You know something in your life has changed when . . .

Your stove at dinner time looks like this:

IMG_1068

Oh don’t get all judgmental. I am not knocking at all that this is what I made for dinner last night.  In fact, I am quite impressed that I actually cooked myself dinner last night and got to eat it warm, in a chair at a leisurely pace with my 8 week old successfully bathed and asleep in his crib and I did it all by myself with the hubby ditching us for a work meeting (no judgement there either :))

 

Rather I am more amused with what is boiling away on that back burner . . . the most amazing invention ever . . . the pacifier.  Unfortunately, this one met its fate with a city street yesterday. Fortunately for me we were only feet from our apartment, with a little man in a good mood and 2 replacements  upstairs – serious crisis averted. After that little scare I am sure you can imagine what is on its way from Amazon.

 

Needless to say my life has changed quite a bit in the few months I have been radio silent from the blog.  But don’t worry – the hubby and I haven’t gone hungry and we actually haven’t eaten too many meals like the one above or out of take out food containers.

 

Before our little man showed up, I was agonizing over how (and what) we would eat for dinner. Lucky for me he decided to make a late arrival leaving me with more than enough time on my hands to agonize over this dilemma (and everything else!).  I pre-made meals with my mom, collected take out menus from every possible restaurant I could find within walking distance of our apartment, and even researched meal delivery services.

 

Funny enough, we haven’t had to really use any of the above. For one I actually have one of those hubbies who knows his way around the kitchen pretty well and can whip up some pretty delicious dinners while I am making sure our little one is fed. Secondly we managed to find ourselves a handful of easy to make recipes that we rotate through quite often (yes I will share!).

 

One of those easy to make recipes on the rotation – sautéed spinach. It happens to be a super easy, fast and delicious green veg to add to any meal plus the pre-washed spinach serves as a great salad base for a quick meal for me during the day.

 

Garlic Sautéed Spinach

Serves 2

 

1 – 2 cloves of garlic, ends removed and sliced thin

1 tbsp of olive oil

3 cups of baby spinach

Salt to taste

 

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  When the oil is warm add garlic and let sizzle for 30 minutes, until fragrant (be careful not to let get brown).  Add spinach and salt to taste. Sauté until leaves are wilted.

If you want to change things up you can always spice it up with a little red pepper flakes or add an asian flavor with some toasted sesame oil.

Advertisements

Chicken with Shallots

There are many great things about writing my food blog.  Here are a few of my favs:

  1. I no longer have to make the same meal every week because it is my hubby’s new favorite.  “Sorry I wrote about that recipe last week and need new material for the blog – I promise I will make it again soon.”
  2. I am finally using all the cookbooks that took up an entire cabinet in our city apartment so I know longer get asked “Can we donate these to Good Will because you never use them?”
  3. I now know more ways to cook chicken and that makes me smile.  There is nothing worse than bland, dried out chicken breasts.

Chicken always seems to be the protein of choice in our house. It used to get chopped up for stir fry, flattened out for chicken parmesan, or simply made into chicken cutlets. That was it. So when I find a new way to make our favorite protein I get so excited, especially when it comes out as delicious as this recipe did.

I know I said in an earlier post that I was done with the boneless, skin on chicken breasts because they dry out.  Well I went back for more, I think secretly hoping that I was wrong. And I have never been so happy to be proven wrong. Perhaps it was user error (would not be surprising) or a faulty recipe (also would not be surprising) last time, but this time I finally found my go to recipe for cooking boneless, skin on chicken breasts. It’s a two stage process but worth the minimal effort.

Ina advertised it as “good enough for the fanciest company but easy enough to make for a quick dinner.” I couldn’t agree more Ina – this one definitely passed the restaurant quality test. I served it with some roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts. The oven was already at 425 F for the chicken so I simply halved / quartered the brussel sprouts (depending on their size), cut the cauliflower into florets, tossed with olive oil and salt, and placed on a baking sheet in the oven for 20 minutes.

Chicken with Shallots (adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?)

Serves 2

2 boneless chicken breasts, skin on

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 c dry white wine

2 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)

1/2 cup minced shallot

1 1/2 tbsp heavy cream

2 tbsp unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature

 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels and sprinkle them generously on both sides with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, until it begins to smoke.  Place the chicken breasts, skin side down, in the skillet and cook for 4 to 5 minutes without moving, until golden brown.

Using tongs, turn the chicken breasts skin side up, place the skillet in the oven and roast for 12 to 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. (Ina recommends 6 to 8oz sized chicken breasts you will probably need cook on the longer side if larger or thick)

Meanwhile, in a medium saute pan, combine the white wine, lemon juice, and shallots and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until only 2 tbsp of liquid remain in the pan. If reduces too much, add an extra splash of white wine or water. Add the cream, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and bring to a full boil. Remove the heat, add the diced butter, and swirl the pan until the butter is incorporated. Don’t reheat or the sauce will “break”!

Serve the chicken hot with the sauce spooned over it.


Chicken with Israeli Couscous, Spinach, and Feta

The hubby and I are trying desperately to ween ourselves off of our vacation diet (and our jet lag!). China wasn’t as bad as lets say Italy, where I justified to myself nearly every day that it was a gelato day, but it was pretty bad. I vowed that the first week back I would not find a reason to gorge myself silly on the candy corn and Halloween candy hanging around our house, but rather eat lots of fresh veggies and cook only healthy meals.

Given that I was falling asleep at all the wrong hours of the day I was also on the search for healthy, easy to make dinners and stumbled on a great one in Cooking For Two. It only used one pot (score 1), it was already cut for only 2 portions (score 2), and was relatively healthy (score 3).

I think the hardest part of the dish was finding the Israeli couscous! The technique for cooking the boneless, skinless chicken breasts is probably one of the best one’s I have come across. The chicken was perfectly cooked and soo juicy – delish! This will be the only way I prepare boneless, skinless chicken breasts from now on.

Thank you America’s Test Kitchen for (1) solving my dry boneless, skinless chicken breast problem and (2) creating some a delicious and pseudo healthy recipe. Add another one to the permanent rotation.

Chicken with Israeli Couscous, Spinach, and Feta (from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2009)

Serves 2

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 (6 to 8 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

Salt and pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

3/4 cup Israeli couscous (I finally found mine at Trader Joe’s you can also use Orzo)

1 shallot, minced (about 3 tbsp)

3 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 tbsp)

1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

6 oz baby spinach (about 6 cups)

2 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the flour in a shallow dish. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Working with one breast at a time, dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Carefully lay the chicken breasts in the skillet and cook until well browned on the first side, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the chicken breasts, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook for 6 to 8 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a plate, tent loosely with foil, and let rest in the warm oven while preparing the couscous.

Wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Add 1 tbsp more oil and the couscous to the skillet and toast over medium heat until light golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the shallot, 2 tsp of the garlic, 1/4 tsp of the lemon zest, and 1/8 tsp of the pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk in 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, remaining 1 tbsp oil, remaining 1 tsp garlic, remaining 1/4 tsp lemon zest, and remaining 1/8 tsp pepper flakes together in a small bowl.

Stir the spinach, one handful at a time, into the skillet and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the feta and remaining 1 tbsp lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the couscous between two plates and top with the chicken. Drizzle with lemon juice mixture and serve.

Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Chicken Breasts

The weather has been so strange these past few weeks,from summer to winter and back again. The hubby and I were jonsing for some good comfort food but what to cook. The weather in SF has gone from rainy and cool to sunny and warm and back again. We weren’t ready to fully embrace winter yet. Is anyone ever?

Roast chicken seemed like the perfect solution but it’s so hard for a mid-week meal and it was already on the menu for later in the week. Flipping through cookbooks I was trying to find the next best thing. The picture for Ina’s Lemon Chicken Breasts looked amazing – homey but definitely not wintry. Another added plus, it was from the cookbook How Easy Is That?. Done and done.

I will agree with Ina that it was an easy recipe but, I am sorry Ina, this has nothing on Rao’s Lemon Chicken. I could totally be at fault for this but I found the chicken dry and, dare I say, bland. I will take credit for the blandness as I was a little shocked at how much garlic Ina added to her marinade so rather than half it, I quartered it. But it wasn’t really lacking the garlic flavor it was more the lemon flavor. I think I was also a little surprised by the choice to use a boneless chicken breast vs. a bone-in. I am learning, maybe slowly, but the best way to get juicy chicken is to cook it with its bone and skin.


I paired the chicken with some crusty bread and roasted cauliflower. Both of which were delish! If you have never tried roasted cauliflower you have to try it. I admit it, cauliflower was not a go to vegetable for me, in fact, I avoided it. Something about white broccoli that just seemed plain weird. But then it started showing up in a CSA box that we subscribed to a few years ago and I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. Into the oven it went with some olive oil, salt, and pepper at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and I was instantly converted to a cauliflower lover.

Lemon Chicken Breasts (adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s How Easy Is That?)

1/8 cup olive oil

2 large cloves of minced garlic (Ina recommended 4.5)

2 3/4 tbsp of dry white wine

1/2 tbsp grated lemon zest

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves

Kosher salt and black pepper

2 boneless chicken breasts, skin on

1/2 lemon

Preaheat the oven to 400 degrees

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant (do not allow the garlic to brown). Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon, juice, oregano, thyme, and salt. Pour into a 8×8-inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 4 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn’t browned enough (this happened to me), put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with pan juices.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Roasted Chicken with Apples & Leeks

This is a house favorite and go-to fall and winter staple. Its super easy and comes with some great memories.

This dish was one of the first meals I ever cooked for the hubby. We had only been dating a few months and I wanted to impress my then boyfriend with my skills in the kitchen. The kitchen in my apartment was teeny-weeny and the stove, even smaller. I didn’t really own many baking sheets or roasting pans back then, plus I am doubtful that they would have actually fit into the oven. So I purchased an aluminum roasting pan and followed the recipe meticulously.

I quartered and cored the crisp apples, I quartered the leeks, and mixed them in the aluminum pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. I then nestled the chicken thighs and legs among the apples and leeks, placed the rosemary on top, and put them in the oven at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes. I waited patiently with the then boyfriend, trying desperately not to show my nerves and hoping that it would all turn out perfectly.

Yes, I was that crazy girl who used a brand new recipe to try to impress a boy with her cooking skills! Total rookie mistake.

When the buzzer rang I bounced up into the kitchen, opened the oven, and grabbed the aluminum pan out of the oven. Guess what happened next?

Because it was a deep aluminum roasting pan NONE of the juices from the chicken, the apples, or the leeks cooked off. The pan buckled under the weight of the juices and despite the good grip I had on both sides, the whole thing crashed to the floor. There I stood the girl trying to impress the boy with the entire dinner on her kitchen floor. Amazing!

We salvaged what we could of the meal, enjoyed it the best we can.

The next gift from the hubby? A roasting pan.

Chicken with Apples & Leeks (from Real Simple magazine)

Serves 4

4 small crisp apples (such as braeburn or empire), quartered

2 small leeks (white and light green part), halved crosswise and lengthwise

6 small sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons of olive oil

8 small chicken drumsticks and thighs (4 of each about 2 1/2 pounds total)

1. Preheat to 400 degrees F. On a large roasting pan toss apples, leeks, olive oil, 1/2 tsp of salt and a 1/4 tsp of pepper. (I recommend using a pan with low sides because you will get a crisper/more roasted chicken. If you prefer a juicier less browned version than use a pan with high sides.

2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and nestle among the apples and leeks with skin side up.

3. Roast chicken until it is cooked through and apples and leeks are tender, 40 to 45 minutes. (I find it takes 45 minutes)

Enjoy with roasted potatoes or some great crusty bread.

A Farewell To Summer

I had big plans to post my kitchen salute to the end of summer on the official first day of fall (last Friday). As I am learning, life happens, and so I find myself writing all about the end of summer when it is far from it in California. The sun is shining and my iPhone tells me it is 89 degrees in San Francisco!

Fall has always been my favorite season, I love to watch the leaves change color from green to shades of bright orange, red, and yellow. I love the cool crispness in the air and seeing your breath when you go out for an early morning run. I love that there are apples everywhere (more on that later on this week). Fall might not be quite the same on the west coast, well at least not San Francisco, but it is still my favorite season because it truly is when San Francisco shows what a beautiful city she is.

So in honor of the end of summer and beginning of fall the hubby and I opened up some beers, fired up the George Foreman and had ourselves a little urban BBQ.

The hubby was on burger duty again and this time he made a delicious combination: dark turkey meat, an egg, breadcrumbs, minced garlic, and sliced basil.

We topped it off with some more shredded basil, avocado (my favorite!) and some romaine hearts. To complete the perfect good-bye-summer-meal we boiled up some corn and cooked up some french fries.

We toasted good-bye to summer, hello to fall and dug in. The burgers did not disappoint. The corn, however, totally gave away that summer was hours from being over. No amount of butter could save its blandness. We decided to put it aside and look forward to the squash, eggplant, chard, and kale in our future. Bring on fall!

Chicken Stir-Fry with Bok Choy, Eggplant, and Mushrooms

So if you are a new reader you might not be fully aware of my slight obsession with eggplant. I actually wasn’t even fully aware of my eggplant obsession until I found myself earmarking every eggplant recipe in my cookbooks. Needless to say right now I am in eggplant heaven. It is totally eggplant season in California and the markets are overflowing with every possible type of eggplant you could imagine (and some you might not have ever imagined!).

For now I am retiring my dream to recreate my favorite eggplant, tomato, mozzarella pasta dish, so on to new uses for eggplant. This week’s eggplant recipe: stir-fry!

I have to say that this was another market inspired recipe (if you can call stir-fry that). The Japanese eggplant looked too amazing to pass up. They also happened to be sitting right next to a beautiful bag of baby bok choy for $2. A dish was born.

The hubby is growing a little tired of our shrimp stir-fries (we do them a lot in the house) so we opted for chicken and added some baby bello mushrooms.


One of my biggest issues with home-made chicken stir-fry is the consistency of the chicken. It usually ends up too thick, dry, sometimes chewy, and just not like it takes from a Chinese restaurant. So I thought I would out smart the chicken this time and use my chicken cutlet trick. I sliced the chicken breasts length wise and then diced them.

The hubby, aka Wok Master, did all the cooking work. I just have not mastered the wok yet, plus he really likes to cook and I seem to be taking over most of that responsibility in the house thanks to this blog so he gets the wok.

First he heated the oil in the wok until it was smoking then in went the chicken, eggplant and mushrooms. We have not yet gotten to making our own stir-fry sauce so we generally alternate between sweet chili sauce (my fav!) and Trader Joe’s General Tsao’s sauce (also a good choice). Wok Master felt that General Tsao’s sauce would work best.

After everything cooked down nicely he added the bok choy, cooked it until it wilted, and served.

So I still had the chicken problem again! It was a little dry and a little chewy so here are my thoughts:

(1) We are overcooking the chicken.

A total possibility but I do not think it is the ultimate culprit.

(2) We need to marinate the chicken before stir-frying

I think this is my problem.

Any stir-fry connoisseurs out there?  Is the second really my issue and do you have some good marinade recommendations? Or am I totally just overcooking my chicken?

I can handle the truth.