Friday, October 9, 2015

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Spicy Honey Bacon Glaze

Oh Friday, how glad I am to see you. And because I'm so happy to see Friday, I had to share this fantastic recipe with you today, to make you just as happy as I am!

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Spicy Honey Bacon Glaze

Yesterday, not my favorite day. At all. Seems my debit card was compromised by "swipers" who scanned/copied the magnetic strip and then made a duplicate card and went on a lovely shopping spree about Austin. Luckily my bank is amazing, and I caught it within minutes of it happening, coincidentally. So, my card has been canceled and a new one issued, and the money will be credited back to our account, but geez, what is wrong with people these days??? I'm just thankful that even though it's an inconvenience, it is easily taken care of, and that we are so very fortunate in so. many. ways. 

I try to look on the bright side of things, though I'm not always successful. But in cases like this, I'm thankful that the money hadn't cleared yet and that it will be credited back to our account from the pending status. I'm thankful that I caught it as quickly as I did, and that my bank is always so good at handling fraud cases like this. And, I'm thankful that we can manage for the few days it takes for me to get a new card and for the money to be reinstated to "available funds" and that there are no pending withdrawals scheduled to clear the bank in the interim. I choose to focus on the positive, because focusing on the negative isn't going to change what has happened and will only cause me to stress out unnecessarily. The fraud rep who helped me informed me that there is a new way that these thieves are swiping, and it only requires them to walk by you. That's it. They carry some little scanner that can scan through your wallet or purse, and copy your magnetic strip. WHAT?!?! You can bet I'll be getting a new wallet - either one with the metal strips in it, or a metal case for my credit cards.

You know what also helps after an unfortunate event puts a damper on the day? Well, besides wine or a cocktail? A good meal. This chicken. That glaze. I mean...spicy honey bacon glaze...maybe if I turned that into a cocktail I could just drink my dinner. I kid, I kid. Must have actual food nourishment. 

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Spicy Honey Bacon Glaze 3

And I'm not actually that into bacon, as far as bacon-flavored-everything. Nope. I'll just take good ol' real bacon. And douse it in honey, Worcestershire and hot sauce. And then pour it over chicken strips that are marinated in balsamic vinegar (my fav!) and grilled to perfection. How could that not make any bad day better? Well maybe not any bad day, but ones like I had yesterday at least.

Balsamic grilled chicken topped with an ooey-gooey, spicy honey bacon glaze. You need this deliciousness in your life.

Balsamic Grilled Chicken with Spicy Honey Bacon Glaze
As seen on The Food Charlatan

  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into tender-size strips
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil 
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp garlic pepper seasoning
For the glaze
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce of choice (I used one we brought back from Costa Rica)

  1. In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, and garlic pepper seasoning. Stir or squish it all together to mix. Add the chicken strips, seal and squish to coat, then place in fridge to marinate for 2-24 hours.
  2. Preheat your grill or grill pan (or just a plain ol' skillet) to medium-high heat. Spray with  cooking spray or a drizzle or swipe (grill) of olive oil to prevent sticking. Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade) and cook for 3-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. 
  3. Meanwhile, place the bacon pieces in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until browned and crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool some. 
  4. Drain the grease from the pan, but don't clean it. With the burner still on medium, add the honey, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. Bring to a gentle boil, then add the bacon pieces. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes until it has thickened lightly, then remove from heat. The glaze will continue to thicken as it cools down.
  5. Serve the chicken topped with the honey bacon glaze, and try not to drool too much before your first bite!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Blackened Tuna Steaks with Mango Chutney

This week has been flying by. I don't think my mind has fully returned home from Mixed Con, as I'm still thinking about all the things I learned there, and the projects I want to get started on! And don't even get me started on the swag bag goodies. I had to share the love with my co-workers, so I brought the cookies and such to share with them. Hatch pepper chocolate chip cookies, y'all. For serious. I think peppers in cookies scares some people, but it's something you should at least try once in your life. Well, if you can handle spiciness, that is. You know how I love spicy everything, though.

And blackened seasoned food fits that bill very nicely, wouldn't you say??

Blackened Tuna Steaks with Mango Chutney

I've told you in the past how J is a big fan of tuna steaks, but I don't make them all that often. In fact, I was looking at my recipe index and there are a mere 6 recipes there, versus about quadruple that amount of salmon recipes. Obviously this gal loves her some salmon. Well, J does too, but you get the point.

This recipe, however, was too enticing not to try. I mean...blackened tuna steaks topped with sweet mango chutney?? How could I not??

I have noticed that when I cook with blackened seasoning, the house becomes a bit of a hazard zone. If you've ever experienced this, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If not, let me try to explain. There is something about the combination of seasonings that somehow wafts into the air, permeates the entire house, and gets all up in your nose. Cue the itchy nose and incessant sneezing. And it stays in the air for a loooong time. Of course, I never remember to turn on the vent until after it's already gotten a hold of me. By then, it's too late. J will come in and say, "Are you cooking with those seasonings again?!?!" Yes dear. But it's so worth the sneezy suffering.

And that's no lie, friends.

You can adjust the amount of heat by decreasing the cayenne and paprika, and the flavors will still come out amazing. And the dollop of mango chutney gives you the sweet 'n' spicy effect. It's fab. 

Blackened Tuna Steaks with Mango Chutney 2

How long you cook the tuna will depend completely on how you like it cooked. Some prefer their tuna just seared, and dark red on the inside, essentially rare. J, however, will not eat it that way so I cook them almost completely through. So, for rare, you may only want to cook them 1 minute per side (if that long), and add a minute per side for each degree of doneness over rare that you prefer (medium rare, medium, medium well, well  - you get the drift, right?)

But however you like it cooked, you need to make this ASAP!

Blackened Tuna Steaks with Mango Chutney
Adapted from Allrecipes

  • 6 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 clove garlic minced
  • 4 tuna steaks
  • 2 Tbsp paprika*
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper*
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup mango chutney
*You can cut these in half (or more) if you want to cut back on the spiciness of the tuna. Blackened seasoning is generally a spicy one, but you can adjust to fit your heat preference. 

  1. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lime juice and garlic. Place the tuna steaks in a resealable plastic bag or a container with a lid and pour the mixture over the top, and coat all sides. Seal, or cover, and refrigerate for 1-3 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all the spices (paprika through garlic powder) in a small bowl and mix well. 
  3. When the tuna steaks are done marinating, remove from the fridge and the marinade and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the seasoning  on top of each steak and gently rub to cover the surface area. Flip the steaks and do the same on the other side. 
  4. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the tuna steaks and cook for 2-5 minutes, depending on your desired doneness. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, flip the tuna steaks and cook another 2-4 minutes, again depending upon your desired doneness. 
  5. Serve tuna steaks with a few spoonfuls of mango chutney and your favorite grain and veggie sides!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Meatballs

I can't believe what a whirlwind the past few days have been!! I am so blessed to have been able to attend Mixed Con and brought back some very valuable information, as well as a couple of snazzy swag bags!! And as if that wasn't enough, I got to meet some of the ladies from my cooking forum and other amazing food bloggers, as well. Some that I have worked with in the past and others I have followed for years. I was a little star-struck, I must admit.

The conference was held in The Woodlands, Texas at The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center, and what a beautiful place it was!! The grounds were amazing, the weather was beautiful, and their on-site restaurant, Robard's Steakhouse, was to-die-for!! In case you missed the pictures on Instagram or Facebook...this was what I ate for lunch on Saturday:

Every single bite was delicious. The truffle fries with sweet 'n' spicy ketchup, the Caesar salad, the
perfectly cooked steak over whipped mashed potatoes with crisp-tender asparagus, and the desserts.
Good lawd they were good. Creme brulee, chocolate ganache cake and peanut butter pie - all in mini form!! And I am not being sponsored to write about my experience or the food or anything else - I just wanted to share my amazing weekend with you all!!

And while I definitely enjoyed my little weekend getaway and enjoying food that someone else prepared, I definitely missed being in the kitchen and cooking for J.

Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Meatballs

I have a bit of an obsession with meatballs, in case you hadn't noticed. But can you blame me? I mean, they are generally easy to prepare, they are so versatile that you can incorporate pretty much any flavor you want into them, and they're delicious!! So yes, I make many versions of them. This one, I have made a couple of times already and we love them. 

The meatballs have good seasoning on their own, but when you stuff them with melty mozzarella and then coat them in basil pesto, how can they be anything other than amazing??? Oh, and they're baked, so clean-up is also minimal. How much do you love me right now?

I can't blame you for that!! We at ours with rice, because...meatballs and rice = made for each other, but I'm thinking that these would also make a killer meatball sub. 

Is it time for lunch yet? Because all this talk of weekend food and these meatballs have my stomach growling and demanding to be fed. 

Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Meatballs 2

Ground chicken breast stuffed with melty mozzarella and coated in basil pesto sauce...too easy and delicious not to try!

Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup  Panko
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup basil pesto, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2.5 oz  mini fresh mozzarella cheese balls

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C), line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, Panko, egg, garlic, salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons of pesto. Mix well, using your hands for the best results. 
  3. Using a medium cookie scoop, or a tablespoon, divide the meat mixture into uniform meatballs. You will get about 25-26 of them. Press your thumb into each meatball and place mini mozzarella ball in the middle. Form the meatball around the mozzarella ball and make sure it is fully covered and "sealed". 
  4. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-13 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through.
  5. Remove from the oven and place meatballs into a large bowl (I washed and re-used the same bowl that I made the meatball mixture in.) Add the remaining basil pesto to the bowl and stir or toss to coat the meatballs in the pesto and they're ready to serve!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sammich Saturday: Green Onion & Bacon Burger

It's Saturday, Day 2 of Mixed Con. And despite all the fun I know I'm having right now, I couldn't wait another week to share this burger with you. I mean, it is Sammich Saturday, after all!

Green Onion & Bacon Burger

Do you ever have those days when you have a particular meal planned and then for one reason or another you don't have one of the main components, so you have to just wing it? Well, that's sort of what happened with these burgers. They were supposed to be green chile and bacon burgers, but alas, I didn't have the green chiles I needed. 

So, I started scrounging around my produce drawer to see what I did have. I had avocado and I had green onions. Well, other things too, but nothing that sounded good for a burger. And so the burger building journey began, as I started completely from scratch. All the things that the other burger called for just didn't work for what I wanted to do now. And let me just tell you that before these babies went on the grill (and after) they were the biggest, fattest patties I have ever seen in my life. Good lawd! Half-pound patties, at least! 

I couldn't have been more pleased with how these turned out. They were so flavorful!! Big, juicy and full of flavor. Just the way a good burger should be! 

And having the bacon and green onions in the burger patty - amazing y'all. Pure bliss. All that flavor just swimming around in there, for every bite! Oh yeah...and the avocado on top! Maybe I should have called it the Avocado Green Onion Bacon Burger. Too much???

Green Onion Bacon Burger CloseUp

Whether you cook this on your grill outside (which I highly recommend) or on a grill pan in your kitchen, you don't want to miss out on this amazing burger. 

Green Onion and Bacon Burgers
A Sweet Beginnings Original

  • 2 lbs ground beef (80/20 works best)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped and cooked
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 slices pepper jack cheese
  • 4-6 burger buns
  • mayo and/or mustard
  • 1 avocado, peeled and sliced

  1. Once the bacon is cooked and drained on a paper towel, combine the ground beef, green onions, bacon, seasonings and Worcestershire sauce together in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix until ingredients are evenly distributed. 
  2. Form mixture into 4 large (or 6 smaller) patties. We did 4 large patties that were about 1-inch thick. 
  3. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add burgers and cook for about 5 minutes per side, or until your desired doneness is reached. We like ours with very little pink, so we cooked them a bit longer. Add the cheese during the last minute of cooking so it can melt. 
  4. Toast your burger buns, apply mayo, mustard, or both to your buns, then top with a burger patty and avocado slices. Done and done, y'all. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Salmon in Citrus Basil Cream

Hellooooo Friiiiidaaaayyyyyy!!! And what a good Friday it is!! I am currently either en route to, or already in Houston for the 2015 Mixed Conference, and I'm super, duper excited!!! Not only will I get to eat good food and learn some great things that I can hopefully apply to this little blog o' mine, but I also get to meet several more of the ladies from my cooking board!! So, all around it's going to be a great time over the next two days and I can't wait!

And as if that wasn't enough to be excited about, this is also opening weekend for bow hunting! Which means while I'm learning how to make food look pretty, J will be out getting us some deer for me to cook up! Mmmm, venison!! That also means I am on the hunt for more delicious ways to cook it this year. I had so many great dishes last season!

But until about one last summery dish?? Not that you couldn't eat this year-round, but the citrus-y, fresh flavors will be like a bite of summer, as the cooler weather moves in.

Salmon in Basil Citrus Cream

And hey, if you are subject to really harsh winters where you live, perhaps a bite of summer will be just what you need in, say, January? I don't know. I'm the worst about "seasonal" eating. I want what I want, no matter what time of the year it is. We had soup last night, for example, and it's still 90 degrees outside. Shrug. It was delicious. 

Enough about that though. The salmon!! The sauce! All.The.Citrus. Orange, lemon, and lime zest and juice mixed with a little heavy cream and basil means that every bite is bursting with fresh flavor. BURSTING. Seriously. It is insane how good it is. And easy. So very easy. 

Oh, and those pretty little zoodles you see in the pic...perfect accompaniment. So, basically what you see here is summer on a plate. One last nod to all things refreshing and zesty. Haha...zesty. Get it? 

Ok, ok. But seriously. I know I post a lot of salmon and a lot of sauces, and they're all wonderful and yada yada. But this is one that is too simple not to try. You won't be disappointed!!

Salmon with Basil Citrus Sauce

Salmon in Citrus Basil Cream

  • 4  (6 oz) salmon fillets
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • salt, to taste
  • 10-12 basil leaves, chopped

  1. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Brush the salmon with olive oil and place in the skillet, skin side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes and the gently flip over. Use tongs to gently peel the skin off, and discard. Cook another 3-4 minutes, and then flip one more time, back to the side the skin was on, and cook for an additional minute, or until cooked through. 
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, citrus zest and juices and heat over medium heat. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Season with salt to taste and stir in basil leaves. 
  4. Serve the salmon topped with the citrus basil cream and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chipotle Honey Balsamic Pulled Pork Nachos

Okay, Mother Nature. Today is the last day of September. That means that fall should be underway, and 90 degree temps should be fading away. Just wanted to let you know, in case you didn't get the memo.

Now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about these nachos!! Awhile back I made these taquitos, and the pork was so good I wanted to make it again. So, I made it to stuff inside baked sweet potatoes. But it makes a lot of pulled pork and there were leftovers. I also had a hankering for nachos. So, naturally, I had to combine the two cravings and use up the leftover pulled pork, right??


Pulled Pork Nachos

And of course, it had to be a Friday night dinner. You know, since I like simple, quick-to-throw-on-a-plate dinners on Fridays. Sure I had to spend 5 or so minutes making the guac and dicing tomatoes, and heating the beans, but c'mon now. That's nothin'. Especially when you get to sit down and devour these amazing little bites of heaven. And if I didn't have the pulled pork as leftovers, I would have only needed to throw that in the crock pot in the morning before work and then assemble when I got home!! 

I believe J got home a little late this particular evening, and I just couldn't wait. I had to eat (i.e. devour) my plate of nachos before he made it home. But, he understood. I mean, just look at them!! And as pretty as they are, they tasted even better. If you can imagine that. 

But you don't have to just imagine can make it and find out for yourself!!

Honey Chipotle Balsamic Pulled Pork Nachos

Chipotle Honey Balsamic Pulled Pork Nachos
Pork recipe from this Sweet Beginnings Original

  • 2-3 lb pork shoulder or butt
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp crushed chipotles in adobo sauce (or you can use whole and dice them if you prefer)
  • 3 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Tortilla chips
For topping
  • Shredded cheese (I used a Mexi-blend)
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Diced Tomatoes

  1. Trim pork of excess fat and place in your slow cooker. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and thyme on top. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine the honey, balsamic vinegar, chipotles in adobo, and orange juice. Mix well and pour over the top of the pork in the slow cooker. 
  3. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-7 hours. When done it will shred easily with a fork. You can use two forks to shred or remove from slow cooker into the bowl of a stand mixer and shred with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Usually the later is my preferred method, but it was so fall-apart-ready that it was super easy with forks and took just a couple of minutes!
  4. Once shredded allow to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes to soak up the flavor from the juices in the slow cooker. 
  5. Meanwhile, place the beans, garlic powder, and cumin in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, and stir until just heated through. 
  6. To assemble, place tortilla chips on a plate (or plates) and top with a  spoonful of beans, a heap of pulled pork, shredded cheese, salsa, a dollop of guacamole, and a few diced tomatoes. Voila! It's dinner in a snap!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Roasted Tomatillo Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Happy Monday, friends! Did you get a chance to see the lunar eclipse last night? Or were you in one of the areas that were too cloudy? J and I were able to see it, but the clouds definitely made it duller than it could have been. I did get to see the super moon at 6:15 this morning. It was super bright! Country living definitely has it's perks.

And slowly the temperatures are easing their way down. We are nowhere near fall or winter temps, but I'll take a high of 86 degrees today with a smile! And with seasons-a-changin', that means it's time to start thinking about more cool-weather meals. Like casseroles. Not that those aren't good for any time of year, but for those of you who don't care to turn on the oven much in's time to turn those babies on!! And this enchilada casserole would be a great way to welcome cooler weather.

Roasted Tomatillo Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Aside from my mama's beef enchiladas, my favorite kind of enchilada for a very long time was chicken enchiladas with verde sauce. If I went to a Mexican restaurant and ordered enchiladas, that's what kind it would be. Never beef. Never cheese. Chicken with verde sauce. Because, yum. 

And anytime I hear "tomatillo" I immediately think of verde sauce, and I think, yes please, rightthissecond. But when you thrown the word "roasted" in front of it, that's a whole 'nutha ball game there, friends. The smokiness that roasting gives to the tomatillos and jalapenos rounds it all out, very nicely. And of course, I love all things spicy, a la jalapeno, so...yeah. I was all over this recipe. 

It definitely had some kick to it, especially with the fresh jalapeno slices on top. But the flavor of the sauce was sooooooo good. You can always cut the jalapenos in half and de-seed before roasting if you want to eliminate the heat factor.  

Roasted Tomatillo Chicken Casserole

Creamy, spicy, and chock full of chicken and cheese, layered between tortillas. Yep. That's good stuff right there.

Roasted Tomatillo Chicken Enchilada Casserole
As seen on Pinch of Yum

  • 15 tomatillos, paper removed
  • 2 jalapeno peppers (plus one extra for topping, if desired)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 8-inch flour tortillas (you can use 9 if you want 3 tortillas per layer)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1½ cups shredded cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil. Place the tomatillos and jalapeno peppers on the baking sheet. and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes, then flip/stir and roast another 10-15 minutes.
  2. Carefully transfer the tomatillos and jalapenos to a food processor, and add the garlic, cilantro and green onions. Pulse until mostly smooth, then add the yogurt, broth, and oil. Pulse just enough to mix (processor may be very full at this point so be careful. Alternately, you can mix the yogurt, broth,and oil into the tomatillo mixture in a bowl by hand instead of the food processor, if that is easier.)
  3. Meanwhile, trim the chicken of any fat, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray or drizzle with a tablespoon of oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through. 
  4. To assemble the casserole, spray a 9x9 casserole dish with cooking spray and place 1 whole tortilla and 2 halves of another tortilla, torn in half, to cover the bottom. Top with half the chicken, 1/3 of the sauce, and 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat this layer again (tortillas, the remaining chicken, 1/3 of the sauce, 1/3 of the cheese.) The final layer will be the remaining tortillas (1 whole, 1 in halves) and the remaining sauce and cheese. 
  5. Place the casserole dish on a baking sheet, in case there is any sauce spillover. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and top with cilantro and sliced jalapeno, if desired. 
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