Spicy Pickled Cucumbers and Peppers

Spicy Pickled Cucumbers and Peppers 1

They always say you want what you can’t have, right?

Well, I’d kill for a cold IPA in this muggy August weather. And sushi? Oh lord, does some sushi sound phenomenal right about now. And don’t get me started on luncheon meat. I never had any desire to touch the stuff before pregnancy and now, I wish it were a staple in my diet. You know, without it being heated and all that jazz…but I make it work. Turkey sandwiches have been my one and only true pregnancy craving, after all.

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But who wants just a plain’ol sandwich? Not I. And of course I try to stay away from too much of the “good” stuff — cheese, mayonnaise…you know what I mean. I try to pile my sandwiches high with lots of good-for-you stuff like veggies that provide not only texture and nutrition, but big flavor. Even bigger flavor when you think outside the box and can incorporate something garlicy, spicy, or pickled.

NOW we’re talkin’.

Pickles are a great option, but I wanted to take things further…

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…and appease that spicy-lovin’ husband of mine…along with using up some of the MANY jalapenos and banana peppers our garden is turning out now that summer is actually…well, summer.

I used a basic refrigerator pickling concoction of salt, sugar, and vinegar but added to it McCormick Whole Peppercorns, McCormick Crushed Red Pepper, and McCormick Minced Onion. I was also happy with the variety of the cucumber and pepper combo — something mild, medium, and hot to balance the other ingredients out perfectly. Now, I just need to make more to last through the winter and to keep my sandwiches from being anything but boring.

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Spicy Pickled Cucumbers and Peppers
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1½ Tbsp kosher salt
  • ½ Tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • ½ Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1½ cups white vinegar
  • 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 jalapenos, thinly sliced
  • 6 banana peppers, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. In a wide mouth one quart mason jar with lid, combine the sugar, salt, peppercorns, minced onion, crushed red pepper, garlic, and vinegar; shake vigorously for 30-45 seconds or until sugar and salt are well-dissolved.
  2. Add the cucumber, jalapeno, and banana pepper slices to the jar and top off with water that fills the jar nearly full to the brim. Fasten the lid and gently shake the jar to mix contents. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 days and up to 6 months before consuming.
Notes
Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post as a contribution to the 2014 McCormick Health & Wellness Blogger Program. All opinions are my own.

If you’re new to pickling, rest assured that unlike canning, it’s incredibly simple and can incorporate ingredients you already have on hand – everything from spices to fruit to herbs. Get creative – there’s no right or wrong! McCormick has some great quick pickling recipes to try. Of special interest to me are the Easy Kimchi Slaw and the Asian-Style Pickled Vegetables, which show off the versatility of pickling, going beyond toppers and venturing into slaws and salads. Yum!

And, now I want pickled anything for breakfast ;)

Be well,

sig4

Braised Balsamic Chicken

Braised Balsamic Chicken 1

My co-worker in the kitchen hates chicken. She’s a big meat-eater, but chicken is just not her preferred protein. It’s a little ironic because there’s not a day that goes by that we’re not grilling and serving chicken – it is overwhelmingly the protein of choice in our hospital cafeteria. Of course, this suits me just fine as I, too, love chicken.

Putting her personal preferences aside, the woman can scour the internet for the next best chicken recipe like no one else. Every time, it’s a home run.

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I, too, got lucky myself when I made this Fruit and Quinoa Salad with Citrus Poppy Seed Dressing for my diabetes cooking club yesterday (I made some changes to the recipe, but I’m going to be posting it soon – so yum!). I just happened to stumble upon it on the beloved Pinterest.

You see, the cooking kitchen at the hospital is in our wellness center/gym. So wouldn’t you know my cutie-pa-tootie trainer is loitering outside the class, hoping and waiting for leftovers. Along with the facility maintenance man…they’ve got it marked on their calendar that the second Wednesday of every month is cooking day.

And there’s usually leftovers. Lucky guys.

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I digress. Chicken. We were talking about chicken. This chicken dish – Braised Balsamic Chicken.

It’s one of those recipes that you consider the ingredient list and its simplicity and wonder what kind of magic it can produce. Or lack thereof. I had my doubts. But we served it at a provider function and they all wanted the recipe. Administration was swinging by the kitchen the next day to pay us compliments on the meal…always a good thing.

So, we served it in the cafe with the same results. I think we emailed out the recipe to at least a dozen employees. So, to say this meal is well-loved may be quite the understatement. Enjoy!

Braised Balsamic Chicken 4

Braised Balsamic Chicken
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Simple ingredients...big flavors! Plus, it's ready in under 30 minutes!
Ingredients
  • 4 (4 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ tsp garlic salt
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
Instructions
  1. Season chicken with garlic salt and pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; once hot, add chicken breasts and cook until slightly golden brown on each side, about 6 minutes, flipping halfway through. Add onion; cook and stir until onion is browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Pour diced tomatoes and balsamic vinegar over chicken; season with basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme; combine well in the skillet. Simmer until chicken is cooked through and onions are very tender, about 10 additional minutes. Serve immediately.
Notes
Recipe slightly adapted from All Recipes
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 4 oz chicken Calories: 250 Fat: 7.6 Carbohydrates: 14.0 Sugar: 9.0 Sodium: 308 Fiber: 2.8 Protein: 27.3 Cholesterol: 55

Baby Shea’s nursery is complete after the final touch…I’m going to do a post on the room soon :) We’re ready for our shower this weekend and then we simply wait :-D

But for now, an OB appointment and then work ;)

Be well,

sig4

Spicy Honey Mustard Chicken Stir-Fry

Spicy Honey Mustard Chicken Stir-Fry 1

I’m soon-to-be 32 weeks pregnant and starting to feel every bit of it.

My stomach capacity is lessened due to the size of baby. I’ve been making my dinner plate, only to share half of it with Mr. Prevention. I wish it were more often that my eyes are bigger than my stomach, but that certainly seems to be the case as of late.

So it probably goes without saying that I’m out of breath nearly all of the time…or so it seems, and the back pain is still very much so present. I told my trainer today that I was ditching him next Monday in lieu of a massage. He didn’t even give me a hard time about it, either. A mama-to-be has NEEDS.

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Speaking of needs, I continue to read about the importance of exercise in pregnancy. Exercise has many benefits, of course, but aiding in a successful delivery tops the list of perks for me…especially after attending our first child-birthing class last week. Tonight, the couples will be split up so the ladies learn all about breastfeeding and the guys are united with new dads to go through a “Daddy Bootcamp”. It should be interesting…

I digress. I’ve been keeping up with workouts quite well. A lot of core and strength workouts with my trainer, along with elliptical and biking for cardio. Walking continues to be the one workout that causes the most strain on my lower back and the less I can walk, the better I feel. Sadly.

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Along with walking, we can add standing to the list of activities that wear on my back throughout the day. My job has me up and down all day long, which has been helpful in keeping me moving, but without excess. But by the end of the day, I’m ready to be a couch potato. Literally.

Dinner has to be quick and easy. HAS TO BE. Otherwise, take-out is sounding better and better all the time (and why I continue to crave lunch meat, I’ll never know…all I wanted yesterday was a Beach Club from Jimmy Johns and I probably haven’t had one of those since college).

Quick and easy dinners are something like this Spicy Honey Mustard Chicken Stir-Fry — one pot meal that’s ready in 30 minutes or less. Yes…please! Of course the flavor was great, too…and healthy to boot.

Spicy Honey Mustard Chicken Stir-Fry 4

Spicy Honey Mustard Chicken Stir-Fry
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 (not including rice)
 
A new take on classic stir-fry...plus, a meal ready in minutes!
Ingredients
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • ½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 4 tsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • ½ tsp hot sauce
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp canola oil, divided
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • 1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed and stalks cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow squash or zucchini, sliced
  • Hot cooked rice, optional
Instructions
  1. In small bowl, whisk to combine the cornstarch, chicken broth, peanut butter, lime juice, dijon mustard, honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, hot sauce, and cayenne pepper.
  2. In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and stir-fry for 5-7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through; remove chicken and keep warm.
  3. In the same skillet, heat remaining teaspoon of oil. Once hot, add the asparagus and cook 3-4 minutes. Next, add the bell pepper and cook 2-3 minutes before adding the squash/zucchini. Cook vegetables until crisp-tender. Return chicken to pan and stir sauce; toss vegetables and chicken with sauce to coat; cook 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Serve over rice, if desired.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home
Nutrition Information
Serving size: ¼ recipe Calories: 308 Fat: 11.5 Carbohydrates: 18.0 Sugar: 8.8 Sodium: 351 Fiber: 4.3 Protein: 32.8 Cholesterol: 55

 Busy day…busy WEEK. But can’t wait for our baby shower on Saturday! :-D

Be well,

sig4

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Bourbon-Peach Barbecue Sauce

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Bourbon-Peach Barbecue Sauce 1

Confession: I’ve never wanted a glass of wine more in my life. A chilled glass of pinot grigio with dinner, or a dry glass of Chianti with some pasta? Gaaah!!

I know a few ounces of wine late in pregnancy is controversial and not quite the banished behavior it was once thought to be, but it still hasn’t been worth the risk to me. I have the occasional non-alcoholic beer which hits the spot…for beer. But wine or a yummy summer cocktail? Yeah, I want one. Badly.

Note to self: STOP PINNING DELICIOUS-LOOKING COCKTAILS.

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Alcohol in cooking, however? Bring it. So much flavor and not the risk to baby Shea.

I bought mini bottles of dry white wine for cooking so opening an entire 750 ml bottle wasn’t necessary…or there to tease me.

Booze? We have a limited stock of tequila, vodka, bourbon, and whiskey…with a lot of Captain Morgan — Mr. Prevention’s favorite. The bourbon hasn’t been touched in years, but Google told me it was good to go.

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As we prepared for weekend guests, I took survey of our booze stock and perused Cooking Light, coming upon this recipe and instantly drooling. Despite meat not being my most loved food during pregnancy, meat with big flavor is tempting regardless. Add to that those slow-cooked onions, garlic, and peach preserves?

Heavenly. And very much so summer.

We served this pulled pork on the beloved burger bun, but the sky is the limit. Quesadillas? Tacos? Stuffed into a baked potato? Adorning a salad? Straight-up with a fork? Want, want, want.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Bourbon-Peach Barbecue Sauce 4

5.0 from 3 reviews
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Bourbon-Peach Barbecue Sauce
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12 (about 3½ oz pork)
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1¼ tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (3½ lb) bone-in pork shoulder roast (Boston butt), trimmed
  • Cooking spray
  • ½ cup unsalted chicken stock
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ⅓ cup molasses
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • ½ cup peach preserves
  • 2 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 2 Tbsp cold water
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper; rub evenly over pork. Coat hot skillet with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; cook 10 minutes, turning to brown on all sides; transfer to an electric slow cooker.
  2. To the skillet, add stock and next 4 ingredients (through crushed red pepper); bring to a boil over medium heat. Add preserves, stirring with a whisk. Pour mixture over pork; top with onion and garlic.
  3. Cover crock pot and cook on low for 7-9 hours or until pork is very tender. Remove pork from pan, reserving liquid; cool slightly. Shred with 2 forks. Remove onion with a slotted spoon; add to pork.
  4. Discard half of the reserved liquid and heat remainder in a sauce pan over medium heat; stir bourbon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half. Combine cold water and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk; add cornstarch mixture to sauce, stirring constantly until thickened. Stir in remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Drizzle sauce over pork; toss gently to coat. Serve on buns, if desired.
Notes
Recipe from Cooking Light
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 3½ oz pork Calories: 203 Fat: 5.3 Carbohydrates: 11.6 Sugar: 5.8 Sodium: 420 Fiber: 2.6 Protein: 24.8 Cholesterol: 78

 Busy, long day ahead….go!

Be well,

sig4

 

Goat Cheese and Marinara-Stuffed Zucchini + Weekly Menu

Goat Cheese and Marinara-Stuffed Zucchini 1

An hour ago, I was at the beach with Mr. P and Lily. My weather alerts kept threatening storms, but it was sunny and hot and perfect beach weather…for all of about 30 minutes. 40 minutes, tops. I was reading, baring my ultra-white pregnant tummy to the sun gods when I started to feel rain drops. Just a few, as I willed them away with happy, dry thoughts. And then a few more…and then a few more.

If you know me, you probably know I HATE rain. I hate rain so much so that I skipped class in college when it was raining. Is there anything worse than having to sit in a boring lecture when you’re sopping wet?

Hardly. But rain drops when you’re at the beach is no fun, either.

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But that wasn’t our only beach disaster of the weekend (and at least we made it home before the HAIL that came soon thereafter).

Mr. Prevention also decided it would be a good idea to have a bonfire on the beach last night. A good idea, in theory. Except Lake Michigan + surrounding nature + dusk and dark = MONSTROUS EVIL MOSQUITOES. All summer long he’s been begging me to accompany him to the beach for a fire and last night I caved, knowing my friend Mary who was visiting likes doing fun things.

Needless to say, they were calling it quits after about 15 minutes and dozens of mosquito bites. Of course I had to get in a few, “Ummm…I told you so’s.”

Nicole – 1. Mr. Prevention – o.

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Mr. Prevention is also obsessed with the idea of a jet ski. Never mind the fact that we’re 4 weeks away from summer’s end (WHA?!), but we have a baby on the way and jet skiing is a one-person activity. He’s gone as far as to install a trailer hitch on my car and get quotes for a jet ski. I was getting nervous with his commitment to the idea, I’m not going to lie. But I think I’ve talked some sense into him. At least for the time being.

Nicole – 2. Mr. Prevention – 0.

My winning streak continues with a whole bunch of winning recipes off last week’s weekly menu, but this one tops the yum charts. I generally post recipes in the order in which we make them (correction, I make them)…but the best of the best deserve to be shared sooner rather than later. So, here we are.

Do not mistake the simple ingredient list and easy preparation for simple flavors and lack-luster results. Mr. Prevention ate THREE SQUASH for dinner. And lucky for us, our garden and CSA are putting out squash at a rapid pace. I plan to fill every last one with goat cheese and marinara and enjoy every last bite.

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Goat Cheese and Marinara-Stuffed Zucchini
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 (1 zucchini boat each)
 
My summer addiction. I could eat these every day, quite literally. Healthy, simple, and summer...yes, please!
Ingredients
  • 4 zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • ½ tsp salt
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 5 oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven or grill to 400F.
  2. Scoop out the seeds of the halved zucchini, leaving the zucchini hollowed out. Season with salt and black pepper and place on baking sheet.
  3. Using half of goat cheese, spread a small amount in the bottom of each zucchini. Spoon marinara sauce on top, then sprinkle with remaining goat cheese to finish.
  4. Grill or bake until the marinara is hot and the zucchini is fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the zucchini. Serve immediately.
Notes
Recipe ever so slightly adapted from The Wicked Noodle
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 zucchini boat Calories: 81 Fat: 5.0 Carbohydrates: 6.1 Sugar: 2.8 Sodium: 288 Fiber: 1.6 Protein: 5.9 Cholesterol: 8

 Weekly Menu: July 27th – July 31st

Grocery store and workout ahead. Why do I always try to be productive after the beach? It’s always a struggle.

Be well,

sig4