Meal Plans

This Week’s Family Meal Plan

heartysmarty

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

CLICK HERE to download the FREE Prepear App and get the shopping list for this week’s meal plan!

continue reading
RecipesSaladsSlow Cooker and Instant PotVeggie-Lover Dinners

Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken Taco Salads (for a crowd)

heartysmarty

Chicken Taco Salads (or Cafe Rio Salads as we like to call them) is a meal I have been making for over 8 years. I used to spend hours and hours preparing each dish–slow-cooking the meat, boiling beans on the stove top, and chopping fresh salsa by hand.

This is my go-to meal when cooking for a crowd, so I had to plan a day or two in advance in order to get everything hot and ready at the same time. Since I have been using an Instant Pot, it is possible to have this 8-part meal completely ready for 20 people in just 2 hours time. That’s pretty amazing. So, if you are in a bind and need to throw an impromptu meal together for a lot of people, this one is for you! It’s fresh and delicious and easy to stretch out with rice and beans. Enjoy!

Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken Taco Salads

Cafe Rio Copy Cat sweet portk salad (made with chicken) to feed 25 hungry people

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 25 people
Author heartysmarty

Ingredients

Sweet Salsa Chicken

  • 4 lbs Frozen Chicken Breasts about 6 large chicken breasts
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 4 Cups Mild Pace Picante Salsa

Seasoned Black Beans

  • 32 oz Dry Black Beans rinsed and sorted
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 3 Tablespoons Better than Bouillon Chicken Soup Base
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Pepper

Lime Rice

  • 3 tablespoon Butter
  • 6 cups White Rice
  • 12 cups Chicken Broth
  • 3 Limes zested and juiced
  • 1 Tablespoon Dehydrated Onions
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Tomatillo Dressing (mild)

  • 1 Cup Plain Kefir or buttermilk
  • 1 Cup Mayonnaise original
  • 1 packet Traditional Hidden Valley Ranch Mix 3 Tablespoons
  • 4 Tomatillos washed and husks removed quartered
  • 1/2 bunch fresh Cilantro stems removed
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1 Lime juiced
  • 1 small Jalapeno seeds removed

Mango Salsa

  • 4 1/2 Cups Fresh Peaches (or Mangoechopped
  • 2 Avocados chopped
  • 2 Cups Red Bell Peppers chopped fine
  • 1 Small Jalapeno chopped fine
  • 1/4 Cup Green Onions chopped fine
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro chopped fine
  • 2 Tablespoons Lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin

Instructions

Chicken

  1. Lay FROZEN chicken breasts on the bottom of and 8 quart Instant Pot. (See NotePour salsa and sprinkle brown sugar over the chicken.
  2. Secure the Instant Pot lid and turn the top nozzle to the [Sealing] position. Set the [Manual] or [Pressure Cook] setting to high for 20 minutes.
  3. It will take approximately 10 minutes for the Instant Pot to gain pressure before cooking time begins. After the cooking is complete, let the chicken sit and naturally release pressure for 10 minutes before venting the remaining pressure with the top nozzle.
  4. To shred the chicken, you can remove the chicken to a cookie sheet and hack at it with a metal spatula or forks. OR, use the whisking attachments in your countertop mixer (I use the Boscand put an entire breast into the mixer. Pulse three or four times and your chicken will be evenly and perfectly shredded.
  5. This makes about 25 half-cup servings of chicken.

Black Beans

  1. Combine all ingredients in the Instant Pot and fill with water to the 1/2 line inside the pot.
  2. Lock the lid into place and set the pot to the [Bean/Chili] setting for 25 minutes. You may also use the Manual or Pressure Cook Setting for 30 minutes.
  3. Once the cooking is finished, allow the pressure to naturally release. This will take about 20 minutes.
  4. This recipe makes 8 cups of beans which is 25 third-cup servings.

Lime Rice

  1. Add the rice and butter in a large stock pot over medium high heat.
  2. Brown the rice by cooking in butter about 5 minutes. Add broth, zest, juice dehydrated onions, and salt and cover with a lid.
  3. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until water is fully absorbed, and rice can be fluffed with a fork.
  4. Makes 25 half-cup servings.

Tomatillo Dressing

  1. In the order listed above, add all ingredients to the blender.
  2. Blend on high speed about 2 minutes or until smooth. Serve immediately or chill in an airtight container. Makes 1 quart of dressing which is about 2 ½ tablespoons of dressing each for 25 people.

Mango Salsa

  1. Chop all produce and combine in a large bowl. (See notes for my chopping tips.)
  2. Mix in the juice and spices and stir to combine.
  3. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Makes 10 Cups of salsa.

Toppings:

  1. 25 Flour Tortillas
  2. 12 Cups Romaine Lettuce, chopped (about 3 bags)
  3. 8 Vine-Ripe Tomatoes, chopped
  4. 3 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Shredded

Recipe Notes

Finding a two-hour chunk of time to get all this on the table can be tricky. I suggest making the beans the day before and store them in a ziplock bag in the fridge. While the Instant Pot is doing it’s thing, I make the salsa, rice, and dressing. The dressing is also a good thing to make a day ahead and store in the fridge as well.

Chicken: If you have a smaller Instant Pot, cut this recipe in half and reduce pressure cook time to 15 minutes. Plan to make two batches of chicken (or borrow a friend’s cooker). This recipe freezes and re-heats beautifully in the microwave.
Beans: If you don’t love the smell of cumin and beans inside your kitchen (because who does?) I suggest setting your Instant Pot outside while it cooks and releases pressure. Of course, if the weather is poor, you will just have to enjoy this process inside. Also, these beans freeze and reheat very well.

I’m a bit OCD, so I do the chicken, beans, rice, dressing, and salsa myself. To lighten the load, I ask family or friends to provide tortillas, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, Mexican corn, and cut up fruit to round out the meal. (And I usually ask someone else to be in charge of paper goods, because I don’t have 25 place-settings lying around in my kitchen.)

continue reading
RecipesSlow Cooker and Instant Pot

Instant Pot Sweet Salsa Shredded Chicken

heartysmarty

This Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat is the main entree for my go-to meal when feeding a large crowd- Chicken Taco Salads. I use chicken instead of pork for a couple reasons–mainly because I always have frozen chicken on hand. Also, chicken is usually less expensive and contains less fat than pork. This recipe uses FROZEN chicken on the high pressure setting of my Instant Pot and it turns out incredibly tender and favorful.

I serve this with my Instant Pot Seasoned Black Beans, Cilantro Lime Rice, Tomatillo Ranch Dressing, and Mango Salsa when I’m cooking for 20 people or more. This recipe is tried-and-true and SO delicious. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Sweet Salsa Shredded Chicken

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat using frozen chicken in the Instant Pot

Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword cafe rio copycat, sweet salsa chicken
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 25 people
Author heartysmarty

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Frozen Chicken Breasts (about 6 large chicken breasts)
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 4 Cups Mild Pace Picante Salsa

Instructions

  1. Lay FROZEN chicken breasts on the bottom of and 8 quart Instant Pot. (See Notes) Pour salsa and sprinkle brown sugar over the chicken.

  2. Secure the Instant Pot lid and turn the top nozzle to the [Sealing] position. Set the [Manual] or [Pressure Cook] setting to high for 20 minutes.

  3. It will take approximately 10 minutes for the Instant Pot to gain pressure before cooking time begins. After the cooking is complete, let the chicken sit and naturally release pressure for 10 minutes before venting the remaining pressure with the top nozzle.

  4. To shred the chicken, you can remove the chicken to a cookie sheet and hack at it with a metal spatula or forks. OR, use the whisking attatchments in your countertop mixer (I use the Bosch) and put an entire breast into the mixer. Pulse three or four times and your chicken will be evenly and perfectly shredded.

Recipe Notes

If you have a smaller Instant Pot, cut this recipe in half and reduce pressure cook time to 15 minutes.  Plan to make two batches of chicken (or borrow a friend’s cooker). This recipe freezes and re-heats beautifully in the microwave.

Featured Products

(Includes Affiliate Links)

Instant Pot

 

Bosch Universal Stand Mixer

 

continue reading
Meal Plans

This Week’s Family Meal Plan

heartysmarty

It’s Meal-Plan Monday and time to share what’s for dinner this week. We were away on vacation last week and I didn’t have time to compose a post telling you what our dinner plans were–sorry about that. However, since I am a Prepear Pro, I ALWAYS update my ongoing meal plan on the paid version of the app. So, it ever I don’t share here on Hearty Smarty, you can subscribe to my meal plans here. But, this week, I am a bit more on top of things, so here’s what’s cookin’ this week:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

(Blueberry Ginger Smoothie)

Sunday

CLICK HERE to download the FREE Prepear App and get the shopping list for this week’s meal plan!

continue reading
Appetizers/ DipsRecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Crispy Macadamia Chicken Nuggets

heartysmarty

For a tropical themed dinner, try these crispy chicken nuggets breaded in Panko, shredded coconut, and crushed macadamia nuts. They marinate over night to make them tender and flavorful on the inside. Served with my Mango Berry Salad, this meal will have you feeling like you are vacationing on a tropical island.

My 4-year-old had a good time helping me with the breading assembly, AND everyone at the table gave these nuggets two thumbs-up, so that makes this one a winner-winner-chicken-dinner! Enjoy!

Crispy Macadamia Chicken Nuggets

Crispy Macadamia and Coconut Chicken Nuggets

Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American, Mediterranean
Keyword macadamia coconut baked chicken nuggets
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author heartysmarty

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 Cup Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey
  • 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 clove Garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger grated
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless Chicken Breasts

Macadamia Breading

  • 1/3 Cup Macadamia Nuts
  • 1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1 1/2 Cup Coconut shredded, unsweetened
  • 3 large Eggs
  • 1/3 Cup Flour

Instructions

Marinade

  1. With kitchen shears, cut thawed chicken breasts into nugget-size pieces and place in a 9 x 13 pan.

  2. Combine marinade ingredients into a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shake well. Pour marinade over chicken pieces and cover with foil. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or over night.

Macadamia Breading

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. You will need two cookie sheet pans and three shallow bowls for the chicken nugget assembly.

  2. In the first bowl, gently whisk the eggs. In the second bowl, add the flour.

  3. In the third bowl, combine crushed macadamia nuts, Panko, and shredded coconut. To crush the nuts, you may either pulse them a few times in a food processor, or use the flat side of a knife on a cutting board.

  4. Drain and discard marinade from chicken pieces. Using a fork, dip chicken pieces into eggwash. Dust with flour and then heavily coat with macademia crumb mixture.

  5. Place assembled chicken pieces on a greased cookie sheet without letting them overlap. Bake at 400 degrees, uncovered for 10 minutes. Use a metal spatula to turn each nugget over and bake for another 8 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Recipe Notes

Serve with my Mango Berry Salad with Poppyseed Dressing to make this a complete meal. 

continue reading
Lifestyle EatingNutrition Education

Wins and Fails with my Kids and Sugar

heartysmarty

I am the first to admit that I struggle with sugar. That is, I struggle to allow my children to self-moderate their own sweets and other processed snacks. To paint a better picture, here are a few examples:

At a church activity, popsicles were served to the kids. Apparently, my kids kept going back for seconds… thirds… and even fourths. Because everyone knows I have background with nutrition, they thought it was pretty hilarious that the dietitian’s kids couldn’t control themselves around the sweets.

When we were visiting at a friend’s house, my two youngest helped themselves to their pantry and went to town eating fruit snacks and chips that we don’t normally have in our cupboards. They were fixated on the snacks rather than playing with the other kids.

Neighborhood treat nights, wedding receptions, and extended family gatherings started to get downright embarrassing, because the kids would load their plates with so many cookies and treats I started getting looks and comments from others.

Situations like this made me realize I needed to help my kids. I didn’t restrict sweets at home–I actually made a conscious effort to bake weekly, so they could appreciate good quality treats. However, I just don’t have the habit of buying lots of processed foods to stock my cupboards with. This winter, I participated in a collective for women called Eat Confident Collective. I joined it for the sole purpose of learning how to teach my kids to self-moderate their sugar intake. In it, I learned some skills for helping my children enjoy sweets without bingeing on them. The biggest change I made was to start buying sweets like candy, chocolate, sweetened breakfast cereals, fruit snacks, cookies, and other packaged foods and put them in my cupboards. Talk about total ecstasy coming from the Andersen kids when they saw the loot! They had never seen so many packaged foods in our home without it being a party or special occasion! The point was to start creating familiarity around treats so they wouldn’t be such a novelty anymore. With that, I set some boundaries:

  1. The sweets were just like any other snack or food in our home–they are to be eaten during a snack or meal time and between those times, the kitchen is closed.
  2. These snacks happen to come with a lot of packaging, so if I find wrappers lying around, I take the snacks away.
  3. We talked a lot about eating slowly and recognizing their fullness and satisfaction throughout meals and snacks.
  4. If they felt full/satisfied, it was totally fine to leave a snack half-eaten. Same was true if they were not full or satisfied–it was acceptable to get seconds.
  5. We only eat food in the kitchen or outside.
July 2011

Sugar Fails

  • For the first couple weeks, the kids were fixated on the snacks in the cupboard. The first thing they did when they returned from school was raid the cupboards. After dinner they begged for more snacks.
  • Also in the beginning stages, the kids gobbled up all the snacks within a few days and left wrappers all over. I failed to follow up on the consequence to my own rule and didn’t take the snacks away as promised.
  • When my 10-year-old daughter asked for a second helping of cake at her friend’s party, the friend’s mom said, “I don’t think your mom would like that.” (It’s rough being a dietitian’s kid sometimes…) All the other girls were getting seconds, so my daughter helped herself (three more times) to more cake out of spite when the mom wasn’t looking. Needless to say, she had quite the belly ache when she returned home that night.
  • The same child was still adjusting to the freedom to choose her snacks. Her tendency was to continue to hide from me while eating sweets. Twice I found a bag of chocolate chips hiding under bed. “What, Mom? I like to eat chocolate chips while I read in bed!” She quipped.
  • This was the most embarrassing one: At the pediatrician’s office, two of my kids kept sneaking out of the examination room while I was distracted with the baby. They came back with pockets FULL of Dum-Dums®. The third time they did it, the pediatrician very sternly told them they had had enough and talked to me about teaching them how to eat less sugar.
October 2018

Sugar Wins

  • My awareness of the snacks in the cupboard helped me to be more intentional about preparing after-school snacks for the kids. If there was a plate of cut veggies and dip lying on the counter for them after school, they would forget about the snacks in the cupboard and hone in on what was in front of them.
  • The girls and I went to a play one night. During intermission, I took them to get a snack at the concession stand. When deciding what she wanted to get, my oldest daughter said, “Well, I don’t want Red Vines®, because I know I can have them at home.” She chose a cookie instead and after eating half of it, decided she was done and threw the rest away. That was a win for me, because she recognized that sweets didn’t have to be a feast or famine in our home and she would get to eat them again later.
  • At a wedding reception recently, my kids spotted the dessert table and filled their plates with several cookies, cakes, and treats. I was busy visiting with the people at our table, and didn’t pay much attention to what they were eating. A few times my 6-year-old would take a bit of a sweet and say, “I don’t like this.” My response was, “That’s fine. You don’t have to finish it.” She moved on to another treat and said the same thing again two times before she went off to play with her siblings. As I picked up their plates a while later, there were four dessert plates with several items uneaten and only picked at. My old self would have been disappointed that they wasted so much food. My new self happily threw away the leftovers realizing they enjoyed the treats at the moment and moved on to go play–not obsessing or worrying about never getting treats again.

“Normal eating is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it — not just stop eating because you think you should…It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.” 

@ellyn_satter_institute

Overall, this was a really interesting process–and it continues to evolve. Our family still isn’t perfect intuitive sugar-eaters. There are still times when I slip up and say something negative about the amount of sugar the kids eat. I still find snacks and sweets hidden in closets or under beds now and then. But we are all getting better. The failures are turning into wins, because there are lessons learned with each one and progess is happening.

Resources for Feeding Children

(Includes Affiliate Links)

continue reading
Meal Plans

This Week’s Family Meal Plan

heartysmarty

After a fun weekend of weddings, barbecues, and a movie (Toy Story 4 was so cute!), I am ready to get back into the kitchen, making fresh meals for the family. Here’s what I am making for dinners this week:

CLICK HERE to download the FREE Prepear App and get the shopping list for this week’s meal plan!

Monday

It is still a bit chilly here in Utah from a cold snap we got last week. That’s why I am feeling ok about turning on the oven to bake a casserole tonight.

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Family Gathering–Sweet Salsa Chicken Salads

continue reading
Meal Plans

This Week’s Family Meal Plan

heartysmarty

It’s warming up in Utah and barbecues and outdoor parties are in full swing. Thus, several Summer salads are in the works for this week’s family meal plan. I made THE MOST DELICIOUS mango berry salad last week and put it in this week’s meal plan again because everyone at my dinner table loved it. I hope my meal plan provides some inspiration for your family dinners. Here’s what’s on tap this week:

CLICK HERE to download the FREE Prepear App and get the shopping list for this week’s meal plan!

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Pool Party Contribution:

Friday

Dine Out

Saturday

Barbecue Contribution:

Sunday

continue reading
Gluten-FreeRecipesSaladsSauces and DressingsSides

Mango Berry Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

heartysmarty

I was worried the combination of bell peppers, strawberries and poppyseed dressing wouldn’t work with the mangoes, avocadoes and spinach–but this was MAGNIFICENT! The macademia nuts gave it a perfect hint of savory crunch to tie all the textures and flavors together deliciously. My toddler AND my “picky” eater (AKA eater-in-training) asked for second helpings. I call that a major win! I’m planning to bring this salad to our next Summer barbecue, so that’s an indication of how confident I am in its ability to WOW my friends and family. I hope you enjoy it too.

Mango Berry Spinach Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

A tropical salad perfect for summer socials and barbecues

Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword mango berry salad, poppyseed dressing, tropical
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author heartysmarty

Ingredients

Mango Berry Salad

  • 4 cups Spinach
  • 1 large mango chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 large avocado chopped
  • 1 1/4 Cup Fresh Strawberries sliced
  • 1/3 Cup Macademia Nuts chopped

Poppyseed Dressing

  • 1/3 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Honey
  • 1/2 Cup Yellow Onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon poppyseeds

Instructions

Mango Berry Salad

  1. Mix 1/4 Cup Poppyseed dressing with spinach until the leaves are completely coated. Top with remaining salad ingredients. Drizzle another tablespoon of dressing over top.

Poppyseed Dressing

  1. In a blender, add all dressing ingredients EXCEPT poppyseeds in the order listed. Blend 1 minute. Add seeds and blend a few seconds more. Dressing can be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 1 month.

continue reading
Lifestyle EatingNutrition Education

Helping Kids to Try New Foods

heartysmarty

It can be an uphill battle to coerce children to try new foods. In our family, we have just four guidelines around meals and snacks:

  1. All are encouraged to taste each dish served at meals. They don’t have to finish if they don’t like it.
  2. There’s only one main entree choice at meal time. Mom and Dad are not short-order chefs.
  3. For side dishes, there is at least one familiar food. (bread, fruit, etc.)
  4. A meal is not complete without a fresh fruit and/or vegetable.

I try to provide a neutral and safe space around meals and snacks so there’s little pressure or stress surrounding food. Sometimes I slip up, but I really do try. We also don’t label our foods as “bad” vs. “good.” Food is food, and all foods can fit into a well-rounded and nourishing diet. With that being said, sometimes it can be a challenge to move past step 1–getting kids to taste the food being served. It’s hard for kids to decide whether they like something and how much of it to eat when they refuse to even taste it. So what can a parent do?

The story I am about to tell you is just an example of how I helped my (adorable, blonde curly-haired) son when he was 3 years old to try a new food. Obviously, this exact situation won’t work or apply to everyone–you know your own kid–but this was something I just pulled out of my hat, and it worked.

My kindergartner was gone at school, baby sister was napping, and it was just me and my 4-year-old boy. His request for lunch was chips and melted cheese. I was heating some leftover Pressure Cooker Refried Beans to go with it when he began protesting, “No beans! No beans!” I can’t blame him for not wanting to try this new, brownish-grayish mushy food, but I pressed a little bit further.

I related a story to him from that morning’s scripture study about a man named Lehi who had a dream about a big, beautiful tree. Lehi had to feel his way through mists of darkness, holding on to an iron rod that eventually led him to the tree. Once he was there, he picked from the tree the most delicious fruit he had ever tasted. The fruit was so good that he immediately wanted to share some with his family. Half of his family made their way to the tree and got to taste the fruit while the other half refused to try, and they missed out on the delicious treat.

“Just like Lehi, I know that these refried beans are delicious, and I want you to try them. I hope you would trust me to know that I would never ask you to try a food that I didn’t enjoy myself,” I explained. And with that, he dipped his chips in the beans and didn’t stop dipping until the container was gone. To this day, he is my very best bean-eater at the dinner table! I understand, it’s a bit of a stretch to compare a scripture story to trying a new food at the dinner table, but it worked! Maybe something about having a bit less pressure, and a one-on-one discussion to help build my son’s trust in me (and my cooking) was just what he needed.

Additional Resources for Feeding Children

(Includes Affiliate Links)


Since 2009, Megan has used her Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics from Brigham Young University to help people develop healthy food relationships. She combines evidence-based science, a dash of alternative medicine, and a large dose of practical food preparation to teach individuals how to feed themselves and their families nourishing meals with common ingredients. As a busy Mom of 5, she believes food should be simple, intentional, and HEARTY!

continue reading
1 2 3 23
Page 1 of 23