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:
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!
Heat 2 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes, flipping just as the vegetables begin to brown.
Remove the vegetables from the pan and keep warm on a plate. Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil, add the chicken, garlic, and chili powder and sauté 4-5 minutes or until the chicken is browned and almost cooked through. Stir in the salsa and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in tortillas with toppings of your choice.
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.
1/2 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, rinsed, patted dry, and sliced thin
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp anchovy paste
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes plus additional for serving
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup (1 oz) Asiago cheese, grated
Kosher salt and pepper
1 lb broccoli, florets only, cut into 1-inch pieces
12 oz whole wheat penne (or 16 oz if that is how your penne is packaged)
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced into ribbons
Heat 1 1/2 tsp of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned but not fully cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 1/2 tsp of the oil to the skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sundried tomatoes, garlic, anchovy paste, and red pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and wine and bring to a simmer, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.
While the sauce thickens, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil; add the broccoli and 1 tbsp Kosher salt. Cook, stirring often until the broccoli is crisp-tender, about 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Cook the pasta in the same water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.
Once the sauce has thickened, return the chicken and any juices to the skillet. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the Asiago and season with salt and pepper.
Return the drained pasta to its pot and transfer the chicken mixture, broccoli, and basil to the pot; toss to combine. If the sauce is too thick, stir in some of the reserved pasta water until it reaches a desired consistency. Sprinkle some additional red pepper flakes over the top of the pasta before serving, if desired. Serve hot.
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!
Preheat the oven to 475˚ F. In a large skillet, toss the panko with the oil. Toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the toasted crumbs to a shallow dish or pie plate.
In a second shallow dish, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites, water, mustard and thyme.
Spray a wire rack lightly with cooking spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet. Working in batches, dredge a few pieces of the chicken in the flour, then the egg whites, and finally the breadcrumbs to coat, shaking off the excess between each step. Lay the coated pieces on the prepared wire rack and repeat with the remaining chicken.
Spray the tops of the chicken pieces lightly with the cooking spray. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Serve warm.
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!
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.
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
4 cups cooked rice, hot
Cilantro for garnish
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.
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.
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.
Cover and cook on low for 5 hours, or until the chicken is very tender.
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.
Serve over hot rice topped with a generous amount of chopped cilantro.
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.
I have successfully made this dish with brown rice but it takes twice as long as white rice to cook and needs about 1 extra cup of chicken broth. If you want to go that route, add the chicken back in after the rice and onions cook for 30 minutes. Aside from some improved nutritional value, I didn’t see any other benefit to using brown rice and since we so rarely eat white rice, I’ll stick with it in this dish in the future.
2 tbsp canola oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs total)
2 1/2 tbsp ancho chili powder, divided
1 medium onion, large diced
1 cup white rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped green onions, roots and wilted outer leaves removed before chopping (OR 1/3 cup cilantro)
1/2 to 1 cup salsa or chipotle hot sauce for serving (optional)
Heat the oil in a medium-large heavy pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with salt and 1 tbsp of the ancho chili powder. Place the chicken in the hot oil and brown on each side, 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate, leaving behind as much oil as possible.
Add the onion and rice to the pot. Stir for several minutes, until the rice turns from translucent to opaque. Add the garlic and the remaining 1 1/2 tbsp ancho chili powder. Cook one minute, and then add the broth and salt to taste. Stir well. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
Cut the chicken breast into 1″ pieces. Add them to the pot along with the beans. Re-cover and cook 12 minutes longer.
Sprinkle the green onions and test a kernel of rice. It should have no more than a hint of chalkiness at in the center, in which case you place the cover back on, remove it from the heat and let it stand 5-10 minutes. If it’s not cooked, cook for another 5 minutes or so.
Fluff the mixture with a fork and serve with salsa (if using).
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.
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!
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.
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 professedinfatuation for fetacheese. 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.
2 tsp each chopped fresh oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients. Whisk in the olive oil until well combined with the other ingredients.
Place chicken breasts in a large resealable zipper bag and pour marinade over the chicken. Close the bag, taking care to remove as much air from the bag as possible. Smoosh (technical term) the chicken breasts around in the marinade until all of the chicken is covered with marinade. Place the bag lying flat in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours – the longer the chicken marinates, the better it will be. Take note that when you marinate your chicken for this long, it should be as fresh as possible – don’t use chicken that is at its sell-by/use-by date already. Every 12 hours or so and without opening the bag, smoosh the chicken around in the marinade to reposition it, then return it to the fridge.
When you’re ready to grill, allow the chicken to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before grilling. Set the grill to medium-high heat and place the chicken over the heat source. Grill chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, about 4-6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the grill and allow it to rest for 5 minutes (covered) before serving.
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.
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!
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
2 tsp brown sugar
2/3 cup chopped pulled pork (optional)
5 tbsp bbq sauce, divided
Grilled red onion slices
Sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
Additional bbq sauce
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.
To make the burgers: Heat the grill to medium-high.
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.
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.
Remove all the food from the grill, assembling the burgers as desired. Serve with additional bbq sauce if desired.
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.
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!
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ small onion, minced (about ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
¼ to ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
½ tsp table salt
¼ to ⅓ cup vodka
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup reserved pasta liquid (if needed)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
8oz dry pasta
Puree half of the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Dice the remaining tomatoes into ½-inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine the pureed and diced tomatoes in a liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1⅔ cups). Add reserved tomato liquid to equal 2 cups. (I needed about an extra ½ cup of the tomato liquid – keep the extra liquid on the side in case you need to add it later.)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are light golden around the edges, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomatoes and the salt. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka. Return the pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until the alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower the heat to medium if the simmering becomes too vigorous. (If the sauce becomes too thick too quickly, add some of the reserved tomato liquid.) Stir in the cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute. (Take care not to overheat the cream or the sauce will break apart.)
Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon Kosher salt and the pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss over medium heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1 to 2 minutes, adding reserved pasta water if sauce is too thick. Stir in the basil and adjust the seasoning with salt. Divide among pasta bowls and serve immediately.
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?
Bring 4 1/2 quarts of water to a boil, covered, in a stockpot or dutch oven. Using a ladle, fill serving bowls with boiling water. Set bowls aside.
As water is coming to a boil, heat 1 cup of heavy cream and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and gently simmer until the mixture has reduced to about 2/3 cup, 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in half and half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Add 1 Tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and add pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water and drain pasta.
Return cream to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low again and add the pasta, Parmesan, and nutmeg. Toss gently with tongs to coat the pasta, and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Stir in the reserved pasta water. At this point the sauce might seem to thin, but it will thicken as it begins to cool and is served.
Quickly pour out the water from the serving bowls, dry the bowls, and divide pasta and sauce among them. Serve immediately.
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, I loved having it with this meal 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?
For the marinade and sauce:
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
6 tbsp. white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar (dark or light)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1½ lbs. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)
For the coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 ½ cups each peanut and canola oil
To make the marinade and sauce, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper in a large saucepan; whisk to blend well. Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and transfer it to a large zipper lock plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces to the bag, pressing out the excess air and sealing well. Refrigerate and let marinate 30-60 minutes, but no longer. Place the saucepan with the remaining mixture on the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add the mixture to the saucepan with the sauce. Continue simmering until the sauce is thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the strips of orange peel, if using.
To prepare the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and whisk until frothy. In a second pie plate combine the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne pepper; whisk to blend. Drain the chicken of the marinade in a colander or large strainer; pat dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to the cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly, shaking off the excess. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
To fry the chicken, heat the oil in a 11- or 12-inch round Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan until the oil reaches 350˚ F. Carefully place half of the chicken pieces in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning the pieces halfway through cooking. Remove from the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Return the oil to 350˚ F and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
Reheat the sauce if necessary and toss with the cooked chicken pieces. Serve over rice, if desired.
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.
Classic Chicken Noodle Soup source: adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
1 cup medium-diced carrots (3 carrots)
3/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts homemade chicken/turkey stock (I made my own using a recipe very similar to Shawnda’s, but you could also use boxed stock)
2 cups wide egg noodles
2-3 cups cooked shredded chicken (or turkey)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrots, salt, and pepper and cook for 10-12 minutes until softened. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil over high heat, and add the noodles. Cook the noodles for 10 minutes, then add the chicken (or turkey) and parsley. Allow the chicken/turkey to heat through. Serve hot.
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 twoother 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!
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:
Preheat the oven to 375
Unwrap the foil (reserving) and plastic wrap (discarded) from the pan, re-wrap it with the reserved foil
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.
1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese, divided
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup minced fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
12 (6-inch) soft corn tortillas
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the onion, jalapeños, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large sauté pan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions and jalapeños have softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water, bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and the thickest part registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate; set aside to cool. Strain the sauce through a medium-mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on the onions to extract as much liquid as possible. Place onion mixture in a large bowl and set aside. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces. Add to the bowl along with the onion mixture. Add in 1/4 cup enchilada sauce, 1 cup cheddar cheese, the black beans, and the cilantro. Toss to combine.
Stack and wrap the tortillas in a moist paper towel, place on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave on high until warm and pliable, about 45 seconds. Spread the warm tortillas out over a clean work surface. Place 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each tortilla. Tightly roll each tortilla around the filling and lay them seam-side down in a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.
Lightly spray the tops of the enchiladas with vegetable oil spray. Place in the oven, uncovered, for about 7 minutes until the tortillas are starting to slightly brown on the top. (If you don’t like a bit of crunch in your enchiladas, just skip this step completely)
Reduce oven temperature to 400. Remove enchiladas from oven and pour remaining sauce over to coat them thoroughly. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheddar down the center of the enchiladas. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake until the enchiladas are heated through, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese browns, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
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!!
source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, page 232
4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
1/8 cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
1/8 cup minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes in puree, drained or undrained – your choice
2 15oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Add to the pot with the black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat grill to high heat.
Drizzle the chicken breasts with olive oil then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Grill until completely cooked, about 4 minutes per side. While still warm, cut the chicken into 3/4-inch chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with toppings of your choice, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.