Friday, December 27, 2013

Zoe's Crockpot Chicken

Zoe's Crockpot Chicken resize
This past weekend, I invited my best friend and her family up to our house for dinner.  Instead of trying to make a meatloaf large enough to feed eight people, I decided to use my two crockpots to save time and effort in my prep.  In the one, a mushroom pot roast.  In the other, I made a lightly curried pot of chicken thighs.  I wasn’t sure if my friends’ kids would like it – they’re eight and ten years old, and I didn’t know if it would be a hit.  Ten year-old Zoe took one bite and her face lit up.  ”Mama,” she excitedly told my friend, “you have to ask Dana for this recipe so you can make it at home!”  I have to tell you, I’ve never been so proud of a recipe in all my life!  This, then, will be called Zoe’s Crockpot Chicken.
You can use one or two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  If you use one pound, you’ll have more sauce, and will probably want to serve this over rice or noodles.  If you use two pounds, like I did this time, it’s a thicker stew and doesn’t need anything under it – but jasmine rice would certainly be delicious.  Use any store-bought curry powder you like.  I have two, and the one I used this time was just a $4 jar from Trader Joe’s – nothing fancy.  I also used half a head of cauliflower, diced.  It doesn’t add much to the flavor, but it adds nutrition and body to the sauce.  I like to garnish with a big dollop of plain yogurt, and if you have cilantro, sprinkle some of that on top.  If you need a quick chicken dish that promises to please grown-ups and kids alike, check this one out.
Zoe’s Crockpot Chicken
  • 1 large onion, sliced fine
  • 1 or 2 pounds chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes (I like fire-roasted)
  • plain yogurt and cilantro to garnish, optional
  • rice or noodles, optional
  1. Place the sliced onions on the bottom of the crock pot.  Layer the chicken thighs on top.  Season well with curry powder and salt.  Open the can of tomatoes and dump on top.
  2. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.  When ready to serve, shred the chicken with a fork and mix all the ingredients.  Serve on top of optional rice, garnish with optional yogurt and cilantro, and enjoy!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chocolate Cranberry Quinoa Biscotti

If you’ve ever paid $2 for a biscotti at your local coffee shop and thought, “It can’t be that hard to make these,” you are right!  This recipe for Chocolate Cranberry Quinoa Biscotti takes a few extra steps, but if you are looking for a gluten-free, nut-free treat for your afternoon coffee break, read on!
I was looking for nut-free biscotti recipes online, and I found one using quinoa flour, which I’d never heard of or used.  Time to experiment!  It turns out that quinoa flour is incredibly easy to make, and exceeds wheat flour in fiber, protein, and nutrients.  If you don’t want to make your own at home, I understand – you can find it in health food stores and online, and Bob’s Red Mill makes it (I really like and trust their products.)  I used red quinoa, so the biscotti has a darker color, but feel free to use the regular white kind.  To make quinoa flour at home, pour one cup of quinoa on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes at 300*F.   When cool, grind in a spice grinder, grain mill, or superpowerful blender.  I have a hand-crank grain mill that made short work of the job!  One cup of dry quinoa will yield one and a quarter to one and a third cups of flour.  If you don’t want to go through the trouble, you can use regular or whole wheat flour instead.
Everything else in this recipe is pretty customizable.  Don’t like chocolate chips?  Leave them out or use white chocolate or even butterscotch chips.  Add in any kind of nut, like almonds, pecans or pistachios.  Replace the dried cranberries with cherries, apricots, or just lemon zest.  Drizzle with white or dark chocolate.  These make great gifts, too, because they are pretty hearty and don’t get stale too quickly.  After rigorous and exhaustive testing, I can report that these stand up well to dunking in coffee.  The things I do for you people! 
If you have a friend who loves coffee, give these as a gift (and keep a few for yourself!)

CCQ Biscotti Close up Resize
Chocolate Cranberry Quinoa Biscotti
  • 1+ 1/3 cups quinoa flour (you can use whole wheat flour instead)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil (or use butter)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar (or use brown sugar)
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries (or cherries or diced apricots)
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • White chocolate for drizzling (Confession:  I was out of white chocolate, but I found a cookies and cream white chocolate bar that fit the bill.)
  1. Preheat oven to 300*F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine quinoa flour, coconut flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, coconut oil, vanilla, and coconut sugar together.  Mix well, then stir in chocolate chips and cranberries.  Stir in the flour mixture a little at a time until thoroughly combined.
  4. Turn the dough out onto the parchment, and using damp hands, mold into a log that measures about 4 or 5 inches wide, one inch high, and about 15 inches long.  Bake until firm, about 25 minutes.
  5. Remove pan from oven, then pick up the parchment with the biscotti log on it, and let it cool on a rack.  You want this cooled to room temperature, so it won’t crumble too much.  With a serrated knife, slice the log into 1/2 inch biscotti.
  6. Place the biscotti back on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until dry and crunchy.  Let cool completely, then drizzle with white chocolate.  Store in an airtight container to keep them crisp.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

… or as it’s known at my house—Magic Sauce!  This recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Aioli is easy to whip up at a moment’s notice, and is infinitely customizable.  Like it spicy?  Add some hot sauce of your choice, or a spoonful of adobo sauce from a jar of chipotle peppers.   Depending on my mood and what else I have laying around, this aioli also gets a few shakes of smoked paprika, or a half a teaspoon of ground cumin.  Mix it up in your blender, taste it, and then see where you want to take it.
We eat this on roasted asparagus.  My husband dips steamed broccoli in it.  I love it on oven-roasted sweet potato fries.  And it’s the best sandwich spread in the world!  Try it in place of regular mayonnaise on your next turkey sandwich or veggie wrap and you’ll ditch that jar of Miracle Whip for good!
Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers from a jar, drained and patted dry (or roast your own!)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (make your own!  Or use store-bought, but not low-fat mayo)
  • optional:  paprika, cumin, hot sauce
  1. In a blender or small food processor, blend together the garlic, red pepper, lemon juice and salt until almost smooth.  Add the mayonnaise and optional ingredients and blend again.  Keep refrigerated.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Chicken with Fennel and Olives

Chicken with Fennel and Olives resize

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!  If you have leftovers, by all means, eat those first.  Once you finish off your turkey, ham, or whatever else you had, try this recipe for Chicken with Fennel and Olives.
Fennel is in season now and has a delicious anise flavor.  When you are shopping for the olives, buy the biggest green olives in a jar you can find – sometimes they’re called Queen olives – and make sure they’re pitted.  You can find them plain, but I used a jar of large green olives stuffed with cloves of garlic.  Amazing!  You can also find them stuffed with almonds (but for this recipe, I would avoid the ones stuffed with blue cheese or hot peppers!)  This recipe also calls for a cup of white wine.  Use a chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or pinot grigio – these are dry white wines that will pair perfectly with the chicken.  If you prefer, you can substitute chicken broth.
This is a healthy, light recipe that will warm your house and keep you from feeling like a slug after all the Thanksgiving feasting is over.  (But feel free to have that last piece of pie for dessert!)
Chicken with Fennel and Olives
  • 1 whole chicken, or a package of skin-on chicken thighs, or skin-on chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or bacon fat for cooking
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 jar large green pitted olives
  • 1 cup dry white wine (or substitute chicken broth)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.  If you are using a whole chicken, remove the legs and breasts – you should have 4 pieces.  Reserve the rest of the chicken for soup or another use.  Season the skin with salt.
  2. In a very large oven-proof pan, heat the olive oil or bacon fat.  When very hot, add the chicken pieces skin-side down and cook over medium heat for about ten minutes.  When chicken skin is crisp, remove the chicken pieces from the pan and place skin-side up on a platter and set aside.  Set the pan aside – do not drain!
  3. While the chicken is cooking, slice the onion into thin strings.  Cut off the stalks of the fennel, but keep a few green fronds for garnish.  Cut the fennel into very thin rings or slices, about the same size as the onion.  Drain the jar of olives and slice the olives in half.
  4. Heat the pan again and add the wine, stirring to scrap up any stuck-on bits of chicken.  Add the onion, fennel and olives and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.  Place the chicken pieces skin-side up (so it stays crispy) on top of the bed of vegetables and place in the oven.
  5. Cook for 30 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.  To serve, make a bed of vegetables, place a chicken piece on top, and add a sprig of fennel frond.  Season with salt and pepper.