shredded chicken tacos

there are some recipes that you should have in your cooking arsenal. .

shredded chicken tacos is totally one of them.

{weeknight chicken tacos} homemade spice mix lends all the flavor to the chicken!_

it’s no secret that tacos rule my ambitious world, but these little tortilla gems are the ultimate crowd pleaser.

everyone – from age 3 to 103 – loves themselves a well-made chicken taco!

for me, shredded chicken tacos are a bit nostalgic because i used to eat them all the time from taco bell in my teens. but for most, shredded chicken is the protein go-to simply because it’s a fail-proof choice!

i know this because the internet told me that america eats a TON of chicken. look what the huffpost taught me:

“In 2012, Americans were eating almost 60 pounds of chicken per person each year.”

holy chick! that’s a lot of chicken!

{weeknight chicken tacos} a fun new trick to shredding chicken!

i digress. back to the taco talk. .

while, i like a lot of toppings + jazzy jazz on top of my tacos, feel free to whip these up under whatever toppings you think is best!

just a dollop of daisy? sure!

a drizzle of salsa? oh yeah!

avocado, jalapenos + crema? now you’re talkin!

this recipe is going to suggest the latter option + i think you should give that a go, but like i said, you do you, awesome internet friend.

{weeknight chicken tacos} flavor packed tacos that are perfect for a busy night - made in under 30 minutes!

lastly, i’m sharing with you a cool trick to shredding chicken!

while some might think it’s a bit overzealous + dirty dish enhancing, i am going to assume you are the humans that don’t mind shredding chicken with the good ‘ol fork method.

as for me, hate it.

so you can imagine that my life was turned up side down lemme take a minute just sit right there when i found out how simple + quick a few blitzes in the stand mixer turned chicken breast into shredded glory!

{weeknight chicken tacos} easy as 1, 2, 3! _

no matter how you shred these tacos up, you’ll be glad you did! the spice mix lends the perfect amount of flavor {bye bye taco spice packets!} + leaves room for you raise the heat with toppings galore!

another bonus: leftovers are serious tupperware royalty! {that is if there are any!}


shredded chicken tacos
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
for the chicken:
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 8oz beer, any kind will do - i used a corona
for the tacos:
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, cut into quarters
  • 8 {4-inch} tortillas, whichever you choose - we like corn!
  • 4oz cojita cheese, crumbled
  • 1 avocado, sliced
for the crema:
  • 3 tablespoons greek yogurt
  • ½ cup half & half
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce {from a can of chipotles in adobo}
  • 1 lime, zested + juiced
  • kosher salt, to taste
Instructions
quick crema:
  1. in a medium bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients to combine. set aside.
shredded chicken tacos:
  1. preheat the oven to 450º
  2. heat an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. add olive oil to the skillet. once the oil is hot, add the chicken to sear on both sides. {about 2 minutes per side}
  4. add the beer to the skillet, cover + place into the oven. let the chicken roast for 20 minutes.
  5. while the chicken is roasting, combine your spice mix.
  6. once the chicken is finished cooking, add only the chicken breast to the bowl of a stand mixer. {there will be pan juices in the skillet - do not drain these! we will need it!}
  7. turn the stand mixer on a low speed to break up the chicken. as it is 'mixing', sprinkle in your spice mix to fully incorporate.
  8. transfer the spiced chicken back into the skillet to combine with the pan juices. {this is keep the chicken super moist}
  9. to assemble the tacos, place the chicken on top of a tortilla, then top with red onion, cilantro, fresh jalapeno, cheese, squeeze of lime juice + a drizzle of the crema! enjoy!

 


cooktip

if using a stand mixer isn’t for you – no fret! you can choose to chop your chicken breast or simply shred it how you know best! {i am assuming this is the fork vs fork method of simply pulling it apart}

another thing to note is the roasting time – which can totally depend on the size of your chicken breast. i typically look for 8oz chicken breast which will roast at the time listed! if you have 6oz breasts then roast for 16 minutes, 10oz breasts will need at least 30 minutes.

tiny leftovers

 leftovers will keep wonderfully in sealed tupperware! the shredded chicken is awesome as a salad or burrito bowl topper! #switchitup

drink

 serve with an ice cold corona. awesomeeeeeeee.

 swap

 i use chicken breast here but chicken thighs would also be delicious! {just adjust cooking time}

shredded chicken also lends well to the traditional shredded ‘taco blend’ cheese you find at the market- go with that instead of the cojita for a gooey cheesetastic spin!

steaks benedict

let’s talk about brunch baybeeee.

let’s talk about eggs beneeeee.

 

let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things brunch can beee.

let’s talk about brunch.

lets talk about brunch!

{steak benedict ingredients}

guys. HAPPY FRIDAY!

i’m back home in chicago today + life just feels great!

want to know something else that feels great?

 

eating steak for breakfast.

 

this recipe today is a little spin on eggs benedict that AJ + i love to whip up any brunch chance we get. it’s kinda like eggs benedict + steak-n-eggs had a baby. we’re going to call it steaks benedict!

{steak benedict ingredients} roasted peppers!

now, i love carbs more than ANY the next guy, but here in my ambitious spin, we’re removing the traditional english muffin + having a protein packed parTAY.

basically, by removing the bread i find it totally acceptable to scoop on an extra large serving of hollandaise. life is all about balance, amiright?

 

next, let’s talk about the elephant in the recipe room. the instruction list looks totally intense! but i did a lot of overexplaining to try + help with the new skills! and although steaks benedict does contain a handful of steps, i suggest to throw some tunes on {stevie wonder is my brunch time jam} and this recipe is a labor of love that’s totally worth it.

 

another great thing about this recipe is the more you make it, the more confident you become with each step!

 

the components -egg poaching, hollandaise-making + steak grilling- are all great kitchen skills to have in your back pocket to be used on their own or in other recipes!

 

and i find that some skills, like poaching an egg, simply take a few tries to understand + get the hang of. so, don’t fret if you break a poached egg or two in the process – i’m sure even alton brown has been there before! grab yourself some toast, sop that spilled yolk right up + try try again!
now, let’s get to it! i hope you find time to treat yo self this weekend with my spin on a classic!

{steak benedict with roasted peppers} we skip the english muffin for a full protein power punch!


steaks benedict
 
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 lb flank steak, cut into 4 servings
  • jalapenos + bell peppers, roasted
  • salt + pepper, to taste
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 4 eggs, poached
  • scallions or chives, for garnish
hollandaise sauce:
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ cup {1 stick} unsalted butter, melted
  • pinch cayenne
  • pinch salt
Instructions
  1. step one of this recipe is to get your peppers roasting.
roasted peppers:
  1. preheat the oven to 500º
  2. lay your peppers on a sheet pan + let them roast at least 15 minutes, until the flesh has softened + they are done to your liking. {we left the skin on ours but if that’s a texture issue for you - simply peel it away!}
  3. next, you will want to make the hollandaise. .
hollandaise:
  1. place a saucepan with ½ cup of water over low heat. you want the water to barely simmer.
  2. while you wait for the water to heat up, vigorously whisk the egg yolks + lemon juice together in a heatproof bowl until the mixture has thickened + doubled in volume. {about 4 minutes}
  3. then, place the bowl over the saucepan containing the barely simmering water {the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl.}
  4. while whisking the mixture, slowly pour in the melted butter.
  5. continue to whisk until thickened + doubled in size.
  6. remove from the heat + season with a pinch of cayenne pepper and salt.
  7. keep the hollandaise warm until ready to serve. {if it gets too thick, you can add in a few drops of water to break it up.}
  8. before poaching the eggs, you’ll want to grill your steak.
grilled steak:
  1. heat a grill pan {or grill} to medium-high heat.
  2. season the steak with salt, pepper + cayenne.
  3. grill the steak 3 minutes per side, for medium rare.
  4. remove from heat + let it rest while you poach the eggs.
poached eggs:
  1. bring a medium saucepan of water to a low boil. {you want the water barely quivering}
  2. add a splash of white vinegar to the water.
  3. carefully break one egg into a small dish {a mug works great too} + gently tip the egg into the water. stir the water around the edges with a wooden spoon. you want the water to essentially swirl around the egg.
  4. let it cook for 4 minutes {you can continue to swirl the water around it} + carefully remove the egg with a slotted spoon, allowing the water to drain. serve immediately or let sit {somewhere safe} until ready!
  5. you’re all done! now, simply assemble all of your steps!
  6. steak on the bottom, roasted peppers laid on top of the steak, place the poached egg on top of that + drizzle the hollandaise over everything! a garnish of sliced scallions or chives round out the whole dish with that fresh herb kick! enjoy!

 


 swap

you can skip the roasted peppers or speed things up by using jarred peppers! but if you choose the jarred route – be conscious of the salt added to the rest of the dish, as anything jarred tends to pack a serious salt punch.

chickpea + cauliflower tacos with lime crema

i’d like to start this monday morning off by blowing your mind!

have you heard of the phrase ‘meatless monday’?

{lime crema for the tacos}

great! so have i!

as an avid blog reader + pinterest peruser it’s pretty hard to not be familiar with the phrase ‘meatless monday’ – it’s everywhere!

since starting to really focus on meal planning that little ideal was always in the back of my mind, so naturally, my monday recipe slot has been filled with a veggie forward salad or a fish taco here and there.

all this while, in my ambitious brain, i thought the idea of going meatless on a monday was coined by a fabulous blogger who had just come off a weekend filled with booze + encased meats fun!

 

but!

{here’s the mind blowing part. .}

turns out. .

{roasted chick peas + cauliflower}_

. .meatless monday was coined during World War I!

SAAAYYY WHAAAAAAT!

as the internet story goes, the US food administration started the ‘meatless monday’ campaign to encourage american families to go meatless on mondays in efforts to reduce consumption of key war staples. super smart, right!?

well, more than 13 million american families thought so! that is the number that signed a pledge to aid in the war efforts by simply cutting meat out of their meals to start the week!

due to the success of that campaign during WWI, it was brought back into the headlines during WWII + revived by a jazzy ad man + health advocate as a public health awareness campaign in 2003.

and since that revival ‘meatless monday’ has been on the rise + in the headlines daily ever since!

is your mind blown?

phew! mine too!

{roasted chickpea + cauliflower tacos with a lime crema} so tasty! so easy!_

so in honor of the coolest thing you’ve learned today, let’s get to the recipe!

today, we’ve got cauliflower + chickpea tacos on the meatless monday menu!

the crunch from the roasted cauliflower + chickpeas is delightful. the spice mix heats things up while the lime crema comes in a cools things down and i think the crunch of fresh jalapenos are a must here  – but feel free to tone down the heat by opting for a milder fresh pepper {like an anaheim!}.

next monday {or any day! like tomorrow!}, give these a try!

they’re meatless, they’re tacos + they’re healthy. it’s a match made in monday heaven sure to make that 2003 ad man SUPER proud!


chickpea + cauliflower tacos
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
for the roasted cauliflower + chickpeas:
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 lime, zested + juiced {you'll want approximately 2 tablespoons of lime juice}
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 {15 oz.} can of chickpeas, drained + rinsed
  • 1 small head cauliflower, washed + cut into bite-size florets
for the tacos:
  • 1 cup red cabbage, finely sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced + seeds removed
  • 1 large avocado, seed removed + diced
  • Chopped cilantro, to garnish
  • Corn tortillas, for serving
for the crema:
  • ¼ cup plain greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 lime, zested + juiced {you'll want approximately 2 tablespoons of lime juice}
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • kosher salt + pepper, to taste
Instructions
for the cauliflower + chickpeas:
  1. preheat your oven to 400º
  2. in a mixing bowl, whisk together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt, lime juice, olive oil + water.
  3. stir the chickpeas + cauliflower florets into the above mixture. tossing to coat. place seasoned chickpeas + cauliflower on a greased baking sheet.
  4. roast the mixture for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally during cooking, until chickpeas are slightly crispy + cauliflower is tender.
  5. remove from oven + set aside.
for the lime crema:
  1. place the greek yogurt or sour cream in a small bowl or food processor.
  2. add fresh lime juice + cilantro, mixing well. season with salt + pepper, to taste.
to assemble the tacos:
  1. build the roasted cauliflower + chickpeas on top of a corn tortilla. top with red cabbage, jalapeño slices, avocado + cilantro.
  2. drizzle the lime crema over the tacos + enjoy!
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 tacos + ¼ of the crema Calories: 365 Fat: 10 Sugar: 7 Sodium: 1036 Fiber: 14 Protein: 14

 


rsz_1rsz_11rsz_get-the-facts-clipart-7540461

 research shows that monday is the perfect day to make small, positive changes. the repeating cycle of the week allows monday -52 times a year- to be the day people commit to all kinds of healthy behaviors.

the above fact + the cool meatless monday history is from this site!

swap

this recipe calls for red cabbage which can usually only be found at your grocery store in a big ‘ol bundle.. if you want to sub in any kind of cabbage you have on-hand or even an undressed coleslaw mix both work great!

tiny lightbulb

these tacos are an awesome addition to a taco party lineup! giving guests a veggie-only option among a meat-heavy taco world is something really exciting!

 

chinese chicken lettuce wraps

since starting to share recipes on kelly’s ambitious kitchen i have posted 32 recipes! crazy right? of those 32 recipes, 6 of them are categorized in the asian world. {count em! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6}

wanna know a fun fact?

the ‘asian food world’ is one i frequent the least! i’m talking anything from china town authentic to the asian zing salad at TGIF. when the day runs late + takeout is the only answer, the boyfriend will always choose a pb&j over the chinese stand down the road. asian food + it’s broad range is always last pick on our kickball team.

{chicken lettuce wraps} pf changs - watch out! these lettuce wraps take under 15 minutes to cook!then why are you sharing so many asian recipes + equipping them with phrases like ‘they’re the best’ and ‘you must make these!’?

guys. i think it’s directly because of that fun fact above! while we might always. everytime. choose a taco joint over a thai restaurant – i love to whip up a homemade teriyaki + heat up the wok on my own stove.. so when you think about it that way, it kinda makes sense! right?

yeah. i’m not falling for it either.

{chicken lettuce wraps} pf changs - watch out! these lettuce wraps take under 15 minutes to cook!!

basically. here i am sharing with you a recipe for lettuce wraps that would make any chinese restaurant blush. they are also BEYOND easy -we’re talking under 15 minutes people- and they’re a bit nostalgic for any PF Changs lovers out there, yeah you know where you’re at! and guess what?

they’re the best + you must make them!

{chicken lettuce wraps} pf changs - watch out!_


chinese chicken lettuce wraps
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • ¼ cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 1 {8oz} can sliced water chestnuts, drained, rinsed + diced
  • 5 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 head butter lettuce, leaves pulled apart
  • chow mein noodles, for garnish
Instructions
  1. heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. add ground chicken, onion, garlic + ginger to the skillet. cook the mixture until browned {about 3-5 minutes} making sure to crumble the ground chicken as it cooks.
  3. while the chicken mix is browning - mix together the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger + sriracha.
  4. add in the hoisin sauce mixture, water chestnuts + green onions to the browned chicken mix, stir to combine + cook until the green onions are tender {about 2-3 minutes}
  5. to serve the lettuce wraps, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf + top with chow mein noodles, wrap the sides up + enjoy!
Notes
special shout out to the amazing blogger,Chungah, over at Damn Delicious". my take here is very slightly adapted from what she has posted - she never fails to impress + inspire!


tiny leftovers

this chicken mix is no exception to the ‘chinese food is king of the leftover world’ theory. just be sure to seal anything left over in an air-tight tupperware + serve your lettuce fresh each time!

tiny one

 anything that holds well as a leftover is perfect for a serving of 1! you’ll get more meals than just one + that makes you the big winner here!

tiny lightbulb

while i love these as a stand-alone for lunch or dinner, these lettuce wraps are a killer appetizer option. super easy to bring to a friends {one bowl of ground chicken mix + one plate of lettuce leaves} + a cinch to reheat for when the partay is ready!

 

 

grilled peach + burrata salad with balsamic glaze

what’s better than a gorgeous ripe summer peach?

{burrata + grilled peach arugula salad with balsamic glaze} summer fresh peaches!

a gorgeous ripe summer peach GRILLED.

seriously though.

have you experimented with grilled fruits at all? well, i had not. and turns out my life has been seriously missing out on a really fantastic food decision!

{burrata + grilled peach arugula salad with balsamic glaze} summer fresh peaches - grilled!

and so, in celebration of this cooking method, i’m sharing with you a fantastic summer salad that is jam packed with an all-star player -the grilled peach.

{burrata + grilled peach arugula salad with balsamic glaze} perfect summer salad!

another thing i loved about this salad was the ease of it!

hey kelly, salads are always really easy. it’s a pile of things in a bowl.

i know i know. but i loved how you lay down the bed of greens, tear apart the burrata, top with the grilled mvps + drizzle away with a sweet balsamic glaze. it’s just a lovely little carefree cooking experience!

as most of my friday shares – this salad is wonderful for entertaining! it’s gorgeous, looks impressive + in most cases will introduce someone at the dinner table about a great way to incorporate fruit into a savory dinner treat!

{burrata + grilled peach arugula salad with balsamic glaze} just a few fresh ingredients for an amazing summer salad!
enjoy! and happy friday!


grilled peach + burrata salad with balsamic glaze
 
Ingredients
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
for the balsamic glaze:
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
for the salad:
  • 3 peaches, sliced in half + pits removed
  • 5oz arugula + spinach greens mix
  • 1 ball burrata cheese
Instructions
first, you will want to make the caramelized onions. heat olive oil in a skillet over low heat. spread the thinly sliced red onions in a single layer in the pan + let them caramelize, stirring occasionally. this process should take about 20 minutes.
  1. when the onions are brown + translucent, add the balsamic vinegar stirring to combine. remove the onions from the pan + set aside.
to make the glaze, combine balsamic vinegar + brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. when mixture simmers, turn the heat down to low + let bubble until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. let cool + set aside
  1. heat a grill pan over medium heat. oil the peaches + grill the peaches.
  2. finally, assemble the salad. layer the greens down, rip the burrata over the salad, place the peaches over everything + finish with the glaze.

 

strawberry, mint, lime + cucumber cocktail refresher

guys.

summer is hot.

water is refreshing.

vodka is always sometimes necessary.

{strawberry, cucumber, lime + mint infused water}

it’s the 11th of the month! and i thought for today’s cocktail celebration i would share a short-n-sweet infused water recipe that i’ve given a little adult kick in the shorts. plus there’s TONS of fruit so it’s basically healthy for you.

a healthy cocktail?

that means you can comfortably sip away until your hearts content WHILE wearing skinny jeans.

BIG WIN.

{strawberry, cucumber, lime + mint infused water} add a bit of vodka for a cocktail kick!

all you’re going to do is hit the farmers market {so local of you!}, stock up on the most gorgeous strawberries, limes + cukes you can find.

then once you get home, you’re going to turn on some jams {i suggest a danceable mix} + slice those fruit beauties into thin pieces.

next, you snip some mint from the mint plant you’re growing above your sink {not you? well you should get one! i’ve kept one alive for 3 weeks and i’ve killed plastic plants before, true story}

all that slicing + sniping should have taken the length of two danceable songs. then you’ll grab a jar, pitcher – whatever ya got + combine it all! if you’ve got the time, it’s best to let the water sit in the fridge for a bit, to get all infused n stuff. but if time isn’t on your side then serving it right away will not disappoint!

then once you’re alone + ready your guests arrive, fill a glass to the brim {is it brim or rim?} with ice cubes, pour yourself a desired amount of vodka + top with your gorgeous infused water! don’t forget to use a trendy paper straw, cause you’re like so hot right now.

{strawberry, cucumber, lime + mint cocktail refresher} infused water with a hint of vodka for a great summer cocktail!

this insanely refreshing recipe is a total win across the board.. it’s wonderful for entertaining, it can be jazzed up with the hooch + it can impress all on it’s own!

so i suggest to mix up a big batch + keep it in your fridge {no longer than 2 days – unless drinking mold is your thing..} and when that july heat brings you to brink of thirst town – pour yourself a big ‘ol glass for an instant cool down!


strawberry, mint, lime + cucumber infused water cocktail
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup cucumbers, sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
  • ice cubes
  • water
  • vodka, for serving
Instructions
  1. in a large pitcher or jar, layer the strawberries, cucumbers, lime slices + mint leaves with the ice cubes.
  2. fill the container to the brim with cold water
  3. let the water chill - the longer the better!
  4. pour 1.5 oz vodka {or more to taste} into a glass, top with infused water + enjoy!

 


tiny lightbulb

 for an ice-cold treat, stick your serving glasses in the freezer before guests arrive! the only thing better than an ice cold infused water cocktail is one served in a frosty mug!

swap

a fun flavor swap is to use sparkling water instead of still. if you do so, i would suggest making the infused water as the recipe lists + simply stretching it by pouring your cocktails with half still + top with the sparkling water for the bubbly effect {so the sparkling doesn’t lose it’s fizz!}. if you’re serving it right away then you’re golden to use sparkling solo!

drink

 vodka isn’t the only choice here! a quality gin or silver tequila would be great swap-ins!

rsz_1rsz_11rsz_get-the-facts-clipart-7540461

 rim + brim both refer to the edge of a glass or cup, but there is one small difference: rim refers generally to the outside edge of a cup or glass, brim usually refers to the inside edge.

so. you’ll want to fill your glass to the brim!

 afterthought

the water is refreshing + works beautifully as a twofer: mocktail + cocktail. BUT. this would make for the most AMAZING sangria using white wine with a sweet prosecco – that trial has been added to the menu plan for next week. .

 

the cubano

cuban pressed sandwich. cuban mix. mixto. cubano.

whatever you call it, it’s an absolute sandwich party in your mouth.

{cubano sandwich} M E A T! pork shoulder is marinated in a fragrant dry rub_

being a bit of a florida-phobe in my younger years {so. many. bugs.} i knew nothing of the state’s beloved cubano {that’s the name i choose, then i usually snap my fingers above my head + pretend i’m salsa dancing}

but within weeks of knowing AJ, he had lovingly introduced me to the layered sub-style sandwich that sits among his favorite foods. and well, today is AJ’s birthday {WOOO! BIRTHDAYS!} so what better day than to share how i layer up one of his favorites!

but first, let’s take a selfie let’s learn a bit about the precious sandwich because turns out the cubano is a pretty controversial topic.

isn’t it just a variation of a ham + cheese sandwich? oh no, my friend! besides it’s few names, there’s also a few variations depending on what southern florida city you’re in! so, let’s get educated!

{cubano sandwich} this is a slow-cooker take on the classic sandwich! fragrant pork shoulder, ham, mustard, swiss + pickles - yum!

in the early 20th century, travel was easy from cuba to the cities of south florida, from key west to tampa. the cubano was often made in the cafes of these communities to cater to the cuban workers on their lunch breaks! the cubano was then later brought by cuban exiles to miami, where it is still culturally ingrained.

while every cubano aficionado has their own version, it is primarily agreed upon that the sandwich is constructed of layers of roasted pork, glazed ham, swiss cheese, thinly sliced dill pickles + yellow mustard on cuban bread that is buttered on both sides + warmed up in a sandwich press.

as for the variations, tampa likes to push the envelope by including salami in the layered mix. this addition is believed to have come about due to the italian immigrants that were also apart of the tampa immigrant community.

and some delis will offer mayo, lettuce + tomato to join the party but any such inclusions are frowned upon by traditionalists – no matter what city cafe counter you’re bellied up to!

{cubano sandwich} this is a slow-cooker take on the classic sandwich!_

as for my ambitious version, i utilize the slow cooker for a mojo-marinated pork shoulder, stick to the agreed upon ingredients {no salami here!} + grill the bread because i love the flavor the char from the grill adds to the richness of the piled meat.

now, if i could get my hands on authentic cuban bread i would 100% include that in the mix, but an italian or french loaf is always readily available in my local markets. as long as the bread you choose is a long, crusty loaf with tender interior then you’re going to be a happy cubano camper!

summed up:

key west + miami style→ keeps it classic

tampa style→ classic with a salami spin

working girl style→ classic with a slow cooker secret

however you build it, you’ll be glad you did! the cubano is not to be missed! enjoy!


the cubano
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 6 heavy-handed sandwiches
Ingredients
mojo-marinated pork:
  • 1 {3 lb} pork shoulder, trimmed of as much fat as possible
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups orange juice, fresh squeezed
  • 4 limes, juiced
cubano ingredients:
  • 6 slices of ham {any deli ham will do, i used a black forest ham}
  • 6 slices swiss cheese
  • yellow mustard, to taste
  • thinly sliced dill pickles, to taste {about 3 slices per sandwich}
  • cuban bread, cut into 7 inch sandwich lengths. {if cuban bread is not available, an italian or french loaf will substitute just fine!}
Instructions
  1. in a small bowl, combine the cumin, oregano + salt.
  2. evenly rub the spices onto the pork shoulder.
  3. heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high + sear the pork until browned on all sides {about 8 minutes}
  4. transfer the pork to a slow cooker.
  5. add the smashed garlic, onion, orange juice + lime juice over the top of the pork.
  6. cook on low for 6-8 hours {3-4 hours on high}, or until the meat falls apart.
  7. remove the pork from the juices in the slow cooker and to a cutting board. you may choose to shred it or slice the pork as best as you can.
  8. heat a grill over medium heat.
  9. lightly butter the outside {top + bottom ala grilled cheese style} of the bread + build your sandwich from the bottom up: folded ham slice, roasted pork pieces, swiss cheese, dill pickles + mustard.
  10. grill the sandwich until golden, remove to a plate + enjoy!
Notes
slightly adapted from one of my favorite bloggers, bev cooks.

 


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feel free to adapt your sandwich with the additions that speak to you! tampa style {adding salami} is really yummy as is using a dijon or spicy brown mustard in place of the yellow.

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a great way to repurpose the ingredients is to layer everything in quesadilla form {be sure to up the cheese count}. for entertaining, slider or crostini style is the perfect choice!

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if you have ghee in your possession, use that for the buttering of the bread! ghee will stand up better to the high heat of the grill! {so your bread doesn’t turn all nearly-burnt like you see in my photos!}

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if i have not convinced you to give the sandwich a go then i suggest watching the movie ‘chef’. mainly because it’s a fun flic but mostly because it tells the story of jon favreau commandeering a cubano food truck from miami to cali. after an hour of watching cubanos being expertly built in the tiny little kitchen with ease you’ll crave one of your own {the sandwich that is. not the kitchen on wheels}. guaranteed, or your money back. from someone, not me.

tex-mex lasagna

i would like to introduce you to one of the very first recipes i cooked up in my ambitious kitchen.

drum roll, please. . .

{tex mex lasagna} the ground chicken tex mex mix is great on it's own!

it’s my girl {cause we’re like friends n stuff} rachael ray’s mexican lasagna!

i came across rachaels {we’re like first-name-basis-friends} recipe when searching the food network site for a 30-minute meal that actually lived up to it’s claim. and after perusing what felt like 200 comments, i was thoroughly convinced that this recipe would hit the table in a half hour.

{tex mex lasagna} nice firm layers is the key to a perfect slice!

well, i wish i could kiss rach {nicknames are for best friends} + all those commentators right on the forehead because this mexican lasagna was sitting stove-top, ready to be served in UNDER 30 minutes – all at the hand of a very amateur cook.

{tex mex lasagna} a thirty minute meal with TONS of flavor!

since that glorious first day, the mexican lasagna + i have met biweekly for nearly 5 years now!

while the cook time was originally the first thing to draw me in, i must say the leftovers are the true MVP.

after dinner, i will simply divvy them into tupperware + lunch is handled for a few days! they hold wonderfully + heat up like dream.

so i think it’s about time to share the few flavor changes i have made + most importantly, give a big shout out to my bestie {rachael. duh} for creating a weeknight grand slam!

{tex mex lasagna} a thirty minute meal that's sure to be a crowd pleaser!


tex-mex lasagna
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4 generous servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb ground chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 {4 oz} can diced green chiles
  • 1 {15 oz} can black beans, drained + rinsed
  • 1 cup taco sauce
  • 8 {8 inch} flour tortillas, cut into ¼ wedges
  • 2 ½ cups shredded mexican blend cheese
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced
Instructions
  1. preheat the oven to 425º
  2. spray a 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
  3. in a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, kosher salt + smoked paprika, set aside.
  4. heat a large skillet over medium-high heat + add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. once the oil is hot, add the garlic + cook until golden {about 60 seconds}
  6. next, add ground chicken, jalapeno + red onion. season the mix with the spice mix.
  7. brown the meat {about 5 minutes}
  8. add taco sauce, black beans, cilantro + diced green chiles to the meat mixture, stirring to combine.
  9. heat the mixture through {2-3 minutes}
  10. grab your greased baking dish + start to build the lasagna in layers tortilla on the bottom, then the chicken mix, top with cheese.
  11. repeat the layers {tortilla, meat, cheese} until all ingredients are used up. {if using a 9x9 pan you should end up with 3 meat layers}
  12. bake lasagna 14 minutes, until cheese is brown + bubbly. {you may broil at the this time to brown the cheese!}
  13. serve each slice topped with scallions + enjoy!
Notes
recipe adapted from {my pretend bestie}, rachael ray.

 


cooktip

 sometimes lasagnas don’t seem to hold together very well for cutting + serving, here is my tip!

when placing down each meat layer, use the back of your spoon/spatula to firmly press down the mix to create a nice even layer.

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meat swap: in my ambitious kitchen, ground chicken will always trump ground turkey. but feel free to make a swap-a-doodle-do to meet your taste preferences. you could also choose to use ground beef {make sure you drain the fat before mixing with the other ingredients!} or a ground vegan option, like seitan!

as for the veggies: empty that produce drawer! use up whatever you have on hand that you can talk into believing it fits the tex mex bill. rachael’s recipe uses corn kernals, which tickles somes fancy!

for the taco sauce: i have used nearly every kind of salsa as well as canned roasted tomatoes {14oz}

for the tortillas: i usually opt for flour tortillas with this recipe, but corn tortillas work great as does a fun flavored tortilla, like the spinach tortillas originally suggested by rachael ray.
tiny one

cooking for one? don’t shy away from casseroles! i personally think big bakes, like this one, are the best for you – you get dinner + literally a week of lunches/pre-made dinners.

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a great spin on this dish is to cook up the ground chicken mix + serve it taco-style in tortillas!
drink

 the huff post tells me that a medium-bodied red, like pinot noir is the best choice for a tex mex dish like this! look for the strawberry-scented Redtree {$10! holla!}. ice-cold beer + margs are also a solid choice.

rsz_1rsz_11rsz_get-the-facts-clipart-7540461before you jump my lingo gun, i know this is not technically a lasagna – no wavy noodles here! but. lasagna’s are layered! plus, tex mex ground chicken layered tortilla bake just doesn’t sound as awesome.

 

coconut shrimp with an orange-dijon dipping marmalade

learning to cook has been such a fun journey thus far.

one of the coolest parts is learning new techniques! adding to your arsenal of cooking skills is an instant confidence booster behind the kitchen battlelines, it makes new recipes seem like a down-hill journey instead of a daily chore. {coconut shrimp} just a few ingredients!_

being in my late twenties, the first collection of recipes i gravitated towards were more on the healthy side of the fence.. honey-habanero salmon, grilled veggie stack, lemon chicken – you get the idea.

but, sometimes an awesome fried fish taco would come across my pinterest feed + i would get all heart-eyed-emoji. then. i would quickly remember that frying was not yet in my skill set.

truth be told, it wasn’t the cheat day aura of fried things that kept me away.. i was actually SO nervous to learn how to fry something. all that hot oil + sizzling seemed incredibly intimidating.{orange, dijon + chili dipping marmalade}

so one adventurous afternoon, i could no longer suppress my coconut shrimp cravings + i went for it!

set the pot on the stove, glugged the oil in, heated it up + surrendered my first little coconut shrimp into the golden sea of crackling oil… guess what happened?

the little shrimper turned out perfect! perfectly brown! perfectly crunchy! perfectly cooked!

instantly, my confidence went through the roof, i then convinced myself i was a frying master + i served up a coconut shrimp dish that any restaurant would be proud of! {well.. maybe the applebees kind, not the michelin star kind}{coconut shrimp with orange-dijon dipping marmalade} 2

what goes best with a fried dish? a treadmill dipping sauce!

so the orange-dijon dipping marmalade was born.

i combined delicious dip gems that caught my eye into this cooling yet flavorful dipping sauce!

there’s sweet from the orange marmalade, there’s heat from the dijon + there’s a zing from the chili paste. it’s a dipping sauce coat that any coconut shrimp would be proud to wear!

enjoy! {+ happy fourth of july weekend!}


coconut shrimp
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
coconut shrimp
  • 3 cups canola oil
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled + deveined
  • ½ cup flour {i used all-purpose}
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • salt + pepper, to season
orange-dijon dipping marmalade
  • ½ cup orange marmalade
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup chili paste
Instructions
coconut shrimp
  1. in a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat canola oil over medium high heat.
  2. gather 3 mixing bowls. place them in a line to set up an assembly line for your breading process.
  3. in the first bowl, place the flour
  4. in the second bowl, beat the two eggs
  5. in the third mixing bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs + shredded coconut.
  6. season your shrimp with salt + pepper
  7. working one at a time, dredge shrimp in the flour, dip into the eggs, then dredge in the coconut mixture, pressing to coat.
  8. working in batches, add shrimp to the hot oil. fry until evenly golden brown + crispy, about 2-3 minutes. transfer the shrimp to a paper towel-lined plate.
  9. serve immediately with orange-dijon dipping marmalade + enjoy!
orange-dijon dipping marmalade:
  1. combine all of the ingredients.
Notes
slightly adapted from the always amazing, damn delicious

 


cooktip

to test if your oil is ready for the shrimps, toss a breadcrumb into the oil! if it sizzles then you are all good to go! {remove the breadcrumb if you can, otherwise it will burn + leave a bitter taste in your oil batch}

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 while these make for an awesome appetizer, incorporating them into a main meal is super easy! i like to treat the shrimps as the “chicken on top of a salad” + chop them bite-size, serving them over your favorite asian-inspired salad {this would be great!}. guess what else they would be awesome on-top of? my rainbow ramen salad! ..and i didn’t even do that on purpose! #winning!

red, white + blue jello shots

i really dig traditions.

growing up my mom + aunt always threw the best bashes. they were the hostesses with the mostesses for everything!

they hosted nearly all of our family holidays, an irish fest up at our lakehouse and of course, all of their social get togethers. i can remember them hosting, with my two year old little body hangin’ on their hip, and them always nailing it with the biggest smile on their faces – always!

decor: check!

food + drinks: check!

humans having fun: check! check! check!

{festive red, white + blue jello shots} be the star of your holiday festivities!

so, when i started growing into my adult years, i got more + more excited with each passing year to start filling some big time hostess shoes! and i surely wasn’t going to let a 600 square foot apartment stop my party genes!

the first holiday i got to host was one of my all time favorites – the fourth of july. what’s not to love? there’s grilled meats, warm weather, cold drinks + the sky ACTUALLY sparkles, people! it’s the best!

and just as my mentors taught me, what does every bash need? that’s right! a signature cocktail!

so with the inaugural holiday hosting, aj’s mad jello shot skills + our thirsty twenties upon us, it was a no-brainer that red, white + blue jello shots were just the tradition for us to start!

as the tradition goes, we invite our friends over, who then spread the word + everyone gathers around our apartment for a whole day of casual celebrating! of course, aj + i keep our end of the deal and mix up a batch of 100 of these festive tricolor beauties + every year there isn’t one left after the day is done!

as for the execution, don’t let the layers scare you! the jello shots are crazy simple but do take a kim k buttload of patience.

so the day before your party, turn on some bruce springsteen, put a koozie on your budweiser + take your time! the labor is guaranteed to bring on the love! enjoy!


red, white + blue jello shots
 
Serves: 50 jello shots
Ingredients
red + blue layers:
  • 3oz box of red Jello
  • 3oz box of blue Jello
  • 2 cups vodka {i used unflavored}
  • 2 cups water
white layer:
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • ⅔ cup vanilla vodka
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Knox powdered gelatin
  • 1 ½ tablespoons water
Instructions
blue layer:
  1. heat 1 cup water, add blue jello mix + stir until dissolved.
  2. add 1 cup vodka + stir to combine.
  3. distribute the liquid evenly into your shot cups - filling the cups only ⅓ full!
  4. refrigerate, about 1-2 hours, until completely set.
white layer: this is the most difficult part of these tricolor shots!
  1. place powdered gelatin + water in small bowl, let soak for 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to bloom.
  2. in a medium saucepan, heat cream, milk, sugar + vanilla extract to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  3. remove the saucepan from heat, add gelatin mix + stir to dissolve.
  4. once dissolved, add vanilla vodka. let cool 10-15 minutes.
  5. distribute the white liquid over the blue, filling up another ⅓ of the way!
  6. refrigerate, about 1-2 hours, until completely set.
red layer: this layer is the same process as the blue. .
  1. heat 1 cup water, add red jello mix + stir until dissolved.
  2. add 1 cup vodka + stir to combine.
  3. let the liquid cool completely, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. distribute the red liquid over the white layer, filling up the last ⅓ of the way!
  5. refrigerate, about 1-2 hours, until completely set.
  6. once they have completely set you are done! ‘garnish’ each shot glass with a patriotic toothpick {this helps get the jello shot out for easy no-mess shooting} + enjoy {safely!}

 


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this recipe is as strong as it gets!  i do not suggest to make them stronger by increasing the alcohol because the gelatin in the jello needs the water to set the alcohol {you’ll end up with an unset goopy mess – trust me!}. if you’re looking to tone down the alcohol content, i recommend using 1 ¼ cups water to ¾ cups vodka. you may also make these into a mockshot by omitting the alcohol all together! simply make three jello-only layers for a festive dessert for all ages + preferences!

swap

i use unflavored vodka for the red + blue layers because my freezer is always stocked but also to let the jello flavors shine instead of competing with each other. but -as always- get creative + feel free to kick up the flavors by trying a blue raspberry vodka in the blue layer + a cherry vodka in the red – or whatever floats your flavor combo boat!

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use this same recipe for inspiration on other holidays or get togethers! orange, white + green is great for st patricks day, school colors for a college graduation is fun or use shades of pink for your best friends bachlorette to start the night off right!

cooktip

 set your shot cups up on a large jelly roll pan – this makes moving the shots a breeze! be sure to clear a level space in your fridge for the pan to easily slide in + out! when the jello mixture is still in liquid form how it sets up will depend on how level your cups are sitting!

if your saucepan does not have a spout for easy pouring into each cup then i recommend using a liquid measuring cup to make it easy on you! don’t rush your pours – all that will do will lead to lost jello which will flub your pretty 1/3 pours!

tiny leftovers

these take about 6 hours from start to finish so feel free to make them the day before they are needed! by the laws of jello, the shots will “technically” hold for a week, but experience has taught us that they loose their oomph after 48 hours. if your cups have lids then you can stretch it to a few days.