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Thai Peanut Chicken Wraps

September 4, 2019

You know when you’ve had something delicious, and it was in a specific time and place that you won’t ever get to visit again, but the memory of it just kind of haunts you?

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can recreate it at home. It’s crazy, but this post is brought to you by a craving that has lasted for over fifteen years. 

Yes I realize that makes me sound old, but let’s just focus on the fact that the flavors of this Thai Peanut Chicken Wrap are that good, shall we?

Long ago when I was a young, spritely twenty something, I worked in Boston at a mutual fund company (where I met my husband, so they were wonderful years). I used to run out to lunch and grab wraps from this amazing wrap place because they were so quick and so good. They had a ton of different kinds of wraps but I kept returning for their warm, tangy, salty, comforting Thai Peanut Chicken Wrap because the flavors from the peanut sauce were amazing, the crunchy veggies the perfect counter to the soft rice and chicken, and everything was so warm.  Warm rice, warm wrap and warm chicken all succeeded in making my belly very full and happy.  So when I was trying to think of new dinner ideas that could produce the same feeling in my kids, I knew I had to try to recreate this wrap.

I love to make food that is driven by cravings…they can lead you to some very good places. Like this Thai Peanut Satay Sauce.

I have tried to make a good peanut sauce many times before, but I could never get it to be as good as my memory of this wrap. So I kept researching and fiddling and finally…I discovered two game changers. The first is to start with coconut milk. It makes it so thick and creamy and the perfect consistency. The second is white vinegar. SO many recipes for satay sauce use rice wine vinegar but I found a food blog by a woman whose mother hailed from Thailand and sounded like a wonderful cook, and she swore that you should only use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar in your sauce. I actually taste tested this with my big kids and she is SO right. (Can’t re-find her blog either or I would share!)

This sauce actually comes together very fast, and most of these are already in your pantry. Some of the flavor notes like lemongrass and chili I’m listing as optional because if you have coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, and ginger, lime and white wine vinegar, you’re going to get something approximating this crave worthy sauce. And then you need to make buckets of it and put it on everything. Noodles, rice, chicken, pizza crust, whatever you prefer.

If you were super smart and made the sauce on a weekend, then your weeknight dinner prep looks like: shred rotisserie chicken and toss it in a pan with some of the sauce to your desired thickness (I would say about 1.5-2 cups per chicken), slice some veggies…

and throw some rice in the rice cooker. I’m not going to lie, jasmine rice is delicious here. But when I had the leftovers for lunch I used the more virtuous brown rice and it was delicious too.

If you don’t have a rice cooker, this recipe (along with literally thousands of others) will make it worth your while. I love it for the use of the steamer tray on top which is completely helpful in steaming broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc. But for these wraps I used it for getting the wrap nice and hot. I just put it in and shut the lid after the rice was done for about 1-2  minutes. You can also microwave it in a moist paper towel for 30 seconds too, which I did the next day.

Then you try to build the wrap with rice straight from the rice cooker, still steamy.

The dense packing of the rice is pretty important, so make sure when you wrap it you fold it over and secure all the fillings with one hand and then fold in the ends and roll.

If for any reason you wait to eat this trust me and microwave it for 30 seconds as it is best to eat it pipping hot. You can also wrap it in foil to stay warm if needed.

My kids LOVED this dinner. As did my husband. It is definitely a keeper and I’m so glad to have it in back in my life again. It’s kind of like meeting an old friend again after a long time. Also, how cute is she? She’s basically a dream 11-year-old. I’m glad she gets to know about this wrap young.

Thai Peanut Chicken Wraps

For the sauce:

1 can coconut milk

3/4 cup peanut butter (natural is the best)

3 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated

1 inch piece of ginger, finely minced or grated

4 T. soy sauce

juice of 1 lime

2 T. sweet chili sauce, optional

2 T. lemon grass puree (or let 4 1-inch pieces simmer in the sauce), optional

1/4 c. white vinegar (apple cider vinegar works fine too)

For the filling:

2 cups cooked rice (jasmine is best, brown works too)

1 rotisserie chicken, shredded (about 3 cups)

2 cups peanut sauce

red pepper, thinly sliced

shredded carrots

scallions, sliced

cilantro and lime, if desired

Directions:

While rice cooks in rice cooker, heat 2 cups peanut sauce with shredded chicken. When rice is done, warm wraps in top of rice cooker or microwave in a wet paper towel for 30 seconds. Then quickly build wrap with rice, sauced chicken, veggies, and more sauce if desired. Wrap and serve immediately. If needed, you can make wraps ahead and wrap them in tin foil and keep them warm in the oven at 200 degrees.

 

Greek Panzanella + Notes from a Lake Kitchen

July 27, 2019

We’re spending a month by the lake in our new (to us) camp about an hour north of Portland, Maine, near Sunday River and it has made me think a lot about food. We’ve had the house since January, but then it felt more like a ski house kitchen, and I had crock pots of short ribs and spaghetti and meatballs on heavy rotation. This summer we’re here for a whole month because our kitchen and floors are getting redone after we had a leak (and why this blog is so silent lately!). It definitely feels like the longest vacation we’ve ever had, which has been lovely and the days are passing like caramel melts in your mouth, sweet and slow.

I wasn’t sure this would be the case. A summer version of The Shining did cross my mind when I was packing my six kids to come up here. But walks by the lake every morning, swimming and reading every afternoon have given us such great family time and enough structure without any stress which feels…amazing. As Winnie the Pooh says in the recent Christopher Robin movie, “doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” And of course he is right.

When you’re on vacation, you want to eat delicious food but don’t want to clean up. Going out to eat is how many people resolve this but going out to eat with the twins gives me indigestion and makes me want to take a nap immediately, so we avoid it.

At home we rely on our pizza delivery place, but here they a) don’t deliver and b) don’t always know what the difference is between 30 minutes and 75.  So we’ve been making our own. It’s swayed us mightily since they are always easy and good. I’m somewhat obsessed with the margherita pizza we’ve been making and I don’t see that obsession going away anytime soon, though sautéed Brussels sprouts with pancetta is a close second.

For breakfast I’ve been living off of avocado toasts (the twins love it) and my favorite mushroom and goat cheese fritatta.

For dinners I wanted to try out a few new recipes and promptly realized why a stocked pantry is so necessary to cooking. Buying all the asian condiments like hoisin sauce and fish sauce and rice wine vinegar will add to your bill considerably. And may make you wish you did in fact go out to eat. But still this 30 minute Asian beef bowl – which was born from my 13-year olds craving a dish he had had on vacation one time – was worth all the condiments, and it was really good with some broccoli and red peppers sautéed with soy sauce and sesame oil drizzled on it. And this thai chicken flatbread pizza was so good too.

It’s the rhythms of food that always appeal to me, and that stands out so much here. Chopping an onion, mixing a vinaigrette, turning yesterdays meal of roast chicken or grilled veggies into something delicious. Forming these little rituals that will become ways to connect us to our time here through the years. And that’s what seasonal eating is, just relishing the present moment with all its delights. When our neighbor, Bobbie, who has a camp right next to us invited me over for a visit, she offered me some raspberry pie with her fresh raspberries picked from her patch at home. It was like summer sunshine exploded in your mouth. And another friend and her mom were here for a visit and she made raspberry jam that we’ve been spreading on toast. It’s making me want to go home and plant as many raspberry bushes as I can fit into our yard.

I love finding treasures offered up by the local food stores. The road to the ski mountain Sunday River is loaded with wonderful markets and organic offerings, and I found Miso and fresh greens and the best rosé in a can which fits perfectly into the stroller cup holders. I also found great asiago bread at the store in town and toasted it’s delicious – it’s a lot like the cheese bread we get in Pemaquid, Maine. They also have great ciabatta bread and another bakery sells pain au chocolat too. These are the beginnings of our food memories here, and they’re making me so happy.

I turned the leftover bread into panzanella salad this week and decided to make it a greek version – I have a long standing love of Greek salad and could eat it for lunch every day so I always have the makings on hand.

And I don’t know about you but I can’t get enough cucumbers and tomatoes in the summer, preferably with some kind of vinegar.

So much goodness in one bowl. I love the briney olives with the creamy salty feta and chewy bread that’s absorbed all the vinegar.

 

In short, eating on vacation in July is the essence of simple. And the best part is all the walking and swimming and playing in the sun keeps you feeling great.

Next week I’ll be back in my newly refurbished kitchen and taking all the inspiration from this month with me. Stop back here if you want to see what it looks like!

Well, I just heard a splash that means the kids are swimming and I think I’ll go join them. They made up a new game that involves racing off the dock, and that’s pretty much what we dreamed of when we bought this place.

Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Greek Panzanella Salad

Ingredients

1 small French bread or ciabatta loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large shallot, diced or 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

8-10 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup Greek olives (or more if you love them like me)

8 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

For the vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons Red wine vinegar

1/2 t. dried oregano

1/4 cup good olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Make the vinaigrette, then mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and pour vinaigrette over them. Toss to coat, and enjoy!

Chicken, Bacon, Spinach and Tomato Pasta Bake

May 17, 2019

You guys, it’s been a while since we had a casserole here on THO. But I have a friend who just had a baby girl (hi Meaghan!). When I thought about what meal I could bring her I was bored with every casserole I had made before.

Enter this Chicken BLT one.

I’ve been on a BLT kick ever since I ordered one at Panera a few weeks ago. So simple! So delicious! My daughter even asked me if I had bought a large package of bacon or something because I had been cooking with it a lot. Does bacon come in bulk? If so, sign me up.

We all loved this dinner, it’s comfort food and it freezes and travels well, so it makes a great dish to share. Like most casseroles there are a few steps, but you could bake it in the same pot as the pasta is cooked in and you stir it all together if you wanted to.

The thing that makes this SO delicious is I cooked the tomatoes and the spinach in the bacon grease so it would take on the bacon flavor. I got the idea from a pasta dish at the Mother’s Day brunch we went to, where I bit into a cherry tomato and was like, that tastes like bacon! Wait, it’s been cooked in bacon grease!  This had to be duplicated. And voila! It works perfectly here. I love when greens are cooked in flavor too.

I didn’t use bacon grease for the roux as I thought it would make the dish too heavy. Instead in the same pan as I cooked the diced chicken (to save time though you could use rotisserie or bake the chicken in the oven and then dice it) I made a roux with butter, onions and chicken stock and just a little cream and parm to make it delicious.

Then I poured it over the pasta to combine it. It’s important to let the sauce coat the pasta first and then add the tomatoes, spinach and bacon so you don’t burst the tomatoes or crumble the bacon too much.

Then you toss it all together and add this delicious parm and panko topping that really mimics the toast in a BLT.

Drizzle the top with a little olive oil so it turns brown in the oven (channeling my inner Giada here since she does this topping for every casserole she makes).

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until the panko turns golden, and then when you remove it, add another little crumble of bacon because why not?

True story, when I was taking these photos, I was getting my kindergartener ready to go to LaCrosse practice, and I took a few bites from this plate. It was so ridiculously good that the whole time we were at practice I was counting the minutes until we could go home and have this for dinner. (I finished reading My Brilliant Best Friend to keep my mind off of it thankfully).

Here’s to new babies, comfort food, and good books!  Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Chicken, Bacon, Spinach and Tomato Pasta Bake

Ingredients:

1 pound penne pasta

1 pound of bacon

2 c. cherry tomatoes

4 c. packed fresh spinach

1 Tbsp. olive oil

3 chicken breasts, diced (or meat from 1 rotisserie chicken)

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 onion, diced

4 Tbsp. of butter (½ a stick)

¼ cup flour

2 cups chicken stock

¼ cup cream

½ + ⅓ cup freshly grated parmesean

⅓ cup panko

Directions:

Cook pasta in salted water according to package, drain, and return to pot, drizzling with a little oil so it doesn’t stick. While it cooks, fry bacon (may need two pans or to work in batches if pan is too small). Once it’s cooked, remove and place on paper towel lined plate. Pour off all but 2 T. of the bacon fat. Add tomatoes and spinach to remaining bacon fat and cook on medium heat, tossing in pan instead of stirring so you don’t break tomatoes. Cook for 3-4 minutes until spinach is wilted and tomatoes are slightly blistered, taking care not to overcook. In another large pan, heat olive oil on medium high heat, then add diced chicken, salt and pepper. (If using precooked or rotisserie chicken you can skip this step). Cook until chicken is nicely brown, then remove from pan on a plate and set aside. In the same pan, melt 4 Tbsp. butter, and then add diced onions. Cook until onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Then whisk in flour for 1 minute. Then add chicken stock and whisk well. Then whisk in cream and ½ cup parmesan and mix until its melted into sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if needed. Pour this mixture over the pasta and stir to combine. Then add the cooked tomatoes, spinach and chicken. Seperate 3 strips of bacon, and cut up the rest and add to the pot. Gently combine all these ingredients so as not to break the tomatoes and then pour them into a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Combine panko and remaining ⅓ cup parmesan and sprinkle over the top, then drizzle with a little olive oil. Cook at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until panko is slightly browned. Remove and sprinkle with remaining 3 strips of bacon, cut up.

Panini Ideas + Giveaway!

November 1, 2018

Have you had a panini lately? No?

Let’s change that! How about I give one of you a Panini Press?

There is a reason why these are among the top street foods Italians eat – they’re easy, delicious, and versatile. Plus they are an amazing way to combine flavors. Some of my families favorites are:

Pear and Brie

There is something amazing about brie melted (think all those holiday puff pastry-wrapped circles of brie, with cranberry sauce or raspberry jam.) Here, the pear gets to shine as it’s sweetness mingles with the melty brie. So surprisingly good.

Strawberry + Nutella

This is my kids favorite combo! So simple, they are so excited when I make these for an after school snack.

Turkey, Apple, Cheddar and Bacon

The apple and cheddar alone are great but I love sliced turkey panini with gooey cheese. This one hits so many taste buds in your mouth – sweet from the apple, salty + smokey from the bacon, sharp from the cheddar. I was in Heaven after my first bite.

These are just a few of our favorites. But other ideas I love include:

// Prosciutto, Fig Jam and Blue Cheese or Brie

// Turkey + Pepper Jack with Chipotle Mayo, Lettuce + Tomato

//Chicken with Pesto Mayo, Mozzarella and Tomato

//Turkey with Smoked Gouda and Bacon

//Pulled Pork or Chicken with American Cheese

// Ham + Peach with Fontina Cheese and Dijon

//Turkey with Asiago, Artichokes, Arugala, Sun Dried Tomatoes

 

But you need a panini press to really get the end result that is warm and gooey on the inside, and crispy and buttery on the outside.

If you don’t have one (and don’t win this giveaway), you can use an indoor grill pan with another pan on top and something to weight it down (like soup cans) to press all the ingredients together. But a panini press makes it so easy!

To enter, just leave a comment below. You can enter twice by commenting on my new Instagram account for this blog and tagging a friend.

Hope you find some inspiration and even better some new kitchen hardware.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Eggplant Parm

October 5, 2018

I know that Eggplant Parm elicits strong feelings in some people. You either like it or you don’t. If you don’t like it, may I suggest checking out my Chicken Parm recipe? It’s similar in construction and my family loves it maybe a bit more than eggplant parm. Still, we try to eat a meatless meal once a week usually on Fridays and this is one I know they’ll eat.

I love eggplant parm – its such comfort food to me.

It is a great meatless meal, and I’m always astounded at how the eggplant takes the place of meat in terms of meatiness, or substance, in a dish.

This is really an assembly dish, and once you get the hang of it you can make it in 15 minutes. The one point of debate I’ve had with others is that they don’t like this dish if the eggplant gets too soggy. A really easy way to avoid this is to salt it before you start breading it. I lay all the slices in a colander with a big handful of kosher salt covering it. Then I put some weight on it to help extract the water.

My weight of choice was a heavy terra cotta planter (#reallife):

Once you’ve rinsed your eggplant from the salt, its time for the standard flour-eggwash-breading assembly line. Be sure to heat up your canola oil in a large fry pan before you start.

It might seem like a lot of work, but it goes very fast and really gives the dish its decadence.

Once you’ve fried all of the eggplant slices, you layer it in your baking dish, with a layer of sauce on the bottom.

And…that’s pretty much it. The hard work is over. Just pour the rest of the sauce on top and layer slices of mozzarella. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and browned.

Hope your family loves this dish as much as mine! (ps even the babies loved it!)

Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

 

Easy Eggplant Parm (printer version here): 

2 eggplants, sliced 1 inch thick

Kosher salt

½ cup flour

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup bread crumbs

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

¼ canola oil + more for frying

2 jars of good quality marinara sauce (we love Rao’s)

1 large package of sliced fresh mozzarella (enough to have 9 slices)

Directions:

Slice eggplant and lay in a colander in layers, generously salting eat layer to draw out water.

When each layer is sliced place a plastic plate or container on top and lay something heavy such as tin cans or a heavy bowl on top. This will help draw out more water. Wait 15 minutes, then rinse well.

 

While the eggplant is being salted, lay out three trays or plates.  Put the flour on one plate, the eggs on a second, and the breadcrumbs, parmesan, and a pinch of salt mixed together on a third.

Preheat oven to 350.

Warm up ¼ cup of Canola oil in a large frying pan on medium heat.

Working in an assembly line fashion, take a slice of eggplant, press it in the flour plate, then the egg plate, then the breadcrumbs/parm mixture. Then place into the hot oil. When the pan is filled, flip the eggplant rounds starting with the first one you put in the pan. It should look golden brown. If not, let it cook for a little longer. When both sides are golden, remove eggplant slices and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt while still warm.

Keep working until you’ve breaded and fried all of the eggplant slices.

In a large 9 x 13 inch pan, pour a thin layer of the marinara sauce to prevent the eggplant from sticking to the pan. Then layer in the fried eggplant in slices until dish is full. Then pour the rest of the marinara sauce on top. Lay slices of fresh mozzarella on top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until mozzarella is melted on top.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve over favorite cooked pasta.

 

Weekly Meal Plan 9/24

September 25, 2018

This week we celebrated our Anniversary! 14 Years of being on this journey with Rob and I am so grateful I get to do life with him.

But we are also celebrating cooler temps, and craving all the stews, soups and chilis. Making a lot of them this week which means plenty of great leftovers for lunches the next day.

Happy official start of Fall! xoxo Katie

 

Monday

Macaroni & Cheese Casserole with Broccoli and Chicken

This is an easy dinner to put together since we were going out. I just added Rotisserie Chicken and put the broccoli in the pasta to cook together for 4 minutes. Ground beef is great too. If you can’t find the box mix above you can use any mac & cheese mix your family likes, but this recipe looks great and only takes 20 minutes.

Tuesday

Chicken Stir Fry

Wednesday 

Sausage, Kale and Lentil Stew 

N.B. – This might be my favorite recipe on the whole food blog.

Thursday

Chicken Tamale Pie

Friday 

Pizza

Saturday

Instapot Beef Stew 

This is the fastest way to make beef stew, but its also the tastiest! Something about the Instapot infuses flavor and makes the beef so tender. You can also make this in the slow cooker if you don’t have an Instapot.

Sunday

Chili