New Flavors for a New Year

As the holidays wind down, I always find myself ready for new foods and a fresh start. I’ve eaten everything my little heart desired—and more—so the idea of clean eating is a welcome thought. This new year, I’m focusing on flavorful, healthy recipes that are not only comforting and satisfying but also pretty enough for company.

Charred Shishito Peppers with Sriracha Aioli

1 tablespoon olive oil
6-ounce carton of Shishito peppers
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Sriracha Aioli
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha, more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Garnish: red pepper flakes

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, and next 3 ingredients. Cover aioli and chill until ready to use. Just before serving, garnish if desired.

In a large skillet, heat oil to medium-high. Add peppers, stirring occasionally until they are blistered and charred on several sides. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes, at the most. Sprinkle with sea salt and lemon juice. Garnish with lemon slices or nasturtiums—or both! Serve with Sriracha Aioli dipping sauce. Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Learn from Leslie: Put out a small bowl for the stem discards.

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Coconut Chicken Curry

1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
1/2 large red bell pepper
1/2 large green bell pepper
3 tablespoons coconut oil, separated
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
3 tablespoons red curry paste
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1½ pounds chicken breast tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 can full-fat coconut milk (NOT lite)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar or Splenda Brown Sugar Blend*
1 teaspoon fish sauce, optional
Cooked basmati rice, brown rice, or cauliflower rice along with additional lime wedges
1/4 cup cilantro and/or basil, diced
Optional: chopped peanuts or cashews

*If using Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (which I did), cut the amount by half.

Start by prepping ingredients: Dice onion, and mince the garlic and ginger. Peel the ginger with a spoon or vegetable peeler, and then finely mince it. Thinly slice the bell peppers into long vertical strips, and then cut those strips in half horizontally.

Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until the onions are beginning to get golden. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir to coat everything with the oil. Lower the heat to low, and add the curry powder, red curry paste, and coriander. Stir often for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant.

Return the heat to medium-high. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon coconut oil and the peppers. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes, and then add the bite-sized pieces of chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.) Cook, stirring often, for about 4 to 5 minutes or until the chicken is browned on both sides but not cooked through.

Pour in the coconut milk, lime juice, and brown sugar (to taste, I start with just 1 tablespoon brown sugar). Stir until chicken is cooked through and curry is slightly thickened. Stir in fish sauce, if desired.

Serve over rice. Garnish individual bowls with cilantro, basil, and crushed peanuts or cashews. Serve with additional lime wedges, if desired. Serves 4

Learn from Leslie: If you want a thicker sauce, remove 1 to 2 tablespoons of the sauce to a small bowl and, with a fork, whisk in 1 tablespoon cornstarch until smooth. Whisk this mixture into the curry.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 pound ground chicken
1/3 cup chicken broth
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
16 Bibb lettuce leaves
1/2 cup salted peanuts

Heat peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-heat for 1 minute. Add garlic and chicken; cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth, and cook over medium heat until most of the liquid evaporates. Stir in green onions and next 5 ingredients. Spoon 2 tablespoons chicken mixture onto each lettuce leaf. Top with salted peanuts, and fold over. Serve with Cucumber Dipping Sauce. Makes 16 wraps

Cucumber Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon plum sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped mint

Combine first 6 ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool. Stir in cucumber, cilantro, and mint. Makes 1 cup

For more recipes and fun entertaining ideas, visit

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Leslie Byars Register

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