May 232013
 

This post is about two recipes I made recently that turned out exceptionally well.

The first was a dinner made perfectly for a sunny, warm evening spent on a deck with a grill. The evening was cooling down after a record hot day and Michael had biked home from work. I got home from the gym and we relaxed outside with a glass of wine while it cooked. The side dish, Creamy Dill Cucumber salad, was really quick to make, kind of a lazy man’s tzatziki sauce.

I halved the recipe since I only had one cucumber (although it was a very large cucumber so….it might be pretty close to the recipe). Either way, my calculations make it about 160 calories for Michael and I splitting half the recipe.

Creamy Dill Cucumber Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 1 minute

Yield: 8

Calories per serving: 85-100

From: http://www.nutritiouseats.com/creamy-dill-cucumber-salad/

Ingredients

  • 2 English cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • Freshly grated black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place cucumber slices in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with salt and toss, let sit for ~20 minutes or until they lose some of their water. Remove cucumbers, squeeze and blot dry with paper towels.
  2. In a large bowl, mix sour cream and vinegar until combined. Stir in red onion, garlic and dill.
  3. Add cucumbers and stir to combine. Season with black pepper to taste (optional).
  4. Refrigerate, covered, at least 1 hour before serving.
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I didn’t follow the directions exactly (it would help if I read the instructions first, right?) and skipped the step with the salt and cucumber. Oh well! It didn’t seem to matter. The cucumber salad was delicious and not soggy at all.

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I’d been marinating some chicken thighs in a store-bought lemon and herb marinade and even though it was store-bought, it turned out to be really, really good. I was happy with the end results.

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I definitely prefer to make my own marinades (and I’m pretty good at it) but this one was just fine and good for a work night when I didn’t have much time. The cucumber salad went well with the lemon chicken.  I think next time I’ll try it with plain Greek yogurt.

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Michael and I split the whole cucumber salad and it was delicious! Definitely staying in the rotation for this summer.

The second recipe was a crockpot recipe I found on a food blog. I had some frozen pork chops (from Costco) that had been cut in half so I used 4 thin pork chops instead of the 6 thick ones the recipe called for.

Easy Crockpot Thai Pork

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours

Total Time: 6 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 4-6

Calories per serving: 257 calories (not including rice)

From: http://www.justapinch.com/recipes/main-course/pork/easy-crockpot-thai-pork-2.html

Ingredients

  • 6 thick cut boneless pork chops-trim fat
  • 1 lg red bell peppers-chopped
  • 1/3 c prepared teriyaki sauce
  • 1 c chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 3 lg cloves garlic-minced
  • 3 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • FOR SERVING:
  • 1/2 c green onion-chopped
  • 2 limes-cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/4 c dry roasted peanuts-chopped
  • cooked rice

Instructions

  1. Grease crockpot or use a plastic liner.
  2. Place pork, bell peppers,broth, teriyaki sauce, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes and garlic in cooker. Cover and cook on low setting until pork is fork tender, 6-8 hours.
  3. Remove pork from cooker and coarsely chop. Add peanut butter to liquid in cooker; stir well to dissolve peanut butter and blend with liquid to make the sauce. Return pork to sauce and toss to coat the meat.
  4. Serve in shallow bowls over hot rice. Sprinkle with green onions and peanuts. Pass lime wedges, to serve with this wonderful dish.
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It took about 15 minutes to throw everything in the crockpot and just let it do it’s magic. I did this one on a Sunday and spent the rest of the rainy day catching up on some TV shows while it cooked.

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I checked on it periodically and had some doubts about the pork. It was starting to look a little overcooked but I decided to just wait and see. About 30 minutes before it was going to be done, I shredded the pork, added the peanut butter and then mixed the pork back into the sauce.

The sauce thickened up nicely with the peanut butter and it smelled great! I started the rice cooker with some jasmine rice while I finished things up.

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I LOVED the flavors. The peanut butter was not overpowering and it wasn’t too spicy (next time I’ll add more red pepper flakes). I topped the dish with crushed roasted peanuts, green onions and drizzled some fresh lime juice on it. Everything went together perfectly. I loved how the peanut topping added some crunchiness to the meat.

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The red peppers were pretty decimated by the time the dish was done cooking. I might add them later in the process next time just so they don’t get so mushy. Michael loved this recipe. It’s definitely the kind I would make for a dinner party.

Using 4 thin pork chops got me about 4.5 servings total. I had leftovers for lunch the next day and it still tasted great. The pork wasn’t dried out like I had worried it would be.  It could definitely be done with chicken, too.

Both of these recipes were winners! I hope you give them a try.

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Mar 062013
 

Chicken is kind of a boring protein. Okay, maybe not, maybe it’s just me? Chicken is never my first choice when I sit down at a restaurant and look at the menu. I remember this quote from Anthony Bourdain’s book, Kitchen Confidential (GREAT book): “Chicken is boring. Chefs see it as a menu item for people who don’t know what they want to eat”. When I read that, I remember saying out loud, “Yeah! He’s right!” Chicken is boring and safe.

But it doesn’t have to be. The way I got over the “chicken is boring” lackluster feeling was experimenting with lots of different recipes. I’ve had some favorites, too; recipes that were savory and delicious and I made repeatedly. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Braised Chicken and Spring Vegetables
BBQ Chicken Thighs
Garlic and Soy Chicken Thighs
Mexican Crockpot Chicken

I wish I had another recipe to add to the list, but this recipe was missing something. It wasn’t BAD, but it was just a tad boring. I’ve seen some other bloggers write about balsamic chicken before and loved it. I wonder what this recipe is lacking that I could add? Unfortunately  I don’t remember which blogs I read that raved about their balsamic chicken!

I don’t know where I found this recipe. It was in my stack of printouts, with no website on it, so I can’t link to where I found it. But here it is:

5.0 from 1 reviews
Balsamic Chicken
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 5 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large ziplock bag, mix well. Seal and marinade on refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium heat until hot. Place chicken on pan, discarding excess marinade and cook 6-10 minutes per side, or until no pink remains and juices run clear.

The only balsamic we had on hand was the pomegranate infused balsamic vinegar. I used this because the flavor doesn’t taste like pomegranate. It’s only a hint of sweet. I also added some onion powder to the mixture.

Mix it well and then pour it into the bag. I cut two large chicken breast cutlets in half to make four smaller pieces. I let it marinade for about an hour.

I made a salad as the side dish with the chicken. The chicken was a bit on the bland side, like I said. Maybe it needs a bunch of garlic? Help me out!

QUESTION: Do you think chicken is boring?

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