August 24, 2013

Barbecue Chicken Salad

At my school, we don't have a cafeteria, so a lot of us end up bringing our own lunches. The line for the microwave takes half of lunch to get through, so I'm always looking for new dishes that don't have to be reheated. I love this barbecue chicken salad because I can use whatever vegetables I like or happen to have in the house and top it with chicken smothered in barbecue sauce and packed with flavors. Oh, and there's also deliciously creamy ranch dressing in there as well.

My favorite combination of vegetables is listed below, but feel free to use what you have or what you like. I toss mine with some cheddar cheese for flavor and texture, and then I drizzle the whole thing with ranch dressing because I like how it pairs with the barbecue sauce on the chicken. To save time, I just cut up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but you can always grill or roast your own. This recipe is really easy to personalize, and it is definitely a fast and healthy way to eat lunch.

1 Cup Diced Cooked Chicken
1/4 Cup Barbecue Sauce
1/2 Cup Sliced Carrots
2/3 Cup Sliced Cucumber
1 Small Bell Pepper, Sliced
1/2 Cup Sliced Jicama
2/3 Cup Cherry Tomatoes
2/3 Cup Sliced Mushrooms
2 Cups Lettuce
1/4 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/3 Cup Ranch Dressing

Combine the chicken and the barbecue sauce. Combine the vegetables and cheese, then toss with the ranch dressing and chicken.

Serves 4

August 14, 2013

White Chocolate Peach Scones

Summer is almost over, which means a few things. First, there are a lot of peaches. Second, school is starting soon (if it hasn't already). I decided to make the best of it and make a delicious breakfast before school using some of those delicious peaches. 

Scones are one of the fastest dishes to make, just combine the dry ingredients, add some butter and buttermilk, then fold in the peaches and chocolate. The key to making light, fluffy scones is to keep everything cold. When cold, small chunks of butter will melt and create steam, which makes the scones rise and keeps the texture perfect. Chilling the buttermilk helps keep the temperature of the dough low. Another trick is to toss the peaches with some of the flour mixture; it won't make the scones more fluffy but it will prevent the peaches from sinking to the bottom of the scone.

The scones bake for less than 15 minutes, so you can have your breakfast ready in under half an hour. If you would rather sleep a few extra minutes, just make the dough over the weekend or after school and bake it as you need it; the dough will probably last about four days in the refrigerator. These peach scones are a delicious way to start the day, and you'll never want to skip breakfast again!

2 Cups Flour
1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 T Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
Pinch Ginger
1 Stick Butter, Chilled & Cubed
3/4 Cup + 2 T Buttermilk
2 Peaches, Diced (1 1/2 Cups)
2/3 Cup White Chocolate Chips

Heat oven to 375F. Line a cookie tray with parchment.

Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Toss 2T of the mixture with the peaches. Cut the butter into the flour, then add the buttermilk. Fold in the peaches and white chocolate.

Scoop the dough onto the prepared tray and bake for 12 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Makes 12
Recipe Adapted from

August 3, 2013

Shrimp and Chorizo Pasta

I just got home from six weeks of math and science at Vanderbilt. I had a lot of fun and learned too much for summer, but I was basically living off of fast food and takeout. That was a nice change from cooking every meal, but I got bored after about a week. I was craving something better than cheap burgers and pizza. As soon as I got home, I wanted homemade comfort food. Something rich and hearty but easy to prepare, since I still had to unpack. I decided on this dish, shrimp and chorizo pasta. The tender shrimp are cooked in a spicy chorizo sauce, and perfectly al dente pasta is a delicious way to enjoy them.

I start by making the chorizo. This dish is so simple that you want to buy the best ingredients you can and let them stand out, so try to get really good quality sausage. I cook it with plenty of onions and garlic and even more spices; if you like it really spicy, add as much cayenne and chili powder as you want. If you want it more mild, steal a bite of the chorizo once it's cooked and season from there. After the mixture is cooked, I add some chicken broth to thin it out and help the shrimp cook better. They become much more tender when you simmer them in liquid rather than pan-fry them. 

While the sauce is cooking, I cook off some pasta. Boxed is fine, but you can always use fresh; I like penne because it catches little bits of chorizo inside. For this recipe, I cook the pasta a few minutes under what I'm supposed to so that they can finish cooking in the broth. The pasta absorbs all the spicy goodness of the chorizo, and adding a splash of the starchy pasta water tightens the sauce and brings it all together. I know chorizo and pasta aren't typically paired, but the combination works wonderfully in this recipe. There are so many flavors and textures, and it is just what I wanted when I came back home. It's hearty and spicy but ready fast enough to make for any occasion.

1 1/2 lbs Medium Shrimp, Peeled & Deveined
1 lb Chorizo
1/4 Cup Diced Sweet Onion
1 Head Garlic, Minced
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
1 tsp Chili Powder
2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Cayenne
3/4 lb Pasta

Heat some oil in a large skillet and add the chorizo, onion, and garlic. Cook until onions are tender and chorizo is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add the chicken broth, spices, and shrimp and cook for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta, draining 3 minutes before recommended time. Save some of the cooking water, then add the pasta to the skillet. Cook for 3 minutes or until tender, adding pasta water as necessary.

Serves 4