Indian Starter Kit

I have the distinct pleasure of working with colleagues from around the world during the day, including one lady from southern India. One day we were discussing Indian food and cookery and I asked if she had a “dabba.” (this is a special round metal spice kit with a tight fitting lid that I first learned about over here at my favorite blog: The Perfect  Pantry.)

She said “oh yes, but I don’t use that thing any more!” She had received it as a wedding gift from her mother and used it diligently as a young wife, but now, years later, had moved on to a different way of storing/accessing her daily spices for cooking. I must have look at her yearningly because she promptly said “Do you want it?” I tried to strike a balance between shouting YES! and “that would be amazing!”

So she brought it in for me – FILLED WITH SPICES!!

We discussed what recipe I should start with and settled on a basic chicken curry. So a few days later I got my new spice kit out and added in a few things that are essential to Indian cooking: fresh ginger, garlic, lemon, powered turmeric, cinnamon. And with little help via text I made my first ever chicken curry.  As soon as the first spices hit the hot oil, it smelled like a real Indian kitchen!!

Take a look at my first adventure …

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PS my colleague gave me a B+ for my efforts!

 

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Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken. That most simple and comforting food. And yet I hardly ever roast a chicken. A whole one that is. I am the only one in a house who appreciates a home-roasted, bone in chicken. Everybody else – (husband)- doesn’t want to deal with the bones.

So my “roast chicken” is usually a boneless cut (thighs, breast etc) and it is usually a “one pan plan.” And this recent one was no exception. Everything on pan, cut to similar size.

 

By adding big rough cut pieces of tomatoes, I knew the chicken would stay moister and there would almost end up being a bit of a “pan sauce” created. Just cook up some rice or pasta or steamed greens and serve in bowls.

Very easy, very comforting.

 

A Chicken in Every Pot (or Not)

No I am not stating my political views. I just couldn’t resist the play on words!

I saw one of those recipe videos on Facebook  – you know the ones where they step through the recipe in double-time and it looks super easy and successful. Well I saw one for a roasted, beer-can type chicken in a slow cooker.

Seemed simple – put some foil balls in the bottom of your slow-cooker (instead of the beer can) and pour the beer ( or water or cider or whatever liquid) in the bottom. Place a seasoned chicken on top and put the lid on – cook on high for 4-5 hours. Voila! Perfectly juicy, roasted chicken.

So I bought a chicken, pulled out my slow cooker and tried it. Here is my video (slide show):

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I left the chicken in there  about 4.5 hours and it didn’t look any different – it just looked raw! I pulled it out and took its temperature – 120 degrees!! After FOUR AND A HALF HOURS!

I considered for a quick minute about finishing it in the oven, but then I thought about how many hours it had been squished in the pot, in the FDA danger-zone, trying to reach temperature. No thanks – into the trash. What a waste.

Moral of the story: get a bigger pot or a smaller chicken – pretty sure you need to fit the chicken in spaciously but who knows sometimes, the internet is just plain wrong.

 

Freezer Stew

and cabinet too.

Recently I was searching for dinner in my kitchen. I wanted something that could be prepared quickly, with ingredients already on hand, and of course healthy and delicious.  Not that I am making that cliché New Year’s resolution mistake of starting a diet or anything. no. not me. (okay maybe just a little – but to be fair the office treats were out of hand!)

I always have an assortment of frozen veggies and veggie blends in the freezer along with leftover cooked rice. ( yup I freeze that too!) Onions of course are a staple in any kitchen. Having some chicken breast was just lucky.

A simple stir-fry sauce can be made with soy sauce, ground ginger, garlic, salt and pepper.

I start my chicken pieces in a little oil and get them about 75 percent cooked before adding the frozen veggies. If you are using fresh onion – go ahead and put that in right away with the chicken. After the frozen veggies go in (bonus that the ice crystals melt and deglaze the pan!) toss everything around for a few minutes. I prefer my veggies not overly done. If you like things a bit more tender, put them in a little earlier and leave them on longer. Once all the ingredients are basically cooked to your liking, add your stir-fry sauce in. I don’t add the sauce in too soon, because it will burn before the chicken is done. The idea is to let this sauce just coat everything and cook a bit too.

As soon everything is cooked through, sauce coating everything, toss it over some rice. (leftover, defrosted or prepared fresh) If you don’t have a sesame allergy and you have some toasted sesame oil on hand… a drizzle of this would be just great on top.

Who needs take out?

Soup Season

It is soup season here in New England and homemade soup is often overlooked in favor of opening a can. I have opened many a can and will in the future I am sure, but this particular day I opted for an easy homemade version.

I used only a couple fresh items (celery, onion, chicken) and the rest came from the pantry and freezer.  It started out as a thought of “chicken corn chowder” but when I discovered that I actually only had a 1/4 of a bag of frozen corn in the freezer, it quickly became “use up some of the other random frozen veggies in the freezer soup.”

creamy chicken veggie and rice soup

I started by sauteing the cut up chicken pieces in butter. (The flavor is in the “brown!”) Next I sautéed the celery and onion  in the pan. (classic technique) I used a can of cream of mushroom soup (everybody’s “favorite recipe-add-in!”) to give the soup a rich creaminess. The frozen veggie selection could really be anything you like that happens to be hanging around your freezer: peas, squash cubes, you name it!  Some left over cooked rice at the end gave this soup a hearty nature.

The Recipe

1 1/2 cups +/- (3-4 small stalks) of celery ( I like to peel the strings first before dicing – it really makes a difference!)

1 1/2 cups +/-  (1/2 medium) onion – diced

1 cup frozen corn (fresh or frozen)

1 cup chopped/sliced carrots (fresh or frozen)

1 cup lima beans (frozen or fresh if you can get your hands on them!)

1 can (10 oz) cream of mushroom soup (I happen to have a version with roasted garlic too – it made a nice difference)

2 cups low sodium chicken broth/stock (heated up)

1 lb chicken cut into bite size pieces – no bones or skin. (I used white meat but dark would be delicious)

2 tsp poultry seasoning

1 tsp dry sage

2-4 tablespoons butter to saute ( use oil if you like instead)

Salt and pepper to taste/season

Coat the chicken pieces in 1 tsp of the poultry seasoning and a pinch of salt and pepper. Brown the pieces with 2 tb of butter in a heavy bottom pot over med-high heat. Remove and set aside. Add more butter if pot is too dry and saute the onions and celery with another pinch of S/P until softened and golden. Add the chicken pieces back in. De-glaze the pan with the 2 cups of stock. Add in the can of soup*.  Add the 2nd tsp of poultry seasoning and the dry sage. ( leave out the extra sage if you’re not a fan of a heavy sage-flavor.) Bring up to a low simmer. Add the corn, lima beans and carrots.** Let the soup simmer, partially covered, for 20-25 mins until chicken is fully cooked and tender. Add the cooked rice and warm through before serving.  Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper to taste. NOTE: I don’t add the rice till just before serving so the soup doesn’t get too gummy.

* use a gluten-free brand of soup if you want this dish to be completely GF.

** if using raw carrots add them in with the celery and onion in the saute to help get them started cooking and softening.

Makes approximately 4-6 bowls depending on how big your servings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corn & Tomatoes AGAIN

If you know me, you know I am obsessed with tomatoes.  By September 2013 I had already posted 75 times about tomatoes. I have lost count now.

And nothing goes better with tomatoes than corn! (and steak) I’m always looking for a twist on the corn and tomatoes pairing but this one might be a bit of a stretch.

Corn meal dusted fried chicken and a fresh tomato & vegetable “Ragu.”

plated chicken dish

Just use the standard “FEBruary” technique ( Flour, Egg, Breading) but replace the flour with fine corn meal and the breading with regular corn meal. (Doesn’t everybody have 2 kinds of corn meal in their pantry? LOL!) Oh and add some fine grated Parmesan cheese to the breading part to give it some yummy! (don’t to forget to season with salt and pepper!)

Now for the veggies! Garden fresh tomatoes are key. I happen to have some yellow and red!

Just start with a pan of hot olive oil and throw everything in…Its a quick process ..maybe 8-10 minutes total! ( you don’t want to over cook the asparagus!)

Here’s a couple other of my “twists” on corn and tomatoes! Here, Here and Here!

 

Hot days, Cold Chicken

Finally I have come around to realize that is crazy to run the oven or stove top indoors when temperatures rise above 85 and the humidity is so thick you can barely lift your arm. Grill it or go out instantly become the only options.

A classic grilled chicken breast never goes out of style.

A fresh grilled corn, tomato, feta and parsley salad along side always makes a nice accessory.

dinner

The nice thing about a meal like this, the chicken can be eaten hot, warm or even cold.

TIP:

If you already are grilling the chicken – make the effort to grill the corn too. Just shuck it and throw it on. Nothing fancy – keep an eye and turn when it’s charred a bit.

Typically I usually take the time to peel back the green leaves, carefully remove the silk, smooth back the green leaves and soak the corn in water for at least 20 minutes, then throw them on the hot grill to steam in their water-soaked jackets. This method is good too but requires more prep and doesn’t allow for the actually charring of the corn.

Pick your corn grilling method according to your time and patience!