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Sous Chef Sunday: Fast & Easy Refrigerator Pickles

The sons have a love hate relationship with pickles. They either love them, or hate them. They’re firmly, and equally, entrenched on their sides with two for and two against. The hubs and I bolster each side with him against their salty, briny taste and me all for it! I’ve always got a family size jar in the fridge just for when one of us needs a pickled fix. Then I got a deal this summer from our local farmers market that resulted in us getting several pounds of free cucumbers. I couldn’t let those beauties go to waste, but wasn’t looking for anything in-depth that involved pectin and canning. THEN, Pinterest (the all-knowing entity that always seems to show me whatever recipe I need just when I need it) pops of with an easy, refrigerator version. Say whaa?! The pickle-loving sons (1 & 3) and I immediately set to work. Three days later we were busy crunching down on the fruits pickles of our labor.

I know there are usually two types of pickle people:  bread and butter or dill pickle people. Us? We are firmly on the dill side so these are nice and briny and salty and dilly and delicious! These, again let me stress easy, dill and garlic refrigerator pickles are so crisp and full of flavor – I promise if you make them, you’ll never want to buy a jar at the store again! Enjoy these pickles with a sandwich, in salads, on top of hamburgers, or by themselves as they make a super healthy and easy homemade snack.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

  Easy Fridge Pickles

recipe adapted from All Recipes

1 1/4 cups white vinegar
3 and 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 cloves of garlic
2 heads of dill weed
peppercorns, to taste, but about 20 per jar
4 cups cucumbers, or about 3-4 average sized cucumbers

Directions

1. Cut cucumbers into spears or slices. We typically do jars of both.
2. Combine water, salt, sugar, and vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a boil on the stove. After it starts boiling, remove from heat and let cool completely.
3. Place cucumbers, dill, and garlic in one large glass jar or several small jars. Get as many pickles into your jars as you can without crushing any of them.
4. Pour cooled liquid in jars and seal and refrigerate for 3 days. They should last about a month in the fridge.

Spicy Rice & Bean Burritos

We all really like Chipotle. In fact, if we’re going to grab a bite somewhere, that’s probably where we will end up. Son # 1 even more than the rest of us. We find him wandering around the house daily, greeting us with ‘Yaaasss, Chipotle is my liiiiiiiiiiiiiffffffffffffe.’ The jury’s still out on if it’s because he’s morphing into a perpetually misunderstood 16 year old in a week, or if it’s just because he’s him. Either way, we can always agree on the fact that a Chipotle burrito is friggin’ delicious. Sometimes there are little hiccups in our plans to go ‘grab a bite’ though. The number one being the major bump in the road of having 4 hungry boys and only one income. So last week when son # 2 went a whole day without complaining about any chores, even helping out with extras, and then asked could we grab a burrito while we were out running errands did I let the piddly little issue of my budget get in my way? Of course not! Budget smudget. Okay, not really. It didn’t get in the way because we just took a different route. We came home, stuck our heads together and created our own version, full of copy-cat-ish Chipotle burrito love.

These are fantastic. Don’t let their humble appearance fool you, these could easily give Chipotle a run for their money! They are pretty spicy, but coming from someone who doesn’t like spicy food and loves these, I would say not too spicy. Feel free to dial down the heat though by using less of the spices.  Or, if you’re feeling brave really into spicy food and want to crank up the heat, splash some hot sauce onto the rice mixture, or you could sprinkle a few diced jalapeno peppers on top of the filling before rolling up the tortilla. Not feeling a burrito today? This rice/bean filling is just as good served as a hearty rice dish served alongside spicy, or fiesta-style, grilled chicken.

Spicy Rice & Bean Burritos

 Spicy Rice & Bean Burritos

recipe adapted from A Bitchin Kitchen

1 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp chili powder
1 pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo, minced
2 tsp sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo
1 tsp ground cumin
one large pinch of cayenne pepper
1/3 cup water
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked rice
1/4 cup salsa
6 burrito-sized tortillas
8 oz shredded cheese, mexican blend, cheddar, or monterey jack
shredded lettuce
4 green onions, thinly sliced
fat-free Greek yogurt, or sour cream

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, chili powder, pepper, adobo sauce, cumin, and cayenne. Allow them to cook just until fragrant, only about 30-60 seconds. Add in the drained/rinsed beans and the water. Bring the filling to a simmer, and then lower the heat to medium-low and allow it to cook for 8 minutes, mashing the bean mixture slightly. Remove from heat, and stir in rice and salsa until everything is evenly combined.
2. Divide the mixture evenly among the center of each tortilla. Top the filling with cheese, lettuce, green onions, and greek yogurt as desired. Roll them up by folding over both side about 1 1/2 inches and then rolling up lengthwise to close/make the burrito, and serve!

Watermelon Slush

I have a problem. It’s a serious problem. There are days & times when I feel like it’s taking over my life. What is this problem you ask? I’m addicted to taking pictures of my kids. Seriously. Obsessed. I have memory cards upon memory cards full of their fresh little faces. My living room is flooded with photo albums, cataloging their accomplishments, their firsts, and everything in between. My walls are littered with my favorite shots of them. I just can’t help myself. What can I say? They’re my life’s work. That being said, there is one simple shot I have to get ever single summer.

Every summer, I have to snap a pic of each boy relishing in a slice of watermelon as it’s glorious juices run down their little cheeks and chins. There’s nothing better on a hot summer day to quench their thirst, and the look of pure joy on their faces just melts my heart. It’s their warm weather ambrosia. Knowing their infatuation with the stuff, it was inevitable that I’d try to branch out and see what I could come up with to do something a little ‘different’ with their favorite summer staple.  Aaaaaand, watermelon slushies it was!

This frosty treat makes a refreshing ending to any summer meal. Simply scoop the slushy mixture into bowls or tall glasses and enjoy a refreshing dessert, all while still getting that melon flavor fix, albeit without all the dripping. Add a splash of vodka for an even sweeter summer adult beverage.

Watermelon Slush

Watermelon Slush

4 cups frozen watermelon cubes
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2-1 cup water
1 tbsp sugar, optional

Directions

1. Cube watermelon and freeze on a metal cookie sheet. Remove the frozen cubes from the cookie sheet and put them into a ziploc-ing freezer bag to store in the freezer.
2. Remove 4 cups of watermelon cubes and place in a blender. Add in the lime juice, 1/2 cup water, and sugar, if using. Blend until desired consistency. Add more water if needed.
3. Pour into two glasses and, if you’re feelin’ fancy, garnish each glass with a slice of lime!

(  And don’t worry, I’ve already made sure to get in my fresh melon pictures for the summer! ;)  )

Healthy Applesauce & Oat Muffins

Despite what my blog full of decadent desserts and copious comfort food recipes might suggest, we’re actually pretty healthy eaters. I mean, sure, I love a good breakfast pastry, a dreamy creamy (I meant creamy) bowl of macaroni & cheese, or even a thick slice of loaded beer bread on occasion, but most of the time… we keep it pretty healthy. In order to keep breakfast a relatively healthy affair, and let’s be honest with our oldest out the door around 5:15 for JV football practice, we don’t have a whole lot of time to be cooking in the AM hours, I try to keep healthy, grab-and-go options on hand. That’s where these little beauties come into play.

A great wholesome applesauce oatmeal muffin that’s delicious, nutritious and low in fat. They’re perfect for breakfast on the go or as a lunch-time treat. The hubs & son # 1 take one of these (or another protein inclusive muffin) and 2 hard boiled eggs for breakfast on their ways to work/football practice. Even with son 1’s grueling practice regime it keeps him fueled. Seriously, these hearty muffins will fill you up with fiber and flavor instead of fat. Who wouldn’t want that?

We love these as is, but I have to be honest, warm out of the oven with a big ol’ pat of butter on em, these are pretty dang amazing. Everything in moderation, right? ;)

Healthy Applesauce & Oat Muffins

 Healthy Applesauce & Oat Muffins

1 3/4 cups all purpose, or whole wheat, flour
1 cup quick cooking oats*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup coconut oil, melted
2 eggs
1/4 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
1 cup chunky or home-style unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

*To make your own quick cooking oats from rolled outs, place rolled oats into the food processor and pulse 4-5 times until they are coarsely chopped but not powdery. Cutting them makes them faster to cook, but do only those few pulses or the oats will turn to mush when cooked.

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder. Set aside.
2. In another bowl, cream together sugar and oil by hand.
3. Add in eggs one at a time and mix well. Stir in yogurt, applesauce and vanilla until well incorporated.
4. Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Do not over mix.
5. Drop muffin liners into muffin pan, and then fill 3/4 full with the batter. Bake at 425 for 3 minutes, and then turn the oven to 350 and bake for an additional 17-18 minutes. The muffins are done when a toothpick comes out with crumbs on it. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool.

Looking for more healthy recipes? 

4 Sons 'R' Us: Healthy Chocolate Fudge

Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

4 Sons 'R' Us: chocolate peanut butter protein shake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Shake 

4 Sons 'R' Us: Healthy Peach 'Milkshakes'

Healthy Peach ‘Milkshakes’ 

Chicken Cordon Bleu Pinwheels

Chicken Cordon Bleu is one of our favorite “looks and sounds fancy, but it’s really totally easy” standby recipes. A classic cordon bleu features chicken, ham, and Swiss cheese. One night I decided to change it up by rolling everything up in a sheet of crescent roll dough. Turning it into crescent roll pinwheels? Knocked it right out of the park. These are even easier than our traditional version, and taste superb. They’re perfect party food and make a really pretty presentation. A drizzle of honey mustard gives these chicken pinwheels that perfect bit of extra mmph.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Pinwheels

 Chicken Cordon Bleu Crescent Pinwheels 2

recipe adapted from Mom On Timeout

1 can crescent rolls
6 slices Swiss cheese
6 slices deli ham
2 chicken breasts, cooked and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tbsp honey, optional
2 tbsp Dijon mustard, optional

 Chicken Cordon Bleu Crescent Pinwheels

Directions

1. Remove crescent rolls from can and lay out in a long rectangle. Pinch the seams together making sure they’re all ‘closed’.
2. Sprinkle the dough with the Italian seasoning.
3. First layer the cheese onto the dough, then the ham, and finally topping it with the chicken. Set the prepared dough in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to allow it to get chilled again.
4. Remove from the fridge, and pick an end to start at. Roll the dough and it’s contents up like a cinnamon roll and, using a sharp knife, cut into 8-10 rolls.
5. Place on a prepared baking sheet or in a baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
6. If using, mix together the honey and mustard until evenly combined and serve with or drizzle over the rolls before serving.

Philly Cheesesteak Stew

Do you ever get an intense craving for a good philly cheesesteak sub? Like an, ‘I know I’m not pregnant or anything, but I have got to have one right. now’ kind of craving? (Come on, I know I can’t be the only one!) But then there’s all these impossible obstacles in the way, like not wanting to go to the sub shop, or the store, or perhaps maybe you don’t have bread in the house, or you don’t want a bunch of carbs, or you don’t want to chew a lot… guess what? I have a solution! Philly Cheesesteak Stew. I’ll admit we’ve never been to Philly…maybe someday….but we sure do like their sandwiches. And, I figured if their sandwiches were good, then a soup would be, too! Boy, was I right!!

If you like the philly cheesesteak sandwich, then you got to try this soup. All the flavors of the famous sandwich you love come together here in a thick, and hearty stew that is sure to satisfy any level of cheesesteak craving. See? We’ve got you covered.

Philly Cheesesteak Stew

 Philly Cheesesteak Stew

recipe adapted from Lady MeLady

1 1/2 lb top sirloin or ribeye, cut in thin slices
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 tbsp flour, divided
2 onions, quartered and cut into thin slices
1/2 – 1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 cups beef broth, 2 if you want a really thick stew
1-2 sweet bell pepper; thinly sliced
4 large buns; hollowed out (the recipe called for sourdough buns, I couldn’t find any so I used crusty Kaiser rolls)
12 round slices provolone cheese

Directions

1. In a large bowl, toss the steak strips with the salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and toss again, making sure the slices are well coated.
2. Sear the steak, in two batches, over medium-high heat, so that both sides brown, only about 1-2 minutes per side. At this stage we still want the centers pink. Once browned, set aside.
3. Next, add the onions and mushrooms to the same skillet and brown for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Now, add the garlic powder, salt, pepper and the last 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir to ensure the onions are coated with flour.
4. Add in the beef broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring between each addition so that it thickens, until it’s finally fully incorporated to avoid lumps. Allow to thicken and bring to a bubble, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Add in the peppers in the last 10 minutes of simmering. Add beef after the 30 minutes and let simmer, about 5 minutes, so that it’s heated through.
6. Cut a circle in the top of each bun and remove most of the insides. Set on either a foil covered pan, a pan with a non-stick baking mat, or a pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Add one slice of provolone to the inside of each bread bowl. Carefully spoon stew into each bread bowl over top of the cheese, and then top the stew in each bread bowl with two slices of provolone.
7. Place the pan under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and begins to turn a golden-brown.
8. Serve hot with the removed pieces for dipping.

Frozen Hot Chocolate

It’s famous, it’s infamous, it’s notorious. It has destroyed diets and led to love affairs from just a sip of it’s creamy, dreamy, icy blend of chocolatey goodness. Just one sip will make you want to blow bubbles through your straw like a child again. Never had a sip of Serendipity’s Frozen Hot Chocolate? You have got to find out what you’ve been missing!! And now, there’s no need to plan a trip all the way to NYC just for one glorious taste test. Hot Chocolate has always been a Winter weather staple for the sons, but now their minds have officially been blown.  Hot chocolate flavor served up icy cold! It’s the perfect summer pick-me-up  for a 90 degree day or any day really!

Frozen Hot Chocolate

 Frozen Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips, or 4 oz. chocolate
2 tsp. hot cocoa mix
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups milk, divided
3 cups ice cubes
sweetened whipped cream
chocolate sprinkles, optional

Directions

1. Chop chocolate into small pieces and melt in a glass container in microwave for 10-20 second intervals until melted.
2. Add in hot cocoa mix and sugar to melted chocolate. Mix until blended.
3. Add in 1/2 C milk, stir until smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature
4. In blender, place remaining milk, cooled chocolate mixture and ice cubes
5. Blend on high speed until smooth and consistency of a frozen daiquiri
6. Pour into mugs and top with whipped cream and sprinkles.

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