Monday, January 30, 2017

Some of My Favorite Easy Chicken Recipes

Due to being raised without beef and pork, resulting in a sensitivity to both (I completely avoid pig products, but beef is usually OK for me now), chicken is my main source of meat, and I am always looking for new and interesting ways to cook it. It's not always easy, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite recipes that I have found in case there are others also looking for some new chicken recipes.

1) Chicken Paprika

I found this recipe on Pinterest courtesy of the blog Chef in Training. One of my favorite things about this dish is not how flavorful it is - and it really is! - but rather how simple. These are all ingredients I have on hand in my kitchen, though I do substitute vegetable bouillon for chicken since Greg, my husband, is allergic to chicken broth (which complicates a lot of chicken recipes). 

2) Creamy Crockpot Chicken Stuffing and Green Beans

This one pot slowcooker meal comes to us from the blog Family Fresh Meals. I love all-in-one meals. (You'll note I have a ton of casseroles in my blog.) I also love stuffing. It's my favorite part of Thanksgiving. This recipe is reminiscent of Thanksgiving dinner, but totally fine to eat year round without being at all weird.

3) One Pan Chicken Dinner

Here's another all-in-one chicken-based meal from MyFridgeFood using green beans and potatoes as sides. Five ingredients and only an hour in the oven. Magnificent! 

4) Chicken, Salsa, and Cheese

This is a recipe I grew up eating, and I have posted about it here on my blog. I like to think of chicken as a blank canvas, and there is a lot you can put on it. Like this variation with BBQ sauce rather than salsa in BBQ Chicken with Cheddar and Bacon or Pizza Chicken with pasta sauce in place of salsa and shredded mozzarella as the cheese. But the dish that introduced me to this concept was the salsa and cheddar version, so it's a classic.

5) Chicken Cheese Casserole

Another classic chicken dish in the Coburn household was the Chicken Cheese Casserole, or Chicken Cheese Stuff as it was usually called. In case you weren't aware and couldn't guess, chicken and cheese go beautifully together. And this casserole is versatile because you can include or exclude your vegetable of choice. I really liked it with asparagus, but broccoli or green beans would also work well. 

Aw man, now I'm hungry. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Zucchini Fritters

January is not the best month for zucchinis. But I love zucchinis, and when I came across this recipe in the book I Quit Sugar, I thought it sounded delicious and wanted to try it. It's like a hashbrown patty, but with zucchini instead of potatoes. As pointed out in Fl!p Your K!tchen (which also has this recipe) you can actually use just about any vegetable; all you need to do is be able to grate them. (There are a dozen more online at least.)

As I said, I used zucchini in January, so I grated five or six of them with my hand-grater because they were so small. I ended up with about two to three cups of shredded zucchini. Made in season, three or four zucchini should suffice. Zucchini is one of the things I insist on growing in my garden, so I am excited to try this in-season with fresh zucchini from the garden!

Other Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 T flour
  • dashes of salt and pepper to taste
  • oil or fat of choice for the pan
First, whisk the flour, eggs, salt and pepper, then combine with the zucchini. 

Next, grease a frying pan and set to medium heat. I actually used avocado oil for this one because we happen to have some on hand and I wanted to try it, but coconut oil, olive oil, butter, ghee, or cooking spray should all work. Use what you're used to. 

Once the pan is heated, spoon dollops of the zucchini mixture into the pan, sort of like you're making pancakes. Also like pancakes, you want to let the first side cook for a few minutes before flipping it to let the other side cook. You're going for golden, crispy brown. 

That's it. Eat plain, or with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and chives, possibly applesauce, cheese. The same things you'd put on latkes or potato pancakes should work here, as well. 

This is one of those dishes that can be made for any meal. I think we made it for dinner, but I'd eat them for breakfast, too, and I think it'd be fun to experiment with different herbs and mixing in other vegetables like shredded carrot. 

Recipes I can play with are the best!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cream of Leftover Green Beans Soup

Last week, while making béchamel sauce, I learned that béchamel sauce is used as a base for cream of whatever soups. Of course, when I looked up recipes, none of them required me to make béchamel sauce first as such, so I had to improvise. Like using half a tub of leftover green beans from KFC that didn't look so appetizing on their own. It really wasn't very hard. Here is what I did:

  • Bring all of the above ingredients to a boil, then lower the temperature to a simmer and cook for about ten minutes.
  • Slowly pour soup mixture into 2ish cups of béchamel sauce, stirring constantly.
  • Simmer for a few minutes, then serve.
I say 2ish cups of béchamel sauce because that is about what I ended up with after making the previously posted recipe. I also got about 3 servings of soup.

The flavor was, obviously, quite nutty, and texture not as creamy as if I'd been able to strain it. (I've since purchased cheese cloth, but have yet to use it.) I liked it, though! The nuttiness added some substance to what is generally a subtle taste. Cream soups can be rich, but I don't think of them as packed with flavor like a marinara, chili, or masala.

I would consider making this soup again with other vegetables (soup is a wonderful dish for leftovers), but maybe without making the nut milk first. I'd prefer to use ingredients already on hand. That is how leftovers usually work.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Nut Milk and Béchamel (White) Sauce

So the first two lessons in Fl!p Your K!tchen by Liza Baker are nut milk and béchamel sauce (also known as white sauce). I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook by Sarah Wilson also has a recipe for making nut milk. It's really quite easy, though I find the result rather tasteless and unsatisfactory, so I guess it's a good thing Ms. Baker has an immediate use for it in the béchamel sauce!

Nut Milk

Fl!p has you soak 1.5 cups of any variety of tree nuts in enough cool water to cover them for 12 to 24 hours (my schedule demanded the full 24 hours). Then drain and rinse the now puffy nuts and combine them with 4.5 cups of cold water in your blender. My blender only fits 4 cups of water with nothing else in there, so this did not work so well for me. Good thing I had a towel handy! 

(The great thing about Fl!p is that it includes variations on every recipe. So if you'd like some different things to do with this recipe, buy the book online or, where I picked it up, at the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in downtown Ann Arbor, MI.) 

I Quit Sugar has a somewhat different approach to making nut milk (she specifies almond or cashew). You boil 3 cups of water, allowing it to cool some before blending with 1 cup of blanched or soaked-over-night almonds or cashews. 

Both ladies mention sieving out the pulp and dehydrating it into nut meal. Unfortunately this did not work for me. I tried to use a coffee filter, as I did when making my own paneer, but it got too clogged, and I only got a few drops of liquid to go through. So my béchamel sauce was not as creamy as it might have been.

Béchamel Sauce

In order to make this simple sauce, you will need 2 T butter (Ms. Baker suggests substituting the butter with olive or coconut oil for a vegan option), 2 T flour, .5 tsp of salt, .25 tsp of pepper, and 2 cups of the above nut milk (or regular milk if you don't care about the nut milk). 

I am going to simplify here, so again, check the book (or the internet) for more through instructions. In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium on the stove. In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients, then add them to the butter in the pan once it has melted, stirring constantly so it doesn't clump. Cook a bit - until it smells "toasty" according to Fl!p. Then gradually whisk in your 2 cups of nut milk. 

This step got a bit messy for me due to the nut meal being mixed in with the milk because I couldn't separate it out. At the bottom of my measuring cup is a bunch of gooey nut meal, so looks like I may be able to dehydrate it into meal after all. 

Moving on, bring this all to a boil while stirring constantly, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 10 minutes while stirring occasionally. 

This is where the recipe and I parted ways as I wanted to now put my béchamel sauce to immediate use, and Fl!p does not do that. I read that béchamel can be used to make cream of vegetable soups, and I had some leftover, not especially appetizing on their own green bean leftovers from KFC sitting in the fridge. I decided to combine them with the béchamel, but I will talk about that next week. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Nut Milk (Happy New Year)

Hey, I'm back! It's been about half a year since my last update (Peanut Butter and Mulberry (and Banana and Spinach) Protein Smoothie). A lot has happened since then! Life has been busy, and I am sad to report I have not been dong a lot of cooking. My husband cooks dinner more often than I do (P.S. I got married).

I also quit one of my part-time jobs, leaving me with more free time. And I got a promotion and started working as an editor as well as writer for the Journal, which eats up some of that free time, but I want to return to writing for fun and pleasure! So here I am.

I have undertaken in this new year to cut out a significant amount of fructose (removing all forms of sugar is just crazy talk) from my diet because I love sugar, and I think it's been making me sick. I also want to switch to a more whole foods, locally procured diet, so I used some Christmas money to purchase two cook books: Fl!p Your K!tchen by Liza Baker and I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook by Sarah Wilson.

The former is by a local author and is available for purchase at the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room. The latter is not a step-by-step guide to quitting sugar, but rather a helpful, easygoing collection of guidelines with some promising recipes - so my kind of book. They both recommend making your own nut milk (I know, snicker snicker, nut milk). I rolled my eyes until I saw that lesson one in Fl!p was nut milk. The béchamel sauce recipe, lesson two, uses the nut milk. Sigh. Fine! 

So now there is a bowl of almonds and cashews (all the nuts in the house, picked one by one from a plastic canister of assorted mixed nuts and dried cranberries) soaking in cold water on my counter, waiting to be blended with more cold water tomorrow, thus creating homemade nut milk. I have been cow milk free for many months now (I'm allergic to the protein), but though I have been using almond milk as my milk alternative, this homemade variety does not sound appetizing.

I'll let you know next time how it - and the béchamel sauce - goes.