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Moroccan Chicken Stew – Exotic and Delish!

Moroccan Chicken Stew – Exotic and Delish!
cinnamon, cumin, black and red pepper, and turmeric.

This little jar holds cinnamon, cumin, black and red pepper, and turmeric.

When I find a ready-made food that I really enjoy, I like to try and re-create it in my own kitchen. Campbell’s Soup is trying to reach out to the younger set with new and interesting soups in pouches under the name “Campbell’s Go.”  I’m from the tail-end of the Baby Boomers – not a Millennial, but my taste buds aren’t dead yet! I tried and loved their Moroccan Style Chicken soup, so I made a note of the ingredients and gave it a try. What really helped was finding a jar of a Moroccan spice blend – saved me from trying to figure out how much turmeric –vs- cinnamon or cumin! The first time, I used diced tomatoes for the base, and added some water; I also used leftover rotisserie chicken instead of starting from scratch. It was flavorful, but too soupy – not the consistency I was looking for. This time, I used crushed tomatoes and a tub of concentrated chicken stock (look for it near the broths in the soup aisle) as the base which gave me the consistency I was looking for – more like a spaghetti sauce than a soup. I also used boneless, skinless chicken thighs (3 for this recipe), that I cut up into chunks before cooking, so the prep was longer, but ultimately worth it. Overall, I’d say it took about ½ hour of prep and I simmered it for under an hour. I served it with couscous and flat bread in a soup plate.

  • 2 c. cubed raw chicken
  • ½ c coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 c coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1 tbl olive oil

    Chicken,carrots and onions, sauteed in olive oil.

    Chicken,carrots and onions, sauteed in olive oil.

  • 1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1-14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1-2 tbl Moroccan spice mix
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 serving concentrated chicken stock

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add onions and cook for a couple of minutes; add chicken and pepper to taste. Stir and cook chicken/onion mixture for 5 minutes and then add the carrots and continue to cook and stir until carrots begin to soften. Dump in the tomatoes and garbanzo beans; add stock and spices, stir. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in a shallow bowl with couscous and naan bread.

Moroccan Chicken Stew, couscous, flat bread

Dinner is served!

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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Recipe

 

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Pre-made Simmmer Sauce, Packaged Soup Mix: Is it cheating?

Lemon Artichoke Simmer Sauce

After a recent shopping trip that included World Market, I came away with a couple of packaged recipe starters – a simmer sauce and dried soup mixes. Although some purists may disagree, I don’t believe using such things for inspiration or a jumping off point is cheating. If I am adding 4 or more ingredients I have to prepare myself to make a complete dish, then it is merely one of the steps in the preparation. (Step 5. Dump in Simmer Sauce) Few of us have the time it would take to create a fresh sauce of this sort – at least in time for that evening’s dinner! The one I chose had lemon juice, artichokes and white wine as its main flavors – which sounded like a marvelous combination to me! I used boneless chicken thighs (1 1/2 lb) that I dredged in flour/ground pepper and then lightly browned in olive oil.

4 or more ingredients added? Not cheating!

I added chopped onion (1/2 c), sliced zucchini (2 small), canned artichoke quarters (14 oz., drained), and mushrooms (1 c sliced), as well as the sauce, and simmered for 35-40 minutes. I served it on Basmati rice to soak up the juices. Delicious!

My other recipe starter was World Market’s Bistro Style Lentil Soup Mix. Even though there were dehydrated vegetables in the mix, the instructions called for fresh ingredients like onion (1/2 onion, chopped), garlic (2 cloves – it called for 4!), and carrots (1 c chopped), as well as canned diced tomatoes (14.5 oz) and chicken broth (2 c). I took it a bit further and added mushrooms (1 c sliced), spinach (2 c)  and sliced cooked Aidell’s Sausage (1 pkg. chicken & apple).

Dried Soup Mix

The soup had to simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, so this is not something you can decide to make on the spur of the moment! In all fairness, you would have simmer it that long if you gathered and measured all the lentils yourself. Undercooked lentils are crunchy and not really what you are going for in a soup. The house smelled amazing while it was cooking, by the way. I’m surprised there wasn’t a line of neighbors – or raccoons – outside the door by the time it was ready to be served! I chose a chewy ciabatta roll as an accompaniment to this soup, so we could swipe out our bowls!

Something that could have been done before adding the sausage and spinach (they were added with about 1/2 hour to go), would be to run it through a blender to make it smooth and creamy, but I had to dash out the door after bolting down a quick, still-simmering bowl, so maybe next time!

A hearty soup for a chilly day!

PS When I returned home, I grabbed a second bowl and my ciabatta roll – tasty! Plenty of leftovers, too!

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Information, Recipe

 

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Searching for Inspiration…

Two things you should not do at a grocery store: 1) Go when you’re hungry and, 2) Go with the intent to become inspired. Actually, there are many more things you shouldn’t do – pilfering and nudity both spring to mind – but perhaps we can cover those things in another post… Mind you, I have gone to the grocery store hungry and in search of inspiration and it usually does not end well. Junk food leaps into my cart and I finger the chocolate bars near the check-out with obvious yearning. Inspirational choices usually end up being something frozen or deli purchased and – while not all bad – that’s not really cooking, is it? In the best of all possible worlds, I like to head to the store with a good list, including meal planning notes – and a fist full of coupons.

A good start is to check the weekly ads of your local grocery stores. You can figure out what types of ingredients are available for the best price that week. Next, find a good recipe website. I really like All Recipes.com. It has a good search engine for helping you find recipes and reviews. If you put in “chicken” and “rice,” for example, you get 399 recipes to choose from! The reviews are invaluable as these are written by real people with varying degrees of cooking skills who tell what substitutions they may have made, how it turns out and whether they will use it again. You are certain to find something that will work for you and your family. They also have an iPad app that is fabulous (and, even better, FREE!) so that I can use my iPad as a recipe book – very cool!

Brown Rice & Broccoli - Parmesan cheese on top - yum!

If you are fortunate enough to live near a Central Market in Kitsap, Snohomish or King counties in Washington, it is actually feasible to stop in and find inspiration at their Culinary Resource Center (the store in Kitsap county has the center located in the produce). They have chef’s preparing samples of some of their wonderful tested recipes with ingredients found in the store. If you don’t live near any, don’t despair! They have a website with all their recipes available for printing on the Culinary Resource Center page. The recipes cater to all levels of cooking and include a variety of ingredients. My husband and I were in the store recently and taste-tested their Brown Rice and Broccoli recipe – very tasty! I grabbed a copy and gathered the easily located ingredients to make for an upcoming event and it went over quite well! The recipe is here.

The great thing about both of these sites is that you can print out the recipes for future use – no need to try and find it again on the web. All Recipes.com also allows you to keep a “recipe box” to store favorites when you set up a free account. I usually print them out and put them in plastic sleeves in my large recipe binder – it works better for me. Central Market’s site will help you set up a shopping list, but I don’t think you can actually save the recipe on the site. If you live in the area, you can buy one of their special binders to keep the recipe cards organized with the included category dividers.

There are many other options for cooking inspiration – cooking blogs, foodie tv shows, etc., but these two sites should help you get started – who knows what else you might find! If you have a favorite recipe site/source, please let me know what it is in a comment below!

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Information, Recipe

 

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A Work in Progress: Raspberry-Balsamic Reduction Sauce

I’ve had two fabulous meals at restaurants lately that inspired me to give reduction sauces a shot. I had the Chicken Marsala at The Main Street Ale House in Kingston that was so wonderful that I came >this< close to licking the plate. The other was Apricot Chicken at – of all places – The Olive Garden in Silverdale. Again, there was very nearly a plate-licking incident.

Both of these dishes had chicken breasts that were pounded nearly flat. OK – I have a breast-pounding mallet

Surely this device will pound a chicken breast nice & flat!

that looks like it could stop a moose in its tracks which I keep in the car for protection. Or in case I’m suddenly underwater and need to break a window. With the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, I commenced pounding (with the smooth side of the mallet) until they were flat and the size of a salad plate. And, hey, it was fun! I sprinkled them with thyme and fresh ground pepper on both sides and put a little sea salt on one side only before cutting them into manageable sizes for grilling.

As I said, I never made a reduction sauce before and I didn’t want to muck up my experiment by actually researching the concept. Pshaw! So this is what I did:

  • In a large, deep sided skillet (large because I needed to add the grilled chicken later and I hate
    Raspberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce

    See - reduced by half!

    washing dishes) I melted 1/2 c. of seedless raspberry jam over low heat.

  • I added 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar, 3/4 c. apple juice (I used a small juice box of 100% juice), fresh ground pepper and 1 tbl. dried onion (handy for sauces when you only need a small amount of onion). I bumped the heat up to medium-high so it would come to a boil.
  • Once it was boiling, I reduced the heat to a simmer until it reduced by half and the chicken was ready to go in. I tossed in some fresh raspberries for color.
  • I coated the chicken in the sauce and let it simmer for 5 or 10 minutes so the flavors would meld.

It smelled like heaven and was very pretty to look at. Not to mention, quite tasty!

See how pretty?!?

Remember that this is a work in progress and that I had never made a reduction sauce before. My husband begged me to put the recipe on my blog so here it is! If you have made a reduction sauce before and what I am doing is horribly, horribly wrong, please let me know.

But if something this delicious is wrong, I don’t wanna be right!

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2011 in Information, Recipe

 

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Using Leftover Chicken: Mediterranean Pasta

Last time, I described how to roast a chicken and promised a good recipe for leftovers – this is it! This recipe has a lot going for it – it’s quick (about half an hour), it’s filling (hello? pasta!), and it uses leftover chicken (so you don’t end up with science experiments in the fridge!) Oh yeah – and there’s bacon in it – everything’s better with bacon! I think there will be a future blog post on bacon – so reviled and so delicious!

Note the fun pasta shape!

Mediterranean Pasta (click for printable pdf) The original recipe called for linguine – which is not my favorite, to tell you the truth. I chose a fun-looking pasta that looks like a piggy tail. I can’t recall the name of it, but it is one of the Culinary Circle-brand dry pastas at Albertsons. You can see what it looks like in the photo.

(UPDATE: I checked on the name of the pasta shape and it is called, “Trottole.”)

I’m not big on measuring for this type of dish (baking is a different story!), so there is probably more chicken than is called for in the recipe. The original recipe also called for a smaller-sized can of artichoke hearts, but what kind of fun is that? Also – more feta is not a garnish – it’s a must! I probably also ground some fresh pepper into it – I do that automatically. I don’t use a lot of salt, either – canned products have tons of sodium so I may not add any or just a turn or two from my sea salt grinder. The bacon is not an overpowering flavor in the dish – just a hint of smokiness! And the rosemary – well, I told you about my rosemary bush in the roasted chicken post! I dried my own rosemary in the microwave between 2 sheets of white paper towels and I’m pretty sure I put in more than was called for! (see Fun Facts page – #6)

This is one of those recipes that is nicely flexible and can be adjusted to individual family tastes. Now that I’m thinking about it, I probably slivered 1/4 red onion into the pan with the tomatoes… Want garlic? Sure! Want more bacon? Why not! Half of the family likes olives – the other doesn’t? Have a bowl of them on the side!  Hate artichoke hearts? What’s wrong with you???!!?

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2011 in Recipe

 

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Chicken Basics: Roasting a Chicken

The wonderful aroma of a roasting chicken is a “comfort smell,” I believe, and is such a simple dinner that I blush to say that I don’t do it very often. All it takes is a little planning because it does take one and a half to two and a half hours to roast. Plus, there are usually leftovers that can be used for other dinners – such as Rice Bowls or Mediterranean Chicken (to be posted later – watch this space!)

I like to get about a 4 lb. whole fryer – preferably locally provided and/or free-range – and these can cost anywhere from .88/lb. to 1.99/lb., depending on specials and availability. I use a lot of rosemary when roasting my chicken – it adds to the flavor of the meat and it is one of my favorite “aroma-therapy” fragrances. I have a large rosemary bush in my yard that thrives on the benign neglect that I lavish upon it. I cut several branches to use as a “rack” to keep it off the bottom of my roasting dish and a few extra to stuff here and there in the chicken.

A small rant to begin: Why do they no longer put the nasty giblets and neck in a little bag? I hate trying to get those gooey things out!

The Pan: You will need a pan or dish with high sides that will fit your entire chicken – bits that hang over the edge will drip into your oven and could cause a fire. This equals “Not Good.” I have a nice oval-shaped Pyrex dish that is about 3 inches deep – 1.8 liters (almost 2 quarts). I always spray the dish with non-stick spray – we don’t have a dishwasher and it just makes for an easier clean-up.

Chicken Prep: Remove the chicken from it’s wrappings; remove and discard the giblets/neck (see rant above). Rinse the chicken inside and out with cold water. Drain and pat dry the skin. Place in the pan, breast side up. As I said, I use rosemary branches as a rack to keep the chicken off the bottom of the pan, but you could use thyme branches (although it would take a lot!), celery ribs or carrot sticks instead. It keeps the chicken from swimming in the fat while it roasts (the backstroke, I believe). Using actual stuffing in a chicken is kind of an exercise in futility because you won’t have enough stuffing in the chicken to make more than 2 servings and it will be pretty greasy, so I usually shove a couple of rosemary branches in the cavity. I also loosen the breast skin, using “foo d scissors” to cut the membrane in the center so there is a nice “pocket” to stick a little more of the he rbs. I a lso use those handy “food scissors” to cut off the tail and fat flaps at the tail end of the chicken – every little bit h elps, right? Here are the “food scissors” that Pampered Chef carries (we have an earlier version that we use daily!) I drizzle a little olive oil over the bird and rub it around – an oil massage! – and then a little fresh-ground sea salt and pepper.

Betty Crocker Cookbook c.1980

Roasting : I use my ancient Betty Crocker Cookbook’s roasting guide to determine oven temperature and total cooking time, but here is a link to an online guide that is exactly the same. The 4 lb. (or so) chicken I usually get takes about 2 hours at 375 degrees. Preheat your oven and have one of your racks centered. I don’t often tie the legs together – if I have the right kind of string, I will, but as long as the bird fits in the roasting dish, it’ll be fine. Check on your bird after an hour to make sure it isn’t over-browning – put some foil over it, if need be, and remove for the last 10 minutes. Can you smell that?!!? Is your mouth watering yet?!!? At the end of your cook time, you can check the internal temperature by inserting a meat thermometer into a thigh or breast – don’t let it hit bone – and seeing if it is 180 degrees or more. If the legs are all splayed out and real loose looking, you should be safe without checking the temperature. Let it rest outside of the oven for about 10 minutes before yelling, “Come for to eat!” Refrigerate left-overs.

My family descends like locusts on roast chicken, so I don’t have any photos of a chicken that I actually have touched, but I found this nice photo in Microsoft Clip Art – and it is surrounded by rosemary, so I figure it’s close enough!

 

Roast Chicken courtesy of MS Clipart!

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Information, Recipe

 

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I feel like chicken tonight…

“Chicken? Again?” Who hasn’t thought or heard that – a show of hands? One, two, three, hmm… ten, oh …40,000…. Face it – we’ve all heard it! We oh-so-often marinate and grill our chicken (in the Pacific Northwest, we grill year round – rain, snow, shine!) which is quick and easy. A no-brainer. I hunted around for a different recipe for chicken with my criteria being “super easy for a super supper.” Too cute? You can almost see the apron around my waist and the pearls around my neck, can’t you? Anyway… I went to a great recipe source called All Recipes and found this recipe for a rosemary chicken that was almost too easy! Of course, even though this was the first time I tried it, I made some changes according to what I thought would taste nice with the basic recipe, but to also accommodate stuff I already had in my fridge. It’s called, “One Pot Rosemary Chicken” and you can print a pdf of the recipe by clicking here, but I’ll describe it below as well. The amounts are in the recipe – I won’t bore you with repetition. You may even have most of the ingredients on hand already – if not, they are easy to find or substitute with what you do have. Hmmm – I guess another criteria for my recipes is “flexible!”

One Pot Rosemary Chicken - tasty and pretty, too!

You’ll need 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (rinse and pat dry with paper towels), salt, pepper, dried rosemary, canned white beans (drained), stewed tomatoes (I used the “Italian style” or you could use canned diced tomatoes if you have that in the cupboard instead) – undrained, asparagus, slivered red onion, and black olives. Some sliced mushrooms would also be yummy in this recipe…If you don’t like asparagus, about a cup of another green veggie will do.

Mix the seasonings together while you heat a little olive oil in a deep-sided skillet. Sprinkle the seasonings on one side of the chicken; press it on there with your fingers so it sticks well. Place the chicken seasoned side down in the skillet and cook for 3 minutes. You are searing in the juices at a slightly higher temperature than you will use to finish off the dish. Reduce the heat and add everything but the olives. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the chicken is done. Stir in the olives. That’s it! How easy was that? We were too lazy to make a salad when we had it – that would have made the meal too well balanced any way – but made sure we had a nice bread to soak up the juices. Give it a try and let me know how you liked it!

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2011 in Recipe

 

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