thai red curry stew with chicken, kale, & sweet potatoes

I don't know what it is about Thai food lately, but I can't get enough. It's so comforting and cozy at this time of year! I already shared a recipe for peanutty pad thai, which I THOUGHT was about as good as Thai could get in my kitchen. I have to tell you though, this one might take the cake. Thai red curry stew with chicken, kale, and sweet potatoes.

Oh my goodness. This is a new favorite. So flavorful, chock full of nutritious ingredients, and it warms your entire body. This is the type of recipe that I would LOVE for someone who follows my blog to try to make -- even if you've never made Thai food before -- and then let me know how it turns out. It's so much easier than it may seem... you will really surprise yourself! 

I've mentioned before that while I eat kale fairly often, it's not my favorite veggie ever. In this though, it's perfect. No, kale in Thai curry isn't traditional, but bok choy is... and kale is pretty similar! Then the sweet potatoes add sustenance and a delicious sweetness, along with the chicken. The flavors in this are seriously dynamic -- sweet, spicy, rich. Yum. Scoop a big heap over some brown jasmine rice, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy a perfect weeknight meal!

The whole dish takes about 45 minutes from start to finish. It's really not difficult at all! And it makes a good amount so you'll have leftovers.... which make for pretty much the best lunch ever the following day. I think it might have gotten even better over time!

Ready to give it a try? Here's how:

Chop your veggies -- 2 sweet potatoes, a small sweet onion, a red bell pepper, and a bunch of kale. Gather your main additional ingredients -- unsweetened coconut milk (not light), thai red curry paste, fish sauce, ginger (jarred or fresh), chicken broth, and brown jasmine rice for serving. You'll also need about a pound of diced raw chicken breast, coconut oil, a lime, sriracha, cornstarch, and sugar. All of these ingredients should be available in a regular grocery store in the international aisle.

Heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pot or deep skillet. Add a teaspoon of ginger and 2 to 4 ounces (4 to 8 tbsp) of red curry paste. I know that's a big range for the curry paste, but it is really dependent on your heat tolerance and preference for flavor. I went with the entire 4 ounces (a whole little jar) and didn't think it was too spicy in all -- I thought that was perfect! But if you're sensitive to heat, you may want to start with half a jar. If you're not sure, start with 2 and add some more a little later -- you can always stir in another tablespoon! 

Sauté the ginger and curry paste for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add your onion and pepper and sauté for another 4-5 minutes, until onion is becoming translucent. 

Add in your diced chicken. 

Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until it's starting to get some color. It doesn't need to cook all the way through right now.

Now: add your can of coconut milk, about 1.5 cups of the chicken broth, 2 tsp fish sauce, kale, salt, the juice of half a lime, 1.5 tsp sugar (optional), and a tbsp of sriracha (optional - for more heat). 

Turn the heat to medium high. Stir constantly as the kale begins to wilt into the sauce. Add the sweet potatoes.

For a slightly thicker/creamier texture, add in 1-2 tsp of cornstarch mix into 3 tsp of cold water. Mix well then pour into the stew. 

Bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. 

My dinner date was late from work so when it was ready I just turned off the heat and let it sit on the stove for about 20 more minutes, cooling off. Then, when he got home, I just turned the heat back on and let it get warm again -- and actually, it became even more flavorful and thick over that time! So no worries if you're not quite ready to eat (or your rice isn't ready yet!) when this is done. 


Thai Red Curry Stew with Chicken, Kale, & Sweet Potatoes
Inspired by Eat, Live, Run
For about 4 servings

-2 to 4 raw chicken breasts (about 1 lb), diced
-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
-1 red bell pepper, diced
-1 big bunch kale, torn from stems (discard stems) into small pieces (you should have approximately 4 cups of the torn kale)
-1 small sweet onion, diced
-2 to 4 ounces (4 to 8 tbsp) thai red curry paste (add full amount unless you're quite sensitive to heat)
-1 tbsp coconut oil
-1 tsp jarred or fresh ginger
-1 can unsweetened coconut milk (not light)
-1.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
-2 tsp fish sauce
-1 tsp salt
-Juice of 1/2 lime (optional)*
-1.5 tsp sugar (optional)*
-1 tbsp sriracha (optional)*
-2 tsp cornstarch mixed into 3-4 tsp cold water (optional)*
-Cooked and warm brown jasmine rice for serving
*I recommend including all of the optional ingredients, but they aren't necessary.

-Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pot or deep skillet.
-Add ginger and red curry paste. Sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
-Add your onion and pepper and sauté for another 4-5 minutes, until onion is becoming translucent.
-Add the chicken. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until it's starting to get some color.
-Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, kale, salt, lime juice, sugar, and sriracha. Turn the heat to medium high. Stir constantly as the kale begins to wilt into the sauce. Add in the sweet potatoes. For a slightly thicker/creamier texture, add in the cornstarch mixed into water.
-Bring to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.
-Serve over brown jasmine rice.
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thanksgiving recipes.

Sooo... I LOVE THANKSGIVING. That's no  surprise, right? I love food! And that's basically what it's all about. Well, that and bourbon cider cocktails and watching football and magical leftover concoctions 3 hours after dinner (turkey and stuffing sandwich, anyone?). Oh yeah, and spending time with family and giving thanks -- I'm always on board for that.

Last year was my first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Ryan had to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving so we decided not to travel home to Richmond -- instead, my brother came up from Virginia and I cooked a full-on Turkey Day meal for the two guys and me. My mom and stepdad also traveled up here later in the evening after another Thanksgiving meal for leftovers and continued celebration. So, I cooked for 3 immediately and 5 total. And let's just say I went all out for my first Thanksgiving meal -- it was WAY too much food and it was AWESOME. 

I start drooling when I revisit those old pics. And lucky for us, Thanksgiving has arrived again (2 more weeks!!) and we have the same plan this year: I'm cooking! And I'm planning another epic meal. Oh, and we should get this out of the way up front: I don't cook light or clean or healthy on Thanksgiving. I go all out. I probably go through more butter cooking on Thanksgiving than I do in 3 months around here normally. Because I can and because I want to! There's plenty of time for healthy recipes when it's not Thanksgiving... at least, that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it :)

I thought I would share my favorite recipes from last year's Thanksgiving dinner -- the ones that were so good I plan to make them again! And actually, I plan to cook several of the same dishes again this year... because this meal turned out even better than I expected and I've been waiting a whole year to eat this stuff again! I'm sharing the recipes now, a full 2 weeks in advance, in case you're also planning for your Turkey Day -- these are highly recommended and were SERIOUS crowd-pleasers all around. 

2012 Thanksgiving Dishes that will also be 2013 Thanksgiving Dishes:
(Full recipes at end of post)

1) Brined & Roasted Citrus and Herb Turkey (and Homemade Turkey Gravy)

I was admittedly very intimidated by cooking a huge turkey last year -- I had never done it! I researched lots and lots of methods for getting a perfectly flavorful and juicy bird, and I have to say... I was SHOCKED at how well the one I chose turned out. I'm usually the one at the Thanksgiving table with a plate full of sides and just a bit of turkey... it always seems so boring to me in comparison to everything else! Not this one though. I couldn't get enough! Yes, it involves brining a huge bird in your vegetable crisper drawer overnight, which was a new cooking adventure, but it's totally worth it. I know I'm bragging, but this was definitely one of the best turkeys I've ever had.

2) White Cheddar and Gruyere Mac 'N' Cheese

Ummmmm yeah. Do you need to read the name of this dish again? How could that NOT be amazing? This has my pick for the best dish on the Thanksgiving table. I know there's some controversy over whether macaroni and cheese is a true Thanksgiving side dish, but in my book, it definitely deserves to be there! Any excuse to eat this is okay, to be honest. I adapted it from Beecher's mac 'n' cheese recipe, which is already the best recipe ever... or so I thought... then I added white cheddar cheese and gruyere. It's just too good for words. There's nothing else to say. Except make it. Please. 

3) Stuffing with Sausage, Craisins, Walnuts, and Herbs

Stuffing is another one of my Thanksgiving favorites. I think part of it is that I never eat stuffing unless it's Thanksgiving... it's such a splurge! And so freaking delicious and carb-y and awesome! Finding a stuffing recipe I was happy with last year was a bit of a challenge -- I couldn't find one that fit everything I was looking for in a perfect Thanksgiving stuffing. I knew I wanted it to have sausage and craisins and nuts, so I ended up adapting an already-delicious sausage bread filling recipe to include everything I was imagining. It turned out great! Exactly what I was looking for, and it will definitely be on the table again this year. 

4) Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I'm a little picky about mashed potatoes. I often find other people's potatoes too whipped and creamy -- I prefer a simpler and more "rustic" mash. The kind you get from mashing with a big fork or potato masher... NOT a blender. I also don't think some of the add-ins people use, like sour cream or cream cheese, are necessary. All I want in my mashed potatoes: potatoes (obviously), butter (obviously), half and half (or heavy cream if you're feeling particularly devilish), salt and pepper... and ROASTED GARLIC. This obviously elevates them to another level. To me, these are the perfect mashed potatoes. Add on some of the homemade turkey gravy and it's basically heaven in your mouth. You won't find another mashed potatoes recipe on my table! 

That's it. Those are the dishes worthy of returning. I also made a chocolate pie but I'm not sure it was worth the effort (and I can't get Eat Live Run's chocolate bourbon pecan pie out of my head -- that just might be my pie's replacement). Lastly, I made green beans, but I think I'll do some different veggies this year. My lemon, garlic, and basil green beans were good but perhaps not "special" enough for Turkey Day. Any ideas for delicious veggie side dishes? 

I can't WAIT to make this meal again! Yes, it's hours and hours of cooking, but I have to say -- I loved every minute of it. What's not to love? It's a day at home with my love and my brother on a weekday, candles burning, football in the background, and amazing food aromas filling the house while I leisurely prepare an epic meal of 974673 calories. It's a once-a-year event! 

Want to give any of these a try? You totally should! Recipes below!


peanutty chicken pad thai.

Cold weather is officially here. It's dark at 5pm, I need my heavier jacket, and all I feel like wearing is leggings and boots. While I appreciate seasons and all, I am just not a winter girl. I love sun and shorts and HEAT! It's fine when it gets down to 50 or 60 degrees too, don't get me wrong... but below 40? Nope. Hibernation time. In fact, Ryan and I would both like to move south (South Carolina? Florida?) at some point in our future to escape the harsh winters. Okay, I know... winters aren't that harsh in Maryland and Virginia, but it gets pretty freakin' cold!

But ah well, for now (and until I get that little old doctoral diploma), we're in Baltimore. Where we live right by the water so there's plenty of freezing gusty wind during the winters (not that we didn't get used to that in Blacksburg VA!). It's time to brave the year's worst months. Okay, not really -- the worst doesn't start until January. At least we have the holidays to look forward to!

When it gets cold though, it's like a switch goes off in the food craving part of my brain -- all I want is warm, comforting food. Salad? No thanks! Anything cold at all, actually? Nah. Give me soup, casseroles, pot roast, pasta. A hot, cozy dinner on a cold night after a long day is unbeatable. Of course, we can't eat unlimited comfort food all winter -- while our bodies may be less visible under jackets and scarves, our health still works the same way! So my general mantra is still the 80/20 rule: eat healthy and [mostly] clean 80% of the time, and eat whatever you want (read: COMFORT FOOD) 20% of the time. For the 80%, it doesn't have to be boring, and there's still plenty of room for comfort food in there as well! You probably already know that if you read my blog (e.g., see: southwest baked eggsspicy cajun chicken noodle soup; crockpot honey sesame chicken, red wine beef and onions, and Indian butter chicken; 17 day diet turkey chili; light chicken sausage pasta bake; meatloaf with a spicy ketchup glaze). Plenty of healthy comfort food, and lots more to come!  

To kick things off for this cold-weather season, one of my all time favorite meals: pad thai! I looooove pad thai. If we go to a Thai restaurant, there's about an 85% chance that I'll order it (the 15% is for when I've already had it from there and want to try something new). I love it with shrimp, chicken, or vegetarian. The flavors are just so magical! The lime and cilantro paired with the warm noodles and the spicyness and crunchy peanuts -- it's one of the most comforting dishes to me. Perfect for these cold nights! Plus, it's ready in 20 minutes, start to finish! Can't beat that.

This recipe is really focused on the sauce. I think I've perfected it (at least, for my tastes)! It's not exactly traditional -- more like a hybrid between pad thai sauce and peanut sauce. Everything else can be selected based on your tastes: choose a meat and a type of noodles and your toppings... anything paired with this sauce will be delicious!

I went with non-traditional noodles (lo mein = Chinese not Thai!) because it's what I had, but you can go with the traditional rice noodles. Or, I've used whole wheat fettucine in the past... also delicious! Really feeling healthy? Go with spaghetti squash! As for your meat, I recommend chicken or shrimp, but it would also be delicious with tofu or meat-free. Toppings? I definitely love cilantro, lime, cabbage and chopped peanuts, but you can also add in some bean sprouts, scallions... whatever you want! Just use the sauce. It is DEEEE-lish. 

Here's how to make it:


20-minute at-home full body "20 challenge"

Every so often, I get this realization that I'm being annoying. That's the worst feeling, right? It's that moment of clarity that you get sometimes -- "damn it, I've been so annoying lately." I'm not the only one that has these moments, right? And the worst part is, you know that if you're annoying yourself, you've GOT to be annoying other people.

I had one of these realizations lately, and it came after I made an excuse. The exact excuse of that moment doesn't particularly matter, it was more about the general pattern of late -- I've been making a lot of excuses!

I can't do this because of that, I can't do that because of this. I have a lot going on. I don't have time. I've had a lot on my mind. I'm really stressed right now.

These become annoying when they start to add up. Yes, I'm busy, and yes, I'm tired. So is, um, just about everyone. No, it's not easy to make time for everything I'd like to do, but I can at least try before giving an excuse, right? Stop being so annoying!

The bright side is: these realizations are helpful. While it's not a fun feeling, at least it leads to some awareness, and hopefully some change. Example:

One of the excuses I've been making too often recently is that I don't have time to work out. Yeah, I still exercise at least a couple times a week, but I'd like to be doing more and I use my handy excuse way too often. When I really think about it though... it's kind of a silly excuse. There are 1,440 minutes per day. Can't I spare just 20 or 30 minutes of those to get some exercise in?! Especially when it's something that really improves my life?! Come on! When I caught myself making that excuse a few days ago, I corrected myself: it's not that I don't have time, I just don't have a lot of time. I do have some time! Specifically, I had about 20 minutes to spare. Well, guess how much I accomplished in those 20 minutes? A lot!

This is a "20 challenge" that I created. It takes just 20 minutes, but it's guaranteed to have you sweating by the end, and probably even sore the next day! It's a very challenging 20 minutes, but remember... it's only 20 minutes! You can do anything for that long! I really encourage you to try this. No more excuses! Do you have 20 minutes before work tomorrow? 20 minutes before dinner? 20 minutes before bed? I bet you can find the time.

I've done this a couple of times now, and I've been getting through it about 5.5 times each time. So yes, it's only 20 minutes, but I'm sweating and shaking by the end and this stuff adds up! It works out to over 100 squats, 100 push-ups, 100 bicycle crunches, 100 lunges and 100 tricep dips -- not bad for 20 minutes!

Unsure about any of the exercises? Check out some youtube videos for proper form tips!

Give it a try next time you find yourself making an excuse :)


southwest baked eggs.

It's Friiiiday! Friiiiday! Happy Friday!

Can you tell I'm a little excited?

I'm also excited to share today's recipe with you. Like, really excited.

This past Tuesday (my one "early" evening when I can cook a real dinner), I was contemplating what to make for dinner throughout the day. We were low on meat, but I knew we had eggs, spinach, onion, tomato, bacon, black beans.... hmmm... the options were sounding breakfast-y but I didn't want plain old bacon and eggs or an omelette. I wanted to fit in plenty of veggies and have something comforting and flavorful. Then the idea hit: baked eggs! I saw Domesticate Me make them a while ago and thought they looked so genius and delicious. A one-skillet meal with everything you need?! I wanted to put a spin on them though, and keep them healthy of course. The result? Wonderful, beautiful, tasty and comforting southwest baked eggs with crusty whole wheat toast.

After baking, the eggs are slightly runny with set whites (but cook them all the way through if you prefer!). Under the eggs is a magical combination of sautéed garlic and onions, bacon pieces, black beans, spinach, and diced tomatoes cooked in Mexican-inspired spices. The top is garnished with tomato wedges, jalapeños, a bit of cheddar cheese, and fresh parsley (cilantro would be great too).

I was basically in love with this dinner. It's unique and decadent-tasting and spicy and comforting. It's also very well-rounded: plenty of protein from the eggs, black beans, and bacon. Lots of spinach and tomatoes squeezed in. Full of fiber. And absolutely perfect served over crusty wheat toasted bread (brushed with olive oil before baking). 

If you split the skillet into 2 servings (which is a BIG, awesome amount!), each serving has approximately 350 calories, 19 grams fat, 8.5 grams fiber, and 22 grams of protein. Nice! That doesn't include the wheat toast though, which is totally necessary!! Even with that though, it's a healthy meal -- and a lot of bang for your buck!

While we loved this for dinner, it would also make an awesome and impressive brunch dish or a nice, hearty lunch. Whenever you eat it... just eat it. For real. 

Oh! And how could I forget to mention? It's ready in half an hour and only requires one pan. Yep. Enjoy. 

Here's how:


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