Chicken with Lemons and Olives

I like the idea of Mediterranean cooking. I have a variety of cookbooks that are published in the UK. I go through and mark my cookbooks for the recipes I want to try. I know I have done a lemon chicken with garlic before but this is a bit different. The only garlic in this one is the garlic infused chicken broth I used.

I had not been inspired by any recipes in particular lately. We have been eating plain food: cheeseburgers on toast, frozen filet of fish, chicken pot pie, chili, grilled Italian sausages, scrambled eggs. Baking has been put off due to stomach issues and wanting to lose a bit of weight. What am I supposed to do in my kitchen?

So I wanted to put together a nice dinner. And although I had planned to make a shepherd pie I found I did not have ground meat, but did have chicken. So I looked through my Mediterranean cookbook and found this one. The combination of spices sounded so tasty. I really wanted to use the crockpot and not have to do all the cooking when I came home from work. So I got out the crockpot and just threw it all in there. Well, I made the recipe my own. Here is what I did.

  • 2 large boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup garlic-infused chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • a bit of salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped fine
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon, cut in wedges
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives

I wanted to throw everything in the crockpot and do nothing else. But I decided to briefly saute the onion with the ginger in a bit of olive oil. I then placed this in the bottom of the crockpot. I mixed the dry ingredients together and rubbed this on the chicken before placing them on top of the onion in the pot. I drizzled the honey on top and then added the broth. I set the pot on low and left it from 7:00 AM until 4:00 PM. At four I turned it down to the keep warm setting and added the lemon and olives. We ate dinner at 6:00 PM.

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I served this with a salad and couscous. I skillet toasted some walnuts and added them to the couscous along with a sprinkling of dried parsley and crumbled feta cheese. Dinner was a hit and there are leftovers for tomorrow night’s supper. Yea!

This weekend in my kitchen…

It snowed and snowed. 20 car pile up on a highway near me. Hubby has the electric cord running to the shed to start the snow-blower. It is cold and wintry. The dog romps around the yard to do his business and romps right back up the steps to the back door to come back inside.

To start the weekend we over bought the groceries. This is so easy to do at the discount grocery store. And we waited 30 minutes in the check out line because everyone was stocking up for the impending storm. Do we all forget that we live in New England and in the winter it snows? Heavy at times? With blowing wind? My excuse is that is the day and time that we usually go to the grocer.

I’m trying to get us to eat more fruits and vegetables and Hubby loves his animal protein. And the chicken breasts were $.99 per pound! I’ll be making this blogger’s recipe this week: whatsfordinnermoms slow cooker taco pasta. Sounds yummy!

With the many groceries filling up my pantry and fridge and freezer, I find that I need to use the bag of potatoes that have been languishing in the bottom of the pantry. Shepherd’s Pie for dinner. Now one can make Shepherd’s Pie all kinds of ways. I have never used minced lamb although I understand that is traditional. I use ground turkey. See, I’m trying to be healthy! Never mind that Hubby has put cheese and sour cream in the mashed potatoes!

The mire poix for the Pie is celery, onion, and red peppers (from a jar). I am using a garlic infused beef broth so I do not add any other seasonings. Saute the mire poix and then brown the ground meat. My standard ingredients for cooking include bags of frozen mixed vegetables, frozen chopped spinach, and red pepper flakes. The latter were not added to this dish but could have been. The amount of ingredients is variable depending on the amount of Pie you wish to make. I used 1 pound of ground turkey, 2 cups of mixed vegetables, 1 cup frozen spinach, 1/4 cup red peppers, 2 stalks celery, and half an onion. I add 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 1/2 cup broth and mix that in with the ingredients in the skillet. Put all of this in your baking dish. Make your standard mashed potatoes and pile on top. I baked this in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes. This is a 13 inch oval baking dish. This could feed hefty portions to a family of four or decent portions for six. It will feed Hubby and me for two meals and possibly one leftover for lunch for one.

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The beauty of this mixture is its versatility. Bake with biscuits or cornbread batter on top and it becomes Hungry Boy Casserole. Use it to fill pie crusts and it becomes Pot Pie. Add beans and chili powder and tomatoes and it becomes chili. I am certain there are numerous other dishes it could become. I’m thinking one could cook this up in advance and bag it up in freezer bags for “emergency meals” or take camping!

The next project in my kitchen this weekend was not as successful. Somewhere on FB someone posted a gluten free pancake recipe using just bananas, eggs, and cinnamon. I’m thinking pumpkin would be the same as mashed bananas and waffles can be made from pancake batter. So I give it a go. I had to add milk to thin the batter. I oiled my waffle iron and heated it according to manufacturer’s directions. Well, it did not cook up well. I had to peel it off the grid. It did not stick, it was too soft and did not crisp up. So I add 2/3 up flour, a little more milk, a 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and heat a pan to make pancakes. These were edible but mushy. I should have just made a normal waffle recipe and added the pumpkin. Live and learn.

I very much enjoy puttering around my kitchen on weekend mornings, and afternoons. I think about what ingredients I have on hand, what recipes I would like to try for both dinners and baking. I have made the seasoning mix for the slow cooker taco recipe that I will put in the crockpot Monday morning. I have several recipes I would like to try over the week and need to put those in order to enhance the possibility of follow through. I get all these great ideas but then when I come home from work during the week my motivation often lags.

What I hope to do: no bake energy bites from the King Arthur Flour website, practice making marshmallow roses to decorate a Christening cake, boil eggs to take for lunches along with salad, cut the cantaloupe so there is fruit to snack on instead of chips, and make something citrus-y out of the grapefruit, oranges, and lemons in my refrigerator.

Wish me luck and have a blessed week!

Exotic vegetables!

Just for fun: meet Leo. Hubby and I completely lost our minds after the Thanksgiving holiday and brought home this 80 pound dog from the Humane Society. He’s eleven years old and we decided we could be his forever family for the last few years of his life. He’s old and grey like us!

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In my never ending yet inconsistent quest to eat healthier I picked up some new cookbooks at my local library, one of which was Meat on the Side by Nikki Dinki (2016, St Martin’s Press). I do not know this author; I did not buy the books; this is just me experimenting with recipes in my kitchen.

The recipe I made first was Roasted Grape, Arugula + Goat Cheese Baked Potatoes. Doesn’t that sound intriguing? I had grapes sitting in my fridge that needed using and they were just past good eating but had not turned into raisins.I had a large bag of potatoes and had just bought goat cheese and mixed greens (includes arugula) at my field trip to Whole Foods the other day. I do not usually shop at Whole Foods as it is a bit out of my price range for regular groceries.

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I could not find the recipe as an on-line link. So here is what you need:

  • 4 Idaho potatoes, scrubbed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups red seedless grapes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups lightly packed, coarsely chopped arugula
  • 4 ounces soft garlic and herb goat cheese log
  • 1/4 cup honey

Rub the potatoes with oil, salt with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, prick with fork and bake in 400 degree F oven for 45 minutes, or until done.

Toss the grapes with the other tablespoon of oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Place on a brimmed baking sheet. 25 minutes into the baking of the potatoes put the grapes in the oven to roast.

When the potatoes are done, slit the top and smush open. Fluff with a fork and mix in the arugula. Then divide the cheese and grapes among the 4 potatoes. Drizzle with honey. At each of those steps the recipe instructs to add more of the salt. Serve immediately.

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My end product does not look as nice and neat as the picture in the cookbook. But it is quite tasty. This was our supper so we each ate two stuffed potatoes. The warm grapes were quite pleasant.

I did not add the entire amount of salt that she called for in the recipe. I used only 1/2 teaspoon: on the outside of the potatoes and then on the grapes. I used plain goat cheese and not flavored. I used mixed greens and not just arugula. I used both red and black seedless grapes.

Most of the recipes in this cookbook are odd/different combinations of vegetables. I like the idea that she developed her recipes with the vegetable as the star and the meat as the condiment. I might try her Pumpkin Pancakes and Beet Hummus. But truly, these recipes are a bit more unusual for my ordinary home cooking. Interesting to read and think about though.

“Eat your vegetables, or no dessert!”

Bah Humbug!

Happy holidays to all! And I celebrate Christmas but you may not. So happy to you what you celebrate. Many people celebrating happiness and family and togetherness.

It’s been awhile. I thought I would make myself write. I have not been in a pleasant mood.

For our pre-thanksgiving feast I made a boxed cake and used tubs of store-bought frosting. Does it matter? I did not even read the ingredients. There could be high fructose corn syrup and unnatural colors and flavors in there! Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! I did make the pie crust from scratch and the traditional “Betty Crocker” pumpkin pie. Didn’t buy whipped cream though! I bought a nice little package of pearl onions to make creamed onions but did not do that either. And no homemade rolls. Cinderella was feeling lonely and tired. Everyone enjoyed the meal anyway. We had grilled Ribeyes, baked sweet and russet potatoes, green salad with lime dressing, cornbread (made earlier for lunch with homemade soup which no one ate), layered rainbow sprinkle cake and pumpkin pie. And granddaughter put two candles on the cake, one for her (3) and one for her daddy (33).

So now Hubby is making a Stroganoff with the leftovers from the Rib eye steaks. My idea but he is doing the work. He had the day off; I went to work.

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Mise en place: 

  • leftover ribeye, cut from bone, 8-10 ounces
  • one onion, chopped fine
  • one half green pepper, chopped fine
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, diced
  • 1/4 stick butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire, divided
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 package egg noodles, cooked

Melt butter and saute onions until translucent. Add peppers and then mushrooms. Gave it a stir and then threw in the meat. Another stir and then add a dash or two of Worcestershire Sauce. Add the sour cream and yogurt. Mix and add Worcestershire all over low heat. Stir in cooked noodles. Serve in bowls. Enjoy!

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Yummy dinner and all I had to do was type the instructions.

Note to cook: take a healthy sip of wine between each ingredient!

Also Hubby says  to add fresh snap peas when dish is hot for additional favors. ANd what is weird is that he dreamed all of this last night!

Timman Z’affaran

I have the privilege of being a part of a coalition of people who are helping in the resettlement of refugees from the war-torn Middle East. You are all entitled to your opinions, but this blog is about cooking, not the politics.

So at first we thought the refugee family would be from Syria so my task group leader gave me a recipe for Syrian meatballs. But the family is coming from Iraq. So I wanted to find a recipe that at least says it is Iraqi. So this I found from Food.com: Timman Zafffaran

I thought it would be prudent to practice the dish before having to deliver it to the family’s new home the day of arrival. So this is an Americanized version. The dish I make to deliver to the family will not have the American substitutes. It will be made with halal meat and basmati rice.

The first step is to make the Baharat, Middle Eastern Spice Mixture. You can find the recipe here: Baharat. I gather all the whole spices to grind for this mix. And the house smells wonderful while I am grinding these in the small spice grinder that has been lying unused in the cabinet for ever! (We bought it eons ago when we thought we would grind our own coffee beans. Yeah right!)

Cardamom seeds are mucho expensive. So I “google” for a substitute: equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg or cinnamon and ground cloves. That I can handle. So I grind the spices and grate the nutmeg. I am making half the recipe because that is how much whole peppercorns I have. This makes a good cup of spice. That will be enough for a container to give to the family, some to keep for my own kitchen, and some to give to my son to take to Alaska for his next job.

  • 1/4 cup whole peppercorns (some of these are directly from Vietnam)
  • 1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) whole coriander seeds
  • 1/8 cup cinnamon bark; I grind up quite a few cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 whole nutmegs
  • 1/4 cup ground paprika

I forget to toast the spices but they still smell wonderful. Mix the whole spices except the nutmeg and paprika. Grind these up a 1/2 cup at a time. I find I need to grind them three times in my little grinder to make them fine. Then grate the nutmeg; this should make about 1/8 cup. Mix the grated nutmeg and the paprika with the ground spices and store in an airtight jar. This is the Baharat.

Now for the Iraqi Saffron Rice with Meat. One reason for practicing making the dish is to determine if the recipe, as is, is sufficient for a family of six. I make the recipe “as is” with the exception of the amount of meat. I use one pound of ground turkey, and not 275 grams which is a little over 1/2 of a pound. The recipe calls for rose water, which is not a staple in my pantry. I “google” for a substitute: vanilla extract.

  • 2 cups basmati rice (I use brown rice for this preparation, but will buy basmati rice to prepare the dish for the family)
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron thread (I have saffron from a spice market from my trip to Armenia)
  • 2 tablespoons rose water (I use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract + 1 tablespoon water)
  • 1/3 cup oil ( or ghee or butter); I use butter
  • 1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground meat, lamb or beef (I am using turkey for this preparation but will buy Halal beef or lamb for the family)
  • 1 teaspoon baharat mixed spice
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 2 1/4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cups raisins
  • 3 cups chicken stock (I actually use 4 cups for the 2 cups of brown rice)

The directions are a bit fussy but I follow them pretty straight forwardly. Cover rice with cold water and soak while preparing the onion and meat. Pound saffron threads. I was not sure what this meant so I mushed them around a bit with the mortar and pestle. Put these in the rose water to steep. Heat half the oil/butter in a skillet and toast the almonds. Make sure they do not burn. Remove from the pan and put on a plate and reserve. Add onion to pan until transparent. Increase the heat and add meat and cook until “crumbly”. Add baharat, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and raisins, and cook for one minute more. Add tomato paste at this time as well. Remove from heat and cover with lid.

Meanwhile add the rest of the butter to a large pan along with 2 teaspoons of the saffron/rose water mixture and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, add rice, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let rice cook. For brown rice this took 45 minutes.

Fold the meat mixture into the rice, cover the rim of the pan with two paper towels (??) and set lid on tightly. Leave on low heat for 5 minutes.

Put in serving dish and sprinkle with browned almonds and the rest of the saffron-rosewater.

This will make enough to serve a family of six with half of them under the age of 10. My family of three (all adults with good appetites who generally eat more than a designated “serving”) devoured it all and we were very happy with the various flavors and textures.

I served this with mixed vegetables dry roasted in a skillet with a sprinkling of baharat. We enjoyed the meal with red wine and good conversation.

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I will be preparing this again in a week’s time. This has given me an interest to try to make some other international dishes that are not similar to American cooking, although American cooking does not have a single description. The middle eastern spice mix may be good on fish dishes. I will be looking closely at my Mediterranean cookbooks but I also have one from South Africa, Georgia, and a collection from RPCV from quite a few countries. The adventure begins!

Special Sauce

There are two young women out there who will know what this is about. I’m not naming names but you know who you are but it is not my story to tell! (ooh, how mysterious!)

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We use ketchup for cheeseburgers and hot dogs, although Hubby doesn’t understand why one would put ketchup on hot dogs, only mustard and onions, and maybe relish. I grew up putting mustard (the bright yellow variety), ketchup, and pickle relish on my hot dogs. Sometimes I would buy chili dogs but I don’t remember having them at home. I love a good hot dog with good chili, cheese, and onions. My aging belly is not always happy about that though! 😦

Now that I am reading ingredient lists I have found that there is High Fructose Corn Syrup in a lot of ketchup and pickle relish. So I wondered how easy it might be to make my own. I saved this recipe after reading the book and blog of 100 Days of Real Food:  http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/.  This recipe is from a cookbook that I may just have to buy, NOT that I need another cookbook! http://www.freshstartnutrition.com/?s=ketchup (Just want to be sure the proper people get the credit for the recipe.)

I gather my ingredients and mix the spices. This way I can put everything in the crockpot in the morning and have homemade ketchup for cheeseburgers that evening.

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As the day wears on the house is filled with the aroma of tomatoes and then, a distinctly ketchup fragrance. It even tastes like ketchup! I am not sure why I am surprised by this, but I am. Now what container should I use to store this homemade concoction?

On our burgers…

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So now I am wondering if I should make our own mustard? Naah…I’ll just buy the whole grain variety when I can find it again.

 

Buckwheat, and no, not the Our Gang character!

In my effort to eat healthier, mostly to lose some weight and for heart healthiness, I try new grains. So a while back I picked up a box of buckwheat. I’ve added quinoa to my repertoire of cooking and some barley and bulgur. Oats and cornmeal have always been in my pantry. Rice, too, but now it is always brown rice and not white. Being a novice at using buckwheat I merely follow the recipe on the back of the box. One can cook up a pilaf or cook it up as a hot cereal. I go for the pilaf.

As I am reading the box I read that this is wheat and gluten free. How can it be wheat free if it is called buckwheat? What is this stuff? The internet is a wealth of information for us traditional cooks. Buckwheat is a type of seed called a pseudocereal; another of these pseudocereals is quinoa. These are seeds that are eaten like cereal grains, hence the name. This buckwheat was processed into groats: “100% pure roasted whole grain buckwheat”. Buckwheat is not related to wheat so it is gluten free. Who knew?!

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This pilaf recipe instructs that 1/2 cup each chopped onion and sliced mushrooms or other chopped sauteed vegetables can be added to the buckwheat when the liquid is added to the cooking process. Well, I select onion, celery, and other vegetables to add. I like to add more vegetables than a recipe generally calls for because it makes me feel like I’m eating healthier.

  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 smallish carrots
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 2 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup buckwheat cooked according to package directions: this uses 2 cups broth or water, 1 egg, salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons butter

 

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about 3 cups of vegetables

The preparing of the buckwheat itself is not a one dish deal! First an egg is slightly beaten in a separate bowl, the buckwheat is added, and stirred about for the groats to get coated. This then is put in a skillet at medium to high heat and stirred constantly for 2-3 minutes so the egg dries on the buckwheat. You will smell this roasting but keep stirring so it doesn’t burn. Meanwhile bring the liquid (I used 1 cup chicken broth and 1 cup water) and the pinch of salt and pepper to a boil. The butter will be used to saute the vegetables which is also on the stove at the same time! I kept changing the pots around so the final cooking would be in the big enough skillet with a lid. Ay yi yi!

Add this all together, stir, cover with a lid,and simmer for 7-10 minutes. This took only 7 minutes for me. I threw in about a tablespoon of red pepper flakes with the water because I thought it might need a bit of spice and red pepper flakes are my secret ingredient for most vegetable dishes.

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And I serve this with grilled chicken thighs sprinkled generously with Soulard Grill spice mixture from the Soulard Market Spice shop in St. Louis. (So sis, if you are reading this, we’ll need more of this when we meet up in August. So will son-in-law. Just saying!). And with freshly cut honeydew melon.

The pilaf was good. I am glad that I added the red pepper flakes. Even so, it was not overly spiced. And by adding all those extra vegetables I have leftovers for workday lunches. One cup of uncooked buckwheat will make 4 cups cooked so I think 2-3 cups of vegetables can easily be added. But why coat with the egg? For the breakfast cereal instructions this is omitted. I suppose it is so that the groats stay separate and don’t mush together like a porridge.

This pilaf recipe is a bit fussy in the process of cooking but makes a lot so is worth it. Heating up the leftoers will be quick and easy!