Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Caribbean Chicken Salad with Mango Dressing

Well Plated has been a recent source of favorite recipes for me, and this is another keeper!  The dressing alone is fantastic!  Paired with the simple chicken marinade and all the other salad toppers - I loved this easy dinner.  I made a few small changes that are reflected below.  See the original recipe along with beautiful photos here.  


FOR THE CARIBBEAN CHICKEN SALAD:

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3 chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally 
  • 18 ounces chopped romaine lettuce, leafy greens and hearts
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and diced
  • 1 cup canned reduced sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 15 ounces mandarin oranges in light syrup, drained, but reserve some for the dressing (or substitute other juicy tropical fruits, such as diced mango or diced pineapple)
  • Fresh cilantro, for serving

FOR THE MANGO DRESSING:

  • 1 large mango, peeled, pitted and roughly chopped or 1 1/4 cups frozen and thawed mango chunks
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, (about 2 medium size limes)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil   
  • 1-2 tablespoons reserved syrup from mandarin oranges


  1. Place the soy sauce, olive oil, brown sugar, and ginger in a gallon-sized ziptop bag, seal tightly pressing out all of the air, and "squish" to combine. Add the chicken, firmly seal the bag again, and move the chicken around gently so that all sides are coated and it lays flat when the bag is on its side. Let marinade for 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight. (If refrigerating overnight, let the chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to grilling.) Meanwhile, prepare the dressing and other ingredients.
  2. Make the dressing: Puree the mango, lime juice, honey, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and reserved fruit syrup in your food processor or blender until smooth. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and blend to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Use for salad, then store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Shake well before using.
  3. Cook the chicken: Heat a grill pan or an outdoor grill over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill for about 3-4 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove to plate and let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the romaine, red bell pepper, black beans, and avocado. Add the chicken, drizzle with the mango lime dressing. Toss to coat. Scatter the oranges and cilantro over the top, then serve.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Bell Pepper Chicken Nachos

Bell pepper nachos!  My family was skeptical when they heard what was for dinner, but the pretty colors and yummy taste won them over.  


4 bell peppers, any color you like
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
4 green onions, both green and white parts, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 cup sliced black olives (black beans would well if you're not a fan of olives)
1 cup salsa 
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1-tablespoon oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the green onion and garlic and fry for 2 minutes. Than add the shredded chicken and chili powder. Toss until all ingredients are well coated with chili powder and chicken is warm. Remove from heat and add the salsa, sliced olives, salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the bell peppers into 2-inch pieces and remove seeds. Press each piece open so the peppers are as flat as possible. Arrange close together in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
Spoon the chicken mixture evenly over pepper chunks.  Top with cheese.
Bake nachos for 10-15 minutes (I only did 10 minutes so the peppers would still be a little crunchy).  Turn the broiler on high and broil for a couple minutes to give the cheese a good, crispy melt (if you like that sort of thing). Then remove from oven and top with chopped cilantro (or not). Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

I've made this soup several times, and each time I look for the recipe on this little blog and am surprised to find that I haven't posted it.  It's a delicious soup!  Most recently, I made four batches for a soup swap, and then another batch to share at a ladies retreat.  I've used my slow cooker, but have also made it on the stove cutting back on the time it simmers.  I know there are plenty of tomato cheese soup recipes floating around out there.  This is the one my family loves!


  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 10-ounce can tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped (I've also used 3 tsp. dried basil)
  • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 cup heavy cream OR half & half
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
roux
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream OR half & half


  1. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and next 7 ingredients (through broth) to a slow cooker/crockpot. Cover and cook for 2 hours on high or 4-8 hours on low. (If you are home, give it a stir every now and then and scrape down the sides)
  2. About 30-40 minutes before serving transfer soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, then return to crock pot.
  3. Prepare the roux. Begin by melting the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
  4. Add flour to melted butter and stir until flour clumps up. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream (or half & half) until mixture is thickened and smooth. Add roux and parmesan cheese to crockpot and stir to combine.
  5. Allow to cook another 20-30 minutes until cheese is completely melted. Give it a good stir before serving. Top with additional basil and parmesan cheese if desired.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Creamy Pina Colada

I follow Simple Green Smoothies on Instagram and have loved trying some of their recipes.  We drink a lot of smoothies around here.  I usually just throw a bunch of stuff into my Vitamix and turn it on, but every now and then it's good to grab a new combination idea or twist.  This smoothie is a combination of a few different recipes from the SGS feed and it's our current family favorite for lunch.  My measurements are approximations because that's how I roll when it comes to making smoothies, but it'd be hard for you to mess up this tasty nutrient-packed ingredient combination.  Try it!


1/2 to 1 cup coconut milk
1/2 to 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup water, depending on how thick you like your smoothie
1 cup packed fresh spinach
1/2 ripe avocado
1 to 2 cups pineapple (I've only ever used frozen - I like my smoothies thick!)
1 or 2 very ripe bananas
handful of ice cubes
I also toss in a handful of frozen mango and/or small orange if I have any.

Blend well and enjoy!



  

Monday, February 8, 2016

Steamed Pork Dumplings

Happy Chinese New Year!  
Food is a fantastic way to celebrate any special holiday, right?!  So we are making sure not to miss the opportunity to celebrate the Year of the Monkey with some yummy Chinese food in my house this evening.  My oldest gingersnaps helped me make dumplings (which happen to be the food I miss the most from living in China) as part of our study of Ancient China last week.  But we planned ahead and made a double batch, knowing that we wanted to have enough for tonight's dinner also.  I buy the packaged won-ton wrappers from the store and go from there.  Maybe one day we'll try to make our own wrappers as well!


1 pound bok choy leaves or white chinese cabbage
1 pound ground pork
1 Tbsp finely chopped scallions
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp salt
1 tsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
2 tsp sesame oil


Blanch or steam the bok choy until soft (it doesn't take long!).  Drain well, squeezing any extra liquid from the leaves, and then chop finely.  Mix the bok choy with the pork, scallions, ginger, salt, sugar, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil.  An older Chinese woman taught me to use clean hands for this step to make sure everything is mixed really well.

Place about 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of each plain wrapper.  Dip your finger in water and lightly wet the edge of the wrapper.  This will help the dumpling seal together.  Pinch the edges firmly so that the dumpling is tightly sealed.  You could easily find images or a tutorial video online of how to accomplish this step well.

Fill a large pot half-way with salted water.  Bring to boil.  Add the dumplings and one cup of cold water.  As the water returns to a boil, gently scrape the bottom to ensure that the dumplings are not sticking.  As the water begins to boil again, the dumplings will float to the surface.  When the water is boiling, add one cup of cold water.  Do this step two more times, adding one cup of cold water to the pot each time the water boils.  The older Chinese woman who taught me to make dumplings gave me these "highly scientific" instructions, which have always worked for me!

After you have brought the pot of water to boil four times, your dumplings should be ready to enjoy!  Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and serve with dipping sauce.


Dipping sauce:  

soy sauce
red chili oil
finely minced garlic
fine chopped scallions
vinegar

mix all or some of the above ingredients to create the dipping sauce you prefer.  I like equal parts of soy sauce and vinegar with some chili oil and garlic.




Saturday, February 6, 2016

Asian Zucchini Noodle Stir-Fry with Shrimp

I was given a spiralizer for Christmas, and it's been so fun trying out different kinds of vegetable noodles!  This was my first time making zucchini noodles (which I discovered are often called zoodles?!).  The meal was super easy to put together, and the sauce tasted great.  But I ended up making rice to serve with everything because the sauce was pretty runny and the zoodles weren't substantive enough to soak up the extra juice.  And because we don't have to voice gluten.  So all in all, it was a yummy and simple meal, made better with a scoop of steamy rice.

recipe found here

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 pound jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 medium bell pepper, sliced

1/2 cup shredded carrots
2/3 cup sliced red onions
1 cup sugar snap peas
2 medium zucchini, cut into noodles

Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable broth, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and cornstarch. Set the mixture aside.
  2. Place a large sauté pan or wok over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and and heat it for 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook, stirring as needed, until the shrimp are cooked throughout and pink on all sides, about 3 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and then transfer them to a bowl, leaving any liquid in the pan.
  4. Increase the heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then add the bell pepper, carrots, red onions and snow peas and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes until the vegetables are crisp but tender. Add the prepared sauce and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. Return the shrimp to the pan, stirring to combine, then add the zucchini noodles and cook, tossing to coat, for 1 minute.
  5. Transfer the stir-fry to serving plates, garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Crockpot Crispy Caramelized Pork Ramen Noodle Soup

I've saved my favorite meal from the menu swap to share with you last.  This, right here, is some real deal sophisticated ramen soup.  Jessie said this was her favorite meal from 2015, and I immediately understood why after my first bite.  The broth is full of fantastic flavor.  Add in some unique toppings (curried miso roasted squash?!) and good 'ol ramen noodles, and you have yourself a bowl of goodness that you'll slurp to the very last drop.  Take the extra ten minutes to caramelize and crisp the pork.  It's totally worth it.

  • Soup
  • 2-3 pounds pork shoulder roast (or butt)
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth, plus more of needed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup + 2-4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce 
  • 1/4 cup + 2-4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons thai red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (chili paste) (or to taste)
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 cups wild mushrooms, left whole - or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 packs Ramen noodles, seasoning packets discarded
  • 4 soft boiled or fried eggs, for serving
  • Chopped carrots, sliced jalapenos, cilantro + green onions, for serving
  • Curry Roasted Acorn Squash
  • 1 medium acorn squash, seeded + diced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (I use spicy curry)
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Pepper, to taste

Add the pork to the bowl of a crockpot. Pour the chicken broth, 1/4-1/2 cup soy sauce (depending on your taste), 1/4 cup rice vinegar and fish sauce over the pork. Add the thai red curry paste, ginger, sambal oelek, juice of 1 lime, Chinese five spice powder, black pepper and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours (I recommend going low and slow).
About 40 minutes before you are ready to eat, roast the squash. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a small bowl mix together the melted coconut oil, curry powder, miso, brown sugar and a good pinch of pepper. Add the cubed squash to a greased baking sheet and pour the curry mixture over the squash. Toss well. Bake for 30-40 minutes, tossing a couple of times during cooking. You want the squash to be lightly browned and crisp.
Meanwhile, remove the pork from the crockpot and add the mushrooms. Cover the crockpot and crank the heat up to high. Lightly shred the pork with two forks or your hands.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sesame oil. Once hot, add enough pork to cover just the surface of your skillet, do not over crowd the skillet. Sprinkle a little brown sugar over the pork, add 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, toss. Allow the pork to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir and allow the pork to continue to caramelize, about 3-5 minutes total. Remove the pork from the skillet, repeat with the remaining pork. Keep the pork warm.
Add the Ramen noodles to the crockpot and allow them to cook 5 minutes. Once the noodles are cooked, stir in only half of the pork. Ladle the soup into bowls. Top with extra caramelized pork, curry roasted acorn squash and an egg. Season the egg with salt and pepper, Add the carrots, jalapeños, green onions and cilantro if desired. Happy slurping!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Slow Cook Thai Chicken


Such an easy and yummy winner dinner!  The sauce is so rich.  I might try adding a little brown sugar to the sauce next time just for fun.


6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter (I used chunky)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
3 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts


DIRECTIONS

1. Place the chicken breast strips, bell pepper and onion into a slow cooker. Pour in the chicken broth and 1/4 cup of soy sauce, then season with cumin, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to blend, then cover and cook on Low for 4 1/2 to 5 hours.
2. Remove 1 cup of the liquid from the slow cooker, and mix this with the cornstarch, peanut butter, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and lime juice. This should blend into a fairly thick sauce. Stir the sauce back into the slow cooker, and place the lid on the pot.
3. Cook on High for 30 minutes. Garnish with green onions, cilantro and peanuts before serving.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Baked Potato Soup

Jessie's photo

I chuckled when I saw this soup on Jessie's menu for us, knowing I had put a similar potato soup on her menu!  After trying both in a matter of two weeks, I don't think I could choose a favorite.  Both are equally creamy, filling, simple, and delicious!


3 bacon strips, diced 
1 small onion, chopped 
1 clove garlic, minced 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon dried basil 
1/2 teaspoon pepper 
3 cups chicken broth 
2 large (already) BAKED potatoes, peeled and cubed 
1 cup half-and-half cream 
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce 
Shredded Cheddar cheese 
Minced fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Set bacon aside. Saute onion and garlic in the drippings until tender. Stir in flour, salt, basil and pepper; mix 
well. Gradually add broth. Bring to boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes. 
Add the potatoes, cream and hot pepper sauce; heat through but do not boil. 
Garnish with bacon, cheese and parsley.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Spinach Salad with Sweet-Spicy Nuts, Apples, Bacon, and Feta

This salad, another great recipe from Mel's Kitchen, could easily have been my favorite meal from our menu swap week (if it weren't for the Asian noodle soup that is coming up . . . YUM!).  There wasn't a single bite left in the bowl when my family of five walked away from the table.  Next time I would try brown sugar or maple syrup instead of white sugar for the nuts.  

    Salad:
  • 16 ounces baby spinach
  • ½ small red onion, slivered (see note about tempering the onion flavor)
  • 6 slices of applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled or chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup Feta cheese crumbles, more or less to taste
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries, more or less to taste
  • 1-2 Honey Crisp apples, cored and sliced thin 
  • Sweet Spicy Nuts:
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of cayenne (more to taste if you want)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Red Wine Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS
  1. For the dressing, shake all the ingredients together in a mason jar until well combined or run them through a quick blender cycle. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The dressing can be made up to a week in advance. 
  2. For the nuts, lightly toast the nuts in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, checking often so they don't burn. While they toast, place the sugar, cayenne and salt in a skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the sugar mixture until it liquifies completely, adjusting the heat so it doesn't bubble and burn. Toss in the toasted nuts and stir to coat the nuts with sugar. Let the sugared nuts cool completely.
  3. To assemble the salad, toss all the salad ingredients together along with the cooled nuts. Serve immediately with the vinaigrette alongside. All the components can be measured out/prepped ahead of time and stored separately (I like to soak the apples in a bit of lemon juice in water to help prevent browning). Just toss right before serving. Enjoy!
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