Shredded Pork Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa

I made these tacos for dinner tonight, I love this meal because it took five minutes to get the pork into the crockpot, 10 minutes hands-on time to make the salsa, and dinner was ready!  Each of my three kids ate thirds of this meal, which was pretty amazing! I will make this over and over again.

Shredded Pork Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa

2-3 lb pork loin roast
5 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 lime, juiced
1 Tb. canola oil
3/4 c. water

For Serving:
corn tortillas
lime wedges
sour cream

In a small bowl mix together garlic, cumin, sea salt, chili powder, lime juice and oil.  Cover the pork roast with all of the rub and put in the bottom of the crockpot and pour in the water.  Cover the crockpot and cook on low 5-6 hours, shred the pork and mix together well before assembling tacos. To serve put some shredded pork on a warmed corn tortilla and top with sour cream and pineapple salsa.  Serve with a lime wedge.

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Charred Pineapple Jalapeno Salsa

This salsa turned out so yummy.  Sweet at first and then the spicy jalapeno hits.  It goes perfectly on the shredded pork tacos I'm going to post later.  This recipe is from one of my dad's favorite restaurants, Salsa Brava, in Flagstaff.  The restaurant was featured on Food Network, and their roasted pineapple habanero salsa was written in the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives book.  I had to try it!  I followed the recipe the first time exactly and it was SO spicy we couldn't eat it!  So, I made a few adjustments and now I've got it down.  

This salsa is more of a typical salsa than what you would compare to other fruit salsas, such as mango salsa.  I think it would go on a regular taco or salad too.

Pineapple Jalapeno Salsa
recipe adapted from Salsa Brava

3-4 fresh jalapenos (depending on how spicy you like it)
5 roma tomatoes, halved
1 large sweet yellow onion
1 16 oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 c. water
1 c. cilantro

Move your oven rack to the top spot and turn on the broiler.  Cut the jalapenos in half and carefully remove the seeds and ribs, being careful not to touch your eyes! Cut the onion in thick slices.  Lay out the jalapeno halves, tomato halves, and onion slices on a cooking sheet and broil the vegetables until they are charring on the edges, flip the veggies over and broil the second side. (I broiled mine 10-12 minutes on the firsts side and only 5 minutes the second side.)

Once the veggies are charred add them with water, cilantro and pineapple into the bowl of your food processor (or blender) and pulse until the veggies and cilantro are chopped.  Season with salt to your liking. Enjoy with tortilla chips or on a taco.
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Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad

I've posted this recipe before, but the photos were not great terrible. And I realized that the recipe wasn't super precise because when I cook I typically throw a bunch of stuff together until it works out.  This time, I very precisely measured everything!  And I think my photography has improved as well...just a bit.

I like to use baked bone-in chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken for my chicken salad, but you can certainly boil your chicken or used canned if you prefer the ease of that.  For these photos I used rotisserie chicken.  The photo above is my "sandwich", the photo below is my skinny husbands sandwich. Tastes great either way! I also like to set it out with some wheat thins or other crackers at a party.

Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad

4 c. chopped, cooked chicken
3 green onions, chopped
1 medium granny smith apple, peeled and chopped small
1/4-1/3 c. dried cranberries, depending on how much you like.  (I used 1/4 c.)
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 heaping Tb. spicy brown mustard
1/3 c. sour cream or Greek yogurt
1/3 c. mayo
salt & pepper to taste

lettuce, sliced tomatoes, bread and/or crackers for serving.

Mix all ingredients together, taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.  (You can certainly sub seasoned salt, but I like the simplicity of just salt and pepper.) Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

* Note: I have noticed that the Greek yogurt leaves the salad a little bit watery whereas the sour cream thickens it more.  I still use the Greek yogurt :)
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Creamy Southwest Chicken

I seem to have been experiencing Blogger's-block.  If that exists.

Every time I use Blogger, my computer crashes and my husband has to re-install the operating system.  I'm sure it has nothing to do with Blogger itself, but rather that my laptop has some kind of nasty virus that can't be completely undone.  Basically my laptop has spent a lot of quality time as a paper weight lately.  And then once he had it all up and running again, I was out of the Blogging-routine and in the middle of May-sanity (ie: end-of-the-schoolyear-over-commitment).  May-Sanity is over now so I thought I would give it another whirl.

Today I'm bringing you a recipe we really like that is great for summer in HellonEarth the desert because it is all cooked in the crockpot with very little prep!  AND it makes a lot so it's great for a few lunches too.

I found this recipe on ...yah, you guessed it--Pinterest.  Shocking.  I am currently making an attempt to go through my Pinterest account and either make the recipes or crafts I've pinned or get rid of them.  I did adapt this recipe quite a bit to make it more flavorful for us but the base is great!  We like this in whole wheat tortillas, on chips or over rice or quinoa.

Creamy Southwest Chicken
recipe adapted from The Larson Lingo

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (frozen is fine)
1 8-oz block cream cheese
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Rotel, not drained
2 c. frozen corn kernels (I prefer Trader Joe's super sweet frozen corn)
1 packet taco seasoning mix
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
dash of cayenne pepper
Tortillas, tortilla chips or cooked rice for serving

diced red onion
jalapeno slices
shredded cheddar cheese
hot sauce, taco sauce or salsa

Place the chicken in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Put the block of cream cheese, beans, rotel and corn on top of the chicken and sprinkle the taco seasoning, garlic and cayenne pepper on top of everything.  Cook on low 5-6 hours.  When you're ready to eat stir it well and shred the chicken.  Let the crockpot stand without the lid on for 10-15 minutes before serving and the mixture will thicken up a bit.  Serve as nachos or in a burrito with desired toppings.
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Chinese Chicken Salad

Today it was over 100 degrees in Phoenix.  Let the cold dinners begin! During summer (which is really May-October for us) we do lots of grilling, salads, and some stove-top dinners. This salad is a great meal-salad that is filling and tasty, AND my kids ate it up.  You can absolutely make a double batch of the salad dressing and marinate the chicken in some of the dressing before grilling to add even more flavor.

Chinese Chicken Salad

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 c. chopped cucumber
2 large carrots, grated
4-6 green onions, chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
4 oz sliced almonds
1 can mandarin oranges, drained well
1 1/2 lb chicken breast
2 large burrito size tortillas, sliced in thin strips
vegetable oil

Preheat the grill and season the chicken breasts well with granulated garlic, sea salt and pepper, cook until done on the inside, about 12-15 minutes total.  While the chicken is cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat and fill it with about an inch of vegetable oil. To test the oil, put one tortilla strip in the skillet, if it sizzles and starts cooking right away it's ready! If nothing happens, wait a minute longer.  Fry the tortilla strips in batches until crispy, about 2 minutes each small batch. Remove cooked strips to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt.  Continue frying the tortilla strips until they're all cooked.

Once the chicken is cooked, slice it thinly. To assemble salads layer lettuce, cucumber, carrots, onions, cilantro, almonds, oranges and chicken.  Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with fried tortilla strips.

Chinese Dressing
recipe from Ellie Krieger on Food Network

3 Tb soy sauce (I used reduced sodium)
1/3 c. rice vinegar
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 Tb. vegetable oil
2 Tb. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. sriracha
1 tsp. sesame oil
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Teacher Appreciation Ideas

Teacher Appreciation week starts tomorrow, May 6th.  After being a teacher I really appreciate and understand all that teachers do, so I like to send in something every day for the week.  If you're thinking every single day is overkill, just pick one small way to show your kids' teachers that you appreciate them.

I tried to find things that were cute and practical, but not too expensive, being as my little kids have two preschool teachers each (times three days/week is six gifts there), plus my son's first grade teacher, and I wanted to send something in for all of the specials teachers at the elementary school too. So, that's a lot of gifts! Whew! Got it all figured out, all the supplies bought and most of the work done, so I'm feeling prepared.  If you haven't even given it a thought yet, here's a few ideas to get you started, that don't take a ton of time or extra special skills! (Ms. Sons, if you're reading this...stop now! Don't want to ruin the surprise.)

One day I am going to bring in lunch for the whole first grade team. I brought lunch for the kindergarten teachers last year too and I try to choose something that can be eaten cold, so that I'm not trying to time the cooking and delivery of the lunch perfectly OR the teachers don't have to spend their precious lunch time fighting for microwave space in the break room.  This year I made the teachers Southwest Chicken Pasta Salad, fresh fruit and brownies with peanut butter frosting.

I found this great subway art download through Pinterest.  I uploaded the image to Sam's Club and printed it on a 5x7. Then I used Mod Podge and a foam brush to attach scrap paper and the subway art to the back of a clipboard and covered with a few coats of Mod Podge.  For the front I had the little kids (ages 2 and 4) color and sign a note that I typed up.  My first grader wrote his own note. This subway art would look super cute as an 8x10 or 11x14 in a frame too.

Another gift I made is a monogram "wreath".  I found some cute letters at Hobby Lobby.  They're just MDF that I sanded on the edges, made some rolled fabric flowers and attached a ribbon to.  My daughter has a male preschool teacher that we love, but I didn't think Mr. Ty would be in love with a rolled fabric flower "wreath" so I'm in the process of painting his letter with chalkboard paint, thinking that's a little more masculine.

Hobby Lobby had these cute little popcorn boxes that I just loved so I'm going to make a couple batches of double chocolate peanut caramel corn to stuff in the boxes, package it in a celophane bag with a ribbon and tie some tags on. (I typed up these little tags, that I have yet to cut and attach to black cardstock.) I'll add a picture of the finished product! The caramel corn boxes will also be the treats for the specials teachers.

And, I'm going to bring in a latte or sonic drink for the last day.  After a hot day (week) teaching first graders, who wouldn't love a cold treat?

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Meal Prep Can Save You!

You know that saying, "Failure to plan is planning to fail."? Yah, well as cheesy as it is, it is TRUE! Especially when you're trying to eat healthy and lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.  I've mentioned before that I've struggled with  my weight and I have my whole life. Starting in third grade I became the fat kid and the struggle continues! After having three children I have finally learned that I can never just eat whatever I want.  I just can't. I've decided to be okay with that.  Someone told me I should write some tips out to help other people, so that's what this post is all about. 

My normal is to eat as healthy as possible, lots of fresh veggies and fruit and tons of water throughout the week, along with a good hour-long cardio and weights session or class at least four times a week.  On the weekends I loosen up on my diet a little bit and give myself a meal or two off to eat the food that I love, but that I know isn't helping my waistline! (Pasta, pizza, burgers, etc.) I can't just take the whole weekend off and make it a hayday. Disappointing, but true. Honestly, when I have done that I just feel so terrible I can't enjoy it anyway.

Prepping my healthy food ahead of time helps so much. If I have to chop lettuce and wash it, dry it and chop all of my veggies just to make a salad at lunch time when I've worked out and am already hungry, it is really tempting to eat something else! (AKA leftover pizza from said weekend splurge.)

Every Monday morning I chop all of the veggies I plan to use in my egg whites for the week.  The photo above is a small yellow onion, a small head of broccoli, and a bunch of spinach.  I washed all of it and chopped it small to use in my eggs.  That way in the morning when we are rushing to get out the door and to school on time I am not tempted to eat carbs instead of egg whites, which I know will fill me up and keep me full.  (Some other veggies I like to use in my eggs are zucchini or yellow squash, bell pepper, asparagus,  mushrooms...)

At the beginning of the week I also make a big salad that I can eat off of for lunch.  If it's in the fridge then I'm prepared. If I know that I'm going to be running errands after bible study and won't make it home for lunch I can quickly pack myself a salad, some carrots, and hummus and I am not tempted to drive through fast food to eat something that I will really regret!  I have found that I do not make rational food decisions when I feel hungry. I'll also pack myself a snack like a Lara bar and an apple if I know that I'm going to run some errands after a workout.  Too many times I have spoiled the hard work I've done at the gym on popcorn at Target or a frappuccino because I'm so hungry I don't care!

A typical day of eating for me:
Breakfast: sauteed veggies with 4 egg whites and iced coffee with cream
Snack: apple, orange, Lara or Luna bar, EAS shake, or slice of turkey (it all depends on my activity)
Lunch: salad with grilled chicken and vinaigrette OR flat out wrap with veggies and turkey OR leftovers (depending on what we had for dinner the night before)
Snack: baby carrots, cucumber & bell pepper slices with hummus
Dinner: healthy homemade meal...the options here are endless!
Snack: I usually have something after dinner, fresh fruit or an apple with peanut butter are my "good choices".

With just a small amount of prep it takes almost no time to throw together a healthy, filling meal or snack when I am rushed.  Without the prep I find that I eat whatever I can get my hands on when I'm "starving" and then my skinny jeans pay the price!
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Simplify School Lunches

I don't know about you, but I'm so tired of packing school lunches.  Lunches Smunches.  So...I decided to streamline the lunch packing process for the rest of the school year. I WISH I would've done this in August.  This has changed our mornings so I thought I'd share it with you.

Chips: I'm just too frugal to buy those miniature bags of chips so I bought one big bag and separated them into snack size ziploc bags.  I got 20 small bags of chips out of the one big bag that I bought for $2 at the grocery store! I get super excited about savings, I'm a dork like that.  I don't like to pack junk in lunches because...well, I was a fat kid, and I don't want my kids to learn bad eating habits so the one "treat" my son gets in his lunch is 7 Cheetos puffs.  I'm okay with it.

Dairy: I usually pack either a cheese stick or a Greek yogurt tube in his lunch, which is super quick.  This week I put a couple of boxes of Chobani yogurt tubes in the freezer so in the morning I can just grab one and throw it in the lunchbox and it is mostly thawed by lunch.

Fruit/Veggie: I always pack either a fresh fruit or veggie.  Clementines are super simple to stick in the lunchbox and he can peel and eat those quickly at lunchtime.  Robbie doesn't like to have apples in his lunch because it takes too long to eat so I pack a clementine, pear, baby carrots, bell pepper strips or celery sticks.

Sandwich: Throughout the year I will try to be creative with his main lunch item.  Sometimes I'll make a burrito and put it in foil, put a hot dog or leftovers of some kind in the thermos, but I'm tired of the hectic mornings.  No more creativity, it's sandwiches from now on.  Last week I got two loaves of wheat bread and made one loaf of turkey and cheese and one loaf of peanut butter and jelly. I put them in ziploc bags, stacked them in the bread bag, and put them all in the freezer. In the morning I grab a sandwich out and it's thawed by lunch.

To make the turkey and cheese I laid out all of the bread. On one side I put a slice of cheese, turkey on the other and squeezed some mustard in the middle.  I put the mustard in the middle so the bread wouldn't get soggy. 

To make the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I spread a very thin layer of peanut butter on one side of the bread hoping that would keep the bread from getting soggy. Then I topped it with strawberry jam (that I made, yummy!) and on the other piece of bread I spread a thicker layer of peanut butter.

And that's it! Less than 45 minutes of prep work and I have 18 school lunches prepped and ready to go. In the morning it now takes me one minute to pack my son's lunch and move on with life!

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Green Chile Burger with Jalapeno Pesto Mayo

We love burgers.  Seriously.  Just search the burgers/sandwiches label and you will see...kinda obsessed.  Rob requested a burger of some sort this week and he is so laid back, if he ever requests anything I like to accommodate him!

We always like to try burgers with a spicy flair when we are out but both Rob and I don't like that it seems like most of the spicy burgers on menus out there include every. single. spicy. ingredient there is.  Why would we need jalapenos, pepper jack, salsa, chipotle mayo, and habanero sauce on a jalapeno kaiser roll ALL for one burger? OVERKILL. This burger has a great spicy/Mexican kick but not over the top. (In my most humble opinion on the subject.)

I roasted some fresh green chiles that I got in my basket to put in the burgers, but a can of chopped green chiles would work out just as well.  I would say the key to the deliciousness of this burger is the Jalapeno Pesto Mayo, so just bite the bullet and whip up a batch.  The rest of the pesto freezes great to use in a pasta or on a steak sandwich in the future.

Green Chile Burger with Jalapeno Pesto Mayo

2 lbs lean ground beef
3 small shallots, minced (about 2-3 Tb. minced)
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

2 tsp. sea salt
lots of black pepper
1/4 cup canned & drained green chiles,  OR 2-3 roasted green chiles, chopped

3 avocados
1/2 lime
salt & pepper

Jalapeno Pesto Mayo:
4 Tb. mayo
2 heaping  Tb. Jalapeno Pesto (or more depending on how you like it)

For Serving:
provolone cheese slices
sliced tomatoes
rolls or sourdough slices

In a large mixing bowl combine ground beef, shallots, garlic, green chiles, salt and pepper.  Form into 6 patties.  Refrigerate until you're ready to grill.  Smash the avocado and squeeze half the lime over it and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Stir to combine and refrigerate until serving.  For the Jalapeno Pesto Mayo mix together mayo and pesto and set aside.  Heat the grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.  Grill on each side 3-4 minutes, topping with cheese slices a minute before you remove the burgers from the grill.  To assemble the burgers put tomato slices on the bottom bun, if desired, top with burgers, avocado mixture and jalapeno pesto mayo.  Enjoy!

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Buffalo Cauliflower

I know this is a strange idea...but it works!  This winter we got into a bad habit of getting pizza and wings...almost every Friday and it HAD to stop!  I found this recipe on Pinterest and loved that it was a lighter dish and also vegan. We loved this, it is a perfect accompaniment to homemade pizza night.  This is a little more intense as far as prep, but it comes together pretty quickly and it is worth it!  I love that the coating is more of a batter and reminds me of the breading on fried mushrooms.

Buffalo Cauliflower
recipe barely modified from The Curvy Carrot

1 medium head cauliflower, rinsed
1 c. milk of your choice
1 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 c. buffalo sauce
Blue Cheese or Ranch dressing for serving (make your own!)

Preheat the oven to 450. Line a cookie sheet with foil and lay a wire rack over it.  I use a wire cooling rack. (You can grease the cookie sheet generously and lay the battered cauliflower directly on the sheet but it tends to stick.) Chop the cauliflower into chunks.  In a medium bowl whisk together the milk, flour, vinegar, garlic and sea salt.  Gently toss or dip the cauliflower chunks into the batter and transfer to the wire rack or greased cookie sheet.  Bake 15-18 minutes, until just starting to brown and crisp.  Remove from the oven and toss with the bufffalo sauce, returning to the foil lined cookie sheet. (No need to use the rack this time.) Bake another 5-8 minutes. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing.

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