Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chicken Quinoa Pita Pockets

Guys, I have a confession to make.  Sometimes when a new fad or trend comes around I will be super resistant to jump on the bandwagon.  But then eventually I will fall for it, and fall hard.  Skinny jeans for example.  I used to be super critical.  Why would I want denim all up on my calves all day long?  And now, skinny jeans are all I wear.  Well, except for jeggings.

Or quinoa.  Four years ago had anyone ever even heard of quinoa?  No.  And then it made it's breakthrough and took the food magazine and blogging worlds by storm.  It appeared in anything and everything, being dubbed a superfood or something like that.  I eventually won a bag in a giveaway, and it sat in my cupboard for months untouched.  Until finally a couple of weeks ago while (sort of) participating in a week long healthy eating challenge (another fad, I know) it was called for as a side so I finally dusted off the bag and gave it a shot.

Let me tell you I am hooked; hook, line and sinker.  I'm looking forward to trying out many more quinoa recipes, but for now here is the version of healthy chicken quinoa pita pockets that I came up with, inspired by my big sister.  Feel free to adjust any of the ingredients as you please.  Depending on what type of salsa you use and how much kick you like, you may want to use more or less.  It's a pretty quick weeknight meal to make, the longest part being cooking the quinoa.

1 package of pita pockets
12 oz chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, cooked
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup salsa
1/4 cup cilantro, diced
Avocado (for garnish)

  1. Combine chicken, quinoa, black beans, greek yogurt, salsa and cilantro in a medium bowl.  Stir until ingredients are dispersed evenly.
  2. Spoon desired amount into pita pocket. Garnish with an avocado slice.
I'm thinking next time I make this I might shred the chicken instead of cubing it so that it sits in the pitas better.  The leftovers reheated well and tasted great just eaten plain.  Don't have plain greek yogurt on hand?  Try substituting sour cream, it will just be a little less healthy.  You could also substitute tortillas for the pita pockets if you prefer.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

New favorite kitchen essential: the cast iron skillet

A Gift of Gold

About two years ago, a large and quite heavy birthday gift waited to be opened on my lab. We have a tradition in my family where we try to guess the gift before opening it. I had no idea. Was a brick wrapped with my gift to throw me off? Needless to say, I guessed the gift completely wrong. But discovering that I was given a cast iron skillet left me giddy with glee! I couldn't wait to try it out. Ever since, this cast iron skillet has only helped leave my stomach full and happy.

A Kitchen Essential

I never knew what a cast iron skillet could do until I started using mine. Every kitchen needs a cast iron skillet for a few reasons. You may not understand it, until you try it. Why a cast iron? What makes it different from a regular skillet? It's like the question, why mix the dry ingredients from the wet in a cookie recipe? It doesn't seem like it would make a difference, but it does. So here is a short list why a cast iron skillet should be your friend in the kitchen.

1. There's something about searing the meat - Whether it is chicken, steak or pork chops, this skillet can handle it. And it handles it well. With a cast iron skillet, meat will be seared leaving the juices and flavor sealed in until you take your knife and fork to it. Pure deliciousness.

2. Universal Utility - Stove top. Oven. Campfire. The cast iron skillet can do it all. Just remember, oven mitts are always necessary when the heat is on. That handle, along with the entire skillet, will be hot. And stay hot for awhile, even when off the heat source.

3. An All Courses tool - The cast iron skillet is not only for meat. It can be for any course. Main dishes, dessert or side dishes, I've seen all sorts of recipes made for the cast iron skillet. Actually, a recipe on my to-do list includes an apple crisp made in a cast iron. My mouth is already watering.

4. It gets better with time - With each use, the cast iron skillet becomes seasoned. With more use, the skillet just gets better, providing food with full-bodied flavor. So the more you use your cast iron, the better the outcomes.

5. Easy cleaning - The cast iron skillet has a special maintenance plan. No soap necessary for this bad boy. To preserve the seasoning explained in #4, all you want to do is wipe it down with water and a damp cloth or paper towel. Also, as an extra bonus, there is no fear of warping the skillet under hot water!

A Recipe for the Kitchen Essential

As I was brainstorming what to do for some pork chops thawing from the freezer, the cast iron skillet popped in my head. I raced for my cast iron skillet cook book and found the perfect recipe! Let's just say it includes some of my favorite flavors: onion, garlic and wine! Yum! Be sure to stop back for the recipe release of Braised Pork chops in Merlot sauce coming soon.


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