Fresh Plate

….Freshly prepared recipes, thoughts, and meditations

Chicken Enchiladas

A couple of years ago I worked as a chef prepping weekly meals (along with some catering on the side). I needed recipes that were easy to prepare, had lots of flavor, and could be prepped ahead of time. This chicken enchilada recipe fits all three of those requirements and gets requested more than any other dish! It calls for enchilada sauce, which I have included below, but feel free to use your own.

Chicken Enchiladas

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast

salt and pepper

1 1/2 t cumin

1 1/2 t garlic powder

1 t mexican spice blend

1 medium red onion, finely diced

1 cup corn sliced off the cob (use frozen if out of season)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

5 roasted hatch chiles, seeded and coarsely chopped

4 canned chipotle chiles, seeded and finely minced

1 (28 oz) can of stewed tomatoes

1/2 t all-purpose flour

18 corn tortillas

1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce (recipe follows or you can use your own)

1 cup shredded cheese

Garnish: cilantro, sliced green onions, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, avocados

Instructions:

Heat a large pan over medium heat and coat with oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Cook about 7 minutes each side or until no longer pink. Sprinkle chicken with cumin, garlic, and mexican spice blend before turning. Remove and set aside on a platter.

Next, saute the onion and garlic in the same pan until tender. About 3 minutes. Add the chipotles, hatch chiles, and corn. Stir and cook 1 minute more before adding the canned tomatoes. Simmer.

Meanwhile, use two forks to pull the chicken apart into shredded strips. Add to the saute pan and stir to combine. Dust the mixture with flour to help it set.

Wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel and cook in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. This will make it a lot easier for you to roll them. Coat the bottom of two 9×13 inch casserole dishes with a ladle of enchilada sauce. To make each enchilada dip each corn tortilla into the sauce to lightly coat. Then, spoon 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture into the tortilla. Roll it up over the filling and place in the dish seam side down. Top the enchiladas with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 350F oven until the cheese melts. Garnish with cilantro, avocados, sour cream, tomatoes, or sliced green onions.

 

Enchilada Sauce

Ingredients:

2 T unsalted butter

2 T all-purpose flour

5 t red chile powder

1 1/2 t cumin

2 t garlic powder

6 oz tomato paste

2 1/4 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper

Instructions:

Melt butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, just until it browns a bit and the raw flour taste is cooked out. Take pan off heat and add spices and tomatoes paste. Mix until completely blended.  Place back on heat and turn down to low. Add chicken stock slowly, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the sauce thickens.

 

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Pasta With Vodka Sauce

This is such an amazing dish that is super simple and always makes a good impression when serving guests. I know a cup of vodka seems a bit much, but its totally necessary for the flavor and I highly doubt there is any alcohol left after 1 1/2 hours roasting time. You can easily make the sauce ahead and keep chilled (or frozen) until ready for use.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium spanish onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, diced

1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/2 t dried oregano

1 cup vodka

2 (28 oz) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes

Kosher salt/Black pepper

3/4 lb penne pasta

2 T  fresh oregano, chopped

1/2 – 3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 Grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degress.

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the vodka and continue to cook until the mixture is reduced by half.

Meanwhile, drain the juice from the tomatoes and crush them right into the pan by squeezing them with your hands. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove pan from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

While the tomatoes are cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside.

Place the roasted tomato mixture in a food processor (or blender) in small batches and puree in  until smooth. Return to the pan.

Reheat the sauce on low heat and add fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to give it a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta in the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan and serve immediately.  (Serves 4-5)

Variations:

*If you don’t like oregano, replace with basil.

*Use only 1 1/2 (28 oz) cans of tomatoes, and add a (8 oz) jar of drained roasted red peppers.

*If you want to cut the fat, use greek yogurt instead of heavy cream.

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Quinoa Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I got this recipe from an older issue of Vegetarian Times magazine. I’ve always cooked quinoa as a healthy side dish, but came across this recipe as I was looking for something a little more substantial than just quinoa salad. These cakes are crispy, filling, delicious, and a super healthy (not to mention speedy) dinner that works well during the week!

Quinoa Cakes w/Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

For the cakes:

1 large egg

2 T all purpose flour

1 1/2 T tahini (or other nut butter)

1 1/2 t red (or white) wine vinegar

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa

1/2 cup grated sweet potato

1/2  10 oz pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1/4 chopped sundried tomatoes

1/4 chopped nuts (I love pine nuts, but any nut is fine)

2 oz crumbled feta cheese

2 T finely diced onion

1 T chopped fresh parsley

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 t salt

For the sauce:

1 1/2 cups roasted red bell peppers

1/2 cup toasted almonds

1 garlic clove

2 t red (or white) wine vinegar

Instrucions:

Preheat the oven to 400F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine egg, flour, tahini, and vinegar in a bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and mash together until firm enough to make into cakes. Shape mixture into 1/4 cup patties with wet hands (to prevent sticking). Bake on prepared baking sheet for 25 minutes (or until brown), turning once. (serves 6)

To make the sauce: Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Serve as a dipping sauce or pour right over the cakes. (makes 2 1/2 cups)

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Some thoughts

I’ve been in a bit of a funk for the last week.  It started last Friday when I woke up and learned about the theater shootings in my hometown…just a few miles away from where I live.  I didn’t know anyone who was there, but still find myself struggling to cope with the empathy and sadness.

I  consider myself an optimist. I have a great faith in humanity, give people the benefit of the doubt, and believe to my core that we are all inherently good people. Which is why when bad things happen in the world, I feel completely blindsided by my own naivete.  I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand tragedy, who really does?

Sadness

Sadness is the rock of loneliness that strikes the heart with icy pangs of cold, unyielding earth.

Pain is merely our cleansing of this uniquely human burden,

Known only to those who shine their colors in the bleakest of nights.
It’s in these moments that I look through the fog,
Seeking morsels of light just as the ivy ceaselessly reaches for life in the dim of the forest.
Still, a rhythm of love beats in my heart,
Sunshine through hope fades the harrowing dark.
-Laura M.
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What I ate Wednesday

This week I’d like to share my breakfast for “What I ate Wednesday”.  I woke up a bit later than usual, which in turn throws off my meals and ultimately results in a complete lack of energy for the entire day (if not the rest of the week). I needed to nip this one in the bud as soon as possible. So here’s what I had:

-3/4 cup non-fat greek yogurt

-Frozen blackberries and peaches (tip: buy fresh when in season and freeze for later)

-2/3 cup multigrain granola (sweetened with just a touch of honey and maple syrup)

After this meal I had plenty of energy for a morning run and stayed full until lunchtime. Just the thing to keep me on track for the rest of the week!

Here’s the list of ingredients for the granola: oats, barley, rye, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, canola oil, rasins, honey and maple syrup.

 

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River Poem

The river runs in harmony, the way it ebbs and flows;

Trickling quite peacefully, with intention no one knows.

Rocks and stones, stand like thrones, that’s what people say;

But water knows no obstacles, standing in its way.

I walk along the river, humming gentle songs;

Echoing serenity, it dances right along.

Although its grace is fleeting, an ever moving pace;

I relish in its purity, as delicate as lace.

-Laura Montgomery

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Peanut Sauce

If you were to look in my fridge at any given point in time, odds are you’d see peanut sauce.  I am addicted to the stuff…so much that I have to remind myself to eat in moderation!  I got the original recipe from a friend as a sauce for asian noodle salad with chicken. I made a few modifications and now use it as a dipping sauce for fresh spring rolls and grilled satay. If you like strong asian flavors with a garlicky kick, give this one a try.

Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

1/4 cup all natural peanut butter (smooth works best)

2 T greek yogurt

2 T low sodium soy sauce

2 T safflower oil (canola or vegetable is fine too)

2 T hot water

2 t sriracha hot sauce (optional)

1 T unseasoned rice vinegar

1 T toasted sesame oil

2 t honey

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

Directions: This one’s super easy…just throw everything into a food processor (or blender) and puree until you have a smooth sauce. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to use. It gets a little thicker as it chills, so add a little more water to loosen it up if you’d like. It’ll keep for a week.

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The Importance of Sleep

My home is in Denver, but my husband’s job has us living in Calgary for a couple months over the summer. Instead of moving all of our stuff up here, we decided to rent a furnished apartment. So far its been pretty cozy…except for the bed! It (for lack of a better word) sucks! Its lumpy, way too soft, and provides little to no support for my hips and neck.  The very first night I noticed lower back & neck pain, tossing around, and I woke up feeling exhausted. On top of that, it doesn’t get dark here until well after 10pm so its a struggle to wind down in the evenings when its still pretty bright out. I figured it just needed some time to get used to.

Now that we’ve been here for a little over a month, I’m no more used to it than that first night. In fact, the pain has gotten worse and I’ve noticed some serious changes in mood, energy, eating habits, exercize routine, and overall health. I guess I’ve always known that it was important, but experiencing a lack of sleep first hand (along with poor quality) has really driven the point home for me. Although the mattress plays a big part in this, I’ve got to find a way to make it through the next 5 weeks. At this point, I’m ready to try sleeping on the floor just to give myself some relief!

Here are some things I’m going to try this week:

1. Create a bed time routine to kick start “sleep mode”…and stick to it

2. Turn off the t.v. and read a book or meditate instead

3. Sip some herbal tea to wind down

4. Try to stick to a reasonable sleep schedule on the weekends (this always throws me off)

5.  Settle into a hot bath or shower with a few drops of lavender essential oil

6. Put on some soothing music, prefereably instrumental

7. Make my own “sunset” by closing up the shades an hour before bedtime

I really hope this helps! Not getting enough sleep is really taking its toll on me.

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Black Bean Salsa

Whenever we get a craving for mexican food, this salsa always makes its way to the table. I usually double the recipe because chances are my husband will eat atleast half of it on tortilla chips as I make dinner!  It’s always a hit as a dip at parties and works great on burritos, taco salad, and fish tacos.

Black Bean Salsa

Ingredients:

1 (14 oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 tomato, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 t finely minced garlic

2 T olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 t cumin

Pinch of cayenne (optional)

Salt/Pepper, to taste

Directions: Place all ingredients in a bowl and gently fold together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. This salsa will keep for 3 days and gets better (and juicier) with time!

Variation 1: instead of the bell pepper, try using a poblano or anaheim pepper

Variation 2: add 1/2 cup of corn into the mix

 

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Lavender infused honey

I just started growing lavender in my garden and have been looking for some ideas to put it to good use in my kitchen. I stumbled onto an interview with Kelly Ripa where she’s talking about some of her favorite foods and one of them is lavender infused honey.  I’m not going to say honey isn’t deliciously floral on its own, but I gave it a try by dropping just a bit into the honey jar (stem and all).  The results were amazing! The lavender perfumes the honey with a fresh, astringent aroma. It was lovely drizzled over yogurt topped with fresh blueberries and granola!

Another variation to try: a sprig of rosemary or a bay leaf!

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