Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber-and-Tomato Salad

Tahini is an ingredient in my pantry that goes unused for weeks yet it’s such a fantastic addition to your arsenal of ingredients.  In this recipe, tahini not only adds flavor to the chicken but it keeps the chicken incredibly tender and allows the chicken to have the most beautiful grill marks from the grill.  If you’re unsure of what tahini is, the best way to describe it is the same way peanuts become peanut butter – sesame seeds become tahini.

The chicken can be marinated for up to overnight (or as little as 8 hours) so I prepped this the evening before we would be eating this particular dinner.  The marinade is a mixture of tahini (that is well stirred), parsley, olive oil, water, rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice, crushed red pepper, garlic and grated shallot.  Before adding the chicken, reserve some of the marinade that will be used as a sauce when serving.

While Big Guy grilled the chicken, I prepped the rice and cucumber-tomato salad.  The salad is insanely easy to throw together.  Simple mix together chopped cucumber, chopped tomato and chopped parsley with lemon juice, olive oil and salt.

Serve the grilled chicken over a bed of rice and a size of salad with a little more of the tahini marinade on top.

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The chicken cuts like butter and does not have an overwhelming sesame flavor.  So many fresh flavors on the plate while be filling and healthy.  This is a must-try recipe if you’re in a chicken-rut.

OH, and if you don’t have tahini in your pantry – I recommend going to Trader Joe’s if possible – incredibly affordable and excellent flavor.

Honey Garlic Butter Shrimp with Coconut Rice, Fried Plantains and Avocado

There are no words for how delicious this dinner was on Sunday evening.  It’s insane how much flavor is packed in one bowl of food.

At the beach I picked up a pound of our favorite shrimp that we then marinated in a mixture of olive oil, honey, garlic, ginger, jalapeño (I used one), cumin and cilantro.  We let our marinate for a few hours but you can let it rest from 30 minutes to 24 hours.  The coconut rice is a must!  Jasmine rice is cooked in coconut milk instead of water for the creamiest and richest rice that has the slightest hint of coconut flavor.  Don’t skip this step!  I added a pinch of salt once the rice was cooked.  The plantains are also something you cannot skip.  I repeat, do NOT skip the plantains.  Plantains can be found in most grocery stores – in fact, I picked mine up at Walmart.  Yellow plantains are best for frying – a little sweeter than the green/less rice plantains.  The plantains are fried for 1 to 2 minutes on each side and then sprinkle with flaky salt as soon as they come out of the hot oil.

The shrimp take such a short amount of time to cook – so do this last!  Melt a small amount of butter in a pan and then sauté the shrimp until almost cooked through.  Add in the butter and allow it to melt and simmer with the shrimp until browned – but NOT burnt.  Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut milk.

Serve the shrimp by spooning the rice into the bowl and then top with the tantalizing shrimp, crispy plantains and creamy avocado.  Give the whole bowl a pop of freshness with a sprinkle of fresh basil.

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I promise you’ll love this dish.  So many flavors.  So many textures.

And despite saying I have no words for this dish, I just wrote 315.

Balsamic Roasted Veggie and White Bean Pasta

Yesterday I shared an indulgent dinner and today I share a recipe that is LOADED with veggies.  In fact, you’ll feel good eating this dinner and serving it to your family.

Dinner starts by roasted all of the vegetables including broccoli, sliced mushrooms, red bell pepper, zucchini, squash, cherry tomatoes and red onion.

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The veggies were tossed with a mixture of balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, dried herbs, garlic, salt and EVOO before roasting at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.  While the veggies were cooking I went ahead and brought my pasta water to a boil so that it was ready when I needed it.  No one has time to watch a pot of water come to a boil.  I also prepped a batch of skinny pesto.

When the veggies were almost done cooking, I tossed the pasta into the boiling water and let it cook until al dente (about 9 minutes for gluten-free pasta).

As soon as the pasta was perfectly cooked, it was drained and then mixed with the white beans, pesto and parmesan before adding all the yummy veggies.

To serve, I sprinkled a little bit of crushed red pepper flakes over my portion.

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Another successful dinner loaded with veggies from the garden.

Not only is this a great dinner option but it’s perfect to make ahead and have for quick lunches throughout the week.  The portion size is large and the recipe makes a TON of food.

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Skillet Nacho Dip

Our third and final dinner utilizing the caramelized onion burgers I made over the weekend.  I can honestly say that all three dinners have been extremely different in flavors and textures and presentation.  I also think it was helpful to spread out the meals, allowing for a day of leftovers here and there.

This dinner came together SO fast – I’m talking under 20 minutes.  Diced red onion and jalapeño are sautéed in a little bit of EVOO before adding in the spices:  cumin and chili powder along with a thickening agent (I used cornstarch, recipe called for flour).  Stock is added and allow the mixture to bubble and thicken before adding in pinto beans (you honestly could use any bean here – black would be great) and the chopped burgers.  Add in some of the cheese and mix before adding more cheese on top and broiling until melted.  Before serving, top the skillet dip with diced tomato and avocado.  Serve with tortilla chips.

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I loved how I felt like I was eating a “cheat” meal – we usually doing eat nachos during the week.

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So dippin’ good.

Thai Beef Salad

I present to you another edition of “Cook Once, Eat 3 Times.”  Cooking Light has been printing this monthly feature in their magazine for a while now and I absolutely love the concept.  The first night you spend a little more time in the kitchen and then the second and third meals come together a little faster because you utilize a major ingredient from the first night.

On Saturday night we made Smoky Caramelized Onion Burgers (they were DELICIOUS but my pictures turned out incredibly dark) and I’ve been using the four leftover patties all week in our other meals.  On Monday night the burgers were crumbled and transformed into a Thai Beef Salad that was so unique and I honestly felt like I was eating a completely different meal – not just a burger crumbled up.

To make the dressing, whisk together lime juice, light brown sugar, fish sauce and Sriracha.  This dressing is used to flavor the meat as well as dress the greens when a little EVOO is added.  Like I said, crumble the burgers and sauté in a little but of EVOO until crispy and warmed.  Then add in some of the dressing and allow the liquid to be absorbed.  I made a few changes to the recipe and used romaine lettuce instead of cabbage and I used red onions instead of green onions.  The greens are tossed in the remaining dressing along with steamed haricot verts (French green beans).  Top the greens with the crumbled beef and peanuts for some extra crunch and nuttiness.

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Big Guy and I both loved the flavors in this salad.  Completely different than the burgers. So refreshing and you guys know I love a meal with a huge portion size.

Tomorrow I’ll show you how I used up the last two patties…it might just be my favorite.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Nectarine Dressing

Good morning, friends!  First of all, we are SO excited to be adding a little one to our family in early 2018 (due date is February 5) and we’re also terrified.  I think that’s normal.  Secondly, this blog is not going to turn into all things “baby.”  Instead, it’ll be a  lot of the same stuff with baby stuff sprinkled in when appropriate.  Thankfully, my tastebuds haven’t failed me and I really haven’t had any aversions (just one incident with salmon) and I’ve been able to cook as normal.  Since next Monday will mark the beginning of my second trimester, I’ll give you a full recap of how I’ve been feeling then (promise there won’t be any belly pictures found here).  So until then, it will be blogging as normal!

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Tomatoes are at their peak right now.  They are gorgeous and juicy and delicious.  We had dinner with friends on Sunday night and I wanted to make a salad to go along with our pasta main dish.  And while I could have simply used the roma tomatoes and grape tomatoes from our garden, I couldn’t pass up a beautiful heirloom tomato at Whole Foods.  It was HUGE.  And so pretty.  The salad was a simple toss of sliced tomatoes, sliced english cucumbers and slivers of red onion.  The dressing added a punch of flavor and sweetness and really made this salad something different.  The nectarine dressing consisted of red wine vinegar, fresh thyme, a little sugar and EVOO.  Right before serving, I mixed in one diced nectarine and poured over the salad.  And for a final touch, a sprinkle of basil confetti.

I am obsessed with the flavors of this salad.  So summery.

Pesto Caprese Pizza

I love pizza.  And with our garden producing lots and lots of beautiful basil and tomatoes, there’s no better time to make a caprese pizza.  

This caprese pizza is a little different because you make a basil vinaigrette (verrrry similar to the cilantro one I made for the salad) that serves as the sauce/base for the pizza.  I should also add that the basil vinaigrette is one of Gaby’s most popular recipes and can be used in SO many different ways.

The basil vinaigrette is made by whirling together a shallot, lots of fresh basil, garlic, red pepper flakes, EVOO, red wine vinegar and salt.  This can be made in advance and keeps for about a week in the fridge.

We made are favorite dough and then pre-baked it for about 10 minutes before adding the toppings.

Toppings include a generous slather of the basil vinaigrette, lots and lots of shredded mozzarella (always use fresh!) and halved cherry tomatoes.  I also shook things up a bit and added a little bit of goat cheese for a little tang.  Totally optional – I simply had some and wanted to use it.  Bake until the crust is brown and cooked through and the cheese is melted.  Finish with a sprinkle of fresh basil.

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Like I said, I love pizza.  And I think you’ll love this one, too.