Braised Chicken Thighs

One of my food clients requested braised chicken thighs for a dinner. I didn’t remember making this dish before but though “how hard can it be?”

It was super simple in actual fact and the result was a very tasty dish layered with flavours.

braised chicken

 

Ingredients (feel free to add anything you like to this – I used what was in the fridge)

1 tbsp of olive oil

Sliced mushrooms (1 pint container)

Carrot pieces – cut or slice anyway you like – about 20 small pieces

Rice – enough for 4 people

6 chicken thighs – boneless and skinless

¼ cup of sherry

Salt and pepper to taste

A dash of oregano

A dash of basil

2 chopped garlic cloves

1 onion thinly sliced (cut in half and slice each half)

Sprinkling of brown sugar (about 1-2 tbsp)

¼ cup of chicken stock mixed with a tbsp of flour (stir till combined)

Chicken stock – enough to cover chicken in pan – approx. ½ – 1 cup

 

Directions

Season chicken with a bit of salt and pepper. In a frying pan sauté chicken thighs till lightly browned on each side.  No need to over cook as they will be braising for a while.

Take chicken out of pan and add onions. Sauté them till they start to get a bit brown then add mushrooms, garlic and carrots. Add flour and water mixture and then add the sherry. Stir till mixed and then put the chicken back in the pan. Cover chicken with vegetables and liquid then add chicken stock to just cover the chicken. Add the oregano and basil and brown sugar. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour adding chicken stock if it gets to low. Chicken may start to fall apart but that is even nicer.

Make the rice while the chicken is cooking. You can use either white or brown rice as desired.

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Vietnamese Buns

My cousin Tamara was in town recently and that means we get to indulge in Asian flavours as we both love that style of food. This night we went to our neighbourhood Vietnamese hangout called Pho Huo’ng. The restaurant is on the corner of Pacific Ave and Dundas St. West and is a real local spot in the Junction. The restaurant is always busy but we always manage to get a table as the turn over is quite fast.

When you sit down they hand you menus and an order sheet where you write  down what you want.  The waiter swoops back and picks up your order, brings you a lovely tea and within 5 minutes your order arrives – fresh and delicious.

This night I had the lemongrass chicken bun and Tamara had the grilled chicken and pork with a spring roll bun.  Oh so good!!! Including tip and tax the meal is between $9-$10.  How can you go wrong?

For those not familiar with what a “Bun” is – it is “everything in a bowl” – fresh steamed rice noodle vermicelli on the bottom with sliced cucumber, sliced lettuce, bean sprouts, pickled carrots along with whatever grilled protein you order. You pour a vinaigrette over top that is a bit sweet and a bit tangy. Then you dig your chopsticks into it and enjoy.

Highly recommend this restaurant!

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Dinner at Playa Cabana Cantina (Toronto)

Had dinner with my friend Anne at a new hot spot in the Junction area of Toronto.  Mexican style seems to be the new “in” food this year as Mexican restaurants are popping up everywhere. This restaurant is part of a chain called Playa Cabana and this particular restaurant was called “Cantina”.

I had read all kinds of reviews mostly saying the food is great but the service not so much. What I do know is that we could not get a reservation after 5:30 on Saturday evening even a week in advance!  They didn’t think we could get a seat even at the bar if we just showed up as Friday, Saturday and Sunday are their big nights.

So we took the 5:30 reservation. We walked around the area for an hour or so before going to the restaurant and found several great furniture and accessory stores all with unusual items at reasonable prices. When we had enough looking and wondering around (it was cold out) we went into the restaurant and had our dinner.

Anne ordered the chicken burrito “Cantina”  and I had two tacos – haddock and ancho braised short rib.  We decided to have a traditional drink and both ordered a “Paloma” made up of 1 ½ oz grapefruit infused Tromba Blanco (Tequila), citrus syrup and lime.  Yum!!!!!

The food tasted great and two tacos was certainly enough given we had guacamole and tortillas (made on site and delicious I might add). Anne barely made it through her burrito and we both left stuffed to the gills.

After everything I had read I expected the service to be mediocre but it was just fine and the meal was terrific!

I would however mention that it is quite loud with the music and the loud talking but it added to the ambience of the evening. Those of you who know me know I hate having to yell across the table but this was not anywhere near that bad. I would give this a definite thumbs up. The whole meal including drinks, tax and tip was $31 each.  Not bad.  Below are some pics of the meal.

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Chicken Wrapped Asparagus

The other day I was rummaging around my freezer figuring out what to make for dinner. I found a tray of thin chicken breasts that were like scallopini. I remembered I bought them on sale for less than $4 (when I see sales like that I stock up and vacuum seal them). I also had a fresh bunch of asparagus sitting in the fridge. I knew I wanted to make something that incorporated both ingredients and then I remembered I also had some low fat old cheddar cheese (not old as in time spent in my fridge but old as in flavour 😉 )

I thought “how about wrapping the asparagus in the chicken lined with some cheese for extra flavour!”

Defrosting the chicken didn’t take long and here is how it turned out.  I got 4 wrapped pieces which is 4 meals along with a salad.  Not bad for a total of about $6 -$7 dollars. They looked great and where tasty too.

chicken wrapped asparagus

Ingredients:

2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts thinly sliced and pounded (or buy them this way as I did)

½ – 1 lb of asparagus

Old cheddar cheese thinly sliced (or any cheese of your liking – goat cheese would work well too – I just used what I had on hand – use 1-2 slices per roll – it will leak out a bit but who doesn’t like melted cheese?)

Pepper to taste

1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions:

Lay a slice of chicken breast flat on a plate or piece of parchment or any type of sheet/board – I have a bunch of those thin plastic cutting boards. Lay down 1-2 slices of cheese (or spread goat cheese) per piece of chicken. Place about 4-5 stalks of asparagus trimmed (it can stick out the bottom and top) and roll the chicken and cheese around the asparagus. Hold together with a toothpick or two – remember to remove these before serving.

Place roll in heated frying pan with the olive oil an sear all around. Once chicken is lightly browned or cooked outside all around, place pan in oven at 350 degrees (F) for 15 minutes. This will finish the cooking and make sure the asparagus is also cooked nicely. Remember ovens vary so if you need a few minutes longer then leave it in for about 20 minutes – shouldn’t need any longer though.

Remove from the pan and serve.  This whole dish took 30 minutes from start to finish. Now thats what I call “Cheap and Cheerful”!

Broccoli, Peppers and Chicken Stir Fry

Well it was a Monday and I was at a loss for what to make for dinner.  I kept looking at my new rice cooker which I really use mostly when cooking for other people as I don’t eat much rice. It was calling out to me to use it so I looked in the fridge to see what there was. I had a couple of chicken breasts thawed and a head of broccoli so I thought”why not make a stir fry”?

I know I have blogged stir fries before but each is a bit different.  This one had a sweet and spicy base and I served it over the brown rice. I have to say I have never been any good at making rice – for some reason it never turns out well. I decided to invest in a rice cooker and went with the Cuisinart 7 cup cooker.  Aside from the fact that it looks great – boy is it easy and clean up is a breeze!

So here is what I made and how I made it.

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 knob of ginger chopped

2 -3 cloves of garlic chopped

1/2 cup of sweet chilli sauce (asian variety)

2 tbsp of hoisin sauce

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cubed

1/5 – 2 cups of broccoli florets

1 pepper thinly sliced (colour of your choice)

pepper to taste (no salt as hoisin and the sweet chilli sauce have enough sodium)

Directions

Make 3/4 cup of brown rice (enough for two people) any way you choose, either in a pot or a rice cooker. While this is cooking….

Place cubed chicken in a bowl with the sauces and the ginger and garlic. As this is marinating, steam the broccoli and peppers for about 2 minutes in the microwave oven with a bit of water.

In a saucepan, toss the chicken, whatever sauce is left in the bowl, the broccoli and the peppers and stir fry till chicken is cooked and no longer pink. That’s it!  Now serve over some rice and you have a tasty meal ready in about half an hour.

Pad Thai

For some reason I have always hesitated to make this dish – Not sure why but I had a craving for it and I had all the ingredients I thought I wanted in it so I tried it. Turned out delicious!  Very tasty. I followed a recipe for a bit then changed it up to be my own. I figured if it didn’t turn out then I wouldn’t blog about it and no one would be the wiser ;-). Here I am blogging about it because I think it tasted very good.

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Ingredients – Serves 4 (at least)

8 ounces of flat rice noodles (pad thai style)

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

1.5 tbsp fish sauce

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp dried minced onion (you can use fresh if you like)

1 tbsp chili garlic sauce

1/2 cup of ketchup

1/3 cup of sweet chili sauce

2 tbsp canola oil

12 peeled shrimp

2 chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces (large dice)

5 minced garlic cloves

1 red pepper sliced thinly

1 cup matchstick carrots (grated or shredded is fine too)

1 cup tiny pieces of broccoli

Toasted almond slivers for garnish

 

Directions:

Boil water in a pot and when boiling drop noodles in and turn heat off. Stir noodles around to separate them.

While water is boiling, mix soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, ketchup and garlic chili sauce  in a small bowl.

In a large skillet sauté chicken till cooked then add carrots, peppers, broccoli, and 1/3 of the sauce with the shrimp and sauté for about 2 minutes till shrimp is cooked.  By now the noodles should be done so drain them and add them to the skillet.  Add the remaining sauce and stir on medium heat to coat everything. it should only take a minute or two till all ingredients are mixed and coated.  Dish up and enjoy!

 

 

Spending Time with Wonderful People

I have a friend Beth who I see for one day each year between Christmas and New Years.  She works in Asia and comes back to see her parents once a year and that’s when we hang out.  I always go out to see her and her parents because I love spending time with them all – She has very wise and interesting parents and spending time with them is always a treat.

Every year we  have fabulous meals for both lunch and dinner.  This time was no exception. Lunch was this rustic charcuterie platter with a variety of cold cuts and cheese but the star of the show was the Moroccan pickled salad. This was a recipe Beth found of Chef Michael Smith that is actually called “Moroccan pickled veggies with marmalade and mint” but it was served as a wonderful mouth watering salad. The flavours alighted one by one in your mouth going from sweet to spicy to tangy to pickled. Below are the pictures and the salad recipe. I encourage you to try it.

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Recipe for the salad above:

Moroccan pickled veggies with marmalade & mint (takes 15 minutes)

For the warm dressing:

  • ½ cup (125 ml) of cider vinegar
  • ½ cup (125 ml) of orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of ras el hanout or curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of cumin seeds or ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of your favourite hot sauce
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) of salt

For the salad:

  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of dried apricots, sliced
  • 2 English cucumbers, cubed
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of chopped fresh mint

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, stir together the vinegar, marmalade, ras el hanout, cinnamon, cumin seeds, hot sauce, and salt. Bring the pickling brine to a simmer, allowing the flavours to blend.

Stir in the carrots, onions, and apricots. Bring the mixture back to a simmer for a few moments. Turn off the heat, then stir in the cucumbers.  Just before serving, toss in the mint, preserving its intensity. Serve and share.

This salad is excellent served freshly made, but like anything pickled it may rest for an hour or more or even overnight. Its flavours and textures will evolve and intensify as it rests.

 

I have to say you would think we would then just have  a simple dinner but “simple” is not the way when I come to visit. They always outdo themselves with the most flavourful meals and dinner was no exception. Chicken thighs marinated in marmalade and grainy mustard with cabbage cooked to perfection with some sugar and balsamic vinegar olive oil and garlic (I may be wrong on the garlic but it certainly can’t ruin the dish). The chicken was marinated in the marmalade and mustard for an hour or so and then baked at 350-400 until ready. We joked about it being a very marmalade day since it was in the lunch salad as well. (Funny thing is neither Beth nor I are big fans of marmalade but cooking with it gives a whole different texture and taste – mellow and citrus in perfect balance).

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For the cabbage – I believe the recipe was to sauté 4 cups of thinly sliced cabbage with 2 tsp of sugar and a shake of balsamic vinegar.  Sauté until tender and serve.  The chicken with the cabbage and green beans was comfort food with an upscale twist – very yummy!

Once again my favourite thing – sharing great food with wonderful people! It was a great day and I left that evening with a smile on my face thinking it never feels like a whole year between our visits and I look forward to next years time spent all together.

Chicken Enchiladas

I mentioned in a previous post I have been doing a bunch of cooking for my friend Darren which gave me a great excuse to try out some new recipes.  Darren was great and agreed to be my tester for a few weeks. Here is another one of the new recipes I tried and I think turned out well. The pictures don’t do it justice. (I apologize as the pictures were taken from the leftovers – which is my food 😉 )

Note: this can be made vegetarian by eliminating the chicken and perhaps using tofu.

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This looks like a ton of food I realize in the picture but it is on a small bread plate not a dinner plate. Once again I would consider this comfort food and on the whole quite healthy.

Ingredients:   Serves 8

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast sliced in thin lengthwise strips (similar to fajitas)

1 onion, chopped

1.5  cups low fat yogurt

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (you can use a low fat cheese here – I used an old cheddar for the extra zing)

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Pinch black pepper

2 cups of pasta sauce

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 cup chopped  pepper (any colour will do)

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 – (10 inch) whole wheat flour tortillas

1  jar salsa  (about 1.5 cups)

3/4 cup shredded cheddar or any cheese you like

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté chicken till cooked. Drain excess moisture.  Add the onion, yogurt, 1 cup of cheddar cheese, parsley, oregano and ground black pepper. Heat until cheese melts – about a minute or two. Stir in pasta sauce, water, chili powder, chopped pepper and garlic.

3. On a plate – lay one torilla flat and spread a portion of the mixture down the middle of the tortilla. Fold over the ends and place in a baking dish with the seam side facing down. Cover with salsa, the left over sauce from the pan  and the remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven 20 minutes.

4. When serving, add a spoonful of yogurt on top and rice on the side (or in my case red and white quinoa with vegetables).  The rice/quinoa helps to absorb any extra juices from the enchiladas.

Xmas Dinner 2013

Xmas dinner 2013 was had on December 24rd with my “adopted” family the McBurney clan which includes Jay and Jonathan, with Meg and Rob and the Matriarch of the family Marg and Bob – plus all the kids…

This year we had it at Jay and Jonathan’s. Jonathan is a fabulous cook so you know the meal will be wonderful when you walk in the door and start smelling the aromas of Xmas cooking.

Jonathan kindly lets me help out cooking a few things as we do love to talk food and cooking ideas. His turkey this year (as every year) was delicious and moist and devoured!

The potato galette which is a specialty of his is out of this world.  He slices the potatoes with a mandolin and layers them in the pinwheel shape you see here. He adds emmental cheese to each layer and finishes with stilton on top.  Lactose intolerance be damned – I dug into those potatoes!

The squash was slow roasted for three hours giving it the sweetest caramelized flavour ever.

I got to make the brussels sprouts which we just par boiled then sautéed with butter and topped with sautéed  crispy chopped  sage leaves and shredded parmesan cheese.

The stuffing, wine but especially the company was outstanding and I have to say when I awoke the next morning I think I was still full of good feelings, food and memories of another great Xmas spent with wonderful people.

potato galette

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Turkey

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Brussels sprouts

Crockpot Freezer Cooking

This was posted on a facebook friends page (Katherine that would be you!) and I thought it was a brilliant idea.

The crockpot is one of my favourite tools especially in the winter months.  The food that you cook is so flavourful and rich tasting and just overall comforting. When I saw this idea I thought it was so so smart. Check out the blog it came from (Kojo-designs).  This person has created a months worth of meals prepped in one afternoon – all to be cooked in the crockpot.

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The beauty is that you just toss everything into the crockpot in the morning and at dinner you have this amazing fully cooked delicious dinner! I will add to the “idea pot” here and tell you that when I make a brisket or anything with lots of sauce, I save the leftover sauce and freeze it so that if I make the meal again or something similar I can just throw in the frozen leftover sauce and it saves time and money.

I also have a vacuum sealer so the food doesn’t burn in the freezer.  Great investment.

 

Thats my blog for today – Enjoy!