Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In the Kitchen - Oh Crock Pot, You Never Disappoint

Cooking dinner with two toddlers climbing up my legs (and often pulling down my elastic waist black running pants) during the crummiest hour (between 5-6pm) of the day is near impossible and downright NOT enjoyable.  And I love to cook.  So when I can put something in the crock pot early in the day, dinner by 6:30 (or later now that the time has changed and it's blissfully light and warm out) is a breeze.  And Joe returns home to a much happier household instead of two antsy kids vying for my attention and me barking, "Please play with them, take a walk, SOMETHING!"  Domestic bliss.

First up are GREAT AUNT CAROL'S ENCHILADAS that we had when we visited Kansas over Christmas They're cheesy, gooey, slightly spicy, Mexican yumminess and the smashed avocado on the side hits the spot.  The original instructions called for doing everything in a skillet on the stove top, but sometimes I can't bring myself to be that productive during nap time, so instead I threw everything in a crock pot, assembled the dish a little before dinnertime (this took about 20 minutes), baked (for another 20-25 minutes), and voila!  

A note about chopping onions and garlic....I just throw it all in a food processor and pulse a couple times until everything is chopped.  Spare yourself the tears and smelly hands. 

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1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
12 oz. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into chunks
3/4 cup water
16 oz. tomato sauce
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (I use the tubes of fresh herbs - super handy!)
1 (4 oz.) can chopped jalapenos, drained
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus 3/4 cup more for topping
10 six inch corn tortillas
cooking spray
3/4 cup sour cream (optional)
1 avocado, diced or smashed (optional)
shredded lettuce (optional)
2 limes, quartered (optional)

Combine first ten ingredients and pour into a crock pot.  Cook on high for 3 hours (I'm sure cooking on low for 6 hours would accomplish the same thing).  Shred meat with two forks and strain mixture into medium bowl, pressing on chicken to extract as much liquid as possible.  Set sauce aside.  Transfer chicken to another bowl, let cool a bit, and then toss with cilantro, 2 cups cheese, and jalapenos.  Heat oven to 300 degrees and place tortillas on two baking sheets, spraying both sides of the tortillas with a little bit of cooking spray.  Bake about 4 minutes until tortillas are soft and pliable.  Remove tortillas and increase oven temp. to 400 degrees.  Smear the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish with 3/4 cup sauce (reserved liquid from crock pot).   Place 1/3 cup chicken filling down the center of each tortilla, roll tightly, and place seam side down in baking dish on top of sauce.  Repeat until dish is filled, pour remaining sauce over enchiladas, using the back of a spoon to spread sauce so it coats each tortilla.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup cheddar cheese over enchiladas.  Cover baking dish with foil, bake 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted.  Uncover and serve immediately with sour cream, lettuce, lime wedges, and avocado.

MOROCCAN CHICKEN OVER COUSCOUS is a recipe that my mother-in-law shared with me and before it could get lost in my recipe binder I was determined to try it.  This would also be great as a vegetarian dish...leave out the chicken and use vegetable broth (or even a little wine) instead.  I think there's room for a little more spice, so feel free to add more if you like a little more kick.  Otherwise, this dish was a complete success for a few reasons:  1) Using chicken thighs is a cheaper alternative than breasts; 2) It's another delicious use of butternut squash; 3) I can't wait to finish off the leftovers; 4) Even the boys ate some squash (ok, so I made sure they got some raisins with it and stirred in a little apple sauce); 5) Totally yummy!

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chunked into cubes
1 cup broth
1 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cubed (or 12oz. frozen butternut squash cubes)
1 chopped onion
2 chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup raisins
1 can sliced black olives (optional)
10 oz couscous

Mix all ingredients, except olives, and transfer to crock pot.  Cook on high 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.  Prepare cous cous according to package directions.  Fluff with fork, serve immediately, and top with chicken mixture and juices.  Toss in olives, if desired.

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