It’s the perfect time to try a new one-pot meal! September is like the New Year, in a way. And I am back into a cooking routine, but I want to ease back into it. This recipe is a twist on my favorite one-pot meal, Mediterranean Chicken with Rice. There’s also another variation in my cookbook, Quicker Than Quick, called Weeknight Arroz con Pollo. Delicious!Continue reading
You’ve heard of Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays, but in this house we’ve had “Slow Cooker Thursdays” for the last two months. It doesn’t have the same ring as the other two, but it has made my life way easier. Mr. Picky had baseball games every Thursday (and Sunday) since March and they were conveniently scheduled at dinnertime. Scrunchy face. Picture hubby and me sitting at a little league game until 7:00 or 7:30 (gotta love extra innings!) while my daughters were texting me from home “We r starving! When r u coming home? Can we eat without u?” Then of course I actually had to assemble dinner in record time once I finally returned home. That happened once, until I figured out that Thursdays would have to be “Slow Cooker Night” unless I wanted to let the girls eat acai bowls for dinner (because that’s about all they would take the time to make even when “starving”) or allow Mr. Picky to eat hot dogs or microwaved canned chili on top of Fritos from the snack stand at the field. Um, no.
I work really hard to make sure we eat together every night. It’s actually more important to me than what we eat. I’ve always said that breakfast might be the most important meal of the day from a nutritional perspective, but dinner is the most important from an emotional perspective. However, getting the five of us at the table at a reasonable time for dinner can be a challenge, especially during Little League season. And no matter how hard I tried to get Mr. Picky to find baseball boring, he just wouldn’t see it my way. So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em and that’s where I found myself every single blessed Thursday night. Deciding to make something in the slow cooker on Thursdays was my ticket to freedom so I wasn’t stressed out every time a player was walked or someone got a hit, both of which keep the game going on and on and on.
When I first started using this slow cooker in December, so many people asked me for good slow cooker recipes. I was honestly surprised since one quick search on Foodily turned up thousands. But as I’ve experimented, I have realized what everyone else already knows — that not every slow cooker recipe is a good one, and certainly not a healthful one. Never said I was a quick learner!
I recently invested in the book, “Slow Cooker Revolution” by America’s Test Kitchen and it looks promising. I tried their recipe for barbecued chicken and we all loved it! I have been experimenting with making my own barbecue sauce and I’m super close to posting it, but not quite. I did use one of my homemade BBQ sauce experiments and the chicken turned out super tender and flavorful. We had it the first night on cracked wheat buns with homemade cole slaw — super delicious. And the next day I put it into quesadillas for the girls’ lunch. They asked for it again the day after that, but sadly it was all gone.
I thought to share this recipe with you this week for a possible Father’s Day menu item or for a July 4th party. It’s also a good time to remind you why grilled animal protein isn’t that good for you. Check out an earlier post on that here. Slow cooking with low heat cuts way down on carcinogens from forming. It’s a win-win! Even though Little League is over, my slow cooker is staying and so is this chicken!
Author: Pamela, adapted from "Slow Cooker Revolution"
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat (or use all thighs)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle powder or cayenne
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups barbecue sauce
Place chicken pieces in the slow cooker.
Mix together chili powder, paprika, chipotle powder, salt and pepper and rub all over chicken.
Pour ½ cup barbecue sauce over chicken and toss to coat. Cover and cook until chicken is tender 4-6 hours on LOW. (5 hours worked great for me.) The slow cooker can also go to the WARM setting if you are not ready to eat the chicken after cooking 4-6 hours.
Transfer chicken to a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. With two forks, shred meat into bite size pieces, but not too fine.
Pour the liquid that remains in the slow cooker into a fat separator (or leave the liquid in the slow cooker and try to skim the fat off the top with a large spoon.)
Heat the remaining 1 cup of barbecue sauce in a small saucepan until hot. Toss shredded chicken with hot barbecue sauce and 1 cup of braising liquid. You’ll have extra liquid if you need it. Serve warm either by itself or on toasted whole grain buns or in a quesadilla.
If you read my last post, you know that we haven’t gone out for Mother’s Day in several years and this Sunday will be no different. Truth be told, I couldn’t be happier for several already mentioned reasons. I am, however, definitely not cooking on Sunday, but instead leaving that to the men for this one and only day. But if I were cooking, I would make these fabulous savory muffins and serve them with a very veggie frittata. Can you tell I am pushing a low-glycemic agenda this week?
Have you ever had too much sugar and carbs at brunch that the entire rest of the day you just felt “off?” Done it, hate it. I always have a hard time bouncing back after starting the day with chocolate chip French toast, a blueberry crumb muffin, fruit salad and a mimosa. No, friends, that is not a balanced meal. Instead, I make a concerted effort to balance out the token coffee cake with plenty of protein and hearty, savory fare.
If my husband brings in bagels, I make sure there’s wild smoked salmon and sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Yogurt gets placed next to the homemade granola and there’s always a savory egg dish of some sort. Even if I’m serving a crowd, I’ll double frittata recipes and bake them in large rimmed sheet pans. Yes, you can do that!
Muffins and quick breads are very popular for brunch, and I have several recipes on this site, but I think these with spinach and roasted peppers are so delicious and a fresh change of pace from the ones you would normally expect. They’re also fairly easy to put together. In fact, you can combine your dry ingredients the day before and have your spinach, feta and peppers prepped and ready to go, so that all you really need to do is stir everything together and bake the morning of Mother’s Day. Like most muffins, these are much better fresh out of the oven, but if you have leftovers, just store them in the fridge and warm them in the oven for a few minutes. These are also the perfect match with any egg dish, whether simply scrambled or baked in a fritatta. My most favorite frittata is this one with Swiss chard, but the one I just posted the other day with asparagus and artichokes is a close second. Certainly, these muffins aren’t just for brunch, but make a great little extra something with a bowl of soup or in the next day’s lunchbox.
In the same way I love looking at what’s in people’s grocery carts (is that creepy?), I love hearing about your menus for holidays and special occasions. Do share with me what you’re planning or what you would love someone to make for you!! Happy Mother’s Day to all you beautiful mamas!
Savory Muffins with Spinach, Roasted Peppers and Feta
Author: Pamela, adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves: makes 12 standard muffins
2 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour (or a combo)*
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon paprika
¾ teaspoon sea salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
¾ cup whole milk or unsweetened plain, hemp milk
½ cup unrefined olive oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 cup thinly sliced spinach leaves
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup chopped roasted red peppers or drained mild Peppadew peppers
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 standard muffin cups with unbleached parchment paper liners (or cut parchment paper squares to fit.)
Whisk flour, baking powder, paprika, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl.
Whisk milk, oil, maple syrup and eggs in a large bowl and combine well.
Add dry mixture to wet and stir until just combined. Fold in spinach, feta and peppers.
Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. I use a large ice cream scoop to do this.
Bake muffins until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire cooling rack or eat warm. Best eaten the same day that they’re made.
*To make these gluten-free, substitute wheat flour with 2 ¾ cups King Arthur Multi-purpose Gluten-free Flour + 1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum.
London has been amazing! Freezing, but amazing! At least we were prepared with our winter outerwear for the unseasonably cold temperatures. We have seen so much and the kids have really enjoyed it all. After our month in Europe this summer, we learned a bit about how to keep the kids engaged and not wanting to kill each other. We also learned that Mr. Picky, who is 9, has a 1 1/2 hour time limit in any museum (2 hours if he just ate breakfast.) Whatever we didn’t get to see will just have to wait until our next visit.
This week we have also booked a private guide each day, which has taken the pressure off my husband from whatever palace or neighborhood we are checking out. Besides going to many of the major sites, we also had a tour of London’s East End and its many outdoor markets, a rock tour (think The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, not One Direction), and a Shakespeare tour. All worth it and much more interesting for the kids! We are leaving London today for Chewton Glen in Hampshire. My husband visited when he was a child and loved it. I’m hoping it’s still as wonderful 30 years later and I’m hoping we make it in one piece since my husband will be driving us there. On the other side of the road. You know I’ll give you all the details either way!
Now I hope you didn’t think I was going to scamper about England this week and forget about you cooks. Rubbish! Although I’ve been tweeting what I’ve been up to and posting a few things on Facebook, I didn’t want the week to go by without something for you to try in the kitchen. Believe me, after a week of scones and mash (not at the same time, of course), I’ll be ready for a few salads like this when I return home.
First of all, if you think you hate beets, you may not hate them raw so stay with me here. This salad converted everyone who thought s/he didn’t like beets. I am fairly obsessed with chopped and grated salads. One of my favorites is my grated carrot salad with avocados and sunflower seeds. I love vegetables cut into small bits so that you get a lot of different flavors in one bite. And grated vegetables can actually be a totally different experience from their whole counterparts. This is completely true with respect to carrots. If you haven’t tried the carrot salad I just mentioned, you absolutely must!
The one thing you do need to do for this salad is go into your garage behind the piece of exercise equipment, pull out the Cuisinart box and find the medium grating disc which I’m hoping you didn’t throw out thinking you would never use it! If you did, go to the manufacturer’s website or thegourmetdepotco.com where you can buy missing or broken parts to almost any appliance. The grating disc is amazing, one of my favorite kitchen tools especially since I broke up with my mandoline. No love lost there. I use my grating disc to make very quick work of shredding cheese, onions, potatoes, zucchini, apples, cabbage, and of course carrots and beets. One tip I can give you is that many food processors give you the option of feeding your food through the wide part or the much narrower feed tube. In the case of carrots, I like to process them horizontally the wide way for longer shreds for a salad and through the feed tube for short shreds which are better for carrot cake or carrot muffins.
I was doing a Moroccan-inspired menu last month and I desperately wanted to include a carrot salad. Many Moroccan salads are too sweet for me and include dried fruit plus lots of honey in the dressing. In my opinion, carrots and beets are already rather sweet, so this salad is dressed with a cumin-orange-lemon dressing, a little tart and just a little sweet. You can leave this as grated veggies and dressing for a fab 5-minute salad or make a little extra effort and add the delightful fresh herbs which turn this into something really awesome. I eat this without feta since I’ve gone dairy-free (moment of silence), but if you can handle a little goat or sheep cheese, add it and you won’t be sorry! Either way, this is a juicy, crunchy, thirst-quenching, gorgeous salad which happens to be super nutritious and alkalizing.
I have served this salad with all sorts of fish dishes, simple roast chicken, frittatas and vegetable stew. I’m sure it would be great with lamb or grilled beef kabobs. My point is that you don’t have to be eating a Moroccan meal to enjoy this. A little heads-up about eating red beets, though. If you’ve never tried them, just be aware that when you eliminate, there will be a tinge of hot pink/red. I can’t tell you how many stories I heard of people calling their doctors or googling “hot pink poop.” On the other hand, eating beets can be a good indication of how efficient your digestive system is. If you see beets later that day or the next, things are moving nice and quickly. But if it takes 4 days for those beets to appear again, you probably need a little more fiber and water in your diet. Just a thought.
Ok, that’s all I have for today, friends. I’m leaving the hustle and bustle of London for the English countryside and hoping to make it in time for Afternoon Tea which has become my favorite way to wind down after a busy day. I know some people like a glass of wine at 5, but I’m not sure they’ve tried sitting down to tea with a warm homemade scone. Brilliant!
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (I like goat feta)(optional)
Using the shredding disc of your food processor, shred the carrots and beets. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl.
Add herbs to serving bowl.
In a medium bowl or in a screw-top jar, combine lemon juice, orange juice, sea salt, cumin, paprika and olive oil.
Pour enough dressing on top of carrot mixture to coat lightly and toss to combine. Add more if desired.
Add feta on top of salad and taste for seasoning. If you dress the salad early, the dressing will pull water from the vegetables and make a pool at the bottom of your serving bowl. You can just serve from the top or pour off some of the liquid no problem.
Salad can be dressed the day before and herbs and feta added just before serving.
For a delicious, spicy note, add about ¾ teaspoon harissa to the dressing.
Daughter #2 asked me the other day if I was “ever going to put that thing away?” She was referring to my slow cooker, of course. Not that Daughter #2 is complaining since she’s the first one to the dinner table every night and has always been the easiest one to cook for. But she had a point. That slow cooker has has become part of the family!
But I wasn’t about to shelve my new baby so soon. Just when I thought cooking a whole chicken couldn’t get any easier, I decided to put my Easy No-Fail Roast Chicken method to the test in…the slow cooker. Believe me, I don’t normally mess with the easiest, most popular dinners in my repertoire. But roasting a whole chicken is something that needs to be started well before I get home some days and I need a back-up. That and I was on a roll and feeling lucky, so I figured this was going to work like everything else I’ve been trying. I decided to prep the chicken in basically the same way I do an oven-roasted chicken — rubbed on the inside and out with some kosher salt early on, stuffed with a bit of fresh thyme and some crushed garlic and cooked on a bed of onions. I usually add cut lemons to the cavity, but I was nervous that cooking the lemons for a long time would result in a bitter taste, so I left those out. The only other change I made was to rub the outside of the chicken with a little olive oil mixed with paprika so that the skin would get a little color and not be pale and unattractive.
The conclusion is that I think I should call this recipe “Easier than Easy No-Fail Roast Chicken and Still So Darn Good.” The chicken was predictably fall-off-the-bones. In fact, I had a hard time getting the chicken out of the slow cooker in one piece! My kids love super soft meat and my husband likes chicken that is beyond well done. I’ve made chicken once or twice a week for the last 17 1/2 years and he has asked me every single time if the chicken is cooked through. No comment on whether or not that is annoying since my husband occasionally reads my blog AND Valentine’s Day is coming up. Get my drift? My point is that this chicken satisfies everyone, including me since it takes all of 5 minutes to prep and you can do it 8 hours before you want to eat dinner. “Is this cooked through?” “Darling, it’s been cooking for 8 hours.”
So you all know I am completely obsessed with making homemade chicken stock. I swear, if teaching cooking classes and blogging doesn’t work out, I will go into the homemade stock-making business. The world must know the goodness of homemade stock somehow! So before I served this chicken to the family, I removed and reserved all the bones. I put the bones back in there with a chicken back I had in the freezer plus some stock veggies (onions, carrots, celery) and water and I made chicken stock overnight. It was delicious. And because there was no skin and foam and such, it turned out to be such a clear stock with minimal fat. It’s crazy not to try this! (Sorry I don’t have photos. It was too dark in my kitchen and the images didn’t turn out well.)
Cooking a whole chicken in a slow cooker opens up so many possibilities for what you can do with the meat. You don’t have to cut the chicken into traditional breast, thigh, drumstick pieces. You can use the meat just as you would rotisserie chicken meat and heaven knows there have been more articles on what to do with rotisserie chicken meat than how to get your baby to sleep through the night. Just to remind — chicken soup, enchiladas, tacos, pot pie, sandwiches, salads and so on. For those of you who do not have a slow cooker and feel excluded, please revisit the Easy No Fail Roast Chicken Recipe. I still love you and I will put away the slow cooker and come back to you. Eventually. Wink, wink.
1 whole roasting chicken, about 4-5 pounds (save the neck for stock)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
½ bunch fresh thyme or a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil
1-2 teaspoons paprika
1 brown onion, peeled and sliced into thick slices
For the stock:
Some additional bony chicken pieces if you have them, such as backs, necks, wings and/or feet, up to 2 pounds
2 brown onions, cut into large pieces
3 carrots, cut into large chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
water (amount depends on size of your slow cooker)
When you get home from the market, unwrap the chicken and remove any giblets from the cavity. Save the neck for stock.
Take a heaping tablespoon of kosher salt and rub it around the inside of the cavity. Any remaining salt on your hands can be rubbed on the outside of the chicken. Rewrap the chicken and refrigerate until ready to cook. This can be done up to two days in advance.
The day you are making the chicken, remove it from the wrapping and sprinkle a few pinches of black pepper, as well as the garlic and thyme in the cavity of the chicken.
Truss the chicken by tying the legs together. Rub the outside of the chicken with olive oil and paprika.
Place the onion slices on the bottom of the slow cooker insert and place the chicken on top of the onions. You do not need any liquid, I promise. Cover and cook on LOW for 7- 8 hours or HIGH 4-5 hours.
Serve with the cooked onions and pan juices, if desired.
Leave whatever you didn’t use in the slow cooker (juices and onions). Remove all the bones from the entire chicken and place in the slow cooker with any additional chicken parts you have, including the neck from the chicken you just cooked. Add vegetables, vinegar, and enough water to come up to about an inch from the top. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours or overnight. My slow cooker automatically goes to WARM mode after 8 hours. Strain and use immediately if you don’t see too much fat at the top or cool slightly and refrigerate. When cold, skim and discard any fat from the top. Stock can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.