Chicken proves to be a versatile protein for this week’s slate of meals.
Buffalo chicken dip: Chicken breasts are the MVP in my household of one, where leftovers boredom sets in fast and versatility is key. For a large batch of tender, shredded chicken, I simply slow-cook 2 to 3 pounds of frozen chicken breasts in my Crock-Pot with chicken stock on low for 8 hours, then remove and shred with a fork. This gives me plenty of chicken to work into meals for the week. One of my favorite chicken dishes is a buffalo dip that melds a block of fat-free cream cheese, 16 ounces low-fat sour cream (or Greek yogurt) and 8 to 10 ounces of crumbled blue cheese into a creamy base. I also add a 12-ounce bottle of buffalo sauce, a few teaspoons of white wine vinegar and the shredded chicken. This mixture goes back into the Crock-Pot (can you tell I love my Crock-Pot?) for 3 hours on low until it’s molten throughout. Serve with celery and carrot sticks, or in a wrap with some lettuce and sliced red onion, or scoop it up with tortilla chips. I freeze what I don’t eat for future snacking.
Chicken enchiladas verdes: Leftover shredded chicken and sauteed vegetables bulk up enchiladas made with a jar of my favorite green chile salsa. In a saucepan I blend the salsa with a few tablespoons of sour cream, chopped cilantro, garlic powder and a cup of shredded Monterey Jack or Queso Quesadilla cheese, heating on low until a creamy sauce forms. I reserve 1 cup of the sauce for topping the enchiladas. The chicken and sauteed vegetables — in this case, onion, bell peppers and mushrooms — are incorporated into the remaining sauce, then folded into tortillas with more cheese. Rolled up and nestled into a glass baking dish, they are topped with the reserved sauce and a sprinkle of cheese. Once they’re baked — at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes — the enchiladas get another sprinkle of chopped cilantro. I serve with Mexican rice and beans.
Chicken satay: Every so often, I’d treat myself to a savory brunch at the Sunday market at Wat Mongkolratanaram, a Buddhist temple in Tampa. If I had a little cash left after gorging on spicy noodle soup or curry, I’d get some marinated meat on a stick. With the market closed, I have to make do with my own version of chicken satay. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs get a boost from a flavorful yellow curry marinade. I mix ¼ cup coconut milk, 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, 2 teaspoons yellow curry powder, a splash of fish sauce and 1 tablespoon each ginger, brown sugar and canola oil. The chicken thighs, cubed into 1-inch pieces, go into a quart-sized zip-top bag with the marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight. I thread the marinated chicken onto presoaked wooden skewers and grill for about 9 to 10 minutes on each side until the chicken is cooked through. I serve the skewers with peanut sauce for dipping and jasmine rice with steamed or stir-fried veggies.
Slow-cooked baby back ribs: When I’m in the mood for baby back ribs but not for tending a hot grill, I make them in the Crock-Pot. To do this, I cut each rack of ribs in half and prop them on their sides in the slow cooker, which is lined with parchment paper to prevent burning. The ribs get a generous rub of spices including smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, chipotle chili powder and brown sugar. Then I leave them in the slow cooker on low for about 8 hours with a cup of water or apple juice, brushing them with barbecue sauce when they’re almost finished. Once they’re nearly sliding off the bone, I lay the ribs on a baking sheet, brush with more barbecue sauce and finish them in the broiler for a few minutes to caramelize the barbecue sauce. Ribs pair well with coleslaw and roasted potato wedges you can make at home. Toss sliced potatoes in olive oil and dust generously with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley and oregano. Bake them in a single layer at 425 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the thickness of the wedges, until they’re golden brown and crispy.
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Lemon garlic baked cod: Mild, flaky fish baked with lemon juice and herbs makes for a light but filling meal with roasted broccoli or asparagus. I like cod or grouper the best, but any mild, white fish will do. I spritz the fish with olive oil before seasoning it with fresh lemon juice, lemon pepper seasoning, basil, parsley, paprika and a generous amount of garlic (minced or in powdered form). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees. The vegetable of choice gets a similar seasoning treatment and then I finish it with a sprinkle of garlic salt. If I’m feeling particularly indulgent, I also top the cod with panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese before baking. While baking the fish, I also roast the asparagus after spritzing it with olive oil and dusting it with salt, pepper, garlic and paprika.