Monday, August 30, 2010

Baked Panko Chicken Tenders with Basil Aioli

Normally I shy away from these kinds of recipes. I don’t mean the tasty, crispy, dippable kind. I mean the dredge in flour, dip in egg, coat in bread crumbs kind of recipe. Because we all know what can happen when you do the whole dredge, dip, coat thing – a big gummy mess. On your fingertips, on the dishes, on the counter tops… and hopefully on the chicken. (I know there are methods you can employ to reduce the mess – tongs and whatnot – but let’s be honest, some mess is unavoidable.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not afraid of making a mess in my kitchen. (Cue Stan laughing – and perhaps suggesting that is an understatement.) I just prefer the mess to be less stuck on me and more stuck on the dishes. Regardless, for a good recipe, I’m willing to get my hands dirty… literally. And this is indeed a good recipe.

Finger food is always fun, and these chicken strips are no exception. The chicken is coated with a lightly spiced panko crust. The crunchy exterior keeps the strips moist and juicy on the inside. Creamy and slightly tangy, the basil aioli is a perfect dipping sauce. This chicken makes a great, finger-friendly lunch or dinner. It would also be a great appetizer or party food, served on a big platter with a bowl of aioli alongside.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sauteed Spinach with Peanuts

Sometimes I spend days planning out the perfect meal. Sometimes I have 15 minutes to get some form of dinner on the table and extra points if it is healthy. For rushed nights – or even those rare leisurely ones – it’s good to have a couple of exceptionally speedy, healthy, and tasty recipes on hand. And folks, today’s recipe couldn’t be faster. Being chock-full of dark leafy greens, it’s also a nutritional powerhouse. And the taste? Cooked spinach never had it so good.

Imagine, if you will, fresh spinach stir-fried in a wok with salty soy sauce, spicy red pepper flakes, and rich, crunchy peanuts. Did I mention this whole process take 2 minutes or less? Perhaps you can see why I enjoy this dish so much. Not only is it delicious, but the entire recipe can be on the table in under 10 minutes – and that’s including the time it takes to wash the spinach. While I love me some slow cooking, I also really love something that only takes 2 minutes to cook – and only leaves one dish to wash!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Grilled Portobello Paninis

I don’t know about you, but I get start to get bored if I eat the same thing more than two days in a row. (Ok, that’s not true for breakfast, but definitely for lunch and dinner.) Stan is the total opposite – he’s been eating the same sandwiches almost every weekday for the past three years. Turkey, cheese, mayo, and mustard. Every day. I don’t know how he does it. Creature of habit I guess.

Regardless, sandwiches are the perfect lunch – quick, easy, portable, and if made right, delicious. Today’s sandwich combines some of my favorite ingredients: big, meaty portobello mushrooms grilled to juicy perfection; smoky roasted red peppers; creamy goat cheese; and slightly bitter baby arugula. Layered between slices of crusty Italian bread, these fillings make for one deliciously savory sandwich. Even Stan, a hardcore meat-eater, really enjoyed this one. As for me, I’ll definitely be making this sandwich again soon – and often. Certainly not everyday for three years straight, but often.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Superfast Chicken Posole

I know what you’re thinking – and I agree. Soup is not what you typically think of, or even want to eat, when it’s pushing 100 degrees outside. But what if you could have a colorful soup that is bold in flavor and would fill you up without weighing you down? Would you reconsider then? I know I would, but hey, I like soup. And this posole is a winner, no matter the season.

Posole is a traditional Mexican soup/stew that is very popular in the Southwest. I was lucky enough to try an authentic version in Albuquerque, New Mexico a few years back, and I have kept an eye out for it on restaurant menus ever since. Different variations of posole abound, using all types of meats and vegetables. This particular version is a quick and easy take on posole using already cooked chicken breast, hominy, tomatillos, and enough herbs and spices to keep you going back for more. It makes a great weeknight dinner, especially with an icy cold beverage alongside.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Korean-Style Romaine

Thinking it looked interesting, I cut a Korean-inspired recipe out of the March 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine. And then I filed it away with all of my other interesting looking magazine recipes… where I promptly forgot about it. You see, the problem was, at the time, I had no idea that I liked Korean food. Probably because I’d never tried it. That all changed in the past year, however, thanks to my discovery of an excellent Korean restaurant here in town. And let me tell you, I am happy I found that restaurant and learned that I like Korean food. One, because it is delicious, and two, because it made me remember I had this salad recipe filed away waiting to be tried. And oh, I wish I hadn’t waited so long because this salad is awesome.

Crisp romaine lettuce is tossed with a warm, flavorful dressing that manages to be garlicky, salty, and a little spicy all at once. The heat of the dressing causes the romaine to soften, but it doesn’t wilt into mush the way other lettuces might. Crunchy toasted sesame seeds stick to the dressing, coating the leaves in little bursts of nutty flavor. The flavors in the dressing, combined with the mostly crunchy lettuce, remind me of the flavors and textures of the fresh kimchi I have enjoyed at my favorite Korean restaurant. (One day soon I hope to try making my own kimchi, too!) I served this salad alongside a tofu and vegetable stir fry. It would also be a great, unique dish to serve alongside some grilled chicken or steak, or of course, authentic Korean food.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Creamy Black Bean Salsa Chicken

So, I had this whole witty, anecdotal introduction all planned out for this post. Well, scrap that, because I just can’t wait. I need to tell you about this recipe now. Today’s recipe for creamy black bean salsa chicken might just be the easiest dinner recipe EVER. (You know, if we don’t include cereal or pbj.) Made in a slow cooker, this dinner requires 5 minutes of prep… and that’s it. It is fast, it really could not be easier, and it is delicious. The only down side? It won’t be winning any beauty pageants any time soon. But if you can look past appearances, you are in for a treat. Stan actually said I could give our beloved Chipotle a run for their money with this creamy mix of succulent shredded chicken, plump black beans, and juicy corn.

Now you might be wondering why I’m using a slow cooker, known for producing cold weather comfort foods, in the middle of summer grilling season. Well let me tell you. Yesterday was my first day back at work post-mono, and I didn’t think I’d have it in me to cook dinner when I got home. I wanted dinner to be done and waiting for me. Thank goodness I did, because I was beat! And while it’s true that this dish doesn’t exactly make the most of summer produce, sprinkling some fresh cilantro on top and serving a chunky chopped salad alongside brightens things up nicely.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Calabacitas Casserole

Lately, I feel like I’ve been missing out on what just might be the very best part of summer – farm fresh produce. Stuck inside with my nemesis – aka mono – for the past two weeks, I’ve had to skip my anticipated jaunts to the farmers market, the pick-your-own blueberry farm, and even my beloved Trader Joe’s. As a result, in my crazy (and in my defense, fever-induced) moments, I seem to have adopted something of a produce paranoia. My fears? That the peaches might be gone by the time I’m up and moving around. Berries? Gone til next year. And forget about tomatoes – missed my chance for those summer gems. I know; it’s ridiculous. I blame it on the fever.

The other night, however, I decided I couldn’t handle anymore carb-heavy prepared foods. Even though my taste buds hadn’t returned yet, the health-conscious part of my brain demanded vegetables. Stan’s not exactly into “lighter” fare, so veggie days can take some creative thinking. I’ve been meaning to tell you about this casserole for months, and with several of the ingredients in peak season, this seemed like the perfect time. The fact that I had just about all of the ingredients on hand clinched the decision.

Calabacitas means little squashes in Spanish. It is a traditional Mexican side dish that is made with summer squash, and often with corn, peppers, onions, and other assorted vegetables. This recipe turns Calabacitas into something of a casserole by topping it with slices of prepared polenta and lots of gooey cheese. Bursting with fresh flavors, it is the perfect showcase for summer produce, particularly the zucchini that is so prevalent at this time of year. Served alongside grilled meat or fish, it is a perfect summer side dish. It is also an excellent vegetarian entrée served with a side of black beans.


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