Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy July! Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs with Wilted Spinach, Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream, Perfect Pork Burgers, Chicken Salad

July is one of my favorite months for a few reasons.  My wonderful husband was born in the month of July, we were married during this month, my grandmother also celebrates her birthday, July is the one full month that teachers have off during the year, and the country celebrates its independence!  I love it!  (There have been plenty of unpleasant things that have happened in my lifetime during the month of July, but the good stuff totally outweighs the bad.) 

I still have yet to make the fajitas and sausage burgers from this past week because of schedule changes, etc., but the corn dogs and the lo mein were huge hits at the Fletcher house!  Ryan even made the comment that we probably really don't ever have to eat out since we can make most everything at home.  Yay!  :)

I hope you enjoy this week's recipes!

***Chicken thighs are fun to cook with and a nice change-up to the old standby of chicken breasts.  I like it when my grocery store has the boneless, skinless chicken thighs on sale.  I bought two cases.  I'll use one for this recipe and cook the other case so I will have cooked chicken on hand.  This recipe comes from a blog called The Cookbook Junkie.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs with Wilted Spinach
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons hot chili garlic sauce

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 large handfuls baby spinach leaves

1.  In a small bowl, mix the marinade ingredients together.
2.  Place the thighs in a large resealable plastic bag.  Pour in the marinade.  Seal the bag tightly and turn it to distribute the marinade over the chicken.  Place bag in a bowl and refrigerate 1-2 hours, turning the bag occasionally.  (I might even marinate it overnight)
3.  Remove the thighs from the bag, reserving the marinade.  Pour the marinade in a very large skillet and set aside.  Grill the thighs over direct high heat until the meat is firm and juices run clear, 8-10 minutes.  Turn once or twice.
4.  Meanwhile, bring the marinade to a boil over high heat and allow to boil for 1 minute.  Add the spinach leaves and cook until the spinach is just wilted, 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally.  Serve the warm spinach mixture under the chicken.

***This next recipe is an old stand-by.  Again, we love Italian sausage in our house and find multiple uses for it.  This was one of the first recipes I made as a married woman and needless to say, the hubby loved it.  The sauce has a nice kick to it and don't skip out on the cream.  You can substitute milk for it, but the cream really does give the sauce a nice color and texture.

Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian Sausage, casing removed
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red peper
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with added puree
1/2 cup whipping cream

1 pound farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I have used Parmesan and it's just as good)

Heat oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and crushed red pepper.  Saute until sausage is no longer pink, breaking up with back of fork, about 5 minutes.  Add onion and garlic; saute until onion is tender and sausage is browned, about 3 minutes longer.  Add tomatoes and cream.  Reduce heat to love and simmer until sausage mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite.  Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid.  Return pasta to same pot.  Add sausage mixture and toss over medium low heat until sauce coats pasta, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry.  Transfer pasta to serving dish.  Sprinkle with basil.  Serve, passing cheese separately.

***This next recipe is another burger to try.  I'm holding to my word of trying a new burger every week!

Perfect Pork Burgers
5 slices bacon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground pork
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Freshly ground pepper
4 potato buns, split
Unsalted butter, softened, for spreading
Coleslaw, for topping

1.  Pulse the bacon and garlic in a food processor until coarsely ground.
2.  Combine the ground pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the sage in a large bowl.  Add the bacon mixture and gently mix with your hands.  Gently form the meat into 4 balls, then lightly press into 4-inch-wide, 1-inch-thick patties.  Make a 2-inch-wide indentation in the center of each with your thumb to prevent the burgers from bluging when grilled.
3.  Preheat a grill to medium high.  Season the patties wtih pepper.  Grill, undisturbed, until marked on the bottom, 5-6minutes.  Turn and grill until the other side is marked and the patties feel firm, 4 to 6 more minutes.  Meanwhile, spread the cut sides of the buns with butter and toast on the grill.
4.  Serve the patties on the buns; top with coleslaw.

***One of my goals this week is to get the whole family to the pool after Ry Guy comes home from work.  If we do this, we usually bring dinner with us since there really is no place to pick up a good meal on the way to the pool.  Chicken salad would be a great meal to have after playing with the kids together!

Chicken Salad
8 ounces chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise (could also try plain low-fat yogurt of Greek yogurt)
1 teaspoon snipped fresh basil or 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel (optional)
Bread slices or salad greens

In a medium bowl, combine chicken, celery, and green onions.  For dressing, in a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, basil, salt, and lemon peel.  Pour dressing over chicken mixture and toss gently to coat.  Cover and chill 1 to 4 hours.  If desired, serve on bread or over salad greens.

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