Chicken Thighs with Cilantro Sauce {citrusy carrots on the side}

You really can’t go wrong with chicken thighs.

1.  They cook fast.

2.  They’re full of flavor.

3.  It’s hard to overcook them.

4.  They’re cheaper than chicken breasts.

I’ve found that the best boneless, skinless chicken thighs at Trader Joes.  I try and buy multiple packs every time I visit so that I can have them in the freezer whenever I’m ready to cook chicken thighs.

Since it was such a beautiful night, Big Guy fired up the grill to cook the chicken, but you could totally use a skillet or an inside grill pan.  Either way, simple season with salt and cook.

I made the sauce using my mini food processor.  While I have a mortar and pestle, I was a little concerned that I would achieve the desired consistency using that kitchen tool.

In the sauce:  cilantro (duh), onion (instead of shallot), 3 garlic cloves (we love garlic), sesame oil, tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), Sriracha, and lime zest.

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The sauce reminded me of a pesto.  Minus the cheese.  This sauce took basic chicken thighs to a whole new level.  The chicken was cooked perfectly (thanks, Big Guy) and the sauce added an explosion of flavor.  I loved the combination of sesame oil with cilantro.  Killer.

On the side, citrusy carrots with parsley.  Carrots are typically part of my afternoon snack but I do adore cooked carrots.  If you don’t think you like cooked carrots, try them cooking them with this recipe.

The carrots are simmered in a mixture of fresh orange juice, water and honey.  Once cooked until fork-tender, they are tossed with salt, pepper, a little bit of butter and fresh parsley.

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A bright flavored dinner, indeed.

 

Black Bean Cakes with Ginger-Cilantro Cream

Menu planning can be a lifesaver.  I try and sit down on Sunday for 20 minutes or so to write out the menu for the week as well as make my list.  Grocery shopping typically takes place on Sunday but this week since we were out of town for the weekend I did my grocery shopping on Monday.

I purposefully put Black Bean Cakes with Ginger-Cilantro Cream on the menu for Monday so that I could have leftovers for lunch the rest of the week.

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I followed the recipe exactly, only using gluten-free panko and subbing Greek yogurt instead of  the sour cream.

The black bean cakes are full of flavor from the spice combination.  Cumin, ground coriander and crushed red pepper provide a depth of flavor (and some heat).  I found that using butter to cook the cakes made for a crunchy exterior on the cakes that I adored.  No body wants a soggy black bean cake.

The cream balanced the heat of the cakes perfectly with the cilantro adding freshness to the overall dish.  I would add more ginger next time and perhaps a squeeze of lime to really brighten up the plate.

On the side, a simple salad.

By the way, I’m really excited about my lunch today…

Weekend Review {Easter Weekend}

This past weekend was exactly what I wanted.  Family.  Delicious food.  Relaxation.

On Friday Big Guy and I had a lunch date in Wilmington at Hops Supply Co.  I was impressed from the beginning of the meal.  Salty Dog for him, Strawberry Mojito for me.

The drinks were made with REAL fruit and juice (which is the only way it should be) and hit the spot.

Not only were the drinks fantastic and the service spot-on, the food was delicious.  I ordered the Black and Blue Steak Salad which was loaded with flavor.  Instead of the blue cheese I went with goat cheese.  The steak was cooked perfectly (medium-rare) and the flavors were incredible.  Big Guy ordered the Hopsco Burger and he left a happy man.  I would totally recommend this restaurant if you’re in the Wilmington area.  Ninety perfect of the menu is made in house and they source locally, when possible.

Friday afternoon we spent time with my family and our sweet niece.  Despite her energy-filled spirit, she sometimes slows down.  Sometimes.

Regardless, any moment with her is precious.

Because Easter Monday isn’t considered a holiday any more, most of us have to leave town on Sunday.  So we enjoyed Easter dinner on Saturday at my grandparents house.

I can’t believe we’ve spent 6 Easter weekends together.

And it isn’t Easter without egg dying.

The final product.

Easter Sunday was spent soaking up as much time with family before it was time to head home.

Happy Monday!

p.s. Waterlogue is my new favorite app.

Good Friday

I haven’t met a bad Friday.  But today I’m not here to blog.  I’m here to tell you that I’m spending the day (and the weekend) with my family.  I’m going to live presently this weekend.

And I’m going to enjoy every moment of every second that I’m given with the ones I love.

Thursday Thoughts

1.  It’s my Friday.  And I am so pumped about a 3-day weekend.

2.  The past two nights have involved girlfriends and good food.  I’m not used to being such a social butterfly.  But I like it.

3.  On Tuesday night I dined in Raleigh at Cantina 18.  I tell ya, that place is just so incredibly delicious.  And it’s the best sangria on the face of the Earth.

4.  The sangria was especially delicious considering it was the most stressful tax day in all my 30 years.

5.  Last night was sushi night!  I think I could eat sushi every day.

6.  Rumor has it that rose is delicious with Easter dinner.  So I bought some to share with the family.

7.  Let’s be honest, the only thoughts I have today are about the weekend.

8.  Let’s get this workday and workweek over with.

9.  And finally, I really hope my Momma wants me to help in the kitchen this weekend.  I haven’t been in the kitchen nearly enough this week due to my social calendar.

 

 

 

Chicken Parmesan with Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Al fresco dining is one of my favorite parts of Spring.  In the summer, the humidity and bugs take over and make eating outside miserable.  But in the Spring, it’s not unbearable hot and the bugs haven’t made their way into my backyard.

 

This truly is a lightened-up comfort food kind of meal.  The tomato sauce is a combination of roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion, thyme, chicken broth and white wine.  Allowing the tomatoes to roast before making the sauce (more of a chutney, in my opinion) adds such a depth of flavor.  And despite not having any sugar added, the sweetness of the tomatoes really shines.  The chicken cutlets are coated in a mixture of mayonnaise, almond milk and Parmesan cheese that serves as the “glue” for the panko-coating.  The result was super tender yet crispy chicken that was full of flavor.  The panko-coating was a mixture of gluten-free panko (which worked fantastically), Parmesan cheese and garlic powder.  Once the chicken was cooked through, a sliced of mozzarella was added to the top before broiling for the perfectly browned crust and melted cheese.  The chicken was topped with basil confetti before serving for a pop of freshness.

On the side, a simple spinach salad with a sweet and sour bacon vinaigrette.  Bacon fat is used instead of oil and is mixed with apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper for a simple but amazing flavor combination.  But is bacon ever bad?

 

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The end result, a meal that made me smile.  Comforting, fresh, healthy and full of flavor.  I couldn’t ask for much more.

Rodney Strong Vineyards Spring Wine Dinner

This past Saturday night, we attended our wine clubs (Friends of the Vine) Spring Wine Dinner featuring Rodney Strong Vineyards.    Wine dinners are one of my favorite things in the world and if given the opportunity to attend a wine dinner I will do anything in my power to make sure I am there.

Our story begins more than 50 years ago, when a celebrated American dancer named Rod Strong settled in Sonoma County to pursue a second lifelong creative passion: winemaking. Rodney Strong Vineyards was the 13th winery bonded in the newly discovered Sonoma County wine industry. A trio of winemaking paths crossed when Rick Sayre joined the team as Winemaker in 1979, and again when the Klein Family, 4th generation California farmers, purchased the winery in 1989 and initiated a renewed commitment of modern artisan winemaking. Through the years, Rodney Strong Vineyards has earned the reputation for critically acclaimed Single Vineyard and Reserve wines, stand out Estate releases and best-in-class Sonoma County varietal wines.

 

The evening began with a Passed Hors D’Oeuvre:

Chilled English Pea Puree
Crispy “Heritage Farms” Bacon Crumble
2012 Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County

Wine tasting notes:

Light, crisp, and highly aromatic, the warmer climate Alexander Valley fruit gives this wine ripe peach, tangerine, and pineapple character,while the ocean cooled Russian River Valley fruit offers citrus, lemon grass, and slightly herbaceous qualities.

I adored this soup.  And I was really surprised that Big Guy loved it, too.  The soup was crowned with a drizzle of olive oil and bacon that gave the peas a little more heartiness.

First course:

Delta Asparagus Salad
Crisped Bacon, White Truffle Aioli
2012 Estate Chardonnay, Chalk Hill

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Wine tasting notes:

Encouraging malolactic fermentation added additional character, and in the glass the wine is both creamy and crisp, with abundant fruit character, mineral, and toasty oak.

Another one of my favorite plates courses.  While the wine wasn’t necessarily my favorite, I understood the pairing.  The best part of this plate:  the white aioli.  Holy deliciousness.  I want that sauce with a plate of fries.  Please and thank you.

Second course:

Thumbelina Carrot and Maine Lobster Risotto
Arborio Rice, Fontina Val D’Asta, Fine herbs
2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

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Wine tasting notes:

Soft and silky, with intriguing rose petal and crushed pomegranate aromas, this medium bodied wine was aged for 10 months in small French oak barrels, which added a hint of toasty vanilla and spice complexity.

Creamy, delicious risotto.  The arborio rice was cooked to perfection.  The flavors were out of this world.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had a risotto quite like this.  And the wine was one of my favorites.

Quite possibly my favorite course of the evening.

Third Course:

Boneless Rack of Domestic Lamb
Great Northern Bean Puree, Fennel Compote, Oven Dried Tomato, Nicoise Olive Bordelaise
2011 Symmetry Meritage, Alexander Valley

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Wine tasting notes:

The 2010 Symmetry greets you with an opulent bouquet of blackberries, cassis and sweet spices which unfold on the palate with layers of black fruits, dark chocolate and spice.

The lamb was cooked perfectly.  I loved the addition of the fennel to this plate.  The sauce was decadent and paired perfectly with the wine.

Dessert:

Hillsborough Creamery’s “Sweet Ash”
Candied Pecans, Fig Jam, Port Reduction
2010 Alexander’s Crown Cabernet, Alexander’s Crown

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Wine Tasting Notes:

The Crown expresses Cabernet in an almost Bordeaux-like style, with ripe flavors centered on red fruit, soft tannins, and balanced acidity.

Pecans, fig and port – three of my favorite flavors.  I’ve had the opportunity to try this cheese several times and every single time it’s an experience.  The flavor is simply incredible.  The chef took a risk and paired a Deviled Quail egg with this course.  The egg was originally planned to go with the asparagus salad.  I applaud the Chef for making such a bold move but I think I would have preferred it with the salad course.  This particular wine was the most expensive of the night and worthy of a special occasion.

I cannot say enough things about this brilliant menu.  Every course made sense with the wine pairing.