Weekly Winner:  Peanuty Pasta and Poultry Pleases Perfectly

I’ve made no attempt to hide my deep and abiding love affair with peanut sauces.  It’s something I simply cannot pass up either in a restaurant or while flipping through recipes.  I’m also a huge fan of The Pioneer Woman.  So needless to say when the forces of the universe collide to bring me a peanut sauce recipe by The Pioneer Woman (who, by the way gets bonus points for including pasta!) you know I’m going to be one happy cook!

Grilled Peanut Chicken and Broccolini from The Pioneer Woman did not disappoint.  The broccolini provided some nice crunch and bitterness to the slightly sweet and spicy sauce which is used to marinate the chicken and coat the pasta.  This isn’t fancy, I’m pretty sure positive it’s not authentic (barbecue sauce in peanut sauce??) but it is definitely delicious and different and incredibly worthy of being a Weekly Winner. And it made this cook very, very happy!

Grilled Peanut Chicken and Broccolini

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Olive Oil, Plus More For Drizzling

1/4 cup Peanut Butter

1/4 cup Soy Sauce, Plus More For Serving

1/4 cup Honey

2 Tablespoons Barbecue Sauce

3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce

1 whole Lemon, Juiced (or 2-3 Limes)

3 cloves Garlic

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

4 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

8 ounces, weight Broccolini

Salt And Pepper, to taste

1 whole Onion, Sliced Thick

8 ounces, weight Thin Spaghetti Or Angel Hair, Cooked And Drained

Procedure:

Make the marinade/sauce by whisking together olive oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, honey, Worcestershire, lemon juice, garlic, and cayenne. Taste and add more honey, soy, or lemon juice depending on your taste. Pour off 1/2 cup of the sauce and save in the fridge for later. Place the chicken in the bowl, cover with the sauce, and refrigerate for 2 hours to marinate.

When you’re ready to cook, toss the broccolini with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Heat a large grill pan (or an outdoor grill) over medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil, then place the chicken, broccolini, and onion slices on the surface. Cook until the chicken is done, about 5-7 minutes per side, being careful to turn the broccolini to keep it from burning. (If the chicken is thick, you’ll want to get it started before you add the broccolini to the grill.) You want the broccolini to get nice and brown/grilled but not char. Cook onions until they’re brown and softened.
Before serving, heat the reserved sauce in a small skillet until bubbly. Remove from the heat and toss with the noodles.
To serve, pile noodles on a plate with a chicken breast, some of the broccolini, and a grilled onion slice. Serve with extra soy sauce.

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Weekly Winner:  Best Broccoli Soup By Far

I am a big fan of broccoli soups — cream of, puréed, heck, I’m just a fan of broccoli! There’s nothing that you can do to it that I don’t like and you actually don’t need to do anything to it for me to like it –I’ll happily eat it raw, baked, roasted, grilled, broiled… well, you get the idea.

Because of this love of broccoli, I have amassed quite a few recipes for the stuff, including several soups.  This new one – Smoked Gouda-Broccoli Soup has become my new favorite (to date).  It combines my favorite vegetable with my favorite cheese (although really any cheese could be considered my favorite), and tops it off with a bread I dearly love.  How could I not consider this the best thing I made last week?

The recipe comes from Eating Well Magazine and has become my justification for having  smoked Gouda and rye bread in the house at all times. Having the broccoli is never a problem.

Smoked Gouda-Broccoli Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 lbs broccoli crowns (2 medium)

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 cup chopped sweet onion

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp smoked paprika

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups cubed rye bread (1/2 inch pieces)

1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese

2 tsp white-wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground white pepper

Procedure:

  1. Cut 1-1/2 cups bite-size broccoli florets and set aside.  Coarsely chop the remaining broccoli.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Add flour and paprika; stir to coat.  Add broth and the chopped broccoli.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the croutons:  Toss bread with the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.
  4. Puree the soup in a blender, in batches if necessary, or use an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pan over low heat.  Add cheese a little at a time, stirring constantly until it melts before adding more.  Stir in the reserved broccoli florets.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are bright green, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in vinegar, salt and white pepper.  Serve hot, topped with the croutons.

Weekly Winner: Fabulous unFussy French Fricassee

I’m definitely a Francophile at heart.  If it’s French I will probably want to try it and chances are very good I’ll like it.  Quite often assume that all French food is heavy, fussy and decadently heavy (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but actually some of the most delicious, simply food has its roots in France.

Chicken Fricassee with Browned Butter Noodles is just such a dish.  It’s incredibly easy and uses simple, everyday ingredients (you might not even have to make a special shopping trip)! The magic lies in the combination of the ingredients and the care of preparation that elevates each simple item in the dish to satisfying, French-inspired wonderfulness.  My only regret with this dish is that I didn’t have some nice crusty bread on the side to do some serious sopping with! The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine – Bon Appetit!

Chicken Fricassee with Browned Butter Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

6 ounces uncooked egg noodles

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast cutlets

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk, divided

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups chopped carrots

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 (8-oz.) pkg. cremini mushrooms, quartered

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Procedure:

  • Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side. Place chicken on a plate (do not wipe out pan).
  • Combine 1/4 cup milk and flour in a bowl. Add carrots and next 5 ingredients (through mushrooms) to pan; cook 6 minutes. Stir in wine; cook 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, remaining 1 1/4 cups milk, and stock; bring to a boil. Stir in flour mixture. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 5 minutes. Return chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes or until done.
  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Add cooked noodles and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to pan; toss. Divide noodle mixture among 4 plates; top with chicken, sauce, and parsley.

Weekly Winner:  Tasty Tostadas that Transport to the Tropics

I love food that transports you somewhere else.  I especially love food that makes you feel like you’re on vacation — especially if said vacation is someplace tropical.  That’s exactly what this week’s winner does.  Grilled Shrimp Tostadas with Lime will make you feel like you are sitting beachside under a palapa in Mexico while sipping some cool, umbrella-laden cocktail.  In truth, I was sitting at my dinner table with a glass of wine on a crazy-hot late September Chicago night.  But hey, I can dream… can’t I?

Grilled Shrimp Tostadas with Lime comes from Cooking Light Magazine and as you might suspect is quite light and healthy. It’s also a very quick, easy recipe that comes together in no time which allows you to take your imaginary tropical vacation any day you like — no passport required!

Grilled Shrimp Tostadas with Lime

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Shrimp:

24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Black bean salsa:

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped cilantro 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained

Avocado topping:

1/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon lime juice

1 ripe peeled avocado

1 cup chopped seeded tomato

Cooking spray

8 corn tostadas

4 lime wedges

Procedure:

  1. To prepare shrimp, combine shrimp, garlic powder, cumin, and 1/4 tsp salt in the bowl.  Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. To prepare black bean salsa, combine green onions and next 7 ingredients (through beans) in a medium bowl; toss to coat,
  3. To prepare avocado topping, combine yogurt, juice, and avocado in a small bowl, mashing with a fork until smooth.  Stir in tomato.
  4. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add shrimp to pan; grill 2 minutes on each side.  Top each tostada with 1/4 cup bean mixture, 3 shrimp, and 1 Tbsp avocado mixture.  Serve with lime wedges.

Weekly Winner: Sometimes Tasty isn’t Pretty

As much as I believe the saying “you eat with your eyes first”, there are times when you can forgo looks and dive right into a vat of tastiness, regardless of its outward appearance. You just know it’s going to be good.

Such is the case with Stuffed Poblanos. This is an easier, healthier take on chile rellenos but it has enough cheese to meet my “ooey-gooey quotient” What I love about this dish is what you don’t have to do.  You don’t have to roast and peel the poblanos.  While this certainly isn’t difficult, I find it tedious and wouldn’t bother doing it for a weeknight meal.  The other thing you don’t need to do is batter and deep-fry the peppers as you would in a traditional chile relleno. This bakes right in the sauce which does not help its appearance any but certainly adds to its flavor.

The recipe comes from Martha Stewart.  Shockingly I think I’ve had this recipe for close to 10 years but I don’t recall ever making it.  It makes me sad to think that this fabulous, relatively easy, surprisingly healthy (despite how it looks) recipe has been languishing away in the back corner of my recipe binder waiting for a day to impress.  Well, these poblanos had their day in the spotlight and boy, did they shine!

Stuffed Poblanos

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 can (28oz) whole tomatoes in puree

1 jalapeño chile (ribs and seeds removed) minced

2 small onions, chopped

3 garlic cloves (2 whole, 1 minced)

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1 can (19oz)black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese

1 tsp ground cumin

4 large poblano chiles, halved lengthwise (ribs and seeds removed)

Sour cream for serving

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.  In a blender, combine tomatoes in puree, jalapeño, half the onions, a 2 whole garlic cloves; puree. Season with salt. Pour sauce into a 9×13 inch baking dish; set aside
  2. In a medium bowl, combine beans, cornmeal, 1/2 cup cheese, remaining onions, minced garlic, cumin and 3/4 cup water; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Dividing evenly, stuff poblano halves with bean mixture; place on top of sauce in baking dish.  Sprinkle poblanos with remaining 1/2 cup cheese; cover baking dish tightly with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake until poblanos are tender, about 45 minutes.  Uncover, and continue to cook until sauce is thickened slightly and cheese is browned, 10 to 15 minutes more.  Let cool 10 minutes.  Serve with sour cream

Weekly Winner:  Keeping it Simple – Pork, Peas & Pasta

I’ve been getting a bit “fussy” lately with my cooking.  Lots of ingredients, some of them a bit hard to find or not things you normally have lying around.  I was thinking it was definitely time to dial it back and keep it simple.  That, in my opinion, is best done with two things: steaks and pasta. As it was Friday night which means a pre-run pasta dinner for hubby, I went for an old favorite:  Bucatini with Sausage and Peas.  The title just about gives you all the ingredients.  It is sensationally simple and stupidly delicious.

The recipe comes from Food & Wine Magazine and I’ve been making this for years.  I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it here in the blog before and I also can’t believe its been so long since I’ve made it.  Lucky for me (and hubby) I made a double batch and froze half. We’ll be enjoying this stunner of a dish again soon.

Bucatini with Sausage and Peas

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small shallot, minced

2 1/2 cups prepared tomato sauce

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup frozen baby peas

Salt

1 pound bucatini or perciatelli

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons shredded basil

Procedure:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Add the sausage and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
  2. Partially cover the saucepan and cook the tomato sauce over low heat for 30 minutes.  Stir in the cream and peas and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes longer.  Season with salt.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain and return the pasta to the pot.  Add the tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and toss over low heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce.  Transfer the pasta to bowls, top with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the shredded basil and serve.


Weekly Winner:  Bridging the Seasons with a Comforting Stew

It has been unseasonably cool here the last few days and almost immediately I began thinking of “fall food”.  Those dishes that bridge the gap from end of summer to beginning of autumn without heating up the house too much and while still taking advantage of all the great summer produce.  And, to be honest, I’m just starting to tire of salads, grain bowls and the like.  I wanted comfort. And while I’m certain there are a few scorching days left for us here in Chicago this summer, I thoroughly enjoyed cozying up to a bowl of something warm with the windows open and a cool, autumnal breeze blowing through the house.

Curried Lentil-and-Vegetable Stew is the perfect “gap” meal.  The fresh tomato and zucchini still taste like summer and the curry, lentils and yogurt make it a substantial meal.   I will be making this dish long after summer and well into football season! The recipe comes Cooking Light and its one of those dishes that while it tastes extravagant, you know it’s incredibly healthy.

Curried Lentil-and-Vegetable Stew

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cups chopped zucchini

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup chopped, seeded tomato

2 Tbsp curry powder

2 Tbsp ketchup

2 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 (17.6-oz) pkg. steamed cooked lentils (about 2-1/2 cups)

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

2 Tbsp plain whole-milk yogurt (I used more)

Procedure:

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add zucchini and garlic; cook 3 minutes. Add tomato, curry powder, and ketchup; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Combine stock and flour in a small bowl. Add stock mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Stir in salt and lentils; cook 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in lime juice. Divide lentil mixture among 4 bowls; top evenly with yogurt.

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