This was originally published in January 2014, but I have been making it again on the regular and thought the website needed updated photos!
You know what is just the worst? Getting sick. Life is great until you feel horrible. I think most of us run around like maniacs until we’re so wiped out while our poor bodies are trying to tell us to slooooooow down and get some rest. First it’s a little whisper like feeling so tired. But we don’t listen. Then we get a sore throat. We don’t listen. Then our bodies have to whack us over the head with a crazy cold and body aches until we have no other choice but to stay in bed. A friend of mine who came down with a bad cold said to me the other day,”If I just spent a little time in bed resting when I wasn’t sick, maybe I would have stayed healthy!” I think she’s onto something.Continue reading
This recipe is “the whole enchilada,” so to speak. I’m giving you a method for poaching the chicken, making the enchilada sauce from scratch, and assembling the actual enchiladas. The only thing we’re not covering today is how to make corn tortillas, and I am sure homemade corn tortillas are the only thing that would make these enchiladas better. If you buy cooked chicken and canned enchilada sauce, you don’t really need a recipe to make enchiladas. Not judging of course, because we’ve all been there and shortcuts have their time and place. But if you can plan ahead, these are amazing. My entire family loves these and let me tell you, they’re a tough crowd.
I grew up on Long Island and didn’t even taste Mexican food until I moved to Los Angeles after college. My kids have grown up in LA and they are Mexican food experts, sometimes having lengthy discussions about which local taco joint has the best this or that. So when I make something Mexican that gets the thumbs-up, I am relieved and proud at the same time. Ironically, these are not my personal favorite enchiladas. I am more of a green (tomatillo) sauce person, so I am obsessed with the enchiladas verdes here. But my family digs these. I’ve been making enchiladas rojas for years and my son (Mr. Picky) used to call these “chicken tacos with Mexican tomato sauce.”
I’m sure you all pushed away your keyboards and ran into the kitchen to poach chicken after Monday’s post, right? Perfect! Now let’s do something healthy and delish with your chicken. I have a recipe for the BEST curried chicken salad I have ever eaten! Even my family, which to my chagrin prefers more “simple” flavors, loves this salad.
I thought it would be a great time to post this curried chicken salad since you might be looking for some new options for school and/or work lunch. At it’s most basic, curried chicken salad is just what it sounds like — chicken salad with curry mixed in. I use a yellow curry powder, which is a blend of different anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek and many others. But as opposed to basic, standard chicken salad to which I add celery and onion, I like to add a little something sweet to balance the curry. My husband and I disagree on whether diced apple or halved grapes is better. I think they’re both good, but since I am a sucker for crunch, I usually add apples.
I used to make Ina Garten’s version with Major Grey chutney and white wine, but the chutney is not something I usually use and it was taking up space in the fridge. So I created my own blend of ingredients, including apricot preserves, to mimic the sweet, hot, tart flavor of the chutney. This is the best part of the dressing. So, so good and flavorful! I also like to use shredded, as opposed to cubed or diced chicken, because I think the nooks and crannies of the shredded chicken pick up more of the dressing.
You can make it the day before and tuck it inside of a pita or 2 slices of hearty, whole grain bread. Or, as I like to do it, eat it in a lettuce cup. A little avocado would put this over the top! Feel free to make this spicy or change up the preserves. I think any variation of orange, apricot, peach or kumquat would be great. I like the St. Dalfour brand which is sugar-free and without added preservatives. I think this might become your new favorite chicken salad! For you vegheads, I may try to do a tofu version of this. How does that sound?!
There are a few basic techniques I think are worth knowing how to do, such as scrambling eggs, cooking rice, and making a versatile salad dressing among other things. In that category, I also include poaching chicken (if you eat chicken obviously.) I thought this was a good time to do a refresher on this technique since back to school has made many of us desperate for make-ahead meal tips and fodder for school lunches. Enter poached chicken.
Poached chicken is very easy to do and provides limitless options for meal planning. It is delicious in chicken salad, with mixed greens or grains and a vinaigrette, in enchiladas or quesadillas, in a sandwich or wrap, and so on. Poaching is probably the cleanest way to cook chicken, since we avoid the formation of carcinogenic compounds that are created when we grill and sear, or cook animal protein for long periods of time at high temps. Read this article if you would like to learn more. So if you’re going to eat animal protein, steaming, poaching and low temps are the most healthful ways to go.
If it’s so much better to poach and steam chicken, why don’t we do it all the time? Because unfortunately, it’s not as flavorful as searing and roasting. All those crispy brown bits, albeit carcinogenic, are tasty. So once in a while, it’s a good idea to change it up a bit. And if you’re looking for cooked chicken to add to meals, try poaching. We’ll add some extra flavor by including onion, garlic, salt and pepper to the poaching liquid though.
Poach some chicken on a Sunday and have it for a couple of days’ worth of lunches and dinners during the week. You can also freeze poached chicken, wrap it well in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and use it within 3 months. This week I will also share one of my favorite salads using poached chicken. Stay tuned!
I decided to be more forward-thinking this year and post some new delicious Mexican recipes early in anticipation of Cinco de Mayo, which is one of my favorite food holidays. Not that I don’t make Mexican, or Tex-Mex meals all year round, of course. I know a lot of people who are planning celebrations the weekend before Cinco de Mayo and are already asking me what they should make. I really don’t know too many people who don’t love Mexican food and it’s a great meal to make for a crowd, kids included. If you haven’t noticed, DIY parties are all the rage and Mexican menus fit the bill perfectly with their topping bars for tacos, fajitas and soups.
Speaking of soups, have you ever had posole, also spelled pozole? I had never heard of it until about 5 years ago, when my husband came back from a lunch and was raving about the posole. When anyone in my family comes home raving about anything, *BING*, note to self: “learn how to make that from scratch!”
Posole is is a traditional Mexican soup or stew, which once had ritual significance. It is made from hominy, plus meat, usually pork, but also chicken or turkey or pork rinds, chili peppers, and other seasonings and garnish such as cabbage, salsa and limes and/or lemons. I have seen many recipes for posole, red or green, vegetarian or with meat, different seasonings, but there is always hominy. Hominy is an interesting food. It comes from dried field corn, also known as maize, not to be confused with sweet corn which you enjoy off the cob in the summer. The corn is prepared by removing the skins after soaking them in the mineral lime (cal), which changes the flavor (for the better) and releases the niacin, making this slightly processed grain healthier than simple dried corn or cornmeal. (I took this from the Rancho Gordo website.) Not surprisingly, cooked hominy tastes like corn tortillas, but in a form of a chewy little nugget. Quite tasty.
You can buy prepared hominy which I have only seen in cans (probably lined with BPA, sadly) or you can buy dried and cook it yourself, which is what I did when I taught this in my classes a few years ago and what I still do when I want to make posole. It is an extra step for sure, so if you want this to be a really fast recipe and you don’t mind cans, by all means buy it prepared. I have only seen dried hominy sold by Rancho Gordo, which is an exceptional source for dried beans, especially heirloom varieties, grains and spices. Some retail stores sell Rancho Gordo products or you can purchase directly from their website. But I know from some students that you might be able to find other brands of dried hominy in Latino markets or in the “ethnic foods” aisle of some supermarkets.
When I decided to make posole for the first time, I took no timing wondering red or green. I much prefer green (tomatillo-based), especially in the spring and summer, because it’s so much lighter and fresher than red (tomato-based.) We all loved that first batch and I knew it would be great to teach in a class. I especially love setting out a topping bar for posole because all those add-ins give such great texture, color and really turn this soup into a meal. I love adding avocado, cabbage, radishes, cilantro and feta, which I think is a perfectly good, and more healthful sub for the more traditional Cotija cheese. The kids like to add tortilla chips or strips, naturally.
This soup reheats well and freezes well, too. You can serve posole as a meal or with veggie quesadillas and/or Mexican chopped salad on the side. If you want this to be vegetarian, just use veggie stock and drop the chicken. Maybe add in a little quinoa or some sweet peas. Stay tuned for more fantastic, healthful Mexican recipes to come in the next couple weeks!
2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
3 ½ cups cooked hominy* or 1 29-ounce can, drained and rinsed
Suggested garnishes: cubed avocado, sliced radishes, shredded romaine or green cabbage, cilantro, Cotija or crumbled feta, and/or tortilla chips (optional)
Combine onion and tomatillos in a medium saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook, covered until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
Transfer vegetables to a blender with the chilis, garlic, ½ cup cilantro and 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt and puree until smooth.
Season the chicken with oregano and 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Pour puree into the pan and lower heat to medium low. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
Add the broth, hominy and chicken to the saucepan. Cover and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 10 minutes. Chop the remaining ¼ cup fresh cilantro and stir into the pot. Taste for seasoning.
Serve posole with suggested garnishes.
*To cook dry hominy, soak in lots of water 6 hours or overnight. Drain and cook in a pot with fresh water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for about 90 minutes to 2 hours or until tender. Drain and it is now ready to use.
I just finished teaching this recipe in my March classes and it was a huge hit! I don’t even like chicken and I seemed to always be looking for a bite at the end of class. I had so many requests to post this recipe that I had to oblige, even though the images aren’t totally the best. I think this would be perfectly appropriate to prepare for Passover, with one minor adjustment. And it’s a great recipe to adapt as cherry tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes become available.
The recipe is basically a braise, but the chicken is cooked uncovered for most of the time, which is why I call it Baked Chicken, versus Braised Chicken. But the formula is still very much the same — browning the meat first to create flavor and color, sauteing onions, deglazing, putting meat back in and baking in the oven until cooked through. Once you understand the steps, you can start making up your own recipe or adapting recipes like this one with other ingredients or flavors.
I personally like using bone-in, skin-on pieces of chicken since I think they taste better and stay a little moister, especially breast pieces. Unfortunately, cooking with bone-in, skin-on pieces takes longer than boneless, skinless and may not be a great option for those of you needing a really fast recipe for after work. Fortunately, this recipe can be adapted for cutlets and even a slow cooker, so look for those options in the instructions.
This dish produces very tender, flavorful chicken, as well as the accompanying onions and sauce. In the ingredient list it offers the option of draining the juice from the jar of tomatoes or keeping it. Here’s my thought process on that one: if you will be serving the chicken with noodles or pasta, polenta, mashed potatoes or something that would welcome a lot of sauce, then you should keep the juice. Otherwise, drain the juice and just use the tomato pieces. I also love this dish during cherry tomato season, when I will use 1 1/2 pounds of halved sweet cherry tomatoes in place of the jarred, and basil leaves instead of the thyme. Large vine-ripened tomatoes that have been blanched and chopped are also great. Both of these options create a much lighter, fresher dish. But every variation is very delicious.
Other adaptations I discussed in class:
subbing fennel for half the onion
omitting the olives and adding chopped mushrooms with the onions
adding a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes with the garlic
in the summer, subbing sliced sweet bell pepper for some of the onion
searing cauliflower steaks and using those in place of the chicken for a vegetarian/vegan option
I always use breasts when I teach because most of my students prefer white meat, and therefore it’s just easier for me to buy all breasts. You can certainly use any part of the chicken you want. In fact, it’s more economical to buy a whole chicken and have the butcher cut it into pieces for you. But I highly recommend not buying 1 breast per person. It’s too much meat to eat in one sitting, unless you are an Olympian or a body builder! I have never actually seen anyone at my house or at a dinner party eat an entire breast. I have seen people cut them in half and push one piece off to the side and just each one half. What I love to do is prepare the breasts, allowing for 1/2 per person, and removing the bones after the chicken is cooked and has rested a bit. Then I slice the meat on an angle. It’s much more manageable to eat it this way, as well as more elegant and attractive to serve. See this post on the gloves I use to get down and dirty when I carve chicken!
Let me know if you have specific questions about timing or with what sides to serve this. Hope your holiday planning is going well!
3 ½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, sprinkled with 2 teaspoons kosher salt when you get home from the market unless you are using kosher chicken which you should not salt (read this post on how and why to season your chicken in advance)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Flour for dredging (all-purpose, spelt, GF flour, etc.) -- use matzoh cake meal for Passover
1 ½ medium onions, cut through the root into sixths or eighths (or sliced thinly, but I like wedges better in this recipe)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 18-ounce jar diced tomatoes with the juice (or drain juice for less sauce) (I like Jovial in glass jars. Read this post why.)
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup chicken stock, vegetable stock or more white wine
6 fresh thyme sprigs or large basil leaves in the summer/fall
½ cup pitted olives, such as kalamata or Bella di Cerignola
2 Tablespoons capers, drained
chopped parsley for garnish, if desired
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat the chicken dry and season with black pepper. Dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.
In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces in one layer and brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate and reserve.
If the pan looks dry, add a little oil. If it looks like there’s more than 2 Tablespoons oil, drain a bit off. Add the onions, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic and sea salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, white wine, stock and cook, scraping any brown bits on bottom of the pan.
Arrange the thyme, olives and capers over the onion mixture. Place the browned chicken pieces side by side on top. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven.
After 15 minutes, baste the chicken with the juices in the pot. Continue cooking, uncovered, for an additional 30-40 minutes (depending on thickness), basting every 10 minutes if you have time. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. (You can also cook covered on the stove over low heat for 30 minutes.)
For a boneless, skinless version, check out my recipe for Lemon –Thyme Chicken Cutlets and follow the same directions.
For a slow cooker version, use skinless chicken and 3 Tablespoons each of stock and wine instead of 4. Follow same directions, but after deglazing, pour everything into the slow cooker and cook for 4-5 hours on HIGH or 6-8 on LOW.
I thought since I am vacationing in the Mediterranean with my family for three weeks, I would post some new recipes that complemented my travels. When I return (if I ever return!), I will definitely write up my itinerary and any do’s and don’t’s which I learned that might be helpful for your planning purposes.
If you’ve hung around this blog long enough, you’ve read that Mediterranean food is my favorite. It’s my comfort zone. It’s exactly the way I like to eat – fresh, seasonal, organic food, mostly veggies, legumes and whole grains, olive oil, more fish than meat, a little sheep or goat cheese and yogurt,. Mediterranean cuisine is also considered to be among the most healthful in the world. More importantly, I think the food is just downright delicious, but simple. Of course in order for simple food to taste amazing, each ingredient has to be the best.
This is where sometimes we have trouble duplicating something we’ve eaten, even if we have the exact recipe. For example, there’s no secret Greek salad recipe. I have made and eaten a lot of them in my life, some forgettable and some outstanding. It just comes down to the ingredients that were used.
Chicken Souvlaki is an easy, light dinner I can pull together quickly and one that I know everyone will eat. It’s basically a grilled, marinated chicken and veggie kabob, which I love to serve with a very tasty cucumber-yogurt sauce called Tzatziki. My family likes to eat it with grilled pita bread (which is literally store-bought pita that I put on the grill just to get a few char marks) or garlic rice. You can also serve the kabob over a Greek salad which would make for a great light summer dinner.
Check out my recent Instagram and facebook pictures from Greece and Turkey. We will be finishing off our trip next week in Venice and then Lake Garda, so expect some Italian recipes soon!
1 ¼ pounds boneless-skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 Persian cucumbers, chopped or coarsely grated (personal preference)
1 cup full fat Greek yogurt (Straus makes a great organic one)
½ Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint or dill (optional)
8 small plum tomatoes, halved (or large ones quartered)
½ small red onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
6 whole-wheat pitas (optional)
Whisk together lemon zest, 1 ½ Tablespoons lemon juice, 1 grated clove of garlic, oregano, thyme, 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Add the chicken, and toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 45 minutes or refrigerated, covered, for up to 6 hours.
Meanwhile make the tzatziki sauce: Stir together the remaining lemon juice and garlic, the cucumber, yogurt, vinegar, herbs (if using) and ½ teaspoon salt. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.
Heat the grill to medium-high. Thread the chicken, tomatoes, and onion onto 6 skewers. Brush with remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, and season with pepper.
Grill skewers, turning, until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Grill pitas until charred, about 2 minutes per side.
Serve skewers with charred pitas and tzatziki sauce.
*Not all skewers are the same size. This recipe would probably make 8 9 ½-inch bamboo skewers.