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).

Sort of Farinata/Faina and Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad

Our new au pair (“S”) is from Argentina. Prior to living with us, she lived in Minnesota for a year (brrrr!). I think she is loving California’s weather after this brutal winter. That means she has been far from home for over a year and hasn’t eaten anything from her home country in that long. So I started doing research on typical Argentinian food. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but I am an awful preparer of meats. For some reason they baffle me. I can never get the crust right, the inside the right temperature. Thus, I forego, and leave it to the experts. Steak was out. What else? Empanadas? Not really in our food parameters (being encased in a flour dough, and all). And then I learned about faina. VERY similar to the Italian farinata/ceccina that we prepared when our Italian au pair was with us. I decided this was the way to go. Except, of course and as is typical of me, I changed it practically completely. Ended up being more like a nod to Argentina than an actual tribute or “taste of home”. Don’t get me wrong. It was awesomely flavorful. It just wasn’t “faina.”

Faina is traditionally make with chickpea flour, eggs (or “flax eggs”), salt, pepper and olive oil. Sometimes rosemary. Sometimes cheese. When we cooked the ceccina for E, it was blaaaaaaaand. I didn’t want that to happen again! I oomphed it up with pancetta, tomatoes, red onion, basil, oregano, kale and spinach. Mushrooms would have been EXCELLENT in this. Alas, none in the house. 

But one can’t eat farinata alone! So I picked mint, cut up a watermelon and added some feta for a fantastic spring-y salad. And, as a side, added some of the pulled rotisserie chicken that costco now sells by the bag. Have you have this?! It is the best. All of the benefits of rotisserie chicken without having the pull if off the bone. Very flavorful. 

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Ingredients (serves four)

Farinata

  • Cup and a half of chickpea flour
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax
  • Water as needed
  • Cup of chopped pancetta
  • One whole red onion thinly sliced
  • Handful of spinach, chopped
  • Two fronds of kale, stripped and chopped
  • Cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Total of one cup of finely chopped rosemary, chopped oregano, chopped basil
  • Half a cup of crumbled feta

Salad

  • Watermelon
  • Mint
  • Feta
  • Balsamic glaze

Chicken

  • pulled rotisserie chicken 🙂

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. You are going to need a cast iron or oven safe pan for this. Set you chickpea flour base by putting the flour into a large bowl and adding water until it is the consistency of pancake batter (I suggest if you have time doing this a few hours ahead of time as I’ve heard that it makes the batter “stronger”). In a separate bowl, make your flax egg by adding water to the flax until it is moistened. Let that sit until your batter is ready.


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Chop the herbs, chop the spinach/kale, chop the tomato, chop the onion.

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Add salt and a good dose of pepper to the batter. Mix in the flax egg with a whisk. While that pulls together, saute the pancetta and onion in your cast iron pan on the stove top.

Add the kale and spinach to the pan, cooking through. Add the herbs and remaining ingredients to the batter and then the contents of the pan. Mix gently but thoroughly. Add a bit of oil to coat the bottom of the hot pan. Pour the mixture into the hot pan and put into the oven for 25-30 minutes. All ovens are different (sadly). It is finished when it is pulling away from the sides of the pan and browned on top. The interior will be soft and chewy. The exterior crispy. Let the farinata cool in the pan while you prepare the sides. Flip onto a plate once cooled. Serve as slices.

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The salad is easy. Chop the watermelon into bit size pieces, chop fresh mint, pour in some crumbled feta cheese and a bit of balsamic. Mix. Ta da!

I just threw a bit of the chicken into a saute pan to warm quickly. It is already cooked through so doesn’t need much.

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!)

 

Chicken tikka masala with cauli-rice, kale and red onion

Ever since I “discovered” cauliflower rice, I’ve been on a “I used to eat this with real rice and couldn’t imagine it without it” kick. Foods that needed to sop up the sauce, in particular. Or foods that need the bulk of rice to finish out the meal. Or, in the case with last night’s dinner, foods that have a little kick and can use some “rice” to temper the heat.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a tikka masala simmer sauce that didn’t use coconut and I just about ran out of the store with it to get it into my belly. And it is delicious. I couldn’t recommend Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce more. 

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People: Buy this. It has a good balance of spice and savory-ness. And it really couldn’t be easier.

Behold! Chicken tikka masal over cauli-rice with kale and red onion!

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Ingredients:

  • Maya Kaimal’s Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce
  • Three small chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  • Half of a red onion
  • One head of cauliflower
  • Handful of kale
  • Tumeric
  • Salt/pepper

 

Put one teaspoon of salt into a bowl of hot water and mix until the salt dissolves. Cut the chicken into one inch cubes and add it to the water to brine. Let it sit while you prepare the cauliflower. 

Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and chop the entirety of the cauliflower into smallish pieces. Cut the stem into one centimeter pieces. In a cuisinart and in small batches, pulse the cauliflower until it it resembles the consistency of rice. Don’t keep on pulsing if there are a few larger pieces. Take those out and add them to the next small batch. You don’t want to make the pieces too small or it becomes more like mashed potatoes (also delicious, but not what you are going for). 

You will use two saute pans for this meal. Have them set up side by side on your stove as once you start cooking, it will go quickly. 

Cut the onion into thin, two inch pieces. Saute them in a bit of olive oil until they are starting to soften and char (we like our onions on the crispier side so will leave them longer than you probably will). 

Chop the kale leaves (after removing the spines) into TINY pieces…almost a mince. You want the kale to intermingle with the rice, not overtake it. Once the onions are ready, add the kale and a bit more olive oil.

Meanwhile, heat up a bit of olive oil in the other pan and drain the chicken and pat with paper towels to dry. Add salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and brown on one side.

While the chicken browns, add the “riced” cauliflower to the pan with the onions and kale. Heat should be on medium. Mix the cauli-rice, kale and onions together and sprinkle tumeric across the top. Then add salt and pepper to taste. I usually put in a bit more salt that usual on this dish. Mix it all up and let it sit while you tend to the chicken. It should look like this:

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Flip the chicken to the other side and brown for a short time. Pop the top on the simmer sauce, put it back on and shake. When the second side of the chicken is starting to turn opaque, pour the entirety of the simmer sauce over the chicken. Turn the heat to medium low (depending on your stove) to a low simmer and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

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Keep on turning the cauli-rice to make sure all of it is heated through and keep it over low heat while the chicken simmers. Pour yourself a drink. Set the table.

Add hefty amount of the cauli-rice to a bowl and cover with the chicken tikka masala. Pour on extra sauce if that is to your liking. I like to mix it all up so that the cauli-rice covers the chicken.

I always have to make more of this than I think because EVERYONE wants second helpings. It is delicious.

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Pea, Avocado and Mint Dressing Used Two Ways

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I’ve seen a few versions of this recipe floating around but I knew it wouldn’t be hearty enough on its own for a meal for my family (I kept on seeing it on toast or as a dip for chips). So tonight, as usual, I am going to MacGuyver that recipe and make it something the Suhlizis would eat.

As our au pair isn’t the biggest fan of chicken, I made two versions: veggie and chicken.

Ingredients (leave the chicken out if cooking the veg version):

  • Two large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • One bag of frozen peas
  • One avocado (peeled and seeded)
  • One cup of mint leaves
  • Jalapeno, finely diced, to taste
  • Half of a red onion, roughly chopped
  • One can of chickpeas (more will go into the veg version than the chicken version)
  • A few handfuls of fresh spinach
  • A few stalks of raw dinosaur kale
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Limes (both zest and juice)
  • Sriracha sauce to taste
  • Half a cup of toasted pine nuts

Chop the boneless, skinless breasts into one inch chunks. Add salt and pepper and marinate in yogurt, sriracha and lime juice, covered and in the fridge, for a few hours.

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Cook the peas as directed on the package. As mentioned previously, I like the steam in the bag kind. Cooks for five minutes and little to no mess. While that steams, in a dry sauté pan, toast the pine nuts and set aside.  The picture here shows the before and after. A lot of times I toast them up a bit darker as hubs REALLY likes that, um, burnt flavor. Not my thing. I went a bit less toasty tonight.

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In a food processor or using a stick blender (whichever is handy…I made the mistake of being TOO handy and using my vitamix. NOT the best tool suited for the job), puree the cooked peas, the avocado and mint and a few pine nuts until smooth. Tasting it along the way, I also pureed in some jalapeno, lime juice, some lime zest and salt and pepper.

Put two tablespoons of olive oil and a pat of butter into the pan over medium high heat. When the oil is glistening, add the half of the red onion and then, a minute or so later, the chicken. Turn the chicken once the panside is slightly browned. If the yogurt becomes too liquid-y in while you are cooking, drain it out and put it back on the stove. The more liquid, the less browned. Continue to turn and cook through (using a instaread thermometer if needed) and remove to a separate plate. Dollup on a few spoonfuls of the pea/mint/avocado mixture to the chicken.

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Add a bit of olive oil to the pan and add the rest of the red onion and the chiffonaded, stemmed kale, cut into small pieces. If you have any handy, pour in a 1/4 cup of wine (any color) when the kale starts to turn color. It really adds a depth of flavor and cuts the sharpness of the kale. Add the cherry tomatoes whole and chickpeas to the pan to warm. Cook the kale until tender but not wilted.

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Because two plates of the three will be non-veg, put this together on/in the plates/bowls you will be using. Chop the spinach into one inch pieces and then put the fresh spinach on the bottom of the bowl. Top with a bit of the pea/mint/avocado mixture. If you are adding the chicken, add it now. Then top with the veg mixture. More chickpeas for the veggie dish. Then add some more of the pea/mint/avocado mixture and top with a boat load of toasted pine nuts and more sriracha.

This was INCREDIBLY filling. I could have had half a bowl and been satisfied. But it was so GD healthy, that I stuffed it back guilt free. This would be fantastic for a group of people (luncheon, shower, etc.) and could probably be improved by grilling the chicken instead of sauteeing it. I might also consider thinning out the pea/mint/avocado mix by making it more of a dressing…maybe some vinegar/olive oil? More like a salad dressing. It was so thick, it was a bit difficult to mix.

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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Ranch Salad

One of my favorite meals and one of the easiest things I make is what I call “Ranch Salad.” It reminds me of Ranch dressing…though I don’t use that dressing on the salad. Maybe it is the crisp, chopped veggies? Anyway, it is super yummy and crazy easy.

  • Rotisserie chicken
  • 3 Persian cucumbers
  • handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1/2 cup of frozen roasted corn
  • half of an avocado
  • bag of fresh spinach leaves
  • French vinaigrette dressing

Clean and chop the cucumbers, carrots, onion, avocado, tomatoes and spinach. Put in a bowl with a splash of the dressing.

In a sauté pan, heat the frozen corn until warmed through. Add to bowl.

Cut the chicken off the carcass and chop into 1 inch pieces. In the now empty sauté pan over medium high heat, toss a teaspoon of butter, the chopped chicken and a few teaspoons of the vinaigrette and heat until warm.

To serve, spoon the veggies into bowls and top with the chicken and some more dressing. I had a few teaspoons of pine nuts left over from last night so I tossed them in and, trying a new product, we finished it with a bit of Onion Crunch. This stuff added the perfect crunch to the salad.

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