Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Veggie Pitas with Roasted Chickpeas and Yogurt Dill Sauce

Sometimes you just have to hit the reset button and eat a dinner that is fresh, healthy, and delicious.  The days following Superbowl Sunday can often be one of those times.  This dish comes together in less than thirty minutes, is vegetarian, and will help you feel lighter after even the biggest binge of all things carbonated, fried, and con queso.  It is full of veggies with crispy roasted chickpeas and creamy yogurt dill sauce for added texture.  We loved this dinner and it will be part of our rotation going forward!

Veggie Pitas with Roasted Chickpeas and Yogurt Dill Sauce

For the chickpeas:
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

For the sandwiches:
1 cucumber, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
pitas (I used whole wheat)
salt and pepper to taste

For the yogurt sauce:
1 cup fat-free greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp finely chopped dill
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400.  Toss the chickpeas with spices and spread on a baking sheet.  Roast for 10-15 minutes, or until crispy, shaking a few times during baking to help them cook evenly.  Set aside.
2. Mix all ingredients for yogurt sauce in a small bowl and whisk until well-combined.
3. Mix cucumber, red onion, chickpeas, and tomato in a medium bowl and season to taste.
4. Microwave pitas for 20-30 seconds to make them pliable.  Stuff with vegetable mixture and top with yogurt sauce.  Enjoy! 

Adapted from Annie's Eats

Monday, January 6, 2014

Marinated Chicken Tacos

Next time you have a craving for tacos, PLEASE consider dumping the sodium-laden, super processed taco kit from the grocery store and try this fresh, delicious alternative.  This marinade is my absolute favorite, the one where I can't stop sneaking scraps of the meat while I prepare the rest of the meal, the one where there are never leftovers.  This marinade can be used with steak or chicken and is fantastic with either.  It comes together in minutes and come dinner time you can have these tacos on the table even faster than the pre-packaged alternative. 

In the summer we cook the chicken on the grill, but since it was all of 17 degrees out tonight we settled for the grill pan in the kitchen.  We also tailor our taco fillings to the time of year, our mood, and what we have on hand.  Tonight we used avocado and Greek yogurt for some protein and healthy fat, but in the summer we would add local tomatoes and corn.  Any way you dress it up, this is a super easy recipe that is perfect for a weeknight!

Marinated Chicken Tacos

For the marinade:
1/3 c white vinegar
1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
juice of 2 limes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb chicken breast
cooking spray

To garnish:
6 in corn tortillas
Greek yogurt

1. Put all marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined.  Add the chicken breast and marinate for a minimum of 6 hours and up to overnight.
2. Spray a grill pan over medium heat with cooking spray.  When hot, add chicken breasts and cook until done (about 5-7 minutes per side).  A trick for this is using a panini plate or even another pan on top of the chicken once you flip it.  This allows the heat to circulate so the chicken cooks more quickly and the outside doesn't burn.
3. Allow the chicken to rest for about 5 minutes.  While it rests, microwave the tortillas as directed on the package and dice the avocado.
4.  Slice the chicken, assemble your tacos, and enjoy!

Marinade recipe from For the Love of Cooking

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Asian Pork Roast with Stir-Fried Noodles

This was a super simple meal we shared for a Sunday family dinner.  It was sweet, salty, and just a little spicy.  I just got a slow cooker for Christmas and we've been getting plenty of use out of it!  You can throw together the marinade and start the pork cooking in about five minutes, then leave it to cook all day.  The overall prep time on this dish was not more than 30 minutes, but it tastes like something that took a lot more effort!

This dish may seem to require a lot of ingredients, but they are all easily available in the international aisle of the grocery store and a little goes a long way.  It's worth building up a store of Asian ingredients because they can be applied to a wide variety of inexpensive, healthy meals.  This preparation, my own creation built from a bunch of previous marinades I've used, earned rave reviews and will definitely become a staple in our household this winter!

Asian Pork with Stir-Fried Noodles

For the pork:
 2 1/2 lb pork roast (shoulder or Boston Butt), trimmed of excess fat
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c orange juice
1 T thai garlic chili paste
1 T hoisin sauce
1 t toasted sesame oil

For the Stir-Fry:
1 package wide rice noodles
3/4 c shelled edamame
1 c sugar snap peas
1/2 c scallions, chopped
1 T peanut oil

1. Place the marinade ingredients in the slow cooker and whisk to combine.  Add the pork roast and turn to coat.  Cook on low for 6-7 hours, or until cooked through.  Use a fork to shred the pork and coat in sauce.
2. When ready to serve, prepare rice noodles as directed on the package.
3. Heat peanut oil in a large skillet or wok on medium high.  Add edamame, peas, scallions, and noodles.  Coat in oil and stir fry for 2-3 mins.  Add 1/2 c of sauce from slow cooker and stir to combine in the stir fry.  Heat through.
4. Serve pork over noodles with extra sauce if desired.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Breakfast for Dinner Risotto

Risotto is my go-to comfort food.  It's a carb-y, cheesy, hot bowl of awesome that warms you to your core.  It was also one of the first really "fancy" or challenging dishes that I learned to make when I first got into cooking.  Now it's a staple in our house, whether to impress for a special occasion or a more humble iteration to warm our bodies and souls.

This version is definitely the latter.  When I woke up yesterday morning congested and feeling sick and saw the impending snowstorm, I knew it was a risotto day.  This dish adds smoky, salty pancetta and sweet shallots to creamy Arborio rice and finishes with an over easy egg on top.  The yolk runs into the rest of the dish and adds an amazing richness and depth of flavor. 

This isn't the healthiest dish, but there are options to lighten it and endless variations on the technique.  You could leave out the butter at the end, reduce the Parmesan cheese added, even make it vegetarian by switching to vegetable stock and changing out the pancetta for whatever veggies you have lying around.  Have fun!

Breakfast for Dinner Risotto

6-8 c chicken stock
4 oz pancetta, diced
2 shallots, diced
olive oil, as needed
2 c Arborio rice
1/2 c dry white wine (i.e. Sauvignon Blanc)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated
eggs to top

1. Heat your chicken stock in a medium size pot over medium-low heat
2.  In a second large pot, fry your pancetta over medium heat until crispy, about 5 minutes.  Remove and set aside, leaving the grease in the pot.
3.  Use the rendered fat from the pancetta to saute your shallots until soft, 3-4 minutes.  You may need to supplement with a little bit of olive oil because pancetta doesn't produce too much grease.  you want to have 1-2 tbsp total.
4.  Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat with oil.  This step is called "toasting" the rice.  You want to make sure every grain of rice is coated with oil and gets heated to the point where the outer edges are translucent and you can just see the opaque grain on the inside.
5. Turn the heat to low. Add white wine and stir slowly until it has been almost completely absorbed into the rice.
6.  Here comes the fun part.  Add one cup of chicken stock to your rice, then slowly stir until it has been absorbed and there is very little liquid left.  Repeat this process, one cup at a time, until your rice is al dente.  You want it to be soft with just a tiny bite left to the grains of rice.  The texture of the dish should be kind of like a stew, where it settles and spreads when you put it on the plate.  This process can take anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes, depending on a variety of factors.  Be patient, it will come together!
7.  Add the butter, Parmesan, and reserved pancetta back into the rice and stir until well-combined.  
8.  Cook as many eggs as desired over easy, making sure the yolk stays soft.  Top each dish with an egg.  Enjoy!

Technique inspired by Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist, Variation inspired by Smitten Kitchen

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chicken and Chickpea "Tagine"

I initially began reading blogs in 2009 when I was homesick while studying abroad in Madrid. Something about reading the goings on of people back home was comforting, and I was amazed at the communities that came together across the miles on the internet.  It took five years of lurking, but I am finally ready to become part of that community by starting my own food blog!  I love to cook, bake, and take on new challenges in the kitchen, and I am super excited to share my successes (and not so successes) with you.

In light of the fact that I initially dipped my toes into the online community during my time abroad, this recipe is the perfect fit to inaugurate my own little corner of the internet.  I visited Morocco that spring, and fell in love with the humble, hearty stews called tagines.  I wanted to recreate them upon my return to the States, but could never justify the expense or kitchen space to buy a tagine, the clay pot in which these stews are made.  When I came across this slow cooker variation, I was excited to recapture a less than authentic, but hopefully still delicious variation.

This recipe does require a little prep.  It is not a throw together in five minutes on your way out the door type of slow cooker recipe.  It took me about 30 minutes to get everything prepped and in the slow cooker.  However, seven hours later your house smells wonderful and you have a healthy, hearty, and comforting meal perfect for a winter night!

Slow Cooker Chicken and Chickpea "Tagine"

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 1/4 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper
2 onions, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1.25 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 c chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp honey
1 whole cinnamon stick
3/4 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Season the meaty side of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then brown them meaty side down in the skillet for five minutes.  Do not brown the other side.  Remove and set aside.  There will be browned bits left in the pan, leave them for now.
2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the pan.  Saute for four minutes, or until soft.  Add cumin, paprika, ginger, and chili powder, then cook for one additional minute, stirring constantly.
3. Deglaze the pan by adding broth and scraping all the delicious browned bits that have stuck to the bottom.  Then, add 3/4 teaspoon of salt, the honey, and the cinnamon stick.  Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat.
4.  Place the onion mixture in the slow cooker, then add the chickpeas and apricots.  Place the chicken thighs, browned side up on top of the chickpeas so that they are sitting mostly out of the liquid.
5.  Cover and cook on low for seven hours.  Discard cinnamon stick and serve over brown rice.  Enjoy!

Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2012