Monthly Archives: February 2015

Moroccan Chicken with Couscous

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I posted anything, but I have been buried in snow and also had a ton of deadlines. The family were all home with snow days, which meant I couldn’t get anything done. But I did create this fantastic, one pot dish on Friday.  One of my best friends came over for dinner, we opened a bottle of wine, and savored this. It’s wonderful, easy, and delicious. What more can you ask for?

Moroccan Chicken with Couscous

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 medium red onion

1 red bell pepper

1 heaping teaspoon cumin seed

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup Pomegranate infused dried cranberries

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 box garlic flavored couscous

½ cup chopped cilantro

3 cups chopped rotisserie chicken

Zest from half an orange

This one pot dish is absolutely delicious and comes together in 20 minutes. It’s packed with flavor

Chop onion and red bell pepper and set aside.  You can use a food processor, just keep the bell pepper a little more chunky.

Remove skin and chop chicken breasts and either leg or thigh meat. Depending on the size of the bird, this should yield enough chicken.

Take about 2/3 of a bunch of cilantro and chop it. Set aside.

Zest your orange and set aside, too.

In a large nonstick pot, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion and cook until almost tender. Add red bell pepper, cumin and cinnamon and cook 2 minutes.

Then add as much water as required to make the couscous (it will say on the back of the box and you’re making the entire box), and flavor packet and dried cranberries.

Basically, you are making it according to package directions but you cut amount of olive oil in half because you already used canola in the vegetables.

When water comes to a boil, add couscous, stir, cover with a tight lid and let it rest for 5 minutes.

NOTE: If your chicken is fresh from the store, you will add it at the end. If it’s been refrigerated, then you should add it with the couscous before you put the lid on.

When couscous is ready, fluff with a fork and toss in cilantro, chopped chicken and orange zest.

Serve immediately.

The orange zest and red bell pepper are a great source of Vitamin C in this dish.

NOTE: if you don’t like using flavored couscous, you can use plain, but I suggest cooking it in reduced sodium chicken broth instead of water. You use the same measurements.

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White Chili

White chili seems to be one of those divisive soups: people love it or hate it.  Some feel like any chili that doesn’t contain beef isn’t really chili.

I enjoy white chili because I love the pronounced flavors of cumin and sour cream. There are so many versions of white chili, but I add corn to mine.

I like to top it with cheese or avocados. Tortilla chips are a good topping, too.  This makes a good size batch, enough for six people.

White Chili

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion

2 teaspoons cumin seed

1 teaspoons ground cumin powder

1 ½ teaspoons chili powder

1 yellow bell pepper

32 ounces of chicken broth, plus 2 cups

1 cup water

1 teaspoon chopped garlic or dried garlic

1 cup half and half

3/4 cup sour cream

4 ounces chopped green chilies (canned)

¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)

2 can cannellini beans

1 can corn, drained

4 cups chopped rotisserie chicken

This has a lot of ingredients, but it’s still an easy dish.

Chop onion, yellow bell pepper and chicken and set aside.

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion, cumin seed, cumin and chili powder. Cook 5 minutes and then add yellow bell pepper and saute another 3 minutes. Then add the next nine ingredients (everything but the chicken) and cook over medium to medium-low heat for 10 minutes.

Once you add the sour cream, you don’t want to let the soup boil because it could curdle, so keep the heat at medium.

Add chicken and cook 5 more minutes. Serve.

Chicken Pot Pie with Refrigerator Biscuits

Chicken Pot Pie with Refrigerator Biscuits

My drop biscuit chicken pot pie is a favorite in our house. It’s totally comforting with warm biscuits baked on top to soak up the juices in the dish. I use the refrigerator biscuits on top, so that saves time.

It’s packed with vegetables and I use whole milk instead of cream, to lighten it up. A dash of thyme and bay leaves lifts the flavor in this dish.

It’s a simple recipe, but will take longer than my usual recipes because you have to bake it for 15-20 minutes. But hey, I find that’s the perfect time to clean up and set the table.

Chicken Pot Pie

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion

2 cups chopped celery

2 tablespoons flour

2 bay leaves

¼ teaspoon thyme leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

1 ½ cups chicken stock

3 cups whole milk

1 ½ cups frozen peas and carrots

4 cups chopped rotisserie chicken meat

2 packages small refrigerated biscuits

This makes a large batch, but you could halve the recipe and make it in an 8 x8 dish. If you’re a family, you will want the larger version because it’s delicious and you will probably eat more than you expect. This is the quintessential winter dish—down home and comforting. It’s a great recipe to make on a Sunday night.

Chop all ingredients and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, celery, flour, bay leaves, thyme and cook for 5-7 minutes. Stir to be sure the flour doesn’t burn. Then add a dash of salt and pepper.

Add chicken broth, milk, peas and carrots and cook 7 more minutes, stirring frequently. The sauce should be thickening. Add your chicken and cook about 3 more minutes.

If sauce is not thickening to your likening, remove ½ cup of liquid and whisk in 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Then whisk that back into the mix and turn heat up slightly. It will thicken. Keep in mind though, this is meant to be slightly soupy so that you can soak it up with the biscuits on top.

pot pie prei

When done, pour into a 13 x 11 baking dish. Topwith 15-20 refrigerator biscuits (these are the small ones). Bake for 15-20 minutes, until biscuits are golden.

Serve. Here’s a close up of the buttery goodness.

pot pie

Creole Fried Rice


I love fried rice and this is my Southern version.

This rice is flavored with Cajun seasoning, oregano, Andouille, chicken, and the “Trinity” is still crunchy, adding depth to the texture.

If you’re not familiar with the “Trinity” or “Holy Trinity” term, it’s a combination of onion, bell pepper and celery. This is the foundation of Cajun and Creole cooking and a staple in our house. I am married to a Louisiana man.

There’s a lot of differences between Cajun and Creole cooking, but the biggest one is tomatoes. You will notice I called this dish “Creole Fried Rice” and that’s because I use tomatoes in it. If you’re down South and have a jambalaya or gumbo with tomatoes, you’re eating a Creole-style dish.

Cajun food is considered to be more from the country. Creole cuisine is considered more city food.

Here’s a very condensed history. The word Cajun comes from “les Acadians” which were French colonists who settled in Canada. After British conquest of that area, those French descendants settled in Louisiana in the region now called Acadiana. This was a swampy region and what evolved in terms of food was incredible fare using local resources. Rice is a staple and so are spices and seasonings. There’s a lot of one-pot dishes and just down home comfort. Plus, I am amazed at what humans can create when they don’t have much.

The “Creoles” lived in New Orleans and were upper class descendants of settlers. The influences in that cuisine were largely Spanish, French, and African slaves, so there’s more fusion in this cooking. Also, the Creoles had more money to buy ingredients and import ingredients so dishes can be a little more complicated.

In general, I prefer Cajun food, and I use more Cajun ingredients like Andouille, Boudin, and Tasso.

Of course, this is an over-simplification and both styles of food have evolved. My husband stays true to Cajun cuisine and if I try to put a modern or “Yankee” twist on that fare, he tells me I am “bastardizing” his food.

So I can say it’s a big compliment that he loved this dish – although it’s my Creole version, not Cajun.

Be careful when using Cajun seasoning in this recipe because a lot of grocery store brands are terribly salty. I use Joe’s Stuff, which I discovered at the New Orleans School of Cooking: http://www.neworleansschoolofcooking.com/

Just be sure you taste your Cajun seasoning before adding it to the dish.  If there’s another one you’d recommend, let me know. I am always interested in trying new foods. To date though, Joe’s Stuff is the best (you can order it online).

By the way, if you’re ever in New Orleans and enjoy cooking, take a cooking class at New Orleans School of Cooking. It’s fun and educational. I learned a lot there and will definitely take another class. Take a class with Kevin, if you can. He’s a riot and great teacher.

Now, back to my dish. This fried rice came together in about 15 minutes, which is perfect on a busy weeknight (and it was a busy weeknight when I created this).

It’s a great way to use up leftover white rice or if you plan ahead and are making rice on Monday, make a double batch and have leftover rice ready to go on Tuesday.

I hope you enjoy it.

Creole Fried Rice

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 cup chopped celery

2/3 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 Andouille sausages

2 cups day-old rice

1 cup chopped rotisserie chicken

¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

¾ teaspoon oregano

1 cup canned tomatoes with celery, onions and peppers

Chop all vegetables (or use a food processor). If you’re using a food processor, coarsely chop the vegetables.

Slice Andouille in half and then chop into bite-size pieces.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add onions and cook 2 minutes. Then add celery and Andouille and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While that cooks, chop your chicken and set aside.

Add bell pepper and cook 1 minute (you want it to still be crisp). Now add rice, chicken, Cajun seasoning, oregano and tomatoes to the dish and cook another 3 minutes. You want to toss the rice so it’s coated in tomatoes, but don’t over-stir the rice or it will become gummy. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Serve.cajun rice2

Chicken Tostadas with Lime Slaw

I became addicted to lime slaw on a trip to Nicaragua. They serve a lime slaw, like a salad, on top of yucca and topped with pork rinds. Sounds awful, but it’s really good. Anyway, the healthiest part of that dish was the lime slaw and I started using lime to dress cole slaw instead of mayonnaise and just use very little oil.

Tostadas traditionally have a fried shell, but I often just lightly pan fry the shell to make it healthier. I prefer corn tortillas, but if you want a faster assembly, just use premade tostada shells.

For the healthiest option, skip the sour cream and pan fry the corn tortillas instead of using tostada shells.

Chicken Tostadas with Lime Slaw

Serves 2

4 corn tortillas or tostada shells

¾ cup sliced, skinless rotisserie chicken

1 cup cole slaw mix

½ teaspoon cumin seed

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon canola oil

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Refried beans

Sliced avocado

Salsa (red or green is good)

Sour cream

Tomato slices (optional)

Directions:

First, whisk together sugar, cumin, oil, lime juice and cilantro. In another bowl, add this mixture to cole slaw mix, stir to thoroughly coat slaw, and set aside.

Slice your chicken and set aside. Slice avocado and set it aside.

Place desired amount of refried beans, about 1 tablespoon per tortilla, in a bowl, cover and microwave for 20 seconds. Stir and heat more, if necessary.

If using corn tortillas, use a large non-stick skillet and head the pan over medium heat. Add cooking spray or a little canola oil. When hot, add tortillas and cook about 3 minutes per side.

Then assemble tostadas: spread beans on the shell, then chicken, salsa, slaw, sour cream and slice avocado.

I added tomato slices but it was more for the photo. With the salsa, you don’t really need more tomato.

Enjoy. Look how beautiful this is … They say you know you’re eating healthy, when you’ve got a rainbow of colors on your plate and you sure do here.

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Midwest Beer, Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Festival

What did you do yesterday? Well, I attended the third annual Midwest Beer, Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds and it was awesome.

The festival attracted throngs of people who lined up to sample more than 200 products- many made in Missouri.

The fair puts this on and from year one, attendance has more than doubled and it’s easy to see why.  It was an incredible opportunity to sample as much I wanted and discover new products. I’ve fallen in love with beers I would never have ordered at a bar or restaurant, and tried locally produced food that I will now seek out.

While there was wine and beer, it definitely felt more beer-centric.

My only complaint were the lines were very long everywhere I went and it could 10 minutes to get to a booth. But in true Ozarks fashion, some people would pass samples back down a line if it was stagnant, which was nice.fesgtival

To my amazement, with this many samples, there wasn’t anything I disliked but there were definitely standouts. Here were some of my favorites that are definitely worth trying, if you haven’t already:

Booze:

Springfield’s White River Brewing Company’s Copper Creek IPA was exceptional. This English-style ale is hoppy and aged in charred oak barrels which gives this beer an incredible flavor with hints of caramel, butterscotch, and a fruit finish. This was my favorite beer of the day. http://www.whiteriverbrewingco.com/beers/

The Chocolate Thunder from Mother’s Brewing Co., in Springfield, uses nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide in the brewing process, lending the beer a creamier mouthfeel. The full-bodied American porter style, has a rich chocolate taste, almost to the depth of a brownie. http://mothersbrewing.com/

I had to stop at The Traveler Beer Co., because I am a traveler and loved the name, but I found the beer was fantastic, too. The grapefruit, yes grapefruit, was exceptional and perfect for spring. The lemon shandy was also excellent and will be on my list this summer. You seriously taste the fruit in these beers but it’s fresh and natural tasting, not a fake chemical flavor. It’s so refreshing. I picked some up at Harter House on my home and my husband’s initial thought was “grapefruit?” But he loved it, too. This is not a Midwest product, it’s out of Burlington, Vermont, which is an incredible city if you’ve never been. http://travelerbeer.com/

Crown Valley Brewing and Distilling in Ste. Genevieve had a nice blackberry cider and the best Missouri-made sparkling pink Moscato I’ve ever had. It was light, bubbly, fruity (particularly with strawberry notes), sweet and retails for about $16. If you like Moscato, give this a try. http://www.crownvalleywinery.com/

Wenwood Farm Winery out of Bland, Mo., wins the award for best Missouri red. The Century Farm Red is a dry red made in the tradition of Pinot Noir and it tastes like a Pinot. It’s very fruit forward and smooth. I’d never heard of this winery or Bland, Mo., so this was a nice surprise. I went on the website and it looks so quaint. I want to visit this place http://wenwoodfarmwinery.com/

Food

Cloud’s Meats Inc., out of Carthage, Mo., has been in business since 1959 and it’s easy to see why. The family-owned business produces smoked meats and other sausages, which were delicious. Summer sausage and similar products can be too greasy, or overly garlicky, but this was just right. I particularly liked the cranberry sausage and the buffalo sausage. Although this is what they offered at the tasting, if you visit the website, you see there’s so much more for sale from bratwust to ribs. They also custom process deer and other meats. http://cloudsmeats.com/

Crazy Uncle Dave’s Beef Jerky out of Branson is homemade, all natural, and it’s one of the best beef jerky’s I’ve ever sampled. It has an intense smoky flavor and doesn’t taste processed at all. It was great. This is all I could find for a website, although the man serving the jery said the product is or will be available at Silver Dollar City. http://www.crazyuncledaves.com/~shop/crazy-uncle-daves-beef-jerky/252631/

The Branson Craft Mall served up incredible, warm, cinnamon-kissed candied pecans and almonds. The pecans were outstanding; sometimes candied nuts have a hard coating or the coating is as thick as the nut, but these were softer and just the right amount of candy coating. I will go to Branson just to visit this place. It has free samples daily of other products and lots of crafts and work from local artists. I love that type of thing. http://bransoncraftmall.com/

Cake Pop Co., served up a moist stout cake with a bourbon buttercream frosting that was heavenly. This Springfield company has national business and it’s wonderful to see its success. http://www.cakepopco.com/

Panera Bread Co.,’s chocolate croissant was buttery but light and had a delicious chunk of chocolate tucked inside. I love Panera but always eat lunch there, so this was my first time sampling something sweet for breakfast. https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/home.html

Grilled Chicken, Ham, Arugula and Cranberry Sandwich

I adore this quick and easy sandwich which was inspired by a sandwich I ate in Covington, La., while visiting family there. We went to this darling café and my sandwich had the best cranberry sauce, which I came home and duplicated. That sandwich was just turkey and cranberry sauce, but I wanted to use chicken, so I came up with this.  Just chicken was too plain, so I added the ham and it gave this the pop of flavor it needs.

The creamy, sweet and tart cranberry sauce is wonderful with the spicy arugula and mellow chicken and salty, smoky ham. You don’t need any fancy bread for this, just plain grocery store wheat works fine.  You grill it like a grilled cheese. If you have a child who is able to help in the kitchen, they can assemble the sandwich while you heat the skillet and grill the sandwiches.

If you want to make it dairy-free or save calories, simply spray the pan with cooking spray instead of buttering your bread.

This delicious sandwich can be turned into a wrap if you’re in a rush and eaten cold. In that case, simply spread the cranberry mayonnaise mixture on the inside of a whole wheat wrap. Top with ham and sliced chicken and a big handful of arugula. Roll up like you would a burrito.

And if you do want a lovely artisan bread, then use that and press this like a panini. Yes, it’s versatile and the leftovers are good so you can double the recipe and eat some tomorrow.

Ingredients:

8 slices whole wheat bread

2 tablespoon butter, divided

½ cup whole cranberry sauce

½ cup mayonnaise

¾ cup arugula (can substitute spinach)

8 slices of deli ham

Thick cut rotisserie chicken breast, enough to cover a piece of bread

Spread butter or margarine lightly over one side of each slice of bread

Mix together mayonnaise and cranberry sauce and spread over opposite side of bread (not on buttered side)

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.

When warm, add two slices of bread, butter side down, in the pan. Add ham, chicken and arugula and then add the other piece of bread so the butter side is up (just like you would in a grilled cheese).

Press down with a spatula and when the bottom side is golden brown, flip it. Cook until the other side is golden brown and serve warm.

Serves 4.