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Lemon Grilled Chicken

17 Jun

lemon chicken

No question–summer is grilling season. And much as I love the convenience of tossing chicken into a bowl of premade marinade, the lists of ingredients on those bottles are often a big turn-off. I can’t pronounce half that stuff. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to make healthy grilled food doused in chemicals.

This is a really simple alternative. It’s a very light, fresh lemon marinade that took me about three minutes to throw together from fresh ingredients in my refrigerator and pantry. And the best part was that everyone liked it. We served it with some yukon gold potatoes sliced thin, sprinkled with olive oil, salt, and dill, and roasted at 425 for about half an hour (until they get crispy on the outside), and simple steamed broccoli, and the grown-ups paired that with some sliced cucumbers and tomatoes with balsamic vinegar. It was a great summer dinner.

Next time you’re thinking about one of those bottles of marinade, try this. Couldn’t be easier. You need:

Chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, halved crosswise (I used about two pounds–we’ll have leftovers tonight)

2 tbsp finely minced onion

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1/4 c olive oil

1/4 c white wine (you could use chicken broth)

1 tbsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp salt

Zest and juice of one lemon

Dash of sriracha or other hot sauce

Put your chicken in a bowl or zip-top bag.

Whisk together the rest of the ingredients and pour over the chicken. Let it sit for a few hours (mine sat all day), stirring or turning every so often.

Heat your grill, throw the chicken on there, and cook until it’s done (165 internal temperature).

 

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Meaty (Meatless) Mushroom Pasta Sauce

19 Feb

sauce

Three things:

  1. The first thing DH asked me after he took a bite of this last night was whether there was meat in it. Answer: No. But the texture is just like a very hearty meat sauce. And my kids, who won’t touch identifiable mushrooms, ate some. Which was awesome.
  2. The next thing he said was that it may be the best pasta sauce he’s ever eaten. Score, ladies and gentlemen. Score.
  3. It’s super easy, very fast, and uses stuff you probably already have in your pantry. And it’s healthy.

I cannibalized this recipe from one in the defunct Gourmet magazine, which I miss very much and wish like heck would come back on paper or the iPad (did you know the iPad version is dead too? Sad, sad, sad.). Their recipe had chicken and rosemary and arugula and whole tomatoes and fancy-schmancy gourmet mushrooms and seemed like a bigger pain than necessary. I didn’t want chicken last night. I don’t like arugula despite its current trendiness. God made chopped tomatoes in cans and boxes for a reason (have you seen the boxed chopped tomatoes? My new favorite thing–they are amazingly good). I am a tightwad. And I don’t keep rosemary in the house. So improvisation was necessary.

We had this with pappardelle pasta, which is my favorite noodle of all time. The kids think it’s fine and DH isn’t much for it. You can’t win them all. This would work well on ziti or rotelle or shells, too. I am having more for lunch today, and am already smiling thinking about it–it’s really yummy.

pasta sauce

To make this, you need:

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 a small onion, diced (I like Vidalias, but whatever makes you happy will work)

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

8 oz mushrooms, roughly chopped (I started with sliced button/white mushrooms and cut them into quarters).

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth (you can use water if you don’t have this, but the broth gives it a hint of extra yummy)

2 tsp dried basil, divided

1 28-oz can or box diced tomatoes, undrained

Pasta of your choice

Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large pan over medium heat and coat the bottom with the olive oil. Cook the onions until they’re soft but not brown–about 2 or 3 minutes if your pan is hot.

Stir in the mushrooms, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook until the mushrooms start to brown. They’re going to shrink and they’re going to give off their liquid. Do not panic. It’ll soak back up after a few minutes. When the mushrooms look like they’re starting to cook, stir in the chicken or veggie broth and let it go for a few minutes.

Once your mushrooms are brown, use the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan (stir it in and scrape up all the yummy brown bits o’ goodness up and into the mushrooms). Cook until the vinegar is thick and sticky, which is only a minute or two.

Stir in the tomatoes, pepper, and 1 tsp of the basil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens up a little bit. Stir in the rest of the basil, adjust salt and pepper, ladle over your cooked pasta, and top with grated Parmesan.

Old-Fashioned Meat Sauce

31 Jan

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Know what’s weird? If you go to a restaurant and order spaghetti with meat sauce, the sauce is red. Buy it in a store? Red. I’ll even wager a guess that if your mom made meat sauce at home back in the day, it was red too. The meat sauce we all love (well, that I love, anyway) is red and tomato-y and comforting and the epitome of what Americanized Italian food is all about.

But. If you go online or to a cookbook and look up “meat sauce,” you’ll get a recipe for something that’s brown. Something that tastes more like seasoned beef than what we all know as spaghetti sauce. Bolognese, they say. It’s lovely, if what you’re looking for is a rich sauce that’s mostly meat. But in my house, we call that “smashed hamburger,” and it does not belong atop pasta.

We’re sophisticated like that.

So the other night, I cannibalized a few brown meat sauce recipes and came up with a red one that tastes like it should. It’s full of tomato and garlic and oregano and meat, and makes my Americanized palate very happy.

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This is not a fast recipe, but it is mostly hands-off. Make it on a day you have a few hours it can simmer on a very low burner. Totally worth it. This also makes a lot of sauce–the four of us had it for dinner twice, and I still have another dinner’s worth stashed in my freezer. It’s long, but it’s very simple. And it’s red. Which is good.

You need:

Olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground beef (use ground chicken if you don’t eat beef–it mimics the texture of beef much better than turkey does)

2 tbsp oregano

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup evaporated milk (I used low-fat. You could also use cream or half and half)

1 28 oz can or box crushed tomatoes

1 8 oz can tomato sauce

3 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 cup basil leaves, pretty finely chopped (you don’t want big chunks o’ leaf in your sauce)

Heat a large pan or pot over medium heat. Coat the bottom with olive oil, throw in your onions, and cook them until they’re soft and golden (not brown). Once that happens, stir in your garlic and let it cook about 1 minute, keeping it moving in the pan so it doesn’t brown.

Crumble in the ground beef and cook until it’s browned. Add the oregano and hot pepper flakes. Stir in the evaporated milk and let that cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every so often, until the milk has mostly evaporated.

When you don’t see the milk in the pan anymore, add in the tomatoes, sauce, tomato paste, and wine. Stir everything together, reduce the heat to low, put a cover on your pan, and let the sauce simmer gently for a long time–I let mine go four hours–giving it a stir every once in awhile so the meat doesn’t start to stick to the pan.

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About a half-hour before you want to eat, uncover the pan and let it keep simmering. Just before serving, stir in the basil and adjust your seasoning. Serve over pasta with grated Parmesan cheese.

De-Vegetarianized Three-Bean Chili

22 Jan

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It is flippin’ freezing here in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. My handy-dandy LL Bean thermometer tells me it’s currently 18.2 degrees outside my back door, and the wind is whipping like Harrison Ford in a pit of snakes. (AND the Ravens are going to the Superbowl! Yahoooo!!!) Which means, of course, that it’s a fantastic week for chili.

This is a recipe I cannibalized modified from Cooking Light. Theirs originally had squash in it. Nobody in my house likes squash (yes, we’ve tried. Many ways. Many varieties. Not happening. Sorry.). I tried it with chunks of sweet potato. I loved it; nobody else did (*sigh*). So I did what any red-blooded American mom did when she wants a mostly healthy meal on the table that nobody will complain about, and added bacon.

You heard me. Bacon. To the bean chili. Which is decidedly no longer vegetarian, but is super delicious and very easy to make.

(If you don’t have or don’t want bacon in your dish, get yourself a bottle of smoked chipotle Tabasco sauce and add about a half-teaspoon to the chili instead to give it a similar smokey flavor.)

I made a big pot tonight and am saving it for tomorrow, because this is one of those recipes that gets better the longer it hangs out in the refrigerator. It has joined my list of go-to meals to share with people who could use a home-cooked dinner dropped at their door. Everybody Most of my family loves it (nine-year-olds are impossible to please and I am not taking it personally). And it’s mostly healthy.

One quick note: I am going to tell you how to make roasted red peppers. It is super easy and they’re fun to peel when they’re all crunchy and black, and they’ve become something of an obsession with me lately. If you would prefer not to share my joy in this particular department, go ahead and buy yourself a jar of roasted red peppers and chop a half-cup or so for your chili. I won’t tell.

I hope your house is cozy and warm, and I hope you’ll try this yummy chili, even though it’s not at all what I’m sure the good editors at Cooking Light intended when they came up with the first version. You need:

2 red peppers (or a jar of roasted red peppers already done)

3 slices of bacon, chopped up

1/2 an onion, chopped (I use Vidalia, but any yellow onion is great)

2 tsp ground cumin (roasted if you can find it–McCormick makes one)

1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (smoked chipotle if your market has them)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp chili powder

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cups chicken broth

1 28-oz can or box chopped tomatoes

1 15-oz can red kidney beans

1 15-oz can cannellini beans

1 15-oz can black beans

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and spray it with olive oil. Toss your chopped bacon in there and let it crisp up.

While that happens, slice your red peppers into four slices each. Cover a baking sheet with foil, spray it with oil, lay the pepper strips skin side up on the foil, and stick that under the broiler for about 5 to 10 minutes, until they’re all black. Remove them with tongs from your baking sheet, seal them up in a plastic zip-top bag, and let them hang out in their own steam for about 15 minutes.

Once your bacon is all crunchy, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon, set it aside for later, and drain most of the bacon grease from the pot. Then, dump in your onion, stir it around, and let it get all soft–about 10 minutes.

After your onion is all cooked, add in the spices and garlic and stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, being sure to scrape up the yummy brown stuff from the bottom of the pan while you stir it in, and then your tomatoes.

By now, your peppers have worked their magic. Carefully remove them from the bag, lay them on a cutting board, and peel the black skin off with your fingers (chuck it). Chop up the roasted pepper that’s left, stir it into the pot, cover, and let that mixture simmer for 15 minutes or so.

Rinse your beans well, and then stir them into the pot along with whatever bacon you didn’t eat already. Cover again, let cook for about 15 minutes, shut off the heat, and either eat right away or stow in a covered container overnight (I highly recommend letting it sit overnight for best flavor). Enjoy.

Accidental Chicken

16 Jan

**peeks around corner**

**clears throat**

Happy New Year!!

Yes, I’m still here. No, I’ve not been ignoring you all on purpose. Again. Life has intervened, interrupting both my creative and kitchen mojos. But the fog seems to be lifting, I’m cooking again, and we’re going to give this another shot if you’ll still have me (please say yes!).

So. Let’s talk chicken.

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Let’s talk about buying a chicken and happily setting it out on the counter to roast on a night your husband is away (because you love, love, love roast chicken and he pretty much hates it) and then remembering that you’d cleaned out the frig and freezer recently and had none of the lovely things you normally stuff inside and set around a bird before it goes into the oven. You have, of course, two choices: sadly put the chicken into the freezer for another time and have cereal for dinner, or improvise.

I chose #2. Because I really had my heart set on roast chicken that particular night. Improvising won, and I rummaged around and put my chicken in the oven with the stuff I had in the house, and he cooked up and cooled off and I carved him up, and guess what?

Best. Chicken. Ever. Seriously–I am in love with the way he got all moist and aromatic and delicious and perfect, and the fact that this was way less work than the usual way I cook a whole chicken, and Accidental Chicken is now my go-to recipe for nights the roast-chicken-hating spouse (freak) isn’t home for dinner.

So now, I’m going to stop rambling on and tell you how to make amazing chicken with a minimum of ingredients or fuss, and I hope you’ll give this a try. OK? Cool. You need:

1 chicken, giblets and guts removed (Thou Shalt Not Cook the Plastic Packet o’ Yuck Inside)

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp salt

2 small oranges (or 1 large orange, or 1 orange and 1 lemon–whatever floats your boat)

4-5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled

1 onion, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup (ish) water

About 1 tbsp of butter

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large roasting pan or casserole dish (I use a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish) with your nonstick goodness of choice. Pour your wine and water into the dish so it covers the bottom (add more water if you need it). In the middle of the dish, lay your onion slices and garlic cloves–this will be the rack your chicken sits on.

Rub the inside of your chicken with the salt and thyme. Cut your citrus into quarters and shove it all down in there. Gently rub the outside of the bird with the butter, and lay it on top of the onion and garlic, breast-side down. Like this:

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Stick your meat thermometer into Mr. Chicken’s thigh and pop him into the oven, being very careful not to slosh your wine/water out all over the place. Let him roast for about an hour or until that thermometer says his thigh is 165 degrees. Take him out of the oven (careful!) and let him cool for 15-20 minutes before you carve him up. You can also enjoy those onions and garlic down in the pan, which I think are God’s own vegetables, if you want.

 

Chicken, Sausage, and Potato Roast

28 Aug

Three things you need to know about this recipe going in:

  1. It dirties several bowls and a roasting pan.
  2. It takes a little chopping and a little more hands-on time than many of my recipes.
  3. My husband walked in the door last night and said, “What is that smell,” in a very good kind of way, and later said, “This is the best thing you’ve ever cooked.” And everyone in my house cleaned their plates without my having to say “eat your dinner” a single time. Which negates the slight negatives posted above.

This dish is comfort food at its finest: warm and a little crunchy and a little creamy and absolutely perfect for fall (or late summer when we’re craving a little fall). It reheats just beautifully, which makes it a wonderful do-ahead meal on days when the dinner hour is chaotic. It would be fantastic football food or take-to-a-friend food, and is guaranteed to make repeat appearances on your at-home-dinner menu plan. It started as a recipe in Food Network magazine, but I added a few things here and took away a couple of things there (and then ran out of stuff so had to substitute), and this is pretty different than their version.

Our family has a disparity in the way we like chicken. My son likes drumsticks. I like whole split breasts on the bone. And my husband and my daughter prefer boneless chicken breasts that are chunked up into bites. This recipe accommodates all of them: because it roasts in the oven at a high temperature, I can put the whole chicken pieces in first, wait about 10 minutes, and then add the cut-up breasts to the pan, and everything is done at the same time.

One other note: this calls for smoked paprika. You should get some, even if you have regular paprika around. The taste difference is significant, and you’ll want the smokiness.

I hope you’ll try this–it really is wonderful. You need:

1 1/2 pounds gold Yukon potatoes, cut into quarters or halves so they’re all about the same size

3 tbsp garlic oil, divided (or 3 tbsp olive oil and 3 cloves of minced garlic)

1 1/2 pounds chicken: on the bone, off the bone, chunked, or a combination

1 14-oz package Polish-style sausage (I use the light turkey variety–this is the kind that comes shrink-wrapped in a U shape near the hotdogs in the grocery store)

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

Put a large roasting pan in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees.

In a bowl, combine your cut-up potatoes, 2 tbsp of the garlic oil (or oil/garlic mixture), a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a tablespoon of water. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and use a fork to poke a few holes in the top. Microwave it on high for 8 minutes.

Put your chicken in a bowl (or two bowls if you’re combining whole pieces with bite-sized pieces). Sprinkle it with the paprika, drizzle it with the remaining tablespoon of oil, give it a stir, and let it sit for a few minutes (you won’t be poisoned. I promise.). Slice your sausage and set it aside too.

When your potatoes are done in the microwave, very carefully pull your hot roasting pan out of the oven and spray it with oil or nonstick spray. Carefully–it’s going to splatter a bit) pour the potatoes and oil into the pan and stir in the onions. Put that back in the oven for 12 minutes.

At the end of the 12 minutes, pull the dish out of the oven and give the potatoes and onions a stir. Sprinkle those with the sausage, top that with the artichoke hearts, and lay the chicken on top (whole pieces only if you’re using a combination of whole and cut up). Back into the oven, and roast the whole thing for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is 165 degrees inside (if you’re combining pieces, roast the whole ones 10 minutes and then add in the bite-size for the last five minutes). Remove from the oven, let sit for five minutes, and enjoy.

 

Sweet Broccoli Magic

17 Aug

I saw you wrinkle up your nose at that title up there. Give me five minutes–I’m gonna change your mind about this vegetable, even if you think it’s bitter or limp or boring. Nothing could be farther from the truth when you use a really easy, hands-off technique to cook it.

We had dinner at a friend’s house this summer; she always makes something that’s simple and amazing, and this time was no exception. Steak and a really good salad (I need to ask her if I can share her salad trick with y’all, come to think of it), and broccoli. But this broccoli was sweet and crunchy and unlike any I’d had before, and I went back for a big second helping of just that. It was that good.

Her secret? Roasting. You know how if you cook a chicken or Brussels sprouts with a little oil and salt in a scorching hot oven, magic happens? The outside of the goodies caramelizes while the inside stays nummy and juicy and amazing? Same thing with broccoli. And why it didn’t occur to me before now to try it is a mystery. Doing it with my new favorite ingredient–garlic oil–makes it just about the perfect vegetable (Confession: The first time I made this, I left the pan on the counter for about 10 minutes while the rest of dinner came together. And at the end of that 10 minutes, the broccoli was almost gone. I picked at it the whole time. Seriously good stuff, and it’s a vegetable! Sweet!). It’s crunchy and sweet and perfect.

Even if you think you don’t like broccoli…even if you’re used to that frozen stuff or boiled stems that flop over on your fork like a wet washcloth…try this. You’ll be a believer, I promise. It could not be simpler or more delicious. You need:

Broccoli florets (I use about two cups)

A tablespoon or two of garlic oil (use regular olive oil if you don’t have this)

About a quarter-teaspoon of salt or No-Salt substitute

(That’s it. See?)

Heat your oven to 425 degrees and spray a rimmed baking sheet with oil or your nonstick goodness of choice.

Lay your broccoli on the pan and drizzle it with the oil. Toss with your hands to get every bite a little bit of oil (the broccoli will not be coated). Sprinkle with salt, pop in the oven, and cook it about 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven, until the tops of the florets are brown and crunchified. Tell me that’s not the easiest, most delicious veggie you’ve ever had.

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