The BEST chicken nachos you’ll ever eat (really!)

So, I’m kind of known for chicken nachos. Growing up, I experimented every time I made a batch and quickly discovered my favourite flavours and ingredients. And then, the Pampered Chef party happened.

At a friend’s home party, the host made these easy-peasy nachos with 6 ingredients and Blew. My. Mind. So simple, so delicious, and so share-worthy. So here we go, spilling trade secrets in the name of Nacho Night!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bag Tostitos (Restaurant style)
  • 1 large orange pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 bag shredded Nacho cheese mix
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Pampered Chef Jamaican Jerk seasoning (IMPERATIVE to this recipe, I promise! If you want to order some, my local PC lady can help you out here.)

Method:

  1. Sprinkle both sides of your chicken with the PC seasoning and bake in the oven as directed on the package. Remove and dice into bite-sized pieces.

2. While the chicken is cooking, dice your orange pepper, place in a bowl and add about 1/2 tsp of PC seasoning.

3. Add the diced chicken and whole bag of cheese to the bowl and mix.

4. Spread your chips on an oven-safe pan and load them up with your chicken-pepper-cheese mixture. 

5. Bake for 20 minutes at 350°.

Now, here comes the pure genius part!

6. Mix 1 tbsp of PC seasoning with your 1 cup of sour cream, and place it into a zip-lock baggie. Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag, and spread the spicy sour cream diagonally across the nachos!

And BAM! There you have it – the best nachos ever. These make a great weeknight dinner or an ample group snack when the friends are over for games night. And can I just say they go well with margaritas?

Enjoy!

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Easy Tuna Cakes

If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to spend an hour in the kitchen after a long day of work. But at the same time, a hearty and delicious meal is a must! This recipe ticks both boxes with the added bonus of using up some leftover pantry staples…and who doesn’t love that?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cans of flaked tuna in water
  • 1 box of Stove Top stuffing
  • 1 onion, diced small (red or yellow, whichever you prefer)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar, but any will do)
  • 2 tbsps of mayonnaise
  • A splash of lemon juice (fresh or bottled – no judgment here!)
  • Salt & pepper to taste (I like to use lemon pepper, in a grinder dispenser and available in the spice section of the grocery store)

Here come the easy part! Throw all of it (including the water in the tuna cans) into a bowl and hand mix until blended and sticking together. Grab one handful at a time, form into 1-inch thick patties, and place on wax paper. This amount usually yields 8-10 patties for me. For ease of cooking, let them sit in the fridge to firm up for about 10 minutes (just enough time for a pre-dinner cocktail!).

Use your favourite cooking oil (I use olive) to fry the patties over medium heat in a pan. Give yourself plenty of room, too! I usually cook 5 at a time. Flip them every few minutes as the cheese melts and will stick if you’re not careful. I also find using a metal spatula works better for keeping the patties intact. 

While the patties crisp up, feel free to steam some veggies or toss a salad as a side dish. These Tuna Cakes are pretty hearty on their own, so a nice, light side is all you need.

And voila! Dinner in about 30 minutes and no more leftovers in the pantry. Happy meal making!

Homemade Tomato Soup

So, it’s finally chilly enough to warrant some wholesome, homemade soup! Tonight I whipped up one of my easiest recipes. It’s a favourite for the ease of preparation and the very basic (and affordable) ingredient list. Seriously, if you keep an even half-way stocked pantry, you’ll always have this simple list on-hand. Check it out:

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I also love that it’s a one-pot deal. Toss your olive oil in a large soup pot and saute four cloves of freshly minced garlic and two chopped yellow onions in the bottom.

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Once they are translucent, add any seasonings you like! Tonight I added some Italian seasoning, but sometimes I get wild and crazy. Lemon pepper or rosemary also work.

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That’s when you add some flour (to absorb the oil and create some thickness), and add in the your pantry staple trio – a package of veggie stock, a can of stewed tomatoes (I like seasoned ones) and a can of tomato paste.

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Bring that bad boy to a boil and add a bit of sugar (or sugar substitute) to cut the acidity. You can also add your choice of dairy or dairy substitute (I prefer half & half cream) to really thicken it up and add some creaminess.

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Heat it through, then haul out your handy immersion blender to make the whole, beautiful pot smooth. Oh, and think about a side dish that works with soup!

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One of my hubby’s favourites is the Cheesy Garlic Melt from M&M Meat Shops (yes, that is a shameless plug, lol!). It’s basically garlic fingers with cheese that heats up in 15 minutes – even easier than making grilled cheese sandwiches!

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And in less than 30 minutes (and for about $7 total), you’ve got a hearty dinner for two plus lunches for tomorrow!

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So go ahead and get wild & crazy with ingredients and sides – we’re in for a long, cold soup season after all :).

Adventures in Beeting

I’ve always been a fan of beets. There’s something earthy and humble about them – all purple and concentric once you peel back a few layers. Pickled beets have been a particular favourite of mine, although until this year, I had to rely on the canning skills and kindness of friends to get my fill. My kitchen usually celebrated their arrival with a nice chocolate beet cake. But no more! This year I tackled the beet beast and managed to can 18 jars, all sliced to (almost) perfection. Here’s what I learned along the way…

1. The ingredient list is short. Just vinegar, salt, sugar and water – plus, of course, the purple beauties themselves.

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2. Beets aren’t nearly as attractive raw and untrimmed as they are cooked and with their tails cut off.

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3. Beets are tricky to peel with gloves on – so much so that I’d risk purple-stained fingertips to do it without them.

4. Beets are even trickier to slice into near-perfect 1/2 inch thick rounds. Gloves are also over-rated in this exercise.

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5. There’s nothing more satisfying than filling a lot of jars with beety goodness.

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6. Even if you end up with dozens of jars, once you’re found out as a keeper of beets, they’ll be gone before you know it!

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7. And then you’re left with only fond memories and beet stains until next season :(.

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Happy beeting, friends!

The Canning Season

I dabbled a bit in canning last year after reading a delicious-sounding recipe for peach salsa. It was quite an adventure, given that I ‘made do” with whatever equipment I had in my kitchen  (i.e. nothing!) at the time. The salsa, nonetheless, turned out well and I was pretty enamoured with canning. Enter Christmas, and a wonderfully thoughtful beginners’ canning kit gift from my in-laws, and I was simply counting down the days to the late summer harvest.

In August, I began reading foodie blogs in earnest to prep for the season. It was on several of them that I was invited to enter a contest to win a copy of a new (and highly-touted) book by Canadian blogger, Amy Bronee, aptly named The Canning Kitchen. And whaddaya know? I won!

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So began my season of canning! Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing my experiences with canning five different recipes this year. And today, I’ll start with the one that was the easiest – crunchy dill pickles.

As with all my canning adventures, I began at St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, where I picked up my straight-from-the-farm ingredients – a huge bunch of dill, 1/2 bushel of pickling cucumbers, and seriously fresh, locally-grown garlic. I had the rest of my ingredients on-hand at home, including pickling vinegar (it’s just white vinegar with 7% acetic acid) and pickling salt (available wherever canning supplies are sold).

Can I just say that this recipe couldn’t be simpler? I scrubbed my cukes in water, cut them into spears, tossed them into my jars with dill and garlic, and covered them in the boiled brine (vinegar, water and salt). For you sticklers, here’s some visual inspiration…

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Of course, I followed the processing recommendations in the recipe – which was a snap with my new-fangled canning supplies. I could fit 10-500 ml jars at a time in my pot and rack combo, and removing them from their 20-minute hot water bath was so much easier with a jar lifter.

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In terms of difficulty, this recipe and process was easily beginner-proof. I’d recommend it to newbie canners just starting out for sure! And the results? 15-500 ml jars of crunchy dills that are ridiculously sought-after by family and friends (really!). Just the confidence booster I needed to set the stage for the rest of my canning adventures!

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So don’t let fear of the unfamiliar hold you back –  if I can do it, anyone can (get it?)! Happy canning :).

Chocolate Zucchini Bread – because veggies are good for you!

A few weeks ago, my colleague Alex shared some of her garden’s zucchini harvest with me. She had a few different varieties and found that they all grew quite well in her garden – all the better for me, I say! Just take a look at these beauties:

Alex's garden has been good to her this year!

Alex’s garden has been good to her this year!

After a little research, I discovered that this versatile veggie actually freezes quite well and is an excellent addition to baked goods. You can’t really taste it, but it adds moisture and texture much like bananas or applesauce might. So I set off to use my handy food processor and shredded the entire line-up! I ended up with 12 cups of it, which I separated into 2-cup Ziplocks to freeze for future use.

Whaaattt? Yes, you can freeze zucchini!

Whaaattt? Yes, you can freeze zucchini!

With my freezer loaded up, I’m all set to bake some veggie goodness throughout the colder months. And today I started with a fantastic Chocolate Zucchini Bread. It’s tasty, moist, and not too sweet. And for those of you who liked my Banana Nut Muffins, you’ll notice some similarities. It also makes use of olive oil and applesauce! This time around, I tried using some disposable tin bread pans in preparation for the holiday gift-giving season. I wanted to try them out to see if they bake nicely (spoiler alert: they do!) so I can make some as hostess or thank you gifts around Christmas. And bonus – they are petite enough to yield two loaves from a single loaf recipe! Here’s the one I used:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C white sugar
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 C applesauce
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 C shredded zucchini (go ahead and let you frozen bag thaw, then drain in a colander before use)
  • 1/2 C chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet Chipets)
  • Cooking spray to oil your pans (I really like Pam’s Baking version)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix first 3 ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Stir in applesauce, then add dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips and mix until incorporated.
Batter up!

Batter up!

  • Pour into oiled pan (or two pans, if you’re using tin ones) and bake for 1 hour.
  • Cool for 10 minutes in pans, then remove to cooling rack (or your belly, whichever you prefer).

I have to be honest and say this was surprisingly good! I wasn’t fond of the smell of the batter (or of zucchini in general!) but once baked, these loaves turned out to be swoon-worthy.

Yep, that's right... I totally tried a piece before it took this pic . #TooGoodToWait

Yep, that’s right… I totally tried a piece before it took this pic . #TooGoodToWait

I hope this post inspires you to pick up some late-season zucchini at your local market and get shredding! Happy baking :).

Banana Nut Birthday Muffins

My hubby celebrated a birthday last weekend, and I started his day off right with his annual birthday breakfast request – Banana Nut Muffins. He’s a stickler for this particular recipe, both because it doesn’t have chocolate chips in it (but hey, add ’em in if you want!) and because it’s not too sweet or dry. I chalk up those last points to using apple sauce – a great alternative to keep sugar down and moisture in.

Mixing the muffins - yum!

Mixing the muffins – yum!

I’m also a bit of a stickler when it comes to making muffins. I insist on using my Pampered Chef muffin stone for the best results. Nothing is better than a muffin that’s slightly crisp on the outside and delightfully moist on the inside! And, honestly, there’s no better stoneware on the market, in my opinion, than tried-and-true Pampered Chef.

So, without further adieu, here’s the recipe. It generally yields 12 big muffins or 24 little ones:

Ingredients:

4-5 ripe bananas

4 tbsps. olive oil

1 C white sugar

1 1/2 C flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 egg

1/2 C apple sauce

3/4 C walnut pieces

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

Mix bananas, sugar, oil and apple sauce. Mash well.

Add flour, baking soda, egg and nuts. Mix well.

Bake @ 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and continue baking for 35 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before removing to cooling rack (or taste-testing – you know, as a quality assurance thing).

Happy baking!

The finished product - delicious success!

The finished product – a delicious success!

Creamy Ham & Potato Soup

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Out of all my easy-to-make recipes, this one has to be my favourite. It’s a hearty and delicious soup that tastes like you spent all day slaving over a hot stove to make it, but it really only takes about an hour, tops (maybe less if you’re better at chopping veggies than I am!). Special thanks to my mom, who gave me this recipe years ago. It makes me look like a culinary genius and I’m grateful :).

Suffice to say, it’s easier to make this if you have some leftover ham from a previous meal. I’ve used both toupie style and non-toupie style hams and really have no preference. If you’re short on time or leftovers, you can absolutely buy a pre-cooked toupie style (or even canned ham) to use here (no judgement!). Trust me, you’re still going to look like a cooking superstar no matter if you cook your own ham or not.

Ingredients:

  • 1+1/2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 rib of celery, diced
  • 1-2 cups of ham, diced
  • 3 tbsps butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup cream or milk (the thicker, the better – but you decide based on what you prefer)
  • Salt & pepper to taste ( I like about 1/2 tsp of pepper and minimal salt)

Method:

  • Melt butter / margarine in a stock pot over medium heat.
  • Stir in carrot, celery, onion, garlic, salt & pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  • Add ham and mix.
  • Stir in flour to coat all ingredients.
  • Stir in broth and water.
  • Heat on high until boiling, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot for any yummy goodness that stuck there.
  • Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Stir in potatoes and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes.
  • Mash lightly with a masher to break down the potatoes, leaving some chunks. Don’t over mash – just enough to make it creamy.
  • Add in cream or milk and stir well.
  • Let simmer for another 5 minutes, just to heat the milk and thicken the soup.
  • Serve with biscuits (I use bisquick mix and it takes 10 minutes. And people think I’m chef).
  • Revel in the adoration of your family and guests.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as my guests do!

Cheers!