Seafood Saffron Risotto with Garlic Kale

Last night, my husband and I celebrated two major milestones: ten years since our first date and four years since our wedding day! It’s so crazy to think about all this time that has flown by since we first met. We sifted through old photos and videos last night ooh-ing and aah-ing over what BABIES we used to be! I feel like we were completely different people back then. Not necessarily in a good or bad way, just different. Age and parenthood has definitely changed us! ūüôā

While we’re officially celebrating next week with a fancy schmancy tasting menu at Smyth, I decided to ring in our special occasion with a gourmet homemade meal. My blog recipes are usually all about quick & easy meals for people on the go, but sometimes it’s nice to slooow things down and get a little fancier. I’ve never cooked with scallops before and thought it would be fun to make a seafood risotto. I’ve made this amazing¬†Mushroom Risotto from A Family Feast a million times (it’s delicious), but thought I’d switch things up a little bit and add more spice and flavor. So here is my gourmet anniversary concoction, a mish-mash of different recipes: a seafood saffron risotto with garlic kale. A pinch of saffron and a tiny bit of turmeric make all the difference for this delicious feast! Hope you try it for your next date night ‚̧

Ingredients (serves 2-3) 

The Rice

1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine
3-4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or parmesan
A pinch of saffron
A pinch of turmeric
Salt and pepper, to taste (go easy on the salt)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

The Seafood

2 cloves of garlic, minced
18-20 medium-sized shrimp
1/2 pound bay scallops
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Garlic Kale

1 clove of garlic, minced
100 g baby kale
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Garnish

Lemon juice
Fresh basil
More cheese!

Recipe

The Rice:¬†Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and fry for five minutes or so. Add the arborio rice and stir for an additional five minutes, or until the rice begins to turn golden. Stir in the white wine, a pinch of saffron, and a pinch of turmeric. Once the liquid begins to boil and the rice has absorbed the wine, stir in half a cup of chicken broth and stir constantly. Once most of the liquid has been absorbed, add another half cup of broth. Continue to stir. Keep adding a little more broth (half cup at a time) and constantly stirring for 20-25 minutes, or until the rice has softened. If you like your risotto creamy, then add more broth. Once the rice is fully cooked but there’s still some liquid left, stir in the cheese, a little bit of salt and pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

The Seafood: Melt the butter on a frying pan on high heat. Once the butter is sizzling, add the minced garlic until they begin to turn golden. Add the lightly-salted shrimp and fry on each side for a few minutes until fully cooked. They should be nice and brown and coated with garlic. Add to the risotto. In the same pan, add some olive oil on high heat. Add the lightly-salted bay scallops (note that they should be washed and COMPLETELY dry before frying) and fry on each side for a minute or two. They should be a little golden on the outside. Add the scallops along with any remaining olive oil into the risotto mixture and stir together.

The Kale: Heat the olive oil on a frying pain on medium-high heat. Add the minced garlic until they begin to turn golden. Add the kale and stir just for a few minutes until wilted, but not soggy.

And you’re done! A labor of love, but such a lovely, impressive, and delicious meal. Plate your risotto with a generous helping of the kale and garnish with fresh basil, lemon juice, and as much cheese as you desire.

Just for fun Рmy hubby & I from our early dating years! 

Better-Than-Takeout Chicken Fried Noodles

For the longest time, I would throw every single Asian cooking sauce from my pantry into stir-fry dishes and hope for the best. For some bizarre reason, I thought that the more different flavors I added (teriyaki, black bean, sriracha, soy sauce–you name it), the more delicious the stir fry would be. Of course, I would always be disappointed by the taste, wondering what was missing from my very random soup of sauces.

I finally just decided to do my research (duh!) into what makes stir fry so delicious, and was pleasantly surprised to find how simple the sauce needs to be. The key is a little bit of sugar, and to make sure your pan/wok is super hot before throwing in all your ingredients. This particular¬†recipe¬†I tested recently from RecipeTin Eats is absolutely fantastic, and easy to customize depending on what you have in your pantry. I whipped up a lazy girl version of it on a random Friday night that I was craving Asian takeout, and it COMPLETELY hit the spot. Taste-wise it was better than takeout, and no bloating or guilt ūüôā

Enjoy! I tried the noodles with shrimp as well, but personally preferred the taste with chicken thighs.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

6 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (can easily be swapped out with shrimp)
1 tbsp Canola oil
Noodles of your choice, prepared according to instructions (*The type of noodles you pick makes a big difference to the taste of this dish–my personal favorite is Blue Dragon’s egg noodles. Three rounds of this is perfect for two very hungry adults)
Veggies of your choice–for my lazy, minimal prep version of this, I opted for 3/4 a bag of Broccoli Coleslaw, which includes shredded broccoli, cabbage, and carrots
1 shallot, cut into long pieces
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/4 cup of water

The Sauce

1.5 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp oyster sauce
1.5 tbsp chicken broth
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
Pepper

Recipe

Stir together all the ingredients for the sauce in a separate bowl. Marinate the chicken thigh pieces with 1 tbsp of the stir fry sauce for at least 10 minutes.

Heat Canola oil in a large frying pan or wok. Once it’s on high heat, fry the garlic pieces until it begins to brown. Throw in the chicken and stir for a few minutes until partially cooked. Add the veggies/broccoli slaw/shallots and mix together until the chicken is fully cooked. Make sure the veggies are still a bit crispy and not too soggy. Add the noodles, the remaining stir fry sauce, and water. Stir the mixture with the noodles, remove from heat, and serve immediately.

Boursin & Pesto-Stuffed Chicken Thighs

I faced a rare conundrum the other day: an unopened pack of Boursin cheese that had been sitting pretty in my fridge for several days. In case you’ve been living under a rock,¬†Boursin¬†is this ridiculously delicious brand of creamy, flavor-packed French cheese that goes well with pretty much anything – eggs, crackers, you name it. It’s like goat cheese on crack. While brainstorming recipe ideas for using Boursin in a quick weeknight chicken dinner, I came across this Rachael Ray¬†recipe¬†that looked fabulous, but a bit too time-consuming.

Here’s my speedy version of her recipe, using three key ingredients: Boursin, ready-made pesto, and olive oil. THAT’S IT. Oh, and chicken thighs instead of breast, because they are so much more tender and better at soaking up that delicious garlic flavor ūüôā

Ingredients (serves 4) 

12 chicken thighs
1/2 pack of Boursin Garlic & Herb cheese (~2.5 oz)
**the Rachael Ray recipe calls for a full pack, but IMHO half a pack is all you need since the cheese is so rich and flavorful!
3 tbsp pesto
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste
10-12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Recipe

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cheese and pesto until nice and creamy. Lay out the chicken thighs on a large baking tray and season with olive oil, and just a touch of salt & pepper. Add a teaspoon of the pesto cheese mixture to the center of the chicken thighs, and fold them over to enclose. Pour any leftover mixture over the thighs. You can then store this in the fridge for a few hours to marinate, or pop directly in the oven.

Bake the chicken thighs for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and add some parmesan cheese, and the cherry tomatoes. Pop back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the thighs are done cooking. I like to broil them for a few minutes at the very end for a nice browned look!

That’s it! SO incredibly easy with virtually zero prep time, but so many complex flavors, thanks to the Boursin cheese. I’ve already made this twice (once for guests), and they’re a huge hit!

Authentic Thai Green Curry – straight from Chiang Mai!

Even though we’re in the thick of winter here in Chicago, my mind is still in beautiful Thailand. My husband and I recently got back from an incredible adventure to Thailand & Cambodia (blog post coming soon) and my heart still aches¬†for the beautiful people, culture, and FOOD of Southeast Asia. It continues to be my absolute favorite part of the world.

One of our favorite memories of the trip¬†was a half-day cooking class in Chiang Mai through Zabb-E-Lee¬†Cooking School. We had such a great time exploring Thai markets, picking up fresh ingredients (still can’t get over the fragrance of kaffir lime), and then spending a few hours in a gorgeous outdoor, bohemian-style kitchen whipping up over six dishes. Such a delightful experience for a couple who loves to cook together.

I’m excited to share the recipe from our culinary adventures¬†for Zabb-E-Lee’s chicken green curry. It was absolutely delicious and SO easy to make (well, once all the spices were ground up). I made it once at home too with store-bought green curry paste, and it was still pretty damn good. Obviously not as fragrant and fresh as the Chiang Mai version, but still a great recipe to quickly whip up when you’re craving some curry. Got my hubby hooked on Thai food now. Enjoy!

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Starting off the day picking fresh ingredients from the market with our awesome instructor

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Literally the cutest space for our cooking class. So boho chic! 

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So proud of our culinary creations!

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Silky smooth green curry. Nothing like that fresh taste of coconut cream and kaffir lime. 

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My version at home Рmore veggies, low fat coconut milk, and store bought green curry paste. Sorry for the poor picture quality Рalas, not much natural lighting in Chicago right now. Still delicious, and SO easy to make! 

Thai Green Chicken Curry (recipe adapted from Zabb-E-Lee Cooking School)

Ingredients (serves 3-4) 

2 tbsp canola oil
6 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can coconut cream (highly recommend the Aroy-D brand)
1.5 tbsp green curry paste* (I used the Thai Kitchen brand, but see below for the recipe to make this from scratch)
1 eggplant, cut into squares
1 zucchini, cut into squares
Handful of green beans (per your liking)
2 tbsp sweet basil
3 leaves kaffir lime leaf, torn in half
1 tbsp pea eggplant (optional – I didn’t use this)
2 red chilis, sliced diagonally
2 tsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce

Recipe

Let the oil heat on a wok or non-stick pan on medium high. Stir the green curry paste for a few minutes until fragrant and the oil surfaces. Add the chicken thighs and stir until fully cooked. Gradually add the coconut milk and add in the eggplant, zucchini, and green beans. Cover and let simmer. When the veggies are cooked, add palm sugar, fish sauce, sweet basil, kaffir lime, and red chilis. THAT’S IT – you’re done! Enjoy with rice or noodles.

*Green Curry Paste¬†(from Zabb-E-Lee’s cookbook)

Ingredients

10 fresh green chilies, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp galangal finely chopped
1 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 shallots, sliced
1 tsp kaffir lime ride, finely sliced
1 tbsp coriander roots, chopped
1 tsp fresh turmeric or turmeric powder
1 tsp shrimp paste (this is the secret sauce!)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp roasted coriander seeds
1/2 tsp roasted cumin
1 tsp ginger

Directions

Combine coriander seeds, cumin, black pepper in a mortar, pound well. Add chilies and salt to the mixture and continue pounding. Add remaining ingredients (except for the shrimp paste) and pound again. After everything is smooth, add the shrimp paste and continue pounding until the mixture is a smooth paste.

Looking Back on Summer – Recipes & Reflections

And here I am, six months later. I can’t believe I’ve taken that long of a hiatus from my blog, but I guess that’s what happens when a summer of epic proportions rolls by. I blame a combination of weddings (nine total this year!), a crazy upswing in work travel (I think I clocked in a total of four trips to NYC within the summer), and the most incredible¬†belated two-week honeymoon to Italy & Greece with my husband. This summer was¬†awesome¬†and exhilarating, but I’m looking forward to time sloooowing down a bit with the change of seasons. I still can’t believe we only have a month and a half left in 2016, but I’m determined to slow things down with what we have left. And catch up on my blog, of course. I have a zillion ideas circling in my head for posts–Italy travel guides, ideas for fall/winter dinner parties, slow cooking recipes–so it’s time to hibernate a bit and get writing again. Always fun to get my creative juices flowing after a long break.

I could do a million different blog posts on my summer alone, but I wanted to start off with sharing a few recipes I tried from other bloggers/websites these past few months. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I love sharing ‘grams of my food with quick descriptions of the recipes.¬†Some of my favorite tries¬†from summer and fall:

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Post Italy, linguine carbonara has become a dangerous staple in our household. We love how easy it is to prepare, and we’re obsessed with the smoky delicious taste of pancetta/guanciale combined with pecorino. There are many different recipes of linguine carbonara out there and we sometimes improvise, but this¬†The New York Times recipe is pretty fool-proof. Perfect for dinner parties with a side of shrimp scampi or Florentine steak.¬†

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I am obsessed with Indo-Chinese cuisine, an amazing combination of spicy Indian food and classic Chinese dishes. My husband isn’t the biggest fan of Asian food, but likes it when I make it (or so he says…), so I’ve been experimenting more with Asian dishes at home. The chili chicken pictured here is my absolute favorite, and the schezhwan¬†noodles ain’t so bad either. Thanks to Indu Gets Cooking for both these awesome recipes! Her blog is fabulous for Indian/Indo-Chinese recipes.¬†

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For a brief period this summer, I was obsessed with zucchini noodles for EVERY meal. I should probably get back on that train, instead of the current pasta obsession that I’m on. I absolutely love this Williams Sonoma recipe for Chicken Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Sauce¬†over a bed of zucchini noodles. It’s super healthy, since the meatballs are baked and include spinach leaves, and the spicy sauce gives it the extra kick I always need. Must try this one!

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Chicken thighs, pesto, goat cheese, garlic deliciousness. What’s not to love? Italian food is one of my faves, and so is this Baked Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes, Olives and Goat Cheese¬†recipe from this lovely little blog called Italian Food Forever. It’s ridiculously simple to put together, and perfect with a side of salad or pasta. Really can’t get enough of that goat cheese and pesto combination!¬†

That’s all I got for today, but I’d love to hear from YOU guys about what recipes you’ve been loving lately. My husband and I have been cooking together more lately, and we’re dying to try more slow cooking recipes for lazy Sundays. xo, GCG.