Weekly Winner: Meatless Monday Merges with Taco Tuesday

TostadaAs a certified carnivore, it may surprise you to know that I think there are certain dishes in which meat, of any kind, just really isn’t important.  Seriously, why waste the extra calories, fat and work of having meat in a dish that truly doesn’t need it.  Case in point – Mexican food.  There’s little better than a perfectly constructed bean and cheese burrito — or in the case of last night’s dinner — a Chickpea and Chipotle Tostada.  This dish has everything a good tostada needs: a gooey base, shredded cheese, avocado and a zippy sour cream-based sauce.

This tasty, meatless treat comes from Taste of Home magazine, which surprisingly has a great collection of vegetarian recipes.  These are a bright, fresh, modern spin on the usual tostadas.  To make this even easier, I chose to use store bought tostada shells rather than toast up the tortillas as the recipe suggests.

Chickpea and Chipotle Tostadas

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 12 corn tortillas (6 inches) – [I used store-bought tostada shells]
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 medium head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Procedure:

  1.  Preheat broiler.  In batches, spritz both sides of tortillas with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet; broil 4-5 inches from heat until crisp and lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. If you use store bought tostada shells – you can skip this step.
  2. For sauce, mix sour cream and salsa
  3. In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir red pepper and onion over medium heat until tender, 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute.  Stir in broth, chickpeas, chipotles, cumin and salt; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, covered for 5 minutes.
  4. Coarsely mash mixture with a potato masher; stir in lime juice.  Cook over low heat to thicken, stirring frequently.
  5. To serve, top tostadas with chickpea mixture, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Weekly Winner: Simple, Sumptuous Sumac-laden Supper

Couscous ChickenThis was a fascinating dinner I made last night.  On the one hand, it’s a super easy one-pot meal. On the other hand, it was uniquely complex and exotic-tasting with just a few ingredients.

Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas was a perfect cool evening, post-holiday meal — warm and comforting, yet healthy and nourishing.  The foreign feel of this dish comes from a rather large amount of sumac which is both cooked in the broth and added at the end for a final flourish.  Sumac has a slight citrusy taste and also a mild numbing effect on the tongue without adding any heat.  Just tasty goodness in a bowl here.

The recipe comes from Milk Street and because it comes together so quickly and is made up of items I almost always have on hand, I think I’ll be making this a bunch this winter.

Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 cup pearl couscous

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 Tbsp tomato paste

3 tsp ground sumac, divided

1 cinnamon stick

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved

2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on a diagonal

15-1/2 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 tsp grated lemon zet, plus 1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped.

Procedure:

  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering.  Add couscous and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.
  2. In the same pot over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering.  Add the onion, 2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are well-browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of sumac and the cinnamon, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chicken, carrots, 3 cups water and the couscous.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until the chicken is opaque when cut into and the couscous is tender but not mushy, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chickpeas and the lemon zest and juice, then remove and discord the cinnamon stick.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in half of the mint and transfer to a serving bowl, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sumac and the remaining mint.

Weekly Winner: Creamy, Dreamy, Guilt-free Pasta

IMG_0815I am not one of those people who ever feel guilty about eating pasta.  Carbs and I go way back and we’ll always be BFFs.  That’s one of the many reasons why I never want hubby to give up his Saturday morning running group.  It gives me carte-blanche to prepare a pasta dish every Friday night for dinner. Runners have to carbo-load, right??)

That does not mean I can go crazy and have sausage-laden, cheesy, ooey-gooey pasta every week (I, do not run).  I still want a meal that I won’t regret eating come Saturday morning.  That is why I absolutely love this Linguine with Chickpeas and Zucchini that I found in Cook’s Country magazine.  It tastes creamy and rich due in part to the partially smashed chickpeas and grated zucchini.  There’s also just enough cheese to satisfy without making it seem heavy.  All around the perfect summer pasta.

You know it’s good when hubby decided to freeze the leftovers to have again this Friday when I won’t be home to cook!

Linguine with Chickpeas and Zucchini

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb linguine

Salt and pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 zucchini, shredded and patted dry

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup)

3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 Tbsp lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving

Procedure:

  1. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a Dutch oven.  Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.
  2. Heat oil, garlic, pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in now-empty pot over medium heat until garlic is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and chickpeas and cook until zucchini is wilted and most of its excess moisture has cooked off, about 6 minutes. Using a potato masher, lightly mash chickpeas.
  3. Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup Pecorino, parsley, lemon juice, pasta and reserved cooking water. Serve, passing lemon wedges, extra oil, and remaining 1/2 cup Pecorino separately.

Weekly Winner – Back in Balance…with bread!

My gluttonous moment has passed and I have put away all my gooey cheese, pasta, and pork products (temporarily, of course –everything in balance).  I am back to embracing salads and my favorite type of salad is one that includes bread.  I don’t care if its croutons or a roll on the side — I’m in.  My all-time favorite, however, is a panzanella salad.  What is better than crunchy bread brought back to life with a little dressing?  OK, yes, bacon… but we’re being virtuous this week, so work with me!!

There were a couple of things that caught my interest with this recipe for Chickpea Panzanella which I found in Cooking Light magazine.  First of course, was the chickpeas.  I adore chickpeas.  The other was the fact that this salad had artichoke hearts.  I cannot say I love artichoke hearts.  I didn’t think I hated them either.  Truth be told, with the exception of spinach artichoke dip, I just haven’t had much exposure to them.  I thought this would be an excellent time to try them out.  Everything else in this salad I know I adored so perhaps this would be the vehicle to win me over.  The salad was excellent.  The artichoke hearts?  Meh.  I can honestly say I would like the salad more without them.  Maybe next time I’ll swap them out for cucumbers or roasted peppers.  My husband can have his dislike for watercress, I apparently dislike artichoke hearts.

Chickpea Panzanella

Serves 5 – (seriously, that’s what they say!)

Ingredients:

1 (8-oz.) ciabatta loaf

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 (15-oz.) can unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 (8.5-oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove and discard crust from ciabatta; cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread bread cubes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes or until toasted and golden.

Combine toasted bread, tomatoes, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, feta, onion, and basil in a large bowl.

In a separate smaller bowl, combine oil, vinegar, oregano, pepper, and salt. Stir with a whisk. Pour over salad; toss to combine. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

Weekly Winner – Digging into a Big Bowl of Goodness

There is little I look forward to more than being able to curl up on the couch with my favorite evening show (or in my case, Cubs baseball) and eat dinner out of a big ‘ol bowl.  More often than not, however; the more comforting and satisfying said Bowl is to eat, the less healthy and virtuous it is to have consumed.  Not in this case. Today I present a big bowl of comfort, joy and about the healthiest thing you can eat for dinner.

I find myself eating like this more frequently than I have in the past.  Rather than a protein, veggie, starch, etc artfully displayed on a plate, I now enjoy throwing a bunch of goodness in a bowl, mixing it up and digging in!  Grain Bowls with Chicken, Spiced Chickpeas and Avocado has a bit of everything and keeps you happy and picking away until the very end.  The chickpeas and the avocado add perceived luxuriousness without any guilt.  Their creaminess is a nice contrast to all the fabulous crunch in this dish and it all of it comes together with a bright herby vinaigrette.  The recipe comes from Epicurious and while they gave a choice of grains to use in this dish, my go-to grain of choice is always farro and that’s what was used here.

Grain Bowls with Chicken, Spiced Chickpeas, and Avocado

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the chickpeas – 

2 tsp olive oil

1 15.5-oz can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, patted dry

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp kosher salt

For the dressing – 

1-1/2 cups parsley leaves

3/4 cup mint leaves

1-1/4 cups olive oil

6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp salt

For the bowls – 

4 cups cooked quinoa, farro, barley or brown rice

4 cups shredded cooked chicken

2 mini seedless cucumbers, halved, sliced

2 avocados, halved, pitted, sliced

4 cups baby arugula

1@ cup pickled red onions

4 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Procedure:

Make the chickpeas – Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook chickpeas, cumin and cayenne, shaking to coat, until heated through.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook, shaking occasionally, until chickpeas are golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels and season immediately with salt.

Make the dressing – Meanwhile, pulse parsley and mint in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add oil, lemon juice, honey, and salt and pulse to combine.

Assemble the bowls – Toss grains (farro in my case) with 1/2 cup dressing in a large bowl.  Divide among individual bowls.  Toss chicken with 1/4 cup dressing in the same large bowl.  Arrange chicken, cucumbers, avocados and arugula over farro.  Top with chickpeas, pickled onions, and sesame seeds.  Serve remaining dressing on side for drizzling.

Weekly Winner:  Crispy and Smoky One-Pot Wonderfulness

I love crispy chicken thighs, and I do truly, dearly love any meal that can be completed using only one pan or pot.  Last night’s dinner gave me both of my loves on one plate. Crispy Chicken Thighs with Smoky Chickpeas made for an incredibly satisfying and healthy Tuesday night dinner.

The recipe comes from Country Living and is about the easiest thing you can think of.  Sear some chicken, mix everything up and throw it in the oven until its done.  The real genius here though, is with the yogurt it’s served with.  Just enough cool creaminess to really bring the dish together.

It’s a simple dish – both in preparation, ingredients and execution.  But sometimes simple is the most satisfying – as is this dinner.

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Smoky Chickpeas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 tsp. canola oil

8 small bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1/2 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1½ tsp. smoked paprika

½ tsp. ground cumin

1 pt. grape tomatoes

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed

fresh thyme leaves, For serving

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ c. plain Greek yogurt

Preparation:

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook, in batches, skin side down until skin is browned and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate; reserve skillet.
Add onion and garlic to reserved skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in paprika and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and chickpeas, and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Nestle chicken into mixture, skin side up.

Roast in oven until the internal temperature of chicken reaches 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves and yogurt alongside.

Weekly Winner:  A Tasty Twist on Beans & Greens

Beans and greens have been friends forever.  Combinations include: collards, escarole, spinach, kale and chard on the green team and cannellini, kidney, and pinto for the bean team.  Put them together and you’re guaranteed a healthy and generally tasty meal or side dish. However, for it to be really memorable, things needed to be switched up in this old standard.  A recipe I found in Bon Appetit did just that by changing the beans and adding pasta and sausage.  That’s a guaranteed winner in my book!

There are a couple of things that make Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta unique.  First: the shape of the pasta – paccheri – which is like rigatoni on steroids.  I’m talking huge, short tubes of pasta goodness.  Second: it trades out the standard beans for chickpeas (always a fan favorite in this house).  Finally, there’s the crumbled fried rosemary sprinkled on top.  Enough of me blabbering on — just trust me.  This dish is special.  It’s got a great combination of textures and flavors and is the perfect thing to curl up to prepare for the craziness of the holiday season.

Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta

Serves 4

Ingredients:

⅓ cup olive oil

2 sprigs rosemary

8 ounces spicy Italian sausage, casings removed

1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, patted dry

¼ cup dry white wine

12 ounces paccheri (large tubular) pasta

Kosher salt

8 cups (lightly packed) torn kale

¾ cup finely grated Parmesan, divided

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Procedure:

  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high. Fry rosemary, turning, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  2. Add sausage to same pot and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate.
  3. Add chickpeas to pot and cook, tossing occasionally and mashing some chickpeas with spoon, until browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Transfer about half of chickpeas to plate with sausage. Add wine to pot, bring to a boil, and cook until liquid is almost completely evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.
  5. Using a spider or a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to pot with chickpeas and add kale and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing often, until kale is wilted, pasta is al dente, and sauce is thickened, about 4 minutes. Add another ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add ½ cup cheese, tossing until melted and dissolved into a luxurious, glossy sauce. Thin with more pasta cooking liquid if needed. Season with pepper, and more salt if needed. Add butter and toss to combine, then mix in reserved sausage and chickpeas.
  6. Divide pasta among bowls. Crumble rosemary over top and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese.

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