Tarragon chicken breasts, cauliflower puree and beet salad

The plates were literally licked clean last night. There wasn’t a speck of food left, even after second rounds. THAT is how good dinner was last night.

The family and I are going to Hawaii next month and are dead set on eating healthily until that trip. We were a bit bad this last month with birthday cake here, homemade banana pumpkin bread there, pizza here, a sando there. It is time to get back on the saddle!

Ingredients:

Chicken

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt/pepper
  • tarragon
  • chickpea flour

Cauliflower Puree

  • one head of white cauliflower
  • two cups of chicken stock
  • salt/pepper
  • one teaspoon dried rosemary
  • one teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • butter
  • one medium red onion

Beet salad

  • five roasted beets (I prefer Love Beets)
  • two clementines
  • heaping handful of baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup of feta
  • balsamic dressing of your choosing

Getting started on this dinner was a bit of a struggle. I couldn’t decide on anything. But I also didn’t want to have to go back out to the grocery store. I knew we had chicken breasts, I knew we had cauliflower…and that was ALL I knew. I had made roasted cauliflower just the night before so I didn’t want to cook the same thing. Then I remembered cauliflower puree…god’s gift to those that don’t want to eat mashed potatoes (I think I even like the cauliflower ones more). I got working on those because they take a bit longer than everything else. I could figure out the rest while the cauli was cooking down. I also forgot to get a picture. Oops!

I don’t make my cauli puree the same was as most people. I pull out my cuisinart FIRST and shred the cauliflower using the shredding disc. From there I put the shredded cauliflower into a large, high sided pan, add salt and pepper, and mix in the two cups of chicken stock. I turn the heat to med/high and stir frequently. I cook this until the liquid is mostly absorbed into the cauliflower. This is a good time to peel and chop your red onion and prepare the chicken (more on that below).  Once the stock is absorbed I add the rosemary and thyme. I cook that for a few minutes and then stir in the parmesan. Once that is mixed well, I pour (in two batches) the cauliflower back into the cuisinart (now with the regular chopping blade) and whir until smooth. I set it aside in a bowl and cook the rest of the food. Back in the pan where I cooked the cauliflower, I pour a tiny bit of olive oil and a add a pat of butter. When that sizzles (should be quick with the hot pan), add in the red onion. Turn the stove to medium/low. The key to this recipe is browning the red onion while still keeping it soft. When cooked to your desired crispiness, stir it into the cauliflower puree.

The chicken couldn’t be easier. Pound out the chicken to equal thickness. Salt and pepper the top and wait a few minutes. Then sprinkle on a thin layer of tarragon and spoon on a thin layer of chickpea flour. Rub the tarragon and chickpea flour gently into the top of the chicken breast. Don’t worry about the bottom side. You don’t want to flip the chicken to season the other side because the chickpea flour will become a paste.

When the cauliflower and the onion are finished, add a bit more oil/butter to the bottom of the pan and, once sizzling, put your chicken breasts into the pan, chickpea flour side down. While that cooks (on medium), repeat the seasoning process on the other side of the chicken breast in the pan. Flip when the chicken becomes opaque on the bottom. Cook the chicken to 165degrees.

While the chicken cooks, cut up five beets into 1/2 inch pieces. Peel two clementines and slice horizontally. Chop the spinach into bite size pieces. All all of the above and the feta into a bowl. Toss with a dressing of your choice (Hubs makes a super simple, kick ass creamy balsamic that paired well with this — balsamic vinegar, olive oil, plain yogurt, mustard, lemon, salt and pepper).

This whole meal was filling, spectacular (if I do say so myself) and had no offending starches (potatoes, flour, etc).

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Last minute, scrounged up dinner for six

We are on the east coast for a month visiting my family and, well, because there are six or seven adults and four kids running around (and as many different schedules), dinnertime has been hectic. When we do cook at home, there is a lot of grilling and a bit of each team taking a dish.

Last night we were supposed to be having dinner at the snack bar at the beach while the kids competed in beach games. “Supposed to” be the operative words. They snack bar ran out of food.  At 6pm.  And as we are eating out tonight and the next night, we didn’t have a lot of food in the house. I beat the rest of the family home, got the kids fed and then scrounged around until I found some dinner for us to eat. Normally I wouldn’t even post something like this, but my sister ate it…and liked it. And she usually doesn’t really like food…she eats because she has to. I know, I know. Isn’t that just bizarre? Not loving food?! ANYWAY. I told her I would give her the recipe. It wasn’t really much. But everyone seemed to enjoy it so here ya go!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large breast of chicken (boneless/skinless)
  • 1/2 bag of Trader Joe’s 10 minute Farro
  • 12 oz chicken broth
  • 12 oz water
  • 3 zucchinis
  • 2 precooked beets
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • herbs du provence
  • salt/pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • two teaspoons balsamic
  • cherry tomatoes
  • grated peccorino cheese
  • a head of romaine, cleaned and spun, for the plating

 

In a large pot I put the broth and the water and brought to a boil. Meanwhile I chopped the chicken into one inch pieces, trying to keep the size consistent. I also chopped the onion finely. Once the water/broth was boiling, I added the farro and cooked it in the still boiling broth/water for 10ish minutes, until chewy. In a skillet, I heated the oil, added 1/4 of the onion into the pan when it was shimmering, let that cook for a minute, pushed the onions to the outer ring of the pan and then added the chicken to the pan. I added salt and pepper and the herbs du provence as then hit the pan, let them cook until the outer edge of the chicken was white and then flipped each piece. I let it cook for a minute or two more and then mixed all of the onions and chicken together. Once cooked through, I poured the chicken into a bowl to save for later.  While the chicken cooked, I chopped the zucchini into 1/2 inch pieces and, after trimming the ends off of the asparagus, chopped that into 3/4 inch pieces. 

I added a bit more oil to the pan and, as it was warming back up, drained the farro and left it on the over, no heat. Once the oil was shimmering, I added the rest of the onion and cooked until translucent (medium heat). Then I pushed the onions to the outside. I poured all of the zucchini and asparagus into the pan and let it cook for a few minutes. While that cooked, I cut the beets into small pieces (I usually do this INSIDE a bowl so that everything doesn’t turn red) and the cherry tomatoes in half. 

Once the veggies in the pan started to soften, I added the white wine and let it cook down, having stirred the veggies so they evenly were covered. I put in a bit of salt and pepper (more pepper than salt…a few turns of a salt mill, about ten of the pepper mill) and then the balsamic. 

Once the asparagus was cooked through and the zucchini softened, I dumped in the rest of the veggies (the beets and tomatoes) and then re-added the chicken and the farro, letting the farro soak up all of the delicious juices at the bottom of the plate. It was honestly beautiful. Really colorful and smelled amazing. 

I added two leaves of romaine to each bowl and then spooned in about a cup and a half of the mixture. My dad then took the honors of adding a bit of peccorino to each bowl. I wish I had taken a picture. But everyone was starving at that point (and also trying to put babies to bed) so no picture this time. 

This would be a great one-dish meal for a dinner party, too. 

A veg-tastic dinner: Braised kale, leeks and chickpeas AND Mast-o-khiar with sauteed beets

We are heading to the east coast to visit my folks on Saturday so I am trying to clear out my fridge before we go, using up the fresh veg.

This recipe caught my eye when searching for kale and leek combos. I had three huge leeks in my fridge and had some kale left over from the farmer’s market from TWO weeks ago. I would hate for that deliciousness to go to waste. A variation, I knew, of this recipe would fit my needs perfectly…but would it need a protein? Would hubs eat chickpeas not mashed up like hummus? Would I need another side? It looked filling…but enough to be a whole meal?

Just in case it wasn’t, I added in what was planned to be roasted beets with maast-o-khiar (aka, cucumbers and dill in yoghurt). “Planned to be” because we had a slight mishap last night with the oven. Our truly lovely au pair was helping put away clean dishes the other night (love her) and put our plastic grilling prep pan in the oven thinking it was a roasting pan. I had no idea and preheated the oven. Et voila!

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Obviously no beets would be oven roasted last night. After opening up every window and door in the house to air out the noxious fumes, I continued on with my meal prep, changing direction on the secondary salad. 

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It was a bit chilly last night (by Northern California standards) so didn’t want to grill the beets…how else to use up this GORGEOUS, gorgeous veg?? SAUTE! I would slice them very thinly and salt and saute them. This was a super quick fix and I think that I may do these more often. They were sweet and crispy and would be a fantastic topping to a LOT of different dishes. Next time I did this though, I would probably get bigger beets (less to peel) and make them more like 1 inch strips…almost like an onion topper. OOOH! With crispy onions next time, too! THAT WOULD BE AWESOME! okay, onward.

Braised Kale, Leeks and Chickpeas

  • one bunch of kale (de-stemmed and chopped into bite size pieces)
  • one can of chickpeas (14 oz and drained)
  • 3 large leeks (the whites and light green parts, cut across the grain into rings and separated
  • 1/4 cup of chicken stock/broth
  • olive oil
  • pat of butter
  • salt/pepper
  • tablespoon of paprika
  • red bell pepper…fresh, cut into rings
  • feta

Sauteed Beets and Maast-o-Khiar

  • fresh, raw beets cut with the greens cut off, peeled and then thinly sliced (I used eight small beets but could have used at least four more)
  • one large cucumber, partially peeled
  • 1/2 cup of plain yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup of chopped dill
  • apple cider vinegar
  • salt/pepper

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In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan that can be covered, pour enough olive oil in to coat the bottom and about 2 mm of oil. Turn on the gas on medium heat. Add a pat of butter.

Once shimmering, add the sliced leeks and paprika and stir, coating them in the olive oil and slowly browning butter.

As they start to soften, add in the kale and chickpeas, coat the veg and then turn down the heat to simmer and, just before covering, add the sliced bell peppers. Stir every few minutes, adding stock if it starts to scorch on the bottom of the pan. It should finish cooking in about 15-20 minutes. Add salt towards the end with about half of a cup of feta.

ImageWhile the kale is cooking down, start on the sauteed beets. Heat some olive oil in a saute pan. You should already have peeled the beets. Thinly slice them (aren’t they gorgeous) and add a little bit of salt.

When the oil is hot, add the beets, flipping in the oil to coat them. Cook them for about four or five minutes and then flip them so both sides get cooked.

Pour in a bit of chicken broth to release the yummy goodness on the bottom and cover for five more minutes. Some of the smaller pieces might become crispy before the others. Set them aside on some paper towels to drain. Continue on with the bigger pieces until they are soft and then drain those as well. They will be served cold so don’t worry about keeping them warm.

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Maast-o-khiar can be made a thousand different way (pureed, chopped, sliced, etc). For last night, I went with sliced. And I wanted them extra thin so I pulled out my mandolin. 

I sliced one large cucumber this way…but probably could have used another cucumber to really feed three adults. (I also would have added in more beets…lesson learned)

After slicing the cucumbers, I put them in a bowl with apple cider vinegar and some salt. You can use sherry or red wine vinegar, as well. Balsamic is too sweet for this recipe. Leave them in there for 20-30 minutes. I was pressed for time after dealing with the oven debacle, so they only got about 10 minutes this go round. It was still delicious.

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After 10 minutes, I drained the vinegar and added in the yoghurt and the finely chopped dill (having removed from the pile any major stems). Don’t mix this up too quickly. Let the yoghurt come to room temperature (or close to it) and THEN mix it up. Once mixed, add in the beets so that they are distributed evenly throughout.

We served the two dishes side by side on the plate. I probably needed a bit more of both salads for three people as they are both incredibly light. Both are probably best served as the side for a protein. It would probably pair really well with the ginger chicken or the chicken sumac. The feta definitely was needed, in my opinion, on the kale and leek recipe. It made the meal. Hubs added some extra heat to the kale and leeks via sriracha but I think I agree and will next time add in some chili flakes. And next time? A LOT more of those amazing beets. 

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Lincoln Park Salad with Shrimp

Last week M and I had an early dinner at a local restaurant (Lincoln Park) and I ordered a really fantastic salad. I wanted to recreate it and maybe add my own spin to the mix. Their salad was kale, butternut squash, blood oranges and beets in a cumin dressing.  It was perfect for that night but for me to feed our little family, it needed a bit more heft. So I made it as follows:

  • 2 bunches of kale
  • butternut squash
  • blood oranges
  • 1 can of sliced beets
  • 2 bags of frozen, cooked, tailless shrimp
  • 1 lime
  • 3 meyer lemons
  • cumin
  • mustard powder
  • 2 tbs unsalted, hulled sunflower seeds
  • Brianna’s French Vinaigrette

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First things first, I turned the oven on to 425. Next step was to wash and tear the kale into small pieces in a large bowl. I then zested three meyer lemons with my microplane into a separate bowl and then juiced those lemons over the kale, making sure all of the kale had lemon juice on it. I then let it sit knowing I would come back to it in 20 minutes or so and massage the kale to make it less tough. The woman who had cut my hair less than an hour earlier had told me that this was the key to delicious kale.

Next I peeled and cut the butternut squash into 1 inch cubes and, onto a silpat covered cookie sheet, covered them in olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin and mustard powder. I mixed them all up together to make sure they were evenly coated and into the oven they went.

Onto the blood oranges! With a very sharp knife I cut off the ends and cut off the skin, revealing the ruby red interior. Once peeled, I turned the orange on its side and cut them into slices. If the orange had an extra white pith, I popped it out of the center. Setting those aside, I opened the can of beets, poured them into a strainer over the sink and rinsed them with cold water briefly. I then roughly chopped them into 1 inch chunks, setting them aside when finished.

After checking on the butternut squash, turning the pieces over, I went on to massage the kale. Get your hands in there and really rub on it. It will feel and look strange. Do it. It is worth it. I massaged my kale for about five minutes. As I was going through, I also pulled out and stocks that I may have missed when tearing it earlier. The pieces of kale should be bite sized.

I then added the orange and the beets to the kale, turning to the shrimp. In a saute pan, warm up a tiny bit of olive oil to coat the pan. Once hot, add in the frozen shrimp. Let it sit a second and mix up the shrimp, breaking up those pieces at that frozen together. Cover with a lid for a few minutes to encourage the defrost. Once the ice is melted, empty 3/4 of the liquid into the sink. Squeeze with lime, salt and pepper and cook until warmed through.

The squash should now be hot and cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Drain shrimp and add to kale. Pour in hot squash once cool enough to touch. Add seeds and dressing and toss.

This salad is GOOOOOOOD.

Kitchen Sink Quinoa

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One of the first meals I made for M to transition us out of carb heavy meals to those that were more wholesome and healthy was this Kitchen Sink Quinoa.

Ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Edamame
  • Pomegranate
  • Pre-cooked beets (canned or fresh)
  • Feta
  • Shallot
  • Quinoa
  • Balsamic vinagrette

I had all of the ingredients on hand so this came together quickly. It is great for lunch or leftovers, too. 

Cook the quinoa as directed on the package but substitute chicken (or vegetable) stock for water. Meanwhile, cut the beets into 1/2″ pieces, pop the perils out of the pomegranate, cut the avocado into cubes and, if necessary, pop the edamame beans out of their shell. Cut the shallot into thin slices and lightly saute until translucent. Add the beets to heat through.

Once the quinoa is cooked through, add avocado, edamame, pomegranate, chopped beets, shallot, feta and quinoa into a large bowl. Personally, I don’t dress the salad as that is something that is a deeply personal decision (one on which M and I disagree) and let each person add the amount of dressing they wish. This also helps the dish keep for leftovers. It is delicious.

Variations: This is a great place for leftover veggies and/or chicken/fish from the night before. Chop all leftovers into small chunks and the lunch salad becomes dinner.