Laura Rennie

Recipes

Laura’s chicken over rice and beans

Laura R.Comment
There are two types of cooks: those who prefer to follow a recipe, and those who like to wing it. I prefer to wing it — which is probably why I prefer cooking over baking. (I can never keep track of how many cups or tablespoons I’ve put into the mixing bowl!)

This meal isn’t very original, but it’s good. Really, that’s all that matters! As with most of my recipes, you can make substitutions or additions to suit your preferences. Use pinto beans, shrimp or steak, whatever veggies you want...this is one of those fabulous meals that comes together with only a few staple ingredients.

The other night I was looking through our almost-bare fridge and trying to figure out how to pull a complete meal together from the various odds and ends. I ended up with this dish, which I knew we’d enjoy because we love all of the ingredients and flavors. Andy liked it so much that he requested I make it once a week! 

I use a rice cooker and cook my beans and rice together. I use 2.5 cups of water in the rice cooker and use the “quick rice” setting, which took about 45 minutes. If you don’t have a rice cooker, use whatever method you like to cook the rice and beans. I would suggest quick rice in the microwave and heating up the beans after! 

To reheat leftovers, sprinkle some water over the dish to add moisture to the rice. Heat the meal in a covered skillet over medium heat for about five minutes, or in a covered bowl in the microwave for about two minutes.

Laura’s chicken over rice and beans
makes 4 servings
inactive time is based on method of cooking
active time, including prep, is around 20 minutes
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 chicken boiullon cube or “better than bouillon” equivalent 
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 or one whole bell pepper, diced (any variety will do)
  • 2 chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces (if the breasts are really large, use one and a half.)
  • ½ tsp onion powder 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, DIVIDED
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • optional: 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
1. Cook the rice and beans. If cooking them together in a rice cooker, add the bouillon, ½ tsp garlic powder, salt and pepper and cilantro. If cooking separately, cook the RICE with the bouillon, salt and pepper and cook the BEANS with ½ tsp garlic powder. Add the cilantro after rice and beans are done (if cooking separately).

2. While the rice and beans are cooking, heat a TBSP of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and pepper and let them cook, stirring occasionally.

3. While the onion and pepper is cooking, season your chicken pieces with the onion powder, remaining garlic powder, cumin and a dash of salt and pepper.

4. Scoot the onion and pepper pieces to the edges of the skillet. Add the chicken pieces to the skillet and let them cook for two minutes, then turn the pieces and let them cook for another minute or two. Use a spatula to split the chicken pieces into smaller chunks if desired. If the chicken breaks apart easily, it’s done.

5. Serve the rice and beans mixed together on a plate or low bowl. Top the rice and beans with the chicken, onion and pepper mixture.

Old Bay wings with homemade blue cheese sauce

Laura R.Comment
I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut and was relieved THRILLED when Andy suggested I try making Old Bay wings. Old Bay wings make my heart go pitter-patter. It’s almost embarrassing how much I think and talk about them.

It took ages for me to find a recipe for baked wings that sounded right. I used a method I found on Recipe Tin Eats, adapted the seasoning, and was blown away by the result. Andy’s head was in a constant state of nodding “YES” the entire time he ate. :)

We had such an incredible blue cheese sauce during our Valentine’s dinner at Dan’s Restaurant & Tap House in Boonsboro that I had to ask the waitress what ingredients went into making it. I’m happy to say my attempts to re-create it were successful! (So successful I was eating it like soup.)

note: I had to cut the following wing recipe in half because my oven isn’t quite big enough for two large pans to fit side by side. I think I could make it work if I used one large and one medium pan. There were 26 wings in the package I picked up, and I cooked 14 last night. I’m going to make the rest today. We munched on salad and raw carrots dipped in blue cheese waiting for the wings to cook, so we were plenty full by the time the chicken bones were picked clean.

I was too busy grubbing to take a picture. This is from Andy’s cell phone!

Baked Old Bay wings
serves 4
  • 4 lbs chicken wings, separated into sections (thaw them if using frozen wings)
  • 2 heaping Tbsp baking powder
  • 3-4 Tbsp Old Bay
1. Arrange your oven racks to use the second to lowest and second to highest racks. (Positions 2 and 4.) Set oven to 250.
2. Pat down wings with a paper towel until they’re dry, then place them in a large ziplock bag with the baking powder. Shake until coated, then add Old Bay and shake to coat until both sides of every wing is mostly coated in spice.
3. Line a baking pan with foil and arrange the wings on the top.* It’s okay if they’re snug!
4. Bake the wings on your second to lowest rack in the oven for 30 minutes.
5. Increase the heat to 425 and move your wings up to the second highest rack. Cook for another 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.
6. Let the wings rest for 5 minutes before eating. Test the skin with your fingertip, and if it’s not crispy you can cook the wings a little longer. If you have a meat thermometer, check that they’re fully cooked (165 degrees.)

*I used to put the wings on a Pam-sprayed wire rack over the foil-lined pan, but I forgot to use it on my third go of making this dish and the wings turned out to be my crispiest yet. 

Blue cheese sauce (also great on top of steak or a burger)
serves 4

best made 30 or so minutes before serving. I like to make it while the wings are baking.
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 package of crumbled blue cheese
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice, to taste (I preferred 2 tsp)
  • pepper to taste
1. Sauté shallot slices in oil over medium-low heat for 5 or so minutes until the shallots are soft and slightly browned. Drain oil from the pan.
2. Mix remaining ingredients togetherand add the shallots.

* I mix the ingredients in the same pan as the shallots and then refrigerate it until cool. You don’t have to heat up the dip, it will mix fine cold — but I like for half of the blue cheese to melt.)

three dinners — one rotisserie chicken

Laura R.Comment
I don’t go to Costco as often as some of my friends (*cough* Sarah Downs *cough*) but when I do I always buy a rotisserie chicken. It’s a no-brainer. You get three pounds of delicious meat for only $5, and those three pounds go a long way. I often will use it to make a huge batch of chicken salad, but last weekend I picked up a bird and decided I’d try to see how many different meals I could make with it. (Just remember to use your cooked chicken within four days of purchasing it. You can maybe go a day or two longer if the chicken isn’t gummy or funky-smelling, but be cautious!)


Here’s how I’m using one rotisserie chicken to get three meals, plus leftovers:

On Monday night I made Ree Drummond’s buffalo chicken salad using diced white meat tossed with a few tablespoons of Frank’s Wing Sauce, which we happened to have on hand. I used bagged butter lettuce and added some chopped cucumber for crunch. I also used her tip of mashing blue cheese crumbles into ranch dressing. This was the quickest, easiest dinner ever and we both LOVED the flavor. It filled me up, but Andy said he was still a little hungry after he finished his. Next time I might serve it with a baked potato or a big hunk of bread. Go big or go home, right? I’ll be considering this recipe the next time I make dinner for friends.

(Warning: if you have any leftovers you may find yourself standing in front of the fridge late at night eating cold buffalo chicken coated in blue cheese straight from the tupperware container. You also may die from flavor explosion.)

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I made homemade broth for the first time this weekend by putting the rotisserie chicken carcass in my crock-pot with water, carrots, a quartered onion, garlic, salt, pepper and celery seed. (I didn’t follow a recipe.) I got two quarts worth of yummy, rich broth and divided it up into four pint-sized Talenti gelato jars. p.s. you guys. that gelato is worth EVERY PENNY. 

Last night I used a mix of dark and white meat and some of my chicken broth to make chicken noodle soup. If you have kids, leave the hot sauce out of the main pot and just add it to your individual bowl. Or don’t use it at all...but that would be lame.

Laura’s kickin’ creamy chicken noodle soup
serves 4
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (it’s easy to make if you don’t care to buy it)
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 and 1/4 cups corn
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 and 1/2 cups egg noodles
  • 1 cup cooked chicken
  • a bit of half and half or milk 
  • several glugs of hot sauce (Cholula all the way!)

1. Place the first eight ingredients (stop after seasoning) in a pot and simmer for an hour.
2. Add egg noodles and cook for 7 minutes.
3. Stir in chicken, half and half and hot sauce.
OR place the first eight ingredients in a crockpot for 3-5 hours on high or 6-8 on low. Add remaining ingredients at the end of cook time and put the lid back on. The noodles should take around 10 minutes on high heat, probably 20 on low.
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Today I have two servings of soup leftover, plus a half cup of dark meat and almost two cups of white meat. I can’t believe I still have that much chicken! I’m torn between making Chipotle-style chicken burrito bowls, tzatziki chicken salad or chicken/bacon/cheese quesadillas with honey mustard. Decisions, decisions!

What are your favorite ways to use rotisserie chicken?

Laura’s chipotle chicken chili

Laura R.Comment
I get a weird thrill out of composing meals using only items we already have in the house. Part of it is feeling victorious that I’m avoiding a trip to the store and part of it is figuring out what things pair well together. I like to look through Pinterest and magazines for ideas on what to cook and then I try to come up with a recipe myself.

(Or I order pizza for dinner.)

A few weeks ago I bought a ton of chicken breasts and spicy Italian sausages that were on sale, and I froze them into smaller portions (2-3 pieces per bag). I also recently organized my pantry and realized we had a LOT of pasta and canned goods. I made sausage and veggie soup and shrimp tacos last week, so I had plenty of bits of various produce left over to use for meals this week. On Sunday I made a pasta dish using spicy Italian sausage over a mix of of penne and rigatoni. (I had small amounts of both pastas in the pantry.) I used this recipe for inspiration and it was delicious! My version of alfredo was good but not great, so I’m going to tweak it a bit more before I share it with y’all.

ABOUT THE CHILI: you guys, I made it up! And it is one killer chili, if I may say so. It’s great on its own, but the toppings knock it out of the park. (I recently discovered Trader Joe’s “no guilt” guacamole and now I want to stir it into everything I make.) This chili is an easy meal to tweak to your own preferences or to change up depending on what you have on hand. I’ve used salsa before to replace the onions, cilantro and diced tomatoes, and I’ve also done a mix of white and black beans.

If you find yourself with leftover chipotles in adobo sauce, freeze them in a ziploc and pull them out for shrimp tacos or another batch of chili!

yay for leftovers! whoops, crumbs on the table. photography fail.
Laura’s chipotle chicken chili 
serves 4-6 (makes roughly six cups)
active time: 10-15 minutes
total time, start to finish: depends on crock-pot setting (see instructions for cooking without a crock-pot)

for the chili:
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4 thighs would probably work just as well)
  • 1/2 small white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes (**plain, NOT seasoned**)
  • 1 can great northern beans
  • 2 Tbsp of diced chipotle peppers (pull them out of the adobo sauce and dice on a cutting board)
  • 4 Tbsp of the adobo sauce that the peppers come in
  • 1/2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch (see directions below for use)
toppings:
  • we used: crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, guacamole
  • also try: more cilantro, lime wedges, pico de gallo, jalapeño slices, banana pepper slices
1. Combine all chili ingredients in a crock-pot and cook on high for 3-5 hours or low for 6-8. (It’s totally fine if your chicken is frozen when you put it in the crock-pot, but it needs to cook for at least 4 hours on high or 7-8 on low. You’ll know to cook it longer if it feels rubbery.)
2. 20-30 minutes before serving, move the chicken breasts to a cutting board and remove one tablespoon of the chili liquid and place in a small bowl in the fridge.
3. Shred chicken with a fork or dice into small chunks. (I did a mix of both.) Return the chicken to the crock-pot and check the flavor to see if you need to add any more seasoning.
4. Whisk the cornstarch into the cooled chili liquid and then add it back into the pot. Stir around and let thicken while you get toppings together/set the table/whatever.
5. Try not to eat the entire pot of chili in one night.

If you don’t own a crock-pot, sauté the onion in a large pot over medium heat. Add in the chicken (dice it first) and let it cook, then stir in all of the other chili ingredients. Bring to a boil, then turn to a simmer and cover for 30-60 minutes. Use the same cornstarch method as mentioned above.

Curried Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Laura R.1 Comment
I love recipes that let me walk away from the dish for a little while! It gives me time to get drinks and silverware ready, and to put away whatever dishes were air-drying next to the sink. We have a house rule that whoever cooks doesn’t have to do the dishes, which means that Andy does the dishes most nights. It’s so nice!

I first made this soup earlier in the year, and Andy’s mentioned it several times since then. A couple weeks ago I was racking my brain trying to think of what to make for dinner, and then it hit me (Boston accent and all): chow-daah. It’s really easy, but it tastes like it was a lot of work. I tweaked the original recipe to make it less thick, but it’s still definitely a chowder and not a soup. If you like a broth-y soup, either use less shrimp, corn and potatoes or double the liquids. You’ll need to tweak the seasonings if you make those changes (but it wouldn’t be difficult). You could also use one small yukon gold potato and one small sweet potato, instead of two yukon gold. I’ve never served it with any toppings, though I bet it’s delicious that way! If you like the taste of curry powder and you like shrimp, I bet you’ll go crazy over this dish.

Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas; Styling: Buffy Hargett

Curried Shrimp and Corn Chowder
adapted from myrecipes.com
serves 4
total time to prep and cook: 45 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large Yukon gold potatoes (14 oz.), peeled and diced
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, don’t thaw)
1 14 oz. can chicken broth
1 13.5 oz.can unsweetened lite coconut milk
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 pound peeled and deveined large raw shrimp
Suggested toppings: toasted coconut, thinly sliced green onions, coarsely chopped roasted peanuts

1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven (or any large pot) over medium. Add diced onion and cook for about five minutes or until tender.
2. Stir in chopped garlic and cook for an additional minute.
3. Add potatoes and next 6 ingredients (corn, liquids and seasoning). Bring to a boil while stirring often.
4. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
5. Stir in shrimp; cook 4 to 5 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink.
6. Add more seasoning if needed, spoon into bowls and serve on its own or with toppings.

tzatziki chicken salad and chipotle lime shrimp tacos

Laura R.1 Comment
On the way home from the beach yesterday I consumed a quarter of a sriracha bagel (my new favorite), one Boston cream donut, a meal from Chick-Fil-A and four peanut butter crackers. I told myself I would make dinner when we got home. Except…we had no food. And after spending wayyyy longer in the car than we should have, I was not about to head to the store. So, we got Subway. And then we each had an apple fritter for dessert. And I finished another quarter of sriracha bagel.

OH FOR THE LOVE OF CARBS!

I woke up this morning determined to get back on track with my eating. I scarfed down two scrambled eggs and spent the morning recipe-searching and grocery shopping. We loved both of the recipes I tried today—chicken salad for lunch and shrimp tacos for dinner. (I didn’t make side dishes for either.) I have a feeling I’ll be making both of them a lot this summer! Click on the recipe title to view the original recipe.

pic by José Picayo
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 3 generous servings, but you could stretch for 4 if using pita chips or pita bread

2/3 cup plain reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill (I used double because I love dill!)
a tiny pinch of salt (add more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cucumber, seeded and diced (I peeled mine)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken (I grilled up one and a half insanely large chicken breasts, but you could use a rotisserie chicken)

Combine first 8 ingredients, then toss with chicken to coat. We at it plain, but the recipe suggests serving it with pita chips. We loved it just how I made it, but I bet feta would be yummy in there (and maybe black olives, too). I’m also tempted to serve it in lettuce cups next time!

from My Baking Addiction
Chipotle Lime Shrimp Tacos with Corn & Black Bean Salsa
adapted from My Baking Addiction
makes 8-10 tacos depending on the size of your tortilla

small taco-sized flour tortillas
1 pound shrimp; peeled and deveined
sour cream or greek yogurt 

for the marinade 
1 chipotle pepper in adobo; chopped* (in the International aisle alongside jalapeños and green chilies)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 lime (juice and zest)
2 tablespoons cilantro; chopped

for the salsa
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can sweet corn, drained OR fresh corn cut from the cob
1/2 orange or red pepper; diced
1/2 or whole jalapeno; seeded and diced
2 green onions, sliced

1. Combine marinade ingredients and let sit while you work on the salsa. (I don’t actually put the shrimp in the marinade, because I cook the shrimp in a skillet and use the marinade as more of a sauce.)
2. Combine the salsa ingredients in a separate bowl.
3. Grill shrimp or cook in a lightly oiled skillet over medium heat (about two and a half minutes per side.)
4. If you like, chop the shrimp into bite-size pieces. Add shrimp to marinade.
5. If you like, heat tortillas over the stove. Spread sour cream down the middle of each tortilla and top with the salsa and then the sauce-covered shrimp.

Enjoy!

*You’ll have leftover chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. They’ll keep in the fridge for a week or two. If you don’t plan on using your leftover peppers anytime soon, freeze them in ice cube trays or in a freezer bag.

At-home Crunchwrap Supreme

Laura R.Comment
HOW HAVE I NOT MADE THESE UNTIL TODAY?

It’s really embarrassing how often I’ve thought of crunchwrap supremes from Taco Bell during this pregnancy. If I got one every time I thought of one…well…I’d probably deliver a baby covered in nacho cheese. LOL ew!!!

Anyway, I had a lightbulb moment the other day when it occurred to me that I can make a crunchwrap at home. DUH. I did some web searching and it turns out there are other crunchwrap lovers who had the smarts to try it years ago. The ingredients are obvious, but I thought it would be helpful for you to know exactly what I did/bought. If you can’t find tostadas, you could break taco shells in half and make two rounds or buy the “crispy rounds” chips by Tostitos. Some of the recipes I found said their large tortillas weren’t big enough to wrap around the tostada shell. Mine worked fine and looked exactly like the picture below.

from blessthisfood.blogspot.com

At-home Crunchwrap Supreme
makes 6 (one was enough for me, Andy ate two)
takes around 20 minutes

1 lb ground beef or a little more (mine was 1.18 lbs, and I bought 85/15)
1 package of large flour tortillas (I bought store brand because they were the cheapest)
1 package of tostada shells (I used La Casona brand from the international aisle)
1 can of nacho cheese (I used regular el Rio that I found in the international aisle)
1 packet taco seasoning (I usually get whatever is on sale and is low sodium. This time I used Ortega.)
chopped lettuce
sour cream
tomatoes (though I didn’t use any)

1. Brown ground beef and add taco seasoning (following directions on packet).
2. Pour some nacho cheese into a small saucepan and heat over low, stirring now and then. (You can also heat the cheese in the microwave. You only need 1-2 Tbsp per wrap.)
3. While the beef is cooking and cheese is warming, set up your other ingredients for easy assembly.
4. Spoon several spoonfuls of cooked taco meat into the center of a large tortilla. Spoon some nacho cheese over the meat.
5. Top the cheesy taco meat with a tostada, then top the tostada with sour cream, tomatoes and lettuce.
6. Fold the tortilla over the tostada. I pulled from left to center and then right to center, and then had to fold twice along the top and bottom. If that doesn’t make sense…just try to imitate the pic above. :)
7. Once your crunchwraps are assembled, place a nonstick skillet over medium heat until the pan is nice and hot.
8. Carefully place your crunchwraps seam side down in the skillet. At least two will fit in a large pan, if not more.
9. After a minute or so, use a spatula to carefully lift up the crunchwrap. It should be browned but not super dark. If it looks ready to flip, turn it over and heat the other side for about a minute. Adjust heat if you’re having problems—cooking mine over medium heat was perfect.

You’re gonna love ‘em.

Laura’s chicken bacon alfredo over spaghetti squash

Laura R.Comment
Oh, pregnancy hormones. You are such a pleasure.
Not.

I was super proud of myself for taking New York by storm. No naps! Little sleep at night! Lots of walking! When I got home, though, it was like I had been hit by a truck. After having a few big “I don’t know why I’m crying" cries, I realized I was beyond exhausted. I started making a short to-do list for each day, thinking that if I only gave myself a few tasks to accomplish then I wouldn’t feel so guilty for falling asleep on the couch. I’m walking every day (not very far), but I know that eating better would go a long way in giving me more energy. I’m finally back to eating eggs for breakfast most mornings—yay! I’m hoping to start adding oatmeal in as well. Both foods sounded horrible to me during my first trimester! 

I had one of my college roomies in town this weekend and saw her visit as an opportunity to get back on the healthy cooking wagon. Amy is gluten-free and tries to take it easy on sweets. I’m on a mission to get people to start eating spaghetti squash, so of course I had to make it for her! I came across a recipe for Skinny Spaghetti Squash Alfredo recently and knew I wanted to make something similar. I didn’t take a picture of mine because I stirred it together in one big pot and it wouldn’t have photographed well, but I’ll try to remember to take pics next time I make it—which will be soon! It was fantastic. We all loved it.

(But, if you’re pregnant and exhausted and have just spent 5 hours on your feet, maybe get take out. Otherwise you might drop every cooking utensil accidentally and almost forget certain ingredients and eventually say to your friend or spouse, “I might cry any minute now.”)

Notes:
-I used way less cheese (and a little less milk) than my inspiration recipe called for. We didn’t miss the extra cheese, but I’m sure it’s delicious both ways. I like the idea of adding red pepper flakes and plan to do that next time.
-The second time I made this dish I added sautéed bell pepper and mushrooms. We loved it! I used one half of a yellow and one half of a red, but you could use less. I used maybe 5 or 6 large button mushrooms.
-The leftovers are GREAT. The sauce will thicken a ton in the fridge, but just scoop out a spoonful and add it to the pan when you’re reheating leftovers.


from thecomfortofcooking.com

Laura’s chicken bacon alfredo over spaghetti squash
serves 4

1 large spaghetti squash
3-4 slices of bacon
1 lb chicken breasts or tenders, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3/4 cup milk (I used low fat)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus 2 extra Tbsp for topping
2 Tbsp flour (I used 2 Tbsp of Pamela’s Baking Mix to make it gluten free for Amy)
2 Tbsp butter
1 or 2 Tbsp cream cheese (optional—it adds creaminess but isn’t necessary if you don’t have it)
1 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
3-4 leaves of fresh basil, chopped (optional—but worth it!)

1. Cut the squash in half length-wise using your incredible muscles or ask your husband to do it if you’re weak like me. Scrape out the seeds and goopy squash into the trash. Place half of a tablespoon of butter in each piece of squash and microwave each piece for 8-9 minutes. (I put mine in the microwave cut side up, but you could do this instead, and microwave both at the same time.) Use oven mitts when removing the squash from the microwave. Move on to the following steps while the squash is cooking:
2. Fry bacon. While bacon is frying, slice the chicken and dice the onion if you haven’t done so already.
3. Season chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.
4. Remove bacon from pan and pour out most (but not all) of the bacon grease. Sauté onion in remaining bacon grease over medium heat until nicely browned, then remove from the pan.
5. Add oil to the pan you cooked the bacon and onion in and turn to medium heat. Add chicken pieces and stir often. Covering the pan will make the pieces cook faster. Keep an eye on it—it’s ready when you can easily use a spatula to chop the chicken into even smaller pieces. Remove pan from heat. (Don’t forget to microwave your second piece of squash if you haven’t already done so!)
6. In a small saucepan, heat remaining tablespoon of butter over medium low heat. Add minced garlic. Whisk in 2 Tbsp of flour and cook for two minutes (continuing to whisk), then slowly add in milk, raising the heat to medium and continuing to stir. Add cream cheese if desired. Whisk until smooth, then remove from heat and stir in parmesan cheese.
7. Using a fork (or two), shred the spaghetti squash. You’ll get a ton out of it if you just keep scraping the sides!
8. Place shredded squash in the pan along with the chicken. Add crumbled bacon and onions and stir to combine, then stir in alfredo sauce. You will probably need to add more salt and pepper since the squash isn’t seasoned. Sprinkle with fresh basil and additional 2 Tbsp of parmesan cheese and serve!

What do you think of the way I’m writing out my recipes? How can I make them more user-friendly? Would you like the ingredient list to be bulleted or numbered? Should I nix the numbering of steps? I’d love your thoughts/suggestions!

Laura’s favorite steak salad

Laura R.Comment


Why don’t I make this more often? It’s SO good. I picked up sirloin steak because it was buy one get one free, but I’ve use skirt steak in the past (and flank would work, too). I used my cast iron skillet to cook the steak. If you don’t already own a cast iron skillet, I highly recommend getting one! My steak came out medium, so adjust cooking times if you like it more or less cooked. You could nix the shallots (raw red onion would be yummy), swap feta for goat cheese, gorgonzola or blue cheese, use fresh blueberries or cherries instead of dried cranberries…the possibilities are endless. You’ll have leftover vinaigrette, but it will keep well in the fridge for a week or so.

Steak salad 
with crispy shallots, sugared pecans, dried cranberries and feta cheese
makes two generous portions

a little under 1 lb. steak (this gives each person a LOT of steak—which was awesome—but you can certainly use less)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp butter
3/4 bag of mixed spring greens
1 shallot, chopped into rings
1/4 cup chopped sugared pecans (you can buy these at the store or make them yourself. They keep well!)
1/8 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp feta cheese
salt and pepper

for the dressing, shake the following in a jar:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1.5 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey (add more honey to taste if needed)
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper

1. Rub steak with vegetable oil and generously sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Let the steak sit on the counter 10-30 minutes under some plastic wrap—long enough for the steak to come to room temperature.
2. When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat your oven to 350 and place a dry large cast iron skillet on the stove over high heat.
3. Rub some butter in the pan—just enough for it to coat the pan and stat bubbling. Place your steak in the pan and leave it alone for three minutes.
4. Flip the steak and cook for two and a half more minutes.
5. Move steak to your preheated oven (still in the cast iron skillet) and cook for three minutes. Use a meat thermometer if you’re unsure if your steak is cooked enough. If it’s not, you can pop it back in the oven and check on it every minute or so.
5. Remove steak from the pan and let it rest while you prepare the salad, shallots and vinaigrette.
6. Fry shallot rings in 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat for several minutes, stirring until they are brown and crispy. Move shallots to a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
7. Mix up vinaigrette and combine salad ingredients (minus the steak). Pour a few tablespoons of dressing over the salad.
8. Before serving, slice the steak against the grain and sprinkle with additional salt and pepper if needed. I found it helpful to mix the salad up a little after adding the steak. This helped to further distribute the vinaigrette and kept the pecans, cheese and cranberries from congregating at the bottom of the bowl.

ENJOY! I know you will. :)

Laura’s (One) Banana and Nutella Bread

Laura R.Comment
I love that this recipe only uses one banana. How many times have I found myself craving banana bread and thinking I didn’t have enough bananas on hand? Too many stinking times!

This recipe produces perfectly moist “bread” (we all know we’re really eating cake) that packs a TON of flavor. It begs to be eaten in between sips of coffee. You won’t need to add any topping because of the ribbon of Nutella that runs through it, but I’m sure it would be delicious topped with a thin layer of peanut butter.

*If you don’t have a mini loaf pan, put the remaining batter in a muffin tin. It should make two or three muffins. Bake at the same temperature, but check the muffins around 25-30 minutes since they should take less time than the bread.

yup. it really does come out looking this good.
Laura’s (One) Banana and Nutella Bread
makes one regular loaf and one mini loaf

1 large, ripe banana, cut into chunks
1 egg with enough milk to make 1 cup (crack the egg in a liquid measuring cup and then pour milk over)
4 Tbsp butter, softened
4 Tbsp of coconut oil 
1 tsp vanilla
1 and 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup softened Nutella
add-ins: 1/4 cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup nuts, or both!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and grease your pans 
1. Place everything BUT the nutella and add-ins into a mixing bowl
2. Mix on low to medium-low until most of the chunks are gone (or mix by hand)
3. If you're adding chocolate chips and/or nuts, mix them into the batter
4. Place half of the batter into a separate bowl so that your batter is now divided into two bowls
5. Stir softened Nutella into ONE of the bowls of batter
6. Pour batter into the muffin tins, alternating between using the plain batter and Nutella-fied batter 
7. Use a toothpick or spatula to swirl the batter around
8. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Use a toothpick to determine if the bread is cooked all the way through. It may take 5 or 10 more minutes depending on your oven.

February recipe challenge results

Laura R.Comment
Can we blame February for being short and for FLYING BY instead of blaming my frazzled brain? I didn’t quite hit four new recipes and I definitely didn’t make a bread or a pork entrée. But let’s focus on what I did do, shall we?

that’s all me, baby
I tried kale chips and I’ll admit it: they’re good. They’re good AND they’re easy. I made them a few times over the course of a few weeks and I still haven’t quite perfected the amount of olive oil, but I’m getting there. Use a light hand when drizzling—the chips taste better when you get just a hint of oil. I’ve yet to explore various seasoning blends because plain old salt is rather perfect.

bonapetit.com
These "perfect" pan-roasted chicken thighs from the June 2011 issue of Bon Apetit were pretty darn perfect. I made them twice in one week because the first batch had me instantly craving more. If you don’t own a splatter screen for your skillet, you’re going to want to get one before trying this recipe. Also, wear an apron. They’re worth the mess. I ate a cold thigh for lunch and the skin was still crispy!

thepioneerwoman.com
I posted about these oatmeal whoopie pies earlier in the month because I made them for the Super Bowl. They still count as a new recipe for February, though! And I technically made TWO new recipes because I made both the cookies and the frosting from scratch. So really, I nailed this whole four-recipes-in-February thing.

:-/ Maybe that’s a stretch. I’ve been trying to keep track of what we’ve been eating for dinner the last two months to help me see what meats and veggies we’re missing out on. We’ve been having a lot of chicken lately thanks to a sweet sale on breasts and thighs at Weiss. Chicken soup, chicken burritos, chicken tikka masala, red curry chicken and fried chicken.

What new recipes did you try this month? Do you have any go-to recipes you wouldn’t mind sharing?

Laura’s Thai red curry chicken

Laura R.Comment
My friend Kelly shared something with me that she had read in a book. It’s the idea that a dish becomes your own after you make it three times. The first time you should follow the recipe exactly. The second time you should add your own twist. By the third time you should be comfortable making it, perhaps even comfortable enough to do it from memory. At that point, you can call the recipe your own.

I’ve made Chef Michael Smith’s Thai Coconut Curry Soup twice now, and by the third time I made it I really did feel like I was doing my own thing. I’ll admit I didn’t follow the recipe to a T the first time I made it, but it was very close! The soup is delicious with rice noodles (which the recipe calls for), but the second time I made the soup I served it over rice. We enjoyed it over rice more, but both are worth trying.

For my third attempt I wanted to try to make the dish more like the kind of red curry entrée you would see at a Thai restaurant, as opposed to a soup. I took out the chicken stock and added more red curry paste, as well as adding red pepper slices and mushrooms. Andy said, “now we’ll never have to order out for Thai!” (I wouldn’t go that far—I’m a sucker for panang chicken. When I get that dish down at home, then we can stop ordering Thai.) I’ll try to remember to take a picture the next time I make it!

Notes: I used a rice cooker to cook up some jasmine rice. I started with one cup of dried rice and it ended up being not quite enough, but we like a lot of rice. Next time I will use two cups of dried rice. This is a two pot meal—one for the curry and one for the rice!

Laura’s Thai red curry chicken
makes 4 generous portions

-2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (about an inch or smaller)
-2 cans of coconut milk (don’t use light!)
-2 TBSP of red curry paste
-1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch strips
-1/2 cup roughly chopped mushrooms
-2 TBSP fish sauce
-1 TBSP of lemongrass paste
-1/2 TBSP of minced galangal or one small knob of fresh ginger, grated
-the juice from 1 lime
-2 TBSP corn starch
-1 bunch (handful) of cilantro, rinsed and chopped
-1 or 2 cups of dried jasmine rice, depending on how much rice you like

1. Don’t forget to prepare your rice in a rice cooker or in a separate saucepan. :) I used the “quick rice” setting and it was ready in half an hour.

2. Remove the thick layer of coconut cream from one can of coconut milk and place in a large saucepan over medium high heat. (It’s not hard—the cream is separated from the juice, so just use a large spoon to scoop out that top layer of thick goodness.) Add the red curry paste and stir. Stir in the chicken and cook for 5 minutes, or slightly longer if your chicken pieces are thick.

3. Add the juice from the first can of coconut milk as well as the entire second can. Add bell pepper, mushrooms, fish sauce, lemongrass, galangal/ginger, and lime juice. Stir. Bring to a boil, then turn to a low simmer.

4. Remove 2 TBSP of the sauce and put it in a small bowl. Let it cool for a few minutes and then whisk in 2 TBSP corn starch. (This is called a slurry.) Return the thickened sauce into the pot and stir. Continue simmering the chicken for 10-20 minutes.

5. Serve the curry over rice and top with chopped cilantro.

Laura’s chicken and sausage pasta

Laura R.Comment
Whenever I cook up a pasta or soup I try to use just enough meat to make the dish hearty, but not so much that you get a piece of meat in every bite. This allows me to use the remaining meat for other meals and it encourages me to use more fresh produce and other sources of protein to “bulk up” a dish.

I made this soup a few weeks ago and had two remaining hot Italian sausages in the freezer. I also made chicken noodle soup recently and had two leftover chicken breasts. I try to use what I have on hand when I go to make dinner, so I thought I’d combine the two proteins and use up one of the boxes of pasta from our pantry. I’ve made enough pasta dishes from other people’s recipes that I’m now confident in doing my own thing. I make a lot of dishes on the fly and only ever pull out my measuring spoons when I’m trying a new recipe for the first time, but this time I thought, remember what you do so you can write a blog post about it!

I wanted to go as basic (and budget-friendly) as possible without compromising on flavor. This is going to look like one of those “no duh” recipes—but let’s be honest, those bare bone recipes make it so easy to customize to your liking!

If you can, add the fresh parsley and romano cheese. (I’m going to use the remaining romano for cauliflower fritters. You should, too! Parmesan or mozzarella would also work.) Doesn’t pasta make the best leftovers? I prefer to heat this dish up over the stove rather than using the microwave, because I hate the smell and taste of microwaved chicken.

Update: I made a similar version of this tonight and used only sausage. I also added mushrooms, diced tomatoes, a small can of tomato paste (to deepen the flavor) and a second bell pepper. SO YUM. A splash of wine and/or a couple handfuls of spinach would also be delish.

Notes:
Along with a pasta pot, you will need a large dutch oven or a large and deep lidded skillet for this recipe. (I use a really old pot that looks like this.) This dish could take only 30 min start to finish, but if you can, let the sauce simmer for 45-60 minutes. If you want to simmer your sauce for even longer, remove the cooked chicken and sausage from the pot and put it back in an hour before serving.

ugh, grainy cell phone pic. you can’t see the chicken or sausage well,
but I got plenty!

Laura’s chicken and sausage pasta
30-60 min. | serves 6

nearly all of one box rigatoni or penne (I left one serving in the box to use for a future lunch)
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 large onion or one small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 hot or mild Italian sausage links, casing removed, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 29 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can tomato sauce (or two 8 oz cans)
3 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp parsley or 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 dried bay leaves
optional garnishes: fresh parsley and/or grated parmesan or romano cheese

1. Assemble ingredients and chop your veggies and meat. (If you’re wanting to turn this into a quick dinner, boil water for the pasta now, then cook it and drain it until you’re ready to add it to the sauce.)

2. Heat 1.5 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or dutch oven. Add diced onion and bell pepper. Let them sizzle for about 30 seconds, stir, go another 30 seconds, stir and then lower the heat to low. Cover and continue to cook for 10 minutes, occasionally lifting the lid to stir.

3. Remove the onion and bell pepper from the pot and set aside. Add the remaining 1.5 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in the same large pot that you cooked your onion/pepper in. Once hot, drop in chicken and sausage. Cook for about a minute, stir, then cover the pan and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes, occasionally lifting the lid to stir.

4. Add the sautéed onion and bell pepper back into the pot with the meat, as well as the last 7 ingredients (the tomato sauce, garlic and various seasonings). Cover the pot and turn to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for as long as you’re willing to wait! Add more seasonings to taste.

5. About 30 minutes from when you’re ready to eat, boil water for the pasta and follow cooking instructions.

6. Drain pasta and stir it into the sauce. Serve with parsley or cheese on top if desired.

recipe challenge!

Laura R.1 Comment
I didn't realize that cooking is a hobby of mine until we moved to Frederick. Sometimes I think my hobbies sound so boring. Reading, writing, crosswords ... blah, blah, blah. But cooking! Cooking isn't boring! Especially when I get to use my cast iron skillet! Oh wait, I've just confirmed that I'm secretly 85.

I like the idea of going into 2014 with a few new dishes under my belt, and I love the idea of having a few friends do the same! Who wants to join me in trying four new recipes in February? OK who wants to try at least ONE new recipe in February? I'm lookin' at you, boo.

I'll be picking a bread, a veggie side dish, a pork entrée and a recipe taken from a magazine. You could do the same four categories as me, or you could change them up to fit your interests. (A soup? An ethnic dish? A Super Bowl appetizer? Something from Pinterest you've always wanted to try and never got around to because it looks intimidating but the picture is pretty and you think maybe one day I'll make that five layer cake with homemade ganache?)

pics from halfbakedharvest. com and realsimple.com

Here are a few recipes I'm considering:
Bread- Pretzel sandwich buns or Naan
Veggie side- Kale chips or Sauteed Bok Choy and Broccoli
Pork entrée- Braised Pork Ragu or "Pork in Milk" (milk clusters?!)
Cookbook/mag recipe- Chicken and mushroom farro risotto or Spiced dal with cilantro yogurt

In case you missed them, I recently added two new recipes to my Recipe page: a crave-worthy meatloaf and spicy fish and potato soup.

spicy fish and potato soup

Laura R.Comment
Do you ever get excited over a recipe in a magazine, rip it out and then completely forget about it? This is one of the few torn-from-a-magazine recipes that I made within days of seeing it! It's also what we're having for dinner tonight. :)

photo by Raymond Hom

Now that I think of it, the last time we ate this soup was the night John died. My parents were visiting to watch Andy's softball game, but it was cancelled due to rain. We picked up pizza from Wegmans and played cards instead. I had been dying for my parents to try the soup, so I ladled tiny portions for us to each have as a taster before the pizza. It's a fantastic dish—both unique and incredibly easy—and I hope you'll try it! If you do, I hope you'll think of John. I know I will!

The following was copied from realsimple.com:

Spicy Fish and Potato Soup (from the April 2013 issue of Real Simple)
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 30m| Total Time: 40m

Ingredients
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped, plus leaves for serving
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 large russet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
kosher salt and black pepper
1 pound skinless firm white fish fillets (such as striped bass or tilapia), cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Directions
Cook the bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes; transfer to a plate. Increase heat to medium-high.
Add the onion and celery to the drippings in the saucepan and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broth, potatoes, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
Add the fish to the broth mixture in the saucepan and cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Sprinkle with the chives, bacon, and celery leaves.

in case you ever find yourself craving meatloaf

Laura R.Comment
It can happen, you know. One minute you're watching "Man vs. Food" and the next you're saying, "I have never wanted meatloaf so badly in my life."

I only make meatloaf maybe once a year. Why is that? I really never think of it on my own. A friend will mention she's making it, or I'll see some Pinterest pin about all the things you can make it muffin tins. I still haven't convinced one friend that she needs to try it—apparently once you've been served dry meatloaf, you're traumatized for life.

THIS meatloaf is not dry. Trust. I only had a little over one pound of beef on hand but didn't alter the recipe any, and it was perfect! I served the meatloaf with mashed potatoes and corn.

Best basic meatloaf
makes 4 man-size servings or 6 normal portions

for the meatloaf:
1.5 lb of ground beef
1 cup of milk
1 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 heaping Tbsp of ketchup
1 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
a few pinches of salt and pepper

for the sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground (dry) mustard or 1 Tbsp of prepared (wet) mustard

Mix meatloaf ingredients thoroughly and shape into a loaf in a loaf pan or baking dish. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Then, stir sauce ingredients together and spread over the cooked meatloaf. Bake for 15 minutes longer, then slice and serve.

things that make my life easier

Laura R.3 Comments
Today marks six months since John died, which is sad and weird, but on a more positive note today also marks six months since I began truly attempting to showing myself grace. I can't remember another time in my life that has caused me to struggle so much with being hard on myself. There isn't an aspect of my life that hasn't been affected by my grief. It's as if every little bit of me was shattered into pieces and I'm still working on picking them up and putting them back into place. I've never felt more dumb—like my brain has just stopped working. I've cried at work (thankfully not in front of the kids, but still—super embarrassing). I've slacked on my housework. I've slacked on cooking. I've even bathed less than ever before. (How's that for transparency?)

Sometimes I hear a voice whispering, You are a mess. You can't handle this.
I used to hear that voice and feel defeated. I'd hate myself for it.
Now I hear that voice and think, "That's true! I am a mess! I can't handle it—at least, not on my own."
It has been such a relief to realize that God sees my mess and loves me anyway. That when I fail to cook dinner or go to work, I'm not losing points with God. That when I fail to be patient with people and end up saying things I shouldn't, God isn't throwing up His hands and saying, "that's it! I give up on her!"

It makes me laugh to think about, but now when I cook up a meal or look over a room I've cleaned I have double the pride as I would have before John passed. When I can get through a sub job without feeling shaky and insecure and sad, my spirit soars and I can't stop saying God, thank you! Progress IS being made. Little by little, those shattered pieces are being put back into place, and I'm appreciating them more than ever.

Maybe you're feeling a bit like a mess yourself. What's been helping you get through it? Here are a few things that are helping me:

1. Rejoicing over ANY progress that's being made, even if it's something small. That might mean getting dressed, not desk-crying at work, getting through traffic without cursing...it could be anything.

2. Two words: dragon noodles. (Really those two words should be "insanely easy recipes." Well, that's three words.) I can handle making this meal even when I'm overwhelmed with life and my day has totally sucked. I use 4 oz. of udon noodles, 1 Tbsp of butter for the egg and I add a spoonful of peanut butter to the sauce. I also rarely ever make it with green onions because I don't always have them on hand. This dish brings me to a happy place. I don't know how to explain it. It's magical! And it's delicious reheated or eaten cold. 

3. Asking for help. My mom has driven up to Frederick countless times over the past six months to lift my spirits (and help me accomplish tasks). It's easier for me to ask her for help than my friends, but that's important too. It's practicing humility—recognizing that you can't do it all on your own. 

4. Happy music. A friend of mine reminded me of how great the You've Got Mail soundtrack is, and I've had that and the soundtrack from The Parent Trap playing on repeat. I can get into a funk SO easily, and sometimes I have to purposefully carry my laptop into the bathroom, turn the volume all the way up and make myself sing along while I'm showering (I really do bathe). You can't belt out "Splish Splash" and still have a bad attitude!

5. Walks. A walk does my body good, whether it's sunny or gray, five minutes long or an hour. I never listen to music on my walks. I prefer to daydream or think of nothing at all. I now understand that guys really mean it when they say they aren't thinking about anything!

6. Repeating Truth. I picked Psalm 91:1-2 to be my focus verses for 2014. Meditating on these verses brings my heart and mind to a place of peace and security.

Laura’s Chicken Tikka Masala

Laura R.Comment
This is our very favorite meal.

In case you were wondering, the answer is yes—you absolutely need to make this. In the words of my husband, "I could eat this every day.


I’ve tried making tikka masala in the crockpot and it’s just not as good as this. Trust me.

A few things to note:

Before diving into this incredible recipe, you will need to marinate the chicken for at least one hour (though the longer the better). I used a cast iron skillet to cook the chicken (though any large heavy-bottomed skillet would work just as well), and I do it in two batches. It doesnt take long.

*Garam masala is cheaper when purchased from an international market or Amazon, but it is available at most grocery stores.

Oh, and don't forget to buy naan! We like the "original" best. Your grocery store should have it in the bakery section, and it probably comes in a pack of two. I recommend getting four to six pieces of naan, depending on how many servings you plan to get out of the recipe. We got four generous servings out of it (we really pig out on this stuff), but you could get six servings if you added rice and/or a side dish. 

Side dish option: we love roasted cauliflower alongside this chicken. I drizzle half a head of chopped cauliflower with a Tbsp of olive oil and sprinkle with generous amounts of turmeric, curry powder, salt and pepper. Bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes. I like to get a bit of char on the cauliflower. (I love it so much I stand over the pan and eat several pieces before serving dinner.)

Have I mentioned how good this is? I promise it's not hard at ALL. Okay, let's get to the recipe already! 

Laura’s Chicken Tikka Masala
serves: 4 generous portions
active time: 10 minutes to prepare chicken and marinade, 20 minutes to make the chicken and sauce
total time, start to finish: at least 1 hour, 30 minutes 

For the marinade:
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 5 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tsp powdered ginger
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

For the sauce:
  • 1 Tbsp ghee (or butter)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/8 cup jarred jalapeño slices (or one finely chopped jalapeño pepper)
  • 2 tsp garam masala 
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • optional: fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

  • naan
1Combine the marinade ingredients and let sit in the fridge for at least one hour.
2. Once the chicken is marinated, lightly oil a large cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet and turn to medium heat.
3. Place ghee or butter in a large pot and turn to medium low. It needs to be big enough to hold the sauce and the chicken together at the end.
4Add the marinated chicken to the skillet and set a timer for 4 minutes. Turn attention back to the pot.
5Add garlic and jalapeño to the melted ghee/butter in the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally, for at least one minute.
6. Add garam masala, paprika, salt and pepper to the pot, stir well.
7. Add tomato sauce and heavy cream to the pot, stir well and simmer on low heat. To get it to a simmer I turned up the heat for a minute until the sauce bubbled, and then I slowly turned it to low. You want it to still bubble slightly, but not so much that it's popping out of the pan.
8. Once the chicken has cooked for 4 minutes, flip the pieces and cook for 4 more minutes.
9. Youll know the chicken is done if it breaks easily with a spatula. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the first batch of chicken to the sauce. 
10. Cook the second batch of chicken the same way and then add to the sauce, which should continue to be cooking over low heat.
11. Warm naan as the package directs. 
12. Turn off the stove and stovetop and sprinkle the dished-out portions of chicken with cilantro. Serve with warmed naan. 


don’t mind my crappy cell phone pic and my splotchy stovetop...

latest recipes

Laura R.Comment
Cooking has been great therapy for me the last few weeks. My grief has been hitting harder now than it was before. I think the numbness from the shock is wearing off and reality is sinking in.

There's something about the rhythmic rocking of a knife against a cutting board, the sizzle of vegetables in a hot pan and the rush of pride that comes from creating something restaurant-worthy. I have certainly gone through phases of frozen pizzas and takeout, but right now I'm addicted to cooking.

Here are a few of the recipes I've tried lately. Let me know if you try any of them and how it went!
(click on the name of the dish to view the recipe)

This soup knocked my socks off, and it was SO EASY to make!
I did not use lime leaves, cilantro roots or bean sprouts, and I’ve made it once

with powdered ginger and once with a small spoonful of galangal (in place of frozen grated ginger).
I also added sliced mushrooms.

The noodles are good, but it’s REALLY good over jasmine rice!

(scroll to the end to view recipe)
I made this dish with a friend, and I think our version looked
prettier than this picture! Regardless, it tasted amazing.
We omitted the wine and parsley and used
an orange pepper in place of the green. We also used rotisserie chicken,
which I would absolutely recommend doing. This made at least 8 servings,
but it's so good that you'll be sad when the leftovers run out.
On the second night of eating it I added a sautéd mushroom and a
handful of fresh spinach, which I let wilt as I stirred the hot pasta.
I've made this once before, but it's probably been two years!
I followed her recipe to a T and had no problems.
I love when my dinners come out looking just like the picture!
If you like the coconut shrimp at Outback then you'll love this dish.

I'm obsessed with these spicy noodles.
I added a spoonful of peanut butter to the sauce after getting the idea from
the comments section, but they'd still be delicious without the PB.
I ate the leftovers cold the next day and declared that I should
make these noodles each week for my school lunches.

This is our new favorite dip. I added bacon
(I crumbled four strips) and used crushed Ritz crackers
for the topping instead of Panko bread crumbs.
I served the dip with Ritz at a party, but on the way home
Andy suggested we pick up a loaf of french bread
so we could eat more dip at home.
This dip was our dinner, and it was delicious.
(We didn't toast the bread, but I'm sure that would be yummy, too.)









breakfast on the brain

Laura R.1 Comment
I've been on a major breakfast-foods kick lately. A few weeks ago I had a dream that I was eating a bagel with bacon, egg and cheese, and as soon as I woke up I went to the kitchen to make that dream a reality. It was VERY satisfying.

Then last Saturday I made blueberry muffins to surprise Andy. He only ate ONE (they were delish — he's just crazy). Clearly I had to eat the remaining five muffins. I had just made myself a huge pot of decaf coffee and those muffins were the perfect accompaniment. Don't judge me!!!

Then I got a hankering for pancakes. What is going on here?! I knew my friend was going to join me for dinner before we watched "Sense and Sensibility" together, and when she mentioned simply having eggs or cereal I was allllll over that. We had pancakes, eggs and bacon and topped our pancakes with maple syrup that she had brought as a hostess gift. Sally ate one pancake, one egg and one slice of bacon. I had four pancakes, two eggs and three slices of bacon. I dominated that meal.

I've been wanting to try one (or all) of Beth's baked oatmeal recipes since I stumbled upon Budget Bytes last year. The other two treats look pretty tempting, too! Hopefully if I make any of these I'll show better restraint than I did with the muffins and pancakes...

Blueberry banana baked oatmeal from Budget Bytes
Apple pie muffins from The White Ramekins
French toast bread pudding from Beantown Baker