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Light Meals for Hot Nights
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I don’t know about you guys but I hate cooking when it’s 90+ degrees.  And I realize that if I lived in Texas, I’d have serious issues but let’s face it, somebody has to get dinner on the table.  So when it’s hotter than heck outside, it might as well be an easy meal even if the A/C is blasting all summer long (like in our wussie house)  Here a few of our favorites:

[Photos listed Left to Right, Top to Bottom]

  1. Watermelon Feta Mixed Greens Salad
  2. Greek Grilled Chicken
  3. Tabbouleh
  4. Grilled Spice-Rubbed Shrimp Nicoise Salad
  5. Chipotle & Honey Glazed Grilled Chicken
  6. Apple Pecan Chicken Salad
  7. Greek Panzanella
  8. Bruschetta with Sweet Red Peppers and Gorgonzola
  9. Spicy Bean Burritos
Tomatillo Chicken Fajitas
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Last summer, I fell head over heals in love with salsa verde.  Like, so in love that tomato salsa could never again compare.  I was relatively new to using tomatillos and I was floored by how pan roasting them imparted such a smoky sweetness to the salsa.  Add some garlic and a big handful of cilantro…perfection.

So let’s just say that not eating all of this salsa with a bag of blue corn chips was nearly impossible when I made it for these tomatillo chicken fajitas.  And let’s also say that making chicken fajitas with salsa verde was close to genius.  You’ll brown up some onions and red peppers, sauté thinly sliced chicken with some of the salsa, and then use some extra salsa as part of the fajita fixins.  It’s an awesome 15 minute dinner and I strongly recommend taking a few extra minutes before making the fajitas (or even a day or two in advance) to make your own salsa verde – it totally makes this meal!

Penne with Chicken, Broccoli, and Sundried Tomatoes
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It has been one heck of a week for us here – we finally moved into our new home this weekend!  Of course, with that it almost requires a stint in light combat training in order to walk through the kitchen and I’m not sure if I’ll ever find my pots and pans…which hopefully means that there is set of stainless steel beauties in my near future.

But no matter, the boxes will eventually get emptied, the mounds of packing paper will make their way to the dumpster in our front yard (I’ll bet our neighbors love that), I’ll find a place for the kitchen table, and maybe I’ll even be able to cook dinner when my parents come to visit this weekend.  Speaking of cooking, let me mention the first new purchases for the kitchen and how much I already adore them.

I’ve made it a point to make these books staples in this new kitchen (I promise that pics are coming once I get it cleaned and organized!) and after having made a few recipes from Baking Illustrated, chicken pot pie with savory crumble topping from The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, and these baked panko chicken fingers from the ATK Healthy Family Cookbook, I know this won’t be an issue.  This penne with chicken, broccoli, and sundried tomato recipe hails from the Healthy Family Cookbook and it’s a definite keeper.  With the anticipation of packers and movers invading our old house last week before the move, I made this dish to make sure we had a decent homemade meal for a few nights that only needed to be reheated in the microwave.  And in fact, more that just decent.  So with whole wheat penne, a ton of fresh garlic, quickly sautéed sliced chicken breasts, bright green broccoli, and a full 1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes, this meal packs a punch without a whole lot of fat or calories.  A creamy sauce is created with just some white wine, chicken broth, and pasta water and it coats the pasta beautifully.  We both loved this meal so much that we may have argued over the last of the leftovers.  It’s not a big deal though since it was so easy to throw together that I imagine we’ll be having it again soon.  Once I find those darn pots and pans.

Baked Panko Chicken Fingers
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Baked Panko Chicken Fingers

Since it’s January and I’m still in the early stages of my be-healthy goal this year, I’d like to introduce you all to this recipe.  It looks super fattening doesn’t it?  Au contraire!  These baked panko chicken fingers are first dipped in beaten egg whites, lightly coated in toasted panko breadcrumbs (go for whole wheat if you can find them!) and then baked until the chicken is tender on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside.  Dipped in low-fat homemade ranch dressing and served alongside some baked sweet potato fries and a steamed vegetable, you’ll stop second guessing how difficult healthy eating can be!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
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Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Faithfully and strategically designed each week, my weekly menu is my sanity to organizing my weeknights.  But there are some weeks when I’m terrible at sticking to my weekly menu.  Sometimes I get out of work much later than anticipated and other times life gets in the way.  Such was the way the past couple of weeks have been: the kitchen design center three evenings in a week, Lowe’s, meetings with our builder, to the house to three or four times in the late afternoon to see the “ooooo the roof!” or “yay the windows and siding!”  Needless to say, my perfectly planned menu doesn’t always work out and I’m left with food in the freezer that either I don’t feel like using for its original intention or I’ve completely forgotten what the original intention actually was.  Such is the case with the package of boneless skinless chicken thighs that I found last week.  I let Google do all the hard work to find a new recipe and the one I found not only sounded amazing, but I already had all of the ingredients in the house for it.

Now, I’m not at all well-versed in Indian food and can probably count on 2 fingers how many times I’ve eaten it but I’ve been curious about the flavors and I’ve been wanting to try it at home (you know, in a controlled environment).  And I have to say that both Kyle and I loved this tikka masala!  The yogurt, tomatoes, and all of the spices combine into a warmly spiced stew that soaks into and tenderizes the chicken and leaves you with this amazing meal for a cold night.  I especially loved the minimal prep, the slow cooker method, and being able to enjoy the smell of the cooking stew all afternoon long, but I’m sure you could make the whole recipe on the stovetop if you don’t have 4-5 hours to let the slow cooker do its thing.  The only change I made to the recipe, which I’ve reflected below, is that I chose not to brown the chicken before putting it in the slow cooker.  I didn’t want the extra fat and calories from the butter and I wanted to let the yogurt help to thicken the stew so I could also cut back on the heavy cream in the last step.  My changes worked perfectly to help lighten up the dish and I think I’ve found a new favorite for us!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 5 hours

Total Time: 5 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

I halved this recipe but used four thighs and a whole jalapeno. Because the jalapeno is only pricked with a knife, the heat is at a controlled level in the dish. If you halve the recipe and opt to also cut a jalapeno in half, be prepared for additional heat because the seeds will have a chance to release into the stew. For a half recipe, I set the slow cooker for 4 hours on low and the chicken was perfectly cooked.

Ingredients

    For the Chicken:
  • 9 whole boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 lbs)
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 whole jalapeno pepper, stem removed, pepper pierced several times with a sharp knife
  • For the Sauce:
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 whole large onion, peeled and diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, about 2-3 inches, peeled and grated or very finely minced
  • 4 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp heavy cream
  • For Serving:
  • 4 cups cooked rice, hot
  • Cilantro for garnish

Instructions

  1. To prepare the chicken: Cut the boneless, skinless chicken thighs into 1- to 1 ½-inch pieces. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin and salt over the chicken, then stir in the yogurt until all the pieces are evenly coated. Place the chicken in the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker and put the jalapeno on top of the chicken.
  2. To prepare the sauce: Melt butter in a medium saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and salt, then stir. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to lightly brown around the edges.
  3. Stir in the garam masala and ginger and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute) before adding the crushed tomatoes and sugar. Stir well, scraping the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a boil. Pour the sauce over the chicken in the slow cooker.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours, or until the chicken is very tender.
  5. Pour heavy cream into the slow cooker and stir gently until the color is even. Replace the lid and let cook for 10 minutes or until bubbly around the edges.
  6. Serve over hot rice topped with a generous amount of chopped cilantro.

Source

adapted from Tasty Kitchen Blog

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2011/11/slow-cooker-chicken-tikka-masala/

Red Chile Chicken with Rice and Black Beans
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I’m sorry I’ve been holding out on you for so long.  I’ve been making this Red Chile Chicken with Rice and Black Beans for well over a year and I’ve not once had the opportunity to take a photo.  Actually, I’ve probably had many opportunities but I can’t say that I’ve had the desire to have to wait to eat this meal while I take photos.  It’s just too good.  You see, it’s a simple one-pot meal of rice, black beans, chicken, chicken broth, and some spices.  And somehow, these very basic ingredients are magically transformed into this amazingly comforting meal as they simmer together.  A little smoky undercurrent of heat from the ancho chile powder (my favorite chile powder) sears into the chicken then infuses the chicken broth and rice and leaves you with an unforgettable meal.  We sometimes serve this with some sour cream and a little shredded cheese on top but toppings certainly aren’t necessary.  Mix-ins are good too – I had an ear of corn hanging out in the fridge and I sliced the corn off the cob and threw it in at the end – lovely!  And if you consider serving this to company, which it would be perfect for on a crisp fall weekend night or for a game day Saturday or Sunday, I think some jalapeño cheddar cornbread or chile cheese bread would be great accompaniments.  Regardless of how you decide to serve it, make this soon and thank me later.

King Ranch Casserole
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King Ranch Casserole

I can honestly say that in my life since moving out on my own almost 10 years ago, I have never made a “traditional” casserole.  If you were born after 1940, you know what kind of casserole I’m talking about…the kind that involves canned cream of ::fill in the blank:: soup.  We’re all familiar with them as most of us grew up with them as staples in our mother’s cooking repertoires and I’m not ashamed to admit that I likely ate them with gusto as a kid myself – hello “clean plate club!”  However, as an adult, I figured out how to read a nutritional label (holy sodium batman!) and understood what everything actually meant…and I proceeded to banish all canned soup from my pantry, including the broth soups I had been eating for lunch for months when soup was the only thing I could afford during graduate school.  So needless to say, “traditional” casseroles have not been a part of my adult life.

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And then in walks The Pastry Queen with her seductive homemade casserole boasting its mighty name.  After all the amazing recipes I’ve made from this book, how could I turn this casserole down?  I couldn’t.  And I didn’t.  And I fell head over heels for this dish – we both did, actually.  After all my lamenting about the unhealthiness of canned soup, don’t let me fool you into thinking this recipe is healthy because it definitely is a “once a year” kind of meal, but at least by making a homemade sauce, you’re able to control the ingredients that go into it.  I made the recipe as written except that I halved it, used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, and used one poblano chile and one jalapeño.  The sauce, while not all that appealing to look at, is downright fantastic; it’s what makes this whole meal so great.  The mushrooms disappear into the sauce and by the time the casserole made its way to my plate, I had forgotten they were even involved.  Be prepared for some spice with this dish but it’s more a smokey heat than a burn-your-tongue-off heat and if you’ll be serving this to kids or lightweight adults, you can cut back on the amount of fresh chiles you use.  Overall, this King Ranch Casserole is a complete winner in our book and I won’t hesitate to bring this to any potluck or serve it for a casual dinner with guests.

You can find the full recipe on Jody’s blog, Savory to Sweet.  I’m a little behind with Project Pastry Queen recipes so later this week, I’ll be posting a fun twist on pizza…stay tuned!

Grilled Greek Chicken
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Hunting for new and exciting boneless chicken breast recipes never gets old to me.  I would say that in an average month, we try 4-5 new recipes involving the “plain Jane” of chicken pieces but because you’re not seeing 4-5 new chicken recipes here each month, you can safely assume that most of them are not, in my overly selective eyes, worthy of sharing with you.

Lemon Thyme

And then along came this grilled Greek chicken recipe.  I was smitten at the word “Greek.”  Though you may have already guessed that from my professed infatuation for feta cheese.  Maybe to your dismay, this post isn’t about the feta though.  It’s about the chicken and after tasting this chicken, you may understand why I forgot to put the feta in the cucumber tomato salad (whoops).  The chicken really has a chance to cozy up with a marinade of bold citrus, a generous amount of garlic, and a handful of garden fresh herbs and after 48 hours in this marinade, the plain Jane chicken breast emerges as a Greek goddess.  It’s true.  The chicken is transformed and I can guarantee that, upon being grilled, you will not end up a with a dry piece of chicken.  The marinade penetrates itself into the chicken breast (after 48 hours in a plastic bag, it needs somewhere to go!), leaving the chicken fork-tender and dripping with the earthy flavor of the garlic and fresh herbs.  Overall, I’m thrilled at having found this recipe and I know it’s one that I’ll be excited to keep in our rotation.  And next time, maybe I won’t be so distracted by this glorious chicken that I’ll remember the feta.

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BBQ Chicken Burgers
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If you’re familiar with New England vernacular, you’ve heard the term “wicked good” being thrown around a bit.  Meaning insanely good, it’s a term I’ve been resistant to, being from “Lawng” Island, and all.  And for years after I started attending college in Connecticut way back in the 90s, I couldn’t help but cringe when it emerged in conversation.

But despite my dislike for all things “wicked good,” I couldn’t come up with a better way to describe these BBQ Chicken Burgers.  With an ingredient list that includes a homemade bbq sauce, cilantro, and scallions, my pal Josie completely outdid herself when she developed this recipe.  If you want to go a step further with the recipe, Josie suggests adding some barbecued pulled pork which will add a touch of smokiness to the burgers (I foolishly didn’t think far enough in advance to take the pulled pork out of the freezer).  Oh yeah…pulled pork inside a grilled chicken burger.  Josie is from the South, after all, and I suppose she’s got some vintage cookbook about 101 ways to work with pulled pork floating around her kitchen just like I’m sure she’s got one with 101 ways to wield peaches. ;) Regardless of where she got the brilliant idea for these burgers, I foresee them making the cut for my weekly menu at least 6 or 7 more times this summer.

BBQ Chicken Burgers

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 burgers

I realize that ground chicken has a reputation for being dry when cooked but even with the addition of cornmeal to the chicken, these burgers retain plenty of their moisture while on the grill. If you’re worried, you can add a little extra bbq sauce; they will be almost too wet to put on the grill so be sure you oil the grates well and have faith that they’ll be great!

Ingredients

    For the bbq sauce:
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 tbsp very finely chopped (or grated) onion
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • For the burgers:
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • ½ cup crumbled cornbread or ¼ cup cornmeal
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup chopped pulled pork (optional)
  • 5 tbsp bbq sauce, divided
  • For serving:
  • Grilled red onion slices
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
  • Additional bbq sauce
  • Hamburger buns

Instructions

  1. To make the sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Cook the sauce about 7 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be reduced down to approximately 1 cup. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for about 1 week.
  2. To make the burgers: Heat the grill to medium-high.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, cornbread, scallion, cilantro, paprika, garlic, mustard, salt, cayenne, brown sugar, pork, and 2 tablespoons of the bbq sauce. Lightly but thoroughly mix with your hands to incorporate all the ingredients. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of bbq sauce to a small bowl.
  4. Form the mixture into 4 equal-sized patties. Brush the grates of the grill with olive oil. Place the burgers and onions on the grill, and cook the burgers 5-6 minutes, then flip. Turn the onions as well. Brush the cooked sides with half the reserved bbq sauce. After 3-4 minutes, flip the burgers again. glazing the other side with the remaining bbq sauce. Place a slice of cheese on each patty, and lay the buns, cut side down, on the grill. Close the lid and allow the cheese to melt and the buns to toast.
  5. Remove all the food from the grill, assembling the burgers as desired. Serve with additional bbq sauce if desired.

Source

sources: burgers adapted from Pink Parsley | bbq sauce adapted from Cook’s Illustrated via Annie’s Eats

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2011/06/bbq-chicken-burgers/

Back Pocket Meals: Penne alla Vodka
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This is one meal I firmly believe every home cook should have in their repertoire…a meal that you’ve got in your back pocket, ready to pull out and make at any time.  I would bet that if you’ve even got a halfway decently stocked pantry, you’ll have everything you need to make this recipe.  Since penne alla vodka is usually the only dish I order at our favorite local Italian restaurant, I decided it was time to find a great recipe to add to my repertoire so that on the nights when I’m craving it, it’s only a few steps away from my table.

And since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be a great meal to post, especially since it’s pink but more importantly, this is for those of you who haven’t decided on what to make yet or who are on the fence about going out to dinner.  In my opinion, dinner in a restaurant on Valentine’s Day a waste of your hard-earned moula and I can guarantee that this meal will be better than what you’ll get in a restaurant tonight.  This was by far, the best vodka sauce I’ve made at home, and every bit as excellent as at our favorite restaurant. Hit up the grocery store on the way home from work this afternoon if you don’t have what you need in the house already.  Throw on a pot of boiling water, cut up a small onion and some garlic, measure out (or don’t measure if you’re feeling frisky) your vodka and some heavy cream, follow the quick recipe, maybe add a salad and some crusty bread and you’ve got this fantastic meal on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Now that’s a weeknight meal I can appreciate…and it’s one that’s special enough for a holiday like this one or to serve to guests.

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I threw some shrimp into the sauce before I added the heavy cream to let them cook through but you can add diced rotisserie or grilled chicken or even quickly sautéed scallops if you want to make the meal extra special.  The meal itself is pretty versatile and if you don’t have or don’t want to use heavy cream, use half-n-half or milk.  I forgot to buy basil this week so I used some fresh parsley instead.  Use whatever kind of pasta you have on hand – I like rigatoni with this sauce but rotini, penne, ziti, etc. all work just as well.  I feel like the red pepper flakes should be optional – if you like spice, add 1/4 – 1/2 tsp and if you don’t want the spice, I don’t think the dish will suffer without the heat. The recipe calls for a 280z can of whole tomatoes, half of which you puree, the other half of which you dice.  However, it would just be easier to buy a 14oz can of pureed or crushed tomatoes and a 14oz can of diced tomatoes – why break out the food processor for such a simple meal?  The recipe posted below is as originally written but feel free to make whatever changes you feel necessary to make it your own…and to make it one that you can truly pull out of your back pocket when you’re in a pinch for a great meal. Enjoy!

Fettuccine Alfredo
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Fettuccine Alfredo

Get ready for another diet-buster! We made this recipe just about a year ago for the first time and while I didn’t photograph it for blogging, I filed it away in the back of my mind as one of the best fettuccine alfredo recipes I’ve ever had.  We haven’t made it again in the last year because the three main ingredients in the sauce are heavy cream, half-and-half, and Parmesan cheese – not quite a zip-up-my-skinny-jeans-friendly meal, but definitely one that deserves to pulled up from the archives on a rare occasion.  And I’m so glad we pulled this out back last week because it really is so deserving to be blogged and shared.  The sauce is just as thick and creamy as you would hope and it coats the pasta like the two were MFEO. Get the Sleepless in Seattle reference?  Yeah, this dish is definitely worthy of a good chick flick night – maybe the next one with your girlfriends?

Take-Out Fake-Out: Orange Chicken
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When ordering Chinese take-out, I feel like there are two schools of thought regarding that ridiculously long menu: 1. You have your regular favorite that you order every time, or 2. You’re either adventurous or completely indecisive and always order something different.  I’m of the first school…but would love to be more adventurous when ordering.  Take Orange Chicken, for example.  Our favorite Chinese place offers a dish called House Special Chicken that is described as, “Sliced chicken with mixed vegetable in orange flavor sauce,” but nothing named Orange Chicken so by this description, one could only assume this is what I’d be looking for.  But the orange “flavor” didn’t sound all that appealing to me – is it flavored with actual orange? Or with something like imitation orange extract?

So when I came across this recipe months ago, I was all over it like…white on rice. Ha!  The outstanding orange sauce is thick and sticky and it beautifully coats the chicken pieces, just as I hoped it would.  There is plenty of natural orange flavor that combines with just the right amount of heat from some cayenne pepper and while I don’t usually eat any rice when we order Chinese, you’ll love having it with this meal so as to soak up some of the sauce’s goodness. Kyle and I both flipped over it (and we almost fought over the leftovers) and I promise you that it will definitely satisfy any Chinese take-out craving you have. And what’s better than being able to make a restaurant meal at home?

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
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Some meals seem so ordinary that I’ve never considered making them.  Not that I cook way outside the box but take chicken noodle soup, for example.  It’s one of the most basic soups, one of the most traditional, and probably the most well-known to be consumed when you’re sick.  I’ve always thought of it as just “eh” and that sentiment probably comes from the fact that I was fed this soup mostly from a can as a kid.  Actually, I always thought it was kind of an annoying soup to eat with all those little noodles slurping around everywhere, impossible to get on your spoon. So I never considered making it.  And then my feelings changed when I ended up with 6 quarts of stock and 6 cups of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving.

Sure, I could have found a million other things to use the stock for but I firmly decided to make my own chicken [turkey] noodle soup and try to change my mediocre beliefs about this classic soup.  And in 25 minutes, using another promised Barefoot Contessa soup recipe, I had hot soup ready to eat.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make.  I couldn’t believe how amazing it was.  It was all the things I had been missing from this canned soup as a kid: flavor, texture, richness, comfort.  And the best part about it was that there were leftovers. Again, leftovers of leftovers but these leftovers are really the best kind.  You can only eat so much leftover turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes but when you have leftovers of a completely different meal made from that orginal turkey, that’s a whole other story. And lucky for me, I’ve got more shredded turkey and stock frozen so this soup will be making an appearance again soon on one of the those inevitably frigid New England nights.

Chicken Enchiladas
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Sometimes you just know.  You know when you’ve found a fantastic recipe.  One that’s better than anything you’ve made in ages.  One that’s better than anything you’ve blogged about in ages.  One that is so awesome you plan on making a huge batch in order to freeze multiple servings so that you can pull a pan out of the freezer whenever your little heart desires, pop it in the oven and an hour later pull out a no-fuss meal that continues to knock your socks off each time you eat it.  This, my friends, is one of those recipes.

I kid you not.  I know I said the baked shrimp scampi last week was incredible and I meant it but this is incredible on a different level.  On a I-can-finally-make-awesome-Mexican-food-at-home level! While I’ve made and enjoyed two other enchiladas recipes in the past, neither really had the WOW factor both Kyle and I need for a recipe to be compared to restaurant quality. These definitely do.  The red chile sauce was packed with flavor and it wasn’t overly spicy considering there is three tablespoons of chili powder (medium heat) and two jalapeños in it.  The act of simmering the chicken in the sauce brings new life to ordinarily bland chicken and we fell in love with the juicy and flavorful chicken this method of cooking yielded.  I realize this recipe can take on quite a few additions/substitutions so being the black bean lover that I am, I added a can into the mix – you’ll see my little change below along with the fact that I deleted the whole tomato from the recipe since Kyle isn’t a fan of chunky tomatoes in his food.  In all honesty, I never missed the tomato.  As I mentioned before, I plan to make a huge batch of these enchiladas in the next couple of weeks in order to have a bunch in the freezer…you’ll see my oven-freezer-oven-table instructions below…this recipe was that good!

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Let’s talk freezer-friendly.  These enchiladas definitely are a freezer-friendly meal.  I split the full recipe in half, baking 6 enchiladas in an 8″x8″ glass dish for dinner that night and par baking the other 6 in an aluminum pan of the same size.  By par baking, I mean that I baked them for the original 7 minutes then for only 8-10 after that at 400 degrees – without any cheese.  I took them out of the oven to let them cool down to where the pan was cool to the touch (the enchiladas should not be completely cool at this point), wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap then in aluminum foil, remembering the writing the cooking directions on top with a Sharpie, and put the pan in the fridge to chill completely.  Then I moved the pan to the freezer where it sat for about 6 weeks.  They bake up after this freeze absolutely beautifully and if you can believe it, the edges retain quite a bit of the crunch you get from the original 7 minute bake at 425 degrees.

When you’re ready to bake them, here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375
  2. Unwrap the foil (reserving) and plastic wrap (discarded) from the pan, re-wrap it with the reserved foil
  3. Bake for 55 minutes or until the enchiladas in the center of pan are hot inside (check with a knife), add cheese (about 1/2 cup for an 8″x8″ pan), and bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.  Let stand for 10 minutes before you serve.

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Chicken Chili
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It’s been a while since the Barefoot Bloggers have done a Bonus Recipe Challenge (BRC) and during that downtime, I’ve been working up a big new BRC.  Based on my Week with the Barefoot Contessa I did last year, I wanted to expand the challenge to the whole group.  There are no set posting dates for the five recipes I chose, just that they are posted between November 2-6, and this is my first of the week. So over the course of this week, check back daily for a new Ina Garten recipe that I’ll add to the 70+ Ina recipes I’ve already posted about here!

So the first recipe of the week brings us Chicken Chili.  After having made my favorite chili recipe more times than I can count and after having won my department’s chili cookoff with the recipe last year, I’m finally trying a new chili recipe. Although, I guess you could say that I have been making a different recipe during the past year since discovering Penzey’s Chili 3000 but the recipes only differ by the spices. We’re totally in love with Chili 3000 by the way!

That said, I was looking forward to this recipe.  I’d been itching to try a chicken chili recipe and I certainly wasn’t let down by this one.  While the chili was a little on the soupy side (which can be easily fixed next time since we’re thick chili fans) the flavors were spot on. I loved the big chunks of peppers and chicken (which I grilled rather than roasted – you’ll see my changes below) and with the my addition of black beans, this chili was a hearty and satisfying meal on an unseasonably cold October night here in CT. Go ahead and give it a try for yourself!!