Welcome to the Chic-Peas Kitchen!

We're two best friends, Kelly and Suanne, who love to cook! We have a passion for fresh food, complex flavors, and saving time. We'll share with you what's for dinner (really!) as well as how we made it and how we can make it better.

Jump in and learn with us!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Winter Entertaining Menus

Feeding large groups is always an endeavor. To usher in the new year, Perry and I decided to go big - we would host two back to back parties. Different groups of friends. December 31 and January 1. And like the overachiever I am, dinner would be homemade, tasty, and hearty.

December 31 was our old church friends, a ladies "cookie party", which was really an excuse for me to bake like it was going out of style (new year's resolutions, anyone?). We had eight ladies and one husband at the table.

Soft Pumpkin Cookies
Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles (vegan)
Soft Ginger Cookies (made small, not giant)
Sausage and Pea Tomato Cream Pasta
Sautéed Broccoli

In day two of the entertaining extraordinaire, we serve seven guests a hearty winter meal, rich on flavor, but low on kitchen time. This meal does require a good amount of advance planning and prep, but its totally worth it. Then you can spend more time being with people important to you!

Miso chicken wings
Seaweed, mushroom, and tofu soup
Slow Cooker Asian Short Ribs - which I would TOTALLY make again
Garlic string beans
White rice
Cookies and ice cream

Sausage and Pea Pasta in Tomato Cream

Feeding large groups is always an endeavor. To usher in the new year, Perry and I decided to go big - we would host two back to back parties. Different groups of friends. December 31 and January 1. And like the overachiever I am, dinner would be homemade, balanced, and hearty.

December 31 was our old church friends, a ladies "cookie party", which was really an excuse for me to bake like it was going out of style (new year's resolutions, anyone?). The number of diners was flexible, so I needed a dish that could be made quickly to accommodate more or less people. Pasta is always a great option here - add more or less pasta to accommodate the group, it cooks quickly, and can be eaten with a gazillion sauces and toppings. This version relies on Italian sausage for the flavor punch. It's flavorful, but you don't need a lot, tastes rich, and mediates me having to salt my own dish. I served the pasta with a side of blanched broccoli and everyone ate until satisfied! (But keep in mind that we also had four different types of cookies around, which will be separate posts!)

Sausage and Pea Pasta in Tomato Cream
Serves 8

6 italian sausage links, squeezed out of casing
2 medium onions, diced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 pound of elbow macaroni
12 oz of frozen peas
1 cup diced mushrooms
1 pint heavy cream
cornstarch for thickening

  1. Heat a nonstick tall pan or a pot. If you are using a pot that may stick, add olive oil.
  2. Brown the sausage, breaking apart the meat into small bite sized pieces. Cook until there is no more pink, then drain any excess oil.
  3. Simultaneously, heat a pot of salted water and prepare the macaroni as directed, until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water. Drain pasta and set aside.
  4. Reduce the pot to medium high. Add the onions to the pan, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove the suc.
  5. When the onions are browned, lower the heat to medium and add the garlic, tomato paste, bay leaf, and oregano, frying together for a few minutes.
  6. Add the peas and stir to incorporate. If the pan is getting too dry, add a half cup of the hot pasta water to the pan.
  7. Add the mushrooms and cook through.
  8. A few minutes before serving, add the heavy cream. Taste the sauce and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.
  9. Make a cornstarch slurry with two tablespoons cornstarch and four tablespoons pasta water. stir until thick yet runny. Pour two teaspoons into the pan at a time, vigorously stirring in the cornstarch before it cooks. Repeat in different parts of the pan until the sauce has desired thickness.
  10. Add the cooked pasta to the pan, stirring to incorporate flavors and allowing the sauce to stick to the pasta.
  11. Serve! Actually tastes better the day after if you have leftovers.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Stuffed Pork Chops (Mushroom Celery Ricotta)

Stuffed pork chops sound difficult to prepare, but they're really not and totally worth it! Its a fun way to spice up a pork chop without marinating and took me about 20 minutes to whip together tonight. In addition, it uses up potential leftovers in your fridge. Tonight, I served the chops with a complementary kale and apple salad with a mustard dressing.

Mushroom Ricotta Stuffed Pork Chops
Serves 2

2 thick cut pork chops (bone in, about 1 inch thick)
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 stalks celery hearts (or 1/2 stalk of regular celery)
1 Shitake mushroom
Parsley (optional)
Garlic powder
Toothpicks (the round ones are sturdier than the flat ones)

  1. Mince the celery and mushroom until fine. 
  2. Mix with the ricotta, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and (any other herbs you like).
  3. With a sharp paring knife, cut a slit in the no-bone-side of the pork chops. The slit needs to be about 1.5 inches long, and cut out a large pocket in the inside of the chop. The bone will help you not cut too far in, but allow you to get a large enough pocket to stuff. 
  4. Stuff the cheese mixture into the pocket. I managed to get all the stuffing into both chops, but don't be surprised if you have a little extra. The chop will end up being about an inch and a half thick.
  5. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. 
  6. Using a toothpick, seal the slit in the chop. Basically you want to stick the chop closed in one side and out the other, then back, making a U shaped seam. If your slit ended up being too big, you will need two toothpicks. Try to seal the chop well - the ricotta will melt!
  7. Season the outside of the chops with 1/4 tsp cumin and garlic and a pinch of salt. Pay close mind to the parts of the chop without the pocket - you want to make sure they're salted even though they don't have salty stuffing in those bites. 
  8. Heat a saute pan with two tablespoons olive oil. 
  9. Sear the chops until browned on either side. 
  10. Put in the oven for about 5 minutes, until cooked through. 
  11. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving (don't want anyone getting burned with nuclear cheese)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Maple Brown Sugar Soy Glazed Pork Chops

Spontaneous dinner parties lead to spontaneous meal planning! I had several pork chops in the fridge and guests coming over in an hour. The chops wouldn't have a lot of time to marinate, so how best to make them delectable? Brainstorming with ingredients at hand, I decided that our menu could use a sweet touch and whipped up a quick glaze to spoon over the chops. The result was tasty, sweet yet savory, and yielded a tender broiled chop that was easy to make and tasty to eat.

Maple Brown Sugar Soy Glazed Pork Chops
Makes enough glaze for 5 chops

2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, until sugar is incorporated.
  2. Place the chops on a broiling rack and tray, bone side facing the outer perimeter of the tray
  3. Spoon a teaspoon of the glaze over the meat of the chops, spreading the glaze to the edges. Try not to spill any into the tray, as it could burn easily.
  4. Let the chops sit for a few minutes, until you have to put the in the oven.
  5. Broil for 10 minutes. When you remove the chops, tops should be caramelized.
  6. Turn the chops over, dripping any excess liquid into the tray.
  7. Spoon another teaspoon over the pork chops, spreading to the edges, just like the first time.
  8. Broil chops for another 10 minutes.
  9. Check that the chops are cooked through. Allow to sit for a few minutes and settle. Then serve. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Quick Dry Rub Pork Chops

Perry surprised me last week by coming over for dinner. I had nothing in my fridge and stopped at the grocery store to see what was good. Pork chops looked great, but when Perry saw them, he lamented, "but now I have to wait for them to marinate!"

Fear not, hungry one.

Quick Dry-Rub Pork Chops
Makes 5 chops

1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Mix.
  2. Rub on both sides of chop
  3. Pan fry or grill per usual until rub caramelizes and chop is cooked through.
  4. Eat.

Roasted Cauliflowe​r Soup

I am constantly craving soup as the temperatures drop and my grumpy-o-meter goes through the roof. Soup has this way of making you warm from the inside out. Any ingredient you have can be made into a tasty soup to warm your soup (and make me a bit less grumpy!)
Last night I had a few guests over and had to spontaneously menu plan. I spied some cauliflower on sale in the market - and cauliflower has been surprisingly expensive this year - so I snapped it up to make a creamy vegetable based soup. Roasting the cauliflower imparts a much warmer and round flavor while the roasted garlic adds a layer of pungent but gentle aroma. You can make the soup without the chicken broth or milk and it will still be hearty, smooth, and flavorful, and vegan friendly. Or you can be a bit decadent and add some heavy cream and bacon to the top for an added flavor boost and richness.

Pureed Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Serves 6-8

1 large head of cauliflower
Olive oil
Half head garlic
2 stalks celery
1 large onion
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
2 cups chicken stock
5 cups boiling water
1 cup whole milk (or half cup heavy cream)
Tablespoon salt
Teaspoon pepper
Optional: Bacon bits
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Wash cauliflower and break into florets, around 2-3 inches large. Precision isn't key because you are going to puree the soup later.
  3. Line a tray with foil and add the cauliflower in a single layer. Drizzle with several tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Mix to coat the cauliflower in oil.
  4. Take the half head of garlic and slice the top few millimeters from the top, exposing a cross section of the cloves. Drizzle olive oil into the cloves, wrap in foil and place seam side up in the cauliflower tray to roast.
  5. Optional: take a small broiling rack and position on top of the cauliflower. Lay three or four strips of bacon to cook and let the fat render over the cauliflower. Bacon can be diced later for bacon bits!
  6. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then stir to distribute heat and surface. Bake another 20 minutes or until golden on the edges.
  7. While roasting, dice the onion and celery.
  8. In a large stockpot, add the stock, water, bay leaf, celery, and onion to simmer. (I used my new crockpot! Hooray!)
  9. When cauliflower and garlic are fully roasted, add to stock pot and allow soup to simmer for a few hours.
  10. Before serving, fish out the bay leaf. Puree the soup mixture until smooth. Then add the milk or heavy cream. Salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Serve in bowls and top with a spoonful of bacon bits. I imagine sliced scallions, parsley, or fried garlic slices would also make excellent toppers!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ricotta Pasta Salad

The summer is here and that means time with friends and family - pot lucks, beaches, barbecues! That means hotdogs, hamburgers, coleslaw, wings, and potato salad. The All-American cookout.

A dear friend asked me to bring a pasta salad as a side to her barbecue. Of course, I'll be happy to bring what ever you need. Rather than opt for a traditional mayonnaise based salad,  I decided to get creative and stick to my cooking mantra.  Fresh is always better. And unfortunately, nothing spoils a picnic like lukewarm egg products. I decided that ricotta would make a more stable dish. I modeled my dish after the classic Caprese salad, with fresh soft cheese, cherry tomatoes, and basil. Baby spinach lightens the mix of flavors and adds a crunchy texture to the otherwise soft dish.

Ricotta Pasta Salad
Serves 10

1 pound dry pasta, orchiette preferred (I used shells but they tended to roll into each other) 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
8 ounces baby spinach, chopped
16 ounces ricotta
Three handfuls fresh basil leaves, minced (yes, that looks like a lot)
One garlic clove minced
5 sprigs fresh oregano or parsley, minced

  1. Slice tomatoes in half, sprinkle with salt and a little sugar and place in a colander to drain excess water.
  2. Prepare pasta in salt water as directed until cooked to desired softness
  3. Chop spinach and place in the bottom of the serving dish
  4. Slice and mince all other ingredients until pasta is done.
  5. Drain pasta, and immediately transfer to serving dish, to cover the spinach (this wilts the spinach to take some of the rawness out.) Stir to incorporate.
  6. Spread the ricotta over the top, allowing the cheese to melt a little.
  7. Mix in the herbs and garlic into the ricotta a little at a time to control herb intensity.
  8. Season the dish with salt and pepper liberally, and to taste.
  9. Serve cold, room temperature, or hot (if you like creamy sauces).