Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mediterranean Chicken and Rice

Photographs of food really do look better when they're larger, I'll post bigger pictures from now on :).

I haven't posted in awhile. Lately I've been focusing more on preparing fast meals for dinner that don't require me to have the stove/oven on for so so long...our last electric bill was ridiculously high, and we just discovered that our AC might've been the culprit...since it's broken and only works "sometimes". Anyway, I decided I really wanted to make something tasty for dinner tonight, even if it required me to leave the stove on for a little longer than I would've liked. I actually got the idea for it from a book I picked up at the library earlier this week. The dish that inspired me to make this is called Milanese Chicken and Rice Skillet. The thing is, I didn't use a skillet, I used different spices, and even incorporated some Mexican food elements. I actually deviated from the recipe even more by cooking the chicken in a completely different way (I boiled it instead of cooking it in the skillet). The recipe called for chicken breast, but all I had were drumsticks. Improvising was a lot of fun, though. The picture in the cookbook was beautiful and yummy looking, I think that's what drew me to make the dish in the first place. But...I didn't really measure anything, though I do remember all the ingredients I used. Here are the ingredients that were used and the steps I took when making this eclectic plate that has both Mediterranean and Mexican flair.

I used 1 1/2 pounds of chicken drumsticks
I boiled the drumsticks in about 1 pint of water mixed with 1 TBSP chicken bouillon, some garlic salt and a little bit of cilantro (the chicken cooked in about 35 minutes--there were about 5 drumsticks).

While the chicken cooked, I prepared the rice, which is similar to the Mexican rice I've made in the past...but it's been spiced up a little more.
I cooked 1 cup of rice by first lightly frying it in a few TBSPS of olive oil, one small garlic clove, and about 1/8 cup finely diced onion.
I then boiled 3 roma tomatoes, removed their skin, threw them in the blender with 1/4 cup onion, 1 1/2 tsps chicken bouillon, 1 garlic clove, 1 tsp cilantro--this all amounted to about 3/4 of a cup.
To the rice in the pan I added the tomato mixture and 1 1/4-1/2 cups water
As the rice cooked, I added a few sprinkles of garlic salt and pepper, about 1 tsp of paprika and onion powder, cilantro, and parsley. I also added about 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper, 1/2 cup frozen peas, 1/2 cup chopped carrots, and 1/2 cup celery.
When the chicken finished cooking in the boiling water, I dumped out the water then added some paprika, salt, pepper, about 1 1/2 tbsps Italian seasoning, about 2 TBSP olive oil, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup red bell pepper, 1/4 cup green bell pepper, and 1/2 a small can of diced black olives (about 1.5 oz) along with about 1/2 the olive juice--I seared the chicken in these spices/vegetables, then lowered the flame to a medium setting and sprinkled about 3/4 tbsp brown sugar and 1/4 cup golden raisins into the chicken mix.

That's pretty much it! Oh, and the book where I got the idea for this recipe is called Treasury of's a great book--so many great recipes!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

easy taquitos!

...and for the last day of chicken left-overs, I made taquitos! I'm gonna have to start using a recipe book because I'm running out of ideas for chicken; my palate is still somewhat narrow but hopefully that'll change soon...back to the topic, this is another recipe that'll work for those days when there isn't much time for anything fancy. This is also fun finger food for parties or snack time. I made this a meal by serving it with the traditional side of beans and rice...and the not so traditional organic mixed veggies :D... When I can't have veggies in the actual meal, I always make sure to serve them as a side so that I feel like I'm getting meeting some of the food pyramid requirements :P.

So what did I do for the taquitos? I used some shredded chicken, fried it with cubed potatoes, chopped garlic and onion. Of course, a pinch of salt and pepper were thrown in, along with a hearty sprinkle of cilantro and parsley. I put the chicken in corn tortillas, which I warmed up in the micro for about 20 seconds so they'd be soft enough to roll into taquitos without breaking. I also added some colby/jack cheese before rolling everything up and piercing the taquitos with a toothpick (so they would hold when frying). I then fried the taquitos in a covered pan with canola oil for about 1 minute on each side, or until they were slightly crispy/golden all around. That's basically it! This was a very fast meal to whip up; minus the cooking time for the chicken, I was able to finish this in 15 minutes!

Friday, October 5, 2007

honey ginger chicken and a fun seasonal veggie mix

When there isn't much time to make something fancy to eat, I try to make up for the lack of complexity with a dash of spices, a quick vinaigrette, or a fun texture. I tried to incorporate all those things into this dish, making sure to use up one of the many squashes I've managed to collect in my refrigerator. Chicken breast is a versatile protein I like to work with, though it does tend to be a little dry if it's cooked the wrong way. Essentially, I would've preferred to let the chicken marinate over night in the "sauce" I made for it, but, like I mentioned earlier, I didn't have the time. Instead, I decided to let the chicken cook on a very low setting for a few minutes, then sear in all the flavors by cooking the meat over a high flame for a much shorter period of time. In doing so, the end result was reasonably moist and very flavorful. I would still like to know how to get a perfectly juicy piece of chicken breast, though; most of the time it seems that the fattier meats are the juiciest, but I'm sure there's a trick out there I've yet to learn that could easily prove that idea wrong...time will tell :).

I used about a pound of chicken breast to make this dish, and I actually sliced each chicken breast in half so it would cook faster. After cutting the chicken into smaller portions, I placed it in a pan with a little olive oil and 1/3 cup of orange juice. One thing I'd like to note again is that I cooked the chicken breast with the seasonings covered with a lid over a low setting for about 40 minutes. Afterward, for about 3 minutes, I uncovered the chicken and raised the flame to a very high setting until almost all the liquid/juice evaporated and the chicken itself was slightly browned on one side--I think this is what helped "lock-in" the flavor.

Here are the ingredients I added to each side of the chicken pieces equally:
1 3/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper

2 1/2 tsp parsley

2 TBSP honey

While the chicken cooked over a low setting, I prepared the veggies. Sometimes veggies can use a little bit of sweetness for extra flavor, so why not incorporate fruits when preparing them? I decided to add raisins to a mix of carrots and squash, but I also added chopped almonds because nuts tend to add a fun bite to whatever they're thrown in--I will never use pine nuts, though...just discovered I was allergic to those a few years ago, and it was not a fun discovery, to say the least :P.

Here are the measured ingredients I added:
1 1/2 cups cubed squash pieces
3/4 cups chopped carrots (a smart chopper does a great job with this)
1/8-1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup raisins

3/4 tsp fine herb spice

pinch of salt and pepper

2 TBSP olive oil

the veggies cooked pretty fast, especially the squash. I think it's best to actually cook the carrots alone in the olive oil before adding the other ingredients; the squash cooks a lot faster and almonds burn easily. By the way, burned almonds smell horrible...kind of like popcorn--I know because I burned some a few weeks ago and they do not give off a very pleasant smell when that happens :D.

Random Sidenote:
Oh, here are a few interesting excerpts from a CNN article about produce:
A research review of 41 studies conducted by the University of California at Davis found that, on average, organic produce contains as much as 27 percent more vitamin C, 21 percent more iron, and 29 percent more magnesium compared with traditionally grown foods.

USDA researchers have found that if it's [produce] not handled properly, produce can lose up to half its nutrients in transit. Water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C are particularly

You can read the rest of the article here

Thursday, October 4, 2007

sweedish meatballs with veggies and croutons? yep!

I've never had an original sweedish meatball dish, but I had the "American" version a few times growing up. When I started trying to figure out how to make them, I used canned cream of mushroom...but, eventually, I decided to try making these meatballs without using canned soup, or anything canned, for that matter. I also wanted to throw in some veggies that would work well with the meatballs, and I thought croûtons would be a fun way to add a new texture to the usually warm and meaty dish. I don't normally eat salad, but I really love putting homemade croûtons on any pasta dish I make. Even though it's fun to buy the box kind sometimes, I had some leftover bread from when we made honey oatmeal bread in our breadmaker, so I decided to use a few slices to make the croûtons. Here are the ingredients I used along with the steps I took when making the dish:

I mixed 1lb of ground turkey in a bowl with the following ingredients
3 tbsp dried veggie soup blend (salt free)
1/2-3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 TBSP chervil leaf

1/2 cup sweet white onion, diced

1 egg

1/2 cup garlic and herb bread crumbs

2 roma tomatoes, diced

Once these ingredients were all mixed together, I rolled them into 1" meatballs and cooked them in an everyday pan with some olive oil until they were golden brown on the outside--they cooked in about 30 minutes covered up with a lid. About 20 minutes into the cooking process, I added 1 1/2 cups water with 2 1/2 tsp of dissolved chicken bouillon and 1 TBSP mixed-in flour (to thicken the sauce) to the pan with the meatballs; I also like to add about 1-2 TBSP sour cream and 1 TBSP butter so that the sauce is creamier. I threw in a few more spices like 2 tsp Italian seasoning, and a few whole bay leaves. I also added about 2 cups of mushrooms, and about 1 1/2 cups raw spinach, then allowed these ingredients simmer for 15 minutes.

While the meatballs were cooking, I cut up about 1 cup worth of bread into croûton-size pieces. I then put them in a small baking pan, drizzled them with about 1 TBSP of olive oil, sprinkled about 1/2 tsp basil, 1/8-1/4 tsp garlic salt and a pinch of pepper. Then I baked these guys in the oven for about 10-12 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

I served the meatballs with croûtons over some lightly seasoned pasta sprinkled with parmesan cheese, and that was basically it! I try to add veggies to whatever I make. They have so much nutrients and I prefer to eat veggies over consuming vitamins. I also try to buy organic veggies whenever I can, but did you know that frozen vegetables, in general, are actually better than the fresh ones because they're picked when they're perfectly ripe (so they have more nutrients)? Interesting.