Featured

Lemon Chicken Thighs with Zucchini and Orzo

Who doesn’t love a one-pot dinner you can get on the table in less than an hour? Sign me up as there are plenty of days, as organized as I am with meal planning, when 4pm rolls around and plans need to change.  Someone has practice, a class or a call and what I originally planned is no longer a good idea.  This dish is a variation on one created by @thehungryhutch (currently a food writer at the Washington Post and one of my fav food bloggers – check him out).  I’ve only tweaked it a bit as it’s a great recipe and the star ingredient in my opinion is lemon.  Some people are obsessed with chocolate or truffles – I love lemons.  I love the way they taste – fresh, tart and juicy – I love having them in a big bowl on a table, I love the way they smell (I buy the William Sonoma Meyer Lemon candles in bulk!) and I especially love to cook with them.  This recipe calls for only one lemon but when you cut a lemon and cook it, the flavor gets ratcheted up and the amount of juice seems to double.  When I grill, I always cut a lemon or two and grill them to serve with steak and chicken.  Even if you don’t love a spritz of lemon on your dinner, they look great on the serving platter.

I made this dish a few times with skinless, boneless chicken thighs and with bone-in, skin on too.  The skin on, bone-in thighs are 100% the way to go.  The crispy skin is not only delicious but the fat you render from cooking them first adds lots of flavor to the overall dish.  The skinless thighs were good and I might make this again and shred them so everything is mixed together but until then, I’m sticking with the skin on thighs.

The original recipe calls for broccoli which is great and you can use fresh florets or frozen but I swapped broccoli for zucchini this time and I really liked it.  You need a sturdy vegetable since it cooks with the orzo which takes a few minutes to absorb the liquid so if you want to substitute your favorite vegetable just make sure it’s something that won’t fall apart as it cooks.  

We eat a decent amount of rice (always on Tuesdays with tacos) but lately I’ve been using more orzo which we really like.  I like it in place of rice for a “risotto” and it’s wonderful in pasta salad, casseroles and soups because it’s a sturdy pasta and doesn’t get mushy. 

Ingredients

4                           Bone in, skin on chicken thighs

1 tsp                    Salt (I use Kosher)

1 tsp                    Seasoned Salt (I use Lawry’s)

½ tsp                   White pepper

2 tbs                    Olive oil

3 tbs                    Butter

1                           Lemon (medium), sliced thinly

4 cups                 Zucchini (you can use broccoli or another sturdy veggie too), cut into ½ inch, half moons

1 ½ cups             Orzo

1 sprig                 Thyme

1 clove                Garlic, grated on a micro plane

½ cup                  White wine (I used Pinot Grigio)

2 ½ cups             Low sodium chicken broth

Directions

Pat the chicken thighs dry and sprinkle the seasoned salt on both sides.  In a heavy bottom pot or skillet (I use a Cuisinart dutch oven which lives on my stove) heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Place the chicken skin side down and cook till they release from the pot (that’s when you know it’s time to flip!) and are golden brown, about 5 – 10 minutes.  Flip them over and cook the other side, about another 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Add 2 tbs of butter and the lemon slices to the pot, spreading them out to a single layer and cook for about 3 minutes until the juices are released (they will also start to pick up some color which is great).  Remove lemon to a plate and reserve.

Add the orzo, zucchini, garlic, thyme, 1 tbs butter, salt and pepper to the pan and cook until coated and orzo is toasted, stirring for approximately 3 minutes.  Stir in the wine and cook for about a minute and then add the stock.  Stir well to release the bits off the bottom of the pot and bring to a simmer.  Add the lemons and chicken back to the pan along with any juices from the plates.  Make sure to place the skin side up and don’t completely immerse it in the sauce or you will have soggy skin.   Cook uncovered for about 10 – 15 minutes, carefully moving the orzo and liquid mixture around a bit if needed.  Once the liquid is reduced and the orzo is tender (I always go by the taste test rather than live and die by the time) you are ready to go.

I place the pot on the table and serve right from there.

Enjoy!  

Featured

Sweet & Spicy Pickled Onions & Jalapenos

I love spicy foods and spicy condiments on anything and everything. I got the savory gene instead of the sweet tooth and as a result, I’ve got about a dozen hot sauces and pepper mixes since certain ones go with certain food. My refrigerator is always full in part because of all the condiments, hot sauces and salad dressings.  I love adding jalapenos and banana peppers to salads, tacos and sandwiches.  I first had pickled onions on fish tacos in Mexico years ago and then my sister made a great batch a couple of years ago so I needed to figure out my own version.  My recipe has sugar to cut the vinegar and spicy bite for these sweet and spicy pickled onions and jalapenos.  They are the perfect combination of my love of spicy, with a big punch of flavor from the vinegar and just enough sweetness to balance everything out. I put them in salads, on sandwiches, tacos, burritos and they make a great topping for avocado toast or with hummus on crackers.  The best part is they are super easy to make and keep for a few weeks in the fridge.  When I get close to needing a new batch, I use the brine to make a super flavorful vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1                      Large red onion (or 2 small)

2                      Jalapenos, seeded

1/3 cup          Sugar

1 ½ cups       Red wine vinegar

½ cup             White vinegar

¼ tsp               Salt

Directions

Combine vinegar and sugar in a saucepot and heat till dissolved.  Cut the onion in half, slice thinly.  Slice jalapeno (you can discard the seeds and stem but I keep them in for more heat).  Add onions and jalapeno to vinegar and sugar.  Let the mixture cool and then transfer to an airtight container and place in the refrigerator.

Lasagna Roll-Ups

I am always on the hunt for a good weeknight meal.  One that cuts the time I would normally spend on the weekend but doesn’t sacrifice flavor.  Lasagna is a family favorite. It’s a process to make but worth the time when I have it which is usually on a Sunday.  Lasagna is so hearty and comforting which makes it the perfect dinner with all the snow on the ground and chilly temperatures.  But I wanted to see about creating a simple version that could be pulled together in less than two hours, including cooking time. 

I started with fresh, no-boil lasagna noodles which are par-boiled and take a short amount of time to cook. Check your store but in mine, they were in the deli section with the fresh pasta. (don’t use the no bake noodle in the pasta aisle which are dried like boxed pasta).  They are sold is sheets so rather than stack them with cheese and sauce like a traditional lasagna, I cut the sheets in half, rolled them with the filling and then cooked them standing up.  I also decided to put the sauce on the bottom of the pan and in between the rolls rather than overstuffing them. For the sauce, I used a jar of my favorite marinara from Patsy’s and browned some ground turkey to make a quick meat sauce but healthier without the beef.  It worked great and by having the sauce on the bottom, the noodles had enough liquid to cook evenly.  I feel no guilt using a jar of sauce for a quick weeknight meal. I make sauce from scratch when I have the time – and freeze most of it for future dinners – but I didn’t have any on hand so I didn’t stress about it (and you shouldn’t either!).

Inside each roll was ricotta cheese, parmesan and shredded mozzarella.  I covered the shallow dish for about 20 minutes until the sauce was bubbling and then removed the foil and let them brown a bit on top.  I had some fresh mozzarella on hand and crumbled that on top but if you don’t have fresh, you can use more of the shredded cheese.  I didn’t use the fresh mozzarella inside the rolls since it gives off a good amount of moisture. Next time I will add some spinach to the filling, or another thinly sliced vegetable like zucchini or eggplant to bulk up the flavor and sneak some veggies in.

The roll-ups were a big hit and the small amount of leftovers were enjoyed for lunch the next day.  I will continue to play with this recipe and add spinach or even eggplant next time but I love that it was easy, quick, healthier than normal lasagna and most importantly, delicious.

Ingredients

1 pkg             No-boil, fresh lasagna sheets (I found them in the deli section with the fresh pasta)

1 container     Part skim ricotta cheese

½ cup            Freshly grated parmesan cheese

½ bag           Pre-shredded, part skim mozzarella cheese

½ cup            Crumbled fresh mozzarella cheese

1 jar              Your favorite marinara sauce

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta and grated parmesan cheese.  Cut the lasagna noodles in half and cover with a damp paper towel to avoid them drying out.   Lay two cut noodles on a cutting board and spread about two tablespoons of the ricotta filling and sprinkle some of the shredded mozzarella cheese on each.  Roll each noodle and place on a plate with the seam side down until all the rolls are done and you are ready to assemble the entire dish. 

Once all the rolls are finished, take a large, shallow casserole dish and pour 2/3 of the sauce into the bottom of the dish. Take each roll and cut it in half, then place the two rolls in the dish so you can see the swirl of cheese on top.  Repeat till all the rolls are cut and placed in the dish on top of the sauce.  I left a little room between the rolls in my dish and then poured the remaining sauce on top of the rolls and between them.  Top with the crumbled fresh mozzarella cheese and cover with foil (I spray the foil with a non-stick spray so the cheese wont stick to the foil). 

Bake at 400 for 20 – 30 minutes till everything is bubbling. Remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes to give the edges some color.  Let sit for 10 minutes before you dig it – they will be hot.  

Shrimp & Grits

This is one our favorites for dinner, anytime of the year.  My mom has lived in South Carolina’s Lowcountry (the geographic and cultural region along South Carolina’s coast) for many years and we visit often.  It’s beautiful, usually warm, calming and we loved it so much, we were married there. The other draw is the amazing food.  The freshest seafood, soups and stews, oysters, great BBQ and, shrimp and grits.  I first had shrimp and grits years ago at one of our favorite restaurants, Dockside, a small seafood restaurant in Port Royal, SC. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire many years ago and did not return.  It was literally on the side of the dock where you could sit and watch the shrimp boats come in while you sipped your drink and waited for your table.  If you timed it right, you would see the most beautiful sunsets ever.  I’ve tried to recreate the shrimp and grits I remember but I think the view and setting certainly added to how amazing the whole experience was.

With the exception of the shrimp and the grits, this recipe calls for things you probably already have in the kitchen – chicken stock, onions, bacon, butter, etc.  If you’ve been following eyummykitchen.com, you’ve seen that I am a big fan of recipes using ingredients you may already have on hand.  I like dishes that aren’t overly complicated or confusing. Life is too short!

The key is starting with the bacon and building layers of flavors with each ingredient as well as having everything ready to go (the French call this mise en place) before you start cooking.  It’s a perfect meal on a cold night since it’s filling and comforting although I make this all year long.  I like to add a little Tabasco on mine, but I don’t dare add it while I’m cooking since my husband is not a fan (I affectionately call him Captain Vanilla).  Scallions would be a good addition as a garnish too, but Captain Vanilla is opposed to those as well!

Ingredients

1 lb                   Shrimp, thawed or fresh, deveined, tails removed and cut in half

1 cup                Grits (not quick cooking or instant) (Dixie Lily is my new favorite)

6 cups               Chicken broth (if not homemade, use low sodium)

½ cup               Whole milk

½ lb.                Thick cut bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 cup                Onion, finely diced (I always use a sweet onion like Vidalia)

1 cup                Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 tbs                 Butter

1 tbs                 Scallions or chives, finely chopped

1 tsp                 Seasoned salt

1 tsp                 Dried parsley

1 tbs                 Corn starch

Directions

In a large saucepot, bring five cups of chicken broth to a boil and add the grits and whisk well. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about five minutes.  When the grits are almost done (they should be soupy and a bit al dente), add the milk and cheese, mixing well.  Simmer for another three minutes and then turn off the heat. 

In a large skillet, cook bacon on medium heat, remove to a plate with a paper towel to drain.  Pour off all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease and reserve.  Add onions to the pan along with ½ tsp of seasoned salt and cook till translucent, about four minutes.  Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer.  If needed, add a bit more of the leftover bacon fat and the butter.  Cook for two minutes on each side until pink and firm.  Add the remaining cup of chicken broth and stir until combined over medium heat, scrapping all the bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add 2/3s of the bacon, parsley, and ½ tsp seasoned salt. 

Once combined, dissolve 1 tsp corn starch into about 1 tbs of water and mix into the shrimp.  This will thicken the sauce ever so slightly.  Cook for another two minutes on low.

To serve, you can place the grits into a large, shallow serving dish and top with shrimp mixture or make individual plates.  I usually serve individual bowls right from the stove just in case there are leftovers (and there rarely are!) you can still control the ratio when you reheat it.

Garnish with some scallions (and a few drops of Tabasco on mine!)

Enjoy!

Nokedli (Hungarian Dumplings)/Spaetzle

I had the good fortune of growing up in a family that loves food. We love everything about it – shopping, finding new things to try, cooking, serving and of course, eating.  Part of this love comes from my mom, Gwenae, who is a great cook, and her Hungarian heritage.  Growing up, I remember enjoying these dumplings more than any other Hungarian dish. They are called Nokedli in Hungarian and Spaetzle in German.  No matter what you call them, they are delicious and easy to make.

I love serving these with pork chops, grilled chicken and stews and in place of egg noodles.  Nokedli is the standard accompaniment with one of Hungary’s best known dishes, Chicken Paprikash. Everything you need to make them is already in your kitchen – flour, salt, water and eggs.  Once they are cooked i like to cook then on a pan with a little butter and my mom said her mom used to serve them with melted muenster cheese on top. Give these a try when you want serve something different with dinner.

Ingredients

2         Eggs, lightly beaten

½ tsp  Kosher salt

¾ c     Warm water

2 c      Flour

2 tbs   Butter

1 tsp   Parsley (fresh or dried)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the eggs, water, salt and half the flour, mixing gently.  The dough should be soft and sticky, a bit thicker than gravy but not as thick as pancake batter.  You can add more flour if needed and discard the rest if your dough is the right consistency.

The key to this super simple batter is to let it rest for at least 15 minutes.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

If you have a spaetzle maker, pour the batter into the basket and move it back and forth to drop the dough through the holes into the boiling water. (Click here to see the great one I bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond for less than $10.00. Not an ad, just a fan.) If you don’t have one, you can put the dough on a large spoon and drop small amounts into the water.  A flat panel grater would work well too.

The dumplings are done when they float to the top, about three – four minutes. 

Drain them into a colander and return them to the pot, cooking with the butter till coated.  Transfer to a bowl and top with parsley.  

Italian Wedding Soup

I love making soup and when it’s cold out, I usually make a big pot each week.  Chicken soup is always a go-to for me but I’ve challenged myself to make a new soup each week to expand my recipe list.  This week my daughter Grace asked for Italian Wedding Soup which is a clear broth with veggies, pasta and little meatballs.  (I think it was the meatballs that caught her attention).  The meatballs cook in the oven while the soup comes together and everything was ready in about an hour.  It was a great, hearty lunch on a cold Monday!

I usually have homemade stock in the freezer but if I use store bought stock (Swanson’s low sodium is my favorite) I always add either one packet of Knorr’s Stock Base or some Knorr’s Bouillon powder.  Normally Italian Wedding Soup calls for spinach but I had only kale on hand so that’s what I used.  Since kale can be tough (but still delicious) I cooked it with the other veggies to soften it up before adding it to the soup.  If I had a zucchini on hand, I would have added that, too.  Any small pasta will do and I used small bow ties which I find are great for soups.  A little sprinkle of cheese on top and red pepper flakes (for me) and you are good to go.

Give it a try!

Ingredients

Meatballs

½ lb.             Ground pork

½ lb.             Ground beef (I used 85/15)

¼ c               Grated parmesan

¼ c               Bread crumbs

1                   Egg (lightly beaten)

½ tsp            Seasoned salt

Soup

½ c              Diced onion (I always use a sweet onion like Vidalia)

1 c                Diced carrots

1 c                Diced celery

2 tbs            Olive oil

8 c                Chicken stock (see my recipe for homemade; see note above)

1 tbs            Chicken bouillon powder (see note above)

½ c               Dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)

1 c                Small pasta (I used small bow ties)

6 oz              Chopped kale (remove the hard stalk in the middle of each leaf) or spinach

                     Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients and gently mix until everything is incorporated.  I find the best way to roll a meatball is with my hands so dampen your hands with water so the mixture doesnt stick and roll about a teaspoon sized portion into a ball.  Place on a baking sheet (I always line mine with parchment paper to avoid food sticking) and cook the meatballs at 350 for about 30 minutes or until done.  Remove the meatballs from the tray and set aside on a plate.

While the meatballs cook, sauté the onions, carrots, celery and kale on medium heat in the olive oil till almost tender which will take about 10 minutes.  (If you are using spinach instead of kale you can add it when you add the pasta.  I cook the kale first since it can be tough and cooking it first help soften it). 

Add the white wine and cook for one minute and then add the stock (and bouillon powder if store bought).  Cook for one minute until combined and the soup comes to a simmer.  Add the pasta to the soup and cook till tender, about six minutes.  Add the meatballs and simmer for another minute or two. 

Serve with some grated parmesan on top.

Enjoy!  

Peanut Butter Hearts (Cups)

My family never met a piece of chocolate they didn’t like – ever.  My husband and kids are self-diagnosed chocoholics (I would rather have a bag of gummi bears!).  Doesn’t matter if it’s milk, dark or white or if it’s plain or has nuts.  But the one combination that will always be at the top of their list is chocolate and peanut butter.  Peanut butter cups (you know the ones!) are the first candy I buy for Valentine’s Day, Easter baskets, Christmas stockings, Halloween or just as a treat and they never last very long.   With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I wanted to make my own and see if it’s as easy as I thought.  How hard could it be? Not hard at all as you only need three ingredients and most people probably have all three in their kitchen right now – chocolate chips, peanut butter and powdered sugar.  That’s it!  They may be easy, and don’t take long, but they can be a little messy until you get a few under your belt but the mess is worth it as they are delish. 

I used a silicone heart shaped mold for the peanut butter cups but you could also use a mini-muffin mold or regular sized cupcake mold.  I highly recommend using silicone as it’s so easy to work with and the peanut butter cups pop right out but if you don’t have one, you can use cupcake liners in a regular tin and the cut the excess off after they are set.  Other than that, you’ll need a glass bowl and spatula to melt the chocolate, a small zip top bag, a small spoon and a brush (I used a small paint brush).  To help cut down on the mess factor, I used a small muffin scoop to get the chocolate into the mold since it releases the chocolate easily.

In terms of chocolate, I went with milk chocolate chips.  I had them on hand and overall chocolate chips are super easy to work with.  You could also use candy melts (meltable disks you can find in the baking ails at craft or baking stores.) I didn’t go with high end chocolate but if you want to, that’s fine too, but would check the package for melting instructions just in case. The candy melts are great for decorating and melt very easily in the microwave (50% power for 20 seconds at a time and stir in between).  I drizzled some white on one batch and pink and white on another. 

Click here for the Wilton mold I used (not an ad) and from this recipe I made 24 peanut butter cups.  Also, to make the mold easier to work with, I cut it in half so I could do 12 peanut butter cups at a time. I highly recommend this.

What chocolate lover wouldn’t like a box of homemade peanut butter cups for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, anniversary or just for fun?

Ingredients

2 10oz bags              Chocolate chips (I’m a Nestle fan; used milk chocolate but semi-sweet or dark work well).

¾ cup                      Peanut butter (I use Skippy smooth. Crunchy PB is fine or even another nut butter)

4 tbs                        Powdered sugar

1 cup                       White, pink or red candy melts for decoration

Directions

Place chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water (I bring the water, about 4 cups depending on your pot, to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer) and stir till melted and smooth.  Be careful not to get any moisture in the chocolate – the kiss of death for chocolate. Working with one mold at a time fill each heart 1/3 of the way with chocolate and give the mold a couple of taps on the counter to release any air bubbles and ensure the chocolate is evenly distributed. 

Working quickly, use the brush to bring the chocolate up the sides of each mold to the edge.  If you don’t have a brush, you can use a small spoon and gently push the chocolate up the side. 

Place in the refrigerator on a flat surface for about 15 minute or until set.  You can keep the remaining chocolate warm on the stove on the lowest temp which will keep it smooth.  You can up the heat if you need to during the process.

While the chocolate sets, mix the peanut butter and powdered sugar together till smooth.  I used a mini food processor to avoid the powdered sugar going all over the kitchen.  A whisk is fine too.   Pour the peanut butter mixture into a small zip-top bag and work it to one corner before sealing.  Snip off the corner of the bag (a small snip).

Remove the set chocolate mold from the refrigerator and pipe peanut butter into each mold, in a heart shape, leaving room for more chocolate. 

Pour melted chocolate into each heart, to the top (if there is excess chocolate, you can use a straight edge knife or spatula to scrap it off and put it back into the chocolate on the stove). Give the mold a gently tap on the counter to release any air bubbles and make sure the chocolate fills in the spaces.

Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour to set.  Once you remove the peanut butter cups, you can decorate them with candy melts or serve them as is.  They keep for at least a week in an airtight container (and probably longer but they didn’t last that long in my house!).

Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Dumplings

You could put just about anything in a dumpling and I would be happy (the only non-negotiable exceptions are cilantro and mushrooms) so I’m always thinking about new fillings. Finger food is also important for my family as we plan what “snacks” we will have during football games and other sporting events. Chicken wings are one of our favorites. My husband and son like them plain but my daughter and I love spicy food so we opt for traditional buffalo wings with blue cheese dip on the side for me and ranch for her. We will of course have them for the Super Bowl this year but I wanted to take the flavors and see how they worked in a dumpling. There are great recipes for Buffalo Chicken dip, nachos, pizza, etc., So why not dumplings? I use egg roll wrappers and cut them into quarters but round or square dumpling wrappers would be great too. The filling is super simple – chicken, hot sauce, cream cheese and cheddar cheese – and you can either pan fry, deep fry or boil them. My daughter isn’t the biggest fan of blue cheese but if you like it, you can add a couple of crumbles of blue cheese to the mixture before you stuff the dumplings.

Ingredients

1/2 package cream cheese (I like Philadelphia), room temperature

2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (a rotisserie chicken is a perfect shortcut here)

4 tbs hot sauce (I like the traditional Frank’s Red Hot) or more if you like a real punch

2 tbs shredded cheddar cheese

6 – 8 egg roll wrappers cut in quarters or 2 – 3 dozen dumpling wrappers

Directions

Combine the cream cheese, chicken, hot sauce and cheddar cheese together until well mixed.

Fill each dumpling with a small spoonfull of filling and dab some water along the edges to seal the dumplings. You can do whatever folding shape you like!

There are lots of methods to cook them (boil, steam, etc.) but my favorite is pan frying them. Just place a few dumplings in a pan with some oil and fry till golden brown on the bottom.

Add a tablespoon or two of water and cover till the water has evaporated and the dumplings are cooked, about three minutes. You can add a bit more water if they need more time to cook depending on how large your dumplings are.

Serve them with blue cheese dip or ranch dressing. Enjoy!

Chicken Fried Rice

If I ask my son Jake what he wants for dinner, often he will ask for Benihana Fried Rice (before Covid-19 of course).  This kid could eat three bowls at the restaurant and then order one or two more to take home.  I always love watching the waiter/waitress’ expression when he orders five bowls of fried rice and the follow-up glance at me to see if I object.  Inevitably we have white rice (basmati) at least once during the week and there are always leftovers.  After the initial meal, white rice isn’t all that interesting and I hate wasting food so I figured if Benihana can make great fried rice, so can I. 

Leftover rice is critical for good fried rice.  Freshly cooked rice still has lots of moisture and letting the rice “dry out” in the fridge for a day or two makes all the difference.  Fried rice is also a great way to use up leftover chicken/shrimp/steak and whatever vegetables you have on hand.  Last night’s broccoli, one lone zucchini, half an onion and carrots that are almost past their prime? All are great in fried rice.  I went the traditional route with this version but feel free to have fun and customize it to whatever your family likes.

Ingredients

4 cups              Leftover cooked and chilled rice

3 tbs                 Canola or vegetable oil

3 tbs                 Light soy sauce

1 tsp                 Sesame oil

2                      Eggs, beaten

1 tbs                 Finely diced sweet onions

1 ½ tbs            Finely chopped carrots

1                      Chicken breast, cooked and diced (you can use shrimp, roast pork, beef or omit for vegetable fried rice)

                        Salt & pepper to taste  

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbs. oil and then scramble the eggs.  Transfer eggs to a plate and roughly chop them.  Add 1 tbs oil, onions and carrots to the same skillet, cooking till tender on medium low heat.  Once cooked, add chicken and heat for 2 minutes.  Add 1 tbs oil and rice, breaking up any large pieces and heating it through.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil, mix well and continue to cook, constantly mixing for 3 minutes.  Return the egg to the pan and mix well ensuring everything is combined.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary (I usually don’t since, the soy is salty but depending on your taste or the kind of soy you use, you can). Serve! 

Taco Tuesday – Shredded Chicken

I feel like I could write an entire book about #tacotuesday.  A Tuesday doesn’t go by in our home without tacos and if it does, it’s got to be a monumental event to derail Jake from eating tacos. 

Over the years, traditional ground beef and hard-shell taco shells have given way to lots of variations – soft shells, oven baked tacos, chicken, shrimp and different combinations.   I always make white rice and beans (I prefer black beans but Mark loves refried beans so guess what we have?) and corn that I cook on the stove on a low temp so it gets a bit charred and nutty flavor.   We (or should I say Grace and I) have started doing taco salads and taco bowls which, in my opinion, are the best of everything and I feel less guilty.  My eyes are always bigger than my stomach since I usually can’t finish my salad which is admittedly larger than it needs to be since I include virtually all the toppings. 

Speaking of toppings, we’ve got lots.  Cheese (cheddar for us), sour cream, salsa, chipotle sauce (Grace and I are obsessed), lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocados, radishes, pickled onions and jalapenos. I make my own pickled onions and jalapenos – they are easy to make and last for weeks in the refrigerator.  They are spicy with a little sweetness and the recipe is on my blog.   There will inevitably be more posts from future Taco Tuesdays as I am always looking for new ways to enjoy tacos! This is the recipe for Shredded Chicken (and ground beef) which is so simple I’m almost embarrassed to put this on paper but here it is. 

Shredded Chicken Tacos

I recently went with chicken for tacos instead of ground beef and it was great.  Personally, I needed something different since making the same thing every week gets old.  Super easy to make since the slow cooker does all the work and the chicken comes out moist and seasoned well.  If you want leftovers, three breasts gave us plenty for a salad and quesadillas the next day for lunch.  If you are planning to serve just for dinner, two breasts for three people should be enough since you really get a lot when you shred the chicken.    

Ingredients

2 or 3      Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I would do four thighs)

½ cup    Water

4 tbs      Taco seasoning

1 tsp      Kosher salt

Directions

Sprinkle the taco seasoning and salt on both sides of the chicken and place in the slow cooker with ½ cup water. Cook on high for three hours.  Test to make sure the chicken is done – it should fall apart when you pick it up – and then shred it with two forks.   

Return the chicken to the slow cooker and set to Keep Warm until you are ready to serve.

(Note: When I make the beef for tacos it’s basically a pound of ground beef. I usually go with 85/15 so there is some fat in the mix for flavor.  Anything above 85 and it gets dry.  You could do ground turkey, too, but I wouldn’t use the super lean kind which would be dry.  I cook the meat in a pan with 4 tbs taco seasoning and ½ cup water.  I use a potato masher to break the meat up and once it’s cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed, you are ready to go.)

One Pan Pasta Primavera

I love a one pan meal, especially lately as the start of the new year has been busy!  Easy clean up, of course, but I love the idea of adding more ingredients as it cooks and layering in flavors.  Stir fry is a perfect example, or fried rice and my all-time favorite is chicken and veggies with croutons.  And, you can pretty much put anything on a sheet pan.  So, with an abundant amount of cherry tomatoes recently, I came up with a One Pan Pasta Primavera recipe. Ok, so you need a pot to cook the pasta, but beyond that, everything cooks on one pan so I’m sticking with the name.  

The roasted tomatoes split open in the oven and release their juices which becomes the sauce.  I added shrimp, broccoli and some pesto to the pan and once everything was cooked, I combined with the pasta and topped with basil and parmesan (which makes everything delish).  During the summer, I buy big bunches of basil at our local farmers market and make a batch of pesto.  I pour it into ice cube trays and once the cubes are frozen, I transfer them to a zip top bag and use throughout the winter.  I can whip up pesto linguini with peas in 10 minutes, throw a few cubes into bolognese, and make chicken pesto paninis.  It’s a great short cut but you can always use your favorite store brand of pesto, too.

If shrimp is your preference, you could use chicken and swap out the broccoli for another vegetable. It was a huge hit with the family and I would consider making this for guests (someday when we actually have friends over again) because it’s an easy dish to pull together and I won’t need to stand at the stove instead of being with guests.

Ingredients

1 lb.                     Large shrimp (deveined and tails removed) (If frozen, defrost)

1 pkg                   Cherry tomatoes

3 cloves              Garlic, peeled and smashed

2 cups Broccoli florets, cut into small pieces

3 tbs                    Olive oil

1 tsp                    Seasoned salt

1/8 tsp                White pepper

2 tbs                    Pesto

1 lb.                     Short pasta (I used bow ties)

6                           Fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips (aka chiffonade)

                             Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Directions

Preheat your oven to 400.

Put cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan along with the garlic, olive oil, seasoned salt and pepper.  Lightly toss and roast in the oven till tomatoes start to pop/split and give off their juices, about 20 minutes. 

In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and make the pasta according the package, till al dente.  Reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining.  Return drained pasta to the pot.

Remove the pan from the oven and prick any tomatoes that haven’t begun to pop/split.  The tomatoes will be soft so be careful not to be too aggressive moving them around or you will end of with mush. Add the shrimp and broccoli to the pan in a single layer with the tomatoes and return the pan to the oven for 10 minutes.  (I took the photo below and THEN realized I forgot the broccoli!)

Remove the pan and add the pesto, gently mixing it with the tomatoes and shrimp.  Place under the broiler for two minutes but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Remove the pan from the oven. Pour the tomato and shrimp mixture into the pot with the pasta and mix gently.  Transfer to a large bowl and top with the shredded basil and parmesan cheese.

Roasted Chipotle Carrots

I’m sure I’m not the only who gets tired of cooking, serving and eating the same thing over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, I want to make things my family likes but I need to shake things up once in a while. These roasted chipotle carrots are a great vegetable dish to slip into the rotation. And who doesn’t have extra carrots in their crisper drawer? Unless I am making soup, there are always a few in my refrigerator.

Peeling the carrots will take longer than anything else in this recipe (expect cooking, of course). Nothing fancy. The entire recipe is cut up carrots, sprinkled with a little salt, brown sugar and chipotle pepper on a sheet pan. They come out caramelized, tender with lots of crispy edges and tips. You can omit the chipotle if you like, or bump it up, but the tiny amount I use just gives these carrots great flavor and not much “heat.”

Ingredients

10 – 12               Carrots, peeled

2 tbs                    Olive oil

1 tsp                    Seasoned salt

¼ tsp                   Chipotle pepper powder

1 tbs                    Brown sugar

                             Maldon salt for garnish

Directions

Heat oven to 400.

Cut the carrots in half (if extra large you can cut them into quarters).  Put the carrots in a pile on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and top with the salt and olive oil.  Mix and then spread out on the cookie sheet, faced down.  Sprinkle with the brown sugar and chipotle.

Cook until the carrots are fork tender, about 20 – 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with a pinch of Maldon salt and serve.