Recipe Review: Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Delicious Chicken Tikka Masala - waiting for you in your slow cooker!

Delicious Chicken Tikka Masala – waiting for you in your slow cooker!

Hi All! Happy New Year!  I know it’s been a while since I posted – finals and the holidays got the best of me.  But I had an amazing time back in Minnesota.  We attended 2 Christmas parties, watched copious amounts of football, went to a fantastic sparkling wine and appetizer cooking class, attended mass on Christmas Day and headed straight up to Lutsen, MN where we got to enjoy the slopes and a quaint little cabin, 20 feet from Lake Superior.

I got to come back for NYE and celebrate with Dan and his family with a bomb diggity meal of mussels in spicy thai curry sauce, homemade caesar salads (I’ll share the recipe soon!), pasta carbonara and crab legs.  And a (couple) bottles of champagne.  It was amazing.  But, with all the imbibing and fantastic food I’ve had lately, it’s time for the “new year, new me!” cliche.

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Healthy, Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Hearty Stew!

Hearty Stew!

Despite a week of crazy November weather – 70’s!? – we’re back to classic fall.  Rainy, cold, and cloudy.  Call me crazy, but at this point, I can’t wait for it to snow.  Plus, I can’t wait for Gino to see his first snowflakes!  Knowing him, he’s going to go nuts.  No better time to try making beef stew than now – especially when your slow cooker does all the heavy lifting.

If you’re like me, the holidays are a time for cheat meals galore.  I don’t skip a single dish at Thanksgiving, and no pie dish goes unturned.  I like to stay healthy on days surrounding the holidays, and beef stew is the perfect way to do it.  Hearty, filling, but low on calories and high on protein, this dish will keep you full all afternoon.

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Easy, Healthy “Bi Bim Bop”

Finished, Delicious Bi Bim Bop!

Finished, Delicious Bi Bim Bop!

I’m sure when everyone looks back on their college years, they have a few “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” moments.  For example, I wish I woulda snuck onto the Big House field like a few of my senior year companions.  I shoulda went to a Michigan hockey game.  I wish I coulda attend a few more biology classes – that would have helped during medical school.

But one of my biggest regrets is never going to the small Korean restaurant below my apartment sophomore year.  Every day, multiple times, I’d walk by Kang’s Korean Restaurant with its giant red sign.  My roommate, Hannah, LOVED Kang’s.  She’d frequent the restaurant, bringing back leftovers that smelled delicious.  But I never once took her word for it.  And I seriously regret it.

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Roasted Spaghetti Squash and “Albondigas” – Meatballs in Garlic Tomato Sauce

Healthified "spaghetti" and "albondigas"!

Healthified “spaghetti” and “albondigas”!

Given that it’s Halloweek, I am going to tell you a horror story about these delicious meatballs.  Like any horror movie, there are several plot twists when you *think* something terrifying is about to happen, but it’s just the cat, or a gust of wind.  This story is no different – I dodged quite a few disasters before the TRUE horror hit my kitchen!

Potential Scary Moment #1:  When I decided to try and copy Dan’s mom’s meatballs.  They’re awesome and cannot be beat.  But I think these turned out well!  They’re definitely not “made-by-mom” quality, but they’re great for a first attempt.

Potential Scary Moment #2: I wanted to try roasting spaghetti squash for the first time.  This is scary for two reasons – I knew Dan wouldn’t eat it because it’s a weird vegetable, and I had no idea what I was doing.  But after a quick Google search, I found a fool-proof method for great spaghetti squash every time!  And I was impressed with how it soaked up the flavors in the sauce so easily.

Real, True, I-Can’t-Believe-This-Happened Scary Moment:  I was beaming with pride after successfully making meatballs and a new, delicious vegetable.  I had tripled the recipe to have leftovers for days to come!  I woke up the next morning, ready to pack up some lunches, and…*duh duh duuuuhhhhh* I LEFT THE FOOD OUT ALL NIGHT.  RUINED!!!  I was incredibly upset.  And in a bad mood for about 23 minutes.  I think a tear rolled down my cheek as I threw my beautiful-gone-bad meatballs down the garbage disposal.

Mix, Mix, Mix It Up!

Mix, Mix, Mix It Up!

The good news, after this scary-spooky-horror-story, is that I can’t WAIT to make these again.  They’re AWESOME.  And relatively easy to make in a big batch so you can throw some in the freezer or have leftovers for a few days.  They’re extremely versatile.  I added them to spaghetti squash – which is a great healthy alternative to pasta.  But they’d be just as good in a meatball sub with some mozzarella, mixed with veggies, or plain as a protein-filled snack!

Waiting to be browned!

Waiting to be browned!

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Muy Delicioso!

I came across this simple meatball recipe at a wine tasting party thrown by my friend, Karen.  She took us on a culinary, wine-filled tour of the Iberian Peninsula and paired these delicious “albondigas” with a Rioja wine (featured in Wine and Popcorn pairings earlier this year!).  They were so simple, with a basic red sauce, but every bite was better than the last.  Then, after trying Dan’s mom’s meatballs recently, I knew I had to try and make some of my own.  So I fused her recipe with the Spanish albondigas and added some lean ground turkey for a health kick!

Meatballs simmering in red sauce.

Meatballs simmering in red sauce.

I urge you to make these ASAP – but maybe after Halloweek so you don’t experience a horror story of your own!

Good luck!  And remember to follow @anappleadayonline on Instagram!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash and "Albondigas" - Meatballs in Garlic Tomato Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
Great beginner meatball recipe - few ingredients and even fewer steps! These can be added to the roasted spaghetti squash, a pasta of your choosing, or thrown into a meatball sub. Throw your spaghetti squash into the oven first, then mix up your meatballs and sauce so everything finishes at the same time!
Ingredients
For the spaghetti squash:
  • 1 whole spaghetti squash, cut lengthwise
  • Water (enough to fill pan up ½ inch)
For the sauce:
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, low sodium
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1.5 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1.5 tsp. dried basil
For the albondigas:
  • 1½ pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 pound ground beef (I used 80/20 ratio)
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • ⅔ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
Instructions
For the spaghetti squash:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash lengthwise.
  3. Using a baking dish (a lasagna dish works perfectly), place squash cut side down into the dish.
  4. Fill dish with ½ inch of water. Cover with aluminum foil
  5. Cook for 45 minutes. Remove squash and flip over (cut side up). Be careful when removing foil - steam is hot!
  6. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until squash is very tender.
  7. Allow to slightly cool. Remove seeds using a spoon. Then, using a fork, shred the remainder of the squash into "spaghetti-like" strands.
For the sauce:
  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add 1 tsp. olive oil.
  2. Saute garlic until fragrant - about 4 minutes.
  3. Add whole tomatoes and tomato sauce. Gradually break up large pieces using a spoon.
  4. Add pepper, salt, oregano, and basil.
  5. Turn heat to low and allow sauce to simmer and thicken while you prepare the albondigas.
For the albondigas:
  1. Add ground turkey, ground beef, green pepper, onion, nutmeg, parsley, and bread crumbs to a large mixing bowl. Combine using a large spoon or your hands. (It's much easier with your hands!)
  2. Form meatballs using a spoon. Each meatball should use up about 2 tbsp of the mixture. I ended up with about 35 in total.
  3. Heat large saute pan over medium high heat. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil (you may need additional oil with several batches).
  4. In batches of 12 meatballs, brown on all sides. Turn using tongs to brown evenly. This should take about 5 minutes per batch.
  5. Add meatballs to tomato sauce.
  6. Cover, with heat on low, and allow to simmer for 25 minutes.
To complete the recipe:
  1. Combine spaghetti squash and albondigas - with plenty of sauce - on your plate. Top with additional parmesan cheese or fresh parsley.
Notes
This was the method I used for cooking the spaghetti squash if you need clarification. Thanks Emeril! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/herbed-spaghetti-squash-recipe.html
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 cup squash and 6 meatballs Calories: 525 Fat: 28 g Saturated fat: 10 g Unsaturated fat: 5 g Carbohydrates: 31 g Sugar: 10 g Sodium: 577 mg Fiber: 6 g Protein: 36 g Cholesterol: 120 mg

 

Chicken Parmesan with Zucchini “Zoodles”

Zoodily Zoodles and World’s Best Garlic Bread!

My mom taught me quite a few things in the kitchen.  One of those things is homemade garlic bread, and I am forever grateful.  Buying a French baguette at the grocery store is a decision I don’t take lightly – I know it’ll be followed by over-garlicked, buttery, amazing bread.  And I need the perfect meal to enjoy it with.  And to use leftovers to make homemade croutons – another one of my mother’s culinary gifts.

I have found that meal.  Healthified chicken parmesan with zoodles!  A great dose of vegetables, protein, and some cheesy goodness.  Best part?  No boiling noodles, a quick *zesty* red sauce, and easy chicken finished in the oven.  Perfect to melt your cheese and brown your garlic bread under the broiler.  And go back for a second slice of this delicious bread!  No pasta = extra bread 😉

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Slow Cooker Shredded Mexican Chicken

The goodness that is easy, 3-ingredient shredded chicken.

The goodness that is easy, 3-ingredient shredded chicken.

MONDAYZZZ. Ugh. I shouldn’t even be complaining.  It’s Fall break, which means no class for 2 days.  It was sunny and 65 degrees out today.  Football Today had a new podcast out and they continued to rave about the Packers.  I made my childhood favorite meal (Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole) on a whim today.  And it was just as good as I remembered.

But, today was one of those days I needed a Diet Coke at 5PM and I don’t even drink pop unless it has Jack Daniel’s in it.  I didn’t even wear mascara today. *Gasp*.  Before I was writing this, I was reading a book about patient case files and realizing how much I have to study before medicine starts back up again next summer.  My biggest accomplishment was tying my tennis shoes today.

And for days like today?  And I know everyone has them.  CROCKPOT.  Buy one.  Use it.  I’ll make it easy for you: CROCK POT.  Even better? Throw 3 ingredients in there and you’ve got a delicioso meal that will last you FOREVER.  Okay, like 3 meals, but that’s pretty good.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

Cilantro So Crisp! Avocado So Creamy!

Cilantro So Crisp! Avocado So Creamy!

Soup season! *GROUP CHEER*  Since tacos are one of my main food groups, it only makes sense to put all the taco toppings into SOUP and call it a day.  I’ve made three Mexican dishes this week and I ain’t even mad about it.  Maybe I’ll mix in some breakfast burritos and I can have Mexican food for every single meal of the week.  Maybe I’ll open up a Mexican restaurant out of my apartment.

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Lightened-Up Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms and Chicken

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FALL IS HERE!  Salads and smoothies MOVE OVER.  Soups, pasta, and oatmeal COME ON IN! While comfort food is a must during the cold months, there’s always an easy way to up the deliciousness and the health-factor to the max.  This recipe takes a classic – pesto – and adds in some healthy fats with avocado.  Adding lean protein and veggies to the pasta makes this a well rounded dish that’s quick and easy!

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Skinny Pizza Stuffed Peppers

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If there’s one food I could eat for every single meal, it would absolutely be pizza.  Growing up with my dad and brother – who can seriously eat some food – I learned that when I ordered my cheese only Domino’s pizza, it required a “DO NOT EAT” sign on the leftovers.  I’d wake up in the morning and savor my cold, delicious pizza for the second time around.  And maybe even for lunch! So sue me!

Then, sadly, I became aware of the evils of regular pizza eating.  Or maybe it was the beer drinking that usually preceeded the pizza eating.  EITHER WAY.  Don’t get me wrong, I can still throw down a pizza if I had to.  Twist my arm.  But my frequency of indulging in cheesy goodness was becoming a problem.  And I found the solution.  PIZZA PEPPERS.  All the pizza flavor without the pizza guilt!  Not so good for drunchies (“drunk-munchies” for my baby boomers out there), but great for a weeknight!

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Chimi-Chicken

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Chim-Chimmery Goodness

Truth: Every once in a while, I dream about having fantastic dinner parties.  The kind with figs and goat cheese, beef bourguignon, and molten chocolate cake for dessert.  With bottles of French wine and white tapers and fabulous flowers scattered around the table.

Truth: I don’t have a table in my apartment, making this dream somewhat impossible.  I DO however have Kroger’s finest bottle of $9 wine.  And a candle from Bath and Body Works that, unfortunately, occasionally smells like Abercrombie.  It’s up for debate.

Truth: If I DID have a dinner party.  I’d probably serve this chicken.  It’s fancy Mexican food.  It even has a separately made sauce which instantly makes something fancy.  I probably wouldn’t call it “Chimi-Chicken” on the fancy menus I’d print out.  It’d say something like, “Infusion of Smoked Paprika Blackened Chicken, Nested in a River of Chimichurri.”

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