Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce

So I think I’ve said this a few times before, but spring has definitely sprung in Northern California. Aside from a couple of rainy days here and there, and some crazy wind, I think spring is here to stay. It’s forecast to reach 85 degrees today! Anyway, the moral of all of this weather talk is that I’d like to thank the lawd for springtime and Daylight Savings because by the time I finished making this dinner last night, it was still light enough to get some semi-naturally lit pictures.

I wasn’t actually planning on dinner last night being a recipe I shared with the blogosphere. I was just jazzed that I’d had the foresight to put a chicken breast in the fridge the night before to defrost. {MAJOR win in my book}

Luckily, I was keeping track of the ingredients as I added them, since I record most of my recipes in my calorie counting app so I have the nutritional stats!

So I got out the chicken breast and my new trusty iPad, and pulled up the Pinterest app. I saw a recipe for spicy peanut sauce that I pinned 50 weeks ago. 50! It pops into my head from time to time, but for most of the past year I was trying to keep a low fat-ish diet. Not anymore! Now that I’m working out 3+ days per week, and trying to maintain my weight {not lose}, I think I can splurge on a little peanut butter here and there đŸ˜‰

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I must have had faith in these trusty ingredients, ’cause I at least thought to take a picture of them! {not pictured are lime juice and sesame oil}

So I started to make the sauce, and had the chicken marinating…then, I started adding my own ingredients and subbing a couple of things here and there. Last time I made peanut sauce “with a few substitutions”, I went too heavy handed on the soy sauce and it basically tasted like salt. So I started eying the pizza my roommate and her boyfriend were making, and thinking to myself, “Welllll, if this doesn’t turn out, maybe I can at least steal a slice of their pizza…..”

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The dish turned out juuuust fine. MORE than fine, even. So fine, that I ran to get my camera after one bite to take pictures and texted my boyfriend, “HOLY S#@&!!” {and kind of freaked him out for a minute when I was too busy chowing down to explain my random outburst}.

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Suffice it to say, it was GOOD. And quick! This is a true 30-minute meal, depending on how long your rice takes to cook. The sauce is out of this world – salty from the soy sauce, spicy from just a hint {ok, a lot} of sriracha, and creamy from the peanut butter. Now how bad can that be?

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Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce
serves one…but is easily doubled, tripled or quadrupled đŸ˜‰
sauce based on Naturally Ella’s Spicy Peanut Sauce with Rice Noodles & Veggies

For Sauce
1 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1/2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar (or just do 1 full tablespoon of soy sauce)
1/2 tbsp honey
1 tsp lime juice
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp garlic, minced (or 1 clove)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup warm water

For Chicken + Marinade
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp lime juice
oil, for sauteing

Optional (but you should totally add these things)
1/4-1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1/2 bunch asparagus
1 tsp sriracha, chile garlic sauce, or sambal oelek

Begin by cutting your chicken into bite sized pieces, and combine the chicken and marinade ingredients in a bowl or plastic bag. Mix until everything’s incorporated and all the chicken pieces are coated in marinade. Set aside. This would also be a good time to get your pot of rice simmering on the stove or in your rice cooker.

While that’s happenin’, combine all the ingredients for your sauce, mixing after each addition. Give it a taste! It should be perfect, but if it needs a lil somethin somethin, go ahead and add whatever your little heart desires. If you want it to be spicy, you can add the sriracha here (I waited until it was all bubblin away on the stove). It may seem really liquidy at this point, but it will thicken when it cooks. Prep whatever veggies you’re using…I used asparagus, so I trimmed the tough edges and cut the spears into 3rds/4ths.

Heat ~1 tsp of oil on a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces, draining them of their marinade. If the veggies you’re using take a longer time to cook (like asparagus) add them in at the same time. If not…just wait a few minutes before adding them. No biggie. Cook chicken for about 3 minutes on each side, then add your sauce and reduce heat to medium-low. Let it simmer away until it has thickened to your desired consistency, about 5-7 minutes.

Spoon chicken, veggies, and sauce over rice and enjoy!

Notes: This recipe makes aboout twice as much as is on that plate. Other good veggies to use would be broccoli/cauliflower, a frozen stir fry mix, or other in-season veggies right now like peas or string beans.

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

So it’s been pretty cold. I know that I’ll get flack for saying this, being that I live in California and all. But it has consistently been 32 degrees or below every morning this week! I won’t mention that the high each day has also been 50 degrees…but I will complain about having to defrost and/or just get impatient and scrape ice off the windshield in the morning. I was actually up at 6:30 yesterday morning to go get a cancerous mole removed (long story) and it was a shock to my cold-hating soul!

I’m convinced this winter that I have poor circulation, because I am pretty much always freezing. I’m freezing in my 63 degree apartment, T-Man’s 67 degree house…I’m even sometimes freezing in my office, which is actually kept around 73 degrees.

Enter: soup.

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I’ve been craving hot food lately, especially since I had a head/chest cold over Christmas and wanted everything I consumed to be hot to soothe my throat. My dad’s side of the family (all 18 of us) exchange gifts Secret Santa-style every year, so when my cousin Evan drew my name this year, he sneakily asked T-Man what to get me for Christmas. T-Man suggested a Crockpot…most likely because I have been holding his hostage for about 6 months now and it’s time I got my own đŸ™‚

So that’s what I got for Christmas, and I knew immediately what I’d be making in it first: SOUP!

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I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Chicken Tortilla Soup. I love it because it involves lots of my favorite non-soup ingredients: chiles, corn, chicken, cilantro… I hate it for the same reason I steer clear of Chicken Noodle Soup: because it’s normally pretty brothy, with rubbery pieces of chicken floating around. I am not usually that person who slurps up all the broth at the end of a bowl of soup – except maybe with a nice big piece of bread.

That being said…I slurped up all.of.the.broth at the end of every bowl of this soup. I have made myself a broth-believer.

The secret: a roasted pepper.

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I charred this pasilla pepper and blended him up with roasted garlic and cilantro to add a little sum’n-sum’n to my broth.

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(Another toy my mom got me for my birthday…a duo blender/mini food processor! To join the regular food processor T-Man got me for our anniversary. Good thing there are no more birthdays and holidays for a while, ’cause I’m running out of cabinet space!!)

The result was a broth that wasn’t just there for all the ingredients to float in: it was actually super delicious on its own!

And because this soup is made in the Crockpot, it is extremely easy to make. It also has very few ingredients and is HEALTHY! Check it out for yourself:

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Boneless skinless chicken thighs, a pepper, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic, black beans (cause I love ’em) and fat free low sodium chicken broth. Oh and frozen corn, which isn’t pictured. This meal is packed with protein and not much fat at all – only from the chicken. The great thing about cooking in a Crockpot is you don’t have to add oil like you do with sauteing or roasting!

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You really just dump it all into the Crockpot. I avoided the dreaded rubbery chunks of chicken by first cooking the thighs whole, then removing them toward the end of cooking and shredding them with a couple of forks. Such a good decision!

This is a soup that can also be made without a Crockpot…your best bet would be to use leftover cooked chicken and shred it first, then add everything to a pot and let it simmer for as long as you’d like.

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Make it! Warm up your cold wintery self!

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Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup
makes 3-4 servings

3 boneless skinless chicken thighs OR 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2-14.5 ounce cans of chicken broth (about 3-4 cups)
1 pasilla pepper (I would use a pasilla pepper or the spicier poblano…the 2 are often confused for each other)
1 bunch cilantro
2-3 cloves garlic (roasted or not- here’s a good tutorial on how to roast garlic)
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes in chiles
1/4 cup corn
shredded cheese (optional)
crumbled tortilla chips (optional)

Start by adding chicken and chicken broth to the Crockpot. Set Crockpot to high so the chicken can start to cook during the short time it will take you to prepare the other ingredients.

Char the pasilla pepper on all sides, either on your gas stove or under the broiler in your oven. When it is done, carefully move it into a plastic bag, or a covered bowl, so the steam will release the skin. After about 10 minutes, you will be able to easily remove the charred skin, as well as the inner seeds and ribs. I also charred and peeled my garlic cloves as a way to “roast” them. Add garlic and peeled pepper to food processor, along with a handful or two of cilantro, and process until it is a pesto-like consistency. I added a teaspoon of water to help it along.

Now you can start adding the rest of the ingredients to the Crockpot. Add the chile-cilantro mixture and stir to incorporate into the broth. Next, add black beans and the entire can of tomatoes and chiles (liquid and all). Last, add the corn. Slow cook in the Crockpot on high for 4 hours. After 3 hours, remove the chicken thighs and shred them with two forks. Add the shredded chicken back in for the last hour of cooking.

Garnish with cheese and tortilla chips if desired! (I didn’t have any on hand! For shame.)

Note: You can also set your Crockpot to low if you want it to take longer to cook (e.g. while you are at work). If you set it to low, it will take 6-8 hours total. You will still want to remove the chicken about an hour before the cooking time is up. Also, I feel like I should warn that if you also buy Rotel brand tomatoes and are a tomato-hater, they will smell pretty disgusting at first…but never fear, the broth actually masks the taste of the tomatoes very well! Believe me, T-Man and I were gagging at the smell of the Rotel and both loved the final product!

Meatless Monday: Spicy Smoky Black Bean Burgers

My college had amazing dining halls. Each one had 4-5 different stations with varied entrees, a complete salad bar, and one dining hall even had a taco/tostada bar. Oh and unlimited fro-yo or ice cream, depending on which dining hall you chose.

There may have been fruit too. But I (along with the Freshman 15 I gained in 2006) wouldn’t know anything about that. đŸ˜‰

One of the coolest things about our eating options was that each section offered a vegetarian alternative alongside each carnivorous entree. Most of the time, I would scoff at these options. But there was one thing that always caught my eye: black bean burgers. More flavorful than their typical veggie burger counterpart, I always looked for these guys and grabbed one every chance I got.

Living on my own in the “real” world, I no longer have the luxury of someone to do my dishes 3 meals per day, or cook 4 different options for me for every meal. Most of my meals are are more like an episode of Chopped: “You have beans, sesame seed paste, and breadcrumbs in your pantry…You have 20 minutes to make an entree…GO!!”

Enter: Black Bean Burger. Continue reading

What to Eat When You Have a Broken Hand

Life is hard with one hand.

I know I’ve said it before, but I’m so often reminded of it that I feel it needs repeating. Life is especially hard when you normally insist on making meals from scratch and an injury dooms you to to a life of microwave meals. I really try to stick to a healthy diet and avoid eating out when I can, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that things are gonna be different these next 5 weeks!

Check out some things that I’ve found to be both easy-to-make, and somewhat healthy as well.

1) Yogurt for breakfast.

For the calcium and added vitamin D, but mainly for the easy open container! Continue reading