Southwest Stuffed Peppers

This past weekend Jesse and I took another trip to Hong Kong. We had a lot of fun, but it wasn’t all play time – we went to Hong Kong so that Jesse could officially get his Z Visa, basically a resident visa! It’s weird when things feel like they are such a long time coming, then once they happen it feels like it was all so fast! Who would have thought we would be living in China? Crazy.

We had these Stuffed Peppers early last week before our trip, and I was hoping to get this post up while we were in Hong Kong, but I completely forgot to take my lap top with me! Better late than never, though, because we really loved this dinner. Stuffed Peppers are bright, colorful, filling, and delicious.

 




Chicken and Basil Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

Jesse is a funny guy. Lately there has been a common recurrence in his reviews of dinner, “It was good/great/amazing/OK, but it would be even better with potatoes.” The man loves his potatoes, and thinks that they should be an ingredient in every meal. Chicken and rice, calzones, hoagies, soup… you name it. Don’t get me wrong, I like potatoes too, but rice AND potatoes in one meal?

After several evenings of, “Where’s the potatoes?” and after finding 2 of the largest potatoes I’ve ever seen at the market, a light bulb went off. It was time to take his potato love to an extreme. And thus was born the STUFFED Twice Baked Potato. Would you like some potatoes with your potatoes?

These potatoes can not be tagged as an “Easy Weeknight Dinner”, not because they’re difficult just because they can be a bit time consuming. Don’t worry, they are well worth the time and effort.  Knowing the time/effort required for twice baked potatoes,  I really wanted the potato to be the star of this meal so I opted to add chicken to the stuffing. It was nice to not have to worry about preparing a main course and in the end the meal was filling and satisfying.

Chicken and Basil Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

Ingredients
2-3 Idaho baking potatoes (depending on their size, mine were HUGE so I just made 2)
Olive oil and kosher salt for coating
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
small handful fresh basil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
Juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded

Directions
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.

Scrub the outside of the potatoes really well, then pat dry with paper towels, prick each potato with a fork 6-8 times, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle each potato with about a teaspoon of oil and use a pastry brush to evenly distribute over surface then sprinkle with kosher salt. Flip the potatoes and repeat on the other side. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, or until they are tender when pricked and the internal temperature reads 210 F (100 C).

When the potatoes are close to being done, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute for 3-4 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the half and half and broth. Stir well and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. In the meantime, chop the basil. After the sauce has simmered, add the basil, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Once the potatoes have finished baking, cut them in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the insides, leaving a thin shell around the edges, then return the shells, open side up, to the baking sheet. Place the potato guts in a bowl. Use a fork to slightly mash the potatoes. Pour the sauce into the bowl with the potatoes and stir to incorporate. Add the cooked shredded chicken and stir.

Fill the potato shells with the filling, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and return them to the hot oven for 10 minutes, switching to the broiler for the last minute or so if the cheese hasn’t yet started to turn golden brown.

Serve hot with a small side salad or steamed vegetables.

Adapted from Kayotic Kitchen

Buffalo Chicken Sliders

As I said earlier this week, I have always been a huge fan of Spicy Buffalo Sauce. So when the craving hit, I knew I would need to act on it. The first step was sauce, which turned out be a great success. The second step was to decide what to do with the sauce one I made it (other than dipping random vegetables and an occasional finger in it).

As much as I love Buffalo sauce, I am not a huge fan of eating meat off of bones. Every once in a while I’ll get a craving for traditional wings, but usually I like to stick with the boneless variety. Keeping that in mind I tossed around a few ideas and finally decided that what I really wanted was Buffalo chicken sandwiches. More specifically, crispy coated chicken, with a balance between spicy sauce and cool creamy ranch, a few blue cheese crumbles, all on top of a soft and somewhat sweet bun. I don’t think I can even describe to you how much this meal hit the spot.

Buffalo Chicken Sliders

Ingredients
2 chicken breasts, cut in half horizontally then cut again into chunks *
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
heaping 1/4 tsp onion powder
heaping 1/4 tsp garlic powder
heaping 1/4 tsp paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil, divided, plus more if needed (alternatively you can reduce the oild to 1 Tbsp and oven bake the chicken)
Slider buns
Buffalo sauce
Ranch dressing
Blue Cheese crumbles
Thinly sliced red onion

*I was going for sliders so I cut mine into about 2.5×2.5 inch pieces, about 5 from each breast. The key is to make sure each “chunk” is about the size of your slider rolls and no more than 1/2 inch thick.
 
Directions
In a shallow bowl, mix together the panko, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon canola oil. Place the egg in separate bowl.

Coat the chicken by dipping into the egg first, then the panko mixture.

To cook by pan frying, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in batches, so as not to over crowd the pan, until all of the chicken is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Add additional tablespoon of oil in between batches and as needed if the pan becomes dry.

To cook by oven baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare a baking sheet by placing a wire (cooling) rack over the tray and lightly spraying with non-stick spray.. Place the coated chicken on the wire rack and bake for about 10 minutes, or until a piece of chicken cut in half is no longer pink inside, rotating pan halfway through.

Serve on top of slider buns with Buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, blue cheese crumbles, and thinly sliced onions. Goes well with oven fries and celery sticks.

Breading/Coating recipe slightly adapted from the recipe I use for fish sticks, originally from Elly Says Opa.

Penne with Chicken and Vegetables in Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

Wow, that’s a really long name! Probably too long, but when thinking about this recipe it just didn’t feel right to leave any part out of the name. The chicken, vegetables, and roasted garlic sauce all work together to form one beautiful, filling, delicious pasta dish.

I knew that I wanted to make pasta for dinner and I knew what ingredients I had on hand, but I didn’t have a specific recipe in mind. So I went searching and what I found was very promising recipe on my friend Krystal’s blog (Krystal just had a baby, by the way!). I worked with what I had and used her recipe as guide, and what I thought was going to be a good dinner turned out to be a GREAT dinner! So much so that I’m putting it back on the menu for this week!

The first change I made was to use zucchini instead of broccoli (side note: why can I never spell either of those words right on the first try? mental spelling block) and penne instead of fettucine.  I also used milk instead of cream, but because I was worried that it wouldn’t thicken up enough, I added a tablespoon of corn starch. It worked perfectly and even held up and remained creamy for my next day lunch leftovers. Finally, I added mushrooms because it just seemed right.

Penne with Chicken and Vegetables in a Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

Ingredients

1 head of garlic – roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small-medium zucchini, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
4-5 button mushrooms, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for topping
1-2 chicken breasts (depending on how much chicken per serving you want), roasted and sliced
12 oz. penne pasta
Fresh chopped basil or parsley for garnishing

Directions
Preheat oven to 375. Cut the top off of a head of garlic to expose the tops of cloves. Place on a sheet of aluminum foil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Loosely wrap the aluminum foil around the garlic, pinching the seams to seal. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the cloves are tender and start to turn golden brown. Allow to cool.

While the garlic is roasting, drizzle the chicken breast with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and roast for about 30 minutes, until cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest, covered with aluminum foil, until you’re ready to serve, then cut into slices. (Roasting in the same oven as the garlic slightly infuses some of the garlic flavor into the chicken, mmm!)

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook penne until al dente then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the milk and corn starch in a glass measuring cup, set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and butter. Add the onion, zucchini, bell pepper, and mushrooms. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often, or until the vegetables soften and the onions are translucent. Season with a little salt and pepper. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the cloves into the skillet. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the garlic and mix into the vegetables.

Create a well in the skillet by pushing the vegetables to the edges, slowly stream in the milk/cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. Work the vegetables into the sauce with the whisk then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan, then cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken and coat the back of the spoon. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and stir to coat. If the sauce seems too thick, add the reserved cooking liquid a tablespoon at time until you get the desired consistency.

Top each portion with the sliced chicken, extra Parmesan, and fresh chopped basil or parsley. Serve hot and enjoy!

Adapted from Mrs.Regueiro’s Plate