Spicy Quinoa Cucumber and Tomato Salad

 

Lately, I’ve been determined to make more room in my pantry, so I’m making a concerted effort to use ingredients I already have to plan my meals. It’s kind of like an overcrowded closet…until you start cleaning it out, you really don’t even know what all you’ve got!  Such is the case with my pantry, so when I ran across some organic red quinoa, I decided it was time to make a meal! Hubby had the Traeger Smoker fired up and ready to smoke some chicken breasts, so I thought a nice healthy quinoa salad topped with a bit of protein sounded like perfect way to top of a beautiful day of sunshine!

Spicy Quinoa Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Spicy Quinoa Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Spicy Quinoa Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Quinoa:

  • 1 Cup Organic Red Quinoa (or use any quinoa you like)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (can use vegetable broth or water)

Rinse quinoa thoroughly before cooking. Combine broth and quinoa and pinch of salt in medium saucepan.  Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.

Salad:

  • 1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup fresh mint, chopped (or more to taste)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ¼ – ½ serrano pepper, minced (can use jalepeno for milder spice or omit altogether)
  • 1 lime, zested then juiced
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Combine cucumber, tomatoes, mint, shallot, serrano, lime zest and lime juice.  Toss together, and drizzle with olive oil.  Add cooked quinoa, fold to combine and add salt & pepper to taste.  Add more lime juice if desired.

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Roasted Lemon Chicken Breasts

Looking for a delicious dinner recipe for chicken breasts?  I made this dish the other night for a “girls’ night” get-together, and it was a hit.  I love anything with lemon, and this dish didn’t disappoint.  Along with making the house smell heavenly while it was cooking, the chicken came out nice and juicy and the sauce was delicious. I mean, really…how can you go wrong with lemon, garlic and white wine? I will double the recipe next time, because the leftovers were just as good the next day!

This dish is 100% “guy-approved”, so I can now add it to my repertoire of quick, easy and delicious weeknight meals.  🙂

Lemon Chicken Breasts

Lemon Chicken Breasts

Roasted Lemon Chicken Breasts

Slightly adapted from Ina Garten

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1/4 cup good olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 9 cloves)

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (approx. 2 lemons)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (see Liz’s Tidbits)

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (I just laid the sprigs on top of the chicken instead)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 boneless, chicken breasts, skin on (I used organic “skinless” breasts for a healthier version)

1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges (I used 2 lemons)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Watch carefully as to not let the garlic turn too brown.  Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme and 1 teaspoon salt.  Pour this mixture into a 9 x 12 inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place over the sauce.  Brush breasts with olive oil, sprinkle liberally with salt & pepper and tuck lemon wedges among the chicken.  Bake 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts, until done.  Turn broiler to high and broil 2-3 minutes until top of chicken is nicely browned.  Remove from oven, tent with aluminum foil and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.  Serve hot with pan juices.

Liz’s Tidbits: 

  1. There is NO SUBSTITUTION for fresh lemon juice in this recipe.  No bottled stuff! Click here to see my favorite citrus juicer.  It makes juicing lemons (or any citrus, for that matter) a breeze!
  2. Ina’s original recipe calls for “skin-on” breasts, which will crisp up nicely and be beautiful when browned.  It’s all a matter of preference or diet restrictions.  I like to lose the skin for a healthier meal.  Your choice! 🙂
  3. I don’t have time for thyme! Instead of peeling all those tiny thyme leaves off their stems, I merely sprinkle the thyme (stem and all) in and around the juices and over the top of the chicken.
  4. Garlic is a lot easier to mince if you’ll smash the cloves first with the back of a large knife.  This not only helps to release the oils, but also makes it much easier to mince.
  5. I always like to rub dried herbs, especially oregano, in the palm of my hand before adding to the dish.  This helps to release the oils.  Also, check your dried herbs before using.  If they’ve been in your pantry for more than about 6 months, toss them.

Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken Cutlets

I’ve had some recent requests for easy but flavorful weeknight meals with chicken breasts.  I love the fact that boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts are so readily available to purchase these days.  If you’re looking for high protein, but low in fat and calories, the bird is the word!

I frequently look to “Cooking Light” for weeknight meals since I can count on them being healthy and delicious at the same time.  I look for recipes that have high ratings on the posted “user reviews” and recipes that appear to be quick in their preparation.  What I don’t want to sacrifice, however, is flavor!  We’re all about eating food that tastes good!  I do lots of cooking, but if a finished dish does not measure up to our standard of flavor, it doesn’t make the blog!

This chicken dish has several flavor components…dijon mustard, fresh rosemary, parmesan cheese and walnuts.  The mustard/buttermilk mixture gives the chicken a nice tangy flavor while helping the crumb mixture adhere to the chicken.   I love the idea of using cutlets, because they cook up so quickly!  The cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken, but it you pound the breasts out to about 1/4 inch in thickness, they shouldn’t take more than about 13 minutes cooking time.

Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken Cutlets

Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken Cutlets

Fresh Black-Eyed Peas, Southern Style

Fresh Black-Eyed Peas, Southern Style

Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken Cutlets

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light

Serves 4 (1 cutlet each)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 (6-ounce) chicken cutlets (see Liz’s Tidbits)
  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • Rosemary leaves for garnish

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine buttermilk and mustard in a shallow dish, stir to combine, and add chicken turning to coat.

Arrange a wire rack on a large baking sheet, and coat rack with cooking spray. Heat a small skillet over medium high heat, and add panko crumbs.  Cook 2-3 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently (watch carefully as the crumbs can burn very quickly).  Combine panko with grated cheese, walnuts, rosemary, salt & pepper and place into a shallow dish. Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture, dredge in panko mixture, and arrange on the wire rack.  Coat top of chicken with cooking spray, and bake at 425° for 13-15 minutes or until chicken is done. Garnish with rosemary leaves, if desired.

Liz’s Tidbits:

Chicken cutlets are very easy to make from the breasts.  Why pay extra when you can create your own in less than a minute? Just place a chicken breast onto your cutting board (always use a designated board for raw meat–mine is a black plastic one that can be disinfected in the dishwasher!), hold your knife parallel to the cutting board, and slice horizontally from the thickest end of the breast to the thinnest end.  I then put the cutlets between two pieces of plastic wrap and lightly pound them to an even thickness of about 1/4 inch.  Click here to see how to cut the chicken.

Tonight, I served the chicken along with a side of kale salad and some fresh black-eyed peas (cooked exactly like these butter beans), but the cutlets would also be great on top of a green salad!

Citrus-Marinated Roasted Chicken

I hit the jackpot the other day at my local grocery store when I found organic whole chickens at half price.  That’s quite a bargain, because usually those little girls are around $17 each!  Needless to say, I loaded up my shopping cart with every one of them to toss into the freezer.

I’m always looking for new ways to prepare chicken, and while perusing my favorite magazine “Fine Cooking“, I came across this recipe that was a perfect way to use a couple of my chickens and also some of my Meyer Lemons from my tree.   Since the chicken needs to marinate 6-12 hours (better if overnight), it’s not something to whip up on a weeknight.  But for a leisurely Sunday dinner, it’s perfect.  My guys said it was one of the best chicken dishes they’ve ever had.  The citrus flavored sauce it creates is absolutely delicious!

Citrus-Marinated Roasted Chicken

Ingredients

Ready to Marinate in the Fridge

Citrus-Marinated Roasted Chicken

Citrus-Marinated Roasted Chicken

Citrus-Marinated Roasted Chicken

Fine Cooking Magazine, Serves 6

 Printable Recipe

 Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 4-lb. whole chickens, each cut into 6 pieces (4 breasts with rib bones, 4 leg-thigh pieces, 4 wings)
4 large lemons
2 large oranges
8 medium cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano (or 1 Tbs. dried, crumbled)
3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Pour  olive oil into large enough “non-reactive” roasting pan to hold all the chicken in one layer.  Arrange the breasts in the center with the legs and wings around the edge.Zest one of the lemons to yield about a teaspoon of zest and transfer it to a bowl.  Cut 1 of the lemons into 6 wedges, and squeeze the remaining lemons to yield 2/3 cup juice.  Cut 1 of the oranges into 8 wedges and zest the remaining orange to yield about 1 teaspoon, then squeeze the orange to yield about 1/2 cup juice.  Add to the bowl.  Scatter the lemon and orange wedges around the chicken pieces taking care not to put them on top of the chicken so they don’t interfere with browning.Stir the garlic, oregano, soy sauce, honey, and pepper flakes into the bowl with the citrus juice. Pour the marinade evenly over the chicken. Cover with plastic and refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours.Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.Turn the chicken so all the pieces are skin side up. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 375°F and continue to roast until the chicken is golden-brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken with the lemon and orange wedges to a platter. Pour the pan juice into a fat separator and let sit until the fat rises to the top. Discard the excess fat and pour the juice into a 10-inch skillet. Boil over medium-high heat until reduced to 1-1/2 cups, about 10 minutes.

Serve the chicken with the citrus wedges, passing the reduced pan juice at the table.

 Liz’s Tidbits:

1.  If your chicken is not sufficiently browned, place under the broiler (watching carefully so as not to burn) until golden.
 

Easy Spicy Thai Chicken Soup

Thai food is a favorite around our house!  I love the flavorful harmony of Thai ingredients, especially in the soups. With the use of things like ginger or galanga, lemongrass, basil, lime and chili peppers, you get that sweet, spicy, salty, sour and sometimes floral combination that’s just delicious and very addictive!   If you’ve never experienced the aroma and flavor of kaffir lime leaves, you’re in for a treat!  I’ve prepared several thai chicken soups over the years, and tonight I decided to see if I could simplify one using an already-roasted chicken I had in my freezer.  Any time I can use a roasted chicken to get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, I’m a happy girl!

Kaffir Lime Leaves have distinctively shaped "double" leaves

Spicy Thai Chicken Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 roasted chicken
  • 2 cans lite coconut milk (NOT Coco Loco)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves (can substitute lime zest if necessary)
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar (can substitute brown sugar)
  • 4-6 thai bird chilies (more or less depending on heat preference)
  • 8 large slices galanga (can substitute fresh ginger)
  • 1 small head of Napa cabbage, sliced or shredded
  • 1 can straw mushrooms (usually found in the oriental section)
  • 6-8 thai basil leaves, more for garnish (use sweet basil as a substitute)
  • Fresh cilantro & thai basil, chopped, for garnish

Preparation:

Remove chicken from bone and cut into bite sized pieces. Set aside.

Place coconut milk, broth, lemongrass, galanga, kaffir lime leaves, sugar and chilies in pot over high heat.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, add chicken, cabbage, mushrooms, basil, fish sauce and lime juice, and simmer 15-20 minutes.  Ladle into bowls, and garnish with cilantro, basil and lime wedges, if desired.

Liz’s Tidbits:

1. You can always substitute ginger for galanga, brown sugar for coconut palm sugar and lime zest for kaffir leaves, but if at all possible, try and find the Thai ingredients.  If you can’t find them locally, you can always order them online.  I keep kaffir lime leaves and thai bird chilies in my freezer.  They keep for a very long time!

2.   Thai bird chilies are VERY HOT! Since everyone in my house likes things spicy, I like to slice mine in half lengthwise before adding to the soup.  If you like it really spicy, try slicing the chilies into little pieces, and then float some extras in your soup just before serving.

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin is one of our favorite “cold weather” dishes. The name “Coq au Vin” is actually french for “chicken cooked in wine, bacon, garlic and mushrooms”, and legends trace it back to ancient Julius Caesar! While the wine used is typically a Burgundy, I’ve seen recipes using all kinds of wine, even white.  Sometimes the chicken is marinated in the wine, and other times, like in this recipe,  it’s added to the pot with the chicken to cook a low and slow braise.

The word “coq” in French means “rooster”, but most recipes today call for a whole cut up chicken. I’ve tried it all different ways, and we prefer using bone-in (more flavor), skinless (less fat) thighs.  Dark meat just holds up better to a slow braise without drying out like the white meat does. When I find bone-in thighs at my grocery store, they’re usually not skinless, but very easy to skin myself.

Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin

Adapted from Tyler Florence

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups pearl onions, peeled (I use frozen)
  • 2 cups mushrooms
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut in 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
  • 1 bottle Burgundy wine (can use any red wine that you like)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

Preparation:

In a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Coat chicken pieces in flour, salt and pepper. Brown chicken in hot bacon fat on both sides. If there’s not enough bacon fat, add a little olive oil if needed. Remove chicken and add onions, carrots and mushrooms (See Liz’s Tidbits #1). Saute 3-4 minutes until they start to brown, then add chopped garlic and saute 1 more minute.  Place chicken back into pan, and pour cognac into a small glass. REMOVE PAN FROM HEAT, (See Liz’s Tidbits #2) pour in cognac and put pan back on the flame. Flambe by lighting a long match and holding it just above the pot and light the fumes. The brandy will catch fire and the flames will burn out within 1 minute. When the flames die down, gradually stir in the wine and broth. When the wine is well blended, add the herbs. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to simmer for 15 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce a bit. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste or cornstarch to aid in the thickening process.

To serve:

I like to serve my Coq au Vin on top of mashed potatoes.  Top the chicken & vegetables with reserved crumbled bacon and fresh parsley.

 Liz’s Tidbits:

1.  While Tyler’s recipe calls for putting the mushrooms in at the beginning and letting them cook in the wine for an hour, I like to saute them in a little butter with salt & pepper during the last 15 minutes of cooking, then add them to the pot.  In my opinion, their flavor and texture are better this way, and it keeps the mushrooms from turning an unappetizing purplish color (from the red wine).

2.   Alcohol is VERY flammable.  Be VERY CAREFUL when flambeing.  Always remove your skillet from the fire, add cognac and then return to the flame.  If you haven’t done this before, I highly suggest using either a long handled match or one of those long lighters. Stand back, light the cognac and watch it burn down.  This will take about 3-4 minutes, so DON’T TURN YOUR BACK on the fire.  Always keep a close eye on it!

Lemon Chicken Breasts

My guys know that I love Barefoot Contessa’s recipes, so they surprised me with another one of her cookbooks for my birthday. There are so many great looking recipes in the book that I’d like to try, so tonight I started with her Lemon Chicken Breasts. It’s great as a weeknight meal, because it’s quick and easy. It’s also a great entertaining dish, because it’s FULL of great flavors! What’s not to love about garlic, white wine, lemon & herbs?   For those of you who are looking for “REALLY easy” recipes, (Jeanmarie, you know who you are!), I think this is one you’ll love!  🙂

The recipe calls for boneless breasts with the skin on, but good luck finding those! With everyone so health conscious, it’s hard enough these days to find chicken with the skin on, so finding them boneless, too, is next to impossible.  I used bone-in, skin on breasts and had outstanding results.  You want the skin on for this recipe, because you want it to brown up really nice.  The mixture of lemon, garlic, wine, oregano & thyme took this dish over the top!  🙂

Lemon Chicken Breasts

Lemon Chicken Breasts

Adapted from the cookbook, Barefoot Contessa “How Easy is That?”

Printable Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic (about 12 cloves)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves, more for garnish
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 chicken breasts, skin on
  • 1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400º. Prep all ingredients and have them ready to go.

Warm olive oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add garlic, and cook for just 1 minute being careful not to let the garlic turn brown. Take off heat and add wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Pour into a 9 x 12 inch baking dish.

Remove chicken from packaging and pat dry with paper towels.  Place skin side up over the sauce and brush each breast with a little olive oil.  Sprinkle liberally with salt & pepper, and tuck the lemon wedges among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken, until it is done and the skin is lightly browned.  If necessary, broil for about 2 minutes if the skin isn’t brown enough. Remove from oven, tent with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt, and serve with the pan juices and roasted lemon wedges.

**Liz’s Cooking Tidbits:

Handling Raw Chicken…to rinse or not to rinse?

You might want to think twice about rinsing that raw chicken in your sink.  Instead of washing off any salmonella like we think we’re doing, we are actually spreading the germs all over our sink and countertop. Check out this article for the full scoop!



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