Crock-Pot Greek Chicken Pitas With Tzatziki Sauce

October 25, 2011

I am obsessed with tzatziki sauce. It’s gotten to the point where I will actually plan entire meals around it. Mmmm. Delicious tzatziki sauce… and whatever I’ve drowned in it.

This recipe was super easy and turned out finger-lickin’ delicious.

Ingredients

1 lb. to 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

1. Throw all of the ingredients into the Crock-Pot, mixing so the seasoning is evenly coating the chicken.

2. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or until the chicken is tender and falls apart easily when you touch it with a fork.

3. Remove chicken from the slow cooker and shred it on a plate using two forks. Put the chicken back in the cooker with the juices and leave on warm until you are ready to eat.

4. About 1-2 hours before you eat, make the tzatziki sauce and refrigerate to let the flavors mingle. This has been my go-to recipe lately; it is so tasty, especially when you make it with white wine vinegar.

5. Spoon chicken and tzatziki sauce onto warm pita bread and serve with tomato, lettuce and feta (I like it with hot sauce as well).


Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

October 5, 2011

When I’m experimenting with a new recipe, I always get nervous.  Especially when I’m cooking for a crowd… and it happens to be gumbo… and everyone expects me to naturally know how to make it.  Before this, I had never made a gumbo from scratch.  I made it once before, but I used the Savoie’s Roux sold in grocery stores back in Louisiana.  And even then, it didn’t turn out that great. And while I’d made a roux before, it was always a light roux for etouffees and such, never a dark one.

My mother shared a horror story from her first attempt at making gumbo from scratch.  She messed up on the roux and the whole thing turned to such a mess that she wouldn’t even let my dad taste it. From that point on, she only used Savoie’s premade roux.

A couple of weekends ago, I took a swing at a homemade gumbo to rally support for the Saints game.  I went to Emeril for advice and basically used this recipe. Below is what I did.

½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 bunch green onions
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tblsp Emeril’s Seasoning (recipe below)
3 bay leaves
9 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 pounds smoked sausage, cut into bite size pieces
2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
Hot sauce
Steamed white rice

Emeril’s Seasoning (you’ll end up with much more than you need, but it will leave you with seasoning for the future):

2 ½ Tblsp paprika
2 Tblsp salt
2 Tblsp garlic powder
1 Tblsp black pepper
1 Tblsp onion powder
1 Tblsp cayenne pepper
1 Tblsp dried oregano
1 Tblsp dried thyme

Now if you read Emeril’s recipe, he does a lot more work with the meat.  I took my mom’s advice and skipped that whole process.  Too much work and our way turned out fantastic with a lot less effort.  You’ll see below.

First off, chop up all the veggies.  I used 2 large white onions, 1 bunch of celery, 2 green bell peppers and 1 bunch of green onions.  When chopping up the green onions, take the bottom half and add to the veggie mixture, the top half (aka the green part), you can chop and place to the side in a small bowl for garnishing later.

Making the roux: combine vegetable oil and flour in a very large pot.  Cook over medium heat, constantly stirring until the roux is the color of a dark chocolate.  Emeril said about 20-25 minutes.  I stirred for a good 35-40 minutes.

Now you’ll add the veggie mixture you’ve previously chopped.  Stir for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add in Emeril’s Seasoning, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves.  Stir for about 2 minutes and then slowly start to add the chicken stock.  Bring up to a boil.  Once the mixture is mostly combined, drop in the chopped, uncooked chicken and sausage, reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking, uncovered, for at least an hour.

Note: this is when I got super nervous. The liquid appeared to just be chicken stock soup with flecks of roux stirring around.  It was not appetizing in the least.  But after you let the gumbo simmer for a good long while, it all comes together and looks and tastes the way it should.  Like heaven.

Somewhere in the simmering time, sprinkle in a few hefty shakes of hot sauce.

Serve up over rice, with a sprinkling of those reserved green onions and perhaps a tasty side of garlic bread.  I’ll be honest.  I am very picky in the world of Cajun food outside of Louisiana.  And this was so much more than satisfactory.  It was crazy delicious. I was proud to serve this to several people who’d never actually tasted gumbo.  Success.  Try it. Do it. Now.  The weather is perfect.


Spiced Creamed Chicken

November 2, 2009

creamed-chicken

I was going to call this recipe “No Spring Chicken” because it contains the spices of fall (get it?), but it didn’t sound quite as appetizing.

I’ve had to get creative with my dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, fun-free diet of undetermined length (as part of my own cleanse), because I’m getting tired of straight-up stir fry. I’m happy to report that this experiment turned out well. I rarely think to use spices like cinnamon and nutmeg in savory dishes, but they gave the dish a sweet nuttiness, and the celery provided a subtle crunch. The dish tasted nice and light because I used almond milk, and you can give it more heartiness by using cow’s milk and/or real cream.

Important note on leeks: use the white part and discard the green, the opposite of the way you’d use a green onion. Make sure to wash the leeks thoroughly, as they usually have silt inside their layers. I like to slice them and separate the rings into a bowl full of water, swish them around, drain, and repeat. Leeks are super nutritious and have a sweetness to them when cooked well.

Note that the recipe serves two, but you can easily double it.

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
1 leek, chopped (the white part; discard the green)
2 celery stalks, finely sliced
2 cups milk or substitute (I used unsweetened plain almond milk)
Thickening agent (1/2 tbsp. cornstarch or 1 tbsp. flour)
Minced garlic (around 1/2 tsp., to taste)
Minced ginger (around 1/4 tsp., to taste)
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Salt & pepper
Optional: chopped or slivered almonds
Grain of your choice (quinoa, couscous, rice, etc.)

Serves 2.

Set your grain to boil in a small pot. In a large frying pan, saute garlic and ginger in olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped leeks and celery and saute until tender (celery will still be a bit crunchy). Add chicken and continue to saute, adding more olive oil if necessary. When the chicken cooks about halfway, liberally sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg (I made two passes over the saucepan with each spice) and stir to distribute spices over the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you will be using flour to thicken the sauce, heat milk in separate saucepan to almost boiling and gradually add flour, stirring constantly to prevent lumps, and then add the thickened milk to the frying pan. If you’re using cornstarch, you can add the milk directly to the frying pan once the chicken is cooked. Mix the cornstarch with enough water to liquefy it, and stir into the saucepan once the milk is just at a boil. Add a bit more salt and pepper to the sauce.

Let the sauce simmer for five minutes or so, letting it thicken, and serve over your grain of choice. If you like, top with pieces of almond. I served steamed broccoli on the side.


Pan-Fried Chicken With Brown Rice

May 7, 2009

Just to prove that I don’t eat like a carbohydrate-addicted family of 12 all the time, here’s a sensible recipe for chicken and rice. My mom used to make this chicken when I was growing up; like so many of the dishes we ate, the recipe came out of some diet cookbook. Unlike so many of the dishes we ate, this chicken is actually moist, flavorful and delicious. (Sorry, Mom.) The rice recipe is actually something I invented tonight, and it is a-mazing. It’s fluffy and nutty, and the grains are a bit dry and chewy. The vegetable stock gives it an earthy flavor.

Baked Brown Rice Ingredients:
1 cup brown basmati rice
2 3/4 cups vegetable stock (I always use Wolfgang Puck. It’s mushroomy and rich, by far the best store-bought stock I’ve ever had. Chicken stock would probably work, too, but might get a bit salty.)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic salt (Or, you know. A couple cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of salt.)

Pour the rice into an 8×8 glass baking dish. Combine the stock, butter and garlic salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Pour the stock over the rice and stir to combine. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice appears fluffy and dry.

Pan-Fried Chicken Ingredients:
3 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth

Thaw the chicken breasts if they’re frozen. Rinse them and pat them dry. Combine the flour, salt, pepper and paprika in a gallon-sized plastic bag (or a big bowl, if you’re environmentally conscious in a way that I am not). Add the chicken breasts to the bag and shake to coat. Shake off excess flour and set aside. Save the bag with the extra flour mixture for the gravy.

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a skillet with a lid. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook, flipping occasionally, until the outside is lightly browned (about 10 minutes). Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid, drop the heat down to low and let the chicken cook covered for 30 minutes. Do not lift up the lid; all that steam is making the chicken moist and juicy.

Uncover the chicken and cook, flipping occasionally, until it’s no longer pink in the middle (maybe an additional 5 to 10 minutes). Remove the chicken from the pan and keep it warm.

Whisk together the extra flour mixture from the plastic bag and the milk. Add the chicken broth and pour it into the skillet. Heat, stirring constantly, until the gravy thickens and bubbles. Add a little extra flour if needed.

Serve the chicken on top of a bed of rice. Top the whole thing with gravy. Throw in a veggie on the side if the plate looks too beige.


Chicken Stuffed With Gorgonzola, Mushrooms and Peppers

April 20, 2009

I am always so happy when I discover new ways to stuff delicious foods with other delicious foods. Bonus points if it involves some kind of stinky cheese.

Brian found this gorgonzola-and-mushrioom-stuffed chicken recipe when we were staying in San Diego last month, and we adapted it to our liking. The end result is a flavorful and easy-to-prepare main dish.

gorgonzola_chicken1

Ingredients:

2 chicken breast halves, skin removed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups baby portabello mushrooms, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
A splash of red wine
6 oz. gorgonzola cheese crumbles
Salt and pepper to taste
Toothpicks

Directions:

Place chicken breasts on a cutting board and cut a lengthwise slit in the thickest part of the meat, forming a large pocket. Season lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

chicken_pocket

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté mushrooms, peppers and garlic in butter for two minutes. Add red wine and cook for another few minutes, until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat, drain and let cool. Pour the concoction into a bowl and mix with gorgonzola cheese and more salt and pepper.

Open each chicken pocket and stuff generously with the pepper-mushroom-cheese mixture. Close the opening on each chicken breast with toothpicks if you have them (we didn’t have any toothpicks, but the filling still stayed pretty well contained).

chicken_bake

Bake at 400 degrees for around 20-25 minutes. Cut through the thickest part of the meat to see if it’s done; if the meat is no longer pink, you’re good to go. Serve over whole-wheat couscous with a side of steamed vegetables or green salad. Serves two.

NOTE: If you have leftover filling, cut up a few tortillas or pieces of pita bread into small triangles. Dish a spoonful of the stuffing onto each triangle and bake for 10 minutes. Voila, delicious gorgonzola-topped chips!

gorgonzola_chips


Chicken Pot Pie

April 13, 2009

We went out to Easter brunch this morning, and I had the worst biscuits of my entire life. Seriously, y’all: They were so hard that I couldn’t cut them with a knife, much less my teeth. And I don’t even want to talk about the gravy. It was just…wrong.

I wanted to make up for that experience with a home-cooked dinner, but didn’t have the ingredients to make a traditional pot pie. I looked at a few different recipes online, then came up with this variation.

pot-pie

Ingredients:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup flour
2 cups frozen vegetables, thawed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons oil
1/3 cup milk

Place the chicken breasts in a large saucepan. Pour the chicken broth over the chicken breasts, then season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring the broth to a boil, then drop the heat to low. Simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked all the way through.

Pour the broth into a large glass measuring cup and allow it to cool. Skim off the fat, then add the 1 1/2 cups of milk. Cube the chicken and set aside.

Melt the butter in the saucepan over medium heat and add the celery, carrots and garlic. Saute for a few minutes, then stir in the 1/3 cup of flour. As soon as the flour is soaked up by the butter and forms a paste, slowly begin adding the broth/milk mixture. Add it about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Bring the liquid to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Add the chicken, thyme and vegetables to the sauce. Any combination of vegetables will do; I was trying to use up a few nearly empty bags and ended up with 1/2 cup mixed veggies, 1/2 cup green beans, 1/2 cup corn and 1/2 cup peas. Pour the mixture in a greased baking dish.

To make the biscuits, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the 1/3 cup of milk and oil and stir until just combined. Drop the dough in rounded tablespoonfuls on top of the filling. Bake the pot pie at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes, or until the biscuits are lightly browned.