This week’s Craving Ellie in My Belly is Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches and was chosen by Pam over at Cookies with Boys.

This was a great choice by Pam, so great in fact, that I already made these sandwiches a few months ago.

We really liked them, and I have made them multiple times on my homemade burger buns. My only complaint was the sauce was a bit bland, Ellie did not even call for any salt in it!!!! I doctored it up while it was cooking and it came out quite tasty.

Check out my original post on the chicken sandwiches here.

This is a solid pasta dinner that I have made a handful of times. I like it because the sauce is quick and easy but still flavorful. Perfect for the times when I don’t have any marinara in the freezer.

It is based on a recipe I found in the June 2008 issue of Bon Appetit for Rigatoni with Spicy Sausage - Tomato Sauce, Arugula and Parmesan…and breath. Really, who is naming their recipes these days? (Wow, I just learned that it’s arugUla not arugAla. That explains my difficulty finding this recipe link.)

So, the basis of this dish is a quick tomato sauce that cooks for about 30 minutes with onion, garlic, red wine, spicy sausage, tomatoes, arugula, basil, oregano, and parmigiano cheese.

The changes I make to this are that I use only crushed tomatoes instead of crushed and diced (texture thing), spicy chicken sausage instead of pork, and spinach instead of arugula. Sometimes I break the sausage up into the sauce like recipe states, and other times I poach the sausage, slice it and then add it to the sauce. Sometimes I use all hot sausage and other times a mix of hot and sweet. You could also easily used a pre-cooked andouille or chorizo in here as well. It is very adaptable to what you feel like doing at the time.

This is a nice hearty meal that is super easy to put together, which is a must have for me during the week. I really look forward to coming home every night and having a nice hot meal with Nick. After a day of really watching what I eat, I love to be able to fill my tummy with some comforting yet healthy (or at least somewhat healthy meal). It is a way to reward myself and unwind from the day. I sound like that stupid “family table” commercial, but I think it is true. My family almost always ate a dinner together every night when I was growing up and I think it is important to continue that even if it is only Nick and I.

I will be submitting this to Rachel of The Crispy Cook for Presto Pasta Nights, a great weekly pasta roundup founded by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast.

The recipe with my changes is after the jump.

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I was lucky enough to host this month’s Bread Baking Day. I decided to challenge all you awesome internet bread bakers to try something, *GASP* brand new, never tested, maybe even a bit challenging. The results are in, and by God they look delicious. The amount of gym hours required to work off all these carbs is daunting - but probably oh-so-worth-it (who am I kidding? I’d just eat all the bread up and then lay around on the sofa and bitch about how fat I am all night, bound in a thick layer of self-loathing, instead of ACTUALLY going to the GYM). Without further ado and in no particular order, I present to you BBD #23

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***update - check out my improved 5 braid challah.***

I made this challah bread a few weeks ago for two reasons. One, I have never made a challah before and decided this would be my entry for August’s Bread Baking Day which we are hosting, and two, I wanted it to be a test run for possibly making challah with my mom for the upcoming Jewish high holidays.

For those of you who may not know, Challah is a traditional Jewish egg bread which is eaten on the Sabbath and holidays. It is delicious and you can make unbelievable French toast with it. I decided for my first challlah I would use the Peter Reinhardt’s recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. We have had much success with all of the other recipes we have tried and I find the book to be very user friendly, especially when you are making something for the first time.

I am not going to post the recipe because it is long and I don’t feel like typing it up. I would recommend you buy this book if you are interested in bread baking, or you can find the recipe by doing a Google book search. The challah recipe is a part of the preview. You can also find a fabulous picture tutorial on making this bread over at Pinch My Salt.

Overall I was extremely pleased with my first attempt at braided bread. Although I felt that the bread was a tad bland for my taste I think it may have just needed a bit more salt, and a preferment would also go a long way for a more complex flavor. I will do both of these things when I make more challahs for the Jewish holidays. I would also like to do a version studded with raisins. A bunch pictures and some assistance with how to braid bread after the jump.

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This weeks Craving Ellie in My Belly is Chicken Sate with a Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce. It was chosen by the hilariously funny Cathy of The Tortefeasor. It can be found at the aforementioned Food Network link or on page 54-55 of The Food You Crave. This is in the appetizer section of the book, but I decided to make it into dinner portions and serve it with some rice.

This recipe starts with marinating the chicken in a mixture of chicken stock, lite coconut milk, soy sauce, shallot, garlic, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime zest, and ginger. I marinated my chicken for about 8 hours instead of the 1 hour Ellie suggests. The chicken was very flavorful on it’s own and my favorite part was the flecks of lime zest that stuck to the chicken from the marinade.

I enjoyed skewering the chicken but I only got about 6 skewers instead of 8. I guess I over stuffed my skewers, but it really did not matter since it was just the two of us. I did only use 1 pound of chicken breast and I felt like it was a generous amount of chicken for dinner. I couldn’t finish it all. However, Nick, who increasingly complains that he is always so hungry finished all of his and the rest of mine.

The peanut sauce was very good, similar to but definitely not the same as the sauce from the lime peanut noodles that we made a few weeks ago. The dipping sauce was made from peanut butter (I used up the rest of my homemade PB ), chicken broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, lime juice, garlic, chili flakes, red curry paste, and shallot. I think I liked this sauce better, and I was pleased to see that Nick enjoyed it as well. I was worried that this would end up being a pizza night because he is not a big fan of peanut sauces or sauces in general on his chicken. However, to my pleasant surprise he not only tolerated but sincerely liked the sauce. I left out the red pepper flakes because I don’t really like any heat in my food. Though I did think the sauce still had a bit of a kick from the green curry paste (the store was out of red curry paste - but they smell the same to me - very strong and kind of gross).

Instead of tossing the leftover coconut milk I decided to make some rice with it. I combined 1 cup of light coconut milk, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of uncooked basmati rice, 1/4 tsp of grated fresh ginger, and a splash of lime juice. Just cook it up like you would normally cook rice, this took about 15 - 20 minutes. The rice was very creamy and it definitely retained flavor from the coconut milk. Though I could not taste the ginger or lime at all, so if I make this again, I would increase both.

Overall this was a very tasty dinner and I would absolutely make this chicken and the dipping sauce again.

You may recall some weeks ago that I posted about strawberry bread that I made that was loaded with butter and marscapone cheese. Yum! It was delicious.

Now I bring you strawberry muffins. These are not nearly as rich and delicious as the strawberry bread. However, the good news is that I can actually eat more than just a sliver without gaining 10 pounds.

I bought a huge container of strawberries and I had to use them up before they turned on me. I had seen this recipe from Jen at Savor the Thyme a while back and it popped in my head as the perfect way to put these berries to good use.

These were pretty tasty, and I also think they are the healthiest muffins I have made in a while. They were a tad dense and not as tender as I would have preferred, but they were a good low fat breakfast muffin.

Since I used Jen’s recipe almost as written, I am going to send you over to her site for it. The only change I made was that I did not boil the strawberries down before adding them to the batter, I just added fresh cut berries. You can find the recipe here for Strawberry Muffins.

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