Spice Grilled Chicken Thighs with Creamy Chili-Herb Sauce Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It’s summertime and the living is easy. Which means the cooking is easy, too! This dish, with tender chicken and a fiery sauce, is perfect for one of those cooler summer evenings. While I made this on a weekend when I had more time, it’s easy enough to make on a weeknight, too!

The flat-leaved parsley at the store was looking really sad, so I opted for curly parsley, but I wouldn’t advise that; I find curly more flavorful, sometimes a little bitter, so while the sauce was good, I think the sweeter flat-leaf is the definite choice. I don’t have a grill pan, so I pan-fried the chicken in a skillet and finished cooking in the oven. Although my original plan was to use the real grill, which would give great flavor! Also, if it’s a hot night, you can cook the chicken outdoors so the kitchen won’t get hot!

I love spicy foods, as you know, so if you wanted just a little heat, maybe a quarter of a jalapeno or a dash of crushed red pepper would do the trick. I served this with some sautéed fresh Swiss chard and garlic and a cucumber salad with dill. But a simple green salad or maybe a tomato salad with some basil and mozzarella would also be great. Something to celebrate summer and bountiful vegetables that are coming into your home kitchen!

spicychix
Spiced Grilled Chicken Thighs with Creamy Chile-Herb Sauce

This recipe first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic, divided
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño pepper

1. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon sugar, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal bag. Let stand 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

2. Preheat grill to medium.

3. Coat grill rack with cooking spray. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken to grill rack; grill 8 minutes on each side or until done.

4. Place remaining 2 table­spoons oil, remaining 1 tablespoon juice, remaining 1 teaspoon garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, parsley, half-and-half, and jalapeño in the bowl of a mini food processor; process until finely chopped. Serve sauce with chicken thighs.

eat-clean-2MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Clean Eating!

For two weeks in June, the Eater of the House and myself went through a detox with two other friends. In a nutshell, I was a gluten-free vegan for 14 days. Plus, no sugar, alcohol, or caffeine. The first few days were difficult, but by week two I had hit my stride; I no longer had to think about what I could eat, plus I had a lot more energy. When that first Monday morning rolled around, I was so excited for a cup of decaf coffee and eggs, but I’ll admit the meal fell on a low note. I was expecting a taste thrill, but it was just ok. I didn’t even have a glass of wine with dinner that night!

Cooking Light has jumped on the “clean eating” bandwagon, with a guide for clean eating plus tips, recipes, and ideas for a month of clean eating. While I like to look at eating as everything in moderation, I do plan to do this detox on a regular basis, as well as incorporating some of these changes in my daily life. No one has been hurt by eating even more fruits and vegetables!

The Last Supper: Marinated London Broil

Look how green everything has gotten! It's an emerald sea!

Look how green everything has gotten. It’s an emerald sea!

I sometimes play this game with myself when I’m bored and think about what I would like to eat for my last supper. Of course, I create a fictional story and I’ve been told I can have whatever I would like for my last supper. So 1. I can order whatever I would like to eat or drink with no worry about future calories; and 2. Someone else is doing the cooking. I always start and end with the same things, an extra dry extra big vodka martini and a slice of homemade pie, but the middle dishes of the meal always changes. Sometimes lobster, roast chicken, pasta, beef, sometimes all three. But I have to admit, this week’s recipe might be the one I would request!

Rarely do I buy beef but when I do, I tend to buy a less expensive cut and marinate it to tenderize it. This marinade, with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, has just the right amount of salt and sweetness and the added lemon juice lends the sour. Shallots have become my new favorite onion; they have a distinct flavor that to me is a cross between a mild red onion and leeks. Instead of fresh thyme, I just added ½ teaspoon of dried.

Everyone always says to let your meat rest at least 10 minutes before cutting it and that is wise advise. The juices in the meat redistribute and finish cooking internally, and when you slice against the grain, it comes out perfectly. And this would be terrific on the grill!

steak2Marinated London Broil

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3 ounces)

This recipe first appeared in the May 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1/2 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (2-pound) boneless top round steak, trimmed
Cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Pierce steak with a fork. Add steak to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning every 30 minutes.

2. Preheat broiler.

3. Remove steak from bag; discard marinade. Scrape shallots and garlic from steak; discard shallots and garlic. Place steak on broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle steak evenly with salt and pepper. Broil 4 inches from heat for 6 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Washing and Storing Summer Berries
BerriesWPNow that it’s berry season, I read this article with interest. I try to wash my berries when I get home from the store and place in containers for easy eating. But I always find, regardless how quickly they get eaten, a few berries here and there get moldy. This article had great information on how to prevent that (with raspberries, rinse when you’re about to eat) and other tips! You can read the whole article by clicking here.

Maple Syrup: It’s Not Just for Pancakes!

This is the sugarhouse of my friends, Don and Jodi Gale, Twin Maple Farm in Lincoln, Vermont. (Photo © Earle Ray)

My friends, Don and Jodi Gale’s sugarhouse, Twin Maple Sugarworks, in Lincoln, Vermont. These recipes were made with their syrup! (Photo © Earle Ray)

Springtime in Vermont means a few things: March Madness, mud season, and maple sugaring. “Cold nights and warm days” is the mantra for Vermont sugarmakers for the best conditions to get the sap running. We are fortunate to live in a place where we can go and just pick up some of this “liquid gold” nearby, but I am always looking for ways to use it aside from the usual pancakes, French toast, and warm biscuits and syrup (mmmmmm).

On a walk the other day, I pondered this thought and created two recipes in my head. And both were delicious! Rarely do I cook with carrots, other than sticking them in stirfrys and soups, but I was excited about some colorful carrots I had picked up from Trader Joe’s, so I thought about roasted carrots glazed with maple syrup. I already was thawing a pork tenderloin from the freezer and wondered how I was going to cook it. How about a Dijon-maple sauce to accompany it?

Both of these “recipes,” a word I use lightly since there is hardly any effort, were delicious with a hint of maple. I hear the sap might stop running this week after the string of really warm days we’ve had (finally!). So it will be another year before I will see the smoke in the sky with the promise of a new crop of syrup. But in the meantime, I have enough to keep us happy for the next 12 months!

carrotsMaple Glazed Carrots

5 carrots, peeled and sliced into long match sticks
1 small shallot, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons maple syrup

In a baking dish, add the sliced carrots, shallot, and a tablespoon or so of the olive oil. Add some salt and pepper and toss to cover. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about an hour or until the carrots look brown. About 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve, add the maple syrup and stir to coat, turn off the oven, and have them sit there until you’re ready to serve.

pork2Tenderloin with Dijon-Maple Sauce
1 pork tenderloin, 1- 1.25 pounds
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Roast the pork tenderloin in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until done. In a small bowl, mix the ingredients. Warm slowly in a saucepan and top the meat, or serve on the side.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Take Time to Smell the Roses (Or, Time For Someone Else to do the Cooking!)

As I do each April, I will be taking a couple of weeks off to enjoy my birthday month with some rest and relaxation with my girlfriends. I’ll be back and raring to go in May with all new springtime recipes! Let’s hope the weather will say SUMMER!

Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers

dumplings3I love dumplings of all sorts, but I’m particularly fond of pork dumplings that you can order in Thai or Chinese restaurants. Now I have a pitch-perfect recipe to make them at home that is relatively easy, healthy, and most importantly of all, delicious!

I made these for a special Saturday night dinner, and they were so good, we almost ate the entire batch! I’ll admit, dumpling making is tedious and time-consuming, so pour yourself a glass of wine, because you’re going to be standing and folding for a while (unless you grab some help), but the end result is so worth it! The filling tastes like what you’d find in a restaurant, and the sauce has just the right amount of heat. I cooked the mushrooms and onions in a spicy sesame oil to add even more spiciness and it was so good!

I buy my dumpling or wonton wrappers frozen (Twin Marquis, a company out of New York) from the Asian market, but because I get there only about twice a year, I keep them in the freezer and defrost a package when I need them. Works perfectly!

I decided to make another batch of these to freeze. Guess what’s for dinner tonight?

Frying and steaming the dumplings are a perfect way to cook these. Place on a serving dish in a warm oven until you're ready to eat!

Frying and steaming the dumplings are a perfect way to cook these. Place on a serving dish in a warm oven until you’re ready to eat!

Pork and Shiitake Pot Stickers

This recipe originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
4 ounces thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
5 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
14 ounces lean ground pork
40 gyoza skins or round wonton wrappers
Cornstarch
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)

1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 1/2 cup onions, garlic, ginger, and mushrooms; stir-fry 3 minutes. Remove from pan; cool slightly. Combine mushroom mixture, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, hoisin sauce, pepper, and pork in a medium bowl.

2. Arrange 8 gyoza skins on a clean work surface; cover remaining skins with a damp towel to keep them from drying. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons pork mixture in the center of each skin. Moisten edges of skin with water. Fold in half; press edges together with fingertips to seal. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch; cover to prevent drying. Repeat procedure with remaining gyoza skins and pork mixture.

3. Combine 1/4 cup hot water and brown sugar in a small bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add remaining 1/4 cup green onions, remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, vinegar, and sambal, stirring with a whisk until well combined.

4. Heat a large heavy skillet over high heat. Generously coat pan with cooking spray. Add 10 pot stickers to pan; cook 30 seconds or until browned on one side. Turn pot stickers over; carefully add 1/3 cup water to pan. Cover tightly; steam 4 minutes. Repeat procedure in batches with remaining pot stickers and more water, or follow freezing instructions. After cooking, serve pot stickers immediately with dipping sauce.

TO FREEZE: Freeze dumplings flat on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn­starch 10 minutes or until firm. Place in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag with 1 teaspoon cornstarch; toss. Freeze sauce in a small zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze up to 2 months.

TO THAW: Thaw sauce in the microwave at HIGH in 30-second increments. No need to thaw pot stickers.

TO REHEAT: Follow recipe instructions for cooking, placing frozen dumplings in pan and increasing steaming time by 2 minutes.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day With a Feast!
fourleaf cloverI don’t have a speck of Irish blood in me, but I always like to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because 1. The month of March is halfway over, one step closer to April and springtime; and 2. Who doesn’t want a big dinner of corned beef and cabbage? Cooking Light has created a special menu of healthy Irish recipes just in time for the holiday! You can check them out here. I think the Ploughman’s Lunch Platter sounds divine!

 

 

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

A couple of months ago, I went to a Chipotle for the first time. Am I the last person on earth? While I’d heard about the healthy fast food chain, I’d never been to one; Vermont just barely got its first a few years ago. But on a cold January day, I decided to treat myself to lunch. And while it was delicious, I knew I could make a healthier and less expensive version at home. And I have!

This dish is so easy and healthy that it’s become a staple for Wednesday night dinners. When it’s the middle of the week, I don’t feel like cooking or I get home late and don’t have the time, so this is something you can make with kitchen and fridge staples or with a quick stop at the supermarket on the way home from work.

Before you leave the house in the morning, put a cup or so of frozen corn in a bowl and let it thaw in the fridge. (If you forget this step, just put it in a bowl when you get home, as it thaws pretty quickly.) When you get home that evening, start boiling water in a saucepan to make a batch of rice, preferably brown. While that is cooking, take out a mixing bowl and add to it a can of black beans, the thawed corn, a few halved grape tomatoes, a tablespoon or so of scallions, and if you like heat, chopped jalapeno, and mix. Add a dash of salt, a couple of tablespoons of fresh cilantro, some lime juice to taste, and a little bit of cumin. In a deep dish bowl or plate, add about a half cup of rice, add some of the black bean salad, and top it with avocado, salsa, sour cream, more cilantro and/or scallions, lime juice, or your favorite topping.

You can really make this dish your own. I thought about adding black olives next time or perhaps some shaved cabbage or sliced radishes. Instead of black beans, you can use another kind of bean or shredded chicken, pork, beef, or even fish. If you don’t like rice, you can leave it out or substitute another grain. Instead of cumin, use coriander or another favorite spice.

It was interesting that as I was working on this recipe, this story was printed in the New York Times. So now I know my version has fewer calories and is definitely healthier! (Although I will add, the restaurant can be healthy if you make the right choices!)

mvk burrito bowl

 

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

1 can of black beans
About a cup of grape tomatoes, sliced in half vertically
A couple of tablespoons chopped scallions
1 cup of thawed frozen corn
A dash of salt
One jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
Lime juice, to taste
A couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
A dash or two of cumin powder
Cooked brown rice
Toppings: avocado, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, cilantro

1. In a bowl, add the black beans, tomatoes, corn, scallions, jalapeno pepper (if using), and to taste, salt, cilantro, cumin powder, lime juice, and mix. To a plate or bowl, add a half cup of rice, top with the salad and added condiments.


eggsMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: The Government’s Bad Diet Advice
Bravo, albeit a few decades late, to the U.S. government who finally realizes that low-fat food is not good for you! This article from the New York Times last week focuses on a new study, which is linked in the article. The government has said that cutting fat and cholesterol may have worsened Americans’ health, because by clearing our plates of meat, eggs, and cheese they were replaced with more grains, starchy vegetables, and pasta. The real takeaway is to eat real food, not processed or manufactured.

Miso Chicken

Along with all the activities of my friends around the world, my Facebook feed is filled with recipes and cooking tips from a variety of magazines and newspapers. One evening, I saw a photo for Miso Chicken and even though dinners were planned for the week, I thought I want that now! A velvety, dark miso sauce glazed over chicken breasts, this recipe is super easy and makes you feel like you are cooking so­­mething much more elaborate for a weeknight supper.

The marinade comes together quickly, so you can either make it in advance or whip it up when you get in the door. I had some really large chicken breasts so to save time, I cut them in half so they would cook quicker and more evenly. I wanted a warm dinner all around so I served this with coconut rice (brown rice cooked with a little bit of coconut milk with some added coconut flakes and cilantro stirred in at the end), although you could make a cucumber salad or even a rice noodle salad to complement all the flavors.

For those looking for a gluten-free version, use tamari instead of soy sauce.

miso chixMiso Chicken
This recipe first appeared in the January 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

If you can’t find miso, substitute 2 teaspoons anchovy paste and 1 teaspoon tahini instead. With miso, the darker the color, the more pronounced the salty flavor.

1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
1 1/2 teaspoons chile paste (such as sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Combine first 6 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil. Place chicken in a zip-top plastic bag. Add vinegar mixture; seal. Marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour, turning once.

2. Preheat oven to 400°.

3. Remove chicken from bag; reserve marinade. Place marinade in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes or until syrupy, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; divide mixture in half. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; swirl. Add chicken; sauté 4 minutes. Turn chicken over; brush chicken with half of marinade mixture. Place pan in oven; bake at 400° for 6 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from oven; brush with remaining half of marinade mixture, turning to coat. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: From Detox To Elimination Diets, Skipping Sugar May Be The Best Bet
With the start of the new year, it seemed like everywhere I turned, I heard about someone I know doing some sort of elimination diet. I am always fascinated with these and have to admit the idea of totally cleansing my body of all toxins is appealing. Unrealistic for me, but appealing all the same.

One thing I have been watching lately is how much added sugar I eat in addition to sugar in fruits and other carbohydrates. I thought you might find this article interesting too. You can read or listen to the story here

 

Tamale Chicken Potpies

It’s January, which that means we’re due for a deep freeze. And we’re right on course; the last week and more we’ve seen sub-zero temps for days at a time. So when the thermometer dips, I always look for meals to cook in the oven to heat up the kitchen. This potpie was a perfect solution; it’s healthy, easy to make on a weeknight, plus it’s baked in the oven so it warmed both the house and myself!

I don’t have individual ramekins, so I made this in a 1 3/4-quart casserole dish, and although it went over the edges a little bit, I would still say it was a success. I feel like I sound like a broken record, I found it “warm and comforting,” but I really did! That’s my kind of supper this time of year. I served this with a crisp, green salad, although the suggested black beans would be a perfect complement!

tamale

Tamale Chicken Potpies

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

Serve these individual potpies with a side of spicy black beans: Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper and 2 minced garlic cloves; sauté until soft. Stir in 1 (15-ounce) can rinsed and drained black beans, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind; cook until thoroughly heated (about 5 minutes). Stir in 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, if desired.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
12 ounces ground chicken
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup chopped zucchini
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can unsalted tomato sauce
Cooking spray
1/2 cup coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups water, divided
3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and divided (about 3/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes, stirring to crumble. Stir in cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute. Add zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Divide chicken mixture evenly among 4 (10-ounce) ramekins coated with cooking spray. Place ramekins on a jelly-roll pan.

Place remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cornmeal, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Bring remaining 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually add cornmeal mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in 2 ounces cheese. Divide cornmeal mixture evenly among ramekins. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 ounce cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until light golden brown.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Animal Farm’s Butter!
A while back I brought you the recipe for Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits, made with the buttermilk from Animal Farm in Orwell, Vermont. At the time, I told you about Diane St. Clair’s incredible butter that is nothing like you’ve ever tasted (it’s $19 a pound, so at that price it’s like eating gold!). Last month a local television station did a story on St. Clair, her cows and farm, and her butter that she sends to top chef Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant in New York City.

It’s a fun story and you can watch it here, Butter Makes Its Mark at NYC Restaurant.

A Very Veggie Salad

New Year's Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

New Year’s Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

Am I the only one who feels the need to detox after the holidays? Despite my best efforts, four weeks of rich, sweet foods, alcohol, plus bad weather so I can’t get out and walk has given me tummy trauma. Since they are finally over, I’m looking to healthy and delicious meals at lunch and dinner which are comprised of mostly vegetables with light protein or legumes. This will help your waistline, ward off germs, and are nutritious, too!

This is the usual salad I make for my lunches. Lots of veggies with a little bit of protein and cheese, with a big glass of water, it’s perfect and keeps me full all afternoon. Add some heart healthy avocado or nuts and seeds if you like. I know not everyone loves radishes, so I added them as an option; they add a bit of heat and crunch plus they’re incredibly inexpensive!

One of the drawbacks of making a salad for lunch is finding the time to make it in the morning. So here are two tips:

  1. When you get home from the grocery store, or when you have time some evening when you’re making dinner, slice and chop all your veggies and put them into containers. I find if I pre-cut all my vegetables, making a salad is ten times easier and less time consuming. Plus, it keeps me from being lazy; if I have to slice up cucumber and peppers early in the morning before work, I might think twice about making a salad. This way, most of the work is done!
  2. Pack up the salad veggies the night before and just add the protein and cheese in the morning, so it’s basically made and it won’t be soggy.

This is my current salad these days. Of course, add whatever veggies you like in your salad, be it carrots, cabbage, leftover grains or veggies, whatever you have on hand. I’m on a cider vinegar kick lately, but of course, rice, sherry, balsamic, white or red wine, or other flavored vinegars will be just as tasty.

salad2Very Veggie Salad
Greens (baby spinach, romaine, or a lettuce mix)
Cucumbers, peeled, sliced in half vertically, seeded, and cut into half moons
Peppers-orange, red, or yellow
Grape tomatoes
Scallions or red onion
½ cup beans or other protein: chicken, fish (tuna or salmon), shrimp, hard-boiled egg
Optional: radishes, avocado, nuts, seeds
Sprinkle with feta cheese (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil and cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: More Healthy Lunch Tips

I introduced TheKitchn.com to you a while back and they always have lots of great tips and recipes. Although this article is from last fall for back to school suggestions, its tips are useful for those of us who pack our lunches year-round! Here is one that gives you 16 tips on packing a healthy lunch! Salad isn’t the only healthy option out there for lunch!

Goodbye 2014! Hello 2015!

newyear4I am one of those people who laps up year-end lists. Give me the best books, best movies (and worst), best TV shows, I love reading them and seeing if any of my favorites made it. So why should I be any different? I love that I can look at my stats on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, but what I find really interesting are the yearly stats. Who knew MVK was so popular in Brazil, Canada, and Italy? But what I found even more interesting, was the five most searched for recipes throughout the year.

2014 Reader Favorites

Dark and Moist Gingerbread

Baked Artichoke Dip

Chris’s Chi-Chi Beans

Floating Island

Mad Men Caesar Salad and Manhattan Cocktail

So I decided to go to the archives and select what I thought were the best recipes of the year, either those I liked creating—or eating!

2014 MVK Favorites

Mediterranean Kebabs

Mocktails

Nicoise Salad

Pasta with Shrimp, Garlic, and Asparagus

Honey-Glazed Pork Chops + Tomato Salad + Corn Cakes

I obviously like summertime cooking!

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Blackeye Peas for Good Luck on Thursday!

I’m not one for superstitions, but I always fix a batch of blackeye peas for New Year’s Day. I created this simple recipe a couple of years ago and it’s been my standby every New Year’s Day. When cooked, blackeye peas swell which symbolizes prosperity, the greens represent money, and because when pigs forage they go forward, the meat symbolizes positive motion!

So here is to good luck and good eating in 2015!

DSCN0064
Good Luck Peas
Just omit the meat for a vegetarian version and it will taste just as good! Spinach, Swiss chard, or kale can be substituted for the collard greens.

2 tsp olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
½ medium onion, finely diced
3 cups of greens, chopped
1 14 oz. can blackeye peas
1 ¼ cup chopped ham, sausage, or kielbasa (optional), cooked
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until soft.

2. Add the meat, if using, and saute until warm.

3. Add the greens and sauté until wilted.

Slow-Baked Chicken Thighs with Tomato, Fennel, and Lemon

‘Tis the month of November, when it is cold, rainy, and blustery outside, so I find myself in the kitchen more on Sunday afternoons as opposed to a lazy day at the lake. And this recipe, which originally appeared in the October issue of Cooking Light, is perfect for warming up the kitchen. Slow roasted chicken with a flavorful sauce makes for a delicious meal in addition to inexpensive. And leftovers warmed wonderfully for lunches.

I had some trouble sectioning the lemons, so I found after I was done a lot of the fruit was still left in the peel. So I turned my lemon peels into lemon water! I gathered them up and had lemon water all week long!

I bought parsley which I completely forgot about adding, along with the cheese and breadcrumbs. But it was still delicious. Served over linguine, it was a perfect dinner to end the weekend!

slowbaked chick
Slow-Baked Chicken Thighs with Tomato, Fennel, and Lemon

This recipe originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine. You can serve on crusty toast or a bed of pasta if you like.

2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cups shaved fennel (about 2 bulbs)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, drained
12 garlic cloves, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slice
3 lemons, sectioned
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 (1-ounce) slice whole-wheat bread
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter. Pour into a 13 x 9–inch glass or ceramic baking dish; tilt to coat bottom of dish. Top with fennel.

3. Rub salt into chicken; arrange chicken over fennel. Hand-crush tomatoes; tuck between thighs. Scatter garlic and lemon over chicken; sprinkle with thyme.

4. Cut 1 tablespoon butter into pieces; scatter over dish. Cover; bake at 325° for 1 hour or until a thermometer registers 180°.

5. Uncover; bake 45 minutes, basting every 5 to 10 minutes.

6. Combine bread and cheese in a food processor; pulse for coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over chicken; drizzle with basting juices. Bake 10 minutes. Top with parsley.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Prepare for Thanksgiving with These Tips
Clever_Cookstr_podcastClever Cookstr is a new podcast from the Quick and Dirty Tips family that I recently discovered and it is terrific! Each podcast, less than ten minutes in length, takes on a food topic to discuss, from 7 new ways to cook pumpkin, what to serve vegans at your next dinner party, to the more timely “Thanksgiving Day Countdown Begins Now”-October 21. For those cooking the meal this year, whether it’s your first or tenth, I found some great bits of information that can help all Thanksgiving cooks!