I finally have a favorite recipe for fajitas. It’s delicious, fast, and incredibly easy to make. Previously, I made fajitas before using a recipe from a cookbook I’d had for years; they were always tasty, but I recall the recipe being a little involved, though I can’t remember how. But leave it to Smitten Kitchen to again give a delicious, streamlined recipe that I can count on.


What do I love about this recipe? Little things. You cook the vegetables before the meat, then add it back – I can’t recall ever seeing that in a recipe like this (which is essentially a stir-fry). The marinade for the meat has little liquid, so you don’t have to drain it. You just dump the meat into the skillet, and there’s no mess and no waste! I’ve made this with beef and with chicken, and they were equally delicious, but I favor using beef mainly because I can buy precut stir-fry beef.

The marinade was flavorful but not spicy. The meat and vegetables cooked perfectly in my cast iron skillet. It was quick for me to combine the spices and lime juice (I use bottled) to marinate the meat and to cut the vegetables (while Amelia had her afternoon snack), and that could easily be done the night before. The fajitas took very little time to cook, and were great as leftovers too.


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Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

Cooking is much easier with a one-year old than it was with a baby. It got better when she was able to sit upright and play with toys or watch me from her high chair. Now that she can toddle into and out of the kitchen, I can get much more done!

Still, I prefer to cook things that require minimal effort and time, things that I don’t have to focus on. This usually means using my slow cooker. Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted the perfect recipe earlier this year – a chicken chili made entirely in the slow cooker. No soaking beans. No browning meat.

I love this recipe. I just throw all the ingredients in the crockpot and let it cook until dinner. I only have to cut up an onion and a jalapeno (if I use a whole pepper instead of chili or pepper flakes, which I usually don’t). I don’t cut up my chicken first; after 10 hours in the slow cooker, I easily break it up with a sturdy serving spoon. And this chili even turns out if I forget that I’m out of onions when I make it (oops).

This was a great chili and a perfect slow cooker meal. It was delicious and not too spicy (as long as I added the amount of jalapeno I wanted). As a chili, it’s hearty and healthy. This is way, way better any of my attempts to make a chili with ground turkey. This recipe is not as tomatoey as when I make a chili on the stove, but that’s not a big deal. Leftovers are great. And my one-year-old absolutely devours it, meal after meal.

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Thai Chicken with Basil and Cashews

I started buying a CSA box this year. I really like getting a variety of veggies, but it can be a struggle to figure out what to do with them, particularly when the farm has a bumper crop of the same vegetable each week. I did a good job of eating everything in the early spring, but when work got busy in June, I basically decided I didn’t want to cook any more. I’m sure you noticed the slowing down of recipe posts over the past few months, and it wasn’t just fun bread and dessert recipes that I neglected. I neglected dinner, too.

I found a recipe for Thai Chicken with Basil and Cashews when I finally got around to reading a previous issue of Eating Well. I was excited because I had everything to make it. It would help me use up the scallions and squash I’d stashed in the fridge but forgotten about, and would let me use some of the fresh basil that I keep feeling guilty about not using.

I generally enjoy Eating Well recipes, but I always double the sauce recipe since they never include enough sauce with their stir fries. The original recipe called for fish sauce, which I really don’t like the smell of. I refuse to keep it in the house, but I always substitute soy sauce with great, although perhaps not identical, results.

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Turkey Kofta and Curried Couscous with Zucchini

Several months ago I made turkey kofta and curried couscous with zucchini, but never got around to telling you about it. The recipes were tasty, though, so I didn’t forget about them. I finally got around to making both dishes again this week.

Both the kofta and the couscous are very easy to make. I liked the couscous recipe because it tells me how to spruce up one of the easiest and fastest cooking side dishes possible. Kofta are basically Middle Eastern meatballs. One of my close friends in college was Egyptian-American, and we made kofta for dinner when she visited me after we graduated. Those were made with hamburger, and I don’t remember much about them except that I enjoyed them. Since she introduced me to kofta, I thought of her both times I made this dish.


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Coq au Vin

When Alex is out of town, I cook food he doesn’t like. Last time he traveled, I decided to make Alton Brown’s Coq au Vin recipe. It is not a fast recipe to make, so I contemplated the recipe a while before taking the plunge. Luckily, the steps are such that you do some of the prep the day before, and some the day you eat it. It seriously takes a long time, but I promise you that it’s worth the effort you put into it.

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Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

I’m going to complain about a rather tasty dinner I made.

Yes, complain. Because although Kung Pao Chicken Tacos were tasty, it was an awful lot of prep for 5 minutes of eating dinner.

I know that I’m the person who makes her own vanilla extract; who takes the time to make my own bread from scratch, sometimes even if I knead it by hand; who will roast chickens for fun; and who will even take the time to make candy on the stove. But after work, several short and easy steps just seem frustratingly numerous and time-consuming. I particularly don’t like the drudgery of chopping things for dinner after work.

Maybe it’s just the weeknight timing that’s frustrated me with this recipe today. Luckily, my time spent produced good food. Here’s how I made yummy tacos.

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Hainan Chicken and Rice

Happy Lunar New Year! There are a variety of foods that one is supposed to eat for the lunar new year, but unfortunately, in spite of having spent a year in Japan, I don’t know enough about what those should be. I apparently should have studied food a little more while I was there.

I made sure we ate some noodles for longevity (don’t bite or break them!). For dinner for the new year, I made Hainan Chicken and Rice, because it sounded delicious and had a simple ingredient list.

In spite of the simple ingredient list, I made a mess of my kitchen making this. First you poach a chicken. You set aside the chicken, and use the rendered chicken fat and stock in the rice. You also make dipping sauce(s) for the chicken. None of these steps are particularly difficult, but it does mean you’ll mess up a few dishes in the process. Or at least, that’s how I felt.

Hainan Chicken and Rice

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Chicken with Cola Sauce

I drink diet soda – I prefer to save my calories and sugar for real food and dessert. If you’re going to cook with soda, though, you can’t use the diet stuff because the sweetener will deteriorate. I bought a bottle of generic, full-sugar cola for a different recipe and decided that since I wasn’t going to drink it, I might as well use up more of it by making Grilled Chicken with Cola Sauce.

I generally resist making recipes where you make your own barbecue sauce. I love barbecue sauce, and I like the barbecue sauce that I buy in the grocery store just fine. I don’t see the need to put out the effort to make one from scratch unless there’s something special about it. My hope was that a cola barbecue sauce would be different and delicious enough to be worth the effort.

About the recipe: you make a sauce from onion, garlic, cola, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and chili powder. You simmer this for 15 minutes, until it reduces and thickens. You make a spice mixture from paprika, brown sugar, salt, and cumin, and rub it on chicken. I actually included the paprika and brown sugar in the sauce (oops), and just sprinkled chicken with salt and cumin. I coated the chicken with some of the sauce and used the Foreman grill to cook it.

Chicken with Cola Sauce

This was okay. There was nothing wrong with this recipe, but there’s nothing special about it, either. Like I said earlier, if I’m going to spend time making barbecue sauce, it should beat whatever I can buy in the store. Maybe this would be better if you used a name brand like Coca-Cola, but I doubt it. Feel free to give this recipe a try since there’s nothing wrong with it, but don’t expect to be impressed.

Tonight’s dinner: Tori no kara-age

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and I still have a backlog of recipes that I’d really like to write about, but I thought I would start off with something a little more immediate: tonight’s dinner, tori no kara-age, or Japanese-style fried chicken.

I just came back from a few days in Chicago, where I was able to go to Mitsuwa Marketplace, the Japanese supermarket up in Arlington Heights. If you’re in the Chicago area and like Japanese stuff or Japanese food (or just enjoy supermarkets in general), you should definitely go there. They’ve got Japanese books, cookware, a sake section, and a food court. The first time a friend took us there, it was a Saturday or a Sunday and the supermarket had a giant tuna. You just walked right in the front door, and you could buy a part of this fresh tuna, cut specifically for you. I grew up with tuna in cans, and so I had no idea that they were such big fish until then.

On Wednesday, I ate some tonkatsu in the food court, and then browsed the supermarket and wished that I lived in Chicago so that I could buy Japanese food every week. It (combined with all the coverage of the disasters in Japan in the news recently) made me nostalgic for my time in Japan. It was actually 10 years ago this August that I first went to Japan. I loved my time there.

This is a food blog, so let me just note that I loved the food, too. Tori no karaage was the first dish my host mom ever made for me – we ate it the night I moved in with my homestay family. My host mom was a fantastic cook, and this was the first of many delicious things she made for me.

Karaage is deep-fried but not difficult, and I’ve actually made this recipe a handful of times. I think it’s been 3 or 4 years since the last time, and I forgot about it until I saw it on a menu board in the food court this week.

This recipe serves two, but it would be easy to adjust it to feed one person or several. Prep is simple. Cut chicken breasts into bite-size pieces. Make sure they’re uniform so that they’ll cook evenly. Make your marinade of soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, and ginger – soy sauce is salty, so I never add extra salt to anything I add soy sauce to. The ginger is given in weight – 30 grams would be about a 1.5-2 inch piece of gingerroot. I actually only had half of much gingerroot as I needed. I did not grate the ginger or the garlic, but I did pulverize the ginger in a bullet blender to make it more paste-like.

After the chicken marinated, I dredged it in the flour-cornstarch mixture (corn flour is usually just corn starch). The chicken isn’t that wet since it’s soaked up all the marinade, and it coats easily without becoming gooey (with a few exceptions). I’ve fried the chicken on the stove in the past, but it’s really easiest if you have a deep fryer. If you do it on the stove, be sure to leave plenty of room at the top of the pan so your oil doesn’t overflow; keep your oil hot enough; and don’t overcrowd the pan. I would also suggest a fry or candy thermometer so you can make sure your oil stays at 350F. I fried about one chicken breast’s worth of meat at a time, 5 minutes per batch.

Tori no karaage (Japanese fried chicken)

Even though I only had half the ginger I needed for this, they still turned out pretty good. Some were crispier than others, and I don’t have a good explanation for this. Some of the pieces must have been a little more damp on the surface from the marinade than others were. Normally these would be an appetizer, and in the past I’ve served them with rice, miso soup, and a vegetable (like a salad or sauteed spinach with sesame). I think these would be a good introduction into deep frying, technique-wise. These are also a great introduction to Japanese food, since the garlic-ginger-soy combination is amazing. Definitely give these a try.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I realize it’s been 2 weeks (!) since my last update. I’ve been busy! We went to Las Vegas last weekend (awesome trip, by the way), and I spent the week before and afterward getting all of my reading and homework done for the meteorology class I decided to take this semester. I honestly don’t remember if I cooked at all before we went to Las Vegas, and I made a huge pot of chili on Tuesday that I’ve been eating ever since (and it’s still not gone).

I did make something before then that I thought was worth writing about. I’m not even a fan of sweet and sour chicken – I never order it – but the Cooking Light Sweet and Sour Chicken from their January 2011 issue looked very simple and potentially tasty. It wasn’t too high in carbs, which meant that Alex could eat it with me, and possibly eat my portion if I didn’t like it.

It was a pretty simple recipe to make. We cut chicken breasts into strips, sauteed them, and set them aside. Then I mixed water (instead of broth), apricot preserves, and soy sauce in the skillet and brought it to a boil. After a minute, I stirred in lime juice and chile paste. I poured it over the chicken.

It was over 2 weeks ago that I made this, and I have no pictures. It was pretty tasty. I’m not too big on sweet and sour meals, so it’s the first sweet and sour chicken that I’ve ever liked. I think that’s because it was a little spicy too. I wish that I had cooked the sauce with the chicken, instead of pouring it over, because I personally would have enjoyed this a little more if it had thickened up and cooked into the chicken. I was pleased enough with it that I might try it again sometime.