The last few weeks have been so hot that cooking alone has been a struggle, let alone photographing anything before sitting down to eat. I’m not even going to get into the fact that my stove has become a death trap with knobs literally falling off it and me frantically trying to turn off burners so our house doesn’t go down in flames (don’t buy an LG stove. You’re welcome). Thankfully, I’ve had this post saved for a bit and here it is, coming to your rescue from heating up the oven and  coming to my rescue from having an all-too-quiet blog. :)

We’re all familiar with the idea of burrito bowls and, if you’re anything like me, you are also very familiar with shredded meat in the crockpot. It’s just one of those things slow cookers do best. Rather than a carnitas-style pork, which is what I would normally gravitate toward, this pork is cooked in a homemade enchilada sauce with pineapple juice for a bit of island-y flavor. I also added ginger and soy sauce , both ingredients I use in this Hawaiian chicken marinade, a recurring favorite of ours. Like all burrito-style bowls, you can change up the ingredients to suit your likes and preferences. (My kids would have preferred I changed this up to include rice or corn instead of quinoa. Sorry, kids!)

Now, I will fully admit this recipe is kind of annoying in that you have meat made in the slow cooker, quinoa cooked on the stove top, and vegetables/fruits that are grilled. I know, right? But I’m still posting it because you can always use the shredded meat for another application, cook things differently, prep ahead, etc. I ended up using my grill pan for the vegetables (I actually don’t care for grill pans, but that is a discussion for another day) but you could easily saute them, broil them, or throw them into the slow cooker toward the end.

The ingredients and flavors really come together well here, and it’s always nice to have another slow cooker recipe in my arsenal. This would be equally delicious with chicken thighs (though you may want to reduce the cooking time slightly if you go that route) or beef.

 

 

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Apologies for posting this pasta so close to the veeeeeeery end of asparagus season, but I wanted you to have it. I’ve been in a bit of a blog funk/semi-break and we also took a short vacation last week, so I’ve been more into having other people cook for me than doing it myself. Not a bad deal.

I bookmarked this recipe as soon as I saw it and made it pretty quickly after. It’s a creamy pasta that doesn’t actually use cream, but achieves its creaminess from a combination of cooking the pasta in a broth/milk mixture and making a smooth sauce from more milk and cream cheese. So, yes, there is bacon, but in the creamy pasta world, this is actually a pretty decent option, health-wise.

I did add chicken to this (no one ever has to worry about this blog turning vegetarian…). Whenever I eat something as carb-heavy as pasta, I like to make sure it’s balanced by protein. Plus, this also allows us to get full on smaller servings.

Now, I would be lying if I said this was a hit with the whole family. Zachary, who used to adore asparagus, has now decided he’s just not that into it. Ian never really has been. Neither of them THINK they like mushrooms (They do. The eat them all the time without realizing it. KIDS, MAN.) and Ian has a lot of deep thoughts on creamy pastas (namely, which pasta shapes are appropriate to eat with cream sauces, what kinds of cream sauces may be eaten without complaint, standard 3yo shenanigans). So yeah, another reason to add the chicken (I never make my kids a separate meal but in the rare event I’m making something one of them legitimately doesn’t like, I will make sure there are at least 1-2 things on the plate they eat). We also had this with a salad.

Tom and I, on the other hand, were big fans of this and I thought it made for great leftovers, too. If you don’t have time to make this while asparagus is still good, a different green vegetable like broccoli would be a good choice, or even wilting some leafy greens into it at the end.

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I’m not really one to conform to gender roles, but that notion falls to the wayside when it comes to grilling. Confession: I have no idea how to grill. I have never so much as started a grill, let alone actually cooked anything on it. I’m sure that I could learn easily, but considering I cook 97% of the time, I will gladly hand over that 3% to my grilling-competent husband. Especially when it means not standing near a hot grill and under a blazing hot sun. No thank you please.

For the kids’ party back in March, we made dry-rub/grilled chicken with barbecue sauce and I could not get enough. Grilling bone-in chicken (or any chicken, honestly) is rare in our household but I think I can officially say that between the bbq chicken and this, that will not be the case any more. Also, that my kids find weird immense pleasure eating chicken off the bone.

The marinade for this is super simple. The cider vinegar gives it a little tang and the cinnamon and cloves add a warm spice, but nothing overwhelming. Grilling this on a charcoal grill gave it an awesome smoky flavor, so I’d definitely go that route if you are able to. The original recipe calls for just microwaving the asparagus (or seasonal vegetable of your choice) but why do that when you already have a grill heated (and someone to do the grilling for you) and grilled vegetables are fabulous?

 

 

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If my husband could marry an inanimate object, it would be a root beer float.  Tom’s favorite story to tell (whether it’s repeatedly to people we’ve known forever, or to virtual strangers) is the story of the chocolate bag.  Literally a dozen+ years ago, we went to a popular steakhouse. Everyone told me you have to get the chocolate bag for dessert. Delicious! Famous! A must. So, dessert time comes and what does Tom want? A root beer float.  Of course, I insisted we get the chocolate bag. A root beer float? Come on. After some persuading, he finally ordered the chocolate bag. And you know what? It kinda sucked. It was full of mousse and neither of us are huge on mousse.  Tom left very disappointed and very annoyed at me for making him order the chocolate bag when all he wanted was the root beer float.

In case his incessant retelling of that story over a decade later doesn’t convince you, let me share another story. Our condo in the city was near a bar that served giant, clearly meant-to-be-shared root beer floats. Guys, they came in a 64 oz. fishbowl glass with 5 scoops of ice cream. Yes, 5.  Yes, a fishbowl. For his birthday one year, Tom decided he wanted one.  They have smaller versions, of course, but Tom was set on the giant version.  It was a nice summer day, so we sat outside. Of course everyone who walked by stared at my husband and his giant fishbowl root beer float.  People were seriously in disbelief. It was embarrassing. I didn’t even have a sip of the float! He finished the whole thing (and then spent the rest of the day complaining he didn’t feel well, obviously).

So yeah, he loves root beer floats and is pretty keen on root beer in general. I must admit I’m a sucker for a root beer Dum Dum (see what I did there?) and root beer flavored things in general, too. This ice cream seemed to be the perfect thing to make for Tom’s birthday this year. It could not be easier to make (no custard or anything), has minimal ingredients, and tasted great. And, well…like a root beer float.

(Not that it stopped him from having a reverse root beer float, using vanilla soda. :))

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I like to take leftovers to work for lunch as often as possible but, especially in the warmer months, I have such a hard time thinking of foods we actually want to eat that make good leftovers. Soup, Leftover King, doesn’t get made often when it’s hotter out. Pasta, while perfection, is not something  I like to eat multiple times a week. We do burgers every other week or so, but even with a ridiculous number of variations, sometimes you just want something a little different, you know?

I was thinking about some sort of hummus wrap when I remembered I had saved this recipe a while back and had never gotten around to making it. These wraps are a winner – from the gently spiced chicken to the flavorful, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth chutney (which is almost like a quick ratatouille). And then, of course, there’s the hummus. I added a roasted red pepper to it, because why not?

There are a few components to this, perhaps more than  you’re used to for a typical sandwich, but none of them are difficult and many things can be done ahead. I made the chutney the day before so I only had to reheat it the night we ate this. It was my intention to also make the hummus ahead of time, but when I opened up the pantry expecting to see the usual 12 cans of garbanzo beans, since my husband tends to hoard them, I actually found zero. So, I picked up a can on my lunch break and went ahead and made the hummus as the chicken cooked. (For the record, I put the marinade/rub on the chicken in the morning before work.)

 

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My kids, as part of their lifelong goal to be extremely expensive investments, are in love with steak and lamb. My eldest, who will eat pretty much anything without complaint as long as it falls in the “edible” category, has started complaining about how “we eat chicken alllllll.the.time, Moooommm” and he is over it. Sorry, we’re not switching over to 7 days of red meat per week any time soon, kid.

Now that we tend to buy grass fed/organic ground beef, the price difference between it and flank steak is…not much. Which is kind of sad, considering flank steak used to be one of those “deals” back in the day. So, I do try to make it occasionally and then watch in horror as my children basically eat their weight in it.

This is a simple marinade for a steak with Asian flavors that pairs nicely with anything from vegetable soba noodles (which is what we had) to sesame snap peas, rice, or lo mein.  You can do a quick marinade or a longer one (but I wouldn’t recommend doing it for an entire day, as the soy sauce can make this overtly salty) and have dinner on the table in no time. (And with my kids, dinner will also be DONE in no time.)

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For a blog that’s been around as long as this one (almost a decade!) written by a busy mom, you’d think there would be hundreds of crockpot recipes. That’s not the case because I tend to have a very difficult time finding good crockpot recipes. They either contain processed ingredients, turn to mush, or have unrealistic cooking times. In fact the book series this came from is totally guilty of that last thing. They often want you to cook things for 2-4 hours which, ugh, I do not work a 2-hour day, America’s Test Kitchen!

So anyway, I will admit that this recipe does have a shorter cook time than some slow cooker recipes, but I did prolong it a bit with no issues. I do think this recipe, though, works best on a non-work day (unless you have a fair amount of time in the mornings, or want to prep it the night before, which is certainly possible). It’s not difficult but there is definitely some prep involved (ah, the irony of not having time to assemble the very thing that is supposed to save you time later). For us, this meal was perfect on a recent weekend day where we traveled to the city for a birthday party. We knew we’d be getting home right around dinner time, but since it was an afternoon party, I had time in the morning to get this together.

This recipe totally deserves a spot in my small-but-worthy crockpot category. The highest compliment I can give a slow cooker recipe is that it doesn’t taste like a slow cooker recipe. And this one doesn’t. In fact, it reminds me a lot of this red beans and rice with andouille, with less kick. It went over really well with the whole family and it was so good as leftovers, too.  All right, America’s Test Kitchen. You make me angry with your presumptions about slow cooking times, but you turn out a damn fine meal, yet again.

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I kind of love rotisserie chicken. And I’m not just talking about the kind you get at restaurants, food stands, fairs. I’m talking grocery store rotisserie chicken. It doesn’t make the most sense. The skin isn’t crispy, which is my favorite part of cooking a whole chicken. And, I mean, I’m not usually one to get excited over prepared grocery store foods. But there’s just something about that herbacious, salty, incredibly moist and tender chicken that makes me pretty excited to eat it when we’re running late and “forced” to buy it.

When I saw this homemade oven-roasted version I had to try it. I will say the key to the rotisserie-ness of this chicken is a long cook time at a low temperature. I’m sharing this now because, like me, you may have some time to hang in your house with  your oven going for a while without issue (I say this because yesterday was 85 and this morning when I got to work it was in the 40s). The great thing about a meal like this is you stick it in the oven and pretty much forget about it. Time does the work for you. And time does good work.

The chicken turns herby and crazy moist after basting in its own juices for nearly 3 hours. So the chicken was, of course, fantastic, but can we also talk about these potatoes? I was worried that even though they were cooking for a long time, they wouldn’t be crispy because of the low temperature. I kind of just pictured sickly looking, potentially falling apart potatoes. BUT THEY WERE SO GOOD. They got super crispy and—thanks in part to my oversalting them—incredibly flavorful. They absorb all the chicken juices and I think using a slightly rimmed sheet pan (vs. a roasting pan or deeper casserole type dish) keeps these from…steaming? more and just makes them fab.

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I try to keep the foods in this blog fairly seasonally appropriate, but when you live in the Midwest you often experience all four seasons in a week, so that can be difficult. Last week, my son’s soccer practice was cancelled due to low temperatures and snow. A week later, he was playing a game in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and I was sweating under the bright sun in the sidelines.

So, yes, this meal—comfort food at its finest—was eaten more in the snowfall days than the sweating days, but, uh, who knows, we might still have some of those snowy days ahead (PLEASE NO) and other people are still in the midst of them (sorry).

We’ve had this meal a few times now and it hasn’t disappointed. I hate to call it a shepherd’s pie because, really, it’s absolutely nothing like one, from the meat  used to the topping, but I don’t make the rules at Cook’s Country. If I did, this would have a more accurate and more groan-worthy title like Chicken PotATO Pie, which is really what it is. It’s basically a chicken pot pie filling but instead of a crust it’s topped with buttery potatoes. Delicious comfort food number one, meet delicious comfort food number two.

You may want to increase the filling a bit (I did this once and preferred the filling-to-topping ratio more but also added a bit too much broth so I’m not going to put that version here at the moment since it needs some tweaks), but otherwise this dish is pretty near perfect. Zachary even ate the potatoes, which I wasn’t sure he’d do (he tends to dislike softer potatoes like mashed and such. Weirdo). The leftovers were great, and since it’s always about 30 degrees in my office regardless of season, they are just fine year-round.

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I recently made the brilliant decision to make a batch of tin roof ice cream. This meant buying peanuts, which we don’t normally keep in the house, and naturally the only peanut jar in our grocery store was rather large. First, I stirred a few peanuts around in the melted chocolate that was sticking to the bowl and had myself a little snack (obviously). Then, I debated making another batch of chocolate peanuts/ice cream entirely, but couldn’t remember if the base would have fit in my ice cream maker at the same time (spoiler alert: it would have). So instead, I thought I’d try some spicy peanuts for snacking. Peanuts on their own for snacking? Meh. Chili powder on anything? Sign me up.

These are incredibly easy and versatile. You could certainly use the mixture on any kind of nut you want, and/or add or adjust the spiciness/seasonings to your taste preferences. In addition to snacking, these would be good on Southwestern-y salads, as part of a relish, or even in fried rice or something similar. Now I just need to tackle the highly addictive habanero BBQ almonds and we’ll really be in business.

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