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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2023, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

As soon as it came out, I ordered Spare, by Prince Harry. I’ve always been interested in the Royal Family. And I’m old enough to remember when Queen Elizabeth was crowned – my mother and I watched it on tv, in those early days of television. I admired her throughout her long life. What you learn in this book is how abominably Harry and Meghan have been treated. We all know the Royal Family has a company of people who “handle” them, called “the firm.” These people control what everyone in the R.F. does, when, who is present, who can take a vacation where, and some of them give permission for journalists to photograph, in somewhat private spaces, in return for leaving them alone for awhile. The paparazzi, and the photojournalists are ruthless. Absolutely ruthless and relentless. I cannot imagine having to live with that kind of low-life awaiting  your every move. It could break anyone, as it did Diana. I’ve never been a fan of Charles, and this book doesn’t endear him to me. I’ve never been a fan of Camilla, either. There’s a lot of verbiage given over to outing many people in the R.F. Betrayals on many levels. I devoured it, but then I’m an Anglophile of the first order.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. Usually I don’t seek out short stories. I might have purchased this book without realizing it was. There aren’t that many stories – each one gets you very ingrained in the characters. I love her writing, and would think each story in this book could be made into a full-fledged novel. I was quite taken with the main characters in each and every one of them. Since each story is different, I can’t describe one, without describing all of them; no space for that. With each story I was very sad when I realized it was the end, leaving you hanging. I wondered if these were stories Lahiri wrote hoping they would transcend into a full length novel, but she grew bored, or couldn’t quite flesh out more. But I always felt there could/would be more. I wanted there to be more.

A Lantern in Her Hand, by Beth Streeter Aldrich. A very interesting and harrowing story of early pioneer days in the Midwest (Nebraska I think); covered wagon time up to about 80 years later as the heroine, Abbie Deal, and her husband start a family in a small town. On land that isn’t lush or reliable. Many years of drought, winds, grasshoppers. The story is a novelized one of Aldrich’s own family roots. It’s full of good old-fashioned family values and is a record of some difficult Midwest pioneering history.

The Messy Lives of Book People, by Phaedra Patrick. From amazon’s page: Mother of two Liv Green barely scrapes by as a maid to make ends meet, often finding escape in a good book while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So she can’t believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, mega-bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. The last thing Liv expected was to be the only person Essie talks to, which leads to a tenuous friendship. When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn that her dying wish was for Liv to complete her final novel. But to do so Liv will have to step into Essie’s shoes. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. I’m a fan of this author and relished reading his book about a year in his personal life, with his wife and very new, newborn twins. Doerr was given an auspicious award – a year of study in Rome, with apartment and a stipend. There are four chapters, by season. You will laugh and cry with him/them, as they have to work very hard to survive days and nights with crying babies that will not settle down. As he escapes to his study lair, if only to get away from the babies, sometimes to nap because he was up all night. Those of us who have had fussy babies know what this feels like. He suffers greatly because the “great American novel” isn’t coming to him. He feels the year wasting away from the standpoint of the award. The time in Rome was wonderful, and he and his family enjoy many wonderful visits to city high points, to stand in awe at old relics. I loved every bit of this book – so well written. If you’ve ever been to Rome you’ll enjoy it all the more.

Kristin Hannah’s Distant Shores is quite a read. Some described it as like a soap opera. Not me. Interesting character development of a couple who married young. She put her own career/wants/desires aside to raise their children. He forged ahead with his life dreams. The children grow up and move on. Then he’s offered a huge promotion across the country. She’s torn – she doesn’t want to be in New York, but nothing would get in the way of his career. They try to make the marriage work from separate coasts. The wife begins to find herself again, re-igniting her own passions. Lots of family dynamics.

Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout. Lucy Barton is divorced. But she’s still sort of friendly with her ex. It’s complicated. Out of the blue he asks her to go on a trip with him to discover something about his roots. They go. And of course, they’re taken for a married couple most of the time. Lucy laments the things she loved about her ex, William. Hence she says “Oh, William” more than once. They encounter some very funny circumstances, and she guides him along, lamenting again, “Oh, William,” again. I don’t think she ever says it TO him, however. Very funny book. Sweet. Elizabeth Strout is a gifted writer.

Tidelands,  by Philippa Gregory. It tells the tale of a peasant woman, Alinor (an herbalist and midwife), who lives barely above the poverty level, trying to raise two children, during the time of great turmoil in England, the rancorous civil war about Charles 1. Her husband has disappeared. The feudal system at the time isn’t any friend to Alinor. In comes a man (of course) who is a priest, but to the Catholic king, not the Protestant people, and everything Catholic is abhorred and suspect. A fascinating read, loved every chapter.

Read Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover. A page turner of a story. A young woman is convicted of a crime (young and foolish type). Once released her sole purpose is to be a part of her daughter’s life. Hoover has such a gift of story-telling and keeping you hanging on a cliff.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Oh my goodness. The wicked webs we weave. How in the world did the author even come UP with this wild story, but she did, and it kept me glued. Sophie walked away from her wedding day, and always wondered if she made the wrong decision. Then she inherits his aunt’s house, back in her home town, where the quizzical Munro baby disappearance provides a living for many of his family. Sophie moves there, only to have to unearth all the bad stuff that happened before. Quite a story.

Very funny and poignant story, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one). Mrs. Palfrey, a woman of a certain age, moves into an old folks’ home in London. It’s a sort of hotel, but has full time elderly quirky residents. You get to know them all, and Mrs. Palfrey’s subterfuge effort to show off her “grandson.” I might not have ever picked up this book, but one of my book clubs had us read it, and I’m ever so glad I did.

For one of my book clubs we read Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. This book is so hard to describe. Elizabeth is a wizard at chemistry and struggles to be recognized for her intelligence and research. She meets a man at her company who is brilliant too. They make quite a pair. They have a child, then he suddenly dies. Her work isn’t taken seriously, so she leaves her employment and becomes an overnight phenom on a cooking show where she uses the chemical names for things like sodium chloride, etc. You go alongside her struggles, and her raising of her daughter. LOTS of humor, lots to discuss for a book club.

Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loved it from the first page to the last. Sad when it ended. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the minuscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct.

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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, on April 28th, 2023.

So good! There’s spicy sauced chicken underneath, then a thin layer of slowly browned onions, some mint and cilantro, then a layer of saffron rice on top with more onions and herbs.

A post from Carolyn. Ever had biryani? That’s beer-ee-yahn-ee for the uninitiated! If you want to know more, click on that link to wikipedia and you’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about biryani with its different spellings, variations and origins. My relative Janice (my daughter-in-law Karen’s sister) sent the recipe to me and I decided to augment it and to prepare it differently because I had about a half a chicken from a whole roasted one I’d done a few days before. Janice had made a couple of alterations when she made it, and I made even more, but the flavor basis of this dish is the same.

I love Indian food, and have learned over the years that the dishes from Hyperabad are considered the best of the best (it’s the region of India known for its haute cuisine). This is one. Anything that resembles butter chicken or chicken khorma is at the top of the list for me. This one is different in several ways: (1) it uses saffron rice; (2) it layers the chicken on the bottom, rice on the top (not served side by side on the plate); (3) those browned onions are just the bomb; and (4) the layer of herbs in the middle just add to the flavor profiles.

The original recipe has you cook the well-marinated chicken thighs in a heavy-duty pan (like a Le Creuset) with the hot rice on it – the rice that’s just partially cooked and spooned all over the top of the chicken. It’s a very different way to make this – only partially cooking the rice so it finishes cooking once it’s put into the heavy pan with the chicken. Obviously I couldn’t do that with mine since I had already cooked chicken and didn’t want to cook the daylights out of it even more. So I needed to improvise a lot.

There below is the chicken in the sauce. Uncooked. Ready to be adorned with the rice component. Although the chicken in it is cooked, it’s just that the sauce wasn’t cooked. The only cooking it underwent (is that a word?) was in the oven or microwave.

I still marinated the cooked chicken in the “marinade” and let it sit in the refrigerator for 2 days. That gave it ample time to let all that flavorful yogurt spicy sauce with kashmiri chili powder in it to seep into the meat. Then I prepared the rice, using the directions provided, but I cooked it almost to done with just a tiny bit of bite to the rice. I also cooked up those super-browned onions (easy, just cook them long and slow in olive oil).

Once I was ready to put together my casserole I spooned it into the baking dish (above), and spread it out. Then I added some of the browned onions and fresh herbs (cilantro & mint), then I put a rice layer on top. It had a lovely yellow color from the turmeric in it, and also from the saffron. The remaining onions were added on top. At this point I could have baked the casserole in the oven for about 30-35 minutes, but I decided to take a shortcut and microwave it. Actually what I did was heat up the chicken layer first, then added the hot rice on top and returned it to the microwave for about a minute. The garnishing herbs went on top and I chowed down. Oh so delicious.

What’s GOOD: the flavors in this dish are just over the top. Creamy, flavorful, just a bit of heat from the kashmiri chili, the texture of the rice, the lovely hint of mint and cilantro. Divine. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. I’ll be making this again soon.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Biryani Cassserole

Recipe By: Adapted from My Food Story blog and by my relative, Janice. And then adapted further by me.
Servings: 4

BROWNED ONIONS:
2 whole yellow onions — halved, sliced
1/3 cup vegetable oil
CHICKEN:
3 cups cooked chicken — chopped in cubes or shredded
3/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup tomato puree — or tomato paste (use a bit less)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic — finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger — grated
1 tablespoon kashmiri chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala — ground to a powder
2 tablespoons onions — well browned
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup milk — or heavy cream
SAFFRON MIXTURE:
2 tablespoons hot milk
10 saffron strands — (10 to 15)
RICE:
2 cups basmati rice
6 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
1 whole bay leaf
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 cardamom pods
GARNISHES:
1 cup mint
1 cup cilantro — chopped
crispy brown onions from above
Add a little chicken broth if needed to the casserole.
Serving: black sesame seeds (optional), onion raita or plain raita (optional) or plain yogurt

1. ONIONS: pat the onions dry and if time permits, leave them out on a kitchen towel for 15-20 minutes to dry them out slightly. Heat oil in a pan and add the onions. Over a medium flame, shallow fry the onions for 15 minutes until they are a deep golden brown, without burning them. Drain them on a paper towel, and set aside. These can be made ahead and stored in an air tight container overnight. Burned onions will add a bitter flavor to the biryani. You can also use store bought fried onions/ shallots which are easily available in some supermarkets, Indian and Asian stores.
2. CHICKEN: Mix together all the ingredients under chicken and marinate for at least two hours or up to 2 days.
3. SAFFRON: When you are ready to make the biryani, soak saffron strands in hot milk and rub them slightly with the back of a spoon. Set this aside.
4. RICE: Bring water to a roaring boil and add salt, whole spices and basmati rice. Cook for about 15 minutes (until barely tender) and drain completely. Remove the whole spices in the rice.
5. CASSEROLE: If the chicken mixture is very thick, add a bit of milk or cream to thin it enough to loosen it. In a large casserole dish, pour the chicken and spread out evenly. Scatter half the onions all over the chicken, and then sprinkle half the cilantro and mint leaves. Next layer the rice all over the top, and in the end drizzle saffron milk over the rice. Then scatter the remaining onions over the top. You may heat this in the microwave (covered) for 5-8 minutes or bake in a 325°F for about 35 minutes until the chicken mixture on the bottom is fully heated through. Do not let the rice dry out – so you may need to cover the casserole with foil. If you’re in a mighty hurry, heat just the chicken in the casserole in the microwave, then add onions and herbs, then add the hot rice to the top, and finish with the garnishes. Heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes maximum and serve.
6. Scatter the remaining mint and cilantro. Serve hot, digging the spoon deep to get all the layers. Serve with raita or additional yogurt.
Per Serving: 744 Calories; 40g Fat (48.0% calories from fat); 60g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 153mg Cholesterol; 4378mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 164mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 853mg Potassium; 497mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on April 14th, 2023.

If you’ve stopped trying to make turkey meatloaf because it just didn’t hit a flavorful high note, you might want to try this one from Ina Garten.

A post from Carolyn. A few weeks ago my good friend Linda T came to visit me out in Palm Desert. We had a lovely, quiet weekend together, and she made dinner one of the nights. She made this, Ina’s turkey meatloaf. What’s interesting about this is that it doesn’t have lots of herbs (it uses only thyme) or other things (flavor tricks) to make it tasty. It just IS flavorful. I was surprised how good it was. Linda’s been making this for a long time and has changed just a few things about Ina’s recipe.

Now, Ina’s recipe calls for making enough to feed a small army (5 pounds of ground turkey breast). Half that recipe (the picture above) is enough to feed at least 6 people. Halving recipes is sometimes problematical, so Linda has adapted the recipe just slightly – she adds a little more bread crumbs (sometimes she uses fresh bread crumbs, not dried), more tomato paste, and she uses a bit more egg. And, we decided that using a bit more ketchup on the top was in order. In my opinion, the ketchup on the top of the meatloaf is essential – it adds a little sweetness and tang.

There are lots of onions in this (you can see the onions in the raw meatloaf picture above) – two large onions are sauteed in olive oil for awhile until they’re very limp and translucent, along with the herbs, salt and pepper. That mixture needs to be cooled to room temp before mixing in with the ground turkey, Worcestershire, bread crumbs, some chicken broth (which likely helps keep it moist) and eggs. The meatloaf is shaped into a long, not very tall loaf, baked on a rimmed sheetpan in a 325°F oven. Ina’s recipe (with that 5 pounds of meat) suggests 1 1/2 hours baking time. A big casserole dish of hot water was placed underneath the meatloaf – Ina says that helps the meatloaf to not develop a crack in it. I think Linda started taking the temperature after about an hour – cook until it reaches 160°F inside the meatloaf. Then the meatloaf rests a few minutes before you slice it into thick pieces to serve. You could serve extra ketchup at the table if desired. Thanks, Linda, for a great new recipe.

What’s Good: everything about this was wonderful. We froze the leftovers so I haven’t enjoyed any of them yet. Ina suggests slices make great meatloaf sandwiches. That reminds me of my childhood: my dad used to love meatloaf sandwiches. This recipe is a winner.

What’s NOT: nothing really. You can’t expect a turkey meatloaf (albeit a really tasty one) to have the same flavor as a beef meatloaf. The texture just will never be similar – turkey meat is very tender while beef is more chewy, and has a lot more fat in it also, which contribute to more/different flavor.

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Turkey Meatloaf – Ina Garten

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Ina Garten
Servings: 5 (maybe 6)

1 large yellow onions — chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3/8 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 pounds ground turkey — breast meat only
1 cup dry bread crumbs — plain, not seasoned
2 large eggs — beaten
1/2 cup ketchup

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/4 hours until the internal temperature is 160°F. and the meatloaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.) Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.
Per Serving: 526 Calories; 23g Fat (40.0% calories from fat); 51g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 232mg Cholesterol; 1161mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 118mg Calcium; 5mg Iron; 862mg Potassium; 557mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on February 24th, 2023.

Don’t you just want to sink your fork into these?

Recipe from Karen; write-up by Carolyn. Actually, I remember the first time I had a poblano pepper – stuffed similarly to this. Probably around 1990. At a restaurant in Pasadena, called the Parkway Grill. I believe it was a lunch menu special, and I really thought it was one of the most delicious things I’d ever eaten. Of course, I didn’t have their recipe, and back then poblano peppers weren’t commonly at grocery stores, either. Now they are, certainly here in California, where our grocery stores carry a variety of chiles, small and large. A few weeks ago I spent the day with Karen, and family. For lunch she served leftovers, a big favorite of mine, Pasta Puttanesca. If you click back to that story, you can read about Karen and my son Powell’s early dating, when Powell made that pasta. It’s a cute story.

So back to this story – Karen had four beautiful poblano peppers, and she and I worked on this dish together. Karen started from an internet recipe, but made a few changes to it. The poblanos have to be prepped – the tops cut off, the seeds and membranes removed, then gently sliced to open up the peppers kind of like a cup, so you can spoon in that luscious filling. The filling is a combination of fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, oregano (or marjoram in this case as Karen didn’t have any Mexican oregano – did you know that marjoram is very similar to Mexican oregano? who knew?) and cumin. And cheese, and Mozzarella. (You could also add just a little bit of corn to this too.) Once the peppers are stuffed with that mixture (see picture just above), gently mounded in the pepper so none of it leaks out, the peppers are baked for about half an hour. Then you add cheese to the top. Karen had a package of Mexican blended cheeses, and that was gently mounded on the top and put back into the oven – on broil – until the cheese melted and was golden brown (see picture at top!).

Let the peppers rest for 4-8 minutes until they’ve cooled down enough so you don’t burn  your mouth! Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve. Thanks, Karen, for this delicious recipe. If you wanted a slightly different taste, add corn (and remove some of the chopped tomatoes).

What’s GOOD: for me, the poblano chile pepper is the star of the dish – it has a unique flavor. But the combination in the filling is also so delicious with this, and oh, the cheese. Everything’s better with cheese!

What’s NOT: nothing other than there is a bit of prep for this – maybe 30 minutes worth, then they baked for 30. Broiled for 2-3, and it was ready.

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Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Chicken

Recipe By: Altered slightly from an online recipe
Servings: 4

Olive oil spray
4 whole poblano peppers — select evenly sized, larger rather than smaller
1 tablespoon EVOO
3/4 cup fresh tomatoes — diced
1/2 yellow onion — diced
1 tablespoon garlic — minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano — dried, crushed in your palms, or use marjoram if you don’t have Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups cooked chicken — diced or shredded, rotisserie is fine as long as it doesn’t have different flavors on it
1 cup Mozzarella cheese — grated
1/2 cup fresh cilantro — chopped, including the stems (mince those up very finely)
1 cup Mexican blend cheese — grated
3 tablespoons cilantro — chopped, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400° F. For easy clean-up, line a large broiler-safe baking sheet or ceramic dish with foil and spray it with EVOO.
2. POBLANOS: cut off stems, remove ribs and seeds (discard), If there is sufficient pepper around the stem, discard the stem itself, then mince the remaining pepper into tiny pieces and add it to the filling mixture below. Cut a slit down the side of each pepper and open it slightly (without breaking the curve of the pepper) and remove any remaining seeds or membrane. Set aside.
3. FILLING: Heat EVOO in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt, Mexican oregano (or marjoram), and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until liquids have evaporated, 5-7 minutes. Off heat, stir in the chicken, mozzarella and the cilantro, mixing well.
4. Divide the filling among the peppers, using a spoon to get the filling in the pepper, filling all the inside curves, pressing down and out to fill the pepper completely. Use your hands as needed to keep the filling from falling out.
5. Place the peppers on the prepared baking sheet or dish, slit side up. Lightly spray them with olive oil. Bake until the poblanos are soft and charred in places, about 30 minutes.
6. Remove peppers from the oven. Change oven from bake to BROIL. Top the peppers with the Mexican cheese blend, molding it carefully over the filling.
7. Return peppers to the oven and broil the peppers 6 inches below the broiler element just until the cheese is melted, 1-2 minutes. WATCH CAREFULLY so it doesn’t burn. Remove from oven and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving. Do wait a few minutes to serve so you don’t burn your mouth!
Per Serving: 576 Calories; 31g Fat (49.0% calories from fat); 59g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 174mg Cholesterol; 2293mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 531mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 939mg Potassium; 658mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on November 11th, 2022.

Actually that’s the chicken before baking – it just got golden brown.

A post from Carolyn. Do you watch the show, Family Dinner with Andrew Zimmern? It’s so interesting to go along with him – it’s a reality food program – as Zimmern visits a home and the family prepares a big family feast. Zimmern usually makes one thing – something from his own repertoire that he hopes will complement the meal. Lots of the programs are about food from various parts of the world, from families who have been in the U.S. for a long time. Various family members contribute their willing hands and you get to enjoy the repartee of the family.

Recently I watched a program of a family with roots in Canton, China. They have a blog, too, The Woks of Life. Isn’t that the most clever name? And they’ve published a cookbook, that’s just come out (with the same title as their blog).

In the program, this dish intrigued me. When they said this was one of their family favorites, that got me more interested. Chicken thighs first. You generally can’t buy thighs that are boned, but still have skin. I found some with bone and with skin, so needed to remove the bone myself. It’s not hard, just a little bit tedious. Once done, the thighs are marinated for a bit, then stuffed with a rice mixture that included onion, mushrooms, shallots and five spice powder.

Their family recipe calls for Chinese sausage. I didn’t make a special trip to an Asian market to buy that, but the recipe indicated bacon could be substituted.

What’s unique about this is the use of sticky (sweet) rice. Many, many years ago I made a dessert for a Chinese-themed dinner, something like “jeweled” rice, and I had to buy 5 pounds of sweet rice because it was all I could find. After 10 years I finally threw away the rest of it as I didn’t know what to do with it. If you search on amazon you can find a smaller size – I bought a small plastic jar of it that holds about 3 cups.

Sweet rice isn’t sweet. I don’t know why they call it sweet because the only difference is it cooks up sticky. It’s also called glutinous rice, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with gluten, but about the fact that it’s glue-like. VERY sticky. Don’t be turned off by the name – it’s just rice that cooks up differently. I suppose it’s in this recipe because you want the rice combo to stick together in a kind of oval ball and you mold the boneless chicken thigh around it. Most sticky rice comes from Thailand or Japan. If you don’t want to buy sweet rice, use regular, but know it won’t look quite the same but it’ll taste just as fine!

I also didn’t have shiitake mushrooms on hand – but I had regular ones. I’m sure the shiitake would be better. They were finely minced.  The rice is flavored with onion, scallions, soy sauce, dry sherry (if you have Shaoxing wine use it – I didn’t), five spice powder, the mushrooms and a tiny splash of both dark and regular soy sauce. If you don’t have dark soy sauce, just use more of what you have. Years ago I bought a bottle of mushroom soy sauce, and it’s super-dark, so I use that when I need it. I use a low-sodium soy sauce when recipes call for the “regular” type.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was fabulous. I’d definitely make it again. Loved all the flavors that enhanced the rice. The meat was tender and juicy, and the Chinese flavors were quite subtle – nothing was overpowering. I see why it’s a favorite of the family. I think one chicken thigh is sufficient per serving.

What’s NOT: only the mound of dishes I had to clean afterwards. Engage a friend to help in the kitchen when you make this as it’s more labor intensive than a lot of dishes.

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Chinese Chicken with Sticky Rice

Recipe By: adapted slightly from The Woks of Life blog
Servings: 4

5 shiitake mushrooms — dried
4 chicken thighs — deboned, skin on
MARINADE:
1 medium garlic clove — minced
1 medium shallot — finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine — or dry sherry
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
RICE:
2/3 medium onion — finely chopped
1 1/3 cups sweet rice — also called sticky rice, raw
1 1/3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small lean Chinese sausage — (lap cheung) diced, or substitute bacon
1 scallion — finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/6 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
TOPPING:
1 1/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon five spice powder — sprinkled on top of chicken

NOTE: the chicken skin is important, so don’t use skinless. Chinese sausages vary in size. I think for this dish, a small one will suffice or 1 thick sliced piece of smoked bacon.
1. MUSHROOMS & CHICKEN: soak mushrooms (if you didn’t soak them overnight already, this can be expedited into a 1-2 hour process if you soak in hot water) and debone the chicken thighs.
2. Chop the onions, garlic, shallot, and scallion. Cut the sausage into small discs and slice the mushrooms (after soaking and draining) lengthwise into thin strips.
3. MARINADE: Combine the shallot, garlic, wine (or sherry), five spice powder, and sesame oil into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Add the chicken to the mixture and coat it in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for 1 to 2 hours.
4. RICE: The package said soak rice in cold water for 15 minutes, drain, then each cup of rice is cooked in about 7/8 cup of water in a saucepan, covered, for about 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook and don’t allow rice to stick to bottom (so, stir frequently). Set aside.
5. STUFFING: Heat vegetable oil in a wok using medium heat, and cook the onion until translucent. Add the Chinese sausage and cook for another minute. Then add the mushrooms, scallion, salt and white pepper. Cook another minute and add in the cooked sticky rice, salt to taste, then add the soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. Mix thoroughly (this will take awhile as the rice doesn’t like to come apart and mix very easily) and then allow the rice mixture to cool.
6. BAKE: Preheat oven to 375°F. Divide the rice into equal ovals for each thigh, and wrap meat around each portion, tucking all sides under. Lay them in a baking dish. Add chicken broth (pour it evenly in between the crevices of the chicken) and reserve the rest if needed during baking.
7. Combine salt, white pepper with five spice powder, and sprinkle a dash of the mixture over the skin of each chicken portion. Bake for about 35 minutes, and add additional broth if the bottom of the pan looks dry. Watch it closely, as you don’t want to overcook the chicken. Use an instant read thermometer and move to next step when it reaches 165°F.
8. Once the meat is cooked through, broil it on low for 2-3 minutes until the skin is golden brown. Don’t walk away as it broils! Watch it like a hawk to prevent burning. Serve immediately.
Per Serving (this isn’t quite accurate – it’s low – because not all the ingredients are listed online): 579 Calories; 38g Fat (60.1% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 189mg Cholesterol; 840mg Sodium; 2g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 31mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 622mg Potassium; 389mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on August 21st, 2022.

This is the best chicken makhani (butter chicken) I have ever eaten. Bar none. Can you tell I love cilantro?

A post from Carolyn. The various types of chicken curry I’ve eaten, that I’ve made myself and/or really enjoyed out, include khorma, butter and makhani, plus an old recipe I used to make from Dinah Shore (it’s here on my blog too), as it was an early iteration of curry that I made in my early cooking years, called Chicken Curry Without Worry. Perhaps they’re one in the same, just by different names; I’m not enough of an expert of Indian cuisine to know. But this recipe, which may become my all-time favorite and will be made in my kitchen with regularity from here on, is just so stunning in flavor.

The original recipe for this came from one online, and my daughter-in-law Karen’s sister Janice sent it to me (thanks again, Janice). She made a few changes to it, and when I made it; I did too. Again, not because I’m an expert at Indian recipes (for surely, I am not). A couple of ingredients I didn’t have in my pantry –  curry leaves and fresh serrano chiles (just didn’t want to make a trip to the store for those).  Janice’s husband is Indian. Actually he’s British, but has Indian heritage, so their family make and eat a lot of Indian food. Janice has become a really good Indian cook (though she’s not Indian at all). She introduced me to methi, which are fenugreek leaves. Not the seeds/pods, but the leaves. Methi chicken will often appear on Indian restaurant menus. And it’s a unique flavor; something I like.

This iteration of chicken curry relies on a huge variety of herbs and spices, used in different ways. First, there’s a yogurt-based marinade that includes ginger and garlic (such huge standards of Indian cooking), garam masala, turmeric, cumin, chile powder (and I used Kashmiri). A side note here, Kashmiri chile powder may not be something you’ll find at the grocery store. I bought mine on amazon (see link). Kashmiri chile is mild – and imparts a really red color, more red than some chile powders. It doesn’t have much heat. But it does have some, so don’t be misled that you can add a lot and not heat up the dish.

Chicken thighs were what I used – though you can use breasts if you’d prefer – just don’t cook it as long. I removed some fat from them, then cut them up into bite-sized pieces. The more surface available for flavor is what I was looking for. Into a ziploc bag went all of the marinade (yogurt, etc.) then I added the chicken. The practical part of using a plastic bag for this is you can smoosh the bag to get all those flavors all over the chicken pieces. Just move, squeeze, smoosh away. Into the frig for several hours (I did about 6 hours – but you can do overnight too) before beginning the cooking of the curry.

The sauce: the chicken pieces are added to a medium hot skillet to brown (with oil and butter first) and turned to get some good dark brown crust. Then onions are added plus more garlic and fresh ginger, then a plethora of additional spices. And some canned crushed tomatoes, more Kashmiri chile powder too and CREAM. Oh yes, the cream. An integral part of chicken curry in my book. The mixture is simmered briefly, then the chicken is added back in and simmered some more. Don’t let it get dry – add water if needed. That simmering time gives those flavors an opportunity to bloom throughout the sauce.

Meanwhile, I made a batch of rice in my Instant Pot (so easy — 2 cups rice, 2 1/2 cups water, 1 tsp salt; pressure for 3 minutes, rest for 10 and it’s done to perfection). That’s the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. Into that bowl it went with a couple of spoonsful of the curry on top and some chopped cilantro. That was dinner. Since my granddaughter Taylor has moved back home, I’ve been making a few things that I knew she didn’t like – specifically curry!

What’s GOOD: everything minute thing about this dish was fantastic. Can’t use enough superlatives here. Full of flavors – you can’t pick them out, just a beautiful homogenous sauce with abundant flavor.

What’s NOT: only if you don’t like curry or spices (several of my friends do not). Oh well, more for me!!

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Chicken Makhani

Recipe By: Adapted from an online recipe
Servings: 8

MARINADE:
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — or breasts, if preferred
2/3 cup plain yogurt — full or 2%
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — very finely minced
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chile powder
1 teaspoon salt
SAUCE:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter — or ghee
2 large onions — coarsely chopped
3 whole garlic cloves — minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — very finely minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
28 ounces crushed tomatoes, canned
1 1/2 teaspoons Kashmiri chile powder
2 teaspoons salt — or more if needed
3 whole curry leaves — optional
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon kasoori methi — (dried fenugreek leaves)
4 tablespoons cilantro — chopped, for garnish

1. In a large plastic Ziploc bag, mix all the ingredients in the marinade – squeeze the mixture in the bag until you cannot see any streaks of spices or yogurt, then add the chicken, cut up into bite-sized pieces. Squish the bag several times to distribute the marinade throughout the chicken; allow chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or up to overnight.
2. Heat half of the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add chicken pieces (including the sticky yogurt marinade on the chicken) in several batches, making sure to not crowd the pan. Fry on each side for 2-3 minutes maximum, just until the chicken is browned some. Remove chicken and continue browning remaining chicken. The chicken is not fully cooked here, but will finish cooking in the sauce. Some of the yogurt marinade will stick to the pan, scrape it loose and leave it in the pan.
3. Heat remaining oil and butter in the same pan. Fry the onions until they start to sweat, about 5 minutes, scraping any more browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pan.
4. Add garlic and ginger and sauté for one minute until fragrant, then add ground coriander, cumin and garam masala. Let cook for about 20 seconds until fragrant, stirring constantly.
5. Add crushed tomatoes, Kashmiri chili powder and salt. Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens and becomes a deep brown red color.
6. Remove from heat, scoop mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. You may need to do this in two batches, and add about 3 tablespoons of water (or more) to each batch to allow the thickened mixture to puree.
7. Pour sauce back into the pan. Stir in the cream and crushed kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves). Add the chicken with juices back into the pan and cook over low heat (simmer) for an additional 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick and bubbling. Don’t allow the mixture to get dry; if needed add water to keep it more fluid.
8. Instant Pot Rice: 2 cups basmati rice, rinsed, 2 1/2 cups water, 1 tsp salt; pressure for 3 minutes; rest for 10 and it’s done.
8. Serve curry with rice, naan and garnish the curry with chopped cilantro.
Per Serving: 538 Calories; 41g Fat (66.4% calories from fat); 32g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 220mg Cholesterol; 1317mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 124mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 471mg Potassium; 107mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on July 21st, 2022.

It’s all about the SAUCE. I’ll say it again – – it’s all about the sauce on it.

A post from Carolyn. Can you ever have enough recipes for roasting a chicken? I have a bunch, and this one will get put right at or near the top, because of the ever-so delicious vinaigrette that you pour over the chicken and drizzle on your servings.

My friend Sue (Colorado Sue, that I visited on my recent trip) made this chicken for dinner one night when I stayed with them. It’s a very, very simple recipe, and the chicken was perfectly cooked and tender, juicy.  The original recipe came from a Martha Stewart Living magazine in 2012.

First the chicken is patted dry, then rubbed all over with EVOO plus salt and pepper. Into a rimmed baking pan it goes. The original recipe called for fingerling potatoes to be roasted alongside the chicken, and that’s how Sue prepared it. Since I try not to eat potatoes, I used Brussels sprouts and zucchini instead. But you can add the potatoes if preferred. Notes for that are in the recipe below.

First, the chicken is roasted at 425°F for 15 minutes. Hot! Then, I added the vegetables  and continued to bake at 375°F for 25 minutes. The pan was turned around, the veggies stirred, and back into the oven it went for about another 35 minutes (that’s how long it took for me) until the thigh meat registered 165°F using an instant read thermometer.

There, above is the finished chicken, pulled off onto a cutting board with some of the luscious lemon, garlic, parsley and Parm sauce spread around.  I didn’t waste too much of that good sauce on the skin, however, as I don’t eat skin . . . but I did pour a bit of the sauce onto my serving (at left). You won’t believe how wonderful it tastes with the tangy lemon, salt from the cheese, and parsley, with EVOO and lemon juice. So good.

What’s GOOD: the lemony flavor, oh and garlic, and Parm. Oh so good.

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever.

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Roasted Chicken with Lemon, Garlic, Parsley and Parmesan Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe
Servings: 6

CHICKEN:
3 1/2 pounds whole chicken
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup Italian parsley
1 lemon — halved
1 pound Brussels sprouts — halved (if small, leave whole)
3 whole zucchini — cut in large chunks
SAUCE:
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 cup Italian parsley
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon — zested (2 teaspoons) and juiced (1 1/2 tablespoons or more to taste)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt — coarse
1 Pinch red chili flakes

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place chicken, breast side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub with 2 tablespoons oil; season generously with salt and pepper. Place parsley and 1 lemon half in cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen twine.
2. Toss Brussels sprouts and zucchini with 2 tablespoons oil. Drizzle with juice from remaining lemon half. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove chicken from oven and add vegetables alongside the chicken. Put chicken back into oven. Reduce temperature to 375°F; roast for 25 minutes. Rotate pan, toss vegetables, and cook until chicken is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F, about 25-35 minutes more. Let chicken and veggies stand for 10 minutes. Remove chicken to cutting board and carve. Place on a heated platter and serve with vegetables alongside.
4. SAUCE: Combine all sauce ingredients. After the chicken has rested for 10 minutes, brush sauce on chicken and drizzle on vegetables, and serve more sauce in a pitcher at the table. Trust me: it’s all about the sauce.
NOTES: This recipe originally started with just chicken and potatoes. If you wish to add about a pound of fingerling potatoes (halved, oiled), use a large enough roasting pan to accommodate all of the vegetables. Add potatoes from the beginning, then add vegetables after the first 15 minutes of baking.
Per Serving (assuming you eat all of the sauce and chicken skin): 891 Calories; 69g Fat (69.3% calories from fat); 55g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 244mg Cholesterol; 532mg Sodium; 5g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 155mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 1150mg Potassium; 536mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, Pork, Veggies/sides, on May 20th, 2022.

An easy, easy dinner for two. Sheetpan suppers are just the best!

A post from Carolyn.  I’d bought some fresh chicken sausages (with jalapeno in them) and was contemplating what I’d do with them, and since I also had asparagus, zucchini and sweet potatoes, a recipe was born. Many years ago I started buying a seasoning packet from Urban Accents. They had (and still do have) several varieties, but my favorite is the one for vegetables. You can buy their packets on amazon. See photo at right. The one I used was the middle one with Parmesan in it. Each bag or box of these has several smaller packets inside – I used one packet for the sheet pan’s worth of food. You could use pork sausages in this rendition too – Italian would be perfect. I was trying to go a more healthy route with the chicken.

I have a chart I downloaded from the ‘net about how long it takes to roast just about every kind of vegetable. The sweet potatoes would take the longest. And the sausages too. I tossed them with some EVOO and they went into a 425°F oven. After 20 minutes, I took out the pan and added the zucchini, also oiled with EVOO and sprinkled with seasoning. It went back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, then I added the oiled asparagus and the rest of the seasoning and baked again for another 10 minutes – I checked the veggies and they needed another 5 minutes and everything was done. It might depend on how thick the asparagus was, and how thickly you cut the zucchini.

If you wanted something to serve with the sausages – try a variety of mustards (hot, sweet, stone ground) or some salsa, or marinara sauce, or mix up a little bit of sour cream with a little speck of horseradish in it. What can I tell you? This was so easy to make and it was SO delicious.

What’s GOOD: how easy it was to put together on the sheetpan and it cooked in less than an hour. All the veggies were perfectly cooked – crisp tender veggies- and the sausage just right. Love the Urban Accents seasoning to put on it all. Do buy some if you don’t already have it in your pantry (amazon link above).

What’s NOT: only that you need to have some of that seasoning on hand. I always do have it.

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Sheetpan Chicken Sausages with Veggies

Recipe By: My own recipe
Serving Size: 3

1 pound fresh chicken sausage — links, fresh, not pre-cooked type, or substitute pork sausages if desired
2 medium sweet potatoes
3 medium zucchini
1/2 pound fresh asparagus
3 tablespoons EVOO
1 packet Urban Accents Veggie Roaster seasonings

NOTE: many butchers now make various chicken sausages with flavors like jalapeno, Italian, Thai, spinach/feta, garlic, spicy Mexican, or with cheese and flavoring. You do not want pre-cooked sausage for this sheetpan dinner as they would be overcooked.
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a sheet pan with a baking mat or with foil.
2. Prepare the vegetables by peeling and chopping the sweet potatoes in chunky half rounds. Cut the ends off the zucchini and cut into chunky rounds or half rounds, depending on how big around they are. Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus.
3. Place the sausages and sweet potatoes on the sheet pan. Drizzle with EVOO and toss around to cover them in oil. Bake for about 20 minutes.
4. Remove pan, add the zucchini to the pan, drizzle with olive oil and toss lightly and sprinkle the entire sheet pan with most of the seasoning packet. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Remove pan and add the asparagus, tossed lightly with EVOO and sprinkled with the last of the seasoning. Return to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes, making sure you don’t overcook the asparagus. Test the zucchini and asparagus – you want them to be just barely tender.
5. Remove veggies and sausages and serve on a big platter. Serve with hot or spicy mustard on the side (for the sausages) or marinara sauce, salsa, or a mixture of sour cream and horseradish.
QUICK ROASTING INSTRUCTIONS at 425°:
Sausages and sweet potatoes – 20 minutes
Add Zucchini – 12-15 minutes
Add Asparagus – 10 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus
Check for just barely tender zucchini and asparagus
Per Serving: 296 Calories; 17g Fat (50.4% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 25mg Cholesterol; 295mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 76mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 957mg Potassium; 155mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, easy, on April 14th, 2022.

Elegant dinner but super easy. You’d think it’s complicated and time consuming, but it’s really not. 

A post from Carolyn.  Someone asked me recently what chefs I follow . .. . my answer? I don’t really follow many chefs. Probably my two favorite food TV shows are Ina Garten and Rachael Ray. Neither of them are professionally trained. They’re both excellent cooks who make very approachable food. Do I have cookbooks from famous chefs? Yes, I do, but I can’t say I turn to them all that often for inspiration. I love reading cookbooks, however.

So, a few weeks ago I was watching a Rachael Ray show and she made these delicious little  morsels and I couldn’t wait to try it. Since I always have chicken thighs in my freezer, and I always keep shallots on hand, it was an easy “yes” that I’d make them. She explained that this recipe is Canadian and on a trip she saw a recipe in a magazine and tore it out and probably made it her own somehow. She thought these tournedos were worthy of even a wedding dinner. And I would agree. They’re really fabulous.

I changed just two things in her recipe: (1) I spread a bit of mustard on the insides of the chicken thighs; and (2) I added a little splash of cream to the sauce. You can certainly eliminate both of those if you want to be true to Rachael’s recipe. Usually tournedos refer to beef, but the word refers to the shape, I think (normally it’s beef tenderloin). So someone, ingeniously, decided to try the techniques with chicken.

So first you spread the inside of the chicken thighs with grainy mustard. The first thigh you mold (as best you can) in a roll, a log shape. Then drape the other thigh over the first one. Then wrap the bacon slice (use thick sliced if you can) around the outside edge and loop kitchen twine to tie it. It’s a little awkward getting the bacon in the right place and the twine just in the middle and then tied properly. Just takes a little bit of fussing. The chicken is sprayed with oil or some kind of spray and baked for a mere 30 minutes, until the chicken reaches 165°F. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure you don’t overcook them.

Meanwhile, make the sauce – butter shallots, sherry, mustard, maple syrup, Worcestershire and cream. Some is poured over the chicken, and the rest you can serve on the table. Poppy seeds are sprinkled on the top (kind of an unusual garnish for chicken, I thought) but it looks good.

What’s GOOD: everything about this is good – the moist chicken, the lovely bacon flavor and the sauce. Altogether wonderful. Easy too.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

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Canadian Chicken Tournedos with Creamy Sherry Sauce

Recipe By: Adapted from Rachael Ray (her original recipe)
Serving Size: 4

CHICKEN:
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 slices bacon — very meaty
Kitchen string
Olive oil cooking spray
SAUCE:
3 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots — finely chopped
1/2 cup dry sherry — or white wine
2 tablespoons hot English mustard — or grainy Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons maple syrup — or smoked maple syrup
Splash of Worcestershire sauce — optional
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1. Preheat oven to 400°F, with rack in center.
2. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Roll 4 pieces tightly into cigar-like logs, then drape the top of each cigar-shaped piece with the remaining pieces of boneless thighs and form a round shape like a firm bun. Wrap the side edges of each chicken “bun” with 1 slice of bacon. Secure the bacon to the chicken “bun” by snugly tying a piece of kitchen twine around the bacon. Arrange the chicken on a parchment-lined medium-sized baking sheet, then lightly spray or drizzle with olive oil, transfer to preheated oven and bake 30 minutes, to 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. A few minutes before the chicken is done, top with the glaze and return to the oven.
3. Heat a sauce pot or small skillet over medium heat, add butter and sauté shallots seasoned with salt and pepper for 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add sherry and reduce to 3 tablespoons, add mustard, maple syrup and a splash of Worcestershire sauce, then cream and swirl a minute or so. Pour some of the sauce over the chicken tournedos and baste to coat evenly. Return chicken to the oven to finish cooking and to set the glaze, just a couple of minutes.
4. To serve, remove string from the chicken. Top the glazed tournedos with poppy seeds and serve with remaining sauce on the side.
Per Serving: 693 Calories; 44g Fat (56.8% calories from fat); 60g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 332mg Cholesterol; 992mg Sodium; 11g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 99mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 196mg Potassium; 110mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, Grilling, on February 20th, 2022.

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Do you ever wish you could make something that is just bursting with lemon flavor? And garlic too? Throw in rosemary as well?

A post from Carolyn. Since I didn’t name this recipe, I guess I really shouldn’t re-name it; even so, it would be difficult to do, because these three flavors (lemon, garlic, rosemary) are just all there. Equally so. I think the lemon is predominant, however.

My friend Dianne made this chicken for the luncheon I told you about in my last post (for the classic rice pilaf – that went with this chicken). She told me that a few years ago her grown kids and grandkids were visiting and her daughter said “what’s for dinner,” and Dianne suggested they try one of the recipes from Zov’s (a local restaurant). It’s since become a favorite in her family and whenever they visit, it’s a regular on the menu. The recipe comes from Zov’s cookbook, Zov: Recipes and Memories from the Heart. It was published in 2005, (also updated in 2008) but it’s still available. Zov is Armenian by heritage and her recipes certainly reflect the Mediterranean and beyond culture and cuisine.

So, the recipe uses boneless, skinless chicken breast halves. Dianne pounds them to an even thickness (so you get even cooking on the grill). Then they’re marinated for about 24 hours. The recipe indicates you can marinate them a shorter period, or even longer, but Dianne likes the 24 hours as a regular benchmark. They are patted dry with paper towels, then grilled swiftly over a medium-high grill heat. Then she carefully slices them on the diagonal (so you get slightly wider slices than when cutting straight down). Put them onto a heated platter (because they cool very quickly) and serve immediately. Do put some fresh rosemary and a wedge or two of lemon on the platter when serving  – it looks so pretty.

Dianne made more than enough of this, so when we were divvying up the leftovers, she generously let me have a bunch. My granddaughter Taylor and I had two dinner meals with the leftovers, and still had more for some evening dinner salads with the chopped up cold chicken on top.

What’s GOOD: the flavors are, as I mentioned, just bursting through. Does that tell you enough – the lemon, the garlic and the rosemary. Absolutely delicious. So worth making.

What’s NOT: only that you must plan ahead at least 24 hours to get the most out of the marinating.

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Rosemary Garlic Chicken with Lemon

Recipe By: Zov Karamardian, Zov’s Bistro
Serving Size: 8

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary — chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
8 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
Italian parsley or rosemary sprigs, for garnish lemon wedges, for garnish

1. Place chicken breast (firm side up) on a piece of plastic wrap and cover with a second piece. Gently pound chicken with a flat pounder until chicken is an even thickness. Repeat for remaining chicken pieces.
2. Whisk lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and oil in a large bowl to blend. Add chicken and toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate, tossing occasionally, for at least one hour or up to two days.
3. Prepare barbecue for medium-high heat. Grill chicken breasts until they are just cooked through and golden brown, about 3 minutes on the first side, and about 1 minute on the 2nd side. Test the interior temperature with an instant read thermometer – it should not exceed 160°F. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and slice chicken on a slant into long strips then transfer chicken to a heated platter. Ganish with parsley or rosemary and lemon wedges.
Per Serving: 350 Calories; 17g Fat (44.0% calories from fat); 48g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 151mg Cholesterol; 1277mg Sodium; trace Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 19mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 804mg Potassium; 472mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Chicken, on January 21st, 2022.

Butter Chicken is a favorite of mine, and this version of it is SO very easy, you simply won’t believe it. Everything for this dinner is cooked right in the Instant Pot.

A post from Carolyn. My Instant Pot sits on a shelf in my laundry room (mostly because I don’t have room in my kitchen for it), but it gets a pretty good workout even so. And this recipe is going to make your day. It’s so very easy, and dinner is ready in a flash – truly, under 30 minutes. This recipe came from Food52, from Urvashi Pitre. She’s known as “The Butter Chicken Lady,” and rightly so. She’s a celebrated author of numerous instant pot cookbooks, and let me just say, this recipe is a winner. I’ve followed her blog for several years (called twosleevers.com), and have made a few of her recipes in the past, but it’s for this one that she’s the most famous. She even got a write-up in the New York Times.

Her title for this recipe is “Now and Later Instant Pot Butter Chicken.” That’s because when you make this, you’ll end up with about 1 1/2 cups of extra sauce, which you’ll save (and freeze perhaps) to use with some other leftovers another night. What I love about this recipe is that into the instant pot you combine the canned tomatoes, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cayenne (or Kashmiri chile powder in my case), paprika, salt, cumin and garam masala. You stir it just a bit, add the chicken thighs, stir that just a bit so the chicken is coated in the flavorful sauce.

Meanwhile, you will use a small glass or ceramic bowl (that will fit into the Instant Pot) to which you’ll add basmati rice, water, butter and salt. After placing a trivet (I used the instant pot trivet that has the two handles) on top of the chicken, you place the rice bowl on top. Put the IP lid on top and pressure cook the chicken for 10 minutes. Then you let it sit for 10 minutes, undisturbed. Release the pressure, remove the bowl of rice (now fully cooked) with the trivet handles, remove the chicken to a bowl (large enough so you can pull apart the chicken easily). The sauce on the bottom of the Instant Pot gets smoothed out with an immersion blender, which takes about 20 seconds or so, then you add cream (or coconut milk), 4 T of butter and some chopped cilantro plus another teaspoon of garam masala. Your butter chicken is done. Put the chicken back in the pot and stir it around, and serve with the rice.

What’s GOOD: how absolutely simple this is. It’s genius, as they say at Food52. This is going to become my go-to butter chicken recipe henceforth! Only thing I might do differently is add some chopped up onion to the mixture. Not sure that’s authentic, but I’ll try it that way next time. I served it with some steamed broccoli on the side.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – such a simple dish, easy and flavorful.

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Instant Pot Butter Chicken with Rice

Recipe By: adapted very slightly from Food52
Serving Size: 5

RICE:
1 cup basmati rice — rinsed
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
BUTTER CHICKEN:
14 ounces diced tomatoes — undrained
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon kashmiri chile powder — or more to taste, or cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garam masala — divided use
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound chicken thigh without skin — boneless, left whole
4 ounces butter — cut into cubes (use coconut oil, if making this dairy free)
4 ounces heavy cream — or use full-fat coconut milk
1/3 cup chopped cilantro — using some to garnish

NOTE: This recipe makes more sauce than is needed for the dish. Originally it was called “Now and Later Instant Pot Butter Chicken” because you serve it the first time for 4-5 people, then you have about a cup and a half of the sauce to freeze, or to use in some other dish for some other leftovers.
1. Combine all the ingredients for the rice, place in a 6 or 7-inch heat-safe pan or dish (that will fit in the Instant Pot, with room for the rice to expand), and set aside.
2. Place tomatoes, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, salt, 1 teaspoon of the garam masala, and cumin into the Instant Pot. Mix the sauce a bit, then place the chicken on top of the sauce and stir around a little to coat the chicken. You are putting in everything except the butter, cream, cilantro, and 1 remaining teaspoon of garam masala.
3. Place a steamer rack/trivet on top of the chicken mixture, and place the uncovered bowl of uncooked rice on the rack. Make it as level as possible.
4. Pressure cook for 10 minutes.
5. Once it is done cooking, allow the pot to cool for 10 minutes, undisturbed. Then, release all remaining pressure and open the pot. Remove and set the cooked rice aside (cover it if you want to keep it super-hot). Remove the chicken and set aside.
6. Using an immersion blender, blend together the sauce until it is smooth. Let the sauce cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the cut-up butter, cream, cilantro, and garam masala.
7. Remove half the sauce and freeze or refrigerate for later.
8. Break up the chicken into bite-size pieces, add it to the sauce. Serve with rice. Add more cilantro on top if desired.
Per Serving: 431 Calories; 33g Fat (68.4% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 163mg Cholesterol; 960mg Sodium; 3g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 50mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 480mg Potassium; 219mg Phosphorus.

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