Pineapple Basil Chicken Over Cauliflower Rice in Lettuce Boats

It has been hot hot hot where we live in the recent weeks and I have been craving the fresh, juicy and a little bit spicy tastes of summer. 

Last night I made pineapple basil chicken lettuce boats and they were…amazing. Light and refreshing but also totally filling. I will be making this a LOT this summer.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • half of a large vidalia onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • large handful of basil
  • 6 large romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 lemon

For the terayaki-ish marinade:

  • soy sauce
  • fish sauce
  • ginger
  • lemon
  • brown sugar
  • mirin
  • rice wine vinegar
  • sesame oil

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The chicken cooks quickly so I prepared everything in advance while the chicken sat in the marinade for about an hour…but could be as little as twenty minutes. 

Cube the chicken and then prepare the marinade. I tend to eye and taste this to make it to my liking before adding the chicken so the measurements aren’t exact. About 1/3 cup of low sodium soy sauce, a few squirts of fish sauce, a tablespoon of sesame oil, a tablespoon of mirin, a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, the zest and juice of one lemon, a one inch knob of ginger grated, and a bit of salt and pepper. Mix it all up and add the chicken.

While that marinates, rice the cauliflower (buzz it in the food processor for a bit), slice the pineapple, cut the onion, slice the red pepper and finely dice the skin of one jalapeno pepper (and unless you are brave, avoid the seeds). I also wash the lettuce at this point, too.

When you are ready to cook, divide the cut onion into two batches (for cooking chicken and for cooking “rice”). You will need two pans for this part. I suggest a high sided pan for the rice and a saute pan for the chicken. Add oil to both pans and, once hot, add the onion. Let it cook until translucent. In one pan, add the rice with salt and pepper. In the other, add the chicken, reserving the marinade for later. Cook one side of the chicken until browned and then flip the chicken. It will cook quickly so don’t go too far. Pour in half of the marinade and discard the rest. When the chicken is almost cooked through, add the rest of the ingredients to the chicken and cook until the pineapple begins to brown. The rice will take about the same amount of time to warm through.

To plate, fill the lettuce boats with cauliflower rice and then top with the chicken mixture. Serve and enjoy!

 

Easy Egg Muffins for Brunch

On Easter, our very small neighborhood (three families, each with two kids) was having a small get together/breakfast/egg hunt. Our family had made previous plans for brunch but we joined for the early morning portion (egg hunt, bagels, mimosas, coffee). I was feeling a little guilty about leaving early so thought I would use some easy stuff in my refrigerator to bring.

The day before I had “blown out” six eggs for decorating and needed to use those eggs asap so decided to make some egg muffins using that and some leftovers that were about to spoil.  This took at total of 5 minutes of prep, 30 minutes to cook and 15 minutes to cool/set. Makes 12 muffins. 

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs (beaten)
  • two cups of roughly chopped fresh baby spinach (though thawed and drained frozen spinach would work, too)
  • about two cups of leftover chopped rotisserie chicken
  • a cup of halved cherry tomatoes
  • a cup of leftover cooked quinoa
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • about a packed cup of crumbled feta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a big bowl thoroughly. Spoon into paper muffin cups in a muffin pan. As these won’t “rise” very much, spoon the mixture a bit taller than the rim of the pan. Cook for about 30-45 minutes. Once cooked through, take them out of the oven and let cool/set for about 15 minutes. They’ll last in the fridge, covered, for about a week. Great for car trips or anything where you need “handy” food. But they look FANTASTIC for pot luck brunch.

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I’ve done these a ton of different ways. I like to cook them at the beginning of busy weeks when I know I won’t have time to cook lunch. Everyone in the family can grab and go for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack. If you have a kid that enjoys food, these are great for lunchboxes, too.
 
Variations: replace any of the above with corn kernels, kale, sausage, sweet peppers, sun dried tomatoes, chopped broccoli, pancetta, pepperoni, ham, cheddar. I’ve done all of them. Basically whatever you need to get rid of.  Below is some muffins I made earlier in the week that were heavier on the quinoa, onion, kale, pancetta, corn and crumbled goat cheese. They were a HUGE hit.
 
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Sort of Farinata/Faina and Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

Our new au pair (“S”) is from Argentina. Prior to living with us, she lived in Minnesota for a year (brrrr!). I think she is loving California’s weather after this brutal winter. That means she has been far from home for over a year and hasn’t eaten anything from her home country in that long. So I started doing research on typical Argentinian food. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but I am an awful preparer of meats. For some reason they baffle me. I can never get the crust right, the inside the right temperature. Thus, I forego, and leave it to the experts. Steak was out. What else? Empanadas? Not really in our food parameters (being encased in a flour dough, and all). And then I learned about faina. VERY similar to the Italian farinata/ceccina that we prepared when our Italian au pair was with us. I decided this was the way to go. Except, of course and as is typical of me, I changed it practically completely. Ended up being more like a nod to Argentina than an actual tribute or “taste of home”. Don’t get me wrong. It was awesomely flavorful. It just wasn’t “faina.”

Faina is traditionally make with chickpea flour, eggs (or “flax eggs”), salt, pepper and olive oil. Sometimes rosemary. Sometimes cheese. When we cooked the ceccina for E, it was blaaaaaaaand. I didn’t want that to happen again! I oomphed it up with pancetta, tomatoes, red onion, basil, oregano, kale and spinach. Mushrooms would have been EXCELLENT in this. Alas, none in the house. 

But one can’t eat farinata alone! So I picked mint, cut up a watermelon and added some feta for a fantastic spring-y salad. And, as a side, added some of the pulled rotisserie chicken that costco now sells by the bag. Have you have this?! It is the best. All of the benefits of rotisserie chicken without having the pull if off the bone. Very flavorful. 

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Ingredients (serves four)

Farinata

  • Cup and a half of chickpea flour
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax
  • Water as needed
  • Cup of chopped pancetta
  • One whole red onion thinly sliced
  • Handful of spinach, chopped
  • Two fronds of kale, stripped and chopped
  • Cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Total of one cup of finely chopped rosemary, chopped oregano, chopped basil
  • Half a cup of crumbled feta

Salad

  • Watermelon
  • Mint
  • Feta
  • Balsamic glaze

Chicken

  • pulled rotisserie chicken 🙂

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. You are going to need a cast iron or oven safe pan for this. Set you chickpea flour base by putting the flour into a large bowl and adding water until it is the consistency of pancake batter (I suggest if you have time doing this a few hours ahead of time as I’ve heard that it makes the batter “stronger”). In a separate bowl, make your flax egg by adding water to the flax until it is moistened. Let that sit until your batter is ready.


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Chop the herbs, chop the spinach/kale, chop the tomato, chop the onion.

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Add salt and a good dose of pepper to the batter. Mix in the flax egg with a whisk. While that pulls together, saute the pancetta and onion in your cast iron pan on the stove top.

Add the kale and spinach to the pan, cooking through. Add the herbs and remaining ingredients to the batter and then the contents of the pan. Mix gently but thoroughly. Add a bit of oil to coat the bottom of the hot pan. Pour the mixture into the hot pan and put into the oven for 25-30 minutes. All ovens are different (sadly). It is finished when it is pulling away from the sides of the pan and browned on top. The interior will be soft and chewy. The exterior crispy. Let the farinata cool in the pan while you prepare the sides. Flip onto a plate once cooled. Serve as slices.

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The salad is easy. Chop the watermelon into bit size pieces, chop fresh mint, pour in some crumbled feta cheese and a bit of balsamic. Mix. Ta da!

I just threw a bit of the chicken into a saute pan to warm quickly. It is already cooked through so doesn’t need much.

Zucchini Noodles with Kale, Spinach and Avocado Pesto

Keeping with my New Year’s Resolution, I am still doing at least one vegetarian dinner per week. Last night Hubs was out so it was just me and S. It came together relatively quickly but I HIGHLY suggest making the pesto before the kids go to sleep…because the whirring of our Cuinsinart caused our daughter to FREAK. OUT. I mean, she has heard it before…but for some reason last night she was not a fan to say the absolute least. But the dinner was great! Healthy and delicious. And vegetarian!

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The Kale, Spinach and Avocado Pesto

  • About two cups of de-stemmed and torn dinosaur kale
  • One large handful of baby spinach
  • Half of an avocado
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 chopped red onion
  • Grated parmesan
  • About 1/3 to 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

The “Pasta”

  • Two large, thick, fairly straight yellow zucchinis
  • 3/4 thinly cut sliced red onion
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • olive oil to cook
  • 1/4 cup salted water

In a cuisinart, blend pine nuts, lemon and kale while slowly pouring in some of the olive oil. When the kale is chopped and there is room in the work bowl, add the spinach and avocado. As that whirs, add more olive oil until blended smooth. Add the chopped red onion and the salt and pepper and about 2 heaping tablespoons of grated parmesan (this is to taste…check the taste and add more if you want).

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Spirulize the zucchini (if you don’t have a spirulizer, cut lengthwise slices into a zucchini almost to the end but leaving the end in tact and use a veggie peeler to make “noodles”) and sprinkle with salt and coat with olive oil.  

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Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the sliced red onion and cook until slightly crispy. If needed, cut the noodles (as they can be QUITE long) to about 1′ in length. Add them to the pan over the onions. Cook the “noodles” for a bit until softening and put in a bit of water. Add in the pesto and stir until all of the noodles are coated. Once warmed through, add the chopped tomato and sprinkle in the goat cheese. 

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Plate and serve! Easy peasy! (Serves two with enough for one lunch leftover…today I am going to add leftover chicken to the leftover sauce. YUM!)

 

We devoured this spring salad

Is it a salad? I don’t really know. It is more like one of my standard mash-ups of yummy ingredients. A bit like the Ranch Salad. A bit of a variation on the Avocado Tartare from Food & Wine that I posted a few weeks ago.

And as usual, I wanted something easy, quick and healthy. This met all of those requirements.

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Ingredients (serves two):

  • One large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • One firm but ripe avocado
  • One large red shallot
  • A few fronds of curly kale
  • A heaping handful of spinach
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Two meyer lemons
  • A tablespoon and a half of dijon mustard
  • A few sprigs of curly parsley
  • A few drops of sriracha
  • A teaspoon of Worcestershire 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter/olive oil for cooking

Chop the chicken into 1″ cubes and salt and pepper all sides. In a pan, heat up (over medium to high heat) a pat of butter and a dollop of olive oil. When hot, add the chicken and cook until opaque and almost cooked through (about 135degrees). While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onion and kale by thinly slicing the shallot and removing the stems from the kale and chopping into tiny bits. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add a bit more oil and turn the pan to medium heat, and throw the thinly sliced red shallot and cook until starting to crisp. Add the kale and a dash more of the olive oil. Cook, turning often, until the kale is soft. While the kale is cooking, chop the spinach into smallish pieces (about 1/2″) and prepare the sauce. Juice two meyer lemons into your serving bowl. Add the chopped parsley, dijon, srirracha, Worcestershire, salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Add the chicken back to the pan with the tomatoes and cook until the chicken is at 160 degrees. Pour the hot chicken, kale and onion (and all of the juices) into the sauce and add the spinach raw. I always add the avocado last as I hate when it starts to turn brown. So now cube your avocado and add it to the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients gently until the sauce covers everything.

We scarfed this down. It was SOOO good. From start to finish it took less than 30 minutes and probably could be sped up if I used two pans (to cook the onions/kale and chicken separately). 

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Chicken tikka masala with cauli-rice, kale and red onion

Ever since I “discovered” cauliflower rice, I’ve been on a “I used to eat this with real rice and couldn’t imagine it without it” kick. Foods that needed to sop up the sauce, in particular. Or foods that need the bulk of rice to finish out the meal. Or, in the case with last night’s dinner, foods that have a little kick and can use some “rice” to temper the heat.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a tikka masala simmer sauce that didn’t use coconut and I just about ran out of the store with it to get it into my belly. And it is delicious. I couldn’t recommend Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce more. 

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People: Buy this. It has a good balance of spice and savory-ness. And it really couldn’t be easier.

Behold! Chicken tikka masal over cauli-rice with kale and red onion!

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Ingredients:

  • Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce
  • Three small chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  • Half of a red onion
  • One head of cauliflower
  • Handful of kale
  • Tumeric
  • Salt/pepper

 

Put one teaspoon of salt into a bowl of hot water and mix until the salt dissolves. Cut the chicken into one inch cubes and add it to the water to brine. Let it sit while you prepare the cauliflower. 

Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and chop the entirety of the cauliflower into smallish pieces. Cut the stem into one centimeter pieces. In a cuisinart and in small batches, pulse the cauliflower until it it resembles the consistency of rice. Don’t keep on pulsing if there are a few larger pieces. Take those out and add them to the next small batch. You don’t want to make the pieces too small or it becomes more like mashed potatoes (also delicious, but not what you are going for). 

You will use two saute pans for this meal. Have them set up side by side on your stove as once you start cooking, it will go quickly. 

Cut the onion into thin, two inch pieces. Saute them in a bit of olive oil until they are starting to soften and char (we like our onions on the crispier side so will leave them longer than you probably will). 

Chop the kale leaves (after removing the spines) into TINY pieces…almost a mince. You want the kale to intermingle with the rice, not overtake it. Once the onions are ready, add the kale and a bit more olive oil.

Meanwhile, heat up a bit of olive oil in the other pan and drain the chicken and pat with paper towels to dry. Add salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and brown on one side.

While the chicken browns, add the “riced” cauliflower to the pan with the onions and kale. Heat should be on medium. Mix the cauli-rice, kale and onions together and sprinkle tumeric across the top. Then add salt and pepper to taste. I usually put in a bit more salt that usual on this dish. Mix it all up and let it sit while you tend to the chicken. It should look like this:

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Flip the chicken to the other side and brown for a short time. Pop the top on the simmer sauce, put it back on and shake. When the second side of the chicken is starting to turn opaque, pour the entirety of the simmer sauce over the chicken. Turn the heat to medium low (depending on your stove) to a low simmer and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

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Keep on turning the cauli-rice to make sure all of it is heated through and keep it over low heat while the chicken simmers. Pour yourself a drink. Set the table.

Add hefty amount of the cauli-rice to a bowl and cover with the chicken tikka masala. Pour on extra sauce if that is to your liking. I like to mix it all up so that the cauli-rice covers the chicken.

I always have to make more of this than I think because EVERYONE wants second helpings. It is delicious.

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Fake Fettuccine with Lemon Sauce and Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes

I’ve been trying to use up a giant container of meyer lemons that I bought at costco last week. I had timed the purchase wrong, forgetting that we had a bunch of evening events preventing cooking. So, when I HAVE been cooking, I am all lemon lemon LEMON!  There has been some lemon chicken, and some larb-ish thai chicken (with lemon), a lemon buerre blanc sauce over fish.

One of my resolutions this year has been to eat vegetarian at least one dinner a week (I have plenty of vegetarian lunches; dinner has been the hard change) so I thought this was the perfect opportunity. Though some rotisserie chicken meat or spicy sausage would have been spectacular in this, too.

A few weeks ago I bought an alternative to my favorite black bean pasta…mung bean fettuccine: a green and more textured flat noodle. And so when I saw these recipes yesterday, I knew I wanted to do something similar. Hubs doesn’t like food that is too rich, too creamy or too cheesy…so this was going to be all about the balance.

And I forgot to take pictures…like a doof. And it was beautiful!

Ingredients:

  • half package of mung bean fettuccine
  • juice of two meyer lemons (and the zest)
  • one tablespoon butter
  • salt/pepper
  • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup of fresh grated parmesan
  • hefty pinch of red pepper flakes
  • teaspoon olive oil
  • large red shallot, sliced
  • cup of cherry tomatoes
  • packed cup of fresh spinach leaves

Prepare the fake fettuccine according to package. Add a good amount of salt and pepper to the water as the mung bean can be a bit bland without it.

In a large pan, heat the oil and add sliced shallots. We like our shallots a bit crispy. Cook yours to taste. Put the butter into the pan and, once melted, add the lemon juice, zest, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Mix this with the cooked onions. Add the tomatoes and let them warm and soften, stirring often. Grate the cheese over the mixture in the pan and mix. Take the pan off of the heat and add the yogurt. Mix thoroughly. Using tongs, gently put the fettuccine into the pan allowing some of the pasta water (a few drips per bunch) to join the sauce. Add the spinach and use the heat from the pasta to gently wilt the spinach. Divide into bowls and add more of the parmesan and red pepper flakes. Serve.

I devoured this. It was a powerhouse of lemon-y goodness tempered with the smoothness and tang of the yogurt and the saltiness of the cheese. Hubs was drinking the sauce once his pasta was gone. I highly recommend this.