipe in Clean Eating Magazine with Beef and Peanuts, but I subbed in chicken and almonds, since I sometimes find stir fry beef to be a little chewy.

This meal is delicious and pretty easy to prepare.  With the exception of the plantains, I had everything in my freezer or pantry already.

Mango Curry Chicken and Tostones (Serves 4)

Mango Curry Chicken

1 teaspoon of olive or coconut oil.  (Add a little more or cooking spray if the pan looks dry)

1 large or two small yellow onions chopped

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

3 Gloves Garlic, minced (I use a press)

1 C Frozen Mango

2 teaspoons curry powder

2 T sliced almonds

Sea Salt and Pepper to Taste

Tostones

1 T olive or coconut oil

2 yellow plantains cut into 1/4 in pieces

 

Chicken:

Heat oil in pan and cook onion for 5 minutes or until translucent

Add chicken and garlic cook for 5 minutes or chicken looks mostly cooked through

Add curry and mango, cook for five minutes or until the mango is warm

Remove from heat and add almonds, taste and adjust salt and pepper, cover to keep warm until serving

Tostones

Heat oil in separate pan, place tostones in pan with room for them to breathe and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Using Tongs, turn over, careful not to touch the hot tostone with your fingers, there by teaching your six year old new and exciting words.

Cook for another 2-3 minutes, please on paper towel to blot gently and serve with chicken.

Note: If using beef, drain in a colander before adding the mango.

This was a great dish.  I had it done from start to finish in less than 1/2 an hour.

Next time I make it I might serve it with a spinach salad or a touch of avocado to mellow the curry.

I did not attempt to serve this to my kids as they are not big curry lovers.  I also find that while I love and appreciate the value of a full family dinner, once a week its nice to feed the kids a little earlier and have a peaceful meal with just my husband.  Its nice to eat at a relaxing pace without having to worry about correcting table manners or watching people make faces when unfamiliar food is served.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking Without Drama-Paleo Chili

Today I started a Paleo Diet Challenge at my Crossfit Box in an attempt to get healthy and lose weight.  My game plan for the challenge is to plan my meals for the week ahead of time and make sure that I have all the food I need so I don’t veer off plan.

In order to do this, I did some careful grocery shopping, hardboiled eggs, chopped up some veggies, bagged some produce, have some leftover meats in the fridge ready to pair with veggies and I made a batch of this awesome chili for my sweet hubs and I to have for lunches this week, with a couple to toss in the freezer for another week.

I have been making chili for years, but previously my chili always had beans, which is a paleo no no.  It also had sausage which is not necessarily a paleo no-no, but is not permitted for the challenge.

One of the fun things about the Paleo Challenge is that its going to really provide me with cooking challenges and get us out of a rut.  Since I can’t use white potatoes, flour, pasta, beans, grains or dairy, I need to totally rethink my cooking.

So it will be a discovery of new spices.

If you saute the meat and veggies the night before, you can toss this all in the slow cooker in the am and come home to dinner.  Have some sliced avocado with it to cool it down a little,

Paleo Chili (Serves 6)

2 lbs of mixed meat.  (I used chicken breasts, boneless short ribs, and stew meat)

1 Large onion

3 bell peppers (I used a green a red and a yellow)

3 cloves garlic (put through press)

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes and chilis

1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes

1 6oz can tomato paste

1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 Teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/3 C Chili Powder

2 Tablespoons of Chilis in Adobo

Instructions

1. Sear meat and put in slow cooker

2. Saute onion until slightly browned and translucent, put in slow cooker

3. Saute peppers and garlic until soft, add to slow cooker

4. Add tomatoes and spices, stir.

5. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

This was spicy and delicious.  I made a batch and put some in the freezer for a later date and have some in the fridge for lunches and dinners.  Thank goodness for my slow cooker and all the yumminess it helps me make.

Dessert Without Drama-Slow Cooker Chocolate Cake

Many of you that know me, might know that I love my slow cookers.  All three of them.  I typically use them to make sauce, chili, or beer and onion chicken, but I keep seeing slow cooker desserts online and decided I had to try one.

I picked Slow Cooker Chocolate Cake from Recipe Shoebox, who found it in a Betty Crocker Book.   This cake was very easy to make, and super delicious.  The hardest part was waiting for the 30 minutes after cooking to end so we could dig in.  Vanilla ice cream is essential to this dish.

The only thing is this is an ‘eat it the night you make it recipe’ as I am not a big fan of nuking cake.

I made this in my 2qt slow cooker.  You need to use the small one for  the recipe as printed, otherwise the cake will be dry and you won’t get the sauce.

Slow Cooker Chocolate Cake

10-15 minutes prep time
2-2 1/2 hours cook time

The Cake
1 c flour (I snuck in whole wheat flour & I bet Gluten Free would be fine)
1/2 c sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 package chocolate chips (6oz) I added more
1/2 c chopped nuts (optional)

The Saucy Part
1 c brown sugar
1/4 c cocoa powder
2 c hot water (If I was making this for adults, I would probably swap out a little water for kahlua)

SUPPLIES: Cooking Spray, 2 QT Slow Cooker, Mixing Bowl, 4 Cup Measuring Cup, Spatula, dry ingredient measuring cup, measuring spoons.

How To

1. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with non stick spray or rub butter all around inside the bowl.

2. Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

3. Stir in the milk, oil, vanilla until smooth. At this point you can add chocolate chips/and or nuts.

4. Spread the batter evenly in the crock pot.


5. Meanwhile, heat up the water in a microwave safe measuring cup (4 cups size or bigger). [Takes 3-4 minutes]

6. Add the brown sugar and the cocoa powder and stir until smooth. You may need to use a whisk or fork to get out the     lumps of sugar.

7. Pour the liquid mixture carefully and evenly over the top of the cake batter in the crockpot.

8. Cover with the lid and turn the slow cooker on high for 2-2 1/2 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean. Then turn off the slow cooker. The longer you wait to serve this, the thicker the sauce will get.

You MUST serve this with the sauce.  Its completely essential.