Friday, June 6, 2014

Spicy Chicken Peanut Noodles with Cucumber Sambal

Okay, I know this probably looks kind of weird. It's not often that you see hot noodles and chicken paired with a cold salad. It probably sounds even weirder than it looks. And I know you're thinking that the ingredient list seems really long. But basically, you're just gonna have to trust me on this one. Have I ever steered you wrong before?

My kids are huge fans of both peanut butter noodles and cucumbers, so when I spotted this recipe I immediately had them in mind. Not surprisingly, they absolutely loved this meal, and so did Joe and I. There's something about the silkiness of the noodles paired with the cool, refreshing salad and crunchy peanuts that is just amazing. All of the ingredients work together in perfect balance. We loved, loved, loved this meal. 

Spicy Chicken Peanut Noodles with Cucumber Sambal
slightly adapted from Tasty Kitchen

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
8 ounces dry spaghetti
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish

For the marinade:

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet red chili sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon salt 

For the peanut sauce:

1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons  brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sweet red chili sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or minced 

For the cucumber sambal:

1 cup cucumber, seeded and diced
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt

1. Preheat grill to medium-high. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.

2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Toss with chicken and grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove chicken from grill (or grill pan), and tent with foil while preparing the other ingredients.

3. Prepare the cucumber sambal by tossing together the sambal ingredients. Set aside till serving.

4. Cook the pasta according to the package; drain and return to the pot. Meanwhile, prepare peanut sauce. Heat broth, peanut butter, brown sugar, vinegar, lime juice, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, and ginger in a saucepan over medium heat to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, stir in salt, then pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat.

5. Top each serving of pasta with a chicken breast and cucumber sambal. Garnish with peanuts.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

BBQ Cheddar Meatloaf Muffins

My kids love BBQ anything. BBQ chips, BBQ chicken, BBQ ribs...I could probably pour BBQ sauce over ice cream and they'd eat it. This is so different from the way I was when I was a kid that it makes me laugh. I was completely indifferent to BBQ sauce until my pregnancy with Will. Now, though, I'm with them: I love BBQ anything.

Another thing we all love is meatloaf (aka sauce cake), so it was only a matter of time before I combined those two loves. And thus, these BBQ cheddar meatloaf muffins were born. Let me tell you, it was love at first bite for all of us.

What makes these extra-delicious are the crushed French-fried onions I stir into the meat mixture. They give the meat such an incredible flavor. With only a handful of ingredients, these couldn't be simpler to prepare -- and they are so incredibly tasty. 

I served the meatloaf muffins with corn and coleslaw. The next day, I put a couple of the leftover muffins and some of the leftover coleslaw on a bun to make the most delicious sandwich in the entire universe. I'm giving myself a fist bump for that.

BBQ Cheddar Meatloaf Muffins

1 pound lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups freshly-shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 small can French-fried onions
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, divided
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin. Using a food processor or blender, pulse the French-fried onions until finely crushed.

2. Combine beef, 1 cup cheese, the crushed French-fried onions, 1/4 cup BBQ sauce, egg, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Divide into 12 equal portions and place in the prepared muffin tin. Brush remaining 1/4 cup BBQ sauce over each portion. 

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly over each portion. Cook for 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 2, 2014

May Recipe Re-Make Recap

It's June, you guys! JUNE! After that hideous winter we had it's been difficult for me to accept that warm weather is here to say (at least for the next few months), but now it's JUNE and there's no denying it. It's summer! Let's all breathe a collective sigh of relief....Ahhhhh. 

May was definitely the busiest month we've had so far this year, and that's really saying a lot. Will finished up his soccer season with a total of four goals scored, and is already asking when fall season is going to start. Andrew is deep into his tee-ball season with Joe coaching. He's barely batting from the tee at all anymore, and is making great progress at hitting. He turned six (!!!!) on May 10th and graduated from kindergarten last Friday. It's hard for me to believe that I'm the mother of an almost-first-grader!

We've been working on a lot of outside projects -- putting up our pool (and filling it up -- ugh, I'm already fretting about that water bill!), planting our garden, and building a new and improved fire pit. I'm more excited about summer than I've ever been before, thinking about all the fun we're going to have and all the fresh food we're (hopefully!) going to eat.

Even as busy as we've been, I managed to cook quite a few meals. Many of our favorites made reappearances this month, including a few recipes I hadn't made for literally years

These grilled chicken Caesar flatbreads are definitely a favorite around here. The chicken is so flavorful and succulent, and I just can't think of much better than eating a portable Caesar salad. ALDI sells naan now for a great price, so I picked some up to use for the flatbreads. I will probably always use naan for these now.

Over the winter, when I was pining for warm weather and grilled foods, this grilled pesto chicken with tomato cream penne was the meal I was most looking forward to. It didn't disappoint. It never does.

Shrimp po boys are a favorite around here, with kids and adults alike. I should actually start doubling the amount of shrimp, since we're all guilty of snacking on them while I'm frying the batches. I think this is one of the best sandwiches there is.

I hadn't made this vegetable lasagna for a few years. When one of my co-workers and his wife had a baby recently, I knew this was the perfect thing to make for them. I made two: one for them, and one for us. It was just as hearty and delicious as I remembered. Unattractive photo aside, you really must try this. It's a delicious meatless entree, and loaded with good-for-you veggies.

I also made the new parents a batch of vanilla pudding chocolate chip cookies, because what's more soul-soothing than a batch of cookies when you're dealing with new parenthood? (Or any type of parenthood, for that matter.) This is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Lately, I've been adding 1 cup of dark chocolate chips to the batter, too.

I made a batch of creamy stovetop macaroni and cheese to go with steamed broccoli and homemade chicken nuggets, because sometimes it's just fun to eat like a kid. I love this recipe; it's so simple, and the macaroni is perfectly creamy and cheesy.

When life hands you rotten bananas, everyone knows you make banana bread. I modified my favorite recipe into muffins this time (they cooked for about 25 minutes). These were a delicious breakfast for us -- while they lasted!

This Crock pot pork roast with potatoes and carrots was a perfect meal for one of our especially busy nights this month. I got a new, larger Crock pot for Christmas, so I was delighted that I could fit even more potatoes and carrots in (that's my favorite part of this meal; I mash them with butter and salt, and they are amazing).

I reserved half of the pork roast to use for these pulled pork pita pizzas. This was a delicious 10-minute dinner, equally suited for another busy night!

This rosemary ranch chicken is hands-down my favorite grilled chicken recipe. The flavor is so amazing, and the marinade makes the chicken incredibly tender. Every time we make it, we're wowed all over again by how delicious it is.

Speaking of ranch chicken -- these ranch chicken tacos are another family favorite. I didn't even have them on our menu plan, but I got a sudden craving for them and had to make them. They're so simple and delicious; the only problem is, however much chicken I make, we never seem to have enough!

Here's another meal that I crave. Biscuits with sausage gravy is probably one of my favorite meals on the planet. This time we had cheesy hash browns on the side, and I may or may not have loaded those up with the gravy too...

This taco macaroni and cheese has become one of the most popular recipes on my site. I made it for us on a whim, since it had been a while since the last time we had it. I just had to confirm that all of the attention it's getting is well-deserved -- and I believe that it is!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Recipe Rewind: Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Onions

Memorial Day cook-outs are all about The Meat. We know this. BBQ chicken, brats, burgers, hot dogs...We load the grill up with all of it, and we go for it

But may I suggest that, this year, you leave a tiny bit of space open for some bell peppers and onions, and make this pasta dish to go alongside all of The Meat? I promise you won't be sorry.

I first made this pasta years ago, and it was long overdue for a reappearance here. This is one dish that's every bit as delicious as it is gorgeous. It's hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main dish, but it's also a perfect side dish. The flavor of the grilled peppers and onions, especially in combination with the basil, is just fantastic. 

This is perfect summer food: It's healthy, simple, and oh-so-satisfying.

Rigatoni with Grilled Peppers and Onions
from Real Simple
2 medium red onions, sliced into rings
2 large sweet bell peppers, cut into quarters
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
12 ounces (4 to 5 cups) rigatoni
1 bunch spinach, stems trimmed, or one 5-ounce package
1 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces) grated Parmesan
3/4 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. In a large bowl, toss the onions, bell peppers, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Grill, turning occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return the pasta to the pot. Add the grilled vegetables, spinach, the reserved pasta water, and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan to the pasta and toss to combine. Top with the basil and the remaining Parmesan before serving.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Chicken Parmesan Ravioli

It's just a fact that some of the best meals I make are afterthoughts -- things that I throw together only with ingredients I happen to have on hand. Inevitably, those meals are uncomplicated and prepared with straightforward ingredients, and my family always loves them. 

This chicken parmesan ravioli is a perfect example of that type of meal. I had a bunch of random ingredients on hand that I'd purchased for a dish I never got around to making -- so I made this with them instead. Breaded chicken nuggets, cheese ravioli, tomato sauce, and some chunks of fresh mozzarella and chopped basil tossed in at the end...I think I liked this version better than classic chicken parm, and judging by the way my family inhaled it, I don't think they had any complaints either.

Chicken Parmesan Ravioli

1 pound chicken tenders, cut into chunks
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 package frozen cheese ravioli
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
Shredded parmesan cheese

1. Place the breadcrumbs, flour, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese in a plastic freezer bag. Dip the chicken chunks in egg, then add to the bag and shake to evenly coat. 

2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Fry the chicken in batches until crisp and cooked through. Remove to a baking sheet and place in a warm oven while you prepare the rest of the meal.

3. Meanwhile, heat the spaghetti sauce over gentle heat in a medium pot. Cook the ravioli according to package directions; drain.

4. Return the ravioli to the hot pot. Add the heated sauce, the reserved chicken pieces, the chopped mozzarella, and most of the basil. Stir gently to combine.

5. Sprinkle each serving with additional basil and parmesan cheese.