Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bacon Bourbon BBQ Chicken

When I'm browsing through recipes pinned to Pinterest, I always stop when I see bacon in the title. That's where I found this one, and it led me to the blog Host the Toast.

I didn't fully read the recipe at first... I just drooled over the pictures and couldn't wait to taste this chicken. I finally put them on the menu a few weeks ago and that's when I read the recipe to make my shopping list.

I've used bacon in cooking a lot and sometimes it's used more as a garnish, sometimes I render the fat to give that smoky-bacon flavor, or sometimes it's a big part of the dish. This recipe uses bacon in a way I haven't before. You actually grind the raw bacon into a paste and use it as a rub on your chicken. Interesting, right??

I have to admit that while I was making this raw rub I was really not sure. I mean, it doesn't look that appetizing, but I kept on going. The rubbed chicken looked even less appetizing but trust me - just keep going. The bacon kind of melts in to the chicken on the grill and gives it the best flavor. Top that with the bourbon BBQ sauce and the chicken is perfectly sweet, salty and smoky.

Bacon Bourbon BBQ Chicken

  • 16 oz barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces (I used thighs and breasts)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 6 slices raw bacon, cut into small pieces
  • Added: 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Directions
    (slightly modified)

    • In a food processor, combine the kosher salt, white pepper, onion powder, paprika, garlic powder, dark brown sugar, smoked paprika, and bacon. Pulse until completely smooth. I had to add some oil slowly to get more of a paste consistency.
    • Put the chicken pieces on skewers (pre-soaked skewers if they are wooden) and then rub generously with the bacon mixture. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours in the fridge.
    • In a small bowl, combine the BBQ sauce and bourbon. Mix well.
    • Light the grill and heat to medium-high
    • Place the kebabs on the preheated grill. Cook for about 5 minutes per side, or until nearly cooked through.
    • Brush the kebabs with the bourbon barbecue sauce and cook for an additional minute on each side.
    • Serve with the remaining BBQ sauce.

    Friday, September 12, 2014

    Modernized Ramen Noodle Salad

    When I was younger (let's just say back in the 80s) it seemed like someone always brought a Ramen Noodle Salad to parties. I tried it a few times but was never really wowed by it. I mean, it's raw, cheap, crunchy ramen noodles mixed with some veggies and a sweet dressing. I wonder who first created this recipe and thought it was a good idea to mix these noodles with salad? Hmm, I wonder if it was an accident and the noodles fell in to the bowl. Now I'm really interested in tracing this recipe back to its origins! Does anyone know?

    I made the original Ramen Noodle Salad once about 10 years ago and failed miserably...  I can't believe I'm even admitting that. I mixed the dressing the night before I planned on taking it to a party which  made everything wilt horribly. I didn't even discover my mistake until 25 minutes before we were leaving for the party so I ended up having to pick up a dessert at the last minute so I wouldn't show up empty handed. At least I can blame it on the fact that I had no interest in cooking at all 10 years ago and luckily I now know better.

    Fast forward to 10 years later when I'm talking to Jon about what to make for dinner and he said "how about that Ramen noodle salad?" I guess he forgot that we never actually ate it, but for some reason he was craving it.

    I didn't feel like running back to the supermarket so decided to wing it using ingredients I already had on hand. I think the traditional recipe calls for Napa cabbage. I already had romaine lettuce so used that. I also added some veggies not in the traditional recipe, and I pulled together a dressing based on some things I have made in the past.

    The end result - a light, fresh salad with great texture from the crunchy veggies and noodles. I'll definitely make this modernized version again! I served it with grilled chicken that had been marinated in a soy/sesame/garlic/sriracha mixture.

    Modernized Ramen Noodle Salad
    • 1.5 heads romaine, chopped
    • 2 green onions, chopped
    • 1/2 red pepper
    • 1/2 green pepper
    • 1/4 cucumber
    • 1/2 c soybeans, cooked and chilled
    • 1 package crunchy ramen noodles, crumbled (not cooked)
     For the dressing
    • 2/3 c vegetable oil
    • 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
    • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
    • 2 tsp granulated sugar
    • Mix all ingredients for the dressing and chill. Shake well before serving.
    • Mix all of the veggies for the salad and chill.
    • Before serving mix in the noodles and toss with the dressing.

    Tuesday, September 9, 2014

    Italian Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

    It's September but we still have great tomatoes and zucchini. My mom found this recipe, brought over the ingredients that my dad picked up from a local roadside stand, and I made the recipe. I love local summer tomatoes and then add cheese to them and bake until hot and bubbly? Heavenly.
    Not only was this a great side for dinner, I heated it up the next morning and served it alongside scrambled eggs and loved it.
    Italian Zucchini and Tomato Gratin
    Adapted from: Gluten Free Mama
    • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
    • 2-3 large tomatoes (I love Jersey tomatoes!!), cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
    • 1 Tbsp Italian Herbs Seasoning blend
    • 1/4 c good olive oil
    • 3/4 c shredded cheese - Italian blend (Parmesan, asiago, mozzarella, etc)
    • Salt and pepper
    • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
    • Toss the tomatoes and zucchini (in separate bowls) with the oil, herbs, and a touch of salt and pepper
    • Layer zucchini in a single layer in a large baking dish; I used a 9 inch Corning Ware casserole dish (you want a deep dish). Sprinkle with some cheese.
    • Layer tomatoes over the zucchini in a single layer; sprinkle with some cheese.
    • Repeat with a layer of zucchini, cheese, tomatoes, and the rest of the cheese.
    • Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes until veggies are cooked through and the cheese is melted

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

    BBQ-Chili Grilled Chicken with a Tex Mex Chopped Salad and Chili-Ranch Dressing

    Wow, that's a mouthful of a recipe title!!

    So our summer has been fabulously cool. I know there are some haters out there, but I have adored this summer. I don't know how many nights we sat out on the patio and I needed a light hoodie or long pants. That is MY kind of weather and I'd gladly take it for 6 months a year.

    But then September approached and all of the heat and humidity came back. I don't even want to be outside (thank goodness the husband does 99% of the grilling!!). This weather is perfect for "it's too hot to cook" meals, like this grilled chicken and salad.

    The night before I made this dinner I trimmed the chicken, put it in a casserole dish and started to hunt for marinade ingredients. I didn't have any idea for sides yet, but decided to give my marinade some tex-mex flavors and spices. And then something made me grab the BBQ sauce and I decided to experiment. Guess what? It worked! Just like using hoisin in an Asian inspired marinade, the BBQ sauce added some sticky sweetness and held it all together.

    The salad and dressing were last minute creations as Jon was heating the grill and cooking the chicken. Sometimes meals like this are the best - spontaneous, creative, simple, easy, and most importantly, delicious.

    BBQ-Chili Grilled Chicken with a Tex Mex Chopped Salad and Chili-Ranch Dressing

    Marinade Ingredients
    • 3 trimmed chicken breasts
    • 1/4 c light olive oil
    • 1/4 c BBQ Sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's Original)
    • 1 Tbsp chili powder
    • 2 tsp garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more for more heat)
    • 2 Tbsp lime juice
    Salad Ingredients
    • 2 heads of Romaine lettuce, chopped
    • 1/2 each green and red bell pepper, chopped
    • 2 Tbsp chopped red onion
    • 1/2 c corn - I used frozen (thawed and brought to room temp), but if I had more time grilled corn would have been great!
    • Handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped
    • Crushed tortilla chips or fried tortilla strips
    • Cheese  - shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar or crumbled queso fresco
    • Chopped green onions
    • Other ingredients you could add include black beans, cilantro, sliced jalapenos
    Dressing Ingredients
    • 1/4 c of your favorite Ranch dressing
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional for some heat)

    • Mix the marinade ingredients (except the lime juice) and pour over chicken in a shallow dish. Cover and marinate at least 8 hours. Add the lime juice about 30 minutes before you plan on grilling the chicken.
    • Mix all of the salad ingredients (except the chips and cheese) and chill at least 30 minutes.
    • Mix the dressing ingredients and chill.
    • Grill the chicken until done; slice
    • Serve the salad topped with some of the chips, cheese and green onions followed by the dressing and alongside the sliced chicken.