Meat

Spicy Harissa Chicken Bake

pasta and chicken thighs baked in spicy harissa coconut sauce in skillet

Something about the cold weather in January makes me feel cooped up, and like clock work, my nostalgia kicks in.  This is how it goes…

The Holidays are over and it takes about a week to decompress and become a working human again.  During that time I’m content, but then my mind starts to wander.  I start thinking about the trips I took last year and begin thumbing through past vacation pics.  That’s when the nostalgia kicks in, and alas…the planning of my next big trip ensues, all thanks to my ever-so-productive weekends as a result of “dry January”.

Well maybe thats just me, but either way, my mind was all over central Europe for the better half of last week.  David and I have been lucky enough to explore Italy and Greece over the past two summers, and parts of our trip that stick out the most…THE FOOD.  

spicy harissa chicken bake in skillet with penne

There’s a reason the Mediterranean diet continues to be the best diet year after year.  It’s because its DELICIOUS…or is it healthy?  Either way, I was busy day dreaming of my endless greek salads, hummus, kebabs, unadulterated olive oil, and the wonderful wonderful pasta dishes, when I decided to experiment with my own version of mediterranean cuisine.

Nostalgia…you are officially considered CURED thanks to this Harissa chicken dish.  Which by the way, reminds me of a mediterranean style baked ziti (only better for you than the original version)!  Albeit Harissa isn’t an every day household condiment, it has become widely available here in the US. Harissa is a chili based paste that is used throughout North Africa, originating in Tunisia.  It has a nice kick to it and a wonderful naturally occurring red color that gives its dishes some PIZZAZZ.

spicy harissa chicken in skillet with penne

I combined the Harissa with coconut cream to give it a rich and creamy consistency, before mixing in gluten free Banza penne pasta, then topping with chicken thighs, and popping it all in the oven to bake!  Once it’s done cooking, you can garnish with cilantro and limes before you lay that pretty little thing out on the table for everyone to dig into.

coconut cream and harissa paste in mixing bowl

coconut cream and harissa paste whisked together to form cream sauce

And don’t be afraid to sneak yourself a second serving since its filled with protein, healthy fats, and fiber to keep you full and satisfied!  Serve with a traditional greek salad, which can easily be thrown together while this is baking, and you have yourself a meal that originated almost 5,000 miles away! 

spicy harissa chicken baked with penne and plated

 

Spicy Harissa Chicken Bake

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Keyword: bake, chicken, gluten free, harissa, healthy, skillet, spicy
Author: Lulu's Table

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp organic grass fed butter
  • 2 tbsp almond flour
  • 1 13 oz can coconut cream
  • 2 tbsp harissa paste
  • 1 8 oz bag Banza chickpea penne or other gluten free pasta alternative
  • 1-1.5 lbs organic chicken thigh
  • 1 tbsp EVOO or avocado oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, garlic, and turmeric each
  • 1 lime juice
  • 2 tbsp cilantro chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Boil a pot of water and partially cook penne so that it is al dente. Drain, rinse under cool water, and set aside.
  • In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. 
  • While butter is melting, pour coconut cream into a mixing bowl and whisk in harissa paste until blended together.
  • Add almond flour to melted butter in the skillet and whisk ingredients together until buttery clumps are formed.
  • Slowly pour in coconut and harissa mixture in stages, and make sure to constantly whisk.  This will thicken your sauce.
  • Once all of your coconut mixture is whisked into the skillet, pour penne into skillet and stir so that it is evenly coated by sauce.
  • Take chicken thighs and lay them on top of the penne.  In a small bowl, mix together oil and spices.  Brush oil and spice mixture over top of the chicken thighs. 
  • Take 1/2 of a lime and squeeze juice over top of chicken thighs.  Bake in oven for 30 min.
  • When finished cooking, garnish with cilantro and lime wedges from other 1/2 of lime before serving.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over cooked harissa chicken if desired.
Meat

Spicy Thai Soup with Shrimp and Lamb Meatballs

spicy thai soup with spoon of red curry paste, garlic cloves, and cilantro garnish

This year’s holiday rotation schedule landed David and me in North Carolina with my parents, which more or less turns into a cook-off extravaganza by Marge (my mom).  On her end, this usually requires a week of prep time, two full sized fridges stuffed to the max, and roughly 10 visits to the grocery store for forgotten items.

For her, it’s a way to have the whole family spend time together without the distractions of everyday life. For us, it’s this totally awesome culinary experience right in our own home…so jammies and no makeup are the usual outfits of choice!

three bowls of spicy thai soup topped with cilantro

It’s a food tasting adventure that lasts a week, and tends to include an international dish or two (I mean seriously…my mom knows how to trick us kids into visiting them)!  This year’s global feature was a spicy thai soup with shrimp and lamb meatballs, a bunch of chopped veggies and rice noodles!

And the final verdict?  HANDS DOWN my favorite dish of the week. Something about the combination of red curry paste with coconut milk, and the surf and turf type protein selection in the soup was something to write home about.  Luckily for me I am home, so that leaves me writing to all of you lovely people 🙂

the bowls of spicy thai soup surrounded with cilantro, garlic cloves, red curry paste, and cilantro

She started by making the lamb meatballs separately on stovetop, that way when the soup was finished she could add them in before serving.  These meatballs are packed with so much flavor and just melt in your mouth due to the tenderness of lamb meat.  You’ll know when you get a bite of them!

She then sautéed veggies, some thai spices, and added the broth and coconut milk.  After that, its time to add in your protein and then let simmer in the pot before adding noodles and serving! 

Aside from the taste, one of my favorite things about this soup is the nutritional benefits that can be obtained from coconut milk!  Coconut milk is know to have medium-chain triglycerides, what you’ve probably heard referred to as MCTs, and has been linked to weight loss in research studies.  Additionally, coconut milk contains a lipid called lauric acid, which has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that help support the immune system.

three bowls of spicy thai soup in decorative asain bowls

Whats nice about this soup is that you can easily make a vegetarian option by simply omitting shrimp and lamb meatballs.  Or if you prefer to stick with one protein vs two, its totally customizable.  Either way you prefer, it will taste just as good!

Once everything is whipped up, garnish with some cilantro and serve warm!

Spicy Thai Soup with Shrimp and Lamb Meatballs

Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: coconut milk, gluten free, healthy, lamb meatball, red curry paste, rice noodles, shrimp, spicy, thai soup
Author: Lulu's Table

Ingredients

Lamb Meatball Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger grated
  • 2 tbsp chili & garlic sauce A Taste of Thai brand was used in this recipe
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint and basil combined chopped
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • avocado or coconut oil for browning

Soup Ingredients

  • 1 lb large shrimp peeled and deveined cut into bite-size chunks
  • 3 tbsp avocado or coconut oil for sautéing
  • 1 cup mini bell peppers chopped or sliced into rings
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 5-7 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 large head bok choy, or 3 baby bok choy chopped
  • 13.5 ounces coconut cream (preferred) or milk (1 can)
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste
  • 2 tbsp lemongrass paste
  • 6 cups organic chicken bone broth
  • 6-8 ounces vermicelli rice noodles cooked separately according to package
  • cilantro for garnish

Instructions

Lamb Meatballs

  • Add all ingredients (except oil) in a large bowl and mix well.
  • Form small balls to be added to frying pan.  Add oil to a large frying pan on medium-high heat, and when hot, add meatballs.
  • Brown all sides and remove to cool.  Add rest of meatballs and brown the same way.  Set aside to add to the soup.

Soup

  • Heat oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan.  Once hot, add peppers, onions, and garlic.  Keep stirring and sauté for about 5 min.
  • Add curry and lemongrass pastes and mix in.
  • Add and stir in the chicken broth and coconut cream/milk.
  • Once heated through, after a couple minutes, add in the bok choy.  Let cook for 5 min to soften bok choy.
  • Add both shrimp and lamb meatballs, then simmer for 15 min.
  • Add cooked vermicelli noodles and let simmer for another 5 min.  Serve and garnish with fresh cilantro.