Tropical Thai Chicken Curry

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Tropical Thai Chicken Curry

Have I mentioned lately how much I adore mango? Or pineapple? Or Thai Food? It seems like it has been a few days so I figured I had better bring it up again, just to really drive my point home.

After my amazing and life-changing trip to my neighborhood “Oriental Supermarket” I am absurdly stocked up on awesome ingredients for some upcoming Asian and Indian dishes.

I wasn’t planning on writing a post about this Tropical Thai Chicken Curry, but after I started eating it I realized that it needed to be shared with all of you. This afterthought explains why these photos aren’t particularly awesome, or well-light, or in-focus, as I was hurrying to get them done so I could continue eating.

Anyway, you can just use your imagination and believe me when I tell you that it tastes good and looks good “in real life,” as they say.

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Ready to send your taste buds on an epic journey? Okay, let’s begin.

As always, start by prepping your ingredients.

Before anything else, get your rice going.

Then, cut up about a cup of fresh pineapple using your handy-dandy pineapple tool. Or, if it’s the middle of winter and/or you’re lazy like me, you can use the canned stuff.

Core a mango with your handy-dandy mango corer and dice the mango into bite-sized pieces. Or, do it the old fashioned way by holding the mango upright so it is balancing on the end opposite the stem, then use a sharp knife to slice from top to bottom along one of the flat sides of the mango, pressing inward toward the pit to save as much flesh as possible. Repeat on the opposite side, then turn the mango and remove the flesh from  the remaining two ends. Pick up one of the two larger pieces you cut and score it using your knife in a grid pattern, being careful not to cut through the skin. Use both hands to turn the piece of mango inside out to push all of the scored pieces up away from the skin. Use your knife to simply slice them off the skin. Repeat with remaining pieces.

Slice your chicken against the grain into the thinnest pieces you can manage.

Now, get out a wok or heavy-bottomed skillet and heat over medium-high. Pour in half a can of coconut milk and let it begin to foam as it heats. Add some red curry paste and stir to get it all worked in. Add in some fish sauce and palm sugar (brown sugar works nicely as a substitute), as well as a few whole lime leaves. I’m using wild lime leaves, but if you don’t have any just extract the juice from half a lime and set it aside for later. If you’re using lime juice, wait until you turn off the heat to add it in so it doesn’t turn bitter.

Add the rest of the can of coconut milk and some water and give it a good stir. Let it cook for a few minutes while you prepare some fresh basil. Simply stack a few basil leaves on top of one another, then roll them up tightly before slicing them lengthwise into ribbons. Set aside.

Add the chicken, pineapple, and mango to the curry and reduce heat to a gentle simmer (medium-low or low heat, just enough to keep the surface stirring but not at a boil). Let the curry cook for another five minutes or so until the chicken is cooked all the way through.

Turn off the heat, remove the lime leaves, then add the fresh basil leaves (and lime juice if using). Serve alongside lots of jasmine rice.

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Here’s the handy recipe:

Makes: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14oz) can of Coconut Milk, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Red Curry Paste
  • 2 Tbsp. Fish Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Palm Sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 4 Wild Lime Leaves (or juice from half a lime)
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 Lb. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, sliced thin
  • 1 c. Fresh Pineapple, chunked
  • 1 Fresh Mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 c.  Fresh Basil Leaves, sliced

Directions:

  1. Heat half a can of coconut milk in a wok or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until foaming.
  2. Add curry paste and stir to combine. Add fish sauce, sugar, and lime leaves* and let cook for one minute. Add remaining coconut milk and water.
  3. Add chicken, pineapple, and mango to the curry and let cook for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and continue to cook for five minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Remove from heat. Remove wild lime leaves* and stir in the sliced basil. Serve with jasmine rice.

*If you don’t have access to wild lime leaves, simply use the juice from one half of a fresh lime. Add it at the very end, after removing the curry from heat.

Nutrition (per serving):

442 calories, 27 g. fat, 28 g. protein, 27 g. carbs, 7.5 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 10

Thai “Hidden” Chicken

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Thai “Hidden” Chicken

When I hear the phrase “chicken and rice” I get super disinterested. Something about it just sounds really plain to me and I completely lose interest. HOWEVER – I saw a dish on a menu at a local Thai restaurant with some crazy name I couldn’t pronounce but a description in English that basically sounded like a Thai version of chicken and rice. I was intrigued.

If you DO like chicken and rice, then you will really love this interpretation. If you DON’T like chicken and rice, you should try this anyway because it may make you a believer. It is such a comforting dish, yet is full of flavor and spices that really make this a unique treat.

After a bit of research, I’ve found that this dish is sometimes referred to as chicken “hidden” in rice, so I’ve dubbed this recipe “Hidden Chicken.”

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Ready to start making this deliciousness? Okay, lets go.

First, you’ll want to prepare all of your ingredients. Go ahead and chop up the onions, mince the garlic, and slice your chicken breasts in half horizontally to make two thin fillets.

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl with a splash of fish sauce and let it hang out for a few minutes.

Heat some oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, then saute garlic, onions, curry powder, salt, and pepper until everything is soft and a vibrant yellow color.

Add the chicken pieces in three at a time and spread them out so they cover the bottom of the pot evenly but don’t overlap each other. Let them brown, then flip them to brown the opposite sides. You’re not trying to cook them all the way through, you’re just wanting to get some lovely caramelization on the outside of the meat. Once browned on both sides, remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Place the remaining three pieces of chicken in the pot and repeat the same process.

After you’ve browned all of the chicken and set it aside, add the uncooked rice to the pot and use a wooden spoon to stir it around. The rice will soak up some of the lovely curry powder color and get just a little bit toasted.

Add the broth and the heat will de-glaze the pan for you. Use your spoon to scrape up all of the lovely brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Keeping the heat on medium, let the mixture come to a boil. Keep boiling over medium until the water level has dropped to be even with the rice. Some of the rice will be poking through a little bit – it usually takes about 10 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and return the chicken pieces to the pot. Bury them under the rice so they are “hidden” from view. Use your wooden spoon to level off the surface, then cover and go busy yourself with something else for 45 minutes while the dish turns itself into pure magic. I’d recommend having a beer in front of the television.

After 45 minutes, the rice should be done and the chicken should be cooked all the way through. Remove the pot from heat and let it stand for another 10 minutes. While you’re waiting, open a second beer and then roughly chop some cilantro and cut a lime into a few wedges. After ten minutes, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.

Serve the Hidden Chicken and Rice with lots of fresh cilantro and lime wedges.

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Here’s the handy recipe!

Makes: 6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally to make two fillets
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce (or just use 1 tsp. salt)
  • 3 Tbsp. grapeseed (or vegetable) oil
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 c. onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 3 1/2 c. fat free chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 2 limes, cut in wedges

Directions:

  1. Place your halved chicken breasts in a medium bowl, add the fish sauce, and toss to combine. Set aside.
  2. Heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot. Add garlic, onion, curry powder, salt, and pepper, then saute 3 minutes or until the onions become translucent.
  3. Place three of the chicken breasts halves in the pot and let brown 2-3 minutes, then turn and let the other side  brown for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Repeat with the remaining three chicken breast halves, removing and setting them aside when browned.
  4. Add the rice to the pot and saute for 3-5 minutes until slightly toasted. Add the chicken broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the fond (this is the French term for the delicious brown bits on the bottom of the pot – hey, you learn something new every day!).
  5. Keep the heat on medium and let the mixture come to a boil. Continue to boil over medium heat until the water level is even with the rice (about 10 minutes).
  6. Reduce the heat to medium-low, return the chicken to the pan, bury it in the rice so it is “hidden,” then cover it and let it cook for 45 minutes.
  7. After 45 minutes, remove the pot from heat and let it stand for 10 minutes.
  8. Fluff the rice with a fork, then serve with plenty of fresh cilantro and lime wedges.

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Nutrition (per serving):

383 calories, 9 g. fat, 18 g. protein, 56 g. carbs, 2 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 10

Peanut Panang Beef Curry

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Peanut Panang Beef Curry

The thing I love most about Thai cooking (other than devouring the end result) is how incredibly easy it is. Very few recipes call for techniques more advanced than basic knife work, mixing, and stir-frying.

Maybe that’s why I never really got into French cooking; it’s simply too much work! Plus I don’t like French food.

Once you have the basic methods down for making a stir-fry, soup, fried rice, and curry you can exercise your own creative tendencies and make just about anything you like.

The majority of recipes calling for curry paste can easily be adjusted to accommodate whichever kind you have in your cupboard. I try to keep five different varieties on hand: Red, Green, Yellow, Massaman, and Panang.

This Peanut Panang Beef Curry is delicious, simple, and richly satisfying.

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While I’ve listed traditional Thai ingredients below, I’ve also included substitutions for those without access to all of the items listed.

You’ll want to serve this dish with rice to soak up all of the peanutty-goodness, so be sure to get a pot going before you start on the beef as the curry comes together very quickly. See my tip below about using the leftover coconut milk to make the rice! A green salad on the sides makes this a complete meal.

Makes: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. coconut milk, divided*
  • 2 Tbsp. Panang curry paste**
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. palm sugar***
  • 3 wild lime leaves****
  • 1/2 lb. boneless beef (such as tri-tip), very thinly sliced crosswise into 2-inch strips
  • 3 Tbsp. ground peanuts*****
  • 1/4 c. basil leaves, preferably “Thai” or “Holy” basil, roughly chopped

Directions:

  1. Pour a half cup of coconut milk into a wok or skillet set over medium-high heat. Once hot and foaming, add the Panang curry paste and use the back of a wooden spoon to break apart any large chunks. Stir the curry paste and the coconut milk until fully combined.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the rest of the coconut milk as well as the water, fish sauce, palm sugar, and lime leaves. Let simmer for a few minutes then add the thinly sliced beef and stir.
  3. Cook the beef, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the ground peanuts and reduce the heat to low. Stir to combine the peanuts with the curry.
  4. Just before serving, turn off the heat and remove the wild lime leaves. Add the basil leaves and stir. Serve with rice.

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*When I have a recipe that calls for just part of a can of coconut milk, I like to use the leftovers to replace part of the water used to make rice. It really adds delicious flavor and texture to the rice and keeps me from finding wasted Tupperware containers of coconut milk in the back of my fridge.

** Substitute red curry paste or Massaman curry paste if you don’t have Panang.

*** Use brown sugar if you don’t have palm sugar.

**** Wild lime leaves make all the difference in the world, but the curry will still taste delicious without them. If you can’t find any, substitute 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice.  If using lime juice instead, add it at the very end along with the basil.

***** I threw some peanuts in my food processor until ground, but you could also use regular peanut butter.

Nutrition (per serving):

292 calories, 22 g. fat, 15 g. protein, 12 g. carbs, 2 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 8

Kiwi-Tomatillo Salsa Verde

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Kiwi-Tomatillo Salsa Verde

I absolutely adore “Salsa Verde.” Whenever the husband and I visit the little taco shop by our house (which is very, very frequently) we both make sure to load up on little containers of salsa verde to liven up our tacos.

Earlier in the summer we were in San Diego for the wedding of two of our good friends and we ate at a local Mexican restaurant for the rehearsal dinner. The salsa verde was delicious and inspired me to try something creative with a recipe of my own.

I thought that adding some kiwi fruit into the mix would be a grand idea. The salsa verde remains in the green color spectrum, while the sweet fruit complements the tangy tomatillos.

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It’s really important to roast the tomatillos before adding them to the recipe. This brings out the robust and sweet flavor and cuts some of the tangy acidity found in raw tomatillos.

Simply husk, rinse, and quarter your tomatillos and place them in your oven to broil until roasted. Transfer to a food processor with peeled kiwi fruit, cilantro, onion, jalapeno, sugar, and lime juice then pulse until chopped but not liquefied. Season to taste with salt.

The easiest way to peel a kiwi is to begin by cutting off both ends with a sharp knife. Place one of the cut-sides down on a cutting board and use the knife to peel from top to bottom, working your way around the fruit.

Here’s the handy recipe:

Makes: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb. tomatillos
  • 1 kiwi fruit, peeled
  • 1/2 c. white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 c. cilantro leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Jalapeño peppers stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Remove the husks from your tomatillos and rinse in cold water. Cut them into quarters and place on a greased baking sheet. Set your oven’s broiler to high and place the pan in the oven. Check every two or three minutes to turn the tomatillos and make sure they aren’t burning. Remove from oven when they have a nice brown color.
  2. Meanwhile, place the peeled kiwi, chopped onion, cilantro leaves, lime juice, sugar, and Jalapeño peppers in a food processor or blender.
  3. Add the roasted tomatillos to the food processor and pulse until all of the ingredients are combined but not entirely pureed. You want some little lumps in there.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt. Chill in fridge for 30 minutes before using. Try this as a dip with tortilla chips, or use it to top your favorite tacos, enchiladas, or tamales.

Dig in!

Nutrition (per serving):

77 calories, 2 g. fat, 2 g. protein, 15 g. carbs, 4 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 2

Indian Chicken Korma

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Indian Chicken Korma

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel that I must confess to you that this is NOT a “light” recipe. This is not vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, or dairy-free.

But it is dee-lish-shuss. For reals.

No joke.

Seriously, you guys.

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Trust me on this one.

Chicken Korma is one of those magical dishes that seems to fill up 95% of my plate whenever I visit an Indian food buffet. It is rich, creamy, full of spices and flavor, and just begs to be soaked up by a piece of fresh naan. If you’ve never tried your hand at making Indian food at home, this should definitely be your starter recipe. It’s much easier than you’d think, as long as you have a few basic Indian spices in your pantry.

The chicken does like to marinate for a while, so get it set in the morning before heading to work.

The ingredient list does look a bit long but DON’T FREAK OUT. Most of it is spices, and if you are missing any of them I’d highly suggest investing in a bottle (or buy in bulk, like me!). Nothing will open up your kitchen to more possibilities than a well-stocked spice cabinet!

The only thing you might have a hard time finding in your local grocery store is Garam Masala. You can try an Asian foods specialty store, or I’ve even had luck finding it at Cost Plus World Market. More recently I’ve been purchasing it on Amazon – you can find the link on my Products page.

Ready?

Okay, Go:

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients:

[For the Chicken Marinade]

  • 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tsp mild yellow curry powder
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

[For the Sauce]

  • 2 white onions, peeled
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 c. water
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced small
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger root
  • 1/2 c. ground almonds (food processor works great)
  • 1 c. coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 c. plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 small red chili, de-seeded and minced (I used dried, but fresh works, too)
  • 2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 4 tsp. mild yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander seed
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Drizzle the chicken with the oil and sprinkle on the spices, salt and pepper. Massage into the meat and cover, leaving to marinate for at least a couple of hours or overnight.
  2. Grill the chicken until fully cooked but not dried out. Set aside.
  3. For the sauce begin by pureeing together: 2 white onions , 6 cloves garlic, 1 cup water.
  4. In a large saucepan heat 3 tbsp olive oil (or ghee if you prefer).
  5. Add the pureed onion mixture and cook over medium heat for a few minutes stirring constantly. Add: tomatoes, ginger, ground almonds, coconut milk, yogurt, red chili, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, curry powder, nutmeg, salt, pepper, ground coriander, garam masala, cloves, cumin, and brown sugar.
  6. Simmer slowly for about 30-40 minutes then add the chicken and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Serve with steamed jasmine rice and/or naan.

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Nutrition (per serving):

362 calories, 25 g. fat, 19 g. protein, 20 g. carbs, 5 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 10

Skinny Chicken Peanut Stew

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Skinny Chicken Peanut Stew

I remember the first time I heard about using peanut butter as an ingredient in soups and stews and thinking that it sounded incredibly nasty. I’m SO glad I threw caution to the wind and gave it a try!

The only downside to peanut butter is the high fat content. Total bummer. I’ve been buying powdered peanut butter lately and absolutely adore it as a low-fat alternative! I swear, you can’t tell the difference unless you’re eating it straight out of the jar. Which you shouldn’t do, because it is powder. I use a brand called “Just Great Stuff” but I’ve heard that PB2 has a nice version as well.

This stew is made with lots of spices to offset the creamy sweetness of the peanut  butter, while the chicken and vegetables add substance to bulk up the dish. Give it a try – you’ll be glad you did!

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You can eat this as-is, or do as I do and pile it on top of some rice. Mmmm. Savory food makes me happy!

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This recipe is for a “skinny” version of chicken peanut stew. I’ve lightened it up a bit to make it more waist-line and weight watchers friendly for those of us who have to care about such things.

Here’s how to make it:

Makes: 6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large orange pepper, sliced thin and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger root, minced
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. fresh baby spinach leaves, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Grapeseed Oil
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 1/4 tsp. Chili Powder
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. Reduced-Fat Powdered Peanut Butter (you can substitute regular PB, but adjust nutrition information)
  • 2 c. fat free chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the grapeseed oil with the sesame oil, a pinch of salt, lots of black pepper, the chili powder, minced ginger, brown sugar and garlic.
  2. Mix it with the chicken and let it marinate for 15 minutes.
  3. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add the chicken mixture. Let it cook undisturbed for two minutes, then turn the mixture over and cook for another two minutes to let it brown. Stir, then cook for another five minutes while stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the powdered peanut butter, broth, and tomatoes. Bring it to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, and cook, 20-25 minutes uncovered.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings (salt, pepper, chili powder, brown sugar) as needed.
  6. Stir in the spinach, and turn off the heat as soon as it wilts.
  7. Serve over rice.

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Nutrition (per  serving):

266 calories, 11 g. fat, 26 g. protein, 19 g. carbs, 4 g. fiber. WW PointsPlus: 7