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).

Zucchini Noodles with Kale, Spinach and Avocado Pesto

Keeping with my New Year’s Resolution, I am still doing at least one vegetarian dinner per week. Last night Hubs was out so it was just me and S. It came together relatively quickly but I HIGHLY suggest making the pesto before the kids go to sleep…because the whirring of our Cuinsinart caused our daughter to FREAK. OUT. I mean, she has heard it before…but for some reason last night she was not a fan to say the absolute least. But the dinner was great! Healthy and delicious. And vegetarian!

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The Kale, Spinach and Avocado Pesto

  • About two cups of de-stemmed and torn dinosaur kale
  • One large handful of baby spinach
  • Half of an avocado
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 chopped red onion
  • Grated parmesan
  • About 1/3 to 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

The “Pasta”

  • Two large, thick, fairly straight yellow zucchinis
  • 3/4 thinly cut sliced red onion
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • olive oil to cook
  • 1/4 cup salted water

In a cuisinart, blend pine nuts, lemon and kale while slowly pouring in some of the olive oil. When the kale is chopped and there is room in the work bowl, add the spinach and avocado. As that whirs, add more olive oil until blended smooth. Add the chopped red onion and the salt and pepper and about 2 heaping tablespoons of grated parmesan (this is to taste…check the taste and add more if you want).

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Spirulize the zucchini (if you don’t have a spirulizer, cut lengthwise slices into a zucchini almost to the end but leaving the end in tact and use a veggie peeler to make “noodles”) and sprinkle with salt and coat with olive oil.  

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Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the sliced red onion and cook until slightly crispy. If needed, cut the noodles (as they can be QUITE long) to about 1′ in length. Add them to the pan over the onions. Cook the “noodles” for a bit until softening and put in a bit of water. Add in the pesto and stir until all of the noodles are coated. Once warmed through, add the chopped tomato and sprinkle in the goat cheese. 

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Plate and serve! Easy peasy! (Serves two with enough for one lunch leftover…today I am going to add leftover chicken to the leftover sauce. YUM!)

 

Fake Fettuccine with Lemon Sauce and Spinach and Cherry Tomatoes

I’ve been trying to use up a giant container of meyer lemons that I bought at costco last week. I had timed the purchase wrong, forgetting that we had a bunch of evening events preventing cooking. So, when I HAVE been cooking, I am all lemon lemon LEMON!  There has been some lemon chicken, and some larb-ish thai chicken (with lemon), a lemon buerre blanc sauce over fish.

One of my resolutions this year has been to eat vegetarian at least one dinner a week (I have plenty of vegetarian lunches; dinner has been the hard change) so I thought this was the perfect opportunity. Though some rotisserie chicken meat or spicy sausage would have been spectacular in this, too.

A few weeks ago I bought an alternative to my favorite black bean pasta…mung bean fettuccine: a green and more textured flat noodle. And so when I saw these recipes yesterday, I knew I wanted to do something similar. Hubs doesn’t like food that is too rich, too creamy or too cheesy…so this was going to be all about the balance.

And I forgot to take pictures…like a doof. And it was beautiful!

Ingredients:

  • half package of mung bean fettuccine
  • juice of two meyer lemons (and the zest)
  • one tablespoon butter
  • salt/pepper
  • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup of fresh grated parmesan
  • hefty pinch of red pepper flakes
  • teaspoon olive oil
  • large red shallot, sliced
  • cup of cherry tomatoes
  • packed cup of fresh spinach leaves

Prepare the fake fettuccine according to package. Add a good amount of salt and pepper to the water as the mung bean can be a bit bland without it.

In a large pan, heat the oil and add sliced shallots. We like our shallots a bit crispy. Cook yours to taste. Put the butter into the pan and, once melted, add the lemon juice, zest, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Mix this with the cooked onions. Add the tomatoes and let them warm and soften, stirring often. Grate the cheese over the mixture in the pan and mix. Take the pan off of the heat and add the yogurt. Mix thoroughly. Using tongs, gently put the fettuccine into the pan allowing some of the pasta water (a few drips per bunch) to join the sauce. Add the spinach and use the heat from the pasta to gently wilt the spinach. Divide into bowls and add more of the parmesan and red pepper flakes. Serve.

I devoured this. It was a powerhouse of lemon-y goodness tempered with the smoothness and tang of the yogurt and the saltiness of the cheese. Hubs was drinking the sauce once his pasta was gone. I highly recommend this.

Azzy’s Chicken Sumac with Risotto Style Barley and Spinach Asparagus Salad

Hubs’ favorite food of all time is his mother’s Chicken Sumac over Tadiq. We don’t know if Chicken Sumac is a “true” traditional Persian dish because she said she made it up when Hubs was just a wee thing. But it definitely uses Persian ingredients. And he LOVES it.

I’ve Americanized it a bit by taking out the flour, adding in ground flax seed and putting it on the grill (his mother usually pan fries it in vegetable oil).  And, in case you haven’t had it before (you really should…it is DIVINE), tadiq, in short, is Persian rice cooked with either oil or yogurt or potatoes on the bottom to form a thick crust. Since we are not eating rice right now, and focused more on other whole grains* when we do have a grain (our logic isn’t 100% foolproof…), I made barley, risotto style, with parmesan, red wine and sauteed onions and mushrooms. As a green side, I cut asparagus diagonally into 3/4″ pieces and wilted some fresh spinach leaves and topped with balsamic glaze. The whole meal worked really well together. The chicken is very easy to prepare. The risotto style barley needs constant maintenance but didn’t take longer than 30 minutes to pull together. The risotto and asparagus can be completely simultaneously.

* Because rice is one of his favorite things and to make tadiq you have to make enough for like five people, he will eat a lot of it. By using other whole grains and only making smaller portions, we eat less. Plus, the whole grains have a lower glycemic index than basmati rice.

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The chicken:

  • As many boneless, skinless breasts as you have people
  • Sumac
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Salt/pepper
  • Grapeseed oil

The barley:

  • Trader Joe’s 10 minute Barley (I only used about half a cup for 3 people)
  • 1/2 of a vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 overflowing cup of dried shitake mushrooms that are then chopped small and rehydrated with hot water
  • 1 cup of red wine
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • Grated parmesan to taste
  • salt/pepper

The greens:

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut diagonally into 3/4″ pieces
  • 3 cups of fresh spinach leaves
  • tiny bit of salt
  • sprinkle of balsamic glaze

 

Chop the dried shitakes first and then pour very hot water over them to rehydrate and let that sit. In a pot, pour the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. When the mushrooms have rehydrated, with a strainer, pour the liquid into the pot with the broth and reserve the mushrooms. Be sure to push the liquid out of the mushrooms with a spoon.

In a 12 inch saute pan, put the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and turn to medium high. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions and cook until they are translucent (about five minutes). This is a good time to trim and cut the asparagus. 

Then add the mushrooms to the pan with the onions and cook until the mushrooms start to brown (another five minutes or so). 

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When those seem close to finished, add the barley to the pan and mix them in with the onions and mushrooms until they are slightly toasted and coated with oil (another five minutes). Pour in slowly the red wine and let the barley absorb the liquid, stirring often. Once absorbed, dip a measuring cup into the simmering broth and add a cup to the barley, stirring it in.

 

While this is absorbing, heat a tablespoon of oil in another saute pan and add the asparagus of medium heat.  Let these saute until the color starts to get a vibrant green. Keep an eye on the barley and add a cupful of broth each time it is absorbed and stir.  

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Add the spinach on top of the asparagus and let that wilt down for about a minute and then turn it so that the asparagus is on top. Keep turning it until the spinach is wilted but not overcooked. Turn off the heat once the spinach seems cooked.

This is a good time to taste the barley to see if it needs more broth. You want this cooked al dente with some bite left in the grain. Soggy won’t taste as awesome.

When the last of the liquid is absorbed and the taste of the barley tastes perfectly cooked, turn off the heat. We will come back and finish it off after cooking the chicken. 

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The chicken doesn’t need much prep…but the most important thing is to make sure that the chicken is all the same thickness. As the chicken had already been defrosting in a zip lock bag, I pounded it down to equal thickness while still in the bag.

I then took them out and patted them down with paper towels. I put a bit of grapeseed oil on each side and then added about a teaspoon of sumac and a teaspoon of flax seed, salt and pepper to taste to each side of the chicken, rubbing it in on both sides. 

ImageGet the grill clean and hot (I like my chicken cooked at about 450-500 degrees on a closed lid grill) and place the pieces on there with a LOT of space in between. Give them room to cook. When the bottom side begins to get grill marks and the side seems to become opaque, flip them. Cook until an istaread thermometer reads 160. Take them off, put them on a clean plate and stare at their gorgeousness! Smell the lemony sumac!

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Now go inside and finish up the risotto style barley. Turn the heat back up, stirring occasionally (add a bit more of the broth if needed…which should still be simmering). Add salt and pepper to taste…butter if you want to be a bit more indulgent…a splash more red wine to be SUPER indulgent… and the parmesan. Lots and lots of parmesan. Probably ended up at 1/4 cup of grated parm. I forgot that I had wanted to add parsley. Completely forgot. Could be good!

 

Serve and enjoy. We definitely did. It felt totally indulgent without being terrible for us. Comfort food, Suhlizi style.

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The sickness!! (And foil-packet grilled salmon with mustard and tangelos)

Everyone in my family has been sick in one way or another at least a portion of but more likely the majority of the last two weeks. I was sick first (fever, lethargy, slight nausea, sore throat), then P (vomiting followed by fever and lethargy), then D (only a bit of fever a while back but now she has a weird rash all over her side), then hubs (throwing up followed by fever for five days) and finally our au pair (fever, extreme lethargy and nausea). It has been… “pleasant” around here. And only *I* seemed to have any appetite. All hubs wanted was carbs, carbs, carbs (to ease his belly). So cooking has been extremely limited. 

Right before everyone got sick, though, I cooked a few delicious things. The first was a super easy, grilled, foil packet salmon, corn and asparagus meal. 

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At the farmer’s market I had picked up the most delicious looking filet of salmon. I wanted to use it that night (and it was the last night our old au pair was around before taking off on her month long US adventure) but I didn’t have much time after being outside playing with the kids all afternoon, so I went back to my old standby: foil packet salmon with mustard and orange juice. I had also found perfectly spring-y super thin asparagus and tangelos, my favorite kind of orange. With the addition of some supermarket corn (I had to keep on apologizing to our au pair that *this* corn was going to be her first experience with corn on the cob. I promised her over and over again that this summer I will introduce her to the way corn on the cob is supposed to be. Man, I cannot WAIT for some Morning Glory corn!), we had a meal!

Hubs got the grill going as I popped off the ends of the asparagus and put them in a bowl with olive oil, grapeseed oil, salt, pepper and a bit of balsamic. We did these first as they were going to take up most of the grill to feed five people (the girls, their friend and us). I shucked the corn and got the foil packets ready while the asparagus grilled.  Our salmon was so fresh that I had to de-bone the filet with pliers, too. Once deboned, I cut the salmon into individual portions so that the salmon could be served while still in the tin foil. Mostly for aesthetics 🙂

To prepare the packets, simply cut a piece of tin foil large enough to completely seal the juices in but also a little room above to tent it a bit so that it steams while it grills. Place the salmon skin side down in the center of the foil and then smother the flesh with a healthy spoonful of grain-y dijon (my favorite is the Maille; I like the way it pops in your mouth). Squeeze the juice of a tangelo orange over the salmon until there is a small pool around the bottom of the salmon. Seal that juice in with the foil packet. I usually fold in the sides and then pull the other side in, fold it and then crimp the edges.

Once the asparagus is done, throw the salmon packets on the grill with the corn. You don’t need to do anything to the corn except for shucking the silky hairs and outer leaves. Plop that sucker STRAIGHT on the grill. No oil. No butter. Just corn and grill. Let it get a bit of char. Once it starts to char a bit, squeeze on some lime juice.  

The salmon needs about 10-15 minutes on the grill. Because it is getting indirect heat by steaming AND grilling in a packet, it doesn’t easily overcook. And letting the orange juice caramelize a bit is AWESOME.

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We keep our asparagus warm in the oven at 200 degrees while the other stuff cooks. When it is finished, plate and put a bit of balsamic glaze over the asparagus and a bit of grated parm over the corn. Put the foil packet on the plate and let your eaters discover the deliciousness themselves!