Sunday Night Dinner: Bruschetta Chicken

Tonight’s edition of Sunday Night Dinner is Bruschetta Chicken. It’s a pretty perfect summer dish, and since it was 60 degrees in Minneapolis today, it seemed appropriate. Plus, it’s super easy to make! I threw some roasted vegetables on the plate as well, so all and all a pretty balanced meal.

First up is the bruschetta. It’s pretty simply. Garlic, basil, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Toss it all together and then set aside.

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Hey summer, nice to see you.

Before I started cooking the chicken, I popped some asparagus and broccoli, along with some red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon and olive oil, and some parmesan cheese for good measure, in the oven at 450 for about 15 minutes, to get them all nice and roasted.

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Tonight, I cooked the chicken in butter, since I was using olive oil in two other places, and it was a beautiful thing.

Butter

Butter

It was a pretty easy meal, and pretty delicious, if I do say so myself. Try it out next time you need a little summer on your dinner plate.

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Bruschetta Chicken

10 cherry tomatoes, diced

10 leaves basil, chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

8 slices fresh mozzarella

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tbsp butter

Salt and pepper

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Melt 2tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat, add 2 chicken breasts. Cook until golden brown, 5-10 minutes per side. Slice chicken, place 4 slices mozzarella over each chicken breast and then top with about 3 tbsp of bruschetta.

 

Blue and Gold Pride

In the Spring of 2004, I was signing up for high school classes with my counselor. The normal classes were all there – geometry, English, Spanish, theater. When it came time to pick a science class, I told my counselor I wanted to take ag biology – I had heard being in an ag science class was a requirement to be in FFA, and I wanted to raise market animals for the county fair like I did in 4-H. My counselor proceeded to tell me that if I wanted to go to college, I should take regular biology. Not even knowing what I was fighting for, I told her I would get into college just fine in four years, and insisted on taking the ag science class. And thank God I did. Image

Getting myself involved in the National FFA Organization was the best decision I have made thus far in my life. It wasn’t just biology from an agricultural standpoint and raising calves for fair. Suddenly, I found myself in an organization dedicated at every level to my success in school and life. I had a team of ag teachers who dedicated their lives to helping students like me and thousands of others reach their full potential in whatever field we chose.

My freshman year, my ag biology teacher encouraged me to sign-up for the California State FFA Conference, which was a pivotal moment for me. Attending that conference truly opened my eyes to all the opportunities FFA could provide and how far the organization could take me. The next four years found me competing in public speaking contests at various levels, participating in career development events across the state, traveling across the country to meet with other FFA members and pushing myself to run for leadership positions, all of which helped me develop those crucial professional skills I use every day in my career.

Being in FFA helped me find my passion – sharing agriculture’s story with others. Despite what my high school counselor told me as a 14-year-old, I knew I was always going to go to college, but FFA helped me personally figure out what I would do in life. In fact, my journey to college would have been much more difficult without ag education – my FFA participation qualified me for scholarships that basically paid for my first year of college. It still makes me upset when I think about my counselor discouraging me from taking ag biology, and wonder how many students she did talk out of it, denying them the opportunity to get involved in such a positive organization.

If I had not participated in FFA, I have no idea where life would have taken me. I can’t imagine my time in high school without FFA, and can’t imagine what would happen if the Ag Incentive Grant is cut from the California state budget, threatening ag education programs throughout the state. FFA helps students find their passion and potential, from agricultural communications to welding. I constantly thank the National FFA Organization and my team of high school ag teachers for getting me to where I am today. I am one of millions of students the organization will affect over its time, but it have the same positive effect on every single one of us. So thank you, FFA. I owe you. Happy FFA Week!

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Pinterest + crock pot = yummy yummy things. I’ve been pretty honest about my Pinterest successes and failures in the past, and tonight’s meal is definitely filed under the success category. I combined two recipes I found on Pinterest and combined them to work for me (originally recipes can be found here and here).

Step 1: Combine all the ingredients except the chicken in the crock pot. Yep, that easy.

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Step 2: Add the chicken breast to the mixture – just press it in to the base.

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Step 3: Cook for five and a half hours on low.

Step 4: Read a book or take a nap. Or both. I did.

Step 5: After five and a half hours, remove the chicken and shred with two forks, then add back in to the crock pot, mixing it in. This will help any excess liquid get absorbed, which is helpful if you’re planning on making tacos like I am.

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Meat!

Step 6: Let simmer, covered, for another 30 minutes. Then serve with 6-inch tortillas, or on it’s own, with a little Mexican cheese on top!

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Yep, pretty simple. And delicious.

Ingredients 

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast (about 3 breasts)

Juice of 2 limes

1 lb frozen corn

2 small onion, diced

1 cup salsa

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can black beans

1 package taco seasoning

1 cup cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish

1 cup chicken broth

Mix all ingredients except chicken in the crockpot. Add in the whole chicken breasts, setting them on top and pressing into other ingredients. Cook on low for five and a half hours. Remove chicken from crock pot, shred and return to crock pot. Cook for another 30 minutes. Serve in tortillas or on their own, with cilantro and Mexican cheese. Serves 6.

Nutrition (does not include toppings or tortillas, as calculated by MyFitnessPal):

302 calories

36g carbohydrates

3g fat

33g protein

1,229mg sodium

9g sugar

Progress

While my California family and friends are suffering through the worst drought since the 1970s, I’m over here in Minnesota wishing I could send some snow and cooler temperatures their way — it would be beneficial for both parties. The Twin Cities has had a fair amount of snow, but it’s the cold that has caused schools to close 3 times (probably a 4 as of tomorrow) already this month. When the air temp hits -20, schools close… the more you know. I’ve got so used to those temps, that I’m not as concerned as I was during the height of the polar vortex about bussing to and from work. I just need to move quickly and I probably won’t die.

Thankfully though, there have been some 20 and 30 degree days peppered in throughout the month. These few and far between “warm” days have reminded me that I need to get out and play while I can. Last week, I went to the Hockey City Classic, which is 40,000 people standing in the U of Minnesota football stadium attempting to watch a hockey game occurring in the middle of the field. This week, I went snow tubing with my roommate and her 13-year-old brother and cousin. Now that was a blast. So much speed. So much laughter.

That surface was SLICK, which means I got to go my favorite speed: fast.

That surface was SLICK, which means I got to go my favorite speed: fast.

The Minnesota Winter Bucket List is really making progress!

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I may need to stay inside some days to avoid frostbite and hypothermia, but on the relatively warm days, it’s all about getting out and playing while we can!

Revisiting the Minnesota Winter Bucket List

It’s wintertime in Minnesota, which can only mean one thing. It’s time to revisit my Minnesota Winter Bucketlist.

When I called it for the winter in April 2013, this is what the original bucket list looked like:

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My roommate, Bekah, made it a personal goal of her own last year to help me achieve these life experiences. She alone helped me accomplish all the events I was able to checkoff last winter. And this year doesn’t appear to be any different.

In fact, the bucket list has grown, thanks to Bekah. She has added several new adventures to my Minnesota Winter Bucket List, including a makeup for my not legit snowman last year (no face or twigs. decapitated within 36 hours).

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I’m happy to report that I already have plans to skate on a pond and to go to the NCAA Hockey City Classic (an outdoor hockey game held in the TCF Bank Stadium). Sadly, an ice fishing trip still eludes me. But this winter should be another one for the record books!

Today, I lived my nightmare.

When I moved to Minnesota and began to obsess over the weather, I had one situation in mind. This potential situation, or day rather, caused nightmares and hours of preparation. One day, so cold, even the natives would be scared. Windchills would be in the negative double digits. It would be touted as the coldest day Minnesota had experienced in 20 years.

That day was today.

Yep. When I woke up, it was -23 degrees out. Windchill was -48 degrees. There was ice on the INSIDE of my window in my apartment. Needless to say, I took a cab to work. The bus, more specifically walking to the bus stop, was not happening this morning.

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This is NOT okay.

Here is a list of everything I wore when I walked outside to meet the cab today: Underwear/bra, long underwear, jeans, two pairs of wool socks, sweater, sweatshirt, scarf (wrapped around my face), gloves, mittens, moon boots (yep. moon boots.), a stocking hat and my parka. Believe you me, I looked GREAT. And the long underwear stayed on ALL DAY. I switched from moon boots to Uggs when I got the office.

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Say what you will about the style, but my feet were toasty today.

Weird thing? It looked beautiful and completely non-threatening outside, when I was safely tucked inside. That kids, it what we call a false observation.

Tomorrow and the next should be pretty frigid as well. But Thursday? It’s going to be in the 20s. This weekend? In the 30s. When did my brain become so warped that I rejoice at the thought of a warmup when I saw temperatures in the 30s?

But you know what? I survived today. Take that, Polar Vortex! A California girl can survive you. Neener neener neener.

Pinterest Test: Breakfast Quinoa

When I woke up this morning, the windchill was -36 degrees F (tomorrow’s forecast calls for the  coldest day in Minnesota in 20 years. I’ll be hitching a ride to work – no bus). Weather like that, even if you don’t plan on going outside, calls for a hearty breakfast. Most people would think biscuits and gravy or vats of oatmeal, but I wanted to go a little more creative of a route. A few days ago I pinned a recipe for breakfast quinoa (see the original post and recipe here) and, along with a couple of tweaks, decided to give it a try this morning.

My love of quinoa is pretty obvious. I love using the complete protein grain as a pasta replacement to ease the guilt, like I did with my quinoa spaghetti. In the past, I have used quinoa as the base for my weekly lunches, adding sautéed vegetables and spaghetti sauce or italian dressing to it and storing it in the fridge throughout the week. But, I’ve never used it as a breakfast ingredient before, so I was intrigued at how this would turn out.

Usually, I cook quinoa just like rice – water, medium-high heat. This recipe had me cooking in milk, with low heat and longer times. For one cup of quinoa, bring two cups of milk to a boil. Add one cup quinoa, return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

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After 15 minutes, it should look a little bit like cream of wheat, but with about 1/4 of the milk still visible.

After 15 minutes, about 3/4 of the milk should be absorbed. Add in cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar, stir in and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Biggest difference between cooking quinoa low and slow instead of high and fast is the consistency. Usually when I cook quinoa, it’s almost like couscous in that it is individual grains. This morning, the quinoa had a more oatmeal or cream of wheat consistency, which was different, but still yummy. Once the quinoa was done cooking, I topped it with a little more brown sugar and cinnamon, as well as some walnuts. Hearty indeed.

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Yummy yummy.

The original recipe called for one cup of dry quinoa – this made a TON. I had leftovers, and as with oatmeal, it doesn’t look so appetizing anymore. If you’re only making breakfast for one person, definitely play with cutting the recipe in half, though there are bound to be some intricacies associated with that. Full recipe below:

Ingredients
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups milk
3 tbsp brown sugar, plus extra for topping
1/4 tbsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for topping
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Chopped walnuts

Bring two cups milk to a boil. Add quinoa and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until 3/4 of the milk has been absorbed. Add in brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Recover, and cook for another 5-8 minutes, until consistency is similar to oatmeal or cream of wheat. Serve in a bowl and top with brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped walnuts. Enjoy!