Drippin’ Delicious Chicken Tacos

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My husband and I recently completed 30 days of eating all whole, non-processed foods (on the Whole 30 plan).  I have never eaten so many vegetables, eggs and meat in my life, but surprisingly, we loved every single meal I made from the” Whole 30″ cookbook, the “Paleo Nom Nom” cookbook and the one that this recipe originated from “Against All Grain”.

I wanted to highlight one of my very favorite recipes that has now become a staple in our family – originally named “Crock Pot Chicken Tacos” in the cookbook, now named Drippin’ Delicious Chicken Tacos” by myself :).  I like to keep with the healthy theme and eat the tacos in a “lettuce tortilla” but my boys and husband now (post Whole 30) opt for the street taco feel with the little corn tortillas.  Either way, it will be one of those meals that you savor every single bite as the juice literally runs down your arm.

One of the reasons this recipe ranks at the top of my favorites list is because it is SO SO EASY! You literally throw the frozen chicken, salsa and spices in a crock-pot, turn it on, go about your day. BOOM! You have a meal.  I know we all appreciate being able to eat healthy and not have to slave in the kitchen all day.

The recipe calls for 1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well as one pound of boneless, skinless thighs (which have become one of my favorite meats to cook with in the crock pot).  I had gotten a crazy deal on organic vacuum sealed BS thighs at one of our natural grocers so I bought about 20 lbs of it.  After using the first pack for stir fry one night, I was a little put off by the amount of fat that I had to cut through so the rest sat in my freezer for a couple of months until I tried this recipe.  Crock pot is the way to go for this inexpensive cut of meat! It just melts the fat away and makes really tender juicy chicken.  If you cannot find the thighs, feel free to just use all breast.

 

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (these can be difficult to find so use all breasts if you need to)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 14-oz container of fresh salsa (For Whole 30 purposes, check the ingredients to ensure there is no sugar or preservatives)

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp chili powder

2 1/2 tsp coriander

2 tsp sea salt (I absolutely love the Pure Himalayan Sea Salt – the pink stuff)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper

*note – the original recipe called for 3 cups diced tomatoes in juices, 1 small yellow onion, diced, 4 garlic cloves, minced, 2 Serrano chilies, seeded and chopped and 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro but since almost all of these things are in a good fresh salsa, I just subbed the container of salsa with fantastic results*

 

 

Directions:

Place the frozen (or defrosted) chicken in the crock pot.  I did not trim any of the fat because most of it will melt away anyways, then I find it much easier to pull off the larger chunks while I am shredding it.

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Now dump a container of your favorite fresh salsa over the top of the chicken.

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I know, pretty difficult, huh?

Now, add all of your spices right on top. You still with me?

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So many spices!!! Soooo much flavor!

Okay, plug in your crock pot if you haven’t already (I only put this little reminder in here because mine sat out on the counter for about 45 minutes today before I realized it was unplugged – HA!) Crank that baby up to high heat and walk away.  About 2 hrs into the cooking process, I usually break up the chicken from the giant frozen clumps as it will be mostly defrosted by now. Is your mouth watering yet? FullSizeRender (8)

Let that baby sit for another 3-4 hours then shred. If you are using defrosted meat, obviously your cooking time will diminish significantly (I would lessen the cooking time by 1.5 hrs). If you are throwing this on before work, and plan to be gone for longer than 5 hours, place on low and cook for 8-9 hours.

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Once the chicken is tender enough to shred, pull out the thighs (if you are using them), and shred, removing any small bits of fat remaining.  Shred the breasts and place it all  back into the pot of juices.  Use tongs to squeeze the chicken out before placing in your lettuce boat or tortilla.  Top with avocado, salsa, cilantro.  If you are not interested in keeping it Whole 30, add some shredded cheese and sour cream.  Be sure to eat this over a plate as you will have a little pool of savory juices when you are through.  Makes great leftovers!  Also, try it on some greens as a salad. So good!

Drippin' Delicious Chicken Tacos

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 14-oz container of fresh salsa

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp chili powder

2 1/2 tsp coriander

2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place frozen chicken in the crockpot.
  2. Add salsa and spices.
  3. Cook on high for 1 hour then separate chicken breasts and thighs.  Cook for an additional 5-6 hours until chicken is tender enough to be shredded easily.  (You can also just place the chicken in the crockpot and cook on low for 8-9 hours if you are going to be gone).
  4. Remove chicken from crockpot and shred.  Remove any fat pieces from chicken thighs.  Add back to juices in crock pot.
  5. Squeeze chicken with tongs to drain some of the juice before placing it in lettuce leaves (for Whole 30/Paleo/GF) or tortillas.
  6. Top with avocado, salsa, and cilantro (and cheese and sour cream if your not trying to stay Whole 30 compliant).
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Chicken and Artichoke Cacciatore

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend.  We had such amazing weather today to accompany our very busy day of t-ball opening ceremonies, team pictures and our first game.  My sweet husband also got our zip line up and running which is going to provide endless hours (at least in my dreams) of excitement for our boys… that is until they start fighting about whose turn it is.  I will just keep pretending that whole sibling rivalry thing doesn’t exist and go back to my dream of drinking iced tea, working in my garden while the fresh bread is baking in my clean house, all while my boys lovingly frolic through the yard playing without any arguments…. ahhhhhh…. that’s nice.

This is one of my all time very favorite recipes.  I discovered the original version (I have altered it slightly) about 10 years ago in one of the best cookbooks on the planet (Portland’s Palate).  This meal will make you feel like you are dining at a 5-star Italian restaurant even though you hardly spent any time preparing it.  The oven pretty much does all of the work for you.  I spent about 15 minutes prepping this for the oven, popped it in and went for a walk/run/race/piggyback with my family.  By the time we came back, it was time to start the noodles, and in no time, we were sitting down for an amazing dinner that the boys actually ate without complaining (rare in our little family).

Ingredients:

4 small chicken breasts or two large breasts cut in half lengthwise

3/4 cup all-purpose flour for dredging

1 tsp salt (for dredging)

1/2 tsp cracked pepper (for dredging)

1-6 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, do not drain

1-15 oz can stewed tomatoes; do not drain

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1/4 cup water

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 cup sherry (or your favorite red wine)

1 box angel hair pasta

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, salt and pepper together.  Rinse and trim chicken breasts, pat dry.  Dredge in flour.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large dutch oven.  I would highly recommend using a dutch oven if you have one.  If you don’t, you can find them deeply discounted at Ross Dress for less or TJ Maxx or other discount home stores.  If not, don’t sweat it, a deep (oven safe) pan (or crock pot for that matter) will work just fine.  Add chicken.  Make sure your pan is hot and you hear a good loud sizzle when you add your chicken.  Cook on both sides for 3-4 minutes or until browned.  Add artichoke hearts, stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, water,  garlic, herbs, and pepper.  Remove from heat. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Start heating the water for your pasta.  Remove chicken from oven.  At this point your chicken will be extremely tender and will shred very easily (if desired) with a fork.  After shredding, add red wine and bake an additional 10 minutes. While chicken is cooking, add pasta to boiling water.  Add 1 Tbsp salt to the pasta water once it reaches a full boil. Once drained, angel hair pasta is infamous for sticking together… If you are having this issue, run a little hot water over the noodles.  This will rinse some of the starch away and allow the noodles to separate. Just be sure to drain thoroughly again.  

Serve over angel hair pasta or rice. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  If you are looking for a healthier version, use some whole wheat pasta or don’t shred the chicken and serve whole breasts with no pasta.  The chicken sauce itself is really pretty healthy.

Flavor-Packed Taco Salad (It’s healthy too!)

I love taco salad!  I always forget how much I love it until I take that first bite.  It is one of those meals, if prepared correctly, really satisfies your hunger without making you feel an ounce of guilt. The best part is the crunchy tortilla bowl.  It takes the place of crumbling greasy tortilla chips on top of your salad and in my opinion tastes surprisingly fabulous!

Ingredients:

4 flour tortillas (We use the raw Tortilla Land tortillas, cooked)

1 can black beans, drained

1 lb ground turkey breast, or lean ground beef cooked and seasoned with your favorite taco seasoning

1 head iceberg lettuce

1 can sliced olives

1 tomato, diced

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

1 cup of your favorite salsa (Ours is Emerald Valley – generally found with refrigerated salsa in your local grocery store)

1/4 cup low-fat or fat-free sour cream

1 avocado, sliced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brown your ground turkey or beef, drain if needed.  Add taco seasoning as directed on packaging.  Set aside.

Prepare lettuce – firmly hold head of lettuce, core side down, slam head down onto counter then turn lettuce over and pull out core.  Next, I like to break off all of the thick, white bases of the lettuce leaves. Fill head with water then turn over and shake to drain.  Remove top two outer leaves and discard.  Slice/chop/break lettuce into bite-sized pieces.

Prepare tomato, avocado, olives, and cheese.  (We always buy the cans of whole olives and use our egg slicer to slice the olives.  My boys love this job partly because they love helping mommy in the kitchen but mostly because they always get to load up one hand with a full set of olive tips.)

Spray one side of tortilla with a small amount of non-stick spray.  Place tortillas, greased side down, onto ramekins.  Pinch edges vertically in a clockwise (or counter-clockwise) direction (see picture) to form your “bowl.” Place in preheated oven on a baking tray for 7 minutes.  Carefully remove ramekins from underside of tortillas.  Place tortilla bowls with flat side down on baking tray and return to oven for 3-4 minutes or until crisp. Set aside.

For dressing, mix salsa and sour cream together.

Place ground turkey or beef and cold black beans in the bottom of bowl.  Top with lettuce, tomato, cheese, olives avocado and dressing.

As you eat, crumble your bowl to give you that “tortilla chip” taste and texture without having to eat greasy chips.

Asparagus, Tomato and Avocado Salad

This is such a beautiful, fresh, delicious salad.  I love the creaminess of the avocados mixed with the acidity of the tomatoes and the nuttiness of the asparagus, all with a tangy Dijon mustard dressing… mmmm…. so so good.

Ingredients:

1/2-1  lb asparagus (I only use 1/2 but original recipe calls for 1 lb)

1 large Haas avocado

1 pint cherry tomatoes (or any other small, colorful tomato, original recipe calls for 6 cups which is a little much for me.  I found 1 pt to be perfect but it’s up to you.  Maybe if they were fresh from my garden I would increase that amount)

Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp pepper

a dash of red wine vinegar (optional, I like the tanginess)

Directions:

Asparagus – Start by washing. Hold one spear of asparagus. Starting at the cut end, bend slightly until it snaps (should be about 2 inches or so above the cut).  This will eliminate the tough, woody section of the asparagus and leave you with the most tender part.  Now, lay your snapped asparagus alongside the rest of the bunch.  Cut the bunch even with your 1 snapped spear.

Place enough water  in a medium skillet to slightly coat the bottom of the pan.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Place spears in water and cover again.  Steam for 3-5 minutes or until your spears are tender but still firm.  I used very small spears and 3 minutes was perfect.  If you use the thicker spears you will need to increase that time.

Afer they reach the desired tenderness, drain and immediately submerge in cold water to stop the cooking process. Once chilled, drain on paper towels until dry.  Cut into bite-sized chunks (I quartered each spear).

Wash your tomatoes, drain thoroughly and place in medium-sized bowl with asparagus.

Mix all ingredients for dressing with a whisk or a small food processor. Pour over asparagus and tomatoes and toss.

Cut open avocado and de-seed (If you need tips on this, see 7-layer dip recipe). Run knife through avocado all the way to the peel making 1/2 inch squares (see picture above).  Run a large spoon between peel and flesh to remove the avocado.

Add avocado right before serving because it will be at its brightest color and flavor. Separate cubes with your fingers then toss slightly into salad.  The avocados break up very easily so you don’t want to be stirring very much.

This recipe does not fare well for left overs due to the avocado’s speedy oxidation, so if you don’t think you will be eating it all in one sitting, you may want to only mix  half the tomatoes and asparagus with half of the avocado and seal the other half of the avocado (with seed in tact) in a plastic bag. This way your avocado will still be fresh the next day for leftovers. 

Asparagus, Tomato and Avocado Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

1/2-1  lb asparagus (I only use 1/2 but original recipe calls for 1 lb)

1 large Haas avocado

1 pint cherry tomatoes (or any other small, colorful tomato, original recipe calls for 6 cups which is a little much for me.  I found 1 pt to be perfect but it’s up to you.  Maybe if they were fresh from my garden I would increase that amount)

Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp pepper

a dash of red wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Rinse asparagus.  Bend one spear slightly starting at the cut end until the asparagus snaps.  This will be a good indicator of where the woodiness ends and the tender asparagus begins. Line the other asparagus up and cut even with snapped spear.  Cut into bite sized pieces.
  2. Place enough water  in a medium skillet to slightly coat the bottom of the pan.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Place spears in water and cover again.  Steam for 3-5 minutes or until your spears are tender but still firm. Drain and drop into ice water to stop cooking process.  Drain well.
  3. Add tomatoes. (Do not add avocado until ready to serve)
  4. Combine dressing ingredients and blend in a food-processor or  blend well with a wisk.
  5. Pour dressing over asparagus and tomatoes.  Toss.
  6. Before serving, slice avocado in half, remove seed.  Slice lightly with a butter knife inside the peel into small squares.  Scoop out with a large spoon into salad. Toss gently.
  7. Serve