Tag Archives: chicken

Herby-garlicky fried chicken

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My first time making fried chicken. In the same way that people celebrate daughter’s first dance recital, graduations, sweet sixteens, and passing your drivers license tests, I feel like celebrating for my first fried chicken attempt. I’m thinking I should get a Colonel Sanders style sticker and a hug from Paula Deen.

I mostly feel accomplished because in true Katie-cooking-style, the production of this chicken started a week in advance, with me subtly mentioning “fried chicken on Sunday” to my boyfriend Spencer. TBH it was a conversation elongator where I thought about chicken and word vomited the preposterous idea of trying fried chicken for the first time for a crowd on Memorial Day weekend. I should really know my lesson by now that if I’ve skimmed a topic relating to food, someone is going to call me out on it if I don’t actually get around to making it.

Sunday rolls around and no preparations are in order, so I’m thinking I’m putting this adventure off for another time. Both Spencer and myself have moved into different houses, don’t know where anything is, and now we’re set on making fried chicken. It’s in these circumstances you realize that if you forget about the crowd and focus on the dish, things MAY ACTUALLY come together. Well, I wouldn’t say that’s always the case, but in this situation, the results were pretty good.

Before I know it, I’m driving back to St Charles where, of course, I’ve left the most random of kitchen accessories that happen to be needed for our recipe, large marinating plastic bags. In the rush of an unpacking afternoon, Spence was able to brine the chicken for ~3-4 hours before I took over the cooking. I tell you all this because if you’re not intimidated by the behind the scenes work to a barbeque or dinner party, maybe you’ll be more inclined to try something new for friends.

I think there’s a few camps when it comes to entertaining – on the one hand, if you try something new for a crowd, you’re overwhelmed by trying to master the recipe and entertain at the same time, but oftentimes in my case, the trying-something-new is part of the fun of the night. Somehow, it-all-comes-together-at-the-last-minute is the name of the game, like the orchestra started playing a little too early and the curtain guy is reeling up the curtain while the characters are still getting positioned on stage.

In this case, I started my part while Andrew and William were already working their magic with some delicious avocado mac ‘n’ cheese and a blackberry strawberry kale salad. With little kitchen space, the three of us managed a meal of epic proportions without any major accidents, burned food, or overcookery of sorts.

I saw this recipe on an amazing episode of the Barefoot Contessa where Ina invites Tyler Florence over. In one afternoon (yes this timeframe amazes me as well), Ina and Tyler make a wedding cake sized birthday cake, homemade fried chicken, and take a leisurely visit to the local Hamptons farm.

In the case that you watch this episode, I’ll give you a sense for what you actually might be able to accomplish based on my timeline . I’d say you may want to just focus on this fried chicken, as we had to take a bit of time brining the chicken, then prepping the chicken, then returning to the store to buy more oil for frying. I’m not sure when they made this birthday cake but luckily it came together in one afternoon! Whew, to be Ina!

Here’s a few things that differed in our rendition of this meal. 1) Lenzie and Trent brought those amazing fake-cakey cookies with the themed frosting instead of having cake, 2) We kept to their use of bone-in chicken except for the breasts which Spencer deboned , 3) there was no visit to the local farm and 4) instead of having Tyler Florence help guide the cooking process, I had 3 twenty-something guys and 2 parents all pitch in!

I’m hoping you’re not intimidated by Ina’s spotless white kitchen, always-plentiful bowl of silver spoons, and lively-never-droopy blue hydrangeas. Make this for your friends and family and watch their episode at the bottom of this post if you have 1.99 to spare ­čÖé

Here’s a little snap of our cooking adventure featuring the crew: Andrew, William & Robin; the last few seconds continues with our MDW braves game visit…we ate fried chicken before we went so its all relevant right??

Tyler Florence’s Fried Chicken, adapted very slightly, serves 8-9 comfortably with a few leftovers

2 3-4 lb whole chickens, breasts de-boned, all other pieces bone in (thighs + drumsticks + wings)

3 cups all purpose flour

2 TBS garlic powder

2 TBS onion powder

2 TBS sweet paprika (can use regular if you run out of sweet)

2 tsp cayenne pepper (Adjust here if you’re partial to less spicy)

4 cups (1 quart) buttermilk

2 TBS sriracha or other hot sauce you like

peanut oil or vegetable oil for frying (we used a mixture of both since I ran out of peanut oil…make sure to buy one of the big jugs at the store)

1/2 head garlic, smashed, husks still on (this is for frying dont worry about the husks)

1/4 bunch fresh sage

1/4 bunch fresh thyme

4 big sprigs of fresh rosemary

fresh black pepper and kosher salt

2 lemons, cut into wedges, for serving

  1. A few hours in advance, or the night before, set up your chicken to brine. We used a big tupperware, but you can use a large bowl. Cover the chicken with water 1-inch above chicken. Sprinkle 1 TBS kosher salt for every quart of water you’ve added. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight. This is what’s going to make the chicken really tender.
  2. When you’re ready to start cooking, take your chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature while you prep the frying ingredients. In a shallow platter or deep tupperware in my case, mix together your flour, dry spices, and season with salt and pepper. We learned that you don’t need to add too much salt here, because your chicken already has a good bit of salt absorbed from the brining process.
  3. Pour oil into a heavy bottomed pot / Dutch oven, about 2/3 of the way full. Put your whole herbs and garlic directly into the cold oil . As these heat up, don’t worry about them burning, these whole spices are what will flavor your oil. Clip on your candy thermometer, ensuring that the bottoms of it isn’t touching the bottom of the pan. Heat stove to medium high heat, and start prepping your station as the oil heats to 350-375.
  4. Meanwhile, set your chicken to the far left, setting a plate next to the brine mixture where you want to dry the chicken before putting it into the buttermilk. Next set a shallow dish with your buttermilk and sriracha next to the chicken. Set flour mixture to the right of that, closest to the stove.
  5. Heat the oven to about 150,or whatever is its lowest setting. I wanted to do this to keep the chicken warm while other batches were still trying. **if your chicken is still a bit cold when you start frying, you may need a quick bake after frying to finish cooking your chicken. A few reviewers from Tyler’s original recipe noted this. Our chicken was at room temp so we didn’t have this issue and we only used the oven for warming.
  6. Set a sheet pan or 9×13 dish in the oven where you can set chicken after frying to keep warm
  7. As your oil heats up, start dredging process with a batch of two pieces. The first step is to dry the brined chicken off with paper towels. You need to do this to make sure the coating sticks properly. Next dip chicken pieces in buttermilk mixture, shake gently to remove any excess, and dredge in flour mixture. Press gently in flour to make sure you get all the crevices covered, then flip to the other side. You can leave chicken in this mixture before frying.
  8. Once oil is hot, gently place two pieces in the oil with tongs. Let chicken fry for 12 minutes per batch, moving around about halfway through to make sure nobody is stuck on the bottom of the pot.
  9. While you wait for one batch to fry, start prepping 2-3 more pieces. Also have at least 3 onlookers observe and ooh and aah over frying oil cauldron. Make yourself a yummy cocktail or mocktail
  10. After 12 minutes, use a meat thermometer to check for doneness if you have one. Chicken should be at 155 when it comes out, but will cook off a bit more than that after you take it off. Thank you Julie Mitchell for checking temp for me since we didn’t have a thermometer!!
  11. place done pieces in the oven covering with aluminum foil while you move on to the next batch
  12. After all the chicken is done, place on a plate and garnish with your fried herbs. Squeeze a few lemon wedges to taste and place a few other wedges on the side to garnish . Serve to hungry friends, and smile big after you savor each bite. ­čśÇ

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Dinner in the Mediterranean: Chicken Shawarma, Spiced Rice, Israeli salads

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My college friends and I are all approaching our twenty-fifth year this year, and I find this dinner party an appropriate step-up to be a half-century old. I love entertaining and am always on the hunt for a good themed dinner or party, so any excuse to serve slow-cooked meat is on my radar. My roommates and I moved in together earlier this summer and wanted to bring our old and new friends together to get to know each other better, make new friends, and have any excuse to talk all things girl talk. Thanks lovely ladies for making this a special evening and for the delicious sides!! Our friend Caroline made green goddess hummus, Julia made a quinoa tabbouleh salad, Kate brought an amazing Israeli salad, Wesley brought yummy wine, Jess brought traditional hummus, Kelly made the beautiful settings along with contributing delicious wine. All my roommate Kelley and I had to do was make veggies, rice, and chicken.

Before I get into the recipe, let’s talk life lately. I recently went on a wonderful retreat with a church near me. A thoroughly reflective experience, the retreat also offered an old-fashioned “compact disc” for us to listen to the songs featured on the retreat. There’s one song in particular that has stuck with me called “Beauty for Ashes” by Chris Mclarney (listen!).

Now I’m in the camp that likes catchy songs and sometimes I don’t pay attention to all the words, so for about two weeks, there was this one verse that I kept glazing over. I kept thinking he was saying “you turned my morning into dancing,” and thought, wow, what a great pick me up for a hard day. YES, God, you turn my mornings into a dance through life. You get up and get to work┬áharnessing the gifts God gave you to invest in the world around you. I thought that was such a beautiful metaphor.

So, as it turns out, he’s saying “you turned my MOURNING into dancing.” Equally as beautiful, but definitely a completely different meaning. What do you think, mourning or morning? Ramona Quimby had some similar experiences growing up – did you guys reach Ramona Quimby, Age 8? Ramona thought that in the national anthem, it said “by the dawnzer’s lee light” instead of “by the dawn’s early light.” She proceeded to ask her mother to turn on the “dawnzer,” and her mom had to explain that dawnzer is actually not another name for a lamp!! Sometimes we’ve all got a little Amelia Bedelia or Ramona in us, right?

As I’ve been dancing through mornings the past couple weeks, I’ve also been reminiscing on this wonderful dinner party! I think this is a great dish for you to try entertaining with because it’s pretty hands off when you want to start prepping and saying hi and pouring drinks. The gist is: marinate chicken, bake chicken, chop into pieces right before serving, garnish with lemon/herbs. I ended up adding rice on the side but you could easily just do store-bought pita bread.

Mediterranean as a theme (and rather vague) is quite easy for your guests to bring items as well. For those who don’t want/know how to cook, ask to pick up a bag of pita chips or hummus and a bottle or two of wine. For those who want to get a bit more involved, a few people made some Israeli type salads. These consist of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and sometimes a bit of quinoa, lemon and chopped fresh herbs. This chicken recipe was recommended to me from my friend Jessica who had it with her lunch club in medical school. Thanks so much for the recipe Jess and thanks for making some delicious hummus ­čÖé

Oven-roased Chicken Shawarma, from the New York Times

serves 4-6 (I doubled the recipe)

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • ┬Ż cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ┬Ż teaspoon turmeric
  • A pinch ground cinnamon
  • Red-pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. Marinate chicken in the morning: Whisk lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, gahhhlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cinnamon and pinch of red pepper flakes together in a large bowl. Put chicken in freezer bags and pour the marinade over the chicken in the bags. Press as much air out of the bags as you can, seal, and swish the marinade all around the chicken to make sure it’s distributed evenly.
  2. Put the bags on a plate in your refrigerator at least an hour and up to 12.
  3. When you’re ready to cook, take the chicken out of the refrigerator about 30 mins – 1 hr before ready to cook to bring the chicken to room temperature. Preheat oven to 425 and take a break from doing your hair to grease a large rimmed baking sheet or 9×13 pan with a bit of olive oil.
  4. Add quartered onion to the marinate in the bags and swish around again. Remove chicken and onion onto the sheet pan, spread out, and bake for 30-40 minutes. At this point your guests are here, you’re pouring wine, chatting over One Direction, and ready to EAT!
  5. Once the chicken is ready, take out of the oven, let rest for 2 minutes and cut into thin strips. Serve alongside lemon slices and top with parsley. Bon appetit!

Spiced rice (the recipe calls it aromatic, to me that sounds like a spa)

  • 1.5 cups white rice (I used jasmine, I don’t really think it matters what kind you use except for the timing)
  • 3 cups water
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 6 whole cloves

salt according to the rice package instructions

  1. Boil water and rice together in a large saucepan. Add salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.
  2. Once boiling, turn heat down so the mixture is at a slight simmer and cover. Cook according to package timing.
  3. Once cooked, fluff rice and take out cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and cardamom pods.
  4. Serve on the side of chicken!

Set up one table with all your dishes and set another table with flowers, candles and plates. If you’re in need of some healthy dinnertime conversation, hit up my friends Julia and Kate they are the queens of witty questions ­čśë

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Homeland roots: Grilled Butter Chicken, Okra Masala, Dal and Coconut Rice

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What’s preventing you from trying something new? Do you ever think about the movement in your body that physically prevents you from doing new things? Like, what is that invisible switch that I swear exists in everyone’s throat which prevents men and women, young and old people from saying that which they want to say but are afraid to evoke? What kind of magic do you have to conjure to turn that switch off and stand up for yourself or for something you want or to take a risk??

Well I’m really just trying to get you riled up for my first attempt at Indian food. Let me tie these two things together. I’m half Indian – what that means is that for more than two years in elementary school I had a cop out costume of wearing either a sheet as a sari or one of the Indian dresses my dad or relative brought back from India along with a Magic-markered henna tattoo on my hand and a bindi. What it means is that I grew up wishing my mom would make Uncle Ben’s rice when I tasted this new buttery sensation at school one day after only eating basmati rice with every dish (yes, gumbo, chili, you name it, it was basmati). What it means is that my racial ambiguity let me get away with telling my kindergarten teacher that I spoke Spanish (at least until parent-teacher conference). What it means is that I grew up learning to taste spicy, rich, curry-ful foods and had a pickle on the table most nights at dinner.

And NOW, what it means is that I was so spoiled growing up eating Indian prepared by mostly my dad or grandma, that I am so scared of ruining those memories by messing it up. So maybe this isn’t a huge thing for me to try new, but at its core what it means is I’m treading new territory. One of the worst things about starting something new is how daunting it is to think that it might take you a while to master it, right?

I’m here to tell you that these three recipes are good places for you to start with basic Indian recipes. The biggest step is making sure you can get the right spices and not being worried that your entire kitchen is going to smell like curry for a day or so.

My dear friend Kate is the one who encouraged us to make this meal as she LOVES Indian food and is a great friend to experiment with. Take these recipes on with your family member, someone you go on adventures with, or impress your co-workers with your attempt at a new cuisine. I was blessed to have my sister and two of my close girl friends cook with me for a lovely Sunday night dinner partay.

Lentil Dal – from the NY Times, serves 4 -6

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed

1 small onion, roughly cut up

2 garlic cloves, cut in half

1 bay leaf

4 cups water

2 TBS oil

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp curry powder

salt

yogurt and cilantro to top

  1. Make sure to start this recipe first, lentils take a while to cook! Combine the lentils, onion, garlic, bay leaf, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add salt to taste (under-salt slightly because you will be reducing the liquid), and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes, until the lentils are falling apart tender and fragrant. Remove the onion and garlic and discard.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spices and stir as they sizzle for about 30 seconds, until very fragrant. Add the lentil with their liquid and cook, stirring and mashing with the back of a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, like refried beans. You may need to add some more water. Add salt to taste, once the mixture has reduced to the desired consistency.

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Grilled Butter chicken thighs, halved from this recipe┬á– serves 4

1/2 onion, quartered

1.5 garlic cloves, chopped roughly

1.5 inch piece of ginger, chopped roughly

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika (smoked or sweet is fine)

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/2 tomato or 1/2 tin cherry tomatoes (I forgot these so just used half a tomato)

1 cup Greek or plain yogurt (make sure it has at least some fat content…you need the fat for flavor)

1 tsp salt

2 TBS melted butter

4 large bone-in skin-on chicken thighs

  1. A few hours before cooking (at least 1 hour and up to 6), puree all the marinade ingredients (all ingredients except the chicken) in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  2. Put your chicken thighs in a large freezer bag or large bowl and pour marinade over. Ensure that the marinade covers all the chicken pieces and place in the fridge to marinate.
  3. About an hour before cooking the chicken, take out of the fridge so it comes to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350.

2015-08-09 19.02.554. Place chicken with marinade in a large baking dish and bake for around 20 minutes. During this time start to get your okra cooking. At the ten minute mark, light up the grill to med/high heat. You really need to be cooking on your friend’s porch – one which has a beautiful banana pepper plant, an OVERFLOWING mint plant, basil, as well as bell peppers.

5. After 20 minutes in the oven, take the chicken out of the oven and place each piece on the grill, shaking off the marinade.

6. Grill for about 7 minutes on each side, then put chicken on a clean plate and let rest for a few minutes.

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Okra (Bhindi) Masala from Veg recipes of India

12 oz frozen cut okra (look in the frozen veggies section of your local grocery store)

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 TBS minced ginger mixed together with 2-3 cloves of garlic minced to make a paste

1 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp garam masala (they sell it at Kroger I promise!)

salt

oil

  1. Heat a tablespoon of veg or olive oil in a large skillet until medium-hot. Add the frozen okra and cook for around 4-7 minutes until the okra is green and just cooked (can be a little undercooked you will put it back in the pan later). Place okra in a small bowl and add a little more oil to the pan.
  2. Add onions on med/high heat until they become soft and translucent.
  3. Add your ginger-garlic paste for another minute.
  4. Add tomatoes (don’t worry it will be liquidy) for a few minutes until the tomatoes break down and start to caramelize with the onions.

2015-08-09 19.29.025. Add spices and salt until they cover all the ingredients. Make sure to add a good bit of salt here.

6. Add the okra back into the saute and let mix with the spices for a few minutes.

 

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Last but not least, Coconut Rice!

Following the instructions on the rice bag, boil 1 part rice with 2 parts liquid – only substitute a little over half the liquid with coconut milk. Add a pinch of salt and reduce heat to simmering. Cover until rice is done. You may want to add in some coconut milk at the very end for extra flavor.

Serve everything together with lots of fresh cilantro, lemon slices, and yogurt to top! Have your favorite (and only) sister over to enjoy with you!

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Lemongrass Chicken with Fresh Veggies, Mint, and Basil

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You know what feels so great? Being able to fully recreate something you’ve had at a restaurant. You know what also feels so great? Knowing that you have late night in the fridge waiting for you when you’re out at a bar. While the latter is irrelevant to this post, I can’t help but think back to this one time when my second year of college, my roommate Kate and I made nachos for dinner and saved ourselves a perfect late night portion for after we went out. It may have made that month of my life that much better.

Or, for those of you recently out of college, how awesome was it to come home on break and have your favorite snacks awaiting your arrival at home? I’d often come home to the Costco melon-sized muffins and boxes of Ghiradelli brownie mix just ready for my friend Cessie and I to dig into. I can imagine, well, actually I know this because my parents have been very upfront with me about it, that when you’re a parent you’re trying to keep your kids around as long as possible when they come home from college. My mom would always have the snacks at our house, hoping that it would secure our house as the preferred location for friends reunions. In fact, it was and is still fairly successful, and I think I may have taken on this activity as I try to make my house welcoming.

I’ve got a two word recommendation for you: candy. bowl.

There’s an art to the candy bowl and it goes along with the motive behind this dish. There’s a move to get people to come over (the main dish) and then there’s the move to get them to stay (the candy). In this case, I’d say I was cooking with close enough friends where I didn’t really need the candy bowl but it’s seriously so funny to me to see people who visit for the first time light up at the candy bowl. Especially when I have candy in there that I wouldn’t have expected some people to like.

Have nothing to talk about to a friend of a friend who is visiting your party? “um so, can I offer you a reeses egg?”

Trying to console a friend and can’t find the next thing to say? “Ugh, I know, boys right? Let’s discuss over dark chocolate caramel-filled Ghiradelli squares”

It’s all about engaging whomever is around. With this lemongrass chicken dish, I wanted to get my friends involved in what is one of my FAVORITE dishes as of late. At most Vietnamese places, people are always about the pho. I’m really not a huge soup person, so I always go for the lemongrass pork or chicken if they have it. I love the fact that you get this really moist, flavorful cut of meat with a scoop of rice and a mound of raw veggies and fresh herbs. The combination of the fresh herbs with the hot chicken is to die for.

A few months ago, my friend Julia and I frequented a pho place post-karaoke with two of our other friends and I had a very delicious version of this dish. Since then, I’ve been thinking about recreating it and finally got to it about a month ago.

I say I wanted to get everyone engaged because it’s a dish that involves a lot of chopping but little precision. For a group dinner, you want everyone to feel included and like they have “a job.” I’ve found this to be very important with a group of close girls as it makes it so much easier to continue the endless gabbing when there aren’t stressful time constraints or intense skills required to make the dish!!!

One person can cook the meat (or two who can switch off) while the others can chop and make rice. At the end, we ended up just making a big platter of some cooked veggies, some raw veggies, herbs, and the delicioso chicken. I took this recipe from one meant for pork and adjusted it for chicken thighs.

I am VERY confident you can make this and serve to your favorite gals and guys. It’s a great way to experiment with other cuisines and learn about new veggies/herbs. I’ve never cooked with lemongrass before and found it easy to figure out! (considering I looked up a video on youtube for how to cut it :))

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Lemongrass chicken with fresh veggies, herbs, and rice

adapted slightly from this Userealbutter recipe, serves 4 or 5 comfortably (you will NOT have leftovers :))

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 tbsps light brown sugar
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp shallots, chopped
3 tbsps lemongrass, chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce (or thick soy sauce) – I just used regular light soy sauce from TJs…
1 1/2 tbsps fish sauce
1 tbsp flavorless vegetable oil

1 cup rice

An assortment of cucumbers, carrots, fresh basil, fresh mint, zucchinis, and bell peppers of all colors

1. At least 2 hours before you want to start cooking, marinate the chicken. You could also do this up to 24 hours in advance. I think this is a really important step as you want the chicken to be as flavorful as possible! In the bowl of a large food processor or blender if you don’t have one, puree the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, and brown sugar. As recommended in the original recipe, if you dont have any of these tools, you could totally just chop it up really finely.

2. Add black pepper, fish sauce, soy sauce, and vegetable oil and puree until smooth. Place the chicken thighs in a large freezer bag and pour marinade over top. Swish around the marinade, ensuring all pieces of chicken are evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 24 hours – taking the chicken out about 30 minutes before you want to cook it.

3. When ready to cook, take your chicken out of the refrigerator to bring to room temp. Meanwhile, bring 2 cups of water to boil with a pinch of salt. Once boiling, add rice and bring temp down so the rice is simmering. Cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes or until done.

4. After you’ve poured everyone a glass of wine (yes, Arianna, Kate and Julia, I will admit mine is the smallest), get to work chopping. Rice is a-cooking and chicken is ready for the stove. Ask your friend who is least afraid of raw meat to help you cut up the chicken into strips for sauteeing. You could also grill the thighs whole and chop them up afterwards. Sautee the chicken in batches for about 5-8 minutes on each side, until the pieces are no longer pink.

5. While one or two people are cooking the chicken, sautee some zucchini and peppers. For the raw vegetables, I like carrots and cucumbers julienned like they have at the restaurant. And lastly, for the herbs, chop the basil and mint into small dice or thin strips as it’ll be the garnish for the finished product.

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6. Once the chicken is done, put the veggies, herbs, and chicken on a large platter and let your friends serve from there! I like to start with a bed of rice, topped with chicken and veggies on the side. Make sure to add a generous topping of sriracha in whatever proportion you like. Enjoy! Oh, and don’t forget to offer a piece of candy for your guests on the way out ­čśë

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Stuffed Chicken Enchilada Zucchini Boats

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I’m going to be upfront here and tell you that if I were writing a cookbook, this recipe would not be in it SOLELY for the fact that it is difficult to talk about how to make stuffed zucchini boats in a graceful manner. HOWEVER, the dish was good ­čÖé

And when you attend etiquette class in the fourth grade and learn how to gracefully smother your bread in butter NOT with a knife but with a graceful utensil-less shmear like me, you know that being elegant around food is important. (Are you proud I remembered that, Mom?)

I suggested we make this recipe for a quick girls getaway for MLK weekend and had the delightful pleasure of having a few girl friends help out with this intricate dish. What I didn’t know was how awkward it is to describe making these. “Yes, Ari, just scrape out the zucchini’s innards.” “Ok great, now put the zucchini flesh into a bowl and set aside for now.” Maybe you’re cringing, maybe this is intriguing you. If anything, at least it makes me happy that these are the kinds of experiences when I feel most alive. Just three gals, having girl talk in our pajamas and making a laughably girly meal followed by cookies. What more could you want?

My wonderful neighbor let us borrow her lakehouse for the weekend and while I can’t say I learned any wilderness skills, I met a dog named Buttons, at two delicious cinnamon rolls and gobs of cookie dough. It was a wonderful way to spruce up January, I might say. This lake always reminds me of busy days spent learned to waterski, tweeny tankinis (yea you know your mom made you wear one), and the days when my boy neighbors and I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask each other to hang out.

Rather, we perched right next to our moms on slow summer days and begged them to call our neighbors while we told them what to say. It started with, “Mom, I’m boooorrrreeed, will you ask Mrs. stockton if the boys want to play capture the flag?” (*sullen tween sigh*) “No, Katie, you can call th–” “Moooooommm pleasseeee.” The never-ending cycle of “mom, please” actually led to some great friendships and a lot of opportunities for learning to talk to foreign male species in middle school.

This winter trip defied all lake stereotypes from my perspective. No watermelon, no watersports, and really no pressure for activity at all. I feel blessed to have friends, new and old, here in Atlanta who enjoy the peacefulness of the mountains and find pure joy in each others’ company. As I look back on the weekend, I’m smiling thinking of the sun on the water.

As I told my friends that day, I used to think the glittery spots where the sun shone on the water were where angels were (don’t know where that came from). It was definitely the presence of my neighbor, Mr. Stockton, shining down on us from above – reminding us to reflect in the quiet that special places like the lake seem to behold. Court – thanks for being with us that day!!

Stuffed Chicken Enchilada Zucchini Boats

adapted from Skinnytaste <- Yea, for real

serves 3 generously

For the enchilada sauce:

  • olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 or 2 tbsp chipotle chile in adobo sauce, more if you like it spicy
  • 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce (can find this in a can)
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

For the zucchini boats:

  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup green onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 lb sauteed chicken breast, cut in little chunks
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 3 tbsp water or fat free chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Start by having your lovely friend Julia saute some chicken breast. We just cut it into about 1-in chunks, and sauteed in olive oil, cumin, and some chili powder. Set aside.

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2. In a saucepan for the enchilada sauce, saute garlic, chipotle chiles, chili powder, chicken broth, tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

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3. Meanwhile, get a large pot of water onto the stove and bring to a boil. (This will take a few minutes so you have time to prep the zucchini.)

4. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise (hot-dog style), and using a small spoon, “SCOOP THE FLESH FROM THE ZUCCHINI.” It says leave the boat 1/4 in. thick on the bottom, however this is really just dependent upon how much stuffing you want in your zucchini. From our experience, you may want to scoop out more if you like the zucchini soft and less if you like it a bit sturdier. Save the flesh and chop into little pieces for later.

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5. Once water is boiling, drop your zucchini halves in the boiling water for 1 minute to blanch them. Remove with tongs and set aside.

6. For the stuffing, saute onion garlic and green pepper in a skillet. Preferably have your chef wear a Happy New Years hat. When the onions are translucent and fragrant, add the zucchini insides and cilantro, Season with salt and pepper and cook until the zucchini are softened, about 4 minutes. Then , add cumin, oregano, chili powder, water or chicken broth, tomato paste and cook until everything comes together. Add in the chicken and cook for 1-2 minutes, until all the ingredients are mixed.

2015-01-18 18.40.517. Place 1/4 cup enchilada sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish (here we go, CASSEROLE LADIES), and place your zucchini boats face up in the dish. Stuff with desired amount of chicken mixture and pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the zucchini boats. If you so desire, top with a mound of sharp cheddar cheese.2015-01-18 19.20.00

8. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with cilantro lime rice and nommmm hard mi amigos.

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