Slow Cooker Short Ribs Dinner

2013-11-21 11.44.53I have some very exciting news: I recently decided to invest in a Crock Pot!! OK wait, that’s not true; my dad recently invested in a Crock Pot for me, via an Amazon gift card — Thanks, Dad! But, let me tell you, I can’t get enough of this thing! It’s all round and silver and shiny… what a stud.

In all seriousness, this is the perfect tool for cooking through a crazy lifestyle. I can spend maybe 10-20 minutes in the morning putting the ingredients together in the pot, turn it on before I leave, and voila! An entirely cooked meal ready to go when I get home. I’ll admit, the first time I used it I was a tad weary of leaving a cooking device plugged in and running for the whole day while I was out…I anxiously carried my phone with me all day, half expecting to get a livid phone call telling me I’d successfully burned down my entire apartment building. However, when I returned I was pleased to find little Mr. Crock Pot cookin’ away like a champ and absolutely no sign of any mischief. It was also super easy to clean up after; you simply remove the ceramic bowl and wash it by hand or in the dishwasher. Amazingly, I even found these little crock pot liners (Reynolds brand) that you can use on extra lazy nights, which eliminate any and all cleaning afterwards. How much easier could it get?!

2013-11-21 20.55.15For the first test run using my new toy, I admit I was pretty ambitious; short ribs are not exactly in keeping with the “super easy” theme of the slow cooker. But the few minutes of extra effort when assembling the recipe were well worth it. These bad boys were an instant hit! The meat was unbelievably moist and flavorful; served alongside some mashed potatoes with a bit of garlic and parmesan cheese blended in and a simple salad, this was a wonderful winter meal for a night in.

Slow Cooker Short Ribs Dinner

adapted from Eat, Live, Run

  • 3 ½ lbs beef chuck short ribs
  • 2 whole shallots, minced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ cups Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 ½ tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp pepper, divided

2013-11-21 11.44.45Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. When hot, add the short ribs. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the ribs in the pan and brown. This will take about three to four minutes per side. You want them very nice and caramelized.

After the ribs have browned, remove from carefully and set them at the bottom of your slow cooker. Take the pan off the heat briefly to cool down, then return to medium heat and add the minced shallots and diced celery. Saute for about five minutes until tender, then add the tomato paste. Mash the tomato paste into the veggies using a rubber spatula and continue to sauté on medium heat for another four minutes.

2013-11-21 12.37.19Pour the wine and the beef broth into the skillet and stir. Add the brown sugar, a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper and the flour. Stir well to get rid of any flour clumps.

Bring sauce to a boil, then to a simmer. Pour sauce right over ribs in the slow cooker. Sprinkle remaining salt and pepper on top. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on HIGH for seven to eight hours or on LOW for 11-12 hours. When done, the meat should literally be falling off the bone.



Caprese Chicken

One thing that you should probably note about myself and my cooking is that I’m not huge into red meat. Actually, I would stay away from it entirely if it weren’t for a certain gentleman in my life who does, from time to time, need some cow in his life. But I am definitely more of a chicken girl. For some odd reason, I simply find piece of mind in the idea that boneless, skinless chicken breasts have much less fat than, for instance, a steak. That being said, there are actually cuts of beef and pork that are just as lean as chicken, and sometimes even more so. In fact, tons of research has been done about the pros and cons of eating red meat that it seems like nobody can really come up with a clean cut answer about whether or not you should include red meat in your diet. But despite all the reading I have done on the subject, I still like to tell myself that chicken is better.

DSC02020Also, I just love the ease of cooking with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I usually buy frozen ones wholesale from Costco, then whenever I need them in a recipe I just pop a couple in the fridge for the day to let them defrost. Then I throw them on the Griddler for a few minutes on each side and zip, bam boom! They’re good to go. I find this to be much more cost-effective than buying fresh meat every week at the store.

So, here you go, another chicken recipe. This one both Nick and I enjoyed because it was relatively easy to prepare, but the ingredients were so fresh and vibrant that they added a different twist on just a simple grilled chicken dish. Plus, we just got back from Italy, and loved digging up memories of all the delicious tomatoes and fresh mozzarella we enjoyed (literally all you have to do is stick me in a room with a mountain of Caprese salad and I will die happy).

Caprese Chicken

Adapted from The Novice Chef Blog

  • 4 skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 10 large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella (I always recommend using fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, which is made and used in Italy and the flavor and texture is to-die-for; but it is so expensive in American grocery stores that I only use it in recipes as a rare treat)
  • balsamic vinegar, to taste

DSC02021Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts and cook them according to your preference. As I said, I prefer using a Griddler. You could also sauté them in a pan with some olive oil over medium-high heat, or on a an actual grill. Whichever method you choose, cook the chicken until browned and cooked thoroughly, or has reached an internal temp of 165°F.

While chicken is cooking, in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add tomatoes and continue sautéing until soft and skin starts to wrinkle, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Set aside.

Once chicken has reached desired doneness, top each chicken breast with shredded mozzarella (if using fresh, cover with two thin slices). Pour tomato mixture on top. Cover pan with lid once more and let the mozzarella melt, about 1-2 minutes.

Lastly, drizzle with a splash of balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.


Spicy Hawaiian Chicken Burgers

The other day I ran across some fabulous-looking fresh pineapples at Trader Joe’s. Of course I knew I had to figure out a recipe to utilize those bad boys! I decided on a grilled burger because the pre-fall weather has been so nice lately, and I figured we could enjoy them on our balcony.


In the end, we didn’t actually grill the burgers outside, nor did we eat them on the balcony (there was a baseball game on ESPN, these are my priorities). But they turned out absolutely delish! Even though it can be sticky, I love using ground chicken for burgers  because it cooks great, always super moist, and is a healthier alternative to beef. The grilled pineapple added the perfect juicy tang along with the spiciness of the paprika and chili powder.

Spicy Hawaiian Chicken Burgers

(adapted from Home is Where the Holmans Are)

  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 1 pineapple, cut into rings or slices
  • 6 slices pepper jack cheese
  • 6 hamburger buns
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced


Combine the ground chicken, soy sauce, 1/2 the paprika, 1/2 the chili powder, cumin, and garlic. Lightly mix with your hands and divide into 6 even balls. The mixture will be very moist, so you might want to rub a little bit of olive oil on your hands before working with it. Form patties, making them slightly thinner in the middle and sprinkle with remaining paprika and chili powder. Refrigerate about 30 minutes.


Preheat the grill to medium heat. Again, I used my Cuisinart Griddler for this recipe and, as always, it worked just great! Before putting the burgers on, spray the plates lightly with cooking spray. Grill burgers over medium heat about 6 minutes per side. The burgers should flip easily when they are ready to turn, if they want to stick, give them another minute. Top with cheese for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking time to melt. Remove to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to rest. Put the buns on the grill while the burgers are resting.

For the pineapple, grill over medium/high heat and carefully turn after 3 minutes.  Assemble burgers and enjoy! I served them with some Salt and Pepper Ridge-Cut Potato Chips from Trader Joe’s, and, of course, Pumpkin Cider. The leftovers were great the next day with some chips and fresh salsa to add some more spicy kick.



Homemade French Vanilla Ice Cream

It is no secret to those who know me that I have a very large sweet tooth. And I’m not the kind of person who, when struck with a craving, is satisfied by, say, some fruit dipped in a teaspoon of melted chocolate. I like good, hearty desserts. For this reason, I try to limit my cravings as much as possible. I have also tried numerous times to bake my favorite recipes with healthier substitutions but, to be perfectly honest, the concoctions always end up tasting like cardboard (please, readers, if you have any tips in this department I seriously need your help!). But this week was was just one of those times where I needed a good old-fashioned sweet pick-me-up.

This week I started the Fall semester of my graduate program in Education. As is the way things typically go in my world, I was 30 minutes late to my first class. How was I to know that in Chicago-land you’re actually supposed to double, sometimes triple, the MapQuest estimated “time to destination” in order to actually get an accurate idea of how long it will take to get anywhere in this traffic?! I also apparently did not get the memo that it is the universal time of ROAD CONSTRUCTION around the city. I must have encountered about 10 orange “Work Zone” signs throughout the journey, immediately eliciting cursing and steering wheel pounding.

I had also happened to miss the “mandatory” information session held the previous week (pretty difficult to attend when you’re not even in the state yet!), so I was pretty much flying blind when I walked into the first class. It turned out I had missed A LOT. My to-do list increased by about half within the first ten minutes of class.

I decided before I even got home that I all I really needed in life to prevent a nervous breakdown was some delicious Homemade French Vanilla Ice Cream.

The process of making ice cream is very methodical, so it turned out to be exactly what I needed to calm my nerves. The Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker attachment for the stand mixer is like a dream come true; I have used it many times to make some absolutely delicious frozen treats. And the instruction manual that comes with the attachment actually has some of the best recipes! The French Vanilla recipe on page 13 is my absolute favorite; it comes out creamy and delicious every time. Here is the recipe as it appears in the manual:

Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker

French Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 2 1⁄2 cups half-and-half
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon salt

In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat half-and-half until very hot but not boiling, stirring often. Remove from heat; set aside.  Place egg yolks and sugar in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and wire whip to mixer. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds, or until well blended and slightly thickened. Continuing on Speed 2, very gradually add half-and-half; mix until blended. Return half-and-half mixture to medium saucepan; cook over medium heat until small bubbles form around edge and mixture is steamy, stirring constantly. Do not boil. Transfer half-and-half mixture into large bowl; stir in whipping cream, vanilla, and salt. Cover and chill thoroughly, at least
8 hours.

Assemble and engage freeze bowl, dasher, and drive-body interface as directed in attachment instructions. Turn to STIR Speed (Speed 1). Using a container with a spout, pour mixture into freeze bowl. Continue on STIR (Speed 1) for 15 to 20 minutes or until desired consistency. Immediately transfer ice cream into serving dishes, or freeze in
an airtight container.

Yield: 16 servings (1⁄2 cup per serving). Per Serving: About 260 cal, 3 g pro, 16 g carb, 20 g total fat, 12 g sat fat, 165 mg chol, 50 mg sod.

I know to some of you this recipe reads like instant death. But, let me tell you, every single calorie is worth it. This is, hands down, better than any store-bought vanilla ice cream you will find. If you do decide to make this recipe at home, just a few tips from me to you:

  • I have been known to half this recipe, and it still turns out great. I simply eliminate the temptation of eating 8 cups of ice cream all by myself.
  • Instead of the “very gradual” method it describes to add the half and half to the egg mixture, I typically add about 1/4 of the half and half mixture to the eggs and mix well. Then, I add another 1/4, mix well and pour this new mixture back into the remaining half and half. I find that this tempers the eggs more effectively.
  • It is very hard for me to tell when the half and half mixture is “steamy,” as the recipe calls for, so I pay more attention to the bubbles around the sides of the saucepan. Basically, when it feels like the mixture is hot when you hold your hand above it, it is done.
  • The chilling time is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for this recipe when made in the Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker. I let mine chill in the refrigerator overnight, almost 24 hours before putting it into the freeze bowl.  In order to get the right consistency in the ice cream, make sure that the mixture is very cold before you start to mix it in the freeze bowl. Also, I DO NOT recommend putting the mixture into the freezer to speed up the chilling process. This prematurely causes ice crystals to form in the mixture, which will also negatively affect the consistency.

Three-Berry Cobbler

If you are looking for a way to add some health benefits to this recipe, I highly recommend trying it with this Three-Berry Cobbler recipe from Williams-Sonoma. The recipe is made with all fresh fruit and raspberry jam instead of adding more processed sugar, and the topping is made with less butter than most recipes, low-fat buttermilk, and whole-wheat flower. The combination of the cobbler and the ice cream is simply delicious!


Easy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

With a dollop of fresh guacamole on top (and some extra for chip-dipping, of course), these enchiladas more than satisfied my craving for Mexican food!

When planning my menu for the week, I had a craving for some good Mexican food. You can always find this kind of cuisine in Colorado; I have yet to locate any in Chicago. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist, but I decided to cook up some of my own.

Easy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 (16-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown or white rice
  • 2-3 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (use the lesser amount for less heat, greater amount for a bigger kick)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese (or a combination of both)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 6 burrito-size flour tortillas
  • 1 jar store-bought green chile

I wanted the process to be relatively easy and fast (it was one of those days), so I defrosted a couple of chicken breasts and decided to use my Cuisinart Griddler to prepare it (one of the hands-down most useful kitchen gadgets that I own). I simply sprinkled both sides of the chicken with some salt and pepper, put them on the griddler with the lid down for about 8 minutes, and they were ready to go! As an added bonus, this method is a lot less greasy than sautéing the chicken with oil in a pan.

I shredded the cooked chicken with two forks, placing it in a large bowl. Then, I added a can of black beans, a teaspoon of chopped adobo peppers, about a cup and a half of quick-cook white rice that I had leftover in the refrigerator, and a cup of shredded cheese (I like to use a blend of cheddar and monterey jack).

To assemble the enchiladas, I warmed 6 flour tortillas in the microwave and then laid them flat on the countertop, pouring a few spoonfuls of the chicken mixture onto each one. After folding each of the tortillas, burrito style (sides first, then lift one flap and roll the whole tortilla over so that the seam is on the bottom), I placed them side-by-side in a glass baking dish and covered them liberally with some store-bought green chile and more shredded cheese. So easy! The whole thing went into a 450 degree oven for about 12 minutes, and they were done!

To go along with the enchilada goodness, I wanted some fresh guacamole (this is just one of those ingredients that is never as good store-bought as fresh). Thankfully, I had bought some avocados at the grocery store (I LOVE sliced avocados on sandwiches), so I used three of them, along with some leftover fresh corn that I had from another recipe, to make this delicious chunky guac, adapted from a recipe I had seen online. All it took was mixing the following ingredients in a large bowl:


I love fresh guacamole!

  • 3 avocados, cubed
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 3 dashes Tabasco

Add a little salt and pepper to the mixture to suit your tastebuds and enjoy.