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You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book –Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Chicken, Miscellaneous, on October 11th, 2018.

chakalaka_relish

A lovely relish (or kind of like a salsa) to serve with grilled meat.

Presuming you read my post from yesterday, about the BBQ Chicken, South African Style, then you already know this relish is supposed to be served with that chicken. It came from a cooking show with Sarah Graham, who’s from South Africa. This side/relish is just so different – when I watched the show a couple of years ago I was intrigued with the ingredients . . .

It has some very standard things you’d expect in a relish – onion, a chile pepper, a bell pepper, garlic, even tomatoes. But a bit more unusual is a bunch of grated carrots, some chutney (I used apricot jam), a jot of ketchup. But this one also has a little bit of curry powder (but not really enough to taste it), AND it has a small can of BAKED BEANS in it.

Here’s what wikipedia has to say about it:

Chakalaka is a South African vegetable relish, usually spicy, that is traditionally served with bread, pap, samp, stews, or curries. Chakalaka may have originated in the townships of Johannesburg or on the gold mines surrounding Johannesburg, when Mozambican mineworkers coming off shift cooked tinned produce (tomatoes, beans) with chili to produce a spicy relish with a Portuguese flair to accompany pap. The many variations on how to make Chakalaka often depend on region and family tradition. Some versions include beans, cabbage and butternut. For example, a tin of baked beans, tin of tomatoes, onion, garlic, and some curry paste can be used to make the dish.

In case you’re interested, pap is a kind of cornmeal porridge, and samp is another kind of dried corn variant where the corn kernel shells are removed and then the inner meat made into a porridge type dish. Reading about the history of this dish, it makes so much sense that mine workers had to use canned foods and they discovered a way to make a spicy relish/side from canned tomatoes and baked beans.

The onion, chile, bell pepper and carrots are cooked a little bit (I cooked them VERY little as I wanted crunch) with the onions getting the most amount of cooking time, then you merely add in all the other ingredients. Since I made it I’ve had it alongside the leftover chicken, also some grilled sausages, and some fish. All good with it. I made part of mine without the beans (cuz I’m not eating beans on this diet I’m on), but I DID taste it, and thought the addition of the beans was really good. I was expecting it to not taste good, but it was. I gave away all of the bean relish and kept the part without beans and enjoyed it for a week or so afterwards.

What’s GOOD: it’s unusual, that’s for sure. Liked all the lively flavors in it – because I was having guests I used the lesser quantity of curry powder – I’d likely add more next time. Make ahead is fine, and it keeps for at least a week.

What’s NOT: nothing really . . . it was a really good addition to my potluck dinner to serve with the chicken.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chakalaka Relish

Recipe By: Sarah Graham, Cooking Channel, 2016
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion — finely chopped
1 whole red chile — seeded, finely sliced
1 whole red bell pepper — seeded, finely chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
1 teaspoon curry powder — (1 to 2)
1/2 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
2 medium carrots — grated
14 ounces baked beans
14 ounces canned tomatoes — chopped
1 tablespoon chutney — or apricot jam
1 tablespoon ketchup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, at least 5 minutes.
2. Add the red chiles, bell peppers, garlic, curry powder, mixed herbs and carrots, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the beans, tomatoes, chutney, ketchup and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. (I didn’t cook this for 30 minutes as I liked the crunch to the vegetables, but traditionally you would.)
Per Serving: 227 Calories; 8g Fat (27.5% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 602mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Grilling, on October 10th, 2018.

bbq_chix_south_african_style_chakalaka relish

Just another grilled chicken recipe, but with a South African twist.

The picture at right is Sarah Graham. A cookbook author, writer, and a host of two seasons of a cooking show on the Cooking Channel. She lives in South Africa, and what I loved about her show was the location – she filmed outside and off in the distance behind her outdoor kitchen, were wild animals. You might still be able to find her shows on reruns if you look up Sarah Graham’s Food Safari. When I was watching her show, it was just before and just after I went to Africa and did a couple of weeks of safaris (loved it). I do enjoy listening to South Africans with their very different English accents. So it was with Sarah Graham.

A few recipes from her shows got saved to my to-try file (recipes are still available at the Cooking Channel, I would assume), and this is one of them.

This post is lagging a bit behind – – I made this over Labor Day weekend when I decided I was not going to be sitting home on the holiday Monday doing nothing. So I invited a group of friends over (all widows) and we did a potluck dinner. One friend brought lovely Dutch cheeses and crackers. Another brought a delicious apple crumble pie; yet another a green salad, another a rice, green chile and cheese casserole, and lastly a cold broccoli salad. And I did the main dish (chicken) on the grill. Along with a very unusual relish (that mound of red stuff on the right on the plate at top).

labor_day_dinnerHere’s a photo of our group, from left: Annette, Judy, me, Judy and Mary Lou. Nancy took the photo. It was a gorgeous evening – we had been having lovely weather the last 2 weeks, gearing up, probably for blistering heat we usually have in September and October. I made strawberry gins – I should write up a post about that. My family (well, the ladies of my family) enjoyed them mostly in England, but we also found them in Paris and Florence also. So very refreshing. I found strawberry gin at my local “Total Wine,” but you might have to seek it out. You macerate a strawberry or two in a glass, add the strawberry gin, then top off with tonic. And lots of ice. Then wedge a strawberry on the rim of the glass, add a mint leaf and present!

So, back to the chicken. I’m going to post the relish tomorrow – so DO wait until you get that recipe before you make this. The relish is so unusual and different, but goes perfectly with the chicken. Anyway, the recipe indicates using a spatchcocked chicken (my Trader Joe’s has them fresh) or you can ask a butcher to cut it, or you can cut it yourself. You cut through the backbone (and remove it completely) and flatten out the bird so it can lay flat on the grill. You might have to nip a bit around the breast bone to get it to flatten out. I decided, actually, to cut the bird in half as I thought it would be easier for me to maneuver on the grill. It was a 5 pound bird I bought.

Marinate the chicken overnight – I used a big Ziploc bag – first I added in all the marinade ingredients – oil, balsamic, pourable honey, lemon juice, paprika, dry cilantro, cinnamon, garlic, fresh red chile, and a little jot of ketchup. The next morning I turned the bag over and squished the marinade around (it doesn’t make all that much). About 45 minutes before grilling, take it out of the refrigerator and let it warm a little bit. Meanwhile, fire up the grill.

You might find this hard to believe, but truly I’m a novice or an apprentice (but without a teacher) at the grill. You read this here before, my DH Dave was the grill meister in our house, and I merely told him what I needed him to do – cook to what temp and what the internal temp needed to be. He loved everything about mastering the grill techniques. Me, not so much. Because I’m alone now, when I have to manage or monitor what’s on the grill, I have to leave my guests – although every one of my friends understood why I was up and down checking on the chicken. No way did I want it to overcook!

What’s GOOD: really liked the flavor, and it was super-moist and tender. I first grilled it over high heat, then turned it down to medium and kept checking the internal temp. The skin charred well (see photo at top) but the chicken just below it was juicy.  The relish that went with it was a hit – it’s very unusual. The marinade did give the chicken some flavor, and cooking it with the lid down on the grill gave it some smoky flavor too. Likely you could bake this in the oven easily enough too. Yes, I’d make it again.

What’s NOT: nothing other than needing to start this the day before, to marinate the chicken.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

BBQ Chicken (South African)

Recipe By: Sarah Graham, Cooking Channel, 2016
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey — needs to be thin in order to dissolve in the marinade
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cloves garlic — minced
1 green chile — seeded and chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 pounds whole chicken — spatchcocked or cut into 8 skin-on pieces

1. In a sealing plastic bag, mix together the ketchup, olive oil, balsamic, honey, lemon juice, paprika, dried cilantro, cinnamon, garlic, chiles and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
2. Add the chicken, squish it around, seal the bag and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight. Turn bag over at least once so the other side of the chicken is marinated as well.
3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before cooking to bring to room temperature.
4. Grill the chicken, lid down, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cooked through, turning halfway and basting with extra sauce every 10 minutes. Thigh meat should register 160-165°F.
5. Serve immediately with a side salad and the chakalaka relish on the side. If you have fresh cilantro, sprinkle a little bit on top of the chicken. Cut serving sized pieces and plate it.
Per Serving: 680 Calories; 48g Fat (63.8% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 247mg Cholesterol; 283mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on October 2nd, 2018.

triple_layer_chix_quesadilla_wedges

Mouth watering going on here at my end – this was before I started on a carb-free diet, and I ate this with relish back a few months ago.

This diet I’m on (virtually carb-free) does have me wishing for some Mexican food now and then. I miss chile rellenos and tostadas. Even refried beans. Didn’t think I’d miss them! It’s the crunch of the tortillas I miss, too. But, oh well, I’m working off the pounds slowly without tortillas, potatoes, rice, grains, bread, beans, squashes, etc.

But, since you, my readers, aren’t following my diet – you can make this recipe with abandon and you’ll love it. At the cooking class with Phillis Carey, she made her own pico de gallo, and her own buttermilk garlic dressing for the salad. You can short cut by purchasing those things. But I’ll include them all in the recipe below. The tortillas are stacked with Jack cheese, cheddar, goat cheese, olives and chicken meat that’s been tossed with some barbecue sauce. You make 2 layers, using 3 tortillas total for each serving (so this recipe makes 3 of the layered pieces which are then cut into wedges to serve). The quesadillas are baked first (10-15 minutes) until the tops are browned and crispy, then you cut each into wedges, add the lettuce with dressing and some pico de gallo and lastly sprinkle on some fresh cilantro. Altogether easy – ideal if you have some leftover chicken, perhaps? This could be an appetizer or a dinner – it’s rich with all the cheeses in it, so maybe an adult could eat one full round.

What’s GOOD: this is easy to make if you have the cheeses on hand, and you have some chicken already made. Use ranch dressing as a stand-in, and some jarred salsa too. Really delicious – and different because of the way you make them – layered/stacked and with the BBQ sauce on the chicken.

What’s NOT: nothing, really.

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Triple Layer BBQ Chicken Quesadilla Wedges

Recipe By: Phillis Carey, cooking instructor, 5/2018
Serving Size: 6

PICO DE GALLO:
6 medium plum tomatoes — seeded, diced
1/2 serrano chile — seeded, minced
3 cloves garlic — minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro — chopped
salt and pepper to taste
SALAD & DRESSING:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 cloves garlic — minced
1/4 cup red onion — minced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro — chopped
2 teaspoons chipotle chile canned in adobo — finely chopped
6 cups Romaine lettuce — shredded
QUESADILLAS:
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup barbecue sauce — smoky type, DIVIDED USE
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
9 6-inch flour tortillas
2 cups jack cheese — shredded
2 cups cheddar cheese — shredded
1/2 cup goat cheese — crumbled
1 red onion — thinly sliced
6 ounces sliced black olives — drained
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 cup fresh cilantro — chopped

1. PICO DE GALLO: Combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temp for up to 3 hours (or refrigerate for a few hours more – best eaten the day it’s made).
2. DRESSING: Puree ingredients in blender (except lettuce), then season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for up to 48 hours.
3. QUESADILLAS: Trim chicken and pound to an even thickness of 1/4″. Pour 3/4 cup of barbecue sauce over chicken, turning to coat. Let marinate for 2 hours in the refrigerator, or 30 minutes at room temp. Wipe barbecue sauce off chicken (it burns) and brush chicken with oil. Grill (stovetop grill or outdoor) 3-4 minutes per side over medium heat.. Let cool and cut chicken into thin strips, toss with remaining 1/4 cup barbecue sauce.
4. Preheat oven to 425°F. Add red onions to a small bowl with water and a small splash of white or apple cider vinegar. Let those sit for about 15-20 minutes, drain, blot on paper towel.
5. Arrange 3 tortillas on 1 or 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Combine the 3 grated/crumbled cheeses. Using half the cheese blend, half the onion, half the olives and half the chicken placing some chicken around the outside edges to help prop up those edge so they don’t collapse when baked. Top with another tortilla and repeat process. Top with remaining tortillas. Brush tops of all 3 stacks with oil, using a silicone brush, then sprinkle the tops with chili powder. At this point these may be refrigerated (covered well with plastic wrap) for several hours. If refrigerated, the baking process may take a few extra minutes.
6. Bake the quesadillas for 10-15 minutes, until tops are lightly browned and crispy.
7. Cut each quesadilla in 6 quarters. Meanwhile, toss lettuce with some of the dressing and add to the serving plate. Serve 3 wedges per person and add pico de gallo on top, a drizzle more dressing and sprinkle with fresh cilantro.
Per Serving: 777 Calories; 52g Fat (59.6% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 86mg Cholesterol; 1267mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on August 13th, 2018.

chix_thighs_garlic_lime

Can we ever have enough recipes for a weeknight chicken dish? Here’s another one, a new one for me, bright with leeks, lime juice and garlic.

As I clicked through recipe after recipe for some new way to fix chicken, I finally came across this one – I had chicken thighs to begin with, I had fresh garlic and I had a lime. Plus a leek, which needed using. As I read this one, it said I’d entered it into my recipe program years ago (in 2001), from Cooking Light. Wow, long time ago. The original recipe didn’t have leeks in it, but I decided to use them anyway, and they provided a nice topping (and a side dish as you can see on the plate). I had 2 leeks – one would have been ample.

The chicken is mixed with lime juice and garlic. I let that sit while I sweated the leek in olive oil. Then I added the chicken thighs to the pan along with more lime juice, a little tiny bit of low-sodium chicken broth and white vinegar. That was brought up to a boil and baked for about 20 minutes – or until the middle of the chicken reaches 165°F. If you use bone-in meat, it’ll take a bit longer, just so you know . . .

The chicken and leeks were removed, then I boiled down the juices in the pan (on the stovetop), and that was spooned over the chicken. If you remember, serve with lime wedges and some chopped cilantro on top. Done. I’d roasted some broccoli and onions and served that alongside. One thigh was enough for me, but my son-in-law who was visiting, ate two of them.

What’s GOOD: the chicken was perfectly done – still moist, yet tender. Loved the sauce on it – you’ll want to scrape your bite of chicken through whatever is lingering on your plate. Leeks were tender and delicious too. Altogether nice dish, albeit with a bit more work than some.

What’s NOT: nothing, really.

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Chicken Thighs wtih Garlic & Lime

Recipe By: Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2001
Serving Size: 2

1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice — divided
1 large leek — cleaned, chopped
1 tablespoon EVOO
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
2 lime wedges

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl; stir in 1 tablespoon juice. Rub garlic mixture over chicken.
3. Heat EVOO in a medium skillet and add leeks (patted dry with paper towels). Cook until leek mixture is translucent and fully cooked. Do not brown. Place chicken on top of leeks.
4. Combine 1 tablespoon juice, chicken broth, and vinegar; pour over the chicken. Place over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Wrap handle of pan with foil. Cover and bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 165°.
5. Remove chicken and leeks from pan; keep warm. Place pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 3 minutes). Spoon over chicken. Zest half the lime and wedge the other half. Sprinkle with cilantro and lime zest, and serve with lime wedges.
Per Serving: 415 Calories; 23g Fat (48.8% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 170mg Cholesterol; 728mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on June 29th, 2018.

fresh_mozzie_stuffed_chix_breasts_parm

See that ooey-gooey cheese seeping out of the middle of the chicken? My fork just made a mad dash to slick up that stuff. The only thing I’d add to the plate would be a small mound of buttered pasta. Not lots, but just enough to be flavored by the marinara sauce underneath the chicken.

My guess is that the #1 animal protein sold these days is chicken breasts. They come in mostly the same shape, but they can be small – these are chicken breast halves I’m talking about – (3-4 ounces) or huge (8-10 ounces) depending on whose label you purchase. Organic chicken breasts are smaller (because the chickies are not fed antibiotics, hormones or grain/corn – no GMO anything). If you buy regular ones, they’ve been treated with antibiotics and hormones to enhance their ability to plump up with all the fat in the grains and GMO corn they consume in the last week or two of their lives. Those latter were what I used to buy. Now I seek out organic and if I can find it, pasture raised. I watched a TV program recently where someone in the food science industry visited a poultry farm and categorically said if you ever visit one of those places, you’ll never eat another chicken in your life. I also read very recently that poultry farmers pretty much make up their own rules to describe their chickens as organic or pasture-raised. One example I read – a poultry farmer called his chicken meat “pasture-raised” if the 500+ chickens in the barn are given a 6 inch square opening to the outdoors once a day for 5 minutes. How many of those chickens ever get OUT the door that’s 6 inches square? And they just get there and they’re herded back into the smelly barn enclosure. Probably artificially lighted, is my guess. Supposedly, poultry farmers submit paperwork explaining how/why they call their birds organic and pasture-raised, and someone in Washington reads it (maybe) and says okay. Doesn’t make sense to me. But I’m certain there is a very powerful chicken lobby working on their behalf in Washington.

But I do still eat chicken. I like chicken, but my preferred cut is thigh meat, even though it’s higher in fat. I think the flavor is better, AND you run a lot less risk of overcooking it. But today I’m talking about chicken breasts. White meat for sure. Plump, juicy and tender. And really, I must admit, that if you cook a plain chicken breast with little or no enhancing flavor on it, the chicken meat is rather tasteless. Dull, flat. The chicken breast contains the least amount of fat of any meat on the bird, hence it’s tasteless characteristic. Salt helps. For me, though, you have to DO something to a chicken breast to make it interesting. I love chicken piccata. Funny, I don’t even have a recipe for that here on my blog. I don’t make it for myself – I order it out usually. It’s something I could have on my current diet as long as I didn’t overwhelm the sauce with butter.

Anyway, medium-thick chicken breast halves are what you want for this recipe – thick enough that you can cut a pocket into it (from the thicker side). Big enough to salt and pepper the inside just a little, and big enough that you can stick a long wedge of fresh mozzarella cheese in it. Do buy fresh mozzarella – this is not a dish to use the ubiquitous ball of Mozzarella you’d use in lasagna. No, use fresh. Some markets now have sliced fresh mozzarella cheese – that’s what you’ll want if you can find it. Otherwise, buy the medium-sized balls of fresh mozzarella floating in water. Cut it as best you can into rounds and stuff about 2 slices into each breast. You may have to cut off one side of each piece of cheese to make it fit. Once the cheese is nestled inside, do your best to kind of stretch the chicken so the 2 sides of the pocket hold together. The sticky consistency of the raw chicken helps the two edges to adhere a little bit. You don’t want any cheese sticking out of the pocket or ALL the cheese will ooze out during the baking.

The chicken is dipped in flour, eggs, then panko crumbs (mixed with some Parm, garlic powder and dried oregano). Then the chicken breasts are lightly sautéed in a big nonstick skillet with about 1/4” of olive oil heated in it. You’ll brown the chicken breasts on both side about 4 minutes per side. Then the chicken goes into a large glass or ceramic baking dish. Jarred marinara sauce (have you tried the Victoria brand from Costco?) is poured around the chicken (not on top), fresh basil is added to the sauce and the chicken is baked in a 425°F oven for about 14-16 minutes (depending on thickness). The dish is removed and allowed to sit for 4-5 minutes, then you garnish with parsley and serve.

What’s GOOD: it’s a lovely presentation, whether you make some pasta on the side or not. Really good flavor, but enhanced with the cheese that slightly oozes from the pocket. DO salt and pepper the interior pocket, however, as fresh mozzarella doesn’t taste like much either unless it has something on it. Delicious.

What’s NOT: well, there IS some prep to this dish, but not all that much. If you buy a good jarred marinara, really the steps are quite simple.

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Fresh Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Parmesan

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 2018
Serving Size: 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
8 ounces mozzarella cheese — fresh, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup flour
3 large eggs — lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups panko
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
2 cups marinara sauce
1/4 cup fresh basil — slivered
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep pocket into the side of each chicken breast. Season inside lightly with salt and pepper then stuff pockets with fresh mozzarella and then gently press edges together to seal. Season outside of chicken with salt and pepper.
2. In 3 shallow bowls place flour, eggs and panko. Whisk into the panko bowl add the oregano, garlic powder and 1/4 cup of the grated Parmesan.
3. Dip the stuffed chicken breasts into flour, shaking off excess, then dip into beaten eggs, turning to coat, and lastly dredge in the panko, making sure the chicken is coated evenly.
4. Heat a 1/4″ layer of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a glass or ceramic baking dish.
5. Gently pour the marinara sauce around the sides of the chicken – NOT on the top – and sprinkle the marinara with the fresh basil slivers. Sprinkle chicken with remaining Parmesan and place in the oven and bake for about 16 minutes, or until cooked through (cheese will be slightly oozing from the edge). Serve garnished with Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 637 Calories; 23g Fat (32.9% calories from fat); 52g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 278mg Cholesterol; 947mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on May 14th, 2018.

chicken_shallots_grapes_in_pan

No, don’t be confused – my last post was DUCK with shallots and grapes. I adapted it to chicken. So good.

Don’t get me wrong – I like duck, but whenever I cook it, or eat it, I don’t want to look at the calorie and fat count. Those darned ducks store up fat like nobody’s business! So, after having the duck prepared this way – and after reading in the recipe that it could be made with chicken, a-ha! Chicken it is.

The duck was cooked with high heat and long. I knew chicken, with much, much less fat to render, would be a dried out mess, so I researched some braised chicken recipes and came up with a formula that worked. The timing I used was from Judy Rodgers.

What I want you to get from this recipe is the succulent sauce – I love chicken – but this recipe is so enhanced by the use of shallots and grapes. Serve it with some rice or mashed potatoes (or maybe some disguised mashed cauliflower?). And for sure serve some crusty bread along side to dip into those fabulous juices.

chicken_shallots_grapes_resting_cuttingboardThe making of this is VERY easy. Add seedless grapes (a pound) and about 12-15 shallots (yes, that’s a lot, but trust me), pour in some red wine and chicken broth, some aromatics, nestle the chicken right in on top and into the oven it goes for about 30 minutes at 375°F. Covered. Then you reduce the temp to 200°F, remove the lid and bake for another hour. THEN, you turn up the heat to 400°F and get it juicy brown in 15 minutes. Remove, put the chicken out on a cutting board, tent for 10 minutes while you finish getting everything else together, then slice and serve. Meanwhile, pour the pan juices into a fat separator, let it sit for 5 minutes, return to the pan and continue to reduce it some if you’d like.

chicken_shallots_grapes_parsnip_mashWhat you then have is a great platter of tasty chicken with shallots and grapes to eat on the side. And some delicious sauce to serve on the side, or drizzle on top of the chicken. Do eat the shallots and grapes – they’re to die for (if you can get that excited about an onion or a grape, that is). My taste buds were singing.

What’s GOOD: how easy this was to make. No browning, just braising, really, with some varied ingredients. And the taste – well the grapes and shallots add a fragrant and tasty sweetness to the mix; the juice is out of this world, so don’t waste it!

What’s NOT: nary a thing, really. Takes a couple of hours; that’s it!

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Braised Chicken with Shallots and Grapes

Recipe By: Adapted from a Saveur recipe for roasting a duck
Serving Size: 4

Salt
1 pound red grapes — on the stems, seedless
12 shallots — (12 to 15) or pearl onions
2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme — on the stems
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 cup red wine
1 large chicken

1. Salt the chicken well, inside and out. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Pour the stock and red wine into the bottom of a heavy, lidded pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the bay leaf. Arrange the shallots, grapes and thyme in the pot, then nestle the chicken on top. Roast for 30 minutes, covered.
3. Reduce oven temp to 200°F, remove lid and cook for an hour. Increase heat to 400°F and continue roasting for 15 minutes. Chicken thigh meat should register 170°F. Remove to a cutting board, tent with foil for 10 minutes, then slice chicken in pieces, and serve with some of the shallots and grapes, along with lots of sauce. If there is leftover sauce, chill it to remove the fat and use with leftover chicken, or save to add to soup.
Per Serving (assumes you’re eating all the skin and fat): 949 Calories; 59g Fat (58.3% calories from fat); 69g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 340mg Cholesterol; 434mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on May 9th, 2018.

duck_with_grapes_in_the_pot

You know the word unctuous? Not a word I use very often, and it doesn’t pertain to every dish you might prepare that delivered delicious results.

Having used that word, I decided to look it up. Unctuous, in relating to food, is only used in conjunction with greasy. Well. That brought me up short. This duck, well, yes, I suppose it did have a generous amount of fat in the pan, but it definitely was not greasy. So maybe unctuous isn’t the right word. I thought it had a more generous description/definition meaning soothing, rounded flavor. Which this duck was. So, if you’re turned off by the word unctuous, please disregard!

What this duck was, was EASY to make, and it was just bursting with flavor. My friends, Bud & Cherrie, invited me for dinner one night, and Bud, having read an article in Saveur about duck, decided to make this dish. Every once in awhile he gets a bug in his ear and decides to cook. So Cherrie took the back seat and made sides. I brought dessert.

Once I got home I looked up the recipe, and read that it could also be made with chicken, so my next recipe in a few days, will be this same recipe, but with chicken. As I’m writing this, I’ve just finished using up all of the chicken left over from making it (and  used the last of it in a soup). But this post is about duck.

duck_with_grapes_platterThe duck is only prepped with some salt. In a large Dutch oven you layer in the flavors – a pound of red seedless grapes and a boat load of shallots. A lot of them – at least 12 if not more if they’re small. You add some low-sodium chicken broth and an equal quantity of good red wine, add some bay leaves and fresh thyme, and you’re in business. The duck gets laid in on top of all that stuff and put into a HOT oven for about 2 hours, give or take, with some of it covered, and some not. By that time, the duck is just about falling apart, but it’s absorbed some of the wonderful flavors of the grapes, shallots and red wine.

When Bud removed it from the pot it still held together – barely – and he put it out on that platter (above), gently cut it into pieces and we helped ourselves. It was so moist and tender. We all dunked bread into the luscious juices too. That may have been the best part! When I made this with chicken, I poured the juices through a fat separator, used some for left overs, then used the remaining in a delicious soup I made.

What’s GOOD: first off, it’s EASY. That’s the part that I liked best. The flavor was full – you got a hint of the shallots and red wine and grapes. A domestic-raised duck will feed 4 people. If they’re smaller, you might need 2 ducks. As you likely know, they’re expensive (unless you have them on your property). Altogether wonderful meal; worth making for sure. And yes, unctuous still is the word I’d use, even if it might be wrong!

What’s NOT: the only thing I’d mention is the length of time it took to prep the shallots. Buy big ones, so you can use fewer of them, and they’re easier to peel. Overall, nothing at all wrong with this dish – well maybe the fat content. I didn’t want to know . . . and by the way, the nutrition count you’ll see at the end of the recipe assumes you’re going to eat all the skin and (greasy) juices, which you probably won’t do.

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Braised Duck with Shallots and Grapes

Recipe By: Saveur Magazine, 2017
Serving Size: 4

1 large duck — or 2 small ones
salt
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth — or use duck stock if you have it
1 cup red wine
1 pound red grapes — on the stems, seedless
12 shallots — or pearl onions (may use more if desired)
2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh thyme — on the stems

1. Salt the ducks well, inside and out. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Pour the stock and red wine into the bottom of a heavy, lidded Dutch oven. Add the 2 bay leaves. Arrange the shallots, grapes and thyme in the pot, then nestle the duck(s) on top. Cover the pot and roast in the oven for 90 minutes.
3. Uncover the pot and let everything cook down. This will also crisp the skin of the ducks. This can take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on how fat your birds were. Keep an eye on it. Remove bay leaves.
4. Cut the duck in pieces, and serve with some of the shallots and grapes, along with lots of sauce. Ideally, serve some crusty bread on the side because you’re going to want to dunk the bread into the sauce/juice. It’s almost good enough to drink. If you have left over juices, chill to remove the fat, then use the juices on the leftovers, or it’s great to add to a poultry soup of some kind.
Per Serving (assumes you’re consuming all the skin and juices, which you won’t): 1421 Calories; 126g Fat (81.1% calories from fat); 41g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 241mg Cholesterol; 254mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on February 4th, 2018.

chix_sausage_sheetpan_dinner_w_aged_balsamic

I’m really enjoying these sheetpan dinners. So EASY and tasty. This one is no exception.

It’s been awhile (at least 6 weeks ago) that I made this, but it was so good, and worth it, that I didn’t want to NOT post it. I had a recipe to start from, but I was a bit creative with it, adding a few extras, just because.

The original recipe was in Sunset Magazine in the December/January issue, but because my cousin Gary doesn’t like brussels sprouts, and because I had a sweet potato on hand, I changed up some of the ingredients, but kept to the main idea of the Sunset recipe. I added broccoli, more onion and I had multicolored small bell peppers. I bought some really good quality chicken sausages at a butcher shop first, then embellished with all the other ingredients. EVOO (or avocado oil) is used at the beginning and then tossed with all the raw veggies and into the oven it goes for about 30 minutes. The Fuji apple is a game-changer – it adds a lovely bit of sweetness to it all. Loved that part.

chix_sausage_sheetpan_raw_ingredI think the original recipe started with pre-cooked sausages. Not me – mine were raw, and I just made sure they were cooked through before serving (they were). The vegetables were perfectly cooked and the sweet potatoes slightly crispy on a few edges, and the onions were certainly cooked through too. I served it right from the pan, with aged balsamic drizzled over the top. I think I probably used more than a tablespoon – probably 1 1/2 T at least so that nearly every item had a bit of the vinegar. I like aged balsamic (you do NOT want to use regular grocery shelf quality balsamic on this as it’s way too acidic – you need the syrupy style of aged balsamic to do this justice). My cousin who was visiting doesn’t much like balsamic (I didn’t know that or I’d have drizzled it on half of the pan) so he was a bit put off by it, but me? Loved it. Would have been happy to drizzle a bit more over it, except for the fact that aged balsamic is quite dear and not something to lavish on one sheet pan dinner! If you don’t have aged balsamic, might I suggest you use a fruit balsamic (I have several – – pomegranate, strawberry that I recall) because the ordinary/cheap stuff wouldn’t be good.

What’s GOOD: overall healthy, tasty and EASY. Love that last part. I ate the left overs about 5 days later and enjoyed it almost as much as the first time around. If you want to make it more original, use Brussels sprouts and no yellow squash or sweet potato. I loved the apple in the mix.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of. So easy!

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Chicken Sausage and Vegetables Sheet Pan Supper with Aged Balsamic

Recipe By: adapted from Sunset Mag, Dec/Jan, 2017/18
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons EVOO — or avocado oil
1 medium red onion — cut into 1/2″ rounds
8 chicken sausages
10 ounces brussels sprouts — halved (quartered if large) or broccoli
1 large sweet potato — peeled, sliced 3/4″ thick
1 large yellow bell pepper — cored and sliced
2 yellow squash — ends removed, cut in thick slices
2 medium Fuji apples — cored and cut into wedges
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons EVOO
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar — syrupy balsamic vinegar
chopped Italian parsley to garnish

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Spread a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 tbsp. oil. Separate onion into rings of 2 to 3 layers. Set onion, sausages, brussels sprouts (or broccoli), yellow squash, bell pepper and apples in pan. Liberally salt and pepper everything. Drizzle with remaining 2 tbsp. oil, toss to coat, and arrange evenly.
2. Bake until vegetables are tender and meat is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Drizzle vinegar on top and sprinkle with parsley.
Per Serving: 336 Calories; 16g Fat (38.1% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 35mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on January 27th, 2018.

baked_chix_rice_mushrooms

A stellar recipe – with the mushrooms playing a star role, but all the comforts, too, of a simple, home cooked kind of casserole with chicken and rice.

This recipe has legs. Well, maybe I should qualify that – this recipe, which makes a lot – can be made into 3 different meals if you’re not feeding 8-10 people at the beginning: (1) the first, a casserole; (2) with more mushrooms as a 2nd serving (microwaved); and (3) mixed with broth, more mushrooms and peas, as SOUP.

The original, which supposedly feeds 8, makes a bunch. The pan above in the photo is a 5” high sided nonstick pan I use a lot. Since I’m a family of one, it was probably more than I needed. But my cousin Gary was visiting over Christmas, and before he got sick and only wanted soup, I made this. I’m glad I did, as he ate lunch from it twice when I was off with family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then, a couple of days later I took a bunch from it and gave it to my dear friend Gloria and her husband for a dinner. She had enough for a dinner AND a lunch portion. Once Gary flew home, I re-invented it once again. I bought another 8 ounces of fresh brown mushrooms and made another batch of the mushroom topping and ate it as a reheated plate (microwaved) with more hot-water-rinsed peas on top. When there was STILL a small amount left, I made it into soup with more of that mushroom broth concentrate stuff. Oh, was that good, too.

baked_chix_rice_closeupI think this dish would feed 10 (unless they’re hungry teen-agers). The recipe came from the New York Times, and was designated as one of the top 10 for 2017. It may not look like anything special, but it was really, really good. For me – since I added more mushrooms to it (because I like them) – it was comfort food, for sure. It was filling and it was pretty. The making of it is easy enough – most of it is done in the one big pot (chicken, mushrooms and rice with lots of added flavors like wine, thyme, onion). Then it’s baked for a brief time and while that’s happening, you sauté some additional mushrooms (the more varied the mixture, the better). I didn’t go shopping to different stores to find oddball mushrooms (I used brown and shiitake), and when I re-made it with the leftovers, I used only brown crimini mushrooms.

Thinking about this . . . if I make this again I think I’ll use some of the riced cauliflower as the “rice” in this dish. I’d need to adapt the cooking times, but it would be a whole lot less carbs. Just food for thought.

What’s GOOD: the overall flavor is marvelous. One might not think such simple ingredients could yield such umami flavor (must be the mushrooms?) but it did. If serving to guests, I’d double the amount of mushroom topping too (it gives it a really pretty “look”). Read recipe for how to use the left overs. Just know that this dish is very rice-centric.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Altogether good recipe, worth making.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Baked Rice With Chicken and Mushrooms

Recipe By: adapted slightly from New York Times, one of the best recipes of 2017, by David Tanis
Serving Size: 9

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion — diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large sprig thyme — plus 1 teaspoon freshly chopped leaves or use half the amount of dried thyme, pressed firmly in your palms
1 bay leaf
1 cup white wine — vermouth would work here
2 cups basmati rice — soaked for 20 minutes, rinsed and drained
16 ounces mushrooms — use a mixture of mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/4 cup dried mushrooms — reconstituted in water
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth — heated
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup frozen peas — rinsed in hot tap water for 30 seconds
2 small garlic cloves — smashed to a paste with a little salt
3 tablespoons chopped parsley — with extra for garnish, if desired

1. Place chicken pieces on a baking sheet and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat oven to 350°F.
2. Pour olive oil into a 4-quart enamelware Dutch oven or similar heavy pot and set over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes, then season with salt. Add chicken, thyme sprig and bay leaf, and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more.
3. Add wine and simmer briskly until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
4. Add reconstituted mushrooms, the rice and a large handful of the fresh mushrooms and stir to combine. (Reserve most of the raw mushrooms for garnish.) Add broth and bring to a simmer. Check broth for seasoning and adjust.
5. Cover pot and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Transfer pot to oven and bake, checking after 10 minutes to see if the rice is cooked through, but may take up to 15 minutes. Finally, remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes off heat.
6. While rice is baking, sauté remaining mushrooms: Melt butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper (add more garlic if you’d like) and cook, rapidly stirring, until they have softened and browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add peas, if using, and heat through. Turn off heat, then add reserved chopped thyme, the garlic and the parsley. Toss to coat well.
7. Fluff rice (and remove the bay leaf if you can find it), then top with sautéed mushrooms and serve with more parsley on top.
CAROLYN’S NOTES: I prepared this with double the mushrooms (original recipe called for 8 ounces but I’ve upped it in the recipe here). For the 2nd serving a few days later, I bought another 8 ounces of mushrooms and created the mushroom topping again and was lazy, heating the chicken/rice part in the microwave, topping with the extra mushrooms then adding the rinsed-in-hot-water peas to make it pretty. Then with what was left, I made it into soup by adding yet more mushrooms and some mushroom concentrate (broth), then sprinkling the top with some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and parsley. If you’ve had enough of it by then, you could make the soup and freeze it for a few weeks later.
Per Serving: 414 Calories; 16g Fat (34.6% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 86mg Cholesterol; 246mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, on November 17th, 2017.

sheet_pan_chix_thighs_bacon_sourdough_sw_potatoes

As a family of one, I sometimes don’t want to fix a standard sized meal, when there’s only me eating it. But that could be a mistake when something is as good as this sheet pan dinner comes to town.

My daughter-in-law’s sister Janice sent an email to the family recently, with a link to a recipe online at Food & Wine, that she raved about. I looked it up, added it to my MasterCook software and had it in the back of my head that I’d try it soon. As I glanced at the recipe again I realized I didn’t have white potatoes – but I did have one sweet potato. Okay, that could be substituted. I did have a red onion, and I had boneless, skinless chicken thighs – the recipe called for those thigh/drumstick combinations. I didn’t have a sourdough boule, but I did have sliced sourdough bread in the freezer. And last but not least, I didn’t have fresh oregano, but I prefer dried oregano anyway. I figured I could improvise. Since I want vegetables in my meals, I decided to add some yellow squash to the mix also, as there weren’t any veggies in the original (unless you count onion and potatoes). The original also called for slab bacon cut into square chunks. I certainly didn’t have that either, but I did have thick sliced bacon. It would have to do!

sheet_pan_chix_thighs_bacon_sourdough_sw_potatoes_closeupBecause of the substitutions, I lowered the oven temp by 15°, to 385° (from 400°). Why? Because the croutons (nothing but sandwich bread cut into cubes) might have burned at 400°. Plus, the chicken was in smaller pieces as well. I just thought it would be safer baking at a lower temp.  So, first I combined the bread cubes, sweet potatoes, red onion wedges and bacon. That was drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with red chili flakes, dried oregano plus salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix it all up so everything has a thin coating of oil. Into the oven it went for 15 minutes. Although the combo is spread on a large sheet pan (rimmed) you kind of bunch it up in the middle (but still in a single layer) and I actually laid the bacon slices over the tops of all the onion wedges. Meanwhile I combined the boneless skinless chicken thighs that I cut into more manageable pieces and the yellow squash and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and oregano. Those things were added to the pan, trying to put the squash on the outside edges (because they’re a wet veggie and would weep water) and the chicken draped over the top of the center stuff. Another 40 minutes in the oven and the chicken was done with a bit of browned edges, all the veggies were perfect. If you have some parsley, sprinkle it on top and serve immediately. For a family meal, just put the pan on the table (on a towel maybe) with a big spoon or spatula to serve with; otherwise, pour it all out onto a HEATED platter and serve. I promise, you’ll hear mmmmm’s.

What’s GOOD: how incredibly easy this is, providing you have all the ingredients on hand. I made a smaller size (using one package of Costco’s boneless, skinless chicken thighs) but it was enough for 4 meals. If you have hearty eaters, well, it might feed fewer. Flavor is magnificent – probably from the bacon and the oil, plus the chicken fat that slowly oozed out of the meat as it roasted. I could hardly keep my fork out of the pan when I was packaging up the leftovers.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

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Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs with Bacon & Sourdough Croutons

Recipe By: Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe, 2017
Serving Size: 8

8 ounces sourdough bread — cut into 1″ cubes
2 red onions — peeled, chopped in wedges
5 slices thick-sliced bacon — cut in 1″ pieces
3 small sweet potatoes — peeled, cut in 1″ chunks
2 tablespoons dried oregano — divided use
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs — cut into big chunks
Salt and pepper and more dried oregano
3 large summer squash — either zucchini or yellow
3 tablespoons Italian parsley — for garnish, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 385°F.
2. Prepare a large rimmed sheet pan (line with foil for easy clean-up). Add bread, onions, bacon and sweet potatoes on the pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle most of the oregano all over and season with red chili flakes, salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss these ingredients so most of them are oiled. Spread out, but still leave it in a centered mass, but a single layer.
3. Bake for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, lightly oil the squash and chicken in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper and oregano.
5. Remove pan from oven. Place the squash around the outside edges and place the chicken pieces on top of the middle mound (so the juices will drip into the mixture below it).
6. Return pan to the oven and roast for 40 minutes until the chicken has begun to brown around the edges and the squash is roasted. Remove and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired.
Per Serving: 403 Calories; 18g Fat (40.2% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 92mg Cholesterol; 509mg Sodium.

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