Chicken in Parchment

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The other night I made one of my all-time-favorite weeknight dishes, Chicken in Parchment, and I thought, Holy cow! This is a super easy, super delicious, super healthy meal — why haven’t I shared it with my readers yet?! And the answer is…I have no idea, because it’s totally something you guys will love. The only special element this recipe requires is parchment paper, which many of us have in our kitchens anyway, and a some mad scissor skills (but if you can cut a paper heart, your golden!). Honestly, this is the most flavorful and healthy way I’ve found to cook white meat. You see, baking the chicken (or fish, which I’ll post next week) in parchment packets, with just a trace amount of liquid, allows you to steam the meat in it’s own broth, making it really moist and tender — kind of like a personal sauna for your chicken. Continue reading

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Baked Southwest Egg Rolls with Creamy Salsa

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I have a major weakness for Southwest egg rolls. It’s my kryptonite. Just one whiff of them can bring me to my knees, and every time I see them on a menu (and that’s a lot since our move to Texas), I have to order them. I’m not sure who it was that first came up with this Asian fusion work of art, but they should be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for brilliance in food discovery. Alright, maybe that’s going a bit too far, but that’s how much I love them. Now, with that being said, I realize that these fried little goodies aren’t the most nutritious things you can put into your mouth, and with bikini season still in full swing, I’m not yet willing to abandon my healthy eating habits and devour these by the handful, like I inevitably do once sweater season strikes. But just because the weather is warm and the clothing trends skimpy, doesn’t mean I should completely sacrifice my favorite go-to appetizer, right? At least that’s what I was thinking last weekend when I was having a serious snack-attack. Hungry for something savory and satisfying, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own less fattening version of the Southwest egg roll. Made with brown rice, lean chicken, and baked instead of fried, I feel better (at least a little bit) about attacking these guys with reckless abandon. Which I did. — Don’t judge.

Baked Southwest Egg Rolls

Makes 14

  • ½ cup dry brown rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1½ cups spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1½ cups corn kernels, fresh or canned
  • 1 cup precooked rotisserie chicken (white meat, skin removed), roughly chopped (*omit to make this a vegetarian dish)
  • 1 bell pepper (red or orange), chopped
  • ½ cup jarred salsa
  • ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 Tbsp diced canned jalapeños (substitute mild diced green chills for less heat)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 14 flour tortillas, fajita size
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
  • parchment paper

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Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Once boiling, add rice and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until rice is soft and all the water has evaporated from the pot. Once rice has finished cooking, fluff with a fork and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour half of the black beans into a medium bowl and mash with a fork until most of the beans are crushed.IMG_9237

To the same bowl, add cooked rice and all the other remaining ingredients (except the tortillas and egg wash), and stir until combined.IMG_9254

Fill a ¼-cup measurer with egg roll filling and drop it into the center of a tortilla.IMG_9259

Bring 2 sides of the tortilla upward, then use your other hand to press on the outside of the tortilla, forming the filling into a log running down the center of the tortilla, stopping ½-inch from each end.IMG_9260

Fold the bottom of the tortilla up towards the center, then fold both sides inward, creating an envelope.IMG_9261

Brush the open end of tortilla with the egg wash and fold inward, sealing the egg roll.IMG_9266 IMG_9263

Place egg roll seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then brush the top of the tortilla with egg wash, covering the entire surface.IMG_9265

Repeat with the remaining tortillas.IMG_9268

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until egg rolls are golden brown and crispy to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with Creamy Salsa for dipping (recipe below).IMG_9270

Creamy Salsa

  • 1 cup jarred salsa
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • smoked paprika for garnish

Mix salsa, sour cream, and salt together until smooth. Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Creamy Salsa can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.IMG_9287

Sidekick: Serve with a light and refreshing beer, preferably of the Mexican variety: Pacifico, Modelo, Sol, Dos Equis, Victoria, or Carta Blanca.

Stuff My Kid Eats: Beer Can Chicken with Grilled Asparagus & Avocado

IMG_9181Now here’s a chicken that has `Merica written all over it: cajun spices, a grill, and beer – not to mention the crude jokes that will inevitably follow once you shove the beer can up it’s…well, can, for lack of a better term.  But cooking the chicken this way provides more than just a good laugh, it keeps the meat moist and raises the bird up off the fire allowing the skin to get nice and crispy it without burning or sticking to the grate.

IMG_9182This is me last summer with my first attempt at beer can chicken, and since then I’ve cooked close to two dozen of these tasty hens. It took me a few tries to fine tune the spice rub and perfect the cooking method, and in doing so I had to eat pounds and pounds of delicious meat. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. You’re welcome. And an unforseen bonus to my family’s repetitive poultry consumption is that this chicken quickly became my toddler’s favorite meal. When I pull the bird out of the fridge in the morning to start brining it, she’ll do her little happy dance (a combination of clapping and jumping) and sing, “It’s the yummy chicken! We’re having the yummy chicken!” (As opposed to all the other non-yummy chickens I make her eat.) And even better is when I put the can inside the chicken and she asks, “Why are you putting soda in his tushy, Mommy?”

Beer Can Chicken

Serves 4-6

  • 1 5-6 lb. whole chicken, neck and gizzards removed
  • 1 12oz. can of beer, a lager or amber works best (and if you’re able to get your hands on a local brew, even better!)
  • ½ cup Kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sweet paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper (And don’t skimp on the cayenne, I swear it doesn’t make the chicken too spicy)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 13×9-inch disposable tin baking dish
  • 1 gallon resealable plastic bag

To make the brine and spice rub, combine salt, sugar, and all spices (but not garlic cloves) in a large bowl and mix with a fork.IMG_6803

Place chicken in a plastic bag set inside a bowl big enough to hold it. Set aside. (Folding over the edges of the bag makes it easier to pour in the brine.)

In a medium sauce pan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add garlic cloves and ½ of spice mixture, about ¾ cup (reserve remaining spice mixture to rub on chicken before grilling). Simmer, stirring occasionally, until salt and sugar have dissolved, about 5 minutes.IMG_6808

Remove from heat and add 2 cups of ice. Let sit until liquid has come to room temperature, it’s okay if the ice hasn’t melted all the way.IMG_6809

Using a large measuring cup, carefully pour brining liquid and garlic cloves into plastic bag with chicken until liquid almost reaches the top of the bag. Fold the edge of the bag back over and seal the zip lock. Place the bag and bowl in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours. (Brining the chicken is a key step in helping preserve its moisture and flavor under the high heat, so don’t skip this step, people! Seriously, it only takes about 5-10 minutes of prep time in the morning.)IMG_6812

Once chicken has finished brining, remove from liquid and pat dry with a paper towel.IMG_6846

Rub the remaining spice mixture all over chicken, making sure to completely cover both sides, under wings, and in all the other cracks and crevices.IMG_6851

Prepare grill for high, indirect heat:

For a gas grill, lift the grate and place the disposable tin baking pan to one side of the grill, then fill the pan half-way with water (this will keep the drippings from starting a grease fire in your grill). Turn on all but 1 burner (the one under the baking pan). Replace grate. Close the lid and allow the internal temperature to reach 350-400°F before cooking chicken.

For a charcoal grill, lift the grate and push the coals to one side of the grill, baking up the side, and place a disposable tin baking pan on the other side. Fill the pan half-way full of water, then light coals and replace grate. Close lid and allow the internal temperature to reach 350-400°F before cooking chicken.

IMG_7251{Note: If you have a top warming rack like is pictured here, you’ll want to remove it otherwise it will knock the chicken over when you try to shut the lid. Which is a big mess. Just trust me on this one.}

Meanwhile, use a can opener to remove the top of beer can and pour out ½ of the beer into a glass. (I strongly advise drinking the extra beer before proceeding.)IMG_6854{In case you were wondering, I didn’t suddenly grow hair on my knuckles, these are my husband’s incredibly masculine hands.}

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Slide the ½-full beer can into the cavity of the chicken, legs pointing down (now here’s where the jokes start).IMG_6868

Carefully place chicken and can on the indirect portion of the grill over the drip pan. You may need to position the legs like a tripod to stabilize chicken. Close the lid and cook.IMG_6881

Okay, so every chicken recipe I’ve ever run across says, “Cook chicken until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165F.”IMG_6886

That’s fine, however, I’ve found that the chicken isn’t always cooked through when I rely on this method, so in addition to inserting a thermometer into the thigh, I also insert one in the top of the breast, like so…IMG_6885If the temperature here also reads 165°F, then you’re good to go. With a 5-6 lb. chicken, cooking at 350-400°F, and a train leaving Station A at 6 o’clock, this will take about 45-65 minutes. (If using charcoal, you may need to add more to maintain heat.)

Transfer chicken to a plate and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carefully removing the beer can and carving. (Don’t dump the beer just yet, because if you slice into the chicken and it’s not quite done, you’ll want to pop it back on the can and put the whole shebang back on the grill a little while longer until cooked through.)IMG_6889

Sidekicks: Serve with beer, of course, and a couple of these grilled sides. While the chicken is resting, throw these veggies onto your hot grill and everything will be ready at the same time. Brilliant!

Lemony-Garlic AsparagusIMG_6887The acidity of the lemon and the sweetness of the asparagus are an excellent counter to the slightly salty, slightly spicy chicken. And the garlic? Well, I added that just because I love garlic.

Lemony-Garlic Asparagus

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, tender parts only
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine butter, garlic, and lemon juice. Whisk until combined. Line a grill tray with a piece of tin foil (you don’t want all those delicious juices to be lost to the fire), and place asparagus on foil in a single layer. Drizzle with butter mixture and season with salt & pepper.

Place basket on grill set to high heat, close lid and cook for 2-3 minutes or until crisp-tender and the tips start to brown. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.

Grilled Avocados with Salt and LimeIMG_9334Now I like guacamole as much as the next gal, but this is hands down my favorite way to eat an avocado — and it’s probably the easiest side dish in the history side dishes. (Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appétit) 

Grilled Avocados with Salt and Lime

Serves 4-6

  • 2-3 ripe avocados, halved with pit removed
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4-6 lime wedges
  • Kosher salt to taste

Brush each avocado half with oil, and mist the grill grate with high heat cooking spray. Place avocados flesh-side down on a grill set to high heat. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes or until avocado easily lifts from grate and has sear marks. Serve with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt.

Stuff My Kid Eats: Roast Chicken Salad with Butternut Squash and Barley

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Lunchtime at our house can be a battle. Up until a few months ago I would change-up our lunch options rather frequently, and my daughter was usually pretty cool with it, but recently she’s discovered a new streak of independence and wants none of that. Most of the parenting books I’ve read say that toddlers should be allowed to make a couple decisions throughout the day, so I decided to let her choose her mid-day meal (within reason). But it’s always the same. “I want peanut butter sandwich – no jelly. Grapes. Carrots. Cottage Cheese. And milk, please…… Pretty please may I have it right now?!!!!” (The last part was added because it takes me longer than 5 seconds to make her lunch.) Now because I’m a mom, I always attempt to offer her a second option; “Mommy’s having blank, are you sure you don’t want some, too?” And this is where she acts as if her world is crumbling down (especially if I utter the word salad, which can single-handedly bring the child to tears). “No!” she cries, and repeats her original request in a quavery voice. I almost always acquiesce, but as we set down to eat, I notice her grubby little hand reach across the counter to steal some of my food. “Oh that’s good, Mom!” she’ll say, then abandon her sandwich and start eating off my plate. (This is why at any given moment you’ll find a neglected, half-eaten peanut butter sandwich in my refrigerator.) So, although my toddler strives so hard for her independence, she is still human, which means that the grass will always be greener on mommy’s side of the fence, and this is what’s on mommy’s side of the fence today…

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Roast Chicken Salad with Butternut Squash and Barley

This is a great lunchtime salad; it’s light, it’s healthy, and it has everything you need for a satisfying meal right in one bowl – not to mention it makes plenty of leftovers for the rest of week! Note: vegetarians, see VEGETARIAN MODIFICATIONS at the end of the post. (Recipe slightly adapted from Men’s Health magazine)

  • 1 cup pearl barley or farro, rinsed
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 4 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. cround cumin
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups roughly torn rotisserie chicken (bones and skin removed)
  • 2 small parsnips, peeled and shaved
  • 3 cups peeled and thinly cut butternut squash
  • 1 ½ cups red seedless grapes, halved
  • ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 3 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled

Place the barley or farro in a medium pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 25-45 minutes (or per package instructions). Drain and cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, OJ, ginger, cumin, salt, and pepper.

Add the barley/farro, torn chicken, parsnips, squash, grapes, and parsley to the bowl; toss everything to coat with the dressing. Top with pumpkin seeds and goat cheese and serve.

VEGETARIAN MODIFICATION: Replace chicken with 1 15-oz. can of pinto beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed.

Stuff My Kid Eats: Broccoli and Basil Panang Curry

Stuff My Kid Eats

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“Ew, that’s so yucky!” is my toddler’s new favorite phrase. This has been her mantra of late and she uses it in response to pretty much anything she’s offered, be it food, clothes, or a new activity. She turned 2½ a couple weeks ago and has developed an opinion about everything. EVERYTHING! So it was no surprise to me that she turned up her nose at this dinner. “But it’s made with peanut butter,” I told her. She looked at me sideways, calculating her next move. “Peanut butter? Hmm…” She ate a bite, and then another, and another. “It’s very yucky, Mommy,” she said quietly and with much less conviction, then she slurped the last piece of meat out of her bowl and reached across the table to snag more off my husband’s plate.

Broccoli and Basil Panang Curry

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This delicious, easy-to-make Thai dish can be adapted to fit any eater and is sure to become a new family favorite! I usually prepare it with beef (pictured above) and serve it over rice noodles, but it can also be made with chicken, shrimp, or tofu and spooned over long-grain white rice or brown rice. 

Broccoli and Basil Panang Curry

Serves 4

For the Panang

  • 1 13.5-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk (do not stir)
  • 2 Tbsp. Panang or red curry paste
  • 2 Tbsp. almond butter or extra-crunchy peanut butter
  • 5 tsp. fish sauce
  • 4 tsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise very thinly
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced lengthwise very thinly
  • 1 bunch broccolini, cut into 2-inch long pieces, stems included (regular broccoli would work, too, just cut each floret into quarters)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade (*see How To)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (from about 1 medium lime)
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1 tsp. hot chili paste, such as sambal or oelek (omit if you don’t like heat)

Choose one of the following proteins:

  • 1 lb. ribeye steak (*see Note)
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (*see Note)
  • 1 lb. uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
  • 2 14-oz. packages firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes

*Note: Place the steak or chicken in the freezer for 15 minutes to make it easier to cut. With a very sharp knife, slice meat against the grain, no thicker than ⅛-inch.

Choose one of the following for serving:

  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white (such as Basmati or Jasmine), cooked per package instructions
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice, cooked per package instructions
  • 8 oz. dry rice noodles, cooked per package instructions

Cook rice/rice noodles per package instructions.

While rice/rice noodles are cooking, heat a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat. Spoon the thick coconut cream from the top of the can into the skillet. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring until fragrant and beginning to dry, about 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the remaining coconut milk, almond/peanut butter, fish sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and water and bring to a simmer. Stir in the red pepper, onion, garlic, and broccolini, cover and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.

Add the protein of your choice and half of the basil, cook uncovered, stirring often until the protein is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

Divide cooked rice/rice noodles among 4 separate plates. Spoon Panang over rice/rice noodles, dividing evenly, and sprinkle with remaining basil chiffonade.

*How To:

Chiffonade Basil

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Stack 4-5 leaves on top of each other.

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Tightly roll the stack lengthwise (another selfie of my thumb).

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With a sharp knife, cut the roll perpendicularly into very thin ribbons.

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Repeat with remaining basil leaves.

Sidekick:

  • If you choose to add heat (hot chili paste) to this dish, then you’ll want a nice cold beer, either an Ale, Pilsner, Singha, or Weiss; or a glass of Riesling, either an off-dry or Spätlese.
  • If you prefer the safer, less spicy version of this dish, add a non-oaky Chardonnay to the beverage list above.