Semi-Chilaquiles – Second Meal Brunch (Chicken tacos)

This is a Second Meal using leftovers from Chicken tacos It Was inspired by a traditional Mexican dish, chilaquiles. While I didn’t have all the traditional ingredients, I decided to do what I do, and make my own version with my OHI. .

After I made chicken tacos in the crock pot, I had a bunch of meat leftover and was trying to think of another, different way to use it. I was having a late breakfast – kind of a brunch – that day, so I came up with this. It was really really good, lots of protein (so it’s filling), and not too bad for you either since the chicken taco meat is all homemade using no preservatives.

So here’s what I did!

First reheat some of that chicken – until it’s warm, but not steaming hot.
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Next add a little shredded cheddar cheese and one slice of Provolone.
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Before you put the cheese on, move the meat over... you need to leave room for another ingredient!


Heat for another minute or so in the microwave (or I suppose you could do it in a pan or on a griddle also) until cheese is melted.
Now add some homemade guacamole to your plate (which you also have leftover from your taco meal!).
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Meanwhile, cook two overeasy eggs. When they’re finished place them atop the cheese and chicken taco meat.
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And that’s it! Now eat and enjoy!
I’m telling you… it’s really good!

Happy cooking!

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Spruce up ye ol’ Grilled Cheese

Who doesn’t love grilled cheese? It’s almost it’s own food group among kids of our generation. The best grilled cheeses have a buttery, crispy (but not too crunchy or hard!) toast, and warm, melty cheese.

As an adult I still loved grilled cheeses, but after awhile I felt I needed to make it more ‘grown up’. So I started adding ham. Grilled Ham and Cheese. Those are good too.

But today I was remembering a particular grilled cheese I made after I had A. We were living at my parents’, kind of renting their basement, and prior to this I had never really made much at our own home. My skills were limited at best – partly due to budget, partly due to having a TEENY (carpeted) kitchen, and partly due to lack of skill and practice. But at my parents’… well they had a huge kitchen full of ingredients at my disposal!

So one day for lunch, I made myself this amazing sandwich… Grilled ham, cheese, and pear. Yes, PEAR. I toasted the bread, buttered the outside of the bread, spread the inside lightly with cream cheese, sliced the pear thinly, and placed it on the cheesy bread. Then I added a slice or two of cheese and a few slices of ham, and grilled it up in a frying pan until the cheese was melty, the ham was warm, and the bread was golden. DELICIOUS!

Last night the hubs asked me to make him a ham and cheese… just on regular bread, using leftover ham steak slices, with slices of provolone… put in the microwave until the cheese was melted. Not bad, but it reminded me of the one I had made so long ago at my parents’.

So today for lunch, I made a grilled ham, cheese, and APPLE. (Sadly I had no pears.) Because a crunchy piece of sweet fruit just adds a little something special to the world of grilled cheeses!

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One side was a teensy bit overcooked (but still good!)

Here’s a step-by-step guide to making this delicious sandwich:
1. Toast 2 pieces of whole wheat bread just until firm, but not burnt.
2. Meanwhile, slice an apple thinly – Cut vertically just past the core, and cut that half into thin, about 1/4-inch slices. (The slices should still look like a circle.)
3. Butter said pieces of bread immediately after removing from toaster – just on one side. Place butter-side-down on a paper plate.
4. Heat a small skillet over medium heat.
5. Place a piece of provolone cheese on each piece of bread.
6. Place a slice of leftover ham steak (or a few slices of deli ham) on one piece of bread.
7. Place the slices of apple on the other piece of bread.
8. Put the two slices together and place in the skillet. VERY CAREFULLY and WITHOUT WALKING AWAY!, place the paper plate over the skillet to trap the heat and melt the cheese. Let cook for 1-2 minutes on this side. ****WARNING!!! If you have a gas oven I do not recommend this as it is a FIRE HAZARD! I have an electric oven and watch very closely the minute or two the plate is atop the skillet. Also, if you have a skillet with a lid, there’s no need for the plate in the first place.****
9. Remove plate and flip sandwich to the other side, leaving the skillet uncovered. Cook for another minute or two.
10. Remove from pan, slice, and serve!

It’s especially good with water, or herbal tea! (I like Sweet Apple Chamomile, Lemon Zinger, or Cherry Blossom green tea.)

Have you made a unique grilled cheese?? Share in the comments! I love new ideas. 🙂

Chicken Quesadillas with Fruit Salsa

This is Meal #6 in our meal plan using chicken breast.

What we’re Repurposing:
Chicken from Baked Seasoned Chicken or Spinach Artichoke Chicken
Veggies from pasta – chopped red onion, chopped red pepper, chopped Roma tomato

You’ll Also Need:
Whole Wheat Tortillas (2 per quesadilla)
1 8oz bag Shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 Avocado
1 Lime
Salt
Cilantro (you’ll need less than 1 bunch)
1 Large Mango or 2 Ataulfo Mangoes
3 Kiwi, peeled and chopped
1/4c fresh chopped Pineapple
Jalapeno (however much you like)
Sour Cream
OPTIONAL: chimichurri **see OHI recipe (link to be added soon)

Here is the original recipe for the avocado cream and the fruit salsa.

To make the fruit salsa:
Here are the Ataulfo mangoes I used. They are smaller than the ones I normally use – but they were only $.50 each, so I went with these and they still taste the same.

Peel the mangoes first!

Peel the mangoes first!

Chop the mango by making knife cuts lengthwise and crosswise and then sliding your knife underneath parallel to the cutting board to remove the chunks. Add to your salsa bowl (or, to save on dishes, make directly in tupperware so you can save leftovers!).
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Slice the kiwi and then chop it into smaller pieces and add to salsa.
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Chop the red onion and add to salsa.
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Dice up the cilantro, chop the pineapple, and add them to the salsa along with the juice from half a lime. Stir and then salt to taste.

Delicious!

Delicious!

The original recipe called for jalapeno IN the salsa, but I left it out because of the kids.

For the avocado cream:
Note: I actually like this LESS than the avocado spread I made in some OHI quesadillas. But you might like it, so I’m including the recipe here still.
Mash 1 avocado in a bowl. Add about 2 Tblspn minced cilantro, juice from the other half of the lime, 1/2c sour cream, and a little salt. Stir until well combined.
(recipe for my avocado spread soon to come on a different post – link will be at bottom)

To make the quesadillas:
1. Spread the avocado cream on one tortilla and then cover it with cheese
2. Add chopped chicken, tomatoes, red pepper, jalapeno, red onion.

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I left the jalapeno out in the kids’ quesadillas

With jalapeno

With jalapeno and red onion

3. Place another tortilla over top. With one hand on each side holding the tortillas together, place in quesadilla maker. *If you don’t have a quesadilla maker, you can make these in a large frying pan or skillet. Placing a lid or plate over the pan right away will help the cheese melt more quickly, before the tortilla burns. You can also use the fajita size tortillas and fold them over. If you cook them this way, you will probably need to flip them. Use caution and be sure the cheese is melted so you don’t end up with a mess!
4. Slice into triangles and serve with avocado cream or sour cream and fruit salsa.

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**Now, I’m going to make a suggestion. After this week of chicken you might be looking to eat some BEEF. I recommend planning your next week starting with this steak with chimichurri and making the chimichurri a day or two early (it’s good in the fridge for up to a week). Before you make the quesadillas, toss the chicken in the chimichurri sauce. It. Is. SO. good!

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I made these for lunch one day while trying to use up leftovers (what a surprise!) The chimichurri added an unbeatable layer of flavor.

Click here for the complete story on these OHI quesadillas, including my original avocado spread recipe!

Nana’s Guilt-Free Chicken Salad

This is Meal #2 in this week’s meal plan using America’s favorite: chicken breast. (Well, maybe it’s not your favorite, because you’re tired of it. Hopefully after this week I’ll change your mind!)

If you’re blessed to have an Oma, Nana, Grammy, or Grandma like mine, going to her house always meant a special treat that you could only get from her.  (No matter that your mom would make it at home. It was just never the same.) At my Nana’s when I was young, it was always cinnamon toast and hot chocolate. She must have had some secret recipe for her cinnamon/sugar recipe, because I could never quite replicate how it tasted. And I’m pretty sure her hot chocolate was microwaved milk with store- bought packets. But it was always SO good.
When I got a little older, less picky, and more adventurous, it became this chicken salad. I had never had anything like it. Creamy, crunchy, a little sweet, on toasted bread; it was just the perfect combination of, well, everything.

After I got married, she lovingly shared the recipe with me. I made it a few times exactly to the recipe, but then I started realizing that I had a lot of leftover chicken from dinners, and it was silly to buy canned chicken when I could easily chop up the leftovers instead. Then I started cooking healthier. I have never been a mayonnaise fan, but I’ve conceded that it’s a ‘necessary evil’  – until I learned that Greek yogurt pretty much does the exact same job mayonnaise does, but in a much healthier way.

What makes this recipe special? The apples, grapes, and pecans. I love the apples and pecans for extra crunch – normally celery serves this purpose alone, but it again is one of those things I use semi-reluctantly and that I can’t eat by itself. The grapes add a surprising sweetness. Everything together is just the perfect combination for lunch or dinner. So, here is the recipe for Nana’s chicken salad – adjusted to be a little healthier and a little thriftier!

What We’re Re-Purposing:
Leftovers from Baked Chicken: about 2 cups, chopped

Additional Ingredients:
1 Apple of your favorite variety, finely chopped
1 cup Seedless Red Grapes, cut in half (or in quarters if you prefer)
3/4 cup Chopped (or Diced) Pecans
1 cup Celery, chopped (about one stalk, halved and/or sliced)
1 tsp. Celery Salt
3/4 – 1 cup Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup Fat-Free or Low-Fat Mayonnaise
*Optional: We are using our seasoned baked chicken for this Second Meal, so it will add extra flavor. If your chicken salad tastes bland, add salt, paprika, or pepper to taste.
*You can also add a teaspoon or two of chia seeds for a hidden boost of nutrition!

There is really no secret to preparing this; the secret is in the ingredients. Combine all of them, and toss to coat. I like to use a fork, because it breaks up the chicken a little and makes it easier to eat. Then simply adjust to taste. Instead of making it in a mixing bowl, I make it directly in a tupperware container for easy storage and less dishes. 😉 Many of these ingredients we keep in our house anyway, so it’s easy to add more of anything as you like. Here’s what mine looks like, completed:

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Another reason this is one if my favorites is because of its versatility: You can eat it straight up with a fork.
You can eat it on toasted bread, like my Nana used to make:

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On Toasted Whole Wheat Bread – also great on Whole Grain!

You can serve it on a tortilla, as a wrap:

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It’s also great as a lettuce wrap if you want to skip the carbs altogether.

For our meal plan purposes, serve this for dinner with a side of cooked baby carrots. This same night, plan to make your overnight stock using more of the celery from this recipe. When you cook your carrots, simmer them in water with a little salt until they reach a desired done-ness. But DON’T DRAIN THAT WATER! I’ve always been conflicted about pouring that water down the drain; with carrots and spinach, cooking in water is healthy, but many of the nutrients leach out into that cooking water, and some of the nutrients go down the drain with it. So this time, drain your water directly into the crock pot, and that will give us a little extra boost for our overnight stock!

Don't throw away this nutrient-rich cooking water. Drain into crock pot for our overnight stock instead.

Don’t throw away this nutrient-rich cooking water. Drain into crock pot for our overnight stock instead.

To save time, I had the crock pot ready to go while I was preparing the chicken salad. While I had the cutting board out, I prepped some of the veggies for the stock and tossed them into the crock pot. Most of them are root veggies and won’t be negatively effected if they sit for an hour while you eat dinner. The stock can cook for 10+ hours. Mine cooked for about 12 this last time and turned out great. I’ll post the full details tomorrow!

Hope you’re enjoying the meal plan so far, and especially this chicken salad, which has such a special place in my heart. ❤

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Steak Wraps & Salads (Second Meal)

I am loving wraps lately to use up leftovers.  You can add whatever you like to them, and they’re usually fairly healthy – especially if you get whole wheat tortillas.

So after I made grilled Chuck steak the other night, I made wraps for lunch with the leftovers.

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I sliced the steak, reheated it gently by sauteeing in a pan, then layered it on a tortilla with cheddar, chimichurri, avocado, and tomato. If you have enough steak left, this would work as dinner the next night too.

Or, you can make a salad.  Prepare the steak the same way, then toss it lightly in the chimichurri. Place over your green of choice, adding whatever toppings you like. I put romaine lettuce first, then cheddar and tomato, the steak, and avocado. It’s great with this homemade dressing.
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My lovely sister had the idea of making burrito bowls too – rice and beans topped with these same ingredients.

If you used lean beef, you can feel good about making a healthy choice for lunch. It doesn’t take much time at all, and as a mom, it sure feels more grown-up to eat one of these options than it does to eat a PBJ or grilled cheese (not that I have anything against those classics).

Now enjoy a very simple but elegant feeling second meal!

Proof I’m not SuperMom

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Lunch of champions?


Ever since New Year’s Day at my mom’s, I’ve been in a nibbling mood. So here’s my lunch today. I might be drinking a little wine with it. Don’t judge 😉

(P.s. the kids had hot dogs, apples, and cinnamon toast that A volunteered to make herself.)

Quick chicken wrap

I needed something pretty quick and delicious for lunch – and I didn’t want to fall back on a grilled ham and cheese – so I evaluated my OHI. After I made guacamole, I had some leftover cilantro, also some lime, and some chicken breast that I had portioned out for dinner tomorrow night. Many of the breasts were really thick and large (I realize how that looks. Pull your mind outta the gutter, kay?) so I cut them in half lengthwise or butterflied them depending on their size. I was planning on using Kraft Fresh Take.  However after I cooked the chicken this way, I’m rethinking that, as this way  is delicious and probably much healthier.

WHAT YOU NEED:
– A chicken breast tenderloin (probably about 3-4 oz)
– Cilantro
– Lime juice
– Salt
– Tortilla (whole wheat is best, or you can get the flavored kind- spinach or tomato)
– Shredded Cheese (I like Mexican or cheddar)
Guacamole
– Buffalo or Louisiana Hot Sauce (optional)

1. Salt the chicken.
2. In a ramekin or small soufflé dish, mix about a teaspoon lime juice with chopped cilantro.
3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.
4. Using a pastry brush or your finger, ‘paint’ the cilantro/lime mix on the chicken. Pour the leftover lime juice over the chicken as well.
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5. Put chicken onto grill pan. *You know the grill pan is hot enough when water flicked onto it sizzles!* Cook for approximately 5 minutes, then flip to other side and cook another 5-6 minutes. Using tongs, you may want to rotate the chicken to ‘brown’ the other smaller sides of the chicken. Honestly when chicken is cooked it turns more of a white color – but you will get some beautiful caramel-colored marks along with your black grill marks. Chicken is done when no pink is visible and it is firm to the touch. Even if you’re using tongs, the chicken shouldn’t give at all. If it does, you probably still have some pink inside. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. (Don’t worry. While a watched pot may never boil, watched chicken most certainly cooks!)

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Beautiful!

6. Remove chicken from grill pan and place on a cutting board to rest for about 1-2 minutes. Then slice diagonally into medallions. *If, upon cutting your chicken, you notice there is still some raw pink in the middle, just put the medallions back on the grill for about 30 seconds per side. You’ll get some of that nice carmelization on more surface area! Yum.*
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7. Heat a small tortilla over medium heat in a skillet or grill pan. (you can do this while the chicken rests). Remove from skillet onto a plate. Sprinkle some cheese down the middle, if you so desire.
8. Place the chicken medallions evenly atop the cheese. If desired, you can drizzle with some buffalo or Louisiana hot sauce. *Both of these have no calories (woo!), but are high in sodium (boo).*
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9. Smother with some homemade guac, and fold up the tortilla. Subsequently ENJOY your quick, delicious, pretty, healthy wrap! Mange mange!!
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Fun kid’s lunch – English Muffin pizzas

I wish I could remember where I saw this idea. On a blog or Pinterest, maybe in a magazine? Either way, I saw it at the perfect time because I did have an extra set of English Muffins as they were BOGO a week or so ago.

So today, impulsively, I decided to try it. The kids always love when they get to help with stuff so they were all for it. Plus, it gave me a day off from sandwiches, which is nice because I’m not using bread (that saves me money in the long run- we use up to 12 pieces of bread, about half a loaf! – if everyone has sandwiches!)

What you’ll need:
Sheet pan
Toaster
Oven
English Muffins
Pasta sauce
Shredded mozz or other cheese
Fresh veggies and/or meat for toppings
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I started by lightly toasting 3 whole grain English muffins. Then I covered a small sheet pan with aluminum foil and put the muffins on it. I used a spoon to scoop and spread sauce on each muffin. My eldest (in the picture) is 5- almost 6!- and wanted to do her own sauce. Then I let the kids add their own veggies and top with cheese.
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Then I baked in the oven at 400º for 6 minutes.

I thought they were delicious. I’d probably make them for ME next time, or maybe for dinner with mushrooms and red onion and fresh tomato. Yum!

I have to be honest though. My 5 1/2 year old LOVED hers, but as much as my two youngest love tomatoes, they really just wanted them raw. Camille picked the tomato and cheese off hers and left the muffin. Brendan only ate half of one and left the rest for me. Haha. I’m guessing it had something to do with the whole grain, as they only occasionally have whole grain toast.

Try it! You’ll be surprised how quick, easy, delicious and nutritious it is!

Quick Tip: “Multiple Meal” opportunities

One of the things I’ve learned to do to save myself time and money is to re-purpose a grocery item for more than one meal. I almost always buy family packs of meat and break it into 2-3 dinners. Most times I’ll even take leftovers from those dinners and make an entirely different meal. I suppose if I had a motto in the kitchen, it would be, “Use what you have”. And along with that, “Save everything!” (until it goes bad of course) You never know what could come in handy!

So when I am meal planning and grocery shopping for the week, I always ask myself if I can re-purpose either the leftovers, or the other half of the protein that I don’t use. Actually, more often than not I do plan my meals with leftovers in mind. That’s what I call a “First Meal”: one in which you purposefully make more than enough, with a plan to use the leftovers for another meal – whether that be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a side.

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Crepes!

Where do I begin?? Once I tried them, crepes quickly became one of my favorite meals.  Good for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. Great any time of year, but there’s something about hot crepes when it’s cold and grey out. Plus they go GREAT with a morning cup of tea (and you know how I love my tea). These are a favorite with my kids too. They’re too young to do this now, but I have this mental image of bowls of different fillings and they’re choosing which ones they want. Make your own Crepe, instead of Make your Own Sundae. I think what makes me really drawn to a recipe is when you can start with a base of understanding and adjust for many different uses or flavors. Muffins for example. Or pasta. Or soup. Even cookies. Maybe that’s why I really like Alton Brown’s show, “Good eats”. He teaches you the science and the reasoning behind things. It’s the whole, “teach them to fish” concept. Because once you understand a technique, you can begin to come up with and combine your own ideas instead of relying on other people’s.

When I searched recipes for crepes Alton Brown’s was one of the ones that came up. He had a genius idea of mixing everything in a blender, instead of in a mixing bowl. Not only do you dirty like dishes, but you can pour directly out of the blender into the frying pan instead of having to use a ladle or some other device to scoop the batter and put it into the pan. So efficient! Most of the time when I make these, I make them for breakfast or lunch, and they are sweet, using fruit and chocolate, etc. However I have done a savory version and they’re great for dinner too.

Here we go! (Link to recipe at bottom)
I always add the eggs first, so they are closest to the blades of the blender.
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Then I’ll add vanilla.
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I don’t always use cinnamon, but since we were making apple cinnamon today, I did. And sugar.
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Then I alternate between wet and dry ingredients; if you put all the liquid on bottom and dry on top, it takes a long time (not to mention makes a bigger mess!) to combine, and if you put dry on bottom and wet on top, it’s hard to combine unless you stir first.
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As for the melted butter: I always melt it in a Pyrex cup and melt it in the microwave. The ‘beverage’ button works well for this. Or if you have a ‘milk’ button – or some microwaves even have a ‘butter’ button! Nice!
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And after the first batch of flour I’ll add the butter.
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Here’s the awesome part: I’ll reuse that Pyrex (Yep, less dishes!) to measure the milk. AND, whatever butter is left in the Pyrex will come out when I pour the milk. And that’s why I do the water last. It too pulls the rest of the milk out. Alton Brown’s recipe says you can add 2 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur. Well, mine have to be kid friendly. So I add a couple splashes of OJ.
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Pulse for about 10 seconds or until everything is combined. You might need a spatula to get anything un-stuck from the sides of the blender.

Now the fun… choose your filling!

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Be sure to give them a stir to combine all ingredients!

I always put the filling in bowls because these cook so fast that you won’t have time to cut or cook things while the crepes cook. (In fancy cooking terms, this is called your ‘mise en place’) This will be the filling for the apple cinnamon crepes:
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I use butter flavored cooking spray, BEING SURE TO COAT THE SIDES OF THE PAN. Then pour the batter in a circular motion around the outside of the pan and into the middle until it covers the bottom of the pan:
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Then tilt the pan and swirl the batter in a circular motion around the edges of the pan until, well, there’s nothing left to swirl!
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When it starts to bubble in the middle, like the picture above, and the sides pull away easily from the pan, it’s ready to flip! Go around the outside with your spatula first, to make sure all the sides come away easy. Then slide the spatula under the crepe, and FLIP!
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I used this same pan to cook the apples in, so it had some buttery-cinnamon-y goodness still on the bottom, which you can see here. Yeah. Yum.
Immediately put your filling in a straight line down the middle of your crepe (think a diameter line!) For these I first used the flat spatula to spread some apple butter all over, then added the apples, then a sprinkling of cinnamon/sugar.
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Next fold the sides in over the filling, first one, then the other. Press down gently on the folds with the flat end of your spatula to seal it a little. At this point you don’t need to cook it too much more. A minute maybe, if you want to make sure everything is heated through, or your chocolate chips are melted 😉
Then slide it out of the pan onto a plate, sprinkle with some powdered sugar and, VOILA! A beautiful delicious crepe waiting for your enjoyment.

Delicious Crepes!

Delicious Crepes!

I always have at least 2 filling options, sometimes 3. Today the other filling we did was bananas and chocolate chips:
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Aubrey’s crepes (the kids like a drizzle of syrup or sometimes honey)

Due to the nature of these scrumptious treats, they are sometimes difficult to cut or for the kids to eat. However, I have mastered the art of cutting these for kids, and will now share this essential and TOP SECRET information with you:

How to cut crepes for kids

How to cut crepes for kids

The trick is to hold the crepe STILL with the fork while you cut with a sharp knife. I cut the ‘hamburger’ cuts first, then do one cut lengthwise (‘hot dog’!) down the middle. The best way to eat these is to slide your fork underneath each cut and bring to your mouth. YUM!

My favorite filling for these is probably strawberries and chocolate chips. But here’s a list of possibilities:
*strawberries & chocolate chips
*strawberries, bananas & chocolate chips
*bananas & chocolate chips
*bananas, cinnamon/sugar, & chocolate chips (Aubrey’s idea!)
*peanut butter & jelly (also Aubrey’s idea!)
*apple cinnamon
*bananas and blueberries
*blueberry compote (made by sautéing blueberries with a little cranberry juice, OJ & sugar!)

SAVORY crepes can be seasoned with herbs IN the batter, and putting veggies and/or a cream or cheese sauce. Great for dinner!

Here’s the link to Alton Brown’s original recipe. (For me and my kids, I take 1 1/2 recipe otherwise we don’t have enough)
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/crepes-recipe/index.html

Now go make some. For yourself. Or family! Or impress your friends at your next get-together with these babies that seem hard to make… but are really quite easy 😉