Apple Cider Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Slaw

I have made slow-cooker pulled chicken sandwiches in the past but felt like they would be improved with slaw. This version fulfilled that wish! We ate them on soft potato rolls with chips. It was a wonderful, casual dinner that we enjoyed outside on a beautiful night.

This recipe was adapted from Just Cook It! 145 Built-to-be-Easy Recipes that are Totally Delicious by Justin Chapple. I used broccoli slaw as a base for the cole slaw topping and opted to not toast the rolls. With minimal preparation required in the morning, it’s a great dish to serve after a busy day.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Pulled Chicken:

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs (about 8 to 10)
  • potato sandwich rolls, split, toasted if desired, for serving
  • slaw (recipe below), for serving

For the Slaw:

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp celery seeds
  • 12 ounces broccoli slaw (Trader Joe’s) or Brussels sprouts or shredded cabbage
  • 1 large Ruby Frost or Granny Smith apple, cored and julienned
  • 1 very firm Anjou or Bartlett pear, cored and juilienned
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

To Make the Chicken:

  1. In a slow cooker, whisk together the apple cider, ketchup, sugar, vinegar, garlic, 2 tsp coarse salt, and 1 tsp pepper.
  2. Add the chicken thighs and mix well.
  3. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 7 hours or High for 3 to 4 hours, until the chicken is very tender.
  4. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken in the sauce and then season generously with salt and pepper.

To Make the Slaw:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, and celery seeds.
  2. Using a mandoline set to 1/8″, julienne the apple and pear. Slice the Brussels sprouts lengthwise by hand, if using.
  3. Add the fruit to the mayonnaise mixture, followed by the shredded cabbage/broccoli/Brussels sprouts.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and mix.
  5. Chill until ready to serve.

To Serve:

  1. Pile the pulled chicken on soft or toasted potato buns, top with slaw, and serve.

Note: The pulled chicken can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before serving.

Mushroom Tacos with Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce

More tacos to share! I served these full-flavored vegetarian tacos for our Cinco de Mayo celebration this year- with margaritas, chips, and guacamole, of course.

The recipe was adapted from The Essential Mexican Instant Pot Cookbook: Authentic Flavors and Modern Recipes for your Electric Pressure Cooker by Deborah Schneider. I used a stove top pressure cooker instead of an instant pot, but this filling could be prepared just as easily without using a pressure cooker at all. The creamy avocado sauce was amazing!

The original recipe is for “quesotacos” which the author describes as black-belt street cooking, made by browning a layer of cheese right on a griddle, scooping it up with a tortilla, and using that to wrap the filling. I opted to serve the filling over the shredded cheese in a traditional taco form. This wonderful filling is also used in enchiladas in this book. Yum!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6, with about 1 cup of Avocado-Tomatillo sauce

For the Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce:

  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 2 tomatillos, husked and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 serrano chile, stemmed (and seeded, if desired)
  • 1 T water
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • leaves from 2 sprigs cilantro, chopped (about 1 T)

For the Mushroom Tacos:

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, cut into 1-inch dice (2 cups) (I reserved 1/4 cup of the onion for the sauce)
  • 9 garlic cloves, minced (3 T)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 to 10 oz cremini mushroom, sliced or cut into quarters
  • 8 to 10 oz white button mushrooms, sliced or cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves or shredded fresh epazote
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 12 corn or corn-wheat tortillas
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or grated Cojita cheese
  • Avocado-Tomatillo sauce, for serving
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

To Make the Sauce:

  1. In a food processor, combine the avocado, tomatillos, onion, Serrano Chile, water, and salt.
  2. Pulse until fairly smooth, about 10 pulses, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the cilantro and pulse a couple of times to combine.
  4. Transfer to a bowl, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt if needed.

Note: The Sauce will keep well for 24 hours, covered and refrigerated.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Place poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. Broil the poblano chiles in the oven, rotating every 5 to 7 minutes, until charred and blistered on all sides. (I set my oven to Broil Max at 450F.)
  3. Wrap the chiles in the foil lining, to loosen the charred skin with steam.
  4. When cool enough to handle, peel, seed and dice the roasted chiles.
  5. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker, instant pot, or dutch oven.
  6. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.
  8. Add the water, salt, portobello mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, and white mushrooms, then stir in the cilantro/epazote.
  9. If using a pressure cooker or instant pot, secure the lip and cook on high for 1 minute. (Alternatively, cook the mixture in a Dutch oven until mushrooms have released a significant amount of moisture and are lightly browned.)
  10. Use the quick pressure release. (I rotate the valve into a perpendicular position on the top of my pressure cooker.)
  11. Set a colander in a bowl. Pour the mushroom mixture into the colander, reserving the liquid in the bowl.
  12. Set the colander aside and return the liquid to the pot.
  13. Bring the liquid to a boil, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until syrupy and very thick.
  14. Return the mushroom mixture to the pot and stir in the black pepper, pepper flakes, and roasted and diced poblano chiles.
  15. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until heated through.
  16. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.
  17. Serve the mushroom filling in warm tortillas over shredded Monterey Jack and crumbled feta. Top with sauce, minced cilantro, and extra cheese, as desired.

For “Quesotacos”:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly oil, place a tortilla in the pan and toast for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the tortilla and top with 2 T of Jack cheese and 1 T of feta/Cojita. Continue toasting until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes more. Top with mushroom mixture, sauce, sprinkle of cheese, and pinch of cilantro. Serve immediately.

For a Grilled Corn & Mushroom Variation: Add kernels from 2 ears of grilled corn to the pot after adding the roasted poblano chiles.

Union Square Cafe’s Seared Salmon with Spinach, Corn & Mushrooms

I made this lovely dish for Easter dinner. The sauce was absolutely incredible. I also loved that the salmon was served over a plate of sautéed vegetables. The recipe was adapted from one of the most popular menu items at NYC’s Union Square Café in the 1990’s.

The recipe is from the 40th Anniversary Special Edition of Food and Wine magazine titled “Our 40 Best-Ever Recipes,” contributed by Michael Romano.  I am keeping this issue as a “cookbook” because I want to try so many (practically all!) of the dishes. The issue states that this salmon dish is one of the best recipes Food and Wine has ever published. Very special.

We finished our meal with a celebratory Bunny Cake, of course!

Yield: Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a first course (this recipe can be doubled easily)

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (6 ounces), divided
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion (I used 1/2 of a large red onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves (2 thinly sliced and 1 whole), divided
  • 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps quartered, divided
  • 1 medium-size ripe tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound fresh spinach
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3-4 ears)
  • 1 (1 to 1 1/2 pound) center-cut salmon fillet, sliced crosswise into 4 to 6 strips
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Make the Sauce:

  1. Cut 6 tablespoons butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium-low.
  3. Add onion, sliced garlic, shiitake stems, tomato, black peppercorns, and bay leaf, and cook until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 12 minutes.
  4. Add balsamic vinegar and 1/3 cup water, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is syrupy, about 4 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to low, and add cubed butter, 2 to 3 pieces at a time, whisking thoroughly between additions.
  6. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Pour sauce through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids.
  8. Keep sauce warm over a double boiler.
Prepare the Spinach:
  1. Spear whole garlic clove with a dinner fork. (I’ve never done this before- genius!)
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over high until just beginning to smoke.
  3. Add spinach; cook, stirring using fork with garlic clove, until spinach is wilted.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste; transfer to a colander to drain. Discard garlic clove.
Prepare the Corn & Mushrooms:
  1. Wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Reduce heat to medium, and add 3 tablespoons butter.
  2. Add shiitake caps, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in corn kernels; cook until completely heated through, about 3 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl, and keep warm.
  1. Increase heat to high, and add remaining 1 tablespoon butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet.
  2. Season salmon strips with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add fish to skillet, and cook until browned but barely cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
To Serve:
  1. Divide spinach among 6 plates; surround with corn and shiitakes.
  2. Place a salmon strip on top of spinach, and spoon vinegar sauce on fish.
  3. Garnish with a sprinkling of chives; serve immediately.

Shrimp & Grits with Mustard Seed Chowchow

Charleston, South Carolina is a very special place for me. As a tribute, I make a lot of Southern food. 🙂 I also make shrimp and grits as part of our traditional Easter celebration.

We were lucky enough to travel back to Charleston recently and we brought home a couple of different types of grits. The fresh from South Carolina grits really made this dish extra special. I also baked the grits for the first time and the results were amazing. I used a blend of stone ground white and yellow grits for this dish, but, I also have special pink “unicorn grits” from Millers All Day which I’ll be sure to share with you in another dish.

This dish is from a Food and Wine “staff-favorite” recipe, contributed by Isaac Toups of Toups South in New Orleans. It was absolutely incredible. (We need to go to his restaurant!)  It may be quite difficult to try a new version next year. I served it with roasted asparagus. Lovely.

  1. Preheat oven to 200°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Toss together shrimp and Cajun seasoning in a medium bowl. Cover; refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Place milk and 1/4 cup butter in a medium ovenproof saucepan. Bring to a vigorous simmer over medium, stirring occasionally.
  4. Gradually add grits, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and grits are evenly suspended in milk, about 6 minutes.
  5. Cover saucepan; transfer to preheated oven. Bake until grits are tender, 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove from oven; stir in 2 teaspoons salt and remaining 1/4 cup butter. Cover to keep warm until ready to use. (I put the pot in a warming oven.)
  6. While the grits are in the oven, stir together vinegar, 3/4 cup water, sugar, and remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt in a saucepan; bring to a boil over high.
  7. Stir in mustard seeds. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until seeds are tender, about 35 minutes.
  8. Add tomato and bell pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and mixture has thickened, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove from heat.
  9. Remove shrimp from refrigerator. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high until smoking.
  10. Add shrimp to skillet in a single layer; cook until opaque and lightly charred, about 1 minute and 30 seconds per side.
  11. To serve, divide grits among 4 bowls. Top evenly with shrimp and chowchow; sprinkle with sliced scallion.

Note: The chowchow can be made up to a week in advance.

Italian Easter Bread Wreath

Happy Easter! I made this sweet and tender orange-scented bread to serve for breakfast with our hard-boiled Easter eggs. The texture was similar to panettone without the dried fruit.

As an aside, I have to share a photo of my Easter cat with his catnip carrot. ❤ We are all very festive in my house!

Because I live in fear of overbaking my sweets, I was disappointed that this loaf was slightly overdone after I had already significantly reduced the baking time in the original recipe. :/ Don’t worry! We still gobbled it up, but, I modified the recipe below. The sweet orange glaze made it a crowd-pleaser.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I weighed all of the dry ingredients and used vanilla and orange extract instead of Fiori di Sicilia. I also reduced the baking time and tented the loaf during baking. Pretty.

Yield: One 10-inch round loaf

For the Starter:

  • 120 g (1 cup) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) cool water
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

For the Dough:

  • 269 g (2 1/4 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 67 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract + 1/4 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed, optional (I omitted it)
  • grated peel of 1 large orange

For the Glaze:

  • 113 g (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • sprinkles or nonpareils, for decorating
  1. To make the bread: Mix together the starter ingredients, cover the bowl, and let rest at room temperature overnight, or for up to 15 hours.
  2. Next day, combine the bubbly starter with all the remaining dough ingredients. Mix and knead, using a mixer or bread machine, until the dough is elastic and satiny. We don’t recommend preparing this dough by hand, as it’s quite sticky and challenging to bring together. (I used the beater until the dough came together and the dough hook for about 7 minutes on medium speed to knead the dough.)
  3. Grease a large bowl and let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I used a proofing oven.)
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface, divide it into three pieces, and shape each piece into an 18″-long rope. Braid the ropes together, and connect the two ends to form a wreath.
  5. Cover the wreath and allow it to rise until puffy, about 1 to 2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  6. Bake the wreath for 10-15 minutes, then tent the loaf with aluminum foil and reduce the oven heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 8-15 minutes. The finished loaf will be golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register at least 190°F. (I baked it at 375°F for 15 minutes, and 350°F for 10 minutes and the internal temperature of the loaf was 205°F.)
  7. Remove the wreath from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool.
  8. To make the glaze: Stir together the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the milk or orange juice. Add more liquid 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until the glaze is thin and pourable.
  9. Drizzle the glaze onto the cooled braid, then decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

Meyer Lemon Pizzelle

I love a crispy pizzelle! I was first introduced to these traditional Italian cookies by a friend who made them every year for our kids’ preschool Christmas celebration. They were so pretty and delicious that I put a pizzelle iron on my holiday wishlist. 🙂 Eating them with ice cream made me understand why my husband loves waffle cones too. This is a wonderful version with subtle lemon flavor.

This special dessert recipe was adapted from a Food 52 community pick, contributed by Hilarybee. I used lemon extract but may try orange next time. I also increased the amount of Meyer lemon zest and added salt.

The original recipe also recommends serving them filled with pastry cream or mousse or sandwiched with a little bit of lemon curd. Yum!

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature (I place them in a bowl of warm water)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure orange or pure lemon extract
  • zest of 2 Meyer lemons
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  1. Whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Combine the sugar and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes until well incorporated. Note: The eggs must be at least room temperature; cold eggs will result in an unworkable batter.
  3. Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the mixture, while mixing on medium speed.
  4. Add the extracts followed by the zest.
  5. On low-speed, add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time. Alternate between medium and low-speed while beating in the flour. (I turn it to low while pouring in the flour; medium to incorporate the flour before adding more).
  6. The batter should have a satin sheen to it, but should be light and stiff. If your batter is too liquid, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time until the batter is stiff.
  7. Using a tablespoon scoop, place dollops of batter into the iron. The cookies take about 25-30 seconds in the iron.

Note: Fresh, hot cookies can be rolled or shaped into cups. I shaped them into cups by placing a hot cookie on the base of a juice glass and then topped it with an inverted glass prep bowl. The cookies cool very quickly and maintain the shape.

Rainbow Sugar Cookies

I made these colorful sugar cookies to bring to my friend’s St. Patrick’s Day party. She is always very festive and embraces every holiday with wonderful decorations and fun crafts.

Her 12-year old daughter even made this Leprechaun appetizer for the celebration. Amazing! 🙂

These cookies were originally called “End of the Rainbow” cookies in Martha Stewart Living. They had little candy “pots of gold” attached with icing. I preferred them plain! I added the colored sanding sugar on the outside of the cookie dough log instead. I also used a tried and true sugar cookie dough, from our birthday Number Cookies, but used the technique from the magazine to color and form the dough into rainbows.

I pre-cut the dough into semi-circles prior to baking but had to trim the bottom after baking to create a straight edge. Next time, I would bake them in full circles and cut them in half immediately after removing them from the oven instead. We did get to sample the cookies by eating all of the trimmed edges! 😉

  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (10.6 oz)
  • gel food coloring (I used blue, yellow, and pink)
  • 1 large egg, yolk and white separated
  • colored sanding sugar (I used yellow)
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt; mix on medium-high speed until combined.
  3. With mixer on low speed, add flour in two batches, mixing until just incorporated.
  4. Divide dough in half, about 1 pound each.
  5. Divide one half into 2 pieces, about 3/4 cup each. (I used a kitchen scale to divide it evenly.) Flatten one piece into a 3-by-5-inch rectangle; wrap tightly with plastic. Roll out other piece into an 8-inch rod shape, about 1 inch thick; wrap tightly with plastic.
  6. Divide remaining half of dough into 3 pieces, about 1/2 cup or about 5.8-6oz each. Tint each with one of the gel colors, as desired, stirring color in with a knife or spatula.
  7. Flatten each tinted piece into a 3-by-5-inch rectangle; wrap each tightly with plastic.
  8. Refrigerate all dough until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days (or freeze up to 1 month).
  9. In a small bowl, whisk egg white with a fork.
  10. Between sheets of plastic wrap, or on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the blue dough into a 4 or 5-by-8-inch rectangle, a scant 1/4 inch thick.
  11. While still enveloped in the plastic wrap, make sure that the edges meet after wrapping the log in the tinted dough; adjust if necessary.
  12. Unwrap and brush the top with egg white. Place dough rod on long edge of rolled-out dough, then roll rod inside it; seal at edges where dough meets by pinching and pressing gently. Freeze 10 minutes.
  13. Repeat with remaining dough, rolling yellow dough out to 5 or 6-by-8 inches, pink dough to 6 by 8 inches (1/8 inch thick), and un-tinted dough to 7 or 8-by-8 inches.
  14. Roll log in plastic wrap; twist ends closed. Freeze until solid, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.
  15. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  16. Let log soften at room temperature about 10 minutes; remove plastic wrap.
  17. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk with a fork. Coat the outside of the log with the egg yolk and sprinkle with sanding sugar.
  18. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice 1/4 inch thick, rotating log slightly after every slice to maintain even circles.
  19. Place slices on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake until firm and just golden around edges, about 9 to 12 minutes.
  20. Immediately after removing the cookies from the oven, cut each cookie in half with a sharp knife to form two rainbows.
  21. Let cool on sheet 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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