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!

 

Ham and cheese quinoa “pizza” bites

I’ve heard about these so called quinoa pizza bites here and there and I knew I wanted to make them but didn’t know when. Until we had another couple and their son over to watch the Oscars last night and I knew I wanted to have food that was somewhat “handy” but also hearty (as I didn’t want to have a lot of dishes downstairs with a 3 year old, a 2 year old and an almost 2 year old running around).

I also don’t have a mini-cupcake pan as they recommend. Probably would have helped, but they turned out pretty great anyway, if I do say so myself.

As is my wont, I looked at the recipes/directions I had seen elsewhere, looked at my fridge, and came up with my own version.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken stock (or 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup water)
  • half of a vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • two leaves of kale, chopped
  • 1 cup of spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 large eggs (I used three smallish eggs)
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheddar
  • 4 slices of ham, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano (plus a 1/4 tablespoon in the quinoa)
  • salt/pepper
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • paprika
  • grated parmesan for the top (while cooking)
  • pasta sauce (to dip)

Preheat oven to 375.

On the stovetop, cook the quinoa by putting quinoa and stock into pot, salting and adding a few dashes of the oregano and bringing to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to simmer, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

In a saute pan, cook the onion with a bit of olive oil until translucent, add the mushrooms and cook until softening, add the kale and a bit of salt and pepper and stir until all are cooking through and soft. (This time is when I chopped the remaining ingredients)

Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Spray the cupcake sheet with Pam or the like (I use smart start). Divvy out the quinoa mixture into the cups until just over the edge (next time I may make them a bit more shallow so that they come together more quickly). Put in the oven for 30 minutes. At that time, put a bit of the parmesan on top, turn the oven up to 400 and cook for another 15 or so minutes. Test by running a knife around the sides and seeing if the “muffin” is crusty on the sides. Once they are finished, let them sit for about 10 minutes. This will help them set.

Serve with pasta sauce. Easy peasy!

Avocado tartare

Didn’t take any pictures (ate it too quickly) but I highly recommend you make this ASAP. It is ridiculously good.

Only made a few slight modifications including doubling the lemon juice, replacing the red onion with sautéed vidalia, and using a few squirts of sriracha instead of jalapeño. Oh, and I left out the capers as I didn’t have any on hand. It was devoured. And crazy easy.

From Food & Wine:

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Tri-tip steak with a brussel sprout and pancetta side (and grilled corn! and tomato/cucumber salad!)

We eat a lot of grilled corn around these parts. Especially in the summer. It is a specialty of Hubs and often requested by friends and our extended family.

Our lovely au pair has family in town this month and, on the night her best friend arrived, we invited him to join us for dinner. I found a lovely looking tri-tip steak at the local natural food store, too. We also had some brussel sprouts and pancetta that was reaching its life limit. And, as said before, our tomatoes are abundant. With that, a meal was made.

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Ingredients:

The steak

  • one large tri-tip steak
  • soy sauce (about a 1/2 cup)
  • hoisin (two tablespoons)
  • tomato paste (about a tablespoon)
  • worchestshire sauce (about a tablespoon)
  • sesame oil (one tablespoon)
  • rice wine vinegar (one tablespoon)
  • brown sugar (two tablespoons)
  • lime zest
  • salt/pepper
  • lime juice (one lime)
  • grated fresh ginger (about one inch of a knob)

The brussel sprouts

  • one cup of cubed pancetta
  • one pound of brussel sprouts, ends cut off, outer leaves removed and cut in half
  • half of a vidalia onion, cut against the grain
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic
  • toasted pine nuts

The corn

  • as many ears of corn for as many people you have
  • one lime per four ears
  • sprinkling of salt

Tomato/cucumber salad

  • tomatoes from the garden, cut into rough chunks
  • two cucumbers peeled and cut into one inch chunks
  • basil to taste
  • balsamic to taste
  • salt/pepper

In a large glass baking dish, whisk all ingredients for the marinade (everything but the steak). Once thoroughly mixed, add the steak, fat side up, and let it sit, covered for as long as possible. Flip halfway through the amount of time you have available. I didn’t have too much time (about an hour) but it was still enough to get the flavors intermingled.

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While that marinates, cut your brussel sprouts and onion. In a saute pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil (or grapeseed) and add the onions. When softening, add the pancetta and cook until done. Take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon (leaving as much of their grease as possible) and put them on a paper towel to drain.

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Add in the cut sprouts, cut side down and let that cook until the cut side is browning. When you see a bit of brown, add a splash of wine and a splash of balsamic and mix until all are covered.  Once the sprouts are cooked, add the pancetta and onions back in to the sprouts. This is often best if it has been sitting for a bit in the pan, letting the flavors meld together. Heat up in the pan right before serving.

When ready to cook the tri-tip, turn on your grill to the lower temperature setting. You will use the burners for the corn and the steak will be on indirect heat, on the rack above. Grill the steak on the upper rack for 15 minutes on each side with the lid closed. When the internal temperature (using an insta-read) reaches 135, take it off and let it sit covered in tin foil for 15 minutes more.  While the steak is resting, turn the heat up on grill and put the corn on. Turn only when the kernels begin to char. When charred on all sides (about 15 minutes, but maybe quicker depending on the corn), squeeze a lime over the corn and sprinkle with parmesan.

Chop the tomatoes and cucumber and mix with basil and balsamic, salt and pepper. Turn the heat up high on the sprouts to quickly heat through. Add the pine nuts now (otherwise they can get soggy).  Slice the steak into thin slices and serve!  This tri-tip was so good that we made it again a few days later.

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Bad ass kale and mushroom quiche

The next few recipes are going to be a bit out of order as I promised that I would get this recipe up today, even though it was queued for later this week.

Recently I’ve found that I have been searching for the veg portion of the meal before figuring out what the “rest of it” will look like. I pick the green veg and then the meat/base/accompanying vegetables. In this morning’s Goop (Yes, I read it. Shush, you!), she interviews an owner of a vegan restaurant in Philly and this quote really spoke to me:

Don’t think of veggies as afterthoughts and side dishes. Put extra effort into them and let them shine!

^^^ This. This is where my brain is these days. Focus on the veg, make them delicious and then add in some other awesomeness to help make it whole.

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When at the grocers yesterday (still filling the fridge up after a week away) I saw some gorgeous kale. I knew we needed to use up some of the eggs and feta in the fridge so a quiche was devised. I never really follow the proportions they insist upon in quiche recipes…so again I foraged off on my own. I also picked up some sliced, fresh mushrooms to lose a step. And as this was mostly a meal for our au pair and myself, I allowed it to be extra cheesy as hubs doesn’t do “cheesy” (his loss. right?!).

Ingredients:

  • Dinosaur kale (I used one and a half handfuls)
  • Two cups of sliced porcini mushrooms
  • Eight medium eggs
  • One vidalia onion
  • One medium shallot
  • One cup of feta
  • Half cup of cheddar
  • Half stick of butter, separated
  • Olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • Two roma tomatoes
  • Flax seed
  • Cooking spray
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Handful of basil
  • Parm, to finish

This comes together pretty quickly for as many ingredients as there are. And the above feeds three. This would be an excellent “side dish” if paired with something meaty. Or it could also take on epic status with the inclusion of some sun dried tomato chicken sausage.

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Preheat the oven to 375. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of butter chopped into fourths over medium heat in a sauté pan. I actually like a bit of a thinner pan for this type of cooking. My favorite sauté pan is also my cheapest. It browns the butter super quickly and heats the oil fast, as well.

Chop the vidalia into a medium small chop. A chunkier chop would work well here, too, if you want a bit more tooth in your onion. When the butter is starting to brown, add in the vidalia and have it sop up all of that buttery, browned deliciousness.

While that softens, start on the kale. I like dinosaur kale because it is so easy to remove the stalk by pulling on the greens in the opposite direction from the bottom of the stalk (obviously, rinse and pat dry the kale before you do this). When you have stripped all of your kale, roll it up like a chiffonade and cut it across the grain so that it is in thin strips.

ImageAs soon as the vidalia is getting a bit more translucent, add in the mushrooms, one more tablespoon of butter (quartered) and cook until all are tender and slightly browned. I also salt and pepper my mushrooms at this point. A splash of wine (any wine, really…last night we were drinking rosé) right about now does WONDERS to the complexity of the flavor, too.  Next time I make this, I am going to use a bit more wine than I did last night. 

I used the time the mushrooms were cooking to crack and beat my eggs. Most recipes would call for about four eggs in this. I used eight or nine (I lost track) medium sized eggs. As I wasn’t using any milk to “lift” the eggs, and it was going to be main and only dinner, I wanted to add a bit of heft. I whisked them until incorporated then beat in a bit more salt and pepper and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and dumped in the two cheeses. 

ImageNow that the mushrooms were soft, I piled the kale on top of the mushrooms. I grabbed my madonlin and sliced thinly the shallot, sprinkling it on the kale. The kale will cook down now…but it will cook down a bit more quickly with another splash of wine. Incorporate the mushrooms, kale and onions once the kale’s green is brightening. Let that cook over low to medium heat until the kale is soft. 

Meanwhile, make the space on your mandolin a bit wider and slice your tomatoes into 1/6″ slices. Spray some cooking spray on the inside of your glass pan (I used a Pyrex casserole dish as I needed more than just a slice).  Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with ground flax seed and parmesan (to make a bit of a strach-less, healthy crust).

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Once the kale/mushroom combo seems well cooked, stir it again so that it is well mixed and then pour it into the pyrex dish. I had to move things around a bit because the mushrooms were heavy on one side and the kale on the other.

Pour the egg and cheese mixture on so that it evenly coats the veggies. And then layer the tomatoes across the top. Put it in the oven, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through.

The tomatoes on top give it some needed sweetness, the cheddar the bite, the pepper the heat and the feta some added salt…and they all work well with the savory-ness of the dish. If I did it again, I would then put some chopped parsley/ground flax and parm on the top to add a little crunch to the top and broil it for a few seconds at the end.

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Tomato and Basil Quinoa

ImageAs mentioned in the last post, we are heading out of town and I am trying to use up all of the fresh veg before we go. Stupidly, on Tuesday, I bought a branch of tomatoes forgetting this fact. And the other day when I was going through the veg drawer? Four halves of yellow or white onions. No bueno. I also had a basil plant sitting on my sill that I know will go kaplewy with no water for eight days. Sounds like the perfect makings of a delicious pasta dish, no? Oh. Right. No pasta.

So let’s substitute in some quinoa, add in some fresh oregano from the garden, some chili flakes and some parm. And it was DELICIOUS! A bit onion-y…but I like onion-y.

Ingredients

  • five tomatoes chopped in medium chunks
  • one large bell pepper
  • three half onions 🙂 chopped medium/fine
  • two large stalks of fresh oregano
  • one cup of quinoa
  • two cups of chicken stock
  • one cup (before chopping) of basil, chopped
  • chili pepper flakes to taste
  • salt/pepper
  • balsamic vinegar
  • grated parmesan

ImageThe process on this one was fairly simple. Before I started, I went to the garden and grabbed two long stalks of oregano. I had too much in the end but I hate having to run back down. I measured out the quinoa and then chicken stock. Cleaned and chopped about two tablespoons of oregano (after chopping). Added some salt and pepper. Brought it to a boil. Stirred all of the ingredients. Brought the temperature down to a simmer and covered. I then let that sit for about 15 minutes.

ImageIn a large saute pan, I heated some olive oil and, when hot, added the chopped onion with a bit of salt. While that became soft (stirring occasionally), I chopped the tomatoes and then added them (and ALL of the juice I could keep) to the pan. While that began to cook, I chopped the bell pepper into small pieces and then added them to the pan. Next, I plucked all of the basil off of the plant and then chopped that into medium pieces, adding them to the pan. Then another two tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano. And then a dash of chili flakes. As the other flavors in this were relatively mild, I added more chili flakes then I normally would. A little bit of heat can be a great thing! After mixing it all up, it sat for a good ten minutes, melding all of the juices and softening the tomatoes and pepper. 

ImageWhen the quinoa was cooked, I turned it off and set it aside until the rest of the mixture was ready. When it was, I dumped the whole pot of quinoa into the saute pan so that it could soak up all of the yummy juices. Then came the balsamic. I would add, stir, then taste, repeating until it had the right amount of bite. At this point, the gas was on low/simmer. This is when you add the parm. Add as much as you want. It doesn’t hurt it. Hubs isn’t a HUGE cheese guy so I only added a bit, with more to add if anyone wanted some later. 

And that was it! A big hit in our house, too. It would have done well with spinach, too. Or even steamed broccoli.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Broccolini

Last night’s dinner was a super success. I had hubs pick out the fish for us when we were at the farmer’s market yesterday (quickly becoming my favorite Sunday morning activity with the kids — helps P try new foods, too!) as I really want to get him involved in the food we eat. The best way to do this (in my experience) is to have him grill the food…and to have him pick it out himself.

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Yesterday he chose a GORGEOUS mahi mahi (after helping P make friends with the little guy to our left…this lil’ dude was about three inches long).

I wasn’t sure what I could do with the mahi mahi as I sometimes have a major fear of “new to me” ingredients. But if he was comfortable grilling it, I was sure I could figure out a side, marinade and/or sauce. Apparently, I mastered two of the three (in hubs’ opinion).

Once we were home and were unpacking the days glory, I noticed that the pineapple that I had purchased two weeks ago (before “the sick”) was on last legs. It had to be used. And from there I got creative!

The fish marinade:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (we used low sodium)
  • 3 limes (zest and juice)
  • 2 tablespoons of grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons of cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt/pepper
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (for the high temps)

The pineapple topping/salsa:

  • At least a cup of freshly cubed pineapple (reserve the juices when cutting)
  • 1/2 of finely chopped vidalia onion
  • 1 tablespoon of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of super finely chopped jalapeno
  • 12 mint leaves chiffonaded and then finely chopped
  • Squeeze of lime juice

I forgot to take a picture of the final plate…because we dove into it so quickly that I didn’t even have time to consider it. It looked and smelled THAT good.

Before doing anything else, whisk all of the ingredients for the marinade together and then place the fish flesh side down (skin up) into the marinade in a dish (I used a pirex pan).

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Then, go outside and clean the grates on your grill VERY well and coat them in grapeseed oil…while the grill is still cold.  Come back inside and prepare the salsa.

Chop all of the ingredients, mix in a glass bowl, taste and add more heat from the jalapeno if it seems light on heat or add some more lime juice if it needs more acid and let them sit. Make sure you have put back all of the pineapple juices lost when cutting it up. Because hubs likes his food extra hot, I chopped up a bit more jalapeno for him to add after I had plated dinner.

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Once the fish has sat in the marinade for at least 30 minutes, it is ready to grill. Hubs took over at this point but we followed this tutorial. Basically, hot grill skin side down first for 8 minutes or until the bottom side is turning white (1/4 of the way up), flip and cook until the other side is almost completely opaque (about another 8 minutes). Hubs made sure to pour the marinade over the fish throughout the cooking.

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While he was outside cooking the fish, I steamed the broccolini in my wok with the bamboo steamer. I salted the water prior to turning on the heat and squeezed a bit of lemon on it at the very end of cooking.

Once the fish was finished cooking, we served it immediately. And it was freaking DELICIOUS! The perfect mix of hot and sweet and tangy. It tasted fresh and light…but amazingly filling, too. The perfect meal.

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