Chicken Jambalaya – Guest post (kind of) by my two daughters.

My goodness! It’s been few months since I last posted! It’s been a busy Summer and now we’re facing another school year to start.  We had a wonderful opportunity to visit Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Italy this Summer (we walked a lot, ate delicious food, saw many beautiful sites/sceneries which were true eye candies, and came home satisfied); and we recently came back from our annual South Carolina beach trip (we have grown quite fond of Litchfield Beach near Pawley’s Island and hope to maybe retire there in 20 years?!).  However, the biggest event in between these trips was my hysterectomy surgery; I will not go into details since this is a food blog, but I’ve had this massive fibroid for few years and I finally parted with it.  I am in my 3rd week of recovery and I do have to say it’s been a smooth, but slow recovery.  So many people assume the recovery is the same as C-sec, and many people have different recovery process, but aside from the incision I don’t see anything similar.  With hysterectomy you are taking out organ(s) and re-attaching so many parts (ligaments, muscle, other organ parts) with hundreds and thousands of staple/sutures internally, things are shifting inside of you to adjust themselves, and … ok, let me stop here, this is a food blog!!

For the past 3 weeks my family has been supportive and helpful; my 2 daughters (A – age 14 and J – age 13) have truly risen to this occasion and have been cleaning the house, doing laundry, being my home nurse, giving me pedicures and cooking.  They’ve actually cooked quite a few dishes so far, but I wanted to show case last night’s dinner.  They cooked Chicken Jambalaya and it was de-li-cious!!  They still give me lots of grief, but I am very proud of how they are taking ownership and responsibility so therefore, in my book they are pretty good 🙂  I asked each of them to write a short paragraph of their experiences so far with cooking:

AI began cooking more because my mum couldn’t. It first started from necessity but as I continued throughout the summer, everything from choosing recipes to actually cooking became more enjoyable. Thus, I have had fun experimenting with different recipes and learning new techniques in the kitchen. I stumbled across this recipe for chicken jambalaya and decided to try it because I am allergic to shrimp and other shellfish, yet have always wanted to taste jambalaya. And it was worth it! The seasoning married well with the chicken and rice and I couldn’t resist second helpings. Although this dish isn’t my all-time favorite, I will most likely make it again.

JAbout three weeks ago, my mother had a major surgery, causing her to stay in bed for about a week after. She became dependent on my sister and me to cook for her. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend anybody even letting me into the kitchen, but I didn’t really have a choice at that point. At first I just cooked anything simple that would feed the family and wouldn’t result in the house burning down, but as the weeks passed I still had to take care of my mother, who can now walk around a bit but still can’t stand in one place for too long, meaning she still can’t cook or clean. As I became more comfortable in the kitchen, as well as more willing to cook for my mother, my sister and I began to look through different recipes that looked interesting to us. My sister found the recipe for chicken jambalaya, and we instantly decided that we wanted to try this one out. Because my sister is allergic to shrimp, I’ve never actually tried jambalaya before. (Sad, I know.) By making this chicken version (which tasted lovely, by the way), I was able to both cook and taste jambalaya while I knew that it was safe for everybody to eat. My sister isn’t a big fan of spicy food, while I, on the other hand, love it. This was good for the both of us because it had a bit of a kick to it without being overwhelming. (Bonus points for Mum and Dad enjoying it too!) Overall, I think we did a pretty good job on this one and I would definitely make it again sometime!

Well, considering they are 14 and 13 I think they did a good job voicing their experiences on their mother’s blog pretty well 🙂  I would have been so embarrassed at their age!  Well, I’ve enjoyed everything my girls cooked for me so far and they have few more days to cook before their lives will become busy again with school and after school activities.  This Chicken Jambalaya was so flavorful and it truly hit the spot for me!  They found the recipe from a cookbook “The Slow Cook Book” by Heather Whinney, and the beauty of this book is Whinney gives both the slow cooker and traditional ways of cooking her recipes.  My daughters chose the traditional style.

Serves: 4-6

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 boneless chicken pieces (thigh and breast), cut into large chunky pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 red  onion, finely chopped
  • 3  garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1  green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1  red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 7 oz thick slices pre-cooked ham, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups hot  chicken stock for the  slow cooker (3 cups for the traditional method), plus extra if necessary
  • 1 3/4 cups quick-cooking long-grain rice
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh  peas
  • Small handful of cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

**Instead of ham, my daughters used half chorizo and half mild sausages.

Heat half the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high-heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, toss in the oregano and cayenne pepper, then add to the pot (in batches, if necessary) and cook for 6-10 minutes until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the pot over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, and peppers, and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the ham. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, season well, partially cover with the lid, and cook gently for about 40 minutes. Check occasionally that it’s not drying out, topping up with a little hot water if needed. Stir in the rice, turning so it absorbs all the stock, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked, topping up with more stock if necessary. Add the peas for the last 5 minutes.

Taste and add seasoning, if needed, and stir in the cilantro, if using. Try serving with a green salad, green beans, plain yogurt or sour cream, and some crusty bread.

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As much as I am looking forward for my full recovery ( I heard it takes about a year for everything to heal, esp. internally) I will be sad for all this pampering to be gone 😦

Chicken Dumpling Soup

Ok, confession time – I haven’t been motivated to post anything on my blog nor keep up with my Facebook Page lately.  We have been renovating our master bathroom by ourselves and my emotions & energy seem to be swinging like a pendulum daily.  We live in a 100 plus year old house in Philadelphia and in the past 15 years since we moved into this house we’ve re-painted some rooms, completely renovated the kitchen, installed some new windows, did some minor bathroom works, and got new roof in.  I know that the work will continue as long as we own a house… 

We’ve done more take out food in the past 2 weeks and I realized few days ago that my energy level has gone down.  Of course it’s due to the bathroom renovation, but it’s also the quality of food we have been eating.  So I pushed my tired a**ed  self to the market and got tons of vegetables to make my healing chicken soup.  I know that most people don’t put that much vegetables in chicken soup, but I like to load them with vegetables (truthfully for me, it’s the easiest way to eat lots of vegetables this way).

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Makes 8-10 servings:   please adjust the amount and ingredients based on your preference.

1 whole chicken (I used about a 3-4 pound chicken)

14 cups water

6-8 cloves of garlic

2 medium onions, cut into halves

1 lemon, sliced into 1 inch thick pieces

assortment of chopped vegetables :  I used potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, broccoli stem, carrots, golden beets, and red & orange bell peppers

2 cups all purpose flour

1 Tablespoon vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, beaten

1/3 cup chopped parsley

2/3 cup cold water

Put the chicken in a large enough pot and add 14 cups water; add garlics, onions and lemon.  Bring the water to a boil & lower the heat and simmer (covered) for about 1 hour (I usually do a bit longer).  Make sure you skim the froth. 
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Transfer the chicken, garlics, onions and lemon to a large bowl.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle take the meat off and either shred or cut the meat into bite size pieces; keep the meat in the refrigerator (discard the rest). 

Let the soup stock cool and keep inside the refrigerator overnight.  The next day skim off any fat that floated to the surface and re-heat the soup. 

Bring the soup to a boil and add the vegetables, turn down the heat and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes (or until the vegetables are cooked).  Add the meat and simmer for another 10 minutes. 

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Dumpling: In a bowl blend together flour, shortening, salt and parsley (best done with your hands).   In a separate bowl beat the egg and add 2/3 cup cold water.  Gradually add the egg mixture into the flour mixture and form a soft dough (dough is not sticky at this point).  Wrap in a plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. 

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When you are ready to assemble the soup, bring the soup back to a boil and take the dough out from the refrigerator.  Tear equal sized dough pieces and drop them into the soup.  You’ll know that the dumplings are cooked when they float up.  Repeat the process & stir the soup. 

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This is our Fall/Winter staple dish!  Sometimes I add chopped kale into the soup which also adds a different depth in flavor.  I always make extra so that we can have this soup for couple of meals. 

One-Pot Sticky Chicken Wings

Did I ever tell you I don’t like to cook things that involve oil splatter??  I’m talking about frying, braising, etc.  I really try to avoid this; there is a reason why I don’t make tempura often, and that I have a deep fryer when I have to deep fry.  However, today’s recipe from Andrew Zimmern looked so very delicious I readied myself for a huge clean up afterwards. 

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Serves 6:

  • 3 pounds chicken wings, wing tips removed and wings cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 4 small dried red chiles
  • 2 whole star anise
  • One 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sake
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced

In a very large nonstick skillet (or in batches), cook the chicken wings over moderate heat, turning once, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the ginger, chiles, star anise and cinnamon and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the soy sauce, sake, oyster sauce, mirin, sugar and 1/3 cup of water and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the wings are cooked through and the sauce has reduced to a thick glaze, about 8 minutes. Discard the chiles, star anise and cinnamon. Transfer the chicken wings to a platter, scatter the scallions on top and serve.

My opinion:  This is really delicious!  If you love the Asian flavor of soy sauce, ginger & star anise you will love this.  I first thought I should decrease the amount of soy sauce next time I make this again, however, the next day somehow the flavor toned down and I liked it better.  Also, I loved eating this with hot rice and drizzle the sauce over rice – oh my gosh, purely YUM!!

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan

I am amazed at variety of recipes you can actually make in the slow cooker.  I’m sure many don’t taste quite like the original, but they come pretty close; in another words they don’t taste shabby at all.  

My children are going back to school tomorrow (yay!!) so I have been busy trying to organize different things around the house before the new school year madness starts up again.  Once again I turned to my trustworthy slow cooker for help.  At this point I am VERY tempted to get a second slow cooker, hmmm….  Anyway, today’s recipe is from Crockpot 365 (this blog author only cooked slow cooker food for – yup, you guessed it, 365 days!!)  I was a bit unsure how Chicken Parmesan will come out in a slow cooker, but hey, worth giving it a try. 

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2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used chicken boneless/skinless thighs)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (I didn’t have Italian Seasoning so I just mixed 1/4 teaspoon crushed basil and 1/4 teaspoon crushed oregano)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 beaten egg
sliced mozzarella cheese
favorite jarred marinara sauce


Spread the 1 T of olive oil into the bottom of your crockpot stoneware insert
Whip the egg with a fork in a separate bowl
Mix the bread crumbs with the seasonings and the parmesan cheese in another separate dish
Dip the chicken into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides with crumbs, cheese and seasonings
Place the chicken breast pieces in the bottom of the crock
Layer 2-3 slices of mozzarella cheese on top

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Cover with entire jar of marinara sauce
Close lid and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4. If your chicken is still frozen, it will take longer.
Serve with your favorite pasta.
My Opinion:  Seriously, this is not bad at all;  all it’s missing is the crispness from frying the chicken on a frying pan.  Look, if I have time and energy to stand and fry the chicken ofcourse, I’ll make it the original way, but when I’m busy and don’t feel like standing in front of the stovetop and sweating this is a wonderful substitute!!  My family really enjoyed this.  Maybe some of you are picky about your chicken parmesan, then by all means, rename this slow cooker recipe to something else and you’ll really enjoy it!!

Slow Cooker Chicken Biryani

Maybe you noticed that I’m experimenting with different slow cooker recipes lately.  I’ve had my slow cooker for about 4-5 years, only used it handful of times during this time.  I don’t know what bewitched me, but I’m in this slow cooker craze.
 
As I have mentioned previously, I love Indian food, and for me to be able to cook Indian food with “minimal” process is almost like a life saving event!  I have been doing some web search on Indian slow cooker recipes and there are quite a few out there.  Actually, there’s no surprise there because many Indian dishes use the Indian version of slow cooking method.  I found today’s recipe from Anupy Singla’s recipe on ABC7 news in Chicago.  In fact, Anupy Singla has a cookbook called The Indian Slow Cooker which I probably will purchase. 

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The original recipe called for lamb, but hey, substitute with any meat you like!

Slow cooker size: 4- or 5-quart medium
Cooking time: At least 2 hours to marinate, 3 hours on low
Yields: 8 cups

1, 4-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
4-6 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chilies, stems removed
2 Tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 lbs. boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 1-inch (3 cm) cubes (I used chicken thighs)
1 cup plain yogurt
3 medium yellow or red onions, peeled and very thinly sliced
4 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups uncooked basmati rice
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon saffron strands, soaked in 2 Tablespoons milk (optional)

** This biryani is rather spicy hot; if you cannot take too much heat cut back on the chili peppers.

1. In a deep bowl, mix together the ginger, garlic, green chilies, garam masala, red chili powder, turmeric, teaspoon of salt, cilantro and mint. Add the lamb and mix to coat. Marinate at least two hours in refrigerator or, ideally, overnight.
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2. After marinating, add the yogurt to the lamb and mix well.
3. Turn the slow cooker on low. Sauté the onions until wilted; add the cooked onions,  2 tablespoons of the oil and the marinated lamb to the slow cooker. Cook for 2 hours.
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4. On the stovetop, bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and tablespoon of salt and turn the heat to low. Allow the rice to simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, at which point most of the water will have evaporated. If it has not, use a slotted spoon to transfer the rice to the slow cooker. Discard any water remaining in the pot. Level the rice in the slow cooker with the back of a spoon. Drizzle the rice with the remaining oil and the saffron/milk mixture, if desired.
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5. Cook for 1 hour, fluffing the rice once or twice. Scoop and serve this amazing one-pot meal.
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(After an hour or so the rice will look like this)

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My opinion: YUMMY!!!  I think I overcooked mine (since I had to take my kids to the dentist today), but still tasted wonderful!  As I said before, this has quite a lot of heat involved so if you cannot take too much heat put less of peppers. 
My oldest daughter who doesn’t have much taste for spicy hot foods ate this with yogurt, but the rest of us ate this with gusto ( my other daughter drank mango lassi with this meal).  It’s a must try recipe!!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Eggrolls

I think I made Chicken Cordon Bleu once, maybe 20 years ago?? It was yummy, but for me back then it was a bit time consuming and not worth the effort (prep and bake time).  When I found this recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu Eggrolls I wanted to try it again.  Well, what can I say, this whole fusion of West and East; in concept it sounded pretty good, but one way to find out is to try it!

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recipe makes approximately 1 dozen small eggrolls

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced very small
4 ounces black forest ham, sliced deli thin and then chopped into 1/4″ pieces
4 ounces Swiss or Havarti cheese, sliced deli thin and then chopped into 1/4″ pieces
1 package spring roll wrappers
1 egg, beaten
2 cups coconut oil, or flavorless oil of your choice
Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce (see below)

In a medium size bowl, combine the chicken, ham and cheese pieces and stir to mix thoroughly. Separate the spring roll wrappers and set aside. Beat the egg in a small bowl and set aside as well.

Place a single wrapper on a large plate and scoop a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into the center of it. Roll from the corner in and fold in the sides as you go. Dip a finger in the beaten egg and seal the edge with egg. Set aside on a clean plate. Repeat until all of the eggrolls have been made.
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In a heavy weight sauce pan, heat the oil. For my stove, medium high works best. The oil should never be hot enough to smoke, but it should be hot enough to sizzle when you place an eggroll in the oil. Cook the eggrolls in batches, turning them as needed in the shallow oil. Remove the eggrolls using your tongs and set aside to drain slightly on a wire rack over a pan or on a paper towel lined plate.
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Let rest for a few minutes before eating. The cheese will be very hot. Serve warm with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least an hour, preferably overnight.

I had some chicken left over so I added some Peruvian chili pepper pastes (2 different types), chopped cilantro, some cumin, chopped sweet potatoes,  and Monterey Jack cheese and proceeded with the Peruvian Empanada Eggrolls!
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My opinion:  Well, the family really loved the Chicken Cordon Bleu Eggrolls!  Tastes like Cordon Bleu, but takes less time and tastes wonderfully awesome (especially with the Honey Mustard Sauce)!!
I personally LOVED the Peruvian Empanada Eggrolls!!  Seriously, at this point, you can make anything into eggrolls –lol!!   I would think these eggrolls will be a great appetizer menu!!

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

I don’t know if I have to say anymore; I think the title says it all!  For those people who know me, I love anything Indian.  I grow my own curry plant, when I have time I usually roast my own spices to make different mix of spices, and in India I just clung to the woman who cooked for us and just watched her cook, yeah, I’m sure she thought I was a weird foreigner.    However,  since I can’t quite make the time to do all these lately  I was really excited when I found this recipe here!

I initially had to overcome not sautéing my spices first, but my desperation took the better part of me and I dove into this slow cooker version of Butter Chicken!

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Once again, please forgive my presentation, I just wanted to feed my family and eat! and yes, you can definitely sprinkle the chopped cilantro in a more genteel way than how I dumped it on the mound!  I also made it little less spicy since my oldest daughter isn’t too crazy about the spicy hotness, but it was still very very very good!!

Serves 4
4-6 boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp oil

Stir fry chicken, onion and garlic in frying pan on medium heat until the chicken has some color and the onion is translucent. Then pour entire contents of pan into crock pot.
Then add:

15 green cardamom pods (can be strung together with needle and thread – or put it in a round tea straining ball, or just put them in the mixture)
2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp curry paste (like Patak’s mild curry paste**)
1 tsp cayenne powder (optional) It’s really hot if you add this
2 tsp tandoori masala (or in my case I used Achar Gosht spice mix, another spice mix for meat curry found at SouthAsian market)
1 tsp garam masala
1 can coconut milk (you can even do half a can and half a can of water, it still tastes good with less fat)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 5.5 fl oz can of tomato paste
Salt to taste

Mix gently and cook on high heat 4-6 hours or low heat 6-8 hours. Eat with basmati or naan.

My opinion: I am really happy I made this.  I just prepped in the morning, followed the direction and let it cook in the slow cooker.  I was able to finish what I had to do during the day and just chopped some veggies to make some salad right before dinner time.   It was really really delicious, and I will definitely make it again!

Update: Today is February 6, 2013, and since this original post (April 11, 2012) I have made this countless times.  I just wanted to tell you that you can alter this any way you want.  I have tried this without sauteeing the chicken, onions and garlic; instead of cutting the chicken into bite size pieces I have just put the whole thigh meat with bones, and I also have added potatoes and carrots.  Every time they came out as delicious as the first time.  I think few times I forgot to add cardamom, but still came out great!  We seriously love this recipe!

Maple Mustard “Man-Pleasing” Chicken & Hasselback Potatoes

My husband is getting his wisdom tooth extracted tomorrow so I thought I would make something that he would enjoy (I’m sure he’ll only be able eat soft food for the next few days or so).  I first saw this “Man-Pleasing” chicken recipe here, and then saw the photo of it on Pinterest.  It looked very… man-pleasing (ha ha, I know, I’m lame). 

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Serves: about 3

  • 1.5 pounds Chicken thighs (boneless and skinless, usually has about 5-6 thighs)
  • Dijon mustard- 1/2 cup
  • Maple syrup- 1/4 cup
  • Rice wine vinegar- 1 tablespoon

Preheat your oven to 450ºF. Then, mix together 1/2 cup of dijon mustard, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar.

Put  chicken thighs into an oven-proof baking dish.  Then, salt and pepper the thighs. Pour your maple mustard mixture over them, turning the thighs in the mixture so they are fully coated.

Put the chicken thighs into the oven, and let them bake for 40 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165ºF. Baste the tops of the chicken with more sauce half way through. I find that a meat thermometer is essential in cooking because it allows me to check for doneness without cutting into the meat and losing its precious juices. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving. Plate the chicken, making sure to spoon some extra sauce over the top. Sprinkle over some fresh rosemary or other fresh herbs (I didn’t have herbs so I omitted them)!

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Hasselback Potatoes:
6-8 medium sized potatoes (I used organic Yukon Gold)
salt and pepper, taste
olive oil

Make parallel slits (about 1/4 inch thick or even thinner) all across the potato not slicing completely. 

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(I don’t know if you can see all the slits I made)

Place the slit potatoes on a baking sheet. With a pastry brush, brush some olive oil on the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

When you bake the chicken put the potatoes in the oven and bake for the same duration as the chicken.  Half way through the cooking time, switch the pans so that they are cooked evenly. 

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My opinion:  Wow!  this is just not “man-pleasing”, but “woman-pleasing” and “children-pleasing” chicken!!  The chickens came out tender and juicy;  love the simple blended flavor of maple syrup and dijon mustard!  Potatoes went well with the chicken, and I also cooked sautéed kale and onions.  Well worth my husband’s last supper, I mean, his dinner before his tooth extraction…

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken

I don’t know why the weekends go by so fast… I love my family, but when they are all home they totally upset my routine and don’t feel my brain functions the same way.  Even while I’m trying to write an intelligible blog now, my 2 children (teenager and soon to be a teenager) are looking through some stupid websites and laughing away and reading out loud from the website!!! Seriously, my brain (after many years of thinking for multiple people) cannot handle anymore strain…

Anyway, to get away from this weekend insanity, I have to admit I have been spending some time on Pinterest…  yes, I think that alone is enough to describe the possibility of addiction.  Anyway, while browsing through some food photos I came across this Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken recipe.  Looked yummy and it sounded easy, so I made this for tonight’s dinner. 

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Serves 4:  Serve with steamed or stir fried bok choy or other greens; I made few adjustments to the quantities here.

5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)
• salt and pepper
• 1 cup honey
• 1/2 cup soy sauce (I used half regular and half “light” or “low sodium”)
• 1 medium onion,  diced   
• 1/4 cup ketchup
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 4 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon water
• 1/2 tablespoon (or more) sesame seeds
• 2-3 scallions, chopped

Lightly season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper, put into crock pot.

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In a medium bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, oil, garlic and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 4 hours.
Remove chicken from crock pot, leave sauce. Dissolve 4 teaspoons of cornstarch in 6 tablespoons of water and pour into crock pot. Stir to combine with sauce. Replace lid and cook sauce on high for ten more minutes or until slightly thickened.

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Shred chicken into bite size pieces. Then in individual bowls, place chicken pieces over cooked rice and spoon some sauce on top. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped scallions.

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My opinion:  Gosh, this was really easy and absolutely delicious!!  Granted, don’t expect to taste like Honey Sesame Chicken at Chinese restaurants, but it has enough flavor and it’s wonderful when  the sauce gets absorbed into the rice.  In terms of rice, I do prefer the short grain rice, but jasmine will be good too (however, don’t use basmati or long grain rice such as Uncle Ben’s). 

Since I pack lunch for my husband during the week and we always need extra food I tripled the amount of chickens, but only doubled the sauce quantity (it still yielded more than enough sauce).  I didn’t take out the chicken, but mixed the cornstarch mixture and just broke the chicken apart in the pot. 

Confession:  I forgot to add the sesame!!  I have 1-1/2 pound package of sesame in my pantry (being an Asian myself, I use enough sesame), but in the midst of preparing for dinner I forgot (see, my brain isn’t the same with my family around).

Chicken Tagine

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I recently made a purchase on my long time wishlist (drum roll~) – Tagine!! The photo below is my new “Le Souk Ceramique” tagine, made in Tunisia. 
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I’ve been wanting this for a very long time, but for a claypot, it’s a bit pricey.  I finally convinced myself that if I don’t get it now when would I get it?  Think of all the money you’ve saved by not going to Morocco or Tunisia to buy this beautiful claypot!  After “curing” the tagine for 2 days (1 full day of soaking in cold water, air drying it for few hours, rubbing olive oil into the pot, baking in the oven for 2 hours, and finally gradually cooling down the tagine for few hours). 

I’ve also been under the weather, so I wanted to eat something with a kick, and what a perfect way to use my new tagine to accomplish this!  There are so many tagine recipe out there, I even had few in my recipe file (given to me by a friend who lived in Morocco), but I couldn’t find it, I’m sure it’s somewhere.  I found a simple looking recipe by Jamie Oliver for Beef Tagine, and all I did was substitute beef with chicken, and added some more vegetables. 

With any tagine, it’s always recommended to cook over low heat, and to use a heat diffuser. Heat diffuser will even out your heat and eliminate any hot spots and burn in one area.   Mine looks like this:
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Serves: 4-6
• 600g stewing beef (I used chicken thighs and drumsticks)
• olive oil
• 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
• a small bunch of fresh coriander
• 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
• 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
• 800ml vegetable stock, preferably organic
• 1 small squash (approximately 800g), deseeded and cut into 5cm chunks
• 100g prunes, stoned and roughly torn
• 2 tablespoons flaked almonds, toasted

For the spice rub

• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 level tablespoon ras el hanout spice mix**
• 1 level tablespoon ground cumin
• 1 level tablespoon ground cinnamon
• 1 level tablespoon ground ginger
• 1 level tablespoon sweet paprika

**Ras el hanout
(Arabic for “top of the shop”) is a blend of the best spices a vendor has in his shop. The mixture varies depending on who is selling it, but can be a combination of anywhere from 10 to 100 spices. It usually includes nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, aniseed, turmeric, cayenne, peppercorns, dried galangal, ginger, cloves, cardamom, chilli, allspice and orris root. (I just added a little of each spices here, except for orris root). 

Mix all the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Put the beef into a large bowl, massage it with the spice rub, then cover with cling film and put into the fridge for a couple of hours – ideally overnight – that way the spices really penetrate and flavor the meat.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a generous lug of olive oil in a tagine or casserole– type pan and fry the meat over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add your chopped onion and coriander stalks and fry for another 5 minutes. Tip in the chickpeas and tomatoes, then pour in 400ml of stock and stir. Bring to the boil, then put the lid on the pan or cover with foil and reduce to a simmer for 1½hours.
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(see how low the heat is?  by using the heat diffuser, even with this low heat the mixture inside bubbles)
At this point, add your squash, the prunes and the rest of the stock. Give everything a gentle stir, then pop the lid back on the pan and continue cooking for another 1½ hours. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it looks too dry.
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Once the time is up, take the lid off and check the consistency. If it seems a bit too runny, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, more with the lid off. The beef should be really tender and flaking apart now, so have a taste and season with a pinch or two of salt. Scatter the coriander leaves over the tagine along with the toasted almonds, then take it straight to the table with a big bowl of lightly seasoned couscous and dive in.

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My opinion: This was such a wholesome comforting food.  We ate this with couscous and I just love how the spices penetrated into the chicken.  The meat fell off the bones and I just love the vegetables, especially the addition of prunes was really yummy!  I’ll have to look for my Moroccan tagine recipe and make it again!!