Deep Skillet Chicken Pad Thai

Greetings and Salutations…and Happy New Year to boot!

I hope the holiday season treated all of you well. It seems to have flown by! After a crazy year-end cycle at work, I am trying to get back into a normal routine again…especially when it comes to cooking and devoting more time to this blog. It seems harder and harder to make time for certain things in my life…things that are important but seem to end up on the back burner when juggling professional and personal obligations. I know we all experience it in our lives and try to find a balance. I am looking forward to things slowing down a bit so I can stop and smell the roses…or in this case, the Pad Thai!

So, it’s no secret that Thai food is one of my absolute favorites (I’ve raved about it more than a few times on this blog). One of the most commonly known dishes is Pad Thai, which is basically a stir-fry with rice noodles and other ingredients such as chicken, seafood, vegetables, and eggs. One wintery day a few weeks ago I experienced a mean craving for this delectable dish, but did not want to venture out into the cold to a restaurant. I found a basic recipe online and enhanced it a bit, omitting certain items like bean sprouts and amping up the quantities for the sauce, plus adding a little peanut butter. What I discovered is that Pad Thai is very easy to make and perfect for a cast iron wok or deep skillet. Below is a basic recipe compliments of allrecipes.com, with a few tweaks on my part. I hope you like it!

Deep Skillet Chicken Pad ThaiIngredients
1 (12 – 14 oz.) package Rice Noodles
1 pound Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsps. Canola Oil
4 Eggs
2 Tbsps. White Wine Vinegar
3 – 4 Tbsps. Fish Sauce
6 Tbsps. White Sugar (adjust quantity to taste)
1 Tbsp. Peanut Butter
1/8 Tbsp. Crushed Red Pepper
1/4 cup Chopped or Crushed Peanuts
3 Green Onions, chopped

First step, prepare rice noodles according to package directions.

Heat 2 Tbsps. of oil in cast iron skillet or wok.

Next, heat 2 Tbsps. of oil in cast iron skillet or wok.

Add chicken and garlic, saute together until chicken is browned.

Add chicken and garlic, saute together until chicken is browned.

Once browned, remove chicken to from skillet.

Once browned, remove chicken to a plate.

Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat.

Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat.

Crack eggs into hot oil and cook until firm, looking almost as if they are scrambled.

Crack eggs into hot oil and cook until firm, looking almost as if they are scrambled.

Cooked eggs.

Cooked eggs.

Return the chicken to the skillet.

Return the chicken to the skillet.

Combine with cooked eggs.

Combine with cooked eggs.

Add the cooked rice noodles.

Add the cooked rice noodles.

Add vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, and peanut butter. Combine thoroughly.

Add vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, and peanut butter. Combine thoroughly.

Garnish with chopped green onions and peanuts. You are set to start your new year in Thai fashion!

Garnish with chopped green onions and peanuts. You are set to start your new year in Thai fashion!

Rustic Skillet Pot Pie

Well, guess who has returned to the blogosphere! I sincerely did not intend to take such a long hiatus, but it seems my life got full again over the past few months. I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday and shared it with those nearest and dearest to your hearts.

My husband and I actually went out for Thanksgiving dinner, something we haven’t done in 10 years. With both of our hectic schedules, we decided to truly take the day off and let someone else do the cooking this year. Sadly, no Turkey Day leftovers, but also no big mess in the kitchen to clean up.

I still managed to bake a pumpkin pie and have cranberries patiently waiting in my fridge to be turned into homemade sauce. And I finally attempted my first skillet pot pie, which in this version I made with leftover grilled chicken, but it would also work beautifully with leftover turkey.

The pie crust comes from a recipe I received when I took a pie crust class at Nothing To It Cooking School, a local culinary center. As much as I’d like to share the recipe with you, I don’t feel that I can as it may be proprietary and I don’t have permission to publish it. But you can certainly find basic pie crust recipes online or find frozen crusts at the grocery store.

Finally, I failed to take a group photo of all of the ingredients. See what happens when you neglect your blog too long, you forget how to do things. I’ll get my act together, I swear!

Anyway, enjoy this rustic dish and my thanks to all of you who continue to follow The Skillet.

Ingredients
2 Pie Crusts
6 Tbs. Butter
1/2 cup chopped Onion
1 cup chopped Carrots
1 cup chopped Celery
1/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
1 3/4 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
2 1/2 cups cooked Chicken or Turkey, cut into bite-size pieces

If using a cast iron skillet, heat oven to 400 degrees and remove all racks, except one on the lowest rung. If using a glass, ceramic or aluminum pie pan, then heat oven to 425 degrees. One thing I learned at the pie crust class is to always cook pies on the lowest rack in your oven.

In a deep cast iron skillet or 2-quart saucepan, melt butter and saute onions, carrots and celery together until soft.

In a deep cast iron skillet or 2-quart saucepan, melt butter and saute onions, carrots and celery together until soft.

Add flour, salt and pepper.

Add flour, salt and pepper.

Combine thoroughly until dry ingredients coat vegetables.

Combine thoroughly until dry ingredients coat vegetables.

Stir in chicken broth.

Stir in chicken broth.

Add heavy cream.

Add heavy cream.

Combine thoroughly.

Combine thoroughly.

Add chicken or turkey.

Add chicken or turkey.

Combine thoroughly into creamy veggie sauce.

Combine thoroughly into creamy veggie sauce.

Place one crust in 10-inch cast iron skillet or 9-inch pie pan. Spoon filling into skillet.

Place one crust in 10-inch cast iron skillet or 9-inch pie pan. Spoon filling into skillet. Place the second crust on top, seal edges, and cut a few vents.

Bake 30-40 minutes until crust becomes golden brown.

Bake 30-40 minutes until crust becomes golden brown.

Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then serve. I am thankful for my skillets and plentiful food.

Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then serve. I am thankful for my skillets and plentiful food.

Smokin’ Basil-Tomato Chicken Skillet

Smoky skies

Hazy days in Reno

Well, it is darn smoky here in Reno, compliments of the massive Rim Fire burning outside Yosemite National Park, nearly two hundred miles away. More than 100,000 acres are ablaze and only five percent of the fire is contained. Each morning we are greeted with smoky, hazy skies and a blood-red sun (which, where I come from, is an ominous apparition). The mountains and foothills are eerie shadows in the distance and sometimes not visible at all.

I lived in Billings, Mont., back in 1988 when the historic Yellowstone fires blanketed the region in smoke and ash. These past few days remind me of that very long summer spent wondering when I’d see blue skies again. The local news predicts we’ll start to see things clear out around Tuesday, but I won’t hold my breath (well, maybe I should!).

So what does all of this have to do with cooking? It means I can’t or shouldn’t be cooking outside, which is part of what summer is all about. Last week I was grilling tri-tip, but this week is all about what to put in my poor neglected skillet.

So here’s a quick (dare I say smokin’), tasty and healthy dish for you to try. I wish you all clear, blue skies to end your summer!

IMG_8338Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 14.5 oz. can Diced Tomatoes, no salt, drained
1/4 cup fresh Basil or Basil Paste
3 to 4 oz. prewashed Spinach
1/8 tsp. each, Salt and Pepper
2 to 3 Tbsps. grated Parmesan Cheese

Add chicken to hot cast iron skillet.

Add chicken to hot cast iron skillet.

Cook through for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Cook through for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and basil. I used basil paste, my new favorite ingredient.

Add the tomatoes and basil. I used basil paste, my new favorite ingredient.

Combine and heat through.

Combine and heat through.

Turn off the heat and add the spinach. Stir constantly as it wilts.

Turn off the heat and add the spinach. Stir constantly as it wilts.

Serve alone or over your favorite pasta. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. A smokin' fast dish!

Serve alone or over your favorite pasta. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. A smokin’ fast dish!

Dutch Oven Lovin’ and Some Bitchin’ Chicken

Did you know you can make lumpia in a Dutch oven? You can and, man, is it good!

Filipino lumpia made in a Dutch oven.

So, I may have been away from my blog too long, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking! It’s summer time and Dutch oven season is in full swing. My Dutch oven group, the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group (NSDOG), was busy this month with two events – a delectable global Dutch oven cook-off (meaning, make an international dish in your little black pot) and a first-time class at the Lahontan State Recreation Area, where members of the group taught about 25 participants. Both events had great turn-outs and tasty dishes.

Lahontan class participants put a lasagna together.

Lahontan class participants put a lasagna together.

I started NSDOG in 2009 as a way to hone my cast iron cooking skills and find like-minded individuals. Now the group has over 150 members and we are often invited to cook and/or teach for the community. We are a diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds and locations, but we all share a common passion for cast iron cuisine. It amazes me still how fabulously we get along and work well together. Our Dutch Oven Lovefest knows no bounds!

My buddy Doug enjoying cast iron cuisine

My buddy Doug enjoying cast iron cuisine

My friend Doug, also a founding member of the group, makes a zesty chicken dish called Butch’s Bitchin’ Chicken, which is a hit at the classes we teach. It is simple to make (especially for beginners), packed with flavor, and not too hard on the waistline. My husband never ate this totally rad dish before (did that sound a little ’80s to you?) so I converted it to my kitchen Dutch oven and served it up for dinner last night.

IMG_8004Ingredients
4 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 1/4 cups Chicken Broth
1/2 cup diced Sun-Dried Tomatoes (packed in oil)
8 oz. Fettuccine Noodles (try whole grain for a healthier version)
1/2 cup Pesto
Salt, Pepper and Italian Seasoning

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Mix with your hands until the chicken is thoroughly coated.

Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Mix with your hands until the chicken is thoroughly coated.

Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven and place chicken pieces inside.

Heat a little oil in a Dutch oven and place chicken pieces inside.

Pour in the chicken broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Boil the noodles in a separate pot. Drain and mix in the pesto.

Boil the noodles in a separate pot. Drain and mix in the pesto.

Add the noodles to the chicken.

Add the noodles to the chicken.

Combine.

Combine.

Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Serve with a garnish of fresh basil. Ummm...dare I say it? Yep, totally bitchin'!

Serve with a garnish of fresh basil. Ummm…dare I say it? Yep, totally bitchin’!

Skillet Cashew Chicken

Well, the temps here in Reno over the weekend are supposed to edge into the low 90s. I think summer is finally upon us at last.

During the summer I prefer to eat on the lighter side – dishes that are healthy, full of fresh veggies and aren’t too heavy.

I like to make a lot of stir frys and, since I don’t own a wok, my cast iron skillet does the trick beautifully as it heats quickly and evenly.

One of my favorite Chinese dishes that I order out all of the time is cashew chicken. Ironically, I never made it home. It seemed to be that special dish only for the restaurant. But no more! I found a nice recipe online that includes a lot of my favorite ingredients – ginger, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, snow peas, and of course, cashews.

Give this light and simple dish a try. You won’t be sweating over the stove and dinner will be ready in no time – so you can get on with summer fun!

IMG_0241Ingredients
3 Tbsps.  reduced-sodium Soy Sauce
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium Chicken Broth, divided
3/4 tsp. Sesame Oil, divided
1 lb. boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp. Hoisin Sauce
1/2 tsp. minced fresh Gingerroot
1/4 tsp Salt
2 tsps. Canola Oil, divided
1 1/2 cups fresh Snow Peas
2 medium Carrots, julienned
1/2 cup unsalted Cashews
Cooked Rice, optional

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 Tbsps. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. chicken broth, and 1/2 tsp. sesame oil; add the chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 Tbsps. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. chicken broth, and 1/2 tsp. sesame oil; add the chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 1/3 cup chicken broth until smooth.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 1/3 cup chicken broth until smooth.

Stir in the sugar, vinegar, hoisin sauce, ginger, salt and remaining soy sauce and sesame oil. Set aside.

Stir in the sugar, vinegar, hoisin sauce, ginger, salt and remaining soy sauce and sesame oil. Set aside.

Drain chicken and discard marinade.  Heat oil in cast iron skillet. Add the chicken.

Drain chicken and discard marinade. Heat oil in cast iron skillet. Add the chicken.

Stir fry until no longer pink. Remove to a plate.

Stir fry until no longer pink. Remove to a plate.

In the same skillet, add the carrots and snow peas.

In the same skillet, add the carrots and snow peas.

Stir fry until tender crisp.

Stir fry until tender crisp.

Return chicken to the skillet.

Return chicken to the skillet.

Stir sauce mixture and stir into chicken mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for about a minute or until thickened.

Stir sauce mixture and stir into chicken mixture. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for about a minute or until thickened.

Add the cashews.

Add the cashews.

Serve with or without cooked rice. Enjoy!

Serve with or without cooked rice. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Thai Chicken

Well I hope you all enjoyed lovely holidays this past week. My Christmas day was peaceful…just what I needed. And now a new year is only a few days away. I’m not sure what 2013 has in store for me, other than taking on a new position at work, lots of dog trials, a Dutch oven competition or two, and plenty of bountiful feasts to blog about. I think that will keep me busy.

One of  my year-end traditions involves a great purge of refrigerator, pantry and closets. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing today instead of perched here in front of the computer. Yep, I’m procrastinating. Sort of. I did find a way to use some leftover canned pumpkin, part of which was used to bake my favorite Upside-Down Cranberry Rumpkin Skillet Cake for a holiday potluck. Since I overdosed on sweets over the holidays, I decided to make something savory with my pumpkin.

I love Thai food and found a way to incorporate my leftover canned pumpkin into a delicate, earthy Thai peanut sauce. This recipe is insanely simple and relatively quick, aside from the chicken marinating for an hour in the fridge. Serve it up with rice or skewer the meat and veggies over a grill for a nice satay. Give it a whirl…and here’s to 2013.

Pumpkin Thai ChickenIngredients
1 cup canned Pumpkin
2/3 cup Milk
1/3 cup Peanut Butter
1/3 cup chopped Green Onions
2 cloves Garlic
2 Tbsps. chopped Cilantro
2 Tbsps. Lime Juice
2 tsps. Granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 large Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 Red Bell Pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch Green Onions, cut into 1-inch pieces, include green sections
Hot cooked Rice

In a food processor or blender, combine pumpkin, milk, peanut butter, chopped green onions, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, salt and cayenne pepper.

In a food processor or blender, combine pumpkin, milk, peanut butter, chopped green onions, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, salt and cayenne pepper.

Pumpkin Thai Chicken

Blend thoroughly. Food processors are the bomb!

Pumpkin Thai Chicken

Combine the chicken pieces and pumpkin/peanut sauce in a bowl. Marinate for 1 hour in the fridge.

In a cast iron skillet, brown the chicken pieces. Add the vegetables.

In a cast iron skillet, brown the chicken pieces. Add the vegetables.

Combine and heat the vegetables through, about five minutes.

Combine and heat the vegetables through, about five minutes.

Serve with white rice and a side of pumpkin/peanut sauce.

Serve with white rice and a side of pumpkin/peanut sauce.