Chicken and Broccoli: Slow Cooker Versus Stovetop

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Slow cooker versus stovetop.

My mother sent me a recipe for an Italian slow cooker meal recently, and Alex and I improvised with ingredients by throwing in whatever we had in the fridge.  The end product was a bit of a hodge-podge of flavors, but led us to crave this recipe – slow cooker chicken and broccoli.  We tested our new recipe by cooking half of our ingredients on the stovetop at Aunt Maria and Uncle Robin’s home in San Diego.  We then took their slow cooker and the rest of our ingredients over to Jess’s kitchen for the afternoon to test out the slow cooker process.  This week’s new recipe was truly a team effort!  The slow cooker version of my recipe was our favorite.

Recipe

Slow Cooker Chicken and Broccoli – serves 8 to 10

This recipe works well with fresh or frozen broccoli; the broccoli shreds as it cooks, so you do not need to worry about chopping your broccoli precisely.  If you have fresh broccoli, I recommend peeling and chopping the broccoli stem after you have cut off the florets.  That way you can use as much of the produce as possible in your dish, and the firm circles of broccoli stem add a nice crunch.

You will need: IMG_1547

  1. 1 yellow onion, chopped
  2. 4 small zucchini, chopped
  3. 5 oz baby bella mushrooms, halved
  4. 2 broccoli crowns, chopped – stems included
  5. 10 oz frozen peas
  6. 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 1 C brown rice
  8. 1 C low-sodium chicken broth
  9. 2 T hoisin sauce
  10. 1 T soy sauce
  11. 14.5 oz can baby corn
  12. 2 8 oz cans sliced water chestnuts
  13. 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  14. 2 t black pepper
  15. 1 t cinnamon
  16. 1 t red pepper flakes

Optional: sriracha sauce for serving

Steps:

  1. Begin by prepping and chopping your first six ingredients (onion through garlic). Set aside.
  2. Next, add rice, chicken broth and 1 C water to slow cooker.  Add hoisin sauce and soy sauce.
  3. Add chopped and canned vegetables, including the liquid from the canned water chestnuts.
  4. Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, and add to the top layer of your slow cooker.  At this point, a 6-quart slow cooker would be almost completely full.
  5. Finally, season with black pepper, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.
  6. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low.  Serve with hoisin or sriracha sauce on the side.
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Buddha Bowl with Chicken and Vegetables

Hello from sunny San Diego!  I am currently training out of the San Diego Rowing Club with my doubles partner, Jess.  In between training sessions, I spend a lot of time meal planning and cooking, because I love to have dinner prepped or cooked before afternoon practice.  That allows us to refuel right away with a satisfying meal!  Last year, my husband and I started using a weekly planner to visualize our grocery needs.  Using this weekly planner, I start by marking out any days when I know we will have dinners out.  When I am home, I consult with Alex to compare what meals we are in the mood for that week.  We do not always stick to the plan, but I have found that visualizing my grocery list in this way makes it easier to see where we can add in extra veggies and sides.  I have saved the sheets from each so that we can remember our favorite meals and recipes!

This week, I am drawing inspiration from “The Racing Weight Cookbook” by Matt Fitzgerald and Georgie Fear.  The sauce in their recipe for “Asian Chicken with Peanut Sauce” made me reminisce about a great menu item that I enjoyed back in Chicago – the Buddha Bowl at Standard Market.  My good friend Hannah and I have experimented with a Buddha Bowl recipe sauce in the past, and we compared notes on the ideal flavor combinations.  I combined my sources and memories to create a Buddha Bowl with sauce and ingredients that I love!  We made this meal in Jess’ kitchen, and shared it with my sister, Liz, and my brother-in-law, Jay, in their home in San Diego.

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A sample page from my weekly planner (Rifle Paper Co.).

Buddha Bowl with Chicken and Vegetables

 

Recipe

Buddha Bowl with Chicken and Vegetables – serves 6 to 8

This dish is exciting to work with because you can easily substitute in your favorite vegetables and grains. I start with a root vegetable, and then select greens and a cruciferous vegetable. I almost always use onion and red or green peppers, too. Seasonal, local produce flavors shine in this vegetable-based meal! Quinoa worked well with the veggies that I used; you could also use brown rice, faro or another grain that you have on hand. Finally, the protein in this meal is flexible, too! I have used chicken or tofu in the past, but Standard Market features delightful Buddha Bowls with fish or shrimp as well.

While preparing this meal, I thought of my Grandma Lilly’s advice about chopping peppers: always place the skin of the pepper down on the cutting board before slicing.  It is so much easier to cut through the inside of a pepper section, rather than trying to pierce the skin!  Check out the photo series above for an illustration of her technique.  This recipe allows time for preparation during cooking time if all ingredients are at hand.

You will need:

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  1. 3 medium sweet potatoes (at least 1 lb)
  2. 2 T olive oil
  3. 1 1/2 t garlic salt
  4. 1 1/2 t black pepper
  5. 1/2 t cinnamon
  6. 1 red pepper
  7. 1 green pepper
  8. 1 large yellow onion
  9. 2 broccoli crowns
  10. 1/2 bunch of kale, about 3 large leaves
  11. 2 green onions, chopped into 2 inch pieces
  12. 1/2 C quinoa
  13. 1/2 C chicken broth for quinoa
  14. 1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped

For your sauce:

  1. 1 C chicken broth
  2. 1/4 C peanut flour – we used PB2, but 2 T peanut butter would also work
  3. 1 T sriracha sauce
  4. 1 T honey
  5. 1 T rice wine vinegar
  6. 2 t soy sauce
  7. 1 t ground ginger

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 425º F.
  2. Wash or peel sweet potatoes – I prefer to keep skin on – and chop into 1/2 inch rounds and then quarter each round.  Drizzle with 1/2 T olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 t each of garlic salt, black pepper and cinnamon.  Toss on baking sheet and begin roasting at 425º F.
  3. Meanwhile, chop peppers, onions and broccoli into bite-sized pieces.  Drizzle with 1/2 T olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 t each of garlic salt and black pepper.  Toss on baking sheet.  After your sweet potatoes have roasted for 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 350º F and add baking sheet with peppers, onions and broccoli.  Stir sweet potato chunks to roast evenly.
  4. Combine quinoa, chicken broth and water in a pot over medium-high heat.  When quinoa comes to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
  5. Heat a large pan with 1/2 T olive oil over medium heat.  Add chicken bites when oil begins to shimmer, stirring occasionally to cook evenly.
  6. Trim stems from kale and tear into large pieces – the kale will shrink to bite-sized pieces while roasting.  Add to a baking sheet with chopped green onions and toss in 1/2 T olive oil, 1/2 t garlic salt and 1/2 t black pepper.  Roast at 350 for 10 minutes and stir sweet potato chunks and the second veggie pan.  The broccoli should just be beginning to brown.
  7. Combine sauce ingredients and simmer over low heat.
  8. Check on your kale first for tinged edges.  Remove kale after about 10 minutes, then sweet potatoes and vegetables from your oven.  At this point, your sweet potatoes, veggies and greens have roasted for about 30, 20 and 10 minutes, respectively.  Combine all roasted vegetables with chicken in one large serving dish.
  9. Serve over quinoa with peanut sauce.

 

Sauce inspiration: Fitzgerald, Matt, and Georgie Fear. “Asian Chicken with Peanut Sauce.” Racing Weight Cookbook: Lean, Light Recipes for Athletes. Boulder: Velopress, 2013. 230-231. Print.

Thai Seafood Curry in Truckee

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Dinner at the Taylor’s

 

On a recent trip to Truckee, California, my mother-in-law, Betsy, treated me to a cooking lesson based on her adaptation of a Thai curry recipe.  Betsy is a registered dietitian and has been practicing for over 20 years.  She is enthusiastic about using a variety of recipes and ingredients, and simplifying recipes to make them more accessible to her clients and quick enough for weeknight meals!  Betsy adapted this Thai seafood curry recipe from a beloved cookbook called “The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking” (see below for source).

Betsy prepped all of our ingredients while Peter, my father-in-law, Alex and I were out for a cross-country ski at the nearby Tahoe Donner XC Center.  After a day spent out in the snow, Betsy’s curry is the best dish to come home to!  Fortunately, we were home early enough that I could learn her recipe.  We missed Annika, my sister-in-law, on the trails and in the kitchen.  She is away in Europe competing for Great Britain in Nordic skiing, and is enjoying training and trying new recipes all over Europe.  It was a treat to cook in the Taylor’s kitchen, which is full of personal touches like the painted cow tiles in the photographs below.  Read on for my version of the recipe, with tips and tricks from Betsy Taylor!

Recipe

Thai Seafood Curry – serves 8 to 10

While preparing this dish, Betsy quizzed me on my curry savvy: “using any ingredient in the fridge, what could you do to tamp down the heat if your curry is too spicy?”  I guessed that you would add cream, but adding carrots pureed with water does the trick!  That method also works well with Mexican dishes that taste too spicy.  On the other hand, if you find that you need to add more curry paste, mix paste with a small bowl of your current curry base to form a “slurry” which will incorporate more smoothly!

For veggie variety, consider using frozen corn or frozen green beans prepared the same way as the peas in our recipe.  Broccoli and cauliflower florets work well in curry; add broccoli, cauliflower or fresh green beans when you would add the Brussels sprouts.  Kabocha can be used in place of butternut squash!  Betsy has also made this recipe for us using cubes of tofu in place of salmon.

You will need: IMG_0850.JPG

  1. 1 lb butternut squash, sliced
  2. rice – we used organic jasmine brown rice
  3. low-sodium chicken broth for rice
  4. 14.5 oz can of full-fat coconut milk
  5. 2-3 T red curry paste
  6. 3 T fish sauce (soy sauce would be fine)
  7. 3 T sugar
  8. 2 t black pepper
  9. 1 T lemon juice or 1 lemon grass stalk cut into 1/2″ pieces, bruised with side of knife (smack)
  10. 32 oz of butternut squash soup – we used Trader Joe’s low-sodium version
  11. 1 t turmeric
  12. 1 lb Brussels sprouts, shredded
  13. 1 lb skinless salmon filets, thawed and cubed
  14. 10 oz frozen peas, thawed
  15. 1 lb frozen, pre-cooked shrimp, thawed

Optional: 2 tomatoes cut into wedges for garnish

 

Steps:

  1. Start by thawing your frozen ingredients, including peas, shrimp and salmon.  Thaw frozen salmon filets in cold water in their vacuum-sealed packages for about 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare butternut squash.  If using whole squash, microwave for 1 to 2 minutes before peeling and cutting.  This will make the squash much easier to cut through!  Cut squash into 1 inch rings, and then into thin slices.  Combine with a little water in a dish covered with plastic wrap, leaving a vent open at one side.  Microwave for 6 minutes or until just tender; the squash will finish cooking in your curry.
  3. Thaw frozen peas under running cold water for a few minutes to break up any ice, set aside.  When your salmon is ready, cut filets into 1 or 2 inch chunks.
  4. Wash Brussels sprouts and trim the ends. Slice Brussels sprouts thinly, or prepare in a food processor.
  5. Follow instructions on package to prepare your rice, using half water and half chicken broth as your liquid.
  6. Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium heat and add coconut cream, reserving the coconut water at the bottom of the can for later use.  “Golden Star” coconut milk typically has lots of cream; we got a little over 1 cup from our can.
  7. Add red curry paste, gradually (you can always add more later).  Bubble for 2 minutes.
  8. Add fish sauce, sugar, coconut water, black pepper and lemon juice or lemon grass.  Stir to combine.
  9. When your mixture has come back up to heat and is bubbling gently, add butternut squash soup.  Allow your curry to return to a simmer between additions.
  10. Sprinkle with turmeric.
  11. Add Brussels sprouts, stir to combine.  Add salmon, stir, return to simmer.  Check salmon for opacity to indicate doneness after about 5 minutes.
  12. Add cooked butternut squash, stir to warm. Taste Brussels sprouts and add peas and pre-cooked shrimp when Brussels sprouts have reached desired tenderness.
  13. Adjust spices and sauces at this time.  If using tomato wedges, add them now and stir to combine.
  14. Remove from heat, serve over a bed of jasmine rice.

 

Mai, Pham. “Thai Seafood Curry with Pumpkin and Fresh Basil.” The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking: Favorite Recipes from Lemon Grass Restaurant and Cafes. Rocklin, CA: Prima Pub., 1996. 210-211. Print.

Indian Cuisine for Mom’s Birthday

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Mom’s Birthday Feast

Last week, my mom, my husband Alex and I were halfway to the Philadelphia airport when we learned that our flight home to Chicago was cancelled.  Weather in Chicago was horrible last Monday, and almost nobody flew there that day; we were rescheduled for that Thursday!  Our first thought was that we must get to Mikimotos in Wilmington for sushi, which turned into a 4pm very early dinner.  Next, we texted our family friend Patrick to let him know we would be around for a few more days.  He called back and officially “passed the baton” to me to cook for my mother’s upcoming birthday.  You’ll hear more about Patrick in future posts; he has had a major influence on my interest in cooking, and has written many recipes.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, my mother’s birthday, and I could be found writing out an epic grocery list at our kitchen island.  I decided to cook a few Indian recipes, because Indian had been a favorite while growing up in Dover, Delaware, and I knew my mother had not had Indian cuisine in a long time!  Over the last few years, I have tweaked a slow-cooker chicken tikka masala recipe, so I knew I would start there.  At 3pm, the slow-cooker chicken was the first entree dish to be prepared.  From there, I tackled the cucumber lemon side salad and the kheer, and Indian rice pudding dessert, both of which taste better after a little time in the refrigerator.  Next came the rice – my mom opted for brown rice – and the final entree, a saag paneer-inspired spinach and tofu dish.  Finally, we took about 3 minutes to heat naan from Safeway.  All in all, the meal was a big hit with my family, and my biggest regret was not making more food for leftovers – and not adding more garlic to everything, as Patrick advised.  I shared this meal with Mom, Dad, Patrick, Grandma and Alex.  My brother, Steve, may have the gotten saag paneer leftovers.  Happy Birthday Mom!

I searched online for each of my recipes, and have posted links to my sources below.  Read on for my versions of those recipes and for tips and tweaks!

 

 

Recipes

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Tandoori – serves 4 to 6*

I once used a tandoori spice blend when I did not have garam masala in-house, and found that I preferred the tandoori spice flavors.  With the tandoori spice blend, this recipe comes out just a little sweeter; for more kick, increase your cayenne pepper and add an extra garlic clove or two.  I also prefer chicken breast for this recipe, but the dish works with chicken thigh or cubed tofu as well.  Coconut milk has been substituted for cream from the original recipe, to make this dish easier on stomachs.

You will need:IMG_0570

  1. 2 cups crushed tomatoes
  2. 1 large onion, chopped
  3. cloves garlic, chopped
  4. 2 T tomato paste
  5. t Indian spice blend – I prefer tandoori spice
  6. salt and black pepper
  7. 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cubed
  8. 1/2 cup coconut milk

Steps:

  1. Prep your ingredients ahead of time!  For the spice blend, I like to use a 7-spice tandoori blend, including equal parts black pepper, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, ginger, paprika, salt and turmeric.  I like to alphabetize my spices!  To make just enough for this recipe, use about 1/2 t of each spice.
  2. Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomato paste and spices with cubed chicken in your slow cooker.  Heat on high for 3 hours (or low for 7-8 hours).
  3. Meanwhile, prepare rice and enjoy the smells filling your kitchen!
  4. Add coconut milk just before serving and serve over rice.

*double this recipe for delicious leftovers!

 

Kheer (Rice Pudding) Recipe

For the kheer, I doubled the amount of rice recommended to take away some of the runny consistency, for Patrick’s sake, but will use 3/4 cup of basmati rice in the future to achieve my preferred consistency.  Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly and chose to toast sliced almonds as my topping.  During the kheer preparation, we debated using golden raisins in place of regular raisins, which led to a blind taste comparison between chopped, dried apricots and golden raisins.  Grandma could barely tell the difference, Mom knew right away, and Patrick thought that I had tricked him and given him golden raisins twice in a row!

 

Stove-Top Saag Paneer with Tofu – serves 4 to 6

I learned a lot from my family while preparing the saag paneer!  First, we researched and debated the health benefits of canola oil, and Mom read this article aloud.  Next, when I encountered splattering, hot canola oil, Patrick jumped in with a splash guard to cover the pot; this item is next on my kitchen wish list!  For this recipe, I would again suggest swapping out the cream and trying coconut milk.  I used frozen spinach as the recipe’s author suggested, and was happy with the consistency of that dish.  I also used about twice as much fresh garlic as recommended.

You will need:

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  1. 1 pound of firm tofu, cubed
  2. 3 T canola oil
  3. 1 yellow onion, sliced
  4. 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  5. 1 T fresh ginger, diced
  6. 1 serrano chile, chopped
  7. 1 1/2 t garam masala spices
  8. 1 1/4 t salt
  9. 3/4 t ground coriander
  10. 1/2 t cumin
  11. 30 oz frozen spinach – thawed
  12. 1 C coconut milk
  13. 1/2 C water
  14. 1/2 C Greek yogurt

 

Steps:

  1. Combine garlic, ginger, chile, and spices and set aside.
  2. Chop tofu into roughly equal cubes and lay out on a paper towel to dry.  Meanwhile, heat canola oil over medium-high heat in a large pot.  Add tofu, and brown on all sides.  Remove tofu from oil with a slotted spoon to retain hot oil.
  3. Add chopped onion to the remaining oil and stir frequently until the onion pieces are just translucent (about 5 minutes).  Next add garlic, ginger, chile and spices and cook for about a minute.
  4. Add spinach, stirring until evenly warmed.  Add coconut milk and water and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the spinach has warmed through, remove pot from heat and stir in Greek yogurt.

 

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe – Mattox, Charlyne. “Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala.” Real Simple. 1 Dec. 2011. Web. 30 Dec. 2015.

Tandoori Spice Blend Recipe – Bon Appetit. “Tandoori Spice Blend.” Epicurious. 2011. Web. 30 Dec. 2015.

Kheer (Rice Pudding) Recipe – Patrick7. “Kheer (Rice Pudding).” All Recipes. Web. 30 Dec. 2015.

Saag with Tofu Recipe – Gallary, Christine. “Saag with Tofu.” Chowhound. Web. 30 Dec. 2015.