Brought to you by Cook’s Illustrated

Andy was worried when he saw this recipe on the dinner menu. Not because he doesn’t like barbecued chicken (especially barbecued chicken with bacon!), but because it was a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. In his mind, that could only mean one thing: We were going to eat dinner at 8 p.m. I told him that it didn’t look too involved, and, by the way, there’s bacon in it, but he was still skeptical. When I told him that the side dishes were CI recipes too, he revised his original estimate. Forget eating at 8 p.m. Dinner wasn’t going to be ready until 10.

I suppose I can’t blame him too much for jumping to that conclusion, especially after my other CI experiences. I’m not completely unrealistic though. I stuck with easy side dishes – “Perfect Boiled Sweet Corn” and “Sauteed Swiss Chard.” And yes, true to form, dinner did take a little while, but it wasn’t ridiculous. We ate well before 10 p.m. Plus, I got to use my new food processor, so that was fun. 🙂

The chicken cubes are tossed with salt while you make the sauce and prepare the bacon paste. Yes, I said bacon paste – raw bacon is whirled through the food processor and then mixed with sugar and paprika. The chicken chunks are coated with the paste before being threaded onto the skewers. They’re brushed with sauce and grilled to perfection. Using thighs instead of breasts helps keep the chicken moist, and the sauce is sweet and tangy, all at the same time. It’s a definite keeper here.

We did have sweet corn with dinner too, but it didn’t last long enough for the picture. 

Barbecued Chicken Kabobs

For the sauce:
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup light or mild molasses (I used whatever molasses was in my pantry, so it was a little darker than they recommended.)
2 tablespoons grated onion (I used the large holes on the side of my box grater.)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

For the chicken kabobs:
2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1″ cubes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 teaspoons sugar
2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens to a ketchup-like consistency and has reduced to about one cup. Remove the sauce from the heat and transfer about 1/2 cup to a small bowl to serve with the chicken. Reserve the remaining sauce for brushing on the skewers.

To prepare the chicken, place the chicken cubes in a large bowl and toss with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30-60 minutes.

While the chicken is chilling, prepare the bacon paste. Mix the sugar and paprika together in a small bowl and set aside. Place the bacon in the bowl of a food processor and process until the bacon becomes a smooth paste, about 30-45 seconds. Scrape the bowl down twice during the process. Mix the bacon paste into the sugar-spice mix. (This is my deviation from the recipe – I see that CI says to mix the bacon in with the chicken and then add the sugar-paprika mix. I think either would work.) 

Prior to threading the chicken on the skewers, preheat the grill to high for at least 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the fridge and pat the pieces dry with a paper towel. Add the bacon paste to the chicken and mix until all pieces are thoroughly coated. Thread the chicken onto skewers, rolling or folding pieces as necessary to keep them all in 1″ cubes.

To grill the chicken, turn one of the burners off (on a gas grill) and leave one on high. Place the skewers on the lit side of the grill. Grill the skewers, turning them one quarter turn every 2 1/2 minutes, until they are well-browned and slightly charred, moving the skewers to the cool side of the grill if flare-ups occur. Brush 1/4 cup of sauce on the top of the skewers, then flip and cook until the sauce is brown in spots, about 1 minute. Brush the second side of the skewers with the remaining 1/4 cup of sauce and flip again, cooking until the sauce is brown in spots, about another minute. The chicken should read 175° on an instant thermometer (if you used thighs; breasts will read 160°). Remove the skewers from the grill and allow them to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with reserved sauce.

From Cook’s Illustrated, May 2011

Click here for a printable version.


Rhubarb for Dinner

25 years ago, if you had asked me to eat this dish, I would have said no. (I’m sure that I would have said it in a completely stubborn AND adorable way. I’m also sure my mom agrees with me here.) As a child, I was very much in the anti-rhubarb camp. Looking back, I’m not sure why. 99.9% of rhubarb recipes are dessert recipes, involving sugar, sugar, and more sugar. What five-year-old wouldn’t love that? (I actually think my childhood rhubarb hang-ups were more psychological. It looked like celery to me, and I was NOT a fan of celery.) Luckily, my tastes have matured since then. 😉

Even so, if you had asked me to make this five years ago, I would have probably given you the side-eye and wondered why on earth you’d waste rhubarb in a main dish. Aren’t there enough crisps, cobblers, bars, cakes and pies for rhubarb? Why do we have to eat it for dinner? But, with age comes wisdom, and the knowledge that while there are indeed plenty of delicious rhubarb desserts, man cannot (or should not) exist on sugar alone.

And since rhubarb season happened to coincide with my cake decorating class, we really didn’t need any more dessert in the house. I thought about freezing the rhubarb from our first CSA share, but I already put quite a bit of rhubarb up for next winter. So when I saw this recipe in the New York Times, I was intrigued. Skeptical, but intrigued.

I scaled the recipe down, since I didn’t have an entire chicken on hand (and let’s face it, an entire chicken is more than I need to make for the two of us). I was pleasantly surprised by how easily it came together AND by how well it turned out. You do need to plan ahead – the chicken should hang out with the thyme for a few hours – but as long as you do that, it’s totally do-able on a weeknight. I’ll be the first to admit that the sauce isn’t the prettiest, but its bright, tart flavor flavor makes up for the drab appearance. (I did forget to add the butter to the sauce, but since we didn’t miss it, I’m omitting it from my directions below.) It got a solid four out of five stars from Andy, which means I’ll definitely be hanging on to this recipe – you know, for those days when we need a break from rhubarb pie. 😉

Rhubarb Chicken
Served this one with sauteed beet greens from our CSA and some sweet corn from my grandma. 🙂

Chicken with Rhubarb Sauce

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
5 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 scallions, white and light green parts finely chopped, dark green parts reserved for garnish
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1/4 cup white wine* (I used my favorite… again.) 
1 1/2 teaspoons honey

Pat chicken dry with a paper towel and place in a bowl. Generously season with salt and pepper and place the thyme sprigs in the bowl with the chicken. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for at least an hour. If possible, let chicken sit overnight with the thyme. (Mine hung out in the fridge for about 10 hours while I was at work.) 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down. Reserve the thyme sprigs. Cook the chicken until skin is nicely browned and releases easily from the pan. Flip the chicken over and cook until the other side is nicely browned as well. Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the white and light green scallion parts to the pan and cook until lightly browned and tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and reserved thyme sprigs and cook for another minute. Pour the wine into the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the honey, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of fresh pepper to the pan. Stir to combine.

Add the chicken back to the pan in a single layer.** Cover and cook over medium-low heat until chicken reaches 165 degrees. Garnish chicken with reserved green onions and serve with rhubarb sauce.

*Chicken broth can be substituted for wine, if you find that you don’t quite have enough wine on hand… not that I’d know anything about that… 😉 

**If your sauce looks too dry or like it’s in danger of burning, you can add a splash of wine or chicken broth when you add the chicken. 

From the New York Times

Click here for a printable version.

Our Favorite Chicken Soup

I was going to talk about dessert. Sorbet, to be precise. After all, that’s a relatively “healthy” dessert for January, right? But then things got cold. Not just “grab a hat and gloves” cold, but ridiculously cold. I’d almost call it “not fit for human life” cold, except that I know there were parts of the country that had it worse. My thermostat may have read -17, but I talked to people who saw -27. And that was before the wind. Like I said. Ridiculous.

So yeah. No sorbet today. Even though the temps are practically balmy by comparison (31 degrees, anyone?), I’m not really feeling a frozen dessert. Let’s talk about soup instead, OK?

Everyone needs a favorite chicken soup, right? It’s the perfect winter pick-me-up. It’s good for whatever ails you. And if you’re lucky, it won’t require massive amounts of planning ahead or hours of simmering for the flavors to meld. In fact, I can run errands after work and still come home with enough time to make this for dinner. How’s that for efficiency?

What sets this soup apart from other chicken noodle soups is the lemon flavor. With both fresh lemon juice and zest, it has a bright, fresh taste that most other chicken soups don’t. I have noticed, however, that the orzo acts like a million tiny sponges in the broth, which means that more often than not, we have leftover lemon-chicken-orzo casserole, rather than soup. It works out OK though – Andy likes the casserole consistency of the leftovers, and I just add a little extra water to my share before microwaving it.

Take that, polar vortex. 🙂


Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium carrots, sliced into 1/4″ circles
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 chicken breast, diced (or two cups of cooked, shredded chicken) 
10 cups of chicken broth
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1-2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
1 cup frozen peas
large handful chopped fresh parsley (feel free to substitute dried if necessary)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large stockpot over medium heat and pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the pot. Place the chopped chicken into the pan and season with salt and pepper. Saute until chicken is cooked through, about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken chunks. (Skip this step if you’re using already cooked chicken, obviously.) Remove chicken from pan and reserve for later.

Pour remaining olive oil into the hot pan. Saute the onion, carrots, garlic and celery in the oil until the vegetables are tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Pour the broth and lemon juice into the stockpot. Add the lemon zest and bay leaf and bring the mixture to a boil. When the mixture reaches a boil, add the orzo and simmer until the pasta is nearly done, about 8 minutes.*

Stir into the cooked chicken, and then add the peas and parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if needed. Remove the bay leaf before ladling into bowls.

Serve warm.

*Side note: In my attempts to avoid lemon-chicken-orzo casserole, I’ve cooked the pasta separately and then stirred it into the individual soup bowls. As far as I can tell, this works, but it’s an extra step, and like I said before, I’m all about efficiency. 😀 

Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Click here for a printable version.


BBQ+Chicken+Pizza. Yes Please.

We had an amazing stretch of weather this week. We’re talking sunny with highs in the 70s. Pretty much perfect, if you ask me. (Of course, as one of my coworkers pointed out, we’re pretty easy to please this time of year. After more than five months of cold, gray weather, any amount of sunshine makes us happy. Details.)

With weather like that, firing up the grill was a no-brainer. (Don’t get me wrong – we grill out year round. It’s just so much more enjoyable when you don’t have to wear a coat, hat and snow boots while you babysit the burgers.) I grilled kabobs last week, then fish on Monday, and when the rain held off yesterday afternoon, I knew that our BBQ chicken pizza was about to become GRILLED BBQ chicken pizza.

Oh yeah. I was pumped. I came home from work, rolled out my crust and got to work. (I make my pizza crust the night before and freeze it overnight. Then, it goes from the freezer to the fridge before work, where it hangs out all day until Andy takes it out of the fridge to warm up. By the time I get home, it’s ready for action. No waiting around on a weeknight for me!)

Shredded BBQ chicken. Check.
Chopped peppers and onions. Check.
Full bottle of BBQ sauce. Check.
Cheese. Check.

We’re good to go! I was halfway through grilling the crust when I discovered that the flame was gone. Guess there wasn’t as much propane in there after all. Whoops…

I finished the pizza under the broiler. It was still good. Grilled or baked, this pizza combination is always a win at our house. (And we may or may not fight over the leftovers for lunch the next day.)

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I realize that I just hyped grilled pizza, and the recipe I’m giving you below has the oven directions. I learned most of what I know about grilled pizza from Annie’s post. If you’re interested in grilling the pizza, I’d recommend reading what she says to say.

The only change we make (sometimes) is to do a full-size pizza, rather than mini ones. When that happens, I just roll the pizza out onto a cookie sheet and flip it onto the oiled, preheated grill grates. We have a giant grill spatula, which allows me to flip the crust over after a few minutes, ensuring that the crust is almost completely cooked before I pull it off the grill. Then, I add my sauces and toppings, slide the entire thing back on the grill and close the lid. After a few minutes, the cheese is bubbling, the crust has beautiful, smoky grill lines, and your pizza has gone from “good” to “THIS IS THE BEST PIZZA I’VE EVER EATEN.” (It’s true.) 

I also realize that my recipe doesn’t tell you to preheat a pizza stone in a screaming hot oven, or do anything fancy with a pizza peel. I’m sure those things would be great, but this oven method seems to work for me most nights. If you have a “right” way to make pizza, by all means, go for it. Just be sure the grill has plenty of gas first. 😀

BBQ Chicken Pizza 

1 batch pizza dough (Use your favorite; I like the version from the cookbook that Kitchen Aid sends with the mixer!)
4 oz. cooked chicken breast, shredded
2 ounces baby spinach, chopped
½ cup BBQ sauce (Again, use your favorite!)
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ jalapeno, deseeded and finely chopped
¼ cup bell peppers, chopped
½ cup onion, chopped
Pinch of oregano
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Brush a pizza pan with a little olive oil, then sprinkle with cornmeal.

Roll out the pizza dough into a 14” circle and place on the pizza pan. Spread the BBQ sauce on the pizza dough and place the chicken pieces on top of the sauce. Top pizza with veggies, and then cover the veggies with cheese. Sprinkle with a hearty pinch of oregano.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is done and cheese is browned and bubbly.

Inspired by the many BBQ chicken pizzas I’ve had over the years; this combination is a Beth’s Blue Plate Original!

Click here for a printable version.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

I have a lot of memories attached to food. Some are good (Mom’s chocolate pie), some aren’t so good (meatloaf.. ugh). Have no fear, this recipe is tied to a good food memory. My grandma makes really good chicken sandwiches. I grew up eating these at family reunions on a bun with a thick onion slice, or scarfing them down as quickly as possible after church on Christmas Eve. (The sooner dinner was over, the sooner we moved on to more important things like tearing into our gifts taking the annual Christmas picture.) I even made sure these sandwiches made an appearance at my graduation party.

Since I’m now several hundred miles away, I don’t get to enjoy Grandma’s chicken sandwiches nearly as often as I’d like. So I set out to make the sandwiches myself. I knew they’d be perfect for our small group get together. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the recipe in my cookbook or recipe box, which meant I had to wing it. Lucky for us (and our dinner guests!) my reincarnation came pretty close to Grandma’s original!

I served this with “roasted roots” – radishes and beets – and salt and vinegar chips. Mmmm… tasty.

Grandma’s Shredded Chicken 

1 roasted chicken, shredded*
3 cups sauce or chicken stock*
1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon dried parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Saute the onions (and garlic if using, see note) until soft and just starting to brown. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, or until the flour paste smells toasty. Slowly whisk in the stock or pan sauce, whisking to remove any lumps. Cook, stirring often, until the broth thickens.

Add the shredded chicken and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat until heated through. Serve on buns, with onion and tomato.

This freezes well, so if you have more than you can eat in a reasonable amount of time, toss it in the freezer for a quick meal later on!

For serving: 
hamburger buns
sliced onion
sliced tomato

*Here are my thoughts about the chicken and the sauce: I roasted a large (6+ pounds) chicken the day before, using Annie’s recipe. (Which is fantastic. If you’re into roasted garlic and things like that. And really, who isn’t?) So I used the chicken that we didn’t eat for the sandwiches the next day. I had enough meat to fill my largest Pyrex bowl, and I used the leftover pan sauce from the chicken as the liquid in this recipe, along with some water to get the quantity I needed. If you don’t have the time (or desire) to roast a chicken, you could always pick up a rotisserie chicken from the store. You may want to add some garlic when you saute the onion in that case.

Inspired by my Grandma.

Hired Help

Ever fantasize about what household chores you’d hire out if money was no object? Gardener? Butler? Chef? Maid? (Andy, in case you’re reading, if an oil well ever springs up in the backyard, we’re getting someone else to clean this place.) 

There are some days when I truly wonder what I’d do without my crockpot. It’s like having a personal chef, except for that whole do-your-own-dishes thing. I don’t use it every day, or even every week, but there are definitely days when I think its inventor should have been nominated for sainthood it comes in handy. Especially on those nights where we get home from work, wolf something down and run right back out the door.

This soup is great for those nights – it’s hearty and filling, on the healthy side, and, as an added bonus, it doesn’t taste like mush after hanging out for 10 hours! It’s also easy to throw together in the morning before work, and on the Andy scale, it gets six out of five stars!

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup 

1 onion, chopped
1 15 oz. can chili beans
1 15 oz. can black beans rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can of corn, rinsed and drained (or approximately 2 cups of frozen corn; I use one of the packages of corn that my grandma freezes for me each year)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can diced tomato with green chilies, undrained
1 1.25 oz. package of taco seasoning (or an equivalent amount of homemade taco seasoning. I use Annie’s recipe)
12 oz. chicken broth
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 large (or 2 small) boneless skinless chicken breasts

Required Suggested toppings: 
Chopped avocado
Crushed tortilla chips
Shredded cheese
Sour cream

In a large crockpot (I believe mine is the five quart size), combine the onions, beans, corn, tomato sauce, tomatoes, chicken broth and taco seasoning. Nestle the chicken breasts into this mixture until they are just covered. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Before serving, remove the cooked chicken from the crockpot and shred with two forks. Add the shredded chicken back into the soup and stir to combine.

Serve warm with desired toppings.

Adapted from

One of our favorites…

Once upon a time, right after college, my grandma gave me a gift subscription to a great little magazine: Cooking for Two. I loved it – I was living on my own and didn’t need tons of food hanging around to tempt me. And then Andy and I got married, and the magazine was still great; after all, there were just two of us. (Granted, sometimes that meant no leftovers, but if it wasn’t a great recipe, we weren’t stuck eating it for weeks on end… like that one time with the failed chili mac.)

And then, one day, tragedy struck: The publisher discontinued “Cooking for Two.” Apparently, families of two are a small and shrinking market. (My guess is that many of the couples that started out cooking for two suddenly found themselves cooking for three, four, five… funny how that happens.) 

Thankfully, before the magazine folded, they published this recipe. And, one day, Andy stumbled upon it and suggested we give it a try. I made a few tweaks (mushrooms? um, no thanks.), and the rest is history. Apricot Chicken Pasta has become a staple at our house. It’s easy, fast, and very tasty. In fact, it’s the first “real” meal I cooked when we put our kitchen back together after the big remodel last year.

Apparently, I added some chopped parsley when I made this batch. Totally optional.

Apricot Chicken Pasta

1/2 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
9 teaspoons of white wine or chicken broth
1 chicken breast, diced
1 cup bowtie pasta
Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/4 teaspoons soy sauce
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Cracked black pepper

In a small saucepan, combine the apricots and wine/broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. (I try to time this where I have the pasta done at the same time as the rest of the dish, but I’m not always successful with this. If your pasta gets done before you have the rest thrown together, simply drain it and set it aside.) 

Saute chicken breast pieces in olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until opaque and cooked through. Add the garlic when the chicken is nearly done and saute till fragrant (another couple minutes). Pour the cream and soy sauce into the skillet and cook until slightly thickened, about five minutes. Add the cheese, stir till melted and remove from heat. Stir in the onions, apricots and toasted almonds. Season with pepper to taste. Toss with cooked pasta and serve hot.

I like serving this with either a tossed salad or broccoli on the side. For days that I’m really pushed for time, I throw the broccoli in with the pasta and cook it that way. Bam! One-plate wonder! 🙂 

Adapted from Cooking for Two/Taste of Home.