Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken
slightly adapted from Serious Eats


For the Chicken:
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4-inch chunks (see note above)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fine ground black pepper
1 teaspoon black soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine (can substitute dry sherry)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

For the Stir-Fry:
1 tablespoon black soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vegetable, peanut, or canola oil, divided
2 large bell peppers, any color, cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 stalks celery, cut into 3/4-inch dice
1 cup (4 ounces) roasted peanuts
3 cloves minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 scallion, finely sliced
8 small dried red Chinese or Arbol chiles (you can also add crushed chiles, see note below)


For chicken: Combine chicken, salt, pepper, black soy sauce, wine, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Set aside for 20 minutes.

For stir fry: Combine black soy sauce, wine, vinegar, water, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a wok or large deep skillet over high heat until smoking. Add chicken, spread into a single layer, and cook without moving until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Continue cooking, tossing and stirring frequently, until the exterior is opaque but chicken is still slightly raw in the center, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil over high heat until smoking. Add bell peppers and celery and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until brightly colored and browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Add peanuts and toss to combine. Push vegetables up side of wok to clear a space in the center. Add garlic, ginger, scallions, and dried chiles and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return chicken to wok and toss to combine. Stir sauce and add to wok. Cook, tossing, until sauce thickens and coats ingredients and chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Serve immediately.


Oh you guys. I've had kung pao chicken on my "to make" list for so long and now I am kicking myself for not getting to it sooner. This is absolutely delicious. This is more like American takeout style kung pao chicken - no szechuan peppercorns here - but unlike American-style takeout, it is huge in flavor, light in grease.

One note: I've never actually ordered kung pao in a restaurant (I KNOW), but I think I always assumed the chiles made the dish spicy. Um, not really. I even tried cutting the heads off the second time I made it, to let some of the flavor and seeds cook into the dish. Still nothing (unless you count actually eating the chiles with the dish, which I know you're not "supposed" to do, but I do anyway). If you want heat cooked in, I suggest adding some crushed chiles (the Asian market kind, not the Italian food kind) during that last cooking step when you add the chiles. Or you can always spice it up at the table.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Chicken Chorizo Patty Melts

Chicken Chorizo Patty Melts
adapted from Sunny Anderson


1 pound ground chicken
8 ounces fresh chorizo (I use my homemade version)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 large sweet onions, sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 oblong/rectangular flat breads
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Ketchup, for serving


In a large bowl, gently but thoroughly combine the chicken, chorizo, garlic, oregano and salt. Form into four equal patties, roughly the shape and size of the bread you will be using. Cover the patties with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

In a medium saute pan on medium heat melt the butter with the oil. Add the onion and season with a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of pepper, to taste. Saute until the onions are caramelized, about 35 minutes, and set aside.

Preheat a large skillet (or grill pan) over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook until crispy on the edges and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Add shredded cheese to each patty in the last minute of cooking, to melt. Remove to a plate.

Assemble the sandwiches: place one of the patties on half the flat bread, top with onions. Fold the other half of the bread over and serve.


These are seriously awesome sandwiches. I've started making the patties as a freezer staple (warp in plastic wrap, store two per quart-size bag) so that we have them available for a quick weekend lunch.

The original recipe has you grilling the flatbreads, but I skip that step. I also switched the cheese from Swiss to cheddar. I think it goes better with the chorizo.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Venison Tortelloni Bake

Venison Tortelloni Bake
inspired by Nevada Foodies


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb ground venison (or lean beef or turkey)
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz fresh spinach, chopped
1 14.5-oz can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
16 ounces refrigerated cheese tortelloni (see notes)
4 oz shredded mozzarella (see notes)
1 oz finely shredded Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add venison and saute for 4-5 minutes, breaking into small chunks with a spoon, until nearly cooked through. Add onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for about a minute. Add chopped spinach and cook until wilted.

Stir in tomato sauce, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and salt. Simmer for a few minutes to let the flavors come together, then add tortelloni and gently mix.

Pour mixture into large baking dish (or, if you prefer, leave in skillet if it is oven-safe). Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, top with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese, then return the pan to the oven for another 5 minutes, or until cheese is thoroughly melted. Serve.


This has a similar flavor profile to my pasta bake (which I often make with ragu bolognese, so even closer in texture) AND my sausage and spinach tortelloni... AND YET.

This was different. PHENOMENAL. Everything I dreamed it would be the whole time I was fantasizing about having the venison to try the recipe. I will make this with more of the venison I currently have and then make it with my wild game ragu or wild game Italian sausage. So, so great.

Note on pasta: I buy a 3-pound bag of tortelloni at Costco and split it into 1-pound portions, but I know tortelloni is not always easy to find. Tortellini ("ini" are smaller) will work fine, as will small ravioli.

Note on mozzarella: by all means, add more, up to 8 oz. We like slightly less cheese than most folks, so feel free to adjust to your or your family's taste.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Southwestern Chicken Stew

Southwestern Chicken Stew
adapted from Lemons for Lulu


1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded, diced
3 large cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon oregano (I use Mexican)
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon chile powder (I use New Mexican)
1-1/3 cup frozen corn
1 15-oz can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained, rinsed
7 oz can diced green chiles, undrained
1 quart chicken broth (or water)
1/2 cup half and half
Optional for garnish: cilantro, scallions, hot sauce


Heat a large soup pot over medium high. Add chicken and saute for 6 or 7 minutes, until cooked through. Add onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Cook for 4 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Season with cumin, oregano, salt, and chile powder. Add corn, black beans, tomatoes and green chiles. Stir in broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Pour half and half into the pot and stir to heat through. Garnish as desired.


Flavor profile similar to many a southwestern soup (similar to my chicken tortilla soup, in fact), but with an added creamy twist. This turned out so fabulous I've made it three times in the last few weeks. Thick, spicy, hearty, DELICIOUS.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Easy Chicken, Chorizo and Shrimp Paella

Easy Chicken, Chorizo and Shrimp Paella
slightly adapted and with thanks to Iowa Girl Eats


2-1/2 cups chicken broth
Pinch of Spanish saffron (SEE NOTES)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped
8 oz Mexican chorizo (I use my homemade version)
1 large shallot or 1/2 red onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup long grain white rice
6-8 oz frozen shrimp (small or extra small is fine)
1 cup frozen peas


Bring chicken broth and saffron to a boil in a small saucepan then turn heat to low and place a lid on top to keep hot.

Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat then add chicken, chorizo, and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and then saute until chorizo and chicken are cooked through, 5 minutes, breaking chorizo up as it cooks. Add garlic then saute for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and their juices, paprika, and cayenne pepper if using then saute until tomatoes are softened, 3 minutes.

Add rice and hot broth to skillet then stir to combine and bring to a boil. Place a lid on top then lower heat and simmer until rice has nearly absorbed all the broth and is just slightly al dente, 13-15 minutes. Stir in shrimp and peas then place lid back on top and let skillet sit off the heat for 5 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper to taste then serve.


Fantastic. Spicy and savory and unlike any other dinner in my recipe archive. Bonus: I am always looking for more uses for my homemade Mexican-style chorizo. This recipe is a great addition to that (so far very short) list.

Note about the saffron: I am frugal in my kitchen and haven't been able to bring myself to buy the saffron for this recipe. I simply add the 2-1/2 cups of very hot stock (or even just water!) to the pan with the rice. Yes, I know that technically saffron is what makes it paella. Yes, I know it's not authentic. It's still a fabulous dish. So if you don't want to spend the money on the saffron, by all means, don't! You can still make this delicious dinner without it.

Thursday, February 26, 2015




2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh parsley
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (or 4 roma tomatoes, chopped)

1 large jalapeno, minced
2 large cloves garlic, grated
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large salad bowl, lightly mix together the chickpeas, black beans, mint, parsley, onion, and tomatoes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the jalapeno pepper, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. Pour over the salad and toss to combine.

Sprinkle with salt and black pepper to serve.


I am always on the lookout for new, easy, delicious ways to satisfy the afternoon hungries. First, there was tabbouleh. Then, there was cumin-lime chickpea salad. Now, there is balela. My goodness is this ever fantastic. Tangy, spicy, zingy, but also creamy from the combination of the two types of beans. This is definitely my new obsession.

Portion size note: The recipe as is would probably serve 8 people as a lunch or dinner side dish. For afternoon snacks, I cut this recipe right in half and split it into five portions and thought it was perfect.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Cheater Korean Beef Stir Fry

Cheater Korean Beef Stir Fry


1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1.5 pounds lean ground beef or venison
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons chile garlic sauce
salt and pepper
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 pound broccoli crowns, chopped into stems and florets and steamed
2 large carrots, julienned (or 1 cup pre-shredded)


Heat the sesame oil in a large, deep skillet or wok over medium-high. Brown the beef, breaking into small chunks, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Toss in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, and chile garlic sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Add the broccoli and carrots. Simmer for 1-2 more minutes to blend the flavors. Toss in the scallions.

Serve over white or brown jasmine rice.


When my friend Amy posted this base recipe for Cheater Korean Beef, I knew Steve and I would love it, but I had no idea just how much. It. Is. AMAZING. I can't stop making it. It's on my menu tomorrow night, for the fourth week in a row. It's funny how so few ingredients, the right ingredients, can produce something so phenomenal.

The only problem I had with the original was it didn't make nearly enough for leftovers. So I took the base recipe of the beef and sauce, scaled it up a bit (except the sugar), and added broccoli and shredded carrots. PERFECT. I can't wait to make this with venison!

Single Crust Chicken Pot Pie

Single Crust Chicken Pot Pie


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large carrot, diced
1 large stalk celery, chopped
1 medium Russet potato, peeled and cubed small
2/3 cup frozen green peas
2/3 cup frozen corn
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed (optional)
1/3 cup milk
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)

In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, celery, potatoes, peas and corn. Add enough water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, reserving the liquid, and set aside.

In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, thyme, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in 2 cups of reserved cooking liquid and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally, until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Spray a deep dish pie pan or small casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place the chicken mixture in the dish. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.


Satisfies the cravings for pot pie, but without going completely overboard in terms of fat and calories. In fact, I almost wanted to call this "healthy" chicken pot pie, but let's just say it's a "weeknight" version. Weekend, special occasion pot pie would be heavier on the butter and milk and have a double crust, but this version with a single crust, loads of fresh vegetables, and a very light touch with the sauce base make it highly suitable for everyday eats. And it's absolutely delicious!

Chopped Thai Salad with Sesame-Garlic Dressing

Chopped Thai Salad with Sesame-Garlic Dressing
slightly adapted from Pinch of Yum


For the dressing:
1/3 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated ginger

For the salad:
16 ounces frozen shelled edamame
5-oz bag baby kale (or kale-spinach mix)
3 large carrots
2 bell peppers (I prefer red, orange, yellow in this)
1 cup cilantro leaves
3 green onions
3/4 cup cashews


Puree all the dressing ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust to fit your preferences. Transfer to a dressing jar and rinse the food processor out for use later.

Cook the edamame by boiling it for 3-5 minutes in a pot of boiling water. Drain and allow it to cool. Meanwhile, slice up the kale, carrots, peppers, cilantro leaves, and green onions into thin strips or shreds.

Place the cooked edamame in the food processor and pulse 5 times to get a minced texture. Transfer to a bowl and repeat the same process for the cashews. Toss the kale, carrots, peppers, cilantro, green onions, edamame, and cashews together until well combined.

Serve immediately.


This mix of vegetables is fabulous enough on its own, but then you add the dressing on top of it and holy moly. Best. Salad. Ever. I've served it multiple times with my Thai Red Curry Chicken, twice for guests, and it is a huge hit.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sausage and Spinach Tortelloni

Sausage and Spinach Tortelloni


1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (I use my homemade version)
1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes
8 ounces raw spinach, steamed and minced (yields about 5 ounces cooked; you can substitute frozen)
12 to 16 ounces refrigerated cheese tortelloni** (see note)


Heat oil in large deep skillet over medium high heat. Add sausage and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, breaking the meat into chunks with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink. Add onion to the pan and saute until onion is soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute.

Add tomato sauce, water, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and spinach and stir until well combined. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add tortelloni and cook for another 2 minutes, until heated through. Serve.


This recipe was another happy accident. I was trying a new soup recipe from my friend Amy and though it called for tortellini, I bought the much larger tortelloni instead. I'm cheap, you see. The "ini" is $4-$5 for a 9-ounce bag, but Costco had a 3-pound bag of the "oni" for $10. I figured it would be fine - and it was, taste-wise, but not size-wise. Tortelloni is not soup spoon friendly.

So what to do with the rest of it? Make it into a one-pot pasta of course. This is very similar to my pasta bake in flavor and ingredients, and I love them both equally for different reasons. This dish... a bite of sausage, a piece of tortelloni with that savory cheese inside, spinach, herbs, and a light tomato sauce draped over everything. It's perfect - and ready in 25 minutes. What could be better?

**As for the pasta: I got that 3-pound bag by luck, and split it into 1-pound portions, but I think the tortelloni is usually as expensive as its smaller counterpart and you are more likely to find it in 9-oz or 12-oz packages. A 12-oz portion should work fine in this recipe.