Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lime-Cilantro Chicken Tacos

I absolutely LOVE the crock pot. It is a working woman's best friend (besides her loving husband of course :). But this dish is unlike any other crock pot meal; if you just ate these tacos, you would never believe me that it was done in a crock pot! Usually the crock pot yields a yummy warming stew or a moist roast, but these taste just like Mexican street tacos. Who'd of thunk it!

We love getting tacos in Mexico from the sketchy little carts on the side of the road. Just make sure you choose the ones that have the most people hovering around 'em. Lots of people means GOOD FOOD... and it also means that if it's everyone else's favorite, they haven't gotten sick there so you probably won't either :) But still- take a peek and make sure their food looks safe, their cart looks (at least somewhat) clean, and that no one is sticking fingers in the toppings or double dipping into salsa or anything. 

ANYWAY, these crock pot 'street tacos' taste JUST like the ones we get in Mexico or from our hole in the wall Taco Tuesday joints around here.  'Street taco' refers to the way your taco is dressed up- which typically means your meat is stuffed into a warmed corn tortilla with ONLY Cilantro y Cebolla ("Cilantro and Onions"). I added a few extra topping options to our taco night, but you can pick and choose what you like to personalize your own 'Taco Tuesday' party :)

Ingredients (makes about 18 little corn tacos):

  • 4 Chicken Breasts (about 2 lbs)
  • 1 generous cup of Salsa
  • 1 cup roughly chopped Cilantro
  • 1 minced Jalapeno
  • 2 Limes (or more if you like)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced Garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon Mexican Seasoning Blend or Taco Seasoning or your own mix of Chili Powder, Paprika, Cumin, etc.
  • plus extra Chili Powder for seasoning the chicken breast
  • about 18 little taco-sized Corn Tortillas
  • Toppings!
In a bowl, mix together the salsa, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, mexican seasoning blend, and the juice of ONE lime:

Spray your crock pot with a nonstick spray and place your chicken inside. Sprinkle chicken with chili powder, flip and cover other side as well:

Top chicken breasts with your cilantro/lime/salsa mixture:

Cook on low for 6 hours (if it goes much longer you might need to add a little more liquid later- either a little bit of chicken broth, or a little extra salsa, or even just a little plain water)
After it has slow cooked all day, it will just FALL APART at the touch of your utensil:

Break up your all your chicken and mix together with all the sauce & flavors in the pot until your left with a big pot of beautiful and tasty pulled chicken. Now squeeze the juice of the second lime into your chicken and stir in until all the chicken is well coated.

Prepare your taco toppings. I have chopped cilantro, diced white onion, lime wedges, diced avocado, shredded cheese, and a smorgasborg of salsas and hot sauces:

Warm your corn tortillas, about 6 at a time, by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and warming in the microwave for about 30 seconds:

True street taco style is simply with 'cilantro y cebolla' (cilantro and onion):

I started with a street taco base, and added hot sauce and avocado to mine: 

Here, Peter is reminding you to not forget to squeeze some fresh lime juice into each taco... to die for! 

 ...aaaaand, Pete added some hot sauce and avocado to his too :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sweet & Salty Jello Salad

If this is a 'salad' then I'm fired as a Nutritionist. But, for lack of a better name, my family calls this a Jello salad. We serve it as a side with dinner, but in truth- this is more like a dessert. It is SO SCRUMPTIOUS. The bottom layer is made of a crushed pretzel crust and it is so buttery & salty & crunchy. The top layers create a strawberry-cheesecakeish effect that is creamy & sweet & smooth. All of these complimentary opposites make this dish absolutely irresistible. Everyone at your table will have seconds! 

It was recently my sister-in-law's birthday and this was one of her specific requests for her birthday dinner. It was a good choice because it's something that everyone is always happy with. 
There was one lonesome serving that made it back home with us, and the next morning Peter said he wanted it with breakfast. I tried to just laugh and pass it off as a joke... but as I stood in front of my griddle making french toast- the next thing I knew Peter was sitting at the table with a fork in hand and the last piece in front of him! Oh geez! Dessert before breakfast!?

This recipe came from one of our close family friends, Theresa. Theresa is one of my mom's best friends; She's part of a group of ladies that are like a second set of aunties to me and my siblings. Theresa originally got this recipe from her mother-in-law... If a recipe has been passed down and around that much, then it's definitely a keeper. 

Recipe (makes one 9x13 casserole dish):
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled Pretzels
  • 1/2 cup Butter (1 stick)
  • 3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 (6oz) box of Strawberry Jello
  • 2 cups Boiling Water
  • 1 cup Ice Water
  • 16 ozs sliced Strawberries (I use a frozen package that has been thawed, but you can use fresh if they are in season)
  • 1 small (10 oz) container of Cool Whip
  • 1 cup White Granulated Sugar
  • 8 oz package Cream Cheese
*This can EASILY be made healthier by using using a sugar free Jello, light cream cheese and/or Neufchatel cheese, and by using half the amount of cool whip/sugar/and cream cheese. 
...still doesn't make it 'healthy', but will make it healthier.

Melt Butter and brown sugar together and remove from heat. Stir in the crushed pretzels and spread mixture into a sprayed/greased 9x13 dish. Bake 10-12 min in preheated 350 degree F oven. Set aside (or in fridge) to cool completely.

Mix together jello in boiling water and stir for 2 minutes until all dissolved. Then add the ice-cold water (without the ice) and sliced strawberries. Stir well and allow to cool and thicken slightly in fridge, but not till it's completely firm or else you won't be able to pour it on as the top layer.

While the two other components are cooling, whip together cool whip, cream cheese, and sugar.

Spread evenly over the COMPLETELY COOLED pretzel crust.

Then top with the slightly chilled jello mix.

Enjoy!'s hard to take a picture of jello that looks pretty, but I promise this is DELICIOUS!

For an elegant presentation, try serving it...

  • on a leaf of Bibb lettuce,
  • with a dollop of cool whip, 
  • with a strawberry on top, 
  • with a sprig of mint on top,
  • or ALL of the above :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Jalapeno Cream Cheese-&-Crackers

This is another AWESOME appetizer.... and just in time for Super Bowl parties! 
Don't be deceived by the jalapeno, this appetizer is hardly spicy at all. You can control the heat by using mild jalapeno jelly. Plus, jelly has enough sugar in it that it mellows out the spiciness, and the cream cheese definitely calms down any spiciness as well. The first time I had this was at my Aunt's house like 15 years ago! She served this appetizer before dinner and I think I ate most of it! I LOVED it. As a little girl, I didn't like jalapenos or spicy foods at all (what kid does?), but this is an unusually tantalizing combination of flavors that you must try- even if you don't like spicy flavors. 

Now, there are not a lot of companies that make jalapeno jelly- so my only option is this one company that makes a mild jalapeno jelly in bright green, and a hot jalapeno jelly in bright red. I would prefer to serve the red color since it is more appetizing looking, but since appetizers are to serve a wide variety of people I usually opt for the mild version. Unfortunately, that leaves me with this alien-like bright green one. I'm going to have to start making my own homemade jalapeno jelly because this neon green isn't the most appetizing looking color to serve on a platter. Regardless if it makes people look twice, they will love it! I've had lots of 'spicy-food-haters' who are shocked at how much they love this simple snack and they end up being the ones who eat the most of it. 

It's simple; you can just pick up the 3 ingredients at the store on your way to an event and assemble it in 2 seconds when you get there. This is a great secret to keep in your back pocket for when you find yourself short on time!

This appetizer has all the makings of a beautifully addictive treat: the crackers make it crunchy and salty, the cheese makes it creamy and smooth, the jelly makes it sweet and spicy. This one's got it all :)

Shopping List:

  • 1 box Wheat Thins (reduced fat works fine also)
  • 1 (8 oz) box of Cream Cheese (light versions work well too)
  • 1 jar of Jalapeno Jelly (your choice of mild or hot)

Simply pour the jelly over the top of the cream cheese and serve with the crackers on the side. Don't forget a little cheese spreader knife as well :)