I should be honest.  This isn’t a recipe.  Or, if it is a recipe, it’s one that everyone has in their head.  Who doesn’t have some standard recipe involving bell peppers, onions, and whatever protein happens to be handy?  For that reason, I wasn’t going to post this “recipe.”  The boy changed my mind.  He had a point: once upon a time, I did not have this recipe sitting in my head, waiting for a day when I was very hungry and relatively lazy.  It came from somewhere.  Plus, I like my version a lot, and it was particularly satisfying last night.  So, if you already have this recipe in your mental file under “low-effort, lots of yum ” then read no further.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read on.  🙂

One of my favorite things about this meal is how easy it is to adjust according to how many people you have to feed.  I tend to buy chicken breasts in bulk and freeze them in pairs, so it’s easy for me to make a chicken dinner for 2 or 6 (odd numbers continue to stymie me!).  My other favorite thing about this meal is how easy it is to adjust to what I have on hand – need to use up that stir fry beef you bought?  That’ll do.  Really, you don’t even need the meat.   Basically, this is the perfect after-work meal, or your-friends-just-called-and-said-they’ll-be-there-in-20-minutes meal.  Plus, did I mention it’s tasty?

Now, of course you could just serve this as-is; protein and veggies, what more do you need?  But, you know me, why leave well enough alone when you could pile that meal on a baked potato?  Or a pile of mashed potatoes?  Or a crusty roll?  Or some brown rice?  You get where I’m going with this…to make it the perfect, filling, quick-but-satisfying meal, I recommend serving it with a starch of some sort. Oh, and I use a mix of orange and red peppers, because I like the taste, and because I like the look of using two colors.

Chicken with Peppers
Serves 2, easily adjusts for more

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1-2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers (depending on size, I usually use 1 1/2 or so), thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Montreal Steak Seasoning (or something similar)
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (Lea and Perrins is Gluten-free)
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Salt and pepper the sliced chicken, then brown chicken on all sides.  Add peppers, onions, and garlic.  Cook, stirring (like a stir fry, keep the veggies moving) for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the peppers are softened (you don’t want to cook them until they’re gooey, just not crisp anymore).  Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, the steak seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce, stir to coat the chicken and veggies.  Lower heat to medium and cook another 5 minutes, stirring.  Adjust seasoning to taste (I like this really strong, so I almost always add an extra sprinkle of steak seasoning and a splash of Worcestershire at the end).

Keep in mind that if you use more or less veg (or protein), you’ll need more or less seasoning.  Use your judgment…I don’t measure anything for a meal like this…just sprinkle and taste, sprinkle and taste 🙂

My favorite way to serve this is over a baked potato.


So, this recipe was an experiment that started with the leftovers from the Snowstorm meal.   Usually I make chicken potpie with the leftovers from a roast chicken dinner.  I buy relatively small chickens, so I usually have around 4 cups of chicken leftover, but all in small pieces.   For some reason, eating the leftover chicken in that form isn’t terribly exciting to me.  What is exciting is the opportunity to turn the leftover bits into a stew and top it with pie crust.  When I’m feeling lazy, or just not up to rolling pastry, I serve it over biscuits.

So, for this version, I had leftover braised kale, which for whatever reason, also didn’t sound appetizing reheated.  So, I made my regular chicken stew, but added in the leftover kale.  The result was incredibly tasty!  The only thing I would do differently is to add the kale in at the very end.  I simmered it all together for 20 minutes or so, and the result was a very green stew.  Not terrible, but not necessarily ideal either.  If you didn’t have leftover kale, you could cook fresh kale in boiling water first, and then stir it into the stew for the last 5 minutes or so of cooking.   The best thing about this is that it’s easily adjusted to what you have on hand.   Depending on how much leftover chicken you have, you can scale back on the amount of broth and veggies.  I’ve used all kinds of veggies in this, but the classics are always good: corn, peas, green beans, etc.  But the kale was so good that I definitely encourage you to try whatever you have on hand – you never know!

A note on gluten content.  This stew could easily be gluten-free.  I thickened mine with a light roux (in this case, about 2 teaspoons of oil and 4 tablespoons of flour).  Just thicken yours with corn starch instead (I haven’t experimented with GF All Purpose Baking mixes…anyone know if they work for a roux?), and you’ll have a great GF version of this stew.

I served it over biscuits, but the boy, at least, believes that the biscuits are unnecessary.  Do what you will.  I like sopping. 

Chicken and Kale Stew

2 teaspoons oil or butter
1 small onion, chopped
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock (I used homemade)
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon ground pepper
4 cups of cooked chicken, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked kale
salt, to taste (mine didn’t need salt because the kale and the cooked chicken were plenty salty)

Heat oil or melt butter in a medium dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add chopped onion, and cook until translucent.  Add flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to remove all lumps.   Slowly add chicken broth, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  (this works best if the chicken stock is warm.  Since I keep mine in the freezer, I microwave it to defrost it, which results in a warmish stock).  Add bay leaves, bouillon cube, poultry seasoning, and pepper.  Add chicken and frozen vegetables.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes.  Check seasoning.  Add kale, simmer 5 more minutes.  Check seasoning again.  Serve immediately, alone or over biscuits.

Here in the midwest we had quite the snowstorm last night, and flakes are still falling today.  I braved the unplowed roads to get all the makings for a perfect roast chicken dinner.  After shoveling the driveway, the boy and I were more than ready for a hearty meal.  Also a side effect of shoveling the driveway was that I was completely exhausted, so I went with the simplest roast chicken possible.  Roast chicken is kind of a staple at our house.  It feels fancy and special occasion, but is really simple.  Also, once it goes in the oven, it requries no attention.  In the summer I use fresh herbs from the garden, but in the winter dried herbs work just fine.  Served with braised kale, roasted potatoes, and a glass of wine, this was a lovely meal for a dark and snowy night.  Last night I added a teaspoon or so of ground coriander, which was pretty good.  Play around!

Another plus of this meal is that as long as you have gluten-free spices in your pantry, it’s automatically gluten-free.  And with food this cozy and comfy, who’s missing the gluten?

A final note.  I’ve become obsessed with making chicken stock.  It’s so easy!  Ok, the way I make it is easy.  Follow the link at the bottom…for real, it’s easy and so worth it!

Basic Roast Chicken

1 3-4lb whole chicken
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, quartered

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine oil, spices, and garlic.

Remove giblets from chicken (save for stock if desired).  Rinse chicken inside and out.  Place in roasting pan and pat dry.   Gently separate the skin from the breast of the chicken with your fingers.   Rub the oil and spice mixture under the skin, rubbing any extra over the top of the skin.  If you have a lot of extra oil mixture, place it inside the body cavity.   Place the quartered onion inside the chicken.  If you have kitchen twine, tie up the legs.  (I never have twine, and I never tie up my bird.  The world has yet to come to an end.)  Tuck the wing tips under the bird so that they don’t burn (or cover them with foil).

Roast chicken for 1-1 1/2 hours, until juices run clear and thermometer inserted between thigh and body reads at least 165 degrees.

The Whole Snowstorm Meal:
Roasted Potatoes with Garlic
Braised Kale with Pancetta

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

I’m back!  I know it’s been a year and a half or so….sorry.  😦  As you know if you’ve been reading the site, it’s been a rough couple years for me.  Way back in the fall of 2007 I started have weird symptoms (severe arthritis, mental fog, etc).  Those weird symptoms led to a long round of doctor’s appointments, tests (mostly inconclusive), and treatments (mostly ineffective).  Fast forward to winter 2010: I have a diagnosis, Behcet’s disease, a rare autoimmune disease.  Since last writing, I worked a full-time job as a visiting instructor at a small liberal arts university (not a ton of cooking got done during that time), took time off to write full-time on my dissertation, and have engaged in an ongoing struggle to get on a stable medication regimen.  I think we might finally be there.  A combination of methotrexate injections, plaquenil (actually intended to treat malaria – go figure), and folic acid seems to be working.  It’s still a struggle.  I have a maximum of 5 good days per week (one bad day when my methotrexate is wearing off, one when it’s starting to work and making me sick).  I’m mostly off pain medication, but I still hurt most days.   I’m losing weight (again – I’d lost some and then gained back more during a bout of depression), and even exercising.

More importantly, given the topic of this blog – I’m cooking again!  I finally have the energy to cook and enjoy food again.  It’s good to be back!  So, yesterday I had the brilliant idea to make indian food.  I wanted Chicken Korma, and I wanted it to be bubbling away in the crockpot when I came home from work.  Sadly for me, this recipe just doesn’t lend itself to crockpot prep.  Oh, I did it.  But it took me almost an hour to prep.  Granted, I move slower these days, but to me, that’s just unacceptable.  I happen to not go to work until 3 or 4 in the afternoon – but normal people?  Unacceptable.  So, I’m giving the instructions here for regular preparation.  Let me know if you’re able to prep it quickly and get it in the crockpot.

The korma though, was wonderful.  I used chicken thighs, which sort of shredded themselves in the sauce while it cooked all day on low.  This was not undesirable, if unforseen.  Just a disclaimer – this is not like the korma you get in restaurants.  As much as I’d like it to be, it’s just not.  I suspect (based on its source and a number of other cookbooks I own) that this is a more authentic version.  But still, not what you would get in most indian restaurants in America.  It is, however, richly spiced and delicious.

A note on ingredients.  I use whole spices when I can get my hands on them.  If you don’t have whole spices though, just use ground.  In place of the plum tomatoes, I used about 3 frozen tomatoes (I froze them when they were fresh last summer).  Also, I did not use heavy cream, and since I like this dish as creamy as possible, I used homemade cashew cream (recipe follows).   Serve with warm naan.

Quick Chicken Korma
(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking 2007)

Servings: 4

11⁄2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, divided
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 bay leaves
2-inch stick cinnamon
8 cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon whole black or regular cumin seeds
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
1-2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into small chunks
1⁄4 to 1 teaspoon cayenne
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup cashew cream

In a blender, purée the ginger, garlic and 3 tablespoons water until they form a smooth paste.

Crush the cardamom pods lightly. (you can do this using the bottom of a jar or glass)

In a large skillet, heat the oil over high. When the oil is very hot, add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves and whole cumin seeds. Stir, then add the onion. Saute 3 minutes, or until the onion browns.

Transfer the paste from the blender to the skillet. Add the ground coriander and ground cumin, then sauté for a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and sauté another minute.

Add the chicken, cayenne, salt and remaining 1 cup of water, tomato paste, and cashew cream.  Bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the cover  and cook on medium-high, stirring occasionally, another 10-15  minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Use a slotted spoon to remove and discard the cardamom pods, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves. Serve over rice if desired (I just served it with warm naan).

Here is one of my down and dirty recipes.  I know we online foodies have a reputation for being snobs who are morally opposed to anything canned, but I for one find lots of uses for canned, prepared, instant, and frozen foods.  Sometimes I just don’t feel like spending an hour in the kitchen, and sometimes I just don’t have the energy.  This is one of those meals that comes together in about 10 minutes, and then bakes, unattended, while you relax on the couch with a glass of wine, or bottle of beer (or run around like a crazy person chasing children, doing laundry, cleaning, or whatever else occupies your time in the real world).  So, this is my ode to Campbell’s, oh how we love thee…

A few notes: I strongly believe in organic chicken breasts.  Not only are they generally better for you, being free of antibiotics, hormones, and whatnot – more importantly, they taste better, and in my experience, are juicier and more tender – even if you over cook them!  So, I’d say if you can, spend the extra money on a tastier more forgiving chicken breast.  If you, like me, never remember to thaw anything, never fear: you can easily thaw the veggies for this recipe by dumping the bag into a colander and running them under cool water.  They’ll defrost enough to work with, and they’ll thaw the rest of the way in the oven.  If you’re really exhausted, or really pressed for time, put the chicken in without browning, and just increase the baking time.

Easy Chicken Vegetable Bake
1 package thinly sliced chicken breasts
1 tsp. canola oil
1 tsp garam masala (divided)
salt and pepper
16-32 oz mixed frozen vegetables, thawed
1 can Healthy Request condensed Cream of Mushroom soup (Campbell’s)
1 package Instant Whole Wheat stuffing, prepared according to directions

To Prepare: Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat.  Rub chicken breasts with 1/2 tsp. garam masala, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken breasts.  Remove from heat.  In a 13 x 9 inch pan or a large casserole, combine vegetables, mushroom soup, and garam masala.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Place browned chicken breasts over vegetables in pan.  Spread prepared stuffing around chicken.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are hot and bubbly.

This is one of my favorite, simple curry dishes – it combines warm, wonderful flavors and it’s easy to make.  You can also easily adjust it to make it vegetarian or vegan.  If you like your curry spicier, add more cayenne, or try adding some Thai chili paste, which has good flavor and good heat.  If you can get your hands  on some good Indian flatbread, I would recommend cutting the chicken into small pieces and mixing it in with the veggies and sauce so that it can be eaten in the traditional way (with your hands, using the flatbread to pick up the curry).  Serve with yogurt, if desired.

Chicken and Vegetable Curry
4 thinly sliced chicken breasts
1 Tbs. olive oil/canola oil
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. Turmeric
1/2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs. minced ginger
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, sliced
3-4 zucchini or yellow squash, sliced
1- 28oz. can crushed tomato
1 cup coconut milk
additional spices to taste

Combine dry spices in a small bowl.  Rub chicken breasts with spice mixture.  Reserve extra spices.  In a medium dutch oven over medium heat, brown chicken.  Remove from pan.  Add onions and zucchini to pan, saute until soft.  Add ginger, garlic, and leftover spices.  Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, until spices are fragrant.  Add tomatoes to the pan, simmer 5 minutes.  Add coconut milk, check seasoning.  Return chicken to the pan, bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

This is a recipe I adapted from a recipe on the Food Network.  This makes a wonderful one-pot dinner (two if you count the couscous).  It’s my husband’s favorite meal (for the moment), so I make it a lot for anniversaries, birthdays, etc.  I serve it very simply, but you can dress it up and make it look fancy if you have the time and inclination.  The dish was originally very, very sweet, so I added the Thai chili paste and ginger – these two flavors balance out the sweetness nicely.  If you still find it too sweet, you can use a white onion instead of a yellow or sweet onion, and use a drier wine.  I like to serve it with couscous and a baguette.

I have also made this dish with tofu.  Press extra firm tofu between paper towels before browning in the skillet (or, alternatively you can dry with paper towels, then place on parchment paper coated with cooking spray and spray tops of tofu w/ cooking spray (or brush with sesame oil).  Bake tofu at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until browned.)  Reserve browned tofu and continue with recipe, adding tofu back to mixture during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.  If the tofu cooks too long in the mixture, it will just fall apart.  If you’re the planning ahead type, which I am not, put the cubed tofu in a ziploc with a little bit of olive oil, ginger, thai chili paste and preserves.  Allow tofu to marinate for about 30 minutes (although longer will make for stronger flavors).  This will flavor the tofu nicely.

Apricot Chicken
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1 1/2-2 lbs chicken tenderloins, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large sweet onion
1 Tbs. minced ginger (for convenience I use the jarred kind from the store, use a bit less if you’re using fresh ginger)
1 tsp Thai chili paste (this can be quite hot, adjust to taste depending on brand and heat tolerance)
2 Tbs. cider or white wine vinegar
12 dried pitted apricots, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 cup apricot preserves or mango chutney
couscous, for serving

To Prepare: In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown chicken in olive oil.  Add onion, cook for 5 minutes, add ginger and chili paste; cook, stirring for 2 minutes.  Add vinegar to pan and let it evaporate.  Add apricots, stock, and wine.  When mixture comes to a bubble, add preserves; stir to combine.  Cover pan, reduce heat, and simmer 10-15 minutes.  Serve over couscous.