Herb and Balsamic Sauced Chicken

Well I’m back from vacation and all though it was a wonderful time of eating, drinking and hanging out with friends and family, I was VERY ready to be home. I was practically melting in Texas, I don’t know how people live there full time! I’ve been craving a home cooked meal that wasn’t 1. BBQ 2. Tex-mex (all though I think I’m ready to eat tacos again) or 3. red meat. This week has been a lot of salads and lighter meals, including last nights dinner. I adapted this recipe from one I found in a Bon Appetite several years ago (original recipe) and has become a favorite when I wanted something light yet flavorful. The sauce is really versatile and can be used on anything from fish to steak to potatoes as well! I served the chicken with roasted asparagus and oven roasted potatoes.

Herb and Balsamic Sauced Chicken (adapted from Bon Appetite, serves 4)

Ingredients:
12 garlic cloves, peeled, divided
1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
4 boneless chicken breasts (I cut mine in half to make them thinner)

Directions:
1. Cook 8 garlic cloves in boiling water 2 minutes, drain garlic and cool
2. Add the remaining 4 garlic cloves and next 6 ingredients
3. Gradually add oil, blending until thick sauce forms and season with salt
4. Place chicken in large resealable plastic bag and add 2/3 cup sauce and turn to coat evenly
5. Chill at least 1/2 hour and up to 4 hours, turning bag occasionally
6. Heat outdoor grill to medium/high heat and grill each chicken breast half about 4 minutes on each side
7. Top with a bit more sauce before serving and pass additional sauce for anyone that wants more (it was great on the sides* I served it with too)


*I suggest serving this dish with asparagus and roasted potatoes, as the sauce accompanies both side very well!

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Chicken, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pasta

Asparagus is starting to pop up in grocery stores and fruit stands now and I couldn’t be more excited. I bought a bundle last week without even having a clear intention for them, so I set out to find a good recipe. I wanted something new and different and I wanted to make a main dish with the asparagus, not just put on the side like I usually do.

I stumbled upon an asparagus-goat cheese pasta recipe from Real Simple which looked absolutely to die for.  I wasn’t in the mood to be a vegetarian, so I decided to add some chicken to the original recipe. I also changed the amounts of some of the ingredients, but tried to keep true to the spring time flavors of this lovely pasta!

Chicken, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Pasta Adapted from Real Simple (Serves 6, WW Points+ 11 points/serving)

Ingredients:
1 11/4 pounds chicken breast
1 pound asparagus
1/2 pound dry whole wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
4 ounces goat cheese
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Heat a large pan of lightly salted water to boiling over high heat. Trim the ends of the asparagus and cut the stalks into 2-inch pieces.
2. Blanch the asparagus in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.
3. Heat a grill to medium high heat. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken about 4 minutes on each side, or until done. Slice into strips, cover.
4. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain.
5. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour.
6. Add the broth and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly (make sure to stir constantly!), until the sauce thickens. Blend in the goat cheese and lemon zest.
7. Toss the spaghetti with the chicken, asparagus, sauce, and half the Parmesan. Serve with pepper to taste and the remaining Parmesan.

Paella

It’s taken me awhile to write this post, not because of how detailed it is, but because I want to make sure I can do it justice. I lived in Spain for 5 months in 2004, and one of my favorite things about Spain was the vibrant colors and the passion they have for their food. In most of the coastal cities during the warmer months, you can find outdoor fires with large paella pans cooking on them with everything from fish to chorizo to shellfish.

It took me until a year or two ago (when my lovely friends Hannah and Jenny gave me a paella cookbook and pan for my birthday) to actually make paella. I knew it would never be the same, but I had to give it a shot. It’s one of those things that Spanish women, including my amazing host mom, can put together in a snap but for me it was more of a time-consuming process. (Well worth it though!)

The Pan
This recipe calls for the use of a paella pan, but a large skillet (16-20 inch) will work in a pinch. Do not use a non stick or cast iron pan as they are thicker and won’t give you that caramelized crispy bit of rice that is to die for. To feed 4-5 people use a 16 inch pan – add an additional inch per person from there!
The Rice
If you are lucky enough to have a Spanish specialty store around you (We have a great one here in Seattle called The Spanish Table), they have great selections of paella rice. If you don’t, you can use arborio rice, japanese short grain rice or even calrose rice. The standard serving portion is 1/2 cup uncooked rice per person.

The “Sofrito”
The sofrito is a saute of vegetables that typically includes green or red peppers, garlic and tomatoes. They are cooked until pasty, aromatic and sweet. The key to a great sofrito (which you can buy from select Latin markets, Goya makes a good sofrito) is a ripe tomato. They must be peeled and seeded and finely chopped. The sofrito starts out with sauteing the chopped peppers, adding the garlic and then the tomatoes. The vegetables are cooked over medium low heat, until a paste is formed.

Ok, so now that we have all the paella “basics” let’s get to the recipe! As with most of my recipes on this blog, paella is pretty easy to make adjustments to. If you don’t like seafood, you can use only the meat or vice versa. It also makes amazing leftovers!

Paella Mixta (serves 4-6) 

Ingredients:
6 cups chicken stock
6 boneless/skinless chicken thighs
1 lb. large uncooked/cleaned shrimp
3-4 spicy andouille sausages, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
6 Tbs. olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped (see sofrito note above)
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 pinches saffron threads (about 20) lightly toasted and ground (if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a rolling-pin to crush the saffron)
3 cups arborio or other short grain rice

Directions:
1. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Add 2 Tbs. of oil to the paella pan and heat to medium. Add the chicken and cook until both sides are browned. Transfer to a large platter
2. Add the shrimp, sausage and a tad more oil, to the pan and cook until pink (about 3 minutes). Transfer to the platter
3. Remove any of the solids left behind by the chicken and shrimp and begin to prepare the sofrito in the paella pan
4. Add 1 Tbs oil to the pan (still over medium heat) and add the bell pepper. Cook until soft (about 3 minutes)
5. Add the garlic and the tomatoes and 1/2 tsp. salt. and reduce the heat to medium low. Stir from time to time and cook until the tomatoes begin to darken, about 5 minutes
6. Return the chicken and the juices to the pan and cook about 5 more minutes
7. Once the sofrito is cooked, add the paprika and stir constantly for 30 seconds
8. Add the 6 cups chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes
9. Add the saffron and adjust for salt if needed
10. Bring the liquid to a boil and sprinkle in the rice. With a wooden spoon, feel around to pan to make sure the rice is evenly distributed – DO NOT STIR AGAIN!
11. Lay the cooked shrimp and sausage slices on top and cook uncovered for 10 minutes over high heat (note: if your burner is smaller than your pan like mine is, make sure you are moving the pan around to distribute the heat)
12. Reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 8 minutes, or until the liquid is gone and the rice is “al punto” (al dente)
13. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a few paper towels and let stand for 5 minutes.
14. Fluff with a fork and serve!

Phad Thai

This post is a guest post by the fabulous Christina Grob! She used the phad thai prepared paste from Thai Curry Simple (with locations on capitol hill or the international district.) I’ve used the curry paste in a previous post!

Chicken Phad Thai
Rice Noodles (8 ounces)
Phad Thai Paste from Thai Curry Simple (2 packets)
2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
2 eggs
2 cloves garlic
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 C bean sprouts
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
1/4 C peanuts, chopped
lime wedges
Sriracha or hot chili sauce (to taste)
Prepare the noodles:
In a large pot, bring water to a boil.  Remove from heat, add dried rice noodles.  Give a quick stir, then let sit for 5-6 minutes. Noodles should still be slightly chewy – do not let the sit too long, or they will turn to mush.  Drain and set aside.
Stir Fry:
In a wok, add olive oil – should be very hot.  Add garlic, stir for 15 – 20 seconds, add chicken and stir fry until just done.  Push chicken to the side of the wok, add eggs and scramble. Stir chicken and scrambled eggs together, then add prepared rice noodles, packets of phad thai paste, Sriracha, and 1 cup of the bean sprouts.  Stir fry together until well mixed, about 3 – 5 minutes.
To Serve:
Add stir fry to bowl, squeeze lime over noodles, garnish with a pinch of fresh cilantro, 1 T of chopped peanuts, and a few of the remaining bean sprouts.
To Eat:
Fork (or chopsticks) to mouth, not that hard!

My Impromptu lunch…

This blog entry was written by a good friend and co-worker of mine, Christina Grob!  

What to do with a bunch of leftovers?  Last night I had chicken & quinoa for dinner and had lots left over, so decided I’ll try something new.  I’ve always been really suspicious of quinoa – I mean, what the heck is it?  It smells kinda funky in its raw state, but once it starts cooking, has a nice nutty smell and is surprisingly tasty.  I’m also really weird about textures, but this passed my texture test.  And, it’s super good for you (check out this article http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=142&tname=foodspice).  I’m not a huge fan of reheated chicken (or reheated meat of any kind), so I’m forever trying to make cold chicken taste more interesting. This is what I came up with!

Lime and Cilantro Chicken Quinoa Salad (serves 1)

1 cooked chicken breast, cubed
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 – 3/4 C cold quinoa, already prepared (I cooked mine in chicken broth instead of water)
1/8 C cilantro, chopped
1 wedge of lime

I mixed the first 4 ingredients together, then squeezed the lime on top.  It was GREAT!  The cilantro and lime gave it such a fresh flavor that I actually enjoyed my leftovers more than the original dinner last night.  Next time, I’ll try with a red pepper just to make it a little more colorful!

Oops – I made something low calorie by mistake!

So I hadn’t intended this dinner to be healthy (and by healthy I mean low-calorie)… but I was craving a casserole and Mexican food, so I decided to make a chicken enchilada casserole. I started making this awhile back when I was too lazy to make enchiladas (hey there is a lot of rolling involved) but was  curious to see how others were making theirs. Most of the recipes I found had cream of chicken soup or sour cream in them, which didn’t sound appealing to me, so I just decided to move ahead as planned. It appears I created more of a Mexican lasagna rather that a casserole.
If you need a quick, and apparently healthy weeknight meal – check this out. Calorie count is included below the recipe. I would have taken more pictures, but I was starving and couldn’t wait to eat… ooops 🙂

Chicken Enchilada Lasagna (makes 12 servings)

Ingredients:

2 cups 2% reduced fat mexican blend shredded cheese
18 6 in. corn tortillas
1 1/4 lbs. chicken breasts
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 TBS. taco seasoning
4 oz. diced green chilies in a can*
7 oz. can salsa verde*
28 oz. can green enchilada sauce*
14.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil spray
(Optional: sour cream, avocado)

(*images of ingredients)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray the bottom of an 11×9 pan with a bit of olive oil.
2. Place chicken breasts in a large pot and cover with water (you can use chicken broth as well – just be aware it will add some calories). Salt and pepper the water, and add a Tablespoon of the taco seasoning.
3. Bring water to boil and gently poach the chicken breasts until cooked through (usually about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken).
4. Shred the chicken with a fork into a separate bowl and  mix with the remaining taco seasoning.
5. Heat a large skillet and spray with a bit of olive oil. Saute the onions until translucent. Add the green chilies and salsa verde. Simmer together for about 3 minutes (or until just heated).
6. Add the chicken and black beans to the skillet and heat through.
7. In the 9×11 pan, coat the bottom with enchilada sauce and cover the service of the pan with 6 tortillas (they will overlap a bit).
8. Top the first layer of tortillas with half of the chicken/bean mixture and sprinkle with cheese and a bit more enchilada sauce.
9. Repeat step 8. Top with remaining tortillas, sauce and cheese.
10. Bake in pre-heated oven for 30 minutes (or until the cheese and sauce starts bubbling). Make sure to keep an eye on it, lower fat cheese tends to burn a bit easier. If it starts looking a tad brown, just cover with foil.
11. Cut into 12 pieces and garnish with optional sour cream or avocado. The salsas from the “mexican hash” post would be a good topper as well – with minimum caloric gain.

Calories per slice: 250 (does not count the optional items listed above) 

Get your Thai on

My office relocated to the International District a few months ago – and I’ve really enjoyed learning all about the different types of Asian cuisine. One of my favorite new restaurants down here is Thai Curry Simple – they are a Thai restaurant specializing in Bangkok street eating. Not only are the owners/employees super nice, they are also extremely helpful when asked cooking questions.

I’ve been making coconut curry for ages, mostly using Thai Kitchen’s curry pastes which can be found in most major super markets. Another good brand I’ve found recently at more specialized stores is Mae Ploy curry paste which is cheaper and I think a bit more flavorful than the Thai Kitchen brand. If you have access to an Asian grocery store like Uwajimaya they have a vast selection of curry pastes. Ok, off the curry paste tangent and back to Thai Curry Simple…

So I go to get my Panang Curry take-out and noticed that they have pre packaged curry pastes for sale for only 2$! I picked one up and purchased it with my lunch.

The guy at the counter (who I can only assume was the owner) gave me one key piece of advice. He said, “do not add the curry paste until the last three minutes of cooking. If you add it before it will dilute the curry flavor.” I always wondered why my curries never tasted as sharp and flavorful as the ones in restaurants – I just figured that it would be one of those dishes that would never be the same at home. Well I am happy to report the man was totally right. I have never had better curry at home EVER (and I’ve made a lot of curry). I’ll post the recipe with pics below. Even though this recipe is loosely based on the paste I bought from the restaurant, It can easily be adapted to use any paste.

Red Curry with Chicken and veggies (serves 4, but could easily be eaten by 2 hungry people)

Ingredients:

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
1 red or green bell pepper
1 small Chinese eggplant (if you can’t find one, you can use a normal eggplant)
Hand full of basil (whole leaves)
Red Curry Paste (amounts will vary per type of paste)
1 can coconut milk (can use low-fat if you prefer – just note your sauce won’t be as creamy)
1 tsp. red chili flakes (more or less depending on your love of spice/spiciness of the paste)
1 1/2 cooked white rice (I use jasmine rice)


Directions:

1. Thinly slice the chicken breast (the thinner the cut, the faster it cooks)
2. Thinly slice the bell pepper and the eggplant (***see note on eggplant below)
3. Bring 1 – 1 1/2 cups (I like a saucier curry so I use 1 1/2 cups) to a boil in a large saucepan
4. Add the chicken and the veggies to the coconut milk, bring back to a boil, then lower to a simmer until the chicken is just cooked through (about 4 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken).
5. Once chicken is just cooked through and the veggies are limp – add the curry paste. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 3 minutes. And ONLY 3 minutes!!!!
6. Remove from heat, stir in chili flakes and basil
7. Spoon 1/4 of the  curry mixture over hot white rice and enjoy!!!

***Note on eggplant: eggplant is a naturally watery veggie. To remove the water, place slices on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Wait until you start to see water beads forming on top (about 5-10 minutes) then pat with a paper towel.

Step One:

Step Two: