Avocado & Edamame Salad

I’ve been trying to broaden my vegetable side dish repertoire. It’s easy to get stuck in a habit of rotating variations of broccoli, Brussels sprouts and asparagus. So to freshen things up, I found an awesome (and versatile)  avocado dressing to spoon over a medley of crisp chopped veggies. The result is this Avocado & Edamame Salad – full of vitamins, nutrients, protein, and flavor.

Avocado Salad with Grilled Chicken Kabob

A note about the dressing – it makes alot. Much more than you will need for the salad. And even though the source recipe says it can keep fresh in the fridge, I found that it was best the first day. It was still good a few days later, but I wouldn’t keep it for the full 10 days that they suggest. But considering how good this dressing is, it isn’t hard to find uses for it. It makes a great dip (for fresh veggies or tortilla chips), spoon it over grilled meat (like the chicken above), or just get out your spoon :)

Avocado Dressing

Avocado Dressing

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 sprigs cilantro
  • Juice of 1 1/2 limes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • water (about 1/2 C.)

Combine avocado, garlic, vinegar, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper into a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Slowly add water until desired consistency is reached. Best if used immediately. Or cover and keep refrigerated for up to a week.

Recipe modified from Eat, Lift & Be Happy

Avocado & Edamame Salad

  • 1 C. edamame beans, steamed
  • 1/2 C. yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 – 3/4 C. mango, diced
  • 1/4 C. red onion, diced
  • 1/2 Pt. cherry tomatoes
  • 2 T. cilantro, minced
  • 1/2 – 1 C. lettuce (bibb or romaine) cut into small bites
  • Avocado dressing

Combine all ingredients except dressing into a bowl. Add dressing 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and mix to coat. Continue adding dressing until all vegetables are evenly coated.

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Cinco de Mayo Feast

Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite pseudo-holidays. Although it has historical significance in certain regions of Mexico, it has become a day to embrace Mexican culture here in America….but for me (and plenty of others, I’m sure), it’s just a great excuse to eat fresh Mexican food and imbibe in some refreshing Mexican spirits. Skip the crowded Mexican restaurant this year, and fix a feast at home. Here are some of my favorite recipes to help you along your way!

Taco Seasoning

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chipotle powder (or red pepper powder)
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika

Combine all ingredients. Use to season ground beef, chicken, or steak.

Cilantro & Garlic Chicken

Tender chicken that falls to shreds with the touch of a fork. This can be used as filling for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or quesadillas.

Shredded Chicken

For recipe, click HERE!

Mango Salsa

Super fresh and flavorful, use it as a chip dip or add a spoonful over your entree.

Mango Salsa

For recipe, click HERE!

Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa

Super fresh and flavorful, use it as a chip dip or add a spoonful over your entree.

grilled corn & avocado salsa

For recipe, click HERE!

Jalapeno Poppers

A baked version of the appetizer favorite.

poppers

For recipe, click HERE!

Pork Taquitos

A great way to use up leftover pulled pork

Baked Pork Taquito

For  recipe, click HERE!

Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice

For  recipe, click HERE!

Guacamole

guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tap. pepper
  • Dash Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients, mash with a fork until desired consistency is reached.

For a zestier guacamole, add 2 tablespoons of salsa, 2 tablespoons of minced red onion, and a handful of chopped cilantro.

Margarita

Last, but certainly not least, the quintessential Mexican cocktail.

margarita

For the recipe, click HERE!

Curried Chicken Salad

I’ve always shied away saladized dishes – chicken salad, potato salad, coleslaw, egg salad…pretty much anything that is slathered in mayonnaise. I just don’t like the thought of yummy fresh ingredients swimming in mayo. But then I realized I could cut the mayo in salad dishes with sour cream or Greek yogurt…and now I’ve opened my horizons to all things saladized (except egg salad….that’s still on my no-thank-you list).

Curry Chicken Salad

I made chicken stock on Sunday, and decided to use the leftover meat to try out Ina Garten’s Curried Chicken Salad recipe. Curried Chicken Salad is such a retro dish, but it definitely deserves a comeback (if skinny jeans and neon can make it in the 21st century, then this dish certainly has a place in modern culture!) If you don’t happen to be making chicken stock today (come on, why not?) feel free to use bone-in split chicken breasts, as in Garten’s original recipe. You could even use a store-bought rotisserie chicken if you don’t have the time (or inclination) to cook a chicken today.

Curry Sauce

Before starting on this 5-star dish, I looked through the comments and reviews it received. That’s the great thing about finding recipes on the internet – you can get tips and suggestions from people who have actually tried it out. Whether it’s adding/substituting ingredients, modifying measurements, or handy information about the dish (like the fact that you will have WAY too much sauce!), reading the comments before making a new dish is always worth your time.

chicken salad fixins

Considering the number of people who gave Garten’s recipe rave reviews, I didn’t want to make many modifications. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – right? But I know my taste buds, and there are a few things I changed to suit my own tastes. The first thing I addressed was the mayonnaise situation – one and a half cups!? Gross….I cut the yick factor by replacing 1/2 a cup with low-fat plain Greek yogurt. Some reviewers of the recipe actually replaced all of the mayo with yogurt – which I may try next time. I chose to add a little red onion and Italian flat leaf parsley. I had them both on hand, and I like the extra crunch and color. But I stuck with the raisins (some suggested craisins or grapes) and cashews – and I think you could go heavy on both.

Curry Chicken Wrap

When it came to eating this fabulous curry concoction, I went with a wrap. A soft flour tortilla, fresh mixed greens, a generous squeeze or Sriracha, and a few extra cashews, and your taste buds will scream Thank you!! This would also make a great sandwich, a dip with pita chips, or just eat it with a spoon….

Curried Chicken Salad

  • 3 C. cooked chicken
  • 1 C. cashews
  • 1/2 C. celery, diced
  • 1/4 C. raisins
  • 1/4 C. red onion, diced
  • 1/4 C. green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 C. parsley, chopped
  • 1 C. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 C. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 C. mango chutney
  • 1/3 C. white wine
  • 3 T. curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

In a large bowl combine chicken, cashews, celery, raisins, red onion, green onion and parsley. For the sauce, whisk together mayo, yogurt, mango chutney curry powder, salt and pepper. Pour just enough sauce over chicken mixture to moisten. You will have extra sauce. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Pork Taquitos

It’s the end of the week, and I need a dish to use up the rest of this pork butt. The ripe avocados on the kitchen sill are also screaming to be devoured. Not to mention it’s Thursday (the ultimate day to enjoy a margarita) – so something with a Mexican flare is definitely a must! Mexican Night is always a good way to use up leftover meat. Pot roast, grilled chicken, pork butt….all can be quickly and easily refabbed into an awesome weeknight meal.

Baked Pork Taquito

We tend to shy away from corn tortillas. Not because I don’t like them….but because the first time I made them for The Man, I made an awful dish. I had never bought soft corn tortillas before, and I pretty much just treated them like flour tortillas – big mistake. Soft corn tortillas have a nasty raw corn taste. They have to be cooked  fried for them to be palatable. Ever since that one snafu, The Man has vetoed the use of corn tortillas in his dinner plans. But today, I convinced him it was me – not them. We’ll see how round 2 goes!

Mexican Rice

Pork Taquitos

  • 2 C. cooked pork (substitute chicken or beef)
  • 6 Oz. beer (any lager, or light beer)
  • 1/2 C. water
  • 1/4 c. salsa
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 T. cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 8 Oz. shredded cheese
  • Canola oil

In a saute pan, combine meat, beer, salsa, and cumin. Bring to a simmer, reduce to low, and cook until meat is in small shreds. Remove from heat and drain any excess liquid. Fold in cilantro

For assembly : Heat tortillas in the microwave until pliable (about 30 seconds). Working one tortilla at a time, place 1 ounce of cheese and 1/8 of meat onto bottom half of tortilla. Roll taquito tightly. Place seam side down in a greased baking dish. Repeat until all 8 taquitos are rolled. If tortillas start to break, reheat them.

Lightly brush each taquito with canola oil. Bake in a 400F oven for 25 – 30 minutes or until crispy and starting to brown.

Serve Taquitos with Mexican Rice, Guacamole, salsa and sour cream.

Mexican Rice

  • 1 C. white rice
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1/4 C. salsa
  • 1 C. chicken stock
  • 3/4 C. water
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

In a medium pot, melt butter. Saute rice in butter over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add in all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Stir, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Remove rice from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Remove lid and fluff rice with a fork.

Guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco Sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Slice avocados in half. Remove seed and scoop flesh out with a spoon. Add remaining ingredients, mash/mix avocado with a fork. Serve immediately.

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Cilantro & Garlic Tacos with Mango Salsa

When I met The Man, he claimed to not like Mexican food. But I love Mexican food! Ok, I thought, this is a small concession that I can live with. But a life without Mexican food means no fresh salsas, no garlic and cilantro marinated meats, no cheesy saucy baked tortilla dishes….no Margarita Thursdays!? Ok, this was a bigger problem than I first thought!

Chicken Taco

His former experience with Mexican cuisine involved greasy, bland concoctions that contained suspect meat products and void of all vegetables. Yea, I would hate that too. When I think Mexican, I think fresh, full of complex flavors, and tons of color. Well it turns out that he doesn’t hate Mexican food – he just hates bad Mexican food! Phew! We dodged a bullet there…

Garlic & Cilantro Garlic & Cilantro Marinade

Let’s start with the meat. Whether I’m making chicken or steak tacos, I like to start with the same marinade – a cilantro and lime vinaigrette with a hint of spice and lots of citrus. After a few hours in the acidic and flavor punching bath, meat has no choice but to be tender and juicy. A few minutes on a hot grill, and you’ve got a fab foundation for a great taco.

Shredded Chicken

The choice of taco toppings is endless – sliced avocado, salsa, shredded lettuce, cilantro, cheese, corn salsa, guacamole, chipotle sour cream, diced tomatoes, sauteed onions and peppers….in fact, if you’re hosting a casual party, a taco bar is a great buffet idea! Tonight I’m gonna go with fresh mango salsa and sliced avocado (and probably a little cheese and sour cream too…). If you can’t find good fresh mango, frozen works alright too. It’s not quite as good – but it’s better than no mango salsa.

Mangoes Mango Salsa

Cilantro & Garlic Tacos

  • 1 1/2 Lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 C. cilantro and garlic marinade
  • Flour tortillas
  • Mango salsa
  • Sliced avocado
  • Shredded cheddar
  • Sour cream

Marinate chicken breasts in marinade for at least 6 hours. Remove from marinade and grill on medium for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Allow meat to rest for 10 minutes, then shred with 2 forks.

Warm tortillas on the grill for about 1 minute per side. Alternately, heat them in the microwave for 30 seconds.

To assemble, place a scoopful of chicken on to warm taco shell. Top with mango salsa, 2 slices of avocado, a Tablespoon of cheese, and a small spoonful of sour cream.

Cilantro & Garlic Marinade

  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 jalapeno, halved
  • Lime zest and juice, from 1 lime
  • Handful fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 C. orange juice
  • 1/3 C. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until everything is smooth and combined. Marinate chicken for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Makes enough marinade for 6 chicken breasts.

Mango Salsa

  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1/4 C. red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • Handful cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • Pinch of salt, pepper, and cumin

Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

The Lighter Side of Football Fare

football fare

Despite my team being out of it, the NFL playoffs have made for some exciting TV the last couple weekends. And for me, good football pairs nicely with good food (and cold beer). But the go-to grub for a football spread tends to be fried, fattening, and void of some key food groups. If celery with ranch is the only vegetable on your spread, then your spread needs some work! And don’t worry – I’m not about to spring some lentils or tofu on you. And I wouldn’t even call this “healthy” food – it’s just good food….that won’t be hanging on your thighs/gut after the Super Bowl! So here is the spread – grilled Teryaki Chicken, Cucumber Boats, Baked Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa, and Buffalo Chicken Sausage in Wonton Cups.

Teryaki Chicken

We gotta have some wings. But they don’t have to be fried, and they don’t have to be dripping in a sauce whose main ingredient is butter (although, we will use some of that sauce towards the end of the post). Chicken is a clean slate for flavor – if you want flavor, you need to add it yourself. I started with wings and legs in a brine – salty and sweet, a brine will infuse the meat with moisture and ensure the end result is super tender. It’s ideal to brine the meat over night. But even 2 to 3 hours in a brine is better than none at all.

brining chicked

Take the chicken out of the brine about an hour before cooking time. This gives the meat a chance to rest, and for your dry rub to get comfy. The rub needs to compliment the finishing glaze – which for me is teryaki. So a simple rub of salt, pepper, and Chinese Five Spice will do. Coat the meat, and rub it in good. Let the meat hang out in the fridge, uncovered, until it’s time to cook.

Speaking of cooking – it’s time to fire up the grill! I use a gas grill because of easy/quick start up and very little clean up. If you are using charcoal, put your coals only on one side – we want to be set up for indirect heat. I start my grill on high and let it warm up. Then I turn 1 burner off, and 1 burner to medium-high. Put the chicken over the off burner, and leave it be. It will need to be turned eventually – but don’t mess with it too much. I’d say every 15 minutes, give the pieces a turn. If you are impatient, or just really don’t have the time – go ahead and grill them on direct heat. But the indirect method will yield a crispy skin and tender meat – simulating a fried wing, without all the fat.

Once the meat is thinking about divorcing itself from the bones, it’s time for the glaze. Turn your burner back on, and up to about medium (or just move the meat over your coals, if using a charcoal grill). Brush the wings and legs with the teryaki glaze, and allow it to cook for a minute I like the glaze to get cooked on, with some crispy bits – but be careful, the glaze can burn.

teryaki grilled wings

  • 6 wings
  • 6 legs
  • Brine
  • Dry rub
  • Teryaki glaze (store bought)

Brine

  • 4 C. Water
  • 1/4 C. Salt
  • 2 T. Soy sauce
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients. Whisk until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over chicken and seal in a zip-lock bag. Allow to marinate at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

Dry Rub

  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice

Cucumber Boats

cucumber boats

If you ever look at Pinterest, then you have seen this recipe from Bite Delite. It looks fresh and flavorful, so I’m giving it a try! It seems an easy addition to our spread. I made some minor changes though. First, I added a little garlic infused olive oil. I aslo added a squeeze of lime juice. I also assembled the boats a few hours in advance. I put the unsliced, filled cucumbers on a plate, and wrapped tightly with plastic wrap. This helped to keep the filling in place when I sliced them.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

spinach & artichoke dip

WARNING! This dip may vanish in front of your eyes. For real…If you are having a big crowd, you may want to double up the recipe. If you have friends like mine (you know who you are!) you may want to triple it. And how is this “lightened” up, you may ask? Yes, it has mayonnaise and full fat sour cream….but is has twice the amount of vegetables, and half the amount of parmesan cheese as the Joy of Cooking Baked Artichoke Dip recipe.

Make sure that you don’t buy “marinated” artichoke hearts. They are swimming in olive oil, and we don’t want that for this recipe. I buy the quarters, and rough chop them. But feel free to leave them in quarters, if you prefer. This is easily made in advance, just leave the bread crumbs off until ready to bake.

  • 1/4 C. onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 C. Sour cream
  • 1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 C. Parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 C. Panko breadcrumbs

Saute onion in olive oil until softened. Add in garlic, and saute for another 2 minutes. Combine Mayo, sour cream, onion mixture, artichokes, spinach, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a greased baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes. Dip should be bubbly and starting to brown. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or warm pita bread.

Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa

grilled corn & avocado salsa

This is a salsa that I like to make on Taco Night (AKA Margarita Thursday). It’s so colorful, and pops with flavor – the perfect topping to a grilled steak taco….man, I should make some grilled steak tacos soon…. But I always end up with too much of this stuff and find myself hovering over the bowl, with a bag of tortilla chips – it’s too good to let it go to waste! So  today I’m skipping the tacos, and going straight to hover mode.

Feel free to change things up – add some jalapeno, different colored peppers, maybe roasted garlic? But don’t make too much – you don’t want leftovers. Avocados just don’t jive the next day – the texture changes, the browning sets in, and they just start to get funky.

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 orange bell pepper, quartered (ribs and seeds removed)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced into thick rings
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Cilatro
  • Lime juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, cumin to taste

Brush corn, onion and pepper with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until corn is cooked through and other veggies are soft. Allow to cool. Cut the corn off of the cob and rough chop onion and pepper.

In a bowl combine corn, onion, pepper, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro. Squeeze the juice of two limes directly into the bowl and drizzle with olive oil (1 – 2 T.). Season with salt, pepper and cumin. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerated until ready to serve.

Buffalo Chicken Sausage in Wonton Cups

Buffalo Chicken Sausage Wonton cups

A few years back my mother-in-law made these Bob Evans sausage cups for a Thanksgiving appetizer. They flew off the plate. But they were a little on the heavy and salty side. I’m using the Bob Evans concept, but I’m lightening it up a little. First change, I’m not using Bob Evans sausage….sorry Bob.

  • 24 Wonton wrappers
  • 1 lb. chicken sausage, removed from casings (spicy, if desired)
  • 1 C. Mexican blend, shredded cheese
  • 1/4 C. yogurt Ranch dressing
  • 1/4 C. buffalo hot sauce (Frank’s)

Lightly spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray. Line each cup with a wonton skin, to form little cups. Bake at 350F for 5 minutes, until lightly browned.

Saute sausage, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Drain. Combine cooked sausage, Ranch dressing, buffalo sauce, and cheese. Scoop filling into wonton cups, and bake at 350F for 10 minutes (or until bubbly).