The Ardent Prep: Ground Turkey, Quinoa, and Zucchini

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone celebrating the moms and guardians in their life. If you’re like me, I’ve always used cooking as a form of gift-giving. Why not impress mom with a week’s worth of easy dinners, starting right now! If you’re new to the concept of this meal prep series, I recommend taking a look at the original post from the very first ‘The Ardent Prep’ linked here: The Ardent Prep: Chicken, Rice, and Caramelized Onions . This will explain the basics and method that I use for prepping, then you can head back here to get started.

This particular series is centered around ground turkey (per ALL of your requests), quinoa, and zucchini. The prep day is very basic, and the meals themselves are nothing short of delicious. This grocery list is a bit longer than the last series, but I’m venturing to guess that you already have many of the ingredients in your pantries and therefore won’t need to buy them. The recipes you’ll be making are as follows: Herby Vegetarian Quinoa Salad, Barbecue Turkey Quinoa Burgers with Zucchini and Burst Tomatoes, and Buffalo Stuffed Zucchini Boats.

The first recipe is a Meatless Monday edition, and it’s probably my favorite in the entire series. The quinoa packs a filling, high-protein punch and the mediterranean flavors are right up my alley. If you’ve never tried dates, you’re sooooo missing out. However, if you can’t find them or don’t feel like trying, raisins or dried apricots would be an equally flavorful alternative!

The second recipe is a twist on a classic turkey burger. My hope for this recipe (which makes four large burgers), is that you eat them one night during the week, and save the others for an all-out burger night on the weekend (I’m talking oven fries, special sauce, pickles, go BIG). I love this burger because it pairs my favorite combination of sweet and savory. The burgers themselves are mixed with your favorite barbecue sauce, and the sharp cheddar is the perfect compliment. For a twist, I also include a slice of apple, which acts as that crunchy bit that you might get from a piece of fresh lettuce. The apple with the cheddar is unreal.

Finally, the third recipe, which is the favorite in my household… Buffalo Stuffed Zucchini Boats are everything you’re dreaming of and more. Tender zucchini is hollowed-out and filled with a creamy, spicy ground turkey filling, baked until crisp and golden, and topped with more hot sauce (and ranch dressing, if you’re me). These are Jeff’s favorite, and a close second for me. I love that they feel indulgent and fun, but healthy at the same time.

Now, let’s get back to that Prep Day!

Grocery List

Meat:

2lbs ground turkey

Produce:

9 medium zucchini

1 apple, such as honey-crisp

2 medium shallots

3 garlic cloves

1 handful mint, finely chopped

1 handful parsley, finely chopped

1 package cherry tomatoes, on the vine if desired

Dairy:

4 slices sharp cheddar cheese

⅓ cup mayo (or plain, full fat greek yogurt)

Pantry:

1.5 cups quinoa (Dry)

3 TBSP barbecue sauce, plus more for serving (your choice)

1/4 cup hot sauce, plus more if desired (such as Frank’s or Texas Pete’s)

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2-3TBSP flour

1 tsp ground cumin

¾ tsp onion powder

¼ cup Medjool dates (or raisins)

1 TBSP honey

Olive oil, for cooking

Bakery:

4 hamburger buns

Prep Day Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cook 1.5 cups (dry) quinoa according to package instructions.
  3. Cut 3 zucchini in half, length-wise. On a large, rimmed sheet tray greased with olive oil, lay zucchini cut-side-down and bake for 12 minutes. The zucchini will start to “sweat”, but will still be firm. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  4. Dice the remaining 6 zucchini into 1-inch cubes and place on a rimmed sheet tray or in a large glass baking dish. Coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes or so, until the zucchini is caramelized and brown on the edges. If there is still a considerable amount of liquid on the sheet tray after 30 minutes, continue to bake, checking regularly, until the majority of the liquid has evaporated. Every oven is different, but you are aiming for golden-brown.
  5. While the zucchini bake, brown 1lb of the ground turkey in a large skillet. Feel free to add a pinch of salt and pepper, but do not season otherwise. Keep the other 1lb in the package, raw, and store in the fridge.
  6. If you are proceeding with one of the meals, follow instructions in those recipes, linked below. Otherwise, follow these instructions for storage of the prepped ingredients:
  7. Place halved, par-baked zucchini in a large container. In two separate containers, divide the cubed, roasted zucchini evenly. Store the ground turkey in another container. You may store the quinoa in one large container, however keep in mind that 1/4 cup is needed for the Buffalo Stuffed Zucchini Boats, 1/2 cup is needed for the Barbecue Turkey Quinoa Burgers, and the remaining is needed for the Herby Vegetarian Quinoa Salad. You can feel free to divide those portions ahead of time, or just keep it all together.

Herby Vegetarian Quinoa Salad

Barbecue Turkey Quinoa Burgers with Zucchini and Burst Tomatoes

Buffalo Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Vegetarian Bolognese

Bolognese is one of my favorite Italian dishes. The creamy, slow-simmered, and caramelized flavors offer the perfect balance of comfort food, elevated. I know that the entire concept of this vegetarian recipe is sort of sacrilegious, in that bolognese is literally a sauce made from meat. But you’ve got to trust me, this recipe is delicious!!

I chose to use white wine in this recipe rather than the traditional red wine. I felt that it really complimented the mushrooms, and overall lends to a more subtle flavor profile that a robust red wine would overtake. If you only have red, it will totally work, so don’t fret. But the white is really great in this case.

The mirepoix, a mixture of onion, celery, and carrot which is a foundational ingredient combo that originated in French cooking, is chopped using a food processor or high-speed blender to mimic the size and texture of ground beef pieces. The same technique applies to the mushrooms. If you don’t have a food-processor or blender, you can definitely achieve a similar texture chopping by hand, although it will take more time.

A few notes about the aromatics- the mirepoix and garlic in this recipe are mandatory in my opinion. You can get away without the bay leaf or nutmeg, however they do add dimension to the recipe, especially the nutmeg! I was the lucky recipient of a hand-me-down fresh nutmeg grinder from my Dad, which is why I call for fresh nutmeg in this recipe. You can find the whole spices at many grocery stores, but you may have better luck at bulk, specialty spice stores. If you find whole nutmeg and don’t have a fancy-dancy grinder like me, you can also grate it on a microplane. Or, just ignore me and use the pre-ground stuff.

This recipe is truly unique, and I really enjoy the mushrooms as a meatless alternative to a classic dish. I hope you love this riff on an old favorite, and if you make it, share your photos and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Ingredients

2 TBSP olive oil, plus more

1 3.5oz container cremini mushrooms 

2 celery stalks

1 medium yellow onion

1 medium carrot

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup dry white wine 

1 6oz can tomato paste

1 Bay leaf 

Fresh nutmeg, a few turns 

2 cups vegetable stock 

⅔ cup heavy cream

⅓ cup pecorino romano, or similar cheese, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper, to taste

1lb short, holed pasta, such as rigatoni or penne, cooked Al dente

Instructions

  1. Make your mirepoix. In a food processor, pulse celery, onion, and carrot until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, then pulse mushrooms separately, until they are coarsely chopped, resembling the texture of ground beef. Transfer to another bowl. 
  2. In a Dutch oven or large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. When the oil shimmers, add mushrooms, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently. When mushrooms appear soft and some of their moisture has evaporated, push them to the outsides of the pot in a circle, leaving space in the middle clear. 
  3. Add mirepoix (celery, onion, and carrot mixture) to the clear space in the center of the mushrooms. Saute mirepoix for 4-5 minutes over the center of the pan, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until onions appear translucent and some of the moisture has sweat out of the mixture. Add garlic and stir for an additional minute. 
  4. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook for 3 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated and it no longer has a pungent alcohol smell. Add entire can of tomato paste and stir to incorporate. 
  5. Add nutmeg, bay leaf, and another pinch of salt and pepper. Then add vegetable stock and heavy cream. Cook on low heat for at least 1.5 hours, if not longer. The liquid will reduce significantly and the sauce will become thicker and richer. Taste as you go and add salt and pepper as desired. 
  6. Once sauce reaches the desired thickness, stir in grated pecorino Romano and another swirl of olive oil. Serve over pasta immediately and enjoy with additional pecorino on top! 

The Ardent Prep: Caramelized Onion, Kale, and Goat Cheese Bowls with Homemade Balsamic Glaze

This is the third 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

Remaining prepped rice

Remaining 1/3 prepped chicken

Remaining 1/2 prepped caramelized onions

1-2 heads kale

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 16oz bottle Balsamic vinegar

1 4oz log goat cheese, crumbled

Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. In a medium skillet, pour entire bottle of balsamic vinegar and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook until liquid amount has reduced by two-thirds and the vinegar is thick, resembling a glaze, approximately 12 minutes. The liquid should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside.
  2. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop the leaves. In a medium skillet, saute garlic in 1 TBSP olive oil until fragrant. Add kale and stir to coat in the olive oil and garlic mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, and cook until kale is wilted.
  3. Assemble the bowls. Add rice to the bottom of a bowl and top with sliced chicken, caramelized onions, and the sauteed kale. Top with goat cheese crumbles and drizzle with balsamic glaze.
  4. Store remaining balsamic glaze in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Drizzle over roasted vegetables, use as salad dressing, or enjoy as a topping on pizza. Enjoy!

Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet

Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry

The Ardent Prep: Turmeric Ginger Coconut Curry

This is the second 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. Note that there are no caramelized onions used in this recipe. The onions are used in the other two meals. I hope you enjoy this delicious and easy recipe!

Ingredients

2.5 cups prepped rice

Approximately 1/3 prepped chicken breast, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated

1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 16oz can full-fat coconut milk

1-2 heads broccoli, cut into florets

Cilantro and lime wedges, if desired, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a medium skillet, heat 1 TBSP olive or coconut oil over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add garlic, ginger, and jalapeno*. Saute until fragrant, approximately 2 minutes.
  2. Add turmeric and stir to coat the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno mixture. Allow the spice to “bloom” by cooking it in the hot pan for about 30 seconds. Then, add entire can of coconut milk.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, until slightly thickened and glossy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In a separate pot, steam broccoli florets, approximately 6 minutes or until tender.
  5. Assemble bowls. Add rice to the bottom of a bowl and top with sliced chicken and steamed broccoli. Spoon curry sauce over the top of the bowls, using as much or as little as you like. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges, if desired. Recipe will yield about 3 adult-sized bowls.

*for added heat in this recipe, leave seeds in jalapeno. Alternatively, add crushed red pepper flakes or a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste.

Chicken Cheesesteak Skillet

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

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.

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. 

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.