Chicken, Pepper, Tomato & Zucchini

chicken,zucchini,-peppers-aWe love dishes with good flavor and lots of colorful veggies – and this one fit the bill perfectly.  It’s based on a recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. (Mel is a wonderful cook and she makes it with Orzo, but I felt like Couscous.)  I also changed out the veggies a bit.  I can’t wait to make it again!

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup dry couscous
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter

1 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup chopped red, orange and yellow bell pepper (can use green pepper, too)
2 cups halved grape or cherry tomatoes,
2 small zucchini, halved and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 tsp oregano  (I was out so I used 1 tsp Greek Seasoning.  You could also use 1/2 tsp oregano, a big pinch of basil and a little pinch of dill)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Bring water to a boil and stir in 1/2 tsp salt, butter and couscous.   Remove from heat, cover and let sit for at least 5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large 12-inch nonstick or stainless skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and cook 6-7 minutes until golden on the outside,flipping halfway through.

Push the chicken to the outer edge of the pan and add everything else except the feta cheese.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often until the mixture begins to dry up.

Push chicken back into the middle and nestle among the vegetables.  Continue cooking for another few minutes.  Check salt and pepper and add more Greek seasoning if needed.

Add 1/2 the crumbled feta and stir through.  Remove from heat and sprinkle on the rest of the feta.

To serve: Put a couple of spoonfuls of the Couscous in a wide flat bowl and top with the meat and veggies.

To make a gluten-free version – serve over rice or buttery mashed potatoes.

 

Easiest French Bread Ever!

French-BreadThis bread recipe is from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and is the easiest and most consistent bread recipe I’ve ever used. It uses a clever proofing method, where you don’t even take the dough off the mixer, and you use ice cubes to create steam while it’s baking.

We love toast and jam and this simple, delicious bread is perfect for that and for sandwiches. I made two loaves yesterday with a cup of whole wheat flour substituted for a cup of the white flour, and I really liked the flavor and texture.

I’m sure you could add Rosemary and chopped olives, or other herbs and interesting things, but this bread doesn’t really need it.  But who knows?  Now that I’ve found a good recipe – I may experiment!

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp kosher Salt  (Mel uses a little less)
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 1/2 – 6 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour and 4 1/2 -5 cups regular flour)

Mix water, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl. If you have a stand mixer, use the mixing paddle to mix it.

Cover the bowl and/or mixer with a clean dishtowel and let the yeast get bubbly for 5 or so minutes.

Add the salt, oil and 5 cups of flour. Mix with a dough hook, or spoon for 6 or 7 minutes, adding flour as needed- 1/2 up to 1 cup flour, until dough is forming a nice solid mass. It will hang onto the dough hook and then flop back in the bowl occasionally. Only add flour if the dough is really sticking to the side of the bowl.  If kneading by hand, knead for several minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.

Leave the dough in the bowl and the dough hook in the dough. Cover the stand mixer and bowl with the kitchen towel again and leave it to rise for 15 minutes. Uncover the bowl, run the dough hook for 30 seconds or so and cover again. Repeat this process 3 more times. (You can also just leave it to rise, covered for one hour.)

Remove the dough from the bowl, split it in half, and spread it out into a sort of rectangle.  Roll it along the long end and pinch the ends and bottom so the dough holds together. Lay the loaves side by side, seam side down on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

Slash the dough with a very sharp knife at an angle 2″ apart. Cover again with the kitchen towel and leave to rise for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Just before you put the bread in the oven, throw a few ice cubes in a metal oven proof dish and put it in the oven, on the lowest shelf.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan half way through. It should rise up and get nice and brown. Check it for doneness by turning the loaf over and knocking on it. If the loaf sound hollow, it’s baked.

Let cool before slicing. Slather with butter and call it a day.

 

Clotted Cream

Sarah Tevendale on Pixabay

I’ve always loved reading about clotted cream and a couple of years ago, I found a recipe by Chef John on allrecipes.com.

So simple – and yet it has a rich, complex flavor that is truly unique.  It keeps for several days covered in the fridge.

Crazy simple ingredients – actually one  ingredient:

4 cups heavy cream  (Try to avoid ultra-pasteurized cream which won’t work as well.)

Heat oven to 175 degrees.  Pour cream into a ceramic or glass dish.  An 8 or 9″ square pan is fine.  You want the cream to be between 1.5 and 2″ deep.

Bake overnight or for at least 12 hours.  Left uncovered, the cream will develop a fairly thick, brown-spotted top, with the softer cream below.  If you want less brown bits, cover the pan with foil for the first 6 hours or so, then remove the foil for the last several hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Refrigerate until it’s nice and cold.

Poke a small hole in one corner and carefully pour off the liquid under the cream.  Save the liquid – it is delicious to bake with!  (I always use it if I am making scones or biscuits.)

Remove the cream into a bowl and stir very gently to break it up.  You can add a bit of the liquid back if it seems too dry to you.

Serve on biscuits or scones with a dollop of jam or a swirl of honey.  It is sooo good!

Irish Apple Cake

shelley-pauls-I58f47LRQYM-unsplash

Apples by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

Simple, delicious and not too sweet!

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened and cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 big apples, or three smaller ones, chopped  (no need to peel)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
powdered sugar for topping

In the bowl of a mixer, gently blend the flour, baking powder and sugar.  Add the butter and stir just until the butter is in little pea-sized shapes.

Mix egg and milk together in a cup and pour into the flour. Mix just a few moments until they are combined and there is barely any flour mixture left on the bottom.  It make quite a thick dough.

Mix 2 Tbsp sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl and toss the apple chunks in it until they’re coated.

In a 9 springform pan, or a quiche dish, spread about half the cake batter evenly.

Sprinkle apples evenly on top of that, scraping out the bowl to get every last bit of cinnamon and sugar.

Cover the top with the remaining batter.  It will be pretty chunky so it’s easier to just drop spoonfuls and not worry about smoothing out the top too much.

Bake in a 350 oven for 35-40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.  Serve with powdered sugar, whipped cream, or caramel sauce.

Southern Chicken & Veggie Spaghetti

This is one of those very simple, yet surprising delicious old-fashioned casseroles and I think the recipe is from Southern Living.   You could add mushrooms or cooked spinach or zucchini and it would be just as good.  The sauce soaks into the pasta and creates a nice, satisfyingly creamy main dish.

6 cups chicken stock or water
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups chopped bell pepper, any color
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped
8 oz spaghetti
1/2 cup half n half or milk
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp hot sauce
2 tsp kosher salt
pinch of black pepper
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or Mexican Cheese blend)

Bring chicken stock or water to boil in a dutch oven.  Add chicken and cook 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  (If you start with frozen thighs, which I did, just allow a little extra cooking time.  If you don’t have stock, you can always just use water – the thighs have enough fat and flavor to create a good stock.

Remove chicken  to a plate and add spaghetti to the stock. Cook spaghetti about 9 minutes until done, then remove spaghetti, keeping stock. Turn the heat up to medium and let stock cook down until there are about 2 1/2 cups left. Once chicken is slightly cooled, cut it into 1/2″ thick slices.

Meanwhile, in a large oven proof frying pan, melt butter and saute onions and bell peppers for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk together half n half, flour, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Pour into the stock, stirring constantly and continue cooking 3-4 minutes, until the stock is thickened a little.  Remove from heat.  Check seasonings.

Add spaghetti, chicken and tomatoes to the sauteed veggies and gently stir to combine.  Pour the stock over and make sure the stock is coating everything.  Drop the shredded cheese on top and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

You can also serve this in a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with vegetable oil.  It makes a delicious main dish that is bursting with veggies and fresh flavors!

Warm Cabbage with Apples and Bacon

cabbage-isara-somboon

image by Isara Somboon at Unsplash.

Love this recipe that came from a local grocery store around St. Patrick’s Day!

So much so that I’ve made this beautiful, colorful dish twice in the last three weeks.  It’s delicious but also such great comfort food – which is something we all need right now.  I serve it with a cheddary sausage and they’re really good together.

The lovely thing is that cabbage is so hardy – you can use half the cabbage now, and then make this again in a few weeks.

Ingredients:

6 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (if using turkey bacon, add 2 Tbsp Olive Oil)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 cups chopped green cabbage (1″ pieces are fine) about 1/2 medium cabbage
1 apple, cored and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup dark beer (or the equivalent in cider, plus a Tbsp of cider vinegar)
1/4 cup apple cider (or apple juice)
2 tsp brown sugar or honey
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp butter (optional)

In a large cast-iron skillet, cook bacon sprinkled with black pepper until crispy. Remove from pan, but leave drippings. Add onions and cook for a couple of minutes, then add cabbage and apples. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, mix beer, cider, brown sugar, caraway seeds and salt. Add to cabbage mixture and cook 5 minutes more until everything is soft the liquid has reduced a bit. Drop bits of the butter on and give a final stir.

Serve as is on a baked potato, or with a lovely cheddar-ry sausage! (If you start pan-frying the sausage at the same time, the sausage should be done when the cabbage is.)

For a vegan version, leave out the bacon, and add a bit of chipotle pepper for that smoky flavor and a bit more salt to make up for the saltiness of bacon.

Cream of Spinach Soup

nathan-dumlao-m6DAgQyxjAo-unsplash

Spinach by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Recipe from Elise Bauer, with a few tweaks. This soup is super easy, really delicious and so satisfying on a cold winter’s night.  Comes together in about 40 minutes.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp butter
2 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 1/2 pound)
3 cups chicken broth
4-5 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
pinch of ground allspice

In a medium-sized saucepan, saute onion in butter for 5-6 minutes, until translucent.  Add potatoes, chicken broth, salt and pepper and cook 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft  Add spinach and cook 2-3 more minutes. Buzz all in a food processor or blender until quite smooth.  (Don’t need to completely obliterate the spinach.)

Put back in pan, and whisk in half and half, then sour cream and allspice.  Bring heat back up to just a simmer.

Serve with home-made croutons: cut bread in 1″ cubes and toss in olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper on a small sheet pan.  Bake in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes or more, until bread is golden and crisp.  I used a small baguette, but really any hearty bread will do.

Fast and good!

Vegan Parmesan

Even if you aren’t vegan, you’ll flip over this vegan parmesan recipe from Minimalist Baker.  It’s  so delicious I can’t stay away from it – I’ve literally been stealing spoonsful from the container!  It’s super easy to make and keeps for a couple of weeks, if it lasts that long.

3/4 raw cashews
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast (I used Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast.)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Buzz all in a food processor until mixture is in small crumbles. Be careful not to overprocess, or you’ll end up with cashew butter.

This is wonderful in all the places you might use Parmesan, but is also tasty on top of any veggies.  Enjoy!

Brodo with Chicken and Spinach

brodo-3Another great recipe from Johanne Killeen in the Slow Food Fast recipes in the WSJ – with some changes.  Brodo is a simple soup that comes together fast and is incredibly satisfying.  It’s also quite flexible and can use different pastas and different greens

It’s been ridiculously cold and windy here!  We needed something to warm us up – and this sure fit the bill.  This makes enough for two people, roughly.

Ingredients:

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups rich chicken stock
2 eggs
1 cup chopped cooked chicken, optional
2 cups chopped fresh spinach or thinly sliced kale
1/3 lb capellini, spaghetti or linguine
fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente and drain water. Keep warm.

At the same time, add the chicken stock to another pot and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and gently drop eggs in to poach. After 3 minutes or so, scoop eggs out onto a plate.

Add spinach to chicken stock and cook for a few moments. (You may need to cook a little longer with Kale.) Add chicken meat if using and stir. Add a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper.

Place some pasta on one side of each bowl. (It’s going to slip around a bit, but that’s okay.) Ladle the chicken and spinach with broth on the open side of the bowl, and top with the poached egg.

Grate cheese over, sprinkle once more with black pepper and serve. The egg yolks will help thicken the broth and add incredible richness.

So fast and so delish!

Rich Custard for Maya

This recipe, which seems too simple to be so delicious, has always been an integral part of my Strawberry Trifle recipe. But my daughter Maya asked me to list it separately, so it’s easier and quicker to find. So here you go, Maya!

1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
5 cups whole milk
4 eggs, well beaten in a medium sized bowl
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla

Blend sugar, salt, cornstarch and whole milk in a large saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil stirring constantly. Once the custard reaches the boil, remove from heat and add 1 cup to the eggs in the bowl, stirring vigorously so the eggs don’t cook. Add another cup of milk mix to the eggs, and continue stirring.

Return the whole thing to the saucepan and put back on medium/low heat. Heat for 1-2 minutes until the custard is just starting to bubble a little. Don’t leave it for a second at this point or it will curdle. Remove from heat and add in vanilla. Let cool before adding to trifle dish.  It will thicken as it cools

This recipe also makes a lovely pouring custard. Just add another cup of milk. We don’t eat pouring custard much in the US, but it’s delicious dessert sauce. Just a bowl of fresh fruit with pouring custard poured over – it’s simple and wonderful.