Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Crock Pot Shredded Chicken

Y'all.... When I said I was gonna kick The Barnyard Bistro back off in 2018, I had NO idea how much traveling I would be doing this year! I just completed the 18th week on the road promoting "Anyone Else" (my duet with Lance Carpenter). We've been out 4-5 days a week and my weekends are spent taking Hensley to the park and zoo and filling up my mommy soul with my little love. Needless to say there hasn't been much experimental cooking or blogging time lately. For those of you feeling sorry for Hensley and Drew, I do still manage to cook a weeks worth of meals on Sunday before I hit the road every Monday.  This is the only way I can ensure they aren't surviving on oatmeal, scrambled eggs and hot sauce.
Side Bar: Do your husbands prepare food like a broke college kid? Mine does. He eats everything cold, mixed together and mismatched with half a bottle of hot sauce. Thanks to Drew, my 2 year old is obsessed with hot sauce and requires it on almost everything. I do think it's cute that she likes hot sauce. But as someone who enjoys creating a cohesive meal, it pains me to see him eat his cold hibachi/enchilada/lasagna mashups. I can’t be alone....right?
And we’re back:
I almost always make them either a crock pot full of beans or a big batch of  rice, farro or some other grain, a bunch of roasted or sautéed vegetables like Brussels sprouts or broccoli and cauliflower and then a crock pot full of chicken or pork to get them through the week. This recipe for crock-pot chicken is one of my favorites. You can use it for anything. I usually just keep shredded meat in the fridge and we use it for tacos or enchiladas one night, a bbq sandwich the next, on top of a salad or just as a snack. It doesn't hurt that it's impossible to mess up and takes like, negative time to prepare. Oh! And you can freeze part of it and pull it out whenever you need a quick dinner.
Let me know what you think.

10 Chicken Thighs, Boneless & Skinless
1 Jar Fire Roasted Salsa (I like Arriba brand)
1 Lg. Onion, sliced
1 Tbsp Salt
1 Tbsp Paprika
2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Black Pepper 

These instructions couldn't be more simple: Throw it all in a Crock Pot, cover and cook on high for 8-10 hours. 

You want it to cook until it starts to burn around the edges and has almost no liquid left. This is when all the flavors really develop. I leave mine overnight (it turns off after 8 hours automatically) and then restart it in the am for an additional 2 hours. I check on it about every 30 minutes those last couple hours to make sure it isn't just dry and burning.  You can pull it at about 5-6 hours and it will shred and be perfectly fine for whatever you choose to use it for. However, the full 10 hours gives it an insanely rich flavor you can only get by cooking all the liquid out and concentrating those flavors. Think of it as a "reduction."

This is a dish that you can really make your own. Try salsa verde instead of tomato salsa. You can also use only chicken breast or do half thighs and half breasts-to to make it a bit leaner but the thighs-give it so much more flavor so I highly recommend at least a few thighs in there. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Soft Pretzel Bites & Beer Cheese

Who doesn’t love a good pretzel? I can’t keep myself from making an Auntie Anne’s stop when I see them pull fresh ones out of the oven. For that reason, I knew these were a must-have for my pot-luck party recipe stash. These are my go-to for football watch parties (Go Steelers and as always...Boomer Sooner) because they are so incredibly simple to make and they are always a crowd favorite. 

Frozen yeast roll dough (y’all know I always like Rhodes brand)
1/4 cup Baking soda 
3qts Water
Kosher Salt
Cheese Dip (look for my beer cheese recipe down below)

Allow the dough to thaw until it is soft enough to cut. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut each ball of dough into four and lay out on a lined baking sheet. Boil water, slowly add baking soda. Drop the pretzels in small batches of 10-15 making sure they aren’t stuck together. Let boil for 20-30 seconds and remove, placing them back on lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with homemade or store-bought cheese sauce. 

Note- if you are making more than a few batches I recommend having a second pot of water boiling that you can add baking soda to when you are ready to use it. After a few batches the water starts to give a very sour/bitter taste to the pretzels so it should be swapped out. 

Homemade Beer Cheese Sauce: 
1/2 cup Butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup beer 
1/3 cup cream cheese
1 cup of shredded cheddar (white or yellow)
Pinch of cayenne, optional

Which beer to use is up to you but I recommend a good flavorful beer, not dark in color- don’t use cheap domestic beer like a bud light, it doesn’t have enough flavor. I use Sam Adams Boston Lager or a light colored German lager. 

Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Cook the flour in the butter until it starts to brown. Add the beer (just as you would add milk if you were making gravy) and stir constantly until it starts to thicken. Add the cream cheese, stir until melted and combined. Lastly, slowly add in the cheddar cheese stirring in a figure eight pattern until melted and combined. If you like a little spice you can add in a pinch of cayenne. If you don’t want to use beer you can use milk instead and it will be more of a mac&cheese type of sauce. 

Enjoy! XOXO~

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Los Cabos Grub Guide

My family spent the two weeks after Christmas in Cabo, with the exception of a short heartbreaking New Years Day stop in Pasadena but we'll just skip right over that. TAKE ME BACK TO CABO! (As I write this, it's 11 degrees with snow on the ground in Nashville). I have traveled to Cabo several times a year, every year, for 25 years. I get a fairly constant stream of messages from fans and friends finally visiting the Baja for the first time. They always want to know where to eat when they get there. So...I thought I would kick off 2018 with my Los Cabos Grub Guide so you always have it on hand should you or a friend find yourselves headed there. Not everything that happens in Mexico stays in Mexico (See what I did there?) 

La Golondrina: 
This is one of those places our family makes a point to come to EVERY. SINGLE. TRIP. In fact, both my sister and I chose La Golondrina as the location for our wedding rehearsal dinners. It is open air but has great big trees and stringed lighting that creates a great atmosphere. And the food....oh the food! It has something for everyone. In fact the menu is so big they have it written on a wall instead of handing you a menu to read through. The wall usually has an attendant answering questions. I will warn you, it is a crazy amount of food as there is a soup, tostada, and garlic bread that comes before you get the dinner. (I have pics of us here somewhere, I'll add those at some point!)
What To Order:
We love the Dynamite or Diablo Shrimp appetizers,  Whole Red Snapper, the Acapulco Style Fish as well as any of the combo entrees. Great ribs, steak, Mexican entrees, etc. I could go on and on but really you can’t go wrong here. 

DOC Restaurant and Wine Bar:
I am a bit of a food snob when it comes to Italian food. This ranks among my top Italian favorites ever, not just in Mexico. The food is top notch. They make their own pasta which for me is a must. If you haven’t ever had fresh made pasta, find a spot TONIGHT and go. You can’t beat it. 
What To Order: 
Ragú (Bolognese), Ravioli Del Giorno, Red Wine Braised Half Chicken, Burrata Caprese salad

Cabo Wabo: 
Has great food and great nightlife. Our family has spent MANY nights living it up in Sammy Hagar's hot spot. Some we remember and some we don’t! Most nightclub/restaurant combos do one or the other best, Sammy rocks it on both fronts. I’ve never eaten anything there I didn’t like and their house band brings the party after dark. If your lucky you'll catch some of Sammy's buddies up on stage rocking out with the house band
What To Order: 
Any shrimp appetizer or entree. Seriously, pick one they are all great. Enchilada Stack, Stuffed Mushrooms, Vampiros, Steak. 

This is just ONE of the HUNDREDS of nights we've spent in Cabo Wabo. The boys had caught a maco shark out fishing that day and Sammy's guys cooked it up for us.  They could do the same for you if you catch something while out on a deep-sea fishing expedition.

Nik San:
Upscale and on the expensive side but so good. Angel the owner is great at what he does and everything from the hot dishes to the sushi is on point! There are two locations. One in downtown Cabo San Lucas, it's the original. the other is in the "Shoppes At Palmilla" closer to the San Jose side.
What To Order:
Try to Tuna Tostada, the Sashimi Serranito, the Japanese Yellowtail Sashimi, or the Eel Roll. If you like cooked dishes, the Pan-Fried Spicy Fish was out of this world. If they are not busy you may be able to talk them into spinach rolls or tomatillos that have been taken off the menu due to how long they take to make.
Affordable Alternative: Art & Sushi 

The Office:
Eat on the beach with your feet in the sand. Does it get much better than that?! It's owned by the same people as Edith's (another great spot in town). The food is great day or night. It is right in the heart of spring break central so if that isn’t your thing I would avoid it during the day. 
What To Order: 
Lunch: Sea Bass Tacos, Quesadillas, Queso Fundito con Chorizo (melted cheese with sausage), Tuna Tiradito, and more
Dinner: All of the above, or Tampiqueña, Grilled Sea Bass, Lobster. I've never had anything here I didn't like so, again, you can't go wrong.

Italian Job: 
Ok, so to be honest, I've never actually been here. However, I get my love of food and restaurant scouting from my Dad and he says this is his favorite Italian spot in Cabo. I have enough faith in his judgement to add it to this list. it is run by a man from Northern Italy using his family recipes. They make their own pasts, bread, sauces, etc. so that gives them big brownie points from me.
What To Order:
Apparently they have something called the "Ass On Fire" Pizza that is pretty great. Other dishes recommended we're the Caesar Salad, Lasagna, Carbonara, Porterhouse, Eggplant Parmesan appetizer, and more. From what I hear, everything was top notch.

Fat Tuna:
This is a new place in Cabo also owned by Angel from Nik San. The grilled fish dishes were outrageous! 
What To Order: 
Fat Tuna Ceviche, Tuna Carpaccio, both of the TuToaba Fish dishes, the Black Cod Miso, Lasagna, Pizza. 

Tacos Gardenias:
We’ve been going here for 25 years. Simple, cheap, great tacos. Great lunch spot. 
What To Order:
Our group always orders anywhere from 3 to 6 tacos per person. the fish tacos are great, shrimp (camarones), beef with cheese and chicken with cheese are also go-to options. There are other great types of tacos on the menu so don't hesitate to branch out a bit and try something out of the ordinary.

Cabo Surf: 
There is a boutique resort in the corridor called Cabo Surf. They have FABULOUS breakfast. Drew and I make a point to have a breakfast date there almost every time we are in town. It was introduced to us when we were in Cabo planning our wedding. Below is a pic of us that first day...and then a pic of me 8 months pregnant on our "Babymoon" trip before we had Hensley and one of Drew that show the view, which is breathtaking. It's the spot where all the surfers come to catch the waves so you get to check out all the surf action.
What To Order:
the French Toast is to die for! All the other breakfast is great too so if you are going with 4 or more people, let everyone choose what they want for breakfast but make sure to order a French Toast for the table to share. 

La Casa Country:
This is a great spot if you are down near the marina, which is pretty central fo all of downtown Cabo. Quite possibly the best salsa and table-side guacamole I've ever had. It overlooks the marina so-it has a great view of boats coming and going. It is great for lunch or dinner, or you just just grab a beer and some guac or salsa. I believe they even have breakfast on some days as well,  although I've never been there for breakfast. 
What To Order:
Arancita combo, They have a great grilled meat plate that comes out on a giant griddle, The grilled fish-is great. Again, the salsa and table-side guac is a must. If you can handle a little heat, go ahead and let them put everything in the guac.

Other Popular Spots To Check Out:
El Feralon is cliffside and romantic (reservation needed)
Flora Farm is farm-to-table style (reservation needed)
Tropicana is a standard Mexican Restaurant in San Jose 
Mi Casa is a standard Mexican Restaurant in San Lucas
Edith's (reservation needed)
Hacienda Cocina y Cantina (downtown San Lucas)
Doggie Style - my brothers favorite hot dog stand
Common Table 

Grocery Stores: 
There is Wal-Mart, Mega, Costco, etc. for the standard groceries but if you like to cook brands you know or you are an "Organic" only person or you need specialty items you might check out Santa Carmela, it's a small market just outside of downtown in the corridor area that carries mostly American brands. There is also a little more selection at the market located in the "Shoppes At Palmilla." but that a lot closer to San Jose.