Grilled Orange-Mustard Chicken and Butternut Squash, et alI’ve made a meal that showcased moist, flavorful chicken, alongside a perfectly cooked vegetable gratin suitable for a Thanksgiving table (too bad it’s now July!). I enjoyed making the “Grilled Orange-Mustard Chicken,” from The New Family Cookbook for People with Diabetes, by the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association. This recipe let me use Cointreau and Dijon mustard.

Before marinating my chicken breasts for five hours, I was able to easily slice the semi-frozen breasts thinly with a serrated knife. I used a combination of both fresh and dried thyme in my marinade; the final chicken was definitely infused with lovely thyme flavor. I cooked my chicken in a grill pan on my stove top for 5 minutes per side. Do remember to garnish your chicken with the orange wedges (I forgot mine!).

Obviously, the recipe for “Butternut Squash, Apple, Onion Au Gratin,” from All Recipes, has been haunting me since Thanksgiving. I finally gave in, and enjoyed this casserole’s perfect texture and thickened “sauce.” I used a Pink Lady apple and a Honeycrisp apple. It was fun to shake up the squash, apples, and onion in a bag with the seasoning dust. Instead of using chicken stock, I successfully used vegetable-bouillon broth. And oh, how I am a fan of sharp cheddar cheese.

The option of sprinkling the casserole with crumbled bacon prompted me to explore D’Artagnan uncured, smoked duck bacon. Wow! This is incredible stuff. And when combined with my sweet casserole and my sharp cheese, this was quite a display of flavors. Who cares if it’s not currently Thanksgiving? You can be unashamed to try this casserole any time you see a nice butternut squash.

RECIPES: take pride in easily marinated and grilled chicken breasts and surprise yourself with the texture of a perfectly cooked vegetable/fruit casserole
PREP TIMES: you’ll need hours to marinate the chicken (but it cooks in 10 minutes); the casserole can be eaten in an hour
TASTES: moist chicken celebrates with thyme; sweet squash, apples, and onion dance with sharp cheddar and bacon in an incredible show

I’m feeling a bit frisky, and want to cook another vegetarian meal, next time. I want to try “Gingery Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Peas,” from Nava Atlas’ Vegan Express (recipe below), along with “Tuscan Kale Chips,” from the February 2009 issue of Bön Appetit. Come back to my site on Tuesday, July 14, to see if this is as fun as it seems.

Gingery Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Peas
Vegan Express, by Nava Atlas
6 servings

In classic Thai dish, white rice is combined with white potatoes. Though it sounds rather redundant, the seasonings and embellishments make it delectable nonetheless. I took the general idea of this recipe and revved it up to include the two main ingredients’ more nourishing counterparts—brown rice and sweet potatoes. This may still sound like an odd combination, but honestly, it works very well.

1 1/2 cups raw long-grain brown rice, rinsed
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp. light olive oil
6 scallions, white and green parts
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh or jarred ginger, or to taste
1 tsp. good-quality curry powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, or more, to taste
Salt to taste
Chopped peanuts or cashews for topping, optional

Combine the rice with 3 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently until the water is absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes.

Microwave the sweet potatoes until just done but still nice and firm. Start with 3 minutes total, then test. A knife should go through, with some resistance. If needed, microwave for another minute at a time. Once done, plunge the sweet potatoes into a bowl of cold water. Set aside until needed.

When the rice is nearly done, peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch dice.

Heat the oil in a stir-fry pan. Add the white parts of the scallions and the garlic, and sauté over medium-low heat until just turning golden. Add the green parts of the scallion and the sweet potato dice; turn the heat up to medium-high and stir-fry for a minute or so.

Stir in the ginger, curry, and turmeric, then add the rice. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the ingredients are well blended. Add the peas and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes.

Season with salt, stir in the cilantro, and serve. Top each serving with some chopped peanuts or cashews if desired.