Chicken & Veggie Reset Soup

This time of the year seems to have everyone feeling a bit under the weather. Regardless if it’s because of the flu or simply because it becomes much easier to stow yourself away in your house during this time of the year, February is full of less smiles than I am used to seeing. I especially have been feeling the low-points of the season recently. Making it to the gym is harder, making plans after work seems impossible, and I am still juggling about twelve other things that I have already dedicated myself to. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a million different projects in the works at a time but it can wear a woman down.

This week, I decided that my worn down body deserved a treat from my also-exhausted brain.

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I have to admit, when I was a kid, I liked one soup and one soup only. Chicken noodle. As I got older, the noodle part stopped playing such an important role, while the chicken and veggies took centerstage, especially during those time I was to ill to crawl from the bedroom to the kitchen for something as simple as a cup of tea.

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This WAS, however, where the idea for a ‘reset’ soup was born. I wanted something simple, healthy, and sure to provide me with nutrients. While there are plenty of recipes online for soups that are thought to “cleanse” you, I just wanted something that had whole, easily attainable ingredients, that would not only be satisfying when my immune system seems to be on its last leg, but that could also be used for those weeks that followed after I had treated my body more like a garbage disposal than my own proverbial temple.

While this recipe can easily be thrown together in a soup pot, I chose to make it in my deeply-loved crockpot. The more recipes that appear on this site, the more you will realize where a crockpot lives on my list of priorities and belongings.

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To begin with, I needed to get the ingredients into the pot that would take awhile to cook. I coated the bottom of the crockpot with light oil and then proceeded to dice the garlic, onion, and celery. I then grated the ginger and combined all of those ingredients into the pot. I left them covered for around 15 minutes.

While the first ingredients cooked, I washed the chicken breasts, patted them dry, covered them lightly in salt and pepper, and put them into the crockpot. I then poured half the chicken broth into the pot as well. Now it was time to wait about 3 hours.

IMG_1743When the time had passed, the next step was to add the frozen peas and broccoli. I added the whole bags. After all, it’s a reset and I can use as many veggies in my meals as possible.  I also poured in the remaining chicken broth, covered and let the soup set until the broccoli was tender.

And that was that. Soup ready, reset to come.

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Chicken & Veggie Reset Soup

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  1. Turn on your crockpot and begin heating the oil in the bottom of it. Add the chopped onions, celery, ginger, and garlic. Cover crockpot for 15-20 minutes. While this happens, rinse the chicken breasts, pat dry and cover in salt and pepper. Then add the chicken breasts, one quart of the broth, carrots, and one teaspoon sea salt.
  2. Cover and let simmer for 3+ hours, until the chicken breasts are cooked through.
  3. Add the broccoli, peas, the second quart of chicken broth and parsley to the pot. Continue to cook covered to soften the broccoli. Once the broccoli is tender, taste, then salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm. Easy as can be.

Gratitudes: Breakfast & Co.

I have to be honest. I am bad about breakfast. And I don’t mean that I miss a breakfast a few days a week. I mean I never eat breakfast(in the morning that is). When I do get around to my first meal of the day, it’s normally at least 9 am, and for someone who gets up at 5, I know I should be eating. Believe me. But my appetite simply does not exist before the san-witching hour of noon or later.

Before this gets derailed, let me explain. It’s not that I don’t like breakfast food. Holy god, the main reason I have a job is so that I can pay for Eggs Benedict. But the thing I have a problem with is eating breakfast foods in the morning.

This is why, for your reading pleasure, I think you should know what a regular 27-year-old woman eats for breakfast sometimes. Do be warned, this isn’t likely to be pretty.

Things I’ve Eaten For Breakfast Since I Turned 25:

5. Red Wine

I feel the need to just start with the most worrisome and reliable breakfast a woman can ask for.

While I wouldn’t recommend starting a working day with a Cabernet, weekends are for the girls, and white or red, you can’t go wrong with a weekend bottle of wine…or five.

Additionally, grapes are healthy and wine is heart healthy, so drinking a bottle of wine is really exactly like going to the gym. Working on your fitness never felt so great, trust me.

 

4. Gummy Bears

Alright, here is the thing. I do not like candy…

I hate how it makes my teeth feel and when I eat it I incessantly brush my teeth afterward because cavities be damned and also, every person I know who is my age is very paranoid about gum disease…thank you, Kentucky public schools.

On the other hand, I LOVE Gummy Bears. Truly. I am passionate about gummy bears, making them a truly acceptable substitute for any meal at any time of the day.

3. A Ton of Urban Decay Lipstick

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If you know me at all, you know that I hardly ever leave my house without wearing lipstick. This is not hyperbole.

I will put on my favorite burgundy before going out the dumpster to throw away my trash. I can be wearing house shoes, yoga pants, and this old CSU hoodie I have and still put on lipstick. This is a subconscious reason I think I might be avoiding breakfast as a whole. It doesn’t matter how great the brand of lipstick– if you eat or drink without a straw, a reapplication is going to be needed. I digress.

This inevitably leads to me eating the world’s most expensive condiment with nearly all meals that occur before 1pm.

2. Leftover Fast Food From Drunken Nights

This is not a proud moment for me. But this list would not be complete if I didn’t at least make a reference to the many McDonald’s sausage biscuits that have fallen victim to a drunken pass-out, only to be reheated in the morning.

I am sure this comes as quite the delight to all of my friends who I have over for seemingly ‘perfect’ dinner parties at least once a week, but from time to time, this gross misuse of my credit card while in a drive-thru at 2 am has resulted in a reheated meal that no one truly should be indulging in after the age of 22.
Yes, even as someone who loves to cook, and is even the slightest bit good at it, I am still first and foremost starving when I wake with a hangover. Shame be gone.

1. Pizza Always & Forever

There have been a number of far more embarrassing breakfasts had in my life.

Cigarettes and black coffee(a well-known dangerous decision) as well as something as simple as chocolate chips or Chex Mix.

I told you to begin with, I am not good at breakfasting. However, if there is one pinnacle non-breakfast breakfast food, pizza is it. Leftover pizza is essentially like a breakfast sandwich, just flatter and triangular and truly contains none of the same ingredients….still, how long do you think it will be before you find yourself with a Starbucks’ coffee in one hand and a slice of “za” in the other?

Whatever your breakfast of choice, please, just don’t make me eat it before noon.20915116_10159256016440475_6840854489602864485_n

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Skillet

It’s safe to say that 2018 has certainly started off a bit rocky. The last three weeks have been filled with more time in my personal hideaway than even a homebody like myself is a fan of. Not to mention, I think the majority of people would agree that January felt as though it was 72 days long. With that said, getting a jumpstart on any resolutions that may have been in works sort of got pushed to the next month….this month. And that brings us to here and now, the 4th day of February.

I have to be honest, I’m a bit biased when it comes to February. It’s one of my favorite months because it’s the last truly cold month, with snow flurries, and hot cocoa, knit blankets piled on the couch. The last real month when I can layer every sweater and scarf I own, plus it allows for me hole up in my apartment on Saturdays and Sundays cooking, cooking, cooking. What’s better than that?

February also holds a week of special birthdays, with my mom and my best friend on the planet celebrating revolutions around the sun with three days of one another. This year in particular, has a slew of exciting events, the most anticipatory of which is said best friend coming to spend almost an entire week in snowy Colorado. I am a lucky, lucky girl.

This morning there are sparse snowflakes dancing down to the sidewalks in syncopated rhythms and I’m sitting on the living room rug, finishing the last of my coffee. I’m hopeful for February, which means I’m cooking again.

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I like this recipe because it includes a ton of beautiful ingredients but it takes very little time and effort. The best recipes always do, right? I wanted to make something hardy but also not incredibly unhealthy. My first-choice meal is always some sort of pasta. Seriously, I would eat pasta for every single meal if my metabolism would allow for it. But alas, life isn’t so kind and therefore, I’m always looking for ways to introduce Italian flavors into non-pasta dishes. This chicken turned out to be one of the best ones I’ve thrown together in a long time.

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The first step was to saute the spinach. While you can absolutely choose to use to use frozen spinach, I prefer fresh always. I had to add more to the pan about three different times to have the amount of spinach I wanted for the ricotta and pine nut mix.

The next step was to prep the chicken and the potatoes. The chicken was fairly easy. I washed the chicken breasts, patted them dry, and butterflied them. Butterflying the chicken is a lot easier than you would think. I always take my non-knife-holding hand and press down on the chicken breast and then slowly glide the knife through the center of the breast, cutting it horizontally, creating somewhat of a book. I sprinkled the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and treated the “outside covers” of the book with a light dusting of Italian seasoning.
If you don’t have any Italian seasoning you can make your own by combining as many of the following ingredients as you have in your cupboard: black pepper, dried basil, garlic powder, dried marjoram, onion powder, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, dried rosemary, and dried thyme.

The next step was to slice the potatoes. I took two skewers and placed one of each side of the potato. Carefully I cut the potatoes into slices, with each slice being about 1/3rd inch thick, being sure to allow the skewers to stop the knife before it cut all the way through.

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Now was the time to preheat the oven. I next mixed the filling by combining the already-cooked spinach, the ricotta, and the pine nuts in a bowl. Add the spinach in batches to ensure that you do not have too much or too little. I was trying for the most even consistency possible, so that there was what seemed to be an equal amount of spinach and ricotta, with the pine nuts there to provide an extra bit of color and eventually a pop of flavor.

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Next, I began heating the same cast-iron skillet I used to cook the spinach. I took the ricotta mixture and began to fill the already-butterflied chicken with it, folding them and lining them up to be put in the pan as soon as it was at the right temperature.

I then placed the chicken breasts into the skillet and waited. After about four minutes, I flipped the chicken, placed the potatoes in the same pan (coating them in olive oil, salt, and pepper with a brush) and waited six more minutes. Finally, I popped the whole skillet into the already-preheated oven, and then it was time to wait.

When the chicken was done, I found the potatoes weren’t entirely cooked through so I had to remove the chicken, and continue cooking the sweet potatoes for an additional 20 minutes or so in order to give them their time. I have to be honest, potatoes often cause me grief in the kitchen. It’s times like these that I have to remind myself that I am no professional chef and that I am still learning. All in good time. Just like everything else.

Happy February, friends.

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Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Skillet

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

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  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Begin by sautéing the spinach in a large skillet with two cloves of minced garlic and a splash of cooking oil. If you are using fresh spinach, you are likely going to need 3-4 cups.
  3. Prepare chicken so that it can be stuffed. Do this by washing the chicken and patting it dry. Then proceed by butterflying the chicken with a large kitchen knife. You want to do this by cutting them almost entirely in half, making it into somewhat of a book. Cover the chicken in salt and pepper sparingly, and dust the outside of the “books” with Italian seasoning.
  4. Prepare the potatoes by placing two skewers on each side of the potato and cutting almost all the way through. Make each slice about 1/3rd of the inch thick.
  5. In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, spinach, and pine nuts. Begin heating the pan you are going to place the chicken in on the stovetop. Use medium-high heat.
  6. Distribute spinach and ricotta mixture onto each chicken breast.
  7. Wrap chicken around mixture (close the book).
  8. Place the chicken in the pan, cooking on one side for 4 minutes, then flipping.
  9. Place the potatoes in the pan, brushing a mixture of olive oil, salt and pepper on them as they begin to cook. Let cook with the chicken for approximately 6 minutes.
  10. Place cast iron skillet into the oven.
  11. Cook for 30 minutes and serve.

Snow Day Carnitas

Normally Mondays wouldn’t allow me to enjoy myself so much. But I woke up this morning at 9am and there was a fresh white blanket of snow on the ground and the smell of the rosemary tree by my bed as soon I opened my eyes. I put my Leon Bridges vinyl on the record player, took a look in the fridge and staring back at me was a beautiful pork shoulder. There are few things I love more than a simple crockpot meal. Not only do they take a minimal amount of effort but they also make the entire house smell like magic. It also doesn’t hurt that a pork shoulder is a large enough piece of meat that I can make meals out of it for the rest of the week. So in the spirit of cold winter days spent home alone, I got cookin’.

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To get started, I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed. I didn’t have any lime juice but I did have an abundance of limes (because I have a problem passing by brightly colored fruits at the grocery store), and with that it was time to start prepping the meat.

I went ahead and plugged in the crockpot and turned it on high. I poured enough cooking oil in the bottom of the pot so that it was just covered enough. Now it was time to make the marinade.

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First I peeled the onion and the garlic cloves. I cut the onion in half (save half for the crockpot) and place both half the onion and the four cloves of garlic in the blender. I then added the oregano, chili powder, salt, pepper, and the juice of the four small limes and blended it into the marinade paste.

I then took the meat out of the package and prepped it with kosher salt. Using a cooking brush, I smeared the marinade all over the meat and used my hands to work it into the pork.

I then refrigerated it for an hour. Depending on your schedule, you can marinate it for as little as 30 minutes or for as long as a day. I was itching to get this baby in the crockpot and therefore couldn’t wait any longer.

 

While the meat was allowing the marinade to set, I cut the other half of the onion into thin slices and added it to the hot oil in the crockpot and allowed them to start cooking. Once I could not longer wait, I removed the meat from the fridge and placed it in the crockpot on HIGH for 8 hours.

Once the time has elapsed, you have plenty of beautiful tender carnitas to incorporate into a number of meals throughout the week. I added mine to a bright bed of fresh spinach, mango, and cashews with a honey lime vinaigrette. What are you going to pair with yours?

Stay warm, my friends. And enjoy!

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Snow Day Carnitas

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 6-8 hours

Snow Day Carnitas Ingredients

  1. Add half the onion, the garlic, oregano, chili powder, lime juice, salt, and pepper to a blender or food processor. When fully combined, you will be left with a hearty paste.

  2. Remove the pork shoulder from its wrapping and sprinkle a thin layer of salt all over the outside of the piece of meat. Rub the marinade you have prepared all over the pork. You can use your hands or a marinade brush. Cover and let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes – 24 hours.

  3. When ready to cook, add the remaining enough oil to crockpot so that the bottom is covered in a thin layer. Add the pork shoulder and the other half the onion ( sliced thin) to the pot.

  4. Place the lid on top of the crockpot and leave for six to eight hours. Feel free to stir occasionally.

  5. Once the time has passed, the pork should be ready for you to enjoy. Shred the pork in the pot and mix in with the juices as you do so. Depending on how long you have let the pork cook, very little shredding may be necessary. You may need to add some additional salt and pepper so that the pork is to your liking. Squeeze a little lime juice over the top and add fresh cilantro before serving.

Welcome to Thick as Thieves Kitchen: Passion Projects

Cooking hasn’t always been something I was good at, or even interested in.

As a kid growing up with a single mom, and busy schedules, it was infrequent for us to have a meal around a table together unless a special occasion came about. Christmas, birthdays, family visits, called for connection over sustenance, wholeness, richness, a familial force to be reckoned with.

Moving forward

The older I became, the more I treasured these moments. In college, there wasn’t much to be done. Ramen and frozen pizzas occupied my kitchen more often than not. After that I moved to a small ski town, and worked for a healthcare non-profit, where paying the bills became my number one priority and I relied on the kindness of others to eat. Throughout these times there were brief moments of light, all of which began at a table with the people I loved.

Spreading the wealth

I promised myself that as soon as I could, I would bring that light to others. Bring the wholeness that comes with gathering and laughter, food and fulfillment. And so that is where this blog comes in. I want to have a place to reminisce, I want to have a flesh and blood copy of the way my heart springs to life each time I put my soul on a table for the people I love.

These are the important things in life. These are the things that transform people from strangers to friends to thick as thieves.