Chicken Chili

Inspiration: So this is one of those recipes that I’ve been making for years in one form or another. It used to be on my blog a few years back, but I took it down because I’ve made some significant changes since then that I really think improve the dish. Brandon always tells me that this is his favorite chili every time that I make it, and it’s really up there for me, too. I can never really pick a definitive favorite, though. How can you choose between chicken chili or a really great tomato-based, ground beef chili? Or chile verde with pork? The decision is not one that I’m ready to make.

What We Loved: This chili has a really great depth of flavor for how simple it is to make. It’s one of those meals that can come together in an hour, yet it tastes like it’s been cooking all day. One can of navy beans is pureed and acts as part of the sauce, which I love, and the intense flavors of the green chiles, chili powder, and cumin really provide a great backbone for the chili. Plus, I just love any dish that begins with sauteeing onions and peppers in a good pat of butter. When those vegetables get nice and softened in the butter, they contribute so much richness to the dish. And that’s not even to mention the chicken, which is the main component of the chili and a lovely star, at that – especially if you use nice, tender chicken thighs. We’ve tried different toppings for this chili, and we just love it best with freshly shredded pepper-jack cheese and fresh cilantro. A nice cheesy kick and a fresh herbal bite really add that finishing touch.

Tips: I’ve really been digging navy beans lately instead of cannellini beans when I’m looking to use white beans in a dish. I mainly prefer them because they’re much smaller, which means that they don’t mush apart as easily or lose their skins in your dish like cannellini beans tend to do. Plus, I feel like they have a better flavor, and they’re never mealy, which cannellini beans can sometimes be. Any kind of white bean that you prefer would work, though.

Chicken Chili
Source: Original Recipe

Butter
1 onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 oz cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
About 1 cup chicken stock
About 1 cup half and half
Approximately 4 cups cooked and shredded chicken
2 cans diced green chiles
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
Kosher salt and black pepper
Pepper-jack cheese, shredded
Fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a soup pot. Add the onion, red pepper, and jalapeno pepper, and saute until softened.

2. While the onions and peppers are cooking, process one can of navy beans in a food processor with a bit of chicken stock until smooth.

3. Add the garlic to the pot, and stir to combine.

4. Add the pureed navy beans, second can of navy beans, chicken stock, half and half, chicken, green chiles, chili powder, and cumin to the pot. Season to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper. If the mixture is too thick, add a little bit more stock and/or half and half.

5. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until all the flavors have had time to meld, at least half an hour. Adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Reduce to the lowest setting on the stove and keep warm until ready to serve.

6. Serve garnished with freshly shredded pepper-jack cheese and cilantro.

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Pollo Fundido

Inspiration: Like a few other recipes on our blog, this one comes to you via some more inspiration from El Salto, the restaurant that we like to frequent with my parents. I’ve been on a pollo fundido kick there recently, ordering a dish similar to this nearly every time that we stop in. Their dish doesn’t have bacon included, but Brandon always orders a similar dish that has beef and bacon instead of chicken, so I decided to make a mixture of the two. Adding bacon to a dish is never a bad idea, after all. Here’s to El Salto for their awesome food and some awesome inspiration.

What We Loved: This recipe just might be a new weeknight staple for us. It’s a snap to throw together and results in a nice and flavorful Mexican meal. Like the chipotle shrimp that we previously made, it turned out differently than the restaurant version, but I really think that it was every bit as good – just in a different way. I truly love dishes that meld all of the ingredients together so that each bite has a myriad of different flavors, and this dish does exactly that. With every forkful, there’s a bit of rich bacon and onions, some super tender chicken, and a tiny kick of heat from the poblanos. Plus, the chihuahua cheese melts and oozes down into everything, providing a fantastic, cheesy glue. You can’t beat that.

Tips: We love chihuahua cheese because it’s a really great Mexican melting cheese, so I would really recommend trying to find it, if you can. It has a wonderful texture and really just oozes down into the dish in an awesome way. We always buy ours at Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, though, Monterey Jack might be an okay substitute.

Pollo Fundido
Source: Original Recipe, Inspired from El Salto

5-6 slices bacon, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 medium-sized poblano or anaheim peppers, seeds/ribs removed and cut into slices
1/2 large onion, cut into thin slices
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into slices
Kosher salt and black pepper
Chihuahua cheese, freshly shredded, about 1/2 cup
Cream, a few tablespoons
Fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Place the bacon into a saute pan over medium heat. Saute until cooked through and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add the pepper slices, onion slices, and chicken slices to the pan, and season with Kosher salt and black pepper. Stir to combine, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, the vegetables are softened, and everything is starting to nicely brown and caramelize.

3. Meanwhile, add a good handful of cheese and several tablespoons of cream to a small sauce pan. Heat over low heat until a nice sauce forms. Add more cheese or cream as necessary to get a nice, thick consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Remove the pan with the chicken mixture from the heat. Add the bacon back into the pan, stirring to combine.

5. Serve the chicken mixture topped with the cheese sauce and fresh cilantro.

Lamb Kofta

Inspiration: When it comes to Indian food, I can truly never get enough. I have just a handful of curries that I make over and over again at home, but I’d love to have many more recipes stashed away in my back pocket. So here’s to that goal.

What We Loved: This was a nice mild curry that was different than many of the other curries that we’ve eaten or made. A lot of times I’ve found that curries are very spicy, complex, and heavy (which I love), but this one had a nice mellow flavor that was a good chance of pace. I feel like the meaty, earthy flavor of lamb always goes so perfectly in curries, and we both really loved that the lamb was in the form of meatballs in this curry (meatballs are the best!). The lamb paired very well with the creamy sauce and the slightly understated flavor of the turmeric and other seasonings. We ate this curry alongside some simply buttered and salted green beans for a lovely meal.

Tips: The coconut milk definitely added just a touch of sweetness to this dish. If you want to avoid that, you could use cream or half and half instead. I also mistakenly added twice as much turmeric as needed (1 teaspoon instead of 1/2), so my dish might look a little more yellow than yours. I listed the correct amount in the recipe below.

Lamb Kofta
Source: Adapted from The Essential Asian Cookbook (Jane Bowring, Editor) 
Serves: 2-3

For the Meatballs
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 small onion, very finely diced
1 jalapeno, very finely diced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

For the Sauce
1/2 small onion, finely sliced
1 jalapeno, very finely diced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Kosher salt, to taste
1 tablespoon vinegar
Scant 3/4 cup water
5 oz coconut milk
3 oz Greek yogurt (I use Fage 0%)
Cilantro, to garnish

1. To form the meatballs, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Roll into small meatballs (I was able to make 20) and place on a plate.

2. Heat a good pat of butter in a saute pan. Add the meatballs, and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Heat another pat of butter in the pan if necessary. Add the onion, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, and turmeric. Stir to combine, and cook until the onions are softened.

4. Add the coriander, cumin, chili powder, Kosher salt, vinegar, and water to the pan. Gently return the meatballs to the pan. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

5. Mix in the coconut milk and yogurt, and simmer uncovered for about 10-15 minutes more, until the sauce is nice and thickened.

6. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Butternut Squash Casserole with Pesto and Parmesan

Inspiration: I tend to focus so much on main dishes that I often don’t do much in the way of sides. When I stumbled across this recipe from Giada, I was so intrigued with the flavor combination that I couldn’t wait to make it. I debated using it as a main dish with some sauteed broccoli alongside or as a side dish alongside some sauteed chicken, and I ended up doing the latter to make for a more filling meal. Since as a side dish, this was more elaborate than what I typically do, I used it as an opportunity to cook a really simple main dish – which is something that I typically don’t do. All I did was throw some butter and chicken cutlets in a pan, and saute them up with some salt and pepper. It was kind of fun to switch it up and focus on the side for a change.

What We Loved: As I expected, I really enjoyed this dish. As a girl who adores butternut squash and loves pesto, I had a pretty good idea that this would be a winner in my eyes. I never would have thought to combine the two ingredients, though, and I was really pleased with how well they complemented each other. The warm, comforting, slightly sweet squash was a great balance to the rich, garlicky pesto. I loved how this dish was great for the transition between summer and fall – the pesto was a nice nod to summer, and the squash was a great welcome to fall. The original recipe calls for the squash to be pureed in a food processor, but I used a potato masher to mash just about half of the squash. This allowed me to leave several nice big chunks of squash throughout the casserole, which really added a fabulous substance and texture. And of course, you can never go wrong throwing some nutty Parmesan cheese into the mix.

Tips: Next time, I would definitely add more pesto and more Parmesan. I already upped the amount from the original recipe, but I still think that a nice fat layer of pesto and cheese would taste even better, rather than the somewhat sparse amount that is ribboned throughout the casserole as is. It really depends on your preferences, though – as it was, this dish really highlighted the squash flavor with some nice accents, rather than being more of a cheesy gratin.

Butternut Squash Casserole with Pesto and Parmesan
Source: Slightly adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Serves: About 6-8

1 butternut squash (about 4 lbs), peeled, seeded, and diced into cubes
Kosher salt and black pepper
About 1/3 cup pesto
About 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter

1. Add a few inches of water to a large bot, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and place a steamer insert into the pot. Place the butternut squash pieces in the steamer, cover with a lid, and let steam until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Place the squash pieces in a large bowl, and mash with a potato masher until you reach the desired consistency. I mashed about half, leaving several nice large chunks of squash throughout.

3. Butter an 8×8 baking dish. Layer in half of the squash, half of the pesto, and half of the cheese. Repeat with a second layer.

4. Dot with butter and bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Ham Stacks with Colby Slices- Avocado- and Cilantro

Ham Breakfast Stacks

Inspiration: Brandon and I struggle with breakfast sometimes. It seems that all of the traditional breakfast foods are just laden with carbohydrates and sugars that we don’t eat. So we eat a lot of eggs – frittatas, omelets, scrambled eggs – but after a while, nothing but eggs sure can get old. We love these breakfast bars, but again – you can only do so much of the same thing (I think we ate these guys for about a year straight!). These breakfast stacks were Brandon’s idea to get out of our breakfast rut, and we had a lot of fun experimenting with them.

What We Loved: We really enjoyed these because they were so versatile. Ham is always a great savory breakfast option, and when you add all kinds of cheeses, eggs, vegetables, and herbs, there’s really a lot of flavor in every bite. Of the different combinations shown, our favorite was the ham combined with the colby, avocado, and cilantro. The salty ham with the slightly sharp cheese, super creamy avocado, and fresh herbal cilantro just offered a great range of tastes and texures. Second place for both of us was the fried egg and cheddar combination, which is really a great classic breakfast pairing. Really, though, every option was tasty and provided us with some great variety on our week day mornings.

Tips: The options with these are pretty much endless – whatever toppings that you like would probably work. You could also stack these up a few layers tall for a more substantial breakfast, as these are pretty light. They work great as is for a weekday lunch for us, though. On a weekend for a larger meal, I might stack them up taller and and be more generous with the ingredients (or serve them alongside a nice fruit salad).

Ham Breakfast Stacks
Source: Original Recipe to Serve Two

2 breakfast ham slices
Butter
Desired toppings

1. Saute your ham slices in a bit of butter until they are beginning to brown and are nice and hot. Stack with your desired toppings. We used the following ingredients (each pictured in this post):

- sliced colby cheese, avocado slices, and cilantro

- ricotta cheese, tomato slices, pesto, fresh black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil

- fried egg, grated cheddar cheese, and cilantro

- tomato slices, scrambled eggs, shredded gruyere, and fresh black pepper

Southwest-Style Chopped Chicken Salad

Inspiration: I created this dish as a meal that would be a good on-the-go dinner when Brandon and I were taking childbirth education classes at the hospital. The classes ran from 6:30 t0 9:00 at night, right through dinner time, so I was looking for something that we could pack up into a cooler and eat a few hours later during class. When the occasion arises where we need to eat a quick dinner away from home like that, I would much rather pack a meal from home than be forced to grab something from a fast food place. There’s nothing worse to me than gobbling down some food that I’d rather not be eating while I’m busy and in a rush. To a couple of people who  love food as much as we do, we always feel like meal times should be enjoyed, no matter what.

What We Loved: This salad was really good for just what I intended – an easy throw-together meal that was great eaten cold and on-the-go. We really enjoyed the combination of flavors – moist chicken, creamy avocado, bright tomatoes, earthy black beans, and awesome little cubes of spicy pepper jack. We both thought that the pepper jack cubes were the best part! And to top if off, everything was coated in some lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, and salt, which really tied everything together.

Tips: I served this with some fresh blueberries alongside, and that was a good pairing. I think that mixing some blueberries right into the salad would be delicious! Or, it would be great to serve all of the ingredients over a bed of salad greens, with the olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper whisked together to form a dressing instead of just added into the salad separately.

Southwest-Style Chopped Chicken Salad
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: 2-3

2 chicken breasts
Butter
Kosher salt and black pepper
2-3 oz pepper jack cheese, cubed
Half pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small avocado, diced
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a pat of butter in a saute pan, and saute the chicken until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan, let it cool, and then cut into cubes. Cool in the refrigerator until nice and cold.

2. Add the chicken, pepper jack cheese cubes, grape tomatoes, black beans, avocado, and cilantro to a bowl. Squeeze the lime juice over everything, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Serve immediately, or chill until ready to serve.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Lemon (Cachumber Salad)

Inspiration: We recently had some chicken tikka masala for dinner, and I was searching for a nice and fresh side dish to go along. I ran across the idea for a cachumber salad online as a nice pairing for Indian dishes, and it really seemed like just what I was looking for. I love when I find new ideas or dishes that I’ve never heard of before – there’s something so thrilling to me about trying new recipes, particularly from cuisines different than American.

What We Loved: This certainly was a refreshing salad and was the perfect complement to a spicy curry. The cool flavors of the cucumber and other vegetables really contrasted nicely with the rich heat of the curry. This reminded me a little bit of a Mexican pico de gallo – but with cucumbers and lemon instead of peppers and lime, this was definitely its own dish entirely. I just loved the freshness and how perfect the flavors were for an end-of-summer meal.

Tips: I chopped the vegetables big enough to make this into a salad, but you could also finely mince everything (or throw it all in the food processor for a few whirls) to make this into a salsa. Made that way, I think it would be great to serve right atop a curry, rather than alongside.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Lemon (Cachumber Salad)
Source: Adapted from Poetry of Food
Serves: 2

1/2 small onion, diced
1 small tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced
Handful cilantro, minced
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Good pinch Kosher salt

1. Toss everything together in a serving bowl and serve.