Grilled Harissa Chicken and Grilled Umami Chicken with vegetable hash and sweet/spicy roasted sweet potatoes, Chicken Taco Lettuce Wraps and Caprese Salad

Harrissa Chicken with optional avocado

Three is the magic number when it comes to meal prep. If we can get 3 different dishes made for the week, we never get tired of what we have to eat. It allows you to rotate what you planned to have for lunch and/or dinner. Another thing you can play around with is to change the seasoning or the protein of the dish and use the same sides such as veggies and carbs. Doing this changes, it up enough to keep things interesting, at least for me.

For example, this week I seasoned some chicken breasts with umami seasoning from Trader Joe’s and the other I used a harissa marinade. I have been wanting to try Trader Joe’s umami seasoning because there is some hype about it on their social media. My impression of it is that it’s nothing special. It has a really salty, herby mushroom flavor. I think I could make something better with a dried porcini powder. Plus, I think Trader Joe’s is being liberal by calling it “umami seasoning”, since “umami” is supposed to be sweet, sour, bitter and salty flavors, I don’t really get that from it. I do however like Trader Joe’s harissa, but I’m not going to go into detail about it, if you like a spicy marinade give it a try. Harissa is one of my favorite chili sauces. Making it yourself is pretty easy, but I love the convenience of just buying it.

Sorry if this post is turning into a Trader Joe’s commercial, it’s not my intention at all. However, another thing we used is their individual guacamole packets on the chicken taco salad. Using these for meal prep is really helpful because you don’t have to cut an avocado every time you pack your lunch. You also won’t waste your other half of avocado because they tend to turn brown quickly even if you try to wrap them carefully. Okay that’s enough writing about my love for Trader Joe’s this week. Check out our recipes for meal prep below.

Grilled Harissa Chicken and Grilled Umami Chicken with vegetable hash

  • 2lb Boneless-Skinless Chicken Breast
  • 3 Tablespoons Trader Joe’s Harissa
  • 2 Tbsp Trader Joe’s “Umami” seasoning
  • 1 yellow onion, medium diced
  • 2 ea. zucchinis, medium diced
  • 1 ea. red bell pepper, medium diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1lb bag mixed baby kale and spinach
  • ½ cup goat cheese, crumbled

For Roasted Sweet and Spicy Sweet potatoes

  • 2 ea. sweet potatoes, medium diced
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put 1 lb. of the chicken breasts in a freezer bag add 3-4 tablespoons harissa. Shake and massage until harissa covers the meat and place in the fridge for 3-4 hours to marinate.
  2. Put the other 1 lb. of chicken on a plate and season with Trader Joe’s umami. Cover and set in the fridge.
  3. Pre-heat oven to bake on 425°
  4. In a bowl, combine paprika, cayenne, chili powder, black pepper, salt, brown sugar and potatoes. Toss to coast seasoning on potatoes, then add olive oil and toss again (This will allow an even coating of the spices on the potatoes).
  5. Place potatoes on a cooking sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Flip potatoes and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool when done.
  6. While potatoes are cooking, sauté onions, garlic until translucent, then add bell pepper then add zucchini and cook until soft. Remove from heat and carefully mix in baby kale and spinach until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Let cool.
  7. On a med-high heat grill, cook all chicken until done. If you need to use a thermometer it should reach 160-165°. Let chicken rest 10 minutes before slicing into small pieces.
  8. Assemble containers with potatoes on one side then veggies the other. Crumble goat cheese if desired, then place sliced chicken on top. Pack everything up to place in the fridge for the week.

Chicken Taco Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 Tbsp taco seasoning
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Bunch Romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed
  • 4 pks single serving guacamole packets
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ¼ cp onion diced

Cilantro Dressing

  • 1 cp loosely packed cilantro
  • 1 cp Greek yogurt
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Place chicken, garlic, olive oil and spices in a large freezer bag and seal. Shake to mix together seasonings and place in the fridge to marinate 20-30 minutes or overnight.
  2. Remove chicken from marinade.
  3. In a hot pan on med-high heat, sear chicken and continue to cook through until the temperature reaches 165° internally. Set aside chicken to rest at least 10 minutes before cutting into bite sized pieces.
  4. Prepare the cilantro dressing by placing all ingredients in food processor and blend until creamy.
  5. Assemble in containers with chicken to one side, 1 packet of single serving guacamole, then tomatoes and onions to the other side. Place whole romaine leaves on top (make sure all ingredients are cool so romaine doesn’t wilt) then secure close with the lid. Place in the fridge.
  6. Pour dressing in small containers to pack with your salad.

Caprese salad

Ingredients

  • 1 large container of mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 container of Fresh Mozzarella or Burrata
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut cherry tomatoes in half
  2. Slice fresh mozzarella in ¼ slices
  3. Tear basil into bite size pieces using your hands
  4. Assemble mozzarella, then basil then tomatoes in alternating layers in food containers
  5. Before packing for lunch or eating for dinner, season with salt and pepper then drizzle balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Eat and enjoy.

After traveling to Puerto Vallarta recently, I was already beginning to miss Mexican food. Especially the seafood that is so fresh and delicious. It’s kind of funny how this recipe came about because when I went shopping at one of my favorite Asian grocery stores, I was buying ingredients to make Laksa soup. While shopping I came across some really good-looking Anaheim peppers and just bought them without a dish in mind to make them with. Sometimes that will happen, I just think to myself at least I could use something that looks good. If I can’t think of anything to make with them, at least I could chop them up in eggs or something.

Once I got the peppers home, I started thinking about Mexico, looked what I had on hand in the fridge and came up with this recipe. I already had frozen shrimp, garlic, shallots, cilantro, lime and chili but I did have to go to the store to buy some queso fresco. It wouldn’t be a weekend for me without a couple trips to the grocery store.

I want to go on record and say I’m normally against cheese and seafood together but sometimes you have to make exceptions to the rule. Especially when it comes to shrimp crab which either will work well in cheesy situations. Note to self: record album called “Cheesy Situations”. This recipe is easy, delicious and will hold up as an entrée or appetizer. The world is yours, so give it a try.

Ingredients

3 ea. Anaheim Peppers

½ lb. of 21-25 Ct Frozen shrimp, thawed

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

3 Cloves of Garlic, minced

½ Minced Shallots

½ cup Queso Fresco Cheese crumbled

¼ cup Cilantro

1 ea. Thai Bird Chili (optional)

1 tsp Paprika

½ lime juiced

Salt and Pepper

Directions

  1. Place a pan on med-high heat add olive oil, garlic, shallots, sauté until fragrant then add shrimp.
  2. Season shrimp with salt, pepper, paprika, lime juice and sauté until shrimp is starting a slight ‘C’ shape but still not fully cooked.
  3. Remove shrimp and sauce to a plate, sprinkle Queso Fresco and cilantro on top and let mixture cool.
  4. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add Anaheim peppers. Boil for 5-6 minutes and remove to a plate to cool. Carefully cut slit down the pepper to stuff.
  5. Set oven to bake at 450° and oil a small baking sheet or pan. Put shrimp on cutting board and cut into bite size pieces and return to plate or bowl to mix together with cheese.
  6. Remove seeds from peppers then spoon shrimp mixture into peppers, carefully divide mixture evenly between each.
  7. Slice bird chili and top each pepper and add parmesan cheese (Optional)
  8. Bake for 10 minutes then increase temperature of oven to broil shrimp and peppers for additional 5 minutes.
  9. Once peppers looked sufficiently browned on top, remove them from oven and let cool 2-3 minutes before eating.
Stuffed Shrimp Anaheim peppers with Goat Cheese Stuffed Portabello mushroom and Quinoa Cabbage Salad.

To say I haven’t traveled much internationally is an understatement. That’s part of the reason why this blog is focused more on food than it is travel.  My international travel has only consisted of crossing the US borders to Canada and Mexico. I have a great appreciation for both of our neighbors north and south because each offer great experiences. On this trip I had the opportunity to stay with my girlfriend’s aunt and uncle in Puerto Vallarta. I am so grateful they were nice enough to open their doors to me since this was the first time, I would meet her aunt. And after a few margaritas, we hit it off. If you are ever nervous about meeting the family members of your significant other, Mexico is a great place to do it. All jokes aside they are some of the kindest people I’ve met and we had a lot of fun.

With the price of a plane ticket, we were off to Puerto Vallarta. This was my second time going there, the first time being a graduation present from my folks to go with some friends to celebrate finishing high school. My first trip was fun, we ran the town going crazy, partying as hard as you would expect most teenagers to do. Unfortunately for me, I ended that trip with one of the worst ear infections I’ve had in my life. I got the ear infection by swimming in the ocean one night, because that’s what drunk teenagers do. So, it’s fair to say the trip this time around was a lot more enjoyable for me. Being older, more responsible and thoughtful of how you want to spend your time, was way better then wandering the street like a drunk jackass. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a blast to do when you’re young, but I enjoyed this trip more.

The aunt and uncle rented a condo from VRBO located in what is known as the romantic zone of Puerto Vallarta. The romantic zone has the highest concentration of restaurants and bars and is considered the old town. You will also notice a lot of guys walking small dogs around and the occasional drag queen or transgendered person because the gay community is big in this area. Coming from Seattle, it is not much different than walking around and the capitol hill neighborhood. It’s a great location to stay because you can walk just about everywhere to the river, down to the beach and there are plenty of taxi cabs and buses available to take you further. We did not get raped, kidnapped or murdered or ever have the feeling that that was a possibility. Contrary to what some US politicians would have you believe.

 

The airline had lost our luggage on our flight down, so we had to go to the nearest shopping mall to purchase clothes and swim wear. We went to the Liverpool department store which is basically like Macy’s. It is a convenient 10-minute drive from the airport.  Pro-tip, if an airline loses your luggage make sure you ask the right questions like “if I buy clothes, up to how much money will I be reimbursed” because most likely there is a limit. Basically, just try to get as much information as possible, confirmation numbers, contact numbers and don’t go on a crazy shopping spree because they will only reimburse you so much in Mexico, the rest you have to figure out with the airline’s baggage service. The whole situation is a big headache, so use your best judgement. Also, make sure to ask where your luggage was last scanned so you have an idea if the airline knows where it’s located. After shopping for clothes, we spent the rest of the day at the pool. The next day was similar, we got massages and stayed near the condo waiting for our luggage to be delivered. We got a little cranky by the end of the second day after dealing with the airline, but we finally got our luggage that evening.

 

 

 

The next day we went on a snorkeling trip. I would highly recommend signing up for one of these trips if you haven’t before. In all honesty the snorkeling part isn’t great because you cannot see that many fish. They do allow kayaking and paddle boarding, and if I went again, I would choose to do that over snorkeling. The trip itself is just fun, they feed you breakfast, lunch and cocktails on the boat. We saw whales breaching the water and tons of dolphins surfing the wake from the boat. The crew even puts on a lip synch show on the end of the trip so with that and several cocktails, you’re feeling pretty good as they drop you back off on the docks. The company we went with is called Vallarta Adventures which I believe is one of the largest excursion companies in Puerto Vallarta.

The next day we spent at Los Animas beach. To get there we took a bus which costs 20 pesos ($1.06 USD) that we picked up a block away from the condo. When you arrive at Boca de Tomatlan beach you need to walk down to the pier to catch a water taxi to Los Animas. I believe the cost of the water taxi was 90 pesos ($4.77 USD) and you really feel like you’re in for an adventure when you’re riding in on the way in to the secluded beach. The rest of the day we just spent swimming, ordered a couple buckets of cervezas, drinks, fish tacos and ceviche. We had a great time and amazing service.

That night we had what I would say was our favorite dinner of the trip, at Casa Tradicional Cocina Mexicana. We wanted some of that real authentic Mexican cooking and we got exactly what we wanted. We started with freshly made margaritas with about a half bottle of Don Julio poured into each glass. The server mixed the salsa table side with all fresh grilled ingredients in a mortar and pestle. The salsa was slightly warm from the grilled tomatillos that melted in your mouth every bite. Guacamole was also prepared table side and delicious as expected. For our entrées Sarah ordered grilled octopus and I ordered a molcajete. The octopus might have been the best I’ve ever had, cooked perfectly and my molcajete was amazing.

Casa Tradicional

The next day we just had a pool and shopping day. While walking around town we came across the Blue Shrimp restaurant for lunch. The service and food were great but it’s a little pricey as is most of the restaurants off the beach in town. We spent that evening dining on the roof deck pool at the condo because the resident’s put on a mariachi band pool party. It was kind of an “end-of-season” party for the snow birds who travel down to get away from the winter weather and stay in PV for months. Makes me jealous, but now I have goals to do be on their level some day.

Blue Shrimp

The next day we went to Mismaloya beach. To get there you take the same bus as we did to get to Los Animas, on the but window it says “Boca, Mismaloya”. The stop to get there is just a few stops closer than Los Animas and you don’t need a water taxi to get there. From the bus stop just walk down the hill and you will reach the beach. I don’t know if it was the spot we chose, but the chairs were not as comfortable and the service was a little slower there, but what’s the hurry when you’re in Mexico? We did get to rent some boards to go paddle boarding. The water was perfect for it. We also made some friends with the local dogs who just wanted to chill under our seats in the shade and scavenge any dropped food. It was another great day, just relaxing at the beach.

The next night we talked the aunt and uncle into finally checking out Pancho’s Takos which is a very popular restaurant downtown that people line-up for. You can’t miss it with their large spit of al pastor skewer roasting in the front of the restaurant. We got there at a good time and only waited maybe 20-30 minutes to get the 4 of us seated. The tacos were good, but nothing really mind blowing. We did have to sit right in front of the al pastor spit roasting away, which is really hot and kind of uncomfortable. It is.. what you would expect basically. It’s tacos and drinks. Don’t go out of your way to eat there, but I wouldn’t say you would be disappointed either. The cost of the tacos we ate and about 2 margaritas and 2-3 beers each was only 1,300 pesos. That’s about $69 USD for a 4-person dinner with drinks. I can’t complain much about a cheap and delicious dinner.

After that we spent another pool and chill day shopping. FYI, I’m not good at haggling because I begin to feel bad for the vendors desperate to make a sale. I got called out by Sarah and a passer bye thought it was funny as hell. He said “You must be Canadian?” I said “Close, PNW/Seattle”. We were both like “Yeah close enough”, and had a good laugh.

On Saturday there is a market with food, art and specialty products. It is definitely worth checking out, we shared a really good quesadilla, had some fresh coconut water and bought a couple souvenirs.

The last night on Sunday we went down to the beach to restaurant El Dorado. It had a beautiful view but was the most expensive meal we had on the trip. Partly because the drinks we ordered were $15 dollars each which we didn’t realize until later. The food was good, but the service was really slow. A dinner that should’ve taken about an hour, took about 2 and ½. After that meal we were just kind of ready to get back home since it seemed to take forever.

Well there it is, another great time in Mexico. I really can’t wait to go back. I plan to expand my travel to other regions of Mexico because you do get different experiences just like traveling to different states in the US. They’re the same but different. However, Puerto Vallarta is special and I can’t wait to go back again.

I have been going and trying a few different ramen restaurants lately and it has given me a new appreciation for a good soft-boiled egg. If you’re like me and ever go to a ramen restaurant and they serve you a fully cooked hard-boiled egg then you know they’re a bunch of amateurs. When I get served an egg like that, it just makes me regret not making ramen at home. So, I took these feelings with me to the kitchen to make some soft-boiled eggs for myself.

I didn’t plan on making ramen to go with the eggs, that might be for another time. I just wanted some eggs for a side dish or accompaniment to something else. I found a Korean pickled egg recipe called Mayak Gyeran which loosely translates to “drug eggs” because the taste is so addictive. These are true to the name and true to the game because they came out damn tasty. You can definitely slang these on the street, make a name for yourself and take over your hood. But like BIG said, “don’t get high on your own supply” so even if you can’t sell them, share them with your loved ones, build your crew and keep those loyal custees close. Give it a shot, try my recipe below.

Ingredients

6 eggs

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

¾ cup low sodium soy sauce

¼ cup maggi

½ cup water

2 Tbsp honey

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbsp Olek Sambal

1 Tbsp black sesame seeds

1 green onion sliced

Instructions

  1. Place eggs in a pot and fill with cold water to until completely covered. Bring water and eggs to a boil then once water is boiling hard, remove from heat and let sit 6-8 minutes.
  2. Remove eggs to ice water bath to cool and stop cooking. Let cool completely, set aside and/or place in fridge.
  3. In a mixing bowl, add garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, maggi, honey, sambal, green onion and mix together. Taste and adjust seasoning if preferred.
  4. Peel the eggs carefully and place into your preferred air-tight container. Pour the sauce marinade over the eggs and store in the fridge overnight. Flip the eggs at least once to coat if not fully submerged.

 

Mayak Eggs with Gochujang chicken, radish kimchi salad

This week we’re cooking again made what seems to be our quota of 3 dishes each. I keep saying to myself every week, “I’m not going to cook”, but the cold weather makes me want comfort food all the time. So here we are.

One of my favorite things about cooking is trying cook cuisines that I’m not familiar with. It gives me a little anxiety when I’m at the store purchasing ingredients that I hope will work together. That’s how it went this week as I tried to make Indian food.

I have really gained an appreciation for Indian food with the different spices and techniques used to make it. Because of my lack of confidence with Indian food, I kind of feel like I took the easy way out because I made Butter chicken and Palak paneer. These are two of my favorites and you could probably say Butter chicken is one of the more popular dishes. The Butter Chicken recipe I used was not that intimidating, but the Palak Paneer was definitely nothing I’ve tried before. I felt a little more confident when I found an Indian Grocery store with the ingredients I needed. I still spent about 30 minutes longer than I needed there stumbling around reading everything trying to get the best ingredients.

My partner in meal-prep crime came in strong again with a sweet potato, veggie, bacon, egg skillet that is so damn good. Even if my food didn’t turn out the way I wanted, I would be happy just eating that. This skillet looks so good like it was made for photos, no filters, no tricks, just pure unadulterated beauty. The smell of this skillet in the oven will bring a tear to your eye, make you salivate and will have you waiting patiently in the kitchen until it’s done. Once all the eggs are cooked enough and it’s piping hot you won’t even think about how you’re about to risk burning your mouth just to taste it. Nobody got time for that.

Follow these recipes below if any of this sounds good. I was not disappointed this week and know you won’t be either.

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

INGREDIENTS

Marinade (Make the night before)

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
  • 1Tbsp. ground ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. teaspoon salt
  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp.  paprika
  • 1 Tbsp.  salt or to taste
  • 2 8- ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, add yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  2. Place whole boneless skinless chicken breasts in the same bowl and stir to coat then cover or place in a large Ziploc freezer bag and place in the fridge overnight.
  3. After the chicken has marinated overnight, remove from the fridge and scrape off most of the marinade. Cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces.
  4. Place chicken in the slow cooker and add butter, garlic, and jalapeno.
  5. In another a separate mixing bowl, combine heavy cream, 2 Tbsp. cumin, paprika, tomato sauce, salt and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed then pour over chicken.
  6. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.
  7. Once finished in a small bowl mix cornstarch with water then pour in slow cooker to thicken sauce.
  8. Cook on high an additional 15-20 minutes.
  9. Finish with fresh chopped cilantro when ready to serve.

*Serve with Roti or Basmati rice

Palak Paneer

Ingredients

  • 2 cp. Paneer Cheese
  • 2 1lb bags washed fresh Spinach
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil or more as needed
  • 1 cp yellow onion fine chopped/diced
  • ½ cp cashews
  • ½ fresh lime
  • 2 Tbsp Garam Masala
  • 1 Tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2-3 cups water

The steps I took to make this were probably not true authentic way to cook Palak Paneer, but it was an easy way that I took to make it work for me. It tasted like the real deal so I was happy with it.

Instructions

  1. Prepare and salt a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Set aside a colander and ice bath to cool the spinach.
  2. When water comes to a boil, add the spinach and cook till wilted about 5-10 seconds. Pour spinach in colander to drain and place in ice bath to stop cooking.
  3. In a blender add the spinach, fill with 2-3 cups of water and squeeze of lime. Blend into a puree.
  4. In large pan on med-high heat, add oil, onion, tomatoes, cashews, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon fenugreek, Garam Masala and Sautee until fragrant.
  5. Add spinach puree and continue to cook and med-low stirring occasionally.
  6. Place a non-stick pan on medium heat and cut paneer into 1-inch chunks and sear. Brown both sides of paneer then add to Palak (spinach) pan.
  7. Continue to cook until heated through. Season with salt and adjust as needed.

*Serve with Roti or Basmati rice

Sweet Potato, Bacon, Veggie, and Egg Skillet

Ingredients

  • 2-3 medium Sweet potatoes, medium diced
  • 12 oz thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 yellow onion, medium diced
  • 2 zucchinis, medium diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, medium diced
  • 6-8 whole eggs
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces and begin to cook on medium heat in a large skillet. Once crisp, set aside on paper towel to cool.
  2. Using the remaining bacon fat in the pan, begin to fry sweet potatoes, once potatoes begin to brown, add onions, then bell pepper then zucchini. Season everything with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until all veggies are just fork-tender and return cooked bacon to pan.
  3. With a spoon, make little cups to hold eggs. Crack raw whole eggs into the cups you made and place in 400° oven. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until egg whites look set and cooked.
  4. Now this is the hard part, let cool for 5-10 minutes then scoop into bowl with one whole egg each per serving. Crack additional black pepper over egg as desired.

What’s great about the winter time? Slow cooking that’s what. What’s great about slow cooking? Just about everything. The longer your food has time to cook, the more developed the flavors get. Not only that but you can throw everything together in one pot, go about your day and you have a great meal ready later. I know this isn’t anything new because I’m sure 99.9% of you have at least eaten a meal from a slow cooker. I’m planning on getting one of those air fryer/pressure cookers when I get around to it. The future is now and looks amazing!

One of my favorite recipes to make in the slow cooker is chili. I usually make a turkey chili, but was inspired by this chicken chili recipe and was not disappointed. Give it a try and leave a comment if you liked it or tell me what are some of your favorite slow cooked meals.

 

White Chicken Chili

Ingredients

1lb boneless skinless chicken breast

1 yellow onion diced

2 poblano peppers

4 cloves of garlic minced

24 oz of low sodium chicken broth

2 15oz cans of great Northern beans drained and rinsed

1 15oz can roasted corn kernels drained

2 Roasted red bell pepper from jar

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp chili powder

½ tsp cayenne pepper

Small handful of cilantro chopped

6oz reduced fat cream cheese softened

1ea chipotle pepper with adobo sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish (Optional)

Jalapeno peppers

Corn Tortilla strips

Sour cream

Avocado

Instructions

  1. Place chicken in the slow cooker and season with salt, pepper, cayenne, chili powder, oregano, garlic. Make sure all sides of the chicken are seasoned.
  2. Add onion, northern beans, poblano peppers, red pepper, corn, chipotle pepper, chicken broth and cilantro.
  3. Cover and cook in slow cooker on low for 8hrs or high for 3-4hrs.
  4. When ready pull chicken from cooker and place on plate. Shred with forks then return the chicken to slow cooker and set on high.
  5. Add cream cheese and stir until melted and combined. Cook for additional 15 minutes on high until slightly thickened.
  6. Taste for seasoning and top with desired garnishes.
Chili before finishing with cheese.

Another week and another successful meal prep. I can’t say enough good things about meal prep. It has helped me save money, monitor portion control, eat healthier and save time. If I can just cut down on all the extra-curricular stuff like drinking beer, eating cookies, candy, cake and ice-cream, then I might actually meet my health and fitness goals. I will get there, and I’m a firm believer in finding the right balance to enjoy those things. We’ll save that for another post.

This week has been an ambitious one and I couldn’t have done it all without my partner in meal-prep “crime” Sarah. She came with some really quick and delicious meals that will really help changing things up throughout the week. It’s also great to have someone to share the food with so you don’t get as tired of eating the same things all week. If you don’t have someone to share with, just make sure to wrap up what you don’t think you will finish and freeze for another time. Just make sure everything is air-tight to keep it freshest. Also, you do not need to make all these recipes in one week. These recipes are here to inspire and use at your leisure.

Sarah came in strong with 2 dishes this week.  First was a Balsamic Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Salad. Second was an Apple Gouda Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes. I contributed with Slow Cooker Carnitas Salad Bowl meals. I can say everything turned out great as I have tried each dish as writing this now. I can’t stress enough during cooking in general, not just meal prep, is to taste everything along the way. Taste all ingredients together because you never know if you just don’t like the way some ingredients pair together until it’s too late.

It’s also a good idea to keep hot foods together that will reheat well together. You obviously don’t want something hot you need to reheat with delicate vegetables you prefer to eat cold. I know this seems like common sense but definitely want to keep this in mind when assembling your meal prep. You don’t want to end up not eating your meal prep and just end up buying lunch because you’re not happy with it. That defeats the purpose. Anyway, that’s enough preaching for now, here are the recipes below if you want to give it a try.

Pro-tip: cook some of your meal prep the day before this way everything hot has time to cool properly before portioning out for the week. This will make it easier and you will have less risk of spoiled food.

Balsamic Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

4 Servings

  • ½ cup dry quinoa
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 medium carrots, ruff cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 medium zucchini chopped
  • 8 oz. button mushrooms halved
  • 1 small red onion medium chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup sprouted sunflower seeds or toasted almonds
  • 3 oz. goat cheese crumbled
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 5oz box baby arugula

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Rinse quinoa then combine with water in small sauce pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and continue to cook covered for 15 minutes. Fluff cooked quinoa with a fork when ready. Set aside to cool in fridge.
  3. While cooking you can place chopped vegetables and garlic in a mixing bowl and toss with olive oil, vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper.
  4. Place vegetables on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 20-22 minutes or until carrots are tender and everything looks caramelized. It will help to toss the veggies half-way through cooking. Set aside to cool when finished.
  5. Divide the arugula into 4 different meal prep containers.
  6. Mix together the quinoa and roasted veggies in a mixing bowl, taste for seasoning and divide into the containers. Finish each with goat cheese and sprouted sunflower seeds.

*Optional* make additional balsamic vinaigrette if desired. I sometimes add garlic, Dijon mustard and honey for flavor and to emulsify, but basic ingredients listed below.

  • 1-part balsamic vinegar
  • 3 parts olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Apple Gouda Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes

4 Servings

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied thinly to stuff.

3 oz gouda cheese thinly sliced

1 large apple thinly sliced (Honeycrisp was used in this recipe)

1 Tbsp fresh thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

For the sweet potatoes

4 medium sweet potatoes washed and medium diced

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons thyme

1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Spray cooking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place butterflied chicken breast on the pan and place 7-8 thinly sliced apples on one side of the breast then top with the thinly sliced gouda. Sprinkle with thyme and fold over breasts. Drizzle with olive oil and season both sides with salt and pepper. Careful when flipping so that everything stays together.
  3. In a bowl, mix together diced sweet potatoes with salt, pepper, paprika and drizzle with olive oil. Place sweet potatoes in a single layer on a cooking sheet.
  4. Put chicken and sweet potatoes in the over to bake for 20 minutes. Flip the potatoes to cook evenly as needed.
  5. Continue to cook chicken until internal temperature reaches 165° and potatoes are fork tender.
  6. Divide potatoes and chicken in 4 separate containers and let cool before covering.

Slow Cooker Carnitas Salad Bowl

8-10 Servings

4-7 lb. Pork Shoulder

1 tsp chili powder

2 chipotle peppers with adobo sauce

1 Tbsp dried oregano

4 garlic cloves peeled, smashed, whole

2 navel oranges juiced

2 limes juiced

2 small bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Rinse and dry pork shoulder, season all sides with chili powder, salt and pepper. Let the pork sit room temperature for at least 10 minutes while gathering the rest of your ingredients.
  2. Place the pork in the slow cooker and add chipotles, orange juice, lime juice, garlic, oregano and bay leaf. Cover with lid and cook on high for 8-10 hrs. Depending on crock pot and size of pork shoulder times may vary.
  3. When finished pork shoulder should pull apart easily with tongs or fork. Remove pork from crock pot and place in a baking dish with the fattier parts facing up.
  4. Place oven on broil and put in oven with door ajar for about 10 minutes to crisp up the pork. When satisfied with the crispiness, room from oven and let cool.

For the salad bowl I used 1 16oz box of mixed greens, 1 can of black beans rinsed, corn, Mexican blend shredded cheese, limes, avocado, and green onions. I made a chipotle yogurt ranch style dressing on the side.

*After Pork has cooled, divide portions into 3-4 oz containers or baggies and re-heat in microwave before eating the salad.

This will make sure all the veggies remain fresh. Freeze remaining pork or use for another dish. The world is yours…

Chipotle Yogurt Dressing

1 chipotle pepper

½ of 1 lime juiced

1 Tbsp of white wine vinegar

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 cup plain yogurt

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place all ingredients in small blender and mix together. Add water if consistency is too thick.
  2. Taste to adjust seasoning as desired.

There’s a place located south of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, about 40 minutes away from the Idaho border known as Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.  Just 12 miles northwest of the town of Jackson you can find the Teton Village, home of some of the best skiing and snowboarding. Forbes magazine ranked Jackson Hole #1 on their top 10 Ski Resorts in North America for 2019. Obviously, this is up for debate but if you do a search for the top resorts, you’re going to find Jackson Hole in one of the top rankings, with Telluride in close contention.

Jackson Hole Resort consists of 2,500 acres of terrain on two mountains known as Après Vous and Rendezvous. The elevation may take you some time to acclimate to as the base of the mountain sits at 6,311 ft, the summit reaches an elevation of 10,450 ft. The backcountry terrain expands to more than 3,000+ acres. This resort has an abundance of challenging trails designated at 50% expert, 40% intermediate and 10% beginner. If you are considering visiting Jackson Hole, I recommend that you feel confident enough in your abilities to at least be comfortable riding black and double black diamond runs on your home mountains. Even the blue intermediate designated runs are steep and fast. I found myself on one run where jumping off small cliff to clear some rocks was the only choice down. It is easy to come upon some extreme terrain if you’re not careful and thankfully with the amount of powder I had to cushion my landing, I felt confident of clearing the rocks below. Boarding and skiing with a buddy is highly recommended. You will hear a spiel about it from the lifty on the ride up the tram before exiting.

The Tram aka Big Red reaches the summit that rises 4,139 ft in 9 minutes. This thing hauls ass! Literally…  We might have had to wait between 15-30 minutes in line to load onto the Tram. The capacity is about 100 people that all get crammed in like sardines. It’s impressive to see it operate and as long as nobody busts ass (which did happen once) it’s not a bad ride. On my first ride up to the summit it was intimidating offloading because of 30+ mph winds and poor visibility.  I had to put a tight grip on my board so it wouldn’t fly away in the wind, bundle up the gear and put my gloves on at the same time. I was unprepared and disoriented. We barely got situated in time to follow the last group of people before they disappeared in the clouds and descend the trail because we had no idea which was the right way down.

Olympic Village

Other than the Tram there are two eight-person gondolas that also reach high areas of the mountains. Gondolas are great because they also protect you from the elements, warm up and meet other skiers or boarders. The majority of people seemed to be coming from the East Coast which was interesting, most of them said they traveled to Jackson because there was no snow or it was too icy from where they were coming from. I’m sure the fact that it’s an awesome mountain had something to do with it too.

Where we stayed was just a 5-minute walk from the village in the White Ridge condos found off of VRBO. It wasn’t anything fancy but had all the basic amenities. My only gripe is that my bed was like sleeping on an ironing board. After a full day of boarding and a few cold beers I made due with what I had.

There are a ton of dining options available and even during a busy holiday weekend, did not have to wait for a table at any of them. We hit about every restaurant in the main village. My personal favorites were the RPK for lunch and après located right next to the tram and The Mangy Moose. The Mangy Moose has that home town dive bar feeling with great pizza. If you’re looking for a classier more upscale scene, there are plenty of other options, that just wasn’t my vibe for this trip. There is a Four Seasons located in the village so it isn’t hard to find a more upscale experience.

As far as natural conditions and terrain, the bar has been set high. It’s difficult to plan a ski trip anywhere because you don’t know what the weather will be like especially during an El Niño season, but Jackson Hole in late January is a safe bet. I do plan to come back and do more exploring as the town of Jackson and surrounding region has a lot to offer.

If you don’t like pizza then you might not be human. Everyone loves pizza. If you don’t, I feel bad for you son. I’ll eat 99 Pizzas and won’t hate one.

There are songs, debates, wars and love all made over what pizza is and what it should be. For fun, start a discussion with random people about if they like pineapple on pizza. If that doesn’t work, ask them if they think deep dish or thin crust is a better pizza. Then just walk away from the mayhem you have just created like nothing ever happened.

Pizza is a balanced meal because it hits all the major food groups, carbs, dairy, meat and vegetables. You can customize pizzas to just about whatever toppings you want on it. However, the Ninja Turtles pushed the boundaries on what you should put on pizza. If you put jelly beans on a pizza, then you are either a child, a psychopath or a Ninja Turtle. That is a pizza I probably won’t eat… Probably…

Also, don’t forget about this great country we live in where a pizza can be made of tacos, cheese burgers, mac and cheese or just about any unhealthy preparation you can think of.  God bless America.

Since we’re talking about controversial ways to make pizza, I made mine with gluten free crust. After I told some friends I made my dough this way they immediately questioned why I would do such a thing. It wasn’t because of an allergy but I explained that I like the taste of some gluten free products such as pretzels. You tend to get a crunchier taste and since I was going with thin crust style, why not make it easier by making it gluten free? Obviously, people were furious, I lost a few friends, my manhood was questioned, but I enjoyed what I made and it was delicious.

The gluten free dough was not what I had expected though. I had made regular pizza dough before during my time working at Italian restaurants as a young papino… We didn’t worry about gluten back then… It wasn’t a thing… Can you believe that? The gluten free dough did not stretch much at all like regular dough with all that glorious gluten. I did have to end up using regular flower for the rolling process, but if you do have a gluten allergy make sure you have extra available to make your life easier. Cornmeal will work as well but sometimes a blend of cornmeal and flower works best for taste and texture and your dough doesn’t stick to your counter or rolling pin. Below is the mostly easy process I used to make pan pizza… Enjoy.

Directions for Pizza Crust

I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust. Follow directions on the package to prepare

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 500° or as high as it will go (do not set broil your pizza will burn from the top).
  2. Roll out the pizza dough with a rolling pin then use your hands to gently press the dough in a round shape.
  3. Once you have the right shape, move the dough to a cast iron pan on med-high heat. Drizzle the dough with a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
  4. When the dough starts to bubble, use a small ladle or large spoon to spread pizza sauce from the middle all the way to the end of the crust (Cover the entire crust, it will caramelize the edges of the pizza and you won’t have any non-crust eaters just throwing that part away).
  5. Sprinkle mozzarella to your liking and add your favorite toppings. I used pepperoni, onions, pepperoncini, parmesan and prosciutto. I finished the prosciutto pizza with arugala and parmesan after it came out of  the oven.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until everything is melted and crispy to your liking.
  7. Slice, eat and enjoy….

Pizza Sauce Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (Preferably San Marzano or Organic)

3 oz. or ½ 6 oz. can tomato paste

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp black pepper

½ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. In a pan on medium heat, add oil, garlic and chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant.
  2.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, basil, oregano, salt and black pepper. Stir together, taste seasoning and adjust as desired.
  3. Cover and reduce heat to a low simmer. Stir occasionally and simmer for 30 minutes.

*Pro-tip, make the day before so the sauce is cool and flavors have time to meld before using.

*Place leftover sauce in a freezer bag to use on future pizzas or any dish that calls for marinara.

As I get ready for my next snowboard trip, I have been reminiscing of the trip I took last season. Most people are familiar with the legendary largest ski resort in Canada also known as Whistler Blackcomb but have you heard of the 2nd largest? I didn’t at the time.. Maybe that was just me? Regardless, Sun Peaks resort is a world class ski resort that brings a unique experience that competes with Whistler.  

Honestly, I cannot compare the two resorts as far as ski conditions because I have only been to Whistler in the summer to ride the mountain bike park. So please take my comparisons lightly. My goal is to go to Whistler next winter season when we’re expected to have better conditions than the unpredictable El Niño pattern we’re experiencing now.

Although I haven’t yet experienced the snow in Whistler, I think I can expect the quality of snow to be much like the PNW region where I live. The snow at Sun Peaks was much dryer and lighter than I was familiar with, maybe because it seems like less humid and colder climate. My coldest day there dropped to -14° Celsius. Factor in the wind chill and it was bone chilling cold at times. One of my favorite lifts was the Burfield express which crosses a wide-open terrain and reaches the highest peak of the resort. If they could make that a covered lift to block the wind, that would be great (Lumbergh’s Voice). The Burfield lift gave access to some of my favorite runs with deep powder, I spent a lot of time on that side of the resort.

Back in Time Trail

Not only was the condition of the snow great but also the accessibility of so many amazing trails. The condo we rented was on the side of the village near Mt Morrisey. The main village is located on side of Mt Tod. There aren’t as many as runs on Mt Morrisey, but it is less crowded and just as much fun to be had. We found you can take the “back in time” trail to get back over to Mt Tod by reaching the Burfield base area. It’s slightly difficult taking the back in time trail on a snowboard at first because of some flat spots, but just get as much speed as possible and you shouldn’t have much trouble. Pro-tip, don’t follow your buddy who thinks they found a “short-cut” through some residential areas to get back to the Mt Tod side. Most likely they don’t know where they’re going and you’ll end up having to hike a couple miles back to the main village. Maybe you get lucky and catch a ride on a shuttle or passer by but if not, it’s not fun. After a couple of my buddy’s “short-cuts” I stopped following him and said “smell ya later dude”. That decision paid off more than once.

Stepping out the condo to start boarding

The condo we booked was located about ½ mile from the village and paid about $120 USD per night. It was a nice 2 BD, 2BA condo with a full kitchen, laundry, hot tub and underground parking. Located perfectly in a quiet neighborhood with views of the ski lifts from the balcony.

The village is not as large as Whistler, but has everything you need. Plenty of shopping, restaurants, bars, grocery and liquor stores. On the first day we got supplies from the supermarket in the village to save money on breakfast and snacks. Other times we just hit up some of the restaurants such as Oya a Japanese restaurant and Mantles restaurant and lounge. These were probably my favorite places we ate otherwise you can’t go wrong with any of the pizza restaurants.

Bento lunch at Oya

It seemed like the night life wasn’t as abundant as Whistler’s, not necessarily a bad thing if you’re not into that, but I like to party. Overall Sun Peaks has more of a quiet family getaway vibe. It’s perfect if you are looking for a less crowded relaxed experience.

Shot from the drive through Bellingham Wa

I can say for sure the drive to Whistler is far more scenic than it is to and from Sun Peaks. This is not a deal breaker by any means but the drive to and from Whistler is breath-taking at times, it’s hard to beat. Driving to Sun Peaks is just mostly highway views of the mountains, a mostly standard experience of driving to most ski resorts.

Overall Sun Peaks was a great snowboard trip. It definitely sets the bar high as far as value for the amazing accommodations and experiences to be had. I look forward to going back in the future after knocking a couple other ski trips off my list.

View from Mantles Restaurant and Lounge

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