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 Bounty is Here!

After months of waiting, August is finally here, and the veggies are at their best! Gone are the early days of June, with just a few sad-looking root vegetables sitting in the bins the farmers’ market; now it’s bursting at the seams and overflowing with everything fresh and beautiful! So prepare yourself, it’s going to be a vegetarian month!

I adore cucumbers, they always taste fresh and have virtually no calories! (I presume there are no calories in a cucumber, but I didn’t want to give false advertising!). Nothing is better to me than a fresh cucumber, thinly sliced with  just a little bit of salt.

This side salad is a mish-mosh of a couple different dishes I make: a raita I make to accompany fish and a green bean salad that my grandmother makes. It’s so good, I’ve been known to eat a big bowl of it for lunch! It’s easy and was a nice cool complement to a dinner of chicken and some sautéed Swiss chard. If you want a little heat, add a dash (or two) of cayenne or crushed red pepper. And if you don’t eat dairy, you can leave out the sour cream;  it’s just as delicious.

Helpful Kitchen Tip: 
Placing the cucumbers in a colander in the sink and sprinkling with a little salt allows much of the water to drain. This is a great suggestion for any dish that calls for cucumbers. Do this about 30 minutes before you’re ready to make your dish. I don’t rinse off the salt since I only use only a little, but I tend not to salt the dish when it’s finished.

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Cucumber Dill Salad

Using fresh dill with this recipe is the best, but if you only have dried on hand (like I had), it is still terrific. 

• 2 cucumbers, peeled, sliced in half horizontally, seeded and sliced like half moons
• ¼ cup diced onion
• 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar (if you want a little more zing, add a couple of teaspoons more)
• ¼ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
• Dill weed, as much or as little as you’d like, or none at all
• Freshly ground pepper
• Salt to taste, if needed

1. Take the seeded and cut cucumbers and place them in a colander in the sink. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and let them sit for about 30 minutes, or until you’re ready to make the salad. Don’t rinse.

2. In a mixing bowl, add the drained cucumbers, onion, and vinegar. Stir in the sour cream or yogurt and mix well. Add as much dill weed as you’d like, and some pepper. Serve.

Revisiting an Old Favorite


Happy Summer Solstice!

Since today is the first day of summer, I thought I would bring back one of my favorites, Szechuan Cucumbers, for those who missed it the first go round last July. This is based on an old Eating Well recipe that I’ve adapted to be my own through the years. It is reminiscent of a wonderful Thai restaurant that is no longer in business; at dim sum they offered a small plate of crunchy, spicy cucumbers with just the right amount of acid. It was heaven and I would have been happy just eating plate after plate of cucumbers if I could. And now that I have a similar recipe, I can!

This is fast, easy, and delicious with virtually no calories. I have made substitutions through the years: yellow onions instead of red, peeled cucumbers, no ginger, no peanuts, eaten right away, and while it is still tasty, it’s not perfect. This may be the one instance where I find it’s best to actually follow the recipe!


Szechuan Cucumbers
Adapted from an Eating Well magazine recipe

• 2 cucumbers, unpeeled, sliced horizontally, seeded, and cut into half-moon slices
• 1 jalapeno, minced
• ½ small red onion, thinly sliced (or more, depending on the size of your cucumbers, if they’re large, use more onion)
• Minced ginger, about a tablespoon or more to taste
• ½ cup rice vinegar
• 4 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free if necessary)
• *1 Tablespoon sugar (*Note: The original recipe called for sugar, but I sometimes leave it out. Feel free to use if you want to balance out the vinegar and soy sauce.)
• ¼ cup chopped peanuts

In a bowl, add the cucumber, onion, pepper, and ginger and mix. Measure out the liquid, mix together,  add to the bowl, and mix again. Place in refrigerator for an hour or two before serving. Right before serving, give it one last stir, add the chopped peanuts,  and enjoy!

Pickling–and Sweating–in the Kitchen

Come the middle of July, when I see cucumbers, green beans, and fresh dill at the farmer’s market, I always buy extra to make dilly beans and pickles. I think dilly beans are a New England tradition, although I’m not positive. They’re just green beans pickled like you would a cucumber. I saw them in a specialty food store once, albeit a tourist trap, for $5+ for a pint! I knew I could make them more cheaply at home.

It never fails that the night I want to make pickles it’s always hotter than heck outside. Just turning on the stove top means a line of sweat on my brow. But no matter, once I eat these babies, it will all be worth it!

This recipe is for refrigerator pickles, so canning isn’t necessary. And I give all recipe credit to my good friend (and reader!) Deb Allen, at whose house I happily munched on homemade pickles one late and dark January night over Scrabble and knew I had to get the recipe. So you can make these year round or whenever you want a taste of summer!

The recipe is easy and I vary it with whatever vegetable I’m using. Take 1 ¾ cup of apple cider vinegar and 2 cups of water with 1/2 tablespoon of coarse salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. While that is happening, take your glass jar (I keep old spaghetti sauce jars just for this use, but any large glass jar will do.) and add 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns, several cloves of garlic chopped in half, lots of fresh dill, 5-8 dried chili peppers (or less, depending on how you like the heat–and these are also the small ones, a couple of inches in length), and add either your cucumbers or green beans. I always find it like a puzzle, trying to fit everything neatly in the jar. When the vinegar mixture is ready, pour it over the veggies and let it sit on the counter until it is cool, cover, then refrigerate. I find the four cups of liquid is just about enough for two jars. Have them sit in the fridge for a few days, then open them and you are going to have a zippy combination of vinegar, garlic, and hot peppers with a crispy bean or cuke. I never measure aside from the vinegar, so I’m always trying to tweak them toward a better flavor; should I use more dill or less dill, less garlic, more chilis or less? This summer I think I’m going to try pickling squash and some onions!

What’s best about this recipes is there are virtually no calories so you can eat guilt-free to your heart’s content! I recently read a German study where vinegar makes you lose weight, or something along those lines. I guess I’m ahead of the game!

Szechuan Cucumbers

I love this time of year as it means cucumbers–and lots of them! I make soups, salads, pickles (recipes to come!) almost on a daily basis. I always have a large stash in the fridge. One of my favorite side dishes is Szechuan Cucumbers, based on an old Eating Well recipe that I’ve changed so many times it’s become my own. It is reminiscent of a wonderful Thai restaurant that is no longer in business; at dim sum they offered a small plate of crunchy, spicy cucumbers with just the right amount of acid. It was heaven and I would have been happy just eating plate after plate of cucumbers if I could. And now that I have a recipe, I can!

I made this the other evening while waiting for the fish to finish cooking for dinner; it’s fast, easy, and delicious with almost no calories! (Note, that evening I didn’t follow my on instructions to leave in the fridge or an hour or so!) I have made substitutions through the years: yellow onions instead of red, peeled cucumbers, no ginger, no peanuts, eaten right away, and while it is still tasty, it’s not perfect. This is one instance where it is best for the recipe to be followed, in my opinion!

Szechuan Cucumbers
• 2 cucumbers, sliced horizontally, seeded, and cut into half-moon slices
• 1 jalapeno, minced
• ½ small red onion, thinly sliced (or more, depending on the size of your cucumbers, if they’re large, use more onion)
• Minced ginger, about a tablespoon or more to taste

• ½ cup rice vinegar
• 4 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari
• *1 Tablespoon sugar (*Note: The original recipe called for sugar, but I usually leave it out. Feel free to use if you want to balance out the vinegar and soy sauce.)

• ¼ cup chopped peanuts

In a bowl, add the cucumber, onion, pepper, and ginger and mix. Measure out the liquid, mix together,  add to the bowl, and mix again. Place in refrigerator for an hour or two before serving. Right before serving, give it one last stir, add the chopped peanuts,  and enjoy!

Simple Salad Suppers

The calendar has turned to July, the temperature is now humid not warm, and my hair is no longer curly but frizzy. Yup, it’s summer! So when the heat and humidity turns up, I want to get out of the kitchen and away from the stove for easy and light dinners. These two salads are so simple and easy, I promise it will take you longer to go to the grocery store to buy the items than it will take you to make them!

Easy Cucumber Salad
(Note: Easy to double!)
One cucumber
– Diced tomatoes (I like grape tomatoes sliced in half, but you can use whatever fresh tomato you have on hand)
– Onion (I prefer Vidalia in this, but any onion will do. As you can see, I used red onion this weekend.)
– Feta cheese (optional, I don’t make an effort to add this, only if I have some in the house)
– Finely sliced fresh basil (optional)
– Apple cider vinegar

Peel the cucumber. Slice it in half horizontally and scrape the seeds out with a spoon. Slice into thin half-moon shaped pieces and place in a bowl. Add the tomatoes (I want the ratio to be 3/4 cucumbers, 1/4 tomatoes, but of course you can change it to fit your mood). Add to the bowl. Add a few slices of onion. Mix together. Add the feta, if using. Add a couple of capfuls of the vinegar, about a tablespoon or so, mix, testing it to make sure it has the right amount of zing. Some freshly ground pepper, salt (if I don’t use the feta), stir, and serve!
*Note: This salad is a bit weak on leftovers. Although I eat it, it gets a little wilted and everything isn’t as crisp as when you first make it.  

Spicy Black Bean Salad
– One can black beans, rinsed
– About a half cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
– Sliced scallions (green onions)
– Diced jalapeno pepper (optional)
– Diced avocado (optional)
– Juice from a half lime, or to taste
– Salt and pepper

In a bowl, add the black beans, tomatoes, scallions, pepper, and mix. Add avocado, if using. Add the lime, salt and pepper, and chill until ready to serve.