Rosemary Grilled Chicken Thighs with Cheese Grits and Spinach

Okay, so maybe I’ve let my titles go a bit.  They’re still informative though.  That’s important, right?  Right.

This weekend was full of good, practical things like titles that say exactly what they mean.  I’m not sure if cheese grits fall into that category, but they are certainly good.  And inexpensive.  So maybe they do count.  The cheese in this recipe ( Southern Living’s Rosemary Grilled Chicken Thighs with Cheese Grits and Spinach) definitely takes it off of the “super great diet food” list, but I’ll still stand by this choice.  It was easy to make, it had lots of flavor, and two out of the three main components are very healthy.  We split a giant container of fresh spinach between three people at one meal, and that’s no small accomplishment.  I think I went light on the cheese and butter, heavy on the spinach, and I used dried rosemary instead of fresh.  Have I mentioned how much we miss our infinite stash of fresh rosemary at our old house?  The first plant I’m buying in the spring is rosemary.

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photo from southernliving.com

We also had a little work party at our house this weekend.  After eating the grits, of course.  You must feed your free labor.  With that free labor and good conversation, we painted our downstairs guest bedroom and transformed it from a state of peachy stained grossness to clean grey-ish brown walls in one short day.  Now all I have to do is clean everything other than the walls and push furniture back to the right locations, which is sort of the fun part.  But how fun is it really to pick up dead bugs and vacuum?  I’ll close my eyes and think of England.  (Not the best cleaning technique in the world.)

Good luck as you navigate the world of Monday!

Kung Pao Chicken and a Question of Recipe Ethics

I’ve been mulling over an ethical question lately.  At what point have you transitioned from making minor adjustments to someone else’s recipe to being able to claim the recipe yourself?

I’m not trying to be sneaky and claim recipes for myself that really belong to others.  It’s just that I do often make several substitutions or changes to recipes.  When do those recipes become my own?  I’m not sure.

To be safe, I’ve been working under the assumption that none of them are mine at all, but I’m not entirely sure if that’s true.  Thoughts?

And now for the simple, tasty part of the post. I made Kung Pao Chicken last night from The New Way to Cook Light (also available here on the Cooking Light website).

photo by John Autry

photo by John Autry

I made surprisingly few alterations this time around, making my above moral dilemma a moot point for now.  I chose not to make rice to go with the recipe, which made it an incredibly healthy and inexpensive mix of meat and veggies.  We did miss the rice, however.  You need something to soak up all of the delicious sauce.

the unprofessional version--green peppers instead of red

the unprofessional version–green peppers instead of red, blurry section due to excellent-smelling steam

My only negative commentary for this recipe is that it doesn’t make awesome leftovers.  The veggies really need to be cooked just right (about 90 seconds less than I did), and microwaving them later is just enough to make them soggy and over-cooked.

With that minor word of caution, this recipe really is marvelous.  It was ready in less than 30 minutes, even for me (with unthawed chicken at the start of the half hour).  And it is incredibly flavorful and healthy.  It’s a definite win.  Oh, and it’s on the spicy end of my preferred spice spectrum.  Just a note.  Use less crushed red pepper if you’re not a fan of spicy dishes.

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fancy pepper insides

While I was chopping peppers for the recipe, I ran into this nice little swirly bit.  Scott and I briefly thought that it was a worm, but it wasn’t.  It was definitely part of the pepper.  How have I never seen anything like this in a pepper before?

Because Mondays Need Pizza

Yesterday included a job interview, today included a doctor’s appointment (no big deal, just not my favorite), and last night needed to include pizza.  I mean, it really needed pizza.  It needed cheese and comfort and celebration and carbs.

I’m trying to be healthy though, and we did have homemade pizza last week.  That meant coming up with something else for dinner last night.  Something else that fit into my three main recipe metrics for the night: 1) healthy, 2) cheap, 3) made me feel like pizza.

I’m pretty proud of what came out of my brainstorming, actually.  We had delicious stuffed sweet potatoes for dinner–stuffed with ground turkey (and spice and everything nice), black beans, homemade guacamole, green onions, and a tiny bit of Monterey Jack cheese.  And you know what?  It felt just like pizza.  It was bready and absolutely delicious.  It had lots of flavor, thanks to the guacamole, and I would eat it again tomorrow.

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not my potatoes… photo from alaskafromscratch.com

 

my potatoes... not as pretty, fully delicious

my potatoes… not as pretty, fully delicious

I didn’t use a recipe, so I made a recipe instead:

Ingredients

  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • whatever turkey spice you want to use: cayenne, cumin, and chili powder, for example
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 avocados (I used 1, but only because I didn’t have 2), mashed
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 of an onion, chopped, I used a small red onion
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • green onions, sliced
  • Monterey Jack cheese, although cheddar or a wide variety of other cheeses would work just as well

The Game Plan

Wrap your sweet potatoes individually in tin foil after washing them off and piercing them a few times with a fork.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  When it’s ready to go, pop the potatoes in and bake them for 45-50 minutes.

Heat a large skillet and cook the ground turkey until it’s cooked through, adding spices sometime during that process.  After the turkey is browned nicely, add the black beans.  Keep that mixture warm.

Mix up your guacamole.  You can add the ingredients to a small mixing bowl in any order–avocado, tomato, onion, lime (garlic would be a good addition, too).  Chop your green onions and set them aside.  Grate whatever cheese you want to throw on top.

Then you can just pile the innards as high as possible on the baked sweet potatoes.  I sliced the baked potatoes in half, opened them up, and added turkey/black beans, then cheese (so it would melt), guacamole, and green onions.  Order would be less important if it weren’t for the cheese melting thing.  And the visual appeal thing.  The guac and green onions were really pretty on top.

The beauty of this recipe is that you could add just about anything.  You could do turkey and frozen corn and different spices and cheese.  You could use ground beef or salsa or whatever you want to try.  You could make Italian stuffed sweet potatoes instead of Southwestern stuffed sweet potatoes.  The world is your oyster.

And let me remind you that yes, this completely satisfied my emotional need for pizza.  That’s a pretty big statement.

On the non-food front, our living room is still kind of like a construction zone, which is fine.  There are dishes to wash, clean laundry to fold, plants to water, and the world continues to turn.