Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roasted Chicken with Couscous and Greens


Here's an inexpensive and flavorful meal that's interesting enough to serve when you have "company" for dinner. It's also a one-pan meal with minimal clean up, and most of the cooking takes care of itself in the oven, so you're free to get out of the kitchen.

I chose chicken thighs because I love the flavor of the crispy skin once the fat has been rendered out. But if you want to skip that step and reduce the fat content of the dish, simply brown some chicken breasts on one side and continue with the rest of the recipe. Browning the meat adds flavor and texture (in other words: it adds interest) to a dish.

A box of couscous and canned tomatoes are part of my pantry staples, and I usually have a bitter green of some sort in the crisper bin of my fridge. With those basics on hand dinner is a snap to pull together, even at the last minute. On this night I added some lightly spiced carrots on the side to echo the hint of cinnamon on the chicken. Kick up the flavor of the meal by adding some chili flakes or fresh chili when the rest of the ingredients go in the pan.

Roasted Chicken with Couscous and Greens
5 chicken thighs
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 can diced tomatoes with onions and herbs
1/2 c whole wheat couscous
1 cup blanched broccolini (see Broccolini with Parmesan for blanching)
OR 1-2 cups winter greens such as turnips, collards, kale, stemmed and rough chopped

Trim excess fat and skin off of the chicken thighs. Season the skin side with salt and pepper. Season the flesh side with the remaining herbs and spices.

Heat a thick bottomed skillet over medium high heat and transfer the chicken to the pan, skin side down to render the fat out. Cook for about 7 minutes, carefully drain away he fat, and continue cooking until the skin is crispy and most of the fast has cooked off. Remove chicken to a plate and discard any fat left in the pan.

Return pan to heat and add the tomatoes, couscous, and boccolini or greens. Nestle the chicken, skin side up into the tomato mixture so that it's all evenly distributed and transfer the pan to a 400 degree oven. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is done (test the meat at the bone for doneness)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Food Find: All Natural Break-n-Bake Cookies


I love a good food find and this one is sweet and yummy! We had a new baby for the holidays so I didn't really get my "bake on" like I wanted too. And in the back of my mind floated the vaguest recollection of a food recall on prepared cookie dough but I couldn't remember what brand or how long ago and, of course, didn't bother to Google it either. However while restocking essentials one of our tentative early trips out of the house with both kids, I did see these: Immaculate Baking Co. Cookies.

Using all natural ingredients, Immaculate Baking Co. makes dough for break-and-bake cookies and brownies, as well as biscuits and scones. And even snack cookies but I haven't seen those in the store yet. Check out their site for their home-grown history and their fundraising efforts, as well as for some Valentines specials and ideas.

Good cookies. Good ingredients. We keep 'em stocked in the freezer now for those rainy days and "I sure could use some hot-from-the-oven-cookies" moments. This is the kind of "convenient" food I can get with!

Curried Greens with Butternut Squash

This is a fat free side dish bursting with flavor. I only wish I was better at photography so you could see how pretty the vibrant green and deep orange color of this little bowl of happiness is. And what an antioxidant bomb! The greens (I used turnip greens, but mustards or kale or spinach would work) and the squash are loaded with nutrients. Read more on the World's Healthiest Foods website about turnip greens here and butternut squash here.

By simmering the veggies in water or stock (which would add more flavor) in stead of sauteeing them, we cut any fat right out of the dish, and all that's left is lots of flavor. Using curry powder means that as the dish cooks, the liquid will thicken until you have a consistency like a stew, a nice stick-to-your-ribs vegetable dish for the winter months.

Curried Greens with Butternut Squash
2 cups water or stock
8 oz winter greens, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
2 Tbsp of Jamaican style curry powder, mild
1 tsp ginger, ground
1 tsp garlic, ground
1 tsp chili flake (optional)
salt pepper

Heat stock/water in a large pot and when it starts to simmer add the squash and greens. Continue to simmer, uncovered until the greens wilt, then add the spices and curry powder and stir to incorporate. Continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has thickened. Serve with a whole-grain rice.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spiced Cupcakes

This is a very easy recipe (so easy I made it w/ my kidlet while the baby was napping) adapted from the Easy Cupcake Recipe found at www.cupcakerecipes.com This particular recipe came was inspired by my desire to make spice cookies and the kidlet's desire to make cupcakes. So why not combine the two for the best of both worlds?

If you follow this recipe the cupcakes will come out on the light side, kind of muffin-ish, and won't be overly sweet either so feel free to frost away (or eat for breakfast with coffee).

Frost how you like (chocolate with sprinkles for the kidlet) or not at all if you're like me and simply like cake. You can whip this up by hand and burn a couple of extra calories in the process or breakout the hardware use the kitchen mixer with the paddle or whisk attachment.
Spiced Cupcakes makes 2 dozen
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ginger, ground
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon cloves, grond
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners, or spray with baking spray.

Combine the dry ingredients, including spices, in a large mixing bowl. Add shortening, milk, and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Add eggs and beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Scrape bowl and beat on high speed for 1 minute 30 seconds until well mixed. Spoon cupcake batter into paper liners or greased cup cake pan until 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean as ovens may vary).

Cool 5 minutes in pans then remove cupcakes and place on wire racks to cool completely. Once cooled, frost or decorate as you desire.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chicken in Sage Sauce

To me, sage is an herb that packs quite a punch most of the time. However, on a recent trip to the farmers market I picked up a couple of bunches that are really mild and that's nice because I can fearlessly use sage without worrying about drowning out other flavors in the dish. It's also a good lesson in that you should always taste your ingredients before using them, especially if procured from a farm or organic source, because unlike mass-produced genetically modified foods, each crop can have nuances of flavor and texture.

This dish is a great use of leftover chicken, which I seem to always have on hand because I typically roast a chicken at least once a week.

1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp evoo
1/2 bunch sage, chopped
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
1/4 half and half or heavy cream
9 oz chicken breast, cooked
salt & pepper

Saute onion, garlic and sage in a sauce pan until fragrant and garlic is golden. Add the stock/water and heavy cream, season with salt and pepper.
Photo-0817.jpeg Add cooked chicken and continue cooking until sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Serve with a rice side dish like a pilaf.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Broccolini with Parmesan

Sometimes less is more.

This is a very simple dish but that's because broccolini doesn't need any gussying up to be delicious. However, the vegetable does go by many names including broccoli raab, rapini and broccoletto.

This was a cause for pause at the checkout time at Wallyworld (I know, I was surprised to see it there too and just couldn't resist bringing it home). The cashier said "This isn't parsley." I nodded and said, "I call it broccoli raab, but I think the sign said broccolini." She checked her illustrated produce guide to no avail and finally, with the line behind me growing restless, she asked if she could look inside of the clear plastic produce bag to see the label on my not-parsley. It said rapini.

Ah well, all that confusion for a vegetable that here, is prepared very simply. Read more about broccolini, its heritage and health benefits here and here.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse and trim the tough ends off of the broccolini.

Heat a large pot of salted water until boiling. Blanche the broccolini by submerging it into the salty boiling water until it turns a beautiful emerald green. Immediately remove broccolini from the water and dunk it into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

When cooled (just a few minutes) drain thoroughly, toss with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Top with grated cheese and bake in a 400 degree oven until the cheese is melted and starts to brown.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tortellini w Chicken Portabello & Spinach

Photo-0803.jpeg />This is a leftover makeover! Yay!
After my Spinach Pecan Stuffed Portabello Caps I had mushrooms and spinach left (hey, bagged spinach was BOGO at Publix) so this became dinner shortly thereafter. Another quick and easy meal whipped up for the blink of an eye that the baby wasn't in either arm.

Tortellini with Chicken, Mushrooms & Spinach

1 9 oz package of fresh cheese filled tortellini
1 6 oz bag of pre-washed baby spinach
2 large portabello mushroom caps, cut into batons
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
2 6oz chicken breasts, cooked
2-3 Tbsp basil pesto, prepared or homemade
1/2 cup shredded cheese such as Asiago or Parmesan
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, reduce heat slightly and gently cook the tortellini until tender. If you boil them, they will break and spill their contents as well as cook unevenly. When plump and tender, drain the water and set aside.

Meanwhile in a skillet, heat 2 tbs of olive oil and saute the mushrooms and garlic until the garlic just begins to brown.

Stir together the stock/water with the pesto and pour into the mushroom mixture. Add the cooked chicken, spinach and the cooked pasta and gently stir to incorporate. The dish should be well covered in pesto but not soupy or saucy.

Transfer to a serving platter and top with shredded cheese and toasted pecan pieces.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Spinach Pecan Stuffed Portabello Caps

This dish is quick and easy and has a lot of flavors for so few ingredients. The toasted pecans are delicious and were compliments of my mother-in-law who brought them with her from south Georgia last weekend when she came to visit her new grandbaby. These days I rarely have two empty hands so dishes like this are vital! Also the addition of protein from nuts and cheese help make this vegetarian side dish worthy of entree status. I served it with a little yellow rice on the side.

Spinach Pecan Stuffed Portabello Caps
Sin pecan stuffed shroom
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bag pre-washed baby spinach leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/4 cup each shredded parmesan and asiago cheeses
2 large portabello mushroom caps, stemmed and de-gilled
salt, pepper
splash of sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 400.

Over medium-high heat, heat the oil in a saute pan and quickly saute the spinach with the garlic powder until spinach is wilted (5 minutes, max). Drain off any excess liquid (I didn't have any) and stir in the nuts, cheese and sherry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Remove the stems from the portabello caps, and use a spoon to scoop out and discard the black gills from the underside. Place on a foil lined sheet tray and season with salt and pepper.

Stuff each cap with half of the spinach mixture. Bake in 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until the mushroom cap is tender and the cheese is golden.

NOTE: This dish is gluten free if the cheese is procured from reliable gluten-free brands. This dish is easily made vegan by substituting your favorite dairy-free cheese product.