Can You Really Ever Get Enough…

…of grilled food?

on the grill

Especially in the short New England summer season?

I can’t. I just love to take advantage of the grill for dinner (or lunch or breakfast even) and getting outside to cook. It also reminds me to water the garden too. (Although that sometimes leads to “well-done” grill food. But the “flavor is in the brown right?”)

Here is a classic grilled meal!

grilled chicken dinner

Marinated & grilled chicken with grilled veggies and cole slaw!

Like my meatloaf, my marinades are never the same!

To make my marinade, I simply combine some oil, (extra virgin olive is nice but almost any will do) some acid, (lemon juice or vinegar) salt/pepper and whatever spices strike my fancy that day. Mix it up in a little dish as a “flavor concentrate” – tasting it until you basically have the same balance as a strong salad dressing, then add a little cold water to “extend” the volume of marinade to cover whatever cut of meat you plan on using. Pour over meat and refrigerate until grill time! This could be an hour or it could be a day.

This chicken had a citrus influence with lemon-pepper seasoning, coriander seed, and cumin.

 

Gift Basket Clean-Out

 
 
This marmalade  Plus This  the main players 
 
Equals  ↓dinner

Whenever you get those gift baskets at the office or home, all the good stuff is immediately eaten. (cookies, crackers, nuts and candy) But the little hotel size jars of jelly and marmalade always seem to get left behind. Maybe because making toast at the office just isn’t an option! I like to use them to make a sauce or glaze.

I grabbed a few things from the cupboards to mix in and you can basically take any direction…I went a little Asian with my last one. Soy Sauce, vinegar, chili flakes, Chinese 5-spice and ground ginger powder (not shown) and some crushed dried rosemary… just because. Unfortunately a sesame allergy prevents me from using any type of sesame oil but that would be just perfect to add to this sauce for a distinct Asian flare.

The Recipe

6 oz orange marmalade

1/4 cup warm water

1 1/2 tbsp champagne vinegar

2 tbsp low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce

2 tsp ground ginger powder

2 tsp chinese 5-spice powder (divided)

1 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tsp chili flakes

2 large chicken breasts cut into 1″ pieces

1/4-1/2 cup diced onion

2 tbsp oil of choice for saute

1 1/2 cups +/- diced onion

Whisk the top 8 ingredients using just 1 tsp of the Chinese 5-spice powder. Coat the chicken pieces  in the remaining teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice and salt/pepper to taste. Sauté the chicken and onion in the oil on med-high heat till each side has a bit of brown. Add the sauce and cover for a few minutes to let the chicken cook thru. Remove cover and add peas and let sauce reduce for a few minutes more. Serve over rice.

January Is “Tostada Month”

Only (and unofficially) in my house anyway. There must be something about the cold, snowy month of January that has me craving food from warmer regions. Because when I went back to look at my other posting on Tostadas I noticed it was January of last year. That version was a wonderful light, bright spicy combination of chicken, tomatoes and golden beets. You can see that here.

This is the brand i use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

This is the brand I use and can find readily in my urban-area stores. Picture courtesy of www.mexicorp.com

The word “tostada” [tosˈtaða] means ‘toasted” in Spanish but usually refers to a particular dish made with a crisp fried corn tortilla on the bottom with yummy, spicy ingredients piled on top. There are many regional varieties.

You can get your tortilla maker out, along with your fry-daddy junior and knock yourself out making them from scratch or you can just buy the corn tortillas and fry them in a little oil in a large pan or better yet get your hands on some already done for you like I do!

This time around I used some re-fried beans to make them a little more ‘filling.” I also marinated some chicken strips in a quick marinade of oil, lime juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper, and a little dry BBQ seasoning and ground cumin. I reserved some of the marinade to use as a base for a pineapple, avocado and sweet onion salsa to put on top.

The chicken only was in the marinade for an hour or so and then I quickly cooked it in a hot skillet, to order, for each couple of tostadas. They cook really quick because they were thinly cut but, you could certainly do this ahead in a large batch.

Assembly just consisted of: Tosada on bottom, a smear of re-fried beans, the hot chicken with a few bits of sweet onion thrown in the skillet to cook too. Fresh salsa on top and some fresh minced cilantro leaves. ( or parsley if you hate cilantro) Shake on additional hot sauce as you wish!

chicken tostada

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

chicken dinner

This was my prize after cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer !

In preparation for the big turkey day I like to clean out my fridge/freezer and make room for the leftovers to come. So yesterday while the temperature dropped into the 20’s and the wind blew so hard I thought the grill was  going over this time for sure…I got started early with a cup of coffee and cleaning.

First thing I found was a couple of “splitters.” At least that is what the package said. I promptly opened the forgotten frozen chicken halves ( thus “splitters”) and submerged them into a brine to help flavor and defrost. Meanwhile as I continued on,  I discovered two small containers of forgotten homemade pesto from who-knows-which-summer. And of course I always have dried pasta and some sort of tomatoes on hand. The tomatoes were starting to get a little past their prime, mostly because they had been pushed to the back of the fridge. ( out of sight-out of mind)  I knew I had do something fast with them.

After a long bath (all day) the chicken got patted dry and massaged with butter. Then coated in a liberal dusting of seasoned salt, black pepper and dried rosemary. A perfect spa day for a chicken. I placed them on a rack and into a hot 400 degree oven. I kept a close eye and covered the tops with foil as soon as they got brown, so they wouldn’t get too brown. I always use a thermometer and cook until a 165 degree internal temperature is reached.

As for the side dish I just placed the sliced tomatoes in a bowl with the pesto and a little butter and when I put the hot pasta on top, it did all the work. I tossed it to combine things, added plenty of grated Parmesan cheese and a little reserved pasta cooking water to keep things moist.

Having a a bath and my discoveries from the fridge/Freezer!

Having a a bath and my discoveries from the fridge/Freezer!

P.S. Wondering about that title? Well me too. According to “urban dictionary”-
The legend tells that years ago every casino in Las Vegas had a three-piece chicken dinner with a potato and a veggie for $1.79. A standard bet back then was $2, hence when you won a bet you had enough for a chicken dinner!

Fall Pairings

There are many fall food pairings that go together so well.

A few that come to mind.. apple pie and ice cream, sweet potato and apples, pumpkins and apples…. oh wait…everything goes great with apples!

One of my fall favorites is sage and apples!

I started growing sage in a backyard pot a few years ago and I have really discovered the power of fresh sage! You can see some of my other sage pairings here, and here!

After apple picking the other day, I could think of nothing better than a nice fall dinner of roasted chicken with sautéed apples and sage! I threw in some small diced red onions to perk things up and of course I sautéed in everything in butter for the full “fall weather cooking” effect!

saute pan

I seared the chicken in a hot pan first and then after setting the chicken aside, I added the veggies for the saute. Next the chicken went back in and a little apple cider to deglaze the pan. I put the whole thing into a hot oven with a cover for 20-30 mins until the chicken was cooked through. (I uncovered the pan for the last 10 mins or so to re-crisp the chicken skin.)

The apples and onions melt down to a wonderful “savory” apple sauce and a couple of fried,whole, sage leaves added an artistic garnish. Serve with brown rice and crisp green salad.

 Fall on a plate!

Hmmm... where is that crisp green salad gone too? :-)

Hmmm… where is that crisp green salad gone too? :-)

Tomato Problem

Have you ever noticed how many posts I do that involve tomatoes? ( 75 so far) Specifically have you  read all 6 of my previous posts professing my love for tomatoes? (and some great recipes featuring tomatoes)

I might have a problem. A tomato problem. But the problem isn’t that I try to eat a tomato or tomato product at least once a day, and it isn’t because I grow enough tomato plants each summer in the garden to produce for a small army. (unless of course it rains or is a heat wave all summer like this one)

The actual problem is coming up with a catchy blog topic to disguise the fact that I am posting my 76th entry featuring tomatoes….

ahhh... never a more beautiful sight than tomatoes and basil!

ahhh… never a more beautiful sight than tomatoes and basil!

This meal couldn’t have been easier. I just tossed the cubed, fresh tomatoes and torn basil leaves with a little oil, red wine vinegar and S&P. Than I grilled up a medley of chicken pieces and chunks of veggies all coated and seasoned too. (kinda like a kabob without the stick) When it all comes off the grill, just toss it into the bowl on top of everything and watch the hot stuff warm the tomato juices and release the basil fragrance! Yum!

Serve warm as is, or over rice or pasta.

Whatever you do, this is an easy “one bowl” dinner that is sure to impress the tomato-lovers in your life!

tossing in grilled veggies and chicken

Mexican Lasagna

or maybe Enchilada casserole? But if I call it that than we have to immediately break into the a rendition of “Desperado” – replacing the word “Desperado” with “Enchilada.”   What!   You are not familiar with the 1973 soft rock hit by The Eagles?!  Well give it a listen here.  You won’t regret it.

Anyway I digress…Back to dinner.

I simply diced up a small onion, cut 2 small chicken breasts into small pieces and browned them in a pan with oil. ( or butter or whatever you like) Prior to going into the pan, I coated the chicken pieces in little mixture made with 2-3 three tablespoons of AP flour mixed with 1/2 tsp -1 tsp each of these ground spices: cumin, chili powder, salt/pepper, oregano, and a little smoked paprika. (Kinda like you might coat stew beef pieces in seasoned flour before browning them.) Once everything was browned and getting delicious I “de-glazed” the pan with a small amount of warm water and some healthy dashes of hot sauce. This formed a small bit of a thick sauce. ( add some more water if you need to) Turn off the heat and add 1 regular size can of drained black beans.

Now the assembly: Spray an oven proof dish with non-stick spray, coat your flour tortilla by dipping it into a bowl of enchilada sauce** and place it as the first layer. Be generous with the sauce on the tortilla. Now spoon some of the saucy chicken and bean mix on top, add a thin slice or two of your favorite cheese (I used Munster) or a small handful of shredded. Top with another coated tortilla and repeat. End with a tortilla on top, pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the top and down the sides and top with a little more cheese. ( I switched to a handful of shredded for the top.)

Exhibit 1:

mexicanlasagana prepped for oven

A couple stray black beans got on top!

Now bake covered in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 25 mins, uncover and bake another 10-15 mins till browned, bubbly and extra sauce around edges seems thicker. Like all lasagna this will cut and taste better if allowed to cool a bit at first. (Will somebody help convince my husband?!) Or better yet cool completely, cover and freeze for another time or reheat later and bring this to your next potluck party!

I made mine using 2 quite small chicken breasts and 6 small tortillas as I was practicing cooking for two instead of my usual 10 but this could easily be made in a huge batch!

** Enchilada sauce can be made easily using a recipe such as this one. Or you can purchase it in cans/jars in the supermarket. Try the “ethnic” aisle or wherever the taco kits are sold in your store.

I used about 1 cup +/-  Any extra sauce can always be frozen and later thrown into soups ( spicy tomato soup!) or used as a marinade or glaze for meat or veggies.

hot from the oven

Waiting for it to cool a bit before cutting into it!