Chicken Peanut Stew

IMG_2621Leftover holiday turkey—or a rotisserie chicken—is the main ingredient needed to get going on this savory West African-inspired peanut soup. I saw this recipe in the November 2017 Better Homes & Gardens magazine, and thought it looked weird. But weird intrigues me, when it comes to food. And since my husband and I had tag-teamed on the turkeys this year, we had plenty of leftover meat to use. (He did a 24-pound bird on his Big Green Egg, and I did a 14-pound turkey in the oven. The former for delicious smokiness, and the latter to make killer gravy.) 

How was it? It WAS weird, but in a good way! My son Mitchell and I loved the new flavor twist of the peanut butter, tomato and smokey spices, and thought you could even serve it over rice to make it even more hearty. But my husband kept making fun of the soup. Mind you, the man eats peanut butter and fresh tomato sandwiches throughout the month of August…this should be right up his alley, right? Then he got hungry enough to try it, and he liked it! Mikey likes it! 

I’ve made this twice now, and adjusted spices and amounts as you see below. One additional ingredient to the BH&G recipe, is chopped fresh spinach. I like to add more veggies whenever I can, and spinach adds nutrients without altering flavor of the stew.

Serves 8-10

1 tablespoon coconut or canola oil
6-8 green onions, sliced thin
1 medium green pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
3 – 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
6-8 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
6-ounce can tomato paste
3-4 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken
15-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped

Garnishes
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Dry roasted peanuts, chopped

In a large Dutch oven, melt oil over medium heat. Add green onions and green pepper, and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until onions are tender. Add ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, red pepper, salt, and pepper, and cook and stir until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth and sweet potatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender to the fork.

Ladle about 1 cup of soup broth into a medium bowl, and whisk in peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Whisk in tomato paste as well. Add peanut butter mixture, turkey or chicken, and spinach to Dutch oven. Cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve topped with cilantro and peanuts.

Turkey Peanut Satay Wraps

FullSizeRenderThai-flavored fare a favorite with you, like it is for me? Then these savory turkey wraps will hit the spot. I got this recipe from a Bethel University student worker (Natalie G, that’s you!), who raved non-stop about it, and she had found it on iowagirleats.com. It went together pretty easy—about 30 minutes—and most of the ingredients were the kind of thing I had on hand. I’m not concerned about using soy sauce in recipes, but those who have zero tolerance for gluten would want to sub in gluten-free tamari sauce.

Now for the adjustments I made to the recipe—let’s start with the meat. It called for ground chicken, and I can’t recall seeing that in the grocery store. (And my husband refused to look for it when I sent him to the grocery store for the butterhead lettuce…so that kinda settled it!) Since I had ground turkey on hand, that’s what I used. Not a fan of gathering loads of specialty sauces in my cupboards and frig, I subbed in fresh minced garlic and dried chili powder for the recommended chili garlic sauce. Another addition was the scallions, as I thought they’d give it a nice bite.

It also seemed that the amount of sauce made in the recipe wouldn’t have covered the meat, so I doubled the peanut butter and coconut milk. I was glad I did, because it was JUST right. And so was the flavor!!! It was a great mix of spices, and the creaminess of the coconut milk and peanut better coated the meat perfectly. Once wraps were assembled, the crunch of the lettuce wrapped around the spiced meat mixture made for a thoroughly satisfying meal. (Could also be a killer appetizer!) If there’d been leftovers, I’d tell you how it tasted second day, but alas, we ate every last morsel. DEE-lish.

Serves 4

2 pounds ground turkey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large shallots, chopped, or 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3-4 scallions (green onions), chopped
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger*
salt and pepper
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup coconut milk (I used a can of regular, not light, and mixed to include fat and coconut milk)
¼ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
*(If you don’t have fresh ginger, add 1 teaspoon ground ginger here)
¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
¼ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts for garnish
2 heads of butterhead lettuce

Coat skillet with oil, and heat to medium-high. Add ground turkey, and cook until almost no pink remains in meat, breaking up meat as it cooks. Add shallots (or onions), scallions, and minced garlic, and cook until meat is no longer pink and garlic is fragrant. Turn down to low.

Combine coconut milk and peanut butter in large microwave-safe measuring cut or bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, sesame oil, chili powder, curry, and red pepper flakes. Stir until combined. Add to meat in skillet, and stir to coat. Turn element off.

Remove core from butterhead lettuce, and rinse. Pat dry. Line 4 plates with several leaves of lettuce, and add large dollop of meat mixture to plate. Put cilantro and chopped peanuts on table. Let each person assemble their own wraps, and top with peanuts and cilantro.

No-bake Chocolate, Pretzel, and Peanut Butter Squares

FullSizeRenderIt takes longer to type the name of these salty-sweet treats than it does to make them. My friend Sherie made these for the book club babes last time she hosted, and since she’d used Trader Joe’s gluten-free pretzels, all her GF friends were delighted to have sweets they could eat! Then when I was dying for a wheat-free cookie or a bar last week (that didn’t taste like sawdust), I asked her for her recipe. She’d found it on foodnetwork.com, recipe courtesy of country star Trisha Yearwood. My only adjustment was to use Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate, as that’s what I keep on hand.

All you need for tools is a big bowl for stirring, and a 9″x13″ pan to chill them in. No oven! All you need for ingredients is butter (of course!), pretzels, confectioner’s sugar, peanut butter, and chocolate chips. I found an 8-ounce bag of Snyder’s gluten-free pretzels at Kowalski’s, but I’m sure there’s a good brand at just about any grocery store. The original recipe didn’t call for GF pretzels, so use whatever kind of pretzels your little heart desires, my Valentine. 

These were so easy! (In fact, your kid’s pet hamster could probably make them, unsupervised.) I thought I was making these treats just for me, but my husband loved them, too. In fact he liked them so much he ate half a pan, all by his lone self in two days time. BOOM! He told me someone broke into the house and ate them. They didn’t touch the TV and computers, but ate my bars. Imagine that! Smart thieves.

Ease rating: Judy easy (anyone can make them!)

Makes 20 bars

1½ sticks (¾ cup) butter, melted
2 cups (8-ounce bag) pretzel rods or sticks, crushed into crumbs*
1½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1¼ cups smooth peanut butter, divided
1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In large bowl, stir together melted butter, pretzel crumbs, confectioner’s sugar, and 1 cup of the peanut butter. (Recipe calls for smooth, but I only buy chunky, so there are visible peanut bits in my chocolate “frosting.”) Press mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9″x13″ pan. Combine the chocolate chips and the remaining ¼ cup peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl or 2-cup measuring cup and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, and microwave for additional 30 seconds. Stir again, until peanut butter and chocolate are smooth and creamy. If needed, heat for another 15 or 30 seconds, until all chocolate chips are melted. Spread over peanut-pretzel layer. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares. Do not need to keep refrigerated once chocolate has cooled. Keep covered, and store at room temperature.

*NOTE: Gluten-free pretzels have a unique texture, and do not crumble quite as easily as regular pretzels. You can try crushing them by putting them in a Ziplock bag and using a rolling pin to pulverize, but I found I needed a food processor to crush them into crumbs.

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce and Orange Scented Rice Bowl

FullSizeRender-1The light peanut flavor seems like a strange pairing with the citrus rice in this stir fry, but it’s an odd couple arrangement that works. My son Justin got this recipe from his Senior Foods class, and we often joke that it was the only good thing to come out of his high school experience. (At least there was one thing…) It’s become his signature dish, and when he lived at home, I often asked him to make this to give me the night off from cooking. As there is a lot of chopping involved, it’s good to have a couple people in the kitchen doing prep for this one. And that’s where a younger brother comes in handy—especially when that brother is a whiz at keeping the knives sharp for all that chopping… The fresh grated ginger and bit of heat from the red pepper flakes enhance the sauteed vegetables, and have made this another family favorite.

Makes 4-6 servings

For rice:
3 cups water
1 orange, zested
1½ cups white rice (short or medium grain is best)

For stir-fry:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
½ green (or red) bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, cut on an angle in 1-inch pieces
½ cup snow pea pods, ends trimmed

For Thai peanut sauce:
3 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1-inch ginger root, peeled and grated (about 1 teaspoon)
1 clove garlic, minced
½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Justin likes 1 heaping tsp. – too much heat for me!)
1 orange, juiced

Topping:
Chopped dry roasted peanuts, optional

Rice: Bring water and orange zest to a boil in medium saucepan. Add rice, return to boiling. Stir once then cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender, 15 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Stir-Fry: Pour oil in large non-stick skillet with heat on medium-high. Add chicken, garlic, and onion – stir-fry 5 minutes. Add carrot and green pepper, stir-fry 5 minutes; add remaining vegetables and stir-fry 5 minutes more or until chicken is done. Be careful not to allow vegetables to cook until soggy.

Thai Peanut Sauce: In a small saucepan over low heat, mix all sauce ingredients. Simmer until combined. Add sauce to stir-fry and toss. Serve mixture over rice in a bowl.

Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

IMG_0968Pretty much everyone has a recipe similar to this chewy peanut butter cookie, just like everyone has a favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies. But I’ve had numerous people tell me mine are especially grand. I once brought these to work, and after her first bite a fellow employee said, “I bet lots of men wanted to marry YOU…” For the record, I’ve only had one marriage proposal, but I’ve had tons of requests for my cookie recipes. I think it’s the addition of the Reese’s peanut butter chips that takes these cookies from good to great.

But I have to admit I wasn’t always such a rock star with this recipe. At the ripe old age of 11 or 12, I wanted to treat my family to a batch of PB Cookies. Once I got to the dough-rolling stage, I felt like something was amiss. “Mom, this dough feels kinda like Play-Doh. Is it supposed to feel like that?” It also looked a little different than I remembered—more sparkly than usual. One pan came out of the oven, and we broke off chunks to test, and promptly spit them out. They tasted like Play-Doh, too!!! What went wrong? My mother and I went back through the ingredients one at a time, and she asked me if I’d put in this and that, and then quizzed me on the amounts. When she got to salt, she said, “Half a teaspoon salt?” and I froze. I’d put in half a CUP of salt. We laughed as we pitched that whole inedible batch in the garbage, and I remember that crazy mistake every single time I make these cookies. As I carefully measure the salt.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 cup shortening (not butter or butter-flavored shortening)
1 cup Skippy’s super chunky peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 of 10 oz. bag of Reese’s peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. In large mixer bowl, cream shortening and peanut butter. Add white sugar, then dark brown sugar, and cream ingredients until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and cream. Add vanilla and cream ingredients again.

In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and powder, and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture and stir until combined. Dough should not be overly-sticky to the touch (too little flour), but also should not be crumbly. (If dough is crumbly, that means you have too much flour in your dough and cookies will be tough, not soft and chewy.) Stir Reese’s peanut butter chips into dough with wooden spoon until chips are incorporated.

Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and place on baking sheet, 12 to sheet. Using tines of fork, make cross-cross pattern on top of cookies, pressing to flatten slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges of cookies are lightly golden brown. Let cool at least 5 minutes before removing to wire rack or container. Store in air-tight container.

Thai Peanut Pasta Salad

FullSizeRenderPeanut allergy people and gluten intolerant folks, you might as well skip reading this post right now. My apologies in advance. But if you’re a fan of Thai dishes heavy on peanut, you’ll love this easy pasta recipe that can be eaten warm or cold. The recipe was requested by a Pioneer Press reader when I wrote the “In the Kitchen” column for that paper several years ago. It was served at the Marshall Field’s deli at the time (and might still be offered at Macy’s deli…), and executive chef Tim Tesch was happy to pass it along. After making it several times, I’ve made some adjustments—I’ve increased the peanut butter and sugar amounts, decreased the soy sauce, and added in some fresh garlic for additional flavor. 

The chicken can be grilled or fried in a pan, if making the dish during non-grilling season. (It’s never non-grilling season at our house. My husband grills year-round.) We like eating this while still warm for dinner, and then chilling the leftovers for lunches the next day. It’s great at either temperature. I suppose it’s the chilling of the pasta that gives it the “salad” name tag? Don’t let the title fool you—it really is a whole meal. Since it’s easy to make ahead of time, it’s great potluck fare, if you’re feeling generous enough to share with others. But you may just want to keep it all for yourselves. I’m OK with that.

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound chicken breast or tenderloin
Dash each of soy sauce, vegetable oil, and garlic salt
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (optional)
1/3 cup shredded carrots
4 scallions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted (in 375° oven for 10 minutes)
1/2 pound uncooked spaghetti pasta

For sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup peanut butter (I use 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup sugar (I use 1/4 cup)
Dash crushed red pepper flakes

1/3 cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish

Toss chicken in dash each of soy sauce, vegetable oil, and garlic salt; grill or fry until chicken is no longer pink in center. Once cooled slightly, julienne or chop chicken. If using frozen peas, rinse them in cold water and let drain until thawed. In large mixing bowl, combine cooked chicken, peas, carrots, scallions, and sesame seeds. Set aside.

Bring water to a boil and break pasta into halves or thirds and cook according to package directions; drain. While pasta is cooking, make sauce. Pour oil into large sauce pan. Heat oil on medium, and add minced garlic. Cook until garlic turns golden brown. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook and stir on medium heat until all ingredients are incorporated, and sauce is smooth. May need to add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup water at this point to thin sauce to desired consistency. Pour sauce into bowl with chicken and vegetable mixture, and add cooked pasta. Using tongs or large wooden spoon, toss all ingredients around until sauce coats evenly. Serve warm with chopped peanut garnish, or chill to serve later. (Garnish with peanuts at time of serving.)

Peanut Butter Protein Balls

IMG_0905Great for packing in a school lunch, taking camping, or simply for snacking, these peanut butter balls have been a family favorite of ours for years. This simple recipe was published in Family Fun magazine a bazillion years ago, part of an article on school lunch boredom-busters. Super easy to make—mom or grandma can measure, and kids can mix and shape balls. If spheres are too boring for your bunch, shape into snakes and spirals, or whatever your little heart desires.

My now 20-year-old son still loves these, and I’ll make him a stash to store in his dorm room, where he can enjoy them after a brutal physics exam. So these aren’t just for wee ones! We’ve also served them in little petit four cups along side chocolate truffles, and they hold their own with the fancy foods. They keep their shape best if you freeze them, and then they’re perfect for packing in a lunch or bringing on a picnic—they thaw quickly and are ready for consumption by the time you reach your destination.

Makes 12-15 balls

1 cup super chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup raisins (optional—they make these more challenging to shape)
1/4 cup honey
2 graham crackers, crushed into crumbs

Combine peanut butter, dry milk, and honey (and raisins, if desired), and stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Scoop out teaspoonfuls of dough, and roll into balls. Put graham cracker crumbs in small bowl, and roll balls in crumbs to coat. Serve as is, or refrigerate or freeze in airtight container. (We prefer to freeze them.)

Monster Cookies

Monster CookiesThis makes a monstrous batch (thus the name), but it’s usually gone pretty darn quick, as they’re the favorite cookie for 3 out of 4 men in my family. Generous amounts of old-fashioned oatmeal and peanut butter in these chunky treats give granola bars some stiff competition, and make these hearty enough for breakfast, if you like cookies for breakfast. And who doesn’t?

Surprisingly, the appeal of monster cookies spans the globe. Our house guests from Norway, France, and Japan have all requested this recipe, which I’ve packed in their bags along with a set of U.S. measuring cups and spoons. (Easier than figuring out how to convert the measurements into metric…)

Monster recipeI’ve actually halved this recipe from the original to make it more manageable. I got it from a woman who had seven kids, so she needed the jumbo batch. As you can see from my tattered and stained recipe, this really has become a family fave.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen

1 ¼ cups Skippy super chunky peanut butter
¾ cup shortening
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup M&M’s
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. In large mixer bowl, cream peanut butter and shortening. Add dark brown sugar, then white sugar, and cream ingredients until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and cream. Add vanilla and cream ingredients again.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, and baking soda with a spoon. With mixer on low, slowly add oatmeal mixture to peanut butter mixture until all ingredients are combined. Remove bowl from mixer, and stir in M&M’s and chocolate chips with a wooden spoon until combined.

Drop by large spoonfuls on to baking sheet. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until edges are light brown. Let cookies cool for 10 minutes before removing from baking sheet. Store cookies in an airtight container. Deliver to starving college student.