Chocolate Banana Date Smoothie 

I was at Costco the other day, as you do, and picked up a giant bag of dates. I’d eaten a date exactly once before, at which time I thought, “This is not fruit, this is tree candy. It’s weird and I hate it.”

But eating dried dates by themselves is not the ideal way to use dates, Past Me. Dates are little weird sugar pods that happen to also grow on trees. Use them as sugar. 

This smoothie might change your life, not to put too fine a point on it. It’s not too sweet, super chocolatey, and full of healthy crap. I have not tested this, but you might be able to trick small children into thinking it’s terrible for them. 

Note: I have the world’s crappiest blender. I manage to make this smoothie by running it for about twelve years. If your blender is better than garbage, you’ll have an easier, faster time. 

Oh! And this could be vegan if you substituted something vegan for the dairy yogurt. 

Chocolate Banana Date Smoothie 

  • 2T chia seeds 
  • 4T water

Mix these in the blender pitcher and let sit for 5-10 minutes. It’ll turn into a creepy-looking gel. This is what we’re going for. 

  • 4 dried dates, finely chopped (oil your knife so they don’t get stuck)
  • 1T coconut oil 
  • 1C cashew milk (or coconut, or almond, or cow)
  • 1/4C plain yogurt

Add to blender pitcher and blend. Blend the living hell out of this. Blend until you can’t see any date chunks. 

  • 2T cocoa powder 
  • 1t vanilla extract 
  • sprinkle of wheat germ
  • dash of cinnamon 
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1 banana (frozen or fresh)

Add to pitcher and blend until smooth. Serve. Love. Enjoy. 

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Week 7: Cottage Pie with Spinach Potatoes & Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwiches/Rice Bowls

Yesterday I wrote up this lovely post, with two recipes, and it was so gorgeous, guys. There were bulleted ingredient lists and underlined words and everything. Then I pressed “Publish,” and it disappeared into the void of the Internet and apparently no longer exists.

This one time in grad school, I went to the library to work on a huge paper. I always worked on huge papers at the library because then there were no distracting cats to pet or episodes of Judge Judy to watch. I wrote my paper, which was at least 10 pages, and got up to stretch, and in the five minutes I was away from my computer, my paper had gotten erased from existence forever and ever. I cried. In the library. Loudly. Ironically, I was in school to become a librarian so I knew how obnoxious I was being. You bet your bippy that I became a CTRL+S junkie for the rest of grad school. Every sentence: CTRL+S.

So I guess I didn’t learn my lesson six years ago. That’s the point. Well, the point was really that I was SUPER PISSED about my recipes, which actually take a while to type up, going away with a tiny *bloop* sound. The saddest bloop.

But you’re here for recipes, yes? Yes. These two were sure winners. I made up the first one. I’ve made cottage pie a billion times, but never with such success or such fancy potatoes. The jalapeño popper chicken sandwiches were awesome, and yes, they have about a million elements to them, like most sandwiches, but make them anyway because they are so good. We used some of the leftover chicken for burrito bowls last night, and that worked out super well.

Cottage Pie with Spinach Potatoes

  • 1lb. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cubes beef bouillon (or 2T beef stock concentrate)
  • 1C water
  • 2T tomato paste
  • a dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • a handful of frozen peas
  • 1 Russet potato, chopped (and peeled if you feel fancy)
  • 3 smallish red potatoes, chopped (there’s really no need to peel these)
  • 1/2C-1C cauliflower, chopped
  • 1/2C frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • heavy cream
  • butter
  • salt and pepper

You can make this in advance and then just warm it up later. If you’re making it all at once, preheat your oven to 375F. Brown beef with onions and garlic in a largeish pot. Pour into a colander in the sink and let it hang out there while you get the rest of the filling ready.

Add the bouillon, water, tomato paste, and Worcestershire into the pot you used for the beef. Stir to mix, then add parsnips and carrots. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the parsnips are almost tender. (Parsnips take longer to cook than carrots.) Add the peas, stir, then add the beef and onions back in. Stir, and heat through.

While all of that’s going on, cook the potatoes in heavily salted water until they’re very tender. Cook the cauliflower (I used the microwave) and blend it up in the food processor until it’s totally smooth. Add potatoes and pulse until almost smooth. Add heavy cream, butter, salt, pepper, and spinach, and pulse a few times.

Pour the filling into a large casserole dish and spread the potato mixture on top, sealing the edges. Spray the top with cooking spray and bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the potatoes are browned. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwiches/Rice Bowls

Adapted from Food Fanatic

For chicken

  • 2.5lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28oz. can of Rotel (I used two 14oz. cans of diced tomatoes plus two little cans of Hatch chiles)
  • 2T chili powder
  • 1T cumin
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon (or 2T chicken stock concentrate)

Place all in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours. I plopped my chicken in there frozen and it only took about 7 hours.

For breadcrumb topping

  • 1C panko crumbs (or other breadcrumbs, preferably coarse)
  • 2T butter

Melt butter in a small pan. Brown breadcrumbs in butter until crispy. Take off heat.

For cheese sauce

  • 1/2C heavy cream
  • 2oz. cream cheese
  • 4oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded (I used Cheddar slices that I tore up)

Heat cream in a saucepan. Add cream cheese and whisk to melt. Add Cheddar and whisk to melt. Keep on very low heat until you’re ready to serve.

For jalapeños

  • chopped, seeded jalapeño (I think I got a couple of dud jalapeños, because they weren’t spicy AT ALL. Next time I might get the pickled kind.)

Assembly

Using a slotted spoon, place chicken on buns, then top with cheese sauce, jalapeños, and panko crumbs. Alternately, you could skip the buns and put everything into a bowl of cooked hot rice. That was surprisingly good.

Also, do not skip the breadcrumbs! I thought they seemed kind of unnecessary, but they add crunch to something that is otherwise very squishy.

This makes a stupid amount of chicken, so freeze some leftovers, or use the extra to make burrito bowls.

Week 6: Chicken Parm and Honey-Baked Chicken 

So I kind of cheated this past week. I made two things I’ve made before, but in my defense, I hadn’t made them in a very long time.

Anyway, these are delicious. The Parm is probably not authentic, and since I’m from New Jersey I should care, I guess, but I’m too tired for that crap. Eat it. It’s good.

The honey-baked chicken is my mom’s recipe. When I was a kid, I had no idea it had curry in it. (Come on, Past Me, get it together.)

Chicken Parm

  • One recipe Crockpot Pasta Sauce, with or without leftover meatballs
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, butterflied or cut thinly
  • Breadcrumbs of choice (Progresso Italian worked well)
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Provolone, if you’re feeling zesty

Spoon a little sauce in a Pyrex baking pan. Dredge the chicken in breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and brown in olive oil in a big pan. Drain on paper towels and place in baking pan. 

Spoon more sauce over chicken, sprinkle with mozzarella, and top with slices of provolone. Cover with foil, taking care not to touch the cheese. Bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick you cut the chicken. Remove foil and let cheese brown. Serve with pasta and more sauce. 

Honey-baked Chicken 

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4T butter
  • 1/2C honey
  • 1/4C mustard (brown, spicy, yellow; pretty much whatever you have)
  • 1t curry powder
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt butter in a baking dish (I used a Pyrex pie pan). Stir in honey, mustard, and curry powder. It’ll be a really pretty color. Add chicken, coating each piece in sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Serve with brown rice. Lick your plate. 

Breakfast Coconut Rice 

I finished a bowl of this not even five minutes ago and I needed to tell you about it. This is a super easy rice cooker breakfast (I know, that’s weird). Make it if you love coconut, rice pudding, or delicious things. 

It’s also vegan if you use a non-animal sweetener!

Breakfast Coconut Rice

Adapted from Coconut Lover’s Cookbook by Bruce Fife

  • One rice cooker cup of brown rice (it’s really around 3/4C)
  • Water up to the 2 line of your cooker
  • 1/2C shredded coconut 
  • 2T raisins 
  • 2T honey (or vegan sweetener)
  • 1/4t ground cardamom
  • 1t ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1T chia seeds
  • 1t vanilla extract 
  • 1T coconut oil
  • Coconut milk (I used canned full fat)
  • Slivered almonds 

Combine rice, water, coconut, raisins, honey, cardamom, cinnamon, salt, chia seeds, vanilla, and coconut oil in rice cooker. Set on cook. (I have an Aroma Simply Stainless.) When done, scoop some into a bowl and pour coconut milk over. Add almonds. This makes about two servings. 

You could also make this in a pot on the stove; just make the rice as usual, but with the raisins, etc. added in. I am awful at making stovetop rice so the rice cooker is my best friend. 

Week 5: Thai Chicken Curry & 3-Packet Pot Roast 

Both of these are from, you guessed it, Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, by Stephanie O’Dea. The Thai curry needed a lot more salt and spice than called for, so I changed that here. 

I’d make both of these again, particularly the pot roast. Holy crap, that was good. 

Thai Chicken Curry 

  • 1 (14oz.) can coconut milk
  • 3T soy sauce
  • 1T brown sugar 
  • 3T Thai green curry paste 
  • 1T fish sauce 
  • Grated ginger, to taste 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs 
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped 
  • 1/2 eggplant, chopped 
  • 10 mushrooms, chopped 
  • 1-2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine sauce ingredients (through garlic) in crockpot. Taste and add more curry paste if you think it needs it. Add chicken pieces, turning to coat. Add veggies on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if you want. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve with lime wedges and cilantro on cooked rice. 

3-Packet Pot Roast 

Note: normally I wouldn’t even call this a recipe, but it was so good that I had to share. 

  • 1 (3-4lb.) chuck roast, trimmed
  • 1 packet salad dressing mix (I used Good Seasons Balsamic Vinaigrette mix)
  • 1 packet Italian salad dressing mix (again, Good Seasons to the rescue)
  • 1 packet McCormick Grill Mates Peppercorn & Garlic (note: I couldn’t find this for the life of me, so I used 2T of McCormick Grill Mates Roasted Garlic & Herb that comes in a little bottle)
  • 3C water

Place roast in crockpot. Combine seasonings and sprinkle on all sides of meat. Add 1C water. It won’t look like enough and you’ll think, “Well, shit, this isn’t right,” but stop that self-doubt and trust me. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. 

A half hour before you want to eat, add 2C warm water to the crock and raise temperature to high. The meat only needs 1C of water to cook, but you will die of sodium poisoning if you try to eat it like that. Adding two more cups of water makes a super tasty gravy that was perfectly salty. 

Serve over mashed potatoes. 

Week 4: Coq au Vin & Bean and Sausage Stew

It was a week of cooking success! Both of these recipes were total winners that get better the next day as leftovers. 

Coq au Vin

Adapted from Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, by Stephanie O’Dea

  • 6 slices cooked and crumbled bacon
  • 6-8 chicken thighs (I used boneless and skinless and put them in frozen)
  • 8oz. sliced mushrooms 
  • 3 carrots, chopped 
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 1 parsnip, chopped 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1t salt 
  • 1/2t black pepper 
  • 1/2C chicken broth 
  • 1.5C red wine (I used Cabernet and my husband drank the rest. Choose wine you want to drink.)
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs

Put bacon in crockpot. Place chicken and veggies on top. Add rest of ingredients. Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve with rice, pasta, or mashed potatoes. 

Bean and Sausage Stew

Adapted from mycupisfull.com

Note: I chopped the vegetables and sausage the night before and stowed it in the fridge. This cut down on day-of prep time considerably. 

  • 15oz. kidney beans, drained
  • 15oz. black beans, drained
  • 29oz. petite diced tomatoes
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 russet potato, diced 
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 4 sausages, sliced (I used chorizo)
  • 1C water
  • 1t Worcestershire sauce

Put all this in the crockpot. 

  • 1T black pepper
  • 2t salt
  • 2t chili powder
  • 1t garlic powder
  • ½t cayenne 

Mix all this together and sprinkle into crockpot. Mix. Cook on low 8-10 hours. This is awesome with cheese on top. 

Week 3: Chicken Burrito Bowls and Laziness

I cooked on Tuesday last week and it lasted us… well, I’m having it for lunch tomorrow. Some recipes are like that. This is one of them. It’s a recipe I posted last summer, but I tweaked it a little and now it’s even better.  

Chicken Burrito Bowls

Adapted from myself

For chicken filling

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I put mine in the crockpot frozen)
  • 1 15oz. can black beans
  • 1 15oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1T olive oil 
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced 
  • 2 Anaheim chiles, seeded and diced (wear gloves!)
  • 1T taco seasoning (I use this recipe)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1C frozen corn

For burrito bowl

  • Hot cooked rice
  • Shredded Mexican cheese 
  • Chopped avocado
  • Sour cream
  • Hot sauce

Place the chicken breast in the crockpot. Dump in the black beans (with liquid) and tomatoes. Heat olive oil in a small nonstick pan over medium heat. Sauté red pepper until slightly soft and add to crockpot. Add Anaheim chiles to pan and cook until they have a bit of color. Add to crockpot. 

Sprinkle taco seasoning, salt, and pepper over everything in crockpot and kind of poke it with a spoon so it gets mixed into the peppers, tomatoes, and beans. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Thirty minutes before serving, add frozen corn and cover again. 

Shred chicken with two forks and serve over rice with burrito fixings. 

Week 2: Chicken Lazone, U.S. Senate Bean Soup 

Comfort food, ahoy! This week was all about feeling comfy and cozy. I’m almost in my third trimester and I need all the comfy I can get. 

On a side note, today Mr. Something and I have been married for two years! I’m not cooking tonight; the modern second anniversary gift is china, so we’re getting Chinese food. 

Chicken Lazone 

Adapted from Plain Chicken

  • 1/2t salt
  • 1 1/2t chili powder
  • 1 1/2t onion powder
  • 2t garlic powder
  • 1/4t cayenne pepper
  • 2 lb chicken tenders
  • 1/4C butter, divided
  • 2C heavy cream

Combine salt, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Combine with chicken in a bowl and mix. 

In a large pan, melt 2T butter over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken tenders until done, about 8 minutes. 

Pour the cream and remaining butter into the skillet. Lower heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes. Serve chicken and sauce over angel hair pasta. 

Verdict: HOLY CRAP. Eat this. Add mushrooms. 

U.S. Senate Bean Soup

Adapted from senate.gov

  • 1lb dried navy beans
  • four quarts cold water
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1T butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sort through beans. Place in pot, add 2 quarts water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse. Put beans, ham hock, and 2 quarts water into medium pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce to medium low, and simmer until bean skins are tender, about 1 hour. 

Meanwhile, melt butter and sauté onion, 3-5 minutes. 

Reduce bean heat to low and add onions. Cook 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Retrieve ham hock, let cool, and chop up meat. Discard bone and fat. Return meat to pot. Use an immersion blender (or a potato masher) to squish up some of the beans. Add salt and pepper. 

Verdict: This was honestly 10,000 times better the next day. Next time I think I’ll make it in advance. 

Week 1: Mediterranean Chicken & Sloppy Joes

2016 is off to a delicious start. I’ve made some tasty things and have many more meals already planned. I have six cookbooks out of the library right now. I have a problem. 

For my first week of new recipes, I decided to make two crockpot creations, both from Stephanie O’Dea’s book, Make It Fast, Cook It Slow

Mediterranean Chicken

Adapted from Make It Fast, Cook It Slow

  • 4 frozen chicken breasts
  • 16oz. frozen artichoke hearts (that was a bag and a third for me)
  • 1C green olives, sliced in half
  • 1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes 
  • Crumbled feta

Place chicken breasts in crockpot. Plop artichoke hearts, olives, and tomatoes over them. Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve with rice and sprinkle with feta. 

Verdict: I added the feta when we had leftovers and it was perfect. This is delicious. 

Sloppy Joes

From Make It Fast, Cook It Slow

  • 1lb. lean ground beef 
  • 1 recipe Sloppy Joe Mix
  • 1 (6oz.) can tomato paste 
  • 1C warm water

Sloppy Joe Mix

  • 1T dried onion flakes
  • 1T paprika
  • 2T brown sugar 
  • 1t cumin
  • 1t salt
  • 1t cornstarch
  • 1/2t garlic powder
  • 1/4t dry mustard
  • 1/4t celery seed 
  • 1/4t black pepper 

Combine all ingredients in crockpot and stir well. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Serve on buns. 

Verdict: I cooked this a little too long (closer to 7.5 hours) but it was still great. Next time I plan to double the recipe. 

New Project, Old Project

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2016 treats us well and that we treat each other well. 

Let’s quickly review 2015, because it’s the thing to do:

In January of last year, I taught myself how to use my sewing machine. It was frustrating and tear-inducing and it sucked. I did it. 

A lot of my sewing project sucked. I spent a lot of time ripping stitches, swearing so loudly that I woke the dog. I completely ruined at least three things to the point where I never want to see that fabric again. I made myself bleed a bunch. I have scars from my iron. 

But I’m stupidly happy with how both my project and my year turned out. Little Something arrives in April, my cats have never been snugglier, our dog is an adorable idiot, and Mr. Something got a promotion. 

So. 2016. 

In 2016 I’ll continue to sew something new every month. I’ll also make two new (to me) recipes a week, with at least one being a crockpot recipe. At the end of the year, I’ll compile our favorites into The Something Family Cookbook.  

Sound good? I can think of infinite ways this could go sideways. It’s going to be great.