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Sara

 

Sara and me

I participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny something to me if you purchase any books I recommend, or products that I buy and feature on my food blog. 

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Sarah Steele wrote a quite intricate book – probably more interesting to a woman anyway – called The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon. A young woman going through a breakup of her marriage, and the death of her grandmother, finds a box in the relative’s wardrobe. In it are fabric swatches attached to dress patterns, and a postcard of a woman wearing the dress. It’s all quite mysterious. Florence decides she should re-create the dresses and the journeys. Quite an interesting theme for a book, and it’s well done here. Travel to the Riviera is included, and some fun encounters with new friends. Well worth reading.

I’ve been a fan of C.J. Box for several years. Have read most of his books. Mysteries of a sheriff in Wyoming, solving murders, usually. Box has a gift of suspense. This new book, Long Range (A Joe Pickett Novel) This one starts with the after-effects of a deadly grizzly bear attack, then extends to the murder of a judge’s wife. All interconnected, and complicated. The book was too short . . . I always want more.

Tracy Chevalier has written another fascinating book . . . A Single Thread: A Novel. The time period is between the wars, Britain. So many spinsters were left following the war, and Violet doesn’t want to become an embittered woman, caring for her angry, feeble and declining mother. So she moves on to Winchester. She works at a ho-hum job, but also becomes a volunteer at the Cathedral (ever been there? gorgeous), helping to make needlepoint kneeling pads. There are traditions even for kneeling pads (yes, really), and Violet takes this very seriously. There’s a love story woven into the fabric of this story too, and how Violet blooms and grows. Chevalier has a way with words. A good read.

An unusual book, The Weight of a Piano: A novel by Chris Cander. It begins in 1962 in Russia, a young girl is gifted a Blüthner piano. She has real skill and hopes to keep it forever. Yet, once she marries, she must leave it behind when she emigrates to the U.S. Thence the story begins, of what happens to the piano, its interim stops (even a bit about how the piano feels –  yes, some surrealism here). And about how it survives the voyage to America itself. I don’t want to give it away. You’ll learn a LOT about pianos and equally as much about Blüthner ones, how they’re made. The book does not have a happy ending – at least not in my opinion, if that’s something that’s important to you. Quite a story; and again, unusual.

Erik Larson’s tome, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. This book covers the “reign” of Winston Churchill during the height of WWII. You’ll learn so much more about him. About the war. About the inner workings of the British government, including political. I’m a great admirer of the late Mr. Churchill. One of my more recent trips to England I visited Chartwell, the family home and where Winston died. If you’ve never been there, do add it to your itinerary next time. Beautiful grounds, including the small studio he used to paint.

Ken Follett is one of my fav authors, and I pre-ordered his newest, The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge), which is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel (Kingsbridge), my all-time favorite book I’ve ever read in my life. Time period: 975 to about 1007 or so. Give or take. It follows a poor, but eager and intelligent builder as he earns his trade. It’s about his loves. His failures. The families all around, and much about the ever-present church (and its leaders, some honest, many not). Could hardly put the book down. Love Follett’s style of writing.

Every so often I read a romance of some kind. Historical ones mostly. And most I don’t include them here. But one I liked a lot is The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant. It happens to be very inexpensive right now on amazon, on Kindle, in case you’re interested. It jumps from 1538 and to 2019. Having to do with a precious book, a Book of Hours, and what secrets it contains. The growing of saffron plays large here and both romance in Tudor times and a tenuous marriage in current time, but nearly all of it takes place at a Tudor castle. Loved the book.

The book Where the Blind Horse Sings: Love and Healing at an Animal Sanctuary shares the story of a number of animals brought to an animal sanctuary in the Catskills. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy the stories, each animal bringing more to the human-animal relationship than you might even guess. Profound stories of love of animals. Not a long book; I think I got it as a bargain book from bookbub.

The title caught my attention on this one: Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman. She’s written her own autobiography, beginning when she was a young child in Pakistan, to her eventual settling in New York. It’s about the Muslim experience. Their beliefs, their customs and traditions, told in a very pleasing and informational way. She marries in American Pakistani Muslim (an arranged marriage) and it’s the story of everything. Nothing much is left out of the journey she made, and still makes. She became a kind of activist for her religion, trying to bring Muslim customs to integrate into American culture (not always an easy task). Her husband is a doctor; she a hospital administrator. Likely you’ll learn more than you thought about Muslims. Very well written. Enjoyed it very much.

Finished Chinn’s story, The English Wife. What a great read. Could hardly put it down. I’m reading 3-4 books a week these days, and am so happy when I have a book I can’t wait to get back to. Really the story is about two sisters. Partly in Norwich, England, then in Newfoundland. One there, one here. And some of it takes place during WWII in Norwich, and much of it Newfoundland, then, and more recent. I loved the part of the book that took place on 9/11 when flights were diverted to Newfoundland. Family secrets, family lies, much anger between the sisters. There’s romance. There’s war. There is love of family. Particularly I savored the descriptions of Newfoundland, mostly rock, if you’ve never been there. It’s a twisted tale, by that I mean the family secrets which become the undoing. It’s a bargain on amazon right now, as I write this.

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. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. 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. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

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. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

Jamie Ford has written another good one, Love and Other Consolation Prizes. Remember, he wrote The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Loved that book. This one takes on a rather ugly part of America’s past, when Chinese people were treated like trinkets. Ernest Young is such a boy, who ends up being a “prize” at an event, and with great angst, ends up as a kind of servant at a high-class bordello in Seattle. Yet, the women and girls there become HIS family. He is intelligent and learns many lessons. Eventually, when society women battle to close down such houses of ill repute, he leaves that life, with his wife. They have children. The bulk of the book is about the early years around the turn of the 20th century, then you pick up the threads nearing the end of his life, and his wife’s. There are any number of small mysteries, which unravel with a word here or there – you know that word foreshadowing? Really interesting read.

In between more literary novels, I bought a comedic memoir . . . Juliette Sobanet’s Meet Me in Paris. There’s the falling apart of a marriage (and divorce), but in the inbetween, she decides to take a trip (sans husband) around Europe to get her head straight. The kind of tour that would drive me crazy, but it was one night, maybe two at each major city. She knew no one, but soon enough bonds with  three other women. Then she has a chance-meeting of a young Frenchman who had been an exchange student in her home town. They’d lost touch, yet there were definitely sparks there, never realized. Some of the touristy stuff was trite, I must say, although the women do try to take in all the major sites, if only for a few minutes. There is plenty of humor. Some steamy stuff too as she meets up with the young man in another city. Apparently it’s a happy-ever-after story. Great literature it is not, but it was a fun romp, so to speak.

Recently finished Thomas Nelson’s The Hideaway. It seems like there are SO many novels out there about families finding, inheriting or otherwise going to an old house with memories. Especially ones on the water. With stories to tell. It’s a great way to introduce some light mystery to the telling of some other family story. In this case it’s Sara’s grandmother who was enigmatic in every way. And Sara inherits the run-down, ramshackle B&B on Mobile Bay. Cute story with lots of twists and turns.

Also just finished James Conroyd Martin’s Fortune’s Child: A Novel of Empress Theodora (Book 1 of 2). Theodora grew up the daughter of a circus performer, but then moved onto “the boards,” as acting was called back in Byzantine times (Constantinople, 6th century). She always had high expectations – she just “knew” she was going to accomplish great things. She was an occasional prostitute, a mistress, and then, behold, the son of Emperor Justin is mesmerized by her beauty, takes her on, and makes her his wife, amid much royal machinations. A young eunuch also plays large in the story too, a man hopelessly in love with Thea, but knows his love can never be returned or fulfilled. He becomes an historian to the Empress. Quite a story – much of it chronicles her early life and not a lot of it in Constantinople. But riveting story.

I’m doing SO much reading of late. Read this book in one day. The Glass Hotel: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Loosely based on the story of Bernie Madoff (Ponzi scheme), it tells a novelized version of a man with incredible power and charisma who gathers a group of willing partners. It’s about the people he cuckolded, and the people who took him down. At the beginning drugs come into play and I almost didn’t continue, but that was a very short section. Well worth reading. Lots to discuss if you’re looking for a book club read.

Once in awhile I read a poignant animal story, as you know if you’ve followed this sidebar for any length of time. Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other by Craig Gross, tells the story of his military duty in Afghanistan, in a war zone. And how his unit befriended a dog, a stray, and how that dog really did become his lifeline.

Cara Wall’s new book, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel. It tells the story of two couples. The two husbands become co-pastors of a New York City church. The wives? Oh my, are they ever different. They don’t abide. The husbands try to get a grip on their jobs, pastoring, preaching, and keeping the wives happy.

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s humorous memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment: Chennai, India. They spent two years there, with his much-loved wife going off to do diplomatic duties (albeit at a low level – everyone must pay their dues at the beginning) and Greg is left at home to deal with the servants, the house, the beggars, the nanny, the construction next door, shopping, and also partly caring for their infant.

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.

Shirley Ann Grau’s book, The Keepers of the House. Hmmm. Much to think about. [from an amazon review]: There is a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Seven generations of Howlands have lived on this rural Alabama plantation in good times and bad. It tells the story of this family from the time its patriarch settled the land in the early 1800s to the mid-20th century.

Marie Martin wrote Harbored Secrets. From amazon: In May of 1935, Blinny Platt’s homestead shack burns to the ground forever leaving her family asunder, scattering them like the embers flew on the Montana wind. She was only 8, sent away and in charge of her little sister. She could handle that because Platts take care of Platts. However, it is the hidden secrets of her parents smoldering beneath the charred remains that haunts Blinny until 1982.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called 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. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

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.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

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. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

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, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee. Everyone should read this one.

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. DIdn’t like it much, but others do.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What 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 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.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

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.

Posted in Chicken, Essays, on August 29th, 2017.

Cooked Chicken Temperature ThermoWorks Thermapen Pink Bloody

I just read a really GOOD article about the whys and wherefores of cooking chicken – pink or not – red bones or not. It’s a definitive article about what IS the right temperature. We’re supposed to disregard color altogether. I could have copied and pasted it here, but it’s lengthy. In a nutshell, use temperature only as your guide – 165°F for white meat, 170°F for dark meat. But, go to the website and read it:

The article at ThermoWorks. These are the folks that manufacture my ThermaPen that I love so much. (They happen to be having a sale on slightly damaged, [cosmetic], or returned and refurbished units if you’re interested – for $63, a huge bargain.)

Posted in Chicken, on August 5th, 2017.

grilled_chile_chix_strawb_salsa_lime_crema

That photo doesn’t do justice to this easy grilled chicken dish. This chicken was very easy to put together and was so nice with the strawberry salsa and the lime cream on top.

On the spur of the moment I invited 2 widow friends over for dinner and asked if we could do a potluck. One brought a nice green salad (with mandarin oranges and sliced almonds in it) and the other friend brought a tiny little chocolate cake (made from a Duncan Hines boxed mix that comes with the frosting). I had some cream of cucumber soup that I’d made the day before, so after having a glass of Trader Joe’s peach bellini and a few bites of Brie, served with my Roasted Figs that I’d kept in the freezer, I grilled this chicken.

A few hours before I made the marinade (easy), the strawberry salsa (easy) and the lime cream (super easy). The chicken was in the marinade for about 2 hours total. I am still learning how to grill, since my DH was the grillmeister in my house. I’ve had to learn. My most trusted tool is my instant read thermometer, and it was spot on with this, when the chicken reached about 152°F. I served the two condiments so my guests could add what they wanted. I sliced wide strips of the hot grilled chicken and piled them onto a very hot plate. Dinner was lovely. The company was fun and happy. We laughed and enjoyed the view outside my dining room windows. As I write this, it’s been stinkin’ hot and humid (so much so that we’ve been having tropical showers), so we had to eat inside. A couple of days ago it was nearly 100°F, which is very hot for July. My A/C has been running nearly 24/7. As much as I hate keeping the air on nearly all the time (it’s expensive first of all), I have decided I want to be comfortable. End of story.

I’d definitely make this again. It’s a recipe from a 2005 cooking class I took with Phillis Carey. I changed just a few things from her recipe. I used jalapeno chile instead of serrano (serranos are hotter); I cut down on the quantity of chile in the marinade and the salsa (because I didn’t think my guests would want so much chile-heat). I used strawberry balsamic vinegar (because I had some) in the salsa, and I used sherry vinegar in the marinade instead of raspberry (straight) vinegar (because I didn’t have any). We DO have to improvise, right?  I pounded the chicken breasts to an even thickness of about 1/2”, and they grilled perfectly in about 4 minutes per side on a medium-heat grill. The only mistake I made was not oiling the grill grate before starting, so the chicken stuck a little bit. No big deal, though.

What’s GOOD: the chicken was super tender and juicy. If you remove it from the grill when it reaches about 150-152°F, you’re sure to have juicy chicken. Past 155°F and it’ll be more dry. I loved the strawberry salsa – so “summer” and picnic-y if there is such a thing. Next time I’ll add more lime zest to the cream (I doubled the amount in the recipe below). It made a lovely presentation.

What’s NOT: nary a thing, really. You do have to make the salsa and the crema, but neither one takes much time to do. Even the chicken marinade took very little time.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Chile Chicken Breasts with Lime Crema

Recipe By: Adapted a little from a Phillis Carey class, 2005
Serving Size: 6

CHICKEN:
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 whole serrano chile — minced (or jalapeno)
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar — or sherry vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
LIME CREMA:
1 cup Mexican crema — “Cacique” brand (green lid) or sour cream
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
STRAWBERRY SALSA:
3 cups fresh strawberries — diced
3 tablespoons fresh mint — minced
3 tablespoons sugar
1 serrano chile — or jalapeno
1/2 cup red onion — minced
3 tablespoons strawberry balsamic vinegar — or other fruit balsamic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. CHICKEN: Trim and pound breast to an even 1/2 inch thickness.
2. In a ziploc plastic bag add chile, garlic, chili powder, vinegar, olive oil and S&P. Add chicken, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours. Remove from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Rub an oil-soaked paper towel over the grill. Grill chicken 3-4 minutes per side to cook through. Chicken breasts are done when they’ve reached about 150-152°F.
3. CREMA: Stir lime zest and juice into crema. Refrigerate a few hours, or up to 4 hours.
4. SALSA: Place strawberries, mint and sugar in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Add chile, onion and vinegar; toss together lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Let salsa rest at room temp for at least 20 minutes before serving. Spoon over chicken and top with lime crema. Note: Serve with black beans or cilantro rice.
Per Serving : 390 Calories; 23g Fat (53.8% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 85mg Cholesterol; 104mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Sous Vide, on June 14th, 2017.

sous_vide_red_chile_chicken

I know most of you don’t have a sous vide, so just skip this one. But if you do, you DO need to try this recipe. It’s a winner.

Now that I’m a family of one, I don’t use my sous vide very often. My DH and I were just at the point of perfecting steak on the barbecue, but pre-cooked in the sous vide. I very rarely make steak for myself (alone), but if I did, I might try it again. Sometimes it’s just easier to use the older method (searing, then putting it off-heat in the barbecue, closed, until it reached about 120°, then quickly searing it again for a minute of so until it reached 125-128°F).

Anyway, I’ve subscribed to Milk Street, the new magazine from Chris Kimball (formerly the geeky guy from Cook’s Illustrated – he started the company many years ago). He got ousted by their board and started up his own, very similar business model. No TV shows yet, but they say it’s coming. The magazine is different than C.I. in that the articles are shorter, and it’s filled with color photos, which I like. It’s the identical format (shape, size and frequency of issues) and I also listen to the podcasts from the new Milk Street kitchens.

Image result for ancho chilesSo, anyway, the May-June issue had a double-spread about sous vide. In it J.M. Hirsch writes that you can make a perfect poached egg in 45 minutes at 145°F. I may have to try that one. There are much cheaper sous vide instruments (using your own container) than when I bought mine. Mine was several hundred dollars. New immersion pods start at $79 (Sous Smart) and $129 (Anova). And another new one that uses a phone app to run it (they liked that one a lot, called Joules) for $199. They perfected this chicken recipe and it sounded so intriguing I just had to try it. I halved the below recipe (using one packet of boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Costco, which contained 2 nice-sized breasts) and I actually  used ordinary ziploc bags instead of digging out my vacuum sealer. You lower the filled bag in water until it reaches the zip portion (but it’s unzipped at this point), then press out all the air and zip it. Am not sure the zip tab type would work for this. Anyway, that worked just fine using Ziploc. Picture at left from chefsinfo.com.

sous_vide_chicken_in_bagI made one other change – I didn’t have any ancho chiles (dried) in my pantry. Anchos are dried pasilla chiles, which have such a very unique flavor. I need to get some, because I’ll be making this recipe again. So instead, I used guajillo, which are mild flavored and similar. Otherwise, I followed the recipe except for browning the chiles. Seems kind of redundant to me. The sauce you make is quite easy to do and it’s full of flavor, but hardly any heat at all. I refrigerated the chicken packets for an hour or two while I heated up the sous vide, which should have kind of marinated them. I have a rack for my sous vide and I used it to make sure the chicken packets were kept submerged completely. Timer set for 1 1/2 hours and then I made the sauce and cooked some fresh asparagus and my dinner was done.

Oh my. The chicken was SO tender, and absolutely perfectly cooked through and juicy. I could practically cut it with a fork, though I did use a knife. Loved the chile flavor, the smokiness of the dried cumin. Couldn’t taste the cinnamon. The chiles completely dissolve in the sauce (because you whiz it up in the food processor). The sauce was an absolute cinch to make and dinner was ready with a bit of cilantro on top. Don’t dilly dally once they’re done as the chicken is hot and you don’t want to eat it lukewarm. A definite make-again dish.

What’s GOOD: everything about it was good. The chicken was PERFECTLY cooked and as juicy as chicken could possibly be. Easy to do in the sous vide. You could easily make the marinade/sauce ahead of time and combine them just before cooking. I have a second packet left over and from the article I understand it will be just as tender and good as the first time. Loved the sauce – mild and very flavorful. Not hot because anchos or guajillos are mild chiles.

What’s NOT: not much unless you don’t like the hassle of cooking sous vide.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sous Vide Red Chile Chicken

Recipe By: Milk Street magazine, 2017
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or canola oil
2 ounces dried ancho peppers — stemmed and seeded
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon dried oregano — Mexican type if available
2 large garlic cloves — smashed
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
SAUCE:
2 tablespoons butter — salted if available
1 tablespoon lime juice
GARNISH:
1/3 cup cilantro — chopped

1. Preheat sous vide to 145°F. (And yes, after 1 1/2 hours of immersion, the chicken breast will be perfectly cooked, even though the water temp is below the usually accepted cooked chicken temp.)
2. In a medium skillet, heat oil until it shimmers, then add chiles and toast until lightly browned, about 20 seconds (I skipped this step). Transfer to a food processor, saving the oil in the skillet. Process until coarsely chopped (I had to tear some of the pieces into smaller ones), about 30 seconds.
3. In a small saucepan bring the water to a boil. Add the chile mixture, oregano and garlic. Cover and remove from the heat and set aside for 15 minutes.
4. In the food processor combine the sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon and the little bit of reserved chili oil from the frying pan. Add the chile-water mixture and process until smooth, about a minute, scraping the bowl as needed.
5. Place each chicken breast into a vacuum-seal bag and add an equal portion of the chile mixture to each one. Squeeze the bag a bit to coat the chicken evenly. Seal each chicken breast, then refrigerate for a few hours if time permits. If not, place breasts in sous vide. Chicken packets must remain completely under the water, not floating. Once the temperature reaches 145°F again (usually just a few minutes), set a timer for 90 minutes.
6. When chicken is cooked, remove from sous vide. Pour the juices from inside each bag into a saucepan and simmer until liquid is thickened slightly, about a minute or two. Off heat add the butter and lime juice. Serve the chicken drizzled with the sauce. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Per Serving: 322 Calories; 15g Fat (42.5% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 84mg Cholesterol; 1484mg Sodium.

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