Breakfast in South Africa was probably my favorite meals. I’m not sure if it was because I was eating more than my normal cereal and fruit so the excitement my taste buds were getting was making me giddy, or if it was that we ate breakfast at ten in the morning after having spent three and a half hours out looking at beautiful animals. Whatever the reason I had some really tasty stuff in the mornings. The only sad thing is that none of the offerings were repeated. Yes, it was good to try new things, but if I really liked something I did not have an opportunity to try it again and figure out how to recreate it stateside.
One item I really liked was an unusual dish for breakfast, chicken and cabbage. Although red peppers were not in the name they played a major role in the dish. Last night I tried to recreate it for dinner and even if I missed some ingredients Russ and I ended up liking what I made. It is incredibly simple and fast and healthy.
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs- chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 sweet red pepper – seeded and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 10 oz. bag of shredded cabbage
Lots of salt and Pepper
Heat a big non-stick skillet up on high. Add the Chicken and salt and pepper it and cook stirring often for about five minutes. Add the red peppers and continue cooking for another minute until they start to get soft. Add the cabbage and continue cooking and stirring for another two minutes. Salt and Pepper the whole dish again.
Serve with rice if you want a starch.
It may be cold out and lettuce cups seem like a summery thing, but boy are they good. This is the perfect food for flavor and hardly any calories.
Make the meat mixture
8 oz. mushrooms- finely chopped in the Cuisineart
5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
5 cloves of garlic
1 inch of ginger root grated finely
2 T. fish sauce
2 T. Mirin
1 t. soy sauce
½ t. red pepper flakes
I small can of water chestnuts mined
In a fry pan sprayed with Pam cook the mushrooms on a medium heat for five mins. Take out of the pan and set aside in bowl. Put the garlic cloves in the cuisineart and chop finely, add the chicken thighs and pulse until minced. Add the garlic and chicken to the fry pan and begin cooking on medium heat, add the ginger root. After the chicken is almost cooked through, about five minutes add the fish sauce, mirin, soy and red pepper flakes. Cook another two minutes add the water chestnuts to heat up.
Prep all the veggies:
Iceberg lettuce – cut head in half
Marinated Cucumbers – English cucumbers thinly sliced with splenda, rice wine vinegar and fish sauce
Optional Asian sweet and spicy sauce – I used a Shitake Soy ginger sauce
Carefully pull the lettuce leaves apart into cups. Spoon two heaping spoonfuls of meat mixture into the cup; add some carrots, cucumbers, and bean sprouts. Sprinkle a few peanuts and cilantro leaves on top and a spoonful of sauce.
It’s hard to eat neatly so have lots of napkins to clean the drippy parts off your chin. You can thank me later.
Long before the microwave oven became the fastest way to cook anything, well really only the fastest way to cook small things, there existed the miracle invention the Pressure Cooker. You may have seen this big pot with a locking lid in your grandmother’s kitchen and just passed it by as some old fashioned gadget. Unlike a butter churn whose time has passed the pressure cooker is still as valuable today in a modern kitchen. If you don’t own one and passed up inheriting one from your maiden Aunt you have missed a big boat in the world of fast cooking.
A pressure cooker uses a method of cooking any food in a liquid, which gets super heated by being trapped in the air-tight pot thus steaming the food and tenderizing at the same time.
I have to make a chicken tetrazzini for a church supper. The recipe calls for six cups of cooked chicken. I just threw a whole chicken, you know what that is I hope, the cheapest way to buy a chicken, in the pressure cooker with some water and salt and pepper. I locked the lid on the pot and set it on the burner. After about five minutes on high heat the steam release value began to hiss indicating to me that I needed to turn the heat down to medium for the duration of my cooking. A whole chicken only takes eight minutes per pound. That is less than half an hour. If I were going to boil it or roast it in the oven and dry it out at the same time it would take at least an hour and a half.
Pressure-cooking is by far the fastest and most energy efficient way to cook a whole chicken and when it is done it will be more moist and juicy than any other way to cook it. A pressure cooker is great for things like artichokes, which take a crazy long time to steam or boil in a regular pot and even after an hour of simmering are often still tough.
If you have a poor cut of meat a pressure cooker will cook that baby until it is fork tender and you did not have to baste, braise or babysit that meat at all. The most important element in using a pressure cooker is the liquid. It does not have to be water, but could be broth, sauce, wine or any old liquid; it just needs to be something that has enough water or water-like content so it can release steam.
Things like vegetables and rice are done in a record time. There are a few drawbacks to using a pressure cooker; you can’t add anything to the pot once it has started cooking. The reason the top locks on top is to keep the steam in and the food from being blown out of the pot. Once it has finished cooking you need to release the steam and when the pressure inside the pot has dropped enough you will be able to unlock the top. That means no tasting along the way.
If you have a pressure cooker please send me your favorite recipe for using it. If you don’t you can borrow mine. If you ever wonder why your grandmother’s chicken salad tasted so much better than your, she might have used a pressure cooker to cook the chicken. You need to try it yourself.
Once again a recipe made up from the necessity of using up ingredients I already have. I have never eaten chicken with grapes except in chicken salad, but I always like raisins in my curry so I thought why not. I think it is a nice little dish. It would be nice served on couscous.
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
½ cup grated onion – I did it in the food processor
½ c. vermouth – or sweet wine
1 c. chicken broth
2 T. lemon juice
½ t. dried thyme
1/3 c. grainy dijon mustard
1 c. red seedless grapes- halved
Optional sauce thickener
2 t. butter
2 T. flour
Heat a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pan on high and spray with pam. Salt and Pepper both sides of chicken and lay out flat in pan. Reduce heat to medium high. You may need to cook the chicken in batches. Sear one side of the chicken and flip and sear the other side. You are not cooking the chicken through at this point, just getting some color on it. If you could not fit all the chicken in at one time set the partially cooked chicken aside in a bowl. Juices will accumulate in the bowl.
After searing all the chicken set aside and add the vermouth to the Dutch oven to deglaze the pan, which is still on medium high. Add the grated onions and cook for two minutes. Add the thyme, chicken broth, mustard and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and juices back to pan and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook on top of stove for 15 minutes. Add the grapes and cook uncovered for five more minutes. If you want to make the sauce a little thicker in a separate small pan melt the butter. Add the flour and stir cooking it on medium heat for about two minutes to cook some of the rawness out of the flour. Add the butter/flour paste to the chicken pot and stir cooking it into the broth for about two minutes.
Taste and correct for salt and pepper.
Carter came down with the post exam cold and body aches today. Since she is more Asian than any nationality she is actually related to she asked if she could have this Thai version of Chicken Soup. It makes us all feel better and it is healthy to boot.
4 Cups of Chicken stock
1 stalk of lemon grass- it is worth going to the store for.
1 2-inch hunk of peel ginger root
The zest of 1 lime and the juice of that lime
2 T. fish sauce
1 14 oz. can of light coconut milk
3 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into thin strips
Handful of enoki mushrooms – the little thin ones you can get at the Asian Market
Handful of Cilantro leaves
In a soup pan put the chicken stock, lemongrass that has been cut in half, hunk of ginger, lime zest and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. Skim out the lime zest and add the coconut milk and chicken and bring the pot back to a boil and then reduce to simmer again. Cook for about five minutes until the chicken is cooked. Add the limejuice and the mushrooms. Serve in bowls and garnish with cilantro and pass the Srisacha and let everyone makes theirs as spicy as they want.
This is the worst picture of the best dish you will ever eat. To top it off it is easy to make. Don’t be shocked by the amount of vinegar, just go with it. The acid breaks down the chicken and gives it a tang that is addicting. You can make it with the skin on if you are a person who does not have to watch your figure, but honestly this version is so good you won’t even miss the skin.
10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
10 minced garlic cloves
1 cup of red wine vinegar
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1 can of chopped tomatoes
Handful of fresh thyme- tied with a kitchen string
4 bay leaves
Salt & pepper
Heat a Dutch oven on the stove on medium high heat. (That’s a heavy cast iron pan with a tall straight sides and a lid. I use a Le Cruset.) Spray the inside of the pot with Pam and add half the chicken thighs in one layer.
Cook for about 4 minutes; you just want them to get a little color. Flip them over and repeat on the other side. Remove those thighs from the pan and keep on a plate on the side. The chicken is not cooked through yet. Spray the pot with more Pam and cook the other half of the chicken the same way.
After you have cooked all the chicken and it is out of the pot, add the garlic to the pan and cook for one minute, stirring often. Add your vinegar, keeping your face away from the pot when you do it so you don’t choke on the acidic cloud you will create. Add the tomatoes, stock, herbs and chicken back in the pot.
Cover and bring the contents to a boil and then reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot the best you can, leaving everything else in there. Bring the liquid back up to a boil and reduce the sauce with the lid off. I like to mash it all down with a potato masher to break up the tomatoes. It will take about 15 minutes to reduce it to a sauce like consistency.
Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.
As a child, my sister Margaret would get stuck eating the same thing everyday. One whole year she had the same conversation with me everyday.
“Dana, what are we having for dinner?”
It did not matter what I replied, from burgers to spaghetti she would then say… “No thanks, I think I will just have cheese broccoli.” Which she made herself with a package of frozen broccoli and some sort of processed cheese, Velveeta being her favorite.
Sometime in her teenage years Margaret’s dish of choice became chicken salad, which lasted a very long time. I remember having a conversation with her sometime in her twenties about her idea for a chicken salad restaurant and if I thought it was viable.
Now I too have always loved chicken salad, but consider it a special occasion treat because I just don’t eat that much mayonnaise for thigh giggling reasons.
The sad part is that chicken salad is so easy to make these days if you use a grocery store rotisserie chicken. Since I am going to a ladies potluck tonight I decided it was a good day to make a healthy chicken salad. Too bad my sister is not here to eat it.
1 store bought rotisserie chicken
2 mangos – cubed
½ red onion- finely chopped
1 hot pepper minced
35 basil leaves- chiffonade – that means cut in tiny ribbons
1 T. low fat mayonnaise
2/3 cup of fat free Greek yogurt
1 T. ketchup
1t. curry powder
1 t. lemon juice
2 packets of Splenda
1 t. salt
Pull the meat off the chicken in shreds making sure you don’t get any of the skin. Put it in a large bowl and add the other ingredients down to the basil. Mix the dressing in a separate bowl and pour over the chicken mixture and gently stir it all together. It is better to get it refrigerate for at least an hour.
This is a really crunchy, satisfying summer salad. I like to add the dressing right before serving so it does not get soggy.
6 cups of shredded Napa cabbage
2 cups of shredded red cabbage
10 green onions chopped – white and green parts
1 cup of shredded carrots
1 red pepper diced
½ cup red onion diced
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
1/3-cup fish sauce
1/3 rice wine vinegar
8 packets of Splenda
2 T. limejuice
1 T. Sesame oil
1 T. water
2 cloves of garlic – minced
2 T. fresh ginger – minced
2 dried red chilies – crushed or ½ t. red pepper flakes
3 half chicken breasts- grilled and shredded
6T. Chopped peanuts
Mix all the veggies together.
Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake up.
Add the chicken to the veggies and toss together with the dressing. Only pour about half the dressing on at once and see if you need more after tossing.
Put in individual bowls and sprinkle with a tablespoon of peanut on each bowl.
You can get at least 6 dinner size servings out of this.
You can use other vegetables, like diced cucumber, avocado, hot peppers, zucchini, green cabbage, Savoy cabbage, whatever you like.
I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs because they just have more flavor than chicken breasts, but feel free to use either. I place the chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap on a cutting board and using a meat mallet I pounded the chicken to about half an inch thick.
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs – pounded
3 T. Wondra – or all purpose flour
Salt and pepper
1 15 oz. can artichoke hearts- cut in half
1 lemon’s worth of juice and zest
2 T. capers
After pounding the chicken, sprinkle both sides with Wondra, or flour and salt and pepper.
Heat a non-stick fry pan on high heat and spray with Pam; turn the heat down just a little. Place only as much chicken in at a time so that the cutlets don’t touch each other. Cook on one side until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip over and brown the next side.
Put the chicken in a shallow pan in a 300º oven to finish the cooking for about 15 minutes.
Once you have cooked all the chicken. Put the artichoke hearts, capers, lemons and lemon zest in the same fry pan without cleaning it out of any browned bits left from cooking the chicken.
Heat the artichoke hearts on medium high heat for about 5 minutes and pour over the chicken.
Variation to make a more brothy version:
Cook the chicken in a Dutch oven. After browning the chicken deglaze the pan with a cup of white wine. Add chicken back to the pan and add the artichoke hearts, lemon juice, zest capers and 1 cup of chicken broth. Bring pot to a boil and reduce to simmer cooking for 15 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
My friend Dottie showed me her favorite recipe for a green onion and ginger sauce served with noodles. Since I have basically given up noodles I decided it might be good on chicken. I modified it by removing most of the oil since it was not needed for flavor.
10 green onions – both white and green parts chopped into ½ inch pieces
½ cup minced fresh ginger root
1 T. white wine vinegar
2 t. low sodium soy sauce
1 t. canola oil
Pinch of sea salt
Boneless, skinless Chicken cut up
Mix all the ingredients except the chicken and put them in a container in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Spray Pam in non-stick fry pan and cook the on medium high heat for a few minutes on each side. Spoon some sauce on chicken while still hot and eat!!
The sauce can be kept in refrigerator for a couple of days.
These are one of Carter’s favorite things to eat. It is the best way to get veggies into a kid. The traditional summer rolls put noodles inside, but I replaced the noodles with romaine lettuce. The dipping sauce also makes a great dressing for a green salad.
1/3-cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
10 Splenda packets
Juice of 1 lime
2 t. grated ginger
3 cloves garlic grated
1 t. Siracha (garlic chili sauce)
Handful of fresh cilantro leaves chopped
Rice Paper rounds –
2 cups of shredded Chicken – can be poached or pulled from a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store (You can use any kind of protein, grilled beef, cooked shrimp, or roast pork. Be Creative)
Head of romaine lettuce washed and torn into pieces
1 cucumber- peeled and seeded and cut into strips
3 carrots – peeled and cut into strips
24 fresh basil leaves
24 fresh mint leaves
¼ cup Hoisin sauce
Wet one rice paper round and lay it on a plate. Schmear a one-inch stripe of Hoisin sauce in the middle of the rice paper. If the round was a clock, schmear one inch in from 12 o’clock to one inch in from 6 o’clock. The Hoisin sauce is the only really calorie-laden thing in this recipe so go easy on it. Lay two basil leaves and two mints leaves on the Hoisin. Top with a couple of lettuce leaves, a few strips of cucumber and carrots and then a few pieces of chicken. This all should be done in a line in the middle of the rice paper. Fold the short edges at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock in and then pull the three o’clock flap over and roll the whole thing to 9 o’clock. It will look like a somewhat translucent big egg roll.
Repeat. This is a fun thing to let people make themselves.
Serve the dipping sauce in a little ramekin on the side.
Prik means Pork, not your brother-in-law
This is a Thai dish that is normally made with fresh ground pork (Not sausage), but to make it much lighter I have made it with ground chicken breast. The calorie difference is 200 for pork and only 120 for chicken. If you don’t care about calories use the pork, it is better.
1 inch of ginger root –peeled
½ cup of cilantro stems
4 dried red chilies – they are small about 1 inch each
4 cloves garlic
1 lb. of ground chicken or pork
2t. Soy sauce
1 pint of cherry tomatoes -halved
4 green onions chopped- both green and white parts
Green cabbage leaves
Put the ginger, cilantro stems, chilies, shallot and garlic in a food processor and run it until everything is mashed up but not quite a pulp. Add the meat and mix well.
Heat a skillet on medium high and if you are using chicken, spray with Pam, pork has enough fat not to need Pam. Dump the meet mixture in the skillet and add soy sauce. Cook, for about 6 minutes, stirring often. Add the cherry tomatoes and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, mashing them into the meat. Remove from heat.
Cut the head of cabbage in half and separate the leaves carefully into cups. Wash and dry. Sprinkle with sea salt and spoon meat mixture into cup. Top with a little green onion.