Copycat Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad

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This salad. I have been obsessed with this summery salad since it first debued at Panera. Berries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, feta cheese, and grilled chicken. I’ve tried for years to re-create it at home. Even posting a similar one here, although I never have been able to get the dressing quite right at home.

So, you can guess how excited I was a year or so ago when I found the Panera poppyseed dressing in the refrigerator section at Target (note: I can also buy it at Kroger, although it is usually slightly less expensive at Target).

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I now have the hubbs hooked on it too. I’m not kidding when I say we ate this weekly until we had to retire the grill for the winter. Now that the warmer weather is creaping back and berries are creaping back into the stores, we’ve picked that habit back up. It is now at the point where I prefer our homemade version — we add WAY more fruit!

The recipe is pretty quick and easy. Washing berries, draining the pineapple and mandarin oranges, and grilling the chicken. We use a variety of berries depending on store sales/which ones look better, but the traditional is strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. You’ll notice blackberries replacing the blueberries in this photo. Use whichever berries you like! As for the salad, you can cut up an entire head of Romaine lettuce or you can buy the pre-mixed salad mixes. We honestly do both depending on the time we have available. You could even use pre-grilled chicken to make this a layer and go type of dinner.

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Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Copycat Panera Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad
Adapted from Panera/The Cookin’ Chemist Original

Ingredients:
1 lb. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1-2 heads of Romaine lettuce (or other pre-mixed greens), washed and chopped
1 (16 oz) pkg. strawberries, rinsed and sliced
2 (6 oz) pkg. rasberries, rinsed
2 (6 oz) pkg. blueberries, rinsed
1 (15 oz) can pineapple tidbits (or pieces), drained
2 (8 oz) cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 pkg. feta cheese
Panera Poppyseed Dressing

Preheat the grill. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts. Grill until cooked through. Let set for 5 minutes. Slice.

Divide the salad greens between 4 plates (we usually do 2 plates and 2 bowls for lunches). Top with the berries, pineapple, mandarin oranges, pecans, and feta cheese. Top with the sliced chicken. Add dressing in desired amounts.

Chicken Shawarma Fries with Mediterranean Salsa and Garlic Sauce

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Does anyone else falter slightly when asked which food is their favorite? Please tell me I’m not alone here.

I feel like I like so many different flavors that it is hard for me to pick, although I will admit that Mediterranean is amongst my favorite. As long as we stay away from goat cheese. I just can’t do the “tang” and that flavor stays on anything it remotely touches on a plate. Goat feta/cheese = not for me. Cow feta = I could eat with a spoon.

I first talked about these Shawarma topped fries in my menu plan, but at the time, I wasn’t sure if I would serve this over fries or rice. I will admit I’m glad I went the fry route. Crispy skinned potatoes also are awesome. That said, I’m sure rice would work too and as long as you’re using a packet, would make this quicker for a weeknight meal.

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My recipe tips would be to be sure to cut the potatoes on the thinner side as this will allow for more crisping. I would also recommend spraying your foil with non-stick spray for the fries. Mine stuck to the foil a bit despite the olive oil (which was slightly disappointing as I lost the crispy sides on some of them). I also subbed some of the mayo out for plain Greek yogurt on the sauce, and it worked well for us.

Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Chicken Shawarma Fries with Mediterranean Salsa and Garlic Sauce
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients:
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. allspice
pinch cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper
salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. thin boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-1/2 lbs (2 large) Russet potatoes
salt and pepper
non-stick spray

For the Mediterranean Salsa:
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup packed Parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 lemon, juiced
Cavendar’s Greek Seasoning, to taste

For the Garlic Sauce:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt
water to desired consistency

Add 1/2 lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, spices, and garlic to a large ziplock bag. Squash to combine. Add the chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Lay the chicken in a single layer and bake for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through, flipping the chicken halfway through. Allow to set for 5-10 minutes prior to cutting into bite-sized pieces. Set aside

Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.Re-spray the foil with non-stick spray (or replace the foil). Slice the potatoes thinly into fries (can leave the skins on). Toss in a bowl with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crispy, stirring halfway through.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the salsa in a medium bowl. Stir to combine and set aside. Add all the ingredients for the garlic sauce in a bowl. Mix. Add water, a little bit at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.

Top the fries with the chicken, salsa, and garlic sauce. Serve.

Roasted Poblano Salsa Chicken Enchiladas

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First of all, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I have a very non-Irish dinner idea for tonight.

One thing my husband will readily tell you is that I’ve never been the cleanest cook. There’s a reason the dogs in this house hang around in the kitchen if I’m working in there. Nonetheless, please tell me I am not the only person who gets cilantro EVERYWHERE whenever I try to use it in my kitchen. Chopping it is the worst. I swear I’ll find it for days after I thought I had cleaned it up. I thought I would be smart making the salsa for these enchiladas and just add it to my blender straight off the bunch. I was going to blend it anyway, right? No, there was still cilantro on the floor and somehow on the opposite kitchen counter…

This becomes a real problem for me as Mexican/southwest flavors are some of my favorite things for dinner.

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Enter these enchiladas from Iowa Girl Eats. I wish you could even just smell this salsa over the blog world. So. Good. I warmed up a leftover enchilada for lunch this week, and all of my coworkers were wondering what smelled so good!

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The entirety of this dish does take a little bit to put together. First, you make the salsa, then cook the chicken, grate the cheese (ugh, but worth it), assemble, and bake. I really think the salsa is what makes this dish. I almost can’t wait to make this again this summer with some garden tomatoes as it was great with mid-March grocery store tomatoes. Don’t substitute traditional enchilada sauce here. It isn’t hard and is worth the time. Find a day/weekend where you can set aside time to make it. I promise you won’t regret it!

I’m sure you could make these quicker by making the salsa and chicken ahead of time. IGE recommends that it can be made up to 3 days in advance, but I’m finding myself wondering if it would be freezable as that would make the time commitment for this next to nothing (probably almost a 30 minute meal).

Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Roasted Poblano Salsa Chicken Enchiladas
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients:
For the Roasted Poblano Salsa:
1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 vine-ripened tomatoes
1 poblano pepper
1 small red onion, peeled and halved
1 head garlic, top 1/4-inch sliced off to reveal cloves
1/4 cup packed cilantro
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbsp. salt
1-2 tsp. black pepper

For the Enchiladas:
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 – 1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 – 1 tsp. black pepper
8-10 fajita-sized whole wheat tortillas
8oz freshly shredded Queso Quesadilla (by refrigerated tortillas at the store)

For the Cucumber Pico de Gallo:
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

For the salsa, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Add tomatoes, poblano pepper, and onion to the baking sheet then brush with extra virgin olive oil to coat. Place the head of garlic in the middle of a smaller piece of foil and drizzle generously with olive oil. Seal the garlic into a pouch of foil and place on the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping everything but the garlic halfway through. Decrease the heat on the oven to 350 degrees.

Once cool enough to handle, transfer the tomatoes and onion to a food processor or blender. Cut the top off the poblano pepper and remove any seeds and membranes. Add to the blender. Squeeze all of the garlic cloves out into the blender (they should be soft). Add cilantro, lime juice, 1 Tbsp. salt, and 1 tsp. black pepper. Process until smooth then taste and add more salt and/or pepper if desired.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, onions, garlic salt, and black pepper and sauté until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside.

Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray. Spread 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the prepared salsa into the bottom of the dish. Wrap each tortilla with a scoop of the chicken, 1-2 Tbsp. of salsa, and 1-2 Tbsp. shredded cheese. Place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used. Cover the enchiladas with salsa; you may have some salsa leftover. Top the enchiladas with the remaining cheese and eat the remaining salsa with chips if desired.

Spray a large piece of foil with non-stick spray and cover the baking dish (with spray-side down). Bake for 20 minutes. Switch oven to broil, remove the foil, and cook 2-3 minutes longer or until the cheese begins to brown. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes after baking.

While the enchiladas are baking, add the remaining chopped tomatoes, cucumber, jalapeño, onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper to a small bowl. Toss to combine. Top each enchilada serving with a scoop of pico de gallo.

Greek Chicken Pitas

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This is one of those dinners that isn’t really a recipe. It came about sometime last summer. I don’t remember exactly when, but I can tell you it definitely came out of a desire to have good food quick after long days at work and then training.

These pitas can be as “store-bought” or as homemade as you want – although I’m guessing most of us would buy the feta 🙂 The pitas, hummus, and tzatziki could all be homemade if you’re feeling adventurous (in fact I might suggest you look here and here to start). More often than not we’ve been looking for quick and started with pre-made. The tzatziki we’ve been using lately isn’t a true tzatziki, but man, the cucumber-dill yogurt sauce from Opadippity (by Litehouse) hits the spot! Nonetheless I think these would be outta this world with some freshly made pitas, and I need to give it a try some night when I have a bit more time.

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If I’ve planned ahead enough, I do like to marinade the chicken for several hours while we’re at work. It just gives the meal a little extra flavor. Outside of the marinade time, it’s just chopping, grilling, and eating!

(Printable Recipe)

Greek Chicken Pitas
The Cookin’ Chemist Original, marinade from The Black Peppercorn

Ingredients:
For the Chicken Marinade:
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. oregano
2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

For the Pitas:
4-6 whole wheat pitas
1/2 to 1 cup of hummus
1 colored bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 to 1 cup of tzatziki sauce
1 pkg. feta cheese

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a plastic bag and add the chicken. Refrigerate and marinade the chicken for at least 1 hour, up to overnight. When ready to grill, discard the marinade and grill chicken as desired. Let rest for several minutes after grilling then chop into bite-sized pieces.

Top pitas with hummus (amount as desired). Layer with chopped vegetables and chicken. Top with tzatziki sauce and feta (also amounts as desired). Enjoy!

Meal Plan – Week 1

Well, hello there blog world! It’s been quite awhile!

Life has gone on a little since I last regularly updated this little blog. I’ve moved. Across several states. Twice. Completed two half-Ironman distance triathlons and one full Ironman. With the new Ironman tattoo to prove it. The first of these lead to the ultimate demise of my blog. Turns out when you’re working full time and training 8-10 hours (or 14-16 for the full Ironman) a week you end up hungry. Really, really hungry. And you don’t really care what the food you’re eating looks like (definitely not photo ready) or how “original” the recipe was. If it’s food, you eat it!

In all honesty, I’m lucky I remembered the password to this darn thing… But here I am. I’m hoping to get back in the swing of things with a few recipes a week as well as a few non-recipe pieces including our weekly menu ideas. So without further ado, the food 🙂

A bit about our meal plan philosophy. The hubbs and I meal plan to an extent, however we are not rigid about it. We typically will pick out 4-5 recipes per week which and make whichever recipe happens to sound good that day. The other days are supplemented by leftovers, about 1 dinner out per week, and standard staples we keep around the house. We often turn to these staple meals on the days where we’re either too busy and/or too tired (read: triathlete on the verge of hangry if I’m not fed now nights). Most of these things aren’t really “blog worthy”, but I can elaborate as they come up.

On our list for this week:

Grilled steaks with grilled asparagus

Roasted Poblano Salsa Chicken Enchiladas -The Iowa Girl Eats
(recipe and photo credit to IGE)

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BBQ chicken and veggie pizza – The Cookin’ Chemist original (Although not yet posted. This is slightly different that the other BBQ chicken pizza I have referenced)

Greek pitas – Also The Cookin’ Chemist original, although this isn’t much of a recipe

Unstuffed Pepper Skillet – The Garlic Diaries
(recipe and photo credit to The Garlic Diaries)

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Cheers to getting back in this game!

Baked Chicken and Spinach Flautas

chicken and spinach taquitos topped

Hello all! It’s been awhile. Sorry about that!

Here’s a snapshot of our lives recently: I was in a car accident on the freeway and totaled my Beetle. Thankfully, everyone was fine, with the exception of some wicked burns on my arm from the airbags (The nurses at work dressed my arm as soon as they saw it. Love them!). Car shopping. Definitely not my favorite, although I am happy to report that we finally found one! Eating. Always eating. We never forget that. Preparing for my first triathlon. I completed a sprint, the hubbs an Olympic, and I am proud to say we did pretty well. Now if someone can teach us how to swim faster, we’ll be set. We can both manage the distance, but swim so SLOW!

So back to the  blog. I have some fun things in tow this week. Several Mexican themed recipes. We love Mexican/Southwestern flavors, so giving me an excuse to cook this way only results in us having tacos/burritos/enchiladas/quesadillas almost every night. Hey, no one here is complaining yet. Also in tow is the next chocolate chip cookie bake-off. Should be a good week! 🙂

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chicken and spinach taquitos

This recipe from Healthy. Delicious. is actually one that has appeared in my kitchen more than once. The spices. The flavors. These babies just work. The chicken here is simmered in beer before being shredded and mixed with the seasonings. This isn’t the first time I’ve mixed beer with my Mexican dishes. I swear. It makes the best meat! I even swapped out the chicken thighs for chicken breast and it still works. Even if you don’t like to drink beer. Do it. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Baked Chicken and Spinach Flautas
From Healthy. Delicious.

Ingredients:
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
16 oz. beer (or chicken broth, but use the beer!)
2 cups water
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
6-8 large whole wheat tortillas (may need fewer or more depending on the size)
6 oz. Mexican-blend or Pepper-Jack cheese, shredded
cooking spray
Salsa, non-fat plain Greek yogurt for serving (or sour cream).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Place the chicken in a deep sided saute pan and cover with beer and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for around 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the liquid and shred, but keep the cooking liquid. In a separate small bowl, mix together the seasonings (paprika through chili powder). Mix with the shredded chicken.

Pour out all but 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the jalapeno and spinach. Cook over low heat for about 2-3 minutes or until the spinach has wilted.

Using whole tortillas, spoon a small amount of chicken closer to one side of the tortilla (1/3 of the way across). Top with spinach and cheese. Roll up the tortilla and place seem-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining filling. Spray the other sides of the rolled flautas with nonstick spray.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, turn and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until crispy. Watch them closely as they’ll go from baked to burning quickly depending on your tortillas and oven. Serve with salsa and non-fat plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream).

Balsamic Smothered Chicken and Spinach Salad

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Do any of you have specific ingredients that often predict what you will be making/eating? Those items that you cannot get enough of and automatically make an item included in your dinner or menu plans?

I have several – kalamata olives, caramel, roasted red peppers, butterscotch chips. I could give a few more, but as you may have guessed balsamic vinegar is pretty high on my list. Enter this smothered chicken recipe by Iowa Girl Eats. Truthfully, this has another ingredient both the hubbs and I cannot get enough of – tomato, basil, and garlic bruschetta from Trader Joes. They sell both a fresh and canned version, and both are awesome. We end up eating this bruschetta topping on toasted baguette slices at least once a week. Not kidding. Layer those with some avocado, chicken, and mozzarella cheese and you have this recipe.

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The recipe itself is pretty simple. If you have never reduced balsamic vinegar, it is possible to burn it. The recipe states it takes about 20 minutes, but you probably should keep and eye on it and stir it a few times during that down time (not that I would know anything about burning the vinegar). This can be done ahead of time, making the recipe a great choice for a busy night. I cooked my chicken breasts on a grill pan, although they could be prepared in anyway you would like. Now that it’s officially spring, I am thinking the outdoor grill would be nice. Layer the cooked chicken with your toppings, slide it under the broiler, and you’re ready to eat. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Balsamic Smothered Chicken and Spinach Salad
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Ingredients:
1 cup balsamic vingear
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded until even thickness
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup tomato, basil, garlic bruschetta topping
1 avocado, sliced
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, fresh or grated will work fine
baby spinach

Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan then bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to simmer until the vinegar is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place the oven rack in the top position. Preheat the oven to broil. Warm a grill pan and warm over medium-high heat. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the chicken breasts and cook until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. Can also bake or grill the chicken breasts if desired.

Spray a small baking pan with nonstick spray. Add the chicken breasts to the dish. Spread the bruschetta topping over each chicken breast. Top with a few avocado slices and mozzarella cheese. Place the dish in the oven and broil for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Plate the chicken over a bread of spinach. Split any remaining avocado slices between the plates. Drizzle the chicken and spinach with the reduced balsamic vinegar and serve.

Chicken Tamale Pie

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3.14. It’s Pi Day!

I am so excited to share this recipe with you. First of all, it is comfort food in its finest. Comfort food that will not break your diet. What’s not to love? Second, I actually have a “pi” for Pi Day! It is rare that I am aware of a foodie holiday early enough that I can have a recipe prepared in time to post. I know this makes me a little bit of a nerd (and my husband would definitely agree), but I promised myself I would find something to share for Pi Day. Mine may not be of the sweet variety, but I would definitely say it counts!

As I eluded to above, this meal is definitely warm, filling, and satisfying. First, you prepare a “cornbread” crust and layer that with enchilada sauce, shredded chicken, and cheese. While it sounds like a diet bust, as long as you control the amount of cheese, none of the ingredients are too unhealthy. Served with a green salad or other veggie on the side, it makes a pretty balanced meal.

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chicken tamale pie serving

The recipe is originally from Pinch of Yum. I updated it a little for us, mostly making the cornbread crust from scratch. I tend not to keep baking mixes in my pantry, and I promise you probably already have most of the individual ingredients to make the cornbread on hand anyway. One thing to note, don’t expect the crust to be of the same texture as normal cornbread by itself. With the creamed corn and being baked underneath the chicken mixture, the cornbread crust comes out “wetter” than it were if it were cornbread alone. Different, but still delicious in my opinion.

If you’re still looking for dinner plans, join me in celebrating Pi Day and try this out. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Chicken Tamale Pie
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Ingredients:
1/3 cup fat free milk (I used almond milk. It’s all I had)
1 egg
1-1/2 Tbsp. homemade taco seasoning (or a packet, but try making it at home), divided
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 (14.75 oz) can cream-style corn
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 (7 oz) can chopped green chiles
1 (10 oz) can red enchilada sauce
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
3/4 cup shredded cheese (Mexican blend, Monterey Jack, cheddar, or whatever you have)
cilantro, chopped for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray. Set aside.

Combine the first 12 ingredients (milk through the green chiles) in a medium sized mixing bowl, using only 1/2 tablespoon of the taco seasoning. Stir only until just barely combined. Some pieces of flour/cornmeal may remain. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pie plate. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until set, starting to brown on the edges, and a toothpick inserted just comes out clean. Do not let it bake too long, as it will continue to bake once topped with the chicken mixture.

While the cornbread is baking, combine the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning. When the cornbread is finished baking, pierce all over the surface with a fork. Pour the enchilada sauce over the cornbread. Top with the chicken and the cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese melts and the dish is bubbly. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Top with cilantro if desired.

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

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I was clearing the masses of emails out of my personal account recently and noted a foodie email with recipes for Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras already? Really? Not that we ever really have done much to celebrate the holiday, it still was completely off my radar this year. I have been to New Orleans a couple of times, and outside of the seafood, I really enjoy the intense flavors in the food.

Given that much of the authentic Cajun food contains seafood, making non-seafood versions at home is usually my best bet. This recipe comes from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. It starts with some traditional Cajun ingredients – celery, bell peppers, onion, and garlic, and ends up as a homey, filling, fairly healthy skillet meal. We have a local grocery store that makes their own chicken and pork sausages, so I swapped in crumbled spicy chicken sausage for the sliced sausages. Don’t got light on the Cajun seasoning either. Maybe it is just because we are completely obsessed with it, but I think the Cajun seasoning completely brings this dish together. I added just a little more than called for in the recipe, although it can be varied according to your preference for level of spiciness. Enjoy!

chicken and sausage jumbayla cooking

(Printable Recipe)

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Ingredients:
1 lb. spicy chicken sausage, removed from casing, crumbled, and browned (can also use sliced sausage)
1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium red or green bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. Cajun seasoning (can adjust amounts up or down as desired)
1 (10 oz) can hot diced tomatoes with green chiles (can use mild), undrained
1/2 tsp. sugar
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups prepared brown rice

In a large, high-sided skillet or stockpot, cook the sausage and chicken over medium heat until cooked through. Set the meat aside and drain the fat from the skillet if necessary. Melt the butter in the same pot. Stir in the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the flour starts to brown, about 1 minute. Add the vegetables, basil, Cajun seasoning, diced tomatoes with green chiles, and sugar. Stir well. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low to medium-low heat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are slightly tender. Add the sausage and chicken back to the pot, cook for another 10 minutes, stirring as needed. Add the chicken broth and simmer for about 5 additional minutes. Stir in the rice. Can continue to cook for a few minutes to obtain desired texture, if desired.

Spicy Orange Chicken with Apricot Orange Dipping Sauce

spicy orange chicken with apricot orange dipping sauce on rice

There are 2 things that a recipe title that long can tell you – 1) The “I can’t think of a good name for this so I’m going to just tell you everything that is in it” syndrome or 2) It’s an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. Not that I can blame them. I also find it a little hard to be creative with my recipe names and often end up in the first camp 🙂

I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy the cookbook The Best Light Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. At this point, I am not sure how many times I’ve checked it out from our library, saving a few more recipes each time. In reality, I am not sure I ever would have made this recipe save for the jar of apricot preserves my husband randomly brought home from the store. It actually wasn’t bad on toast alone, but peanut butter and apricot preserve sandwiches just didn’t work quite as well.
Needless to say, I was looking to use up the rest of the jar.

spicy orange chicken with apricot orange dipping sauce

We enjoyed these chicken skewers with the dipping sauce over rice for our meal, but I am confident that they’d work equally as well on an appetizer tray for New Year’s Eve or any remaining holiday parties. In fact, the recipe is actually in the “appetizer” section of the cookbook. The book indicates that the recipe (as an appetizer) will serve 10. As written, we ate it for a main dish with a couple meals as leftovers. The sauce here is a little sweet but just in the right way and really compliments the chicken. In the past, I’ve been a little wary of the fruit and meat combination, but after these fajitas and this skewer recipe, I’ve found I really should keep an open mind. Enjoy!

(Printable Recipe)

Spicy Orange Chicken with Apricot Orange Dipping Sauce
From The Best Light Recipe

Ingredients:
Chicken:
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup apricot preserves
nonstick cooking spray

Apricot Orange Dipping Sauce:
1 cup apricot preserves
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Slice the chicken across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick strips (about 30 strips). In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the parsley, salt, orange zest, red pepper flakes, paprika, garlic powder, and pepper. Add the apricot preserves and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (can be left for up to 24 hours).

For the dipping sauce, puree the apricot preserves and vinegar together in a blender or food processor until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Stir in the parsley, orange zest, salt, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. The dipping sauce can be made up to 48 hours before and stored in the refrigerator.

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers. If desired, the chicken can be cooked on an outdoor grill over medium heat until cooked through, flipping skewers partway through the cooking process. Alternatively, adjust an oven rack to the top position and heat the broiler. Line a broiler pan with foil and top with a slotted broiler pan top; spray the broiler pan top with nonstick spray. Lay the skewers on the broiler pan and cover the skewer ends with foil. Do not cover the chicken. Broil until the meat is lightly browned and cooked through, 5-8 minutes, flipping skewers over halfway through. Repeat the process if necessary to cook all the meat. Serve with the prepared apricot dipping sauce.