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Chicken stir-fry with yellow squash, red bell peppers, peanuts, and chili garlic-coconut sauce

Chicken stir-fry with yellow squash, red bell pepper, peanuts, and chili garlic-coconut sauce

 

I survived hot yoga.

I may have sweat about 10 liters, but I survived. It’s a great departure from my regular routine of weight training at the gym, and I’m hoping it will benefit my overall fitness this year.

I threw this chicken stir-fry together early last week as a quick dinner, and it was so good I had to make it again to share with you guys. If you have the ingredients on-hand, this is super simple to whip up for a weekday meal. I love the concept of stir-frys– anchor it with a protein, fluff it up with some delicious vegetables, add some punchy spices, and you’ve got a wholesome and tasty dish that is full of flavor. I typically like to eat this on its own, but you can serve it with brown rice for extra carbs and fiber.

 

Chicken stir-fry with red bell pepper, yellow squash, peanuts, and chili-garlic coconut sauce

 

// Chicken stir-fry with yellow squash, red bell pepper, peanuts, and chili garlic-coconut sauce

 

Chili garlic sauce can be found at most supermarkets and most definitely, Asian markets. Ponzu is a citrusy soy sauce, but if you can’t find any, regular soy sauce would work, with the addition of a squeeze of lime juice at the very end of cooking to lend some brightness and acidity. 

 

Serves 2-3

 

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon ponzu sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2-3 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, depending on how spicy you want it

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons cut on the diagonal scallions, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 yellow squash, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts

1/3 cup full fat coconut milk

 

// In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, ponzu sauce, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, ginger, scallions, and salt, and pepper. Let this marinate while you prep the next ingredients.

Chop the red bell pepper and yellow squash. Set a wok or medium frypan over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, tumble in the chicken mixture and cook until opaque, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, squash, and peanuts; cook for another 2 minutes or until brightly colored. Pour in the coconut milk and stir. Let this bubble for a couple more minutes. Taste sauce for seasonings, adding more s + p and/or chili garlic sauce for spiciness. Serve chicken stir-fry as is, alone, or with brown rice.

 

Some more tasty, quick weekday meals: 

Cauliflower and broccoli stir-fry with tofu + sriracha-spiked peanut sauce

Warm lentil salad with broccoli, napa cabbage, and feta cheese

Spaghetti “pizza” with sausage and feta cheese

 

 

Baked stuffed sweet potatoes with black beans, broccoli, and feta cheese

Baked stuffed sweet potatoes with black beans, broccoli, and feta cheese

 

I took a yoga class today.

For years, I told myself I would join a yoga studio but was hesitant to commit. Would I really go? Would I actually enjoy it? And along with these unanswered questions came a sense of anxiety. I could already envision myself face planting on the floor, tree pose in ruins, slithering away on my stomach out the door, and into the snowy parking lot foliage never to be seen again. I am nothing short of dramatic.

Course, none of that actually happened and I enjoyed myself. It was relaxing, comfortable. Easy like Sunday morning! In fact, I’m looking forward to taking a more challenging class tomorrow that is faster-paced and in a heated environment. So naturally, my new concern is getting heat stroke from doing yoga poses in a 90 degree room. Tune in next week!

The only concern I have with these sweet potatoes, though, is eating too much of it. They are: rich, bountiful, satisfying, comforting. You have the sweetness and lusciousness from the sweet potatoes, the snap from the broccoli, and the mellow chew of black beans. The feta cheese gives this a tangy, salty hit with every bite. It is scrumptious.

 

Baked stuffed sweet potatoes with black beans, broccoli, and feta cheese

 

// baked stuffed sweet potatoes with black beans, broccoli, and feta cheese

 

serves 4

 

I really prefer using red garnet sweet potatoes here for their bright orange hue and rich, sweet flavor. Try to pick four sweet potatoes of roughly the same size and shape so they cook evenly and at the same time. 

 

4 sweet potatoes, preferably red garnets

Olive oil

Salt

3 cups small broccoli florets

1- 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained

Black pepper

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles, plus additional for topping

 

Plain, Greek yogurt, for serving

Green onions, snipped, for serving

 

// Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and scrub sweet potatoes; dry. Poke holes all around the sweet potatoes with a fork. Put each sweet potato onto a separate piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt. Massage them well, and wrap tightly with foil. Place them on a baking sheet and put in the oven. Baking time will vary depending on the size of your sweet potatoes, but start checking at 1 hour. Mine took 1 1/4 hours to soften.

While they bake, grab a medium frypan and set over medium heat. Drizzle in some olive oil. Once it shimmers, tumble in the broccoli florets; season with salt and pepper. Cook until they just turn bright green, a few minutes. Put into a bowl. Add another drizzle of olive oil to pan and toss in black beans, seasoning again with salt and pepper, cumin, and cinnamon. Cook until fragrant. Tumble black beans into bowl with broccoli.

Once sweet potatoes are done cooking, carefully open foil packets and slice down the center with a knife (as if you were doing a regular baked potato). Open it by smooshing both ends of the sweet potato together gently. Scoop out about half of the flesh of each sweet potato and add to the black bean and broccoli mix. To the mix, add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and feta cheese. Combine gingerly. Fill each sweet potato with the mixture. You may end up with some leftover. That’s great– it makes a great snack!

Top each sweet potato with another scattering of feta cheese. Place sweet potatoes back into the oven to bake for another 5-7 minutes, or until the feta has softened. The baked stuffed sweet potatoes are great on their own, or as a side. Either way, serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and freshly snipped green onions.

 

// More tasty things with sweet potato, broccoli, and black beans:

Cinnamon and chile-dusted sweet potato fries 

Sweet potato, black bean, and spinach taquitos

Warm lentil salad with broccoli, napa cabbage, and feta cheese

Mint-Almond Pesto

Mint-almond pesto

 

It’s the year 2016 and I’m coming at you in an old Michigan hoodie and hedgehog slippers. It’s the Sunday before going back to work after a long holiday break, take it easy on me. Okay fine, who am I trying to kid, I dress like this pretty much everyday… [and i think you already knew that]

With the New Year, many people take this opportunity to reflect on what they’d like to change and improve in their lives. For some, career advancements. Others, marriage, a new home, children. Me? I want to eat. More delicious things. More exciting things. More new things. I want to cook and explore every facet of the ingredients that fascinate me. Food is the light that illuminates my soul– without it, I am a carcass.

Okay, that might have been a little dramatic, and eerily too descriptive. Please don’t envision my half-eaten body dehydrated in the desert getting picked over by wild dogs. Don’t.

Have I whet your appetite yet? Scroll up and take another peek at the pesto I’m here to share with you. There. That’s it. I made this yesterday, on the heels of returning from Florida after a food and alcohol-filled holiday break. My body was begging for health, boldness, satisfaction on a plate. This pesto was so fresh and tasted delicious draped over baked, sliced chicken breasts. I can see this same exact pesto served over grilled fish, broiled shrimp. Smeared on crostini. Add more liquid and you’ve got a luscious pesto sauce to coat pasta noodles. Either way, close your eyes and reflect; it’s going to be a delightful 2016.

 

 

// Mint-almond pesto 

makes 3/4 cup

 

This is a bright and flavorful topping for chicken, fish, shrimp. Feel free to play with the herbs here– you can replace the mint for traditional basil, chives for a delicate onion taste, or arugula for a peppery kick. 

 

1/3 cup raw almonds

1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup ground Parmesan cheese

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pinch red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lukewarm water

 

// In a small food processor, toss in the almonds, mint, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Process and slowly add the olive oil. Add the water. Taste for seasonings. This keeps in the fridge for several days, though I doubt it will stay there uneaten for very long.

 

 

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