The Ardent Prep: Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet

This is the first recipe in The Ardent Prep series “Chicken, Rice, and Caramelized Onions.” To visit the original blog post, click here. To see the other two recipes in this meal prep series, click the links at the bottom of this page. I hope you enjoy this delicious and easy recipe!

Ingredients

2.5 cups prepped rice

Approximately 1/3 prepped chicken breast, cubed or shredded

Approximately 1/2 prepped caramelized onions

2 bell peppers, any color, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, grated or minced

1/4 pound American Cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 TBSP olive oil over medium heat. Add peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and slightly browned, approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute, until fragrant.
  3. To the skillet with the peppers and garlic, add rice, chicken, and caramelized onions. Fold ingredients together and spread into an even layer in the skillet. Taste for salt and pepper, and add accordingly.
  4. Cover rice mixture with sliced American cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and slightly golden. Enjoy!

Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry

Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat Cheese Bowls with Homemade Balsamic Glaze

The Ardent Prep: Chicken, Rice, and Caramelized Onions

Happy Easter everyone! I’m spending today with endless cups of coffee, a nature walk, and a free spiral-cut ham that we got on rewards from the grocery store (no shame here). One of the positives of this quarantine for me has been the opportunity to fully immerse myself in Spring and all that this season has to offer. I think Spring is often overlooked because of our desires to get out of the cold weather and move directly into summer, but it’s really one of my favorite seasons! I’m thankful for the opportunity to slow down a bit and watch the flowers bloom.

This meal prep series was inspired by feedback I got from you all on Instagram. The concept was to take a “base”, in this case chicken and rice, and come up with 3-4 quick, easy ways that you could change up that base throughout the week. While most of us do have more time now that we’re home, I think there is also a pressure to be even more productive than we would normally be in the office, and therefore meals get overlooked in exchange for a quick snack while you mute yourself on a conference call. The idea of this meal prep series is that you spend 30 minutes or so prepping your base, then an additional 15-20 minutes for each meal. I visualized a schedule that goes something like this:

Sunday: Prep base ingredients. Store in containers in fridge.

Monday: Make Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet for dinner. Store leftovers for lunch next day.

Tuesday: Make Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry for dinner. Store leftovers for lunch next day.

Wednesday: Leftovers, if any.

Thursday: Make Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat Cheese Bowls with Homemade Balsamic Glaze. Store leftovers for lunch next day.

Friday: Leftovers, if any.

Alternatively, you could do your prep and make a meal all in one shot in the kitchen. It really just depends how you want to make this plan work for you. I will say that this isn’t a comprehensive, feed-your-entire-family-for-a-week meal plan. This is basic. You get roughly 2-3 adult-sized portions per meal, and if you live with boys, good luck making it last. However, if you live alone or with one other person, this is a pretty decent way to feed yourselves using simple, healthy ingredients with minimal effort during the work week. You can always feel free to bulk up these recipes even more by adding additional sides of vegetables or another side dish. The point of this recipe series if to provide a framework that is digestible, delicious, and open for interpretation!

The grocery list is provided to be used at the beginning of the week, with the assumption that you already have a few staples like olive oil, salt, pepper, and butter. You can certainly feel free to swap out any vegetables you don’t like, change up your protein, or use a grain alternative instead of the rice. Be mindful that your final product should be about 8 cups of whatever rice or rice alternative you are using, so take that into account when making a swap there! Seafood would be excellent in the Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry or the Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat cheese bowls, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a swap for the Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet. Make this recipe your own and don’t be afraid to swap something interesting!

I hope you enjoy the first installment of The Ardent Prep. If this concept is well-received, I would love to make this a regular occurrence on the blog. Your feedback is always appreciated, and I’ve been loving seeing all of your recipe photos. It means the world! If you decide to make any of these recipes, don’t forget to share and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Grocery List

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

1 knob fresh ginger, approximately 1 inch

1 head of garlic

1-2 large sweet onions 

2 Bell peppers, any color

1 medium jalapeno pepper

1-2 heads of broccoli

1-2 heads kale

¼ pound sliced White American cheese

1 4oz log Goat cheese

1 16oz can full-fat coconut milk

White rice (4 cups dry)

1 16oz bottle Balsamic vinegar 

Ground turmeric

Prep Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, and pepper until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately 30 minutes.
  2. Cook rice according to package instructions. If using a grain alternative, be sure that your final products yields close to 8 cups. Each recipe calls for approximately 2.5 cups of rice, give or take.
  3. While chicken and rice cook, melt 1 TBSP butter or other cooking fat in a medium skillet. Finely slice onion crosswise and add to the skillet along with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat onions in the butter, and saute over low heat until onions are slightly golden and resemble a jammy consistency, at least 20 minutes. Be careful not to cook onions any higher than low heat, at the risk of burning them.
  4. If choosing to make one of the meals at this point, continue with instructions for those recipes, linked below. Otherwise, store all ingredients in separate containers in the fridge and use according to recipe instructions throughout the week. Enjoy!

Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet

Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry

Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat Cheese Bowls with Homemade Balsamic Glaze

Italian “Salsa Verde”

This is probably the easiest recipe I’ve ever attempted, and it was inspired by an abundance of herbs (which I just can’t stop irrationally buying during quarantine times). I was craving some kind of pesto or chimichurri situation, but didn’t have the right herbs for the job, so out came this baby dubbed Italian “Salsa Verde”. “Salsa Verde” is written in quotes because that name implies a tomatillo-based, Latin-inspired salsa, which this recipe is not. It is, however, delicious and easy and can literally be put on ANYTHING.

This recipe calls for parsley and mint, but truthfully you could use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand and I think it would be great. The capers, while delicious, could also be subbed for some other briny ingredient such as olives or even a pickled jalapeno if you enjoy spice. The walnuts can also easily be substituted with any other nut variety. From there, all you really need is a lemon, some olive oil, and S&P.

I chose to shoot this recipe with salmon for a nice color contrast, but you could truthfully pair it with anything from chicken, to steak, to pasta, to chickpeas and it would be delicious. The purpose is to bring a little brightness to an otherwise boring meal with minimal ingredients.

I hope you make this recipe and spoon it over all of the things to your heart’s content. And when you do, be sure to share a photo and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Ingredients

¼ cup parsley, finely chopped

⅛ cup mint, finely chopped

3 TBSP capers, drained and roughly chopped

Juice and zest of ½ lemon

⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup walnuts, chopped 

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine parsley, mint, capers, lemon zest, lemon juice, walnuts, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. 
  2. Add olive oil and stir vigorously to combine (a fork works best here). Add additional olive oil if desired. 
  3. Spoon over fish, chicken, or steak for a bright compliment to your protein. Alternatively, use this like a pesto for pasta or grain bowls.

Double Chocolate Scones with Salted Peanut Butterscotch Glaze

It’s Sunday, and I’ve been making a concerted effort to differentiate weekdays from weekends during this pandemic. Read: extra baking. I happen to live with two men in their mid-twenties who will literally eat anything I put on the counter, so I’m fortunate enough that baked goods wind up in their mouths more frequently than my own. It doesn’t stop me from enjoying my fair share as well, though.

With that being said, I do still try to choose better options when baking, which is why you see me using coconut sugar in so many of my recipes. It’s one of the more affordable options when it comes to unrefined sugar products, and I genuinely just enjoy the taste more than conventional white sugar. The taste of coconut sugar resembles more of a brown sugar or caramel, and I love that about it. I use it daily in my coffee, and pretty much any time I need a sugar substitute. Basically, if you don’t have coconut sugar, you can *almost* always sub regular sugar in my recipes. The same rule applies to milk. In this recipe, I use vanilla almond milk for the scones and heavy cream for the butterscotch. Regular milk will work fine for the scones, unflavored almond milk will also work… use what you have. If you choose to use a plain, unflavored milk option, I would suggest adding a teaspoon of vanilla extract to replace the vanilla flavor you get from the almond milk. Similarly, the heavy cream in the butterscotch can easily be substituted for full fat coconut milk. As long as the consistencies are similar, it’s a pretty safe bet as a substitute.

Now back to the scones. As far as baking goes, scones are one of the easiest IMO. You literally can use your hands for the majority of the time, which means fewer spoons to clean, and they come together in about 5 minutes. They’re also great for the anxious baker, because you don’t have to stress about perfectly shaping the dough or perfectly drizzling the glaze. Guess what? They taste exactly the same no matter what shape or glaze pattern you choose.

One non-negotiable in this recipe: cold butter. I’m talking straight-from-the-fridge cold. If it’s too warm, or worse, melted, the dough won’t turn out right. The cold butter is also what allows the scones to become flaky during the baking process.

A few notes about the butterscotch glaze: When in doubt about the consistency of the butterscotch, it’s always safe to simmer it on the stove for an extra minute or so rather than to remove it from the heat too soon. It’s better for your glaze to be overly set than not set enough. You can substitute any nut butter you have on hand in this recipe and it will be delicious. You really can’t go wrong with butter, sugar, cream, and nut butter. Feel free to store excess butterscotch in a container in the fridge for up to a week. Spoon it over ice cream, add a dollop to your coffee, or just eat it with a spoon.

I hope you enjoy this Sunday baking project as much as I do. Don’t forget to share your photos and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

For the Scones 

2 cups whole wheat flour

⅔ cup all-purpose flour

⅓ cup cocoa powder 

1 tsp espresso powder

½ cup coconut sugar

1 TBSP baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ cup cold salted butter (1 stick)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk 

1 egg  

For the PB Butterscotch 

½ cup cold salted butter (1 stick)

1 ¼ cup coconut sugar 

¾ cup heavy cream (or full-fat coconut milk to make dairy free) 

½ cup natural peanut butter (or other natural nut butter)

Instructions

  1. Make the scones. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, coconut sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk to combine.
  3. Cube 1 stick cold butter into roughly 1/2 in pieces. Add cubed butter to flour mixture and toss to coat the butter with the flour. Using your fingers, work butter into flour mixture until it is pea-sized and evenly distributed throughout dough.
  4. Add chocolate chips to bowl and toss to combine.
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture. In a small bowl, whisk the almond milk and eggs until combined, then pour into the well. Fold to combine, using a silicon spatula or your hands. The mixture will become cohesive and slightly moist throughout.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, dump out dough and fold over onto itself a few times. Using lightly floured hands, shape dough into two equal circles, each about 3/4 inch thick.
  7. Transfer dough circles to a rimmed sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut each circle into 6 equal pieces. Spread the pieces out slightly, keeping them in the circle with at least 1/2 inch between each piece. There will be 12 scones total.
  8. Top scones with a few more chocolate chips, if desired.
  9. Bake for 18-24 minutes. Total bake time really depends on your oven, so be sure to rotate the sheet tray halfway through cooking to ensure even baking and check on them frequently as the end time nears. The scones will have risen slightly and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean when done.
  10. While the scones bake, make the butterscotch. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the other stick of butter.
  11. Once melted, add the coconut sugar and whisk constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks glossy.
  12. Turn heat down to medium-low. Add heavy cream, and continue whisking. The mixture will bubble, which is normal. Whisk constantly until the bubbling subsides and the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, approximately 3-4 minutes.
  13. Remove butterscotch from the heat and whisk in peanut butter. Allow mixture to sit while scones bake, and whisk again before pouring over cooled scones. If the mixture tightens up too much while you wait for the scones, you may warm it slightly over low heat until it reaches a pourable texture again.
  14. Serve scones warm with whipped cream, a scoop of ice cream, or a glass of milk. Enjoy!

Turkey & Mushroom Dumplings

I want to start off this recipe with a disclaimer that homemade dumplings are kind of a thing. They take awhile, and they take some patience (especially if you’re planning on making these with children), but they are SO worth it. The dumpling wrappers come together with just two ingredients and a little handiwork, and the filling gets cooked down to concentrate the flavors so much that even mushroom-haters will have their mouths watering.

If you actually can’t stand mushrooms and aren’t willing to give them a try, you can substitute them. You could just use more ground turkey, or try something different such as ground pork or another vegetable (perhaps finely chopped broccoli or cauliflower).

In this recipe, we add the coconut aminos (or soy sauce, if using that) in two parts. The first two tablespoons are added at the beginning of cooking to concentrate flavor. The second two tablespoons are added just before filling the dumplings, to ensure that the mixture stays moist while we fry the dumplings. Don’t skip out on this step, or your filling may be too dry.

If it feels like your dough is too dry, feel free to add more water little by little. A stand mixer is very helpful here, but don’t feel intimidated if you don’t have one. Your hand will work just fine, keeping in mind that it may take a little elbow grease to get the dough mixed through.

These dumplings are perfect to make over the weekend when you have time to dedicate, but with the right amount of planning you could totally do these on a weeknight. Make the filling ahead of time and store it in the fridge, then you just need to make the dough and fry them before eating. These dumplings are a great way to take your mind off of being stuck at home, and a really fun project if you’ve never made your own. I hope you enjoy this recipe!

As always, if you make them, share and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

For the filling

1lb ground turkey

One 3.5 oz container shiitake mushrooms, chopped  

2 scallions, finely sliced, plus more for garnish

1.5 inch piece ginger, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

½ cup cilantro, finely chopped

4 TBSP coconut aminos or low-sodium soy, divided 

1 TBSP toasted sesame oil

1 tsp Sambal or similar chile paste

1 TBSP honey

1 TBSP olive oil, for pan frying

For the dough

1.5 cups AP flour

1 cup Whole Wheat flour

¾ – 1 cup water, depending on absorbency of your flour 

Instructions

  1. Prepare filling. In a medium skillet, begin to brown turkey. When turkey is about halfway cooked and slightly pink, add mushrooms, scallions, ginger, garlic, and 2 TBSP of the coconut aminos or soy sauce. Stir to combine and saute on low for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to concentrate.The mixture will look moist but not wet. Let cool. 
  2. While filling cooks, combine flour and water in a large bowl or stand mixer with dough hook attachment. If using a stand mixer, mix on low until flour is just combined, being careful not to overwork the dough. If using hands, gently knead dough, occasionally folding it over itself to combine. Regardless of the mixing method used, you may need to add a few tablespoons of additional water to get the dough to a consistency that can be easily rolled out.  
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to about ¼ inch thick. Cut small circles, approximately 1.5 inches in diameter, using a small cookie cutter or glass (a shot glass works well for this). Then, roll each circle out as thin as possible without tearing. 
  4. To the cooled filling mixture, add the remaining 2 TBSP coconut aminos, chopped cilantro, sesame oil, Sambal or chile paste, and honey. Stir to combine. Taste mixture and add additional salt and/or Sambal to your taste preference. 
  5. Moisten the edges of a dumpling wrapper with water and scoop about 1.5 tsp of filling into the center of the wrapper. Fold the edges of the wrapper over, creating a half-moon dumpling shape, and press with your fingers to seal the edges. Do not overfill the dumplings, as they could tear. Repeat the process until all dumpling wrappers are filled. This recipe will yield about 30 dumplings. If extra dumpling filling remains, enjoy it as a filling for lettuce wraps, or served over rice with some steamed broccoli! 
  6. In a large nonstick skillet, add olive oil to coat the pan. Pan-fry dumplings over medium heat until golden and crisp on one side, approximately 5 minutes. Flip dumplings over and add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and cover to steam for another 5 minutes. Once the time is up, uncover the pan and allow dumplings to finish cooking until the water has evaporated and the dumplings are soft. Time may vary for this step, so it is best to judge by how the dumplings look and feel. If the bottoms are burning, lower the heat and add a bit more water to the pan to insulate. 
  7. Serve dumplings with dipping sauce of your choice. For a quick and delicious sauce, combine 2 TBSP coconut aminos, 1 tsp sriracha, 1 tsp honey, ½ tsp grated garlic, ½ tsp grated ginger, and toasted sesame seeds. 

Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits

Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits are light, comforting, filled with cheddar-y goodness, and easy as…..biscuits? They’re best fresh out of the oven, but if you have enough self-control to not eat all 8 in one sitting, they can definitely be stored for later. I recommend storing in a sealed container on the counter at room temperature for up to 3 days. If storing longer, transfer to the fridge after 3 days. To reheat, simply warm them in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes.

I serve these biscuits warm with a dollop of sour cream or butter, or alongside my Crispy Cast-Iron Chicken Thighs with Black Pepper Gravy to sop up that delicious creamy sauce. I hope you enjoy this simple baking project, and don’t forget to share and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram.

Ingredients needed to make Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits

Like most baking recipes, you need your classic flour, butter, etc. to get these biscuits just right. I use a ratio of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, specifics of which are described in the section titled “How to make Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits” below. For now, here’s what you’ll need to gather:

Tools used to make Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits

There’s not a whole lot of equipment required to make these biscuits. The most important piece of equipment is a clean, floured kitchen counter for folding and shaping the biscuit dough. Other than that, you’ll want to gather these pieces of equipment:

How to make Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits

This dough comes together unexpectedly, so be warned. It won’t look homogenous like a bread dough, and that’s kind of the point. The technical term is that the dough will look “shaggy” after the wet ingredients are added. The sour cream acts as our leavening agent when mixed with the baking soda, and the cold butter creates a solid barrier that, when melted, causes steam to rise and separate the dough to form little air pockets. In short: FLAKY LAYERS. Be weary of the amount of times you knead this dough, as the more you work the flour, the more time the gluten has to become tough. The best method is to use a swirling/folding technique to incorporate the ingredients while the dough is still in the bowl, and then knead it just a few times on your floured surface. Rolling the dough over onto itself, also known as lamination, is what creates those layers of solid butter upon solid butter that will puff up once in the oven, so don’t skip Step #8.

Another note: whole wheat flour, in my experience, tends to absorb liquid more easily and can lead to tougher baked good. So, the ratio in this recipe of 1.5 cups whole wheat to one cup AP flour is about as liberal as I’d go with your whole wheat usage. If you don’t have whole wheat, this recipe can easily be done using only AP flour. If you go that route, I would recommend using slightly less water in this recipe, maybe decreasing by a tablespoon. I haven’t tested this recipe using a gluten free flour, but I would recommend using a cup-for-cup option if you want gluten free. It should be fine if you follow all other aspects of the recipe.

I love to enjoy these biscuits fresh from the oven with a dollop of sour cream. They are so delicious!

Recipe Ingredients

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour, plus more to dust rolling surface

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup salted butter, cold (1½ sticks)

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp coconut sugar

1 generous cup sour cream

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 TBSP water

Fresh ground black pepper, a few good turns

Optional: ¼ cup fresh chives, chopped 

Recipe Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Add dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl (flour, baking powder, baking soda, coconut sugar, pepper) and whisk to combine.
  3. Cube butter into ½ inch pieces with a sharp knife. Set aside about 4 cubes in a small bowl to be melted later. 
  4. Drop butter cubes into the dry ingredients and toss to coat in the flour mixture. Using clean hands, squeeze and manipulate the butter into the flour to create small blueberry-sized pieces.
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture and add the sour cream. Using a fork or butter knife, work the sour cream into the flour mixture by swirling and stirring to incorporate. The dough will not look homogenous. Add the cheddar cheese and water and repeat the swirling process. At this point, add chopped chives, if using.
  6. Using lightly floured hands, roll the dough over onto itself while still in the bowl. Then, dump the entire mixture onto a clean, floured surface such as your counter or a large cutting board. 
  7. Using your hands, knead the dough a few times to incorporate. Be careful not to knead more than a few times, or your biscuits may turn out tough rather than light and flaky. 
  8. Shape the dough into an oblong rectangle, as pictured below. Using a sharp knife dusted in flour, cut the dough in half and fold one half over onto itself. Then, press and shape the dough into an oblong rectangle again. 
  9. Cut dough into 8 equal pieces using the floured knife to avoid sticking and place biscuits onto a greased cookie sheet. Melt the reserved cubes of butter and brush or spoon over the tops of the biscuits. 
  10. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until the biscuits have risen slightly and are golden brown. 
  11. Serve for breakfast with a fried egg and extra chives for garnish. Alternatively, enjoy these as a snack with a dollop of sour cream or alongside my Crispy Cast-Iron Chicken Thighs with Black Pepper Gravy.

Crispy Cast-Iron Chicken Thighs with Black Pepper Gravy

Happy Sunday everyone! If you live in the PA/NJ area, you’ve had rain this entire weekend like I have. Major bummer. Especially during a shelter-in-place. Luckily, this has given me all the time to perfect this comfort-food staple: Crispy Cast-Iron Chicken Thighs with Black Pepper Gravy!

Guys, I’m going to preach for a second right now, so I apologize. If you haven’t bought bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, you are literally not living your life to the fullest extent. I get it, some people are afraid of bones in their meat, or maybe you think that eating chicken skin is going to break your diet. Listen- it’s not. The flavor imparted when you cook chicken with its bones is comparable to NOTHING. It’s seriously so good.

Besides just the flavor, you’re doing a disservice to the animal when you buy boneless, skinless anything. In the era of climate change, meat consumption must be done responsibly, and one of the ways you can do that is by consuming ALL parts of the animals you buy. Save the bones from your chicken, freeze them, and use them to make bone broth (instead of paying $10 for a small container pre-made, you can literally make your own for pennies). I’ll do another blog post on bone-broth at a later date, but there are tons of recipes for that online. You really only need some spare bones, vegetable scraps, water, and a crock pot. It’s that simple. Anyways, thanks for listening to my rant. If I haven’t sold you already, also keep in mind that bone-in meat is always cheaper. So that’s another selling point.

Now back to the recipe. The crispy skin on these bad boys is the perfect compliment to the creamy gravy. A little crunch, a little saltiness, and smooth gravy…. Wow. If you want to make this gravy dairy-free, you could sub a non-dairy milk of your choice or just omit the milk and use double the chicken stock. It’s really flexible. The only important part is the flour to butter ratio, which allows the sauce to thicken. If you’re doubling this recipe, or want more/less gravy, just remember that you need 1 tablespoon fat (chicken drippings, butter, or oil) to 1 tablespoon of flour to 1 cup of liquid. That ratio can be altered up or down depending on your needs.

A little note on the infamous meat thermometer: you need one. Go on Amazon right now, order a basic instant read meat thermometer, and thank me later. It takes all of the guess work out of cooking meat, and ensures perfectly moist chicken every time. Plus, I use them in almost all of my recipes involving meat, so you’ll want to have it on hand if you plan on making anything else from me in the future. A general rule of thumb for poultry is to cook until the bird reaches 165 degrees at the deepest part, however you can often get away with cooking to about 155-160 and letting the meat rest for 10 minutes or so, covered. In the case of this recipe, we don’t want to cover our chicken thighs because the skin will lose its crispiness, so I’m recommending you cook them to the full 165 (because we won’t let them rest covered, which would normally allow them to come to the full temperature). If you ever have questions about this, or about anything at all, feel free to DM me on instagram or leave a comment here.

This chicken is delicious served on its own, or paired with roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, or my Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits. Whatever you decide to serve them with, make sure you take photos and tag me on instagram @theardentcook. I hope you enjoy this classic, comforting recipe! Thanks for stopping by!

For the Chicken Thighs

4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs

1 TBSP high-temperature cooking fat 

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp (a few good turns) fresh cracked black pepper

¼ tsp salt 

For the Gravy

2 TBSP reserved pan drippings

2 TBSP whole wheat flour

1 cup chicken broth 

1 cup milk (can be made dairy free)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a paper towel, pat chicken thighs dry and season all over with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic powder.
  2. Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat to get hot and add cooking oil of your choice. Once hot, place chicken thighs, skin side down, in the skillet with some room in between them.
  3. Cook chicken thighs on the stove for approximately 10 minutes, rotating your pan every few minutes to ensure even cooking. Transfer skillet to the oven, and cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes, remove skillet from the oven and flip chicken thighs over so the skin side is up. Check to ensure the skin is evenly browned (if the skin needs a few more minutes to achieve browning, you may cook them skin side down for a few additional minutes in the oven). Return skillet to the oven and continue cooking, skin side up, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit at the deepest part, near the bone.
  5. Place chicken thighs on a plate to rest. DO NOT cover chicken, as this will cause the chicken to steam and ruin the crispiness of the skin.
  6. Carefully discard all pan drippings except for 2 tablespoons. Place skillet back on the stove over medium-low heat, keeping in mind that the handles will still be hot. To the pan drippings, add flour and whisk to combine, creating a roux. Allow roux to brown for a minute or so, watching carefully not to burn it.
  7. Add milk and whisk to combine. There may be some clumping of the roux, but this will dissipate once the milk reaches the same temperature as the skillet. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  8. Repeat this process with the chicken stock, adding little by little until all of the liquid is incorporated and the gravy is thick and glossy.
  9. Add fresh-cracked black pepper and salt to taste.
  10. Plate gravy and chicken thighs, and serve alongside roasted vegetables for a complete meal. For an extra win, make a batch of my Sour Cream & Cheddar Biscuits to scoop up that extra gravy. Enjoy!

Green Goddess Meatballs with Carrot Fries and Lemony Herb Sauce

Hey guys! Here we go, my first formal recipe. When I was deciding what to post first, I agonized over what I thought people would want to make. Insert: a vote on Instagram stories, and now you’ve all decided for me! Thanks for that.

These meatballs are everything you need them to be during a quarantine- healthy, versatile, and delicious. The ones pictured here use ground chicken, but they would truly be great with any ground protein. I considered using a combination of ground beef and ground lamb, but unfortunately my local store was out. Use what you have, and don’t sweat it!

The meatballs are herb HEAVY, and I like them that way. If you’re not a fan of fresh herbs, just omit them or use less. Don’t like dill but love parsley? Just sub extra. But, they are called ‘Green Goddess’ for a reason people, and the herbs really do add to their flavor.

I absolutely love oven-baked fries, particularly sweet potato. However, I don’t love the work that goes into chopping all those sweet potatoes. It’s actually the worst. Your knife always gets stuck, you risk losing a finger, and the pieces never seem to turn out the shape or size you want. These carrot fries are the perfect alternative and require far less intense chopping, so you can spend more time eating them than you did prepping them. The carrots mimic the sweet-yet-earthy taste of the sweet potatoes, and the high roasting temperature allows them to get crispy and slightly caramelized on the ends.

Finally, we have the Lemony Herb Sauce, which is a non-negotiable for me. It comes together in about 3 minutes start-to-finish, and uses one bowl (or blender cup, if you want to get technical). The nuttiness of the tahini is balanced by the sharp flavors of the lemon and fresh herbs, and because we’re making it in a blender, you don’t get the big leaves of the herbs stuck in your teeth. This sauce is perfect for dipping, or you could use it as a salad dressing. Bonus: if you like the vibe of this dip, try doubling the recipe and adding a can of rinsed, drained chickpeas to the blender along with it for a flavorful, lemony hummus situation. What could be better?

If you make this recipe, don’t forget to post your photos and tag me @theardentcook on instagram. It would truly mean the world to me. Enjoy!

For the Meatballs:

1lb ground chicken (or other ground protein of choice)

3 small cloves garlic, minced

⅛ cup finely chopped parsley

⅛ cup finely chopped cilantro

⅛ cup finely chopped dill

1 TBSP dried oregano

1.5 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp salt, plus more to taste 

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1 egg or scant ¼ cup plain greek yogurt

½ cup homemade breadcrumbs*

1 TBSP avocado oil, or other high temperature cooking fat, for coating the pan

For the Carrot Fries:

1lb whole carrots

2 TBSP avocado oil, or other high-temperature cooking fat

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Lemony Herb Sauce

⅛ cup tahini

Juice and zest of 1 whole lemon

1 TBSP dijon mustard

⅛ cup finely chopped herbs (cilantro and parsley work best)

3 TBSP water, or more if thinner consistency is desired

Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place a large rimmed cookie sheet inside the oven and allow it to get hot as the oven preheats.
  3. Wash and dry carrots. Cut into ¼ inch sticks, resembling french fries. Coat in oil, salt, and pepper. 
  4. Carefully remove the preheated cookie sheet from the oven, using mitts. Use a spatula or tongs to spread carrot fries in an even layer on the cookie sheet, being careful to avoid crowding. Carrots should audibly sizzle when placed on the hot tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway through.
  5. Meanwhile, combine ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs*, parsley, cilantro, dill, garlic, oregano, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, in a large mixing bowl. 
  6. Using your hands, work chicken mixture together until just combined.
  7. Roll into 1.5 inch balls and place in an oiled 9×12 glass baking dish, leaving some room in between. Use a second baking dish if needed to avoid crowding. Recipe should yield about 15 meatballs.
  8. Bake meatballs for 10-12 minutes, until firm to the touch and lightly golden around the edges.
  9. To make the Lemony Herb Sauce, combine tahini, lemon juice and zest, mustard, and water in a medium sized mixing bowl. Whisk together until emulsified. If the mixture appears to be “breaking” or separating, add a small amount of hot water and continue whisking until cohesive.  Add parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. To thin sauce, add an additional 1-2 TBSP water. Use as a dipping sauce, sandwich spread, salad dressing, or drizzle on grilled vegetables or protein
  10. To serve, add meatballs and carrot fries to a plate. This meal pairs well with a side salad, or grilled/roasted vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, or asparagus. Drizzle Lemony Herb Sauce over the top, or serve on the side for dipping. Enjoy!

*for the Homemade Breadcrumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Farenheit. 
  2. Bake bread slices directly on rack, flipping over halfway, for 10 minutes. Bread should feel warm and slightly toasted, but not overly browned or hard. 
  3. Break bread into smaller pieces and add to a food processor or high speed blender with nothing else. Pulse repeatedly in 3-second increments until desired particle size is achieved. 2 slices of bread will yield approximately ½ cup of breadcrumbs. 

Citrus Ginger Green Smoothie

If you’re anything like me and, well, the rest of the population, you get hungry between lunch and dinner. It’s inevitable, regardless of how big of a lunch you eat. While I would gladly eat dinner at 5pm on the dot, my boyfriend isn’t quite so keen on that timing, seeing as he often doesn’t get home from work until 6:30 at the earliest. At the risk of eating dinner without him every night, I strategically pick afternoon snacks that are satisfying and delicious that aren’t too filling that I can’t eat a solid dinner later on.

This green smoothie is perfect. It’s healthy, loaded with immune-boosting ingredients, and colorful to boot. Plus, it’s sweet. Enough said. If you wanted to make this more of a meal rather than a snack, I would suggest beefing it up by adding something along the lines of half an avocado, a scoop of protein powder, or a banana.

Ingredients:

One small mango, peeled and pitted

5 frozen pineapple chunks

2 small oranges (clementines or mandarins work great), peeled

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Juice of 1/2 lime

Heaping handful baby spinach

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

Dash of cinnamon

Water, to cover

Instructions:

  1. In a high-speed blender, combine all ingredients and add water to cover.
  2. Blend on high for 30 seconds or so until smooth and no chunks remain.
  3. Sip and enjoy!

If you make this recipe, don’t forget to post and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram. Thanks for stopping by!