General Tso’s Cauliflower

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Another Lenten dinner, another vegetarian take on Chinese takeout. I actually liked this a little better than the Kung Pao Chickpeas I shared few weeks ago for one reason – it’s a from scratch sauce. There is nothing that annoys me more than finding a bottled sauce you like only to have the company discontinue or change the recipe a few months later. Falling in love with a from-scratch sauce is easier. It will never desert you.

I’ve tried a few General Tso’s sauces before, but this one comes closest to the Chinese takeout we’re used to. I’ll definitely be trying this again with chicken at some point.

GeneralTsoCauliflower

General Tso’s Cauliflower
(from Bakeaholic Mama)
Serves 3

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 egg
1/3 cup corn starch
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
Oil for frying

2 1/2 tsp. minced ginger root
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. garlic chili sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. olive oil
White rice, for serving
Green onions, for garnish

In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 tsp. sesame oil, egg, 1/3 cup cornstarch and 3 Tbsp. soy sauce until well combined. Add the cauliflower florets and toss until thoroughly coated. Set aside to marinate for about 20 minutes.

After marinating, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet and add cauliflower. Fry cauliflower until evenly browned on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate pan, add the 1 Tbsp. sesame oil and olive oil. Over medium-high heat, sauté the garlic and ginger until fragrant, about a minute. Add in the vegetable stock, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch, chili garlic sauce and brown sugar. Cook until it comes to a low boil and has thickened.

Add the sauce to the cauliflower and toss to coat evenly. Serve over rice, topped with green onions.


Honey-Lime Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

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We’re two months into “real food” with Jake. So far he hates every green vegetable we’ve tried but will happily eat his weight in bananas, peaches and pears. It also means that Jake-friendly ingredients are making it into our menus more frequently. It’s a lot easier to cook up some sweet potatoes for him when I’m already prepping them for us – or mash up some avocado while I’m dicing it for dinner. Can you guess what he had for dinner the night we had these tacos?

These are pretty similar to the Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Burritos that I love. These ebb on the side of sweet instead of spicy (honey instead of jalapeno) so I think they’d be a little more kid-friendly. And adding fresh avocado and pico de gallo on top made them feel more fresh and almost summery. Definitely one of my favorite meatless meals this Lent!

SweetPotatoBlackBeanTacos

Honey-Lime Sweet Potato Tacos
(from Cooking Classy)
Serves 6

1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen yellow corn, thawed and drained
3 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Tortillas, for serving
Feta cheese, diced avocados, pico de gallo, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with 3 Tbsp. olive oil to coat evenly. Add in the spices and toss to coat. Spread out the sweet potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes, until tender, tossing halfway through.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes, until beginning to brown on the edges. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds, until fragrant. Reduce heat and add in black beans, corn, honey and lime juice. Heat until warmed through and add in sweet potatoes.

Serve in tortillas topped with feta, avocado and pico de gallo.


Steak Chili

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Friday is the official first day of spring and it’s actually starting to feel like spring here. This winter was pretty brutal with the below-freezing temperatures and ice storms, so I’m relishing the fact that most afternoons it’s warm enough for walking outside.

We are still getting a few cold days, though – my Mother-in-law texted a few days ago she was getting snow! – so I’ve been using them to cook a few more wintery dishes that I know I won’t want to make in a few weeks. (Bring on grilling weather!)

We usually make chili with ground beef, so the chunks of beef in this one were a nice change of pace. It packs a nice flavor punch for the minimal number of ingredients and is definitely something I’ll break out again next winter!

SteakChili

Steak Chili
(from Damn Delicious)
Serves 6

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. stew meat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Slat and pepper, to taste
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapenos, minced
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cups water
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese, for serving

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Season meat with salt and pepper and add tohot pot. Cook for about 2 minutes, turning so that all sides brown. Add in onion, garlic andjalapenos and cook 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add in the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, kidney beans and enough water so that everything is covered. Stir well to combine.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Serve topped with shredded cheese.


Chicken Piccata with Zoodles

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Every once in a while, we end up with a really healthy week of dinner plans. I don’t usually do it consciously – it seems that after a week of celebrating or heavy eating, I naturally go for something lighter. And, really healthy meals are always a bit of a gamble around here. Something drowning in cheese and butter? Sure to be a hit. Something naturally gluten free and heavy on the veggies? Maybe – or maybe not.

Luckily, this was a huge hit. Zoodles as a side dish were great and the chicken was super easy but super flavorful. I was really impressed on how quickly this meal came together – and how satisfying it  was.

ChickenPicattaZoodles

Chicken Piccata with Zoodles
(adapted slightly from Primal Palate)
Serves 2

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2″ thickness
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsps.. olive oil
1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. white wine
1 Tbsp. butter
2 zucchini, ends cut off and spiralized

Whisk together the almond flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl and add chicken, one at a time, turning until thoroughly coated.

Cut half of the lemon into slices and juice the other half.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.

Add garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in the chicken broth and lemon slices and cook several minutes, until the lemon gets soft. Add the capers, lemon juice and white wine and cook until it’s thickened a bit. Remove from heat and stir in butter until well combined. Pour into a bowl and cover with foil.

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil in the skillet. When shimmering, add zucchini noodles and cook a few minutes, tossing occasionally, until they’re al dente. Sprinkle cooked noodles with salt.

Serve the noodles topped with a chicken breast topped with the sauce.


5-Minute Pad Thai Fakeout

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Also known as: fancied up ramen, my favorite Lenten lunch.

I first tried this recipe when we were dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. She left us with a flooded basement and no power for a week. It was awesome. Since a fast majority of the stores and businesses were in the same boat, it was an exercise in working with what you had – and what we had was ramen. Since then, I keep the ingredients in my emergency stash – just in case. It’s a great one for that – not something I plan to make but something I can say, ah! I can whip that up instead of another grilled cheese!

I don’t think it’s technically vegetarian since it uses chicken-flavored ramen as the base, but since there’s no actual meat in it, it’s Lent-friendly.

PadThaiFakeout

5-Minute Pad Thai Fakeout
(from Martha Stewart)
Serves 1

1 pkg. chicken-flavored ramen with seasoning packet
2 Tbsp. chunky peanut butter
1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. sriracha
Green onions, sliced

Prepare noodles according to package directions. Drain most of the water off. Stir in peanut butter, soy sauce and sriracha until peanut butter is melted and everything is well combined. Top with sliced green onions and serve immediately.

 


Hawaiian Pork Burrito Bowls

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Seven months into motherhood and I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I can’t do everything. It been a lesson in “OR” lately.

You can spend time making dinner OR go visit the adorable new twins across the street OR get another load of laundry done.

You can make that nice stew that simmers all day OR go to the baby play date OR run errands at the mall.

It seems that more and more, I’m pushing dinner to the back burner so I’ve been trying to plan easier, more hands-off meals. This slow cooker meal was a huge win – healthy, flavorful and quickly prepped before my busy day got out of hand. It was so nice to plop on the couch for baby cuddles instead of starting dinner after running around!

HawaiiPorkBurritoBowls

Hawaiian Pork Burrito Bowls
(adapted from The Housewife in Training Files)
Serves 6

1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup pineapple juice
2 lbs. pork sirloin roast
6 cups of cooked rice
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
Pineapple, sliced into rings
Avocado, sliced

In the slow cooker, whisk together the first 11 ingredients (tomato sauce to pineapple juice). Add the pork and turn to coat. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Remove pork, shred and return to slow cooker, stirring to combine with the juices.

When the pork is just about done, heat a grill pan. Grill peppers and pineapple until peppers have char marks and the pineapple is starting to caramelize.

Serve pork in bowls with rice, peppers, pineapple and avocado.

 


Chickpea Puttanesca

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I think eggplant parmesan is the default vegetarian option for most American-style Italian meals. More often than not, that’s what you’ll find alongside trays of baked ziti and chicken parmesan at parties. So, when I start seeking out new meatless meals for the Lenten dinner series, I tend to avoid Italian-inspired searches. It’s not that I don’t love eggplant parmesan, I do, it’s just that it sort of feels overdone.

I was searching for something else entirely when I came across this recipe – and it made me realize how wrong I was to discount Italian options for this series. This was so, so good. Comfort food at it’s finest! And easy enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed making it after a busy week.

ChickpeaPuttenesca1

Chickpea Puttanesca
(slightly adapted from Mountain Momma Cooks)
Serves 4

1/2 cup polenta
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
2-3 Tbsp. half & half
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
2 Tbsp. drained capers
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried crushed basil
1/8 tsp. dried crushed red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans
Fresh basil, for serving

In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil and stir in polenta and salt. Return a boil then turn to low and let simmer for about 30 minutes. If it gets to thick, stir in an additional 1-2 Tbsp. water. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, butter and half & half.  Keep warm until serving time.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add in onions and cook about five minutes, until soft. Add the olives and capers and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, basil, red pepper flakes and salt and stir to combine thoroughly. Let simmer until slightly reduced, about 20 minutes. Stir in garbanzo beans and let heat through.

Serve sauce over polenta, topped with fresh basil.


Chicken Zoodle Lo Mein

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My mother-in-law gave me a veggie spiralizer for my birthday in June and up until now, it’s been sitting it the cabinet unused. Why? I knew spiralized veggies in place of spaghetti would be a hard sell at our dinner table. My husband grew up in a very Italian family and the man likes his pasta. To be honest, I wasn’t so sure about zucchini instead of spaghetti in a big, Italian meal either. But in a stir fry? That was something I could get on board with.

I’m not a complete zoodle convert. You’re not going to mistake them for noodles in this dish but they’re good in their own right. I thought this was a great, lighter meal – and my husband downed several bites before asking me where the noodles were, always a good sign! It’s probably a gateway dish for us – after this, I’ll definitely be trying more zoodle meals.

ZoodleLoMeinChicken

Chicken Zoodle Lo Mein
(slightly adapted from Skinnytaste)
Serves 2

1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1/2 Tbsp. rice wine
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
1 large boneless chicken breast, cut into thin, short strips
Salt, to taste
2 tsp. canola oil, divided
3/4 cup sliced bok choy
1/2 cup shredded carrots
3 scallions, sliced into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal
1/2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped

In a small bowl, whisk together the broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine and cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.

Spiralize the zucchini and cut into spaghetti-length strips.

Heat a skillet or wok on high heat. Add 1 tsp. oil. Season chicken with salt, add to the wok and stir-fry until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside.

Add remaining oil to the wok, followed by the bok choy, carrots, scallions, ginger and garlic Cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside with the chicken.

Pour the sauce mixture into the wok and cook for about a minute, until bubbling.  Add the zucchini and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken and vegetables to the wok and toss to combine. Serve immediately.


Black Bean Tacos with Avocado Cilantro-Lime Sauce

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You know how you have crutch dinners you make in a pinch? Like, oh no! I forgot to defrost the chicken! What am I going to do?! nights. This is one of our new crutch dinners. It uses things we usually have in the house and comes together in less than 15 minutes.

They are, undoubtedly, not the prettiest tacos ever but what they lack in looks they make up for in flavor and ease. And since you can make them in about the time it takes to get a pizza delivered, they’re a perfect option for busy Lenten Fridays.

BlackBeanTacos

Black Bean Tacos with Avocado Cilantro-Lime Sauce
(from The Garden Grazer)
Serves 4

1 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 tsp. cumin
Tortillas, for serving
Corn and Pico de Gallo, for serving, optional

1/2 ripe avocado
3/4 cup cilantro, stems removed
Juice from 1 lime
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. honey
1/8 tsp. salt

In a skillet, combine the black beans, salsa and cumin over medium heat. Warm, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Mash about half the beans and stir to combine.

While the beans are warming up. combine the avocado, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, olive oil, honey and salt in a food processor. Process until well-blended and mostly smooth.

Serve black beans on tortillas, topped with avocado cilantro-lime sauce and corn and Pico de Gallo, if desired.


Buffalo Chicken and Potato Casserole

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It seems that the colder it gets outside, the hotter my cooking gets. We’ve had more hot/spicy dinners in the last few weeks than we’ve had in probably the last six months  combined. Maybe I’m subliminally trying to combat the -2 degree weather with hot sauce?

Casseroles are such a comforting dinner on frigid nights. I roasted the potatoes for this during afternoon nap so come actual dinner prep time I only had to do some minimal assembly and pop it in the oven. It worked like a charm! And, warmed us up nicely.

BuffaloChickenCasserole

Buffalo Chicken and Potato Casserole
(adapted from Life Love Larson)
Serves 3-4

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large, bite-sized chunks
3-4 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. Frank’s buffalo sauce
1 cup cheddar, shredded
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 green onions, sliced
Ranch dressing, for serving.

Preheat the oven to 500F degrees and line a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and buffalo sauce. Toss the potatoes in the sauce. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking sheet, leaving behind as much sauce as possible. Roast, stirring every 10-15 minutes until cooked through and crispy on the outside, about 45 minutes. Remove potatoes and reduce oven temperature to 400F degrees.

Place the cooked potatoes in the bottom of a casserole dish (I used a 9×6″). Toss the chicken with the remaining sauce and place on top of the chicken. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Top with cheese, bacon crumbles and green onions and return to oven until the cheese is bubbly.

Serve with ranch dressing.