Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook


Braised adobo chicken tacos

Mexican, RecipeLeannda Cavalier6 Comments

I need my tacos now. Jump to the recipe, please!

I feel comfortable saying a passion for tacos is pretty close to universal. Still, for all the time we spend thinking about them, for some reason tacos get a bad reputation in terms of health. It's pretty odd when you consider what a taco actually is—a shell, filling, and toppings.

Well, if you get your tacos out of a box or from a fast food restaurant, yeah, you're probably not exactly going to get gold star for health choices. Lots of processing. Lots of sodium. Probably a lot more cheese and sour cream than you would usually need. 

I have a confession.

When I was little... I thought I didn't like tacos.

I know. 

A disgusting disappointment. 

A disgusting disappointment. 

In my defense, the boxed tacos were all I knew! I had never even been to a Taco Bell, let alone an actual Mexican restaurant.

To be honest, I still don't like those boxed tacos, and not just because they're filled with sodium. I did learn to love tacos in high school, but I kept the salty-spiced ground beef to a minimum and loaded up on refried beans, salsa and veggies. 

These days I'm all in. I'd say tacos are actually one of my most-eaten foods. They're simple to make (generally) affordable, and there are so many possibilities! Chicken, steak, veggies, beans, tofu, shrimp, smoked trout and so many more. Corn tortillas, flour tortillas, lettuce tortillas, fried, baked, soft... I haven't even gotten into all the variations different seasonings and toppings offer, or the different ways you can cook the fillings.

One of my favorite tacos in the world is made with smoked peking duck and pickled blackberries. Yes, for real. It's at Black Sheep Burritos and Brews in Huntington, WV (& Charleston, WV now too). 

Listen, I'm not saying you need to ditch your lifelong love of box tacos or fast food. If you like them, that's great! Enjoy in moderation. But if you haven't already, I'm begging you to explore what's out there.

Your tastebuds will be happy, and you'll probably feel better after eating them. If you learn to cook some yourself... well that's even better!


This particular recipe uses braising to keep the chicken tender and make the flavors more complex. To braise, you just sear something over high heat, add a small amount of liquid, seal it up, turn the heat way down, and cook low and slow. It sounds scary and intimidating, but it's honestly one of the simplest and biggest steps forward you can take as a home cook. 

So, let's get braising!

I always love hearing from you, so in the comments tell me about the best tacos you've ever had! If you make these tacos, please let me know—I'd love to know what you think. If you take a picture and post it to social media tag #whipsmartkitchen so I can see! 

Cinco de Mayo, revisited: slow-cooker cilantro lime tacos

Mexican, Slowcooker, RecipeLeannda Cavalier2 Comments

This post was originally published on my old blog. This version may contain minor edits and updates. The original is preserved at Recipe Repository


May 5, already! Just got this post in under the wire. Phew. 

One year ago today I began Recipe Repository. I posted a recipe for chicken tomatillo enchiladas, a recipe I absolutely love. It’s full of flavor, healthful and filling.

Though it’s not difficult to make, a quick recipe it is not. I honestly love that about it, as making it requires you to use several techniques and less-than-mainstream ingredients you can learn here and use for other recipes. I wholeheartedly believe making recipes that take time and thought is one of the surest ways to learn to cook, and that everyone could benefit from spending a little more time cooking.

Still, I realize that sometimes you truly need a quick and easy recipe. We’re all running around like chickens with our heads cut off all the time. From work, to class, from the store, to a party that you were looking forward to but now you’re honestly kind of exhausted to go to… all the while you’re still compulsively checking your email without realizing it.

If you still want to make your own meal after all of that, you’re on the superhero fast-track, my friend.

Because I appreciate your super status and your food journey—whatever it looks like right now—I’m going to share the antithesis of chicken tomatillo enchiladas. One of my go-to quick recipes. Slow-cooker cilantro-lime tacos. 

Though slow is in the name, speed is the game.

If you can carve out 10-15 minutes in the morning (or on your lunch break, as I did today), you can make these. When you get home, shred it, stick it in a tortilla and add your favorite toppings.

Here we go!

Slow-cooker Cilantro Lime Tacos 

Makes 14-16 tacos 

Prep: 10 minutes 

 Cook time: 6-8 hours


  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 
  • 3-4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 small white or yellow onions, quartered 
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 1 TBSP cumin 
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes 
  • 2 tsps oregano 
  • ¾ cup cilantro, chopped and divided in half 
  • 3 limes, halved 
  • Salt and pepper to taste (start with ½ tsp each) 
  • Taco tortillas (8-inch)

Suggestions for serving: 

  • Avocados or guacamole 
  • Salsa 
  • Diced tomatoes 
  • Shredded lettuce 
  • Crema Mexicana or sour cream 
  • Cheese


  1. Pour oil in the bottom of the slow-cooker, making certain to cover the sides as well as the bottom.
  2. Place the onions in the slow-cooker.
  3. Add the chicken, garlic and bay leaves.
  4. Evenly spread the cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt and pepper over the chicken.
  5. Squeeze two of the lime halves over the chicken, placing the (clean) rinds in the slow-cooker.
  6. Place the lid on and cook 6-8 hours on low or (if you’re desperate) 4 hours on high.
  7. Shred the cooked chicken with two large forks*, removing bay leaves as you go.
  8. Squeeze the remaining lime juice over the chicken and add the remaining cilantro.

Optional: wrap 3-4 tortillas in a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel (squeeze out as much water as you can), and microwave on a plate for 30 seconds to warm. 

*If any part of the chicken is still pink and will not shred, put the lid back on for half an hour more and check again.

Tip for more flavor: Sprinkle the raw chicken breasts with a little salt and pepper and sear for 4 minutes in a pan over high heat. This is a totally optional step and will make the recipe take longer, but it takes the flavor to a whole new level thanks to the maillard broening reaction that happens when you cook food with higher, direct heat.

Food safety tip: Frozen chicken is a Godsend, but it doesn’t belong in a slow cooker. Unthawing with the slow-building heat of the crock-pot puts chicken in the prime temperature range for bacteria growth for too long. If you want to use frozen chicken, be certain to thaw it overnight in the refrigerator first.

This recipe makes quite a bit, so it’s great if you have guests. Personally I like to make it and then eat off of it for a few days. I’m a big leftovers for lunch kind of girl, so it’s perfect. I know some people don’t like leftovers (explain this to me, please), but what kind of MONSTER doesn’t want tacos for lunch?!

Sorry, got a little carried away there. 


I really can’t believe it’s been a full year since I started this blog. I call it that lightly, because this was never meant to be permanent. Soon I’ll be starting a bigger project (really, it’s almost ready), so be on the lookout here, on my Instagram (@leanndacavalier) and on SnapChat (lcavalier33)! 

Yay for progress! And TACOS. 

Tacos. Mmmmm…

Let me know what you think with a comment or over on SnapChat. I’d love to hear from you!

Chicken tomatillo enchiladas for Cinco de Mayo

Mexican, RecipeLeannda CavalierComment

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

We had our fiesta a little early last night with some chicken tomatillo enchiladas, yellow rice, refried black beans & Alton Brown’s recipe for guacamole.

It seems like enchiladas would be a pain to make because of all the components, but the beauty of this recipe is that the chicken and sauce are a breeze. You can use them to make tacos or even eat the sauce right over chicken and rice. Get creative!

Without further ado…

Chicken Tomatillo Enchiladas

  • 8 medium-sized tortillas (8-10 inches, to fit in a 9x14 baking dish)
  • 1 batch tomatillo sauce (see above)
  • 1 batch shredded chicken (see above)
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil
  • 8 oz queso fresco, crumbled

Suggested toppings include:

  • Creme fraiche
  • Seeded jalapeños
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sliced onions
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan.
3. Prepare a plate by covering it with a paper towel. Dredge one side of a tortilla through the hot oil using silicone tongs. Place on plate oil side down and cover with a paper towel. Repeat, stacking the tortillas on top of each other, separated by paper towels.
4. Carefully pour out any remaining oil (not in the sink!) and return pan to stove. Turn the heat to medium. 
5. Spread ½ cup tomatillo sauce in the frying pan and allow to warm. 
6. Spread about 1 cup of the tomatillo sauce into the bottom of your 9x14 baking dish, or as much as it takes to cover the bottom. 
7. Dredge the opposite (non-oil) side of a tortilla through the heated tomatillo sauce using your tongs. Place it oil-side-down on the plate and spoon about ⅓-½ cup shredded chicken near the edge of the tortilla.
8. Roll the chicken up in the tortilla and place it in the baking dish with the seam facing down. Repeat with all tortillas. If you run out of room, just bake remaining enchiladas separately.
9. Pour desired amount of remaining tomatillo sauce (I suggest at least 3 cups) over tortillas, spreading as you go. 
10. Bake 10-15 minutes.
11. Top with any remaining chicken, queso fresco and any other desired toppings. I happen to like creme fraiche, seeded and thinly sliced jalapeños and sliced onions.

Serve immediately with your favorite yellow rice and refried beans recipe and Alton Brown’s guacamole.

Tomatillo Sauce

  • 10 large tomatillos, husks removed
  • 6 green chiles or jalapeños, seeded
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • ½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 4 oz can diced green chiles with juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large pot, cover tomatillos, fresh chiles, and garlic with water and add salt. 
2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Allow to cook for 15 minutes. 
3. Remove from heat and use a colander to drain. 
4. Put your cooked ingredients back into the original pot and add canned chiles, oil, cilantro, honey and cream.
5. Using an immersion blender, blend your mixture until smooth. If you don’t have one, carefully use a regular blender, working in small batches. Add water ⅛ cup at a time if you’re having trouble blending or want to thin it out.
6. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Keep warm until ready for use, or refrigerate if making ahead.

Shredded Chicken

  • 2-3 lbs bone-in chicken breasts, thighs and drumsticks (boneless skinless is fine, but packs less flavor)
  • ½ vidalia onion
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 4 oz can diced chiles, drained
  • 1 roma tomato, diced & seeded
  • Juice of ½ lime

1. Put chicken, onion, garlic, salt, cumin and thyme in a large pot and cover with water.
2. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Cover and cook 20-25 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and drain the stock, saving it for another application if you wish. Let chicken cool 5-10 minutes.
4. Remove skin and any gristle from chicken and discard along with onion and garlic. 
5. Remove chicken from bones using your fingers, making sure to get rid of all small bones. Shred the chicken with your hands or two forks. 
6. Melt butter over medium heat in the pot used to boil the chicken. Add chiles and tomatoes and sauté until tomatoes begin to break down.
7. Add chicken, squeeze lime over it, and toss to combine. 
8. Remove from heat and set aside until ready for use.