Thai-Style Chicken Legs

Thai-Style Chicken Legs is a fantastic summer recipe. Flavored with cilantro, garlic and fish sauce, and then cooked on a grill, this is one of the dinners that I look forward to when the weather gets warm and sunny. Cilantro looks great in the grocery store this time of year, too. It can be sort of hit and miss in the fall and winter. Since this recipe only calls for one quarter cup of chopped cilantro, it also works well in a “week of cilantro,” in which I plan multiple recipes in one week that call for cilantro in order to waste less of it. Searching this blog for the term “cilantro” will give you a selection of recipes to consider when menu planning.

If you don’t have a grill, or simply don’t want to go to the trouble of using your grill, you can also bake this in your oven, although I will say the grilled flavor adds something special to the final product. The blogger who wrote this recipe recommends serving the chicken with her mango slaw, which we’ve tried and is tasty, but grilled corn on the cob is nice too, and a bit simpler.

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Khao Man Gai

Khao Man Gai is something that I was first exposed to eating at a food cart downtown. The dish is a simple poached chicken with rice but it’s the sauce that makes it. Typical of Thai food, the sauce is a little bit sweet, a little bit salty, with a zing from fresh ginger and bird’s eye chilies. With this recipe, my ability to eat this dish is not limited to my ability to get downtown for lunch during the week, a rare occurence. Even so, this is a weekend dish, but the fact that the sauce really does freeze well makes things a bit easier to accomplish. In addition, after poaching the chicken, a light chicken broth is left behind. We always save this in the freezer as well. While it doesn’t have as much body as our regular homemade chicken stock, it can be used in many recipes in place of water and in turn add much more flavor.

Grilled Jerk Chicken

Grilled Jerk Chicken is a recent addition to our repertoire, but I think it is worth posting. Normally, I exercise what I call the “Third Time’s a Charm” rule. What this means is that sometimes we will enjoy a recipe the first time we make it, but the second or third time we’ll change our minds and decide it’s actually underwhelming and not worth continuing to hold on to. If a recipe can get past the third try, it has a tendency to stick for years.

Nevertheless, we have been looking for a good, basic jerk recipe for years and haven’t been able to find one until now, and I’m happy to share it. Many recipes that we have tried included too many dried spices that ultimately tasted gritty on the tongue. We tried this one recently for a barbecue and it was definitely a hit. The taste is fresh with a bit of spice on the end, but not too much. How much spice you get can easily be controlled by how many scotch bonnet or habanero peppers you use. We used orange habaneros because I rarely see scotch bonnets here. We followed the recipe exactly and threw the habaneros, whole, into the blender with everything else.

The original recipe calls for chicken breasts, but we used wings, legs and thighs instead. We also have not tried the accompanying watermelon salsa. We weren’t sure if the Coleman’s mustard called for meant the dried or the prepared, but all we could find was the dried so we used that. It seems to have worked.

Turkey Meatloaf

Turkey Meatloaf is my husband’s invention. It includes grated veggies in the loaf that help to combat the dryness that sometimes accompany dishes made with turkey. If, like me, you use a food processor to grate the veggies, you will find that some larger pieces of veggie will find their way into the mix. I used to take these and mince them up, but I experimented with the large pieces and found that the occasional larger piece of potato or zucchini in the loaf actually provides a nice textural contrast. Now, I just toss them in with the perfectly grated veggies. I have also grated the veggies by hand when I didn’t feel like washing the food processor, and that works too; it just takes a bit longer.

The type of veggies used is fairly flexible. Depending on what you have, you can use extra zucchini and leave out the carrots, or use extra carrots instead of the bell pepper. A bit of celery might also be nice. I think the only thing I wouldn’t consider taking out would be the onion. Overall, you want to try to keep the ratio of meat to veggies consistent, or the resulting loaf will either be too dry, or it won’t hold together like a proper meatloaf should.

As the recipe stands now, it calls for two packages of McCormick meatloaf seasoning. Sometime in the future, we hope to create a spice mix that will mimic the taste of the packaged meatloaf seasoning. For now however, we use the spice mix.

Over time, grocery store packages of ground turkey have changed. I used to only be able to get ground turkey in 1 1/4 pound packages, but now they all seem to be exactly 1 pound. I’ve made this recipe with both 2 1/2 pounds and with exactly 2 pounds, and it doesn’t affect the result significantly, either way. Use what you have available to you.

Turkey Meatloaf — Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

1 sweet bell pepper, sliced away from stem, ribs and seeds removed
1 1/2 large carrots, peeled, ends cut off
1/2 small yellow onion, peeled, ends cut off
1 russet potato, peeled
1 small zucchini, ends cut off
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp salt (for vegetables)
1 1/2 tsp salt (for meatloaf)
2 lbs. ground turkey
2 packets McCormick meatloaf seasoning
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 C bread crumbs
1 C oats
3/4 C ketchup + more for topping

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Chop veggies into pieces that will fit in the mouth of a food processor, then grate. In a large saute’ pan coated with the vegetable oil, combine the grated veggies with the first teaspoon of salt. Cook down until the veggies are limp and most of the water has cooked out of them. (When it’s ready, the mixture will start to stick, and what sticks will begin browning) Turn into a bowl and set aside to cool. When the veggies are cool enough to handle with bare hands, add the ground turkey. Mix in meatloaf seasoning, the second 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, eggs, the 3/4 cup of ketchup, bread crumbs and oats until completely incorporated. Turn out into two loaf pans. If you don’t plan to eat both loaves immediately, use a disposable aluminum foil loaf pan for one loaf, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and foil, and freeze.

Top the loaf with additional ketchup and then bake at 375 degrees for one hour.

Spectacular served with mashed potatoes and corn!

Avocado Mango Chicken

Avocado Mango Chicken is a recipe that doesn’t seem like it should work. With Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce in the marinade, you wouldn’t think that it would go well with an avocado mango salsa, but it is delicious. Rather than serving a corn tortilla on the side, like the recipe suggests, I like to serve the cooked chicken chopped, on the tortillas like tacos, with the salsa on top. We use slightly more salt than is called for, but otherwise we do this as written. I also like to use just the salsa by itself on No Waste Tacos de Carnitas. Unfortunately, the salsa doesn’t keep well, so we try not to make more than we think we can consume in a single meal.

Introducing an avocado into any meal can make meal planning challenging, since the avocado has a fairly narrow window of perfect eating. One trick we have learned, is that uncut avocados can be placed in the refrigerator when they are ready to eat. This will slow the ripening process and give you a couple more days’ worth of potential perfect eating. When you buy groceries exactly once a week like I do, this is a bonus. I can grocery shop on Sunday or Monday and I can still plan this recipe on a Friday and not have to worry that the avocado will be brown and yucky by the time I need it.

Chicken and Bean Stuffed Burritos

Chicken and Bean Stuffed Burritos originally had black beans in the title, but since as a family we’re not crazy about black beans, we use pinto beans instead. Either way, this simple recipe is a handy one to have around. It uses “rotisserie chicken breast,” which at my house just means leftover roast chicken. I have one child who doesn’t like beans, but because the beans are added separately from the chicken, it’s easy enough to leave them off. The method, finishing the assembled burritos in a large skillet, with another skillet on top, takes practice. It’s easy to burn the burritos so you have to watch them carefully. Once you have mastered the technique, however, it works for any kind of burrito you want, producing a crispy outside crust reminiscent of fast-food deep-fried burritos, just homemade. The recipe says it makes just four burritos, but with the size of flour tortillas we buy, and my desire for them to fold up neatly, we consistently get eight.

Sunny’s Double-Decker Blackened Honey Chicken

Sunny’s Double-Decker Blackened Honey Chicken is supposed to be cooked on a grill underneath a pan of Accordion Sweet Potatoes. The sweet potato recipe is dairy-heavy and I really prefer my sweet potatoes unadulterated anyway, so all I really wanted was the chicken. To account for the weight difference between an empty cast iron skillet and one full of sweet potatoes, I added a second, slightly smaller, cast iron skillet on top. The chicken turned out surprisingly juicy and flavorful. We tried this recipe for the first time last summer, and by the end of the summer we had already repeated it several times. We have never drizzled it with honey at the end. We just forgot the first time, and after that, decided it really didn’t need it. I bet it’s good, though.