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Recipes: Homemade chicken soup

Hi all! Sorry posts have been a little extra intermittent lately — trying to stay on top of everything amidst work, travel, wedding planning, and the holidays has proved a challenge. The weather is (finally) chilly here so, especially on a busy schedule, soup is a go-to meal for me.

Once again, let me sing the praises of using a crock pot. This is a super easy recipe, and as long as you’re careful of the sodium content, really healthy. Let’s get to it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion
  • about 1.5 lbs. potatoes (I used baby golden potatoes, but any work)
  • 1 full stalks celery
  • about 2/3 lb. carrots
  • 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you can use any, but this is the easiest to deal with)
  • about 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1-2 cups water
  • a hearty amount of garlic powder and Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper to tasteIMG_8302

Instructions:

  1. Halve onion, peel outer layer off, and cut off ends. If you like onion, you can chop a little into small pieces for the actual soup, but mostly it’s here for flavor during the cooking process.
  2. Wash and chop all remaining veggies into whatever size you’re comfortable being in a bite.
  3. Layer veggies into crock pot in this order (so the things that need to cooke more are on the bottom): onion, potatoes, carrots, celery. Then top with seasoning.IMG_8301.jpg
  4. Add chicken breasts on top, and season again.
  5. Pour broth and water around chicken.
  6. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.IMG_8307.jpg
  7. Remove chicken from bowl and shred (can just use two forks), then return to crock pot and allow to warm.
  8. Serve and enjoy!IMG_8308.jpg

Cost about $17, makes about 8 servings

For my first time making soup, this was definitely a success. It had plenty of flavor and was really hearty, but next time I make it I’d like to try adding more seasoning, as both the chicken and potatoes were a tad bland for my taste. You can also substitute some of the veggies if there are ones you like better, or use egg noodles instead of potatoes (add them for the last hour of cooking instead of at the beginning).

Also note that technically I spent more on ingredients, but only used 1/2 or 2/3 of each thing on this batch, as the cost above reflects. This also makes so much soup. Unless you really, really love soup, it might not be a dish to make for just yourself. If you aren’t already cooking for more people, you can give some to a friend or potentially freeze some for later in the season. Just make sure to be careful that the baggie doesn’t break!

What’s your favorite comfort soup? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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Recipes: Peach crisp

Hey folks! It has been a very busy week, but I do have a recipe for ya to catch the last little bits of summer before they float away. This is one of my new favorite dessert recipes because it’s gluten-free, vegan, and delicious. Aka I can bring it to work and everyone both can and will eat it. Check it out below:

Ingredients:

Filling:
  • 4-5 cups sliced peaches (depending on the crumble-to-fruit ratio you want), best to use very firm peaches
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
Crumble topping:
  • 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (can use almond flour, but it’s more expensive than crushing sliced almonds)
  • small handful sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • about 1 tsp. cinnamon (a healthy dose)
  • splash of vanillaimg_6475.jpg

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF, grease 8×8 glass baking dish or pie pan
  2. Combine filling ingredients in large bowl until well mixed, then empty into baking dish
  3. Combine crumble topping ingredients (I usually use the same bowl the filling was mixed in), then pour evenly over fillingimg_6477.jpg
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes
  5. Serve warm (ideally with ice cream) and enjoy!

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Cost about $10* (the most expensive part was the almonds), makes 9 large or 12 small servings.

Pro tip: You can substitute berries or other fruit, just scale back on the cinnamon. Everything else stays the same! I actually started making this as a berry crisp. And if you buy too much fruit, just freeze some to make it again later!

What are your favorite summer recipes? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

*Once again, cost was a rough estimate because most ingredients are regularly stocked in most homes. The peaches were on sale for like $1.50 total, and almonds were the only pricier bit.

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Recipes: Pulled pork

Welcome to another installment of “Wow, I love my crock pot.” Rather than making a whole meal in the crock pot, this time I just made the meat. Having tried to slow roast things in the oven before with slightly underwhelming results, I was so excited when this turned out as pull-apart tender as I was hoping for. The best part is it was insanely easy.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lb. pork loin roast, thawed
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp. minced ginger
  • salt & pepper
  • Goya adobo seasoning (or any other you like)
  • about 1 cup grapefruit juice (any citrus will work, use at least 1/2 cup)
  • 1 can root beerIMG_6329

Instructions:

  1. Put the roast in the center of the crock pot, fatty side up.img_6328.jpg
  2. Puncture the roast with holes a few inches deep and 1-2 inches apart.
  3. Cut onion into large chunks (I cut it into eighths), then peel layers apart and place around roast in crock pot.
  4. Season with garlic, ginger, salt and pepper, and Goya adobo. NOTE: I seasoned with the intention of using the meat mostly for Caribbean food, hence the brighter flavors and adobo seasoning. If you’re using it for a different cultural food, feel free to adjust the seasonings accordingly.
  5. Pour citrus juice and root beer over roast. These are super important because the acidity breaks down the toughness in the meat and brings in extra flavor.img_6331.jpg
  6. Cook on high for 4-4.5 hours, or on low for 8 hours.
  7. Use two forks to remove roast from crock pot, and then to shred the meat. (Pro tip: Pour some of the juices in the crock pot back over the meat to keep it moist.)img_6335.jpg
  8. Serve however you’d like! I fried mine with lime juice and more seasoning for tacos, but later this week I’ll be using leftovers for pulled pork sandwiches, and to eat over rice. As one of the most versatile meats, the possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

Cost about $16, makes about 6 servings

When making this recipe again, I might like to marinate the meat head of time for the flavor to seep in better (which I really should have remembered from my last crock pot recipe). Reminder to be safe about handling raw meat, and if you aren’t sure that it’s cooked through you can check it with a meat thermometer — any temp above 160ºF you’re good to go.

What’s your favorite way to cook pork? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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Recipes: Crock Pot chicken & veggies

Hey folks! I’ve got another recipe for you today and this one is exciting because it’s the first thing I made in my brand new crock pot! I had been wanting to get one since I moved, but storage is a bit of an issue in our kitchen. Luckily, we got a little more storage, so I finally made the oh-so-adult purchase and bought one! I got it (a 6-qt. that also has a temperature probe) on sale for about $35, but you can find a ton of good option under $50, and the awesome thing is they do the cooking for you.

I had some chicken in the freezer that I needed to use, and wanted to spruce it up (and fill the crock) with veggies and potatoes, so I looked up a recipe online and then proceeded to mostly ignore it. The nice thing about a crock pot is you can pretty much wing it with a little bit of cooking know-how and still be safe. Though I expected the recipe to be good, it turned out excellent, so I wanted to share it with y’all!

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken breasts, thawed (you can also use thighs or more meat, but I wouldn’t advise much less than this, which seemed to be about 1.5 lbs.)
  • about 1.5 lbs. red russet potatoes
  • about 1 lb. whole carrots
  • 1 white onion
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • about 3/4 cup grapefruit juice (I just squeezed 1 big, very ripe grapefruit)
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp. minced ginger
  • salt & pepper

I know that looks like a lot of ingredients. I promise this is still a beginner-level recipe (and tastes at least like an intermediate level). img_5905.jpg

Instructions:

  1. Prep veggies — I don’t usually count potatoes as a veggie, but today they can be. Wash everything, cube the potatoes (I cut them into eighths since red russets are small), cut the carrots into big chunks, and the onions into slightly smaller pieces. Think about 2-inch pieces for potatoes and carrots, and about 1-inch pieces for the onions. (Pro tip: Leave your chicken in the fridge until the last minute so it stays cold and doesn’t get funky.)
  2. I actually sprayed my crock pot with olive oil before I put anything in to hopefully make cleaning easier. I don’t know if that made the difference, but cleaning was definitely easy. Then, put the potatoes in, and add a little salt and pepper.
  3. Set the other veggies aside, and work on the sauce. Stir the soy sauce, honey, grapefruit juice, crushed garlic, and ginger in a bowl until the honey doesn’t give much resistance.
  4. Add the chicken on top of the potatoes, and pour about 3/4 of the sauce over it. You can also add more salt and pepper if you want.img_5907-e1526488110444.jpg
  5. Dump the mixed carrots and onions on top, then pour the rest of the sauce, and add salt and pepper.
  6. Set the crock pot on low for 5 hours. Walk away and let it do its magic. (Pro tip: If you want some greens, add them in about the last 10 minutes of cooking — I used broccoli.)IMG_5908.JPG
  7. When the time goes off, ta da!!!* Enjoy your meal (and serve with rolls if you want)!

Cost about $12, makes about 4 servings

Next time I make the recipe I might want to marinate the chicken, as it seemed like the veggies soaked up the flavor better. But that is pretty much all I would change, and of course, you can switch up the meat or other ingredients as you like.

Most of this recipe is just prep, which is mostly cutting veggies. Easy peasy. So next time you need a few days worth of meals (I ate it for about 3 days), or have guests coming over that you want to impress, or are busy and won’t have time to cook in the evening, you have a solution! (Sorry for all the exclamation points, I’m just really excited.)

What is your favorite thing to make in a crock pot? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

*Sorry I don’t have a picture of when it all finished in the crock pot, I honestly just forgot to take one. It should smell good and have a lot more liquid in it, and as long as the chicken is cooked through it’s safe to eat.

Recipes: Cold smoked salmon

Even when life gets crazy, you still have to eat (hence all the food-focused posts lately). Today’s recipe is courtesy of my second mom, who taught me a bunch of my cooking and baking skills, and makes some of my absolute favorite recipes.

This one is super simple, and the best part is you don’t actually have to cook anything! As a disclaimer, I realize that salmon is a bit of a pricy ingredient, especially for budget-mindful emerging adults. But the rest of the recipe is inexpensive, and if you keep an eye out for sales — or shop at cheaper places like Costco — it can still be a cost-effective way to eat healthy. On the health note, whenever you can, try to buy wild-caught salmon that doesn’t have color added (and hasn’t been frozen if available). Farm-raised salmon are often less healthy, and the farms frequently have bad environmental impacts.

Also general reminders to practice food safety with meats, including washing your hands with soap before and after handling it, and storing it in the fridge at all times.

With all that said, let’s dive in!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs. raw salmon (it’s okay if it has skin, but boneless is better)
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt (if you can’t find pickling salt, it’s okay to use sea salt or kosher salt that has no additives or anti-caking agents)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. liquid smoke

IMG_5500

Instructions:

  1. Rinse off the salmon, and pluck out any bones if it has them (a small pair of pliers is actually best for this, check out how here). I was under the false impression that I needed to remove the skin too, but you can avoid the time and hassle I spent and leave it on until later.
  2. Mix together the pickling salt and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Rub the mixture all over the salmon, and put the salmon in a sealed container with any extra mix. I used a *super fancy* gallon Ziploc bag, but you can also use a baking dish and saran wrap. It just needs to have a tight seal.IMG_5504
  4. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours. I’d recommend somewhere in the 36-hour zone, but 24 is the minimum and you can always go 48 to play it safe. This process basically cures it, and the salt and sugar sink into the meat making a cool chemical reaction that means you don’t have to cook it. IMG_5505
  5. After salmon has cured, take it out of the fridge and rinse well. (Pro tip: If you left the skin on til now, you should be able to pull it off at this point.)
  6. Rub 1/2 tbsp. liquid smoke over fish, and place it in a clean sealed container. (Note: There are other ways to smoke it, but I promise this one is the easiest. Google the fancy ones if you feel like.)
  7. Refrigerate for another 24 hours, then remove and rinse thoroughly.
  8. Enjoy!

Cost varies*, makes about 6 servings

*Cost mostly depends on how much the salmon costs. I got mine on sale for $8/lb., which means I spent about $12 on the salmon. I also had to buy the pickling salt and liquid smoke, but each ingredient will last me several more uses. Total ingredients used besides the salmon cost about $2, and with the salmon it was about $14.

I’ve been adding the smoked salmon to my morning bagel for bagel and lox, but you can also have it with a sandwich, in a salad, or solo with other side dishes!

Things I’d change next time: I really wish I’d bought boneless salmon, and that I hadn’t tried to filet it to remove the skin before curing it. I also think I may have left it in the liquid smoke a bit too long, but overall I’m happy with the first effort.

What are your favorite no-cook dishes? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

How to eat vegetables and not hate it

I get it. As an emerging adult, you get to be the boss of you. Dobby is a free elf, yada yada. Most of the time, it’s really nice being able to decide what you want to do with your free time and when, how long you can ignore your laundry, decorating a place the way you want, and eating what you want. The less fun part is when you also have to be your own parent. Which, unfortunately, has to occasionally include eating vegetables.

If you like vegetables, awesome. This will be way easier. If you like vegetables and actually eat them frequently (caught some of you there), then please remind me to eat my veggies. Because I’m definitely not the best at this.

Of course, you are an adult, and no one — except potentially your family — can force you to eat vegetables. I can’t tell you what to do. But I can tell you what you should do. You should think of your future self, current self, and overall health and longevity goals, and realize that eating healthily is probably a significant component of that. Lots of foods are good for you: fruits, whole grains, proteins, dairy in reasonable portions, etc. Even small portions of sweets and alcoholic drinks can be beneficial, especially with letting go of stress. (Note I said small portions, and indulging inconsistently helps prevent such things from becoming a habit.) But of course, veggies are the ones we often have a problem with.

Don’t get me wrong. I think some vegetables suck. You physically cannot make me eat zucchini, and I have enjoyed cauliflower exactly once. I think kale is horrifyingly bitter, and don’t understand why anyone bothers with eggplant — ever. So if there are a few veggies you really can’t stand, don’t feel obligated to eat those ones. Take a look at what nutrients they’re rich in and find alternative sources.

But it’s probably a good idea to find some veggies you like. Or at least, like well enough. Here are a few ways to make your veggies suck less, and suggestions for which ones are ideal when prepared that way.

Raw. If you’re really into eating your veggies raw, more power to you. As a kid, I would only eat vegetables raw, and frankly it’s really easy. Just wash them off, cut them up if you want to, and enjoy!

Best for: celery, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers

Roasted. Vegetables roasted in the oven (or sautéed in a pan) can be awesome, and it helps keep them interesting — especially if you add seasonings or toss them in a little olive oil. It also opens up options of veggies that, frankly, most people aren’t into eating raw.

Best for: squash, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, bok choy, eggplant, Brussel sprouts, onion

Salad. If you’re anything like me, salad usually feels boring. Good news! It doesn’t have to be. Spice up your salads with more varied ingredients, including things that *gasp* aren’t veggies. Nuts, croutons, meat, whatever. I love salads that also include cheese and fruit, like berries or avocados.

Best for: leafy greens (kale, arugula, lettuce, baby spinach, etc. — there are seriously so many), carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, snow peas, sugar snap peas, onion, radishes

Steamed. This is actually my favorite way to have vegetables. Plop them in a pan of water so they’re 1/4 to 1/3 covered, bring it to a simmer, cover and let them steam for 5-10 minutes, depending on what vegetable and how much.

Best for: broccoli, carrots, artichoke (cook this one longer!), green beans, cauliflower

Grilled. Not just for your burgers. Throw a couple on a barbecue (or a cast-iron skillet preheated in the oven) until they get a little tender, and enjoy.

Best for: asparagus, bell peppers, artichoke

Sneak ‘em. If the taste — or I guess, appearance — of vegetables is truly horrid to you, you can always sneak them into other things you’re eating. Mix a few veggies into a well-seasoned stir fry or stew, add a couple into a smoothie, or even purée them and add them into a sauce. Personally, I like to face my vegetables head-on, but this has worked really well for other people I know.

Best for: carrots, dark leafy greens, broccoli, beets, onion or most peas (for stir fry/stew)

Often some of the biggest issues when people don’t like vegetables are that they’ve only had overcooked or under-seasoned ones, or they haven’t tried enough to find some they like. I’m often lazy about it, so if they aren’t easy to prepare I usually won’t eat them — at least not on my own. But I happen to love carrots, broccoli, and green beans, so I’ll often steam those up to add to a dinner and boost its healthfulness.

I realize this is not an exhaustive list of veggies, and that none of the cooking instructions here were very specific, but Google is your friend, and so are recipe sites like Allrecipes and Epicurious. One of my goals is to try eating a bit healthier, which starts with more fruits and vegetables.

What are some of your favorite veggie dish? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo, since I haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while and didn’t have enough veggies around. Oops!)

Recipes: Slow-roasted pork tacos

Ta da! Finally another recipe. I will start off with the disclaimer that this is a more time-intensive recipe than others I’ve posted, but it’s still super simple. I love eating tacos, and when I don’t want to go all-in on effort I default to ground beef and taco seasoning. But 1) sometimes that gets boring, and 2) for the life of me I have not been able to find any good taco seasoning at my local Safeway. (I looked for the kind in packets and legit stuff like Goya — couldn’t find anything. But I digress.)

However, pork shoulder was on sale, and I am trying to learn how to be as good at cooking meat as some of my elder family members. I’m humble enough to say we’re not there yet. But I also don’t suck.

This recipe was a bit by the seat of my pants from techniques I’ve learned over the years and cooking temps/times that I googled on the fly. So I’ll add comments of things I think might have improved the recipe along the way. Last note: The amount of ingredients here isn’t integral to the recipe, so feel free to scale it as needed as long as you keep the ratios roughly the same.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5lb. pork shoulder roast
  • 5-8 cloves crushed garlic (don’t be shy here)
  • about 1.5 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 2 limes
  • 1 can dark soda (I used Dr. Pepper, but Coke or Pepsi work too)
  • salt & pepper
  • tortillas
  • cheese, salsa, or other toppings as desired

IMG_5351

Instructions:

  1. Make sure your pork roast is thawed all the way and put it in a large bowl. Season it liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. (Pro tip: Do the side with less fat first, then flip it over and leave the fatty side facing up.)
  2. Stab the meat. This is your opportunity to be violent in the kitchen. Grab a knife and stab it into the roast as if you were aerating a lawn — holes should be an inch or two apart and a few inches deep.IMG_5353
  3. Spread the crushed garlic and minced ginger over the meat (I also added a little more salt and pepper at this stage), and then take your fingers and poke the seasonings into the holes. It is very weird, but it gets the marinade to soak in better. Trust. Also, make sure you wash your hands well after.
  4. Time for the liquid part of the marinade — lime and soda. I need you to hear me out on this: DO NOT SLICE A LIME BEFORE ROLLING IT. EVER. That is for people who hate flavor. Lay the whole lime on the counter and roll it under your palm like if you were rolling out bread dough, putting moderate pressure on it. Then you can slice it. Squeeze one or both halves of the lime over the roast (up to you), and then follow that up with about 1/2 can of soda. Feel free to drink the rest!img_5358.jpg
  5. Cover the bowl (mine has a handy lid), and stick that in the fridge to marinate. How long is ultimately up to you — I’d recommend a minimum of 4-6 hours, but ideally overnight. I actually let mine marinate for like 36 hours, but that much time isn’t always available.
  6. After your meat is all marinated and such comes the actual cooking part. I really wish I’d done this in a crock pot because you basically turn it on low in the morning and leave it alone all day, then it’s pull-apart tender by dinner time. But I don’t have one yet, so we tried it old-school.
  7. Preheat the oven to 475ºF. When it gets there, pull your meat out of the marinade and set (fatty side up!) it in a baking dish with at least 1″ walls to collect the juices — you really don’t want that dripping into your oven. Top it with some more salt and pepper, and bake it for 15 minutes to pseudo-sear it. (You can also broil or sear it if you’re feeling fancy.)
  8. Then drop the temp to 275ºF and bake it for about an hour and 45 minutes. This will vary with the size of your roast and each oven, but when it’s getting close you can check it one of two ways. If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temp should be 160ºF. If like me, you’re not that cool, make a narrow cut as close to the center of the meat as you can. If the juices run mostly clear, you’re good. If they look too pink or are red, leave it in.
  9. Once you pull it out of the oven, let it rest for 20ish minutes. This traps the juices in and keeps it tender.img_5371.jpg
  10. Because mine wasn’t as pull-apart tender as I’d hoped, I then chopped it into small pieces. Either way, once you pull it apart, toss it in a big skillet on medium-high heat, squeeze another lime over it, and brown it up a little.
  11. Serve on warm tortillas (my absolute favorite homemade recipe is here), and top with cheese, fresh guac, or homemade pico de gallo! (You will note in the photos that I had store-bought tortillas and a stark absence of guac or pico. I wasted my good toppings on a different taco recipe earlier this month, so don’t @ me.)img_5372.jpg

Cost about $15, makes about 8-10 tacos (the meat is the only pricey part)

As is often the case, this recipe was new to me. The meat came out a little less seasoned than I would have liked, but to fix that you can add in some regular taco seasoning or Goya, which are available at most local grocery stores. Also, I’d hoped the meat would be tender enough to be shredded, but a crock pot would have fixed that issue. I actually liked this recipe best when I made it as a quesadilla! But I’m looking forward to making it again with those changes.

What are your favorite ways to make tacos? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!