Weekend Warrior

Last weekend, I decided that the week ahead was looking tricky.  I did my weekly grocery shopping towards the beginning of the weekend, to allow myself time to prepare multiple meals that would serve as dinners and lunches for the whole week.  It also just so happened that my latest issue of Food Network Magazine had just arrived, and as usual, I had torn out some recipes I wanted to try. Over the course of two days I made 5 different meals, half of which I put in containers and froze for later on in the week.  2 of these were inspired by recipes I cut out of the magazine.

Batch cooking (as long as you are actually consuming your leftovers, not throwing a lot of them away), is both a money saver and a time saver during the week.  If you are like me, you have a well stocked pantry.  This also helps cut your grocery spending down.  I ended up only needing to purchase the meat, special cheese and fresh veggies.

My menu for the week included Chicken and Spanish Rice, Crock Pot Pork Roast and Beans, French Onion Soup,Spicy Penne with Swiss Chard, and Buffalo Chicken Salad.    I will post the recipes for all of these over the week, but today I am just doing the Chicken and Spanish Rice.

Before I get started I have to apologize.  Most of these recipes do not have photos of the finished product, just during the cooking process.  Also, Some of the pictures are not the greatest quality.  When you are juggling taking care of an infant, a husband, and cooking multiple things at the same time, compromises have to be made.

This chicken and rice meal has been slightly adapted from something my dad used to make for dinner all the time when I was young.  Smelling this as it was cooking reminded so much of home.  I love when I get to share that part of my childhood with people.  For my dad, food has always been his way of showing affection, so recreating his recipes and sharing them with my friends and family is definitely a feel good affair.

Here is what you will need.

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Ingredients:

One Whole Chicken cut into 8 pieces (breasts, wings, legs, thighs)

2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Stock

1 10oz can of Red Enchilada Sauce

1 1/2 Cups White Basmati Rice

1 Celery Stalk Diced

1 Medium Yellow Onion Diced

3 Cloves of Garlic Diced

1 Red Bell Pepper Diced

1 1/2 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Chili Powder

1 Tsp Oregano

Salt and Pepper to taste

Here is what you do.

Cut up your chicken.  I cut my chick up into 8 pieces, and then cut the breasts in half because they were really large.

Salt and Pepper all sides of the chicken pieces,

In a large stock pot, Brown the chicken on both sides over medium high heat.  This should take about 2 minutes per side.  Take the chicken out of the pot, lower the heat just a little, and add in your diced onion, diced pepper, and diced celery. After the veggies start to release some liquid, give them a stir and scrape the bottom of the pot to get up all the yummy brown flavor bits from browning the chicken.

When the onions are translucent, add the Garlic, Cumin, Chili Powder, and Oregano, and let cook for a minute, or until the garlic is fragrant in the pot. We add the herbs and spices here to let them toast a little with the veggies to help bring out their oils and flavor.

Add the rice and stir.  Let the rice toast a little until it too starts to turn translucent, then you can add the liquids.  Letting the rice toast a little adds a nice nutty flavor to the dish. Remember rice usually cooks at a two to one ration.  Two parts liquid to one part Rice is the standard. In this instance, I am including the Enchilada sauce in my liquid measurements.

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After you pour in the liquids, give everything a good stir, making sure to scrape the bottom still.  We want all that flavor to come up!

Nestle your chicken pieces back into the pot and bring it up to a boil.  Turn your heat down to a simmer and cover until the liquid is gone, your rice is tender, and the chicken is cooked through.  This usually take about 12-15 minutes.

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This is comfort cooking in one pot.  It is one of my all time favorites.  If you want to jazz it up a little more, you can serve it with a shave of cheddar cheese over the top and some green onions.  Remember, this is 8 (or 10) pieces of chicken, so it serves 6.  That is a lot of food for two people!  Needless to say, we ate this throughout the week.

Oh I forgot,I also made some brownies from the box, because you cant have all this tasty savory food with out some dessert!

So delicious!

So delicious! If you can follow directions, you can bake brownies.  Read the box.  🙂

Bon Appetite!

Stay tuned for Crock Pot Pork Roast and Beans!

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Autumnal Bliss

As the leaves begin their transformation from shades of green to their brilliant display of reds, pinks and oranges, so to have my meals shifted towards fall flavors and ingredients.  My supply of fresh veggies from the garden has markedly slowed, and my desire for crockpot stews, hearty rice dishes, and …. chocolate increased.

At the beginning of the week, I sat down to make a week long dinner plan that would help use up the produce in the fridge, stay light and flavorful, and keep me from drifting over to the pizza place when I get home from work.

Monday was Indian food.  We went to a restaurant to bid farewell to a friend. (not on the dinner plan, but it was yummy!)

Tuesday was miso soup filled with veggies, chicken and brown rice.  This too became Wednesday’s lunch.

Wednesday we started ballroom II dance class, so dinner was made for us by a dear friend.  Mushroom Ravioli and baked cabbage and zucchini.

Thursday is my late work night, so dinner was our leftover Lasagna from Sunday’s Game Day meal, as was Tuesday’s lunch.

Last night’s dinner was the perfect combination of healthy veggies and stick to your ribs rice and protein.

Chicken Ravoltini with Avocado Basil Basmati Rice

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Lean chicken cutlets wrapped with a mixture of creamy ricotta cheese and spinach.  I cannot stand spending an extra dollar per pound of chicken to buy my cutlets pre-cut.  I purchased boneless skinless chicken breasts and cut them into cutlets myself.  Not very hard.  I place the cutlets between parchment paper and pounded them out a little too, so I had more surface area to spread the delicious (I never spell that word right the first time, thank god for spellcheck!) cheese mixture on.

Cheese Mixture: This yielded enough to fill around 8 cutlets

1 cup of Part Skim Ricotta Cheese

1/2 package of Frozen Chopped Spinach (thawed and drained)

1 clove of Garlic minced

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

zest of1 lemon (1tbsp ish)

Dash of hot sauce (I used Tapatio)

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Salt and pepper both sides of your cutlets.  Spread your cheese mixture on the 2/3rds of the cutlet, leaving about an inch at one end.  Start at the end that is all cheesy and roll your way to the not cheesy end. (These are very scientific directions)

No need to use a toothpick, just place the rolled chicken in a oiled baking pan.  Set it down on the not cheesy end, so the roll doesn’t unroll in the baking process.

Bake at 425 for 16 – 18 minutes.  Let it rest before serving so the carryover heat will finish the cooking, and the food is a temperature that wont scald your mouth. ( I have to do this for my husband, or else he burns himself.  Someone is bad at eating)

 

GREEN RICE!

1 cup of Basmati.  You can use brown, white, whatever you want.  Just remember, brown rice takes 3 times longer to cook.

Cook the rice… you know how to do that by now.  2 to 1 liquid to rice, bring it to a boil, turn it down to simmer and cover for 10 – 12 minutes.

What makes the rice green you ask?

In the food processor, toss 1/2 a large avocado or one whole small one, 1 clove of garlic, 1 cup of fresh basil, 1 tbsp. of red wine vinegar (I like a lot of vinegar, use less if you don’t), 1 tsp of lemon juice, salt and pepper,  and 1 tbsp. of good extra virgin olive oil.  This is basically like a basil avocado vinaigrette.  Buzz it up until its all well combine, the basil is chopped up and the garlic is discernible only by taste (IE you cant see it). Taste it, adjust to your liking, then pour it in the rice and mix it up.  I added about tbsp. of grated parmesan for a little extra decadence.

Plate yourself and/or your guests a little bed of green rice for the chicken ravoltini to get cozy on, pour the wine and voila!

Baked Chicken-Stuffed Chile Rellenos

Alright people, brace yourselves. This is a long and involved process, but believe you me, it is SO worth it. Image Baked Chicken-Stuffed Chile Rellenos – with watermelon I made this for dinner tonight for Sam and myself.  Because of this, its a small batch recipe, making enough for two filled peppers.

Here’s what your going to need:

Time – about 90 minutes although some of the elements can be made ahead of time

Ingredients:

Pasilla Pepper – 2

Red Bell Pepper – 1/2

Sweet Onion – 1/2

Garlic – 3 cloves

Uncooked Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast – 5 oz

Tomatillo Salsa – 1 Cup

Tomato Sauce – 1/8 cup

Red Wine Vinegar – 1 tsp

Jasmine Rice – 1/4 cup raw

Queso Fresco – 4 oz

Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese – 1 Cup

Canola Oil – 1 tsp

Salt, Pepper, Chile Powder to taste Image

Step 1 – Peel the peppers. – In order to peel the peppers they need to either get put under the broiler until singed on all sides, grilled, or stuck over open flame on your stove like I did.  The direct heat brings the moisture from the peppers up to the skin.  You will hear it pop and sizzle and make all kinds of sounds that make you think you are doing something wrong, but don’t stop!  Wait till they looked burned on all sides, then take them off the heat and put them in a zip lock bag to steam for 5-10 minutes. Image ImageImage

Once the peppers have steamed, you can rub the charred skin off.  If your fingers get sticky, keep a bowl of water near by, or use a paper towel. Image

Now we do some pepper surgery.  We need to clean out the seeds and veins from the peppers without doing damage to the entire pepper, or else we wont be able to successfully stuff them.  So, get a sharp knife and be careful.  Make a 2 inch cut starting from about a third of an inch from the top.  Then make a 2 in cut horizontally across the top and the bottom of the vertical 2 inch cut you just made.  Open up the doors you have just created, separate the veins and seeds from the walls, and scoop them out.  This may be easier said than done.  Remember, all the heat in these peppers lie within the veins and the seeds.  If you do not want spicy food, you must be meticulous about getting all the seeds and veins out.  I like a bit of kick to my food, so I left some in.

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Now we can turn our attention to the filling.  The filling can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to two days.  There are 4 different components to the filling, one is the Queso Fresco, and the other three must be prepared separately.  These are, spanish rice, pepper/onion/garlic medley, and shredded chicken.

Lets start with the chicken.  Cook your chicken in as large of pieces as you can, or else you wont be able to shred the cooked pieces.  I took a whole chicken breast, and cut it in half to get my 5 oz.  In your pot, put the tomatillo salsa and chicken.  Bring it up to a simmer and cover the pot until the chicken easily shreds with a fork.  I cooked mine on a low heat for about 30 mins.

Now for the rice.  Soak your rice in cold water for about 8 minutes.  You probably know that rice cooks at a two to one liquid to rice ratio.  We are using 1/4 cup of uncooked rice, so we will need 1/2 cup of liquid.  In a measuring cup, at your tomato sauce, red wine vinegar and canola oil.  Then, fill the cup the rest of the way  up to the 1/2 cup line with water, so that you have a total of 1/2 cup of liquid.  Add your liquid, one clove of minced garlic and soaked rice to a pot.  Add your salt, pepper and chili powder and give it a good stir.   Bring it up to a boil, then turn it down to a low simmer and cover for about 10 -12 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid is gone.

Lastly, the pepper/onion/garlic medley.  Chop your onion and pepper in the same size pieces so they cook at an even rate.  Mince the remaining two cloves of garlic and place all three ingredients in a non-stick pan that has been sprayed with oil.  Saute them on medium low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the peppers and onion start to brown.  Turn them off immediately because if the garlic browns it will be bitter.

Now we can put together our filling!  In a mixing bowl, add your shredded chicken, cooked rice, pepper medley, and cubed queso fresco.

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Split the filling in half and stuff those magnificently prepared peppers, each with half of the filling, or as much as your peppers can hold.

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Line a baking tray with foil and slide your stuffed peppers onto it.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the peppers.  Then, pour the left over salsa the chicken cooked in, into the peppers.  Its ok if it spills over, we just want to add some moisture to the filling so it doesn’t dry out when it bakes.

Place the tray in a 375 F oven and bake for 25 minutes.  Let them sit for a minute so the juices settle before serving.  Also, we let them sit so that people don’t bite into a pepper with scalding hot insides.

I served mine with watermelon to help even out the heat of the pepper a little bit.  It is an unusual combination, but it was great! This is a great dish to make for a dinner party, as you can peel and stuff the peppers ahead of time and bake them just before serving.  Let me know how you like them!

Also, I wanted to add one more thing.  Chile Rellenos are normally only stuffed with the queso fresco cheese, then battered and fried.  This recipe, although stuffed with chicken and rice, is fewer calories because its baked, and the recipe uses little cooking oil or fat. For those on Weight Watchers, this recipe makes two servings of 12 points plus each. I am a member of Weight Watchers, so most of my recipes will be WW friendly.  I will try to remember to post the Points Plus values with my recipes.