March – Lemony Chicken Thighs with Roasted Butternut Squash

March – Lemony Chicken Thighs with Roasted Butternut Squash

The inspiration for this recipe came from the NY Times, Melissa Clark’s Roasted Chicken Thighs with Winter Squash. She used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, delicata or acorn squash, fresh sage, and lemon. I didn’t exactly have those on hand and my sage plant is late to the party called spring. But I loved the flavor combination of ingredients and I did have a lemon. So here is my adaptation, Lemony Boneless Chicken Thighs with Roasted Butternut Squash. 

Boneless chicken thighs with butternut squash, lemon and baby kale (see the steam rising from the dish?)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lemon, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, and thinly sliced crosswise into wedges
  • 4 boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil – divided
  • 1 rounded teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, use less if not kosher plus additional 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon chile powder, depending on the heat of your brand and your tolerance
  • 4 cups of butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach or kale

Method:

  1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil; drop in the lemon slices and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain well.
  2. In a small skillet toast the coriander and cumin seeds until you start to smell their deliciousness and they are light brown. Remove to a plate to cool. Then grind in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder to a medium powder. You want some texture to remain.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the lemon slices, 1 tablespoon of oil, cumin, coriander, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and the pepper. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or several hours.
  4. When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil
  5. In a large bowl combine the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the maple syrup, chile powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt with the cubed butternut squash. Toss to mix, then add the cornstarch, again tossing so the cubes are evenly coated.
  6. Spread the squash out onto the baking sheet and roast for about 30-40 minutes until brown and caramelized. Remove from the oven and cool.

    Roast butternut squash

    Roast butternut squash

  7. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and lemon slices plus any marinade. Toss until browned and cooked through, add the butternut squash, and kale (or spinach) to the skillet and continue to toss everything together until warmed and the kale is wilted.
  8. Serve with rice, polenta, or other grain.

The tip here is coating the butternut squash with cornstarch, this works with sweet potatoes as well. It results in a crisp exterior and meltingly soft interior.

Chicken with Winter Squash and Baby Kale

Chicken with Winter Squash and Baby Kale

How are you adapting recipes for what you have on hand?

 

March – The Ides of March 2020

March – The Ides of March 2020

The 15th of March is supposed to be an unlucky day, the Ides of March. But why?

If you’ve heard of the Ides of March, you might know you’re supposed to beware of it. Why? In ancient Rome, the Ides of March were equivalent to our March 15. In the Roman calendar, this date corresponded to several religious observances. The Romans considered the Ides of March as a deadline for settling debts. But – for our modern world – if you’ve heard of the Ides of March, it’s probably thanks to William Shakespeare and the play Julius Caesar. (Link here.)

This year, 2020, it certainly seems to hold true. Bad news follows bad news. On a personal level, our trip to New Zealand which was supposed to start next week, has been cancelled due to quarantining and closing of their borders. The major local Fort Bragg fundraising event (which I help organize), the Whale Run, scheduled for this weekend has been postponed. My gym has closed its doors. My bookclubs are cancelled. The Master Gardener program, which I help host, has been postponed until further notice. On and on. I am sure this is not that different from what all of you are going through. I am sorry, you have my sympathy. The world is upside down. I wish I could give you a virtual hug or at least bump elbows. I hope you are all well and have enough toilet paper on hand. Can you believe it!!! A run on toilet paper. I suggested to one person that they could use rags and wash them, they have “un-friended” me.

What are you doing to calm yourself? How are you going to make lemonade from the lemons we have been dealt by fate? I would love suggestions and have some of my own…reread the entire Harry Potter series, hug your dogs, watch the Star Wars movies in order, binging on Downton Abbey, listen to Watchers (by Dean Koontz) on Audible while taking long walks, make soup, get an early start on spring cleaning (see the 14 day mini home edit), talk on the phone to all your best friends and family, and (if weather permits) start or nurture your vegetable garden…think of the Victory Gardens of WWI and II. Most importantly, hold your loved ones close. Life is fragile.

Italian tomato, sausage and zucchini soup

Italian tomato, sausage and zucchini soup

 

Notice I didn’t mention tequila. It can also have a temporary calming role, but only if drunk with a very good friend and lots of fresh lime.

It’s time to adapt any recipe to what you have on hand; whatever ingredients you have in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Inspiration came from a recipe by Melissa Clark published in the NY Times for Roasted Chicken Thighs With Winter Squash. The recipe called for bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and delicata or acorn squash. I didn’t have those exact ingredients but a recent trip to Costco meant I had a large container of cubed butternut squash in the fridge and a package of boneless chicken thighs in the freezer. There were lemons on my potted lemon tree. Time to make lemonade.

 The resulting dish was delicious, stir-fried chicken first marinated in lemon and spices, then mixed with roasted butternut squash. Baby kale from the garden was tossed in at the last minute, you could use spinach or leave it out entirely (it wasn’t in the original recipe).

Stay tuned for posts with recipes. Meanwhile, please stay in touch. We all need to stick together, even if it is virtually.

 

In My Garden – March 2020

In My Garden – March 2020

Where did you go February??? Gone…not a trace of it left (or a drop of rain during the entire month). Here we are in March already, spring. The Fort Bragg garden is about a month behind the gardens in the Bay Area, it’s cooler here and usually wetter. Except for the bulbs, plants aren’t exactly bursting into bloom yet. There isn’t a lot of change between my pictures from February and March. You need to look closely at the pictures below to see any change.

Yes, I did take some pictures but never got around to writing a post.

It’s encouraging and heartening (love that word) to see the beginnings of new growth. I am always somewhat fearful when plants die back in the winter, never being sure they will return in the spring. I prune with difficulty, knowing it is necessary for plant health and bushiness, but there is an element of doubt each time.

Rose

Rose, new growth

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage

With the roses I was comfortable and confident that they would come back, I wasn’t so sure about the pineapple sage. At the botanical gardens they don’t cut it back but my plants were getting leggy. I was prepared to purchase new plants if required, it’s a favorite of the hummingbirds, so I am very happy to see new growth sprouting from the base.

Mint and Tarragon

Mint and Tarragon

My culinary herbs, mint and tarragon, are returning. The mint I coral in a pot to keep it in control. The tarragon is also in a pot so I can keep track of it. I use them both in cooking, they are often difficult to find in the store.

the hellebores are blooming like crazy, they are actually winter blooming plants. Some of my favorites.

The first buds are on the poppies. I can’t remember what color these will be so it will be a surprise. They look very happy.

Poppy

Poppy

The new bed at the back of the house does show a big change between February and March, unlike the other beds. It’s full of early spring blooming perennials as well as as well as dahlias for fall bloom.

The flags alert me to places where I have planted dahlia tubers. They disappear over the winter and I forget where they are in my eagerness to plant something else in that spot. I’ve unfortunately never met a plant I didn’t want in the garden.

Chores in the garden consist of weeding, weeding and more weeding…and watering. There is hope for some rain the end of this week. Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

February – Quick and Easy Stir Fried Vegetables

February – Quick and Easy Stir Fried Vegetables

Sometimes you need instant food and this fits the bill. The title is boring, but it exactly describes this no carb dish and vegetable stir fry. You could always add some leftover rotisserie chicken or baked tofu to make it a one dish meal. Wrap it in a tortilla or serve it over rice if your current diet allows it.

I used some time saving ingredients; a package of riced broccoli and cauliflower, and a package of angel hair cabbage. All that is needed in addition is a large onion, a knob of fresh ginger, a clove of garlic, some tamari or soy sauce, plus a little oil to start the stir fry. This is very quick, maybe 10 minutes in all.

Stir Fry Veggies

Stir Fry Veggies

Ingredients:

  • I large onion, cut in half top to bottom and cut into half moons
  • 1 package of riced cauliflower or riced broccoli or one with a combination – I used Earthbound Farm organic Cauliflower and Broccoli riced veggies (16 oz package)
  • 1 package of finely shredded green cabbage (mine was 10 oz)
  • 1 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • about 2 – 3 tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, I used coconut

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large fry pan on medium heat
  2. When shimmering, add the ginger and fry until light brown on each side
  3. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, you want a golden brown
  4. Add the onion and stir to mix, cook (stirring every so often) until wilted and starting to brown.
  5. Add the riced vegetables, cook for 2 – 3 minutes
  6. Add the cabbage and continue to cook until it is softened, a couple of minutes
  7. Add the soy sauce to taste

It’s almost embarrassingly easy.

If you have some mushrooms laying around you could add them. Slice them thinly and add them with the sliced cabbage.

Vegetable Stir Fry

Vegetable Stir Fry

I served it with a few slices of medium rare steak cooked on the grill.

Steak with Stir Fried Veggies

A perfect no or low carb quick meal.

Do you think the folks at Fiesta Friday would like this? This week it is Fiesta Friday #314 hosted by Angie and co-hosted by me. Drop on by to read the great recipes and craft ideas.

January – Greek Chicken

January – Greek Chicken

Greek chicken ready to bake

Greek chicken ready to bake

This low calorie, vegetable heavy, colorful casserole is just what is needed during the grey days of winter. It’s a riot of colors and flavors, quick and simple to make and perfect for company. All you need is some crusty bread and a green salad, your dinner is complete. You can even assemble the dish ahead of time and bake it in the oven at the last minute.

Customize it to your tastes. The first time I made it I left out the onions and black olives, it was delicious. If you want dairy free, don’t add the crumbled feta at the end. It’s still absolutely delicious and even better for lunch the next day.

Greek chicken - this time without the artichokes. onion or olives

Greek chicken – this time without the artichokes. onion or olives

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 each red, orange and yellow peppers cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 pint of multicolored cherry tomatoes, leave whole
  • 3-4 small zucchini, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 red onion, cut into 8 sections
  • zest of 1 large or 2 small lemons, save juice for the end
  • 1 large sprig of fresh oregano (leaves chopped) or 1 – 2 teaspoon dried
  • 1 large sprig of fresh rosemary (leaves chopped) or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • About 1 teaspoon of salt (salts have a differing amount of ‘saltiness’)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small package of frozen artichoke hearts or canned artichoke hearts, defrosted if necessary (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of pitted kalamata olives (optional)
  • Juice of 1 large lemon or 2 small – split in half
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled feta (optional)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped to garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Combine all the ingredients (except the feta and half the lemon juice) above in a large bowl and mix well.
  3. Pour into a large casserole dish and bake (uncovered) for about 40 minutes or until the chicken is done. Breasts might be done in 30 minutes.
  4. Crumble the feta on top and give the dish a good squeeze of the lemon

 

You can assemble this a few hours ahead, cover and store in the fridge.

Greek Chicken

Greek Chicken

Greek Chicken

Greek Chicken

Greek Chicken

Greek Chicken

I have also made this with bone in chicken thighs (skin on or off). Ingredients are the same. Put the chicken thighs, skin side up, in a large shallow casserole. Sprinkle them with salt. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl, mix them with the herbs and lemon zest, pour around the thighs. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Greek Chicken with Whole Thighs

Greek Chicken with Whole Thighs

I think the folks at Fiesta Friday #313 will enjoy this. Fiesta Friday is hosted by Angie, it’s a virtual collection of blog posts about cooking, gardening, and crafts. Click on the link to read all the amazing things that are going on in the world of blogging.