Mango Chicken Salad

Hello spacefans! (Can I say that?)

I haven’t actually disappeared–despite all appearances. Our beautiful daughter Aubrianna was born June 17th at 9:39am, so I’ve been a bit busy–and been doing less cooking, naturally.
However, now I’m back in the swing of things, and the result is this:

Mango Chicken Salad:

Mango Chicken Salad

Isn’t it beautiful? This salad is fairly simple to make. Toss mixed greens (we used spring lettuces and spinach fresh from the garden) with diced grilled chicken breast. Top with Mango Salsa (my own blend):

  • One ripe mango, diced
  • One small jalapeno, diced
  • Half a cucumber, diced
  • Half a green bell pepper, diced
  • One Roma tomato, diced
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all of the salsa ingredients in a bowl to mix well. Set aside until ready to top the salad.

We used a cilantro lime vinaigrette. I snagged and adapted the recipe from Coastal Living 2002:

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about one large lime, fresh-squeezed)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar (I actually used sushi vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 green onions, diced green and white parts
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp coarse ground pepper

Whisk all of these ingredients together until well blended, then toss your salad in this delicious vinaigrette! Great for lunch. You can also use tuna instead of chicken.

Shepherd’s Pie – Texas Style

Well, I think this is Texas style, anyway. It was handed down by my dad’s side of the family. Everyone has their own version of Shepherd’s Pie, but mine is easy, tasty, filling, and keeps well in the fridge.
Shepherd's Pie

Here’s what you need:

  • About 3lb red potatoes
  • 2 cans french style green beans
  • 2 12oz cans tomato soup
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1lb ground beef (ideally 93/7 lean)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • About 2 cups shredded cheese (we like colby jack)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Start water boiling in a large pot. Cut the potatoes in quarters, then boil in the pot until tender.
Mash potatoes with butter and garlic using a hand mixer if you have it available, or a masher if you need the exercise. Spread potatoes in the bottom of a 9×13 glass or nonstick metal pan.
Saute the ground beef and onions together in a medium skillet until the beef is cooked all the way through. Add both cans of tomato soup, then spread over the potatoes. Drain the green beans and spread them over the tomato mixture evenly. Top with the cheese, then bake for about 30 minutes until cheese is bubbly and just starting to brown. Serve hot. Refrigerate unused portions. Serves 6-12 hungry people.

Buttermilk Chicken Enchiladas

Since the baby is coming soon, Jamie and I agreed that we should make lots of freezer-friendly food before she is born (so we don’t have to rely on our families’ well-meaning concoctions). We wrote out a list of yummy sounding and practical recipes to make and freeze, and set to work.
Unfortunately, most freezer-friendly recipes that really taste just as good later seem to be winter-friendly, too…but that’s another story.

These Buttermilk Enchiladas were originally conceived of by the awesome lady over at MyHomeCooking.net (who also makes an amazing German Chocolate Cake, by the way), but I have made a good number of changes to the way it’s done (like doubling or tripling most of the spices). These are not your typical rolled tortilla, tangy red sauce type of enchiladas either, oh no. They are stacked, ridiculously filling, and silly complicated. But so worth it.

This is the result (sauce pouring shown for effect):
Buttermilk Enchiladas

Here’s what you need:

For the Enchiladas:

  • A whole chicken (minus feathers, the typical frozen or refrigerated whole chicken), about 3lb bird (larger will yield more leftovers)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • About 2 cups of shredded cheese (we like colby-monty jack, but use whatever you prefer that melts well)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground chili powder
  • 22 corn tortillas (we prefer white corn)
  • About 1/2 cup corn oil

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 cups chicken broth (reserved from cooking the chicken)
  • 4 tbsp corn oil
  • 5 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp chili powder

Now, the original recipe calls for boiling the chicken in a pan for a while. I prefer to cook it in a crock pot. I put it in my big 5qt crock pot, just cover it with water, and salt lightly. Then I cook it on high for 1 hour, then change it to low and cook it until I am ready to make the enchiladas (4-6 hours, but I usually start it before I leave for work and then it’s ready when I get home). The chicken should be falling off the bones if you look at it cross-eyed.
Once it’s cooked, carefully remove it from the crock pot. Don’t throw away the juice, just leave it in the pot for now.
While the chicken is cooling, saute the onion in melted butter over medium heat until lightly browned.
Separate the chicken from the bones, skin, and fat bits. Keep all of this refuse in a separate bowl–you can use it to make more broth for soup or something later.
Finely dice the chicken, set aside in a large bowl and season with 1tsp salt, 1tsp cumin and 2 tsp chili powder. Mix well. Combine the onions with this mixture.

Now it’s time to prepare the sauce. Heat the 4tbsp of oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Do not heat too hot or the spices will burn! Whisk in flour, 2 tsp salt, 3 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 3 tbsp chili powder. Mixture should be an orangish color. After spices are well combined, add 3 cups of the reserved chicken broth. Bring to a low boil and let simmer while you fry the tortillas.

Heat the 1/2 cup of corn oil in a medium nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the tortillas, one at a time, for about 20-30 seconds on each side until they are slightly crisp. Set aside on a paper towel covered plate to drain some of the grease.

Once all the tortillas are fried, very slowly whisk the buttermilk into the sauce. Continue whisking on low heat for 3-5 minutes, until sauce thickens slightly.

THE ASSEMBLY:
This is, of course, the best part. To assemble, dip a tortilla in the sauce, then place it on the plate. Top with 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture, sprinkle a good bit of cheese (about 1/8 cup) then pour 1/4 cup of the sauce over the ensemble. Dip another tortilla, place it on top, add 1/4 cup chicken, a good sprinkle of cheese, dip another tortilla, add to the top of the stack, top with more cheese, and douse the whole thing with another 1/4 cup of sauce. You should have a stack of goodness that looks a lot like the picture above.
These freeze really well and almost taste better reheated because the sauce has time to soak in and get yummy.

This makes about 7 enchiladas, with a spare tortilla in case of breakage.

<a href=”http://s248.photobucket.com/albums/gg175/wolfcrafter/?action=view&amp;current=Enchiladas01.jpg&#8221; target=”_blank”><img src=”http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg175/wolfcrafter/Enchiladas01.jpg&#8221; border=”0″ alt=”Photobucket”></a>

Panko Breaded Chicken with Veggies

OK, so the wife (who was due three days ago and is therefore more than ready to not be pregnant anymore) and I were spending a properly lazy summer evening trying to decide what to make for dinner. Chinese food sounded good, but far too heavy. We turned to our good friend The Internet and discovered  several variants on breaded chicken. And so experimentation was born.

This is what we ended up with:

Panko Breaded Chicken

It made about enough to feed three.

  • You will need:
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips and then flattened to about 1/2″ thickness.
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • About 1/4-1/2 cup vegetable oil (or olive oil), depending on the size of your pan
  • 1/2 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Cups Cooked Rice (we used a rice cooker)
  • 1/2 pkg each, frozen broccoli and shelled edamame
  • Teriyaki sauce, to taste

This is a relatively simple recipe. Steam the veggies according to package directions. Heat about 1/4″ of oil in a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Put egg, flour, and crumbs in separate bowls or shallow saucers. Dip the chicken strips in the flour, then in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs until thoroughly coated. Fry for about 4 minutes on each side, until browned nicely.
Serve immediately over rice and veggies with a nice helping of teriyaki sauce to taste.

It turned out very tasty, but the chicken is a bit dry to reheat–next time we make this I am going to try my hand at a lemon chicken sauce! But it did satisfy our need for Americanized Asian food… with a lot fewer heavy carbs.

An Introduction and Calzones

I have been accused of using the word “epic” too frequently, but that may well be true here.
My original dinner plans for tonight included an interesting looking alfredo pasta with artichoke hearts. But then I ran across THIS RECIPE and decided to go above and beyond.

This was the result: Chicken Bacon Artichoke Spinach Calzones

Spinach et al Calzones

So how did these decadent, probably mostly bad for you calzones come to be?

I mostly followed Kristen’s dough recipe (see above link), but here is my version:

Makes 8 good-sized calzones (we doubled the recipe so we had extras to freeze).

Dough:

  • 2/12 cups flour, plus about 1/4-1/2 for thickening and more for dusting the work surface
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp 2% milk
  •  1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh basil or 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 cu butter, melted (for brushing)
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced

Filling:

  • 1 1/2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 pkg frozen artichoke hearts (about 6oz) or 1/2 can heart quarters (I prefer frozen, use canned if you like the pickled kind)
  • 1 1/2-2 large handfuls of baby spinach, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 4 slices of bacon, preferably thick cut
  • Approximately 1/2 pkg of Philadelphia Cooking Cream (plain or Italian Herb and Cheese)
  • Approximately 2 cups of cheese–I used an Italian Blend but you can use just mozzarella or jack.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Combine flour, sugar, and basil in a mixing bowl. Pour in 1/2 cu melted butter, milk, eggs, and warm water, and mix well. Add a little bit of flour as needed to stiffen up the dough until it is a good bread consistency–not sticking to you, but not too stiff to work either. Set dough aside.

Combine the other 1/2 cup melted butter and 2 chopped garlic cloves. Set aside, you will use this to brush the finished calzones.

Cook the bacon. Do not overcook–just until it is brown enough that it will crumble. Set aside on a paper towel.

If you have a cook-in-the-bag package of frozen artichokes, cook in the microwave one minute less than directed. Drain, chop into smaller pieces. If you are using a can of artichokes, just drain them and chop. Set aside.

Dice the chicken and cook chicken, garlic and onion in olive oil over medium heat until chicken is cooked through and garlic is fragrant. Salt and pepper to taste (I used lemon pepper). Remove chicken mixture from pan with a slotted spoon and move to a large bowl. Crumble bacon into mixture. Add chopped spinach and cooked artichokes. Mix well to combine.

Flour a flat work surface area. Separate the dough into eight equal parts. Roll each part into a roughly 6″ circle. Fill with about 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture, a tbsp of the cooking cream, and 1/4 cup of the cheese, all in the center of the circle. Fold dough in half and seal the edges tightly, then crimp with a fork.  Brush each calzone with garlic butter.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve immediately with ranch or garlic butter, or freeze for future box lunches.