It’s 2015 already?!

A new year. I can hardly believe it’s 2015. And that I’m 31 now. How can I possibly be well into my early 30’s already?! I’m pretty sure I just turned 25 a few days ago. I’m looking forward to and dreading this year in many ways. It’s going to be a year of changes, a year of self discovery. I entered into 2015 in circumstances which will not allow 2015 to be one of stagnation and complacency. If ever there is a year to truly figure out what I want my life to be, who I want to be, where I want to be, and who I want to be with, this is it. And to be honest, that’s a simultaneously scary and exciting thing. I hope that when 2016 arrives I’ll be at a place where I can embrace the future without any fear holding me back, but that’s definitely not where I’m at right now. I’ve always been one to look forward to the future because I’m a planner, and I’ve always had a pretty good idea of what was in front of me. And right now, I have no idea what my future holds, what path I’ll take from this point on, and that’s a pretty terrifying thing. If someone knows how I can turn my brain off at night so I can have a peaceful night of sleep without weird dreams, let me know!

There are, of course, many things that I know I can count on being present in my life going forward. My passion for cooking is one of them. I have one goal for this year: do things that make me happy. Cooking makes me happy, and blogging makes me happy, so I plan on doing a lot of both this year.

Lately I’ve been craving the flavors of Mexican cuisine. I’ve made the Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps from Gina at skinnytaste.com a couple of times this month. I follow the recipe for the taco meat to the letter, and let me tell you, it’s fantastic. I thought it was especially good when I made it with ground turkey thigh meat. And last week I made the Slightly Spicy Carnitas from The Paleo Slow Cooker by Arsy Vartanian from Rubies and Radishes. I wanted to eat the carnitas meat straight from the pot it was so good. And it was easy, too, especially with my new InstantPot (I used the sauté and slow cooker settings.) For both the turkey tacos and the carnitas I wrap the meat in butter lettuce leaves and top them with some simple homemade guacamole (half a mashed avocado with salt, cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder added to taste). I also usually add a bit of shredded sharp cheddar to the turkey tacos. Both recipes are delicious, simple and usually leave me with plenty of leftovers that I look forward to eating for lunches.

If anybody’s reading this  – What are you excited about or fearful of this year? Have you been hit with any food or flavor cravings recently? I’d love to hear how 2015 is going for you so far!

 

Baked Crispy Cajun Spiced Chicken Thighs

Bake Cajun Spiced Chicken Thighs

It was both a grievous and wonderful moment when I first made baked chicken thighs a couple of years ago. Up to that point I had squandered many years avoiding any meat from a chicken other than the white meat. There were several reasons for that. One, I’m the girl who eats her ribs with a fork and prefers them falling off the bone, so naturally the thought of working around smallish chicken bones to get my meat was not super appealing. Two, I’d bought into the idea that low-fat diets were most nutritious and that lean chicken and turkey were the best sources of animal protein. So the fact that chicken thighs are higher in fat than chicken breasts was another deterrant in my consumption of dark chicken meat. Three, I’d never bought chicken thighs before and had no idea what to do with them. But finally, after nearly three decades of a dark chicken meat free diet, I experienced the insane deliciousness that are chicken thighs. I guess I’ll have to spend the next 3 decades making up for lost time. I know, hard times, right?

There are several perks to eating chicken thighs. First, they’re budget friendly. I picked up a 3 lb family size package of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs at Whole Foods last weekend for about $7. The boneless, skinless chicken thighs were a bit more – about $12 for a family size package. At Whole Foods comparable quantities of chicken breasts are more in the $15-$20 range. Of course, prices will vary depending on your grocery store and region. Second, they’re delicious and so worth the tiny amount of effort it takes to get the meat off the bones. Third, they’re actually quiet nutritious for you. Now that we know it’s not fat that is bad for us but rather sugar and excess carbs, we can enjoy dark chicken meat guilt free! They’re also a great source of potassium (which protects your blood vessels from oxidative damage) and selenium (which helps the body make antioxidant enzymes) and contain folate, iron and vitamins A, K, B6, and B12.
 Bake Cajun Spiced Chicken Thighs
I made these Cajun spiced chicken thighs for dinner earlier this week and the hubs and I devoured them while our dog stared sadly and adorably at us. These will definitely be added to my list of of favorite weeknight dinners. There’s not much hands on time which makes these really easy, but they do require an hour of marinating and 35 minutes of baking, so plan on about an hour and forty-five minutes from start to consumption.
 Cajun Spice Blend

These Cajun spiced chicken thighs have a great flavor, but they’re not spicy. If you’d like to kick the heat up a bit, try adding more cayenne pepper and/or red pepper flakes to the Cajun seasoning blend.

Enjoy with some roasted veggies for an easy and nutritous dinner!
Baked Crispy Cajun Spiced Chicken Thighs
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning (recipe below)
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1.5 lbs)
Mild Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the Cajun seasoning. Store in a small air tight container. Makes about 5 Tablespoons total. You can double or triple the recipe if you'd like to keep more on hand.
  2. Combine the lime juice, rosemary, and Cajun seasoning in a small bowl to form a paste. Add the chicken thighs and lime/rosemary/Cajun seasoning paste to a large bowl or ziploc bag and toss the chicken until evenly coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400. Brush a small-medium sized rimmed baking pan with a bit of the melted coconut oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.
  4. Place the chicken thighs on the baking pan and brush both sides of the chicken with the remaining coconut oil, then sprinkle just a bit of coarse sea salt and freshly cracked pepper on both sides of the chicken. Leave the skin side facing up for baking.
  5. Bake on 400 for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 and the skin is a crispy golden brown. If you'd like your skin a bit crispier you can switch the oven to a high broil for about 1 minute, keeping a close watch to make sure the chicken doesn't burn.