Category Archives: Main Dishes

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!

 

Balsamic glazed lamb chops with salad and steamed veggies

.Well, Spring Cleaning finally reached my fridge and freezer today. I like to go through weekly just to look and see what I have, what needs thrown out, but once every few months or so I deep clean it, digging all the way to the back to remember what’s under those 5 bags of frozen corn, and re-organizing. That’s how I found the lamb chops I had forgotten about.My family purchased a lamb whole and had it butchered a few months back, and were nice enough to give me a few chops to take to school. I put the 3 chops on defrost in the microwave while I showered, and loosely based my recipe on one from Allrecipes.com.

Total time in the kitchen, about 20 minutes. Total spent: $0 (because I had the ingredients all on hand. If I’d had to purchase them all, it would probably be ~$25). That’s the way I roll. =)

Ingredients:
  • 3 lamb chops
  • Spice mix (I used dried rosemary, dill, sage, and mint)
  • 1/4 medium onion
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • ~4 redskin potatoes
  • Handful baby carrots
  • 1 tbsp Country Crock
  • Olive oil
(Also, salad and whatever toppings you like if you want a side dish)

The veggies I wanted to steam, so I got a big pot of water boiling right away, with some salt in the water. I diced up the potatoes into chunks and the baby carrots just threw in whole. Let those steam the whole time I was cooking the lamb.

Then I put about 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, and added the defrosted chops. Cooked a minute or two, turning once. Basically until they were nicely browned but not totally charred. I like a little bit of pink.

 This is the salad I made to go with my meal. I happened to have some cucumber, olives, a roma tomato, and 1/4 of an avocado. Threw in a handful of romaine, toppings, and some Italian dressing. YUM.

These are the chops once cooked. They were oozing juice! Tasty.

Then add the onion to the pan. Cook a minute or two, until translucent and soft. Add in the chicken broth and balsamic. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get any lamb drippings mixed in. Let this simmer until about half the liquid boils off.

Once the potatoes were soft when poked with a fork, I took the veggies out and mixed in 1 tbsp Country Crock, sprinkled with Nature’s Seasoning and some sea salt. Holy. Crap. Steamed baby carrots are like candy! And the potatoes with them were a perfect pairing.

Once the balsamic is reduced to your liking, pour it over the chops. It smells SO good!

Then dig in! Such a delish mixture of flavors and textures. I served myself on smaller plates, so the portion sizes were perfect. I also have 2 lunches put away for the week now. A very productive Monday if you ask me. =)

Thai green curry chicken

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This was my first experiment with Thai cooking. My master’s adviser is from Thailand and she brings us Thai food occasionally and it is always delicious. So I decided I wanted to give it a whirl. So I found some recipes online, and of course did it my own way anyways.
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Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans coconut milk
1/2 cup cilantro
1 hot pepper (I used serrano)
Lemongrass
Gingerroot
Garlic
Cumin
Limes/lime juice
1-2 cups vegetables of choice
Glass noodles

I had garlic already, and all the other ingredients added up to less than $20. (The bouillon and lettuce don’t count). It also makes a LOT of food, so that’s a total steal versus going to an ethnic restaurant.

Step 1: Get all the sauce ingredients ready: 2 tbsp diced garlic, 1 diced pepper, 1/4 can coconut milk, 2 inches sliced ginger, 1/4 cup diced lemongrass, 1/2 an onion, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp lime juice, salt & pepper.  Put all the curry ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

Step 2: Put 2 tbsp oil in a large pan, and add the curry paste. Apparently this releases the oils and flavors (?) Add the rest of the can of coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 3: Dice the chicken while the curry simmers.

Step 4: Add the chicken chunks to the curry.

Step 5: Cut the vegetables you want to use into bite sized pieces. I decided to use green beans and orange bell peppers. Add those to the pan and simmer 5-10 minutes.

Step 6: Boil the noodles or rice you want to serve with the chicken. I had some oriental rice noodles I purchased earlier.

Step 7: Put rice or noodles in a bowl and add chicken curry. Enjoy!

Obviously, you can make many variations. Add whatever vegetables you like, more or less of certain spices, more peppers if you want it spicy.

Stuffed pepper casserole

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If you’ve been following along, you know I love stuffed pepper. You also know I love my crock pot. Stuffed peppers in the crock pot tend to come out a little mushy, so I decided to try making a casserole instead of leaving the peppers whole. They get cut into tiny pieces when you eat it anyways right?
Ingredients:
4 large red bell peppers
1.5 lb ground beef
1.5 cups rice
1.5 cups chicken broth
1 can tomato sauce
Garlic, italian spices, pepper, salt
Step 1: First cut the peppers into small chunks and line the crock pot.

Step 2: Then add the chicken broth to the rice and cook, following directions for the type of rice you use… the chicken broth just gives it more flavor, if you’re watching your sodium you can omit it.

Step 3: While that’s cooking, brown the ground beef.

Step 4: Then mix the rice, sauce and beef together. Pour over the peppers. I actually added 1/2 a chopped onion to the beef to give it more flavor. Season with whatever spices you like.

Step 5: Cook on low for 1 -2 hours and enjoy!