Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

Do you guys get as excited as I do to try new recipes?  I can read a cookbook like a novel, drinking in details, picturing how the flavors will meld together and hoping when I make the dish it’ll be better than I imagined.  Each week I shift through cookbooks, and notebooks full of recipes waiting for something to jump out at me and say “This is the week!  It’s my turn!”.  These tacos shouted loud and did not disappoint.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, October 2012.

Substitutions made, noted below.

Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs – cut into bit sized pieces
3 tblsp low-sodium soy sauce, divided
1/4 c plus 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tblsp canola oil, divided
1 1/2 tblsp honey – I used agave syrup
1 tblsp dark sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tblsp coarsley chopped dry-roasted peanuts
3/4 c diagonally sliced celery
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas – I used flour tortillas
1/3 c sliced green onions
1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 lime wedges

Place chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Add 1 tblsp soy sauce to bag; seal.  Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade.  Place 1/4 c cornstarch in a shallow dish.  Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt.  Add chicken to cornstarch in dish and toss chicken to thoroughly coat.  Shake off excess cornstarch.

Heat a large skillet over med-high heat.  Add 1 tblsp canola oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add half of coated chicken; saute for 6 minutes or until done, turning to brown.  Remove chicken from pan using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.  Repeat the procedure with remaining oil and chicken.

Combine remaining 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, remaining 2 tblsp soy sauce, honey and next 3 ingredients (through sambal oelek) in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth.  Microwave at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring twice.  Stir in garlic.  Combine soy sauce mixture, chicken, peanuts, and celery; toss to coat chicken.

Toast tortillas under broiler or on a griddle until lightly blistered, turning frequently.  Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates; divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas.  Top each taco with green onions and bell pepper strips; serve with lime wedges.

cartoon-strawberry-9Oh man was this a killer meal.  We all loved these tacos and the boys are ready for me to make them again.  I just have to remember the 30 minute marinade ahead of time so we’re not eating a super late dinner. 😉

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Macaroni Monday

I use this Macaroni Monday feature purely to give into my first love of Mac n Cheese.  The problem is each new recipe becomes my favorite.

This recipe is from Mac & Cheese – 80 Classic & Creative versions of the Ultimate Comfort Food.

No substitutions were made.

chick n broccoli macncheese 1

Chicken and Broccoli Mac and Cheese

2 c chicken stock
1/2 lb fresh broccoli crowns, cut into 3/4 inch florets
1/2 lb cavatappi
1/4 c unsalted butter
3 tblsp all-purpose flour
3/4 c half-and-half, warmed
1/2 c heavy cream, warmed
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon (sub 1 tsp dried)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
5 oz Emmental, grated, divided
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan
4 oz diced cooked chicken or turkey
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 c panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 13×9 baking pan. (I used a 9-inch baking dish.)  Have a bowl of ice water handy.

Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil the stock until it is reduced by half.  Set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the broccoli and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crisp-tender.  Remove the broccoli from the pot with a strainer and plunge it into the ice water to stop the cooking action.

Bring the water back to a boil.  Cook the pasta until it is just beginning to soften to the al dente stage.  Drain the pasta, run it under cold water, and return it to the pot.  Drain the broccoli, and add it to the pot with the pasta.

chick n broccoli 4

Heat the butter in a saucepan over med-low heat.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until the mixture turns slightly beige, is bubbly and appears to have grown in volume.  Increase the heat to medium, and slowly whisk in the reduced stock, warm half-and-half and cream.  Bring to a boil, whisking frequently.  Reduce the heat to low, stir in the tarragon and nutmeg, and simmer the sauce for 2 minutes.

Reserve 1/2 c of the Emmental.  Add the remaining cheese to the sauce by 1/2 cup measures, stirring until the cheese melts before making another addition.  Pour the sauce over the pasta, add the chicken and stir well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer the pasta to the prepared pan.  Mix the reserved Emmental and breadcrumbs together, and sprinkle it over the top of the dish.

Bake the casserole for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubble and the crumbs on top are a deep brown.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then serve.

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cartoon-strawberry-9Mac n Cheese with protein AND veggies?  It’s so good.  I served it with some salad on the side, just to add a little crunch.  I’d never heard of or had Emmental cheese before, its a light Swiss cheese.  Thankfully, Trader Joes carries all the cheeses I haven’t heard of and might need.

Zesty Chicken Enchiladas

I’m searching for the perfect – To. Die. For. enchilada recipe.  Because of this, I’m up to try any enchilada recipe I can find.

This recipe is from Real Simple, May 2009.

Substitution made, noted below.

chick enchilada 1

Zesty Chicken Enchiladas

1 tblsp canola oil
1 lb tomatillos (papery skins removed), chopped
1 onion (preferable white), chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
kosher salt & black pepper
1 c heavy cream
2 to 2 1/2 lb rotisserie chicken, meat shredded
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 1/4 c grated Monterey Jack (5 oz)
8 6-inch tortillas – I used 10-inch tortillas

chick enchilada 2

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Add the tomatillos, onion, poblano, garlic, cumin and 1/2 tsp salt.  Cook stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.  Transfer to a food processor, add the cream and puree.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, tomatoes, 1 c of the cheese, 1/2 c of the tomatillo sauce, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.

chick enchilada 3

Warm the tortillas according to the package directions.  Spread 1 cup of the remaining sauce in a 9×13 baking dish.  Roll the chicken mixture in the tortillas and place them in the dish, seam-side down.

Top with the remaining sauce and cheese.  Bake until beginning to brown 10 to 15 minutes.

chick enchilada 4

cartoon-strawberry-9I made this for our New Year’s Eve dinner (just a quiet night at home).  I expected it to be much spicier than it was, and there was SO MUCH of the chicken mixture.  I could have rolled two or three more 10-inch tortillas.  I think to bump up the spice, I’d either roast the Poblano, add in a minced Jalapeno, or make the sauce the day before and let the flavors really ripen.  I’d also bump up the cheese to at least a cup and a half.  But all in all, it’s a great flavor and was so much fun to finally cut into a tomatillo!

Chicken Teriyaki

Years and years ago a friend gave us a bottle of Sake.  I’m not a huge fan, and husband doesn’t really drink.  So it traveled with us from CA to TN, and sat atop the fridge waiting till I figured out what to do with it.

Nigella to the rescue, with her Chicken Teriyaki recipe.

This recipe is from Nigella Kitchen.

Substitution made, noted below.

chicken teriyaki 1

Chicken Teriyaki

2 tblsp sake
1/4c mirin – I used white cooking wine with 1/4 tsp sugar added
1/4 c soy sauce
2 tblsp light brown sugar
2 tblsp grated fresh ginger
splash of sesame oil
1 3/4 lb chicken thighs, cut or scissored into bite sized pieces
1 tsp peanut oil

Mix the sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar, ginger and sesame oil in a dish that you can steep the chicken in.  I use an 8-inch square Pyrex, but anything similar would do.  Add the prepared chicken pieces and leave for 15 minutes.

Heat the peanut oil in a large, shallow frying pan or Dutch oven (that has a lid) and, using a perforated spoon, transfer the chicken pieces from their dark marinating liquid to the pan, and saute until they look cooked on the outside.

Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces in the pan and bring to a bubble, then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer, put the lid on and cook for about 5 minutes – cut into a piece of chicken to make sure it’s cooked through.

chicken teriyaki 2

Remove the cooked pieces with a perforated spoon (you could keep them warm in a bowl covered in aluminum foil) and turn the heat up under the pan to let the liquid boil down to a thick, dark syrup.

Return the chicken pieces to the pan, stir well so that they are all coated in the sticky, savory syrup, then serve with a comforting pile of sushi rice and perhaps some steamed baby bok choy or green veggies of your choice.

cartoon-strawberry-9I served this chicken with chow mein noodles and steamed broccoli, just like the teriyaki place I love in CA does.  This one takes awhile, but it well worth the effort.

Thai Chicken

I knew I’d be a bit busy over the holidays, but had no idea I’d be taking such a long break!  We had husband’s family visiting over Thanksgiving (I’ll be sharing a muffin recipe we tried on Wens!).  We flew out to CA over Christmas to welcome my BFF’s new son and celebrate with family.  Things have been crazy, exhausting and fun.  It’s amazing how much great and amazing stuff can be fit into just a few short weeks.

It was an honor and joy to be with my best friend waiting for her baby to arrive.  He came a few days late, so we had time to talk, relax, do a little shopping and a little cooking together.  During that time we made this recipe.

This recipe is from Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes.

No substitutions were made.

thai chicken 1

Thai Chicken

2 1/2 lbs chicken pieces – we used bone-in chicken thighs
1 c hot salsa – we used a medium heat taco sauce
1/4 c peanut butter
2 tblsp lime juice
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
Hot cooked rice
1/2 c peanuts, chopped
2 tblsp chopped fresh cilantro – we skipped this

Place chicken in slow cooker.  Combine salsa, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce and ginger; pour over chicken.

Cover; cook on LOW 8 to 9 hours or on HIGH 3 to 4 hours, or until chicken in no longer pink in center.

Serve chicken and sauce over rice; sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro.

thai chicken 2

cartoon-strawberry-9The bestie and I were making spicy recipes and foods to try and help usher in a late baby.  The medium heat salsa was a good flavor, but a HOT salsa would have added the heat we were missing.  An easy and delicious recipe to have on hand for a weeknight dinner.

Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie

The ultimate in comfort food – Chicken Pot Pie.  Fall has given me a need for rich, warm foods.  Foods that fill your belly and your soul.

This recipe is from Real Simple, February 2009.

Substitution and addition made, noted below.

chicken pot pie Collage

Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tblsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, diced
3 tblsp all-purpose flour
1/2 c dry white wine
2 c 1% milk – I used 2%
1 10oz package frozen peas
1 tblsp fresh thyme
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 9-inch pie crust
* Addition – 1 med diced zucchini

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Cooke the chicken in a pot of simmering water until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes; let cool, then shred.  (I diced mine.)

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring until they begin to soften, 6 to 8 minutes (do not let them darken).  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring for 1 minute.

chicken pot pie 4

Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Add the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in the chicken, peas, thyme, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Transfer to a shallow 1.5 to 2-quart baking dish.

Lay the crust on top, pressing to seal.  Cut several vents in the crust.  Place the pot pie on a baking sheet and bake until bubbling and the crust is golden, 30 to 35 minutes.

chicken pot pie 5

cartoon-strawberry-9What a wonderful and easy dinner.  Took a little over an hour for prep to dinner, and it was so good.  I don’t think I’ll ever want or need to learn how to make pie crust, Pillsbury does it better than I ever could.

Chicken and Cashews

Who doesn’t love a cashew?  Crisp and buttery, full of good fats and nutrients.  We have cashews on hand all the time for a go-to healthy snack.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, May 2009.

No substitutions were made.

chick cashew 1

Chicken and Cashews

3 tblsp low-sodium soy sauce, divided
2 tblsp dry sherry
4 tblsp cornstarch, divided
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 c fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tblsp oyster sauce
1 tblsp honey
2 tsp sesame oil, divided
3/4 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped celery
1/2 c chopped red bell pepper
1 tblsp grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c chopped green onions (about 3 green onions)
1/4 c chopped unsalted dry-roasted cashews

Combine 1 tblsp soy sauce, sherry, 2 tsp cornstarch, and chicken in a large bowl; toss well to coat.  Combine remaining 2 tblsp soy sauce, remaining 2 tsp cornstarch, broth, oyster sauce and honey in a small bowl.

chick cashew 2

Heat 1 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat.  Add chicken mixture to pan; saute 3 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Heat remaining 1 tsp oil in pan.  Add onion, celery and bell pepper to pan; saute 2 minutes.  Add ginger and garlic; saute 1 minute.  Stir in broth mixture.  Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Sprinkle with green onions and cashews.

chicken cashew 3

cartoon-strawberry-9This is a wonderful, quick and healthy go-to meal if you’re craving Chinese food.  I served the chicken over angel hair pasta tossed with dark sesame oil and the green onions from the recipe.  YUM!

African Drumsticks

One of my favorite things is a dinner that is easy to throw together.  Chicken will always fit that bill for me.

This recipe is from Nigella Kitchen.

Substitution made, noted below.

african drumstics 2

African Drumsticks

1/3 c Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c ketchup
2 tsp English mustard – I used 1 tsp yellow and 1 tsp Dijon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tblsp apricot jam
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
8 chicken drumsticks
1 tblsp garlic flavored oil – I used olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, mustard, ground ginger, apricot jam, and chopped onion in a shallow dish.

Dunk the drumsticks in this marinade to coat them all over.  (If it helps, you could at this stage leave them to marinate, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.)  Put the oil inot a smallish roasting pan or ovenproof dish, in which the drumsticks will fit snugly, and tip the pan about so that the oil more or less covers the base.  Arrange the drumsticks in the pan and pour over them any remaining marinade.

Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, basking once or twice; the deeper the dish, the longer the drumsticks will take to color and cook through.

african drumsticks 3

cartoon-strawberry-9After almost an hour in the oven, the meat just about fell off the bone.  The sauce wasn’t quite what I expected.  It needs some heat (cumin?  red pepper?) or a little smokiness (chipotle?).  It’s a good basic sauce, but needs a little OOMPH to push it over the top.

Apple Honey Drumsticks

Growing up, I only wanted the drumsticks when the famous red & white bucket would make its way home.  Somewhere in my early 20’s, bags of the frozen boneless skinless chicken breast made its way into my fridge; they’re easy and can be cooked in a million different ways.  Around Labor Day this year I was in the supermarket and saw a package of drumsticks.  How had I forgotten about my first love?

A 4.5 pound package came home with me that day.

This recipe is from Food Network Magazine, September 2011.

No substitutions were made.

apple honey drumsticks 1

Jacob’s Apple-Honey Drumsticks

12 skin-on chicken drumsticks
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 c apple juice
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp honey
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/8 to 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
1 tblsp unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Set a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.  Put the drumsticks on the rack and season both sides generously with salt and pepper.  Bake 30 minutes; flip the drumsticks and continue baking until golden and crisp, about 30 more minutes.

apple honey drumsticks 2

 

Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Bring the apple juice, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, lemon zest, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt to a boil in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Reduce the heat to med-low and simmer until the sauce is syrupy and coats the back of a spoon, 20 to 25 minutes.  Set aside until the chicken is done.

Stir the sesame seeds into the sauce, if using, and warm over medium heat, if necessary.  Transfer the chicken to a large bowl.  Add the sauce and butter and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer the chicken to a platter and drizzle with any remaining sauce from the bowl.

apple honey drumstick 3

cartoon-strawberry-9I could not get this sauce to set up correctly.  I’m not sure if I used the wrong type of pan, didn’t set the heat correctly, or what; but it didn’t work.  On the plus side?  The taste of the sauce is great!  Sweet and spicy with a little heat from the red pepper.

Chicken Adobo with Bok Choy

I remember having bok choy all the time growing up, mostly in my mom’s stir fry.  I’ve been wanting to try this recipe, but wasn’t sure if I could find bok choy in Mid-TN.  And when I did find it at Kroger, the cashier asked me about a hundred questions.  What is this?  Whatcha gonna do with it?  What does it taste like?  I answered as best I could and got home.

This recipe is from Real Simple, February 2011.

Substitution made, noted below.

chix adobo 2

Chicken Adobo with Bok Choy

2 medium onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2/3 c apple cider vinegar
1/3 c low-sodium soy sauce
1 tblsp brown sugar
1 bay leaf
black pepper
8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 lbs.) – I used aprox 2 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast
2 tsp paprika
1 c long-grain white rice
1 large head bok choy, cut into 1-inch strips
2 scallions, thinly sliced

Adobo Collage 1

In a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker, combine the onions, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, bay leaf and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Place the chicken on top and sprinkle with the paprika.

Cook, covered, until the chicken and onions are tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high 4 to 5 hours.

Twenty minutes before serving, cook the rice according to the package directions.

Ten minutes before serving, if the slow cooker is on the low setting, turn it to high.  Gently fold the bok choy into the chicken and cook, covered, until tender 3 to 5 minutes.  Serve with rice and sprinkle with scallions.

chix adobo 1

The following tip is included with the recipe: You may be familiar with Latin American adobo, which is a spicy mix of chipotle and tomatoes.  This Filipino version refers to a dish of meat stewed with vinegar, soy sauce, and paprika.  You can easily substitute spinach or chard for the boy choy.

cartoon-strawberry-9This is a fun and super easy weeknight dinner.  Throw it in the crockpot in the morning and dish it out for dinner.  Plus you get to answer a bunch of fun questions from cashiers when you buy bok choy!