Spring Confetti Blondies

Celebrate the return of Spring with a colorful, sweet, and fun blondie!

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Spring Confetti Blondies | A Nerd Cooks

These chewy blondies are loaded with lots of good things: chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, sprinkles, and peanut butter-filled candy eggs. Admittedly, they’re a bit of a sugar bomb, but I think that they’re worth it.Spring Confetti Blondies | A Nerd Cooks

I made these these blondies in anticipation of the Easter holiday, but, not surprisingly, couldn’t get it together enough to post these last week. Since Easter has come and gone, you can feel free to substitute any candy you’d like in place of the egg-shaped Reese’s Pieces candy that I’ve used. Think M&Ms, regular Reese’s Pieces, and so on.

These sweet and chewy blondies serve as the perfect backdrop for whatever candy or mix-ins you choose to add.

Spring Confetti Blondies | A Nerd Cooks

The base of this blondie recipe comes from The Cookies & Cups Cookbook.

You’ll need:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

Cream the softened butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Beat until combined. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed.

Add the mini chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and sprinkles. Beat until all of the mix-ins are distributed throughout the dough.

Press the dough into the prepared baking dish in an even layer. Top with extra mini chocolate chips and sprinkles. Lightly press the Reese’s Pieces eggs into the dough, distributing them randomly over the surface.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick, when inserted into the center, comes out clean. Allow the blondies to cool completely before cutting them into bars.

Spring Confetti Blondies | A Nerd Cooks

Spring Confetti Blondies | A Nerd Cooks
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Three Ingredient Slow Cooker Taco Chicken

This Taco Chicken is super easy and delicious. Just throw three ingredients into the slow cooker and walk away. Shred the chicken and enjoy it in a variety of ways!

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Three Ingredient Slow Cooker Taco Chicken | A Nerd Cooks

This is another one of those dishes that I’ve made countless times, but have never taken the time to photograph. Usually we just dig in to dinner, and by the time I remember to take a picture, the natural light isn’t very good anymore or the sun has set completely.

We make this taco chicken at least once a month. It’s versatile (use it in tacos, burritos, etc.), requires almost no effort to prepare, and makes a lot of food. As a result, we get to enjoy leftovers at least once during the week. For me, this just adds to this chicken’s appeal.

Three Ingredient Slow Cooker Taco Chicken | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need (serves 4-6):

Place all ingredients in a 4 quart slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 hours. Using two forks, shred the chicken.

Just like the Pressure Cooker Carnitas that I shared last week, this shredded chicken is pretty versatile. Eat it in tacos, quesadillas, burritos, or alongside/atop some Cilantro Lime Rice. Do you! Do what feels right.

If you’re looking for something a little spicier, but just as easy to throw together, take a look at this Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken. Super easy to make, and can also be used in a number of ways.

Three Ingredient Slow Cooker Taco Chicken | A Nerd Cooks

Three Ingredient Slow Cooker Taco Chicken | A Nerd Cooks

Pressure Cooker Carnitas

These are the easiest, most delicious carnitas you will ever make. Depending on how much time you have on your hands, make them in either the electric pressure cooker OR slow cooker.

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I have made these carnitas embarrassingly often since first discovering the recipe 3 years ago. The original recipe is for the slow cooker, which is great if you have all day, or have the presence of mind to throw everything together before you leave for work. For me, this is not always the case. After receiving an electric pressure cooker for Christmas, I decided to adapt the recipe. That way, I’m able to have carnitas in a fraction of the time.

Our favorite way to eat these carnitas is Chipotle burrito bowl-style. Toss some of this crispy yet tender pork in a bowl with some Cilantro Lime Rice and a variety of taco/bowl toppings (beans, cheese, guacamole, etc.), and you’re in business. They’re also excellent in a taco (corn tortillas, please).

The slow cooker preparation comes from Damn Delicious.

You’ll need (yields 8 servings):

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 3-4 lbs pork shoulder, boneless and trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 2 limes, juice
  • fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine all of the spices in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the Pressure Cooker

Cut the pork shoulder into 2- to 3-inch chunks.

Add the garlic cloves, quartered onions, and cubed pork to the electric pressure cooker (PC) insert. Sprinkle the spice mixture over everything. Using your hands, toss the garlic, onions, and pork around in the spices, rubbing the spices into the meat. Add the orange and lime juice to the PC insert.

Place the lid on and lock it. Depending on what kind of PC you have, you’ll want to do a couple of different things. If you have an Instant Pot: Cook for 25 minutes on high pressure. If you have one without the high/low pressure manual options (like mine): select the “meat” menu and cook for 25 minutes. Depending on your preference, you can allow the pressure to release naturally or do a quick release.

For the Slow Cooker

Add the garlic cloves, quartered onions, and pork to the slow cooker. Sprinkle the spice mixture over everything. Using your hands, toss the garlic, onions, and pork around in the spices, rubbing the spices into the meat. Add the orange and lime juice to the slow cooker.

Put the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

Both Preparations

Here’s where both the electric PC and slow cooker recipes come back together.

Now that the pork shoulder is cooked through, you’ll want to crisp things up a bit. Preheat the broiler to high. Remove the pork from to a baking sheet lined with foil, and shred the meat. Spoon some of the juices and onions that are left over onto the shredded meat. Broil for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the sheet pan from the oven and toss the meat around a bit with tongs. Pour some more of the juices over the meat and broil for 2-3 additional minutes. Remove from the oven, top with chopped cilantro, and serve immediately. Definitely enjoy with some Cilantro Lime Rice.

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Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing – Updated

This salad is equal parts sweet and savory, and entirely delicious.

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Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

I know that some people automatically think of salads as being “sad desk lunches.” While this certainly can be true, this particular salad definitely does not conform to that stereotype.

This salad has a little bit of everything: fresh greens, sweet red grapes and blueberries, filling chicken, and a savory dressing. The sweet freshness of the salad and savory dressing play really well together. Plus, while it doesn’t have all of the colors of the rainbow, it’s also very colorful and pretty.

Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

Along these lines, I’ve shared a few savory-sweet salads with you in the past. See the Strawberry Pecan Salad with Beets, Watermelon Avocado Salad, or Strawberry Balsamic Salad for other delicious examples.

Sad desk lunch be gone!

Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

This salad is based on a recipe from Pinch of Yum. I blogged about it almost 3 years ago exactly (original post found here), but tinkered with the proportions for the dressing a little bit.

You’ll need:

For the salad (makes 1 salad) –

  • 2 oz. cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces (rotisserie chicken is a time-saver)
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup almonds, slivered or sliced
  • lettuces/greens of your choice (I used a combination of spring mix greens and baby arugula)

For the dressing (makes enough for 4-5 salads) –

  • 4 tbs almond butter (sub peanut butter if desired)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 3 tbs water
  • 2 tbs stoneground mustard
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic clove

Assemble the salad in whatever vessel you choose. I prefer a bowl. Set it aside while you make the dressing.

Combine all dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until smooth. Taste and add more salt as needed.

Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy.

Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks
Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

Penne with Vodka Sauce

This pasta tastes like you cooked up a storm, but it really couldn’t be easier.

Penne with Vodka Sauce | A Nerd Cooks

I originally intended to post this on Valentine’s Day, but then again I intend to do a great many things and never get around to it. Also this recipe doesn’t requires the occurrence of a Hallmark holiday for you to make it.

This pasta is very simple to make, requiring not much more than a bit of chopping and stirring. Despite its simplicity, it’s delicious and tastes like you made a real fuss.Penne with Vodka Sauce | A Nerd Cooks

I originally blogged about Penne with Vodka Sauce about 3 years ago, here. I’ve updated the recipe (and photos!) pretty significantly.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium-sizes shallot, minced
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup plain vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cooked shrimp, scallops, or chicken (optional)

Add the olive oil to a large heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the garlic and shallots, and sauté until the shallots are translucent.

Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute, stirring it around a bit. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, sugar, and vodka, stirring to combine.

Turn the heat heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce reduces by about 1/4; about 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to directions on the package. Strain and set aside.

Add the cream, stir to combine, and simmer until heated through. Add the Parmesan cheese, stir, and heat until melted.

Add the cooked pasta, stir to coat all noodles with sauce, and serve. Top with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Add some protein, too, if you’d like. Shrimp, scallops, or chicken would all be very good.

Penne with Vodka Sauce | A Nerd Cooks

Beet Risotto with Goat Cheese

Shredded beets lend an earthy sweetness and vibrant color to this risotto. Honey goat cheese is the perfect tangy complement.

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By now, you all know that my love of risotto runs deep. I’ve shared varieties with sweet corn and roasted tomatoes, beer, cheese and sausage, pumpkin, as well as avocado and corn.

But this risotto? This risotto is full of bright red beets.

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I don’t know when it began, but I’m in the midst of a real love affair with beets. They taste like dirt, but in the absolute best way possible: sweet and earthy. I love to prepare them in many different ways: pickled; raw and sliced thinly in a salad; chopped and roasted with salt, pepper, and honey… and now, cooked into a creamy risotto.

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You’ll need (yields 4-5 servings):

  • 3 medium-sized red beets
  • 5 cups broth (vegetable or chicken) and/or water
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 medium-sized shallot or onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles (preferably honey goat cheese)

Start out by peeling and rinsing your beets. Given that they grow in the ground, they can be quite dirty, so a quick rinse after peeling keeps you from biting down on any kind of unpleasant grittiness later on. Grate/shred them using either a box grater or the shredder blade in a food processor. If you go the box grater route, bear in mind that the beets will stain, well, everything. Consider wearing a pair of rubber gloves while you grate by hand. Set the shredded beets aside.

Heat the 5 cups of broth and/or water in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Bring it to a simmer and then turn it to low.

In a heavy-bottomed pan or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter until the butter melts. Add the shallot and garlic. Sauté until the garlic is very fragrant.

Add the arborio rice to the pot and stir so that every grain gets coated in the olive oil and butter.  Allow the rice to toast a bit, stirring occasionally. Once the rice starts to smell nutty, add the shredded beets, and stir to combine.

Turn the heat off under the broth, and add a couple of ladles of broth to the rice. Stir pretty much continuously until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Add more liquid, continue stirring, and repeat the process until the risotto is creamy and the rice is no longer al dente (take a bite or two!). You may or may not use absolutely all of the broth.

Add the Parmesan cheese, stirring until it has been incorporated. Taste, and add salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with crumbled goat cheese.

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Beet Risotto with Goat Cheese | A Nerd Cooks

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

Healthy, filling, make-ahead breakfast for the entire week!

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Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal | A Nerd Cooks

I have good intentions. I really do.

Like, every weekday I intend to get up early enough to make myself a healthy breakfast before running out the door. Does this always happen? Definitely not.

Meal prepping really helps with this issue. I make a big batch of something on Sunday afternoons (like these Make-Ahead Omelet Muffins), portion it out, and then all I have to do is grab something from the fridge on my way out the door.

This winter, slow cooker oatmeal has been my go-to. Mix some ingredients up in the slow cooker, set it, and forget it. And you can change up the flavors however you see fit, which helps to prevent breakfast boredom. Plus, it’s healthy. Win-win-win. Just heat the oatmeal up in the microwave and you’re off and running.

Before making this for the first time, I had concerns about how the consistency of the oatmeal would hold up over the course of a work week. No need to worry, though! Because the steel cut oats retain their slightly chewy texture, rather than just turning to mush.
Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal | A Nerd Cooks

To make the most basic form of slow cooker steel cut oatmeal, you’ll need (yields 6 servings):

  • 1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 cups milk and/or water (cow’s milk, almond milk, water, and a combination of any of those 3 work well*)

Optional add-ins:

  • Spices: cinnamon, pumpkin spice, etc.
  • Sweeteners: maple syrup (the real stuff, please!), agave nectar, honey, brown sugar
  • Toppings: nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit

For the basic version, place the steel cut oats, salt, and milk/water in a greased (either butter or cooking spray) slow cooker and whisk to combine. Cook for 2-3 hours on high or 4-6 hours on low. Stir everything around once or twice during the cooking process.

If you’d like to dress this oatmeal up a bit, feel free to add spices and/or sweeteners of your choice along with all of the other ingredients. I generally don’t add any of the suggested toppings until I’m ready to eat.

*Other non-dairy milks–such as coconut–may also work, though I haven’t tried using them

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal | A Nerd Cooks

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oatmeal | A Nerd Cooks