Category Archives: Dinner

Chicken Tikka Masala

{I do apologize that the first photo in this post is of raw chicken. I hope you’re not squeamish.}

I grew up in a place where the most exotic thing we ate was Chinese food.  There weren’t many options for international cuisine (although that’s definitely changed in the last few years), and my family just didn’t eat food like that.  I didn’t have sushi, Thai, or Indian food till I moved to North Carolina, but I will say that they are now among my favorite things to eat.

I made my first foray into cooking Indian food with a butter chicken recipe I found via The Pioneer Woman (I do have doubts about its authenticity as actual butter chicken, but I really don’t care – it is delicious).  It was easier than I thought Indian food would be, so it encouraged me to try homemade naan, from a Tasty Kitchen recipe.  This was also easy and super delicious.  The next inspiration came from watching Aarti Party on The Food Network – chicken tikka masala.  So, I invited my friend Shawn over for dinner, and we made chicken tikka masala and naan!

It starts with boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  You poke them all over with a fork, to let the marinade really soak in.  Strangely, I had a lot of fun doing this part.  There’s something very satisfying about it.  After you’ve prepped the chicken, you cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and make the marinade.  You’ll want to do this a little ahead of time, or the night before.

The marinade is simple: yogurt, salt, pepper, and a delicious garlic/ginger paste.  Whisk it together and let the chicken marinate.  I let mine go for a few hours in the fridge, but you can do this anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight.

When you’re ready, gather your ingredients.  The original recipe called for serrano peppers and fresh tomatoes, but I used a mixture of canned tomatoes with jalepenos and fresh tomatoes.  I also added onion to the original recipe.  Prep your ingredients – chop the onion and tomato (if using).

Then you saute olive oil, butter, the garlic-ginger paste, onion, and tomato paste for a few minutes.  It darkens and smells very, very good.  After you add the garam masala and paprika, it starts to smell very, very, very good.

Then you add the tomatoes and let it simmer.  Just a note…I used two cans of tomatoes with chiles, plus about half of a large tomato (1 cup), and it was very spicy for me.  In the future, I’d use one can of tomatoes with chiles, and one without.  I also had a lot of extra sauce, so you could make do with fewer tomatoes, or add more chicken.  The recipe below includes more chicken.

While the tomato mixture is simmering, cook the chicken.  You’re supposed to grill it, but since I don’t have a grill or grill pan, we cooked it in a pan, and it worked out just as well.  You can see my friend Shawn helping out (she also took some of the photos – it was nice to have a helper in the kitchen!).  I would actually cook the chicken first, before you start cooking the sauce, so you have those 2o minutes to make naan, do some dishes, etc.  I’ve noted this in the directions below.  Depending on what kind of rice you’re making, you’ll also want to start that at this time.  Once the sauce has simmered, you also puree the tomato mixture – I used an immersion blender, but left it a little bit chunky.

After you’ve cooked the chicken for a few minutes per side, you stir it into the sauce, and let it simmer again for awhile (this also helps make sure the chicken is cooked through).

Then you stir in heavy cream.  Yum.  Really, this step needs no more explanation.  Except that it makes the sauce deliciously rich and amazing.

Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice.  Naan is highly recommended but not necessary to enjoy this dish.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Adapted from Food Network
Servings: 4 to 6

1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe here (or 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger and 3 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1.5-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, poked with a fork, and cut into large bite-sized chunks

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion
1/3 cup Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe here (or 6 cloves garlic and 2-inch thumb ginger minced)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons paprika
3 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes, 1 with and 2 without jalepenos, or as desired (or 8 Roma tomatoes+2 serrano peppers)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 to 2 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Cooked rice, naan, or crusty piece of bread, for serving


  1. Make the marinade: In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, ginger/garlic paste, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken to marinade and toss to coat. Marinate anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. If marinating for more than 30 minutes, place in fridge.
  2. Cook chicken; ideally this would be over a grill (about 2 minutes per side until charred).  However, if you don’t have a grill, you can just cook it in a hot pan.  Shake off as much marinade as you can, and cook for about 2 minutes per side.  Set aside.  If the chicken isn’t completely cooked through, it will finish cooking in the sauce.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
  4. While skillet is heating, chop onion and fresh tomatoes and serrano peppers, if using.
  5. Add butter and oil to skillet.  When butter is melted, add the ginger/garlic paste (and serrano peppers if using).  Saute for a few minutes.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook until darkened in color, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the garam masala and paprika and saute for about 1 minute.
  8. Add the tomatoes, salt, and 1 cup water to pan.
  9. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then turn heat down to let the mixture simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.  If the sauce seems too thick, you can add more water.
  10. After the sauce has thickened, blend with an immersion blender, or pour into a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
  11. Add sauce back to skillet if using blender/food processor, and bring back up to a boil.
  12. Add the chicken to the sauce and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  13. Add the cream and stir to combine.
  14. Garnish with minced fresh cilantro, and serve over rice, with naan, or crusty bread.
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Spaghetti with Chickpeas and Tomatoes

It was one of those nights where I had no idea what to make for dinner. I had a chicken breast in the fridge but no real plan. After a bit of web browsing, this recipe came up. I had the ingredients, and it seemed easy enough. To be honest, when I first read the post, I kind of skimmed over it, but it didn’t make that much of an impact on me. Visually, it wasn’t that appealing, and it really didn’t seem that interesting to me.

However. It is so good. I followed the recipe loosely, and it turned out so well.

Start with onions and garlic in a pan. Then add some thinly sliced chicken breasts seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little cumin. After it cooks on each side, pour in a little wine and let it reduce.

Then, add some pureed and whole chickpeas and a can of tomatoes. I used fire-roasted tomatoes because I had them, and it was delicious. I think it would be good with regular tomatoes as well. Season with more salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, cumin, and basil. Put a pot of water on to boil, so the mixture has awhile to simmer together. When the water boils and you add the spaghetti, add the zucchini to the pan with the tomato/chickpea mixture. {I initially used a pan that was too small, so I had to transfer to a larger pan at this stage.}

Once the spaghetti is cooked, add to the pan and toss to coat. Add a little of the pasta water if the sauce is too thick.

Yum! I should note that, while I enjoyed this with spaghetti, I think it would be even better as a sauce over whole chicken breasts, maybe with a little rice or bread on the side.

Spaghetti with Chickpeas and Tomatoes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 2 generously

-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
-1 medium onion, thinly sliced
-3-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 large chicken breast (or 2 smaller – enough for two people), thinly sliced
-1/2 cup white wine
-15 ounces canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained or about 2 cups, freshly cooked chickpeas
-1/2 cup chicken stock or water
-1 14-ounce can fire roasted or regular chopped tomatoes
-1 medium zucchini, sliced into thin half moons
-1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried basil
-1/2 to 1 teaspoon cumin
-Pinch of red pepper flakes
-Salt & pepper to taste
-1/2 pound spaghetti


  1. Heat saute pan over medium heat. Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and cumin.
  2. Add olive oil to pan, and add onions. Saute till soft, and then add garlic. Saute for a few minutes, then add chicken in an even layer in pan. After a few minutes, turn till cooked on both sides.
  3. Add wine and cook till reduced slightly.
  4. Meanwhile, puree all but 1/3 cup chickpeas in a blender or food processor with chicken broth until roughly chopped  (I actually eyeballed the amounts and just used water, and it turned out fine, but chicken broth would probably be better).
  5. Add the pureed and whole chickpeas, tomatoes, and spices to the pan and mix.  Taste to see if you need more salt, pepper, or other spices (I kind of eyeballed it and tasted as I went).
  6. After you add the tomatoes and chickpeas, put a pot of water on to boil.  When the water boils, add the spaghetti. At that point, also add the zucchini to the tomato and chickpea mixture, and mix.
  7. When the spaghetti is cooked, reserve the cooking water. Add the spaghetti to the pan, and toss to coat. Add some pasta water if the mixture is a little thick (I added a few tablespoons).
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Peanut Sesame Noodles

I looove pasta, and I love Thai and Chinese noodles. AND ever since I saw Kung Fu Panda, my obsession with noodles has grown. Strange, I know. Mostly it means I’ve been searching for the perfect noodle soup, but when I saw this recipe for Hot and Cold Sesame Noodles, it instantly appealed to me.

I adjusted the ingredients to make it more of a meal. One important thing is missing from this picture above – peanut butter. Whoops. And, I didn’t end up using the ginger.

Cook the spaghetti till al dente.  While that’s cooking, just slice all the veggies thinly. I used a serrano pepper (from my container garden) instead of cayenne pepper, but I seeded it and it wasn’t very spicy. I would definitely add a a little more spice.

Then cook up some chopped chicken with a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. When it’s done, set aside in a large bowl. Put the noodles in the bowl as well, when they’re cooked.

Then add some more olive oil, garlic, peppers and onions to skillet and cook till tender. While that’s happening, whisk the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and add to the skillet. Toss to coat, then pour over the chicken and noodles.  Toss, and add some fresh basil, scallions, and sesame seeds.

It was good, although I felt the sauce was a little thick. I would consider thinning it out a little bit next time; maybe with some chicken broth? Edamame would be good in this too.

Peanut Sesame Noodles

Adapted from Rachael Ray
Serves 4


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves garlic
8 oz. dried spaghetti or other thin noodle
1 red bell pepper
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup green beans, fresh or frozen
2 hot peppers, such as serranos (or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)

For sauce:
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup Tamari dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons cider or rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil

5-6 leaves fresh basil
3 scallions
2 tablespoons sesame seeds


  1. Cook the spaghetti until al dente. When cooked, drain and place in a large bowl.
  2. Thinly slice chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and pour in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. While the pan is heating, chop the garlic cloves.
  5. Cook the chicken with one of the garlic cloves till browned and cooked through. Add to the bowl with the noodles.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, thinly slice the red onion and red pepper, chop the hot peppers, slice the green onions, and julienne the basil.
  7. In a separate bowl, microwave the peanut butter for a few seconds to soften. Whisk in the Tamari, vinegar, and sesame oil.
  8. In the same skillet as you used to cook the chicken, add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. When heated, add the onions, garlic, red peppers, hot peppers, and green beans. You want to cook the vegetables for a few minutes – just so they’re heated through but still crisp.
  9. Pour the sauce into the skillet with the vegetables and stir to coat.  Pour the vegetable mixture over the noodles and chicken, add the basil, scallions, and sesame seeds on top and toss to coat.
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Creamy Pasta with Peas and Chicken

This was the best kind of weeknight supper – it used ingredients I had on hand, it came together pretty quickly, and it was filling and comfort-food satisfying. Inspired by the ingredients in pasta carbonara and this recipe, I quickly came up with a plan using ingredients I had on hand.

Yes, that is a big hunk of frozen peas. And chopped rotisserie chicken.

Onions, a (large) clove of garlic, and some Laughing Cow cheese (that stuff is incredible with pretzel chips, by the way). Not shown: a few slices of bacon and bowtie pasta.

While I set the water to boil for the pasta, I started cooking the bacon with a tiny bit of olive oil. I didn’t need too much – just enough so it wouldn’t stick too much.

After that crisped up a bit, I added garlic and onions, then sauteed them for a few minutes (note: I didn’t take the bacon out before I added the garlic and onion, but I should have so it kept its crispiness. This is reflected in the directions below).

Then I added frozen peas, and by that time, my bowtie pasta was cooked.

I spooned the pasta into the pan, reserving the pasta liquid, and added some cooked chopped chicken. Then, in went three wedges of Laughing Cow cheese. I also added salt, pepper, and a bit of the pasta liquid to help everything melt together and create a creamier sauce.

I stirred it around a bit, then covered and let simmer for awhile so everything would melt and come together.

I finished with a little bit more salt and pepper, and voila, a quick 30 minute meal. This made enough for two, but it’s easily adaptable for four.  It would be great with asparagus and/or artichoke hearts and a good splash of white wine. If you don’t have Laughing Cow cheese, you could use a little bit of cream (I would think maybe a 1/4 cup would work – I haven’t tried it, but you could just add some until it reaches the right consistency), or another soft, melty cheese (like cream cheese, Boursin, or blue cheese), or you could leave it out altogether and just finish with a little parmesan cheese.

Creamy Pasta with Peas and Chicken

Serves 2


8 oz dried bowtie pasta (or other small pasta) – about half a box
3-4 strips thick cut bacon or pancetta
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
1 cup frozen or fresh peas (no need to thaw frozen peas)
1-2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
3 wedges (2.25 oz) Laughing Cow cheese (or approx. 1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream for this; or another soft, melty cheese; or leave it out altogether)


  1. Put pasta on to cook
  2. Heat large skillet over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil (the bacon will add plenty of fat, so no need to put in a ton).
  3. Slice bacon crosswise into small strips.
  4. Add to pan and stir. While the bacon is crisping up, mince the garlic and chop the onion.
  5. When the bacon is starting to crisp and rendering out the fat, remove from pan (you’ll add it back later, but this will keep it crisp instead of getting soggy).
  6. Add the onion and garlic to the pan (don’t drain the fat). Season with salt and pepper. Cook till onion is translucent.
  7. If you’re using wine, add at this point and cook down for a minute or two.
  8. Add the peas, and cook until mostly thawed.
  9. At this point, the pasta should be al dente. Scoop out of pot (but don’t drain the pasta water) into the skillet. Stir to mix.
  10. Add the chopped chicken and the cheese. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Pour in some of the pasta liquid and stir – you want it to all loosen up and form a little bit of a sauce. Don’t worry too much about adding too much liquid – you can always cook it off, and pasta absorbs a lot of liquid.
  12. Cover the pan and let simmer for a few minutes so the cheese melts and incorporates and the chicken heats through.
  13. Stir so everything is incorporated and the pasta is coated with sauce.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. If it’s a little thick, add some more pasta water.
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BBQ Chicken Pizza with Roasted Red Peppers

There’s a pizza place in Raleigh called Lilly’s – they make fancy kinds of pizzas, and is one of those funky, independently owned places. One of my favorites there is the BBQ Chicken pizza. It’s got spicy BBQ sauce, roasted red peppers, onions, and cheese. I had made The Pioneer Woman BBQ pizza before, but I wanted those red peppers. Seriously, red peppers on pizza with barbecue sauce is to die for.

I found this yeast at the grocery store, and seeing that it was the same price as regular old yeast, I thought I’d give it a try. It is formulated so that you don’t have to let the dough rise or proof, so it’s quick. And, it promised that I could make pizza any way I wanted – whole wheat, thick crust, thin crust…I had to try it! Plus, I actually wanted to make whole wheat dough and didn’t have time to let it rise. Sold!  I used the recipe on the back of the packet, but swapped out half of the white flour for white whole wheat. It turned out great; I would use this again (but if I ran out, I would probably turn to this easy recipe: Five Minute Pizza Dough. I just don’t know how well it holds up with whole wheat/white whole wheat flour).

After I mixed and kneaded, I oiled a sheet pan and spread the dough out using my fingers. It was surprisingly easy.

Then I cooked up a chicken breast using Trade Joe’s BBQ sauce, used a red pepper I already had roasted (great tutorial here), shredded up some parmesan, chopped up some fresh basil (from my container garden!) and green onions (not from my container garden), cooked up some onions (I half-caramelized them…I ran out of time), and got my mozzarella ready to go (I had some pre-sliced fresh mozzarella that I had bought awhile ago, frozen, and thawed for this).

I slathered on the barbecue sauce right onto the crust, gave it a good sprinkling of parmesan, then layered on the fresh mozzarella, chicken, onions, strips of red peppers (I would dice or chop next time), more barbecue sauce, some basil and green onions, and more parmesan cheese. This is probably not very healthy.

Then I baked it in a 450 degree F oven for about 15 minutes (I think I underbaked it just a hair, so I’d recommend the full 15 or more). Delicious! Before I served it I sprinkled with the rest of the fresh basil and green onions.

It wasn’t quite like Lilly’s, but it was still really good! The onions and red peppers really gave the barbecue and cheese combo a yummy sweetish flavor. Definitely I would do this again, but maybe put more barbecue sauce on top.

White Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Adapted from Fleischmann’s Pizza Yeast Packet
Yield: Dough for one 12 inch pizza

1 to 1-1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 to 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 envelope Fleischmann’s Pizza Yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup very warm tap water (120-130 degrees F)
3 tablespoons oil


  1. Combine 1/2 cup white whole wheat and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in large bowl.
  2. Add water and oil to bowl.
  3. Mix until well blended, about 1 minute. It will be very wet and not dough-like at all.
  4. Add 1/2 to 1 cup flour (half white whole wheat and half all-purpose) until soft dough ball is formed. It will be slightly sticky. I think I ended up using almost 2-1/2 cups of flour altogether.
  5. Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes, adding more flour as needed (at this stage, I was just added all-purpose).
  6. Stretch or roll dough to fit oiled pan and add toppings as desired.
  7. Bake at 425 degrees F for 12-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crust is brown. NOTE: I baked for 14 minutes and needed more. I would say the range might be closer to 14-17 minutes, at least for a pizza with lots of toppings.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza with Roasted Red Peppers

Inspired by/adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Dough for one pizza
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
3/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 chicken breast, cooked and diced
1 whole onion, sliced and caramelized (or just cooked down with butter for a little for some sweetness)
1 roasted red bell pepper, cut into thin strips or diced
Chopped/julienned fresh basil (about 4-5 leaves or to taste)
One green onion, sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Spread pizza dough onto oiled sheet pan.
  3. Spread about three-quarters of the barbecue sauce onto the dough, making sure it covers almost to the edges and isn’t too thin. Add more or less to taste.
  4. Sprinkle half of the parmesan cheese over the pizza.
  5. Add the sliced mozzarella evenly over the pizza. Make sure the slices aren’t too close together, and not too close to the edge.
  6. Add the chicken, onion, and roasted red pepper evenly over the whole pizza.
  7. Add some more barbecue sauce over top, then sprinkle on the remaining parmesan cheese and half the basil and green onions.
  8. Cook for 14-17 minutes until the crust is brown and the cheese is bubbly.
  9. Top with the rest of the herbs and slice.

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