Archive for the 'Make Ahead Meals' Category

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup

Hi, all! Long time, no post. Since my husband and I started eating a mostly Paleo diet last year, I just haven’t been as inclined to write. Most meals are simple foods, simply prepared (but delicious!). I definitely repeat recipes a lot these days, whereas I used to try something new almost every day. Still, I had a friend request dinner ideas recently, so I’ll try to get back into the swing of things. (And I make no promise that absolutely everything I post will be healthy. A girl’s gotta live a little!)

Since we’re having another snow day here in Denver, I thought it would be the perfect time to post Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup from the October 2010 issue of Everyday Food. This recipe – like so many of my favorites these days – is what I like to call “accidentally Paleo.” It wasn’t created with the Paleo diet in mind, but the ingredients comply perfectly.

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 min. | Total time: 55 min.

Ingredients:
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (boneless, skinless will work fine too)
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and diced medium
1 small yellow onion, diced medium
2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water (I use Costco’s organic chicken stock)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh cilantro (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to 425°. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together chicken, squash, onion, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until squash and chicken are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool. Transfer squash and onions to a medium pot and add broth, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. With a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, mash some vegetables until soup is thick and chunky. (I just give it a few pulses with my immersion blender.) Discard skin and bones from chicken; cut meat into small pieces and add to soup. Stir in lemon juice; season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top with fresh cilantro, if desired.

roasted_chicken_and_butternut_soup

I do love this soup. It’s hearty and filling thanks to the chicken, but it certainly isn’t heavy; the squash and lemon create a light texture and bright flavor. This one of several recipes I make in big batches and then freeze individual portions for future lunches. (I’m no longer a Lean Cuisine addict – hooray!)

Recipe link: Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

We’ve been undergoing a bit of a food revolution in our house over the past few months, trying to eat as cleanly as possible (when we’re home and can control it, at least!) in the interest of being our best and healthiest selves. We eat lots of organic meat and eggs, lots of fruit and veggies (keeping the Dirty Dozen organic, at least), and a little organic dairy, and we’ve majorly reduced our beer and wine consumption. It’s been tough, but worth it. Lest you think we’re going crazy, I did bring a caramel apple pie to my friend Christopher’s amazing Thanksgiving dinner and enjoyed every single bite. (Life without any indulgence hardly seems worth living, am I right?) Still, we’re doing the best we can as often as we can.

Changing our lunch habits has been a major challenge throughout this process. I used to alternate between Lean Cuisine and turkey sandwiches; Dr. O was eating the previous night’s leftovers, or (horror of horrors!) Lean Pockets, in the event of an emergency. Since I really wanted to get away from processed food, I bought a bunch of glass Snapware at Costco and committed to stocking my freezer with homemade frozen lunches. I’ve made lots of delicious recipes (I’ll share them, promise!), but today’s recipe – Moroccan Vegetable Stew from Peace Meals – is one of my favorites. There’s a lot of prep work with the veggies, but the stew is really simple and tasty. Plus, the ingredients fill my five-quart slow cooker to the brim, which means I have plenty of lunches to freeze.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew
Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
5 cups vegetable broth (I use organic chicken broth, since that’s what I keep on hand)
2 1/2 cups diced eggplant, about 2 medium
2 cups peeled and sliced carrots, about 5 small
2 cups cauliflower florets, about 1 small head
2 cups sliced zucchini, about 2 medium
1 cup chopped onion, about 1 medium
29 ounces canned stewed tomatoes (I use Muir Glen)
15 ounces canned garbanzo beans
1 cup chopped toasted almonds
3/4 cup currants
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt (optional)

Method:
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-low. Add the garlic and spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes; be careful not to burn the garlic. Scrape the garlic and spices into a slow cooker. Add the broth and the remaining ingredients (except the yogurt) and stir. Cook on high for 6 to 7 hours. Allow to cool slightly. Purée 3 cups of the stew in a blender or food processor and return to the slow cooker, stirring to combine. Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

Source: Peace Meals

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

This is such warm, delicious, comforting food. You probably have to like eggplant in order to enjoy this one, but I just adore the way all the vegetables in this dish come together. I also love, love, love the hint of sweetness from the currants and the slight heat from the cayenne pepper.

The first time I made this stew, I was in a huge hurry, rushing to get out the door for some reason. I nearly skipped the almonds since I didn’t want to take the time to toast and chop them. It would have been a huge mistake! I thought it was so strange to put nuts in a slow-cooker stew (surely they would get spongy, right?), but they add such a wonderful texture and flavor to the dish.

TIPS: When I first made this stew, I cut my vegetables into fairly large pieces since I assumed they would cook down quite a bit (especially the eggplant and the zucchini). It didn’t really happen. Now, I use a small dice for the onion, a small-medium dice for the eggplant, and half-moons for the zucchini (and larger carrots). Also, I just put my hand blender right into the slow cooker for a few seconds at the end, rather than dirty my regular blender or food processor.

Thai Vegetable Curry

Today’s dish is one I was sure was on the blog already, based on how many times I’ve made it: Food & Wine‘s recipe for Thai Vegetable Curry. I first made it for a Thai-themed gourmet club meeting back in June of 2011 (along with this fantastic recipe for Thai Chicken with Basil). I typically make the curry every couple of months or so because it’s absolutely delicious, comforting, and incredibly easy.

This particular recipe is great for weeknights or entertaining. When I’m cooking for just the two of us, I serve it right away with a pot of rice. The curry is perfect for dinner parties, though, because it actually tastes a little bit better when it’s made a day ahead. I throw mine together in a Dutch oven, refrigerate it overnight for optimal flavor blending, and then gently reheat it on the stove while we enjoy appetizers with our guests.

Thai Vegetable Curry
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, sliced thin
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Thai green curry paste (I used red curry paste)
1 2/3 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk (one 15-ounce can)
1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup drained canned bamboo shoots, halved
1 pound boiling potatoes (about 2), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound broccoli, thick stems removed, tops cut into small florets (1 quart) (I used cauliflower)
1 tomato, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/3 cup thin-sliced basil leaves

Method:
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the curry paste and fry, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the coconut milk and broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, bamboo shoots, potatoes, and broccoli. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomato and heat through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice and basil.

Variations: Other vegetables that would taste good in place of the broccoli include carrots, eggplant, cauliflower, snow peas, cabbage, green beans, and canned baby corn. Try your favorite, or use a combination of vegetables.

Source: Food & Wine

Thai Vegetable Curry

Yum, yum, yum.  Maybe I just love curry and coconut, but this dish is simply delicious.  There’s good textural contrast in the vegetables, and I adore the warm, creamy broth.  My version is very mild since I use red curry paste; try green curry paste instead if you can’t get enough heat.

Earlier, I mentioned that I usually serve the dish immediately when it’s just the two of us and a day later when we’re entertaining.  One other modification I make is that I’ll use light coconut milk for us and regular coconut milk when we have guests.  Light coconut milk makes the dish super healthy (only 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per serving, without rice).  Regular coconut milk doesn’t make it a nutritional disaster, but it certainly adds a richness to the broth that elevates the dish for company.

Recipe link: Thai Vegetable Curry

Vegetarian Chili

After enjoying glorious temperatures for the past couple of weeks, we’re back to comfort food weather here in Denver. (82° to 42° in 24 hours?  So Colorado.) Today’s recipe is one of my favorite recent discoveries: Vegetarian Chili from the May 2010 issue of Everyday Food. It’s quick and easy, but it’s also hearty and has great depth of flavor (thank you, chipotle chile powder!). I made it last month up in the mountains for a group of friends that included a vegetarian and several meat eaters. While my sassy meat-eating friends refused to call it chili since it’s meatless, one of them also said it was in his top five “soups” of all time. I’ll take it!

Vegetarian Chili
Total time: 35 min. | Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3/4 cup (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15.5 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

Method:
In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and garlic is soft, about 4 minutes. Add cumin and chile powder, season with salt and pepper, and cook until spices are fragrant, 1 minute. Add zucchini and tomato paste; cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste is deep brick red, 3 minutes. Stir in black beans, pinto beans, and both cans diced tomatoes. Add 2 cups water and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer and cook until zucchini is tender and liquid reduces slightly, 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Source: Everyday Food, May 2010

Vegetarian Chili

I’ve been on the hunt for a good vegetarian chili recipe, and I have to tell you, this is IT. I love the smokiness of the chipotle chile powder (it makes the dish!), the sweetness of the tomatoes, and the crisp-tender texture of the zucchini. The chili is chunky, hearty, filling, and delicious. Since the flavor is actually better than most meat chilis I’ve tried or made, it’s perfect for entertaining vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

My only warning: If you don’t enjoy spicy food, you’ll want to cut the amount of chipotle chile powder considerably. As it’s written, the chili is quite warm (but certainly not unbearable), and that’s if you use canned tomatoes with mild green chiles. As a person who has been working to increase my tolerance for spicy foods, it pushes my boundaries just a bit. Our friends loved the amount of heat, but they did notice that it built up as they ate. Sour cream will offer some relief if you need it.

Recipe link: Vegetarian Chili

TIPS:  I was shocked to see the cheapest option for chipotle chile powder at my usual grocery store was $8.19. Yikes. Thankfully, I was able to find a jar at SuperTarget for $4.99. Even better if you have time: Go to a local spice store (Savory Spice Shop is my favorite!) and buy an even smaller (and less expensive) quantity.

Dinner Party Menus: Niman Ranch Burgers

Labor Day is fast approaching (I cannot even believe it’s September already), and I have the perfect burger-based menu for anyone who is planning a cookout to celebrate.  As is, the menu will serve six people somewhat generously; the recipes are easily doubled (or tripled!) for extra guests.

Appetizer:
Hummus with Peppers and Pita Chips

Meal:
Niman Ranch Burgers with Cheddar, Tomato, Caramelized Onion, and Spicy Mayo
Orzo and Zucchini Salad
Grilled Corn

Dessert:
Ice Cream Cones

The hummus, pita chips, ice cream, and ice cream cones are all store-bought, which saves some time and prep work.  Here’s the prep schedule I followed for a 6 p.m. dinner party on a Friday:

Anytime Thursday:
Chill beverages
Wash and iron napkins (unless you’re using disposables)
Make caramelized onions (part of Niman Ranch Burgers recipe) and refrigerate
Make spicy mayo (combine light mayo and Chalula or other hot sauce to taste) and refrigerate

Friday morning or afternoon (work takes 60 – 90 minutes):
Slice peppers for hummus (I usually do a very large dice instead of strips because bigger pieces are better for dipping) and refrigerate
Slice zucchini for orzo salad and refrigerate
Wash, dry, and tear basil for orzo salad and refrigerate
Make corn packets (recipe follows) and refrigerate
Make burger patties (place squares of wax paper between each patty for easy use later; store on a plate and cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container) and refrigerate
Set table (unless you’re serving buffet-style)
Set serving dishes aside (this prevents me from having to root around for dishes and ask my guests to move while they’re enjoying appetizers at my kitchen island)

5:00 p.m.: Make Orzo and Zucchini Salad (zucchini is already sliced and basil is ready to go).  Cover and set aside until dinnertime.  (For best flavor, do not refrigerate.)

5:45 p.m.: Set out hummus, peppers, and pita chips.

6:00 p.m.: Guests arrive!  Make sure everyone has a beverage.

6:15 p.m.: Pre-heat grill on high.

6:30 p.m.: Scrub grill with wire brush.  Lower heat to medium-high.  Cook corn packets according to recipe.  While corn is cooking, slice tomato for burgers and set out caramelized onions, spicy mayo, and any other desired burger condiments. Slice hamburger buns (if they aren’t pre-sliced).  These are good tasks for guests if you want help! 🙂

6:50 p.m.: Remove corn packets from grill and set aside.  Lightly oil grill and cook burgers according to recipe (about 4:30 per side).  Place cheddar cheese slices on burgers during last minute of cooking.

7:00 p.m.: Dinner is served!  Let guests assemble their own burgers, and serve with orzo salad and corn.

Once everyone’s food has settled, set store-bought ice cream on the counter for 10 minutes to soften.  Scoop ice cream into store-bought cones to serve. (Or, if you want to put in a little more effort, set up an ice cream bar with bowls, sprinkles, and other toppings.)

Here’s my corn recipe for anyone who wants to give it a try:

Jenny’s Grilled Corn
Serves 6

Ingredients:
6 ears sweet corn
Olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Method:
Remove the husks and silk from the corn.  Place each ear of corn on a large piece of foil.  Brush each ear with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Fold in the sides of the foil and roll around each ear to completely enclose the corn in foil. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Heat grill to medium-high.  Place corn on grill and cook for 20 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove foil and serve.

Grilled Corn

This meal was seriously fantastic.  My friend Christopher equated it to restaurant food, which is a wonderful compliment.  The burgers were juicy and deliciously sloppy (have lots of napkins!), the corn was tender and smoky, and the orzo salad was bright and fresh.  I love that the appetizer and dessert courses were so easy thanks to store-bought elements, and the rest of the meal really did require minimal work while my guests were present.  Perfection!  I’ll definitely use this menu again.

TIPS:  Have a vegetarian guest?  Add Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese or store-bought veggie burgers to the menu.  Also, I feel like a key element of a good burger (meat or veggie) is that the bread doesn’t overwhelm the patty.  I love, love, love SuperTarget’s mini Kaiser rolls (available in the deli section) for this reason; they’re the perfect size.

Recipe links: Niman Ranch Burgers and Orzo and Zucchini Salad

Dueling Veggie Burgers

I’m having a vegetarian dinner guest again this weekend, and my tried-and-true options (a) have been done before, and (b) aren’t seeming super appropriate at this moment with this gorgeous weather.  What does seem appropriate?  Grilling! Burgers and side salads make an easy entertaining menu, so I decided to try two very different vegetarian burger recipes: Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers and Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese.

My use of the word “dueling” in the title might suggest that there was actually some hot competition between the recipes.  There wasn’t.  One recipe was leaps and bounds (truly!) above the other.  I wanted to include both, though, to help anyone who might be having their own veggie burger debate.

I’ll start with the Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers since I made them first.  The patties were made of quinoa, carrots, scallions, beans, breadcrumbs, and egg; they were seasoned with cumin, salt, and pepper.  The patties came together easily and without too much mess, and I liked that they could be assembled a day ahead and held (uncooked) in the refrigerator.  The recipe called for the patties to be cooked on the stove, but I decided to use my outdoor grill since it would create less mess when I was entertaining my guests.  They cooked up easily (I did 8 minutes per side over medium heat) and didn’t stick to the grill at all.

The problem?  Despite all those delicious ingredients, they didn’t have a lot of flavor.  They were also super dry when we reheated the leftovers the next day.  The yogurt-lemon-scallion sauce helped quite a bit, but the experience really should be about the burger, right?  Carnivores would never trade a beef or turkey burger for one of these, but I figured the quinoa burger would be a not-amazing-but-good-enough backyard barbecue option for vegetarians.

Greek Style Quinoa Burgers

That was, until I tasted the Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese.  Oh.  Mah.  Gawd.  They were just as easy to make as the quinoa burgers (maybe easier) and still had make-ahead convenience factor, but I would actually choose this over meat from time to time.  Portobellos are a meaty mushroom to begin with, and they soaked up the marinade so beautifully.  You know that wonderfully messy, juicy dribble you get when you bite into a fantastic burger? You get it here.  With roasted red peppers and goat cheese (two of my favorite ingredients!) on a grill-toasted bun, this was absolute heaven.

Balsamic Portobello Burger with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese

My only note is that you’ll use either one or two mushrooms per burger depending on the size of your portobellos.  Just make sure you get at least the weight recommended by the recipe (1 pound).  Consider making extras…  You won’t regret it!

Recipe links: Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers and Balsamic Portobello Burgers with Red Pepper and Goat Cheese

Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos

I was recently selected to participate in a challenge put on by Foodbuzz and New Belgium Brewing.  The goal: to create a recipe that incorporates a New Belgium beer or pairs well with one.  In return, I would receive a $50 stipend to buy beer and ingredients (yes!) and the opportunity to connect with New Belgium’s many, many Facebook fans (double yes!) if the company likes my recipe well enough to post it.  I was especially excited about this challenge because Dr. O and I have been huge fans of New Belgium for years.  Since we live in Denver, we’ve even been able to make a trip up to Ft. Collins to visit the brewery.

Dr. O at New Belgium

Not-Yet-Dr. O waaaay back in the day

To honor my hubby’s favorite (classic Fat Tire), I decided to build on a pulled pork taco recipe that I developed for a friend’s party last year.  Here it is:

Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos
Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:
3 1/2-pound pork shoulder roast, trimmed of excess fat
1 cup Fat Tire (drink the rest!)
1 small onion, peeled and cut into thick wedges
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Salsa
Sliced avocado
Queso fresco
Tortillas or taco shells

Method:
In a 5-quart slow cooker, combine beer, onion, serrano pepper, garlic, and bay leaf. Cut pork roast in half and add to the slow cooker.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top of the pork.  Cook on low heat for 8 hours (or high heat for 6 hours).

Transfer pork from the slow cooker to a large bowl.  Cover to keep warm.

Skim fat from the top of the slow cooker juices (or pour juices into a fat separator). Strain juices into a medium saucepan (discard solids) and cook over medium-high heat until reduced by half (about 5 to 7 minutes).

Meanwhile, shred pork with two forks.  Discard any obvious pieces of fat.  Pour reduced slow cooker juices over the shredded pork and toss to combine.  Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve pork in tortillas or taco shells with your favorite salsa, sliced avocado, and queso fresco.  Enjoy with Fat Tire, of course!

Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos

This recipe produces great results.  The meat comes out tender, moist, and flavorful, and the accompaniments round out the dish nicely.  Fat Tire and tacos are a match made in heaven.  Give them a try!

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

I have two dilemmas on the grocery front this week.  One, I have so many beers in my refrigerator right now (party leftovers!) that I barely have room for anything else. Two, I have significant quantities of strawberries and grapes that I need to use.  I was able to respect the space issue and make use of some of the grapes with today’s recipe: Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad from the June 2002 issue of Cooking Light.  Luckily, I had both green and red grapes left over from the party, and I had all of the other ingredients on hand except for the chicken breast (minimal fridge space needed) and the red onion (pantry storage).

Here’s the recipe:

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad
Serves 4 (approximately 1 1/4 cups per serving)

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup seedless green grapes, halved
3/4 cup seedless red grapes, halved
2/3 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine onion powder, paprika, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sprinkle over chicken.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, and sauté 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Wrap handle of skillet in foil; bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until done. Remove from pan; refrigerate until chilled. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, green grapes, and next 6 ingredients (green grapes through orange juice) in a large bowl. Add chopped chicken, and toss to coat. Sprinkle salad with walnuts.

Source: Cooking Light, June 2002

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

This salad is soooooo good.  So good!  It’s super fresh tasting (the grapes), kicky (the red onion, paprika, and chili powder), and bright (the orange juice and vinegar).  The crunch of the toasted walnuts and the celery is fantastic as well.  I was initially a bit nervous about my chicken because my spices ended up blackening on the stove instead of browning, but the end result was flavorful, juicy meat.

Not that I advocate trickery, but I think this is one of those salads you could get away with serving to people who claim to hate mayonnaise.  There’s such a small quantity of it and it’s so diluted by the orange juice and the vinegar that you can’t even tell it’s in there.  Evil, I know.  What isn’t so evil is the nutritional value of the salad: only 7 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per serving!

Anyway, I acknowledge that I made this today because I already had most of the ingredients, but I would absolutely go out of my way to get the ingredients in order to make this again.  It’s definitely going into the book club/casual lunch/barbecue buffet recipe cache.

Recipe link: Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

Chicken and Spinach Casserole

I initially hesitated to post this recipe because I knew it wouldn’t photograph very well, but what the heck?  It’s too yummy not to share.

I’m not usually one for recipe repeats (unless I’m entertaining), but I’ve made this dish twice in the past couple of weeks.  Both times, I was motivated by the need to use an excess amount of spinach in my refrigerator.  (I can’t pass up organic baby spinach at Costco since, at under $4, it’s less than the tiny containers I would get at the regular grocery store.  A pound of spinach is a lot of spinach, though!)  The first time was a test; the second time, I knew I’d be making something absolutely delicious.

What do I like about this recipe (besides the flavor, obviously)?  I like that it uses fresh spinach instead of the frozen stuff, since I think fresh tastes so much better. I like that it incorporates the convenience of rotisserie chicken.  I also appreciate that there isn’t much prep work, since the only ingredient that requires chopping is one onion.  (I used jarred minced garlic.)  I love that it can be made ahead, though I haven’t taken advantage of that option just yet.  Here’s the dish after Dr. O and I had devoured half of it:

Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Think of this dish as creamed spinach with shredded chicken and fabulous, salty toasted bread on top.  If that appeals to you (and it does to me!), you’ll love this dish.  I also enjoy that I get something super creamy that isn’t completely nutritionally devastating because the base is made with half-and-half instead of cream.

Note:  I baked this in a 1 1/2-quart Corningware dish, and I’ll admit that the amount of food the recipe produces isn’t huge.  This is perfect for Dr. O and me to have dinner with enough left over for one person’s lunch the next day.  If you wanted to serve four (or even six) adults, I would double the recipe.  Also, be generous with seasoning during the cooking process.  It makes all the difference.

Recipe link: Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

Football party season is upon us (Dr. O is out enjoying one as I write), which means it’s time to break out our very best game day recipes.  I found one this past week that is easy, perfect for entertaining (slow cooker!), and is actually pretty healthy: Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches from the January/February 2011 issue of Everyday Food.  The recipe isn’t on the Everyday Food site yet, so I’ll share it with you here.

Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
Serves 8 | Active time: 25 min. | Total time: 4 hr. 25 min.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup hot-pepper sauce, such as Frank’s (I used Cholula)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
8 hamburger buns

Method:
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Add chicken thighs, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring once, until meat is golden brown, 5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer to a slow cooker, leaving as much oil behind as possible. Repeat with chicken breasts.

To skillet, add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until onion is translucent, 6 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup water and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet, 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and transfer to slow cooker.

To slow cooker, add crushed tomatoes, hot-pepper sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, and molasses; stir to combine.  Cover and cook on high until chicken is very tender, 4 hours.  Shred chicken and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve on buns.

Note: Refrigerate the finished dish in an airtight container, up to 5 days, or freeze, up to 3 months.

Nutrition per serving: 358 cal; 10 g fat (3 g sat fat); 35 g protein; 31 g carb; 3 g fiber

Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

These sandwiches were SO good!  I have a basic barbecued chicken sandwich recipe that I’ve been using for years, but this recipe has so much more depth of flavor. Unless I’m short on time, I’ll take this sandwich any day.  I should note, though, that the inclusion of the word “spicy” in the recipe title isn’t a joke.  I was cautious and cut the hot sauce to 3 tablespoons instead of 4; the heat was still enough to make our noses run.  (Our New Mexico and Arizona friends joke that we’re still “in training” when it comes to eating spicy food…  Somehow, I think this will be a lifelong process!)  Anyway, if you like it hot, go with the full 1/4 cup; if you don’t do spicy food, you might still get a hint of heat if you cut the hot sauce to 2 tablespoons.

Since I’m used to cooking fattier cuts of meat (like pork shoulder or chuck roast) in the slow cooker, I was a bit skeptical about how well the chicken breast would shred.  It was amazingly easy!  I guess that just goes to show that the slow cooker can do amazing things with meat, lean or not.

I won’t be cooking on Super Bowl Sunday, but I’m absolutely putting these sandwiches in my game day arsenal.  Give them a try the next time you need to make a casual supper for a crowd.




The Daring Kitchen

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