Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

In the last year or so, I have become moderately obsessed with Thai food. The tiny little Thai restaurant near our house sees my face a lot… and if I go too long without some pad Thai or curry, I start to panic a little. Despite my love for the cuisine, Thai food is complicated, and involves a lot of ingredients that are not terribly common or easy to find, so I’ve not really had the urge to try my hand at making anything (especially when, for $8 and a 1.5 mile roundtrip drive, I can have a nice, steaming order of massaman curry on the table in less than 15 minutes). I’m sure this salad is FAR from authentic, but it incorporates a lot of the tastes and textures that I love in Thai food – crunchy cabbage, salty peanuts, sour lime juice – and is nearly as satisfying as the real deal!

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing
serves 2 generously

one head napa cabbage, thinly sliced
one large heart of romaine, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
half a red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped
8oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
kosher salt
garlic powder
one batch of Peanut Lime Dressing

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

for the dressing:
1 T fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
1 T mirin (you can use sugar instead, if necessary)
1 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
large pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 T honey (optional)
up to 2 T water

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

1.) Let’s start with the chicken. Season the chicken well with kosher salt and garlic powder, add a few teaspoons of oil to a skillet, and cook over medium heat until cooked through. Set aside to cool.

2.) While the chicken cooks, chop and prep all your vegetables. I like to shred my cabbage and romaine into roughly 1/2″ wide pieces.

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

3.) For the dressing, whisk together all ingredients except the honey and water. It will take a minute for everything to fully incorporate, but just keep whisking and it’ll eventually smooth out into a nice, creamy dressing. Once you have everything well-combined, whisk is as much water as you need to get a nice, drizzle-able consistency (I used about 2 tablespoons). Taste test your dressing; I found mine to be a LITTLE too sour/acidic, so I added a tablespoon of honey. If you’re happy with it the way it is, carry on!

4.) Once your dressing is made and your vegetables are prepped, shred your chicken (or cut it into bite-size pieces).

5.) Toss the cabbage, romaine, carrots, and bell peppers together. Pile this mixture on to each plate, and then top with shredded chicken, chopped peanuts, and cilantro. Drizzle the dressing over the top, and serve.

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Lime Dressing

I don’t think I’ve ever attacked a salad with such intensity in my life! The flavor and texture combinations in this salad are fantastic – and the light, crunchy vegetables keep it from feeling too heavy. It would be absolutely perfect on a hot summer evening (not that it will ever be HOT in Michigan again… I’ve given up hope), or for a summer barbecue. I can’t wait to make it again!

I won’t tell anyone if you accidentally eat a spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar,
Tina

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Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto

So, you whipped up a batch of kale pesto last week, and you had a bit leftover… not quite enough to freeze for another batch of pasta, but enough that it seems silly to throw away. A few tablespoons worth, maybe. I found myself in this exact situation this past week – or, almost this exact situation. Turns out, the monster bunch of kale I used to make my pesto actually produced enough pesto for TWO one-pound batches of pasta… and then some. I mixed some of the pesto with linguine for dinner (and several leftover lunches for my husband), froze another portion to have on hand for an easy dinner later, and still had about a quarter cup left. I threw it in the fridge, knowing I’d come up with a way to use it later.

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto

Well, later came – and it was yet another exceptionally frigid day, with a threat of snow. By the time I got home from work, I was exhausted and freezing, and wanted nothing more than to put on my warmest sweats, and make dinner in less than 15 minutes. Enter: leftover kale pesto! A quick scan of the fridge produced two great ways to use up the leftovers. First, grilled cheese sandwiches, fancied up with some kale pesto, and crisped prosciutto. Second? A delicious dip for raw vegetables that took approximately 8 seconds to make. And BAM, dinner was done!

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto
serves 2

4 slices sandwich bread (I used a fairly hearty white bread)
2 T leftover kale pesto
2 one ounce slices of provolone cheese (mozzarella or monterey jack would be fine, too)
3 thin slices of prosciutto
2 T grated asiago cheese or parmesan cheese
salted butter

1.) Start by crisping up your prosciutto. Heat a small skillet over medium heat, and throw in the prosciutto slices; it should take just a minute or two on each side for the prosciutto to render some fat, crisp up, and turn golden brown. Remove the prosciutto to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto

2.) On two of the slices of bread, spread a tablespoon of the kale pesto. Top with the provolone cheese, then the prosciutto, then the asiago or parmesan. Top each sandwich with the remaining slices of bread.

3.) Heat a skillet over medium low heat, and melt about half a teaspoon of butter in the center of the pan. Most people spread softened butter directly on to the bread for their grilled cheese; personally, I find that, while it results in a crispy, buttery, brown crust on the sandwich, it’s a little TOO buttery and greasy for my liking (and I LOVE me some butter, trust me). By melting the butter directly into the skillet, you’re able to use a lot less, and still get the desired brown, crispy crust. ANYWAYS (my apologies for my lecture on Grilled Cheese Etiquette), melt the bit of butter in the center of the pan, and then add your sandwich to the pan.

(Please excuse my excessively dirty stove top. I swear I cleaned it as soon as I was done making these grilled cheese sandwiches.)

(Please excuse my excessively dirty stove top. I swear I cleaned it as soon as I was done making these grilled cheese sandwiches.)

4.) Cook each sandwich for about 2-3 minutes per side, until the bread is golden brown, and the cheese is fully melted (I often loosely tent the pan with foil, to help speed up the cheese melting process). Add a bit more butter to the pan when you flip the sandwich, so the second side will brown nicely as well.

5.) Allow the sandwiches to rest for a couple minutes after removing them from the pan, so the cheese can firm up slightly, then cut in half and serve.

Of course, this “recipe” is about as flexible as they come. If you don’t have prosciutto? Use bacon! If you don’t want to use meat? Don’t! If you think tomatoes would really make this grilled cheese amazing? Put some in! Got some leftover caramelized onions looking for a home? Add ’em to your sandwich!

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto, Kale Pesto and Greek Yogurt Vegetable Dip

To make the vegetable dip, here’s what you need to do: place 1/3 cup of plain greek yogurt or sour cream into a bowl. Add a tablespoon of leftover kale pesto. Stir. Serve with raw vegetables or crackers of your choice. (It may have taken me 1,000 words to tell you how to make a grilled cheese, but I can be succinct about a two-ingredient dip, dammit!)

The point of all of these very, very many words: even if you HATE leftovers (*Tina quietly raises her hand*), you can often make them into something totally different than their original state. Leftover meatballs can become meatball pizza! Extra ham from Easter turns into a delicious dip! A pesto that began its life as a pasta sauce is now a sandwich spread!

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto

I apologize for the excessive use of exclamation points this morning,
Tina

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

Happy 2014! I apologize for the gaps in posting… like about half the country, Michigan got pounded with a few intense snowstorms over a span of 10 days, and then our temperatures plummeted for a while (on a Tuesday, our wind chill was -40° [yeah, you read that right]… 3 days later, on Friday, our high was 42°). Trying to accomplish everyday activities while fighting 2 feet of snow gets exhausting pretty quickly; and the crazy, intense cold lead to a lot of evenings where I refused to come out from under a pile of 7 blankets, for fear of frostbite. So, no posting. But, the weather has relaxed a little bit, the temperatures no longer begin with a negative sign, and I can once again feel my hands!

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

I realized a couple days ago that I had a giant bunch of kale wilting away in the fridge. It was definitely past its prime, and no longer good for salads. I’m not a huge fan of cooked greens, so I knew my options were limited… and suddenly, it occurred to me that kale would probably make a great pesto! I set about making a pesto with things I had on hand, and it turned out REALLY good. If you have yet to jump on the kale bandwagon, and you’d like to give it a try, this recipe would be an excellent jumping off point.

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan
serves 4-6 as a main course, 8-10 as a side

1 lb linguine, cooked until al dente
2 cups of kale, packed (stripped of any stems)
good handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed*
3 cloves garlic
juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more for serving
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
olive oil, approximately 1/2 cup
cherry tomatoes, halved

*You can use walnuts if you prefer. I actually intended to use walnuts, but then I realized I didn’t have any – and it was a happy accident, as I think the hazelnuts were really fantastic paired with the kale.

1.) Start by washing your kale, and drying it really well. Get your pasta water going (don’t forget to salt it very well before you add the pasta!), and cook the pasta as directed.

Kale and Hazelnut Pesto

2.) Add everything except the olive oil to a food processor, and pulse several times, until the mixture is well-chopped, but still a little chunky (make sure the hazelnuts and garlic cloves aren’t still in large pieces).

3.) Turn the processor on, and drizzle in about 1/3 cup of the olive oil. The amount of olive oil you’ll need will depend on the amount of moisture in your kale, how juicy the lemon was, etc. Keep drizzling olive oil (stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if needed) until the pesto has reached a good sauce-like consistency – a little loose, but not soupy.

4.) Pour the pesto into a large serving bowl; when the pasta is done, add it directly to the bowl full of pesto. Toss the linguine with the pesto – add a couple tablespoons of the starchy pasta water if the pesto isn’t coating the pasta well.

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

5.) Serve the pasta immediately, topped with shavings of fresh parmesan and the halved cherry tomatoes.

This pesto is SO DELICIOUS. It’s fresh, and light, but with a nice richness from the parmesan and hazelnuts. The lemon juice and zest keep the whole thing bright. It’s one of those rare dishes that feels hearty enough for a cold winter day, but would also make a really delicious cold pasta salad for a summer picnic. I’m debating how I’ll use the leftover pesto – I’m thinking I’ll either drizzle it over some roasted potatoes, or mix it with brown rice as a side dish!

Linguine with Kale Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

I promise you, kale is seriously delicious!
Tina

Baked Potato Soup

Well, friends… 2014 is upon us. Crazy that yet another year has passed, isn’t it?! Regardless of your plans for this evening – whether you’re going to dance and drink the night away, or order some pizzas and watch a few movies, or crawl into bed at 9:30, waving goodbye to 2013 as you do – I feel like New Year’s Day is a day designed for laying around the house, being lazy, and relaxing. And what goes better with a day spent on the couch, than comfort food?? This baked potato soup is warm, and rich, and filling – and not terribly labor intensive, either. So, whip up a batch of this soup this evening, put it in the fridge – and then, when you roll out of bed around 11am tomorrow (or 6am, for those of you with kids – ouch), pop it back on to the stove to warm up while you dress yourself in your finest sweatpants and thickest, warmest socks. Relax, and enjoy!

Baked Potato Soup

Baked Potato Soup
serves 4-6

6 slices bacon
6 medium russet potatoes (about 2.5 pounds total), diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

Toppings:
Sour cream/greek yogurt
grated cheddar cheese
sliced green onions
hot sauce

Baked Potato Soup

1.) Chop the bacon into 1/2″ pieces, and add to a cold, heavy-bottomed pot. Place the pot over medium heat, and cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate with a slotted spoon, and drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.

2.) Add the carrots to the hot pot; allow them to cook for 3-4 minutes, until the edges are browned and the carrots are beginning to soften. Then, add the onion, and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Season with a pinch each of kosher salt and pepper.

3.) Add the potatoes and chicken stock to the pot, along with a heaping teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

4.) Once the vegetables and potatoes are nice and tender, you can either choose to leave the soup chunky, or to blend it; personally, I prefer to blend it. I use an immersion blender, but you can also transfer it in batches to a regular blender (be sure to leave at least 1/3 of the blender carafe empty to allow for expansion, and take the round disk out of the center of the lid; cover the hole with a dish towel).

5.) When you’ve blended the soup, return it to the heat; add the cream, stir to combine, and taste for seasoning. If it tastes a bit bland, you need more salt!

Baked Potato Soup

Portion the soup into bowls, and add your choice of toppings! I like to go with a classic baked potato style – greek yogurt, shredded cheddar, crumbled bacon, and some sliced green onions – but this soup is a great base for all kinds of additions. You could try some roasted broccoli and cheddar cheese, some bacon and pickled jalapeños, or whatever else you can dream up!

Soup and sweatpants: a marriage made in heaven,
Tina