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Have you ever committed to an opportunity to do something and then put a lot of pressure on yourself to make whatever it is really good? Giving a presentation is a great example. You work real hard to prepare your presentation, making sure you include everything, and then you memorize the details of what you want to say, both of which result in you being super nervous and/or anxious beforehand. What if, instead of putting all this pressure on oneself, you take a step back, and keep things simple and just be yourself? Maybe the presentation doesn’t have to include everything or you forget to say a few things. The fact that you aren’t nervous or anxious may allow you to speak more clearly, make more eye contact, and engage more with your audience, ultimately leaving them with a lasting impression of you and your skill.

Now, take making dinner for example. I bet a lot of us put pressure on ourselves to prepare a dinner that is special, elaborate, delicious, and/or something you couldn’t get at a restaurant. Instead, what if just making dinner at home was special enough? That is exactly what this recipe is for—making a simple, healthy dinner at home that tastes good.

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Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry

Serves 4 | Recipe by Lauren Larson | Print here!

Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Total time: 35 minutes

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into ½” strips

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup water

3 teaspoons cooking oil, divided

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

½ medium yellow onion, sliced

1 medium orange bell pepper, sliced

1 cup snow peas

1” piece ginger, peeled and minced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari

2 teaspoons pure cane sugar

1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

1 (16-ounce) bag tricolor coleslaw mix

3 green onions, sliced

4-6 cups hot cooked rice or noodles for serving

Sriracha hot sauce for serving (optional)

  1. Combine the sliced chicken, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, water, and 1 teaspoon cooking oil in a small bowl. Set aside to tenderize for 20 minutes while prepping the remaining ingredients.
  2. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons cooking oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, sauté until cooked on the outside; about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  3. Heat 2 teaspoons sesame oil in the same wok or skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, snow peas, ginger, and garlic. Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes until vegetables are crisp tender.
  4. Combine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and chili garlic sauce in a small ramekin or bowl. Add chicken along with sauce mixture to the wok or skillet; cooking for 2-3 minutes until chicken is nearly cooked through.
  5. Stir in coleslaw mix and cook until wilted and chicken is no longer pink or a thermometer reads 165ºF when inserted in the center.
  6. Sprinkle with green onions and serve on top of cooked rice or noodles topped with Sriracha hot sauce if desired.

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What is the last simple meal you made at home?

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Oat Waffles

Life without schoolwork is amazing. Evenings and weekends with nothing but a life to care about.  Lately, life has been all about social activities, live music, trips to the dog park, reading for pleasure, baking gluten-free coffee cake and crusty bread, trail running in Wyoming, and giving the mountain bike another chance. In between all of that, I am wrapping up the final week at my first 400 hour dietetic internship rotation. I can’t believe how fast it has gone by. Just a little over 800 internship hours to go before I am an exam away from becoming a registered dietitian!

A couple weeks ago I ordered a used copy of a relatively old cookbook recommended to my by a friend: The Cabbagetown Café Cookbook. For just a few bucks on Amazon I just couldn’t pass up checking it out. Immediately after receiving and flipping through it I was excited to see some new techniques and recipes. I started by making a recipe for refried beans to go along with the Chicken Mole Coloradito Enchiladas I served up last week, and they were great!

Next, I made Grandma’s Norwegian Oatmeal Waffles with just a few changes, and they were equally as great!

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Oat Waffles

Serves 4 | Recipe by Lauren Larson | Print here!

Prep time: 8-10 hours, largely unattended (overnight) | Cook time: 10-15 minutes

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 cups dairy or non-dairy milk

2 eggs, separated

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup oat flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Cooking spray

Desired toppings (e.g. butter, jam, yogurt, maple syrup, fresh fruit, etc.)

  1. The night before, combine the oats and milk in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight to soak.
  2. Preheat waffle maker.
  3. Separate egg whites into a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Add egg yolks, melted butter, applesauce, oat flour, baking powder, and sea salt to the oat and milk mixture. Stir to combine.
  5. Using a hand mixer or blender, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold into oat mixture.
  6. Spray waffle maker well with cooking spray and cook according to your waffle maker’s instructions.
  7. Serve topped with desired toppings.

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I served mine topped with a few pads of butter and some blueberry mint jam I made not too long ago. The texture of these waffles was just wonderful. It literally was crispy oatmeal in the shape of a waffle. Yum! We reheated leftovers in the toaster for a super quick breakfast.

What do you like to put on top of your waffles?

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WARNING!! This recipe is not short or easy, but if you are like me and don’t mind checking out your local Hispanic market, spending a couple hours in the kitchen experimenting with something new, and losing sleep over whether or not your guests will like it–then this recipe is for you! I promise you will end up with a bunch of extra mole sauce that can easily be frozen and used another time.

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This recipe starts with de-stemming and de-seeding 10 dried ancho and 5 dried quajillo chiles, both of which I was able to find at my local Hispanic market.

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The chiles are toasted and soaked to soften while the remaining ingredients are toasted in various rounds of the pan. At the end, everything is added to the blender.

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Using the chile soaking sauce to thin, everything is blended until smooth.

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Note: a high speed blender probably works best here, but if you are left with bits and pieces of the cinnamon stick or other ingredients strain the sauce before adding to the pan.

The sauce is then added to the pan with a bit of vegetable oil, chocolate (the best part!), and 2 cups reserved chicken cooking liquid (if you are also making the enchiladas, but if not, vegetable broth would also work). Everything simmers until desired thickness is reached. Yum!

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The sauce itself could be used for a variety of things, but I chose to use it to make enchiladas…my favorite! I cooked and shredded chicken thighs and tossed them with 1/2 cup mole sauce for the filling.

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To assemble the enchiladas, I placed about 2 tablespoons shredded Monterey Jack cheese and 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture down the center of warm corn tortillas. Rolled them up and placed them seam side down in a 9×13 rectangular baking dish with about 1/2 cup mole sauce spread on the bottom. Then I spread about 1/2-3/4 cup more mole sauce over the enchiladas and baked at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes until heated through.

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Topped them off with crumbled queso fresco and fresh cilantro. Served them to the in-laws and they were a hit! This recipe can be prepared in various stages. The chicken and the sauce can be prepared the day before and the enchiladas can be prepared the following day–this helps break it up a bit. I lost sleep over this one, but I am pretty happy with how it turned out! Enjoy!

Chicken Mole Coloradito Enchiladas

Serves 4-6 | Recipe by Lauren Larson | Print here!

Total time: 2+ hours

For the chicken:

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

¼ medium white onion, cut into large chunks

3 cloves garlic, peeled

5 whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups water

For the Mole Coloradito (makes about 6 cups):

10 dried red ancho chile peppers

5 dried guajillo chile peppers

Enough boiling water to cover the dried chiles

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 3-4” cinnamon stick

5 whole cloves

½ teaspoon anise seeds

¼ teaspoon coriander seeds

¼ medium white onion, cut into large chunks

3 garlic cloves, peeled

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

2 tablespoons raisins

3 6-inch corn tortillas, torn into pieces

4 medium plum tomatoes, cored (canned is fine)

½ cup Mexican chocolate, cut in pieces

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

For the enchiladas:

12 6-inch corn tortillas

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

½ cup crumbled queso fresco

¼ bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped (optional)

Lime wedges for serving (optional)

Plain yogurt or sour cream for serving (optional)

To cook the chicken:
  1. Put the chicken, onion, garlic, peppercorns, and salt in a large pot. Pour in water, adding more if the chicken is not covered. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover until chicken is cooked through very tender; about 30-40 minutes. Remove chicken, reserving liquid, shred with two forks, and transfer to a bowl. Refrigerate if not using within 30 minutes.
To prepare the Mole Coloradito:
  1. Wash the chiles with a damp cloth. Remove the stems, split open with a knife and remove the seeds and veins. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the chiles until lightly toasted; about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large glass bowl. Cover with boiling water to soften; about 30 minutes. Carefully remove the chiles, reserving 2-3 cups liquid, and add to a blender.
  2. In the same dry skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds, tossing until golden; about 5 minutes. Transfer to blender.
  3. Again, in the same skillet, toast the cinnamon stick, cloves, anise seeds, and coriander seeds until fragrant; about 3 minutes. Add to blender.
  4. 4. Still in the same dry skillet, add the onion and garlic and toast until nicely brown in spots. Add to blender.
  5. Add tomatoes to blender.
  6. Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons oil to the same skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds, raisins, and torn corn tortillas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the almonds are golden, the raisins are plump, and the tortillas are golden brown; about 2-5 minutes. Add to blender.
  7. Pour ~1/2 cup reserved chile soaking liquid (being careful not to pick up any rogue seeds). Turn on blender. Working ½ cup at a time, carefully pour in 1 ½-2 ½ cups reserved chile soaking liquid (avoiding seeds) through the hole in the top of the blender until the sauce is thick and smooth.
  8. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Pour in the chile sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened; 5-6 minutes.
  9. Add 2 cups reserved chicken cooking liquid (straining if necessary) and simmer until sauce starts to thicken. Add chocolate, and simmer, stirring frequently, until the chocolate melts and the sauce reduces; about 20 minutes.
  10. Add sugar and salt to taste. Use immediately and/or portion out and freeze for future use.
To assemble enchiladas:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with about ½ cup mole sauce.
  3. Microwave chicken if not warm. Stir 1 cup shredded cheese and ½ cup mole sauce into shredded chicken.
  4. Coat both sides of tortillas with vegetable oil spray. Arrange 6 tortillas on a large baking sheet and bake until soft and pliable; 2-4 minutes.
  5. Working quickly, fill each tortilla with ¼ cup chicken mixture, roll, and place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
  6. Pour 1 cup more mole sauce over enchiladas. Bake 25 minutes. Sprinkle with queso fresco and cilantro.
  7. Serve with lime wedges, yogurt, and more mole sauce on the side.

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