Recipe: Chicken Flautas with Avocado Side Salad

A few weeks ago, I bought the smallest pack of corn tortillas I could find to make some sort of shrimp tostada dish or something like that (whatever it was, it obviously wasn’t very successful, because I didn’t post it here). Well, “smallest pack” meant “use four for dinner and have upwards of twenty left over,” so I’ve been trying to get creative and use them up. I tried making baked tortilla chips (my boyfriend and I are trying to be smart about what we eat) without much success, then I made some sort of kinda awful tacos (you really can’t eat those tortillas right out of the pack; they are not at all like soft taco shells), but finally, I came across this recipe for flautas while browsing Pinterest food boards and it looked like a winner. I did my usual “look at the recipe, then ignore 85% of it and do it my own way” thing that I like to do and made my own version of these tasty little crispy rolls. Obviously, frying them up in oil makes them not quite as healthy as they could be, but I tried to keep the oil levels to a minimum and balanced the dish out with a fresh side salad of avocado, baby bell peppers, and red onion.
Chicken Flautas with Avocado Side Salad

Serves: 2 (makes 2-3 flautas per person)

Prep. time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

 

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken breast
  • Chicken stock
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Paprika
  • Ground ancho chile or other ground, dried pepper
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • Sour cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cojita cheese, crumbled or shredded
  • 4-6 corn tortillas
  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 avocado, flesh cut into chunks
  • Approx. 6 baby bell peppers, sliced*
  • Approx. 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

*Cut from end to end to get circular slices

 

Directions

Bring a small-to-medium pot of chicken stock to a boil, then add the chicken (liquid should just cover the chicken breast) and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and cooked all the way through. Remove the chicken breast (the leftover broth can be used as stock for another meal or it can be tossed) and set in a bowl. Using a fork, shred the chicken breast by running the fork through the flesh and pulling it apart; shred the chicken into the bowl. In a small bowl, blend together a few tablespoons each of sour cream and mayo, then add approx. 1-2 tsp. each of all of the dry seasonings in the ingredient list, along with a splash of lime juice and some lime zest, then whisk to blend. Toss the mixture with the chicken until fully coated (chicken should not be soaked in this creamy blend but, rather, lightly coated); add more dry seasoning as desired. Add a heaping handful of cojita cheese and toss to combine. Cover and set aside in the fridge.

In a large, deep skillet, heat vegetable oil—about 1.5 to 2 inches deep—over medium high heat. While it’s heating up, lay 4-6 corn tortillas out on a flat surface. Remove the chicken mixture from the the fridge and spoon some of the mixture onto each of the tortillas. Roll each tortilla tightly and pierce each one with a toothpick to keep them shut and form your flautas. When the oil is hot (about 375*F; if you throw a little piece of tortilla in the oil, it should immediately start bubbling), start adding in the flautas. Let them cook for about a minute, then turn, making sure to turn so that each side has a chance to fry; do not overcook them or let them sit in one spot for too long—they brown easily. As they finish, remove them from the pan and set on a paper towel-lined paper plate to drain excess oil.

In the meantime, heat a little oil in a small pan. Add the red onion and peppers, season with a little salt and pepper (and other seasonings, as desired), and cook until crisp-tender. Remove from pan and toss with the avocado, a little more salt and pepper, and fresh lime juice. Serve the flautas on top of the salad, with a dollop of sour cream added, if desired.

 

Cook’s Commentary

This is the best of both worlds: healthy, fresh food and crunchy, fried food combined to make the perfect dinner. The “salad” is fresh and flavorful, with the creamy texture of the avocado blending deliciously with the sweet and spicy flavors of the red onion and peppers. The chicken flautas are crispy on the outside and the chicken mixture within is tender, a little spicy, a little tangy, and oh-so-tasty. I had a little of the “sauce” mixture that I tossed the chicken with left over, so I served that as a dipping sauce, but a spoonful of sour cream or, if you want to splurge, a drizzle of queso, would work as well.

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Recipe: Cheesy Polenta with Sausage and Chicken in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Butter and olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed, pulled into small pieces
  • 1 chicken breast, cut into small cubes or small slices
  • 1 yellow or white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Approx. 14.5 oz. canned tomato sauce or diced tomatoes*
  • Red wine (cooking wine)
  • Heavy cream
  • Dried basil
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 package instant polenta (serving size at least 4)**
  • Italian cheese (Parmesan, Asiago, Pecorino-Romano, or a mixture)
  • Garlic powder

*I prefer Hunts brand and I used sauce that I had leftover from another dish.

**I used Delallo brand (they’re based in western PA, where I’m from, and have great products). I cooked the entire 9.2 oz. bag and, after John and I each got a serving, there was enough left over for 2-3 more servings.

Directions

Heat some butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken and sausage to the pan, season with a little salt and pepper (and garlic powder), and cook for a few minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes and continue to cook until the onions are soft and the meats are cooked through, then add the tomato sauce/diced tomatoes and a splash of red wine. Reduce the heat to medium low, add a little dried basil, then add heavy cream to the mixture and stir it in—the mixture should be a creamy orange-red color (it actually looked almost like an Indian dish to me); 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cream should be enough. Bring water (and chicken stock) to a boil for the polenta (I sub in 1 to 2 cups of chicken stock in place of some of the water—it adds more flavor to the polenta). Towards the end of cooking, stir in some butter, a little heavy cream, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and Italian cheese. Remove from heat—the mixture should be creamy and the add-ins should be well-mixed in. Serve the polenta in bowls, topped with the meat and sauce mixture, topped with a little Italian cheese.

9-17-13

Cook’s Comments

I kind of have this thing for heavy cream—it makes just about everything better (heavy cream to me is a little bit like butter to Paula Deen). A splash in this dish’s tomato sauce adds a velvety texture and rich flavor. A drizzle in the polenta helps keep it smooth and creamy. This is definitely a comfort meal with rich, delicious flavors—the polenta is thick and cheesy and soaks up the creamy tomato sauce (which gets a bit of a kick from the crushed red pepper flakes). My boyfriend suggested adding both chicken and sausage, and, boy, was that a great idea—two great textures and flavors that mix together beautifully. This dish reheats well (I had a lovely lunch of leftovers today) and if you have any extra, plain polenta, you can always cut it into chunks and saute it in butter and serve with another meal.

Recipe: Lemony Chicken and Rainbow Chard

Ingredients

  • 1-2 bunches of rainbow (or Swiss) chard, stalks chopped and leaves chiffonade* cut
  • Fresh basil leaves, chiffonade cut
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh lemon zest
  • Butter (salted)
  • Olive oil
  • Chicken stock
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • White wine**
  • Salt & Peppers
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Garlic powder
  • 2-4 chicken breasts, cut into slices or cubes
  • Heavy cream
  • Cornstach-and-water mixture***

*Chiffonade means “cut into ribbons.” Cut the leaves from the stalks, roll them into long tubes and slices the tubes into pieces from one end to the other, creating ribbons.

**Cooking wine is fine. No need to break out a nice bottle (unless you plan to drink some with dinner).

***This is used to thicken sauces

 

Directions

Heat butter and a little olive oil in a medium to large skillet over medium heat. Add the chard leaves and stems, basil, lemon juice, lemon zest, shallot, salt, pepper, and a pinch of crushed red paper flakes and let the mixture start to wilt and cook. Add a splash of white wine, a splash of chicken stock, a little more butter and lemon juice, and the garlic and continue to cook. Push the mixture off to the side and add the pieces of chicken; season lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic powder; and cook until cooked through and tender. In the meantime, add heavy cream (about 1/2 pint) and butter (about 2 tbsp.) to a small pot and heat over medium heat until simmering. Add a generous pinch of lemon zest, a splash of lemon juice, garlic powder, and a splash of chicken stock, and continue to cook. Season with salt and pepper and add a little cornstarch-and-water to help thicken the sauce, then reduce the heat to low. The completed chicken will be tender and the chard will have wilted and cooked down. Serve the dish topped with a drizzle of the cream sauce or serve the sauce on the side with a ladle/spoon. If you want a slightly more filling dish, roast some chunks of red potatoes in the oven with a little olive oil and seasoning, then toss with the chicken and chard mixture; toss the mixture with hot pasta; or consider spreading the mixture and a little sauce on toasted ciabatta bread and make a sandwich.

[Check back for a picture. My camera wasn’t cooperating for this one.]

Cook’s Comments

This dish is buttery, tart, bright, and savory all in one. Cooking the chard in butter, white wine, and lemon juice helps create a delicious sauce that coats everything and pools into a lovely little puddle at the bottom of your plate. The velvety, buttery lemon cream sauce is the perfect accomplishment and helps mellow out the tart citrus flavor. Lemon pairs really well with the chard—it’s a bit like eating wilted spinach, but with an earthy flavor that’s perked up by the pop of lemon.

Recipe: Black Bean and Garlic Sauce Chicken with Snow Peas and Rice

I bought a jar of Black Bean and Garlic sauce on a whim during a recent trip to my grocery store. I’d read about it before—it’s a mixture of fermented black soy beans and garlic and it’s praised as a marinade for beef and chicken in Asian dishes. I figured it would make for a nice alternative to my usual stir fry marinade ingredients and I was totally right—this sauce is the definition of “umami.” It’s meaty, salty, and savory, and with a little soy sauce, ginger, and sweet mirin, it makes a delicious marinade.

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 10 minutes, marinate for approx. 20-30 min.
Cooking time: Approx. 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients
For the marinade

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into small slices or cubes
  • 3 tsp. Black Bean and/with Garlic sauce (can be found in the Asian section at your local grocery store—I used Kikkoman brand)
  • 2 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. mirin (Sherry will work in a pinch)
  • 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. dry ground ginger (or grate a little fresh ginger into the mix)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
For the meal
  • 2 small white or yellow onions, cut into large chunks (quarter the onions and pull apart the layers)
  • Approx. 2 cups snow peas, cleaned
  • 1-2 cups white rice
  • Sesame oil
  • Peanut oil
Directions
Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a medium bowl, add the chicken, and toss to combine. Set aside in the fridge and let marinate for 20-30 minutes. Prepare a pot for the rice and cook (I use store brand rice, make two servings, and it takes approx. 20 minutes to cook). While the rice is cooking, heat a splash of sesame oil and a splash of peanut oil in a large (deep) pan or wok over medium high heat. Add the chicken, including the marinade, and cook until partially cooked through, then add the onions and snow peas. Continue to cook over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. Turn of the heat and serve the chicken and veggie mixture atop the finished rice.
This is a great variation on stir fry, and the black bean and garlic sauce is packed with flavor. Because the marinade only has a few ingredients, it’s quick and easy to pull together, which makes this a great meal for a weeknight meal. 

Recipe: Jalapeno, Bacon, and Chicken Pasta with a White Cheddar Sauce

Last week, I planned out my meals for the week, buying all of my groceries in one go at the beginning of the week and assigning different meals to each day. My plan got a little kink in it at the end of the week when I didn’t end up making the jalapeno-and-cream cheese stuffed chicken I had planned on making and instead used the cream cheese in my lemon and raspberry cheesecake. I also had green onions stashed in the veggie drawer that I had bought for a tuna dish I thought I would be making but couldn’t (due to the fact that my crappy local grocery store never has tuna; I grabbed the green onions before making my way to the fish counter and finding out they hadn’t gotten any tuna in for the day). So, I had jalapenos and green onions to use, plus the cheddar cheese that was called for in the jalapeno-and-cream cheese chicken recipe, plus half of a red onion from another dish I made, plus some heavy cream. I went through my quite common “What can I make with this assortment of ingredients?” routine and settled on making a spicy, cheesy pasta dish with chicken and a little bacon, for good measure. The resulting meal was quite tasty—tender chicken and pasta tossed with crispy bacon, lightly cooked green onion and red onion, jalapenos (minus the seeds, to help cut back on the spiciness), and a light and creamy white cheddar sauce.

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. rotini, or other small/short pasta
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeds removed, finely chopped*
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2-1 cup heavy cream
  • Approx. 4 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Butter, as needed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cornstarch-and-water mixture, as needed
*When removing the seeds from the jalapenos, use gloves or whatever is available to cover your fingers so as to avoid getting the seeds and oil on your fingers. The oil in jalapenos is very spicy/hot and stays on your skin for quite some time, even with frequent hand-washing. I made the mistake of not using gloves and I could still feel and taste the jalapeno on my hands after two days. On a related note, if you want more spice in your dish, add in some of the seeds—they’re where the real heat is. 
Directions
Heat water in a medium-sized pot over high heat. While waiting for the water to boil, heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook until crisp, but not overcooked, and remove to a paper towel-covered plate to drain. Leave the bacon grease in the pan and add the chicken, cooking until golden brown and cooked almost all the way through. When the water in the pot is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package instructions (approx. 10-12 minutes). To the pan with the chicken, add the green onion, red onion, and jalapeno and cook over medium heat until they are tender. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper (and butter, if needed) and reduce the heat to low. Crumble the bacon and add the bits to the veggies and chicken. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add the heavy cream and heat slowly over medium high heat. Once simmering, slowly whisk in the cheddar cheese and some salt and pepper. Allow the cheese to melt into the cream. Add some cornstarch-and-water mixture if the sauce seems too thin. Cheddar doesn’t always melt very well, so the sauce may not be as smooth as you want, but once mixed with the other ingredients, this isn’t noticeable. When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Add the chicken and veggie mixture to the pasta and toss to combine. Pour the cheddar sauce over the pasta mixture and toss to combine. Add more salt and pepper, if desired. Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese.
This dish is a perfect mix of spicy, salty, cheesy, and savory. The cheddar sauce pulls everything together and helps mellow and evenly distribute the heat from the jalapenos. Tender chicken and crispy bacon add a little dose of flavorful protein and the flavors of the green and red onions really kick the dish up a notch. 

Recipe: Basil Lime Chicken with Coconut Lime Rice

So, I decided to do what I should be doing every week: plan out my meals for the whole week. I’m notorious for taking multiple grocery shopping trips per week to get things for recipes I pick at the last minute and don’t have ingredients for. It’s a waste of gas, money, and time, so I planned out this week (factoring in when I’d want to reheat leftovers instead of make something fresh, and when I might want a filling lunch instead of my usual light lunch). One of the things I decided to try this week was a variation on this basil lime chicken recipe—something bright, fresh, and light. I paired it with basmati rice lightly flavored with shredded coconut and lime zest and a sprinkling of fresh basil on top to make for an incredibly flavorful meal.

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 10 minutes, plus approx. 20-45 minutes for the chicken to marinate
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients
Chicken & Marinade

  • 2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced into approx. 3×1 in. pieces
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 4 large basil leaves, chiffonade
  • A big pinch of shredded, sweetened coconut
  • Salt and pepper
Rice
  • 1 cup basmati rice (I used Uncle Ben’s, ready in about 15 minutes)
  • 2-4 tbsp. shredded, sweetened coconut, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. time zest
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. coriander
Directions
Combine all of the ingredients for the chicken and marinade in a bowl, cover, and set aside in the fridge to marinate for approx. 20-45 min. (not too long though, because the acidity in the lime juice can over-tenderize the chicken). 
Follow the package instructions for the basmati rice (the style I used required water, a little butter and salt, and rice and took approx. 15 min. total to cook). When the rice has about 10 minutes left to cook, heat a medium pan over medium high heat and pour the bowl of chicken and marinade into the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally to mix up the marinade sauce, until the chicken is tender and done. Reduce the heat to low. When the rice is done, fluff it and add the lime juice and zest, coconut, coriander, and cumin and gently toss to combine. 
Serve the chicken atop the rice and top with freshly cut basil.
This dish is absolutely perfect for a warm spring or summer day. Bright and tangy lime, fresh basil, and sweet coconut create the perfect flavor combination and the lime juice makes the chicken perfectly tender. Basmati rice is a great alternative to the usual plain white rice (I considered using jasmine rice, which would probably work just as well), and it easily takes in the flavor of the lime, cumin, and coriander. This dish is easy to make and absolutely delicious.

Recipe: Chicken, Asparagus, and Rice with a Buttery White Wine Sauce

So, as we sat down to dinner and each took our first bites of the meal, my dad said “Wow! I really like the look of this sauce, and it’s really good too! How’d you make it?” Before I could even answer, my mom cut in and said “She pulled it out of her butt.” That’s her way of saying I came up with it on the spot (how appetizing, mom!). I do like to work off of recipes, just to get an idea of what to do, but I usually glance at the recipe print-out once or twice, then merrily carry on without it, adding things as I see fit until I’m happy with the results (and often ending up with something very different). That’s just what I did tonight when making this sauce and, to be honest, I didn’t actually write down the ingredients as I was making the sauce (I think I did a good job at guessing the amounts for this post though!). I also took a crap-ass picture right before digging in because I hadn’t really thought this meal was going to be that exciting, so I hadn’t bothered to bring my camera downstairs and I was too hungry/lazy to go get it before eating. So, considering I just “pulled this out of my butt,” this sauce was lovely—light, bright, and buttery—and it was very easy to make.

Please excuse the poor quality iPhone picture. When I make this sauce again, I will be sure to replace this with a proper  photo.

Serves: 4
Prep. time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white or brown rice 
  • 2 chicken breasts, either flattened to 1/4-to-1/2 inch thickness or cut into short slices 
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cleaned, with ends of stalks removed
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper

For the sauce
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, quartered and cut into thin slices
  • 3/4 cup white wine (cooking wine is fine)
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth/stock (I recommend low sodium)
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1-2 tbsp. sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • A pinch of dried sage
  • A pinch of dried thyme
  • A pinch of dried marjoram
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Water-and-cornstarch mixture to thicken, as needed
Directions
Preheat the oven to 450*F. Arrange the asparagus in a shallow baking dish, lightly coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set aside. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set aside. Cook rice according to package instructions (the brand I use requires water, butter, and salt and takes about 20 minutes to cook—the goal is to time it so that the rice finishes around the same time as everything else for the meal). While the rice is cooking, add a little butter and olive oil to a medium pan over medium high heat, then add the chicken. Cook until just cooked through and golden-brown on both sides. Remove from pan and place in a covered dish or place on a plate and cover tightly with foil to keep warm. Put the asparagus in the oven when the rice still has about 15 minutes to go and cook for the asparagus for 15 minutes, or until crisp-tender. While the rice and asparagus are cooking and the chicken is being kept warm, add 1 tbsp. butter to the pan used for the chicken, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes over medium heat until fragrant and slightly soft. Add the white wine, chicken broth, and lemon juice and continue to cook for about a minute. Whisk in the sour cream, then add the remaining 2 tbsp. butter and add in the herbs and salt and pepper, whisking to blend. Let the sauce gently boil for a minute, adding a little cornstarch-and-water mixture if desired (this will help thicken the sauce slightly). Reduce to medium low heat. When the asparagus and rice are done, plate them alongside the chicken and top with the sauce. 
The sauce is what makes this dish—it’s a little sweet and tangy from the wine, a little salty and creamy from the butter and sour cream, and gets a little flavor boost from the herbs and spices. It’s easy to make—perfect for a weeknight meal—and it dresses up the simplest of meals.