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Dine In: Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Tacos


Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken TacosIt’s been eons since I’ve written about anything buffalo chicken. We all know that buffalo chicken is a food group, so it was time to rectify that omission.

When I get a craving for buffalo chicken, I become single-minded. It’s all I can think about.

It’s happening right now.

This recipe is fun because you can add as much or as little hot sauce as you want. Then, top it with a variety of things that may traditionally go on tacos or not. I only use a little hot sauce in the actual cooking process, as one son does not like anything “spicy.” I can just add more as a topping on my individual serving.

I like these with flour tortillas, but you can also use corn. I like sour cream, but my son will top his with ranch dressing. I also like to mince celery for a bit of a crunch. Cilantro is also a great complement to this taco. I love it with crumbled bleu cheese; other people in my family prefer cheddar.

These are fun for a Friday night at home!

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts
8 oz Frank’s Hot Wing Buffalo Sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 pkg dry ranch salad dressing mix

Directions:
Spray the liner of your slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken in crock. In a small bowl, whisk hot sauce, garlic and ranch dressing mix. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

Remove chicken from slow cooker; shred with a fork. Add chicken back to slow cooker. Stir until blended with juices.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop chicken onto tacos. Top with cheese, sour cream, avocado and other toppings of choice.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 335, Calories from Fat: 116, Fat: 13 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 151 mg, Sodium: 1725 mg, Carbohydrates: 2 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 50 g.

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Dine In: Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup


Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper SoupI want it to be cold.

I want it to be cold and crisp. I want to make a fire in my chiminea and enjoy a bowl of hot, steaming soup on the back porch next Friday night.

Instead, as I write this, it’s well over 70 degrees with 98 percent humidity, and it’s winter! It’s WINTER, Mother Nature, did you not get the memo?

Anyone who lives in the South knows that those cold, crisp evenings are not to be taken for granted. I feel like they’re few and far between most years, this year included.

Luckily, you don’t need cold weather to enjoy a hearty bowl of soup. As I scanned back over the blogs from the past few weeks, I noted that I’ve submitted several soup recipes. I guess I’ve been wishing for a cold night for a while, then resorting to making due with turning the air conditioner down a few degrees and making the soup anyway.

Maybe next Friday night will actually be colder.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Pepper Soup

Ingredients:
1 lb extra-lean ground beef
1 cup onions, diced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green peppers and onions
2 cups green peppers, chopped
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
3 cups beef stock
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup white rice, cooked

Directions:
Brown beef and onions in a heavy skillet. Drain fat; transfer to crockery of a slow cooker. Add tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.

Serves 5

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 368, Calories from Fat: 58, Fat: 7 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 81 mg, Sodium: 1148 mg, Potassium: 868 mg, Carbohydrates: 42 g, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 8 g, Protein: 34 g.

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Dine In: Champagne Risotto


Champagne RisottoIn 48 hours, we’ll be welcoming a new year, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until then to celebrate.
With New Year’s Eve EVE falling on a Friday this year, you can get the party started early.

I think the first time I ever made risotto was actually on New Year’s Eve way back in the ‘90s or, as my kids say, “last century.” They love saying that. I don’t find it as amusing.

Back to the story. My good friend and upstairs neighbor, Susan, and I decided we were going to make a meal that would make all other meals from all year pale in comparison.

We were going to roast a prime rib, dress a microgreen salad with a champagne vinaigrette and make a champagne risotto. Clearly our theme was “champagne.”

The problem was that neither of us has ever made any of those dishes, aside from maybe a vinaigrette. That was no deterrent. Out came the cookbooks. We shopped at the butcher down the street for the meat. We purchased a meat thermometer. We bought bottles of good champagne to drink as well as to use in our cooking. We were ready.

I have to admit that the prime rib didn’t turn out so well. We should have paid a little more attention to the thermometer as the meat got way too overcooked while we were stirring the risotto.

The risotto, however, turned out perfectly, and I’ve made it frequently for holidays or meals when I needed a serious WOW factor ever since.

Champagne Risotto

Ingredients:
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs butter
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 Tbs garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3 cups champagne, divided
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese (shred the cheese yourself, from a block)
kosher salt, to taste
parmesan curls and fresh thyme leaves, for garnish

Directions:
In a large, heavy stockpot, swirl the olive oil and butter; melt together over medium-low heat. When the oil is fragrant and the butter begins to bubble, add the onions and sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium-low heat until the onion is soft. Add the garlic, and stir for 1 minute. Pour in the rice, stirring and cooking for about 4 minutes.

Add in 1 cup champagne to deglaze the pan. Turn heat to medium, and stir the rice constantly as it absorbs the liquid. Cook until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Add the second cup of champagne and follow the same procedure. Repeat with the third cup.

Add the chicken broth in the same way, a cup at a time, stirring and cooking until the vast majority of the liquid is absorbed.

If your rice is too firm, add two cups of water, one at a time; stir until the rice is cooked al dente and all the liquid is creamy.

Right before serving, turn heat to low; stir in the cheese and salt. Serve immediately with curls of parmesan cheese and fresh thyme leaves.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 713, Calories from Fat: 238, Fat: 26 g (13 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 56 mg, Sodium: 1148 mg, Potassium: 267 mg, Carbohydrates: 62 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 27 g.

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Dine In: Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup


Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup ‘Twas two days before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except Mom and Dad who were racing around frantically to try to create the perfect Christmas for their family.

Slow down tonight and serve a simple supper that will pave the way for the feasting to come.

This soup is perfect for chillier temperatures. It’s super thick and creamy but without all the added fat (you can save those calories for cookies over the next few days).

Prep this soup for Christmas Eve EVE, and enjoy the evening together by the fireplace. Take a deep breath before the hustle and bustle kicks into high gear.

Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup

Ingredients:
5 cups broccoli florets, chopped
1 cup carrots, grated
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 oz reduced fat cream cheese (do not use fat-free)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
2 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 (12 oz) can 2% evaporated milk
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (8 oz) block sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:
Spray the liner of a slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place broccoli, carrots, onions and garlic into the bottom of the liner. Top with cream cheese, oregano, nutmeg and chicken stock. Cover; cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 to 6 hours.

Stir in evaporated milk.

Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree about 3/4 of the soup until it’s creamy.

Stir together back in the slow cooker, and cook 10 more minutes or until warmed through. Stir in salt, pepper and grated cheese. Cook an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 306, Calories from Fat: 176, Fat: 20 g (12 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 64 mg, Sodium: 893 mg, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 10 g, Protein: 17 g.

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Dine In: Creamy Tortellini Ham Soup


Creamy Tortellini Ham SoupSo, you just cooked that fabulous Brookshire’s or Hormel sliced ham for your holiday meal (see December 14 entry). Now, it’s time to enjoy the leftovers!

I love leftover ham, better than leftover turkey or any other holiday main course actually. Ham retains its moisture and its flavor, and it’s so easy for leftovers.

You could make leftover ham sandwiches (on a King’s Hawaiian sandwich roll), or you could enjoy this fabulous, hearty soup!

Add some beans and tortellini, and you have a complete meal on a chilly winter’s night, without having to leave the comfort of your own fireplace.

Creamy Tortellini Ham Soup

Ingredients:
3 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup flour
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 Tbs cornstarch
2 cups ham, cooked and cubed
15 oz can Great Northern beans, rinsed and rained
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs chicken bouillon
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 Tbs fresh)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb refrigerated cheese tortellini, uncooked
2 to 3 cups half-and-half

Directions:
Melt butter and olive oil in large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté for about 2 minutes. Add carrots and celery; cook for 3 more minutes , stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes or until thick.

Heat chicken broth in microwave for about 2 minutes or until warm. Gradually stir 5 1/2 cups broth into vegetables. Whisk 2 tablespoons cornstarch into remaining 1/2 cup broth, and stir into soup. Stir in ham, beans, mustard, bay leaves, bouillon, and all the remaining herbs and spices.

Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until carrots and celery are tender.

Add tortellini. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until cooked through and floating on the surface.

Stir in half-and-half; do not boil.

Garnish with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 718, Calories from Fat: 236, Fat: 26 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 74 mg, Sodium: 1481 mg, Potassium: 1313 mg, Carbohydrates: 87 g, Fiber: 14 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 35 g.

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Dine In: Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts


Spinach-Stuffed Chicken BreastsBack in my single days, my friends and I would go out to eat on Friday nights, and we’d almost always get an appetizer of bubbling, warm, cheesy spinach dip with pita chips.

We’d talk and laugh and eat so much spinach dip that we often weren’t hungry for dinner after we finished.

I still love to go out on Friday nights, but I also love to stay home, especially this time of year when the stores, restaurants and roads are packed to overflowing, and you sometimes wait as long for your meal, or to get a table, as it would just to make the same thing at home.

I tried to come up with something recently that would channel the flavors of the spinach dip that I loved in a date night dish that would be perfect for a Friday night at home.

Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts, about 3/4 lb
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup fresh baby spinach
2 Tbs parsley, chopped
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Italian cheese blend
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbs olive oil
16 oz jar marinara sauce, or homemade
parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat until shimmery and fragrant.

Add spinach and parsley; sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic; cook until spinach is wilted. Set aside.

Cut the chicken breasts lengthwise halfway through until they open like a book. Pound until each is about 1/4 inch thick. In a small bowl, mix together ricotta, Italian cheese blend and spinach mixture; add salt and pepper.

Spoon mixture onto the middle of the flat chicken breasts and roll, securing with a toothpick.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the skillet until shimmery and fragrant. Brown chicken on all sides. Place in oven, and cook for 35 minutes. Pour marinara sauce over the chicken, and cook for another 10 minutes. Top with parmesan cheese, and broil for 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 843, Calories from Fat: 406, Fat: 45 g (14 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 190 mg, Sodium: 1339 mg, Carbohydrates: 39 g, Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 20 g, Protein: 69 g.

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Dine In: Slow Cooker Crustless Pizza


Slow Cooker Crustless PizzaTonight is our city’s annual Christmas parade, and I can’t wait to take my boys.

We’ve gone to the annual parade every year since we moved to this town, and it’s been a highlight of our Christmas season ever since.

Every year, we bundle up (or at least put on a festive Santa hat) and trek downtown to the square surrounding the county courthouse. It will be lit with white twinkle lights, and the buildings around the square will be festooned in holiday finery.

The parade, with marching bands, fire trucks, floats and, of course, jolly-old St. Nick, winds its way around the square in a cacophony of Christmas cheer. After the parade passes, the large and looming Christmas tree in the center of the square comes to life, the lever to light it up pulled by the Honorary Miracle Child of the year.

I hate to sound cliché, but it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s also a wonderful night to go home after the festivities to a meal that’s warm and ready to eat. True comfort food is a perfect end to the night.

Slow Cooker Crustless Pizza

Ingredients:
2 lbs ground beef
2 Tbs garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs dried, minced onion
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
1 (14 oz) jar pizza sauce
2 cups shredded pizza blend cheese
pizza toppings: i.e., pepperoni, black olives, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, ham

Directions:
Brown ground beef in a large, heavy skillet. When the meat is browned, drain the fat. Spray the inside of the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the beef and mozzarella cheese in the slow cooker and spread evenly across the cooking surface. Pour pizza sauce over meat mixture. Top with pizza blend cheese and the toppings of your choice. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 460, Calories from Fat: 143, Fat: 16 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 174 mg, Sodium: 561 mg, Potassium: 773 mg, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 4 g, Protein: 35 g.

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Dine In – Grilled Beef Kabobs


Grilled Beef KabobsThe weather has finally cooled down and the clean, crisp air is absolutely exhilarating. I mean, I want to roll in the crunchy leaves on the ground and jump into the freshly-raked piles while wearing plaid and boots and drinking apple cider.

I want all things fall, now that it’s finally arrived.

My favorite thing to do on a Friday night is sit on the back porch with a fire in the fire pit and relax with the ones I love. This, of course, includes grilling something delicious.

When I think of the perfect way to end the week, I see my black, wrought iron porch furniture and pinion wood smoke billowing out of the chiminea. I can hear the sizzle as something delicious hits the hot grates of the grill.

This Friday, it will be Grilled Beef Kabobs. If you have time, start marinating these on Thursday night or Friday morning before you go to work or get busy with the hustle and bustle of the day. The extra time in the marinade will make the beef extra tender. For a side dish, double the amount of marinade and soak some cleaned button mushrooms. Then thread them on skewers and grill along with the meat. Grilled bacon-wrapped asparagus would be a great way to round out the meal. Finish by halving Granny Smith apples, brushing them with honey, grilling until tender, and then serving with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Grilled Beef Kabobs

Ingredients:
2 lbs sirloin, cut into 2-inch cubes

Marinade Ingredients:
2 Tbs beef stock or red wine
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Montreal steak seasoning
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried oregano
black pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves

Directions:
Trim the sirloin of visible fat and cut into 2-inch cubes.

Whisk together the beef stock (or wine), balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, onion powder, garlic powder, steak seasoning, dried rosemary, dried oregano, black pepper, and add bay leaves.

Place in a large, plastic zip-top bag with the meat and marinate for at least 4 to 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Thread meat onto skewers, being certain to leave some room between pieces for even cooking.

When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium-high.

Grill kabobs to desired doneness, about 8 to 10 minutes for rare, 10 to 12 for medium rare or 12 to 15 minutes for medium.

Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 359, Calories from Fat: 161, Fat: 18 g (5 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 135 mg, Sodium: 144 mg, Carbohydrates: 1 g, Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 1 g, Protein: 46 g.

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Dine In: Stuffed Pork Chops


Stuffed Pork ChopsWe debated going out to dinner Friday night, but it was drizzling. It had been a long week, and we had to catch up on Netflix.

Staying home and dining in won out.

During the week before, Paul had mentioned making stuffed pork chops for dinner, but the New York Strips that were on sale at Brookshire’s won out.

On Friday night, however, we went for the pork chops.

It’s funny how, in all my love of Southern cooking, I’d never stuffed a pork chop. Paul, however, knew just how he wanted to make them. The house smelled amazing while they were cooking, and the result was fabulous.

Stuffed Pork Chops

Ingredients:
4 (2-inch thick) pork loin chops
2 Tbs Cajun seasoning
1 Tbs black pepper
1 lb Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 box Stouffer’s Cornbread Dressing (including ingredients to prepare it)

Directions:
Cut a slit in the center of each pork chop, creating a pocket. Season each chop with Cajun seasoning and black pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Prepare cornbread dressing mix according to package directions. Set aside.

Brown sausage in a large, oven-proof skillet. Remove meat with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Stir in chopped green onions and cornbread dressing until well-combined. Stuff 1/4 of each mixture into each chop, pressing meat together to seal.

Reheat the sausage drippings over high heat. Sear each chop in the hot pan, turning once to sear each side. Place pan in the oven; cook for 30 minutes.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 1088, Calories from Fat: 707, Fat: 79 g (28 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 264 mg, Sodium: 1419 mg, Potassium: 1057 mg, Carbohydrates: 26.6 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 2 g, Protein: 65 g.

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Dine In: Bacon-Balsamic Brussels Sprouts


Bacon-Balsamic Brussels SpoutsI was slicing the stems off of some Brussels sprouts last week, planning to toss them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper before I roasted them, as I usually do.

Then, I got an idea for something a little different. I very well may have seen it somewhere else, but it struck me as an original idea at the time.

I added in a little bacon and some balsamic vinegar. Oh my goodness, the result was amazing. The bacon added smokiness, and the balsamic cut the sometimes bitter flavor of the Brussels with its sweetness.

The veggies end up roasting in some of the bacon fat that’s rendered, and the result is a delicious, filling dish.

This would make a great side dish for a medium-rare ribeye, grilled to perfection and served on your back porch next to a roaring fire.

Bacon-Balsamic Brussels Spouts

Ingredients:
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
2 slices bacon, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F.

Whisk the olive oil with the balsamic, salt and pepper. Pour over Brussels sprouts. Stir in chopped bacon. Spread on a baking pan, and roast in preheated oven for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serves 2 to 4 (as a side dish)

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 210, Calories from Fat: 118, Fat: 13 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 21 mg, Sodium: 475 mg, Carbohydrates: 14 g, Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 12 g.

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