Lessons in Kitchen Mishaps

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So I did something I haven’t done in years; I burned a creation that I just knew would be mouth-watering delicious. I even shamefully ate it partially cold at lunch, afraid that it might smell a little scorched. While trimming my tomato plants, repotting herbs that I started indoors, and working on my spinach trellis, I lost track of time and my inspired dish suffered. Though my spicy stewed coconut chicken dish was not perfect as intended, the ginger basil fried rice was it’s saving grace as that had my full attention. It was also a good reminder that time waits for no one, so neglecting to set a timer thinking “this won’t take long” is a recipe for scorched food. I sufficiently learned my lesson. This is a pretty inexpensive dish, using chicken legs as a base which adds lots of flavor while being wallet friendly. Even the fried rice required little using items already on hand. If you’d like to try a non-scorched version, check out the recipe below.

Spicy Stewed Coconut Chicken 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pack of chicken legs (4 count)

1 can diced tomato

6oz coconut milk

6 cups of water

2 cups of chicken stock

1 cup of chopped spinach

1 cup diced onion

3 cloves of grated garlic

2 tbsp. fresh basil

1 tbsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. fresh ground peppercorn (or coarse black pepper)

1 tsp. cayenne (optional)

1 tsp. sea salt

Directions:

  1. Bring water and stock to a boil in a medium pot. Rinse and add chicken legs, garlic powder and ground peppercorns or pepper. Boil for 18 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken and cut from the bone before adding back into the pot. Add diced tomato (with liquid), coconut milk, basil and cayenne. Grate in garlic or mince well and add.
  3. Peel and dice a small onion and add to pot. Cook for 10 minutes on simmer, then rinse, chop and add spinach. 
  4. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Enjoy with plain or fried rice.

Ginger Basil Fried Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked white or brown rice (preferably a few days old)

2 eggs

2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce

1 small carrot grated or in slivers

1 tbsp. sriracha 

1 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. grated ginger

2 cloves of sliced garlic

3 tbsp. chopped basil 

1 tbsp. oil (olive, avocado or coconut oil)

Directions:

  1. In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Slice garlic and chop basil while oil heats.
  2. Add garlic and basil and stir to infuse in the oil. Add rice and stir occasionally, lightly browning for 5 minutes.
  3. Grate ginger and add to pot. Peel carrot and grate or peel into slivers with a potato peeler.
  4. Move still browning rice to one side of the pan and add the eggs. Mix in well with the rice.
  5. Add soy sauce, sriracha and sesame oil and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Enjoy.

Alternative Side Dishes

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I love every kind of potato there is, but every now and then I like to try something new. There’s always those close cousins that get ignored like butternut squash. Since squash is in season, I decided to try preparing it in a different way. This would also be great as a replacement in sweet potato casserole or in a standard potato hash. This made a great side to baked chicken and sautéed greens and is easy to prepare ahead. You can always change up the chicken with different seasonings if you want to make enough for the week. Check out the recipe below.

Mashed Rosemary Butternut Squash

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash (~2 cups)

1 cup of water

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. fresh rosemary

½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste 

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and add water to an oven safe baking pan.

2. Cut the Squash in half and roast for 1 hour or until tender (fork should go in easy).

3. Let cool for 20 minutes, then scoop out and discard seeded center. Using a spoon, scoop out squash and add to a bowl. If the skin is too soft for scooping, peel each half with a knife.

4. Mash squash until smooth and add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tomato Basil Balsamic Chicken

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Chicken is a go to protein for the average family, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Working with new clients for cooking sessions keeps me inspired to blend interesting flavors and textures together. Since chicken dishes were requested, I decided to jazz up the traditional and add a twist of different. This tomato basil balsamic chicken dish, paired with mashed cauliflower and potato medley, was flavorful and easy to make while introducing new flavors for my client. As a way to transform leftovers, this would make a wonderful sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mozzarella. Check out the recipe below and be sure to share your thoughts!

Tomato Basil Balsamic Chicken

Ingredients:

5 large chicken breast

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

2 cups diced tomato (2 medium tomatoes)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 

1 tbsp. sea salt

1 tbsp. coarse black pepper

1 tbsp. garlic powder 

1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Rinse chicken and season lightly with half of the seasoning evenly.
  2. Once the skillet is hot, place the chicken seasoned side down. Season the other half. 
  3. Add a splash of water and lower the heat to medium. Flip the chicken after 2-3 minutes to continue to brown evenly. 
  4. Chop basil and tomatoes. Add to the skillet. Add a splash of water, the vinegar and flip the chicken again.
  5. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 4 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat. Plate and enjoy!

Food For Frost

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With these unexpected cold fronts, it’s a great time to bring out the crock pot for something warm to bump out the cold. I was in the mood for a new round of curry and blended the remaining red curry I had and some yellow and used chicken as the protein this go round. As I often say, it’s helpful to prep ahead of time by separating large packs of meat into 6, 8 and 10 count bags for your freezer, since we don’t always have time for a store run. Since I already had the chicken, purple green beans and curry powder, I grabbed basil, low fat coconut milk and carrots from the store to finish the dish. This can be eaten as a soup or served with rice depending on your preference. Check out the recipe below.

Chicken Curry
Serves 8

8 chicken legs
2 cups purple or green beans
1 14-16 oz bag of baby carrots
6 small red potatoes
1 tbsp. yellow curry powder
2 tbsp. red curry powder paste (optional)
1 13.5 oz can low fat coconut milk
1 package of basil
1 cup diced onion
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
3 cups of water

Directions:
1. Remove skin and any excess fat from chicken and rinse before putting in crock pot.
2. Season chicken with seasoning (not curry).
3. Dice onion and halve potatoes add to crock pot. Add frozen green beans and carrots. Add water and curry and mix well.
4. Set crockpot on low heat for 8 hours.
5. Add coconut and basil in last 30 minutes of cook time.
6. Enjoy!

Not Your Average Cutlet

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While stewed chicken is delish and comforting, your time in the kitchen may not allow for it. In this case, it is good to stock up on chicken or pork cutlets which is essentially a boneless breast or chop that’s been cut in half to reduce cooking time. If you need a 20-minute dinner option, this balanced and flavorful option is certainly a winner. Pairing the jazzed up chicken with a whole grain like millet or a seed like quinoa, and a vegetable of choice keeps it simple and balanced.

I’ve mentioned quinoa before in posts and while it can be hit or miss on the like-o-meter, the key is to add flavor. I like to cook it with stock or wine with herbs and a touch or butter. Of course you can add a little cheese, herbs and spinach or broccoli for an alternative to broccoli and cheese rice or a variation of rice pilaf. For this dish I added white wine, water and seasoning and finished with a dab of butter.

I also kept the veggie simple by microwaving some frozen spinach with a little seasoning and butter. This dish is great with and without the addition of quinoa. If you skip the grain or seed, I would double up on the cutlets.

Check out the recipe below.

Ingredients:
Chicken:
1-1 1/2 lbs chicken cutlets (4-5 cutlets)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup sliced onion (small onion)
1 cup sliced mushroom (white or crimini)
1/2 cup sliced bell pepper
1/2 tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. coarse black pepper
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup of white wine

Quinoa:
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup of white wine
1 tbsp. chopped basil (optional)
1/2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. onion powder

Spinach:
1 cup of spinach
1 tsp. onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. butter

Directions:
1. Rinse quinoa with water and strain. Add to a small pot with liquid and other ingredients and mix with a fork. Place over medium heat.
2. Bring quinoa to a boil and once boiling, reduce heat to low, top it and let cook for 18-20 minutes. While waiting for the quinoa to boil, peel and slice a small onion in half. Slice each half into thin strips for even-sized pieces.
3. Rinse bell pepper, cut in half and remove seeds, then slice thinly. Wipe mushrooms with a damp paper towel before slicing thinly. (Do not rinse as this can make the mushrooms tough).
4. Place a large pan with oil over medium heat to heat oil. Rinse chicken cutlets, then season with a pinch of each seasoning. Place seasoned side down, in hot pan and sear for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Season other side and then flip to cook for the same time on the other side.
5. Remove chicken to a plate and add vegetables and remaining seasoning. Let cook for 1 minute before adding liquids to deglaze the pan. Let cook for 3 minutes before adding chicken on top the veggies and reducing heat to medium low. Remove from heat after 3-5 minutes to prevent over cooking the chicken.
6. Add spinach and ingredients to bowl and place in the microwave on high for 2-3 minutes.
7. Add butter to quinoa and mix well to melt. Add some of the sautéed onions, peppers and mushrooms with quinoa, mix with fork and add to a plate. Top with chicken and more sautéed vegetables and add a serving of spinach to the plate.
8. Enjoy! (A glass of wine is a great addition.😊)

Stewed Comfort

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Cold weather calls for soups, gumbos and comfort food. One of my favorite comfort meals as a kid was stewed chicken. It’s something easy to make, whether you are breaking down a whole chicken yourself or taking some help from the store with a mixed pack or a package of your favorite piece of meat. It’s helpful, when you can, to go for the whole chicken whether the store cuts it up or you and you can save parts for gumbo or a homemade stock for some chicken noodle soup for another week. Stewed chicken is simple dish and easy to serve over rice or with potatoes. I like to double down on the veggies with sautéed greens and a side salad. The cook time is about 1 hour and 15 minutes, though the slow cooking for the latter 35 minutes can be spent elsewhere in the house with a set phone or stove timer. Though a standard 10″ deep pan will do, a cast iron pot or a Dutch oven. Check out the recipe below.

Ingredients:
1 3-3 1/2 chicken (cut into serving pieces)
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion (2 cups diced)
1 small bell pepper (1 cup diced)
4 cloves of garlic ( 2 tbsp.)
1 tbsp. onion power
1tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. coarse black pepper
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. salted butter
1 cup chicken stock or water

Directions:
1. Add olive oil to a large pot over medium heat.
2. Rinse chicken and pat dry with a paper towel before sprinkling on salt and pepper. Brown chicken in 2-3 batches for 2-3 minutes per side. Add batch to a plate once browned and repeat.
3. Add butter and then flour to melted butter. Using a fork or whisk, mix flour continuously for 3-5 minutes, browning in the pan dripping and butter. Once brown, add water or stock and remaining seasoning and mix with the fork or whisk.
4. Peel and mince garlic. Peel and dice onion and bell pepper.
5. Add onion and bell pepper, garlic and chicken back to the pan. Top and reduce to medium-low heat to simmer for 30-35 minutes.
6. Put on rice 10 minutes after chicken begins to simmer so that food is ready about the same time.
7. Plate and enjoy.

A Bit Of Chicken

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I knew this would be a week where I would need to eat dinner quickly to get work done and workouts in, so I went with my favored chicken legs. I am a huge fan of making half the pan of baked chicken flavored different ways and I continued that trend this week with my pan of 10. I seasoned half the chicken with cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne and the other half with smoked paprika, onion powder, salt and pepper.

For sides I rinsed and warmed a can of organic black beans that I mixed with cumin, canned diced tomato and cilantro as one side. I also brought a few ears of corn that I cut off the cob and seasoned with fresh herbs, salt and pepper.

For my lunch and dinner this week, I alternated between chicken with those two sides, chicken tacos and a basil and peach salad that all used that original pan of chicken from Sunday.

The chicken took 35 minutes to cook, the black beans 10 minutes to be warmed through and seasoned and the mango pico took 10 minutes to make. I cut the corn off the cob and seasoned it as needed for meals since it doesn’t need to be cooked and also diced tomato and cucumber for salad lunches in the morning before work.

The “cooking” this week took less than an hour for 10 of my 15 workday meals and also totaled $24.91 or 2.49 per meal. It helps if you can pick flavors and main items first and build from there. See the details below and give meal planning a try!

1 can of organic black beans – $.89
1 can diced tomatoes- $.98
2 ears of corn- $.29/each
Romaine and arugula- $7
Chicken legs- $2.31
Hola Tortillas- $2.59
Fresh tomatoes- $5
Cucumbers- $1
Peaches- $2
Mango- $.98
Avocado-$.99
Cilantro- $.59