Tag Archives: quick dinner

Chicken and Basil Stir Fry

This recipe for Chicken and Basil Stir-Fry is quite possibly my favorite chicken recipe ever! It is so quick and simple to make and the flavors come together so beautifully.

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I’m a huge fan of basil. It adds such a wonderful light and summery flavor to lots of dishes. Caprese salad is one of my favorite uses for basil and my favorite Thai restaurant has Basil Fried Rice which is amazing! At my old house, we had extremely hearty basil! The original plant went to seed and the seeds spread throughout my yard. The lawn had various crops of basil (which made mowing it a teeny bit more pleasant thanks to the lovely fragrance) and one plant had a trunk. Yes, it was such a large and healthy plant that it had an actual trunk with tons of basil growing from it! I really miss that. We’re just coming out of winter here and I have no herb garden at the moment. I had to buy basil from the supermarket for this recipe and it was disappointing. I mean, the chicken was still perfect, but within a day of buying the basil, the leaves were wilted, even after putting it in water. Sad. Bottom line, I suppose, is grow your own basil. We will be doing that again soon for sure!

Basil Chicken

Anyway, for this recipe, I cut up a pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs into 1-inch cubes, then combined them with soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl. After heating oil in a wok, I stir fried the chicken with garlic until cooked through, then added in chili powder and hoisin sauce. You can also add a chopped up fresh red chili pepper which we’ve done in the past and it’s delicious but to make this more kid friendly I omitted it this time around (and my son still burnt his tongue on the rice. Oops).

Finally, after everything was cooked, I removed the wok from the burner and stirred in thinly sliced fresh basil.

I don’t know what it is about this recipe but the flavors meld together so well. You wouldn’t think it initially, but the basil adds the perfect touch at the end of the cooking process and is really key to bringing all the flavors together. And without the chili pepper it really was kid friendly. After my son recovered from the hot rice incident, he shoveled these little chicken chunks into his mouth with glee! So my food critics were happy and I was too! No leftovers here! Enjoy this quick, simple, and surprisingly flavorful dinner tonight!

Basil Chicken

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Chicken and Basil Stir Fry (adapted from Step-by-Step Asian Cookbook)

Yield: serves 3-4

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes or thin strips

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 fresh red chili, seeded and minced (optional)

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

small bunch of basil leaves, thinly sliced

steamed rice, for serving

Directions:

1. Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes. Place them in a bowl with soy sauce and cornstarch and stir to combine.

2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Stir fry the chicken, garlic, and chili pepper if using for 8-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

3. Add the chili powder and hoisin and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sliced basil. Serve over rice.

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Taco Salad with Crispy Tortilla Bowl

My current job has a really fun Taco Tuesday tradition. Somehow I didn’t know about this into well into my time there but on Tuesdays, the line practically runs out the door while people wait for their yummy lunchtime tacos. Unfortunately I’m moving on and won’t be there for any more Taco Tuesdays. So, in homage to the cafeteria, PLUS to feed my hungry child, I decided to make my own tacos. In addition, my husband is always a fan of those taco salads that come in the edible tortilla bowl so I decided to surprise him with that treat for dinner too. Success all around! This dinner will satisfy your hungry family for sure!

Taco Salad with Crispy Tortilla Shell

To make the tortilla bowl, I placed medium sized flour tortillas into a brioche pan. I’ll be honest, I have no idea why I have brioche pans because I’ve never made (and possibly never even eaten) brioche (though I want to, after all, it is bread). But anyway, I put the tortillas into the pans, sprayed a light coating of nonstick olive oil spray on them, and baked them in a moderate (300 degree) oven for 25 minutes until crispy and lightly golden. Keep an eye on them because your oven may be quicker than mine and you don’t want a charred taco shell. If you aren’t lucky enough to be cluttering your kitchen cabinets with brioche pans, other pans will work too to create the shell, possibly a small metal (oven-safe) bowl. A quick pinterest search showed me that some people use an inverted muffin tin to get the right shape. So you have options. Or just use the taco filling for soft tacos, it’s still awesome!

Tortilla Shell

For the filling, I cooked onions in a large skillet until softened, then added garlic, chili powder, cumin, and coriander. You can use a jalapeno too if you prefer extra spice. Then I added ground beef and cooked it until it was browned. Finally, I added in a can of crushed tomatoes and let the mixture cook until the liquid was evaporated because no one needs watery tacos!

Taco Salad with Crispy Tortilla Shell

The last step is decorating your taco salad with all your favorite toppings. I stuck with veggies, just some chopped lettuce, tomato, and onions but feel free to dress it up with guacamole, cheese, sour cream, or whatever floats your boat! Picky eaters will love to adorn their own individual tacos.

Taco Salad with Crispy Tortilla Shell

Don’t forget, Cinco de Mayo isn’t too far off…this would be a perfect way to celebrate–with a large margarita of course!

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Taco Salad with Crispy Tortilla Bowl (adapted from Everyday Food)

Yield: serves 6-8

6-8 medium flour tortillas

nonstick cooking spray

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (I used 4 small onions)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 6 cloves)

1 jalapeno chile, minced (optional)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 pounds lean ground beef

1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

salt, to taste (I used 3/4 teaspoon)

fillings for taco salad such as lettuce, tomato, onion, olives, black beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, etc. (your choice!)

Directions:

1. For the taco shell, place the tortillas into a brioche pan, on an inverted muffin tin, or in any oven proof bowl. Lightly coat with the nonstick spray. Bake at 300F for 20-25 minutes, checking frequently to ensure not too browned. Let cool slightly in pan.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Then add in the garlic and other spices, stirring the mixture together.

3. Add the ground beef to the pan, breaking it up with a spoon, and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently to avoid sticking, until the liquid has evaporated, about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

4. Carefully remove the taco shells from the pan and place onto a plate. Fill the shells with the beef mixture and your toppings of choice.

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Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

Since my son started eating “real” food, meatballs have become one of the most frequently served dinners in our household. I like to mix it up, sometimes using beef, sometimes turkey, and I use a variety of seasonings and sauces. But sometimes it’s nice to stick with traditional Spaghetti and Meatballs. This recipe doesn’t require hours of your time. It’s fast enough to make for a weeknight dinner though still hearty and satisfying so you feel like you’re sitting down for a relaxing family meal.

Easy Spaghetti & Meatballs

The meatballs include standard ground beef, onion, breadcrumbs (I used panko), garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and an egg white to help bind everything together. Easy so far. I’ll admit this recipe “cheats” a little and includes jarred tomato sauce. I love to make everything from scratch but I have my hands full with a full time job and a toddler and sometimes (okay, realistically, always) there just aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes to do it all. So jarred sauce it is.

Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

After forming the meatballs from the ground beef mixture, I lightly browned them in a nonstick skillet coated with a little olive oil cooking spray. I then added the prepared tomato sauce, spiced it up with a little basil, and let simmer for 10 minutes. I made the pasta while the sauce was simmering and the dinner was ready before I knew it, about 40 minutes max. Save time after work by chopping the onions in advance or preparing the meatballs in advance and refrigerating the uncooked meatballs until you’re ready to brown them. I bet this would freeze well too!

Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs

Like all the meatballs I’ve shared here, my son was a HUGE fan! No leftovers for us! He’s only 18 months old but I’m sensing my grocery bills are going to be nuts when he’s a teenager since he can already down quite a bit! But I love cooking for him. And seeing his excitement when he finds something really yummy, like these Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs, is so worth it!

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Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs (adapted from Cooking Light Five Star Recipes)

Yield: serves 4

1 pound ground beef

1/4 cup minced fresh onion

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1 jar (about 25 ounces) of tomato sauce (tomato and basil flavor works great), divided

cooking spray

1/2 tablespoons dried basil

8-12 ounces uncooked spaghetti

Directions:

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, onion, bread crumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, egg white, and 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Shape into 20-24 meatballs, about 1.5-2 inches in diameter.

2. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides for 6 minutes. Pour in the remaining tomato sauce and add the dried basil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. While the sauce is simmering, boil water and prepare the pasta according to package directions. Serve meatballs over spaghetti. Garnish with basil or cheese if desired.

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Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups

Readers of The Dinner Pages are well aware that I’m not afraid of carbs. I mean, Banana Bread Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwiches and Red Velvet Molten Lava Cakes with Cream Cheese Ice Cream are not exactly light fare! But sometimes, in the midst of all those carbs, I need a break and need a quick, easy, meal that’s not so heavy. These Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups fit the bill!

Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups

I quickly browned ground chicken in a wok, then added shredded carrots for texture and color, and garlic and the whites of green onions for flavor. I stirred in a simple sauce containing hoisin, soy sauce, and some water, and let it thicken up briefly.

Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups

I served the chicken mixture on crisp lettuce leaves, garnished with green onions. The hoisin results in a slightly sweet flavor to the chicken, but it’s balanced by the saltiness of the soy sauce and the garlic. It’s a great dinner for the whole family. My toddler was literally trying to climb into his high chair to start eating it (a big change from the norm when he is kicking and flailing around to avoid sitting down to dinner!).

Of course, if you really miss your carbs, you can totally serve the chicken over steamed white rice! It’s great that way too!

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Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups (adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray, January/February 2014)

Yield: serves 4

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 pound ground chicken (or turkey)

1/2 cup matchstick carrots (or 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced)

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

4 green onions, whites and greens separated and chopped

1 head romaine lettuce (or the lettuce of your choice)

Directions:

1. Combine the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and 1/3 cup of water in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. In a large nonstick wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned, about 6-8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrot and the other tablespoon of oil. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add the garlic and the whites of the green onions and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the hoisin mixture and cook until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.

4. Divide the lettuce leaves among 4 plates and top with the chicken. Garnish with green onions before serving.

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Soy Glazed Tofu

This quick and easy Soy Glazed Tofu is one of our favorites! We usually have most of the ingredients on hand so we can have one of our most requested dinners ready to go in minutes. We just introduced our son to this delicious meal too and he approved so it’s sure to stay in our rotation.

Soy Glazed Tofu

I know that a lot of people are intimidated by tofu. I agree that it seems a bit of a challenge as it just comes in a big white block of nothingness in a tub of water. What to do with it? It took me some practice before I was able to cook tofu in a way that I found edible. I’m really not sure why because now I do just fine without difficulty. Maybe it was just a matter of finding the right recipes…this is definitely one of them! Tofu Pad Thai and Crispy Tofu and Vegetables are other popular choices in our home.

I started off with firm (or extra firm) tofu as it stands up to stir frying better. I cut it into 1-inch cubes and laid the cubes on a paper towel-lined plate, covered with another paper towel, then another plate, for at least 15 minutes, pushing down occasionally. This helps to free excess fluid from the tofu, making it crispier when cooked.

In the meantime, I prepared the soy glaze. In a small saucepan, I combined seasoned rice vinegar (you can get this in the vinegar section in most supermarkets, or check the Asian section), freshly squeezed orange juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and some orange zest and brought it to a boil, then reduced the heat and simmered until thick, stirring intermittently while cooking the tofu.

Getting back to the tofu, I heated dark toasted sesame oil in a large wok over medium-high heat, then cooked the tofu until lightly golden brown, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking/burning. Using a nonstick wok or skillet will help prevent the tofu from falling apart (one of my early problems with cooking tofu). Once the tofu was cooked, I removed it from the heat, poured in the soy glaze, and garnished with chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

Soy Glazed Tofu

The sweetness from the orange juice and brown sugar contrasts nicely with savory soy sauce and vinegar, and the flavor of the toasted sesame oil resulting in a fantastic dish. We usually serve it with white rice. It would pair nicely with freshly steamed broccoli as well. This is a meatless meal that you can have ready for your family within 30 minutes. So challenge yourself…try cooking with tofu!

Soy Glazed Tofu

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Soy Glazed Tofu (adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2010)

Yield: serves 4

1 12-ounce package firm tofu

3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon orange zest

1 teaspoon dark toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions (for garnish)

1/2 teaspoons sesame seeds (for garnish)

Directions:

1. Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. Place the cubes on a plate lined with a paper towel, cover with another paper towel, then another plate. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the rice vinegar, orange juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and orange zest. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer until thick, stirring intermittently.

3. In a large nonstick wok or skillet, heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes to the pan, and cook for about 10 minutes, until light golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, add the sauce, garnish with green onions and sesame seeds, and serve right away.

Per serving: 130 calories, 5 grams fat (calculated from myfitnesspal.com; all nutrition information is approximate)

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Check out these other tofu recipes from The Dinner Pages:

Soba Noodle Salad with Vegetables and Tofu

Crispy Tofu and Vegetables

Tofu Pad Thai

Check out other recipes submitted to the Cook Your Books link up… cookyourbooks

Three Bean Chili & Homemade Chili Seasoning

The Super Bowl is almost here and while football is not really my thing, any “holiday” where food features prominently is worth celebrating, I suppose. Chili is certainly a popular football game day dish judging by the zillion or so recipes for chili I found on a Pinterest search. So why is mine worth a try? Well, your whole family can eat and enjoy it. Your mouth will not be ablaze with the fire of 10 million habaneros, however your taste buds won’t be bored either. There is a touch of spice, yes, but the spice level was more than tolerable enough for my toddler, yet the chili was full of flavor thanks to my original spice blend. Also, this chili is quick to make. It doesn’t have to sit in a crockpot all day while you’re waiting to eat. You can certainly let it simmer on the stove for a bit to let the flavors meld or keep it in a crockpot on warm after cooking but if you want to make this chili after work for a weeknight dinner, no problem.

Three Bean Chili with Homemade Chili Seasoning

So here goes…brown ground beef, onion, and chopped bell pepper in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Drain off any excess grease then add in tomatoes and the three beans. To be clear, that’s three types of beans: black beans, red kidney beans, and pinto beans. Then it’s time to add the spice.

Three Bean Chili

The original version of this recipe called for store bought chili seasoning. I opted to create my own. Another Pinterest search revealed a number of posts on homemade chili seasonings so I took the the best from each of them and ended up using dried minced onions, garlic, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, chili powder, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and some brown sugar to balance out the smokiness of the paprika.

Homemade Chili Seasoning

Homemade Chili Seasoning

After all the ingredients were in the pot, I brought the chili to a boil, then let it simmer for 20 minutes. Garnish with whatever toppings you prefer. I just like crushed tortilla chips for the crunchy contrast but sour cream, shredded cheese, or diced jalapenos would all work great. Enjoy the game!

Side note: this recipe serves about 8-10 but if you’re not feeding a crowd, the leftovers freeze really well. Just thaw in the fridge overnight then reheat in a pot on the stove.

Three Bean Chili

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Three Bean Chili

Yield: serves 8-10

2 pounds lean ground beef

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 red or green bell pepper, chopped

2 – 16 ounce cans dark red kidney beans

2 – 16 ounce cans pinto beans

2 – 16 ounce cans black beans

1 – 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with chiles

1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste

homemade chili seasoning (one batch, or to taste) or 2 packages store bought chili seasoning

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed

crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, or shredded cheese to garnish

Directions:

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the ground beef, onion, and bell pepper. Drain excess grease.

2. Add the beans, tomatoes and tomato paste, chili seasoning, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil.

3. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

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Homemade Chili Seasoning

Yield: enough seasoning for 2 pounds of beef/8 servings of chili

2 tablespoons dried minced chopped onions

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Mix together all the spices in a bowl. Use right away for chili or store in a sealed jar for future use.

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Asian Spiced Chicken Noodle Soup

In my soba noodle salad post, I promised a recipe to use up the other half of a napa cabbage so at long last, here it is. It’s still January so it’s still National Soup Month plus in our house we really enjoy using Asian flavors in our cooking. This Asian Spiced Chicken Noodle Soup was derived from a recipe in Parents magazine. The original recipe was a bit bland, probably because it was intended for little kids, but with a few modifications it morphed into a flavorful soup suitable for the whole family–even with the spices it wasn’t too much for my toddler to handle. He slurped it right down. And my husband had thirds. If that’s not a marker of success, I don’t know what is!

Asian Spiced Chicken Noodle Soup

We all know that chicken soup is dubbed Jewish penicillin. Aside from being a quick and nutritious weeknight anytime meal, this soup may help you feel a little better if you’re suffering from a mid-winter cold. While it’s not totally clear why chicken soup is such a comfort food during illness (for me, ice cream works well too, haha), the steamy vapors from a hot bowl of soup may improve congestion and the soothing broth provides extra hydration. So it’s worth a shot since it tastes better than cough syrup anyway.

Asian Spiced Noodle Soup

The first part of this recipe involves making a gingery broth, flavored with the whites of green onions. I also cooked chicken thighs during this stage. Once the chicken was cooked, I shredded it with two forks and returned it to the pot to make the rest of the soup. At that time I added the thinly sliced napa cabbage, snow peas cut into thirds, and pad Thai rice noodles. When the noodles were tender, I added a little soy sauce then seasoned the soup with salt, pepper, and Thai spice. The original recipe called for just salt and pepper but I tasted the broth at that point and it was too bland. Thai spice, which I got from Spice Sage, one of my favorite places to purchase various spices and herbs (thanks Dad for recommending it!), fixed that problem. Thai spice is a mixture of ginger, basil, cumin, cardamom, garlic, cilantro, pepper, and turmeric. If you don’t have Thai spice, you could try adding some of those seasonings to taste. Alternately, Chinese five spice powder (which includes cinnamon, anise, pepper, cloves, allspice, and fennel) would also work well–and yes, I realize that’s more than 5 spices. Slurp up!

Asian Spiced Noodle Soup

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Asian Spiced Chicken Noodle Soup (adapted from Parents Magazine, January 2014 issue)

Yield: serves 6

3 green onions
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/2 head of napa cabbage, thinly sliced
8 ounces brown rice pad Thai noodles
8 ounces snow peas, cut into thirds
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
Salt, pepper, and spices such as Thai spice to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon Thai spice)

Directions:
1. Separate the white part of the the green onions from the green part. Place the white part into a large Dutch oven and thinly slice the green parts for topping the soup later.
2. To the Dutch oven, add the chicken thighs, broth, and ginger, along with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 15 minutes.
3. Remove the onions from the broth. Remove the chicken and shred with two forks, then return the shredded chicken to the pot and bring back to a boil.
4. Add the cabbage, noodles, and snow peas to the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the noodles are tender. Stir in the soy sauce and seasonings. Taste the broth and adjust the flavors as needed. Top with the sliced green onions and serve.

Per serving: 280 calories, 7 grams fat (calculated from myfitnesspal.com; all nutrition information is approximate)

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