Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

It must be Taco Week here at BistroBess!  Today I have another spin on classic tacos, this time with an Asian flair. 

Fusing the classic Mexican taco with ingredients from other countries, particularly Korea and other parts of Asia, is a big culinary trend right now.  Many credit this to the popularity of food trucks, which use the portable taco as the perfect vehicle to deliver a variety of flavors.  One of my favorites here in DC is TaKorean, which I recommend you seek out for lunch some day soon.

These Kung Pao tacos are packing some heat, thanks to a healthy dose of fresh chile paste.  Sambal Oelek is available at most grocery stores in the Asian section.  It can be potent, so use with caution!

Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

adapted from Cooking Light

  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 TB lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 TBs canola oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 TB honey
  • 1 TB dark sesame oil
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 TB sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste). This makes the tacos quite spicy.  If you prefer less spice, start with 1 tsp and go from there
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions, about two large
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, diagonally sliced (or about 10-12 baby carrots)
  • 3 TB coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
  • corn tortillas, warmed in the oven or in a dry skillet

Place chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce to bag; seal. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.  While chicken marinates, combine 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, honey, and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Set aside for later use.

Place 1/4 cup cornstarch in a shallow dish. Remove chicken from bag and add to cornstarch in dish, and toss chicken to thoroughly coat. Shake off excess cornstarch.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of coated chicken; sauté for 6 minutes or until done, turning to brown. Remove chicken from pan using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Repeat the procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil and coated chicken.  Set chicken aside. 

With the heat still on medium high, add remaining canola oil, if needed.  Add onion, pepper and carrot and sauté until crisp tender, about 2 minutes.  Put chicken back in the pan, stir in soy sauce mixture.  Sauce should thicken up and coat the chicken and veggies.

Top heated tortillas with the chicken and veggie mixture.  Sprinkle on chopped peanuts and garnish with extra green onions, if desired.

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Stuffed Buffalo Chicken

A few weeks ago, I was all set to make a quick, healthy dinner of Buffalo Chicken Salad.  But, while scanning skinnytaste.com at work, I discovered THIS and my plans were altered.  It uses all the same ingredients as the salad, with a few extra staples that I had in the fridge or pantry.  I made a couple modifications, removing bleu cheese and adding some extra hot sauce. It was delicious, cooked up quickly and was still a light and healthy meal. 

Stuffed Buffalo Chicken

Adapted from skinnytaste.com

  • 1/4 cup shredded 2% cheddar
  • 3 wedges Laughing Cow garlic and herb cheese 
  • 1/4 cup green onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup carrot, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 package thin boneless chicken breasts cutlets
  • 1 cup corn flake crumbs
  • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 6 tbsp Franks hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp light butter
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly coat your baking dish with cooking spray.

Mix cheddar, laughing cow cheese, green onion, carrot, salt and pepper in a dish.

Lay out the chicken cutlets, placing even amount of mixture in the middle and spread in the center.

In one bowl make a breading station out of corn flake crumbs. In another bowl combine mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of hot sauce, and lemon juice.  Roll chicken breasts in the mayonnaise mixture, then into the crumbs, and put on a lightly greased pan, seam side down.

Lightly spray top of chicken with cooking spray. Bake 30 minutes. While the chicken cooks, melt butter and mix with the remaining hot sauce and garlic powder. Drizzle buffalo sauce over finished chicken breast and serve.

Pepperoni Chicken with Zucchini “Noodles”

Have I talked about carbs?  I probably have.  What girl hasn’t had the internal carbs monologue…are these the “good” carbs or the “bad” carbs? What’s the difference between whole wheat and whole grain? What’s gluten and why is it terrible?  Does wine have carbs? Is butter a carb? 

Honestly, I can’t really answer your questions, except to say if wine has carbs, they are always good, and butter is most definitely a carb.  I am firmly in the “all things in moderation” camp of eating, but sometimes everyone needs a break from heavy, starchy meals.  These zucchini “noodles” are a great summertime pasta substitute, and are so very easy to make.  The secret is using a julienne peeler.  Mine is Swissmar, and I got it in a three pack from Williams Sonoma.  It makes the process simple…just grate a whole zucchini, skin and all, into a bowl and top it with your favorite pasta sauce! 

If you prefer to cook the zucchini, add the “noodles” to a hot saute pan with a bit of olive oil and cook for a few minutes, until slightly softened.  They are delicious both ways, and a really satisfying, yet light, substitute for pasta.  I topped mine with the always awesome Pepperoni Chicken, which is one of my husband’s favorite recipes. 

Pepperoni Chicken

adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • ½  white onion, chopped
  • 2-3 oz pepperoni, coarsely chopped (I usually use turkey pepperoni)
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼  teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 ½  cups marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil , plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken cutlets (or you can cut regular chicken breasts in half)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat broiler to high.

Heat one teaspoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and pepperoni.  Cook 2-3 minutes until onion begins to soften, stirring frequently.  Add oregano and red pepper flake and stir to combine. Add marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil.

Heat remaining olive oil a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle chicken with salt pepper, and add to skillet. Cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning after 3 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.  Remove from oven, sprinkle with basil.  Serve immediately with pasta or zucchini noodles!

Glazed Chicken and Szechuan Noodle Salad

I am really bad at this blogging thing.  I get busy, it gets cold and dark, and the next thing you know, it’s been 7 months since the last time I blogged.  No excuses, just going to take another stab at it.  I hope at least a few people are still reading this…

My love of Cooking Light Magazine has been documented on this blog in the past, as many of my recipe adaptations start there.  While not always the most gourmet dishes in the world, Cooking Light is a great resource for quick dinners and lightened up versions of classics.  Most of the recipes are very simple, and leave a lot of room for interpretation…adding spice, herbs, and proteins to your taste.  (I am not being paid by Cooking Light.  Obviously.)

That said, I pretty much followed the recipe on this one.  As you can see from the pictures, we decided to chop up the grilled chicken at the end and tossed it in with the noodles.  The recipe calls for bottled Szechuan sauce, and I found something the in the Asian aisle of the grocery store called Spicy Szechuan Stir Fry sauce, so I used that.  It. Was. Spicy.  So, tread lightly with that one!  We added a side of simply roasted broccoli (head of broccoli cut into florets, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, Roast at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes) for a complete meal.

Glazed Chicken and Szechuan Noodle Salad

Adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I used the thin sliced breasts, so the cooking time was reduced
  • 6 ounces uncooked udon noodles (thick, fresh Japanese wheat noodles) or whole-wheat linguine
  • 1/4 cup bottled Szechuan sauce
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat creamy peanut butter  
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice  
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut carrots (I used bagged, shredded carrots)
  • 1/2 cup matchstick-cut green onions

Combine ginger, hoisin, olive oil and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce in a medium bowl; stir well. Add chicken; toss to coat.  You can allow to marinate for up to an hour, but it is not necessary. 

Heat the grill or grill pan to medium high. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill until done. The thin cut breasts will cook in 3-4 minutes per side, larger pieces of chicken could take up to 15-18 minutes total.  I recommend a meat thermometer for this!  Remove from grill; cover.

Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well. Combine Szechuan sauce, peanut butter, remaining soy sauce, and juice in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add noodles, carrots, and green onions; toss and serve immediately with chicken on the side, or cut chicken up and stir into the noodles.

Tamale Pie

Not to sound too much like Garfield here, but I don’t like Mondays. I seem to always work late-ish, the Metro is always backed up (you dont SAY!), the gym is crowded and I am just generally bummed to have four more days until the weekend.  No matter how much I like to cook, on Monday nights it is a struggle to not just order pizza or eat cereal.   Unless I have something in the crockpot.

Oh how I love my crockpot…when I remember it exists. This recipe is based off something I saw over and over again on Pinterest.  I hope you are familiar with Pinterest, the biggest time-suck since peoples profiles on Facebook were public. Follow me! So, on Pinterest, I have seen many different versions of Tamale Pie.  Real tamales are delicious, but not exactly weeknight food, so I was intrigued.  I modified basic idea (cornbread crust, topped with a filling) into a BistroBess original by incorporated the crockpot, which makes this a 20 minute meal.  Perfect for a Monday night, and leftovers for the rest of the week!

Keeping Thanksgiving in mind, this would be a fantastic leftover turkey recipe!  Just saute all the filling/topping ingredients together with the leftover turkey instead of using the crockpot, and then make as directed.  Fabulous!

Tamale Pie

  • 4-5 chicken breasts
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (I used yellow)
  • 2 16 oz jars salsa
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 package Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1 4oz can diced green chiles
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
  • Chopped cilantro (optional)

Put the chicken, onion, jalapeno, bell pepper, salsa and corn in the crockpot and cook at high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10.  I did 10 hours, so it would be ready about the time I get home from work…do whatever works for your schedule.  When it is cooked, take off the lid, and shred the chicken with two forks.  Check for seasoning, add salt and pepper if needed.  Leave in crockpot on warm.

Heat the oven to 400.  Mix the Jiffy mix with the egg, milk, chiles and 1/3 cup of cheese.   Pour into a Pam-ed casserole dish (I used an 11×7, 2.2 quart Pyrex) and bake for about 15 minutes, until set.

Liberally pierce the surface of the cornbread with a fork, and then top with the chicken mixture.  Sprinkle the top with chopped cilantro and the remainder of the cheese.  Bake until the cheese is melted and heated all the way through, about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm!