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Amazing Balsamic Chicken

14 Mar

My 10 year old christened this dish “amazing chicken” tonight. If I could have found the number, I’d have called the Vatican and reported a miracle. There it was, right at my kitchen table. Amazing. The kid ate two pieces, which is one and a half more than normal. And so I had to delay the recipe I wrote today that I planned to share with you (quinoa magic–stay tuned) and instead post this one, which is mostly from Cooking Light magazine. They called for a few more steps that we found unnecessary–this was delicious when kept on the simple side.

This entree starts on the stovetop and finishes up in the oven, which makes for some amazingly moist bird. If you fear dry chicken, lay that worry to rest. And if you’re not sure your skillet is ovenproof, just wrap its handle in aluminum foil before you start. It’ll be fine.

We had this with some rice pilaf and steamed broccoli, which made for the perfect spring dinner. Huge hit. To try it yourself, you need:

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce (I used low-sodium tamari)

1/4 cup chopped onion

3 tbsp brown sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, onion, garlic, and half the olive oil. Put the chicken in a plastic bag, pour the sauce mixture over it, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Heat a small saucepan and a large skillet over medium heat. Carefully remove the chicken from the bag and put it in a bowl, and then pop it back in the fridge for a few minutes. Pour the marinate into the small pan and bring it to a boil. Then cook it for about five minutes, until it’s reduced by half. Pour some of that mixture into a bowl and save it.

Once that happens, coat the bottom of your large pan with the remaining olive oil. Add your chicken and cook it for about 4 minutes. While it cooks, brush the raw side with the sauce from the pan on the stove. After four minutes, flip the chicken, brush the top side with more sauce, and pop the pan into the oven for six minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Use the sauce in the bowl for dipping if you want to (we didn’t).

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

31 Jan

Are you ready for what I’m about to say? Because once I say it, you’re going to want to try this. OK? Sitting down? Braced? Here it is:

Aside from throwing chicken boobs and a bottle of barbecue sauce into the crock, this is the easiest Crockpot meal I’ve ever made. And it was fantastimically delicious and everybody ate it and cleanup was almost nothing, AND I have tons of leftovers for tonight.

A miracle. Right?

So now I have a confession. This is the first pot roast I’ve ever cooked. Seriously. It’s the first one I think I’ve eaten since high school, thanks to my 12-year moratorium on beef. It will not, however, be the last.

This quite literally took me four minutes to get into the slow cooker. Eight hours on low. Another two minutes to fish out the meat and veggies and stir a little thickener into the juice to make a simple gravy. And that’s it–dinner. Cutting boards and the slow cooker insert went into the dishwasher with the rest of the plates, the countertop got a quick swipe, and voila. Cleaned up.

Salivating yet?

The original recipe for this comes from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, which is a terrific reference that I recommend–not a can of cream o’ something soup to be found, and loads of easy, healthy, delicious dinners. I mucked around with it a tiny bit to give it a bit more umph and to use veggies we had in the house already, but I didn’t remake this one from the get-go. We really enjoyed it even though my children declared the potatoes “poison” (more for me, you little spud-hating freaks) and I was the only one who ate the onion (which was sweet and delicious despite not browning–I can’t explain it but I want more).

I forgot to take a picture. Worst food blogger ever. But it’s pot roast–you know what it looks like, right?

I really hope you’ll try this. Little to no effort and an amazing dinner at the end of the day. Tell me that’s not perfection. You need:

One 2.5 – 4 pound pot or chuck roast, trimmed of as much fat as you can get off.

Salt and pepper

About 10 baby carrots, cut into thirds (or 2 regular carrots chunked up)

12 oz waxy yellow or white potatoes (I used baby yukons), cut into large bites

1 large or 2 small yellow onions, peeled and quartered (cut the root end off)

2 bay leaves

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 1/2 cups of water

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

3 tbsp softened butter

3 tbsp flour

Salt and pepper your roast and plop him down in the slow cooker. Dump your veggies on top of him along with the bay leaves and garlic. Pour in the water and vinegar and turn your cooker on low for 6-8 hours. I stirred mine midway through to ensure that all the spuds got a good dunking in the liquid and cooked evenly, but you probably don’t have to.

About five minutes before you want to eat, use a fork to mash together your flour and butter into a paste in a small bowl. Fish your meat and veggies out of the crock (chuck the bay leaves) and cover them with foil. Turn your slow cooker to high and stir in the butter paste with a whisk until it’s dissolved and the gravy looks like gravy (it’ll be thin).

Cut up your meat, drizzle a bit of sauce on top, and raise your eyes to heaven for this amazing, couldn’t-be-easier meal.

Fluke (Oven Baked Salmon Sticks)

26 Jan

DH and I both had big lunches yesterday (and mine was delicious!) and didn’t need real dinners last night. I also didn’t really feel like cooking and cleaning up. The kids, though, were hungry, and my healthier eating resolution is still sticking (except for lunch–shaddup, I know).

What to do, what to do?

I mentally ticked off everything that might make dinner that was in my freezer: chicken, ground beef, rockfish, salmon. Aside: the friend I had lunch with and I had a great conversation about that in the car, and it’s so true. Having the basic stuff of meals in the cold box makes life so much easier when it comes to home-cooked, healthy meals. It’s so worth the time to figure out your family’s six or seven staple meals that are simple to put together, and make sure you have those basic ingredients in your pantry and freezer. Lifesaving.

Anyway. Salmon. Salmon is good–it’s full of omega-3s and is super easy to cook, and everybody likes it. So I pulled out two filets, defrosted them in a bowl of water in my sink, and cut them (along the grain) into fish sticks. I whipped two eggs together in a bowl with a fork, and put a handful of Panko in another bowl. Each salmon stick got dunked in the egg, rolled in the Panko, and placed on a foil-lined, olive-oil sprayed baking sheet. They then got a sprinkle of No-Salt and about 10 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees.

As it happens, DH wandered into the kitchen as the kids sat down to eat. “Those look interesting,” he said. “Kind of like tempura.” So I broke a hunk off of one and handed it to him, just so he’d see he wasn’t missing a gourmet meal. Guess what he said then.

“This is the best salmon you’ve ever made.”

Are

You

Serious??

Y’all those little goofy salmon sticks took me five minutes to put together. Cleanup was throwing four bowls in the dishwasher and a hunk of  foil into the recycling bin. And if I’d known he was gonna eat them, I’d have tossed some lemon pepper in with the Panko. I mean, I didn’t even take a picture because I had no intention of telling you guys about them–they were that thrown together in a moment of “must put something on the table.”

Best salmon ever. Total fluke. Go figure.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

18 Jan

Hey gang!

I am drowning in deadlines this week. This is a good thing (we who are self employed much prefer drowning in deadlines to twiddling our thumbs), but it is presenting an extra challenge for my health eating lifestyle (day 18!). Lunch, especially, is hard. These are the days I used to grab peanut butter and white bread or a frozen entree, just to make life easy.

No more. In between editing things on Monday, I whipped up a batch of Mango & Tomato’s Chicken Tortilla Soup, and I’ve been eating it for lunch every day. It is delicious–creamy without the cream, satisfying without fat and salt, and wonderfully comforting when the cold wind blows outside my window.

I’m not going to repost her recipe–it’s hers, after all–but I’ll tell you a few things I did differently, just because my pantry didn’t cooperate on Monday. I didn’t have fire-roasted tomatoes, so I used regular diced tomatoes and added about a tablespoon of smoked chipotle Tabasco, which is one of my top 3 condiments–not hot, but deliciously smoky. I also didn’t have fresh corn, so I added a can of rinsed salt-free kernels, and I used a can of rinsed black beans as well.

I did make the chicken the way she suggests, plain in a cast-iron skillet until it got delicously brown and crunchy, and I have a new favorite way to make chicken for soups and salads now. It is so very simple and absolutely delicious, and it added a ton of flavor to my pot of soup. I also used my immersion blender as she suggests; they are cheap and a nice investment if you don’t have one. You could, of course, use a regular blender or food processor, but blending it in the pot is so much easier that I recommend it if you can make it happen.

I am having more of this for lunch today, and I can’t wait. Thank you, Mango & Tomato!

Lemony Quinoa

5 Jan

I’d planned to mess around with this recipe today and post it for y’all tomorrow, but I just finished wolfing down a bowl of its deliciousness and couldn’t wait to share. If you were here (live and in person), I’d be shoving spoonfuls at your face and demanding that you try it. Because it is that good and so very healthy.

Quinoa is a grain that’s gluten-free and a pretty darned perfect source of protein, which makes it an allergy sufferer’s dream. I don’t fall into that category; I eat it because it’s super easy to cook, very versatile, and fills me up for a long time.

You can use it just like rice if you want to, but I like it as a main dish. This recipe was my lunch today. Turn it into a more substantial lunch or dinner entree with some cooked shrimp, chicken, tofu, or even smoked salmon stirred in at the end. Asparagus would also be a lovely addition, but any veggie you have in the house would probably work beautifully in this dish. That said, this would be a really good side dish alongside grilled chicken or fish.

I found the idea for this online, but the original called for raw red onions, cumin, and red pepper. And I’m sure that’s all good, but I have to talk to people in the afternoon, so raw red onion isn’t going to work for me (it’s super potent stuff), and I wanted more fresh and light than smoky this time around. I substituted cooked regular onion (you could use dried onion flakes too), swapped out the seasoning, and cooked it in broth instead of water to give it a little more flavor.

You’ll see lemon juice in this recipe. If you like lemon–like, really like it–go ahead and zest your fruit, and stir the zest in at the end. It’s really lemony that way. I happen to like lemony, but you might want to give this a try without that step the first time around and see if you think you need more citrus. I’m betting you could also use orange for a different flavor.

You’ll also see sliced almonds. I like them for their crunch, but you can leave them out and use more celery or chuck in some raw carrot for the same kind of mouth feel without nuts.

This is one of my favorite new healthy recipes, and I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow. You need:

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well (gets rid of the bitterness) and drained

The juice of one lemon

A dash of salt

About a cup and a quarter of chicken or vegetable broth

About 2 tbsp of sweet onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/4 cup sliced almonds (or a crunchy vegetable if you don’t want nuts in the dish)

About 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

About 2 tbsp shredded or grated parmesan cheese

Heat a small/medium saucepan over medium heat. Spray it with something nonstick and saute the onions until they’re soft and translucent.

In the meantime, juice your lemon into a 2-cup measuring cup. To the juice, add broth until you have 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Once the onions are cooked, pour that mixture into the pan and stir in your rinsed quinoa grains and salt. Bring that to a boil, clamp a lid on it, and cook it over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is gone (just like rice).

Remove the quinoa from the heat and stir in the basil, celery, almonds (or substitute), and, if you want a lotta lemon, the zest from your lemon. Stir everything together and let it sit about 5 minutes. Spoon it into bowls (2 for entrees, 4 for side dishes) and sprinkle it with the parmesan.

Rockfish with Spanish-Style Tomato Sauce and Olives

3 Jan

Happy January!

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday! Did you get any fun kitchen toys? I received a beautiful Cuisinart waffle iron and a very pretty antique wood mortar and pestle, both of which I love. Share in the comments what you received–I can’t wait to hear!

So. A new year. And like a lot of families, we’re trying hard to eat healthier. I pulled some rockfish out of the freezer yesterday morning and pondered how to make it for a few hours, and came up with this–a Spanish-style tomato sauce with black olives and sweet roasted peppers that was delicious. It would work over any kind of white fish, and would also be delicious over chicken, I think (or by using it as a simmer sauce for chunks of fish or chicken, and then serving that over rice). We enjoyed our fish over Spanish rice and everyone seemed to really like it.

I started pulling spices out of my drawer for this and remembered that I had a bottle of Mexican Seasoning from The Spice Hunter, so I used that instead. It was delicious. If you don’t want to invest in another spice mix, use chili powder and oregano and maybe a little paprika.

I also used a pinch of saffron in this sauce. Before you freak out–because who’s not heard that saffron is the world’s most expensive spice–I got a little jar of it for a few dollars at Trader Joe’s, and I quite literally used just a pinch. Saffron adds a lot of depth to tomato-based sauces and that tiny bit does make a difference, but you won’t ever pick the flavor out from tasting the sauce. I recommend buying some and keeping it in your freezer for pinches here and there, but you can certainly leave it out if you’d rather.

Roasted red peppers make an appearance in this dish–I used about half of a small jar and chopped them up before stirring them into the sauce. My family all thought they were tomatoes until I filled them in. The dish would be delicious without them, too, so go either way on that.

This fed all four of us and I have a little bit left over that I’m waffling between having for lunch today and sharing with DH tonight. Either way, I am going to make a double batch of this sauce and keep it in the freezer for those crazy hurricane days, when I can pull some chicken or fish out of the cold box along with some sauce and simmer them together for a quick, easy dinner. (Too busy for this for a weeknight meal? Make the sauce one day and refrigerate it for another, when you can just start with the lay the protein in the pan step. Easy peasy.)

This is absolutely being added to our regular meal rotation, and I hope you’ll give it a try as part of your own healthier new year. You need:

1 tbsp olive oil

About a pound of fish or chicken, cut into about 3-inch strips

1/4 cup finely diced onion

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp Mexican seasoning (or the substitute above)

A pinch of salt

A pinch of saffron

14 oz can of tomato sauce

4 oz can of sliced black olives (or about a quarter-cup of fresh sliced olives)

About 2 tbsp roasted red peppers, sliced

Salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium burner. Add the onions with a pinch of salt  and cook until they’re soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic and Mexican seasoning and keep it moving for about 30 seconds, until that garlic starts to smell good. Then stir in the sauce and saffron, lower your burner to medium-low, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in the olives and red peppers, remove the sauce from the heat, and either refrigerate for another day or keep going to make the whole meal.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a small baking dish with olive oil or nonstick spray (I used an 11 x 7 inch Pyrex dish). Lay your fish or chicken in the dish so the pieces don’t overlap:

Sparingly salt and pepper your protein, and then pour the sauce over the pieces evenly.

Cover with foil and bake until it’s cooked (140 degrees for fish, 165 degrees for chicken–use a meat thermometer and spare yourself food poisoning).  My fish pieces were about two inches thick and took about 35 minutes to cook. Carefully remove the foil (watch the steam!) and enjoy.

No-Fry Chicken Parmesan

6 Dec

Image

Delicious.

I think so. This was a great dinner–tender and full of flavor and comforting. But there was a miracle when I set plates of this on the table in front of my kids. They looked, they tasted, and that word came out of my son’s mouth.

“This,” he said, ” is delicious.” And my daughter–she agreed!

I’d tell you what came next, but I fell off my stool, whacked my head on the floor, and passed out. I do know they both ate their entire dinners in, like, 10 minutes with a lot of “mmmm”s and not a lot of chit-chat, and I am still looking up on my roof to see if there are burn marks where the angels from heaven must have landed to make such a thing happen.

So the thing about this is that chicken parmesan is normally fried. And I’ve told you before, I don’t fry. First because it makes me feel like there’s a boulder in my tummy after dinner, and second because it trashes my stove, and I do love that appliance (spending a long time tussling with a demon-possessed range makes you appreciate one that functions properly–I’ll tell you that story another day).

I used Panko instead of regular bread crumbs, which meant my chicken turned out crispy-crunchy without a drop of oil. Panko can be found either with the regular bread crumbs or in the Asian aisle of your grocery store, and they are worth looking for (I found mine at Target, which had two brands on the shelf). Using them let me bake my chicken and get the same results as if I fried it. Which is awesome, in my book.

Need a miracle in your house? Give this recipe a shot. You’ll need:

1 pound of chicken tenders or chicken breasts that you slice into strips (with the grain)

2 eggs, beaten in a bowl

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

2 tbsp grated Parmesan or Parmesan-Romano cheese

1 tbsp garlic powder (I love garlic. Use less if you don’t love it so much)

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups pasta sauce (your favorite–plain tomato or marinara)

1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with foil and spray it with your nonstick goodness of choice.

Beat your eggs in one bowl and set them aside. In another bowl, stir together the Panko, Parmesan, garlic, Italian seasoning, and salt. Make yourself an assembly line–chicken, egg, bread mixture, cookie sheet.

One by one, dip the chicken strips into the egg to coat, Carefully roll each one in the breadcrumb mixture, give it a little shake to get rid of the excess, and lay it on your cookie sheet. When they’re all done, pop them into the oven for about 15 minutes, until they’re cooked through.

While the chicken cooks, stir together your pasta sauce and Balsamic vinegar.

Once the chicken is cooked through, take it out of the oven and turn on your broiler. Pour sauce on each chicken strip to cover it. Sprinkle the Italian cheese on top. Pop them under the broiler for about five minutes, until the cheese is gooey-done and delicious.

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Serve alone or over pasta.

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