Thursday, February 12, 2015

Italian Chicken Nachos

When my schedule is busy, it typically revolves around a lot of evening meetings and, unfortunately, a lot of eating out. I tried to combat that this week with a collection of crock pot meals, and this is my favorite. To give credit where it's due, the starting point for this recipe was this version at Beyer Beware.


  • One pound of boneless, skinless raw chicken (breasts, thighs or tenders should all work)
  • One 12-ounce jar of mild pepper rings (I used 3/4 of a 16-ounce jar)
  • Two .7 ounce packets of dry Italian dressing mix
  • One bag of tortilla chips
  • One cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 pound of sliced mushrooms
  • One regular size or two Roma tomatoes, diced
  • About 1/4 cup sliced black olives (half of a small can)
Combine the chicken, pepper rings (with the liquid from the jar) and dry Italian dressing mix and cook in a slow cooker on low for at least three hours. More time wouldn't hurt, but that was enough for me. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and shred it, then return it to the slow cooker while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil until they've reduced a bit and are tender. Line a cookie sheet with foil and grease it with a little cooking spray, then layer the ingredients in this order:
  • Tortilla chips
  • Chicken and pepper mixture (allow the liquid to drain off as you remove it from the slow cooker)
  • Cheese
  • Mushrooms and olives
  • Tomatoes (or you can wait and add these after baking)
Bake this on a high rack in the oven for eight minutes at 350, then switch to the broiler and allow it to cook for another two minutes or so, until the cheese browns a little.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Italian Marinated Turkey Burgers with Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

Here's the first entry in a project I'm calling Burger Quest. I've been making a lot of burgers in various forms lately and really enjoying the results, so it's time to start documenting them for my own future reference, and hopefully so you can enjoy them too.

Lean ground turkey is (in theory and when properly labeled, at least) a somewhat healthier alternative to ground beef, but when it's overcooked and dry it just becomes a flavorless hockey puck. Marinating helps some, but you still have to be careful or your healthy alternative won't be very satisfying.

A great collection of toppings helps too, and this burger has lots of them: Deli pepperoni, fresh mozzarella, sauteed mushrooms, and roasted red pepper aioli add a lot to this dish.


  • One pound of lean ground turkey (I bought it pre-pattied)
  • 1/2 cup light Italian dressing
  • Four ounces of sliced baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1-2 tbsp hard apple cider or beer (I prefer hard cider) - optional
  • Roughly 12 slices of deli pepperoni
  • Four thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Roasted red pepper aioli (see recipe below)
  • A bun or some lettuce or whatever you're going to use to keep meat and cheese from getting burger all over your hands.
If you didn't buy pre-pattied burgers, divide your ground turkey into four patties, place them in a container you can seal, pour the Italian dressing over them, cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. 

While you're waiting for that, you can make the aioli. 

Aioli ingredients:

  • One red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • A pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 500, line a small oven-safe vessel with foil, put your red pepper on it and place it in the oven. Bake about 20-30 minutes, turning the pepper periodically until it's charred on all sides. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for a bit.

Once the pepper has cooled enough to handle, it should be relatively easy to peel it and remove the stem and seeds. Place the peeled, seedless pepper into a food processor with the mayonnaise, garlic powder and salt and process until smooth.

Saute the mushrooms in a little oil until they're softened. Once they're cooked I like to add a bit of hard cider to deglaze the pan a bit.

Now, for the burgers: Grill them for about 4-5 minutes on medium-high heat or until done (your grill times may vary based on your grill and the thickness of your burgers). When the second side is a minute or two away from being done, put a layer of pepperoni and a slice of the fresh mozzarella on top and cover the grill to trap in the heat and allow the cheese to melt.

Spread some aioli on the bottom of the bun, then add some mushrooms and place the burger, pepperoni and cheese on top. I enjoyed this with some grilled asparagus.

Chicken Dumpling Soup

I LOVE chicken or turkey dumpling soup, and I've experimented with so many recipes over the years. I've never found one that's easier or turned out better than my mom's, however, and I've probably asked her for the dumpling ingredients half a dozen times over the years. Now I'm finally documenting it, so I'll have it when I need it again.

Ingredients for soup:

  • 2-3 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 medium onion
  • Half of a red bell pepper
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, in bite-size pieces
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Chop and saute the carrots, celery, onion and pepper with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt on medium-high heat until softened a bit. Add the stock, chicken, thyme, rosemary, sage, bay leaves and more salt and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or more. At this point, remove the bay leaves.

Ingredients for dumplings:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Milk (see below)
To make the dumplings, combine the flour, eggs, baking soda and salt, then add milk until a stiff dough forms. Drop into soup by the spoonful, raise the heat a bit, cover and cook for 15 minutes before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.