Category Archives: Main Dishes

Oven Roasted Whole Chicken

 

When I moved into my new apartment, I went on a stock-up grocery trip as I always do. One thing that was on sale was whole chicken (90 cents a pound or something). Since I had already brined and roasted a whole pheasant, I figured a whole chicken shouldn’t be much more difficult. So I got one and stuck it in the freezer.

Then one day I decided it was starting to get cold enough to count as fall, and chicken soup is great fall weather food! Of course, I roasted the meat and just enjoyed some tasty baked chicken meat first. The carcass is in the crock pot today to make stock for chicken soup.

I took out the bird, made a nice brine*, and roasted it the next day. And it turned out tender and amazing!

*If you don’t want to brine it overnight first, don’t worry about it. Skip right to the roasting part.

Ingredients for brine:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup pink moscato (because I had no open white wines)
  • 5 bay leaves
  • sprinkle garlic, sprinkle black pepper
  • About a gallon of water

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in a pot large enough to hold the whole bird. Add water to the top (once bird is added, not before, or you’ll spill everywhere. Not that I’ve ever done that…).

Step 2: Stick it in the refrigerator overnight (or at least for 4 hours. You can put it in there in the morning, head off to work and finish roasting it later that night too). I had to put my milk sideways on the bottom shelf to make room for a day, but I feel it is well worth the space-hogging.

Ingredients for the bird:

  • 1 whole frozen chicken, thawed overnight
  • Several gobs of margerine or butter
  • 1 whole apple, lemon, orange, and/or onion cut into quarters (I used one whole Gala apple)
  • Salt, pepper, and paprika

Step 3*: Take the bird out of the liquid, and pour the brine down the sink. Wipe off any moisture with a paper towel and place in a large baking pan. Rub it down all over with margarine. I despise raw chicken, so this part is super disgusting for me, but it is a necessary evil of epicuriosity. (*IF you skip brining, this is where to start)

Shove some butter chunks under the skin if you can too. If there are bits and pieces inside the cavity, take those out and dispose of or cook separately. Then sprinkle it all over with spices, and shove the aromatics (apple, onion, lemon) up the butt. Sorry, inside the cavity…

 

Step 4: Put the bird breast-side down into an oven at 425 for 15-20 minutes covered with aluminum foil. Flip it over, take the foil off, and roast uncovered for another 10-15 minutes. This will lead to a nice crispy outside skin. Then lower the heat to 375 for about another hour, or until the temperature is at least 165 F.

 

Once it’s all nicely browned and roasted, it looks and smells divine!

 

Take the aromatics you stuffed it with out and discard (or compost it). Use the meat any way you like! It is tender and moist and super flavorful. Not bad for $5 a bird.

 

I served it with broccoli cheddar rice and candied carrots on the side. Perfection.

Now I think I also need to work on learning how to properly carve the thing rather than just stabbing and sawing until a piece falls off…

Peanut butter, banana and Nutella sandwich

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This was a spur of the moment creation while packing for a hiking trip. We were attempting a 14-er (peak higher than 14,000 feet) and it would be a 5-7 hour climb round trip. When I do long hikes I like more than just a few granola bars and trail mix.
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So I made a peanut butter sandwich, then noticed a banana on the counter about to go bad. Sliced that guy up and added it on top of the Jif. Then I remembered I had bought Nutella a few weeks before and it was in the refrigerator still, so that was the finishing touch on this buttery, peanutty, fruity delight.
Ingredients:
  • 2 slices wheat bread
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2/3 banana, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Nutella spread
Step 1: Spread the peanut butter on one slice of bread. Spread the Nutella on the other. Slice up the banana, and layer the slices on the bread. Sandwich together. Enjoy immediately, or pack up in a baggie or Tupperware for later.

It was gooey, filling and delicious. Even after being smashed in a backpack with 2 water bottles for 3 hours.

Might I suggest honey if you don’t have Nutella, or a semi-melted chocolate bar. Maybe try some marshmallow fluff instead of the peanut butter if you’re allergic to nuts. I bet peaches or pears would work well too, sliced thinly. I might need to go try all these combos now…

Easiest steak stir-fry

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Anyone who doesn’t have a personal chef is a fan of meals that are fast and easy to make. Bonus if it happens to NOT be grease-laden, deep-fried, double-wrapped hatred of yourself. Aka some semblance of nutritional value. At least to me that’s a priority.
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This is one of my standby all-time favorite recipes, used from the lowly days of undergrad’s first apartment until the present, it has never failed me yet. Once the individual ingredients are made, they are very versatile, and remain so even after mixing.
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Ingredients:
1 cup rice (I used easy brown)
1-2 cups frozen veggie, any you like
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed
*You can stop here for a filling vegan/vegetarian snack or meal, or continue to carnivorize it
2 tbsp sriracha, if you like it hot
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 cube frozen veggie stock or ice cube
1 small steak (or pork or chicken…)
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Step 1: Mix 1 cup water and 1 cup rice, microwave on high 10 minutes. Let sit for 5, then fluff with a fork.

Step 2: Put frozen veggies and beans in a bowl, microwave 5-10 minutes while waiting for rice to absorb the water.

Step 3: Mix rice, beans and veggies. Sprinkle on some garlic salt and enjoy from here, or….

Step 4: Pour on the sriracha and soy sauce

Step 5: Put the steak in a frying pan on medium heat, add extra soy sauce if you like, and the cube of liquid. Cover and cook on medium for about 5 minutes, until nice and brown. Flip and cook on the other side 5 minutes.

Step 6: Remove steak and cut into bite-size pieces. Return to the pan along with the rice, veggies and beans and mix well. Heat through, and enjoy!

This is quite customizable based on what type of vegetables and meat you like, you can use white or brown rice, and mix up the type of beans too. Try Italian seasoning, or garlic salt, or Worchestershire. The sky’s the limit!

Mediterranean Chicken & Couscous

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I got this recipe from somewhere because I had some green olives in my fridge and no idea what to do with them. I don’t like them much, but this recipe sounded crazy enough to try, and boy did it turn out fantastic! The ingredients don’t sound like they should go together, but seriously try it!
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Ingredients:
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in half
~5 prunes, diced
~6 green olives, cut in 1/4
1/4 cup cashews
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup couscous
garlic salt
black pepper

Step 1: Cut the chicken and place in a frying pan with 1/4 cup stock. Cook about 10 minutes per side, until golden brown. Meanwhile heat 1 cup stock to boiling in microwave and pour over couscous. Let sit covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Step 2: Dice up the prunes and olives. Add to the chicken and cook another 5 minutes or so. Add more stock if it boils off. Toss in cashews and any spices.

Step 3: Serve 1 half of chicken over 1/2 cup cooked couscous. Honestly, the mixture of salty and sweet and nutty is fantastic, and I think couscous is the perfect grain but you could use rice or noodles or mashed potatoes too.

Easy Mashed Potato Pirogi

As a Hungarian-Slovak-Polish American, pirogi are a critical part of many holidays. And any day of the week really. I had never attempted making them, but since we had recently made FIVE POUNDS of mashed potatoes, I decided to give it a try with the leftovers.

Since the potatoes are not my recipe, I can’t put the mashed potatoes on here, but they were great! I know it involves sour cream, cream cheese, cheddar cheese and butter…. Anyways, start with any mashed potatoes as the filling. And the dough is super-easy to make!

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz tub of sour cream
  • 3 cups of flour
  • Mashed potatoes (~1 cup)
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 onion, diced

Seriously, it’s that easy!

 Step 1: Mix the flour and sour cream well until it forms a dough. Roll it out on a floured surface.

 Step 2: Using a small cup or other cutter, cut out ~3inch circles of dough. You can re-roll the pieces about 4 times.

mashed potato pierogi

 Step 3: Place ~1 tsp of mashed potatoes in the middle of the circle of dough. Press the sides together to make a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges with a fork.

 Step 4: Drop into boiling water and simmer for about 5 minutes to cook the dough. Drain.

 Step 5: Melt a half stick of butter (or as much as your arteries can handle!) and cook the onions until translucent and slightly browned.

Step 6: Fry the pirogi in the butter & onions about 3 minutes, until yellow-brown on both sides. Enjoy!

They weren’t quite as good as my grandma’s or mom’s, but pretty darn good for a first attempt! And I have the rest of forever to perfect my techniques.

The versatility of stir-fry

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Especially during the summer, when fresh produce is cheap and plentiful, a veggie stir fry is always an awesome option. Cheap, easy, very filling and excellent for you. It is also very versatile, as my many meals from the stir-fry will show!
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Ingredients:
1/2 red, orange, and yellow bell pepper, julienned
1/2 zucchini, diced
1 large radish, diced
2 turnips, diced
1 med carrot, diced
1 can black beans
1/2 red onion, diced
1 cup cous cous
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Extras:
Torn romaine lettuce, tomato chunks, sour cream, salsa, diced avocado

Step 1: Saute all the veggies in order of hardness, until all are tender. Add the black beans and heat until warmed through. Season if you want with garlic and other spices.

Meal 1: Add the stir fry and all extras into a flour or corn tortilla, eat as a burrito.

Meal 2: Put the hot stir-fry over some freshly cooked cous cous. You can top with hummus, salsa or a dressing if too dry.

Meal 3: Cover a large plate with torn romaine, add cooked cous cous, and veggies and extras on top, eat as a salad.

These meals were all eaten on different days, because the stir fry makes a ton and keeps well in the fridge. This is easy, cheap and very versatile. Add whatever veggies you like and have on hand. These 3 meal types will work well with any kind of stir fry, so go crazy!

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Supercharged Double Turkey BLT

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I had some turkey lunchmeat that needed used, plus 1/2 an avocado, salad makings, and turkey bacon. I had wanted to make a BLT, but now I knew that I could make it super-extra delicious!
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Ingredients:
2 oz turkey meat
2 slices whole wheat bread
1 slice cheese
1/2 tomato
Handful torn romaine
3 slices turkey bacon
1/4 avocado
4 slices cucumber

Step 1: Cook the turkey bacon, turning once.

Step 2: While cooking, pile on the meat, cheese, tomato slices. On the other piece of bread, add the greens, cucumber, avocado chunks and lettuce.

Step 3: Add the cooked bacon. Very carefully, flip the pieces of bread together. Excellent combinations of flavors, lots of fiber and vitamins from the veggies! As always, just omit the turkey for a vegetarian lunch option.

Homemade Chipotle

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage
Chipotle is one of my absolute favorite “fast food” places for several reasons. They encourage responsible practices, local and healthy food, quality, plus it is just dang delicious. However, even the best intentioned company makes some compromises to be large scale, and I always prefer making food myself so I know what’s in it and can control the portions. Plus, though $6.95 seems pretty cheap, more than once a month or so isn’t practical. 
Therefore, I decided to make my own version of my favorite, the chicken burrito bowl. A website called Chipotlefan.com has recipes for several Chipotle favorites. I used their recipe for the chicken marinade, with a few variations of my own. Then I made my own version of the fresh tomato and corn salsas based on memory, and the cilantro lime rice. Try it yourself, it isn’t exact, but it is close and Delicious!
 
Chipotle Chicken:

1 (7 ounce) can chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (remove chipotle peppers, skim out seeds)
2 tsp fresh ground ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 tbsp powdered garlic
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 quarter red onion
1/4 cup oil (canola/vegetable/olive)
Boneless skinless chicken breast or tenders

 
Step 1: Mix all marinade ingredients in a blender/food processor. Add oil until it’s slightly pourable. 
Step 2: Poke holes in chicken, and pour marinade over chicken. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour up to 24 hours. The best way to cook the chicken is to grill it, but you can cook it in a frying pan with a weight on top as well.
 Chicken sitting in marinade
Spiced Pinto Beans:

1 can pinto or kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup water
3-5 bay leaves
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder

Step 1: Drain and rinse the beans, pour into a pot. Add spices, simmer on very low for 10-60 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the beans don’t stick.

 Seasoned beans

You can add a bit of bacon here too, if you have it and like that kind of thing. Chipotle has changed their recipe to make it vegetarian, so no bacon included.
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Cilantro-Lime Rice:

1 cup rice
1 1/2 cup water or chicken bouillon
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lime juice
Sea salt
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Step 1: Boil the rice or prepare as directed. 

Step 2: When cooked, add the cilantro, salt and juices, fluff with a fork.

The rice magic makers. Lemon juice, lime juice, and chopped fresh cilantro.

 

Finished rice, ready to be mixed
Corn Salsa:
1/2 cup corn
1/4 red bell pepper
Pinch fresh cilantro
Splash lemon juice
1/8 red onion
Step 1: Blacken the corn in a skillet or grill. 
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Step 2: Dice the pepper & onion, add to the corn with the cilantro and lemon, mix well. 
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For extra spice, take one of the chipotle peppers from the adobo sauce and dice it up to add, or use a fresh seeded jalapeno.
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Fresh Tomato Salsa:
1 large tomato, diced
1/8 red onion, diced
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
Handful fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lime juice
Sea salt
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Step 1: Mix the diced tomato, onion, pepper, cilantro and juices. Add a grind or two of salt to taste. 
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Refrigerate both salsas until ready to serve.
Chicken after grilling and dicing, salsas ready to go.

 

 Beans and rice, ready for assembly.

 

Finished plate. Can make it into a burrito, tacos, or a bowl.

I tore up a few large romaine leaves and put the rice, beans, chicken and both salsas on, with a sprinkle of cheese on top. It was deliciously fresh tasting! It is on the spicy side, so if that’s not for you then dial down the seasonings and forget about the chipotle peppers in adobo. For vegetarians, ditch the chicken and marinate some tofu, add some guacamole, or other grilled veggies. Enjoy!

This recipe submitted to the May 2014 “Cooking with Herbs” challenge!

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken & Rice Casserole

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Slow cookers are amazing, because you just put dinner in, go off to work or class, and come home to a fresh hot meal. I had a busy day planned, so I decided to use up some freezer food and make dinner a snap: I would make chicken casserole in the Crock Pot.
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Ingredients:
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 bag frozen vegetables
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Seasonings (Nature’s, black pepper and garlic)
Step 1: Put the chicken on the bottom of the sprayed pot.
Step 2: Mix rice & water, pour in.
Step 3: Cover with cream of chicken soup.
Step 4: Add the frozen veggies.
Then just cover tightly and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through before serving. Makes about 4 servings. Simple, cheap, quick. Enjoy!

Tilapia & stir fry

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So I am still in a spending hiatus where I do not spend anything. Therefore for dinner I had to take stock of my pantry, fridge and freezer, and come up with something healthy, easy and quick. In my apartment I had:
Tilapia: 5.99 for 6 fillets = $1/fillet
Wild rice: 1.29 for 1 microwave serving
Frozen stir fry veggies: $1 for 16 oz bag
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Other miscellaneous ingredients:
Red Thai curry spice = $3.50 for a bag full
Lemon juice: $1 for 12 oz. bottle
Vegetable oil: $9 for a gallon
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Step 1: In a medium frying pan, put 2 tilapia fillets straight from the freezer, with 2 tbsp. olive oil and about 4 tbsp lemon juice. Simmer on lowest heat covered for about ten minutes or until fish turns white and bottom browns.
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Step 2: Flip once, sprinkle a pinch of spice onto the bottom. Add more oil or lemon juice if needed. Simmer another 5 minutes or so to brown the top. Always keep covered and don’t burn it. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
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Step 3: Steam the rice in the microwave for 2 minutes. In the same pan, add 1 more tbsp oil and a cup of frozen veggies. Cover and steam for about 5 minutes or until veggies thaw and soften. Add in the rice, mix well. Serve 1 fillet over half the stir fried rice.
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Total: $2 (2 fish fillets) + 1.29 (rice) + 0.20 (1 cup of veggies) + ~0.10 (spices and liquids) = $3.59 for 2 servings. Not bad!