Archive for the ‘Entrees’ Category

This was one of my dad’s favorite dishes that I can remember from my childhood. It was usually always served for his birthday and maybe one other time a year, but this was not something typically made in the home. For me, Chicken and Dumplings is comforting and healing the way Matzo Ball Soup is for my Jewish friends. I simply cannot get enough and there is no pot that can ever make enough dumplings.

I think it’s because the length of cook time can be incredibly long if you make your own chicken stock (which I cannot recommend enough). But if you utilize a pressure cooker, this dish can be put together in about 75 minutes from start to finish. And if you don’t have a pressure cooker, do yourself a favor and still make your own chicken stock ahead of time.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 lbs chicken, shredded
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp thyme, fresh
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4c chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Place the chicken stock and shredded chicken in a large stock pot. You can add some of the vegetables from the chicken stock or you can add some fresh celery, carrots, and/or onions to the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. If adding fresh vegetables, allow 20 minutes or so to soften before eating.

2. Place the butter in the bottom of a medium size stock pot over high heat. When the butter has mostly melted, add the chicken stock and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then add the flour, baking powder, and salt. The flour will immediately soak up the liquid and form a dough. Cook this until the color turns a mustard-ish yellow.

3. Place the dough in a mixing bowl with the two eggs. Mix with a hand mixer until the mixture just comes together. The batter should be thick like cake batter. You do not want to over mix this. Season with pepper if you wish. Add the thyme to the dough and fold in with a wood spoon.

3. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter into the simming chicken stock. When you have filled the pot, cover with a tight fitting lid. Allow the dumplings to cook for 10 – 15 minutes until they are puffed, but firm.

4. Ladle the soup mixture into a wide mouth bowl. Ensure everyone gets a sufficient amount of dumplings. Garnish with more fresh thyme.

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Enchiladas are a staple in my weeknight cooking rotation. They are full of flavor and incredibly easy to make. I make my life even easier by buying an already cooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. I use the breast meat to use as filling for the enchiladas and use the rest of the meat for another meal.

Ingredients (serves 3)

  • 1 1/2 lbs cooked rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 2 c Enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 c mozzarella, grated
  • 1/2 c cheddar, grated
  • 6 flour tortillas

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1c enchilada sauce in the bottom of 9 X 12 baking dish. Turn the dish to cover the entire bottom evenly.

2. Place a flour tortilla on the counter. Line 1/2c chicken down the middle running the entire diameter. Fold the end closest to you over the chicken and tuck under. Roll the rest away into a cigar shape.

Note: If your tortillas aren’t easily pliable, you can microwave the stack for 10-15 seconds.

3. Place the finished enchiladas into the dish until it is full. You may have to squeeze the last one in, but this is okay.

4. Pour the 2nd cup of enchilada sauce over the rolls. Spread the sauce with the back of a spoon to coat all of the tortilla. Cover with the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the inside filling has warmed.

5. Let the enchiladas sit for a couple minutes to set. Serve hot with refried beans or rice.

I hated Shepard’s Pie when I was a kid! Despised it even. And I could never figure out why. At first, my mom made it with a mix of peas and corn, which makes sense why I hated it because peas are gross. But then she started making it half with corn only – one of my favorite vegetables – and I still couldn’t stand it. Whenever it would come around in the dinner rotation, it was as if my world was ending (remember being a teenager and how that felt – ah, youth!).

I figured that Shepard’s Pie needed a second chance and in honor of the St. Patrick’s day next week, now was the right time. For this version, I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary except adding a thin gravy on top for some added flavor and cooking the sirloin in beer. Although in the end, I could have done with a thicker gravy, I can see that this old stand by is not nearly as bad as I remembered from my childhood.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sirloin, ground
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 1 white onion, minced
  • 1/2 red or orange bell pepper
  • 8 oz middle of the road beer (drink the rest)
  • 12 oz frozen corn (never canned), thawed
  • 2 lbs red bliss potatoes
  • 1/4 c cream (substitute half and half or milk)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 green onions, cut thin

1. Start by placing the potatoes in a pot of cold water with 1 tsp salt. Cook until the potatoes are easily pierced by a fork.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. When hot, add the onion, celery, and pepper to the pan and sauté for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Then add the beef and cook until you cannot see any more pink. Pour in 8 oz of your favorite beer. Reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated. Take off the heat and set aside.

3. When the potatoes done, drain and add to a large glass bowl. Add the butter, sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend with a hand mixer until you reach your desired consistency. If you find there is not enough liquid, add milk or cream slowly and blend until you get the consistency you desire. Add the green onions at the end and fold in.

4. To build your pie, place the meat at the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish. Add the corn and top, and then spread the mashed potatoes on top evenly. Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until everything is warmed through and the potatoes begin to brown.

5. Serve hot out of the oven with a gravy.

Biryani was originally a Persian dish that remains wildly popular in Southeast Asia. Biryani has as many variations as stir fry in that you can use any vegetables, meat, fish, or eggs in this dish. I appreciate the versatility of the dish in that if you learn how to cook one version, you can easily substitute ingredients to suit your fancy. But what I really appreciate  about this dish is that the whole thing cooks entirely in one pot making clean up a snap.

Cooking will go fast on this one so make sure you have your ingredients in order and accessible. Even though there is a bit of prep to go through before you even touch the stove, it’ll pay off in the end.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2c chicken stock
  • 1c basmati rice
  • 1/2c golden raisins
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Cut the chicken into cubes. Place a skillet overr high heat with 2 tbsp of canola oil in the bottom. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper and place in the pan. Sear the chicken on all sides. Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside.

Note: The chicken does not need to be cooked through as it will finish cooking later.

2. Lower the heat to medium high. Place the onions in the pan and sauté until nearly translucent.

3. Add the cinnamon, curry powder, cumin, garlic, and ginger to the onion and stir to combine with the onion. Cook until fragrant – around 30 seconds.

4. Add the chicken stock to the pan to deglaze. Be sure to scrape up as many brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan and add the raisins and rice. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to simmer and cook covered for 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.

5. Turn off the heat and let the dish sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve the Chicken Biryani piping hot in large bowls.

Skewering meat dates back forever when soldiers would skewer their meat and vegetables with their swords in order to cook them over an open fire. In fact, this method of cooking was preferred because it required no additional equipment to prepare meals for armies as they devastating their opposition.

But in the 21st century, I hate kabobs. I really do. They take too long to skewer, the meat and vegetables often placed alongside rarely cook at the same pace and the quality of finished product is never nearly as good as grilling each item individually. I’d wager that I spend the same amount of time standing over a grill turning each vegetable and protein as I would standing in my kitchen skewering meat and hoping that I didn’t send one of them through my hand.

This is a Thai inspired Coconut Chicken with Grilled Vegetables is easy to prepare and even easier to cook.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/3 c coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp green curry paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Note: You can substitute 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger and 1 small jalapeño pepper for the green curry paste. The more jalapeño you put in, the spicier your chicken will be.

1. Take all ingredients except the chicken and place them in a large zippered freezer bag. Zip the bag and shake around to combine the ingredients. You may have to squeeze the green curry paste a bit to break it up.

Note: You can also choose to place the ingredients in a bowl and then whisk before putting inside of the bag. This will create more dishes to clean, but it will accomplish a more thorough blend.

2. Place the chicken in the bag with the marinade ingredients. Remove as much air as possible and place in the refrigerator. Allow the marinade to work its magic for 4 hours or longer.

Note: I always like to place my marinating bags inside a larger container just in case there is a leak. This will take up more space in your refrigerator, but it’ll safe you any potential cross-contamination in the future.

3. Chop the vegetables into chunky bites. I like quartering peppers and grilling them as is for easy turning. Soft flesh vegetables like onions and zucchini should be cut large so they don’t fall apart on the grill. Toss the vegetables with 1 tbsp olive oil and season with a little kosher salt.

4. Spray your grill with non-stick spray before grilling. Allow the vegetables to char before turning. The chicken will be pretty tender due to the marinade, so be gentle when flipping them over to finish cooking. Chicken should cook for around 2 to 3 minutes on each side, depending on how big your chunks are.

5. Serve hot with a filling side dish like Bulgar Pilaf.

You’re going to have to trust me on this one and try this. Don’t think about, just do it. Forget the fact that bulgar rhymes with vulgar. Forget that it’s a whole grain and 1 cup of it contains more energy and nutrients than the grains you consume in an entire day. Forget that you are going to find this in the organic or natural food aisle of your local grocery store. Forget that this is a staple of Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine where people eat healthier and live longer. This is good stuff all the way around.

I was introduced to bulgar through the Power Foods cookbook put out by Weight Watchers. No, I myself am not a Weight Watchers member, but I was cooking with a friend of mine who had this cookbook. I found the cookbook itself to be really good and the recipes inside introduced me to healthy ways of incorporating a lot of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices into my everyday cooking. The idea behind the Power Foods cookbook is to eat more meals that contain power foods which fill you up faster and take longer to digest so that you don’t go back an hour or two later to consume more.

This bulgar pilaf combines the sweetness of golden raisins with the light, nutty taste of bulgar complimented by various spices used through the Middle East. I strongly encourage you to give this recipe a try as a side to your next dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2c chicken stock
  • 1 1/2c medium, quick-cooking bulgar
  • 1/2c golden raisins
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

1. In a medium sauce pot, place 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Place the onions in the pan and sauté until nearly translucent. Add the garlic and combine until the garlic is fragrant.

2. Add the spices to the pan. Combine with the onions and garlic and cook until the spices are fragrant. Add the chicken stock to the pan and turn up the heat to high. Bring to a boil. Add the bulgar and raisins to the pan, cover with a tight lid, and turn off the heat.

3. Allow the bulgar to sit for 30 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve warm.

Are pork chops as American as apple pie? I seem to think so. I grew up putting chops in large plastic bags and pouring Shake and Bake over them.

“It’s shake and bake. And I helped!”

My mom usually paired pork chops with mashed potatoes and applesauce. Each meal using pork chops I eat as an adult brings back those happy memories.

The United States consumes around 9 million metric tons of pork every year, not even close to China which consumes more than 50 million metric tons. In other parts of the world, pork is strictly forbidden. Religion, being the dominant international cultural force that it is, has played a large role in pork consumption. It is mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy (14:8):

“And the pig, because it possesses split hooves and does not bring up its cud — from its flesh you may not eat.”

It is also is forbidden according to Islamic dietary laws:

He has forbidden you only the Maitah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than God (or has been slaughtered for idols)” 

Chapter (Sura) 2 – Verse (Ayat) 173 Al-Baqara (The Cow)

So for my Islamic and Kosher readers, this one may not apply to you, but you could easily substitute chicken or turkey.

I’m going to attempt to reconcile my French roots in this recipe by smothering my American cut pork chops with a French sauce. Sauce Robert (pronounced row-bear) is as ancient as it comes to French cuisine dating back to the 17th century. The earliest documented recipe is found in the journals of the cook for Henry IV. If it’s good enough for royalty, I think it’s worth a try.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 2 thick cut pork chops
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1c thickened beef stock
  • 1/4c white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Allow pork to come to room temperature. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in an oven safe skillet over high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Place in pan for 2 minutes or until chops are seared and pleasantly browned. Turn chops over and place in oven for 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

2. With an oven mitt (the pan is super hot now), take the pan out of the oven and place back on the stove. Remove the pork chops and allow to rest on a cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

3. Turn the heat up to high. Pour in white wine and scrape up any brown bits left on pan. Allow liquid to reduce by half. Place shallots in the pan and cook for 30 seconds. Place thickened beef stock, dijon mustard, and sugar in the pan. Whisk together. Turn the heat down to simmer for at least 5 minutes. This will allow the flavors to blend together.

4. Before serving, turn off the heat. Place the butter in the pan and swirl until melted. Serve pork chops over a bed of rice. Generously pour Robert sauce over and garnish with parsley.