Miso Chicken

Along with all the activities of my friends around the world, my Facebook feed is filled with recipes and cooking tips from a variety of magazines and newspapers. One evening, I saw a photo for Miso Chicken and even though dinners were planned for the week, I thought I want that now! A velvety, dark miso sauce glazed over chicken breasts, this recipe is super easy and makes you feel like you are cooking so­­mething much more elaborate for a weeknight supper.

The marinade comes together quickly, so you can either make it in advance or whip it up when you get in the door. I had some really large chicken breasts so to save time, I cut them in half so they would cook quicker and more evenly. I wanted a warm dinner all around so I served this with coconut rice (brown rice cooked with a little bit of coconut milk with some added coconut flakes and cilantro stirred in at the end), although you could make a cucumber salad or even a rice noodle salad to complement all the flavors.

For those looking for a gluten-free version, use tamari instead of soy sauce.

miso chixMiso Chicken
This recipe first appeared in the January 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

If you can’t find miso, substitute 2 teaspoons anchovy paste and 1 teaspoon tahini instead. With miso, the darker the color, the more pronounced the salty flavor.

1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
1 1/2 teaspoons chile paste (such as sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, divided
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Combine first 6 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil. Place chicken in a zip-top plastic bag. Add vinegar mixture; seal. Marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour, turning once.

2. Preheat oven to 400°.

3. Remove chicken from bag; reserve marinade. Place marinade in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes or until syrupy, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; divide mixture in half. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; swirl. Add chicken; sauté 4 minutes. Turn chicken over; brush chicken with half of marinade mixture. Place pan in oven; bake at 400° for 6 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from oven; brush with remaining half of marinade mixture, turning to coat. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: From Detox To Elimination Diets, Skipping Sugar May Be The Best Bet
With the start of the new year, it seemed like everywhere I turned, I heard about someone I know doing some sort of elimination diet. I am always fascinated with these and have to admit the idea of totally cleansing my body of all toxins is appealing. Unrealistic for me, but appealing all the same.

One thing I have been watching lately is how much added sugar I eat in addition to sugar in fruits and other carbohydrates. I thought you might find this article interesting too. You can read or listen to the story here

 

Homemade Hummus

 

Rain + lower temps + snow = this scene.

Rain + lower temps + snow = this scene.

For years I’ve been eating store-bought hummus because it’s healthier than cream dips, but not really liking the flavor of it. Although some brands are better than others, I think they all have an off taste which I don’t like. Last month at book club, my friend, Deb, brought some hummus made at one of the local natural foods stores. I had to restrain myself from eating the whole container. THIS is what hummus is supposed to taste like: chickpeas, a little garlic, lemon, and just a hint of tahini. But it’s expensive when you buy it at a deli, so I decided to recreate an equally delicious yet less expensive version in my kitchen!

So, I don’t have a food processor, only a blender. And the last time I attempted to make hummus, it was a total disaster. (Never make hummus in a blender, it just won’t work.) But. I do have a potato masher, which worked beautifully! Before you think I spent 30 minutes or more mashing the beans, au contraire! It took me about two minutes to really smoosh them and five minutes to make the whole recipe! Some recipes call for olive oil, but I find the tahini adds enough richness, plus the hot water makes it smoother. If you find that it’s a bit dry after it sits for a couple of days, just add a little bit of hot water and stir. (Note, when I say this is “smooth,” it won’t be silky smooth like the store-bought version, it has that rustic, homemade feel, but smooth enough to spread easily on a cracker. I’m obviously having a hard time describing the consistency!)

So I was able to create a batch of hummus for a little more than what you’d pay for a can of chickpeas, plus no preservatives! The greatest investment you’ll make is the tahini, which you can find in the Middle Eastern section of your supermarket or at the coop. But it lasts a long time in the cupboard and after making this once, you may find yourself making this a lot. You could show off your skills and make a big batch for a Super Bowl party next weekend! Go Patriots! (Apologies to my Seattle readers: Marta, Jana, and Julie!)

hummsHomemade Hummus
I like lots of zing to my hummus, so I use at least half a lemon, but ease into it with a quarter lemon and test the flavor for yourself. 

1 can of chickpeas
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon tahini
2 Tablespoons hot water
Lemon juice to taste
A dash of salt
A couple of tablespoons of fresh cilantro, minced (if desired)

Add the chickpeas to the mixing bowl, smashing until paste-like. Add the garlic, tahini, and hot water, mix until smooth. Stir in lemon juice to taste, salt, and cilantro, if using. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or vegetables.

Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: 10 Things Not to Do When You Start a Diet
January is a perfect month to start your diet; the holidays are over and you have at least four months (more if you live in the northeast!) before you have to get into a bathing suit. Cooking Light has this great list of diet don’ts for those who are starting their journey this month. You can check them out here!

Tamale Chicken Potpies

It’s January, which that means we’re due for a deep freeze. And we’re right on course; the last week and more we’ve seen sub-zero temps for days at a time. So when the thermometer dips, I always look for meals to cook in the oven to heat up the kitchen. This potpie was a perfect solution; it’s healthy, easy to make on a weeknight, plus it’s baked in the oven so it warmed both the house and myself!

I don’t have individual ramekins, so I made this in a 1 3/4-quart casserole dish, and although it went over the edges a little bit, I would still say it was a success. I feel like I sound like a broken record, I found it “warm and comforting,” but I really did! That’s my kind of supper this time of year. I served this with a crisp, green salad, although the suggested black beans would be a perfect complement!

tamale

Tamale Chicken Potpies

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

Serve these individual potpies with a side of spicy black beans: Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper and 2 minced garlic cloves; sauté until soft. Stir in 1 (15-ounce) can rinsed and drained black beans, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind; cook until thoroughly heated (about 5 minutes). Stir in 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, if desired.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
12 ounces ground chicken
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup chopped zucchini
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can unsalted tomato sauce
Cooking spray
1/2 cup coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups water, divided
3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and divided (about 3/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes, stirring to crumble. Stir in cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute. Add zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Divide chicken mixture evenly among 4 (10-ounce) ramekins coated with cooking spray. Place ramekins on a jelly-roll pan.

Place remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cornmeal, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Bring remaining 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually add cornmeal mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in 2 ounces cheese. Divide cornmeal mixture evenly among ramekins. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 ounce cheese. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until light golden brown.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Animal Farm’s Butter!
A while back I brought you the recipe for Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits, made with the buttermilk from Animal Farm in Orwell, Vermont. At the time, I told you about Diane St. Clair’s incredible butter that is nothing like you’ve ever tasted (it’s $19 a pound, so at that price it’s like eating gold!). Last month a local television station did a story on St. Clair, her cows and farm, and her butter that she sends to top chef Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant in New York City.

It’s a fun story and you can watch it here, Butter Makes Its Mark at NYC Restaurant.

A Very Veggie Salad

New Year's Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

New Year’s Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

Am I the only one who feels the need to detox after the holidays? Despite my best efforts, four weeks of rich, sweet foods, alcohol, plus bad weather so I can’t get out and walk has given me tummy trauma. Since they are finally over, I’m looking to healthy and delicious meals at lunch and dinner which are comprised of mostly vegetables with light protein or legumes. This will help your waistline, ward off germs, and are nutritious, too!

This is the usual salad I make for my lunches. Lots of veggies with a little bit of protein and cheese, with a big glass of water, it’s perfect and keeps me full all afternoon. Add some heart healthy avocado or nuts and seeds if you like. I know not everyone loves radishes, so I added them as an option; they add a bit of heat and crunch plus they’re incredibly inexpensive!

One of the drawbacks of making a salad for lunch is finding the time to make it in the morning. So here are two tips:

  1. When you get home from the grocery store, or when you have time some evening when you’re making dinner, slice and chop all your veggies and put them into containers. I find if I pre-cut all my vegetables, making a salad is ten times easier and less time consuming. Plus, it keeps me from being lazy; if I have to slice up cucumber and peppers early in the morning before work, I might think twice about making a salad. This way, most of the work is done!
  2. Pack up the salad veggies the night before and just add the protein and cheese in the morning, so it’s basically made and it won’t be soggy.

This is my current salad these days. Of course, add whatever veggies you like in your salad, be it carrots, cabbage, leftover grains or veggies, whatever you have on hand. I’m on a cider vinegar kick lately, but of course, rice, sherry, balsamic, white or red wine, or other flavored vinegars will be just as tasty.

salad2Very Veggie Salad
Greens (baby spinach, romaine, or a lettuce mix)
Cucumbers, peeled, sliced in half vertically, seeded, and cut into half moons
Peppers-orange, red, or yellow
Grape tomatoes
Scallions or red onion
½ cup beans or other protein: chicken, fish (tuna or salmon), shrimp, hard-boiled egg
Optional: radishes, avocado, nuts, seeds
Sprinkle with feta cheese (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil and cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: More Healthy Lunch Tips

I introduced TheKitchn.com to you a while back and they always have lots of great tips and recipes. Although this article is from last fall for back to school suggestions, its tips are useful for those of us who pack our lunches year-round! Here is one that gives you 16 tips on packing a healthy lunch! Salad isn’t the only healthy option out there for lunch!