Cheesy Mex Chicken with Fritos (Slow Cooker) (Naturally Gluten Free)

Cheesy Mex Chicken

I hopped on my bike and headed down the country road with the white bridge in site. The creek was just a short ride and I leaned my bike against the rail and jumped over it into the tall grass. I shimmy-ed down the steep bank and found a foothold on one of the large stones my sister and I placed there. It was hot and I was eagerly seeking the cool, bubbly, water in the shade under the road. I carefully made my way across by jumping stone-to-stone and landed on the large flat one that served as my shoe stool. If I ruined another pair, I knew my days at the creek were numbered.

My bare feet sunk into the wet, sandy dirt and my body instantly felt the relief. This summer was boiling and the creek was lower than usual. I patted some water on my face and started turning rocks. Crawdads, minnows and tadpoles scurried along as I inspected the creek bed.

This last week I took my daughter ‘creeking’ for the first time. While it was not at ‘my’ creek, it certainly brought back many faded memories.

Photo Credit: My friend Liz over at http://superveggiemom.com/

Photo Credit: My friend Liz over at http://www.superveggiemom.com

The summer heat is upon us, the kids have activities all over the place, and getting dinner on the table is getting harder and harder. This recipe has many perks – quick to put together, leave in it in the crock pot, no ovens to heat up the kitchen, and utterly cheesy and kid-pleasing. Add fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime and avocado, because it’s summer, and you can.

Cheesy Mex Chicken with Fritos

Ingredients

2 (10 ounce) cans Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (Original), drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (check ingredient label for gluten)
2 tablespoons instant tapioca (found in the baking isle of most grocers)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs*, trimmed
salt and pepper
1 cup Fritos corn chips, slightly crushed, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend (grated)
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed (or one package freezer sweet corn)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

Garnish
extra Fritos
diced avocado
1/2 lime, cut into wedges

*my grocer did not have these, so I de-skinned and de-boned two packs of regular chicken thighs

Preparation

Drain tomatoes. Add to crock pot. Drain and rinse beans. Add to crock pot. Stir in tapioca and cumin. Nestle chicken into crock pot and salt and pepper.

Set crock pot on low for 4-5 hours.

Remove chicken and place on cutting board. Shred into large bite size pieces.

Stir one cup Fritos, 1 cup Mexican cheese blend, corn and cilantro into slow cooker. Gently stir in chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on high for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted in.

Portion into bowls and top with Fritos, cheese, avocado and a small wedge of lime.

Notes: If left in crock pot, it may thicken too much. Add very hot water, one half cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

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One-Pot Mexican Chicken & Rice (Gluten Free)

Nappy's Chicken Shit

I was on a school bus,  for the first time in more than a decade, and much earlier than ever in my life. Still dark, we couldn’t see the landscape. It was quite chilly, there was no sound except the motor. All the passengers where silent with their thoughts and the bus rocked us gently back and forth. I can pretty much fall asleep anywhere, but right then my nerves where taking over and keeping my stomach uncomfortable and fluttery. ‘How long is twenty six miles, anyway?’ It seemed like an eternity getting to the marathon start line and every second I sat there I pictured my legs having to carry me all the way back.

Yes, I had put skates on again, even after my disastrous start in the sport.  Mystery Man and I put the inline skates on every weekend and racked up the miles on the local trails. My miles were much different than his. As I pushed, sweated, and worked for every stride, most of his time was spent skating backwards in front of me, coaching me along, and on occasion would break away to ‘stretch his legs’, then wait patiently for me to catch up.

I reminded myself that we were here for fun. After all, we had met up at this race in Duluth Minnesota for more than the skating. Friends came from several states away. Ones we hadn’t seen in far too long. The skating, to them, was only secondary.

Stepping off the bus, I was astounded. Three thousand five hundred people where here to skate this race and yet everyone was calm, collected, and making their way to the appropriate fitness stage for start times. We found ours, but not our friends. The crowd was too thick. Bang! Here we go!

I have seen wonderful sites in my life. The Sistine Chapel. The Rome Colosseum, Big Ben, the canals of Amsterdam. But, that finish line is one of the most memorable and beautiful things. Bleachers full of people flanked each side of the the road. Flags, banners and festive music filled our senses and took the pain from our legs. Mystery Man stayed with me all the way to the end and we crossed the finish line together.

We found our friends and hugs lasted minutes as we soaked everyone in. It had, indeed, been way too long.  We had two days and we planned to make the most of it. Lunches lasted through dinner. Toasts where made with silly sayings and laughter, and solemn memories and wet eyes. Laughter rang in our ears long after retiring for the evening, and as I lay there and took stock of my body that I had pushed to the limit, the parts that hurt most were not my legs, but my cheeks and abdomen from smiling and laughing. Suddenly the skating, for me, was secondary.

________________________________

 

This is a recipe from a friend in the skating community.  We (lovingly) call it Chicken Shit in our house, but I have renamed it for you. Your welcome.

 

One-Pot Mexican Chicken & Rice

Ingredients:
1 Pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 – 13 Ounce can chicken broth
1 – 8 Ounce can tomato sauce
1 Package taco seasoning (check for gluten in the ingredients)
1 can corn, drained
1 green pepper (diced)
1 1/2 Cup minute rice
1/2 Teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
Corn chips

Toppings:
All Toppings are Optional
1 – 2 Ounce can Sliced Olives
Shredded Mexican/Spicy Cheese
Sour Cream
Lettuce
Tomatoes (diced)

Preparation:
• Heat olive oil in 4” deep heavy pan over medium heat until shimmering
• Add chicken and cook (stirring) until no loner pink
• Add broth, tomato sauce and seasoning packet. Stir and bring to a boil.
• Reduce heat and simmer for minutes.
• Add corn and pepper, stir and bring to a boil.
• Stir in rice, cover the pan and remove from heat.
• Fluff with fork and adjust spice with hot sauce if desired.
• Serve with toppings and corn chips.

Notes:
For a crowd – Do not drain corn. Add one cup of water and one additional cup of rice. Transfer to crock pot on low. Serve directly out of crock pot. Check periodically to make sure it does not dry out. Add water as needed. This dish is just as good, or better the next day.

Options:
Vegetarian –  Add one can of thoroughly rinsed black beans, omit the chicken, use vegetable broth.

 

 

 

Oven Fried Chicken & Gravy

Smoke Alarm Chicke and Good Gravy

I don’t have a lot of girl friends. In high school I found the ‘mean girls’ to be just that, and I separated myself from the drama. That meant I had a lot of guy friends. The cafeteria  lunch table was me and three (sometimes more) boys who had a blast. There was minimal drama. No gossip, and no underlying comparisons to fashion, hair or makeup.

Since then I have gained a few girl friends along the way and they all meet my requirements of no-nonsense and minimal drama.

Then there is Vintage Thread. She is not only no nonsense and no drama, but this woman has the patience of a Saint. We have a lot in common, and yet we are so different.

She can sew an entire wardrobe for a whole theater production. I give her my skirts that need new buttons.

She is soft spoken. I am a loud mouth.

She is tall and thin. I am petite and jiggly.

She works for a call center for a company’s customer service. I would get fired for telling people to get lost.

But somehow our friendship works.

Nearly every Sunday we have dinner with her family. It has become somewhat of a tradition, and Vintage Thread and I rotate the cooking duties and attempt to turn out favorites from our well-loved family cook books.

This is one of the dishes she would frequently ask for as a child – sometimes on her birthday. Since today IS her birthday it is only right that you eat fried chicken, too.

Birthday Cake

 

Oven-fried Chicken & Good Gravy (Gluten Free)

Ingredients:
2 1/2 to 3 Pounds Chicken Pieces
1 1/2 Tablespoon Shortening
1 1/2 Tablespoon Butter
1/2 Cup Corn Starch
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Poultry Seasoning

Chicken Preparation:
• Preheat oven to 425 degrees
• Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry
• Put Shortening and Butter on rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven until melted.
• Combine Salt, Paprika, Pepper and Poultry seasoning in a small dish.
• Sprinkle seasoning mixture over all sides of chicken and let the meat rest for five minutes.
• Put corn starch in a one gallon zip lock bag. Place all chicken pieces in bag and shake around until each piece is thoroughly coated. (Reserve the bag of extra coating for later use)
• Remove heated pan from oven and place chicken pieces in rows about one inch apart.
• Bake for one hour*, turning the chicken over half-way through.

Gravy Preparation:

Vintage Thread’s Method
• Remove chicken from pan and set aside, keeping it warm under a foil tent. Pour off three quarters of the grease, then place the pan on the stove top over medium/high heat. Pour a cup of water on the pan and work the chicken bits off of the bottom. Add two tablespoons of the coating reserved earlier. Whisk until few lumps remain and bring gravy to a bubble. You may need to add more water.  Adjust with salt and pepper.

My Method
• Remove chicken from pan and set aside, keeping it warm under a foil tent. Pour off three quarters of the grease, then place the pan on the stove top over medium/high heat. Pour a cup of boiling hot water on the pan and work the chicken bits off of the bottom. Scrape the entire contents of the pan into a food processor. Add two tablespoons of the coating reserved earlier. Give the food processor about five pulses, or run until the gravy is the texture you desire.  Adjust with salt and pepper.

NOTES:
* Smaller pieces of chicken may only need 45 minutes of cooking time. Pull these from the pan and keep warm under a foil tent until the larger pieces are finished.
Serve with mashed potatoes and a seasonal vegetable.

Chicken Piccata

Image

We were dance partners first. For three years. He had a girlfriend and I had a boyfriend – our dancing together was nothing but that, and a good time. The local Lindy Hop teach­ers had given us all the material they had, and we sucked the knowledge out of all of our peers. We wanted more. This only meant one thing. Travel.

We heard about a clinic in Atlanta. National instructors, hours upon hours of dancing crammed into one weekend, it was close enough to drive, and Mystery Man had friends in the area who would put us up for a few days.

Paul and Cindy were friends when he was an inline skating instructor years ago. “Hey man! Good to see you. Dude, lets gear up and go for a trip around the park”. That is pretty much the first thing out of Paul’s mouth.

These people not only did a little inline skating, they lived it. It was their business. The garage did not hold a car, a lawn mower, a tool bench or anything else a normal person would have. It held hundreds of skates, pads, helmets, and two full leg plaster casts hung on the wall like trophies. Cindy took me in and fitted me with gear. We piled into the truck and went off to the park.

Now, I had been on skates before. The kind with four wheels NOT in a straight line. On a nice smooth hard surface. With music. Flashing lights. And a railing around the outside of the rink. No biggie. I can do this. This inline thing can’t be that much dif­ferent.

The beginning was good. I was upright. The street was level. Everyone was having a good time. It was a beautiful afternoon, not too hot for Atlanta. Cindy hung back with me to give me some pointers. Picking up speed I was getting a little wobbly and uncomfortable, but still holding my own. Until the hill. A steep cliff, really. One that lemmings would run off of and never see the likes of their family again. I hurled myself uncontrollably down the slope and then I committed the number one sin of beginner skater. I stood straight up. Locking my knees and flailing my arms, I was done. Jessica, meet street. Street, meet Jessica.

I learned a new word that day, besides the general skate talk. ‘Road rash’. All the way up my thigh’s backside and stopping right around the bootie area. It also said hello to my elbow. Luckily the padding warded off the asphalt to some degree, but my arm still showed quite a war wound.

Coming to my rescue, Cindy immediately jumped into skating coach mode. Helping me up, brushing me off, and assessing the damage. Determining right away that I was done for the day, she helped my wobbly, bleeding behind to the truck. The guys would skate home.

The next morning started a full day’s worth of dance instruction. I woke up in the guest room and rummaged through my suitcase. A skirt was in order for the day – I couldn’t imagine pants rubbing on the wound, even if it was covered. I needed fresh bandages, so I finished getting dressed and wondered out into the house looking for Cindy to help me out.

Cindy wasn’t there. Paul wasn’t there. They left hours before us for a skate marathon. Crap. Now what?

I shyly approached my totally platonic dance partner. This was not going to be good. These bandages were way, way, up the leg. He agreed to help me out. I spent next several minutes bent at the waist, lifting up my skirt, with him on his knees trying his best to place the gauze. A perfect gentleman about it, I was soon fixed up and we went on our way.

Paul and Cindy continue to open their house to us without question. Whether we are passing through for one night or in town for a week-long conference, they are always eager to lend us a place and a home cooked meal. The evenings on their patio with good food, wine and stories are ones to remember, even if some memories include the term ‘road rash’.

This is one of my favorites that Cindy was generous enough to share with me. I make it on a regular basis and hope you will, too.

I did finally conquer inline skating. This is me at the Deluth Inline Marathon (right) and the Disney Inline Half Marathon (left).

ImageImage

Chicken Picatta

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3 breasts)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for a gluten free meal, use corn starch)

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken broth

3 tablespoons capers (rinsed)

1 lemon (peeled, seeds removed and sliced very thin)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons parsley

Preparation:

• Slice chicken in half lengthwise to make two thin cutlets each. (Place on cutting board and press down on breasts with one hand while horizon­tally cutting the chicken with a sharp knife.) You should have 4-6 cutlets.

• Place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap (or into a plastic bag) and pound with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer to an even 1/4 inch thickness.

• Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet (12”) over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

• Pat chicken dry with paper towels.

• Salt and pepper chicken on both sides.

• Coat with flour on both sides, shake off excess.

• Place cutlets in the heated skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until chicken is no longer pink in the center, it should be slightly browned.

• Remove chicken from pan and cover with foil. Set aside.

• Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet and add garlic. Saute’ for about one minute.

• Add wine and broth wine. Whisk or stir to incorporate the garlic and loosen any bits from the skillet. Bring to a simmer and reduce by about half.

• Stir in capers and lemon slices. Return to boil and add butter and parsley.

• Add chicken back into the skillet and warm through.

• Serve over your favorite pasta.

Note: Cooking for two? Reduce the amount of chicken by half. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as written. Freeze half of the sauce for a fast and easy weeknight dinner (just thaw sauce, brown chicken and serve over pasta!)

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

gumbo

At the age of nineteen I had climbed the retail ladder and accepted a Store Manager position at the educational/developmental toy store where I had worked since graduating high school. Even though I was a full time student at University, I jumped on the chance because it meant full benefits and a nice raise.

One of the first things I needed to do was hire more staff, and finding morning and day-time (quality) applicants was a challenge to say the least. Then one day a lovely lady named Jennifer walked in.

She had two boys who just started all-day schooling, and she was looking for a little job to keep her busy during those hours. Perfect. I hired her on the spot. This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

Jennifer was the hardest worker. Always looking for something to do, even on the slowest days, and thriving on the busy hum of retail during the holiday months. I trusted her with all my heart and we became fast friends, even though our age difference was nearly ten years and I was neither married or a mother. I looked up to her. She had a great family, a wonderful husband and the most genuinely thoughtful and mindful boys.

I was in a very different place than her. I lived alone in a one bedroom apartment, worked forty-plus hours a week, took three college courses and dated a new guy about every six months, all the while finding time to hone my hobby of swing dancing a few evenings a week.

At the store, early morning cleaning and stocking lent itself to open conversation. We talked about life, love and family quite a bit and one particular day I was in a lurch over a boy. I looked at Jennifer and recalled her wonderful husband, children and family. I wondered how it all came into place so easily for them. So I asked.

Her response was far from ‘motherly’ which I so appreciated. She was a little matter-of-fact, and said ‘you will just know’. She expand on that a bit, and I soon realized this boy wasn’t the Ultimate Love.

A year later.

I asked her the same question.

She asked if I was talking about my dance partner. I said yes. She smirked and said ‘I think you know’.

…and I did.

Jennifer gave me this recipe and it is one of the first things I made for Mystery Man.

Gumbo

Ingredients:
1/4 cups olive oil
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons* Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium green pepper
1/2 cup green onion tops, finely chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
12 oz Adelle’s Cajan Style Andouille Sausage, chopped into bite- sized pieces (see prep notes)
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces (see prep notes)
8-10 cups water
4 cups cooked white rice (I use Jasmine Rice, two cups dry = four+ cups cooked)

*Jennifer uses 1/4 cup seasoning. This is too spicy for our family. If you can handle it, go for it!

Preparation:

• Place the chicken in the freezer and chop all the vegetables and set aside.

• Heat a large dutch oven/stock pot over medium-low and cover the bottom with olive oil. Using a flat edged spatula (metal or wooden, not plastic!) stir flour into oil constantly until flour is balled and turns to a medium to dark brown color. A burnt popcorn smell is common.

• Turn the heat to high and whisk in five cups of water. Add creole seasoning and black pepper. 3-5 more cups of water and whisk – this should be a thin gravy with no lumps.

• Turn heat down to medium-low and add green pepper, celery, parsley, onions. Let this cook for 8-10 minutes while you chop the sausage and chicken.

• Add sausage and chicken to pot and bring to a boil for one minute.

• Turn heat down to very low and cook for a minimum of three hours. Add more water if needed and add more creole if desired.

• Serve over white rice (do not mix rice into gumbo)

Notes:

This can be transferred to a crock pot and left on low all day. The secret to good gumbo – do not add anything else!

Gumbo freezes well. Place frozen block in a heavy pan and heat gently.

Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parm

Sometimes there is not a story. Let’s face it, we all have to eat and if I had to have a story for all the food that goes in my belly, well, I would not be eating on a regular basis. For me, not eating is not an option. If my husband* has learned anything in our relationship he knows if he keeps me warm, rested, and my belly full, there is not much else I could ever ask for. He even made this known while we attended a pre-marital workshop years ago. The others in the group laughed – they thought he was kidding. We gave each other a knowing look, and with that we breezed through the rest of the class.

I saw this recipe on America’s Test Kitchen and made it for two reasons. I was hungry and had the right ingredients hanging out in my fridge. It is one of our favorites, and over the years I have made some changes (yes, I even try to improve upon their recipes). It can be a weeknight meal with some simple boiled and oiled pasta and your favorite veg, or you can go all out and impress guests with homemade Spaghetti Sauce (post coming soon!) that has been simmering on the stove most of the day.

Make plenty, because slicing this on an angle and piling on a nice ciabatta makes for a tasty lunch the next day.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

*I will be referring to my husband as Mystery Man from now on… post coming on that, too.

 

Chicken Parmesan

Ingredients:

2 – 8 Ounce Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour plus 1 Tablespoon

1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese (grated on the smallest holes of a box grater, or use a micro plane)

3 Large Egg Whites

1 Cup Parmesan Cheese (grated on the largest holes of a box grater)

1 Cup Romano Cheese (grated on the largest holes of a box grater)

4 Teaspoons Olive Oil

 

Preparation:

• Place chicken in freezer for about 15 minutes. Until firm, but not frozen.

• Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 200 degrees.

• Set up a line of three pie pans or bowls with large surface areas.

• In pan number one, whisk together 1/4 cup flour and ¼ cup micro-grated parmesan cheese.

• In pan number two whisk egg whites until slightly foamy.

• In pan number three combine 1 cup Parmesan, 1 cup Romano and remaining tablespoon flour.

• Remove chicken from freezer and slice in half lengthwise to make two thin cutlets. (Place on cutting board and press down on breasts with one hand while horizon­tally cutting the chicken with a sharp knife.) You should have 4 cutlets.

• Place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap (or into a plastic bag) and pound with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer to an even 1/4 inch thickness.

• Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet (12”) over medium-high heat until it shimmers.

• Place a rimmed baking sheet, seated with a wire rack, nearby.

• Using tongs, work down the line of your prepared pie pans, and work with one piece of chicken at a time.

• Coat with flour on both sides, shake off excess.

• Coat evenly with egg white mixture on both sides and let excess run off.

• Press both sides gently into Parmesan/Romano mixture

• Place 2 cutlets in the heated skillet and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes, until cheese is golden brown.

• Flip chicken over and cook for another 3 minutes, until golden brown and no longer pink in the center.

• Remove chicken from pan and place on baking sheet with wire rack. Keep warm in pre-heated oven.

• Wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil and repeat the cooking process until all cutlets are done.